The Science Of Magic

Chapter 8


Phineas thumped the desk, hard enough to bounce Doris off of her paperweight.

"First the rabbit, now that damnable Pixie has stopped checking in. It's defection, treason; I'll have their livers in a jar!"

Doris picked herself up, and straightened her glasses. (It was pure affectation, as she had the eyesight of an eagle.) She shot Phineas a reproving glance.

"Out catting around last night?" Phineas flinched when she said the word 'cat'. He was not only reacting to the word, but to the painful scratches, that ran the length of his back.

Almost no one knew of Phineas' nocturnal proclivities, excepting Tink...er, Doris. They had a history. He had tried to forget that history, but Doris was a constant reminder. If she preferred that Pan fellow ... but that was then and this was getting really aggravating.

Most contact with humans was frowned upon; which was mostly Phineas' doing. The world was changing; most Humans couldn't be trusted. It was better, he proclaimed, to have nothing to do with them. He felt secure, however, violating his own taboos.

In fact; scarcely anyone who was heir to the magic of Færy, could resist Humans. They were fascinated by them. (We really must clear up this Fairy/Færy  business one of these chapters.) To the færy mind, Humans lived such tragic little lives. They were dead so fast. Yet, Humans were tough, smart and funny. They raised families. They loved.

Love was the biggest fascination for many. Most of Færy looked at love as a dangerous aberration. It was hard (and dangerous) to fall in love when you know an angry partner, can turn you into a toad (or worse). Besides, to the Færy, forever was a very long time.

Humans' lives titillated the Færy folk. Had the technology been available, Soap Operas would be big business, in Centerville.

Phineas looked the Pixie over in a manner guaranteed to sizzle the wings of a lesser being. History or not, this was more insubordination and he was not going to put up with it. Phineas raised his index finger and opened his mouth.

"Don't even think about it," said Doris. Narrowing her eyes, she looked over her glasses at him.

He snapped his mouth shut, because of the look in her eye.

Some things just aren't worth it.

Chapter 7 Contents Chapter 9

Speak no evil

They looked like two thirds of the wise monkeys. Tiela had her head in her hands, around her ears and Dot had her fingers in her mouth. In between epithets, they were groaning and whimpering.

"He's a louse." Said Tiela

"A crumb," said Dot.




"Who are you calling a pinhead?" I demanded, though I was certain that I was the object of their verbosity. The throbbing pain had not relented, but I was becoming accustomed to it. Nonetheless, I dropped myself on a nearby tree stump; the effort had drained me.

Tiela and Dot sat side by side, dripping dilute Marguerite mix and dead flies. Their expressions could have soured milk. They were using every means at their disposal to ignore me, intensely.

This, I felt, was just the beginning.

I rounded that pile of Herbert, which was now moving and groaning. As I glared back at the happiness sisters, I fell on my sword; that is, I tripped over my scabbard. (Though the former has been a time-honored option, when dealing with females.)

I took in the scenery from my new vantage point. Something told me I should make myself scarce. Nothing had prepared me for the onslaught of two vengeful females.

Hanna had reached her knees, as I approached. My cloak was hanging off her in a way, which exposed her breasts and a good part of her thighs. Though she looked pale and drawn, she was still very lovely.

As I approached, she took each of my arms in one of her hands and turned her angelic face to me.

"Gods!" I thought, "I could get lost in those green eyes."

She looked up at me innocently, "I feel awful," she said.

More gracefully than I would have thought possible, she puked all over me.

Chapter 7 Contents Chapter 9

Nod explains

It is a symptom of my insanity, hopeless romanticism, that I can't separate sex from love. After making love with Hanna, should I not feel protective and caring? And if it was a good experience, why not do it again?

It was my experience that females did not share in my philosophy. They complicate matters and, apparently, were never truly happy, unless they were confusing a male.

Chapter 7 Contents Chapter 9


"Vengeance," Herbert proclaimed, "is the sincerest form of flattery." Apparently, this was all Herbert had to say on the matter. He immediately began filling his ceramic pipe. Turning a bit, he put his feet on a wicker rung, of Spike's immense basket. (Herbert called it an Easter basket and I asked him Easter than what?) The rhythm of the big rabbit's breathing was soothing, like a rocking chair.

Feeling slightly rebuked; I scrunched lower into the egg-shaped, wicker seat. I let out a long sigh, a reflection of my emotional state, which was somewhere between confusion and despair.

Herbert turned toward me and frowned, "It was her first time with a man, Nod. Females are a little touchy about that kind of thing."

"Hanna was not a virgin. She was too ... aggressive and eager."

"I didn't say she was a virgin, exactly, I said it was her first time with a man." Herbert raised an eyebrow, and drew on his pipe. "And who ever told you virgins weren't eager?" He grunted through clenched teeth and then exhaled.

I scrunched my face, puzzled. "You mean, Tiela and Hanna are, uh..."

"More than just friends? Yes."

"And I, ah, I was the first male?" Something about that made me feel good. I was the first man to change her mind? I felt kind of special. Later, when I thought about Tiela, I felt like a rat.

"Don't grin like that, you obviously don't understand. No matter how much a female loves you, she'll never forgive you for taking her virginity. Even if, especially if, she initiates it."

I didn't understand. I comprehended what he was saying; I just couldn't understand how that could be.

"The worst part is, Dot is in love with you." His brows plunged toward the bridge of his nose. "You might consider keeping it in your pants; at least until we get the Scepter safely back to the Keep."

Chapter 7 Contents Chapter 9

The Tale of the Frog

I wasn't feeling very hungry, though it was way past lunch. I crouched by the edge of a pool, dispiritedly tossing pebbles at my reflection in the water.

"Women are retched, insidious creatures." I said it aloud. I liked the sound of that word, so I said it again, more firmly.


"On the one hand, I'm an honest, reliable fellow; basically harmless and pleasant. On the other hand, I'm male and subject to normal desires (and seduction). I don't understand," shaking my head slowly, I tossed another pebble. "Women."

"Can't live with them, can't drown them." the voice agreed.

"Right- Say..." I turned quickly but saw no one, "who said that?"

"God's have mercy, who writes your dialogue?"

"I write all my own- hey!"

"You don't actually get to finish many sentences, do you?"

"Well, not bloody lately, I haven‘t..."

"I'll bet there are women involved."

"How did you- what am I saying?"

"And, that's the third time you've interrupted yourself."

I stood and scouted all around me. No speaker was evident. I examined my reflection in the pool; I didn't look crazy.

I must admit, I was not prepared for a talking toad.

"It's a pond, in a forest. What did you expect, pink dragons?" He chiggarumphed at his joke.

"Well, actually..." I scanned the sky briefly.

"You think you have problems," He sized me up with those froggy eyes, "I'm a Prince."

He said it without a trace of a smile. Then again, I've never actually seen a toad smile; he may have been smiling that very moment, I would have been none the wiser.

He obviously took me for a congenital moron.

"Prince of what?" I folded my arms across my chest, in an attempt to look more skeptical.

"Oh, just an ordinary Prince, you know, Dad is the Queen."

"You mean King." I corrected.

"You haven't met Dad. I'm an enchanted toad, or an enchanted prince, depending on how you view it."

"Go on, then, pull the other one."

"I'm serious. Until I can cancel the enchantment, I'm banished from the kingdom. I can't go back, no money, no friends; Ree-deep!"

It was a pitiful croak. My heart went out to him.

"Flies," he said, patting his tummy, "they give me the winds."

"All is not yet lost." I offered, trying to sound cheerful.

"Then it soon shall be." He rolled his eyes closed and made a galumphing noise, deep in his throat.

"You said there was a way to break the spell."

"No, I said, 'cancel the enchantment'."

"So? What is it?"

There was a rustling in the bushes around the pool. I turned to look while the toad continued.

"It is an over-used pronoun."

"No, to cancel the enchantment."

"I have to get a virgin female to kiss..." The toad stopped as the bushes parted, beside us. Tiela and Hanna stepped out.

"There he is, Hanna. He didn't run off." Tiela flitted to me and said, "There you are."

"Here I am," I said with mock frivolity. I smiled bashfully at Hanna; she gave me a watery grin.

I noticed something about the toad, as he was ogling the girls. As his tongue curled and uncurled, I noticed he was ugly.

Really ugly.

Butt ugly.

Even for a toad.

"As I was saying; to cancel the enchantment, I must ah, have sex with a virgin female." If toads can leer, this one surely did.

Hanna wore only her tunic, revealing lots of her astounding limbs. Tiela was dressed in her usual eight grams of vapor, revealing nearly everything.

"Uh, a willing female."

"Besides anatomical, eh, difficulties, that's ridiculous. I thought you said something about kissing a virgin."

"Well yes, there is that. It's not nearly as much fun though."

"It has to be a virgin?" queried Hanna.

"Yes, it really should be."

Hanna was visibly relieved. We both looked at Tiela.

Tiela said, "Now wait, just a minute..." as she backed toward the cover of the foliage.

She bent toward the toad, squinting her eyes shut. She puckered up and kissed him, right on the warty lips.


The transformation began with a little flash of light. (You were expecting what, organ music?) The toad-body grew quickly, to the sound of stretching and groaning.

"It's working," cried Tiela, backing from the undulating lump.

A spectral glow ended the transformation, and there stood a rather portly, peasant lad. He didn't look to be more than fifteen. His mouth lacked many teeth; pimples inundated his face. He was filthy, head to toe, and he stank.

He looked better as a toad.

With one finger in his right nostril, he introduced himself; "Hullo, I'm Benjy."

His finger moved, irresistibly to his mouth.

"Oh, yuck," said Tiela, "you're no Prince!"

"You claimed you were an enchanted prince, what happened?" I put my hands on my hips and glared at him.

"Well," He looked at Tiela; "You wouldn't have wanted to kiss an enchanted geek. Enchanted Prince gets me kissed more often. And, I like getting kissed. How 'bout another."

He grabbed Tiela, and squished his lips on her face. Tiela squealed and flittered her wings for a moment then she stopped struggling. With a flash of light, Benjy was once more a toad.

He was ugly, even for a toad.

"That happens quite often, too." He rolled his big froggy eyes toward Hanna.

"Don't even think about it," warned Hanna.

With a dejected froggy burp, he leapt into the pool.

Chapter 7 Contents Chapter 9

Say! You're no prince!

As we returned to camp, we could hear a distressed, choking sound. It came from the direction we were going, so we hurried.

When we reached the clearing, we could see it was only Dot, convulsed in laughter.

Tiela was turning red, running her fingers through her hair in an attempt to cover her embarrassment. Dot pointed at her with renewed mirth, finally asking,

"Kissed any good frogs lately?"

Tiela, rather good naturedly, simply ignored her and flitted over to Spike. He was having a close converse with Rosie. Herbert, oblivious to everything else, was studying his leather-bound lore book.

I took Hanna's hand for a moment; she looked at me and smiled.

"Tell Tiela, I'm sorry." I said.

"Sorry for what, exactly?" She said icily, removing her hand.

"I didn't mean," It was my turn to blush, "I meant, for getting her into that spot with the toad."

"Oh, she knew what she was getting into, Tiela's a very bright girl. It's part of her Geas to be cute, it doesn't mean she's dumb." She wrinkled her eyes and smiled.

"I think we should talk about, you know, you and I." I should have kicked my instep to complete the image.

"You mean, about sex."

"That, too."

"Would you like to talk about it?"

"Yes, please."

"Say, you're no Prince!" Dot said in mock fairy falsetto. She followed it with strident laughter.

Chapter 7 Contents Chapter 9

Fru-fru Fairy

"Bleach blonde floozy!"

"Bust-less wonder!" Squealed Tiela.

It hadn't gone past the name calling stage. The Pixie and the Fairy were hanging in the air face to face. They had been hurling epithets at each other for a few minutes now.

I was trying to talk to Hanna without staring at her breasts. Hanna was doing everything she could to make sure I knew she had breasts, and exactly where they were located.

Herbert was trying to explain to Rosie why, "...you can't whoosh them with a little hot-foot, just to singe their wings. I'm not sure it would have the same effect as it does on a baby dragon; and, I'm not altogether sure their wings would grow back."

While I was trying to follow all of this, I noticed the Rosie eyeing the girls' bunny.

"Fru-fru Fairy." said Dot.

Everything stopped. For a heartbeat, everyone was silent.

Tiela started it. It was a musical, glass glissando. Hanna was next, in response to Tiela's laughter. Soon, we were all tittering away.

Chapter 7 Contents Chapter 9

The Point (with apologies to Harry)

Herbert was very interested to know why the elves had kidnapped Dot. It was something I hadn't considered, as I have little knowledge of Elven motivation. He discounted malicious mischief as too coincidental.

"I think they were specifically after Dot." Herbert told me.

"But how would they even know about her?" I asked.

"How indeed? What if there is someone else looking for the Scepter? How much do they know? That's exactly my point."

Herbert's face went through six shades of serious. Shaking his head slowly and peering at me from beneath his scurrilous eyebrows, he said, "We're gonna have to find out."

Chapter 7 Contents Chapter 9


Merrydale was not set by the River, like most of the pockets of civilization. The River was transportation, a source of water and food, and a focal point for Humans and Færy. Merrydale was at a crossroads on the land. Its walls were not impregnable, but they were sturdy and great for a bit of shade in the early afternoon. Broad, arched gates breached the wall at seven or eight places, that I could see.

In Its' zenith, it was the gathering place for odd folk, from near and far. Then, there were four inns and a (now defunct) public house, to cater to the variegated travelers that frequented the roads. Now, the lawns and gardens were just a bit too overgrown, the buildings a bit too patched, to look prosperous.

Throughout the streets of the village, small fires were ablaze. Clots of ragged people huddled around the slow-motion flames. It was not particularly cold or windy, so there was little or no reason to huddle. They huddled anyway.

There was an air of gloom to the place. I couldn't point to any one thing that might cause it, but it was there.

Herbert approached one of the fires, and I hung back a step. Rosie was above us, virtually invisible, in the dark. She wore her ruby in a pendant. I wore a similar ruby, around my finger; its silver band turned toward my palm. I stroked the gem with my thumb as I thought to Rosie,

"Can you hear me old girl?"

"Yes I can hear you, if that's the right word. And who are you calling old, shrimp?"

"Didn't you say you had that cold for a hundred and thirty four years?"

"Let's just say I'm over a hundred."

"That's pretty old to a human, how old is that in dragon terms?"

"Not that old really."

Actually, it was adolescence. In human terms, Rosie was about fourteen. From Rosie's point of view, the Humans were sort of playmates.

"Stand by."

"You mean hover."


Herbert was already engaged in conversation. I had no idea what he was saying, but there was a good deal of pointing and nodding. Herbert's voice came clear, as I drew nearer.

"So, the Witch," a hushed murmur wafted through the gathering, "owns all the village?" Herbert made a grand gesture with his hand.

"No, We actually own it, the Witch, ugh!" The speaker was nudged in the ribs by his spouse, while the crowd gasped.

"The er, her Ladyship loaned us money, when our crops failed and we used our property as collateral."

"When the crops failed again this year, she foreclosed." He looked rather sour as he said it.

"And before the Wit- her ladyship arrived, had your crops ever failed?"

A murmuring wave passed across the crowd.

"Now that you mention it..."

"Her Temple Guard marched in to the village and locked us out," volunteered a pudgy man, with one tooth.

"Very polite, they were, though," croaked a village crone.

"And didn't I tell you, now? Sure, but it's not Paddy O`Donohough that you'll be listenin` to."

A grizzled-looking character, with few teeth and a cocked eye, strode the perimeter of the fire. He glared at people, as he passed them and poked one portly lad with his cane.

"Hired ruffians! Hooligans is more like it. Temple guards indeed. What temple? That's what I'd be wanting to know."

"He's daft," the first villager whispered to Herbert and me, "been like that since he came back from the war." He made a circular motion with his finger pointing at his ear.

All at once, he jumped and whirled around; there was Paddy, winding up his Brogan for another shot at his posterior.

"Not daft enough to sign everything over to a witch, Bill Emerson." The crowd gasped and looked around. "I still own all my property."

"Burnded. To the ground it is, and has been some two years now. And you living in the cellar, and all." Bill's wife squared off on the irascible curmudgeon. "So don't you be given none o' yer sass, Paddy O`Donohough." She turned to the still huddling crowd, "Most likely, the old fool is in his cups again." This garnered a sparse giggle in response.

The redoubtable O`Donohough got red in the face. He puffed his cheeks and blustered, (He really did - It was a sort of blowing sound he made with his mouth) he looked a little like a fish. He jigged his feet in agitation. Shaking a bony fist he squeaked, "Old fool, is it? In his cups! If you weren't a lady I'd," He began blustering again, and I never discovered his intentions for the lady.

"Begging your pardon, sirs. If anyone can help you, it would be Mayor Slugg. His house is right behind the bakery, it's the only one with light in the windows." Saying this the peddler shuffled back to the fire.

Herbert and I, once objects of curiosity were now all but ignored. We slipped away without being missed.

Chapter 7 Contents Chapter 9

Mayor Slugg

"It is absolutely out of the question. They must not be disturbed. Her Ladyship left strict instructions." The Mayor nodded in an imbecilic gesture of agreement with his flunky.

Herbert moved a few steps in his direction; the Mayor took a step back. I interceded, just like we rehearsed.

"Now, sir; you remember the last time. Why the whole town was depressed for days, over losing their Mayor, that way. Perhaps this one will be reasonable?" I spared a placating glance for the mayor and his entourage, holding Herbert at bay, with my hands. "All that mess and bother over a little miscommunication."

Herbert looked thoughtful, then glared at the Mayor and his entourage.

"I'm sure," I continued, unctuously, "What his Honor meant is that it would be difficult, but he and the village would do their best to accommodate a wizard of such renowned, and fearsome reputation."

I raised my eyebrows to the Mayor, thinking, "now Rosie".

"I never said any such thing," He said, backing a few steps more, "I told you they couldn't be disturbed and that's all there…is…to…it?" His speech slowed and quieted, the last word was the merest squeak. His eyes got very large, his jowls hung slack.

Across the street from our conference, on the steps of the chapel, a very large, pink dragon had landed. Its green eyes glinted in the sunlight. The beast presented a toothy grin, which generally started a flight-or-fight reaction in normal Humans.

The Mayor wet himself, and fainted.

Chapter 7 Contents Chapter 9

It's not harassment, if you like it

"Well," I kicked a small stone; "It's a hell of a way to do business." The stone skipped a few times and skittered into a crevice in a tree. As we passed, an enraged squirrel shook a fuzzy paw at us, while rubbing its head with the other.

"It certainly got us results," averred Herbert.

We were headed, unescorted, to the Great-house outside the village, for our interview with who-knew-what. The Mayor had been near apoplectic, attempting to help us, after he had seen Rosie. His directions were very precise.

"Yeah, but; using Rosie that way."

"I don't mind, it's kind of fun." Came Rosie's thought, via the rubies, from high above us. The dragon and I seemed to have a special affinity for telepathy. I had a stronger link with Rosie, than any of the others. She seemed to have a more powerful affinity for Tiela.

"Also," I added, "we're not being guarded. We already know they're paranoid, They must feel we're not a threat. I think it means trouble." The feeling of uneasiness that crept over me was less vague than the regular feeling of uneasiness, which I always felt.

"I think you're paranoid." Herbert said with a grin.

"Ah, fellas." Rosie interrupted by thought. "A large number of armed men are about to intercept your position."

"How many?" Thought Herbert, loud and clear. Then to me he said, "Feel better, now?" I didn't have as strong a mental bond with Herbert, as with Rosie. We could communicate fine, just no chemistry. Rosie and I were constantly drifting into each other‘s heads accidentally, as if our thoughts were drawn to each other. Out of our little band of telepaths, only Hanna and Tiela had a better 'link'.

"I would estimate one hundred, armed and armored; thirty more on horse-back. They must know your position; they are closing on you. You want I should singe them a little?"

Rosie's thinking voice was much more melodious than her speaking voice. If not for the large pink dragon attached, I would say it was sexy. Somehow, sexy is not an adjective I would use in connection with a dragon. Then again, until I met Rosie, I wouldn't have used pink, either.

"Maybe we should find out what they're after." Thought Herbert, "Might be handy to have access to a small army."

"They're after us, Herbert." I reached for my new sword as I said it.

"Nonsense, we don't know that for sure."

"I think he's right, they don't look like they're out for exercise," thought Rosie.

"If we could get a hold of their leader…" He let the thought trail away.

"And this leader, would he be a big guy, pointing and shouting, with a big feather in his helmet?" Rosie thought a picture of the man, as she described him; it filled my head for a moment.

"That's probably him," said Herbert aloud.

"Stay where you are, I'll be right back."

Chapter 7 Contents Chapter 9

Captain Dyna

"Travis! Get your men up that hill! Now!" The Captain strutted over to a subordinate. The Corporal was on his knees, a crude sextant in his hands.

The Captain lifted a heavily booted foot, and swung it at the kneeling man's posterior. Through long practice, the Corporal moved out of the way in time to avoid serious injury.

The Captain struck a manly pose; his left boot on a rock, right hand on the hilt of his sword. Tilting his head back, he let out a manly laugh. (He secretly thought he looked like a god when he did this.) The wind blew through his hair.

Rosie dropped silently out of the air; with her wings at her side, she plummeted. At the last moment, she snapped her wings open and snatched the Captain off the ground. It was one fluid motion, and fast. First he was there, then there was a streak of pink shadow, then his empty helmet rolled down the hill.

Things had happened very rapidly for the Captain. Returning to consciousness, he was confused, battered and disoriented. He had never flown before, hadn't even thought about it, really. Nonetheless, he had both flown through, and fallen from the air.

Coming up from his knees, (Rosie dropped him that way and quickly disappeared into the scenery) the Captain towered over Herbert and I. He reached for his sword, I reached for mine. I hoped I wouldn't have to use it.

"How; where; who are, Huh ?" Exclaimed the Captain. Looking behind and to the sides, he turned a complete circle.

"Well said, big guy. My sentiments exactly," said Herbert.

The large, blustering side of beef brandished his sword at us.

From the shrubbery behind him, where she lay unnoticed, (she could be amazingly inconspicuous, for a seventeen-foot-long, pink Dragon.) Rosie aimed a thin jet of flame at his sword. The metal rapidly became too hot to hold, and the captain dropped it.

I placed my sword at his throat, which would have been more effective; if I not had to reach up to do so.

"Sit down!" I said in my most commanding voice.

He came to attention and sneered, "Captain Dyna, Late of Isis' Guard." He glared up the length of my blade at me, and moved a step closer. A thin trickle of blood ran down his neck. In the thoughts that played across his face, I could see, he was measuring me, deciding on the proper moment to relieve me of my sword. For the briefest of moments, I thought to remove his head from his shoulders, before he could try. It was terribly un-sporting of me.

Rosie poked her head through the greenery and cleared her throat. The Captain turned to look. Taking two steps backward, he began to salute.

"SIT!" she bellowed, belching flame and smoke. It blackened his face and set the sash he wore aflame.

His face bore a puzzled frown; he knew what was going on, but apparently, he had never lost a confrontation before. He didn't know how to act. However, he did sit.

"Captain Dyna," Herbert began good-naturedly, "we want to know what you are doing in these woods. And why you are leading a troop of armed men toward us; don't deny it, we've been watching you for some time."

For a moment, the Captain stared at us, opening and closing his mouth like a guppy. When he looked at Rosie, she smiled; that seemed to decide him.

"Ah, ah, ah; the Witch er, that is; her Ladyship ordered us to find you."

"Who is her Ladyship, and who," said Herbert, "is us?"

"We were the guard at the Temple of Isis." He thought his explanation was crystal clear. He was confused that we didn't understand.

"All the old Gods have been given the sack. When they turned the temple into a monastery, we were all out of a job. Not much work for a temple guard when there ain't no temples." He raised his hands and shrugged. Rosie growled at him and he dropped his hands flat to the ground.

"My men will be frantic without my hand to guide them. No telling what they might do. They'll be rather agitated at my disappearance. I wonder if you might let me go back to them, or call to them?" 

He lifted a horn he had chained to his baldric. When Rosie growled he hurriedly dropped it.

"There are still a few unanswered questions, Captain Dyna." Herbert lifted an unruly eyebrow in his direction.

"Well, let's see. Where should I start?" He lifted a finger, "Ahem. The sky isn't really blue, It's a trick of light diffraction and the…"

Herbert cut him off, "No, no you imbecile. Why did 'her Ladyship' send you after us and why do you take her orders."

"The men and I have been a unit for twelve years, never lost a man. You don't see much hand to hand combat at a temple. We just kind of wandered until we found someone who would pay us." He began to gesticulate, but stopped after a glance at Rosie.

"Yes," said Herbert impatiently, "But why us? What did her Ladyship want us for?"

"Yes, well," The Captain looked uncomfortable. "The thing of it is, I don't really know. We haven't actually met the witch, er, her Ladyship, We had to deal with her Elves; (His inflection of the word 'Elves" made it a racial slur) but we couldn't find anybody else who had a use for a temple guard. She's not a very pleasant person, from what we hear. Then again, the food's not bad. Not near as good as the temple you understand, but these days one must make do."

"What does she ask of you, for your pay?" Herbert was getting interested.

"Well, this is actually our first assignment, as such. We did see to locking up a few houses in the village for her. That was last week. As for the pay, we haven't been paid, exactly, but we have food and lodging. It's not altogether unpleasant, if it weren't for all those Elves." He shook his head wistfully.

Herbert poked me in the ribs (of which gesture, I'm not at all fond) and said, "See, Elves. I think were on the right track. It's all fitting together rather nicely."

"My men, sir. I'm very concerned for my men. They're a vicious lot, without me to guide them."

There was a movement from the bushes. A soldier, dressed much like the Captain, came hesitantly forward.

"Not meaning to interrupt, I just wanted to ask the Captain a word or two? Some of the men, sir, such as is left, was wondering about a bit of supper." The soldier saluted.

"What do you mean, who's left?"

Rosie stirred, gurgling in her throat, and wearing a big grin. I believe she was enjoying this.

"I, I, I," said the brave soldier, as he noticed Rosie for the first time. It's amazing the effect a large, smiling dragon can have on some folks.

After some trembling and stuttering he finally said, "Eep." and fainted.

"Say," I gazed down at his quiescent form, and then at Herbert, "that's my line."

Chapter 7 Contents Chapter 9

The edge of allegiance

Wake up you idiot," Captain Dyna scrutinized the soldier with an air of recrimination, and the toe of his boot.

"The way I see it, Captain, you owe the wit- er, Her Ladyship no allegiance, whatsoever. And, if she hasn't paid you, or given you a retainer, you don't really work for her." I smiled at him.

"Add to that the fact that we can pay you, now." Herbert gestured grandly at the ground, with the first two fingers of his left hand. The first two fingers of his right hand were firmly entwined, behind his back.

A tracery of blue sparks emanated from the ground about Herbert's feet. A chest appeared, of the type normally used for drayage. Inside the partially open lid, gold was visible. Herbert nervously watched the sky.

The Captains eyes sparkled and shone, "I think I can see your point, sir." His eyes never left the gold.

"So then, we have a deal?" Herbert stuck out his hand in that odd gesture again.

The Captain didn't notice. Distantly he said, "Yes, by golly, the men will be very pleased." He shook his head back to reality, "Oh do get up, Hanson. You're ruining everything." He prodded the prostrate soldier with the toe of his boot.

"I suppose we should let him call the troops, now." I said to Herbert.

"First, a few amenities." Herbert raised a finger and pointed, several trestle tables appeared, laden with victuals. The ground around us danced and crackled with sparks.

"Well, just one more thing." He held his hands outstretched and conjured a sleek, metal object, about half a meter long. Several buttons and levers decorated it.

"This, Captain, is a Warrior 3000 assault weapon." Herbert began with a smile.

The soldier was stirring, finally. The Captains eyes moved away from the gold, "I'm sorry, what?"

"This is a Warrior 2000 assault weapon." Herbert repeated slowly.

"It's a weapon." Dyna looked unconvinced, "How is it used? Do you strike with it?" He swung his hands above his head, to demonstrate.

"Just watch." Herbert said with a leer. He pointed the thing at a nearby stand of trees, and pressed one of the buttons. The sleek silver weapon emitted a hoarse whirring sound.

At the trees, bark was flying and making "pinging" sounds. The center-most tree was hit with a narrow beam of very bright light. It left a hole in the tree, visible as the tree tumbled to the ground.

Herbert shifted his stance. The thing made "thwipping" sounds and two of the trees exploded in flames. Hanson sat bolt upright, took in the scene and promptly fainted again.

Then Herbert pointed the thing straight up. It made a sound like 'pock-toy' and a streak of smoke headed toward the moon. The smoke began to arch back to earth then it exploded, lighting everything like sunlight.

"I get the picture," said the Captain, mouth still gaping.

Herbert handed the Captain his bugle, "Dyna, won't you blow your horn."

Chapter 7 Contents Chapter 9


We set up in a natural cave. Though, I still couldn't locate my anchors, the interference seemed to be forgiving. It had week spots; like that Seven-Eleven in Weehauken, and Dyna's chest of gold. I was busy worrying about that, so I didn't notice the time slipping away.

"Herbert?" It was Nod. The lad was about to tell me that, ‘three hours have gone by since we last blew the horn and shouldn't we try it again or at least get some lunch?‘ He had that kind of look on his face. The lad was always hungry.

I felt like gibbering. Not that it would do any good (except to make me feel better.) With deep reluctance and a deeper sigh, I made my way to the mouth of the cave.

Well, I wanted adventure.

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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