Currently, most inhabitants of Lowgarden believe shared reality should be a thing, so magic can be difficult here. But not impossible! Some people find it easier to cast spells on Lowgarden when they’re alone. Live your dreams!

  • Excerpt from “The Path of The Longstrider”

1 Hour Later (Lowgarden Time) - Copycat

Presto is not happy. Now that his son is coming with me, he thinks my plan to find Tiger is idiotic.

“How is one god going to stop the apocalypse? There’s already a thousand of them up there murdering each other. What’s one more gonna do? If one god could secretly stop the apocalypse, we’d have heard about it. That’s big news. We’d all be talking about it, because of how improbable it is. You know what isn’t improbable? A delusional looney having a delusion of fucking grandeur. Thinking she can personally stop the apocalypse with some fucking lazy ass plan. We don’t tell that story because we’ve all heard it a jillion times. It’s what every fucker who passes through here thinks. We deliberately don’t ask them, because we’re sick of hearing about it. Also, this is the least informative sacred text I’ve ever seen. That includes Hyperion’s. Look at this penmanship. She’s clearly psychotic.”

“Peace, Father.” says Cy. “We’re not going to fight in the apocalypse. It’s a simple fetch quest. Find Tiger, give him the news, back to the Tavern. Easy-Peasy.”

“Oh yeah, a simple jaunt through a multiversal warzone to find a guy who doesn’t exist. That should end well.”

Cy snaps. “Enough. I can’t hunker down here any longer. Building a future that has no future. I’m losing my magic, old man. I don’t want anything anymore. It’s time to go.”

“Fine. Fuck you too. Go pack our bags. I’ll go make a spell of planar displacement.” Presto storms off.

Cy and I sit in silence.

“Umm… is he coming with us?” I ask.

Cy sighs. “yeah.”

The rest of the day is busy, preparing for our journey. Cy tries to find us a destination, or at least place to start. Presto works on a spell for interplanar travel that doesn’t erase memories. I train Hyperion to manage the tavern. Which is tricky because I don’t know how to manage a tavern, and he doesn’t know anything.

I explain the situation to Presto. “He doesn’t understand the concept of money, he washes the beer glasses with his tongue, he’s afraid of fire, and he’s in love with fire.”

Presto ponders. “How is he with pop-up amnesia murderers?”

“Pretty good. Hasn’t killed anyone since the yeti.”

“Fair enough. Switch the menu to bottled beer and cold snacks only. Leave the cash drawer open. Gnomes will fill or empty it as needed. Good job, you’re done. Let’s go get equipped for our trip.”

Maple gifts us some travel cloaks. They’re like hooded ponchos. He points out two magic runes he added. “This one is for protection. I wouldn’t rely on it. And this one is for coziness. Because who doesn’t like to be cozy?”

They are pretty cozy. I love Maple.

Presto takes me to a practice yard behind the Tavern, where I try out a few weapons. I’m surprisingly competent with most knives, swords, clubs, and staves. Okay with a crossbow. Kinda crappy with everything else. I end up taking a small staff. It can be used as a walking stick, or a club in an emergency. Presto straps on a short sword, which may be a better idea, but I don’t want to stab anybody. At least until I get my memories back.

We both waffle over bringing crossbows. They’re problem solvers, but they’re also fucking heavy. Presto has a bag of holding - a mini dimension stuck inside a leather satchel. It’s fucking cool, but the crossbows are too wide to fit in.

“Fuck it. I’ve got a book somewhere that teaches the magic missile spell. That’ll be better. More powerful. Sneakier.” Presto grunts as he lowers the crossbow. “Lighter.”

We pack the rest of the weapons into the basement of the tavern. Drop off the practice weapons at the local schoolhouse. Help the kids get fierce.

Then we fill the bag with provisions. Lots of mushrooms, eggs, potatoes, beans, pickles, apples, jams, and spices. A titanic amount of food. We will not go hungry. Which is good because Presto throws in a dozen big jars of weed.

We hit a snag loading the beer. We want to leave the bottled beer for Hyperion, but kegs won’t fit through the opening of the bag of holding. We fight to force them in for a long time. Much longer than we did with the crossbows. Which says something about Presto’s priorities - not that I disagree.

“Okay.” says Presto. “We’ll take an empty barrel apart and put it in the bag in pieces. Then I’ll crawl in the bag and put the barrel back together. Then you pour another barrel of beer into the bag, and I’ll catch it with the inside barrel. Then we repeat with the other barrels.”

“Why don’t we just pour the beer into bottles, then put the bottles in?” I ask.

“You can’t re-bottle beer. If it’s exposed to air, it will go skunky in a day or two.”

I scratch my head. “Won’t we have the same problem if we pour barrel to barrel?”

“Fuck. Yes, you’re right.” Presto thinks. “Dammit. We’re gonna have to teach Hyperion to do dishes.”

Cy interjects “We have, like, a thousand bottles of beer in the tavern. Surely, we can share with Hyperion.”

“Do you know where we’re going yet?” asks Presto. “Got a lead on Tiger?”

Cy shrugs. “He’s probably not in Lowgarden.”

“Not in Lowgarden?”

“Probably not.” qualifies Cy.

Presto turns to me. “I’ll grab my spellbook, you carry the keg. It’s time to teach an ogre about commercial hygiene.”

What follows is a magical evening of drinking, friendship, and frustration.

“He licked another glass.” I slump. “Dammit.”

“Well, out of the last ten, he only licked nine.” Presto shrugs. “That’s progress.”

“Can you magically turn his saliva into soap?”

“Not ethically.” Presto throws down his towel. “Put the wash bucket on the other side of the bar. People will have to wash their own glasses.”

I grab us another round. Flop down next to Presto.

“Is that it? Are we ready to go now?” I ask.

“Almost. We just need a destination and a spell to get there.” He pulls a huge tome out of his bag of holding. It’s thick, tattered, overstuffed with loose pages of maps, diagrams, math, and scribbles.

“Holy crap. Is that your sacred text?”

“One of them.” He grins. “I’m complicated.”

He slams it down on the table. Scrawled on the faded cover is a barely legible title - Path of The Longstrider.

“It’s my travel spellbook. A compendium of desires to be somewhere else. Some of them mine, most of them borrowed. A best guess at travelling without losing your mind.” He shrugs. “Where do you want to go?”

I hesitate. “I thought Cy was picking our destination.”

“Nah, he’s just gathering intel. This is your party. The locals haven’t heard of Tiger, so that leaves us with eight other realms. Do you want to be methodical? Or do you wanna speed run?”

“What’s the difference?”

“Well, if you want to search every realm, we should start with the lower ones. Wreckworld, Winter, Helhome - they’re all far from the Bridge. Time is fucking slow down there, so we can search them at our leisure. No fear of missing the apocalypse. That said, they are not vacation spots. The lower realms suck, and there ain’t many gods down there either.

“The higher realms are where we find gods. And the apocalypse. So, they’re the logical place to look for an apocalypse ending god. But time is fucking short up there. A day in Godhome eats up three months in Lowgarden. A day in Highgarden eats three years. Up there the apocalypse will be rushing at us. The end of everything will only be weeks away. Or days. Or hours. We’d have to find Tiger fast. Not a lot of room for error.”

“Yikes.” I pause, think. “That’s a big decision. Do you have any cowardly compromise destinations for a girl with amnesia induced choice anxiety?”

“That would be the other middle realms - Lighthome and Darkhome. How do you like your elves, light or dark?”

“Uhh, dark? I guess?”

“Cool. Probably the wrong choice, but I don’t have any better ideas. Let’s give it a go.”


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About the author

Doctor Zero

Bio: Hi! I like reading and writing sci-fi and fantasy.

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