I love when fantasy worlds have some nonsensical magical force that prevents technology from working.

Like… how does the magic determine where technology begins? I mean, a gun is just a little house for tiny explosions to live… what part of that process is interrupted by magic? Does gunpowder simply not combust in Magictopia?

What about the wheel? Bifocals? Condoms? Skateboards? Bicycles? Vaccines? Pyramids? Does a flint-knapped knife not count as technology?


“What seems to be the matter?” asked the Elf, in that same insufferably airy tone that would have made it a fortune doing voiceovers for shampoo commercials.

Khalil sighed miserably. “Phone’s dead,” he said, scowling at the shimmering city. “Figures. Of course it lets me take a thousand blurry cat pictures and then konks out on me the moment I find something worth photographing.”

The Elf laughed. Khalil suspected it was meant to be a scornful laugh, but his companion had the emotional inflection of an automated voice messaging system, and it lacked punch.

“Foolish human,” said the Elf. “Your ‘phone’ will not work here. No technology functions past the borders of Faerie.”

If Khalil let his eyes unfocus and used his imagination, the expression it wore could almost pass for smugness. “Now hang on,” he said. “That’s a fucking lie. No way is that true.”

“Foolish human, I cannot tell a l—”

“Oh, shut up. You say no technology works here, but you’re clearly wearing some kind of ritzy elf sword. Are you gonna try to tell me that they grow on trees here? Obviously you’ve got smelting and forges and metallurgy. You’re wearing woven fabric, and you stole a bunch of medicine from that pharmacy in Detroit. We rode my bike over that troll bridge and it didn’t stop working.”

“That’s different,” protested the Elf, a shallow groove between it’s eyebrows betraying profound distress. “That’s not technology.”

“It is, though! ‘Technology’ doesn’t just mean guns and electron—”

There was a hand clamped tight over his mouth, smothering him before he had even registered movement. “Hold your tongue before I cut it out of your head,” hissed the Elf in his ear. “You don’t know what you’re messing with.

It released him, and Khalil stumbled back, staring wildly. It had moved terrifyingly quickly. No doubt it could make good on its threat if it cared to—six years of boxing and he still had no hope of defending himself against something that could move like that.

“What magic doesn’t know can’t hurt it,” said the Elf in a low and strangely unsteady voice, sounding for the first time like a living being. “Be careful what ideas you give it. Some things seem right, and that’s what matters.”

The Elf must have grabbed him hard, Khalil realized, tasting the tang of blood where his lip had been torn open on his teeth. He swallowed, and stared at the Elf in horror. “Are you telling me,” he said slowly, “That your entire magical system, the physics of your entire world… is based… on vibes?”

The Elf grimaced and did not meet his eyes.

As the Elf’s screams grew louder and more frantic, Khalil’s mind alternated between two distinct but equally insistent convictions: first, that this was the stupidest plan anyone had ever advised in this world or any other; second, that it was going to work.

The part of him that was a twenty-seven year-old peace activist recoiled in disgust even as the ten year-old pirate fanatic vibrated with excitement. If I live through this, he thought, I’ll have to tell my mom that all those hours glued to the History Channel weren’t wasted, after all.

Very gently, he tipped a little of the powder down the barrel of the gun. He had no way of knowing the appropriate amount to use and simply guessed; after all, if his suspicions were correct, it might not matter much in this world.

He pried the moldering leather bag out from under the skeleton’s arm and reached inside. A few dozen lead balls clinked together under his fingers, along with a little bundle of greasy cloth. With trembling fingers, he tore off a square of fabric and wrapped it around one of the bullets. Like a swaddled baby, he thought grimly, and pushed it down the barrel until it was nestled snugly over the gunpowder.

Almost ready, he thought. He dropped a pinch of powder into the flashpan on the top of the gun, flicked the frizzen back into position, and rose to his feet.

“Step away from the Fabio impersonator,” he said, kicking the rotten door off its hinges. “Or I will shoot you with my gun.”

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“You have the name of a poet,” said the queen, studying him cooly with pupiless eyes as green and unsettling as a neglected swimming pool. “That is a good thing, Khalil of Ann Arbor. We are fond of poets here.”

The queen was beautiful, but she was not attractive. No, thought Khalil, that’s not right. She was attractive—in the way that the lights of beachside cities attract baby sea turtles away from the surf; attractive in the way that hot stoves attract curious children’s hands; attractive in the way that trays of beer attract garden slugs. 

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#storytime #fun with loopholes #fae

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