A Faerie Tale: Ice-Cream


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6. A new world, a new problem

Voices. Actual, real voices cut through the mountain of nothingness. Slowly, Bill reclaimed his body from the void that had been enslaving him; he couldn’t move still but he could hear again and his thoughts had returned so that was a start. He had no idea what was going on but he was sure he would figure it out eventually.

“This is getting boring, is he ever going to wake up?” The first voice was high but masculine; a young boy he presumed. “Can’t I just shake him a bit? That would wake him up.”

“No,” a second voice said abruptly. “Patience, young one: patience.” An old man, Bill thought; wise from the sound of him; like Yoda, but without the backwards sentences. The thought brought a smile to Bill’s lips.

The smile must have shown because the boy suddenly shouted out. “Look, look, look; he just smiled: that means he’s awake, right?”

“Right,” answered the old man. Bill tried opening his eyes slowly; all he could see was darkness. He blinked rapidly, tried to shift the nothingness which was still surrounding him like a cloak. “It might take a few minutes for you to regain the full functionality of all of your senses. Plane shifting is a tricky business, even more so with someone of your size.”

“What do you mean my size?” Bill demanded furiously.

“He means, ’cos you’re like a giant compared to us, I mean you are like way big,” gabbled the young boy.

“Way big? I don’t...” Bill’s vision was returning. He realised was lying down on what felt like a cold, stone block; slowly, he raised himself up into a sitting position and looked around him. He couldn’t quite believe what his eyes were telling him.

He was in what he guessed to be some sort of huge shrine or temple made of a pure white stone unlike anything he’d ever seen before; it seemed to shine with its own luminescence; and as far as he could tell the whole room had been hewn from a single block.

There were no windows of any kind; the only entrance was an archway, eighteen feet high, which was currently filled by two enormous wooden doors the colour of buttercups, surmounted by two large shields – one on each door – made of a strange, ochre metal and embossed with a brilliant green insignia which, as far as Bill could tell, appeared to be of some kind of human-like hill.

The insignia was in the middle of each of the walls, too: etched into the stone; thin, silver wires pressed into the base of the triangular grooves.

In the centre of the room were five stone plinths arranged like the spots on a die. Each was a different colour and each had a sculpture of some unknown creature mounted on top. At the back left was a fiery plinth with a monstrous beast that looked like it had just risen out of a volcano. The one in front was of a lapis lazuli aquamarine with a bizarre kind of human-whale hybrid. To the right of that was a snow white plinth topped with some kind of thin, icicle covered man; two icicles on its head like a pair of giant horns. Behind that a tornado-like plinth with what Bill could only describe as an eagle-man perched on top. It was the central pillar that most interested Bill though: it was almost twice the size of the other four and was the same ochre colour as the shields on the doors with the same hill creature sat on top, looking down on the rest of the room.

Clearly, Bill thought to himself, that… whatever it is must be very important to whoever it was that made this place. Why there are four others I don’t know; they may be related in some way, perhaps.

“They are the guardians of our world.” The sound of the old man’s voice shocked him out of his silent reverie – he’d forgotten about the voices – and he nearly sent himself flying off what he later found out was an altar as he whipped his head around to the right where the voice had come from. What he saw was not exactly what he had expected. While he could just about tell that the two creatures he was looking at were in fact an old man and a young boy, what they were not, was human.

They were floating at about eye level: six inches tall with mud brown skin, similar to Bill’s own, and grass green hair; not like Bill’s. The old man’s face was wise but withered by the ravages of time; one eye was pale and glassy as if his sight had left it, the other was so dark it looked to be almost black; his hair was down to his feet and his beard was almost as long. The boy had a very childlike face; he looked about twelve in Bill’s eyes, and he had short, spiked hair and bright emerald eyes. Their clothes were animal furs; they reminded Bill of an African tribe he’d met one time although they wore the furs of animals he knew; these were blood red with dark blue stripes with pale blue spots inbetween.

All this he saw in a split second before a sudden rage overcame him and he flew of the altar arms stretched out to grab the tiny creatures that that had caused him such misery. They’d wrecked his plane in mid-flight almost ending his career and his live to boot. They’d blown up a restaurant he’d been waiting years to go to and stolen the ice-cream he’d been dreaming of ever since he’d found out about it. And now, now they’d kidnapped him and taken him to some place he knew nothing about; some place that probably wasn’t even on Earth. His hands closed around the creatures…

Who were no longer there.

Bill screamed with fury and confusion, his eyes scanning the whole room trying to figure out where they had gone. Then he saw them, over on the other side of the room. He started running towards them but stopped when he realised that; although his feet had been moving, he hadn’t actually gone anywhere; and, on top of that, he could no longer feel the floor beneath him. He looked down and immediately regretted it: he was currently floating about six inches (appropriately) above the ground; his feet touching nothing but air.

The two creatures drifted towards him; the old-man creature was keeping a steady gaze on Bill with his one good eye. “I suggest you calm down, lest you do yourself an injury,” he said.

“Oh yeah, and I bet if I did it’d be you that caused me to,” Bill screamed at him. “Life endangerment; dream destroying; kidnapping; yeah, why not add a bit of assault to the list.” He opened his arms wide; inviting them in. “Well go on then, what’re you waiting for? I’m an open target; it’s not like I can do anything about it, I mean I can’t exactly run away, can I? Just do me one favour, though: avoid the face.”

“I believe there may be an element of misunderstanding between us. We have no intention of injuring you in any way; also we are not the ones who took the ice-cream.”

This made Bill pause. “Then who the hell are you?” he asked quizzically.

“We’re the ones who ripped the engines off’f your plane,” the young boy chipped in happily, sending Bill into another fit of anger.

“Enough!” shouted the old man. “This infernal racket is doing nothing for my headache.”

“You tell him granddad! He’s weird anyway; first he just lies there doing nothing then he start going crazy. And he’s too big. And...”

“Silence!” the boy’s face dropped. “One more word and you are going straight back to your mother.” The old man blinked slowly; breathed out heavily through his nose then turned to Bill whose expression didn’t even begin to show the confusion he was feeling at that moment. “I believe I have some explaining to do.”

“You think?”

“No I said believe not think.” Bill scowled at him. “First things first: my name is Senex, I am the leader of the Terra-Nymphalem: the Earth-Faeries and this young scallywag is my grandson Catlas. You are on the island of Terra-Insula, one the five islands that orbit the Golden Sun in the centre of our world: Nymphala-Mundus.”

If Bill wasn’t confused before he definitely was now. “Could repeat that in English please?”

Senex laughed a wise laugh. “We are Faeries and you are now in our world.”

“See, I just about understood that.” He pinched the bridge of his nose for a moment, something he always did when his brain was struggling to cope. “What I don’t understand is: if it wasn’t you who took the ice-cream who did? And why exactly did you damage my plane?”

“It is a long story,” said Senex.

“Well let’s face it: I’ve got all the time in the world; wherever the hell this world is.”

Senex sighed. “Caltas, go find Commo. Ask him if he can get Bill here some water from Aqau-Insula to drink, I have a feeling he needs it.”

“Oh, but granddad…” Catlas whined.

“Go!” Catlas pulled a face and then just disappeared into thin air.

“Aqua-Insula… aqua…” Bill thought for a moment. “That means water right? So I’m guessing maybe Water-Faeries?”

“That is correct,” Senex replied. “It is the home of our allies; the Aqua-Nymphalem.”

“So you said there were five islands here; does that mean there are five types of Faeries?”

Senex nodded. “The others are the Flamma-, Aer- and Glaciei-Nymphalem: Fire, Air and Ice. It was the Ice-Faeries who stole the ice-cream from the Ruddy Dumplings.”

“Ice-Faeries stealing ice-cream; well, I suppose it’s appropriate if nothing else.” At that moment Catlas reappeared with a middle-aged Faerie with messy hair and a five o’clock shadow – Bill assumed this was Commo – who was carrying a wooden tray with a silver jug of water and a solitary glass.

“I found him and he got the water,” said Catlas excitedly.

“Very good. Commo, if you would like to pass the tray to Bill here.” Commo passed the tray to Bill then gave him a quick bow.

Bill thanked him; this seemed to fluster the tiny man who stared at him for several moments, motionless, then suddenly he span round and bowed to Senex and Catlas, “If it alright with you I shall take my leave. There may be others who are in need of my assistance.” Senex nodded and he vanished from the room.

“Catlas, why don’t you go with him; see if he needs any help?” Catlas scowled but eventually he vanished as well. Senex turned to Bill, “I thought it best to remove any possible interruptions. Also, feel free to sit down if you wish.” Bill looked down and realised he was no longer floating; when he had been put down he didn’t know but he felt it was best not to ask, for fear it would make him look stupid, so instead he sat down on the altar and placed the tray down beside him. He picked up the jug and poured himself a drink. The water seemed different somehow; purer and more... watery. Cautiously, he took a sip and waited for whatever adverse effects there may be to occur. When none did he downed the entire glass in one go. Senex was right: he did need it; with everything that had happened he hadn’t realised how dry his mouth was.

“Commo works transporting items between here and Aqua-Insula,” continued Senex. “Something which doesn’t need doing very often given we Faeries keep to ourselves mostly; hence why he goes round and helps with any issues anyone might have.”

“Good for him, but that doesn’t really tell me anything that’s going on; why did the Ice-Faeries take the ice-cream; and you still haven’t explained about my plane?”

“It is something which has been going on for many millennia,” Senex began. “The Glaciei-Nymphalem have always been troublesome but when the Aer-Nymphalem decided to side with them five thousand years ago they became a dangerous force that needed to be stopped.”

“Great. But again: ice-cream.”

Senex sighed... again. “I’m getting to that,” He said tiredly. “Over the years they made many attempts at taking over our world but with the assistance of the Aqua-Nymphalem we were successful in preventing their assent to power. Unfortunately there was an unforeseen impediment: human beings.”

“Now I’m totally lost; how could we have any effect on creatures from a completely different world?”

“Your species created a substance which could potentially give the Glaciei enough power to take over not just our world but every world: ice-cream.”

“OK, I was with you on the Faerie bit but now you expect me to believe that ice-cream gives the Ice-Faeries extra power. Really?” Bill asked cynically.

“Yes. Thankfully, none of the ice-cream was good enough to give them the power to take over. At least not at first; not until the Ruddy Dumplings came along. In that restaurant they had somehow created ice-cream unlike any other ever made; ice-cream which could change the fate of life as we know it.

“We discovered this shortly before the Glaciei, meaning we had time to erect a shield around the restaurant blocking their attempts to retrieve the ice-cream.”

Bill was confused again. “I’m confused again. If you put up a shield how did they still get into the Ruddy Dumplings?”

“Our powers work differently in your world; they are dictated by the alignment of the planets. We foresaw that the alignment yesterday would weaken us sufficiently for the Glaciei to break through. We decided to enlist the help of the humans in our quest to protect life from the domination of the Glaciei-Nymphalem. To this effect we fabricated a series of events which would bring to us someone who would lead man-kind in the fight against the Glaciei. Someone with enough passion to disregard their own safety in order to fight for the thing they love.”

“I can see where you’re going with this and I seriously hope I’m wrong.” said Bill nervously, gripping onto the side of the altar as tightly as he could.

He wasn’t wrong. “That someone was you,” announced Senex, dispelling any remaining hopes Bill had. “You must be the one to protect life as we know it. You must save the world.”

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