Wanda did not enjoy being a godmother. Sure, it got you a lot of respect, and she never had to pay for anything when she visited taverns. Everyone would play nice to her because they thought she could grant them wishes or something. Of course, she wasn’t a genie or a cosmic butler. She was a godmother. Even still, not every godmother got to do fieldwork. Some got stuck at a desk or ended up cleaning headquarters. That never made sense to Wanda. You’d think godmothers could cast spells to make brooms and mops clean for them. When she’d asked about why they didn’t do that, she was told that that sort of magic was beneath them. After all, was she some sort of magician’s apprentice? Wanda thought that mopping was beneath her. Still, she wasn’t even the janitor. She was the door-mother. Her job was to keep track of who came and went. It wasn’t too dull, but it definitely didn’t require any kind of magical talents. Mainly, it involved hanging out at the front desk. It was dull as daw. Fairy books helped pass the time well. She had read half the Godmother High Command library since she’d drawn this duty. So, it wasn’t all bad. Today she was reading the story of a group of children who found a witch in their closet and fought her with the help of a friendly lion.
The clanging of the bell that hung by the doors to the Great Hall interrupted her reading. She wondered for a moment if the bell had been ringing for a while. She occasionally got so engrossed in the story she was reading that she didn’t notice anything that happened around her. She let it ring again out of spite over the disturbance. After all, who in the 12 Kingdoms was out and about in the middle of the night and during a rain storm?
Annoyed, she dog-eared the page, which she technically wasn’t supposed to do because it was a library book and fairy books contain unpredictable magic. Mishandling them had caused more than a few to burst into flames or fly off like birds. Wanda’s irritation at the interruption and her boring job made it easy to damage Godmother property. She felt it was a sort of revenge. Fluttering her wings, she hovered grouchy to the door. Waving her wand in the secret sequence, she unlocked it. No sooner had the locking spell been lifted, when the door burst open. A short figure, dripping rainwater sloshed into the hall.
“Did you intend to leave me standing on the door step all day?” the dripping figure demanded. His voice was muffled because he was speaking through a scarf that was wrapped around the lower part of his face. Silver hair hung in dripping strands onto the scarf, with a pair of pointy ears poking through and pointing to the ceiling. “I’m drenched! It’ll be your fault if I catch a sniffle!” the strange man shouted.
“I… Uh… I’m sorry,” was all Wanda could stutter out before the tiny figure began shouting about inspecting the Godmother’s collection of tapestries for his research. Wanda wasn’t good at confrontation, which probably had a lot to do with why she was was assigned the door mother job. The shouting flustered her further. “I… uhhh… I can get the duty sergeant. She can take you to the vaults. I’m sure…” Wanda’s words trailed off when the dripping elf pulled off his scarf to wring it out, leaving no small amount of water on the floor.
“The Doctor. I’m so sorry. I didn’t realize it was you!” The poor junior class godmother was now aware that she was totally out of her depth. The Doctor had helped the godmothers in the past with sticky problems, but it was always hush-hush. Only the High Command Council knew anything about him. Well, them and Wanda. That was the one advantage to being the door mother: everyone who came to the High Command had to come in through a door. Wanda’s job was to track them. She’d seen the Doctor in the past and had overheard snippets of conversation among the higher ups. She knew this was serious. If he complained about how she was performing her duties, he’d have the ears of the most senior godmothers. By the time they were through with her, she’d be lucky if she was allowed to sweep and mop.
“I’m so sorry Doctor. Let me get you a towel. Would you like some tea?” she fluttered back to her desk and began rummaging through the drawers looking for her magical tea set. “I’m sure that I can make you comfortable before you head in to meet with the superiors.”
“No need. Don’t bother yourself. I can probably forget that this whole incident happened. I’m sure I won’t get too sick from standing in the cold rain for so long. I’m sure the High Command won’t even ask about me being soaked when I meet with them,” Nemo replied, with a touch more drama than was strictly necessary. Still, he was playing a part and needed to sell this godmother on the idea that it was best to just let him by without any argument. “What did you say your name was again?”
“W-W-Wanda,” the godmother stuttered, fear gripping her with the possibility that if the elf knew her name he might actually complain about her. Her career hung in the balance.
“You know, I don’t really even need to see them right away. I’m only here to look at the tapestries in the vaults downstairs. If you let me by so I can do my work without having to waste an hour or two dealing with the bureaucrats upstairs, they won’t even see ‘the dripping wet doctor’ at all,” devilish grin spread across the elf face as he spoke. “What do you say?”
“That’s against the rules,” the godmother replied, her voice trembling.
“You’re right. I’ll just pop on up there to talk to the boss. Hey, is that a fairy book you’re reading at your desk? Is it any good? I know I sometimes get so enthralled in a good read that I forget to do the job that is right in front of me,” Nemo replied, his voice full of resignation. Wanda’s eyes grew wide when she realized how badly this would go for her. She wasn’t technically supposed to have the fairy book and she wasn’t technically supposed to be reading during her shift. “Well, I’ll see you… or not,” he spoke over his shoulders as he headed for the stairs.
“No! Wait! I’m sure it’s not a big deal for you to go to the vault for a little bit. Management trusts you. There’s no need for them to hear about all this,” Wanda replied in a half whisper. “Just head on downstairs and be quick. If you get caught down there unaccompanied, it’ll cause problems.”
“Are you sure? I really do appreciate it. You can trust me. I would never be anything but trustworthy,” the elf replied as she strolled gingerly to the stairs. “Let me know how the book ends,” he called out over his shoulder as he disappeared below.
Wanda plopped down at her desk, unleashing a sigh of relief. She eyed the fairy book on her desk and quietly stowed it in her bottom drawer, underneath a pile of logs. She’d get back to it another day after she’d forgotten the fear of repercussions she felt right now.
Nemo followed the winding stairwell down deep beneath Godmother HQ. Relieved that his ruse had worked, but anxious with the knowledge that he might be making his life significantly harder if he were to get caught. He had a tenuous relationship with the Godmothers. They saw him as a necessary evil. They hated admitting that they needed help with any sorts of problems, but they definitely had needed him to solve some big ones in the past. In turn, he enjoyed the perks of being a friend of the organization. Several times in the past few years, he’d needed their help to get out of difficult jams. As floor after floor disappeared above him, Nemo wondered at the strange choice the godmothers had made in building their vaults so deep underground. They were paranoid beyond reason. Most of their stored artifacts were museum worthy. In fact, he candidly thought the vault was a sort of private museum for the powerful in the Fairy Kingdom. There were some powerful pieces of magical history stored down there. Really, it was the sort of place that he’d often wished to be able to access privately. The next hour would determine if that would be a wish the godmothers unknowingly granted him or not.
Nemo reached the bottom level, where the spiraling staircase leveled out into a hallway that extended 30 feet to the vault door. His footsteps echoed against the walls as he gingerly approached the plain ironwood door. From previous visits, Nemo knew that the door was a trick. It wasn’t wood and it was enchanted to such a degree that the elf’s hair stood on end as he approached. The magic that crackled off the unassuming doorway filled the hallway with power. He stopped 5 paces away. He’d been in the vault several times before, a rarity for outsiders. He’d watched carefully as the Godmother Commander who’d escorted him worked through the magic locks. He wasn’t sure why, but every time the commander had stopped around 5 paces away. He suspected that moving closer would trigger a lockdown, an alarm or worse.
Rifling through his coat pocket, Nemo produced a small box, the sort that jewelers used to store the rings. Carefully, the elf lifted the lid revealing a tiny sprite.
“Come on little one. Wakey wakey. Time to sing your song,” the elf whispered to the sleeping sprite. It stirred slowly, stretching and yawning. Nemo had smuggled the creature into the vault during his last visit. Sprites are uniquely gifted in their ability to imitate voices, a talent they used to keep themselves hidden from predators and cause untold mischief wherever they went. In this case, Nemo had made certain the sprite had learned the musical portion of the combination to the vaults. The sleepy sprite sat up and began to sing in a perfect imitation of the Commander Godmother’s tones and pitch.
“Open Sesame,” the sprite repeated over and over eight times. Each repetition in a different note. When he finished, the hall fell silent for a moment. Nemo held his breath in anticipation of what would happen next.
Slowly, the stones in the floor began to grind and shift downward. A staircase emerged below. Nemo handed the sprite a sugar lump as he descended the staircase, careful to skip every other step as he’d seen the godmother do every time he’d been to the vault before. He knew he had about 3 minutes before the door closed itself. He’d learned the combination to exit the vaults, but had no intention of using it.
At the bottom of the stairs a cavern opened before him. Row upon row of shelves extended into the distance. Nemo wondered at what sort of magical treasures were spirited away from the world in this cornucopia of goodies and toys. The elf skipped down the rows, taking turns at random. He hadn’t noticed the vault was a magical labyrinth until his second visit. Even then it had taken 2 more visits to figure out the trick to reaching the center of the room, where the truly spectacular items were stored.
He wondered at the level of mistrust the godmothers displayed when it came to the vault. What made them think that a labyrinth was necessary to protect their treasures? Of course, he was there without an invitation, but what made them think anyone would go through so much effort to steal from them? Nemo had no intention of taking anything. In fact, he planned on making an addition.
After nearly 20 minutes of meandering through the shelves, he arrived at his destination. A circle of glass display cases containing dresses and godmother equipment. None of these things were specifically powerful. Rather, this was the Hall of Fame of the Godmother Order. None of these cases was ever opened for any reason. They were sealed in protective spells, preserving their contents in pristine condition for all time.
Nemo walked to the first case, stopping to admire the dress and satchel contained inside. The placard on granite pedestal declared the outfit to have belonged to ‘Merry Peppin’ the first of the great godmothers. He dug around in his coat, searching for a few moments before producing a silver cylinder with a spiked red egg attached to one end. Carefully, he held the odd tool a few inches from the door of the case before pressing a button on the end. It vibrated almost imperceptibly for a moment before the case creaked open.
“Ha! It worked,” the elf grinned and exclaimed to the empty vault. Stepping up into the display case, he dug around in the folds of his coat before finding Ambrosia’s satchel. It was identical to the satchel in the display case. The elf turned and closed himself into the display case and carefully picked up Merry Peppin’s satchel, replacing it with Ambrosia’s. Then, popping the lid open, he stepped inside Ambrosia’s bag. Reaching up, he closed it behind him.
Inside the strange nowhere of Ambrosia’s case, he turned and affixed a lock to the opening behind him. It wasn’t likely anyone would be opening the display case any time in the foreseeable future, but if they tried they’d find it quite impossible. He wanted to be the only one who got to enter and exit through that doorway.
Turning, the elf surveyed Ambrosia’s nowhere. Argos’ log cabin stood a few hundred yards from the entryway, smoke curling up from the chimney. The inviting smell of cooking food drew the elf toward the cabin. Walking through nowhere could be disorienting. The first hundred yards were lined with shelves, containing the odds and ends the godmother had stored in her satchel. After that, the ground and sky grew hazy. It was difficult to focus on them, mainly because they only sort of existed at all. They hung in-between real and imaginary. Distances were deceiving and it was hard to know if you were coming or going or standing still. Nemo had been in plenty of nowheres before. He was as used to it as anyone could be. He still found it disorienting and had to struggle to move about. After what seemed like an eternity of walking, which was likely no more than a minute or two, he arrived at the cabin door and let himself in.
“Don’t you knock?” the godmother cried out at the elf as he stamped inside.
“You don’t knock on restaurant doors. You have a lot to learn before you start seating customers,” the elf replied.
“I told you! We aren’t a restaurant. This is our house,” the godmother groused. “Besides, even if we were a restaurant, no-one would ever find us. We’re in the middle of my nowhere!”
“Yeah, that is a problem. But, it’s one I’m about to solve,” the elf replied, holding up Merry’s satchel.
“Where’d you find a godmother satchel? Whose is it?” Ambrosia replied suspiciously.
“It was just laying around. No one was going to use it, but now we are. So, we’re going to use it put a back door into your nowhere,” the elf responded nonchalantly.
“How are you going to do that?” the ex-godmother asked, taking the satchel from the elf. Examining it carefully, she spotted a small inscription on the handle: Merry Peppen. Her eyes grew wide as horror gripped her. “You robbed the vaults?”
“Well, not exactly. There’s a satchel in the vault and technically this one is still there. It’s just in the other satchel. Nothing was taken. In fact, I added something. They owe me for the satchel I gave them. Plus, they are looking all over the 12 Kingdoms for the contents of that satchel. I gave it to them. They just haven’t realized it. No one was hurt,” the elf explained quickly, with all the verbal magic of a used horse salesman.
“We’re in the vault?!” Ambrosia shouted. “You fool elf! What have you done? We’re caught for sure.”
“Nope. Sorry. No one has opened Merry’s display case in over a thousand years and they won’t again for who knows how long. You’re hidden in the best place in the 12 Kingdoms. They’ll never think to look here and you’re sealed behind the best security anywhere in the 12 Kingdoms, short of the Mountain King’s own vaults.”
Ambrosia searched her mind for a counter argument and stammered a bit before finally acknowledging the elf’s logic as sound. “We’re still trapped in here,” was the best argument she could manage.
“I told you,” the elf replied. I’m going to make a back door from that satchel. That and your wand,” the elf explained.
“My wand? You didn’t say you were taking my wand,” the godmother snapped.
“You don’t need it anymore. After all, you’re an ex-godmother. If you need a wand that badly, I can pop up to the vault and grab one for you. There are some real doozies up there.”
“Absolutely not!” she shouted.
“Well, I have to work with the resources available to me. You didn’t give me a lot of options. Maybe if you had a wheelbarrow I could’ve come up with another option, but we are now here and if you want your back door, you’re going to have to let me use your wand. Otherwise, we’re going to sit in this nowhere and be stuck forever. I promise I won’t take it apart or anything. It’ll be a kind of battery to the whole system. You can still use it sometimes,” the elf did his best to reassure the ex-godmother. This was the one spot in his plan that wasn’t entirely clear. He wasn’t certain Ambrosia would go along with this part. Godmothers were notoriously jealous over their wands. He waited, with baited breath, for a response.
“Do you want me to pull his arms off until he comes up with a preferable solution?” Argos asked, in a low, dangerous tone. Nemo hadn’t noticed the minotaur when he wandered in. It was like waking up and discovering a dragon sitting in the corner of your bedroom. Impossible to ignore.
Ambrosia eyed the elf for a moment, considering her options. The little man was more insane than she’d first thought, but there was a logic in his madness. The vault was the perfect hiding spot and no-one was likely to find them there any time soon. Perhaps his back door option would work as well. Reluctantly, she produced her wand and handed it to the elf.
“You won’t regret this!” the elf assured her, relief dripping from his words.
Over the next few hours, Ambrosia watched in fascination as the elf disassembled Merry’s satchel and magically intertwined it with the log cabin. She quickly grasped the concept behind the work, but the self-proclaimed ‘doctor’ had obviously learned some advanced magical mechanics from somewhere. He was tying Merry’s nowhere to the doorways, essentially turning the doorways into openings to nowhere. Ambrosia’s wand ended up mounted on the wall, with a collection of spells and some strange devices. Nemo absently mumbled about reversing the nowhere to somewhere when she asked what he was doing.
“The doorways go to nowhere right now. If you go through them, you’ll end up in Merry’s nowhere. Once I reverse the effect, you should be able to go through the doors and end up somewhere. Understand?”
“Sort of, but where?” she asked.
“Well, that’s the tricky part. There is no somewhere that is always close to no-where. The odds against that happening are pretty steep. So, I’ve rigged it up on a probability mechanism. Whenever it is least likely to happen, the doors will open to somewhere. It’ll be whatever somewhere it’s least likely to happen,” the elf prattled, only half paying attention to the conversation. He was engrossed in a bit of tricky wiring and wasn’t all that interested in explaining himself.
“That seems really far-fetched,” the ex-godmother replied.
“That’s the idea. Sounds like you’ve got it figured out,” Nemo halfheartedly encouraged her.
Looking around at the cabin, she mumbled: “This’ll work when pigs fly.”
“Pretty much,” the elf answered, not recognizing her sarcasm.
While Nemo busied himself with the work, Argos scrounged up boards and miscellaneous lumber from the construction of the cabin. When Ambrosia asked him what he was doing, he explained that if they were going to have a restaurant they’d need a counter.
“We’re not opening a restaurant,” she huffed.
“You don’t want to?” Argos asked innocently.
“Well, I don’t not want to,” she conceded. “I just don’t see how it makes sense to do something just because this crazy elf says we should.”
“Do you like cooking?”
“Yes. Of course I do.”
“Do you like cooking with me?”
“More than anything! It’s the first thing I’ve found that makes me happy in as long as I can remember.”
“Well, then as crazy as that elf is, it’d be crazy not to open one just because he told us to.”
Ambrosia sat silent. Argos was right. Even worse, Nemo was right.
“Did you know,” Nemo interjected, “that Ambrosia means ‘food of the gods’?””
“Yes. Yes I did. It’s the name the godmothers gave me,” she replied.
“It seems like they called it perfectly this time. The magic that makes this nowhere connect to somewhere pretty much assures you that people who find this place will be in desperate straights. They’ll be hungry and alone. You’ll be doing the Mountain King’s work by feeding and caring for them. It’s no small thing. It’s pretty much fate.”
“That’s if this crazy contraption of yours even works,” she replied, mainly because she had nothing else to say to him.
“We’re about ready. I just have to turn it on,” he replied.
“What are you waiting for? You afraid it’ll obliterate us?” she snapped.
“I considered the possibility that it could make your no-where stop existing, but it’s pretty unlikely. I am waiting for you to name your restaurant. Can’t open for business if you don’t have a name,” the elf explained.
Rolling her eyes, the godmother replied: Call it ‘The Flying Pig’. It seems about right,” she sighed.
“Sounds good,” the elf responded. With a snap of his fingers a great banner materialized over the back wall of the restaurant, proclaiming it ‘The Flying Pig!’
With a wink, Nemo turned and flipped a switch on the wall, just below the wand. The cabin shuddered and the elf smiled. “Something’s happening,” he tittered. “Now, we wait for someone to show up.”
The trio turned to face the front door of the restaurant. A minute passed silently before the godmother turned to the elf.
“It doesn’t work, does it—” she didn’t finish her sentence before the door burst open and a dwarf fell inside and slammed the door behind him.
“There’s giant spiders out there! Help me block the door!” he shouted.