The Phoenix Shadow 2

Daughters of Fire

Back On Stage

Part 40

Three weeks had passed since that night at Stonehenge and Max had been a little busier than he had expected.  First he had to deal with the fighter pilots, they had seen both him and Sara in their phoenix form, and he had to make sure no one was searching for the two spacecraft they had accompanied.  Thankfully he had kept a few wits about him at the time and had used the ocean to hide their landing, moving under water towards Stonehenge before passing quickly over the land to the ancient site.  It didn't take much to change the reports, convincing the pilots that they had in fact watched the craft explode into a ball of fire and ditch into the ocean as a flaming mass.    He had also made sure it was a known fact that Lucias had been aboard the shuttle, Samantha had helped in that regard, confirming a top secret team had been sent to take the man prisoner by amending her own report.  Once that had been settled, they still had the problem of explaining how Samantha had been the only survivor.  It was Zilvara who suggested Samantha could have been coordinating from a distant location via radio.  As far as the public and Samantha's higher officials were concerned, no one else existed.

Samuel Brent had been glad his daughter was safe and sound, but had been moved to tears when hearing of Jed's death.  He had taught that man all he knew and had been proud of his attachments.

While all this had been going on, Sara was let in on the secret that Natalya still lived inside Kirsty's body.  She had cried in joy, and promised not to tell anyone else.

Kirsty had been busy with the two spacecraft, she not only repaired the shuttle but modified it no end, Natalya enjoying the work as much as her, two great minds in a single body, each capable of amazing things but together there didn't seem to be anything they couldn't do.  Max had helped a lot, rebuilding most of the hidden bunker to incorporate a hanger bay.

Max sighed as he stood back stage after all that work, maybe after today he could just put up his feet and relax, the wedding plans had been brought to him throughout those three weeks, and finally, earlier today, Sandra and Stan had been wed.

He was very happy for them, and as a wedding gift, Mystra would return to the stage.  He wouldn't however, he had decided to give the stage a rest, but maybe in a few generations he would pick his act back up.  Mystra would claim to be her own daughter, for the fourth time, continuing the magic of her mothers before her.  All had been set up and prepared, and Max had agreed to stay backstage to give Mystra the added support her nerves needed since her last performance ended in the clutches of Lucias.

Max smiled as she walked up to him, her black stage outfit very fitting, he couldn't help but notice her body was slightly different.

"Swapped something else with Andi I see." He smiled.

Mystra blushed and looked down,

"She's quite insatiable, but I do love her and her new twin.  Thank you Max."

That had been another job he had found himself doing, Andi had always wanted a twin sister, and he had used his magic to create an almost identical double for the woman, something Mystra wasn't able to do herself.  The new twin had soon developed her own personality, and Becky was also quite fond of Mystra.

"Where are your two assistants?" he asked.

"Still getting ready, I just wanted to..."

"You can stop thanking me for being here; you know I wouldn't let you down."

Mystra smiled had hugged her ex-master, once lover, come father.

"I always feel safe around you."

Max felt himself blush.

"I've never been so nervous before a show before, I can't understand it."

"You've been through some horrible times of late; it seems to have made you more human, more aware of your weaknesses."  Max said as he broke away from the embrace, "Now the reception is almost all settled, along with the rest of the audience, give them a show they won't forget."

Mystra smiled as she looked up at him,

"You bet."

Max watched as she left to get in position and felt two arms grab him from behind.

"You haven't worn that tux since our wedding day," Sara breathed seductively into his ear, "remember what happened that night?"

"How could I forget," Max chuckled.

"Up for a repeat performance tonight?"

"Ooo, now that's tempting fate."

Sara giggled as she held him close, kissing his neck,

"I'll hold you to that."

Max felt himself start to relax; he stepped backwards through his love and held her shocked form in his arms.

"Tease." she giggled and leaned back into his strong body.

"The shows about to start, let's get to a slightly better view." Max said and levitated into the air to give them a nice view of the whole stage and audience from the rafters.

"Now this just has to be the best seat in the house." Sara giggled.

She could see all their friends and extended family in the audience, there had been a few surprises when she had met them at the door and for Max also.  His old friend Terrence O'Donnell had a son neither had seen before, and his daughter had grown into a very attractive teenager.  Not to mention that Rachel, his wife, was expecting a third. 

Samantha Brent and her father Samuel, now retired at the grand age of 72 sat near the front, Charlotte dressed in a cloak to hide her form sat between her and Kirsty.  When Sara had learned her one daughter had fallen in love with another woman she had been shocked, but after spending time with Zilvara and Petra, she had slowly come to acknowledge and accept her daughter's feelings.  Max hadn't batted an eye, as if he had expected such a thing all along.

The warm up show came on stage, Sara holding her tongue as she could see both the stage and audience even though the curtains had yet to open.  To say it was a warm up act wasn't really correct, the Magician, real name Paul, stage name Faustus the Great, was more than just an accomplished illusionist, the man had his own form of real magic.  His stage assistant Ardelle was quite a stunner even in her thirties, both magician and assistant the same age, but not married as Sara had thought.  She settled down against Max and decided to enjoy the show in his strong arms when something dawned on her for the first time.

"Max?"

"Yes love?"

"That large altar stone in Stonehenge, why isn't it in any of the pictures?"

She couldn't see his face, but somehow knew he was smiling.

"It's part of the magic, or should I say anti-magic.  In order to more safely control the portals; Lucias had to generate an opposite to magic.  The altar stone is a focus point for anti-magic; whereas the rest of Stonehenge is a focus point for magic.  It only appears when a powerful magic user enters the inner horseshoe."

"Anti-magic? Like good and evil?"

"No, wrong connection, think of magic as you would a battery, with a positive and negative, a battery isn't half good half evil, but it still has opposite states."

"So the altar only ever appears when a magic user is close by."

"That's right, but don't ask me where it is the rest of the time, I haven't the foggiest."

The music below picked up in volume and the curtains started to open,

"If you think of any other questions ask me after the show, this guy is actually very good."

Sara relaxed in her husband's arms, high above the stage as the show started.

The curtains opened and Faustus the Great bowed low to the audience, his black top hat and cane, his black suit and tails, he was dressed as a typical old-fashioned magician.  As he stood back up, twenty white doves flew from under him to the delight of the gasping crowd.  The birds did a complete circle of the audience and finally returned to the stage to land on a multi-armed stand, four rows of five birds.

"Ladies and Gentleman, prepare to be fascinated by the show you are about to see," The magician said in a perfect English accent, "Everyone knows a magician must have a beautiful assistant, so let me bring such a beauty on stage."

He moved to the stand of white doves and taking a small white hanky from his top breast pocket, he unfolded it into a large white sheet, two meters long and almost as wide.  He held it in front of the elegant birds, and with a puff of smoke, and a few rogue feathers, he brought the sheet back down.  A beautiful woman dressed in a sheer white leotard, and a crown of white feathers stood in a dramatic pose before the audience.

As one the audience gasped, her green catlike eyes shone and her long black hair framed a face of delicate beauty, her deep crimson lips smiled at the audience.

"May I introduce my assistant, the lovely Ardelle." Faustus the Great said.

Sara nudged Max in the ribs,

"Why did I never get to make such a grand entrance?"

"You never asked." Max replied.

The audience clapped at every amazing trick the pair performed, the music changed to match the mood of the illusion, dramatic for the buzz saw, soft and light for the levitation.  The show was fantastic to behold, and the best was yet to come.

"Ladies and Gentleman, I have one more trick to perform, and then the illusion many have been waiting for will start."

The music became almost too quite to hear as a strange looking piece of equipment was brought on stage.  Black poles criss-crossed to form a cube, but the poles stuck out by a meter from the sides, almost looking like a cube inside a cube.  Once the contraption was at the stage centre, Ardelle, now dressed in a black skintight bodysuit, climbed into the centre of the trick.  She had to stand on two of the lower poles, as there was no floor in the cube; she held the top two bars to steady herself.  She kneeled on her haunches, the inner cube only a meter square.

"This trick was an idea I had one night, everyone has seen something similar, but no doubt you will enjoy this."

He walked up to the inner cube and put a black paper panel on the side, he put a second panel on the other side, and the third on the back.

"You will notice that the inner cube is supported a meter off the floor, and with the extensions, mirrors wouldn't be as easy to use.  Now I would like four brave men or women to come up on stage."

Ardelle continued to smile to the audience as three men and a woman was helped onto the stage, The magician learned their names and told the audience, Rob and Tony were big built and local builders, the other man, the shortest of the four, was named Greg, but much preferred to be called simply G, he was a computer wiz kid and only 19 years old.  The woman introduced herself as Mandy, her short brown hair and fit build getting a few wolf whistles from the audience.

Each member of the group took a corner of the outer cube in hand, the two big men standing at the back two corners.

"Now for the final panel."

The magician enclosed the front of the inner cube, hiding Ardelle from sight.

Sara gasped; able to see the transformation Ardelle went through, the top of the box uncovered, but only visible to the two lovers high in the rafters.

The four holding the extended edges of the box jumped when they heard the growl, and one of the big guys near the back ran backwards into the back of the stage when the large black striped tiger fell from the bottom of the elevated box and onto the stage.  A few in the audience screamed in fear, but everyone clapped loudly as the magician walked up to the small box and use his cane to break the paper sides open, showing the box to be empty.  The tiger, free to walk about the stage, came up to his side as he bowed and accepted the applause that followed.  The four volunteers warily returned to their seats, eyeing the large powerful tiger in fear.

"Thank you, my assistant and I will be helping with the event of the evening, although Ardelle can't do much in her current form.  Oh and don't worry, she doesn't bite; only close friends suffer that."

The equipment was wheeled back off stage and a familiar sight rose out of the stage floor, two massive stone blocks where lifted up on powerful hydraulics.  The slabs had been on display for over ten years, under the protection of Samuel Brent.  The old man chuckled as he saw the grey stones.

On either side of the slabs stood two women in tight fitting red leotards, high six-inch heels and the twins, Andy and Becky, smiled to the audience.

"Everyone, at least almost everyone, will remember this trick.  It was started over ten years ago, and now will be completed." The magician explained, "It's time for the angel of stage magic to return, it's time to welcome back Mystra."

Almost the entire audience clapped and cheered, many had only been kids when they had seen this trick seemingly end Mystra's career and others now had their own children in attendance.  Only the few on the front row knew the truth of the matter, but still they were enthralled that the day had finally come, Stan and Sandra could not have wished for a better wedding present.

"How is she going to complete this?" Sara asked, "She never told me."

"She only wanted one person to know what she plans, that person was me, and I'm not going to spoil the show for you by saying."

"I hate when you keep things from me." Sara pouted.

"But always with good reason."

Sara looked on at the twins and remembered what she had meant to ask Max,

"Why didn't you create a new body for Natalya?"

Max sighed,

"I did ask Kirsty and Natalya; told them it could be done, but they refused.  They like sharing Kirsty's body, and besides, they never want to be separated again."

"I guess I can understand that, but what about Charlotte, how does she feel about sharing Kirsty with another?"

"I don't think she minds, and with her powers, she can talk to them both.  The demihuman is smitten with our daughter.  Did Kirsty mention she wants to marry her?"

"No I... I'm still trying to get use to the idea." Sara said sheepishly.

"I guess I've lived for so long that not much can surprise me.  I keep forgetting how hard this is for you."

"I'll get use to it; I guess I have a lot of time to get use to it."

Max hugged her tighter and kissed her neck lovingly as they watched the magic performed.

With the grey stone slabs now at the centre of the stage, and the centre of attention, the twin assistants walked to their positions both taking up the hidden flamethrowers from the floor.

"We must apologise if the room gets a little warm over the next few minutes." Faustus the Great said, his clothes turning from black to a shining heat reflective silver.  The tiger also went under a similar colour change, her silver fur rippling in the light.

Donning masks, the two assistants aimed towards the large slabs, and also aimed towards the back of the stage.  The flamethrowers were ignited and four-meter long flames lit up the stage, hitting the stones with a thunderous force.

The room did indeed heat up, and very soon the rock was glowing red with heat, and then exploded.  A rain of red-hot fragments of rock came back down, but all stayed on the stage.  The audience had jumped at the explosion, and some had unconsciously ducked, until they realised they were in no danger.

Sara blinked as she realised Max was creating an invisible force field to control the blast, she hadn't realised he would actually be helping.

The twins continued to fire the long tongues of flame at the destroyed slabs as Mystra, dressed in a deep red and flame yellow costume, with large wings attached to her back, stood from the rubble.  The flames didn't seem to bother or harm her as she bowed to the crowd that erupted with clapping and cheering.  Everyone stood from his or her seats as the applause continued for seemingly hours.

Mystra smiled and winked up at Max high above, she was finally back on stage, and the rest of the show would be her best performance ever.

Backstage the group that had become Max Ryan's extended family gathered in the dressing room after the show had ended.  Max looked around the room, a few old faces had gone, never to return, and new faces had replaced the lost friends.  He smiled as his eyes moved over them all.

"Now I might finally get some rest."

"It's almost kinda sad." Anne sighed.

"Oh?" Sara asked.

"The adventure's over, the thrill, the excitement."

"The fear of death," Sandra added, "I'm glad it's over."

"Anne, take it from me, there will be other adventures, other enemies to fight.  I've been through many in the past, but none where I had so much to lose.  I could do with a few quiet lifetimes." Max said.

"Not too quiet I hope." Sara added as she kissed him.

"Mom!" Anne whined, she pouted as a thought struck her, "Just how many kids do you two plan on having anyhow?"

Max blinked and then chuckled, and soon the entire group was laughing but Anne,

"Hey," she said looking around, "I hate babysitting okay."

The End.