The Science Of Magic


The moon was illuminating the clouds with silver and white, the sky went from black to the deepest blue I had ever seen. The River mumbled its only song. All around me were the scents of earth and water, flower and leaf. Through the trees, the mists obscured the moon.

"Hey, you! Snap out of it!" As I heard the voice, I felt exactly as though a tiny foot was kicking my buttocks. I looked toward the apparent source of the voice. There was indeed, a tiny fairy, rapping my behind with a large, pointy shoe.

At least I think it was a fairy. The one end (that would be the end that continued to boot my bottom) started with pointed, green elf-shoes and purple socks. Pink-and-green, daisy-print tights melted into a blue and white striped shirt. That was covered by a black and red embroidered vest with little sewn-in mirrors. The ensemble was topped off by a squashed hat, that seemed to be a cross between a rancid cauliflower, and a dead pelican.

Along with assorted bangles, baubles and neck chains; it looked more like a tiny rummage sale with wings.

"Snap out of it! It's only the moon. Get up you moron, you gonna lay there forever?" She continued to kick me.

"Would you mind very much not doing that?" I pointed to her foot. She looked at me, then at her foot. She shrugged and gave me one last kick.

She flitted up and landed in front of my face. With her head cocked to one side, she said, "Would you mind passing out somewhere other than my front yard?" She put her hands on her hips and tapped a pointed toe.

She was very annoying.

"Go away," I said sleepily, "you're very annoying." As I said it, a stray wisp of hair fell across her face. It was a nice little face, behind the mask of tragedy. She had very blue, very sad eyes.

"You have very pretty eyes." I said graciously.

"Oh, get a life." She said un-graciously.

"Say," I squinted at her and, perched on one elbow, tried to look like someone in control, "Who are you?"

"My name is Dot."

"Dot. Just Dot?" I asked

"It's short for Peridot."

"Do you know how to get to Westkeep?"


"Well, Peridot..."

"Nobody," she aimed a finger at my face, "ever calls me Peridot." The animosity she displayed surprised me so, I laughed at her. She took a swipe at my nose with her foot, missed, and sat down hard. Miffed, she kicked some dirt at me.

The intake of breath, from my laughter, came with many motes of forest-floor flotsam.

I felt the tickle in my nose. 

My eyes squinted. 

I huffed in once. 


She tumbled through the air, as I finally sneezed. The gust blew her hat clean off. She regained her balance, right at the edge of the river. She teetered for a moment, and fluttered her wings. She had just enough time to extended the middle finger of her left hand, before she fell in.

Chapter 2 Contents Chapter 4


"Oh, I did no such thing, It was you..."

"Did too!"

"Did not!"

"Spite, pure spite."

"No such thing." Saying that, I spun away from the argumentative Pixie.

It had gone on in this vein for some time, now. I couldn't say for sure, the exact moment we degenerated to the level of sticking our tongues out and waggling our fingers in our ears.

Dot insisted that I blew her into the water on purpose. 

"It was you kicking dirt in my face, that predicated the sneeze."

"Don't talk dirty to me." she replied, shivering in the handkerchief I had loaned her. Her clothing hung about the bushes, reminding me, more than ever, of a rummage sale.

Her sneeze was what I might have imagined a chipmunk's to sound like.

"Gesundheit." I said.

"I beg your pardon?" she said snottily.

"Think nothing of it." I said with a smirk, "there's no need to beg."

She buzzed her wings in angry reply. They made a wet kind of snoring sound, which served to make her angrier. It also made her shiver, which made certain portions of her anatomy more prominent, through the handkerchief. She looked very cute and very vulnerable, I couldn't help but smile.

"It's all your fault you big, human oaf."

"Cut it out. Here, I'll light a little fire to warm you up." I took a precious magic fire stick out of it's metal container. I struck it on the top, as Herbert instructed me. Sizzling flame engulfed the tip.

She was hesitant at first, but got nearer as I set the little pile of tinder afire. She crouched on the other side of the fire, like a wary beast.

"I still need a guide." I spoke quietly. The fire and the sunset were creating a mood.

"You need a keeper."

Mood isn't everything. "I need to get to the West Glen of the Rog"

"You said that already. What has that to do with me?" When she turned to dry her wings I noticed she had a cute butt.

"Say, you've got a cute- eh profile." I said cheerily.

She snorted derisively, mumbling 'pervert' under her breath, but I thought I detected a secret smile as she walked away.

"You should walk more on the balls of your feet. You wouldn't tire out as easily,"

She flitted and buzzed around my head. "If you stood straighter, it wouldn't put as much strain on your back. How long have you been walking, anyway?"

She was bossy and rude, argumentative and sarcastic. She picked on me unmercifully, however, she made an excellent lookout for bees.

After a particularly long harangue, I blurted,

"Stop being such a noodge. Stop picking on me."

"How typical of you human males, getting angry over a little constructive criticism."


"Anyway, I am not a noodge." she pouted unconsciously and turned her back on me with a flicker of wings. Her posture demanded an apology. I'd be damned, before she got one from me.

"What's a noodge?" she said after a short distance in silence. She didn't really turn around, as much as turn her attention back on.

She wore a hurt little expression that broke my heart. It was that expression, that type of expression, which for centuries has made fools of mere mortals like me. 

"I really don't know. Herbert says I'm a noodge when I pester him. I didn't mean anything by it, really."

"Oh, get over it." she snapped with an air of superiority.

I wasn't sure if I was hurt or angry, as I watched her flit up the path.

I started a cheerless little fire, and roasted some purple potatoes I located. I hunted up some Cara roots and a few herbs. I wrapped them in Althea leaves and set them in the embers to cook.

Throughout my machinations, Dot flitted about, looking over my shoulder and sniffing at the plants I harvested. She triumphantly brought a few sprigs of rosemary, then later brought a bunch of grapes so heavy, she had to fly in short hops.

We ate quietly for a while, opening the broad Althea leaves and using them like platters.

"What's it like, you know, being a færy?" I asked innocently.

"What a question. I don't know, what's it like being a human?" She rolled her eyes.

I had been formulating an answer, when I got the point. I had always taken for granted that being a færy made you feel special, in a way, I guess it was envy. I didn't feel too special, myself.

My spirits were at a real low point. I guess it showed, because Dot reneged.

"Technically, I'm not a Fairy. I'm a Pixie."

"What's the difference?"

"About a hundred I.Q. points."

"What's an.."

"Never mind. Look, Fairies - that's with an ai-are always attached to some elemental force; air, water, earth, etc. Some fairies really specialize, like Dryads. They're attached to particular trees." She stopped to see if I was following. I nodded vigorously.

"Well, Pixies are sort of free agents. We're tapped into the main Færy - that's with an æ- magic but we don't have to use it in any particular way."

I must have looked puzzled, I'm sure I looked puzzled; I had no idea what she was talking about.

"An air elemental, can only use magic as it relates to air. Blow up a wind or calm the air, possibly even affect other facets of the weather. But, only magic that pertains to air. They're tapped in to the Air Force."

"Pixies aren't limited that way. We can use the magic any way we want. Besides all the regulation stuff, each Pixie has a repertoire of specialized spells." Dot‘s manner was proud but doubtful. I couldn't imagine that expression on anyone else's face; somehow, on her, it looked right at home.

"You mean you can do magic?" It wasn't really whining, but it was close, " Do something for me, please?"

"Well, you've seen me fly...." she spread her hands, palms up and gave a shrug.

"Yes, but; you've got wings." I observed astutely.

"Much easier to fly when you have them." She returned with mock enthusiasm.

"But then that's not really magic. I'd dearly love to see some real magic," I looked at her eagerly. She blushed and tightened her lips.

"Well, maybe just one spell." She mumbled, refusing to look at me.

"Well, for goodness sake, show it to me." I smiled encouragingly.

"It's not really very good."

"I'd still like to see it. Please."

"Well..." she stood up straight, looking for all the world as if she were about to recite something. All at once (and out of thin air), she produced a bouquet of...

"Cilantro." was all I said, just that one word, and she burst into tears and flitted away.

Chapter 2 Contents Chapter 4


I poked at the fire with a stick, added a little wood and brooded. I never have understood females. I‘ve admired, loved, desired, befriended and ogled them; but I've never really understood.

I threw a pine cone in the fire to watch it crackle. That didn't last long; watching a pine cone burn is one of the most boring things I can think of.

I sighed and rose from the ground, wondering all the while; was she such a good bee scout, or was I a glutton for punishment?

"Dot!" The sound of my voice, muffled in the thick of the forest.

"Dot!" I heard a little sniffle from the direction of the River.

"Dot, please come back, I'll get lost without you." I really doubted I'd get lost, around here, you just have to head for the River and you know where you are. I turned to the direction of the sniffle and lowered my voice, "And who'll watch for bees?"

She kicked an acorn, from the shadows, toward the fire and walked sedately after it.

My handkerchief fit her like a gown. She had knotted it in the back, around her waist and neck, leaving room for her wings. Her eyes were dry but her look was sullen.

I made like a man of the world and shook out my cloak. I made other motions like going to bed.

"I can do all the regular stuff," she said, rather matter-of-factly.

I thought, at the time, that it would be demented to ask, "What regular stuff?"

I asked anyway.

"Oh, you know, like popping out with a flash," she did that, disappearing and re-appearing with little sparklers of light, "conversing with animals," I raised my eyebrows at this and she nodded in affirmation, "making plants grow, changing my size."

"Can you really change your size?" I interrupted.

"Yes, I can." she said proudly if somewhat defiantly.

"Go on." I chided.

"I can too." She put her hands on her hips and closed her eyes. In a moment, she had grown to about five feet in height. The rest of her changed proportionately.

The handkerchief did not.

Chapter 2 Contents Chapter 4


"Oh look, it's Cilantro Girl," sneered a buxom female elf to her sleazy cohorts.

"Curried anything lately?" The crowd of cheesily dressed elves sniggered.

She did her best to ignore them and she put on a good show. She wanted to cry, but she was going to see the boss, and refused to show any weaknesses.

She told herself to ignore the brainless tarts. She told herself not to cry, and she didn't. She was very good that way.

They had all heard the stories of her initiation.

The initiation is more like a final exam than anything else is. The initiate performs the list of standard spells; change size, disappear with a spray of light. These were the most basic of skills, to the Færy folk. These were the talents for survival in Pixie society and those who lacked the basics were considered cripples, objects of pity. Peridot did fine with all of that; her spells were strong and sure.

Electives were another matter.

It was the Gaeas of the Pixies to create mischief and disseminate it far and wide. The Pixies carefully developed complex spells (referred to as 'electives') to further this end. One of the more famous, if unusually simple spells concerns candles that cannot be extinguished.

On the other hand, their Gaeas also carried an onus. A Pixie, whose name was known, could be summoned to perform a task. With the proper spell, in this case an incantation, the Pixie could be held until the terms of the task were fulfilled. This was a widely known, relatively simple incantation, and required no magical skill to execute (many talismans had been fashioned, capable of calling the incantation.) Pixies had developed a reputation for being very unpleasant about the arrangement. Most folks would just as soon do without the Pixie, so the spell was primarily used for wagers.

When it came to elective conjuring, Peridot only knew one spell. Other Pixies had a personal repertoire of dozens of mischievous spells; the initiates would show off two or three of their flashiest.

Peridot ran through all the standards without a hitch. When the time came for elective spells, she hesitated a moment. She had practiced. She sought coaching from some of the finest. She practiced some more. All to no avail, the only spell she could do was the Cilantro.

So, she did it.

The audience laughed. They guffawed. They cackled, snorted, chortled, roared, snickered, sniggered and tittered.

Her pretty little wings drooped, her face was pale and her eyes were wet. She dreaded the next question.

"Well, that was, er, cute. How 'bout a nice round of applause for ah," the emcee looked at his prompt cards, "Peridot." Indicating her with a sweep of his arm, he then joined in the crowd's ovation.

"What else do you do?" asked the emcee, still chuckling.

"That's, uh, the only one I know," Her face was flushed and warm. Her wings vibrated nervously. The crowd was completely silent for a minute; a very long minute.

As is the way with large clumps of people, the crowd sensed her weak spot, read the nervous flitter of her wings, the hesitation in her speech. The laughter began anew. This was not the lighthearted frivolity of just moments before. This laughter carried a derisive edge. It was filled with catcalls and comments like; 'cilantro girl', 'one trick pixie', and so on.

Dot's expression changed after a few moments of crowd noise. She pursed her lips, tight and thin, her wings drooped further. Her eyes squinted narrowly.

She was laughed out of town.

For a few days, she wandered, feeling angry and sorry for herself. She settled in a glade by the river. She enlisted the help of several neighborhood beavers and a pair of woodpeckers to construct a tree house. They were all puzzled by her ability to converse fluently in their speech, and word spread through the local bestiary.

A late night visit to Centerville restored her few prized possessions.

She determined she would not go back, until she had learned real magic.

Through some oversight, no one had told her that Pixies could only maintain one species of animal, as a familiar to talk with. She always thought that everyone could speak to every creature they encountered.

She could.

After she had settled in, she was summoned under Gaeas, by Phineas T. She was wary but willing to listen and her services were enlisted. She knew him to be a pretty powerful high mucky-muck. He wanted her to be a spy.

Here's what she didn't know; her spells were being blocked. The Council of Pixies had given permission to Phineas T. to do so, as an Emergency Measure. With the name of the Mayor behind him he explained, that even though no one believed in the legends, it was better to be safe now, than sorry later. And yes, it was too bad about the girl, but these things could be worked out. Some one could take her under their protection and watch out for her.

"We have all that under control, and the Mayor is firmly behind this." He said all these things and more. At the end of it all, the council had voted to intervene, leaving the implementation to Phineas T.

Phineas was the power behind the power of Centerville, everyone knew the Mayor was little more than a mouthpiece. Phineas had his own ideas about right and wrong, his own thoughts on how to fix the world. If he shared them with no one, there was a reason; they would be shocked out of their sensibilities to know what he really thought.

He needed Dot to be a loner, mad at the world, driven and determined. He couldn't use her if she was happy and satisfied, even under the Geas, he needed her cooperation. If she knew she was the most powerful Pixie magician in thirty generations, she might figure a way around the Gaeas. Left to herself, she was a threat; she could make the legend come true.

That wouldn't do at all.

Chapter 2 Contents Chapter 4


With all the excitement, I didn't really choose where to go I defaulted to not being where I was. It had worked out well for me, before.

After all, with a silver space-cowboy melting on the living-room carpet, I felt it wise to do something. Even as I made the blind leap, I was changing my mind. I skated past the Null and Void completely, and slid into an odd left turn. It stirred my memory and made me gasp.

Once again, I felt that tinge of fear, like the gasp that escapes you when you realize your automobile- make that airplane- is no longer responding to the controls. Even so, I knew where that odd left turn would take me. Though I hadn't planned it, it might work out.

To avoid the high-tech Delvers:

      I wanted a place with rudimentary technology, and a small population.

     Some place easy to blend in with the flora and fauna.

     Some place on the other side of the universe.

     Well this would certainly fit the bill.

Then there was the Magic.

I knew that magic, real magic, was lurking around this world somewhere. I am convinced, that I was drawn by it, (or to it) by the convergence of the numerous forces, surrounding my exit from Terra. In other words: it weren't no accident.

I am also convinced there is a spirit in the Universe. Be it a convergence of souls, or an omnipotent being it is there. I have felt it. I am also convinced that it is perverse in the extreme, and probably resides in Bayonne, New Jersey.

More to the point, if my dreams about the silver army could be trusted, (and I suddenly had good reason to believe they could be,) some very nasty things were about to happen, and it was entirely my fault. For all intents and purposes, I led them to Earth, and probably here, as well.

I wasn't having a very good day.

Chapter 2 Contents Chapter 4

Herbert and Doris

At first, I attributed it to a particularly potent strain of pipe-weed, but when the little person spoke to me, I was forced to re-evaluate.

She was a yard high, and sporting the most marvelous set of translucent wings I'd ever seen, (the only wings I'd ever seen, on a person.) She was costumed like a- well she was dressed just like a secretary. Flat shoes and a utilitarian-grey skirt; the grey Cardigan, draped around her shoulders, was fastened with a pearl clasp; eyewear depended from a faux-pearl chain. Her hair was obviously colored and the original, lighter shade was far nicer.

She was floating in mid-air, fluttering her wings, peering into a clearing, through the greenery. The sounds of arms clashing, and muted grunting, could be heard.

I crept up as quietly as I could manage, as one would on a forest creature. As I neared the Fairy, (what would you call her?) I could see into the clearing. In the center of the space, around a dwindling campfire, stood four- well, creatures; I can only describe as elves.

Perhaps it was something about the eyes, I couldn't say for sure, but there was something I could only describe as elfish about the features.

Aside from that, they looked like four members of motorcycle gang.

I froze for a moment, incredulous, as I watched them. They stood in a circle and took turns, bashing the next one in the circle over the head. The used varied weapons, from a lethal-looking mace, to an ordinary-looking chunk of tree stump. They had developed a sort of rhythm.

As I shifted my stance, I trampled a crunchy bit of the forest floor. I looked up at the Fairy.

Without turning her head, she whispered, "Quietly, you big Human lout! They'll be after us if you disturb them."

I didn't know what to say, but I did stop moving. "What are they doing?"

She spoke in a conspiratorial whisper, fluttering closer to me, but still without turning her head. "They are standing in a circle, bashing each other over the head, with blunt objects." She glanced at me, with a puzzled expression, and quickly returned to the show.

"Is that normal?"

"Who's to say what's normal for Elves?" She replied, turning to face me. She was adorable, even with the bad dye job, and the oversized eyeglasses on a chain. Her nose turned up, and was bridged with freckles. The cornflower-blue of her eyes was so alarming; it made me catch my breath. She looked very familiar, I could almost place that impish smile; then it dawned on me.

"Say, aren't you Tink-"

"Doris!" she whispered through clenched teeth. She flitted right in front of my nose and pointed her finger at me. "The name is Doris."

"My mistake, Pleased to meet you Doris, I'm-" She cut me off again.

"Yes, yes. You are the big, clumsy, noisy human who is ruining the show."

"-Herbert -Huh?" Undaunted, I continued," How long have they been doing that?"

"Oh, for hours. Listen," she pinched my ear between her thumb and finger and led me away, "If you insist on babbling, let's do it out of earshot of the candidates" She tugged on my ear, so I followed. She was surprisingly strong.

"Did you say candidates? Candidates for what?" I think I was numb, or in shock, but my curiosity had me. She released my ear and turned to face me.

"Leader of the Elves, the new Elf One. He gets to wear the amulet- and don't ask what amulet. - It's the " Trrg aln' Rog. "

I thought, at first, she had lost her lunch, but apparently, that was the name of the thing. I had questions, but she spoke before I could voice them.

"It's a focus for magic, it uses a tiny fraction of potential magic from every Elf and transfers it to the leader."

"And this is how they decide?"

"Well, it does tend to limit the usual complications. I'm sure they do it differently and surely better, where you come from."

"I don't know about better, and I don't think it's really much different. How long will they go on, like that? Doesn't it hurt?"

"You can't hurt an Elf by hitting him in the head, it just makes them mad. It's the exercise that wears them out. One of them ought to be falling down, pretty soon."

All the time we spoke, the rhythmic clamor of head bashing continued, in the clearing, behind us. Now, the rhythm changed, and after a brief pause, continued with a different meter (sort of a cha-cha).

"One down." explained Doris

I followed her gaze, back to the clearing, where a second Elf was tottering, wobbling to his knees, and then out. The rhythm changed again to a more rudimentary: thunk-grunt, thunk-grunt, thunk-grunt, pause...

And we have a winner! A third Elf toppled to the ground. The remaining Elf, woozy as he was, managed to do a victory dance before dropping to his knees.

"Well, time to go, before the other elves get here, for the celebration." She fluttered in front of me and held her hand out, at arm's length. "No more questions! You are from out-of-town, aren't you?" she flittered up into the air and disappeared with a sprinkle of light and the tinkling of tiny fairy bells.

"It is Tink-" With a sprinkle of light and the tinkling of tiny fairy- well anyway, she popped back in.

"Doris! The name is Doris. Now listen, Herbert-Huh , or whatever your name is, in just a little while a whole bunch of Elves are going to entangle this entire area in an Elven feast. Do you have any idea, what that means?"

"Well, actually, I don't-"

"Of course you don't. Usually the Feast is held in an unsuspecting town. At first, one or two Elves show up, seeming innocuous. Eventually, they swarm in like locusts and over-run the place. The sites often remain abandoned for years, and a good many rodents and small mammals turn up with offspring, out of season. So you had best pop out to whatever other-world you came from-"

"What would you know about other worlds?" It was my turn to interrupt.

"I'll never-never tell." From the smirk on her face, I supposed I missed a private joke. "So just pop back there-"

"When you say 'pop' you mean . . ." I let it dangle, to leave the options for an answer open. I was wondering if she referred to my talent. Did she have it, too?

"You got here from your own world some way, reverse the spell and go back."

We might have been talking about the same thing, but I never found out. Before she could answer me, a mob of unruly Elves stormed into the clearing, from the thicket on the other side.

They thronged around their new (and still wobbly) leader and cheered him by producing squidgey sounds, with their palms, in their armpits.

Doris was just beginning to pop out, when I called her name, to try to stop her. It stopped her, but it was rather loud; it also stopped the Elves.

"Now you've done it." She groaned as she peered over her glasses at me.

It is an odd thing about coincidences, and synchronization, that we would both wait a beat, before using our particular talents. That, because of that timing, we both used our forces at the same time and that, they really weren't compatible.

Of course, I knew none of this at the time; there wasn't time to reason. I only knew that all those Elves were pointing at us, and it was time to go.

I focused on the anchor at home, sidled up to the big blank spot between the fourth and fifth, and slipped through. I remember as the scene shimmered around me, I could see immense dark clouds roiling over my position. Then I was yanked to the side, somewhat, and the jump started to go wrong. This had never happened before, and I was beginning to wonder what it would be like to join with an inanimate object, on a molecular level.

The very last thing I remember is a massive bolt of lightning, sizzling up, out of the ground, through me, to the clouds. Then I woke up on the living room carpet.

I have studiously avoided that place ever since.

Until now.

Chapter 2 Contents Chapter 4

Herbert and Noderick

I met Herbert quite accidentally one day, while I was on an expedition. My quest was for a tree; a Yew tree for the village square's yule log, which is the centerpiece for the Solstice celebration. Solstice Day, the villagers would gather and set the fragrant log afire. My father would scoff and called it "a bastard tradition", and "a hand-me-down from the conquerors."

Mother would usually counter with calming words, and the whole conversation would move on.

It was really just a lark for me, I knew precisely where to find the tree I wanted. When the time came, I would make a fine show of leading the men here to cut it down. If anyone noticed it was not actually of the Yew variety, which were not native here and were therefore, few and far between, they would not mention it. It had been a while since I had taken a quiet walk through my gardens.

More than anything else, it was Maggie Pottrattle's day to go bathing in a clear stream by the River Glen. Technically, it was on our property. I had been internally debating, for some time, whether Maggie knew it was our property and if so, was there any significance in her actions. Maggie and I were no strangers; she has always been marvelously soft and cuddly.

From the edge of the wood, one could just see up the road to the village green. Most of the merchants tended to line the green, with the Smithy and stables farthest on.

Across the road were the fences and fields of old Elias' place. (He wasn't really that old, maybe forty, but he had always been called 'old Elias'.) Elias Pottrattle was Maggie's father, and a friend of the family.

The morning mist was dissipating and the fragrances, in the crisp air, made me hungry. I could envision the cakes, berries and cream, and a great steaming mug of tea, at the Greenway Inn.

Absorbed as I was in my thoughts, I couldn't help but notice a curious, old geezer. He was oddly dressed and seemed to be waving his arms about and swearing rather loudly. Oddly enough, his bouts of profanity seemed to draw lightning, which struck him roundly in the head; although, from my vantage point, it may have worked the other way around.

At one point he threw his strange cap to the ground and stamped on it, until it stopped smoking. He drooped dejectedly, on an outcrop of rock, beside the River glen.

All at once, he leapt to his feet. Recovering his hat, he made a small gesture and a rather confused-looking donkey appeared beside him. He was struck, and knocked flat, by a diminutive bolt of lightning. From his prone position, he slapped his cap on the ground, until the tendrils of smoke disappeared.

To say that I was taken aback, would be a vast understatement.

I watched, for a while, as he yanked and pulled on the ass, to try to get up on its back. He circled the perplexed beast many times, from every imaginable angle. He apparently, coaxed, threatened and then shouted at the donkey. (I heard the shouting and surmised the rest.) 

The animal was having none of it.

He stepped back from the beast and raised his arms, as if to make conjuring gestures. Stopping mid-way, he looked toward the clouds. Then the old fellow slapped the beast on the rump and it bolted.

My breakfast notions forgotten, I watched with glee as the old man tried to recapture the beast. He conjured a rope, and was struck by lightning. The bolt was smaller this time, but it struck him directly on the head.

I still don't believe it and I was there.

The old guy materialized the rope so that he was holding one end, while the other appeared around the donkey's neck. As the rope appeared, a thin spear of lightning impaled his head. He was jerked off his feet and sailed through the air, still holding his end of the rope.

After a good bit of cursing and whoa-ing, the beast tired and stopped dragging the man. Herbert (I didn't know it was him at the time. Well, I knew it was he but I didn't know him was Herbert,) got to his knees, cursing.

The animal walked indolently to the stiles and clopped off down the road. A bemused Herbert trailed behind, holding the slack end of a rope.

All thoughts of Maggie Pottrattle forgotten, I hopped the hedge and followed.



He pulled the donkey by the rope. He wrapped his arms around the donkey's neck. He ran toward the Smithy, turned about face and made plaintive noises:

"Here nice donkey, good boy, come on boy (apparently, the female gender of the animal had escaped his attention)…"

He threw his tattered hat to the ground, while the beast cropped grass.



During the performance, the donkey took a tolerent position. She reasoned that if the human would go through such antics to entertain, the least she could do is hang around to watch.

It had already been a rather perplexing day. One moment she had been feeding at the kiddy rides. Then, without so much as a by-your-leave she was here. Wherever here was.

All things considered, he was a fairly apt performer; that bit with the rope was especially impressive. She just couldn't repress an urge to snigger and huff when he jumped up and down on his hat.

She was about to turn loose with a really good bray, when she was caught up short. The comical person was attempting a gross indignity on her person. He was pushing her, from behind. She had just the remedy for that, starting with a quick flip of her tail.



He went around behind the animal and, shoulder to rump, began to push. The donkey looked momentarily bemused. She recovered gracefully and slapped him full in the face with her tail, sending the remnants of his cap flying, in the process. He barely ducked out of the way, as she began to relieve herself on the green.

He slumped by the big elm, apparently resigned to out-wait the beast.

From my position on the road, I couldn't hear much, but it was marvelous just the same. I was beginning to wonder if I should hang back a bit longer, so as not to come up and pass them by.

Herbert got slowly to his feet. The animal shied slightly, gave him a suspicious glance, and walked obediently behind Herbert, to the Smithy.

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When he accosted me, I was already pretty jumpy from the events of the last few days. I was trying to keep a low profile while I figured this place out.

My first thought was to zap him into the fourth Dimension. However, my abilities to zap anything anywhere were seriously in doubt. I was unable to see my point of origin; it was obscured in an unknown way.

It reminded me of the old trick where you hold your hand in front of one eye and you seem to see through the hand. Only parts of the visual information get to each eye and your brain interprets it as best it can.

Only, that's not good enough for zapping purposes, I need to see clearly or wind up joining molecules with something. Besides which, I had a sneaking suspicion every zap was traceable. They followed me to my apartment easily enough, why not here?

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"Lovely morning, isn't it, sir?" I directed a light courtesy at the scraggly mage. I was trying not to alarm him. Wizards and the like can be a treacherous lot, that's fairly common knowledge. Though this one looked harmless enough, I felt it was best not to take chances.

He jumped about a foot.

"My name is Noderick McDonogh, at your service," I offered a second, slightly grander bow.

"Eh, oh yes. Herbert." He stuttered, holding his hand out in an odd fashion. I surmised the gesture was some kind of greeting ritual. He dropped his hand to his side, uneasily.

Using my politest English, I asked him, "I've been for a brisk walk, and my appetite is stirring. What say you, join me at the Greenway, in breaking my fast? I know the innkeeper and his larder, well." Patting my tummy, I chuckled at my own jest, indicating the establishment with a wave.

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I was stuck here. Well, not stuck perhaps, but I was like a man in the dark at the top of a long flight of stairs. I could zap back to Earth any time I wanted, I just couldn't "see" where I was going. I was willing to take that first step, but as I stretched out my toe I encountered empty air. Likewise, zapping things was sporadic at best, and I could never tell when there would be a clear spot in the interference.

Besides, there was a side-effect to the interference, at least I think they were related, It seems that every time I zapped something, I became a lightening rod.

As I said, my first thought was to zap him into the fourth Dimension.

I always do my best to avoid people when I'm traveling. My first few run-ins with culture shock, made me very cautious. I wasn't sure what country I was in, (I thought perhaps England or Scotland, if I was on Terra) I could have been anywhere, really.

All my contingency, emergency plans, were based on the premise that I could always get home. It was simplicity, itself. I had always got home, before.

I don't know why I never thought of this.

I was really stuck because I had no money. I was in the habit of zapping whatever I needed after I planted an anchor. I cast around for a bit, to see if I could home in on anything, anywhere.

After some thought (and swearing and temper tantrums; I never said I was a good sport) I came up with a plan. One of the contacts I had some luck with was a horse, of all things. The other was a convenience store in Weehawken, N.J. I zapped a Burrito, a flashlight, a pack of cigarettes, and twelve lighters.

If, and this was a big if, that was a village I could almost see in the distance, they would have a smithy or a hostler. If I could zap the horse to me, I could sell it for local coin. And if the interference was temporary, I could wait it out.

That was a lot of ifs.

Well, the horse turned out to be a mule. A balky, ill-mannered one at that. We had some difficulty but, with my superior intelligence and skill, I overcame it. After some negotiation with the hostler, I determined to scout the area, and figure out where I was.

The coins were roughly struck, with variously shaped holes in the center. One bore the likeness of a man and, "Terrance Rex" engraved on it.

"Terrance. King Terrance?" The Latin didn't really surprise me, the Hostler spoke a colloquial English. History was not my forte, but surely I would have remembered a king named Terrance.

The coins would buy me some time. Now I needed a hide-out until the inter-dimensional static cleared. Maybe it was sunspots.

I was puzzling over this when the bumpkin approached me, startling me out of my wits. I was almost cross with him but, he was very polite and seemed harmless enough. Maybe I could pump him for information. Besides a free meal was at stake.

"Lead on good sir, I cannot refuse your kind offer." I followed him to the inn.

Three things were puzzling me, though;

  1. What process got me to zap to this place, where my talents didn't work?
    1. Was it accidental, or sub-conscious desire?
    2. Did the silver spacemen have anything to do with it?
    3. Were they blocking my talent or was something in this place doing it?
    4. Was there some magic here I could use against the silver guys?
  2. Did they have Books?
    1. I would need to find a church, school, or library.
  3. Terrance?

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"Are you a sorcerer?" I whispered, from behind my mug of tea.

Herbert choked on the biscuit he was munching. He was stalling for time. His eyes darted to the two exits evident; he looked for a third.

"A what?" He spluttered, nervously loud.

"Not to worry, friend Herbert," I spoke much more quietly, "'tis best not to speak too loudly of these things. Your secret is safe with me." I did my best to deliver a warm, friendly smile.

"Are you a sorcerer, a magician, you know?"

"A wizard?" His eyes glinted with mirth. "I've never thought of it that way, but yes, you could say that. Hey!"

He was getting a bit loud again. I put my finger to my lips.

"Imagine me, a wizard." He said more softly. His eyebrows twitched as he smiled.

"I know quite a few in the profession. I provide items necessary to conjuration." I nodded my head sagely.

"You mean to tell me you know wizards, personally. People who perform magic?" He leaned closer to me.

"Well, in a manner of speaking. I've never actually seen very many of them perform any magic. But they buy ingredients from me." It even sounded lame to me.

Herbert and I walked toward the house. It was a good two miles and I was worried that he might tire. When the Village was serenely at our backs I spoke to him.

"Are you from around here, Master Herbert?"

He scrunched his eyes up in a peculiar way. It almost seemed as if he were trying on the sound of that, "Master Herbert", but he quickly dismissed it.

"No I come from a very long way off, no place you've ever heard of. Call me Herbert."

" Well, I haven't traveled much but I have read a lot." I felt a little smug, as not everyone can read. It didn't seem to impress Herbert much, though.

"I couldn't even explain how to get there from... did you say read ?" His voice went up a full octave, and his craggy brow twitched. He was scaring me.

Understand that this is the first time I met him, he was a stranger to me and a wizard. The only magical people I ever met were like Galleas, and they were relatives (I think).

Their magic was different than Herbert's. They couldn't generate the same awe, I guess, as a stranger could. For instance, the only spell I'd ever seen Galleas do was what he called Fairy Dust. There was no mumbo-jumbo or theatrics involved, Galleas would snap his fingers over ones' head, the air would fill with sparkles and the scent of honeysuckles and your whole body filled with tingles enough to make anyone smile.

I answered him warily, "Yes, I said read ." I was proud of the fact that I could read and write (though my spelling left something to be desired.)

"As in books?"

"Yes, books. Father even has some ancient scrolls and mother has volumes about magic. I've read every book in the library, some twice."

"Library. Library, he says." Herbert giggled to himself and muttered something under his breath. "Where would we find this library of yours?"

"At my cottage, we're headed there now."

Herbert giggled again, and I surreptitiously moved a step away.

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Morning was creeping across the sky, awakening the birds, warming the tree tops and generally making a nuisance of itself. I resisted the urge to go back to sleep, and rolled over on my belly.

"MMPH! Mmmm-mmm mmmph!"

The tiny voice was familiar; even in mumbles, it carried a well-honed sarcastic edge. I felt a poking on my chest. I rolled to my side with exaggerated care.

There on the ground, was a very flat fairy. Her wings were splayed out, stuck to one of the Broadleaves I had used, in lieu of a ground cloth. Only her eyes were moving, and they shone with such anger, I hesitated for a moment. I picked up the leaf to which she was attached and carefully, slid her onto the ground.

She puffed up her cheeks and clamped her lips shut. (Ever see a little kid hold their breath until they turned blue?) Slowly, the rest of her filled out.

"What did you do that for? " She stood with her hands on her hips, burring her wing tips in ire.

"Well, I didn't do it on purpose."

"Oh, well then, that makes everything all right. As long as it was an accident." She let it trail off. She had the most caustic and condescending manner at times. Granted, I had inadvertently smished her flat, but it was an accident. She should be more careful where she sleeps.

For a moment, I thought about re-squishing her.

"What were you doing over here anyway?" She had started the night with a tirade on sleeping arrangements and how I shouldn't try anything perverted during the night.

"Well," she blushed, "I got cold."

Something suspiciously like a grin spread over my face. I knew what I was thinking, and I knew I must be delirious for thinking it. For a moment, though, I let the thought of it, warm my senses.

Cold, my eye.

I didn't say anything, but I poked at the fire dreamily and grinned like an idiot.

"Oh, get a life." There was such a note of vehemence in her voice that, even though it stung, I felt I must be on to something. Despite her caustic front, the little Fairy, er Pixie, really liked me.

"Hey bonehead! You gonna stare at that squirrel all day?"

I blinked and refocused my eyes. A large gray squirrel blinked back at me. With a fit of squirrel chatter, it scampered up the tree.

"Same to you, tree-rat!" Called Dot, apparently at the squirrel.

If I live to be a thousand ....

We broke camp and resumed our journey. Dot swooped to the tree tops occasionally, to scout for bees. We didn't say much; I was still a little hurt by the diligence of her rebukes; a little smug from her snuggling up to me to sleep.

After a couple of mean spirited remarks from her, the smugness was wearing off. I recognized that any warm body might have worked for her, last night. Maybe it was just the cold after all. More importantly, why should I care what the diminutive demoness thought? I'd have to be a fool to get involved with one of the Færy. Especially one like this.

I tried to look cheerful but, from the satisfied smirk on her face, I guessed I looked pretty grim.

Our path led to a diversion in the river. The water branched off to the Southeast in a great, deep channel. About half a mile on, it spilled into a calm lake. A grassy causeway linked the shore to a dot of land.

"We need to cross the River." she said succinctly.

"I could think of better places to cross," I hooked my thumb at the churning confluence.

Dot clucked her tongue and flitted up to tree top level. She hollered, as she fluttered down, "No, this is the place."

I wondered what she meant by that. I was about to ask her, when she started instructions. Mercy, what a pushy Pixie.

"You climb a tree and cut one of the longer vines loose, then I can fly it across to the other bank. I'll secure it to a tree and you can walk across." As if she had said, eat an apple or blow your nose.

"Walk across that," I pointed at the raging torrent beside us, "on a vine?" It was at least two-hundred feet to the western shore. The River was quick and cold, it looked very deep.

Dot assumed a scornful look, "Don't tell me your scared."

"Damn straight I'm scared," and I was tired of being in the River. I had just got all the way dry.

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Herbert and Noderick

We cut off the road and followed the river glen for some distance. It was the easiest way to avoid the 'private' gardens, where I brought no one. There were many routes to and from the house. Despite my misgivings, I wanted it to be easy for Herbert to find me. This was the easiest route to follow because it was well marked.

Some of the path near the edge of the glen, was flagged with stone and curbed. The curbs were to prevent erosion and catch wayward wagon wheels. Other parts grew to a ten foot wide lawn, which remains well manicured to this day, though I've no idea how. I've never trimmed it nor has father (unless he did so in secret.)

I did not mention this to Herbert and he seemed unimpressed with the hike. I pressed him for information.

"Do all wizards dress like that in your country?" His jacket may have been animal hide, though from which animal I couldn't say. Beneath it, he wore what looked to be underclothes, perhaps a nightshirt. His blue trousers were tattered and worn, like the rest of his clothes. His head was covered with an oddly shaped cap of some kind. It looked like a tam, with a visor attached. It was more than small talk. If I could make him nostalgic, he might tell me more about his home.

"Listen I'm not a wizard. There are no wizards were I come from. No magic at all."

"Conjurer?" I pushed the issue, as I harbored the notion that I might learn some magic.

"No, no. It's not like that at all. What you saw me do wasn't magic it was-" He looked stumped, his jaw hung loose. Herbert held his hand out, palm up; as if he were waiting to catch the answer, falling from the sky. His whiskers danced to the silent workings of his mouth. No answer was forthcoming.

"Whatever it was, it sure looked like magic to me." I decided to close the subject until we got home. Maybe a stout malt whiskey would loosen his tongue.

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the River

The breeze that blew down the middle of the River valley was cool enough, for a summers day, but I was still sweating profusely. The vine was stretching and wobbling. The breeze was blowing my cloak (no, I didn't think to remove it) and sabotaging my balance.

Dot was flitting back and forth around me, shouting instructions and being as big a nuisance as possible.

I halted my heel-to-toe progress, just to tell her to go to the other bank and wait for me. The wind caught my cloak and blew it around my face. No amount of arm waving was going to save me. I knew this even as I thrashed about, windmill fashion, to try to stay on the vine.

I did manage to catch a hand hold on the vine, as I headed for the drink. The vine stretched enough to thoroughly drench me, and bang my nose on a rock.

I came up sputtering blood and water, still clinging to the vine. I bobbed up and down into the water, about thigh deep, while my nose dripped warm blood down to my chin.

I couldn't hear at first, but I could see Dot convulsed in mid-air, wings frantically fluttering. I thought she was hurt until the water drained out of my ears.

She was laughing. Not the sarcastic, little snicker I was use to hearing; this was full blown helpless laughter. Apparently, she saw my plight as high comedy. It was the first time I heard her laugh without restraint.

"I don't think it's that funny." I said, dripping and bleeding. My hair was plastered over my face, the cloak was caught in the current and dragging me from the vine.

I was just imagining how things couldn't possibly get worse, (something I've learned not to do, anymore) when the vine stopped stretching and pulled me up short, with a twang. Even Dot was hushed in surprise.

Over the sound of the River, we heard it. Dot swiveled in mid-air (it's really, rather a marvelous maneuver, if I had have had time to appreciate it.) I looked up from the water, dripping and bleeding.

Just above the trees, upstream, a small gray cloud was roiling and buzzing.

Fortunately, I was already thinking, "Uh, oh.", as the vine snapped and launched me down the River.

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river guide

"Watch out for the..."


"...rock." Dot said. She was flying above me as I bobbed helplessly down the River, shouting instructions and occasionally, bursting into unbridled mirth.

"Get your head out of the water, try the backstroke." She giggled.

I was going to reply with a real zinger, as soon as I thought of one and dried it out.

A stray tree limb was scratching at the surface of the water. It snatched me up by the cloak (which was now wrapped around my legs) and out of the water, upside-down.

Dot hung, convulsed, in the air in front of me. Her face was red, she was gasping for air, but she couldn't stop laughing.

I had the distinct impression that Dot insisted on us crossing the river here, to exact retribution for her drenching. I said nothing. I just dripped and bled, which is even less pleasant inverted. I was actually counting to ten, when I noticed that my handkerchief, was dripping out of my pocket.

"Wouldn't hurt a fly", describes me in most situations. I am a peaceful, forgiving person by nature. My next thought may have been affected by the blood rushing to, and out of, my head. For what it's worth, it was a tense and confusing situation. Though my legs were tangled, my hands were free, so I twisted the wet cloth and took careful aim.

The thwacking sound was immensely satisfying, which is not to take anything away from the vision of Dot shooting through the air above the River, holding her cute little bottom in her hands.

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Herbert and Nod

Herbert didn't want food or drink or a bath, and he needed the bath. He just wanted to see the library. I obliged him. Throwing open the double doors, I stepped back to allow him through.

He gasped as he entered, "My God, there must be thousands of them." He turned slowly, to view the tiers of books.

"Three-thousand-six-hundred-seventy-three." The library was circular and three stories high. The first floor was below ground level, though not properly a cellar. Below that was a sub-cellar but, entry was such a convoluted affair, that we rarely used it for anything but storage. The two upper stories, and the loft at the top, held racks of books. The remainder of the top floor held a large telescope mounted on a gimbaled ring.

Father and I had spent many hours up there, looking through the glass, reading or talking or playing King's Men 'til the wee hours.

"Better get some sandwiches. It's gonna be a long night." Herbert grinned at me and rubbed his hands together.

"What?" I'd never heard of a sand witch, and I wasn't sure I wanted one in my house.

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The scene was becoming familiar: The campfire, my drying clothing, her drying rummage sale. Some black miracle of coincidence had brought us back the squashed hat, via the River.

She had propped it up on twigs by the fire. We gathered some wild cabbages, I stuffed them with raspberries and we baked them in the embers.

"God's this is awful." Dot said with a sour face.

For once, I totally agreed with her. Not only did it taste terrible, it was hard to eat.

"Do you have anything better to eat? Maybe some cilantro would help?"

I was sorry as soon as I said it.

Her eyes narrowed, her lips thinned and tightened. She stood, balling her fists and un-balling them (unconsciously, I think.) Her wings made that little buzzing sound, and I knew I had just begun to be sorry.

She surprised me, though; she turned silently and walked away, toward the River. She didn't even sniff derisively as she left (I had grown fond of that ridiculous mannerism.)

As the sun was setting, I went to her, where she sat on the bank.

"Can't you leave me alone?" The frozen tone of her voice sent a shiver up my neck. She turned away from me. "Just go away." Despite the anger of her tone, she seemed a soul in torment.

"Actually, I came to apologize. That was a terrible thing to say, and I'm very sorry." I did my best to sound contrite and sincere. I don't think she noticed.

I sat down gently beside her, on the river bank. Her demeanor was child-like and sad. Something more than the unkind words I uttered, was bothering her.

"Are you very angry with me?" My voice didn't quaver, I sounded in firm control of my thoughts. I felt like I had just kicked an innocent puppy.

"I'm furious." She wouldn't look at me. She turned her head so I couldn't see her face.

"Listen, Dot," I knew she wouldn't, "I like you and I like your company. You are a good scout and funny, too." I reached out my forefinger and hesitantly rubbed between her shoulder blades, where her wings met. She arched her back a bit. If she was born a cat, she would have purred.

"You like me? But I thought you, I mean, you acted as though you, I mean," she twisted to look at me, "I don't know what I mean. But, if you really want me to stay," she twisted back, hiding her face, "I will."

For a while, It had been visible in her eyes; I could see right through the facade, for a moment. Inside was a very sweet soul, afraid, but longing to come out and play.

"I want you to be my friend, It's very important to me that we remain friends. More important than winning an argument or anything else." I realized I was serious when I saw a hint of hopeful acceptance in her face.

She took my finger in her hands and rose to her feet. The innocent, guileless look was draining from her face, but I think she meant it when she said, "I think you're very sweet." She took my face between her little hands and kissed me.

It was a chilly night and the fire was melting to embers. I put a log on each end of the fire, so it wouldn't go all the way out. I made a bed of fresh grass and Broadleaves. My mostly dry pack, I used as a pillow, my cloak as a blanket.

Dot wrapped herself in my handkerchief and a Broadleaf and curled up on a tuft of moss. I watched as she struggled to keep her toes under the leaf.

"Ah, Dot?" I waited for her to answer.

"What?" She said impatiently.

"Why don't you sleep here." I raised the cloak a bit, "It'll be warmer for both of us."

She took pains to let me know what a pain in the ass it was, but she came. She crawled in with her back to me, wings flattened.

"Now don't roll over on me you big oaf," she snuggled a little closer as she said it.

"Why don't you grow?" I asked, enjoying her soft fragrance.

"It wouldn't last the whole night, just until I was fast asleep. Then I'd go back to my regular size." She rolled over and put her head in the crook of my arm and smiled. It looked like a spasm of pain, it must have been difficult for her, but it was a smile.

She closed her eyes for a moment. "No funny stuff?" she said, peering at me through one eye.

"No funny stuff." I laughed at the thought of it. She closed her eye. My laughter stopped instantly.

One moment I was sharing a bed with a fourteen inch Pixie, The next moment I was with a full grown woman.

There was nothing but a handkerchief between her and me.

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Chapters ...1 ...2 ...3 ...4 ...5 ...6 ...7 ...8 ...9 ...10 ...11 ...12 ...13 ...14 ...15 ...16 ...17 ...18 ...19 ...20 ...Contents

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