Job-hunting is something no one really likes doing but when you are getting desperate and have a young son to care for then you reply to even the oddest sounding situation vacant advertisements.
This is what our heroine Ruth Watson did and when she found herself catapulted into another world in another universe, it took her a while to accept that this was her new reality – one that she couldn’t turn her back on – especially when her young son was kidnapped in an attempt to prevent her using some extraordinary magical powers she didn’t know she had.
Ruth Watson, a divorced, single mother, is job-hunting after being made redundant from a top marketing agency. She answers a vague advertisement in a national newspaper and during an interview she finds herself accidentally transported to another world – in what is known as the Pelarian multiverse.
The world of Lantira is the focal point in the multiverse for the magically talented ‘Guardians’ who have the duty of maintaining balance between positive and negative forces throughout the multiverse. Lantira is one of the magical parallels where the physical laws of Earth don’t apply - machines and electronics won’t work but magic does. The Guardians are facing the irreversible tipping of that balance because of the powerful but negative Selador Sorceresses - a group of women from a world that was disenfranchised of it’s magic centuries ago and who have now discovered how steal the magical power from the talented, destroying them in the process. If the shift in the balance isn’t reversed, the multiverse, and all the infinite worlds in it, including our own Earth, will be destroyed.
The Guardians were given both their power and their duty, along with the extraordinary Locus Crystals that enable them to travel between universes and worlds, by the now vanished race of beings called Pelarians. The Pelarians also established the Security Council and the role of Mage Prime, a multi-talented and extraordinarily powerful mage who has the ability to control all magic users or talents. Unfortunately the last Mage Prime disappeared nearly two thousand years ago before finding a successor. The Security Council knows that a Mage Prime is the only person who can halt the advance of the Selador Sorceresses and has been searching for the right person for many years.
Ruth Watson is identified as the new Mage Prime.
Temporarily stranded on Lantira, Ruth is about to refuse the role when she and the Guardians discover that, in order to stop her becoming the Mage Prime, the Selador Sorceresses have kidnapped her son, Will, and hidden him somewhere in the six sets of parallel universes that make up the multiverse. Ruth realises that she has no choice but to learn her new trade and help the Guardians overcome the Sorceresses if she is to find Will and get him back safely.
In the process of mastering her powers she discovers what loyalty and trust really mean. She is helped by the members of the Security Council including – Orselon, the Head of the College of Wizards, Richard, Duke of Bardshelm and leader of the council, Gillano the deadly but foppish spy, Thomas Dextermann the remote seneschal who is also a shape changing humorph, the beautiful faerie Amariel, as well as the troubled Gramas, and the head of the order of the Loci – Mycele. She also meets and befriends people like the down to earth housekeeper, Berta, and the loyal but inept page, Todi, among many others.
In time she and the Guardians overcome the Sorceresses but in doing so, Ruth finally accepts that she cannot return to her former life. She is truly the Mage Prime of the multiverse.
When Ruth stepped over the crystal it seemed that one moment she was in a plain white walled room with no doors and the next she was tripping over the lip of a stone edged doorway into a circular chamber. Furnished with old fashioned wooden settles, a large table bearing a decanter and some glasses and, in an enormous fireplace opposite her arrival point, a roaring log fire, the whole decor was distinctly Disney medieval. Definitely a dream.
Immediately in front of her stood Amariel but now the pretty young secretary had been transformed into something very different. Ruth, shocked to her core, resorted to what she hoped was cool sarcasm by remarking “And what are you supposed to be – some sort of fairy godmother?” Amariel, now resplendent in a set of six-foot high opalescent wings, which were beautifully set off by a few discreet wisps of gossamer, refused to rise to the obvious bait in her tone. “Actually I’m a fairy goddaughter. Mrs Watson, I’m sorry to rush you but could you move out of the way of the portal before Thomas comes through – he has a tendency to misjudge the height of the step and can land rather heavily. Why don’t you pour yourself a glass of wine and have a seat over there until Thomas gets here.”
Ruth wandered unsteadily across the room and, although her internal clock said it was only eleven thirty in the morning, poured herself a very generous glass of wine and downed about half of it before she focused on her surroundings once more. For a dream, the wine tasted very real and very good.
Although she was still clinging to the dream theory, she felt it was becoming more and more like a nightmare. Up until this point things had happened too fast for her to feel any great degree of anxiety, but now that she had time to catch her breath she started to consider the plight she was in. Firstly, she was obviously somewhere a long way from London on a Monday morning. This was confirmed when she looked through one of the three narrow windows in the room and saw the sun sinking below a forest of trees that stretched as far as she could see. Secondly, she realised that she was in the company of some rather strange people. She couldn’t bring herself to articulate the words ‘fairy’ or ‘magic’ in any serious sense but the evidence of her eyes was before her. What had been a possibly imagined nimbus around the girl’s shoulders in London was now a very definite, very solid set of rather beautiful wings.
“Thank goodness – this must be Thomas coming across now,” Amariel moved towards a full-length mirror on the wall opposite Ruth. “He’s taken a long time. I hope everything is all right.” As she spoke the mirror flashed like a camera going off, and a dark shape hurtled from the light sending Amariel tumbling backwards to finish as a tangled heap of legs, arms and wings against the base of the table. Obviously winded, Amariel got to her feet and clutched her middle with an expression of pain on her face.
Ruth stood stunned by the window for a second or two before bending down to the still shape that had landed at her feet.
It was a large black cat, about twice the size of a Labrador dog. The cat lay with its eyes closed, it’s ribs moving rapidly up and down as it struggled for breath. There was a strong smell of singed fur and she could see blood seeping from a wound in its neck.
“Oh my...! What is it? It’s hurt!” Ruth looked up at Amariel who was limping across the room towards her.
Amariel, her face stricken, crouched down beside the animal and put a hand on its neck. She bent her head down and spoke urgently into the animal’s ear “Thomas, Thomas, can you hear me? Are you all right?” The cat stirred and one eye flickered open. It gave a deep groan and whispered, “I’ll be all right in a minute, just let me rest for a while.”
Ruth looked at Amariel “This is Thomas Dextermann?”
“Yes it is – I’m sorry, we have a great deal to explain to you but I must be sure that Thomas is all right before I can tell you what is going on. So much depends on him.” Amariel busied herself making the great cat comfortable. She inspected the wound on his neck and pronounced it merely a superficial scratch. As she worked she kept glancing around the room and felt under the body of the cat as though she were searching for something.
“Are you looking for something?” Ruth asked, “I can help if you tell me what it is.”
Amariel glanced up at her, concern written across her features “ It’s the Locus crystal. Thomas should have brought it with him but I can’t find it anywhere.”
Thomas stirred and opened his eyes “I had to destroy the Locus. It was a major crystal. Zerifey could have used it to get here. She was breaking through too quickly. She caught me with an involuntary biomorph spell before I could finish my follow-on cantrip on the Locus crystal. I just had time to shatter it as I transited, otherwise she would be with us now.”
Amariel looked shocked “But that means that we can’t re-cross until we get another major Locus crystal made and keyed. That could take weeks.”
“I know, but it was better that I destroyed that crystal than I allow the Sorceresses to get even the merest foothold here.” Thomas was obviously slightly better and was slowly getting to his feet. Standing unsteadily on four huge paws he uttered some words that made no sense to Ruth. She stepped back, feeling behind her for the support of the table as his shape started to change. His body lengthened and he rose onto his hind legs. His limbs assumed the proportions of human arms and legs. His face altered and the black fur was replaced with the clothes he had been wearing when Ruth had seen him in the office.
“It’s definitely time I woke up” Ruth thought, but try as she might to get her mind back to reality, nothing around her changed. Her heartbeat increased and she began to breathe quickly. Classic symptoms of a panic attack, she knew, but there was nothing she could do about it. She tried to move across the room to one of the settles but her brain couldn’t seem to communicate with the rest of her body. The room spun around her and, as if from a distance, she heard Thomas cry, “Catch her,” as a multitude of colours swam in front of her eyes, became a tunnel of gloom and finally turned to a blissful darkness.
Lantira. Spring 5454 Tempus Parallel
Ruth rolled over stretching out an arm to hit the snooze button on the alarm that was buzzing beside her head. This was a very bad habit that she had gotten into over the past few weeks. Unable to face the days where she would have to write yet another batch of hopeful letters responding to advertisements for jobs she didn’t really want, she had begun to sleep later and later in the mornings. Her hand batted up and down where the alarm clock should be but she couldn’t find it. “Hell and damnation” Opening her eyes she squinted against a very bright light she peered at the bedside table. Strange, it wasn’t there. From her prone position in the warmth of the bed all she could see was a brightly coloured rug on a stone flagged floor. She squeezed her eyes shut again. She didn’t remember going to sleep in a bedroom with a stone floor and a brightly coloured rug. Raising her head a little, she chanced another look. The light was coming from a window through which the sun shone remarkably strongly for December in England. The buzzing noise, which she had thought was the alarm, manifested itself as a large bumblebee frantically beating against the glass.
With a surge of pure adrenaline, the events of the recent past came flooding back into her consciousness. She sat bolt upright in the bed, wrapping her arms around herself to try and stop shaking. She must have had an accident and lost her memory. It was the only rational reason for her waking in a strange room with the memory of such a vivid dream.
She looked around her. The room was quite large and, despite the sun streaming through the window, a fire was flickering comfortably in a vast fireplace. Beside the fire were a chair and a table, which held a tray of cakes and a jug. The bed was large and soft with clean sheets and an old-fashioned patchwork quilt on it. Wherever she was they certainly made things comfortable. But it certainly didn’t look or feel like a hotel or a hospital.
She threw back the quilt and swung her legs down to floor. She took a step towards the table by the fireplace and very nearly fell flat on her face as her legs tangled in a long cotton nightgown. It was the sort of thing her great grandmother might have worn. A quick inspection confirmed that she did not have anything underneath the tent like garment and her face began to feel warm as she wondered how exactly she came to be in this state. More to the point, who had been involved in the involuntary change of clothes? “Damn,” she said as she gathered up yards of cotton and shuffled across to the window. She was trying to reach into the deep embrasure to open the window and let the bee out when she heard the sound of the door opening behind her.
Aware that she must look a little odd with the folds of the night-gown bundled up over her arm, Ruth let it fall and turned.
“Oh. I….I..thought you were a dream. Or is this still ….I haven’t woken up…?” The question died on her lips.
Amariel smiled hesitantly at her. “I’m sorry. It isn’t a dream. Are you all right? Thomas and I were worried that the shock of all this would frighten you so much you wouldn’t accept our offer”
“You’re right,” Ruth said. “I haven’t taken the job, and quite frankly, I don’t intend to. I still can’t work out if this is a dream or not but in any event I’m not staying. I don’t know what you people are or what you want but I would like to get out of here. I must get home. My son will be frantic. He’s probably called the police by now. He will certainly have called his father and the last thing I need is Alex thinking I am neglecting Will. So, if you would please leave while I get dressed …” Ruth looked around for her clothes.
“I’m sorry, your clothes are being cleaned, they got blood on them when you fell and Thomas tried to catch you. The housekeeper and I put you to bed – I hope you don’t mind. The clothes will be ready later today.” Amariel looked truly apologetic.
“Have you got something else I can wear to get home? You can send my stuff on to me later”
“I’m afraid you can’t go home yet.”
Ruth turned at this new voice and stared. If this was a dream then suddenly she didn’t want to wake up. The man was tall and slim; deep brown eyes and long brown hair that was tied back at the nape of his neck. Neither young nor old but simply mature. He could have been any age between thirty and fifty.
For a moment she stood gawping. He was fantastic. The most startling thing about him was the way he was dressed – black leggings and boots that came up to just below his knees, with a tunic of midnight blue satin belted over a white muslin shirt. If that were not enough the tooled leather belt he wore was set with silver decoration and had a beautifully worked scabbard hanging from it which held what she assumed was a real sword. To top it all off he sported a pair of knives tucked into the tops of his boots.
“Don’t tell me,” Ruth said, “I’ve woken up on the film set of a costume drama.” She immediately regretted her sarcasm but it was too late to take the words back.
“I am afraid I don’t know what a costume drama is.” His eyes crinkled at the corners. Ruth could feel herself going slightly wobbly at the knees.