The Witch, the Mage and the Dimension Traveler, Part 1

Last time on Nexus:
Dreaming with Elli, Part 3

Near the Polish-Czech border on the Polish side lies the Karkonosze National Park. It stretches for several kilometers and is known as a destination for mountain bikers and hikers.

In some circles, also for the unique things that can be found off the beaten path.

Ms. Mirabilis, a shop-owner by trade, trudged through the greenery in front of the woods with Markus. The man was made of wood and therefore always kept himself covered with cloth, though because of the terrain today he had exchanged his white robe and mask for mountaineering gear, a ski mask, and a scarf that covered his mouth. Mirabilis herself was wearing a brown hiking dress. Her hair was tied in a tight knot.

"Whew," he went on. "Mademoiselle, is it really necessary for us to be out 'ere looking for any mushrooms?"

"Don't complain, Markus," Mirabilis chided him. "We have a customer order for a beauty concoction, and you've thrown away Candis's supply of rabbit honey fungus."

"They looked rotten," the woodman defended himself.

"They've got to look like that; those things are furry, after all. Stop whining and get those hooves swinging, and we'll have this over within maybe three hours."

Markus grumbled something unintelligible, while the two continued to make a path through the grass.
There was a loud crack at the edge of the forest as they arrived.

A man in a black jumpsuit and bulletproof vest came out of the undergrowth.


Mirabilis frowned as the man approached.

He greeted her in Polish.

"Uh, is English okay?" she asked in English.

"If it needs to be," the man replied. "I'm sorry, but you are not allowed to enter this part of the forest right now. You'll have to turn west or east."

"What?" it escaped Mirabilis. "Why?"

"There are field studies being conducted right now," the man explained. "To make sure everything goes smoothly, no civilians are allowed there right now. We'll be done in eight hours, though."

"And why are field researchers hiring a man in a bullet vest?" inquired Mirabilis tepidly.

"That's not your problem, ma'am. Please turn back."

Mirabilis saw him put a hand to the pistol tucked in a holster on his belt.

She could handle one, but there were probably more…

"Alright," she snapped, "But remember one thing, we'll be back!"

"Oh non…" grumbled Markus as Mirabilis turned and dragged him behind her.

A little off to the side, he asked, "Uh, Mademoiselle? Why are we coming back?"

"Because I know who's trying to deny us entry there, Markus, and by the time they're done, I guarantee there won't be any mushrooms left…"

The guard, meanwhile, nodded in satisfaction and continued his rounds. It would be about an hour before he was run over by a squeaky green Trabant, which roared into the forest at full speed, causing unrestrained chaos among his colleagues.

Nowadays, globalization brings not only goods around the world, but also cultures and customs. This is how, among other things, witchcraft came to Thailand. Sure, witches were ubiquitous in pop culture, but there were few "real" witches left, partly because aged witches nowadays could hardly find anyone who wanted to be trained as a witch. In addition, almost everybody had lost their sense of the supernatural. Chalita "Pointed Hat" Maligool, however, belonged to the now rare species of young witches.

The small Thai woman possessed relatively dark skin, black hair and wore a black and white combo of jeans, jacket and shirt. The only thing that made the trained witch recognizable as such was her black, pointy hat, even while the woman was flying.

Brooms had gone out of fashion centuries ago, witches today preferred to travel by car, bicycle or train.

Chalita, however, was a show-off. She had bewitched a carpet with a blue-red pattern and equipped it with oblivion talismans, so that she would not be discovered.

The textile was currently hovering over the Krkonoše National Park, her destination.

Chalita had had an arduous journey, setting out from Mae Sot and crossing the Eurasian continent, for she had a mission to fulfill.

The Thai Association of Black Magic Power Users had sent her to find a special mushroom that grew only here in Europe. It was about an experiment to prolong human life.

While she was flying around above the forest, a raven came fluttering to her.

Oz, as Chalita had named this familiar, touched down on her carpet, wings flapping.

"I found one, boss!" he croaked, giving more the impression of a parrot than a raven.

"Very good, take me there."

The bird took of and the carpet made a turn to follow him.

"Mushrooms!" Dean uttered upset after discovering a new stain on his pants. "The whole cosmos right outside your front door and you two are going mushroom picking?"

He, like Elli and Chloe, wore forest green hiking gear as they trudged through the undergrowth of the Giant Mountain's National Park.

Elli turned to him, annoyed.

"Are you ever satisfied with my destinations? 'Oh, Elli, that's way too dangerous! Oh, Elli, we've been there with her already! Oh, Elli, that's boring!' You hear that, Chloe? That's what I have to listen to all day."

Chloe decided from experience to let the two of them argue. That was the most likely way for them to stop. She therefore concentrated on looking for mushrooms on the forest floor. Some she had already found, butter mushrooms, porcini, bay boletes (Chloe's favorite, they always got so nice and slimy when cooked) and Dean carried with him to the basket of them in a bag three giant puffballs, big as ostrich eggs.

Chloe was so focused on the ground that she didn't even register what was directly in front of her, or she would have noticed the slope on which she suddenly lost her balance and slid down accompanied by a cloud of dead leaves.

"Oh my goodness, Chloe!" she heard Elli shout above her as she landed ungently on the seat of her pants.

Chloe groaned in annoyance rather than agony and straightened up.

She was in some sort of depression. Around her were leaves and soil. Beside her, a patch of small mushrooms seemed to be growing moldy; they already had white fur.

Elli slithered down to her, followed by Dean, who stomped a flight of stairs into the ground on his way down, causing a small landslide.

"Oh my, are you okay?" asked Elli hurriedly, eyeing Chloe critically.
"I'm okay, Elli, I landed softly."

Chloe hadn't been brought to explaining what had happened since her adventure into Elli's brain, because just thinking about it gave her a migraine. Whatever Elli had put together, she seemed to be gradually becoming protective…

It was quite annoying for Choe by now, because Elli was rummaging around for bandages or even Panacea when Chloe just cut herself on paper.

Is this what embarrassing parents felt like?

"Are you sure?", Elli made sure as if to emphasize this, and looked around. "I mean, there's a pretty edgy rock and there- Oooooh…"

She knelt down next to the pile of moldy mushrooms.

"Rabbit honey mushrooms! How awesome is that?!"

"Elli, those things look spoiled," Dean remarked before Chloe could point out the same fact to her.

"I know, Dean, that's their defense strategy so they don't get eaten. But moldy mushrooms are much squishier."

She tapped one of the small mushrooms on the hat. It made a surprisingly solid impression.

"I've never heard of mushrooms like that…" confessed Chloe.

"Oh, they're pretty rare too, their mycelium survives for decades and doesn't produce fruiting bodies every year. These are probably the only ones on the whole continent right now," Elli explained, apparently having lapsed into lecture mode. "Also, they have some… Unusual properties…"

Chloe didn't like the dirty grin on Elli's face.

"Are they aphrodisiacs?" she asked sourly.

Elli turned to face her.

"What, oh no, certainly, they can be made into very potent pleasure enhancers via a refining process that occasionally kill their consumer with their potency, but if you just boil or fry them, they're harmless in that regard."

"But?" asked Chloe with a raised eyebrow.

"These babies relocate excess body fat in women to the…. right places."

She nudged Chloe in the side with her elbow and a conspiratorial expression.

Chloe, whose physical deterioration was progressing thanks to Ku, was no longer even sure she had the necessary amount of fat on her body. If she looked closely, she could meanwhile make out her skull bone under the skin in the mirror. Accordingly, she gave Elli a less than amused look.

She only shrugged piqued and transferred the small bed with a pocket knife into a bag.

"I think we've had about enough, Elli," Dean announced as Elli worked. "We could finish this thing now, or you'll just spoil your stomach eating so much at once. Or do you want a repeat of the story with the crab-stuffed mushrooms?"

Elli abruptly burst into agonized tears.

Chloe looked questioningly at Dean.

"Amazing what some dishes do to the human body," Dean mused. "I wasn't sure if Elli had intestinal distress or was giving birth."

"Does she have chil-?" asked Chloe, before Dean leaned down and covered her mouth.

"Touchy subject," he warned quietly so Elli couldn't hear him, but she was obviously still caught up in gut-wrenching memories and crying softly.

Chloe nodded and remained silent.

"Hey, what are you doing?" a voice sounded above them that seemed strangely familiar to Chloe.

At the edge of the hollow stood a young woman and a completely hooded climber. Both slid down to them.

Chloe eventually recognized the woman as the one who had sold her the notebook back in the day, which had, in the end, caused her to now have a god problem1

She decided she didn't like the saleswoman.

Elli seemed to feel the same way, because she stopped sniffling and stood up in front of the newcomer with a cold expression on her face. The newcommer reacted in the same way.

And then one of those verbal duels took place, which actually only old ladies who absolutely dislike each other are capable of.


"Booze hound…"

"Old hag…"


"Wannabe good fairy…"

"Doctor Who impersonator…"


"Pain in the ass…"



The clamor continued.

"Dean? Do you know her, too?" asked Chloe.

Dean tilted his head for a moment.

"I've never seen her before. What do you mean by 'also'?"

"Bad business deals," Chloe said out of the corner of her mouth.

Dean seemed to think about it for a moment.

"Ah, I see," he then said.

Elli apparently seemed to be the loser in this contest, for she took a step toward Mirabilis.

"To what lucky circumstance do we owe your presence?" she asked saccharine with a face that made icebergs turn green with envy.

"Oh, well, we were just in the neighborhood," the saleswoman began to explain with similar demeanor.

Chloe could literally taste the venom dripping from their voices.

"And seeing you like this, I figured you still owed me for that thing in New York…"

"Oh? The problem that your cudgel in the back triggered? Can't remember owing you for that."

"You destroyed a priceless magical artifact."

"So it doesn't kill even more people."

"You know there was a magic word for that."

"And I know how stupid some of your customers are. Prime example, you almost killed Chloe!"

Mirabilis opened her mouth, then shut it again.


Elli pointed with her thumb behind her at the person in question. It took a moment, but then recognition flashed in the woman's eyes.

"Oh, uh…," Mirabilis made. "You have to believe me, I tried everything to get the book back but by the time I found it, it was too late."

She stepped past Elli toward Chloe, who flinched away from her.

"I'm so, so sorry…"

The apology failed to have the effect she had hoped for.

"Can I have my money back?" was all Chloe asked.

Mirabilis blinked in confusion for a moment. Elli behind her grinned like a Cheshire Cat.

"Not only did she steal my fairy wine, now this…"

She pulled out her wallet and reimbursed Chloe before turning back to Elli.

"You taught her that, didn't you?"

"No, but I'm very proud of her right now," Elli replied cheerfully. "And as for the fairy wine, think of it as payment for tech support."

Mirabilis sighed.

"Okay, you've had your fun, but I need some rabbit hallimashes for a customer order. I know you have them in that bag there. I saw you put some in there."

Elli chuckled spitefully for a moment and turned to Dean.

"Did you hear that? She wants our loot."

Was Chloe mistaken, or could she hear the loud murmur of voices and gunshots?

Mirabilis seemed to be getting restless. Elli just grinned.

"Well, sorry, but first come-"

That's as far as she got, because her cloth bag was suddenly grabbed by a black shadow flying toward Elli at breakneck speed. Elli noticed the newcomer, but she was too slow to pull back her find.

However, she hadn't let go either.

"Yes, I'm listening?" said Mirabilis to the empty space the blonde had occupied just moments before.

Chloe and Dean looked after Elli as she was dragged out of the hollow and finally got stuck in a young tree.

The plant was apparently something with an elastic trunk, because she was thrown back and landed in front of Chloe as they climbed out of the hollow along with Dean, Mirabilis and their companion.

"Ow… Pain…" came from the ground.

"What was that?" asked Dean as he helped Elli up.

"A welcome sight," Mirabilis commented. "But an unwelcome turn of events. Markus, we're going after this thief!"

The put her thumb and forefinger in her mouth and whistled.

It took a moment but then Chloe heard the rattle of a two-stroke Otto engine. A bright red Trabant came shooting out of the underbrush, pursued by several men with rifles and pistols.

The car drifted so that it came to a stop sideways in front of Mirabilis and opened its doors. With astonishment, Chloe noticed that no one was sitting inside to steer it.

"Get in, Markus!"

Before Dean or Chloe could react, the two had jumped into the car, which started moving again with tires spinning. Chloe barely escaped the resulting fountain of dirt.

"Hey, there's more!" she suddenly heard the men shout in the distance. They were wearing black clothes and bullet vests.

"Wh-who are they?" asked Chloe in alarm.

"Polish Anomalous Mushroom Picking Association," growled Elli next to her. "These egotists staked out this area today precisely because such things as rabbit-hallimash grow here. Since they have a knack for finding mushrooms, I wanted to beat them to it before they grazed everything here."

The depression behind them turned jet black as the Nexus within opened.

"But for now, let's take care of this thief…"

Chloe's eyes snapped open as Elli took her by the hand and pulled her toward the Nexus.

"Elli, is this really necessary, I mean we have enough mushrooms."

"I'm sorry, Chloe, but this is personal," came it from an ill-tempered Elli. "Not to mention that someone is potentially going to die if Mirabilis manufactures what she's planning. Just like always…"

Then she began to smile wickedly.

"Besides, it will be tons of fun…"

Maybe Dean could help!

"Uh, Dean-"

Chloe broke off as she turned to Dean.

The car had covered him all over with leaves and dirt.

"They're in for a beating…" he hissed sourly.

And then all three of them hopped into the Nexus as shots were fired at them behind them as well.

Chloe shrugged her mental shoulders. Normally they were always running away from something, but it would be a welcome change for them to see what happened when Elli chased after someone…

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