Campaign of the Month: February 2022
Dresden Files Accelerated: Emerald City: Requiem
Book 11: Chapter 03
Bozos in Toyland
Transcribed by: Bradford
Date: April 23, 2023
In Game date: October 14, 2012
Episode: 58 (132)
Part 01: Jack Youngblood
Time is funky in the Nevernever. It flows differently than in the mortal world and is as varied as the realms of the Nevernever itself. The stories of people being whisked away from reality for a few minutes and coming back days, if not years later, are all true. It just depends on where you go and whether or not the metaphysical landlord is being an ass that day.
Our trip on the oversized six-car toy train that was the Toyland Express took only a few minutes.had told us the trip to Toyland would take us several days each way. Who knows how long we were listening to songs that could have been lost show tunes or some madman’s demented version of Disneyland?
Orenda and Hiroko looked like they were going to stand watch the entire trip, looking for threats. David Clay just waited patiently and made notes in a notebook he carried with him. Virgil stared off into space like he was doing more often lately. I just sat there and waited for the damned trip to end.
For us, it was a few minutes of darkness and music and then…light.
“Toyland! Toyland!” An announcer screeched as we pulled into the station and disembarked.
The Rising Sun started playing in my head as I took in my surroundings.
The Toyland Platform reminded me of Grand Central Station. Big. Opulent. Old. Just like the faeries. Besides our party getting off the train, we saw several small faeries, some oversized nonhumans, and some humans that seemed a little off. Among the “normal” here was a faerie that resembled a chipmunk wearing a hat. Another was a really big pixie carrying a little briefcase.
“This place is gigantic!” Orenda said.
I chuckled, “In the nevernever, size matters not.”
“At least Kero was telling the truth about the Air Conditioning,” Virgil confirmed.
As we left our platform, we passed a sign that read, “Northwest North American Continent” or something. As we made our way down the platform, the station expanded further to a series of walkways to other platforms, each one with similar signage to other parts of the earth. Some of the signs were not in English, but I assume went to other parts of Faerie.
The station brought us toward a security checkpoint, which looked more or less like the ones you see at modern airports. The first difference was an arch made of crystals and steampunk nonsense in place of a metal detector and an x-ray machine. The second was that the security guard was a Goblin.
Goblins are one thing pop culture has gotten super wrong. Goblins are the kin of the Erliking, a faerie of hunting who is a peer to the Faerie queens in terms of power. They are faerie embodiments of hunters. Instead of short, harmless green things, the Goblin here was a wiry humanoid made of muscle and nostril.
The guard on duty sat in a security guard outfit akin to those you would see at an airport and looked just as bored as his mortal cousins in the TSA.
The Goblin Guard looked up at us and raised a hand to stop us in front of the steampunk arch.
“Anything to declare? Cursed items? Artifacts?” The goblin asked.
We hesitated, but all of us said no.
He waved us through the arch, and when nothing dinged, we continued walking. I walked through without even a word, so whatever.
David raised his briefcase towards the guard, and he just nodded.
“Is that a sandwich I smell?” The guard asked.
“Yes.” David confirmed, “And a change of clothes.”
“Go ahead.” The Goblin said. I don’t know if he didn’t recognize David as a golem or just didn’t care.
Hiroko and Orenda walked through with their weapons without even a word.
Then came Virgil and the package.
I had placed the damaged Watch inside of a lead tacklebox I had enchanted to contain its power. I couldn’t completely contain the entropy it was leaking, but the tacklebox certainly helped.
We had discussed hiding the enchanted tacklebox inside of David’s body, but immediately abandoned the idea when we asked what it would do to a golem from the inside and came up with nightmares.
Virgil being the resident expert in thieves, handcuffed the box to his hand with steel handcuffs…and walked through the archway like it was the most casual thing in the world. The Goblin’s arch blinked a few lights, but he didn’t stop Virgil at all.
I looked at my old friend with a curious look as soon as we cleared the checkpoint.
“How the hell can you be so casual?” I asked.
“Whatever they are looking for, we don’t got it.” He said, “They don’t seem to care about weapons.”
“Remember what we talked about, people, “I said, “Don’t talk to anybody. Don’t take anything from anybody.”
“We heard you the first eleven times, Jack,” Hiroko said in frustration.
“Yeah, lighten up,” Orenda said.
We started descending the stairs, and I decided to hash something out. I looked to Orenda.
“Orenda, what do you think a member of the Pack would think if someone stole their bike?”
The biker rolled her eyes and repeated her excuse, “Your wife told us to take the bike. I returned it without a scratch. I even filled it up for you.”
“Taking a wizard’s bike is something one should not do!” I said.
My diatribe about not touching a sixty-year-old vintage bike was interrupted by someone big saying my name.
I turned to see a massive blue-skinned ten-foot-tall Ogre of muscle and loincloth leaning against a set of ornate wooden doors. He had a variety of very nasty scars in a more or less continuous line across his body that had never really healed right. I knew who he was before I even saw him.
Orenda and Hiroko readied for a fight, but Virgil and I stepped in front of them and shook our heads “no.”
“Mister Squire,” Virgil confirmed, his shudder confirming to me the ogre’s identity.
Squire was the bodyguard and enforcer of Odianna of Winter, Seattle’s resident Winter maiden in exile and pain in my ass. She was in the Conclave of Emerald and, as a result, was Virgil’s boss. Virgil’s binding always made him shudder like that, so I needed no better proof that he was the real deal.
“Greetings, Squire.” I said as respectfully as possible, “Fancy meeting you here.”
“Got a task for you from Odianna,” The Ogre said in a cockney accent.
“This is an official ask. You owe her. Success here will repay that debt in kind. Slate clean. No addendum.“ Squire said, and I rocked back on my heels.
I owed Odianna big time. She had contained and slowed Abby’s cancer for months. She was alive only because of Odianna’s efforts. If she was asking me for a favor, I couldn’t refuse it. I knew Squire wasn’t lying about the value of this because of a fundamental constant of the universe: a true fey cannot directly lie.
But if this request would wipe my debt with her clean, it meant it was something big.
“What does she want?” I asked.
Squire hooked a thumb out towards the waiting Toyland.
“Go out these doors, go to the Marriott. You have a room there paid for by the lady. Inside is a case with an envelope with instructions. Read the instructions and follow them precisely. Bring the case and its contents back. Standard delivery. Even you should be able to get this right, Youngblood.”
Virgil looked at me incredulously, “Did he say…Marriott?”
Squire chuckled at him in a low tone, “They are not uncivilized here…”
I sucked up my fear back into my bladder and nodded, “It will be done.”
“It bettah” Squire said and walked off the other way. He gave Hiroko’s sword the side eye and disappeared behind us.
“So I got a side job to do,” I said.
“Whatever,” Hiroko said, “Let’s go.”
I used some thaumaturgy on a pencil in my pocket. I broke the pencil in half and put it in a planter by the exit doors. No matter where we got lost in this place, I could use the other half to find our way out.
We went through the wooden doors. We immediately became lost in the whimsical land of toys. Whatever the hell that was…
Part 02: Orenda Peshlakai
The train station I could at least make sense of. It at least looked like a train station and worked like a train station.
Then we went through the exit doors, and everything went wonky.
Cobblestone streets stretched in all directions in nonsensical patterns. I couldn’t tell if we were in a cul-de-sac or a major intersection. There was snow on the buildings and mountains covered with snow and ice on the horizon, but it was room temperature. There were all kinds of shops I couldn’t make out in the distance unless I looked for something specific.
There were street signs, but they were mostly blurry. The only signs I could make out clearly the first time I looked were a pair right next to each other.
The first was a sign that simply read, “No theft. No lies.” next to a pictograph of men and monsters with their heads in the jaws of one of those Nutcracker soldier toys. Sitting right next to that sign was a fifteen-foot Nutcracker Soldier made of wood standing at attention with a very real-looking rifle. The Nutcracker was probably a construct or golem like David, but I didn’t know what exactly. Not my area. I just knew it was clearly conscious, and there was dried blood on its jaws.
It had bouncer energy for years. The pictogram thing proved that these nutcrackers and absolute zero chill.
I raised a fist in solidarity, acknowledging his authority and skull-cracking capacity.
The Nutcracker just stood there like the soldiers at Buckingham Palace. Definitely zero chill.
“That’s a little creepy,” I said. Hiroko and Virgil nodded, proving I was not the only one.
Our talk was broken by a voice that sounded vaguely cockney British.
“Oi! You there! You, mortals! Yeah, you, mortals who obviously never been to Toyland before…heh heh heh…”
The voice came from a stand with the other sign I could make out. It read, “Mortals here first.”
Toyland Tours was just a stand being manned by a Goblin in various kinds of leather that were definitely not from cows. The Goblin looked bored but definitely couldn’t leave his post. He stood under another sign that read, “Yes, we are actually free. No barter or trade is necessary. We are bound to say this.”
“Even with a sign like that, this whole place is suspect,” I said. I knew a fellow predator when I saw one.
I saw Jack do some mumbling and break a pencil he had in half. I knew it was magic when he put one of the two halves in a planter next to the door we just came through.
Jack sighed and did his best to take charge, “Let’s just take the damned tour.”
Hiroko subconsciously gripped her sword a little tighter, and we walked toward the goblin.
The Goblin bowed to us and laughed to start what sounded like a spiel he had given countless times. Having worked joe jobs, I appreciated the hustle.
“Allow me to introduce myself: Jizak, the Tour Guide, at your service! While at the moment I am just a simple tour guide, I must tell you that I am also a representative of 3 Goblins: Tracking and Retrieval Services. We can be hired in the Exchange. Just tell them that you need the services of 3 Goblins.”
Jizak whipped out a professional-looking business card that had a holographic logo on it.
“No hole too deep, no cave too dark. You want ‘em, we hunt ‘em; You tag ‘em, we bag ‘em. 3 Goblins.”
Virgil grinned, “Nice sales pitch.”
“Thank you. The hustle is the hustle.”
Jizak pulled out a piece of paper and grew rigid. I could tell immediately he was not doing this consciously. Someone more powerful than him was forcing him to do this.
“Now, as for the tour, I am not only allowed but actually required to tell you by way of compulsion that the tour is free, requiring no payment or other compensation by order of the Toymaker. However, any service requested beyond the tour and the information disseminated will have a negotiable but appropriate cost. The tour is a general overview and introduction to the major businesses and locations in Toyland. Beyond that, we can help you find whatever it is you are specifically looking for…”
Hiroko gritted her teeth as the Goblin giggled again.
“…for a price; heh heh heh.”
H didn’t like Jizak. I didn’t like how he eyed us like we were meat.
“Erm, anyway, would you like to take the tour? While on the tour, you are under my protection and that of the Toymaker as per the laws of hospitality, as long as you don’t wander off.”
David stepped forward and graciously asked what was all on our minds.
“Can you swear to that safety?” David asked, followed soon after by, “Three times, please.”
“Thrice I say and done!” Jizak grumbled.
That kind of talk would be the phrase of the day whenever we talked to faeries.
“Do you have a free pamphlet?” David asked.
“I do, in fact.” Jizak said, “Would you like one at no obligation?”
“I would, at no obligation,” David said, eventually taking a pamphlet.
“Will this take a lot of time?” I asked, my nerve getting warm.
“It takes the time it takes, love.” Jizak says, “Your time will not be wasted or severely impacted.”
Jizak walked in front of us and began his presentation.
“Alright, alright, alright! Follow me, please! Right this way!… First up, we have the street vendors down on this little street here we like to call ‘Horizont Alley’. Used to be named after something a bit more famous, but then the toxic little bint went and got herself near canceled, and the alley damn well renamed itself! Heh heh heh! You mortals sure do know how to get pissed off…”
The Goblin turned his back on us and kept going.
“Down on Horizont Alley, you can find nearly anything small and hard to find that you can’t find anywhere else in…”
Jizak was interrupted when a shadow-form with white-glowing eyes wearing a dark, smoky trench coat barged in front of us. He hunched over the coat as though concealing something inside it.
“Hey, do you wanna buy some dreeeeeams?”
Part 03: Hiroko Noshimuri
Our situation was the stuff a psychiatrist could make a career out of. Or it might drive a therapist to suicide. The White Rabbit from Alice in Wonderland needed us to fix his broken pocket watch after somebody involved with Jade Court vampires tried to destroy it and/or kill him. Plus, as long as the damn thing is broken, my Wizard friend says it is magically radioactive and is in the midst of causing the third natural disaster to hit Seattle in the last decade.
And to fix it, we found ourselves in Toyland.
Toyland, the Disney movie teachers made you watch one time in grade school before realizing too late how racist it is and having to explain that selling children to Gypsies isn’t a thing…but is a major plot point.
The whole thing gave me a migraine. Jizak and fucking tour made my migraine throb. Then some demon guy jumped in front of us and went…
“Hey, do you wanna buy some dreeeeeams?”
I took a step and readied myself.
“No, I don’t want to buy your deathsticks…” I said, ready to make a move.
The fetch continued his spiel, “I got good dreams, bad dreams,…”
And looked straight at me and Orenda.
“…wet dreams…hehehehehehe…oof!” The Fetch’s sales pitch was cut off by a pissed-off Jizak grabbing him and throwing him down “Horizont-alley”.
“Oi! Fuck off!” He looked to me, “Sorry about that, love.”
“You could have worked faster before he started creeping.”
Jizak looked through me to some part of my soul, “If he had truly been a threat to you, Shinigami, you would have cut him in half, your friend there would have shot him, the Wizard would have burned him or something, and I’m not sure what the other two do, but probably somethin’ lethal. Take a minute, and we’ll resume.”
Jizak went down the street to make sure other lookie-loos didn’t interrupt us.
I loosened up and looked to the others.
“What the fuck was that?” I asked.
“Looked like a Fetch,” David said, “a phobophage. A fear eater.”
“This way,” Jizak said, walking down the street.
He made sure he had our attention and stated something as a simple fact.
“The roads of Toyland will take you wherever you want to go within its domain. Think about where you want to go and walk. The roads will take you there. Anyway, onto Boutique Corner.”
As we walked away from Horizont Alley towards another intersection, things got hazey. My sense of spatial awareness went right out the window. The background blurred as we moved. I couldn’t tell how far we had walked or for how long until we stopped and came to a new intersection of shops.
When I looked behind us, I saw that the streets and shops we had just left were nowhere in sight. The mountains I had been using as landmarks had changed too.
Virgil seemed to confirm this when he pointed out the same things.
“I see now what you mean about, ‘Don’t wander off’. “
When we reached the center of Boutique Corner, we found Jizak grumbling and working as if compelled again.
“There once was a dame named Rue.
With fine pointy elven ears too!
She sought out fine scents.
Made enough dosh to make rents.
And now, we call her Lulu.”
He ended the limerick by righting himself and spitting before continuing.
“Welcome to Boutique Corner…the corner where I’m forced to say that fucking limerick every. Single. Time I take a tour group through here….anyway…”
He pointed us towards a cozy shop you could smell from space. It’s not that it was perfumes and cosmetics. It had those. From here, I could smell everything.
Orenda covered her mouth and nostrils. She was getting even more than that.
“Over there is, you can probably guess, Lulu’s. Purveyor of fine scents and very much an elf.”
“Christmas elf or Tolkien?” I asked.
“Oh, not one of those north-pole elves, “Jizak replied.”She’s a Ljósálfar, pure Norwegian bombshell, if I do say so myself. Heh heh heh..”
His male gaze made my head throb even more.
“We also have the Enchanted Attire Atelier for all your clothing needs, the Clock Shoppe, and the Hall of Dreams.”
The first two shops looked like I expected. The Atelier looked like a tailor’s shop. The Clock Shopped looked like a steampunker’s dream.
The front of the Hall of Dreams had two pillars with spheres above them with a series of moving images. I decided to look closer and say images I had only seen when I was asleep. They were not my dreams, but they were definitely someone’s dreams.
I shuddered at the implications.
Jizak took a look at me and my sword and made a little smile.
“I know what you need, warrior.”
Jizak dragged us through another surrealist trip, and we came to another intersection.
We warp-zoned through blurry streets, and I found myself a place I couldn’t resist. I smelled the smoke of a smithy and heard the rings of hammers. And gunshots.
“Welcome to Iron Street, “ Jizak said, “The one-stop shop for all of your offensive and defensive needs. Most of the time, ya need both.”
Iron Street was a collection of weapon and armor shops, each device handmade. I guessed that they had some kind of faerie substitute for iron because I saw a bunch of faeries handling weapons made of metal with bare hands. The various crafters used a variety of tools and wore protective gear, both ancient and new.
The gunshots came from “Guns ‘R Us” a place run by a bunch of Dwarves I guessed from one of the Norse parts of the nevernever. It had racks of pistols, rifles, and who knows what else next to a tiny firing range. A Svartelf security guard test-fired a gun he seemed to like and started some kind of negotiation with the Dwarves for, I think, a hundred of them.
Next to the Dwarves was a fancy shop for bladed weapons called “Svartelf Armaments.”
The shop that really caught my eye had a sign only I could read.
“Is that…kanji?” Orenda asked, scratching her head at the smithy.
“It is,” I confirmed.
“What does it say?”
“Tengu Arms and Armor. Now with Muramasa and Masemune certified?”.
I ran inside, dodging Jack’s outstretched arm.
Tengu are bird people. Six-foot bird people. This smithy was the home of three of the creatures in leather smocks, gloves, blacksmith’s tools, and some kind of headband. The fiberglass face shields and steel welding masks they also had seemed to be for the times they worked with real iron.
Having grown up in Hawaii, I had read books and seen movies about traditional Japanese blacksmiths, but this was the first time seeing one in person with or without bird people. Their hammers were ancient and rang with tones of the ancestors. They didn’t force the metal as much as coax the kami within into a new form. Or at least that’s how my books described the very old process they were following.
I couldn’t help but look over their stock and briefly open my Shun Sight. Dozens of suits of armor of all varieties next to melee weapons. Each one was branded with a smith’s seal, and each one radiated with power. There were Japanese swords among them, and each of them I could feel as much as see were potential peers in power to my own Zanpakutou.
Among the weapons was a tetsubo, a spiked war club, being inspected by an Oni, a demon with horns and a loin cloth. I tried not to look in his direction, but I couldn’t help it.
Seems the Tengu sold to everyone…
They also had armor. Traditional samurai armor made of ceramic plates and steel next to more modern flak jackets I would expect to see on a SWAT guy.
This place was heaven.
All the while, the Tengu sang to each other in Japanese.
One of them approached me. Getting a better look at him, I saw that his headband simply read, “Honor.” The other two were marked as “Peace” and “Destruction,” respectively.
“Looking for something specific, Shinigami Kensei?” Honor asked in Japanese.
“Just browsing,” I said and pointed at a sword, “You know my position?”
“We have not serviced a Kensei Shinigami in some time.”
“Is that a Muramasa?” I asked, pointing at one of his swords.
“It is. The master taught us well.”
“He taught me well,” Destruction said, “You still can’t fold metal worth a damn.”
“Perhaps we can resolve this.” Peace said, standing between the two other brothers.
I then noticed David looking at various thrown weapons.
“Perhaps they know something about the Shuriken,” David said, bringing me back to the present.
I reached into my pack and pulled out the shuriken that had struck Roger’s watch, and its sheathe. The brothers gathered around it, Peace reaching for it.
“Do you know anything about this weapon or who made it?” I asked.
“We do. We made the weapon.” Peace confirmed, “Well, Destruction did.”
David took the initiative and did the talking. I took the opportunity to translate for him, only for the Tengu to interrupt.
“We do speak English, golem,” Honor said.
“Good.” David said, “Perhaps we could negotiate a reasonable cost to learn more about this object and its intended purpose.”
“For that, will ask you for a favor in the future.” The Peace said
“What kind of favor?” David asked.
“Gathering a rare material related to Honor,” Honor said.
“I must have a right of refusal if it relates to my personal honor.” I demanded, “My blade cannot take an innocent life.”
“Acceptable.” Honor said, “We would never wish for a blade such as yours to be unmade.”
I shook Honor’s hand and felt some kind of power bind to me. I was indebted to these Tengu. It meant they were good to their word, but it also meant that I had to get whatever shit they asked me for, and I couldn’t refuse if it were a reasonable request.
Peace handed the Shuriken and sheathe to Destruction, who inspected it with an engraved jeweler’s loop-like artifice. Destruction finished his assessment and nodded.
“I made this bo shuriken, but not this sheathe.” Destruction confirmed.
“Who did you make it for?” I asked, “Who commissioned it?”
“A Summer fae shrouded in veils.“
“How was it intended to be used?” I asked.
“To Destroy…” The Tengu said, pointing at his headband.
“Can you tell us anything about the faerie?”
“All I can tell you is that they smelled of Trickery. It was their purpose.”
I myself had few Faerie contacts, so I looked to the others. I could see the wheels turn in Jack and Virgil’s heads. They suspected something.
“Could it be possible that it is Tad the Trickster you made this for?” Jack asked.
“The veils were strong. We know not who he really was. But his intent was clear and truthful.”
I sighed, “Thank you. That information is satisfactory.”
It was then that the Tengu moved fast. They crowded around Virgil.
He was holding his wounded shoulder.
Part 04: Virgil Gugasian
Toyland, for me, was all kinds of temptation. The shops had all kinds of wares. Although the rule was no stealing and no lying, I couldn’t help but think about ways to pilfer from the place and get away with it.
It would be the riskiest kind of heist imaginable, but the take made my mouth water. Especially if you could do some good with it and because of it.
But not that day. I was bound to make sure our pocket watch of chronomagical doom got to where it needed to go.
Iron Street itself made me space out a bit. I wondered what I could barter for some good weapons and armor. Especially if they could handle mortal registrations and whatnot.
But, my thinking ended when three bird-people started sniffing my aching shoulder and my backpack.
“Is that…Yggdrasil?” One of them asked.
“It is.” Another one confirmed, “I know that smell.”
“Such a material would be invaluable, mortal. Perhaps an offer can be made?” The third one said.
I had abandoned my practice of preparing for every eventuality, but I had known we were going to a place where you could get anything. Assuming that meant magical shit, I decided once again that high rewards require high risks.
I had brought the pieces of the World Tree that Leif had removed from my shoulder and the pieces I had shaved off as they periodically grew out. I didn’t know the fair market value of World Tree wood, but I assumed it was high for magical applications alone. I also assumed it was not easy to get World Tree wood because I did not see any lumber mills in Jotunheim. Carrying around this stuff was likely to make me a target for theft, but I didn’t know about the “no stealing” rule when I made the decision.
Either way, it worked out. Now to business.
As the son of two lawyers, I knew the keys to a good negotiation. One of those keys is that every party in a negotiation wants different things for different reasons and for different ends. Prosecutors want convictions because a higher win rate is better for them. Dad strived for that 98% and got angry when it fell to 97.5% that one time. Prosecutors have to negotiate with the defense, who generally want freedom or life depending on the crime the accused is charged with. All of this contends with the public, who want the illusion of justice.
The same is true for business. A buyer wants the goods the seller has. A seller wants the buyer’s money so they can make a damned living.
In this case, the Tengu had the ability to make me something wondrous that I couldn’t make on my own. In fact, I had been fumbling around the past few months with a project I had hit a wall on. A project that I would have asked Jack to help me with, but I didn’t want to jump through White Council hoops for.
Toyland was the best place I could get someone else to complete the project better than I ever could.
But the Tengu didn’t use currency, so I couldn’t just offer them money. The only thing I had to trade besides favor for what I wanted was the world tree wood.
I started by taking the scene in and did a cold read of the Tengu.
They were obviously crafters prideful of their skill. But they also wore their personalities on their foreheads. Peace, Honor, and Destruction. Judging from those names, I assumed they crafted to pursue those ends without morality.
I also noticed they were brothers. Brothers who could be set against each other.
I held up a polite index finger to the trio.
“A moment to confer, please.” I requested. The trio nodded.
I turned to the others, and we got into a huddle. Jack made a magic circle around us to conceal us from eavesdroppers, and we talked amongst ourselves.
Jack immediately stared daggers at me.
“I told you not to talk to any of them!” The wizard snarled, “You can’t trust fairies.”
I held up a hand to placate him, “I can already see they have their personalities on their foreheads. If I could get some assistance, I can get a good deal out of them and kill a few birds with one stone.”
“How do you figure that?”
Jack’s pressure point was protecting the innocent, so I chose my words carefully to explain myself.
“I can handle my injury and increase my value to the Conclave while also making sure Seattle remains safer. Plus, I can make the Tengu happy by giving them a challenge, and this allows me to stop pestering you about magic shit.”
Jack seemed dubious.
“You better be sure about this.” Jack said with his arms crossed and obviously not approving.
“I could still use some help, and I promise not to ask any of you to deceive or do anything immoral. All I need is help making sure I get a good deal for fair trade.”
The rest of them nodded to me.
We conferred for a few minutes, then Orenda turned around and looked over the three like a predator.
“For someone named ‘Destruction,’ he is very insecure.” She said.
“Perfect,” I said.
Jack broke the circle, and we approached the Tengu.
“You want some of the world tree’s wood, yes?” I asked, “Gathered from the result of honorable combat against a foe I helped destroy?”
This made both Honor and Destruction I can only describe as giddy and restless. Excited for birds, I guess.
“Yes.” The trio answered in unison.
“I have some I am willing to part with, but I know part of the nature of this substance is to grow. One…half pound could be grown into larger quantities.”
I opened my backpack and showed that I indeed had world tree wood in there in little baggies.
“Within certain limits.” Honor conceded, the admission playing to his nature. I closed the backpack and looked at the Tengu, clasping my hands like a salesman I once shadowed.
“I have a project I have been working on that I cannot complete myself. I can see that the three of you make those things that destroy, those that uphold the honor of person and people, and things that bring peace. I have a project that requires all three.”
“Ambitious.” Peace said.
“Few crafts accomplish all three of our natures,” Honor said.
“Mortal magic does.” I said, “And I need something for it.”
“Describe what you need.” Peace said, “What are your requirements?”
I pulled out a notepad from my backpack, one I had been using for the project. It was a manner of scribbles and sketches from someone who never went to art school. Forgeries I can make with time, but originals are difficult. There were mostly words I had been using to work out a device.
“This will of course, require some refinement, if you are willing.” I said solemnly.
“I can already tell you are not a master, but seek a master’s implement.”
Hiroko followed the part of the plan she devised by looking over the various suits of armor. This drew the attention of Peace. She asked questions about their selection of Samurai armor, gathering information about their proposed prices, and fed that information to David, who worked furiously on his legal pad.
The samurai girl then drew Honor away to ask about the sourcing of the armor and then later Destruction to ask hypotheticals of what constituted a weapon when it came to armor.
The strategy of “Divide and Conquer” is one of the oldest because it works. Hiroko’s inquiries kept one or two of the brothers distracted and separated. While Hiroko got information out of them, I was able to focus on one Tengu at a time.
Over the course of an hour or so, I had described with as much detail as I could what I needed.
As Jack seemed to get restless again, I decided to wrap it up.
“Can the three of you build this?” I asked in earnest.
“Yes.” The three Tengu said in unison.
“Such a device would make for potent evocations. We are open to this challenge.” Destruction mused.
“But it would require us to work together for once.” Peace said. Destruction nodded in agreement by ground his beak.
“What would you offer in trade for it, exactly?” Honor asked.
I opened my backpack and presented all of the Worldtree Wood I had brought with me. David then approached with the legal pad he kept in his briefcase. The lawyer had prepared a rudimentary but professional contract that would have worked in civil court for a settlement easy. The Tengu speedread the legal writing that was only a page long.
“In accordance with this contract,” I said, “I would trade the fabrication, testing, attunement, and delivery of the device I described and all of the components needed to maintain and repair it for half of the Yggdrasil Wood in my possession not used in its construction, including the bits in my shoulder if you can manage to remove them without injury.”
The contract David had drawn up clearly defined the limits of what I needed them to do, including not breaking the Laws of Magic or acting against the interests of the Conclave of Emerald. I also threw in a provision that they couldn’t use or keep any blood drawn from removing the splinters from my shoulder.
The three Tengu shuddered at that amount of wood and nodded in unison. I thought about getting them to throw in one of the Samurai Armors for Hiroko as a bonus, but that would have been pushing it.
“We accept the trade if you accept.” Honor said and extended a feather hand alongside the other two Tengu.
“Agreed,” I said and shook the hands of all three Tengu. As we shook, I felt a metaphysical rush go through me. A binding of metaphysical principles. A promise made that neither of us could willingly break without considerable consequences.
I did my part by handing Peace the wood pieces and the design document.
Destruction stepped towards me and reached out a feathered hand.
“Remove your shirt and bandage, please.”
I did what he said, eeking at the pain that my meds did little to quaff. When I removed the bandage, I saw that a little branch had started growing out from my should and had laid down roots under my shoulder muscles.
“This will be painful for a sec…” Destruction said as he, without warning, grabbed the new bud with a pair of tongs and ripped the damn thing out of my shoulder.
I screamed in pain and doubled over, clutching the wound as it dripped blood onto the floor of the shop.
As he finished the pull, Destruction actually broke off the end of the sprout and pushed it back into my shoulder, drawing another scream and a wave of pain so bad I almost passed out.
Honor followed his brother by wiping down the wound with some kind of cream or lacquer or something that took the pain and light head away very quickly. I caught my breath and breathed in. I still saw after images in the form of roots of worlds between worlds.
Destruction put the root thing he pulled from my flesh into a small bowl of I am not sure was water or sake…or both.
“We must leave a piece inside of you so that the device made be bounded to you,” Honor said, “Any blood of yours well be used for the device only as per your agreement.”
“Super…” I said.
Peace did a little bow and looked down at me, “The device will be delivered to you via courier when it is completed. Pleasure doing business with you.”
Jack finally quit his brooding by reaching out a hand and working some magic.
“Forensio!” Jack said in a strong voice. A wave of subtle magic spewed out from his hand and made the blood I had spilled on the floor of the smithy, my clothes, and my bandages disappear.
I looked at him with an incredulous look.
“My CSI Cleanup Crew spell.” Jack confirmed, “Good for blood, hair, skin tags, fingerprints, footprints and smells.”
“You’ll need to teach me that.” I said as Jack got me back to my feet.
“You would need to be a full Magical Practitioner to do a spell like that. Your Kleptomancy won’t cut it. Too unrefined.”
I looked to the Tengu Blacksmiths as they began their work. They started to shape metals and carve wood. They took my notes and the symbols I had written down. Symbols that had significance to me alone. Designs for a focus object that would expand and develop my magical talents from a mere thief of magic to a true user of magic.
“When that Worldsplinter is completed,” I said, “I’ll be a real sorcerer.”
Part 05: Jack Youngblood
Virgil put himself back together and rebandaged his shoulder before we went back out to Jizak.
I didn’t like the idea of Virgil Gugasian the Kleptomancer, having the power of a full Sorcerer. Even his admission that most of his talents in that area would have to be lost or changed to accommodate his growth in magical practice didn’t rub me the right way. The Unman’s power was bad enough.
“If you want to be a Wizard, you can always become an apprentice,” I said to my oldest friend.
“I don’t dig the robes with Babie’s first stoll.” Virgil said, “I’ll keep that under advisement.”
“You’ll have me looking over your shoulder unless you give it up. I am a Warden.”
Virgil looked to me in a way I have seen him do few times before. “I swore to you I wouldn’t break the Laws of Magic. I mean it. And if I ever do, I want you to be the one who brings me down.”
“I’m just saying the Unman’s Magic eating with the power of a practitioner may be too much for any mortal.”
“With the Worldsplinter, I wouldn’t be the Unman’s shadow or the thief I was anymore. I could be something new. Someone better.”
The thought of Virgil not being a thief made me shudder at the thought.
“Are you gents ready for the next part of the tour?” Jizak asked as we crossed the street.
“Did he call us gents?” Hiroko asked.
“Stupid heteronormatives.” Orenda said.
Jizak took us to the next part of town, which was a single multistory building that radiated with power and odd smells.
“Welcome to the Thaumatecka.” The goblin said.
“Thauma what?” Orenda ask, “I don’t speak latin.”
“Greek,” I confirmed, “It means Miracle Shop.”
“Is it run by a guy named Max?” Hiroko asked, making the rest of us cringe.
Jizak just shrugged; either he hadn’t seen the Princess Bride, or he just didn’t know. Instead, he took us inside, and I was immediately overwhelmed.
You ever see those people who love to shop at their favorite store? They don’t necessarily buy anything, they just like to go to a store and look around for hours because everything in that store has value to them. When they do actually buy something, they are usually the place’s best customer?
That was me inside the Thaumatecka.
A Wizard can get most of what they need for their magic from grocery, craft supply stores and hardware stores. Sometimes you might need to track down an occult bookstore. But some materials are hard to obtain, usually the components that directly relate to the nature of an object.
For example, in the practice of Ectomancy, some magics for defending against particularly powerful ghosts require depleted uranium, and that is not easy to get.
But not here. Thaumatecka the Miracle Shop had everything a Wizard could want.
Rare materials. Pure Silver. Bottled emotions. Scales from monsters of the nevernever.
If this were not a faerie market run on favors and bullshit, I would see if they had a membership card or something.
The first floor was for magical materials. Building materials, mostly for focus objects and the like.
The second floor was for magical ingredients for individual spells and ritual. Place was like a demented Michael’s…or a regular Michael’s depending on who you are.
The third floor had some subshops, basically a little mall area. A lot of book stores.
The fourth floor was the inhouse Foci shop.
“Wow…” Hiroko said, “They actually have an Olevander’s.”
“More than that,” Virgil said, pointing to a row of staves and other magical objects I had seen various Wizards use.
We also saw a smaller Tengu in similar garb to his older brothers or parents un up to the Foci shop with a handful of materials.
The Fifth Floor felt different. I could sense only a little power, and the air was sterilized. There were sheets of lead on the walls.
“What do they keep here?” I asked.
“Rare Artifacts.” Jizak confirmed.
The idea made my stomach drop out.
Part 06: David Clay
Toyland’s tour so far had been a fascinating display of faerie crafts and goods. Virgil’s deal with the Tengu proved to me that although Faeries were dangerous, they were capable of being reasonable. Jack’s warnings seemed mildly exaggerated by the time we reached the Thaumathecke’s skywalk.
Yes, the magical supermarket seemed to have a skywalk. Perhaps the faeries took inspiration from mortal architecture in designing new spaces.
“Would you like it if it were your bike?” I heard Jack ask Orenda.
The pair had been arguing about Jack’s bike consistently since they arrived, and I anticipated another three exchanges of accusation and defense before Jack would finally relent.
As we reached the end of the skywalk, Jizak opened a pair of wooden double doors.
Orenda’s sinuses then perked up and started sniffing.
“Sense something odd?” I asked politely.
“I have been noseblind since we entered that goop shop.” She said, “My sinuses finally clear, and I smell something I know.”
“Money,” I confirmed.
“Alright,” Jizak said, pushing doors open, “Welcome to The Exchange.”
The skywalk doors opened to the second floor of a small building with barred windows in each cardinal direction. I could see faeries down one floor down around desks, chalkboards, and papers shuffled around between them. It was a few moments before I realized what I was looking at and what the faeries below us were doing.
“It closely resembles a stock exchange,” I said.
“Like a chaotic version of Wall Street,” Hiroko said.
Virgil rubbed his chin in thought, “I assume they are not exchanging currency?”
Jizak smiled, “Right you are. The Exchange deals in anything and everything besides mortal bits and bobs. Contracts. Books. Secrets. Knowledge. Even souls.”
I looked at Virgil and could detect that he was thinking of something potentially dangerous even with a briefcase handcuffed to his hand.
“I recommend against considering a robbery, Mister Gugasian.”
“I wouldn’t dream of it, counselor,” Virgil said.
Jizak took us down a set of stairs, “On to Trader’s Way.”
Our surroundings blurred slightly, and we found an odd collection of stalls. Odd, even for the stores we had passed.
The first we passed featured signage ornamented by a stylized sleeping cap.
“The Sleeper Shop,” Jizak confirmed, “Is a one-stop shop for your sleeper needs whether enchanted, petrified, or frozen.”
I remembered reading tales of faeries putting victims into enchanted sleep as punishment. Sleeping beauties put to sleep for centuries or more. It appeared this was where they were traded or dropped off for one reason or another.
The Sleeper Shop itself was a row of glass coffins containing various humans and non-humans lying still but very much alive. Each one listed a name and a condition as if it were any other mortal collectible.
The most valuable pieces on display were a pair of men in garb from antiquity. The first was an elderly man in the wealthy robes of a Imperial Roman Prefect.
His label read, “Pontius Pilate. Mint.”
Next to him was another coffin with a man in rags, his feet and hands with wounds indicative of crucifixion, but his eyes were open and vacant.
His label read, “Saint Peter. Slightly Used.”
The sight of the various sleepers made all of us turn away and ask for Jizak to continue.
“Since you lot have no interest in the shadier parts of Toyland, our Tour may conclude with the Mortal Mall,” Jizak said.
The Mall looked like a collection of cardboard cutouts painted like various mortal establishments and chain businesses in front of very normal-looking wooden doors on hinges.
“This is the only place in Toyland that accepts mortal currency,” Jizak confirmed, “You lot need to eat and sleep and all. All businesses are legitimate and staffed by either changlings, indebted mortals or living pimple farms whoo don’t know a thing.”
“You have an Olive Garden here?” Hiroko asked.
“Unlimited Salad and Breadsticks are a wondrous mortal offering.” Jizak said.
Orenda sniffed around and perked up, “I smell Starbucks. And a Pizza ‘Spress?”
A small band of pixies and other small faeries flew towards a small pizza stand. Together, they carried an american twenty-dollar bill and used their combined mass to press a button for an intercom.
“For the ‘Za Lord!” The faeries cheered as they pressed the button.
Jack pointed down the street, “Holy shit, they do have a Marriot.”
“Does anyone have any other questions before this tour and my obligation is concluded, and I get the sod outta here?” Jizak asked.
“Do the Three Goblins have a business card?” Virgil asked.
“We do in fact.” Jizak said, producing a business card in two fingers.
“I would advise against…” I said, a moment too late as Virgil took the card.
Virgil, however took the card while at the same time handing Jizak a business card of his own.
Jizak looked down at the card and slightly grinned, “Gugasian and Associates? I honor this fair exchange, fellow hunter.”
Virgil made a slight bow to the goblin, “I too, respect someone in the same line of work. Call if you ever need a mortal skip trace.”
The two made a small gesture of respect to one another.
“Any other questions before I depart?”
I took a look around and saw one area that Jizak hadn’t shown us. A dark alleyway on the edge of vision. I saw a stall that caught my eye.
“What is that?” I asked.
Jizak sighed, obviously compelled to answer, “Darkling Alley. Place to get things you can’t get anywhere else.”
I walked towards the alley, ignoring Jack’s protests to not wander off. What I saw made me squeeze my fist in what I assume humans call anger. True anger.
Jack tried to pull me back until he saw what I saw and stopped.
“I’m going to have to come back here for some business…after our current quest is concluded.” I stated clearly.
“I understand,” Jack replied.
Darkling Alley featured a store. The Firstborne Emporium. The front display was a cage with a label for the US Immigration and Custom Enforcement Agency. The cage was full of children…
Part 07: Jack Youngblood
With a goblin no longer looking over our shoulder, I decided it was time to tackle whatever task Odianna had in mind. If she was trying to kill me with this task, I was going to have to plan retaliation even if it did pay off my debt to her.
We approached the painted cardboard cutout attached to a set of glass doors and one of those revolving ones that was the “Marriott.” Something told me these were the front of a permanent Way into the mortal world.
“Let’s get this over with,” I said and walked through the double doors.
The revolving door spun like it was supposed to and opened to…a Marriott. The modern American hotel chain with a front desk, a faux fireplace, and big-screen TVs. Halloween decorations littered the area. I guess we were getting closer to it.
At some point, a phone rang, only to be answered by someone saying, “Houston Marriott, how may I help you this evening?”
The front desk was manned by a young woman with a name tag. The name itself was forgettable but had viney filigree and a clockwork Nutcracker. Definitely the right place.
The attendant took notice of me as we approached the desk and gave us a practiced smile.
“Jack Youngblood checking in.”
The lady typed in my name, eyeing me as a took a step back from the desk’s computer to avoid my wizardness from nuking it.
“4th Floor room.” The attendant said, ”Already paid for by Lady Odianna, Mister Youngblood. Please enjoy your stay in Toyland.”
She handed me one of those magnetic key cards…which was a mistake no one could have known about until it was way too late.
We ended up returning to the desk another three times on account of my Wizardly antagonism to technology wiping the magnetic strip on the card, preventing us from opening the door.
Eventually, we realized that it was a bad idea for me to handle the card, so David carried it for me to the fourth floor as the rest of us made sure the young lady got a tip for her patience.
We opened the door to find a common two-bed hotel room. The only thing out of place was a locked case with an envelope taped to it on the table.
I approached the case, seeing it was read, “Jack,” and opened it.
“Do not open the case,” I read aloud, “Take the case and its contents to the 5th Floor of the Thaumathecke. Exchange instructions are inside the case. Accept return case, take to the 4th Floor, and return to Odianna’s club in Seattle forthwith.”
“Simple pickup and delivery,” Virgil said.
“It’s never simple with Odianna.”
I opened my Wizard senses and looked around to see if there were any local spirits I could talk to. As a Youngblood, I could see ghosts and all manner of spiritual entities. But unlike the Sixth Sense, the ghosts I saw weren’t always helpful or innocent.
But in the Marriott, I got lucky. Lingering in the hotel room, I found the ghost of a Wizard in the grey cloak of a Warden looking over the case. Being dead he was in the prime of his life from before I met him, but I still recognized him.
“Barney?” I asked surprised.
“Little Jack Youngblood.” The Ghost said, “Been a minute. Have we won the war?”
“Sort of.” I replied.
I looked over to my companions, who sure as hell couldn’t see spirits like me. To them, I was talking to empty air again.
“Barney here is a friend. Died fighting the Reds.”
Warden Bernard Holcolme had been one of the casualties of the war with Red Court. During the war, there was a particular battle in South America that went bad. In the aftermath, the Red Court used poison gas on an entire hospital the Council was using to lick its wounds. The attack killed Barney, a hundred other Wardens, and over a thousand innocent civilians in one night.
“What are you doing here, Barn?” I asked.
“A faerie summoned me and asked me for a favor. They seemed to think you would like to know if this case was authentic and had not been tampered with. I am here to tell you that is the case.”
“Care for a ride along?” I offered, “I could use your expertise in making sure this won’t hurt anyone.”
“I was hoping you’d ask.” Barney said, “I would kill for the taste of a hamburger.”
I breathed in deep and took Barney’s ghost into my body. It gave me Barney’s strength and temporary access to his knowledge. I used the opportunity to confirm his story, but the memory was too hazy to see who dropped off the case, let alone what was in it.
“We need to find out what they are making me carry. Leave nothing to chance.” I said.
I reached into my pockets and produced a pair of welding goggles I had etched runes into. My misadventure with the Watch inspired me to make a temporary portable version of the ritual I had done to look upon it. The goggles would protect my mind from anything damaging and allow me to see more than normal when I opened my Sight.
Virgil looked at me with concern, “Shouldn’t you just deliver it and not push your luck?”
“The instructions say I can’t open the case. They don’t say that I can’t have a peak.”
I looked at the case and opened my Sight. With the help of the goggles, I was able to look past the shell of the case and its concealing glamour to its actual contents. The goggles also ensured that what I saw wasn’t seared into my permanent memory.
Regardless, the sight made my heart stop.
I closed my sight and ripped the goggles off my head, breaking into a flop sweat.
David grabbed me, preventing me from following down.
“What is in there?” David asked.
I looked to my friend and confirmed his worst fears. If he had any fears.“The Shorshei ha-Shemot…” I said.
Virgil let out a whistle. Of he knew what it was. “This is bad.”
David just looked at the case and nodded, “Concerning.”
“The what now?” Orenda asked.
“Neither of us have any idea what the hell you’re talking about.” Hiroko said.
“The Shorshei ha-Shemot” I explained, “Is an ancient Kabbalist text. Ancient rituals for creating artificial life.”
“Like what?” Orenda asked.
“It created me,” David confirmed, “And almost unmade me.”
“It’s the Patient One’s copy.” I said, “The one he dropped in the forest. Someone must have picked it up.”
“How could a little book break David?” Orenda asked.
”There are magic books, and then there are magic books. The Shorshei ha-Shemot is a real book you can find in occult bookstores. The Patient One had an unredacted version. A true grimoire with real spells and rituals in it. That little book plus a few ingredients and know-how is all you would need to make a golem-like David.”
“My God…” Orenda said, “And Odianna is using this to what…pay someone?”
Virgil nodded and picked up before I could start, “The Lady is trading the book for something else. Using Jack here as a cut-out. Unfortunately, I am bound to make sure none of you get any funny ideas about this.”
“Look at the bright side.” I said, picking up the case, “As long as we deliver this case, neither Odianna nor the Patient One have the book, and my debt with her is cleared. Let’s do this.”
As we walked to the elevator and waited for the doors that took forever to close, Virgil brought up an ominous point.
“It still begs the question: What is Odianna trading it for?”
We headed back to Toyland. Between David, Orenda, and Hiroko playing heavy with Virgil keeping an eye out for fast fingers, we managed to make it back to the Thaumathecke without much fuss. The few lookie-loos that tried to approach us with offers were given death stares.
Our destination was the Vault, a massive set of mechanical golden doors with an obvious purpose. A Sidhe at the front took the case, and we did a little song and dance.
Cases were exchanged. Focus shops visited, notes read and other nonesense only faeries understood went on. In the end, I ended up walking away tired with a case I was not allowed to inspect that I had to deliver to Odianna.
At this rate, we might be back by Christmas.
Part 08: Orenda Peshlakai
Jack’s little side project was starting to piss all of us off, so we took some time to figure out the damned streets.
“Think where you want to go, and the road will take you there.” My ass.
We finally found the workshop, only to be turned away at the front by some asshole saying, “No visitors.” and “You must have an appointment.” or something.
“I could fly over the wall and open from the other end.” I offered.
“Too dangerous.” Jack said.
“Why does this have to be so complicated?” Hiroko said with audible anger, “Isn’t there someone we can talk to who isn’t an idiot or some damned faerie? Anyone we actually know?”
Virgil perked up, “We actually do someone here. A certain salesman.”
Jack got a conspiratorial smile, “And he owes us a solid…”
Toyland it turns out has a Car Dealership and it was the place we should have started with.
It was a place I guess for faeries to buy cars. It looked like any other car lot except for the size and the selection.
I saw plenty of normal cars of various models and years, but I also saw a few novelties. I am still not sure if they were replicas or the genuine article, but I could tell they were all drivable.
Magnum’s Ferrari. Adam West’s Batmobile. Eleanor.
I even saw an old hearse that looked converted for Wizard use. Some guy from the Winter Court seemed to want it for the WInter Knight or something.
We found the others’ friend right away, or maybe he found us.
Eric Laufey was a scion of Loki and had been rescued or something. I had seen the cheesy commercials and billboards for his used car lot in Seattle for years, but never seen him in person. Now, he looked like he was actually worth a million bucks.
“Jack, Virge, Hiroko!” Eric said, “How you all doin’?” Eric said.
“We need to talk…” Jack said, getting into his face.
I could smell a fight was coming, but it wasn’t mine. I knew I wouldn’t be useful in whatever they were hashing out, so I decided to look around bit.
I felt like I could spend a lifetime there just looking at cars and bikes. The selection was not endless, but the craftsmanship was unreal. The only downside was the sounds of complaining and shouts from the others as they were calling Eric out on a lifetime of BS or something.
Then I found the classic bikes section and saw something I didn’t expect. I saw a biker with a cut of the Pack shopping here of all places. I took a sniff and thought I recognized Dozer. Before I could confirm it, the guy clocked me in the corner of his eye and ran as fast as he could in middle of some kind of negotiation.
What would the Pack be doing here?
I decided to go back to the others and found them hashing out things about how I expected.
Hiroko had her sword against Eric’s throat while David held her back with inhuman strength. Jack and Virgil flanked him playing good cop.
“Do I need to break this up?” I asked David.
“I think we’re at an accord.” David replied.
“Harvey the Wonder Rabbit gave us a mission to complete!” Hiroko shouted, “I have had it with this bullshit. You are going to take us to the Toymaker, no matter the cost.”
“You do owe us, Eric.” Virgil said.
“A lot more than that.” Jack followed.
Eric sighed in defeat, “Fine. It’s going to be expensive.”
Part 09: Virgil Gugasian
The Toymaker’s workshop was a living Rube Goldberg machine on an industrial level. Gears the size of cars ground together with marbles, pulleys, and other bunches of mechanical stuff I am sure was all very clever by driven by magic.
The Toymaker himself was a mad scientist-looking guy with energy above every legal limit. I could have cold-read him to get more information, but at this point I just didn’t care. He was the king of whimsy in the land of whimsy and I wasn’t getting paid by the hour.
“What have we here?” The Toymaker, looking at our group who were thoroughly exasperated.
I held up the tacklebox and let out a deep breath. I repeated the speech I had been forced to do at least a dozen times before getting here.
“The White Rabbit of the Summer Court of Hearts has sent us with a mission. He said you were obligated to repair this for us…”
I opened the tacklebox, releasing its seal, and the room stopped. Every moving device fell apart. My watch died. Threads unravelled. A door fell off its hinges. The whole thing.
The trapped entropy the watch had accumulate had wrecked everything.
“Oh my!” The Towymaker said, looking at the watch, “We can’t have that.”
I sighed in resignation, “Can you fix it, my lord? Or do you require…”
The Toymaker tapped the watch twice. One. Two.
Next thing I knew, the watch was no longer damaged. Whole again. Running on time.
We all looked down at the watch with utter shock. The Toymaker just stared back and laughed, “Done! If you need anything else, I am sure my son could be of help…”
“We’re good, thank you lord.” I said, putting the watch back into tacklebox to seal it.
We went straight back to the train station, resisted punching several people in the face on the way, and went back to the Way to Seattle.
At the exit tunnel’s entrance, we gathered up for one last huddle. We were all tired and wanted to get back..
“So, is this thing fixed you think?” I asked Jack, who still had his Watch vision thing going.
“The Watch should be good now.” Jack confirmed, setting his briefcase for Odianna down for a moment, “But entropy begets more entropy, so we might have trouble on the other side.”
I pulled out my pistol just in case.
“This time we’re ready.” I said and went through the tunnel first.
The way back then went…upside down. My internal compass meant nothing, and everything went black. Somehow I knew the way was wrong. It had been tampered with just like Wilbur’s had.
We woke up alongside some towers of green. It took a moment to realize the green was grass on a lawn. We were tiny. The size of pixies.
“Oh fuck.” most of said in one way or another, “We’ve been shrunk.”
“Where the hell are we?” Someone asked.
“I believe we are back at the zoo.” David confirmed, pointing to landmarks in the distance.
Jack and I both looked down to see that our respective cases had not been shrunk. Jack’s case had flown out of his hand, and the tacklebox had ripped open from the inside. The White Rabbit’s watch lay on the grass next to us, far larger than we expected next to Jack’s case which was also larger than all of us put together.
Then the ground shook, knocking us over as a green skinned leg took a step next to us. The arms of a jolly green titan picked up the watch and Jack’s briefcase.
A green faerie fave with white eyes loomed over us, blotting out the nearby lights and staring at us like Godzilla looking at a snack.
“Goooooot yaaaaaahhhhh!!” Tad the Trickster laughed.
The faeries ran away, kicking his heels in the air carrying the White Rabbit’s watch and Jack’s mysterious cargo.