Whiglewim and his three wiccan companions found themselves falling endlessly through a void that was dark, yet oddly bright at the same time. The sudden drop into the bowels of the earth had come suddenly and without warning, causing them all to shriek in terror.
The Joranian wizard was the first to stop screaming, realizing that they had not yet hit the bottom. Whiglewim looked about, seeing a swirling amalgam of white light and pitch darkness writhing about one other like a mass of serpents at war. From the sensation of the wind whipping around him, Whiglewim decided that he was indeed falling. But then, the wind stream should have been flowing upward past him, and it was not. In fact, the air was buffeting him from all sides, as though he were hurtling in all directions at once. In fact, he had no sense whatsoever of up or down, left or right, or front or back.
In time, the wiccan women stopped screaming and looked about them in confusion.
“Where are we?” said Almon with a voice that came from Whiglewim’s right, even though she was to his left.
“Is it not obvious?” said Maitrin Shale with a voice from below, even though she was beside them. “We are in the faerie realm by way of the mushroom ring that we were foolish enough to step into!”
“Nay, not the faerie realm,” said Whiglewim as the inexplicit air currents whipped his beard about in every direction. “We are in some sort of a passage to the faerie realm, I’d wager.”
“What do we do now?” asked Maitrin Kayle, a touch of panic in her voice.
Whiglewim shrugged, “Wait to see where we end up. That is all the advice I can give.”
The three witches looked at the Joranian wizard in dismay. They had hoped for better counsel than that. Then they looked about themselves, as though hoping to find some sort of exit. Finding none, they absurdly started screaming again, perhaps more out of frustration than out of fear. Whiglewim joined in, having nothing better to do.
After a few minutes, they stopped.
“Well, wasn’t that fun?!” said Whiglewim, smiling like a jovial schoolboy.
The witches didn’t respond as they continued to plummet toward the Goddess knew where.
They had no sense of time. They could have been falling for several minutes, or for several hours. There was no way to tell. Nor was there any way to determine how fast they were going as the chaotic patterns of light and dark flowed by in all directions. It seemed that there was nothing about this place that possessed any respect for consistency.
It was only a matter of time before Whiglewim, though a very patient man, became weary of their situation. He though that they must be getting very close to the bottom of the earth. Now that would be a sight to see! The Joranian wizard wondered what lay beneath the world. Was it really was carried upon the back of a turtle as some of his colleagues said? Or perhaps they would simply drop through the world’s bottom and continue their fall into the myriad of stars that dotted an infinite void.
In time, the four mages became somewhat accustomed to their present surroundings and began to speak amongst themselves. They discussed their assigned quest. Could it now be considered a failure? Maitrin Almon considered this question, then simply shrugged, not knowing what to think. She turned to Whiglewim for his insight. But he, too, was at a loss. She huffed at him in annoyance, as though it was perfectly reasonable to assume that he would know something about their perpetual fall to nowhere. The wizard ignored her disappointment, having no use for the irrational notions of the opposite sex.
Eventually, Whiglewim dozed off. Why not? He had nothing better to do. He imagined that he would wake when he hit the bottom – if there was a bottom.
He might have been sleeping for hours, or for days for all he knew. But either way, he found himself lying on his side upon a cool, hard surface. He snapped to full wakefulness when he heard the din of shouts and giggles emitting from what must have been hundreds of sources. Many sounded highly pitched and overly childlike. Others were deep and resonating, like the rumbling of thunder.
In his prostrate position, Whiglewim saw a vast myriad of feet, mostly bare. The ones that were not, were covered by shoes that seemed to be crudely fashioned of bark and woven grass. As the wizard’s mind cleared, he noticed that not all of the bare feet he saw had five digits. Approximately half had only three or four toes on each foot. Still others were in the form of cloven hooves or rabbit’s feet. And as if that were not baffling enough, he saw several human like creatures standing about that ranged in height from merely an inch to only a single foot in height.
Whiglewim rubbed his bleary eyes as he struggled to rise. But before he could do so, he felt several hands grip his robes to hoist him on his feet. He frantically looked about for his companions, spotting them close by. They, too, were being held upright, and looked disoriented by their long drop into the midst of these bizarre people – if they could be called people at all.
Surrounding them was a jovial mass of lithe, nimble beings who were as diverse from one another as were the trees in the forest. Many had black or brown fur that covered them from head to toe. Others had extremely long chins and long sharp noses that extended past v shaped smiles. Half of them possessed black beady eyes that shined with cheerful intelligence. The rest had eyes that sparkled with all the colors of the rainbow, all of which presented dazzling displays of chromatic wonder. Most had faces with human features elongated to exotic proportions. Others possessed the heads of deer, goats, and rodents.
And there were dozens, no, hundreds of tiny beings no taller than a human finger flitting in the air over and between the heads of their captors, all of them as diverse as the larger folk among them. Each of them possessed butterfly, dragonfly, or feathery bird wings.
Most of these winged creatures were nude, baring mammary glands and phalluses without any hint of self-conscious modesty. Those who wore clothes were scantily clad as though their garb were nothing more than amusing decorations rather than a social necessity.
These beings could only be the Faerie Folk. And they were all gathered in a grand massive chamber, which might be described as an enormous ballroom – one that was far larger and grander than any that existed in the Pix. It possessed an elaborate gold leaf ceiling that soared over their heads at a height of fifty feet. Purple curtains with gold detailing were draped about countless mirrors that graced the walls of the room. Beneath their feet was a finely polished wooden floor. And before them was an enormous stage, framed by rose red curtains. Massive chandeliers, each one three times the size of a man, hung from the lofty ceiling and sparkled with supernaturally crystalline light.
Whiglewim did not see any exits or entrances of any kind within this massive ballroom. How did all these strange creatures gain entry? More importantly, how would he and his companions get out?
The Joranian wizard set these contemplations aside as he and his three wiccan companions were herded toward the stage. All four of them were forced to shout over the chaotic din made by the Faerie Folk, trying desperately to converse with one another. But it was no use. The hundreds of unintelligible voices chattering in their indecipherable language drowned them out, making communication between them impossible.
The four mages were ushered up a set of steps in front of the stage. Once there, they stopped and stared at a marvelous sight.
Before them stood a table that was approximately twenty feet long and was covered with a white, lace embroidered tablecloth. Upon it was the greatest assortment of food that the four mages had ever seen. There were trays of assorted cheeses and meats surrounded by carefully sectioned loaves of bread. There were plates upon plates of sliced roast beef, beef tenderloin, grilled chicken, and cooked potatoes, all of which were expertly placed using elevated platforms to form several mounds of sumptuous edibles.
Seeing this spectacular banquet reminded the companions of how famished they were. Indeed, the aroma that filled their nostrils made the meal impossible to resist. Without a second thought, all four scrambled in a mad dash toward the quartet of oaken chairs along the table facing the ballroom floor. Once seated, they began to devour the most extravagant feast they had ever had the luxury to enjoy.
Whiglewim helped himself to several slices of beef tenderloin: his favorite. He had not had such a treat since the wedding feast of King Solson and Queen Setsena. This he enjoyed with two baked potatoes and a large portion of peas. Maitrin Almon ate a whole roast chicken, cooked to a steaming honey brown and covered with a variety of seasoned spices. She barely noticed the utensils within her reach as she tore its legs and wings off with her bare hands and devoured them like a ravenous beast. Both Maitrin Shale and Kayle dug into large portions of noodles smothered with tomato sauce, speckled with pieces of ground beef and sausage.
As the bellies of the four mages filled, they washed their extravagant meal down with goblets of water, milk, and ale.
“By the Goddess,” said Maitrin Almon, being the first since sitting down to find use of her mouth for a purpose other than gluttony. “I have never been so hungry.”
“Nor have I,” said Whiglewim as he cut into to another slice of beef. “This is quite a delight.”
As they spoke, the faerie folk remained gathered before them on the ballroom floor, filling the entire area with their smiling friendly faces. The air above them was filled with flying sprites of all descriptions, playfully darting about above their heads. They all chattered and giggled in rapturous glee, apparently very happy to have pleased their new guests.
As the four mages continued to feast, the wiccan twins slowed their consumption, looks of concern appearing simultaneously upon their faces.
“I seem to recall a cautionary tale,” said Maitrin Shale. “It was about some unfortunate soul who stumbled upon the abode of the faerie folk. What were we told never to do upon entry to the faerie realm, sister?”
Maitrin Kayle’s chewing slowed to a complete stop, a look of dread in her eyes. “I hope it is not what I think it is.”
“Oh,” said Whiglewim as he helped himself to yet another slice of beef. “It must be about never eating whatever the Faerie Folk offer you. If you do, then you will become their slaves and be bound to their realm forever. - Or some such thing.”
Maitrins Almon, Kayle, and Shale immediately stopped eating and stared at the Joranian wizard in horror. Whiglewim, however, continued to munch away. Eventually though, he took notice of the three witches glaring at him.
“What is it?” he asked. “Why the shocked looks?” Then the wizard looked at the roast beef on his plate, and then looked back at the witches in sudden understanding. “Oh dear,” he said in a small timid voice.
“You fool!” Maitrin Almon exclaimed as she dropped her utensils and rose from her seat. “You knew about this all this time, and yet you didn’t stop us? You didn’t even stop yourself?”
“I-I-I” stammered Whiglewim, his fork dropping to his plate in an audible clatter. “I was so ravenous. All I could think about was the delicious food. It was in the back of my mind, I suppose …”
Whiglewim trailed off as he looked past over banquet table at the faerie folk, whose mood and appearance markedly altered before their very eyes. The bright and cheery colors of oranges and yellows that adorned them darkened into shades of blues and blacks. And the lively twitters they emitted had become mean spirited growls and cackles. Most particularly, their faces had twisted from the pleasant, cheerful features that glowed with welcome benignity into baleful sneers of malevolence. Teeth that had been flat had become sharp. Eyes that were once wide with excitement and joy had narrowed into glares of malicious intent.
“Oh dear,” Whiglewim said again as he placed his fingers over his mouth in a gesture of dismay.
“Is that all you have to say?!” said Maitrin Almon indignantly. She was ready to throttle this absent-minded dunderhead. But before she could, the faerie folk began climbing onto the stage to seize their prize.
“Oh, you thrice cursed fool!” said Maitrin Almon in helpless anger as the Faerie Folk swarmed over the banquet table and snatched her and the other three mages into their possession.
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