The Science Of Magic

Chapter 5


Tiela was miserably cute. ("no, that isn't right," she thought.)

Tiela was cutely miserable ("That isn't much better.")

Tiela's cute little face was shadowed by misery. ("That's got it," she congratulated herself)

Hanna watched her perform. Tiela didn't like flying unless she was under her own power. She lay in the bottom of the basket, fluttering her little wings, morosely.

"Gods! What am I doing on a big, flying bunny?" Hanna said out loud.

"Looking for the Scepter of the Rog?" entreated Tiela, wiping away a crystal tear.

"That was a rhetorical question." Hanna started out perturbed, but smiled when she saw the innocent cuteness.

"Hanna! What a potty-mouth. Ayway, what would the Druids think?" Tiela's eyes sparkled with amusement. She could always make Hanna laugh, no matter how serious she was feeling. It was a gift.

Hanna did laugh; a clear, piping laugh, like a waterfall. The worry lines disappeared from her face. Tiela bit her bottom lip and laughed with her.

Soon they were back on the same wavelength, and holding hands.

"I don't believe there is a Scepter of the Rog. It's a myth, a legend. A fairy tale." Hanna stopped short, Tiela had already started giggling, and her laughter grew into an uncontrollable burst of mirth that had her holding her sides. Hanna joined in and they hugged for a while.

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Back door

The Inn's back door faced the southwest turning of the crossroads. Natali was leading me by the hand and I was loving it, even though, I was sick and scared shitless.

She pulled back on my hand and I stopped. I turned back to the inn, looking for Jean-Pierre. We stepped back, under the trailing branches of a willow.

"Are you hurt?" She wrinkled her brow and grabbed my cheeks (er- face) in her palms. Natali smiled; all the Angels observed a moment of reverent silence.

Being a seasoned traveler and man of the world, I responded accordingly.

"Ah, I'm O.K." I blushed and kicked my instep. She pulled my face closer to hers and kissed me.

With an ease that comes of long experience, I put my arms around her and fainted.

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"Just watch the coin and listen to my voice." He was sure she was out but, just to make sure, he had Lotho repeat the lines for the trance spell. Oily smoke rolled from the embers of the brazier.

"Tell me what happened at the Inn." Phineas had his own, reliable, sources of information about that incident. He was especially interested to see what the Pixie would say.

"It's a spell I learned off-world, some years ago." He explained to his guest, who was encapsulated in crimson armor. It was, in fact, not a spell, but a trick. Had it required magic, Phineas would have been at a loss to perform it.

The trick was difficult to learn, and tricky to initiate, but he had been working on Peridot, for some time. He learned it at great cost: the life of the warlock that taught it to him.

He first brought her in under the Wagerers‘ Gaeas, which required no magical ability to perform. Pixies had a tendency to prevaricate, fabricate, mislead, misconstrue, beguile, falsify, deceive, dissemble, cheat, hoodwink, dupe, delude, and lie about anything, whenever possible. Because of this, the legend goes, the Wagerers‘ Geas was placed upon them. One need not have much magical talent; uttering the spell caused it to activate. The Pixie thus called would be forced to carry out a single favor. It had become a favorite among gambler's, who usually had the victim hold the wagers, and hence, judge the bet.

He could not operate even this simple non-spell. Phineas had one of his underlings perform the spell, the late, lamented Harvey. Harvey had graciously remained alive long enough for Phineas to perform his own trick, and bring Peridot under his sway.

Dot was squirming inside, though outwardly she showed no sign of conflict. Whether it was her own constitution or the trance that elicited this was not entirely clear. She could hear herself speaking, even as she strove for silence. Besides her own bloody-mindedness, she knew what she witnessed at the Inn would get Nod killed, or worse.

Even as she spoke, she knew she would not remember this, though it would irritate her memory for days to come.

As hard as she fought, she could not stop the torrential narrative.

She wasn't sure why it mattered to her.

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The Scepter

If there's no scepter, what are we doing on this rabbit?" Tiela stood with her arms folded (cutely, of course) across her chest.

"It's just a way to get us out of their hair until the council vote is over. We embarrass them."

"That's it. I'm resigning my commission in the Force as soon as we get back."

Hanna did not say what she was thinking, we're not supposed to come back. Hanna would make the best of it. If she had to be exiled, she wanted Tiela by her side. She looked over the side while swallowing the lump in her throat. Tiela was fiercely loyal and loving; Hanna would not let anything bad happen to her, if she could help it.

"Damn that Phineas, anyway," she thought, "I can see his sneaky hand in all this. If I ever have the chance, I'll root him in a pasture and turn him into clover!"

"Tiela, look!" exclaimed Hanna, pointing to the ground, "It's the Glen- We're here."

The great fuzzy brute banked and circled toward the ground. The walls of a great gorge rose up to meet them. The rock was black and red. The gorge ended in towering cliffs that thrust sharply from the lower ground, moved in some forgotten era by the massive forces below.

On the brink of the cliff, loomed the frighteningly large silhouette of castle.

"Hanna, the bunny just closed his eyes."

"He what?" Hanna had been watching the scenery, trying to figure out what they would do once the rabbit left.

"He closed his eyes. How's he gonna land with his eyes closed?" She burred her little wings in frustration, while peering over the edge of the basket.

As if in answer to her question, the F.Lop pulled up into a flat stall and dropped to the ground, with a bone-jarring thud.

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Nod: The problem with relationships

Beneath half of me were rocks and twigs, thorns and acorns, bugs, slugs, and one particularly nasty creature, poking about my still-sleeping posterior. It was dreadfully cold and soggy, and somewhat unfriendly.

My head was cradled by a warm, soft cushion, undulating, as it caressed me. The motion carried my head into a large bush and back. The bush was endeavouring to remove my brain through my left nostril. Several murky thoughts slipped through my awareness, as my head moved inexorably into the bush and back . . . to the bush . . . and back.

I decided I must completely open my eyes, before I could drift back to sleep. I had gotten so use to sleeping on rocks, in trees, under the water, that I took no thought at my odd situation.

Summoning all my reserves of fortitude, I went back to sleep.

I awakened, though I was still rather dizzy, to Natali's face. Even through my delirium, I could see her lips, slightly parted, were just a stretch of the neck from mine.

She was a Damsel I had saved from distress, after all, and these things had their little customs. I was a Hero. Though there was some basic fallacy in the logic, I couldn't quite place it. My head muddled, sick and dizzy, every joint in my body was aching- I guess I can be forgiven.

Hey! Had I saved a damsel in distress? There was something else too, maybe just a dream, about blue flames or- perhaps a bit of a nap would refresh my memory.

Natali's breathing made me aware of her proximity. Not only that, but I was inches away from receiving my justly deserved reward.

If only I could get a little closer, just a tad....

Two things happened at once; I realized I had just stuck my neck out MUCH too far, and someone had a VERY firm hold on my groin area.

"EEP!?" I queried, sitting up very straight. I think the branch scratched my brain

"I wouldn't bother with the eh," she pursed her lips in a kissy-face and shook her head back and forth, "no, that sort of custom has gone out. On top of which you reek of ale and that God awful stew and," she paused to sniff, "...sweat socks?" She shook her head again, as at a recalcitrant child.

"Stringewart, it's Stringewart nectar." I had grown accustomed to the odor, "Is there somewhere I can wash?"

"We'll have you in the River, soon enough"

There was something unsettling about the way she said that.

"So I think we should go with the times, don't you? Bob? Rob? What was your name?" She squeezed a little harder, for emphasis.

I was trying to say `Nod,' but between the branch in my face and her hand on my er, well, it came out sounding like, "fnog, EEP!"

"All right then `dog heap' up!"

I really didn't think she could squeeze any harder, but I was wrong.

Oh, EEP, was I wrong.

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Ach! You little vons are so naive, Dey don' mean for you to find dis ding. My flight plan vas for only von vay. After dat, I'm retired."

After the initial shock of hearing the bunny speak, the girls looked at each other, then back to the bunny.

"You can talk!" Tiela said in surprise.

"Of course." replied the bunny.

"But why didn't you say something?"

"I just didt."

"No, I mean before now. You didn't say a word throughout the whole trip." Tiela was a little on the huffy side.

"Vat vas dere to say?" As much as a rabbit could, it shrugged its shoulders.

"I'm supposed to leaf you here, on der other side of der Glen, and return alone. Dey don' mean for you to get back."

Hanna watched her, knew where it was going and waited for the tears. Tiela turned to her for a hug, which she got. Hanna turned to the rabbit and said,

"Oh you and your big mouth."

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Phineas T. did have his problems. Life was not a keg of herring for him. He was not always in control.

Right now, for instance. He was outside of a public house, sprawled on the ground, singing bawdy limericks at the top of his lungs. In one hand he held a flask of porter, in the other he held:

"Sh-sh-omething," mouthed Phineas? He sat up, holding out his hand and trying to focus on it. As he brought it closer to his face, he tipped over backwards. He lost his train of thought, as he hit the ground.

He often visited the pubs late in the evening, when all were in their cups. Then he would play tricks on the patrons. It's a tradition.

"Say now, where'd you come from, eh?" The patron at the bar said, poking the little guy in the belly.

"Who, me? I'm a figment of your imagination," Phineas curled his lip in what could have been mistaken for a smile. "I think you should buy us a glass of porter," he said over the rim of the flagon of ale.

Phineas stood atop the bar. He was dressed like a Yuppie editor, (except for the porkpie hat, loud suspenders and two-day stubble.) He held the stub of a cigar clenched in his teeth.

"Oh, is that a fact?" The patron offered in a thick brogue.

"Sure, and it is," replied Phineas, in an equally thick brogue.

"And why, for the love a Mike, would I be buyin' a round for one of the wee people."

"Well, 'tis the polite thing to do; that it is. And if that's not enough reason for ye-" Phineas clutched his amulet, and pointed to a spot above the drunk's head. A spot where he had just made a well-used chamber pot appear. The patron peered upward, without moving his head.

"I might just as easily brought it in t'other way around." Phineas smiled again.

"Well, then; you've got a point there, no doubt about it. After all, what's right is right. Barkeep, a glass of your finest porter for my wee friend," The man smiled and dug for a coin.

Five or six amazed drunks later, Phineas was one pixilated Pixie. Flat on his back, on the dusty road to Dellbury, he decided to stop singing. He stopped singing and howled like a Banshee.

Every time he got this way, he always wound up thinking the same thing; "Cats. I hate cats."

And, it had nothing to do with the legend of the Queen of Cats, thank you, Tinker-Doris. (A pix on that crazy pooxie, pox on that poox- drat!) Ever since the incident with the Dellbury cats, he suspected that Dellbury was their Headquarters.

"A Cat-spiricy of frightening proprpro--porprop--porporoti- big, very big.." He pontificated, tossing his head from side to side.

"A scourge upon the earth, that's what." He reeled to his feet and stood tottering for a moment.

Shaking his fist in the air, (apparently, at any cats in the vicinity,) He determined, "I'll not rest 'til they've all been destroyed!"

He pulled down his porkpie hat, hitched up his trousers, and wobbled off down the street, calling:

"Here kitty, kitty. Nice puss, Here kitty."

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"What shall we do with him? The sleep potion will be wearing off tout d'suite, ne c‘pas?"

I could hear Jeanne-Pierre's voice and recognize it as such. Mostly, the bad French accent gave it away. If he was a Frenchman, I was a hoot owl. Lying in the dark, cold, wet and uncomfortable-ness, I imagined he was here to rescue me, again.

First, I had to remember where here was and how in the Hells I got here. Wherever it was.

My brain was numb and sleepy, groggily coming back to life. My rear end was also pretty numb; from the cold, I thought. My legs felt puffy and distant, but I could feel something tight around my ankles. I didn't want to move, and for the moment, that was a good thing. I couldn't have if I had wanted to. My wrists were tied under my cloak, the hood of which partly covered my eyes. There was a twig in my nose. Luckily, it was no longer attached to the bush.

"Drag him to the River and throw him in while he's still asleep. Fish food."

That was definitely Natali's voice, I'd (big sigh) know it anywhere. It had a very different tone to it than I remember.

"But, what about the spell, mon choux?" Jeanne-Pierre again, "We may have need of his magic talents. It seems a shame to waste a perfectly good magician."

"Magician!? He wouldn't know a spell if it bit him on the face." The laughter that followed could politely be described as depraved.

"And the witch wasn't a witch, eh? We watched him work that flame spell, -"

"Pure coincidence." She cut him off, "From what we've found out about this place, there are no humans with real magic. Even that witch, she was wearing an amulet or a charm, and so was Fnog." She made a rude noise.

"Which we never found. And that's Nod, I believe." He interrupted right back.

"He discarded it, or the charm disappears after use."

"He wore no amulet."

"Atta boy Jeanne-Pierre, That's the way to tell her." I thought.

What am I saying? Did I do magic?

The thought truly puzzled me. I was always fascinated by magic. When I was small, I remember Mother and Dad arguing about magic often, and something about "showing off in front of the locals."

Maybe I was finally beginning to understand that argument.

I did magic. Without any help. Just little old me. Magic.

Now, if only I knew how I did it.

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"Vell, I'm not so goodt in a fight. Undt I don't climb eider." Said the Rabbit.

"Huh ?" answered Tiela.

"He can't fight or climb." Translated Hanna. Looking at Tiela, she asked, "Have you ever seen a ferocious bunny?"

"Not that I remember."

"Zo. You zee, I vouldn't be much help to you two." He proffered a sad-bunny look, for their edification.

"You could fly us to the castle" Hanna pointed up the promontory.

"Or just come along for company. It won't come to fighting or running."

"Besides," said Tiela, in a bashfully cute way, "we kinda like you, don't we Hanna?"

Hanna nodded in agreement.

"Vell, you don't vant to go to dat nasty old castle. Notting but spiders and old stones. Not goot for der little Pixies."

"Well actually, I'm a Fairy and she's a Dryad. The differences-"

Hanna cut her off, "Don't be insensitive, Tiela. Master, uh, what did you say your name was?"

"I didn't."

"Oh, What should we call you?" Hanna gently inquired.

"Ah, vell; mine friends call me Spike." The rabbit said, looking between the two girls.

"Spike?" they said in two part harmony. It didn't sound much like a rabbit name.

"Spike?" echoed Tiela, sotto vocce.

"Tiela, if the nice bunny rabbit says his name is Spike, we must take him at his word."

"Spike." Affirmed the bunny.

Tiela eyed him suspiciously, "I'm Tiela and this is my friend, Hanna." She made a cute, quick curtsy, as Hanna performed a more elegant one.

"Pleased to meet you." Spike twitched his whiskers in salute.

"Would you like to join us?" Said Tiela.

"Take us to the castle?" Hanna pointed.

"Very vell, But first ve must should eat someding. Ist too far to go on an empty belly. Up in der basket, dere; you look for food."

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I lay on the damp ground, pretending to be unconscious. I was listening to Natali and Jeanne-Pierre in a heated discussion. They couldn't decide how to kill me.

Natali was all for leaving me trussed up and "hurling his (that is my) scrawny ass in the River." Jeanne-Pierre wanted to do it quickly, with a long knife that I could just see by peering from under the hood of my cloak.

Jeanne-Pierre made one last try for keeping me alive, "We could wait until he awakens and pretend we've just found him. We could say we searched for him and came to his rescue." You got my vote J.P.

"He won't exactly awaken." That caught my attention.

"You were supposed to give him a sleeping potion. You didn't give him the-"

"I did, too."

 Give him the what? Give him the what? I thought, frantically

They continued to argue as the sun was sliding down the walls of the world, I wished for a more active role in my fate, but I knew I was going to pass out again. Just before the lights went out, a small pungent bundle of green appeared, in front of my face. I was bewildered at first, but with recognition came realization.

 It was cilantro. I only knew one person, er, pixie who conjured cilantro.

 There may be hope after all.

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small and slow

I was beginning to think she dropped the cilantro just to tease me. You never could tell with that Pixie.

I heard a great howling roar coming from the woods. Natali and Jeanne-Pierre both spoke at once.

"What in the hells!? YIPE!?" said Natali.

"Holy sh-" said Jeanne-Pierre.

They ran as fast as they could in the other direction.

I wasn't sorry to see them go. I was however; worried about what made them run so fast. After all, I was trussed up like a pork roast, and just as helpless. I fervently hoped that whatever scared them, was small and slow.

Somehow, I doubted it.

Pain and fever wrenched through every portion of my body as I tried to move. Five or six hours tied up on the cold wet ground can put a few kinks in your muscles.

Gradually I groaned myself up on my side. There was nothing out of the ordinary, if you discount the two-headed dragon in the bushes.

No point in getting excited, I couldn't go anywhere.

I did the next best thing; I fainted.

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The Council of Mages

Two-hundred-fifty years ago, the Great and Powerful Drinn convened the Council of Mages. The meeting included all the great thaumaturgists of the day and was held at the Western Keep of the Rog. (A.k.a., West Keep).

At West Keep, the council decided, among other things, to conceal the Seer's Stones. In addition, the Council of Mages decided to dismantle the magical interface at the Keep, until such time as Dimitri had been defeated.

History does not tell us how this was accomplished, but legend has it that when the Scepter is replaced in its niche, the interface will return. History also doesn't tell us what the interface was for, or what effect it's dismantling, had on the world.

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Mickey Finn

Before I awakened completely, I dreamt I heard that aggravating voice of hers,

"Oh, get out of the way. Is he all right? Is he hurt? Check his breathing, feel for his pulse."

"Silence!" Roared an equally familiar voice. Something (a hand I thought; I hoped) was prodding me. I felt the pressure on my ankles being released.

I wasn't dreaming. It was Herbert's voice and Dot's voice that I heard. I knew it wasn't a dream because of the raw agony of pins and needles in my feet. I couldn't dream that well.

I managed to open my eyes but I was totally out of focus. My brain wanted to say several things at once but nothing was forthcoming. Natali's potion had not worn off yet.

"I think somebody slipped him a Mickey." Herbert paused and stared Dot's bewildered face. "A sleeping potion," He told her. "Help me move him."

They tugged and shoved and pushed me until I was sitting upright by the tree, again. Dot buzzed and batted her wings, as she tried to untie the cord around my wrists. The flesh had swollen to partially engulf the rope. My hands were numb, and I wasn't looking forward to the feeling coming back.

"Here," offered Herbert, putting his fingers on the rope, "Let me get that." The air sizzled with static and the rope disappeared.

My hands were lifeless lumps, lying in my lap. My feet were wailing agony. I was dizzy and vaguely nauseous.

"Hello," I croaked, it was an effort.

"Herbert thinks you got a dose of sleeping potion." Dot's voice was charged with anxiety, her face was pinched and creased from worry. It was still a nice little face, though I wouldn't have cared if she had Abercromby's face, I was glad to see her.

Herbert was also a sight for sore eyes. I felt like scolding him for disappearing like that, but he had just rescued me.

"Are you all right?" He asked.

"I think so," was all I had the strength to say.

"How could you? You had us frantic with worry. I don't believe you took up with that floozy, just because she had big breasts. What a moron." Dot was in full-tilt bitch mode and I wished she would just shut up. My nausea was growing less vague.

"I -" my attempt at speech, was interrupted by:

"I don't want to talk about it. Making a fool of yourself; fooling around with that slut, I honestly don't-"

Herbert interceded, "Do you have an off switch on that thing?" He waggled his fingers at her face.

"What thing and what's an Offus Witch?"

"I -" wasn't getting very far with the speaking.

Dot turned to me to interrupt, "I don't want to talk about it." Then she turned her back on me.

"I mean, why would you get involved with a serving wench?" She made it sound like goat molester, "Just like a male, to do his thinking with his gonads."

I managed to shut out her harangue for a moment and looked at Herbert.

After a moment of this we turned to her in unison and said, "Shaddup!"

She did. She also buzzed her wings and brought forth with the angry and misused look. She started to speak again, but thought better of it.

My sigh of relief was genuine. "Herbert, what in the hells is going on here, and why didn't you tell me about Abercromby?"

"Who's Abercr-," Herbert and I both glared at her and she stopped in mid-kvetch. Her lips were thin and tightly closed. Her wings buzzed so furiously, she came up off the ground.

"Abercromby was an afterthought. I didn't know he was anywhere around. I ran into him quite accidentally. He owed me a favor and I called it in. As for what's going on; I really don't know. I have some ideas but we should get you fixed up first. Now I have a question for you." Herbert paused and pointed at Dot. "Do you know this bite-in-the-ass Pixie?"

I have never seen a look so cold and evil, in my life. Her wings stopped moving completely. Arms folded across her vest, she moved only one foot in a calculating little tap-tap-tap.

Calculated to drive you crazy.

Herbert and I glanced at each other. He shrugged his shoulders and mouthed the word, "YIKES". We both shivered, involuntarily.

"Well, yes. We met in the forest." I replied.

"She claims you tried to force your intentions on her."

"I never said any such," she looked back and forth between Herbert and I, "thing." She swallowed hard and went silent again.

"I kissed her, but she kissed back;" I grinned at her," very sweetly, too."

"You're hopeless, get a life." Her tone was cold, but she was blushing profusely. She was quite pretty when she blushed.

"Whatever, but you do know her." Herbert continued. I shook my head yes. I wondered if I said no, would Herbert make her disappear, or turn her into a toad.

"All right, you're vouched for. Now try to stay out of the way and DO be quiet." Herbert's tone meant he would brook no bullshit, I think she picked up on that.

"Hey, what happened to the dragon?"

"That was a digital holograph-don't ask, I couldn't explain it to you in a thousand years-a false image, illusion. Battery not included." Herbert laughed at this, but I didn't get the joke.

It was decided that they would help me to my feet which, after some struggling, they did.

Keeping me there was another story.

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My body was trembling. I could barely walk with assistance. My ears were ringing, my eyes were blurry, my head throbbed and whirled. I kept retching, uncontrollably, violently.

If there was anything else, I was too miserable to care.

Herbert had conjured, what he called, a wheelchair. It was a shiny bugger with big, shiny wheels. I was perched in a sling, of sorts, suspended between the wheels.

On the rocky, rutted road, the wheelchair attempted to vibrate me limb from limb.


After a few hours in the chair, most of my internal organs had found new places in my anatomy. Something major was trying to work it's way up my throat. I swallowed hard.

"Maybe I should try walking again?" I mewled. I was sick, very sick.

"I wonder what they gave you?" Herbert was perplexed by my condition. It was obvious to me; I had been given potion or poison. A potion would wear off, eventually. Poison would need an antidote.

"We need to find some Althea, Comfrey, Pennyroyal and Peppermint." that brought to mind something else,

"Herbert, what did you need the Bees' Mead for?"

"I'll ah, tell you later," He glanced in Dot's direction.

Dot glowered, and began her 'one foot tapping' routine. I looked between the two of them; Herbert looked embarrassed, Dot looked petulant (which came as no surprise.)

I wobbled to my feet. Though I was dizzy, my legs were stronger. That in itself, was a good sign; If it was poison I'd keep getting worse.

"The Comfrey and Pennyroyal will be near moss and shade. The Peppermint will most likely be found near brambles or berries. I'll have to sniff out the Althea."

I tottered off into the trees. I paused and turned, saying, "Rise and shine you lay-a- bouts, four grams of each, thank you." with that I was off.

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Althea is an all-purpose remedy. Almost every potion I know has Althea as one of the ingredients. It's good for; dyspepsia, goiters, gout, headache, backache, neuralgia, melancholia . It can be made into a paste and applied to wounds. The simple act of throwing the leaves in boiling water and breathing the vapors will help a cold.

For all of that, it's a son-of-a-bitch to find.

It doesn't have any 'habits'. Any kind of soil and light will do, it adjusts to almost anything. Mountains, deserts, hot, cold, lots of water, low water, no water. It can propagate by root or seed.

I could smell it. It wasn't far off and it wasn't wishful thinking.

I plucked the first leaf and popped it in my mouth. Then I harvested enough to fill my quota. I was careful not to strip any one branch of more than two or three leaves.

As I started back, a wave of relief washed over me. My body was calming down.

I smiled at Dot, a little sadly I guess, I wasn't feeling that well. She rolled her blue eyes and said,

"Get over it."

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Herbert feels awful

I felt just awful. Here the lad had been chased, stung, half drowned, nearly lynched and poisoned, all on account of that Bees' Mead . I didn't have the heart to tell him what it was meant for. Also, I lacked the courage.

Now he was following me to that Castle, into danger and without a very good explanation. I wasn't sure if I could give him one.

Already, I was considering the possibility that it was my fault I couldn't contact Earth. Perhaps I had led the soldiers there. It had been uninteresting or unknown to them before I put it on the map, by killing one of their number, in my living room.

Had that made it interesting enough for them?

I would have to sit him down and explain it the best I could. He and maybe even that bite-in-the-ass Pixie, if she chooses to come. The Lad seems to fancy her, though I can't imagine why.

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Wondering aloud

We set up camp in a clearing, by the leeward side of a big rock. The area was shaped like an amphitheater. Great spidery trees provided an audience and completed our protection against unwelcome onlookers.

We began a fire early. By dark, we would have a lovely pile of embers to provide warmth with a minimum of light.

As the first of the ingredients hit the boiling water, a healing aroma permeated the air around us.

We sat in a circle, trading lies and stories. Even Dot was laughing at Herbert's anecdotes. So we munched on provisions from Herbert's pack and laughed away the rest of the afternoon.

A merry trio of fools we made, too.

While Dot was away, doing whatever Dot does when she's away, Herbert came to me.

"You must be wondering why we're going to the Keep."

"Frankly, Yes. I'm also wondering a great many other things, like..."

"Settle for an explanation on the Keep, I'm not sure you have any frame of reference for the rest. I'm not sure I do."

"It's a deal."

"There's massive interference in the inter-dimensional forces I use. Some one or some thing is manipulating a bunch of energy."

"And it's coming from the Keep?"

"Let's just say it's focused there. Besides which, my research indicates the cause of the problem is this Scepter thing."

"Is that what's preventing your contact with your country?"

"That's what I mean to find out."

"So we're going to the Keep." There was no disguising the aggravation in my voice. Herbert was duly embarrassed, but it was little consolation.


Ah Well.

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The Council of Mages

The Council of Mages was convened at the West Keep .

The convener, a magician named Drinn, was restlessly walking the catamounts. A large gray bird, of an ambiguous species, alternately circled his path and perched on his shoulder.

Drinn was holding an animated discussion with no one in particular, unless you count the bird. He stopped pacing and glared into the distance.

"Where in the name of Gæa is everyone. Brunderbrast said he'd be here today," He gazed at the waning sun, "and today is nearly over." He sat and pouted.

"AWK!" replied the bird.

"Not everyone is that far off. Frenelda is only a day's ride away


"Everyone is late! It's not just a few. It's a personal, bloody snub, that's what." He slammed a fist down on a pilaster. He did not let on how much that hurt.

"If Arrianna had called this meeting they would have flocked-"

The bird, preoccupied with a small blue lizard, looked up to interrupt with an impatient squawk.

"-to the castle." Drinn stamped his foot impatiently and glared at the bird.

"Do stop fooling around, Narcissus. I don't need the services of a Familiar anymore." There was no mistaking the threatening tone in Drinn's voice.

The gray bird perched on a chimney, and waited repentantly.

"Awk." said the bird.

"What reputation as a womanizer? I don't have any reputation." This was not improving his mood. "Besides there haven't been that many,"

"A-Awk!" the bird interjected, with a dubious glint in its eye.

"OK, by Gaea. That's enough of your impudence! Where's the number of that taxidermist?" The great and Powerful Drinn searched through his voluminous robes.

Narcissus' reply was unmistakable, even to one who couldn't speak the language of birds.

Chapter 4 Contents Chapter 6

Imagine that

I awakened to Dot's snoring. She was quite good at it. What she lacked in size, she more than made up for in noise and fury. She was curled up with her bottom in the crook of my elbow and her head on my chest. Her translucent wings swayed with her breathing.

The fire was out. The moon was a pale, bright sliver, shrouded by clouds. From its position in the sky, I guessed the time to be well after midnight. Herbert lay a short distance away. He puffed and sputtered in his sleep, blowing his whiskers about.

A shadow passed over him, I thought a passing cloud was scudding over the moon. I looked up and saw- Well O.K.; I saw a flying bunny rabbit. Long floppy ears, fuzzy little tail, large feathery wings.

I blinked my eyes and shook my head ‘til it hurt but it didn't go away. My movements aroused Dot.

I watched her stirring, sleepily; she was very cute. 

She rubbed her nose with the back of her hand*. She yawned and stretched like a kitten*. She snuggled closer to my chest and took my thumb and forefinger in both her hands. With a satisfied sigh, she went back to sleep*.

When I looked back toward Herbert, there was an empty sleeping roll. Perhaps he had gone to answer nature's call.

"Ah, well" I thought, and went to sleep.

Chapter 4 Contents Chapter 6

qorissa and Herbert

The walls, or whatever, swam with clashing colors. There was no floor or ground beneath me, no apparent means of support. A moment ago I was sleeping, now I was wondering where in Hell I was.

"Where the Hell am I?"

" In a Dimension not of where-when-yours. " said the voice in my head.

"I'm familiar with dimensional travel, I've never been here before." Though it was much like the inter-dimensional anomaly I call the Null and Void; it was entirely lavender. I turned, knowing better, to try to locate the source of the voice. It was a familiar voice, a pain-in-my-butt voice.

" more dimensions than now-you know eight of. "

"Many more?" I said sheepishly. I was beginning to understand the voice and this in itself, was a cause for concern.

"; Approximation 10,000. "

"TEN THOUSAND!" Just when you get to thinking you've got a handle on things...

";All I-now know..."

"And just who are you, really?" Though I spoke aloud, I knew somehow that speech was unnecessary.

" Qorissa name, in language-yours. Many difficulties with it, language-yours ." There was a murky shimmering spot, not far from me, though it was very hard to judge distance with no reference points.

" adjusting attempts now-me, speaking more, ...if you please. " the gasbag brightened.

The gasbag certainly was a quick study

"Where are you, exactly?"

" Really not here, now-me there is the interference, it takes very too much interface now-proper. Projecting, now-me. "

I got the impression that she was female.

"Why did you bring me here?" After a moment's thought, I added. "Did you bring me here?"

" Yes, Herbert, We have a common enemy. "

"Who would that be?"

" They come from the place-home call Nunki- you. In the silver ships so much worry -you. Translates name as the Delvers. "

"What do you want?"

" To meet you. "

I took this as a bad sign. I have a healthy dose of paranoia. I've always kept it under control, but lately, well; it's only paranoia if no one is out to get you.

"For what?"

" Projection drifting now-is, contact again when interface, then-me. Good-bye."

The walls dimmed and disappeared. I got the strange impression that I had been kissed good-bye.

Chapter 4 Contents Chapter 6


"Listen, you fugitive from a toy factory, one more crack out of you and I'll turn you into a cow!" declared Herbert, vehemently

"Cow?" chorused Dot and I. She glared at me and added, "I'm just being honest.", as if it were true.

"You're just being insulting," returned Herbert. "Why don't you go make some shoes, or molest a squirrel. But try to do it quietly."

I watched her wings go from an adversarial flutter, up the scale until they were a blurry buzz. Her face flushed, when he said ‘shoes‘.

"We really need to get you mobile again, we are pressed for time." Herbert had a grim look on his face. Dot looked sour and sleepy. If the way I felt was any indication, I must have looked frightful.

"And, we have a long way to go."

"Longer than you think, buster." murmured Dot.

I studied her for a moment. I was never sure, from moment to moment, what she would say or do. Clever and manipulative, motives underlying motives, she cultivated the air of someone who knew something we didn't.

"It's about six days walk from here." Herbert said, rolling himself in a blanket, "Try to get some shut eye and heal; it'll take longer if you can't walk."

I groaned at the thought of six more days of walking. Herbert obviously felt this was something urgent, and I did volunteer for this journey.

Dot snorted. "I knew it, a couple of lame ducks. Well, I've got things to do, places to see, people to . . . go?" She paused, creased her forhead and moved her lips.

"Didn't sound right to me, either." I helped.

"Nor to me," said Herbert, smiling.

She developed a faint redness around her ears; her wings were buzzing, "I'm leaving." She popped out with a little splash of light.

"What was that all about?" Herbert asked incredulously.

"Well, I, ah-"

"Save it, we've got more important things to discuss." He let out a big sigh. "What did you do with the Bees' Mead?"

"It was destroyed, at the Inn. You know, with Natali and Jeanne-Pierre." I shrugged my shoulders, an ineffective, gesture under the blanket, "Things got rather complicated, one might say, out of hand."

"Yes. Dot mentioned something about that," He dismissed it with a wave of his hand,

"We'll just have to find some more. You're rather clever at that, aren't you my lad?"

It bothered me when he called me my lad. It also bothered me that he ignored my heroic story. I was rather hoping to tell it to someone.

Herbert yawned and started me yawning, until we fell into a cycle.

"Now cut that out." I admonished.

Herbert grinned and asked; "Do you think she'll be back?"

"Oh yeah, she'll be back." I affirmed.


I'm pretty sure she came back, sooner than I anticipated. I awoke in the middle of the night, feeling exactly as though I'd been thwacked in the butt by a wet towel.


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