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.
Percival took the coin and turned it over. “This really turns into a weapon?”
The old lady nodded. “Several. It was a hammer for Quirk, a broadsword for me.”
“How does it change shape?”
“I don’t know. There isn’t any button or anything that makes it into a weapon. I just swung it at the beast and it changed.”
Percival raised an eyebrow and swung the coin at Quirk. The newly formed axe stopped just millimeters from Quirk’s sleeping form. “This is amazing,” Percival breathed, twirling the silver axe.
“If it was something I could actually keep off the ground, I’d agree with you,” said the old lady. “As it was, I could barely swing it.”
“Try this one,” said Percival. “Axes are weighted differently than swords.” He handed the axe to the old lady, but as soon as it left his hand it changed back into a coin. “I want one of these now. Where did he get it?”
“There was a guy selling torches in the front hall. He gave Quirk a refund with this coin.”
“Heck of a refund.”
“We met the torch seller too,” said Phoenix. “Did he warn you about the trap?”
The old lady shook her head. “He just said to enjoy the shrine.”
“He said that to us too,” said Phoenix. “Do you know what it means?”
“I don’t think that beast’s cage is a shrine,” said Percival. “If it is, it’s the weirdest shrine I’ve seen.”
“Maybe the shrine is beyond that room,” said the old lady. “Do you know what the other three tunnels lead to?”
“No,” said Percival. “The portcullises open occasionally, but when they do the trapdoor locks. When the trapdoor is open, the portcullises are always closed, and people come to watch us fight the beast.”
“I keep telling you,” said Steve, “we have to kill the beast to get through.”
“Of course we do,” said Percival. “We all know that. How do you suggest we do it?”
“Use your superweapon,” said Steve. “We could make a lot of blood with that!”
“You could also make a lot of blood with a needle,” said the old lady. “I don’t think a needle will kill that thing.”
Steve implied a shiver. “I hate needles. They ought to be killed.”
“What are you guys talking about?” said Isaac from the corner.
“The beast upstairs and how to kill it,” said Steve. “We haven’t really talked about anything else since we got here.”
Steve was about to reply insultingly when the old lady cut in. “Do you smell that awful stench?”
“The beast is making it.”
“I thought it was Feiron,” said Isaac. “He sometimes rolls in strange stuff.”
Percival cleared his throat. “Anyway, that trapdoor is the only exit we’ve found to this room. We get a four-course meal every six hours, and sometimes someone visits us. His face is always under a hood, so we don’t know who it is.”
A bell rang above them, followed by an enormous “whump”.
“Those noises,” said Percival. “They always come just before the food drops in, fresh out of the oven. I’m pretty sure the thump is the beast falling over—they make sure it’s unconscious before the trapdoor opens.”
“They want to give you the choice,” said the old lady. “Whether to die out there or stay in here.”
“It’s wise,” admitted Percival. “No one can say they’re depriving us of a chance to escape, nor are they starving us.”
“They’re trying to fatten us up, in fact,” said Sebase. “I’ve been in this position before. They’re cannibals, slaves to their beast god. They’ll get us all roly-poly, then feed us to the beast. If it doesn’t like us, they’ll eat us instead.”
“He hasn’t eaten since he arrived, apparently,” said Percival. “I can’t say the same for myself—the meals are phenomenal. Hey… Why is this vibrating really hard?” The coin was bouncing across his hand.
The trapdoor banged open, but instead of food, a cloaked man swung down out of the shadows. His face was completely obscured by a hood. Once he dropped to the ground, the coin stopped vibrating.
“You’re the guy from the carvings,” said the old lady. “Quirk’s enemy.”
“So it was Quirk on those murals!” said Steve triumphantly. “Excellent. Now we know he gets killed.”
“You’re wrong, my diminutive friend,” said the cloaked man. “Those scenes took place over a hundred years ago, and Quirk and I have been locked in this battle for much longer than that.”
“I’m not diminutive! I’ll kill you for that,” said Steve, implying a rude gesture.
The cloaked man turned to Quirk, who was still unconscious on the bed. “I have seen him in many different poses,” he said, “but seldom has he drooled on the floor without the mark of my fist imprinted in his chin.”
Percival held out his hand for a handshake. “In that case, I wouldn’t mind getting to know you better.”
“I would, though,” said the man, letting Percival’s hand hang. “It is Quirk I have come for, and it is Quirk I shall get. You may go.”
“Go?” asked Sebase. “As in, leave?”
“Why, yes. The door is there.” He pointed.
“The monster is up there,” said Percival.
“He’s asleep at this hour,” said the cloaked man.
“You’re lying to get us killed,” accused Steve.
“My dear pale orb, I cannot lie. If your mind lived up to the space it occupied, you would have realized that much.”
“Is that an insult toward my height?”
“This time, no.” The cloaked man pointed at the trapdoor again. “The exit is there. The behemoth is sleeping, and the tunnel leading toward the crypt is open. You will be unchallenged.”
“You’re just letting us go?” asked Sebase.
“We have been over this, you and I,” said the man calmly. “I suggest you leave before you tie your brain in a knot.”
“Is that even possible?” asked Steve.
“Darn,” said Steve.
Phoenix was the first to move, running to the ladder and poking her head up out of the trapdoor. “He’s telling the truth,” she called down. “The monster is down and the tunnel is open.”
“It’s a trap,” said Sebase.
“It is not, I assure you,” said the cloaked man. “I’ve had you specifically in my trap for several weeks now—I’ve had the rest in my trap for a day, at the least an hour. If I wanted to kill you, I would have. As it is, I kept you all as hostages until my ransom was paid—now that it is paid, I release you all.”
“Sebase, wake up Phume,” said Percival. “I know he’s still sleeping off his wound from fighting the monster, but we can’t carry him out of here. I’ll get Quirk up.”
“Actually, don’t bother,” said the cloaked man. “He isn’t going with you.”
“Why not?” asked the old lady.
“I said my ransom was paid,” said the cloaked man. The old lady could hear the smile in his voice, and her heart sank. “Quirk is the ransom.”