There was a house. It had been renovated and redecorated so many times by so many owners, that it's walls seemed to be a museum for peeling paint and battered brickwork of all eras .
It's grey gravel drive crunched beneath the wheels of an ordinary car, a white ford; Not old enough to have developed character, but not new enough to be interesting.
It ground to a halt in front of the house; two figures emerged from the front and one from the back.
The adult's were standard issue; The father with a grey-white woollen sweater and the mother with a handbag which stopped looking stylish the moment it left the store.
The boy ran on in, his fawn jacket- jumper's sleeves hanging loosely over his hands.
The same boy ran up the stairs, sleeves flapping. While below his parent's talked, he explored; and not in vein either.
He skidded to a halt in the middle of the upstairs corridor. The walls were covered with ornately carved wooden panels. He 'hrumphed' disapprovingly and knocked on one that appeared to be exactly like the rest of the corridor. It boomed in a hollow manner.
"What kind of idiot architect attempts to conceal a secret passage with not only wood obtained from a southern rather than northern forest; As well as treating it with an obviously synthetic staining compound." He leaned on it. "You might as well put a handle on it."
The wood creaked. The door swung. The boy fell backwards into the musty gloom.
"Brian? Where are you?"
Brian's new boots thumped up the wooden stairway, dust puffing up around his footsteps like billowing clouds of grey smoke. Light from an ancient attic window enveloped the small, cramped room with a golden glow. Dust motes sparkled with borrowed light, giving the silent air a almost magical feel. The entire place radiated an aura of calm stability, even the peeling paint on the single windows frame. It was a world away from the renovated, vacuumed and scrubbed feel of the rest of the house. Placing a finger in the dust recumbent on a ancient chest of draws, he marvelled at the tranquillity which had let the dust gather as thick as a fine skeen of wool. There were no cobwebs, damp spots or skittering insects, just one room, with a slanted roof and gnarled wood boards, fed light by its single window. As one does in such situations, Brian searched the chest of draws, since as everyone knows, there were often great treasures or antiquities tucked away in these things. The first draw was surprisingly full of bird's nests, bits of eggshell, assorted beetles tucked away in glass-faced cases and the occasional bone tagged with a piece of card held on by yellowing twine. Brian examined one uninterestedly, his understanding of nature could be summarized as ; if it didn't bother him then he wouldn't bother it . It had worked for him so far and he wasn't about to catch a case of the "camping's" as he called them*.
*Despite frequent assurances to the contrary, Brian persistently believed that the urge to go camping was in fact a form of clinical insanity. When people talk about going back to nature, they forget the rise of civilization was dedicated to crushing nature at every possible turn.
The next draw down yielded an assortment of weird and unrecognisable devices and "knick-knacks", for there was no other word to describe some of the instruments that lay within the dusty confines of the draw. He picked up a circlet of sweet smelling sandalwood and gingerly put it on. Feeling rather silly he replaced it in the draw and carefully pulled out the third and final compartment. This turned out to be somewhat of an anti-climax because it was full of rolls of thick parchment and piles of dog-eared tomes which sprouted book-marks like the petals of a large untidy square flower.
Carefully Brian lifted the sheaf's of aged and stained parchment from their resting place and un-rolled them carefully, dried and cracked wax seals falling away as the sheets flattened out, revealing intricate diagrams in pencil and ink, covered in tiny notation's in a fine spidery hand. There were anatomical diagrams and cross sections of trains and steam engines, even more fantastical things such as the plans for a balloon drawn by two winged horses. He was pouring over particularly interesting sheet which detailed a fictional diagram of the muscles in a dragons wing. He snorted at the idea of such an un-aerodynamic creature ever existing, it looked far to heavy to get airborne in the first place. How would it hunt? Arial plankton? It's wingspan must be over fifty feet or so! He snorted in disbelief.
It could have just been a trick of the light, but he could have sworn the bone and muscle dragon on the page moved. He blinked and it was just as it had been before, radiating innocence.
Suddenly the air seemed a little too musty, too stifling. Quickly he rolled up the sheets and carefully replaced them in the drawers. Something behind him rustled and he shot up, slamming the drawer closed with his knees. A soft voice tinged with a accent that was best described as 'dated' began to whisper from beneath the desk, ducking down on his hands and knees he saw there was something wedged between the desk and the floor. The muttering sound was being emitted by it, straining his ears , a few words stood out in the jumble "Why ... Hello... not... Fault ... thine .... mercy"
Bracing himself Brian pulled at the object. It resisted for a moment and then quite unexpectedly came free. It was so startling that Brian fell onto his rear, painfully. He Got up and started rubbing his behind when the voice came back, clear now and with that definite accent you got when watching movie about the olden days*. "I Say, good sir, would you mind terribly putting me down. I have a terrible head for heights."
Brian's grasp of history was shaky at best and to him, the term 'olden days' roughly covered every period between medieval and about five or so years before his birth.
Brian let go of the boot as though it had become made of red hot iron.
"Who are you?" he gasped as the boot swivelled round on its heel and 'faced' him.
"Is my appearance really so unrecognisable. You seem to have Footware of you own."
" You look like a boot; but boots do not talk!"
"Congratulations, you are in possession of perfect powers of perception." The boots leather tongue flapped, sound came out. Where was the voice-box or vocal cords or speakers, this wasn't a boot it was a not-boot!
"Why do you look like a boot?" brian asked cautiously in-case any attempt to bite his toes off was made.
"Because I... AM... a Boot! What part of 'boot' don't you understand." The boot flapped at him angrily.
"I Don't know where you came from, but boots are mutes."
"I'm not a boot-"
"Ah-Ha, so you admit it!"
"If I may be allowed to vocalise, more than four words at a time; I am not a boot from where you are from."
".... That begs the question, where are you from?"
"If talking boots cannot be produced now then why the hell could they be created at any preceding point?" Brian asked, flying in emergency stockpiles of reason to shore up his shaky stockades of common sense.
"Because. You would do well to trust me in this case, it may be disguised as a sophisticated oratory, however it all boils down to a single word ." The boot said flatly.
"That's not a reason!"
"Notice that you are currently conversing with an item of foot-ware, thus reasoning is not the best of companions at the moment."
"Point taken. 'kay, so you talk because you do, I can deal with this... so, uh, boot... do you have a name?"
"Lefty, I am sure that the irony of this is evident." Brian had never heard an exasperated shoe before.
"...uhhhh, your his right boot?"
"The one and only."
"I thought old shoes were just shoes, they didn't go to right or left feet."
The shoe scowled at him "If we are going to go picking at nits... Still merlin wore me on his right side the majority of the time"
"Wait, wait.... Merlin?" Brian was startled.
"Well, not really THE merlin but you need a fancy name or no one will look twice at you in the Magic world."
"Are we talking Sparkly lights and Hocus Pokus type magic here?"
"Do try and use that cerebrum of yours, you are talking to a inanimate object; and what's more, it has a better grasp on reality than you do."
"Awright already, I realise this isn't the time to be questioning the idea of forces beyond my understanding, it's just a bit far fetched that's all. Next thing you'll be telling me that unicorns are planning to take over the world and garden gnomes are real gnomes frozen by an ancient enchantment."
"Uh.... The unicorns never managed to execute their plans, due to their inability to climb stairs and by now all the original petrified gnomes are probably ground to dust."
"... Your messing with me... Right?"
"Yes, but it was worth it to see the look upon your face!" the shoe snorted.
"Really.... Sooo dragons and all that crap don't exist."
"I never said that!"
"With satellite imaging and the rest of it I imagine it would be rather difficult to hide them and don't give me and hogwarts bull."
"...Of course you don't, my former wearer got the big government contract to round them all up and place them in a pocket dimension so that people could get along with their lives without needing a handsome hero every five minutes to come and slay whatever's worrying sheep or eating cattle at the time. It upset the knights union of course, but them and their round table never got around to actually doing anything."
"... Actually This all makes sense."
"It does, i must admit you have been absorbing the news admirably"
"Yes! Of course... I mean how could anyone come up with some of these creatures without actually seeing them, A firebreathing lizard? All over the world so many variations! I mean come on! These days people can't even come up with a plot for original television shows with resurrecting people every five minutes, let-alone whole species and associated tales!"
"I'm glad you agree."
"So what happened to them, the pocket dimension?"
"Ah, that is the tragic demise of my wearer.... He decided he'd try and capture them from the pocket dimension, to store them in a more accessible form for future use."
"What would he use them for?"
"Many things, but to be honest, he was twenty two at the time... and he wished to impress females by having a few mythic creatures at his beck and call..."
"Bit miffed was he?"
"..... no puns please. However he came back here one night out of the book, all scratched and mussed up, then the next day he pack off and goes back in with such urgency that he forgot me."
Brian was unconvinced "Wait, if he was such a powerful wizard how could he have gotten roughed around? I mean he put them in there in the first place!"
The shoe looked embarrassed and shuffled a bit before answering.
".... Many of the creatures were intelligent.... and all women he knew either wanted him for advice or were going out with knights, he was Kinda lonely..."
The innocent turn of the conversation suddenly found the incoming ice-burg of awkwardness was now rivalling the size of Everest.
".... Seriously, you can't be... Your kidding, Right?"
"I'm just his boot, but I've had a few hundred years to think it over. I have no idea what actually happened to him but... It IS possible that he found someone in the pocket dimension and didn't want to leave rather than couldn't leave. Still He'd be dead by now." Lefty was genuinely embarrassed.
"What happened to the pocket dimension, if he's dead wouldn't it collapse or something?"
"Of course it didn't, it was intended as a permanent relocation exercise; not some temporary duck tape and spit thing." Lefty having avoided the iceburg of awkwardness was now letting his manner become becalmed within the waters of contempt.
".... On a completely different note, why does your accent keep changing, one moment you sound like someone from the olden days and the next you're using phrases and words that are relatively recent. Just Inconsistent, the kinda thing dreams have."
"Take a look in the draw, see if You think your dreaming after that."
"I just opened that draw, it was full of junk."
"Open it with the key. Tap the far left corner of the desk three times and watchout for the liar bird."
Brian stood up in the cramped space and tapped the corner of the desk with his index finger, once twice... he hesitated.
"What liar bird?" he asked suspiciously.
"Tap it again, if it's a dream as you say then you are invincible anyway."
"Why would I need to be invincible?" By now he suspicions were not only running up flags, but blowing trumpets and firing flares.
"No reason, there is some degree of danger, however, if you don't tell the truth whenever it asks a question..... you'll be fine."
Brian eyeballed the boot, instinctively drumming his fingers on the table, waiting for a less flimsy explanation.
"Who wishes to view the book that holds the passage to the preserve of Merlin's Sorcerers servicesTM? Speak that I may hear you and in doing so see if you speak with truth or lies." the voice sounded like a wisper and a shout, the soft tones of a mugger in a dark alley mingled with a sale's-man's tone, one of jolliness and false levity; along with everything in-between. It sounded... Hollow.
Looking down at his fingers, Brian realised that his impromptu tattoo had summoned up the liar bird... whatever that was. Brian tried to turn but his fingers were stuck to the desk. He couldn't even face the thing behind him. He began to sweat, the boot had said he'd be fine as long as he didn't tell the truth.... But did he want to see the book?
"My name is most definitely not Brian." Brian said, mind racing ahead.
"What is your purpose."
"A talking boot most definitely did not tell me to tap the table's corner three times."
"Do you wish to see the book or not?"
"Uh...." A flash of inspiration came to his head "The next thing I say is a Lie."
"What of it?"
"Nice Try." The creature sounded amused, almost happy.
"I must admit, I was waiting for you to slip up. Most people can't decide if they want to see the book or not after they hear me. Good try. Got any others?"
"Uh, A highway man tells me to say something, if it is true, I am beheaded, if it is a lie then i am shot. Thus to counter, I inform him that He will shoot me. Notice that I did not attempt to lie to you in this hypothetical statement, as since it has not actually occurred, it is technically already a lie."
"Indeed, that is splendid. Well I'm not going to trick a first class liar like you am I? I may as well let you have the book."
Brian had really gotten into the swing of things, and was almost enjoying himself "I would call myself a first class liar. I do not agree, you will never try and trick me; and I will receive the book before I have answered your previous question."
"Hmph, Fine... Well may i ask you this, boy called 'Brian'-" "not Brian" "As you would have it, Now inform me. Are you able to tell the truth?"
"No, of course not."
"Then how many fingers am I holding up?"
"PI to the last decimal place."
"If it forces you to leave then i most definitely do not want to see the book."
"Clever... Fine if you would have it your way. The key is in the lock."
" I hope I have the pleasure of encountering you again."
Brian's hand became un-stuck and he fell heavily on his rear.
"Feck!" he swore, rubbing his behind.
"It seems the Liar bird did not digest you, that IS fortunate."
Brian had a lot of questions for the boot but one in particular niggled at him.
"Why did it ask me how many fingers it was holding up?" Insofar as a boot can be amazed, lefty was.
"Oh she tried that one on you, did she? Surprising you lived, since she can have as many digits' as she wishes.... In fact I think you are the first to have gotten away with it. Mind telling me your secret?" Lefty was genuinely impressed.
"I told her she was holding up PI to the last decimal place, fingers."
" Hah, she didn't think of that one, the old Bic-Urck!" lefty let out a strangled gasp.
"I'm Still Here You Know." Rumbled the liar bird in a soft whisper.
"Be glad I'm not allowed to hurt either of you, now get the stupid book so I can leave"
Both lefty and Brian spoke at once in strained tones " 'Kay "
Brian crawled over to the chest of draws and turned the key, which made an oily click as its iron fitting mated with the lock. Curbing the urge to look round and see what a liar bird looked like, Brian pulled the lacquered handle and the draw slid out noiselessly. Inside the book lay; It was ornate without being ostentatious, with ironwork melded into the leather and fabric cover. In the Center, minute vines crept over the round glassy jewel in the Center. Picking it up, the jewel let out a halo of aurora borealis before going dark.
"What are you doing, staring at that thing?" lefty asked irritably
"Uh, I'm not staring at it, I'm looking at this in suitable awe as benefits the port of entry to a pocket dimension" Brian replied, unsure of what had brought on the display of irritability from lefty.
"Then put that book back and grab the other one, 'cause the content of the one you're holding isn't exactly suitable for Min-" Lefty trailed off into a strangled gasp as Brian attempted to open the ornate tomb.
"I'm Still Here, Please pick up the Pocket Dimension so I may depart. Fascinating as this is, I do not particularly like being ignored."
Brian Paused in his effort to open the book he was holding, and turned to the liar bird "Uh, may I ask you a question?"
"You just did"
"What do you do in between, uh, summoning I guess."
".... I Had not considered it. I suppose it seems like a dream, the thought is fuzzy, washed in reality until the memory fades and only a few unconnected images, details remain.... I can remember doing something, I can remember being something, I can remember picking an apple and drinking cider from golden etched glass. I remember the sound of green and the taste of C flat.... All of those, jumbled together, no connection. I am unable to answer your question..."
"Do you want to go back."
Whatever the liar bird was it seemed confused "I have no choice in the matter. I will go back if I want to or not."
The boot suddenly seemed to twig onto Brian's plan.
It's voice sounded shrill "Absolutely not, I forbid it!" it yelled.
Brian kicked it into a corner. He had decided that- apart from the whole digestion issue, the Liar bird was better company than lefty. At least you knew where you stood with her.
"What Is This world like? The last time I saw this place it was crawling with the worst kind of scavangers and scoundrels, liars the lot of them; people who lurked in alleyways and would sell out their compatriots for a drink. It was wonderful in that respect."
Brian chose his next words carefully. "Things have slightly improved, things are cleaner and there are a lot more books and things around. But in the few hundred years we've invented a few new things and got rid of the alleyway lurkers... .for the most part."
"No more muggers, no more card table cheats and no more men selling glass as diamond? Did they get rid of religion as well?" The liar bird sounded sad.
"We've replaced them. Now we have thing's called 'advertisements' to lie to us in the comfort of our homes. And now we have a thing called 'Politics', people we elect to lie to everybody in the entire country." It was obvious by now that the liar bird had a different idea of what was 'good' than most
people.... or whatever it actually was. At least it was reliably Dishonest. Lefty seemed to mean well however he had serious doubts about the safety of following it.
Brian was, above all else, a coward. He liked breathing and hoped to continue to do so, uninterrupted, for as long as possible. He wasn't sure if he believed in the idea of a soul... but logic had been thrown out the window around the time a boot had begun to talk. He suspected it had hit the sidewalk when the Liar bird arrived. So all up now wasn't really the time for him to be going "It's all a dream.", he could tell because he knew everything that had happened to leave him standing here thus far. Unfortunately he had about the same knowledge of what 'here' was as a clam might happen to know about the mountain top it's been left on. Despite this, he was in fact, intelligent. More than that, he was clever, flexible, open minded, cynical and creative with a dash of derision and had more than a hint of guile thrown into the mix.
He was also unfortunately prone to the occasional bout of clumsiness. In this case the Rawkus call of his mother; Bidding him to 'get down here right now or else', caused him to slip on the worn, dust coated floorboards. His hand fell upon the tome which was, according to lefty in fact the 'bottom brick' of the entire perpendicular dimension keeping all of the creatures that mankind had felt it could do without, locked up. The only thing keeping everything from Manticores to wyverns, Rojacks to sylphs, Dragons and daemons. Brian's hit the book, and kept going, right through the cover. By all rights the entire thing should have rippled like liquid or expanded or something; But there was nothing, his hand, his forearm and eventually his body up to the should was pulled within the opening. For the first time, true fear gripped him That books barely more than five by nine inches wide, I won't fit through there! Not intact anyway!
His worries dissipated when he realized that his body was currently lying down on the floor behind him. He wasn't going to die horribly. At least not yet.
He fell through the opening with no resistance. He doubted that a book the size of a postage stamp would have had different results; it was like his body was made up of vapour. With a thunderclap of displaced air, he was shunted out of his insubstantial form and into very real, very green and extremely damp grassy earth.
The transition was instant, at least it felt like it was. But as he picked himself up and surveyed his surroundings, he felt a change about himself. Before he could quite place his finger on what it was, there came a light tap upon his shoulder. It felt like someone with long nails tapping him with moderate force. The long shadow he could see out of the corner of his eye, suggested that it was in fact a large creature attempting to be delicate.
He whirled around and took three quick steps back. A place where all of the things we'd be better off without, Are.
He was facing a Dragon and it deserved the capital letter.
It yawned. The mouth appeared to have more teeth than any one creature should reasonably need.
The long-head appeared to be halfway between a horse and a velociraptor; After both had forgotten they weren't elephants, or whales.
There was no way it could feasibly fly, he was sure of that. But, since he'd talked to a boot and a ...liar bird, today, Brian decided that reality could take a hike. It had wings, therefore it can fly.
It also had not eaten him.
Brain had a flash of inspiration. He relaxed, smiled, grasped it's outstretched claw in one hand and shook it gently.
"Brian. Pleased to meat you. I just hope this isn't a lunch date."
The dragon cocked it's head for a moment, and began to laugh, Going from a bass and full deep throated roar to a high piping sound which sat somewhere in between a chuckle and a giggle.
More creatures began to assemble, drawn by the sound.
"I do hope that you're not mocking my wishful thinking?"
The dragon calmed down "No No No! That, was the best, and only original display of wit I've witnessed in the last eighty year's, Forgive me for being overwhelmed. I'd forgotten what an aptitude for entertainment your kind had."
"So if this isn't playing with your food then what's the meat of the issue here?"
The dragon raised a scaly eyebrow. "What make's you think I'm not just having dinner and a show?"
"We'll, if that's the case I'm sure you could have dined alone. Secondly none of the gathering crowd appears to be licking their chops, smacking their lips or rubbing their stomach's in anticipation.
Understandable; I know I'm far too stringy to qualify as decent chow."
Toothy grins erupted from everywhere as creatures cocked their heads to listen to him.
The dragon seemed to be thinking, deliberating on some difficult to determine decision.
Figuring he was doing well enough, all things considered, brain decided to push on with the jocular approach.
"Oh, I'm calm because it's really quite simple you know: We all die eventually, if we're lucky we die delicious." He said the last word with relish.
Brian's brain churned as he talked, trying to figure out the situation. They needed him for something, that much he was pretty sure of. Then there it was; What lefty had told him of this place amounted to a cage. However he did not know how to perform magic and since that probably was the only way to release the lot of them, he'd better avoid saying so; lest it turn out his worth was little more than lunchmeat after-all.
The dragon seemed to come to a decision.
"Get Sliphia, She'll call it for us." The dragon tapped one talon on it's scaly chin thoughtfully.
One of the animals nodded and ran off. It was a horse. With a point. Although it briefly looked beautiful and majestic, it was not comforting that the only probably vegetarian present had just left him. The horse... well unicorn, paused at the top of the hill and sliced the air with it's horn. A gaping hole, tinged with a shimmering rainbow border appeared. The Unicorn stepped through and the hole sealed.
Brian shifted nervously. "Uhm So.... Do you people have anything to eat?"
The large reptile above him just smiled.
There was a tearing sound as the rainbow veil of colours parted in front of the group of mythological creatures and one now reasonably well fed human.
"Ahh, Silphia returns. You do realize Brian, that if you are not suitable, there is every possibility of your immediate consumption?" The reptile gave another unnerving grin.
"Quite" Said Brian, sipping his tea. "I'm not exactly surprise at your ability to summon afternoon tea from nothingness. I am impressed by the detail you have on the cups."
"You know, your commentary doesn't fill my with hope that you are quite the right person to break an entire sub-dimension."
"We'll know soon... enough..." The unicorn stopped and the rider slid off, as Brian half toasted by lifting his teacup from it's saucer and taking a sip.
The one named silphia was impossibly, heartbreakingly and incomparably beautiful.
To the point that looking away as she sat down on the short grass seemed like a crime.
Brian did anyway. He wanted another biscuit.
Taking a bite he looked up and misinterpreted the expression on the woman's face.
He offered the plate of biscuits to this newcomer. "Have as many as you like. It's not like I'm going to finish them."
The woman or was it a girl? Whichever, spoke to Brian. Her voice was as lovely as her visage.
"Are you really so resigned to death?"
"We're all going to go eventually. I merely would have liked another scone. They really were quite good." Brian commented, absent mindedly.
Silphia's impeccable features scrunched into a frown. "So. Right to the point. Do you believe in magic?"
Brian shrugged "No. No I don't. Although I'm reasonably sure that it does exist though. Hence all my new pals here and you for that matter." He refilled his cup.
Silphia shrugged. The white filmy dress she had on seemed to ripple and pool where it fell like liquid
"Is it hard to get fabric to do that?" Brian asked, curiously reaching out to toy with a corner.
"Not really. I'm not sure to admire or slap you, because I can honestly say this is the first time anyone or anything has actually ignored me."
Brian looked up into her eyes. "There's a first time for everything. I don't think I have time to get smitten. Although getting smitten would help you out a lot, wouldn't it. No need to tell me why you need me, just send me out to do whatever you need doing."
Silphia tapped her chin, thoughtfully "Are you made of stone? It can't be that your young. If you were female I'd know. Why aren't you right now falling on your knees and begging me to let you be my slave?"
"I don't want to. You are nice enough." "Enough!" "Quite, but my mind is fine as it is. I can push all my own buttons myself. No reason to be frightened. Fear won't help enough here. Logic is the key; for which I need a clear mind, no distractions... and would you stop doing that."
Silphia had circled round behind him and begun to massage his shoulders. "Really." He said frowning. "You're ruining my tea."
With both hands, she grabbed his neck. Bead's of sweat appeared at her temple.
"I can feel that." Brian sounded bored "It Tickles. Please stop. Now."
The spirit frowned and straightened up. With the amount of effort she'd just evoked into making him say "It tickles." She could have had a battalion of berserkers throw down their weapons and hug each-other.
Silphia nodded to herself. "You, boy, are perfect." She purred.
"Don't mention it. Your fearless, intelligent and you aren't jumbling your words or turning red. That's grade A. In fact I've been wondering..."
Without warning she grabbed both side's of Brian's face and kissed him firmly on the mouth.
Brian's cheek's turned red. "Please. Don't." he pulled away resisting the undignified urge to wipe his mouth on his sleeve.
Silphia sighed in what sounded like relief; "I think your reaction was more the act than my own brand of magic. But still it's nice to know that you aren't completely immune to my charms."
"Well I'd rather not repeat the happy experiment. Please stop... Sparkling and being pretty and just tell me what you want me to do."
"Nice work there, trying to block me out. Most would have burst a vein by now. Anyway, you need to figure out how to break this place. Not escape and destroy the book because that would finish the seal. You need to de-activate the bond."
Brian held the pot up and upended it into his glass. "How am I supposed to do that. Exactly."
Silphia shrugged "I don't know."
"What am I supposed to do."
"I don't know."
"Where am I supposed to be?"
"I don't know."
"Do you know anything at all that can help."
"You'd look cute if you smiled more."
"Thanks. I'm sure that it will be useful. Anything more. Magic sword, shield, spear, wand, cloak. Anything?"
"That's for people who need it. Boy, you've enough willpower in you to resist me. You can do magic. Seriously, it's not that hard here. The entire place is held together by spit and magic. You can draw it out of anything here."
Brian look at her critically, blush gone. "Like. This?" He reached to the ground and pulled out a bunch of blood red roses. He threw it underarm to Silphia.
The woman's image appeared to waiver, momentarily she was a pretty girl of Brians age blushing pink with embarrassment.
Brian looked away, pretending to study the dirt "Accident. I wanted a map. I got flowers instead. Obviously I can't make something that requires knowledge which I don't have. Also, it's obvious that you're having more of an effect on me than either of us thought."
Brian stood, awkwardness forgotten. "So. What you want me to do is this. Free all you by unravelling this place without cutting it free of its tenuous tie on the earth."
Dragon leaned it's head round and nodded. "Quite. We don't have the foggiest idea how either. You, however are a human, with a fresh perspective. And the ability to enter certain areas which we cannot."
Brian perked up. If it was denied to the inmates, then it was a good place to start.
"So, would you mind showing me to one of these areas? It would be a good place to start."
"As you wish. You will have to travel there yourself. The proximity of the tower is blanked out. We may not enter." The Dragon drew in the dirt with one long talon.
"Drawing a map?" Brian asked, tilting his head for a better view.
The dragon snorted , singeing the grass in front of it. "I'm too old to do complex workings without something to guide the power of my raising. It's all about getting your mind right, I know I can do this. If I tried to visualize it all at once, I'd only end up with a headache and a broken map."
The dragon spread it's hand flat about four feet above the ground. It began to hum and as Brian watched, the turf split and a map rose from the bare earth.
Not just a map, it was an elegant sculpture of the landscape. So real that each and every tree looked unique. He could almost see every leaf. He refocused and realized that the map wasn't done yet.
Waterfall's gushed from rocky crevices on the side's of several cliffs. Bird's took flight and swirled around in the air in great miniature flocks. Brian saw one alight on a tree and got a sense of perspective. These birds were Massive, he could almost hear the tree this one had alighted on groan under the weight. The entire landscape seemed to be essentially comprised of six valley's irregularly placed around a broad open field, with a lake and quagmire where the waters from the valley streams deposited.
"If you are quite done. The spell lasts for three quarters of an hour and I'm the only one who knows how to do it properly." There was some strain in the lizards tone.
"Where is this tower? And how come all the birds are there?"
"It takes a lot to block us out, so to save energy and time the most stupid creatures aren't bothered with. The towers invisible to me, so I cannot show it to you. However, the Rok's were helpful when I threatened to roast them."
"Why are the Rok's able to live around here, doesn't seem like there's much to eat." Brian asked, examining to see where the best place to start might be.
"They are barely sentient. Work on natural magic; They don't believe they can ever run out of food. So there are always just enough sheep to assuage their appetite." The Dragon sounded smug.
"So you found there was a big long perch somewhere in there." Brian grinned.
"A Big Long White perch, Is a gooder place to start as any."
"Firstly, Gooder isn't a word. Secondly, I have to stop thinking of you as Dragon; You do have a name don't you?"
"I believe it would be unpronounceable with your meagre vocal range... but very well;
My title is ZVÇŸ Æ LYDIA . But if you can pronounce it just call me LYDIA."
(Authors note: Unfortunately the original name format/appearance was lost in the upload.)
Brian tried to mouth out the sounds "Uh Zveyt Aea Lyiddea? ZVÇŸ Æ LYDIA?"
"Close. Enough. Please; Look at the map while it still works. When you see a suitable place to start your search, just fix that image in your mind."
"That's up to you. How you get there is your concern." Said LYDIA* primly.
*(in his mind, Brian just shortened it to Lydia)
Brian paused as he realised that his scaly acquaintance was not in fact being belligerent.
What his newfound buddy's were doing was actually helping him, the stranger in a strange land, help himself; by not helping him.
If he wasn't currently going insane, then what he was beginning to understand was that this place, this reality, was malleable and responsive to individual thought's and desires.
As a person just in from the plane of mundane, he was liable to get into a closed mindset and end up thinking that all this... magic, for want of a better word, was reliant on thing's other than his will and desire. He sat down, leaning against the map-table deep in thought. His eye's slid shut as he continued to reason
Because if it is just a matter of thought, then I can just snap my fingers or in fact not snap my fingers; Just think, "Take me to that tree" clarify the location through a visualization of the destination and bamf! Blink and I'm there. He nodded to himself. So I'll just take a look at the- His thoughts were interrupted as the ground beneath him, wasn't. He opened his eyes and was surprised and mildly horrified to see that he was currently about thirty meters above the ground. Without anything suspending him- He began to drop.
Hang on he thought angrily Why the HELL am I letting the laws of gravity get to me? So what if it's a universal rule. Rules are made to be broken!
He opened his eyes a moment away from impact. "Slow." He said softly.
The world turned grey. He hadn't stopped, he was moving at the same speed over a longer time period. He looked at the ground.
"Move" He whispered, thinking hard. He was on the ground. "Speed up." The world snapped back to normal.
"No momentum retained? I can get to the ground by throwing myself at it. Totally makes sense..."
He paused and looked around before throwing his arm's up to the sky and yelling
"Who am I kidding? It makes about as much sense as putting spoiled food in the oven so that it will reverse decay.... Actually..." He propped his head on his palm and held his elbow with his other hand. Continuing absentmindedly his voice quietened and he rolled each syllable around as if considering it in detail "Actually I think, that that might technically work, if you were to raise the temperature to a level where bacteria and micro-organisms were destroyed then it would technically reverse the decay in terms of edibility if not chemically. So yes. Ovens are the new refrigerators." He smacked his fist on his palm triumphantly. "And continuing on that theme, I am now declaring myself delusional."
Shaking his fist at the sky, he shouted again "You hear that? I am Insane, Deranged, Unhinged!"
A shadow appeared on the grass in front of him and he threw himself forward as a Rok sliced through the air above him.
It must have heard him. Or seen him. He blinked, moving himself as far into the stand of trees as he could see. He opened his eyes a hundred meters away, barely a millimetre away from the tree he'd aimed at.
Above the Rok circled. It had only looked away for a second. It's thought's went like this:
Food was slow. Food Does Not Disappear. Food=Eat.
Barely complex enough to use magic, it compensated for simplicity with a level of belief that would have rated an eleven on the MOS Hardness scale. In other words, while diamonds might be forever, a Rok's thought process was as rigid as forever and a day.
Looking back it saw its prey.
Brian looked round. He wasn't in the trees. He was standing in the open.
The Rok swooped. Brian frowned and tried to teleport away. For a fleeting instant his view changed, but it snapped back to the same place, this time with the Rok much closer.
Brian's eyebrows shot together and falling to one knee he placed his hand's splayed on the ground.
A granite wall flew up in front of the bird, which, unable to deal with a sudden obstruction, ploughed into it, claw first.
Brian walked around as the wall fell back into the earth. In his mind he imagined unbreakable ropes squirming form the ground to bind the injured animal.
Vine-like, metallic cables sprang from the earth and imprisoned the would-be predator.
The disadvantage of having a brain hardwired to accept only one version of events and one plan of action is that it does not react well to obvious and dramatic changes. Its eyes bulged.
Food= move. See food. Food= Eat....Can... Not ... Eat?
The Bird's head fell limp, snapped straight out and exploded spontaneously.
Brian was showered by bit's of Rok.
He stood, dripping, fighting the urge to open his mouth for a pithy one liner.
Rok On, Rok off! I Rok? I Roked your world? Feh, never-mind. The moment's gone.
Soundlessly he wondered how he was ever going to clean his clothes. Especially the jacket, he liked it; despite the fact it hung down behind his knees instead of around his abdomen and the sleeves covered his hands by several inches more than they should. At the moment they both dripped crimson. Of course! He thought, chiding himself for being so close-minded.
In a blink he'd moved himself a few meter's to the left. The wet feeling in his hair and on his face hadn't changed though. He'd have to be a bit more creative. But as it turned out, not much; he simply imagined his body releasing a shockwave that blew the gore off his frame in a silent burst.
He felt his sleeves. Dry.
Now he was able to open his eye's without getting blood in them, he did so. The Diving Rok's outstretched talons were but meter's away, closing at a speed that would surely snap his spine on impact. Brian's nose twitched.
The Rok flew through the gaping gap in the air that appeared in front of hit's prey without even time to think. It emerged, but now it's dive was directly at the grass covered and above all, solid, ground.
Brian felt a twinge at the back of his mind. It was almost but not quite the same as having been awake too long with not enough sleep. Not tired exactly. Fatigued; it was only momentary, the moment he focused on it, the feeling dissipated.
The pair of Rok's dispatched, he attempted to orientate himself. Where he'd chosen to teleport (And now he realised that there was no other word for his instantaneous movement.) too had been a semicircular plateau, high up on the sloping surface of the walls of the northernmost valley. He'd arrived not far from cover on all sides ,however, to see anything he was going to have to climb up through the undergrowth on the southern side.
There he could gaze into the central hub and determine his next move.
He strode up the shallow slope, the dewy grass growing higher with every step.
Presumably it got more natural light than the area below, overshadowed by the tightly packed trees.
The grass was far shorter in the shade. More interesting to Brian was the lack of proper plants. Sure there were trees, many spreading oaks and weeping willows and birch saplings and the occasional tall pine. All crowded together.
But... Idyllic and as healthy as they were, by all right's they really shouldn't have grown so tightly packed on a dish-like plateau with little beneath it but the bedrock of a weather hewn valley. More interesting was what wasn't there; No animals. No bracken. No fallen leaves.
There were fairy rings and mushrooms of all kinds sprouting around limpid pools, but again, it was wrong. They were regulated... ordered. One moment the trees would be withered with age, covered with soft spongy moss and surrounded by toadstools big enough to use as Frisbees... And three steps later there wouldn't be a trace of underbrush beyond flat grass so green it was almost florescent. It was like, someone had wanted to make an enchanted wood, perfect picnic spot, atrium and variety forest garden all rolled into one.
Stepping around another spreading oak the size of a house, he hopped along its giant root's, suspended in mid air where the cliff face underneath had eroded away.... and stared.
Huge was inadequate for the ivory tower. Covering fully half the area of the central plain, it stretched out of sight through a great rent torn in the sky above it.
Cables tethered the tip of each valley wall to the middle. More interesting than the structural stability of the colossal cylinder was the glass and... white solid, couldn't be ivory. Smooth though, no imperfections. If it wasn't all one piece, would call it polished bone. No matter; The white and glass walkway which stretched from this picnic and postcard picture perfect place to the tall tower that was his current objective.
He hopped back along the root's, jumped to the ground landing heavily and ran along towards where the path would surely lie.
There was no reason to be running, but like every small and over-energetic boy placed in a magical alternate realities equivalent of a landscape garden, he did, enjoying the simple thrill of a willing body and the exhilaration of speeding towards the unknown.
He skidded, falling on his thigh, when he tried to stop in front of the skyway.
Picking himself up he approached and tested the glass. Seemed solid enough; Anyway, if it broke he could always teleport.... back up.
For the first time he realised that his recent physical activities could have easily been avoided, simply by jumping into the sky and then aiming at the tower when he saw it.
There was no point in regretting it now though.
He was halfway across the bridge. The tower loomed in-front of him. He couldn't see much further into the gaping rent it tore in the sky, but when he could, he'd try and see what was up there causing the ruckus.
The tower, towered. The rent surrounded the upper levels, like someone had built the entire thing too quickly and punctured the sky above it.
Lightning Crackled at the edges. At that moment, a Rok closed in to circle the place, choosing a perch in a large upper window.
Moment's later, A thick bolt of purplish lightning seared down and speared through the idiotic avian. It fell, blackened and incinerated to the tower base. Where, now Brian looked closely, there was an inordinate amount of ash built up around the base.
Perhaps, It would be better if I took the stair's... Brian mused as he leaned on the railing to look at the still smoking remains of the Rok.
He teleported forward, ignoring the amazing views that surrounded him on all sides.
Presumably the walkway was protected. If not, there was a moment when the lighting would gather and thus give him a chance to redirect it or throw up a shield.
The lightning did not charge up. His teleport brought him less than a meter away from the bleached wooden door.
He touched it and the door swung open with a purring sound akin to a contented cat.
Absently he rubbed his finger's over the doorframe. These plank's had either been sanded too well for him to tell, or they had never been near a toolbox. The purring continued, and intensified. Brian was very nearly unnerved, something that was nearly unprecedented.
Still. It wasn't that unusual, however he couldn't get over the fluid way the door handle had begun to wag up and down. What did that make the keyhole?
Brian quickly shut down and boarded up that area of his imagination.
Aloud he commented aimlessly "I wonder what you're for?"
"To keep out Unwanted visitors." Came a rough and harshly edged voice from within the depths of the building.
"Ohhh, semi-sentient timber construction. Very clever. Very well made too." His finger's, gently probing the door to get a feel for the hardness and strength of the wood; felt it give a slight shiver of what seemed like pleasure at the compliment.
Brian's brain then processed that there was another person near him. He didn't whirl round, instead diving for cover behind the half open door.
"Open." The voice spoke again, the rough phrasing tinged with irritation and amusement in equal parts.
The door reluctantly swung open. The boy was nowhere to be seen. Not quite true, as he stood halfway across the bridge, he visualised those gloomy depths and tore a portal open in the air. Through the gash in reality he saw a figure now outlined in the light from the doorway. It's hood and robe were a faded blue and hung millimetres from the floor.
Brian couldn't tell what gender, if any, it was. The voice sounded male, but by now he'd seen enough reality bending revelations to realize that conventional assumptions here were trussed up, blind folded, gagged and fired out the window via Cannon.
To his credit, he didn't scream or yell when a hand grabbed his houlder and pulled him backwards. The tower's resident pulled him through his own portal, breaking Brian's concentration and causing the boy's openings to snap shut.
Brian attempted to teleport, but he merely flickered out of the strangers hands and went head on into a glass barrier that had been thrown up in front of the door.
He stumbled back and landed heavily on his behind.
"Ow, my dose." Brian managed weakly.
"So, what are you doing here?" The man pulled back his hood. Brian examined his face critically. Rounded copper rimmed spectacles, sharp features, but not substantial enough to be classified as handsome; He looked like someone who would begin looking old at twenty five and then stay that way until he was eighty five.
There was more to him than that though; His eye's appeared horizontally dichromatic.
The colour just changed cleanly from dark green to light blue halfway round his pupils.
His hair looked well kept, as did his robe. That suggested whoever this was he wasn't alone. Few would bother with such niceties in solitude.
All of this was realised within moments of seeing the strangers face. Aloud he let go of his nose cautiously and replied "Looking for a rental property. Obviously you don't have any room's to let, so I'll just be going." Brian's expression was sheepish; but his mind worked furiously as he tried to discern how much of a threat the robed person was.
Could he deflect an attack? Could Brian slow the world down as he'd done earlier?
"If I wanted tenant's I would have put up a sign. What kind of shape-shifter are you? Good enough to get through my barrier...." He peered closer. "That isn't right. If you were bound here, you should have answered that." Suspicion was evident in his tone.
Suddenly Brian decided now wasn't the best time to appear human.
Speaking slowly, he tried to remain on what he knew was the debatable truth "I just woke up here. I don't know what manner of creature I am."
By fortune more than intelligence, he seemed to have hit upon the right answer.
"Ah. Of course; Your accomplice gave you controlled amnesia to allow you to enter by lowering your apparent intelligence to below the maximum allowed for the barrier."
The man raised his hand and continued "Which means you are still bound to me and will now drop dead."
Brian held a hand up to his ear "I'm having trouble hearing you." Again he kept his speech slow.
"I Said, You will now drop dead." He sounded a little annoyed.
"How can I drop anything. I'm on the floor here." Brian took refuge in confusion.
"I mean, I want your heart to stop beating, your brain to stop thinking and you body to start decaying."He Said the command loudly, enunciating each word carefully.
The man looked like he was rapidly reaching the end of his tether.
"I ORDER you to Break your neck right now!" His last few words were infused with a measure of power, a resonance that commanded and bound the listener.
"You want me to break your neck right now?"
If the man had been Irate, he was almost enraged now. He took some deep breaths.
"Just end your own life immediately!" It didn't have the same commanding resonance of the previous order, but Brian decided to strike before the man decided to abandon orders and attack him.
"No. I don't think I will."
His eyebrows shot together as he visualized a blast of debilitating force, sending the man flying back and pinning him to the curved tower wall.
The force dissipated, allowing the subdued wizard to fall to the ground, apparently unconscious.
Brian imagined his opponent being enclosed within a barrier through which no power, could escape from or enter.
He opened his eyes and saw the older man encased in a white tinted bubble which sparkled brightly.
The man woke up slowly. "Good morning sir or madam, I would like to ask you some questions. Which you will answer Now!"
Extract/Preview of later chapter:
Just Ask/give feedback if you want more uploaded.
Reading through the preface, it seemed to be a combination of a memoir and an instructive pamphlet on the sourcerous art's.
Formula for magic:
Will X (Imagination+intellegence)^*Confidence/Self assurance/Ideological strength*
Fatigue X physical weakness +( -1 X Clarity/ mental focus)^Cowardice/fear
(/ indicates that the terms are interchangeable.)
Thus, while at first a person who has formerly been dominant over another due to superiority in terms of physical strength they may be bested if a mentally strong victim is able to regain sufficient self confidence to face them.
In other words, a creative and intelligent open minded individual, may find himself on par with a close minded and otherwise rather average person with extreme ideological certainty and willpower.
Similarly, a child of diminished stature may have imagination and confidence in abundance, but will power intelligence and physical weakness counterbalance it.
Although magic is only at one point influenced by physical stature or strength; Subconsciously it would take a while for an overly developed musculature to no longer be considered something to be intimidated by.
Sub equation :
While overall magical strength is determined by the general formula above, SMS (Specific magical Strength) is ascertained by applying the following two formulas to the result of the general formula.
Magical strength X (Mental aptitude+ Familiarity )
Action magnitude+ Action's compatibility with Casters personality.
Mental aptitude signifies the casters ability to visualize and understand the genera and effects of the spell being cast .
Action's compatibility signifies how in-tune they are with that choice in that context;
A person may understand how to create an illusion to protect him or herself from physical harm, however they may dislike the idea of cowardice in all it's forms and thus find it difficult to maintain the glamour as it goes against their own nature.
Familiarity infers that a person who has thrown up wards against projectiles since their childhood, innately understands the feeling of creating that effect more than a person who has learned the
cantrip but a week ago.
On the use of wands and other such devices for the amplification and creation of magical workings.
Anyone can do magic. However their strength naturally is usually somewhere in between the regions of being able to stunt the growth of a single weed or cause oxygen to ignite of it's own accord.
Wand's, scrying crystals, stave's, bones, the nine cursed typefaces of the Helvetica font, books and tombs, gauntlets, robe's, amulets, rings, animated prostheses, Kittens from the litter of Lexip the mad's inverted cat, Big-eyed no Eyed spiders, hairy frog clippings, mountain hearts, desert lungs, tundra mind's, field lifeblood, forest skins, ocean tears, sky eyes, dragons in general and their body parts specifically and practically all herbs more difficult to find than mint have some degree of value when assisting the layman to shape reality on a whim. However the vast majority of them are vanity items; Their assistance lying almost solely in giving one's self a boost of confidence.
Few can deny holding an ensorcelled sword etched with the eight circles of runic ascension and imbued with the heat of an eternal flame is no small comfort when you attempt to do battle with some hellish monstrosity spawned through the idiocy of a colleague. However, I found out the hard way that my opponent (A fourty eight foot beast, with a thankfully awkward turning circle) Did not give a danm about what my sword was. Fortunately I only paid for that lesson with two of my fingers; I dealt with the creature by taking a bucket of ordinary boiling pitch and using the contents to block up it's airways from a distance. Inelegant but as I am still alive and it's head is now a stuffed ornament on my mantle peace, I maintain that elegance can go suck a piece of brimstone.
Though some such as a set of the nine cursed typefaces of Helvetica, a set of eight to sixteen point size movable type with a single set of italic's (twelve point) are of genuine potency.
Useful? Debatable; The typefaces as an example, are reputed to have been produced by a particularly strong and vindictive sorcerer. Created when he was asked to enchant a newly bought printing press to give an edge over a publishers competition, anything printed with them is unforgettable once read. Of the original nineteen that would have been part of the press, only nine remain; Having been salvaged by a curiosity hunter from the wreckage at the publishers after the lynch mob broke down the doors of the house and smashed the press. This was difficult as the two ton press attempted to escape, only to be caught and disassembled in a blind alley (I believe this kindled the invention of the phrase "Stop the press!").
She flipped through. The last page only was half full. The man's penmanship was shaky but legible. After deciphering the spelling, she rewrote it as follows:
As of this time of writing I am under the distinct impression that there has been a deterioration of ethereal force. I suspect that some working in the making is acting as a constant drain on the ethereal forces of this world. I am particularly concerned that should it continue unchecked it will eventually render all people, even the most proficient sorcerers unable to perform the most rudimentary of cantrips. I intend to locate the source of the drain and determine it's threat and extent, if necessary eliminating the danm-fool mage whose the source.
(Note to Farnham and hands, publishers: I realise the above language may be a little too strong for my personal memoir's, however It is justifiable in it's severity. Do not hesitate to rephrase if you feel it will effect sales.)