A.C. Sutliff has been a teacher since 2010. She self-published a realistic fiction trilogy for teens and is now writing a fantasy trilogy.
The Code Keeper
The Eternity Prison
An unwelcome visitor had infiltrated the mansion. Mageus could sense it. He strode to his office door and peered out into the hallway. The sun’s early rays cascaded down from the skylight above his head, warming the back of his neck. His men were all still sleeping. Mageus could sense each one of them breathing—some snoring—in their beds one floor down. No, this was a stranger for sure, slinking down the hallway, invisible to the naked eye, but not undetectable to his keen senses.
Thanks to a variety of Viridian Conversions, Mageus could hear the stranger breathing. He could feel the stranger’s soft footsteps making tiny vibrations through the floor. He could smell the musty odor of old parchment and ink, and the intruder’s robes filled with hundreds of Components that mingled in a confused concoction that stank to High Heaven. He didn’t need to see the stranger to know that whoever it was had reached the third floor and was coming down the hallway toward him.
Mageus backed up quickly and pulled a vial of water from a pocket in his black suit. He activated his Spiritual Essence and silently performed a simple Vision Conversion. Water droplets created a mirage around his body, concealing him from view. He stood still, barely allowing himself to breathe, as the invisible someone entered the room and took two halting steps toward the desk.
All night, Mageus had worked to uncover the hidden location of the Keeper’s most prized secret. He was close to cracking the code in the documents he had filched from Blackthorn and Burtree just last night. There were a few problems with his work, however, namely that he needed another source to confirm some conjectures he had made to fill in the gaps of information.
The fact that he had an uninvited early morning guest meant that Mageus was surely on to something with his work. He needed to apprehend this intruder and protect the information he had gained. Whatever the cost.
Mageus pulled a small black stone from his pants pocket and held it up. Silently, he enlarged the stone to the size of a boulder. He listened for the clumsy footsteps of the intruder, aimed, and concentrated his Energy. The stone shot out of his hand and collided with something invisible just in front of his desk.
There came a grunt and a thud. Mageus hurried forward, groping with his feet until he came into contact with the invisible person. He knelt down and grabbed the person’s robes, yanked him up, and threw him against the wall in a magnificent flurry of ripples.
“Solidum!” Mageus called out, and the invisibility orbs surrounding him and the stranger both froze with a sharp snap. “Terra Kinesis!” he shouted as he pointed at the large stone, now on the floor. It shot up toward the stranger and collided with the frozen orb. Ice crystals sprinkled all over his cashmere rug as the stranger tumbled to the floor in a heap.
Mageus gaped at the stranger. It was a man in a pinstriped charcoal suit and a gray vest with several hundred pockets. The man had short silver hair, dark eyes, and a clean shaven handsome face. It was the Code Keeper!
Mageus couldn’t hold back the grin as he realized that this was his chance to finally crack the code and claim what was rightfully his. He pointed at the Keeper and readied a Conversion, but something caught the corner of his eye.
Mageus wheeled around in time to see a shower of silver coins flying at him. The coins hit his frozen invisibility orb, and the ice crystals shattered. Mageus threw up his arms in a powerful gesture that wielded his Spiritual Essence to defend his body. For just a brief moment, he glimpsed a ripple in the air, and another shower of coins shot at him from the corner of the room.
The man at Mageus’s feet wasn’t moving, and he was changing. Slowly, his body, clothes and all, began to shrink and morph into a silver strand of hair enlarged to a considerable size.
The Code Keeper was not sprawled out on the floor in front of him. This sorry excuse for a pound of flesh was simply that. A pound of flesh. A golem. The real Code Keeper was still invisible somewhere in the room, launching an all-out attack, and it was all Mageus could do to defend himself from the onslaught.
Mageus had made a terrible mistake. He had attacked the decoy, given away his position, and allowed the real intruder to get between him and the information on his desk.
In the blink of an eye, the real Code Keeper dropped his invisibility as he grabbed the pile of scrolls on the desk. That was when Mageus realized the Keeper was flying on a tiny frozen cloud; the Keeper threw something at the window behind the desk and shouted, “Translatio!” and the glass shattered with an ear splitting crash. Without a moment’s hesitation, the Keeper flew through the window.
Mageus reached for the collar of his suit jacket, cupping his hand over a harry insect perched there. “Augendi!” he shouted, and the harry insect grew to a startling size. It was a howler monkey with three tails, six legs, and the transparent wings of an insect. Mageus leaped onto the winged creature’s back and shot out the window in close pursuit.
The Code Keeper was a fast flyer, but Mageus wasn’t about to let him go without a real fight. He pulled a strange metal gun-like contraption from his jacket pocket and aimed it at the Keeper. “Fulgur!” he shouted, and a spark of electricity appeared at the tip of the gun, where it came to a pointed end with a miniature lightning rod. “Augendi!” Mageus bellowed, and the lightning bolt grew and shot out at the Keeper.
Thunder boomed so loudly Mageus couldn’t hear anything else.
The attack sent the Keeper spiraling to the ground. Mageus followed right behind on his strange winged mount, already aiming his gun to fire again.
But something went terribly wrong, and Mageus felt himself and his mount falling too fast, as though gravity was warping around them and pulling them into a black hole.
Mageus and his winged creature collapsed on the ground. The lightning gun clattered across the yard toward the Keeper. The creature shrank back down to the tiny size of an insect, and with a groan, Mageus reached for the creature and carefully lifted him in the palm of his hand.
The Keeper stood over Mageus and stared down with a disapproving frown.
“Nicholas, I demand you let me go and fight me like a man!” Mageus bellowed.
“I cannot do that,” the Keeper said. He stooped to pick up the lightning gun.
“Don’t you dare use my own weapon against me!” Mageus shouted, gritting his teeth against the crushing weight of the gravity pooling around him and pinning him to the ground. “This is not how I will meet my end!” Mageus shouted.
“No,” the Keeper said with a sad shake of his head. “I have seen your death, and it is not today. This is merely a temporary prison.”
The Keeper stepped forward and towered over Mageus; he raged in vain against the power that was holding him motionless against the earth.
“I don’t suppose you would mind if I borrow this?” the Keeper asked, holding up the lightning gun. “I know someone who could really do some fantastic things with it.”
“Borrow means you bring it back!” Mageus spat through tight lips. Behind him, several men in black came sprinting out of the mansion to come to the aid of their leader.
“Oh, I intend to bring it back, trust me.” The Keeper held up his hands and said, “Inanis!” A black rip in space appeared directly above Mageus. Immediately, Mageus felt the gravity shift from pushing him down to pulling him up, and at the same time, his body lost its form. Mageus slowly became a vapor of black mist, and with sickening speed, the tear in space sucked him up into a black void of nothingness.
His scream died on his lips as oblivion engulfed him in a timeless prison.