Wayward Bard

Excerpt Three: Enter Lydia From Above

"I want twenty-five thousand dollars or someone's going to get hurt!" Lydia shrieked. Her vision cleared. She shuddered. Something was wrong.

Something was very wrong. A cold wind blustered around her. Every bone in her body ached. Instead of standing in the exhibit hall, dressing down moronic rent-a-cops and a ditsy old lady, she stood in what looked like a set for one of the Vanyr towers in Domain. Instead of being clad in a cola- and perfume-stained Thierry Mugler pant suit, she was wearing-

Lydia goggled at the sprayed-on black spandex gown with rubberized snakeskin inserts Immortal Productions' costume designers considered the ultimate in gothic slut chic.

I'm in costume, she thought dazedly. When did I go through wardrobe?

A man stepped from the shadows. Lydia's head snapped up. At first she thought it was Michael Ryan wearing his Deryk gear. That couldn't be right. The guy was way too young. And there was something else. Something sharper. Something...dangerous? Lydia frowned. The gold torque around the look-alike's neck slithered into life and hissed at her.

"EEEK!" Lydia squawked, taking a step back. "What the hell is going on here? Am I being Punk'd? I didn't sign a release! I'm gonna kick my agent's sorry ass!"

"Welcome, lady. I had not anticipated the pleasure of meeting you again in this life." The look-alike bowed.

"Pleasure of meeting me again, my butt," Lydia snarled. "Tell me who you are and what I'm doing here and in costume, for God's sake, or I'll tear you to shreds."

The man studied Lydia. "You need some time to recuperate from your resurrection. I'll release you from the hexagram when you come to your senses." He strolled to the brazier and warmed his hands over the coals.

Lydia straightened her shoulders. What the hell was this dickhead talking about? Resurrection? "Yeah, right," she said. "Watch me walk over there and fry your head on those coals." Lydia took two steps forward-and plowed into an invisible wall.

After she peeled her face from the surface of the wall that wasn't there, Lydia ran in circles, screeching threats as she tried to beat her way out of the invisible barrier. Finally, panting in exhaustion, her voice hoarse from shrieking, it dawned on Lydia's peanut-sized brain she couldn't get out. Lydia pointed one long finger at the smirking bastard.

"I'll get you for this," Lydia promised. She peered at the end of her finger. Wait a minute. She hadn't had a manicure in at least two days. Could that lovely two-inch-long fingernail be real? A poison green lightning bolt erupted from her finger and ricocheted from the barrier. Lydia screamed as the bolt struck her. She fell to the ground and writhed in agony.

"Ah. I see you're back to your old self." The Michael Ryan look-alike smiled. "Promise me you won't do anything...rash. Once you swear, I'll set you free." Lydia flipped the look-alike the bird. The blond man shrugged. "Your choice." He returned to warming his hands.

What a prick. Lydia scrambled to her knees and, after beating out the smoldering hole in her gown, examined her fingers. She tugged at each long, lethally pointed, blood-red nail.

"They're real! They're really, really real," she crowed. "And they do tricks too!"

Lydia rose to her feet and pointed her finger at the stone floor. Green bolts of energy spattered against the granite. Two small chickens and a frog appeared.

The look-alike cleared his throat. "My Lady Megeara, will you give me your parole?"

"What did you call me?" she croaked.

The look-alike repeated his question. "Once you do, Lady Megeara, I will release you from the hexagram."

"Megeara," Lydia whispered, wrapping her arms around herself. It finally dawned on her there were no cameras, no lights, no cables or crew standing around. There was only the night sky overhead. Flickering light from a small brazier illuminated a very dark and scary looking circular tower top. Her brain spun in circles of its own.

Megeara. He called me "Megeara". Holy shit. There's a real Domain? Lydia's eyes widened. Then that guy would be the real Deryk. And he thinks I'm the real Megeara.

"Where am I?" Lydia demanded.

"In the standing tower of Tuumb Castle where I resurrected you, my lady," Deryk said. "Give me your promise, Megeara. I've devised a foolproof plan to conquer Tambara. Together we shall not fail."

If she wasn't dreaming-and she'd find out soon enough-this was great. It almost made up for Immortal Productions allowing her contract to lapse. Megeara had a lot of cool tricks, and Lydia often felt the show's writers hadn't taken the character's evilness as far as it could go. Lydia promised herself she'd show this world Lydia Jambon was a force to be reckoned with. She smiled at Deryk, conveniently forgetting her fleeting impression of danger.

"Vanyr Deryk," Lydia purred, "of course I promise."

She almost laughed at Deryk's self-satisfied expression. He thinks he's got the old Megeara back. I bet I can use that. After all, I know all about him, and he doesn't know a thing about me.

Deryk raised an eyebrow. "So you rememberů"

"I remember many things." Lydia wondered what the old Megeara could possibly know that would cause Deryk to flinch. She made a mental note to hire an assistant to do some research. "Why don't you release me?"

She smoothed the black spandex clinging to her thighs and licked her lips. "We have much to discuss."

Deryk gestured and said something incomprehensible under his breath. "Come and share my fire, lady."

Lydia stepped forward. She exhaled a relieved breath when no barrier blocked her way. She sashayed over to Deryk.

"Now then," she cooed, laying her hand on his arm. "Why don't you tell me all about your foolproof plan?"