The Wrong Wizards Chapter 3
( Here's chapter 3 of The Wrong Wizards, my 2020 NaNoWriMo novel, as well as a sketch of Merlin Kapule the Gridiron Wizard! )
The Wrong Wizards
(A NaNoWriMo Novel)
by: Sarah "Neila" Elkins
Chapter 3: Better Bard
I'm nervous leaving my belongings, despite the innkeeper giving us, supposedly, the only key to the room. I saw how simple the lock is and am certain I could pick it with my lock picking set in my bag...which is currently hidden under the bed. During quarantine I wanted to start a new hobby and couldn't manage to keep a sourdough starter going to save my life, nor could I keep any plants alive, so I got into locksport, the hobby of picking locks. It's been pretty fun and relaxing, but then I never got out much and managed to pick all the locks I own repeatedly. At least learning to pick locks has been good for research for writing.
"Rhys," Merlin nudges me. We're in the market near the bread seller she's been helping out. "Ultra says she only needs one person helping out today to move crates so, are you okay just...uh..."
"I'll find something to do," I say.
"By the way why are you wearing a Sherlock Holmes hat?" Merlin whispers.
"It's a deerstalker and I forgot it was in my bag. The sun was pretty bright so I figured I may as well wear it instead of my sunglasses." I explain.
Merlin shrugs. "That's cool. I thought you found it here and kinda wanted one myself."
"Maybe we can find one here?" I ask. I'll look around and I'll come back in a bit then?"
"Sure, when the sun's at noon or whatever I should be available again," Merlin replies pointing up. "Then we can go do that other thing," she adds with a wink.
"Gotcha," I nod.
Merlin gets to work helping the stall owner and I am...left to figure out what to do. I shuffle around the market looking over as many things as I can trying to get a feel for the fantasy world we've found ourselves dropped in. The merchandise and food seem similar to those I've seen in the backgrounds of so many isekai shows. I don't have any luck finding a deerstalker style hat. The people seem to vary from human, to elf, to various animal-like humanoids. I'm pretty sure I walk past a stereotypical cat-girl and wolf-man at one point. Eventually I find myself standing in a bit of a lull in the crowd near the fountain. This is the biggest group of people I've been in since last year. It surprises me to realize it's more unnerving no one is wearing a mask than that some of the people are visibly not human. Is part of my brain just assuming this is some kind of anime convention?
I sit against the rim of the fountain and take my hat off.
"Oy, you gonna perform?" Someone from the crowd asks.
"What?" I look up.
"This is the spot for bards," a wiry man with a missing tooth says. "We ain't had one in months. You got odd clothes. You a bard?"
I wonder if there haven't been bards for a reason, possibly the King's visible distaste for them? Would I get paid for performing or would these people call a guard?
"Is it okay to perform?" I ask.
"Damn right it is," the man declares. He turns to the crowd. "You lot want a song? Right?!"
A few people cheer. It seems I've picked up a hype man who doesn't even know if I can sing. He sure is hopeful and we could use any money I might make from singing. I hope I'm not too flat as I begin doing my best rendition of Lizard Wizard's quarantine hit 'Sunrise.'
"Today is lost, tomorrow may come with a cost
Don't know if we'll make it but we've gotta try,
Try, try, tryyyy to make it till sunrise," I sing and do a little bit of a dance rather than imitate the dubstep wubs and bass drop of the song. I can't beat-box to save my life.
A few of the people watching start digging around in coin purses so I hold out my hat as I continue to sing as best I can.
"This darkness surely can't last,
If you just wear that mask,
and we try, try, try, to make it till sunrise."
Coins hit my hat and the crowd applauds. I've never seen someone so happy to hear someone sing so off key. I wonder how bad the bards must be in this world or if the people of this town are just starved for entertainment. I sing three more pop hits I've heard too many times on the radio and earn more coins before noon. Merlin is surprised I've returned with money. She says she could hear me singing from across the plaza but didn't realize it was me. The acoustics were apparently pretty good despite the number of people and stalls. We head back to the inn and count the money, then split it as evenly as we can, each taking the same number of each type of coin. I've still got to figure out how the monetary system is in this kingdom.
"My pants have no pockets," Merlin says with a frown.
"One sec," I say before digging around in my bag and pulling out a small dice bag. Normally I use the dice to decide what to do when I'm stuck writing a story. Who lives, who dies, whether to include a surprise alien attack; that sort of thing. I dump the dice into my ice chest's outer pocket and give her the felt bag. "Here, coin bag."
Merlin narrows her eyes and glances at my back pack. "Just how much stuff do you have in that bag, anyway?"
I hold out the bag which she takes and nearly doubles over. She laughs a bit before shoving the bag back at me.
"I've got a little of everything," I say. "Enough stuff to camp with, for sure. Things I use as inspiration for writing. First aid stuff. A towel, those always come in handy. My laptop, oh and some knives. Do you want a knife, Merlin? Might be handy?"
She shakes her head. "I will leave those to you."
"I've got a bunch of other stuff," I explain. "Last time I weighed my bag it was about twenty five pounds."
"Felt heavier," she says. "Can you run with that thing?"
"I think so," I say. "I've been trying to stay fit in my apartment during quarantine. Should be okay."
"If you weren't so old I'd say it'd be great to have you on the team," Merlin laughs as she heads to the door.
"I'm not that old," I laugh back.
We travel back across town to Merlin's hiding place near the castle gate to wait. There's a gap between two of the crates we can see the door through. It's a pretty great hiding spot. Merlin and I split the last of the food I had as well as some bread she got from Ultra, the bread seller.
"Folks here have odd names," I muse. "'New Look' and 'Ultra?'"
"You have a point, that is pretty weird," Merlin agrees. "I heard someone calling for 'Original Scent.' Think that was a person? Named that?"
The people in the town at least have names that sound like someone just read them off product labels in their house. More lazy writing, in my opinion. It's super strange. Before I can voice my thoughts Merlin nudges my shoulder and points to the gap in the crates.
"The gate's opening," she tells me.
We watch as the castle mages first make sure the coast is clear before shoving someone wearing a light purple tunic and green armor out. The gate is hastily shut behind them. I nearly choke on my bread.
"Oh no," Merlin says as she pats my back. "You okay?"
"That's who? You know that guy?"
"You know that first song I sang today? Till Sunrise? That's Lizard Wizard, the EDM artist who wrote it," I explain. "I don't believe it. They're amazing. I write to their music all the time."
"So, we should go say 'hi?' Cause right now Lizard Wizard is making a break for it," Merlin says.
We hurry out from behind the crates, which is a bit easier said than done. I get hung up with my bag as Merlin pads over to the musician. I hear her trying to explain what's going on.
"Hey, so, I was summoned before you and-"
"I don't care," Lizard Wizard replies.
I free myself and head over to the pair, my cane in hand. Lizard Wizard is taller than I expected. They hold their shiny emerald lizard helmet in one hand and a look of distaste on their face.
"Sorry," I say. "I'm a huge fan."
"Now I really don't care," Lizard Wizard says.
"We have food an money," I add. "It's dangerous to be out there alone. This world has dragons and stuff."
"This world has ruined everything," Lizard Wizard tells me. "My tablet broke when I tripped after those elves or whatever summoned me here and worse yet the king wanted to kill me."
"He wanted to kill me too," I counter. "Another reason to stick together. Look I know it's been a rough year. Your world tour was canceled due to the pandemic and-"
"Canceled?" Lizard Wizard asks. "It wasn't canceled. I was performing when that mist got me."
I straighten up. "What?"
Merlin crosses her arms. "You keep talking about a pandemic and a quarantine, Rhys. What pandemic and quarantine?"
"You know," I begin. "The big one? Covid-19? Super deadly respiratory disease that turns people's lungs to jelly and wrecks their heart even if they survive it?"
Lizard Wizard and Merlin exchange glances.
"It's not the only reason 2020 has sucked but it's a big one," I add.
"2020?" Merlin asks. "Like, the year?"
"That's what year it is," Lizard Wizard says while rolling their eyes. "And there is no pandemic. My tour hasn't been canceled."
"It's 2015," Merlin says. "You're saying you're both from the future?"
"You're from 2015?" I ask. "And you're from a world without Covid...we're from different worlds. I have to update my notes."
"That's wild," Merlin says. "You're going to stick with us, right Lizard Wizard?"
With a sigh they say, "Dresden Mitchel. Call me Dresden. And sure, I guess I will stay with you two for a little while. You said you had food and money, right?"
"And a place to stay," Merlin adds. "Rhys got us a hotel room. It's not great but it's better than sleeping in the alley."
Dresden frowns. "I suppose it will have to do. Show me to this hotel room."
Merlin puts a hand on my shoulder and guides me up the hill. I'm still shaken from the revelation that we're not from the same world. Eventually we reach the inn. The sun is low so we head upstairs to our room. I unlock the door and head inside. Dresden is not particularly happy about there only being one bed. We agree to let them us it. I get my laptop out and quickly add to my notes. I'm in the same room with a musician I'm a fan of and they not only seem to dislike me but also are generally not happy about anything. I don't blame them, however. Dresden was pulled in the middle of a concert from what I can only gather was not the dark timeline I'm from.
"You said you had money?" Dresden asks.
"Yeah, Rhys sang in the market this morning and got a bunch of coins." She pulls out her bag and shows it to Dresden who picks through the coins then outright snatches the bag, ties it shut, and slips it into their armor chest piece.
"Hey!" Merlin shouts. "Give it back!"
"Why should I? You handed it to me," Dresden shoots back.
I don't remember Dresden Mitchel being this much of an asshole in my own world, but then I've never met them personally.
"We'll share mine," I tell Merlin as I glare at Dresden from the floor. I save my file and power down my computer. There's no way I'm letting my bag out of my sight now. I also don't plan on going to sleep tonight at all. I'd rather not have a fight in the room that might lead to us being kicked out of the inn.
"But, Rhys," Merlin interjects.
"I'm older than both of you. Try to get some rest. We still have one more summon tomorrow to deal with." I look back to Merlin and add, "Remember the dragons?"
She nods. "Fine. I remember the dragons."
I keep an eye on Dresden who smiles deviously from the bed. This isn't the Lizard Wizard I'm a fan of. This is someone else. Someone who looks the same but is from another world. I continue to tell myself that as I watch the musician who looks just like one I've listened to drift off to sleep.