A Day Late and A Lot of Dollars Short

First of all, I’d like to congratulate all of the people who have been able to do the post-a-day thing this month. I don’t know how you do it. Hell, I’m only posting once a week and I can’t even do that right. This post should’ve been done a couple of days ago.

There are a few reasons for my tardiness. First of all, I got sucked into reading Vengeance of the Iron Dwarf by R.A. Salvatore. The story itself is a mash-up of recycled stories from previous books in the series (which is bound to happen eventually. After all, it is the 27th book in the Dark Elf saga), but he writes so well that it doesn’t bother you and you still can’t put it down.

Continue reading

Revis and Matticus Save the Kingdom, Chapter 30

“Get out of my wife’s chair,” Matticus seethed.  His right hand reached for his sword, but Revis grabbed his arm before the steel could clear the sheath.

“I quite like it here,” Jaded quipped, flashing her now human teeth in a twisted grin, “I think I’ll stay.”

The sight of of someone other than The Queen sitting on the throne was so disturbing to the Jester that he began to fight against his Knight’s grip.  He wanted to free himself so he could tear Jaded apart and while he could hear Revis whispering furtively into his ear to calm down because it was likely a trap, the words meant nothing to him.  Matticus was lost to his rage.

Revis considered knocking his liege upside his royal head, but wasn’t sure he’d be able to strike swift enough if he let the Jester loose before Matticus was out of his reach.  So, instead, needing to to do something to snap Matticus out of his vengeance fueled state, Revis stomped on the Jester’s foot as hard as he could manage given the circumstances.

Matticus howled in pain.  Jaded howled in laughter.  And, as the Jester hopped around on one foot, cursing, and cradling his sore foot in his hands, Revis turned his full attention to Jaded, “You are no longer a threat to us.  Give us your sorcerer and we’ll let you live.”

“Just because I’m not a vampire anymore, that doesn’t mean I’m not a threat!”

Jaded blew them a kiss. For a nanosecond, it made Revis smile because he and his wife had recently taught their daughter to do it. It was so cute when his baby girl did it. When Jaded did it, however, it was not cute.

As she blew into her hand, a giant ball of fire erupted from her palm. Matticus stopped his cursing and stared open-mouthed at the oncoming conflagration. Something hit him from the side, sending him flying out of the flame’s path. He watched helplessly as Revis, who had been the thing that pushed him out of the way, disappeared in the middle of the fireball.

“No,” he yelled at the empty space that once contained his friend.

The sound of Jaded’s laughter snapped him out of his grief. He replaced it with rage. Her desecration of the Queen’s throne was bad enough. This pushed him over the edge. Matticus went to unsheathe his sword, but found that it was no longer there.

It must have fallen out when I hit the ground, he thought. That didn’t bother him. With the amount of rage he had built up now, he felt that he was more than capable of ending Jaded’s life with his bare hands.

The unarmed Jester rushed the throne, his berserk anger lending him speed he would not normally possess.  Jaded’s cackling faded, along with the pounding of his boots, as his racing heart thumped louder and louder in his chest.  Her face twisted, her eyes nearly closed, head thrown back, and jaw agape in laughter, Jaded seemed unfazed by the Jester’s approach.  He reached for her, his hands contorted into talons that sought her neck, sought to end her life in a crushing grip.

Running into the magical barrier felt like running into a brick wall.  All the momentum Matticus had built up rippled through his bones as he slammed to a crunching halt.  The look of delight on Jaded’s face kept his anger ramped up, though, which kept the resulting pain mostly at bay.  Despite being immobilized by the spell, the Jester continued to attempt to push forward.  A few more inches and his hands would wrap around her windpipe.  A few more inches and he maniacal laughter would be silenced forever.

But, the spell held, and Matticus couldn’t get any closer to her no matter how hard he struggled against the magic.  Jaded’s smile seemed to widen as she ceased her cackle, drew a wicked looking dagger from a sheath at her waist and brought it up to Matticus’ throat.

The sound of metal ringing suddenly filled the room. Matticus risked a glance and saw that the dagger had dropped out of Jaded’s hand. She was still smiling, but her eyes were wide. A spot of red appeared on her side, growing slowly.

Whatever magic had been holding Matticus back collapsed. His hands wrapped around her throat just in time to keep her from falling over. He laid her down on the floor just as her eyes rolled up into her head and she lost consciousness. Only one thing could’ve done that, the Jester thought. “You shouldn’t have killed her,” he said to the room, with a smile on his face.

“She’ll live,” came the reply, as Revis reappeared.

“How did you survive the fireball?”

“I don’t know,” The Knight answered, handing Matticus his sword. “This got caught in the straps of my armor when I pushed you. I guess the fire magic of the sword protected me from the flames.”

“Wait. Isn’t that how Bruenor survived his fall on the fiery dragon’s back? With Drizzt’s sword?”

“Quit telling people where I’m stealing my ideas from! Besides, only a few people would probably have gotten that reference if you didn’t point it out.”

“Hell, I made the reference, and I don’t ‘get it.’  I think your secret is safe.”

“Whatever.”

“Right, no matter, it was still very lucky,” Matticus glanced over his knight to make sure he was in fact okay.  All he got in response was a raised eyebrow.  When the Jester was satisfied that Revis hadn’t been harmed, he changed the subject, “Where do you Jaded got the magic from?  I didn’t know that sorcerers could transfer their abilities to someone else?”

Revis glanced down at Jaded before replying, “It was probably just a ruse.  A trick to make us think that Jaded had somehow learned magic in the months since we last fought and captured her.  Or…”

“Or?”  Matticus queried.

“Or,” Revis replied with a heavy sigh, “the sorcerer is far more powerful than I believed possible.”

“I do so love how you always have good news for me.”

Revis said nothing, but the glare he threw in his Jesterness’ direction spoke volumes.

Matticus averted his eyes, and nudged Jaded with the toe of his right boot.  “Guess we aren’t going to get much out of her right now.  Got any ideas on what we should do next?”

“Well, you could go directly to the source,” came a voice from behind the throne.

Matticus and Revis looked to see the cloaked figure of the sorcerer float out from concealment. The fact that the sorcerer never touched the ground unnerved the Jester a little bit. “Go to the source,” Matticus laughed. “Are you offering to tell us everything?”

Now, it was the sorcerer’s turn to laugh. “Not everything. After all, I’m not an old Bond villain. I’m keeping some of my secrets. I will tell you the answer to the question you just asked, though: how Jaded got magic.”

“Oh, do tell,” Revis muttered sarcastically.

Ignoring the tone of the knight’s voice, the sorcerer answered, “She gets her magic the same way your Knight does, Jester. She uses magical items. They were just trinkets that I had laying around. Jaded thought they’d be fun, so I let her have them.”

“Same as me, you say? That’s very interesting. Tell me something…”

Without finishing his thought, Revis flew into motion faster than Matticus could register his movement. He turned his head in time to see the dagger that Revis had just thrown at the sorcerer’s face get deflected up. Revis’ blade missed the body, but got caught in the hood covering the sorcerer’s head. The knife’s momentum tore the cloak off, revealing the identity of the true mastermind behind the plot to overthrow the kingdom.

“It can’t be,” Matticus whispered as he looked at their tormentor: Goldfish.

Revis and Matticus Save the Kingdom, Chapter 26

“Attack?”  Steph’s eyes went wide with fear, “That can’t be!”

“The vampires must have gotten wise to the disappearing populace,” Revis replied.  “They probably sent out patrols to see if there were any groups camping outside the city walls.  That’s what I would have done.”

Steph shot Revis a death glare.

“What’s the plan,” Matticus whispered, trying to bring the focus back on their current problem.  “We have to go to their aide, right?”

Steph’s eyes went even wider.  She hadn’t ever considered leaving the small community she had been helping to build to their fate.  It troubled her greatly that such an idea would even be a consideration.  Her discomfort grew with each passing second it took the Knight to respond.

With a sigh, Revis shook himself out of his revelry and addressed Steph and Matticus.  “I’ll use my ring to get close to the camp and see what the situation is.  If there is a chance we can save what’s left I’ll come up with a plan and we can spring into action.  But…”

“There is no ‘but,'” Steph interjected firmly.  “We will help them.  Go ahead and see what you need to see, that’s fine.  I expect you to come up with a plan, though.  The First Knight needs to live up to his title right now.”

A look of profound sadness crossed his face as he replied, “I will do anything I can to rescue as many of them as possible, but I will not risk losing our chance to save the entire Kingdom in order to save a couple of people. I can’t jeopardize the lives of the many for the sake of the few. The job of First Knight is to serve the greater good. Sometimes that means making decisions that break your heart, but they have to be made anyways.”

Before she could offer a rebuttal, he turned himself invisible and started walking towards the camp. Steph debated telling Matticus her argument, but decided it could wait until Revis returned. The two of them waited in silence for  a number of minutes. Matticus managed to keep himself from jumping when the sounds of screaming came from the direction Revis walked. He put his hand on his sword, intending to go see what was happening.

“Don’t,” Steph advised, grabbing ahold of his shoulder. “You may cause more problems than you’d solve by going there.”

Out of the darkness, a woman came running. “Faithhopechocolate,” Steph exclaimed. “What happened?”

“No time,” the woman cried. “He needs your help.”

As Matticus and Steph hastened to follow Faithhopechocolate, the Jester was struck by the woman’s appearance.  She was wearing the stylings of the Order of the Holy Paraclete.  He had heard of the order but, as this was the first time he had ever met one of the sisters, he had presumed their numbers had dwindled away to nothing.

Her life of servitude had left her extremely strong and despite the stringency of her robes keeping her strides to a minimum, Matticus and Steph struggled to keep up with her.  The Jester was impressed.  He found her name very striking too.  Faith, hope, and chocolate, were three of his favorite things.

He knew he should be worried about his Knight, but Revis had managed to survive more than one harrowing situation in the past, it was one of the reasons Matticus had made him First Knight.  Beyond his loyalty to the kingdom, the man had an uncanny ability to find a way out of the worst scraps.  Plus, he had all those wonderful toys and tricks.  As much as he complained that he wanted to know where Revis had acquired everything he had stowed in his pack, Matticus trusted his Knight implicitly.

The closer they got to the camp, the thicker the smoke became. When they arrived, they found that there was a very large bonfire in the center of the camp, but the structures remained unharmed. From the other side of the fire, Revis stumbled into view. He fell to his knees, wobbled for a second, then finished his face-first fall to the ground.

Matticus and Steph rushed to his side. They rolled him onto his back. The entire front of his armor was covered with blood. His breathing was extremely rapid and his eyes were closed. “You better not die saving my people,” Steph muttered before turning to Faithhopechocolate and asking her questions.

The corner of Revis’ mouth turned up in the start of a smile, but it vanished so quickly that the Jester wasn’t sure whether or not he actually saw it. Deciding that he did, Matticus cuffed the side of his Knight’s head. “You jerk,” he yelled. “I was really worried about you.”

“Sorry,” Revis apologized, opening his eyes. Ignoring the look of pure hatred he was receiving from Steph, he continued, “I couldn’t pass up the opportunity of getting Steph back. You just happened to be collateral damage.”

“What actually happened here?”

“I really did smell oil burning, but it was from this bonfire, not the buildings. They made it to burn the bodies of all the sparkly vampires they’ve killed. I just helped them put a couple in there. That’s where the blood came from.”

“Who protected them?” After Revis pointed at Faithhopechocolate, Matticus asked in disbelief, “You killed all of them?”

“Vampires don’t like crosses,” she explained.

“You just showed them crosses?”

“No, I hit them over the head with one.”

The Jester looked from Faithhopechocolate to Revis and back again, and then rolled his head back and belly laughed harder than he had in a long time.  Steph was not amused, but the Jester’s laughter was infectious and Revis joined in.  Sputtering between laughs, Matticus stated, “That must be one heck of a cross!”

Faithhopechocolate’s eyes beamed with love, “You better believe it!”

Steph stamped her foot in frustration, trying to snap the three of them out of their frivolity, “This is serious, though, if the vampires have sent out patrolling bands this far from the city, they must have known they were supposed to be looking for something, and when those patrols don’t make it back, they will send a larger force expecting trouble.  Well armed.  Prepared for whatever we can throw at them.”

The weight of Steph’s words couldn’t dampen the Jester’s mirth, he just kept picture sparkly vampire after sparkly vampire getting bashed over the head by a whole myriad of crosses.  In the back of his mind he made a mental note to make sure that some sort of weaponized cross was added to the armory when he made it home.

Revis had stopped laughing at that point. “Look, Steph,” he said, “you and Faithhopechocolate need to tell the people here to start getting everything ready for a road trip. They’re coming with us to Long Beach.”

“What about the people still left in Bruges,” Steph countered.

“I’m afraid they’re on their own for now.” Before Steph could argue any further, Revis continued, “I don’t like it any more than you do, but we can’t do anything for them.”

Reluctantly, Steph walked off to start giving orders to those in the camp. Matticus and Revis began refilling their own supplies, filling up on water and food. Halfway through their chore, a shout came from the outskirts of the camp. It was followed by another a few seconds later. The two men slumped their shoulders and shook their heads. They knew what was happening before Steph ran up to tell them.

“They’re attacking now,” she exclaimed. Revis and Matticus began reaching for their weapons. “No,” Steph stopped them. “You were right. You have bigger things to do. You two go. We’ll hold them off so you can get to Long Beach and stop these sparkly bastards for good.”

Matticus wanted to protest, but couldn’t. Revis had grabbed him and was pulling him away from the fight.

Revis and Matticus Save the Kingdom, Chapter 24

Instead of  acknowledging the accusation that Matticus had thrown at him, Revis used the magic of his ring to turn invisible. Except for the Jester, who was used to Revis disappearing, everyone was startled by his disappearance. Steph, in particular, was unnerved by it. “Did he just abandon us,” she asked, going back-to-back with Matticus.

“Don’t worry about it,” he reassured.

“Don’t worry about it? It was bad enough when it was ten against three. Now it’s ten against two. I’m good, but I don’t know if I’m that good.”

The Jester’s reply was lost when one of the circling vampires cried out in pain. A second later, its head fell off. With their attention momentarily fixed on their fallen comrade, Steph and Matticus leapt into action. In one motion, she unsheathed her sword,  decapitated the closest vampire, and plunged the blade into the chest of another.

Matticus hit the vampire closest to him with the flat of his blade while simultaneously activating the sword’s magic. It ran away, its clothing on fire. The next vampire took its time coming at him, wary of the flaming weapon. The Jester feinted to the left and, when the vampire went to block, he quickly brought the blade in from the right. It cleanly separated the vampire’s head from its neck.

After dispatching two vampires each, Matticus and Steph turned, ready to face the rest. There were none left standing. All they saw was Revis casually leaning up against the wall. “There were only eight, not ten,” he informed them with a shrug of his shoulders.

“Show off,” Steph mumbled under her breath as she cleaned her blade and returned the steel to its sheath.

Matticus, standing close enough to hear her, couldn’t help but laugh, and he whispered back to her, “He’s always doing stuff like that.  I guess you’ll get used to it too, if you stick with us.”

“What are you two chatting about?”  Revis returned his full weight to his feet and sauntered torwards them.

“The Jester was informing me that I would eventually grow accustomed to your antics if I journeyed with you a while, but, alas, that shall not be the case.  Once I get us clear of the city, I will send you on to Long Beach and I’ll stay here to help those I can.”

Revis surveyed the bodies of the vampires she had slain and nodded with approval, “It is obvious you can take care of yourself.”

“So, should we get to it then?”  Matticus asked, finally having extinguished his blade and safely stowed it away.  “Before even more vampires decide to descend on us, perhaps?”

Steph looked up and down the alley to get her bearings, and then motioned for them to follow her again, “Let’s go.”  Matticus and Revis fell into step behind her.

She led them through another series of twists and turns until she finally entered a burned out building. Matticus threw a questioning glance at his Knight, but all Revis could do is shrug. They continued to follow her down a hallway. The hallway came to an abrupt halt at a brick wall.

“Why are there so many hallways that lead to nowhere,” Matticus asked in confusion. “And why do we keep finding them?”

Steph shot him ‘The Look’ right before she reached down towards the floor. “The wall was put there to stabilize the house and keep it from collapsing after the fire,” she informed them as she pulled up a trap door.

“Oh,” he replied meekly.

After Steph had descended down the stairs, the Jester heard something at his back. Matticus turned to find his Knight trying not to laugh at him. “Shut up,” he commanded Revis, following their guide.

At the bottom of the steps was a tunnel. Turning to her companions, she told them, “This tunnel will lead us all the way out of the city.”

“Who built it?” Revis queried, peering as far into the darkness as the small amount of light filtering in from above would allow.  “It seems too old for it to have just been constructed in the last couple months.”

“You are correct,” Steph answered, pressing a hand into the ancient stones, soaking in their coolness.  “None of us know how old the tunnel is or why it was originally built.  As we go through you’ll see sections that we had to improve to make it passable, however.  Bardictale spread the word about it when the vampires came out in force and said the two of you had been killed.”

“That guy, again?  Really?”  Revis whined, and Matticus rolled his eyes.  “He’s not at the other end of the tunnel, is he?”

“No, he’ll still be at his bar.  As long as he keeps his stocks of wine up the vampires will leave him alone.”

Matticus pulled his sword from its scabbard and Steph and Revis both took a step back.  “What are you doing, Jester?”

“We’re going to need some light, aren’t we?  Or, did you have some torches in that magic bag of yours?”

“Of course not, your Jesterness,” Revis said with a bow. “That would be silly.”

Feeling triumphant, Matticus started uttering the phrase to activate his sword. Before he could finish, Revis spoke the word, “Illuminate”. A small part of Revis’ chest armor began glowing, throwing off a beam of light. Matticus sputtered the rest of his phrase out, failing to complete the magical enchantment.

“Why would I bring torches with me,” Revis continued, “when I can just use this piece of armor to light my way?”

The Jester took a look around, ensuring that no children were present, and then began a string of cursing under his breath that lasted for several moments. Revis didn’t hear all of it, but he was pretty sure one of things that was said involved bugs invading his crotch. When Matticus had finished, Steph leaned in to Revis and asked, “What’s a douchecanoe?”

With a shrug, Revis answered, “I’m not really sure. I think it’s something he picked up while we were in my brother’s universe.”

“You have a brother? And what’s this about another universe?”

“Uhh, nevermind. Let’s just get going.  I’ll take the lead, since I have the light.  Steph, just make sure you warn me about any twists, turns, or anything else before I stumble into a precipice, okay?”

“No problem.”

Revis slowly started moving forward, with Steph and then Matticus following closely behind so they could all use his light to find their own footing.  Steph shot Matticus a glance to make sure he had calmed down and was going to be able to focus, to concentrate, on the arduous journey ahead and was surprised to see him looking at her.

In the dim glow, she could just make out the the Jester mouth “douchecanoe” and then point at Revis.  Steph shook her head and rolled her eyes.  Matticus would always be silly, no matter how dire the situation was.  She turned back to warn Revis to duck just in time before he cracked his head on a section of the tunnel that was a bit lower.

They walked in silence, except for their heavy breathing echoing off the close walls, and the occasional pinging drip of water collecting in unseen pools.  The journey seemed to last for hours, but they all knew that time was funny underground where there was no sun or stars to track its progress.  When Steph saw the marker that indicated they were nearing the end of the tunnel, they were all happy their journey in the darkness was at an end.

“I’ll go up first, and see if the exit is clear.”

Revis and Matticus Save The Kingdom, Chapter 22

Matticus tried to scream, but he had no mouth, and there was no air to carry the sound waves anyway.  Next to him, he saw that Revis had turned into a whale, and for some reason he thought that was weirder than his own predicament: he had turned into a potted plant.  He tried to laugh, but when nothing happened he remembered he had no mouth.

He did, however, notice that they were falling at a great rate of speed, and the world they were approaching was getting larger and larger.  As he began to feel the air rushing through his leaves he realized he could scream if he had a mouth, and was actually thankful he was a plant so he couldn’t hear the terror in his voice.  The whale thrashing around next time was making plenty of noice for both of them as it was.

As the air grew thicker he could feel the heat of the friction starting to singe his leaves, the pain started to border on intense.  And then, at a probability factor of 1 to 1.25 million to the twelfth degree, Matticus and Revis were returned to their bodies and safely transported back to the kingdom.  As the world around them righted itself, they thought they heard a monotone voice talking about an infinite improability drive going offline, but since they had no idea what that meant they assumed they’d misheard.

The prison cell looked exactly as it had when they left, except there was no sign of Jaded. Matticus pulled on the door, but it was locked. His Knight still had the key, so getting out was not a problem. They made their way out, getting only slightly lost now that Jaded wasn’t here to lead them around the castle.

While they were searching the castle, they noticed something strange. A fine layer of dust had settled over everything. Nobody had been here in some time. “How long were we bouncing around in between universes,” Matticus wondered aloud.

Revis ignored him, looking out for any traps that Jaded may have left for them on her way out. They made it to the hole that Grayson had made without incident. Judging from the position of the sun, it was around noon. The two men spent the rest of the day revisiting all of the other locations they had been to on the island. All of them were deserted as well.

“I hate to say it,” Revis began.

“Then don’t,” Matticus pleaded. “Please, don’t say it.”

With a shake of his head, the Knight finished his thought anyways. “We’ve got to go back to Bruges.”

“I told you not to say it!”

“Sorry.”

“You better be…  Do you still have the map?”

Revis unslung his pack and dug through it until, with a triumphant grunt, he pulled out the map that Ruta had given them back in Tuscon.  Unfurling it, carefully so its worn edges and fraying sections would remain intact, the two men studied it and discussed possibly routes until they had settled on the fastest of the paths least likely to result in their deaths.

As Revis placed the map back in his pack, Matticus mused, “Though, couldn’t you just use your whistle to ask if Rara or Grayson could transport us there?”

Revis thought about it and then shook his head, “No, I don’t want to call upon them unless we absolutely have to.”

Matticus frowned, and dug his toe into the dusty trail.  “I think it might be wise to talk to someone we can trust before we head into Bruges again.”

Looking up and around at the scenery, he continued, “It’s obvious some time has passed since we imprisoned Jaded here, we have no idea what we will find in the city.  We have no idea what this world is like anymore.”

“That’s a disturbing thought,” Revis quipped. “The problem with finding someone we trust to talk to first is that we’ll have to pass Bruges up to do that. Bruges is directly across the sea from us. We may not have time to go someplace new and then head back to Bruges. We should probably just go into the city and find out for ourselves. Either way, we’ll have to find a boat before we can go anywhere.”

They looked around the dock, but there were no boats in sight. Revis and Matticus walked further up the beach, looking for anything they could use to sail back to Bruges. An hour into their trek, they found a small cove containing a two man vessel.

There were two people on board, a man and a woman. The man, who was a sparkly vampire, had the woman tied up. Revis was about to signal to Matticus what they should do when the woman spoke. “This is what I get for picking a man without a beard,” she muttered.

“Shut up,” the vampire commanded.

“Do vampires have movements? Are your movements smooth? Do you have to push them out?”

“Shut up!”

As the captive continued to goad the vampire, Matticus and Revis crept down to the small dock the vessel was moored to.  With a silent prayer that it would work, Revis activated his ring, and both he and Matticus were relieved when he successfully disappeared from view.  As the knight did his best to stealthily board the small craft, Matticus went into action to distract the sparkly vampire.

“Hey, excuse me,” Matticus started, interrupting the heated exchange between the vampire and the woman.  Trying to play dumb, something that didn’t come naturally to the Jester, he continued, “Would you be able to help me?  I’m lost and trying to find my way to Bruges.”

“Get out of here,” the vampire growled menacingly, only throwing a minor glance in the direction of the Jester before turning his full attention back to the lady.

“So, you can’t help me then?” Matticus queried innocently.

The vampire, in a rage, whipped around and prepared to lunge at the Jester.  The speed of the attack caught Matticus off guard and he stumbled backwards, tripping over his own feet, and fell to the ground.  He fumbled for his sword, but he was too slow, the vampire would be on him before he could properly defend himself.

Luckily, Revis had made it into position, and two daggers suddenly sprouted from the vampires chest, then disappeared as the beast grunted in pain and surprise.  A moment later its head splashed into the water next to the boat, and its body crumbled to the deck.

Matticus untied the woman. “Are you ok,” he asked.

“I’m fine.”

“What about your movements,” Revis asked. “Are they regular?”

The woman answered excitedly. Matticus stared at the pair in confusion as they talked about their bowel movements for many minutes. “Uhh,” the Jester interrupted, “we’ve got things to do, Revis.”

“Wait a minute,” she shouted. “You’re Revis? And you’re Matticus!”

“Uhh….yeah. Who are you?”

“I’m Miss Four Eyes, but that’s not important. They told everyone that you were dead.”

“Who told everyone that?”

“Jaded and her mysterious sorcerer. They told the Kingdom that you two were dead when they took it over two months ago.”

“We’ve been gone for two months,” Revis muttered, shaking his head.

“I don’t care how long we’ve been gone,” Matticus yelled, grabbing Miss Four Eyes’ arm. “What happened to my family?”

Revis and Matticus Save the Kingdom, Chapter 20

The portal shimmered, revealing a brilliant flow of colors. Those colors swirled until they turned into a blurry image of the dungeon cell where they had left Jaded.

Jaded slept in the corner. A loud sound echoed through the hallway, waking her up. She watched as a shadowy figure walked up to the bars. No, not walked. It glided up to the cell’s bars. There were no feet or legs coming out of the shadows to touch the floor.

At first, Jaded smiled as the figure came closer. Then, when the shadow got next to her, Jaded lunged, trying to grab the figure through the bars. “You never told me that they’d turn me human,” she spat venomously, her voice sounding strange coming from the portal.

The shadow laughed. “I told you they were more formidable than you’d give them credit for. You still did good to get them to go through the portal. How long have they been gone?”

“How the hell should I know? I’ve been locked in here since they left, and there are no watches in this universe.”

“There’s no time to lose. Take this,” the shadow ordered, holding out a vial of red liquid. “Throw the liquid on the portal and it will keep them from being able to come back through.”

Jaded scoffed. “The last time I did as you ordered, I got turned into a human.”

“I can change you back…”

“Don’t lie to me.”

The dark figure did not respond beyond a further offering gesture with the vial.  Jaded took a step back, her eyes flicking between the vial, the cell bars, and the face lost within the shadows.  It was obvious from her body language that she was tempted by the offer.  Even if she no longer trusted her cohort, the prospect of no longer being human appealed to her.

Revis and Matticus exchanged a nervous glance.

“Should we jump through before she makes up her mind?”  Matticus whispered, unsure if his voice would carry through the open portal.

Revis didn’t answer right away.  His gaze was fixed on the unfolding scene, waiting, watching, trying to decipher what the right move was.  He certainly didn’t want to get trapped forever in Twindaddy’s world.  The thought terrified him so greatly he almost lunged through instinctively.  But, his training kept him from following through on the impulse.  He needed a plan.

The Knight sensed Matticus growing restless beside him.  If he didn’t think of something, or at least answer quickly, the Jester might do something stupid.  He shifted his gaze from the portal to see Matticus chewing on his lip.  A bad sign.  A very bad sign.

Jaded grabbed the vial out of the shadow’s hand and removed the lid. Revis immediately grabbed Matticus’ arm and dragged him towards the portal. The two men hit the portal just as the red liquid did. A powerful force hit them both head-on and they felt themselves being thrown backwards. Roughly, they hit the ground.

When they opened their eyes, they saw that they weren’t in Twindaddy’s closet anymore. They also weren’t back in the Kingdom, either. Looking around, they saw that they were in a forest at night. Although, there were some of the horseless carriages from Twindaddy’s world not far away. There was also an impossibly tall metal fence.

Suddenly, an ear-splitting roar filled the air. Revis grabbed Matticus’ arm and signaled him to remain still, and quiet. They watched as the metal fence came down. A strange looking dragon came crashing through, attacking the carriages.  It had no wings and short arms. The dragon attacked one of the carriages, pushed it over the side of the fence, and ran off.

“Wait a minute,” Matticus said once he was sure the dragon was out of earshot. “How is there a now huge drop off right where the dragon came running two minutes ago?”

“Stop pointing out plot holes in other stories,” Revis commanded. “If you do that, people may start finding them in ours.”

“Like what?”

“Like how we’ve been to a few universes different than ours and we all just happen to speak the same language. Seriously, how long are the odds that would actually happen?”

“I hadn’t thought about it like that.  Yeah, that is weird…  Also, I have no idea what you are talking about.  What stories?”

“Never mind.”

“Fine,” Matticus responded petulantly.  “So, now what?”

“Well, we should probably get out of this rain, and find some shelter before that dragon comes back, because it will be coming back.  And then we should figure out how to find another portal.”

Matticus furrowed his brow, and looked skyward, noticing the rain for the first time.  “I suppose you have some kind of plan for that?  Something from your magical bag of tricks?”

Before Revis could answer, the dragon let out a mighty roar that caused the hairs on their arms and the back of their necks to stand on end.  They couldn’t help but swivel their heads the direction of the sound.  It sounded close, and hungry.

A moment later there was a loud thumping noise, accompanied by a percussion impact in a nearby puddle.  Matticus looked at the tremors in the water quizzically, and then, as understanding settled in, his expression turned to one of terror.  He turned to Revis to ask the obvious question and his Knight was already on the move.

“Time to go.”

The Jester did not need to be told twice. As soon as he got up to full speed a bright light burst in front of him. Now that he had been blinded, he tried to stop. Instead, his foot found a small hole in the ground and he tumbled forward. When his vision returned, he expected to see the dragon standing over him, about to strike. Instead, he found that he was in a completely different forest.

It was now daytime. It was no longer raining. There were no horseless carriages.

Revis grabbed him from underneath his arms and began lifting Matticus to his feet. There was blood running down from the Knight’s forehead. “I found a tree after the light blinded me,” Revis explained before the Jester had a chance to ask. “I’ll be fine.”

A noise off to the side caused them to duck. They saw a man in armor, a man in priest robes, and a dwarf walking. The man in armor said something that they couldn’t hear. In apparent frustration, the dwarf grabbed the armored man and spun him so they were face-to-face. “If you don’t stop asking questions, I’ll cut your tongue out and shove it up your nose,” he threatened.

The light flashed again. Now, they were standing in a room with a bed. The only other thing in the room was a woman, who acted like she didn’t notice them.

“Isn’t that Drun’s stalker, Zoe,” Matticus asked.

Revis nodded his head. Zoe, still not noticing that two people had magically appeared in her room, went about her business. She reached into her pants and scratched her butt. Then, she pulled her hand out and sniffed it. Before the men could voice their disgust at her behavior, the light burst once more and they found themselves standing next to a pair of metallic looking rails laid over wooden slats that stretched towards the horizon in both directions.  A little ways away, there were two men talking to each other excitedly.  They couldn’t quite make out the conversation, but the younger one kept calling the older one, who had shock white hair, “Doc.”  There were two of the horseless carriages resting on the strange tracks.  The young man got in the smaller of the two, and the old man got in the larger, then smoke began to pour out of chimney looking thing and the two carriages started moving down the track.

Revis and Matticus turned to each other, eyebrows raised, and then the light flashed once more.  As their vision cleared they lost their balance and stumbled onto a bench of some sort.  A man there, dressed in all white, held out a box to them and asked, “Would you like a chocolate?”

That sounded pretty good to Matticus so he reached to grab a piece, but the light flashed again and his hand passed through nothingness.  His curses were lost in the transfer, hurtling forever in the unknown void between the infinite worlds.

Revis and Matticus Save the Kingdom, Chapter 18

Revis grabbed Matticus and Drun and shoved them both through the open portal.  Matticus, having already experienced his Knight’s shenanigans before, expected it and went peacefully.  Drun, on the other hand, and more than slightly inebriated, was not amused and his string of expletives was cut short as he transferred from one side to the other.  Revis gave a short laugh and then stepped through.

All was dark, and soft, and there was a peculiar odor in the air.

“Where are we?”  Matticus whispered as he reach out and his hands grasped what felt like fabric.  Based on Drun’s dire warning right before they had been pushed through the portal, Matticus was on edge and the darkness was playing tricks on his minds.  He’d have sworn he was holding an article of clothing, but that didn’t make any sense.

“We are in one of Twindaddy’s closets,” Drun drunkenly whispered back.

Matticus felt the man stagger forward and then heard him curse again, a little less like a whisper, as he knocked around looking for a way to open the door.

“Quiet you fool,” Revis whispered fervently.  “You’ll give away our element of surprise.”

Drun stopped trying to open the door and, to the Jester and Knight’s horror, began a deep roaring belly laugh.  “Oh, don’t you worry,” he said as he continued laughing, “there will still be a surprise.”

“Shut up, Revis commanded. “If you keep doing that, Twindaddy will know we’re here!”

This made Drun laugh even harder. “He already does.”

They heard a click sound from above their heads. Suddenly, a light blinded them. When their eyes finally cleared, they saw Drun holding a string that was attached to one of the magical lights that needed no fire. Drun was no longer wearing his armor. He was now outfitted in a strange type of clothing.

“What do you mean,” Matticus hesitantly asked.

After looking at the Jester in annoyance, he announced, “I’m Twindaddy.”

“But…. you’re Drun.”

“I’m both, you twit.”

“Hey! There’s no need for name calling….. Ummm, what’s a twit?”

Matticus knew what a twit was, but the exasperated look on Twindaddy’s face was worth acting like he didn’t. “Ok,” Revis broke in. “This story is getting off track. We should probably get back to the plot.”

Before Matticus could ask him what the hell he was talking about, Twindaddy responded with, “You’re right. It’s kind of dragging here.”

“Then get on with it,” the Jester snapped, irritated that the brothers always seemed to know what each other was talking about.

With his eyes adjusted to the light, and tired of being in the cramped quarters with Drun/Twindaddy and Revis, Matticus figured out how to open the door and stepped out into the room beyond.

“Hey!”  Twindaddy yelled and tried to stop him but he was too inebriated to succesfully grab the Jester.  “Where do you think you are going?”

Matticus did not answer.

The closet opened into a larger room that was obviously part of a dwelling, but unlike anything Matticus had ever seen.  It seemed fairly useless as a home.  There were too many unguarded windows.  The walls seemed paper thin.  It would not be easy to defend.  He found himself wondering how someone who obviously lived a soft life could have managed to unleash so much chaos into his kingdom.

Anger coursing through him, he turned to confront Twindaddy once and for all.  He pulled his sword, spoke the magic words to get the flames going, and started to say, “Twindaddy, how dare you send the vamp…”

Matticus’ voice trailed off, however, as he realized that his sword hadn’t burst into flames as it should have.  As it had without fail every other time he had called upon it over the course of the quest.

“Futbol rules,” he said, again, and still the sword did nothing.

With a shake of his head, Twindaddy sighed. “This is The Real World,” he said. “Unfortunately, magic doesn’t work here.”

The Jester turned to his Knight. Revis looked down at his ring. For a second, he just stood looking at it, but nothing happened. He also shook his head, confirming what Twindaddy had told them.

“Well, even without its magic, my sword is still very sharp. If you don’t want to find out just how sharp it is, you better start talking. Why did you send all of those sparkly vampires to The Kingdom?”

“Look, those sparkly bastards just started showing up one day. They’re creepy and weird. I sure as hell didn’t want them to stay around here, so I started shoving them through the portal. I didn’t care where they ended up, as long as they were nowhere near me anymore.”

“So you just infested my homeland, and endangered all of my people’s lives, just because you didn’t want to deal with them?”

“When you say it like that it makes me sound like a bad guy.”

Matticus sputtered for a few seconds, trying to convey his contempt for the man, but it all came out unintelligibly.

“I think what his Jesterness is trying to say,” Revis jumped in, “is that yes, intentionally or not, you do appear to be the bad guy.  So, now that we are all on the same page, how are we going to resolve that?”

Twindaddy shrugged.  Matticus continued fuming.  Revis noticed that the Jester was eying a peculiar looking sitting contraption with some malice, and instructed Matticus to sheath his sword before he started turning things into splinters.

“There’s no need for your sword, your Jesterness, go ahead and put it away.  I’m sure we can work something out without resorting to further violence.”

Again, Twindaddy shrugged his shoulders.  Matticus eyed him suspiciously but reluctantly returned his sword to its sheath.  He knew where it was should he decide he had need of it later.

“Okay Twindaddy, if that is your real name, obviously, we can’t allow you to continue shuffling the sparkly vampires through the portal into my kingdom.  I know they are annoying.  I understand your desire to be rid of them, but there has to be someplace else we can ship them off to.  Can’t you send them over to Drun’s side of the portal?”  Matticus asked, only mildly sarcastically.  “There are already a ton of weirdos over there.”

“I don’t control where they go once they hit the portal. I didn’t invent it. I just found it. I have no idea how that thing works. I assumed that they’d do what Matticus said and go into Drun’s world. Originally, I was going to have my squad mates use them for target practice.”

“You’re constantly saying your squad mates have bad aim,” Matticus interrupted. “Are they really that bad?”

“They suck at life,” Twindaddy said dismissively. “Once I figured out that they weren’t going to my other world, I honestly stopped caring about where they were.”

“Why didn’t you go in at the same time as them? Wouldn’t that take you to the same place as them?”

“Nope. Every time I go through the portal, no matter who else is with me, I go straight to Drun’s world. It won’t take me anywhere else. Besides, it’s over anyways. They stopped showing up once I sent their leader through.”

“Their leader,” Revis asked. “Who is their leader?”

“She said her name was Jaded…”