“Sure. It’s ace,” said Saba, standing in the courtyard. Then he turned and saw who was speaking and flinched.
“Would you like to take a look, Miss?” he asked, offering Iolanthe the magic glass pane.
Taking the almost opaque square, she held it up to her eye and pointed her face toward the sky.
“Interesting. It looks like a halo.”
“Yeah. Yeah, it does look like a halo, um… Miss.”
“It doesn’t feel like a halo, though, does it?”
“Look at it again,” she said, handing back the magic glass. “This time, tell me what you feel.”
The boy looked again and suddenly shuddered. When he looked back at her, his face was accusing. She had made him aware of something he hadn’t noticed before. There was something evil about the eclipse, and though he had looked forward to the event since he had first heard about it from his mother, now all he wanted was the return of the sun in its full glory.
* * * * *
The thing on the other side of the membrane between two worlds tested it once again, and a moment later it burst through. It was long, thick tentacle, necrotic grey and covered with suction cups. It searched along the stone floor of the cell, tentatively at first. Then it touched the sorceress sitting naked and chanting and suddenly it shook and thrashed throughout the chamber.
“No!” shouted Nils Chapman and he jumped in front of Zurfina. The tentacle found him and wrapped around his waist.
“No!” he cried again, and then it yanked him so violently that the snapping of his neck was clearly audible, as it pulled him beyond the shimmering veil.
Suddenly the room was filled with a hundred tentacles, touching every inch of the cell, caressing the woman like a demonic lover. She slowly rose to her feet, the tips of the alien appendages touching every inch of her skin.
“Uuathanum eetarri blechtore maiius uusteros vadia jonai corakathum nit.”
A black fog poured into the cell from all four walls. It filled up the tiny chamber and sprayed through the openings in the door, creeping down the corridors of the prison and into every room and every cell, every nook and every alcove.
* * * * *
“How is it?”
“It was ace,” replied Saba. “Now I just want the sun to come back.”
“Don’t be like that.” Yuah stepped down the stairs from the back door and put an arm around the boy’s shoulders. “Let me take a look.”
Saba held the square of magic glass up and Yuah pressed her eye to it, leaning back to find the sun. “There. The sun’s starting to move out from behind the moon. In a few minutes everything will be just like it was before.”
“You shouldn’t let Miss D ruin your fun. She’s a right bitch, you know.”
“No, she’s not.”
“Well, it’s not her fault.”
“What do you mean?” asked Yuah.
“Nothing. Here. Do you want this?” Saba pushed the magic glass into her hands and started up the stairs into the house.
* * * * *
Zurfina smiled as the dead grey tentacles caressed her.
“Now I will leave and now I will lay my vengeance on this stony prison and this little kingdom and this world.” She raised her arms and began her final incantation. “Uuthanum…”
At that moment a thin streak of light entered from the small window high up on the wall. It was so tiny that it might have gone totally unnoticed, had it not stuck the first and largest of the grey arms moving around the cell. But the tiny sliver of sunlight burned through the tentacle like a hot ember through a slice of bread. The great tentacle jerked and thrashed about the room and the other appendages did too, one of them striking the woman and throwing her halfway across the floor. More sunlight entered through the window and all of the unearthly, unholy members were yanked back through the portals that shimmered where the walls of the cell had once been.
“No! No, I’m not finished!” screamed Zurfina.