Pinafore and the Halfway House
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A sample from chapter one is included below…
Chapter One: Pinafore
The portal closed behind us. Virgin snow covered the rolling hills of Pinafore’s construct, and dotted amongst the endless carpet of white were tall trees stripped of foliage. An icy wind blew from all directions. I scowled in annoyance. I was up to my knees in heavy snow. Sleet and hail battered my face, making me squint as I grumbled a handful of expletives. My companions behind gave corresponding grunts and moans. Lightner, of course, was the first one to find her voice.
“This is ridiculous. Its obvious Pinafore doesn’t want me to be here.”
Lightner was by my side. Maybury and Darkling were right behind her, looking around the scene in bewilderment. Darkling’s right hand was open, a blue fireball hovering just above his palm. Maybury stayed close to Darkling, appreciative of the heat. The storm intensified, stones of hail battering my face. Lightner received the brunt of the unnatural weather’s ferocity, but I wholly expected that of Pinafore. She’d only taken two steps before a mini cyclone knocked her off her feet, submerging her in several feet of fresh snow. Darkling pulled Lightner free and she brushed herself down. She turned to me with a frowny face.
“It’s always like this?”
I took her hand, pulling her towards me. “Pretty much, I’d guess. You know what our memories are like here.”
Another fierce curl of icy wind took Lightner to her knees. Lightner clambered upright, waving a lazy hand through the heavy snow. “Pinafore isn’t my biggest fan, is she?”
I smiled back. “No!”
Just then, a crevice split the ground between Lightner and I. She cried out, falling from my grip. Her despairing face slipped into oblivion and the seam closed tightly. Maybury laughed wryly, nodding his head. Darkling just stared at me, his expression neutral. I turned my head upwards, squinting into the white void.
“Pinafore you idiot! I’m going to kick your arse around when I find you!”
The sky gave no answers. The wind howled in my ears as I trudged forward. I had my hands buried deep inside the soft pockets of my leather bomber jacket. I narrowly avoided head-butting the unexpected ice cliff, endlessly high and blocking my path. I gave a sigh of resignation and began to search for my first handhold in the sheer wall of ice. Darkling’s hand appeared on my shoulder.
“You’re sure about this?” Darkling said. “Perhaps it isn’t safe?”
I smiled. “What’s the worst that can happen?”
Darkling nodded solemnly. Maybury gave a quiet yelp and began to fade away. Darkling raised his hands just as they too began to vanish. I reached to touch Darkling’s shoulder.
“I guess this is where we”—
Too late. Darkling faded out before I could finish my statement, leaving my hand hovering in the air. He’d been evicted from Pinafore’s reality just like the others. It was just me now. Just the way Pinafore wanted it to be.
“Alright, Pinafore,” I whispered. “Just you and me.”
I climbed Pinafore’s unlikely glacier for five minutes before losing my grip and falling. I landed on my back and lay cursing Pinafore until one of the mini-tornadoes smothered me with a heavy layer of fresh snow. Struggling free, I began my climb again.
The snow stopped falling shortly before I reached the summit. Clambering to my feet, I could see Pinafore’s log cabin in the distance between a thin barrier of snowbound trees. A coil of grey smoke twisted up from a stone chimney built into the center of the cabin. I waded through the snow towards the smoke, losing sight of the cabin as the snow began to fall heavily on Pinafore’s plateau.
The cabin appeared again as a momentary break in the snow revealed the cabin again, giving me an opportunity to correct my course. I was already beyond irritable, and the sleet stinging my cheeks did nothing to alleviate my building desire to kick Pinafore’s backside around her cabin once I came face to face with her. I marched on, the snow grew deeper the nearer I came to the redwood log cabin. I could smell the wood fire now, a friendly odor promising warmth and heat. My feet were now on a path of stone slabs, completely buried under a meter of snow. Ahead, the door of the cabin was tantalizingly close. Pinafore had fitted a wreath of holly and red berries to the wood. Below this, there was a heavy iron knocker.
I rapped the knocker three times, thumping the striking plate heavily. There was an immediate commotion behind the log cabin’s door – dogs barking, footsteps running around wildly, unknown artifacts within the cabin smashing and crashing. I was certain I heard Pinafore quieting the animals. Some of the commotion stopped – and so did the snow. The thumping, clumping, and thundering continued within the cabin, though somewhat subdued.
The door did not open. I waited a short while before knocking again. This provoked more barking. Pinafore shouted again, her words clearer.
“Blackie! Rover! That’s enough! Come here now!”
I smiled at the sound of Pinafore’s voice. Despite having to jump hoops and turn cartwheels to find her, it still felt good. Bouncer and Sweep gave their final barks and then were silent. The ruckus inside the cabin continued, the door shaking as I placed the flat of my palm against it.
“I’m coming in!” I said. “Pinafore, do you hear me? I’m coming in the door.”
“Don’t!” Pinafore shouted. “Just leave me here!”
I wasn’t about to do that. Pinafore’s words bolstered my frustrated anger, which had stopped bubbling on hearing her voice. Now it returned, motivating me to shove open the cabin door more forcefully than I should have. The door swung open, a wash of warm air and the cinnamon aroma of mulled wine wafting into my face.
Pinafore’s shriek was overwhelmed by the terrific roar of an Atlantean Dragon. The great black lizard-beast’s face appeared, filling the entire doorway. The yellow eyes blinked at me as the enormous mouth – big enough to swallow me in one gulp – opened to emit a second, more powerful roar. The blast of air and noise made me stagger back a pace. I shook my head to clear it and stepped towards the Dragon, reaching my hand towards the leathery snout.
“Inferno,” I said. “This is between Pinafore and I. You know that.”
The Dragon looked like he was about to roar again. As my hand touched the space between his nostrils the big head nodded solemnly.
“Nice to see you again, Greengrass,” Inferno said.