Willy OíToole woke up with a throbbing headache. His mouth was hot and dry and tasted like the bottom of a garbage can. His blanket of newspapers slid off as he rose from the park bench and swung his feet to the ground. He reached for the bottle under the bench and groaned when he discovered it was empty.
His shaking hands dropped the bottle, and it shattered as it hit the concrete walk. He gazed around. It was still early and the park was empty. There were no prospects to hit up for spare change to get another bottle of wine; heíd have to leave the park and hit the streets.
He picked up his knapsack which contained all his meager possessions: a change of clothing and a few personal items. As he turned to leave, he was startled to hear a voice behind him.
"Looks like you could use a drink, mílad. A little hair of the dog, maybe?"
Willy spun around, causing his aching head to throb even more. A man was standing there, proffering a bottle to him. Heíd just looked around; nobody had been there a moment ago. The man looked to be from the streets, but Willy had never seen him before. He stared at the man.
"Sorry if I startled you," the man said. He spoke in a strange, lilting accent, which was unfamiliar to Willy.
"No problem. Guess I didnít see you come up." Willy wondered how he could have missed the man. He held out his hand. "My nameís Willy."
"They call me Clancy. Now then, how about a little drink to celebrate our new friendship?"
"You betcha." With trembling hands, Willy took the bottle and raised it to his lips. He took a long pull and felt a slight burning sensation as the liquid slid down his throat. When it hit his stomach, he felt as if the top of his head would blow off. And then he felt great.
His headache evaporated. The foul taste in his mouth disappeared. Even his hands stopped trembling. He felt a warm, pleasant glow coming over him. He felt wonderful, and from just one little drink. "Wow! What was that stuff?"
Clancy winked. "The elves made it. Cures hangovers. Makes you feel good, but never makes you drunk." Clancy held out another bottle. "If you think that was good, try a little of this."
Willy took the second bottle and raised it to his lips. This one tasted bland and had no kick. But after taking a sip of the drink, he looked around to see that Clancy had vanished. So had the bench, the walk, and the park itself. Willy now stood in a beautiful, enchanting forest glade.
A small elf-like creature stood where Clancy had been standing. The little man was about knee-high to Willy. What the devil had Clancy given him to drink? Had he slipped some LSD or other mind-bending drug into the bottle?
"What...I mean...whereís Clancy?"
"Youíre lookiní at him. And in just a moment, youíll shrink down to the same size as me."
Clancy had no sooner spoken than Willy felt himself shrinking. In seconds, he was eye-to-eye with Clancy. "What the devilís going on? Where is this place? What did you give me to drink?"
"Youíve got an explanation coming, and Iíll give it to you straight. What Iím about to say will shock you, mílad, so steady yourself. The first bottle I gave you was just what I said it was. The second bottle was a magic potion prepared by The Keeper, ruler of the Wee Folk.
"The Keeperís potion worked to transport you from your own world into this one. Youíre now in Elfenwurl, the realm of The Wee Folk: elves, fairies and the like. Elfenwurl lies in a different dimension from that of the world that you know."
"But...why on earth..."
"If youíll be quiet Iíll explain. Wee Folk canít procreate, so we must bring in new recruits from time to time to replenish our numbers. We live for eons, but weíre not immune to death by accident.
"Youíre a recruit, youíve been chosen to join us."
"You brought me here against my will." Willy moved toward Clancy menacingly. "You kidnapped me, and youíd better get me back or youíll be one sorry little elf."
Clancy stepped back. "Thereís no goiní back, Willy. Youíre in Elfenwurl to stay. Only elves like me, who have a special talent, can travel back and forth between worlds. All others must use The Keeperís potion, and the potion is only good for a one-way trip to Elfenwurl. You donít have the talent, Willy, so youíd best resign yourself to stayiní."
"I warned you, man." Willy lunged, but abruptly found himself unable to move.
"Iíve bound you with magic, mílad. Iím lettiní you loose, but try that again and Iíll bind you for keeps. Youíd best hear me out."
"You win," said Willy. "Go ahead."
"Itís not as bad as it seems to you now. Many of The Wee Folk were once mortals, but theyíre now liviní happily among us. Youíll soon be one of us. Your conversion will be complete when The Keeper decrees it."
"The keeper? What do you..."
"The Keeper rules us. She is the keeper of The Book of Enchantment, which gives her supreme power and authority over us. The Book gives all The Wee Folk magic powers, but no one can match the power of The Keeper. Each individual also has two special talents--granted by The Book--that few others have, such as me own talents to travel between worlds and to shape shift.
"When The Keeper declares you to be one of us, youíll be endowed with magic powers plus your two special talents. Nobody, not even The Keeper, knows what special talents The Book will give you." Clancy chuckled. "Who knows, maybe one of your special talents will be to travel between dimensions, like I do. Have you any questions?"
"Are you saying that you are the only elf with the power to travel between dimensions?"
"Sure, and there are others with the talent, but we are few. In times past, there were many of us. Elves, fairies, sprites, and other Wee Folk traveled to your world. We were then well known to the people of your world, but now we are but a myth to your people."
"Why me?" Willy asked. "Why the devil did you pick me as a recruit?"
"Because of your situation. Beggars, drunks, and the like have few friends. Youíll not likely be missed."
Willy nodded. "Iíll sure buy that."
"If youíve no more questions, Iíll take you to meet Lara, The Keeper."
Lara dismissed Clancy. The elf bowed and left. She sat high on her throne, looking down at Willy. Willy had seen no ugliness among The Wee Folk; apparently they worked magic to become beautiful. But even among The Wee Folk, the beauty of the raven-haired, violet-eyed Lara stood out.
Lara spoke, interrupting his thoughts. "I donít believe in long speeches or ceremony. Willy OíToole, you were brought to Elfenwurl for one reason: to become one of us. In so doing, you will become an elf of the realm and acquire magic powers."
She studied him. "Youíre a handsome one. Most mortals who come before me are unsightly vagrants. They all choose to change their looks after I transform them. If I may say so, in your case that wonít be necessary." She laughed. "But you should get rid of that stubble."
She placed her right hand on The Book. "Willy OíToole, I declare you to be an Elf of the Realm." At these words, Willy felt a wave of power surging through his body. He was now one of The Wee Folk--and he immediately knew what his two special talents were. One of those talents gave him the ability to conjure up magical potions from thin air--a rare talent, but not considered an especially useful talent in Elfenwurl. But the other talent was very, very special, and Willy could see that Lara recognized that talent.
Her eyes widened. "Now there are two of us," she said, "two of us with the talent to control The Book."
"But that would seem meaningless," Willy observed, "since you are already in control."
"It is anything but meaningless," she said. "The Book itself decrees what will happen in such a situation. The presiding Keeper must step down, and the new Keeper must assume control of The Book. That is how I came to be The Keeper of The Book many years ago. Like it or not, Willy OíToole, you are the new ruler of The Wee Folk."
It wasnít difficult. The Book of Enchantment guided him. It told him how to rule. It guided him in making decisions. When a question came to his mind, he only had to place his hand on The Book and ask. The Book would send the answer to his mind. And The Book gave him power--a greater power than any other elf in the realm.
Several days after Willy gained control of The Book, Clancy came to visit him.
"So you really are the new Keeper. I must say, thatís an unexpected turn of events. I was quite surprised when I heard the news."
Willy noted that Clancy did not bow, nor did he observe the customary courtesies the other Wee Folk displayed in the presence of The Keeper. Indeed, his manner was downright rude.
"Lara was a great Keeper," he went on, "and itís a shame that we lost her. Frankly, mílad, I donít think youíve got it in you to be the Keeper."
Willy was taken aback. What the devil did Clancy have up his sleeve? Why would he risk angering The Keeper--the most powerful being in the realm?
"What are you getting at, Clancy? Think youíd like to take The Book from me? Think you can control it?"
"I realize that I donít have the talent to control The Book. But I do have the power to take it from you--and return it to Lara."
Was Clancy working with Laraís backing? Had she retained some secret control of The Book?
"Just how do you think youíll take it from me Clancy? If Laraís given you some kind of power, remember that I still control The Book. And Iíll use it to fight you both."
Clancy laughed. "You donít know Lara. She would never stoop to become involved in the kind of things I do. Her hands are clean. But I donít mind gettiní me hands dirty in a good cause. And when I get rid of you, sheíll never know how or why you disappeared. Sheíll have no choice but to resume her role as Keeper."
So Lara wasnít involved after all. Apparently Clancy simply resented a newcomer taking the throne. But did his resentment blind him to the consequences of his foolhardy actions?
"Youíre getting in deeper and deeper, Clancy. You must know that I can strip you of your powers and have you booted out of the realm."
"Itís you thatíll get booted out, mílad. I have a secret power that I havenít divulged to anyone up to now. During me travels throughout many worlds, I learned a trick from a great and powerful wizard. With a snap of me fingers, I can send anyone--yourself included--off to a horrible world, never to be seen again." He held out his hand, thumb pressed against middle finger.
"Remember that The Book protects me," said Willy. "Your power will backfire on you. Itís you that will end up on this horrible world."
Clancy laughed. "I know a little about The Book, mílad. Yes, The Book will protect you, but it must know what to protect you from. Itís certain that The Book can defeat any magic in Elfenwurl, including magic brought in from any other world. But The Book must first recognize that itís a new magic, and then take steps to deal with it. Iíve never used this power, and therefore it is still unknown to The Book.
"Once I use the power, The Book will instantly become aware of it and take steps to deal with it, after which Iíll no longer be able to use this power. But by then, itíll be too late for you--youíll be enjoyiní the nice, cool climate of a distant world. And furthermore, The Book will have no record of what happened to you, because by the time The Book realizes thereís a new magic to deal with, youíll be gone. And since youíll no longer be in Elfenwurl, The Book wonít know your whereabouts."
Clancy chortled. "By the way, did I mention that there are certain properties on this world youíre about to visit that will weaken your powers? Only your two special powers will remain intact, but theyíll do you little good."
If Clancy was telling the truth, then Willy figured that his only solution was to command The Book to seek out Clancyís power and nullify it before Clancy had a chance to use it. He placed his hand on The Book.
"I know what youíre up to mílad." Clancy snapped his fingers. "Have a good trip."
Willy found himself standing in a bleak mountainous area. It was freezing, and he was wearing the thin clothing of Elfenwurl. He looked up to see a small, dim sun in the sky. Itís light was feeble, and he could feel no warmth from it.
From his vantage point, he could see a valley down below, with a stream of some sort running through it and small patches of scrub brush here and there. There was no sign of civilization anywhere. He imagined that in ages past, this might have been a world with luxuriant vegetation, and perhaps even animal life. But it was a dying world now, and if he didnít find a way to get off this world soon, he would freeze to death.
He still had his magic powers--his normal elf powers and his two special talents. But Clancy had said that his magic would be weakened on this world, except for his special talents. But his talent to control The Book was meaningless now. It was out of his reach.
He decided to try a few spells to see what happened. He searched his mind for a magic spell that would help him now. More than anything, he wanted warmth. Of course! He could produce a fairy flame.
But he found the fairy flame to be of no use; the magic flame danced prettily in the air before him emitting radiant light, but no heat. Next, he attempted a spell that would conjure up warm clothing. He succeeded in conjuring up nothing more than an image of a parka. Several more attempted spells produced similar disappointments. Clancy was right.
He noted that the dim sun was now high in the sky. If it were this cold at noon, he would never survive a night on this planet. He started moving down toward the valley, hoping that he might luck upon a hot spring, or perhaps a deep cave where the temperature remained constant. If nothing else, he hoped to find something to cover his body.
The sun was much lower in the sky when he reached the floor of the valley. But he found only desolation there. The stream he had seen was frozen over. He was exhausted from the climb down, but he dared not sit down to rest for fear of freezing to death. Determined not to give up, he kept moving in hopes he would find a way to survive.
He spotted a patch of the scrub brush, and an idea came to him. If his magic couldnít save him, maybe his ingenuity would. He broke up several small twigs for kindling, and then began rubbing two sticks together. But he was no woodsman, and his efforts produced nothing.
Too exhausted to move on, he sat down on a rock to await the inevitable. There was nothing left. Every spell he had tried had resulted in some kind of half-measure. As Clancy had predicted, his normal powers were indeed weakened. That left his two special talents, but his special power to control The Book was meaningless, since it was out of his reach. "If only one of my special talents had been to start fires. Or if I had a special talent to conjure up ..." And then it occurred to him that he had a way out of this world all the time, and hadnít realized it.
"What if Iíd died on this forsaken world," he thought, "and never remembered that my second talent permitted me to conjure up magic potions." This special talent would permit him to conjure up the same kind of potion that Clancy had given him to transport him from Earth to Elfenwurl. The potion was good only for one-way travel to Elfenwurl, but that was all he needed.
The spell for conjuration could not be done with a snap of his fingers, but it wouldnít take more than a minute. He noted that the dim sun of this world wasnít far from setting.
He was about halfway through the spell when he was interrupted by a noise behind him. He wheeled around to see several creatures stalking him. The creatures resembled monstrous rats. They were as big as German Shepherds and were covered with thick, black fur. He counted four of them, and they were already moving to surround him.
He spotted a cluster of rocks nearby, at the foot of a mountain. Many of the rocks and boulders were closely spaced, forming narrow crevices. Once he made it into the rocks, he would be safe. The bloated creatures would be unable to follow him into the tight spaces. He hurried toward the rocks, but the creatures already had him surrounded and were closing in on him.
One of the giant rats blocked his way to the rocks. He tried paralyzing the beast with a magic binding spell. The weakened spell lasted only a few seconds, but it gave Willy enough time to speed past its inert form and head for the safety of the rocks.
The rocks were farther away than he had judged them to be. He wasnít at all sure that he could make it in time. Fortunately, the lumbering creatures were not fast runners, but neither was Willy. His small elf legs couldnít cover much ground. He was beginning to tire, and the creatures were gaining on him. He was breathing hard, and the cold air he was sucking into his lungs made his chest ache.
He was almost to the rocks now. As he looked back, he stumbled and fell. The creatures were bearing down on him. In desperation, he threw up his hands and summoned a spell of thunder and lightning to strike his attackers. The spell resulted in a small flash of light and a pop like firecracker. But that was enough. The beasts stopped dead in their tracks while Willy scrambled to the rocks.
He made it to the safety of the rocks, and after catching his breath, he resumed working the spell to conjure the magic potion.
Willy, still shivering from the cold, arrived back on Elfenwurl and found himself in the throne room of The Keeper. Lara was there, engaged in conversation with Clancy. Both looked up in surprise when Willy materialized. Lara ran up to him as Clancy scampered from the room.
"Willy! Whatís the matter? Are you all right?"
"Just cold. Iíll be all right."
"But where have you been? Clancy was trying to convince me that you had attacked him, and that he defended himself with a secret power heíd learned during his travels. I asked The Book, but it knew nothing except that you disappeared while it was dealing with a new and evil power that came from Clancy. I had no idea where you were. What happened to you?"
Willy explained to her all that had happened.
"How will you punish him?" she asked.
"The harshest punishment The Book will allow," he said. "Heíll be stripped of all his magic powers and banished to the wastelands of Elfenwurl."
But Clancy was nowhere to be found; he had made use of his power to escape into another dimension. Willy learned from The Book, however, that Clancyís elf powers would begin to wane in a few decades, for all elves must return to Elfenwurl from time to time to renew their magic powers. And The Book had banished Clancy from Elfenwurl for all time.
Willy also learned that Clancy would be in for another shock. The Book had stripped him of his two special powers of shape changing and jumping through dimensions. When he fled Elfenwurl, he had made his last jump.
Clancy, of course, had to be replaced. Willy summoned Nikki--a fairy with the talent to travel between worlds--and sent her to recruit a replacement for Clancy.
Nikkiís recruit was a homely old barfly called Nellie. When Nellie came before Willy, he officially decreed her to be one of The Wee Folk. Willy laughed in delight as Nellie immediately used her new powers to transform herself into a likeness of the genie that Barbara Eden had portrayed on TV, even to the costume.
Although Willy ruled the Wee Folk, he had no real understanding of their culture. He consulted The Book to learn of the culture of his subjects.
The culture of The Wee Folk was a culture of endless pleasures. Life was an endless party of dancing, feasting, games, and many and varied forms of revelry. Parties were always going on, moving from one castle to the next. The Wee Folk never grew tired of the fun and games. Many of their games involved sensual pleasures, and Willyís favorite playmates in such games were Lara and Nellie.
But unlike the others, Willy was growing tired of the endless party.
Few elves had the talent to travel between worlds. Willy did not have that talent, but he learned that The Book could send him back to Earth any time he chose. But there was a catch: once back in his own world, he would lose his two special powers--and thereby lose control of The Book.
His loss of powers on Earth would be the opposite of what it had been on the cold world; on the cold world heíd kept his two special powers, but on Earth he would lose them. , but keep his normal powers He wouldnít be able to conjure the potion for a one-way trip, as heíd done on the cold world. Maybe it wasnít such a great idea after all.
Anyway, life hadnít been that great on Earth. When Clancy found him, Willy was a thirty-year-old wino, bumming spare change for a hamburger and a bottle of wine. Once he had been a fairly successful stand-up comic in night clubs with a promising future ahead of him. But Willy had let booze get the best of him, and he had sunk to the bottom.
The magical qualities of elf wine, however, had cured him of his desire for alcohol. If he ever decided to return to his home world he could begin his life anew, without fear of ever being controlled by alcohol again.
But why would he want to leave Elfenwurl? Life among The Wee Folk was perfect. Men on Earth could only fantasize about the kind of life he was living, and all the other elves who had been recruited from Earth were extremely happy here. But with all the merriment among The Wee Folk, something was missing--he felt empty.
Yes, he enjoyed the games with Lara, Nellie, and others, but the pleasures were animalistic and sensual. Life in Elfenwurl was pleasurable, but virtually devoid of love and emotion. He did not understand why, but unlike the other converted elves, he had retained his human emotions.
If he was already getting bored after only a few months, what would it be like in hundreds of years--perhaps even thousands? He made up his mind. He was going back, whatever the consequences.
He didnít hide his intentions to return to his homeworld. After all, as long as he controlled The Book, nobody could stop him. He was The Keeper; he could do as he pleased. He made a public announcement so that Lara would be prepared to resume her role as Keeper. He picked up his knapsack, bade them farewell, and left the Realm of The Wee Folk forever.
He found himself, back to his normal size, standing by the same park bench where heíd met Clancy. An old man was sitting on the park bench reading a newspaper when Willy materialized. The old man, clearly startled by the sudden appearance of Willy, dropped his paper.
Willy sat down on the bench. "Didnít mean to startle you, sir."
"Itís all right. I guess I didnít hear you coming." The man mumbled something about keeping an appointment, looked at his watch, and left.
Willy picked up the paper and checked the date. He had been gone about six months.
Although his two special powers had left him, he still retained his normal powers. Those normal elf powers would begin to wane in a few decades, but Willy figured by then he would be rich and famous.
He went to the nearest public restroom, where he shaved and tidied up. He then set out for one of the best night clubs in town.
Willy resumed his stand-up comedy act on the night club circuit, his act now augmented with sensational magic tricks. He was rapidly becoming the talk of the town. People were delighted with his no-gimmick-no-prop, seemingly endless bag of magic tricks.
Then came TV guest appearances, followed by several TV specials starring Willy. Soon he was negotiating with a network for his own TV show. Willy OíToole, former alcoholic and homeless man, was on his way to stardom.
Then one day, about one year after his return from Elfenwurl, Willy learned of a sensational magician on the rise in Europe. He was called Clancy The Incredible.
Donald Sullivan is a native Floridian and a retired military man, now living in Fayetteville, NC with one wife and one Schnauzer. In addition to writing, he enjoys collecting old music, hiking, swimming, and gardening.
Visit Aphelion's Lettercolumn and voice your opinion of this story.
Return to the Aphelion main page.