This one’s funny but dark. Content warning for mentions of torture and attempted suicide.
I was thirteen when the wizard took me. Opened a portal right under my feet. I fell through the fabric of the universe, screaming my throat raw, and landed in an ice-cold lake. Thank God my parents had paid for swimming lessons when I was five. Once I dragged myself ashore, coughing, shivering, and scared out of my mind, the wizard was there.
You know what he looks like. Wild gray beard, pointy hat, billowing robe of patchwork colors—the whole shebang. He told me I was in another world, and that I’d been chosen to save it. I believed him, of course. The massive snowy mountains in the distance were about as far from rural Arkansas as I could imagine, and that was even without the glowing fairies darting around the lake.
And I desperately wanted to believe him. Chosen to save the world? Me? Any dweeby, lonely little boy would eat that shit up with a spoon, and I was no exception. I did everything the wizard asked, worked harder than I ever had in my life. And really, it wasn’t much of a chore when I was learning magic—real magic! I remember the first time I made a seed sprout and grow into a giant tree before my eyes, the first time I conjured flames in my bare hands. It was freaking incredible. Even now, I can still feel the wonder in my bitter, black heart.
But the wizard wasn’t teaching me for the sake of spreading the joy of magic. No, I was expected to put those skills to use to defeat the Deathly King—an evil son of a bitch no thirteen-year-old kid had any business fighting. I made trees grow through the walls of enemy fortresses, flung fireballs at trolls, and fought my way through dark caves of shrieking, many-armed creatures. I was a goddamn child soldier, and I had the stab wounds, head injuries, and emotional trauma to prove it.
But at least I had friends. A tiny green fairy named Dulala was my constant companion—she was even more naïve than I was. Then there was Princess Fern, who, in hindsight, I think the wizard was trying to set me up with. I kissed her a few times because I was young, confused, and in the closest, but even then, I think I was crushing on Indrellion, the knight who taught me to use a sword…
Hm? Oh, Indrellion. He died. A lot of people did on our “adventures.” It was sheer dumb luck I survived. I ended up captured, tortured in the Deathly King’s dungeons until Dulala rescued me. Then I fought the Deathly King and finally killed the bastard. Yeah, I was a murderer at thirteen. Not that anyone helped me come to terms with that. The survivors threw a big celebration, and the princess gave me a medal. Then the wizard patted me on the back and sent me home.
I’d been missing for eight months.
The police and psychologists eventually concluded that I’d been kidnapped, and the fantasy world I’d invented was my way of coping with the ordeal. I couldn’t cast a spell to prove them wrong. Magic doesn’t work in our world—didn’t know that, did you? Anyway, with all that missing time, I had to repeat the sixth grade. My few friends from school didn’t want to hang out anymore, and I’d thought I’d never see my friends from the magical world again. Depressed and traumatized from a war nobody believed I’d been in, I tried to kill myself a little after my fourteenth birthday.
Don’t look at me like that. I’m not asking for pity. I pulled my life together afterwards—graduated from college with honors, thank you very much. Burying my memories of magic and war, I got a decent job and a steady boyfriend and made a pretty normal life for myself.
That probably would have been the end of it, if the wizard hadn’t pulled me back.
He got me with another damned portal when I came home from work one evening, and I fell through my apartment’s floor into another lake like déjà vu. I’m not ashamed to say I had a panic attack. I’d convinced myself the whole thing had been a dream like my psychologist had said, but there he was: the wizard from my childhood, Dulala fluttering around his shoulders and gushing about how happy she was to see me.
Once I stopped hyperventilating, I got the whole story. The Deathly King’s son was after some powerful magical artefact, and they needed me to stop him.
I told them to go to hell.
We argued. I shouted a lot. The wizard kept calm, and Dulala flitted around nervously. In the end, he wouldn’t open a portal to send me back to my boyfriend and my family unless I helped him, so I gave in. I went on the stupid quest to clean up their mess yet again, though I wasn’t much help, because my magic wasn’t working.
The wizard wasn’t very happy about that, let me tell you. I guess it was a mental block from all those times as a kid when I’d tried to cast a spell in my world, and nothing had happened. The wizard tried to train me again, but I was about as attentive and respective as that kid who got expelled my junior year of high school for slashing the tires on the principal’s car. But I didn’t need the wizard. I figured it out on my own by the time we ambushed the Deathly King’s son.
He was just a kid. Just a pale, awkward blonde boy with bony limbs and acne, manipulated by old men just like I’d been. The wizard wanted me to kill him, saying he’d grow to be just as evil as his father if I let him live. I had to end his threat once and for all, or no portal home.
So, yeah. I guess I snapped. In hindsight, I probably shouldn’t have tried to murder all my allies with magic, but to be fair, they’d just told me to kill a kid. And that’s how I got here, sitting on the throne of my old enemy, acting as regent on behalf of his son—whose name is Briar, by the way. He’s a good kid, likes reading books more than commanding armies, but he could make a good king someday if he wants—or not. I’m not going to force him. I’m just trying to make up for past mistakes.
You see, all those trolls, giants, and monsters I used to fight were just trying to get their homes back. Yeah, they used to live on those green fields and snow-capped mountains where the Radiant Court and Sunlit Kingdom are now. The fae folk and humans have been trying to wipe them out for centuries. Nothing like learning you’ve been a party to attempted genocide, is there?
And I guess that brings me to you. How old are you anyway—thirteen? Sorry, fourteen. God, this must be going completely over your head. Well, look, this has all been me trying to say the wizard is using you. You don’t see him around, do you? No, he never fights the dark lords himself. He’s always sending kids like you and me to do his dirty work. But he’s not the good guy, and I’m not the bad guy. You’ve been lied to. You got it?
Yeah… A dickwad, huh? I don’t know what I expected from a fourteen-year-old. Oh, stop struggling. My guards have been through enough shit without some scrawny, brainwashed kid trying to kick them in the balls. I’m not going to kill you. You’ll be locked up for now, but trust me, the dungeons are a lot more humane than they used to be. And when I figure out how to make a portal home for myself, I’ll bring you with me. Then maybe we’ll get you some therapy.
Believe me, you’re gonna need it.
Getting whisked away to save a fantasy world sounds cool at first, but when you think about it more, it’s actually a pretty raw deal. Hence the concept of this story.
Which fantasy hero or heroine do you think is most in need of therapy? Which fantasy world would be the hardest for a hero to save? Let me know in the comments!