Sanity is... a relative term [1.4]

Oasis.jpg

Not all explosions are bad... a lot of them maybe?... but not all of them at least.

Let's just say 'explosions can be a mixed-bag'.
It's complicated, no worries, you'll get it eventually.

Events unfold including but not limited to:
Hannah going for a swim in Death Valley,
John giving out a few well-timed cuddles,
and the desert will never be the same again!


 

That… fells… AWESOME!

My arms twitched slightly and my every movement seemed to make the warm, comfortable heat rolling through my limp body increase even more.
It felt so good, I must have spent at least ten minutes just rocking from side-to-side on my back with my eyes closed, humming happily to myself as my body practically glowed internally and the magic inside me pulsed within me like someone was playing a rich Caribbean drum solo in my chest.

Eventually my curiosity won out over my love of feeling so nice and with little effort at all I thrust myself up onto my feet again, my magic assisting with amazing precision to add just a pulse of air from my back and make the whole movement unnaturally smooth in a rather interesting way.

The moment my feet settled on surprisingly solid ground my eyes shot open and I took in the world around me with wide-eyed awe.

Everything, from the thick canopy of trees above us to the lush grass around my toes and the slowly flowing waterfall to my right looked so bright, so alive in a way that I can barely remember it having be in such a long time.

Another happy little hum slipped out of my lips as I turned on the spot, swinging my arms out childishly as I just enjoyed the sounds and smells of nature around me.
When I’d almost completed my first full revolution my eyes landed on one, rather obvious, thing that clearly didn’t belong in this paradise I’d awoken in.

“John! John, wake up you useless git!”
He flinched heavily at my yell but that was nothing compared to the outright convulsion he gave off when I took a running leap and landed on top of him with a happy giggle.
“Come on John, you’ve got to see this, I have no idea what happened but it’s so pretty!”

My words seemed to snap his eyes open almost instantly for some reason.
With a startled yelp I rolled off of him as he shot up into a sitting position without any real warning at all.

“W-wha... where the hell are we?”

I kept going with my roll across the lush grass around us before kicking out my knee at just the right time and, with another minor blast of wind from my seemingly ever so helpful magic, sent myself cartwheeling up into a standing position with one smooth transition.

John’s eyes trailed after me in amazement and I couldn’t help but preen a little under his attention.
It’s nice to know your worth paying attention to after all, I’d hate to disappoint by having messy hair or something equally stupid!

“Han? Wh-... are you feeling okay? The last thing I remember was your magic going haywire and then... nothing?”
I giggled in response and went up on the tips of my toes to spin on the spot happily.

He’s such an idiot sometimes!

“I’ve never felt so good in my life John. The worlds so bright and everything feels so nice and my magic is just-”
Rather than even try to explain the wondrous feelings running through my body at the moment I wrapped my arms around myself in a tight hug and shook from side-to-side to show him how nice it all was.

I haven’t felt this good in... ever?... I honestly can’t remember a time in my life when I’ve felt this good before!

Even the explosions of raw, forced enjoyment I got from over-using my diversion so many times can’t compare to how LIGHT I feel right now.
It feels like I could grasp the world in my hands and just hug it all forever or... or, I dunno, something fun like that at least?!

Just because I could, I spun on my toes again, but I barely even reached a quarter of the turn before the water of a nearby oasis caught my attention due to the bright sunlight sparkling off of its crystalline depths.

I smoothly shifted to my other foot and pivoted myself into an outright sprint towards the water’s edge, the giggle on my lips morphing into a laugh of expectant joy as I reached the small beach-like area before the water and kept running.
The water rose up to meet my feet with barely a thought from me and I just kept running, the wind at my back and the water as my stepping stones as I rose higher and higher into the bright sky, until I could even see above the canopy of trees around us to the barren wasteland of sand surrounding it on all sides.

With little more than a glance, out of curiosity more than anything, I took that final leap off of my water-steps and flew down towards the inviting water below with an excited yell.

Hitting the water was at once cold, refreshing and gloriously welcoming.
Swimming through the crystal clear waters of this mysteriously nice oasis felt like coming home to me for some reason.

I wanted to giggle to myself and roll around in the cool, yet somehow warm, depths forever.
It was only a pressing need for oxygen that prevented me from doing just that honestly.

My head broke the surface first and finally the giggle could come free from my lips again without potentially drowning me in the process.

“Hannah!”
With little more than a thought I rolled onto my back and the water around me began rising up into what was, for all intents and purposes, a throne made of water itself.

For some reason the throne looked and felt familiar but I just couldn’t put my finger on why, despite searching in my head as much as possible in the brief time I had before John decided that standing by the water’s edge calling my name wasn’t working and he made the mistake of stepping into the water, trying to wade his way closer towards me.

I shot him a knowing smirk and pulsed a mild surge of lightning magic through my feet into the water, causing his body to freeze up involuntarily for the brief moment I needed to let my water-throne drop as I practically flew through the cool water like a missile until I was right in front of him at last.

Yet again I surfaced with a happy giggle but this time I followed it up but wrapping my arms around him in a tight hug before he could escape.

“You got in my water John-boy, that’s a dangerous place to be, say ‘Uncle’ or I’ll dunk you!”
His eye’s widened delightfully and I laughed at his obvious surprise for the few seconds it lasted before he hid it behind his usual ‘cool’ exterior.

Slowly his arms came up and wrapped around me in a returning hug which honestly surprised me given the fact that I’d just, playfully, threatened to drown him in the nice oasis water around us.
His hands locked in place behind my back and he stared into my eyes searchingly for a second before his magic swelled impressively wide.

For just a moment it managed to wrap tightly around me on all sides before fizzling away into nothing when faced with the force of my much more powerful magic, but by that point the damage was done.

The warm, inviting feeling I’d had pouring into me from the water around us turned cold.
The colors of the trees and grass lost that unnaturally bright shade that had initially caught my attention about this place.

More importantly I felt a chill move down my spine and the rather odd feeling of the magic inside me pushing against seemingly solid walls of that same magic from outside my skin as if fighting back a tide of power in order to... to...

======

With a gasp of air my eyes shot wide open once more, despite my inability to remember closing them in the first place.

It took me a few seconds to gather myself and take stock of my surroundings before my eyes settled on John’s worried face at last, a rather easy thing to do from our rather cosy position hugging each other tightly while we paddled in a seemingly bottomless pool of amazingly clear water around us.

“John?”
His eyes lost some of the tension in them just from my cautious, questioning tone of voice and it felt like he relaxed as a whole moments later, much to my growing confusion.

“No time to explain Han, I need you to trust me and let me wrap you in my magic, then we need to get out of here quickly.”

I didn’t even get a chance to answer before a sheet of his magic came loose from his body and started trying to surround me on all sides, just like it has done so many times lately with equally nice feelings of warmth, love and trust inside it while being only slightly spoiled by the worry I could feel rolling through it almost constantly as it went.

My magic tried to push loose from his hold but it barely took a thought for me to suppress it into a more docile state and let him keep going until all I could feel was his power surrounding me on all sides.
Without another word he shifted his arms around me slightly as if trying to get a better hold before we were both wrenched away in the dizzyingly blue mess of a line-of-sight warp.

======

We came out the other side, wet but otherwise fine aside from some mild nausea on my part, as always when it comes to warping in general.
John let out a long breath I didn’t realise he’d been holding and, even stranger, I found myself huffing one out in relief as well.

“What’s going on John?”
I frowned slightly as my bare feet sunk slightly into the sand that we were now standing on, the water on them just turning the fine particles into a soggy mush which felt anything but nice as I shifted slightly to avoid sinking any further into it all.

“Everything went as well as it could, I think, your core imploded and scattered to the winds leaving nothing but your Locus point behind. That’s good for you, much healthier, not to mention more manageable, but as a side effect you appear to have created a pocket of magic around where the explosion happened.”

He shifted his arms slightly and flicked his head to my right in response to my curious eyebrow.

I turned my head to follow the movement and my eyes settled on a rather large area of green within the seemingly endless mountains of sand around us, at least a mile away easily from where we were currently stood, yet easily visible due to its general size and just how much it stood out compared to the bleak sand-covered space surrounding it.

“My magic did that?”
He nodded and sighed heavily, giving me another, not unwelcome, squeeze for some reason before he continued speaking.

“From what I can tell, it’s like the Hub or your Realm. You’re magic is infused into the ground and when you woke you must have been completely connected to it judging by the way you were acting. I did the only thing I could think of and wrapped you in my magic, forcing you out of whatever was affecting you by cutting you off from all external sources of magic for a moment or two.”

My eyes widened in surprise before cutting back over to the massive oasis that I’d apparently made by accident from nothing but an uncontrolled blast of my magic as a shudder went through my body at the thought of being controlled by the ground under my feet once more.
It was bad enough the first time back in my realm, let alone out here in the real world!

“Thanks for the save John, I’m sorry about... ya know... everything just kinda spiralled out of control and Eris... E-Eris-”
Slowly I stuttered to a stop as tears formed in my eyes in response to thinking back on that horrible moment where the closest thing I’ve ever had to a daughter didn’t even recognise me, running straight to my own sister who she called ‘Mum’ for some powers-known reason.

After a few moments pause to compose myself I sniffed heavily and shot John an apologetic look which he was more than willing to accept with ease judging by the look on his face.

“I feel better now at least! My magic is... I dunno, but it feels good, it feels lighter than it has in ages, I don’t feel out of control anymore and I don’t... um...”
I’m not even sure what I was trying to say at this point.

Being stood here, wrapped in Johns warm arms and his warm magic while I tried to explain how it felt to finally be free from all that built up pressure inside me left me feeling decidedly awkward as I came to realise what it may look like to an outside observer.

With that thought in mind I eased my arms up and gently pushed us apart slightly to create some space while offering him a thankful look just to make sure he knew it wasn’t anything personal.
He accepted my movement with a surprising amount of grace considering John’s usual emotional range that seemed to shift between arrogance and smug smirking in general.

The moment we’d fully separated, his magic fell away from my body and I couldn’t help but shiver slightly at its loss.

We both opened our mouths to say... something?...
I’m honestly not sure what I was planning to say at that point, let alone him, but it didn’t matter in the end anyway because practically the moment his magic left contact with mine there was an almighty roar of noise to our right and we both spun around to stare in horrified confusion as what appeared to be some kind of giant tentacle monster made of water rose high out of the oasis in the distance.

Several thicker tendrils split themselves vertically as they rose out of the ‘beast’ to create surprisingly realistic looking ‘mouths’ and they all turned as one to focus directly on us.
John gulped heavily and I tried to take a step back in fear, practically tripping over my own feet while crashing into his side instead moments later, much to my continued embarrassment.

“Do you think your magic can sense, well, your magic?”
My worried gaze cut between him and the now moving, gelatinous beast made of pure water as it oozed its way slowly towards us leaving a river of water behind in its wake leading out from the oasis’s original central pond and, if my eyes are seeing things right, apparently also spawning grass and more greenery out of nowhere along the sides of the ‘river’ as it goes!

For one horrible moment a few connections were made in my head between my golden diversion magic’s ability to grow plants around my feet on contact, its ability to influence me when I claimed my realm, it’s almost ravenous hunting of me when I used it to ‘defeat’ Maven at the Hub and finally the freak accident from my ill-advised attempts at testing its limits within my workshop while my core was damaged beyond belief which ended up creating the seemingly sentient zombie-plant I’d affectionately come to call ‘Bitey’ over the last few months.

“We need to leave; we need to leave RIGHT now! I don’t care where John, just hurry the hell up and get us out of here NOW!”
Luckily he didn’t need telling twice.

His arms wrapped tightly around my waist and I just about managed to take in a deep gasp of air before the blue light overtook us as we disappeared into a warp piloted by John, leaving behind the horrible, seemingly sentient, water-beast my magic had apparently formed into so it could catch me again just like the golden puddles tried to do at the Hub.

Much to my relief we got away without further incident and despite the potential dangers involved in its very existence as a whole, which I’m quite happy to list under ‘future-Hannah’ problems at the moment thank-you-very-much, at least the water-beast thing is slow moving if nothing else apparently!

======

We came crashing down awkwardly onto a hard wooden floor in a dark building of some kind.

I couldn’t bring myself to study things much more than that at first as I rolled onto my side and heaved a few times, my motion sickness showing it’s hatred for the idea of warping yet again with a much harsher response then the one I got a few minutes ago.

“W-where are we?”
My arms trembled slightly as I heaved in a few more deep breaths to suppress the urge to vomit which I’d probably have followed through with if it wasn’t for a certain lack of actual ‘food’ in my stomach at this exact moment in time.

“My place, it was the first thing I could think of, the manor is shielded so whatever that thing is, it shouldn’t be able to track you while you’re in here...”

I sighed in relief and rolled onto my back, my arm coming up to wipe my damp hair away from my face in the process before my lips split into a wide grin and a string of almost hysterical laughter left me, joined seconds later by John’s own relieved sounding sniggers to my side where he lay spread out on the same hard-wood flooring as I did.

“...I fucking HATE magic sometimes John-boy...”
The words barely escaped my lips before I was back to laughing to myself at just how crazy things had become in such a short space of time.

Less than a few hours ago I was safely tucked away in my own private little dimension doing everything I could to hide from the world and my problems, now I’m lying on the floor in my best friends ‘manor’ house somewhere feeling SO much better!

My core is just... I don’t know how to describe it?... it’s one of those annoying things with magic where you have to FEEL it to really understand properly but it’s like my core, in all its broken glory, was weighing me down for my whole life and suddenly someone’s cut the anchor away!

My whole body is just HUMMING with magic from the center of my chest all the way to the tips of my fingers.

Logically speaking I would have expected there to be some kind of empty, hollow feeling making itself known behind my heart because my core is completely gone but... but, it’s not there?
I can feel my Locus point pulsing away in my gut still, the power it’s radiating out, washing through my body like crashing waves of comfort that warm me from the inside so deliciously that I just want to bask in it whenever I focus internally even slightly.

It’s as if my Locus point has just been waiting for this moment, for my core to be gone so it can run wild through my body, run free... I honestly don’t think I miss my core at this point?... all my lines have reconnected themselves smoothly around my Locus point as if THAT’S my ‘new’ core and everything feels so GOOD now.

I feel refreshed, renewed and so wonderfully FREE at last!

======

“-glad it all worked in the end, I tried everything I could to find a cure for your dependency on that stupid ‘potion’ of yours or your fractured core but in the end all I could think of was to trigger a big burst of your diversion magic and use it’s unnatural power to ‘heal’ you instead.”
I blinked furiously, coming out of my thoughts on the weirdly pleasant feeling of my newly released magic as I rolled over slightly to fix John with a curious eyebrow which ignored in favor of carrying on regardless of my previous lack of attention.
“I didn’t exactly plan for you to snap like that so suddenly, I was actually going to lead you far away from everyone and then try to piss you off somehow, so the plan didn’t change THAT much, but when Eris turned up I knew things were going to go south pretty quickly and you needed to be removed as fast as possible.”

Slowly my head ducked down in thought as my mind focused on that horrible moment when Eris ran past me into Sarah’s arms instead.

The emotions tied to a lot of it all feel so remote now?
I’m not really sure what’s going on there, the thought of Eris not recognising me still hurts, burns me up inside, but the rest...

I know that I should feel upset?
I know that Eris’s ‘betrayal’ was just the tip of the iceberg with Sarah and John’s much ‘closer’ relationship coming before that, along with all the lingering doubts and guilt I have over my part in the deaths of my Mum and Edith as well... but it’s all just so... so... abstract?...

I’m really not sure what’s going on in my head at the moment at all.
One minute everything’s crushing down on me and then the next...

I just feel so light and free now, so disconnected from that rolling ball of rage and hatred that I let fester inside me for the months I hid in isolation.
There’s probably something to that feeling which I should be worrying about right now but I honestly can’t bring myself to face them at the moment if there really is something to worry about involved.

For the first time in a long time I feel like there’s nothing holding me back, nothing dragging me down or subverting my mind to turn it against me.
It’s such an amazing feeling that I just don’t want to let it go until I have to!

======

“What happened with Eris and Sarah, John?”

Just because I don’t want to look into the ‘why’ behind my sudden disconnection from those horribly strong emotions, doesn’t mean I don’t still care of course and John’s my best source for that kind of information at the moment sadly.

“Trade, an explanation for an explanation?”
I glared slightly at him but that only seemed to amuse him annoyingly so after a moment’s pause I huffed to myself and nodded in acceptance like he knew I would eventually.

“Things got messy. I came-to in a containment field, it didn’t take long for me to break-free obviously, I’ve fought rune masters much better than whoever made that one before after all.”

My eyes winced slightly at the idea of telling him it was his own mother who put him in there.
Before I could decide if it was worth keeping that information to myself or not he carried on speaking though, making the decision kinda moot for now as he moved on.

“I knew you’d be in trouble so I used our brands and followed them back towards your realm, it wasn’t until I got inside that I realised something was very, very wrong...”
He winced and shifted slightly so he could look at me better from our rather awkward positions on the cold wooden floor.
“The brand on my cheek, the one you gave me after I enacted the old magic against you, was telling me that you were quickly moving away from your house on a roughly northwards route... meanwhile the brand touching my core, the one that formed between us from your end when I first enacted the old magic against you and I worked pretty hard to keep open afterwards as a ‘back-up’ in case you ever found a way to cancel out the other one, was telling me that you were laying on the floor a few corridors away from me in serious pain.”

My mind spun with the implications involved in that shocking new information as John seemed to gather himself together so he could say what came next.

Slowly facts started slotting together into place making a horrible amount of sense and drawing a surprised gasp from my lips, my eyes widening along with them as I realised just what had really happened when Arista ‘gave’ Sarah back her core in that hallway.

“From what I could figure out, when the first binding between us formed, it connected with your dominant core; Sarah’s fire one to be exact... After that, Arista must have sensed what the magic was settling inside you to do somehow and begun work to prepare for her bid to take over during your so called ‘second awakening’, thrusting her ice core more into prominence, so that when you tricked me with a brand of your own minutes later the old magic latched onto her core instead of Sarah’s.”

‘Old magic doesn’t discriminate between intent.’
That’s what got us into this whole mess to start with, it’s the same loophole John abused to trick me in the first place after all!

Magic’s stupid, magic’s beyond stupid sometimes and it just does what it’s supposed to without questioning things.

The bindings were never designed to deal with someone who has more than one core, there’s never BEEN someone with more than one core before, as far as I know, so why would the ancient rune-masters who created those meeting grounds have factored something so unlikely into their calculations?

“You found Sarah?”
It’s the only way this story can go from here, he followed the nearest brand connection and found Sarah just how I left her, writhing on the floor as her own core burned her from the inside out with a dazed but heavily sleeping Eris laying nearby in the middle of some random hallway of my realm!

“I found Sarah, and Eris but Sarah was the priority obviously, it took a lot of work but I got the pair of them to the Hub doctors who started working their magic on them almost instantly.”
He sighed and brought a hand up to rub at his cheek slightly as he struggled to find the words for whatever he had to say next.
“They stabilised Sarah’s core and got to work preparing her lines for the magic battering its way inside her with surprising ease, apparently there’s some strange genetic deformity in some of the older Native American mage clans which mirrors what she was going through pretty closely because they had spells on hand to deal with most of the problems she was facing as they cropped up... Eris on the other hand...”

I blinked heavily and found myself holding my breath as he shifted his shoulder against the floor once more before continuing on.

“I don’t know what Arista did Han but Eris isn’t who she once was anymore. She’s the same in so many ways but it’s like someone’s memory wiped away all the important people associated with the things she knows and has hidden them away completely.”
He paused just long enough to shudder, probably at the idea of memory wiping being used on a mage like that in general knowing him, but then he carried on as if nothing had happened.
“I didn’t find out until after we got back from Wizard Island. She was still asleep when they got Sarah stable and I left to follow after you but when she woke up she took one look at Sarah’s sleeping form and declared her to be her ‘Mum’... nothing we tried could convince her otherwise, she’d just start thrashing around and screaming if we tried to stop her, in the end Sarah woke up and over the last few months she’s reluctantly fallen into the role thrust upon her in your place...”
...Well, fuck?...

Fucking Arista and her stupid fucking mind-games, and her stupid fucking... URG!
“Arista did it on purpose, she wanted to hurt me and she knew that the best way to do that was to take Eris from me like this...”

Gently John started pushing himself across the floor towards me.
He’d barely reached the middle-point between us before I lunged forward to wrap myself in his comforting embrace as the tears came and sobs followed quickly afterwards.

The rage may be gone, the hate, the anger, the betrayal... but it still hurts... it hurts so much I don’t know how I’m ever going to face Eris again without breaking down in seconds from it all!
Arista wanted to hurt me, to punish me, and she achieved it in the worst way she could possibly imagine...

“I’m glad I killed her John”
He didn’t question who I was speaking about or why I said it so suddenly.
He held me tight and rocked me while the tears kept falling, allowing me my much needed time to grieve at the loss of the closest thing I’ve ever had to a daughter, despite the fact that she’s still alive and well with my sister of all people.

“I’m glad I fucking killed her!”

======

“Sorry John...”
He let off a hollow little laugh and hugged me closer into his chest for a moment, his way of telling me that I was being stupid in apologising.
“Sorry I ran away into my realm for so long, I just couldn’t deal with things and I... I panicked?”

This time he didn’t laugh but he did squeeze me again as a sheet of his warm magic came loose to wrap around me in such a comforting way that I almost lost track of my chain of thought for a moment or two.

“Wizard Island... I k-killed a lot of people John, I’m a monster...”

Without any warning at all he twisted his body sideways, taking me along for the ride with a rather indignant squeak of surprise from me before settling us back down in a seated position, his back resting against a nearby wall and me seated in his lap like he’s done so many times lately.

Part of me wanted to resist his comfort as my thoughts sunk deeper into the seemingly dulled but still present feelings of guilt I had over my actions at Crater Lake, but a much bigger part of me settled into that wonderfully warm cocoon of his power.

I swear I can actually FEEL his magic slowly sinking into my skin, as if my magic itself is absorbing that strength and comfort as best it can just to keep me from falling over the edge once again?

“I saw the bodies...”
A full-body shudder ran down my spine at the almost detached statement of fact that fell from his lips.
He must have felt the movement I made, no matter how small it really was because he easily moved his arms around me ever-so-slightly tighter as he sunk his head down to rest on my shoulder reassuringly.
“What happened Han?... I know you, you wouldn’t have done something like that without a good reason...”

My mouth opened to answer him but I hesitated for a few precious seconds before the words finally came and like a flood I just couldn’t stop them as they all came pouring out in a near constant stream of broken mutters and half-formed sobs.

Starting with Arista’s snide little introductions ‘for my benefit’ as she greeted her followers, through my shock at the rune-covered crater’s unveiling and onward into the horrible jumble of physical and meta-physical fighting that ensued in that Powers-damned crater.

Through it all John just held me close and encouraged me to speak with little more than a few understanding noises at the back of his throat and the occasional squeeze or two when I needed it.
I didn’t realise until I’d started, just how much I NEEDED to get this all off my chest at last, ‘a secret shared is a secret halved’ and all that after all.

“You beat the hell out of her inside your own mind? That’s classic!”

S-stupid John... he always knows what to say...
...Always...



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