|Murphy's Quest (standard:fantasy, 9658 words)|
|Author: Ruby E. Roe||Added: Nov 11 2000||Views/Reads: 2091/2034||Story vote: 0.00 (0 votes)|
|Murphy leads a boring mundane life until suddenly he is yanked into an alternate world where it is up to him to save all the worlds from the curse of two evil Lords. The curse is meant to destroy all the good in humanity. If it succeeds in this alternat|
Click here to read the first 75 lines of the story The woman appeared to be beckoning to him. He stopped his car. Maybe she was in trouble. Murphy wasn’t one of those cold-hearted people who ignored others in danger, or in need of help. The woman did not move toward him. She just stood there with a non-existent breeze blowing her filmy gown around her. Murphy got out of his car, leaving it parked in the middle of the street, and slowly walked toward her, his uneasiness growing. As he got closer, he saw something unusual about her. Something just did not fit. The area immediately surrounding her was shimmering, wavering as if seen through a haze of heat. The background looked slightly off too, almost as if she were a life-size animate picture placed here. Murphy almost turned and bolted for his car, but the feeling that the woman needed help remained, and he couldn’t leave her. He stopped walking, and looked around. He saw nothing that looked threatening to the woman. “What is it?” He called from that distance. “What’s wrong?” The woman only beckoned more urgently, and the expression on her face grew agitated. Murphy resigned himself to approaching closer. Maybe he couldn’t see what was bothering her. A flashlight would have come in handy just then. Murphy approached closer to the woman, but stopped several paces away. “Are you hurt?” He asked. The woman grew agitated again when he stopped. She mouthed something, looking behind her. Then she looked at Murphy again and slowly mouthed the words, “Help us.” Murphy couldn’t hear a sound coming from her mouth. The look in her eyes was pleading. Murphy, startled, moved a couple of steps closer. Faster than lightening, her hand shot out and grabbed his arm. A sudden unexpected yank propelled him forward, and he collided with her. Her hand on his arm was ice cold. As his body collided with hers, he felt a tingling through his body. It was as if a slight electrical current was flowing through him. The force of the collision knocked both of them to the ground. Murphy untangled himself from her and stood, putting out his hand to help her rise. She was on her feet before he noticed the strangeness of the surroundings. Not being faint of constitution, Murphy managed not to black out from the shock, but he did reel a bit. The mysterious woman put out her hand to steady him, and spoke her first audible words. “I’m sorry that we had to bring you here this way, but our time is short, and our need of you very great,” she spoke softly to him. Her voice was like a breath of fresh air. She looked genuinely apologetic. Murphy was compelled by her courtesy to reassure her. But he did have questions. “Where am I?” He looked around. It looked vaguely like the residential area that he had been in, but it wasn’t right. The nearby houses had lost their beauty and appealing charm. Now they looked darkly sinister. “What happened?” “We have brought you to an alternate frame of your world. The is the controlling frame. Everything that happens here affects all the other alternate frames, like ripples in a puddle. It is somewhat different from your world. The difference will become apparent to you soon.” The woman told him, explaining nothing to his confused mind. “Right now our world is in danger, and our Prophesy had indicated that only you can help us.” Murphy struggled to absorb what she was saying at the same time recovering from the shock of this abrupt shift of his surroundings. He finally realized that there were other people around them. He gazed back into their hopeful eyes. “The world has gone mad!” He stated bluntly. Deciding to distance himself from this strange situation, he turned back toward where he had left his car. “Hey, my car! It’s gone.” He ran to where his car should have been. “What happened to my car?” “We only pulled you through the void. Your vehicle was unnecessary,” the woman told him. “What’s going on here? Where am I? And, who are you people?” “We need you to help us...” she began, only to be interrupted by him. “So, who is going to help me?” He asked angrily. “Who do you think you are, yanking people into alternate worlds, if that’s what you did, against their wishes?” “I know it was sudden, but we didn’t have the time to waste preparing you.” An older man came forward. “Prepare me for what? How can I help you? I’m just a nobody, with a nothing job, and a boring life. You people evidently have superior intelligence, how else would you be able to pull anyone through any kind of void? How am I supposed to help you?” Murphy questioned. Supposing, just supposing, that he bought all that crap about alternate worlds and such, he still had to know why they chose him. What makes him so special that they chose him out of thousands of other people? What could he do that they couldn’t do themselves? “May we please move to a more comfortable location to discuss this?” The same man spoke again. “No, we may not!” Murphy insisted. “I’m not moving from this spot until I have some answers.” Murphy was determined to stay near the spot where he had crossed over, if that’s what he did. He looked around at the strange people surrounding him. Their appearance and dress was even stranger to him than the landscape. There was the woman who had pulled him through the supposed void, who was like a beautiful breath of fresh air. That was the only way to describe her in his mind. When he looked at her, he felt as if a refreshing breeze was flowing over his over-heated body. The older man who approached next had the air of someone who felt himself very important. There really wasn’t anything very remarkable about him, other than his arrogant demeanor. He was dressed in a long flowing robe of blue. His hair was long and silver, with a beard to match. His beard was so long that it reached nearly to his knees. Behind them a small group of people clustered around. One in particular caught Murphy’s eye. He was tall and slender, with bright flame red hair. His hair was not only the color of fire, but actually grew in the shape of flames, so that he looked as if he had a small fire burning on top of his head. Murphy thought he was mistaken, but his skin seemed to have a slight reddish tint. He was wearing a white robe that covered him to his ankles. His feet were covered with comfortable looking leather sandals. Murphy dragged his attention back to the man before him when he began to speak. “Very well.” The man resigned himself to Murphy’s demands. “I am the Lord of the Spoken Prophesy, commonly called Speak. That is not important at this time.” He had seen the question in Murphy’s eyes. “There are seven Lords. There is the Written Prophesy, The heard Prophesy, the Seen Prophesy, and the Felt Prophesy. Those, including myself, are the five Lords who are responsible for the safekeeping of the Prophesy. The two remaining are evil. I cannot speak their names here. To speak their names in an unprotected environment is to bring unspeakable terrors upon oneself. They are referred to by the title of the Unnamable Ones. It is they that we need your help against.” “That’s ridiculous!” Murphy scoffed. “How can you bring terrors upon yourself simply by speaking a name?” “Their names have the power of a curse. You were told that things are different here than in your world. Do you need proof to convince you? We don’t have time to bander back and forth.” Lord Speak had the look of someone on the verge of losing his patience. “Yes I do need some sort of proof. Not of the violent type, just some small thing will do.” Murphy refused to be convinced so easily. “Certainly. Simply invoke the name of a Lord, and that Lord will appear before you,” Lord Speak instructed him. “Invoke the name? You mean like saying, ‘I invoke you, Lord of the Seen Prophesy’?” “That will do, but frankly I prefer ‘Lord Vision’.” A smoke cloud appeared in front of Murphy, and the man who spoke the words coughed and waved the smoke away. “Next time, simply say, ‘Lord Vision, appear’. I am not a stickler for ceremony.” Murphy gasped and took an involuntary step backward. Lord Vision was as unlike Lord Speak as he could be. He was short and rotund, with a cheerful expression on his plump face. His hair and beard was also long and silver, and he wore a blue robe, but that was the only resemblance to Lord Speak. “Do you believe now, Lord Murphy?” Lord Speak asked. “Yes,” Murphy panted. “But, I’m no Lord.” “Yes, you are,” Lord Vision insisted. Lord Speak silenced him. “Yes, Lord Murphy, you are the eighth Lord by virtue of your birthright. You and you alone are the only person who exists in only one alternate. You are the only person who may cross the void. You introduce the element of Randomness, and you are the Lord of Luck,” Lord Speak told him. “So that’s what makes me special enough to be chosen. But, what can I do to help you?” “The Unnamable Ones have cast a curse that causes the dark, evil side of a person’s nature to overwhelm the good. The curse is centered in a relatively small area right now, and so is affecting a limited number of people, but as long as the curse remains active, it grows. The area it encompasses expands. Soon, it will cover the entire alternate world, and we will all be destroyed by our own evil natures,” Lord Vision explained to Murphy, struggling hard to impress upon him the seriousness of this. “So, what can I do?” Murphy asked. “You are the only person who lives in only one alternate. You will not be affected by the curse,” Lord Speak said. “It was told in a Prophesy.” “It was seen in a Prophesy.” Both of the Lords spoke in unison. “You must destroy the curse in order to save all alternate frames from destruction. If you fail, all people in all alternate worlds are doomed.” The young woman spoke for the first time since Lord Speak had made his presence known. “And, who are you?” Murphy turned his attention to her. “I am Mariah, Symbol of the Wind.” Murphy again felt that her voice was like a breath of fresh air. “Symbol of the Wind?” Murphy repeated. “That’s an extraordinary claim to make.” “Remember, Lord Murphy, this world is different from your own,” Lord Speak reminded him. “These eight people are all Symbols. They hold the power of the force of the name they carry. They are very powerful. They have gathered here so that they might gift upon you the use of their collective power for the duration of your quest.” “You mean they are giving me their power?” “Not exactly. That would be impossible for them to do. But, they will be at your disposal. We cannot travel to the location of the curse ourselves, but if you invoke our names in times of need, we can appear before you in spirit form, with our powers for your use. We can effectively block any opposition that the Unnamable Ones put in your path,” Lord Speak explained. “The curse won’t affect you in this way?” “No, but we also cannot physically affect it. The curse must be physically destroyed.” “Does your Prophesy show how this will end?” Murphy asked. “No, the Prophesy cannot do that. It tells us what the options are, what steps we could take, but not the final outcome. There are too many alternate paths that could be taken,” Mariah answered that question. “So, every decision that we make could possibly be the wrong one,” Murphy deduced. “Of course. Each choice that you make leads to other choices. But the main objective will remain the same.” “But what if we decide wrong?” “We have to take the chance. The Prophesy will help with that.” Mariah was not trying to hide any of the dangers from Murphy. “Well, I guess the only thing left to do then, is to get started,” Murphy stated. The crowd of people began to cheer at his decision. “Just point me in the right direction.” “First, we must get you prepared for your journey,” Lord Speak told him. “Symbol Mariah, I invoke the wind to carry us to the Castle of Prophesy.” Murphy experienced the strangest mode of transport that he had ever heard of as the entire group of people were lifted gently into the air, and carried along as if on a cloud. However, clouds don’t move that fast. They had floated above most of a continent in a matter of a few brief minutes. The arrival at the Castle of Prophesy was a disappointment to Murphy. It fell far below his expectations. The name suggested grandeur; however, the Castle was nothing but a run-down ruin of a fort. A fort, not a castle. The building was rather large, and sprawling, in a squared off U-shape. The center area was a park, with a path winding through the shade trees and flowers. It was the only beautiful thing about the Castle. The entire compound had a tall fence around it with what Murphy took to be battlements at the top of the fence. The inside was just as decrepit as the outside. Not only that, it was dirty. There were cobwebs hanging from the ceiling, and dust everywhere. Murphy was thankful that he didn’t have to stay here long. He did have his quest to consider, after all. “I can see that you are concerned about the condition of our castle,” Lord Vision spoke softly behind him. “Don’t be. This is only for show. We each have our own separate residences also. This is only for when we all have to be together for any amount of time. The last occasion for all of us to be here was five years ago.” “I can believe that!” Murphy swirled his foot around in the dust on the floor. Lord Vision laughed loudly. “It will be clean before you know it,” he assured Murphy. “Lord Murphy, I am sorry to rush your first visit to the Castle, but we must prepare you for your journey,” Lord Speak interrupted. “Of course.” Murphy followed him up a short flight of stairs to a small windowless room. This room was remarkably clean. There was a symbol on the outside of the door drawn crudely in red paint. They symbol was a lightening bolt with a cloud floating through it. The entire thing was circled in red. Inside the room, the same symbol was drawn on the floor in the same red paint. The majority of the floor space was inside the circle of red paint. “Lord Murphy, this is the only place in the entire world where the names of the Unnamable Ones can be spoken without the consequences of the curse effecting you,” Lord Speak told him solemnly. “Please step inside the circle and make sure that both of your feet touch the lightening bolt.” He waited until they were in place. “Listen to these names, remember them, and if you ever hear them spoken, run fast and far.” Lord Speak made several gestures with his hands, then passed them over Murphy’s head and in front of his face. “The names of the Evil Lords are Greed, and Corruption. Make sure that you never speak those names. Not even by accident.” “I will make sure that I never do.” Murphy had difficulty controlling his smile, but he imagined that this was another instance of where things worked differently in this world. “Good, now we may proceed.” Lord Speak led the way out of the room. The next few hours were spent in preparing food packs for the quest, and weapons to use against any adversaries. Mariah spent the time instructing Murphy on how to call on the powers of the Symbols, and the advice of the Lords. They weren’t permitted to prepare fully, however. It seemed that the Unnamable Ones were knowledgeable of their plans, and so, sought to prevent Murphy from succeeding in even beginning his quest. Their resistance came in the form of hundreds of short, stout gnome-like creatures. Murphy learned that these creatures were bred by the Unnamable Ones as an almost undefeatable army. Murphy didn’t think that they would be much of a problem for the Symbols and the Lords, but they proved to be almost too much to handle, because of their sheer numbers. The gates of the castle had been closed, of course, and the Symbols were ready to counter the wave of invaders from inside the walls. Standing on a raised ledge that went all around the fence, the Symbols sent down the ravages of the elements. Mariah sent down controlled tornadoes to pick up and carry away the invaders. She couldn’t keep that up for very long, however, the effort to bring her power to form a tornado was tremendous, and she was soon exhausted. Murphy was behind her at a fortuitous time to catch her before she could fall. He gently laid her down on the ledge to recover. The Symbol of Water caused a great torrent of water to form in mid-air, and come crashing down on the invaders, drowning many, and washing away a great deal more. Yet still they came. The effort of the wave, a supreme effort on the part of the Symbol of water, put him out of commission also. There were already two Symbols exhausted, and hundreds more invaders. The Symbol of Fire chose to conserve his energies. He formed small fireballs to fall into the leading ranks of the creatures. This was slow, but just as devastating. Several creatures at once would burst into flames, and in their panic, would flounder into several more, causing them to burst into flames also. Fire assured Murphy that he could keep this up indefinitely. The Symbol of Earth caused an earthquake, which opened up craters in the ground under the invaders, swallowing many of them. But, she had to stop when the castle itself began to shudder. Much to her disappointment, there wasn’t much that Earth could do here. Atmosphere caused meteorites to rain down on the creatures. The few that were hit were totally crushed. This wasn’t much help either, because there simply wasn’t enough meteorites in orbit, and his range was limited. By that point, the invading army had been reduced by half. Murphy was getting worried; they still had half the army to defeat. He was cheered when he saw Mariah rise to join the fray again. He hurried back to her side and cautioned her to conserve her strength. She set out making little miniature tornadoes, commonly called dust devils by the residents of the desert portion of the United States. The dust devils got their name because all they do is pick up dust and swirl it around, giving anyone within range a devil of a time. A dust devil is relatively harmless, the worst it could do is pick a person up briefly, and drop them. But they caused enough of a distraction that the invaders were no longer able to dodge the fireballs. The Symbol of Storms caused extremely wicked lightening bolts to crash into the rush of invaders, and also caused a light drizzle of rain to keep any fire from spreading to the castle. The Symbol of Heat caused the temperature to rise a great deal, making it very uncomfortable for everyone. The invaders, who were engaged in the most physical exertion, began to tire rapidly. Heat stroke also took out a number of them. Storm took her cue from Heat, and stopped the rain over the invaders, yet allowed a cooling drizzle to keep the Symbols from over-heating. The Symbol of Air also played his part with a vengeance. He caused the air to literally withdraw in some areas, causing the creatures within that range to suffocate. Murphy was amazed at the toll that these eight people were taking on the massive army of invaders. With the combined efforts of the Symbols, the remainder of the army was soon demolished. Murphy breathed a sigh of relief, and then looked around him at the desolation of the Symbols. Of the eight, only two were left standing. Atmosphere and Earth were the only two not collapsed with exhaustion. Mariah roused herself after a moment, insisting that she was needed. Murphy tried to get her to rest, to regain her strength, but to no avail. “We need to act fast. That invasion took a lot of strength from the Unnamable Ones. We must get you as near as possible to the curse before they regain their strength, and regroup,” she explained. “But, with all the Symbols exhausted, I won’t have much help,” Murphy argued. “We can’t wait. Hopefully, we will be recovered in time to help.” Mariah hurried down to ground level, motioning for Murphy to follow. “She is right, Lord Murphy,” Lord Vision said, as they approached, and he overheard. “The Unnamable Ones are just as exhausted as the Symbols. Maybe more so, because there is only two of them, and the battle was shared among eight Symbols.” “I guess you’re right,” Murphy reluctantly agreed, as they strapped the pack containing his food to his back. Taking up his weapons, which he now felt were inadequate, he tried to think positive. But, of what use would a sword and small knife be against adversaries such as that first army? “The Unnamable Ones will not be able to combine their forces for a display of power such as that army for a good long time,” Mariah spoke softly in his ear. He jumped at her intrusion into his thoughts. “I will carry you on the breeze until we reach the edge of the curse, then I will not be able to go any farther.” “But, you are exhausted. You need to rest,” Murphy argued, remembering how tired she was from transporting them all to the castle. “I will rest when there is time,” she said. “I will stop a short distance from the curse, and guard you through the night. At the light of day, I will be able to carry you no further than the edge of the curse, and then you must go on alone.” “I will be grateful for your presence.” Murphy decided to accept her help without further argument, simply because he knew that he would never change her mind, and to try would be a waste of time that they could not spare.” “It is time for us to leave.” Mariah concentrated her power, and they were both lifted in the air to float as if on a cloud. Murphy was aware of the other seven Symbols, and five Lords watching and wishing him success, before they were carried out of sight. They sailed westward for at least thirty minutes before Mariah called his attention from the surrounding countryside. “We will soon reach the spot I have chosen to pass the night in. The edge of the curse will be another thirty minutes from there,” she told him. “Everything is so beautiful here, Mariah,” Murphy told her. “It is not as beautiful where you are going,” she said bleakly. “The Unnamable Ones have turned our world into a wasteland.” “I plan to fix that,” Murphy stated, hoping he could fulfill his promise. “I don’t believe we have expressed how grateful we are for your help.” Mariah gazed at him. “Yes, you have.” Murphy felt hot under her gaze. “Not enough.” She looked away finally. “We are here.” She allowed the breeze to taper off and allow them to settle gently to the ground in a sheltered opening in the midst of towering trees. “We will rest here until daylight, then I will take you to the edge of the curse.” It took them but a few minutes to get their sleeping arrangements set up, and Murphy was asleep almost as soon as he lay down. The night must have been peaceful, because what seemed like seconds later; Mariah was shaking him awake. It was dawn. After a hasty breakfast from Murphy’s food pack, they were on their way again. Murphy took him right to the very edge, and he could see the strain in the whiteness of her face. He vowed to make it as long as he could before calling upon her help again. Mariah set them gently on the ground, and clasped Murphy’s hand. “Good luck, Lord Murphy,” she said. “I must leave you now, but remember, we are with you in spirit, and the Prophesy will let us know of your progress. Do not forget, the curse must be destroyed physically, not by the use of any Symbol’s powers.” Murphy was reluctant to let go of her hand, but he did, and she left him abruptly. Murphy waited until she had passed from sight before he continued his quest. He had not been told what direction to take, but the curse led him to it. The closer he got, the worse the desolation got. He traveled due west for half the day before he met his first challenge. It came in the form of a woman, garbed in a filmy black gown. Even had Murphy not known of the curse at work, he would have been wary of her. She positively reeked of evil. She stared at him for a long moment before she spoke. “You must be the good Lord Murphy who is striking terror into the hearts of my Lords.” The way she said his name made it sound like an insult. “I must say, you don’t look like much.” “Maybe not, but I’m definitely going to stop your Lords.” Murphy had no doubt who her Lords were. “Well, you have to get through me first.” With that she charged him, revealing a small dagger hidden in her hand. Murphy barely had time to dodge. “Nice try.” Murphy tried to still his thudding heart as he drew his own dagger. She lunged toward him again. Murphy realized that she had as little experience as him at fighting. She had no idea how to fight with a knife. She was just desperate to kill him. He dodged her thrust, and parried with his own as she went by. He caught her right arm just above the elbow. She shrieked in rage and lunged again. This time, Murphy wasn’t quite ready, and she nicked his arm. Murphy struck as she went by, and he caught his knife right in the center of her chest. Her momentum drove the knife in to the hilt. The woman sank to the ground, gripping the knife in both hands. She had a look of disbelief on her face. “My Lords are...” she began. Murphy didn’t wait for her to finish what she was saying, he ran fast and far, just as he had been told. If he didn’t hear the names, then maybe the curse attached to them wouldn’t be able to reach him. It was a good thing that he had ran so fast. He heard the most ungodly scream of rage behind him, followed by what could only be the woman’s scream of terror. He kept running until he could no longer hear the sounds of the woman dying. When he felt safe for the moment, he decided to call upon some information. “Lord Vision, appear,” he said aloud. The smoke cloud that accompanied him appeared, and Lord Vision emerged from it coughing as usual. This time was different however. Lord Vision was not really there. It was just an image of him. Murphy could see the barren, blackened trees right through him. “Oh, what a disaster!” Lord Vision wailed upon getting a good look at his surroundings. “Oh, my! Will it ever be the same again?” “Not if I don’t make it to my destination. Pay attention, Lord Vision,” Murphy snapped. “I have no time for you to be sentimental right now.” “Oh, dear! I am sorry, Lord Murphy. Of course you are right.” Lord Vision immediately gave Murphy his full attention. “I met a woman back there...” Murphy began. “Oh, I know. The Prophesy showed me. Excellent job you did dispatching her,” Lord Vision interrupted. “No, it was not an excellent job. It was a total accident that I defeated her so easily. It might just as easily have gone the other way.” “But, it didn’t. You succeeded in defeating her.” “But she said the names of the Unnamable Ones,” Murphy told him. “You were very clever in running when you did. I imagine that they were quite annoyed that you didn’t get caught. Be more careful for tricks of that sort now. They will probably try that again.” I expect so.” “The Unnamable Ones cannot act directly against you unless you are in the vicinity when their names are spoken, or you say them yourself,” Lord Vision explained. “You can be sure that I will never do that!” Murphy assured him. “How close am I now?” “You are very close, you should be there in one hour,” Lord Vision told him. “That’s pretty close. Only, I lost my knife. I hope I don’t need it again.” “Oh dear, and there’s no way to get another to you.” “Well, I’m not going back for it.” Murphy shuddered at the thought. “By the way, how is Mariah?” “She is in very serious condition. She expended the last of her strength to get you here. She did not make it back to the Castle. She collapsed, and we had to go and bring her in. She will recover, but slowly,” Lord Vision informed him. “She will not be able to aid you in your quest.” “Oh, no!” Murphy was appalled. “I knew she shouldn’t have brought me here.” “She had to, Lord Murphy. If she hadn’t, you wouldn’t have gotten here in time. It was in the Prophesy.” “I guess you’re right. Well, take care of her, and keep me posted on her condition.” “We will.” Lord Vision’s image began to pale. “My time is up. Don’t hesitate to call on us.” His image disappeared. Murphy trudged in the direction of the worst desolation, which remained due west. He had only gone a short distance when he was attacked again. The trees were full of little monkey-like creatures, with human faces. The sight of their filth clinging to their fur disgusted Murphy. The vile little creatures came swinging out of the trees at him. Murphy swung his sword in long arcs, slicing right through the little bodies as they came toward him. He couldn’t handle all of them, though. He would need help with this one. “Who would be the best Symbol to call?” He asked himself. “Fire, appear,” he said aloud, after only a moment of indecision. The Symbol of Fire immediately appeared, and assessing the situation, created a wall of fire around the two of them. The little creatures continued to launch themselves at Murphy, and exploded into flames when they hit the firewall. “Good call, Lord Murphy. No other Symbol could have dealt with this threat as easily as I,” Fire praised him. “Why do they keep running into the fire?” Murphy asked. He was shocked at their self-destruction. “They are mindless. Created only to follow orders, they are unable to think for themselves. They were ordered to kill you. They cannot comprehend the wall of flame that separates you from them,” Fire explained. “So, we only have to wait.” “How disgusting!” “Quite true. It is the nature of the Ones we fight.” “How is Mariah?” Murphy asked, to change the subject and take his attention away from the nauseating sight of the filthy little animals burning on the ground. “She is recovering, but slowly,” Fire answered. “She regains consciousness occasionally. She has asked about you.” “Has she?” Murphy didn’t know why he felt so happy to hear this. “Yes, even in the face of her own agony, she worries.” Fire barely contained his tears. “Tell her,” Murphy began, then stopped in doubt. “No, just give her my love.” “That will cheer her. I will do that,” Fire promised, with a strange look of happiness on his face. “The creatures are finished. I must go. It is safe for you to proceed now. Success in your noble quest, Lord Murphy.” With that parting wish, he was gone, and Murphy was alone once more. Murphy felt a curious little wrenching in the center of his being when Fire departed, almost as if some part of him was taken away. “Murphy carefully picked his way around the charred little bodies and continued on his way. He kept up a brisk pace, hoping to bypass any further obstacles by maintaining this speed. It may have worked, to a certain extent. He got quite far before he was attacked again. This time, it was a lone man. An elderly man at that. “You are quite clever, Good Lord Murphy,” the man called as Murphy got near. He was reclining under the remains of what had once been a fairly large tree. “Maybe I am.” Murphy tried to pass the tree in a wide circle, but an invisible barrier of some sort, that thrust him back, blocked his way. It was like being pushed back by a pair of giant invisible hands. “You cannot avoid me. You must deal with me, and I am going to require all of your cleverness to defeat.” The old man chuckled. “What do you want?” Murphy asked, halting in front of him. “I simply want you to say my name.” “Murphy was instantly alert. He wasn’t going to say any names here. This old man looked harmless, but he must be one of the Unnamable Ones. Murphy began to think hard to find a way out of this one. “I can call on the powers of the Symbols and the Lords to help me,” Murphy warned. “By all means, do. But, I’m afraid they won’t be of much help.” The evil old man seemed to be enjoying himself. “You cannot go around, until you speak my name.” “I cannot say your name,” Murphy insisted. “Then, Good Lord Murphy, you will remain here, to witness the end of the world.” Murphy retreated to the farthest point that allowed him to think. This was really going to be a tough one. He couldn’t go past the old man without saying the name, and if he said it, he would surely die. It wouldn’t do any good to try to wait the old man out, because he could see from this distance that he wasn’t really there. He was an image, like Lord Vision, and Fire. Murphy supposed that if he said the name, the real evil Lord would appear. This was certainly a perplexing situation. He decided to call on help. “Lord Speak, appear.” Lord Speak appeared without all the smoke and fanfare that accompanied Lord Vision. “Oh, dear! We are certainly in a bad spot here, aren’t we?” Lord Speak observed. “No kidding.” Murphy had no time for the obvious. “Now tell me what to do.” “Well, you obviously can’t say the name, and you can’t stay here forever.” Lord Speak was very good at stating the obvious. “I know that!” Murphy lost his patience. “What does the Prophesy say my choices are?” “I will have to go back to consult it. Since he is giving you plenty of time, he must believe that you have no way out.” Lord Speak pondered the problem. “He must know that Mariah is helpless.” “Why is that?” Murphy asked. “Because if she were able, she could simply fly you over the barrier. He said that you couldn’t go around, but perhaps you could go over.” “Oh, damn!” Murphy cursed his bad luck. “You see, Good Lord Murphy,” the evil old man laughed. “You have no escape.” “Shut up, you vile creature!” Murphy shouted at him, which only caused him to laugh more. “I will return and consult the Prophesy. Summon me again in no less than thirty minutes.” “Please, find a way!” Murphy pleaded, as Lord Speak disappeared. Murphy sat dismally, considering what options he could come up with, and rejecting them one by one. He sat there, waiting for the thirty minutes to elapse. When the time had finally passed, he called Lord Speak. “We haven’t found a way.” Lord Speak confirmed Murphy’s greatest fears. “What?” Murphy stood and began to pace. “Well, what does the Prophesy say?” That’s what is strange,” Lord Speak looked puzzled. “The Prophesy shows that you get past this obstacle, but it cannot show us how.” “Why can’t it?” “It must be something that the prophecy cannot tell us. I have no idea what it could be. The prophecy has never been so secretive with its information. “Well then, something is wrong with it.” Murphy began to get angry. “I can’t even fight my way out of this. We’ve got to do something! We can’t just sit here and let all of our efforts be wasted. Especially Mariah's sacrifice. We can’t let that be for nothing.” “I understand how you feel, Lord Murphy. Especially when the curse is in the foothills of that mountain range right there.” Lord Speak pointed west, and Murphy saw to his horror that he had almost reached it. With just a few more minutes of travel they will be at their goal. “Damn it, Lord Speak! Get back to the castle and think of something!” “I will. Call me again in thirty minutes. I can’t believe that we are stopped here.” Lord Speak disappeared again, and Murphy was left alone with the evil Lord. “I can’t believe you are doing this,” Murphy spoke, just to pass the time more quickly. “You would too, if you had the chance.” “Never! I would never destroy so beautiful a world as this, purely for the sake of power.” “Of course, because you are the Good Lord Murphy.” The evil Lord spat on the ground. “You have never had a taste of power. Once you have power, all you want is more.” “Then what are you going to do after you have destroyed the world?” Murphy asked. “Then I will have the ultimate power, and can destroy those who stand in my way, the Symbols, and the Lords of Prophesy.” “If that is the ultimate power, then what is left after that? An empty dead world, with only you and your fellow evil Lord to keep each other company. Will you turn on each other then?" “No, because I will destroy him too, before that time comes.” “Unless he destroys you first. Who knows what he is planning, while you sit here in the woods, babysitting me?” Murphy leaned back as if to relax. “He could be plotting your destruction right now.” “Never! He wouldn’t dare.” “Why not? You’re planning his.” Murphy could see that he had given the evil Lord his own problem to ponder. Maybe that would keep his attention off what his prisoner was doing. When the second half-hour of his imprisonment was done, Murphy stood and called Lord Speak to him again. When the Lord stood before him, Murphy wasted no time. “Did you find a way?” “We are in luck, Lord Murphy,” Lord Speak whispered so that the evil Lord could not hear. Aloud, he said, “No, we are still struggling with the problem.” Lord Speak crouched on the ground next to Murphy so that they could converse without being overheard. “Then how are we in luck?” Murphy asked. “That was said for his benefit. I will return and continue to search the Prophecy for a solution and return as soon as I find one.” “There has to be an escape. I refuse to believe that we can be stopped this easily.” Murphy sat dismally, frantically searching his brain for any idea he could come up with. He rejected his ideas one by one. Nothing would work. It certainly appeared that he would be stuck here until the curse worked it’s vile magic. He glared across the clearing at the evil old man staring at him. Murphy’s brow furrowed as he struggled to find a solution to the problem. He thought back to everything that he had learned in the castle about the evil Lords and how it might be safe to say the name. He remembered the special room in the castle with the pattern painted on the door in red paint. He idly began to trace the pattern of the lightening bolt going through the cloud in the dirt at his feet. Glancing at the evil Lord, he was surprised to see him staring alertly at Murphy’s finger tracing the pattern in the dirt. Murphy began to get a glimmer of an idea. He quickly brushed his hand over the pattern to remove it. Was it his imagination, or did the Lord visibly relax? Lord Speak chose that moment to return, startling Murphy out of his contemplation. He squatted down in the dirt beside Murphy. “We are in luck, Lord Murphy,” he said loudly enough for the evil Lord to hear. In a quieter voice he said, “the prophecy is no help at all in this matter. It insists that you find a way out, but it doesn’t tell us how. It must be something that the prophecy cannot show us.” Murphy hid his disappointment in the lack of information, and began to idly draw the symbol in the dirt again. He watched the evil lord’s reaction to his drawing slyly. He was pleased to see him flinch as the drawing was finished. “I have an idea, Lord Speak. Tell me if it might work.” Murphy motioned to the symbol in the dirt. Lord Speak frowned at the sacred mark etched at Murphy’s feet. “He is reacting as I draw it. Could I speak his name inside a drawing of this?” Murphy kept his fingers crossed, hoping for a favorable answer. “I don’t believe that you would be safe to say his name,” Lord Speak said, dashing his hopes. “But, it might serve a better purpose than that. Drawing this symbol might weaken him enough to cause him to abandon this position, and allow you to get free.” “It doesn’t appear to have weakened him very much, but he did flinch. Perhaps if I draw it over and over.” Without erasing the first drawing, Murphy began to sketch the symbol in the dirt beside it. He cautiously watched the evil Lord as he drew the symbol. The tension in his body was apparent, and when the drawing was complete, he gave a gasp of pain as he flinched. Murphy began to feel a bit of hope again. “The Prophesy was right to direct us to you, Lord Murphy. Your control over luck has served you in good stead,” Lord Speak declared. “Don’t say that!” Murphy exclaimed. “Haven’t you ever heard of Murphy’s Law?” “You have written a law?” “No, I’ve just been named for one. It’s not a real law, more like a joke. Perhaps now is not the right time to tell you about it. Let’s just say that in my world, my name does not symbolize good luck.” “Many things are different here than in your world.” “Let’s hope so.” Murphy moved to the side of the first two drawings, so that he could reach in front of them. He drew another one closer to the evil Lord. The wicked old man took a seemingly forced step backward, and voiced another gasp of pain. “What are you doing?” He called out to Murphy. “Those silly drawings will not protect you here. There is still only one way past me.” “Perhaps you are right. But, I’ve always been stubborn, so I will have to find out for myself.” Murphy drew another symbol quickly, and moved into position for a fifth. He didn’t even look up to observe the reaction to the forth, just began the fifth. “It appears to be working, Lord Murphy. He is moving back step by step.” Murphy sketched in the dirt at a furious pace, being careful not to damage the previous drawings with his body. When he had ten drawings lined up by twos, he stopped to study the evil Lord. He was surprised to find that he had moved almost completely across the clearing, and that the evil Lord had backed up twice that distance and was now standing within the wasted woods. Murphy grew bold, and stood and walked toward the evil Lord. When he had halved the distance between them, he squatted and began to draw. “Stop!” The evil Lord cried. “What purpose do you hope to achieve with this?” “I’m sending you away,” Murphy answered. “Isn’t that obvious?” The evil Lord had nearly faded to transparency by this time. His face was contorted with pain, and the effort to maintain his position. Murphy rapidly began to sketch once again. He looked up after the second ten, and saw that the evil Lord was barely visible in his transparency. Murphy confidently stood and walked toward him. “Leave now, while you are able,” Murphy suggested when he stopped a few paces from where the Lord’s image wavered. Murphy knelt and began to draw. With a loud and earthshaking boom the evil Lord was gone. Murphy finished the drawing and stood. The Lord’s voice lingered behind him long enough to impart his dire warning. “You may have won by your cleverness this time, Master of Luck, but the game is not over yet.” Murphy stood and dusted off his hands and knees. He looked around the quiet and peaceful clearing that he had been imprisoned in. His eye caught that of Lord Speak, and he began to laugh hysterically in relief. “We did it, Speak!” Murphy intended to clap Lord Speak on the shoulder, but his hand passed through with no resistance. He regained his balance with an embarrassed smile. “Oh, sorry. I forgot for a moment.” “Quite all right. Now you must hasten on and destroy the curse while your path to it is clear.” Lord Speak pointed west, in the obvious direction that he was to take. The curse led them to it, with the path of destruction that spread out from it. “On my way,” Murphy told him, and was as good as his word. Lord Speak had hardly disappeared before Murphy was stalking out of the clearing. No further obstacles were put in Murphy’s path for quite some distance. He supposed the two evil Lords were recovering their strength after the last episode. He traveled through the wasted woods, feeling more heartbroken with every step he took through the desolation. He could imagine what the forest had looked like before the curse was activated, and it was saddening to see such beauty destroyed. When Murphy emerged from the woods, he was faced with a steep climb over a mountain. It was fortunate for him that he located a path going up in a switchback style. He followed the path, hoping that it would lead him to a pass over the top. His luck was with him, and it wasn’t long before he was standing at the highest part of the climb, looking down upon the valley below. Murphy nearly cried out in dismay at the sight of the wasteland below him. The valley that should have been fertile and beautiful was totally barren. A small stream wound it’s way through the middle of the valley, probably once a clear and bubbling watercourse. Now, its water was polluted, and its blackness flowed sluggishly. After taking a moment to regain his composure, Murphy decided to call on Lord Speak. The much over-worked Lord appeared instantly at his summons. Murphy gave him a few necessary moments to control his emotions after the shock of seeing the destroyed valley before asking his questions. “I thought I was close to the curse, but it appears to continue on endlessly. How will I know when I have reached it?" “Oh, how thoughtless of me!” Lord Speak said. “I never dreamed that you wouldn’t recognize the curse when you saw it. You are now at almost the exact center of the area the curse has affected. The curse lies directly below you in the valley.” Tears came to his eyes at the thought of the valley. Murphy looked carefully down into the valley, scanning each and every inch of the barren land. Directly below him was a huge boulder blocking the pathway down, but there was nothing that he could imagine was a curse. “I still don’t see it,” he said in confusion. “There, right below you,” Lord Speak pointed. Murphy followed his finger and his eyes came to rest on the boulder. “You mean that boulder? It’s just a big rock.” “Nevertheless, it contains the curse.” “How am I supposed to destroy a huge boulder? I have no magic with which to smash it. What can I do against it?” “One chip from your hand is all it would take. Just one small chip would be enough to cause the fabric of the curse to unravel.” “Just one chip?” Murphy visualized himself hacking away at the rock with his sword. “Well, I guess I will think of something.” “When you arrive at the curse, instantly call for all Symbols and Lords to appear. We can deflect any opposition while you destroy the curse.” “Then we can all go home,” Murphy said, as he started resolutely down the path. He didn’t see the dismay on Lord Speak’s face at his words. As he trudged down the path, he tried to think of a way to take one chip from a boulder. He really didn’t think his sword would be much use, unless he wanted to strike sparks. “All Symbols and Lords appear,” Murphy said as soon as he drew level with the curse. All hell broke loose immediately. It seemed that the unnamable ones had saved the worst for last. “Get to the curse, Lord Murphy,” Mariah shouted as she entered the fray. Murphy wanted to demand to know why she was here, when she should be back at the castle recovering still, but he couldn’t take the time. The evil Lords had summoned forth all manner of horrible creatures for this battle. There were more of the gnome-like creatures, plus monsters that flew, and these were larger than any airplane that Murphy had ever seen. There were spineless snake-like creatures that were eight-feet long and spat blue fire. Murphy saw the Symbol of Water flooding these out before he turned and headed for the boulder. Murphy reached the boulder just as one of the gnome-like creatures did. The creature made as if to block his way. Murphy drew his sword and shook it at the creature. “Oh no, you don’t. You aren’t going to stop me,” Murphy threatened. He swung his sword at the gnome, who dodged and brought one great hairy fist down on the back of Murphy’s neck. The force of the blow knocked Murphy to the ground. He struggled to get to his feet as he saw a fire ball whiz past his head. He saw the fireball hit the creature in the center of his chest. He looked behind him to see Fire give him a quick salute, before he turned back to the battle. Murphy half-walked and half-crawled to the boulder. He picked up a hand-sized rock lying on the ground and struggled to his feet. Raising his hand over his head, he brought it down with as much force as he could muster. Nothing happened. The blow to his neck had knocked a lot of his strength out of him. He raised the rock over his head again, and plowed it into the boulder as hard as he could. Still nothing happened. Twice more he pounded the two rocks together. He decided to try once more before he tried using his sword. At his fifth hit, the smallest of chips flew off. Murphy staggered and fell to the ground under the force that erupted from the boulder as it exploded. He felt the atmosphere around him change even in his semi-conscious state. It was as if a malevolent presence had been here, and suddenly left. The world around him was slowly returning to normal. The creatures that had been attacking the Symbols and Lords reverted to their normal state, of being harmless little forest animals. The only things that remained the same were the Symbols and the Lords, and they all rushed toward him. Murphy scanned their ranks as they approached, looking for the one face that seemed to mean so much to him. When he finally saw it, he relaxed and nearly lost the struggle to remain conscious. “Mariah, you shouldn’t be here,” he said weakly. “It was necessary Lord Murphy, and I am much recovered now.” “How?” “I received a gift like none other. The gift had so much power that it restored my strength very quickly.” She explained. “What gift?” “You have given me an experience that no other Symbol has ever had, Lord Murphy. That of being loved. I thank you for the gift of your love.” “My love for you was the gift?” Murphy was incredulous. “Love is very powerful, Lord Murphy, just as luck is,” Mariah explained. Murphy reached up and caressed her cheek before he lost consciousness. Tweet
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