Editor’s Note: In case you missed it, here’s a link to episode one of Jeromer Romery’s adventures, Everything: The Incredible Sword of Jeromer Romery. Today’s tale represents the second episode we are having.
Nothing: The Invisible Shield of Jeromer Romery
by S.D. Smith, illustrated by Joe Sutphin
Jeromer Romery eventually heard about how he had, once again, turned certain defeat into near-certain defeat. He had, mostly accidentally, saved the day. Boint Lee had won an incredibly, unexpected, nearly-unexplainable victory, all due to the snapping sword-point of Jermoer Romery. He had called his sword “Everything,” and it had snapped off at the end. That’s how they won. Everything is so strange. No point, but it saved the day.
This was becoming his thing, maybe. He had accidentally saved the day once before the battle against Lesstear Valley. So, he pondered things as he walked around the dusty road of Boint Lee town, kicking along a rock, keeping it ahead of him. How can you accidentally keep on doing heroic things and saving the day? He would just have to find out the same way his ancestors did –by visiting the village seer. A seer is someone who sees. But they don’t just see ordinary things. They see amazing things, like a wizard. I don’t mean that seers see wizards, but that seers are like wizards. Maybe, I should have just called the seer a wizard from the beginning to make it clear, but you get the idea.
So it was that Jeromer Romery ended up kicking his rock up near the doorway of Seer ‘n Sons: Wizards For Hire. He knocked.
“Who is it knocks?” a person with a voice said.
“It’s Jeromer Romery,” Jeromer Romery said.
“That kid what won the battle fierce?”
“Yes. That kid,” Jeromer said. “You’re the seer, right?”
“Let me see,” he said. “Yes.”
“Can I come in?”
“Let me see,” he said again. “I think so.” The voice sounded oldish, but in a young kind of way. The owner of the voice opened the door just a little, peering out with one big eye pressed to the crack. Jeromer thought he had a young-looking eye, but he sounded a little bit older than that eye looked. Jeromer had heard an old farmer describe how once, when he had been a small child, a wizard had said that the eyes were the window to the soul, but that the wizard had died before he had a chance to explain what in the world that meant. Jeromer wanted to know, but he didn’t want to ask every single question that popped into his mind to this wizard seer with the young eye and old voice, that is if he ever even got in the door. Why can’t people have a voice and eye that don’t confuse people all the time? That was another question.
The door swung open at last and Jeromer was surprised to see that the one eye he had seen in the slit of the door was the only eye staring at him out of the only slit in the face of this young-eyed, old-voiced person.
“I need to talk to the seer,” Jeromer said, trying to be polite and not stare at the guy’s one eye, but also trying to be polite and maintain eye-contact.
It was hard.
“I’m a wizard,” the one-eyed guy said. “My name is Josia…” but he couldn’t finish what he was saying, because there was a loud noise from the back. Will I ever find out this guy’s name? Jeromer thought.
“Josiah,” another somebody deeper in the place called out amid the clamor. “Is it a customer?”
Oh, thought Jeromer. Josiah’s his name. Questions are already being answered.
“Yes, Gramps!” Josiah called back.
“Does he seem rich?” the owner of the other voice said.
Josiah eyed him closely. “Probably not. But he does have a sword and he’s some kind of hero.”
“He might have received a reward!” the other someone said. The other someone in the noisy back of the place had a very old-sounding voice. But Jeromer had already found out the easy way that you couldn’t always trust a voice to determine age. But then he remembered about the part where Josiah called the fellow “Gramps” and he moved the likelihood of the guy being old from “who can know these things?” to “very likely.”
“So, you think you’re a big deal because you saved everyone?” Josiah asked.
“No,” Jeromer said quickly. “All I got was a busted sword.”
“Well, yeah,” he said nodding. “Good point. There is the glory.”
“I am a wizard,” Josiah said, beginning what promised to be an elaborate and impressive arm flourish with his cape. But then an old man appeared and quickly knocked Josiah out of the way.
“Hello, traveler,” the old man said, his face full of two eyes and his beard long and very wizardly.
“I’m not a traveler,” Jeromer said “I live just down…”
“Never mind where you live,” the wizard said. “Most importantly it is to know for me why are you here?”
“I need advice from a seer.”
“I’m a seer,” he said. “With two good eyes to see,” he said, glancing at Josiah. A person hopes to hear a, “No offense, dear grandson,” on such occasions, but one did not hear anything like that. So Jeromer began to mistrust this wizard. It rubbed him the wrong way the way he rubbed it in how many eyes he had, like it was due to his cleverness that he managed to get and keep both.
“Maybe this was a mistake,” Jeromer said, eyeing the door.
“No, good hero,” the seer said, “it is not. I can tell you why you came.”
“O.K.” Jeromer said.
“You came to learn how you have accidentally saved the day and how you might do it again?”
“Yes!” Jeromer shouted, “that’s exactly it! How did you know?”
“I see all.”
“Wow, yes, yes,” Jeromer said, warming up to this old man who was kind of mean, but seemed to be good at his job. Josiah sat nearby, reading the local parchment, The Boint Lee Realist, which had Jeromer’s picture sketched on the front and his story as the headline. “How DID you do that?” Jeromer asked, astonished.
“I can’t reveal my secrets,” the old wizard said, snatching the parchment from Josiah and tossing it into the fire.
“Well, great,” Jeromer said, rubbing his hands. “Well then, what should I do? Where should I go? What’s next? What is my purpose? How do I proceed?”
“Well, first things first,” the old wizard said. “Do you, by chance, have any money?”
“I’m sorry, no,” Jeromer said. “But I was hoping you would help me, because I don’t know what to do. I have no clue what my next move is. How can I follow up this action? I need to do something that matters.” Jeromer was getting worked up now. “I mean, what should I do?” he begged, almost tugging at the old wizard.
“You must go on a quest,” the old wizard said, closing his eyes and putting his arm around Jeromer and walking him to the door.
“What quest?” Jeromer asked, his eyes lighting up as he drank in the wizard’s words like a drinker takes a drink and then the liquid is inside them, glowing like fluorescent green slime of optimism.
“A quest to find some money!” the old wizard said, opening the door and shoving Jeromer out. The door slammed.
Jeromer spun around, unsure what had happened. He almost knocked at the door again, but he just stood there, thinking. Finally, he decided to head out on his quest. A noble, adventurous quest for…money?
He wasn’t moved by the project. He wished it was more noble and less, well, kind of horrible. He was already sort of famous, and now he was supposed to seek money? So he could be rich and famous?
Boring, he thought.
He walked on, rounding the dry fountain in the center of Boint Lee, when he heard an old-sounding voice sounding behind him. He spun around to shout at the old wizard, but he saw Josiah instead.
“I am a true wizard,” Josiah said, blinking his one eye. “And I do not agree with my uncle’s advice to you. He has two eyes, but he sees less than I do.”
“Your uncle?” Jeromer asked. “I thought you called him Gramps.”
“That’s his nickname,” Josiah said. “For some reason, people love nicknames around here.”
“You’re telling me,” Jeromer ‘Lucky’ ‘Nick’ Jeromer said.
“Anyway, he’s not a great guy,” Josiah said, “but he is a gifted seer. But, if I may say so, so am I, though I be young.”
“I see,” Jeromer said. “So, what should I do?”
“Well,” Josiah said, “I don’t know.”
Some seer you are, Jeromer thought, but he said, “Thanks, anyway. I’m going to go find my frie…” then he remembered he really didn’t have any friends. “I’m going to go find my purpose somewhere. I’m sure I can find it if I dig around. That’s how I found this hat,” he said, pointing to his bare head. He frowned.
“I don’t know what you need to do, Jeromer,” Josiah said, “but I know what you need with you.”
Jeromer stared into Josiah’s eye. “What is it?”
“A shield?” Jeromer said, raising his eyebrows.
“Yes, a shield, “ Josiah said, nodding. “What did you expect, to get skinsteel all over, or for me to give you two heads?”
“No, that sounds even worse…”
“A shield is is pretty handy when you need to block things,” Josiah said.
“Good point,” Jeromer said, “I agree.”
“But you were expecting something a little more, shall I say, spooky?”
“Yeah, I guess so.”
“Well, Jeromer, I’m very sorry to disappoint you.”
“No problem. Just, thanks for caring. But I’m sorry I don’t have any money.”
“This is a free gift.”
“A free shield?” Jeromer said, surprised. “Wow. That’s really great. I mean, wow man. Thank you so much. I can’t wait to see it.”
“Well…” Josiah said, looking side-to-side.
“What?” Jeromer asked. “What’s wrong?”
“You can’t see the shield.”
“What? Oh, OK. I see. I have to pay to see it, I get it. You’re just like Uncle Gramps,” he said and started to storm off.
“No, Jeromer, wait!” Josiah said. “The shield is real and it’s not for sale. I give it to you, freely.”
“OK, thanks, man. And I’m sorry I overreacted. I was just thinking you were maybe a charlatan like Captain Moneyquest back there.”
“Oh, he’s not a charlatan. He’s a real wizard. He’s just a very greedy wizard.”
“Oh, I see.”
“Yeah, he’s the real deal,” Josiah said, nodding, “I saw him demolish a house once by sneezing.”
“Oh yeah. He’s a great wizard, but kind of a bad guy.”
“Oh, remind me to stand clear during allergy season,” Jeromer said.
“Yeah, good idea,” Josiah said. “Anyway, about that shield. Here you go,” Josiah said, appearing to hold nothing at all, but to move toward Jeromer with it –nothing–in his hands.
“Ummm, what’s going on?” Jeromer asked, looking at Josiah’s empty hands.
“I’m giving you this shield,” Josiah said. He appeared to be carrying something, but there was nothing there. He hoisted this nothing up and laid it on Jeromer’s back.
“Umm, well,” Jeromer said, “it’s very light.”
“Oh, it’s weightless,” Josiah said, smiling.
“And I can’t see it.”
“Yes. It’s completely invisible.”
“Oh, invisible,” he said, nodding. “OK, OK. And it’s weightless?”
“Exactly,” Josiah said, smiling pleasantly.
“Okey dokey, man,” Jeromer said, looking back and forth, unsure of what to say. “I’m gonna take off. Um, thanks for the, um, shield?”
“If you’re ever in need of the shield, just pull it off your back and,” here Josiah pretended to hold a shield before him and block a deadly blow. “You know, like that.”
“So, you’ve got one too?” Jeromer asked. “Cool, man. Everyone’s got one. That’s great.”
“No, Jeromer,” Josiah said, confused. “I don’t have one, I was just pretending. You have one. I don’t.”
“OK, well,” Jeromer said, making eyes at the road. “I’ve gotta go. Thanks for the invisible shield.”
“You’re welcome. And good luck on your quest,” Josiah said, “whatever that might be.” Then he bowed graciously.
Jeromer was so confused. He knew he just needed to get out of there and get on this dusty road out of town. “OK, well, thanks, Josiah,” he said.
At that the one-eyed young man frowned. “Jeromer, I don’t really go by ‘Josiah.’”
“Oh, sorry,” Jeromer said. “That’s what Uncle Gramps called you.”
“Yes, but I go by ‘Josiaclops the Wise-Eyed,’” he said, bowing. “Has a little more style.”
“It certainly does,” Jeromer said, looking full on at the waiting road out of town. When he looked back, Josiaclops the Wise-Eyed was gone. All that remained of where he stood was a cloud of stirred up dust. He heard a thud, and a scuffling behind a nearby trash pile, then a groan.
I have a sword called Everything. Now I have an invisible, let’s be honest and say non-existent, shield. I think I shall call it, “Nothing.” Because of how it doesn’t exist.
With a final shake of his head, he strode silently out of town.
Jeromer walked for an hour, down winding lanes in riverside glens, through rocky roads and cliff-side views. He was now on the part of the road leading to and through the forest of Treelimb. I know, it’s a crummy name, but no one had the heart to change it. It was on the edge of Treelimb Forest that he first came to some trouble. One of the armies in vicinity of Boint Lee was camped out somewhere in the forest and they had sentinels stationed on the road. Now, Jeromer was used to sentinels, used to them robbing him and sending him back to his own town. It was called Tax and Turn. They would “tax” you all you had and turn you around. Today, Jeromer was in no mood to be taxed, or turned. He was looking for a quest.
“That’s it!” he said. “I’m on a quest to find a quest. And these sentinels won’t stop me.”
“Stop,” the sentinels shouted together. Then, looking at each other, they each said. “Jinx!” Then they said it again, until one barely beat the other and started counting “1,2,3,4,5,6…” until the other knocked on the wood of his longbow. “I’ll get you next time,” one said. Then they turned to look at Jeromer, who was still walking toward them some fifty yards away.
“I said ‘stop,’” the left sentinel said.
“Stop there,” the right sentinel said.
Jeromer didn’t reply, only walked on, his quest for a quest fresh on his mind and courage in his heart. And also fear in his heart. And hunger in his stomach.
The two sentinels nocked arrows to their bows and called again, “Halt!”
Jeromer considered drawing his sword and charging them with Everything. But he was afraid they might laugh at the missing point. He missed the point of Everything. I wish I actually had a shield, instead of this Nothing. Oh well, I may have nothing, he thought, but at least I have Everything, as pointless as it is.
They won’t really shoot me, he thought, just as one of the sentinels pulled back on his bow and let loose an arrow. It sped over Jeromer’s head, missing him by eight hats, or so. He kept on walking.
The next arrow was loosed. This one was chin-high and dead straight. Jeromer knew, in a flash, that he was a goner. All was quiet and seemed incredibly slow. In a desperate reflex, he reached for the invisible shield on his back, Nothing, and pulled it before him with incredible speed. The arrow wooshed, slicing the air before him as it sped at his head. Nothing stood before him and death, but he suddenly somehow believed Nothing would help. He trusted Josiaclops, knew his gift was going to save him.
As the arrow point was so close he thought he could see a misspelled word carved on the arrowhead, a crackling blast erupted from the woods nearby and a fireball collided with the arrow, turning it to smoke and char. Jeromer staggered back, half from expecting the arrow strike and half from the fireball from the woods. His skin tingled and stung from heat. A wall of hot air had nearly toppled him. He kept his feet and whipped around to see where this had come from and what it could be.
Josiaclops the Wise-Eyed stood crouching in the woods with his smoking palms stretched toward Jeromer. Around him, the limbs were blackened and smoking. He smiled, possibly winked.
“Thank you!” Jeromer shouted. “I had faith in my good old shield. I believed in Nothing! But I’m still glad to see you.”
“No problem!” Josiaclops the Wise-Eyed said.
“That was amazing!” Jeromer said, as the two came together. “I’ve never seen anything like it. You really are a wizard.”
“Thanks,” Josiaclops the Wise-Eyed said. Jeromer extended a hand to shake, but the wizard shook his head. “Give me a minute,” he said, blowing on his smoking hands.
An arrow whizzed overhead and the two friends turned to see the two sentinels firing at them, arrow after arrow.
Jeromer drew his sword and raised his shield. An arrow plunked off of Nothing and fell harmlessly to ground.
“It’s the hero of Boint Lee,” one of the sentinels said, noticing Everything.
“And he has a wizard partner!” the other shouted, running behind their hay cart and loosing another arrow. “If we let them through, King Hazmen will kill us!”
“Keep firing!” the other sentinel screamed, ducking behind the cart.
“Firing, huh?” Jeromer asked, nodding at Josiaclops the Wise-Eyed’s hands. The wizard nodded. Jeromer watched as the young, one-eyed man crouched and put his palms together, crossing thumbs and facing the sentinel’s station. A swirl of smoke formed before his outstretched hands, it flashed blue, then green, then orange and finally a bright red. It grew into a furious, broiling ball of fire, then burst away as his right jerked back and his left leg kicked out.
A sudden concussion wave hit Jeromer, nearly knocking him off his feet. But he kept his feet again and watched as the ball of fire burst into the hay cart and exploded in a terrific, shattering blast. The cart blew apart in a shower of charred parts while the singed sentinels fell back, astonished and a little crispy. They found their feet and ran into the forest, screaming like men whose once-invincible hay cart had just been exploded into fiery ruins right before their very eyes. As it had.
“Wow,” Jeromer said. “That was awesome.”
“It’s nothing, really.”
“No,” Jeromer said, laughing. “Nothing is my shield, that was definitely something. Something amazing. Josiaclops the Wise-Eyed, will you join me in my quest?”
“You sure you want me along?” the young wizard asked. “Uncle Gramps says I just get in the way of things.”
“I like the way you get in the way of things. And you gave me something, when I had no money to pay,” Jeromer said.
“I gave you Nothing,” Josiah the Wise-Eyed said, “and you already had Everything.”
“I didn’t have a friend,” Jeromer said, sticking out his hand and smiling wide.
Josiaclops smiled too, extending his own hand. They clasped hands in a seal of friendship.
Then Jeromer screamed. “Ouch,” he said, blowing on his hand.
“Sorry,” the wizard said.