Chapter Description: Tom The Titan returns to Malacus, and must now outwit a foul sorceress... that kind of looks like his crush.
Chapter 14: A Battle of Wills
Draw a line in the sand
And then make a stand
Use your camera to spar
Use your guitar
When they act tough
You call their bluff
“My, my, my,” The elf queen said. “What have we here? Bust into my private chambers with nary a knock.” She laid on her lavish bed, her robe made of glistening glamouring samite, just as it had been described by Leadshoulder. Sparkly. Huh. So that’s what samite looked like. Or was it? Tommy had been told that the queen sheathed herself in robes of samite, but he’d never seen the material before, and only vaguely recalled the word from a Monty Python skit. Could Malacus, fantasy realm that it was, accurately represent or contain ideas that Tommy did not possess?
Ultimately, it was the fact that the queen looked identical to Amanda Monroe, (discounting the purple eyes and pointy ears) that marked her as the elve’s tyrannical monarch. It made sense that the queen of Scrumpton High, and his biggest crush, was the evil queen that he must conquer. “Is this what the Titan from the Land of Man looks like?” Her tone was gentle, but her face was completely blase; unimpressed.
Tommy smiled softly. . Whatever bizarre rules this magical world played by, some things were still a constant. Considering what he wanted to do, constants were a comfort.. “Earth Realm,” Tommy said.
“It’s called Earth Realm, now.”
The elf with Amanda’s face remained lying on her bed. “Why?” she asked. “Do men now live beneath the earth and shun the open sky as dwarves do?”
“Do they fear the sea and dare not speak its name?”
“Then why Earth Realm?”
Tommy’s brows knitted together in mild consternation. “Because I said so...?” That didn’t feel quite right. Not very heroic. It sounded like something a dumb grown-up would say when their authority was challenged.
The elf queen did not stir. “Oh? You’re a king over there, then?”
“A general?” A slight smirk. Not a happy one.
“A religious leader?” Tommy didn’t even get a chance to reply before she peppered him with more sarcastic suggestion., “Grand marshal in a parade? Nanny for a small child? Won a contest by having your name drawn from a hat? Given to you by someone who did?”
“ENOUGH!” Tommy’s voice was thunder and it echoed throughout the tower drowning out the elf’s voice. Still...the queen seemed unmoved. She just kept lounging on her bed like a cat that had been mildly roused from its nap. “It doesn’t matter what I am over there! Here? Here I’m invincible.”
“Ah yes,” the queen said. “All men who come to Malacus are dregs.” Just like the real Amanda, Queenie’s emotions seemed to range from condescension all the way to disgust. “Dregs. Peasants. Losers. Yet the air of Malacus nourishes you. Fills you. Protects you. Coddles you.” She spat the last word.
Unafraid, the queen brushed back her hair and stretched. “I wonder what would happen, were our positions reversed. What if even one of my people could go to your Land of Men?”
“Whatever.” The queen, who had until now been laying on her back, twisted and turned so that she was on her stomach, still looking up comfortably at Tom. “Your home is something I think I’d very much like to see.”
A growl escaped Tommy. Such a beautiful face but such cutting words. And just like everyone else in his life, this elf seemed to possess the uncanny ability to know his deepest insecurities. “My air might be poisonous to you.”
“Then let me be poisoned,” she laughed. “I’d still get to see the great Tom the Titan in his natural state: No armor. No strength. Helpless. Weak. Pathetic…”
Tommy’s blood boiled. His teeth gnashed. This wasn’t going as he’d wanted it to at all. He stepped forward and saw the glimmer in his enemy’s eyes. He stopped and looked down, not at his own feet, but the foot of her bed. The bed sat on an ornate rug of deep purple. But why?
The nerdy teen from Scrumpton took a breath and thought for a moment. Amanda-elf remained silent, staring at Tommy, frozen from her bed. Not egging him on. Not speaking at all. Tension wound and stirred in her face.
“You’ve got some kind of magic circle around your bed don’t you?” he finally said. “I’m guessing something that’ll reflect my attack back at me? Maybe enchant my mind? Control me?”
Like a child that had just had their favorite knock-knock joke spoiled, the elf queen slapped her feather bed in frustration and sat up on it. “A bit of both,” she admitted. Her feet hanging over the bed, she peeled back a fold of the carpet, giving Tom a glimpse of glyphs etched in stone. “It’s primarily an entrancement spell, but your speed and strength are legendary so I wove in a barrier spell to slow you. It wouldn’t help to enslave you and have you accidentally break me in my charge.”
Tommy stroked his chin with a gauntleted hand. “Huh. Clever.”
“You would have been a most magnificent servant.”
“I would have.” Tommy agreed. “If it makes you feel any better, you almost had me. Near perfect baiting. Any less and I wouldn’t have wanted to attack. Any more and I would have known it was a trap. Can’t seem too desperate for this sort of prank.”
The elf crossed her arms over her chest and pouted. “”Where did I go wrong, then?” she asked. “I was attempting to coax you into attacking me in a blind rage; to make you think that I’d given up and wished to die by your hand.”
“Yeah,” Tommy nodded. “Almost worked.”
“Did work on the centaur.”
“If you’d taunted me while I was thinking you would have seemed too desperate.”
The sorceress queen leaned forward, her elbows on her knees and rested chin in her hands. “What was I supposed to have done?” Damn she was cute when she fussed like that.
“Should have used a dagger,” Tommy replied. “Threw it at me when I was taking too long. Make me react on instinct and charge. Same thing happened to me with the dwarves.”
A look of genuine admiration crossed her. “Oh, you are clever.”
“Tell that to Amanda,” Tom sighed.
“Nevermind.” Tom said. “I win. Where do you want to take this from here?”
The queen rolled her eyes. A very Amanda gesture. “I suppose this is the part where you throttle me and snap my neck like a twig, just as you did to the hydragons.”
He wouldn’t have minded his hands around her, that was true. Just not in that way. “I don’t think so,” Tommy said.
The queen smiled. “Then let’s talk, shall we?” She patted a spot on her bed next to her and scooted over, her smile was inviting. Tempting even.
Not tempting enough for Tommy to forget. “I’m not crossing that spell circle.”
“Damn,” she snapped her fingers. “Can’t blame me for trying.”
“And if you’re still stalling for time and waiting on your handmaiden slash ninja assassin, I already took care of her.”
Her eyes went wide with shock. Huh. To think that Amanda Monroe actually cared about someone besides herself, even if it was just her in elf form. “You didn’t…?!”
“What? No.” Tommy shook his head. “No, no, no, no. I just tied her up a little.” Elf-Cameron was tied up with chains, there not being any rope in the dungeon handy, but she was fine otherwise.
Elf-Amanda stood up from her bed, still not crossing her own warding circle. “It seems we’re at an impasse,” she said. “You can’t enter my circle of protection and I dare not leave it. Were I you I’d simply seal off this tower and make it a prison.”
“Yeah, “ Tommy said. “That’s not me.”
“Who are you?”
Tommy took a deep breath. He could have destroyed her in the same way that he’d destroyed the assassin last time. Put an end to this war once and for all. But maybe he didn’t want it to end like that. Maybe there was more to being the hero than strangling a few hydragons.
Trevor Macintosh had been a huge dick, but ever since Tommy had converted his dwarven doppelganger, Trevor had become halfway decent. Josh was a giant chode, but the elf with his face had tried to murder him. So maybe it was dwarves good, elves bad. But in his gut, Tommy felt it was something more.
The people in this magical land were pale reflections of his real life. But maybe, just maybe they were something more, and that by altering their shadows, he could change the real deal. He sure hoped so.
Releasing his breath, Tommy closed his eyes and called out to the runes in his armor, signaling at them to release. Like a kind of prayer, he whispered,
“I never asked for this, or planned it in advance. I was merely blown here by the winds of chance. I never considered myself a Solomon, or Socrates. I knew who I was: one of your dime-a-dozen mediocrities.” His armor liked songs, so he picked lyrics that kept him humble, even if they were dubious in their original context.
The armor didn’t fall off as much as it melted off of him and reassembled next to him. He didn’t feel nearly as powerful without it. But Tom the Titan wasn’t needed to solve this problem.
“I’m Tommy Dean,” he said.
The elf considered him a moment. “Ghilanna of the Gilded Leaf,” she finally said.
“It is a pleasure to meet you, Ghilanna”
Ghilanna stared at Tommy, everything but the color of her eyes identical to his crush. “Tommy Dean,” she said. “Why do you have pups embroidered on your smallclothes and why are they soiled?”
Tommy looked down and blushed. He’d forgotten that he still had his Paw Patrol training briefs on. The urine had dried up, but the piss stains yet remained.
“Yeah...about that,” he said. “There’s a story to that.”