The Science Of Magic

Chapter 10

I got it!

"I got it! I got it!" Tiela was ebullient. She held her prize above her head and squealed with delight.

Hanna held her in the crook of her arm, wearing a smile that indicated relief more than congratulations. They paid little or no attention to the melee around them.

Around them, things had just begun to get crazy.

From Dot's aerial vantage point, she could also see the twitching wolverines, an ebbing tide of fur, moving in spasms and jerks.

Speaking of jerks, the Captain and his men were totally disoriented, many were marching in a big circle around the carnage. Two groups had split off under minor commanders. One group was diligently pursuing the near-dead wolverines, thrashing the ground in an effort to herd them together. The wolverines responded with vicious, but exhausted snarls.

The second group was diligently pursuing the first, and challenging confused villagers from time to time.

The villagers, while obviously moving in random confusion, comported themselves in an almost organized manner, resorting to petty squabbles and gossip, for comfort and order.

Herbert and Nod had bolted in the other direction, i.e. away from the action. The same direction as that big pink furnace-with-wings. Because of her size, her form was still visible, as she streaked away.

On the other side of the Great House a number of Elves were fearlessly slipping out the back door, into the forest. They failed to notice the man walking the pelican on a leash.

Dot ignored him at first but, something about that pelican looked awfully familiar.

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No buts

Merlene had been standing on her balcony, only moments before. I had been watching her closely, very closely.

"I saw only one possible escape route," Herbert stooped as he spoke, examining the edge of the house, where it met the ground.

"There must be an exit concealed here, somewhere." He snapped his fingers and unfolded beside me.

"Rosie!" He shouted in my ear. "Oh, sorry, I meant to think that."

"What?" thought Rosie, softly. "Think, don't holler."

"The witch! Can you see her leaving the house?"

"Actually, she's just climbed out of a tunnel near the wood. About a hundred meters north of where you're standing."

Rosie treated us to a mental vision of Merle, exiting a clump of bushes.

"If she gets around that arm of the mountain, we'll never catch her." Herbert started to trot away, beckoning me with a wave of his hand.

I fell in behind him, puffing like a blow-fish. It occurred to me that we couldn't really catch her up, it would be easy for her to maintain her lead.

It also occurred to me that she had a fine figure and wouldn't I rather be snuggling up to that figure. Well, yes I would, but, I couldn't be sure it wasn't her magic working on me. Maybe that's how I formulated this idea. It seemed a perfectly logical idea, at the time.

"Rosie?" I thought at her, the soul of innocence and wit.

"Right here, shrimp."

"Can you swoop down and snatch me, like you did the Captain?" I was still panting, still running. Herbert was falling behind.

"Well, yes but,"

"Don't but. Just do it, please and hurry."

"I'm not so sure about this ..."


"Here I come, boss."

After a moment, I could feel her down draft. I could hear the rattling snap as she spread her wings to dive at me. I had a momentary twinge; I pictured all that dragon coming at me in my brain; my brain let my body know what was going on and my body voted for cowardly retreat.

Rosie's delicate front legs yanked at my shoulders, and I was jerked aloft. Every tendon in my body snapped taut at once. My pants slid to my knees, my sword tumbled to the ground below.

"Gee whiz, Rosie!"

"I tried to warn you," She smiled a sympathetic thought at me, (which is a poor way to describe what she really did but, words fail me.)

"Now what?"

"Ah, swoop down on her," It was all I could think of, "I'll catch her."

"The impact would kill you both."

"Can you drop me by her?"

"Then only you get killed." Rosie shifted me, as she thought this.

"Got any better ideas?" I asked.

"Frankly, yes. I could swoop down on her and snatch her up, like the Captain-"

"Great! Let's go."

"-If I didn't have to keep you from plummeting to the ground. And there's no time to set you down. You'll have to jump her, before she gets under the forest. I'll try to match speed with her." Rosie hooked her neck around and peered at me, "Don't worry, It's only landings that I have trouble with." she smiled.

"Yours, or mine?" I asked.

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My Hero

I finally managed to get my pants secured, with much wriggling and swearing. I have a bit of a gift, when it comes to epithets and scatology; I don't often practice it, in front of others.

Rosie began to giggle, both mentally and out loud.

"What's so funny?" I asked, feeling rather defensive.

"You know what's going on here?" She sounded almost condescending.

"We're flying?"

"No. I mean, have you ever read a fairy tale?"

"Not for quite some time; oh, you mean we're in one."

"Right." She thought, with a congratulatory smile. (just accept it, it doesn't have to make sense.)

"What's so funny about that?" It was much easier to think, than talk, at this speed and altitude.

" You're the hero."

"Thanks. You're my favorite female ... Hey!" Her giggle was a bubble of thought, that burst on my brain. It carried a sense of the absurd, and it was contagious.

So it came to pass:

Rosie and I, howling with laughter, swooped down on the witch. I prepared to intercept her at the proper moment.

Unfortunately Merle, scared out of her wits, threw herself on the ground as we approached.

I missed her by a meter.

It was exactly that meter away that the Gods, in their infinite wisdom, placed a large, immovable tree.


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Whirling visions of tree bark, danced through my skull- and something else-in the measured meter of the dancing bark; a deep, throbbing pain in my skull and a voice ...

"... O.K.? You hit that tree pretty hard. Can you hear me?"

A familiar scent. It was the scent of woman or my name wasn't ..., wasn't, eh (just kidding-even I wouldn't stoop to an overused device like amnesia.) Nod.

While I must admit I've been beaten and bruised a bit; still and all I have a knack for regaining consciousness in the presence of beautiful females.

My left eye was swollen shut. But I could see enough with the right. Merle was on one knee, next to me. The cut of her dress made me sorry I wasn't feeling better.

I moaned as pitifully as I could. Feigning a relapse to unconsciousness, I watched through slitted eyelids, as she started away. Part way down the path, she stopped and turned about. As if in debate with herself, she stamped her foot. She swung around and started away again. After four steps she turned toward me.

Merle had a brief conversation, with herself. She would say something and take off down the path. Stop, say something, turn around; almost as if she were dancing. The only bits I picked up were; "You're gonna regret this" and "Ah, shit!" The last, as she strode back toward me, on the path.

As she came back, she removed her cloak. It was the single most erotic thing I had ever seen. She rolled the cloak under my head. She brushed her fingers along my cheek and down the line of my jaw. Her hand trembled as she did this.

"My, but you're a cute one." She sighed and the tremble ran all through her.

I stayed quiet. So far things were going just fine, thank you. I watched her through slitted eyes, knowing that parts of my anatomy were about to announce my arousal..

"Maybe I could do you like this? I wonder if that would satisfy the charm?"

Her fingers clenched into a fist, around a hank of my hair.

"Why me?" She asked the sky, yanking my head off the ground in the process.

"It's NOT a CHARM, it's a CURSE!!" She punctuated every second word by thumping my skull on the ground. I groaned the third time and she stopped, startled.

So much for my announcement.

"Oh my!" She said, raising her hands to her mouth. When she released my hair, my skull thumped on the ground again.

For a moment, her face displayed some emotional indecision, then all became a dizzy blur. I moaned again (I meant it, this time) and that, apparently did the trick.

"Let me kiss the boo-boo." She cried. Grabbing the collar of my cloak in both hands she yanked me from the ground and kissed me.

Oh boy, did she kiss me. When she had enough of my mouth and face she started opening my tunic. Erotically, she worked her way to my belt.

"Ahem!" Declaimed a familiar voice, "Perhaps we might discuss this?"

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the charm

It was everything Herbert could do to get her off of me.

"No, NO! I've got to finish or I'll ..."

She shriveled inside her clothing. Her glorious body sagged and bulged. Her clothing hung around her like badly laundered drapes.

"You, you little bastard," She pointed a wrinkling claw at me. "Every day for two-hundred-thirty years I've managed to satisfy the spell and you, you've ruined everything."

Merle turned in Herbert's grasp, "How did you know?" she asked quietly.

"Actually, I didn't." Herbert shrugged, "I thought you were going to eat him."

Merle looked at her wrinkled hands and put her wrinkled face in them. After a few moments, her dusty sobs subsided.

"How will I ever find someone to satisfy the spell, now?"

"How," I asked, "do you feel about toads?"

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All's Well

Merle's big gingerbread house became the Headquarters for Captain Dyna's men. The Villagers retained their properties, and were promised help with rebuilding.

I sat with Mayor Slugg, the Council and Captain Dyna. We thrashed out a deal whereby, the villagers would contribute to a fund and Captain Dyna's men would be paid a lump sum for a patrol and guards; another sum for arbitration; special services could be paid per incident. Dyna's men agreed to pool the monthly payments to cover expenses. The Great House was nearly self-sufficient.

"We'll make it an academy. An example of truth and justice, chivalry and might. A beacon to a darkling world ..." The Captain rose, and began to stride across the room.

The Corporal leaned to me and whispered, "He'll be going on like this for quite some time, let's take some air." He slapped me on the shoulder and rose, beckoning as he turned to go. I followed him quietly.

Outside, we stopped by the veranda where I had first seen Merle. The thin moon was pale and lonely in the blue-black sky.

"I can see that it's good the villagers got back their homes and stores and farms. Me and the men got a great deal going here, maybe better than the temple." He sighed.

"No virgins, Huh?" I guessed.

"That remains to be seen," he dismissed it with a hand gesture. "Even the witch didn't do too badly, if you like amphibians," he paused and rubbed his pointed chin.

"What I want to know is, what did you do it for? What do you get out of it?"

I watched him for a moment more. Without meaning to, I smiled, "The truth is, we wanted a certain stone from the witch, the Mage's Stone, but we never found it."

We searched the Great house from gum-drops to icing, nothing. Not a clue as to the stone's whereabouts. Actually there was a decided lack of gems and such throughout the Great House. I told the corporal as much.

"I know, I was on the search team, That's what got me thinking; who said it was a gem?"

"Well, a precious stone." I replied.

"Beggin' your pardon but mightn't that have meant a stone that was precious, instead of a precious stone?"

"Well I'll be a republican." I hadn't thought about it that way. I tossed a mental call to Herbert, he moved to meet us outside.

"I think this may actually be the stone you are looking for." He reached down and brought up a rock. Other than being perfectly round it was not unusual.

"This is the Mage's Stone?" I was incredulous.

"I believe it is." The corporal held it out at arms length.

"I don't believe it. It's a rock."

"It's a perfectly round rock."

Squinting skeptically I said, "Now there's something you don't see every day, a round rock."

"That's true." Claimed Herbert, leaning out the balcony above us.

"It's a geode, they are pretty rare, they've got crystals inside. An inner beauty, so to speak." He rested his elbow on the rail with his chin on his palm.

"So you think it's the Mage's Stone, too? Just because it's round?" Had everyone lost their wit but me?

"Well, it does have the words 'Mages' Stone' chiseled on it." The colonel held it out, for my perusal.

"Corporal, my thanks." Herbert snatched the geode and balanced it on his hand. "Nod it's time we were off again."

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Imagine the world's most playful puppy.

Now, picture that puppy seventeen-feet-long, breathing fire.

Tiela flitted around Rosie's ears, babbling a mile a minute. Rosie loped across the open grass, with a weird two-legged gait. Their melodious laughter filled the clearing, in the early sunlight. At times, Tiela would flit up and hug Rosie around her neck, as well as the little fairy could manage.

Rosie was fairly graceful on land, but not as graceful as she was in the air. (It troubles me that winged creatures should ever feel the need to walk.) So it was that the distraction of Tiela, coupled with the frenzied enthusiasm of play, distracted her just enough, to make her lose her balance.

The big dragon slowly crumpled, her momentum tumbled her, tail over teakettle. As she metamorphosed she exclaimed; "Look out!"

Unfortunately, Tiela couldn't move fast enough to get around the massive pink dragon.

Rosie bowled over half a dozen trees at the edge of the clearing, before she came to a halt. Uncurling herself, she glanced around, then over her shoulder.

No sign of the fairy.

Rosie sat up on her haunches.

Dragons have very emotive features. It's strange to think that reptilian snout, could have such a broad range of expression. Rosie ran through most of the ones relating to confusion.

She extended her sinuous neck, twisting to search all around. In an awesome feat of flexibility, she curled her neck and lifted her body to look under her own posterior. She could hear Tiela's muffled voice, but could not locate her.

Rosie stopped moving. She turned her pink head to the side and listened.

"Mph-mpf m-m-m mph!" a tiny voice was mumbling.

With her eyes crossed, she stretched her neck, full length. Rosie peered down her big snout; Tiela was plastered to her tummy. She carefully peeled the fairy off her scales and laid her on the grass. Rosie sat beside her for a moment, gazing with child-like concentration, then leaned forward.

She gave Tiela a kiss; one long, wet lick with her incredibly long tongue. The flattened fairy shivered and puffed back to normal.

"Oh, yuck Rosie," she said glistening in the sunlight.

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"I don't care, I went to a bunch of trouble to get it." Tiela stamped her foot, which, when she was flittering, had the effect of bouncing her in the air a few inches.

"Besides, it's magical isn't it?" She had run through her entire repertoire of sniveling lips and pouty faces before settling on the appropriate combination of the two. She stamped her foot again.

"Tielinaraunella, we all appreciate the heroic thing you did getting this ... item." Hanna pointed helplessly at the round, black object with the white eight on it.

"That it's the wrong one doesn't make it any less heroic." Offered Dot.

"I don't care," She sniffled determinedly, "I won't go if I can't take it."

"Tiela!" Hanna was surprised.

"Well," Herbert interrupted, "I suppose we should bring the young lady's trophy with us."

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The River

The Glen winds West, a branch of a larger fault, that travels North and South. West Keep was strategically built at that joining. After that, it moves clear out of Nod's reckoning. Which is not to imply that Nod had ever been that far, but he knew of it from maps and myth.

Because the original destination was West Keep, the company followed the southern edge of the Glen.  At points in it's Westward march, the Glen narrowed. The inhabitants contrived bridges and the like, to traverse the Glen. These were spaced unevenly along the course, and some appeared so disreputable as to make it seem wiser to descend the gorge and fight one's way up the other side.

But now, the company traveled to Dwarf country; that meant crossing the Glen. As Nod reckoned it, it was about a four day march, in either direction, to the nearest bridges. They had come leagues out of the way.

The discussion came down to retracing their steps now, or later.

"The Dwarves inhabit Redlake. That's the source of the River, at the Southeastern foot of the Red Mountains. It is the oldest continuously occupied colony in this hemisphere." Tiela recited, then appeared surprised with herself.

Everyone was silent for a moment, as we gaped at her.

Looking from face to face, she said, "Well that's the truth. You can check if you wish." Accompanied by a pouty-lip and a toe drag it was very effective.

"I've been up that way," volunteered Dot, "It's sparse, except by the River. It's a hard march."

"Our best bet is to head back to the River, then follow it to Redlake" I suggested.

Herbert looked thoughtful, "We're already West of the Red Mountains and The River." He bent and drew in the dirt with a small stick. To his left he gouged a L-shaped trough,

"The Glen of the Rog," next he scratched an X beside it. "You are here."

Herbert made a series of upside down V-shaped scratches, and a long, sinuous line, "The Red mountains," he said pointing at the inverted V's, "and the River. What is the name of the River, anyway?" Herbert looked up from where he squatted.

"The River." I replied.

"But, just 'the River?' Doesn't it have a name?" Herbert scratched at his mangy beard and elevated his prodigious eyebrows.

Dot and I looked at each other, for once, in agreement.

"That's what we call it." Dot said.

"And rather appropriate," I said. "It's not as if there's any confusion about what river we mean. There is just the one."

Herbert shook his head. Dot and I looked at each other and shrugged. Sometimes, Herbert can be rather obtuse.

"But, it doesn't have it's own name?"

"Well," It was not so much a comment as a clearing of the throat. Hanna shuffled her feet. "It has a name of it's own." Hanna spoke in a soft voice. "I wouldn't say this within earshot of it, though."

Herbert could stand no more. "What is it, child."

"It is an overused pro-" Began Dot.

"No," said Tiela, "we did that bit already."

"Dwayne." She pronounced it dew-ane.

"Dwayne River?" asked Herbert, incredulously.

"No, I think the last name is Tompkins."

Herbert did not reply to this, though his eyebrows were restless. He began again, his gaze remained fixed on Hanna as he spoke.

"As you can see," He pointed at the map, (which was, by the way, atrocious) "Going back to the River is the long way around."

"Dat makes sense. Going over der Red Mountains vould be a lot shorter," opined the Rabbit.

"But, That's really tough going." I didn't intend it to sound whiny.

"What about it? Rosie? Spike?" Herbert looked at each of them in turn.

"Can you make it? You won't get much magical help. Every time I zap something I'm sending a signal to whoever wants to look." Rosie and Spike looked at Herbert, then at all of us. We all glanced at each other and, in turn, cast accusatory glances at Herbert.


"We were expecting you to say 'and then, there's the lightning'. You always say it, doesn't he?" Tiela assisted, flitting about Herbert‘s head.

There was a general murmur of assent.

"O.K., O.K.- and then there's the lightning."

Rosie and Spike turned back to each other, nodding their heads.

"We can make it." They averred.

Maybe he could get everyone else to believe that stuff about the magic, but I knew Herbert had an ulterior motive; he was almost out of hats.

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the inevitable

Finally, (and by its very nature, inevitably) the inevitable happened; disaster struck. So far, for all our trials and tribulations, no one had been seriously hurt. We had been extremely fortunate. I feel sure there is a mechanism in the Universe that affords one only so much good fortune.

Rosie and Spike were off scouting our route, or something. Hanna was walking through the trees, communing (she was after all, a Dryad.) I was attempting to start a fire.

Herbert was in mid-conjuration. The ground around him sizzled and popped. He was zapping some lunch for us. Tiela and Dot were, quite literally, up a tree.

Eight or nine burly Elves came crashing into our camp. One of them pointed a meaty finger at us and said, "Dere dey are." I felt this was a clear indication of their intentions. I felt frozen in place, in a fragment of time.

I would be pleased to tell you that my adventures had hardened me to emergent and dangerous situations. I would be pleased, but I'd be lying.

Apparently, my brain felt it had enough. It sputtered and coughed, denying me access to cognitive services until I supplied it some pretty good answers.

I desperately thought to move, but my legs were having none of it. One of the big guys grabbed me by the back of my collar and lifted me. I knew how to respond to this sort of thing; I watched Herbert try to level one of those silvery warrior things, then I fainted.

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Net assets

The ringing ache in my head told me I didn't faint. I don't recall being hit in the head, but I could feel the lump behind my ear. Herbert was unconscious beside me.

We were covered by, and bound to a net. It was not a pleasant and cozy net; it was rather scratchy and uncomfortable. It smelled unmistakably of herring, very old herring. Despite its many shortcomings, it held us in place efficiently.

There was a rumbling of voices and wheels in the background. I couldn't understand the language being spoken, but it sounded like two of the Elven thugs. It was a hushed but heated discussion.

"I hope it's about us." I muttered aloud. I was thinking there was still hope for negotiation.

CRACK! The sound ran through my skull and I tasted blood. (I have a habit of muttering aloud, at the most unfortunate times.)

"Silence, or else." Declaimed an elf, brandishing a drivers crop. He leered at me, "We d'nah have orders about you. We can do what we want with you, laddie-boy-o."

I was stunned; I had never been called laddie and boy-o in the same sentence, before. I remained silent and the wheel-creak rumble faded to the background again. I couldn't see much from my position, just a few feet of dirt behind the wagon and Herbert's head. Not only had he lost his hat, but he had a swollen gash behind his ear. I stretched at my bonds to test them. The exertion sent a new wave of throbbing through my skull and I groaned.

"Uhn Glp." Dot's oversized slipper, entered my mouth and stoppered it. Her legs were snaked through the net, in which she hung.

"You'll have to be quiet, lad, and don't move so much. Use the ruby. Listen now, the girls ..." Herbert's thoughts dwindled and I knew he was out again.

"They were talking, about us. Dot and I were translating," came Tiela's cute thoughts.

"Herbert's not doing too well."

I turned my head in the direction of her thoughts. (Yes, thoughts have a directional component, too.) She and Dot were hanging by my face. They were in a smaller net, on a pole, at the end of the wagon. It had a finer mesh but it didn't look pleasant and cozy, either.

"Translating?" I thought. I almost said it aloud.

"They were speaking in the High Elven tongue. We-listen they're doing it again."

"Ouyay antway otay ogay ithway emay ootay," Said the first gruff voice.

"Ureshay, atwhay uoldshay eeway elltay ethay irlsgay?" Replied the second. They went on like this for some time.

"Ouyay inkthay eythay oughtcay onay?" The conversation continued

"I hope so," the second broke into English as he surveyed us, over his shoulder.

"It's some kind of plans," thought Dot.

"A meeting or a ..." added Tiela.

The wagon jerked to a halt. I was curious, but I could only squirm enough to see that one of the elves was climbing down. There was more conversation in High Elvish, but I couldn't follow it.

Dot and Tiela were in a better position so I thought at them, "What's going on, girls?"

"Girls?!" They echoed.

After sending the mental equivalent of a raspberry, Tiela thought, "See if you can see what I'm seeing."

" Huh ?" That gets no translation, when thought, it comes out the same. It is a primal sound, like ow!, oops! and Christ on a tea cart!

"Rosie and I do it all the time. Listen; concentrate on their conversation and the sounds around them. Close your eyes, now don't lose contact with me."

As I closed my eyes, I could distinguish four separate voices. One was speaking common English. For some reason I couldn't place, the voice sounded human.

A vision swam before me, a tiny globe of light and movement. It wobbled and twirled as it expanded. The voices grew more distinct and the globe grew brighter and bigger.

All at once, the globe erupted into my senses and I could see what she saw.

Three of the voices belonged to elves, the third to a human, dressed in a buff-colored tunic and leggings. The human was shorter than the three burly elves, but did not seem intimidated by them. He seemed to be giving the orders.

"Your boss asked me to give you a hand," He waved his hand toward the wagon.

"We don't need help." The whip-holder sounded upset.

"Apparently, your boss feels differently. He told me you were suppose to contract the locals, and not get personally involved."

The elves looked abashed, and wouldn't meet his gaze. The bigger of the three was running his toe along his instep.

"Gosh, You know you just can't count on local help." He nudged his cohort.

"Yeah! Soon as we eppedstay inay, you notice we got esultsray." He said in broken Elven.

"Your 'Boss' wouldn't have sent me, if you two had got any results.

I could understand the High Elvish speech, most of it. I never understood it before; I didn't even know there was High Elvish until now.

"It's Dot doing most of the translating, I'm not that good at Elvish" thought Tiela. It was more than a thought, I think.

Each time we thought at each other, more connections were made. Sharing the same perceptual framework brought us even closer. It seemed that the more we used the rubies, the better we got.

"I don't know all the words, that's why you heard elvish."

A tingle rushed through my awareness, opening all the pleasure relays and closing them behind, like dominoes. It was very much like an orgasm, maybe better.

"Oooh!" She moaned mentally.

"Whoa!" I returned.

The foursome faded and there was nothing but Tiela and I, intertwined.

"OOOh!" Tiela muttered aloud and the spell was broken.

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I awakened numb and strangely sad. It seemed just moments before, I had been linked to Tiela. 'Sharing souls' is how she thought of it.

The wagon wasn't moving. Herbert was still unconscious, but had stopped bleeding.

My circulation was cut off by the strands of the net and the feeling was not returning to my body. I felt this was not a good sign. I shifted my body and my body avenged itself. It screamed, I groaned.

"Silence!" cried the whip-wielding elf. He snapped the leather thong across my back; it brought me to complete silence. My ruminations on vengeance and the possibility of justice in an imperfect Universe, were interrupted by new voices.

"Mustn't damage the fairies, that's all what was said to me. Nary a word about these others." It sounded like a human speaking English. It could have been a dolphin speaking Balinese, for all I cared. I was ready to give up this foolishness, go back to tending my herbs.

A sound cut through my awareness, two sounds, actually; Dot and Tiela shrieking. One of the elves had slit the net that was holding them, upside down. He held the squirming, shrieking pair clutched in his hands.

Hanna (remember Hanna?) appeared behind the elf and rapped him in the head with a stout tree limb. Even as she swung, I tried to call out a warning, Elves have very hard heads.

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"Spike, dear; let's land for some lunch." Thought Rosie.

"Please, Madame dragon, I like better der shpeaking out loud. I am still practicing der English.

"But you're easier to understand, when you think."

"I bow to your desires, Madame." Thought Spike.

"I'm not a Madame, I'm not married," Rosie looped her neck around, and fluttered her big green eyes at him, "or anything. I guess that makes me a mademoiselle."

"A very lovely mademoiselle."

"You flatter me, sir."

"Call me," Spike performed the mental equivalent of nervously clearing his throat or straightening his tie (Granting, of course, that he had a tie to begin with, which he didn't.)

"Call me, Fluffy."

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Hanna stood with her legs apart, one to either side of the fallen Tiela. She spun the tree limb in a circular blur, above her head. She had to abort her one attempt to reach Dot, who lay at the bottom of the hillock.

The two remaining elves stood side by side, waiting for an opportunity to jump Hanna. They looked pathetically like helpless beasts in the headlights ( anachronistically speaking,) yet, were infinitely more insidious.

Their reluctance, was not due to the puzzling attack by a Dryad. Elven folk were frequently puzzled, by the complexities of life. (For instance; shoelaces.) They were surprised by the tree limb she wielded, and the golden light the tree limb radiated, but, it was not a factor in their wariness. She was a Dryad and as such, heir to magic, of that variety.

What stunned them was the unconscious state of their colleague, who had weathered head clonkings much more severe, without complaint. He had, in fact, come in fifth in the last Mayoral Race. There was obviously something here, they didn't comprehend.

As previously mentioned, lack of comprehension seemed to be a genetic thing with the Elven. They had developed two strategies to deal with this common situation:

Ignore it completely, or stay perfectly still and stare, until something happens.

The Human picked up a branch of his own, smaller than Hanna's. He moved sidewise to Dot's position, bowing to Hanna, as she hovered over Tiela.

Dot was beginning to revive, shaking her head to clear it. She noticed the Human approaching and froze, just in time to present an easy target.

"My humble apologies, pixie person." He said in a thick French accent.

He bopped her in the head, scooped her up from the ground and ran like hell. Hanna made to move after him, but couldn't leave the prostrate Tiela unguarded.

I strained against the net, seeking some point for leverage, but it was hopeless. I was secured under the net, face down on some drayage crates. Herbert was beside me in a similar situation. In travel, we slid toward the back of the wagon. That not only tightened our bonds, but also left us hanging off the edge of the crates, face down.

I thought as hard as I could, "Rosie where are you, we need help!?"

Herbert stirred beside me, straining the net and making it even less comfortable. He blinked and took in the melee around him.

"Do something, Herbert!" I croaked, as I watched Dot disappear down the path. "Zap the net!"

He made one of the two elves vanish, and nearly passed out from the effort. Hanna bashed the other elf, severely. Then Herbert stared down the path at the fleeing Human and (My guess is) removed his belt to another Dimension.

The Human's pants dropped around his knees and he tumbled to the ground, spilling the unconscious Dot.

Herbert looked at me and said, "Go get her, lad."

He concentrated again and the net disappeared, dumping us both on our noses, in the dirt.

I raced down the path after the kidnapper. As I ran, I flashed another S.O.S. to Rosie.

"I need help, Rosie!"

"What's up, squirt?"

"That guy has Dot." I didn't take time to point, Rosie knew which guy, I meant. All my attention was focused on that guy.

"Be right there." She thought.

As I ran, Rosie swooped over my head, her large form, casting a shadow before me. The fleeing Human turned and clutched his chest. When I made eye contact, he grinned and began to glow. Splinters of light radiated in a circle around him. He threw his club away. He bowed to me and said,

"My apologies, I'll do her no harm."

I redoubled my efforts but to no avail. As I dove for the spot where they stood, he disappeared, taking Dot with him.

Rosie flashed over my head thinking, "Where in the Hells did they go?"

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"I couldn't think of anything else to do." Hanna shrugged in a way that was either meant to reflect the futility of thought in a mindless Universe, or mild confusion (I'm not sure which.)

"I knew it was useless, but I had to do something."

Herbert poked me in the ribs and whispered, "She went into it expecting to lose. I don't know if that's noble or foolish. Her conquest came as a bit of a surprise, to her."

"Isn't it always a surprise?" I interjected, inquisitively. It seemed to me that her actions would only be foolish, if she failed,

"Not always. some folks, Captain Dyna for one, never expect to lose."

"Where's the fun in that?"

"I say good riddance!" Rosie harrumphed, interrupting us with a puff of smoke.

"She's one of the company, we must do everything we can to rescue her."

"I'm with Herbert. We mustn't leave her to those elves." I was grimly imagining the treatment she'd be given, but Herbert surprised me. I didn't think he liked Dot.

Later he would tell me:

"Moral imperative my ass. I just had to let them know, they wouldn't be abandoned either."

Tiela pressed her hands to her temples, "She's trying to, - oh! What a potty-mouth- No she kicked him right in the -ooh that had to hurt- she's not able ..."

I rushed to Tiela mentally, but joined with her too late. The connection to Dot was broken.

Tiela looked very grim.

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hunches (with apologies to Mssr. Hugo)

"It's just a feeling, a hunch. The way the gems are attuned to one another, I'm sure it will work." I finished by slapping the pommel of my sword. The motion raised a cloud of dust from my clothing.

Herbert looked dubious, but said, "It wouldn't be any weirder than anything else that's happened."

I did some quick figuring, then said, "Tiela seems to have the longest range of any of us. Let her start and we can join in with her. Rosie see if you can get an aerial view of the area. Between us we ought to be able to pick up some sign of Dot."

Herbert gave me a strange sidelong glance. I cocked a questioning eyebrow at him.

In response, he just smiled, saying, "You're doing fine, lad"

"Ready Tiela?" She nodded to me, "O.K. Gang, let's go."

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"Due North, practically. I'd say he's headed for Dellbury with her. What could he want in Dellbury?' Rosie was coming through loud and clear, but none of us could reach Dot.

"He put her in a cage, she's being rather unpleasant about the whole thing."

"I'll wager the cage is iron, she won't be able to use her powers," offered Tiela.

"I think it is iron. Is that why we lost contact?"

"I'm just wondering if she'll figure out that the rubies aren't affected by an iron cage."

Though no one got along with her, we all felt terrible. The mood of adventure was gone now. A gloomier, less hopeful air replaced it.

"Dere ist zumzing about seeing von of der little ones, von of der Faery folk imprisoned," Spike was getting all choked up.

"But, Dot ..."

"Ya, even dat von. She had a lot of shpunk."

"That's true, she may have been nasty, rude, inconsiderate, rude and unpleasant, (Did I mention rude?) but she did have a lot of shpunk, er, spunk." Added Herbert.

"I'm certainly gonna miss her."

"Stop talking as if she were the dear departed, already. She's still part of the company and we're going to rescue her!" My impassioned plea did not go un-noticed. I looked from face to face; each one hesitantly agreed with me.

Tiela made a little buzzing noise with her wings and kicked an acorn. She muttered, "If only she wasn't such a bitch ..."

I looked over at Tiela, feigning a big O of surprise with my mouth. When she looked around at me, she began to giggle. Tiela possesses the most contagious laughter I have ever heard. I started almost immediately, thereafter.

If nothing else worthwhile happens as a result of our quest; the group giggles will have been worth it.

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The Plan

I had a plan, of sorts.

It all hinged on Herbert's ability to zap the cage from around Dot. His was the only magic that would work on iron. He grudgingly agreed to endure another lightning strike, to rescue the malicious Pixie.

Rosie was way up high, spotting for us with her marvelous eyesight. I could watch our progress through her eyes, or I could watch from Tiela's perspective. Tiela hovered near the kidnapped Dot, far enough away to go un-noticed, close enough to eavesdrop.

"Therol." Thought Tiela, "His name is Therol. He doesn't know much, just running an errand. He feels bad for the little fairy in the cage. This is creepy, listening in without permission."

Even more creepy was her new ability to read the thoughts of strangers, without their cooperation. She shot a very quiet, confidential thought to me. "Nod, she knows Therol, she's met him before. He's under strict orders to deliver her only to ..."

"It's Phineas!" she exclaimed aloud. "Hanna you were right!"

We were all very quiet for a moment, all thinking the same thing.

Why kidnap her?

"We're almost there." interjected Rosie.

I glanced at Herbert. " Are you ready?"

He looked back at me with a smile and a big shrug. "Here we go again."

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Therol came at me with his blade flashing.

This was not the way it was supposed to work. There were no drawn blades in the plan. I know because I devised the plan, myself.

The reason for the absence of swords was this; I'm lousy with a sword. Father had trained me as a boy, but swordplay held little interest for me. Though I became rather proficient, I barely remembered what his words meant.

My plan was a complete failure, but it succeeded. Nothing went like it should have, but it worked. We rescued Dot.

Here's the way it should have gone:

Hanna and I pose as merchants, traders, using the wagon and it‘s contents. With Spike as draught, Herbert would zap us to a point in front of Therol. Rosie is our high-in-the-sky reconnaissance. Herbert, who would need time to recuperate, waits for the mental signal and zaps Dot's cage. Tiela is nearby to assist Dot, and flit her away, when the cage disappears.

It was a brilliant plan (if I do say so, myself). All we had to do is keep Therol calm, but off-guard. Give him a lot of casual things to occupy his mind. Keep him confused but not jumpy, we don't want to have to chase him.

Here's what really happened:

Therol ducked off the road when Hanna and I approached with Spike. He did such a good job of concealing himself, we couldn't find him. We split up.

I was trekking through the undergrowth, when I heard Tiela (bless her pointy little ears) call out.

"Here he is, over here!"

Calling out was definitely not part of the plan.

Rosie went into a sneezing fit, at roughly the same time, wazoo-ing bright, orange fireballs across the sky. Spike gallantly leapt in the air to offer assistance.

Leaping into the sky was not even considered for my plan. We didn't discuss sneezing, either.

That's when Therol sprang from the bushes at me.

And where was Herbert during this fiasco? We don't know, he disappeared.

Later, Herbert didn't want to talk about it.

"I can't explain it. I don't understand it, at all. Whatever happened, I hope it doesn't happen again."

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I watched, from my position on the ground, as they shimmered and disappeared. I stretched out to my ball-cap and slapped it on the ground, until it stopped smoking. It was probably not like electro-shock, where the electricity flows through the cells; the electricity flowed around me, annoying every cell in my body, and occasionally catching my clothing afire.

After zapping Nod and Hanna to their position, I really didn't have much left to do, in our little production. Just displace an iron cage, at the proper moment. The hard part's over, so I took a minute to light a pipe and relax.

The sunlight was slippery and warm in the little meadow, and the faintest of breezes, brushed the wildflowers. I exhaled slowly and soaked in the calm, blue of the sky, playing clouds for a lark. A small, black disk appeared between the three legged cat, and the V.W. bug (ca.1969). It flattened into a thin black line, then dilated to block the sky above me.

"Herbert" It was a familiar voice. I knew it was pointless to resist.

"Oh god, not now." I retorted.

Heedless of my plea, the black disk dipped to the ground and surrounded me.

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Qorissa sucked in a liter of methane, and held her breath. As she released her breath, she sputtered and choked.

Her Mother raised a pseudopodium and formed it into a single digit. She wagged the digit, in a symbol of recrimination, one that apparently remains universally constant regardless of shape, philosophy or respiratory preferences.

"Now Qorissa, it won't do you any good to get all shit-faced. The situation is impossible. You know it and we know it. Return that creature to its own now/when and get on with your life. The void is no place for you to spend your time, you've got responsibilities."

She undulated to face her mate. "It's just impossible," she formed her psuedopod into a triangular depression that represented a declarative question.

"It's hopeless!" Proclaimed Qorissa.

"It's ridiculous! Cease this nonsense at once!" Her father boomed his response, lowering his psuedopod to the ground in irreversible negation.

He was, in a word, putting his foot down.

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Therol (partiemme deux)

Where were we? Oh, yes:

Therol came at me with his blade flashing. I barely had time to unsheathe my own, when the edges met with a ringing clang.

Well, I wasn't dead yet.

He slid the edge of his blade down mine; making it vibrate and screech, in a way that set my teeth on edge. I had no idea what to do, I didn't want to hurt this fellow. I just wanted to rescue Dot. Knowing that Pixie, she might have brought this upon herself. I was working on hunches and pure dumb luck.

I slapped the top edge of his sword with the flat of my blade. He seemed surprised, when his sword abruptly hit the dirt.

"Monsieur," He said, "The finest swordsman in all of France, salutes you." He froze and bowed his head quickly, raising his sword in front of his face.

I hit his wrist with the pommel of my sword. I didn't contemplate the action, I just did it. He staggered, blood welled from his forehead.

"You're not in France." I said. It was time to improvise; to press my advantage, I kicked him in the crotch.

"NGNGNGNG !" He replied, doubling over and going down on one knee.

I hit him in the head with the pommel and he went down.

"You're becoming quite the swordsman, Now you just have to learn to use the sharp part."

It was Dot. I located her iron cage by following her caustic commentary. I've never been so relieved to be insulted in my life.


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