Spurred onward in her quest for self-knowledge Hazel was determined to research her way to an acceptable answer. Something was decidedly wrong when she accessed her magic. At least eight out of every ten spells was going wonky with unintended side-effects or some kind of unforeseen and inexplicable permutation on the actual spell. The spells, themselves, still got the “job” done and they functioned along the same lines of the original intent – the “belief” behind the spells – but the end result was twisted somehow. The effects were ANYTHING but textbook spell-effects. Hazel hadn’t heard of this before. Her overbearing, home-school tutor father had blamed it on her imprecise and inadequate mastery of the arcane material. He certainly didn’t accept fallibility as her teacher.
And, up until recently, Hazel had only a passing curiosity in these mystic quirks. Her spell-casting had taken on a life…and indeed, a personality, of its own. It now was an ever-present reminder that this Swiss-Militia Knife in her proverbial tool belt couldn’t be relied upon. It had endangered her friends, members of the super-group, and even her own life! Hazel’s incident with liquid shadows and sinking through ship decks during a midnight raid assault on a giant cargo tanker came to mind. The necrotic ninja’s threats came to mind. Diane had reminded them that the bad guys were out there. Mr. Shadow was just a tool. An able-bodied henchman, sure, but a tool nonetheless. And it was scary to know that she…Hazel and her Magic…would be relied upon to help people she cared about…to thwart the bad guys…with nothing but a bag of wild cards and unpredictable magic tricks.
She needed to get to the bottom of it. Even if she couldn’t stop it or counteract it or even compensate for it…if she could just predict it a little better…she would feel a little more comfortable supporting the Tomorrow Legion team.
Research was its own reward. Hazel still hadn’t finished with Michelle but she was learning new spells that didn’t even have known equivalents in her book of incantations. It was a wild, uncontrolled magic altogether different from her regular repertoire…and completely alien from her telephone-line surfing electric-charge hopping…um, thing that she could do. She stuck to the research. She and Arctic Hellfire would take breaks for days at a time to let Hazel’s ego heal. It was difficult to face failure on a regular basis – especially for a young witch to whom everything mystical came so naturally. She could hear Gerhardt’s shade whisper to try harder. She could hear her father’s phantasm goading her, urging her, impelling her forward to tackle the unknown to face defeat and to breach the bulwark of failure. She could see his ghost laughing at her as she inadvertently froze her finger tips, frost-bitten, and shattered them in frustration. This fire and ice thing wasn’t easy and Michelle made it look like eating chocolate cake. The young wizard was especially embarrassed when she accidentally burned her eyebrows off…and, in a hasty, haphazard attempt to douse the flames she had pulled moisture from the air and frozen a block of ice on her face. The pain had been incredible…unlike anything she had ever felt…but the damage to her ego was more than she could bear. Her lineament had oozed a melted skin viscous liquid. Her face scarred under the lava but it solidified inside the frozen cone. She had to walk around with a giant ice cube on her head for almost twenty minutes! And when it had finally melted enough for them to pull the block of ice off her head her face looked like an Escher painting! Or a Picasso! She was mortified.
Yes, research was a welcome reprieve from the rigors of learning alien magic. She started, logically, with the physical transformation her body underwent when she became “Dark” Hazel. No matter what she was wearing at the time she always donned the same over-sized Gandalf Wizard robe – an incredibly weird garment that she had never seen before but looked more expensive than anything she could have EVER hoped to afford. The robe was made of rich fabric, she thought it was silk, and decorated in colorful magic symbols, runes, gemstones, and inscriptions along the edges of the sleeves, hem, collar, and hood. And somehow it was like two sizes too big in the sleeves and the hem…but it managed to hug her curves and accentuate the body of a B-movie Alien sex-kitten. If ever there was a contradiction – she was it! Beneath the getup she had a body and face TO DIE FOR! And beneath the robe she was…ahem, scantily clad. It actually felt incredible, electrifying on her skin. Her eyes narrowed and slitted like a cat’s and she took on feline facial features…if you could see them.
As if that wasn’t enough, from out of thin air a strange, exotic, but extremely elaborate mask planted itself firmly over her face – permanently (it couldn’t be removed…she had tried and gone to great lengths) – and she found comfort in it…in the horrific visage it displayed and the fear it struck in her enemies…and the anonymity it afforded her. She was couched in the secrecy of demonic shadows. Was it demonic in natures? Of course not. And the piece de resistance was another little-known aspect of her transformation. It was difficult to see unless you observed at length or looked really closely. But the mask seemed to be linked to blood red patterns that wrapped around her arms, legs, and torso. Again, it was difficult to see this beneath the robe but when she moved and the giant robe flowed with her athletic physique one could see inscribed on the Hazel’s chest, back, shoulders, and forearms a strange symbol which she believed “marked” her as an agent of destruction. The mask let her enemies know that they faced an avatar of justice…one who would stop at nothing to ensure that goodness and life prevailed.
So she started with some classics: Ovid’s “Metamorphosis” – a quick Goggle search returned a book by Franz Kafka with the exact same title, “Metamorphosis,” Okay. Why not start there? The antiquated writings were fictional and a little try although Ovid tried his hand at quite a few tragic love stories that almost always ended in…well, death or change…which to Greeks was actually the same thing because it ended the cycle of birth…or began the cycle of “re-birth.” Ovid. Check! It took a few days to stomach and digest and really comb through the texts but she was proud of herself for doing so.
During this time she did a little digging on the Shadowboard and managed to find some interesting tidbits about Kafka’s notes on his novel. They were unpublished and discarded after the manuscript came to light but there are hints at some other, possibly more pertinent information he was privy to that never made it into the book. Good! Hazel LOVED mysteries and this little teaser gave her something to start researching:
Die Noten von Kafka. This collection of Franz Kafka’s notes is thought to be the inspiration for his novella Metamorphosis. These notes capture the story of a young man in great detail, over several conversations. They include a description of the man’s earliest memories, the events that led to him transforming into a giant insect, the powers and abilities he possessed as a giant insect, a sketch of his insect form, the young man’s feelings and fears, and most importantly, conversations the young man had with a mysterious figure who offered to be his mentor. In these conversations, the mentor revealed to him the true nature of the metamorphosis and how to deal with his monstrous id-self. The mentor also recounted his efforts to track down other morphing people to teach them to deal with what they were, and educate them. These notes contain the names of several ancient and elder morphs as well as what the mentor knew about the origins of the morphing people.
So there are just people who can…morph? Whose outward physical appearance is just NOT their normal, natural physical form? This is so vague! I need more books!
She scoured the library in the hopes that she’d find anything that related to metamorphosis or sparked her memory…or even just sparked her interest Her father had willingly parted with “Quoniam In Statera” – For The Balance – but it didn’t seem to have anything to do with her. After taking a crash course in Latin – THROUGH GOGGLE TRANSLATE – and practically learning the dead-language she was able to piece together some rudimentary information from the margin notes and her father’s notes and some extrapolation:
This book was bound in plain leather that has stayed remarkably well-preserved over the years, except for the old and worn bindings. It is handwritten entirely in Latin but sprinkled throughout the book are notes written in the margins. Upon review, it is clear that these notes are all in different handwriting and even different eras, indicating many readers over a long period of time. The comments are in a mixture of Latin, English and more archaic forms of English. The ones Hazel can read seem to be commenting as much on the earlier comments as they do on the actual contents of the book. A few of the comments she recognizes as her father’s handwriting.
Based on the commentaries it seems the book discusses the classical “elements” but also includes additional forces as “elements,” four of which seem to be lightning, ice, light and darkness – much to the chagrin of many a marginalia commenter. This “need” for balance among the elements is hotly debated amongst the commentators. The merits and dangers of reaching out for these elements are all commented on and argued about as well. There is an area of the book where the comments argue about “supposed” elemental amulets and the “so-called proof” they really provide. Though Hazel can’t read the book proper, she does find drawings of four amulets. None of them are Antipodes but one does look similar to Michelle’s.
While RIVETING READING it just didn’t help her with her self-discovery predicament. There absolutely HAD to be some hidden gem she had stolen from Charlie Kane in her haste to grab anything and everything she could buy for under $20,000 – or was it $30k? Sigh…there HAD to be something in this damn library she painstakingly cherry-picked tomes for. Dejectedly, she sat, sighed, and pouted. Being upset might just work.