StarFall: Spellbinder #1: "Take This Job and Shove It"

William Strickland indomitable.william at
Wed Dec 15 16:12:15 PST 2010

The Spectacular Adventures of Spellbinder, Mystic Defender of the

By Robin Strickland

Issue 1: Take this Job and Shove It

Cover: A full-figured woman in flowing white robes, a hooded cloak,
and a full-face mask that still manages to show her displeasure
through it, giving the finger to a bunch of godly types.


I used to hate my job. I worked long hours, was paid zilch, had no
housing to speak of, and ate bad food. I had no insurance, although
that's a non-issue for reasons I'll get into later.

Pretty much the only job perk was a spiffy magic cloak. It was
basically enchanted to make people look at it and think, 'hey, what a
neat cloak'.


I mean, come on. 'Mystic Defender of the Earth Dimension'. Sounds
great, right? There's a lot of space to cover there (although less
than you might think - the way magic works, 'The Earth Dimension'
doesn't include everything in the whole physical universe Earth
happens to inhabit, and *does* include a lot of things that *aren't*).
Lots of stuff to do! Lots of weird happenings, lots of dashing high-
powered magical daring-do, maybe some dreamy space hunks. Lots of,
y'know, adventures! And stuff.

Which is why, after fighting so hard for the title, I was rather
depressed that I basically wound up babysitting a bunch of ancient

A fairly recent example. Maddy was having one of her days again.
Really, the things that set her off are just un-frikkin-believable.
But I guess that's par for the course when you've got issues older
than civilization.


Medusa was enjoying her new life on Earth. Really, she was. Her new
identity as Maddy Seuss was leading an enchanted life, having sold a
few old items from Greek antiquity for enough money to finance a
comfortable lifestyle in a large city. She attended protests and
rallies and support groups, and she was getting a lot of really good
help getting over her past issues with the opposite gender. She was
just having to learn some boundaries, that's all.

For instance, she really shouldn't have been watching Law and Order
SVU. Considering that the entire premise of the show centers around
sexual abuse, mainly of women by men, it was bound to set her off
sooner or later.

Staring aghast at the images on the television, Medusa began to
tremble as an ancient rage once more made itself known.



Now, when Maddy gets like this, she has a sort of pattern she follows.
I'd only been on the job for about a year at that point, but I'd
gotten to know it pretty quick, because it's big, it's obvious, and it
happens way too often. First she does what any ancient monster would
do when they're irritable; she goes on a deadly rampage in the nearest
major metropolis.

Since New York City is her current stomping grounds, that's the ground
she prefers to stomp.


The car's exterior suddenly turned to stone, but that didn't stop it
from moving. Stone wheels grating on pavement, the SUV lurched first
to the side, and then rolled over, continuing its rotation before
slamming rear-first into a parked van. The interior of the vehicle was
untransformed, and the sole occupant's life was saved by air bags that
managed to deploy successfully, but it was only a matter of time
before the man inside died from lack of air – what had previously been
rubber gaskets sealing metal and glass was now simply a stone casket.

"MEN!" screamed Medusa, although nobody understood her because she was
speaking a form of Greek that had been dead on Earth for over two
millennia. "All those damned MEN!" A set of power lines went down,
dropping stone fragments across the road as traffic began to grind to
a halt and people began to flee the ancient monster before them. A
post office box was uprooted and thrown after them, landing and
rolling along in a lopsided gait, just to make sure the point got
across that the woman with the mane of snakes was unhappy.


Now by this point in the usual program, Maddy's just kind of lost in
her own little never-never land, probably reliving the bad old days of
That Asshole, Poseidon, That Bitch, Athena, and That Jerk, Perseus.
I'm not really a therapist or anything, I don't know how this stuff
works. Well, I didn't then anyway. But we'll get there eventually.

The good news is that when she's in a state, it's easy to get her to
go on a villainous rant. Yes, people really /do/ that outside of
fiction! And it's just as useful as it is to the fictional heroes.


"Maddy, Maddy, Maddy" chided a voice gently from on high. Medusa
looked up to see the fluttering robe and hood of white and blue, as
the woman known as Spellbinder descended to the ground near her. A
thrown car was caught in a field of visible magic and set aside.
"Tsk," tsk'd the figure in the robe and mask. "Another rampage. You
really need to cut it out, Maddy."

"Bah! You'll never stop me, meddling wizard! I am Medusa, the
guardian! My fists are forceful and far-roaming! You're just a hedge-
mage, working for the world of MEN, upholding THEIR laws, treading
upon THEIR vict--"

Spellbinder snapped her fingers. There was silence for a brief moment,
and then Medusa blinked once, twice, then dropped the telephone pole
she was holding. She sighed. "I was doing it again, wasn't I?" Her
monstrous visage quickly faded, and the snakes sprouting from her head
went limp, becoming long brunette hair once more.

"Yeah," said the floating wizard as she de-stoned the petrified SUV
and rolled it over with casual ease, displaying strength well beyond
human. She popped open the passenger side door to let the occupant
breathe and clamber out. "Now, let's try this again. Hi, Maddy. Let's
go get a quick drink, alright?"


So here I was, defending the free world by listening to a three
thousand year old gorgon – who was actually quite lovely by the way –
go on about her old troubles while quaffing some Bailey's (she loves
chocolate). In all fairness, she had been through some pretty awful
stuff – that tended to happen to people who got involved with the gods
back in the bad old days – but on the other hand she's had millennia
to get over it. Back then I couldn't hold it against her tho.

"Maddy," I said. "Maddy, you can't keep doing this."

The ancient horror sitting across from me shrunk into herself self-
consciously. "I know," she said. "I was just going through the
channels on the television of cable, and then..." She sighed. She
either didn't remember her 'episodes' or didn't want to. Either way it
was probably about the same, really. I looked at my watch; half past
three. "Hm. Maddy, can you do something for me?" She nodded. "Avoid
channel 38 like it bore the plague and threatened to infect you."

She frowned in confusion, perhaps wondering if the plague would even
work on her, what with not being human and all. "Why? What's on that

"Law and Order reruns practically 24/7," I said. "The show's basically
*built* to produce moral outrage, these days. And since moral outrage
is what makes you go off, you should probably avoid it. As much as I
like hitting cafes with you, I'd rather it not be under the
circumstances that it usually is, y'know?"

She nodded resignedly. "Yeah, I guess you're right." She had another
gulp from her glass of Bailey's. "Hey, thanks for this, you know? I
don't want to hurt anyone, and it's nice to know there's a good woman
out there who understands my problems." That wasn't entirely true;
while my life hadn't been a walk in the park, it had been a rather
different sort of supernatural awfulness than her own. At least, after
high school it had. But I sympathized and commiserated with her, and I
think that was the important part. Well, that and I'm a girl. She
distrusted men even when she wasn't crazy.


We talked for a while more before I cleaned up the wreckage and left
to take care of other business. Across town – New York was one of the
big magical hotspots ever since the quake – there'd been a break-in at
a penthouse owned by a Leprechaun, who had turned his assailant into a

Standing in the executive elevator and listening to the tasteful
elevator music there, I allowed myself a deep, heavy sigh. The
Leprechaun had apparently taken the bother to learn a spell that would
turn people into amphibians, but not another that would turn them
back. Lots of ancient, sorcerously inclined creatures had this
annoying tendency to view transmogrification as a do-it-all problem
solver. This was becoming an increasingly common problem, and at that
point I was already starting to get the sneaking suspicion that it
wasn't ever going to end.

After all, why learn to clean up your own messes when you can just get
Spellbinder, Mystic Defender of the Earth Dimension to do it for you?
Yeah. Right.

Y'know, now that I think about it, I haven't really introduced myself
yet, have I?

My name's Chelsea (family name's not important) but when I put on the
cloak and mask I'm Spellbinder, Mystic Yadda Yadda Yadda. I'm so tired
of repeating the title now. Back then I actually thought it meant

Stepping out of the elevator I walked forward; there was the
leprechaun, part of a crime scene investigation team, a beat cop and a
newt in a plastic case. One of the investigators had taken the newt to
a poorly lit portion of the entryway and was shining a flashlight on
it like he expected something significant to happen if he kept it up.
I ignored him and instead walked up to the chief investigator.
"Hello," I said, "I'm Spellbinder, Mystic Defender of the Earth
Dimension. I'm here to clean this up for Miles." The leprechaun
nodded; Miles wasn't actually his name, but he adopted it because most
people these days couldn't deal with his actual name, a sentence-long
sprawl of ancient proto-Gaelic that was spelled like Klingon and
pronounced like cooing and laughter. Honestly, I couldn't handle it
either, and I've got quite a knack for language, which is helpful in
becoming good with magic in a multitude of ways.

Neither of them seemed impressed with the title. The Investigator
muttered irritably to himself about 'supers', and Miles just got a
smug look on his face, like my being here was a get out of jail free
card. The title really didn't mean anything back then. At least,
nothing good. At the time I was still wondering about it. Well, no,
that's not quite accurate. I knew why but refused to acknowledge it.

More on that later.

"Shining a flashlight in the dark won't fix him," I said to the
investigator holding the newt's case. "Here, hand him over."

After a bit of cajoling, he obliged and I popped the top off the case
and let the newt out. Tracing patterns and chanting under my breath, I
invoked the power that would remedy this little problem. "By the Law
of Valcaan, Obeyed to the Letter; 'Es turned into a Newt, Now Make Him
Get Better!"

There's two things about being turned into amphibians by magic. First,
the person will always show up naked. I'd already pulled a baggy gray
robe out of storage for him to wear; I keep several on hand for just
such occasions, since they turn up at an annoyingly high rate.
Everyone seems to think that just because you /can/ turn someone into
a newt, or a tree, or a statue, that it must be a good idea.

Second, the person almost always reacts the same way.

"AAAAHHHHHH!", screamed the formerly armed robber. He was quite
emphatic in his dismay. "YOU TURNED ME INTO A NEWT! YOU TURNED ME INTO

I snapped my fingers and he calmed down. Dispel Spazz was at the time
hands-down the most useful spell in my repertoire. I'm still pretty
proud of it – it's one I developed myself. "You're not a newt anymore.
But I believe you *are* under arrest. Officer?" The policeman nodded
and began reading the man his rights. He still had to look up the new
ones that had to be brought into existence after superpersons began
showing up after the reality quake. He'd probably been on the force
long enough that having to put them in there still jarred him every
time after getting used to the old set.

Anyway, my being there *was* a get out of jail free card for Miles. I
turned the newt back into a robber, who had been armed before but was
naked now. I pulled out a robe for him to wear – I still keep several
in my own private nowhere just for such occasions – and the police
arrested him. The law currently was that since the robber was now once
more completely unharmed, Miles got off without charges of his own.

I'm honestly not sure what he would've been charged with if nobody
could've detransmuted the robber.

Anyway. After the police left, Miles slapped me on the rear. "Thank
ye, sugar-cakes," he said smugly. "Yer a real life-saver, ye are.
Dunnoo what I'd do witout' ye. No off wit'cha, I got stuff tae do." I
fought down the urge to punch him right out the window; beating up the
ancient faerie trickster for being a jerk wasn't part of the job
description. It so needed to be in the job description, but it wasn't.

Sometimes I /really/ hated my job.


After the arcane happenings for the day had started to die down, I
headed back home. 'Home' for me was a shack in the middle of nowhere,
on a mountain trail that had been out of use long enough for trees to
grow up in its path. Flying was pretty much the only way to get it;
this was fine because I loved and still love to fly. You would too.
Trust me, it's great.

Fun fact; nearly a third of the Continental United States is owned by
the federal government. Another fun fact; there's no way in hell they
can keep track of that much land, especially in the more treacherous
high altitude forests. Finding an old stone cottage that was in good
repair and setting up home in it was no problem for me. It was a cozy
little place to live, even if it had absolutely none of the amenities
that I enjoyed. Magic could help me fake most of those, and some of
the others weren't even needed anymore.

I put some logs in the fireplace and focused my mighty willpower on
them until they ignited. I love saying 'mighty willpower'. You should
try it yourself sometime. I didn't need the fire for warmth - a few
years back I'd had a family gathering that had changed me forever, and
one of the changes was that I was comfortable in pretty much any
natural earthly environment, from Death Valley to Antarctica. While
I'm aware that the event I'm kind of talking around here is pretty
much my origin story (check it out guys, I've got an /origin story!/),
you'll have to forgive me for not talking more about it right now.
Because it sucked and I'd rather talk about anything else.

Ahem. The fire was useful for cooking, tho, and light, and moreover it
was pleasant to have. Between that and the miles of forest around the
house, it was peaceful enough here that I could come and forget about
how much the life I'd chosen for myself sucked. Because I hated my

Taking off what I half jokingly called my superhero outfit - mask,
cloak, blouse, gloves, boots and tights - I looked at myself in the
mirror I kept over the cabin's only sink. I've been told I'm pretty,
although back then I either doubted the fact or was pretending to be
modest about it. I'm not sure which. High cheeks, delicate chin, mouth
built for smiling (although I wasn't doing much of that back then),
brown hair and eyes and oh yeah, freckles. For some reason. I'm really
not sure what side of my convoluted family tree I get that from, but
they're there. Still the same old Chelsea. Which is good; the lack of
jagged protrusions of bone meant for sure that my demon acne was under
control now.

Yeah, demon acne. Hazard of the job, you know.

I looked at the mask that was part of my outfit. It looked like plain
white porcelain, a smooth, lovely woman's face. When the mask was
worn, it had an interesting property; it mimicked the facial
expression of the wearer. This made it possible to conceal your
identity without concealing your emotions, which made negotiations
easier. In theory, anyway. It wasn't a part of the office, not
officially, but I figured in this day and age it should be. The way
I'd imagined the office, I was basically a superhero now, and if I
ever got a real life, I didn't want to endanger it by having my
enemies go after friends and so on because they recognize me from the
last battle. Not that I had any enemies yet, either. All I ever did
was fix problems and deal with bureaucrats; really I'd probably be
faceless with or without the mask. That, I was learning, was the
nature of the job.

My job.

My important incredible spectacular magical job. Just like my
incredible spectacular magical life. Really.

I sighed and stuffed my super-duds into the pocket dimension I carry
around inside me. I hated my job, and I hated my life. The job wasn't
nearly what I'd signed up for, and the worst bit was that I'd
originally gotten on board specifically to change my life into
something I could like. But it hadn't worked; I wasn't suffering,
currently, but I was plenty miserable.

I didn't know it then, but that was about to change. Unaware of the
momentous events on the horizon, I slipped into some jammies and hit
the sack.


Several months ago, Zeus was pleased.

"I am pleased," he said, just to prove it to those around him. "This
bunch is quite promising. And there's so many of them! How did we get
so many recruits this time? When Earth first reopened to us, we barely
had anyone to pick from."

"Well," said the goat-horned man in the lab coat, "the first thing is
that people on Earth have had time to get used to the idea that magic
is real now. I think all the men in tights flying around has helped us
there." Zeus nodded. He had done battle with some of the men in
tights; they could be quite formidable. The women too, unfortunately.

"The other thing," said the goat-horned man, "Is the existence of a
nonspatial library on Earth."

Zeus frowned. "Explain,"he demanded impatiently.

A somewhat amorphous blob-creature, also in a lab coat, chimed in.
"They call it 'the internet'. The simplest way to explain it would
be... imagine a library. Where it is isn't important. What's important
is that anyone with the right kind of book can read anything from that
library, no matter where they are. They can also write anything into
the library, again no matter where they are."

Zeus hummed. "That's very interesting. I take it someone decided to
write a book of magic into the library?" The goat-horned man nodded;
the blob might have as well, but it it would be difficult to tell. "I
guess that explains the dozens of low-level recruits." Another nod.

"Well, no matter. We also got three excellent candidates out of this
crop." The skyfather of Olympus smiled lecherously. "And one of them
has *quite* the body."

"Yes, millord," said the goat-horned man. "Subject 'Chelsea'. That
one's actually caught our attention as well. She has odd pattern
imprints on her aura."

The blob took a moment to be surprised. "Oh, that's the one he was
talking about?" Ignoring him (her? It?), the goat-horned man
continued. "She originated from Earth, but we believe she's spent the
last several years in Realm Nine."

Zeus frowned. Realm Nine was one of the divine realms of the Earth
Dimension. Like Olympus and Asgard, it was populated of being of
immense power and, at least in some corners, few scruples. It also had
its share of do-gooders, which the Olympians actually tended to get
more trouble from. It had never been directly connected to Earth
itself prior to the recent Quake, however. He couldn't know what this
portended; he made a note to confer with Athena as soon as she was on
speaking terms with him again.

The skyfather gestured to the brown-haired girl who was currently
going through a spell drill. "Keep her under observation, then. This
turn of events might explain her quirks." She'd shown a few abilities
not typical to mortals; rapid healing, great strength, resistance to
injury. She also had access to a sub-dimension all her own,
apparently. Zeus would never admit it, but he was stumped by that one.
If she was an agent of Realm Nine however... they were known to be
clever in creating such wonders. What's more...

"If she's from Realm Nine, she might be here to ruin the Mystic
Defender project. That would cause everyone a lot of headaches." The
god was nearly scowling now; to the gods and monsters of old, the
Mystic Defender project was very important. Not in the way that the
Defender candidates thought, of course, but important nonetheless. "I
will have to confer with others to create means to keep her from doing
anything dangerous."

The goat-horned man simply nodded. "As you say, lord Zeus."

"One more thing," added the god. "This... 'internet'. Does it have
erotic literature in it?"

The blob sighed resignedly, bubbling as it did so. It was probably
going to fall to him to find out how to get an internet connection on


When I woke up - still in my jammies, mind you - I was in a forest
clearing in a world lit only by a very large, very bright moon. There
were stars overhead, but they only barely made their presence known,
as if hiding from something. All around me were strange beings, large
and small, flying and landbound, but all of them distinctly dark and
fey in appearance. I realized quickly that I was surrounded by

"Why am I surrounded by faeries?" I asked, sitting up cautiously.

"Because," said one of the figures near me, "You are in a faerie

"Wow," I said sarcastically, "That makes total perfect sense. Okay,
next question; why am I in a faerie court?"

"You are brought here for a reason," said a tall figure on a throne of
bones and twigs. I looked at her, and the sensation I'd been feeling
since I woke up intensified. Sure enough, I knew, I was in the realm
of Faerie. Not a good place to be.

I should take a moment here to say a thing or three about magic.

All humans, with only a few exceptions, have the capacity to perceive
magic in a very limited way. You could say they're sensitive to it,
without really being able to fully see it like they can, say, the
pages of a book. Humans have the ability to just sort of feel, in
their gut, that something is off in the world around them - this can
alert them to the presence of magic. This is also why the realm of
Faerie was always to terrifying to people in the days of yore; the
place is so thick with magic, so 'wrong' by the standards of the
mortal world, that ordinary humans would usually become vertiginous
once inside its folds.

The other reason that Faerie was terrifying, of course, was that it
was populated by the Fey, who were... well, terrifying. The fey were,
almost to a one, users of magic with mindsets so alien by human
standards that 'insane' didn't begin to describe it. They basically
fell into two camps; the Unseelie, who killed and tortured people
deliberately for their own amusement, and the Seelie, who killed and
tortured people inadvertently while thinking they were being nice to

"I am the Queen of Loud Sorrows!" said the figure on the throne. "A
lady of the Unseelie!" I relaxed a bit, relieved; I was with the
honest ones. At least I knew what to expect now. "You will be harrowed
and tested!"

"Okay, great. Why?"

The Queen of Loud Sorrows stoop up on the seat of her throne with a
flourish. "We must see if you are the one... who will fulfill the
prophecy!" There was a great murmuring from the assembled inhuman
magic creatures.

"A prophecy? Really?" I was interested now. Prophecies tend to be

"Yes!" she said, posing again. "A /prophecy!/"

"Okay, right. A prophecy. About what?"

"Dark times of... trouble... and..."

I sighed. "You don't have a prophecy, do you."

She was quiet for a bit. Then she said "Oh... oh you... you shut up!
Of course we don't have a prophecy. It just sounds more dramatic,
more /majestic/than 'Hey, let's crack the mortal open and see what
makes her tick'." She crossed her arms in front of her chest in a
huff, pouting. "There. /Happy?/"

"Kind of disappointed, actually," I replied. "But I think you will be,
too. For you see, it is no mere mortal that you are dealing with,
now!" A dramatic wind rising to lift my proverbial sails, I stood
dramatically as my super-outfit came out of nowhere and wrapped itself
around me (man, I love this trick), finishing with a flourish of my
cloak that sent it fluttering majestically.

"I am Spellbinder, Mystic Defender of the Earth Realm!"

The assemblage of fey was quiet for a moment. I started to encourage
myself to think that they were impressed, or maybe afraid, realizing
that they'd bitten off more than they could chew; a powerful sorceress
of high office was before them!

And then they all started to laugh. Hard. "'Ware, friends! The Mystic
Janitor of the Earth Realm challenges us!" crowed one.

"Yes!" cried another, cackling through the head cradled in its left
arm. "Better watch out, or she'll change our diapers for us!"

The expressive magic mask I wore did nothing to conceal my dismay at
this turn of events. Hey, c'mon. I was a superhero, right? (Wrong.)
Why were they laughing at me?

As the laughter began to slowly subside, the Queen stepped down off
her throne like she was strutting down an invisible set of stairs. "My
my my. You look so /confused/, dear Defender. You just can't imagine
why we're all /laughing/at you, can you? Mmm?" She didn't need a word
out of me to confirm it, so she didn't wait for one. "I'll tell you! A
little secret for you, because, after all, the truth hurts." She
smiled a vast, wide inhuman smile. "And I /*do*/so love hurting


In a chamber outside of space, a brown-haired girl stood before a
council of gods. The only one she recognized by sight was Zeus,
although she knew enough lore to also know that one of the figures was
either Odin or someone who'd inherited his birds, and another was
probably Indra. The chamber was in the Astral Plane however, and so no
matter the physical manifestations before her, she could also see
their essence; they were all ancient and powerful beyond imagining,
far older than even the myths that spoke of them.

She was awed.

"Congratulations, Chelsea," spoke Zeus, who was apparently the head of
the project. "You have persevered and overcome many obstacles, proving
your worth to defend the Earth Dimension. Now, to finally take up the
mantle of Mystic Defender, you must swear the oath!"

"Do you, Chelsea, swear to protect the mortals of the nations of Earth
from the dangers of magic, to shield them from the perils of ancient
monsters, to foster understanding between the two, and to uphold the
justice of the gods?"


"That's about how the oath went, yes?" asked the Queen of Loud Sorrows
rhetorically. "And you never thought about what it meant, did you? You
never thought that you'd be /'defending' /the mortals of Earth?
That /'protecting'/ them from magic would mainly be keeping them from
poking their noses where they didn't belong? That /'shielding'/ them
from 'ancient monsters'" - here she laughed, knowing that she was
included in this heading - "would mean keeping them from picking a /
fight/ with them? It's never occurred to you that /slaves/ are always
'safe' as long as their masters are happy, hm?//You were just so /
eager/ to start your new life, or assume your new power, or whatever
it was you /thought/ you were doing! You just said--"


"I do," swore the girl with the brown hair.

She was so giddy with excitement that she didn't notice that Zeus'
smile as she accepted the oath wasn't what she expected. Looking back
on it later, she would know the smile for what it had been; the smile
of a man who'd just pulled off a great prank.

"Good," said Zeus. "Very good. I, or another member of the Council,
will see you back here in three months, and every three months after,
to check on how your mission is going and whether you need... help."


"And his 'help'?" asked the Queen of Loud Sorrows. "What did he give
you when you went back after your first assignment?"

I was suddenly horrified at a realization; "I... don't know." My mind
was racing, but I could almost *feel* it avoiding the one salient fact
I was digging for, like when you're trying to remember the answer to a
question you /know/ you /knew/ just a second ago, but the sensation
was keener, had a realer /presence/, which probably meant--

"A spell," said the Queen of Loud Sorrows. "Bra-/vo/, little mageling.
You were a fool to not notice it being placed on you, but you were
*almost* skilled enough to detect it once I'd pointed it out."

She reached into my head and plucked out a little swirling mass of
light; from the sigils dancing gaily in its core, I could tell what it
was. "A spell of ignorance. A spell to keep me from thinking about
it." But the spell wasn't there anymore. And so I did.

As though a dam had finally surrendered to a relentless flood, the
truth came spilling out and inundated my mind. I was dimly aware of my
limbs feeling chilled as I realized the truth of the position I'd been
placed in.

For the last year I'd been a sort of mystic janitor. I existed to
allow the magical beings of other dimensions live it up on Earth with
impunity - they can do nearly anything they like, with no reprisal, no
punishment, no interference from the law, because *I* am there to
smooth things over, and *I* am there to fix the problems they cause
with their childishness and their recklessness. When they're ignorant
of the law, I step in and allow them to remain ignorant. When they
callously harm someone - as long as they don't leave them dead or
mutilated beyond a mage's ability to repair - I can step in and fix
it. No harm no foul, right?

So terribly deluded had I been that I'd thought myself a hero. Zeus
and the other gods had seen to it. They'd influenced our thinking
during the selection process and the training - I could /see/the
tracks they left in my mind now.

My beliefs had been exactly one hundred and eighty degrees backwards
on what my job had done. I wasn't protecting reality from the beings
of magic; I was protecting the beings of magic from reality. In
reality, if you turn people into newts and destroy property by turning
it to stone, there's /consequences/to your actions! You pay for the
damage you did, or you fix it, or both. But not when I'm around, oh
no! Not when you can rely on Spellbinder, Mystic Defender of the Earth
Dimension. Then you just get a firm lecture (and come ON, who doesn't
just turn their ears off when listening to a firm lecture?) and then
you go back to your literally charmed life.

The realization made my physically ill. I fell to my knees; if I'd had
a chance to eat breakfast before coming here, I would've been sick
inside my mask. More importantly came the anger, and the determination
to make sure that this didn't go on this way. I was going to take my
life back, by force if need by. I would /make /it what I wanted it to
be. Starting now.

I looked at the Queen of Loud Sorrows; she was now leaning low over
me, that vast, smug grin of hers still firmly in place. She thought
she'd won. Well. That wouldn't do.

Since I was on my haunches and she was leaning over me, and since she
thought she'd left me broken instead of filled with a new resolve, I
had an opening. Before I'd learned magic, I'd learned to fight. My
teachers had had a sink-or-swim attitude to learning combat, and so as
a result I'd learned to be tricky, and I knew a perfect setup when I
saw it. Only one more thing would make her a better target.

"Thank you," I said. I was very sincere; not a common thing from me.

Rolling back and bringing my feet up, I lashed out at the Queen's
thoughtfully presented chin with both heels, hitting her hard enough
to send her sailing back over her throne.

I stood up. The crowd was silent again, and this time, they *were*

"Now," I said. "Grateful as I am, I'm leaving."

"No," said a figure from among the trees. He stepped out, and I
swallowed quietly. The unmistakable figure, tall, powerful, spear-
bearing and crowned with antlers, was undoubtedly the Master of the
Wyld Hunt. Which brought me to the other thing I hadn't thought about;
why I'd been brought here in the first place.

"A hunt has been called upon you, mortal hare," said the Huntsman.
"And the hunt shall not be denied."

I steeled myself for the chase ahead. I didn't want to die here, not
now; if I did, it'd be a waste of a perfectly good epiphany.

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