In Which There is a Great Deal of Exposition

Mr. Wickles adjusted his spectacles and sighed.

“Yes, Patches. My littlest brother, Finnegan. We were also discussing my Uncle Fontanello and my sister Eugenia, my ex-wife Angeline, the precise nature of my relationship to you – given that I masqueraded as your ‘master’ for a good three years – the tangled mess of a plot we’ve waded through up to this point. Now Eugenia tells me that you’ve returned from a doomed timeline, wherein our side were captured by that damned Uncle of mine, and that this is our last go-round to get the plan right. That, by the way, is the only reason I’m about to tell you any of this, Patches. You were only ever meant to be a cats-paw to the main endeavour, but you’ve turned out to be a major tool.

“The fact, Mr. Patches, is this: We’re in the middle of a war. A war of succession, to be perfectly frank. You’re a frontline player on the side of traditional fantasy.”

Needless to say, Patches was having a spot of trouble processing all this. Wickles, due to long observation of the poor enchanted feline, noted this and took pity on the poor creature.

“Look, Patches – surely you’ve noticed a number of discrepancies about you, lately? There are scads more fantastic creatures walking undisguised than have any right to. Even our vaguely steampunk setting has some anomalies – I’ve pushed the Writers to flood the market with steampunk as a sort of placeholder in the public imagination until we can get this conflict sorted out, but its hold is waning, and little flashes of contemporary urban fantasy are flashing through. We haven’t much time until this entire genre collapses, leaving us vulnerable to Fontanello’s machinations. Further, there’s been a huge uptick in conspiracy theories lately, lending credence to Fontanello’s vaguely-credible blend of Science Fiction and paranoia.

“He’s planning to wipe out or rewrite traditional fantasy entirely, Patches, and replace it with lizard-people, grey aliens, and faceless shooters on grassy knolls – it’s up to us to stop him.”

Patches, having recovered some of his wits during this lengthy exposition, stroked his whiskers thoughtfully. Though still a bit foggy, the explanation that Mr. Wickles was giving made an enormous amount of sense to his sleep-deprived brain. Struggling to ask an intelligent question after those solid walls of folderol, Patches raised a claw.

“Are you suggesting that my entire life and entire world are a fictional construct? Based on the whims of the literary market in some far-fetched otherwhere?”

“That’s it precisely, dear boy! I knew you’d get there eventually.”

“And, as a Librarian, you have a certain measure of influence over the public imagination? Where we reside?”

“Influence? Scads of it, cat – I manipulate it; I make it sing, and thrill to do my bidding. The trouble is, so does Uncle Fontanello.”

“And, while maintaining a separate existence outside of this framework where you exert that influence, you’re simultaneously operating within this framework, pulling strings on the inside?”

“Indeed. I’m what they refer to as a Self-Insert, or a Mary Sue, if you will. Derived from some hastily-scrawled fan-fiction I wrote myself as a sort of door-way. Bless the Internet – bless it.” 

Patches scowled, and made his final point. “Alright, Wickles. All that being the case – given your near-omnipotence in my world, and given that doubtless you can manipulate me into doing your bidding regardless of my own thoughts or feelings on the matter – what the hell do you need me for, and why the hell are you telling me this?”

Coming Soon

The sabbatical ended up going…well…longer than a sabbatical really due to LIFE *shakes fist at heavens*. However, come the end of term we rounded up a couple new to us writers and we’ll see where the insanity takes us.

In which we enter, pursued by a possible paradox

Patches blinked and found himself pushed into his own coat closet by his companions. Decca was peering beneath the door and offering commentary, “Beauty, you shoulda been on stage, your performance is impeccable! Boy’s not too bad either. Nothing on you, of course, my sweet.”

Eugenia preened, “You say the darlingest things!”

Patches hushed the two of them and pushed his ear against the wall. There was the sound of a scuffle, liquid being poured, the strike of a match, and (finally) the slam of a door. He burst from the closet, quickly extinguishing the wastebasket fire that he, that is to say his prior self, had started. Meanwhile, Decca and Eugenia untangled prior-Eugenia from the rope prior-Patches had used to bind her.

Now-Eugenia grasped prior-Eugenia’s hands, “Dear, I’m sorry, but you simply must be burned now.”

Prior-Eugenia sighed, “Timeline?”

“Well, in about an hour you need to be charred and munching on two dreadful men. Don’t worry, they’re actually quite tasty.”

“Needs must, I suppose.”

The two Eugenia’s exited stage left, pursued by a tortoise.

Patches’ erstwhile master sat up with a sigh.

“You were always the fool, how could you be the mastermind?!?”

Dustin pulled himself up, “Well, I suppose Dustin is rather the fool, but the wonderful thing is that everyone knows he’s harmless.” With that ‘Dustin’ pulled off his head…which was actually a mask.

“Mr. … Mr. Wickles?!? You’re the mastermind?”

“Indeed.”

“But you’re harmless, why would you disguise yourself as Dustin?”

“You think of me harmless, but there are many who observe at deeper level and they, they know. My power is a quiet one, but it can move mountains if necessary.”

“But you’re the librarian!!”

“What greater power than books?”

“You dressed up as a ghostly knight to scare some silly teens.”

A disgruntled look settled on Mr. Wickles’ face, “Meddling kids. Just can’t mind their business.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?”

A sigh huffed out, “Look, the kids were interfering with something very important that could have left them very dead. Not just dead, very dead. Scaring them off was to save their lives. Now could we perhaps focus on the problem at hand? Why’ve you travelled back?”
“I though you had power…”

Mr. Wickles’ glared and his voice rose, “Why should I waste power when you could just tell me?!?”

Patches took a startled step back, “I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’ll explain!”

“Just tell me why Eugenia brought you back, and brought you here.”

“Decca and I were somehow swept away from a bloody fae battle to a cavern where Fontanello-”

“FONTANELLO?!?” Mr. Wickles’ face turned a rather frightening shade of magenta, “FONTANELLO TOOK YOU?!?”
“Well, I-I’m not quite sure if he took us, we were swept up in a shipment of shaving cream apparently.”

“…Shaving cream.”

“Yes, yes, there was this rather manic little fae named-”
Wickles’ interrupted with a sigh, “Finnegan. My little brother will never cease his japes.”

“Your…brother? But?”

 

 

In Which Patches Is Rather Confused

Patches fixed Eugenia with a patient glare, and in clipped,pained, syllables said simply “That’s a candle, Eugenia. Fontanello is a being of unspeakable evil. This is not a situation where mood lighting will help!”

“Says the adorable kitty who transforms into a world-renowned gentleman burglar? Calm your britches, ducky.”

Spluttering, Patches had nothing to say to that, which left Decca and Eugenia bonding through shared laughter.

“You don’t ‘alf make a pretty picture, mate!”

Trying and failing to recapture at least a little sangfroid, Patches asked what precisely the candle did in a more respectful tone.

“Why, you silly boy! It rewrites history, to a certain extent. Its range only reaches back two weeks, of course – it’s a candle, not a miracle worker – and those standing within its glow retain their memories of the original timeline – which is lucky, because if I thought that I suddenly wouldn’t remember meeting your charming friend Mr. Decca, I wouldn’t let you use it. What makes the situation even more  delicious – Fonty gave it to me before I ended things. And I’m certainly glad, now, that I did.” Eugenia simpered at Decca, pursing her lips in a way that she thought was coquettish, but came off more grotesque. Decca made alarmingly cute little love snaps back, but Patches interrupted the scene before things could get too twee.

“That’s very generous, Eugenia, but I fail to see how resetting events would help with the Fontanello situation. Even if it allows us to escape this island, he’ll still be out there – it’s only a matter of time before we all run afoul of him again!”

Visibly annoyed, Eugenia stopped flirting long enough to snap “You really haven’t figured it out?” An irritated sigh as she set Decca down, then she stood and looked Patches directly in the eye. With clenched fists, she began to explain. “Look, darling. Angeline. Fontanello. Mr. Johnson. Even that mad surgeon – even your erstwhile master. They’re all tied up in this together. Did you think that running from peril to peril like this wasn’t planned? There’s a much bigger plot going on, and we’re all merely pieces on the board. I’m supposed to be looking after you – and I assume you have similar duties, don’t you, turtledove?” This last was to Decca, who grinned.

“That’s right, heartsblood.”

“Fontanello is pulling the strings for the opposite team, Mr. P, and we’ve been keeping you in the dark about our own side – it’s part of the plan, you know. But at this point, I really think we ought to clue you in to what’s going on.”

With a flicker of his customary smugness, Patches protested – “None of this makes a damned lick of sense.”

“Language, mate!” snarled Decca. “And ‘ave a bit o’ respect fer the lady! Carry on, my dear.”

Eugenia lit the candle, then offered it to Patches. “Make a wish, Mr. P, go on.”

A flicker of colored lights and other assorted special effects – and they were in Patches’ own front hallway, minutes where Dustin, Patches’ former master, and Eugenia herself stood. Eugenia – the Eugenia who had just traveled from the future – winked at the Eugenia who was daintily wiping blood from her lip. “Trouble?” Past-Eugenia asked sharply, ” It was bad enough for you to use the candle, dear? You know we don’t have that much of it left.”

“Absolutely,” her future incarnation replied. “We don’t have much time before Patches – your Patches – gets back with that steak for you. When he does, attack the boy – Sorry, Master, you’ll need to fake your death – and wait for Past-Patches to run. Mr. P,” turning to the present – future? – version of the feline “In a few short minutes, you should have a better idea of what’s been going on.”

A Personal Carrier

Patches fumbled for an explanation. “A pokemon is…well…you know, a pokemon.

“No, dear, I’m sure I don’t,” Eugenia said, pursing her lips in reproach. “Honestly, I don’t know where you come up with your far-fetched ideas.”

No further explanation seemed necessary though, as the pokemon-like creature lifted up in flight, stretching out wings that must have been concealed behind. It soared over the sea below, and swooped toward them. As it neared them, Patches saw it also carried a small chest in its clutches.

It landed on its feet right in front of them, and Patches saw that the trunk was ornately decorated with pearls and copper inlay. However, this did not distract from the redolent odor of orange blossoms that pervaded the creature.

“Ah, dear, just in time. Patches, darling Decca, please meet Farahellon, my personal carrier.”

Farahellon chirped out a squeaky greeting that didn’t resemble any of Patches’ known languages.

“Carrier?” Patches asked, thoroughly confused.

“Of course, darling, doesn’t everyone have someone to carry their valuables? Can’t be too careful, especially in a world full of Fontanellos and,” she shot Patches a pointed look, “other rascals.”

As Patches marveled that Eugenia seemed to have a creature simply for the purpose of carrying whatever valuables she may own, Decca gave a greeting. ” ‘Allo, mate.”

Not wanting to appear churlish, Patches echoed a mumbled greeting, and Eugenia reached for the chest. “Thank you, my sweetest gem. Would you be a doll and stick around?”

Farahellon nodded exuberantly, and stood straight as a sentry awaiting instruction.

Eugenia rifled through the chest, at which Patches sidled over to get a better look. A coarse rope of no apparent value appeared, as well as a tattered pamphlet written in a Cyrillic language, but Eugenia swiftly pulled out what she needed and closed the lid, locking it with a dexterity that surprised Patches.

“This should do the trick,” she said triumphantly, holding up a…was that a taper?

He blinked. “Um, Eugenia. How in heavens name is that supposed to help us?”

She nodded at Farahellon, who snatched up the chest and leapt from the ground. Within the space of 30 seconds, he became no more than a speck on the horizon. Patches dearly would have loved to know what else was in that chest, but really, only one problem at a time could command his attention.

Eugenia’s lips spread into a closed-mouthed grin, from which fangs slid neatly. “Well, dearest, to combat Fontanello, we need to fight fire with fire, don’t we?”

 

You just never know what a day will bring

Have you ever seen a vampiress in a polka dot bikini? It is a sight to behold. Patches blinked and stumbled to a halt.

Wot, mate?” Decca craned to see, but the angle was not great from the waistcoat, “Why’d we stop then?”

Eugenia wiggled her fingers coyly, “Yoohoo! Patches!”

The cat sighed and trudged forward, “Eugenia.”

What is wrong with your waistcoat? It’s all,” her hand waved vaguely, “lumpy.”

Eugenia, Decca. Decca, Eugenia,” with that he withdrew the rogueish reptile and set him atop the sand. He sent a worried glance over his shoulder, then surveyed the surrounding terrain. Aside from the dark, brooding stones they’d stumbled from, everything else seemed very…tropical. White sandy beaches, sunlit blue sky, equally blue sea, palm trees…Really, in his current state it was enough to make him disgusted. The terrain should reflect his mood and day, not be so blasted cheery. He turned back to the veiled vampiress and was met with such a sight.

Decca had ducked beneath the veiling and held one of Eugenia’s hands in his claw. He appeared to be declaiming, while Eugenia held a hand against her heart and fluttered her lashes flirtatiously. And…had the turtle just kissed her hand? Patches swatted a fly away from his face and stepped forward, clearing his throat and looking away.

Oh, Patches, wherever did you meet this charming soul? He has the heart of a poet and the tongue of a rascal!”

Patches found himself momentarily speechless as Decca glanced back at him, made eye contact, and winked. “Ah, well, Decca and I only met a short while ago, and…”

Aye, we met in unusual and unfortunate circumstances, but we are fast becoming the closest of mates. Those of us who are…less usual…really need to stick together.”

I hate to interrupt the clearly delightful conversation you two are having,” Patches interjected, “But if we want to live more than a few hours, we really must be on our way.” He attempted a charming smile, but it wasn’t very succesful.

Oh, my. That sounds ominous. What trouble are you two darling boys in?” Eugenia’s voice seemed truly concerned, but Patches was inclined to chalk that one up to Decca’s inexplicable impact on her.

Well, my dove, it seems-” Decca started what sounded to be a flowery speech, but Patches had no time for it.

Fontanello.”

Eugenia pouted, “Oh don’t tell me he’s put one of his deplorable tunnels onto my favourite beach.”

It appears so.”

Well,” she pulled an odd tube out of a basket that sat next to her, “It really is the tackiest to encounter an ex just when you’ve met a charming new gentleman.” She blew into the tube, causing both Decca and Patches to wince, “Oh, I am sorry boys, I’d forgotten.” She gracefully held a hand over her eyes and peered into the distance.

Patches craned to see what she was looking for. A short ways away he saw a cliff and… “Is that a pokemon…leaping off a cliff?!?”

What’s a pokemon, dear?”