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There Can Be Far More Than One

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Summary: People have changed. People have died. Other people have died and come back to life. No one is the same. And they’re all going to meet each other.

Categories Author Rating Chapters Words Recs Reviews Hits Published Updated Complete
Multiple Crossings > GeneralGreywizardFR18516,25102314,85416 Dec 1216 Oct 13No

Chapter Two

Dimension Iliad Five Mark Four Teth

Ayers Rock region
Northern Territory, Australia

March 9, 2102


"Oh, Hellfire and damnation!" the Talisman cursed aloud. She had been drawn here when she felt the Ivory Sorceress begin pulling more power from the Symbol of Seven which her opponent was currently clutching in her right hand, after having callously murdered her fellow, and aptly named, mage, Richard Occult, to obtain it.

{ Just what does she think she's doing? } the planet's Sorceress Supreme wondered to herself as she floated a dozen feet above the desolate and broken stretch of wasteland, which had been a thriving national park only a few hours earlier.

The skies above the two magic-users were jam packed with a multitude of dark, foreboding clouds, as though they were a prelude to an oncoming apocalypse. Random lightning bolts jumped from cloud to cloud and filled the air with an ear-shattering blast of thunder.

The witch who had originally been born Amy Deirdre Madison one hundred and twenty-one years earlier, suddenly blinked in amazement as her mystic senses allowed her to perceive the surge of arcane forces which the white-haired witch whom she was currently battling was absorbing from the ground and filtering through the scintillating crystal.

{ Does she really think she can try to summon more demons here, to violate the planet? And that I won't do everything I can to stop her?! } the still youthful-looking auburn-haired beauty asked herself incredulously, not believing that her opponent was so far gone from sanity that she would actually help open a gateway to Hell and allow its inhabitants access to this beautiful, yet so vulnerable, world.

{ Okay, it's obvious, she does, } the elder sorceress decided as she saw a dimensional fissure begin shimmering into existence.

Amy raised her left hand and made a small, intricate gesture, and the ground beneath the other woman immediately began reshaping itself into a fist, to clutch and hold her opponent immobile.

As she flew upwards towards the demented woman who'd been a valued and cherished pupil some six decades previously, Amy only sensed the pressure wave of air impacting against her back a bare instant before the massive blow slammed into her spine and drove her into the ground.

If not for the normally immaterial, mystical force field she automatically constantly maintained around her, Amy would have been killed instantly, her spine and most of the bones in her torso shattered into dust by the impact of whatever had hit her, she realized as she gathered her thoughts a moment later.

"Not… bad… Jenny," the woman who was irrevocably mystically bonded to the Talisman artifact gasped as she tried to push herself up and out of the ten meter long gouge she'd plowed in the baked-dry dirt forming the ground.

"You…distracted me… just long… enough with… that light show… of yours," she added, as she forced herself into a sitting position, "that I… wasn't… watching for an… attack from… the rear."

"I thought you'd like that, Teach," the bone-white-haired witch smirked cruelly at her former mentor as she shattered the stone fist imprisoning her with a casual display of power. "You always did say that 'Mother Earth'" – here, she made air quotes – "held more power than anyone would believe.

"So, ripping a ten-ton boulder out of the ground and shooting it at you from a half-mile up seemed like an appropriate way to show you that I really was paying attention to everything you taught us way back when," Jennifer Kale gave the redhead a malicious, triumphant smile as she levitated herself to a spot several meters above her enemy.

"Tell you what, Amy – I'm gonna cut you a break, just for old times' sake," the woman who now identified herself as the Ivory Sorceress laughed malevolently from her superior position hovering above her former tutor.

"You hand over that coronet you're wearing and I'll leave enough of your body intact that your precious little coven will be able to identify your remains," Kale offered, her eyes narrowing with hatred as she mentioned her former friends and associates.

"Refuse, or even hesitate, and I'll burn you alive. And then I'll use your ashes as part of the summoning ritual to call up a major demon, which I'll then order to hunt down and skin every one of your pupils and every member of their families while they're still alive," the evil renegade magic-user threatened, her fingers reflexively tightening around the multi-faceted disc of arcane power she held clasped in her hand as thoughts of her previous life filled her mind with an almost blinding rage.

"C-can't… do that… J-Jenny," Amy shook her head, trying to stall for time as she felt her Quickening turbocharge her healing, mending the broken bones she'd suffered in spite of the protective force shield she'd used to protect herself.

"I thought … you already knew … that," the auburn-haired witch went on haltingly, as she managed to shove herself up into a more upright position, her legs folded under her.

"Don't you... remember, child? The Coronet... of Enchantment… is bonded to me," the Talisman informed her wayward pupil in a somewhat pedantic tone of voice, one which might be used when speaking with a rather dull student.

"Any attempt to remove it would cause me indescribable agony," Madison went on, a bit more strongly now, the expression on her face like that of a teacher gently scolding a student. "In fact, given my current condition, it would most likely kill me."

"So what?" Jenny Kale snarled contemptuously at the older woman, who was slouched into a helpless-looking lump of flesh below her, the redhead's arms clutched protectively around herself. "I'm going to kill you, anyway.

"Whether you do it to yourself, or I do it when I peel your flesh from your bones doesn't make any difference to me, old woman," the turncoat sorceress practically spat at her one-time teacher.

"Either way, you're *dead*!" Kale hissed triumphantly.

"But the thing is that I've died so many times already, I don't think that one more time will really make all that much of a difference, Jenny," Amy answered the other's hate-filled declaration in an almost philosophical tone of voice.

"Unfortunately, with you obviously having sold your soul, I can't say the same for you," she added quietly, as she turned her head to look up at the student she'd lost to the temptations of the Darkness and her own, innate, uncontrollable desire for power. A sorrowful expression filled the sorceress' face as Amy stretched her hand up towards the other woman, as though asking for help in regaining her feet.

Kale had only the barest instant of warning, sufficient only to allow her to begin to wonder exactly what her former mentor's words might mean, before a massive lightning bolt suddenly shot downward from the largest storm cloud hanging above them, its grounding point the extended hand of their world's most powerful magic wielder.

Unfortunately for Jennifer Kale, would-be world ruler, the ivory-maned witch was directly in the path of that massive electrostatic discharge. Over a billion volts of electrical potential, rated at several hundred thousand amperes of current, surged through her and her former mentor, reducing both of their bodies to badly charred corpses in the barest fraction of a second.

***

"Ooooh. That really *hurt*,' Amy complained to herself as she slowly and painfully returned to consciousness.

Catching sight of the now-carbonized remains of her one-time apprentice, the Immortal witch's face twisted into a grimace of both regret and disapproval.

"You never were patient enough, Jenny," Amy said quietly, in a reflective voice. "Whatever you desired, you always wanted right away. You were never willing to wait and let things develop at their own pace.

"And that's why you could never attain what you really wanted," she added sadly.

Letting her awareness expand around her, Madison frowned as a jarring and exceedingly disturbing dissonance reverberating through the area caught her attention.

"What in the name of the Nine Unknowns could possibly –" Amy began to say, as she focused the Eye of Agamotto to examine her surroundings, before she cut herself off abruptly in mid-sentence at the same time her face whitened to a deathly pallor.

"Oh Goddess, Jenny!" the Talisman exclaimed as she stared with horrified and wide-eyed disbelief at the chaotically churning maelstrom of dimensional energies which was now swirling above the charred and desolate landscape only a few dozen meters away.

"What have you done, you foolish child?" Amy whispered to herself in appalled dismay as she reflexively reached out with her arcane sensitivity and began evaluating the situation unfolding before her.

"Oh, Hellmouth and damnation!" the Immortal sorceress swore to herself a few seconds later, as she realized the full import of the information her analytic spells had just finished relaying to her.

{ You were never this careless when you were studying under me, Jenny, } Amy thought to herself absentmindedly as she considered what she'd discovered.

{ So, either you must have had a subliminal death wish encompassing both yourself and half the planet, which no one in the coven ever noticed, } she mused, { or else, someone – or some *thing* – laid an extremely powerful compulsion on you; one you were unaware of. }

{ Which means it was almost certainly implanted while you were undergoing another ritual, willingly, } the Sorceress Supreme concluded, before shaking her head in dismissal of that train of thought.

{ Actually, though, whatever the reason might be, it really doesn't matter, anymore, } the Talisman commented to herself parenthetically. { Either way, if I can't end this mess within the next few minutes, the whole world is screwed. }

Taking a brief moment to withdraw into herself and calm her currently turbulent emotions, the redheaded sorceress reached out mentally to contact her current apprentice.

As the heir apparent to Earth's Sorceress Supreme, Stephen certainly needed to know exactly what she was planning on doing to close the out-of-control portal Jenny had opened, Amy reminded herself. After all, if she didn’t survive – *he* was the one who was going to have to clean up the mess her efforts were sure to leave behind.

Truthfully, there was only the smallest, most remote possibility that she was going to survive what she needed to do, in order to close the gateway above her.

:: Stephen? :: Amy called for her apprentice, telepathically.

:: Yes, My Lady? :: Dr. Stephen Strange, former surgeon and current apprentice to the planet's apex magic-user, responded politely as he paused in his instruction of the current class of adepts at the Kendra Giles School for Exceptional Students. :: How can I assist you? ::

:: Things here are currently swirling around the bowl at a very high velocity, Stephen, :: the redhead informed him, the seriousness of the situation she was showing him in her thoughts in stark contrast to her admittedly somewhat juvenile attempt at humor. :: And I doubt I'll be able to handle them without serious repercussions. ::

:: Jenny managed to open a portal through the Far Unknowables and into the Soul-Shearing Shoals before I could stop her, and it then progressed into a completely uncontrolled state while I was recovering from dealing with her, :: Amy informed her star pupil.

:: I'm about to try to close the threshold, but it's far more powerful and chaotic than any other portal I've ever dealt with, previously. And, it's becoming more so with each passing moment, :: she stated calmly. :: So, I just wanted to let you know what's going on, here. ::

:: Just in case, things don't work out quite the way I'm hoping they will, :: Amy confided, a moment later.

:: My Lady! Please, don't do anything rash! :: Strange implored her as he gestured to his assistant to take over the lesson and began hurrying out of the classroom. :: I can be there in just a few moments – ::

:: There’s no time, Stephen, :: Earth's premier magic-user informed her apprentice. :: Truly there isn’t. And it wouldn’t be safe for another portal to be opened anywhere nearby right now. Take good care of the planet, once I'm gone. All right? ::

:: And try not to forget to take some time to have a life of your own, too, my dear boy. You need to pay just as much attention to the Stephen Strange aspect of your life as you do to the Sorcerer Supreme part, :: Amy counseled him with an affectionate smile before shutting down her end of their mental connection.

{ At least, the world's going to survive, even if I don't, } Amy thought, realistically (if fatalistically), to herself as she began gathering her power. She then began focusing her attention on the chaotic swirl of multi-dimensional energy looming ominously above the devastated battleground.

Taking a moment, she reflected on how her life had changed in the many decades since she had, in a moment of nigh-unbelievably mind-boggling stupidity and arrogance compounded by heart-shattering grief, tried to end the world.

Xander Harris, the oldest and truest friend she had ever been fortunate enough to have had, had stepped up and forced her to confront her own runaway, out of control emotions by interposing himself between her and the ancient effigy of Proserpexa she'd been attempting to empower after the death of her lover, Billie Jenkins. He'd allowed his own body to intercept and absorb the uncontrolled energies she had been channeling in order to prevent her plan from succeeding.

It had been the soul-shaking realization that her childhood friend was quite willing to sacrifice himself to save her which had ultimately caused her to relent in her simultaneously suicidal and genocidal scheme, and allowed Amy to revert into the sobbing, inconsolable, grief-stricken young woman she really was.

Unfortunately, however, that realization had come too late to rescue her savior, since no solely human form could ever hope to absorb and contain the energies she'd been wielding. Thus, she'd been forced to watch as her truest and most loving friend had writhed in agony under the effect of the power she'd poured forth before finally sublimating into the ether, his body unable to withstand the brutal, and ultimately fatal, arcane assault he'd received.

When Giles and Buffy had finally managed to locate her, they'd found her kneeling on the ground, crying wretchedly and uncontrollably as she stared at a scorched and blackened spot several feet away on which rested the remnants of an almost completely slagged silver Celtic cross – a gift which had been chosen by her and Buffy for their best friend on his seventeenth birthday, and the only remaining physical evidence of Xander's existence.

The realization that *she* was the person responsible for the death – no, for the *murder* – of her best friend had shocked the burgeoning witch to her very core, and nearly driven Amy into a permanent catatonic state.

It had only been Giles' unrelenting efforts in persuading the Devon coven to accept her and help Amy heal her shattered psyche, and to then provide her with the necessary training, which had eventually led her to the pathway of redemption she'd trod for the better part of the preceding century.

The fact that she had never been able to reconcile with Buffy or Dawn or even Xander’s ex-fiancée, Cordelia, after she'd finally regained her mental and emotional stability, and that her relationship with Giles had always remained formal and business-like throughout the rest of their lives, were two aspects of her existence which she had always regretted. Almost as deeply as the fact that she'd slaughtered her best friend in what had truly been little more than a childish tantrum.

{ Actually, the situation is amazingly karmic, when you think about it, } the Sorceress Supreme reflected to herself as she focused her concentration and began forcing her own not-inconsiderable power into the heart of the still-expanding vortex above her, with the calculated intention of overloading it and causing it to implode into itself.

{ I selfishly took Xander's life when he tried to prevent me from ending the world; so it's only fitting and proper that I offer my own life to save Mother Gaia, } Amy thought, in the instant before the universe around her seemed to burst in a mind-numbing explosion; and she knew nothing more.
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