Tea With a Thullid
(a chapter from Kelim and the Necromancer)
THREE YEARS EARLIER...
... IN THE FRONT BAR ROOM OF AN INN, SITUATED IN A SMALL VILLAGE IN THE MIDDLE OF NOWHERE, SOMEWHERE IN THE FORESTED COAST OF MAINE.... The Great Gale of 1846 had just arrived in Saco Bay and Quaraun, was seeking shelter for the night:
“Do you have a room for hire?” Quaraun asked the innkeeper.
“We do,” the innkeeper answered. “Four.”
“Four rooms. Ten beds a piece.”
“Tens beds? In one room?” Quaraun did not conceal his disgust at the suggestion of ten beds in a single room.
“Aye-yep. And if we are full, which we are, it being harvest time, you see. All the transient potato, blueberry, and orchard pickers are here for a few weeks. But in busy fall season, like now, ten beds per room ain’t enough, so we lease space for mats on the floor. Hay provided for under the mats. You furnish your own bedroll.”
Quaraun looked around at the crowded room. Busy season was an understatement. Dozens of the apple orchards’ harvest hands sat around the inn’s public room.
Some talking. Others drinking.
Most, like Quaraun, were only in here to wait out the hurricane. The massive storm slammed the Gulf of Maine and trapped itself in Saco Bay, dancing circles through the massive sandbar horseshoe.
Four hundred acres of apple trees bordered the largest of the Saco Bay beaches. And if this storm had any say in the matter, most of Maine’s apple harvest will have floated away in the Atlantic Ocean by morning.
Most of America’s entire apple production grew on this one beach. The livelihoods of near every family in the area depended on the sale of the apple harvest. To lose the apple harvest, days before it’s sale to the out-of-state merchants, would devastate the economy of every town in this region.
Merchants from around the country recently arrived here expecting to load up their ships. The ships owned by fruit merchants lined up along the Saco River Delta. All the merchants waited to load their ships’ hulls full of apple barrels. They too gathered in the room, worrying about their ships, fearful of losing not only their cargo, but their ships as well.
This topic of conversation spewed from every labourer and transient picker in the room. Hurricanes rarely reached this far north, but when they did, they hit hard.
No one expected the storm.
No one knew it was coming.
Quaraun struggled to understand the Human astonishment over the storm’s arrival. In his mind, it had been easy to see the storm was on its way.
Crickets stopped chirping their night time songs several nights ago. Sea gulls, pigeons, hawks, ducks, geese, and shorebirds flew inland, fleeing the coast in droves.
The brackish, salty smell of the ocean permeated the air with the sharper, heavier, rotten egg stench of sulphuric gases being churned out of the gravel. While, the already thick coastal fog became denser with each passing night.
The normally cool autumn air had become hot, thick, and humid days ago, making every sweltering day unbearable.
These signs and many more told Quaraun an enormous storm was brewing.
How had the Humans not detected the signs this storm was coming? These uneducated, backwoods Humans were all so dreadfully unprepared for this.
Quaraun marvelled that a species as stupid as Humans could massively spread across the planet like an insufferable plague of parasites. He concluded that their stupidity was precisely why they were becoming so over populated. They were too stupid to know how to do anything other than fuck each other.
The old Elf listened to the Humans in the room talking and marvelled at the levels of their sheer stupidity.
Quaraun predicted the storm’s arrival a week before it showed up. But he never considered that Humans lacked skill in deciphering the symptoms of weather.
Being an Elf, reading signs of nature was natural for him. His soul’s proximity to nature made it difficult for him to remember that Humans were as distant from nature as he was close to it.
Also, being a Moon Elf, especially, made it easy for the ancient Elf to foretell the weather. Moon Elves were born properly adapted to knowing the phases of the moon and its effects on the tides.
And thus, Quaraun had known weeks ago that a gale would soon arrive. Thus why he had veered off his normal coastal route and headed inland.
Like a tremendous tornado, it raged up the coastline, ripping up every house, tree, cow, horse, and boat in its track and hurling them across the sky.
The smell of salted crab and slippery uprooted kelp filled the air. The storm churned up everything laying at the bottom of the sea, and spat it out onto the sandy shoreline.
Men, women, and children huddled, frightened, in every corner of the lodge. They feared the building itself would uproot and crush them. The fierce storm beat the walls with every tree, goat, and boulder it could find to throw.
Completely oblivious to the rain, there were some children who continued to play outside, while their mothers fussed and worried frantically at the front door of the inn, begging them to come in out of the raging thunderstorm. The high winds whipped their long hair out of their buns and veils. The minister nearest the door raged that demon where carried in on the wind, to tear the cloths off of their women.
More men and women were making their way towards the building. Their arms around each other, they bowed their heads and walked on against the wind, barely able to stand.
This inn sat several miles inland, away from the coast. When the storm hit, every fisherman, merchant, farmer, and hired hand grabbed whatever they could carry and ran in a mass hoard away from the waterfront. Many stopped here, while as many more kept running further inland.
Quaraun listened to the conversations.
Farmers worrying about the loss of their apple, blueberry, and potato crops.
Merchants terrified for the safety of their ships, precariously bobbing around in the port, knocking against one another, rocking in the raging tides.
“Along the way to my friend’s house,” one woman said to another. “I saw several lilac bushes in bloom. Just the other day. This time of the year. When winter will arrive soon. Can you imagine? I told her it was witchcraft and do you know what? She agreed with me, that’s what. It a bad omen telling us that witches are in the area. Lilacs got no right to be blooming this time of year. Spring flowers they are. But we had an Indian Summer we did, just last fortnight, and it caused all the spring flowers to bloom, when they should bury their heads under the leaves and getting ready for winter. Damned Indians cursed us with this heat all over again. Witches. Witches and Indians. Bastards. Every one.”
“It’s a hurricane,” Quaraun interrupted the woman.
“It’s not a curse from witches. It is a tropical storm, from the south. That is why it has been so hot. No one sent a curse to your town. This kind of weather is normal down there. Winds shifted and sent it up here. Hurricanes happen in these parts about every ten or twelves years. Just because they are uncommon up here in the north doesn’t mean they were caused by witches or curses. There are no witches involved in this.”
“Are you from the south?”
“Than you got no business telling us what the south is like, do you?”
“I have been there. I resided in the cloud forests of Rupa-Rupa for a few years.”
“What sort of gibberish nonsense, childish baby talk is that?”
“Rupa-Rupa? It’s a country in Peru. In the Amazon Forest. In South America. I lived with the Indians down there and they are nice people. As are the Indians around here.”
“And I suppose you’ve lived with them filthy savages too?”
“How could you stand living with such horrible, filthy savages?”
“They are good people. Not filthy nor savage.”
“Well, I just find that hard to believe. They live in tents, sleep on the ground. Keep their horses inside with them.”
“Their horses will survive this storm, while the horses of this town will all be dead by morning. They care about their livestock."
“Do you suggest we should bring the horses in here with us? How revolting a notation! Think of the smell!”
“You consider not smelling them for a few hours to be more valuable than keeping them alive?”
“Horses smell. I don’t see how my husband can stand them. They stink to high Heaven!”
“I wonder how your husband can tolerate the smell of you. You madam, stink from having not bathed. You simpletons think bathing is a sin and bath only once a year and you smell bad because of it. The Indians are clean and well kept, unlike the bulk of your white men are. One has only to look around this tavern to see no one in this town even knows the invention of soap happened. I can not fathom how any of you can live with yourselves, let alone with each other. It’s you white Europeans who are evil and full of hate, daning to bring harm to one another. You think just because your own hearts are full of evil thoughts that everyone else’s must be too. Not all people are cold-hearted, bigoted, and cruel like you, you know.”
“After I lived in the south, I travelled the coast back up here again. It took me over a dozen years to walk the coast back up here. I saw several hurricanes during that time. They are fairly common in the south. Tropical storms push the heat ahead of them. There is absolutely no magic whatsoever involved in any of this. You shouldn’t blame people for things they didn’t do.”
“And I suppose YOU would know magic if you saw it?”
“Yes, as a matter of fact I would.”
“An expert in weather and magic? How do we know you’re not the witch who cursed us?”
“Madam, I assure you, I am no such thing, nor have I done any such thing.”
The two women snubbed their noses at him, got up from their table, and stormed across the room, where they could continue their gossip and busy bodying away from Quaraun.
Quaraun sighed and continued to make his way through the terrified crowd. He continued to eavesdrop on the conversations as he roomed around the room, looking for a quiet corner to sit in. One preferably free of Humans. The problem with being the last Elf on the planet was, there was no one but Humans around to talk to.
The majority of the crowd, who were not apple growers, were fisherman worrying that dead fish from the storm would pollute the water for months, and leave them with no fish to sell to market.
Quaraun felt no concern for the economy of this Human village.
The old Elven wizard was just wanting shelter from the rain for a few hours. However, the witch accusation brought up by those two women earlier bothered him greatly. So much so that the pink robed necromancer began listening to see if others had similar ideas.
Quaraun was a mage.
The Pink Necromancer.
Deemed the most evil mage to ever walk the earth.
And in the minds of most Humans, this made the lonely little Elf a witch. A wizard was just a male witch, by Human logic. And Human logic in this region, stated that witches were evil and must die.
Humans devised many ways of executing witches. And here in New England, killing witches was as common as the white steeple church congregations who did the killings.
The more attention Quaraun paid to the discussions in the room, the more unsettled and disturbed the nervous Moon Elf became. And the less he wanted to be in this town at all, let alone in its over crowded inn. For the jelly-brained Elf quickly recognized that most every Human in the building maintained a witch’s curse caused this storm. Many spoke of gathering pitchforks and heading into the swamp to kill the local witch and end the storm.
“Killing the witch will kill the storm,” one man reasoned to another.
“Aye, we gotta break the curse to save our harvests,” agreed the fellow across from him.
Several more men cheered in response. Each adding his own comments of killing witches and removing the curse.
Talk of witches and witchcraft and evil curses filled the room.
At every table.
In every corner.
These frightened people believed a witch’s curse had produced the storm.
Quaraun became more uneasy the more he listened to the hysteria filling the room. Should anyone discover the old pink robed silk merchant was also a mage, they’d murder him.
As Quaraun paid closer attention to the conversations, he also realized that all the local church congregations were here as well. None felt safe in their churches as the howling winds ripped up buildings and tossed them into the sea. They feared the monstrous Atlantic waves would sweep away their parishes.
Various groups of highly paranoid Christians sat clustered about the lodge.
Some praising the lord.
Others cursing the devil.
All glaring daggers at each other. Huddled in opposite ends of the room from each other. Each group keeping their distance to avoid contamination by opposing doctrines.
Each religion claiming to be God’s chosen people, while condemning the other sects to eternal damnation.
Nothing terrified Quaraun worse than Christians. Especially the extreme, hyper radical, fanatic super-Christians of northern New England. They loved to praise the Lord while also hypocritically slaughtering their neighbours.
Praised the Lord, while slaughtering innocent old women on false charges of witchcraft, voodoo, and black magic.
Murdering innocent young girls on charges of sorcery, simply for the sin of having been born with red hair or green eyes.
Every time the elegantly dressed necromancer set foot near one of these Christians, he risked his life. For Quaraun, hiding the fact that he was a wielder of magic was vitally imperative for his survival.
A minister stood in the doorway, casting demons out of the weather.
One minister was yelling at a man, accusing him of being a witch, based on the fact the man was chewing tobacco.
Another minister stood on a table raving that witches and warlocks walked among them and must be found and executed. He was waving a book over his head as he screamed out lists of ways to tell a witch. At first Quaraun thought the man was reading from a Bible, but as he stopped to listen to the passages, Quaraun soon realized it was not the Bible this preacher was reading. It was Heinrich Kramer’s Malleus Maleficarum. The treatise on witchcraft, and the only book ministers, valued more than the Bible itself.
Quaraun cringed as he remembered the smell of burning flesh. He’d walked through towns, where dead witches were left hanging crushed and burned, strangled and mutilated, unburied and on public display. Left as a warning for other mages to stay away. The charred stench of the publicly burned bodies was horrific. It gave him nightmares.
The pastor on the table bothered the old Elf quite a lot. Quaraun was a mage, a wizard, a necromancer, and a priest of what this minister would consider a Pagan religion. Listening to this minister brought to Quaraun’s mind many terrible old memories.
Thoughts he didn’t want to think.
Quaraun just wanted to stay dry. He did not want to be reminded of dreadful events of his past. The Hanging Tree.
Memories of his father and the Moon Elves.
Horrible memories of their contempt for all things not deemed good and righteous, by their standards.
Memories of bullying and teasing, that got out of hand, and led to torture, mutilation, and murder by public execution.
Loud, angry mobs.
Violent mobs that rose out of fear.
Fear deliberately being placed in their minds by radical, charismatic fanatics.
Fanatics, not unlike the minister, who right now stood on the table, trying to rile up the locals into witch hating hysteria.
Fear filled Quaraun’s mind and soul with dread, as he took notice to the minister’s hate filled words, furling hate filled furies, in the angry eyes of the men and women whom had gathered around the terror crazed preacher to cheer him on.
Quaraun made a mental note to not let anyone in this area to find out he was a mage. The last thing he wanted was to be huge up in yet another tree. Quaraun pulled his mind away from the radicals and focused on the words of the merchants instead.
The sea gods, punishing land dwellers, by sending demons to stir up the cold ocean.
Goods trapped on ships in danger of sinking.
Goods stuck on docks in danger of flooding.
Perishable goods delivered to the wrong port, and not being able to get to them because of the storm.
The need to take the ships away from shore to save them from being crashed on the rocks.
The harvests, not yet gathered, and being mercilessly destroyed by the storm.
Ships lost to transatlantic gulf winds.
Even more money lost.
Money being lost seemed to be the biggest worry of the Humans. Quaraun wondered why the Humans worried so much about money.
Though Quaraun was quite wealthy and had more money than he would ever need, he also never used it. The wandering wizard appeared to most people to be both homeless and penniless. Humans laughed when the old Elf asked to buy things, thinking he could not afford them, but they then gawked when he dropped handfuls of gold coins in their laps.
Quaraun could not count. He knew nothing of math or numbers or years or dates. It was the reason Quaraun never knew his own age or what year it was, or how many days had passed from one event to the next. Why he sometimes said week, when he meant year. Why he sometimes said he was 400 years old and other times said 800. This was also why the old mage did not realize that gold coins were worth much more than common coppers. And also why he did not understand that he was giving Humans way more money than they asked for whenever he paid for anything.
Money was the biggest, number one worry these Humans possessed right now. Witches were the second.
Superstitions of sea monsters and sirens, mermaids and mermen, silkies and roans.
Curses cast by witches.
Tales of terrible squalls and suffocating typhoons, sent by evil witches to destroy the mercantile economy, force the people to not buy from grocers and instead buy from charlatan apothecaries. Or so said several of the merchants who, right now, sat in the bar.
The conversations of the merchants were not much better than the conversations of the ministers.
Equally pointing fingers at magic casters.
Equally ready to kill any mage in the area in order to end the hurricane and save their harvests.
The farmers and fishermen were no better. Tossing around tall tales of sea witches and swamp hags, skulking around at night, poisoning water, killing fish, spiking apples with maggots and rot.
This was a superstitious lot. Anti-mage topics were spewing from every table.
It was clear no one here knew anything about nature or natural sciences, knew nothing of how weather worked, and was ready to tar and feather anyone they deemed a witch.
Listening to the overall conversation of the majority of the crowd, Quaraun felt uncomfortable in this inn. Worse, than just being a wizard, he was a necromancer, who practiced blood magic, raised the dead, dealt in soul exchange, and summoned demons. If anyone in this room discovered what he was, these people would turn into a lynch mob fast.
Clearly, superstitions and fear of witchcraft ruled supreme in the minds of these people. Several tables sported me, gathering up self-proclaimed adventuring parties to brave the storm, head out into the swamp, and kill the Swamp Hag who lived out there.
One orchard grower was shouting, offering to pay top coin for the Swamp Hag’s head, if they could kill her before the storm destroyed all of his crops.
Three merchants were haggling over the price of one self-proclaimed mage hunter whom they each wanted working for them and not the other two.
The people of this region were terrified of witches and were blaming every ill fated event they meet on one witch: Ghirardelli, The Swamp Hag.
The price for her head was being bargained over drinks, as more and more men, stumbling drunkenly forward, bragging tales of how they had once killed this or that witch and were well qualified to rid their town of the scourge that was Ghirardelli.
Quaraun knew of Ghirardelli. She was a friend of Finderu’s. Finderu was the leader of The Guild of Wizardry. Ghirardelli and Finderu were responsible for most of the wanted posters of Quaraun.
Ghirardelli the Swamp Hag was well respected in the mage community. If she lived long enough, she likely would take over as leader of the Guild one day. Quaraun was looking for Finderu. And if anyone knew where to find Finderu, it’d be Ghirardelli. And thus Quaraun had come to this region looking for Ghirardelli.
But Quaraun was old, and in frail health. He moved slowly and walked with a cane. Aching bones and creaking joints kept him from travelling as far or as fast as he would like. And so, Quaraun had wandered these parts for several years, moving from town to town, village to village, swamp to swamp, sea port to seaport, in search of anyone who knew the whereabouts of Ghirardelli the Swamp Hag.
Everywhere he went, the story was the same: everyone had heard of Ghirardelli, but no one knew for sure where she lived, or even if she was actually real at all. Many believed her to be nothing more than a bedtime story, parents told to naughty children to scare them into staying out of the swamps at night.
And so Quaraun had meandered through the swamps and forests along the coast, searching in vain these past several years for any hint of where Ghirardelli might live.
It was by sheer luck and pure accident that he wandered into this random inn and found it rife with the conversation of gathering parties of heroes together to hunt down and kill the infamous Swamp Hag.
Off to kill the wicked old witch.
Murders of the innocent.
Masters of slaughtering elder women.
Elderly women, branded as witches, for no other reason than young people, inherently hate the elderly.
Elderly women, murdered at the hands of thug like gangs of gold hungry men, killers for hire, killing in the name of doing good deeds.
Skilled at killing the so-called changeling children.
Mentally disabled children with learning disabilities, branded as demons and changelings left by Faeries, branded as evil, by incompetent parents who couldn’t be bothered to admit their child was retarded. Easier to claim some elderly woman was a witch, and hire a pack of greedy, bloody thirsty hero to kill them both.
Children, branded as monsters, slaughtered by heroes, murdered by killers for hire. Gangs of 4 or 5 men banded together under the guise of being an adventure party. Singing bards and drinking pints, with the blood of the innocent still dripping from their swords.
Off to kill the big, bad, terrible monster, returning with tales of glorious conquests. Quaraun had seen plenty of these so-called bands of heroes in his lifetime. There was never a genuine hero among them. Nothing but ravenous packs of bullies, greedy, money hungry bullies, who hired themselves out as warriors to rid your town of evil.
Quaraun wondered what made heroes think they were heroic.
What was more heroic?
Killing the elderly after falsely accusing them of witchcraft?
Or killing the mentally retarded children falsely accused of demon possession?
Heroes. That’s what every self-righteous killer called themselves. Quaraun found these so-call do-gooders to be the most repulsive life forms of all. Using religion and hysteria as an excuse to commit murder.
Though he admitted he couldn’t complain too much without being a hypocrite. Quaraun had killed enough of these adventure parties in his lifetime. They were always adding his name to the list of big bad boss villains in need of battling. He hated them and their ego evilness, that they paraded around as heroics and bravery.
Quaraun liked to be left alone, left to do his own thing. Weaving and sewing silk. But he was old, and he had eccentric habits and quirks that branded him as evil. A witch. A demon. Endless groups of warriors, rouges, rangers, bards, and assassins had hunted him down. Travelled great distances to seek him out. Seek him out and kill him. The big bad super boss villain. That’s what they always called him.
Though Quaraun rarely used magic and preferred to live life as a normal unmagical being, he was, in fact, the most powerful mage the universe had ever known.
Four or five of them would arrive.
Challenge him to a duel.
A fight to the death.
Expecting to win.
Expecting him not to flay their minds with a simple thought.
Expecting him, a psionic Elder Brain, living in the body of an undead Elf, to not obliterate their brains, with nothing more than a blink of the eye, a twitch of the nose, or a wave of the hand.
Quaraun’s powers were incomprehensible.
In nearly a thousand years of life on this Earth, no one had yet defeated him. They branded him as the world’s most feared evil super villain. The world’s most feared and most powerful sorcerer.
And yet these silly bands of Humans, calling themselves adventure parties and heroes, continually hunted him down, expecting to kill him, expecting to take him down, expecting to be the one to defeat the infamous Pink Necromancer.
Quaraun shook the thoughts of past adventurers he’d killed out of his mind. Right now, it was more important to focus on the mob like citizens who were organizing groups of adventurers to seek the supposed cause of this massive storm: Ghirardelli, the Swamp Hag.
“She’s usually hanging around that Finderu,” a man said to his buddies at the table.
“Finderu?” Quaraun whispered.
The old Elf spun around and approached the table. He knew caution was needed here, as Quaraun must find Finderu without these people discovering who he was.
“Excuse me?” Quaraun addressed the man who had mentioned Finderu. “When you say Finderu, do you mean the sorcerer Finderu the Masked?”
“Aye. That’s the one.”
“Does he live around he?”
“Who wants to know?”
“What’cha want him for?”
“What? I WANT to kill him.”
"What'd he do to you?"
“He killed my friend. I’ve been looking for Finderu for years.”
“Finderu lives up at The Godforsaken City, far as I know. With Ghirardelli, the Swamp Hag.”
“Do they live together?”
“No. The old hag lives in the swamp. Finderu has a castle or fortress or something he lives in. He heads some coven up their for witches.”
“The Guild of Wizardry?”
“Yeah. That. Witches are all coming through here. They have little pow wows, casting spells and curses on the locals. Folks ‘round here are scared shitless of Finderu and his witches. Won’t surprise me none if they what caused this here storm.”
“This, here, storm, as you put it, is a hurricane, and no witchcraft caused it, however, given the type of magic Finderu does, he could have put a spell on your village so that you didn’t see it coming.”
“Yeah? You think so?”
“Well, considering this is a port full of sailors and fishermen, who usually are pretty good at seeing big storms before they get here, does it not seem logical. Something stopped you all from seeing it?”
“Yeah.” The man turned to his friends. “The old Arab’s got a point.”
“Arab?” Quaraun puzzled over the term. “Why do you call me this?”
“Ain’t you one of them Arabians?”
“No. What makes you say that?”
“The get-up you are wearing. Seen drawings of men dressed like you in The Arabian Nights.”
“Ah! I see. No. I’m Persian.”
“What’s the difference?”
“Well, quite a lot, but I suppose not enough for you to understand.”
“Yeah, well, all you towel heads are alike.”
“Towel head?” Quaraun had encountered this term before and it never came from the mouth of anyone good. He was uncertain how to respond t this, so he said nothing further.
Looking around the room, Quaraun was now paying closer attention to how these people wear dressed.
Mostly in black, brown, grey, or midnight blue.
The men wore hats.
The women wore white bonnets.
In New England.
Just outside of Boston.
The fishermen and sailors dressed in hemp and worn rags.
Field hands and harvesters fared no better.
Something of that nature.
These were poor people.
And lead by religion crazed men who waved Heinrich Kramer’s Malleus Maleficarum higher over their heads, they waved their beloved Bibles.
This was no place for a magic caster.
Especially not a necromancer like Quaraun, who practices blood magic, summoned demons, raised the dead, and devoured souls.
Quaraun fell silent as the men took to talking of how they would kill Ghirardelli, the Swamp Hag and Finderu the sorcerer.
The conversation soon turned to plotting an ambush to capture and torture to death every mage that made his or her way to Finderu’s place. The hostility with which these men described what they were going to do to every mage they encountered was deeply unsettling for Quaraun.
Quaraun slipped away from this group, before they realized he was himself a wizard whom had once been a member of Finderu’s Guild of Wizardry.
The Humans in this place were ready to tear any mage they saw limb from limb. And Quaraun, with his fear of water, did not relish the thought of being dragged down to the river and drowned, as they were now suggested they would do to the next mage they saw.
The witch hunting craze that was winding into a frenzy in the pub of this inn was utterly terrifying for Quaraun, as he was what they would classify as a witch.
Quaraun looked back at the bar where he had left the innkeeper standing, then looked back up at the ceiling, contemplating the four rooms with their ten beds each ad hay on the floor for more lodgers. He was still thinking about why he had come in here: to rent a room for the night.
But now Quaraun reconsidered that option. This place did not seem to be as safe as it had at first appeared. While the building’s structure appeared strong and study enough to withstand the hurricane, the people inside were angry and far more dangerous than the hurricane outside.
Quaraun slowly made his way through the crowd, cautiously stopping and listening for any hint of Ghirardelli’s location.
Or more importantly, Finderu’s location.
But it appeared no one knew for certain exactly where she lived. All anyone seemed to be certain of was that the biggest thunderstorm anyone had ever seen, was tearing apart the coastline as it ripped its way North, and witches and witchcraft caused this storm, therefore Ghirardelli must die, because who else around here was a witch?
That’s all any of it was.
Complete and utter nonsense.
No one here knew what a hurricane was.
Everyone here was blaming witches for something no witch could do.
Convinced that this crowd was nothing more than delusional fear mongers looking for blood, Quaraun decided he would get no useful information about Ghirardelli’s whereabouts here. And so Quaraun squeezed between the witch crazed bigots, and made his way to the front bar where the innkeeper stood serving drinks.
Quaraun settled down at the bar and ordered a bottle of brilliant, emerald green absinthe.
“You don’t get many hurricanes up here, do you?” Quaraun asked the innkeeper.
“Do you know what a hurricane is?”
“Big tornado, out at sea.”
“That anyone around here has an education. You don’t seem to be as hysterical and superstitious as everyone else.”
“I run a business. Have to keep a level head to deal with this lot.”
“Yes. I could imagine. What’s this witch they are all talking about?”
“Ghirardelli? Local legend. An old woman who lives out in the marsh somewhere. Makes herbal potions for heal fevers and warts. That sort of thing.”
“Have you ever seen her?”
“Yeah. She comes into town a few times a year. Folk around here make up stories about witches and demons, because it makes them feel justified in bullying old women. It’s those stupid preachers what put those ideas in their heads.”
“So you don’t believe she caused the storm?”
“Hell, no! Of course not. She’s just an old woman who folk make up stories about, because spreading rumours and lies about people who are different is easier than taking the time to get to know them.”
“Do people here not know about weather systems?”
Quaraun listened around the room some more.
“The people around here really believe in witches, don’t they?” Asked the dismayed Elf.
“Is that not a silly superstition?”
“Well, not many schools up here. This ain’t Boston, you know?”
“No. I know. But is Boston any better?”
“Well, they did have the Salem witch trails down there, didn’t they?”
“Yes, that’s what worries me,” the woefully worried, world-weary little Elf said skittishly.
“Why’s it worry you?”
“They went after Tibuta.”
“What’s a Tibuta?”
“Who. Tibuta was a woman who took care of a minister’s children. And the children called her a witch. That’s what started the whole thing. But I knew Tibuta, and she was just a kindly old woman who took care of children for wealthy men too incompetent to raise their children themselves. I saw the trails happen, and they were no trails. Just a bunch of hysterical ministers, with their hysterical followers, pointing fingers based on skin colour, race, and how one dressed. Tibuta was black. Only black woman in Falmouth. And we are less 2 days walk outside of Falmouth here.”
“So why’s that worry you?”
“I’m a foreigner. How long do you think it’ll take them to call ME a witch, just because I’m from the Middle East?”
“True. Folk like you probably shouldn’t tarry around these parts long.”
“Those people are looking to burn a witch. I don’t think they’ll care too much who they burn, either.”
“You still thinking of renting a room?”
“With this lot? I’m not sure.”
“Well, I wouldn’t blame ya iffy you waited out the storm elsewhere.”
“I might do that. I don’t relish being hung in a tree.”
“Those ministers over there are right good at working folks ‘round here into a frenzy. You think they are bad now? Wait’ll they was listening to that book reading for a few hours, then see how bad it gets.”
Quaraun looked up at the ceiling, seeking to determine how big the building was. After a few moments, he turned back to the innkeeper.
“How many rooms are upstairs?” Quaraun asked the man.
“Four on each floor.”
“And there are three floors?”
“That’s twelve rooms.”
“But only four bedrooms for rent?”
“And all sleep at least ten people?”
“No private rooms?”
“But you have extra rooms,” the uneasy Elf Necromancer pointed out. “Besides the four for rent, I mean.”
“What are those rooms?”
“Ones on the first floor are this room you are in, the scullery behind me, and two rooms for my household. The chambers on the second floor are bedrooms for rent. You rent the bed, not the room.”
“And the third floor?”
“Those are for clients.”
“Could I rent one of those?”
“Are you a client?”
“No. I don’t think so.”
“Than you can not.”
“How does one become a client?”
“Why don’t you just rent a bed for the night, like every other traveller does?”
“Do I LOOK like every other traveller?” Asked the unusually elegant silk merchant. “I’m an Elf. Or did you not notice that?”
The innkeeper stepped backward and stared at Quaraun, studying him up and down, scrutinizing every inch of him, with an expression that suggested he had not, until just now, noticed how Quaraun was dressed or that Quaraun was not Human.
“No,” the man shook his head as he spoke. “No, you certainly don’t look like no traveller I’ve ever seen before. You from Morocco or something?”
“Yep. You look like you from Morocco.”
“What makes you say that?”
“Looks like Moroccan robes, all striped in silk, you are wearing there.”
“Do they have striped silk in Morocco?”
“I don’t know.”
“You ain’t from Morocco?”
“No,” Quaraun shook his head as he spoke. “I’m not. That’s in Africa. You’re a long way away from Africa. Do you know Morocco here?”
“Aye. Seen pictures of it before.”
"In a book."
"I'm surprised anyone in this area is smart enough to know what a book is, let alone have one."
"Yep. Used to be a man 'round here with books."
"But not any more?"
"What happened to him?"
"When I was a boy, there was a learned man in town who had a lot of books. Couldn’t read the words none, but they had a lot of pictures. One was a travel book. Showed lots of drawings of people showing how they dressed, all exotic, like you, what kinds of food they ate, exotic culture traditions, and the places, you know, the buildings and architecture and stuff, and also the strange plants and animals. He would read the words to me and tell me about the places. He’d visited ‘em. Always wanted to go see those places. Morocco, Egypt, Persia, Babylon, Baghdad, Bangladesh. But it costs money to travel and one gots to work to feed his family, you know?”
“I am from Persia.”
“Yes,” the resplendently elegant silk merchant answered. “I am a Di’Jinn.”
“So, you’re like one of those Arabs, then, right?”
“Same difference though, yes?”
“Not exactly, no, but, uhm, well, it’s similar, I suppose you could say. No. I’m not Arabian, though I suppose in your mind everyone from the Mediterranean is Arabian? You don’t know enough about our cultures to know they are different.”
“So you’re saying you’re from Arabia, but you ain’t an Arab?”
“No. I’m from Ivujivik.”
“Ivujivik is in Quebec.”
“So you’re one of them Frenchies?”
“French and no, I’m not French. I already told you. I’m an Elf.”
“You don’t know what an Elf is, do you?”
“Elves is like Vikings, right? It’s why you got eyes like you do.”
“How are my eyes different?”
“They is blue. Never see no one with blue eyes ‘round these parts here.”
“No, I suppose not,” the cerulean eyed little jelly brained silk peddler said as he looked around, noticing that everyone had brown eyes. “Also, you meant Scandinavian.”
“Viking is the Scandinavian word for pirate. A Viking is a sailor turned rouge, like most pirates. Scandinavia is the region.”
“Ooooh. Right. So, if you’re one of them Vikings, why are you dressed up like an Arab?”
“I’m not a Viking. I’m an Elf. And it’s Persian, not Arabian. I’m dressed like a Persian.”
“No, it’s not the same thing... I am an Elf. I was born in Ivujivik, but after my mother died, a Di’Jinn priest, who took me back to his home in Persia adopted me. I was only three years old when my mother died, so I was raised my whole life as a Persian, with the Di’Jinn.”
“And the Di’Jinn are who?”
“Many Humans call them The Magi or Wisemen. Perhaps you know them by that name instead?”
“You mean, like The Three Wise Men, what gave baby Jesus gifts on Christmas?”
“Yes. Exactly them. They were looking for The Chosen One. And they were still looking for The Chosen One when I was born. I’m possessed by an alien JellyFish, that arrived on Earth via a spaceship that fell out of a portal, and landed in the Hudson Bay, crawled out of the ocean, and up the nose of the first life form it saw. A little 3-year-old Elf boy.”
“Did you now? So you’re saying you are a JellyFish, living in someone’s nose?”
“Yes,” the little jelly brained Elf answered. “That’s exactly what I am.”
“Riiiight. This ain’t your first drink tonight, is it?”
As it was clear, the innkeeper thought Quaraun was drunk, Quaraun saw no reason to not continue.
“Yes. The Di’Jinn have based their entire religion on looking for Thullid possessed babies. And as they know the Thullid to be aliens who arrive here on ships from other solar systems, they are always looking for and following fallen stars, shooting stars, comets, just any star that moves.”
“The wise men from Gospel of Luke?”
“Yes. They were searching for the mother ship, and god. They thought it was Jesus in Bethlehem, but that star was just a comet, and not a Thullid ship, so they left, but they made such a fuss about the baby before they left, that every Human in the area assumed the child to be the Messiah from the Hebrew Torah, so a bunch of witch haters got together and murdered him in a bloody Necromancy sacrifice, then resurrected him as a Lich.”
“Jesus. They hung him on a cross for 3 days. And once he’d become a Lich, hoards of Humans started following him, assuming him to be God or the Son of God and thus Christianity rose up.”
“So you’re saying Jesus is a Lich?”
“Yes. He was. He is. He stills roams the Earth today, that’s why so many Christians claim to have seen him. I am soul bound to a Lich.”
“Like spirit wivery?”
“I heard you. What is spirit wivery?”
“Men hoard up women, have weird witchcraft orgies and then say their wives are their slaves for eternity in the Celestial Kingdom, after the Second Coming of Christ?”
“You mean Mormon? I know a Mormon. Odd fellow.”
“No. Not the Mormons. They broke off of ‘em though.”
“Broke off of who?”
“Yes, follow that Jacob Cochran around. Seventy-three of the women in his church have married him so far. Spirit binding rituals. They claim Jesus is a corpse running around in Peru. Spirit wives are a big thing with them. Every one bind souls to every one else.”
“Have they now?”
“Ahyah. They live out on the Heath Road. Just off the Flag Pond Road. Out near where that Swamp Hag supposed to be. She lives near the Cascades. Lucy Mack over there,” he pointed to a woman sitting at a far table. “She wanted to marry him too, but her father had himself a right fit over it. They live up on York Hill.”
“In Pepper Valley?”
“Ahyee. The Macs is moving to Vermont after the storm. Bought themselves a sheep farm.”
“The Cochranites are polygamists, then?”
“You don’t see polygamy often in America.”
“Nope. Ain’t your people polygamists?”
“I told you, I’m not Arabian.”
“Oh, yeah. You did. I forgot.”
“My people are polygamist though. I had two spouses at the same time.”
“Will they be needing a room too?”
“No. No. They both died many years ago. That’s why I’m here, in fact. I’m searching for the man responsible. I heard Finderu lives in the area.”
“So, you’re not a Cochranite.”
“No. I’m not a Cochranite.”
“Don’t they believe Jesus is a corpse walking around in South America?”
“I don’t know. I’m not familiar with any Cochranites. I never heard of them before. I don’t know what they believe. Though if they do believe Jesus is a Lich, they may just be the one religion that has Jesus right.”
“So, you are saying Jesus wasn’t The Chosen One?”
“No. I’m The Chosen One. The baby with a Thullid in his brain. The Elder Brain reborn. The Sacred Pink JellyFish. It’s why the Wise Men carried off me and not Jesus. They left him laying in a manger. Poor baby. Left in a dirty feed trough, to be fed to pigs. What a horrible thing to do to a baby.”
“Aye-yep. Nothing filthier than a pig sty’s manger. You like babies?"
"I love babies. I have a clutch of eggs I'm waiting to hatch."
“Do you realize I remember the world before the Christian religion was even invented?”
“Yes. You Humans didn’t start worshipping baby Jesus until over a thousand years after he had died. But all that is beside the point.”
“And the point is?”
“The point is, not everyone in many layered long stripped robes is Arabian. Some are Jewish, some are Islamic, some are Romanian, some are Persian...”
“Like me. And I am not a female.”
“Didn’t say you was.”
“Yes. I had noticed that. It puzzled me that you didn't mention it. That’s why I brought it up.”
“Ninety-nine per cent of every American Human I meet thinks I’m a man in a dress.”
“Yes. It’s really annoying.”
“I should think it would be.”
“They can not comprehend that there are places where men dress like I do. It is so tiring. Every time I walk into an American village, I am bombarded with teasing and taunting and bullying and being hit and pushed around and rocks thrown at me, because they say men like me can not be around because the Bible says this or the Bible says that. And do you know what?”
“I’ve read the Bible.”
“Have you now?”
“Yes.” Quaraun nodded his head as he spoke. “Every word of it several times. And you know what?”
“No. Tell me.”
“Half the stuff they say is in it, isn’t in it at all. It’s just some bigoted, racist ass shit their minister or pastor or preacher SAID was in the Bible, because he knew his followers were too damned stupid the read the damned book for themselves, so would follow him like brain dead sheep. It’s so annoying.”
“No. Well, yes, they’re annoying too, but no. Americans. You Humans. You really are an evil lot, when you get right down to it. All you do bicker and fight and beat up everything that is different from you. Which is why I find you, you, personally, to be so odd.”
“Yes. You. You haven’t started screaming and yelling, calling me a man in a dress, and waving Bible verses condemning me as evil, in my face, and I’ve been standing here in your inn, talking to you, for nearly an hour.”
“Well, it’s not polite to bully people.”
“But bullying people is the Christian thing to do, isn’t it?”
"I've never met a Christian who didn't bully me yet."
“Well, some people is just ignorant.”
“But... you do not see how I dress as odd?”
“No. Should I?”
“No. You shouldn’t. You’re not a Christian, are you?”
“Nope. Does that make a difference?”
“It shouldn’t, but it does. You are not judgmental and cruel.”
“It’s just that I so seldom come across anyone in the Americas who doesn’t act offended and unnerved by my style of attire. And I rarely encounter Christians who are not quick to try to rape me. When I find someone who does neither, I am left to assume they are neither Christian nor American.”
“Your clothes bothers people?”
“Well, your dress certainly ain’t normal.”
“No. Not your normal at least.”
“Are there different types of normal?”
“Yes. What is normal for me is strange for you, but what is normal for you is strange for me. What you call exotic is perfectly normal. And what you call normal, I see as exotic.”
“So you think us in our homespun and hemp is exotic and you in your bright blinding pink silk wraps is normal?”
The innkeeper started laughing.
“I see nothing funny about it,” Quaraun said.
“You are very serious.”
“I’m an Elf.”
“Elves are always serious,” the jelly brained Elf said very gravely. “We never make jokes.”
"Jokes are evil."
"How you figure?"
“Jokes are a form of lies. Lies are evil. Evil is as evil does. We Elves abhor evil.”
“Usually they say I am dressed as a woman and call me a prostitute, and say I don’t look like a man. I get beat up by you Americans on grounds of being ‘a man in a dress’ all the time. It’s rather annoying that no one identifies me as dressed as a different culture, not a different gender.”
“Ah! Well, they just stupid people is all. They don’t know other cultures exist. They think every ones same as them. But me, I know different. See? I know the world is full of exotic places with exotic cultures who wear exotic things, see? So, I look at you and I do not see a dress. I see an Arab from Morocco all dressed in striped silks.”
“Arabians don’t come from Morocco and I’m not... uhm... I’m from Iran, Persia. I’m not Arabian or Moroccan.”
“Well, same difference.”
“No.” Quaraun frowned. “Where I am from is 10,227 miles away from Morocco.”
“Yes. It took me four years to walk from Persia to Morocco.”
“You been there?”
“Yes,” the elderly Elf answered. “I have.”
“Why did you do that?”
“I’m walking my way around the world.”
“Really? What for?”
“No reason in particular? My family died. It upset me. So I started walking. And walking. And I just kept walking. And now, it’s been so many years, that I don’t know how to stop, so I just keep doing it.”
“So, you’re a tramp, like a beggar?”
“Oh, no. Quite the contrary. I’m very wealthy. My uncle was a king. So, technically, I’m a prince. I have plenty of money. I don’t need to beg and I can pay for whatever I need when I need it, and right now I need a place to spend the night.”
“Ah, yes. You came in here asking for a bed to sleep in.”
“No. I don’t want a bed to sleep on. I want a private room where I can meditate undisturbed. Could I rent one of your client rooms?”
“You’d have to be a client.”
“How does one become a client?”
The man stared blankly at Quaraun for several seconds before responding.
“You don’t know what a client is, do you?”
“No. Should I?”
“You look rather old to be a client.”
“I look old?”
“You ARE old, aren’t you?”
“I am, but I was not aware I was starting to look old.”
“What I mean is, you seem to be elderly and clients are usually rather young.”
The man pointed across the room to four women, then spoke very slowly, almost whispering: “We have four prostitutes. The four rooms on the third floor belong to them. If you wanted to be one of their clients, well... you DO know what a prostitute is, don’t you?”
"Oh yes. I've been mistaken by one by enough jackass white American Christians."
Quaraun stared at the four women, who were dressed somewhat fancy, or at least fancier than the rest of the crowd, and sitting together chatting. After a few moments of thought, he got up and made his way to them. But first, stopped at Lucy Mac's table.
"You shouldn't be here," Quaraun said to the woman.
"Our house is right on the river," Lucy Mac replied. "It's not safe there."
"No. That's not what I meant. Something has changed. I changed history somehow. You were supposed to go to Vermont twenty years ago. You had a son, who killed 13 sheep on the farm, and then an angry mob chased you to New York. You lived in Palmyra after that. Your son talked to ... well, he said they were angels. He started a church. It's very big. Has a huge impact on the world a few hundred years from now. If you are still here in Maine and your name is still Mac, in 1846, than, something has gone very wrong with history."
"I'm sorry, sir, but you have me mixed up with someone else. I have no son."
"That is very troubling. I wonder what it was, I could have changed to cause this to happen?"
Quaraun left Lucy Mac, worried about the changes of this timeline and wondering if he should try to fix whatever he had changed which had caused this. But, just now the biggest hurricane in the history of planet Earth was bearing down on Saco Bay and he had other things to worry about.
"I have an interesting proposition for you ladies," Quaraun said to the four women, when he finally arrived at their table.
"What? Let me guess. You want all four of us at once?" The chubbiest girl asked. "That cost extra."
"That is not what I meant. Wait? Do you do that?"
"Freakish things cost extra too."
“No. Could you please let me explain?” Quaraun pulled a chair away from one of the other tables and sat down at the whore's table. “I want to rent your room, not you.”
The four girls exchanged glances, then looked at Quaraun like he was crazy.
“What do you want our rooms for?”
“Not all of them. I just want one.”
“Sure. Whatever. Just one. But for what?”
“I like my privacy. Is there something wrong with that?”
“I guess not. But it’s still a strange request.”
“Yes. You are odd,” the first woman said.
“Yes. Very odd,” agreed the second woman.
“How is it an odd request?”
“How isn’t it? Why can’t you just rent a bed like everyone else?”
“Your village doesn’t have a proper inn or boarding house or, well, this is the only place I can find that will rent rooms to travellers.”
“But that doesn’t answer my question.”
“No. It doesn’t. Not in the slightest.”
“I’m looking for a private room where I can rest without being disturbed. But here, it’s renting one bed in a room with ten beds and, I’m... I’m not very sociable... and... I... I’d rather not sleep with, well, uhm... to put it bluntly, commoners and poor people have a tendency to rob people like me and I feel safer, if I’m not sleeping in a room full of thugs. This IS Old Orchard Beach, after all. Scum dive honky tonk of Maine.”
“So, you’re a wealthy snob who doesn’t enjoy being around us poor folk?”
“No, that didn’t come out right.”
“That’s what you said.”
“That’s not what I meant.”
“What did you mean?”
“It’s not poor people I dislike. It’s men.”
“Men? You don’t like men?”
“Christians mostly. Especially the American ones. White ones most of all.”
“I don’t like being raped,” the elderly silk merchant said bluntly.
“Rich or poor, in fact rich are worse than poor for that sort of thing. You see, I used to sleep in places like this, but I was attacked and, rather than help me, the others in the room joined in helping the rapists rape me and now, I seem to have developed a fear of sleeping in the company of ... well... men.”
“Yes. They raped me. Several times. It’s the way I dress, they... they don’t understand my culture. American men, they see how I dress and say I look like a woman, they say I’m wearing a dress so, I must want to be treated like a woman. Thing is, where I come from, all males dress like this. This is normal for my people. But, it’s happened at more than dozen villages now, you Mainers are sex crazed imbeciles and I’ve developed a fear of boarding in rooms with other men. I’d like either a room by myself or with women.”
“Why don’t you just change the way your dress?”
“I shouldn’t have to change who I am to visit America. If you came to Persia, I would not ask you to stop dressing like a whore and dress like me to fit in with my people. What is it with you Americans and you insistence that everyone change who they are to become duplicates of you?”
“If you don’t like Americans, then why are you here?”
He hated talking to females.
He also hated talking to Humans.
He especially hated talking to female Humans.
He struggled to understand the arrogant Human hatred for all things not themselves, and they struggled to understand his not wanting to become like them. Females took it a step further by seething an arrogant hatred for men, as well.
Quaraun felt particularly uncomfortable around these four female Humans.
“I enjoy visiting other places and experiencing other cultures. I have never seen such violence, such racism, such bigotry, such hatred for everyone, and such sex crazed rampant rapism as I have encountered here in America. You are a cold, cruel, bitter people full of animosity and hate, who rape everything you don't kill.”
“Well, yeah, that sounds like a lot of men. Gotta push their weight around. Put us women folk in their place. You should join up with the women’s suffragette.”
“Woman’s suffragette?” This new word surprised the old albino Moon Elf. “What is that?”
“Women’s rights. We fight for the right to vote. We have a mind, don’t we? Are we not intelligent, just like men?”
“In my experience, most women are more intelligent than men.”
“See?” One woman turned to address another of them. “What did I tell ya. You get a man with an education and he’ll agree we women are smart. It ain’t all men who hate us.”
“American men are cruel,” Quaraun stated bluntly.
“Aren’t they though?”
“I came here, to your country, to learn from your people. To make friends. But it has met me with nothing but violence and suspicion and hatred. Your men all act like I’m an evil villain because I don’t look like you, don’t dress like you. I don’t understand it.”
“They treat us women the same way.”
“Yes. They say that too. When they attack me. They say I’m dressed like a woman, so I deserve to be treated like a woman.”
“See? What’d I tell you. Men are women hating bullies.”
“Men are evil. My family died. Men. It was men who did it. And evil man, I've been trying to find for years, orchestrated the whole thing. Kept his hands free of blood so he could proclaim his innocence. Hired thugs to carry out his plots."
"Your family died?"
"That must have upset you. No wonder you hate men. I would too, bastards out of Hell, that's what men are."
"Yes. It upset me. So I started walking. And walking. And I just kept walking. And now, it’s been so many years, that I don’t know how to stop, so I just keep doing it. And one day I was in a port. I got on a ship and it brought me here to America. If I had known before I came here how evil and hate filled your men were, I never would have come to this country. Your men here are downright evil.”
“Yeah, every woman in America thinks the same way. Men are fuck faced bastards.”
Just then, a group of drunk men tumbled their way to the table and began pawing at the four women and Quaraun as well.
“Get away from me!” Quaraun said angrily, as he shoved the man aside. Then he turned to address the women: “I’m sorry I bothered you. It seems you’ll be busy tonight and I won’t be able to rent one of your rooms. Here.”
Quaraun handed the four women each ten gold coins. It was enough money to feed every person in the building for the rest of their lives.
“Lock yourselves in your rooms and don’t let any of these men touch you. You don't belong in a place like this. Take the gold, use it to help other women. You fight for your rights. Don’t let men push you around.”
Quaraun stood up and turned to leave, then stopped and said:
“I came in here to get out of the rain. I’ve a tent, I normally camp out in that, but it is raining and windy and cold. But I’d rather be cold and wet than beaten bloody and molested by your degenerate, sex crazed American men. I feel safer weathering the storm, even though I already know what's going to happen. I'm sorry. Run. No one gets out of this village alive tonight. The Great Gale of 1846 is going to go down in history as the biggest Hurricane the world has ever seen, 10,000 people are going to be dead in this town by morning. I'm probably going to regret doing this, because I know it is going to change history, but get out of here. Go inland further. Try to get as close to Bangor as you can. Bangor isn't going to get hit hardly at all."
"What are you talking about?"
"I'm a time traveller. I'm from the future. No one in Saco Bay will live through the night. You aren't far enough inland here."
"You're serious aren't you?"
"I am. You need to get out of here."
"Are you leaving?"
"Yes. I have to find shelter for the night. I know how this week ends. I know where it is safe and where it is not. I've lived through it enough times now. Pepperell Mill will survive the storm. Do you know where that is?"
"Yeah. We work there."
"Yes. I know. That is a pity. Take the fastest horses you can find and get out of here. If you can't reach Bangor, head to Biddeford, the factory, the section with the smoke stack will still be standing 200 years from now. You'll be safe there. I'm heading that way myself."
"You going back out in the storm?"
"Biddeford's fourteen miles from here."
"Well, than I best get going. I'll feel safer in Pepper Valley in tent by the mill, than I do spending the night here with rapist Christians and witch hating murderous Christians. I must constantly remind myself that I am in America, the most vile, immoral, degenerated, hostile races of Humans to ever exist. I do not feel safe in your country at all. Your men are pure evil. I wish you luck with your suffragette. Oh, and avoid Dr. Bean. He hates the women vote movement. He's going to kill a lot of you at a rally in four years. They won't find your bodies for another hundred years, when they drain the swamps to build the Saco Police Department Maybe we can change that part of history.”
Quaraun left the building and trudged through the wet, muddy streets, until he made his way back out of the village. He continued walking until he came to a meadow.
“Tall wet grass. Damn.”
After walking nearly a six hours through the waist deep tall grass, blueberry shrubs, and thickets, he finally reached the safety of the old growth pine forest, overlooking York Hill, once again. Black smoke billowed up from the mill's row of smoke stacks. By morning 3 of the hundred foot tall chimneys would be gone, along with most of the mill's west end. But the North Dam side would survive. Here it was safe to stay and wait out the massive hurricane.
He searched around a bit for a grove with enough of a flat area for him to set up his tent on, then, pulled out his wand, walked around in a circle for a few moments, muttering enchantments, while drawing sigils in the mud. Moments later, his pink and magenta striped tent POUFFED into existence.
Quaraun used his wand to make a glass-like barrier around the tent, to keep out the wind and rain, and protect it from any trees that might fall during the storm.
Once inside, he hung up his wet cloak and robes and changed into dry ones. For a while he set about to weaving more of his pink and magenta stripe silk and later spent a few hours embroidering other yardages of pink silk.
Outside the rain continued to pour down, while the thunder rumbled and lightening flashed.
“Sounds like a big hurricane. Stuck in the bay and swinging back like a rubber band. I’m gonna be stuck here a few days.”
And as he predicated, Quaraun was stuck in this location for several days. The torrential rains of the hurricane whipped through the trees, sending limbs and trees crashing around him.
Quaraun waited out the storm by dying and spinning and sewing and weaving and embroidering. Being a merchant of pink, embroidered silk scarfs and dresses, Quaraun took any opportunity to replenish his stock. In between dyeing silk worm cocoons, spinning silk threads, weaving silk cloth, embroidering silk yardages, and sew silk clothes, he wrote in his scrolls and read his books.
Quaraun lost track of how many days it had being since he set up his tent. This place was secluded and peaceful. No one bothered him, and so he was content to stay put.
The heavy cloud broke open above the tent.
“No,” Quaraun said. “That’s not correct.”
He crossed out the sentence and stared at his scroll, speculating how to better word what he wanted to say.
The heavy cloud broke open above the little pink striped tent.
“Nope, that’s not good, either.” He scribbled out that sentence as well.
The old Elf sighed, rolled up the scroll, and returned it, his ink bottle and quill back into his pink beaded heart shaped bag of holding.
Writing was not his strong point. Still, Quaraun made a point of writing down the events of each day, at the end of the day, before retiring to bed for the night.
Today was different.
Today, it was raining.
It was still raining.
It had been raining all week.
Quaraun was glad he had decided not to rent a bed or a room or a space on the floor at the overcrowded inn.
Hurricanes usually lasted only a day or so before moving on. This one was stuck in the gulf and had stuck around all week. He couldn’t imagine spending a week with that lot at the inn. Of course, they were likely all dead by now anyways.
This spot where he had found to pitch his tent was much nicer.
And though he hated using magic for everyday things, it had been a simple matter to put up a magic barrier to keep out the rain.
The hurricane was still spinning around like a top, trapped in Saco Bay’s massive horseshoe shape, and so instead of moving on, it just kept riding back around.
Two merchant vessels had come crashing down beside the tent. Twenty three more were scattered about the yard of Pepperell Mill. Three of the mill's smoke stacks lay shattered and crumbled not far away. Back in Old Orchard, three hundred acres of apple trees were uprooted and now floating in the nearby Scarborough Marsh. The pier had collapsed, as had the roller coaster and more than 200 hotels. Saco, Biddeford, Old Orchard Beach, and most of the rest of Greater Portland, lay in ruins. Ten thousand dead and counting, many hundreds of bodies would never be found, all ready dragged out to see.
And yet, the storm kept raging, as the death counts continued to rise with each passing day. The biggest Hurricane in Earth's history: The Great Gale of 1846, decimated Maine, and Quaraun, once again had a front row seat, just as he had, hundreds of times before.
Stuck in the horseshoe of Saco Bay, the hurricane made it's way across Maine yet again, for the seventh time in the past three days. It was why hurricanes did so much damage whenever they hit Maine, and it was fortunate that hurricanes rarely hit Maine. But the hurricane had been pelting the area for more than a week now, and was no longer a hurricane, but rather was not just a very large storm. The Saco River had flooded every town along its banks and Pepperell Mill, in Pepper Valley, Biddeford, was underwater and had been evacuated.
Quaraun could have moved on, but he was in the high grounds, and he liked sitting and looking down on the Saco River estuary. And watching this storm, had become an annual event, something he did every life time. It was the birthplace of BoomFuzzy, his lover from long ago. Biddeford had been BoomFuzzy’s home, and though Quaraun had never been to Pepper Valley while The Elf Eater of Pepper Valley had been alive, he returned here each year to be nearby to the place his dead lover had called home.
But with the hurricane arriving only days after Quaraun did, the elderly wizard found it difficult to go outside and watch the birds and fishermen in Saco Bay. Of course, there were neither birds nor fishermen out there right now anyway, any that had been foolish enough to not leave the area, were not splattered dead on the sides of the big red brick mill buildings.
Quaraun had busied himself with weaving and embroidering and sewing, the entire week, but, the ground was cold and damp, and he was old and weak. His bones were hurting, his hip was aching, and the moist, foggy, rain filled air, was wrecking havoc on his rheumatism and arthritis, making it painful for him to sit at his weaving loom today.
And so it was not yet night and not yet time for bed, but Quaraun was sitting in his tent, contemplating going back to bed, to sleep off his aching bones and hope that the rain will finally have stopped by the time he woke up.
Listening to the pitter patter of the rain, Quaraun was stuck sitting in his tent, waiting for the rain to stop, not quite tired enough to sleep, but hurting too much to do anything else.
Some days, immortality and eternal beauty were nice.
Other days, like today, the side effects of old age reminded Quaraun just how very old he was.
The ancient wizard tried to figure out how old he was. The problem with this, was he didn’t know exactly when he was born. Quaraun had been born some time around the Human’s year of 800 A.D.
The other issue with this, was he did not know what the current Human year was.
The other problem, was the local Humans were protest English rule, so, they had stopped using the English calendars, around the same time they had tossed all the English tea in the Atlantic Ocean.
Quaraun was not good with math or numbers in general, so he struggled to calculate his age.
An exact age was near impossible to determine, but even a rough estimate was difficult.
Quaraun finally concluded that he was somewhere older than four hundred years old and somewhere younger than a thousand years old, and decided that seven hundred and fifty years sounded like a good number. So declared himself to be seven hundred and fifty years old. And he had spent the past three hundred or so years telling people that he was seven hundred and fifty years old.
And now today, he sat in his pink and magenta stripped silk tent, resting on his pink and purple striped silk pillows, wearing his pink and fuchsia stripped silk robes, wrapped him his pink and orange striped shawl, wondering how many years it had been since he had started telling people he was seven hundred and fifty years old. He wondered this now, today, because his creaky bones were hurting worse than usual and he wondered could it be he was now over a thousand years old?
After concluding that he must by now be over a thousand years old, the old Elf sat on his pile of pink striped silk cushions for a few more moments, struggling to determine of what he could do to pass the time. Specifically, he concluded that being old was a depressing thought, and he wondered what it was he could do to take his mind off the thought of old age.
The ancient wizard contemplated getting up and working on his weaving, needlepoint, or sewing some more, but his hip was sore, so he continued to rest lazily on the pillows.
Quaraun suffered from poor health. This was not because of his greatly advanced age, however. He’d been born a runt. Small, sick, and weak, straight from the womb, no one had expected him to live to the end of his first week. His youth had been spent mostly indoors, in bed, reading books. There had been little else he was capable of. Though he had grown stronger as he grew older, he remained forever, two heads shorter than most other men and a full head shorter than most women. Quaraun wondered what it was that bothered him most: being short, or that he had gotten old?
At least he had immortality. That was the advantage of being a necromancer who was soul bound to a lich. The lich was immortal and now, so too was the necromancer whom had created the lich.
But immortality did not mean a life without suffering, or existence without pain, discomfort, and illness.
And after ten thousand years of reaching the implosion of Earth, going back in time to start life over again, Quaraun had become bored with everything in general.
The Phooka of a thousand death. An undead lich, cursed to live his life over and over, endless eternities. BoomFuzzy. Quaraun knew the risk of binding his soul to a lich, but he'd done it anyways. And now he too, was cursed to relive life again and again, forever.
Immortality. Deemed by Humans to be a thing to strive for. To live forever. Was that not the ideal life?
Quite the contrary.
The aches and pains of decrepit age creaked their insufferable discomforts through Quaraun’s elderly tendons and ancient bones. Pangs twisted inside of the aged wizard’s body while miseries racks his joints, and the damp, dank, musty weather had only made every ounce of suffering that much more unbearable.
Quaraun decided that since rain cascaded down outside, and this tiny field seemed off the main road and somewhat secluded, with so little chance of anyone disturbing him, to set up his bedroll and go to sleep for a few hours.
And so the dripping wet drenched Di’Jinn silk merchant did precisely this, after spending quite some time first drying his long floor sweeping hair.
A few moments later, Quaraun drifted off into a peaceful slumber, to dream pleasant dreams of his youth spent with his lover, BoomFuzzy.
“Argh!” Quaraun half screamed from fright and half yelped from pain in his hip, as he felt someone shaking him out of his dream.
A newcomer, a stranger, a mature female Human, stood in the eccentric silk weaver’s tent with him, leaned over the dishevelled sleeping silk merchant, shaking him, struggling to wake him.
“You gotta help me! Please!” The woman desperately pleaded, almost yelled, while trying to nevertheless be quiet and whisper. “Please, help me!”
Quaraun blinked sleepily and yawned, before slowly sitting up and peering around, disoriented and bewildered and trying to remember where he was. It took the tired bleary eyed Moon Elf a moment to recall he was in Pepper Valley, had set up a tent to wait out the deluge, and had now been here in Pepper Valley for ten days, still waiting for the precipitation to stop.
He sat and dreamily watched the little silk moths fluttering about the room.
The tired jelly brained Elf shivered.
His bones ached.
His muscles were sore.
And the salty ocean air was cold and damp, both chilling him and making his aches and pains more noticeable.
The chill from the wet, stormy night air drifted through the tent, chilling him. Quaraun yawned again, then pulled the soft rusty coloured fox fur blanket up around his shoulders before finally focusing on the frightened woman.
“Who are you?” Quaraun asked. “And why are you in my tent? How are you in my tent? I put up a barrier. You should not have even been able to see my tent, at all, let alone get through to come inside. How did you even see my tent to begin with? It should have been very, nearly, completely invisible to the naked eye.”
“You gotta help me,” she stated, completely ignoring the Moon Elf’s questions.
“Why? You seem to be perfectly capable of breaking through magic barriers. That’s not something normal people can accomplish. That is not even something the most competent of mages can manage.”
“They’re after me.”
“What? Who is? Whoever it is, they are not likely to find you in here. You are safe in here. In fact, I am surprised you even found your way in here at all.”
“Please, you gotta help me.”
“I don’t gotta do a damned thing. Who are you and why are you in my tent and how the hell did you even get through my barrier to get in my tent?”
“My name’s Ghirardelli. I’m from The Godforsaken City.”
“Ghirardelli? The Swamp Hag?”
“I’m a Human. I’m not a hag.”
“Fair enough. But that does mean you are a mage? Does it not? And a powerful one. You’re a Guild member. I recognize your name. I find myself being very weary of any Guild member. Why are you in my tent?”
“Some men...” she paused for a moment, anxiously eyeing Quaraun up and down. “Wait. Are you a man?”
“I’m an Elf.”
“Elves went extinct centuries ago.”
“I know,” the old Elven silk merchant replied as he reached for his hookah. “I’m the last one.”
“I hoped this tent belonged to a woman when I came in here. You look... you look... female. But your voice...”
Quaraun puffed on his hookah for a few moments before answering the woman.
“I assure you I am a male, or at least I used to be before a group of wretches castrated me, regardless of what my features may tell you. Why are you in my tent? What precisely do you require?”
“Castrated, you? You mean you don’t have...”
“Do you want me to show you, exactly what it was that they did to me?”
“No. I... uhm... no. I am so sorry.”
“About me being castrated or you so rudely trespassing in my tent and waking me up?”
“Uhm. Both, I guess. It’s just that I noticed the tent. It was pink and, decorated and ruffles and beads and, I ran inside thinking it was a lady’s pavilion. I didn’t realize. And then I saw you asleep, you looked, I assumed, your hairstyle and your gown and your face, you...”
“You did what every one does and judged me to be a woman, yes, I understand. I get mistaken for being female all the time. It’s annoying really. You’d think no one in America ever saw anyone from the Middle East before. What do you want?”
“Are you trying to uhm... are you trying to be a woman?”
“No. This feminine face is just what I was born looking like. I can’t help the face and hair I was born with.”
“And your clothes?”
“So? This is how Persian men dress.”
“Aren’t those women’s clothes?”
“No. These are not women’s clothes. These are not dresses. They are caftans and cloaks and coats. Every man in the East wears them.”
“Yes. In pink.”
“Yes. It’s the colour of royalty.”
“Are you royalty?”
“I am The Grand High Emperor of The Triple Planets.”
“You’re an emperor?”
“Living in a tent?”
“With no castle or palace or body guards or...”
“No. None of those things.”
“And you wear pink?”
“What is wrong with pink?”
“It’s a girl’s colour.”
“I like pink,” the ancient pink robed silk merchant stated without further explanation.
“You sure do,” the woman said as she stepped back away from the Elf and looked around the tent.
Everything was pink.
Every stitch of absolutely everything was pink.
Every single item.
Pink tapestries on the walls of the tent.
Pink rugs and carpets tossed around covering the dirt and grass making a soft, pink, plush floor.
A gold throne with bright pink velvet cushions.
As she surveyed the gaudy pink decor, it suddenly occurred to her that this tent was much bigger on the inside than it had been on the outside.
From outside it had appeared to be a small little circular marquee, perhaps big enough for one person to sit and sip tea. It was certainly not big enough to lay down or stand up in. And yet, once inside the pink tent, the room was so incredibly vast.
So very desperately pink.
Even the moths were pink.
Fat, chubby, fuzzy pink moths covered in yellow spots were flying lazily around the tent.
Fluffy white silk months fluttered around loose in the tent, as well.
After getting over the shock of how overly pink everything was, she suddenly realized how quiet it was inside the tent.
So very, dreadfully quiet.
It was too quiet in here.
The quiet was unnatural.
Outside the sounds of the hurricane ripping the forest apart, crashing, clattering, roaring, howling, thunder, lightening, high winds made it deafening to the point of being unable to concentrate. Yet stepping through the cloth door-flap of the tent was all it took for every sound outside to vanish.
“What dark magic is this?” The woman whispered under her breath as she listened to the absolute silence.
The ceiling tall shelves were lined with books and trinkets and potions. Herbs reducing down to their oil essences, bubbled in various double boilers, while small cauldrons simmered with spices.
Stacks on woven reed and marsh-grass baskets were piled around in various places. Some filled with fruits and vegetables, mostly apples and potatoes. Others filled with various sewing, weaving, and embroidery gear. Still others with glass blowing and wood carving tools. Most of them contained various dried herbs and flowers.
It appeared as though the Elf made everything himself, from the little wooden tables to the woven baskets, as there were also stacks of partly carved wood and partly woven baskets laying about as well.
From the bamboo tent poles hung hemp braids, full of dried pomegranate and oranges, both stuck full of anise stars and cloves. The heady aromatic aromas of sandalwood and patchouli incense burning filled the air.
Braided garlic, nets of red wax dipped cheese balls, strings of dehydrated apple slices, and bunches of dark brown vanilla beans, dried opium poppy pods, and large cocoa pods also hung from the ceiling.
Spices, cheeses, fruits, and chocolates were stacked on various tables and clearly made up the bulk of the old Elf’s diet.
One pot was cooking what appeared to be wassail. The citrusy, clean smell of boiled orange slices, mixed with the pungent fragrance of anise stars, cinnamon sticks, and cloves, wafted up from the syrupy mixture of spices, cut fruit, and rum.
“There are so many exotic smells in this tent,” she said as she walked around opening pots and lifting covers. “That I can not rightly tell where they are all coming from.”
“Exotic is a matter of perspective,” Quaraun stated dryly. He was not amused by this woman’s intrusion of his privacy, nor her refusal to state why she was here, and her snooping around through his things was irritating him and raising his suspicions. “What is exotic to you, is perfectly natural and native to me. It is only exotic because you are unused to it. Please stop touching everything.”
As she looked around the tent, and could see no source of light, and yet, the tent was as well lit as though she was standing in a dry meadow on a clear, bright, sunny day. A fire was lit under the cauldron and pots, but it was giving off no smoke and not nearly enough light to fill the room. The lack of smoke from the fire and the well lit light from no source alarmed her and signalled even more magic was at work here.
“There is no smoke from the fire in here,” the woman said.
“No,” Quaraun answered. “It is vented out.”
“I don’t see how.”
“What matters is I did it and the air is safe and clean and non-toxic and we can breathe without choking on ash. Does it matter how I do it?”
“I suppose not.”
“Why are you in my tent?” Quaraun repeated his question yet again.
“There were men after me,” the women said as she continued to nosily poke around the tent, in business that was not her own. “Where is the light coming from?”
Quaraun pointed to a glowing crystal, a large quartz-like stone sitting on the table at the centre of the tent. Even the moths were pink. Fat little short wings, feather antennae silk months bounced around the glowing crystal, attracted to its brilliant orange light.
“What is it?” Asked the woman as she picked up the large rock and turned it over in her hands.
“You really don’t want to know.”
“It’s feces from the lava slugs of Fire Mountain. Dwarven miners used to use them to light the way in the deepest caves of the Earth, centuries ago, back when Dwarves were still plentiful. The Dwarves went extinct before us Elves did. Pitiful. Only Humans remain.”
The woman quickly put the glowing, crystallized dung back down and the fluttering moths followed its glow. “Where did you get it?”
“From Fire Mountain.”
“Well, obviously, but what I meant was, how did you get it? Lava slugs are deadly. And massive. Nearly as big as a hippo.”
“You know what a hippo is?”
“I suppose the bigger question, should be: How do you know what a lava slug is?”
“I read about them once.”
“Most Humans would caulk them up to mythology and not so readily accept their existence. Of course, most Humans can’t see an invisible tent, or walk through a magic barrier, and you did both to get in here.”
“You’re a witch?” the woman inquired as she examined the rows of kettles bubbling away.
“I’m a silk merchant,” Quaraun said, stating what should have been obvious, as he continued to nervously smoke his hookah.
“I see,” the woman said as she peered into the enormous cauldron and found it full of silkworm cocoons soaking in a strange pink liquid.
The smaller pots, filled with other shades of pink liquid, each pot a darker pink than the next, and each likewise, also filled with large puffy silkworm cocoons, sat scattered around the larger pot.
On the table, near the cauldron, lay rows of bright pink cocoons drying on wire mesh racks. Near those were even more cocoons, these already dried and partly unravelled. The outsides of the cocoons were deep dark pinks, but the dye did not seep through to the worm in the middle, so the innermost fibres were pale pink, almost yellowish-ivory-white. Beside those were racks of long wooden poles, from which hung lots of filaments of variegated pink silk yarns.
It was easy to see how Quaraun achieved the delicate striped pattern of his striped pink silk cloth, when one saw how he dyed the cocoons before unravelling them.
“These are dyes?” she inquired, pointing to the smaller boilers filled with herbs.
“Yes. I dye my silk threads with them.”
“I’ve never seen silk woven like this before.”
“Have you ever even seen silk woven before?”
“Yes. Once. Years ago. A local tailor had ordered some silk thread to weave a shawl with. She said silk was too slippery to work with so, she never did it again. But, you don’t order the thread from elsewhere. You’re making it. You make your own silk threads.”
“Yes. I raise my own silk worms.” Quaraun pointed to the many bamboo aviary cages stacked to the back wall of the tent. These were filled with shrubs, covered in mass hoards of caterpillars chewing at the leaves. “I prepare my own dyes. Spin my own thread.”
“You produce your silk from scratch, then?”
“That’s pretty amazing, actually.”
“Madame, a few moments ago you were screaming, terrified, desperate for help. You seem to have forgotten about that in favour of being nosy.”
“You said this tent was invisible, so I was safe here.”
“Yes. And I think you already knew that before you entered here. Who sent you?”
“Yes. Sent you. Who sent you? Why are you here?”
The woman ignored the old Elf’s question and proceeded around the room. The bulk of the tent’s interior looked like a tailor’s sewing shop. A spinning wheel sat its spindle full of soft freshly spun pink strands. Baskets of full spindles sat around the spinning wheel.
Near the spinning wheel, sat a large weaving loom, with yardage of fine, delicate striped pink Shantung slubbed silk partly woven. More baskets full of spindles sat around the weaving loom.
Several large embroidery hoops stood on stands near the loom, each with pink silk stretched across it. Some hoops had fuchsia embroidery partly started on the pink silks, while others, already finished being embroidered, had tiny magenta seed beads and small disc mirrors being sewn on to them.
“You mentioned you travel?”
“I said nothing of the sort, but yes, I do. I’m a peddler. A travelling merchant. Yes. I travel. Why?”
“Do you take all this equipment with you?”
“I carry it.”
“All of it?”
“All of it.”
“Don’t you have a horse or a wagon or anything?”
“Did you see any when you barged in?”
“Well, there you go.”
“But it was dark. And raining.”
“I have no horse. I have no wagon. I travel alone and on foot. I carry everything on me.”
“You are a nosy one, aren’t you?”
“It’s just you are so small and you don’t look very strong, and there’s, like, an entire house full of stuff here.”
“Ah. Well, that is a puzzle then, isn’t it?”
Quaraun still lingered in his bed, which was a pile of fur pelts, laid out on the floor, that he had been curled up in, sleeping in them like a bird’s next or a fox’s den.
The old, sleepy Moon Elf necromancer hoped that if he just stayed in bed, the woman would leave and let him go back to sleep. But she continued poking through his belongings and snooping around in every nook and cranny she found, which annoyed Quaraun to no end.
Quaraun suddenly decided she must die.
He shook the image from his mind.
He tried to imagine of something else.
BoomFuzzy’s BoomFudgy ButterCream Filled Chocolate Covered Apricots.
That was a much better thought.
Quaraun pulled a box of BoomFuzzy’s BoomFudgy ButterCream Filled Chocolate Covered Apricots from out of his tiny heart-shaped bag of holding.
He stared at the velvet covered brown box with the friendly gold letters on the top. Such wonderful dark chocolates. Such horrible dark secrets they held inside each bloody bite.
BoomFuzzy had died centuries ago. One bite was deadly. BoomFuzzy’s last box of BoomFudgy ButterCream Filled Chocolate Covered Apricots.
The last thing BoomFuzzy ever made.
The last thing BoomFuzzy ever ate.
BoomFuzzy had poisoned the candy.
A horrible, terrible poison.
One that dissolved organs, and caused the eater to dying coughing up a pool of their own blood, mixed with their dissolved entrails.
BoomFuzzy’s last box of BoomFudgy ButterCream Filled Chocolate Covered Apricots. The box of chocolates BoomFuzzy had made to kill himself with.
BoomFuzzy had committed suicide.
This horrible box of chocolates killed BoomFuzzy.
This was not a pleasant thought.
This was a horrible thought.
That’s what this box was now.
A memory of the day BoomFuzzy died.
Quaraun opened the box. The deceptively heavenly aroma of bitter sweet dark chocolate, soft, fluffy buttercream, and gooey fruity apricot jam wafted out of the box.
Five chocolates were gone.
The rest still remained.
“I loved my children,” Quaraun said out loud.
“But I loved BoomFuzzy more.”
“What are you muttering about?”
“I murdered my four children.”
“What? Why would you do that?”
“This candy is poisoned.”
“I gave them each a chocolate from this box. This horrible box of poisoned chocolates. I knew what they were, I knew they were full of poison, and I did it, anyway. I knew how BoomFuzzy had died. I knew what BoomFuzzy had done to the food. And I gave these to my children anyways. Five are gone. One for BoomFuzzy. Four for my children. The rest remain.”
“You murdered your children?”
“They were sweet and innocent. Innocent and sweet. Pure and kind. Kindness is a rare thing. So few are kind. No one has ever been kind to me. I am too different to be accepted or welcomed in any society. Unloved and unwanted, outcast and abandoned. Yet they were innocent. They were not cruel and hateful like everyone else.”
“Then why did you kill them?”
“The innocent must die along with the wicked, in order for the spell to work.”
“Blood magic? Do you mean blood magic? Blood magic is the only magic that tells you to kill.”
“Yes. Blood magic. Dark and evil. Evil and dark.”
“Evil is right. No one does Blood Magic but the most evil sorcerers.”
“Blood covered everything,” Quaraun continued saying, not listening to the intruder. “They were so cold after. So very cold. The coldness of death. I had never felt before. Stiff and rigid. It was horrible. And worse as hours passed. Their spines snapped. Their bodies folded back on themselves.”
“I knew nothing of death back then. I did not know what it would do to their bodies. I put BoomFuzzy’s body away, quickly after he died. He didn’t go cold and his spine did not snap. But theirs did. I didn’t know what death was like. Have you ever witnessed death?”
“You don’t want to. The light leaves their eyes, then tremors take hold of their body. The colour leaves their eyes. Solid black. Everything. Everyone. No matter how they die. Sickness. Old age. Poison. Hanging. It is always exactly the same when the moment of death arrives. I’ve seen so much death now.”
“And you seem traumatized by it.”
“I am. I know I am. Death is horrible to watch and yet I’ve watched it so many times now. Do you know the first death I ever saw?”
“My mother. My father murdered her.”
“I know. I saw him do it. I was three years old. He suspected she was not an Elf.”
“How can an Elf not be an Elf?”
“When they are a Thullid.”
“Thullids are pretty rare, aren’t they?”
“Yes. Nearly as rare as Elves.”
“Did he think she was a Thullid?”
“Yes. Accused her of being a Thullid. So he cracked open her skull. And he was right.”
“She was a Thullid?”
“Oh yes. When her skull broke open, there was no brain inside. Instead, there was a jelly fish. A beautiful white jelly fish. He took it out of her skull, threw it on the floor and jumped on it. Crushed it flat. Both of my mothers died that day. The Elf who gave birth to my Elven host’s body and the Thullid who bore my jellyfish larvae. He murdered both of my mothers.”
“You’ve had a hard life, haven’t you?”
“But they took her body away. So I didn’t see what happens after death arrives. So I didn’t know what would happen to my children after they died. Their bodies expelled every last fluid, from their mouths and nose and ears and eyes, their bowels emptied. Death is horrible to see. Horrible to watch. A body must be buried within 3 hours of death, otherwise it will twist and snap its spine than empty every fluid while it does. Every body does this. Every person. Every bird. Every animal. I know that now. But I didn’t know it then. I’d never seen it before. I saw it happen to my children. I wanted them to die peacefully. But death is never peaceful. Death always snaps the spine and expels every fluid, no matter how you die, even if you die in your sleep just from old age. Death is always just plain awful.”
“Yes. It is, but murder is worse.”
“Murder. Yes. Bleak and vile. Heinous and gloomy. Sinister and evil. Malevolent and foreboding. Ominous and malignant. Malicious and gloomy. Blood. Red and oozing. Abhorrent and dismal. Anguish and despair. Malevolent and dread. Grim and malignant. Malicious and forlorn.”
“What? Why are spouting off random words?”
“Hmmm? Am I? I don’t know. It’s something I do when I am upset. It relaxes me. I murdered my children. The Elf’s children. Not the Thullid’s children.”
“Thullid? You mentioned Thullids before...”
“So much blood. The blood was everywhere.”
“When you killed your children?”
“Yes. But they were the Elf’s children, so why should I care? I should care for my true children. My Thullid babies. My clutch of eggs. The host’s children should not concern me.”
“This Elf whom I live in.”
“You are not the Elf?”
“No. I am the Sacred Pink JellyFish. The Elf is dead, his corpse is my host. They were his children. Not mine.”
“The Thullid’s eggs will not hatch until they are fertilized. I must guard them until then. But the Elf fathered children. Their mother was evil, but the children, were innocent. I murdered them before I executed her. I murdered them to hurt her. She loved them. Like a mother should. But she hated BoomFuzzy and taught her children to hate BoomFuzzy and sing that horrible, terrible song. I could not listen to that song any longer, so I sent them to bed, each with one of BoomFuzzy’s poisoned chocolates. I quickly regretted it, but by then it was too late. They had already eaten the candy. I slit their throats while they slept, so that they would not die as BoomFuzzy ad done, lingering in agony for days while their organs boiled inside them.”
“Why would you do something like that?”
“The innocent die as a sacrifice to cleanse the caster’s hands of the blood of the wicked.”
“I know. I’ve lived with the guilt, my whole life. Every lifetime. So many lifetimes. I am in Hell. This is my Hell. I was so young when I killed them.”
“Why are you telling me this?”
“I don’t know.” Quaraun put the box of poisoned chocolates back in his bag and fell silent once again.
“I think you are tired. You should go back to sleep.”
“Yes. I am very tired,” Quaraun agreed.
The carelessly lazy, lackadaisical Elf watched as the woman continued to rummage around in his things. Quaraun desperately wanted to slay the bitch, but he was lacking in the enthusiasm and determination to get off his own ass and actually do anything.
Her actions agitated the irritated jelly brained silk merchant greatly. However, Quaraun tried his best to remain calm, relaxed, and civil and be polite. Yes, politeness. This current situation called for politeness, not daggers, and her still beating heart in his hand.
Quaraun squeezed his eyes shut.
He needed to think of something.
The Swamp Hag’s head on a platter.
This was not working.
Ghirardelli was acting suspicious.
Suspicious people upset Quaraun and caused him to think suspicious thoughts.
Squishy, psychotic jelly brain thoughts of murder. The mind flaying Thullid living in his skull, boiled in rage as the woman went around the tent rudely touching things. Images of millions of tentacles strangling the stranger, flashed through Quaraun's mind, as he long hair, grew longer, wriggling and twisting around him.
Must not kill.
Quaraun did not like thinking suspicious thoughts.
Yes. Tea. That’s what the disconcerted old Moon Elf required.
Ghirardelli would be dead by morning if Quaraun didn’t have some tea to divert his glorious thoughts of ripping her head off.
Silver. Violet. Purple. Flame.
Silver. Violet. Purple. Flame.
Silver. Violet. Purple. Flame.
That’s not right.
No silver platters.
No heads on silver platters.
The temptation to rip out brains was great.
Quaraun's lovely silver strands of hair began twitching at the thought of pulling the woman's brain out through her nostril.
Quaraun reached out and began smoothing and soothing his wriggling strands of hair.
Must resist ripping her brain out.
One must be good to the Americans, evil though they are, no matter how big a piece of shit said American may be.
Ghirardelli was shittier than the average Human.
Quaraun knew this to be true, for Ghirardelli worked for Finderu.
Resisting the temptation to slaughter every Human, especially every American Human, most especially every white American Human, especially the vile scum that lived here in Saco Bay, he encountered, was very difficult for Quaraun.
Ghirardelli fit all the above criteria.
White. Never good.
Human. Always evil.
American. Immoral degenerates.
Trespassing in his tent.
Lived in Saco Bay.
Quaraun liked Saco Bay.
Saco River Estuary was lovely. He could see it from here if only the hurricane would stop.
Lovely tall green grass.
Towering gentle giant white pines.
Moose wading in the river. Loons shrieking from the water.
Quaraun could wade into the water and let his JellyFish tentacles swim long, loose, and free.
Partridge booming their wings on fallen logs.
Too bad the Humans were ruining it.
Clear cutting everything.
Three giant red brick smoke stacks lumbering down over all of it, filling the sky with thick, black smog.
Pollution and filth, all for money and greed.
A crashing sound, the clattering of breaking pottery, brought Quaraun out of his thoughts. The old Elf opened his eyes, only now just realizing he had closed them. Ghirardelli had knocked over a shelf of terracotta jars, and now busied herself with picking them back up.
Quaraun watched, as he reminded himself, that he must be nice to the jackass, trespassing intruder who was right now invading his privacy, even though in his mind all he wanted to do was wring the shit head trespassing intruder’s neck, shoot slugs at her from his wand, gouge her eyes out with his dagger, and then eat her brain. It had been so long since he had last eaten a brain.
The Sacred Pink JellyFish set about to thinking thoughts of how wonderful eating brains was. It had been so long since she had eaten a brain. Psionic creatures like Thullids required brains to eat, in order to strengthen their psionic abilities.
“Brains are such wonderful things,” Quaraun muttered to himself.
Before Quaraun knew it he was daydreaming visions of eating her brain sliced and toasted, spread with strawberry jelly and boiling her eyes, while wearing her teeth for a necklace.
The psychotic Thullid possessed Elf thought these gloriously, lovely squishy thoughts of murder, while she continued to poke through his things, oblivious to the danger she had put herself by entering into this innocent-looking pink tent.
A pink tent that was brimming full of everything a silk merchant needed to grow, boil, spin, weave, dye, embroider, sew, and display his pink silk wares.
Quaraun’s display of pink silk wares is where Ghirardelli was now snooping around.
Dozens of pink dresses, pink scarves, pink shawls, pink sari, pink hijab, pink coats, pink cloaks, pink capes, pink blouses, pink corsets, pink hose, pink skirts, pink shoes, pink boots, pink ruffs, pink collars, pink cuffs, pink hats, pink slippers, pink bags, and pink petticoats all hung and displayed around the tent, some finished and ready to be sold, others in various stages of construction.
“What’s all this?” Ghirardelli asked, pointing to the weaving, embroidery, and sewing.
Quaraun didn’t answer. He was too busy thinking squishy homicidal jellyfish thoughts, to any longer pay attention to the stranger who’d instigated those thoughts.
“HEY!” The woman yelled as she grabbed Quaraun’s shoulder and shook him. “You okay?”
“What?” Quaraun blinked and looked around, trying to remember where he was. “Oh. It’s you. Are you still here?”
“Are you all right?”
“Oh yes. Quite fine.”
“You were in a trance or something back there.”
“Yes. I do that when things are upsetting me. What were you saying?”
“What’s upsetting you?”
“How am I upsetting you?”
“You are touching my things.”
“And that upsets you?”
“Yes. It is very upsetting for me. You are upsetting me.”
“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to upset you.”
“You are invading my personal space.”
“I don’t like it. Anyone else would be dead by now.”
“Anyone else... wait... what? What do you mean, dead?”
“You are the Guild’s primary rat. And there weren’t other members of the Guild whose heads I wanted more. I’d have killed you already, soon as you said your name.”
“What’s all that stuff over there?” Ghirardelli asked, once again pointing to the weaving, embroidery, and sewing, and once again ignoring what the Elf had said.
“That? I told you. I am a merchant. As I can not travel because of the storm, I am working on replenishing my stock. Making more dyes, dyeing more threads, weaving more yardages, embroidering more cloth, sewing more saree. I sell these at markets along the coast. Each year I travel to the south, selling as I go, then I return to the north, selling as I go yet again.”
“I’m a silk merchant. This is what I do. Why is my being a silk merchant so hard for you to understand?”
“But, I mean, everything is pink. There is nothing not pink here.”
“What is wrong with that?”
“I don’t understand why you are doing it.”
“I’m a silk merchant.”
“Of only pink?”
“Yes. Only pink. I only make pink silk. Not blue. Not linen. Not green. Not cotton. Just pink. Just silk. Pink silk is my specialty.”
“So, you’re a merchant of only pink silk merchandise?”
“I like silk. It is cool in the summer and warm in the winter. It is light and easy to wash and wears for years without tearing. Plus, it is easy to make without having an entire crew of workers or acres of crops. And quite portable. I can make it on the road as I travel.”
“And people buy it?”
“And you make enough money to live off doing nothing else?”
“Silk sells for very high prices. I can live quite comfortable on selling only a few bolts a year.”
“Who buys it?”
“Wealthy people, mostly. Also mages.”
“Yes. It is Thullid silk.”
“Thullid silk? That’s illegal.”
“It makes things...” she paused and looked around the tent again. “It makes things bigger on the inside than they are on the outside. It’s what this tent is made out of, isn’t it?”
“Yes. I sell purses and bags made out of it to mages.”
“Bags of holding? Those are illegal. You make bags of holding?”
“Yes. I’ve done so for hundreds of years. I invented them.”
“You... you’re the mage who invented bags of holding?”
“I am the Sacred Pink Jelly Fish.”
“The Thullid god?”
“No. Though most people agree with that sentiment.”
“Why only pink?”
“I like pink.”
“I told you. I am the Sacred Pink Jelly Fish. In my natural state, I am a lovely shade of pink, with purple ruffles, and long thin, silvery white venom tipped stinging tentacles. And as I can not live in my natural form on this planet, I dress my host to look as I do in my natural state.”
“This Elf body.”
“You’re a Thullid.”
“And you make pink silk.”
“Isn’t that like a sinful colour?”
“Well, if you listen to the ministers around here, yeah.”
“I wouldn’t know.” Quaraun shrugged. “I don’t listen to them.”
“A merchant who specializes in pink. That’s kind of weird.”
“There is nothing weird about it at all. I’m a tailor. I weave silk, embroider it, then sew it into items that I sell to merchants and peddlers, so they can, in turn, sell it at markets and bazaars. Nothing weird about it.”
“Is everything really only pink?”
“I like pink.”
“Ever considered anything other than pink?”
“No reason to. I miss living in my natural pink jelly body, so I surround myself with pink. There are hundreds of shades of pink, all makable with dyes from plants, petals, roots, mushrooms, and tree bark.”
“I can see that. But, you’re really a merchant?”
“Yes. I sell pink silk.”
“To who? Everyone around here wears black on black.”
“Yes. I had noticed the Humans in this region love their lack of colour. Of course, BoomFuzzy always wore black, now that I think of it and he was from Pepper Valley. Must be a cultural thing for this region. No, I don’t expect to sell many wares around here. No demand for pink or silk in this sea of Bible slinging black cotton.”
“So you can’t sell pink silk in this area and you know you can’t sell silk in this area, but you are a merchant who only sells pink silk and nothing else. Have I got that right?”
“Than what are you doing in Pepper Valley?”
“You suggest I am here on business? No, no. I am not here to sell pink silk. I am here to resurrect the dead.”
“Resurrect the.. wait.. what?”
“My lover was from Pepper Valley. He talked about it often...”
“He. Yes. We are both males.”
“But that’s... that’s...”
“Illegal. Yes. I know.”
“Why do something that is illegal?”
“Why is falling in love illegal at all, would be the better question.”
“Who’s talking about love?”
“I am. I loved BoomFuzzy. I still love him. I will always love him. He’s my soul mate.”
“Males with males is illegal.”
“Yes. I know. I know that better than anyone. It’s why they castrated me. They said if I was going to let another man fuck me like I was a woman, then they were going to make me a woman. Well, you know what, there’s more to being a man than having a penis. So even without one, I am still a man. A man doesn’t magically become a woman just because Christians cut his dick off.”
“Few people in Pepper Valley wear pink.”
“I’m going to ask again. Why is it that you are in my tent and what do you want?”
“Some men are after me. I shook them off for a bit, but they’ll catch up with me again soon. I... I hoped you knew the area and could help me hide or get to someplace safe... or...”
“Why are the men after you?”
“Souls? What does that mean?”
“Well, it’s kind of a long story and you probably won’t believe half of it.”
“I like long stories. So sit, pull up a pile of pillows, make yourself comfortable and tell me. Would you like some tea?”
“Tea? How are you going to make tea in a tent?”
Quaraun waved his hand and a steaming hot pot of tea water appeared in his hand. In front of him appeared a low to the floor Chinese tea table dressed in pale rose petal pink silk cloth, set for two, with dainty teacups and saucers, biscuits and crumpets. He placed the teapot on the table, then pulled out his rainbow wand and used it to draw several sigils on the ground around the table. Several piles of even more magenta pillows appeared all around the table.
“Come, sit. I will pour your tea. Do you prefer actual tea leaves, herb tea, or poppy infused tea?”
“I... uhm... tea leaves. Are you a mage?”
“But, I thought, didn’t you say, I thought you said you were a tailor?”
“One can be both."
"Yes. I suppose that is true."
"Sit. Tell me your story. I so rarely have company. I live alone, you see. Travel the world. It gets very lonely. I’m often weeks with no one to talk to, save for myself. And I’m afraid not dreadfully good company for myself. The conversations I have with myself tend to devolve into depressing thoughts of old age rather quickly. I’m too depressing a person to talk to so I would rather ignore myself and talk with someone else.”
“You’re kind of crazy, aren’t you?”
“Most people say I am insane. I’m really not insane, though. Just dreadfully lonely. I’m always glad for company. Please, sit.”
Quaraun busied himself with serving tea. The woman sat on the pillows and looked around.
“I should have known you were a mage when I first noticed the tent was so much bigger on the inside.”
“Why didn’t you?”
“Don’t know. Wasn’t thinking. Are you a Guild member? I’ve never seen you at any of the meetings.”
“The Guild? Haha! Oh, that IS funny.”
“You don’t know who I am, do you?”
“Well, I DO so love pink.”
“Yes, you certainly do.”
Quaraun glanced up at her and smiled, then continued fussing over the teacups. When he finished mixing the drinks, Quaraun handed Ghirardelli her teacup, then took his own and sat down on his fuchsia pillows once again.
“I have not attended a Guild meeting in very many years.”
“So you are a Guild member?”
“Well. I joined The Guild, somewhere around nine hundred years ago, I think.”
“You must be one of its founding members than.”
“Oh no. No. But I knew two of the founders.”
“Really? Which ones?”
“And uhm... well
“I don’t know that name. You said it before.”
“Yes. BoomFuzzy was from Pepper Valley.”
“Only mage I know of from Pepper Valley was King Gwallmaiic, The Elf Eater. He got kicked out of The Guild for practising necromancy and blood magic and eating the other Guild members whenever he got angry with them. He was psychotic and dangerous.”
“Yes. He did, and he was.”
“You knew The Elf Eater?”
“You poor thing.”
“Well, you’re an Elf. He murdered Elves and ate them. That’s why people called him The Elf Eater.”
“You should come to the next Guild meeting with me. Some of the old non-Human members are from The Elf Eater’s time. They remember him. You must know them. It’d be good to see old friends, wouldn’t it?”
“I’m, ah, how shall we say it? Not well liked by most of the currently active Guild members these days. Finderu and I had a bit of a falling out and well, eh, you know how it is.”
“You had a falling out? Over what?”
“He didn’t like my lover.”
“The Guild doesn’t tell you who you can and can not love.”
“Oh, they did in my case. My lover was particularly hated by Finderu and, well, just about everyone else on the planet. I’m surprised you haven’t figured out who I am yet.”
“Should I know who you are?”
“I’m a purveyor pink silk. Few of us around. In fact, I’m the only one.”
“What’s that got to do with The Guild? Plenty of mages are also merchants.”
“Yes, but I’m the only mage who sells pink silk.”
“Are you practising magic illegally?”
“Well, I suppose that would depend on what you consider the legality of practising magic is now, wouldn’t it?”
“The law states you have to be a member of The Guild of Wizardry, and have all the necessary papers and permits on you at all times.”
“Well, I DO have papers on me. Not sure they are the ones you’d expect them to be.”
“Can I see them?”
“Perhaps. Maybe later. For now, tell me your story. You said you had men chasing you, so you ran in here and woke me up, out of my nice restful beauty sleep...”
“I thought Elves didn’t sleep. Don’t you like just sit around and meditate or something? Go weeks, months, years without needing to sleep?”
“Elves with a hive mind, yes. The hive mind makes sleep rather difficult, nearly impossible. Especially when one’s brain is jelly.”
“Yes. Speaking of jelly... jelly?”
A pot of grape jelly appeared in front of her.
“Grape is not pink, of course, but it is so hard to get good pink jelly these days, now that BoomFuzzy is dead. He made the best jams and jellies and jelly beans...”
“Uhm. Thank you. What do you mean by that, what you said earlier, Elves with a hive mind? Aren’t all Elves part of that hive mind thing they do?”
“Are you saying that you’re not part of the Elven hive mind?”
“No. I’m not.”
“Are you an outcast Elf?”
“What did you do?”
“Why do you think I did something?”
“I’ve always heard that Elves only cast criminals out of their hive mind. Are you a criminal?”
Quaraun took to spreading jelly on a slice of anise biscotti.
“I am the tailor who is serving you your tea and jelly with crumpets and patiently waiting to hear the rest of your story.”
Quaraun handed the woman the fragrant, crunchy jelly coated cookie, then jellied another for himself.
“Quite patiently waiting, I might add, after you so rudely disturbed my sleep.” Quaraun said in between bites of biscotti. “Waiting ever so patiently, trying not to envision ramming my wand through your eye while you interrogate me. Interrogating me ever so rudely after the equally rude awakening you gave me, dragging me out of my bed. You ask so much of me and yet I know so precious little of you? Now I ask you, is that fair? Why should I tell you anything about me, when it is you who invades my privacy and offers nothing of yourself?”
“No. You’re right. This is your campsite, and I barged in uninvited and disturbed your peace. That was rude of me. I should go.”
Ghirardelli got up to leave.
“No. I did not say you had to leave. Sit and tell me why the men are chasing you, dear, sweet, Ghirardelli, Swamp Hag of The Godforsaken City. Let’s see if perhaps I can’t help.”
“I told you my name. Can you at least not do the same?”
“Why should I?”
“You know who I am. How come I don’t at least get to know who you are?”
“All in good time. The men? Why are they chasing you?”
“Okay, so, here’s the deal: I got this legendary evil sword.”
“Evil sword? How can a sword be evil?”
“It just is, okay? It is said to require souls to keep placated, otherwise it goes berserk and starts killing people.”
“A soul eater? Those are rare.”
“Yeah. I know.”
“How did you come by it?”
“I... I just did. Okay. It doesn’t matter how I got it. Alright?”
“My, my defensive are we. So we can assume you obtained it illegally? All right. Continue on then.”
“So, at first I’m thinking I got gypped...”
“Yeah, it means scammed and ripped off by Gypsies.”
“I know what it means. Do you have any idea how offensive it is?”
“What do you care? It’s just fucking Gypsies.”
“I AM fucking Gypsies. You are making a slur against MY people and I find it highly offensive.”
“You’re a Gypsy? I thought you were an Elf.”
“I am a Gypsy.”
“Your skin is way too white for you to be a Gypsy. No Gypsy is as pale as you.”
“I am albino. Did you not notice my pink pupils? Or my white hair.”
“Is that why you wear that?” Ghirardelli reached out and brushed her fingers along the edge of the Elf’s pink silk sari. “This is not like any Elf fashion I’ve ever heard of before.”
“Yes. I lived with the Di’Jinn.”
“The Di’Jinn? In Persia?”
“The Di’Jinn. In Persia. Yes. They raised me.”
“You’re a long way from Persia, aren’t you? What are you doing in Maine?”
“I was born in Ivujivik.”
“Ivujivik? Where’s that?”
“In Quebec, not far north from here.”
“Your a French Canadian Elf, but you lived with the Di’Jinn in Persia?”
“Yes. I was born in Quebec. But I was not raised by Elves. I grew up in Persia. In a Gypsy caravan. We raised horses and travelled across the desert to sell them in city markets. They adopted me as one of them, though I was born an Elf. My biological family abandoned me when I was just 9 years old. The Di’Jinn adopted me. Thus, how it is that an Elf came to be a Gypsy. When I was young. I was sick. I lived in the Deep North, where the snow always falls and summer never comes. My father murdered my mother and then he was going to murder me. His older brother had a friend, ZooLock, a Di’Jinn priest who was staying with him at the time.”
“Not ZooLock the Great?”
“Yes. ZooLock the Great.”
“You’re friends with ZooLock the Great?”
“Not exactly. I wouldn’t call us friends. We know each other. But we aren’t friends. I never said ZooLock was my friend. He was my uncle’s friend.”
“Yes. That is what you said, isn’t it?”
“He gave me to ZooLock, told him to take me with him, raise me as his own child. And he did. Thus, an Elf came to be adopted by the Di’Jinn. The Gypsies are my family. Not the Elves. I was happy with the Di’Jinn. I felt more at home with them, then I did my own people.”
“My understanding of the Di’Jinn is that they is an evil people. A nomadic band of criminal magic users. The Guild wouldn’t even allow them to be members.”
“That is an urban myth. Gypsies are not criminals. They are good people. They live in tents and wear bright colours, have big families. And that scares settled people.”
“I suppose I can relate. Whole reason I live in the swamps is because people in the town folk around here fear witches and they think I’m a witch.”
“Yes. Never trust settled people. I certainly don’t. Settled people make up rumours. Spread lies. That doesn’t mean those rumours are true.”
“Do settled people spread rumours about you?”
“Yes. They do. I live in a pink tent, travelling on foot from town to town, selling pink silk and wearing pink silk. It terrifies people. But now we are talking about me again. You keep doing that. Changing the subject to me. Are you a spy? Here to find out information about me? I’ve seen no men chase you yet. I’ve only your word on that part, now don’t I?”
“I’m sorry. You’re right. I shouldn’t pry.”
“You’re a Guild member. That means you know Finderu. It’s to my advantage to not eat you.”
“Eat me? Wait? What? Why would you eat me?”
“I am The Sacred Pink JellyFish. Brains are my primary diet. And it rarely that brains of their own free will willingly stroll into my lair.”
“Lair? This isn’t a lair, it’s a tent.”
“I like my privacy.”
“You’re kind of crazy, aren’t you?”
“You don’t know who I am, do you?”
“Everything IS pink.”
“Yes. You’re not joking when you say you like pink.”
“Nor am I joking when I say I don’t like Humans and their brains are my primary diet.”
“You eat Human brains.”
“You expect me to believe that?”
“It’s YOUR ad copy.”
“Waited dead or alive, preferably dead. Wanted for Necromancy, Demonology, Sorcery, Black Magic, murder, rape, buggery, sodomy, cross-dressing, bathing more than twice a year, eating Human brains... you don’t remember writing that about me? Printing it up on ten thousand wanted posters and then nailing it on every tree, fence post, store, and mailbox for a 14 mile radius all around The Great Portland Area of Saco Bay, even right here on York Hill, and all over the front of Pepper Valley’s Pepperell Mill? On the bulletin board in the bakery. Hmmm? Forgot you did that?”
“I do that with many people. We ARE Justice Mages. It is our JOB to hunt criminals. And keep tabs on everything they do. I drive all over Maine to watch them, for weeks before they get arrested.”
“Yes. I know. I AM aware WHO you are. You’re a vile little bitch who makes an art out of being a nosy busybody. A slimy sneaky salamander you are.”
“I.. but, I don’t recognize you as a criminal we are looking for.”
“Really? Maybe you should get a better artist to draw my picture on your wanted posters than.”
“I’m sorry, I don’t... none of the criminals we are looking for are said to look anything like YOU.”
“Yes. Your wanted posters did lack a few details, like the fact that I always, ever, and only wear pink, or my Rapunzel hair. Even if you didn’t know me by my face, you SHOULD have known me the second you saw a pink silk tent. Most of the world knows me by my pink silk, and The Guild is so incompetent that they can’t even get that one simply, alarmingly identifiable fact about me straight. Or my hair. There is no mention of my hair in any of your wanted posters. Not one. You’d think some who supposedly knows me ooooooh soooooo well, that they can be a lying assed busy body gossip writing about my so-called sex life on a public wanted poster, that they should also know enough about me to know I ONLY wear pink and have twelve foot long hair.”
“Is your hair really that long?”
“You’re sitting down on the floor. I can’t see how long your hair is.”
“Hmmmm.” Quaraun reached for the cane that was laying beside his make-shift bed of furs and used it to stand up. For the first time since, Ghirardelli had entered the tent.
The tiny, little old Elf was only five feet six inches tall, only coming up to Ghirardelli’s shoulder. But his hair cascaded down around him, over his shoulders, down his back, in front of him, behind him, spilling onto the surrounding floor, and flowing in heaping piles everywhere.
It was impossible to see how long his hair was, but with the way it piled around his feet and scattered along the floor, it was safe to say that twelve feet was a good guess.
“Good god! Your hair really is twelve feet long!”
“Yes. I told you. I never lie.”
“How do you walk?”
“With great difficulty.” Quaraun promptly sat back down, going down slowly and carefully so as not to cause further pain to his already hurting hip. “Also, I can’t stand very long. My hair is too heavy. My hair weighs more than my body does. It’s very difficult for me to move unless I’ve someone to walk with me and carry my hair.”
“Why don’t you just cut it?”
“You REALLY don’t know who I am, do you?”
“What difference does that make with your hair?”
“An enormous difference. Mages get their power from their hair. And I’m the world’s most powerful wizard for a reason: I’m the wizard with the longest hair.”
“You know I never thought of that. Makes sense. Mages do all claim the longer their hair is the more powerful they are. Something about their hair attracting magic energy force fields of something. But yeah, if that was true, then the world’s most powerful wizard would diffidently be the wizard with the longest hair.”
“Yes. Wizard with the longest hair. And also with the shortest tolerance.”
“Tolerance? Of what?”
“You are a Human. I hate Humans. That is a well established fact.”
“But you’re an Elf.”
“Do Elves not like Humans?”
“Elves do not like people who use their gods as an excuse to murder. You Humans think it is perfectly fine to murder everyone who does not believe in your god. Yet, if one of us, kills you, because our god said to, then that is double reason to murder us. But we Elves are peaceful. We have no culture of weapons or war. So when you Humans invaded our homes, raped our women, slaughtered our children, we had no way to defend ourselves and no hope of survival. And when we took the weapons, you left behind and tried to fight back, tried to rescue our women and children, you accused us of being the invaders! It was you who invaded us. We merely tried to get our wives and children back after you kidnapped them.”
“So you don’t like Humans, then?”
“I am the last Elf. You murdered my people. All of us. Every last one.”
“Except for you.”
“Except for me.”
“How’d’you survive?” Ghirardelli asked. “Is it not odd that one Elf should be left alive? How did you manage that?”
“I was outcast.”
“Outcast? You mean, like shunned or something?”
“Like shunned or something, yes. Exactly that.”
“So, how did being outcast help you survive?”
“I was banished. Cast out. Cut off from the hive mind. Abandoned. Unloved. Unwanted. Left to wander the world. Alone in my head, like you Humans. No comfort from the Hive Mind. No more part of the community. So I wasn’t there when you Humans arrived. I was travelling the world of Men, selling silk to Humans, sleeping in Human taverns, often with Haman women as my only source of comfort and warmth.”
“I thought you hated Humans?”
“But you sleep with Human women?”
“Often. Yes. Quite often.”
“Do you mean, like, prostitutes?”
“Yes. I mean prostitutes.”
“I wasn’t expecting that. Not from you.”
“Do you have problems with that?”
“Uhm. No. But I thought you were... aren’t you castrated?”
“I am. I said I slept with them, not fucked them.”
“You sleep with prostitutes but you don’t have sex with them?”
“Castrated, does mean sex is not possible for me.”
“But I thought you liked men?”
“What gave you that idea?”
“Didn’t you just say a little while ago, that your lover was a male? Isn’t that WHY you were castrated? You said that. I heard you.”
“I did say that. Yes. My lover was a male. I also had a wife and fathered four children with her. And I’ve always visited prostitutes.”
“So you like men and women, both?”
“I like anyone who is kind to me. I don’t care what gender they are.”
“Or what species. Or race. Those things don’t matter to me. I’m more interested in a person’s mind than I am their body. And I get lonely. And there not an abundance of people willing t be friends with a foreigner, a none-American, a non-Christian, or a non-Human. Humans are rather bigoted about petty things like religion, gender, nationality, culture, and skin colour. Prostitutes aren’t. Prostitute are desperate for money and willing to spend time with me, for a price.”
“So you buy friendship?”
“Yes. I pay people to sit and talk with me, because I am unloved and unwanted and no one would ever talk tome otherwise. That and a warm body to hold while I sleep. I don’t like sleeping alone.”
“You’re very lonely, then, aren’t you?”
“Can I touch it?”
“I don’t like my hair to be touched by strangers and people I do not trust to not hurt me.”
“Hurt you? What do you mean?”
“It is very painful for someone to pull on my hair.”
“That’s because it is so long. If you cut it, than it wouldn’t pull...”
“I would bleed to death if you cut it.”
“Hair doesn’t bleed...”
“That’s not possible.”
“It is. My father cut my hair short once. It bled for days. I was anemic for months. It took over a year for the sliced off ends to fully heal, and nearly twenty years for my hair to grow back. It was incredibly painful the whole time. The wounds on the ends of my hairs are still scarred. The scars on the ends are very sensitive to touch. The nerve damage never fully healed.”
Quaraun gently pulled up a handful of hair and ran his armoured fingers across the scarred ends. The hair withered, wriggling away from his touch. Moving as though it were alive.
“Nerves? In your hair? Scars on... but... you can’t have wounds on your... you hair... Hair... doesn’t... hair doesn’t bleed...” Ghirardelli stopped talking and watched Quaraun’s hair as it moved. Slithering around him, like a massive pile of thousands of tiny, wiry snakes. She moved closer to get a better look at Quaraun’s strange hair. “It’s not hair, is it? It’s... it’s... is it tentacles?”
“Yes. I told you, I am a JellyFish. My body is pink and covered with lovely purple ruffles, and my tentacles are long and white and look like hair. I already said this.”
“You hair isn’t hair.”
“That’s... I don’t know what it is. That’s why you never cut it? It’s actually part of your body.”
“They move on their own. How much control do you have over them? Can you move them at will, like arms and legs?”
“I can. I can use them like hairs to grab things and pick things up, or to reach up in the tops of tall trees and pick apples without a ladder. I could climb with them if I wasn’t scared of heights. I can walk on them like feet should the Elf’s feet get tired.”
As Quaraun said this, he suddenly lifted himself up off the ground, and by all appearances looked to be gliding, levitating, several feet in the air, his feet not touching the ground. It looked as though he was flying, unsupported by anything, but upon closer examination, Ghirardelli saw that the hair nearest the ground had grown stiff, rigid, and was lifting his body up into the air.
“You can walk on your tentacles and fly over people that way.”
“Yes. But that would terrify Humans. They would call me a witch and crush me under rocks or drown me with chains tied to my feet. You know how Humans are when they think there are witches about.”
Quaraun glided back to the ground, and gently sat himself back down on the pillows. His hair slithered around, coming to rest snuggled around his body as if protecting him and keeping him warm.
“You really are a jellyfish.”
“Yes. I live inside the Elf’s skull after I ate his brain. I let my tentacles grow out of his head like hair.”
“Aren’t they heavy? I mean, tentacles must be even heavier than hair, and hair that long is pretty damned heavy. That many of them, that long, they must be heavier than the whole rest of your body.”
“How do you walk?”
“I manage. My body was made for swimming. Not walk. But this ocean, your water, this planet it is toxic for me. I could not swim in it. And I die out of water. S, I live in this Elf and get by the best that I can.”
Quaraun got up and moved to the altar, which Ghirardelli only just now noticed. She was certain it had not been there a few moments ago. The altar was small, rough hewn wood. A low table that one must kneel before to reach. Nothing fancy or ornate. It did not match the rest of Quaraun’s furnishings which were elaborate. The altar had a prayer cloth covering it. On the cloth was a random mix of candles, religious statues, and scriptures.
Before Ghirardelli had a chance to ask what the altar was for, Quaraun knelt on a prayer rug before it and appeared to be praying, though Ghirardelli was uncertain in what language the Elf spoke. When Quaraun finished speaking, he did not get up, but rather continued to sit in front of the altar.
“Are you religious?” Ghirardelli asked.
“I am a priest,” Quaraun answered. “That fact alone should speak for itself.”
Ghirardelli looked around at the items on the altar. A book of Psalms open on the altar, and beside it a Jewish menorah candle holder. Beside it sat a statue of the Hindu god Ganesha. Statues of Jesus, Mary, Krishna, and Siva also stood on the table. Next to these lay a tear drop shaped amethyst of a swirly lavender purple with paler and darker areas.
“What religion are you?”
“I am a priest of the Di’Jinn Order.”
“Yes. You said that before. But what I mean is, are you Christian or something else?”
“Does it matter?”
“I ask because you have Catholic icon statues, but I see Jewish and Hindu statues as well. And a Bible. And a Q’raun.”
“I reverence and respect all religions, even Human religions, even ones I do not agree with.”
On Quaraun’s wrist was an evil eye glass bead bracelet tied with purple flocked ribbon. He fiddled with it, seemingly counting the beads as he did. It was now that Ghirardelli noticed the gold armour plates on the Elf’s fingers.
Ghirardelli had noticed earlier that Quaraun seemed to have trouble gripping the tea pot and the tea cup, holding one hand below them, as though his fingers could not grip the handle well and he feared dropping them. But she could see now why this was so.
The heavy metal plates, completely encased his fingers. Each hinged at the knuckles allowing him to bend his fingers ever so slightly. Ending in long claw like points over his finger tips. Gemstones in the shape of small pink hearts encrusted the elaborately detailed gold armour finger plates.
They stood out to Ghirardelli now, as she was now standing over the old Elf, looking down at him, watching as he ran his fingers over each blue glass evil eye bead on his wrist.
Quaraun was having great difficulty moving his fingers over the beads, because the heavy metal armour on his fingers drastically limited his movements.
“Why do you know remove those?” Ghirardelli asked.
“Remove what?” Quaraun looked up at the Human, wondering what she was referring to.
“The armour on your hands. It seems to hamper your ability to put things up.”
“I can not use my hands at all, without them.”
“What do you mean?”
“The day I was castrated. They crushed my fingers in the grinding wheel of a mill stone, after they ripped out my fingernails. My hands are damaged, almost to complete immobility. The armour helps brace my fingers so that I can use them. Without the armour I can not use my hands at all.”
“In more ways than one, yes. They drove a sword through my hip and another through my knee, that same day. I’ve had a lame leg ever since. I can not run, or even walk at a brisk pace. Thus the cane. I was not yet an adult when it happened. I was still an adolescent, when they did these things to me. I was 75 years old, which, in terms of Human years would have me, equivalent to 14 of your Human years. I’ve been crippled my whole life.”
“So, you were still a child when you were castrated?”
"You were a child when they castrated you for having a male lover?"
"But... wasn't... I thought... you were a child? Really? I thought? Every one said..."
"My lover was an old man, with a habit for sexually abusing little boys. I was a naive child. Unaware than of what he was doing. Unaware still, when I was punished along side him. People accused me of being one of loves male and I was the victim of a rapist, a child abuser, and rather than rescue me from him, they deiced to punish him, by mutilating his favourite victim. Me."
"I didn't know."
"Not many do. Not because they didn't hear of it, but rather, because they would rather turn a blind eye to the truth. The whole town was there. The whole town joined in. Every person took turned torturing me."
"It is easier for them to accuse me of sin, than to open their eyes and accept the truth, that they are child abusers as well. They can not face that they punished his victim to hurt him, rather than rescue me from him. But that is the way it always is. Blame the rape victim, not the rapist."
"Do you know the irony of it all?"
"I did not love him. Before."
"Before? Before what?"
"Before what they did to me. I was too young to understand what he was doing to me. I was confused. Had the Hanging Tree not happened, I think I would have grown to hate him. Despise him even. Looking back now, I can see he was a sexual predator, who preyed on young boys. But as a child, I did not see, did not understand. But after the Hanging Tree, that is a different matter."
"Why was it different after?"
“They left me in the streets to die."
"My friends. My family. My neighbours. I was a child, castrated, bones broken, flesh ripped off, body mutilated. They left me to die."
"I'm so sorry."
"They abandoned me. But BoomFuzzy did not. They left me to die, and he came and found me and took me away."
"The man who sexually abused you?"
"Yes. He tended my wounds, mended my broken bones. They broke my fingers so badly I can not use them. BoomFuzzy made these gold armour plates so I could my hands again."
"Those are actually useful?
"Yes. I can not use my hands without them. They hold my fingers stiff and bend, so that I can pick things up. My hands are dead. My hands do not work otherwise. BoomFuzzy made these for me, so I could use my hands again."
"They aren't just decorations?"
"I thought they were jewellery."
"He knew that what they did to me, they had done, because of him and he felt terrible about it. He never sexually hurt me again. He didn’t dare to. He was terrified if he ever touched me again, the town would do worse to me. He knew they were hell bent on believing I was demon possessed, hell bent on attacking the odd child, the not normal child, for any reason, any excuse.”
“Odd child? Were you seen as odd before BoomFuzzy?”
“I was. The village idiot, the boy who didn’t have enough brains to think. They called me a changeling. Said I was a Faerie in disguise. The Hanging Tree was not the first time they had done things like that too me. It was just the most violent one they did. I almost died. He feared they would kill me, that they would use his sexual indiscretions towards a mentally disabled child as an excuse to hurt me again. Had they REALLY wanted him to stop, they would have gone after him, not his victims. Or they would have gone after ALL of his victims.”
“Where there others?”
“There were many. For a lot of years. In a lot of places. I bragged about it. He was a sexual deviant.”
“You say that like you hate him.”
“On some levels, I do. I hate what he did to me when I was a child.”
“And yet, you say you love him, now?”
“Yes. I do. It is confusing, how I feel.”
“And you were the only one hung in the tree and publicly tortured?”
“Why you and not anyone else?”
“Because my father led the charge. My father didn’t care what BoomFuzzy had done to me. My father had murdered my mother, and I saw him do it and he knew I saw him do it. So he was ready to jump on any excuse to get rid of me. Kill me too. He wanted me dead. What they did to me, they did because he dragged me into the street and told them lies about me. Told them what he knew would enrage them. He fired them into a fury, so they would attack me, the rape victim, and not BoomFuzzy, the rapist. That’s why only me, and not the other boys nor our attacker.”
“So, this whole thing was about your father covering his own ass.”
“Yes. There were many. But they singled out me, because I wasn’t smart enough to learn an education. I didn’t have enough brains for math or science. They lived in a so-called perfect society and I was imperfect and could not tolerate the existence of imperfection. My father said all the things they WANTED to hear, and they attacked me, because I’m the one my father threw into the crowd once they were ready to tear apart the first person they saw. He had them so fired up, they would have attacked anyone he threw at them. And BoomFuzzy saw what they did, he heard what my father said. He knew that none of this was about him, that all of this was about my father wanting to get rid of the last witness to his murdering my mother. So, he knew, if I lived, my father would do it again. Worse than before. BoomFuzzy became scared for my life, scared of how easy it would be to trigger my father into stirring up yet another mob. So, BoomFuzzy took care of me. Became my friend. My protector. That was how the man who sexually abused me when I was a child, went on to become my best friend, when I was an adult. He actually did care about me. No one else did.”
“I’m sorry. I... I don’t know what to say.”
“There is nothing to say. No one cared about me then. No one cared about me since. No one cares about me now. I am accused of things I did not do, because I was a child who was the victim of a sexual predator. For that, people make up rumours and gossip and lies about me, which they spread through every town, every state, everywhere I go, the rumours have been there first. I am accused of things I did not do. Judged unfairly, falsely accused, harassed, cast out, chased out, welcomed no where, forced to live my life forever alone, all because Humans are so quick to hate based on rumours instead of listening to truth, facts, and reason.”
“People who are truly sorry, stop doing the things they are sorry for. But people like you, say they are sorry and don’t mean it, because soon as my back is turned, outcome even more rumours and lies spread by their busy body tongues. If they were truly sorry, they’d stop doing it. It is far too easy to speak the words ‘I’m sorry’ and far too difficult to actually mean it and act upon those words.”
Quaraun used his cane to pull himself back up.
His movements were stiff and jerky.
His hip pained him greatly and moving was difficult.
The crippled Elf limped back to his pile of pillows once again, and slowly inched his way back down on to them, once again wrapping himself up in the fluffy, soft, orange and grey fox furs.
“Come,” Quaraun motioned his hand towards the furs. “Sit. Talk with me."
“Tell me about your evil sword. Do you know how to feed it souls?”
“Well, that’s the thing. I had it for weeks and it did nothing and I thought maybe I got scammed. One night I hear a voice whisper ‘feed me’ and a shadow comes out of the sword. Well, I didn’t know how to feed it souls, so I decide to see what happens if you feed it something other than a soul.”
“What did you feed it?”
“Anything I could find. Bread, Butter. Jelly.”
“Jelly?” Quaraun looked up from lighting his pink glass encased votive candles. “You fed it jelly?”
“Yes, jelly. Is something wrong with that.”
“I like jelly.”
“Continue. What else did you feed it.”
“Also, corn. Carrots. Potatoes. Green beans. Blueberries.”
“All things native to America.”
“And did it eat them?”
“It did. At least I think it did.”
“You don’t know?”
“The food would vanish.”
“That doesn’t mean it ate it. I can make food vanish too. One wave of the wand and POOF! Gone forever.”
“That’s dark magic.”
“It is. But isn’t owning a soul eating sword, also illegal dark magic?”
“Yes. That’s why I bought it.”
“You trying to get on Finderu’s bad side?”
“No. I was going to give the blade to Finderu, next Guild meeting.”
“Why would you do that? If I know Finderu, he’ll charge you with necromancy and have you executed.”
“No. Finderu has asked Guild members to deliver to him any cursed blade we can recover.”
“Ah. So our dear Finderu has taken to collecting cursed swords, has he?”
“No. Finderu has set out a search for The Elf Eater’s cursed obsidian dagger.”
“Ah!” Quaraun pulled a curved obsidian bladed dagger from his belt. The hilt dripped with several teardrop shaped pigeon blood star rubies. “You mean this?”
“Is that...” Ghirardelli stammered.
“How did you get it?”
“You don’t know?”
“No. Should I?”
“Well, I am a mage who is likewise a merchant of pink silk. World’s most powerful wizard. World’s longest hair. It should be rather obvious how I happened to acquire the obsidian dagger of The Elf Eater of Pepper Valley, now shouldn’t it?”
“Enough about me. Tell me about your sword. What was Finderu going to do with it once you presented it to him?”
“I’m going to have him remove the curse, of course.”
“You assume he can?”
“He’s a powerful sorcerer.”
“You think he’s not?”
“Honey. I have more power in my little finger than Finderu will ever have in his entire lifetime.”
“You really think you’re that powerful?”
“I don’t think it. I know it. Look at my hair. But that’s beside the point. Tell me about the food that vanished.”
“I don’t know where it went.”
“You are not very good at being a witch are you?”
“A mage who knows enough about magic to become a member of Finderu’s Guild, SHOULD, be competent enough, proficient enough, skilled enough, to figure out where things go when a magic sword makes them disappear.”
“Are you calling me incompetent?” Ghirardelli asked.
“Yes. I am.”
“I’ll have you know I’m one of The Guild’s best mages!”
“Indeed? Well then, times have changed. If you are the best The Guild has to offer, perhaps I should pay The Guild a visit, one meeting soon. Rid the world of every last one of you, all at once.”
“Rid the world us? Are you a mage hunter?”
“No. I’m a wizard of The Di’Jinn Order who sells pink silk and has the world’s longest hair. You don’t get the joke.”
“That was a joke?”
“Some would find it funny. Finish telling me about your sword.”
“Anyway, the sword seemed satisfied with the regular food instead of souls. So, I have this sword for a few months, while I’m researching the history of it. Supposedly it belonged to a serial killer, who was a knife salesman, so nobody suspected that he was a serial killer for a really long time. And the knife salesman somehow got his soul messed up, sold it to a Necromancer or some such evil wizard and he ended up with his soul trapped inside of his own sword and the mage used the weapon to draw souls out of the living.”
“Ah, well, then, perhaps you are in just the right tent, after all.”
“What do you mean?”
“Souls are my specialty.”
“Souls and necromancy. Necromancy and souls.”
“I thought pink silk was your specialty?”
“Yes. That too. Which would be why I am known as The Pink Necromancer.”
“The Pink Nec... Wait. No. You’re The Pink... No. You can’t be.”
“Oh, but I am. No one loves pink more than I. And no one knows necromancy better than me. And no one has a glorious head of hair like mine. Not even women possess hair as long as mine. I’m the world’s most powerful wizard.”
“Wait. You’re... my god! You’re Quaraun the Insane? The serial killer!”
“I am NOT insane.”
“Isn’t that your name? Quaraun the Insane? That’s what everyone calls you.”
“Everyone likes to spreads rumours and lies and gossip. I don’t like that title. My name is Quaraun Swanzen. And I DID tell you I was the world’s most powerful wizard. Look at my hair. And everything is pink. With hair like mine, did you really think I was anyone other than The Pink Necromancer, world’s most powerful mage? How may I help you?”
“Wait. I just realized something.”
“You should have realized a great number of some things by this point,” the bad tempered little Elf chided her. “Considering you are the one who puts up my wanted posters in these parts. Anyone else didn’t recognize me. I wouldn’t have thought anything of it. But you?”
“You are supposedly one of the justice mages hunting me, and here you are finding me, asleep and defenceless no less, and you don’t even have sufficient sense to recognize me, even though you know well that The Pink Necromancer is also a merchant of pink silk, which he wears. You had a right winning chance to kill me in my sleep, and instead you woke me up.”
“You are wanted dead or alive. Preferably dead. I SHOULD kill you.”
“I am the world’s most powerful wizard. Try to kill me now that I’m awake and I’ll just evaporate you into a pile of ashes.”
“Can you do that?” Ghirardelli asked.
“Yes,” the old Elf answered. “I do it regularly, to dumb asses like yourself who annoy me too much.”
“That’s not possible. Magic doesn’t do stuff like that. That’s only fairy tales.”
“And you are supposed to be the best The Guild offers these days? Ugh.”
“Mages can’t do stuff like that.”
“What exactly is it mages DO, do, hmm?”
“They make healing salves and anointing oils and burn votive candles to petition intercessory prayers and mix up sachet powders and bath crystals for spiritual cleansing and...”
“Bah! Mages these days!” Quaraun waved his hands in a motion showing utter disgust. “You are all nothing but quacks and hacks. Hacks and quacks, every one of you. You don’t know a thing about real magic.”
“That IS real magic!”
“It’s folk magic. Granny magic. Swamp magic. And it’s NOT magic. It’s called medicine and science and herbal remedies. That’s apothecary. Green witchery. It’s NOT magic.”
“Are you saying that what we do isn’t magic?”
“I just said as much, yes.”
“It takes years to learn...”
“I KNOW it takes years to learn Hoodoo. I practice Hoodoo and I’m damned good at it too. But that’s NOT magic. That’s not snapping your fingers and POOF making things appear out of thin air.”
As he said this, Quaraun tapped his gold plated fingertips on the table and a plate full of pastries appeared.
“THIS, my dear, is magic,” Quaraun said pointing to the plate of glistening, honey coated confectionery. “What you are talking about is backwoods low country magic. Hoodoo. And while, yes, you NEED to learn it in order to learn the basics, it is not in and of itself magic. It is folk medicine. Learning it will help condition you for more advanced levels of learning. It takes great discipline to learn and master HooDoo RootWork, and yes, it’s very valuable to learn. Every mage SHOULD learn it, but you shouldn’t stop there. That’s just the beginning, entry level stuff. You’ve not even uncovered the tip of the iceberg if all you know how to do is Hoodoo.”
“How did you do that?” Ghirardelli stared bug eyed, gawking at the plate of food, Quaraun had made appear out of thin air.
“I harness the energy around me and change it’s construction. Right now we are surrounded by air to breath. I simply focus on that air, change it’s molecular structure to whatever I want it to become. And right now I was hungry for pink strawberry frosted, honey glazed doughnuts, and now here they are.”
“That’s not possible.”
“Oh, but I assure you it is. I just did it and you just saw me.”
“No. It’s got to be a trick. Smoke and mirrors.”
“Did you see any smoke? Or mirrors?”
“That’s Dark Magic.”
“No, Ghirardelli, it’s not. It’s just manipulating atoms.”
“Atoms... I don’t think you know about them yet.”
“What do you mean yet?”
“Never mind that. The fact remains, what you Guild members do, it petty entry level stuff at best. Which is fine and dandy if that’s all you want to do, but you can’t parade around calling yourselves the best mages on the planet, when what you do isn’t even remotely magical at all.”
“What you do, involves summoning Demons, consorting with Familiars, and performing blood sacrifices.”
“That’s evil. It’s...”
“It’s REAL magic. NOT grinding up roots and herbs and curing a child’s fever with tea. Anyone with basic knowledge of plants can do that. Only mages can wield ACTUAL magic.”
“You wouldn’t know real magic if it came up and bit you in the ass.”
“I’ll have you know...”
“You’ll have me know nothing,” the annoyed little Moon Elf said in a huff, not letting the woman finish what she was going to say to him. “You’re an idiot. Part of a group of bounty hunters, looking for a necromancer who wears pink, lives in a pink tent, and is a merchant of pink silk, and you don’t recognize me, my dresses, my tent, or my pink silk when I’m sitting here staring you in the face. That tells me you are stupid. But tell me what exactly it is you think you have realized? Hmmm?”
“I realized this is Pepper Valley. Home of The Elf Eater. You’re the Elf Eater’s lover. He had male lovers. You just told me you had a male lover who was from Pepper Valley.”
“Yes. I did. I said exactly that, and while sitting here dripping in pink, too.”
“His lover was an Elf,” Ghirardelli said, her voice now trembling with fear, as the realization of whose tent she was in settled in to her mind. “Just like you.”
“Yes, exactly like me.”
“He was soul bound to a Moon Elf. That’s you!”
“It is.” The albino Moon Elf nodded in agreement. “I used to be just the Last Moon Elf, now I’m the Last Elf.”
“You’re Quaraun the Insane!”
“We can teach you. How lovely. Would you like more tea?”
“Tea? No, I can’t think of tea at a time like this.”
“Ah, well, you have your minor revelation over there and I’ll pour myself some more tea than.”
Quaraun waved his wand and a vase full of fragrant sweet smelling purple lavender.
“That’s not tea,” Ghirardelli stated, pointing out the obvious.
“No, that’s delightful blooms of colour to brighten the mood.”
Quaraun set about to pour himself more tea. The water in the tea pot was no longer hot, so the old mage gathered up a kettle of boiling water from the fire and refilled the teapot, before returning to the table.
“Are you certain you want no tea?” He called back to Ghirardelli without looking up from his work.
“How can you think of tea, at a time like this?”
“A time like what?” Quaraun asked as he settled back down into his pink silk pillows and orange fox furs once again.
“You’re Quaraun the Insane.”
“Yes,” Quaraun answered, not looking at her, instead focused on pouring himself more opium tea from his pink china set.
“That’s why everything is pink.”
“Yes. It is.”
“You’re The Pink Necromancer.”
“The Elf Eater’s lover.”
“Yes. He’s dead now. Killed himself. Driven to suicide by your little group and their anti mage laws.”
“We didn’t cause his death...”
“You did. And one by one, each and every one of you will all die for it.”
“Karma. It comes back to punch you in the ass. For seven generations.”
“You’re the one who’s been murdering all the Guild members, aren’t you?”
“I am. Though I murder no one. I execute murderers who evade the law by lawmaking that favour themselves and cause real criminals to walk free while the victims take the blame for the crimes of their attackers. And I’ll execute you and Finderu as well. You are both high on my list of people in critical need of being executed.”
“Executed? For what?”
“For BoomFuzzy’s death.”
“It was Finderu and his Guild of Wizardry what produced the regulations against necromancy and forced him into hiding. You sent Justice Mages to hunt him, when he did none of you any harm. And you drove him to a pit of depression so deep he couldn’t see away out of it other than to get himself. BoomFuzzy’s death is your fault.”
“You’re the evil sorcerer no one has ever defeated.”
“Yes. No one. And you’ve sent thousands of little groups of adventuring parties to kill me. Warriors, paladins, druids, little mage wannabes, archers, rangers, assassins, even some lunatic bards who thought they could defeat me by singing to me. Fucking bird brained idiots.”
“The Guild employs the best bounty hunters...”
“The Guild employs incompetent idiots. They expect to poke me with their swords and have gold pop out as a reward. If they were so desperate for gold all they had to do was ask. I have plenty.”
“Are you wealthy?”
“I am a silk merchant, what do you think?”
“You seem to be well stocked on supplies.”
“I am. I have everything I need in here.”
“I think too, you are a homeless hermit, living in a tent.”
“I am that as well. Can one not be wealthy and live in a tent too?”
“If you could afford a house, than why don’t you live in one?”
“I’ve lived in several, but you know how it is. White, Christian, American Humans can’t even tolerate none-white Christian, American Humans, hate far more non-Christians, white or otherwise, and nothing boils their blood worse than two men in bed together. Here I am not white, not Christian, not American, not even Human, and I bed with well, anyone willing to bed with me regardless of their gender.”
“What does that have to do...”
“With me not living in a house? With me living in a tent? I’ll tell you what it has to do with it! You do-goody little white assed, Christian Americans burned down every one of the last five houses I’ve had!”
“Because I’m not white enough. Me! An albino! A fucking, pink eyed, white haired albino, with skin so white, I can’t go outside in daylight without my skin burning off me. And they have the nerve to say I’m not white!”
“Well, you’re not Human...”
“I’’m not a white Human, I know. Therefore I don’t deserve to live. I am outcast. Unloved. Unwanted. Unwelcome. Every where I go. Every town I set foot in. You white jackasses are insufferable! Your arrogance! Your racism! It’s deplorable! You make even the most raciest of the Elves look inclusive!”
“So, why do you live in a tent? Why don’t you just find a town that’ll except you?”
“I would. If I could find one. Do you think I haven’t tried? I’ve spent the last seven hundred and fifty years looking for exactly that! I walked across Asia. I walked across Europe. I walked across Africa. I walked across America. I walked across Mexico. I walked across South America. I’ve walked from one end of this fucking, Human infested planet to the other and you Humans are all alike. Hate filled racists, every one of you. I even went to isolated regions where no Humans had ever set foot and within a decided your creatures invade and run me out of my home, because you think your fucking superiority, gives you the right to shove every settler or native you find off their land to make way for more of you fucking bastards!”
“So, you are saying that you are forced to live in a tent against your will?”
“Yes. Though, seven hundred and fifty years and I’ve come to prefer the tent now. So now, I’d just like a place where I can set it up and not have to worry about being chased out by you dirty Humans.”
“When you say you have plenty of gold to buy off the bounty hunters, how exactly much gold are you talking about here?”
“More gold than you’ve ever seen in your lifetime. I guarantee you that.”
“Just from selling silk?”
“No. I also sell potions and do hoodoo rootwork work for hire, plus I read cards and crystals for people looking to learn of their future.”
“Can you see the future?”
“Yes and no.”
“Meaning, you wouldn’t be able to understand. You I can see the future, in a sense, but not, not in the way you are thinking. I don’t exactly read cards or crystals, I just let clients think that is how I do it.”
“And what is it you actually do?”
“I serve them drugged tea. And while they are asleep, I use portals, to visit the future, see what it is that will happen to them. Come back here. Wait for them to wake up. And tell them what I saw. And because I am one hundred percent accurate, they pay me huge amounts of money.”
“You’re a charlatan.”
“No. I do see the future and tell hem what I saw. I’m just a time traveller so, I don’t see the future quite in the way you think I do.”
“Is there good money in this?”
“Being a wizard for hire?”
Quaraun shrugged his shoulders.
“What’s that supposed to mean?” Ghirardelli asked.
“I can’t count.”
“You... how do you know you are wealthy if you can’t count?”
Quaraun reached into his pocket and pulled out ten large coins, made of gold. He handed them to Ghirardelli.
“Every time I buy a bottle of wine, waitstaff respond in shock over how much money I give them, when I give them this. They always say, it’s more than they would ever make in their lifetime.
Ghirardelli took a gold coin from the Elf and turned it around, flipping it over and over again in her hand. She couldn’t tell what the writing on it said, nor did she recognize the king’s face.
Quaraun handed her another coin. It too was gold, but smaller, the writing different, and the image was of a castle. A third coin, from a third country. As she examined each coin, she realized that each was from a different country.
“Do you have any idea how much money this is?” Ghirardelli asked Quaraun.
The old Elf shook his head, than replied with: “I told you, I can not count. I do not know math. And my people, the Elves, and the Thullids, we do not use yellow and silver metals for currency.”
“No one paid you for silk or potions with coins like these. Where did you get these?”
“From Fire Mountain.”
“Fire Mountain? The volcano?”
“But a drag... a... dragon lives... oh.” Ghirardelli fell silent for a moment, as she stared down at the ten gold coins in her hand, then back at Quaraun. “This is dragon’s gold, isn’t it?”
“Yes. It is.”
“You killed the dragon of Fire Mountain didn’t you?”
“And this is from the dragon’s hoard.”
“Yes It is.”
“You... you ki... you killed a dragon. One of the last left in the world.”
“Yes. But, I felt guilty about killing her...”
“Yes. The dragon was a she. And I felt guilty about killing her. I didn’t mean to kill her. I was frightened. She was startled. The energy around me reacts to my emotions. My fears. My aura materialized into, I don’t know what. Some kind of jinn I think, a ghul perhaps, a polter spirit, and it killed her. I killed her. My emotions, my fears, made manifest, killed her. I’m not sure how it happened. But it’s not the first time. The Di’Jinn died the same was, except, they turned to ash. The dragon of fire mountain though, her body lay still in front of me. Massive. As big as humpback whale. Dead. I didn’t mean to kill her. So I brought her back.”
“Brought her back?”
“You mean, an undead dragon?”
“Yes. She’s a lich now.”
“A lich? A dragon lich? You made a DracoLich?”
“Those things are dangerous! Where is it, now? What did you do with it?”
“She lives in my pocket. With her hoard of gold. She is Pocket Lich.”
“You have a DracoLich in your pocket, siting on a dragon’s hoard of gold?”
“Yes. As I said, I have way more gold to give the bounty hunters than The Guild would ever give them."
"You did say that."
"And if they refuse to take my gold, I have Pocket Lich to gobble them up."
"Yes. She'll swallow them whole. Bounty Hunters. Big dreams of killing me than having a dragon’s hoard of riches and jewels. Their lives are on your head. You know that, don’t you? I don’t like killing the innocent retards you pay to hunt me down."
"Of course, I get to keep all the gold you gave them. Not that I need it. But it funds my mulberry trees and rose bushes, so I can raise more silk worms and sell even more pink silk.”
“You kill everyone Finderu sends to arrest you and bring you in.”
“Arrest me? Ha! You call sneaking up on me while I sleep and stabbing a sword through my hip, arresting me?”
“You are difficult to catch.”
“Yes, an elderly man, with a lame leg, who can’t run, can barely stand, struggles to walk unaided, crippled hands, crushed fingers, can’t grip old of anything, can’t fight, is sooooooo damned difficult to catch. Your fucking retards attack me from behind. Stab me in my sleep. There’s a hell of a big difference between arresting someone and sneaking into their room at night to stab them in their sleep. You might want to rethink both your methods and your words.”
“You murdered them.”
“Murder is pre-planning killing of someone who didn’t deserve it. Like they do to me. You gather up little bands of heroes, always in groups of five or more, to pre-plan murdering, big, bad, evil supervision me, then spend weeks hunting me down, searching for me, plotting how you will kill me. THAT my dear sweet, Ghirardelli, is MURDER!”
“Are you accusing The Guild of murder?”
“Yes. I am.”
“We uphold the law.”
“No. You do exactly what my father did. You commit crimes, then cover your tracks by killing off the witnesses. Just like my father. And I elude you. You’ve killed so many mages. Wizards. Sorcerers. Why? They’ve done know wrong. They just the wrong kind of magic the wrong hour of the day, the wrong day of the year, and you kill them for it. While murderers and rapists in your own Guild, walk free.”
“We do not...”
“People like you make me sick!"
"People like me? What about people like you?"
"Sit in your meeting lodges planning the deaths of innocent, because their hair is too long or their cloths too bright. And calling it laws. You are murders. Not me. The Guild is nothing but a band of murderers who pat each other on the back, calling themselves hero, for hiring blood thirsty bastards to go on quests to slaughter innocent dragons, kill entire families of Orcs. Wipe out entire villages of Trolls. And stalk us wizards to stab us in our sleep! And you call yourself heroes, questing parties, adventures? You ain’t nothing but grave robbers, murders, and thieves. YOU are the villains, NOT those of us you harass, hunt, and kill. What I do is called self-preservation. Self-defence. Fighting back from my attackers. Self defence, is preventing yourself of being stabbed to death in your sleep. I’m not the murderer here, you and you fucking bands of adventuring parties of questing heroes are the murders.”
“You are a villain.”
“Ha ha! Villain. Listen to you! YOU are the villain, here Ghirardelli. Not me. You, and Finderu, and all your desperate, gold lusting, money hungry, filthy asses murderous, blood thirsty, heroes groups. YOU are the evil ones leaving trails of bloodshed every where you go.”
“We don’t hire murders and thieves. We hire warriors, brave men, war heroes...”
“Trained killers. Rouges. Assassins. Warriors. Archers. Paladins. Templar. Men trained to do what? Kill. Kill. KILL! Murders who can’t satisfy their lust for blood because there is no war going on right now, so they hire themselves out as adventurers, hoping to get paid gold for spilling the blood of innocent men, women, and beasts, who did nothing wrong, their only crime is that they were not born white, Human, American, Christians.”
“Your so-called fucking heroes are the worse criminal thugs of them all, and they get rich off your coin. Rich off the blood of the women they rape, the children they enslave, and the adults they kill.”
“They arrest criminals like you.”
“Where you there?”
“Yes. Well, then how do you know what they do and do not do to us, whom you send them after?”
“I... but... I... that’s all besides the point! You’re serial killer! And you killed every brave warrior we sent to bring you in.”
“No. I did not.”
“Yes, you did!”
“Where you there?”
“I... no... but that doesn’t matter.”
“Why does it not matter?”
“Because I know you killed them,” Ghirardelli said.
“How do you know I killed them?”
“Because everyone knows you did.”
“How does every one know I did?”
“Everyone says you did.”
“Ah! But which one of those every ones was actually there and saw me do it? Hmmm? Tell me that.”
“You don’t know. And do you know WHY, you don’t know? Because you, just like everyone else wasn’t there and didn’t see for yourself, with your own two eyes. You have no clue WHAT happened. You don’t know what I did. You don’t know what I did not do. Just like you also don’t know what your men did or did not do, either. Did you know I faint at the sight of blood?”
“I faint at the sight of blood.”
“Has that no significance to you?”
“No? Why should it?”
“It means, nothing?”
“You call me a serial killer. How is it that you say I kill people?”
“You slit their throats with the Elf Eater’s dagger. You cut off their heads.”
“I cut off ONE head. Gibedon’s. And it was in self defence. He caught me in bed with his former lover. He dragged the both of us out of bed, stabbed my partner in the belly, mortally wounded him, and as about to slice MY head off, when I forced the knife back on him. The knife that was in HIS hand on MY throat. I killed him by accident.”
“Yes. I stabbed him in the throat, with the knife that was still in his hand, I stabbed him, by trying to push him back off of my. And didn’t even realize I had stabbed him until the next day, after he was dead. I cut his head off in a panic, and cut up the rest of his body. Diced him up, dropped him in the neighbour’s stew pot. The town folk eat him the next day. I still have his head.”
Quaraun pulled Gibedon’s head out of his bag.
“I don’t know why I kept it. But, every time I look at it, it reminds me, NOT to kill any one ever again.”
“You’re a monster...”
“No. I’m not. I was asleep in bed with my lover, and we were both stabbed in our sleep, by a deranged drunk ex lover who planned to kill his ex, me, and himself. They both died. I lived.”
“You chopped a man up and cooked him!”
“Yes. And do you know what I spent the rest of the week doing?”
“No. Tell me.”
“Vomiting my guts out.”
“Because I can’t stomach the sight of blood. I can’t cope with the thought of death. And there I was not only with his blood on my hands, but, his entrails all over the room, and his head sitting on the table staring at me. I don’t know how I did it. I don’t know why I did it. I don’t know how I got through the week, the year, without killing myself afterwards. Perhaps, in a way, BoomFuzzy saved me.”
“What do you mean?”
“The knife wound, Gibedon gave him.”
“What of it?”
“It became infected. Septic. He wouldn’t have lived to end of the winter.”
“Wait, was he murdered? I thought you said he commit suicide?”
"Both. He was stabbed in the belly. The wound got infected. He was suffering and he wouldn’t have healed. He would have died either way, but things would have been different, had he not taken his own life.”
“You don’t know that.”
“I do know that. I went back. I stopped him. It was worse. It was a lot worse. He suffered for months and than he still died. Some things are fixed in time and can’t be changed. His death was one of those things. He doesn’t matter how many times I go back. He always dies that same winter. Always."
"What do you mean always?"
"Always. Every time line. Different days. Different ways. I made things worse by trying to stop it. So I went back to the original.”
“What are you saying? What have you done?”
“Never mind. It doesn’t matter now. What’s done is done. The fever took hold of him. He was suffering. In agony. He made a poison and drank it. Killed himself rather than suffer for endless weeks in agony, only to die any ways. Decided to die n his terms, laugh death in the face. I became obsessed with healing him. Bringing him back to life. I started studying necromancy, in order to resurrect BoomFuzzy. It over powered my revulsion over killing Gibedon. When Gibedon died, I wanted to die too, because I couldn’t live knowing I had committed such a horrible crime and than that same week, BoomFuzzy died and, I forgot about Gibedon and focused on resurrecting BoomFuzzy. If BoomFuzzy had not killed himself, I think I would have killed myself over what I did to Gibedon.”
You didn’t have to chop the man up after killing him. Why would you do that?"
“I don’t know. I wasn’t thinking. I panicked. I did not plan any of that. I wasn’t thinking. The man attacked us in our sleep. I wasn’t trying to kill him. I was just trying to push him off of me. He fell on his own knife. I didn’t even know I had killed him.”
“Why did you cut him up, than?”
“To hide the body. I told you, I panicked. I wasn’t thinking.”
“And you’re saying that was the only time you ever killed any one.”
“Who else did you kill?”
“My wife. A few years later.”
“So you are a monster.”
“Really?” Ghirardelli challenged. “Explain to me, how a man who murders his wife, isn’t a monster?”
“My uncle was king. He was sick, dying. I’d be king in his place. I planned to not accept the crown. I was already a merchant, and I was content with that. I did not want to rule a kingdom. Never thought it was even probable, I being the king’s nephew, I certainly wouldn’t be next in line, but circumstances ended up be being next in line.”
“What’s that got to do with killing your wife?”
“My wife wanted the crown. She wanted to be Queen. I said she could have it. I didn’t care. I didn’t want it. But she said laws didn’t work that way. She became obsessed with the idea that the only way she could become ruler was if I died the same day as the king. She spent months planning how she was going to kill me, bragged about it constantly, and on the day the king died, she tried to kill me and I killed her instead.”
“So, you are saying you are NOT a serial killer?”
“Yes. I’m not.”
“You are a horrible person.”
“Do you think I like the things I did? Because I do not. There isn’t a day that goes by that I do not regret what I did. I destroyed lives, I know that. I stopped someone’s heart from beating. I stole their life. I know what I did was wrong. I can’t go back and change what I did. I would if I could. I live with the guilt every day. I’m not proud of what I did.”
“You are a horrible, violent man.”
“No. I’m not.”
“I’m a rather peaceful person. I keep to myself. I stay out of trouble.”
“Trouble seems to have a way of finding you, though, doesn’t it?”
“Yes. It does. Mostly because people make up lies about me, which causes other people to attack me. People see me as they want to think I am, not how I actually am. They WANT me to be evil, so they can feel justified in beating him, hitting me, stabbing me. They tell themselves what they do to me is good and just and right, because they convinced themselves I am evil. And I am not evil. If they would only see the truth, they would know that. But they are blind to their petty lies, their viscous gossip.”
“But the bounty hunters you killed...”
“I didn’t kill them.”
“Well, if you didn’t kill them, than who did?”
“Pocket Lich killed them.”
“What’s a Pocket Lich?” asked Ghirardelli.
“It’s a Lich that lives in my pocket.”
“You have a Lich who lives in your pocket?”
“And, this Lich who lives in your pocket is the one who killed the bounty hunters we sent to arrest you?”
“Could you explain that more?”
“I didn’t personally kill them my self. You see, like the evil necromancer that you think I am, I have armies of undead minions to do my killing for me.”
“You have armies of undead minions?”
“In my pocket. They protect me.”
“In your pocket?”
“I can’t stomach the sight of blood, you see. I faint.
“I faint at the sight of blood, yes,” the odd necromancer said, cheerlessly. “I deeply dislike death. And blood. The thought of either sends me into pits of ultimate despair.”
“But you‘re a necromancer. You do blood magic with blood sacrifices on the obsidian altar...”
“The Obsidian Altar?” Quaraun laughed.
“Why is that so funny?”
“I’ve never used it. I own it, yes, but that was BoomFuzzy’s. He used it, not me. He’s the one who did the blood magic and blood rituals and blood sacrifices. I’ve no head for blood.”
“Than what do you do?”
“I resurrect dead roses.”
“I resurrect dead roses.”
As he said this, Quaraun pulled a long-stem rose from the vase on the table, and touched it with his wand. The rose immediately started growing long tendrils and thorn covered tentacles, as the rose blossom itself grow several feet tall and evolved into a massive, snarling, snapping, thorn fanged monster.
“You just turned that rose into a demon!” Ghirardelli exclaimed.
“Yes. And I do the same to dead trees.”
“Dead trees? What do you mean, dead trees?”
“Dead trees. Rotten logs from out of swamps. Dead weeping willows toppled over by hurricanes. It’s why I’m here. You have a hurricane ripping through this region, killing all the plants, all the flowers, all the trees. And you Humans rely on the apple orchard of this region to supply all the apples for your entire country. But once this storm is over, there’ll be no apple trees left. They’ll all be uprooted and dead out there in GooseFare Brooke Gully, where the ocean will spit them up, and where I will go and resurrect them.”
“Why would you do that?”
“As much as you Humans are convinced I am on a hunting spree to kill you all, doesn’t change the fact that what I ACTUALLY am doing is trying to find a way to save you.”
“Yes. If this hurricane destroys this year’s apple harvest, the villagers here will be destitute. I know. I was there. I saw it. Now I’m back to make sure it doesn’t happen this time.”
“This time? I don’t remember a storm like this here before or apples being destroyed. When did it happen before?”
“It hasn’t happened for you yet.”
“What do you mean it hasn’t...”
“I’m from the future. I’m a time traveller. rust me. I was here before. I know what’s going to happen and I don’t want it to happen. They’ll starve to death. They need those apples to live. Some they eat and store for winter, but most they sell to out-of-state merchants. Without the money they make from those merchants, they will not be able to buy the supplies they need to survive the blizzards that will arrive in a few more weeks.”
“You’re wealthy. Why can’t you just give each one of them a gold coin. That’ll feed them for the rest of their lives.”
Quaraun shook his head sadly. “No. I tried that way already. This ain’t my first time trying to save this village.”
“Because you’re a time traveller?”
“How many times have you tried to save this village?”
“Several. I can’t count. I told you. I don’t know math. It’s been many times though.”
“And giving them gold after the storm, didn’t work? Didn’t they rebuild the village? Replant the crops?”
“No. They didn’t. They did none of that. Giving them gold was the first ting I tried the first time I came back here.”
“And it didn’t work?”
“No. It SHOULD feed them for the rest of their lives, but it won’t. I’ve tried that method before. But when I return to the village the next year, they are just as poor and destitute as they were before I gave them the gold. They wasted it.”
“Wasted it how? On what? One of your gold coins is enough to feed a large city for hundred years. How did one tiny little village spend so much in so little time?”
“Spend it on beer and vodka, gambled it away on horse races and dog fights. Spent it on whores and cards in saloons and taverns. Squandered it of frivolities and luxuries, tobacco and drugs and wine, while their wives and children starved. Greedy, selfish bastards, lavished themselves at the expense of their families. Giving them gold did far more harm than good.”
“So, you are saying they didn’t have enough common sense or moral decency to take care of their own families and spent the gold on themselves, and spent so much money, so fast on drinking and gambling that in just one year they were back where they started?”
“Than why are you helping them at all? Why don’t you just let them rot in their own filth?”
“Is that how you think of your fellow mankind?”
“Wait, aren’t YOU the one who hates Humans?” Ghirardelli asked.
“Not. I don’t hate Humans as a whole. I do bed with your women, after all. I couldn’t do that if I hated you completely. What I hate is how deplorably, some groups, most groups, of Humans treat each other. You levels of racism and bigotry towards each other is rather astounding. I don’t understand it. I fear it. Humans scare me. I’ve seen far too many Humans commit atrocities and I don’t understand why you do it.”
“Okay, yeah, a lot of men are shit, I’ll give you that. But, why THIS village?”
“What do you mean?”
“I mean, if I were going to go back in time to save a village, I’d pick someplace big and important. Boston. London. Rome. Paris. This village doesn’t even have a name. They call it the garden by the see or the old orchard by the beach, and it’s nothing but opium growers and hash dealers. Look at the fields of poppies everywhere. Why pick this one? It's all thugs and criminals and crime lords.”
"Yes. And in the 1920s it'll get worse. And than in the 2000s it'll get even more worse. Biddeford. Saco. Old Orchard Beach. The Tri-City Area. Nothing but gutter scum and filth. Welfare bums and slum lords. Honky tonks and race tracks. Topless bars and Speedo beaches. The things this valley will become a hundred years from now, two hundred years from now, would spin your head and turn your stomach. Immoral degenerates who run around guzzling beer and shaking their bare boobs out of their string bikinis, while waving Bibles over their heads and shooting black children and men like me. If there was nothing but Humans here to worry about, I'd let this place burn. It will in 1871 and it will again in 1963. I have to stop those events as well. A glacier will hit here in 1917, freeze every one to death for 30 miles around. I have to come back here for that too. Heaven and Hell are out to obliterate this regions, time and again, and if it was just Humans to worry about, I'd let it happen."
"So, why save it?"
"Because this is Pepper Valley."
"It's Saco Valley."
"Yes, and that big bring building there is Pepperell Mill. Thus Pepperell Mill Valley."
"It's still not called Pepper Valley."
"Yes. I know. But BoomFuzzy couldn't pronounce the word Pepperell, so he always called this place Pepper Valley instead."
"So, why not save one of the other places. Isn't this storm covering a lot of area?"
“You assume I desire to save it for grand reasons?"
"You aren't trying to save Humanity?"
"Trying to save Humanity?" Quaraun chuckled at the thought of saving Humanity. "Why would I, try to save Humanity?"
"Well, what are you saving than?"
"Hopefully as many of the local prostitutes as I can."
"Jack the Ripper will kill a lot of women in London. And here in Saco Valley, Maine, one Dr. Bean is going to get the idea to be a copy cat killer. He's going to pretend to be a mill girl over at the shoe factory, and he's going to spend an entire summer killing mill girls who also work as whores. Dumps their bodies in the swamp. It'll be another hundred years before any one finds the bodies."
"You hate Humans, but you want to save prostitutes?"
"Why? Does one of those women go on to save the world or something?"
"No. I’m afraid I am a bit selfish. You see, it important to me personally."
"You... personally? How so?"
"In my very first life time, before I became immortal. I fell through a portal and was badly injured. I nearly died. A young woman saved my life. Took care of me. Nursed me back to health. A few days after I left, her jealous husband got drunk and beat her to death. It was my fault that she died. She wasn't supposed to die. So I went back in time and brought her out of her dimension into our dimension to save her life, only something went wrong."
"And what does that have to do with this storm?"
"Many years from now, right here on this spot, there will be a house. My grandson will live here. And he will one day, be important to others. He will become friends with a young boy and that young boy will accidentally discover time travel. If this village is destroyed now by this storm, time travel will never be discovered. Time machines will never be invented. And because of that, my lover and I will never meet. We are from different times, he and I. I didn’t know that then.”
"And the girl from the other dimension?"
"Her husband was right to be jealous. She was pregnant, with my child. Her child is the mother of my grandson."
"But you're castrated."
"You can't father children. Can you?"
"I can. The four children I murdered, they were born nearly a hundred years after I was castrated."
"How is that possible?"
"I'm partly intact. I'm badly mutilated. Sex is difficult but not impossible."
"I don't understand."
"I don't think you'd understand unless I showed you my injury. I early have sex with women, not because I do not like women, rather women are usually repulsed by my scars and won' have sex with me once they've seen how badly I am mutilated."
“So, saving this village has nothing to do with actually saving the people out of the kindness of your heart? You're just here to save some prostitutes and a girl you fathered a baby with?"
”Yes. Just like you Humans, we Elves and we Thullids, we Archangels or Demons as some prefer to call us, we are driven by our own purely selfish motivations. You Humans like to make up stories about how Angels come to and fro in your service, willing to please your every whim, but I assure you that pleasing your Human asses is never why we fulfill your requests. We always have a selfish motive for everything we do. We are no different than you Humans in that regard.”
“Have you tried giving the women gold instead of the men?”
“Oh yes. I did. Men beat the women to death to ‘inherit’ the gold. So I came back again and gave the gold to the children, so the men murdered their children to steal the gold from them. The men who grow these old orchards on the beach, they are evil men, full of lust and greed, care nothing for women and children and will stop at nothing to kill everyone around them for gold. No. This way is better. If I give them free money, they just squander it and are back where they started a few weeks later. But if I give them Lich trees, they have a source of food that grows apples all year long, so they can sell apples all year instead of just one week of the year.”
“And you think my cursed sword will help you do that?”
“Perhaps. It depends on what exactly it is that your sword does.”
“I just don’t understand why you would want a cursed sword?”
“Why wouldn’t I want your sword, would be a better question, I think.”
“Oh. Well, why wouldn’t you want it? Wait... does that mean you’ve had this conversation with me before? You knew I was coming?”
“No. This is different. Something has changed. This never happened before. It’s why I didn’t bother to put up a stronger barrier around my tent. I didn’t think I needed one. I’ve done this so many times now. And perhaps that is why you are here now. Perhaps, each time before you were here but you passed me because of the barrier. You didn’t see the tent.”
“I don’t understand. Why would you do any of this? Going back in time to change the past.”
“Your farmers around here depend on apples for their income. With all the apple trees dead, they will have no harvest to sell, no money to buy supplies, no way to survive the winter. Their families will freeze to death or starve to death. They need the apple trees.”
“And so, what does that have to do with you turning the trees into monsters?”
“I’ll turn them into Liches. Not monsters.”
“How is a Lich different from a monster?”
“Monsters are generally just shambling beasts. Like Nzambies. Mindless. Controllable with no effort. Liches are intelligent beings. Sentient. With minds of their own. Capable of thinking rational thoughts.”
“Okay. Whatever. That doesn’t explain why it is you want to turn apple trees into Liches.”
“I turn the trees into monsters.
“Liches. Because Liches are immortal. An immortal, undead, lich apple tree or monster as you call it, will provide the farmer with apples all year long, not just in fall harvest. Apple farmers will be able to feed their families all year long.”
“So, let me get this straight,” Ghirardelli said. “You’re saying you use necromancy to help people?”
“I don’t understand.”
“What is there to understand?”
“Necromancy is evil...”
“No. Necromancy is neutral. It only becomes evil, when evil men use it for evil things.”
“I’m an Elf.”
“Yeah. I can see you’re an Elf. What does that got to do with anything?”
“You don’t know anything about Elves do you?”
“Uhm, hello! Elves are extinct. They’ve been extinct for like 400 or 500 years or more.”
“I’m an Elf.”
“I can see that.”
“Elves are not extinct, so long as at least one of us is still alive.”
“True. But even if there were females around somewhere, you are castrated, so what difference does it make? You’re the last Elf and once you are dead, your species dies with you.”
"No. I already told you. I am still capable of reproducing and in fact I have with several Humans. So there are still a few half-Elves around.”
“Are half-Elves, considered Elves?”
“Not by most pure blooded Elves,no.”
“Aren’t you a pure blooded Elf?”
“Oh yes. The purest. I am an Ecrodon.”
“We don’t call ourselves Elves. Or we didn’t. Elves is an Earth term, you Humans gave us after we arrived here.”
“We are not native to your planet. Our planet suffered a super nova. Or rather our sun did. Precious few of us escaped. So, technically, I’m just the last Elf on planet Earth. In all likelihood there are still Elves alive on other planets. One only has to figure out how to get off your planet and go look for them.”
“Than why say you did?”
“Because I’d rather you explain to me what your being an Elf has to do with you turning apple trees into Liches.”
“Ah! Yes. I forgot I was saying that. Well, you see, it’s like this: Normally, Elves don’t become necromancers.”
“Elves don’t do necromancy?”
“But you do.”
“And you’re an Elf.”
“So, why don’t Elves do necromancy?”
“Necromancy has to do with death and we Elves don’t like death. We like life. We have a strong connection to the energies of the world. We feel the tears of the grass every time you cut it. We feel the pain from the tree, it’s silent agony as your axes cut through it’s flesh.”
“You’re saying plants are alive?”
“And they feel pain?”
“Yes,” Quaraun answered. “I am surprised you do not know this."
"Why would I know that?"
"You are a mage."
"What's that got to do with it?"
Quaraun rolled his eyes.
"They feel pain. And joy. And sadness. And sorrow. When two trees grow together side by side and one falls down and dies, the other weeps tears and becomes depressed. Gives up the will to live, and soon too falls over and dies. Plants, like you Humans fee all the same emotions you feel. As do birds and animals and fish and insects. All life, gives off energy and I feel that. I see the auras around life and the emptiness around death.”
“Glow of colour...”
“I know what an aura is, but... you see them?”
“Yes. Everything has a colour it gives off.”
“Does that have anything to do with why you wear pink?”
“Can you see your own aura?”
“Is it pink?”
“It is. Sometimes.”
“Often it turns black.”
“When I think about killing myself. The colour leaves my aura.”
“You think about killing yourself?”
“I am unloved and unwanted.”
“That’s not a nice thing to say.”
“No. But it is the truth. And one must always speak the truth. I am unloved and unwanted. There is no way to say it and make it sound pretty or nice.”
“But, there must be someone out there who loves you.”
“Oh, there was. BoomFuzzy loved me dearly. But, he died, remember? Males bedding with other males is very evil and taboo, so we were punished for loving each other, remember?”
“Yes, you’ve said.”
“And now he is dead and I am alone. Unloved and unwanted. Cast out. Unwelcome. Alone. I have no friends. No one to talk to. BoomFuzzy was my only friend and he is dead. He’s been dead for centuries. It is hard to go on. I try to make friends, but everywhere I go, people have already heard of me. I am famous. As you know. People fear me. So they hurt me. They won’t even try to get to know me. I’m a killer. A monster. That’s how they see me. I always alone. They only way I can get any one to spend time with me is if I pay them to spend time with me. It is distressing. I want so much to belong. Somewhere. Anywhere. I have no one. I am alone.”
“No. You are not. So do not say you are.”
“You don’t know...”
“Yes. I do know. I am a Psion. I can see your thoughts. You are not sorry at all.”
“Why is your aura usually pink?” Ghirardelli asked, ignoring what the Elf had said.
“You know. Of all the things you could have said, I think that is the last one I would have expected. What does rape have to do with the colour pink?”
“People who suffer deep traumatic stress after having been raped, have a bright, fuchsia pink aura.”
“Yes. I know immediately when a person has been raped, because they are the only people whose auras are brilliant shades of fuchsia pink.”
“No one else has a pink aura?”
“No. No one else.”
“Only rape victims?”
“Yes. Only rape victims have a pink aura.”
“Why is that? Do you know?”
“I don’t know. It has something to do with the Archangel Raphael. I do know that.”
“You believe in Archangels?”
“And this archangel...”
“Yeah, what does he have to do with pink?”
"Pink is a colour of protection. The Archangel Raphael, puts a circle of pink energy around rape victims in order to help their minds heal. It is why I weave only pink silk. I sell very few of my items. I tend to give most of it away to girls who have pink auras. It helps them to heal, emotionally, if they surround themselves with bright pink."
"Helping people again?"
"Yes. It's what I do."
"You're actually good aren't you?"
"I try to be. I told you I am not evil and I'm not the monster that busy bodies and their gossiping rumours make me out to be. People make up horrible things about me all the time. I'm continually amazed the new things people come up with to accuses me of having done."
"And, the apple trees?"
"Yeah. You were turning them into Liches, you said."
"Oh. Yes. That. Most Elves fear necromancy, same as you Humans do, because you fear death. And I started to wonder, why? Why fear death? Why can we not use death. Death is a plentiful energy force that exists all around us. Everything died, and the energy of the dead wanders, aimless and useless. We Elves, we seek to heal the world. Heal nature and Humans are part of nature, are they not?"
"So many Humans are hurting and suffering. It's terrible. I feel their pain. I'm a Psion. I'm used to living in a Hive Mind with other like me, but now the others are dead and I am alone, and alone in my head, same as you Humans are. So I try to find connections elsewhere."
"And the apple trees?"
"Elves avoid necromancy. In fact, I believe I may be the only Elf to ever become a necromancer."
"Really? No other Elf before you ever became a necromancer?"
"No. None. Not one."
"Necromancy is usually used by Humans who are greedy and seek for power and control."
"Are you saying Elves don't seek power and control?"
"Oh no. Nothing of that sort. It's just that Elves live very long lives so we have plenty of time to think and plot and plan and wait for just the right moment to gain the power and control. Whereas you Humans live such short lives, that you are driven more rampantly, less patently, to seek out power and control."
"So, because you live long lives, you don't need to become necromancers to become powerful?"
"Exactly. Plus we have different needs and desires than you Humans. Elves have a very low sex drive and we don't lust for gold, though we do lust for pretty gemstones. Humans seek different things. Gold. Sex. Lordship. Government control. That is what drives most Humans to necromancy. So they use it for evil intent, leading others to believe necromancy itself is evil, when in fact necromancy is neither good nor evil. It can be used for good or evil, but men have evil hearts so they choose to use it for evil, when they could use it for good.”
“But why plants?”
“I’m an Elf,” Quaraun said.
“So? You keep saying that, but I don't understand what you mean by that.”
“We are guardians of nature."
"Meaning what exactly?"
"I am a Moon Elf, so my tribe, we guarded the life along the shore, life effected by the tide fluctuations caused by the phases of the moon. We restored life to areas decimated by blizzards and hurricanes, typhoons, and gales. We Moon Elves, travelled the coastline, following the storms, to right the damage the storms left behind. We tended to sick birds and wildlife, mended broken trees, replanted uprooted shrubbery. That is what we Elves did. Each tribe was assigned a different type of nature to look after. The Sun Elves, worked alongside us Moon Elves, they working in the heat of day, we working in the dark of night. Together we kept the coastline clean, the waters unpolluted, the plants and birds and insects and animals healthy. Wood Elves did the same, but inland in the forests. Meadow Elves tended the prairies of the West. Mountain Elves cared for the mountain regions...”
“I get the picture," Ghirardelli said impatiently.
"You are very condescending, you know that?"
"I'm sorry. I don't mean to be. I'm not used to communicating with Humans. I don't do it often. Do you understand what it means for us to be guardians of nature?"
"You each had things you were assigned to protect and take care of and named yourselves after them. But why necromancy? That’s the part you didn’t explain.”
“Centuries ago, there were millions of nature guardians. Not just us Elves, but also Gnomes, Faeries, Dwarves, Dryads, Unicorns, Merrows, and others..."
"You know most of those are mythological creatures that don't exist."
"You mean like us Elves?"
"Yes. No. Wait..."
"I am aware that because you Humans are so short lived, you don't have memories of most of us, but I assure you, a thousand years ago, we were plentiful on the Earth."
"Are you that old?"
"I am. I am the Last Elf because I was one of the youngest Elves. One of the Last born. While you see me as old, I'm actually quite young."
"Unicorns were real?"
"Unicorns were real." Quaraun scoffed. "Do you know nothing? What are they teaching you young mages in school these days?"
"I never went to a wizardry school."
"Never went..." his voice trailed off.
The thought of a mage, not attending a wizarding school, caught Quaraun off guard. He didn't know how to respond to this and said nothing for several minutes while he mulled the concept of unschooled mages over in his squishy jelly brain.
"No," he finally said at last. "No. It's not possible for you to be anything close to competent at magic if you've never trained properly under wizards who actually know what they are doing."
"You could teach me," Ghirardelli suggested.
"Me?" Quaraun sounded utterly horrified by the very idea of teaching something as lowly as a Human, his level of magic skills. "Teach you?"
"Why not? Why not? Do you even have to ask?"
"Uhm... I just did."
"Do you have any idea how absurd it would be for someone like me, to teach someone like you?"
"What do you mean?"
"I'm an Elf."
"You are a Human."
"Do you know nothing of the kind of magic I practice?"
"No. Tell me."
"I'm a necromancer."
"But necromancy is illegal."
"Yes. It is. But I'm not one to abide by Human laws. You see, I'm not a Human. I'm an Elf. So your laws don't apply to me."
"You're a necromancer."
"Yes. And necromancy is the most advanced magic possible to learn. It's why there are so few proficient necromancers in existence."
""So shouldn't one learn necromancy from the best necromancer there is?"
"Well, yes, but, I don't think you understand. I'm an Elf. And you're a Human."
"What does that have to do with anything?"
"We Elves live for many hundreds of years. I am myself nearly a thousand years old. You Humans are lucky if you even live fifty years. A few may make it to sixty or seventy even. Once in a while a Human reaches a hundred years old, but that is very rare."
"And this makes a differance?"
"Well, of course it does."
"I was over seventy years learning rudimentary magic skills. Basic level magic, that even the longest lived Human will never live long enough to master. I advanced those skills after that. And than after that it took me over a hundred years just to master the very basics of necromancy."
"So you are saying Human necromancers, even the most powerful ones, don't even know the minimal basics of necromancy, because they'll never live long enough to study it?"
"Exactly! The only reason I am the best necromancer in the world is because I'm the oldest necromancer in the world. Same for all my magic skills. I'm the world's most powerful wizard, simply because I am the world's oldest wizard. I've spent nearly a dozen centuries honing my skills and mastering my craft. It's pointless for me to even try to teach you anything."
"Would it be pointless to learn, even if one knew one could never master it?"
"Perhaps not. Learning is always good. But you don't even know the history of magical beings. You didn't know Unicorns were real!"
"Unicorns are taught to be things of fairy tales and Fantasy novels. No one believes they are real or that they ever were."
"And yet, they were real, so short a time ago, that I remember feeding herds of them in the Di'Jinn desert, along the river's edge." Quaraun sighed sadly. "I miss my little black Unicorn."
"Isn't that a perfect example of why mages like us, need someone like you to teach them?"
"Because people today have forgotten so much and you are old enough to remember the stuff we forgot."
"It was but a few thousand years ago, you Humans started breeding in faster succession and you spread like a parasitic plague across the earth. That's why Unicorns are gone, you know. That and because the Di'Jinn killed most of them, which is why I killed the Di'Jinn."
"YOU killed the Di'Jinn?"
"Yes. They were going to kill my little black Unicorn. The one with the gleaming silver horn. I loved my little black Unicorn. He's dead now."
"Don't be. He'll be back soon. I'm working on resurrecting him."
"I thought you were resurrecting the Elf Eater."
"And you are resurrecting the Unicorn as well?"
"But you just said..."
"BoomFuzzy WAS the Unicorn."
"The Elf Eater was a Unicorn? But I thought..."
"The Elf Eater was a Phooka. Don't you know what a Phooka is?"
"Uhm. I'm not sure. It's a type of Faerie. Kind of lie a Demon."
"No. Nothing like a Demon. Phookas are a type of Unicorn. Similar to a Kelpie. But where Unicorns are white and have gold horns and Kelpies are green and have copper horns, Phookas a black and have silver horns. Also Kelpies are huge, like Clydesdale, while Unicorns are more like Arabian racing stallions, and Phookas are like little Shetland ponies the size of a goat."
"I never knew that. Wait... are you saying the Elf Eater of Pepper Valley was a HORSE?"
"Yes. The Elf Eater was a Unicorn."
"I thought he was a man!"
"No." Quaraun shook his head. "BoomFuzzy was a horse. He could cast illusion spells to make you hallucinate and see a man instead of a horse, but he was always a horse."
"So, you are saying there were lots of different types of Unicorns, right?"
"Yes. Horses with horns on their heads, were once plentiful, but than you Humans showed up and ruined everything."
"Ruined? How did Humans ruin everything?"
"You destroyed nature."
"No we didn't."
"Yes. You did."
"At first, we thought you would help care for nature too, so we did nothing to eradicate you while we had large enough numbers that we still could. But then armies of you attacked and killed entire nations of our tribes, and well, you can see the result. Gnomes and Dwarves were the first to go extinct. I am the last Elf, unless there are a few others, like myself, travelling alone, but we Elves have a hive mind and I would have picked up on any survivors by now if there were any others out there. What few Faeries survived, opened up portals and fled to other dimensions. Demons did the same. The world is now left unprotected, defenceless against the infestation of your Humans. And you are destroying her.”
“Nature. Earth. A lot of America is utterly destroyed."
"Yes. And it's worse in the future. A lot worse. In the year 2525, the Earth will implode, and you Humans cause it. You fight amongst yourselves so much that you build weapons of mass destruction and kill most all life on the planet."
"So, Humans eventually kill each other?"
"Not just each other, but plants, trees, animals, birds. You vaporized everything with a very big gun. Entire forest disappeared. Burned to ash in the blink of an eye. America will be reduced to one, giant desert, with huge piles of rusted tanks and jet planes that fell out of the sky when left unmanned by the blast. They called it a nuclear war. I call it a disgrace."
"But some people survived, right?"
"No. After the war. Humanity rebuilt itself in bits and pieces, here and there, scientists set out to building time machines to go back and try to undo the war, but than, well, a side effect of the nuclear explosions was, a shit in the gravity pull of the Earth. It... days grew longer. Nights grew shorter. Summer grew hotter. The polar caps melted. And people panicked, because every one knew what was happening. New reporters showed what scientist said. The Earth was being pulled into the sun. And not slowly. Quickly. High winds took hold as the planet plunged forward. In less than a year, the Earth was sucked into the sun. The whole planet melted."
"It is. It was awful."
"And that's Earth future?"
"Can it be stopped?"
"I don't think so. I've been forward and backward through time so many times, so many places. Only minor things change. It happens a week earlier a month later, But it still happens."
"So if you can't change it why bother trying to change anything at all?"
"To make life better for people I love who suffered needlessly. I saw the moon, break apart, and crumble to dust. The moon fell out of the sky. And when that happened, the ocean rose higher. Entire continents were buries in water. But than the water evaporated as the Earth neared the sun. In the day before it reached the sun, mountains melted, riverbed flowed with lava, the entire planet became charred, people burned to death if they dared go outside. Everyone moved underground the escape the burning sun. And than, the planet was gone. Earth was no more. The planet and everything on it, melted and became part of the sun. I became The King of the Burning Planet. I led the people to the ships. They crowned me king of the Planet of Flames."
"The Planet of Flames? I've heard of that."
"If you have, than, you have spoken to someone from the future."
"Are you back here in the past, because there is no Earth in the future for you to live on?"
"Yes. There are quite a few of us. When the sun went into supernova, ships fled through time. People chose various ships based on what year or what location it was set to go back to."
"If you know the world is going to end and you know how, than, why bother with saving this village at all?"
"I told you, I want to make life better for people. Barely a hundred years ago, New England was nothing but pine forests. The Atlantic Ocean full plentiful of fish. Now look at it. Cites stand on mass acres of clear-cut forests. Dead fish, floating in polluted water, far outweigh the healthy fish in the ocean now. That’s why necromancy.”
“I don’t understand.”
“I am only one Elf. I can defend and protect nature from the millions of you Humans who are fast destroying her. But I can, follow your path of destruction and resurrect the dead you leave in your wake. And you Humans leave plenty of dead behind, so my job of restoring life to plants,, trees, birds, animals, and fish, is never ending, and all I do is this one region. I walk from Ivujivik to Boston and turn around and walk from Boston to Ivujivik. The trip takes me four years one way, eight years round trip. So, I will never catch up on restoring life to everything you Humans slaughter, but I do what I can, where I can.”
“What you are doing seems rather pointless,” Ghirardelli insisted.
“Yes. Sometimes I think that myself,” Quaraun agreed.
“Then why do it at all?”
“It was what BoomFuzzy did. He taught me how to do it. Though his reasons were far from noble. He resurrected lich apricot trees and lich wormwood plants to make drugs so he could drug his victims and make them easier to catch.”
“Is he around here somewhere?”
“BoomFuzzy? No. BoomFuzzy died many hundreds of years ago now. We had planned to come here while he was still alive. We were going to live here.”
“BoomFuzzy? You keep talking about BoomFuzzy. But I don't know who that is. Who is that?”
“BoomFuzzy? You probably know him by his real name. King Gwallmaiic. King of the Realm of Fae. He was the necromancer whom most people referred to as The Elf Eater of Pepper Valley.”
“The Elf Eater?”
“Yes. The Elf Eater of Pepper Valley. King Gwallmaiic. King of the Faeries. He was also BoomFuzzy the candy maker.”
“You’re Quaraun the Insane.”
“Yes. You said that already.”
“You’re Quaraun the Insane.”
“I’m not... yes. I am Quaraun, but I am not insane. I dislike that label. And as for my papers, well, there is this one...”
Quaraun pulled a wanted poster out of his pink beaded heart shaped bag of holding and handed it to Ghirardelli.
WANTED DEAD OR ALIVE:
QUARAUN THE INSANE.
Wanted for Necromancy, Demonology, Sorcery, Black Magic, murder, rape, buggery, sodomy, cross-dressing, bathing more than twice a year, eating Human brains...
The poster listed more crimes, but Quaraun rolled up the poster and stuffed it back in his bag, before Ghirardelli had time to read the rest.
"The wanted poster you put up a few weeks ago."
"You took it down?"
“Told you I had papers."
"Yeah, you did. But I didn't recognize you."
"And do you know why you didn't recognize me?"
"No. But I suppose you will tell me."
"I will tell you. Because that picture looks nothing like me. Really, you need to get a better portrait artists. Ugh. Look at that picture.” Quaraun took the poster bag out of his bag and held the poster up beside his face. “I am the most beautiful Elf the world has ever seen. Look at me!"
"I am looking at you. You kind of look like a freak?"
"Yeah, like something out of a Gypsy freak show."
"I AM a Gypsy."
"Well, that's explain you're looking like a Gypsy freak show."
“I am NOT a freak.”
“You could’ve fooled me.” Upon discovering who Quaraun was, the old woman was now very agitated. “You belong in a freak show.”
“That’s very derogatory. I feel that you don’t like Gypsies do you?”
“No one likes Gypsies.”
“That is not true. Only racist bigots hate Gypsies. And you were perfectly fine sitting here drinking tea with me, until you found out what I was. You’re thinly veiled hostility is not welcomed. Nothing about my manner has changed. I am still the same person you asked to help you, that I was a few moments ago. Why are you suddenly on the defensive?”
“Why shouldn’t I be?”
“You weren’t feeling that way a few minutes ago. Not until you found out my name.”
“You’re filthy criminal Gypsy scum,” Ghirardelli insisted.
“On the contrary, it is I who is perfectly clean. You on the other hand look and smell as though you’ve not seen a bath in months. It is you, not me, who is filthy.”
“That’s not what I meant by filthy. You’re filthy criminal Gypsy scum.”
“And before you learned my name, you didn’t think that. You were quite continent to sit here and drink tea with me.”
“I didn’t realize I was drinking tea with a murderous, scumbag, Gypsy freak.”
“I’m not a freak.” Quaraun repeated himself. “You are just proving how evil you white Americans are.”
“Well, you ARE wearing a pink dress.”
“What difference does it make what I am wearing? And besides, this is NOT a dress. It is a caftan and a kimono. Both of which are men’s articles of clothing, worn by men, not women. What is it with you stupid ass Americans and you inability to stop judging everything?”
“I don’t care what you want to call it. It is a dress.”
“Look at my face, not my dress.”
“You’ve the face of an Oriental freak,” Ghirardelli said as harshly as she could muster.
“Asian. Oriental is a white man’s word. Hate slur. You are quite racist aren’t you?”
“And you’re a sorry excuse for a man.”
“No. That’s wrong too. I’m not a Man. I’m an Elf. I’m not Human at all, so I can’t very well be a sorry excuse for one, seeing how I’m not one, nor am I trying to be one. And you were not being so hostile before you knew my name. Does finding out who I am really change how you think of me that much?"
“Whatever you are, you’re a freak.”
Quaraun looked away from the vulgar racist and stared at the wanted poster.
“This picture doesn’t do me justice. That artist, clearly never saw me. How does Finderu ever expect to capture me if he can’t even find an artist that can capture my glorious beauty?”
“You’re very vain, aren’t you?”
“Why, of course I am. You would be too, if you were as beautiful as me.”
“Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.”
“A beholder’s eye. That’s a difficult thing to get a hold of. You know, I should do a sit down with your artist. Pose for my wanted poster. It would at least give you a fighting chance of trying to catch me. Not that any of you ever could. I am the most powerful wizard the world has ever known, after all. Now I ask you, does this even look anything like me? What were you thinking using this picture on my wanted poster? This looks nothing like me.”
“You look a lot older than I thought you would be.”
“Excuse me?” Quaraun tossed the wanted poster aside, and now pulled out a silver hand mirror. “Am I starting to look old?”
“You ARE old, aren’t you?”
“I am an Elf. Pure-blooded Moon Elf.”
“Aren’t you the LAST Moon Elf, because you ate the other Moon Elves?”
“Yes. The things one must do to preserve one’s beauty for immortality.”
“I thought Quaraun the Insane was young. But you’re an old man.”
“Old? Do I look old?”
“Well, yes. When I hear people telling stories about you, I didn’t realize you were an ancient old Wizard. I thought you were some young mage. People describe you being all lovesick over The Elf Eater of Pepper Valley and, well, the way people talk about you, I thought you’d be a teenage girl or something. I don’t know. I wasn’t expecting The Pink Necromancer to be an ancient old man, that’s all.”
“Ancient? What do you consider ancient? I’m barely four hundred years old!”
"Didn't you say you were seven hundred and fifty years old?"
"I don't know. I might of."
"Why don't you know?"
"I can't count. I don't know what year it is. I don't know what year I was born. I don't know how old I am."
"What's the oldest thing you remember. Like a world event or war or something."
"I remember Charlemagne. I was a child, when he was king. The Di'Jinn said he was a god king, for a Human. I remember I was still quite young when he died. He had 18 children by 8 of his ten wives. I was still a child when he died. He was 70 years old and I remember thinking, how dreadfully young Humans are when they die. I would still be a child at 70 years old."
"Holy Roman Emperor Charlemagne died in 814 A.D. That's... that's... that's a thousand years ago."
"A thousand years? Has it been so long?"
“Do Elves live that long? Don't Elves only live around four hundred years?”
“I am immortal.”
“Immortal?" asked, puzzled by this possibility. "How so?”
“Souls. I’m a soul eater. That sword of yours might come in handy."
"I could use a sword that draws out souls. Anything that makes removing souls easier is going to be a boon for me. Would you be willing to sell the sword to me?"
"Sell it? No. And to you? Definitely not."
"Why would you want it?"
"Why wouldn't I want it would be a better question, I think."
"It's cursed. It'll kill you if you don't feed it souls."
"Why is that so funny?"
“I am a Necromancer soul bound to a Lich.” As he spoke, Quaraun set out several pink seven knob candles on the table and lit them. At the centre of the ring of candles he placed a pair of pink bride and groom candles, then tied them closely to each other, bound together, wrapping them with a long pink silk ribbon. “I could, if I choose, break that bond. Break the spell that bound us. But I still love him and so every night, I renew the bond with a renewal spell. Even though he is now dead these many years, our souls are still bound together as one.”
“And that is relevant? How exactly?”
“You have a sword that steals souls from the living, yes?”
“And I am a Necromancer who is soul bound to a Lich.”
Quaraun said now more and went back to the candle ritual he was working on. Ghirardelli waited for the Elf to finish speaking, but it seemed he was done, as now all of his focus was on the bottles and jars or oils and powders and herbs that he was now mixing together and anointing the candles with.
“Are you going to explain yourself?” Ghirardelli asked when she realized the Elf was no longer paying any attention to her.
Quaraun looked up from his mixture of pine needle essential oil, carnation flower bath crystals, and wintergreen incense powders. “What is it I am to explain?” he asked as he went back to his work, now sprinkling the mixture over the candles, causing their flames to fizzle and spark, with bright bursts of colour as the oil and salt hit the flame.
“I don’t see the relevance of your being soul bound to a Lich and what that has to do with you wanting my soul eating sword.”
“Ah! You do not understand Liches and what they are or what they do, yes?”
“I understand Liches perfectly. But I don’t see what that has to do with my sword.”
“But you do not see the connection between Liches and your sword. This tells me that you do not understand Liches very well at all.” Quaraun placed a bowl filled with violet coloured bath crystals on the table, and dropped clusters of purple wisteria blossoms into the bath crystals, crushing the petals as he did so, releasing their strong floral fragrance into the air. “So, tell me than, what it is you know of Liches and then I shall understand why it is, you do not understand the connection.”
“A Lich is a type of ghost."
"No. A Lich is a type of wraith, but continue."
"The spirit of someone who commits suicide and can not go to Heaven because they committed self murder. They are condemned to walk the world of the living for eternity. Ever hungry, ever thirsty, ever full of insatiable desires, but never able to quell those desires."
"Yes," Quaraun agreed, nodding sadly. "No matter how much they eat, they are never filled, their hungry pangs never go away. No matter how much they drink, their thirst is never quenched, their throat always parched. They forever lust for the warmth of others, but can feel nothing of the physical body, no warmth, no pleasure. Tis a sorrowful thing."
"Their minds are racked with insanity from centuries of suffering and mental torment of never feeling an end to their suffering. It is their punishment for the crime of murder.”
Quaraun blew out the candles, and whispered words in a language Ghirardelli did not recognize, then waited for the smoke to drift away, before turning to the Swamp Hag to address her.
“You know only the bare basics of Liches, then?” He asked her.
“I know what I just told you and I know finding out that much wasn’t easy.”
“I see. Well. Not all Liches are created equal. And there is more to Liches than just being punished suicide victims.”
“You’re saying there are different types of Liches?”
“Yes. But for our purposes, the suicide victim is the correct type. BoomFuzzy did, after all, kill himself to become a Lich. Everything you said is correct, but it barely scratches the surface of the clay. You are clawing at a brick and only getting dust under your nails. You have a lot to learn before you get to the heart of the matter.”
“And the heart of the matter is what?”
“The short of it is this: a Lich can gain redemption through repentance of sin, but to do that they must return to a physical body and live life again, this time, making amends for the wrongs made in the first life. However, in order for that to happen, the Lich must have someone living, not just anyone, but specifically someone whom they committed a crime against in life, must forgive them and love them enough to resurrect them.”
"Is resurrecting a Lich even possible?"
"It is. Someone who was wronged by them and is willing to forgive them. A Lich must find a living person willing to forgive them and help them enter a physical body. And that, my dear, requires souls.”
“What do Liches need souls for?”
“In order to give the Lich a new body, one must gather up enough souls to animate a golem.”
“Are you saying you are trying to resurrect a Lich and you want my sword to use to gather up souls, to create a golem for the Lich to live in?”
“Exactly that, yes. Except, I already made the golem.” Quaraun reached into his pocket and pulled out a wooden box. In the box were several smaller boxes. He removed one of these and opened it. Inside was a glowing blue ice sculpture of a unicorn. He carefully took it out and held it up for Ghirardelli to see. “This is an ice golem.”
“I can change it’s size with my wand, when the time comes to use it.”
“Is it... a unicorn?”
“It is a Phooka. More like a Kelpie, than a Unicorn, but yes, a type of Unicorn.”
“Why did you make the golem in the shape of a unicorn?”
“BoomFuzzy is an Unicorn.”
“King Gwallmaiic, The Elf Eater of Pepper Valley. He was a Phooka, a black Unicorn. Similar to a Kelpie.”
“He was a man...”
“No. He was not. He took the form of a Human to blend in with your society, but he was a horse.”
“Your lover is a horse?”
“Something like that.” Quaraun put the little ice golem away. “Beyond that, there is a JellyFish living in my brain. So technically, I think I’m already dead. At least, my Elf body is. Elves only live 400 years, yes, that is correct, but I’m a Thullid living in an Elf’s body. I’ll survive for many thousands of years. I already have. I just never lived in a host before arriving at this planet. Never needed to before.”
“A host? What do you mean by a host?”
“I am the Sacred Pink JellyFish.” As he spoke, Quaraun took the pink seven knob candles off of the table and placed them in a red wooden box. He next placed the pair of bound together pink bride and groom candles, and placed them on top of the seven knob candles. He then gathered up the salts and oils and herbs and violets and lavender and wisteria and carefully placed all of those things on top of the bound bring and groom wax figures. On top of this, he laid a silver mirror, facing downward, then closed the lip of the wooden box and got up, taking the box with him, to put it in the fire pit. The fire blazed and flared brightly as the flames doubled in size, engulfing the box.
“You said that before.”
Quaraun did not answer the woman. Instead, he sat down in front of the fire and watched the box burn. The salt and herbs and oils mixed with the flames, turning the fire a bright blue, as the pink candle wax oozed out into the fire pit, forming ripples of melted wax around the edges of the mirror, embedding it into the wax. After a few minutes, the blaze died down and the fire burned itself out.
Quaraun watched as the liquid wax solidified once again, now forming into a melted pink disc shape, full if ashes and bits of burned herbs, and a scattered of salt crystals. Quaraun picked up the wax disc and carried it to the table at the back of the tent, placing it in a wooden chest, where Ghirardelli could see there was a large stack of similar wax discs. She assumed he made one of these every day, by the look of how many were there.
Quaraun returned to his resting spot on his pile of pink silk pillows once again, pulled out a pink glass hookah, and turned his attention back to Ghirardelli while he smoked his liquid hashish pipe.
“I did say that before. Yes,” he said between puffs of smoke. “Yes, I did. I am not an Elf. I simply wear the skin of a dead Elf the same way you wear a coat. I am a Thullid, living inside the body of an Elf. I am a female. I like beautiful things. He was a beautiful male. Such great beauty was wasted on him. An Elf who would never leave his village, never have a will of his own. Live forever as part of the hive mind that made them all identical in thought. But with me, the whole world can admire his beauty. The entire world can gaze up the glory that was his perfect body. Think of him as being like the fox fur stole worn by a wealthy noblewoman, because that’s what he is to me.”
As he chatted, Quaraun pulled a rusty, orange fox fur stole from his bag and wrapped it around his shoulders. He then arranged the pink tourmaline crystal charms hang from the rows of chains connecting his nose rings to his earrings. Ghirardelli watched the male Elf priming and fusing as though he were a female. It occurred to her that Quaraun’s being female and not male would, in fact, explain his feminine actions.
“You are a female, Thullid?” Ghirardelli asked the Elf.
“And you are wearing the body of a male Elf?”
“Why are you wearing a dead body like it was clothing?”
“Because he is beautiful. Bewitching.” Quaraun pulled out a silver mirror once again. “Have you ever seen anything more gorgeous than he?”
“That’s why you keep pulling out these mirrors, isn’t it? You aren’t looking at yourself, you looking at him.”
“That would be correct.”
“You know, I thought you were joking before about the whole Thullid thing.”
“I never joke.”
“Yeah, I’m starting to think that’s true."
"I fail to understand why you appear so shocked by this."
"Well, you DO seem a little bit on the crazy side and you are homeless and living in a tent. But you’re being a female would explain the styling your hair and wearing your clothes as though you wee female. So, you are saying that you ACTUALLY are, quite literally, you ARE The ACTUAL Sacred Pink JellyFish?”
“Yes. I wouldn’t say it if it wasn’t true. You Humans are so annoying. You never believe anything anyone says, because your society is built on a web of lies. You all lie to each other so much on a daily basis that you think everyone else automatically lies like you do. We are not as corrupted and perverse as you deviated, immoral, lying thugs are. I am not a Human, nor an America, nor a Christian, I’m not even from this planet, Earth is not my native home, so stop treating me like I’m a lying ass piece of white trash, shit faced American Christian Human Earthling.”
“I wasn’t accusing you... hey, you know, I’m not a Christian myself. Christians don’t exactly abide with having us witches around, you know!”
"I told you I was the Sacred Pink Jelly Fish and you said you thought I was joking. A joke is nothing but one of many forms of telling a lie. In my culture, we cut out the tongues of vile miscreants like you who speak in jokes. Jokes are lies. Lies are evil. Lairs do not deserve to live."
"I..." Ghirardelli didn't know how to respond. The Elf, looked livid. He was truly terrifying just now. He was mad. No. He was pissed. Furious. Accusing him of not speaking the truth, seemed to have triggered some deep internal rage within him.
Ghirardelli knew that if even half the humours about Quaraun's extreme violence and excessively bad temper was true, then she had to change his mood, and fast.
The old Elf, did not wait for Ghirardelli to respond to him. He continued ranting his hatred for Humans and lies. Lies and Humans.
"I speak the truth always and only, just because you don't know how to tell the truth to save your life, doesn't give you the right to treat me like the lying piece of shit you are!"
"My culture isn't built on lies like yours is. We are a Hive Mind society. Everyone knows every thought everyone else is thinking. Isn't even possible to tell a lie, because no one can hide any thought from anyone else. You Humans, think you can hide thoughts by lying, well guess what, I'm a psion and I can see your thoughts, just as well as I can hear your voice, so can't hide nothing from me."
"I didn't mean..."
"I know every single time you lie to me, and you've been lying every other sentence out of your mouth since you walked into my tent. I know who you really are, why you are really here, just like I know that no men were chasing you, and you were well aware I was The Pink Necromancer before you even found my tent. I know you heard people in the tavern talking about a pink Arab and you figured it had to be me, Quaraun the Insane, it couldn't possibly be any one else, so you set out looking for me and made up that cock and bull story about men chasing you on the fly."
"I didn't make up..."
"Humans and lies. Lies and Humans. You are all alike."
"Men really are..."
"Not an honest bone in your body."
"You don't know me..."
"No you me! Yet you judge me anyways."
"Bah! Humans! No pure thoughts in your soul. Twisted and corrupted, creatures full of lies and filth."
"Lying, filthy, shit bag, gutter scum, pieces of trash, every one of you."
"WILL YOU SHUT UP!" Ghirardelli yelled.
The old Elf immediately fell silent and stared, blinking at her. He had not expected her to raise her voice, indeed, he seemed puzzled by the thought that she had done so.
"Are you done bitching?" Ghirardelli asked.
"I'm never done bitching," Quaraun answered dryly. "Apparently I make an art of it."
"Okay. Never mind all that. So, you're saying that you really are the Thullid god?"
"The Sacred Pink Jelly Fish?"
"But, I thought The Scared Pink Jelly Fish was an Elder Brain. One of the Ancient Ones."
"I AM one of the Elder Brains."
"But that's not possible."
"Don't Elder Brains swim around in giant brain form, swimming like jellyfish in slime filled primordial pools?"
"The Elder Brains are tiny. The size of maggots. Itty bitty pink jellyfish. We climb up your nostril, latch on to your brain, take control of your mind, and learn to think your thoughts, while our tentacles fuse to your spinal column, than grow into it, engulf it, attach to it, fuss to it. We become one with you, and for inside your skull, we learn your habits, your thoughts, your hobbies, your quirks, and after a few years, when we have learned how to pretend to be you, we eat your brain, grow to fill the size of the cavity in your skull, and live as though we were you."
"So, no giant elephant sized brains sitting around in slime filled primordial pools?"
"But that's what Thullid Elder Brains are always said to be."
"Who says so?"
"Everything we know about Thullids saids so."
"Than everything you know about Thullids is wrong."
"Well, yeah. Maybe. It could be. It's been centuries since the last time anyone actually saw a Thullid. They are thought to be extinct. Or living in the dark underworld..."
"Dark underworld? What nonsense is that?"
"Everyone says the Thullids built a system of caves deep inside the Earth and they live down there. Cultists find huge sinkholes around the world and throw sacrifices in to feed the Ancient Elder Brains. They say Thullid psionic priests roam the dark underground serving Elder Brains. And someday there is going to be an uprising..."
"Yeah. The Old One, The Sacred Pink JellyFish, the oldest of the Elder Gods, is supposed to return, and bring his people back to the surface kill all Humans and restore the Earth to it's former per-Human glory."
"I'm supposed to do that?"
"That's what the stories and legends and folklore about the Thullid's god say."
"There are several problems with your Human tales of my return."
"Well, for starters, I'm a female."
"Maybe it was talking about some other Elder Brain?"
Quaraun shook his head. "No. Can't be. Not possible."
"Because Elder Brains are ALWAYS female. There are no male Elder Brains. We are like the Queen of a bee hive or ant hill. We are always a female and our job is simple: we lay eggs."
"You... lay... eggs... And you mean that literally don't you?"
"So... do you lay eggs?"
"Not in a very long time, but yes."
"When was the last time you laid eggs?"
"Before I came to this planet. Long before I was implanted up this Elf's nose. I was carrying a clutch when I was put in him."
"A clutch of eggs."
"You have a clutch of eggs?"
Quaraun pointed his finger to his head. "In this Elf's skull. I keep them safe, snuggled up against my belly, wrapped up in my tentacles."
Quaraun began softly humming, seeing to his egg clutch.
"You're saying your head is full of Thullid eggs waiting to hatch?"
"No. My head is full of Thullid eggs waiting to be fertilized."
"Yes. I must find a male JellyFish."
"You mean a male Thullid?"
"Oh no. The generic squid or octopi Thullid is a different species. Only another JellyFish is compatible for reproduction."
"How long can you wait to find a male?"
"How is that possible."
"I am an Immortal JellyFish. If we get too old, we simply revert to a younger version of yourself and start life over again. We Immortal JellyFish can do that forever. I will keep doing that forever, until I find an appropriate male for spawn with. Than I will lay my eggs."
"In the brains of hosts."
"How many eggs are you carrying?"
"A few million."
"A few... million? Seriously?"
"And someday you are going to lay those eggs, and... a few million?"
"Yes. Around seven million."
"Seven... million...? Seven million Thullid eggs? That means seven million Thullid larvae will some day be put into seven million people. And those seven million people will turn into... into... squid headed brain sucking mind flaying demons."
"Yes. And no. Not Squid headed. Jelly-brained, like me. That is how we Thullids reproduce."
"It'll be an apocalypse."
"Like Christian ministers are always talking about. They keep saying how Demons from the underworld walk among us in disguise and no one knows because they look like us, and one day they will rise up and take over the world, possessing others, taking over their minds, making them slaves to the ancient Elder God. That's YOU! Those ministers are talking about YOU. The Bible was largely written in 800 A.D. when your people arrived on planet Earth, when you were implanted into the Elf. The Bible calls you the Alfar, the Watchers, the Fallen Angles..."
"The Grigori. Yes. That was what Christians called us Elves back than."
"So, the Fallen Archangels of the Bible, that's you Elves, right?"
"And the Demons of the Bible, that's you Thullids?"
"And, you are one of the Watchers, a Demon Possessed Archangel, because you are a Thullid living in the body of an Elf?"
"This is correct."
"And so the stories of the Demon taken over in the Book of Revelation, that's talking about the day when you lay your eggs in the brains of Humans and the Human race turns into Thullids. That's what the Bible means when it talks about Demon Possession? It means Thullids sucking out Human brains and replacing them with baby jellyfish, who fuse with the body, become the body, and sprout tentacles out of their mouths and turn into squid headed eldritch demons?"
"More or less, exactly that. Yes."
"So, you're an implanted Elder Brain?"
"Yes. And this host is dreadfully beautiful. He has such a lovely body.”
“So, you are an ancient Thullid living in the body of an old, elderly Elf?”
"You look elderly."
"Yes. You're an ancient old, elderly Elf."
"Ancient and old? Old and ancient?"
"Why are you getting upset? Didn't you just tell me you were nine hundred years old?"
"You think I’m old!”
“Well, aren’t you?”
The Necromancer stopped what he was doing, stepped back, and stared dumbfounded at the woman.
“Old and ancient. Ancient and old.”
His voice sounded wounded, and she instantly regretted her boldness in speaking her mind without thinking first.
"I'm sorry. I didn't mean to hurt your feelings."
"Are my feelings hurt?" Quaraun asked himself. "No. But am I old?"
"Being old isn't a bad thing, you know?"
"Yes it is. It's terrible. I am immortal. I can't get old. How have I grown old and not known it?"
She didn’t know the habits of either Elves or Thullids, or Elves who were demon possessed by Thullids, so caution would have been a better move on her part.
"Ancient and old? Old and ancient?"
Quaraun silently mouthed the words ancient and old several more times. That he was immortal and would retain his beauty for many centuries was vitally important to him. Possibly more important to him than anything else. Even the slightest hint of a wrinkle at the corner of his mouth or a crow’s foot beside his eye was enough to send Quaraun into a panic of looking for herbs and oils and creams and lotions and potions to dab it away.
Quaraun strode across the tent to look the woman straight in the eye, standing so close that his thin, perfectly pointed nose nearly touched hers. He stared deep into her eyes, search for a hint of honesty.
“Do I look old to you?” Quaraun asked the woman, but he did not wait for an answer. He spun away from her, kicked his bedroll aside, and nervously paced around his tent.
“How could I possibly look old?” The ancient Elven wizard muttered to himself as he racked his brain trying to determine when it was that age had caught up with him.
Quaraun’s voice had changed. Calm and composed before, he could not mask the nervous, worried, panicked anxiety that shivered through him, causing his body to tremble.
Much to the woman’s astonishment, Quaraun pulled a full-length mirror out of his impossibly tiny pink beaded heart shaped hip bag. The ancient wizard then stood in front of the mirror muttering to himself about being old, while he stared, horrified, stressed, and perplexed, at his own reflection. The Elf had now taken to searching for wrinkles on his face.
“I didn’t mean...” the woman tried to explain she had not meant to upset him, but whatever it was she had said, was lost to the universe.
Quaraun wasn’t listening to Ghirardelli. The abnormally vain Moon Elf had pulled a silver brush from the bag of holding and nervously brushed his luxuriant white Rapunzel hair.
Not brushing his hair.
Quaraun ripped the bristles through his tentacle locks with a frantic abandon. His hair nervously withered away from the brush.
The thought that he might have aged had triggered the Elf into a self-absorbed frenzy of fussing over what he looked like while frantically brushing his hair.
The elderly wizard continued to mutter about being old and trailed off into speaking a squishy, slithering, jellyfish language the woman did not understand. Ghirardelli tried to get Quaraun’s attention. But it was a fruitless endeavour. She couldn’t tell what the Elf said, but whatever it was, Quaraun sounded terrified.
The woman couldn’t tell what the Elf was saying, but whatever it was, Quaraun sounded terrified.
The Swamp Hag continued talking to him, but she might as well been talking to a brick wall. The vain, self absorbed Elf was not hearing a word the woman was trying to say.
Ghirardelli suddenly realized this Elf was very self-conscious about his looks.
“Are you really going to just shut down and not respond to me anymore?” Ghirardelli asked him.
He did not answer. She regretted what she had said to him. Though she did not regret it out of any concern for the Elf. She cared nothing for him or his feelings. Rather, she regretted it because it seemed apparent that once worried about his looks; the Elf had forgotten her presence. Quaraun was too busy primping in the mirror. The Pink Necromancer was no longer concerned with helping her.
“You’re not listening to me!”
Ghirardelli stamped her foot in frustration.
"I hate men," Ghirardelli said bluntly. "You are all alike. Self centred pricks. Every one of you."
Quaraun didn't answer. He was still muttering words she didn't know. She contemplated kicking the mirror, but than thought better of it. If this really was Quaraun the Insane, well, people called him insane for a reason, because he was insane. And an insane person was dangerous, wasn't they?
"Clearly you are a highly narcissistic, egotistical Elf."
Quaraun stopped brushing his hair for a moment to consider this.
"Yes. A sad, lonely, depressed, narcissistic, egotistical Elf, suffering from some serious vanity and pride issues," Quaraun said agreeing with her. "That is exactly what I am. Plus, I am not a man," he added. "So you can't possibly hate me for being a man."
"I wouldn't have expected you to say that."
"What? That I'm not a man? Obviously not. I'm not Human. Me are always Human."
"When I said men, I meant males, but..."
"I'm not that either. I am a female. I just live in the body of a male."
"Whatever, but that's not what I meant."
"I meant, I wouldn't have expected you to call yourself narcissistic or egotistical or admit to being vain and having pride issues."
"No reason to deny what I am. I know I have problems. Personality issues. I'm not the easiest person to get along with. I am a bitch. Everyone tells me as much. You even did a few moments ago. I accept that. But that doesn't mean I have to accept aging. I am a mage. I ought to be able to keep myself looking young forever."
"Do you want to look young forever?"
"Yes. Don't you?"
"I'm beyond that possibility. Didn't you notice how old I am?"
"Of course, I noticed. I'm not rude enough to call you a wrinkled up old hag or tell you look an old, dried up piece of jerky, like you did to me."
I didn't say... HEY! Did you just call me a piece of jerky!"
"I did. What of it?"
"You were bitching about not being called names."
"What goes around, comes around. If you didn't want me retaliating with name calling, than you shouldn't have been calling me names first. Don't suppose you thought of that did you? You'd think someone your age were have some manners and not be acting like an immature ingrate."
Ghirardelli fell silent and Quaraun went back to sputtering foreign words, while fussing over his hair and looking for wrinkles on his face. It occurred to Ghirardelli that calling the Elf old could ruin her chances of getting any help from the Elf. The Elf seemed to have forgotten she needed help.
"You were going to help me," she reminded Quaraun.
"Was I?" Quaraun pondered this thought for a moment, trying to remember if he had said he would help this women or not.
"Did I say I would?"
"Did you say you wouldn't?"
"No. I did not say I wouldn't. That is true. But I also didn't say I would. I said I would listen to what you had to say, and serve you tea."
Loud thunder crashed outside the tent. Lightening flashed soon after, causing a red glow through the tent's pink stripped silk.
"What was that?" Ghirardelli jumped and spun around.
"It was only the thunder. There is a storm raging out there, remember? A hurricane. It was WHY I stopped and set up my tent. I was travelling. But this storm came up on me, so I set up the tent. Was weaving for a bit. Ate my meal. Took a nap. Got woken up by you. Now I'm having my tea."
"You know it isn't tea time."
"It is always tea time."
The sound of pouring rain came rumbling down on the roof of the tent. Ghirardelli looked up at the thin pink stripped silk.
"Is this tent strong enough to keep out the rain?"
"It's not just strong enough to keep out the rain, it's strong strong enough to keep out raining cats and dogs."
"I wish it WAS raining cats and dogs."
"Don't say that."
"Why not? More rain would keep the men from chasing me."
"No. That's not what I meant..."
As Quaraun said this, a flurry of growling and hissing started happening outside the tent.
"Oh dear," he muttered. He put his teacup on the table, used his cane to pull himself and tottered his way over to the front door flap of the tent to look outside. Cats and dogs were falling out of the sky. "Oh, bother."
Ghirardelli joined him in the doorway.
"You know I never realized how short you were, " Ghirardelli said to the tiny, little necromancer, who was shorter than her shoulder.
"My height has nothing to do with anything," Quaraun snarled. He hated when people mentioned how short he was.
"No, but, you're a man and you don't even come up to my shoulder."
“It’s raining cats and dogs,” Quaraun said as he watched a herd of wet cats scurry away, hissing and growling, while packs of small muddy dogs rolled in the mud puddles. “Did you do this?”
“No! I didn’t do it, but I wish I had. This is frigging awesome!”
“Don’t say that. Especially not around me.”
“Say what?” Ghirardelli was confused by what was happening and by what Quaraun had said.
“Don’t wish for anything.”
“I’m a Di’Jinn.”
“I’m a wishing mage. When people around me wish for things, those things happen.”
Quaraun pointed through the door to the downpour of cats and dogs tumbling out of the sky. “Does THAT look like a joke to you, madame?”
“No, that looks like a lot of cats and dogs tumbling out of the sky. How did that happen?”
“You wished for it.”
“And you granted that wish?”
“No. But that’s what happens when people wish for things around me. It’s part of why I stay away from people. Especially you filthy Humans. Most especially you vile jackassery white Americans. Nothing but gutter scum filth. That’s all you Americans are. I should do this world a favour and rid this planet of the entire vile American existence. Nothing useful was ever birthed out of a white American Human. Not a one of you deserves to live.”
Quaraun left the tent, sputtering angrily about how wet his hair was. Growling about mud on his shoes.
“Humans and their idiotic wishes. Wish your boyfriend would spend more time with you? Poof! Now the two of you are fused together like fucking Siamese twins. I was warm and dry in my tent. Now look at me. Wet. Wet. And fucking more wet. Gamblers looking to enhance the power of wishes, rub lodestones on their skin, hope to attract gold to them, all they end up with are red blisters and rashes. Idiots can’t think straight enough to word their wishes rationally or logically. Soiled my shoes. Oozing black, muddy clay stuck on my silks. I should be indoors, not out here in a fucking hurricane, cleaning up jackass Human incompetence. Wishing it would rain cats and dogs, now we got herds of Llasha Apsos running wild through the first. What the fuck is wrong with her. Brain dead incompetence. That’s all it is, brain dead incompetence.”
The gale force of the hurricane wind was so strong, Quaraun could barely stand, let alone walk. In between tree limbs and uprooted shrubbery flying by, a random cat or dog zipped past his head, followed by several more cats and several more dogs.
After he’d gone some distance from the tent, Quaraun pulled out his wand and drew a few sigils in the mud while muttering something in Thullid. The cats and dogs immediately stopped dropping out of the sky. Quaraun turned back to glare at Ghirardelli and snarled at her, as he slowly staggered his way back through the mud into the tent again.
“Don’t wish for anything else, or I WILL kill every last fucking white American Human on this entire planet. I’m so sick and fed up to death with all of you. Careless words once spoken are often difficult to undo. Wishes cause more harm than good. And no good comes from you evil ass Americans. You white Americans aren’t worth the shit it takes to dung on your face. A wish spoken out of turn can be devastating. And I can’t always fix them as easily as this one.”
Back inside his tent, Quaraun pushed past Ghirardelli and soggily trudged back to his pile of pink striped silk pillows.
Ghirardelli laughed for several seconds, thinking the old Elf was joking, but she stopped laughing when she realized how very grave and serious he looked. Quaraun narrowed his eyes and glared menacingly at her.
“Wait. You’re serious, aren’t you?”
“Madam, I am an Elf.”
“Yes.” Ghirardelli agreed. “I can see that.”
He stood, staring down at the pillows, contemplating sitting on them, then decided better of it. Wet silk was terrible to sit on, it smelled of rotting moths. One never got silk wet. Quaraun made his way to the fire pit, stripping his clothes off as he went, hung them on a rack that wasn’t there a few seconds ago, then pulled some new clothes off the racks of pink silk outfits and redressed himself as he trundled back to his pillows and plopped himself down on them.
“I am always serious,” Quaraun said as he pulled out a towel and began patting the water out of his twelve foot long hair.
“So, is that an Elf thing?”
“Yes, that is and Elf THING.”
“I thought you were a Thullid?”
“I AM a Thullid!”
“Then why do you do Elf things and not Thullid things?”
“I already explained that to you!”
“When I told you we live in the host’s body for several years, learning their traits and habits, before we eat their brains, so that we can know how to act like them, dress like them...”
“You know I don’t think Elves wear pink silk encrusted with rhinestones.”
Quaraun was sputtering with rage now: “I am NOT a Common Wood Elf! I am a High Elf. A Moon Elf!...”
“The Moon Elves wore blue, silver, and white. And they lived in the frozen tundras of the north. Silk moths and mulberry trees don’t grow there. And there is nothing naturally pink up there. Moon Elves don’t even know what pink is.”
“Lady slipper orchids are pink and they grow in the thousands up there. And we are inbreed so many generations that we are all albino and have pink eyes. So of course we know what pink is.”
“Tundra races don’t wear pink.”
“I wasn’t raised in the tundra, I was raised in the Middle East in the Hawizeh Marshes of Mays?n, Iraq. What you Americans call Persia. I fed the wild Kelpies on the edge of the Tigris River at Al-Musharrah and Al-Kahla.”
“So you’re an Arabian who grew up in palaces...”
“Palaces? There are no palaces where I lived. I grew up in the heat of the desert. With miles of nothing but tall reeds. We lived in woven reed huts in the grass. And on reed boats and slept under tents made out of tanned water buffalo hide. There were no palaces. You’ve never been to Iraq, have you?”
“No, but I read about places like that in books...”
“In books? What books?"
"Well, children's books actually."
"You mean Arabian Nights?"
"Yeah, that's the one."
"You do know that book is fiction, don't you?"
"Yeah, but, you're a Di'Jinn and you grant wishes or something you were saying."
"You are confusing Di'Jinn with Djinn."
"How are they different?"
"Di'Jinn is two syllables die-GIN, for one thing. The D is pronounced as a separate word. And it's a religion. Djinn, one syllable, GIN, the D is silent, and it is a type of Chaos Demon that acts as a nature guardians of desert sands, desert plants,, and desert animals. There is quite a big differance between a Di'Jinn and a Djinn."
"So, you're not Arabian, even though you look and dress like and Arab?"
"It's Arabian, not Arab, and no, I'm Persian not Arabian."
"What's the differance?"
"Arabia is several hundred miles north Iraq. Iraq is by Iran and Egypt. Arabia is by Turkey and Romanian. I am from the southern marsh land of the Tigris River estuary, not the big city metropolises of Arabia in the north."
"Did you not grow up in the city than?"
"No. We lived in small clans and tribes along the river. We didn’t even have houses. The grass huts would last one season, be destroyed by floods, then we’d have to move inland and live under lean tos until the flood waters went down and we went back to the marsh and rebuilt our reed huts again."
"When you say huts, do you mean like, actual grass huts?"
"Yes. Actual grass huts. We wove our houses by hand, just like we wove our clothes. Weaving is the primary crafting method of the Di’Jinn."
"Wait. Is weaving like the primary industry where you are from?"
"So, that's why you are a merchant of hand woven cloth, than, right?"
"Yes. We wove baskets and boats and sold them to the merchant caravans that came through. Traded our silk and baskets for food, which we had precious little of."
"So, did you like eat rice and stuff?"
"You know nothing of where I grew up if you think it was a land full of riches, wealth, rice, and palaces. I may be wealthy now, but I wasn’t than.”
“But you’re a Moon Elf. The desert is the exact opposite of where Moon Elves are supposed to be. I don’t...”
“I was born in Ivujivik, Quebec, in the tundra and snow, like every other Moon Elf, yes. But I wasn’t raised there. The Moon Elves sent me to live with the Di’Jinn Wizards in Mays?n when I was just nine years old. I lived in the Tigris River marshes my entire childhood and youth. I lived with them for more than 70 years. There was an oasis where they built their Temple of the Sacred Pink JellyFish. In that temple were hundreds of bamboo aviaries, just like those over there.”
Quaraun pointed to the rows of bamboo aviary cages stacked along the back wall of the tent. Each cage housed a shrub, mulberry, tea or roses, and each plant was hung heavy with massive webbing of white spiderweb-like sheets, as the silkworms eat the lush, green leaves, then spun their cocoons. Fluffy white silk months fluttered around lose in the tent, most of them staying near the glowing lava slug crystallized feces.
“In fact, those are some of them. Mine came from the temple. I brought them with me when I left. The Di’Jinn priests raised silk moths and wove pink, yellow, and orange silk. I dress like a Di’Jinn priest, not a Moon Elf, because I was raised with the Di’Jinn, reared by the Di’Jinn. I grew up in the desert, not the tundra. I have Persian habits and Persia customs and wear Persian clothes. Don’t judge me to be a spitting image of every other Moon Elf. Just because that is the race I was born as, doesn’t mean it was the culture I was raised in.”
"I wasn't trying to upset you...."
"You've been doing a lot of that today, madame."
"You weren't raised by Elves than, right?"
"That is correct. I was nine years old went I was sent away. And there were no Elves in the desert of the Di'Jinn. Only the Thullids who raised me and the Humans who lives in the marsh lands along the river."
"So, you essentially grew up with Humans, than, right?"
"But you hate Humans?"
"No. I quite like Humans. What I hate is the self righteous, racist, bigoted, terrorist Americans who think they own the world and can do whatever they please, to hell with every one else. They think because their god tells them they are the chosen ones, that they can kill everyone who is not them."
"Uhm... okay... I guess... but, if you were raised in Human areas, with no Elves to influence you, shouldn't you be doing predominately Human things, not Elf things?"
"I am still an Elf, even if I grew up with Humans and Thullids, doesn't change the fact, I am still an Elf."
"So, telling jokes didn't rub off on you, even though you grew up with no Elves around?"
"Do you think all Humans act like white trash Americans?"
"Humans are Humans..."
"No. Americans are a snide, arrogant breed of Humans, who murder everyone around them, bully, beat up, tease, harass, and hate all things not white, not Christian, and not American. Look how many times American trash slaughters black Humans! Chinese Humans! Irish Humans! Catholic Humans! Gypsy Humans! Do you see that happening in Europe? No! Do you see that happening in Africa? No! Do you see that happening in Asian? No! Just America, and not all of America, just Christians, and not all Christians, just white Christians. And you blame your violence, hate crimes, and murder on your god."
"So I can assume you had a bad run in with white, American Christians at some point?"
"Yes. Vilest things I've ever encountered. And they get worse in the future."
"That's right. You're not the Quaraun from this time period you said. Your a future Quaraun here in the past of your time, trying to change something."
"You know, for someone who claims to not show emotions, you seem to have a lot of pent up anger towards certain Humans. Isn't that you showing emotions?"
"We do not show our emotions with mindless, simpleton frivolity, the way you retarded American white Humans do. Nor do we waste precious time telling jokes and lies."
"You know people call you Arabs terrorists for a reason, don't you. You can't go around saying things like that."
"Like what? Praising a none Christian god while we slit your filthy, vile, immoral American throats? I'm not a murderer or a terrorist, Ghirardelli. I'm a Di'Jinn Priest cleaning up the world of sex crazed immoral filth. If that means I have to kill every last white American Human to clean up this world and make it a decent, moral place worth living in again, than so be it. You kill my people on command by your Christian god, and my god tells me to protect my people from your god's immoral, sex crazed, child raping Christian army. If me doing the will of my god makes me a terrorist, what than are YOU, doing the will of your god, when your god tells you to invade my country and kill my people. My family is dead at the hands of your god's Christian followers, Ghirardelli. It IS my duty to execute every last person involved in murdering my family. I will see you all dead. Even you, Ghirardelli."
Quaraun paused, picked up his teacup and stared into it without taking a drink or saying a word. He stirred the tea, intently staring into the liquid less bottom of the whirlpool his stirring created. He sighed knowingly, then set the cup back down and continued talking, as he got up and returned back to the door of the tent.
"Nor are we sneaky, like you white American Humans. You knew I was a Di'Jinn before you came here didn't you?"
Quaraun spun around and stood on tip toe to be able to look the woman in the eye.
"Don't lie to me madame. You worded that wish on purpose to get me away from the table."
"I didn't..." Ghirardelli stammered.
"You are very short, aren't you?"
"Stop telling me what I already know."
"Well, you are. I'm not even tall and you barely come up to my shoulder. You're tiny."
"I am short. I know I am short. I don't need to be reminded that I'm shorter that everyone around me. Stop changing the subject. What did you put in my drink?"
"I don't know what you're talking about."
"Who sent you here?"
"Don't lie to me, you filthy white American scumbag." Quaraun pulled out his dagger and pointed it at the old woman's face.
"I'm not someone you want to cross, madame," Quaraun snarled through his teeth. "Finderu sent you didn't he?"
"No one sent me."
Ghirardelli backed away from Quaraun, looking around for a way to escape. The angry little Elf stood between her and the door of the tent, and small though he may be, he seemed fierce.
She suspected that given the right mood, he could become violent. Was he not, after all rumoured to be the most deadly serial killer to ever walk the face of the earth? Every nation feared the very thought of Quaraun the Insane, precisely because of his extremely violent nature and the fact that he had killed so many people. And he didn't kill with magic.
Though billed the world's most powerful mage, Quaraun was said to rarely ever use magic at all. He killed with the ruby hilted dagger that hung from his belt. Quaraun liked to get close to his victims, hold them tight against him, while he slit their throats, so he could feel the life drain from their bodies.
It was not for Quaraun's use of magic that people feared him, it was instead for his deadly skill at wielding the Elf Eater's dagger, which struck fear into the hearts of every man, woman, and child.
Ghirardelli felt that fear now, as she stared into the cold, lifeless icy-white-blue eyes, with the red veined pink pupils.
Quaraun's corpse like eyes terrified Ghirardelli most of all. There was no emotion in them.
No glint of life.
They were the lifeless eyes of a dead Elf.
And was that not, what Quaraun was rumoured to be? Not just a Necromancer, but also, an Elf soul bound to a Lich, and himself turning into a Lich because of it.
Not dead. But not alive either.
Undefeatable, because, he could not be killed, because he was already dead. An Elf, centuries older than any Elf had ever lived, because he was an Elf who could never die.
A male Elf, whose male lover had been ripped apart by an angry mob, centuries ago, surviving only a few days before killing himself to end the agonizing suffering he'd been left in.
An Elf, who had devoted his life to hunting down, not only every last person in the mob, but also their children, their grandchildren, their great-grand children.... every last relative he could find. Annihilate the entire bloodline of the people responsible for The Hanging Tree.
Ghirardelli was one of those people. She knew this. The Elf Eater had died nearly a thousand years ago, and someone in her ancestry had been there at The Hanging Tree. For centuries members of her family had been hunted by this Elf, The Pink Necromancer, Quaraun the Insane, who killed hundreds of her relatives, across hundreds of years, and was now standing face to face with her.
Ghirardelli had heard this rumour many times before. The rumour that Quaraun could not be caught, could not be stopped, could not be imprisoned, could not be killed, because he had long ago, transformed into a lich and was now the living dead.
She had never believed this rumour, but now, looking into the icy dead eyes of the necromancer himself, Ghirardelli had no doubt in her mind that the rumours were true. That Quaraun was dead. The Pink Necromancer was a wraith of some sort. A wraith with a physical body. A strange, new type of lich, something, not quite dead, but, not quite alive either.
"You tried to poison me," Quaraun said, his voice now lowered to a rabid, dog-like growl.
"Do you really think you can kill me, madame?"
"I can't die. I am immortal. I am soul bound to a lich. I am his phylactery. He lives in me. He and I are one being now. Two souls in one body. Your poison has no effect on me."
"You are devious and underhanded," Quaraun said in a derogatory and mockingly indirect way.
"I am neither devious nor underhanded."
"Yes. You are."
"Why would you say that?"
"You KNEW I was a wish granting wizard. You knew that before you came here. You WROTE this wanted poster of me, and that is exactly how you described me. You made that wish on purpose, because you wanted to see what would happen."
"I'm not trying to upset you..."
"Why? Scared I'll do to you what I did to Gibedon?" Quaraun pulled Gibedon's head from his bag as he spoke. "Poooooor Gibedon. Poor, poor, sweet Gibedon. He done gone and lost his head. THIS is what I think of The Guild, Ghirardelli!"
Quaraun shook the dead mage's head in Ghirardelli's face.
"Gibedon thought he could beat me. Gibedon tried to fight me. Gibedon tried to kill me. Don't make Gibedon's mistakes, Ghirardelli. I have no qualms about adding your head next to his."
"I wasn't trying too..."
Quaraun shoved Gibedon's head back in his bag, pushed passed Ghirardelli, nearly knocking her over as he did, and stormed back to the far side of his tent, leaving Ghirardelli, standing alone near the door.
She contemplated making a run for it, while the old wizard rummaged around in his boiling pots, but than thought better of it.
This was after all, The Pink Necromancer himself, Quaraun the Insane. Most feared and most powerful mage of all time. Defeating him, capturing him, killing him, any one of those things would land her the respect of the wizarding community, and she wanted that. She wanted that a lot.
Gingerly, Ghirardelli crossed the tent, to stand beside Quaraun and watch him work.
"What are you doing?" Ghirardelli asked the old pink robed Elf.
"Too stupid to leave?"
"I gave you a chance to leave. Go. I don't feel like killing any one today. Go. I'll find you and kill you later."
"You're the greatest wizard of all time."
"So every one tells me."
"I could learn something from you."
"Really? What could a white magic, goody-two-shoes Guild member who sucks up to Finderu ever expect to learn from me, the closest thing to the boogie man there is?"
"I don't know. You were talking about helping people."
"Hhhhmm. Helping people is what I prefer to do."
"But you're a murderer. How do you justify that?"
"I only kill in self defence. Attack me and I'll lop your head off. Simple as that. Leave me in peace and I'll let you live. You send your little groups of adventures on a quest to defeat big bad mega boss super villain me and I'll explode the lot of them into dust, then resurrect them as nzambies to do my bidding. So, all you are doing is building my army a little bit more, every time you try to kill me."
Quaraun pulled out a map, folded it out onto the table and set about to eyeing it with a compass.
"What are you doing now?"
"Looking for BoomFuzzy," Quaraun answered without looking up at the woman.
"I thought you said he was dead?"
"He is. He's a lich."
"And you don't know where he is?"
"I lost him. He got out of his bottle and ran away. Now I'm trying to find him. Hunting liches is never easy. But according to this map, he's nearby."
"According to this map? How can a map..."
"This is The Elf Eater's Enchanted Map."
"And this is why I hate women."
"What do you mean?" Ghirardelli asked. "What does any of this have to do with you hating women?"
"Women have an annoying need to fill every minute of the day with annoying excessive prattle."
"I do not prattle!"
"No? You have stopped prattling since you barged into my tent uninvited."
"Men were chasing me..."
"Will they seem to be gone now, so there is no reason for you to still be here, now is there?"
"But... well... it's not every day someone gets to talk to Quaraun the Insane, is it?"
"No. And I'm not insane, so stop calling me that."
"Everyone calls you that."
"I can't choose what idiots of the world call me? But I can kick you out of my tent if you don't stop calling me that."
"Tell me about your map."
"Something to do?"
"Why does your needing something do equate to me needing to talk?"
"What's wrong with talking?"
"Nothing, when I have someone intelligent to talk to."
"Are you calling me stupid?"
"Why are you so mean?"
"Why?" The immensely unhappy Elf looked up at the women. "Probably because not one single solitary person has ever been kind to me, not once in my entire life. Other than BoomFuzzy and you all decided to kill him for it. So I don't have any reason to be anything other than mean to all of you."
"I didn't kill your lover. You don't have to take out all your aggression on me."
"No. I'm trying to be civil to you and you act like you're ready to bite my head off for no reason, whatsoever."
"No reason whatsoever?"
"No!" Ghirardelli insisted. "None!"
"Madame, you have an odd definition of no reason whatsoever."
"What reason do you have for not being civil to me?"
"I WAS civil to you. I let you stay here out of the rain and served you tea. There is not one Human back in that town down there who would have done so much. They all want you dead."
"And you're being hostile now."
"Yes. Listen to the tone in your voice. You've become very aggressive."
"Have I not reason to be?"
"By what logic do you say that?"
"By the logic I haven't done anything. By the logic you are nothing but a grouchy old man, with a bone to pick with everyone. You hate the world. You hate society. When was the last time you were even part of society?"
"Society cast me out. I'm not welcomed in society. Every time I try to be part of society, I get bullied, harassed. teased, lynched, dragged behind horses, and hung in trees."
"Not everyone is like that."
"You jut have to find the right society, is all."
"Oh, that's all is it? And WHERE do you suggest I do that? I've spent the last nine hundred years looking for a place to settle down. That what I HAVE been doing. There is not a country on this planet that I have not visited. All seven continents. Hundreds of countries. Thousands of cities. And it's the same thing every where I go. You fucking Humans are all alike. Bigoted. Prejudiced. Racist assed pricks."
"You should try living with non-Humans..."
"I did that. I used to do that. But where do you suggest I find any non-Humans these days? Hmmm? The Humans killed them all. You bastards killed the Dwarves and the Gnomes and the Elves and the Unicorns and the Trolls and the Hal-flings and the Merrows and and Dryads and the Demons and the Faeries. There are no non-Humans left. You jackasses slaughter everything you see. Even each other! Look at the wars!"
"There's always wars..." Ghirardelli pointed out.
"Exactly. Humans slaughtering Humans, for no reason at all other than you just can't get enough bloodshed. You creatures are the vilest filth ever to walk the face of the Earth."
"Most would say that Demons were..."
"More evil than Humans? Bah. Nothing is more evil that Humans."
Quaraun waved his hand in the air, indicating he didn't want to hear anything else, then returned to examining his map. After a few moments he began sputtering to himself, more raving than anything else.
"I'm sick of it. I'm sick of tending stab wounds and mending broken bones. I'm sick of fractures and split lips. There isn't a bone in my body that hasn't been broken more than once. I'm covered in scars. And for what? For nothing. Absolutely nothing. I stay in my house and mind my own business, and jackass busybodies gather in hoards, chatting Bible verses, praising the Lord, calling me a witch, and burn my house to the ground with me in it. Why? Because I had a male lover, that's why. No other reason. Not one damned other reason. Well, they can all burn in hell."
"People don't understand you, because you're a hermit."
"As are you, madame. And look at how they treat you. You of all people should know what my life is like. They do the same damned fucking thing to you."
"Mages are a dying breed. Even Human mages like me are rare these days."
"And you're okay with that?"
"No. But wat can we do?"
"We can rise up and fight back. That's what we ca do."
"You and what army? You really want to take on the entire Human race?"
"I'm a necromancer."
"I don't see how that is going to be very useful in fighting society," Ghirardelli said.
"It'd take me meer minutes to resurrect every dead corpse on the planet. Tens of billions of Humans, non-Humans, birds, plants, animals, fish, trees. You think the world could stop me if I really set out to wipe the Humans off the face of the Earth?"
"I think, you are more insane than the rumours say you are."
"And I think you have overstayed your welcome."
"You want me to leave?"
"Why? WHY? You made a frivolous wish, for something stupidly idiotic, just to see what would happen, and get me away from the table, so you could spike my tea with poison. You tried to kill me, not five minutes ago, and now you expect me to be civil to you? I ought to wring your neck is what I ought to do. I WAS being civil to you and you muffed it. Now get out of my tent."
"What if I don't leave?"
"I said get out!"
"I hate women."
"You said that."
"Yes, and you are reminding me why I hate them so much."
"You're not going to make me leave are you?"
"Why must I?"
"It's raining out there. Would you really send a poor old women out in the rain by her lonesome?"
"You are annoying me."
"I don't think you are mean enough to throw me out into the rain."
"You're right. I'm not."
"So, now what?"
"How about, you sit down, shut up. drink your poisoned tea, and let me get some work down. I have places to go and liches to build and you are interrupting me doing both."
"It that what the map does?"
"The Elf Eater's map. You said it was enchanted."
"Yes. I did. It is."
"So, tell me about it."
"I have no reason to tell you about anything."
"What if I could help you?"
"You don't even know what I'm doing."
"Well, tell me what you are doing so I can tell you if I can help you."
"Did I ask for your help?"
"Than stop offering it."
"Because you are a female and I hate females. And you are a Human and I hate Humans."
"I don't think you hate either," Ghirardelli stated.
"Really? How did you come to that conclusion?"
"By the fact that you haven't done anything to throw me out of your tent yet. I think you are lonely and want company and are going to let me stay here for as long as I want, just so you don't have to be by yourself."
"You're not going to leave are you?"
"Nope. So you might as well tell me about that map of yours."
"It's not my map, it's The Elf Eater's map."
"Okay. So what does it do?"
"It leads any one carrying it to his location."
"I thought he was dead?"
"Well, don't you know where he's buried? You were with him when he died, weren't you? Isn't that what people say?"
"He wasn't buried."
"I put him in a bottle, for resurrecting later."
"Resurrecting? The Elf Eater of Pepper Valley?"
“You’re going to resurrect him?”
“Yes. I am currently in the process of resurrecting him, right now. That is precisely why I have come here to Pepper Valley.”
“But, isn’t the Elf Eater the leader of The Lich Lords?”
“Who is then, if not The Elf Eater of Pepper Valley, who then, huh?”
“You silly Human, I am the leader of the Lich Lords.”
“Yes. I am the necromancer who built them. Do you not remember who I am?”
“So you command liches?”
“Of course. I am a necromancer, remember? The Pink Necromancer? I am the one who builds all the many vast armies of liches? I thought you knew all about me?”
“But still, I thought, at least I’ve always heard, well, isn’t the Elf Eater already a Lich?”
“Yes. And also no. You see, he is a normal lich. Meaning that he possesses merely a not solid, incorporeal, ghostly wraith form. He has no physical body.”
“And you want to change that?”
“Why would anyone in their right mind want to do such a horrible thing?”
“We are lovers, he and I.”
“Are? Not were?”
“Yes. Are, not were. It is considerably challenging to conduct a visceral liaison with someone who is not in possession of a visceral body.”
“Oh. Yes. I can see how something like that would be a problem.” Ghirardelli wondered what visceral meant, but she dared not ask Quaraun the meaning of his words, for fear of angering him.
“This is especially problematic for a chef, who is more in love with food than he is anything else.”
“Who’s a chef?”
“You have no clue about anything I’m saying to you, do you?”
“Kind of. No. Not really.”
“Liches can’t eat food and BoomFuzzy was a chef who devoted his life to endless food. It is absolute, eternal hell for him to live without a physical body, that can not consume food. So I built him a golem.”
“A golem? What’s that?”
"You don't know what a golem is?"
"Really?" Quaraun's suspicions were on the rise now,, as he had only moments ago shown her the Unicorn ice golem.
"Why would I know what a golem is?"
“A golem," Quaraun explained. "Is an effigy that can be brought to life, a physical body that he can possess. But now I have to find him, to put his wraith body into the golem, so he can live a normal life again.”
“So, you are trying to bring The Elf Eater of Pepper Valley back to life?”
“Yes. I already told you that a little while ago.”
“What do you mean, why not?” In her mind, Ghirardelli could not think of a more horrible thought than the idea that someone was attempting to resurrect The Elf Eater of Pepper Valley.
“We are lovers. I still love him. He still loves me. We seek to be reunited with one another.”
“But... how... how can you love someone like
well, like him?”
"You seem to think him not deserving of love."
"No. A man like him. Murderer. Rapist. How can you stand him?"
"He was my friend. And to me, he was nothing but kindness. I know the world hates him and rejoices in his death, saying he was evil, but I never saw that side of him. The world saw him in a very different light than I did."
"I'll say. He's the most evilest evil of all evils to ever exist."
"I thought you said that title belonged to me."
"No. You are the evilest evil currently alive?"
"You consider me to be alive? How droll."
"No. Quaraun, the Elf, he died some nine hundred or so years ago."
"Uhm... but you are, standing right here in front of me."
"What? You mean this Elf body? Oh. No. I have no idea what this Elf's name was. I am the Sacred Pink Jelly Fish."
"The Sacred... wait... the Thullid Elder God?"
"Yes. The Thullid Elder Brain. I ate this Elf's brain centuries ago, to make room in his skull for me to live in it. I animate his corpse and walk among you, the imposter that I am. Used to blend in back when Elves were everywhere, but now that Elves are extinct, I stick out like a sore thumb. Logic would dictate that I get myself a new host to live in, retire this body, but look at him. He was beautiful."
"The only problem with this body is every one wants to have sex with it and we Thullids did away with the need for sex millennias ago. I do get so tired of how sex crazed you Humans are. Elves at least showed some restraint. But you Humans just want to fuck everything that moves, wither it wants to be fucked by you or not. Rape. Rape. Rape. Rape. Rape. It's all your Human men ever put any effort into doing. You creatures are so disgusting."
"I'm sorry... are you an Elf or a Thullid?"
"Both. I'm a Thullid living in the reanimated corpse of a dead Elf's body."
"And you're a lich?" Ghirardelli asked.
"No," Quaraun answered, sounding deeply annoyed.
"Than why do people say that you are?"
"Because people are stupid."
"That doesn't answer my question."
Quaraun sighed. This woman was annoying him to no end.
"I'm soul bound to a lich."
"Why would you bind your soul to a lich?"
"But you said..."
"I said I am soul bound to a lich, not that I bound my soul to a lich."
"How is it different?"
"He wasn't a lich when we bound our souls together."
"Oh. So... How does one become soul bound to a lich?"
"We cut our souls in half, back while he was still alive."
"Is cutting souls in half even possible?"
"Yes. Obviously. We did it, didn't we?"
"I don't know."
"Well we did. Half his soul is in my body and half my soul is in his body. And than decades later when he commit suicide in a lich making ritual, the spell didn't work because he wasn't in possession of both halves of his soul. Now I am half lich and he is stuck in between lich and dead. I'm trying to correct that. Make him into the lich he wanted to be, and free myself of becoming a lich with him."
"So you're a lich hunter?"
"So, if you're a Necromancer, than, what was all that earlier with the cats and dogs falling out of the sky? What's that go to do with necromancy."
"Before I became a necromancer I was a Di'Jinn. A wish granting wizard. Somehow, the spell BoomFuzzy did, that caused me to become part lich, also caused me to have an unexplained energy field around me, that causes wishes to happen exactly as people word them. So when you wished for raining cats and dogs, the hurricane outside, stopped raining water on us and started raining cats and dogs on us."
"That's not possible."
"It most certainly is. You saw it with your own eyes."
"It had to be an illusion," Ghirardelli insisted.
"Why has it to be?"
"Or a hallucination, maybe."
"I assure you madame, it was real."
"You can't grant wishes like that. That's just stuff from fairy tales."
"Just because you Humans are incapable of telling the truth on any level whatsoever, does not mean that this is a problem, I myself have. You seem to have forgotten that I am not Human. We Elves neither think nor act in the same you do, so do not expect us to. Your degraded, immoral, barbaric culture leaves you crude and lacking in any level of dignity or self respect. Do not expect me to devolve myself to your levels of evolutionary stupidity.”
“Yeah, well, okay, but you were acting like wish granting was real. I mean, come on.”
“You do not believe in wishes?” Quaraun mocked being horrified.
“I am Quaraun. The Pink Necromancer. I am a wizard of the Di’Jinn Order. Granting wishes is what we do.” Quaraun picked up his teacup again and stared at it than set it back down again. "But of course you knew that."
“Oh. Like, really?”
“You grant wishes?”
“But aren’t you a Necromancer?”
“So, how exactly does granting wishes mix with being a Necromancer?”
“Not well, I’m afraid. We are lucky it was normal cats and dogs just now."
"Are there any other types?"
"Yes. It could have been Zombie cats and Vampire dogs."
"Yes. Thus why I recommend you get better at guarding your words and thinking more carefully before you speak."
"So, like how you make food appear out of thin air?"
"Yes. Exactly that."
"So you are saying that, the energy around you, is so powerfully effected by you, that is I wish for something, that something will just appear, without you even doing anything to make it appear?"
"And not only that, but, because you are a necromancer, things that appear out of nowhere around you, end up being undead?"
"And you expect me to believe that?"
"Well, not most Humans, no. But, you? Yes."
"Why me? Why would you possibly think that I am any different from anyone else who would call this nonsense all smoke and mirrors?"
"I don't know, maybe I thought that because you came in here to disturb my sleep with some cock and bull story about men chasing you for a cursed sword? P.S.: Your sword shouldn’t be talking to you. If it does, please return it to the store immediately for a refund or replace it. I'll take it off your hands if you don't want it. I could find uses for a soul eating sword that talks."
"It's supposed to talk," Ghirardelli said, trying to sound calmer than she felt and hoping the old wizard did not sense how scared she was of him.
"It's a cursed sword."
"Like a cursed box."
“I locked my memories into a memory box,” Quaraun pulled said box out of his bag of holding and showed it to her. The little glass vials tickled around inside it.
“And you threw away the key,” Ghirardelli said, anticipating the end of his sentence.
“No.” Quaraun stared at her, perplexed. “Why would I do that?”
“I don’t know.”
“You are a very strange woman.”
“You are a very strange man.”
“I’m not a man. I’m an Elf.”
“Okay. Yeah. Sure. Whatever.”
“No. Not whatever. It is what IS. I am most certainly not a man, I am an Elf. Pure-blooded. A rare thing these days. Feels like ninety percent of the Elves I meet any more are half-Elves or quarter-Elves or less.”
“Quarter-Elves? Is that a thing?”
“Yes. If you have Elf blood, no matter how little there may be, you still classify as an Elf and Elves would be not so arrogant as to hate the mongrels will always welcome anyone with even minimal Elf blood into their home.”
“So, not you.”
“How do you mean?”
“You’re one of those arrogant hoity-toities what is too pure blooded to help a half-Elf.”
“Too arrogant? Me? I’m not arrogant at all!”
Ghirardelli stifled a laugh. “Not arrogant? You!”
“Do you think I am?”
“I assure you I am not. Clearly you’ve never met an Elf before.”
“Nope. I have not. You are the first. Elves are rather rare you know.”
“I am outcast by my people. Shunned. Do you know why? I had a non-Elf lover.”
“Yes. We already established that."
"I'm The Elf Eater's lover."
"Do you not know what the Elf Eater was?"
"A psychotic madman, from everything I ever heard."
"A psychotic madman? How dare you."
"You think otherwise?"
"Of course I do. I knew him. I lived with him. I loved him. I still love him. He was my friend. I miss him."
"And you say he wasn't an Elf?"
"No. He was not."
"What was he?"
"A Faerie can mean a lot. What exactly do you mean, when you say Faerie? There are like a few thousand types of Faeries aren't there?"
"Yes. There are."
"So what type of Faeries was he?"
"The Elf Eater?"
"A Phooka. And half-Human."
"Half Human? The Elf Eater was a Human?"
"I didn't know that."
"Few people do. I don't think he ever told any one outside of me and Gibedon."
"Yes. And not white."
"Really?" Ghirardelli asked. "Does that matter?"
"In Human society? Yes. You white Humans are racist prick who hate ever black, brown, red, yellow, grey, blue person you see. Death to all none whites is ever your battle cry. He was black and Asian combined. It made him doubly evil in your piss ant white dominated society."
"You don't like white people."
"No. White people are fine. I don't like white HUMANS. That's different. But than, it's white Human religion that is the problem."
"Elves got a hold of a Christian Bible and it corrupted Elf society. Elves started using it's teaches as an excuse to kill all non-whites, the same way Humans did. Before long, most black or brown skinned Elves had been killed by white skinned Elves, simply because that's what the Bible god says to do in his Bible."
"So, white Elves started acting like white Humans?"
"Yes. And it became worse, when they found out I was with BoomFuzzy."
"He was not only a male, and not an Elf, but he was also an Asian with black skin."
"Asian and black? And half-Human to boot?"
"How's that happen?"
"His father was black, half-Welsh-Phooka, half-Dahomey-Human and mother was half-Human-quarter-Mongolian-quarter-Japanese, and half-Aswag. So he was a black Asian, Welsh, Human, Aswag, Phooka mix."
"Aswag? What's that?"
"a type of Faerie from South Pacific. Basically a shape-shifter that likes to terrorize horney teen aged boys by turning into a disembodied head with a giant pair of boobs hanging off her back."
"Wait... you mean a hag?"
"An actual Hag?"
"Like wat people around here accuse me of being?"
"Yes. Exactly that."
"You know, I've never seen a real Hag before."
"Yes. They are kind of rare."
"So, the Elf Eater was, a little bit of each of a lot of different things, than, right?"
"Yes. And it made him mean."
"Because no one accepted him."
"There had to be a reason."
"No. There wasn't. Outside of racism, there was no reason why anyone ever did anything to him."
"Well, from what I know of The Elf Eater, he was a warrior who crowned himself king and went on a mass murdering spread across the globe, conquering nations, raping everyone, razed villages, burned everything to the ground, and he didn't make any distinction of who should live or die, because he just killed every man, woman, and child or every race, nation, species, and creed. He killed for the fun of it, because he liked to watch people suffer. He was pure evil."
"BoomFuzzy was not evil," Quaraun interrupted her. "The man I knew was very kind and gentle. He had more compassion than the average Human."
"That's not how everyone describes him," Ghirardelli insisted. "The Elf Eater was a cold, heartless killer. Anyone who crossed his path was brutally murdered, ripped apart, raped to death, than eaten. He was a total monster in the truest form of the word."
"BoomFuzzy was not a monster."
"Do you deny that he did those things?"
"If he did those things, than he did them before I met him, because he never did anything like that while we were living together. And I knew him better than anyone."
"So you are saying he wasn't a murdering, serial rapist, cannibal, like every one says he was?"
Quaraun shook his head. "No. I didn't say he didn't do those things. I said I never saw him do those things, and he wasn't doing stuff like that while we were living together. I don't know what he did when he was younger or before I met him."
"He was evil before you met him."
"He was not evil."
"How do you know?"
"I am soul bound to him. I feel every emotion he does. I know every thought he thinks. I remember his memories."
"Can soul binding do that?"
"Yes. And he wasn't evil. e was sad. Lonely. And depressed. and unwanted by everyone. He had no one. His parents abandoned him when he was a small boy. Left him to die. He was sick. Half starved. Half frozen. In the dead of winter, when and elderly Elf found him and took care of him. The Elf was a mage who lived in a gingerbread house. Took care of the boy, taught him how to cook cookies and pastries and candy and ginger bread. The Elf was evil. Used Human children for ingredients. Ground their bones up into flour. And than one day tried to eat the boy. The boy fought back and killed the old Elf. And than ate him. Discovered he had a fetish for the taste of Elf blood, so took over the gingerbread house and used it to lure Elf children. Started cooking Elves, and became known as The Elf Eater of Pepper Valley. He lived here in Pepper Valley for centuries."
"I never knew that."
"Not a lot of people did. BoomFuzzy didn't talk much."
"You don't seem to talk much either."
"I rarely have anyone to talk to. No one ever wants to talk to me. Most people are quick to attack on sight. No one ever gives me a chance to talk."
We meet. He was going to kill me, but by that time he was elderly, sick, and wounded. He couldn't kill me, as he was too weak from his injuries. I didn't realize who he was or that he had tried to kill me. I found him, saw him as old, elderly, hurt, sick, and in need of care. I took him in, nursed him back to health, and when he was well again, he left. We meet again a few years later. He was going to kill me but recognized me and spared me. And we meet a 3rd time, after that and became friends. Became lovers after that. We lived together for 30 years."
"Only thirty years?"
"So you weren't with him very long than?"
"The way people tell it, I thought you two were together for centuries."
"No. He died only a few decades after we met."
"So you never knew him when he was the war lord, warrior king killing every one?"
"No. He did that hundreds of years before I was even born. I told you. I never saw the evil man, people describe him as. I only knew the elderly man, from many years later. And than my people found out I had a male lover, and went psychotic on us. Nearly killed the both of us. I healed. He didn't. His wounds became infected and he killed himself rather than suffer in agony any longer."
"But your people must have been terrified. You brought The Elf Eater into their village and they were Elves."
"Yes. They were. They were so full of fear, but I..."
"Did you not think they would be upset?"
"If you would stop interrupting me, you'd know what I was saying. I did not bring him to the village. I met him there. He moved in and was there a few days before I met him. And that is different. Quite different than my bringing him there. You really, should learn to be more careful with your words."
"But, you're an Elf and he eats Elves. You should have been scared too."
"I know. But I wasn't. He didn't scare me even in the slightest."
"I told you, I can see people's auras. His aura was blue and purple and peaceful. He meant us no harm. I could see it in his aura."
"And the other other Elves couldn't see it?"
"They could not."
"Why were you to only Elf who could see it?"
"Because I am not an Elf. I told you already: I am the Sacred Pink Jelly Fish, last of the Elder Brains. I only wear this Elf's body like a coat."
"So, you are a Thullid?"
"And seeing auras is a Thullid thing, not an Elf thing?"
"And because of the aura thing, you were not scared of The Elf Eater, because you saw no threat from him?"
"So you're saying he wasn't evil."
"No. I'm saying, he was not intending to harm us."
"Did you tell them that?"
"I tried to explain he had changed. He wasn't the warrior he had been in his youth. He was an old man. Much changed from the villain of his youth. But they did not believe me. They refused to even try to get to know him. They deemed him evil. Faeries are below any other race in the minds of most Elves. To lower myself to bed with a Faerie. It was unthinkable. They castrated me. Tortured me. Dragged me for miles, stripped naked, and tied to the hooves of a team of horses. Used metal garden claws to slice the skin off my back. Broke my legs and my arms and my ribs. Than hung me by my ankles in a tree, for three weeks, while the villagers threw rocks at me, shoved branches up my arse, up my dick, and stabbed forks into my arms and belly. Strangers. My neighbours. My friends. My family. Even my own father - he’s the one who castrated me."
"Are you a eunuch?"
"Yes. I am. They all turned on me. Took turns beating me and hitting me, stabbing me and slicing me, while hung upside down, naked in the tree, unable to fight back. Flies came and laid eggs in my wounds. Maggots hatched out and ate my flesh, wriggled under my skin."
"You wasn't a necromancer back than, was you?"
"No. I was not. I was a 'good' mage back than. A member of The Guild even. No dark arts. No necromancy."
“So, you turned to necromancy because you suffered a broken heart and you wanted your lover back?”
“Yes. His death devastated me. And every one said I must be evil, if I could love something as evil as him. It was why they tortured me. That event forced me to necromancy. After I finally escaped, it took months to heal. Years to fully recover. My body is marred with scars. Some pains never went away. The bones in my limbs still ache. The pain in my joints flairs up with every variation of weather. All because I fell in love, with someone they deemed not respectable enough for my social standing. I was the crown prince, you know?”
“I didn’t know.”
“I am The Grand High Emperor of the Triple Planets now.”
“Triple Planets? What’s the Triple...”
“But look at me,” Quaraun ignored her question and continued babbling. He informed no one what the triple planets were, and he didn’t plan to do so now. “Do I LOOK like an emperor to you?”
“No. I don’t. And do you know why I don’t?”
“Because I don’t want to be a king.”
“I wanted to be a fashion designer. I wanted to weave silk. And what did I do? I wove silk. And they didn’t like it, did they?”
“I don’t kno...”
“Of course you don’t know. You, weren’t there. You have no clue. That’s why YOU are evil.”
“How am I evil?”
“Because, like a sly snake in the grass, you judge me without even knowing me.”
“How did I...”
“Yes. How? You tell me.”
“Do I really need to?”
“Apparently, you do.”
“You have no clue what you possibly could have done to establish yourself as a sneaky snake?”
“Are you really that stupid?”
“You’ve gone from calling me a snake to calling me stupid.”
“I am here minding my own business. Living in my tent, pitched on the side of the roadway, walking for miles every day, no destination, no ambition, no goal, just walking wheresoever the road takes me. Weaving silk. Embroidering silk. Selling silk at random marketplaces as I go on my merry way to nowhere at all. You wouldn’t know I was the emperor over all Elves, now would you? Living the life of a homeless, wandering vagabond. A merchant peddling wares. A wandering wizard for hire. No one remembers I am the Elven King. Why would they? I certainly don’t live a kingly life.”
“Every snake must slither out of the water sometime.”
“Are you calling me a snake?”
“I most certainly am.”
“Why would you...”
“Why? Because, you deceived me, like some sneaky, slimy, slithering snake! That’s why.”
“I came in here because I thought you would help me!”
“No. You came in here to hide. Hide from men chasing you. You said as much. Also, you said you thought I was a woman and would disguise you and say you had been here with me all along.”
“I did but... you... I didn’t...”
“You know that’s what you did,” Quaraun wouldn’t give her a chance to talk. He interrupted everything she tried to say. “Don’t deny it.”
“I hate liars,” Quaraun continued to not let her get a word in edge-wise.
“I despise liars as extreme as I hate bullies.” Quaraun continued. “And I won’t think twice about slitting your throat if you lie to me.”
“Will you let me talk!” Ghirardelli yelled.
The old woman, raising her voice, took the old Elf by surprise momentarily. He stopped talking and stared at her, blinking, looking as though he’d forgotten she was there and only just remembered he was actually talking to someone, rather than to himself.
“All right,” Quaraun said quietly. “What is it you want to say?”
“You are an evil super villain.”
“I have a hard time seeing myself as evil or a villain or super. Although I do like soup. BoomFuzzy made wonderful soup. But that’s beside the point. Pray tell, how do you think I am an evil super villain?”
“Everyone knows that’s what you are.”
“Well then, everyone doesn’t know shit, do they? Do you always listen to rumours and gossip, let people drag you around by a ring in your nose?”
“You’re the one with a ring in your nose.”
“I have three rings in my nose. My nipples are pierced too."
"Why would you pierce your nipples?"
"So I can shoot fireballs from them."
"Shoot... fireballs... from your nipples?"
"Can you really do that?"
"Why would you want to?"
"I have many centuries each in many lifetimes. I get bored and think up new spells."
"Like shooting fireballs for your nipples?"
"Exactly. I make enchanted, magically endowed jewellery. I have rings that shoot fireballs and rings that shoot lightening and rings that shoot ice. I should invent milk producing rings, so men can nurse babies."
"Can you do that?"
"I don't know. I'll have to try it and find out."
"You've got some kind of piercing fetish, don't you?"
"Oh yes. I've more in my scrotum.”
“I don’t think I wanted to know that.”
“There are 48 rings in my scrotum.”
“Again, not information I wanted to know.”
“And as many more in my foreskin.”
"I didn't want to know that either. And I thought you were a eunuch?"
"They drove three daggers up my penis and split it in half, lengthwise. I sewed it back together and used gold rings to hide the scars. So many scars. My whole belly is scars. And my thighs. And my groin."
Quaraun sighed a heavy sigh, put his mirror away and sat down on his pile of pink stripped pillows once again.
"They scarred me for life and you call ME evil for defending myself. You have a twisted sense of logic. But than on top of that, YOU are the one carrying an evil sword and running from a group of men and asking me, who call an evil super villain, for help. There's some irony, yes?"
"It's not meer men who are after me."
"What are they than?"
"They consider themselves gods."
"Gods? Haha." Quaraun chuckled at the thought.
"You think that's funny?"
"Yes, actually I do."
"Well, because I AM a god."
"You really believe that don't you?"
"I don't have to believe it. I know it."
Quaraun busied himself with refilling their teacups. Ghirardelli watched and wondered why it was a god would need to drink tea.
"You're a god?"
"Yes. I am"
"A god who wears pink and sits around drinking tea in a tent?"
"Aren't you on the run from the Guild?"
"Yes. I am."
"Well, how can you be a god than?"
"What do you mean?"
"Gods don't have to run. You could just kill them all."
"I don't like killing. I avoid killing when necessary. However, I do kill the Guild whenever one gets close enough to be a threat to me."
"I'm a Guild member."
"Are you going to kill me?"
"Do you still think I look old?"
"What's that got to do with it?"
"Quite a lot."
"I don't understand."
"Of course you don't. You're a stupid little Human who won't live long enough to learn anything, even if you live the full extent of your natural life."
"Instead of calling me stupid, why don't you just explain yourself?"
"Beauty is a matter of great importance to me."
"And I do whatever I have to to maintain my entherial beauty."
"Really. I surround myself with beautiful things. I maintain my own beauty. I dislike things that are ugly. When I find things which are ugly, I make them beautiful or I remove them from my life."
"Would you kill someone just because they were ugly?"
"No. But I wouldn't subject myself to their presence either."
"Ugly people need friends, too."
"Sure they do. But that doesn't mean I need to be one of them, now does it?"
"You are as ugly on the inside as you are beautiful on the outside. You know that right?"
"You are not the first person to tell me. Nor will you be the last. I am not easy to get along with. I know that. It is why I live alone."
"Are you going to help me?"
"Perhaps. What is it you need help with?"
"The men who are after me."
"Why than has no one arrived looking for you?"
"You've been here half the day talking with me and yet, no one has arrived looking for you. You said they were on your tail. That implies they were right behind you. Where are they?"
"I... I don't know?"
"Were they really after you?"
"Of course they were."
"Why than are they not here?"
"You don't believe me, do you?"
"Is there any reason why I should?"
"There was a group of men chasing me..."
"Yes. So you have said."
"They were after my sword..."
"You have told me, but where are they now?"
"I don't know."
“If they consider themselves gods, then the solution is that we become god-killers, yes?”
“Wait, you mean, like, we should kill them?”
“Me? No. You? Yes.”
“Are you telling me to kill them?”
"They are YOUR problem, not mine."
“But that’s just, just...”
“Well, I suppose now I can see why it is that you consider me to be an evil super villain.”
"Is your first thought always to kill?"
"Is your first thought always to run?"
"Women don't fight. That's a man's job."
"Well, than, perhaps you should get the help of a man."
"I'm an Elf and you're a bitch."
"How dare you! You know nothing about me! What right have you to judge me?"
"The same right you have to judge me without knowing me either. What goes around comes around. Don't judge me if you don't want me to judge you back."
"You're asking me to kill people."
"You're assuming I will kill them for you, but ma'am, I am not a killer. It is YOU who has bloody thoughts in your heart, but you didn't want to sully your hands, so you thought to hire me to kill for you, because you are willing to believe rumours over facts."
Quaraun paused and picked up his teacup once again. Once again staring down into it.
“You know," he said. "Killing people prophylactically is not a slippery slope, it is a sheer drop.”
"What's that mean?"
"You don't know?"
"I thought you were a mage?"
"Are you not a swamp witch?"
"And yet you don't know how to kill prophylactically?"
"You imply I should know?"
"To kill someone prophylactically, means you make potions to help them, cure them, heal them, but knowingly make it wrong so that it poisons them instead. A healer who peddles herbs to cure all ills, but secretly, kills her enemies by slipping poisons into their tonics and elixirs. Is that not your specialty, Ghirardelli, murderer of many?"
"I am no murderer!"
"No? Are you sure?" Quaraun quietly stirred his tea as he stared, unblinking at Ghirardelli. "Tell me, Ghirardelli, when was the last time Finderu asked you to kill me?"
"Don't lie to me. You're not good at it." Quaraun drank his tea. All of it. All at once. "Also, I'm in the habit of drinking poisons. My lover died from drinking poison and I've spent 400 years drinking poisons trying to die with him. It seems, because he and I were soul bound and he became a Lich, that I am now immortal on some level and putting poison in my tea has no effect on me. So. Now that, that didn't work, now, how are you going to try to kill me?"
"No words? Pity."
Quaraun refilled his teacup.
"You don't know much about me do you? Poisons are somewhat of a specialty of mine. And you are too trusting, dear sweet, Ghirardelli."
"You are an apothecary. A potion mixer. And I knew this before I met you, but even if I hadn't, it would have been easy to guess by the stains on your fingers and skirts. Why exactly do you think I served you tea?"
"Because you drink tea at strange hours of the day."
"Because I wanted to see what you would do to my drink. And you did exactly what I thought you would do."
"And what are you going to do about it?"
"Not a damned thing... yet."
"You tried to kill me and failed. That means number one, you're my enemy. Number two, I now hold something over you. Number three, you're an incompetent idiot, so I can't use you for anything useful. But I WILL think of something. You can be sure of that. Sooner or later, you will be useful to me and than I'll come to you and you WILL help me, whether you want to or not."
“Are you forgetting something?”
“You're a killer for hire, aren’t you? An assassin mage.”
Quaraun scoffed at this. “Whatever gave you that idea?”
“Oh, I don’t know. Maybe all the tens of thousands of people you’ve killed.”
“Have I killed that many?”
“Not denying you kill people for hire?”
“Oh, no, you are mixed up there. I’ve killed no one for hire. I don’t like killing people. I avoid it when possible. I’m not an assassin.”
“But you’ve killed tens of thousands of people.”
“Yes. It’s possible.”
“So, you’ve killed a lot of people, but you don’t know how many?”
“I think so.”
“How do you not know?”
“Probably the same way I didn’t know people like you thought of me as an evil super villain.”
“You don’t know world well do you?”
“I would think I do.”
“Do you know about portals and wormholes and rips in the fabric of time? Do you know that our world as we know it is just one of many that exist in this exact same spot all at once, and many versions of each of us, you, me, everyone else, exist in these worlds?”
“You’re talking about an inter dimensional multiverse.”
“Yes. And I’m not sure which world I came from, which world I belong in, or what my correct time is.”
“What do you mean?”
“My Elf body, Quaraun, he when and where he belongs, but my Thullid body is from many thousands of years in his future and also from a different dimension ad from an entirely different planet in and different solar system. I am in my wrong place and wrong time and forced to live inside the body of a host in order to survive on this planet, and so Quaraun should not have died, because I shouldn’t be living in him. I shouldn’t be on this planet at all. And that’s the problem.”
“Okay, but I cannot see what any of this has to do with you being a mass murdering serial killer?”
“Not? Not what?”
“I’m not a serial killer.”
“What do you mean, not a serial killer? Haven’t you killed a lot of people?”
“Yes. I have killed people. But killing someone and murdering someone differs greatly from one another.”
“Yes. You can kill someone by accident without ever having intended to harm them, whereas murder takes a well-plotted calculation, and then there is death by self defence, where you are scared for your life and kill out of pure gut reaction. Serial killer implies I make a habit of intentionally murdering people.”
“So you are saying that you don’t intentionally murder people?”
“No. I don’t.”
“But you’ve mass murdered entire cities. Killed tens of thousands. You’re famous for the sheer numbers of deaths you have caused.”
“Ah! But there even you have said a difference in terms, yes? Yes, I have killed tens of thousands, I think. I’m uncertain about the number, but if I had to guess, tens of thousands does sound about right. But murdered entire cities? No. That I have not done."
"But everyone says..."
"Everyone lies. I murdered one city, and it could barely be called a city, as there were fewer that 300 people. And they were all relatives of mine, so I murdered my extended family, not some random city."
"You still killed an entire city..."
"And they aren’t actually dead, that’s another thing."
"What do you mean, not actually..."
"I poisoned the food supply and while they lay dying from their organs being melted into jellied blood, I froze them, shrunk them, and put each of them in their own little glass bottle, where they continue to exist to this very day, suffering in for eternity in the exact same agony which they made BoomFuzzy suffer in. The ONLY people I killed were the people who killed BoomFuzzy, and they aren’t even dead.”
"How could they not be dead if you killed them? That makes no sense."
"Ah! I will show you. Than you shall understand. You see, I am a Di'Jinn."
"You can't be a Di'Jinn. The Di'Jinn are dead."
"No. There are still two of us left. Myself and ZooLock. We are the last."
Quaraun pulled a large, ornately carved wooden box from the tiny pink beaded heart shaped bag of holding on his belt, and from that box, removed a much smaller, fancily carved wooden box. The second box contained several trays, each with tiny compartments. The trays stacked on top of each other, filling the box. He removed these trays and lined them up on the table. In each compartment sat a single glass vial, barely two inches long.
The Pink Necromancer pulled one vial from its slot and held it up to the lamp, so Ghirardelli could see the contents of the vial.
Inside the vial was an Elf.
Screaming, writhing, twisting in agony. Pleading, begging Ghirardelli to help them, to save them, to let them out of their miniature, icy eternal prison.
“You’re torturing them!”
Quaraun put the vial back in its tray, replaced the trays in the box, put the box back in the larger box, and returned the large box, back into his hip bag.
"I asked you WHY?" The woman repeated her question. "Why are you torturing those people?"
“They deserve it."
"Death was too good for them."
"How can you say that?"
"They did exactly the same to me. Put me in a glass bowl and kept me there for ten thousand years! I used to swim free in my ocean. Than they caught me, put me in a greyer full of primordial goo. Breed me. Stole my eggs. Stole my polyps. Infested people I did not a approve of. Mutated them. Twisted them. Did experiments on them. Made them squid headed thralls, and demanded they worship me, their mother. Their Mother brain, the Sacred Pink JellyFish. The called me their god, their creator, and they imprisoned me for centuries in a glass globe I not escape from. And when one of them rebelled, and tried to save me, they hunted him. He fled the planet, clutching the bowl. He tried to to return me to my ocean. But something went wrong. All those years in the goldfish bowl, my body mutated and now the salt ocean is poison to me. He immediately realized the water was killing me and took me back out, and he put me in the first creature he saw, this Elf, to save my life. Now I live trapped in the Elf, and ZooLock, is the only DiJinn allowed to walk free. I torture the rest for eternity, each one locked alone in a tiny glass vial, just as they did to me."
"You're a monster."
"No. I'm not. But they were. Eternal punishment, is much better.”
“I already told you why. Evil people do evil things.”
Quaraun’s voice changed.
“They. Castrated. Me."
He now sounded bitter.
"They. Tortured. Me."
"For. No. Damned. Reason."
"I. Did. Nothing!"
His voice seethed with fury.
"They just wanted their sick, perverse entertainment. They wanted to watch someone suffer, and I happened to be there. In the wrong place at the wrong time."
Pure hatred dripped from his lips as he spoke.
"They dragged me for miles, stripped naked, and tied to the hooves of a team of horses."
Ghirardelli felt an uneasy sense of dread, suddenly fearing for her life.
"They used metal garden claws to slice the skin off my back. They broke my legs and my arms and my ribs. They hung me by my ankles in a tree, for three weeks, while they threw rocks at me, they shoved branches up my arse, they stabbed forks into my arms and belly."
"What you are doing is eye for an eye..."
"Tooth for a tooth," he finished her sentence. "Life for life, Tit for tat. Do unto me as you want me to do back unto thee."
"That's not how..."
"They were not random strangers."
"Does that even make a differance?"
"Yes. It does."
"It hurt more. Emotionally. Had it been strangers, I could have said they were ignorant. But it was people who knew me. People I loved. People, I had thought loved me. I was not evil. They were my neighbours. They were my friends. My community. My own people. They were my family. Even my own father - the one who’s vial you just saw - the one who begs you to help him - he’s the one who castrated me."
"You were in bed another man. You admitted as much. And The Elf Eater of Pepper Valley no less."
"Who I love is not their concern. It shouldn't matter if my lover was male or female."
"Like I said, you're a freak."
"They all turned on me. They all took turns beating me and hitting me, stabbing me and slicing me, while hung upside down, naked in the tree, unable to fight back. They watched and laughed while flies came and laid eggs in my wounds. They delighted and glorified at the maggots as they hatched out and ate my flesh, wriggling under my skin. After I finally escaped, it took me months to heal. Years to fully recover. And the whole while they continued to beat me and hit me and tie me up and drag me through the streets. Most of my body is still riddled with scars. Some pains never went away. The bones in my legs still hurt. The pain in my joints flairs up with every change of weather. All because I fell in love, with someone they deemed not good enough for my social standing. I was the crown prince, and I’ve had the last laugh. I am the Grand High Emperor, ruler over all Elves, and I safely stowed all my subjects away in little glass bottles in my pocket, where they will never hurt me ever again.”
“You deserved what they did to you."
"I did not. Their petty racism and desire to be segregated away from other races is not my doing. They tortured me because I was friends with a non-Elf."
"And look at how you retaliated. You're no better than they are. You’re a monster.”
"How do you justify what you do?"
"I do unto others, as they first did unto me. Do unto me, only thing which you desire I do unto thee. That is the philosophy I live by. That and never suffer a bully to live."
"And you see nothing wrong with that?"
"There is no one more dangerous than the man who healed by himself, for it is he who knows the true meaning of love and friendship, and the true sorrow of having neither, the true sorrow of being so hated by everyone, that he was left alone, unloved, unwanted, cast, rejected, abandoned, left for dead."
"That doesn't answer my question?"
"No? Are you sure? Perhaps you than need to learn to use your brain. I was tortured, for no reason at all. My family was killed. Why? We did nothing. We kept to ourselves. We harmed no one. We were both male and for that alone we were made to suffer."
"You live life on the edge. Hurting people who hurt you, makes you no better than they are. It makes you worse."
“They taught me well. I learned from the bigoted, racist masters, the art of torture, pain, and enteral suffering. I had no goals of practising magic, no desires to be a wizard. Without them, I never would have turned to Necromancy. Through Necromancy, I found my revenge and peace of mind. All mine enemies are safely where I can always see them. Their souls are mine now. And they will never hurt me again. With Necromancy I defeated them and now I am able to live the peaceful life of a silk weaver, as I had done before they unjustly attacked me. It is not murder for they did not fully die. What you call murder, I call justice. They were bullies, most extreme. They delighted in the pain and suffering of others. One must never suffer a bully to live. All bullies must die.”
“You really believe that, don’t you? That killing a bully is okay?”
“Of course. I would not say it if I did not believe it.”
“So you see nothing wrong with what you do?”
“No. Why would I? They drove my lover to suicide. They got what they deserved.”
“You are just pure evil?”
“Why? Because I dare fight back and defend victims who can not stand up for themselves? If that is your definition of evil, then you may want to rethink your own values and morals, for you may very well be evil yourself. Watch you tongue, dear sweet Ghirardelli, or you may just one day end up in my bag alongside them.”
“What about the others?”
“Other cities, other villages, other towns. You’ve wiped out many.”
“Yes. Those were accidents. Not murder.”
“Accidents? How were they accidents? You’ve created mass chaos. Global panic. Devastation of entire countries. How was any of that an accident?”
“Inexperience. At the time of those events, I was still newly implanted, and not yet used to controlling this Elf’s body. There were difficulties in learning how to make his functions aline with my functions. I’m much better at it now. Training to learn to control it was all I needed.”
“My Elder Brain abilities, is what ZooLock called them. Psionics. Telekinesis. Mind control. What you Humans call magic.”
“So, you really are a Thullid, then?”
“Yes. On my planet, in my universe, there are people like this, like me, who can make things happen with their minds. Big things. Like telling everyone in the city to die and they immediately and obediently lay down and die like good little thralls.”
“Thralls? You mean like, people you enslave with mind control and force to do all your work for you?”
“Well, I wouldn’t put it exactly that way, but yes.”
“You’re a mind flayer.”
“Uhm.. yes, I suppose that term fits.”
“But you don’t look like a squid. You look like an Elf.”
“Yes. We can choose to envelope our host and be the glory that is our natural form, or we can choose to remain encased inside our host’s skull and blend in with the locals. Unnoticed. I choose the latter.”
“So you’re not actually an Elf?”
“Oh no. Not anymore."
"Where you an Elf when they, when they..."
"When they castrated me?"
"No. Poor little Quaraun, he died centuries ago. Still just a child. Only 9 years old. I merely took on his name and identity, pretended to be him, continued to live in his family unit. No one ever knew the Elf had died, and I lived inside of him, pretending to be him.”
“And you are?”
“SunTa is the nickname I had. Your Human tongue would not be able to pronounce my actual Thullid name. SunTa is the shortened version. I am the last of the Elder Brains, after the great war. The thralls revolted, broke into the chambers and smashed every Elder Brain. ZooLock grabbed me and ran for the nearest star-ship. Didn’t know the first thing how to fly it. We ended up crashing here on this planet. I lay dying. To save my life, he implanted me into the first living creature he saw. A 3-year-old Elf toddler, out on his morning walk with his mother. I’ve lived in him ever since.”
“Did he not try to save any of the others?”
“Oh, no, of course not.”
“I am The Sacred Pink JellyFish.”
“So, I am the only Elder Brain who is important.”
“Why were you the only one important? Shouldn’t all the Elder Brains have been important?”
“No. They were male. Males are unimportant. For every one female, there are millions of males. I am the only female. I am the last female.”
“Are you saying that you are a female Thullid, living in the body of a male Elf?”
“Yes. That is exactly what I am saying. If I died, the entire of the Thullid race would eventually cease to exist, because eventually all the males will die off and with no females left, no new Thullids will be born.”
“But how would any be born if you are living in a male body?”
“I have a clutch of lovely violet purple eggs nestled away in this Elf’s skull. The remainder of his brain protects them, all cushioned soft and warm.”
“You have... that just sounds awful.”
“Oh no, it is not awful. It is wonderful. Someday they will hatch, but not for a very long time. I must find a suitable male to fertilize them after I lay them. Until then, I will protect them. It is why this Elf’s body must not be damaged and why I must kill any who tries to harm him. My eggs are the last Thullid eggs in all of the entire universe. They must be protected at all costs.”
“You are the last female Thullid and you are carrying the last surviving clutch of Thullid eggs?”
“Yes. It is why they worship me and call me The Sacred Pink JellyFish.”
“If you must protect your eggs, then you must hide the fact that you exist at all, correct?”
“That is correct.”
“So you can never let anyone know that you are a Thullid and the Elf you are living in is just a corpse.”
“Why than are you telling me any of this?”
“Because you are Ghirardelli, Swamp Hag of The Godforsaken City.”
“Meaning what exactly?”
“Meaning, most people would say you are crazier even than Quaraun the Insane, and so if you tried to tell anyone, say Finderu, that I, The Pink Necromancer, Quaraun the Insane, is really The Scared Pink JellyFish in disguise, they would just say that you is a coo-coo, high on hashish, or had gotten into some bad locoweed. No one would believe you. And so, I can tell you all about myself with no fear of anything coming of it because the world sees you as a deranged lunatic.”
"I was born and raised here. They knew me. They know I'm not evil."
"Are you sure?"
"Of course I'm sure."
"They knew me too, remember?"
"I'm not running around sleeping with other women, the way you were sleeping with other men."
"You think that's the only reason an angry mob cries WITCH? Foolish Ghirardelli. You are a silly Human, accused of being a hag. Do they not call you a swamp demon? A swamp hag? A swamp witch? They've already begun to turn on you, to the extent, that no one around here believes you to be Human any more. Had you not noticed? Are they not your friends? Your family? They who call you witch? They who spread the rumours that you are a demon?"
"They know me around here, they know I'm a Human. They know I'm not a demon..."
"That's how it started with me, too. Calling me a witch. Saying I was evil. That's how they start. With the small accusation. To dehumanize you. To demonize you. So they can feel justified when they string you up in a tree and murder your loved ones. They can pat themselves on the back after, saying, at least it wasn't a Human, at least it was only a witch, at least it was only a demon. It's how the people in Maine justify their crimes."
"Just because they did that to you, is no reason to think they will do it to me."
"No, Ghirardelli, they do that to EVERY ONE here. Welcome to Maine. And sooner or later, they'll come for you. You've a lot to learn about humanity Ghirardelli, and you my not live long enough to learn it. Tell me Ghirardelli, who was REALLY chasing you?"
"You said men were chasing you for your sword, but I can see this sword is worthless and your story is bunk. WHO chased you into my tent?"
"I don't know who he is. Or what. He's not a Human. I think he's a Demon."
"A Demon? A TRUE Demon. Not a Thullid? But an ACTUAL Demon?
"Are you sure?"
"Pretty sure he's a Demon."
"They are very rare. Why would he be chasing you?"
"He sold me the sword a few months ago. Than he showed up last night. Said he wanted it back. He appeared out of nowhere. Just walked through the wall."
"I don't know. He's from Hell. He shows up, surrounded in flames. Blazing fire. Dressed on orange. He's yellow eyes and yellow hair. Not natural. Bright yellow like a dandelion or a daffodil. A long tail and goat legs."
"Maybe. He's a shepherd, Some kind of beast-master. He's got a herd of demonic sheep. They look normal at first, but..."
"I think they are undead. Vampire sheep. He seems nice, kind, gentle. friendly. Lures you in. Like he's your friend, but than he tricks you into buying things, and later he tries to get them back. I've bought things off him before, and a few weeks later, he'll show up at my house, and steal them back. I saw him do it."
"And he wants this sword back? Why? It's worthless."
"I don't know. I was going to give the sword to Finderu. So I grabbed it and ran, and he summoned this pack sheep from Hell, to attack me. And every direction I ran, he cast fireballs so I couldn't get past, and then herded the monster sheep after me. He trapped me, cut off every escape rought with hundreds and hundreds of sheep, and walls of fire, the Earth opening up and spitting out geysers of fire from the pits of Hell. It was utter chaos, and I just ran and ran, and then, I saw your tent up ahead and, just,..."
"He herded you to my tent?"
"Like a shepherd herding sheep. He used a herd of sheep to direct you right to me. How odd. Chaos you said?"
"Yes. Total chaos."
"Sounds like a Chaos Demon. They are incredibly rare. And not from Earth. They come from a fire planet, what you Humans would call a Hell Dimension, undoubtedly. Why would a Chaos Demon herd you to me?"
BACK AT SWAMP HAG GHIRARDELLI'S HOVEL TODAY:
Quaraun stumbled across the apartment. His strides were swift and determined. Or as precipitous and controlled as he could compel them to act. He’d enjoyed a few bottles too many of green Fairy wine to drink. And he knew it, but he couldn’t oblige anybody else to notice it. No. He wasn’t supposed to be out drinking this evening. Not tonight. Tomorrow is a considerably important day.
Steady. He must walk steadily. And consistently natural. And calmly stable.
Yes. Balance is good.
Balanced is more advisable than stable.
Balancing was desirable.
Quaraun stumbled and fell, plunging forward into the darkness.
Upright is very important for walking. It would do no good to walk if one was not standing upright beforehand.
Quaraun wondered if he was standing upright or not. He couldn't tell. The determination in his steps became his immediate focus. Quaraun monitored his feet to make certain they were moving in the correct places. He couldn’t discern if they were or not.
Must walk steady. Mustn’t let anyone notice. Must... Must...
Thunder boomed outside.
The momentary manifestation of blinding luminescence infiltrated the room through its purple haze. The silver violet flame melted away and sending the chamber back into the deepest blackness of night.
Mists of the Swamp of Death crept into the room through every crack. Up from the soggy swampy, waterlogged floor boards. In around the curtains of the glassless window panes. Down the chimney and out the fireplace like a demon belching smug into the building.
Wait... who is that?
The brilliant burst of the storm’s light lasted long enough to blind the lodging with intense light.
There was a man in the corridor.
With a grinning pumpkin head.
Long, green creeping vines coiled and slithered through the doorway and up the walls, around the windows, and across the ceiling.
Pumpkins rolled across the floor, tumbling, dull thudded sounds of hollow gourds as they rolled across the room.
The man of straw stood tall and thin, the flames of his jack-o'-lantern head burning like the fires of Hell from which he came.
Standing just outside the door.
Staring at Quaraun.
Blood rained down the walls, flooding the floor.
The Pissed Off Pumpkin Patch had found him again.
The evil Pumpkin of Death and his straw body, standing in the doorway.
How’d he get in here?
Wasn’t the door bolted?
Quaraun walked closer to the door.
“Why are you here?” Quaraun called out.
“Leave me alone!”
Silence came as the only reply.
“Stop following me!” Terror filled Quaraun’s throat as the air in the room grow cold. Sucked out of the building. Quaraun gasped to breathe. He turned to run, but stumbled, and hastily caught himself.
Couldn’t let this fellow think he was drunk, either.
He squinted his eyes. Straining to see through the darkness.
Hoping for the lightning to flash again.
There was a pumpkin man in the doorway.
A dead pumpkin man. Where there shouldn’t be one.
“Who are you?” Quaraun called out again.
The grinning dead man stood in the doorway.
He didn’t move.
He didn’t speak.
Quaraun closed his eyes.
It might be one of his friends.
They shouldn’t be here.
They couldn’t be here.
They were dead.
Dead these many years.
He was alone.
He had no one.
So dreadfully alone.
But who knows?
You didn't care.
You weren't there.
You abandoned me, when I needed you most.
You left me behind.
Quaraun opened his eyes.
The flame eyed pumpkin man was gone.
A glowing purple unicorn was standing over him.
"You're mane and tail are corded. So lovely."
The unicorn answered, but Quaraun could not hear his voice or tell wat was said.
A glittering gold sheep was kneeling beside the unicorn.
"You have such beautiful golden wool."
They were both talking but he couldn't hear them.
A black hole was forming in the ceiling above. Blue lights flashed and burst. Sparks fell out of the gaping black hole.
Quaraun’s vision blurred and doubled, then went in and out of focus a few times.
Where am I?
The streaks of blood running down the walls were gone.
Gone too were the pumpkin vines.
No more pumpkins on the floor.
Lingering squash blossoms sat in vases on the table.
The muffled sounds of his friends’ voices bounced around like a rubber ball inside his head.
He tried to focus on one voice.
This one or that one, but he could clearly hear neither.
He couldn’t make out what was talking and what was noise.
Straining to hear who was talking and what they said.
Finally, his vision became clearer, and the sounds became less garbled.
“Are you okay?” the glittering gold sheep asked.
“Who was the man in the doorway?” Quaraun asked, not answering the glittering gold sheep’s question.
“That pumpkin!” Quaraun sat up and pointed towards the door. “The Pissed Offed Pumpkin Patch! They’ve come for me again. You can’t let them take me!”
He wasn’t there.
The pumpkin man was gone.
Quaraun looked around.
The sun was up. It was daytime.
Night was gone. It had slunk away to the shadows, to hide for another day. Fleeing from the sun’s warm embrace. Waiting for sunset to come and free it back into the world again.
“There was a man there,” Quaraun said to no one in particular. “Where did he go? Did you see him?”
“No,” the glowing purple unicorn answered. “Only thing we seen was you passed out on the floor.”
Passed out on the floor?
Where am I?
Suddenly a knocking.
A knocking rapped quickly.
Then the knocking came again.
Quaraun sat up and opened his eyes.
He looked around the room.
“Where am I?”
He was sitting at a large wooden table.
It was a small room.
The glittering gold sheep and the glowing purple unicorn were both gone. They had never been there. Had they? No. Yes? Maybe. He couldn’t be sure.
Quaraun nervously twisted his hands around the long, thin neck of the clear glass wine bottle he was clutching. Its emerald green wormwood infused liquid was nearly gone.
“I need to either stop drinking Fairy wine, or drink so much of it I never wake up out of its embrace. Where am I? How did I get here?”
Quaraun tried to focus his eyes through the semi-drunk blur he was still drifting in and out of.
Lots of wooden shelves lined the walls.
Some shelves were jam-packed full of ancient leather-bound books.
Other shelves were littered for various assorted glass jars, coloured glass bottles, clay pots, and various brick a brack.
An altar dedicated to the proposition of attracting wealth.
Another altar for speedy business success and gambling luck.
Bundles of dried herbs hung from the rafters. An array of metal pendulums. An assortment of containers for spells. An egg broken open for divination. An herb that is used in hexing. Talismans, tarot cards, and teas.
The home of a witch.
“Ah! Ghirardelli! The Swamp Hag’s house. Forgot I was here.”
He paused and glanced down at his hand. His fist tightly clenched Ghirardelli’s hair as her severed head hung from his grasped. He suddenly remembered why he was here.
“Ah, sweet Ghirardelli. Payback for calling me old. I warned you I’d return for your head. You should have listened to me. How many times did I tell you I never joke? Oh dear. I’m running out of leads.”
A sword lay on the floor at Quaraun’s feet.
“Well, your soul eating sword had a use after all. One shouldn’t try to scam a necromancer with a fake sword. It may not eat souls like you said, but it certainly robbed you of both your soul and your head. Tsk. Tsk. Lying to a Necromancer about a soul eating sword. Did you really think you could arrest me when dozens before you failed. Poor Ghirardelli. Now you are dead.”
A sound interrupted his conversation with the dead woman’s severed head. It brought his attention back to the sound which had awoken him. The knocking sound thudded dully through the house again.
He turned back to the front of the building.
“Damn. Someone’s at your door. I suppose we should answer it.” Quaraun glanced down at the dishevelled lifeless body of the Swamp Hag on the floor behind him. Ghirardelli’s blood was pooling on the wooden planks, oozing out of her severed neck, gushing from veins that hung where her head should have been. “You certainly can’t.”
Quaraun pushed his chair back from the table, stood up, picked up the Swamp Hag’s head and stuffed it into the pink beaded heart shaped bag of holding on his hip, as he made his way to the front door of Ghirardelli’s hovel.
"My god! I just realized. This has never happened before."
Quaraun paused, took out the Swamp Hag's head and stared at it in disbelief.
"In ten thousand life times, I've never before killed Ghirardelli. I've never before even met her. So much is changed in this lifetime. I don't even know who's at the door. This is all new. None of this has happened before. I'm doomed to live the same events over and over. Endless lifetimes. It's always the same. It never changes. Why is it different this time? I'm not reliving my past this time. I'm on a new path in life. One I've never been on."