Chapter Description: Tom arrives in a strange new world.
Chapter 5: Malacus
“A whole new world
A new fantastic point of view
No one to tell us, "No"
Or where to go
Or say we're only dreaming”
“The fuck is Malacus?”
The centaur spoke. “Malacus is here, m’lord.” Damn thing could actually talk! Thomas Dean looked up at the centaur and managed to power himself up to all fours before vomiting out more pond water. A little pool was starting form at the centaur’s feet, causing it (him?) to take a few clomping steps backward.
Still gasping and sputtering, Tom looked up at the thing standing on all fours in front of him. It wasn’t a proper centaur like in the story books. Deer antlers sprouted out from a human head full of long shoulder length black hair. The matching beard was long, too, but not quite Santa-Claus-ZZ-Top-Dumbledore-Fuck-Off length. It’s pelt was black but a shade lighter than it’s human hair.
Its beard didn’t strike Tom as odd, but Centaurs were supposed to be part human, part horse. Not deer. The hooves definitely resembled a Clydesdale or some big warhorse than any dainty woodland critter on the run from wolves. Tom didn’t need an A in biology to know that horses didn’t typically have giant scorpion tails arching up over their shoulders. This was more like on some metal band’s art on their demo album than a real centaur.
Tom snorted at his own absurd thoughts. Real centaurs.
“M’Lord?” It...the centaur...he seemed worried.
What did you do when an impossible myth was inquiring after your well being? Talk to it, Tom guessed.“ You’re,” he paused for breath,“Malacus?”
Antlers and hair shook in the air in an oddly animal refutation. All jerky. “Nay,” the centaur said. “Malacus is here. It is the ground you lay upon; the air you breathe. The water you’ve expelled from your lungs and stomach. That is Malacus, m’lord.”
Tom grinned. “Heh...heh…nay...” This still wasn’t real.
“Is something amusing, m’lord?” The centaur frowned.
“Besides you calling me ‘m’lord’, yeah.” Tom wheezed and laughed. “You just said ‘nay’ and you’re part horse.”
“Methinks ye had too much water from the Mana Pool, m’lord.” A hairy muscular arm reached down and offered Tom a hand up. The young man accepted and was yanked to his feet as easily as if he were a ragdoll.
Tom let out a yelp and then steadied himself, barefoot in the grass. Now was not the time to be asking stupid questions. He’d seen enough shows and read enough books to know all the basic tropes of a high fantasy world. Besides, he was dreaming. That meant he already knew the all the answers.
Dripping he turned around and pointed at the dark blue pond he’d been yanked from. “Mana Pool?”
The centaur nodded. It was jerkier. More animalistic than a human nod. Kind of like when a horse counted with its hooves. “Aye, m’lord.”
“Soooo….magic portal type thing? Links your world and Earth Realm?”
“Earth Realm?” The centaur seemed confused. “The Land of Men is now called Earth Realm?”
“Uh...yeah,” Tom said. “It’s definitely Earth Realm.” Earth Realm sounded so much cooler than ‘The Land of Men’. It was Tom’s brain. Tom’s dream. He could call Scrumpton, Georgia any damn thing he wanted.
The horse-dear-scorpion-man snorted. “Very well, M’lord. Earth Realm.” He still seemed a little off put. “I forgot how differently time moves in...Earth Realm. And how quick humans are to change the names of even ancient things.” Then he added, “And aye, the Mana Pool connects our two worlds.”
Tom couldn’t stop smirking. “And you’re a centaur? Really a centaur?”
“That is what the two legged folk call us.” The centaur stood up a little straighter, crossing his arms. Proud, but not indignant.
Tom took the bait. “What do you call yourselves?”
“Two legged folk can’t pronounce it,” the man with the horse half said. “You don’t have the hooves.” He smirked. “Or the glands. Centaur is fine, m’lord.”
The high school senior took a step closer to the centaur. There was something familiar about this fantasy creature. “You know,” he said, “you kind of look like Mr. Jordan.”
“My math teacher.”
“How so, m’lord?”
“If you didn’t have the horns, you’d look exactly like him.” Tom said. “Or the long hair. Or the beard. Or the tail. Or the horse body, of course.” Tom wiggled his ears a bit. There was a bit of a scottish lilt in the creature’s speech. “Different accent, too.”
The centaur snorted. “So if almost everything was different about me, m’lord, I’d be like your numbers instructor?”
“Aye.” Tom laughed at himself. “I mean yes.” The centaur waited. A hint of indignation on his face. “What’s your name, anyway?”
Like the parent of a child that just remembered his manners, the centaur seemed please. His facial features softened. “Equestrinox m’lord.”
Equestrinox. A play on equestrian. “Niiiiiice!”
“I think so.”
“Okay, Equestrinox,” Tom said. “I’m Tom.” He held out his hand. Equestrinox gripped it by the wrist. “Nice to meet you.”
“An honor, m’lord.”
They released each other’s wrists. Truth be told, it was closer to Tom running out of strength and giving up, and the burly centaur reading Tom’s body language. “May I call you Nox?”
“Most two legged folk do.”
It was Tom’s dream. He could call the weird ass centaur whatever he wanted. But Equistrinox sounded okay. Nox sounded badass. Good thing his dream was being so agreeable. Tom really needed a good dream after the shit day he’d been through.
Back to worldbuilding:
He pointed back at the pond. “So, Mana Pool. Right?”
“Gateway between two worlds?”
Tom pointed past the centaur to the dense forest behind him. “Enchanted forest?”
“The Wandering Woods, m’lord.”
Tom wracked his sleep addled brain for his geek credentials. Musicals weren’t the only things that made him a social outcast back in Scrumpton. “It teleports? Vanishes? What makes it wandering?”
Nox pouted out his lips a bit. “We’re on the back of a giant sky turtle, m’lord. We’re going to have to race to the head to convince it to land.” He might as well have said, “There’s a slight chance that it’ll rain today, m’lord. But I brought an umbrella for our picnic.”
Tom’s smile was a full on idiotic grin. Kickass! “And am I like the chosen one?” Tom asked, already knowing full well the answer. “Something something foretold something something?”
A shaggy eyebrow cocked. “Aye, m’lord. It is said that whenever Malacus is in peril from the forces of darkness, a human arises from the Mana Pool to conquer that evil and save the land.”
The scrawny little dork pumped his elbows. “Bad ass!”
“Indeed.” Nox said. His brow furrowed in thought. “Excuse my impertinence, m’lord, but where do you come by such insight?”
Tom’s heart skipped a beat. Don’t tell the dream creature that this is your dream. Don’t tell the dream creature that this is your dream. Mustn’t let the horse-dear-scorpion-math teacher-thing think you’re razy. “Uhhh...aren’t humans revered in Malachi-?”
“Malacus...for their wisdom and insight?”
The centaur stifled a laugh. “Humans are revered in our legends for many things, m’lord Tom. But wisdom isn’t one of them.” He turned around and lowered his monstrous tail. “Now come,” Nox said. “Hop on and we’ll be on our way. We’ve got to get off this sky turtle and procure you some suitable vestments. THEN your quest can begin in earnest.”
With no saddle or step ladder, Tom had to be helped onto the centaur’s back. A single powerful bicep curl was all it took. It was like a strange piggy back ride from when he was a kid.
The centaur started trotting into and Tom wrapped his arms around Nox’s gigantic chest for balance. Tom looked around the forest, birds and squirrel-like animals darting from tree to tree. “Narnia,” Tom said, amazed. “I’ve got my own Narnia!”
Nox looked over his shoulder and Tom could see a frown of confusion. “I beg your pardon m’lord,” he said. “But to use your own particular human parlance: The fuck is Narnia?”