It was after midnight when the message arrived. Oddly, it was not addressed to Jove. It was addressed to Aether, care of Aether. I looked it over, though I didnâ€™t think of myself as Aether. Or anything for that matter. It contained a single question. â€˜Is Jove still awake?â€™ That I could understand. I responded in the affirmative.
There was a knock at the large oaken door that was the entrance to the dorm room. Jove nervously walked over and opened it, his mind filled with concerns that something bad had happened.
â€œDad! Mom!â€ He shouted and hugged his parents. â€œWhat happened? What took so long to find you?â€ Jove paused a moment. There was something different about his father, a sense of activity, something that wanted to talk. â€œWhen did you burst?â€
Azarias cleared his throat. â€œLetâ€™s not discuss this in the hall.â€
â€œOf course.â€ Jove let the three of them inside. Tan and Chris were already settled around the room. Chris had started a pot of hot chocolate.
Jove asked, â€œWas it a long trip?â€
His father said, â€œNot the trip. Iâ€™m not sure where to start.â€
â€œI like to start at the end.â€ Azarias shrugged. â€œYou know your parents are safe. Your father burst. With that, they are moving to Atlantis, thereâ€™s a lot of fallout over Aeon, and it seems this was a distraction so that Dion could escape custody. South and Edward are on cleanup for that. Now, how it happened is equally important.â€
Chris blinked. â€œDid my father get free?â€
Azarias shook his head. â€œNot as of five minutes ago. Whatever the Vorax had planned failed. Still, we are making sure.â€ The snake smiled and looked at Joveâ€™s father. â€œTimothy, why donâ€™t you begin. Iâ€™d like to hear how you started Aeon.â€
The older fox blushed. â€œIâ€™m not quite sure why. In the eighties I spent a lot of time looking into magic. I was depressed that my search hadnâ€™t found anything. So, I started writing. There wasnâ€™t a proper internet back then. I just left copies of the chapters on the company mainframe. It made the pain go away.â€
Ms. Astrom listened and asked, â€œWhy didnâ€™t you say something?â€
â€œThat Iâ€™d always dreamed of magic?â€ Timothy asked. â€œThat I was terrified of my love for you, because it meant a reason I couldnâ€™t let myself be spirited away? How could you have still loved me if you knew I loved something else more? Something that I couldnâ€™t even prove was real. Amy, I shut that door to be with you… to live in that world with you.â€
â€œTim,â€ Joveâ€™s mother put a hand on his shoulder. â€œYou didnâ€™t have to hold back for me.â€
â€œI couldnâ€™t let it be more real then you.â€ Joveâ€™s father shook his head. â€œIt was a good outlet during work, but if I hadnâ€™t left it there, it would have consumed me. It was like breathing.â€
Azarias offered, â€œIâ€™m not sure if this helps, but many people who have a full color Thaumascan who have not yet burst feel that way. I canâ€™t imagine feeling that way for so long. Or how it was even possible.â€
Jove listened. He had the sense that he was seeing his father for the first time. His real father. There was also the impression that their magics were interacting. Hundreds of incidents where his father had been distant played in Joveâ€™s mind, distance now explained. â€œIâ€™m sorry my burst caused you such pain. I donâ€™t know why it happened to me first.â€
Timothy shrugged. â€œMaybe it has something to do with my great uncle. He came to see me at work today. Apparently, heâ€™s called Merlin now.â€
â€œWhat?â€ Came a chorus of questions.
â€œI only met him a few times as a child.â€ Timothy explained. â€œBut he looked like he hadnâ€™t aged a day.â€ He took a breath, â€œI hadnâ€™t been able to write for a few weeks. Things were getting really bad at work and I was about to punch my supervisor when he showed up. Caught my hand mid-swing and called me boy like I was still ten. I had no idea what was going on.â€
Azarias said, â€œI knew something was wrong. Merlin must be an adept abyss runner if he was able to get there before me. I dropped out of my mythic form, called up an invisibility shield, and ran into the manufacturing plant.â€
â€œI knew something was wrong when security didnâ€™t show up. I mean, Merlin didnâ€™t look threatening but he was clearly not an employee.â€ Timothy looked at the ground. â€œHe wanted me to burst. Said that it was the only way to stop the accident that was about to kill half the work force. Suddenly I felt, full of energy. A feeling I had known in dreams and in my writing. Then he shoved me. The rest is a little fuzzy.â€
Azarias continued for him. â€œI got there just in time to see the outburst. Tim knocked Merlin about twenty feet back. He hit one of the big manufacturing machines and dented it. People started to flee when he picked the machine up and threw it at Timothy. He was trying to get your father to hurt others. Instead he removed the inertia and gravity from it. Tons of metal hung in the air and Merlin looked annoyed. He glanced over at me, ignoring the fact I was invisible, and laughed. The next thing I knew I was flung in a direction I did not expect.â€ He looked at Timothy and back to Jove. â€œThe reason it took so long to get back here is that I didnâ€™t exist for about twelve hours.â€
Tan objected, â€œWait, what?â€
The snake shivered. â€œTimothy seems to have some control over time magic. Probably a way that Void interacts with Earth. I was flung twelve hours into the future. Thatâ€™s something Dominus had never been able to do before.â€
Timothy nods. â€œI remember shoving Merlin in the same way, then I jumped after Azarias. I think he would have ended up a little later if I had not tried to stop the spell he was hit with. I wish the details werenâ€™t such a problem to remember. Does that happen every time?â€
â€œOnly until you can control it.â€ Azarias answered. â€œAfter we popped back into normal time, I asked around. Merlin popped back into existence about eleven hours after we left. Everyone had been evacuated and he was chased off. No one was seriously hurt, but they were trying to find us. It pulled so many Animus off of security to find Timothy and myself, especially when it was found out that Timothy writes Aeon.â€ The snake sighed. â€œMerlin used that time to try to break Dion out of maximum lockup. Edward and South stopped him as far as I know, Iâ€™ll bug them for details later.â€
Tan shivered. â€œMagic doesnâ€™t change time. It can make you go so fast time seems to stand still, but you canâ€™t actually stop time.â€ He looked at Jove and Timothy. â€œI guess the author of Aeon can do what he wants.â€
Timothy rolled his eyes. â€œI really donâ€™t want to be a celebrity.â€
Chris offered. â€œAzarias and South wonâ€™t let you be hurt.â€
There was a long silence that followed as everything sunk in. Except for one aspect. Jove stood up and walked over to his father. â€œDad, I need to try something.â€ He knelt in front of his father. â€œI need to know if Merlin hurt you. Iâ€™m the only one who can check for it.â€
â€œUh,â€ his father shifted nervously, â€œSure son. I guess thatâ€™s okay.â€
Jove closed his eyes and listened. He imagined himself as that fox throwback, on all fours, trying to look at his father. He focussed on the form his magic took and tried to see the same in his father. Silently, he asked his question. His fatherâ€™s magic answered yes.
Jove slammed his fist into the stone floor, ignoring the pain that resulted. â€œHe did it. The shadow that eats magic. It was Merlin.â€
â€œWhat are you talking about?â€ Mr. Astrom seemed worried.
â€œMerlin stopped you from bursting. He put some kind of lock on your magic.â€ Jove looked up as his father. He had no idea how to put this into context. â€œYou should have burst twenty-five years ago.â€<< TS56: Double Feint || TS58: Dream Walk >>