NaNoWriMo 2021 Quaraun Novel - Vomit Draft - Day 1 to 3 wordcounts

NaNoWriMo 2021 Quaraun Novel - Vomit Draft - Day 1 to 3 wordcounts

Today is November 12, 2021, and it occurred to me, that, I started writing a new Quaraun novel 2 days ago, and, just realized it was also November, so I should be keeping track of word counts. I normally do not keep track of my word counts.

This is the first time I've worked on a Quaraun novel in 7 years, something, I haven't done since the April 10, 2015 murder of my family. I was releasing new Quaraun novels 3 or 4 times a year since the 1970s and, I've not had time to work on a new one with all the court cases, murder trials, police investigations, FBI investigations going on. These past 7 years is the longest break I've ever taken from writing Quaraun novels, so let's see how well I can pick where I left off 7 years ago. 

In any case.

I started this story on November 10, 2021.

So it is now day 3 of writing it, even though it is day 12 of National Novel Writing Month.

During National Novel Writing Month, the challenge is to write 1,667 words per day or 50,000 words over the period of 30 days, whichever comes first.

Unfortunately, I write well over 10,000 words a day and it only takes me 3 days to reach 50,000 words, every year I've done NaNoWriMo since 2004 (this is my 17th year doing NaNoWriMo), so, anyways, 50k in 30days is NOT a challenge for me, rather it'd be a vacation for me if I was to force myself to write that slow.

If you know where to look for it, this novel is also being live streamed so you can watch me typing it live and witness for yourself, what 91 to 175 words per minute typing speed actually looks like.

And for those wanting to read what I have typed... here it is, the first drafts of an as of yet untitled new novel for the Quaraun series.

I have no plot, no clue where this story is going, and no clue how it will end. I simply got an idea, 2 days ago,  for a scene I wanted to write, started writing it, and next thing I knew I had been writing steady none stop for 33,762 words.

Than I remembered a few minutes ago, it was November and so, now here I am making this page.

Note, this is a "vomit draft" so it's going to have errors in spelling and grammar, plot holes, all the usual first draft issue that I'll go back and fix in the edits after we are done.

Note, the sample chapters linked on this website, are "vomit drafts" so are going to have errors in spelling and grammar, plot holes, all the usual first draft issue that I go back and fix in the edits after they are done. Thiss sample chapters were uploaded as part of a workshop series I do at conventions, to allow readers to compare the finished published paperbacks, to how vastly different the story was in it's 1st draft format. They are used as a part of a teaching course for teaching new writers how to edit their shitty first drafts into something publishable.

And as usual, the END PRODUCT, is NOT found here on my website and will only be available via paperback books.

NO SAMPLE DRAFTS or SAMPLE CHAPTERS of the Quaraun novels, found on my website are the finished product or what you see in the published works. 

ALL sample chapters and sample drafts are UNEDITED FIRST DRAFTS, uploaded so you can see the vast amount difference there is between the first draft and the finished product,, allowing you to see exactly HOW MUCH of the first drats is changed, removed, rewritten, and simply does not appear at all, in the finished product that was published.

There's already a HUGE section, that's going to get chopped down a lot in the editing stage.... you'll recognize it when you see it, it's about 20 pages of weird rambling because I couldn't think of what to write next, so I wrote through it with a ramble, until I thought of something to write next. But we are leaving it in on this page as this page is just for keeping track of NaNoWriMo word count progression, so, we don't cut out anything until after November 30th.

After Nov 30th I'll make a separate page for the edited version, so you'll be able to see then how it changes and what I end up removing. But for now, vomit draft mess it is... see link list below for that...






As I've made changes to what I wrote previously, and, rather than adding new scenes at the end, instead I expanded on scenes all ready written, and made earlier sections longer, than rewrote and started editing stuff as I went, I'm going to leave the previous days draft up, so you can compare the two and see how this vomit draft is progressing and changing.

And as it started getting too long to have them all on one page, I'm now putting each day's version on it's own page, so you can see how much the draft is changing from one day to the next.

Links to each day of drafting is below:

NaNoWriMo 2021 Link List:

The Full/Complete/Current Vomit Draft

Day 1 to 3 Vomit Draft

Day 1 to 4 Vomit Draft

Day 1 to 5 Vomit Draft

Day 1 to 6 Vomit Draft

Day 1 to 7 Vomit Draft

Day 1 to 8 Vomit Draft

Day 1 to 9 Vomit Draft

Day 1 to 10 Vomit Draft

Day 1 to 11 Vomit Draft

Day 1 to 12 Vomit Draft

Day 1 to 13 Vomit Draft

Day 1 to 14 Vomit Draft

Day 1 to 15 Vomit Draft

Day 1 to 16 Vomit Draft

Once we start the editing stage, each additional version of the draft will be linked here as well.

I think it's stupid that the average Mainer is such a cry baby whimpering snowflake that I have a court order issued by the Old Orchard Beach Town Hall via the Biddeford District Court requiring I tell you this, but apparently my books are deemed to violent for the retards, I mean citizens of the Town of Old Orchard Beach, so here you go, a court required trigger warning for you all,...


I repeat, there is a 

MASSIVE TRIGGER WARNING

 for the Quaraun series, as it is 200+ volumes, 8 million+ words of steady, endless, non-stop suicide, suicide references, depression, and suicidal characters attempting suicide in nearly every chapter of every volume!

Don't be fooled by the pink covers. The Quaraun series has won awards for being among the darkest novels ever published.

It's one of the few series so dark, so disturbing, so gory, so bloody, and so focused on putting suicide in your face that...

...on January 6, 2016 the American government has issued a court order declaring I was required to put M18+ book rating on the cover, as well as banned 27 volumes of the Quaraun series from being sold in America.

If you have any questions regarding this court order issued by the Old Orchard Beach, Maine Town Hall, an division of the American Government,  which violates the first amendment, where we are clearly told the government can not censor freedom of speech...

please head to the State of Maine, Biddeford District Court and ask for copies of


Docket #BDDC-PA-2015-00574 and CV-15-58/CV-15-59


the Alfred Superior Court Docket #CV-15-299


and the Portland Superior Law Court Docket #YOR-15-253


Additionally, you can find more information by going to the Old Orchard Beach Police Department and requesting copies of ALL police reports made in regards to 144, 146, and 146a Portland Avenue, from 2001 to 2016 (approximately 300 reports).








I will try to remember to update this page daily, around midnight of each day of November 2021, with that days progress and word count totals.

Anyways, I know my Quaraun fans always want to read these novels in progress, so, here you go, a new Quaraun novel in progress:














NaNoWriMo 2021
Untitled Quaraun Novel Vomit Draft 
WIP
Days 1 to 3
(Nov 11, 12, & 13, 2021)

33,762 words...

And it probably requires some sort of trigger warning, but BoomFuzzy is in this one and we've already reached scenes of depression, suicide, and wrist slicing, so yeah, all the usually BoomFuzzy fare is here, just so you know.

The day before, they had been sent on an assignment to destroy a village near the border of the kingdom. The mission was simple enough, but as soon as they arrived it quickly became clear that this would be a harder task than they thought. 

They entered the village from what seemed like the opposite side of the hill, coming out at a small cliff-side, and as they neared their destination, they began to see signs of life, that had disapeared.

The aim of this mission was to infiltrate it and kill off most of its inhabitants in order for them to steal away all their crops and livestock. They’d gone through three towns during the first two days. Their target hadn’t been particularly active and wasn’t even on the watchtower. It was possible that he was simply not aware that they were there, or just didn’t care enough to take notice. Either way, this is exactly what had made them go undetected. Their first week passed without incident as they scoured the villages for food and loot. They found nothing but empty houses and abandoned farms. They also found no sign of any other people. No one lived here.

It was a farming community, with a few buildings scattered around. There were only a handful of people living there, and they were all farmers. There were no guards. No other citizens. Nothing. It seemed to be deserted.

It had been a week since they'd entered the kingdom. All they'd done was explore, scout, and search for anything useful. They did find plenty of things, though they weren't the ones who picked up what they found, nor did they bring any of it back to camp.

As the weeks dragged on, the team grew more confident about the task at hand. As long as the target was unaware they were out there, everything would be okay. There were no survivors here anyway.

But this town, this village. Something was wrong with it. They  found no sign of any people. No one lived here. It was as if the people had instantly vanished one day. 

Meals still on the tables. 

Horse carts stopped dead in the middle of the road, their contents still packed. 

Farm tools laying in the fields as if the people vanished while still using the. 

This was completely out of place. 

The men made their way through the deserted village, going from house to house, puzzling about where the people could have gone? Had they fled, just dropped everything and run? From a dragon perhaps? 

Meanwhile, just outside the village...

The rich, lush green valley was nearby, just a few days ride. Of course it was just an outpost of their civilization, an outpost here in the common lands. A lone woman, with long golden hair, riding on her war horse, barely made it to her town. Goblins and their dreaded war hounds galloped along behind her. They were a few miles back, but they were coming here next. 

The only way to head them off was to cross the field there and take another path through the trees. But where could she go? She needed food and water for both herself and her steed. Maybe she could get supplies at the farming village ahead. 

She could see farm town just over the horizon. But the closer to the town she got, the more nervous she became. Something felt wrong. She couldn't place her finger on it. But there were not many people living in this area, what could possibly happen? Her heart beat faster when she saw the entry gates to the village. 

And that's when she saw it. A large group of men, standing outside a large farmhouse. All talking amongst themselves. They didn't seem dangerous.

At that same moment, behind the deserted farming village, in the forest along the edge of the valley, beside a quiet stream leading to the lake, was set up a small pink tent. Inside the tent slept an elderly Elf with long white hair, wearing silk robes made out of the same striped pink silk as the tent. Wrapped up in fur pelt blankets, breathing softly and peacefully. The only sounds that filled the air around the tent was the soft trickle of water over stone. 

Suddenly, something rustled in the grass outside of the tent, causing the elderly Elf to stir. Quaraun opened his eyes and looked out from beneath his silken curtain. There in the grass stood a large creature, which was almost like a dog but with longer legs, horns, and a pointed snout. 

“Hello! Who are you?"

The beast did not answer, Quaraun had not expected it would. Most creatures didn't talk. The creature turned and scampered back into the forest. Quaraun sat alone once again.

 After a while he got up and stretched. His joints cracked and popped. Old age was catching up with him.

He walked over to a tree that was near where he had been sleeping and pulled down some moss, which covered the bark. He looked to see a rabbit standing there watching him. He began laughing loudly at the thought of the rabbit's long twitching ears and how much they resembled his own. Humans often called Quaraun "rabbit ears" for the foot tall long thin ears that he held high over his head. The rabbit heard him laughing, the creature's own long ears flattened against it's head and it took off running.

"Well, we've a busy forest tonight, haven't we."

Quaraun left the tent flap tied open so he could see outside. Then he crawled back into bed. He laid on his side, looking outside the tent. Outside there was nothing but trees and bushes. Bushes and trees. Nice. Quiet. Peaceful. Relaxing. Grass and leaves. Moss and mushrooms were scattered here and there. He closed his eyes thinking about the strange creature he had just seen. What was a it called? He did not know. After some time he fell asleep again. 

When he awoke it was dark. He was alone, as usual. He got up and went outside, looking around. Nothing seemed out of the ordinary at first, until he noticed that the sun had set. He began walking towards his tent, when suddenly someone called out to him.

"Excuse me!" a woman's voice called out. "Can you show me where the livery stables are?"

"Stables?" Quaraun asked, looking around and seeing no one there.

Unfortunately, Quaraun's ears acted somewhat like antennae and he could pick up sounds from many miles away, just as clear as if they were standing beside him, and he assumed this was the case now, for there was no woman to be seen, and this far out in the middle of the forest, there was no possibility of a literary in the area. He laid his long ears back, tucking them under his impossibly long twelve foot Rapunzel hair.

There was a village near by, down in the valley. Quaraun had seen it the day before. He could have gone there and looked for a room to rent, a bed to sleep in, so as to not have to sleep on the cold hard ground. Quaraun preferred to sleep in his tent, in the forest, away from Human populations. He was the last Elf. Few Humans these days even believed that Elves had ever been once real, so it was generally best to avoid Human villages until scouting out the beliefs of the local cultures and knowing their thoughts on magical creatures, like Elves.

Sadly Quaraun knew he could never live among the Humans. They were quick to judge anything deemed different, and he was certainly different. He knew most people feared him, some even hated him, sometimes simply because he was an Elf, other times because he was a mage. 

A wizard. 

A necromancer. 

The Pink Necromancer no less. 

And yet, many respected him, mostly for his power. Tales of The Pink Necromancer were legendary and there were few who would dare risk his temper. 

The old Elf felt lonely without anyone there beside him at night, so he began to softly sing. 

A soft quiet song. 

A lullaby. 

The lullaby he had sung to his four small children, two sets of twins, two girls and two boys, each two years apart. 

He missed his children. 

They had been murdered, poisoned with tainted chocolate, them their throats slit. A haunted memory of the blood filled nursery, plagued Quaraun's tortured sleep. 

Two girls age twelve, two boys age ten, murdered in a bloody magic ritual.

Quaraun stopped singing. 

Tears streaming from his eyes.

"I loved my children," Quaraun said to himself. "But I loved BoomFuzzy more."

Quaraun had murdered his children on the one hundredth anniversary of BoomFuzzy's death. An attempt to resurrect BoomFuzzy, with a blood sacrifice, life for life, exchanging the thing he loved most of all, his children, for the return of his long dead lover.

The exchange had worked, but not completely. BoomFuzzy's soul was back. Ripped from the land of the dead, now cursed to roam the land of the living. A incorporeal wraith, a ghost with no body, worse, a Lich with no flesh. Enraged by what Quaraun had done, the Lich immediately fled, to where Quaraun did not know. And so once again, Quaraun was alone, separated from now not only the one he loved, but now with no family to love either.

And so Quaraun wandered the world. In search of BoomFuzzy's tormented ghost, while seek a way to restore the wraith into a physical flesh body, that they could be reunited in life, once again.

The wraith had no voice to speak with the living. No flesh to hug and hold. Alone. Lonely. Lost. Tormented.  It would have been nice to have someone to talk to. Nicer to have someone to hold. BoomFuzzy in his current Lich state, could talk to no one, hold no one. He could only reach out and try to touch them, his hand going through them, and far back in horror as he watched them crystallize in a horrible blue death, a frozen blue ice, The Crystal Plague spreading throughout their body, starting at the location he had touched.

They died. 

Everyone he touched.

Everything he touched.

Every plant.

Every animals.

The Frost Lich's frozen touch of death, struck terror in the hearts of mankind.

So many dead. Entire villages, buried in ice. All because of him. Because he were looking for something. Someone. A lover lost. He wasn't afraid anymore. 

BoomFuzzy. 

The Elf Eater of Pepper Valley. 

King Gwallmaiic. 

The most feared Faerie King of all time. 

Now the most feared Lich the world had ever known. He didn’t care anymore. He'd roamed the world trying not to freeze everything he touched, but he no longer cared. 

Depression filled his mind. 

He wanted death. 

He crazed for death. But he was already dead. 

Now undead. A flesh-less corpse walking among the living.

The Phooka of a Thousand Death, he roamed the world endlessly killing himself over and over again, in search of a way to duie and stay dead.

But he was soul bound to an Elf.

To Quaraun.

And as long as Quaraun lived, the Lich could never fully die.

The Lich grew to hate Quaraun. His lover from once before, was now his curse that trapped him in this state of existing not dead, yet not alive. For as much as Quaraun loved BoomFuzzy, BoomFuzzy hated Quaraun. Hated Qumran for the wish misspoken, that had bound their souls together, trapping them for eternity, always connected together, always separate, never together. The Lich that once in life had been BoomFuzzy, thought to kill Quaraun and free himself of this curse.

So many lay dead in his path. If only he hadn’t touched them.

The Lich had come this way, drifting through these forests, freezing everything he touched. A path of trees, only days ago, lush, green and full of life, now stood dead, frozen, strange blue crystal points, skewered through their bark, trunk, and leaves. Everything touched by the frozen wraith had the life sucked out of it, and nothing but frozen blue quartz crystals left behind.

In life The Elf Eater of Pepper Valley had been a holy terror, a warlord who marches his armies across nations, slaughtering all in his path. No one understood why Quaraun loved him. What Quaraun ever saw in such an evil man. But now, The Elf Eater was long dead, and his frosty Lichified wraith roamed the earth, striking more fear into the hearts of humanity than he had ever done in life.

To kill the Elf Eater, destroy the wraith, rid the world of this icy lich, was the battle cry of millions of cities, millions of villages, who lived in mortal terror that one day this lich would walk through their village and leave behind, as it always did, nothing but icy death.

And while most sought to destroy the lich, Quaraun sought to free him, restore him to life, release him from his frosty flesh-less cursed existence. 

And that was why Quaraun was here, in this valley, whose name he did not know, near a village he also knew not the name of. 

Quaraun was following the Lich that was all that remained of BoomFuzzy, and it had walked through he mere days ago.

Quaraun sat for many hours and listened to the soft hum of the crickets, cicadas, and frogs croaking and chirping and buzzing. He closed his eyes and tried to imagine that he was lying in the soft warm furs that lined BoomFuzzy’s bed. The furs were soft and fluffy and smelled like him, and there was a comforting heat that wrapped around Quaraun when he slept. He wondered if it could feel as comfortable to anyone else, but he never felt more comfortable than with the furry blankets. 

He didn't know what else it could do for them other than being so soft and warm. It had been one of his favourite things to do on rainy days or cold nights. After a long day at work, he would come home and curl up under one of the furs in the living room. He always fell asleep faster there.

He opened his eyes, glanced out the open curtain-door of the tent, and looked up at the starry night sky. It glowed a soft golden hue over the trees and he sighed, resting his head back down on the fur pelt blanket. 

Suddenly Quaraun sat up and pulled the covers off as he remembered where he was. He was not snuggled up asleep in the safety of BoomFuzzy's gingerbread house. 

No. 

BoomFuzzy had died centuries ago and Quaraun was alone. 

These were BoomFuzzy's furs, kept these many years, from BoomFuzzy's bed, but BoomFuzzy had long been dead. 

Quaraun was alone. 

Alone, sleeping in a secluded grove on the side of the road, as he always did now. 

Sad and alone. 

Wandering the world, to wherever the road took him. With no aim, no goal, and no purpose. Ever on his search to find a way to resurrect his dearly beloved BoomFuzzy. 

He was lost. Lost to the world. Lost to time. Lost to all that made life worth living.

All that ever mattered now, was to find his friend. Find the man who would love him so very much, that when he returned to them, he would have someone else, by his side.

Quaraun wandered the world, going from town to town, looking for books, tomes, scrolls, diaries, notes, anything written by a mage. Any mage. Scoring the world for clues, to any mage who might ever have tried to cheat death, tried to resurrect a loved one. Anything that Quaraun could learn that might be of some sort of usefulness for bringing BoomFuzzy back to life.

Quaraun now sat awake, looking around and wondering what he should do next, than he remembered that he had seen a small farm village up ahead. He decided to pack up his tent, and explore the village. Perhaps it had a library or a book collector, or maybe even a village which, someone who might have access to magic spell books he could study and read and take notes from.

Back at the farm village, the men, grew antsy. They seemed unable to leave the village. Try as they might, every time they went out of the front gate,, they immediately found themselves back in front of the large farm house again, with no clue how they got there.

"Dark magic's afoot," one man said.

The others nodded and agreed. Just than an unearthly looking blond woman, riding a large white stallion rode up. She was out of breath, and so was her horse.

"Excuse me!" She called out to the men. "Can you show me where the livery stables are?"

The men stared at her, terrified, as if they had seen a ghost, then suddenly bolted in every direction, running away from the women.

"How rude!" she declared as she climbed down from her horse and set about looking for someone to help her.

Back in the forest, Quaraun busied himself in packing up his campsite. And than began walking towards the direction of the village. If it had a stable for renting horses, than surely it was big enough to also have a saloon, maybe even one with goof quality Fairy Wine. 

It was unlikely. 

Faeries were the only ones able to make good quality Fairy Wine, and they rarely wholesaled it out to Humans. Besides, BoomFuzzy was dead, and not even the best Faeries made Fairy Wine like BoomFuzzy did. 

Hailed among Fae at the best of the Master Faerie Chefs, BoomFuzzy, though famed among Humans for being a warlord, had been famed among Faeries as the chef, every Fae chef dreamed to become.

After some time of walking he came upon a small clearing with some bushes, which were growing around one side of it. In the centre of the clearing there was a large wooden building. Without thinking anything odd about doing so at all, Quaraun entered through the front door, without knocking and saw two women sitting near the fire. They both turned to look at him.

Quaraun noticed that they were both wearing the same clothes as he was, something was not right here. No one dressed like Quaraun. With all his pink silk, pink ribbons, pink bows, pink feathers, pink glitter, pink ruffles, pink crewel, pink gemstones, pink beads, pink rhinestones, and pink fru-fru, no one in their right mind would even dream of dressing like Quaraun, except, maybe Liberace.

Quaraun also made all of his own clothes, right down to the cloth. For Quaraun was a silk weaver and embroiderer and tailor. So it wasn't possible for anyone else to wear his clothes.

Quaraun stood and stared at the women, and while he watched them, they suddenly vanished, as did the house around them.

"How odd," was all Quaraun said as he turned back to the path and continued on his way.

Back at the abandoned village the soldiers were feeling uneasy. No one lived here. There weren’t any villagers around at all. They were beginning to feel like they might actually succeed in taking down the place with just themselves and their weapons. They couldn’t understand why it had been chosen specifically.

They decided to move on when their third week began. There was a small stream nearby that the villagers said flowed into a lake. It would be easy for them to find a suitable location to set up camp for the night. 

While setting up camp, as they started to pack, there was suddenly a loud thump outside. It sounded like someone hitting a tree with an axe. A quick glance at each other and they all rushed outside to see who it was. It was hard not to notice how dark it had gotten. The only light coming from the moonlight filtering through the clouds.

They turned around to see that the woman from earlier lay unconscious on the ground. They approached her slowly. One of them lifted her up to see if she was alright. She woke up when the men approached and glared at them. She pushed past them and ran towards a nearby building that was filled with barrels. The barrels seemed to move.

The men went after her and followed her inside. They saw her pick up one of the barrels and turn it over. She then smashed the barrel open on top of a man’s head. He fell onto the floor bleeding out. As they looked closer they could see his eyes moving under the blood that spilled.

The woman ran from the building as the men scrambled around their fallen comrade.

Outside the woman ran, terrified, looking in every direction for a place to hide. As she ran down the street, she spied a small alley between two buildings and turned down that corner, nearly slamming into Quaraun who was bent over rummaging around in a pile of crates.

"Hello," Quaraun said as he stood up to address the woman. Then noticing the distress on her face added: "Is something the matter?"

The sounds of angry men, yelling and shouting, did not give the woman any time to answer. She shoved Quaraun aside, knocking the old Elf off his feet, as she ran past him and continued her fear filled flight.

As Quaraun struggled with his cane, pulling himself to his feet, the tumble-bumble herd of angry men, came tearing down the road, they too knocking him over as they ran past in search of the murderess who'd killed their friend.

"Oh dear," Quaraun sputtered as he once again reached for his cane and struggled back to his feet. "Every one does seem to be in a rush around here."

Curious as to what was going on, Quaraun made his way in the direction the men had gone, after the woman. He stopped when he saw the men up ahead, and ducked back behind a pile of boxes that stood near the corner, then peeked out to watch what was going on.

As they crept towards a window at the edge of the building’s porch, two men entered one of the houses and left. The door closed behind them, and then everything happened so fast. 

One man ran past them, towards the road. Two others turned towards him; then they fired. A second later, four arrows whizzed towards the man, striking him in the side and chest. He fell to the ground and didn’t move. Three more men burst from behind another house. One pointed his sword straight at the first man who’d run out, while another raised his axe and prepared to attack the others.

Without thinking, Quaraun let out a scream. A moment later, he felt a sharp sting in his arm. It took him a split second to realize an arrow had hit one attacker in the stomach, and then he realized they’d caught sight of him. The remaining three men now  charged at him, weapons drawn. 

One held his shield up high over his head, while the other two held their swords in front of them, pointing at him. Both carried clubs. The last had the axe that he used earlier.

Quaraun drew one of the Elf Eater’s cursed daggers. The magic dagger flashed as the first two attacked him. One grabbed hold of his dagger hand. The other lunged forward, swinging his club. Quaraun dodged away, while the dagger, taken on a life of its own, flew through the air and stabbed the attacker in the face.

The other three quickly surrounded the elderly wizard, raising their blades high above their heads.

Before anyone could strike, the Elf Eater’s twin daggers slashed at each of them. 

All three fell. 

One landed hard on his side. 

One on his leg. 

Another on the floor. 

The third stumbled backwards, holding his knee. He dropped to his knees, dropping both his clubs. His eyes bulged as blood seeped between his fingers.

Quaraun spun and darted into a nearby doorway. Behind him, one attacker groaned and tried to get up. As soon as he moved, one of the cursed daggers lashed out and connected with his neck. The attacker collapsed onto the floor.

Quaraun darted into another doorway, then another. After about thirty seconds, he finally reached a dead end.

He stopped, turning around and surveying his surroundings. The room he stood in was large, but it ended abruptly at a stone wall. The two daggers floated back to him and obediently took their place at his side. His eyes fell on the dead end. If he went down the steps at the far end, it would take him to the bottom of the stairs.

There was nowhere else to go.

So he did.

After stepping off the steps, the stone floor crunched beneath his feet. He walked down the hallway for a couple of meters and stopped, glancing both ways, taking in the room. It contained nothing except a desk, some chairs, shelves, and a door. He glanced at the door. To his surprise, it opened easily and swung inward, exposing the corridor beyond. A small room opened to one side of the corridor. 

Quaraun stepped inside. He closed the door and looked around. A wooden chair sat beside the desk, pushed against a wall. He approached it slowly, monitoring his surroundings.

“Hello?” he called.

No answer.

The old Elf cautiously stepped closer to the table. Quaraun set his pink heart-shaped bag on the table and began rummaging through it. Once he’d found what he needed, he pulled a book from his pink bag. The old wizard carelessly put his pack on the floor and set his two daggers beside it. He then carefully placed the book on top of his pack.

He reached into his pocket and took out his wand and pointed it at the book. With a flick, the book burst into flames, leaving nothing behind but ashes.

Quaraun sighed. 

“I hate being here,” he muttered. 

Then Quaraun moved towards the chair. When he reached the chair, he sat. It creaked softly under his weight. He leaned back and rested his hands on the arms of the chair. 

He waited. 

An hour passed. 

The sun outside began to set. The shadows grew long, deepening the room. Still, nothing had changed. Not even the sound of a horse approaching could be heard. It was odd, the level of silence in this town, in this house even. 

Quaraun shivered, than glanced around the room. It was getting cold, in this place. Unusually cold, frigid even. As though a Lich's frost was encasing the outside of the building.  And there was no fireplace nor wood stove to be seen. He was wearing only thin silk robes, not nearly warm enough for the intense chill that filled this stone walled cellar room. He had hoped to find a place to light a fire and warm himself, but it appeared this cellar was mostly used by it's resident as a reading room, and served no purpose otherwise as living quarters.

Quaraun heard a sound.

"Hello?"He stood up and turned around. "Is someone there?"

There was no reply.

He heard no further sounds, so he sat back down and contemplated if he should use his wand to create a flame-less fire or put on a fur coat from his bag.

Quaraun yawned and stretched his limbs.

Finally, Quaraun stood up, picked up his pack, and walked towards the window. His eyes were very tired. This strange, intense cold was making him very sleepy. Quaraun stared out the window, the ground above was eye level to the bottom of the cellar window, so he could clearly see the ground and part of the sky and not much else. There was no light source, just the moon and stars.

Just then, something crashed into the windowsill, causes Quaraun to jump back startled. When he looked to see what it was, he saw a large black bird, and eagle of some sort, laying on the ground by the window. It stood up and stared at him. It had gleaming black-blue feathers, brilliant crystal blue eyes, and huge sharp black talons. It cocked it's head sideways, staring back at him for a moment and than flew away.

"What a strange looking bird," Quaraun said to himself. "I wonder what it was. I've never seen one like it."

Quaraun turned back to look around the room once again.

His gaze fell on a stack of books sitting on the desk. He reached for one. It was old. The leather binding cracked, and its yellowed pages flapped gently. He set it aside and picked up another. This one had a chocolate brown velvet cover, the exact type of brown velvet as the cassock BoomFuzzy always wore.

"BoomFuzzy," Quaraun whispered as he ran his gold armoured fingers over the soft velvet binding. He turned the book over to look at it's cover. The covered was embossed with gold leafing, exactly like the ones on the covers of BoomFuzzy's boxes of chocolates. "Oh my!" Quaraun gasped when he read the title of the book.

The gold words said:"Quaraun".

Quaraun opened the book, turning it's delicate vellum pages carefully. He recognized the calligraphic handwriting on the pages. It was BoomFuzzy. BoomFuzzy had written this.

"Quaraun is an ancient Moon Elf wizard. A powerful mage, whom has lived for centuries beyond his natural life expectancy. He is known as the most dangerous and knowledgeable wizard in all of the Realm of Fae."

"BoomFuzzy wrote this," Quaraun said as he closed the book and tucked it away inside his pack."But when? I was not yet a wizard when BoomFuzzy died. I was just a child. I became a mage after his death. Because of his death. BoomFuzzy could not have written this."

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.

No. 

This was not a pleasant thought.

This was a horrible thought.

A memory. 

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. I murdered my four children. This candy is poisoned. I gave them each a chocolate from this box. This horrible box of poisoned chocolates." 

Quaraun stared at the horrible boxes of chocolates that had taken so many lives.

"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."

Tears streamed down Quaraun's cheeks.

"Why? 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."

Quaraun put the box of poisoned chocolates back in his bag and fell silent once again.

Quaraun picked up the next book from the stack. Quaraun read over the title."The History of the World." Quaraun placed that book back down and opened another. This book was newer and less damaged, but it's pages were blank. There were no words written in it.

He set it aside and pulled another book closer. 

The cover read: "A Treatise On the History, Theory, and Practice of Witchcraft, by King Gwallmaiic."

Quaraun gasped at the name. King Gwallmaiic. BoomFuzzy. BoomFuzzy was just a nickname, a name Quaraun had called him, his real name had been Gwallmaiic, King of the Faeries. Could he have written this book? that was now two books in this stack, written by BoomFuzzy. This was a most odd and curious discovery.

This time, he removed a thick red book from the stack and opened it. He scanned the page, reading. Then he placed it back on the stack and picked up another. 

He read it. 

Replaced it. Then he picked up the next one. 

Quaraun moved onto the next book in line. The cover read: "Treatise on the Art and Science of Magic."

Quaraun held it up and read the words engraved along the top right hand corner: "King Gwallmaiic."

These books belonged to BoomFuzzy. Quaraun was certain of it. He pocketed this one as well in his pink bag of holding.

Again he read. Again he put the book where he found it. 

Once more, he reached for another book. He read the title and chuckled lightly. “The Dark Side of Camelot,” he read out loud. 

He flipped open the cover. The book read: “I have always liked stories about knights who fight the evil sorcerer, Merlin.”

Quaraun sighed deeply. He shut the book, put it back, got up, and went to the desk. Unlike the table, there was nothing on it. He contemplated opening one of its drawers, however; he decided against it.

Quaraun went back to the table and sat in its chair once again. He laid his elbows on the arms of the chair and rested his chin on his fist. He picked up “The Dark Side of Camelot” once again, opened it, laid it on the table, and stared blankly at the open page muttering the line: “I have always liked stories about knights who fight the evil sorcerer, Merlin.” to himself a few times.

“Merlin wasn’t evil,” Quaraun stated to no one. “Nor was he a sorcerer. Why writes this crap?”

A sound on the stone stairs interrupted his thoughts. He heard footsteps. The sound echoed throughout the empty hallways. Soon after, a woman came running down the hall. She gripped a torch in her hand. She stopped short when she saw Quaraun.

Quaraun looked at her. She was tall, taller than him, had blonde hair, blue eyes, and light freckles on her cheeks. Her lips were thin and full. She wore a loose, billowing white blouse, long blue skirt, black boots, and a black leather belt. She had the regal air of royalty about her. A queen or a princess, perhaps. She did not move like a commoner. 

Quaraun recognized her as the woman whom had run ino him on the street. She was the same woman whom was being chased by the angry men whom had lost her so chased after Quaraun instead, causing him to end up in this very room.

The woman smiled awkwardly at Quaraun, than continued looking frantically around the room. She looked as lost as he felt. Quaraun was used to be lost though and this woman seemed to have never been lost before.

"Did you see them?" she asked Quaraun.

"See who?"

"The Goblins and their war hounds."

"No. I've seen no Goblins here. Nor any war hounds."

"They're coming you know."

"Are they?"

"They were about an hour behind me when I arrived this morning."

"Well, that was many hours ago. Perhaps they passed this village by?"

"I don't think so."

"Whatever became of the men who were chasing you?"

"Don't know. Don't care. I've got to find the key."

"Key?"

"Yes."

"What key?"

"Shhhh. Let me listen," she hushed him, than placed her ear to the wall.

She paused when she saw the long corridor full of doors, and opened each door, looking into each one of them, and then hurriedly looked around again before leaving. Her blonde hair flew wildly around her shoulders. Quaraun noted her clothes were torn and dirty, as were her boots and gloves. It appeared she had been running for a while, chased perhaps, and like himself, was looking for a place to hide to escape attackers. Quaraun watched her go.

Finally, she disappeared around the corner. Quaraun frowned. That was strange. Why had she fled? Who chased her? What did she see?

It was quiet now. No sounds at all. The still silence of the chilly night air filled the room. Quaraun closed his eyes and rested his head on the table. He fell asleep. For how long, he did not know. Minutes? Hours? He could not tell.

A sudden bang made Quaraun jump up wide awake.

“Who goes there?!” someone shouted.

Someone laughed.

Someone else spoke. The words muffled. Quaraun could not make them out.

Quaraun stood up and grabbed his daggers.

Footsteps sounded in the hallway again. Coming closer. Closer. Quaraun held his breath, not daring to make any noise. Whoever it was, they were almost here and there was no place to go. No place to hide.

Another bang. This time, Quaraun jumped. He nervously clutched his daggers. Whoever it was, they were getting close.

“Who is there?” the voice repeated.

Quaraun remained still and silent.

A figure stood in the corridor. A man. Wearing a dark cape with a hood. He held a knife in one hand, blade outward, and a torch in the other. No, two men, both in dark hooded capes.

The first man gestured with one hand for Quaraun to follow him.

“Come here!” he yelled.

Quaraun hesitated for a moment.

“Oh, it’s you, Quaraun,” said the second man. “I thought it might be someone from town, or bandits from the woods. Can’t trust no one these days, you know? But I guess it’s just the three of us then.”

“Do I know you?” Quaraun asked.

“Me? Ha ha!” he laughed heartily. “I’m so stupid! You’re the Elf I was told about, right?”

“How should I know?”

“Well, I’ll tell you something, Elf. We’ve been following you since we left the village today, and we gonna catch your tail and drag you back to the village and lock you up good.”

“Wait, what?” Quaraun stood, feeling very confused.

“I’m not one of your people, eh?”

“Uhm... no?”

“Just some poor unfortunate soul wandering around this hell hole. I have nothing in my pockets, so how am I going to pay for food and drink if I can’t find the money somewhere?”

“You don’t have a wallet?”

“Nope. Need money to survive now, don’t we?”

“You’re a bounty hunter?”

“That I would be.”

“You plan to turn me in for the reward money?”

“I do.”

“If money is all you need, I have gold I in my purse. I can give it to you now. You can pretend you never saw me and just let me pass.”

“Oh, no, I can’t do that. Wouldn’t be right.”

“Why not?”

“Well, you see, it’s like this. I’m the additional guard of the castle, see? Can’t let someone like you escape my first day on the job, now can I?”

“I suppose not.”

"Stop lollygagging and move."

With hesitation, Quaraun picked up his things, pocketed the book titled “The Dark Side of Camelot”, and followed the castle guard and his companion.

The two guards led Quaraun down the halls of the castle until they reached their destination, a hallway leading to a stone staircase, leading up a tall stone tower.

"There it is Rapunzel," the guard said pointing to the tower.

"Rapunzel?" Quaraun asked.

"You're hair."

"I understand the reference. I don't understand what it is I am looking at."

"Your tower. With only one door at the top of the stairs. A tower, taller than your hair. I don't doubt you can grow your hair long enough to climb down with it, but it'll take you a few decades. And by that time we will have found the princess without you getting in the way."

"You intend to lock me in a tower?"

"Oh yes. Fitting for one with hair like your's, yes?"

As they walked through a winding hallway, they came to an area that resembled a cross between a hospital and a dungeon. 

It was lit with torches and hung with iron bars. There were cages filled with people screaming in pain, some injured as well. They passed a young boy sitting by himself against one wall.

"Ignore them," the guard said to Quaraun. "They're not there. You didn't see anything."

"I didn't?"

“No. And besides. I got a princess to find. Up to your tower like a good little fairy tale waif with cursed hair, now will you?”

“Princess?” Quaraun recalled the blond woman he had seen only moments ago. Was she the princess of whom these men spoke? Quaraun was more interested in finding his ghostly undead soulmate than helping these men find their princess, though it did occur to him, that helping them, could get him out of his current situation of being tossed in prison. "What sort of girl is she? Is she an actual princess?"

“Yep. She went and run off again." 

“What sort of princess needs being guarded for, by men like you?”

“The kind that makes kings weep with jealousy, of course!”

"Ah! Of course. Now why didn't I think of that?"

The tall man, who was presumably the captain of this castle's guardsmen, leaned forward and whispered conspiratorially in Quaraun’s ear. “She’s a sorceress."

"Is she?"

"Um-hum."

"So... she's a sorceress?" Quaraun mulled this thought over in his mind. A sorceress would certainly explain several of the strange, unnatural happenings of this day.

"Aye."

"Aye?"

"Yep."

"No, you said, aye."

"Same differance."

"Are you Scottish?"

"Nope."

"Than why use a Scottish word?"

"Why you interrogating me over a silly word?"

"Words are not silly."

"Says who?"

"Says me. I say."

"And what right have you to say?"

"I'm a Di'Jinn. We use words, true meanings of words, to power our spells. Bad things happen when you use a word and use a modern slang meaning and not the word's original true meaning. Words are very important. Never say they aren't."

"I'm the guard here. You're the prisoner. Now shut your trap, before I shut it for you, ya hear?"

"Yes."

"Good."

"But you said this princess you are looking for is a sorceress, can you tell me more of that?"

"You know," the taller guard added, his tone now hushed again. "If you wanted me to tell you the story of how her parents died, fighting dragons and she was whisked away by Griffons, I would sit my ass right down in that chair over dair and do so, eh?"

"But it wouldn't be what actually happened to her would it?" Quaraun understood the man was being sarcastic.

"No. It would not."

"Than why would you tell me it?"

"What part of I am the guard here. You are the prisoner. Now shut your trap, before I shut it for you, do you not understand?"

"I got the impression if you was going to hit me you would have just done it outright and not told me beforehand, so I'm thinking you don't want to hit me at all, in which case I am lead to believe that it is perfectly safe for me to continue talking to you."

"Arrogant one, aren't you?"

"Yes."

"You admit it?"

"I know what I am, no reason to hide it. Just accept my flaws and continue on with life. That's all any of us can do. Besides, I prefer to be honest in all things. Less things to try to remember, if you always just speak the truth about everything, yes? Tell me, this sorceress, is she dangerous?"

"The Daughter of Vengeance she is."

"The Daughter of Vengeance? I believe I've heard that before."

"Yeah, that's her name. And she hates me for no reason at all."

"Does she now?"

"Don't even get me started on what she gone done dids to the other guys in town."

"Other guys? What other guys? There is no one in town, except a crew of bandits, which I think she killed. The rest of the village is deserted."

"Aye. That do be me point." 

"Now, come on, will you? Be a good evil sorcerer and come along nicely."

"I'm not an evil sorcerer."

"You're Quaraun the Insane, aren't you?"

"Yes. But I'm not evil."

"Yeah, yeah, we heard it before. The super villain is always the hero in his own story. Come on. We got a nice prison cell for you. Then I can get back to catching the princess. We don’t want her getting caught by the enemy now, do we?”

“Who is the enemy?”

"Don't you know?"

"Know what?"

"Have you been living under a rock?"

"Apparently. Tell me what it is I don't know."

"About her?"

"Who?"

"Didn't you read the letter I wrote to Lady Janna?"

"Who?"

"Lady Janna."

"I haven't the foggiest idea what you are talking about."

"The letter, Elf. Where is it?"

"What letter?"

"Hah! I knew it!"

"Knew what?" Quaraun felt very confused. Though the guard looked like a Human, he was talking like a Faerie, and Quaraun was having trouble following the fast pace Faerie-style logic of not saying everything and changing topics very quickly. BoomFuzzy had always done that, BoomFuzzy being a Faerie, and so Quaraun had often been left clueless to half the things BoomFuzzy talked about.

"It's from the book," the guard continued.

"What book?" Quaraun asked, as he followed the guard up the tall spiralling stairs, leading into a very tall stone tower. While the second guard walked silently behind, jabbing his finger into Quaraun's back every time Quaraun stopped walking. "Will you stop that!" Quaraun yelled as he spun around and slapped the guard behind him. "That hurts! I'm not trying to escape, now poking me!"

"Now, now, Njord!" the leading guard called down, "Stop poking his ladyship."

"I'm not a ladyship!" Quaraun snarled.

Quaraun was in fact a female JellyFish type Thullid, living as a male Elf, so he was using male pronouns, though he was biologically a she and not a he. With this in mind, Quaraun took great offence to being called by any female pronouns, ladyship included.

The guard had continued up the stairs, but seeing how Quaraun had stopped walking, he turned around and made his way back down to where Quaraun stop. By the time he made his way back to Quaraun, Quaraun was now yelling at Njord, threatening to kick him down the stairs.

"You don't take to being a prisoner very well, do you?"

"He's stepping on my hair!" Quaraun screamed frantically.

"Ah. Yes. I do forgets about ya hair." The guard stared down at the stone steps, where Quaraun massive mess of twelve foot long glossy, slippery, silvery white hair, trailed down the stairs behind him, and the second guard, Njord, was standing on the tresses. "Njord, his ladyship has requested you stop stepping on his hair."

"We should just cut it off," Njord said. 

"NO!" screamed Quaraun as he pulled his hair closer to him, winding it up on his arm like a rope. "You'll kill me if you cut it! I'll bleed to death!"

"Hair doesn't bleed," Njord laughed.

"Mine does!" Quaraun shrieked hysterically. "I would bleed to death if you cut it."

"Hair doesn't bleed. . ."

"Mine does," Quaraun repeated again, fear filling his voice now.

"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."

"Aye, that's true," the guard captain stated. "I remember that. Him were sick for years after hims hair were cut. Him almost died."

Quaraun gently pulled up a handful of hair and ran his gold armoured fingers across the scarred ends. The hair withered, wriggling away from his touch. Moving as though it were alive.

"You have, magic hair?" Njord asked. "It just moved on it's own. I saw it."

"Magic? No. Not magic. Well, I guess by your mind, you would see it as magic."

"But it bleeds?"

"Yes. And it hurts when you step on it. The nerves are sensitive."

"Nerves? In your hair? Scars on. . . but. . . you can't have wounds on your. . . you hair. . . Hair. . . doesn't. . . hair doesn't bleed. . ." Njord stopped talking and watched Quaraun's hair as it moved. Slithering around him, like a massive pile of thousands of tiny, wiry snakes. He 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?"

"What are you?"

"I'm a JellyFish."

"A JellyFish? You're joking."

"No."

"These are 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 glossy and silver and look like hair. I already said this."

"You hair isn't hair."

"No."

"That's. . . I don't know what it is. That's why you never cut it? It's actually part of your body?"

"Yes."

"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, Njord saw that the hair nearest the ground had grown stiff, rigid, and was lifting his body up into the air.

"I was once overpowered by my attackers and they shaved my hair, I was left bleeding to death, as my blood drained from the thousands of severed tentacles."

"That. . . must have hurt."

"It did. This cutting of my hair left me in agonizing pain for months, and while, like any JellyFish I can regrow my severed jelly-limbs, it takes 30 years for my tentacles to grow back!"

"Thirty years?"

"Yes!"

"That's a long time." 

"During that time I had to make the claim that I could no longer cast magic."

"Why?" 

"Without my hair,  I can do nothing. I am a cripple."

"Cripple?"

"Yes. This Elf. His legs are lame. The Hanging Tree left me crippled for the rest of my life."

"I'm sorry."  

"Are you?"

"Yes." 

"No one ever is."

"Sorry?"

"Yes. For hurting me. Everyone hurts me. They think it is fun."

"Has no one ever not hurt you?" 

"No. No one but BoomFuzzy. He took care of me. That is why I did not die. I meet him the same day they cut my hair. He saw I was hurt. Injured. I lived with him in the gingerbread house, those thirty years, while regrowing my hair. He was kind to me, when no one else was." 

"No one is ever kind to you?"

"No. No one."

"Ever?"

"No. Never. Not before. Not sense. I've no one who cares about me. No one who loves me. BoomFuzzy was the only one. And now he is dead and I am alone."

"Why has no one ever been kind to you?"

"I'm seen as a monster. No one ever makes friends with a creature like me. No one ever tries. No cares if I live or die. I have no friends. My family was murdered. I am alone. I went into hiding, citing that my hair is the source of his magic powers. So my enemies would not know how helpless I was without my hair."

"Is your magic abilities connected to your hair?"

"The truth is far deeper than that, though. The Elf's body is weak and in frail health. I rely heavily on my stinging, strangling tentacles to survive. My Elf's body is badly injured, with a lame leg, and I can barely walk with the Elf's legs. I move with my hair, most all of the time, carefully wearing these long skirts to hide my feet, hiding the fact that I'm actually walking on my tentacles and not on my feet." 

"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."

"Are you also able to use your hair as a weapon?" 

"Oh yes. When threatened, and feeling I have no other way to escape, my hair takes on a Medusa-like life of it's own, lashing out at my attacker, either pulling them away, or wrapping around them."

"Can you kill people with your hair?"

"I can. I have. When confronted by life-threatening situations, I have been known to use my hair to strangle my attacker to death."

Quaraun glided back to the ground, and gently sat himself back down on the stone steps of the tall spiralling staircase. His hair slithered around, coming to rest snuggled around his body as if protecting him, hugging him, and keeping him warm.

"Being a JellyFish, similar to the Portuguese Man of War, my tentacles are full of highly toxic venom and I can also sting my enemies to death. But, with my hair-tentacles cut off, I can barely stand, let alone walk. And I hide the fact of my being a JellyFish from most people. Only people I strongly trust know that I am actually a JellyFish. Thus why the claim that I can not use magic and must go into hiding, after my hair is cut. Cutting my hair is cutting off thousands of arms and legs and causes me serious injury. It takes a long time to heal with ninety percent of your body is sliced off and chopped up."

"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."

"They are."

"How do you walk?"

"I manage. I rarely use the Elf's feet or legs. It is why I wear long full shirts with ruffled trains. The skirts hide the fact that my legs are not being used and rather I am gliding over the ground, using my hair to move instead. 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. So, I live in this Elf and get by the best that I can."

"Okay," the captain said, clapping his hand briskly. "Enough abut your jelly-hair. Up the stairs. Up. Up. Up! We can't spend all day focusing on you. We got a princess to capture too you know. We already lost her once today. We can’t lose her again, right?”

He turned to Quaraun and said: "Here, have a book. A favourite of mine. You can read it in the tower, now move ya pretty lil' ass up the stairs before I kick it up there!"

They continued the long walk up the tower stairs until they finally reached the top, where stood a single door. The guard pushed through the large oak door with a large key and held it open for Quaraun to walk through, while holding the torch aloft. Quaraun entered cautiously. 

As soon as he stepped inside, Quaraun found himself in a small, dark room. 

A small, dark, empty room.

The only thing in the room was a single small oil lamp on the floor and a rusty iron bed beside it. 

Nothing else. 

There was a large barred window on the far side of the room and a small barred window on the wall opposite the bed. Quaraun sat down on the bed.

"You carry a whole house full of gear in that little tiny bag of yours, what's bigger on the inside, so we figured you didn't need any decor in here. 'Cepting a bed. I know you ain't got no bed in your pack. You just sleep on the floor on a pile of furs."

"How do you..."

"So there's a bed. Nice soft mattress and everything, in case you decide to go all princess and the pea on us. Decorate this room to your heart's content, Rapunzel. This is your home now."

"I'm not Rapunzel."

"You're hair says otherwise."

"I am Quaraun, The Pink Necromancer. You already know this."

The guards did not respond. Instead they huddled in the corner talking about the missing princess and now completely ignoring Quaraun, as if he wasn't there. 

Quaraun looked down at the book the guard had handed him: "Differences in the Courtship Rituals of the Bugbear and the Ogre" said the title.

"THIS is good reading? For who?"

Quaraun flipped through the pages. This book is very clear mostly due to the excellent, well-planned chapters and because of the well-done illustrations. This clarity allowed one to determine that the book had very little useful information, and was nothing more than pornography intended to show off the genitals or ogres. Quaraun didn't know whether to be horrified or mesmerized by the lewd illustrations. Though flawed, one can definitely see that the contents contained some original thought. It was easy to determine that this book was extremely informative on the genitalia of ogres. Examining the book, Quaraun found informative pieces of paper with notes commenting on informative information in this oddly informative book. Quaraun placed the book on the bed wondering why the guard would own such a bizarrely useless piece of trash.

Quaraun got up off the bed and went over to the window. The tower was impossibly tall. Too tall. Many hundreds of feet tall. No man made tower could support this height. Clearly this tower had been built by magic. A magic prison, for a magic mage. Quaraun suspected the tower had not been built at random and had in fact been built, just especially for him. But by who? And why?

The dizzying height was making Quaraun nauseous, so he moved away from the window and sat down on the bed once again, and contemplated his situation. And then pondered it some more.

Quaraun realized that no one here cared enough to question him. That felt odd. And the guards seemed to already know everything there was to know about him. No. One guard. The captain knew him. But how? He could not remember seeing such a Human before. Njord on the other hand clearly did not know Quaraun.

Njord stood by the door, looking bored. The other guard, was hoping around like he was high on drugs that made him hyper.

It seemed they both expected Quaraun to do something. 

Quaraun looked around the room. It felt... familiar. Like de ja vu. The sensation that he had been here before. Nothing looked familiar though. The plain, bare stone walls were covered with dust, decades of dust collected on the stone floor. Rust stains dripped down from under the bars on the windows.

After several minutes of silence, Quaraun glanced over at the castle guard. He whispered to his companion. His voice carried easily to the Elf. Quaraun strained to hear what the guards said.

"... he feared her more than anything!"

"Who? The Magician of Destruction?"

“... and so we got to wait until tomorrow night to take him. The princess comes first and if she’s not back by morning, well, it’ll be hard finding her. I can tell you that much...”

"She has to come back! We need the spell book! She took it! Without it..."

"Yes. Yes. I know. We will find her."

"We? Don't you mean YOU?"

"Yes. I will find her. Don't worry."

"Sure, right?" Njord said sarcastically. "She'll turn up. Don't worry. We won't lose track of her! We fucking already lot her once! You know Capt' we really don't have the slightest clue where she went. And now we got Pink Rapunzel here to deal with."

Their whispers continued drifting across the room, floating by on the icy fog of the cold night air. Quaraun was lost in his own thoughts now, though and no longer heard what the two guards had to say.

The cold was bothering Quaraun. It was bothering him a lot. This morning he had woken up in his tent, with a nice warm breeze, chilly, yes, because of the nearby ocean, and the depth of the valley, but still warm none the less. He was good at reading the weather, and all the signs of the wind and the clouds and the birds and the trees said that this entire week was going to bright, warm, and sunny. And why shouldn't it be? It was mid-summer after all. Even here in the North, they had months without snow. Months with green grass. Months of planting seeds and tending crops. And yet, it was so cold now, that ice crystals were forming on the stones of the wall and floor. A glace of ice, was growing up the metal posts of the iron bed. Winter was crouching in on them.

No.

This was not winter.

This was a Lich frost.

A Lich was nearby.

Very nearby.

Likely standing in this very room.

Quaraun looked back at the guards.

The ice on the walls was thickest there by the door, near where they stood.

One of those guards was a Lich.

Quaraun watched the guards and listened as they spoke of the missing princess and their desperate need to find her, but, noted that they seemed in no hurry to leave the door and actually head out to look for her. That too seems to Quaraun, very odd.

Something was not right here.

None of this was right.

Quaraun got up off the bed and moved to the other window this time. Looking through the small hole, he could see the castle's courtyard below. 

Nothing was alive.

There were no people.

No movement.

The same as it had been in the deserted village earlier.

Not even any animals.

No birds.

No frogs.

No crickets.

The only living thing outside, that moved, was the mist. The slowly swirling mist of shimmering frost crystals, freezing everything it crossed.

Glazing the outer walls of the castle with fuzzy frost.

Castle? 

No. 

From here he could see it was not a castle, but rather a very large grey granite manor, shaped like a horseshoe. A large stone manor, with two long stone wings running from either end. The courtyard in the middle between the two wings. A grove of apricot Lich trees, growing around a glass conservatory, and overlooking a white marble water fountain.

Apricot Lich trees?

No. It can't be.

Quaraun squinted his eyes to better see the rocks lining the paths. Not rock. No. Gumdrops. Fences made of peanut brickle. Lemonade in the fountain, not water.

BoomFuzzy.

It was BoomFuzzy's garden, which grew candy behind the gingerbread house.

The gingerbread house?

Was this the gingerbread house?

Quaraun looked down at the rust stains under the window. He touched it. It gave way to his touch. Spongy and soft. It wasn't rust on stone. It was the gingerbread, showing through it's stony illusion.

The Twighlight Manor? It can't be. But it is. He knew it was. He'd been in it before. But that meant... BoomFuzzy. Thais was BoomFuzzy's gingerbread house. 

Quaraun looked back at the guards.

BoomFuzzy.

The guard. Not Njord, but the hyper one. Had he not said he remembered the day when Quaraun's hair had been cut? And was he not the source of the ice on the walls? That guard was BoomFuzzy. 

Or rather, BoomFuzzy's Lich. 

It had to be. 

There was no other logical explanation for any of this.

Quaraun was now more confused than ever. For if this was BoomFuzzy's ghost, BoomFuzzy's Lich, and BoomFuzzy's haunted gingerbread house, than why the charade? 

Why hide from Quaraun who he was? 

Puzzled and confused, Quaraun made his way back to the bed and sat down on it once again. This time he lay down on the bed, his gold armoured fingers crossed over his chest as he stared up ar the stone ceiling and watched the ice crystals as the living frost moved and spiralled along the stones.

The bed didn't feel as comfortable as it had before. For now the oppresive weight of worry, bore down on him. As did the silence. The guards had stopped talking and now stood silently watching Quaraun as he lay in silence as well.

Quaraun laid quiet for a while, trying to puzzle things out in his mind, trying to figure out how the hell he had ended up here, and how BoomFuzzy could possibly be here.

Quaraun tried to remember the last few days, but it was all a blur. He couldn't remember anything before walking up in his tent with that strange dog and it's pet rabbit looking at him.

He couldn't remember anything of the last few days.

He couldn't remember anything of the last few weeks.

He couldn't remember anything of the last few months.

He couldn't remember anything of the last few years.

He couldn't remember anything of the last few decades.

He couldn't remember anything of the last few centuries.

His mind simply went for BoomFuzzy's death to the deaths of his own children to the night he woke up in the tent looking face to face at that strange looking dog.

 Still laying on the bed, Quaraun turned his head towards the window and took a deep breath. Then another, then another. His chest rose and fell slowly, and he began to feel calmer, his heart began to calm down, his mind calmed down, and his confusion began to ebb away into the darkness of unconsciousness.

He closed his eyes and fell asleep once again.

Quaraun woke up to the sound of someone knocking on the door. He opened his eyes and looked around the room. He was alone. The guards were gone. How long had he been asleep?

Quaraun got up and walked over to the door. He opened it and saw a young woman standing there. She was wearing a dark blue dress, her long blond hair cascaded over her shoulders.

"You!" Quaraun said, recognizing the women he's seen being chased by the bandits. The same woman he saw again in the cellar reading room.

"Shh! Not so loud," she said."The guards don't know I'm here."

"You've changed your clothes."

"What? Oh. Yeah. Forget about that. What are you doing here?"

"I'm supposed to meet my sister, here," Quaraun answered automatically, forgetting his sister was dead. "Have you seen her?"

The blond woman shook her head. "Nah, not since yesterday. But what are you doing here in this tower?"

Quaraun shrugged his shoulders.

"I don't know. Maybe I wanted to sleep some more, like Sleeping Beauty. Sleep for a thousand years while I grow my hair out even longer,, long enough so I can climb down out of this tower."

She looked at him skeptically, uncertain if he was being serious or not. Which he was. Quaraun was always serious, and he was contemplating sleeping here in the tower for a thousand years and growing out his hair even longer. Being a pure blooded Elf he could slow down his heart rate and go into a comatose, meditative state of deep relaxation. Elves often did this when they were injured, as a way to heal themselves, growing back new limbs, removing scars. It was why Elves were always young and beautiful and devoid of scars or missing limbs.

"I thought," the blond woman said. "That you were supposed to be n your tent down by the river."

"I was in my tent, but than I fell asleep and ended up here."

"Oh. Right. Well, you want me to get you something? A book maybe?"

"A book?" Quaraun smiled and nodded. "Oh yes, please. Yes that would be nice. I like to read. And I was looking for a book."

"Alright. Here you go." The woman handed him a book.

Quaraun looked at the book she had placed in his hand: "The History of Essential Summonings" Quaraun flipped through the pages and found inside some personal notes, in an archaic tongue, unrelated to the book, scattered throughout the book. Along with bookmarks marking informative information. This book was of above-average clarity thanks to the good diagrams. A short look at the book showed that it was reasonably useful. Especially the chapter on Liches, which was of particular note to Quaraun. Quaraun looked up intending to thank the woman for the book, but she was gone and the door was closed and locked as it had been before.










Quaraun leaned forward, resting his elbows on his knees and his chin on the palm of his hands. His brow furrowed. The last time he had seen the princess, she was with him. Wasn’t she? If that was her. He couldn’t be certain, as he was a stranger in this town. He did not know the royal family. As the two guards talked, Quaraun wondered what the girl’s name was. Was she a prisoner? He couldn’t recall there being any processes here in America. Why were they chasing her? Did she run away? 

“It’ll be our fault if she escapes,” one guard said.

“But he won’t come out unless the princess is there. So if he doesn’t show, then what?”

The castle guard chuckled. “Well, then we kill him.”

Silence followed.

After a moment, the companion spoke some more."What if the princess has a mate? Huh? What then? Tell me that. What if she didn’t get out on her own? What if someone helped her escape?"

“Like who? She doesn’t know anyone around here.”

“What about that necromancer over there? He showed up right after she ran off, didn’t he?”

The guard looked at Quaraun.

“That’s true. Maybe the girl knows him. Maybe she meets him somewhere.”

“Maybe so.”

They both glared at Quaraun, wondering if the old Elven necromancer had helped their princess escape.

“Hmmm, maybe not. I’m not so sure anymore.”

“Me neither. I mean, look at him. Old man can barely walk. Drags his leg and leans on a cane. You think he could scale that wall and get her out?”

“But what if he did? Necromancer, you know? Maybe he can fly.”

“Necromancers don’t fly.”

“Even so, maybe he can help us find her. Use magic to lead us to her.”

Silence followed for a few moments as the guards eyed Quaraun suspiciously.

“He showed up right when she escaped, though, didn’t he?”

“Yeah. He did.”

“Maybe he took her than sat around waiting for us. Maybe there are others in on it with him. I’ll bet they helped her escape while he sat in that room waiting to be a distraction for us, to give her time to get out of here while we fussed over bringing him here to the prison cell.”

Quaraun shook his head, no.

“Yeah, probably not. But you’ll help us catch her, won’t you?”

“Will I?” Quaraun asked.

“You will.”

“Why?”

“Because you’’re a necromancer and you’ll be executed for practising dark magic. But maybe if you found our princess and brought her back to us, we could forget where we put the key to this here prison cell and you could just walk on out of here.”

“I’m the world’s most powerful wizard,” Quaraun said."What makes you think I couldn’t just walk out of here right now?"

“He knows where the princess is,” the companion said. “I can feel it. You can see it in his beady eyes.”

“I don’t have beady eyes,” Quaraun said. “I have eyes that are fine and clean and blue and clear as cut crystal.”

“I can feel her too,” the guard ignored Quaraun’s comment about his eyes. “Can’t you feel her?” He asked Quaraun.

“No,” Quaraun replied. “I cannot feel her anywhere near me.”

“Yes, you can. I can feel her and you know why? Because I know you can and I can feel what you are feeling.”

“How could you possibly feel what I am feeling?”

“Don’t talk nonsense,” the companion said."Just tell us where she is. It;s a lot easier to keep the keys if we have her in our hands, isn’t it?"

“Keep the key?” Quaraun asked. “What are you talking about?”

“Come on, come on! Come with us! Let us take you to our princess. Then you can tell us what is wrong with her and why she isn’t home yet and where her other little friends are.”

“I don’t believe you,” Quaraun said. “I don’ believe you or your story about a princess. This is America. They don’t have princesses in America. Something is not right here. Not with any of this.”

“Oh! Yeah, sorry,” the companion said. “She needs to be returned to us or we might just go crazy.”

“I think you already went crazy. None of this makes sense.”

“That old man will probably kill us for taking her and then try to kill us for kidnapping her.”

“Kill you and then kill you again?”

“Oh, yes!”

“You’re ghosts, aren’t you?”

“The old man wants her there by morning and we’ve lost her.”

“Old man? What old man?”

“The old man, of course! But enough about that. Your little friend the princess, she left her keys.”

“She did?”

“She did!” the guard exclaimed. “So, do you know where she is or not?”

“I don’t even know who she is. You haven’t even told me that much yet.”

“Or, tell us, should we go looking for her?”

“I don’t know. How should I know?”

“We can’t find the key anywhere. Do you have anything special, like a talisman or a spell or any kind of magic that will let us find the key for her?”

“He don’t know how to do magic. Look at him. He’s only an Elf. He wouldn’t know what kind of magic would open the lock.”

“We Elves are more likely to know magic than you Humans and you already know I am Quaraun the Insane, The Pink Necromancer, the world’s most powerful wizard. Of course I know magic, but give me one good reason why I should help either of you?”

“No, no, no!” scolded the castle guard. “Don’t upset the old mage. We don’t know where to find her. We need his help.”

The guard turned back to address Quaraun. “We have to find her. You’re a sorcerer, aren’t you?”

“I am a necromancer.”

“That’s the same thing, isn’t it?”

“No,”

“Well, it’ll have to do. Do you know where the keys are?”

“What keys? I don’t even know what you two are talking about.”

“Oh, dear.” The guard paced around the prison cell, stopping to stare out the barred window. “Where would she have hidden them?”

The two guards left the prison cell, talking about searching the rooms for the key. A few hours later, they returned, stating that they had searched all the rooms and found nothing.

“We will ask our friend the necromancer,” the guard said as he entered Quaraun’s prison cell once again. “You, Necromancer! Where is our princess?”

Quaraun sighed and leaned back. “There is nothing I can tell you.”

This continued throughout the evening and into the next day, with the guards continuing to leave, search the castle, then return to report to Quaraun that they had found nothing.

Quaraun could easily have escaped his prison cell at any time, but so bemused was he by these two ghostly guards and their bizarre pursuit of this mysterious princess, that he decided to stick around and see if he couldn’t figure out more of what was going on.

Quaraun suspected these guards were part of a curse, as was this castle, for Quaraun was certain the castle had not been here the night before.

No. He was sure of it.

The night before, he had entered this strange village to find its farm lands deserted, it’s houses empty, and a group of bandits attacking him, chasing him. H’s run into a farmhouse to hide, and somewhere along the line, opened a bedroom door which had led down to a cellar. There he had read a few books, only to be interrupted by the woman, he could only a assume to be the escaped princess. After which these 2 guards appears and lead him upstairs, where the door no longer led to the farmhouse bedroom, but instead opened into this castle, where he now sat in its prison cell.

“There is strange magic at work here,” Quaraun said to himself. “And where there is magic, there is a mage behind it.”

He picked up the book titled “The Dark Side of Camelot” once again, opened it, laid it on the bed in front of him, and stared blankly at the open page muttering the line: “I have always liked stories about knights who fight the evil sorcerer, Merlin.” to himself a few times.

“I wonder? Could this be a spell book? And a clue?”

The guards were arguing again. Quaraun watched the pair through the bars as they stood together in front of the prison door.

“Interesting. The room keeps changing. That was an oak door last night. Now it has bars on it.”

As the sun began to set on this Quaraun’s second night in the prison cell, a loud crash, sounded from outside the dungeon. The two guards ran from their post at the door.

Quaraun glanced towards the door, then back at the book. He closed to book and placed it face down on the mattress. He took a deep breath and listened, waiting, but no further sounds could be heard.

Suddenly, a ghostly visage of a woman appeared in the room. Her hair glowed golden. A pale green mist surrounded her. She raised her staff in front of her and chanted words Quaraun could not understand. He tried to speak to the lady, but no sound came out.

And then, as quickly as she had appeared, she vanished.

Just then, Quaraun heard the cell door open. The two guards tumbled in, each carrying an oil lamp. They placed their lanterns on the floor and looked around the room, then stared at Quaraun.

“What was that?” one guard asked Quaraun.

“What was want?”

“We heard a sound in here.”

“I heard a sound too, but it came not from in here. I heard a crash coming from outside.” Quaraun pointed to the barred window as he spoke. “The crash came from out there.”

One guard looked out the window.

“I see nothing but trees. And a tree down across the gate. That must be what we heard. Wait... I see something.”

The other guard rushed to the window.

“What did you see?”

“I saw ... something. It was moving fast. And carrying a white light.”

The other guard scoffed. “So what? You saw a white light. That means nothing.”

“No, there was more. The light moved like... like ... flames.”

"A fire? There is no fire. This place is cold and it will get colder still and soon."

"I was like a fire though."

They looked out the window again. Nothing seemed to be out there. The only thing visible were some trees in the distance.

Quaraun spoke up.

"Burning did you say?" Quaraun asked.

"Yeah. Like fire."

"That could be important," Quaraun started to say, but was unable to continue the rest.

"That means nothing!" Snapped the first guard. He left the window and marched up to Quaraun. "Do you know where you are?"

"A strange village?"

"Stop being crass. What is this place?"

"This? This is a prison."

"Yes. It is. And we are the guards and you are the prisoner and you don't talk unless we say so, you hear?"

He stomped back to his companion still by the window.

"Fire you say, eh?

"Yes."

"Blue flames..."

"What are you talking about?"

"A white light, like hot blue flames. Like flames."

"And what exactly are those, eh?"

"I don't know. a Will O the Wisp maybe?"

"A will O the Wisp?"

"Yeah."

"You read too many fairy tales. A Will o the Wisp, eh? So what exactly are those?"

"I don't know. But they come from up there. From beyond the mountains."

The first guard shook his head.

A long pause followed as the two guards scanned the area.

Quaraun stared at the open and now unguarded prison door. He suspected, if he so choose to do so, he could walk out the door right now and neither guard would notice. However, he was intrigued by the overall mystery of this place, so sat on the bed, unmoved.

Finally, the guards returned to their post. Their conversation resumed with some comments about how Quaraun should be grateful for his safe haven, but how he was lucky to be caught, and even better to still be alive and imprisoned in the first place.

They talked about their plans for Quaraun, how he must be treated. They didn’t seem to realize the real meaning of what they were saying to Quaraun.

The next morning, the men returned to Quaraun. Once again, they demanded answers and Quaraun gave them none.

Then they left.

Two days passed as Quaraun awaited the return of these two men. Each day they returned multiple time to question him. Interrogation by both men. And through this, they learned nothing from Quaraun, but Quaraun in turn learned much from them.

Quaraun learned quite a bit more about this town and it's residents. The people lived here surround by forests that were surrounded by mountains, and they believed witches and ghouls came down from the mountains at night to haunt them.

As Quaraun lay alone and quiet on the rusty iron bed, listening for voices or footsteps in the hallway, he thought over what he had learned.

He knew something was wrong with this place, this world. This realm? He had a feeling he was no longer on Earth. Magic and sorcery filled the air. 

The king, the queen, the court mage, and a local witch had all gone missing one each week, one after the other. Out of fear, the guards had locked the princess in the tower, hoping it would save her from going missing as well. But than, on the day of Quaraun's arrive the princess had escaped, and was now missing as well. Than the Will o the Wisp appeared in the village. But still, something was wrong with this castle. Something magical. He could feel it. Something was very wrong with this kingdom. And very wrong with it's people. They were wraiths. Ghosts of some sort. He felt certain of this. He suspected these people were trapped in a curse, lost in time. But why? Why would someone want this place and everyone who lived in it gone, separated from Earth?

Quaraun did not have an answer for any of it. All he could go on was what little he had seen and what little he had heard from his two scatterbrained guards.

Quaraun closed his eyes. His mind wandered back to the day he had arrived here. Think. He had to have noticed something. Something out of place. Something wrong. But no. Nothing. He could think of nothing.

One thing he did notice however were these guards themselves, seemed exceptionally odd. 

Just then, he heard it. Footsteps. 

Running. The sound of someone running down the stairs outside of his room. The sound coming closer. Closer. The cell door flung open and there she was again. The woman he had seen his first night here. Her eyes were wide with terror. She looked around, scanning the room, eyes searching every corner. Her gaze fell upon Quaraun. She took a deep breath, released it, than took another. Slowly she approached him. She took another deep breath as she slowly walked towards him, and Quaraun wondered if she was about to faint. She seemed to have trouble catching her breath, as though she had been running very far and very fast and only just now stopped to catch her breath. Finally she sat beside him, legs crossed.

She opened her mouth to speak to him, but than said not a word. She then jumped off the bed and ran frantically to the window. Something outside frightened her and she ran back to the bed and jumped on it. Quaraun slowly got off the bed. He walked around to the other side to see her face.

"Are you okay?" He asked.

She looked up at him, shaking.

"Who are you?" She asked. "Where am I?" What happened? Who are you?"

"My name is Quaraun, and I don't know where we are. I'm not sure how I got here myself. One minute I was in a farmhouse going downstairs to the cellar and next minute I'm in the dungeon of a castle. I think the door at the stairs must have been a portal."

She got off the bed again and crept slowly to the window. She peered between the bars. Then she turned towards him.

"Quaraun?"

"Yes."

"I think I've heard of you. You're a necromancer, right?"

"Yes. I am."

"I think... I think..."

"Yes?"

"I think we are trapped in a book."

"A book?"

"Yes. I was reading a book about Camelot and suddenly I was hear. I think the book is cursed."

Quaraun pulled the book about Camelot out of his bag.

"You mean this book?"

"You have it?"

The woman rushed forward and tore the book from Quaraun's grasp.

"Oh! It is! This is it! Where did you find it?"

"I saw it laying on a table in the farmhouse. Picked it up and started reading it. You ran into the room right after that. Than two guards showed up and brought me here."

"Quaraun, my dear friend, lease, you must help me."

"Friend? We are not friends."

"But you are a wizard, are you not?"

"Yes."

"Than if this book, truly is cursed, you could break the spell, couldn't you?"

"I don't know. Maybe. I'd have to know more about the curse and the mage who cast it."

"Merlin!"

"Merlin?"

"Yes. Merlin the evil sorcerer. He cast the curse."

"How do you know."

"He must have."

"But how do you know?"

"Well, who else would have done it?"

"But, the Merlin I know is not evil, nor is he a sorcerer. If he cast the spell, it was not a curse, it was made to stop something evil from getting out."

"Evil? No. No! You got it all wrong. See, he wanted someone to go crazy and kill every one for killing his wife."

"Morgana?"

"Yes."

"You suggest that someone murdered Morgana?"

"Of course!"

"First I heard of it."

"Maybe the book has something to do with the magic being used."

"Hard to say."

"A spell he set to prevent anyone who was good from getting out and stopping him."

"Stopping him from what?"

"He needs power."

"For what?"

"How should I know?"

"Maybe we can ask him?"

"Maybe."

"What about the guards?"

"What about them?"

"They didn't take away the book?"

"No. Obviously."

"Then maybe they know something."

"Maybe. Maybe we should talk to them first."

"No!" The women seemed horrified by this idea.

"Why not?" Quaraun asked.

"Why should they tell us anything?"

"Why wouldn't they?"

"No. No. We need to talk to Merlin. He's been trapped here since the beginning of time."

"Well, maybe someone in the village can help us?"

"With this kind of magic?"

"What kind of magic is it?"

"Well, you know, anything really."

"Anything, eh?" Quaraun's suspicions were rising.

"Yes. Anything."

"Like what?" Quaraun asked.

"Like... oh ... I don't know."

"Why would Merlin need power. I think that's the important question here."

"I don't know. Why does he want to protect people? Why does he keep them safe? What does any of that mean for him? Why does he want to kill people? Why will he kill more people?"

"And what makes you think Merlin has ever killed anyone?"

"Because he said so."

"Really?"

"Yes. And now look at you. Look at the state you are in."

"I'm doing quite fine, actually," Quaraun said. "I've been catching upon my rest and my reading. Do you really think I'm trapped here? I can walk out of this prison any time I want to. I'm the world's most powerful wizard. The magic in this place if barely a piffle."

"Barely a piffle?"

"Yes. It's minor magic at best."

The woman took a deep breath once again, trying to calm down before speaking to Quaraun again.

"Look at yourself, I've never seen you like this."

"Never seen... you don't even know me! Nor I you,"

"You're locked away in a prison cell."

"I'm fine. I think of it as being off on holiday."

"You're not fine."

"Why are you trying to convince me of it?"

"He is evil!"

"Is he?" Quaraun wasn't sure he liked this woman. She sounded as though she fully believed Merlin to be evil and yet, Quaraun knew Merlin was not evil at all. Something was wrong here. Something was very wrong and he didn't like it at all, not one bit.

"I'll give you some examples." The woman reached down a pulled a knife from her boot."There is Morgana. There is Gwen. Consumed by his lust for power, and in a desperate bid to secure more resources, Merlin made a pact with the most powerful dark forces of evil: Himal Kedar. He has promised to destroy all the homes of the people and give Himal Kedar a decisive military advantage over them if only the dark forces would lend him their armies to conquer the lands of the valley!"

"What are you talking about?"

"Himal Kedar lives in a world of dragons, demons, and monsters."

"I know who Himal Kedar is. His hair rivals mine. He's a mage from Tibet." 

"These dark creatures constantly war for control of his land, leaving the few human kingdoms in the shadow of a dark and powerful force. But now, the kingdoms of man are fighting back, slowly assembling an army to reclaim their world!"

The woman stared wild eyed as she said these words, still clutching her knife as she spoke.

"I think you have taken too much of something. Ergot seeds perhaps?"

"You are Quaraun, a male half-demon sorcerer living in the town of Belthazzar in the kingdom of Szrahdori."

"I'm what? I'm not a demon, I'm an Elf." 

"You are a prodigal mage who seems to be afraid of something and is fearful of doing magic."

"Well, I suppose that's true... wait... what are you talking about?" 

"You are a skilled alchemist who has developed a special compound that increases a soldier's melee attack by 25% for a period of three hours."

"No I didn't." 

"You have become a respected member of the local militia."

"No I haven't. I hate military and fighting and wars and battles and weapons."

"What do you do?"

"What?"

"Tell me what you are going to do?"

"I'm going to finish reading this book and than find a way to escape from this tower, and look for BoomFuzzy's Lich, like I was doing before I meet any of you."

"What? No, you ain't playing along right!"

"Playing along? What?"

The old wizard looked at the women in silence, and than shook his head in disappointment. 

"Sorry," he said "Magic is a dangerous game, even for an Elf half-demon Thullid like me."

The woman stared at Quaraun in silence.

Quaraun sighed, and then said: "I really need to finish reading my book."

"Very well. I will leave you be," the woman said as she left the room.

The wizard turned back to his book and decided to read until his mind is filled with knowledge.

Quaraun laid on his bed. Closed his eyes. His mind wandered back to the day he had arrived here. Think. He had to have noticed something. Something out of place. Something wrong. But no. Nothing. He could think of nothing. Nothing at all.

A soft rapping at the door pulled him from his thoughts. He rose and went to the door. Swinging it open, he saw a dark-skinned man in a black robe.

"BoomFuzzy?"

The man smiled and said: "It's been a long time, Quaraun."

"BoomFuzzy?"

"You know me?"

"Why wouldn't I? I've been searching for you for centuries."

"Oh, I wasn't questioning your knowledge," the man said. "But I was curious as to whether you still knew me."

"I love you. I'd never forget you. You are my only love, my one and only."

"I love you too."

"I know."

"Why are you here?"

"Here?"

"In this tower?"

"To slay a dragon," Quaraun said.

"Oh?"

"No. That's not right. Something's wrong. A curse. I think a sorceress has cast a curse on this valley. It's messing up my ability to remember things or to even see things clearly."

"Oh, I've known of a few curses in my day, but nothing like this. You must take this to the Dark Lord. If anyone can break this, it's him."

"The Dark Lord? Who is he?"

"The darkest of the dark. Dark Lord."

"Dark Lord... Is he the guy with all the tentacles?"

The man's eyes widen, then he spoke again: "Not ZooLock. No. HellBorne The Summoner of Darkness."

"Not ZooLock?"

"No. HellBorne."

"What about The Daughter of Vengeance?"

"I knew her. She cursed my father's soul. It's her. Go to Kai. He needs to know."

"Who is Kai?"

But there was no answer.

BoomFuzzy was gone. Quaraun wondered if he had ever been there.

When Quaraun woke up the following morning, he looked out the window to discover the landscape had changed. The Twighlight Manor had moved. No longer in the lush green valley, no longer overlooking the deserted farming village, the huge haunted house had gotten up during the night and dragged itself to the  base of Fire Mountain.

Fire Mountain, in Pepper Valley. Home to King Gwallmaiic, the Elf Eater, leader of the Lich Lords. The frozen, blue crystal skeleton, whom in life, had been Quaraun's lover: BoomFuzzy the candy maker and gourmet chef.

The courtyard and its undead apricot trees still sat to the back of the building as it always did.

"Why are we at Fire Mountain?" Quaraun pondered out loud.

Quaraun looked up at the sky. "Oh my!" he explained.

The sky was no longer there. A huge blue, cut crystal glass bubble, a dome, a magic sphere, sat down over them. Quaraun spent several minutes examining and contemplating the shimmering cut crystal overhead. 

"We are in a glass bottle," Quaraun said. "Oh dear! We are in a genie bottle. This is very bad. Who would do this? Who even could? Di'Jinn magic is rare. And the Di'Jinn are dead, save me, and maybe ZooLock."

Seeing how there were no guards at the door once again, Quaraun decided to see if he could get outside and take a look at Fire Mountain up close. It was, after all, BoomFuzzy's home. If he was going to find anything that would help him resurrect BoomFuzzy, it would be here, wouldn't it?

To his surprise the door was unlocked. There were no guards outside either. Looking down the stairs of the tower, the tower no longer seemed so very tall. So it took him not nearly as long to get back down to the bottom as it had taken him to reach to the top.

Quaraun stood at the front parlour of the manor house, looking outside. He decided on the easiest was to go about entering the volcano's underground castle, then slowly snuck out of the Twighlight Manor. Though it appeared he needn't have been so cautious. There was one gate on the ground level, and it was neither barred nor guarded. There had been no guards anywhere around the tower or the courtyard either.

Once outside of the castle, Quaraun made his way to the edge of Fire Mountain and set out to looking for the entrance into the palace he knew was in the lower levels of it's cave system. He hadn't gotten far when he spotted someone else. 

They were running away from a group of black shapes. Quaraun quickly started to follow their lead. They seemed determined to escape.

At least until one of the black shapes stopped, whipped around and ran directly at the person, knocking them off balance.

Quaraun tried to determine what the black shapes were, and they appeared to be large birds, or perhaps small dragons. They were too far away for him to be certain.

A few moments later a black bird with blue crystal eyes flew at him, cawing angrily.

"What? Arrgh!" Quaraun screamed as the bird flew at him, clawing at his hair with his talons. Then as suddenly as it had appeared, the bird flew away.

"Damned bird," Quaraun muttered as he pulled out his silver hairbrush and began smoothing his shiny whit tentacle hair back into place. "Wait. Isn't that the same bird that attacked me before? How odd. It is stuck in the gene bottle as well, I suppose."

Quaraun looked down the road again, hoping to catch sight of any sign of the other black creatures attacking the other two people. But they appeared to have disappeared now. Both the mysterious crystal birds and people they were chasing were now no where to be seen.

Quaraun looked up at the stars, and the sky was a dome of blue above him, and he felt the cool night breeze running through his hair. He turned south and started walking down the road.

Quaraun carefully made his way closer to the mountain once again, scanning the roads and paths along it's edge, looking for see if one went inside the mountain through some doorway or tunnel.

Quaraun heard a noise behind him. He looked back down the road to see a new figure approaching. A different person, not one of the two whom had been chased by the crystal birds. This figure was smaller, a Dwarf or a Gnome perhaps, and coming towards Quaraun, very slowly, approaching with caution. Oddly, they were holding a glowing white stone above their head. They appeared to be in a daze or trace, walking without seeing, zombie-like.

Quaraun was about to continue on the road south when the figure caught up to him. He was shorter than Quaraun, but broader across the chest.

The being saw Quaraun and screamed out in a language Quaraun had never heard before, neither Gnomish nor Dwarven, gibberish words mixed with grunts and shrieks. He raised his arms up to shoulder level, still screaming, still walking very slowly. 

Quaraun thought he saw a glimpse of long white fingers, like a bog mummy's, hanging down from the being's arms.

Quaraun watched the strange not-Gnome. Quaraun decided to help the poor man. He is clearly a stranger to the area, as was Quaraun.

Quaraun approached the not-Gnome and said in Elvish: "Hello, little brother. Do not scream such a strange words.  May I help you?"

The creature made no response, continued screaming out strange words, and attempted to reach Quaraun. The not-Gnome drew his broadsword, a common Dwarf weapon, and said: "Go! Run!"

"What is it you are doing here?" Quaraun asked.

"Get away from me!"

"But why?"

"Please! Go!" the not-Gnome begged, pleading at Quaraun. His eyes were wild, terrified, and desperate.

Quaraun stepped forward.

"Don't come near me!" The not-Gnome held the sword in both hands, pointing the blade forward at Quaraun. In doing so, he had let go of the glowing white stone, which now remained in place, floating a few feet above the not-Gnome's head. The not-Gnome's eyes glowed a vivid purple colour.

"Please! Get away!" the not-Gnome said, his voice becoming deeper and more sinister. He took several steps towards Quaraun.

"Tell me why!"

"Go!"

"It's all right," Quaraun said, slowly backing away. "I'll not hurt you. I meant no harm. I'm on your side. I just thought you looked tired, carrying that big stone and need help. I meant no offence."

The strange being continued to scream and glare at Quaraun.

It took Quaraun a while to realize that the creature was laughing. It was an unpleasant, grating sound, like a cross between a lion's roar and fingernails scratching on a chalkboard.

Not knowing what else to do, Quaraun decided to introduce himself.

"My name is Quaraun. Who might you be?"

"Njord," the creature said.

"Njord? Is that your name?" Quaraun asked, but the not-Gnome said no more.

He continued to stand, glaring at Quaraun, his eyes still glowing a lurid purple. This time, he reached for his sword. But the glowing stone remained above his head, and he could not grab it.

Njord's eyes glowed brighter. The purple colour darkened even more, becoming a deep purplish red colour, turning nearly black.

His face became longer and more pointed, his snout elongated, and his teeth appeared, sharp and deadly. Quaraun could feel his fear.

A low growl, rumbled from Njord's throat.

"Forgive my presumptuousness," Quaraun said to the not-Gnome. "But you see, I'm afraid I am lost. I do not know this area. I was asleep by a mountain stream leading into the valley, then I woke up in a deserted farming village, and two men locked me in Rapunzel's tower, and than I woke up here, and I'm all so very confused, I do not know how to get back home. You don't think there is any chance you could help me, is there?"

The not-Gnome considered Quaraun for a long, silent moment. He snorted once, then began to scratch at his neck.

"You know, it is quite rude to not speak when spoken too," Quaraun stated.

Njord shook his head and replied: "No. No. No help for you. No help for anyone! Go home! Find a place where no one knows you. Don't stay here too long. Be gone, gone, gone!"

Njord began to run, shouting and screaming incomprehensible words. Quaraun knew so many languages of so many races, he couldn't understand how it could be that he couldn't understand Njord's words. The creature rushed away from Quaraun, his head down and his long arms pumping.

As Njord passed, Quaraun noticed a small black bird with sparkling cut crystal eyes, sitting on Njord's shoulder. Whispering into Njord's ear. Quaraun began to suspect that Njord was just a puppet, controlled by the strange crystal bird.

As he watched, the bird flew into Njord's ear, and Njord screamed, as blood sprayed from his ear. He began to run away from Quaraun, screaming.

"What are you doing?!" Quaraun shouted at the bird.

And then Njord turned the corner around a corner.

He vanished.

Quaraun waited for a few minutes, but the not looking back didn't reappear. Quaraun walked further up the street. He wondered if Njord would ever return.

Then he felt something touching his shoulder. He reached up and grabbed hold of what he thought was a cobblestone, but when he pulled away it was a shrivelled up and almost completely dry skin.

"Argh!" Quaraun screamed and threw the lump of dried skin as far away from himself as he could. 

Quaraun looked around. There was no one else.

The dried skin began to crumble.

And Quaraun screamed again.

The piece of flesh rotted before his eyes, maggots formed and crawled over it. Then the horrid thing turned to dust and blew away in the wind. Quaraun stood there, staring at the empty space where the vile creature was a moment ago. His heart was beating wildly and he was sweating.

This place was strange. Full of magic. Dark magic. Wild magic. Faerie magic. He would have to be careful. It would never be wise to fall into a Faerie trap, of this Quaraun knew for certain. He had heard too many tales of innocent Elves getting caught by the cruel and bloodthirsty creatures that dwelled in the Forest of No Return.

He looked around for the Faerie Stones or Fey Crosses or mushroom Faerie Rings. He knew if Faeries were in the area, they would have built a sacred circle of some sort, some place they could stand and not be seen.

Then something caught his eye. Something lying in the dust. Something he didn't recognize. Something like a rock, only larger. An old, battered looking stone, maybe the size of a fist, but its surface smooth, almost glassy. It lay near some bushes growing beside an old path. It seemed oddly familiar. Maybe he'd seen it in the market earlier this year? He must have. 

Quaraun knelt down to pick it up. He picked up the stone and turned it over and over in his hand. Something was etched on its surface, something that reminded him of two L's back to back. At first glance, it seemed unbroken.

"Hmm..." Quaraun thought. "I've seen this before. But where?"

Then he noticed something sticking out from underneath the thing. A piece of cloth. A dark, grey cloth.

Quaraun reached out. His hand touched the cloth. The fabric felt warm against his skin. Like fine smooth, soft satin silk.

Quaraun moved his finger slightly, touching another part of the fabric underneath. Something hard, and round.

His finger traced a shape. A symbol. Something Quaraun recognized.

A star. He recognized it from somewhere. "I know!" Quaraun said to himself. "It is a symbol that was carved on the forehead of one of the skull's in BoomFuzzy's gingerbread house. The skulls that..." Quaraun paused, his voice quivered. "The skulls that he used the day he turned himself into a Lich. The day BoomFuzzy died."

Quaraun felt sick, his stomach churned. He took a step backwards.

"You shouldn't have done that," a voice whispered aloud. 

Quaraun stood up and looked all around but there was nothing. No one. No where.

"They shouldn't have died," the voice continued. "He deserved to die. Look at what killed him. That monster's power has driven him mad! He should have stayed dead! You shouldn't have brought him back!"

Quaraun looked down. The grey stone was glowing. A low rumbling came from inside it.

"It is time to choose, Elf." the voice boomed from inside the stone.

"Choose?" Quaraun asked, looking up at the sky, still looking for the source of the mysterious voice. "Who? What? I do not understand. Please. Explain yourself."

"Do not let your fear of death drive you to do this, for death will follow you no matter your choice."

"I don't understand. What do you want from me?"

The stone began to glow brighter, brighter, hotter, and then it melted away, leaving behind a pile of ash and bone. A windstorm picked up and blew away all the sand from the road, exposing the bare stone ledge of the cliff.

A carved skull appeared on the ground before him. The star on it's forehead, matched the star which was carved into the stone, ledge ground. On each point on the star on the ground, hovered yet another glowing stone. Quaraun slowly backed away. As he did so, the skull lifted up off the ground and followed him, the five glowing stones doing the same.

The skull turned into blue crystal and hovered before him at eye level. 

"Go ahead," it said. "Make your choice."

Quaraun looked down. The road was now filled with a sea of bone ash and dust, swirling around him, faster and faster, bubbling up from the ground all around his feet.

"What magic is this?" Quaraun asked. 

"Choose!"

"Choose what? I don't know what you mean. I don't understand what you want me to do!"

As the wind whipped the dust into his eyes, he could see the crystal turning a deep shade of blue. 

"You are our Maker," it said. "You are a servant of the Dark Gods."

"I serve no gods, dark or light. I AM a god! I am the Sacred Pink JellyFish. People worship me, not the other way around. It is YOU who should kneel at my feet!"

The blue crystal began to spin, swirling the bones and dust around it, faster and faster, faster than Quaraun could blink.

"Make your choice," it said.

"No!"

"Choose!"

"I refuse!"

The swirling stopped. A bright blue crystal grew out of the swirling, hovered before Quaraun, and then turned into a young girl.

"Who are you?" Quaraun asked.

"I am the Angel of Death," she said.

"You look like a girl."

"I AM a girl. But I serve the Dark Gods."

"What do you haunt me?"

"I am Death. I am the bringer of death."

"Your words mean nothing to me," Quaraun said.

"You are The Pink Necromancer. You speak to the dead. You speak for the dead. You steal my dead from my Swamp of Death."

The girl began to laugh, her face twisting and contorting as she did. A Jack-o-Lantern's head began to form where the little girl's head should have been, her arms stretched outward, longer, twisting, spiralling, turning green and sprouting vines. To Quaraun's horror the girl, morphed and melted away, turning into a grinning, Jack-O-Lantern headed scarecrow.

"No!" Quaraun said, stepping back, away from the scarecrow. "No! That's not how it works! That's not how it works! That's not how it..." Quaraun closed his eyes and put his hands over his face. "The Pissed Off Pumpkin Patch isn't real. It's isn't real. It's just a children's fairy tale."

"Is this your final answer?" Death asked.

"I don't know," Quaraun said. "I don't know. I'm sorry. I don't know."

Quaraun's ability to think clearly or rationally, had left him. He felt like he was in a dream, but he knew he wasn't. He knew that Fire Mountain was surrounded by The Forest of No Return. A Fae Forest filled with dark magic, trickster Fae with morbid illusion. He had to steady his mind. Focus. Focus. Focus! But on what? What? The skull! The skull was real. It was a relic belonging to King Gwallmaiic. The skull was real, everything else was not. Real... real...

"It's not real," Quaraun said. "I'm not going to die. I'm not going to die."

"Is this a magic doll?"

Quaraun opened his eyes. The little girl was back. She was holding what appeared to be a black magic doll in her hand. A burlap doll, with button eyes, and red and yellow headed pins stuck all through it.

"Perhaps," Quaraun answered.

He took the doll from the girl's hand to get a closer look at it. But he, should have known better than to do that. As soon as he touched the doll, the girl's voice broke out into a demonic, haunted cackling glee.

"You are such a fool, Quaraun," the girl said. "Look at me. Look into my eyes. Do you see the truth? I am Death. I am darkness. I am the night."

"You are not real," Quaraun said to the girl.

"I am as real as anything you will ever meet in this world or any other."

"You aren't here! You aren't real!"

Quaraun closed his eyes. When he opened them again, the girl was gone. On the ground at his feet sat the blue crystal skull. Perched on the skull, was a black bird with blue crystal eyes. It cawed at him, then flew away, leaving the skull behind.

Quaraun bent down and picked up the skull.

"This is why I've avoided so long, coming to Fire Mountain. The Faerie Magic is strong here. Wild Fae are everywhere. This close to the mountain, one can trust nothing he sees or hears."

Quaraun put the skull in his bag, and continued on his way around the base of the mountain looking for a way to get into the tunnels beneath it and find King Gwallmaiic's under mountain palace.

Quaraun continued his way to the mountain, and as he walked, every plant he walked past, uprooted itself and started walking along behind him. Every flower. Every bush. Every shrub. Every tree. And every time Quaraun turned to look behind him, they all instantly stood still, pretending they were not following him.

"Fucking trees," Quaraun muttered under his breath. "You ain't fooling no one."

He quickened his pace, hoping to lose the trees. After another short while he sat there, panting from running through the dense forest. He stared up at the canopy above him, watching its shifting shadows dance across the ground. They created strange shapes, like twisted snakes, or giant mushrooms, or the faces of creatures he would never know. It frightened Quaraun to look at it, though he couldn't quite tell why.

The forest around Quaraun grew darker and colder with each passing minute. The temperature dropped even further, making him shiver in his thin silk kimono.

The path Quaraun walked on, grew narrower and narrower until it was nothing but a rabbit trail through the grass, and whittled away to nothing.

"Damn it! Now where do I go?"

A young pine tree scampered on ahead and pointed all of it's limbs to a narrow cliff, leading around and up, the side of the mountain.

"Thank you," Quaraun said to the tree as he took a deep breath and continued onward.

His soft sueud soled silk slippers were not made for travel on dusty, untraveled mountain trails like this. His found barely any footing for his cane, and dug his shoes into the ground as he stepped, terrified of slipping and falling off the edge. 

There was no ledge, no rockfall, just bare, sandy dirt, and tiny little pebbles, trickling down the side of the mountain, with each step he took. His heart quickened as he glanced down and saw there was nothing, but a sheer drop to his left and straight up to his right.

With his heart pounded, he kept going and walking. The trees got taller, but there were no birds. No insects buzzed. Even the smell was different up hear. Cleaner. Drier. Far less oxygen than Quaraun was used to. He felt dizzy and light headed.

Quaraun stood up and looked at the cliffs in front of him. It went up and up and up and up and up, so far up, that he could not see the top of it. 

Behind him were trees. Lots and lots of trees. All stil pretending they were not following him, every time he looked back to see if they were still there. Big ones. Pine trees. Old growth. Mast trees. Great for ship builders. Not so great for people who didn't like to be lost in the forest.

Fire Mountain. 

Here it was. 

A tree branch moved in the wind. Someone was watching him. Quaraun spun around quickly, but found only himself facing more trees. In fact, it was more tress than had been there a few minutes ago.

"Fucking Faerie forest. Can't even trust the trees not to sneak up behind you and kick you off a cliff."

His pale blue eyes darted side to side, anglicizing every movement of every tree. This was definitely The Forest of No Return. He could tell by the fact that several trees had uprooted themselves and were walking around, pacing back and forth, stretching their legs. Roots? Who knows? A couple of the pine trees blinked their eyes and showed their fangs, while a weeping willow slowly inched its way around to the side, trying toget behind Quaraun.

"I see you," Quaraun snarled at the willow tree. The tree immediately rooted itself and pretended to be a normal, ordinary, not enchanted Faerie tree.

When nothing more happened, Quaraun relaxed. Still standing alone in the woods, at the base of Fire Mountain. No one to talk to. No one to ask for help. No one to yell at. Just him an these fucking trees that wouldn't stop following him.

"Hello?" Quaraun called out to the trees.

The entire forest stopped moving. Pine trees, oak trees, maple trees, birch trees... they all stopped walking and stood stiff, pretending to be normal trees.

The air around Quaraun grew colder. Frost crystals began forming on the pine needles below his feet. His breath grew frosty and cold, freezing in the air before his face.

"Lich," Quaraun said, as he looked up at the sky and watched the deep cerulean blue miasma mist swirling through the clouds over the tops of the enchanted trees. He frowned. "BoomFuzzy. Always near. Always watching. Always separated. Always apart."

Quaraun turned back around and stared at the mountain before him: Pepper Valley's infamous Fire Mountain.

He looked around again, hoping for some signs of civilization. Something. Anything. A bridge. A road. A building. A path even.

Nothing.

The trees continued to loom over him, dark and menacing.

"Oh, fuck off!" Quaraun yelled at the trees as they got too close to him. "I'm not scared of you. Now get out of here!"

The trees took several steps back away from The Pink Necromancer.

Fire Mountain.

Maine's ancient super volcano. 

Long dormant. 

One of four largest volcanoes in the world. 

The volcano rumoured to have been so devastating the last time it erupted, that it caused the Ice Age and killed every dinosaur on the planet, by blanketing the planet in ash, preventing the sun's warm rays from reaching the surface and causing instant mass flash freezing of the entire planet. 

Or so say the scientists who study such things. Quaraun was not in the habit of studying volcano, so he knew nothing of Fire Mountain other than a few random passages he had been told.

Quaraun had heard of Fire Mountain many times. Tales of it swarmed through myths and legend. 

But this was his first time ever seeing it. He'd never been here before. He wasn't sure what to expect.

A volcano, so big, so deep, and so ancient, that it was rumoured to contain the world's last surviving dinosaur. A huge, viscous black scaled, fire breathing dragon.

Somewhere there was an entrance. A way inside. And then a way down. But where? How in the Hell does one get into Fire Mountain, to even start to look for the under mountain palace of King Gwallmaiic inside?

The trees began moving closer once more and with a sigh Quaraun continued forward, onward, and upward, up the side of Fire Mountain. He would find the entrance into Fire Mountain, even if it took him days, weeks, months of searching. He hoped it wouldn't take so long.

Quaraun sat on the ground. He was weak and hungry and thirsty and tired.

"I wish I could just find the entrance into Fire Mountain," he muttered to himself, quite forgetting that he was a Wizard of the Di'Jinn order and knew better than to ever star any sentence with the words "I wish".

Just then a large fortified gate, appeared. Quaraun stood up and stared at the huge cast iron fence, that stood around a stone archway. A 1920's neon sign, with art deco neon lights, stood over the entrance blinking the words: "Entrance!" in friendly purple letters, while bounding neon light purple puppies wagged their tails below the word.

"Oh good god, what have I done?" Quaraun questioned as he realized he's made and granted his own wish.

"Congratulation! You my friend have found the entrance to Fire Mountain!"

Quaraun turned to see who had spoke and found himself face to face with a dark skinned Faerie, dressed like a ringmaster of a big top three ring circus.

"Oh no!"

"Oh yes!" The Faerie took off his top hat and made a magnanimous sweeping bow at Quaraun's feet, than perch the hat on top of his wild mess of dreadlocks once again. "Aren't we a lucky one?"

"Never. No. I have no good luck at all. I have terrible luck. Especially when it comes to Faeries. I am not a lucky Elf."

The Faerie kissed Quaraun's nose, then spun around and pranced to the gate. "Of course you are. We are always so lucky. Lucky. Lucky. Lucky!"

There was a loud POUF! And the Faerie disappeared, leaving behind a large pouf of purple smoke.

"Damn you," Quaraun said as he made his way to the iron gate.

As Quaraun get to the gate, he saw a dark skinned Asian solider, with long salt and pepper grey dreadlocks blocking his path. Quaraun tried to walk pass the Faerie but immediately, sharp spears grew up out of the ground, all pointing toward Quaraun and blocking him from going in any direction.

"Ah, uh, uh! You shalt not enter. You only wished to know where the entrance was. You didn't wish to get inside."

"Will you stop it!"

"No, no, no! Wishes not carefully word are prone to backfire you know."

Quaraun glared at the Faerie. The solider had glowing blue eyes, made out of gemstones, and wore a cloak made entirely of black feathers. On his fingers where nails should have been, great glossy black talons grew instead.

"You're a Phooka!" Quaraun gasped. "Oh my."

The solider laughed.

"Well don't just stand there gawking at me," the bird man said. "You are in the presence of the Griffin King. Move aside boy."

"No."

"No?"

"No."

"Why not?"

"I must get into the mountain."

"Really?" 

"Yes. Really."

"Why?"

"I have a renegade Lich to catch."

"The one you used to keep locked in a bottle?"

"Yes. He escaped. I wasn't done with him."

"Oh, my, my, my, my, my! Deary me. PoooooOOOOoooor wee lil Necromancer done gone un lost hims Lich?"

The Phooka fell on the ground laughing. When he did all the trees that had been following Quaraun, likewise fell of the ground and rolled around laughing.

"Are you done?" Quaraun snarled at the Faerie.

"Oh, no! Of course not!" The Phooka bounced back up to his feet. "Why would I be? I have so many much lots of time to torture you, remember?"

"Yes," Quaraun answered dryly. "I do seem to recall, being made immortal by a wish gone wrong."

The soldier stared at Quaraun.

"Oh, you're not going to cower in fear of me, are you?" the soldier asked.

"No reason to. You're just a psychotic Phooka."

"Just a..really? Just a Phooka? Is that all I am to you?"

"Just a Phooka."

"I feel I should be insulted." The Phooka looked past Quaraun to the trees. "Be insulted, boys, will you? I don't have the patience to do it myself."

The trees immediately started stomping around in circles looking as insulted as trees could make themselves look.

"So, I'm just just a Phooka, eh?"

"Yes. A psychotic Phooka with a lot of Psychotic trees at his command."

"Do you not like my trees?"

"You're trees are annoying, as they always are."

"Mighty bold of you to say as much."

"Not really, no."

"How so?"

"I've dwelt with Phookas before."

"Have you now?"

"Yes. I have. You KNOW I have. I have to keep putting up with you every few decades, don't I?"

"Oh pooh! You're not being any fun."

"You are dead, why should I be having fun?"

"We are the most fearsome race of all of Fae. No monsters are more feared than we."

"Yes. I am aware of this, but you see, I am Quaraun. The Pink Necromancer. As you very well know."

"Pink? Let me guess," the soldier said, pointing at Quaraun's robes. "You're a Flower Faerie, and this is why you're wearing pink. Am I right?"

"BoomFuzzy! I am an Elf. You know, I am an Elf"

"An Elf? Really?"

"Yes. Do we have to go through this every time you pop up!"

"Well, let me think... why YES!"

"Why?"

"Because you are a Necromancer."

"So?"

"I am dead."

"Yes. I noticed that. I'm trying to fix that."

"Ah yes. And how is that going?"

"Well, let me think... oh yes... you are still dead."

"I'm a Lich, Quaraun. Not much you can do about that."

"You don't have a physical body."

"Yes, let me see, that would be because I am dead. Being incorporeal kind of with the territory."

"Are you going to let me in the mountain?"

"Uhhhhhhhhhmmmmmm....... no."

"No?"

"Nope."

"Why not?"

"My, you're a lil one, aren't you?"

"I am short," Quaraun said, "for an Elf. Stop changing the subject."

"Indeed. You're not very tall," BoomFuzzy said. "But you're not very little, I've seen shorter, and that's good enough for me. Are you thirsty? I have water. You can have some if you want."

"One must never accept food from Faeries."

"This is not food. This is water. And I am not Faeries. I am your BoomFuzzy. You'd think you could trust me by now, I've been haunting ya bony lil ass for the past seven centuries."

"You being, BoomFuzzy, is EXACTLY WHY I can't trust you. No can trust you. You'd stab your best friend in the back if you thought you could get a laugh out of it."

"You ARE my best friend."

"That's exactly my point."

"You are thirsty. Here."

"It could be bottled dust for all I can tell. Faeries never offer real food."

"Not even for a shiny red apple?"

The bottle of water, he held in his hand, was now a shinny red apple. Quaraun smiled, and the soldier smiled back. Quaraun took the apple. 

"There, you see?" the soldier said.

Quaraun threw the apple off the cliff.

"Yes. I do see. I am Faerie Sighted. You tried to offer me a maggot filled rotten apple core."

"But you are hungry and so too are I. But you can eat and I can not, for I am dead and you alive."

"I am not hungry. Only you are hungry. Here, I shall give you the apple core." Quaraun stretched out his gold armoured hand and the rotten apple core appeared in the palm of his bejewelled metal glove. "It is fresh from the garden of the apricot trees in the courtyard below. Eat it. Drink it. And live forever with me."

"If only that were possible. I seem to be lacking a physical body."

"It is possible. I will make it so, if that's last thing I ever do."

"You are the Elf who believes in love. That love survives all. Even death."

"I am."

"Your lover died and left you alone."

"Yes. You did."

"And now you wander the world in search of his missing soul."

"I do. And it would be easier to find a cure for you if you would stop jumping out of your bottle and running away. Every minute I spend looking for you is another minute I don't spend trying to build you a flesh body."

"But you murdered his other lover."

"Gibedon. Yes. I did. I killed Gibedon."

"Why?"

"Gibedon was going to kill BoomFuzzy. He was plotting wit Finderu to overthrow the throne. They were going to kill the King in his sleep. I had to stop them."

"Even though you knew King Gwallmaiic loved him."

"Yes. BoomFuzzy loved Gibedon, not me. I am so sorry I broke his heart. He killed himself a few days after I killed Gibedon."

"Apology accepted," the soldier said. "Now let us go inside, inside this mighty fortress we call home. We'll eat and drink until our bellies ache, till the sky falls in, and then we sleep the sleep of death."

The Phooka opened a massive stone door in the side of the mountain. Quaraun stepped inside the door and immediately it vanished, along with the gate and the solider, and Quaraun found himself standing on the dark cliff, overlooking a deep, ominous looking hole in the ground.

"Just remember, wishes come with consequences," BoomFuzzy said as his vanished once again.

"What consequences? BoomFuzzy what did you do this time?"

Quaraun waited for an answer but got none.

BoomFuzzy was gone again.

"A house wizard dispatches Quaraun to retrieve arcane and mysterious information that only the Thullids possess. A powerful magic item is said to be lost in the ruins of the ancient city," Quaraun said to no one in particular. Largely because there was no one around to talk to. 

Legends told tales of a mysterious mountain, which could appear out of no where, whenever and wherever it pleased. Much the same as The Twighlight Manor did, the same too as The Forest of No Return did. Not surprising as all three were places BoomFuzzy lived and building himself enchanted homes, seemed to be a talent of his. 

The mountain. The Manor. The forest. Disappearing into the mists from which it had mysteriously immersed, the mountain proved itself difficult to find. 

Normally Quaraun did not take on such risks, but, this particular mountain had been on his radar for a while now. For this, was Fire Mountain, home of The Elf Eater of Pepper Valley. Leastwise it had been his home, centuries ago, when he was still alive.

"What am I doing here?"

Quaraun stood on the cliff, looking down at the gaping black hole. A steam vent, from a long inactive volcano. The ancient, old Elf got down on his hands and knees and peered into the hole.

Nothing

He could see exactly nothing.

"There has to be another way in. A better way in. A way in, that doesn't involve me tying a rope to god knows what and hoisting myself down into god forsaken pits of who the hell knows what's down there."

"I suppose, I could just jump in. If I die I'll just start my life over. Won't I?" The bizarre question was enough, without having to give an exact answer. "How many lifetimes can I live, before I stop reliving the same life over and over again? I never jumped down this shaft before, did I? I don't remember. I've a dragon to get past. Jump it is."

Quaraun woke up some time later. Laying on the floor. Dazed. Confused. And unable to remember, either where he was or how he had gotten there.

"Why am I sprawled on the ground? I am covered in dirt. On my back. Why am I on my back? How did I get here?" 

Quaraun lay on his back, staring skyward into the darkness. At the ceiling. 

Maybe? Is there a ceiling overhead? 

"I can't see. It is so exceptionally dark. I need to sit up. The ground below me is hard and rock like. It hurts. It hurts so bad."

Stiff.

Uncomfortable.

Painful to lay on.

"Why am I laying on it? It hurts. I hurt. I ache all over. Where am I? Why am I on the ground? Gravel and pebbles are scraping my skin through my clothes. I hate it. It hurts. Abrasive sand is tumbling around my toes, inside my shoes. It hurts my feet. It hurts my toes. I have sand between my toes. I hate it."

When Quaraun couldn't remember what he was doing, he took to pontificating to rumble through random words, hoping one of them would spark a memory of what he was doing. 

Failing memory was the worst part of growing old. Quaraun's failing memory often left him waking up confused, not remembering where he was or how he had gotten there. 

This was the case today. 

Quaraun preferred someone to sleep with him, so they could remind him, when he woke up, where he was and what he was doing there. He hated sleeping alone, because he hated waking up and not being able to remember where he had bedded that night. 

Quaraun tried to remember what he had been doing the day before. Walking, but where? He walked so much, so far, so often, that little difference passed from one day to the next. He had been going somewhere, but where? 

Why was he sleeping on the ground? 

Why not in his tent? 

Or on a bedroll? 

And why was it so damned dark? 

And what was he sleeping on?

Dirt. 

A road? 

"Am I sitting in the middle of the road? Why am I sitting in the middle of the road?"

Quaraun strained his eyes trying to see, but it was nothing but pitch black, thick blackness all around. Not a sliver of light anywhere. 

Nothing to cast shadows. 

Nothing but total blackness. 

The only thing that gave him any indication of how far off the road he actually was, was the soft sound of his voice echoing back from all sides. It made the hairs at the back of his neck stand up.

What had happened? How did he end up here alone? 

What had happened to everyone else?

Wait? Was there any one else?

How had he ended up alone?

As much as he tried, he couldn't remember anything before waking up just now. Nothing at all. He wasn't even sure who he was. His mind was a jumble of thoughts and feelings and everything just seemed... different. 

A lot more chaotic than normal. And there were no memories to help explain his confusion. No way to tell if he really knew anyone other then himself.

His chest tightened. There was something heavy inside it, something cold and hard and painful. Something he didn't want to be feeling right now. That's when he realized it was fear. Fear that this place would never end. Fear that no one would ever find him. Afraid for himself and everything about himself.

He swallowed hard, suddenly feeling very alone.

It took him a moment before he felt the first tear roll down his cheek. He hadn't expected them to start, or to come at all. Tears. Why? Why was he crying. He'd lost someone. Someone had died. Someone close to him.

"Why am I sitting in the middle of the road?" Quaraun asked himself again. "How did I get in the middle of the road? What happened? Where am I? What has transpired? I don't remember. Why don't I remember? Why am I outside? Why is it so dark? Is it night? I can't see anything.  Have I gone blind? No. I've lost my sight before. Briefly. After being struck on the head. It wasn't like this. It wasn't black. It was grey. Foggy. With bursts of colour exploding inside my skull." 

Quaraun put his hands on his head and discovered this was a difficult task when one could not see where one's head was.

"No. This is just darkness. But there are no stars. No moon. Where is my moon? Have I fallen into a hole in the ground? Am I underground?" Quaraun reached around blindly until he felt a sod wall, and long tree roots. "Oh! I AM underground! How did I get underground? Have I been buried alive? Who would bury me alive? Entombed beneath the earth."

Quaraun crawled around feeling the ground as he went, trying to feel something he could recognize.

"I can feel dirt and rocks and dirt and soil and dirt and sediment and dust and dirt. And dirt is everywhere. There is so much dirt. I'm dirty. Where is the edge of the trail? Dust is everywhere. And dirt. It's dirt everywhere. Dirt and dirt and more dirt. I can't find any anything. Is there anything here? Anything at all. No. I can find nothing. It's just dirt, dirt, dirt, dirt, dirt and dirt and dirt and more dirt! So much dirt. Why is there so much dirt! I hate dirt. Why does nature have to be so dirty. Why can't it be clean like water?"

Quaraun grew increasingly more panicked the more he found nothing but dirt. As his breathing became laboured, so did his thoughts. 

Thoughts and fears. 

Things were getting more and more out of hand as his panic rose. His breathing quickened as he ran out of air.

"Where is the end? Where is the edge? Where is the edge? Please. Where is the edge? Where is the edge? Where is the edge?!" Quaraun cried as he crawled around in the darkness feeling with his gold armoured fingers for something, anything. 

He stopped for a moment, trying to collect his breath, then continued crawling over the rough dirt. He tried again, then gave up after finding nothing but more dirt.

"Nothing. There's nothing here but dirt and dirt and dirt. Just dirt. Nothing else. There's nothing here but dirt. Where am I? Why did you leave me here? Please. Help me!" Quaraun pleaded.


"Where is the grass? I can't see. I have dirt all over my hands. Why can't I find any grass? I need water or grass. Something to clean my hands! I can't fucking see anything! Why is it so dark? There is no grass. I can't feel any grass. Where is the grass? Why is there no grass? I need grass. I have dirt all over my hands. Why is it so messy? Where is the grass? My hands are covered in mud. I need to clean my hands. I need some grass for wipe this mud off my hands."

"I can feel the dirt, rocks, and dirt, dirt, debris, dust and dirt. And everywhere there is just more dirt. Gravel and dirt and dust. There is a lot of dust. I'm dirty. My hands are dirty. I can feel dirt on my hands. It's drying out my skin! My clothes are dirty. My shoes are dirty."

Quaraun sneezed. 

"Argh!! I have dirt in my nose! I hate it! I hate it! I hate it! I hate it!"  

Where is the end of the road? Dust is everywhere. It's dirty, it's dirty, it's dirty. Is there something here? No. Nothing. I can't find anything. Dirty, dirty, dirty, dirty, not dirty. 

Why is everything so messy? Where is the grass? 

I can't see. 

My hands are covered in mud. 

I need to clean my hands. 

Why can't I find any weeds? Why is it so dark and there is no grass? I don't feel the grass. Where is the grass? 

Why is there no grass? I need hashish. 

My hands are in the mud, not in the grass. 

I didn't feel the plants at all. 

Why do these things keep happening to me!

I didn't ask for this!

Damned stupid ass wishes!

Nothing. No plants. I don't feel the grass. 

I didn't feel the plants at all.  There was nothing green in my arms and feet. 

I can't see. 

My feet hurt. 

Dirt is getting stuck in every single part of my shoes. 

I can't walk, I can't stand. 

Where is my cane? I can't get up without it!

I can't get anywhere by myself. 

Dirt is sticking to my skin and clothing. 

My head hurts. 

I think my brain has been hit with a hammer or something. 

My whole body feels tired and weak. 

I can't see. How can I go home if my eyes are shut? My eyes were open, but now they feel like I have them closed because my whole head feels too heavy for me to lift. 

The pain is almost gone from my legs, though, and that means I should be able to walk without hurting my limbs or making them bleed. I don't think I have any broken bones.

Damn it, BoomFuzzy! You fucking pushed me off a cliff! I remember that much, you wretch! What the fuck is wrong with you? Why did you do that? You could have killed me!

And you know what? You're lucky you're already dead and I 'm too lazy to kill you again! You bastard!

I'm trying to help you get your body back and you are not exactly making it easy for me when you pull fucking jackassery stunts like this!

And now I'm stuck here, under this fucking mountain with nobody to save me anymore. 

There's nothing here, just gravel and dirt and rocks. 

Quaraun's shouting caused an avalanche of rubble, soil, gravel, sand, and rocks to come cascading down from above, much of it landing on top of him.

Damn it!

Why am I trapped under these huge, heavy stones?

No! This ain't right. I have to get outta here. 

If I die down here, BoomFuzzy, I'm gonna kill you over and over again for eternity!

Fuck!

Where is my cane? Why do I always end up in these shit storms. Shit! I gotta find my stupid cane and there's no fucking light down here, I can't see a thing and now I've got a fucking landslid that's probably buried my cane so I can't find it at all now. Fuck this shit!

That avalanche wasn't an accident either was it? This is your idea of a joke, isn't it? You pushed them down here on top of me didn't you?

BOOMFUZZY! I know you can hear me.

Damn it! Damn it! Damn it! 

No! This ain't right. I have to get outta here. 

Fuck!

I need to calm down and breath.

Think nice thoughts.

Calm. Relax. Breath.

Mother's ever loving tentacles.

It's so hot and humid in here. So damn hot! It makes the air so thick I can barely breathe and it feels as if it's getting harder and harder for me to draw air into my lungs.

My throat feels raw and parched from all the yelling I've done.

Damn it! I don't have any water.

I need water desperately, even though I have no idea where any water source might be. 

I'll figure it out later though, I guess. Right now, I have to keep my mind occupied. There's gotta be some sort of light source around here somewhere.

If I find anything, hopefully it will give me directions and make me feel less lost. Even if I do end up being lost in the end, at least my mind will have some peace. 

I'm having difficulty keeping my eyes focused properly. 

I close my left eye tightly and focus my gaze on one spot, then another.

Nothing. Nothing in sight, anyway.

It's just too damned dark down here.

I let my hand drift over and rest upon my forehead.

What was I doing?

Flowers.

Yes. Flowers. I was looking for flowers.

I don't feel flowers. 

I can't feel the trees. Dirty and dirty. And gravel.

It's not just grass. I can't feel any plants at all. Nothing. There are no plants. I can't feel any grass. I can't feel any flowers. I can't feel any trees. It's just dirt and more dirt. And gravel. And I broke a nail. I hate dirt so damned much. Why does there have to be so much damned dirt?

No shrubs grow here. I can't feel any grass.

No ferns. No hedges. No plants. No plants at all.

No foliage. No hedges. No shrubberies. No thickets. 

No briers. No bushes. No grains. 

Why? Where the hell am I?

There are no forests here. No forests. No trees.

No birds or insects. Or any sounds other than my own footsteps crunching on dry, unblemished dirt.

Where is this place? Who made it look like this?

I need a place to call home. But there's only emptiness and me walking in endless circles and not getting anywhere. It's so strange...

But I don't want to be here. I want to find someplace else.

 I don't feel any grass or bushes. No fence. No plants. No leaves. There is no fence. There are no bushes. No thistle. There are no bushes. No grains. No fruit. No fence. No herbs. No vegetation. There is no dike. No weeds. No watercourse. No roses. There are no bushes. No brush. No strawberries, no trees. Neither trees nor seedlings can be found. No seeds. There are no bushes anywhere. Treeless. Treeless. Treeless. Treeless. No trees. No vines. No leaves. There are no banks. 

No berries. No hedgerows. No herbs. No vegetation. No hedges. No under brush. No brushwood. No roses. No bushes. No brambles. No burs.

No trees. I can't find any trees.

No saplings. No seedlings. No timbers. No trees. No trees. No trees. No trees. No trees at all. Treeless. Treeless. Treeless. Treeless.

Where did the trees go?

No vines. No leaves. 

I am not indoors either. 

No floors. No canvases. No chairs. No tables. No benches. No desks. No floors, towels or chairs. There is no table. No carpets. No bed. No bookcase. No furniture at all. Nothing. Nothing. Nothing!

Just dirt. And dirt. And dirt. And dirt. And dirt. And dirt. And dirt.  And dirt. And dirt. Just so much fucking godforsaken dirt.

I am outdoors. In nature. In dirty, grimy nature. 

I should be in my tent. 

Sleeping.

I'm tired of this.

I can't do this any more. How does anyone live like this? Why am I living like this? I can't do this any more. It's driving me crazy.

I should be in my tent. 

My tent! Where did that go? Where is my tent? It is right there! My tent! Where did it go? Where is it? Who took it? Why is it gone? What did they take? Is it still there? 

Who took my tent? 

If anyone comes near my tent, I will have them dead before their legs even hit the ground. If anyone tries to steal from me or steal my tent from me again, I will kill them.

But I don't have anything to steal now.

The tent is in my bag. They stole it. Who stole my tent? Who wants my tent? 

My tent! Where is my tent? Did someone take it too? 

Why does everything smell like dust? Or dirt.

There is no table. No carpet, no bedding. There are no books. There is no furniture. Nothing. Nothing. Nothing, just dirt, dirt left here by God. Dirt that doesn't belong to Him! Dirt that belongs to me! That belongs to all of us. That belongs to the Earth. Earth of the Earth! That's what dirt is! Dirt that belongs to the trees and gives them life! Dirt that belongs to the animals and sustains their existence! To the birds, to the fish, to the bugs, to the worms, to the jellyfish. To me!

Dirt that belongs to me. I am the Grand High Emperor of the Triple Planets. Everything on the Triple Planets is mine!

Dirt doesn't belong to God. It doesn't belong to him. He can't have it. It should not be his! This dirt shouldn't be anywhere near His feet!

I am a god! The one and only! A god, like Him! But why? Why is this dirt mine?! Why has God given it to me?!

Why do people love dirt so much?!

"Why do they need to touch it?" I ask myself.

The dirt is my treasure. Dirt is how I keep my power. Dirt is the source of my immortality. Dirt is how I control the entire universe. Dirt makes everything I touch shine.

Dirt makes everyone else glow too.

"Why does dirt make them happy?" I ask myself.

Dirt makes everything better. It fills your heart with joy, and you know deep down inside you're in a good place. Dirt makes you feel like nothing could go wrong. Dirt makes you feel free.

This is where I belong, floating through space, surrounded by dirt. It makes me happy and peaceful, it makes me forget about all that's going on around me.

This is where I live. Right now.

Where do I live? What do I call it? Where do I go to hide when the sun is beating down from high above the ground and the air tastes like metal in the back of my throat? Is there an exact definition for the name I'm supposed to give it?

He was out there somewhere when we started our search. He was there. He knew. He knew our planet was dying and he did nothing. He let us die. 

And then we found BoomFuzzy. 

He was there and he was alive. 

And then he wasn't anymore. 

Now he's dead. 

BoomFuzzy is dead.

Dead. Dead. Dead. Dead. Dead. Dead!

He's dead, dead, dead.

All gone.

Gone forever.

Just gone, gone, gone.

And left me alone.

Gone, like he never existed.

I should have died in his place.

No cares about me.

No one wants me.

He had friends. He had people who needed him.

No one needed me.

I should have died instead.

And now I'm back here in this filthy, filthy, dirty world. This dirt filled, filthy, dirt blasted dirt, with its stink and its pain. With its misery and its hopelessness.

No. 

I don't remember anything. 

I don't know where I am or how I got here. 

Nothing makes sense anymore. Nothing except that thing called pain. 

So much pain! 

Pain in my leg and pain in my back and pain in my hip and pain in my hands and pain in my head. 

Just pain, pain, pain, pain, pain, pain!

No.

No more dirt.

I hate dirt.

My hands in my hair again. They're wet and sticky and sweaty, with mud all over them. Dry clay and sticky sweat, equals the worst type of mud at all.

Mud in my hair.

Mud on my face.

Thee mud is everywhere.

I hate it! I hate. I hate it!

Its on my clothes and all around me. Everything is dirty and gross and I just want to get away from it. I don't want this. I want BoomFuzzy back.

I just want to be with BoomFuzzy.

I don't want anything else.

BoomFuzzy is gone to Hell and I'm left here on Earth.

This of not Heaven.

No.

This is the opposite of Heaven. 

The opposite of Heaven. The opposite of Paradise. 

The opposite of Heaven. The opposite of anything. 

This is not paradise. This is Hell. Hell. Hell. Everywhere.

This is Hell. Where everyone who dies lives forever. 

Forever and ever and ever and ever.

Hell, where no one has happiness. No one has peace. Where death is never truly rest. Where pain remains for eternity. Where no one has hope or purpose or joy. This is Hell. Nothing but Hell.

Hell is made of dirt.

Dirt.

Dirt, dirt, everywhere.

EVERYWHERE!

Nothing. Nothing. Nothing, just dirt, dirt left here by God. 

Dirt, dirt everywhere. 

Everywhere. 

All over me. 

On me. 

Staining me. 

Drying me. 

Drying me out. 

Drying me out, all over. A

ll around me. 

Soiled.

Soiled.

Soiled.

My pink silks are soiled.

Dirt on me. Mud. Sand. Dust. 

Dried blood.

Damned bloody nose.

Damned scraped knees.

My clothes are filthy. 

Not dirty enough. 

It's worse than dirt and mud, because dirt washes away. Muddy. Unkempt. Wet. Dirty. It dries. 

Not like dirt. 

Not dirty enough.

Not dirt. It takes dirt off. Dirt gets cleaned off.

And so damned fucking dark in here!

I don't know what dirt looks like anymore. 

It's all the same now, the way everything has been for so long.

It makes my eyes hurt.

They sting so hard.

So hard they burn.

They itch so hard.

And yet, still the tears come. And they keep coming even when my eyes stop hurting and my skin stops itching and my throat heals up from being dry and scratchy. They still fall.

When the first raindrop falls, they are almost the last drops of water that trickle through the clouds. When I hear the second drop, I look toward the source of the sound, but it doesn't land where the third drops were falling. Crying for trees. Where are the trees.

There is no forest without leaves. Why am I not at home? There is no canvas. There is no chair. Without seats without seating, there is no carpet without an office. Nothing. Nothing! I'm waiting for a dirty. . . what is this? Do you feel something? What are you? 

Wait. What's this?

I feel something.

What is this? What are you?

It's wood. It's not a tree. It's square. It's sharp. It has a corner. And OW! Splinters. Now I have a splinter! Damn you! What are you? 

A beam? A beam, leaned on something.

On what? 

A wall? Are you a wall? 

Yes. A wall. 

Wooden.

Am I inside? I'm inside. No. Yes? Maybe. 

How? How am I inside? There's so much dirt. What is this? Why is there so much dirt inside? It feels like a road, all packed in and travelled on. Busy, busy, like on the highway. No. This is not a highway. I'm not outside. I'm inside. In. . . in what? Am I in a cave? How did I get into a cave? AM I in a cave? Why am I in a cave? Is this a cave? I can't tell. 

Where am I? Where did the beams go. I need to feel them again. Something's not right here. This can't be a cave.

It should be more open. I'll look around. I'll find more wooden posts. I need to find more wooden posts. Oh! There's something else out there! There must be a door. I wonder if it's big enough for me. I wonder what it looks like. I hope it opens. If it's just one door then it isn't too tight for me.

It's not a door but it is something I can open, I think. It's kind of hard but I try. The latch is very complicated. So many buttons and knobs and switches. And a whole bunch of levers and knobs. How is a lever supposed to work, anyway? But I guess I do. I push down a switch and I hear an odd sound.

Click?

Did I hear a click?

Something clicked. 

What?

Where?

I can't see a blasted thing.

How did I get here? 

You're a vertical surface. You can help me up. I won't have to crawl around grovelling in the dirt any more. If I hold on to the wall and walk along you, maybe I can find my way out of here and back into sunlight. Why is it so damned dark in here? I can't see a thing.

Searching. Probing.

Probing. Searching.

Through the darkness, for anything that might reveal to me where I am. 

Piling. Scaffolding. Plank. 

Joist. Pillar. Rough. Old. 

Crumbling. Decayed. Decomposed. 

Mouldered. Rotted.

It will collapse. Oh! It's not stable. It gives if I lean on it.

This whole place will fall in on me.

Wait. I felt, gravel on the ground. Where was that. 

Ah! I found you. Cold. Smooth. 

Hard.

It's a crystal. Is it ice?

Quartz? Maybe? Or Selenite? 

These aren't gravel. 

They're gemstones. 

Am I in a mine? Oh my! Did I fall down a mine shaft? Oh that's not good. Some mines are miles deep. And have so little air. But a mine! No wonder there is no light. I could be miles underground.

Oh dear. That would be horrible, wouldn't it? 

Oh! The dark.

It will go away eventually. I'm sure it'll go away. I can't see anything. I won't find any water or any food. 

Oh no. 

How long has it been? Days, weeks, months? Time doesn't seem to have meaning here. It's like being in the past, but not really. It's not real time and all time isn't real either. But what am I supposed to do now?

I need a name. That's silly. You don't use names anymore. I can't think of one. My name is Joist. What else should I say?

My thoughts wander and my body drifts.

I know this is how things work when you're dead.

No, that's wrong. 

There aren't people who just die from falling.

I feel like I'm drifting. It's almost peaceful.

That's odd, because this is the first time I've ever been able to float. Floating used to be an unpleasant experience, but now it's sort of nice, like floating in a warm bath. I wonder why I can't swim any more? I can feel myself getting tired and tired. It feels like I'll lose consciousness any minute now. But I can feel something, like...

By the feel of the stone and dirt and massive timber beams on the wall, it's gem mine. A Dwarven gem mine. I seem to have found myself in a roughly hewn chamber of some sort. Some sort of cave. Or a tunnel. A sod house, maybe? 

A mine? Oh. It IS a mine isn't it? A Dwarf mine? No? Yes. It must be. It has to be. What else could it be? How did I get in a Dwarf mine? I can see nothing, damn it! The shades of stone, dirt and rot from the huge wooden posts hanging from the walls are all the same. Pitch black. Blacker than my string of black pearls. Where are those? I should wear them again. If I ever get out of here. I need to get out of here.

The beams feel like scaffolding for mine shafts.

I can't find out for certain in this dank darkness.

A tunnel, perhaps?

Under a mountain?

But to do what?  

And where?  

Where am I?  

How did I arrive here?

I simply can not recall.

Why can't I remember?  

Have I stumbled into a mine shaft?

Did I discover a mine by accident? 

I do not remember. Why can't I remember? Why is my memory so poor of late. I forget so much.

It concerns me greatly that I can not remember in what way or manner I arrived at this place. Did I come here by design? Was I abducted? If so, than by who? 

And why? 

And where are they? 

Why would they leave me alone here? 

Why can't I remember how I got here? 

Or was it a portal? Oh! It could have been a portal! Did I fall into a portal? 

Oh! 

I could be any where. 

Any planet. Any dimension. Any time. 

Oh! How would I even know? 

By what means did I come to be here? 

And where exactly was here?  

How on earth am I supposed to get home?

What if I never find a way back to where ever I came from? What then? Will I die here?

I am not sure whether to be frightened or elated. Is it possible for one to die and still be alive? Or will I finally be granted rest after being so tormented?

Is this death? Is this eternal torment?

Perhaps that is not the worst option. Perhaps death itself might be preferable to eternal torment. Perhaps it is better to live forever in hell than to be trapped here for all eternity as well.

If I were trapped here forever, I would die sooner or later. I cannot see the future anymore. There are no more memories, no more thoughts, no more ideas. It has all ended. There is nothing.

I am not going to die like this.

I don’t want to die like this.

If there is anything at all I can do to prolong my stay here, I must. Even if it means suffering endless boredom and isolation.

My name is Quirinus. That's it. No. That's not right either.

The story is over.

Now I need to begin again.

The question before us now is; How many days will it take for someone to notice I've gone missing?

It is dark.  

It is so dark.

So very dark.  

So very extremely dark.

So very extremely, extraordinarily dark.

Ah! What are you? Nothing helpful? Time-worn wooden pilings are leaning against walls. I can feel them. And the walls are made out of stone and collapsing clay. Dry clay. Smooth and silky. It'd be good for my skin. I should take some with me, but I've no way to carry any.

Not a weapon either.

Oh.

Oh no.

And what was that sound? I hear sounds. I don't know what they are. I can't see a thing. I hate that I can't see. I'm wandering in blindness.  

The sound of running water?

Water. Echoing through the darkness.

Running. Falling.

Water.

I'm so thirsty. I need to head towards the sound of the water.

I don't know anything about this place, and neither does anyone else, and if we run out of food or water then we won't last long anyway. 

I'm hungry. And thirsty. There's a spring close by, I can hear it. And maybe there's something else nearby. A stream maybe? Water from the sky. A nice drink after being in the rain. Yes, that would be nice indeed. If I was on land. Which I'm not. I'm underground. Miles and miles underground. Under hill. Under dale. Under mountain.

My head hurts, like someone has taken a stick to it. I try to remember what happened. 

I am in the cave, I think. And then there was... an explosion. And purple smoke. 

And I was running. I was jogging with a bunch of trees. And it made my leg soar. My damned lame leg. I shouldn't have run. It hurt my hip.

And I fell through the floor, no, off a cliff. 

I tried to grab a hold of something, but I couldn't see what. 

Then the ceiling collapsed, and it became dark and I couldn't get up. 

The pain was all over, it felt as though someone had reached inside of my brain and twisted. I can't remember. I just know I was running, and then I hit something hard and black and when I opened my eyes again everything was gone.

I open my eyes to see myself on the ground. 

Oh gods, oh god oh gods I'm going to die. My heart is racing, and I feel faint.

Quaraun continued inching ahead, ever so slowly.

Deliberately. Reaching out. Hands outstretched. 

Into the darkness. Touching the wall.  

The dirt on the wall is thick and dry, barren, parched, but not sandy. It's. . . powdery. 

Caked. Clumping. Smoothly textured like talc mixed with clay. Heavy. It smells like the rich dark peat clay found under a forest's leaf carpet. 

What a wonderful smell. 

Dirt would be nice if it wasn't so dirty. 

I love the smell of dirt. 

I just hate how badly it soils my clothes. And my hands. And my hair. Silk is so hard to get clean.  This clay smells so nice. If mixed it with water it would feel so nice on my skin.

Using his fingers on the earth wall as a guide, Quaraun pursued the passage, hoping to find an exit. Or at the very least, a light. 

Who knew what is lurking in the darkness with me? Beasts. Monsters. Bandits. There could be dangers lurking all around me. I'd not know to run. 

Oh my! What was that? I heard something. There is a great abundance of noise. And soil dribbling down from the sod ceiling with every vibration.

Distant. Moaning.

Rumbling. A mountain that rumbles.

Was this a cavern in. . .a volcano?

Wait, is that lava I heard rushing by? Not water?

It bears resemblance to a mine shaft, but maybe it's not.  

I'm in a volcano.

I can smell it. The sulphur.

It feels like it. This whole place is filled with smoke and steam. The air thickens as if on purpose. It's so hot, I can barely breathe.

I'm sweating buckets. My silks feel clammy. My arms are trembling.

How long have I been here? Hours. Days? Weeks?

"Is anyone there?"

My voice echoes through the dark room. I try again, but no one answers.

What's going on? Why am I stuck here?

I need to listen. For danger. I must take notice of every sound. Be always alert and ready to run. Except run to where? I can't see a thing. Not one single, solitary thing. If I trip, I'll break my neck. How am I supposed to run from danger when I can't even see my own hand? Why the hell is this place so dark? This is the darkest, darkness I've ever been in.

OW!

Damn it! What was that? Stubbed my toe. Now it hurts. I was already hurting enough. Now I hurt more. I didn't need more hurt. I needed less hurt. Damn darkness.

Accursed darkness. 

Damned accursed darkness.

Stupid blackness everywhere.

Eternal blackness.

Why does it have to be so damned dark in this place?

And I'm alone.

I hate being alone. I'm just always alone. No body cares. No one. Ever. Not no one. I have no one. BoomFuzzy's dead. He killed himself. Because I killed Gibedon. I shouldn't have killed Gibedon. I had to kill Gibedon. Gibedon was going to kill BoomFuzzy.  Why did he have to die? I never should have killed Gibedon. BoomFuzzy would still be alive if I hadn't killed Gibedon. He loved Gibedon. BoomFuzzy loved Gibedon. Why did he love Gibedon?

He hid Gibedon from me. He loved Gibedon and he didn't want me to know. I thought he loved me. I loved him. 

I loved BoomFuzzy so much. Why didn't he love me? We were soul bound. I cut my soul in half to be with him. Part of him. Him part of me. I would have loved him forever. I do love him, forever. I'll always love him. Why did he have to die? Why did he kill himself? I don't understand. I miss him. I miss him so much. I feel so alone without him. 

I feel so angry at myself for killing Gibedon.

Why must I get so upset all the time?

How can I make myself stop feeling like this.

I can't sleep at night. I can't eat. My chest hurts. I feel like there is a whole where my heart used to beat. My chest feels empty. I feel empty. Unloved. Unwanted. Alone. 

Why did BoomFuzzy have to die? Why did he kill himself? I don't understand. I miss him. I miss him so much. I feel so alone without him.  I hurt. I hurt so bad. I can't bear it. It hurts like nothing else ever has. It hurts. I feel so lonely.

Gibedon was gone. I killed him. How could I? That wasn't supposed to happen. But it did. I killed him. I killed him for good. Forever. I hurt BoomFuzzy so much. 

I'm going to die alone and I'm going to die sad. 

I can't live without him. I can't go on without him. 

I'll be alone forever. 

Forever. 

Forever, forever. 

Forever, forever, forever, forever, forever. 

Forever. Forever. Forever.

I wish I had a knife. Maybe then I could slit my wrists.

Maybe then I wouldn't have to feel so alone anymore. 

Maybe then, maybe then I'd be free. Free, free, free. 

I'd finally be happy. 

Free! I need to see BoomFuzzy again. 

I need to feel his arms around me again. 

I don't care how bad it gets.

Quaraun collapsed on the ground, sobbing.

Just than a knife appeared in front of him.

Oh!

No!

Not another wish!

I have to stop doing this.

No!

No!

NO!

No more wishes!

Stop with the wishes.

Please.

There is so much darkness here.

Just everywhere.

There could be monsters all around me and I wouldn't know it. I can't see a thing. And this tunnel just keeps going and going. It doesn't end. And I can't see where I'm going. I got to get out of here.

And it's hot and humid. Dry and muggy. Both at the same time. It makes my lungs hurt. And it makes my head hurt. 

And my eyes and my throat. 

It's so hard to breath in here. 

It's so dark and dirty and I hate it. 

And that smell. Sulphur.

But I am so tired.

I need to rest.

Need to lay down.

So tired.

Quaraun lay down on the ground and drifted off into a fitful sleep. Though he'd only been awake for a short while, his fear of the dark had exhausted his mind.

Quaraun was prone to not think clearly when he was afraid.

Prone to panic.

Prone to forget, in his panic, that he had supplies with him. Supplies he could use. Like a lamp. And matches to light said lamp. Both of which were tucked away inside the little bag of holding hanging from his belt.

Quaraun's fear of being lost and alone in the dark, was so great, that he had forgotten, where he was, or why he was there, or what he carried with him.

And so Quaraun wandered through the caves of Fire Mountain, traumatized, terrified, not knowing where he was or how he had come to be there. Not remembering that he had gone to the mountain, seeking the Obsidian Idol, which sat in the bowels of Pepper Valley's ancient volcano.

The hours slowly ticked away, timeless, in the silence of the darkness, of the subterranean caverns of Fire Mountain's underbelly. Quaraun slept, passed out on the dirt path. After many hours of sleep, he awoke once again, to find himself still alone, still in the dark, still so deep in the earth, that there was no way to tell day from night.

It's dark. It's night.

Have I slept all day?

No.

It's not night.

I'm in a mine. Or a cave. A dark, dark cave.

Darkness still. There is no light.

I need to see something. 

There is nothing to see. 

I need light. Without it my mind wanders into its darkest depths, when I can't occupy it. 

I hate it. 

I hate these thoughts. 

I need to get out of here. There's nothing to do. Nothing to see. I can't see anything. My mind is as dark as this damned tunnel that I now found myself wandering in. Where the hell is the exit to this place? How did I even get in here? I need to find a way out, but there's just nothing! Miles of endless nothing. How long is this tunnel? When does it end?

It's ghastly.

Foreboding and ghastly.

Ghastly and foreboding.

I miss BoomFuzzy.

I feel so very alone and abandoned. Just so alone. Alone. Unloved. Unwanted. Left behind. Cast aside. I have no one. I'm going to die down here. Lost and alone. And no one will know I died. No one will know where to look for me. Wolves will eat my body. I'm all alone. Alone. Nothing but darkness all around.

The lonesome darkness all around me.

Above. Beside. Below.

Isolation. Desolation. Seclusion.

Dark and morbid.

Morbid and dark.

The darkness surrounding me. The emptiness.

The silence. 

My ears are ringing. It hurts. All around. My head hurts.

What happened?

How did I fall here?

Where am I? Why am I here?

Why is this happening?

Why am I trapped like this?

This is not what I expected when I woke up this morning.

What do they want from me?

What has this got to do with me?

Why am I here? What is wrong with me?

I need help. I want someone to come for me. To take me home. I want people to love me. To care about me. 

They can't leave me here to rot. They won't. 

That's not how it works. I'll never be accepted if they don't take me back. I need them to take me back.

They should come for me. If they don't, then I'll go mad. 

If they don't then, then I'll kill myself. 

But I can't do that. They must save me.

If only I had some water. Then I could drink some water. If I had water, maybe I wouldn't be feeling this dizzy. I wish I had something to drink. But nothing. Just darkness. This tunnel is huge.

The lonely, lonesomeness of how very alone I feel is bearing down heavy upon me in this endless, eternal darkness.

Gloom and doom.

Doom and gloom.

Depressed and forlorn.

Ominous and sad.

Sad and dismal.

The anguish, bitterness, misery, and despair.

I can feel it all around me. My depression bearing down on me, worse than ever before. Like a sickly presence I can not escape. It follows me everywhere. I hate it. Why won't it leave me alone?

Day and night. 

Night and day. 

Always there. 

Always watching. 

Always waiting. 

Waiting and watching. 

Watching and waiting.

Now, I'm lost in this dark endless cave. I feel the dark depths of despair, crashing down around me. Crushing me heart and soul, body and mind. Mind and body, soul and heart. My soul is cut in half. Half my soul is in BoomFuzzy. And BoomFuzzy's dead. Half my soul is dead. I'm half dead. Half alive. And lost in the dark.

I must escape this darkness. But where? How? I had no idea where I am or which direction in which to go. I am lost and alone, in the darkest cave system I'd ever not seen. If only I had a light.

It seemed to Quaraun as though he had roamed aimlessly in this blackness forever.  His mind crashed deeper into the depth of fretful depression.

He felt so helpless and trapped. He wished he knew what to do. What was wrong with him? What did he need to do to fix it?

Companionless. Despised. Rejected. The darkness around me, left me with nothing to occupy my mind. Alone now, with nothing but my own dark and morbid thoughts.

A loud deafening roar, suddenly interrupted Quaraun self pity. He sat silent, his eyes wide, seeing nothing through the darkness. Silent. Listening. Watching. His eyes detected the flicker of light up ahead. The air became suddenly warm. It was very warm. Too warm. Hot even.

And dry.  

It is very dry.  

The glow ahead flickered in dancing shades of orange.  

A fire? 

Is there a fire up ahead?

Quaraun quickened his pace.

There was a fire.  I can smell the smoke.

As Quaraun wandered through the caves, trying to get somewhere safe, he began to hear sounds. A faint, but distinct sound. He began moving towards the sound. As he walked, the noise grew louder. Soon enough, he heard the sound of someone singing. At first, the song made no sense to him. He could have sworn that the voice sounded almost familiar. Then again, it could've just been the echo of his own thoughts, which seemed to come from nowhere and everywhere at once. The song continued, growing louder with each step he took.

Suddenly, the tunnel ended abrupt.

Quaraun hastily fell back and clutched for the wall. His heart raced. The tunnel had ended, yes. 

And suddenly.  

Very suddenly.  

Too suddenly.

A sheer drop off.

A tall, sheer cliff overhanging the dark nothingness below.

I'd nearly ambled off the edge.

Quaraun inched his way back to the edge.

Slowly. Deliberately.

Cautiously. Carefully. Gradually.

He leaned forward to peer over the ledge. At the nothingness below. Darkness. Endless nothing.

Dangerous blackness below.

Ominous gloom above.

It was grim and foreboding.

Foreboding and grim.

I feel so very alone.

The lonesome darkness, all around me.

Above. Beside. Below.

Isolation. Desolation. Seclusion.

The aloneness, of how very alone I felt, was bearing down heavy upon me in this endless darkness. Gloom and doom. Doom and gloom. The anguish, bitterness, and despair. I can feel it all around me. Like a sickly presence I can not escape. 

But the light. . .

It. . .

I saw a light. I know I did.

Where was the light?

It is gone.

Did I not seen a light up ahead?

The glowing flicker of warm orange flames leaping from a fire.

Where is it now?

Did I imagine it?

Surly I had not.

It moved.

It must have moved.

That was the only answer.

Yes, it had moved.

But how?

Has someone carried it away?

Or put it out?

Does that mean I am not alone?

Is there someone else here?

Someone perhaps carrying a lamp of some sort?

Someone whom had been ahead of me, but had now moved on out of sight?

Quaraun got on his hands and knees and ran his fingers along the edge of the ledge.

Perhaps there were stairs. Or maybe a ladder.

No.

Nothing.

But now I am on the other side of the tunnel.

The other wall.

Quaraun stood up, clinging desperately to the wall as he did. Terror filled the terrified Elf's chest as his heart pounded in fear. 

I am scared of heights. And cliffs.

I'm scared of cliffs.

And they are so much scarier now when I can't see them.

Terrified the cliff at his feet would crumble and fall. Tumbling down the side and toss him into the unknown depths of death below.

Down.

Down.

So far down.

Into the pits of Hell.

Hot. Boiling. Bubbling. Tar pits of Hell.

Wait. That's not tar pits of Hell. 

It's lava. Magma. So very far below. I can barely see it.

Am I inside a volcano?

Where am I?

Why can't I remember?

Why is it so hard to remember?

Remember. . .

. . .any thing. . .

Something.

Nothing.

With his back against the wall, Quaraun inched his way away from the ledge. Away from the edge. Back to the safety of the darkness above. Away from the terror of the darkness below.

At least here, there I've a solid stone to my back.

Solid dirt beneath my feet.

Solid stone walls behind me. Solid ground in front of me. 

But even as he thought it, he knew it wasn't true.

The floor was hard and unforgiving beneath his hands, and every time he made one step forward, he felt something give way underneath his feet. 

Every time he fell, he heard the sound echo through the cavernous space, amplified by the walls that surrounded him. He heard the sound of his own screams, too loud for this space. Too loud for his own ears. He felt them ricochet off the stone and into the dark corners, where he didn't dare go.

I can't hear myself scream anymore. My throat feels raw, and all that comes out is a raspy gurgle.

His breath caught in his chest as he saw it: the faint outline of the door at the end of the corridor in front of him. His eyes followed its path to its destination, which seemed so far away. Far, so far, away.

How long will he be able to keep walking? How long would it take before it became impossible to move any more?

If I could just make it another few steps...

He looked down at himself, seeing how badly damaged he was. The blood that dripped from the wound on his forehead was slowly staining the front of his shirt with dark stains

Quaraun looked from side to side, straining to see something. Anything. But no. Nothing. Pure, total, blackness.

Above.

Below.

Everywhere.

He continued to move, slowly, feeling his way with his fingers on the dirt wall. But Quaraun hadn't gone far, only a few feet away from the edge, before the wall disappeared.

He froze. Terrified. He dare not move.

Feeling, the air, I found the other wall. 

A sharp bend that veered the other way.

A tunnel off the tunnel.

Heading down.

But down to where?

I can't see. This is worse than blindness. Blindness I at least saw foggy grey swirls ahead and glimmering lights behind. 

No, this, this is nothing but pitch blackness.

Empty blackness. As though everything had been sucked into a hole leaving nothing left behind.

Quaraun continued inching his way through the darkness search for something, anything. 

The floor of the tunnel sloped down. Sometimes just a little.

 Other times steeply, causing him to trip and fall, and tumble forward, landing hard on the ground. The old Elf skinned the palms of his hands as he flung his arms forward into the darkness, trying to break his fall.  

One such fall was worse than others, as the tunnel, inclined sharply, and Quaraun fell headlong, tumbling and rolling all the way to the bottom.

Dazed. Dizzy. Bleeding. Scraped. Bruised. And confused. Quaraun sprawled on the ground for a few moments, before struggling to stand.

No.

I can not stand. I'm too dizzy. I've hit my head, too many times on the tumble through the darkness.

Blood trickled down Quaraun's face from a cut on his forehead. More blood trickled from a split lip. His pink silks, were growing wet from the blood seeping from his scraped knees.

Quaraun sat on his knees, clutching his hands over his head, trying to stop the spinning, vertigo sensation that was just now swirling around him.

He felt faint.

"No. Don't faint." He said out loud. "Stay awake."

He tried again to stand. Slowly this time. Dizziness flooded through him, pounding though his head, like a herd of horses galloping through his skull. Ocean waves, flooding behind his eyes.

Quaraun squeezed his eyes shut tight, hoping the swaying he felt would go away. His tentacles wrapped tightly around his body, hugging him, comforting him.

By the gods, what is that?

 He had no time to think. No time to react. A giant, glowing yellow-orange slug, the size of an elephant, came barrelling through the wall. The wall shattered and crumbled around it. Blazing hot lava-slime, dripping with golden orange acid, burned through the wall, melting the rock.

A Lava Slug! Good god. I didn't any still existed.

Quaraun scrambled out of the path of the massive, peaceful behemoth as it made it';s way through the mountain, making new tunnels as it went.

Quaraun stumbled and fell, tumbled and rolled, and once again, hit his head and knocked himself out.

Thud. Thud. Thud. 

Quaraun heard a pounding noise like the beating of a drum. 

"Argh!" Quaraun woke up. He sat blinking and yawning. 

He looked around and found himself alone.

Everything is hazy and his head ached. 

He tried to remember where he was.

Fire Mountain.

Yes. That's it.

That's where he was.

Fire Mountain.

Home of King Gwallmaiic.

The Elf Eater of Pepper Valley.

BoomFuzzy.

"I entered into Fire Mountain, and became lost in the mass network of Lava Slug tunnels.  I must have hit my head when I jumped down the shaft and forgot where I was. Oh dear. Light. I have a lantern in my bag. How silly of me."

Quaraun stood up, but a chill ran down his spine as he heard the drumming sound again, louder and closer. The tunnel ahead of him glowed a deep orange-red, and with a feeling of dread, he knew something is coming for him, and he should run! As he turned to flee, he remembered the demons... he was frozen with fear. Slowly, Quaraun took a step forward. And then another. He was still too dizzy to move quickly. But the pounding was getting closer and he could smell sulphur.

His legs stopped working.

Quaraun collapsed back on the ground, gasping and coughing.

How long has it been since he last ate? 

Too long. 

It has been too long. Why hasn't he eaten since he left the tent two days ago? What happened? Did he fall asleep? Is that why his stomach hurts so badly?

Quaraun wandered through the dark, sandy cavern. There were many rooms within the mountain, each smaller than the last. But this cave was deep within the mountain, and many rooms were carved into the stone. Even the tables and chairs were carved of stone from the mountain. 

Many rooms had no lights at all, save the moonlight streaming through the holes in the roof. his night however, the ceiling did not reflect the light from the moon, for there was no sky up above. Only the cut crystal blue glass of the bottle they were trapped inside of,mountain and all.

And as usual, Quaraun was alone again.

He felt a sense of loss as he walked through the tunnels.

No one dared come down into the lower depths of Fire Mountain. If they did, King Gwallmaiic would kill them and feed them to his beast, his great black dragon. 

Quaraun never thought that he would one day defy his own rule to never set foot inside Fire Mountain, and now be down here roaming through the darkness of it's endless passages.







One evening a man walked through a portal into King Gwallmaiic's room. This man wore a blue cloak that covered his body, which looked almost like armour. He had blonde hair tied into three buns on each side of his head. His face was covered by a red mask, the edges of which curled up.



The Mist Blood of The Vampire Silverwitch from the Kingdom of  the Infernal Teeth of Emerald and the Amethyst Coat of Radiance, flooded the room. She had come to steal the skulls and take control of Midnight LanceKiller, The Elf Eater's black dragon. But Midnight LanceKiller, was not going to let that happen.

The woman laughed. Her dark hair was a tangled mess, her face pale as death, her lips stained crimson. A strange creature stood beside her. Her eyes glowed in the light of her dark magic. A wicked smile curled on her lips. She was ready to fight. And she knew she'd be victorious. The vampire Queen had already taken three souls from the victims of the raid on the village below, and another two would soon follow. She only needed one more. One last powerful soul.

"Come out you pathetic creature!" She snarled, as she looked for the dragon. "I know you're in here. You can not hide from me!"

Silence.

No answer.

Not a sound.

Water dripped from the stalagmites of the cave.

Drip. Drip. Drip.

No other sound could be heard.

"Fine! Have it your way. But you won't hide from me long. I'll find you."

She turned and walked out of the cave.

As the woman disappeared, something shifted in the back corner of the cave.

Something stirred.

Something moved.

Almost like smoke swirling around.

A great pair of glistening green and purple eyes glowed from high near the ceiling of the back wall.

Quaraun gasped, and covered his mouth to stifle his own scream.

There she was. The Elf Eater's Dragon. And she was huge. The size of a giant blue whale. Quaraun had never imagined she would be so big. Nearly as big as the mountain itself. But how? It was not possible for something so large to fit through even the widest of the tunnels into this room.

Oh but she was beautiful. Mesmerizing. Quaraun had never seen a dragon before. He never could have imagined he'd ever be this close to one.

Dark magic surrounded the creature. And a dark miasmic mist swirled all around her.

Quaraun trembled in fear as he stared at the dragon. Trembled in fear of touching her, Fear of touching Midnight LanceKiller. He couldn't believe this was real. Couldn't believe this thing actually existed. A dragon. A real, live dragon. Creatures of myth. Creature long thought extinct for millions of years. And yet, here she was, a beautiful metallic black dragon. 

The dragon stared down at him, as she slowly lowered herself down from her perch in the ceiling of the cave, lowering to stand on all fours.

She wasn't afraid of him, and that scared him most of all. Quaraun was used to people being scared of him. Used to people attacking him. Used to having to fight for his life at every turn. He didn't know how to react to something that neither feared him, nor was trying to kill him.

She lowered herself completely to the ground, curling up like a giant cat, and laid there, quiet, still, not moving, watching him. Her lizard eyes, cold and unblinking, like the eyes of a giant serpent.

Quaraun watched the dragon as she watched him. Knowing nothing of dragons, Quaraun didn't know what he should do. Should he stay still or try to run? Could he talk to her? Do dragons talk?

"Yes, we do."

Quaraun's thoughts froze. He had not asked those questions out loud, and the dragon had herd him and answered him. Except, she did not answer with a voice, rather he felt her voice inside his head, like a hive mind, like the hive mind he had had so many years ago with the rest of the Elves. The hive mind of the Elves was gone, as the Elves had gone extinct many centuries ago. Quaraun was the last full blooded Elf, though a few half-Elves were found from time to time.

"You know my thoughts?"

"Yes."

"Can you speak?"

"No. I have no vocal chords. I am a dragon."

"Oh." Quaraun thought about that for a moment and realized he really had no clue what exactly it was that a dragon was. He'd never seen one before. In fact, he'd never even considered the possibility of dragons being real. He had always thought them a fictional fairy tale creature created by parents to scare naughty children. "How do I know the thought I'm hearing are your and not the thoughts of some trickster Fae pretending to be your voice?"

"You don't."

"I suppose that it true, isn't it. But there must be some way to verify your thoughts are yours."

"What would you suggest?"

"I... I don't know. I know nothing of dragons. I never dreamed it possible that dragons were real. I don't even questions to ask you."

"What questions would you ask me, were I not a dragon?"

"I would probably ask you your name and where you hailed from, your nationality, culture. Your favourite foods. Your favourite colour. That sort of thing."

"Your favourite colour is pink."

"Yes. It is."

"You are The Pink Necromancer."

"Yes. I am."

"My name is Njord, I am from Planet Ptarmagin. We Dragons are not native to Earth, it is why there are so few of us on your planet."

"Njord? The not-Gnome outside the mountain. His name was Njord."

"Yes. He was me. I am he."

"Are you a shape-shifter?"

"I am a Purple Dragon of Planet Ptarmagin."

"Purple? Are you not black?"

"Oh no. My scales are purple. But they look black in certain lights."

"But you can change form?"

"I can appear as whatever I want."

"What it your true and natural form?"

"You are looking at is."

"I've seen many strange beasts, many strange people these past few days. Where they all you?"

"Some where. Others were not."

"The Crystal Birds were not me. They were the Master."

"The Master?"

"You meet him at the gate."

"The Phooka?"

"Yes. My Master is a Phooka."

"The two guards, back at the tower, that was you and him, wasn't it?"

"Yes. It was us. He and me."

"Why did you put me in the tower?"

"It was Master's idea. He was angry with you. He's not now. It is why he let you out."

"What about the princess?"

"What of her?"

"Is there really a missing princess?"

"Yes. There is. And she is a sorceress as you were told."

"Why is your master looking for her?"

"He is not."

"But..."

"He only said that to distract you. To confuse you. And it worked. Did it not?"

"Indeed it did."

"The girl I met..."

"That was me."

"So, not the princess?"

"No."

"What about the deserted farm village?"

"It was like that when we found it. Goblins with great war hounds were not far away. I suspect they Humans fled when they got wind of it."

"And the bandits, who attacked me?"

"Just common bandits who happened to stumble across you. Nothing more."

"Oh. Well, I guess that explains everything."

Quaraun though silently for a few moments.

"You said you are from Planet Ptarmagin."

"I am."

"I never heard of it before. Where is it exactly?"

"It is the moon of Planet Vesonta, one of the Triple Planets."

"The Triple Planets? Do you know where they are?"

"They are a long ways from here. In a solar system on the other side of the galaxy."

"I am from the Triple Planets, but I do not remember it. I was injured. I can remember nothing of my life from before this planet."

"Many of our people came to Earth. Few survived."

"Why did we leave?"

"Our sun grew dark. Trees stopped growing. There was no more light. Mushrooms bigger than the trees, grew up in their place. Our beautiful, lush green world died and a dark black world of eternal night took it's place. Ptarmagin is the dark and dangerous world of the undead, now. Ptarmagin is a world of monsters, swollen with endless armies of the undead, where flesh-eating ghouls rule the world, and all living creatures are at their mercy. Some constructed cities that float in the clouds, to escape the monsters of the Mushroom Forest below, but few were found worthy to join the elite in the Golden Palace in the sky. Our home planet is not dead, but it might as well be for those who must fight to survive on it."

"And Dragons come from there?"

"Oh yes. There are many Dragons on Ptamagian, Diona, Vesonta, Flame, and Crystonia. Fire Dragons. Ice Dragons. But our entire solar system is in turmoil. Our sun went dark, and all the planets live in chaos now."

"You said you knew who I was?"

"Yes. You are Quaraun, a human male Necromancer in the kingdom of Quebec."

"I am an Elf."

"Are you? Where are your rabbit ears?"

"I keep them behind me, held down back, hidden under my hair."

"You look like a Human without them."

"I know, it's why I do it. I am the last Elf. My people went extinct centuries ago. Humans today believe us fairy tales. They do not believe we were once real."

"Yes. As they do with us Dragons."

"If I am to survive on this planet, I must hide my ears and pretend to look as Human as possible."

"There are no Humans here."

"Indeed. There are not."

"Then why do you still hide them?"

"Force of habit. I'm used to walking with them down, I don't often carry them high."

"May I see them?"

"I see no reason why not," Quaraun said as he twitched his ears, allowed them to lift out of their hiding position. Quaraun, being a Moon Elf, had exceptionally long ears, standing more than a foot tall over his head, ending in fine points. In each ear was 24 small gold rings. In each ring was a thin gold chain. Each of the gold chains, looped around and connected to one of the 3 gold rings in Quaraun's nose. From his ears to his nose, each chain was hung with dozens of tiny pink quartz and watermelon tourmaline crystal points, and tiny gold charms in the shapes of flowers, hearts, birds, jellyfish, and leaves.

"You have decorated your ears like a Christmas tree."

"Yes."

Why?"

"There are scars on my face. The chains and charms cast shadows and cover my scars."

"They match the gold on your hands."

Quaraun looked down at his hands. He had quite forgotten he was wearing the gold armour on his fingers.

"Do they serve a purpose as well?"

"Yes. When I was a child my fingers were crushed. My hands broken. My hands are dead, I can not use them. They do not move, The bones are shattered, the nerves and muscles are, useless."

"And the gold gloves help this?"

"Yes. They are magic. Enchanted. BoomFuzzy made them for me."

"BoomFuzzy?"

"Yes. He took care of me after... after The Hanging Tree. I would have died other wise. But when I had recovered, my leg was lame, I could not walk normal. I've used the can ever since. But my hands... my hands were dead, and I an a tailor. I weave silk and embroider cloth. I could do this no more. I could not eat. I could not feed myself. I could do nothing that required the use of my hands. So, BoomFuzzy made these gold plate for my fingers, that I may use my hands again. I can not take them off, unless I have someone to put them back on me again after."

"You are the little Elf from Ivujivik."

"I am."

"Master has spoken of you. You were born in a small village, Ivujivik, just outside the walls of the castle of the Lich King, and you grew up under the close watch of the Lich King."

"King Gwallmaiic. Yes. I knew him as BoomFuzzy. I lived with him for 30 years. In the gingerbread house." 

"You were tutored in magic by him from a young age, and have grown up with no knowledge of much else. You are very good at what you do, and you do magic best of all. You were a great apprentice. He has said so. You were his most faithful student, and are his most powerful Necromancer."

"Yes. That is true. But he is dead. And now I am alone."

"Ptarmagin is a strange place, a far away land, where the undead rule, and Necromancy is an outlawed art. You wouldn't like it there."

"I never said I planned to go there."

"Of course not. It is too far. Too far for us."

"For you maybe."

"For any of us perhaps."

"Who was that woman, just now. The one hunting you."

"We are free to roam where we please and wherever we want. The Dead Worlds are full of monsters. Creatures from the depths of Hell are always there waiting for us."

"Is Hell a real place?"

"Oh yes. Hell exists. A planet that burns in eternal flames, orbiting far too close to it's sun. It's inhabitants suffer greatly. None want to remain there. Many would escape. But Hell exists in the realm of chaos, and it's people are seen by Earthlings are Demons, twisted creatures, half man, half animal. The Humans do not like the Hellions."

"That woman, was she from there?"

"No. She was The Vampire Silverwitch from the Kingdom of  the Infernal Teeth of Emerald and the Amethyst Coat of Radiance, and that sickly fog that she brought with her was called The Mist Blood. The Vampires of Kingdom of the Infernal Teeth of Emerald and the Amethyst Coat of Radiance have heard a rumour about a rare flower that can re-energize a vampire's thirst and raise it to it's former power. There is plenty of danger in searching for this flower, but it is said that a successful adventurer could live as a king in the Kingdom of  the Infernal Teeth of Emerald and the Amethyst Coat of Radiance. And to get the flower, they believe requires the blood of a sacrificed Dragon. She is after Master's crystal skulls." 

"Crystal skulls?"

"Yes. King Gwallmaiic has a large collection of skulls on a shelf behind his throne. He uses them as decoration, but also as ornaments. In his unicorn form he decorates his horn with them."

"My little black unicorn," Quaraun said to himself. 

"They were very pretty, with intricate carvings and nice colours, but more than this, these skulls are very powerful. The Elf Eater used them to control a large black dragon who he calls Midnight Lancekiller."

"And that would be you?" 

"Yes. She was a beautiful, glossy black dragon, with a purple mark, a scar, under her right eye. Her black scales glistened with a purple sheep, like peacock ore. She is kept in a cave under the King's Mountain Palace on Fire Mountain. It was said that a dragon slayer once used these skulls to kill a dragon. And that this was how Gwallmaiic knew of her existence, found her, captured her, and tamed her."

"You are talking about yourself in third person, that's a bit bizarre."

"Is it?"

"Yeah. A little."







Njord was sitting in a chair beside the king's empty throne, when he heard footsteps entering the room. He turned to see his brother, Lord Headbanger.





Quaraun headed off to Daemeon's Court to speak to Kai the court mage. Where Quaraun presented his concerns. Dr. Daemeon Emperor of Planet Ptarmagin was a large and menacing figure. A bird, twelve feet tall. An arrogant partridge who seemed to have a lot of power, but little concern for things he doesn't directly control.
















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