Start the story from the beginning: Tales of Eversparkle: Preface
Chapter 2: Defending Against Ninjas
“Where am I?” Mandy asked.
“Eversparkle, child. The land of dreams, love, and absolute fools,” she cackled back. “For only fools dare to dream and love in Eversparkle.”
Mandy noticed distractedly that the woman was missing a bottom tooth, but her otherwise straight-as-a-picket-fence smile gleamed off-white-yellow in the light of the fire.
The woman took another swig from her gourd and offered it to Mandy. “Drink. You must be parched! It sure was a scorcher today wasn’t it! It almost hit 50 Sperks!”
Mandy had no idea what that was supposed to mean and proceeded to scoot away from the proffered hand, eyeing the gourd suspiciously. “I don’t trust strangers,” she said with half-believed conviction. She felt six again.
The old woman just shined a smile Mandy’s way, not at all offended by her brusqueness. “Well, let me introduce myself then. I am Priscilla Appletree, lover of art and nature, and an old woman with a fancy for hallucinogenic substances. I’ve traveled to the end of Eversparkle and back, but consistently find myself drawn back to the woods of Westwind. I’m a master brewer of potions that can help young women to fall in love and turn princes into frogs. People of the kingdom know me as the Witch of Westwind Woods, but you may call me Priscilla. Or Ma’am. Ahaha!”
Mandy’s eyes sparkled a little. The old woman’s introduction was a little grand but Mandy secretly enjoyed it, still amazed that she was in the realm of Eversparkle. She herself was a little too withdrawn to announce herself with as much flair, but she still made the effort of polite exchange. “I’m Mandy. A recent graduate who was reading in the library, when I inexplicably found myself drawn into the world within the book and now I am talking with you.”
“A foreigner, eh? Surely you must know of the Eversparkle.”
“The Eversparkle? Isn’t that just the name of this strange land?”
“Yes, and no,” the old woman went on to explain. “It is the fabric of our being, of our world. It is the pool from which magic is sourced and life is created, the mystic veil from which a newborn draws its first breath. It is a creature that has no form but can take a form at will. It is light, dark, and shadow all at once! It is the fear seen in the eye of the cute rabbit I ate for dinner this evening.” She ended on that note by throwing some small bones into the cauldron she had been stirring.
“I’m really confused. So is it an actual living thing or just an abstract notion?”
“Who cares! Besides, that’s just all the garbage theories I’ve heard people spout over the years. Here, have some drink!” She thrust the gourd toward Mandy once more.
If Mandy thought about it, she was doomed either way; she could drink, and most likely be poisoned; or not drink, and risk the crazy woman losing her wits and clobbering her head in rage. She whispered a silent prayer to the gods, or to the Eversparkle, or whatever, then grabbed the gourd and took a giant gulp.
It felt like her head exploded into a gazillion stars, but in the best way possible. Her vision was clear, but everything seemed rimmed in strange colors, some that she did not even recognize. It also felt like her throat closed up in her shock. Could this be the Eversparkle!?
“Hahaha, I forget first timers always get such a kick out of my jungle juice. I’ve been drinking this stuff for so long, I –“
Priscilla’s speech was cut short by an arrow flying past her nose and into the trunk of a tree behind her. The two women looked toward the direction the arrow came from and saw a slightly overweight man dressed in black garb (suspiciously like a ninja, Mandy observed), sitting in plain view on a branch of a tree.
“Priscilla Appletree, and unnamed citizen! You are charged with tax evasion, as proclaimed by His Royal Majesty King Wallace II of Goldwind. You are to pay a sum of 8000 Roobies, or I am to take something of yours as collateral.”
“That old fart can take this piece of firewood and shove it up his blubbery tush! I am but an old wandering witch. I don’t need your kingdom or your taxes!” Priscilla screeched heatedly, spittle flying out around her words.
The ninja man struck a pose, the sole of his right foot against his left knee, both hands shooting skyward. “Then I shall take any valuables you have on you! Give me your gourd!”
“Now you’ve crossed a line! Take this!” Priscilla shouted. The witch waved her hands around the fire and shot her hands forward and up with gusto.
Mandy didn’t know if what played out next was real or if it was the effects of the gourd juice playing tricks on her mind, but a form of a lion leaped out of the fire and pounced toward the ninja, claws of flame spread wide with a fiery snarl to match. Even its mane seemed alive as it licked and cracked in the still night air.
“Sorcery!” the ninja shouted in panic. He scurried around on the tree branch looking for a way to escape the blazing lion that was slowly making its way up the tree trunk while licking its sharp-looking fire teeth. “In the name of His Royal Majesty King Wallace II, I order you to put an end to this!”
“And so I shall,” Priscilla agreed, and so she snapped her fingers.
The lion pounced onto the branch and onto the ninja, who stood next to no chance of escaping the magical beast. The ninja man screamed in terror, and the roaring flames engulfed him. Then, both man and beast disappeared in a flash, leaving no trace of their existence.
Mandy giggled hysterically. She still wasn’t sure if what she saw was real. “Oh, goodness!” she exclaimed in a voice tinged with anguish. “I can’t believe you killed that man! And how on Earth (or Eversparkle) did you summon that lion from the fire? And what did you put in this drink, I feel like –“
“Calm, child,” the old woman said while placing a comforting, wrinkled hand on Mandy’s shoulder. I did not kill him. I merely sent him away…in style!”
Mandy sighed in resignation. She had always loved fantasy, letting her mind escape into realities not her own, but living the reality was almost too much to take. Maybe if she lied down for a minute and closed her eyes, all of this would surely prove to be a dream and she’d wake up to find her boring, average life had not changed so much at all.
Priscilla seemed to sense Mandy’s despair, so she offered up her gourd once again. “Here, have some more!”
“No thanks,” Mandy said softly. “I think it’s giving me a stomach ache.”
Priscilla shrugged. “Suit yourself,” she said, downing the rest of the juice in the gourd. The old woman made her way back to her cauldron to stir her brew. “Where are you headed, girl? I assume you were riding toward somewhere before you fell off your horse.”
“I need to get to a town, or somewhere where I can find information on how to get home! At the very least, some food and a bed…but how shall I do these things with no money?” Mandy felt herself starting to become a little hysterical.
“Now, now. Here, come stir this for me, my arthritic hands are getting sore.” Priscilla handed Mandy the stirring spoon and set her to work. “I feel it in you, Mandy. The flow of Eversparkle. You were brought here for a purpose, though we need to find what that purpose is! For the time being, however, you may be my brew-stirring apprentice.”
“I’m honored,” Mandy said dejectedly.
“Tomorrow, we go to Pearl Town! A town by the coast, where I will I trade my brew for pretty baubles…” Priscilla muttered mostly to herself, cackling lightly as she rubbed her hands together in a diabolical fashion.
Mandy just continued to stir the pot, lost in her thoughts. The swig of juice she had earlier still had her seeing stars, but the stars were slowly dimming to a light and pleasant twinkle. It made her feel serene and the most hopeful she had felt since she arrived in this new world.
“Priscilla,” Mandy ventured shyly. “The lion from earlier…does the gourd juice give you powers?”
The old woman burst out laughing. Mandy now felt a little silly she had asked.
“Absolutely not!” Priscilla shouted. “I just enjoy tasting the colors of the rainbow! Red, and blue, and meritia!”
Leaving the old woman to cackle to herself once more, Mandy continued to stir, wondering about the lion of flame, whether she would ever meet her handsome prince again, and what would await them both in Pearl Town.