Wizard and Glass
“Hey Albey, wait up!”
Not one tenth of a trek – wait, is that right? Albey pulled the little pad of sticky notes out from the back of his mind and flipped through the encyclopedia of jottings he made over the years of adventuring through the endless wood of The Hillside Commons… yep, said it right there, one hundred yards is one trek, and the leafen plateau that is The Foothill laid in wait not ten yards ahead, by Albey’s measure – ahead of him awaited the leafen plateau that is The Foothill, but still Albey took pause. He doesn’t like to wait, never had and never will, but it was Carl and Keaton he was waiting for, and they’re his friends. Friends wait for one another, that’s just how the cookie crumbles.
“‘Man,” Sidney said to himself between gasps, “I shouldn’t have eaten all those cookies.”
“Tell me about it,” Keaton said, appearing behind him in a puff of smoke just like Iuqon the Mage, except without the puff of smoke. Smoking is yucky!
Well, it was back then. A lot was yucky back then, before the boys knew what true yuckiness was. Before they came to understand the Plague of Decay.
“Never,” jested Albey, standing up straight. “But maybe I’ll write you a poem about it, don’t you doubt it, blab about it and I’ll… and I’ll…”
“And you’ll do what, Albey the Poet?” Keaton jubilated. “What will you do if I blab about it?”
“I’ll… I’ll plack uh’lall-bit!”
They both cracked up then. Keaton even fell over into the leaves, and when Albey reached a hand down to help him up, Keaton pulled him right down with him. A leaf fight ensued, as they often did whilst climbing The Foothill, and just when Albey was about to hamslam Keaton with a double armful of crinkly browns, Carl came huffing and puffing up behind them.
“Gee willikers, gang!” Carl squealed like a fat little piggy who tired himself out by playing in the mud all day. Carl resembled a fat little piggy in more than one way back then, say sorry but it’s the truth. “I tells’ya, that hill don’t get no less steeper no matters how many time I climbs them!”
With the stealth of a samurai assassin – Albey’s calling before he discovered the wonky wonderful world of poetry – Albey let rip a leafy whirlwind from behind his back. The leaves all fell short, of course, but Carl’s imagination caught the whirlwind and he toppled, then began rolling down the hill. Keaton dashed to grab him, but no matter how powerful the magick of Iuqon the Mage was, the lump of pink flesh (pink like a fat little piggy) just kept on a’rollin’. It took the combined forces of the Mage and the Poet to stop the felled Unfallen from rolling gut-first into a tree.
“Are you all right, Carl?” Sidney asked as he and Keaton helped their comrade up, each gripping one of his fat little piggy hands with two of their own skinny bony ones.
“I sure am, Albey,” Carl said with a smile. He had a few scrapes and bruises, but unlike a fat little piggy, such inconveniences did not make Carl squeal. Carl was rugged, ‘man, Carl was a tough cat. Carl was Ram’rl the Unfallen, and for that his friends respected him. “How many treks’re left befores we get to The Foothill? I sneakeyed some extra cooksies froms the cooksie jar sos wes could have ourselveses a feasts!”
He also talked queerly, which they could have done without.
“Carl!” both Albey and Keaton playfully shouted before punching each other in the shoulder, as per the Logger’s Pond custom of jinx before alcohol gets involved. Then, from only the mouth of the Poet himself (for ‘twas his mother’s cooksie jar from which the cooksies were sneakeyed), “My mom’s go’n’a be all sorts of sore about that!”
“Not-uh!” Carl insisted, digging into his pocket and pulling out only crumbs. Disappointment flushed his face like a toilet, hahahah. “She saids I could’ve! I guesses theys all crumbleyed in me pockeys, though.”
Albey patted Carl on the back then. “That’s okay, Carl. I’ll still eat ‘em with you.”
“Me too!” said Keaton, bubbling with excitement in anticipation of a fresh sugar high. “Hey, last one there’s a rotten egg!”
“Don’t you mean a crumbled cooksie? ” Albey asked, but he didn’t want an answer. He just wanted to get to The Foothill so he could hang out with his friends, so The Triad could take another adventure through the endless wood of The Hillside Commons to the delicious taste of crumbled cooksies, and so get to The Foothill he did. And they had lots of fun. And life was good. Life was so, so good back then.
But that was all a long, long time ago.
When Roland Deschain of Gilead, the last gunslinger of a world that moved on, told the tale of his past, he did so to four friends – three human and one billy-bumbler – during the course of a night which stretched on for days in a part of reality which was thinner than the rest. If nothing else, this proves once and for all that the life of Sidney Blake was not prophesized by King’s magnum opus: he’s come to his campsite in the middle of a day which seems to be ending faster than normal, he has no friends with him, human or otherwise, to tell the tale of his past to because Albey’s friends exist in his past, ‘Mayhap exclusively,’ and at this point in his life, reality seems to be as thick and glumpy as a mud patch the day after a rainstorm… or better yet, as dense as the weed packed into his bowl.
Albey steps over the stretch of his circle of puddingstones and plants his feet on the exposed forest floor. He never mentioned it in his journal – or perhaps he did, he can’t really remember right now – but on that last day of construction, he hauled a rake back here and put himself through the excruciating process of raking away the top layer of dry leaves, the middle layer of moist, decaying leaves, and then the bottom layer of root-infested partially decomposed leaves held together like a carpet by mycelium. The result was a backwards oasis of sorts, an irregular circle of order among the chaos of one part of the natural world mercifully untouched by ‘man. Just off-center of this reveasis is the firepit, and hanging between two trees which help make up the border is Albey’s hammock.
“No shit,” he admires, approaching the blue… polyester? Probably, or maybe nylon or something. “Well whatever you are, you survived the past couple weeks.” Albey grabs the tag attached to the carry bag attached to the hammock itself and tries to read the faded print, but, y’know, it’s faded from being left out in the woods for the past couple weeks so he doesn’t get much out of it. “Oh well, probably doesn’t say it on there anyway. Got that Made in China printed nice and large, though.”
The ropes are still pulled taught around the trees, and somehow they’ve not frayed at all. There’s a bit of rust on the carabiner on the back side of the hammock… ‘Or is this the front side?’ They’re more or less identical, it probably doesn’t matter; the thing seems sturdy. Albey takes a step back and turns slowly around until he’s facing the hammock again.
“Oddly enough,” he says aloud to any denizens of the forest who may or may not be listening, “this scene right here? This reminds me of book four.”
The hypothetical denizens, eager to hear why this scene of the movie that is Albey’s life reminds him of book four of the Dark Tower series, make not a noise. Aside from the noise they’re already making, anyway.
“After walking down the old game trail – wandering through the waste lands, that is – I come to my campsite, a seemingly abandoned settlement, a relic of the distant past. Just like the ka-tet coming to the Topeka, Kansas from the world of Captain Trips.” He smiles, not at all bugged out by this harmless coincidence that’s probably more the high than anything else. “Except the man in black isn’t real and didn’t destroy my life.” He chuffs out his nose. “I did that all by myself, it seems.”
The wind continues to blow. Quite a blustery day for summer… although it’s practically September already. Time sure does fly when you’re having… well, when you’re completely and totally alone.
“Yeah, but that’s by my own accord,” Albey reminds himself as he takes The Peace Piece out of one pocket and the white lighter out of the other. Which pocket held which he’s not sure, because his lefts and rights are kind’a difficult after hamslamming three joints to the face over the course of… yeah, over the course of just about nineteen minutes. “Everything is nineteen, including the number of texts I’ll have waiting for me when I finally turn my phone back on.”
He flicks the white lighter once. The flame reflects in his wide, shiny pupils.
The sight of the green mass and smell of the herbal tar – it’s very faint, as the bowl is level with his bellybutton, but he can smell it sure enough – a’waft from the bowl are making Albey’s mouth water.
“Or maybe there won’t be a single message. Maybe everyone is ignoring me right back.” Displayed apathy. “Whatever. That’s all in the future, and this is now. And now…”
The flick of a Nic lighter, white as a puff of pot smoke.
“Now, we feast.”
Albey brings the mouth of the bowl to his mouth, extending his own internal pipe system by several inches. Burning scarlet spreads slowly from the rightmost edge of the bowl, crackling all the way, and consumes about a quarter of the Hippie Crippler Albey ground up to sacrifice to the divine ones or to the universe or whatever. Or maybe not, maybe he’s just smoking herbs for the sake of smoking herbs. It doesn’t have to have some higher religious undertones to it, does it?
‘Nah, definitely not. If anything, acting like I worship the shit just makes it more unhealthy. I’m doing a drug because I enjoy doing it.’ An ecstatic fullness makes itself present in Albey’s windpipe, then spreads to his lungs. He still feels the fullness as he exhales, and will continue to feel it even after he’s fallen asleep. As he coughs his dry-rotted brains – well, brain; well, what’s left of his brain, anyway – out, he thinks to himself, ‘God I fucking love marijuana.’
Goofy and toothy: the smile on Sidney Blake’s face as he watches the phat cloud of haze float slowly up and spread lazily through the airspace above The True Commons.
Wide and surprised: the eyes in Albey’s head when he realizes the initials of The Hillside Commons spells THC, like, as in weed.
Glum and dumb: the emotions running rampantly through the Mad Poet’s mind when he remembers this is The True Commons, not The Hillside Commons, because Harrington fuckin’ Bogspekti stole the name of Albey’s fictional world for his own campsite.
“Stole my fuckin’ friends, too,” as Albey takes a second hit. A third of the bowl is now blackened. Albey’s just as high as he was before he got in his car, just as high as he’ll be when he wakes up two days from now.
Tired and fired: how Albey feels at this point in his life. Re tired, that is… ah, who is he kidding? Our boy got the boot. He got the boot from school, he got the boot from his friends, and when he gets home later tonight and his parents see how high he is, he’ll probably get the boot from them too. Not literally, of course – Ashley and Jeremy love Albey, they’d never kick him out of the house. Only asshole parents kick their kids out, and Ashley and Jeremy work way too hard to be assholes. To be a true asshole in a small town like Logger’s Pond is to have the townsfolk turn their back on you and talk about you like you’re not there, to be exiled onto the beach whilst living on a small island. A fate worse than death, surely.
“I’m probably on my way there, at this point,” Albey whines to The Peace Piece. “I better get used to coming out here by myself. Go’n’a be a long winter, the way things are looking now.”
The denizens, slightly put off by the fact that Albey’s pretending he’s all alone in a forest where there’s more life in a square foot than there are humans living in all of Logger’s Pond, keep on making their noise and going about their lives as if Albey’s not there. But they’re thinking about him, oh you better believe they’re thinking about him, and those thoughts aren’t nice. They’re not malicious, either. They’re hardly even coherent. Most of the denizens aren’t exactly aware that they’re thinking, it’s just kind of happening, y’know? It’s such a basic part of their reality that they’ve never once realized it was happening, kind of like every single human being on Earth is oblivious to their latent psychic abilities.
The Peace Piece looks up at Albey with an eye stuck in mid-roll. Albey looks back with his eyes half-closed. Tired and fired, but far from expired. Sidney rolls up his sleeves.
“I just need a nap,” Albey decides, then says the word, “Yeah,” and repeats himself when he turns to face the blue hammock. He bumbles over and tests the integrity of the travel hammock with both hands, not putting anywhere near his full body weight onto it, and it seems sturdy. Sure, it’ll hold him. Why not? Even if it doesn’t, he’ll just fall a couple feet into a line of rocks. He’ll be fine. He’ll likely dislocate more vertebrae than he can count in his current state while also bruising his tail bone and probably caving his skull in from the back, “But nah, I’ll be fine. It won’t fall, it’s only been out here a couple weeks. Says right on the carry bag that it’s weather resistant. I’ll be fine.”
A wizard and his glass, bound forever together like a match made in heaven, float a meter above the forest floor then, held only by a thin sheet of unidentifiable material.
“God damnit…” Sidney groans as he shuffles about, trying to get comfortable. “My life is not the Dark Tower books…”
Albey has an easier time getting comfortable than he thought he would. He has to pee a little bit, but not enough that he can’t ignore it. He’s surprised, if anything. The fact that there’s any moisture left in his body at all is incredible.
“…my life is incredible…”
The canopy seems to grow thicker; sunlight leaks from Albey’s closed eyes as darkness sets in.
“…life is… Albey…”
The Peace Piece and the white lighter are snuggled up close to each other atop Albey’s crotch. He better hope he doesn’t pee himself in his sleep, that would suck.
It’s been a good long while since Albey’s slept out in the woods. Sidney Blake has never slept out in the woods – he’s always wanted to try camping, but Logger’s Pond is isolated enough for the bears to copulate in the streets in broad daylight; imagine their behavior in the privacy of their home – but Albey the Mad Poet is no stranger to slipping a’slumber beneath the stars.
The Mad Poet wandered the forests of The Hillside Commons for many braud strates before he came across Iuqon the Mage and Ram’rl the Unfallen, and for many more after The Triad was formed. They didn’t come across the little slice of paradise on the side of that hill until relatively late in their adventures, and the construction of The Lodge didn’t happen until shortly after the Ents began to rot.
“Albey… life is…”
The Plague of Decay is a wretched thing indeed, a terrible hand covered in boiling blisters which leak and pop under the pressure of a wayward gust of wind, which spew hideous liquid bile the color of a baby’s vomit that eats through hair and scales and bark and even skin, and that isn’t even the worst of it. That isn’t the worst of it by far.
“…lives… in danger…”
It’s tempting to fool yourself and believe that the aftermath of the infection is the worst part. Flesh dripping off bones, bloodshot eyes which know only madness and rage, the putrid stench wafting from the mouths of the damned… but honestly, that part isn’t even that bad. Once the infected are, well, infected, the pain is over. As far as Iuqon can tell, all semblance of awareness and consciousness leaves the body once the Plague takes hold. Zombified doesn’t quite do justice to the state of being infected by the Plague of Decay, but it’s close. As close as beings from Sidney’s world can come to understanding it, at least.
“Wake up, Albey! Our lives are in danger!”
No, the worst part of the Plague of Decay is not the symptoms which linger after the infection ravages the body; the worst part is the shaking, the horrible, uncontrollable convulsing of the arms and legs and stomach and head – most of all the head; the way the tongue flails, the way the eyes bulge and sink from their sockets, the way the gritty orange puss spews from the nostrils and ear canals… may the divine have mercy on us all – as the infection spreads. It’s a shaking of the soul fleeing the body, the shaking of the planet as the tectonic plates rumble beneath the surface, the shaking of the trees as The Dirtbiker rumbles on past them on his metallic steed, the shaking… shaking… Albey is shaking.
Somebody is shaking Albey from his sleep.
“Wake up, Poet! The Rotting Ents are approaching, we must flee to Jericho Tower and make our final stand!”
The old mattress creaks beneath Albey as he rolls away from the voice and hands which shake him so. He’s too high to be making any final stands, far too high, and…
‘The Rotting Ents? That’s impossible, we… they were vanquished, every last one…’
The Poet’s eyes slowly open to The Lodge. Filtered daylight seeps through the woven curtains like silver moonglow through the clouds of night. An idle rumbling outside is eclipsed by two muffled voices, one shouting and one stoic, neither of which are legible through the log walls. Iuqon is beside him. The Mage grips his staff so tightly the bones are showing through the skin of his knuckles. Floating beside them is Albey’s quill and papyrus, aloft by incantation.
“Keaton, is that you?” The Poet asks as he banishes the sands of slumber from his eyes. “What’s going on, where are we?”
Iuqon doesn’t miss a beat. “I know not of this Keaton, great Poet. You musn’t break character now, time is of the essence. The Dirtbiker has arrived from the west headed eastbound – and he carries word of impending death. The Rotting Ents are coming, we musn’t allow them to find The Lodge. All shall be lost if the sanctity of The Hillside is broken.”
The Poet’s instruments fall to his lap as he rises to a sit. He studies them with eyes a’squint as an outworlder may the trails as he travels the endless wood of The Hillside Commons.
“Time is of the essence, Poet, we’ve no time for this ambivalence.” Iuqon raises his staff, a twisted spire of steelwood capped with the mitt of an ancient beast holding a glimmering gemstone of many’a hue, and strikes the floor with its foot. Albey feels a click within the deepest recesses of that blindest eye peering out from the center of his brain. “On your feet now. Our fate awaits us at Jericho Tower.”
“Speak not to me of ka, bother,” Albey pleads as he rises to his feet, papyrus rolled and quill pinched ‘tween finger and thumb. “You may be a master sorcerer, but matters of fate and destiny are the hinges of the door to my wheelhouse. I’ve taught you all you know.”
“Of course, I did not mean–”
“Nor did you offend. Say sorry, I am merely sleepy; The Dirtbiker – he still graces us with his presence?”
Iuqon the Mage nods solemnly, then staffs the hardwood floor again. He rises briskly into the air and floats off in the direction of the door. Albey follows with haste.
Brilliant hot sunlight warms Albey’s body through his tunic and faded denim jeans. He follows Iuqon, a blur of hazy robes, to the end of The Hillside’s branch of The Dirtbiker’s Trail. The Dirtbiker, clad tightly in his flexing armor, turns his helmeted head to face Albey and raises a hand to his forehead in salute. Ram’rl turns his armored form and does the same, taking a knee as per custom.
“The time for such formalities has left us,” Albey cries over the rumble of The Dirtbiker’s mare. “I see you both very well. What news do you have for us, traveler? Tell me not that Iuqon speaks true.”
“Aye,” replies The Dirtbiker as Ram’rl climbs the handle of his mighty sledge, rising to his feet. “I did not intend to ride The Trail here, Poet, but here The Trail guided me nonetheless. The wheel of ka is spinning like the tires of my metallic steed, Triad; you’d do well to heed my warning. Nay – the days of doing well have rotted with the Ents. You’re best to listen close.”
“Speak, then,” Ram’rl demands, sledge in hand. “Repeat for them what you’ve just told me, or may we all be pounded like nails into wood.”
“The Rotting Ents are coming, Triad. Their ranks have grown in number, entire swatches of this endless forest have perished under their wrath.” He lowers his head and shakes it back and forth, the misery glaring like sunlight reflected off his visor. “Great tracks of woodland which once sprouted healthy green are now blackened hardpans. Molten rock spews from the fissures they’ve opened with their roots, and they come here next to do the same.”
“They cannot,” states the Mage defiantly. He turns to the Poet. “What lies beneath The Lodge cannot be disturbed, Albey. You know it as well as I, as well as Ram’rl. The fate of The Commons depends on it.”
“Which is why you’ll not interrupt me again, Iuqon,” The Dirtbiker says flatly, aggravation bringing a rasp to his voice. “The Trail guided me here true enough, but I shall always ride again.”
“Enough; we shall save our quarrels for the Ents,” declares Albey. “Say what you must, Dirtbiker, and be on your merry way.”
“There is a ‘man, comrades. A ‘man who wanders the wood alone in search of a home to wreck. He goes by the name of Gobon–”
“The In’Fluence?” asks Ram’rl the Unfallen, allowing his sledge to rest once more. “We know of him well, great mechomancer. He’s a kind soul, if not perhaps lost, but aren’t we all in this endless forest where the trails bend and twist by a will of their own?”
“Not all who wander are lost, Unfallen one,” The Dirtbiker warns gravely, “and some are damned to never be found. You call him the In’Fluence – this is not his true mantle, but merely a disguise. Merely a mask of wood he wears to blend in with the sacred trees.”
Albey’s papyrus unrolls in his hand and stiffens like a board. His quill moves his hand and begins to write all on its own. Three words are scrawled in that bottomless black ink, and Albey reads them very well.
“Gobon the In’Flu-Enz’a…” he whispers as one may read a fortune describing their doom. Iuqon and Ram’rl fall terribly silent, their very spirits growing cold. “Is this what you’ve come to tell us, Dirtbiker? That Gobon is a sickness, an ailment unto this glorious land, a traitor not to be trusted?” He steps forward, holding the papyrus for all to read. “Do I read true, great Dirtbiker? Hath my inken quill conveyed you proper?”
The Dirtbiker nods thrice in slow, careful rhythm, disengaging his kickstand.
“Off with you, then. May The Trail bring you to the foot of Jericho Tower once the Rotting Ents have fallen.”
The Dirtbiker retreats in a storm of dust and dirt. The Triad trade glances with one another, then The Lodge, then they all share a slow nod. Their footprints follow The Dirtbiker’s tire track until it dips off betwixt the trees. Not a word is spoken between them; the winds of ka blowing through the trees say enough.
Nineteen treks walked through the wood brings The Triad face-to-face with Gobon. He appears to have been waiting for the three; the ‘man of two names sits perched on a tree branch, a peaceful smile on his veiny face, his legs swinging to and fro.
“Gobon,” shouts the Poet, putting himself before his comrades. “Come to the ground and face us, lest you fall and do the same.”
The tree creaks as Gobon lifts his legs. His frail arms tremble like the strings of a strummed lute as he lowers himself down, but he does not lose his grip. His uncreased slacks, pristine and white, repel the dirt his landing kicks up. His eggshell blazer does the same, and as he reaches inside of it, his hand seeming to sink into the white shirt beneath, The Triad prepares to grapple for their right to proceed.
“At ease, Great Triad,” Gobon croaks through his browning teeth. He unsheathes his hand and reveals an empty glass bottle, green as uncut emeralds yet shining like the sea. “You might notice my new strength, just as I notice the air of anxiety which so consumes you.”
“Strength?” scoffs Ram’rl, lowering the head of his mighty sledge into striking position. “I’ve seen more stability in the threads of my curtains. You were lucky to get out of that tree alive, Gobon; I’ve no idea how you climbed it in the first place.”
The grin on Gobon’s face could tarnish an ingot of stainless steel. “You lot are headed to your Tower to ward off the encroaching Ents, are you not? ‘Twould be a shame to brawl them in your current state – I mean look at you all. You’re filthy, shamefully so.”
The Triad trade glances. Six eyes fall back onto Gobon. The smile makes them want to weep, but not out of fear, nor out of sadness. Only out of pity. Pity felt for themselves for being faced with such a grin.
“There is another way, Great Triad, for you to approach Jericho Tower… is there not?” he asks quizzically, tossing the bottle between his hands. “A diversion could bring you to my campground, and I could help you prepare for the battle. I could boost your strength, Great Triad, and ensure you all leave the battle alive.”
“Enough,” demands the Poet. His papyrus, erect and ready for the scrawl, craves the ink of his quill. “We’ve no time for your games and distractions, In’Flu-Enz’a. We know you’re not to be trusted. Stand aside or be trampled like the Rotting Ents in moments to come.”
“My mantle is the In’Fluence, great Poet,” Gobon says, not quite in a friendly tone. “Were you to see me well you’d know it without my reminding.”
Iuqon and Ram’rl look to one another, then to Albey. Albey doesn’t take his eyes off the foreverlost wanderer. The distant wails of the Rotting Ents send chills across the endless wood.
“I only mean to help,” as he catches the bottle and shakes it about for all to see. “You displayed shock at my climbing of the tree, Great Triad, and mayhap you can tell just by looking at me: I’m imbued with a newfound strength.”
Albey studies Gobon the In’Fluence closely, scanning every inch of the creature’s scrawny husk of a body. Were he not wearing his pathetic suit the ‘man in white would appear as a skeleton with a thin webbing of skin, Albey is sure of that much. The dark circles around Gobon’s eyes tell him all he needs to know.
“I said enough, Gobon, and I’ve not changed my mind. You shall stand aside or be pushed there, make your decision now.”
“This bottle was once full, Great Triad of The Hillside Commons,” Gobon continues, paying no mind to the Poet’s emptiest of threats. “It contained an elixir, a concoction of froth and herb. The taste is… well, it leaves little to be desired, and the effects?” He raises his arms and flexes. There is no visible change in the sleeves of his stainless white blazer. “The effects are astounding, my distinguished friends.”
“What is your point?” demands Iuqon, raising his staff to stab the ground. “If you mean to make one then you shall do it now, lest the bottle in your hand shatter to molten shrapnel. Glass may seem solid, Gobon, but I assure you I can convince it to flow like spilled blood.”
“Ah yes, wizard and glass,” Gobon hisses with a limp smile. “A match made in heaven, don’t you think?”
Iuqon tightens his grip on the staff, but he does not throw a hex. Not yet – it pains the Mage to so much as entertain the thought, but Gobon’s talk of this queer elixir has piqued his curiosity. A ‘man of magicks is no stranger to the art of apothecary, and there are many books yet to be written on the subject.
“I have a campground upon which I’ve settled, Great Triad,” as he points the bottle into a section of the wood unblazed by trails. “It’s just a short walk from here, perhaps nineteen treks in all. I have a great supply of elixir, more than enough for you all to drink to your hearts’ content, bottled and ready for the sip. It shall give you great strength and courage, and perhaps a lick of wisdom – all of which you’ll need if you truly mean to defeat the Rotting Ents.”
“Do you doubt our capacity to fell those wicked trees, Gobon?” as Ram’rl spreads his legs, lowering further into stance. “I take you for many things, but a fool is not one of them.”
“As I said before, Ram’rl,” Gobon says to all three of them, “I only mean to help. Though you do not see it from where you stand, there is a trail which leads to my campground, one which will guide you along a most scenic of routes to the outer edge of the field of flowers around Jericho Tower. Rather than climbing that rickety thing and waiting for your demise to come at you from all angles, you could ambush the Ents, perhaps even set a few traps.” He pauses, looking them each in the eyes. “Mayhap you might even leave with your lives when your terrible conflict is over.”
“Define,” instructs the Poet, his papyrus rolled once more.
A smirk as blunt as the head of Ram’rl’s sledge. “You must know the Rotting Ents were not always rotting, Great Triad. They have been afflicted with a terrible disease. A plague, one most awful and wicked has compromised their ranks, the very same plague which I’m sure you’ve faced before.”
“We know this plague well,” Iuqon says with hesitation.
“We do?” Ram’rl asks earnestly.
“Indeed. My studies have no bounds, Ram’rl, my journal is one of many volumes. I must admit, Gobon, I am surprised you know of it.”
“But of course,” Gobon says with a little curtsy, as though he were wearing a dress. “There is much you don’t know of me, Great Triad of The Hillside Commons. I have many tricks up my sleeve.”
“You speak of tricks to a grand sorcerer; you do realize this, yes? Whatever parlor shenanigans you have in store for us will be met with magicks the likes of which you cannot possibly hope to fathom. In fact, if you do not cease in your flagrant wasting of our precious time–”
“Great Iuqon, I beg your forgiveness,” pleads Gobon with hands clasped in a double fist. “I’ve said it before and I’ll surely say it again: I only mean to help. I am a student of the arcane, a fledgling if you will, and I only mean to showcase some of my abilities in hopes they will help you rescue our land from this darkest of sicknesses which hath consumed it for so long. It may seem like the contrary, but I am worthy of your trust.” He looks seriously at Iuqon then, with respect and a hint of reverence. “Just give me the chance and I shall prove it.”
A moment of contemplation measured by strokes of an unkempt beard. Albey and Ram’rl trade glances of uncertainty, but yet neither walk away.
“You claim to be a student of that which I’ve dedicated my life to,” Iuqon finally says. “For that, I can meet you halfway, so long as my comrades will join me.”
“Iuqon?” Albey asks, his wariness plain to see, rivaled only by that of Ram’rl the Unfallen. “Are you forgetting the urgency with which you woke me from my slumber? The Rotting Ents are approaching, we must–”
“It won’t take but a quarter hour, Albey,” Gobon assures them, then licks his lips. “Would you prefer to go into battle without every edge you can get? You may be a Poet, but surely you are not a fool.”
Albey looks at Iuqon, then Ram’rl, then back to Iuqon. The Mage gives him a cautious nod, sending, ‘He speaks now of arcane abilities, Albey. This is not something I’ve known Gobon to be capable of, and I’d quite like to hear more of it. Perhaps over a bottle of his alleged elixir. As little as I like to admit it, the In’Fluence has a point; we shall need all the assistance we can get if we’re to defeat the Rotting Ents,’ telepathically. When the Poet’s gaze returns to Gobon, cold gooseflesh booms across his shoulders.
“Very well, Gobon,” the Poet allows. “We shall follow you to your camp and receive what you mean to send us, but please move with haste. We mustn’t waste so much as a moment.”
Without another word Gobon the In’Flu-Enz’a turns and walks between two trees standing tall alongside the trail. Albey moves to follow, then Iuqon, then Ram’rl, and as the trees swallow him, he sees there is a trail after all. A very small trail, just narrow enough for wild game to traverse, but a trail nonetheless.
The wretched Rotting Ents scream their horrid wails of sickness in the distance as they slink ever closer to Jericho Tower.
Hello Commons, this has been the fourth subchapter of the second chapter of Untitled Bigfoot Project, a novel about a writer who writes a novel about bigfoot.
Untitled Bigfoot Project is part of the Third Spiral, an anthology of sorts called The Here and Now which is comprised of stories told from the various planes of Existence.
Untitled Bigfoot Project is available to read for free in its entirety on my website. Click here to check it out.
I’ve written a few other books, too. Click here to see the list.
If you like Untitled Bigfoot Project and would like to help support my work, click here and buy an autographed copy of the book (or anything else!) from my store. Alternatively, you can snag a cheaper (and unsigned) copy from Amazon by clicking here.
Be well Commons~