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Rated: ASR · Novel · Fantasy · #260619
Chapter 5. A stranger appears who claims to be the Blue.
this continuation picks up from "Dungeons and Wagons: continuation 1

Blue, the Nymph Rider
         It is because of Venus's stubborn heat
and poor soil that its culture reflects the old
west. Other planets are different. Pluto looks
more like the European Renaissance than
anything else. Uranus (renamed Wednesday,
because of a bunch of whiny people who were
offended by its name) proudly boasts that it is
ancient Rome "without the bad stuff, but with
electricity." It's a fairly popular place, because
it is the only place with Nevada style gambling
AND public baths. Neptune looks like the
Atlantin Renaissance, shortly after
submersion. Jupiter, named in the honor of
the god who financed its terraformation,
resembles the old orient, Saturn, named after
the dog of the dot-com millionaire who
financed its terraformation, has found its way
back to the industrial age. Mars, which has
been discovered not to be where men come
from, has retrogressed back to colonial
america. Mercury is the least popular planet
of all. It reflects the culture of colonial hell.
         Just thought I would tell you that. Back
to our story.
         The enchanted door of Shadowcast slid open as Josiah came to it. He passed
through into a conference room. At a long,
black, glassy table sat Rattlesnake Clem,
Rusty Fair, a pair of generals of the Lotus
Eater army, and a collection of shady figures
in the back. He hung his bowler hat and cane
on a stand that was magically enchanted to
have things hung on it and took the seat at the
head of the table.
         "Red," said one of the generals to
Josiah, the older of the two, "You said that you
had something we would like to see?"
         "I don't suppose it could be an eclair,
could it?" said the younger general, "I would
really like to see an eclair right now."
         "Yes," said the first, "I know what you
mean. All this lotus can really get tiring."
         "Exactly," said the second, "It's been a
while since I've had a good chocolate eclair."
         "What's the point of saying chocolate
eclair?" said the first, "Is there any other kind
of eclair?"
         "I think I once had a strawberry eclair,"
said the second, "But it might have been a
strawberry bear claw..."
         "Um," Josiah interrupted, "I'm afraid
that it has nothing to do with eclairs."
         "C'mon, Joe," said Clem, "Let's have
some casual conversation. Ya take things too
serious-like."
         Josiah ignored Rattlesnake Clem and
began his prepared speech. "My friends, we
no longer to have to fear the rapid growth of
the Fantastic Seven, for as they have been out
finding their own members, we have found
one of them first. I am proud to say..."
         He stopped when he saw Clem
making frantic motions across his throat.
"Um, excuse us a moment," he said, and took
Clem outside the room.
         "What is it, Clem?" he hissed,
"Something happened to the nymph, didn't it?"
         "Well, ya see..." said Clem, scratching
his neck, "I was goin' to her cell to bring her to
the conference, and I done got knocked out all
of a sudden-like and she got away."
         Josiah sighed. "For no reason, you
got knocked out, is that it? Clem, you didn't
wear those lenses I gave you, did you?"
         "They look all dumb like, 'specialy over
my eye patch!"
         "Do you know nothing, you depth
perceptionless prat? Those were protective
lenses! Without them, if you look at a nymph
in any sort of a desiring way, which, if I know
you, you would do, you could be killed! You're
lucky you only have one eye and only took half
the effect."
         "Well, at least I was able to slip her
that special elixir of yours," Clem said.
         "You're very fortunate at that," said
Josiah, "That could make up for this. But what
am I going to tell those people in there?
Those two generals...
         "...and the other members of the
Malicious Seven?"

         Anne Saddler raced across the plains
on her unicorn, a beautiful white beast that
she named Spud the Stud. This name is
much funnier than Monday. While still riding,
she jumped up to a standing position on the
unicorn's bare back to retrieve the map in the
back pocket of her white skirt, which
complimented her white vest and flowered
hat. She was able to steal the map from her
captors. It was a magical map that traced the
location of the Fantastic Seven.

         "Hey, Dusty," said Jedadiah the Billy,
"How long have you had that wing ring?"
         "I got my wing pierced about a year
ago," said Dusty, "Then my squigging brother
got jealous and pierced his antennae."
         The group was sitting around a
campfire one night out in the middle of the
prairie waiting for their dinner to cook.
         "Well," said Xak-xak, blowing off a
cloud of steam as he surveyed a map, "Rion
Grade was a real disappointment. There's no
more civilized areas within several days of
travel that I haven't already checked, unless
we were to cross the Maxwell mountains,
which I really don’t want to do."
         "What if someone who wasn't there
when you were there is there now?" said Jed.
         "Not likely," said Xak-xak, "After I scout
out a place, the Leprechaun Teamsters
monitor anyone who comes or goes."
         "And still three more members to
find..." said Ezra reflectively.
         "What if they don't live in cities, like
Yochimo?" said Dusty, pointing out the
centaur.
         "It's possible," said Xak-xak, "But there
aren't many peoples who live outside the
cities on this planet in the first place."
         "Could they have left the planet?" said
Ezra.
         "No. Absolutely not."
         Yochimo was not talking all this time.
The rest of the group had found that he was
not much of a conversationalist, but this was
okay, because his healing power was very
much welcomed, plus he allowed Dusty to
ride on his back. But now he stood up,
suddenly alert. He looked around, then
leaned forward and put an ear to the ground.
         "A unicorn approaches," he said
gruffly.
         "You can tell what animal it is by the
sound of its footsteps?" said Dusty,
impressed.
         "No," said Yochimo, “The rider's
sending Yochimo a signal through the cellular
ground network."
         Anne Saddler galloped up to the
campsite. She had smartly suppressed her
looks-to-kill power before coming into sight.
         "Hello!" she said in a perky voice,
"Would you happen to be the..." she looked to
read off of the palm of her hand, "Fantastic...
something that starts with 'S'?"
         "That's us," said Jed, standing up to
help her off of her unicorn, "I'm Jedadiah the
Billy, leader of this operation. Who might you
be?"
         Ezra grumbled resentfully and
checked on the beans.
         "Saddler," Anne replied, "Anne
Saddler. I believe that I am one of your
number. Get your eyes off my chest, sir."
         ”I don't know what you're talking
about," said Jed quickly.
         "You're one of the Fantastic Seven?"
said Xak-xak, eagerly stepping up to the
nymph.
         "Yes," she said, "My reflection shines
blue. I was being held captive by the Lotus
Eaters, where I was able to find out about you
and track you down on this map."
         "This is lucky," said Dusty, "Now we've
only got two more to find, right? Right,
Xak-xak? Xak-xak, what's wrong?"
         Xak-xak was starring at the reflection
of Anne in his mirror. His face fell. This is a
difficult feat for a face made of metal, which
rarely has much choice but come clean off.
Yochimo grabbed it and snapped it back in
place.
         "You're lying, Miss saddler," said the
robot, "Your reflection's perfectly normal."
         Anne looked at Xak-xak in
bewilderment. She leaned down to look at her
reflection. There was no blue at all.
         "Stop trying to look down my vest, sir,"
she said to Jed.
         "I'm looking at the mirror," he insisted.

         Back in Shadowcast, a dark, stealthy
figure snuck into a dark room. It was a long
room, lined on both sides with file cabinets.
Careful not to make any noise, he found the
one marked "C". He slid it open and flipped
through its contents. He found what he was
looking for. He read through the page and
gasped. He folded up the page and stuffed it
into his jacket. He ran for the closest
teleportation booth to leave the ship, hoping
never to come back.

         "Who sent you here, falsely bearing
the name of the Blue of the Fantastic Seven?"
Ezra demanded.
         "I...don't understand!" said Anne, "I've
reflected blue all my life!"
         "Well, the only thing that this mirror is
reflecting is your evil nature," Ezra said, "You
work for Josiah, don't you?"
         Anne paused and looked to read
something off of her hand. "No. Josiah was
going to kill me."
         "You know, that's just what I'd expect
Josiah to tell you to tell me."
         "Beans are ready!" said Dusty.
         "Not now, Fairy Dust!"
         "Wait," said Yochimo. He stepped up
to Anne and gazed down at her searchingly.
Anne found his stern glare unnerving. He put
a hand to her forehead. "This nymph is under
the influence a strong, dark magic."
         "See?" said Jed, "She's all right after
all! Someone just slapped a bad spell on
her."
         "Don't be a fool, Jed," said Ezra, "That
could be anything. She could have put it on
herself."
         "Could you break the spell, Yochimo
Sir?" said Xak-xak.
         The centaur shook his head. "Healing
magic does not break spells."
         "What about that counterspell song of
yours that you used in the inn, Jed?" said Ezra.
         "No can do," said Jed, "That song can
only counter spells if I'm within the spell's
effect."
         Ezra let out a deep sigh, taking off his
hat to scratch behind his pointed ear. He
thought for a moment, then put his hat back on
and spoke.
         "Oil Slick," he said to Xak-xak, "Is there
any other way to prove that someone's a
member of the Fantastic Seven?"
         Xak-xak hesitated nervously. "I hoped
it wouldn't have to come to this, but I suppose
we could check the Prismatic Cave..."

         The Prismatic Cave is a deep
dungeon under the Maxwell mountains. It was
made to reveal the secrets of the identities if
the Fantastic and Malicious Sevens. However,
the path to the secrets is deadly. No one
knows quite who made it. Ancient tales tell of
a multitude of triangular beings coming from
the heavens, but other ancient tales say it was
a young demi-god who needed a science
project.
         The group found their way to the cave's
entrance the next morning. Its mouth was
wide and forbidding. A sign was standing next
to the enterance featuring a picture of a tall
knight cleaving the head off of a manticore and
the words, “Prismatic Cave: You Must Be at
Least This High Level to Enter.”
         "It says here," said Jed, reading the
ancient writing engraved on the wall of hewn
stone on their right as they came in, "That
there’re three tests to get to the end: the
feats’ve mental ability, the feats’ve physical
prowess, and lastly, the feats’ve magic."
         "Great!" said Dusty, "We’re one yard
away from the goal!”
         Yochimo swung at the sprite with his
tomahawk.
         "Watch it, kid," said Jed, "When it
comes to tasteless wordplay, I am the
master."
         "THEN YOU ARE IN LUCK," boomed a
disembodied voice, echoing off the walls of
the cavern, "FOR YOUR FIRST TASK IS TO
SOLVE THREE RIDDLES."
         "That's not so bad," said Anne.
         "Why is it always three?" said Ezra.
         “TWO IS NOT GOOD ENOUGH FOR
US,” declared the voice. “AS FOR FOUR,
WELL, THAT’S JUST MORE TWOS.”
         "Uh, where do we solve these
riddles?" said Jed, awkwardly talking to the
cavern ceiling.
         "MOVE ALONG, PLEASE," said the
voice.
         The group advanced along the dark
tunnel, lead by a red light up ahead. They
found themselves on a narrow rope bridge,
suspended dangerously over a pool of
magma far below.
         "...Is it safe?" said Anne uncertainly.
         "'Course it is, sweetheart," said Jed,
giving her a wink, "Don't you worry yourself
none."
         "Watch what you're staring at, sir," said
Anne.
         "I think you're getting smoke in yer
eyes," said Jed, "Now lookie here, I'll just walk
across this..." The satyr took several steps
out, and, as anyone could have guessed but
him, it cracked open under him. Nearly
plunging downward, he grabbed the plank in
front of him, but this only caused it to break
entirely. He fell.
         Dusty's quick lasso saved Jed. He
hoisted him back upward, hands still clutching
the bridge and one hoof in the rope.
         "Someone's not passing the feats of
mental ability," said Ezra.
         At these words, the passage behind
them was sealed off by a heavy stone door. A
loud crack was heard. They became aware of
slowly descending into the lava below.
         "TO TEST YOUR THINKING ABILITY
UNDER PRESSURE, YOU MUST ANSWER
ME MY QUESTIONS THREE. FIRST: HOW IS
NASA LIKE AN EXCEPTIONAL WRITING
ASSIGNMENT?"
         "NASA like an exceptional writing
assignment?" said Ezra, bewildered, "Uh, only
smart people can do them?"
         The floor shook suddenly. They jerked
all the farther into the lava below.
         "No!" said Jed, nearly in a panic as he
hung above the magma, "They're both An 'A'
Essay! Ya know? N-A-S-A!"
         "AW, GEEZ, HAVE YOU HEARD
THESE BEFORE? NEXT QUESTION: WHAT
DOES A ZOMBIE TAKE ON AN AIRPLANE?"
         "Let's let Jed answer this," said Dusty,
straining to hold him up.
         "Carrion luggage!"
         “UM, HOW DID YOU SPELL
‘CARRION’?”
         “Dern it, just give me the last one!”
         "YOUR LAST CHALLENGE: YOU
MUST MAKE A PUN SO BAD IT DISGUSTS
EVEN ME!"
         "What?" said Jed, "You said we had
three riddles!"
         "YOU BROUGHT IT ON YOURSELF,
MR. 'MASTER OF TASTELESS WORDPLAY."
         "Oh, gods," said Xak-xak, "We're
getting close..."
         "All right, all high spooky PA system,
you asked for it," Jed said. He cleared his
throat. “An evil warlord is out to catch a
protagonist, okay?"
         “Hurry up, Jed,” said Ezra, finding it in
himself to be slightly annoyed.
         “He gathers a group of bounty hunters
and tells them all, ‘I want him brought here
alive. No disintegrations!’ A bounty hunter
looks at him and says...”
         “Jed, we’re gonna get choied!” said
Dusty, beginning to sweat.
         “...‘Are you sure? I’m having a
liquidation sale!’”
         As soon as he said it, the bridge
snapped up and repaired itself and the lava
turned to cold stone. A red carpet rolled out in
front of Jed as he righted himself.
         "You are the master," said the voice,
who apparently turned his volume down
respectfully.
         They ran across the bridge and came
into a new room, a wide one with a huge,
heavy stone door at the end. Guarding the
door was a large green troll holding the
biggest spiked club any of them had ever
seen, except for Yochimo, for who had seen
some very, very big spiked clubs.
         "So we just got to kill the troll?" said
Ezra.
         "Ha, ha, no," said the voice, "That
would be too easy. You've got to get the troll
to open the door for you. It's far too heavy for
you to move yourself."
         "Jed, use your command song," said
Ezra.
         "Can't," said Jed, "My guitar broke a
string in the fall."
         Yochimo pounded one fist into his
hand, cracking his knuckles. He glared down
the troll, who sneered back. He walked
towards it, his tomahawk ready.
         "Yochimo sees you are in pain," he
said.
         The troll lowered his club and frowned
painfully. "Yesh," he said, clutching his
forehead, "Me gotz badness in me head, is no
regenerating."
         "Heal!" Yochimo commanded, waving
his tomahawk. The troll looked pleasantly
surprised.
         "Me head all good!" said the troll, "Youz
guyz nice. I open door for youz."
         The troll pushed the great door open.
Ezra and Xak-xak exchanged glances. They
shrugged.
         "This was supposed to be a feat of
physical prowess, but, okay," said the voice.
         They passed through the door and
came to a last room. There were seven
crystal balls lined across the wall, sitting on
pedestals. Each was a color of the visible
spectrum.
         "To discover the identity of one of the
colors, look into the corresponding ball," said
the voice.
         "This isn't right," said Ezra, "There's
supposed to be a third test."
         Xak-xak didn't seem to care. He
eagerly advanced on the blue ball. He put his
hands on it and hoisted himself up to look
inside.
         The world around them melted away
in a haze of blue. The entire group now stood
at the end of a narrow hallway. Before them
lay a path of slashing blades and jets of
flame, blocking the route to the only door at the
far end. On either side of them were two
metal walls, and they were closing in on them
slowly.
         "It was a trap!" said Dusty, taking a
wild guess.
         "This...this isn't supposed to
happen..." said Xak-xak, looking ashamed at
looking into the ball.
         "No, don't you see?" said Ezra, "This is
the last test! We have to get to the end of this
hall, where I see a button that will stop these
walls!"
         "What are we supposed to do?" said
Jed, "The only way to get out of here is to travel
through those blades and fire fast enough,
while dodging them all."
         "Yes," said Ezra, "There's only one of
us that can accomplish this feat." He pointed
to Anne. "If she's the real blue, she can get us
out of us."
         They all realized that he was right.
They looked at Anne.
         "Stop looking at my chest, sir," said
Anne.
         "Just do something, sweetheart."
         Anne looked towards the end of the
hall. She swallowed hard, and snapped her
fingers. Spud the Stud materialized among
them. She climbed onto him and spurred him
to a gallop. They reached the first flame jet
and jumped over it. A blade shot at them. She
flipped over it. More flame, from above this
time. She dropped to the side of her unicorn.
A blade shot at her. She passed under the
unicorn and back onto the back. Spud leapt
over another jet of flame. She shot through
the hazards and came to the end. Spud's
horn hit the button. The blades and flame
stopped. The walls widened. The door
opened. Anne sat there victoriously. She was
sheathed in an aura of blue.
         “Yee-haw!” cheered Jed.
         “Welcome aboard, Blue!” said Dusty.
         "This concludes the stupidest, most
difficult chapter of my life," said Ezra.
         And this concludes this chapter.

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