This is the 6th chapter in the Fly Pig Tales collection, a fantasy story collection about a mystical tavern in a fantasy world. The stories in the series are connected and beginning in Chapter 1 will improve your experience.
The dwarf looked around the room, panic radiating from his every darting movement, before jumping to a nearby chair and dragging it to the door. He forcefully shoved the chair under the knob, effectively wedging it shut. The whole process took less than a minute during which Nemo, Argos, and Ambrosia watched unmoving.
Nemo had dreamed up the idea of using Merry Peppen’s satchel as an exit from Ambrosia’s nowhere months ago. He’d been fairly certain that the idea would work. The theory was sound, but when it came to changing someone else’s magical mechanical work, there was no way to be completely certain. Still, he was surprised and froze completely when it actually managed to work. The shouted words about spiders made the whole thing seem even more unreal.
“Spiders?” the minotaur asked with a half grin, hefting the axe from his spot across his back. “Step aside. I’ll take care of them.”
“They’re on the other side of the door! Don’t let them in!” the dwarf shouted, a horrified look etched across his face.
“Don’t bother. There’s no way they can get in here and you couldn’t go out to them. The spell doesn’t work that way,” Nemo remarked. “The portal in an out of this nowhere only exists for the person that requires it. It has to do with the magical probability fields. You couldn’t go to them either. In fact, you couldn’t even give him your axe to fight them with. The magic is a bit tricky. You don’t want to mess with it.”
The minotaur’s grin faded into a look of disappointment as he dropped his axe back through the loops on his back.
“Are you sure they can’t get in here?” the dwarf asked.
“Reasonably sure. There are laws to magic. You can’t just make them do what you want. You have to figure out what they can and can’t do. Then it’s just a matter of using what they can do to your advantage,” Nemo replied.
“Well then, welcome to the Flying Pig,” Ambrosia said cautiously, the smile returning to her face. “Can I fix you something to eat? We are pretty new to this whole restaurant thing, but I think we can find something to feed you.”
“Can you feed me? And how do you have a restaurant in the North Woods where no-one will ever find it? This doesn’t make any sense. And what kind of spell doesn’t let spiders in here?” the dwarf asked, his voice heavy with disbelief. “And for that matter, why is there a minotaur here? And are you a fairy godmother? What is this place?”
“Former Godmother, thank you. How about you come sit at the counter, I’ll get you a drink and a bowl of stew and we can explain everything,” Ambrosia replied in a cheery, reassuring voice. She’d learned to reassure doubters while getting them to cooperate with her efforts early on during her years as a godmother. The trick was useful in her line of work, even though it wasn’t magical in the conventional sense. Getting clients to relax and cooperate is a magic all it’s own.
“I guess… I guess I haven’t eaten in a few days. I’ve been lost… wandering in the forest. I thought I’d never find my way out. I figured I’d starve. Well, until the spiders showed up,” the dwarf stuttered half dazed as he stumbled to the counter, taking a seat on a stool at the end. In a moment a mug of tea materialized in front of the dwarf as Ambrosia fluttered past on her way to the kitchen. With shaking hands the dwarf slid the mug close and breathed in the steam wafting from the cup. He had scarcely sipped at the warm tea before a thick ceramic bowl was placed in front of him.
“How is that tea? Is it warm enough for you? Wandering the forest, sleeping outside, and running from monsters can leave you chilled and exhausted. That’s a special concoction of mine. It’ll warm you up and rejuvenate you a bit,” Ambrosia chirped.
“It’s good. I can feel it working,” the dwarf mumbled. “I’m feeling kind of stuff all of a sudden.”
“Well, have a bit more of the tea. It’ll help. Try that stew. It’s not like anything you’ll ever eat anywhere else,” Ambrosia said smiling broadly. The dwarf obediently scooped stew into his mouth, raising his eyebrows and grunting his approval. “You like it? Good!”
“How is this place in the middle of nowhere?” the dwarf managed to ask between mouthfuls.
“Well, the restaurant is magical. We aren’t in the middle of nowhere in the North Woods. We are in my nowhere. You saw the doorway because you needed it and you were the only one who could see it. That’s how the magic works. You are nowhere near the danger. You are nowhere in particular,” the godmother explained in a helpful tone. “We’re a last chance. We show up ‘when pigs fly.’ We are the Flying Pig. Now tell me, what’s your name and what are you doing that put you in such desperate straights?”
“I’m Dwalin. I took on with a band of dwarves. We were looking for a dragon we had heard about. He lives on the edge of the Mountain King’s domain to the west. He sleeps on an enormous horde of treasure. We were going to sneak in and steal the treasure. Maybe figure out how to kill the dragon, but we wandered off the path through the North Woods. We were separated from each other when the spiders attacked. I don’t know what happened to the rest of them. I heard screaming from our camp. I hope they escaped. I’ve been wandering for days, maybe weeks. I’m not sure how long. The spiders stalked me on and off. I ran and hid and did whatever I had to do to get away. I’m sorry. I’m so tired and my body is feeling so stiff,” ,” the dwarf trailed off at the end of his tale and stared at the counter for a moment, shocked by his own complete retelling of the events. He hadn’t spent much time thinking about everything that had happened. As he spoke the dwarf began to flex his hands, opening and closing his fingers. The joints crackled.
Shocked, Ambrosia raised her eyebrows. “Did your hands always do that?”
Before the dwarf could answer, one of the doors in the dining room burst open. A cloud of steam roiled through the open door, filling the space in front of the door with a billowing cloud. From the cloud, a ferret clambered wearing a pack piled high with boxes and bags. The pack towered easily three times taller than the ferret, it’s sides adored with pots, pans, tools, and other sundries.
“Wow! It’s hot out there! I’ve been at thirsty work and need something to whet my whistle. I need a table and something to drink, preferably something cold. Bring me something!” the shouting ferret dropped his pack against the wall, kicked a chair several feet back from the nearest table, and plopped down. “Where’s my drink?” he howled at the godmother, pounding on the table.
“Welcome to the Flying Pig! What cold drink can I bring you today?” Ambrosia asked with a forced cheer that she hadn’t been forced to resort to since she had quit the godmothers.
“Didn’t you hear me? Something cold and wet… NOW!” the ferret shouted. “With is remotely located as this place is, I’d expect the service to be faster. There can’t be anyone else in this place!”
“Ok… I’ll be right back,” the ex-godmother managed to respond without the losing her forced smile. Ambrosia disappeared through the kitchen door.
“You don’t look like you’re that hard up,” Nemo observed pointedly from across the room.
“Hard up? HA!” the ferret guffawed, his words dripping with arrogance. “You’re looking at a wealthy man! I could buy this place outright if I wanted. Of course, why anyone would want a tavern on such a remote island?”
“Ah, so you have been stranded on a remote island? Perhaps you were on an adventure seeking treasure? That’s why you’re rich right?” Nemo asked.
“Stranded? No! Of course not! My ship is moored in the bay a few miles from here. I’m on my way back there with the treasure I was hunting!”
“Huh. That’s odd. The spell shouldn’t have revealed the Pig to you. Are you sure you weren’t being chased by something hungry and big? Are you feeling ill by chance?” Nemo wondered, increasingly puzzled.
“Hunted? I do the hunting and I feel great! I found the greatest, rarest treasure in the 12 Kingdoms,” he bragged.
“Odd. I don’t understand. The magic shouldn’t work that way. I don’t understand. You don’t seem to have needed any kind of rescue. I’m going to need to look at the spells to see what’s happening. This shouldn’t be possible,” Nemo replied, half to himself.
“Here’s your cold water,” Ambrosia interjected. Nemo had been so absorbed in the strange workings of the improbability magic that he hadn’t noticed the ex-godmother’s return.
“Water? What do I look like? A pauper? Get me something better!” the ferret ordered contemptuously. He was so absorbed with his shouting that he hadn’t noticed the minotaur stand and silently stroll up behind him.
“You should be a bit more polite to my wife,” the minotaur growled, low and threatening. The shocked ferret leapt to his feet and found himself facing a wall of minotaur. His eyes shot up to meet Argos’ angry stare.
“You should be careful! You’re talking to the legendary hunter, Fett the Ferret! Back off before I decide to hunt you!” the ferret spat at the monstrous creature staring down at him.
“Water! Can we have the water? Please?” a chorus of small voices squeaked from the pack propped against the wall.
“Quiet in there! You think you’re miserable now? Keep making noise and I’ll teach you about misery,” Fett snapped at his backpack without taking his eyes off the minotaur towering over him.
“I’m sorry, did you luggage just speak?” Nemo asked, realization dawning on him suddenly.
“Mind your own business!” the ferret growled. “I don’t think I like this place anymore. I don’t care if you are the only place to get a drink in a thousand miles. I’m out of here.” He snatched for his pack, finally breaking eye contact with the Minotaur. Before Fett could retrieve his bag, a meaty hand snatched him from where he stood. Argos held the ferret by the back of his tunic, dangling several feet from the tavern floor.
“What’s in the bag?” the half-man half-bull snarled.
“Don’t think you can steal my treasure! I captured them! They’re mine and I’m going to sell them. Don’t think you can steal my prize!” the ferret raged helplessly.
Nemo strode across the floor and tore the pack open. The tearing of canvas was punctuated with the jingling of metal tools and cookware as the elf unwrapped the iron cage Fett had been carrying.
“Pixies!” gasped Ambrosia. “I thought they were extinct. How did you find them?”
“I’m the world’s greatest hunter! These pixies are probably the last ones on the kingdoms. Child’s play for a master like me. I’ve captured far rarer beasts than these. These are worth a fortune,” Fett boasted.
“You monster! They were hunted to extinction to be used in spells and eaten by wealthy foodies. How could you do something so horrible?” Ambrosia demanded, a look of horror creeping across her face.
“Didn’t you hear me or are you stupid?” the ferret seethed. “They’re worth a fortune. Besides, someone else would have eventually found them. I just did it first because I am the world’s greatest hunter. There are others looking for them. They’ll be here any day now. I’m just the best and the fastest. So you see, these pixiesare mine. Give them to me and I’ll be on my way.”
“I’ve spent the last few millennia dealing with hunters who wanted to brag about killing a monster in a labyrinth. I’m still here. Now, they’re with me,” Argos replied before striding to the door. He reached for the handle with his free hand, opened the door, and hurled the hunter through it. Before the minotaur slammed the door shut, Ambrosia caught a glimpse of a frozen tundra. The ferret slid across the ice screaming empty threats as he went.
“Of course! We weren’t the ferret’s last chance! We were the pixies’ last chance. The Flying Pig lured him in so we could rescue them. Clever girl! This place is going to be a real laugh!” the elf exclaimed.
As Nemo spoke, Argos tore the top of the cage off as though it was made of paper.
“Come on out now. We can take care of you,” the minotaur cooed. Ambrosia was a little taken aback by the change in tone from her husband and the fact that he had cooed. His gruff exterior seemed to conceal some surprises yet.
“I never thought I’d see an actual pixie,” Ambrosia gasped. “They were all but extinct before I was even born. The kingdoms banned hunting them, but they were too late. I can’t believe what I’m seeing.”
Six dainty creatures crawled from the cage. Each was a quarter the size of the ex-godmother and adorned in outfits made from flower petals sewn together with shimmering threads that gave them the appearance of being dressed for a grand ball.
“Water?” the tallest one squeaked. “Did you say you had water? That appalling man. He kept us trapped in that cage with no food or water for days while he hunted down every one of us. He said not feeding us would leave us too weak to try to escape. Please, give us some water.”
Ambrosia flashed from the room and returned in an instant with six small glasses of water and a large bowl of stew with 6 tea spoons sticking out.
“Here! Eat and drink!” she exclaimed, placing the tray of cups and the bowl on a nearby table. The pixies fluttered weakly to the refreshments and began to eat their fill. As they did, Ambrosia marveled at their wings. Vaguely transparent and colored brilliantly, she had heard stories of their beauty. Now she recognized that the tales hadn’t done them justice. Now the centuries old practice of wearing pixie wings as jewelry made sense, though it was no less disgusting. “You can stay as long as you wish. Eat and regain your strength. You’re safe here.”
“Thank you! You’ve surely saved our lives. How did we get here anyway?” the tallest one asked between mouthfuls of stew. “I’ve lived on this island my whole life and have never seen any restaurant. What’s going on?”
“Well, it’s magic. The Flying Pig is nowhere. I did some magical engineering and created a place that rescues desperate travelers,” Nemo explained, with no small degree of pride. “Whenever you’d like you can go back through the door and return to your island.”
“I’m not sure that’s a good idea,” the tallest pixie replied, her voice tinged with deep sorrow. “The hunter said that there were dozens more hunters coming. They had all discovered our secret, but he bragged that he was in the lead. Our island is no longer safe. I fear there is nowhere in the Kingdoms that will be safe.”
Silence fell over the room, as the reality of the pixie’s words set in.
“You could stay here,” the minotaur grumbled, cutting through the thick atmosphere of seriousness in the room. “We’re opening a restaurant. We need people to wait tables and help out. Ambrosia and I need to sleep sometime. We could use a few extra people to help run the place, since it doesn’t seem like we will be able to close at night.”
The pixies stared for a moment before turning to one another, huddling close, and whispering energetically. The spirited discussion lasted several minutes before the tallest pixie, who seemed to be the leader of the group, turned to Ambrosia, Nemo, and Argos.
“Can we leave whenever we wish? We pixies are free people. We don’t bow to kings and we won’t be slaves here.”
“Of course you can!” Ambrosia replied, flabbergasted that the pixies would think she might enslave them.
“Then we will stay, for now. We don’t know how to wait tables. So you will need to teach us and be patient. I am Marigold,” the tallest pixie replied cautiously. “I am the spokes-pixie for our clan.”
“Well then Marigold, welcome to the Flying Pig,” Ambrosia sang.
“Between minotaurs, ex-godmothers, and pixies you lot are turning out to be a collection of one-of-a-kind people. Perhaps you should’ve opened a zoological garden instead,” Nemo huffed. “I think this may be a side effect of the improbability magic. What are the odds of you all ending up here together. It must be leaking somewhere. I’ll get right on that.” Turning, the elf reached for his bag of tools and began poking around the restaurant looking for the leak.
“I suppose I need to get back to the kitchen and cook some more food if we’re going to be open now. Can’t feed the world with a single pot of soup,” Argos remarked, as he trudged toward the kitchen door. Turning at the counter, the minotaur froze for a moment, staring at the dwarf seated at the far end of the counter. Without taking his eyes off the guest, he called over she shoulder to the godmother. “Honey, was the dwarf always a tree?”
“What now?” the dwarf snapped, his voice cracked with sudden panic. “What are you talking about? I’ll admit I’m feeling a bit stiff, but I am most definitely not a tree!” As he spoke, Dwalin tried to stand, but found himself stuck in place.
“Great scott! If that’s not a sign the improbability magic is leaking, I’m not sure what is,” Nemo shouted, barely hiding his surprise to find that the dwarf had sprouted leaves and branches from the top of his head and roots from his feet and bottom. The roots had taken hold in the stool and floor and were in the process of spreading across the floor. “I don’t think this is a good things, my friends. I think our treasure hunting friend here will turn into a tree entirely if we don’t do something about it right now.”
Nemo strode across the room to the dwarf before plucking a leaf, smelling it, and examining it under a microscope he seems to have produced from nowhere.
“This isn’t improbability magic,” the elf mumbled to himself. “It’s more of a curse or some— Wait! Do you feel that?” The elf looked at the others and paused.
“Feel what? I don’t feel any—. Wait. The room is shaking. Are you doing that?” the minotaur asked, looking to his wife.
“How would I be doing that?” the ex-godmother asked. After pausing a moment, she added: “It’s getting stronger.”
“Well, that’s bad,” the elf said flatly as the room began to shudder more violently.
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