Zeelo revisits Springtide, now aware of how it works and ready for a magical adventure. But he winds up getting a curse from a mummy and shrinking again.
Springtide: Just a Small Curse
Zeelo smirked confidently as he looked at the scene before him. The desert stretched out in almost every direction from here, but he had finally reached the pyramid he had been searching for. Or at least a pyramid. He wasn’t picky. The point was the adventure, and finding any specific one wasn’t important.
The four-year-old child was standing naked in the sand except for a few accessories. In any other universe this would have been a terrible idea, but Zeelo was currently within the world of Springtide. And things tended to work a bit differently there. The sun instead of being scorching hot merely felt pleasantly warm, and the sand was strangely cool to walk across. The rules were different in Springtide, certain harmful things didn’t exist, and that included danger from extreme elements. That’s why Zeelo was able to be here naked, except for a belt with a toy sword clipped to it and a small pouch. As for why he was naked… Well, that was because Zeelo wasn’t actually four years old. He was really in his twenties… But that was another part of Springtide’s magic. Adults weren’t allowed here, and any who did come in found themselves reduced to toddlers. Zeelo had been wearing clothes when he arrived in this world, but they no longer fit so it had been easier to just ditch them.
At one point, he might have been shy about that. But, this wasn’t his first visit to Sprigntide and he understood the rules of the place. He could have brought some children sized clothes with him, but with no actual danger, and a lower sense of modesty coming from the regression most people here just chose to stay naked, and Zeelo was no exception. Plus it made the shapeshifting aspect of the world easier. It was always annoying to bring a pair of properly sized pants only to have them destroyed when you suddenly turned into a dragon.
Today Zeelo was on a solo adventure. He approached the pyramid, walking up the steps and studied the stone door. He slammed his shoulder against the door and it pushed open slightly. It was a thing a four-year-old should not have had the strength to do, but again Springtide was a special place. Not only were children a bit stronger, but other things tended to be a bit weaker. A few more slams and the door opened showing a long tunnel.
“Light.” Zeelo commanded as he held a hand up, and a ball of magical light appeared in it illuminating the room. Kids could either learn to use magic or to build impossible machines here. It took Zeelo awhile, but he had settled on magic. And it was certainly useful right now. With the hall now lit up by his spell he could see trip wires, pressure plates, and a large lever on the wall with a big ‘Do Not Pull’ sign in front it. “Okay, that is really tempting, but it is obviously a trap.”
Guided by his light spell, Zeelo carefully stepped over traps and moved around them until he reached the far wall. Once more, another door blocked his path. He tried slamming his shoulder into it. No luck. He considered blasting it with magic… But that was dangerous. Sure, the magic couldn’t harm him, but it could certainly harm the treasure if it turned out to be on the other side of the door.
“Must be a puzzle.” Zeelo muttered as he looked around the room. There was a mural on the wall adjacent to the door, but it was a jumbled mess that made no sense. Zeelo touched it, and found it was made of several panels he could slide around. “And puzzle found.” He began to rearrange the slides trying to form a picture, but as he did the room began to rumble, and suddenly there was a gurgling noise. Small grates opened up along the floor, and a purple liquid that was definitely not water began to emerge from them. It was a fairly obvious setup. The liquid level would get higher and higher, eventually reaching Zeelo near the door where it would no doubt transform him into a small critter, turn him into an egg, or any other sorts of nonsense. If he solved the puzzle however, the trap would deactivate and it’d all drain away.
“Time to put all those years of video games to use.” Zeelo quickly began to move the pieces of the puzzle around trying to find some meaningful shape in them that he could arrange. The liquid level continued to rise, now covering most of the stone tiles, it was starting to reach the platform the puzzle and door was on. Zeelo continued as fast as he could, and then he figured it out.
It was a bird! Or at least the hieroglyphic that resembled one. Understanding the shape, Zeelo was quickly able to slide the pieces in place and create the shape. Just as predicted, the liquid began to drain from the room and with a rumbling sound the door opened. On the other side was a dark staircase, but hey that’s what his light spell was for.
As Zeelo climbed the stairs, he noticed small holes in the bottom of some stairs. Deciding to test one of them, he stuck his foot forward placing just a small amount of pressure on it. Steam immediately shot out of the hole barely missing him. It was clear, don’t step on those. Taking the stairs two and sometimes three at a time he made his way to another door. He prepared to try to bust this one open but before he got the chance the door opened on its own… And on the other side… The treasure room.
Gold coins were laying around in piles, which by now Zeelo knew were just chocolate coins. A sarcophagus lay in the back of the room, currently sealed shut. Zeelo decided to leave that alone for now, because there was one very real treasure in here. Sitting on a pillar in the center of the room was a single silver ring with a ruby set inside it. It was clearly magical. Zeelo wondered what it might be capable of, then decided to just take it and find out. He approached the pedestal but paused and looked at the sarcophagus.
“I’m going to get attacked as soon as I grab this ring huh?” Zeelo understood how these things went. Treasures were protected by Phantoms. Strange creatures without minds that acted as monsters just to be beaten in a game. Zeelo’s previous encounter with a Phantom had ended rather poorly for him, but things worked out in the end, and he had eventually gotten back to normal with the help of a friendly fox he met. However, as he remembered in the last fight, he had allies, and right now he was alone. He looked back at the open door and made a decision. Rather than fight, he’d just grab it and run.
But just in case he moved his right hand down to the hilt of his sword as he reached out with his left hand and grabbed the ring.
“Groaaaawwwwrl!” As expected the sarcophagus lid broke open and a Phantom appeared. This one of course looked like a mummy wearing a pharaoh mask because what else would it be. Zeelo didn’t waste time studying it, he bolted for the door. The mummy seeing him try to escape gestured at him with an arm and one of his bandages shot forth, grabbing Zeelo’s left hand that held the ring and wrapping around it. Zeelo could feel some type of magical spell being worked on him. From what he understood, these types of Phantoms specialized in curses.
“Not today.” Zeelo drew his sword in a swift motion and slashed through the bandage. The sword was made of wood, and not even very well made. Yet, it cut through the bandage holding Zeelo in an instant. Freed, Zeelo took off running. As he reached the stairs, he hopped down as fast as he could, avoiding the ones with holes in them, then ran into the main hall. With his left hand still wrapped up in what remained of the mummy’s bandages he couldn’t move his light spell around to see very far ahead. Mostly by memory he navigated the room, moving as quickly as he dared but slow enough to avoid tripping any traps. Then, he was at the entrance and ran back out into the desert sunlight. Turning around, he saw nothing pursuing him.
He turned his attention to his bandaged hand. It was still tingling strangely. He quickly ripped the bandages off and dropped them on the desert floor to avoid any risk of a lingering curse affecting him. And with that, the adventure was over, he had won, time to go home. Well, not his real home, but the place he preferred to rest in Springtide, the Oaken Meadow that was the center point between all the different themed zones. He passed through a western themed town along his way, but after a couple hours had made it to the meadows, a tranquil area full of colorful flowers and fluffy clouds. Here he could relax for a bit except…
His belt was loose on him. He might have dismissed this anywhere else, but this was Springtide. If something worn was loose it meant he was likely smaller. Zeelo looked down at himself, he didn’t seem much different, but his waistline was definitely thinner for his belt to be this loose. He figured it out quickly, the mummy Phantom had shrunk him with that bandage! Good thing he had cut himself away so fast or who knew how small he would have gotten! Still, losing a few inches of height was nothing to worry about. By now it was starting to feel late. He dropped the ring into his bag, he would figure out what to do with it tomorrow.
For now, Zeelo laid back in the grass, enjoying the soft texture of it. He knew there was no danger in sleeping outside like this and so drifted off to slumber without a single worry.
In the morning, Zeelo awoke feeling something a little heavy around his waist. He sat up and rubbed his eyes and realized it was his belt. It was lot bigger on him now, not even wearable. In fact, twice the size it had been.
“Wait what!?” Zeelo jumped up, letting the belt, sword and bag fall to the ground and glanced around the meadow. The normally ankle level grass was up to his knees. He had shrunk more over night and was now half his original size. Okay, maybe that curse wasn’t so minor, but just kept going and going. That was fine. Zeelo looked at the bag on his belt. The ring was still in there. He had talked to others before exploring the pyramid. Returning a stolen treasure to its original place would instantly break any mummy curse. He hadn’t even gotten to figure out what the ring did yet and now he was going to have to return it! “Ugh what a bother.” Still, considering on a previous visit he had shrunk even smaller than a flea it was probably a good idea to make the journey back and do it.
Zeelo unhooked the pouch from his belt. The belt and sword were too big to take with him, so he would have to just take the ring back. With a sigh, he started west in the direction of the desert regions again. At half size it was going to be a longer walk too. Still, at least it was half sized only after one day, so he shouldn’t have too much trouble.
Yet, something was bothering Zeelo was he continued onward, eventually he reached the edge of the meadow where the desert started. The pouch was heavier. Looking down at it, he felt as if it had doubled in size since he started his journey… Which meant he was down to a quarter of his starting size! Right now he was only ten inches tall, not even a foot. The shrinking had sped up! Did that mean the longer it took him to return the treasure the faster he’d shrink? If so there was no time to waste.
The pouch was getting bulky to carry so Zeelo dropped it and took the ring out. There were a few other items left behind, some snacks, a magic gem that created fireworks, nothing irreplaceable. Now holding the ring in two hands he began to run as fast as he could. He had to pass through the western town first before he reached the desert expanse where the pyramids were, and then who knew how long it’d take him to get there.
As he ran through the old western town he was trying to think of up a spell to make him faster. Maybe a specific animal, or just some kind of wind spell to give him an updraft. He was so deep in thought about that he didn’t even notice when he ran right into someone’s legs.
“OW!” Zeelo fell backwards dropping his ring.
“Are you okay kupo?” The voice came from a moogle, one with long rabbit-like ears marking him of the Ivalice variety. In the world Zeelo came from they were just video game creatures, but apparently in other worlds connected to Springtide they were real. Then again this could just be a transformed human.
Zeelo looked up at the moogle he had run into. Like Zeelo, he was only four indicating they had likely entered the world around the same moon phase. The moogle was covered in peach colored fur and had a blue pom with matching wings. Like Zeelo he was naked, because in Springtide you were more likely to find a unicorn than a pair of pants. Then again unicorns actually were pretty common here.
“Fine…” Zeelo rubbed his head as he stood up. He quickly looked around before spotting the ring and grabbing it. Then he looked up at the moogle. Moogles weren’t known for being tall. Even adult moogles barely pushed three feet, and this was a young child. And Zeelo was only knee level with him.
“You really should watch where you’re going kupo.” The moogle having seen plenty of transformations since his own arrival in Springtide had no reason to think something was wrong with Zeelo’s size. It could be intentional or the result of some adventure. However, he couldn’t help but notice how frantic the tiny human was as he grabbed the ring.
“Sorry but I really can’t talk I need to get this back to a pyramid fast!” And with that Zeelo took off running. The moogle watched for a moment, and then began to walk in a brisk pace easily catching up with the shrinking human.
“So does that mean you’re cursed kupo?” The moogle asked.
“Yup.” Zeelo nodded. “And I have no idea how small I’ll shrink until I return this ring.” He was running full speed oblivious the moogle was keeping up with him with just a brisk walk. In fact, as Zeelo got smaller, the moogle had to slow down a bit to avoid overtaking him.
“Isn’t the desert kind of big kupo?”
“Yeah, that is kind of the problem I have right now.” Zeelo muttered as if that wasn’t obvious. Of course he knew how long it was going to take to reach the pyramid at his size.
“So… Do you need help?” When the moogle asked this Zeelo stopped running.
“Help how?” He looked up at the moogle.
“Well, you’re just trying to return the ring right? It’s a shorter walk for me than you… And right now you’re not much bigger than a plush doll. I could just carry you kupo.” The moogle explained.
“But… You don’t even know me.” Zeelo seemed shocked.
“So?” The moogle seemed confused as to why that would matter. “Besides, this world is one big game isn’t it? More fun to play together right kupo?”
“Fair enough.” Zeelo nodded and the moogle bent down and gently lifted Zeelo off the ground. “I’m Zeelo by the way.
“Noel.” The moogle responded as he cradled Zeelo like a baby in his arms. Now, heading into the desert with the moogle’s help he’d get there faster, but he was also aware of the fact that Noel’s arms were starting to feel roomier by the moment.
By the time they reached the pyramid, Zeelo was small enough to fit in the palm of Noel’s hand. Somewhere around five inches, he now sat on Noel’s shoulder and wore the ring atop his head like a crown.
“That’s the pyramid! Zeelo indicated. “Hurry!”
“Right kupo!” Noel responded as he ran up. The door was still open and as soon as they were inside Zeelo acted.
“Light!” A much smaller ball of light appeared than the previous day and only lit up part of the room. It was at least enough for Noel to avoid the trip wires…
But not the pressure plates.
Noel felt a piece of the stone floor sink into the ground as he stepped atop it.
“Uh oh kupo.” Noel muttered.
“What’s uh-oh-?” Zeelo didn’t get to ask before he suddenly found himself floating in the air without a perch. The stone Noel had stepped on lit up with a bright flash of light, and suddenly there was a squirrel with peach colored fur floating in the air next to Zeelo. They both had time to exchange a small glance before plummeting to the ground.
“Owwww.” Noel complained as he landed. He was at least an anthro squirrel, able to walk upright and talk, but he was no bigger than a normal one. Which made him about one head taller than Zeelo about now.
“Well… This complicates things.” Zeelo muttered as he looked around. “Can’t even see most of the room down here from this vantage.” His light spell barely lit up anything past the stone they were standing on.
“Hmmmm.” Noel was studying the new claws on his hands and feet. “I think I can climb up the walls, they have plenty of cracks.”
“That’s good! There’s a puzzle on the wall we have to solve to enter the next room!” Zeelo explained.
“Got it!” Noel nodded before bounding across the room. One nice thing about being squirrel sized, it was easy to go underneath trip wires and to go around the obvious pressure plates that stuck up. He reached a wall and ran straight up it finding a lever which he leaped onto it. “I think I found the lever that opens the door!” Noel shouted as leaped atop the lever and felt it crank down. “But pull a lever isn’t much of a puzzle.”
“Uhhhhhh.” Zeelo remembered the lever with the waring sign yesterday. “It’s a sliding puzzle that opens the door.”
“Then what does the lever-“ Before Noel finished the question he got his answer. Mist began to flood the room, mist very similar to what Zeelo had seen on the stairs the other day. And suddenly, he felt himself getting smaller in a new way. Now, he was getting younger. It was gradual but it was clear what was happening.
“Wrong thing!” Zeelo shouted hoping his voice carried. “It’s opposite the door we came in!” Zeelo ran for the raised platform where the door was. However, as he did he was getting so small the ring was getting difficult to carry. He dragged it behind him and then noticed the step up was much taller than him.
“HEY!” Noel scrambled down from the wall and caught up with Zeelo and looked down at him. Noel could fit the tiny human in the palm of one of his squirrel sized hands with room to spare. “I don’t you think you carry the ring anymore.” Without waiting for an argument Noel grabbed Zeelo and tossed him up onto the step. Then Noel bit down on the ring himself so he could have all four sets of claws to go up. “GAH!” He dropped the ring as he got up.
“What is it?” Zeelo asked.
“The ring stung me.” Noel complained. “And…” He pulled something out from inside of the ring, a very thing parchment of the bandages that had been part of the mummy. As Noel studied it he notices it was getting slightly bigger.
“Uhhhhh.” Zeelo’s eyes widened. “I think you just got the curse too.”
“Well we’re in the pyramid how much further we have to go to return it!?” Noel demanded.
“Just up the stairs behind this door!” Zeelo pointed. “There’s a sliding puzzle up on that wall, we gotta make the image of a bird.”
“Oh yeah right…” Noel grabbed the ring in his mouth and then grabbed Zeelo and tossed the tiny human onto his head. The shrinking squirrel scrambled up the wall to look at the giant panels. Each panel was bigger than the squirrel, but he tried to start adjusting them. The room rumbled and the purple liquid came up from the floor. At the same time Noel and Zeelo were both getting younger and smaller.
“Uhhhh this is gonna take a bit at these sizes.” Zeelo muttered. His size compared to Noel’s was staying pretty consistent. And from his point of view each sliding panel was now the size of a house.
“I can’t move them!” Noel growled trying not to lose his grip on the ring. The purple liquid continued to rise, now above the platform and was rising up the wall to where they hung.
Meanwhile, at age the two were no older than two years old now, making it a lot more awkward to move in general.
“Maybe…” Zeelo wondered. “Maybe the ring can help! I haven’t seen what it does yet! If it gives us wings or super strength or maybe even turn us into something bigger!”
“Activating a magic item blindly.” Noel shrugged. “What could go wrong?” He gripped the wall with his foot claws as he pointed the ring at the panel and willed it to activate.
The ring shot forth a beam of white light and both Zeelo and Noel were sent flying backwards off the panel. The force from the light erupted through the wall of the pyramid completely destroying the panel the puzzle was on, which apparently counted as solving it as the door opened showing way up.
There were only two problems.
Noel lost contact with the ring when it fired, and the ring landed somewhere in the purple liquid flowing into the room.
And problem two was Zeelo and Noel both landed in said liquid, and both of them started to shrink even faster.
“It’s a shrinking potion!?” Zeelo couldn’t believe his luck. He was going to get even smaller than he had last time he was here!
Zeelo clung to Noel as the squirrel tried to swim for the stairs to climb up. With the puzzle ‘solved’ the liquid was draining but not fast enough for them to get out of it. Soon Noel was nothing more than a tiny speck among the purple liquid and then he was gone.
Noel floated around in a space without much gravity, surrounded by strange critters made of goo and hairs. Zeelo was atop the squirrel’s heads clinging desperately to one of his ears trying not to get separated.
“So uh… I think we’re microscopic.” Noel muttered.
“How do we return the ring like this!?” Zeelo demanded.
The answer was they don’t. The two shrunk smaller, and smaller and smaller, till even the microbes were giant unknowable entities. And then smaller still, as new objects game into view. Small spherical objects made up of several spheres attached together with much smaller ones flying around them in circles.
“Yup definitely smaller than I got last time.” Zeelo muttered.
“Are… Are we atom sized?” Noel could only stare in wonder as they continued to shrink.
Then the two fell downward, landing atop an atom and falling into it, landing among the different parts of the atom that made it up, not protons and neutrons but the even smaller parts. Individual quarks. They looked like bright flashes of light as the two fell into one…
And suddenly were on solid ground.
“Eh?” Noel paused as he looked around. Looking up in the sky, they were still on the subatomic scale. He could see the flashing lights of various quarks and the edges of atoms. And yet, he was somewhere solid. Looking down at the ground it appeared to be made of the same glowing material as the quark he had fallen into, but it as solid. The strangest thing though was what he saw what was before him. A massive amusement park full of rides, shows and snack stands.
“… Did I hit my head?” Zeelo muttered. “Cause I swear we just landed in a theme park inside an atom.” He looked the place up down. It looked real, and it wasn’t changing sizes, which meant that the two of them had at least finally stopped shrinking.
“I’m seeing it too.” Noel’s eyes were wide. “What is this place?”
“Quarky Quarks!” A high-pitched voice came down from somewhere near Noel’s ankle. The squirrel looked down to see a very tiny orange kitten, maybe a head shorter than Zeelo. The kitten appeared to be about a year old and had a big grin on his place. “The most fun you’ll have in the smallest place! And admission is free to kids!” With that the kitten took off running on all fours in a hurry to get inside the park.
“Is that so?” Noel just kind of stared in bewilderment. A theme park inside an atom.
“I feel like… I’m too small for the rides…” Zeelo muttered with a disappointed tone as he continued to cling to Noel’s ear.
“That’s what’s bothering you?” Noel sighed. “It’s fine just… I’ll take you on with me and keep a good grip on my ears and we’ll be fine.” He shook his head. “This is unreal… But… It’s not like there’s anything else to do.”
“And we did stop shrinking!” Zeelo grinned. Sometimes he forgot just how strange Springtide got. By letting themselves get shrunk so small it was like they had discovered a secret level! A giant (well comparatively speaking) theme park full of fun things to do. “Come on! Let’s at least check it out! Bound to be some fun to be had!”
And with feelings of anticipation, confusion, a little anxiety and a lot of excitement, the tiny squirrel and even tinier human stepped through the front gates and entered the park.