Chapter 1

Beanie Appleton is a twenty year old young man who lives on his parent’s farm not far from the town of Vermilion. He toils daily in the fields and tends his father’s few farm animals. Beanie has a creed. When he was ten, a stranger was passing through the area when he stopped and bought a horse from Beanie’s father. The man was dressed in the neatest clothes. He wore a wide brimmed hat edged in silver and a bright purple cape. His detailed gloves, belt and sash shouted that he was a wealthy man. This was proven by the small fortune that he quickly paid for his father’s horse, Clicker. The man took notice of Beanie as he departed and said these words to Beanie, “Don’t work to hard!” Surely the wealthy man was wise, perhaps those words were the secret to becoming like he? So Beanie set forth to live by those words every day!

Today, many years later, Beanie thinks upon the words of that wealthy man as he leans against the barn, picking a lunch of goatlizard cheese out of his teeth. “Beanie! Beanie, come ‘ere!” Beanie’s father motions him to hurry to the old farmhouse from the doorway. Beanie shuffles to the house an says “Whatcha need pop?” “What is wrong with Daisy?” Mr. Appleton asks. On the floor lies their dog, Daisy. She is motionless.

Beanie sighs, “Looks like Daisy’s a gon’r. I’ll go bury her out back.” Bending down to pick up Daisy’s lifeless corpse, the dog suddenly jerks up and bites Beanie on the hand! “My word! My word!” Mr. Appleton cries, “You gots the healin’ hands son!” Mr. Appleton rushes over and grabs Beanies hands and gazes at them in wonder. “You gots to go to town and see the pastor!” Mr. Appleton runs off yelling, “Honey! Beanie’s going to be a holy man!” Rubbing his bitten hand, Beanie glares at Daisy and heads back outside to return to his leaning against the barn when his father returns with a bundle, walking stick and cloak. “No time to loose boy! Best head to town now so you can be healin’ those sick. Her’s a tin cup for d’nations. Make sure you tell ’em the healin’ ain’t free.”

Beanie grudgingly puts on his tattered brown cloak. Tossing the sack over his shoulder he finds it is very light and practically empty. Looking inside he finds an old loaf of bread, a wooden knife, and a set of undergarments. Beanie raises a finger and opens his mouth to speak when his father pushes him out the door. “Goodbye my son, make us rich, um I mean proud!” Tumbling backwards, Beanie falls and lands on top of something lumpy. “Oof! Get off me Beanie!” Comes a cry. James Beltonbar, better known as Sweets, lay in the dirt beneath Beanie. “Spying on our kitchen again, eh Sweets?” says Beanie as he rises and straightens his clothes, declining to offer his friend a hand up. Sweets grins. “Where you going?” He asks, ignoring the question. Beanie shares the story of the miracle. Sweets is truly amazed and decides to join him. “Do we need to gather anything?” Sweets asks.

“Well, my dad gave me some bread and underwear…” Beanie starts. Interrupting Sweets shouts “Right!” and starts running for the road. “I’ll meet you on the road!” He shouts. Beanie sighs and heads out to the road. Sweet’s family farm was just on the other side of the road that lead to Vermilion. Beanie walked with no great speed and spied Sweets patiently waiting for him several minutes later. Sweets had an enormous bag, a halberd, and a lizard-goat on a leash. Still a few hundred feet away, Sweets was met by a man in a black cape wearing a mask with a large curved beak, also black. The discussion the two had was animated and ended with the masked man bowing and taking his leave in a direction opposite of Vermilion. The strange figure pulled a handkerchief out of his pocket and was wiping his hands furiously.

“That man says plague has hit Vermilion!” Sweets explains to Beanie. “He said it wouldn’t be sane to travel there. But I says…” Sweets takes Beanie’s hand and places it on his forehead. “We aint got nothing to worry about.” The goat gives out a blood curdling bleat. “GULAGH GULAGH GULATH!”

Beanie crouches down and gives the L’goat a big hug. “Oh it’s good to see you Chumples!” Beanie says at Chumples licks Beanie’s face with his long forked tongue. “GULAAAGGGGCH!” Chumples bleats. The smell of fresh baking fills the air. Beanie raises and eyebrow at Sweets, “What’s in the sack?” He asks. Opening the bag, Sweets says, “My mother’s baked goods, they were for church, but since we are going there I thought I could take’m myself!” The bag held several paper wrapped large cakes, the smell was wonderful. “I also brought all the underwear I could find. I am still not sure what use it will be, but I trust your dad.” Beanie points out that Sweets seems to have brought his mothers underwear. Sweets agrees, smiling obliviously at Beanie. “What are we going to do with them?” Sweets asks. Beanie shrugs. Examining the road both East and West, Beanie finally decides that they will head West to Vermilion.

After two hours on the road, Chumples becomes irritable and they see something moving by the side of the road about a 200 feet ahead.

Beanie raises his hands and places them over his eyes as if they were a pair of looking glasses. “What are you doing?” Sweets asks. Squinting as he looks at the strange object, Beanie says, “There is something moving down there, it looks like some kind of animal thrashing about. Let’s move to the fields and try to go around it. And keep Chumples quiet.” The grass high as they leave the road, Chumples bounds off happily, and vanishes. Sweets shouts “Chumples! Come back!” Beanie frowns at him an says, “Shhhh! We are supposed to be sneaking.” Sweets nods, but continues to call in a whisper, “Chumples, Chumples, come here boy.”

Beanie convinces Sweets that the have to find out what is up ahead and that Chumples can wait. They slowly make their way through the tall grass, crouching low to the ground. A few yards now separate them from the road. Peering through the swaying grass they see what appears to be a woodchuck tangled in vines. It seems to be fighting them. “Glurgahba!” breaks the silence. From behind them Chumples comes running and jumping in a panic. Chumples is caught in some kind of vine that she is trying to break free from. She jumps over Sweets, and crashes into Beanie, knocking him over and entangling him in the vines. Chumples runs on towards the road, now dragging Beanie by the leg. Chumples hits the road, and turns back towards home. Beanie is swung around straight towards the woodchuck. Instinctively he catches the creature. It is almost completely encased in a green, prickly vine, and it is not happy. Snarling it attempts to bite at Beanie as the vine begin to wrap themselves around is hands. All while the pair is being dragged down the bumpy dirt road. Sweet jumps up and shouts, “Hey!”

Wrestling with woodchuck is all Beanie can handle. “Good ground hog, good ground hog! You don’t want to eat me!” Beanie says. The pair continue to be dragged down the road, kicking up a massive cloud of dust as they go. Without warning the groundhog stops moving, closes it’s eyes and begins to expand. Like a sheep’s bladder inflated with air, it’s body grows and stretches. The vines surrounding it pull tighter under the increasing pressure. Larger and larger the woodchuck grows. A horrific scene unfurls before Beanies eyes and he closes his eyes and begins to scream. The front legs elongate and grow fingers, the back legs shoot out, and the fur comes together and migrates to the top of its head. The face of the creature stretches and deforms into that of a person. The transforming creature raises his hands high and makes a motion and snaps his fingers. Suddenly the pair rise up into the air halting their progress and yanking Chumples to a dead stop. “Well, well, don’t you have a good set of lungs. Please, you may stop your screaming now.” Says the woodchuck-elf. “My name is Enkirash, I shall not harm you if you calm yourself.” He turns to look at Chumples and speaks a single foreign word. The lizard-goat then begins to eat the vines that entangle the trio. “That shouldn’t take long,” Enkirash says, “but my research has been ruined.” Beanie is completely amazed. He says, “I have never seen a woodchuck that could turn into an elf before. Um, you know, if you are going to go around parading as an elf, you should probably put some clothes on. I have an extra pair of underwear if you would like them.” Enkirash raises and eyebrow and peers eye to eye with Beanie. Enkirash sniffs him. “You smell… You have the scent of a man whom which I…” Enkirash pauses, thinking. “Whom I need to speak with. Are you an associate of Hashnuk, the trader?”

Seemingly annoyed with the conversation, Enkirash looks about and whistles loudly. From out of the dust cloud kicked up by their dragging comes Sweets. It appears he is struggling with a finely made green silk bag. The bag is yanking, and pulling Sweets towards Enkirash and Beanie. “I found ya, so I keep ya. Stop your wiggling!” Sweets yells at the bag. Enirash moves to take the bag. Sweets gasps at the sight of the naked elf and immediately turns his back. “Um, sir, you are naked as a babies bottom. I have some fine ladies underwear if you are interested.” says Sweets and he begins to rummage through his sack.

“That’s quite alright, I have my own.” Enkirash say. He opens the green bag and pulls out a shirt, pants, cloak, and various other items entirely too large to fit in such a small bag. After a few moments he is fully dressed in an impressive display of nobility and class. “Oooo, Ahhhhh” says Beanie, Sweets, and Chumples. “Glurpbulb!” Bleats the lizard-goat.

“Quite right my fine domesticated beast of burden. But never on a Tuesday.” Quips the wizard. Beanie becomes excited. “Oh, it is so nice to meet such a rich person. I have much appreciation with your ways and customs. I hope to follow in your footsteps.” Says Beanie. “I see, you wish to become my apprentice. This can be arranged, should you follow my every command. First, where can I find Hashnuk?” says Enkirash. Beanie day dreams of the he may one day dress in fine clothes and order others to do his bidding. After a few minutes Sweets smacks him on the back of the head, “He asked you a question.” Sweets whispers. “Hashnuk? I don’t know anyone named Hashnuk. Who is he? What does he look like?” Asks Beanie.

Enkirash winces and says, “He is my brother.” And proceeds to describe the man whom Beanie met as a child. After much debate and head slapping, the quartet eventually set out together towards Vermilion.

But before they set out. Enkirash produces a small dagger. He says, “This dagger, is ‘the way’, it will bind us together. To become my apprentice you must lick it. Taste the steel!” Beanie takes the dagger and looks it over. “What does it taste like?” He asks. “Bitterness, suffering, sweat, toil, failure, and money.” Enkirash answers.

“Money!” Beanie takes the blade and licks it several times.

Grimacing, Enkirash nods slowly. “Yes, your intelligence is beyond question. You shall make a good Cavia porcelus. Now let us be of