Darnell was already busy at work, the sun starting to dip back down in the sky as mid-day ends. Construction on the safety measures was moving swiftly. Even though Zippy had already told him that in a few weeks the gnome will make a protection spell for those who fall off; Darnell just couldn’t stand the massive flying rock not having any viable safety measures.
Darnell’s brother, Jerome was overseeing a group of construction workers. Unable to convince any foreman within the area to come up to the impossible geography; the town sheriff was forced to do the job.
“Alright, quit looking over the edge, I don't need any of you falling off! Hammer in those metal poles and move on to the next marker, let’s get going.” The construction workers quickly got back to work after the short man’s effort to deafen them.
“Hey, Jerome!” Billy Joe called as she came up, gnome and friend in tow. Hugging the man mid-word was a certain way to make the newly found work effort short-lived as the gruff workers chided the sheriff
“So…. Okay, how about Loki and Odin and all them.?” Jamie asked Zippy as the two caught up to Billy Joe at a slow pace. Jamie had begun to get enamored at the small wizards insight into what was legend and what was history.
“Oh? The Aesir and the others, yes, they were quite real. With more stories than you will ever know.” The small gnome laughed to himself. “I will quite miss Frey though, he was a good friend.”
Darnell walked up to his brother, chuckling at how lively his town has gotten, “So about that fencing to keep animals from falling off…” Before Darnell could continue his brother had already started walking over to Zippy, a flabbergasted look on his face.
Jerome walked up to zippy, mouth open. “Say that again…. You were friends with a GOD?!” His small afro almost bouncing and shaking from the updrafts off the side of the mountain.
“Well, I don’t know about god, Frey was older than most though. Yes, while Frey was the only one I would call a friend I knew many of them. I take it you’re interested?” As Zippy laughed at ancient memories the Sheriff stiffened.
“I Uhm, I’d love to know more. Could we meet up sometime? I studied ancient legends in college and if you have the insight you claim… Well, you hold the secrets I was probably asking myself back in college and truthfully, I never gave up the passion.
Zippy laughed. “I don’t know everything, but wait until I give you my first-hand view on Ragnarok!” Shrugging his small shoulders in a feigned sign of disinterest.
Darnell knew the look in his brother's eyes, if he didn’t pull him back now the nerd would never get the job done. “Okay bro back to work. We need this entire side done by tomorrow when the Canadians, British, and the Japanese get here.” Darnell yelled while never taking his eyes off of the clipboard in his hand as multiple medium sized construction machines get wheeled past him.
Billy Joe and Jamie said their goodbyes to Zippy for the time being and the two let the gnome get to his important task.
I must thank that… human, that’s the word… For these tapes, while they don’t contain much information they are certainly a blast to watch. The rope of raw power thought to itself as it watched ‘The Sandlot’ on an ancient boxey screen.
Below it were the toys come to life, an older action figure of Andre the Giant was currently wrestling a large plush giraffe for who is the master of the volume switch. Two small rocking horses watched quietly from the back and the rest of the assorted children's toys from the last century all relax for a good movie.
I…..I… A sound came from somewhere in the room.
Floating near where it thought the sound came from, the rope heard it again. I… Have a request too. The voice was quiet, there was almost no emotion in the words other than fear.
“I… I don’t know if you can hear me but I’d like to do what I can.”
I… I need you to consider an odd request. This time the rope could see where the sound was coming from. A small purple glow was coming from a whip held on the wall by a few nails it is resting on.
“Alright, I love requests, especially the odd ones.”
No one should use me. I never want to be used again. I wish for your power to curse me. The whip said, a calmer tone in its internal voice. Long silence gripped the room between the two freshly sentient beings birthed of the raw mana. Wishes, magic, creation, these were the thing, are the things the Genie, the rope, the mana itself will found itself on. But curses… destruction...
“But everyone else wants to be used, be useful, why wouldn’t you?” The genie moved closer to the whip, confused but curious nonetheless.
Touch me, remember with me the things that I am used for? The whip asked, sadness in its tone this time.
“Sure!” Without a second thought, the rope went over to touch the ancient implement.
The Genie’s mind raced as a flow of information not dissimilar from the books earlier filled its mind. It could see a cruel man with the whip gripped coldly in his calloused hands. The whip uncurled in the air quickly, striking out at a man on the ground. His shirt red, four other slashes than the first have been carved into the crying mans back as blood drips down his sides onto the ground. The cruel man pulls his hand back for another strike on the prone defenseless man, and just as the whip cracks in the air before it meets flesh, the image is gone.
The Genie is stunned, sure, from the encyclopedias plus the fantasy fictions it had learned that whips were weapons but… The raw cruelty of it all.
“I’ll do it.” Just as the genie said this waves of mana came off of the rope, surrounding the whip in an ominous purple and green glow. The glow seemed to seep into the physical being of the whip before the area of the shop returns to basic daylight.
“Anyone who picks you up with the intention of using you as a weapon will have that man’s scars appear on their back.” The thread of mana solemnly stated.
Thank… You… The whip trailed off, a sliver of melancholy hope in its tired inner voice.
While currently unable to know the implications of its actions. Throughout its life, the genie will look back on this moment when it was a fledgling, this defining action. This piece of knowledge both hated and revered… That some powers, some ‘things’ should not be made a reality. This lesson, however, would not be understood by the fledgling power until it was far too late.
The room is dark, the town hall is empty this late in the day as dusk settles over the once quiet town of Barthell. While the old adage for a village is ‘The Butcher, The Baker, The Candle Stick Maker,’ It would not be too far off in this case.
Clarice the Butcher, Jerome the Sherrif, Darnell the Mayor, Auntie Christia the wise. All were seated in a small circle of particularly awful plastic chairs.
“We really need to do something about these seats.” Clarice complained, rightfully so about the horrible way the chairs want to bend everyone’s lower back unnaturally forward.
“What did you think I could do? I had to furnish this place out of the shell of a run down Dollar General.” Darnell quickly chided back, however, even his spine was starting to have a problem with him.
“Well, Considering the insanity happening as of late, it’s good to have a council meeting,” Jerome said, parroting what he knew everyone around him was thinking.
“Zippy will be coming tonight, we shall be opening with his story. I haven’t heard it yet so I don’t know how it will pertain to our small town but he should be coming any moment.” Darnell spoke with an air of tired responsibility.
As if on cue; just as the sun dipped over the side of the horizon outside the front doors opened slowly and the small gnome came flying in on his tiny cloud. The town hall being an old run-down church that was gutted and filled with various seats. It was a straight shot from the meeting area to the front door so the four waited patiently with bated breath.
Zippy came in and sat down on the gigantic chair. Looking at the four of them. “So, got anything to talk about or just want me to get to the nitty gritty of it all?”
The four of them said nothing, all moving their heads in nearly synchronized motion, nodding for him to continue.
“Alright, but it ain't happy.” the small gnome said from his seat while sipping a large Slurpee he must've gotten before he came in here.
“It all starts with the High Elves, everything always seems to start with the High Elves though.” Zippy takes another massive slurp before continuing. “Ya see, when somebody becomes a being partsa their personality, partsa their mind, what people think makes em who they are is used to determine what they come out as right? Well, the exact recipe of a high elf is unknown there’s always 2 things that go into them, SHLRRRRRRP!”
The room is all sitting at the edge of their seats, be it from being entrapped by the ancient tale or the weird wedge at the back of the chair, who could tell? Zippy continues, “The two things are, they think they’re better than everyone else round em. The other thing is greed, these ain't what y’all consider ‘races’ by the way, you idiots are all the same ‘race’ yer human!”
Zippy quickly coughs to regain composure, talking to Billy Joe for half a day seems to have imparted a bit of dialect on the small gnome. “Still, one day one of em got all up on themself, they discovered some powerful line of magic, Solar Magic, a bit of a misnomer mind you. Anyway, if you want to know what was awaiting the whole world, take a look at Pompei, that was the first target by the Solar General.”
A hushed silence ran over the room as the four members of the council knew their history class pretty well. Pompei was a city in ancient Rome so quickly overtaken by a volcano that it preserved the terror on every person flooded by lava. After waiting long enough Zippy continued. “We tried, believe us we did, over two hundred years most of the world fought against the High Elves and the Solar General, but… it was too much.”
“Believing the end of the world was coming my son gathered mages from every discipline and respect to the gnomish capital. Oh Barthalamew, you made me so proud.” Zippy starts crying, trying to rub the tears away with his robe as Auntie Christia slowly walks over to him, patting him lightly on the back.
Zippy recovers, sputtering a little, “Sorry about that, for you it might be over a thousand years, but for me, I saw him only five months ago. Anyway, he became a hero. Using what strings he could pull he arranged for me to get any reagent or ingredient I might need in the creation of my grandest spell ever. The Time Portal. Nothing had ever been tried like it before, mainly because I was the only one working on it, and such a powerful portal had a nasty side effect. SHLYRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRP”
During this extra-long slurp from the small gnome mage all four humans let out a sigh, Clarice speaking first, “Come on, we ain't got all night.”
“Sure Sure, anyway, my testing and theories showed me that if I ever tried to open a time portal, due to factors too complicated to tell you now, pretty much all magic would be sucked out of the world. At first, I thought it would be to power the portal, however with some minor testing through short time portals of a few minutes, I learned that it acts more like a hole or drain.
“The long and short of it is, all magic would flow into the entrance of the portal and out the exit. This was what my son wanted to achieve.”
Realization slowly dawned all four of them. “Then what happened?” Darnell’s voice was almost a whisper.
“Three months before the portal was finished, the attack began. The Solar General sieged the Gnomish capital for three months as we finished my grand design. If one crazed man and all the magic in the world was going to destroy it, then we’d just have to take one of these things out of the equation. Since two hundred years of war couldn’t kill the general, we did the next best thing.”
“As for my son… Unfortunately, he was killed in the initial surprise attack…” Zippy trailed off again before returning to the matter at hand. “Sorry about that. Anyway, that’s just the reason we’re in your time, the reason I am here tonight is slightly different.”
“Oh?” Clarice asked, perking up a bit.
“Yeah, I came to talk about humans, moreover, exactly what it means to be a human.” His four-person audience in shocked silence Zippy continued.
“First, I deeply, truly want to say this.” Taking in a deep breath. “I’m sorry.”
Yet again, all four of them were stunned and silent, Jerome breaking the quiet, “Uhm, sorry for what?”
“Sorry for taking away magic,” Zippy said, genuine sadness returning to their tone. “Look at what has happened to sentient sapient life on this planet since its removal. Humans became the top of the food chain, conquered the elements, bent the will of rivers to their whim, and what did they do with this power?”
Auntie Christia whispered softly between the group. “We nearly destroyed ourselves…”
Zippy sighed, looking a the elderly, yet much younger woman, “You’re correct. With the removal of magic many magical beasts just… Died, their history left to legend as their bones, partially made of magic, evaporated into nothingness. We became the top of the food chain, and it’s lonely, and boring at the top.
“Magic is coming back, which means it will seep into those closest to nature first, including nature itself. Magical beings are being reborn every day. There’s wizards running all over the planet juggling what to do about the sudden emergence of a troll, or a lizardwoman, or a freakin manticore at a zoo! And we’re constantly on the lookout for these missile things that seem to make the Solar General we all ran away from look like a child in raw destructive comparison.”
Sputtering from information overload, Darnell barely got his thoughts out, “Wait, looking out for missiles?”
“Yeah, we can’t just let some idiot end the world with a button, pretty much all of us have agreed if we see a missile in the air we’re gonna get rid of it however we can. I have an emergency spell ready to cast at a moments notice for a one way trip to the sun.” The gnome so casually mentions his terrifying power to the shocked crowd. “Wha?! It’s not like I can do it regularly, it’s an emergency spell!
“Anyway, think about it. If it wasn’t for you all constantly massacring each other in war your species would have grown so much you would have exhausted the world's resources centuries ago. Our species has an innate ability to ignore the fear of death for the sake of power, wealth, or comfort and when we have nothing to struggle against, we tend to create new things to cause struggle. Hatred, racism, sexism, so many things in your time that while present in mine, have become plagues on society in this day… and honestly, maybe the deaths were a good thing…”
Without time to think Clarice had already picked Zippy up and slammed him to the back of the chair, he sat in. “So you’re saying bloodbaths saved the planet? Don’t make me laugh, I had family who died in the holocaust, I know what bloodbaths are like, and nothing good can come of those.” There’s a dangerous venom in her voice, the venom one can only gain by battling the deniers of reality for decades.
Through coughing breaths Zippy manages to get out, “I ...Didn't mean…. Civilians…. I meant…. The call of adventure.”
Clarice blushed and let the small gnome go, her own experiences with the freshly revived 'nationalist' movement in her youth making her more than touchy to this subject.
“I didn’t know you were Jewish,” Jerome said, trying to change the subject.
“Nah, Roma, It wasn’t just them that those bastards gassed. They hated anyone different.” Clarice sat down crossing her arms, embarrassed at her own actions. Pride not letting her apologize to the short man.
Zippy, speaking up again. “Seriously think about it, most militaries on your world are by volunteer, everyone knows soldiers are used as fodder by people who don’t care yet they do it anyway. People want to be heroes, it’s hard-wired into our DNA and that won’t change when you become are reborn either.” Zippy smiled at them kindly, trying to show he didn’t hold a grudge, he understands the pain of loss all too well.
“Anyway, once dragons and their like come back you all are going to be in for it. With nukes out though you may have a good shot. Those things have a bit of a splash radius if you haven't noticed, and as I've learned in my hundreds of years on this planet, I don't trust a politician to weigh lives as anything more than numbers on a paper.”
Everyone, a bit dumbstruck by the casual mention of real-life dragons, says nothing until Auntie Christia speaks up, “Well, I didn't know you were a father.”
Zippy looks confused, “I wasn’t, I was Barthalamews Mother.”
After the more than small eruption from the other four surrounding him, Zippy smiled at them all. He knew well just to let these poor souls empty out their confusion before he talked. What's more, the speculative ideas of gnome biology made him chuckle a little to himself.
“Okay you four, simmer down. Firstly, I thought you would all know how rude it is to speculate about things down other people’s pants.” Zippy paused to let the shame fall over his companions, while most were funny, it was more than a little rude.
Jerome spoke up, “So…. You’re trans?”
Zippy looked at Jerome confused. “Honestly, I have no idea what that word means. All I know is my body changed when I became a being, and I've felt more like myself ever since. It happens rarely, but those it happens to are almost always happier.”
Christia spoke up this time, “Almost?”
“Yeah, almost, I've seen more than a few upset at their basic form. I mean, it ain't too great a feeling if you’re say… A troll and another troll goes off on a murderous crusade now does it?” Zippy said simply enough, however, both of the brothers started nodding silently, remembering more than a few people from the previous decades that made them near ashamed of being men.
Christia, still continuing from before spoke up, pure unadulterated joy and curiosity in her voice. “What’s a troll? I know the stories but honestly, I was kinda expecting you to list them with the monsters or magical beasts who died.”
Zippy laughed again shaking his head, “No, they’re a form of being. You become a troll NORMALLY, and I cannot stress this enough that there is more than just this to do it. You normally become a troll if you have a close relationship to forests, traditionally those with more wisdom and less book knowledge. You can also become a troll if you feel a real kinship from your clan and you come from a clan of trolls. Generally, trolls are honestly my favorite being to deal with. The combination of whatever makes them usually means they’re calm, understanding, spiritual, and can throw one helluva party!” Zippy got louder and louder the more he spoke, clearly enjoying the subject.
Darnell spoke up first. “Y-You mentioned area… as in if you live in one?”Zippy, not catching on to Darnell’s point simply nodded and the mayor continued. “So uhm, what would a flying mountain likely lean us toward?”
A gigantic smile crossed Zippy's face. “I thought it’d be obvious, mountain, closed off from the rest of the world normally. I mean, I don’t mean to generalize, but most people who live in these mountains seem a lot like the dwarven communities I visited.”
Darnell’s normally straight from the pot coffee skin lost much of its color a man resigned to his fate. “So… how short will we get?”
Zippy just laughed again, being not even two feet tall. “Huh? Well if that’s your problem, maybe a few of you will lose maybe three inches off the top or so. Dwarves are actually pretty tall by older standards, you’d call them four foot eight. Counting for the fact basic humans are now almost two feet taller than our own time, who can tell?”
Darnell, taking the non-answer for now. “Well, guess we’ll find out when one of us turns into one.” Although said in a grave voice, both Jerome and Christia seemed not to share his distaste of the normally short fantasy race.
“So, how’s the world not panicking?” Clarice asked, having stayed quiet since her outburst. “Like, you’re saying trolls, lizard people, elves, dwarves, and magical critters are starting to show up and will only get more common. How is there not panic?”
Zippy shrugged. “Considering your location I'd say your television and internet reception is more than a little spotty?”
The other four all nodded, shrugging as if to say ‘what can we do’
Nodding, the gnome continues, “We’re warning people about a ‘Magical second puberty’ the commercial is nearly coming on at every break on every channel. Any magical changes should be reported to a health official. Since government official sounds like we’re cataloging them we’ve teamed up with health professionals.”
“Anyway, we’re teaching them the honestly rather minor changes in the major organs caused by the process while THEY funnel the new beings to us so we can give them ‘the talk’ basically explaining all of these shenanigans. After that, they’re given a card, due to the changes in physical appearance, the card is merely a second form of I.D. There’ve been a few problems but less than you might think. The less human-looking beings are more solitary by nature. The worst thing we’ve seen if a gas station attendant drew a shotgun on a Wargling and unloaded both barrels in the poor woman’s chest.”
The room grew quiet, hanging on each of Zippy’s words, noticing the attention, “She’s fine though, it was mostly buckshot and Warglings have thick skin, they kinda look like what you’d consider a werewolf.”
Darnell, Christia, and Clarice all nodded in understanding, both at the shock of the man with the gun, and the poor victim. Jerome, however, started drooling at the thought of werewolf babes. After a few seconds, Darnell noticed it, elbowing his brother in the ribs, “Get yourself together,” he whispered and Jerome blushed, trying to hide his face.
“This knowledge will become available for everyone in town tomorrow,” Zippy said, finality in his tone. “I don’t work in secret or behind other's back. I want everyone here to know what's going on as well. Being surrounded by wild mana strong enough to lift a mountain means we’ll be seeing these changes much sooner than other areas.”
While more was said at the meeting. Including but not limited to; Jerome inquiring about how much he would be able to drink if he was a dwarf. Clarice trying to find sure-fire ways to wind up as one being form or another; there is not. And Darnell, rapidly scribbling down notes about tomorrow’s honored guests he had just been informed about earlier today… for the first time.