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To The Gates of Reality

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Joseph Winstanton (The hero of the Last Magus) his story now continues with the fourth part of his quest. Joseph Winstanton is an ordinary man, an average Joe, who by pure accident awakens the ancient ability to use the energy known as Mana. A mystic energy produced by all intelligent life and, at the same time, a necessary precursor to such life existing. Joe is the first person in six thousand years capable of using this energy, the basis of all real magic...and therefore in our modern world assumed myth or fantasy. The series follows Joe's development as the world's only true wizard but in acquiring his magic he risks more than he knows and perhaps awakens more than he is prepared to deal with. This is the fifth book and is the fourth part of his universally important mission. After his attempted kidnapping by a close friend Joe's ego has been bruised but he has also had some family history that he never knew existed. How will he deal with these revelations and what of his continuing search for the ancient magic schools.

Fantasy / Humor
3.5 2 reviews
Age Rating:

Welcome to the memory hole

Joe Winstanton opened one eye and sighed contentedly. He was lying on his back in his bed and felt incredibly good. In all his life he had never felt this good. Indeed, he had never known anyone could feel this good without involving illegal substances. He slowly blinked and smiled as he opened his other eye and stared at his bedroom ceiling. He gave a slight start as his eyes widened, “Hey, I’ve just realised it’s the first of June. Hmm, I could say the first day of summer and the first day of the rest of my life!” Joe’s smile became one of marvel at that thought, “From nothing to everything I’ve ever wanted in six months, perhaps I’m a lucky man after all!”

As he lay there looking up he felt a movement in the bed beside him, curious he rolled over onto his right side. Nat lay next to him, facing him, laying on her left side with her arm curled under her head like a pillow sound asleep, smiling contentedly and looking more beautiful than Joe could have ever thought any woman could. “I don’t believe even an elf princess has any right to look that striking first thing in the morning. Better not let the political types know they’ll make a law against it. But I am a lucky man!” He spoke in a breathless whisper.

As Joe lay there watching Nat, she made a contented murmur and slid closer to him without waking, her body sighing seductively on the material of Joe’s bedcovers. She finished her movement by resting her head and chest on his chest as she curled that pillow arm over him. Joe noted, with a slight smile, that it was his naked chest that she stretched an arm over, he could also feel the soft touch of her skin on his. “Maybe I forgot the pyjama top last night...I was tired!” Curious he carefully lifted the corner of the bed covers to look underneath and noted with a raised eyebrow that he appeared to have forgotten the pyjama bottoms as well because he was naked. He looked to his right. Nat’s clothes were neatly stacked on the chair next to his bed. This raised that eyebrow again and it was joined by another contented smile, he noted all of her clothes were there, no evidence of any dressing gown or nightdress either. The fact he felt her skin touching his meant Nat must be at least partially naked too. For a moment he flushed with embarrassment at that thought, he was naked in bed with Nat and she was naked and draped over him. He felt a stirring in his lower body that he hadn’t realised he could experience as that thought took hold, he and Nat were naked together in bed! Again his face flushed with embarrassment before he inwardly chided himself, why should he be embarrassed, she was his wife now, wasn’t she? If he wasn’t entitled then who in all the nine hells was? Joe thus gently pulled his arm out from under the bed covers and curled it over Nat, cradling her protectively, desperately trying not to wake her in the process.

After his successful rescue and return home the previous evening and finally got Nat to stop kissing him so he could catch his breath. They had organised their oriental banquet. Joe felt he had overordered on the actual dishes so, at Nat’s suggestion, their meal became a party for everyone to enjoy. It had thus been turned into a late buffet meal, later than normal as they had waited for Jack and Ay to return. Jack had been disappointed to report that Freddy had flown the coop, his bolt hole in the east end of London was empty. So the lesson Jack had wished to give had had to go untaught but Jack was going to keep a weather eye open for the Irish bastard. But once settled and with all the dishes laid out in an impressive spread everyone staying at his house, that was not otherwise asleep or attending to crucially important duties already, had flowed into the dining room and joined in enjoying their share of the feast. Nat had also insisted on some being kept back for those that couldn’t attend, Joe had of course agreed. Ell had been intensely interested in every dish, examining each as she helped serve it up. Each dish she would look at with a shrewd and slightly envious gaze, her mind working on how she could prepare similar food. This food was popular, so she felt a sense of jealousy. Maybe if she could prepare similar dishes then her food would be more popular. Ell had heard the comments about her food so she took careful mental notes about the way each dish was prepared and presented.

Joe despite this being his first real party and being surrounded by his new friends had had to finally submit to the fact that he was exhausted. His head had dropped forwards several times with him shaking himself awake as his eyelids briefly closed and he nodded. The clincher that had finally convinced him had been when in the middle of a funny story Mike had been regaling everyone with he had almost nodded forward into his bowl of beef Chow Mein. Only the touch of the hot sauce on the tip of his nose had averted him ending up face down in it. So, after he finished his serving, he decided enough was enough and that he should go to bed before he fell asleep where he was standing. Thus he had made his excuses bid everyone a pleasant evening and wearily got up to leave with a huge yawn. Mike had initially protested, “What about the dessert Joe? You’ve never tried lychees. You don’t want to miss out on the dessert buddy boy. I’m telling you it’s a taste not to be missed.” Joe had stopped, sighed exhaustedly and turned back with the best hangdog look on his face and asked that his dessert be kept on ice. He promised Mike he would try it in the morning because right at that moment he honestly felt tired enough that he was struggling to keep his eyes open.

That thought of the dessert waiting for him brought another smile to Joe’s face, he could almost taste it. The fact that he had truthfully never actually tasted lychees before didn’t deter his imagination any. He had no clue what they looked or tasted like. Mike had promised a unique sweetness not to be matched, but that didn’t tell him anything beyond they were sweet, maybe. This lack of knowledge however didn’t deter or dull his imagination as it filled in the gaps. He licked his lips. OK, he supposed it was an unusual breakfast, fresh lychees with a couple of spoonfuls of lime flavour ice cream but so what...anyone who wanted to complain could get their damn breakfast, it was his house so he would eat what he wanted at whatever time of day. He wasn’t going to waste good food just because it was a dessert and not breakfast. He tilted his head to look at Nat lying over him again “That is of course once I feel ready to get up!” Because lying there with Nat draped over him like this meant firstly he couldn’t move without waking her. Secondly, it was a far more tempting prospect to just continue to lie here than any helping of lychees and ice cream could promise in a million years. He again felt that unfamiliar stirring in his groin.

During the meal, Nat had clung onto his arm, as if she were afraid he would vanish again unless she kept a tight hold on him. She had whispered sweet nothings in his ear the whole evening, teasing him remorselessly, causing him to blush and flush repeatedly, usually to accompanying laughter from the others. So when he had decided to retire Nat had joined him. Joe had then caught Mike and Jack’s knowing winks and smiles as he and Nat left the room.

Now the simple fact that the pair of them were naked in bed together, at last, sort of implied perhaps he hadn’t been as tired as he’d thought. For a moment Joe stopped. It was funny, or perhaps more strange than something to raise a smile he and Nat must have made love to each other last night, there being little evidence to the contrary. The way she lay there contentedly smiling and...yes even softly purring to herself with her head positioned as if listening to his heart. But, he searched his memory, why couldn’t he remember anything after leaving the dining room? His contented smile faded, everything from that point to awakening just now was a complete blank. His smile faded further, “No, not another blank spot?” Joe’s lip curled into a sneer and he held up a warning finger to the ceiling, “This better not be any of your doing mister angry or you and I will be having some serious words! You hear me and you hear me good, the only person who gets to have sex with my wife is me, understand? You may have taken up residence in my head but there are certain liberties I will not permit.”

Nat’s eyes flickered open at his movement, “Who are you talking to Joe?”

“Oh, sorry did I wake you? Nat, did we...well you know last night I mean?” Joe blushed self-consciously. He had never been comfortable with the subject of sex, probably because he had never been in any position where the subject arose. Many of his previous female acquaintances would have been reaching for the phone to call the police for him merely voicing the suggestion.

Nat smiled and slid against him. Again Joe felt that stirring as her body rubbed against his like the touch of smooth silk. She slid up until her face was level with his and she met him with a smile and a lingering kiss, “Yes we did. There’s no need to be embarrassed about it. You were very good...”

“I’m not...embarrassed” Joe flushed and choked, of course inside he was and he was fighting down that embarrassment, “it’s just...”



“Yes, Joe?”

“I don’t remember any of it!” Joe quickly blurted out this last statement, afraid that his resolve would break and he wouldn’t be able to say it.

Nat pressed her hand to his chest and raised herself so only the tips of her breasts touched his chest. The look on her face was one of astonishment, “What? Nothing? You don’t remember any of last night?”

Joe struggled to answer as his face first flushed with embarrassment and then became anguished, “I remember getting home and having our late party. I’ll have to write down the name of that restaurant because that food was some of the best I’ve ever had.” Nat nodded in agreement. “I also remember being so tired I felt I had to go to bed. It was that or fall asleep at the table, Nat. I almost ended up face down in my Chow Mein during Mike’s story. But after we left the table together...” His anguish rose as he scanned Nat’s face pleading for her sympathy and understanding. He shook his head slowly, “no there’s nothing, it’s all blank! That is until I just woke up.”

Nat’s expression now became mildly angered, “Well I’m glad I made such an impression on you! Being told that the most romantic night of a girl’s life has just scored a total blank on the man she chose to share it with...”

“I’m sorry, I’m not sure what happened. It could be...”


“Well, it could be something beyond my control. I’ve been getting blank periods like this whenever mister angry takes over. I need a better name for him it sounds so damn childish. If it was him then...”


“It was probably him you made love to last night!” Joe now looked positively pained.

“Then are you saying I should have married him instead of you?”

“No, of course not! If it was him then the memory should come back in a little while, it usually does. I’m also going to have issues with him and have to set some boundaries for his behaviour. He may be my mental lodger but that doesn’t give him any right to take over when he feels like it. Right now though...I’ve got nada! I’m sorry Nat this is no reflection on you.”

Nat’s face flushed, “Oh obviously not! So your excuse, is Mister angry made me do it? Joe, I made such an impression on you that you’ve blanked the whole night!” Nat now sat up turning her back towards Joe as she folded her arms across her chest.

“That’s what I’m trying to say...it might not have been me! I just don’t know. Do you think I don’t want to remember a night with you? Our first...our first real night together? My first ever with anyone. Nat, sweetheart, please? Would you prefer I lie to you and say you were the best I’ve ever had? Because I’ve not got anyone to compare you too sweetheart. I won’t do that anyway because I respect you too much to lie to you...but as to last night, I just don’t remember! I don’t want to fight either. I love you more than life, you have become my reason for life..”

Nat half turned, she was still flushing with anger but when she saw Joe’s face looking back at her, pleading, her anger dissipated. “You really can’t remember anything of last night?”

Joe shook his head, “No, not after the dining room...I’m sorry.”

“Then maybe you need to see a doctor, Joe. That isn’t natural!”

Joe smirked a pained grimace, “You think anything in my life is natural right now? I realised when I woke up, that for six months now I’d been the only person on this planet capable of using magic. In that six months, I’ve gained everything I’ve ever wanted in my life. Money, employment, a beautiful wife, stability, everything. I’ve become the local hero thanks to the day at the bank. I’ve met both the US and Russian presidents. I’ve been kidnapped by a Chinese general on a power trip and threatened with summary execution by a two-year-dead KGB agent! I’ve been to a remote island off Scotland to get a wooden bowl and a deserted tower in the depths of Russia to get a brass lantern. I’ve no idea what either of those things does beyond the lantern having one aspect as a slime killer.
“I’ve met dead schoolmates and a long-dead headteacher, been visited by my mother, also dead. I’ve had my home hacked by democrat spies and found out the CIA have me under close surveillance. I’ve even helped save genuine Nazis from their bigotry by sending them back in time!” Joe now counted on his fingers, “I’ve seen orcs, elves. I got the privilege of marrying one of their most beautiful examples.” Nat smirked curtly, “I’ve met a Russian dryad, a pseudo-dragon, a gold dragon, goblins, wolves, trolls, fawns, hobbits…” Joe paled as he paused for breath, “thank God I didn’t get to see any of those beholders because I wouldn’t be here if I had! I’ve floated like a balloon across a room full of vampire weeds and killed a carnivorous sea chest! Please stop me when any part of any of that sounds natural?”

“Well, you don’t have to have a go at me, Joseph! It’s you that has the memory issues! Do you think this could be some sort of hysterical amnesia? You’re just mentally blocking stuff out? I can’t think why you’d want to block last night though.”

“Nat, if it’s hysterical I’m not the one that’s laughing! The truth is I just don’t know. Why would I want to block out last night? I wouldn’t you’re the first woman I’ve ever got to this point with, do you imagine for one second I don’t want to remember every second of it?” Joe sighed as he paused for a long moment, “Maybe you’re right. Maybe I do need to see a doctor or maybe it is mister angry or old horny playing games with me.”

“How would wiping out your memory of last night aid old horny?”

“Psychological games, Nat. Prove he can get to me whenever he likes, take whatever he likes. He said he could see inside my head. He pulled out your name and Draco’s, though he was more interested in Draco. Maybe he’s taken to stealing my memories. Look, I’ll try to see if I can get an appointment with the GP today, or maybe I’ll just show up at the surgery. If these are just ordinary memory lapses then maybe he might have something that can help, or once I understand the problem I can learn to deal with it. But suppose it’s something more serious...something magical.”

Now Nat looked concerned, “Like what Joe?”

Joe sighed deeply as he lifted his hands, palm up, “I don’t know but I told Mike in the car last night, sometimes when I use magic it feels like it’s not just mana flowing in and out.”

“And that means what?”

“Again, I don’t know, I’ve never been a religious type, but if I were I would say it is like a piece of my soul gets chipped off each time. I know I can add life energy but Draco never explained how. Suppose I have been doing so unconsciously. The cantrips don’t affect me. But each time I’ve stepped up with something more powerful, I feel sort of diminished afterwards. Maybe it’s all cumulative...”

“Why haven’t you said anything before? Joe, you keep so damn much bottled up. I’m supposed to be your wife now so try talking to me about this sort of thing. If not me then talk to Mike or Draco, when he was here.”

“I know, I know. But I’d also say when? It’s all been this helter-skelter rush. No sooner had you found the first tower before I’m packed off to go see it. I completed the first tower and we get Trump's visit and then all that stuff and personnel from them. Then we’re off to the races again to find the second tower. You get to find out you’re not a human after all but an elf, even part of their nobility. We complete the second tower and then it’s under starters orders for the third, which could be in Hawaii if Chris can manage to track it down. But instead of a break, I get kidnapped by my one-time friend who turns out to be a megalomaniacal dictator on a power trip! And that’s without the other towers, they could be in even more remote or exotic locations. When have I had a chance to stop and take stock?”

“It has been a bit hectic hasn’t it?” Nat pushed a lock of her hair back over her ear, an ear that now sported a definite and distinctive point. “It sounds to me like you need a break! Maybe we both do.” Nat lay back down and kissed the tip of Joe’s nose as she nuzzled up close to him again, “Just a chance to get away and unwind, but all of this aside for a while.”

“Maybe.” Joe nodded and smiled weakly cradling her again with his arm, “maybe we could take that honeymoon in Hawaii. If the third tower is there we could visit it, get whatever item is there and then…”

“And then?”

“How about we take a few weeks off? We could call it a honeymoon since we are supposed to be newlyweds.”

“Sun, sea and chilled cocktails by the hotel pool? Sounds wonderful Joe! Let’s do it!”

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