...continued from yesterday...
After running a number of blocks, eventually the Twilight Man stopped outside the door of a simple townhouse. It was on the outskirts of Millenia, in a reasonably affluent-looking neighbourhood. As I neared the front of the house, T.M. knocked on the wooden door. I stood beside the man of mystery as we waited for an answer.
After a short wait, the door opened a little. The Twilight Man turned to look at me. He nodded and simply said, "Come in" before making his way inside.
It was dark in the entrance hall as I stepped inside and there was one was inside to greet us. It was just a dark, gloomy, empty hallway.
"This way", the Twilight Man said and walked over to a door without looking back.
I followed the masked man of mystery into another dark room lit only by candles. In fact, candles were positioned everywhere around room. Also, at one end of the room there was an old, wooden table with four chairs around it. Otherwise the room was bare of furniture.
"Greetings Unicorn", said a voice.
It was then I noticed the three women sitting around the table. For some reason, I just hadn’t been aware of them before that. The Twilight Man stepped forward at this point and introduced the others.
"Mark. This is Miasma" he indicated the woman on the left and then turned to the young woman on the right, "and Voodoo". Both nodded but for now said nothing. "In the middle is Tarot. These three are all seers. They say they've seen our future".
The Twilight Man moved back whilst I took a moment to look at the three women.
The one on the left was blonde, good-looking and probably in her early forties although she looked younger. She wore a smart, dark blue business suit and blouse like a high-rolling manager or politician. She looked vaguely familiar, like one of the US senators on the West coast. She smiled warmly as I looked her way but said nothing.
It took me a moment to realise that I knew the young woman on the right. It was Renee Dubois, a teammate of mine during my days in the Young Cosmics. She still had long, straight dark hair and a haunted look about her just like she had all those years ago. However, her eyes looked tired and bloodshot; she seemed weary and exhausted. She didn’t appear to recognise me, although the shadows that surrounded her made it difficult to tell.
The third woman sat between the two and was obviously in charge. The subdued lighting in the room hid a lot of the details but there were a few things I could tell about her. The first was that she was old. She looked to be in her seventies, her face wrinkled and her long hair grey and brittle. She also had a vaguely Asian look to her, although her apparent height didn't agree with that assessment. Covering her eyes was a simple dark, satin cloth with what looked like a stylised Eye of Horus stitched into it in golden thread. Even though her eyes were covered, she seemed to be looking right inside me.
In this third woman's left hand was a pack of cards and in front of her were other cards arranged in a cross shape. Without looking at them, she turned one of the cards over. I couldn't quite see what was on the card but it looked like two naked people - a man and a woman - side by side.
"You're wondering why you are here, aren't you?" whispered the old woman called Tarot.
"Well, now that you mention it, yeah", I replied, feeling a little foolish in such theatrical surroundings. I glanced across at the Twilight Man but just kept himself to the shadows.
"Please sit down and let us tell you your future". She indicated the chair opposite her, which suddenly moved of its own accord. Either it was a cheap parlour trick or the woman was a cosmic with some sort of telekinetic ability. Whatever, I sat down.
"The reason the Twilight Man brought you here is because we asked him to", began Tarot. "We have convinced him of our cause and that the future we see shall come to pass. We are the Coven"
"O-kaaay. Right". Again, I looked toward T.M. wondering what this was all about.
"What they said is true, Unicorn", the Twilight Man replied. "Apparently the world is going to get a whole lot darker in a few months time. Listen to them".
I turned back to Tarot.
"He is right", continued Tarot. The Eye of Horus seemed to looking at me. Tarot reached out and turned over another delicate card. This showed what looked like a king sitting on a throne holding a sceptre.
"Each of the three of us here has the power of divination. We can see into the future. Miasma can part the mists of time to see what is to come. Voodoo's connection to the spiritual loa gives her knowledge of the future. For me..." the old woman paused trying to decide what to say and seemed to select her comments carefully "...the cards help me focus on the things to come".
She turned over a third card. This depicted a woman in robes sitting between two pillars with a moon at her feet and scroll in her hands. Without looking at the cards, with her head still held forward, she continued.
"You have come here so that we can tell you what is to come and what you will do. We have seen the future. We have tried to change it. But still the future prevails"
"You mean to tell me that you've had some visions and you want me to believe the future can't be changed? That we have no free will?" I asked, not believing what I was hearing.
The Twilight Man spoke up again at this point. "I know how it sounds but believe me when I tell you that these three have told me 'bout things that are going to happen and have happened. They predicted Bedlam's attack earlier and many more things besides. And I've tried to change these things - stop certain disasters from happening - but nothing I do changes things".
He bowed his head after this whilst the shadows appeared to smother him in their dark embrace. My eyes widened in shock; nothing ever spooked the Twilight Man! I quickly turned my gaze back to the Coven.
"As the Twilight Man says", continued Tarot, "we knew of the villain's attack today and your involvement with him. That was why the Twilight Man was there to help and how we knew where you'd be to bring you here".
Tarot turned over another of the ornately patterned cards. This one depicted what appeared to be the devil above two humans. She continued talking.
"Unicorn. We have seen the future. Chaos is coming, a war against a cosmic so powerful it will destroy the country. Tensions between cosmics and normal humans will increase. We see death and destruction. Fear followed by flight".
Another card was turned and this showed a picture of a skeleton riding a horse. Tarot immediately turned over a further card and this depicted a man riding a chariot with two horses, one black and one white, pulling it.
"The chaos will kill many, riots against cosmics will rage across the planet”, she continued. “Eventually the cosmics will flee into space, to the red planet, some by their own power but many in a ship. You will lead them to this ship and into the skies, Unicorn".
The woman known as Tarot turned over another card and, for a moment, this appeared to show an old man carrying a staff in one hand and a lantern in the other. However when I looked closer, the image appeared to be more that of an angel with a horn in his hand.
"I...” I started but Tarot interrupted me.
"I... We are concerned about you", said Tarot turning over another card, this one showing a beautiful woman sitting on a throne whilst wearing a crown and holding a sceptre. "But you need to be told the future so you can prepare for it. So you can accept it".
And this they did. They told me that sometime in the near future something would attack us, something very powerful. The Cosmic Knights would be hard pressed to repel it. The attack would destroy much of the country and destabilise worldwide politics. At this point, many cosmic villains would take advantage of the recent chaos, which in turn would cause even more problems for normal people.
Due to this, the public's view of cosmics would take a nose-dive. The Cosmic Powers Registration Act would be brought back into force, but this time across the globe. This would be followed by minor civil wars erupting between cosmics and then many executions and deaths. In the end, life on Earth would be hell for a cosmic.
"This is our dreaded future", the old woman said, turning over another card and revealing a burning castle or tower hit by lightning.
"No", I replied. "If this is the future, which I’m not sure I can really believe, then it's just one possible future. We can change it - or at least try".
I looked at the three of them and then to the Twilight Man, trying to reason with them. He shrugged but said nothing.
"You do not understand. You are full of doubt and confusion", continued Tarot, ignoring my concern. "So we shall give you this. Remember it well. Soon a swift child shall bring foreboding news from the time-lost man with the power of the storm. Heed this child and prepare the Knights".
Whilst talking, Tarot turned over two remaining cards side-by-side. One showed a large stylised sun complete with a stern face and a child below it. The other presented a man in robes holding a wand high in the air. He was standing behind with a table and what looked like the symbol for infinity floated over his head.
Only one card remained. Tarot's hand hovered over it but she did not turn it.
"For now", said Tarot wrapping up the little meeting, "that is all we can tell you. But we shall meet again. You will have many questions and we will answer them then, in your future. Thank you for your time, but you need to leave now to get to your prior engagement before... she misses you, Mark".
It was the only time that this Tarot had called me by my real name. And something about the way she said it sounded familiar. But, I could not place it.
The final tarot card distracted my attention. Reluctantly, the woman known as Tarot turned it over. This showed a wheel floating in the sky. The wheel had runes or marking on it and was held aloft by four creatures. Somehow, I knew the name of this card - the Wheel of Fortune.
It seemed that the turning of this chaotic card signified that the meeting was over.
The Twilight Man led me away even though I still had many questions. They seemed to want something from me, although I wasn't sure exactly what. Still, the Twilight Man trusted them and that meant an awful lot.
As we reached the front door to the house of mystery, the Twilight Man pulled something out of his utility belt and handed it to me. It was a small card with an address written on it.
"This is something to do with the witches in there. I was doing a bit of research and finally turned up something earlier that might be of use. You need to find Kid Kinetic and give this to him. Let him investigate this".
The Twilight Man’s cowl hid most of the man’s face but his mouth smiled. He opened the door and we stepped outside into the cool shadow of the building.
"After that, I guess we'll meet back at the base", said the Twilight Man, noticing me looking back at the house.
I pocketed the card and stared at the building for a few seconds, wondering whether to head back inside and confront them. But something told me not to. Not now anyway. Like they said, it was getting late and Sam would be waiting.
"Yeah, see you..." I started to say but, as I turned round, I saw that the Twilight Man had gone. He'd pulled his usual disappearing act again. Sighing, I walked away from the building and thought about what had happened and about what the Coven had told me about the future.