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Terrance Denby had always wondered about the unmarked road.

Between the second McDonald’s and the third McDonald’s he passed by on his way to work, there was a short section of undeveloped, forested area where he’d briefly lose sight of the modern world. It was a short respite, and halfway through, there was a right turn one could make that seemed to lead further into the woods. The turnoff was paved and modern-looking, but there was no sign marking it. In the thousands of times Terrance had taken this route, he’d often glanced at the right turn and briefly wondered where it led. The thought was always gone in seconds, though, and it only ever seemed a mild curiosity.

But one morning, Terrance had to slam on the brakes to avoid hitting a squirrel that had decided to sit in the middle of the road staring dumbly at the car. Stopped, Terrance found himself next to the right turn. He was a little early for work that day and decided, on a rare bit of whimsy, to go ahead and see where the unknown road led.

He made the right turn, and the road soon twisted and turned deeper into the forest. The trees seemed to rise even higher above him now, the sky completely concealed by a high canopy of leaves. Just as Terrance began to think that perhaps this would be better to explore on a day when he had more time, he noticed that the trees ended shortly ahead of him and so did the road, the asphalt fading into a patch of dirt near the edge of the forest. Terrance parked his Hyundai and climbed out.

He walked beyond the trees into a vast field of green grass and scattered wildflowers covering rolling hills. In the far distance loomed mountains more massive than he had ever seen. The sun seemed larger than normal in the clear blue sky, its heat enveloping Terrance like a warm blanket. Also in the sky he could make out what might be moons…but they were bigger than that. Other worlds, perhaps.

He walked further until he reached a stream of clear water. That’s when he saw it: a palace of crystal floating high above the field. From it, a few winged figures descended. They looked like women clothed all in white, with wings like butterflies, but the wings were clear, as if they, too, were made of crystal. They were faeries, Terrance realized. Three of them floated down to Terrance until they hovered a few feet above his head. “You have come,” said the blonde faerie who fluttered in front of him.

Terrance stared at her for a few moments, at her perfect silken features and eyes that seemed to peer right through him. Finally, he regained enough composure to speak. “Huh?”

“You came seeking,” said the red-haired beauty floating to Terrance’s left, “and you have found what you sought.”

Terrance adjusted his glasses. “Oh, I was just curious where that road led. I didn’t mean to get in the middle of anything.”

“Your journey is about to begin,” said a silver-haired faerie to Terrance’s right, her voice soothing yet filled with importance.

“Oh no, I can’t journey right now.” Terrance checked the time on his smartphone, struggling to read the screen in the bright sun. “Yeah, I’m going to be late for work. I really need to get going. Nice meeting you all, though. Interesting place you have here.”

The blonde one floated closer to Terrance, staring deeply into his eyes. The silence grew awkward, and Terrance became a bit self-conscious, checking his short, dark hair with his fingers and nervously adjusting his tie. Finally, the faerie slowly drifted away, keeping her eyes locked on Terrance’s, and motioned to the ground. “Learn to use this, or you will perish.”

On the green grass was a sword with a silver handle in an intricately detailed black leather sheath. Terrance carefully picked it up. “Um…this looks kind of expensive; are you sure…?” He looked up to see that the faeries were already returning to their palace. “Hey! What exactly is this about?” he called out. There was no response as the faeries disappeared into the floating crystal structure above him. Terrance looked back to the sword on the ground. He wasn’t sure about taking it, but it felt wrong to leave it lying in the middle of the field. And he really had to be getting to work. So he picked up his new weapon and headed back to the car, wondering if there was a law against walking around with a sword in public.

* * * *


“You going on a quest?” Lance asked, spying the sword leaning against the wall of Terrance’s cubicle while smiling with his usual smarm that apparently some people found charming.

Terrance stopped his work on debugging a problem with a login page. “No, I just had a weird morning. I found a hidden…um…clearing, I guess, with faeries in it. And—”

“I don’t think you’re supposed to use that word.”

Terrance raised an eyebrow. “Huh? Oh, no, I mean like women with butterfly wings.”

“Little tiny women?”

“No, they were full-sized.”

Lance nodded. “Were they attractive?”

“Well…they were kind of otherworldly. That wasn’t really my focus.”

Lance leaned in close. “Just answer the question.”

“Yeah, they were pretty attractive. Anyway, the point is they came out of a floating crystal palace and gave me a sword and basically said, ‘It’s dangerous to go alone! Take this.’”

Lance looked at the sword again. “Did you have to pay for it?”

“No, they just tossed it on the ground in front of me and flew off. Have you ever heard of anything like that?”

Lance thought for a moment. “Nope. Have you tried Googling it?”

“No, not yet.” Terrance picked up the sword by its sheath and felt the weight of it in his hands. “So, weird morning.”

“Are we allowed to bring swords into the office?”

“I don’t know.” Terrance set the sword down. “Maybe I should have left it in the car.”

“So do you think it’s a magic sword? Like a magic faerie sword?”

Terrance threw up his hands. “Like I said: no idea.”

“Think you’re going to slay something with it?”

Terrance shook his head. “I wouldn’t know what to slay.”

“You ever slay anything before?”

“Just flies, with a flyswatter.”

Lance looked more closely at the sword. “What kind of sword is it?”

Terrance shrugged. “I don’t know. A sword sword. A long sword maybe.”

Lance sipped his coffee. “A katana would be cooler.”

“Well, obviously.”

Karen, a gorgeous brunette from HR, stepped into the cubicle, holding a notepad. She was once again in a stylish and immaculate suit that made Terrance feel self-conscious in a way similar to how the faeries did. “Hey, guys, we have another empowerment ceremony coming up, with a potluck afterward. What can I put you two down for?”

“I don’t know how to cook anything,” Terrance said. “Can I just bring chips?”

“Yeah, sure.” She wrote on her notepad. “And, hey, what’s with the sword?”

“It’s a magic faerie sword,” Lance said. “Terrance is going on a quest.”

She looked at the sword and then at Terrance. “That’s kind of weird.”

“I’m not going on a quest. The faeries just—”

“You probably shouldn’t have a sword in the office.”

Lance nodded. “That’s what I told him.”

Karen turned to Lance. “So what can you bring?”

“What do you need?”

“We could really use more main dishes, you know…not just chips.”

“I make this really good chicken fried rice. You are going to love it.”

“That sounds great.” Karen smiled at him and wrote on her notepad. “See you later, and have fun questing, Terrance.”

“I’m not questing!” Terrance shouted at her as she walked off. He looked at Lance, who was smiling. “You getting anywhere with her?” Terrance had a few times tried to make a pass at her, but she never even seemed to notice.

“The question, my boy, is whether she’s getting anywhere with me.”

A dark figure in a blue cloak approached them. It had black skin with a rocky texture, and slightly curled horns protruded from its skull. Its sharp teeth seemed almost too big for its mouth, and their edges were stained with blood. Yellow, snake-like eyes fixed on Terrance. “The login page.”

“I’m…I’m working on it,” Terrance said.

The demonic Darlor looked at the sword still leaning against Terrance’s cubicle wall. “What is that?”

“It’s a weird story…”

“I don’t want it in the office.”

“Oh, okay. Well, when I finish the fix on the login page—”

“Get rid of it now,” Darlor hissed, and then he turned and left.

Terrance stood up from his chair and picked up the sword. He watched for a moment as Darlor disappeared back into his windowless office. “You ever notice how Darlor isn’t human?” he asked Lance.

Lance thought for a moment. “He doesn’t wear a tie.”

“Excuse me?”

“Dress code is that we have to wear a tie, but the dress code only applies to people and Darlor never wears a tie. So it makes sense he’s not human.”

Terrance nodded, the sword feeling heavy in his hands. “He’s like a demon or something.”

Lance thought again. “Yeah, I guess that’s what you could call him.” He looked a moment at Terrance. “You have a point?”

Terrance stared out the office window down the aisle from his cubicle. A shadow passed over the world outside as something large flew in front of the sun. He felt a general sense of unease, but he couldn’t figure out what it was about. Everything was normal. “No. No point.”



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