|With Special thanks to Aatheus Centauri and TIMberwolf for permission to include them in this epic whatever
it is, and to Jeff Mahr who probably wouldn't have given me permission to use him and
members of his immediate family if I had bothered to ask him,
but I didn't. And to the old man in the SRU magic shop who gave
me an anti-editing spell guaranteed to -- well, I wouldn't want
to spoil the surprise if Jeff tries to edit himself out.
Editor's Note: I may be a psychologist and a government worker, but even I'm not stupid enough to mess with old men in strange shops. Of course, as a member of the Guild for Ethical Editing (it's a radical offshoot of the Society for Creative Anachronism) I do have a duty to my readers -- er, reader. So, if I'm not back next issue, you'll all know why and remember to blame Andy, right?
The End of the Matter
by Andy Hollis and Paul Carmichael
with a little help from
who was dragged into this venture screaming and kicking.
©2001 Andy Hollis and Paul Carmichael -- all rights reserved
The demon shed it's human form and stretched out a long, chitin-covered body that looked like a cross between an ant and a praying mantis. Towering over me, on stalk thin hind legs, the creature's mandibles dripped brown fluid that splattered on the floor of the cell. I screamed my lungs out, exactly as it expected me to, and I could see its reaction to my fear.
"Paul, we meet face to face, at last," the demon said in my mother's voice.
"Mom, that is so you. I swear you've never looked better. Does that mean I'm a half-demon?"
The creature stopped, for a second then shook its head. "The human that gave birth to you died at the same time as your father. I was assigned to watch over you, and make sure that you never used your powers for the Light."
I thought about that for a second, then decided I didn't believe it. "That's bull and you know it. Nice special effects, demon boy, but that's about it." I pointed my right hand at the creature, felt power flood through my system, and said, "By the Light, burn the Shadow out of this demon."
The creature laughed at me, until golden white light fired from my arm and struck it on the chest. The insectoid form dropped, leaving a small scaly thing that screamed once before the light left only a slight black smudge on the floor.
Things like that happen a lot to me lately, ever since I woke up in the body of a nine-year-old kid -- a dead nine-year-old kid, at that. See my name is, or was, Gene Matthews, at least that's what it used to be. I had an okay life, a great marriage, a nice home in the suburbs and a good future with the local phone company. That is until I was killed by a drunk behind the wheel of a semi. After that, it kind of went downhill.
There's this power called the Light that grabbed my essence when I died and kept it instead of letting me go to heaven or where ever I was supposed to go. So, the Light kept my soul on ice until this kid, Paul Towers, got killed by his mom. He'd been abused and battered for years by the lady, but the Light healed his body and put me in it. The one thing that really surprised me about all this is how quickly I turned into the kid... When I woke up I was, like, this thirty-year-old guy stuck in a little kid's body, but the more I had to use Paul's memories and his life the faster I turned into him. So now I'm like a kid again but I can remember being a grown-up, too, sort of. Anyway...
"Excuse me, Paulie?" a voice said from behind me. I spun around to find one of my new brothers.
"Ange? How did you get here?"
"Look, I know this is the part where you catch readers up on what happened in the last part, okay, but the thing is I'm supposed to be narrating this part. It's my story, you know, and I don't need some little twerp messing it up, okay?"
"Is not," I declared. "This is my story and I can tell it anyway I want to."
"Sorry, kiddo, but I am the author and I say no," I said wrenching control of the narrative away from the little twerp. He stared at me in shock.
"Ange, you give that back or I'm telling Mom."
"Man, you would, and that is so unfair. She's in the 'Paul's the baby' mode and that means 'he gets whatever he wants.' That was me until you came along, squirt. I was the youngest but now she's got you and it stinks. I never would have got you if the Light hadn't made me."
"Tough. Now you're stuck with it, so there. Ha, ha, and ha. So how do you like them apples, elf boy?"
"I don't, but I'm not giving the story back, either. So there, yourself." I turned away from the kid to take a look at the room. There was a door on the opposite wall...
"Okay, Hollis, what is going on here?" Paulin said popping into the room.
"It's okay, Carmichael, don't blow a gasket. I've the got story back from the kid, now I've gotta figure how to get us out of this room."
"I'm telling," Paul said.
"This is the last part of this story, right? Ange, this part is way too important to mess with. I'd better take it."
"Go kiss a toad, Paulin. I started this story over a year ago and I'm going to finish it. What have you written lately besides classics that Jeff dug up from the archives? You've done squat since I let you help out with the saga last year."
"Yeah, but you got that Mitchell kid to help out with the end, and you know what a disaster that was."
"So, at least he did it instead of you whining about having no time to write. You've got plenty of time now, elf boy so go write something and leave this story to the experts."
This was getting boring, really boring, I thought as Paulin and Andy argued over the story so I decided to steal the story line myself and let them go at it. I walked over to the door, opened it and quietly closed it behind me, hoping that it would be a while before they realized I was gone.
The next room was much larger than the one I had just left. There were people here, most chained to the walls. They all stared at me as I entered, then looked away. My mother picked herself up from the floor and walked toward me.
"Oh, Paulie, I am so glad you got out alive. You don't know how worried I was."
I repeated the bit with the blast of white light, but nothing happened to her. It really was my mom. "Stay away from me."
"I know how they lied to me all those years, Paul. It's okay. I won't hurt you ever again. We can go home now. I know I can't begin to make up for all the horrible things that happened..."
"Don't even try that with me, you sorry bitch. You're spending the rest of your life behind bars."
"How dare you talk to me like that. I..."
I fired another bolt of light at her. This one lifted her off her feet and threw against the near wall. She slid down the wall, landed on her butt and stared at me. "I told you to stay away from me. I suggest you keep quiet because I am not about to believe anything you tell me about how sorry you are, or that you want to make things up to me. Not in a million years would I believe it. Try that with me and I have the power to shut your mouth for you. Got that? Never mind, don't answer. I will make sure you go back to your jail cell, that's all you can expect from me."
"But you don't understand. I failed. I won't get off this time. I will die there."
"And your point is? I expect you to die there, Mom. The sooner the better as far as I'm concerned. Tell you what -- I'll send you enough rope to hang yourself. Okay?"
"Paul," she half screamed. "You can't be serious."
"I could turn you over to Andy's crows, you know. I bet you'd feed the entire flock for months and months."
She tried to stand up, but I made the Light hold her down.
"Pardon me, mate, but when you said Andy, did you mean Andy Hollis?" a young man from down the wall asked me. He looked in bad shape, starved and beaten. He looked to be no older than sixteen or seventeen. "Yeah, Andy's my brother. Why?"
"He's the reason I'm here. I've never met him, but we're mates, you know? We used to talk on ICQ all the time and he gave me a lot of support and encouragement especially when I had some troubles with my folks. I know he's a granddad and all, but..."
"Oh, you're from his world, right? You mean Andy put you here?"
"No, not Andy, these blokes from the Shadow. They knew I was his friend and they're going to use me against him -- or that's what they said. I've been here since."
"That's bad news. Anyone else here a friend of Andy's?"
Since no one else would admit to it, I used the Light to set the kid free from his chains. "Don't worry, Mom, I won't forget you," I said before turning back to the kid. "What's your name, anyway?"
"Tim -- short for Timberwolf. I'm from Australia," he said rubbing his hands.
"Oh, I never could have guessed. You know that Andy's not a grandpa on this world -- well, I guess he is still, but he's not an old guy anymore."
"What do you mean?"
"You'll see. This way." I walked back to the door and opened it. Sure enough, the elves were still inside fighting. "Hey, guys. Ange, I got someone for you."
"What?" Andy asked me. "I'm busy and when did you..? Never mind. Who's this?"
"He says he's a friend of yours -- from Australia."
"I don't know anyone from Australia, at least in this world. Tim?"
"Yeah, that's me, kid, but you're telling me you're Andy Hollis? The writer?"
"Yes," Andy said and made a grandious bow. "Told you I was the writer around here. I've even got a fan to prove it."
"A fan?" Paulin laughed. "That proves nothing, Hollis."
"Go kiss a toad, Carmichael. Tim, this is great. How did you get here? Oh, the heck with it," Andy ran over and threw his arms around the older boy's waist and hugged. "There, you sent me enough back home."
"But you said you were fifty."
"I was, but you gotta understand that on this world, things change -- especially me. Now this is Paul Carmichael. He wrote for TSAT, too, and he's my age, but a bit older as an elf. It's a long story, I know, but since you aren't going anywhere for a while, I'll fill you in."
"Ange," I cut in. "Where are we, and how do we get home?"
"Beats me. I've never been here before, but I take it we're somewhere in the Underworld. I can get us home, I mean, I am the Elven wizard, after all, which reminds me. Tim, you want to be a werewolf, right?"
"Yeah, but I don't think I want to know what you have in mind."
"Hey, would I steer you wrong? Don't listen to them. I don't do dangerous and I know I just did a werewolf in my last story but Trevor's not here so he won't mind, at least, I don't think he's here, but if he is the world is big enough for more than one."
"Now there's a run on sentence if I ever heard one," Paulin commented.
"Can't you just do the simple thing and send the kid home?"
"No, not here. I'd need the computer in the Silver Forest to do that," Andy explained. "Sorry, Tim, but you're kind of stuck here for the time being. So, you want to be a werewolf?"
"You're serious? I could really change into a wolf morph?"
"Something like that," Andy said and pointed at his friend. "Green Light, please do your thing."
Gray black fur sprouted on Tim's hands, then his face. A look of sheer wonder crossed his face until it stretched into a long muzzle. I saw him taking in deep breaths then he turned to each of us as if checking out our scents. A tail pushed out from his pants legs and a second later Tim sat down on his haunches as a complete timber wolf. He growled at Andy.
"Oh, sorry, Tim. I know you wanted to be a wolf morph but it doesn't work like that in real life. But don't worry about a thing. We'll take great care of you. We'll walk you like three times a day and get the best dog food for you..."
The wolf stood up growling louder. He bared his fangs at Andy.
"Don't get in a snit, fella. There, good boy, take it easy boy. You're gonna change back you know. That's what it means to be a werewolf. Hang on," he said and snapped his fingers.
Tim stood up as himself again a few seconds later. We all stared at his face.
"Whoa, Ange, did you mean to do that to him?" I asked.
"What? What did he do to me?"
Paulin turned away holding a hand over his mouth. Andy shook his head. "Nothing. Nothing happened that wasn't supposed to, Tim. It's just that since you're a werewolf now you look the part."
Andy was right. The kid had eyebrows that met in the middle of his forehead, and bright yellow eyes. "Here," I said and handed Tim a mirror.
He studied himself for a while, then nodded. "Not bad, I had thought about something like this for years. I'm going to change into a wolf when the moon is full?"
"No, more like when ever you feel like it."
"Right, so mate, why couldn't you turn me into a wolf morph instead of a real wolf?"
"Beats me, Tim. Something to do with genes and stuff. Think about it, though. You can't mix wolf genes with human and get a wolf morph, that won't happen. You either have wolf genes or human genes. I know. I wanted to fly, but instead of changing into Superman I turned into a hawk because I had to be something that was built for flight. Magic can do so much but not more."
"It's better than not changing at all," Tim said. "If you send me back home do I stay a werewolf?"
Andy shook his head. "Magic works in this world, not our old one, but come on. We'd better get home."
"Can't," I said. "My mom is still out there. I want her sent back to jail."
"Sure. No problem, Paulie. I'll do it, but you know what you have to do."
"Not a chance, Hollis. I'll do it myself and you know what's going to happen if you leave me down here, don't you? I thought you would. Shall we?"
"Never knew how much of a brat he'd be," Andy grumbled as we walked back out to the main room.
"If I want to survive with seven older brothers, what choice do I have?" I demanded.
"Learn to live with it," Andy told me. "Someday, kid, you will get yours."
In spite of her many protests, I sent Mom back to her jail cell, made sure the door was locked and used a little more power to sound bells through the jail to let the police know she was back. Andy waved his arms, cast some kind of elven spell and the rest of us popped back into the kitchen of the Hollis Hotel.
"Here he is, Mom, safe and sound and ready to go back to his hospital room, and this is Tim, our new werewolf. Can I keep him? He's housebroken and everything," Andy said with a wide grin.
"Ange," she said and wrapped her arms around my shoulders. "That wasn't very nice."
"It's okay, Mrs. Hollis," Tim said. "I've been a -- friend of Andy's for a while now on the computer and I just found out I was a werewolf."
"We'll work it out," Mom said and sighed. "I had better get Paul back to the hospital while you show Tim to his room."
The rest of the evening stayed quiet. I had a hard time believing it had only been one day since I woke in the morgue in this new body. Then again, I had never had so much fun in the old one that I could hardly wait until the morning.
Okay, that did it. No more mister nice guy elf here. I'm taking back this story from the twerp and not giving back this time. I mean that last bit was just plain lame, even for him. So, where were we? Paul's hitting the sack, and the bad guys are out of the picture for now. I...
"Yes, Mom?" I asked as she broke into the narrative flow.
"Paul says that you stole the narration again. I want you to give it back now -- no matter how lame it gets."
"But Mom, it's my story, with my name on it, not his. I've been writing this thing forever and now you want some little kid that can't write doing it? I let him do a whole chapter but it's my turn now."
"Andrew Eric, do I have to send you to your room in front of all your readers?"
The next morning came, with no further interruptions from my big brother, and Dr. West signed the order letting me go home after breakfast. This time I hoped I wouldn't be back for anything major.
As I pulled on the street clothes Mom had brought in for me, the phone rang. She picked it up. "Hello..? Okay, what sort of problems..? We'll be there," she said and hung up. "That was Jeff. There's some kind of problem at the house and he wanted us to meet him at the shop. I'd better call home." She picked up the phone and dialed.
"Hello..? Hi Georgie, you still sound so cute saying that... I know... I know it wasn't your fault but you are much more suited to be a little boy again, you never were that much of a grown up... Okay, what's the problem..? Jeff said there was a problem there and he wanted me to take Paul to the magic shop..? What do you mean he's there..? Jeff? Did you just call me about going over to the magic shop..? I see. Betty just left, and you're staying home for Paul's magic lesson. Something isn't right. I'd send Crow One to the shop if I were you, and tell Allan to get over here."
As she hung up the phone, Allan Hollis popped into the room. "Mom?"
Two seconds later, a second elf appeared in the room, and it wasn't Andy. "Hi, Mom, Jeff. Who are you supposed to be?"
"Neat trick, but who are you?" the first Allan demanded.
Mom turned from one to the other, then said to the first one, "Okay, Mr. Abnormal Elf, what's going on here?"
"Why are you calling me abnormal, Mom? That's Ange," the elf said while Allan number two smirked.
"That's what I called Erien last night. Before I blast you into atoms, kid, what's going on?"
Two Andy's with two wizard's popped into the room as well.
"Well, isn't this nice," I said. "Come on guys, there isn't that much room in here. Why don't you all go outside and settle this in the parking lot? Then the winners will come back here."
"No need, kidlet. I can settle this now," one of the Andy's said. "You pick the winners and the others will go back to the underworld where they belong."
"Come off it, that is so lame," the other Andy said. "I did that in one of my books, and it was so lame I cut it out. Green light, drop those turkeys into the middle of some ocean." Sure enough, bands of green light formed around the other Andy and Jeff for a second. A moment later, the window opened and the two imposters were dragged up into the air over Bennett City. "Bye. Have a nice swim," Andy called after them. He turned around to face the two Allans. "You," he said to the first, "go with them."
"Ange, it's me. You're making a mistake."
"Am not," Andy said. "I know my brother from a demon any day. There isn't much difference, but still..."
"Thanks a lot, Ange," Allan number two said.
"Any time, Al. So what do we do with this thing?"
Allan number one pulled a small cube and said with a grin, "No, it's what am I going to do with the lot of you. I've waited a long time for this, Hollis." The boy tossed the cube down to the floor and the whole room spun around.
A second later, Mom, both Allans, Andy, Jeff and me woke up in the middle of a huge, barren plain. Everything was colored in shades of gray from the ground, to the few scraggily plants around and included the night sky.
"Where are we?" Mom asked.
"Beats me," Andy said. "Where are we?"
"This is the Shadow World," Allan number one said with a sneer. "The Light has it's Lyrunda, but we have this place."
"Cool," Andy said and held out his hand. A messenger crow popped onto his wrist.
"Yes, Crow Lord?"
"Please go get all of my brothers and lead them back here," Andy said as the demon in Allan's clothing turned pale.
"Yes, Crow Lord, right away."
"What just happened there?" the demon demanded.
"Didn't you know I'm the new Crow Lord? Arch demon Andrew, that's me."
Paulin, Erien, Bobby, George and Josh appeared in the field with at least two hundred crows. The newcomers looked around.
"Where are we?" Paulin demanded.
"The Shadow World," Andy said. "There's gotta be a billion orcs here and I wanted to share with my favorite elves."
"Orcs?" Bobby and George chorused. "Where?"
"Do I give Paul my sword or can I keep it this time?" Erien asked.
"Neat," Josh said. "I want to fight orcs, too."
"Not a chance," Jeff said. "I don't believe in killing, not even defenseless shadow creatures, son."
"But Dad, I'm an elf and elves kill orcs. That's what we do. Just like in Orc Hunter 4. Are those orcs over there?"
"Yes, they are," Bobby said. "Come on, troops. Let's get 'em."
"Hey, Erien," Allan said. "It's my turn to skewer a demon, so I get the sword. Ready to lose your other arm, Ashes?"
"Ashes? Is that you in the Allan suit," Andy said with a grin.
"Thanks, Ashes," Bobby said. "Thanks for all the orcs. This really makes up for the time you stole my body. Later, I've got work to do."
"Josh, don't you dare go orc hunting," Jeff called after the elves, but too late. "We need some light around here." He held out a hand and a large, wizard's staff came at his call. Sticking the staff in the ground, Jeff said a few words and stood back as yellow light shot up into the gray sky.
"This might help," I said, and pointed at the staff. "I call on the Light..." I didn't get the sentence out when seven bands of Light appeared in the sky running from horizon to horizon. The landscape brightened as the night turned into day.
"Good work, kidlet," Andy said and patted me on the shoulder.
"And I was going to teach him magic?" Jeff commented. "I don't suppose you could teach me that trick."
Bobby, George and Josh popped back in front of us. "Okay, who did that?" Bobby asked and pointed up. "All my orcs melted. We didn't get to kill any at all."
"We were just trying to help," I said.
"So much for this tour of the Shadow World, Ashes," Andy said. "I hope you can get more orcs because this place looks kind of empty now. Wonder what the boss will say, but that's your lookout, demon boy, not mine."
"What have I done?" Ashtar said and turned back into his one armed self. "I..."
Scotty, Teo and the Lord of Shadow all popped in with seconds of each other.
"What happened here?" the Lord of Shadow asked.
"It isn't Paulie's fault, Uncle Buttercup. No one told him if he turned on the Lights the whole world would get messed up. He's really sorry, too. Aren't you, Paulie?"
"Yeah. Sorry," I shrugged. "Can we go home now? There isn't much to see here now."
"No, not until that guy gives us some more orcs, lots more orcs," Bobby said. "You melted the last batch."
"I said I was sorry, Bobby," I said.
"Ashtar, why did you bring the Hollises here? This was a perfectly good world, and I saw no need to destroy it."
"I was only trying to help, my Lord. We had to get rid of the Towers kid and I thought even they were no match for this world. This world was no match for him."
"Then let us see if he is a match for you. Ashtar, I command you to destroy this child."
I stared at the Arch demon, and shook my head. "One false move, mister, and I'll disconnect your telephone service. Just see if I don't."
"Way to go, Paulie," Andy yelled. "Teach that sucker to mess with Ma Bell."
"He's right, my Lord, we can't mess with the Phone Company," Ashtar added and backed away further.
"I don't believe this," the Lord of Shadow said. "Ashtar, that is just a little boy. How hard can it be for you to destroy one little boy? Is he not the one that took your left arm?"
"Touch him and we will do more than just disconnect your phone," Mom said stepping up to my defense. "How dare you threaten a child like that?" she asked the Shadow Lord. "What sort of monster are you, anyway?"
"Yeah, that's right, Mr. Shadow. You can't threaten my little brother like that," Andy added.
"Andrew, stay out of this before you spend the rest of your life as a flea," the Lord of Shadow said quietly. "Ashtar, I am waiting."
Teo tapped the end of his Spear on the ground causing thunder to crack overhead. "Excuse me, but these kids and that lady are under my protection. If you want to destroy someone, I can let you have Scotty, but that's it. Now, if you wish to face my powers, in addition to Paul's go right ahead, Ashtar, but if not, I am taking my friends and myself home."
"You forget yourself, boy," the Lord of Shadow said. "This is my world in spite of the child's actions and no one is leaving without my permission."
A bolt of golden white light struck the Shadow Lord right in the chest. Teo raised the Spear again and the second bolt brought the man to his knees.
I pointed my right hand at the man and fired another bolt. Erien took his sword from his back pack, raised it over his head then pointed it at the man as well. Points of green light flared around Erien's head forming an open crown as the Sword began drinking the Shadow.
"Green Light, please burn the rest of the Shadow right out of that bum," Andy said.
"Yes, White Light," I said. "Do the same."
"Yellow Light, burn the Shadow from that man," Jeffmar added.
"Purple, Red, Brown and Blue, follow the rest and burn the Shadow from that man," Teo commanded.
Bands of light surrounded the man, forcing him to cry out, as if in pain. Ashtar rushed into the Light himself trying to pull the man to safety only to burn up. "Enough," the Lord of Shadow cried out. "Shadow forces, attend me."
Black light struck back, but still the effort was no help. Teo raised the Spear higher, and called out at the top of his voice, "By the Light I command it, finish him off."
"No!" Andy yelled. "Don't even think about it, Teo," the elf screamed, but the Lord of Light pointed the Spear directly at the Dark Lord's chest. The man sent a blast of shadow back at the Spear. The two forces crashed together forcing the Spear to explode in a brilliant flash of Light that took Teo with it into oblivion.
Shocked by the loss of its Lord, the Light faltered, but did not release its hold on the Shadow. Scotty took the Sword from Erien, and stepped forward.
"Good bye, Uncle. It has been -- fun," he said before he plunged the blade into the old god's chest.
A look of shock and surprise crossed the man's face as his essence was drawn into the Sword. The Lord of Shadow vanished, but the Sword disintegrated as well leaving a void in both the Shadow and the Light.
"All right," Andy said. "It will take ages before a new Lord of Shadow is found. Okay, crows, take this message to all the remaining Arch demons... Crows?" Andy called out as a huge flock of confused birds flew into the darkening sky.
"Without the Shadow, they are just birds," Scotty said tiredly. "I don't think a message to the enemy is necessary at this point, Ange. Shall we go home?"
Before Scotty could act, the world spun around and turned blank.
We stood in a massive marble hall, empty except for twelve thrones set in a semi-circle around a huge reflecting pool. Light flashed on the center throne. The outline of a huge man formed, then took shape. The man must have been twenty feet tall, if not more, and, as his face and features grew visible, I could see that he had snow white hair, worn short on his head over a neatly trimmed white beard.
"Father?" Scotty asked.
Andy bowed and motioned the rest of us to follow suit. "Lord Zeus? It's an honor to meet you at last, sir."
The man on the throne nodded, and shrank down to human size. "All of you are to be commended. You have won the battle between the Light and Shadow for many centuries to come. My brother is gone, but the Shadow is still strong and you must still prepare for the time when a new Lord is chosen to sit on the Onyx throne. The Light has already chosen a new Lord and all of you will be needed to crown him, so be prepared."
"A new Lord?" Scotty demanded. "With Teo gone, father, that title is mine now, by right."
"Tell me, Eros, my son. Were you a good Lord of Light while you held the title?"
"At times, yes sir. At times I was a good Lord of Light."
"I bet you won't say what you were the other ninety nine percent of the time, will you, Cupes?"
"You, hush," Scotty told Andy and looked around the room.
"It is time that you, too, moved on, my son," Zeus said quietly. "The Light's Ring was never yours to wear."
"What?" Scotty asked. He held up his right hand as the band of gold and jewels around his ring finger burned a bright red, then vanished.
A second later, I felt something warm on my right hand. I glanced down as the ring settled onto my ring finger and vanished in turn. I looked up to meet Andy's crooked grin. He flashed me a quick thumbs up that only I saw as the others kept their focus on Scotty and Lord Zeus.
"Someday, and soon, the Light will reveal its choice again, as it did with Teo a thousand years ago. You elves, and you, wizard Jeffmar, have been my best line of defense and I trust that you will continue to do so for me, especially now since there will peace on this planet for many years to come. Between the Light and the Shadow that is."
"But what about me, father?" Scotty asked.
"You and I are going on a trip, son. How long has it been since we've had a proper visit? Your mother is waiting and I wouldn't want to be in your sandals if you keep her waiting long."
"Understood, father," Scotty said with his head bowed. "But when I get back I will find that ring again. Or Celrin will."
"I think this is where I came in," Andy said. "This is where my books started and I think I can safely bow out of the picture and just be a regular kid again. Right, troops?"
"Right," the rest of the elves chorused.
"Yeah, right," Allan added. "Just remember one thing, Ange. I am the boss of you and I always will be. Got that? Good. Now you can be a regular kid again."
"And me?" Jeffmar said. The wizard's hair darkened, and his beard vanished. "Do I give up the shop?"
"No, just the malicious stereotype that someone forced upon you," Zeus commented. "A true wizard you will be from this day on. You will need that power in the days ahead to properly train the boy, there, in his powers."
"I will, sir. But what about my son? Josh is still an elf."
"That was done by his choice and there is nothing that can change that now. But you, Bobby, and you, George. You have adult lives to go back to, now. What say you?"
Bobby cleared his throat. "Break up the team now, sir? I couldn't do that. Not when I have all this and I can fly, too."
"Thanks for the plug, Bobby. I needed that," Andy said and slapped the elf's shoulder. "Dad?"
"In many ways your mother was right about me being a waste as an adult. This time, I intend to grow up properly."
"Way to go, Dad," we all said.
"Then go, go home, until the Light needs you again," Zeus said, and ended the matter.