*Originally posted to Sidetangent Magazine.
With one final swing of the sword Melvin lobbed the head from Ja’raq the Destroyer’s body. The tyrant of the realms of Yinaril fell hard and lifeless to the ground. Melvin watched from atop the battlements where he had faced the feared beast of a man, below him the remnants of Ja’raq’s army had been routed by the combined might of the goodly folk of Yinaril. Dwarves had fought aside Elves, despite ancient grudges, after Melvin had somehow negotiated their truce. Good men and women of all nations had fallen under his banner to rid the world of the dark sorcerer’s iron grip. It was done. It was finally done.
He made his way down the stone stairway that he had only so recently climbed two steps at a time chasing his foe. Near the base of the stairs he nodded to his companions. Elation played upon their faces, though it was tempered with sadness at the friends they had lost. Melvin knew he would never forget these strange folk. Nayoodle the gnomish princess, as brilliant a mind as he had ever met holstering her queer pistols and finally looking at ease enough to grieve over the loss of her brother. Krint Meadswallow the dwarf, drinking that mug of dwarven ale he’d been saving ever since vowing to never imbue another pint until the dark lord had been toppled, seemed he wasn’t wasting any time. Thignitch lie in the corner regrowing the arm he’d lost to the dark one’s Majicks, of all the friends Melvin had made in his adventure the turncoat Troll had to be the oddest. Finally, Harrish the Mage who had been with him from the start, the reason Melvin was even in this world.
“We did it Harrish, Lord Ja’raq is finished!” Melvin said wearily to the young sorcerer. As he looked into his friend’s face he recalled meeting him for the first time in the grove after Harrish had pulled him into their world. He had used that forbidden bit of magic that had almost resulted in the mage’s execution at the hands of his own guild. When Melvin thought back to that day in the grove he smiled a bit. How could he have ever been that frightened boy? He recalled reeling with nausea from the sudden pull into Yinaril from his seat on the school bus headed home and chuckled.
Home… that’s right, he couldn’t wait to return to his true home. Despite his love for these friends and the world of Yinraril it will be wonderful to finally see the familiar faces of friends and family from his true world. He had had enough adventure to last a lifetime, he’d been poured into one of the many fantasies he’d often read and certainly learned a thing or two about getting what he wished for. Melvin longed to sit on a couch and sip a coke or something. Let the adventures play out on his television, and weekly games of Dungeons and Dragons for heaven’s sake!
He smiled broadly at Harrish, “You look pensive friend. Trust me, I watched his head fall, Lord Ja’raq is truly done.” Harrish looked up at Melvin with misty eyes, “yes I know Melvin my friend. I’ve no doubt of that…I can feel it in the air. Likely his forces note the change as well. Beasts losing their borrowed intellect and turning against all near them as they haste to retreat to the darker forests once more. The Trolls, withholding our friend Thignitch of course, have no doubt begun to flee as well. They lost the fight the moment Dwarf and Elf set aside their bickering. No, this is not what troubles me… but for now I think we could all use a retreat from worries and troubles, no?” It troubled him to see Harrish worried still but Melvin laughed heartily and slapped the thin man’s back. “Yes, let’s celebrate with the others. You can return to brooding later Harrish, I know it’s your favorite pastime but take a break!”
The next few days were the happiest Melvin had known since arriving in Yinaril. His life was not in danger, no friends were cut down before his eyes, and everyone was merry making instead of bickering. Finally, after three long years Melvin could feel at ease. There were formalities to attend to of course. He nearly laughed aloud at the looks of relief on the faces of the leaders for the forces of man when they discovered Melvin held no interest in either succeeding Lord Ja’raq or taking their places.
Melvin wept bittersweet tears at the goodbyes he gave to his demihuman friends as they took their leave to the various places they were needed. Nayoodle had a throne to return to and much to rebuild now that the goblins were thrown back beyond the gnomish kingdom. The last of her royal line, she would have much work to do. She placed a tiny kiss upon Melvin’s cheek as they both showed little restraint in their weeping. They knew this parting was final. Krint and Thignitch left together. Theirs was the strangest friendship kindled through these journeys, as there has never been love between a troll and a dwarf in all the history of Yinaril. Truly though, Thignitch was the only of his kind to ever side with the forces of good to anyone’s knowledge and Krint had much to do with the Troll’s change of heart. Melvin doubted they would ever part ways. Soon all that was left of the troupe of heroes Melvin had only so recently commanded into the darkest parts of Lord Ja’raq’s kingdom was Harrish and Himself, just like they had started out.
Weeks later they had arrived at the guild house for the Sorcerers of the Grove, Harrish’s home. Melvin and Harrish had been greeted, if a bit icily, by the headmaster and given quarter. Headmaster Klain, it seemed, had never truly forgiven Harrish for stealing the book of rituals that brought Melvin to Yinaril. A decision by majority had been reached though and Klain must simply live with the fact that Harrish’s execution was voted down. Never minding that the proof was in the pudding that Melvin was certainly a necessary asset to winning the war against the forces of darkness! One would think an apology was in order but old sorcerers, it seemed, were anything but quick with admitting they were wrong.
A few days later Melvin had finally talked Harrish out of his study and into the grove for a walk. He worried for his friend as the Hedge Wizard had been distant since the day of their victory, and even more so since their return to his guild. The retreat into the grove had been a quiet one though. Melvin could not seem to catch his friend’s attention for long. Harrish looked… almost fearful.
Finally, Melvin stopped walking. Harrish continued forward, not seeming to notice his fried was no longer at his side. “It was here Harrish,” Melvin said quietly. “Right here is where we first met. Remember?” Harrish stopped suddenly and turned, he looked terrified. Melvin wrinkled his brow, “dammit Harrish, talk to me! What is wrong man?”
Harrish peered at him sadly “I’m not certain I know how to approach my worries Melvin. I… I have wronged you terribly…” Melvin gave a nervous chuckle, “Harrish, you’ve been nothing but a friend to me since I arrived! No matter what you’ve done, how could I feel like you’ve wronged me?” Harrish spoke forcefully, “That’s just it though, I brought you here! Here, to this world that caused you naught but pain and torment almost daily! Certainly there was merit, my own guild’s council said as much when they spared me but… but how am I to live with what I have done!?”
Melvin rushed forward and embraced the man “Harrish is that all? I regret nothing that has befallen me here in Yinaril! You had to bring me, the prophecy demanded as much! I don’t consider myself all that great a man but the events needed me. Yinaril was saved due to your decision to bring me here, and when I finally go back home I’ll probably make a mint turning this into a movie or something ha ha!”
Melvin’s laugh died down when he saw Harrish’s face turn white. Harrish voice was choked with grief, “so we’ve finally arrived at the point of no return it seems…” Melvin grimaced, “what are you talking about Harrish? What’s all this point of no return chatter?” When Harrish’s grief stricken face turned to look into Melvin’s eyes, the boy knew instinctually what was coming, “you can’t go home Melvin… at least… not to the home you know.”
Melvin reeled. What was his friend telling him!? Distantly he heard Harrish gushing forth the information hidden so long from Melvin. The spell wasn’t one way but time moved differently in Yinaril. The three years spent here were transferred into three centuries back in his home world, everyone he had had ever known, his family, his friends had likely all died before he had even spent a year of life in Yinaril! He felt sick. This isn’t how it was supposed to be! This isn’t how these things worked! Sure, in fantasy adventures time moved differently in the “real world” but it was always the opposite. Yinaril was supposed to be the place where time got the fast forward. He was supposed to be sent back to his world at nearly the same time he left right!? He was supposed to appear back on the bus in mid conversation with Jimmy Smith, like… like nothing had changed.
Harrish placed a comforting hand on Melvin’s shoulder but it was knocked away in a furious swipe. “You damned monster! How long have you known!” Melvin shrieked. “I’m afraid… I’m afraid I’ve always known Melvin,” Harrish replied quietly, “why do you think I nearly lost my life in casting the spell…? Such magic is forbidden for a reason.”
Melvin sunk into the soft grass of the grove, he had nearly unsheathed his sword but his fury had quickly subsided into pure sadness. “I think… I think I would like to be alone for a while Harrish,” Melvin whispered. “I understand,” said the man who had ruined his life. Before exiting the grove Harrish turned, “I could still send you back Melvin, but… there is no telling what your world would hold for you. It’s… actually my hope that you’d wish to remain here though. Though you no doubt despise me at the moment… I still call you friend…”
Melvin said nothing as Harrish left him alone in the grove. He thought of everything he’d lost, and he wept.