The Phil Phorce is a fictional periodical featuring my favorite characters from my own writing. It comes out in episodes, once every three months or so. To find out more and to read previous episodes, please go to these two pages: About the Phils and the Phil Phorce. Please enjoy and critique if possible.
Turning away from Percival’s limp form, Quirk called Gologer. The dragon landed on the wall before him within minutes.
“You’ve got to take the Phils out of here,” he told the dragon. “I’m going to stay behind. Take them to the mainland and stay with them. Try not to scare anyone.”
“I have no idea what you said,” Quirk admitted. “Percival can’t come with you for now, though. He and I are staying here to deal with Erik.”
Gologer roared again, sounding slightly confused.
“Erik is the Castle’s brother,” Quirk told him. “He’s not being nice. Now take the Phils and leave.”
“Please,” said Quirk.
Gologer shrugged his wings and picked up Phoenix and Phume in his claws.
“And don’t hurt them,” said Quirk.
Gologer rolled his eyes and picked up the old lady gently between his teeth.
“Listen, Phils,” said Quirk; “I’m staying behind to try to defeat Erik and find the cure. When I do, I’ll find you and cure you too. Hopefully Percival is still alive—if not, there’s nothing we can do. Go find somewhere safe to stay. Phoenix, you’re in charge until Percival or I return.” He waved and Gologer flew off.
Quirk sighed and turned back toward the castle. Erik walked toward him, his arms and smile wide.
“What’s the problem?” asked Erik. “Why can’t our friends stay? That dragon was magnificent.”
“They were hungry, so I told them to get some sandwiches on the mainland. I’m sure they’ll be back.”
“If you had asked me, we could have had a feast right here,” said Erik. “Want to look at your friend? He seems to have collapsed.”
Quirk let Erik lead the way, watching him constantly. He wasn’t about to turn his back.
Percival lay face-down where he had fallen, still steaming gently. His skin was pink and hot to the touch. His slightly charred clothes looked loose, having stretched under the pressure of the gravelpox.
“What did you do to him?” asked Quirk.
“Me? I’m innocent!”
“Sure you are.” Quirk put his hand to Percival’s mouth; there was still breath. He straightened up and looked Erik in the stony eye. “I know exactly why your brother—“
“Mafunzalo,” insisted Erik.
“I know why he sent us here,” said Quirk. “I know you want to play with our lives like some hideous cat with a mouse.”
“More like an elephant with a very small bug,” said Erik. “I want to squoosh you. Next, I want to be like a psychiatrist with a sane person; I want to make you go mad. And then I want to be like an executioner with a criminal; I want to kill you until you are dead.”
“That’s pretty much what I meant,” said Quirk. “But you couldn’t do anything like that to us—we’re too strong.”
Erik pointed to Percival. On cue, Percival groaned.
“Agreed, he was weak,” said Quirk. “I’m much stronger; you couldn’t conquer me. I already survived your brother.”
“Mafunzalo wouldn’t even be able to handle that one,” said Erik, nodding at Percival. “He’s grown soft over the centuries.”
“As have you, I should think,” said Quirk. “Sitting up here in your castle with nothing to do year after year after year…”
“I have plenty of exercise!” shouted Erik. His grin disappeared. “There was a bunch of tourists last season who really put up a fight. But I feasted on their souls in the end.”
“But look at you now; all alone, bored, with only the memories of a hunk of rock to rifle through.”
“It’s the off-season!” Erik said. “No tourists come in the off-season!”
“No,” Quirk decided, “you couldn’t handle me in a million years.”
“You haven’t even lived a million years!” The statue’s eyes went cold as Erik’s spirit left his body.
Quirk immediately felt a pressure on his mind, a battering ram slowly pressing against his forehead instead of pounding through it. While his brother’s technique had been excellent, this spirit’s tactics were faulty.
Quirk tried to find Erik’s memories through their connection, but there were none. The minds needed to be closer. Quirk let Erik win.
Immediately Quirk’s body began to heat up. His tongue was a hot piece of metal stuck down his throat. He imagined this was how it felt to be on fire from the inside. The gravelpox began melting off his face.
Quirk left his body to its own devices and searched through Erik’s mind. He heard a scream, probably his own. He flicked through several memories of the spirit’s glory days; possessing a cave and spooking everyone who entered, accepting the worship of Aztec priests within a step pyramid, and roaming in the body of a Minotaur through the Labyrinth beneath King Minos’s palace. Quirk looked for something more recent, perhaps concerning Erik’s current body. His body shuddered and dropped to its knees. He heard Erik’s triumphant laughter. Quirk found a memory of the spirit’s first and only love, when he lived in an opera house in France. He saw Erik’s reaction to the novel and eventual musical about the incident. He saw Erik coming to Lindisfarne Castle and cursing the first person he found.
Quirk traced that curse back to Erik’s first memory of it. An old friend had taught him the curse. Quirk ignored that and looked for the remedy. Liverwort and newt skins… Nope, that was a recipe for barbecue sauce. Ah, there it was.
The cure shocked Quirk so much he withdrew completely from Erik’s mind. At the same time, the spirit left Quirk’s body. He lost consciousness.
Quirk’s hands woke up first. They screamed in pain until his arms woke up, which ran to wake up the rest of him. The head took the longest to revive, but Quirk came to himself eventually.
He was chained to the wall by the wrists. His feet didn’t touch the ground. He worked his jaw and felt rocks pressing into his skin; though most of them had melted off, they were already growing back. He felt cold, shockingly so after the heat he had felt before passing out. He rattled his chains, but they held secure.
“You’re awake?” asked a voice from the darkness.
“Yeah,” said Percival. “You’re Quirk?”
“Pleased to make your acquaintance,” said Quirk.
“Where are the others?”
“I sent them away.”
“You don’t have the authority for that!” protested Percival.
“Get over it, Percy,” said Quirk. “What help are they if they end up like this too?”
“Someone would sympathize with me,” said Percival.
“You have a point,” said Quirk. “How about a truce?”
“For now,” said Percival. “How much does your head hurt?”
“Quite a bit. Yours?”
“Terribly. Is that what the Castle did to you?”
“He was a little more refined, but he was going for possession, not madness.”
“How did you survive it?”
“Every time I started to despair, I looked through the Castle’s embarrassing memories. You have no idea how funny some of those were.”
“Tell me one.”
“The Castle once inhabited a lavatory. For the first few days, he had no idea. The only thing he remembers is the smell.”
“Erik once dared him to possess a chicken. He did and almost died when the owner wanted dinner.”
Percival sighed. “Chicken sounds good right now.”
Quirk nodded, though Percival couldn’t see him. He was thinking about what he had just said.
“Do you think we could ever kill Erik?” he asked.
“How do you kill a spirit?” asked Percival.
“You kill the body it currently inhabits, but you have to keep it from changing hosts.”
“How could we do that?”
“We would have to stay outside the spirit’s current home,” said Quirk. “Since they occupy living spaces, they can possess anything within that space. We would have to get him absolutely alone in Lindisfarne and kill him from afar.”
“Can he possess any living thing, or just humans? We could send Gologer to kill him.”
“The Castle has possessed a chicken before,” Quirk reminded him. “Are dragons much different?”
Percival paused. “Not really.”
“I know killing Erik would be ideal, but couldn’t we just escape?” asked Percival.
“When Erik possessed me, I had a chance to go through his memories,” said Quirk. “I found the cure for the curse.”
“What is it?” asked Percival.
“We have to kill the person who cursed us.”
“Erik didn’t curse us.”
“Erik and the Castle are brothers. If we can kill Erik, we can kill the Castle the same way.”
“There’s a problem there,” said Percival. “To kill the Castle, we have to kill its current body. The Castle’s current body is the Head Phil.”
“He had Phoenix sacrifice herself a while ago. I wonder how he feels about the same sort of thing.”
“Well.” Erik’s voice boomed through the room, rattling Quirk’s chains and vibrating through his skull. “What a lovely chat we’ve had here. I think we’re ready for round two, don’t you?”
Sparks flashing in the darkness, a small fire sputtered into existence in a brazier to Quirk’s right. The light was weak, but Quirk caught glimpses of surgical instruments passing into the fire. When they emerged, they glowed white.
A horrible smell hit Quirk at about the same time as Percival’s screams.