Jenny patted the head of one of the giant dragonflies while scratching under the chin of the other. “Hey Jack, how are you doing?” she asked the first. “Are they treating you well Jake?” she asked the second. They both emitted low-frequency rumbles that were felt as much as they were heard. The giant dragonflies purred. Then she summoned a balloon from between her hands. No spot on the balloon for air to be blown in, it started its existence filled with air, or magic. As Jenny withdrew her hands, the balloon expanded until it was larger than the head of Jack or Jake. They both eyed it expectantly, like dogs waiting for their human to throw a stick.
Jenny thrust her hand upwards and the balloon shot into the air. Jack and Jake followed the balloon as it zigged and zagged. Sometimes one or the other would hit the ball with their head, or tail, or belly. Sometimes the other would hit it back, but half the time the balloon would decide to change direction at the last minute. They chased it among the trees and on the roof of Jenny’s two story cottage.
Votu and Vello were at the picnic table on the grass in front of Jenny’s house. Votu was wearing his standard leather adventuring armor, its green dye had faded. The straps and belt were new. They were longer now, to adapt to the weight he’d gained since his injury. His pants were new too, bigger and longer. Most of his upper body was still bare. His child-like expression hadn’t changed. He just looked even wiser than he’d been in their youth.
Vello was as much a grump as ever. His wrinkles had formed around his ever-present frown. His long hair, bushy eyebrows, and long beard were completely gray. He was still wearing his blue robe and pointy hat. They were supposed to be traditional munchkin colors, but were almost as faded and gray as his hair.
Vello was impatiently spreading jam on four more crumpets. Two for him and two for his husband. Votu was pouring them all tea. Jenny still hadn’t finished her first crumpet. She walked over to her place at the table, sat down, took a bite, and waited for Vello to speak. It didn’t take long.
“You know why we’re here of course.” It was a statement, not a question.
“I do” she replied.
Votu was smiling as he watched Jack and Jake play above them. While he still had crumpet and jam in his mouth he asked “Is it a real vision? Are we really going to be invaded?” He didn’t seem too distressed by the idea. Jenny couldn’t figure out if it was because of his impenetrably happy demeanor or the inability believe a threat was real if it was a long way off that most people tended to have.
Jenny had, of course, seen the vision Votu had seen. Armies of creatures. They looked a bit like giant goblins, but they had horned heads and were bright red, dark black, or dull blue. She could see thousands of them. Some were smaller than munchkins. Others were as large as any dragon. The behemoths tended to vary more in shape. Some taking more beastial forms. Bulls. Cats. Wolves.
They had dull, unthinking, eyes. Or they looked clever and devious. Or else they looked like they were berserkers with a thirst for blood. Many of them were armored. Most of them had weapons. Swords, spiked clubs, pole axes. Black and gray smoke hung in the sky. The forests and cities were on fire.
The Green City. It was a smoking pile of rubble.
She answered Votu. “Yes, the vision is real, or very close to real. It’s what whoever is sending us this vision is seeing.”
“Are they delusional? Are they lying?” Vello asked, without much hope. He already knew the answer.
“No. They’re seeing something that is real. The future they come from is being invaded by them as well as by another army.”
Votu had now turned his attention to his tea cup. He’d already drunk its contents and was getting another refill. “So you’ve seen more than what Vello’s seen?”
“I’ve asked the future some questions and gotten… answers. The picture I get is chaotic and contradictory but I’ve got the nuances. You’ve heard me talk about how listening to time is… well… it’s not like listening to a human, a munchkin, a gnome, or even a bird or a snake. And actually talking to the past or the future is… well…” She waved her hands as if she were explaining away the eccentricities of a difficult relative.
They both nodded. Neither of them had her power but she had explained it well enough to them over the years. Different times and places had their own personalities, and while it was possible, in theory, to hold a discussion with those personalities, such discussions weren’t easy to hold or understand.
“What I’ve figured out is that two races are coming to our world, just like visitors have in decades and centuries past, but at a scale we’ve never seen before. Each army is a different race. One race is called angel. They look like humans but have feathered wings. They don’t appear to be a type of fairy. The other is called demon.” turning to Votu she asked “Has Vello described them to you?”
He nodded and said “they seem like a kind of goblin.”
She shook her head. “They have a passing resemblance to goblins, at least to the bigger kinds, but that comparison doesn’t really do them justice. They’re extremely fearsome.”
Votu started to ask “And the angels? Are those the creatures–”
“The ones that Dorothy spoke of, centuries ago. It’s said she never lost her faith in angels or in God.” interrupted Vello. He started to stroke his beard absently. She could almost hear his mental gears turning. It worried her more than normal. What are you planning old man?
“They don’t seem like the holy attendants of God the wife of Ozma spoke of” said Jenny, “They seem to be no different than the other invading army. They’re–”
“They’re going to fight over our world, aren’t they?” asked Vello
“It seems so. Except I don’t think we’re seeing the whole picture, only what the person or persons sending this vision deems important. In any event this world is very likely facing a danger unlike any it’s ever faced.” replied Jenny.
“So what do we do?” Votu asked.
“We need to spread the word. I can contact the steward of The Green City. He and his people can send messages all over.”
“The gnomes might not have any contacts with The Green City,” Votu said. “I know a few. I should be able to warn them. I don’t know how many’ll trust the visions of a wizard or a witch”
“It’s unlikely Jenny and I are the only magic users who’ve seen this vision.” said Vello
“Since you’re not a seer and you’ve seen it, then anyone with even a modicum of magical ability will likely have seen something” Jenny said to Vello, “The gnomes have probably had this vision too. We’ll need their help if we’re going to build an army that can stand against these invaders.”
An army. Votu didn’t know what to say to this. He watched Jack and Jake on top of Jenny’s house. They’d stopped playing and were napping in the shade of the trees surrounding the house. Their balloon lay next to them. There was a light, warm, breeze. The leaves of the trees rustled in the wind. It was the kind of warm day Votu always liked. Peaceful.
If it wasn’t for this damn vision Votu and Vello would probably be in town right now. Vello would pull him into the book shop and be browsing some dusty history tome, or a treatise on mathematics or astronomy. Votu would pick up another adventure story. They’d take a walk. Then they’d eat at the Inn before going home.
He didn’t like to think of these angels and demons burning that Inn or the book shop to the ground. Votu wondered, not for the first time, why people felt the need to hurt other people, or to take what they didn’t need. Why do people want to dominate other people? Why wasn’t control over their own lives enough?