A Tale of the Ringbearers by Brother Grimace
(Note: This takes place about three days after the events in My Dinner With Robert.)
"Hey, Janey – this is some good oxtail soup."
Jane Lane stepped into the kitchen, a smile on her face that made the four members of Mystik Spiral look up in surprise. "So, when did you make it – along those lines, when did you go shopping?"
"I sold a couple of reproductions to this guy that has a gallery downtown," Jane lied easily, noticing that her brother Trent was too infatuated with his bowl of soup and the huge, butter-covered chunk of warm cornbread to catch the lie. "Oh, and if you guys eat up everything in here or suddenly decide to have a 'party' and everything in the fridge, the freezer and the pantry disappears..."
Jesse, Nicolas and Max winced in unison as each felt something grasp his genitals firmly and then, squeezed down hard. "I'm going to be annoyed – okay?'
Trent's three friends didn't freak out as the sensation vanished as quickly as it appeared; they had always believed that Jane had some sort of witch-like powers anyway, and as a result never did anything to really piss her off. Each of the three nodded quietly and continued to eat, while Trent quickly finished off his bread and followed his sister upstairs.
"Janey. Got a moment?"
The raven-haired young woman appeared from her closet at the sound of Trent's voice, pulling an old shirt on that she used whenever she decided to just 'freestyle' with her paintings. "We should make about three, three-fifty each for the shows we've done this weekend – I can give you back something on the groceries."
"Hey – look, I don't think, I mean-" Jane's face brightened as Trent tried to stammer out words. "You know, I don't want you to have to think that you're going to have to support me- I mean, we've got money, but Mom and Dad, they just keep forgetting-"
Jane held up a letter. "Dad sent money – enough to pay the mortgage payments for a few months, and put supplies in here for a while. I said that downstairs because I don't want them trying to sponge off us for a while – they'd figure it out soon enough, but until they do... hey, get out of here! Some of us want to change clothes, and have some actual modesty or shame!"
A sheepish look went across Trent's face. "Sorry."
He closed the door behind him and Jane turned away, balling up the forged letter as she did so. She tossed the letter towards the trash can when an overwhelming burst of pure white light flowed from the closet, filling Jane's room and forcing her to cover her eyes. "Damn – I knew guacamole on those burritos tasted funny!" Jane groused, tossing her paintbrush aside. "Well, at least it's a white light... I wonder - if you're a virgin when you die, is having sex in Heaven a sin?"
An amused – and very familiar - voice spoke from within the light. "You're not dead."
"I'm not dead? Really?" Jane picked up her brush from the floor, and threw it at the light. "Then turn off the damned light – you could blind somebody!"
The light bled away, and Jane stared at the exact duplicate of her in the closet. , who "Yes – I'm another reality's version of you," she said, smirking as she looked her double over. "No, I'm not evil or trying to get into your pants – I don't have time for that anyway. Yes, I know that you can defend yourself because of the powers that Robert Nelson – the version you know – gave you powers. That's partly why I'm here."
Jane looked at her double. "Listening."
The alternate Jane held out her right hand, to show her the ring she had sitting on her palm. "Recognize this?"
"You know that I do. Robert has one like it."
"No, he doesn't. Nobody has a Ring like this one. Take it."
Jane hesitated. "But – Robert said – won't I have to tell him – I can't hide this from Daria-"
"Listen up, Lane," the alternate Jane said. "This is not just an ordinary Defender Ring – it's not even one of the First Rings, the ones that the first Ringbearers wore – this is the First Ring...the very first one created by the Ringmasters, ever."
"Because this Ring will help you," was the answer. "This Ring was the prototype – it has more power than the others, it can do things that the others can't because the Ringmasters decided the other Rings didn't need those endowments... or shouldn't have them. This Ring can't be detected by any of the others, and when you wear it, the ability you have to – it's called a 'Glamour' – your Glamours, as far as anyone else is concerned, are perfect. Perfect invisibility – you can't be detected even by a telepath, people with specific anti-cloaking powers or spells, physical contact – nothing will penetrate your Glamours. You won't make footprints, or waves if you're swimming, or if you fart, they won't notice until you leave the area. If you duplicate someone else, nobody will be able to tell you apart – a telepath will only read exactly what they expect to read off you."
"Oh, and you know how Robert gave you powers with his Ring?" The alternate Jane nodded. "As soon as you put this on, it also gives you powers beyond the Ring – as far as they've figured, your powers should double in strength. Stronger TK, greater levels with your elemental affinity, any you'll fly faster and better than almost anybody with a Ring – once you get used to it. Even Superman had to learn how to fly."
"Like I said – why me?"
The other Jane sighed. "Because you and Daria have a connection – a connection more powerful than you can imagine. It's so powerful that the place you two actually met for the first time is a nexus - a focal point for more worlds and realities than you can imagine – and if you're anything like me, that's a lot of worlds. It's what they call a non-transitable nexus – that means that people can't cross through it from one reality to another – but rather, it's a point from which all other realities spring from. In the case of your reality, it's the one single point that ALL realities focus and generate from."
She took the ring and placed it in Jane's hand. "The day is coming – maybe not tomorrow, and maybe not for years to come – but the day will come when Daria needs help. That Ring will help you save her – and in the process, that Ring may be the way to save more universes than you can imagine."
Jane looked at the Ring in her hand. "I need to sit down."
"Here, have a sip of this," the other Jane said, handing her what looked like a thermos; Jane tasted the fluid, and her eyes flew open. "Whoa! How do you make coffee that strong?"
"Another Jane in another universe asked almost the exact same question when she tasted it for the first time," the alternate Jane said, smiling. "Keep the thermos. It'll never wear out, you'll never be able to lose it – it'll always show up when you need it, and it'll always have whatever you need or want to drink inside. Robert told you about nectar and ambrosia, right?"
Jane nodded. "This will always produce it for you – anything liquid-based can be poured from this – cold fluids and drinks, soups, stews, gravy, you get the point. It'll also work only for you – safety measure, unless you tell it to work for someone or it needs to work for them to feed you because you're sick or something."
The two Janes smiled at each other. "Oh, by the way – 11:02 p.m., the day I moved into my dorm in college. Turned out my roommate got the opportunity of a lifetime, so she decided to withdraw from college and I had a room to myself. My R.A. helped me move in – and then, spent the next hour and a half showing me around the bed. Totally tore up my sheets, so she gave me a set of hers. 800 thread count, and they're so soft..."
"She?" Jane's eyes flew open. "Her sheets?"
"Stepford Menzies – world-class blueblood, math major, and championship-level gymnast." Jane laughed at the look at her doppelganger's face. "Plus, she's really hot. Oh, come on, Jane. We're basically the same person. I know what you did for that 'failure' assignment O'Neill gave you after you left the cheerleading squad – or about what our double on another world did when she was triplicated one time. I know how you've taken the occasional extra look at the girls in the Fashion Club-"
The alternate Jane leaned in close. "I won't tell about that time you were waiting for Daria to come back and you saw Stacy and Quinn changing in her room – that was rug burn material for weeks, hmm? Don't worry - I know you're not a lesbian, not as if there's anything wrong with that - but I've got it from on high that you're, well, 'straight but curious."
Jane looked at her alter. "Really? It's not, like, weird, or anything? I mean, having thoughts like that on occasion?"
"Almost everyone does on occasion – Jay and Silent Bob did that 'guys we'd go gay for' thing, remember? – and Angelina Jolie's career is half-based on women fantasizing about her!" The alternate Jane shrugged. "On the flip side, you should see Daria as a boy – his name's Darius, and he is... very easy on the eyes..."
"Really? What about that Sheridan girl?"
"Five-foot-seven, almost all of that is legs, has no shame whatsoever and is very, very bendy – trust me, you will not be worried about what people think if you happen to meet your world's version of her!" The alternate Jane laughed. "Oh, and by the way – stop worrying about the mortgage and the bills. I popped by every place that needed to be paid off, and you and Trent are all set. God... I love him, but he's a loser in all but one reality I've seen him in. I also set up new accounts for you at Lawndale First Securities and Loan – remember, they're the bank Robert told you about, where folks like us can go to bank without too many questions? You've got two hundred and fifty big ones in both checking and savings. Between that and your Ring, you'll never have to worry about money again, and I know you're not fool enough to attract notice by getting all sorts of expensive things all of a sudden."
"I like girls and boys?"
"Not if you don't want to. Yes, people are born with preferences, but you don't have to exercise them, right? Oh, but if you do, I've got three words for you. 'The Lord Voldemort.' Everyone loves that. You'll never have a bad breakup if you do that – or the 'Dominican Face Hat.' Only ten persons in a couple of realities know that one-"
Hey, wait a minute – I know that!" The alternate Jane sat back on the bed and smiled as Jane hopped up, recognition in her eyes. "That old show on FOX with Jay Mohr – 'Action!' That woman who worked with him made that up to get the writer working on that script!"
"Yes – but in every reality, things change. In one universe, that was very real – a universe I just happened to be in so I could wipe out a band of demons that looked like children's puppets. Do you know how many demon-touched universes that the writers at the FOX network have tapped into since 1997 for story ideas – not to mention how busy we've been for the past four years since that show with the cute Winchester brothers came on the air? Television. It's like a New Frontier for evil."
Jane reached out, took the offered Ring, and slid it onto her finger. "Doesn't feel any different."
"It never does," was her double's reply. "Now, you'll need to take a few weeks off-world for training-"
"Schedule it during the summer – I can say I'm going to a nice art camp." Jane looked at her ring, and then to her double. "What about this 'Lord Voldemort' thing...?"
An hour later, a still-hungry Max walked down the hall to Jane's room as he chewed on a ham sandwich. Without knocking, he opened the door and walked straight in.
His eyes went wide at the flash of blue light that almost blinded him, and he backed out quickly, closing the door as he went. The drummer felt something cold and heavy in his back pocket, and his eyes went wide as he saw that his drumsticks, poking out of his back pocket, had been changed into solid gold.
Max was not as slow as most people would have believed. Figuring that the gold was both a bribe to keep quiet and a warning to what would happen if he didn't, he quickly bounced down the stairs and out the front door to the Tank. I always knew that Jane was a witch, he thought, driving off in the direction of the local pawn ship. Even if I get only the price for their weight in gold, I'll have some bucks for this – and I'll be quiet, too.
That was kind of weird, though. It was really hot, but still kind of weird. I'd have figured that she'd cast some kind of spell so she could do it with Jesse, or her friend Daria's sister - the prom queen. Hey, if Jane wants to stop driving stick for a while, that's cool, but still...what she was doing – is that being a lesbian, or do you call that just playing with yourself?