Boy (Ray) met Girl (Liz) and some sparks started to fly.
It's four years later. Boy and Girl are now planning to become Husband and Wife
She knew this memory. It was back during the battle at Dragonsfall...next, the Covenant should appear around her...
...But it doesn't.
"No...not quite. Though I was important to Master Fallagar, it was in a far different way..."
Another woman appeared in the mists. This one was more clearly clothed, dressed in a tunic and a cape--with a brooch very similar to her own. Curiously, she seemed to be sitting in the air, cross-legged She had a long, bushy head of brown hair--with one conspicuous shock of curled blonde hair at the center of her forhead.
"Lady Melwen?" Liz realized, having seen a portrait of this woman at Dragonsfall.
The woman nodded. The Archmage's only Hermetic student. Liz remembered. His biological niece, a daughter of the Margrave of Brandenburg.
"You will not remember this until later, I expect..." Melwen said. "But you will, perhaps at the time it becomes most apparent, perhaps before...you are doing a great service to Uncle Zandrik, and I wish to impart to you a blessing."
Melwen's left hand flicked the shock of curly blonde hair. She touched Liz's forehead over her left temple--Liz felt her head begin to tingle.
"To be more accurate, it's a mark." Melwen continued. "The mark will appear when you have taken a very grand blessing upon yourself..."
"I don't understand!" Liz said.
"You will..." Melwen smiled, and began to fade away...
Liz woke with a start; a flight attendant was shaking her gently. "Wha?"
"We'll be landing in about an hour, Miss." The attendant told her. "Do you want me to awaken your seatmate, or will you handle it?"
Liz looked over at Ray, still asleep. He just doesn't look as natural without his Dopey Dog doll... she said to herself, smiling slightly. "No, I got it. Thanks."
As the attendant moved to the next row, Liz wondered for a moment. She kind of looked like Lady Melwen...was that why I saw her in my dream? Except...Liz realized her forehead was tingling, just like in the dream. Just like it did for a time after she left the Twilight episode at Dragonsfall months before.
She shook the thoughts out of her head. No time for that now. "Ray?"
Ray mumbled "huh?"
"We're landing at Heathrow in about an hour." Liz said. "Time to get up."
Ray yawned, and looked at her. "You sleep okay?"
Liz shrugged. "About as well as can be expected on a transatlantic airline flight..." she leaned in and whispered somewhat seductively. "...and having to wear clothes."
"We used to have our own airplane..." Ray said. "ECTO-4. It's the only small plane I never got airsick in."
"That's reassuring." Liz laughed.
"I guess this means no good morning kiss?"
Liz bit her tongue before she said You should see the rest of it... but it revealed one of the few things she had to keep from Ray--only those who actually lived here and knew that secret could divulge it (or give her permission to divulge it).
"Hermetic affairs are one area I have to keep a lot of secrets from you." she'd told him not after they became engaged. "There are things I can tell you--things every Maga is allowed to tell their companions from precedent. When we're married, I can officially declare you Amicus, which allows me to inform you of a few more things. But even then..."
"Hey, no, I understand." Ray'd replied. "I mean, there's probably a lot of that stuff I couldn't understand even if you did tell me; just like I bet there's some stuff I dealt with that you wouldn't understand either...heck, there were a few things even I didn't understand..."
A few minutes later, Ray and Liz climbed the stair to the ninth floor of the Nigrasaxa Apartment Complex; there was an elevator, but both decided after basically an entire day sitting in either an airplane or a car, they should stretch their legs a little.
"I mean, compared to having the climb twenty-two stories at Central Park West or that time we had to chase the Peoplebusters up the Statue of Liberty, this is nothing!" Ray had said. By the time they'd made it to the ninth floor, Ray's enthusiasm for the idea had diminished a tad, but not too badly. Good thing I'm currently not smoking...
"I'm going to put my Parma over you now." Liz explained. "Otherwise, Aunt Tegan's Gift might warp your perception of her. For whatever reasons, the Gift usually doesn't affect people as badly as it did during the Middle Ages, but it can still be a problem sometimes...I remember thinking Aunt Tegan had an 'aura of weirdness' when I met her..."
The "Parma" referred to the "Parma Magica", a sort of personal magic resistance field, an invention of one of the Founders of Liz's mystic society, the Order of Hermes. Ray thought about the description of the Gift--an intrinsic trait that made the learning of Hermetic magic easier--as an "aura of weirdness" and it always made him think of the first time he met the former Ghostbuster he was now most estranged from...
When the Parma was up...there was just the merest tinge of something being different...a sort of slight muffling of sound and light...Ray got over the slight disorientation quickly--like the aftertaste of a Diet Coke eventually fading away.
Liz knocked on one of the apartment doors. It sprung open apparently of its own volition.
"Aunt Tegan?" Liz said as they entered the room.
"Welcome back to Nigrasaxa, Elizabeth." A woman who didn't quite look as old as Ray was expecting appeared, and embraced Liz warmly.
"And you must be Doctor Stantz." Tegan said, turning to Ray. "In your case, welcome to Nigrasaxa for the first time."
"Call me Ray, Ms. Fielding." he said, shaking her hand. "Glad to be here! This place is neat--I mean, my Uncle was Laird of a castle in Scotland, but this is just something else!"
"Glad you find it interesting, Ray." Tegan nodded. "And feel free to call me Tegan." She smiled slightly. "Or even 'Aunt Tegan."
"Sure!" Ray said. "So where does our stuff go?"
"I have plenty of room in my apartment--I'm one of the owners of the complex, after all, and it has its perks--Elizabeth will have the service of the same guest room she occupied during her school years and her apprenticeship; I have a second guest room ready for you, Ray."
Liz rolled her eyes. "Well, I guess that will work."
"Humor me on this, Elizabeth." Tegan chuckled. "You're not married yet."
Ray laughed. "No problem, Aunt Tegan."
"So Justin is happy that a former Ghostbuster is going to be his 'Uncle Ray', I take it?"
"Immensely." Liz answered. She sighed. It was the perfect opportunity to ask the question that had been nagging her since their last meeting at Magvillus. "Are you?"
This time Tegan sighed. "He makes you happy, and he is quite pleasant--personally, I like him."
"But you're still worried about the politics of it?"
"I can't help but be." Tegan shook her head. "I hate that it's a consideration, but there are those in the Order who will not be pleased at one of their own--a Quaesitor, at that!--marrying a Ghostbuster."
"Then they can bring it up at the Grand Tribunal. Which will be right about the time Ray and I celebrate our twenty-fifth anniversary."
Tegan smiled. "I guess I'll just have to worry about it for both of us. So then..."
Liz wasn't sure she liked the impish gleam in Tegan's eye now.
"...Your marriage does complicate another consideration." Tegan said. "You turn thirty-five next year."
Liz sipped her tea. By Hermetic tradition, thirty-five was the age at which wizards began to use a longevity ritual; it extended their life spans, usually decades but occasionally more (the Magus Dominus, now in his ninth century of life, being a notably successful outlier). But Hermetic longevity comes at a cost:
The moment the longevity begins, the wizard becomes permanently, irrevocably sterile.
"We discussed it." Liz answered. "Thirty-five is traditional, but there have been some who wait as late as fifty. I'm not waiting that long--Ray and I do want to have one child."
"That sounds rather specific." Tegan noted.
"For my part, I don't think I could handle more than that without compromising my career to an extent I'm not comfortable with. And Ray..."
Tegan noticed the pause. " 'And Ray'?"
Liz put down the cup. "Back when we met for the second time in London, he mentioned that his family didn't get along with each other very well. He has two siblings he hasn't talked to in fifteen years, and while his father and aunt got along, they had a brother that Ray barely even met though he lived in New York. He didn't put it in so many words, but Ray's afraid that having more than one child would mean they would probably end up hating each other like his and his father's siblings did."
Tegan was silent for a moment. "And you're okay with that?"
Liz smiled. "I may be a wizard, but I know how happy Jay makes Cheryl. I doubt I can be as good a mother as she is, but I think, between Ray and I, we can do it."
"If it's a girl, and she's Gifted, you'll have a new pressure." Tegan pointed out. "To continue the lineage."
"I don't deny that's something I've thought of." Liz nodded. "But what if it's a boy, or not Gifted? I won't love him or her any less...though since you mention lineage..."
"I had a rather interesting vision of our Hermetic ancestor, Lady Melwen..."
"According to Hermetic theorists, the Age of Pisces started in 138 BC" Liz had told him. "So all the official documents are in the astrological date...the same theorists had determined that the Age of Aquarius would end after 2155 AP, or at the spring equinox of AD 2017..."
Liz had rolled her eyes "Well, we were there when that was proved wrong--1AAq is AD 1991, though there's still plenty of mentions of '2137 AP' in relation to the 1998 tribunal dates. 2017 will be 27AAq"
AD 1201, the founding of Nigrasaxa, would have been 1340 AP. Ray reminded himself. It was about then that he realized that there was some kind of fluttering noise in the room.
He looked up from the papers to see a skunk staring at him.
"Well, hey there, Little Fella..." Ray said amiably. "I mean, I guess you could be a Little Lady, but I don't think I know you well enough to find out just yet." Why is there a skunk in my room? He looked around, realizing the skunk was looking at Ray's half eaten sandwich. "Cheese sandwich on white bread okay?" He broke off a piece, and the skunk devoured it. "You're less picky than Charon, I see..." I didn't even think skunks lived in this part of the world
Ray heard someone moving around in the hall. "Fume!!!" a man's voice said. "Dammit, Fume, I'm getting too old for this balderdash!!!"
The skunk jumped down and hid under the table.
An old man peeked from the open door. "Pardon me, good Sir, but you haven't seen a skunk, have you?"
Ray pointed under the table.
"There you are!" the old man said, as the skunk hissed at him. "Don't hiss at me, you little sod!" The man pulled out what looked to Ray to be a Milk Bone. The skunk devoured it, and let the old man pick it up. "Peace offering accepted." the man said quietly. He looked at Ray. "I hope he wasn't any trouble."
Ray shrugged. "None at all! I was just about done with that sandwich anyway!"
"Eric Collins." the old man said, extending a hand. Ray shook it as Eric continued. "I help run this place, at least not when I'm chasing my wandering pet around."
"Ray Stantz." Ray said. "I'm here with the niece of Tegan Fielding."
"Ahhh..." the old man looked at Ray with an impish twinkle in his eye. "So you're little Lizzy's fiance! I've known her aunt for a long time...I remember when Lizzy was coming here on holiday from her school...you're a very lucky man, Mister Stantz."
"I know." Ray nodded. "But just call me Ray. Are you a wizard like Tegan and Liz?"
Ray suddenly realized he probably shouldn't have asked that so quickly; the old man glanced furtively at the door. He twirled one of his fingers, and a gust of wind pushed it closed.
"Ooops..." Ray said.
Eric chuckled. "No mind, Ray...just got to be careful who hears things like that. We've been trying to keep what the staff of this place really does secret for the last five hundred years plus...but obviously Liz clued you in." He bowed. "Zephyranthes, filius of Gardenia, Magus Solificato. And this is my familiar, Fume."
"I'm not a wizard, but I've walked in those circles some." Ray said. "I was a Ghostbuster."
Eric laughed. "Now that sounds like exactly the sort of man little Lizzy would go for! I thought the name sounded familiar...I don't pay much attention to the news, but even I've heard of the Ghostbusters...the Solificati do have some old historic ties to the Sons of Ether, after all..."
"Well, I'm not actually an Etherite." Ray shrugged. "A friend of mine was, but he said the meetings are kind of dull." By this point Fume was on the floor, affectionately rubbing Ray's legs much like a housecat would.
"I think Fume likes you--he's a great judge of character, except when he picked some dumb bloke to be his wizard." Eric said. "So how did you meet Lizzy, anyway?"
"Chasing vampires in Transylvania." Ray said brightly.
Eric guffawed again.
"Well, I mean, that really was..." Ray said sheepishly.
"I believe you!" Eric replied. "No wonder you two hit it off!"
"...So anyway, he said 'You have my gratitude for the Astorath event, and for finding my cat, so here's a reward'--and there was a gold bar there! It paid off our credit card debt and all of our bills for the next six months!" Ray said to his visitor. Ray had a mug in front of him, and his cheeks were looking a bit flushed; Fume was curled up on Ray's head, and Ray didn't even seem to notice.
"Outstanding." Eric laughed. "Hullo, Lizzy...Ray was just telling me about the time he and his friends met Primus Eventide..."
"And treating him to some of your 'special recipe' I see..." Liz rolled her eyes
"I told you it loosens people up." Eric said brightly. "Anyway, since you're here now, can you watch Fume for just a moment? I'll be right back!"
Before she could answer, he got up and left the room quickly. Ray looked down at the mug in front of him. "What's in this stuff, anyway? I don't feel drunk, but man, I haven't felt so buzzed since the time we let Peter bake brownies..."
"Some sort of herbal extract that...well, loosens inhibitions." Liz shrugged. "Eric's...well..."
"A wizard, I know." Ray nodded. "Probably should have expected this..."
"It's not magic, if that's what you were wondering." Liz chuckled. "My Parma's on you and would protect from that."
"So it's something natural?" Ray chuckled back. "Don't tell Peter...he'd want to get the recipe and make a mint off of it. Until the government outlawed it, anyway."
She reached up and skritched Fume's head; the skunk chirped affectionately and responded to the gesture. "I'm glad you seem to get along with him...I was a little worried..."
"Why?" Ray asked.
"Because...well, he is one of Aunt Tegan's friends." Liz looked a little uncomfortable "And Aunt Tegan was afraid he'd be jealous of you."
" 'Jealous'?" Ray said, looked just a little more sober.
"She's convinced he was a little...I dunno...sweet on me or something back in the day. 'If he was two hundred years younger he'd be after you himself' and all that..." Liz still looked rather embarrassed by the admission.
Ray rolled his eyes and shrugged. "Well, he has eyes and isn't brain damaged as far as I can see, so..."
"Ah, there you two are! Good job keeping them from rutting, Fume, that would make this awkward!" Eric said, as he swept back into the room.
He pulled out a box. "Now, the bad news is, while I'm immensely flattered by your invitation to your nuptials, I must sadly decline."
Liz looked a little shocked. "I don't understand, Eric..."
Eric shook his head. "I'm getting way too old to be gallivanting around the world, Lizzy." He sighed. "We can't all be the Magus Dominus or Archmage Dubh, after all."
"No, no...don't." the old man shook his head. "I was born the same year as King George IV, and outlived the bloody bastard by over a century and a half. I have no regrets."
"Wow..." Ray whistled. "George IV? That'd be some time in the 1700's..."
"1762 to be precise." Eric specified. "But that isn't important right now."
He opened the box. He pulled out a book. "This is your wedding present, Lizzy. It's a collection of some lab texts I think you might find useful." He winked at her. "One of them is the formula for the perfume I gave you for your Gauntlet."
"Oh Eric, I...thank you." she said, taking the book.
"And you..." he looked at Ray. He pulled out a small object, a bag. "The bag is a good luck charm of sorts. Inside are the enchanted seeds of a zephyr lilly; don't open the bag or it will disrupt the magic."
Ray looked at the bag. He had a skeptical side, but unlike Egon or Peter he wasn't going to make a fuss about the illogic of it or anything. He knew the old man meant well...And he is a wizard...you never know... "Thanks, Eric!"
"I wish you both a long and happy life." Eric said. "You deserve it. Just like you deserve your time together without a stupid old man in the way. Fume!"
The skunk made an elaborate show of yawning wearily before jumping off of Ray's head. That thing has got to be part housecat... Ray thought as Fume scampered out of the room.
"Dammit, don't you dare lock me out of the lab again!!!" Eric shouted at his departing familiar. He stopped and bowed. "Well met, Ray Stantz, but I must now take leave!" He moved off just a little bit faster than you might expect from a man of his apparent age (to say nothing of his actual age).
"That guy is quite a character." Ray said, laughing softly.
"He is, though." Liz nodded. "The first time I met him Fume'd chased him out of his lab. The thought of the strange old man being chased by a skunk like some kind of demented Pepe LePew cartoon was endearing."
Ray nodded at the surreality of the thought.
"Anyway..." Liz coughed. "I thought you should know what my Aunt just told me..."
Tegan Fielding/Lady Persuasion, Eric Collins/Zephryanthes, and Fume created by Fritz Baugh.
Phineus Eventide created by James Van Hise and Howard Bender; he first appeared in Now's Real Ghostbusters #12
The Hermetic Calendar is loosely based on a system from the role playing game Ars Magica by Atlas Games. More information can be found here.