They ran through the forest for nearly an hour before finally stopping for a break. Matticus slumped against a tree, trying to catch his breath. Revis knelt down, his gaze on the ground. Suddenly, the Knight cried out and began punching the forest floor.
Matticus looked at Revis in confusion. “Did the vampires figure out a way to make the ground sparkly?”
After shooting the Jester a look that said that the sarcasm was not appreciated, Revis responded, “I hate having to leave them like that.”
“Then why did we? We could’ve stayed and helped them fight those bastards off.”
“Steph was right. We needed to go. What would happen to the Kingdom if one, or both, of us died while trying to protect those people? ”
Matticus gave a slight nod, conceding the point. Although, he hated it as much as his Knight did. “What now,” he asked.
“It’ll take much too long to walk to Long Beach,” Revis sighed, digging around in his pack.
After a few seconds, he pulled out a jar of black ink. Looking around, he found the largest tree he could see. He took a paintbrush out and dipped it into the ink. Revis quickly used the brush to draw an outline of a door, knob included. The Knight reached to grab the doorknob.
Matticus was about to tell his Knight how crazy he was acting, but to his surprise, Revis was able to grab the knob and turn it. The door swung open revealing the swirling colors of the roads of magic where there should have only been the inner rings of the tree.
“Another leap of faith,” Matticus muttered as he let his face go slack jawed in surprise, mimicking the expression he knew his Knight wanted to see. Shaking his head in disbelief he let his gaze slide from the tree to the jar of ink to Revis’ bag and back to the tree.
“What?” Revis asked.
“Another portal? Matticus replied smoothly. “Where does it go?”
“Wherever we need it to.”
The Jester peered around the Knight to gaze into the maelstrom of colors, trying to decipher where it’s exit might be but only getting dizzy in the process. He looked away before the compulsion to fall over grew too strong to fight and focused on his Knight’s last words to bring himself back into the present.
“Wherever we need it to. Wherever we need it to… Wait a minute!” Matticus grabbed the jar of ink from Revis’ hands. Fuming, he asked, “You’ve had this all along? Why didn’t we use this to get to Bruges in the first place? How many miles did we walk that we didn’t have to?”
“I haven’t had this the whole time. I picked it up when we were world hopping. Wakko gave it to me when we went to the Animaniacs universe.”
“I don’t remember going to the Animaniacs universe…”
“Well, we couldn’t fit them all into the story, so a few of the universes got left out.”
“Yeah, but if you got this new thing from it, that means it’s an important plot point. Shouldn’t we have included it?”
“If I wanted logic, I wouldn’t be talking to a jester,” Revis sighed. “Besides, it’s too late. That part of the story is already published. We can’t add it now.”
Before Matticus could respond, Revis shoved him through the portal. As the bright light from the doorway assaulted his vision, the Jester vowed to stop letting Revis shove him through portals. It was getting a little old.
When he exited out the other side, he found himself staring face-to-face with two dragons. Normally, that situation would’ve scared him to death, but, since he recognized them as Rara and Grayson, he cried out in joy. He knew that meant his family was near.
“See, I told you they were still alive,” Rara said, throwing her husband a look of triumph and smiling happily.
Matticus thought she looked like she was about to go skipping along, which was a sight he wasn’t sure he wanted to see. While he was sure it would be awe-inspiring, it also seemed terrifying.
“Okay, you won the bet, I’ll settle up later,” Grayson grumbled.
Matticus’ expression of joy lost a touch of its luster as confusion settled in, “Wait, what?”
Before either dragon could answer, Revis popped through the portal, nearly tumbling into the Jester, and if not for Grayson’s quick reflexes to use his tail to steady them, both Jester and Knight would have gone tumbling down in a heap. The men found their balance and the dragon withdrew his tail allowing them to stand on their own again.
Matticus glared at his knight, for nearly knocking him over and pushing him through the portal, but his mood would not be deterred, so he looked back up to Rara, “It is good to see you but I’m sure you know who I’d really like to see right now.”
The two men started following Rara as she led them to Deb and Dani. Revis was a little skeptical about their ability to help. He was the First Knight of the Kingdom, and he had never heard of them before. Matticus seemed to know them, however, so he decided to go along with it for now.
As they walked, Matticus kept peppering Rara with questions about what had happened while they had been away. She told him repeatedly that she would go over everything once their meeting had started, but he kept asking more questions anyways. Revis began wondering if Rara had infinite patience. If he was in her position, he would’ve, at the very least, threatened Matticus until he stopped asking questions.
Suddenly, Revis stopped. Matticus quit asking questions to Rara long enough to ask one to Revis. “What is it?”
“I’m about to get attacked,” he replied.
Before Matticus could ask him to clarify, something materialized out of thin air to jump at Revis. The Knight caught it in his arms and brought it close to him. That’s when Matticus realized it was Revis’ daughter. He marveled at how the little girl, who was not yet even two years old, was able to sneak up on them like that.
“How did she do that,” he wondered out loud.
“Like father, like daughter,” Rara answered with a smile. “Come. He will know everything we say whether he is with us or not.”
The Jester and two dragons continued into Long Beach where they wound their way through alleys and shadows to stay out of sight as much as possible until finally arriving at a business the Jester was unfamiliar with. The signage proclaimed it to be a house of yards and he couldn’t come up with any conveyances where that name would make sense and so found himself longing for a beer to soothe his aching head.
Once inside he saw that the building had been abandoned and enough of the furniture had been removed to make space for Rara and Grayson to fit comfortably. Deb and Dani rose from where they had been seated and quietly conversing. They quickly dispatched with their pleasantries and began discussing how best to overthrow the sparkly vampires.
Hours passed quickly and as the day turned over to begin anew, they finally came to an agreement on how to proceed. Deb and Dani slipped away to whisper into the ears of their expanded networks. The dragons flew off on their assigned tasks, and Matticus went to spend as much time with The Queen and Little Prince as he could before the signal would tear him away from them again.