Charlie watched in amazement as his invocation worked its miracle. The Mantis had named the spell “Fanny’s Fantastical Phantasmal Splintering” and instructed Charley to only invoke it if he was ever in mortal peril, as “it will conjure a most puissant illusion to shield you from harm, my Grasshopper”.
Charlie remembered how patiently the wise Mantis had tutored him, as he struggled to master the complex sequence of chirps and clicks required to invoke the magic, along with the intricate and exacting series of antennae flickerings needed to precisely direct the spell towards its intended target.
And when the Viper bared her dripping fangs as she prepared to strike him dead, Charlie swiftly invoked the spell before he even had time to be afraid. And he had executed it perfectly!
With a dazzling burst of prismatic brilliance, seven identical illusory duplicates of Charlie flashed into being and chittered furiously at the Viper! With a hiss of bewilderment and rage, the Viper hastily lunged at one of the false Charlies… and missed by a mile as the phantasm hopped nimbly aside.
“Oh you won’t essscape Me sssso easssily with thessse pattthhhhetic parlour tricksssss!!” she hissed in abject fury.
The phantasm turned to face the Viper and cheekily folded all six legs into the dreadful Gesture of Insolence, while rudely blowing obscene farting noises at the Viper with its mandibles! Charlie could not help but laugh hysterically, as the Viper turned purple and green and red in her outrage, and proceeded to chase the impudent but elusive wisp far, far, away into the wilderness. Charlie watched as his other duplicates hopped away in all directions and briefly wondered where they all might be going. But such petty concerns were abruptly swept away by a wave of joy and profound relief:
Charlie was saved! He was finally starting to believe the strange words the Mantis had spoken after he had agreed to trust her:
“There is a great power locked away inside your Secret Soul, my child! How this came to be, I cannot say, but I sense that the origin of your power is not my concern. Nay, my true purpose is now clear: I must tutor you in the ways of Chitter-Gung, the Forgotten Arcana of all Insects-Who-Jump!”
The Mantis paused for a moment (to maximise the dramatic effect, Charlie realised, though he did not say so!).
“Forgotten by all save me, I should say!” the Mantis pronounced (with only the slightest hint of pomposity, Charlie noted with approval). “Indeed, I am now the only jumping insect left alive on God’s Green Earth who remembers the Ancient Secrets…”.
Her tone softened, and Charlie became aware that the Mantis concealed a great sadness behind her serene facade. She did not linger with her sorrow for more than the briefest of moments, however, and turned to Charlie with renewed vigour, as she cried out to all who could hear:
“But now there shall be others who will remember the Way! And you shall be First and Greatest of them all, Master Grasshopper! Come to me now for your first lesson, as there is much to learn and our time is short indeed!”