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~o0o~ Chapter ~o0o~
Days passed in a blur as the trio made the long trek back south in search of The Gremlin. Following the directions provided to them by the saloon girl, they were able to locate Luke Swanzen’s old sheep farm, which the aged Gremlin had moved into.
The old house was in disrepair. Around it was many acres off wooden fences, surrounding many hundreds of sheep contentedly grazing.
“My god,” Quaraun exclaimed. “Look at all the sheep!”
“Dis definitely where our Ghouly live," Unicorn said.
They knocked at the door.
The old orange robed wizard answered the door.
“Quaraun?” The Gremlin was astonished to see them. “What are you doing here?”
“We don’t know.”
“You don't know? How typical of you, Quaraun. Do you ever know where you are or how you got there? Well, you might as well come in, now that you’ve found me.”
Someone behind Gremlin ran from the room, scurrying up the stairs. A door slammed somewhere on the 2nd floor.
“Is there someone else here?”
“That was Sunta. He lives with me.”
“Sunta? You don’t live alone?”
“I used to. Not any more.”
“Who is Sunta?”
“He’s, uhm... he’s... a friend.”
“You sound uncertain.”
“I’m uncertain if I should introduce you to him. He’s... shy? Shy’s a good word.”
“You sound like you’re lying.”
“So what else is new? I’m still a thief too.”
“And you still have sheep.”
“Ever so many sheep.”
“Is it just you and Sunta here?”
“Are you happy together?”
“Why the questions, Quaraun? You jealous?”
“When we saw you before. You were extremely sad. And very lonely. It made me unhappy that you were alone.”
“Well, I’m not alone now.”
“Are you lovers?”
Gremlin was silent a moment before responding.
“What an odd question. You are jealous. I know you too well, Quaraun. We are. Sunta and I are lovers. But I don't think you'll ever meet him. Sunta is... apprehensive.”
“Undoubtedly, considering he ran away when we entered.”
“We don’t receive visitors often. It’s been years, and... he was severely mutilated. His injuries... he's scarred very badly. You understand what it is to be disfigured. He doesn’t want people to look at him. His face... He can’t talk.”
“He is mute?”
“Something like that. They cut out his tongue.”
“That's cruel. How do you communicate?”'
“It seems irrelevant since you didn't know of his existence five minutes ago. I’m a Thullid. Remember? We have no need of tongues for speech.”
“The hive mind. Do you have that now?”
“Yes. And so does he.”
“He is a Thullid as well?”
“I expect we are the last two Thullids left alive. Humans mass massacred the Thullids.”
Gremlin made his way to the stairs.
“Sunta,” he called up. “Come down. It’s Unicorn. You’ll like to see Unicorn. I know you would.”
Gremlin waited a moment, then returned to the others.
“I don’t think he’ll come down. He’s easily frightened. Like a little jack rabbit.”
"You always called me that."
"Well, not many people out there with foot long ears, is there? Rather unique feature of yours. Does it upset you, I call someone else a jackrabbit?"
Quaraun ignored the question.
“Does he know Unicorn?”
Gremlin nodded, then sat down in his red armchair.
"You still have that chair."
"Yes, and in the garage, you'll find I still have the 1974 AMC Gremlin. I'm a creature of habit. I don't like change."
"You're also a hermit who doesn't go outside other than to rewrite your future by disrupting your past."
Gremlin glanced over at GhoulSpawn.
"And I'm disrupting your life GhoulSpawn?"
Quaraun didn't give GhoulSpawn a chance to answer.
"How did you find someone to live with you? I was of the impression, you were absolutely, completely, and insanely obsessed with me? I wouldn't think you would even consider making time for anyone else."
"I don't. I'm still obsessed with you Quaraun. That hasn't changed. It never will. I do love you. That was never a lie. I still do."
"But I died."
"You died. You both died. You and Unicorn. And I was left alone."
"You went to the ends of the world to change history and try to bring me back."
"And now you live with someone else?"
“You didn’t come here to talk about Sunta. Why are you here? What do you want?”
“To go home.”
“Home. I remember home. I suppose I should remember being here with you, visiting me. It is my past after all.”
“Do you remember coming here?”
“Sunta?” Gremlin called upstairs again. “Do we remember visiting us?”
Gremlin waited for an answer but got none.
“No. We don’t recall visiting us. But we had a lobotomy. More than once. We don’t remember much any more. Either of us. Me or Sunta. Poor Sunta. They tortured him.”
“White Rock. He was in White Rock as well. We both were. He’s alive. But after what they did to him... I’m not sure that’s a good thing.”
“Would you like tea? I will make us some tea.”
Gremlin got up and disappeared through a side door, returning moments later.
“Water is on the stove.”
“Are you okay?”
“I’m fine. It’s good to see you.”
“What happened to the moon?”
“Ah, you noticed that.”
“I’m a Moon Elf, of course I did.”
“It will crash into the planet any day now. It’s why Draimen brought you here.”
“You know about Draimen?”
“Of course I do. I’m the occultist he hired to summon you.”
“Who else do you expect could locate you and rip you across time and space?”
“Why?” Quaraun’s continuance changed to one of horror. “Why would you do that to us?”
“I’m the Summoner of Darkness. You’re Darkness. Thus I Summon you. It’s what we do for eternity Quaraun. You and I. We are not Wizards, Quaraun. We are Gods. Locked in this impossible battle of wits for eternity."
"That's a long time.
"It is. Do you have any idea what year it is?”
“What difference does that make?”
Gremlin left his armchair to stand face to face with Quaraun.
“It makes a lot of difference, Quaraun. It’s 2525, and the Earth is about to die. We are standing at end the the world. This is the world after Ongadada. You killed 31 billion people. And no one can stop you. Because you are not an Elf like people think you are. You're a God trapped in an Elf's body. We can only tame you. Why do you think the Humans massacred the Thullids? You’re not an Elf, Quaraun. You’ve not been an Elf for a long time. You’re a monster, Quaraun."
“I am not a monster.”
"A cruel, cold-hearted beast. Trapped in the body of the Elf you murdered centuries ago.”
"You've turned bitter."
“Do you know what happens after the world ends Quaraun? It’s not the end for you and me. The planet dies, but we keep living. I’ve been past the end of Earth. Eternity doesn’t end. Not for us.”
“You’ve gone mad.”
“The natural life span of an Elf is 450 years, 500 at the most. How old are you right now, Quaraun? 500? 600? 700? Do you even know? Do you want to know how old I am? That little 19-year-old boy travelling with you right now. Do you have any idea what you're going to do to him? You're going to turn him into me. I am 1,125 years old. I should have died 700 years ago. And you know why I don't die? Because I already died. 1,105 years ago. I never made it to 20 years old, Quaraun. He'll be dead in 3 months. And you're a Necromancer. GhoulSpawn is dying, and he knows it. He's very sick. He's struggling to stay alive right now. In a few weeks he's gonna die and you're gonna turn him into me. You want to know how old Sunta is? 1,587. It is 2525, Quaraun. You were born in 938A.D. No Elf should live this long.”
“How are you so old?”
“You bound your soul to a Lich, Quaraun. And then you bound your soul to me. We can’t die, Quaraun. None of us. We’re Liches. You and I. You ripped out your soul and exchanged it with BoomFuzzy’s soul, remember? And BoomFuzzy was a Lich. You turned yourself into a Lich and you didn’t even know it. Do you have any idea what they had to do to you to finally kill you and have stay dead? Do you now what it takes to kill a Lich, Quaraun?”
“You’re a Lich?”
“I didn’t want to be a Lich, Quaraun. I didn’t ask for this! Ask Unicorn what life is like for me? He knows. He knows what it is like to die a thousand times and never stay dead. To be hunted by everyone. To have them kill you over and over again, and no matter how many times they murder you, you get back up so they can kill you again!”
“I know.” Gremlin sat back down in his red armchair. “I know how sorry you are. I'm well acquainted with you're inability to stop telling me how sorry you are. I know you didn’t mean to do this to me. Your trouble is you love too much, Quaraun. Too extreme. You can't let go. Sometimes it's better to let the one you love die."
"That advice coming from you?"
"Ironic isn't it?"
"You've spent the last four centuries trying to undo my death. And apparently your time travelling has ripped the planet apart."
"Yes. I've stopped trying to change history."
"There are things worse than death. I learned that the hard way.”
"What do you mean?"
"I changed too much. The last time I changed history..."
Gremlin looked up at the stairs.
"That's when Sunta came to live with me. I haven't dared do anything to alter history again. I made matters worse, and I don't want to risk making things even more worse, again. Poor Sunta. He shouldn't have lived through what White Rock did to him."
"What did they do to him?"
"You don't want to know."
"Is there anything we can do to help?"
"Could you kill an innocent baby?"
"Why would you?"
"I've tried so many times. But I can never do it."
"Nor should you!"
"I've never taken a life. I'm not like you, Quaraun. I couldn't kill someone to save someone else."
"What does killing a baby have to do with anything?"
"It was supposed to die."
"No one is supposed to die."
"Ah! There it is."
"There what is?"
"Your inability to let anything die."
"Death can always be avoided."
"No. And even a God isn't all powerful enough to stop death forever. Though he certainly can try."
"What about the baby? And what baby?"
"In my use of portal and time travel, I altered where one person went. It was insignificant. Delaying one man by mere minutes, resulted in a chain reaction. Him not being in a certain place at a certain time, results in a pregnant woman, being saved by an onlooker. In the correct timeline, she and the baby both die. In the altered time line, that baby dies, but the mother lives and a year later, gives birth to another baby. One that never should have existed. That baby grows up and does things that were never supposed to happen. Hundreds of life paths are changed, hundreds of people don't do the things they were born to do. And we get this end result. A world about to be murdered by its own moon. I've seen the end of this world already. Moon crashes into it. Civilization falls into chaos. Planet topples off its access, crashes into the next planet, sending it off its axis, and soon the whole solar system is being sucked into the sun. The sun then overheats and super novas. And this solar system dies."
"And how do you escape to be able to come back here before it happens?"
"It's why we call him Sunta now. The Thullids were right. He really is a God."
"What do mean?"
"He can reset the universe.”
“Reset the universe? How?”
“I don’t know. He just says it and it happens. It’s why they cut his tongue out. Somehow, he rewinds life. Give us a chance to relive it all over again. Let us make different choices and get a different outcome. Our lives are like a game to him. When we die. He just snaps his fingers to trigger the reset button and here we are all over again. Do you know what the worst part is?"
"No. But I'm sure you're going to tell me. You seem particularly talkative today."
"No one believes me. I've lived my life a thousand times now. Over and over again. He won't let me die. He won't let any of us die. I should have known, when I first found out White Rock had locked him in a box, for 400 years, without food and water, and he lived through it... that he couldn't die and possessed powers none of us could imagine. Harrier believes me. Harrier remembers. But most people... they don't remember. They don't remember their past lives, so they don't believe when I tell them, we've lived through this all before."
"No one can do that."
"No? Let me address the Sacred Pink Jelly Fish then. Ask her, how long she lived in a goldfish bowl, in the Temple of the Di'Jinn, worshiped by the Thullids, before ZooLock implanted her inside of you?"
"How old is the Sacred Pink Jelly Fish?"
"She's as old as the universe, isn't she?"
"If allowed time to heal, Jelly Fish continually regenerate. A Jelly Fish can live thousands of years. They are practically immortal."
"And their minds, all powerful. An all powerful Jelly Fish living inside the World's Most Powerful Wizard? Is there anything you CAN'T do, Quaraun?"
"I'm not all powerful. You know that."
"Do I? Why are you here, Quaraun? What do you want?”
“We want to go home.”
“We were hoping you could help us.”
“Did we help them leave here, Sunta?”
Gremlin waited and listened.
“No.” Gremlin shook his head. “We didn’t help you. You found your own way out of here.”
“You won’t help us?”
“I’m sorry. Life is good for me and Sunta right now. As bad as this future may seem, others were worse. A lot worse. In this future, Sunta is alive, we are together, and we are not in White Rock. We are not being daily tortured, by Humans, who exist only to study us. We don’t have much else, but we have that. We didn’t even have that much in any other future we’ve encountered. And you don’t know how hard it was, just to get this. I’m sorry. I can’t help you. I can’t risk losing him.”
“Then why d'you bring us here?”
“It was required.”
“In order to ensure this future for you.”
“This is the only future I’ve found, where you don’t die.”
“I’m still alive in this timeline?”
“You are. And I don’t want to lose you again. Please. Just leave. Find your own way home.”
“But Black Tower’s gone.”
“I don’t know how to get us back home without it.”
“Sunta!” Gremlin called out to his companion. “They want to go home. They want us to risk opening another portal. At risk of changing the future we have now. Do you want that?"
“Why don’t you bring him down here, you won’t have to yell.”
“Haha. Bring him down here. No. Sunta does what Sunta wants. You always did, didn’t you? You know you have a rather forceful dominance when you really want to.”
A high pitched whistling sound came from the other room
Gremlin left the room again.
Unicorn slid up close to Quaraun and whispered: “I think we should leave. He not sane.”
“No, Unicorn,” Gremlin called out from the kitchen. “I’m not sane. But everyone knows that. I'm also not gone deaf. I may be half sheep, but I'm also half Elf still. I have impeccable Elf hearing. And so does Sunta. He hears you Unicorn. He knows you're here."
Gremlin returned from the kitchen carrying a tea set on a tray and set it on the table in front of the red chair.
"Still have my chair too Quaraun, and all of my Dungeons and Dragons books. I've really not changed much Quaraun."
The old half Elf walked up to Quaraun and handed him a teacup.
"Drugged with your favourite pink sugar cubes, just like you like it."
Quaraun set the cup on the table.
"I don't have time for your LSD, Gremlin."
Gremlin turned to GhoulSpawn.
"Be careful not to touch me. As I am you and you are me. We don't want to create a rip in the fabric of time now, do we?"
"No," GhoulSpawn whispered. He was still terrified of his future self.
"Escape while you can, GhoulSpawn, before you become me. Tea?"
Gremlin handed a teacup to his younger self.
“Don’t worry. I don’t drug it like Unicorn does.”
“Can you send us home,” GhoulSpawn asked his future self.
“Home? Haha! Why not stay here and watch the end of the world? You're just in time for it. It should happen any day now.”
“Quaraun,” Unicorn said. “We need to leave.”
Gremlin handed Unicorn a teacup.
“Sunta tell you to leave?” Gremlin asked the Phooka. “He did, didn’t he? He can talk to you. He always could talk to you couldn’t he?”
“I am so very sorry,” Unicorn said to Gremlin. Then grabbing Quaraun’s arm, forcibly dragged the Elf towards the door. “We have to leave right now.”
Before Quaraun had a chance to protest, Unicorn dragged the Elf from the house. GhoulSpawn looked back and forth from his friends to his future self, uncertain what to do. Gremlin sat back down in his red armchair and stirred his tea while staring back at GhoulSpawn.
“What happened to you?” GhoulSpawn asked.
"You became me and I went insane. This is your future GhoulSpawn."
Gremlin pointed to the stairs.
“He’s right at the top of the stairs if you want to see him.”
“Quaraun. Or what’s left of him.”
“Left of him?"
"Sunta is Quaraun."
“I went back in time, hundreds, thousands of times. Trying to change history."
"We know that."
"He died. He died horribly. I couldn’t let him die like that."
"You never told us how he died."
"They captured the Elf. You saw it. You just saw it."
"He gave you the wand. When you were in White Rock. That timeline is changed here. It's the only time he hands you the wand. In every other timeline, he doesn't do that. Had he not handed you that wand, you would have watched him die, right there in front of you. And you saw the state Unicorn was in. He couldn't help you. Not once they had the Faerie Iron on him."
"That was the day Quaraun dies?"
"It was. Quaraun and Unicorn never remember it. Neither does ZooLock."
"ZooLock? He wasn't there."
"He was. You didn't recognize him. He's changed bodies. And names. He's Cheecka now. He's the one who kills Quaraun. With Quaraun dead, Harrier kills Unicorn. He has to because Unicorn would kill everyone on planet otherwise. You always remember it. Every time it happens. Harrier always remembers it. He always tries to stop Cheecka. He always fails. And because Quaraun doesn't know that Cheecka is really ZooLock, he doesn't know how much danger he's in."
"They stabbed him. Cheecka stabbed Quaraun."
"He was trying to kill the Thullid. Not the Elf. When he can't do it that way. He rips out Quaraun's tongue, trying to get to the Thullid. They torture him trying to get to the Jelly Fish inside of him. And they finally do get her. They rip her out of his body. With the Elf's body dead, they start torturing the Jelly Fish. She has hundreds of arms, and they start cutting them off. They torture her to death. In some timelines, Harrier attacks Cheecka trying to stop him. The Jelly nearly dead, crawls to the other cell, makes it to Unicorn. And then Cheecka attacks Unicorn trying to get the Jelly Fish away from him. He kills both of them. In this timeline... the one I live in now. Harrier attacked Cheeka, knocked him out, then took Quaraun's body and the Jelly Fish, to Al-Keeme..."
"You don't know him yet. But you will. If you don't kill that baby. That baby is his grandmother. He built White Rock. He's a Thullid. When you do meet him, you can trust him. He's loyal to the Sacred Pink Jelly Fish. And he's ruthless. He'll do anything to protect her. ANYTHING. If you ever need help, you can go to him. But in your time... he's not been born yet. He's Quaraun's grandson. He's a doctor. He knows how to re-implant a Thullid back into its host. And that's why Quaraun is still alive in this timeline, I live in now."
"But how do we get back to where we belong?"
"One day I succeeded in changing the past. So he didn’t die. He lived. He lived through what they did to him. But they still did it. And now that is all that is left of him. I’ve not dared use a portal again. I became terrified I would make it worse for him if I did. I destroyed Black Tower. Before I changed history again and made it worse. I wanted him back. Now I think it had been better had I let him die. I fear to try to change this, for fear, if I change it again, it’ll be even worse for him next time. I take care of him now. And we wait this world to end that we may both die and have to suffer no more. Go. Look at him. See what he has become. And then find a way back to your own time and don’t let this future happen. Please. Undo what I did. Don’t let this happen to him.”
"How do we get back home? We're stuck here, without Black Tower."
"No. You're not. The portals around Black Tower are still there. You have to find the ruins and then don't go back home. Go to the future when Unicorn is dead. The future without Unicorn. That's the one when things went wrong. It's the baby. He was lonely without Unicorn. Quaraun got hurt and was rescued by a Human girl. She was pregnant. On the run from an abusive husband. He found her. Her husband. Found her taking care of Quaraun. Her husband beat her and killed the baby. She tried to kill herself after the baby died. Quaraun felt terrible. He blamed himself for the baby's death. So he married her. She's his 2nd wife. The one he's hiding from you and Unicorn. She was supposed to die. Had he not been there, she would have died with the baby. But because he was there, he saved her life, made her his wife, and she gave birth to a half-Elf that never should have been born. That's the event that triggers everything that leads to Ongadada. This future you are witnessing now... this devastation... it doesn't happen, if that half Elf baby is never born. You have to go back to the dad that girl's husband beat her and stop Quaraun from saving her life. Otherwise this is your future."
"How am I supposed to do that?”
“I don't know. All I know, is if you can't stop him from saving her life, then you have to murder his half-Elf baby. And he'll hate you forever if you do that."
"I can't kill a baby. I can't even kill a fly."
"I know. I've gone back in time so many hundreds of times... to kill that baby.... and I can never do it.”
“Then how am I supposed to, if you can’t and I’m you?”
“I can't take a life. I don't have it in me. You can’t kill the baby. You simply do not have it in you to do it. That's why you have to stop him from rescuing that girl instead. You have to let her die. Her husband is going to beat her to death. And Quaraun’s going to stop the man. She's supposed to die. She's not supposed to be rescued. Quaraun wasn’t supposed to be there. She's not supposed to have Quaraun’s baby. Please, before you leave... go upstairs and look at him. Look what they did to him. You love Quaraun. You’ve already reached that point in your life now. You need to see what they did to him. Never forget what he looks like now, and then go back, and don’t let this happen to him. You’re the only one who can stop it."
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