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Onward to Chaos

Riley woke up before Cookie did and left her there.

He knew he had to follow his father, and he thought he knew where his father was headed, since he had found the place shortly before he began staying with the faerie.

Riley soon found that things were odd along his path. This was not unusual, for things are often odd when one travels by the sorts of paths that Riley travels, but things were odd in a different way, if you know what I mean (or even if you don't)

Riley walked to the Inn of Quiet Repose, a place at which he had stayed often, and a place which attracted travelers of all sorts and from all places. He went in and called out, "Ho Barkeep! A pint of your best ale!" and took a seat at a table in the back. He knew the innkeeper, a tall man named Garod who hated to be called barkeep but who was friends with Riley and sometimes when you're friends you do things like that to each other. Often Garod would call Riley "Milkboy," which Riley hated. And that's why they're such great friends.

After a few minutes, a pretty lass, whose name was Crystal, came to Riley's table and served him an amber liquid in a pint jar. "One quid," was all she said, despite the fact that Riley had known her and she had taken him to a Sadie Hawkins dance one summer. Riley thought that perhaps she was mad at him and asked, "Is Garod here, Crystal?"

Crystal looked at Riley funny and said, "huh?"

Riley tried again, "Is Garod here?"

Crystal looked at Riley funny and said, "who?"

Riley tried again, this time with a bit of sarcasm, "Garod, you know, the tall fellow who often stands behind the bar and gives people beer? Owns the place?"

Crystal looked quizzically and said, "You want to speak to the innkeeper?"

Riley was relieved that this tricky communication had been completed and said, "yes, exactly."

But then a few minutes later a short, fat man named Jerry came out and claimed to be the innkeeper. He said he had owned the place for years and years.

And that's what I mean when I say that Things were Odd.

* * *

Riley was crossing a mountain range and he thought it best to get down the other side as quickly as possible, so he was headed for a place where people were clumsy, but skied nonetheless.

Along the way, he picked up a tail. Not a real tail, someone following him. Fortunately, Riley had learned a lot about traveling through the woods from his wolf friends and was able to lurk in ambush and wait for his tail to catch up with him. As it turns out, it was a wolf, who looked quite hungry.

Riley stepped out from his hiding place and said, "Hallo lean one, how is the wood here?" and the wolf turned to him, surprised that Riley had been able to hide from him and cocked his head as if to say, "The wood is cold and different, and the deer are no longer here in the sorts of quantities that they were before. As such I am forced to hunt lesser game, and perhaps I may be forced to try my paw at hunting the two-legged animals which change their skins with every sun" or something.

Riley took some beef jerky out of his pack and said, "I am sorry that times are tough, but you may have some jerky if you wish. I would stay and help you, but I am on a journey of no small importance and cannot tarry here." He held out the beef jerky and the wolf snapped it up as if to say, "Thank you. I am grateful to you and so I will follow you until you kill a deer that I may eat."

Riley smiled and said, "I will call you Slim Jim."

* * *

Riley and Jim walked on through the cold, snowy wood. As they went, Jim started to hang back further and further, until at last Riley couldn't even see Jim.

Riley came upon a man in a tan and red and yellow jacket who was sitting down waxing his skis near a small hut. He didn't look particularly clumsy.

Riley approached him and asked, "Can you direct me to the Valley of Vernon?" For he knew a shortcut that went through such a valley, but he was having trouble finding it. The man looked up and cocked his head, but being a man, this wasn't as if to say anything at all, it was just a cocked head.

The man said, "No, I can't say that I have, but I have a lot of maps in my hut and perhaps it is in there. I also have Hot Chocolate, which is nice on such a cold day." Riley went with the man to his hut and they both went in. The hut was small, but it had a lot of things in it. Many skis and coats and wallets and such. As the man put a pot of milk on the stove and looked through his maps, Riley looked around at all the ski boots and found a bucket filled with small pieces of gold, smaller than teeth. Riley heard a loud crash as might be made by a wolf leaping through a window. He then heard the clang of a frying pan falling to the ground after it had been held up above one's head and heard the sounds of a man screaming as his stomach was bitten open by a wolf.

Riley turned around and saw that Jim had killed the man. The man had been planning to hit Riley over the head with a pan, so this is probably just as well.

Since Jim had been so helpful, Riley decided to tell him his whole story. While Riley related his story, Jim ate the intestines and other internal organs of the man and scooped out his bones as well. When Riley got to the part about faerie land, Jim had himself some hot chocolate, and by the time Riley got to the part about his attempted murderer in the hut who was killed by a wolf, Jim had finished putting on the man's skin and said, "I think I see what you have to do. You obviously can't walk there. You should just go to your uncle via your cards." Riley saw that this was true and then thought about it some more.

"Do you think my uncles will be happy to see me?" he asked.

"No," replied Jim, "But I have a plan." And he did have a plan, which he told Riley about.

* * *

Riley and Jim arrived in a clearing in the woods. It was a nice, sunny day in midsummer, but then all days in faerie land are nice, sunny, midsummer days. There were two paths leading out from the clearing. One of them went in the direction of their destination and the other went in a different direction entirely. They took the latter.

As they went along, they came across many things, some of which were very dangerous and some of which were very beautiful, and quite a few which were both. They either fought these things, or tricked them, or danced with them. Perhaps one day I will go into more detail about their adventures in fairyland, but in the end they came to Titania's palace, which is actually little more than a tree fort, although it is a very nice tree fort indeed.

Jim was able to trick the guard into letting him and Riley into the palace. Once in there, they tried to mingle without being noticed by Titania. Unfortunately for that purpose, Titania is a bored queen who notices anything and everything new in her court, and so she called out, and all of her faeries spread out until Riley and Jim were alone in a circle. Titania addressed them then, saying "a-ha, mortals who have come to see me! How nice." She saw that Riley was holding a half-eaten shrimp which was dripping sauce, "I will so enjoy your services, mortal." She got up and walked over to Riley and touched his chest, "You are so big and strapping."

There was some more that happened that night, but I'm not going to go into it, since it is very private and not necessarily a big part of this tale.

* * *

The next day, although time flows oddly in faerie land, and so Riley knew that where his father had gone only a small time would have passed, Titania's husband arrived at her court. This was not a good thing for Riley, as he was currently engaged in feeding peeled grapes to Titania while wearing little more than a loincloth. It was certainly embarrassing, and fortunately for Riley, this is not an illustrated story, Jim could hardly contain his laughter, although he was fanning Riley and Titania with a large feather, so who is he to laugh?

Auberon waxed wroth. "What is the meaning of this, fickle and changing wife of mine? You dare to tarry with a mortal on the day of my festival? And with my own friend, Riley?" He was upset not only because Titania had strayed, for Titania strays quite often, and this is normal for the fae, but also because Auberon had been friends with Riley and although he had tried to trick Riley into eating of his food and becoming his slave, he had always failed. So he was jealous for more than one reason.

Titania was confused, "You know this one?"

"Yes, proud harlot, and though I have tried oft to persuade him to join my court, he has always proven to be sly and resourceful and able to resist my guiles. How came you to possess his services?"

Titania was indeed perplexed, "Why, he simply arrived in my court and ate of my appetizers."

Auberon looked at Riley, "Is this true? What of my appetizers? Are my figs not juicy and sweet? Do I not serve the finest of cheeses?"--I think I should reiterate here that these are NOT those kind of faeries, since I can see how the uncouth might read the previous sentence in a wrong way and guess that there was something between Riley and Auberon, which there wasn't.

Riley stood up and said, "Well, not really."

Titania (who is really quite smart normally) said, "What? But-I saw you with a half-eaten shrimp."

Riley explained to all present that he had not eaten the shrimp himself, he was just holding it. Everyone laughed, and Titania took this to mean that they were laughing at her, and so she summoned Glamorgan, who is a large man with antlers who is very strong and mean and powerful, and who sometimes manifests as a huge stag, but mostly just as a huge badass. he was in his badass form, and everyone spread out so that Riley and Glamorgan were alone in the middle of a circle. Riley drew his knife.

Glamorgan spoke, "You shall certainly die the death of mortal men for daring to offend my queen." And he rose up to his full height and brought himself down in a crushing blow, shattering the wood that had been beneath Riley's feet until he leapt out of the way just before the blow fell. "I will crush you to bits as you have never been crushed before" he bellowed as he swept his antlers through the air that had rushed to fill in the space left by Riley's departing body. "I will rip you to pieces and then hang you from a tree!" he yelled as he leapt into the air and kicked his mighty hooves into the tree trunk that was behind where Riley had just been.

Riley asked Glamorgan, "Will you hang me from just the one tree, then, all my pieces?" to which Glamorgan said "huh?" and stopped his crushing momentarily.

"Well, you said you would rip me to pieces and then hang me from a tree. If I am in pieces, it seems you could hang me from many trees, or even plant me in a garden." Glamorgan thought for a while, and was about to concede that that was indeed true, when Riley drove his knife into Glamorgan's chest. The silvered blade pierced Glamorgan's heart and he fell to the ground, manifesting as a dead stag.

Titania was furious, "You have made a fool of me and you shall pay!"

Jim stepped forward and said, "But he has paid, milady, he has given you his most faithful servant as a gift, to set things right, for I was the one who ate the shrimp for Riley."

Titania looked at Jim and sneered, "This is hardly an even exchange, a mere mortal in exchange for my dignity."

But then Jim shed the skin of the man and resumed his natural form and Titania was pleased and had to admit that this was indeed a fair trade. Jim then started to eat Glamorgan.

Auberon turned to Riley and said, "You have been a good guest in these lands, Rile, but you have overstayed your welcome, at least for now I think."

"Do you send me to my uncles, then?"

Auberon took on his kingly manner then and said, "Yes, I command thee to quit this place and go to your uncles and help them in whatever they do."

Riley bowed to Auberon, King of the Fae and smiled, "Then I go, your Highness."

* * *

Riley looked at the card he had made of his uncle, the drummer, and concentrated on it.

"Hello?" said Random, then "who is this? Who are you?"

"I am Riley. King Auberon sent me to help you and my other uncles in what you're doing."

"Huh? Well, ok, come on through, I'm in a hurry."

Riley accepted Random's offered hand and stepped through the connection. Random looked him up and down and said, "So Oberon sent you, huh? Well, I have to get back to Amber right away, go down and tell Corwin that Oberon sent you to help out and see what he has for you to do." And with that, Random pulled out another card and disappeared in a rainbow hue.

Riley went to Corwin then and told him what Random said.