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<3 Quest

Drew writes from a small, beach-city apartment in Southern California. In addition to reading and writing, he enjoys playing hockey and creating mobile games for iOS and Android. He is @drewbikscube on Twitter.

She sits in the same tree every day at lunch, feet dangling from the edge of her wooden defense tower behind the kickball courts.
I stay off the blacktop as I make my way around, away from the big kids, not wanting to draw enemy attention as I approach her. This mission requires my uninterrupted attention and expert knowledge in treaty tactics.
My new shoes alone make me more prepared than the last time I was on this quest. Plus five charm, plus five spirit, plus ten agility. But I also carry a secret weapon, which I keep hidden in the back pocket of my jeans. Like the Obsidian Crusader said in Knight Golems: The Stone War, "When attempting to make allies with an unfamiliar faction, show confidence, show charisma, show something you have that is super awesome."
"Hi Aberdeen," I say, stepping across the grass, close but not so close that I put myself at risk of her launching an assault.
Aberdeen lifts her head from her book, Dragon Bones: The Ancient & Arcane; I know it well. She looks at me, her crystal-blue stare like that of a frost wizard, two brilliant glaciers that turn me to ice.
She says "Hi" back, and I thaw out.
Suddenly I realize I've come unprepared. I have nothing to offer her, other than the secret weapon, but I can't use that yet. Patience is key; she must first show interest, lower the drawbridge.
"I've read that book four times," I say, feeling exposed, defenseless.
"I've read it five," she says. "This is my sixth." Her retainer shimmers when she says "sixth," a no-doubt purposeful flourish. Gah. Brains and beauty. Then it occurs to me that she doesn't need any allies; she could control any realm--the multiverse, if she wanted--by simply exposing her teeth.
Aberdeen closes her book and sets it on the branch, letting me know that I have her attention, if only for a moment. She tucks a strand of hair behind her ear, gleaming threads of red-orange sunlight, spun by tiny fire sprites.
"My dad said I should invite you to my birthday party on Saturday." I surprise myself, firing the words up at her without hesitation.
She casts a deflection spell, says, "I have to go to my grandma's this weekend," effectively dodging my invitation; it lands somewhere in the grass beyond her timber tower, burrows underground and stays there, refusing to come back out.
Aberdeen starts whistling at birds perched high in the tree, her winged protectors, ready to swoop down and carry me away at her command.
It's quiet for too long, and I'm out of ideas. It's all or nothing. I pull the secret weapon from my pocket and hold it up, a level two-hundred dragon strike, not aimed at her but at the sky, a fiery proposition to become allies.
"You said Klinkhammer was your favorite." A holographic Goblin General Klinkhammer, my rarest card, but a small price to pay for her alliance. I wiggle it so she can see that it's a foil.
"Nice," she says. "I have a holo, too. First edition."
Plan fail. I pocket the card, trying to play it off like I hadn't been offering it to her as a gift, but I feel no less defeated. Mine isn't a first edition.
"Nice shoes, dork." The earth shudders, and I cringe slightly at the armor-piercing voice that comes from behind me. "Did your mommy pick those out for you?"
Great. Bum-rushed by an opposing faction.
I turn to the twenty-foot-tall beast-boy standing there, kick myself for letting my guard down and not watching my own back. "Yeah," I say, because she did, and because I don't know how else to respond, "for my birthday."
The enemy stares me down, kickball in one hand and my pride in the other. I feel like running. Then Aberdeen hops down from her branch.
"Whoa, cool shoes," she says. "Those are just like Reggie's hyper-speed boots from Amazing Undercover Middle School Super Heroes, Episode Seven." Her words, though tonally soft and sweet like a siren song, squelch the invader like a banshee scream. His mouth opens and closes a few times, but he's unable to speak. Utterly spell-silenced.
"Yeah," I say. I turn one foot to the side so she can really see the coolness of them, pressing my shoe into the grass. My heel lights up; her face lights up.
"Whoa," she says, "I bet you can run as fast as Rapid Reggie. Want to race to the swings?"
My shoe boosters activate.
I waste no time getting a head start. We're rushing to the jungle gym, our paths igniting in flame as we leave our enemy behind.
She's ultra-fast, but I get to the swing set a nanosecond before she does. I'm out of breath, but she knows my power, my awesome speed.
"Come on," my new ally says. Then she takes my hand in hers, and for a second I think this may have been a trick, because I feel a powerful conflagration spell warming inside my chest.
Any moment now I'll surely burst into flame.
The End
This story was first published on Tuesday, August 18th, 2015

Author Comments

All kids daydream about impressing other people in fantastical ways. I know I did. Writing this story was an attempt at capturing that. I also wanted to write something with a happy ending, for once. I think I almost did it.

- Drew Rogers
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