Billibub Baddings and the Case of the Singing Sword
Click on image to enlarge.
by Tee Morris
Category: Fantasy Independent Publisher Award Winner, ForeWord Magazine Book of the Year Award Finalist
Description: Chicago, 1929. There are a thousand stories in the naked city; and when you're a dwarf at four-foot-one, they all look that much taller." It is The Era of Prohibition, where crime runs rampant in the streets and a city divided into territories serves as the ultimate prize. Somewhere in this Underworld of Chicago, an enchanted weapon holds the key to ending The Gangland Wars. In the wake of The St. Valentine's Day Massacre, only one is man enough to stand up against Al Capone ... a four-foot-one dwarf named Billibub Baddings. "Billi," as his friends come to know him, is a working stiff dwarf in the all too-human sized world of Chicago. Seems that a brood of orcs and a renegade warlock had opened a Portal of Oblivion in his homeworld and was planning to submerge his nine lands of Acryonis into an Age of Darkness. Billi had managed to throw a monkey wrench into those plans ... but not before getting himself caught in the pull of that portal. When he came to, he found himself in the heart of The Windy City during The Roaring Twenties. After dealing with trolls, goblins, and rock dragons, Al Capone and Bugs Moran are about as intimidating as choir boys. Billi sets himself up as a tough-talking, waist-high, straight-dealing detective, and business was looking bleak, until a dark-eyed beauty crossed his threshold with the case that involved the mob, the upper-crust of Chicago society, and Billi's past. Get ready for The Lord of the Rings written by Mickey Spillane! Poking fun at the hard-boiled detective novel, Fantasy mainstays, and even the legend of Chicago's 1920 underworld!
eBook Publisher: Dragon Moon Press/Dragon Moon Press, 2004 10/04
eBookwise Release Date: August 2006
17 Reader Ratings:
Available eBook Formats: OEBFF Format (IMP) [471 KB]
Reading time: 317-444 min.
"...thoroughly lampoons both the fantasy and hard-boiled detective genres while still paying close attention to good storytelling."--Joe Murphy, The Dragon Page Radio Show
Chapter One--Trouble is a Princess in High Heels
Chicago, 1929. There are a thousand stories in the naked city. And when you're a dwarf at four-foot-one, they all look that much taller.
The name's Billibub Baddings. I'm a private eye. I know you're probably scratching your noggin right now, wondering how the hell did a dwarf of the Highlands of Gryfennos get to be a detective walking the asphalt jungles of the Windy City? It's an easy story to tell, but not one I enjoy telling again and again ... and again. I won't lie to you--being a four-foot-one detective in a world of six-foot thugs, creeps, and low-lifes is tough, but I manage. Just as I manage, every time, to tell the tale of how I ended up in this crazy, mixed-up world called Chicago.
Let me take you back in time, and then to the left a nudge, to the world of Acryonis. With valleys and groves greener than Hyde Park in springtime, it wasn't a bad place to hang your axe and shield at the end of a day. Where there wasn't green, there were mountainous arctic regions, rolling moors, and clear, vast lake districts. Yeah, Acryonis had it all. It could've been paradise if the noisy neighbors upstairs--Black Orcs from the North, who weren't that happy with being cold all the time--hadn't gone stirring up trouble.
The Great War of the Races began as a series of more-than-occasional village burnings along the borders of Stone Guardian Valley and the Shri-Mela Plains, and then grew hair over time ... and as it was orcs who started this mess, this war grew hair in places that you wouldn't think to look for hair. This Great War (and to this day, I still don't know why they call it that, as there was nothing great about it), which started back before my great-grandfather's day, now started to pick up steam in mine. It fell upon me to uphold the great estate of Baddings--to carve out a name for myself, my future offspring, and my ancestors on the Holy Tablets of Yearnese.
Yeah, big deal. My family name and a nickel might get me a cup of java or a taste of foam from a freshly tapped keg. The "great estate of Baddings" I was charged to uphold consisted of a couple of rickety chairs, a wobbly table, and a thatch roof that leaked on rainy days. Since I really didn't have much to lose, I figured I would find my fortune in the heat of battle ... thirst for glory, rattling sabers and all that.
Unlike my ancestors, I did all right for myself. Managed to make Captain of my unit. We dwarves were the best in the Allied Races, our sterling reputation with infiltration and search-and-destroy missions preceding us to the point that other races were willing to pay or barter only the finest goods for our services. We never disappointed. The 25th Dwarf Warriors Company went so far as to adopt the motto, "Don't let 'em know you're comin', but let 'em know when you're leavin.'" At least, that's a rough translation in Chicago's native tongue.
It was this particular talent of getting in unannounced and leaving with a bang (and a boom, for good measure) that got the "Stormin' Scrappies" noticed by The Council of Light. It appeared that the Black Orcs, who had fought this Great War for decades only to find themselves on the losing side, were cooking up this cockamamie scheme of taking over Acryonis by calling on the Darkness of Ish'tyis: an all-supreme evil that could make the most crooked politician look straighter than a flagpole.
I know I should be pissed beyond reason at the arrogance the orcs displayed in dabbling in dark magic, but it's more of a pity I feel. Truth be told, orcs ain't the brightest bulbs on the moviehouse marquee. They had their eyes on the prize, but hadn't considered how they would control this Darkness once it was unleashed. Instead, they kept their plan to the basics: collect the ancient talismans of Acryonis and open the Portal of Kraketia, unleashing the Eternal Night of Ish'tyis in the process.
You think these names are hard to read? Try living there.
Anyway, our counterplan was to get this crossbreed blacksmith, Sirus Hawthorne, up to Death Mountain's summit so he could drive his handcrafted toothpick into the heart of the Black Orc Barbarians' top dog. Along with Sirus and his tagalong cleric came me and my boys, leading a team of representatives from every race in the Allied Forces.
We were trying to sneak in undetected, but humans are a loud and clumsy bunch. But even with the Black Orcs closing in on us, we managed to reach the Central Chamber, where the Talisman Ritual had already begun. Sirus took on the Black Orcs' Big Cheese while we fended off his thugs. I broke free of the melee and got over to the Portal of Kraketia, and from the sounds coming out of there as it opened, I had to think fast. Otherwise, a bunch of grumpy orcs would have been the least of our troubles.
I figured the best way to separate the talismans would be to toss them into the Portal, condemning them to Oblivion in the process. As I threw the last talisman into the portal and watched the rip in front of me slowly close in on itself, it looked like the plan was working.
The only problem was that I didn't know how close "too close" to the portal was. As the rip became smaller, I found myself getting closer to the gaping chasm without necessarily wanting to get closer. Ahead, I could see slips of dark-blue mist quickly disappearing into a black void darker than goblin's blood; the void was growing larger, but only because I kept sliding forward towards this closing maw. No doubt about it: It looked like I was to be a final dessert for this portal's nine-course dinner.
The kind of fear I was feeling at that moment can motivate you--no matter how desperate that last act may appear--to make a final stand in order to live to see another day. To that end, I turned around and shot out a hand for this cute elf in our party, just out of arm's reach. She was a pretty little creation with finely-honed muscles, the end result of disciplined training and a few too many tours of duty in that friggin' war. There was just a touch of the wild child left in her, what with the V-cut shirts and leather armor that worked like a barmaid's bodice to push her tiny breasts up and together, giving this hardened Elvish warrior enough cleavage for a dwarf to enjoy. I looked deep into her brilliant green peepers--a pair of emeralds set in a hard, intense face framed by long, thick locks of silky fire billowing in the strong currents that pulled me ever closer to Oblivion.
Yeah, she was a cutie. Always had a soft spot for the redheads. Still do.
I remember feeling her fingertips just brushing mine ... and with that, everything I knew and accepted as my world slipped away like dirty bathwater taking its time running down a slow drain. But at least I knew that pretty little thing and the rest of Acryonis would be all right. I had done my part to uphold the all-important Baddings name. I had sacrificed my life for the tranquility of my kinsmen, and of the kinsmen I would never know.
I remember the chamber disappearing from me in a blur. I remember falling. I remember seeing all kinds of stars, like on a winter night where you can see the edge of the universe and just a yard past it. I remember the wind growing louder the longer I fell.
Then everything stopped ... and I mean stopped. I was surrounded by that silence you hear (and to an extent, feel) after you've been thrown against the nearest wall in the middle of a tavern brawl.
So, I guessed I was done. This was it. The big sleep, and it felt like being thrown against a wall in the middle of a barfight. Damn, this was going to be one hell of an eternity!
Now, here's the funny thing about Oblivion: Everyone knows what it is, but no one knows where it is. You can consult those All-Mighty Oracles, and they will describe the same thing I've just gotten through telling you about. The stars. The wind. Flashes of light. Okay, they might skip the "being thrown against the tavern wall" analogy, as the average Oracle doesn't drink, smoke, or enjoy a good woman. (If that's the price for clairvoyance, let me forever wallow in the bliss of ignorance!)
Ask the Oracles what happens after the silence, and suddenly the planets are out of alignment, or the cards are refusing to yield their knowledge. If ever an Oracle answered with a simple "Gee, I don't know ... " it would probably trigger some bizarre spell and make their heads explode or something. No, instead of 'fessing up that they're about as enlightened as the darkest part of a goblin's butt, they spew this bizarre rhetoric that makes Irving Berlin lyrics sound like Shakespeare. "The Winds of the Future are brewing into a storm I cannot see through ... " is always an old standby of theirs.
Oblivion, as I discovered, is not the part you see, but the part where you end up. Makes sense, right? And since no one has ever come back from Oblivion, no one--not even the wizard with the biggest hat of the nine realms--knows where Oblivion is.
But now I'm here to tell you exactly where Oblivion is and where it ends. The portals of Oblivion, at least the ones I fell through, end at the Chicago Public Library on 78 East Washington Street in Chicago, Illinois, USA.