Episode 3: A Sinister Red Eye
The hilarity of watching Jockular try to wedge himself into the passenger seat had all but worn off. Worry ate at George now as he realized the barbarian’s presence at the restaurant would spark unwanted questions. He broke into a cold sweat, his heart pounding, and a tingling numbness spread across his face.
I’m such an idiot! His clothes alone are going to draw attention! Should I just say he’s a friend from LARPing?
With his mind racing, George failed to notice Jockular’s body tense up as the car stopped at a traffic light. The barbarian growled.
“Georgie!? What devilish magic is this?”
“Yar wagon’s stopped, lad!”
“I know. Light’s red.”
Jockular snarled, raising his hand in a warding gesture.
“Georgie! That lone red eye’s castin’ some fell hex on yar wagon. I’ve heard of such things. Never faced one, though. Is it a hag or one of the fey folk? They can be quite treacherous when angry.”
“No, it’s a traffic light.”
“I’ve never heard tell of such a beast.”
“No, you don’t understand. It’s not alive.”
“But, yet this menace has halted yar wagon. How does this firelight burn with such power?”
“Bah! You’re talking magical gibberish as usual.”
“It’s a kind of lightning.”
Jockular stared uncomprehendingly.
“You know… the bright, booming flashes of light in the sky.”
George tried to make the sound of thunder.
“Oh… that’s formidable magic from the gods themselves, lad.”
“Now stop and listen to me! I’ll try to explain it in another way. See the road crossing this one? That traffic light keeps cars…er…wagons from crashing into each other. It’s not our turn to cross. It’s the other road’s turn.”
George could see only confused irritation in the barbarian’s eyes.
“Look, Jockular! We can’t cross while that light’s red!”
“But, we need to get to the tavern, lad! Don’t ya be thinkin’ I’ve forgotten ya promised ale! And ya’r forgetting Lady Stacey. It’s unwise to keep a noblewoman waitin’, Georgie.”
“I know. I know. Unfortunately, this is an annoyingly long light.”
“How long is long? We best be crossing now. Surely, a wizard of your stature must know some way to counter this enchantment.”
Tired of the incessant questions, George stopped trying to explain.
Fix it, Georgie! You’re a wizard, Georgie! What am I supposed to do? Does he expect me to draw a green light?
George decided it was easier to simply play the part. Mouth dropping open, he smacked his forehead in mock surprise.
“Yes, of course! How silly of me! You’re right. All this talk of Lady Stacey has addled my brain.”
“Aye, women will do that do a man.”
“Thank you for bringing me back to my senses, Jockular.”
“That’s what friends are for, laddie.”
“A wizard needn’t bow to the whims of a mere traffic light. I’ll dispatch the blasted thing straight away!”
George outstretched a trembling hand and began to chant nonsensically. The barbarian waited impatiently.
“Georgie?! Nothing’s happening!”
“Ok, ok! This is a tough one! But, fear not. I will overpower it.”
“Would it help if I tried to distract the fiend with my legendary battle cry?”
“No. Just tell me when the traffic light yields to my demands.”
George closed his eyes, feigning strenuous concentration, and chanted louder.
“But, how will I know?”
“The red fire will turn green.”
Feeling the light would never change, George stole a quick glance to see Jockular crouched forward, eyes wide as he peered out the windshield.
“Are you watching?”
“Aye! Aye, lad! Nothing yet!”
“Stay vigilant. I can feel it weakening.”
The car jolted as the barbarian startled with a surprised cry.
“Gods! Look at that!”
George opened his eyes and smirked.
“Phew! That was a tricky one!”
“But, you’ve done it, Georgie!”
“Yes, I have. Sometimes I surprise even myself.”
Jockular slapped George on the shoulder.
“On to ale and Lady Stacey then?”
“Yes, we can proceed safely, now.”
Jockular crowed triumphantly, breaking into song as George stomped on the gas pedal. The barbarian’s mood was contagious. George still didn’t know what would happen at the restaurant. But, the anxious pit in his stomach had fled. In its place, George felt a growing confidence. He suspected he could handle anything with the barbarian by his side.