The great and epic quest for the golden apple and an aspirin

Geoffrey “Jeff” Horne rose from his bed, his clothes rumpled from having been slept in and curiously his feet in a set of high leather boots he hadn’t been aware that he owned. He fumbled to turn of his mobiles insistent play of the Marimba cover of the classical Zelda theme that historical Jeff had thought was hilarious as a wakeup signal.

Present day Jeff cursed his earlier self for a sadistic fool when he finally managed to turn of the blasted thing. His relief was short lived and he just managed to snatch up his dustbin before he was violently sick all over the old receipts, paper napkins and the odd crust of a forgotten toast that all had inhabited it.
He tried to recall the previous night but the memories from that whole day was a vague set of blurred images seen through the foggy lense of the most intense hangover he had ever experienced. Once done being sick Jeff looked up from his hunched over state and realised that the reason for the mobile being hard to turn of was due to the screen having shattered sometime during the night.

Groaning Jeff rose from where he sat and he saw a note, clearly in his own handwriting on stuck to his bedroom door.

Remeber you hanDsomE deviL, BLOodpakt bLoodPacht, PACT, the swrord choose you

He took down the almost illegible note and put it in the pocket of his jeans. He heard a crash from his living room and was met by a larper dressed in a really convincing fae costume. “Must have been hell sleeping with all that makeup on” Jeff thought as the person turned their head towards him.

“Ohh, good you are up” The fae larper said in a high voice that was both androgynous and stiff, “Are you ready for our quest? Do you have the sword?”

Jeff blinked, then went up to his fridge without a word and poured himself a glass of juice. “Umm, not to be an ass but I don’t know who you are, were we out drinking?” Jeff had realised long ago that it was easiest sometimes just to be out in the open with these questions.

“Yes my liege, you pulled the sacred sword from the lake after what I believe is called a drunken dare, now I am your servant until the quest is done.”
Jeff stared at larper and then realized that their legs bent the wrong way, and that they had hoofs rather than feet. He went back into his bedroom and tucked in halfway under his bed was indeed a magnificent sword in a ornate sheth.

Head pounding, he went out into the living room. “Hey you, whatever your name is, What is this quest?”
“Well sire, to be deserving of the great sword Excalibur you must have an equally great quest, I proposed the holy grail as is tradition but you called it, and I quote ‘A useless Mcguffin’ and said that ‘any true knight would go for the golden apple’, but the first step is to assemble your companions and knights.”
“Great, get me an aspirin and let’s get going with that”

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While the fae-thing rifled through his bathroom cabinet, Jeff plugged in his phone, and was relieved to note that it was intact enough to begin charging.

“Hi… bou… proff… heyn”

The crack in the screen looked like a rose. No, more like a lion. It depended how it caught the light. Regardless, the accursed fracture made it nearly impossible to use. His drunken, clumsy hands slid across the rifts like keys too thick for their locks, and the apps all swam in his vision, anyways.

“Calla… sea… umm… ker… bone…”

Assemble his companions, huh? His friends were nothing if not fair-weather, but he could think of a few who weren’t yet clutched by adult responsibilities, who would likely be thrilled by the promised glory of a quest. With swords. Hell, they could probably wield Excalibur better than he could.

“Flew… ox… et… een”

He realized then that the fae, in its sing-song voice, was slowly reciting the name of every medication in his cabinet, with the stilted cadence of a child learning to read. Perhaps it wasn’t familiar with his language.

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Jeff looked over to see if the fae needed assistance, but his bathroom was small and between the fae’s antler scraping the stained ceiling and their big ol’ equine rump, there wasn’t much space to maneuver about. Instead he called out, “Could you too me that fist one, Ibuprofen? Yea that one with the red pills. That’ll do.”

“Of course, my liege.” The fae complied easily, scooping out the correct bottle and popping the plastic cap off. With spindly fingers, they removed a single pill and, though Jeff held out his hand expectantly, placed it carefuly on their tongue. Before Jeff could react, that tongue and its bounty slid back into the fae’s mouth, and they began to chew. Jeff stared. The fae’s expression never changed.

“Bet that tastes nasty,” Jeff said, for lack of anything better. Jeff was slightly perplexed. He understood that the fae might’ve been in a strange and foreign environment, but he knew from drunken experience that under its shiny red exterior, the pill tasted like rotting lemon rinds fished out from the garbage disposal.

“I have tested it for poison, and it is, as you say, nasty,” the fae agreed. They closed the bottle and placed it back into the cabinet, and then closed that as well. “Perhaps I can offer better assistance.”

Jeff grew apprehensive as the fae approached, but all he really had was his shitty phone and he didn’t want to damage it further by ricocheting it off a fae’s face. As the fae raised a single dark hand and placed it on his head, Jeff squeezed his eyes shut. Instead of any unholy pain however, there was just the lightest press of a warm mouth against his forehead, and then a sweet tingling sensation spreading out and dispelling his headache.

When Jeff opened his eyes, the fae was watching him with an expectant look.

“Better?” the fae prompted, and when Jeff nodded slowly, a faint smirk twitched at the corner of their mouth. “Excellent. Perhaps now we may proceed with the gathering of your companions.”

“Right, that. I almost forgot.” Jeff fumbled with his phone. “Hey guys… free today… gotta do a quest with… wait, what’s your name again?” When no answer was forthcoming, Jeff looked up to see the fae frowning at him, a deep purple flushing their cheeks. “No? No name?”

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“Gak. Gak Yellagal Ingelisik Brometheus.”

A look of recognition flashed across Jeff’s face. The fae turned a deeper purple.

“Brometheus? I know that name. Where do I know that name? Where do I know that name,” he muttered, trying to locate the familiarity.
“You have some human family?” he asked, his eyes lighting up.

He frowned. No, that didn’t sound right. He lit up again, the answer dawning on him.

“Wait! As…in…the…plant?” he said slowly.

“I do not know what you speak of, my liege,” said the fae. Jeff detected a stiffening of his tone.

“Brometheus, you know. O.k. never mind,” he said, quickly.
The fae was obviously not comfortable with this conversation and he wasn’t sure what he might be like if he was angry. It was too early to tell.
He continued with the Whatsapp voicenote on the group chat.

“Gak here,” he said indicating the fae to an invisible audience with his free hand, “said I made a promise of some sort, to go on a quest for the golden apple. You guys free to join me? Apparently I am supposed to begin this quest in two days. But I have to gather my knight companions.”

He hit send. He knew he was sounding crazy. But there was a real fae from all appearances, standing in his bathroom. He couldn’t deny that. And the headache was gone.

“You mean golden apples at the supermarket? I don’t think this is the season for them dude,” came an almost immediate voice note reply from his friend Gary. He sounded puzzled.

“Umm, no Gary. Like the real golden apple. You know. The golden apple,” said Jeff, his hand gesticulating slowly at the phone.

Jeff was at a loss. He knew the grail. Everyone knew the grail. The hunt was on for ages now. Why would he, even in a drunken dare, suggest the golden apple? It wasn’t an easy memory recall for him.

“Dumbass!” he muttered to himself under his breath.

Brometheus (proper noun): The union of Bromeliad and Prometheus.

Bromeliads are a family of monocot flowering plants, native to the tropical Americas (King Arthur’s true birthplace), of which there are several thousand species extant. Many Bromeliads live semi-parasitically in the crooks of tree branches; some Bromeliads live semi-parasitically nestled between the petals of other species of Bromeliad. They are especially notable for their chalice-like structure of tightly interlocking leaf bases, which allow them to collect water, and often serve as tadpole nurseries.

Prometheus is a mythological figure most notable for defying the gods and introducing man to fire. As punishment he was lashed to a cliff, for an eagle to devour his regenerating liver, in immortal agony until the end of time. An icon of generosity punished.

Brometheus, thus, is a parasitic vessel carrying an illicit gift for mankind.

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Gak stood quiet while Jeff scrolled through wikipedia for the golden apple to explain it better.

The golden apple of Eris, τῇ καλλίστῃ… For the most beautiful. The reason for the Trojan war. Why had he picked something like the apple of discord?

“Umm, Jeff?” The contralto of Sophyá said in the next voice note, “Are you feeling well mate?”

Jeff was just about to answer when a new note popped up.

“I dunno about this apple thing, is it like a new game or something?” Gary said, “I’m definitely up for some hang over games if anyone is up for it?”

Jeff picked up the phone and felt that he sounded like as someone who had dropped several of his marbles as he recorded the note “No, I mean sure, games would be good and I’m feeling good So-so, but I really mean it, I have made a pact, I have a sword, there is a quest to be had for the Golden apple, you in?” and then, because he knew both of their weaknesses for it, “If you come by here I’ll treat you pizza while we plan.”

Jeff turned to Gak who made the polite grimaces one makes when the ones mouth still is tainted by something foul. Jeff went over to the kitchen faucet poured a glass of water and handed it to Gak, “Here you go.” Gak nodded gratefully and Jeff was struck by an idea, “Hey, you wouldn’t mind running to the pizza place on the corner and pick up some pizzas would you?”

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Gaks’ Side Quest for Pizza

She makes his way through the urban expanse, making sure to remain inconspicuous.

Not too big to call attention to oneself in human densities like this, no, no, more trouble than it’s worth. Not too small and frail lest one make oneself out to be prey.

It’s disorienting for fae to navigate the streets. So many souls so very troubled and so very close. Even at this dusky morning hour, where most of them hide away (some of them, as her bound liege, with toxins in their blood).

He makes it to the Pizza Inn but is already ill with soul exposure. Collects the pies. Pepperoni. Ananas. Lotsa cheese. Goes back out on the streets.

So loud!

She can’t take it anymore. He turns down an alley, away from the broad avenues and into the dark side crypts, the places in between where most don’t think to tread. She calculates it’s possible to make it the four blocks back from the Inn of Pizza through the labyrinth while only crossing two of the large busy soul arteries.

Something is amiss. There’s a familiar scent in the air, not of the city. He slows her pace. Comes to a corner. Peeks around it. Her eyes go wide.

There are two figures huddled next to a dumpster. He senses their souls though they are so very faint.

And there, creeping towards them, another figure. Dark and predatory. Insects crawl on the walls in droves. Skitter across the dumpster. Crawls up Gak’s feet and legs, hungry.

It is a swamp daemon.

Magnificens. The final form of this disgusting parasite, free from its host, or rather, having fully consumed and assimilated its host. Dark and dangerous, even a decrepit one like this. A monster.

This is no time to keep up appearances of whimsy and charm. Gak allows anger to rise. Rise and transform her form. Puts down the pizzas. Gak recedes to the background. Brometheus comes to the forefront. An echo of titanic might reverberates forward through time. His form is Earth and Air, the electricity of thunder about to strike the mountains. Potential energy long dormant comes to a trigger point, her trunk and limbs expanding like beechwood. Rage pumps through Brometheus, becomes sinewy strength.

He takes a step forward. Then another. Heavy is her gait as she strides to the daemon who is about to feast on these innocents. Grabs the fiend by its neck, lifts it up. Heaves it against the wall.

The daemon hisses and shrieks, and seeing its foil, withdraws into a storm drain. The insects withdraw. She shudders with disgust. Catches his breath. Recedes. Gak comes forward. The calm after the storm. Looks at the figures huddled next to the dumpster.

“You need a slice of pizza!”, sniffs at them. “And a bath!”

Gak opens the box. Flicks a wayward bug off the pie with her finger. Offers them a slice each. They withdraw initially, then the scent of melted cheese hits their noses. Takes the slice out of his hand.

“Everyone likes pizza,” Gak exclaims.

But what to do now? The daemon isn’t far. Leaving them out here will only spell their doom. They need to be brought to safety. And a bathtub…

A gasp of realization lets slip from her lips.

Lord Geoffrey will help these destitutes!

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“Man, you said there was going to be pizza.” Gary said, his usually warm tan skin having assumed the odd cold undertone that Jeff recognized from hangovers past.

“There will be, my… um… squire? Yeah, he…they… are out to get them.” Jeff said distractedly as he was looking at the sword laying on the table.
“Do you remember what happen last night?”

Gary looked pained and scrunched up his face as if trying to remember was something deeply unpleasant. “Yeah, we got drunk.” he said finally.

“No, yeah, I mean apart from that?”

The doorbell chimed. “Hope it’s Gak with the pizzas.” Jeff thought. If Sophyá came here and there was no pizzas he knew she’d just turn on the spot.

“I think we made a dare, like, who could swim out into the middle of that pond in Galahad’s Gardens?” Gary said as Jeff went to answer the door. The first thing that came through as the door opened was the smell of bodies unwashed and urine that had ripened.

“My liege!” Gak came in through the door carrying two family size pizza boxes and she was followed by two of the most pathetic looking creatures Jeff had ever seen, “I found these two being accosted by a swamp deamon on my way back, they are in desperate need of safety.”.

It took him several heartbeats until he realised that 1. they were humans underneath the torn cloth and the layers of caked dirt and grime and 2. That he was staring with his mouth opened.

“What the fuc…” he heard Gary say behind him and then he heard the telltale sound of something wet forcefully splattering onto the floor.

“Is your companion well master?” Gak asked looking concernedly at Gary.

“Yeah, yeah, I’m…” Gary began, but then there was a second, less forceful, splattering, “Fine, what’s that smell?”

“Gak, I get you want to help them out but…” Jeff began and he saw that some of the light that had been in Gak’s eyes started dimming, as if hearing even the tone of dismissal somehow was painful to her. Jeff looked shamefacedly at the two wretches, “They are as human as you are” some distant voice in his head said, “Would it be so hard to show them some human decency?”
Jeff sighed hugely, which turned out to be a mistake as he then breathed in a lungful of the putrid air they all now shared and coughed slightly.

“Master, all I ask is that we let them bathe and have some new sets of clothes and maybe stay the night.” Gak’s voice had got a new melody to it, it tore into Jeff’s soul and he nodded.

“Fine, fine, get them into the bathroom and I’ll look through my closet,” he said as he turned around, fetched a roll of paper from the kitchen and threw it onto the sofa, “And Gary, could you try to soak up the sick? I’ll try to find where I put the vinegar.”

At that point Sophyá came stumbling in through the front door, bleeding lightly from a set of cuts on her face and arms and her otherwise usually well cared for hair a mess.

“Hey, you won’t believe what just happened to me,” she started until her eyes focused on the scene before her and blinked, “Ok, maybe you will.”

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“Swamp daemon!” Gak cried and lunged at Sophyá.
The fae stopped mid-lunge, and blinked.
Too much human energy It was messing with her sense perception.
There was a reason why the faes lived in a world far away from human civilization. It had just occurred to her why.

In front of her was a young woman, dishevelled and bruised from being flung against an alley wall.

Gak went red, if that was at all possible, her complexion already blue-tinged. A more accurate colour would be purple.

“O.k. everybody remain calm” said Jeff, assessing that this situation could become a bloody one.

He didn’t need to worry about Sophya who was still staring at Gak. She was trying to process the happenings of her very brief and bizarre morning.

In the alley, when she had been attacked, she had thought it was a result of her hangover. But then, the creature had attacked her again. Nope. This was real! Luckily, the creature had flung her close to the entranceway of one of the many underground subway stations that had been constructed and left abandoned for close to a century. Not many people knew about them. Her curiosity usually led her to explore uncharted pathways and unknown to her cool friends, she was a history buff. She escaped down the hole and had stayed there for about ten minutes until she heard silence.

She had chosen to walk through the alley that morning on her way to Jeff because she had wanted to explore the station. She had dressed in her elder brother’s smelly hoodie which was too large for her and oversized pants, so as to appear as a person of non-interest to potential muggers. Evidently this had had the opposite effect on the fae who had sensed something threatening. Stale sweat and cologne trapped in the hoodie, smelled like a swamp deamon.

“Begone you evil swamp daemon” Gak had cried as she flung Sophyá away from the two sleeping street-dwellers. Sophyá had been taken by surprise, wondering why leaving cupcakes for the homeless was such a crime. She hadn’t had time to respond however.

At Jeff’s place, everyone else was seeing this creature. No, definitely not a hangover hallucination.

Sophyá groaned, not from pain, but from the nausea that had begun to rise, the one associated with the brain finally realizing the realness of a situation.
This wasn’t a fae from the Enid Blyton books she had read in her childhood. This was the sort of fae that accompanied someone like Frodo Baggins.

She looked over at Jeff with his stale booze smell, oblivious-to-most everything face, mismatched purple checkered lounge shorts and striped blue shirt and groaned again.

The aspirin was just about kicking in. Jeff took a deep breath of fresh air—or tried to anyway, before the stench of vomit and alleyway reek made him gag. Still, he surveyed his kitchen with a clearer head, and decided that the state of affairs just couldn’t be allowed to continue.

“Alright!” Jeff yelled in big booming voice that he’d picked up that one unfortunate summer he worked as a camp instructor, “Everyone out! Out the back door and for fuck’s sake, don’t touch anything!”

No one moved at first, but when Jeff pointed at the door with an imperious finger, Gak snapped to attention and guided (shoved) the motley lot out. His backyard was a sad square of hard dirt, a single bush struggling in the corner, but it had a hose connected to the outside tap, and that was all he really needed. Sophyá took one look at the green hose that Jeff had coiled around his hand like a snake, turned on her heel, and stomped back into the house. Immediately, Gak began to follow, but Jeff held out a palm to stop him.

“Girls get testy when they’re preening,” Jeff whispered, conspiratorial. He knew Sophyá would be furious if she heard him saying something puerile but considering Gak had just flung his friend clear off her feet, he’d say whatever it took to separate them. “Here, take the hose.”

The two flinched as they were blasted with cold water, but held their arms out in acquiense. One even opened their mouth to gulp the clean water down eagerly. Gak watched with obvious approval, occasionally directing the sodden two to spin in slow circles, ensuring that they were properly clean. When the deed was done, Gak snapped their fingers and at once, the water evaporated, leaving the two perfectly dry.

“Couldn’t you have done that to all the muck and dirt?” Jeff demanded. His water bill was already a horror and he only took short showers once a day.

“Water is pure,” Gak replied, as if it was the most obvious thing in the world. “The muck, as you call it, was not.”

“Right on.” Some issues, Jeff really didn’t feel like questioning right now. He felt the answers would be beyond his vaguely spinning head. He focused on the two… children. Huh. Now that the grime was gone, it was clear from the baby fat on their cheeks and their wide, bewildered eyes that they were much younger than expected. God, did that make Jeff a kidnapper? He turned his back on that issue too. “So, about Sophyá—”

“She reeked of swamp daemon!” Gak clenched their fist in obvious effort to restrain their temper. “She is one of the wretched, and must be disposed of immediately.”

“How about now?” came a voice behind them. Sophyá emerged from the house, dressed in—of all things—Jeff’s old long-sleeved shirt from when he was a freshie and very much suffering an extreme case of the Freshman 15.
She caught Jeff’s look and shrugged. “It was the only thing I could be sure was clean, since you obviously hadn’t worn it in a while.”

Before Jeff could voice his outrage, Gak strode forward and took an obnoxious whiff. “Swamp daemon,” they hissed. “Your petty disguises are useless against me.”

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Gary, looking particularly worse for wear after having tossed his cookies twice in a quick succession, put his hand on Gak’s shoulder, “Mate, Sophyá may be a mean witch at times but she’s no demon.”
Sophyá shot Gary a half angry half thankful look and stood her ground.

“Anyhow, so, like, we have a slight task ahead of us here so Gak, stop harassing Sophyá. Everybody inside.” Jeff said in what he hoped to the gods were a reasonable tone considering all that had happened since he woke up. Once they were all inside, Gak standing at a significant distance from Sophyá, and both youths had each been given a set of t-shirt and faded sweatpants and Jeff had taken the old rags they had had on and disposed of them into a now sealed plastic bag, Jeff pointed at the both youths.
“You two, what are your names?”

“Sir, My name is Kore.” The girl said and Jeff put her at early teen, maybe 14?
“My name is Altor” said the boy and he might be same age, maybe a little younger or maybe a little older?

“Great, Gary, please mop up the sick, Sophyá can you help?” Jeff said and Sophyá gave him a suffering look, “Look once the sick is mopped up we’ll all eat some pizza and get our gears in place.”

“My liege, I still don’t think you should trust her, she still smell of swamp deamon.” Gak said in a accusatory tone.

“So-so, what did we do on ST. Patrick’s day three years ago?” Jeff said while holding Gak’s eye.
“Umm, Was that the year when we snuck into the university faculty’s corridors and moved all the furniture or the one when we got stupidly wasted and almost set fire to that sports car Fabian was fanboying over?” Sophyá said while scrunching up her nose helping Gary throw paper towels on the sick.

“It was the university one I think?” Gary said helpfully, “Still love the fact that it became a tradition.”

Jeff smiled, “See Gak, she is my friend Sophyá, not a deamon.”

Gak just shook his head, “I mean, my liege, i get that you trust her, but the fact of the matter is that that smell is quite unmistakable. She is in fact a creature of darkness.”

“Would it help if I pointed out that the clothes I had on me was my idiot brother’s? Why don’t you go smell them?” Sophyá said with an annoyed smile then she continued to help Gary clean up the sick, “God, Gary what did you eat last night?”

Gak stalked over to the pile of clothes left by Sophyá and sniffed them, then he recoiled quite shaken.

“So?” Jeff asked Gak, “What is up with Fabe’s clothes?”

“It appears that he has, is, associating with the creature. His clothes reeks of it.”

Sophyá laid down the dustpan she’d used to scoop the paper and sick mixture with while Gary was dabbing at the still wet spots. She cleaned herself of on a paper towel and then fished up her mobile.

Jeff saw her screen as she hit the call button.

As soon as Fabe picked up, his portrait lit up on screen, Sophyá snatched her phone away and took a large step away from Gak as she answered it. Everyone turned to Gak then, with looks ranging from wariness to morbid curiosity, but the fae didn’t react strongly to Fabe’s tired, scruffy face, only glowered with a mild level of disgust that they were getting used to with alarming resignation.

“Wait, what do you mean you’re on your way?” Sophyá’s surprised exclamation had every head whipping towards her. She flinched away from them but through her phone came Fabe’s staticky hoot of excitement. “You started walking as soon as you heard? Heard what? Jeff’s message?”

And now they looked to Jeff who held his hands up in front of him. “I sent everyone the same message!”

Gak frowned and asked “Was it wise to broadcast the details of this dangerous—” the same time Gary exclaimed, “Oh yea, I have it, lemme just pull it up—”

The heads were just pingponging all over the place, and were so engrossed in the ensuing squabble that they almost forgot Sophyá was still on the phone, whisper-yelling at her brother.

“It’s not safe! Don’t you dare show up,” Sophyá hissed, which was of course when the doorbell rang.

Jeff was on his feet and flying towards the door before he registered it, Gak close on his heels. He was only faster for the fae was reluctant to push their liege aside. As soon as he threw himself against the doorknob, Gak planted a palm firmly into the middle of the door and pushed. The heavy wood shuddered. Hinges creaked. Jeff threw himself onto Gak’s arm but it was like tackling a steel pole. Breath shoved out of his lungs. It seemed impossible to stop him. Fabe’s demise was impending.

“I’m here,” Fabe announced cheerfully from outside, and swung the door wide open.

Gak lifted their arm and shook Jeff off as though he was a child. Their claws went slashing towards Fabe’s poor face. Sophya screamed. Gary shielded the children. The girl peered over his shoulder.

Fabe blocked the blow with a trumpet case. Or, he tried to. The claws sunk through the leather and steel like butter, and would have kept going through to Fabe’s shocked face when there was a loud crackle and then a sizzling smell filled the air, burnt hair and flesh and gasoline.

Gak reared back as though burnt; perhaps they were burnt for a strange smoke was wafting silvery and noxious from their hand. From within the ruined trumpet case shines a thick gleam of silver.

“That wasn’t very nice!” Fabe chided, in a lazy sort of drawl. Unwary of the fresh attempt on his life, he squatted down and tugged from the remnants of the case, a silver rapier.

“Fae silver,” Gak gasped. They took a step back from the strangely shimmering weapon. “You should not be able to touch that, swamp creature!”

“What? Nah man, I’m human. You must’ve mistaken… this!” With a smug little smirk, Fabe pulled a leather cord out from under his collar. On it hung a blood red jewel that, spinning lightly with momentum, turned out to be an eye with a slitted pupil.

“That is the eye of a swamp demon,” Gak’s brow furrowed and they stared at Fabe with bewilderment. “A most rare and powerful object of warding. How did you come across such a thing?”

“Carved it right out of its head. Cool right? Didn’t even have to preserve it, just water it now and then.”

When Jeff turned to exchange baffled looks, Sophyá just shrugged, unmoved by her brother’s antics. “You’ve seen him with a kitchen knife.”

“The eye’s trippy, my dudes. When I stare into it, I got all tingly all over and cool shit starts to happen. I kinda like it.” There was always something flighty and inscrutable about Fabe’s smiles, but now it was out in full force. Reality didn’t seem to have good grasp on him, and the eye’s gentle swing from his outstretched hand almost hypnotised its audience, but Fabe jerked it back and tucked it securely under his shirt. Patting it with satisfaction, he raised his other arm, offering the silver sword out to Jeff. “Here, you take the pokey stick instead.”

When Jeff wrapped his fingers around the sleek hilt of the rapier, the elegant weapon seemed to gleam with mysterious power. There was a thrumming in his heart that radiated softly with unspoken magic.

Jeff raised his rapier in front of him, then realised with a start that he was standing at the lead of a half-circle of strange and wonderful companions. Enigmatic fae, Gak. Second-in-command, Gary. Voice of reason, Sophyá. Eccentric warlock, Fabe. The mysterious children. His adventuring party of rag-tag misfits had assembled itself. It was time for his quest to begin.

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“So, which way’s, umm, the path?” Jeff asked.
After the ceremonial raising of the sword, he realized he had no clue of their direction.
“Isn’t there supposed to be a map?” he asked, turning to Gak.

Everyone looked tired. They hadn’t even started the quest and they all looked like they had been through a battle. Jeff sighed. Passersby screwed up their noses and side-stepped the seven. They didn’t notice.

“Wait! Guys! What do we do with these two?” Sophyá asked, indicating the children.
Gak glared at her.
“They go with us,” she replied imperiously.
“They CAN NOT go with us. They are kids,” Sophyá replied, emphasizing her words as though Gak was a moron. The tone didn’t escape the fae.
She moved towards Sophyá.
“Guys, I’m gay,” Gary declared.
Everyone stopped, except Gak. Jeff put his hand out to stop her shoving her nose up to Sophyá’s. His warning glance made her back off.
“Is this a, how do you humans say it, a thing?” asked the fae. She stepped back, her attention on Gary. She looked perplexed.
Fabien cleared his throat and looked from fae to Gary, to Jeff to Gary and then pulled out his demon eye and started tripping on it.
“Well,” Jeff shrugged.
“Whatever man, it’s cool,” he said to Gary.
He wasn’t in the mood to engage in an unnecessary discussion.
Gary looked relieved.
“Just thought before we start, that I’d get that out of the way. You know, quest and all that. Never know who’s going to come back alive. Thought you guys should know.”
Fabien thumped him on his back.
“Good for you!” he said.
He continued playing with the eye.
“Right. Questers! Any further matters before we begin,” Jeff asked.
“Yes my liege. Is this gay, a condition that will affect your Mr. Gary’s ability to complete the quest? Perhaps he should stay here?”
Gak looked at Gary with concern.
“Umm, no Gak, he’s good. It’s just, well, you know, the birds and the bees?”
Gak held the perplexed expression.
“He’s more like, like, well I don’t know. Not much for socializing and pollinating. Well, no, pollinating yes…”
Jeff’s voice trailed off, the sound getting thinner as he spoke. He was at a loss, as usual. Language had never been his thing. He stuck with simple sentences. It was more natural to say “It’s raining.” Things didn’t get complicated that way.

“He sticks with his own kind. Boy/boy,” he eventually managed.
“Ah! Yes! I know that. Like me. Fae/Fae.”
Gak’s shoulders relaxed.
They all stared at her.

“Ok then,” she said cheerily, “we shall take that!”
Her eyes lit up as she pointed to an Ibis trail bike.
“Are you crazy?” Sophyá asked, almost shrieking the question.
Gak jumped back.
“Do you know the cost of those bikes? And furthermore, it will be stealing! We have no idea who that belongs to! And furthermore, we cannot all fit on it! It’s made for one person.”

“What is cost? What does that mean?” Gak asked. She looked at Jeff.
“I know who owns it. See,” Gak replied, before Jeff could respond.
She pointed to a girl in yellow and black cycling gear with a red helmet. None of them knew the girl. She was getting a cup of coffee across the road. The smell of a fresh brew and pastries hit their noses. In the mayhem inside the house, they hadn’t realized how hungry they were.

Sophyá looked at Jeff. She looked almost desperate.
“Will you please explain to your fairy here, that we can’t just take off with people’s possessions. We’ll all end up jailed. I’m not going anywhere until you make her understand that.”
“Even though I think my liege doesn’t know your true nature, you have to come. You are under oath,” Gak replied. Her voice was firm.

Sophyá didn’t think she had so much violence in her 5’4, 110 lb body. Gak was testing every live wire.