Pen looked sidelong at Kariska and managed a smirk. Now that there were a few leagues between him and the mirror he was feeling much better. Now he was still flustered, confused, and irritated, but not nearly as much so as when he’d been in the shadow of that accursed mirror, “I can imagine having me as company must be the highlight of an otherwise dull life; dull compared to meeting myself at any rate.” He lifted a hand and stroked his hair back, grinning snobbishly.
He looked down at the axe and made a few mental alterations to the spell, then dropped the enchantment and turned to his water haired compatriot again, “As for the mirror, I don’t know if the solution is going to be as forthcoming as that. I admit I have absolutely no experience with the subject, but it seems to me that if I know about my mirrored-self, and anticipate what he will do, and then base my actions off of that, that would end the balance between the two of us. I would do things different compared to him, so our actions based off each other’s would create different… stuff; and... Oh gods, my head hurts. Let’s just get this axe finished so I can examine this problem some more. Did your Pen have a study I could use?” Stepping back from the table, Pen gestured to the seemingly inert axe, wondering just what was about to happen.
Kariska nodded. "Yes, his study is in the west wing of the palace, and your living quarters are attached." Kariska grimaced and said, "Whether or not your personalities are different, you have the same core. Thus, if you try to anticipate what he does, then you must assume that he has arrived at the same conclusion and will do the same. There's a reason why they are called "Mirror-Universes"." Kariska took a deep breath and said, "I suggest you shield yourself." Kariska probed the axe mentally and then began to feed it psychic essence, the axe steadily emitting a bluish-green glow. The axe quivered and then began to hover. It turned upright and pivoted left to right, as if looking around. Kariska felt a disturbance and groaned. "Oh Gods, here we go again. PEN! SHIELD!" He formed an X with his arms, a shield of psychic power surrounding him. The glow flared and then dissipated. For a second, silence pervaded valley, and then a massive explosion rent the air in a flash of purple, green and blue. Debris was flung everywhere and Kariska found himself thrown back at least three hundred yards before landing on the ground and bouncing another hundred to a stop. His shield had protected him, but he was very dizzy. He staggered up and called out drunkenly, "Peeenttuaiss? Wheeeerrree rrrrrr uuuuuh?" He shook his head and called out again, this time with better success. "Pen? You ok? Where are you?"
“Whether or not your personalities are different, you have the same core. Thus, if you try to anticipate what he does, then you must assume that he has arrived at the same conclusion and will do the same. There's a reason why they are called Mirror-Universes."
Pen furrowed his brow and considered this, “Agreed, but that would only be if key things were identical. The environment seems to be the same in both worlds, from what I’ve seen anyway, as does the ranking structure, so titles and rank shouldn’t affect things, but…”Pen chewed his lower lip for a minute, “Tell me Kariska, how was I, Pen, err, your me, treated? I very much want to get back to my world, but do you think he wants the same?”
"Oh Gods, here we go again. PEN! SHIELD!"
Pen glanced at Kariska curiously, getting drawn out of his thoughts. The priest was crossing his arms in front of him and Pen followed his gaze to the axe. Physically, it looked like it was just glowing oddly, excusing the fact it was hovering, but through his well developed psychic sense gained from using magic most of his life, or his “third eye,” Pen saw the energy suffusing the axe bubbling and writhing like a mass of cosmic porridge about to explode with a fury.
And then it exploded…
...with a fury.
Pen had less than a second to react, so he did what came naturally. He shouted, channeling a surge of magic into his voice. A thunderclap burst from his mouth to meet the explosive shockwave roaring at him and negated some of the force as the two magical fronts collided, but that still left a lot of force smashing into him when the wave reached Pen, a millisecond after it was created. It socked him like a wall and the bard was sent flying back a hundred fifty feet. Two things Pen noticed before he collided with the ground again: I taste copper, and lots of it and This. Really. Hurts. Luckily, when he landed, Pen was already blacked out, possibly with a concussion.
A few minutes later, Pen’s eyes dragged themselves open and he whimpered in pain, sitting up successfully after two failed attempts and some coarser than usual swearing. He wiped the blood from his chin and cheeks, spitting out what was still in his mouth and cringing at the ache all over his body. A lesser man would have had the sense to sit still until either help or a gravedigger arrived, but Pen had blown himself up so many times that his nerves had become more resistant to the burning pain of spontaneous combustion and he managed to stagger to his feet. He waved his arms and exclaimed nonsense as he tried to regain his feet.
“Oh Mother of the Night, I hate when this happens… especially to me.” He shook his head and groaned as his vision swam. Blinking furiously, he looked around, eventually finding the place where the axe had exploded. The table was a charred wreck, and axes were embedded everywhere. Pen blinked a few more times and squinted, staring at where the enchanted axe, of which nothing remained now, had been floating. Hanging in mid air, it looked like there was something golden, like a crack or a hole. At this distance it was hard to tell, but he thought he saw something move inside it, but it closed rapidly and soon vanished back into thin air.
“Uh... Kariska? Does that usually-” The bard turned around and scanned the hills for his new priest friend, spotting him almost a quarter mile away. Wow, that was some blast. That, or priests bounced really well. Either way, it didn’t matter much now, Pen groaned and began to shakily close the gap between them, almost falling on his abused face several times. He coughed loudly as he walked and a lance of pain went through his chest. He cringed and looked at the grass in front of him, and the spray of blood he’d just produced, “That’s not good,” He moaned.
Kariska looked around and found the table. It was an enchanted one so that they didn't have to replace it, but he saw the light hovering over it. It seemed like millions of thoughts were coming from it. His eyes widened and he thought, "We've created a disruption in the continuum. This will be useful…" He heard coughing and saw Pen about a hundred yards away, and coughing up blood. He shook his head and transported to his side. "Use your healing spell. This happened the first time because you didn't shield yourself before I started. Anyway, let's continue once you're all fixed up." He snapped his fingers and another pile of axes appeared beside the table, which was over a hundred feet away. He walked over to the table and began to speak as soon as Pen had healed himself and had walked to the table. "Pen, write that spell down and keep it. The mixture of our power just revealed an interesting effect that we should explore. In the meantime, pick the next spell and enchant…" He held out his hand and an axe flew to it. "...this axe!"
Pen nodded and cast the spell as he hobbled over to the table. By the time he reached it he didn't feel like his insides were trying to come out anymore, but he did feel tired after having to use his own energy to heal himself. His discomfort was forgotten as Kariska gave his thoughts on the odd light he'd seen. "That does sound interesting, though I'd like more shielding than just air next time we explore it."
"In the meantime, pick the next spell and enchant… this axe!"
Pen slumped his shoulders and groaned loudly, like a true child, "Do we have to!? Fine, but I'm not getting blown up again!" This time, Pen summoned a large brick wall between him and the table, adding several layers of wards just to be safe, then a few more just to paranoid. "In the words of the great wizards of yore, let's get this over with." He quickly copied down the spell he'd used to create the light, then started perusing his other options, looking for something possibly related to mental powers that might mix well with AI.
Kariska sat hovering in the air and tapped his chin. "Perhaps we're going about this the wrong way…try drawing on my strength to aid your spell, that way, my psychic powers might be more compatible with the magic...I don't know why I didn't think of this before, but you were just thinking about having to use your own energy, sorry, I couldn't help but overhear, and it just clicked." He reached out his hand and a thread of energy wound forward to stop in front of Pen. "Just touch the energy whenever you're ready, but be prepared, that is a lot of energy there."
Pen eyed the tendril of energy distrustfully, "If this blows me up again I'll be very cross with you, just so you know." It looked stable enough as he examined it with his third eye, but the act of being wary around Kariska, no matter what dimension he was in, was hardwired in his brain. Despite these feelings though, he reached out and grabbed the end of the tendril. He jumped and the hairs on the back of his hand stood on end as the priest's mystic energy rushed into him like a jolt of electricity. It felt pure and uncorrupted, but at the same time foreign and… wrong. He was acutely aware of the fact that this wasn't his magic the entire time he spent enchanting the axe. It made his skin crawl, and it was very fascinating to the scholarly part of his mind. He'd have to take some notes on this experience when they were done.
This time, Pen took a different approach to the problem of levitating the axe. Rather than trying to make it defy gravity, he gave half the axe a negative gravity, effectively making it weightless, but not massless. It weighed as much as a feather, but could still split skulls. The process took much longer than usual, and a lot more concentration, since he had to evenly distribute the negative gravitational effects, and use a tool he was unaccustomed to.
"All right... I think that should do it." He peeked over the brick wall to see the axe floating a few inches above the table as if it were in freefall. "It may need some fine tuning, but let's see if it explodes this time before we devote too much energy to this one." He ducked back behind the brick wall and hunkered down, calling out as he waited, "So, I've heard about the queen, you, and myself, but what's the rest of the court like? How about the king, or the prince?"
Because they were sharing a connection, Kariska could follow how the spell was ordered. He approved of Pen's method of enchantment but was also not entirely comfortable with sharing energy with Pen. It was Pen after all, and he was not quite used to having to guard against attack all the time. After Pen was done, he stepped forward an began to add sentience to the axe, carefully and slowly so as not to disturb the balance. He winced at Pen's question. "Eeeeeh, I envy what your version of Vikenti and Narvis are….Vikenti is a drunken fool who sleeps with a new concubine every night, and Narvis is a temperamental child who whines about everything and goes to his mother every time he doesn't get his way. Kiara basically rules the kingdom herself. I wouldn't be surprised if we get news of Vikenti dying sometime soon. Gods, I hate Kiara...she's cruel and haughty in every way. I pity Vikenti for marrying her. I appreciate my wife, Kilena. She helps me keep from killing the entire royal family off and establishing a new line." Kariska finished and peeked over the wall. The ax appeared to be stable...He tentatively walked forward. Even if this one messed up, it meant they were on the right track. He hoped that they had gotten it right. Kariska sighed as he felt a disturbance in the balance in the powers and watched as the ax melted into a pool of sizzling goo that flowed of the enchanted table and left burn marks on the ground. He picked out another ax and said, "What about your world? What is it like?"
Pen raised his eyebrows as he listened, “A different one every night? How many does he have?” He mumbled to himself, the cleared his throat and peeked at the axe. He frowned as it simply melted out of existence. But hell, at least this one hadn’t exploded. “Hmmm, well my world is pretty much everything that you just said, in reverse. Well I shouldn’t say everything, per se. Vik and Kiara are still the respective king and queen, Narvis is their sun, the sun is still yellow and the grass green. Except, I’ve never really seen Vik so much as look at another woman besides Kiara, and Kiara is easily the most beloved person in the kingdom. Narvis is self supporting and strong willed, and I’m sorry but I am not aware of you being married in my world. Don’t quote me on that though, I try not to get mixed up in the affairs of dark lords too much. Oh right, that’s probably another thing you should know. You’re basically pure evil from my experience, though I think we established that.”
Pen looked at his feet then at the hills, rubbing the back of his neck, “Er, anyway… The axe! What if we tried reversing the order of the enchantments? Try giving it sentience, then we’ll see about making the bugger fly?”
Kariska laughed, "I was merely conveying a point. I seriously doubt that he has a new concubine every night, Pentus." Kariska tapped his chin. "So, just the personalities and aspects of the kingdom are different….Makes sense, I suppose...if the personalities of people are different, that ultimately means that the kingdom would be different, given the fact that the different personalities would affect the kingdom in a large way." Kariska nodded, his eyes narrowing. "Aye, given from what I've seen of...myself, I don't suppose there's many women who'd want to marry him."
Kariska picked up an axe and said, "Hmm, we could try that..." He set the axe down and began to feed it a sliver of psychic energy. "So, what's going on currently in your world?"