Ian had gone through every passage or mention of The First Tarot and the vanished Magician in record-time. He had brought forth every book of lore he held and read through its pages for a clue as to the meaning of the mysteriously vanished arch-type. As he exhausted his library, fear gripped Ian McNee’s heart. Could it mean the obvious? Could it be that Dr. Strange was no longer the Sorcerer Supreme, and that he had left the position vacant? The floor of his shop was littered with books and scrolls, but Ian McNee had found no answers. He summoned once again a vision of the Cornerstones, and studied them, as if in contemplating their meaning, he could somehow understand the mystery of the Tarot. The Sword, The Rose, The Crown and a page of The Book.

At that moment, the doorbell of his shop rang out, and Ian McNee turned to face the costumers he would have to turn away. To his great surprise, he recognized one, a man with long Grey hair, as Modred the Mystic. The other one however made his jaw drop: the pink-haired girl!

“…. Still don’t see why you had to take me to this stupid shop! I mean, it’s tacky! It’s new-agey and stupid! It’s where wannabe-witch girls go to get their incense and meditation-crystals!” Megan protested loudly.

“Aye, it is that, Milady, and so much more!” Modred answered calmly.

“The Fool!!!” Ian called out, as he stepped toward Megan and Modred, his eyes fixed on Megan.

“Okay, I get the feeling somebody is insulting me, and that totally frosts my cookies!” Megan aid, looking at Ian.

“Oh no… I’m sorry, miss… I am…. Just amazed, really…” Ian corrected himself, while trying to remember when he was last this surprised by anything.

“Well, good… I may be new to all this, but still….” Megan said.

“McNee, I have taken this fair lady to your abode so she might learn of things no longer present in the grotesque Indian’s mosque” Modred said.

“Taboo? What does he have to do with it?” Ian asked.

“Ahem… If I may… Hi, my name is Megan, Megan Gwynn. Hi. I wanted to visit the mosque because I read on the net that it was this creepy old place, possibly haunted by wolf-men and that a wizard lived there, and…. Well, I want to learn about magic!” Megan rambled.

“Milady wishes to learn of magic. Wouldst thou deny her this, Ian McNee?” Modred added.

“You want to learn magic by visiting the home of a dead necromancer and Darkholder? You must be crazy!” Ian said to Megan.

“And here we go again with the insults! You know, you are really starting to piss me off, Mr. Sunglasses-indoors!” Megan said.

“Fine! Show me! Show you are magic! Show me you have some mystical talent inside you that is not related to the chance factor of DNA!” Ian said arrogantly.

“Okay, Mr. Snappy-snark! Sihal Novarum Chinoth!!” Megan said, and disappeared from where she was standing, to just behind Ian, tapping him on the shoulder.

“Hmm”, Ian said, hiding how startled he was, “Okay, so you can teleport. What else have you got?”

“Ehhh… That’s pretty much it…” Megan said softly, her eyes cast down.

“Thought so. Listen girl, magic is a wonderful thing, but this is not the time, nor the place to get involved” Ian started, and put a hand on Megan’s shoulder, directing her away from the vision of the four Cornerstones. Modred walked up to Megan however, with a determined look on his face.

“Milady is to modest. Surely, Milady, thou hath ability to reverse thyne earlier magic?” Modred said to Megan.

“Reverse? Uh… Like what? Like… This? Chinoth Novarum Sihal?” Megan said, and the Darkhold page from the vision appeared in Megan’s hands.

“Hey!!! I was just…. Wow! I can do another!!! I can do another!!!! Woo-hoo! Yay me!!” Megan said, happily looking around the room to see if anyone else was as excited as she was.

“Well done, milady, well done!” Modred said, applauding softly.

“Miss Gwynn, I urge you to put that piece of paper down this instant! It is one of the most…” Ian started, but Modred interrupted him.

“Now, for a third variation, milady?” Modred said smiling.

“You betcha! Sihal Chinoth Novarum!!!” Megan shouted gleefully and suddenly the world around her froze. Both Modred and Ian were standing perfectly still, Ian’s face frozen in terror and Modred’s in anticipation. Megan was confused, and looked around the room. Clocks had stopped ticking; steam coming from Ian’s coffee had frozen solid, as had the flame in one of the oil-lamps. What was this? Had she really… Had she really stopped time?

The doorbell of the store rang, and Megan was startled by the sudden noise breaking the complete silence. The man walking in was a dwarf. He had a receding hairline with black hair. The gray striped suit he wore looked cheap and smudgy, and his loud yellow tie looked absolutely garish. Megan giggled nervously for a second upon seeing the dwarf, until she noticed the look on his face. His features were contorted in a sickening grin that could only be described as utterly evil.

“Uh… Hell?” Megan said nervously.

“Who are you to summon me and what I represent? How can one of your limited power and intelligence even begin to craft the spell that all other, far greater magicians have failed at?” the dwarf said with a sinister tone.

“You know, I’m getting sick and tired of people calling me names! I’ve been called a fool, crazy and now dumb! First by a freaked-out new age hippie loser, and now by the dwarf sales-man from hell! Just shut it, okay?” Megan said, frustrated, angry and completely unafraid.

“Ah, yes… I see there is more to you than is readily apparent. You have actually managed to defeat one of the elder spawn, and destroyed a cairn of the N’Garai. Quite impressive” the Dwarf said.

“Finally! Some respect from the magic-crowd!” Megan said.

“However, you are still but a lowly worm in the eyes of the great Elder! Not worthy of the gifts he bestows, and utterly useless in the grand scheme of things” the dwarf said, and Megan’s face went pale. Something snapped in her, as she had had enough of being insulted over and over again.

“Midget-man, you need to chill!” Megan said and threw a cloud of her pixie-dust in the dwarf’s face. For a second, the dwarf looked disoriented and amazed, but then his face took on a look of furious anger.

“Pixie-dust! Pixie-dust!!! You little bastard daughter of a faerie-whore have the gall to use pixie-dust on me? ME?!! I will rip your soul to shreds for this!!!” The Dwarf shouted, and black flame burst forth from his hands. Megan screamed as the flames surrounded here and she felt herself burning. Then she realized the flames were not burning at all. In fact, she didn’t feel a thing.

“Ripping my soul, eh? Sorry, too late… Already been done, by somebody a lot…. Taller then you!” Megan said, and her Souldagger appeared in her hand in purple haze of magical energy.

“A Souldagger? You wish to combat me with a Souldagger?” the dwarf said, as his hands started to glow red. He pointed a finger at Megan, and her eyes and nose began to bleed. Coughing, Megan fell to the ground and coughed up blood.

“Yes… That is what I thought…” the Dwarf said, and walked over to Megan. He grabbed her chin and looked into her eyes.

“A black-eyed faerie… Will wonders never cease? I must commend you, little faerie, you held out longer than I would have thought, for one so insignificant” the Dwarf said, as he saw that Megan was trying to speak while gurgling up blood.

“A cry for mercy? How quaint… Now, let’s see what your soul looks like” the dwarf mumbled, as Megan managed to whisper three words: “Chinoth Novarum Sihal.” At once, the Bone Sword from the vision in the back of the store appeared in Megan’s hands, and on pure instinct and adrenaline she stuck through the dwarf’s midsection. The dwarf staggered back, and still bleeding, Megan managed to get up.

“You… You piece of filth! You wound me with Oshtur’s weapon on her own day… But still, you lack… You lack the power to make it meaningful!” the Dwarf said in gasps, clutching the hilt of the sword and trying to pull it out.

“Here’s some meaning” Megan whispered as blood dripped from her mouth, and she stabbed her Souldagger in the dwarf’s face.

Morgan Le fey saw what had happened from her far realm, in the vision inside the whirlpool under the willow tree, and was shocked as she realized what the little mutant girl had just done.

“I must go to her! To defeat an Avatar of the Elder Evil! It is unheard of!” Morgan said, as she cast her spell that swallowed her in an aura of blue flames.

“As it was foretold…” the voice of the oracle spoke. The branches of the willow stopped swaying in the water, and the whirlpool disappeared. Within seconds, the willow disappeared in the swirling mists and vapors that came with the Feast of Ostara.

*******
“Milady!!” Modred called out, as he saw Megan lying on the ground, her face covered in blood. He had no idea what had happened, although he did have some suspicions. All he knew was that Megan used a third variation of her teleportation spell, and the next moment she was lying there.

“The… Dwarf…” Megan said, still gushing blood.

“What happened? Modred, you bastard!” Ian said, kneeling by Megan’s body.

“Methinks now is not the time for recriminations, McNee!” Modred said, as he, too, knelt by Megan, and held her up.

“Look! Look what you’re advice cost her! Did you hear what she said?” Ian said, “The dwarf! Now, who do you think that was, hm?”

Modred looked into the eyes of Ian, with a look filled with hatred. “Well, it would seem Milady managed to vanquish him, would it not?”

A burst of blue flame startled both Ian and Modred, as before them appeared a beautiful woman with dark brown hair, dressed in a revealing green dress. She radiated magical power in all directions, and looked as if she would just as soon kill both magicians as talk to them.

“Away, both of you!” she said, “Morgan Le Fey will not allow one that has destroyed an avatar of Chthon himself with the Bone-sword of Oshtur to die on the day of Ostara’s Feast!”

Both Modred and Ian stepped away from Megan, who looked on with great fear in her eyes and getting weaker all the time from blood-loss. Morgan knelt by her, and looked at her.

“Child of Faerie, I will save you from the brink of death for your courage” Morgan said, and held out her hand. In a sparkling ring of energy, the Ebony Rose appeared in Morgan’s hand. “I give you life, and the bounty of the goddess,” Morgan said, and the flow of blood stopped. Megan started to feel stronger and spitting out the last mouthful of blood, she healed before the startled eyes of Ian and Modred.

“Who… Who was that dwarf?” Megan asked, “And who are you?” as she looked at Morgan Le Fey.

“I am Morgan Le Fey. I have saved you from the wounds you sustained at the hands of the Avatar of the Elder God Chthon, master of The Darkhold”

“Oh… Okay… And I suppose you all know what that means?” Megan asked.

“I do, Milady… Perhaps thou willt alow me to tell thee of it at some other time. I think there has been sufficient magic today” Modred said.

“Yeah… I think you’re right…. Let’s get the hell out of here!” Megan said, and walked outside as Modred held the door.

*******

In the Omni Plaza Hotel in Manhattan, a man woke from his sleep. He had partied all night, finding the pleasures of New York quite irresistible still, even after a lifetime of seeking out the most exquisite of experiences. It was seven in the evening, and the man still had a heavy head from to much drinking and to much drugs. Yet awake he was, immediately, as he sensed a graveness he had not felt since he was in Paris, centuries ago. It prompted him to open his eyes, and sit up in his bed. Finding his mind too clouded to think properly; he decided to get some water from the sink. Splashing it in his face, he looked up to look at his devilishly handsome face. He straightened his black hair and twirled at his moustache. With a sigh, he waved a hand before his face. Looking again, he looked completely sober, clean-shaven, perfectly dressed and exceptionally cultured. Cagliostro, the immortal mage, was ready for another day.

Walking back into the sitting room of his penthouse suite, he sat down in a lotus position with his palms up and his thumbs pointing outwards. The position was uncomfortable in his finely tailored suit, but magic was ever Cagliostro’s lifeblood, as it had been for many centuries. His mind searched the world for the source of the disturbance, and when he found it, he gave an unmanly cry. It was then that he knew the Darkhold, The Book of Sins, the Tome of the most dangerous and darkest magic had been restored and was now unprotected in the world. And the worst of it was that Cagliostro was not the only one to find out.

*******

Megan and Modred stood by a small water-fountain in a park. Megan had washed most of the blood from her face and hair, but it did not come out of her clothes. Looking up at the sky, Megan noticed that t was already late in the afternoon.

“Hey! What happened to the day? It can’t be this late already!”

“Milady, thou must consider the magic that hath taken hold of thee. Time waits for no man, not even the greatest of magicians,” Modred said.

“Well, I better go on home then. Maybe I can sneak this bloody uniform into the laundry without anyone noticing. My roommate Laura does it all the time!” Megan said.

“Perhaps thou art correct. Other concerns draw my attention” Modred said.

“Oh, yeah, sure… I tell you Modred; you’re not a bad guy… I mean, you showed me two new spells… And I learned them right away! How cool is that?” Megan said cheerfully.

“I was thyne talent for the art that allowed the to master the variations I pointed out”

“Yeah, I know! I’m a magic X-Men, I am!”

“That is most certainly true, milady. Now, I bid thee farewell” Modred said, and nodded his head to Megan. As he turned to walk away, Megan called after him.

“Hey, wait! Will I see you again?” Megan called.

“Milady, when thou art prepared to learn more truths about magic and thyself, contact me. Leave a message by the mosque, and I will know it is thyne” Modred aid without turning, and disappeared among the people in the park.

*******

Ian sat up in his bed, beside Morgan Le Fey. With his eyes closed, he felt for his glasses until he had found them. When he looked at Morgan, he saw her staring back at him.

“So what happens now?” Ian asked.

“Now, I take the Crown from Ashake, and I will take my leave from you”, Morgan said as she got up. She wrapped her naked body in a bed sheet that magically transformed into a white gown and made her look almost sacred.

“So this it? This is all there was?” Ian asked, a look of slight panic and disappointment on his face.

“Ian, you have lost the Bone Sword. You have lost the Ebony Rose. And most importantly, you have lost the Darkhold. All because of your arrogance in tempting the Fool.”

“The pink-haired girl… Is she truly the Fool?” Ian asked.

“It would appear so. But that is no longer your concern. Your actions against Chthon have cost you your soul, and will now cost you your life. You used the Darkhold, Ian. Chthon can find you and take you when he wishes, and there is only the Crown to protect you now. Set will not help you, Ian. You are dead, but you refuse to accept it. You were dead the moment you lost the first of the Cornerstones, your body just has not realized it yet”

“So why this, then? You wanted me to go out happy?” Ian said sarcastically.

“Don’t be crude, Ian. We made love so I could consecrate your soul to Gaea. Chthon cannot devour it now!”

“That is… I thank you, great Lady”

Morgan Le fey took one last look at Ian, and then turned to leave.

“Wait! One last request!” Ian said, and got out of bed. He fetched a small package wrapped in black silk, and handed it to Morgan with a hastily scribbled note.

“My request is this, that the First Tarot goes to The Fool” Ian said, with a grin.

“I will see to the matter” Morgan answered, “Now, you will face the Dark Man”

“Who is that?” Ian asked.

“I am!” a deep dark voice came from the doorway. Ian looked up, and saw a large broad man with black eyes, purple skin and a ribbed chin standing in the doorway.

“Who are you?” Ian asked.

“I am Death’s consort. I come to take you,” the man said.

“Don’t I know you?” Ian asked.

“I am known by many, but no man may know me now until he forfeits his life” the purple man said.

“Then I will go” Ian said, and walked towards the man. As he looked back, he saw his body still lying on the bed, and Morgan bending over him to kiss his forehead.

“Come” the purple man said, and grasped Ian’s shoulder. Together they crossed the threshold of the room, walking out of the bedchamber, and out of this world.

********

When Megan got back to San Francisco, she hurried to her room, and was relieved that both Hisako and Laura were out. She got out of her uniform, showered quickly to get the last of the blood of her, and hastily put her uniform in the washing machine and turned it on. Megan wondered why Laura didn’t take a similar approach, but quickly realized that she was just too cool and badass to ever do any laundry. As she sat down on her bed, Megan realized she had not called anybody all day, nor had she sent a single text-message. She quickly got her backpack and opened it to get her phone. To her surprise, he backpack was a lot fuller than it had been this morning, yet it was surprisingly light. As she opened it, she found a large book inside, incredibly ancient from the looks of it, with it’s yellowed parchment. The book was bound in dark purple leather, and had a single symbol on it, that looked like a stylized D.

Opening it, Megan began to skim through it. There was much text in it, diagrams and pictures of horrible monsters. Instinctively, Megan knew the title of the book, and smiled happily.

“So this is The Darkhold! My very first spell-book!”