What you have to understand is that I was trying to find my way to becoming a man. A real man, not those buffed twats they use to convince us to buy perfume for men. And calling it cologne doesn’t help. If you want something to sound like it smells wonderful, maybe don’t name it after the fourth densest conurbation of German people.
I had reached an age when simply meandering through life wasn’t acceptable. Soaring through the air in a magic-guided missile wasn’t exactly a gratifying experience, either. I was doing my best not to think about the landing.
Personal goals are important. There may have been skyborne ships in my way, but they were the least of my obstacles.
Not that I had to worry about that for the moment. I had taken a timeout and was currently floating outside my spherical flying coffin, taking in the sights.
How to deal with the Armada? Blow them all up? Smash through with my powers? Teleport through them leaving a trail of debris in my wake — no, that would just be stupid. I had time. I could think of a better way out of this.
I was twenty. I was pretty sure I’d had a birthday since I got here, but it was hard to be sure. How long was a day here? How long was a year?
I must have hit the big two-zero ( no one calls it that, but I felt it was okay when your life expectancy was any time now) and I could no longer behave like a kid.
Life in a wild and unruly fantasy world was a struggle. But the most traumatic and pressured times are when we are able to break past our limits, apparently.
Not that change is always an improvement. Not everyone evolves into Charizard, there are always a few who end up as Wigglytuff. I think you know what I’m saying.
I had just shot myself out of Fengarad like it was a cannon and I was a human cannonball. I had been very eager to get out of there, leave everyone behind and try my luck with whatever I might find on the island.
There was a distinct possibility that I had panicked. Not because there were bad guys on the way or because violence was imminent — incoming butchness was a constant in my life, I had learned how to cope with the threat to my masculinity.
But something inside me still wanted to be perceived as masculine, and what that really means is someone who can take care of others. Protect, provide for, improve conditions.
What I’m trying to convey is the deep-seated and horrifying realisation that I as a male (I have the DNA evidence to prove it) have about what I expect of myself.
Frankly, it’s just unrealistic. Which is good, I don’t try to act like Clint Eastwood (I mean Clint Eastwood in a movie — Clint Eastwood IRL is just an actor who puts on makeup and gets other guys to fall over when he fake-punches them). I would never think of myself as someone able to take on Conor Mcgregor in a fight or Usain Bolt in a race. My clear lack of ability does me a favour. It lets me off the hook from having to try.
But now, in this world, I was suddenly in the octagon. I had abilities that put me up there with the big boys, and I didn’t really like it. I didn’t feel ready or prepared.
It must be a lot easier to play the role of arrogant tosser if you’ve been practising for it your whole life. I’d only been in training for the last few months, nowhere near my 10,000 hours.
In Fengarad, I had suddenly felt the enormity of what I needed to do, and also the closeness of it. It was now or never, and I quite fancied never.
Basically, I was running away. I wanted to be a man, but not right now.
Even if I had quite a good chance at pulling off the win, the path that would then put me on — the never-ending road to becoming a very important fellow — made me feel like I was walking into a trap.
My whole life, I had been someone no one considered worth very much, and I was happy to agree with them. Seemed like a fair exchange of ideas. I supposed having so many people rely on me, people who didn’t like me or appreciate my efforts in any way other than the results, was unsettling.
I was like the guy who had been sent to fix a thing that needed fixing, but I’d been sent by the people who had broken it in the first place.
You may think I was being needlessly insecure and paranoid. Hello, I’m Colin. Apparently we haven’t met.
The weird thing was that Jenny could no doubt tell what I was going through. Claire could as well, probably. Neither of them tried to stop me. I got the feeling Maurice had told them this was what I’d do and to let me go.
Everyone standing back and waiting to see if I pulled it off or fucked it up wasn’t helping my state of mind, either.
In any case, I’d made my move and here I was flying through the air, straight into oncoming traffic.
Surprisingly, this particular wrinkle in my plan to avoid my problems didn’t upset me very much. This was more along the lines I could cope with. Big wooden boats sailing through the upper atmosphere were no big deal. Galleons didn’t look at me funny or make snide comments about how I’d let them down.
I took my time and thought it over like a grown up. My options were pretty straightforward.
Option 1: I could destroy all the ships on my way to the island. I didn’t know how, exactly, but I was sure I could come up with something.
Option 2: I could slip past them and keep going, leaving them to do whatever it was they were going to do. This option had a lot of appeal.
Option 3: I could try to talk to the people on board and see if we could reach some kind of understanding where we all walked away happy and reasonably content. Only joking, option 3 doesn’t exist, and never has. It’s just the one people use when they want to fuck you over and would like you to give them a head start.
The ships gliding majestically towards me had beautiful iridescent wings glinting in the light. They looked particularly flammable.
There was a lot to take in and lots of calculations to make. I was in a very lackadaisical mood. It was interesting how things remained in the air here. Things on the ground and objects attached to each other were connected by a tar-like black goo which I’ve mentioned before.
Forces that were invisible and immune to interference in the real world, were tangible here, and could even be manipulated (in the most tedious manner imaginable). They could also be broken. I had found the black goo to be quite brittle and I was constantly snapping them when I tried to use them to my advantage. But still, what an amazing ability… I could shape and reform the stuff of the universe.
But in the air, there was nothing stopping the ships from falling. Nothing I could see, anyway. Where were the universal forces made evident? Typical.
What I could do was float over there and have a look to see what was going on. I was reluctant to do that, mainly because if fairies were involved, they had some mobility in this place, which could turn out to be a problem for me. And if it was the Council, then they were aware of what I was capable of, and would have prepared accordingly.
My best bet was to find a way to carry on to the island and sort out what had really happened to Maurice. And failing that, maybe work on my tan.
I stood on my iron ball and considered leaving everything static and floating all the way to the island in this form. It would take forever, but it would enable me to go have a good look around without any danger of anyone getting the drop on me. It could also be a huge waste of time, but what wasn’t?
Was that what a man would do? Sneak about and try to get to the answer without anyone noticing him?
Perhaps if he was an assassin working in the shadows. Or Batman.
Is that what Maurice would expect of me? Quite possibly.
It’s hard being a man.
I left the capsule and floated towards the biggest ship, which was also the one in the lead position.
My fear wasn’t of responsibility. The pressure of expectation wasn’t really something that bothered me. I expected to fail anyway, who cared if others were disappointed? Let them do the work and see how well it goes.
You can doubt me — doubt me all you want — just do it in private where it won’t distract me. I think that’s a reasonable request. Your freedom of speech rights aren’t affected, you entitled douche.
What I feared was having to face people when I wasn’t the underdog. I liked being at a disadvantage, because the excuses don’t even need to be said out loud. It’s very efficient.
Now that I had power, failure was all on me.
I circled around to check for any signs of trouble and then passed through the hull of the ship, which is a lot easier to do when there’s no water. Well, actually, in this form it didn’t really make a difference, but it made it easier to realise this was an option.
If there was a trap waiting for me, maybe they wouldn’t expect me from this angle.
The first cabin I entered was huge. Must have taken up most of the ship. In it, there wasn’t a trap (although you never know till they take their pants off), it was a fairy. The Queen herself.
She was looking right at me, like she’d been waiting for me to appear, and was slightly annoyed it had taken me so long.
“Hello,” I said. “Sorry, didn’t mean to slip in the back like this. Bet that’s not the first time you’ve heard that.”
There was a flicker of something across her face. I wasn’t sure what it was expressing, but I feel confident I could cross amusement off the list. Her head moved very slowly and her mouth opened.
“Why are you here?” I said. It’s great being able to speak first and have the last word all at once.
“Spires,” she said. “Now.” The words were slow and a bit garbled.
“You want to use the spires? You can’t. I’m the only one who can, and I’m still working out how much to charge for my services. It won’t be cheap.”
For the Fairy Queen to be here, I assumed she had decided to take personal control of the mission. Me activating the spires was probably the thing everyone had been waiting for. Everyone except me. They all wanted me to hack the most sophisticated software on the planet, and I’d just sat on my phone and accidentally bum-dialled the Pentagon.
“What do you even want with the spires?” I said.
“Home,” said the Queen. “Send. You. All. Home.”
Was she planning to rid her world of all Visitors? That wasn’t a bad plan. She could get back to doing whatever she was doing before we got here. Finding the One True Ring or whatever. It really wasn’t our business.
“Okay, well good luck with that.” I felt better for having had the balls to come here and see for myself who was opposing me. It didn’t make things any easier, but getting rid of uncertainty helped.
I floated back the way I’d come. The Queen rose from her seat, which meant she was really shifting in the real world.
“You will activate the spires.” She sounded almost normal. I’d have to be careful getting her riled up if it gave her the impetus to interact with me like this.
“I will not, and you can’t make me.” Becoming a man isn’t something that happens overnight. “Go to Fengarad and wait for me there. Try not to make a mess, I left everything where I can find it. Don’t touch my stuff.” I think it’s just that I’m more comfortable being a twelve year old.
She began to move towards me like she was swimming in honey.
“Yes?” I hadn’t seen him in a while so I was interested in what he’d been up to. “What about Joshaya?”
“Won’t allow it.”
Joshaya wouldn’t allow it? What did that mean? Wasn’t she the one in charge? Was she saying she would set him on me? Or something else?
“He can’t stop me,” I said, hoping that was true. “I was going to set all these ships on fire and kill you all. You should let me know you’re coming in advance next time. To avoid any misunderstandings.”
It’s strange how different you feel before you do something you aren’t sure you should do, and afterwards. Now I couldn’t even remember what had me so worried. Nothing bad had happened, and I even had a name to put on my list, right at the top. Joshaya.
“One more thing. The ball I’m in doesn’t have very good manoeuvrability so I’ll be smashing through this hull.” I pointed from one end of the ship to the other. “In this direction. You might want to stand a bit to the side to avoid splinters.”
Wanton destruction is wrong and uncalled for. But if you shout, “Mind your backs!” on your way through, isn’t it their responsibility to get out of the way?
I floated back to the capsule with the Queen trying to say something. I didn’t have the patience to wait for her to spit it out.
Once I was back in the capsule, I resumed normal services and I was off. The ships in my way immediately swerved to avoid a collision and I went right down the middle of them.
My plan, and I did have one, was to get what I needed from the island to enable me to capture and force the truth out of Joshaya. He was not going to be easy to pin down, but now I was certain he was my best chance at sorting this all out. It’s always the King of the Fairies you have to watch out for.
I was feeling good about my choices, ready to face whatever I ran into. I’d taken my time and put thought into my decisions. I was on the right track. Very mature.
Except, it soon became apparent that the island was not where this pod was headed. The coast appeared, but remained on my right as I soared through the air towards Gorgoth.
The temple shaped like a skull sat waiting for me as I sailed into its eye socket and smashed into the stone floor. Not quite the breakthrough I had been expecting as I went through floor after floor, my boy’s body bouncing around the capsule until I finally came to a stop in a dark passage.
I stumbled out of the pod battered and bruised, my head spinning. I’d been healing myself through the crash, but I was still pretty banged up. It took me a moment to realise where I was. The archway in front of me led into the Void where the Old gods had been trapped. What was I supposed to do here?
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