Maddox had an idea. She needed to know just to what extent her power could reach, and she needed to know now. Especially if Metier’s ghost was wreaking havoc around Babbage. She couldn’t allow him to harm innocent people anymore. She’d been scared the first time she faced him, but this time she wanted to take a stand. She needed to be of some use to the people she’d come to know as friends and family. She also decided to live a little… once again. She styled her hair differently, and dyed the ends. When she was done, she was going to make a trip to see Arnold, but he caught up with her first. He told her he wanted them to go to Mondrago immediately.
At first, she thought he was being a fraidy-cat, but after he explained… Suffice it to say that she was well convinced. But she was still worried about her husband. After all, he was hard to kill, but not untouchable. Somehow, Arnold got her to agree to leave a note for him (as well as leaving one at the hospital for him) to tell him where they were going to be, and they left to see Mondrago and Erehwon.
While they stood at the new piste in the desert paradise, all that ran through Maddox’s head at the time was how beautiful the scenery was. As soon as Erehwon brought them to the house, Maddox noticed just how peaceful it would be to live there, in Mondrago. There was no headache to remind her what she was, no inherent sound of grinding gears… Just beautiful skyline, shaded by nightfall. Before they entered, she turned once. She thought she might have felt something… perhaps it was nothing. All three of them entered the nice, if sparsely decorated, house and sat to do what she needed friends and her familiar around for. Testing herself to push what limits existed outside of reality enforcers and the Old Quarter. She felt free, and relaxed… which was a far cry from a slip away from a splitting migraine in Clockhaven, contrary to what she told the others.
Once she sat and they began to talk, things were getting a bit bleaker.
Dr. Maddox S Lionheart: Actually, I wanted to test my skills so far and see what I can accomplish. I want to be strong enough to at least stand up to Metier, given the chance.
Erehwon Yoshikawa: What can harm or contain him?
Arnold: Harm him…who knows.
Dr. Maddox S Lionheart: I was hoping faerie fire like my husband’s could at least touch him a little.
Arnold: Didn’t Lionheart try to enter his dreams in life…he said he meant to.
Erehwon Yoshikawa: and he has some aetheric component?
Arnold: I’m not sure if he did.
Dr. Maddox S Lionheart: I am not sure. But I need to do something, especially if he’s harming innocent people again. I cannot have that happen. Not this time.
Erehwon Yoshikawa: He did claim that he was taking the dark aether out of Babbage
Arnold: I don’t believe that he’s taking it out, he’s more likely working with those who are putting it there.
Dr. Maddox S Lionheart: The last time I met the man, I only knew what to expect from hearsay. Now I know him and I can’t just sit around and expect others to protect themselves… not when I have power now to help.
Erehwon Yoshikawa: You need to test your power, then?
Dr. Maddox S Lionheart: Yes. I want to test its limits here, away from the canisters and reality enforcers in Clockhaven. I want to know what my power does in its rawest form. And since I have two people I trust with my life here to watch me, I don’t see the harm in pushing my limits to their breaking point, just this once. I need to know, Ereh. I need to know what I can do.
Erehwon Yoshikawa nods. “What do you want to try doing here?”
Dr. Maddox S Lionheart: I want to see how far I can control the fire. And if I can change its type.
Erehwon Yoshikawa: okay
Arnold: …What fire?
Dr. Maddox S Lionheart: The fire under that cauldron… I haven’t shown you what my element is, have I?
Arnold: No. No you haven’t.
Erehwon Yoshikawa: You had mentioned you thought it was fire.
Dr. Maddox S Lionheart: Give me long enough and we will all learn something here tonight. Will you both help me?
Erehwon Yoshikawa: Yes
Dr. Maddox S Lionheart: Arnold, will you help me push my limits?
Arnold: I gave you the energy I had stored from that man tonight…
The bleaker the conversation, the more Maddox was convinced that this was something she had to accomplish… she needed to know. She didn’t want to be useless this time. Metier would not win. She would not allow that… no matter what had to happen. Then Arnold dropped a bigger bomb — parts of Babbage, scarily close to their house, had been rigged with explosives. Her mind almost went blank… fear wormed its way into her, a cold drip that slipped down her spine. An icicle that solidified her resolve to be aggressive in her endeavor to find out just how much she could do… she needed to find out where Helio was and if he was in one piece. Now was the time.
Dr. Maddox S Lionheart: But what if something explodes before he gets the note? (looks into the fire, he eyes going slightly far away) If something happens to him, I will never forgive myself… He goes out hunting at night. Sometimes he goes far away, but I can’t be sure.
As she stared into the fire, the voices of the others were barely noticeable. She was focused on seeing her husband. The more she concentrated, the bigger the fire became. Arnold stayed at the ready and Erehwon encouraged her from the side… And all around the fire grew higher and higher until it almost licked the ceiling… Then…
Dr. Maddox S Lionheart breathed slowly as she kept watch, the flames coming very close to the roof now, as the picture of her husband cleared and she saw that there was nothing to fear. He was simply hunting, as Arnold had predicted. She was ready to rest now… But to let go of this energy safely? Where would it go? She could only hope that the release would go smoothly. She released a kiss of fire Helio’s way before shutting off the energy abruptly. The fire flared, her eyes rolled back and smoke filled the room as she slid backward onto her cushion.
As the smoke from the smothered coals billowed around them, Maddox was still calm. She felt tired, as with any release of energy, but she was still calmed now. She had willed the fire to do her bidding and it did what she bid it. All in all, she called that a good start… but something was apparently wrong…
Erehwon Yoshikawa waves the smoke away and calls to Maddox. “Maddie, say something.”
Dr. Maddox S Lionheart: Ereh…. Ereh did I do it? Did I make sure he was safe?
Erehwon Yoshikawa coughs from the smoke, “yes, I saw him in the fire. I don’t know where he was but I saw him.”
Dr. Maddox S Lionheart: Good…. he is safe…
Erehwon Yoshikawa nods. “But, um, Maddie…”
Arnold: Maddox, I think that you caught Erehwonitus.
Erehwon Yoshikawa points at her hair.
Arnold: Your hair and flesh are possibly going to start changing color on you. For now, just your hair. Because that’s just how things work apparently!
Maddox was still disoriented. What did her hair matter? There was more than likely ashes in it. They were jumping to conclusions.
Erehwon Yoshikawa: Maddie, the Lady sent you a message, I think.
Arnold: I doubt that.
Dr. Maddox S Lionheart: I still don’t understand… I’m just a little sleepy now… what’s wrong with my hair?
Arnold: It’s white. (He looks.) And red.
Erehwon Yoshikawa: Well, with red tips like you had earlier.
Dr. Maddox S LionheartDr. Maddox S Lionheart’s eyes widen. “White…..what have I done? Will it stay this way?”
Arnold: Hair grows out. But who knows.
Dr. Maddox S Lionheart: Oh, what will Helio say…. or Stormy… I did not think about them before I did this…
Erehwon Yoshikawa: It could just be the first time you’re using your powers. Helio will understand.
Dr. Maddox S Lionheart: Perhaps.
Arnold: It could aslo be something you did wrong. But I’m just saying that.
Dr. Maddox S Lionheart: I may have…. I will have to spend more than one day here…. can I go back to Babbage this way?
Erehwon Yoshikawa: Yes. Arnold, some familiar you are. I suppose you could say the sun bleached your hair? (Her voice ended in a lilt of doubt as she finished that sentence.)
Arnold: I’m still working on it!
Dr. Maddox S Lionheart: From raven black? I dyed the red, but this?
Arnold: Dye it black.
Erehwon Yoshikawa: There’s always henna.
She’d made her first huge magical mistake. Somehow, even though she’d seen through the fire to her husband, she’d blanched her hair. It was embarassing enough to be learning at such and age… Now this? What was she thinking? Why had she tried something that could have perhaps done something worse. What if doing so had made her ill? Or had more dire consequences? She did not wish to think of those things. She begged the need for sleep (which was not a lie, so much as wanting to finally be able to pass out into the blackness of her mind) and Erehwon helped her into the bed that Arnold put there for her and Helio, should they wish to get away for a while.
As she slipped into the sweetness of unconsiousness, she wondered if she would ever get the hang of her heritage, or if it would one day kill her as it killed Metier. The madman.
But, looking at her current situation, how much different were they really?