Brimstone Kiss (Delilah Street #2)

Chapter 20

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The ebony beads terminating Madrigal's braids clicked like Quicksilver nails as he led me backstage.

Madrigal's mirror was tall enough to put on a closet door to examine your best duds in. Standing before it, I found it tall enough to show even him from foot to topmost dreadlock.

I looked like a character from a space comic: blond, blatantly armed and busty.

I didn't need to use my new intimidating persona anymore. Madrigal was resigned to taking me on as a temporary apprentice just to get me out of the Gehenna… and his dreadlocks and his dainty familiars' lethal webs and toils.

"Front-surface glass is a relatively unknown but ordinary product," he said, tenting his big strong fingers against the mirror to make a spider image and giving me the full scientific spiel.

"It's made by vacuum-depositing a highly reflective aluminum coating onto the front of the glass. You get only a single, perfectly clear refection. With ordinary mirrors, you get a faint refection from the front surface, plus a strong reflection-filtered through glass-from the silvered backing. And your fingers couldn't touch their reflection-there would be the thickness of glass in between. The multiple reflections of ordinary mirror glass blur the image compared to the brilliant clarity of the front-surface variety."

"Why do you use it onstage then? I'd think a magician would want to blur perfection."

"Cameras and camcorders nowadays have awesome magnification and quality. I can't even afford a thirty-second of an inch of difference in manipulating certain illusions."

"But you're a real magician."

"Yes and no." He nodded up to the flies, where his agile familiars hung waiting in the dark. "They're the magical creatures. I was just an offbeat magician with a little act in a traveling carnival. I found them feral in the California redwood forest. I took them for wild children. I didn't know them then for the Dread Queen's subjects."

"You mentioned her before when you first explained who… or what Sylphia and Phasia are. Who is she?"

"Maybe the mundane world knew her as Shakespeare's Titania, maybe as Queen Mab. I figure her as a Mother Nature goddess, benign at times, destructive at other times. I believe she rules all the fairy spawn that have shown their faces since the Millennium Revelation: pixies, nixies and the like. I've never seen her, mind you, perhaps that's why I'm standing here now. Her wrath will move mountains, I hear, and I inadvertently kidnapped two of her creatures. They've possessed me. Together, we've created an 'act' that will save our lives. Even the Dread Queen will not enter the hellish head hotel of the werewolf mob. Werewolves prey on the small fey folk, you see."

"Cicereau's werewolves? I thought they were after human game."

He shrugged. "True, but fey queens aren't always in touch with the modern world. She's a suspicious creature, from what I hear. Arbitrary."

"Like the Red Queen in Alicein Wonderland?"

"Yes, prone to offing heads, whether they be floral or human."

"That's why you stay here."

"I'm caught between two equally unpleasant forces. But my association with Sylphia and Phasia has lengthened my life. I can wait."

"Then what you do with the mirrors is merely magician's tricks?"

"I myself mostly, yes. Real magic is too unreliable for a nightly act. Sylphia and Phasia can play between here and there with mirrors."

"And my 'tricks'?"

"Were quite astounding. Sylphia and Phasia have never transported themselves through the mirror beyond the immediate area, just to the flies and the stage. It's handy for my act. Where you went, I'm not sure, but you left no shell of yourself near the stage area until I worked with you. And Delilah, Cicereau didn't know how right he was. You and I could have invented superb illusions, but we'd probably have been sent to Starlight Lodge to be eaten before that."

Madrigal was watching me carefully, but I didn't react. He didn't need to know I'd used his offstage mirror to slip into Cicereau's private office and snoop.

"Why can they and I move through mirrors?"

"I don't know. They're sisters, of course, but yours was a solo act."

Or was it? Was I accessing Lilith in the mirror? Did she sometimes assume my exact form by mimicking my dress? Was my mirror simulacrum only a shadow form or Lilith in bondage to my actions? Did we just miss meeting in that timeless, spaceless plane?

I pushed my hand at the slightly aqua surface, so like a pale natural blue topaz. My fingers melted into tepid air and stirred the mirror surface into ripples, as if it was water.

Madrigal's hand struck snake-fast for the surface and tapped on ungiving glass.

"For you it melts, for me it freezes over like ice." He frowned, then took my wrist in his hand and guided it to the mirror, through the mirror.

This time the mirror was an opaque pool of mercury, shimmering but solid, reflecting a distorted version of our hands, his totally solid and mine half-submerged.

"The mirror bends to your touch, not mine, although I can use your limbs like a puppet master to penetrate it. I must try this with Sylphia and Phasia. It would make a spectacular illusion."

"It's not an illusion, that's the problem!"

"Your problem, not mine." He smiled grimly. "You'll just have to do as Cicereau's humble house magician does: experiment with your equipment to find intriguing new uses and effects for it."

"Aren't you afraid of losing Phasia and Sylphia in the mirror world if you send them in too far or for too long?"

"You I wanted to lose," he said, smiling. "Them, not. Without them Cicereau would axe my act, and perhaps me. He was furious to lose 'Maggie' in her docile remnant form."

"He saw her? Me?"

"Yes, in the mirror. But don't worry. He thought my magic produced her image. When you jerked her out, however you did that, I had to confess to him that my 'spell' had weakened. Cicereau doesn't tolerate weakness in any living thing around him."

"So you got in dutch with the boss over me and my shadow. Sorry."

"Cicereau runs hot and cold. He was a lot angrier about your physical form escaping from Starlight Lodge. How'd you manage that?"

"No smoke and mirrors, just running and dodging and a little help from my friends."

"One of them that big lupine hound?"

"Actually not. Quicksilver was safe at home that night, like a good dog." Not quite true. He'd been out on errands of his own. But he wasn't talking and I wasn't asking.

I returned to the central question.

"What am I to think about my new gifts for manipulating mirror? The only thing I did with mirrors in Kansas was put on TV makeup goop in them."

"So much came out after the Millennium Revelation. My girls"-he nodded up to the flies where they kept invisible watch-"your gifts. Don't let anyone fool you, Delilah. Magical talent, paranormal gifts are like DNA characteristics. The pattern for them lies hidden somewhere in the physical body. Magic, which so often depends on natural things for its spells and enchantments-"

"Eye of newt?"

"That's from a play. Made up. It's more useful to think of magic as herbs with their many healthful effects and uses and to consider science as the drugs and medicines that are synthesized from the raw material of nature."

"You're saying science and magic have things in common?"

"Of course. That's what makes a big corporation like the Industrial Special Effects and Magic Show so profitable. Take the governmental experiments in such a woo-woo effort as remote viewing. That's been going on for decades."

"You mean people seeing things happening from a long distance away, via their minds? That's never been proven possible."

"You do remote viewing, from what you tell me, in your funhouse mirror at home. Perhaps the Millennium Revelation brought out a lot of dormant gifts in the humans, as well as legions of unhumans.

"What is mirror walking, Delilah, except remote viewing in 3-D?"

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