Monday, January 03, 2011

Cosmics: Maxwell Merlini

"The game's up, Madame Xanadu. Your mystic séances are all fake!" came a resonant, commanding voice in a reasonable - but fake - upperclass English accent.

An ominous top-hatted shadow fell across the large, round felt topped table as Maxwell Merlini, Master of Magic, stepped into the doorway. Across the table, the beautiful but deadly Madame Xanadu gasped in surprise and rose from her ornately carved seat.

In the years before his death, Merlini's mentor - the famous Harry Houdini - had spent much of his time exposing the so-called psychics and mediums for the charlatans and fraudsters that they were. After Houdini's death, Merlini had gathered his assets, cashed them in and used the money to travel the world - first to England and through Europe during the Second World War and then into Asia. When he'd died in the 60s and then cosmically been reborn, he'd journeyed back to America, continuing his master's mission to debunk fake mystics and expose con artists. That was what had led him to the sorcerous séances of Madame Xanadu.

"It was thin wires that moved objects around the room, not spirits from the underworld", Max Merlini's voice called out, echoing across the room. "Radio transmitters in the walls produced the voices from beyond the veil. All cheap parlour tricks! Your days as a mystic, taking money from rich widows, are over".

"Curse you, Merlini!" Madame Xanadu spat as the Master of Magic stepped further into the room draped with silk sheets and decorated with fake mystic icons. "You may have uncovered my diabolical schemes but you won't leave this room to tell anyone about them!"

And with that, Madame Xanadu pulled sharply on a golden wall sconce and, with a faint creak, a secret door suddenly opened in the wall behind her. From out of the shadowy gloom beyond this doorway, two tall and bullishly strong thugs stepped into the room. One had a dull grey pistol in his hand and the other wielded a solid-looking crowbar. The two hoodlums began to edge their way around the table.

"These won't save you, Madame Xanadu!" Merlini called out. "Not against one who commands the mystic dark arts themselves" he added, his voice low and threatening.

Contrary to the reputation he was happy to uphold, Maxwell Merlini did not actually command any mystic arts. Other than his cosmic power of reincarnation, he was simply a master of mesmerism, stage magic and perception. His command lay in the illusionary arts, originally taught to him by the world famous Houdini himself before his death and further enhanced during his time with skilled monks in hidden part of Tibet.

Merlini glanced at both of the two thugs and then focussed on the one with the firearm. He was obviously the greatest threat at the moment. Locking eyes with the man, Merlini waved his arms the air and called out a suitably impressive incantation.

Suddenly, the room went dark. Or at least it did for the thug with the gun. Voices began to call to the gunman, eerie chanting from the shadows.

"...Begone..." the voice echoed in the man's criminal mind. "...Leave this place...Run...before we destroy your body and take your soul...Run away!"

The last two words were said by Merlini himself, however, to the gunman it seemed like the shadows within his mind were speaking to him. The gangster began to panic, swung his gun around firing into nothing but thin air, punching holes into the walls. Still the imaginary darkness suffocated him, bringing madness in its wake.

Merlini gestured again towards the man and, finally, the thug dropped his gun and ran out of the room through the doorway. Smiling, the Master of Magic turned towards the other hoodlum.

Too late! The man was only a step away and bringing his crowbar down in a wide arc to strike upon Merlini's head. Reacting quickly, Merlini raised his crystal-topped cane, easily blocking the blow. He dodged another powerful thrust and parried a third swing of the iron bar whilst pushing the thug away a little.

Looking deep into the man's eyes, Merlini's pupils appeared to glow as he waved his gloved, nimble hands in the air. Not only could Merlini cloud a man's mind with mental illusions that seemed real, he could also control that man's actions with nothing but a word. Another trick learned from the monks hidden deep within Tibet.

With a deep, penetrating voice, the magician commanded the crook to cast his crowbar away. Unwittingly, the man stopped his advance and stared at Merlini. He dropped his weapon and stood there, still as a statue. He was trapped by the magician's mesmerising hypnosis.

The thug continued to gaze, enraptured, at Merlini's twisting and turning left hand as the magician approached him. With a dark smile, Merlini swung his cane in his right at the side of the man's head. The crook didn't know what hit him and he crumbled to the floor like the filthy trash he was. "Beware the mesmerising magic of Merlini", muttered the magician as he stood over the hoodlum's prone form.

Looking up, Merlini glanced around the room. Madame Xanadu was gone! No doubt she had left through the secret door and into the passageway beyond. Before he could investigate further, the familiar sound of sirens rose like the eerie shriek of questing eagles. His call to the police had been answered and finally they were here. Madame Xanadu would have to wait until another day whilst he explained things to Millenia's authorities.

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