'Ten Minutes Late for Reality' by Lou Morris (c) 1988, 1989, 1991, 2002, 2015. Two:

Two:

   "In the age of wizards and witches, magicians and mages,
necromancers and... and... what else starts with an N?  Oh,
forget it."

                                 - The scrapped beginning of  
                                  this chapter from the
                                  book, "Lou and that Fire
                                  Wizard Person."  (Later
                                  changed to "Ten Minutes
                                  Late for Reality!")


   It was in a time of might and magic.  Of fantasies and of
stars.  Of tunnels and trolls.  And some dungeons and
dragons.  And maybe even a few advanced dungeons and
dragons--you know, the big time stuff.  Whatever.  That's
when it happened.  When I think of it, I'll tell you, but for
now it starts in a mead hall...
   It was an old mead hall, erected by the great Obojazz the
Impotent almost five hundred billion years ago, give or take
a few hundred billion years.  The brightly lit will-o-wisp
sign (a will-o-wisp is an ancient creature that closely
corresponds to its modern equivalent--neon) proclaimed the
mead hall's name--Obojazz (which, in the gnomish tongue,
means "to make the name of a medieval mead hall up with the
first word that comes to mind."  A gnome, if you were
wondering, is a race of short bearded mythical creatures
who's only purpose in life, it seems, is to be the butt of
short jokes from the slightly taller elves and dwarves).
   Many people (err, humanoids) were seated at the long bar
near the left wall, while still others were seated at blood
and mead stained tables scattered around the large room.  
Since Obojazz did not discriminate against race, religion,
profession, number of fire and acid breathing heads, or
smell, the place was packed with some pretty strange beings.  
A carved sign above the bar proclaimed Obojazz's only rule:  
"No gold, no service!"
   Everyone seemed to be having a good time--the barkeep was
happy because drunk adventurers tend to tip very well
("here's a diamond for you" very well); the serving wench was
happy because it, all of a sudden, got quite nice and cool in
the usually stuffy mead hall; and the magician in the corner
was rather happily fondling the serving wench's
undergarments, which he had just magically removed from her
person.  Over all, everyone was happy.
   In stepped a rather unusually clad wizard of sorts.
   Suddenly, everyone stopped being very happy.  Some became
very frightened, others became very angry, and still others
became very non-existent and left the mead hall.
   The unusually clad wizard frowned slightly.  "Hello, ye
fellows!" he said.  He brushed the wrinkles from his bright
red robes, which just happened to be on fire.
   No reply.  The mead hall was silent.
   This particular wizard is the most feared member of the
city... not feared because of his ferocity, which is nil, but
because this said individual has a nasty knack of burning
down buildings and such.
   He is a pyromaniac and a wizard--a deadly combination if
you happen to be a tree or anything else remotely burnable.  
His name, fittingly enough, is Kaye-Boom.  Let me tell you
about him...
   He isn't greedy nor egotistical--he just happens to like
to burn things.  Nothing in particular; if it moves, he'll
burn it; if it doesn't move, he'll still burn it.  He's a
nice guy and all but I wouldn't want him in my establishment,
especially if it was built of wood.
   This is the same reason why the barkeep gave Kaye-Boom a
sneer.  Since the sign above the bar does not go into detail
about pyromaniacs, he would have to let Kaye-Boom stay.  He
just didn't happen to like the idea of his mead hall going up
in smoke.
   But Kaye-Boom did.  He walked up to the bar and sat down
upon one of the now vacant bar stools.
   A few of the previous users of the bar stools closest to
Kaye-Boom quickly exited the mead hall.  Since there was no
such thing as a fire department and the fire extinguisher
hadn't been invented yet, most people tended to avoid this
fellow, such as one would avoid a nuclear mine field.
   "A mug of water to quench thy thirst?" the barkeep asked
with a hint of sarcasm.
   "Nay," Kaye-Boom replied.  He liked water as much as
gnomes like short jokes.  "Give me a flask of ye finest
lighting oil."
   The barkeep blinked.  "Oil?" he asked.
   Kaye-Boom nodded.
   After a minute of searching, the barkeep produced a flask
of oil.  "Would ye like thy oil on thy rocks?"
   "Nay."  He took the flask, opened and then emptied it
with one swig.  He looked around.
   Everyone was watching him closely.
   He tossed down a lit sliver of wood after the oil.
   Everyone gasped with horror.
   Flames erupted from Kaye-Boom's ears and nose.  After a
moment, they died down and were replaced by a trickle of
smoke.
   Keep the yokels in awe, Kaye-Boom thought.  Last week he
took a small bath in a volcanic flow.  The week before, he
lay on the beach for the entire day with not a single trace
of tan on his body.  It keeps away the riffraff.
   The yokels were quite impressed.  Especially with how he
lit the sliver of wood.  No, he didn't light it with the
small flames from his clothes.  Nor did he pull a magical
fire-making device from the mysterious black top-hat sitting
upon his graying head.  Simply put, he just snapped his
fingers.
   He snapped his fingers again.  As before, a small jet of
flame shot up from his index finger tip.  He proceeded to set
fire to a small basket of peanuts that was sitting near him
on the bar top.  Mesmerized by the flames, he watched the
wicker basket shrivel up.
   The barkeep quickly strode over to Kaye-Boom and splashed
out the flaming basket of peanuts with a pitcher of mead.  
"Why don't ye go play tag with thy fire-breathing hydra," the
barkeep sneered, "and leave my tavern alone."
   A fire-breathing hydra, in case you were wondering, is a
creature with more heads than a jumbo crate full of lettuce.  
But, unlike a crate of lettuce, each head has a mind of its
own to do what it pleases--which in most cases is to breathe
fire onto everything.  Not a pleasant creature to do lunch
with or to play tag with.
   "Later," Kaye-Boom replied.  "First I have to make an
important announcement."  Kaye-Boom stood up, underpaid the
barkeep for his trouble and walked over to the center of the
mead hall.
   At first look, one could immediately notice something was
amiss about him.  Maybe it was the way he was dressed--fiery
red robes with flames sprouting all around, and a strange
black top hat.  Or perhaps it was the fact that he carried no
weapons or items save for a single red ruby ring.  No, most
likely it was because he smelled like a charcoal briquette.
   "May I have ye attention please!" Kaye-Boom yelled.
   The tavern was filled with noise...  No one was paying
Kaye-Boom the slightest bit of attention.
   "Everyone pay attention, or I'll say thy H-word!" he
yelled.
   Suddenly the tavern became very quiet.  All eyes were on
Kaye-Boom.  No one wanted Kaye-Boom to say the H-word.  Rumor
had it that the last time he said the H-word, he destroyed
half the city of Asgard and killed a perfectly good pixie as
well (though it is still thought by some sages that the pixie
might be alive and well, and is just hiding from Kaye-Boom.  
While no one ever found the body, most agree that an
explosion of that magnitude is completely lethal--except of
course to Kaye-Boom.)
   The H-word, by the way, is a one word spell, that when
uttered by Kaye-Boom, produces a super-nova in the area of
effect.  A super-nova is when a sun or star stops wanting to
be a heavenly body anymore and explodes, taking out a few
solar systems with it.  The area of effect is a few light
years.  And no one has ever heard the H-word--or at least no
one alive to tell about it.  Of course, this is what the
sages say--so it probably isn't entirely correct.
   "Good, now that I have thy attention, I'd like to show
you thy latest terror that will engulf thy entire planet Moss
this week!"  This terror was a biggie, Kaye-Boom thought, a
real biggie.  Not like that pathetic horde of killer
were-wasps that I dealt with last week...
   Someone in the bar coughed in a "come on, get on with it"
sort of way.
   Kaye-Boom nodded silently.  Then he started a complicated
string of gestures, whispers and eye winking.  He ended with
a snap of his fingers and the "thumbs-up" sign.  Flames
erupted from his fingertips, spread across the air, and
scorched a nearby wall.
   "...and please take the time to extinguish all smoking
materials," the wall spoke in a calm, well modulated tone of
voice--much like how a news anchorman would explain to the
world that the huge space alligator about to eat the planet
is only a perverted figment of your warped imagination.  
"Thank you."
   The burnt wall stirred; particles of soot began to form a
matrix of colors.  In an instant, the entirety of the tavern
was watching a movie... a particularly bad one as well.
   It was a cartoon.  It also was a documentary.  And it was
much too lame to take seriously.
   A figure bounded across the screen/burnt wall.  The
figure said, "Righty-ho and a Goonie Goo-goo!"
   People in the mead hall began to cackle with laughter.
   The figure was a three foot tall eye... no body, just two
arms, two legs and a big eye.  It wore no clothing, save for
a pair of generic sneakers (who says medieval society didn't
have sneakers?) and danced around a lot, shouting things such
as:  "Righty-ho and a Goonie Goo-goo!" and "Righty-ho and a
Goonie Goo-goo!"
   The bartender choked on a pull of mead--unsuccessfully
trying to drink and laugh at the same time.  The pervert
wizard in the corner shoved a pair of panties in his mouth to
soften the laughter.  The movie was hilariously stupid.
   Kaye-Boom frowned.  This wasn't the reaction he had
wanted.  "But this new evil will destroy many worlds!" he
yelled over the din.
   "Oh really?" some smart mouthed fighter yelled back.  
"How--"
   The volume on the movie somehow got raised up a few
notches, effectively drowning out the laughter and yelling.  
"Hi, my name is The Dead Eye!" the two dimensional eye said
very loudly.
   Kaye-Boom jacked up the volume up another notch, just for
"oomph."
   "I dare all of ye hearty souls out there to try and
tackle thy greatest challenge yet..." The prerecorded Dead
Eye said as it danced around the screen.  "To come and try to
defeat me!"  He laughed a cartoon laugh.
   "See, I told you..." Kaye-Boom added.
   "If ye fail..." his voice trailed off.  The picture
changed, revealing a scene of utter horror--a tranquil field
filled with sweet flowers... two children wearing Sunday
clothing, dancing around, chasing a scruffy dog... peaceful
birds chirping off in the distance... total harmony.
   "'Tis yucky!" one bold warrior exclaimed.
   "'Tis boring!" another exclaimed.  Everyone agreed.  
"'Tis boring..." they whispered to themselves.  In a world
filled with dragons and fearless adventurers, the boring can
seem pretty fearsome...
   "But that will never happen!" the bartender yelled, "Such
horrors can never take place 'cept in thy pits of Hell!"
   The picture blanked out.  The screen now read:

       "This chain movie has been brought to you by:
                       The Dead Eye!
      If you wish to avoid a century of bad luck, you
       will spell up ten copies and deliver them via
           crystal ball to ten other wizards...

             -Thank you and have a nice day!"

   Click!  The movie was over.
   "Hey!" the barkeep yelled to Kaye-Boom, "Ye owe me ten
gold for thy burnt sidewall!"
   Kaye-Boom ignored his remark.  "I need four hearty souls
to search out and destroy Thy Dead Eye!"
   The place was as quiet as if he were a vampire asking for
a few pints of blood.
   "Just raise ye hand if ye want to volunteer," Kaye-Boom
added.
   His audience looked as if he had just asked them to stand
up and volunteer to test a new type of poison.
   For a moment, the mead hall was silent.
   "There could be a lot of gold in it..."
   Four greedy hands immediately shot up.