I thought I was scared when Minky and I were surrounded by goblins. I thought I was scared when that humongous dragon tried to toast us. I guess I really didn't know the meaning of the word 'scared' until now. I swear to the heavens, I can feel a warmth spreading down my thighs!
The most gawd awful odor is assailing me. The smell of bile and things long dead and of poop is overpowering. The monster that is shuffling in our direction is composed of all those things and more. Its very composition seems to shift with each advancing footstep. One minute there is a skeletal hand protruding from its chest then the next step brings forth a human skull with some type of larvae in the eye sockets. I stare, mesmerized, like a deer caught in a spotlight.
"Ohhh..." I hear Minky groan. His voice has the effect of waking me from my torpor. I don't want this thing within grabbing range of my sweet Minky, so I advance towards it. My own steps are as shuffling and awkward as the golem's.
With my own advance, the monster comes to a stop. Perhaps it is used to people running away rather than walking deliberately towards it. It has deep, overhanging brows. If there are eyes in there I'm unable to seem them. But it's definitely aware of me and it bends its head slowly downward as I advance within a few feet of it.
From this close the putrid odor is overpowering and I find myself breathing through my mouth. Now its own mouth comes into view as a slowly opening maw that stretches into an evil grin. It breathes on me and I find myself gagging, nearly convulsing from the atrocious fetor.
Remembering the Elfin King's instructions, I raise my arms above my head, so that when the thing grabs me my arms will be free. And I don't have long to wait as, one handed, it swoops me off of my feet. It moves far quicker than the King gave it credit for. Raising me above its head, it shakes me and gives a low, rumbling laugh.
Minky hasn't been inactive during this time. True to his word, he is standing toe to toe with the monstrosity, kicking it in the shins. All the while he is shouting out the incantation given us by the Warlocks.
"Of mud and twigs art thou composed, and with this spell thou art now slowed."
The creature, surprised by this attack by an inconsequential human, leaves off shaking me to glance downwards at his would-be tormentor. And just as quickly as it had grabbed me, it has one tremendous paw wrapped around Minky's head and raises him skyward. The spell... damn it, the spell didn't work! It isn't slowing at all!
The creature laughs once again, this time into the face of my boyfriend, and Minky's barely digested breakfast is being spewed straight onto the monster.
My head is whirling. What is wrong with the spell? Any second now he is going to crush us against himself, slowly squeezing the life from us. And just as quickly as I think it, the golem pulls Minky against his chest. It uses its forearm to pin my boy against its breast, while holding Minky's head away to watch my boyfriend's anguished features.
I scream out with every ounce of my being. "Of mud and twigs art thou composed... and with this spell thou art now slowed."
I was in the process of being tugged towards the creature's other breast when its movements slowed abruptly. I am still being drawn toward it but now it's in extreme slow motion. I glance over towards Minky and see that his face is grimaced in pain and his lips are turning blue. The golem has a death grip on my beloved and I am two feet from reaching that damn paper on its forehead!
"Warlocks... help him!"I scream. "Minky is dying!"
There is no response and I'm still more than a foot away from reaching the paper on the monster's forehead. I'm reaching out with all of the effort I can expend, frantically clawing towards that parchment. Then I hear the final hiss of air escape Minky's lips and watch as his pupils begin to dilate.
"NO... damn it! Nooooo!"
I'm only inches from reaching that piece of paper now, but it might as well be a mile. Minky is limp and lifeless and the spell itself is preventing me from exchanging the parchments: the thing is moving so slowly. But the creature is turning its head towards me by degrees.
Even if I do exchange papers, how am I going to get Minky out of its grasp? I can de-activate it but I can't make it let Minky go.
"Warlocks... HELP US!"
I have it! I have it! I've pulled the paper loose! The paper flutters to the floor as I transfer the counter spell to my other hand. Reaching forward, I'm about to plant it on the monster's head when something makes me hold back. It seems to be reacting in a promising way. A look of astonishment is coming over the monster's features. But, more importantly, it is slowly loosening its hold on Minky. I think it's going to use the hand he was crushing Minky with to try and block me.
Now... now! Minky has slipped from its grip and he's dropping to the floor. I slam the parchment with the counter spell against the creature's forehead.
The monster's arms drop to its sides and I find myself falling to the floor, landing next to a supine and lifeless looking Minky. Without another thought towards the golem looming over us, I straddle Minky and pull his face towards me. His lips are blue and his eyes stare at me vacantly.
My hands are shaking so that I can hardly function. And I'm blubbering and nearly incoherent as I beg my sweety to stay with me... to please, please not to die.
He had tumbled slightly onto his side and I quickly roll him onto his back and cover his mouth with my own. No soul searching or tongue-probing kiss, this. I force air into a rib cage that has been cruelly compressed and pray that these will truly be the breaths of life.
Five breaths and then ten and still no sign that he's responding. My own diaphragm is barely controllable due to my sobbing now. There is no response from Minky and I slam a fist repeatedly onto the ground in total frustration.
"Damn it, Warlocks! If you love him like I do then DO SOMETHING!"I scream.
No sooner have the words escaped my mouth when I see we are no longer laying on the floor of the cave. We are laying on a bed and I'm being pushed to the side. It's the Warlocks' bed and we are in their cottage once again!
Little Number Three is pulling me back, out of the way, while the other two boys scoop up Minky and rush him over to their cauldron.
"I think we aw in time, Nicky," Number Three tells me, in a voice quivering and full of emotion. "His life fowce left him while he was still in the embwace of the golem, but it stayed, hovewing close by. He is not so quick to leave you alone."
"It took us some time to gather the ingredients, but we are ready now," Number Two shouts over his shoulder. The boys gently settle Minky's lifeless body into a swirling maelstrom that is in the cauldron. They allow his arms and shoulders to hang over the edge of the container, to keep him from slipping entirely inside. His small, still body seems so pathetic and lost to this world.
Little Three hugs me, whimpering, while his brothers intone...
"We have no power or control,
We have no sway o'er Minky's soul.
So draw we now from magic's core,
to depths beyond perception.
We draw upon the infinite,
and powers of conception.
Where power reigns to take a life,
or grant it at a whim,
We invoke these powers now -
return this life to him."
It is as though the roof has been removed from the cottage, so strongly does a brilliant light fill the interior of the building. The light fades, leaving the two warlocks glowing with an inner light of their own.
Stretching their arms out, Number One and Two touch hands to complete a circle, a circle composed of radiant light and crackling energy. Then the circle of energy rises slowly above the boys to stop at the rafters. There it seems to illuminate some amorphous, ephemeral shape within it that begins to glow with an intensity of its own. Some part of my consciousness tells me that this shape I see is Minky, the part that is living still.
The circle of light suddenly collapses upon the swirling mist within it and turns all into a small, glowing ball of intense energy. Then, like a lightening bolt, it stretches towards the collapsed form of my beloved and is absorbed. Minky rises, coughing and sputtering, holding his pain racked ribs!
Oh my gawd! I can't begin to describe the emotions that are charging through me right now! Minky is alive! He is breathing once again! And then my world seems to descend into darkness as I find myself slowly sinking towards the floor.
Sensing a lapse of time, I have a vague memory of being carried. When I awaken, groggily, I'm in the Warlocks' bed. Minky is snuggled against me and we are within a pile of warm blankets.
"Shhh..." he tells me, touching finger to my lips. "It seems you had some crushed ribs as well, Nicky. You were just too keyed up to notice your own condition. The Warlocks have set us both straight, though."
We aren't alone on the bed either, I can see. A small pile of sleeping bodies is arranged around us: here a small hand, there a foot and there an arm is touching us. I feel so toasty warm and am glowing with a sense of inner peace.
Glancing further down, I see a lady sitting on the edge of the bed. She is gazing at the two of us with twinkling eyes and a smile on her face. Minky sees the direction of my gaze and reaches a hand towards her. Clasping her hand, he raises it and sets it upon my bare shoulder.
"Mother, this is Nicky... my beloved. Love him as you do me."
Her smile widens and she nods her head. Sliding close to us, she reaches beneath us both and raises us to her bosom.
"Well, beloved of my beloved, I welcome you to our family. My Minky has always had exceptional taste. And I can see that even his heart choses well."
With this she pulls me into an even tighter embrace and I find my tears overflowing. How long has it been since my own mother hugged me and comforted me this way?
She senses, through my sobs, an inability to speak, to respond. So she does the only thing a mother can do, she rocks me in her arms. It is awhile before I regain my composure, and then I say...
"I love your Minky with all of my heart and I promise to always take good care of him."
She pulls back a ways to gaze down on the two of us. There are tears on her cheeks to match my own.
"I could not ask for more than that, now could I, Nicky?"
This is accompanied by a chorus of sniffles from the peanut gallery that is surrounding us. Minky and I soon find ourselves being hugged by a gaggle of young ones. Number Three manages to wedge himself between mother and me, to ensconce himself upon her lap.
"My Motha," he announces playfully, sticking his tongue out at us.
This earns a chorus of hoots and laughter from the other two Warlocks and an answering chuckle from this lady, who hugs the little ragamuffin tightly.
"I do not know," she responds, "to have an 800 year old son makes me feel... well, old!" She tells him this with a grin.
Minky laughs at that and says, "Why, Mother, you hold your age remarkably well."
"Hush," she says, giving my boy a playful slap. Then looking towards the other two Warlocks she says, "Get these two dressed. I am going to start preparing a homecoming supper for us."
These may be the oldest living beings on Minky's World, and full of the wisdom of the ages, but they know enough to obey a mother's commands. Minky and I find ourselves quickly dressed in togas of the native, green cloth. And the three Warlocks have been chased out the door to collect a grocery list from the surrounding food trees.
Minky and I, still a bit weak from our ordeal, wander over to the table to get out of Mother's way. There, sitting on one bench, in the same pose I had originally seen him in, is the statue of Minky's friend, Sendol.
Minky sits next to him and places an arm around the frozen boy's shoulders. "Do not worry, Sendol, we will soon have you among the living once again." He places a kiss on its wooden cheek and then slides over to lean against me.
The boys have returned. Mother is busy working over a small cook pot at the hearth and is preparing the ingredients the boys have collected for her.
"Yoa Motha cooks weally good!" Number Three tells us, sitting himself at the bench on the opposite side of the table. "When she leaves we aw going to have to put up with Numba Two's cooking again," he chuckles.
"Hey," Number Two responds, a grin on his brown face. "We usually make dinner by magic anyway, so quit your bellyaching."
The other two boys join their little comrade at his bench. Number One has a rather serious expression on his pale face. He says...
"I am sorry, Nicky, that we were so slow to respond to your summons. To be truthful, we kind of panicked. Number Three neglected to tell you that the spell could only be invoked once by either of you. And so it was our fault that the golem was able to squish Minky so quickly. If you had not been so quick to invoke the spell yourself, he would have squeezed the life from both of you."
Number Three seems to hunch his shoulders and he is growing pink with embarrassment. He has a quivering lip and is looking at us with puppy dog eyes, appearing as though he believes he's done something inexcusable.
Minky reaches across the table and clasps both of the boy's hands. "It is okay, Number Three. It worked out just fine. You three brought everything under control and Nicky and I are safe. Although I do not remember that part, Nicky was obviously able to use the spell and conquer the golem."
"All right, boys. Get your bowls. Dinner is ready."
Minky and I are left in a cloud of dust. One minute there were three young faces studying us from across the table, and the next they are all gathered around Mother, bowls in hand.
"You two stay where you are," Mother tells us. "I will bring you your supper."
Soon the six of us are seated at the table, in high spirits, enjoying a terrific stew. The bowls are a bit hot for the warlocks' palettes and so they are allowed to cool a bit while the boys do an impromptu war dance. A wag of Mother's finger and they are quick to find their way back to their places, somewhat chagrined. Hahahah! Wise as they may be, it doesn't seem as though they've had anyone to teach them proper table etiquette.
Much later, after we have finished supper and enjoyed a long visit with Mother, she retires to a corner of the cottage to a small bed the boys have thoughtfully provided for her. Minky and the boys and I gather on stools around the glowing embers of the hearth. Then Minky slips from his stool and squats on the floor before me so that I can wrap my arms around him. I slide my hands under his toga to feel the warmth of his skin and the gentle beating of his heart. This heart that was once stilled and has been brought back to me. This thought causes me to wrap both arms tightly around him so as to keep his life forces from ever escaping me again.
Minky seems to sense my thoughts and the emotions coursing through me and reaches up and wraps his arms around my neck, pulling me closer still. My chin rests on those golden, unruly locks of hair while I breathe in the scent of him. His very odor is an aphrodisiac to me... like pollen to the bee. I feel myself becoming aroused and Minky, sensing this, wiggles his back and shoulders against me, giggling in response.
Blue-haired, dark-complected Number Two leans over and grins in our faces. "So, Minky," he whispers, so as not to awaken Mother, "are you satisfied with the choice we made for you of the boys in Nicky's world? Do you think you have a keeper?"
"I do not know," Minky chortles, "let me try him out for seventy or eighty years to decide if I want to trade him in on a different model."
Whack! Minky feels the palm of my hand on the top of his head. "Sure... use me, abuse me, wear me out and then trade me in for something cute and young eh?"
I get a giggle in response and he tightens his arms, pulling my head back down on top of his own. "No, Nicky. I am yours and no other's."
The boys abandon their stools to squat on the floor, in front of Minky. The embers on the hearth make the bald, pale features of Number One seem to glow. He looks back and forth between Minky and me.
"Do you feel well enough for us to return you to the golem's cave in the morning?" he asks us. "You can rest another day if you wish. However, there is something in that cave that requires your rather immediate attention."
"I know," I respond, "the magic mirror. Don't worry, we haven't forgotten its importance and our reason for defeating the golem in the first place."
"Well, the mirror, yes." He responds, hesitantly. "But there is something else in that cave, something we weren't able to see until the magic of the golem ceased with its deactivation. And this 'something else' tends to grow anxious the longer it is left in a now unprotected cave."
"What... what do you mean by something else?" I feel my skin crawling. "Do you mean that there is more than the golem in there that we have to defeat?"
"No, not exactly. When you defeated the golem you established your right to the cave and the objects in it. But there is something in that cave, something sentient besides the golem. It is the soul or spirit of the wizard that owned the magical items in that cave. It senses that those items are in danger of being taken by unscrupulous people now that the golem has been deactivated. Given time, this spirit will find a way to reactivate the golem and bring your efforts to naught. Even now it has inhabited the body of a small life form indigenous to the cave. It works its magic to change the body of this life form until it is physically capable of replanting the invocation spell on the golem's forehead."
"What is this life form?" Minky asks.
"It is one of the few life forms that were allowed to inhabit the confines of the cave. It is a spider."
"Oh gawd..." I moan. "Not a damned spider!" And I find myself shivering. "You guys know how I feel about those things. They totally creep me out."
"Well," I sigh, "give me a can of Flit and a flyswatter and I'll de-corporealize him and turn him back into a spirit."
This earns me a chuckle from the boys. Number Two responds with, "He enlarges his body even as we speak. By morning he will be rather too large for a flyswatter."
"Oh great," I squeak, "another damn, humongous spider? What's with this world and your giant spiders anyway? Can't you be content with keeping your bugs bug-sized?"
You'd think I was their favorite comedian the way I keep them chortling. It's Number Three that responds this time.
"The wizad is not a bad sort. He was fowced into a duel ova a thousand years ago. He was afwaid about the powa of the many magical items he possessed if eva they should fall into the wong hands. So, he made the cave and the golem to pwotect the items should he be defeated in that duel. Now he finds he no longer has a golem to guawd these items. What we did not wealize was that he invoked his own spiwit to stand guawd in the cave along with the golem."
"Okay, so he's one of the good guys. But he's still a damn spider and he's growing even as we speak and he is going to reanimate that golem. Should we even be discussing this right now? I mean, shouldn't Minky and I shag our butts back to the cave this minute and grab that mirror while we still can?"
"We have removed the activation spell from the cave," Number One replies, holding up the piece of paper with the Hebrew writing. "You will use this to bargain for the mirror when we return you in the morning. You are both still very weak and need a night's rest before continuing on this quest."
"We believe the wizard is a reasonable being," Number Two continues. "When you explain your need of the mirror and the purpose of your quest, we think he will respond favorably."
"Especially if you pwomise to take the miwwow back to him aftew the Bawon is defeated," Number Three adds.
"And there is one more thing you need to know." Number One tells us. "Number Two and I have no more magic to use for quite some time to come. We depleted all that we had in resuscitating Minky. That is why Number Three did not join in. We will need his magic to send you both back to the golem's cave. You two are on your own now more than ever."
It isn't a very restful nights sleep. Not with the five of us crowded into that king sized bed. It isn't that the boys tend to take up a lot of room, but they do take turns shifting around. My Minky and I tend to settle into one position and it's the same position we find ourselves in when we awaken. But not so with the warlocks. I can't count the numbers of heels, hands, elbows and knees I've felt poking me through the night. And I'd swear that one hand was doing a bit of exploration, but I can't be sure. Anyway, somewhere during the night I managed to fall into a deep slumber. That is if you don't count the dream I had of a spider putting a bit and saddle on me and riding me around the inside of a cave, using a set of fangs to force me into a gallop.
I awaken to the smell of cooking odors wafting from the hearth and a woman's voice humming under her breath. I look towards Mother and feel a lump in my throat. She is a pretty lady. She has the same golden tresses as my Minky, just much more neatly arrayed. Her attire is a bit on the old-fashioned side, kind of like the dresses that Lady Emily prefers. But it gives her a domestic air and a look of dignity that seems fitting to my Minky's Momma.
Speaking of Minky, I feel a tongue probing my ear. Good gawd... I hope it's Minky. His giggle tells me it's so.
"Good morning, Nicky," he whispers into the same ear he has just invaded. "Our sleeping companions leave a bit to be desired, would you not say?"
I give him a quick squeeze beneath the blankets. And I'm about to respond when, suddenly, a chin makes a landing on my sternum. The chin is attached to a small, red-haired visage that is grinning like a jack o' lantern.
"Good mawning, you guys. Aw you all wested and weady fo mistu spidah?" he giggles.
"Gawd... you little bugger. You find my aversion to spiders to be rather amusing, don't you?"
"Yep. He is only a spidah on the outside. He is a people on the inside. Just pwetend he is a vewy ugly man."
"Yeah, a man with eight legs, a million eyes and fangs. Sorry bud, but my imagination isn't that strong. Oh well," I sigh, "the sooner this meeting is behind us the happier I'll be."
"Rise up, my boys. Breakfast is ready."
Zoom... in an nanosecond only Minky and I are inhabiting the bed. There are three small figures hovering about Mom. Minky giggles and we line up at the end of the chow line.
After a swell breakfast of porridge and fruit we are ready to take our leave of Mom and the boys. Mom knows the dangers her Minky is going to be facing. I put on a brave front for her benefit. I want her to know that Minky is in capable hands. But she is a very strong lady and she knows these risks are necessary. She hugs us both and tells us that she and Sendolwill be waiting for our successful return. "I know the Baron does not stand a chance with you as his foes. I could almost feel sorry for that monster."
The boys each give us a quick hug and then Number Three waves his crooked stick. One second we are in a cottage, the next we are standing outside the entrance to the golem's cave.
"The paper," I ask. "Do you have the paper?"
Minky holds up the all-important spell that activates the golem. I nod at him, grab his other hand in my own and we head into the cave opening.
"Wait, Nicky," he says, stopping suddenly. "I am going to get us something." With that said he drops my hand and rushes to the edge of the woods behind us. I see him looking at the ground and kicking at things. Presently he trots back to my side, holding two stout branches about three feet in length.
"These are to probe for the mirror with, Nicky. The warlocks said we should be careful not to touch the things in the cave." I nod in understanding and we proceed into the opening.
Nothing seems to have changed. The golem is still slumped where we left him, arms hanging loosely at its sides. I glance around anxiously for our spider host. But either he hasn't gotten very big yet or he is deliberately hiding.
"Minky, let's find that mirror. If we don't see the spider then we'll just drop that spell paper on the ground by the golem and beat feet out of here." He nods in agreement.
I'm hoping that the spider will stay hidden. I can feel my boy parts being pulled way up inside my body. Gawd, I hate spiders.
There are large wooden things that appear almost to be furniture, but not designed for any purpose that makes sense to me. Some have wheels and other spinning parts. There are items piled higher than our heads, leaving many places for the wizard spider to secret himself. Perhaps he is just waiting for us to get close enough before he jumps us and sets his fangs into us.
We pass an ornately carved harp, and as we walk past, it begins to strum by itself. Man - that's creepy. There is a statue of a man on a pedestal. Only it isn't a statue really, because as we walk past it turns its head to continue looking at us. I expect to see that big spider around every turn and it feels like my skin is crawling with ants. Minky seems to be on the nervous side himself, and he doesn't share my spider phobia. But then he may have a bit more knowledge about some of the things in this cave and recognizes their danger better than I do. In this regard I guess my ignorance is bliss.
We walk around a large tapestry suspended on a frame and there it is! Oh - my - holy! This isn't a spider... it's a horse! It's fully as tall as we are. And it's just as ugly as you would expect a giant spider to be, too. It's brown and covered in fur. Its huge, multi-faceted eyes reflect the cave light like a pair of red disco balls. But what immediately absorbs my attention are its fangs. They are as long as my forearms and it's clicking them together.
"Forgive us, Wizard." Minky is much quicker to respond than I am: I'm still staring, vacantly, at those tremendous fangs. "We are not here to rob you. We are on a mission to save our people from an evil Baron. The Warlocks directed us here to make use of your invisible mirror. We have every intention of returning it as quickly as we can."
The big bug makes no movement or indication that he's heard or understood Minky. My boy is about to try again when the monster spider starts backing up. Then, as quickly as only spiders seem to travel, it has climbed over a pile of stuff and disappeared around a corner. Minky starts to follow and I quickly follow behind him. I'll be damned if I'll stand here alone with that thing somewhere out of my sight.
We walk down a corridor of jars and urns stacked upon one another. We are half-way down the corridor when that vision from my nightmares does an eight legged shuffle towards us. It has one forelimb held up into the air. And when it gets within a few feet of us it stops and lowers the limb. There is a dull, metallic clunk beneath the leg.
Minky reaches out with his branch and probes beneath the leg. "There is something there, Nicky, I can feel it."
Setting down his branch, he walks right up to the creature and sweeps his hand over the ground. "Here it is," he says, standing and turning around. He makes motions like he's opening a bag and then reaches his hand into - nothing! His hand simply disappears from the end of his wrist. But it comes into view once again holding a highly polished sheet of metal.
He turns and faces that monstrous spider and, with a smile, he says, "Thank you, sire. We shall take awfully good care of it. And we shall return it to you just as soon as we are able. And here," he says, reaching into his toga, "this is yours." He brings his hand out holding the invocation spell for the golem.
The spider has small, jointed, grasping parts around his mouth that he uses to take the paper from Minky's hand. I'm just waiting for it to sink its fangs into Minky now that it has what it wants. But Minky makes a formal bow and then proceeds to walk back along the corridor. You can bet that this boy is very quick to follow him and I keep taking glances behind us to make sure that arachnid is staying put.
I don't breath a sigh of relief until I can see the cave opening ahead of us. But Minky stops and turns to face me. "Here, Nicky. You had better carry this." He spreads his closed hands and puts them behind my neck. When he pulls his hands back I can feel the weight of something pressing against my chest and pulling slightly on my neck. I guess I'm now in possession of the invisible bag and mirror.
The whole thing is kind of anti-climactic now. My adrenalin surge has worn off from coming face to face with my nightmare. It did act every bit the gentleman, though. But I still have this tremendous urge to scrub every inch of my skin. Minky is giggling as he grabs my hand and pulls me towards the entrance. I guess my revulsion is written all over my features.
I take a deep breath of air as we step into the sunshine once again. And then my breath is caught short and Minky comes to an abrupt halt. Standing in front of the cave are a lynx, a fox and a wolf! The Baron's men!
The wolf snorts and then announces, "Stay where you are, boys. We have beeswax in our ears. Your spell will not work against us again because we cannot hear it. And the Baron has told us to maul you to death rather than let you escape again. Now come along, he is waiting for you."
An unbelievably huge bird settles to the earth just behind the formidable-looking animals.
"It is the Phoenix," Minky whispers to me. "He is probably here to transport us. I have the feeling we are just minutes away from meeting the Baron."
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