2018 is going to be a different year for the Glorious Mess. This year, I’m going to focus on one particular story, the Enchanted Realms. I’m writing new stories for this saga, which will be posted serial format once a month, or more. This world is not new to me – I dreamed it up several years ago. But I have not been able to do anything with it, and so I’m really excited to actually get past all the stuffy bits (like the backstory), and focus on what actually happens to the characters. Now, please note: If anything comes up that’s surprising to you, or doesn’t seem to fit an earlier story, it’s not part of some master plan – I’m coming up with half of this stuff on the spot. Either way, welcome to the Enchanted Realms – and here’s to a happy 2018.
James ‘Jimmy’ Kerren. Tomas ‘Slider’ Quincy. Elizabeth Callin. Jasmine Estell.
Four teens, from four separate lives. But all four were Chosen, called to the Enchanted Realms by the commander of the Winter Army, Perolan, a massive polar bear.
The Enchanted Realm was in dire straits. Once, all the animals within it lived in peace, but war had broken out. The Winter Army had become the final defense against the military might of the Animal Lord, a mysterious figure who sought to subjugate the entire world under his rule.
But Perolan knew the ancient ways – ways of calling heroes from other realms to fight for the Enchanted Realm. These Protectors, Chosen for a specific purpose, were granted special powers upon their arrival in the Enchanted Realms. Together, they rose to fight against the Animal Lord. The road to victory, they knew, would not be easy. But they knew that together, it was possible.
Tomas spun around the tree, the dog on his heels. “Jimmy!” he roared, trying to go faster.
“I’m coming,” Jimmy yelled back, running to intercept them.
The dog was gigantic, nearly up to the middle of Tomas’ back. He had already lost his knives to it’s massive frame, and yet it still kept coming.
“Where are you boys?” came a shout from nearby.
“This way, Liz,” Tomas screamed back, getting desperate. Then, just as he thought he couldn’t run any more, Jimmy blasted into the dog’s side.
Tomas heaved a huge sigh of relief, but kept running, knowing he had to get back to the boat to be safe. But his pace was slacked off, and he started to catch his breath. He passed Liz on his way, and noticed the gigantic spear she carried. If she was a normal girl, she wouldn’t have been able to carry it, but as it was, she carried it with ease.
Of course, Elizabeth Callin was no ordinary girl. She carried the strength of an ox in her arms, and the stubbornness to boot. Tomas had butted heads against her on more than one occasion, and lost as many arguments as he won.
He found his way back the boat, where Jasmine was waiting for everyone. “What’s going on back there?” she asked.
“A Cerberus,” he replied, still breathing hard. They had made up names for the beasts they fought. While in mythology, Cerberus was a three headed dog, Jasmine had decided that a giant one was monstrous enough for the moniker.
Jasmine grimaced in distaste. “Do they need my help?”
“I don’t think so,” Tomas said, reaching for the mooring rope. “They should be along anytime now.”
“I hope so,” Jasmine muttered. She accepted the rope that was tossed at her, and began coiling it up. “I just wish that there was something more that I could do.”
“Don’t we all?” Tomas asked, checking the woods. He readied himself as he heard a rustling. Liz shot out of the bushes, waving for them to go. Tomas heaved against the boat, which slid backwards. It wasn’t huge, but large enough to hold all four teens, and made of sturdy wood. “Help me out here, Jasmine,” he grunted as it slid into the water.
“Hurry!” came a voice from above. Tomas didn’t need to look up to know that Jimmy was flying above them, his eagle-like wings bearing him above the trees. “Three more Cerberuses are heading your way!”
Liz joined him in his pushing, and the boat gave way. The two teens splashed into the water, then climbed into the boat. Jasmine began steering the boat towards the middle of the river, which was more like a flowing lake than it was a river.
“Tomas, you think you’re up to getting us out of here faster?” Liz asked, searching her friend’s tired face. The Cerberuses were on the edge of the shore, snarling. They could see more of them coming through the woods, and other creatures beside.
“I think I have some strength left,” Tomas said. “Where’s my harness?”
Jasmine pointed towards the middle of the boat. “It’s under the rope,” she told him. Tomas dug it out and pulled it on, Liz helping him as best she could.
“Set?” Liz asked, tying a tow rope to the back of his harness.
“Set,” Tomas said. “Wish me luck.”
“You don’t need it,” Liz replied. It was their customary send off, reserved for when one of the four did something that could potentially be risky. Tomas nodded, then, with a running start, dove off the prow of the ship.
As he entered the water, he felt his strength increase. His lungs were filled with air, his body strong. He stuck out, swimming in a way that was unlike any human had ever done. Those watching it likened it to an otter, though Tomas didn’t have a tail. But group’s powers were not limited by their bodies.
The boat jerked forward, picking up speed. Jasmine tied the rudder into a singular position, knowing that Tomas was in complete control. She looked up, just in time to see Jimmy coming for a landing. His springy black hair, usually messed up, was even more so because of the short flight. His dark skin had hardly any sweat on it, even though he had been obviously flying as hard as he could.
“Heya, Jaz,” he said, grinning at her. “Enjoy staying on the boat today?”
“I hate guarding this thing,” Jasmine said. “And don’t call me Jaz.”
“No one likes to,” Liz reminded her. “But it was your turn on the rotation.”
“I know, okay?” Jasmine snapped. She could do without all of Liz’s pushiness.
Liz shook her head. Jasmine complained far too much for her liking, but she held her tongue and let the comment slide.
Jimmy glanced between the two, a humored look on his face. On one hand, there was Jasmine, the raven haired, olive skinned, perfectly featured, poised girl who liked to complain for complaining’s sake, and no other purpose. On the other hand, there was Liz, who wore her strawberry blond hair in a bob, framing her freckled face with Irish green eyes, was a straight shooter, and only complained and criticized when it was necessary. He had seen the two be as thick as thieves, and then turn and not speak to the other for a week. He didn’t understand it, but it was way better than any reality TV show he had watched before coming to the Enchanted Realms.
Underneath the water, Tomas continued his relentless pulling of the ship. The harness spread the weight out evenly, but it didn’t make the boat any less heavy. Even in the water, it was still difficult to pull. He didn’t know how long he swam, as time always seemed to blur amidst the blue.
A tug on the line told him it was time to rest. He swam to the surface, and was helped out of the water by Jimmy’s strong arms. Back on the boat again, Tomas felt exhaustion well up.
“You did good, Slider,” Jimmy said, patting his back. The name was a mention to how Jimmy had first seen Tomas – sliding down a hill. The moment had ended with Tomas sliding into Jimmy and tackling him. The two had started fighting, and when Perolan stepped in to sort it out, Jimmy had defended himself by saying, “If it weren’t for Slider here,” and the name stuck.
“Get some rest,” Jasmine said, handing him a small flask. Tomas sipped at it gratefully, pulling himself to a place where he could prop his back up against a raised part of the deck.
“Where are we heading now?” he asked his eyes closed. For the past two days, they had been sailing along the Highbor River, providing aid to resistance fighters on their way. The place they had just attempted to help, Tontar, had nearly cost them their lives.
“There’s city near here, called Ershak,” Jimmy said, looking at the map that Perolan had given them. “It’s in the Freelands, so we should be safe there.” The Freelands were where the Animal Lord had not taken control, or that control had been wrested from his grasp.
“It’s fairly far up the border from the Animal Lords’ territory, so that should give us time to rest,” Jasmine put in, looking over Jimmy’s shoulder.
“Of course,” Jimmy mused, “It is on the coast, and right across the Highbor is the Animal Lord’s country.”
“How long will it take for us to get there?” Tomas asked, his eyes still closed.
“About an hour or two,” Jimmy said. “The current’s with us, but it’s on the other side of the Highbor.”
“Do you want me to pull us to the other side?” Tomas asked.
It was Liz who answered. “No. You’ve done enough for one day. We can take it from here.”
Tomas nodded his thanks. His body, utterly exhausted, was slowly shutting itself down into sleep. He wouldn’t have been able to do much more swimming, even if he had tried.
Jimmy stepped up to where the rudder was. It was a simple affair, a bar on top that connected to the rudder below the ship. He leaned on it, and the boat swung out towards the far bank. As they drifted down river, he watched the bank from where they came. The Cerberuses had retreated into the woods, most likely to return to Tontar and continue in subduing it.
“Do you think anyone made it out?” he asked Liz quietly. “Of Tontar, I mean.” Tontar had been in the process of being raided when they had shown up.
“I don’t know,” Liz replied. “We barely got out. I’m not sure how anyone else, who was there before us, would have.”
Jasmine heard them muttering, and stepped up to join them. “We’re on a boat, you two. Anything you say should be for all of us to hear.”
“We’re discussing Tontar,” Jimmy said. Jasmine had stayed with the boat when the other three had went to scout out the situation, and so had missed out on what had transpired.
“What happened?” she asked.
Jimmy sighed heavily. “It was being pillaged. Cerberuses everywhere, the Lordsmen breaking into buildings. They were killing everyone in sight.” His voice dropped, and he shook his head. “I don’t want to think about it. In the rush to get out, it just felt like a typical day.” He laughed harshly. “I can’t believe I just said that.”
“Look at us,” Liz said, glancing at the boat’s occupants. “What is there that we can’t say?”
“For starters, ‘I want to sleep in,'” said Jasmine, making air quotes with her hands. She shrugged, then brought up a subject that had been tickling the back of her mind for a long time. “Do you guys ever think about why we were the ones that were Chosen?”
Liz shrugged. “It was probably random chance. It wasn’t choosing us specifically.”
“I’m not so sure,” Jimmy said, eagerly seizing a topic of conversation that wasn’t about Tontar. “I talked to Zippy, that penguin, about it one time. He said that only certain humans can travel between our world and this one. Maybe it’s a genetic thing, or moral character. I have no idea.”
“Either way, there had to have been more than four people with whatever it is on Earth,” Liz said. “So my point still stands.”
Jasmine cocked her head, a curious expression on her face. “Why are there humans here?” she asked. “I thought this world was entirely populated by animals, but then we see humans, too, so… What’s up with that?”
Jimmy shrugged. “I think it was from when they called the last Chosen. But I’m not sure about that.”
Liz nodded. “I read up on some of the history of the Winter Army. Perolan’s predecessor, eons ago, called a group of seventeen warriors to help fight. My guess is that they ended up staying here and having children, and their children had children-”
Jasmine cut her off. “And so forth. I understand.”
Jimmy was about to make a comment when he heard a noise. He spun, and his eagle-sharp eyes spotted the disturbance. “Uh, guys,” he said, pointing.
Jasmine and Liz turned to see what he was staring at. A massive turtle’s head was rising out of the water. “What in the world?” Jasmine asked.
“That’s a snapping turtle,” Jimmy said. “We had those where I came from.”
“It’s gigantic,” Liz said.
Jimmy nodded, stepping off the raised deck to the weapon’s cache in the middle of the boat. “Yes, and if we don’t kill it, it’ll snap our boat in half, the same way the ones back home would snap twigs.”
Jasmine joined him. “How do we kill them?”
“Our best bet with one this large is to go through it’s eye. Liz, can you throw a spear that far?”
The turtle was about three hundred feet away, but moving fast.
“Not chance. It’s going to have to be a lot closer for me to hit.”
“And we’d only have one shot by that point,” Jimmy said. He grabbed a spear himself, then expanded his wings. “Watch out, girls,” he said, taking off. The rush of air made both girls step back, and woke Tomas up from his slumber.
“What’s going on?” he asked, trying to shake off sleep.
“Giant monster snapping turtle,” Jasmine said, grabbing a bow and a quiver of arrows. Of the four of them, she was the best shot, but Liz wasn’t far behind.
Meanwhile, Jimmy shot through the air, his wings propelling him across the distance in a matter of seconds. He dropped down towards the turtle’s face, holding the spear so that it would enter the left eye.
He hit his target dead on, the spear sinking in nearly to it’s depth. The turtle screamed and swung its head. Jimmy was flung across the water, skipping like a stone for a ways, before sinking beneath the waves.
On the boat, Liz shouted in alarm. “It’s still coming! The spear wasn’t long enough to reach the brain.”
“So what do we do?” Jasmine asked.
Tomas slapped himself across the face, and both girls looked at him. “I need to wake up,” he said, blinking. He looked through the weapons chest, and picked out a sturdy short sword. “I’ll try cutting it’s neck from underneath the water.”
“Keep shooting at it’s face,” Liz told Jasmine. “Keep it’s attention on us.”
The beast had picked up speed, and was coming towards them faster. Tomas dove off the side of the boat, and sped underneath the waves towards the gigantic head. He could see where it connected to the body, and had to shake of the doubt he felt in his mind. He quickened his pace, holding the sword in front of him. With one final burst of speed, he slammed the sword into the turtle’s neck, and then tried to slice. The sword lodged, unable to move.
Above the water, the creature screamed once more, then ducked it’s head beneath the waves. Tomas struggled for a second to pull out the sword, but could see it was no use. He let go and dove into the cold depths. The turtle’s head followed him, but he pressed on, avoiding it’s fearsome beak.
With the agility of one who belongs to the water, Tomas spun around, swimming past the head and up the body, which was now perpendicular to the water’s surface. He shot out of the river, taking a huge breath.
Upstream from him, he noticed Jimmy’s limp body floating with the current. Tomas looked back at the boat, then Jimmy, and then came to a decision. He swam to Jimmy, and pulled his head above water. “You’re not dying on me today,” he said, swimming towards the boat. Once there, the girls helped lift the sodden body onto the deck. Tomas looked at the still form, and hoped that his friend was still alive.
The turtle was resurfacing, and Jasmine nocked another arrow to fire. The beast continued to draw closer, still surfacing. “Fire!” Tomas yelled.
“Not yet,” Liz rescinded. She narrowed her eyes, waiting several more seconds. “Now, Jasmine, fire now!”
The arrow sprang away, thudding deep into the snapper’s right eye. Now blind in both eyes, and in immeasurable pain, the turtle went berserk. It swam even faster, heading straight for their ship.
“Tomas!” Liz shouted, but he was already grabbing a tow rope and diving over the edge. There was no time for the harness now; he gripped the rope and heaved. His body strained, and the boat moved. But it wasn’t enough.
Liz spun, picking up her spear and aiming. She saw the snapper’s beak open wide and, pivoting, threw the spear towards the roof of the mouth, where it barely penetrated, jiggling slightly.
The turtle’s mouth closed on the boat. Liz jumped back, pushing Jasmine with her. They collapsed beside Jimmy’s prone body, Liz covering both of them as the splinters filled the air. There was one final shriek, and then everything went still. The powerful jaws, which had splintered the boat with such ease, had driven the spear through the roof of the mouth and into the brain.
The turtle was dead.
An hour and a half later, a broken and battered ship limped into Ershak port. Within it were four heroes, Chosen to help save the Enchanted Realms. One was exhausted beyond speech; a second half drowned; the third’s body was covered in shards of wood, where she had protected the other two; the fourth was nearly dead from having to steer a boat by herself with little more than a glorified paddle.
As Makdar oversaw their entry into the infirmary, he nodded. Yes, they were weak now. But he could see the power radiating from them. These four, he knew, would someday be the saviors of the Enchanted Realms.