Jak, an elf studying magic convinces his human friend Lockely to help him clean out a storage room in the academy. When the two unleash something long sealed away they are given a ‘gift” of gratitude.
A Small Boon
“Remind me why I’m here helping you again?” Lockely gave a sigh. The two of them were currently in one of the many storage rooms of the Academy Arcana. This one was in rather poor condition, covered in both cobwebs and spiderwebs, mountains of dust and just filled with boxes of old rusted junk.
“Because you’re a good friend.” Jak replied with a smile. “And you know if you refused, I would have worn you down anyway.” He stuck his tongue out playfully. The two were a bit of an odd pair, it wasn’t extremely common for elves and humans to be so close. Jak was the elf, with blonde hair and pointed ears. Lockely meanwhile was a red headed human. Both of them were dressed in old clothing, tunics and rough trousers due to the nature of their work today. Lockely however had two additions to his outfit, a long flowing scarf and a pair of glasses.
“I feel like cleaning this place out for you is stretching the limits of a favor from a friend. You didn’t tell me it was this bad. I’m not the one who broke the stupid urn; I can’t believe I’m stuck helping you clean this up.” The urn Lockely referred to was one that had been on a second-floor classroom in the Academy. Jak, having recently enrolled was practicing a levitation spell on said urn. It was only after the urn smashed to the floor that he learned the thing was over seventy years old and considered priceless. Since there was no hope of Jak having the gold to pay for the urn, the school had instead saddled him with cleaning out this storage room.
Jak had asked Lockely for help to get the job done faster. It didn’t sound like that big of a pain at the time, so Lockely agreed. Plus, having heard the full story about the value of the vase and seeing how out of sorts Jak was when begging for his aid he couldn’t refuse. Lockely didn’t understand how cleaning out one room was going to equal the value of a priceless vase. That was until they had arrived. Cleaning this giant mess up had to be at least worth five priceless vases.
“I promise to make it up to you! I really, really appreciate you helping.” Jak replied giving the best smile he could. Lockely huffed and turned away; but made no attempt to leave and got to work.
“So, all this old junk in the boxes…” Lockely pulled a brass lantern from one of them. “What do we do with them?”
“Most of them we can throw out.” Jak explained. “There’s a room at the end of the hall with a gaping vortex we can toss the trash into.”
“Is that wise?” Lockely, not being a user of magic or student of the school had no idea how a gaping vortex worked. But throwing trash into it seemed like a bad idea.
“It’s fine” Jak nodded eagerly. “Or at least the professors said it was. Said it leads to some kind of dead zone that supports no life and eventually breaks down all matter until it returns to being nothing but an empty void.”
“That is completely terrifying.” Lockely paused from his work to stare at Jak. “You guys use a magic portal to a void of immediate death to get rid of your trash.”
“Hey, it’s just a portal to a death dimension and it’s eco-friendly!” Jak replied with sassy grin. “They also do have safety measures put in place to make sure no one gets thrown into the void on accident. The vortex won’t open if there’s any living being within range of it. It actually gets annoying at times. You have no idea how annoying it is to chase flies away from the trash so the portal will activate.”
“That makes It marginally better.” Lockely shook his head. “So what do we keep, what do we throw out?”
“Basically, anything that looks too old to function, is clearly broken or completely pointless gets thrown out. Something that can still be used or repaired without too much of a hassle stays.” Jak explained.
“Guess the first thing to do then is to make a pile of what goes and what stays.” Lockely tossed the rusted lantern he had picked up into a corner. “Once all the trash is gone, we can figure out how to organize what’s left into something less… This.”
The two got to work, and the pile of ‘trash’ began to grow exponentially. Apparently, because the room was in such poor shape no one had actually attempted to retrieve anything from it in years. In fact, no one was sure when the last time anyone had come down here was. The school had a history dating thousands of years. There was no telling how long it had been. But considering that there were piles of dust up to their ankles it had to have been a long time. After a few hours of cleaning Lockely stood up having found the first object that might be worth keeping.
“Hey what’s this?” He held up a multi-colored stained-glass bottle with a cork in it. After clearing the dust off it was quite beautiful. Lockely wasn’t sure what magical purpose it might serve, but if nothing else it was pretty to look at.
“No idea.” Jak jumped down from a shelf he had climbed to search through the higher items. “Looks expensive. You probably shouldn’t be holding it.”
“It was just tossed in box and buried in junk. I’m surprised it’s not broken.” As Lockely spoke the bottle began to glow in his hand. Then he felt movement inside of it and the bottle jerked right out of his hand, flying to the ground with a thud and began to roll back and forth. Despite being made of glass there wasn’t even a single scratch on it from when it had slammed into the ground.
“That’s not normal…” Jak leaped behind a pile of boxes to hide from the lamp. Lockely wasn’t far behind. They peered over the edge of the boxes to see the lamp still rolling around. Jak’s ears twitched slightly. As an elf, he had much better hearing than Lockely, and he could just barely make out muffled screaming coming from within the bottle. “I think there’s someone inside.”
“Well, what do we do? Do we let them out?” Lockely asked. He assumed pulling the cork from the bottle would probably release whoever or whatever was in it.
“I don’t know.” Jak replied. “I mean… It could be a demon.”
“A demon sealed inside a rainbow-colored bottle?” Lockely asked quizzically.
“No reason you can’t seal a demon and be fabulous.” Jak shrugged with a grin. “Could also be something like a faerie… Which might be even more trouble actually.”
“But there is something alive trapped in there.” Lockely scowled. The two of them realized at the same time they weren’t leaving the room without opening the thing. Despite the possible danger, they couldn’t just leave someone trapped like that.
“So… Who opens it, and who grabs something heavy to swing in case it’s a monster?” Jak asked knowing what they were going to do.
“I don’t know, this magic stuff is more your kind of thing! Shouldn’t you open it?” Lockely asked.
“Maybe.” Jak gave a nervous smile. “But I’m kind of terrified of it. Besides, we can’t risk me BECAUSE magic is my thing. I mean what if something goes wrong?”
“Well I don’t exactly want to do it either…” Lockely muttered. He considered for a few seconds. “Rock, paper scissors?”
“You’re on!” Jak replied as he formed one hand into a fist. Him and Lockely faced each other as they each slammed their fist down into their hand three times before revealing their signs. Jak had thrown down scissors. He mostly assumed Lockely wouldn’t pick rock because it was too obvious a choice, and therefore scissors would likely result in a tie or a victory. However, when Lockely threw paper and Jak won, even he was surprised that his own logic had worked out. He had just been trying to justify the choice in his head.
However, despite his reluctance he crawled out from behind the boxes and slowly crawled towards the bottle on all fours. It was still glowing and rolling around on the ground. Lockely reached for the bottle and grabbed it, and found he had to hold it with both hands to keep it steady. Whatever was inside was thrashing about, and for something that could fit in a tiny bottle it was strong. Lockley felt like he was about to be thrown across the room with the bottle. “Will you slow down for one minute so I can open this thing!” Lockely shouted.
And then the bottle froze, it went completely still in Lockely’s hands. It was still glowing, but all movement had ceased. Had whatever was inside the bottle understood him? Well, Lockely was about to find out. He grabbed the cork and pulled it out of the bottle.
Then black wispy smoke filled the entire room. Lockely and Jak were blinded as the smoke swirled around the room for awhile before all of it condensed itself into a sphere in one spot in the corner of the room allowing them to see again.
“Uh, what is that?” Lockely asked.
“Smoke monster?” Jak suggested.
“Ahhhhhhhhhh.” The ball of smoke boomed. Suddenly, legs extended from the bottom of the smoke, and arms from the top. The smoke itself began to form a torso that then grew a head. Soon, there was something that almost resembled an elf, but with silver skin, gold glowing eyes, and a shimmering aura of fire around it. The creature was dressed quite fancily, wearing long silk robes which the edges of seemed to shift into and become part of his fiery aura. “Thought I’d never get to stretch out like this again and…” The figure paused. “Where am I?” He looked around at the disgusting storage room. “This is where I’m making my comeback? No, I don’t think so. We need something a bit more worthy of my elegance don’t you think?”
He snapped his fingers and suddenly the storage room was just gone. In its place was an enormous ball room, much bigger than the original storage room with crystal chandeliers, marble tile, and columns and archways decorated with flowers from around the world in full bloom. Jak and Lockely just stared dumbfounded for a moment. For the first time the creature seemed to notice them and took note of their startled expressions.
“You’re right it’s too much.” He snapped his fingers again. And now the ballroom was gone, and instead it was a fancy parlor room, with leather couches, a pool table in the corner, and a lit fireplace that it was best not to think about where the smoke went to. “There, a little cozier. That’s better.”
“Who… are you?” Lockely recovered his composure first, but even as he asked the question, he slowly inched backwards to be closer to Jak. Now that all the junk in the room was gone that just meant standing in the corner near the pool table.
“Ah, where are my manners.” The silver skinned creature took a bow. “I am Djinn Tahwil, and now that I am finally free of my thousand-year imprisonment I can wreck my vengeance on this world sowing chaos and mayhem across all the mortal races!” He chuckled menacingly.
“Could you maybe…. Not do that?” Jak asked nervously.
“Okay.” The djinn shrugged.
“Wait just like that?” Lockely looked between the two.
“I actually gave up on vengeance.” Djinn Tahwil explained. “You see I was pretty mad for the first century or so, but by fourth century of imprisonment plotting vengeance was pretty boring. I didn’t really have a physical body in there, so it wasn’t like I could conjure up some cards or a book to pass the time. Just me and my thoughts, for centuries, and so I took up philosophy in a manner of speaking, debating the reason for my existence, if my actions were a result of my inherent nature or if I had a choice. Then around six hundred years I had a realization that sowing chaos among the mortals was what got me stuck into that bottle in the first place.” He paused there.
“So, no vengeance?” Jak asked hopefully.
“Probably not.” Djinn Tahwil shrugged. “I was told the bottle would be hidden where no one would find it, and by year 800 had begun to believe that. And well, it’s been over a thousand years now. Everyone I would want revenge on anyway is already dead, and their descendants would have no idea why they were suffering. I mean what’s the point of unleashing your wrath if no one even remembers what you’re destroying them for? So, decided if I was ever free I’d go about the world, see what’s changed, do some soul searching, reinvent myself and find a new non-chaos related reason for existing.” He paused. “Well, maybe one last act of chaos then I turn over a new leaf. Which of you two opened the bottle?”
“Um… Well…” Lockely didn’t want to answer, but he wasn’t going to throw Jak under the carriage, so he answered truthfully. “Me.”
“Then to you I owe a small boon. I think I know just the thing.” He snapped his fingers again, and suddenly Jak sunk downward towards the floor disappearing into his own clothing.
“What did you do to him!?” Lockely asked, an edge to his voice. He knew he wasn’t really a match for whatever this was, but if he had just hurt Jak…
“Relax, he’s fine, look.” The djinn pointed at the pile of clothing Jak had been wearing as something wriggled its way out from it.
It was Jak! Though much smaller, no bigger than a mouse. Which was appropriate since he now had the ears and tail of a mouse, as well as short claws on the ends of his toes and fingers.
“Squeak? Squeak! Squeak!” Jak shouted in alarm realizing several things at once. One, the room was huge all of a sudden. Two, he was naked. Three, he had a tail. Four, apparently he couldn’t talk and that was a problem because he had like four different puns he could use for this little situation.
“There we go, what better present is there than a good pet?” Djinn Tahwil asked. “Make sure to take good care of him, there’s enough elf left in him that he’ll keep his normal lifespan. You two are going to be together for a very long time.”
“Wait! You can’t just leave him like this!” Lockely shouted. “That’s not what I wanted! Please change him back.”
“Are you asking me to take back a gift?” There was an edge to the djinn’s voice. “You have been gracefully given a token of gratitude by a mighty djinn. I hope you’re not thinking about insulting me by returning it.”
“But how is Jak supposed to live like this?” Lockely demanded.
“With you taking care of him of course.” The djinn chuckled as he transformed into black smoke. The smoke seeped through invisible cracks in the wall and soon vanished.
“Hey get back here!” Lockely shouted but it was too late. The djinn was gone. He was left alone with his ‘pet.’ Lockely turned and slowly bent down onto one knee to be closer to the ground to address Jak. “Hey… Jak, you’re still you right?”
“Squeak!” Jak didn’t need words for sarcasm to come through. He was a mouse, sort of. What did Lockely think? Though, after a few seconds he nodded. He was physically unharmed.
“That’s good. Well I mean good he didn’t turn you into a mouse mentally…” Lockely frowned. He didn’t know anything about magic. He had no clue how to go about turning Jak back. After a few minutes he reached the obvious conclusion. Ask an expert. He was in an academy of magic. Surely one of the professors could change Jak back. “Ok, I’m picking you up, will try to be gentle.”
“Squeak!” Jak squeaked more by instinct as Lockely’s hand gently closed around his body. His new mouse instincts told him to run but he forced himself to stay in place. Lockley slowly lifted Jak up them sat him down atop his own head.
“Think you can hang on up there?” Lockely asked. “Figure if you’re ever in danger of falling off you can grab onto my hair.
“Squeak!” Jak replied as he grabbed two bits of Lockely’s hair and began to pull on them as if they were levers.”
“I’ll take that as a yes.” Lockely gave a heavy sigh and started to nod, stopped himself remembering Jak was atop his head. He left the parlor. He found the door exited into the normal hallway. He paused and looked back through the door from this side. It was still a parlor. The storage room no longer existed. He couldn’t waste time dwelling on that though he had to find a professor or something.
Eventually, Lockely encountered an elderly woman in black robes carrying a bundle of scrolls under one arm. She was too old to be a student, so either a professor or someone who worked here who could point him in the right direction.
“Excuse me!” Lockely reached up and grabbed Jak out of your hair. “My friend here needs your help! Or the help of someone here who knows magic.”
“Your friend?” The woman gave Lockely a strange look. “Well, I suppose a mouse isn’t that strange a pet. But this place is for the study of magic, not an animal hospital. What’s wrong with him anyway?”
“Squeak?” Jak was confused. He tugged on his ears then gestured at the rest of his elven body before grabbing his tail.
“Seriously?” Lockely shared his confusion. Considering that aside from the ears, Jak’s body was furless, and was still his normal elf body aside from said ears, tail and claws. “You can’t tell by looking.”
“Looks like a normal mouse to me.” The professor shrugged.
“Really? It doesn’t maybe look like Jak? You know? One of the students here?” Lockely asked.
“Jak?” She wrinkled her nose. “He’s the one who broke my urn. Are you a friend of his? If so, tell him there will be hell to pay if he doesn’t clean out that storage room by the end of the day.”
“I can truthfully say that the storage room is completely cleaned out.” Lockely muttered just loud enough to be heard.
“Already?” The woman seemed surprised. “I better not find out he did a lousy job. I’ll send someone later to check on it. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m very busy and don’t have time to play with your pet.” The woman pushed past Lockely disappearing down the hall.
“Squeak! Squeeeak!” Jak stuck his tongue out at the professor as she left. Boy, was she going to be surprised when they checked on the storage room. Shame he couldn’t be there to see her reaction.
“That… Didn’t work. It was like she thought you were just a normal mouse.” Lockely bit his lip unsure of what to do.
“Squeak?” Jak looked up from where he was sitting down cupped in Lockely’s hands.
“If they can’t even see you’re not a real mouse how are they going to know how to change you back?” Lockely’s shoulders sagged. “You… Might be stuck like this for awhile.”
“Squeak…” Jak looked despondent for a few seconds. However, as he looked up and saw how miserable Lockely’s face was, he forced a smile, stood up and nuzzled his head against the side of Lockely’s hand.
“Eh?” Lockely reacted without thinking and shifted to holding Jak in one hand as he used the other to gently scratch his ears.
“Squeeeeak!” Jak had just been trying to find a way to cheer Lockely up, but the ear scritch felt amazing. He flopped over onto his side and laid there just letting Lockely handle him.
“What am I going to do with you?” Lockely asked aloud.
Several hours later, and after several fruitless conversations with various professors Lockely had returned to his home. A small modest house, but he was lucky to own a place to stay in the city at all. The house only had a single bedroom, then a combo living room and kitchen. It was no bigger than most apartments.
Lockely was sitting on his bed with his legs crossed. The mouseified Jak was sitting across from him also with his legs crossed.
“No luck with changing you back.” Lockely muttered. “Might have to find someone who knows something about djinns. In the meantime, I was thinking maybe I should get you a cage or terrarium or something.”
“Squeak!?” Jak jumped up from his sitting position and let out a furious series of squeaks indicating he did not want to be caged.
“Not to lock you up in!” Lockely assured him. “Just… To serve as something of a bedroom. Will try to make a little bed for you, and anything else you need. Latch stays unlocked at all times, you won’t be trapped in it.”
“Squeak.” Jak considered. He supposed his old bed was a little too big for him now. “Squeak.” He consented to the cage. “Squeak, squeak squeak. Squeak squeeeak squeak.” He then gave a list of the amenities that he wanted in his new ‘room.’ He was aware Lockely couldn’t understand him. But with the right amount of pestering over the next few days Lockely would eventually figure it out.
“Get on that tomorrow.” Lockely grabbed Jak, lifting him gently and moving him to a nightstand. “For tonight, best I can offer you for a bed are some of the rags I use clean my glasses. I promise to find something better for you tomorrow.”
“Squeak…” Jak was reluctant but approached the pile of rags on the nightstand. He squirmed into the middle of them and found them surprisingly warm and snug. He was soon completely asleep. He hadn’t realized how exhausted he was.
“Mmmmm.” Lockely stared at the sleeping mouse-elf for a few seconds. “I don’t know how long you’ll be stuck like this, or if you can be changed back. But I promise, I’ll keep you safe.” Then Lockely slipped beneath the covers under his own bed and went to sleep himself.