This story begins with a dopey Wizard who wasn’t very good at magic. All but his most mundane of spells would always go wrong, and even those would occasionally end in a stray fire or two. For this reason he lived in a lighthouse made entirely of stone. Stone doesn’t burn though it’s not the most convenient of residences as one may know if they’ve ever tried to fit a square couch into a round sitting room. The lighthouse was filled odds and mabobs, mostly old newspapers, discarded cups of tea, and inventions that would be useful if not for their tendencies to walk away, turn invisible or insist they were infected with critical design flaws. This Wizard also happened to be the only one that could be found in a two week radius. So despite his obvious shortcomings, villagers from all around would travel to his lighthouse, seeking solutions to their magical maladies as they had no comparison and no way of knowing that a good wizard would be able to fix your problem and send you off with a real self-heating tea pot instead of one that insisted it be kept in the icebox because “how on Earth was it supposed to heat water that wasn’t cold to begin with?”. But even if they were aware, who else would you turn to if your best mouser started believing it was healthier as a vegan?
One fine spring day, after making his cup of tea, losing it then deciding to drink the week old one that only tasted 5 days old the Wizard heard a knock from below. He rushed down the 342 of steps of the spiral staircase that ran from the tippy top to bitty bottom as fast as his short little legs could carry him and wretched open the heavy wooden door.
“Ho there Wizard!” said the tall, burly man with curly brown hair and a bulbous pink nose standing on some blackened ground where the stoop should have been.
“Mayor Reginald! What have you done with my stoop?” the Wizard looked down at the man, suspicion etched onto his expression.
“Me? Not a thing. All that was here is this,” he held up a slightly charred mat, Welcome written clearly on the front.
“That’s strange, it was only supposed to welcome guests and dry their boots,” the Wizard said, examining the mat.
“But what if their boots aren’t wet?”
“Oh well, you’d think a mat would be able to tell the difference,” and he threw it back out the door. “No matter, I’ll grab a box and you can climb inside.”
Soon enough Reginald and the Wizard were sitting in the living room on some squishy round chairs, sipping some brand new tea and about to get to why he was there on this fine spring day.
“So Reginald, what brings you to my blackened doorway today?” the Wizard asked, resting his chin in his hand and smiling. He needed a problem to solve, he’d only had one fire in a month. Life was getting a little boring.
The Mayor cleared his throat, “it seems my village, Down the Road, is having somewhat of an issue with the weather. A strange purple fog appears in and around the entire town every day at noon, hangs there for about a minute, maybe two then dissipates into the wind. Normally I wouldn’t bring a problem like this to a Wizard but it’s been having some…startling…effects on the residents.” The mayor of Down the Road was known for his shrewd and self-sufficient nature. He was nothing like the mayors of Up the Creek and Over the Hill, always running to him with the smallest of issues. “Wizard! My well dried up and a troll moved in! You must help!” or “Wizard! The fruits rotted off the trees and every one’s got scurvy! Come Quick!” they’d wail. Couldn’t milk a cow if it sprouted a tap if you asked him, but business was business.
“Startling effects, you say? That’s rather alarming. What sorts?”
“Well, it’s not every one mind you, it seems that a few who breathe it in remain on an even keel but most go completely off their rocker. At first it wasn’t so bad, they were just acting a little strange, doing things like unbuttoning their pants before getting into the loo. But, as the fog gets thicker, they get worse and worse.” The Mayor looked uneasy and started speaking in a hushed tone, “two days ago I caught Gloria Stevens down by the lake provoking the water monster. ‘You’re just a big green ninny, good for naught but eating children and sliming up the bottom of the lake!’ she was shouting at it. Didn’t like that, of course. Came right up out of the water swiping at her with his tail and she just stood there laughing. I grabbed her before any real damage could be done, but Lucy Prichard caught the poor beast crying in her well,” he shook his head. “May be a monster, but he’d never eat a child.”
“Oh dear. Dear, dear, dear,” outwardly he exuded the utmost sympathy for the Mayor but inside he was grinning. A mysterious, noxious fog was exactly what he needed.
“And that’s not all,” Reginald flushed, looking anywhere but at the Wizard, who happened to be grinning. “They can’t get enough of it! If I could keep ‘em inside I could wait till it moves on but they can’t leave it alone. It’s not even that they won’t, they can’t! My own wife gets all glassy eyed waiting for the noon bell to ring. I even tried to hold her back once but she nearly broke my leg trying to get to the door. I need your help Wizard, there’s nothin’ else for it,” the Mayor finished, desperate and deflated.
“Yes, you do indeed. We’ll leave at once!” filled with exuberance, the Wizard hopped down from his chair. Quite the jump considering he was very short in stature, accentuated his hair and beard, which grew down to his toes, and his tall pointy hat. He came to a halt in middle of the round kitchen and looked at the round counters. Scratching his round chin, he opened the round stove, stuck his round head in then back out and took a look in the round ice box. Tricky business living in a lighthouse.
“Right, I’ll be outside,” the Mayor said, already heading for the door. The Wizards round home had a funny round feel to it.
“Ah hah!” The Wizard was triumphant as he pulled his spectacles from the round jar of biscuits he’d been munching on the night before.
Two hops and a clap to lock the door had him standing next to the Mayor where the stoop should have been, ready to make his way to Down the Road.
It was a solid 4 hour walk to the village so when they arrived the sun was going down and the aftermath of that days dosing of Purple Haze (as it was coming to be known) was just being cleaned up. A few ladies were scraping what looked and smelled like chum off their shutters and there was a group of children gathered around an elderly man laying nearly naked and spread eagle in the middle of the square.
“You think he’s dead?” one child asked, poking his great belly with a stick.
“Nah, Maude didn’t even use the cast iron,” the next one answered.
Suddenly the man sat bolt upright causing the children to scream and scatter.
“IT KEEPS THEM ON THE KNIFE!!” he rasped, “I done it all my life…” the rhyme faded as he looked around and began to realize he wasn’t in a tavern and there wasn’t actually any peas or honey in sight.
“What in the blazes are you doing, Dell?” Reginald asked as they approached.
“Oh! ‘lo there Reggie,” he said, climbing to his feet. “I uh…heh heh…must have stumbled out into the square after I fell off old Maude’s trellis.”
“You fell off her trellis?”
“Well no, I was knocked off the trellis.”
“Knocked off the trellis? By old widow Maude?”
“No…by her copper pan. You see, I was recitin’ the poem I’d written for her yesterday, thought I would climb up to her window and make it all romantic like. Don’t think she saw it that way though, especially the part about what her lilies do to my willy. Went and dropped the bloody thing on my head.”
“Right,” Reginald said, deadpan. “Anyways, the Wizard’s here, he’s going to take a look at our problem.”
“Oh good,” he said, rubbing the substantial goose egg forming on the back of his head.
“Yes, yes, I can see it’s rather dire,” the Wizard tutted then began a slow turn around the entire square, all the while bent 90 degrees from the waist, nose pointed to the ground.
“Bit nutty, isn’ he?” Dell whispered to the Mayor as they watched.
“Go put some trousers on, Dell,” he answered, sighing and pushing his fingers into his eyes.
“Oh…right,” and the old man shuffled off to his cottage.
It was complete dark when the Wizard reported back to the Mayor. “Had any Junglemen pass through lately?”
“We did, came through a couple months ago. Right indignant fellow too, got all fussy with the innkeeper. But what does that have to do with anything?” he snapped, the day was beginning to wear thin.
“Fussy how?” the Wizard asked. He leaned forward, eager to confirm his theory.
“When it came time to settle up the innkeeper asked for nine pence but the Jungleman offered him three wishes instead. So the innkeeper wished for nine pence. Jungleman didn’t like that too much. Told him that’s not a proper wish as wishes are meant to be impossibilities and there’s no magic in pennies, you see?” Reginald rolled his eyes. “So the innkeeper told him good, he can keep his wishes and go and get him the nine pence. Turns out he did have it and handed it over, but grumbled some nasty stuff about it on the way out,” he paused. “You think he had something to do with this?”
The Wizard fixed a grim look on his face and sucked in a breath, “yes, I believe he’s infested your village with Mumpa Spores.”
“Yes, Mumpa Spores. They’re a type of plant that grows deep in the Jungle Swamps. When mature they can be brewed into a tea that settles the stomach, numbs pain, lifts the mood, fosters appetite and, in the right dose, gives a man a pleasant bit of lightness in the head and limbs, but when they’re mating they release a sort of pollen cloud that has a rather different sort of effect. We’ll meet here again at dawn. This must be dealt with post haste!” and he skipped off toward the inn, giggling about the breed of idiot that refuses wishes from a Jungleman.
At precisely dawn the Mayor and the Wizard met in the center of the square. The town was mostly still asleep as the Purple Haze exhausted those not immune to its effects. “First things first, we’ll need to round up the afflicted and coral them somewhere they can safely detox.” The Wizard said.
“And how do you suppose we’ll do that? They’ve all got some kind of super human strength when the needs upon them.”
“Well, Reginald, you did call on a Wizard, did you not?” he answered, a twinkle forming in his eye. “Now clang the alarm bell, get them all up and in the square. We’ll start while they’re groggy.”
The Mayor clanged the bell himself while the Wizard went around to every house calling out for an emergency town meeting. Bleary eyed addicts came stumbling out in various states of undress, gripping their aching heads and wiping sweat off their brows with shaking hands.
“Have we got them all, Reginald?!” the Wizard called out to the Mayor in the bell tower.
“Looks like it to me!” he called back.
“Alright then!” and the Wizard started a rhythmic stamping of his feet while he rubbed his hands together. Head bowed, he started to chant, “Ashes, matches, fire and spit, gather yon villagers in a great pit!” he flicked his hands with a trill as he jumped and lifted his face to the sky. The ground began to shake and the whole square started to raise up and up in a giant column of earth. Trees uprooted, the inn collapsed and it kept going until it was taller than the bell tower and certainly taller than any ladder they had available.
“Oh bother,” the Wizard said, scratching his head and inspecting the column. “It was supposed to be a pit.” The residents were freaking out and backing into the middle of the tower, terrified out of their sleepy stupors.
“Bloody hell, Wizard!” the Mayor was hanging out the bell tower gripping his hair. “This is your idea of restraining them?!”
“Well, I’ll admit it’s not ideal, but they’ll be out of the Haze.”
“Out of the Haze? They’ll be jumping off the edge trying to get to it!”
“Right, I can fix that. Just a simple spell,” the Wizard closed his eyes real tight and bobbed his head. Suddenly the base of the tower burst into flames. “OH!” he shouted and repeated the movement. Clouds gathered and rain burst from the heavens, great buckets of it poured down to put out the fire but also started eroding the sides of the tower, making it thinner and thinner. “Third times the charm!” he bellowed over the sound of the downpour and flailed his arms wildly. The rain stopped abruptly and a massive mote of green gelatin appeared at the base of the column. “See? Just a simple spell.” the Wizard said, wringing out his hat and smiling sheepishly at the Mayor.
“D-d-down to business then,” Reginald squeaked.
“Okay, now we’ll need to neutralize the spores.”
“And how do we do that?” the mayor asked, still staring up at the villagers.
“Fire. Of course. What else?” Reginald gulped and strained at his collar.
The two men went around the town meticulously searching out the tiny, almost imperceptible divots that marked where the spores had festered underground. Reginald dug them up while the Wizard took aim and blasted them until they turned into blackened little puff balls. He hit them almost every time…almost. It took most of the morning to locate all the divots and by the end they had a stack of about a hundred spores. As noon grew closer the imprisoned residents started getting a little antsy, calling threats from the top of the tower and obviously contemplating making the jump.
“That’s the last of them! I’ll be taking my payment and be off,” The Wizard smiled and dusted his hands off.
“Payment?! With my square and my townspeople stranded in the wind?!” he asked, looking rather shocked, though anybody would after having their eyebrows burned off.
“Ah, right. Well that’s rather tricky. You see…” the Wizard trailed off as the pile of Spores began to sway. Then expand. With a muffled bang and a hiss, every blackened puff ball burst open into a great cloud of Purple Haze so thick you couldn’t tell if it was day or night. The fog surrounded them and the Wizard was suddenly awash with a feeling of floaty calmness as if he were on the cusp of falling asleep. Immediately he knew exactly what he needed to be doing. So, in a burst of Haze induced strength, he leapt over the mote and began his ascent up the tower of Earth, swinging on the exposed tree roots and nearly falling on at least 3 occasions. Once at the top, where the air was clear, he perched on the edge and started waving his arms in great big arcs while sprinting around the perimeter. A deep chill started to form and in the space of a blink the entirety of Down the Road was crusted in a thin layer of ice with the Purple Haze frozen into tiny crystals that fell to the ground. The villagers were huddled together, watching icicles grow on hems and beards, attempting to defrost with the fire burning in their eyes.
As the cold sunk in the effects wore off and the Wizard pulled back from the edge. “That’s right, ice neutralizes Spores, fire just sort of irritates them,” he said, laughing like he’d forgotten to take his socks off before getting in the bath.
Smug as a bug he turned around to greet what he expected to be an adoring crowd. Instead he got a stampede of delirious Haze Junkies, frozen and deprived of their last fix.
“Ahhh, yes, could have gone a little smoother I suppose,” the Wizard was slowly backing toward the cliff, wishing he’d conjured something less sticky than gelatin. With a great breath he hurled himself up and over the precipice, a waterfall of townspeople following in his wake.
Plop…plop, plop, plop, plop, plop, plop, plop! The melee landed hard in the stiff mote, half their bodies sticking out from the top while the other half remained stuck in the muck. All but the Wizard, who ended up completely encased except for his head. He wiggled but everything just jiggled. Villagers sneered and spat as they slowly waded their way to the edge, heaving on the unfortunate ones who fell head first.
“Your problem should be solved now, Mayor Reginald!” he yelled from his gelatinous prison. “A quick dig out of here and I can help you plant them, maybe even brew the tea. A little magic helps the process go a little quicker!”
“No thanks!” Reginald waived and started walking back to his house. “I think we’ll just have the Jungleman back...”