Chapter Description: Tommy returns again to Malacus, but something's different, and it's not just his size.
Chapter 24- Old Scene, New Rules
And if you're feeling cross and bitterish
Don't sit and whine
Think of banana splits and licorice
And you'll feel fine
“Friend Tommy!” Nox, the centaur beamed as Tommy dangled by his armpits. “It’s good to see you again!”
Reflexively, Tommy grabbed at the burly centaur’s forearms, trying to force the horse-man to let go of him. The arms didn’t budge even an inch. His strength had failed him! It was gone! “Nox!” he shrieked. “Put me down! Put me down!”
The centaur seemed confused, as if Tommy was making a bizarre request. He seemed vaguely uncomfortable, as if Tommy screaming at him and demanding to stand on his own two feet was strange indeed. “My apologies, m’friend,” Nox, said. He put Tommy down.
The shrinking effect that Tommy noticed back in the real world persisted here. The centaur hadn’t gotten taller since last time; Tommy had just lost a few more inches. Something was different about Nox , though. As a centaur, Nox had a certain animal musk about him; not unpleasant, but decidedly not human. Here he smelled...well...clean. Almost soapy, like someone who’d just sudsed up in the shower. His hair wasn’t as ragged, either, more clean cut. Nor was his beard as shaggy. Nox’s resemblance to his more clean cut (former) Math teacher, Mr. Jordan, was even more apparent.
Tommy was different, himself. His Spider-Man jammies had transformed, sure enough, but not into the glorious golden armor of Tom the Titan. Instead he was wearing a plain white t-shirt and overalls. Tommy was no stranger to overalls, for sure: A little hick town like Scrumpton, Georgia still had its fair share of good ol’ boys who wore them when working outside, usually with at least one strap hanging off their shoulder and no shirt.
But Tommy’s weren’t made of the rough cheap denim of road workers; but something more light and breathable, with light green pinstripes running down. These stopped at his knees, too, giving Tommy a decidedly less blue collar rough and tumble aesthetic than most overalls for boys his age. Maybe it was the color scheme, but he couldn’t help but think of the Sound of Music; the scene where the children had play clothes made out of old curtains. The girls were all in dresses, and the boys were all in cloth overalls that went down just above their knee. This was a little like that; a modernization of the same style.
Play clothes. For a child. The muted crinkle and slight squish between his thighs signaled that not everything about his garments had changed.
“Nox?” Tommy looked up at the dapper centaur. “Why is there a slide and ball pit in the mana pool?” He pointed backwards, accusingly, to the little lake filled with plastic balls.
The centaur frowned, confused, as if Tommy had just asked a very simple question in a way that demanded a very complex answer; like ‘Why is the sky blue?’ or ‘Why do I have to go to school?’.
“Because, friend Tommy,” Nox answered, “we are at peace.”
“What does that have to do with the mana pool?”
Nox scoffed as if Tommy had said something absurdly funny. “I sometimes forget, friend Tommy, that you are not of Malacus.” Tommy frowned and felt his bottom lip start to stick out, but if Nox was offended or noticed, he didn’t show it. “Does Earth Realm have moats, friend Tommy?”
Now it was Tommy’s turn to scoff. “Of course Earth Realm has moats!” He crossed his arms a moment. “I mean...we used to...I’ve seen them...in movies.”
“Nevermind. Yes, I know what a moat is.”
“The mana pool is like a moat. When we are at war,” Nox gestured to the rainbow colored slide, “the bridge goes up and the pool fills with water. It is a long drop and freezing water that awaits the unwelcome intruder.”
“But when it’s peaceful, it’s a slide into a ball pit?”
Nox nodded approvingly. “Precisely, friend Tommy.”
Something else itched at the back of Tommy’s brain. “Why do you keep calling me
Nox nickered. “Are we not friends?”
“Yeah…” Tommy said. “Yeah we are. Just, the last couple of times I’ve been here, you and everybody else on my side called me ‘m’lord’.”
“We were at war, friend Tommy.”
“So I’m only ‘m’lord’ when it’s war?”
Tommy thought about it. He remembered in History class (before he got bumped down to remedial) something about ancient Rome. Originally, a dictator was someone who took over in a time of crisis when snap decisions had to be made and democracy would have been too slow. But once the crisis had passed, they’d turn power back over to the people and let democracy take its course. It wasn’t until later that the term dictator took it’s negative connotation. “So I’m not a king, but a dictator? Like a Roman one?”
“You do roam from realm to realm, friend Tommy.”
Intentional or not, Tommy let the word play go. “Is that why I’m not strong anymore?”
“Aye, m’friend. Malacus doesn’t need a Titan of Man to protect it.”
“Then what am I even here for?”
At this, the centaur looked genuinely hurt. “I’m sorry, friend Tommy. I thought we were friends, you and I. Do you need to be fighting something for us to spend time together?
A pang of guilt wracked Tommy’s brain. “I didn’t mean it that way.” He did, in fact, mean it that way. He’d been quietly hoping to bust some heads. “I’m sorry.”
“I forgive you, m’friend.”
There was a silence, and Tommy couldn’t help but stare back down at his bare feet and trace awkward circles in the grass. “Are we at least still on the back of a giant flying turtle?”
Nox’s laughter practically shook the ground. “Of course, m’friend. We are still on the back of a giant flying turtle.”
Tommy licked his chops. “Cool. Cool. So uh...there’s nobody to fight?”
“Heh...you said ‘nay’.” War or peace that one never got old. “So what else is there to do?”
The horse-man scratched his nose and twitched. Tommy got that look whenever he had a particularly jagged booger that needed picking but he didn’t want to be rude and go digging for gold. “We could go on a quest,” he suggestion.
That perked Tommy up a bit. “A quest?” Tommy didn’t know what a quest was in this context, but it sounded kind of fun. “Are quests fun?”
“Aye, m’friend. Most amusing.” Nox patted Tommy on the head. He grinned. “And I’d be honored to accompany you and your first! You never forget your first!”
Tommy felt his heart pounding. “Alright! Let’s quest!”
“Hop on my back m’friend!” Tommy half walked half waddled to the centaur. No saddle. No super jumping, and Nox wasn’t moving to boost him with his arms. Tommy let out a little cough...hoping that would be enough.
It was. From behind, a long prehensile, almost monkey-like tail snaked around Tommy’s waist and boosted him up onto the horseman’s back. His legs straddling the horse part, Tommy felt the pulpy squish of the wet Goodnite beneath him more accutel than ever. It was impossible to ignore. “Nox?” Tommy asked. “Didn’t you have a scorpion tail before?”
“Nay, m’friend,” Nox assured him. “Why?”
“Are you sure?” Tommy asked. “I could’ve sworn that-”
“Excuse me, m’friend,” Nox interrupted. “But is there something different about your smallclothes?”
Tommy blushed. “Smallclothes?”
“Your breeches m’friend. It feels like there's a thin cushion between my back and your bum.”
Tommy’s eyes shot open. He wasn’t the only one feeling the night diaper. “Oh, that?” he bluffed. “Transformed when I got here. It’s called an under-saddle. Popular for horseback riding in Earth Realm. Less mess...” Crud! Why’d he say mess?! “I mean muss. Don’t have to take the saddle off and on if it’s beneath your clothes.”
Nox pawed at the ground like an adult suspiciously tapping his foot. “Are you su-?”
Nox took off at a full gallop through the forests growing on the back of the giant sky turtle with Tommy hanging on for dear life and grinning like an idiot; Nox’s tail wrapped around his midsection to steady the boy. As the centaur made that first terrifying leap at the end of the shell, Tommy heard the faintest screeching in the wind... a distant bird.
aged8years4ever · Dec 6, 2021I absolutely love this story. Somehow, the combination of fantasy story and the almost-un-noticed-by-the-victim regression is just perfect. There is something very cool about the regression. I mean, I know one reason I like it; you did an early reveal on the end-game for our hero, and it's a neat take on the idea, one I'm always looking for but rarely find. Even though it's fantasy-based, there is something somehow more plausible than normal about it; a regressive disease that then stunts all physical and mental growth at a young, but very cute, stage. I love it. Not to mention your technical excellence; you know how to present a story, and this one takes skill. C. S. Lewis ain't easy to tread on! You do have his heart, though; I really like how the teens around Tommy have softened their ways around him. It adds perfectly to the story and it's origins. I sure hope this hasn't faded to far into the background for you. I have my fingers crossed you will gently take our ever-littler hero to his childish destination.