THE STORY OF
Written by C. Matthew Foote
based on characters and themes created by Max Michaels
THE WIZARDING FAIRE
My name is Tearan Jak’Sera and I have just discovered I am, in fact, among those that can weave realms. Sort of. It’s not like putting realms together and traveling from place to place; time to time like the books say it is. I mean, it IS like that, but it’s different too. I’m getting ahead of myself. But this is all pretty new to me so give me a minute to explain.
The person I was closest to in the world, my world that is, died unexpectedly. His name was Ma'Lek Neh-Sera. He was my uncle. And he was a man who held many secrets. Although I knew him well, I'm finding he held secrets I could have never imagined.
When I say all of this is very new to me, what I mean is that this morning, I was sitting by a pond while the eldest of our family met to divide up Uncle Ma's estate. In my world, this is done before the body is disposed of, the idea being that possessions remain the deceased's property until the body is gone at which point everything is available to be plundered by anyone who thinks they have a claim.
Wars have started because of people fighting over undivided possessions. Literal wars. The war of Andreus Serek-Kah lasted 25 of your years and cost the lives of over thirty-five hundred people. Honestly, it's childish and disgusting.
As I sat there, lost in memories and staring at the sky turning from crimson to gold as the day began, my sister approached with a thick package wrapped in homespun paper and a small satchel. Even from a distance, I recognized it immediately as the satchel my uncle always wore slung across his chest. It was one of his odd eccentricities that made me so fond of him. And there were many.
My sister, who was also my twin, began to call out to me as she approached. "Tearan!" she shouted. "Tearan! I know you hear me. You have specifically been left this satchel. Mother wants to know why. "
I turned to her finally and shouted back "How would I know? I'm not even in there with those obsessed money hoarders."
Finally reaching me, she said "It is very unusual that someone would be singled out to have a specific bequest assigned. Mother wants to know what it is, why it was left to you, and what the value is. If it is valuable, she may allow you to work for it. If it is not valuable, she may decide to let you keep it if it doesn't suit her fancy. I believe it to be one of his ridiculous magic tricks. If it is, she will likely want it destroyed. His whimsical nature was always one of the things she disliked most."
Although twins, my sister and I are in no way similar. She is disturbingly like our mother. Not a terrible person by any means; rather they are motivated by greed and are cold in nature. My father is very similar. I honestly do not understand how I fit into this family at all.
The only person I was ever able to relate to was Uncle Ma'Lek. Which is probably the reason my mother and I have… difficulties.
My sister dropped, or rather tossed, the satchel at me. I had to twist myself to avoid having it hit my face. Standing over my splayed body she lifted the paper package over me. "And there's this," she said, dropping the package on the ground beside me. "What is it?" she demanded.
"How would I know what it is yet? He never said anything about leaving me a bequest." I told her.
"Open it then. Mother wants to know what it is!" she once again demanded.
I was getting angry with the lot of them at this point. It was none of mother's business what the package was, nor was it any of my sister's. It was between me and the one person who had ever understood me in any way. But I knew better than to show that anger to my sister who would just run to my mother. I didn't need that woman's wrath come down upon me on an already difficult day.
I took a deep breath and said in as calm a manner as I could, " I would like to look at it alone, please. I made an oath that I will keep nothing from mother. I would simply like to inspect the contents in peace."
Looking down at me as though she were pondering a prison sentence, she finally said "That's fine, I suppose. But just know that I'm watching you. You should not even consider keeping anything from her. She always learns everything, as you know."
I saw the familiar piousness she always seemed to show when she believed she had control over another person. "Oh I am fully aware of that, my dear sister. She has an excellent source of information, does she not?" I told her.
"I'll give you a few moments but then you will be expected at the house" she retorted, then marching with a triumphant gate back through the trees and up the path to Uncle Ma's manor house.
I picked the bundle up and opened it carefully. I was excited. Uncle Ma' had always shared with me strange and fascinating things. For him to risk such an upheaval at the division ceremony it must have meant a great deal to him.
After carefully untying the string which held the pack together, I gently began pulling back the paper. I had learned over the many summers I spent with him that it is best to use care when opening anything to which Uncle Ma' was associated.
This package seemed to contain nothing of interest or import at all. Inside that paper were cards much like those used to play games. My uncle had many decks of these cards scattered throughout his home, but all that I had seen were finely decorated and of the highest quality. He used them for his various illusions and tricks he loved so much. And I remember him telling me that to be convincing, you had to bring your best in attitude and tools. Before you could convince anyone else, you had to convince yourself.
But the cards left to me were in no way special that I could perceive. In fact, many of them were dingy, bent on the corners, and mismatched. Not only were they not a set, they were completely dissimilar in every way. Each had different symbols, printing, and decorative styles. The only thing of consistency I could see is a word, phrase or notation from the hand of uncle Ma' on the upper right hand corner of each one.
They began to fall out of the paper as I opened it further and I fumbled many of them to the ground with the rest pressed between my hands and chest. I attempted to get them back into some sort of order when, upon selecting a single card from the ground, it began to have a faint bluish glow emanating from it.
Fascinated, I inspected it more closely. In the corner my uncle had scribbled "City of Ancients". I looked around to see if any of the others had come to life. But all the others were as they had been in the paper. Nothing but cheap playing cards.
I held the glow closer to the other cards to see what was written on each. One card was marked "Rhye" and another "Mirror Mountain". There was another labeled "Nevermore" and yet another "Dreamers Ball". It was all very odd but just as I was about to simply gather them all for further inspection, I heard a voice shouting at me from not too far a distance away.
It was, of course, my sister. "I knew it! You do know what they are. And they are of value. Look at the glow. It's beautiful." .
Quickly, I realized that my sister was not alone. My mother was just behind her followed by other family elders. Frantically, with my free hand, I flung the satchel across my chest and then continued to stuff as many of the cards as I could inside.
The light from the card in my hand was now blindingly bright and the family was forced to shield their eyes from its glare. But I wasn't looking at the card in my hand, I was focused on the few remaining on the ground.
The world around me was getting hazy and every hair on my head was beginning to stand up. The points of my ears and every one of my fingers sizzled with cold electricity. As the world began to pull away (or I began to pull away from it) I saw the corner of a card I had not yet collected. In the corner, in writing larger than any other and twice underlined, I thought I could make out the word :"home". Even though I wasn't looking at it in any way, I was blinded by the power of that single card. I shielded my eyes and…
…I was knocked over onto the incredibly hard ground, striking my head in the process, which hurt very much.
Suddenly, rolling to a stop in front of me was a person the likes of which I had never seen before. Her skin was the color of my hair and her hair was the color of the sky I had been watching only moments before. She wore not robes but bottoms that stuck to her body and were covered with rips. She wore a black jacket that I could only imagine kept her far too warm for the incredibly hot climate in which I had materialized. I had to wonder if maybe she was cold-blooded and needed extra warmth.
"Hey!" she yelled just before she landed. "Where did y… OOF!" I almost didn't hear the "oof" as I was distracted not only by the pain in my head but also the sound of her shiny head covering clanking across the ground.
"I'm so sorry!" I said, getting off my knees and holding out my hand to help her to her feet. "Please forgive me. I don't know what happened."
"You appeared out of thin air and I fell over you! That's what happened. Normally I'd be completely not happy.about something like that because usually it means that someone was being either careless, rude, or just mean, but I don't think you were being any of those things because you would have had to be right where I was walking which means I didn't see you AND you didn't see me. But I know I would have seen you because DUH! how could I not have, right? So if you just appeared from nowhere you didn't know I was walking right in that spot which means it was a small accident and who would be angry or upset at a person over a small accident, right? And you're even being a gentleman and helping me up which is very attractive in a person I have to say. And your makeup is fantastic! It must have taken hours to put on so it would look so natural and I can't even tell if that's your real hair or a wig but either way, great costume! I'm Molly. Molly O'Malley! What's your name?"
I wanted to speak. I really did. But my head, which was still a bit painful from the collision, was having a difficult time processing the vast amount of information which had been thrust upon it in a very short period of time. I stood before her and simply stared at her. It was every bit as awkward as it would seem to be.
"How hard did you hit your head?" she asked me. "Do you think you have a concussion? Do we need to go to first aid? I can help you if you want. Do you remember your name?"
The questions came one after another so I blurted out the first thing that came into my mind. "TEARAN!" I nearly shouted at her.
She looked at me blankly and I mirrored her for more time than was comfortable. Finally, she spoke as if she were speaking to a scared child and said "Sooo…. That's your name?"
I was still quite confused and a bit overwhelmed to be honest, causing me to wrinkle my forehead and reply "What?" The look of sympathy she gave me was somehow even more embarrassing so I followed quickly with "Uh, yes. Yes. That is my name. Tearan Jak-Sere. My name is… yeah. Tearan. Where am I exactly?"
"You really did hit your head hard. We better go to first aid." she said and pulled me toward the building we were standing in front of.
"No!" I said a bit too loudly. "Thank you but my head is fine. I am just confused as I do not know the name of this place. Could you tell me, please?" I begged.
"Are we going to be dating, Tearan?" she asked.
As I had never heard this term before I was again left with no way to respond. I ended up just staring confusedly at her.
She continued "You know, dating. Wooing. Coupling. Romancing. Getting totally hot for each other. Is that your intent?"
Recognition set in and I blurted out "No!" Before realizing this may be hurtful to a lady and then said "I mean, I do not at this time know? Maybe? Are you interested in that sort of thing? I'm not even sure how that would work."
"Calm down, TJax. That's what I'm going to call you because it sounds fun and is easier to say so I hope that's ok with you." She was laughing while she spoke and explained with "I am not trying to trap you or anything. I just figured if we were not dating then we could probably stop holding hands, y'know?"
I quickly let go and begged her pardon but she considered it humorous.
She then began to answer my original query and said "You need to know where you are because you popped out of one place and ended up in another one and now you are hopelessly lost. Yes?"
"Exactly," I replied.
"This is Ancient City. You are at one of the greatest cons in the world! How did you get here?" she asked.
"I don't actually know," I began. "I had just received this satchel as a bequest from my Uncle and was startled as I was picking up some card I dropped to.the ground. There was a flash of light and then you tripped over me. That's all I know actually."
Molly glanced down at the ground and remarked that there were some still there. "Lucky for you they didn't blow away!" She handed them to me and looked down once again. "Last one I think, '' she said, bending over to pick it up.
I heard a strange noise just behind me but really didn't pay it much mind. Molly looked over my shoulder and said "I said he was lucky, Lucky. Not you Lucky."
"Who are you talking to?" I asked.
She shrugged and said "Lucky. He's behind you."
As she handed me the card I turned to see what could only be described as a giant living statue reaching to grab me and tear me apart one limb at a time. It would have succeeded had it not been for a blinding flash.
I had been understandably shocked at seeing a beast of such incredible size that looked to be formed of the brightest gold, reaching for me. I would guess that panic set in and, just as it had earlier beside my uncle's pond. My emotions had obviously set off another one of the cards Uncle Ma’ had left me. I was going to have to figure out how to control this whatever it was that kept tossing me from realm to realm. And I was going to have to figure it out quickly.
I now stood in a clearing near a castle which towered over a village below. I immediately looked at the card in my hand and in the corner was written "Houndswood ding Wizarding Faire .” All around me I heard vendors calling out to sell their wares and the buzz of conversations from the people milling about. This “Wizarding Faire” as my uncle had noted it, was alive with activity and comradery. It was so unlike the world I had come from. My world of course not the City of Ancients I was just removed from. I had to admit that I was a bit sad at leaving Molly behind. While odd in her own way, she was kind and helpful and I believed I would remember her fondly. The giant creature she was with was another story.
It took me a moment to take the entirety of this new environment in as there was such a vast array of vendors spread out across the clearing. A voice next to me said “This place is amazing, isn’t it?”
“It really is,” I replied. “Quite amazing. A person could get lost in a place like this.”
“I think you are lost enough, TJax. Wouldn’t you agree?” the voice said.
I laughed a bit at this and turned to answer. “Yes! I would have to say I am. I sup… What?!”
“We’re not going to start that again are we?” Molly asked.
I was shocked to see her standing next to me. It made no sense whatsoever. “What are you doing here?” I asked and grabbed her by her arms to pull her close.
“TJax?” she said softly.
“Yes, Molly?” I replied.
“Are we dating?” she once again asked me.
I didn’t get it until she looked down at where I had grabbed her. I immediately released her and apologized. “I hadn’t meant to treat you roughly. I beg your forgiveness Molly.”
“I know you didn’t, TJax. Calm down.” she reassured. “Let’s just be a bit more aware of the touchy-touchy, agreed?”
“Agreed. Of course.” I told her. “But I am so shocked to see you! How did you get here?”
As she looked around her she said “Well, I’m not an expert on all this realm weavy stuff but I would guess that you saw Lucky, freaked out, and since we were both holding a card at that time, you world hopped and I got pulled right along with you. You’re thoughts?”
“Well,” I started. “I’m not sure I understand everything you just said, but I believe you have well-stated the main idea.” I looked at her and in as sincere a way as I could and I said “I am so sorry to have involved you in my mess.”
“Are you kidding?! Look at this place,” she said, holding her arms straight out and spinning around, "This is amazing! This could be one of the greatest adventures of anyone, ever! Why would you apologize?” As she said the last word, she smacked a passerby in the face.
“OH!” she cried. “I am so, so sorry. It was totally an accident. Are you alright? Can I help in any way?”
As it turned out, the recipient of the unintended slap was a young girl who appeared to be the same age as Molly herself. It was a very minor assault and the girl seemed more surprised than hurt. She appeared to be laughing it off due to Molly’s non-stop apologies. Her father however, was less understanding.
It’s not that he was tall but he was huge. It was width that was his most remarkable feature. He nearly filled the entirety of the path before us. And not one inch of this man was wasted. Full muscle he was from side to side, top to bottom. As Molly remarked, he was scary.
Things seemed to go completely wrong as soon as the muscle-packed behemoth dropped an armload of packages, at least twenty-five, on the ground at his feet. He began to shout in a voice that sounded as if he had been chewing gravel for the last decade.
“You struck my little girl!” he snarled.
I stepped in front of Molly to defend her from whatever violence he intended to direct her way and was taken aback when she pushed me back behind her saying “Oh, no, you did not just do that.”
I was once again confused as I had been for most of the day, honestly and said “What did I do?”
"In my realm, women can fight their own battles," she said. And when she did, I saw something I hadn't seen prior. There was a determination and confidence I would not have not have expected from someone such as Molly.
But I saw her turn and face that man, that warrior, with no hint of fear or apprehension. "Yes, oh large one! I did, in fact, smack your daughter upside her head. But it was an accidental smack with no malice intended. I have helped her to her feet and she is fine."
The girl bowed to her father and said "I am well father. No harm was intended. We should let the matter rest."
Molly turned to the girl and said "Hey, that was really nice. Thanks for that!" Then she wrapped her arms around the girl that she had just assaulted moments before. I could see that fury rise in the barbarian's face. He seemed to believe that Molly was once again attacking his offspring. I stepped forward and gently separated them.
"Molly?" I said, "are you dating her?"
"What? No! I mean… y'know… Not now. But…" she struggled to say.
I directed her gaze in the direction of the father as he moved in our direction much more quickly than I would have thought possible for a man of his size. "Maybe not so much with the touchy-touchy then, right?"
Molly saw the man pull his weapon, a sword that was much larger than Molly herself, and move on her.
I was starting to recognize that what one would normally expect from a person like Molly was rarely what one would actually get. She jumped to her right just as the man stuck the ground where she had been with a heavy, downward blow. Molly grabbed a long, thin metal bar from a nearby blacksmith and held it before her announcing "I do not wish to fight you, good man. But I will if I must."
"You struck my daughter!" the man shouted again to her, then twisting his weapon from the ground and swinging it in an horizontal arc intended to slive her in half.
Molly began to laugh…
At the second she should have been killed, Molly dropped to her knees allowing the blade to pass over her head and back. She rolled on the ground in the direction the man was swinging, popping up behind the sword as it moved past. In a single motion, she brought her bar down from over her head.
When the metal bar struck the sword, it caused the weapon to hit the ground, which caused the sword to bounce and break free from the man's grasp, which sent it sailing into the stall of a pottery craftsman, thereby shattering nearly every item in his stock.
"I have missed this so much!" she said, continuing to laugh.
"You miss this? How could you miss this?" I called over to her.
"Long story!" she shouted back. "I'll have to tell you about it."
The huge man then pulled from inside his cloak a very large, very dangerous looking club studded with various spikes all around. He made a guttural noise of pure anger and rushed at Molly once again. Just as they were about to engage in a second clash, a voice louder than any one person could possibly have, said "ENOUGH!"
Every head turned toward the source and then bowed in reverence to a small woman adorned in a silken flowing gown. She pointed at the two combatants and with a slight twitch of her finger, both weapons dematerialized.
"I think that's just about enough fighting for one day!" she continued. "Eldwin," she said in the direction of the potter, "you may return to your trade."
Every piece of shattered stock that had once lay strewn about the ground was now back where it had been before all the excitement took place. "Theran! That will be all for today. Take your.daughter and return home."
The man, whose name was evidently "Theran", once again pointed to Molly and yelled "She struck my daughter!"
"And it was an unfortunate accident. Apologies have been made and accepted. Dorinda's cheek isn't even a small bit red. Go home," the woman instructed. "And leave the sword behind. You can have it back when you can be more responsible. Now... You two strangers, what do you want here?"
"Who are you?!" Molly asked, mesmerized.
"Do you know where you are?" she asked us both.
I looked down at the card I still held in my hand and read "Houndswood Wizarding Faire," I think.
She replied matter-of-factly "This land you see before you is Houndswood, I am the wizard Lilith, and this is my faire. You follow?"
"I didn't know women could be wizards!" Molly exclaimed.
Lilith said "Well of course they can. Why would you think something like that? Don't be daft, silly girl.” Looking back at me she snapped “Where did you come from?”
“From her realm,” I said. “After I was flashed out of my own moments before.” I explained.
She pointed her finger at me and said "A realm weaver? Not likely. Where were you trained?"
"I wasn't. I learned of it only this morning" I said.
She reached up and put one hand on each side of my face, turning my head slowly from side to side. "What are you looking at?" I asked.
"Ha!" she said, "You look much like someone I used to know. Come with me. You shouldn't stay out in the open like this."
"I don't understand," I began.
"Of course you don't! That's the whole point! Now come!" she said pulling Molly and I close.
The wind swirled around us for a few seconds and when it stopped we were in the living area of a quaint, comfortable cottage. It was a very different feeling than when I went from one place to another.
Lilith shot her hand out toward me saying “Let me see that card, boy!”
I took it from the satchel and handed it to her but she snatched it away anyway. “Ma’Lek, you old fool,” she said. “What have you gone and done?”
Shocked, I asked “Ma’Lek?! How do you know that name?”
“I don’t know who you are or how you got these keys, but I knew him alright. And I told him to destroy this key and never come back!” she said as she hurried about the room grabbing random items and letting them crash onto a table.
“So he came back here?” I asked.
‘NO!” she yelled.
“Then why are you so upset?” I said. “He didn’t come back like you asked him not to.”
“You have the blasted thing now and you’ve come here and caused trouble!” she said.
Defending herself Molly said “The big dude started it.”
“Not the ruckus at the faire,” she shot back, "the trouble that is coming after you."
"Wait!" I yelled. "This is too much information coming too fast! Who would be coming after us? Nobody knows where we are! We don't even know where we are! Who is coming after us?"
"NO TIME!!" Lilith yelled back. Her arm extended to its full length and she made a motion as if she was opening a door when a fire appeared in the fireplace on the far wall. She pulled the Houndswood Wizarding Faire card from her cloak where she had stashed it a minute ago and flicked it into the fire.
"Hey! What are you doing?!" I shouted.
She raised her hand above her head to make a point, I suppose, and shouted "What Ma"Lek would not! I have kept the Realm Initiative away from Houndswood for ages! I have kept my people in the dark about the true nature of the realms to protect them and they are happier for it! But now here you come with your daft female and threaten everything! You must leave! Now!!"
With that, she started pushing us toward the door. "Pick a card, any card from your satchel and jump away!"
"I don't know how!" I tried to explain as she shoved us out. I grabbed the first card I felt and held it out to her. "I can't go anywhere. I was never taught how to do it on purpose."
"Look at it," she commanded.
"Concentrate on the symbol," she continued.
"Now believe you can transport to that realm’s symbol and you will," she shouted and slammed the door in our faces.
"She's mentally ill!" I told Molly. "That can't possibly be how it's done. What are we supposed to do now?"
Molly nudged me and nodded toward the card I held in my hand. It was beginning to glow.
In a very calm, very soft voice she said "Take a deep breath, TJax."
And I did.
"Concentrate on the symbol," she continued, slow and calm.
So I did.
Molly gently took my free hand and locked eyes. Then, in almost a whisper she said "Now believe."
And this time, I really did.