Nevermore

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Fantasy  |  House: Booksie Classic
In this sequel to Elsewhere we find the link between the human and magical dimensions re-established as the Council of Magic commissions a present day 'hero' to go on a 'quest'

Will he be up to the challenge?

Submitted: May 08, 2007

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Submitted: May 08, 2007

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"Hold it right there sister!" Bogash the dwarf growls, pointing at the human that Erin the Enchantress has in tow. "Where do you think you're going with him?"

Erin eyes Bogash with disdain as he motions for Dewlap the Troll to block the portal between the human and the magical dimensions.

"Well, if you must know, he's a hero and he's needed for an urgent quest."

"Oooo, an urgent quest!" Bogash mocks. "Well excuuuse me witch but you know the rules. You have to play your games on the other side of the wall so get him the heck outta here!"

Erin prepares to fix Bogash with her deadly gaze just as Mordoch the Mage appears.

"Hold on, Erin! Let's have none of that, Bogash can be reasoned with," the elderly wizard says. "How much to get the human in?"

Bogash's narrows his eyes.

"You know the council forbids live humans on this side of the portal, this is going to cost you large!"

"The council has authorized this human's entry. The only reason I'm only offering you gold is to shut you up." Mordoch replies as he absently dusts off his robes after being forced to crawl on his hands and knees through the still dwarf-sized portal.

"Really now! Show me the order and he's in for free." Bogash smiles knowingly.

"I don't have it with me!" Mordoch protests.

"Yeah, right!"

"I don't see why you two are letting this little pipsqueak push you around." The human comments.

"Who are you calling a pipsqueak?" Bogash rages, drawing his sword. The human reaches inside his leather jacket and draws his .357 magnum.

"Big mistake Shorty, never bring a knife to a gunfight!" Erin intercepts her ‘hero' before things get out of hand.

"Save it for the bad guys handsome, let us handle this." she purrs.

"Last chance Bogash. One hundred pieces of gold or nothing!" Mordoch offers.

"You'd pay one hundred pieces of REAL gold to get ‘him' in here?"

Mordoch produces a leather pouch and offers Bogash a gold piece for his inspection. "So tell me, not that I care, but is this quest of yours dangerous?" Bogash asks, biting the gold.

"Why do you ask?"

"I was just wondering about the probability that dum-dum here may fall into accordance with the rules in the not too distant future, if you know what I mean."

"Oh--that's very probable!" Mordoch mutters under his breath.

Bogash brightens visibly.

"Deal! Now get him outta here!" Bogash says, snatching the pouch of gold from the wizard's hands. Bogash motions for the huge troll to step aside.

"You ain't seen the last of me, midget!" The human growls under his breath as he passes the smirking dwarf. Bogash waits until the surly human has his back to him and he thumbs his nose at him.

"That's what you think jerky!" Bogash mutters to himself as he sits down to check out the rest of Mordoch's payment.

The two mages and their human ‘hero' emerge from the tunnel that leads to the portal a short time later, the human gasps at his first glimpse of the magical dimension.

"Everything here seems so alive!"

"And most of it's deadly so you'd best stay close." Erin cautions.

"Uh, I couldn't help but overhear the old buck tell the runt that this little errand you want me to do might be dangerous..."

"What old buck?" Mordoch inquires, puzzled.

"It might be for some people but not for a big he-man like you." Erin replies coyly, her eyes sparkling with magic. A phenomenon the foolish mortal takes to mean a lot more than it does.

"You don't usually find bucks in caves, did I miss something Erin?" Mordoch babbles.

"No, it was just the breeze," she smiles, passing her hand over her head and making a whooshing sound.

The trio journeys through enchanted woods and oaken dales until they arrive at a clearing surrounded by a circle of large stones. At the center of the circle a small campfire smolders.

Mordoch looks to the heavens and begins to chant under his breath while he slowly moves his hand from east to west.

Like the drawing of a shade, by the time his hand returns to his side, darkness falls and the only light now comes from the little campfire.

"Whoa!" The human remarks in amazement.

"Welcome to the land of magic, big boy." Erin says.

The campfire's flickering flames cause the shadows around the stones to dance. Then, one by one, a magical creature takes shape next to each stone.

"Whoa!" The human repeats.

A hooded figure in flowing robes drifts towards the campfire holding a staff over it's head.

"I call this meeting of the council to order." A deep, quavering voice intones. "Have you brought the hero?"
Erin and Mordoch, hoods now hiding their faces, escort the human into the circle of light.

"This is a hero?" The voice croaks.

"Yes my lord." Erin replies.

"Where is his armor and his mighty sword?"

"Er, things have changed somewhat in the human dimension my lord."

"I'll say! Well, I suppose in the end it's bravery that counts. Has he agreed to go on the quest?"

"Yes my lord."

"Very well, let's get on with it. Has he a name?"

"Yes my lord, his name is Joe."

"Joe--is that it?"

"Yes my lord."

"You're kidding, right?"

"No my lord."

"Oookay, Joe it is."

"You got a problem with that?" Joe asks.

Erin nudges him in the ribs but Joe is unmoved.

"Er, no. Joe is fine. It's just that we're used to longer titles, that's all!"

"All you need to know is that I'm the M.F.W.B.I.C." Joe smirks.

"Is that a title?"

"It is where I come from."

"So you're Joe miff-w-bic...or is it the other way around?"
It's all Joe can do to keep a straight face.

"Uh, either way is good."

"Fine. Have you been told what needs to be done?"

"Sort of."

"Either you have or you haven't. Which one is it?"

"Given the circumstances, I think I'd like to hear it again."

"Very well but remember, you've already agreed to go and it's too late to turn back now."

"Yeah, whatever." Joe replies.

"The Heart of Magic is missing. Your job is to recover The Heart and return it here, where it belongs, got it?"

"I got that part but no one's told me who took it and what this ‘heart' looks like."

"The Heart of Magic is not a thing but a living being and you'll know it when you see it. As far as we know no one took it, we only know where it went."

Joe purses his lips and shoots a frosty glance at Erin.

"All will be made clear huh?"

"What part of ‘you'll know it when you see it' didn't you get?" Erin shoots back.

Joe rubs his furrowed brow and shakes his head.

"I didn't expect this to be easy but I was expecting a little more help. Where's this ‘guide' they're sending along with me?"

"Right here" replies a tiny voice that jingles like a talking wind chime. Joe stares at Ulieo in disbelief.

"This is just beautiful, you didn't tell me that you were sending me to hell with Tinkerbell!"

Ulieo jangles with fury at the mention of the famous fairy's name.

"Ix-nay on the inkerbell-tay if you don't want to wear your gonads for earmuffs." Erin cautions.

"Her and what ar...Ooof!" Joe hits the ground with a thud, clutching his groin.

When Joe finally recovers it is light again and he finds himself alone in the now deserted circle of stones. He looks about for Erin and her wizard friend but they are nowhere in sight.
"What happened?" Joe croaks hoarsely.

"I think you were about to apologize to me." Ulieo tinkles coolly.

"Oh, right! Uh, I'm wicked sorry. I didn't mean to upset you." He mumbles sincerely. And you better hope that we don't happen upon a bugzapper somewhere in our travels or you're toast! He thinks to himself.

"Are you ready?" Ulieo asks. Joe gingerly pulls himself erect and nods in the affirmative.

"Which way?" he grunts.

"Think you can walk to Nevermore?" Ulieo tinkles, amused.

Joe gives Ulieo an astonished look; he has an idea what the fairy is hinting at.

"No way!"

"Think happy thoughts!" Ulieo chimes as she sprinkles him with pixie dust. At first nothing happens. Then Joe recalls the Christmas when his parents gave him a pony...and he levitates off the ground.

It suddenly occurs to Joe that his parents were dirt poor and he's lived in an apartment all his life; there never was a pony...

And he plummets towards the earth!

"Nice pony, thanks Mom and Dad!" He holds this thought until he catches up with the tiny fairy.

"Uh, I never got a pony as a kid." Joe explains.

"It doesn't matter. The thought of getting one made you sufficiently happy." Ulieo replies.

"Well, I've never had a date with Barbie either. If I imagined that I had, would I go supersonic?" Ulieo does not answer but instead shoots away into the distance, leaving a sparkling trail of pixie dust for Joe to follow. Joe does his best to keep up, flying as fast as he dares.

He doesn't want the fairy to get too big a lead or he may lose her...and he has no idea how to get out of here on his own.

The trail of pixie dust leads Joe toward what appears to be the flickering lights of a large city. The closer he gets, the larger the metropolis becomes.

"I ain't never seen nothin' like this in no fairy tale" Joe mutters. Ulieo's dust trail vanishes in a rundown part of the sprawling city. Joe is startled to find himself standing at the corner of a deserted intersection, no longer aloft.

He tries to will himself back into to flight but he is unsuccessful. Either he's all happied out or it's more than a coincidence that he became earthbound the same place Ulieo's trail of pixie dust gave out.

Joe reaches into his leather jacket and palms his mother of pearl handled straight razor. Joe is no stranger to the city and he knows the mean streets when he sees them.

On his own again, Joe sets off in search of the nearest bar figuring it will be the likeliest place he'll get a handle on his quarry. He walks towards what appears to be downtown and he spots a ‘bag lady' digging in a dumpster.

The ancient, toothless bearded hag farts and a lightening bolt shoots from her backside, instantly frying a nearby rat. The hag cackles with glee at her handiwork. She picks up the flash fried rodent by it's thick tail and swallows it whole, followed moments later by a burp that shoots flames twenty feet into the air!

Joe gets a sinking feeling in his gut as the words ‘You'll know it when you see it' ring in his mind. He eyes the old girl suspiciously but decides to stick with his first impulse rather than spend any more time checking out this dangerous, albeit weird phenomenon.

His instincts serve him well and before long he sees a rowdy group exiting an alleyway, obviously drunk. Joe waits until they clear the area and cautiously enters. The alley is pitch black but a few yards ahead a single lantern illuminates a sign over a doorway. Joe smiles when he reads the sign, The Magic Harp.

He exits the alley and glances around to see if there are any more promising prospects nearby. Finding none, he returns and opens the door to the Magic Harp. The gargoyle working the door looks Joe up and down and croaks

"Two groats cover...mortal."

Joe reaches into his pocket and pulls out a handful of coins. One of them says it is a two-groat piece and he marvels at this for a moment before surrendering it to the door-beast.

"Here you go...dead thing!" Joe sneers. To his surprise, the gargoyle takes the coin and steps aside, ignoring the insult.

Joe does his best to remain nonchalant as he scopes the place out but there are some things you just can't prepare yourself for.

Like a magnet, his eyes are drawn to the most beautiful creature he's ever laid eyes on. She's tall and slender with delicate chiseled features and the most piercing azure eyes Joe's ever beheld. He's suddenly certain that he's found The Heart of Magic! She's a little flat-chested and she dresses a little butch but that only adds to her waif-like mystique.

Until his gaze drops south of the equator. If this is in fact The Heart of Magic it suddenly will be a whole lot easier to bring him in. The pointy ears should have been a dead giveaway but this is the first time Joe has ever laid eyes on a real live elf.

He gives himself a mental dope slap for being so easily sucked in and muses that if this is what the guys look like, the

babes must be incredible! He forces his mind out of the gutter and turns it back to the task at hand.

He strides over to the bar and gapes for a moment at the giant bartender's one huge eye. It's as big as a baseball and centered in his forehead...naturally, this is the first time Joe has ever seen a Cyclops up close and personal. The huge barkeep blinks and this breaks Joe's revelry.

"What'll it be?"

"Uh, beer."

"Sorry, we don't have beer."

"How about an ale?"

"Nope, don't have that either."

"Vodka?"

"Uh-Uh."

"What kind of a bar is this?"

"It's a bar, bar!"

"Well, what do you have to drink?"

"Water."

Joe shakes his head in astonishment. The people he saw leaving earlier were clearly tanked. He checks out the length of the bar and sure enough, the fluid in all of the glasses is crystal clear.

"If that's all you've got, I'll have a water."

"What kind?"

Joe smiles with incredulity, certain that the big barkeeper is messing with him.

"What are my choices?"

"Any kind of water you can name, we have it."

"Make mine pure then." The big Cyclops chuckles to himself. "Are you sure you're up to it? You may want to try tap water first, just to see if you can handle it."

"Are you going to get me a drink or are you going to bust my chops all night?"

"Oooo, pardon me boss. One pure, coming up!" The huge barkeep ambles over to the other side of the bar and returns a moment later with an ounce of water in a shot glass.

"What's this, a friggin' shot of water?" Joe asks.

"My bad, most folks who drink pure like it neat but if you want a glass with ice I'd be happy to oblige." The barkeep replies patiently, totally missing the point.

Joe frowns at the tiny shot, uncertain whether to let it go or to try and explain to the oaf that a single ounce of water wouldn't quench a babies thirst. Joe is completely unprepared for what happens next.

"Do you wish to pay for that now or shall I start a tab?"

Joe's jaw drops to his chest.

"You're going to charge me for water, an ounce of water?"

"This is a bar and you're the one who came in here looking for a drink..."

"How much?" Joe sighs.

"Six Rails."

Joe smiles. As far as he's concerned it's all funny money so he might as well play the game. He pulls out his hand full of change and finds that one of the smaller coins is marked one hundred rails! At six rails an ounce, he's got enough for two whole glasses! The barkeep trundles off to get his change and Joe wisely takes a sip of his ‘water' instead of pounding it.

Instantly, Joe's eyes fill with tears and his lips and tongue feel like they are on fire. He almost cries out for some water until he remembers it's all they serve here! Joe's no amateur when it comes to the hard stuff.

He's imbibed on liquor over one hundred and fifty proof plenty of times but this stuff has to be over a hundred and fifty octane!

The barkeep returns with Joe's change wearing a knowing smirk.

"Pretty potent huh?" Joe is momentarily unable to speak. It's all he can do to nod his head in the affirmative.

"I'll take that glass with ice now and a tap water chaser to go with it." Joe manages once he's gotten some of his breath back.

"Right away sir." The big Cyclops says and turns away to fill Joe's order, chuckling to himself.

Joe takes in the Magic Harp's ambiance as he waits for the barkeep to return. The place is bigger on the inside than he expected. Modeled after an old time saloon, there is a main level where the bar and tables are situated with a large hearth at one end and a small stage at the other.

Off to his right is a stairway leading to a loft area that is lined with progressively larger doors that must be rooms, likely for rent by the hour or by the day.

If there are any cops in this joint, they're working undercover...deep undercover as the dress code is a strange cross between Goth and punk-biker chic.

The punks are wearing jeans and sporting leather jackets so Joe's clothes don't look too out of place, it's his lack of tattoos and body piercings that mark him as a flat lander. Joe struggles not to gape when he notices that most of the piercings are very bizarre in nature with many of these self-inflicted wounds being fatal if humans were to attempt them.

Joe isn't into fairy tale creatures so he has no idea what the proper name of many of the undead things that are but it would be real easy to overuse the adjective ‘ugly' in a place like this.

He guesses that several of the punks are different varieties of troll. One has a flute imbedded in his chest that whistles as he breathes and the slide of a trombone protruding from both sides of his skull. Yet another has a tuba jutting out of his backside and a clarinet sticking out of his nose. There is a huge troll with xylophone sticking halfway out of his midsection and a trumpet stuck in each ear.

The real kicker is the rotund female troll with an accordion stuck in her...

Well, she's chatting animatedly with the others so it must not hurt but every time she take a step, the accordion lets out a screech like a cat being skinned alive.

Joe's first impression is that this bunch was on the losing side of a run in with a marching band but a few moments later they take to the stage at the far end of the room and all is suddenly clear.

The creatures nearest to Joe are studiously ignoring him while others at a nearby table make no effort to hide the fact that he's the topic of their conversation...

They are arguing over the best way to cook him. Joe is uncertain how effective his friends Mr. Smith and Mr. Wesson will be against the legions of the damned but he's here on a sanctioned quest and so far magical assistance has been right there when it was needed.

The barkeep returns with Joe's order. Joe's eyes search the front of the behemoth's toga until he finds what he's looking for, a name badge.

The Cyclops's name is Buddy.

"Thanks Buddy." Joe smiles, "I need some help when you get a minute."

"It's around the corner to the right." Buddy replies.

"Thanks but I don't need the can. I'm looking for someone."

"Does this have anything to do with the quest?"

"What quest?"

"You're mortal and the only time we see mortals on this side of the fence is when they're on a quest."

Joe ponders this for a moment and nods.

"Yeah, it has to do with the quest."

"I swear, I'm gonna start charging for this. Every time I turn around lately there's some mortal in here pumping me for information." Buddy sighs.

"I'd be happy to grease you if you can help me out."

Buddy grins broadly. "How about ten gold pieces?"

Joe is pretty sure that none of the coins in his pocket are golden but then again all of his folding cash has somehow gone AWOL only to be replaced by the weird coinage.

"Let me check." Joe reaches into his pants once more and dredges up all of the loose change he has.

Nada.

"Uh, I'm a little short on gold. You don't take plastic do you?" Joe jokes.

"Sure, doesn't everyone?" Buddy replies.

Joe fishes out his credit card and shows it to Buddy.

"You're in business pal, what do you want to know?"

"I'm looking for the Heart of Magic."

"The Heart of Magic is here?" Buddy bellows so loudly that everything in the tavern comes to an abrupt halt. The room is suddenly as silent as a tomb. All ears are on Joe, awaiting his reply.

"That's what I'm told."

Several females shriek in terror followed by a stampede for the exits. The entire place empties out in thirty seconds flat. The only ones remaining are two cloaked figures seated at a nearby table, Buddy and the gargoyle working the door.

Joe fixes Buddy with a ‘now you've done it' look.

"Would I be correct in assuming that you don't know anything about this."

"The Heart of Magic is here?" Buddy repeats.

"Why is everyone acting like I just announced that Godzilla is tearing up downtown?"

"God who?" Buddy asks.

"You need to get out more often. Yeah, the Heart of Magic is here in Nevermore. Do you know anything or don't ya?"

"Where in Nevermore is it?"

"I'm the one who's asking but if I'm right, she's about a block from here. She's roasting rodents with lightening and burping fireballs twenty feet into the air after she eats them."

Buddy goes pale.

"Uh, we have to close now...I need to get out of here!"

At that very moment, the door to the Magic Harp bursts open and in walks the same toothless, bearded hag that Joe observed earlier. Buddy takes one look at her and passes out, confirming Joe's suspicions.

Joe reaches into his jacket for his .357 when one of the figures seated at the nearby table crosses to where Joe is standing. They throw back the hood of their cloak and it's Erin! She slips Joe a black silk bag about the size of a pillowcase and winks.

Joe stares back at her blankly.

The Heart of Magic hobbles towards Joe and he, for the first time in his life, is weak-kneed with terror. Erin beats a hasty retreat and the Heart of Magic ignores her.

"Nice night!" Joe says as casually as he can to the waking nightmare that is approaching him. He turns for a moment and finds his shot of pure, downing it.

"A man!" The Heart of Magic cackles "What brings a real live human to these parts?" She slurs toothlessly.

"You." Joe replies hoarsely, the potent liquor taking his breath away.

"You, looking for me? How lucky can I get because I was looking for you...handsome! Joe's gut ties itself in knots. The gleam in the old girl's eye let's him know that she has more on her mind than just shooting the breeze and sharing a couple of pops.

"So...what'll you have? The bartender is taking a break at the moment but I'm sure he won't mind if I hop behind the bar..."

"I'll have you honey, with nothin' on it!" The hag croaks.

Joe braces himself to be fried by one end of her or the other but instead the old girl steps in close, closes her eyes and puckers up!

Joe grimaces and struggles to work up the courage to kiss the abomination when he hears Erin whisper,

"Use the bag stupid!"

Joe drops the black silk bag over the Heart of Magic's head and it covers her completely. Fire and lightening shoot out from the bottom of the bag and Erin cries,

"Pull the drawstring!"

Wincing from the stray flames and current, Joe snatches up the drawstring and seals the bag, which is oddly weightless with the Heart of Magic inside it.

"Well done hero!" Mordoch exclaims. Joe grins foolishly at how simple it all was.

"Mission accomplished" he proclaims. "Where do you want it?"

"We'll take it from here handsome. It's time for me to fulfill my end of the bargain." Erin smiles.

As quickly as it had begun, Joe finds himself right where it all started, standing next to his car on Interstate 95. The stunning female State Trooper who had pulled him over gives him a little wave as she pulls her cruiser back onto the highway.

Joe quickly frisks himself for the whopper of a ticket that she should have given him but he fails to find it. She kept her word and for that Joe is thankful.


© Copyright 2018 G C Anderson. All rights reserved.

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