Curses! I can’t think of an intro again. What am I supposed to put here!?
I do have a fascinating list of fictional teleportation devices, but that goes AFTER the chapter.
I suppose I could answer mail from my millions of fans––but I can’t find any letters! What’s wrong with you guys!? Are you intimidated by my “e-presence?” Is it because I forgot to put my address up on the site? Is it because you only exist in my imagination?
That’s it! Imagination! That gives me an amazing idea! I’ll try to put this plan into action the next time I post.
15 – Carnival
Shirka had been watching Dark, Tenny, and Jelk ever since they had departed from Clance’s casino. She was seated on the edge of the tiny house’s roof, and the image of group was clear in the lens at her eye. They were about halfway to Beebee’s castle when the rolling jalopy skidded still.
“Whittler and Mean,” Shirka drawled. Her legs dangled over the shingles; her hat was hung at a post on the porch. She scowled as Dark slipped from the vehicle before it could fully stop; Mean glided across the glass surface to catch him. She pushed against his chest to ease his fall. Dark caught himself, smiled, and swept her close with his arm.
“Oh! Dark!” Shirka mocked. “I didn’t know you were here!” She tightened her thin, red lips as Dark kissed her on the forehead. The others were gathering around her. Mean stepped back for a moment to remark on the poncho.
“Ignorant brat,” Shirka groused. “He bothers to look for her and she didn’t even notice.”
Calm was standing further up the roof’s incline. A chain in her hand was stretched taut across the shingles lead beneath the edge.
“I’m letting her out,” Calm announced. She pulled on the chain and it rattled across the shingles and came back to her hand. Below, on the porch, the front door swung out. There was a slap of bare feet as Trisk stomped through.
“What is this place supposed to be!?” she said. She stood on the porch, scanning the straight horizon of black sky and stars. “This looks like one of Darrow’s video games.”
Trisk tested the glass plain with her toe, then stepped down onto it. She bounced a few times, then turned back to the house. Checking the roof, she saw no one there.
“Nice hat,” Trisk said. Shirka rose her eyebrow against the strap that held the circular lens to her face. Trisk stepped back toward the house and lifted the long-brimmed hat from the post. She slapped it on. With a smirk and a twirl, she strutted off across the glass plain.
“She took your hat,” Calm said with a giggle.
“She knows Mean’s friend,” Shirka pondered. “Interesting. And she got past Elder Sain? Ha!” She gazed through the circle and an image of Mean appeared in the sky to the north: it flew slowly along until Trisk spied it. Then it rocketed off toward Clane’s casino. Trisk held the hat tight to her head, the robe’s plush arms flapping as she ran after Mean.
“Of course she’s looking for Mean too,” Shirka spat.
“Why did you send her the right way?” Calm asked. She trotted across the roof and slammed down on her kneepads next to Shirka.
“They left Darrow at Clance’s,” Shirka began. “They’ll all go back for him, even though he’s an idiot.” She tapped Calm’s shin with her finger. “That’s when we hit him. Come on.”
Elder Sain struggled to stand, pulling himself up using a piece of jagged debris. Dust coated his maroon armor, and a wet streak of blood lead out from the punctures on his back.
“Sain, how badly are you hurt?” Clance asked. The needle-shaped avatar descended to the ruin of the Imperial Pyramid. “Let me get you out of here.”
“The suit can stop the bleeding,” Elder Sain told him. The avatar positioned itself in a horizontal fashion and Sain wrapped his arms around it. “Take me to the shore of that river.”
“What?” Clance uttered. “Shouldn’t we leave?”
“No,” Sain told him. “You still have influence over most of the planet.” He coughed and adjusted his grip. “Load the other batteries and fly them through on your ship. Tell Cougo to ready the Nameless. I may need it here again if the natives try another attack.”
“And what of that woman?” Clance asked. “She went through to Arsiling!”
Sain let go of the avatar as they reached the river’s shore. He plopped to the muddy ground.
“It’s better if she’s there; she was only a threat because of the magic density on this side. Tell the others to be cautious in dealing with her. Drain her magic and subdue her if you can.”
Sain walked toward the water. He looked up at the avatar. “I know things aren’t going as planned right now, but we can still pull this off. Just stay alert.”
“Are you going to introduce me to your pals here?” Whittler asked. Dark had his arm wrapped around Mean, with Tenny and Jelk smiling at them.
“She’s, uh,” Mean began. She drummed her tiny fingers on Dark’s poncho. “Now, don’t freak out–she’s the one that attacked King’s Fair with all those knives–but! She had her memory erased like what happened to Vornis.”
Dark, Jelk, and Tenny groaned.
“Yeah, we met that guy already,” Jelk told her. “We hitched a ride on his ship to get here. Barely got away.”
“You escaped from Cougo,” Whittler stated. “Is he dead?”
“What? No,” Dark told her. “We had to trick him. We had a bomb, and I had Cocoa keep it flying in the air.” He stretched up his left arm, bobbing it. “He couldn’t wipe my memory or I’d forget to tell Cocoa to keep the bomb aloft.”
“You’ve got words on your skin,” Mean said. She took his left arm in her hands.
“I guess I wrote that,” Dark laughed. “To remind me about Cougo.”
“He didn’t make you forget anything about me, did he?” Mean asked. She ran her finger down his palm and clasped her hand with his.
“He sure didn’t,” Dark replied.
“Someone’s coming,” Tenny said. He pointed at a spot out on the plains. Jelk squinted, found the lens in his pocket, and held it up to his eye. He scanned the horizon until he spied Trisk dashing toward them. Her head was down as she held the hat firm to her hair; her robe was flapping as the large, gaudy ring glinted on her other hand.
“Good lord,” Jelk stated. “There’s an angry pimp after us now.”
“A pimp?” Mean repeated. “Let me see that.”
Jelk handed over the lens and Mean looked through it. She gasped, then squealed.
“That’s not a pimp; it’s Trisk!” she exclaimed. With a hop into the air she zipped out to meet her. The others jogged after them, save for Whitter.
“Trisk, you made it back!” Dark said as they neared.
Trisk tightened the sash on her robe. “Yeah, I did. And you are–?”
Dark smiled. “Oops, I guess you didn’t see me without the armor.”
“It’s Dark!” Mean exclaimed. She squeezed his arm. “He came out of his armor! It was amazing!”
“I’ll bet,” Trisk hummed.
“So what’s going on over there?” Jelk asked. “We escaped from a dude in armor and there were millions of dogs.”
Trisk was nodding in approval at Mean as she stood next to Dark. “Oh, I was beating that other armored guy up,” Trisk said. She pouted. “King made me stop so I could come here to look for you.”
“Wait, huh?” Mean said. “What’s going on? You re-appeared at the pyramid, right? You guys didn’t tell me something was happening there, too.”
Trisk glanced over at Tenny. “I saw Caldera and Donzel’s monuments. Mine too. But there was these strange machines set up over them, and the hills were burnt down. I figured that someone had attacked while I was away, so I just started destroying things until they showed up.” She paused. “By the way, the pyramid is pretty much ruined now.”
“Trisk, you didn’t really destroy the whole building did you?” Mean asked.
“No, the other guy did. But I felt like I could have.” Trisk stepped over to Tenny. “I did it; I was able to switch arts without fainting. First I was tearing at his armor, then I had to go static to avoid getting stabbed. It worked: I stayed conscious!”
Tenny tipped his head back. “Arts? My arts? How do you know about that?”
“I studied in your tower?” Trisk said.
“I’ve never even seen you before,” Tenny said with a shake of his head. Jelk nudged him.
“Are you kidding? Please tell me you’re kidding; even I wouldn’t joke around about that.”
“It looks like Cougo’s been busy,” Whittler said, catching up to the group.
“But Trisk just showed up!” Mean argued. “Why would he do that to Tenny?”
“Are you all serious?” Tenny asked. “I knew this woman well enough to teach her my arts?”
“I taught myself,” Trisk stated. “We only knew each other for a few days.”
“You guys hit it off, if you know what I mean,” Jelk said, winking.
“No I don’t know what you mean!” Tenny shot back. He tugged at the collar of his work uniform.
“So that’s what it was,” Whittler said. “He probably just wanted the memory for his own perverse reasons.”
“Ugh, that sicko!” Mean gagged. “Wait–he stole Trisk from Tenny’s mind but he left me in Dark’s? What–am I not exciting enough!?”
“Calm down, Mean,” Dark laughed. “We should probably head back to get Darrow for now; we left him at that casino.”
“You left someone at Clance’s angle?” Whitter asked.
“The armored guy kept saying that name,” Trisk said. “Is Clance the one controlling that giant toothpick-looking thing?”
“It’s his avatar,” Whitter began. “He was supposed to be using it to transfer all your world’s magic into those batteries. If you really did just break everything they’ll be looking for you.”
“We’ll have to make it fast, then,” Tenny said. “We can go back to our world the same way my mystery pupil got here, right?”
“You can,” Whittler told him. “But where is Shirka? That’s her hat and you came from her angle; did you ‘beat her up’ too?”
Trisk took off the hat and stared at it. “I just found it on the porch. Nobody was even at that house.”
Whittler scratched at the vertical scar on her wrinkled neck. “This is strange. I’ll go see what’s going on there. With any luck Elder Sain will be coming back too. I can try to straighten all of this out.”
“Alright then–let’s go,” Dark announced. As the group found places to sit upon the jalopy, Whittler held her hand up to them.
“Good luck getting your friend back,” she said. “But I’ll warn you one more time: Clance won’t be too happy. Be prepared to skedaddle out of there. It doesn’t matter how good you are with magic or arts or whatever–he can take the energy out of you just like that.”
“Oh, that’s who this is?” Mean asked, taking a place on the back fender. “He’s how I got caught in the first place. I couldn’t even fly.”
Whittler let out a knowing hum. “Clance can steal energy, but he has to have a place to put it. He trains people to stay in a magic-deprived state, just in case some headstrong fools come a-knocking on his door.”
“That’s why he does that?” Jelk asked. “Why doesn’t he just suck the energy into himself?”
“His mind is already full of magic from the people of his world,” Whittler told them. “He couldn’t use it up fast enough if he tried.”
“From his–!?” Dark gasped. “What do you mean?” He stepped from the car. “You’re saying he has unlimited magic? How did he get like that?”
Whittler folded her arms. “You kids didn’t know? All of Clance’s siblings are like that–that’s what they do. Every time a person thinks about them they steal a portion of their magical energy. That’s why they’ll do anything they can to get noticed–that’s why Shirka appeared in your own world as ‘Hellzoo.’”
“That’s why she appeared in that mine?” Mean asked. “That’s why she was tormenting Kates? Just to be noticed? Just for some magic?”
“They need it to live,” Whittler said. “Without it they would look as old as I do.”
“Templetine,” Jelk uttered. “That’s why he wanted to win so bad.”
“I can’t believe it,” Tenny said. “Smatter was always telling that Hellzoo story–even hung a picture on the wall of my tower.”
“I even used it in my performance at the fair one year!” Jelk shouted. “I was giving it my power that whole time!?”
“You’re doing it right now, you dumbasses,” Whittle said with a roll of her eyes.
Clance paced across the floor, passing the plaster statue of the woman with the winged hairpins.
“Alright, so Cougo didn’t answer,” he told himself. “Of course he didn’t–not when I actually need him.”
He traced his steps back to his desk, checking the monitors that displayed numerous points on a map of the buildings and their positions on Arsiling. He tapped the screen on Shirka’s position, selection an option labeled “CALL.”
“And now Shirka’s not there,” he said after a while. “If that woman got past her–“
He stooped, digging out a hand-held radio from a pile of figurines. He spun a dial and pressed a button.
“Pladomir, come in,” he spoke into the receiver. “Pladomir, I know you always have this on; you need to reply.”
He stood with the radio at his ear, tapping his foot as static whistled through the earpiece.
“I’m sorry about Tenny,” Mean said in Trisk’s ear. Trisk tipped her head closer, keeping her eyes on Jelk, Dark, and Tenny in front.
“It’s fine; it’s almost better this way. Didn’t I tell you that I just wanted a quick fling before I was killed?”
Mean scowled. The casino ahead stood surrounded by coaster tracks, rides, and a Ferris wheel. The lights covering the large structures could be seen blinking in the glass.
“He waited for you, Trisk,” Mean said, taking her eyes off the sight. “Every day after work he’d show up at your monument.”
“I didn’t ask him to,” Trisk replied. “And he doesn’t even remember that anyway.”
“So you’re just going to act like it never happened,” Mean stated. Trisk set her jaw with a nod.
Mean gave the jalopy a push and it rolled across the plain faster; the car’s parts rattled louder and the wheels wobbled hard.
“You’re taking advantage of him,” Mean said. “Is that what you’d do if it was me whose memory was changed? You’d just pretend like we never had met?”
The wind was tossing Trisk’s hair now, and she swept some strands from her face with her slender fingers.
“What did you do, when I disappeared?” she asked. “Did you wait for me? Or did you try to go on living as if I wouldn’t return?”
The jalopy trembled and pitched to the right.
“Mean!” Dark called back. She slowed the vehicle.
“Sorry,” Mean called to the front. The casino was glowing in front of them now: two stories high, topped with triangular glass skylights and a crane. Trisk pointed at something hanging from a cable.
“Those were the things they were using,” she said. “Back at the pyramid.”
Six globes were lined up in two rows on a platform being raised by the crane. They cleared the roof and swung sideways: coming to rest beside a fat helicopter with an open hold for the cargo.
“Are those the things they were storing all the magic in?” Jelk called back.
“Yeah,” Trisk said.
“So they’re going to bring more?” Mean asked. “We can’t let them do that.”
“We need to get Darrow first,” Dark told her, twisting around. “Clance could be up there; we need to sneak up–“
The jalopy rose from the ground and soared at an incline toward the roof. Jelk, Tenny, Dark, and Trisk lunged to grab on to something.
“Or we could just fly up there,” Dark said. “Whatever.”
The jalopy bobbed over the railing that encompassed the roof’s perimeter. Mean set them down with a clank. A wheel fell loose as Trisk leapt off. The crane platform was resting nearby; she focused on one of the globes, dashed over, and poised her hand.
“It’s too late,” she said. She swiped her fingers at the intricate, wired surface. No damage was made. She looked back to the other side of the jalopy, where the crane’s base was planted. A tall man was exiting the cab.
“If I let the same trick work twice I’d be out of business,” he called out. Stepping down a small stair, he stood on the roof, facing the group through a diamond-shaped mask strapped to his head. His eyes could be seen through small holes and his blond, parted hair flopped across the point on the top. The sides of the pointed mask were elongated out to his shoulders, with gold filigree enunciating an angled smile on the bottom.
“Wow, nice look,” Jelk said. “Is that the guy?”
“I think so,” Mean answered. She stepped from the vehicle. “There were two of them about that tall, with blond bangs.”
“I’m the one that helped capture you before, yes,” the man in the diamond mask said. “I am Clance of Joy’s Focus.”
He tipped his head at a large sign held high above the roof on metallic poles. The letters blazed to life with massive white letters spelling out ‘JOY’S FOCUS.’
The sign illuminated the top of the building, and Mean whispered to Dark: “I still have my magic.”
“Yeah, well, maybe I can distract him,” Dark replied. Clance was pulling on thin gloves with fluorescent trim along the backs of the palms. After they were on he pulled his hairpin from this pocket. With a short jab the rides, and structures around the building whirred with motion: the Ferris wheel began to revolve; a clatter arose as the coaster was lead down the tracks.
“I don’t want you to get the wrong idea about me,” Clance told them. “I was forced by the laws of Arsiling to bring you here, miss. On my own I do my best to make the worlds more fun.”
“You were stealing their magic,” Trisk said. “I saw everything burnt.”
“I don’t believe anyone was killed,” Clance said. “We’re merciful. We’re going to give the magic to other planets, anyway.”
“Hey, you don’t own magic!” Jelk said. “What gives you the right?”
Clance twirled the pin around in his fingers. “Who would have that power if we didn’t? I heard what happened on Shirka’s world: some maniac tried to use magic to kill everybody. You can’t be trusted with it; it should belong to us.”
“Well, you got me there,” Jelk admitted.
Clance hummed, drawing out shapes in the air using fluid strokes. Floodlights shone into the sky and a carousel on the ground began to revolve. A gaudy tune blared up from below.
“You probably don’t know this, but every magical world is paired up with one that has no magic at all.” His eyes grew wide behind the mask as he stared down at Mean and the rest. “I bet you thought your planets were the only ones like that. But my world also shares an orbit with a non-magical one. It’s so sad! I can’t influence anything there. They can’t have any fun.”
“They can’t send you power by thinking about you,” Mean said. Clance’s eyes narrowed above the angular smile that was drawn on the mask.
“I was made this way,” he said. “And I can’t help it if she was more generous than the one that made you.” He directed the tip of the pin at her; she darted away.
“You can’t blame someone for taking a prize,” he went on. “Dangle it in front of their noses and they’ll do whatever they can to attain it. If you were in my place you’d do the same thing.” He jabbed the pin at Trisk. “Of course! She already knows what it’s like! Destroying my batteries. Beating up on Sain. You rolled with the advantage when you had it–when you had the power. And now that it’s gone you’re going to question the methods I use? Ridiculous.”
Trisk advanced toward him. “I don’t think I need any magic. Not for you. Now that you don’t have your weird giant monster.”
“Trisk stay away from him!” Mean warned.
“Oh, I can get you right there,” Clance laughed. He pointed his pin and the entire roof shook with a boom. Trisk bounced into the air as the rest of the group staggered.
“What!?” Trisk uttered, falling on her knees. Clance hopped, bounding across the roof. He came down upon her, swatting her with the back of his glove. On the ground, one of the rides stalled for a moment. Trisk collapsed to the ground.
Super-Quick First Draft Notes:
Shirka and Calm watch Mean and Dark’s reunion –
I thought I’d mix things up here. Usually such an important scene would be done from Dark and Mean’s point of view, but hey––I like to try new things!
Come to think of it, I could use this method throughout the entire book. During all those dull parts with Dark and the crew wandering around, for instance. I could have them WATCHED from the shadows as they scramble around. It could bring some creepiness to those scenes while also making Shirka’s presence known to the reader.
Elder Sain talks with Clance’s avatar –
Yes, he survived! And you may have noticed that none of the siblings mention a name for the gateway that leads back to Arsiling. They can’t call it a “hex door” or “hall” because only King and the other native characters know those names. Should I keep dancing around it? Or should I come up with something new? OR–! I could use one of the many names that OTHER stories came up with for magical gateways! I bet you’re excited for that list I mentioned earlier!
“Wormhole,” from Star Trek – It’s also in the dictionary as a theoretical passage between a black and white hole. Since there is no black hole in my story and also no Quark, this name is out of the question.
“Portal,” from Portal – This word is used so often in fiction that its true meaning as an ordinary entryway doesn’t see much use anymore. Well, you won’t see ME contributing to that practice!
“Tesseract,” from A Wrinkle in Time – Well, at least I THINK that’s what the book was talking about. It’s been like twenty years since I’ve read it; who knows. It’s also in the dictionary as, uh, I’m not sure what this means: “A four-dimensional hypercube, having sixteen corners.” Oh, right, a hypercube. I think I got one of those for Christmas.
“Boom Tube,” from DC Comics – I’m not totally sure how these things work, but whenever Superman needs to hop over to the planet Apokolips to punch Darkseid in the face––he uses a boom tube! Check it out:
Yeah, it’s a literal tube that makes a “BOOM” every time it opens. I suppose that isn’t so strange; I use a “pop” sound with the hex doors in my story. THAT’S IT! I can call it a “pop hole!” No–! A “popper-act!” I think I’m on to something.
“Floo Network” and “Portkey,” from Harry Potter’s books – Since Matt hasn’t read these genius masterpieces I guess I’ll have to explain it: you toss magic dust in a fireplace and it teleports you to a different fireplace. Like the transporters in Star Trek that I just realized aren’t on my list.
And the portkey is an object that’s enchanted to teleport the user to a pre-programmed spot. For instance, you could trick an unwary boy to participate in your dark ritual by making the portkey in the shape of a trophy. Then you could use the trophy as the prize of a tournament and rig the entry qualifiers so that the chosen boy participates. THEN you could fix the outcomes of each match over the span of an entire year to ensure that he wins and touches the trophy when he claims his prize.
What am I saying? That would be convoluted and stupid. Sort of like this list! Ha! If I missed any good names, be sure to tell me in the comments okay? Or just keep saying nothing. Whatever. I have a plan.
Dark and Mean’s reunion from their own point of view –
I forgot how much fun it is to see everyone together again! So of course I need to spend some time from their point of view without Shirka looking over their shoulders.
It is sad that that Tenny doesn’t remember Trisk though. I also wrote Darrow’s reaction to all this, then had to erase it all because I forgot he’s back at the casino, ha,ha.
Clance, on Arsiling, worries –
This part is a bit too short and pointless right now. I’ll probably need to add something. For instance, I could have Clance freak out a bit more. Then he spots the mask from the corner of his eye. With a giggle that transitions into wild laughter––he twirls over to the mask, slaps it on, and belts out a loud: SMMMMMMOKIN’!
Mean, Dark, Trisk, Tenny, and Jelk confront Clance on the roof of Joy’s Focus –
Yeah, that’s the name of his casino. It’s also what all of his theme parks on his world are called. It took me years to think of the name though. I wanted to avoid anything that sounded like real-world places, such as “Clancey World.”
Hm, maybe I should check the web to make sure it isn’t the name of anything else.
Oh come on! Are you kidding me!? It’s a web site!? The name of some hippie band!? Their music is “Cyber Suburban Electro Rock Circus!?” What in the world? Oh wait––it’s just “Joy Focus.” Saved by the singular form! GO LITERATURE!