Appearance of the Morning Star
A tale of Visitations - set in the Worldburner shared-world series, by Brother Grimace
from Magic: The Gathering
Note: this fic takes place ten years after the events of The Sun Will Come Out, Tomorrow.
"Come on, Daria. You have to eat something to keep up your strength. After all, Dr. Hadley says that you do need to put on some weight!"
The slightly drawn, pale face of a twenty-six year-old Daria Morgendorffer looked up to see the worried expression on her father's face. "All right, Dad," she relented. "I'll eat the bacon and waffles."
Jake Morgendorffer's face disappeared back through the kitchen entrance. "You want the plain ones, the blueberry, or the whole-grain?"
Daria managed a smile. "Surprise me, Dad."
Glancing at the photo of his long-dead wife as he walked back into the living room with a tray already prepared, Jake went to the large, comfy chair where his daughter had curled up beneath a blanket.
"I fixed turkey bacon for you - nice and crisp – and there's blueberry waffles and some of that really strong coffee that Jane likes so much!" he said, maneuvering the tray so that it sat snug over the armrests. "Dig in, Kiddo!"
"That smells good," a familiar voice rang out from the stairs. "Can I have some, too?"
The scream that flowed from Daria as her breakfast tray went flying hurt the ears of the three dogs that lived in the house two doors down, and nearly deafened Jake for several seconds.
"It's Lynn!" Daria shrieked, losing total control of her body functions; frozen with terror, her fingers began tearing through the fabric and stuffing of the armrests as her began to shake uncontrollably.
"Get the hell out of my house!" Jake roared, fists balled as he stepped between his daughter and the cat-suited doppelganger of Daria – as his daughter looked when she was still in high school - on the stairs.
"Get out of here, Cullen!" he bellowed, somehow knowing that she wasn't the woman who caused his daughter to be instutionalized for almost nine years. "I don't give a damn who gave you a pardon or what you did – you stay the hell away from my daughter before I beat you down!"
The doppelganger descended the flight of stairs as Daria's screams became keening, unpronounceable gibberish; glancing past Jake, she smiled at the girl rapidly losing her grip on sanity behind him. "Damn. Cullen does good work," the woman said, a wide smile pulling across her face. "I'll have to look her up and offer her a job."
Jake didn't back down. "You have five seconds to get out of my house before I kill you with my BARE HANDS-!"
The woman cocked her head to one side, and gave him a look of pure dismissal as she raised her right hand in his direction. "As if."
"That's enough, Judith."
Confused himself, Jake would later recall that he couldn't tell which was the greater surprise to the woman: the sudden appearance of a well-dressed man, enjoying a bowl of cereal as he sat back in the other comfy chair, or the fact that the black-tinged bolts of reddish lightning that splayed from the woman's fingertips curved away from striking Jake in the face and crotch and soared across the room to form a line in front of the man.
Judith seemed to be taken aback as golf ball-sized spheres of lightning, five in all, crackled away merrily in the air before the man in the chair.
That – whatever it is – would have fried me like a plate of overcooked bacon, he thought, as the smell of urine and stool suddenly became unbearably strong in the room – and upon his person. Oh, God – what's going on here in my living room?
"Let me take care of that, Jacob," the man addressed him; the smell suddenly vanished, as did the soiling of the clothes both he and his daughter wore, and the ruins of Daria's breakfast.
Jake turned to see Daria, sleeping peacefully in her chair. "She'll be much better when she wakes up, Jacob," the man said. "It's always better when there's a Daria Morgendorffer in the world – wouldn't you agree, Judith?"
Judith's face became a monument to hatred.
Jake thought that he and Daria were about to die as the woman – Judith – exploded into a being of pure flame with such force that (in any other circumstances) half of the North American continent, and a great deal of the Atlantic Ocean, would have simply ceased to exist.
I'm alive, he thought, as Judith's face aped his own in confusion and disbelief; on the coffee table next to the woman, not a single page in the opened Maryland phone book had been disturbed by the cataclysmic eruption of force. I don't know how, but I'm alive.
The man in the chair leaned forward. "I said, Judith – 'that will be enough'."
He turned to look Jake over for a moment, and then, reached out to take the spheres into his right hand (after setting the cereal bowl down on the end table besides the chair). "I apologize for the young lady's display, Jacob. She's been indulging in a tantrum."
Jacob heard the gentle knocking sounds of something metallic and gasped in surprise as the man stood, placing the contents of his hand into Jake's right hand. "For your trouble," he said.
As a stunned Jacob looked down to see five uncut diamonds the size of golf balls in his hand, Judith bit off a curse as the man touched her nose, and she reverted to human form.
Words and spittle flew from her lips. "Who the f-"
She was struck speechless, as the man looked her in the eye. "You will not use profane language in speaking to me," he said. "You will leave now."
"I don't know – or care – what you are," Judith finally spoke, through teeth gritted by building anger. "If you get in my way of dealing with – that – then, you and I have a problem."
"Child, we do not have a problem." the man said, his voice even. "You do not even realize it yet, but we have a history – and if you speak out of turn or with disrespect once more, I will end yours. Do you understand, child?"
Judith struggled to transform, but relented after several seconds. "Fine," she snarled. "What do you want?"
The man looked into her eyes. "Was I unclear? You will leave here. Do so now. You will not come back here, and you will not send anyone else here, ever again."
Jacob saw a thin smile appear across Judith's face – a smile exactly like the one on Lynn Cullen's face, when she was sentenced to fifteen years in prison. "And what makes you think that I won't come back with friends?" Judith asked, malignant glee spilling from her eyes. "What makes you think that I won't just send a little... something special... back here for everyone in the whole universe to enjoy?"
The man lifted his hand to brush Judith's hair away from her eyes. "What I know, child," he said, "is that while you have the powers of a god, you are not a god – and you are, most certainly, not... God."
For only the second time since this had all begun, Judith felt something like fear brush through her. "Is there anything else?" she said, taking on a petulant air. "Can I go now?"
The man ignored Judith, passing around Jacob to take a closer look at a sleeping Daria. "Yes – her strength will return, and there will be no more episodes, or nightmares," he said, gazing down upon her. "She has earned a chance to rest."
Judith's voice cut through the air once more – however, this time, there was the most vestigial hint of deference in her tone. "May I go now?
"Yes," the man said. "Go play."
For the first time since she set foot on the main floor of the Morgendorffer home, Judith felt her cape move; it moved fractionally, as if blinded with a sense of absolute terror – a sense beyond even that fear which it experienced in the presence of cats.
"We're not done," she
said to the man, a feather's touch of defiance in her voice. "And it doesn't
matter what you or any of your kind do, it's all going away - eventually."
A serene smile appeared upon the man's face as he began to speak:
"Hope springs eternal in the human breast;
Man never Is, but always To be blest:
The soul, uneasy and confin'd from home,
Rests and expatiates in a life to come."
Jake would have sworn that he saw a touch of relief as the woman vanished in a blue flash of light. "Neither you or Daria need to remember this," the man said, straightening up. "All you need to remember is that a well-wisher stopped by to inquire upon your daughter's well-being, and gave you a little something to help ease any financial worries you may have in helping alleviate that situation."
Totally befuddled by everything that had happened, Jake could do nothing but stare as the man helped himself to a piece of turkey bacon. "Your daughter, in so very many ways, has inspired more persons than you could ever imagine, in more worlds than you could ever comprehend. By virtue of simply being who she is, she has earned her rest."
The man walked to the front door; Jake watched as he took a bite of the turkey bacon before he stepped through. "You're an excellent cook, Jacob," he allowed, savoring the taste. "Crisp... full of flavor. I complement your choice of breakfast product."