Boy (Ray) met Girl (Liz) and some sparks started to fly.
A few weeks later, the Ghostbusters and the Inquisitors met again, along with the Prince of Warlocks Phineus Eventide, his familiar Tarantula, and the Archmage of the Winds, Zandrik Fallagar. Together, they defeated the Zodiac Lords, with the help of Eventide's noble sacrifice; he asked Fallagar to look after his cat.
More sparks also flew between Ray and Liz.
But after that victory Ray went back to New York with his fellow Ghostbusters, while Liz was sent on a new assignment by her bosses, the leadership of House Guernicus of the Order of Hermes.
Neither was far from the other's thoughts, but it's three years later. Both are about to find out how much has changed.
Elizabeth Lucille "Liz" Hawthorne, age 18, walked to the center of the podium when her name was called. She shook hands with the Headmaster, Dr. David Chart; the Chairman of the Board of Regents, Marcus Hagen; and received the diploma she'd been working the last six years for.
"Well done, Miss Hawthorne". the Chairman complimented. Not many students received that personal note--almost all were in the top ten percent of the graduating class, as Liz was.
She knew she couldn't linger, but she tried her best to get a better look at the Board of Regents seated near the podium. They were a very mysterious bunch; there were seats set aside for fourteen of them in total (meaning there were theoretically fifteen including the Chairman), but based on comments from previous graduates and even a few of the teachers, they were never completely filled; even the Chairman, a snappily dressed older man with a beard, was known to not always appear. There was only one face Liz was personally familiar with: Dao Yuan, an enormous Chinese man, whose daughter Jun happened to be a classmate, and Liz's roommate for the last six years.
As she looked, one of the Regents--an intense woman who looked to be in her forties--whispered something into the ear of the smartly dressed woman of (apparent) Indian ancestry she was seated beside. She was looking right at me... The Indian woman nodded.
"Davison Moffat Hedrick"
The next name was, of course, Liz's cue to leave the stage. She followed the indicated line back to her seat; Adric Blake tried to catch her eye, but Liz just simply didn't want to deal with him or his sister right now. It's over, Adric--how clear do I have to be with that? She did spare a quick look at Jun, who gave her a thumbs up.
"I'm proud of you too, Elizabeth." Tegan Fielding added, giving Liz a hug of her own. She'd served as Liz's guardian during the last six school years.
"It's all thanks to you, Aunt Tegan." Liz replied. While Tegan wasn't technically her aunt--she was a first cousin once removed--the title just seemed to fit for both of them.
"Nonsense." Tegan smiled as she shook her head. "Your hard work got you here. But now it's time for another decision."
"Tegan...I..." Mom started to say.
"There's no reason to wait any longer, Patricia." Tegan interrupted with a new steely tone in her voice.
Patricia smiled, albeit warily. "It's all right, Lizzy. This is a good thing. I just...truth to tell, I envy you a little bit."
The three of them walked to a guarded doorway. Tegan produced what looked, to Liz, for all the world like some sort of magician's wand; the guard nodded, and moved aside. The door seemed to open on its own.
Inside the room was the intense Regent Liz had seen at the ceremony. "Sodalis." She nodded at Tegan.
"Prima." Tegan nodded back.
"Let me, Tegan. As much as I can." Patricia said.
Patricia sighed deeply. "When I said I envied you, it was because our family has a history. The grandmother Tegan and I share--your great grandmother--passed that inheritance on to Tegan. Now, it's passed to you."
Liz felt vaguely uncomfortable. It was a little like the feeling she'd had when she'd met Tegan six years earlier. "What inheritance?"
Tegan reached into her jacket, producing the same transparent crystal she'd tapped Liz with six years earlier. She did it again; just as that prior occasion, the crystal glowed and emitted an almost subsonic ring.
The intense woman Aunt Tegan had called "Prima" nodded.
"You have the Gift, Elizabeth." Tegan answered. "The Gift of the potential for great power. The power of magic."
Liz felt her head spin. She'd learned a lot over the last six years; the somewhat eccentric curriculum of Rein-Hagen had been sprinkled with courses on folklore and comparative mythology; Medieval history; the Latin tongue; electives on "strange" subjects such as numerology, Tarot, and (the one Liz had been drawn to) astrology.
"I didn't inherit this Gift." Patricia shook her head. "Neither did your sister. That's why the crystal didn't glow when Tegan touched her with it all those years ago; it didn't when Grandma used it on me. But you...you received this honor." She smiled.
Liz inhaled, and fixed her most steely glare on her Aunt Tegan. "The first principle of the law is truth, Aunt Tegan. Truth is established by evidence. Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. I love you, and I love my Mom, but I just can't take your word on any of this."
Tegan smiled. "That is the answer I hoped you would give." She raised her hand. "Creo ignem"
Liz was surrounded by motes of fire.
She was lifted off the floor, and found herself suspended in thin air, the motes of fire dodging and weaving around her.
She realized she could see glowing, wispy tendrils of energy surrounding her, swirling and roiling around her hands and the fiery motes. When Aunt Tegan gestured, the whirls shifted and moved, like they were clay in her hands.
Tegan's voice spoke directly into her mind. Is this, my young kinswoman, the kind of proof you require?
With another gesture from Tegan, the ghostly tendrils vanished from Liz's sight, and she settled back onto the floor. Liz fell to her knees, overcome by disorientation. Her world had, in a very significant sense, just been destroyed and rebuilt around her; she was confused, a bit frightened...but also...
Elated. Like every secret longing she'd ever had, every hope in a more interesting world than the mundane one around her had just been validated.
And most of all...Curious
"Tegan Fielding is the name I was born with, but I have another name, Elizabeth. I am Lady Persuasion, Filia of Romana, Follower of Guernicus, Maga and Quaesitor of the Order of Hermes."
Liz didn't know what any of that meant, either. But she had to know. And there was only one way.
"Teach me, Aunt T...teach me, Lady Persuasion." Liz said, bowing. "You want me to learn magic. I want to learn magic."
"And why is that, Apprentice?"
"Because I seek that which I've always sought." She looked up at her cousin, no fear showing in her eyes.
"And what is that, Elizabeth?"
Liz raised an eyebrow. "Who's Mariko?"
"One of my students." Ray replied. "Also one of the few who actually believes what I used to do. I figure that could cut through some explanations here."
"Probably." Liz sighed. She wasn't expecting that tinge of feeling when she realized Ray was talking to a woman. Jealousy? I've been gone for three years. It's not like... she bit her lip, not wanting to keep that train of thought going.
Liz was sitting on Ray's couch. She was now wearing one of his bath robes, and had a towel in her hair; Tarantula, also wrapped in a towel and looking very displeased about the whole situation, was next to her.
Ray picked up the life-size stuffed Dopey Dog and moved it off the couch, allowing him to sit on the other side of Tarantula. "I know both of us have got like a lot of questions, so I guess we do this the fair way. You ask me a question first, I answer it as best we can, and then I ask you one. We alternate until we both feel like we know what we need to know. Deal?"
Liz nodded. "Perfect." She paused for the second, thinking of how she wanted to phrase her first question. "Are you doing all right?"
Ray nodded. "Yeah. Teaching a class on mechanical engineering; been here for almost three years. I don't know if my contract is gonna be renewed, but that's okay--I got an offer from the University of Idaho to do some pyrokinesis studies if things go south here." He coughed. "Are you all right?"
"Just a couple of bruises. I got kicked into a wall by a skeleton and then fell into the fountain, but it wasn't a long fall from my perspective, just...disorienting. Thanks for the bathrobe and the towels, by the way. Is there any way you could get me some real clothes?"
"That's what I called Mariko about." Ray replied. "Trust me, shopping for women's clothes is not something I have a lot of experience with."
Liz couldn't help but feel just a little bit pleased by that admission despite herself.
Ray blushed a little. "Why were you naked, anyway?" He was frankly afraid of the answer; there were a couple of explanations that would really depress him, but...good grief, under the circumstance, how could he not ask.
Liz smiled slightly. "I was alone, if that's what you were wondering." Ray started to stammer some apology but she raised a hand to cut him off. "I had a robe on, but lost it in the attack; I had just woken up--I've preferred sleeping in the buff since I was about a year old. My Mom and sister like to try to embarrass me with the stories of how they'd come into find me in the crib with my onesies laying on the floor. It's just a personal preference. I mean, I wear something when I have to, like when I was in school and had a roommate, and...er...you know, that one week a month where it would be a real mess, but..." She blushed as she realized how badly she'd started to babble. I'm trying too hard to not sound like some creepy weirdo and I probably sounded even more like a creepy weirdo.
Ray coughed, nevertheless, he had to admit, finding himself reassured. That's something awful personal for her to admit. "It's still your turn."
Liz had a question of her own that she was afraid of the answer to, but like Ray's, it was too obvious to not ask. "Why aren't you with the Ghostbusters anymore?"
Ray sighed deeply, and seemed to shrink into the couch a little bit. "There are no Ghostbusters anymore."
"I mean, everyone's alive, but after the Zodiac Lord event, the PKE network was so drained that ghosts just stopped manifesting. Business dried up. There was only one major incident after June, when Ivo Shandor's ghost tried to summon Gozer to New York, but the energy was too weak and we stopped him. After that...things got bad for us personally, and we shut down and ended up scattering all over the country."
"Peter's in Hollywood--he's married and has a year-old daughter, and is also raising his wife's son by a previous marriage. Winston's in Montana; he married Kaila and they have a daughter too, almost two. Winston's got his pilot's license and flying a commuter line. Egon and Janine stayed in New York, but they...aren't together."
Liz raised an eyebrow again. "They seemed so happy when I last saw them."
"They were." Ray nodded. "But she got hurt and her memories got scrambled. Egon freaked out and blamed himself for it; it's kinda what broke the camel's back and made us shut down. Egon's still at the firehouse; I think he's teaching now." Ray shook his head. "Janine married some other guy, but I can tell she's not happy with him. It was more spite than anything else, I think."
Liz shook her head. "No Ghostbusters..."
Ray chuckled ruefully. "Not to say that nobody tried to fill the gap. Back in '92 this guy who looked like a cross between Chevy Chase and Inspector Gadget tried to start up his own 'Ghostsmashers' group, but with no ghosts to bust or smash, it went under quick." Ray decided not to admit that he found one of the female Ghostsmashers, the blonde one, kind of cute. "Where have you been, Liz?"
"Dragonsfall" Liz replied. "You did get my letter, right?"
Ray nodded. She'd sent it to him after the Zodiac event. Not long before the Ghostbusters had been forced to shut down.
Liz continued. "After the Zodiac event, the Prima of Guernicus--basically, the boss of the House I belong to, and the chief Quaesitor of the entire Order--wanted me to learn what I could about the Archmage. There's a lot of debate on whether he is who he says he is; the only magi of the Order comparable in age show their age a lot more than he does. Morgond, the Magus Dominus, and Aine Dubh of Merinita both look like they're in the seventies, while Gargantuos of Tytalus I gather is confined to his chair and almost looks like he's already dead." Liz shook her head. "But you've seen Fallagar--he barely looks old enough to shave."
"Anyway, whether it was coincidence or Fallagar anticipated the investigation, he invited me to go to his covenant. Since nobody in the Order had been there since the Middle Ages, how could I refuse?"
"Dragonsfall used to be located in Germany, near what is now the border with Czechoslovakia..."
Ray interrupted. "It'd be the Czech Republic now. The country broke back into the Czech Republic and the Slovak Republic last year."
Liz nodded and continued. "Specifically, it sat atop the Grosser Arber, highest peak in the Bavarian Forest, which is now a radar station. But now it's in a shard realm, or to use the official Hermetic term, a regio. Whether the Archmage transferred the original covenant there, or it's an idealized recreation from his memories and the nature of the Magic Realm, he never said."
Liz sipped from the can of Coke Ray'd brought her earlier. "Lilly was originally supposed to go with me--I think I mentioned it in the letter..."
"...But she changed her mind and went with Barney to Las Vegas instead." She mused for a second or two. "Have you heard from either of them?"
Ray shook his head. "Nope. I've wondered a lot of times, and I admit if I ever did I'd have asked them if they'd heard from you. I guess I know the answer to that, don't I?"
"It's hard to place phone calls from a shard realm." Liz chuckled. "I mean, not even the Redcaps know where this place is. At least not yet."
"So then my next question is this: what happened to send you back here?" Ray asked.
Liz told him about the attack by the skeletons, and of her departure with Tarantula. She reached into the bathrobe and pulled off the chain she was wearing, to show Ray the stone with the Archmage's symbol. "The return stone is enchanted to take the bearer on a two way trip: the first trip to a place she knows, or to a person she knows. That's why I ended up here--I've never been to New York, so I chose you, since you were the Ghostbuster I..." She blushed slightly and looked away. "Well, you were the one I got along best with. I didn't know you were out here, and the Ghostbusters broken up."
"Yeah." Ray coughed. "Sorry about that."
"When I activate it again, it'll take me and anyone I'm in physical contact with back to the regio. But it needs time to recharge; the fact that the quintessence is so sluggish here now means it's going to take even longer." She shook her head. "It's going to be tomorrow morning at the earliest. I just hope it's not going to be too late."
"Yeah." Ray nodded again. "So any more questions?"
"Do you think it's at all possible to get any help from the others?"
Ray shook his head. "They're all too far away, and they don't have any of their equipment except Egon. Even Peter's hours away, and I don't know how quick he could drop everything. I do have one question now--how come only the three skeletons got into the covenant? And not the whole army of them outside?"
Liz sighed, disappointed that the help she'd been hoping for was looking to not be coming. Nevertheless, she was still glad Ray was here. "The covenant is protected by a sort of magical force field, the Aegis of the Hearth, that keeps out intruders. The lead skeleton--the one Dulk called 'Lord Stalker'--must have had some way to get into the Aegis, but either he was just an advance scout of some sort, or whatever he could do to get in he couldn't share with too many of his henchmen."
"It puts us on a bit of a timer, though." Liz continued. "The ritual that creates the Aegis only lasts a year before it has to be recast and renewed. The Archmage always renews the Aegis on the day of the Summer Solstice."
"Assuming time works the same in that pocket dimension that means about two weeks." Ray whistled. "In that amount of time maybe I could get Peter or Winston here, but they still wouldn't have their gear. And there's no telling if Egon would even..."
There was a knock at the door. "Girl Scouts! Wanna buy some Thin Mints?!" a chipper female voice said.
Ray went up and opened the door; a young Japanese woman was standing there, whom Liz took to be the "Mariko" Ray had called. "So what's up, Doc?"
"Liz, this is Mariko Fuyuno, one of my students." Ray confirmed. "Mariko, Liz Hawthorne, who's..."
Mariko blinked as she regarded the woman wearing nothing but one of Ray's bathrobes. "You hound you! Good going, Doc! An anniversary present after all!" She elbowed Ray in the ribs.
"It's not like that!" Ray sputtered, face turning red. "Liz's someone I know from my Ghostbuster days! She needs my help, and I need your help to help her!"
"Gotcha." Mariko smirked, noticing Tarantula, and started to rub the cat's chin. "Black cat and everything. So you're a witch, then?"
"I prefer the terms 'wizard' or 'maga', the feminine of 'magus', thanks." Liz answered, shaking Mariko's hand.
Mariko rubbed her chin. "Wait, I heard something about a streaker in the fountain earlier. We don't get a lot of those here at Stanford, not since the Tri Kuppa Bru chapter got thrown off campus, anyway. This have anything to do with that?"
"Yes." Liz said. "My teleportation spell was a bit hurried, and I lost everything I was wearing on the way." It was a lie, but Liz didn't really feel like explaining the truth about that particular aspect of the day's events to her.
"Yeah, so..." Ray broke in "Before anything else, I need you to come with me to get Liz some clothes. I don't have any women's clothes here."
"Well, none you're going to admit to, anyway." Mariko joked, sizing Liz up. "About 167 centimeters or so...weight..." Mariko muttered something to herself in Japanese. "Okay, Doc, turn around."
"Turn around? What..." Ray stopped and did as asked when he realized Mariko was starting to open the robe Liz was wearing.
"Um..." Liz said uncomfortably
"I gotta get get the measurements right." Mariko told her. "Good grief, look at those--I hate you! What the hell is in the water in North America?"
"Um, anyway..." Ray stammered.
"All done, Doc. You'll have to ask her to show them to you again." Mariko said brightly, re-closing the garment.
"Can we just go?" Ray said.
"I'll be fine." Liz reassured him. It was so darn cute how flustered he was by the whole thing.
She certainly was tempted. Worries about the Archmage and the others aside, she hadn't had a complete night's sleep and then had been thrown into battle, across dimensions, and into a fountain. A couple of spontaneous spells and, yeah, she was exhausted.
The room wasn't large or overly decorated, just...cozy. There was a picture on the wall of the four Ghostbusters and their secretary; Ray was pudgier in the picture, and Janine's haircut was different from what she wore in 1991, so Liz supposed it was probably from before that.
Sitting on the bed stand were a few more items. A picture of five people--a man, a woman, and three kids, two boys and a girl. The woman and the girl had the same auburn hair as Ray, and one of the boys she realized was a younger Ray.
His family she realized, and a memory came to mind.
Ray nodded. "You know, I have a brother and a sister I never talk to because, well, they hate me. Nieces and nephews that I probably couldn't pick out of a police line-up. I guess it's just as well I don't have a 'normal' life either...I'm too afraid I'd screw it up..."
There was another picture of a teenage Ray with a fleshy-faced woman. There was enough of a resemblance to wonder An aunt or grandmother maybe?
There was another picture, this one of Ray wearing his Ghostbuster uniform...over a bunny suit. Liz almost wanted to chuckle, but there was a woman in the picture; young, attractive, with shoulder-length brown hair and a short skirt. She was kissing Ray on the cheek.
Dammit, Liz, stop doing this to yourself. You only met him three years ago, and promptly vanished. Quit thinking you're...
Then she noticed the envelope. Inside was the letter she'd sent him three years earlier
Sorry about not writing sooner--it's been rather hectic since the whole thing back in June. I really shouldn't admit this, but a Special Tribunal was convened on the matter and of course I ended up being the star witness, and just about everything that happened that day was discussed, dissected, and analyzed. In addition to the Zodiac Lords themselves, they were interested in Fallagar--not that I blame them.
But I think I've said too much.
Barney, Lilly, and I've officially parted ways with the Church--the "Inquisitors" (as your friend dubbed us) are no more. I'm sure nobody expected that, right? Barney says he's going to take his severance pay to Las Vegas and try to "strike it rich". Lilly will be staying with me.
Here's the bad news: I can't give you any more details right now. I wish I could. But the Order wants me to take on a new project that will mean I won't be able to make it to New York for quite a while.
I feel bad about that--I was hoping to find out if Central Park was as beautiful in the summertime as you say it is.
She felt tears welling in her eyes. He kept it. She knew in her mind she shouldn't be getting this emotional...but her heart didn't care. I just missed him so damn much...
She put it back where she found it, hoping he wouldn't notice it had been moved. She lay on the bed, thinking how soft it was...a wisp of his scent...an illogical, but burning wish that we was here in that bed with her right that second...
She wasn't sure if she'd nodded off at all, or it was only a second later that she heard Tarantula hissing as somebody was loudly knocking on the front door.
She sponted a quick Intellego, and her eyes went wide.
She ran to the door and threw it open.