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Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Bound for Eternity


Part I – The Beginning

Unlike with a bride, there was no official ceremony to celebrate when a new woman was added to the Sultan’s harem. As a result, the young woman felt almost cheated somehow. She fiddled with her long, rich, dark brown hair nervously while her father babbled on and on about inane pleasantries.
Finally, the Sultan gestured in her direction. “And this is the one with the power?”
That was all he cared about. His harem was full of women chosen specifically for their magical talent, no matter how small. He wanted them for two reasons; to enhance his own power in his children, and to ensure that none of his enemies ever got their hands on the women or their power.
“Yes,” the woman’s father confirmed. “Show him.”
She closed her eyes for a moment, and when they opened, they glowed with an eerie light. The Sultan’s palace seemed to tremble a bit and the water in the fountain abruptly shot several feet higher than normal. The woman focused on her hand, and a small flame erupted from her fingertips. She focused on a statue of the Sultan’s head, and wished it would shatter as her flames engulfed it.
Instead, the statue survived just fine.  It now bore scorch marks, but she didn’t actually dare to use the kind of power required to harm it. If I showed him my true power… She didn’t want to even think about the consequences!
The Sultan paled. He was a fairly handsome man going on his thirties, but he had been the ruler long enough to have come across many people with magical power. He made it a habit of collecting them; even so, she might just be the most powerful of them all!
He gestured to his best friend. The man had come from the streets, adopted as a child by the previous Sultan – who had seen his potential. Raised together, these two were as close as brother, but even better, since this Sultan hadn’t had to kill him when he ascended the throne. (This refers to the practice of killing all one’s brothers when a man inherits the throne.)
“She’s powerful,” the best friend stated. “Even more so than she’s letting you see.”
The Sultan nodded. “I agree.” He had the ability to see power, and she couldn’t fool him for a second. “She shall be my favorite from now on, and the children we conceive shall be nigh unstoppable!”
This prospect saddened the woman.

*****

Months passed, and after the wise old crone confirmed that Zara was in fact carrying the Sultan’s future son, she was granted the privileges of a wife. This meant that she could actually leave the harem – after obtaining permission – and take a heavily guarded palanquin to shop the great bazaar.
Someone the Sultan trusted always accompanied her to keep an eye on her, carry the money to pay for her purchases, and make absolutely certain that no one dared to talk to her or look her in the eye. Most often, this was the Sultan’s best friend.
“What’s wrong, Zara? You’re not buying anything today.”
Zara sighed heavily but did not say anything. She kept her attention focused on the view she could just barely see through the curtain of her palanquin.
“Zara?”
“Matihiros…” Zara began, wondering how to explain her thoughts to the Sultan’s best friend without getting herself into trouble. “I… I…” She shook her head. “I’m just worried about when the baby comes. Will I be a good mother?” Will I be able to stop my son from becoming the monster that his father wants him to be?
Matihiros laughed. “That’s only natural… from what I hear.”
 “Do you have any children?” Zara asked, suddenly curious.
He shrugged. “No idea. The Sultan says that I am the most powerful magic wielder that he has ever seen, and he wants my power to be passed on to his children.”
“But how can that be?!” Zara exclaimed in surprised confusion.
“From time to time, he selects a wife or concubine that he feels has the right power, and he brings her to bed with us. If a child is conceived – and usually one is – the child could be either of ours, and therefore is his. But I shouldn’t be telling you this,” Matihiros had whispered the whole explanation, and now looked around to see if anyone might have overheard them. The palanquin bearers were all deaf and mute, so they were safe, and none of the guards looked suddenly pensive.
“Why not?” Zara asked softly. “The way the Sultan feels, I am certain that after this son is born, I will likely be the one brought to bed.”
Matihiros nodded. “Yes… he has hinted as much. He wants to see what kind of power a child created by the two of us could have.”
“How cruel!” Zara whispered, wiping a tear from her eye.
“What?” Matihiros wondered.
“That I shall be allowed to share a bed with you someday, but only when the Sultan wants me to,” Zara admitted softly.
Matihiros’ expression darkened. “Are you saying that you want to share a bed with me?” He whispered in return.
Zara looked away and did not answer. Even so, her intention was clear. Matihiros gasped softly, and held out his hand to her longingly, but did not actually touch her.
“The Sultan would have us both executed if he heard us now,” Matihiros whispered, then lowered his hand, and focused on the bazaar. He commanded the palanquin to stop at the next shop, and gestured for Zara to at least look around. There was no sense in risking suspicion by riding around the city in private and not doing anything.
But, from that point on, their relationship changed. Every time that Zara received permission to go shopping, she sat close enough to Matihiros that they could hold hands. They even dared to steal a few kisses. Neither pushed their luck by doing anything that could be overseen and reported to the Sultan. They were both too afraid of him to even dare.
One day, when Zara was about 8 months pregnant, she started to cry. Mathiros commanded the palanquin to stop in a clear area, and ordered the guards to keep everyone away until the Sultan’s favorite was feeling better.
“What’s wrong?” He asked in a gentle, soothing tone of voice.
“I can’t take this anymore! I don’t want my child to be raised by the Sultan! I want to run away and raise him to be a good and decent human being!” She cried out as quietly as she could.
Matihiros dared to put a hand on her back as an attempt to comfort her. “Do not say such things! The Sultan will have you beheaded!”
“Please, Matihiros! Please get me out of the palace. If you smuggle me out at night, no one would ever know that you helped me escape.”
“Yes… they would…” Matihiros murmured. “Because I would be with you. It would be obvious to everyone that we escaped together, and the Sultan would never stop looking for us.”
Zara held her breath hopefully for a moment, and then dared to ask him her burning question. “Will you do it?”
“No,” Matihiros shook his head. “It’s suicide, and I do not want to die.”
Zara resumed her sobbing.
“Zara, stop! You’re going to get us into trouble,” Matihiros insisted.
“I don’t care. Let him behead me, then his precious son will not be born!”
“Zara!” Matihiros gasped. “Do not say that! I would be lost without you!”
Zara sighed, and calmed herself as best she could.
A tear escaped Matihiros, and he looked horrified at his own thoughts. “I love the Sultan as if he were my own brother. I would do anything for him… but I love you more. Perhaps if I asked him, he would give you to me.”
Zara laughed. “When has the Sultan ever given up something that belongs to him?!”
They were both silent for a long time. Finally, Matihiros sighed. “Fine… I’ll smuggle you out of the palace. We’ll run away together. Who knows… maybe we’ll even managed to escape…”
Zara gasped happily. “You mean it?!” He nodded, and she couldn’t stop herself from throwing her arms around him and kissing him with every ounce of love she possessed.
“I was afraid of this…” the Sultan murmured, completely surprising them. He was dressed as a guard, and stared at them through an opening in the curtains surrounding the palanquin. “Had you actually dared to ask me for my blessings, I might have considered it, but instead, you decide to betray me.”
“No!” Zara whispered in horror. Her entire face paled as the blood drained from her. “No, please!”
The Sultan shook his head sadly. “Matihiros will be executed in the morning, and you shall be locked up until after my son is born. Then I will execute you as well.”
Zara started sobbing again, and clung to the man she loved desperately. “Please no! Don’t do this! I’ll behave; I’ll never dare mention Matihiros again! Please don’t kill him!”
“It’s too late,” the Sultan stated firmly, his expression clearly conflicted. He almost looked like he wanted to cry. “Guards, take him away!”
Matihiros hoped to save his beloved from death by cooperating. If he didn’t resist, maybe the Sultan would change his mind about executing Zara after he was gone. He extracted himself from her arms, and calmly went with the guards.
“No!” Zara screamed. “Fight them! Run away! You are powerful; they couldn’t stop you! Please! Please don’t let them kill you!”
Matihiros shook his head, and dared to look her in the eye one last time. “If my cooperation gives you even the slightest chance of living, then I won’t fight.”
“But I will! To my dying breath I will fight! I don’t want to live without you!” Zara insisted fiercely. She gathered up her energy – every last drop – and prepared to strike all the guards dead. The Sultan was prepared for this, and quickly activated a charm.
Zara gasped as she felt to the floor of the palanquin. She felt as weak as a newborn. “What…?”
“Did you really think I had no way to defend myself against those with powers such as yours?” The Sultan asked. “I had you and Matihiros both wrapped up with a powerful spell of binding, and he knows it. I have everyone bound! If any of you dare try to use your powers against me, I only need activate the charm, and you are unable to use your power ever again.”
Zara writhed in agony. It literally hurt to have her powers bound.
The Sultan stepped into the palanquin, and commanded that it return to his palace. The next morning, he brought Zara to a balcony overlooking the public execution square. Zara could barely move, and even breathing hurt.
The Sultan held her on his lap so that she had no choice but to watch as the man she loved was put to death. His head and chest was tied face down to a large, blood-stained rock, and though he stared at her, he was calm. If she couldn’t see his gray eyes so clearly, she would have thought that he was asleep.
Her own dark brown eyes watered so badly that she had a difficult time seeing. “Please,” she begged in a near whisper. “I’ll do anything you want me to. Please don’t kill him.”
The Sultan sighed. “You think I want to kill my best friend? I have no choice. Once I decreed his execution, I cannot stop it, no matter how much I wish I could. If I tried, the people would think I was weak. Besides… what else could I do with him? He could never return to my palace, nor could I simply banish him to live his life in freedom. He would only rot in the dungeons until he died a horrible death anyway. At least this way, he is not at the mercy of my torturers…”
The Sultan signaled the executioner, who responded with a nod. Using a small whip, the executioner whacked the backside of a massive elephant. The elephant did as he was trained, carefully stepping on the rock, and then leaning as much of his weight onto it as possible. His leg shook as the bones crushed.
The crowd was strangely silent. It was now irrefutable that the Sultan would not tolerate anyone betraying him; not even his best friend. They looked to the woman who had caused this terrible tragedy, and could not even feel the slightest sympathy towards her. She should have known better than to tempt a man into betraying her master.
A glow hovered over Matihiros’ now dead body, and then it slowly flew to the Sultan. He directed it into a glass jar, and then tucked it into the pouch at his waist.
“Take comfort, Zara,” he whispered. “I have his soul here, and I will send it away to be reborn soon enough. After I strip him of his power.”
He had her brought to her small, semi-private room. Standing over her, he looked sad again. Then he recited a spell Zara had never heard before, and the world faded.
Shifting his attention to the wise old crone, he gave her a command that he knew she would obey no matter what. “I have removed her soul from her body. Take excellent care of her until the baby comes. Once it does, notify me, and then prepare to poison her. Unless I change my mind… she will die once my son has been delivered safely.”
The crone nodded obediently.
The moment the crone delivered the newborn into the Sultan’s arms, he waved her away to finish her task, and contemplated the two souls he had in jars on a table in his private secret room. He cooed to his son, and gently bounced him when he fussed.
“You mother was very bad,” he muttered absently. Handing the child over to a wet nurse, he disappeared. His secret room was magically attuned to him, and as a result, candles lit themselves as he entered.
“I cannot actually strip you both of your power, but I can bind it.” He took a pinch of soul from each of the jars, manipulating them until they formed threads. He tied the two threads together, then cut them both from the souls they came from.
Encasing the knot in a magical barrier, he tossed it out his window into the ocean. It would lay there forever. Even if fish ate it or people found it, it would remain the same, and look much like a cloudy glass marble.
Next, he focused on all the maps he had of the world. Locating a suitable Island Kingdom on the far side of the planet, he visualized it as if he were standing on its soil. Once he had the spell active, he bound Matihiros’ soul to that place.
After that was done, he chose a place on nearly the opposite side of the world. He bound Zara’s soul to that place, and then sighed sadly. No matter how much time passed, the chances of these two ever finding each other again was slim to none.

Time passed, and the Sultan grew old. He chose one of his many sons as a vessel, and then placed his soul inside him. In this way, he would always be around to help and guide the new Sultan, and keep him powerful.

*****

Part II – The End

A man kissed his wife awake. “Good morning, beautiful. Happy birthday.”
Zara groaned. “Well it was, but now I’m awake.”
Her husband laughed. “I just got a call from our friends. They are all coming.” He referred to the restaurant that they planned to eat at for dinner later on.
“Really?” Zara asked, excited despite her general awake-ness. He nodded.
She squealed happily, and rewarded her husband with a kiss. “I can’t wait! This is going to be the best birthday ever!”
“I think I’ll go make you breakfast, and then serve it to you in bed. Or maybe I’ll have the kids serve it.”
“That’s okay, Shane!” Zara called out after him as he left. “I’m getting up anyway. We can all eat breakfast at the table. Feel free to make the works!”
“Yep, I know,” Shane replied from the kitchen.
The day passed agonizingly slowly, so Zara decided to treat herself a bit. She went to a local spiritual shop, and asked for a reading. The woman Zara chose was good at reading cards and communicating with spirit guides.
“Strange…” the Intuitive murmured. “It seems you are very powerful yourself. Why do you need me?”
Zara laughed. “You are not the first to tell me this. Almost all the Intuitives I’ve ever consulted agree that I have within me a deep well of power, but I can’t seem to access it no matter how much I try. I’m beginning to think that it is a standard phrase you all say to encourage your clients to visit more.”
“No!” The intuitive shook her head fervently. “That’s not true! We tend to tell most clients the truth, that they have a spark that can be nurtured, but you…”
Zara gave her a curiously probing look. “What? I can actually read tarot cards and occasionally get glimpses of psychic intuition? I guess that would make me more powerful than the average client. Nothing compared to you, I’m sure.”
“That’s just it! You have a reserve of power like I’ve never seen! It… just… seems to be… blocked…?”
Zara frowned. “They all say that too…”
The Intuitive nodded. “Like there is a veil, or… a binding of some sort. It prevents you from using your power…”
Zara shrugged. “Oh well, the result is the same. I can’t use my power, so I need you to use yours. Can you tell me about the upcoming year?”
The Intuitive sighed. “Everyone keeps asking me that. Everyone wants to know if the world really is going to end soon, but I honestly don’t know. That is veiled from me, and the guides all refuse to talk about it.”
Zara smirked. “That rather tells me that it’s probably true. If so, I have no regrets. I’ve gotten everything I really wanted in life. The only sad thing is my kids will not get a chance to grow up, but even then… I believe that there will be a next life for them. They will eventually get to live full lives, and I may even still be their mother.”
The Intuitive laughed. “That’s an interesting way to look at it! Personally, I don’t believe the 2012 prophecies. I think that the only reason the guides avoid talking about the future is that they want us humans to learn our big lessons on our own for a while. I think that come 2013, they will laugh at us for being so worried, and then they will guide us into a brighter future.”
“What about the very real polar shift?” Zara asked. “The poles are moving fairly rapidly these days, and causing terrible catastrophes around the world. Don’t you think that has anything to do with the prophecy?”
“I really don’t know,” the Intuitive admitted. “But let’s get back to your reading. The guides tell me that nothing will really change for you. You won’t win the lottery, and you won’t move into your own house. Sorry!”
Zara responded with a fake growl of frustration. “Again?! Damn…”

“And that’s why my boss now knows better than to ask me for advice!” Emmett joked. He and his wife, plus one other couple, were celebrating Zara’s birthday in an all you can eat buffet.
Zara laughed, her eyes dancing with merriment. This was her true joy in life, laughing and joking with friends and loved ones. “Did he ever tell you what his wife thought as he repeated what you told him to?”
Emmett laughed even harder, his wife almost crying because she was laughing so hard. “Yes! She though he had lost his mind, and was tempted to have him committed!”
Zara held her sides in an attempt to prevent them from aching. Man! It’s wonderful to have my friends around! She only wished that they lived closer.
Suddenly, Zara’s face turned white, and she gasped.
“What’s wrong?” Shane asked in concern. Everyone stopped laughing and watched her stare at absolutely nothing as if she was seeing a horrible event.
A moment later, Zara’s head moved slowly, as if she was tracking something no one else could see. Everyone knew she had a touch of psychic-ness, but no one had ever seen her like this. They all wondered if she was having her first real psychic vision.
A hostess showed a couple to a table in the same small area where Zara and her loved ones sat. Zara was already on her feet and staring at the foreigners. The man was tall for a Japanese man, so his wife looked tiny in comparison.
He stared at her, his face also white. “Zara…” he whispered.
Zara pushed free of the chair, and walked to him. They stared into each other’s eyes for a long moment. “Matihiros?” She had no idea why or even what she had said.
The two hugged, tears pouring from their faces. They squeezed each other tight, and refused to let go for at least an entire minute. The lights in the restaurant flickered wildly. Everyone wondered if the power was about to go out.
Finally, they stepped back from each other, but only enough so that they could look at one another. Zara held up her hand; her fingers all pointing at the ceiling, and her palm facing him. He touched his palm to hers, and the ground trembled.
They were both astonished a second later when their mouths opened, and they recited a spell in a long dead and forgotten language. Zara’s shoulder-length hair grew until it brushed the bottom of her butt. It also darkened, as did her light brown eyes.
The same happened to the Japanese man. His very short, black hair grew until it reached his shoulder blades, and his eyes lightened from black to gray. Abruptly, the lights stopped flickering, and the ground stopped rumbling.
A moment passed in silence. The petite Japanese woman tugged on her husband’s sleeve hesitantly.
“Hiro… who is this woman?” She asked in their language.
Zara turned to her, and in perfect Japanese – a language she had never learned – replied. “Don’t worry about me; I’m just a very old friend.”
Zara laughed, and extended her hand for him to shake in greeting. “Hi, I’m Zara. Nice to finally meet you,” she said in English.
He smiled, and shook her hand. “I’m Hiro… Matinabe Hiro. In Japanese culture, the last name is always given first,” he explained. His English was almost perfect, which surprised his wife, since he had spoken it with a thick accent before.
“I’m sorry to have interrupted your dinner,” Zara informed his wife in Japanese again. “I’ll leave you two alone now.”
“I hope to talk to you again before we leave,” Hiro stated as he held out a chair for his wife to sit in.
“I’d like that too,” Zara agreed, already back at the table where her husband and friends gaped at her in astonishment.
“What?” She asked after she got a good look at their expressions.
“What do you mean what?!” Her husband demanded. “First you hug a man you’ve never even met before, and then the whole world quakes as you get a rather sudden makeover!”
“Oh… that’s right…” Zara inspected her hair, and wished she had a mirror to see herself in. “It’s been so long that I’ve forgotten what I look like,” she murmured.
“Zara?!” Emmett almost barked when she failed to say anything more for almost a minute. He was just as confused as her husband, and hoped to provoke her into answering them.
Zara hummed lightly as she thought, and then began hesitantly. “A long time ago… 1000 years? 2000 years? I don’t know… Anyway, there was a Sultan. He prided himself on gathering people with magic. He bought me from my father…”
She briefly looked to the table where the Japanese couple ate. Hiro also looked pensive and faraway. He seemed to be trying to explain things his wife.
“Matihiros already belonged to the Sultan, and had since he was a small child. His power was unequalled by anyone… until I came along. I suppose it was inevitable that we fell in love, and then the Sultan executed us both. His head was crushed by an elephant, and I was poisoned…”
Zara shuddered as she relived the memory of Matihiros’ execution. She now had several lifetimes of memories, and her head felt positively crowded. She had to firmly lock up anything that she didn’t need at the moment.
Her eyes glowed lightly, and she felt a strange tingling in her fingers. She stared at them curiously as they erupted in flames. The fire was absolutely beautiful to her.
She wiggled her fingers and twirled the flames, forming a small ball like a marble of flame that she fiddled with. “I wonder how the Sultan managed to bind our power to each other and then keep us apart all this time?”
“Wait,” Shane exclaimed in disbelief. “Are you serious?”
“Yes,” Zara confirmed. Her voice was low, and held absolute conviction. It also helped her story that the ball of fire that she played with was now the size of a silver dollar, and the heat of it could be felt by anyone who got brave enough to try to touch it. Zara swallowed the ball unexpectedly.
Next, she twirled her finger above the water glass, and beckoned a stream of water into her mouth. This was not to extinguish the fire – as her husband believed – but simply to see if she could.
The ground started to vibrate again, and Zara looked over at Matihiros – now name simply Hiro, she reminded herself. He looked like he was having trouble controlling his power, which made sense. Neither of them had access to their power for at least a millennia. It was only natural that their control would be rusty.
And then the visions hit them. They both gasped, “The Sultan!”
A faint specter stood between them, yelling at them. “You fools! I finally get you back together, and rather than do what is necessary, you’re both playing like children! There’s almost no time!”
They saw the series of disasters that had already occurred around the world, and then they saw a series of disasters that had yet to happen. It culminated in a cataclysm that shattered the planet. Zara sobbed outright, but Hiro maintained his stoicism the best he could. Even so, he could not stop the tears from sliding down his cheeks.
“No!” Zara shouted, standing once more. She looked to Hiro. “He’s lying; he’s sending us false visions!” The other patrons in the restaurant – who had half convinced themselves by this time that they hadn’t actually seen these two display magical powers – fell silent.
“Zara… When did the Sultan ever lie?” Hiro asked.
Zara realized that he was right, and covered her mouth with a hand. “No…” she uttered softly.
“Stop wasting time and do something!” The ghost of the Sultan roared.
“Do what?!” Zara shouted angrily, slamming her fist on the table.
“Um… I think it’s probably best if we leave now,” Shane suggested, noticing that the other diners were all muttering nervously about the crazy woman who kept shouting nonsense.
Zara let her husband lead her out of the buffet, but then paced the parking lot as she pulled on her hair. According to her visions, she still had time to figure out what to do. After all, the prophesized end of the world was still a couple months away.
“Were you not paying attention?!” The ghost growled. “There will be a series of disasters. The longer you wait, the more people will die!”
Zara turned to face him. “Why do you care?! You’re apparently dead, so what’s in it for you?”
“I have kept watch over and guided my descendants for countless generations! Those that carry my blood number into the millions; of course I care! Of course I want them to survive!”
“Once, I had the ability to create a volcano right over there if I so desired, now it takes everything I have just to make the ground shake enough to knock over a sign! What am I supposed to do?” Zara was shouting again, jumping up and down and gesturing wildly as she made her point.
“Zara…” Shane whispered, wrapping his arms around her. “You’re starting to scare me.” Her friends all murmured in agreement.
Taking a few deep breaths, Zara felt safe and calm in her husband’s arms. She buried her face in his chest, and snuggled into him.
“I love you so much,” she whispered.
Emmett exhaled a sigh of relief. Now that his friend was calm, things could get back to normal. As if reading his thoughts, Zara turned her head until she was looking directly at him. Her eyes turned completely white, and started glowing with an otherworldly light once more.
“It’s coming, and it’s not because of anything I did,” she murmured. “It’s not me… It’s not Matihiros…”
A moment passed in expectant silence, and then the earth began to shake.  Cars slid across the parking lot and billboards fell. People screamed, and ran anywhere they thought they might find safety.
“Why is there an Earthquake here?! We’re several states away from the nearest faultline!” Someone demanded incredulously.
“It’s not me… It’s not my fault…” Zara murmured. Her entire body was white at this point. The chaotic energy radiating from the planet in massive surges ran over her, making her feel as if she was drowning in a tidal wave.
Hiro swayed as he slowly emerged from the restaurant. He looked like he wanted to vomit, but was doing an excellent job of holding it back. It took him what felt like forever, but finally, he was within reach. Holding out his hand to Zara, she instinctively grabbed it to steady him.
Amazingly, she and her husband seemed to be in an island of calmness, much like the eye of a storm. The moment Zara and Hiro’s hands joined, the island of calmness spread. Slightly out of unison, they chanted a spell in the long dead language of their past lives. If the spell had worked, it would have helped the Earth dissipate this frantic energy in a gentler way, but it barely had an effect. The only thing they managed to accomplish was stabilizing the ground they stood on.
Eventually, the Earth ran out of energy, and settled down to wait for the next tremor.
“There will be a total of three in this area…” Hiro muttered, his eyes also glowing just a bit. “Each worse than the one before.”
Zara wished she could smack the ghost of the Sultan. “You see? We can’t do a thing! What do you expect us to do to stop –” She couldn’t bring herself to actually say the destruction of the world.
“But you can,” the Sultan insisted. “Why do you think I separated you? Together, you two can do anything! For a long time I was terrified that you would try to destroy my soul, but now I would gladly welcome it if you just save the planet!”
“How?” Hiro asked.
His wife had come to find him, and stood watching the two with an expression of hope mixed with fear and jealousy. She was smart enough to realize that something major was happening here, and that her husband could protect her from it. Yet, she was also afraid of the way he kept looking at and migrating to this supposed old friend.
“Merge your energy,” the Sultan stated, as if this was the simplest and most obvious solution.
“How?” Zara asked for clarification.
The ghost laughed. “By doing the one thing I never let you do.”
Zara and Hiro exchanged confused looks. “Run away?”
The Sultan rolled his nonexistent eyes. “Do I have to spell it out for you? Merge your energy by joining your bodies!”
Zara gasped, her eyes regaining their color; the glow evaporating with an almost audible snap. She was still in her husband’s arms, and snuggled into him so that he could protect her. In this lifetime, she had never been intimate with anyone other than him.
 Hiro shook his head and took hold of his wife’s hand. He also had no desire to betray her or their marriage. He waved goodbye to Zara, and led his wife to their rental car so that they could return to their hotel and talk about what was happening.
“Come on,” Zara beckoned to her friends. “The show is over for tonight, so let’s all go back to my place and have some Margaritas.” They all thought this was an excellent suggestion, and soon were passed out around her Zara and Shane’s living room.

A couple of days passed as if nothing had happened, except that Zara had fun brushing and styling her longer and absolutely luscious hair. She arranged her hair up and out of the way, and then set the brush aside so that she could make dinner.
Her husband came home, and nuzzled her neck. “Have I mentioned that I love your hair?”
Zara purred happily. Her kids clamored to hug their father since he had just returned home from work. Aside from the change in her appearance, she could almost pretend nothing was different.
Checking on what she was cooking, she found that the noodles were perfectly al dente, so she turned the burner off. Gathering up pot holders to protect her hands, she lifted the large, scaldingly hot pot full of water and noodles. The next thing she knew, the pot was crashing to the floor, and its contents were spraying all over her.
Thankfully, her husband was able to shield their children, which meant that he got a couple of burns on his back. He looked up at his wife, and her eyes were white again. She was completely unaffected by the temperature of the water.
“It’s coming… again…”
Shane had quick critical thinking skills, and ushered their kids into a doorway in an attempt to provide them with stability and shield them from debris.
“Zara! Tell me what’s going on!” Shane demanded. She had practically refused to talk about the imminent destruction of the planet, because she didn’t want anyone to worry over something they couldn’t do anything about. Mostly, she didn’t want to confirm to those that actually believed her that the world really was about to end.
“Shane…” she murmured hesitantly. “The 2012 prophecies are true… The world is coming to an end, and there’s nothing anyone can do to stop it.”
“Why not? Surely there’s something…” Shane insisted, trying to deny the hopelessness he suddenly felt. Their house threatened to fall apart around them, but the small area where they stood seemed unaffected.
Zara shook her head, a tear streaking down her cheek. “The Sultan says that if Matihiros and I merge our powers, we will be able to do something, but I don’t know what.”
“So then, go merge your powers!” Shane commanded desperately.
“But…” Zara was crying outright now. “I have never been with anyone but you! I don’t want to have sex with him!”
“Wait, what?” Shane asked in confusion. His children were shivering in fear and fascination as they watched their possessions fly back and forth across their house.
“You saw us. We tried to cast a spell to stop the Earthquake in the parking lot of the buffet, and we failed. We don’t have enough control over our powers, and even if we did, we don’t know how to work together. Something like this requires that we be in complete unison. We must work as one, act as one, and breathe as one…”
“Ah…” Shane murmured in understanding. “I get it.”
The Earthquake insisted on two last violent tremors before finally dying out… for now. Zara knew there would be one more at some point in the near future. One that put this one to shame when it came to violence and lives lost.
Shane held his breath hopefully. When there really were no more tremors, he was so relieved that he started panting as he held his chest. Zara was afraid for a moment that he was having a heart attack, but one touch assured her that she was wrong.
“Is it over? Will there be another?” Shane inquired. He wanted to mentally and physically prepare if another quake came to call.
“Yes…” Zara answered, “but I don’t know when…”
Taking a few deep breaths to calm himself, Shane sighed, and gathered his wife into his arms. He stroked her hair, kissed her forehead, and held her tight.
“I’m not saying that I like the idea, but Honey… If you really can do something, shouldn’t you at least try?”
“I’ll think about it,” Zara replied evasively.

Three days later, Zara was restless. She’d sent her kids to a friend’s house so that she could think, but all she had accomplished so far was nearly biting her lip off as she paced her living room. Shane was at work, and she knew that he was worried sick that the final Earthquake would arrive when he wasn’t around to protect their kids.
She could feel it coming, but it wasn’t going to actually arrive for at least another day. It was the waiting that was killing her the most. Closing her eyes, she tried her hardest to block Matihiros from her mind.
Ever since they had reawakened their powers, she knew exactly where he was at all times. It was far too tempting to go to him. She even had her husband’s implied consent.
Her eyes flew open and she gaped at the door. He had managed to come to her before she realized what he was doing! Panic raced through her veins for one moment, but then she sighed in defeat, and went to let him in.
The doorbell rang just as she opened the door, and Hiro gave her an expression of concern. It was obvious that he had weighty matters on his mind too. She gestured for him to come in.
A minute later, they were sitting around her table as she poured water from a small coffee pot she kept on hand specifically so that she’d have hot water throughout the day. The water went into two mugs, and steeped the tea they would drink to hopefully calm their nerves.
“I explained everything to my wife,” Hiro began. “She… She thinks that if there is a chance it will work, we should try everything we can.”
Zara nodded. “My husband thinks the same thing.”
“If I were not married, I would not hesitate, but I truly love my wife!”
“Same here,” Zara murmured. “You and I were in love for about five minutes over a thousand years ago. They cannot expect us to just throw away our current lives on the slim chance that we might actually make a difference!”
“But what if…” Hiro paused. “Well, if the world really does shatter, we won’t have lives to throw away. Maybe we should give it a try and see what happens.”
“But what if we do and it doesn’t make a difference?” Zara whispered, voicing her real fear.
“Then we will at least have tried,” Hiro murmured the best answer he could come up with.
Zara nodded, took him by the hand, and led him to her bedroom. Their tea was completely forgotten even though it was now ready to drink.
“My soul is still in love with you,” Zara whispered nervously, looking at the floor.
“Just as mine is still in love with you,” Hiro informed her. He stroked her long hair, and waited for her to look up at him. When she did, he kissed her tenderly, still a bit hesitant. Even with permission, this still felt like he was betraying his wife.
The intensity of the feelings running through Zara made her gasp. She clung to the man she had once literally died for, and admitted to herself that she was grateful for this opportunity after all. She eagerly helped him remove her clothes.
The moment he was naked, he grinned at her, causing her to burst into flames. Her clothes were reduced to ashes in mere seconds, but she was utterly unharmed. She purred a sigh, her body shivering in anticipation.
The fire faded, and Hiro lifted her onto her bed. They fused their lips, kissing until they practically shared the same breath. Zara shuddered as Hiro entered her. The feeling of that single thrust was enough to almost make her climax.
Hiro paused, and his expression made it clear that he was also fighting the urge to cum already. Zara kissed him some more, hoping to distract him until he was ready to continue.
Hiro started thrusting, and Zara responded by wrapping her legs around his waist. It took them some time, but eventually they found a rhythm that worked for them both. Each ground into the other, panting and groaning from the unexpected bliss.
The point of their sex was to merge their energy, and they found it incredibly easy to do so. The energy wanted to mingle as much as they did. It slowly blended together without any effort on their part.
They suddenly – without any communication – decided to change positions. They rolled over and sat up. Hiro crossed his legs, and Zara straddled him, guiding him back inside her. She wrapped her arms around his chest and arms, bouncing up and down his shaft.
Their magic was almost perfectly in synch, and they could feel energy from others around the world. They were not the only ones trying to help the planet through this tumultuous transition without exploding. Almost everyone who had enough power to know that something was seriously wrong sat praying for a miracle.
Hiro grasped Zara’s hips suddenly, and roared as he filled her with his energy. She cried out, her body shaking as her own magic finally merged completely with his. It almost felt like they lost consciousness for a moment, but when they were done, they both shimmered with power.
As one, they faced the sky, seeing it even though the ceiling was in the way. They chanted a spell; one that was more of a wish than a spell. They prayed that they could help the planet survive the upcoming cataclysm.
A voice that sounded like it might actually belong to the Earth whispered in their heads. “If you – and all of those who pray for the planet – vow to give me all of the power you possess… It might be enough to save the world…”
“Anything!” Zara promised. “Take whatever you need! Just please don’t let the planet fall apart!”
“I cannot guarantee that,” the voice murmured sadly. “But I do think that it will be enough. I think that this energy can smooth the chaos as the planet shifts. I think that there will be a world and life when all is said and done.”
“Then take my power,” Hiro granted permission. “Take it all and use it as needed.”
They heard a general echo of agreement as people from all around the world gave their powers to this voice. They had no idea if the voice truly had the good of the planet at heart, but they had no other option.
Zara sobbed as she felt her power completely drain from her. She clung to Hiro, and he clung to her. It was agony to endure as their magic was taken from them, but they held each other tight and let it go.
When their magic was gone, they were no longer connected to the others from around the world. They no longer glowed, although the physical changes that had occurred when they activated their power remained. Both wept softly, praying that they had done the right thing.
“So… did it work?” Shane wondered. He had come home from work at some point, and watched as events unfolded. He was conflicted, but ultimately felt that if this really did save the world, then it was a good and necessary thing.
Zara wiped the tears from her face, and slowly shifted off Hiro’s lap. “I don’t know for sure, but I think so.”
Hiro wiped his own face, and attempted to hide his guilty expression by not looking at Shane. “I can say that we were not the only ones. With so much power working together, I have to believe that things will work out. I have to believe…”
“I have to believe it too,” Zara agreed.
“Then I guess there’s nothing more to be done,” Shane stated with a helpless shrug. “Why don’t I get started on dinner?”
Zara nodded, glad for a moment of privacy to recover her composure.
“We’ve done all we can,” Hiro said, squeezing her hand. “My wife and I will be returning to Japan the day after tomorrow. I shall pray for you and your family.”
Zara smiled, honestly touched by his words. “And I shall pray for you and yours.”

The next day, Zara had no warning when the Earthquake hit. She had no magic to stabilize the ground directly around her, and she was terrified that her children would get crushed in the debris.
Surprisingly, the Earthquake was small. It shook the ground so subtly that most people may not have realized what was happening. Zara pressed a hand to her chest, and cried from relief. Her magic must have made a difference after all, because this quake was supposed to destroy almost everything for miles, and leave thousands dead in its wake.
 She hugged her children tight, despite their confused protests. Her husband rushed home from work, and twirled her around happily.
A bit later, Hiro and his wife arrived to say goodbye. They were leaving first thing in the morning, and would not have time to do so before they left.
Zara saw that Hiro’s wife looked angry, petulant, relieved, and hopeful at the same time. She wanted to comfort the woman, but realized that there was nothing she could say that would make a difference. She hugged Hiro impulsively.
“So this is goodbye,” Zara stated in Japanese so that his wife could understand her. “I pray that your flight home is uneventful, and that the rest of your life is happy.”
Hiro – as a Japanese man – was not comfortable with public displays of affection. He pulled out of her embrace, but could not part their hands just yet.
“I’m glad to see that this quake was not even a tenth of how horrible it would have been… We are free of our bonds now. Perhaps we will meet again in our next life.”
Zara smiled. “I look forward to that. To our next life!” She cheered as if giving a toast.
They stepped back, smiled at each other, and then waved. Hiro and his wife left; his wife looking utterly relieved. Zara curled into Shane’s embrace as the Japanese couple drove away.
“If this quake is any indication; we really did make a difference.”
Shane sighed, deciding to simply accept things. “I’m glad. I wasn’t ready for the world to end or this life to be over.”
Zara laughed, a twinkle dancing merrily in her eyes. “Who would have ever thought that the world would be saved because I had sex?!”
Shane returned her laugh, and looked around to find that his children had gone to play with the neighbors. “Hmm… I think it’s about time you had sex again!”
“Mmmhmm!” Zara agreed. Hand in hand, they raced to their bedroom.
“I love you,” Zara confessed as her husband uncovered her body.
“I love you too,” Shane assured her. In the end, that’s all that really matters.

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