“’One quick detour on the way to Tiny
Island’, that’s what you said.”
“Just be quiet and lift!”
Aerin took a deep breath and heaved up his side of the giant stone maze, rolling the ball along its final path and into the goal. With an explosive exhale, he let the maze drop as the door to the final chamber opened. “20 seconds,” he said, watching the sand timer on the wall.
“Well let’s get a move on!” John Boss bounded through the door.
The final room was small and dominated by the golden monkey statue sitting on a plinth at the far end. Between them and the plinth was a chasm, and they had been provided several planks of wood.
John Boss jumped the chasm.
“Ah-ha! Got it!” With little effort, he picked up the solid-gold monkey statue and leapt back to the entrance.
“10 seconds!” shouted Aerin, and the two of them ran, stopping only to grab the silver, bronze, and stone monkey statues from the previously completed rooms.
They ran as fast as they could, but not fast enough. The last grains passed through the sand timer, and the large stone belly of the gorilla that formed the entrance to the temple slammed shut in front of them. With no light, John and Aerin stood in the darkness and silence, clutching the four monkey statues.
“Fuck!” shouted Aerin. “Why, John?”
“Don’t ‘Why, John’ me! I’m not the one who missed the ruby monkey statue-”
“Here we go again.”
“Yes, ‘here we go again’. That was worth 20 extra seconds in the Temple of the Jungle King! That’s what we needed!”
“Oh, whatever,” spat Aerin. “How do we get out?”
A red portal appeared and lit the darkness.
“There we go.” John gestured to the portal with a nod, both his arms being full of monkey statues.
“Seriously?” Aerin took a moment. “In we go?”
John Boss smiled. “Obviously.”
They stepped out into a very different
temple. The walls and floors and ceilings were still solid rock,
giving the effect of it being a hollowed-out cave, but the
cavern they stood in was much bigger. It had more furniture,
more light, more colours, and more people.
John and Aerin were standing on an altar surrounded by robed figures who were chanting in deep voices. The crowd slowly looked up at them, and as they stopped chanting the red portal behind them gradually faded away then snapped shut.
John, clutching his monkey statues to his bare chest, beamed at his surprise audience. “Aerin,” he whispered. “I don’t know what we’ve just stepped into the middle of, but I think we’re in the middle of it.” He cleared his throat and bellowed. “Greetings, greetings, greetings! ‘Tis I: John Boss the 34th, hero of the people!”
“What? I count as a people.” He turned back to his robed audience. “Please hold your applause! You know, it’s so good to be back…” he looked around “…here. Crowds here are just the best.”
“What is the meaning of this?!”
The sea of robes parted as a woman approached to address the two strangers on the altar. She was wearing the flowing black dress, with green and purple sequins, of someone who was clearly in charge of a cult, and who probably owned an altar. “You are not my monster.”
Aerin stepped down from the altar. “For the record, I take no ownership or responsibility for John Boss either. My name is Aerin Liette.”
The woman stared intensely into the middle-distance and raised her arms. “I am Vexandri, dark ruler of Enchantia!” The torches around the chamber shot geysers of green flame into the air. Some dramatic synth chords sounded from nowhere in particular. Perhaps it was some sort of subterranean wind effect.
Aerin jumped. “Ohshit! Oh, uh, okay.”
John Boss jumped down to Vexandri’s eyeline. “I love you.”
A clattering from above. There was the sound of breathless footsteps down a staircase and another robed minion entered the chamber. “My lady…she’s here!”
Vexandri snapped her neck in the direction of her minion. “Slavelings! With me!” Her unseen synth orchestra played her out of the room, and the robes all drained out after her.
John and Aerin were alone.
“So,” Aerin started. “She seems…intense.”
“Oh look!” John picked up a large brown sack from a pile of arcane trinkets in the corner, put the four monkey statues in, and slung it over his shoulder. “Come on!”
They followed Vexandri and her minions out of the chamber, up the steps, and through a tunnel, which opened into a castle’s courtyard. The procession made it way out the castle’s mighty double doors and across the drawbridge.
John and Aerin stood behind the crowd and looked out at the deep purple horizon with hints of green and blue brush strokes in the sky. Aerin leaned in to John. “We’re not in Wurld any more, are we?”
“No,” said John. “We’re in Enchantia, of which Vexandri is the dark ruler. Do keep up.”
Vexandri narrowed her eyes under her flawless green eyeshadow, her razor-sharp contour clenched with anger. A dust cloud grew on the horizon, carrying the sound of engines and power metal.
“Excuse me, my dark queen,” asked John. “What is that oncoming racket?”
“That, John Boss, is Susan Dangerous. Susan Dangerous…and the Battle Bikes.”
The dust cloud was coming from five sentient robot motorbikes, coloured red, blue, purple, orange, and pink. The leader, the red one obviously, was the only bike actually being ridden.
Susan Dangerous led the one-woman biker gang with a smile on her face, her blonde hair flapping and glittering in the wind. She unsheathed the silver sword on her back and screamed an almighty battlecry as she pointed the blade directly at Vexandri.
John Boss leaned over to Vexandri again. “I love her. Sorry.” He turned to Aerin. “I love Enchantia.”
The wheeled warriors exploded into battle. The robed followers of Vexandri removed their hoods to reveal skeleton warriors, who unsheathed swords and axes made of bone then charged.
John dumped his sack on the ground. “’Battle Bikes’, you say? Well that’s about to explain the smell of…” He unsheathed his iconic red scimitar. “Burning rubber.”
The scimitar burst into flames. John smiled as he twirled it. “A trick I learned from another amazing woman, also called John Boss. Number 41.”
Susan Dangerous backflipped off her bike and beheaded a skeleton before she reached the ground. The bikes chased the skeletons around, shooting laser beams out of blasters mounted on their handles and wheels.
“Wait, John!” said Aerin, grabbing a fallen sword which was heavier than he expected. “Which side are we on?”
John paused. “Well Vexandri said she was the ‘dark ruler’ of Enchantia, so...”
“Ah! That’ll mean she’s a villain! Right.”
“Actually, I was going to say being the ruler makes her more of a challenge, but sure we’ll do your motive.”
John joined Susan in slicing skeletons down while Aerin ran around uselessly like a writer in a sword fight. John stabbed his flaming scimitar into a skeleton, but there was nothing to stab and nothing to burn. Instead, his weapon got caught in the gap between two ribs which made xylophone sounds as they were hit. John held onto the handle, ducking his head to avoid the skeleton’s axe. Finally, he was able to wrench the scimitar out and smash the skeleton in its skull with the handle.
Two more approached from behind, and with a low swing he literally swept their legs out from under them, which flew lifelessly through the air as their top halves kept fighting.
It wasn’t long before John’s high-octane fight choreography was noticed by Susan, who danced her way across the castle’s entrance, her blade removing heads as she went.
“Friend or foe?” she said when she was close enough.
“Friend until we get a better offer or more context for this setting that makes our actions within it more morally complex,” replied John. “I’m John Boss the 34th, this is Aerin Liette. Vexandri, A Person I Assume You Know-”
John ducked so Susan could swing over his head and take out two skeletons.
“…Brought us here with a glowing red portal. Bit confusing, but at the end of the day I’m enjoying myself and that’s all any of us can do in this life.”
“I see.” Susan Dangerous let out a deafening scream as she overarm threw her sword with alarming force and skewered three evil minions together. “I have a friend who might be able to help you.”
John, Aerin, and Susan turned to Vexandri, who was crossing the battlefield with her arms raised, conjuring her dark magic. “Bold of you to ride directly to the gates of Castle Powerthrone. To what do I owe this pleasure?”
“I know you’re planning something Vexandri,” said Susan, picking up her sword again so should could gesture with it. “You haven’t sent out a new monster in weeks. To be honest, I was starting to get kinda worried.”
Vexandri smiled and shrugged. “Call it a Christmas truce. For now. Mark my words Susan Dangerous, you’ll never stop me!”
With an evil cackle, she unleashed a blast of energy that pushed Susan, John, Aerin, and the Battle Bikes backwards through the air.
Susan picked herself up. “Come on, everyone.” She got back on the red motorbike. “You two, get on Nightchaser and Reginald.”
The purple and blue bikes rolled up to John and Aerin. “We came all the way out here to bust some heads; now I’m stuck carrying another human around,” said the purple one in a gruff robotic voice.
“Nightchaser, play nice,” replied the blue one in a much more pleasant tone. It had two large lights on the front which from certain angles gave the impression of thick-rimmed glasses. “I told you a direct assault on Castle Powerthrone had only a 27.351% chance of being effective. At least now we have a mystery to solve.” The blue bike drove up to Aerin and tooted twice for him to get on. As soon as John and Aerin were aboard, the five bikes and their three passengers tore off, leaving Vexandri and her skeleton warriors far behind.
The five bikes drove for miles across
beautiful landscapes that looked almost hand-drawn. After what
felt like an hour, they were climbing a spiralling rocky path
through a mountain range covered in snow. Without a need to
drive the bike he was on, Aerin was getting a bit bored. John
and Susan meanwhile had fully committed to the bit, putting
their hands on the throttle and holding themselves in position
like they were responsible for the speed they were moving.
“So…” Aerin started. “My name is Aerin Liette by the way.”
“Pleasure to meet you Aerin!” chirped the blue bike below him. “My name is Reginald P. Michaels, but you can call me RPM. This is Nightchaser,” - the purple bike tooted - “Rocky the Roadster,” - the orange one honked - “Sally,” - the pink one which had large black eyelashes attached to its lights for some reason beeped - “And our heroic leader, Nitros Speedstar!”
A single “’Sup?” came from Susan’s red bike.
“And together we’re…”
“THE BATTLE BIKES!” They all shouted in unison, with varying degrees of enthusiasm. Nightchaser joined in the team name shout while simultaneously maintaining an air of not caring about the name, or his teammates, or anything.
“Wow,” said Aerin. “Everyone in this world is very…enthusiastic. Vexandri was really dramatic about shouting her own name too.”
“It helps with marketability,” said Reginald.
“I said we’re just so darn excited to be here!”
“Oh. Right. I guess I heard that differently the first time. Your engines are all kinda loud.”
The group reached the top of the path, where a small wooden door could be seen in the side of the mountain. Susan, John, and Aerin dismounted. Aerin gave RPM a wave and followed John who followed Susan through the door.
The icy cold of the mountains washed away the moment they stepped over the threshold. The inside was warm and cosy and bright. A fire crackled gently in a fireplace with stockings hanging above it. Red and green lights hung across the walls. Everything was made of wood, from the cupboards to the tables to the chairs. The room was quite big, a combination living room and kitchen, with some items of furniture like a large black cauldron that didn’t seem to belong in any normal room. In the corner was a tree covered in tinsel with a few parcels wrapped in bright shiny paper underneath. A record player on a side table was playing an upbeat tune with jingling bells and at least one tambourine.
Preparations for a dinner were being made. Someone could be heard rushing around in another room. “You know all I really want this year is a few more bloody hours in the day…”
“Alec!” Susan called into the next room. “It’s Susan, I brought friends!”
Hurried footsteps from the other side of the wall, and a smiling old man emerged. He had a long white beard that came to a point, and wore purple robes with golden spectacles and a pointed purple hat with gold stars. “Susan Dangerous, my dear! How did the assault on Castle Powerthrone go?”
“Strangely,” she said, making herself comfortable at the table. “Vexandri is planning something this Christmas, I know it. Also, we ran into these two. They came from inside the castle, apparently from a red portal?” she said, turning to John.
“Yes, that’s right. John Boss the 34th, Aerin Liette,” he said with a quick gesture to the two of them. “Is it okay if I leave this here?” He said, holding up his brown sack of priceless monkey statues.
“Oh, certainly,” said the old man. “My name is Alec Kazam, one of the most powerful wizards in all of Enchantia, if I do say so myself! Now, a red portal you say, Mmmm?” Alec pushed his spectacles up his nose and began scanning through his bookshelves. “Red portal, red portal…ah!” He pulled a book of the shelf and slammed it down on the table, opening up to the correct page first time. Next to a page full of arcane symbols was an illustration of the red portal that brought John and Aerin here. “Like this I presume?”
“Yep, that’s the one,” said John.
“Right, well I see what’s happened here. Vexandri with her evil magic has managed to open a gateway from our world to yours, bringing you both to Enchantia. That’s serious, most serious indeed.”
Susan was leaning on both her fists, elbows on the table. “Vexandri is opening portals now? I KNEW it. I knew she was doing something. So why these two? No offense, but why not literally anyone else from literally any other world?”
“Ah, well I don’t think she did it on purpose,” said Aerin. “When we stepped through the portal, she took one look at us and said ‘you aren’t my monster’.”
Alec and Susan looked at each other. “This is worse than I thought,” said Alec. “Making monsters is one thing, but bringing them here from heaven knows where…who knows the horrors she could unleash.”
Vexandri stormed through her castle,
heading back down to the underground ritual altar. She stopped
at the entrance to the tunnel, changed her mind, and took a
detour to the dungeons.
The cells under Castle Powerthrone mostly sat empty; the necromancer Vexandri rarely had need of living prisoners. But at the far end of the dungeon, there were two cells which had their doors unlocked but were nevertheless occupied.
Inside the two cells, side by side, were giant blue crystals. Inside the two crystals, frozen in a look of everlasting terror, were a man and woman reaching for one another. They both wore crowns and were dressed elegantly in colourful fabrics and jewellery.
Vexandri examined the two of them as she did often. She smiled. “How does it feel? Helplessness. Knowing that outside these walls your kingdom is in ruins and there’s nothing you can do to save them.” Some days she wondered if she could see a tear falling out of their eyes, but she knew it was impossible. Her magic kept them in perfect suspension, like statues. Frozen in time. “I have devised a way to open portals to other realities, and summon forth monsters from beyond your wildest nightmares. This Christmas, Enchantia will fall!”
With a haunting laugh, she turned and made her way back down the steps to the ritual chamber.
She took her position by the altar and raised her arms. Her robed skeletons started to chant once again, and a red portal flickered into life in front of them.
“Come to me! Bow before your new queen!”
A dark shape began to form out of the portal. It emerged slowly, pushing its hand through before stepping fully onto the altar. The red portal snapped shut behind it and Vexandri gazed up at her new monster.
Its body was a human-shaped mass of cogs and gears and leavers, all brass and bronze and gold. A clock was set into its chest and it had a cape covered in numerals. On its head sat a top hat and its face was a metronome. Constantly ticking.
Vexandri smiled. “Welcome back.”
“Whadaya think of our new friends?” asked
Rocky, running rings around the others. “Did you see what the
guy with the eyepatch did with that flaming sword? Totally
“I don’t trust them,” said Nitros Speedstar. “We picked them up at Vexandri’s headquarters. They could be spies for all we know.”
“That Aerin guy seemed pretty clueless,” said Sally. “If they are hiding something, they’re good actors. What do you think Nightchaser?”
Nightchaser had parked himself on the edge of the mountain overlooking all of Enchantia. He wasn’t looking at the view. His gaze was fixed on a small picture of a sentient truck in a heart-shaped locket, sold separately. “Just cause they were in enemy territory doesn’t make them the enemy. You all know that,” he gravelled. He flicked it shut with his wheel, somehow, while leaning forlornly on his kickstand.
Everyone was quiet. Nitros Speedstar rolled over to Nightchaser, joining him at the edge. “I’m sorry Nightchaser, but it’s time to let it go. The Monster Trucks are evil, pure and simple. They destroyed our home, our people…my sister…”
“He’s different,” said Nightchaser, putting the heart-shaped locket away with his wheel, somehow. “I know he is.”
Aerin watched from the spyhole in Alec Kazam’s door. “So…bunch of talking motorbikes. We don’t have that in our world. Actually, the only reason we know what motorbikes are at all is because we’ve been to the future. Long story; it’d have to be split into at least two parts to tell it.”
“The Battle Bikes crash-landed here a few years ago,” explained Susan, drinking a mug of hot chocolate from Alec. “They’re the survivors of an intergalactic war from the planet Dieselox.”
“This dimension has intergalactic wars between groups of living machines?” asked John Boss. “I like it here. I would probably like to get home at some point though. I have my own world that needs saving.”
“Ah, don’t you worry about that, young man,” said Alec Kazam, hurrying around the room with books and scrolls and potions. “I’m sure I can conjure up another portal to send you both back home. All will be set right, I’m sure. Now, just let me see here…” The old man trailed off, occasionally muttering to no one.
The large cauldron in the corner of the room started bubbling, but there wasn’t and hadn’t been a fire under it. Susan shot up from her chair. “I knew it! I knew she was up to no good!”
“Wait, what’s happening?” asked Aerin.
“The cauldron boils when danger approaches,” said Alec, as he hobbled over to it. The four of them huddled around and looked into the bubbling water. Instead of their reflections, they saw a hideous monster covered in gears with a metronome for a face.
“Vexandri has unleashed a new monster,” said Susan. “Come on, you two. Let’s save Christmas.”
Susan led the group to a quaint little
town at the base of the mountain. The streets were lined with
shops advertising their wares through windows lined with tinsel
and lights. A thick layer of snow covered the buildings like
icing. A snowman stood on a street corner. Not even a mouse was
stirring. Then, a scream.
Around the corner, a street urchin had been backed against the wall by the creature they’d seen in the cauldron. The monster didn’t speak or even move. It just stood there and ticked.
“Stop, foul villain!” Susan shouted as she dismounted her Battle Bike with John and Aerin.
But the creature didn’t stop. Instead, it opened the glass door on the clock in its chest. The hands of the clock span backwards and a bright light shone directly into the urchin’s eyes.
Alec Kazam searched through his immense
library, looking for a book of other-worldly threats to find
information on the monster.
One book stood out from his painterly bookshelf, more brightly coloured and less detailed than the rest. He pulled out the dusty old tome and slammed it down on his desk next to the previous book he’d slammed down to start flicking through.
“Come on, come on…Ah! Here it…is…”
Alec stopped as he examined the page. It had a large detailed illustration of the monster he’d seen with a long description of it and its properties, but the page was covered in scribbles he’d never seen before. And they were in his handwriting.
At the top of the page he saw the monster’s name.
The light faded and the urchin stared up
at the ticking monster. He blinked. He no longer looked scared
or tense. It was like he’d just walked into consciousness and
forgot what he came in for.
“Get away from it!” Susan jumped between the urchin and the monster, shield and sword raised. “Are you alright?”
“Yes ma’am, I’m…’ere, wot is that thing? And what’s it done to the ground?”
Susan looked around. “What do you mean?”
“The ground, it’s covered in white stuff…” The boy leaned down, pulled off a glove, and touched it. “Oh, it’s cold! It’s just frozen everything!”
“It’s snow,” said Aerin, joining his side. “You know about snow in this dimension, right?”
The voice of Alec Kazam came from a high-tech communicator on Susan’s wrist. The monster still just stood there. Tick. Tock. Tick. Tock.
“What is it, Alec?”
“That creature is a Time-Eater! It rewinds your memory, it can make you forget all about specific places or people or times. And that’s not all…” His voice was slightly shaken. “Susan…we’ve fought a Time-Eater before.”
Susan was quiet, digesting this information. “But if we defeated this creature, then why don’t we remember?” She turned to the urchin. “Boy. Do you know what ‘A Tinsel’ is?”
The boy shook his head.
“What about snowmen? Reindeer? Christmas? Do ringing bells ring any bells?”
“Sorry ma’am, I don’t know what you mean.”
Susan looked at the Time-Eater. “You’ve erased all memory of Christmas from his mind. The entire tradition, wiped away.” She leaned in to her communicator. “Alec, what do you mean we’ve fought a Time-Eater before? How? When did this happen?”
“I have notes all over my book that I apparently wrote, but I can’t remember writing,” said Alec. “We fought one of them on something called ‘Jimothy Bread Day?’ Apparently, it was a day in commemoration of a man called Jimothy Bread. Who invented bread.”
“It’s been erased from your memory,” said Aerin. “Jimothy Bread Day was wiped from your whole society, like Christmas will be if we don’t stop that thing.”
Susan Dangerous looked at the Time-Eater. Rage boiled in her eyes. “How dare you take Jimothy Bread Day from us!”
She smashed the Time-Eater across the neck with her sword but left no damage. Upon being attacked, the creature finally sprung into motion. It raised its arms and shot lighting from its fingers, which bounced and danced across the street. Everywhere the lightning touched the ground, one of Vexandri’s robed skeleton warriors rose from the snow.
John raised his scimitar. “Ooh, this is going to be a fun one!”
John and Susan swung at the creature, who went from being as still as a grandfather clock to ducking and dodging their blows, never moving more than it needed to but always moving when needed. Aerin scrambled onto Reginald’s back for safety and the five Battle Bikes started blasting away at the skeletons. The street urchin knew when he was no longer welcome at a party and left to sadly stare through a different shop window.
“I can already tell this is going to be exhausting,” said Susan. Her Sword of Might clanged and clattered against the Time-Eater’s metal body, making no mark.
Nitros Speedstar stopped firing. “Guys, I think we gotta put ‘em together!”
The Battle Bikes all shouted in unison. “It’s Combination Time™!”
Aerin fell off Reginald as the blue bike started to fly. All five Battle Bikes hovered through the air towards each other. Heavy electric guitar music started playing out of nowhere and a multi-coloured light show painted the street a million shades. The bikes broke apart, reconfigured themselves in the air, then reattached and landed back on solid ground, now in the shape of a single 9-foot-tall human.
“We are Mega-Super-Battle Bike, Justice Mode!” said the electronic monstrosity; a person made of five differently-coloured motorbikes with speedometers for eyes.
“Susan!” said the voice of Alec. “The clock on its chest! That’s the weak point!”
The mangled motorbike man did something Aerin thought could be interpreted by higher lifeforms as a smirk. “Thanks gramps. ENERGY BEAMS, ENERGISE!”
Five different lasers of five different colours shot out of the motorbike man and blasted the Time-Eater right in his sensitive clock. The glass door shattered and a blast of light escaped from it, which travelled down the street and merged with the urchin. The memory of Christmas restored, he suddenly ran off, remembering he’d promised that old geezer from the third-storey window that he’d buy him the turkey from down the street that was as big as he was.
The Time-Eater ticked his last tock as he exploded in a shower of fire and confetti. The Mega-Super-Battle Bike, Justice Mode turned and posed with its back to the explosion.
Aerin shook his head. “Enchantia is a very silly place.”
Everyone was gathered in the warmth of
Alec Kazam’s mountain home. John Boss, Susan Dangerous, Aerin,
Alec, and the Battle Bikes were all sat or parked around the
table piled high with turkey, mince pies, fresh sprouts, flagons
of mead, and a few canisters of delicious petrol.
“I must say,” said John, grimacing as he set his flagon down and wiped his mouth. “Not too keen on the petrol.”
“It’s…mainly for the talking bikes,” said Susan.
“By the way…” Susan got up from the table to grab something from under the tree: two neatly-wrapped parcels labelled ‘John’ and ‘Aerin’. “Merry Christmas!”
“For me?!” John’s eye lit up and he ripped the paper off. In his hands was a small silver pendant with a faint purple glow.
“It has some sort of magical property that I haven’t been able to work out,” Susan explained. “But it can be a reminder of your time in Enchantia. A little piece of our world that will live in yours.”
“Thank you!” John beamed, slipping the thin chain over his head.
Aerin opened his to find a book filled with strange symbols and colourful illustrations, but thankfully there were some words he could read.
“This is A Simplified History of Enchantia,” said Alec. “Should you wish to do a bit of light reading.”
“Thanks,” said Aerin. “I just wish I had something of value to give to you.”
“Your help in saving Christmas is more than enough,” said Nitros Speedstar. The other Battle Bikes loudly honked in agreement.
“Although,” John started. “We may have something…”
He got up and went to his brown sack which still sat in the corner of the room. With a touch of drama, he undid the drawstring at the top and placed on Alec’s shelf the stone, bronze, silver, and gold monkey statues.
“Recovered from the Temple of the Jungle King. Four treasures from the world of Wurld!”
Susan and Alec moved to inspect them. “Thank you ever so much, my boy!” Alec exclaimed. “We shall cherish them forever!”
The rest of the day was spent cracking crackers, cracking jokes, eating fine food, and sharing tales of actiontacular adventure from two different universes, as all over Enchantia and all over Wurld, a very merry Christmas was had by all.
“Well, time to head home.” Alec had
successfully opened a portal of his own to take John and Aerin
back to Wurld.
“Look after your world, John Boss.”
“Only if you keep looking after yours, Susan Dangerous.”
The two mighty heroes clasped their hands together in a mutual bicep pump of respect.
And with a final wave to Susan, Alec, and the five Battle Bikes, John and Aerin stepped through the portal and out of the world.
Susan and Alec stood in awed silence for a moment. “I’ll miss them,” said Susan quietly.
The cauldron started bubbling and boiling, threatening to overflow.
Alec looked at Susan. “Trouble?”
Susan smiled back. “Always.”
With her Sword of Might and Shield of Courage on her back, and her trusty Battle Bikes by her side, Susan Dangerous raced off to a new adventure.
SUSAN DANGEROUS WILL RETURN
THE SIXTH BATTLE BIKE
JOHN BOSS WILL RET
John Boss returned to the courtyard
outside the Temple of the Jungle King, not seeing the red portal
close behind him. Aerin looked around, noticing the round belly
of the gorilla statue, the entrance to the temple which had been
sealed shut. “Oh.”
“What?” John asked.
“I guess we made it out then,” he nodded at the temple. “What did we win?”
“Well…” John took off the pendant. “This, it seems. What’s that you’re holding?”
“I don’t know.” Aerin flipped through the book. “The history of a land called Enchantia. And there’s something here about a ‘Time-Eater’?”
“’The Time-Eater cannot truly die, for in its last moments it simply ceases to have ever been born…’”
“That’s my theory, anyway. Perhaps its
life flashes before its unblinking eye, and then in an instant…”
Alec blew out a guttering candle. “It takes everyone else down
with it. All the pain and loss it may have caused, wiped clean.
But so too are the gains, so is the victory. That’s why we don’t
remember the last time we encountered one.” He paused, then
grabbed the book nearest to hand, A Simplified History of
Enchantia, and pulled his quill from its inkwell.
Susan was quiet for a moment, staring into the flame in the hearth. “So why do we still remember?”
“What time is it now?” Alec asked, scribbling furiously into the front of the book.
She glanced at the clock on the mantelpiece. “It’s quarter-past eleven.”
“That makes sense. A monster made out of a clock. We have forty-five minutes.”
Susan turned away from Alec, shoulders heaving a little, then she was audibly laughing to herself.
“What is it?”
“How are we supposed to do Christmas in forty-five minutes?”
“Oh, don’t be ridiculous child,” he shook his head, not looking up from his book. “I’m quickly documenting the phenomenon, then I’m sending those two outside back to their own world before I forget.”
“But next Christmas is a whole year away!” She smiled, she knew she was being ridiculous. She looked out the frosty window, watching John and Aerin riding around on the Battle Bikes. “I was so caught up with Vexandri I didn’t even bring your present.”
Alec scoffed. “It’s fine. There’s always next year. Every Christmas Day is the same anyway. Same dry turkey, same crackers, and bloody awful jokes.”
Susan sighed, looking up at the mantelpiece. “You’d hope so, wouldn’t you?” She stopped. “Alec.”
“I have an idea. Just popped into my head right now. Really bloody stupid, ridiculous notion.”
“My favourite kind.”
“What did you say you wanted, anyway?” She unhooked the latch on the mantelpiece clock, flipped the glass lid out, then softly guided the hour hand back a bit with her finger. “I’ll get the turkey started. Merry Christmas, Alec Kazam.”
“Merry Christmas, Susan Dangerous.”
John Boss shrugged. “I suppose this
pendant might fetch a price at the market when we get into
“I don’t know what I’m supposed to do with this book,” Aerin sighed. “I'll hold onto it though. Interesting way to pass an hour.”
“Bah, what a waste. All that time spent running through the jungle for some jewellery and a storybook.”
“What were you hoping to get out of this?” Aerin asked. “Countless adventurers have been locked in that temple forever, for what?”
“I don’t know. A minor battle, perhaps? The thrill of danger, the joy of - in the last few minutes - snatching victory from the jaws of defeat.” He kicked a rock down the steps of the Temple of the Jungle King as they set off. “A bike?”
THE GHOSTS OF ENGAIA PRISON
Alec Kazam closed the door to his mountain home, alone again. With a twinkle in his eye, he turned to face the camera. “And incidentally, a happy Christmas to all of you at home!”