"What good is magic when everyone is magical?" Bogash the dwarf complained.
"Dwarves aren't magical," rumbles Dewlap the troll.
"Dwarves are immune to magic you dolt!"
"And ill tempered too," chides Ulieo the fairy. She changes Bogash's ale into pond slime just as he raises the mug to his lips. Bogash catches the change in the nick of time and slams the mug back down on the table.
"You owe me a drink witch!"
Ulieo's tittering sounds just like a wind chime in a gentle breeze. With a wave of her wand she fixes Bogash's ale.
"This is exactly what I'm talking about. Since the humans went away everybody picks on us poor dwarves."
"We miss them too." Ulieo sighs. "It's a shame that magic no longer works in their plane of existence."
"I was just thinkin'..." Bogash says, "why don't we find some and bring them back here?"
"It's not like we haven't tried," Mordoch the mage replies wearily. "The humans are lost to us, we can no longer find the portal that leads to their plane."
"Have you tried digging?"
"Why in the blue blazes do you think that would work?" Mordoch snorts.
"Doesn't anybody remember how we found them in the first place? Legend has it that my people dug through into their world while we were looking for the gold that you cheapskates keep moving on us."
All the magical creatures in the cozy tavern raise their eyebrows and avert their faces from Bogash's accusing stare. Everyone knows it's true but no one wants to admit it--this is one of Elsewhere's dirty little secrets.
"If you're so interested in finding the humans again, why aren't you down in the mines digging?" asks Ulieo.
"Excellent question sister. You're brighter than you look. My pals and I are growing a little tired of the old fool's errand if you catch my drift. It seems to me that we all want the humans back and the dwarves are the ones who can make that happen." Bogash replies as he absently picks up his mug once more. This time Ulieo has transformed the contents into glowing red-hot lava.
"That does it you friggin' fairy! Barkeep, bring me a fresh one and put it on the fairy's tab!" he growls. "As I was saying, it occurred to me that since everybody would win if we found a way back to the human dimension, there could be a little GOLD in this for us dwarves."
"Well don't look at me, wizards have little use for gold." Mordoch exclaims.
"I suppose the fairy community could be persuaded to chip in--given the prize." Ulieo chimes.
"Trolls ain't got no gold," Dewlap rumbles.
"Trolls can't even spell friggin' gold!" Bogash snipes.
"Come on you guys, we all know who has the gold." The magical creatures all look at one another and shrug like they have no idea what Bogash is talking about.
"Who has the most gold? Think, think, think now guys. This shouldn't be too difficult since you boneheads gave it to him."
"I presume you mean the Dragon," Mordoch answers dryly.
"Umm, the only creature that loves gold more than a dwarf is a dragon," Ulieo remarks. "How do you expect us to get the gold away from the dragon?"
"You guys are killing me here. Can anyone say enchantment?" Bogash reaches for his fresh drink and checks it for sabotage. Because he has to reach up further than usual he notices that Ulieo has changed his stool into a mushroom that he's slowly crushing. He leaps up off the ruined seat and glares at Ulieo. "You're really pushing your luck sister! Quit it now or I'll pluck your friggin' wings off!"
"You and what army short stuff?"
"Who you calling short, pipsqueak?"
"Enough!" Mordoch bellows, he knows right where this is going and now is neither the time nor the place. "I think I can arrange to transfer some of the dragon's hoard but not all of it," Mordoch concedes.
"We're willing to let the lizard keep the stuff that melted because of its farts. Gold that's been melted by dragon farts reeks forever no matter what you do to it!"
"Shouldn't somebody talk to the elves?" Ulieo suggests.
"Screw the elves! I've had enough of all their mumbo jumbo about sanity clause. If you ask me, it's them who need a reality check. Elves with all their tree hugging, dig safe bullcrap."
"The elves have their own agenda so I agree with Bogash, there is no need to involve the elves in this," Mordoch concurs.
Bogash rubs his hands together and smiles sinisterly. All of the magical creatures in the tavern suddenly realize that the dwarf has withheld some crucial bit of information.
"Is everybody ready to ante up?" Bogash smiles.
"I can't speak for the rest of you but the fairies aren't paying in advance," Ulieo snaps.
"Who said anything about paying in advance?"
"You've discovered the portal," Mordoch exclaims in astonishment.
Bogash smiles more broadly and nods confidently.
"I don't trust this sorry excuse for a gopher as far as I could throw him. He ain't seeing the color of my money until I have some proof," Ulieo cautions the group.
"You want proof you overgrown butterfly? Here's your friggin proof," Bogash produces a leather pouch from inside his pants and dumps the contents on the table.
"What was that?" Dewlap rumbles.
"A chipmunk you idiot, don't you recognize a chipmunk when you see one?"
"But it's dead."
"No kidding Sherlock, do you think I'd be walking around with a live chipmunk in my shorts?"
"You call that proof, a dead friggin' chipmunk is your proof?" Ulieo protests.
"Is this a meeting of the mentally challenged or what? Think, when was the last time any of you saw a chipmunk?"
"Before the humans went away," Dewlap answers.
"See, even the rock that talks got it right. Nobody has seen a chipmunk or anything else cute and furry since the last portal to the human dimension was lost."
"But it's dead," Dewlap repeats.
"Get over the dead already, the point isn't whether it's dead or alive, the point is it's here."
Mordoch picks up the remains of the dead rodent and examines it closely to see if it's the genuine article. While dwarves possess no magic but they are extremely cunning craftsmen.
"Go ahead Mordoch, take it apart so you can make sure that all the pieces are there. I would think the pelt alone would be enough to convince you that it's the real deal."
Mordoch sets the chipmunk on the floor and mutters an incantation under his breath...the chipmunk explodes like a puffball, sending a shower of fur flying through the room.
"I haven't done that in such a long time. Take me to the portal, I wanna do it again," Mordoch chortles with glee.
"Mordoch, that was the evidence. What did you do that for?" Ulieo asks.
"That incantation only works on real chipmunks, I'm sold."
Ulieo wrestles with her conscious. If she refuses, Bogash will be insulted. If you insult a dwarf, they hold a grudge for the rest of their lives. Bogash will make certain that none of the fairy folk will be allowed to use the portal.
"What's it going to be sister? The wizards are with me and I don't have all day here...make up your mind, yes or no?" Bogash asks expectantly.
"The fairies are in," Ulieo replies reluctantly.
"Good choice because you know I wasn't going to ask you twice. Once the funds have been inspected and safely deposited in our treasury, I'll gladly lead you nice folks down to the portal," Bogash smiles while greedily rubbing his hands together.
"What of the other magical folk, why aren't you including them in this deal?" Ulieo inquires.
"The fairies have gold and wizards know how to get it, the rest of them are useless, they'll have to pay as they go if they want to use the portal," Bogash replies.
"You're going to put a toll gate on the portal?"
"Why not? Fairies and wizards can come and go as they please, what do you care about the rest?"
"It just doesn't seem very sporting, that's all."
"You've got a lot to learn about the business world sister!"
"But it's not fair."
"Fair? Is this the same imp that changed my ale into pond slime, then into lava? Is this the same sweet innocent little fairy that changed my stool into a mushroom and then into a snail...didn't think I caught that one did ya? Who the heck are you to be whinin' about fair?"
Ulieo blushes a deep shade of red and buzzes angrily from the tavern, she has work to do. Mordoch exits behind her muttering happily to himself, "Squirrel go poof, rabbit go poof, raccoon go POW!" after which he would chuckle to himself maniacally.
"There goes a couple of truly sick puppies my friends. Now, who's going to buy me a drink in exchange for a free pass through the portal?" Bogash chuckles. Everyone wants to be Bogash's friend and the dwarf navigates home with great difficulty when he finally departs the tavern.
Only a short time passes before Bogash learns that his partners have fulfilled there end of the bargain and it's time for him to make good on his part of the deal.
Bogash leads Ulieo and Mordoch to the entrance of a tunnel.
"It's a three thousand league march to the portal from here, unless we can impose on our friend the wizard to perform a little dimensional shift for us, its going to be a long hike."
Mordoch frowns at Bogash. Performing little magical favors like this one is how wizards get by in Elsewhere. Moving a dimensional portal three thousand leagues would ordinarily net him a nice payday but Bogash has made no mention of paying him for this service. On the other hand the prospect of walking three thousand leagues through the damp, dark, muddy, hand-dug tunnel doesn't thrill him either. Mordoch decides that a half measure is in order and he summons the portal to within a league of their current position.
"What's up with that Mr. Wizard, robbing the dragon wear you out?" Bogash chides.
"What do you want for nothing?" Mordoch counters with a shrug.
Bogash grumbles something about cheap wizards under his breath and leads the little troupe to their final destination. This end of the tunnel is still dwarf size and Mordoch is obliged crawl out on his hand and knees, all the while cursing and mumbling under his breath something about friggin' midgets.
The tunnel deposits the troupe in a sunny glade surrounded by deep woods. A squirrel chatters at them from a nearby tree and Mordoch pounces on the opportunity. The wizard mutters the incantation and a moment later there is a puff of fur where the squirrel once sat.
"It works! Magic works here once again!" he exclaims happily.
"Nice job of saving us from that bad-ass squirrel Mordoch," Bogash remarks sarcastically as he brushes the fur from his tunic.
"We don't need to coax the humans back to our dimension after all, we can play with them right here," Mordoch continues, ignoring Bogash's sarcasm.
"Well, that brings me to the second part of this deal. Wizards and fairies can use the portal to their hearts content but there's a stiff fee for anyone else...including humans."
"You're going to charge us to bring the humans back?" Ulieo asks.
"Humans are best left where they are, trust me on that one sister."
"But that wasn't the deal."
"I beg to differ, I was very specific."
"Enough!" Mordoch bellows. "There is no need to argue a moot point. Magic works here once more and Bogash is right about leaving the humans to their own dimension."
"It's not fair!"
"Look sister, I didn't say you couldn't bring'em back. I only said it was going to cost ya if you did."
"If there are any to bring back, I haven't seen anything yet to convince me that this isn't just some pleasant backwater modeled on the human dimension.
"There's humans here all right sister, just follow me."
Bogash checks his bearings and leads the troupe into the forest. Before long they come to a gazebo with a peasant sleeping on one of the benches.
"See, humans!" Bogash proclaims triumphantly.
Ulieo flutters in for a closer look. The homeless man is a walking pigsty with several days' growth on his haggard face. He reeks of BO and cheap wine. Ulieo waves her wand and mutters a charm. The bum's eyes pop wide open.
"First spiders, then snakes and now this." the bum mutters groggily.
"Good day kind sir. I am your fairy godmother and I have come to grant you three wishes," Ulieo titters in her wind chime voice.
The bum stares at her quizzically and decides he has nothing to lose.
"Three wishes huh, let's see. I want to be loaded with dough, hung like a horse and have a nice lookin' bitch." he replies.
"As you wish," Ulieo smiles and she waves her wand thrice in a circle over the bum's head. In a twinkling, the bum strangles to death on the bread dough that emits from his every orifice, a huge horse's member springs from his loins and a beautiful female dog appears panting at his feet. Ulieo flutters back to the others wearing a smug smile. "Some things never change, humans still don't know what to wish for."
"If you two are satisfied I'll be heading back now."
"I thought you wanted to find the humans too?" Ulieo asks, puzzled at Bogash's eagerness to leave.
"I got no use for humans but you guys do and that suits me just fine."
By George C. Anderson Jr
"What good is magic when everyone is magical?" Bogash the dwarf complained.