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The Science Of Magic

Chapter 14

If wishes were horses,

She clutched what was left of her clothing with trembling fingers. Her sobs were subsiding, but her body was still throbbing with pain. She crouched in the corner of the cell, against the cool, blue stone.

Throughout her ordeal she kept contact with Phineas' mind, sifting through the recesses of his thoughts. It kept her sane, even as she was being raped. She had learned a great deal from the festering swamp inside his head. She knew what she must do and how she must go about it.

Now if only she weren't imprisoned.

Against her wishes, her body lapsed into unconsciousness.

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The Mayor of Centerville

Will Rumpledumpling's sensitivity and patience had been strained to the limit. Though he was afraid of Phineas, he had enough.

"I am the, by Ga, Mayor of Centerville, and I won't stand for this anymore!" He pounded his fist on the desk, in unconscious parody of Phineas.

Doris was amazed and somewhat pleased. She didn't know the old Pixie had it in him. When the desk accessories stopped rattling, she straightened her glasses on her nose. Her expression was a question mark, aimed at Will.

They were both silent for a moment, the screeching from the basement changed and ended with a gurgling wail.

"Send for Phineas at once! Mobilize all the Home Guard! Bring him here if you have to drag him in chains! Especially if you have to drag him in chains!" He hollered at the guards.

Doris was pleased with this new version of Will. Maybe he would make a good Mayor, after all. "What are you going to say to him?" She wanted to ask if she could stay and watch, but she didn't.

"Why, nothing at all. I won't be here when he gets back."

"But, what about-" Doris didn't get the chance to finish, but she wasn't sure what she had intended anyway.

"I'm going to be breaking a certain Pixie out of prison, and you're going to help."

"I thought you'd never ask." replied Doris.

 

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Will's plan

Will knew it would do no good to hit an Elf-guard in the head, with a blunt instrument. The heads of Elves, are blunt instruments. It was the only part of their body that wasn't festooned with armor (leather, chains, reworked chafing dishes, what have you,) as none was necessary.

If sneaking up was out of the question, so was a full frontal assault. While he was technically their superior, the guards were all loyal to Phineas. They would check with him before carrying out any orders from Will.

Apparently, the little Pixie was valuable to Phineas; she was still alive and well- guarded.

Phineas did not have all the aces, however. Will had cultivated loyalties and associations of his own. For instance, the local constabulary thought of Will as a sort of hero, Home Town Boy makes good.

So it was the home guard, in groups of five or six, that hurried through the dungeon past the eight, dim-witted, Elven guards.

The Elves were puzzled by the clamor. Not because the dungeon was a major detour to getting anywhere, and not because most of the home guard passed by them four or five times. They had neither the wit nor the desire to understand such things. Elves have no talent for even the simplest machinations: it is conjectured that the lack of shoes, in the Elven culture, has little to do with their natural heritage and much to do with an inability to decipher the laces.

No, they were puzzled because guard duty is boring and they were spoiling for some violence. Simple minds crave simple pleasures.

Gimpy, the nominal leader of the band of elves, (as he was biggest and talked the loudest) stuck out an arm like a yard of tree trunk. He grabbed one of the hurrying Pixies by the collar.

"What's up?" Said Gimpy, with all the charm of a hydrophobic Mastiff.

"Dwarves attacking city hall, at the west gate. Everyone to arms!" The Pixie wiggled free and shot off down the hallway, just as Will had instructed him.

Gimpy, blinked his eyes a few times, cogitating the import of what he had heard.

"Dwarves?" He muttered aloud. He would dearly love to bash some Dwarves. The creaking cogs turned slowly in Gimpy's head, but after some moments, he came to a conclusion.

The Pixie wasn't going anywhere, guards or not. He gazed around the rest of the troop, understanding was slowly dawning, on their vacant faces.

"Right, lads. Let's go get'em

 

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aghast

Will was aghast at the sight of the Pixie. He had never been aghast before and had always wondered what it was like. Now that he knew, once was enough.

Her battered body quivered and twitched, though she appeared unconscious. Her little face was bruised and swollen, her right eye puffed shut. Bloody fingers clutched the tattered rags, around her body. Her long hair was matted with blood.

Doris froze in mid-air, wings unmoving. She glanced at Will, and flitted to the helpless Pixie.

Will remained paralyzed, slack-jawed; he was sickened by the sight. Even his worst imaginings, had not prepared him for this.

"Quickly, now Doris. We'll have to wake her, I'm afraid. She'll have to pop out from here, herself; she won't make it back up to the hall."

Will felt his wind catch in his throat, a deep sadness floated up from whatever depths he had. At the same time, a deep and quiet anger welled up in him. Not rage, or hate but a slow, steady feeling of surety that this would never happen again, here. Not as long as he had the breath of life.

When Will finally moved, Doris had beat him to Dot. Grown to full size*, she discarded her eyeglasses and the neck chain, and knelt. Squirming out of her cardigan, she cradled Dot as she wrapped the sweater around her.

Doris stood, carrying the limp form with her. After a deep sob, she spoke to Will.

"Will, we must do something about this. Helping her escape is not enough. It's un-Fry, by Ga, it's even inhuman." Dot moved in her arms and Doris nearly dropped her. "Let's get her out from behind the iron bars."

Will rushed to help. As they cleared the bars, Dot parted the lid of her good eye.

"I had the most horrible nightmare?" she croaked, weakly.

"It wasn't a dream, dear, more's the pity." Doris answered.

They carried her from both ends, and a little awkwardly. Doris had Dot's hands and arms, with Dot's head resting on her chest; Will had her legs.

Dot turned her face toward Doris, and ran her tongue across her lips. Her voice rattled as she spoke.

"Aren't you Tinker ..."

"Yes, dear. But that was long ago, and far away." She smiled at Dot and shot a warning glance at Will. "Just call me Doris."

Will, who was much smarter than he looked, said nothing at all.

"Are you strong enough to pop out of here, or should I help?" Dot's dazed expression was enough for Doris, she would not leave her.

"Where can we take her that's safe?" Will, for all his gumption, had not thought that far.

"I think I know a place, I haven't been there in a very long time." Her dreamy visage faded quickly. "But then, things don't change much, there."

"Where are you going?" Will asked.

"If you don't know, you can't tell."

"How will I contact you?" Will sounded frantic. "We'll need some kind of signal."

Dot, leaning on Doris, stretched a battered hand toward Will's face. She clamped his chin and turned his face to her own.

"Look at me, into my eyes." Dot stared into his eyes for an extended moment. "I'll contact you."

 She had become so used to the ruby's presence, that she didn't run her thumb over the smooth band when she used it's powers, anymore. It didn't occur to her, that Phineas had removed the ring from her finger.

 

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Null and Void: Noderick explains

I was explaining things to Herbert. He was puzzled by the actions of the gem, notably the incident in the Dwarf treasury. I must admit that I was wondering, myself. When I got to the part about snatching the pear-shaped diamond, I reached into my tunic. My intent was to show Herbert the gem, I swear, that's all I meant to do.

When my hand opened around it, the gem began to hum. After a moment, listening, I realized it was singing a melody.

"Tiela was right." exclaimed Herbert. "The damned thing is singing."

"How come we never heard it before?" It seemed a competent question.

"We weren't listening."

Strangely, that made perfect sense to me. The lack of distraction, in this place, had the effect of amplifying the tiniest things. I was attempting to convince myself I was okay, when reality gave me a swift kick in the shins.

The "walls" of nothing began to crackle and pop. Millions of static charges sizzled, creeping across the nothing.

"Nod?" Queried Herbert, reaching for his cap. It had become a reflex action for Herbert.

"Yes, Herbert?" Well, it was better than "Huh ".

"Did you know this was going to happen?" Herbert was nervously watching the accelerating light show.

The singing was getting louder, the bands of light were pulsating. As I watched, the static and the lights became a homogeneous, whirling mass. It accelerated at an alarming rate.

"That what was going to happen?" I dissembled, nervously eyeing the surrounding nothing. It was worth a try.

The sound changed to one clear, broad note. All at once, the light intensified and focused on the diamond. The diamond got brighter and fired a beam of blue light at me.

While Herbert gawked, I vibrated with blue. I could feel the light enter and surround me. Though I was apprehensive, it was not a particularly unpleasant experience.

"You have a halo around your head." Herbert pointed out.

"What's your point, old man?" I asked, as nonchalantly as I could. 

Herbert reached out and covered the gem in my hand, with his hand. All the light and motion stopped.

When the nothing returned, I realized that I missed the touch of the light. I had never associated any tactility to light, before, something else was always in the way. I liked it.

"That light sought you out. It's the second time it's done that. Do you have any idea why?"

Well, I did have an idea. I was pretty sure it was correct, too. I didn't know if Herbert was ready for it, though, and I wasn't sure I was. That's why I told him, "No, Herbert."

When it got quieter, Herbert asked, "Was it singing? Could you tell what the words were?"

It was lovely, but confusing: somewhere between chanting and singing. The words changed and moved through the different voices, seeming a jumble of nonsense at one moment and lucid speech the next. It was all in the Elder Speech, so I only caught parts of it.

"It's the Elder Speech, ‘Ctrnn al na Rog’ is West Keep, and I'm not sure about ‘Nrrgd al na Rog’." I did not mention that ‘Nrrgd al na Rog’ was the term in the Elder Speech, from which Mother derived my name. Loosely translated it meant, ‘Love of the World’ and it is not a common term in the Elder Speech.

I mean, how could I tell him the gem's song had called to me by name.

 

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Herbert is incredulous

Okay, I was incredulous. Here was this lout of a lad, with a talking diamond. Aside from the light show, (which was impressive, I'll admit) there were a thousand fairy voices singing in eight-part harmony. It wasn't precisely speech, there were only a few words. The rest was implied by the music, but quite clearly.

And there was no misunderstanding those few words as they were in English:

"Go with Noderick, Restore the Scepter to Westkeep."

 Ah, well. I would have to speak to the lad, presently.

 

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Peridot

Dot tried to crack her eyes open but one lid was not responding. When she managed to get the other partially open, she was looking at a human. He wore a mangled, black top-hat on his head, and a muffler about his neck. He seemed to be following a pair of wire-frame spectacles, trying to get his face positioned as they hung in the air before him. Though he dressed like a child, he bore a five-o-clock shadow and walked with an arthritic limp.

"Go fetch Peter." commanded Doris.

"You okay?" The human asked Dot. He made a point of ignoring Doris.

The effort of opening her mouth to answer, made her gasp in agony. That was answer enough, for the human.

"I'll fetch Peter." He thrust a disheveled teddy bear at her. Dot sat up and opened her mouth.

"Peter, who?" she croaked. Clutching the immense bear to her, she fainted.

 

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meanwhile ...

"It was the best I could do." Arianna formed her features into a hurt look, the best she could contrive. She was not as gifted in the art as her new friend Tiela, but she was no dilettante, either. After all, this was her father. Due to many hours of diligent training, and years of practice, he was putty in her hands.

"Yes, my dear, but this is how religious cults and documentaries get started. You remember what happened in that Terra place-"

"Father this is nothing like that. This was an isolated intervention, no artifacts were left behind, none were disturbed." She wrapped her fingers in her hair (in much the same way as Hanna was, at this moment). By biting her bottom lip and angling her face just so ...

"Oh, all right. I suppose no real harm was done, after all."

"That's got it." she thought.

"But even if they do get that interface going, you are not to go there in person." The first speaker narrowed his eyes over the bridge of his rather lengthy nose. His intention was to let his daughter know he meant business.

To Arianna, that expression meant that she had bamboozled the old darling, once again.

 

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Conversation with a Dragon

They talked about anything, as they wandered about the Labyrinth. Tiela sometimes flitting about frenetically, sometimes perched on a rock or boulder, listening to Enkvil expound.

He talked about the great delvings they had performed with dragon fire. He expounded about the necessities and niceties of planning such delvings, about the celebrations held at the openings. He was a young dragon then, and the world was filled with infinite possibilities. Though by his own definition, "Infinity is any number higher than one can count"

Then, Tiela's turn would come and she would tell him about Hanna, or playing skip-tag with water bugs, or anything really (except about the quest).

As a result, they had grown fond of each other. They moved through the halls of colored rock, telling one another all kinds of intimate things. Things they wouldn't dream of telling someone they had known longer, if not as well.

Tiela was enjoying her tour. So much so, that when they entered the Chamber of Archives, the mental gasp from Rosie took her by surprise.

"That's it!" Exclaimed Rosie.

Tiela had lost the thread of the conversation with Enkvil.

"I'm sorry. What was that you said?"

"Just that, I come here often, because this is where my granddaughter's egg resides. She was banished by that hooligan George."

"You mean Garostherealafinkle?" Said Tiela, quite cutely.

"You know my granddaughter?" Enkvil snerved. (Don't ask, without at least twelve feet of neck, you wouldn't understand.)

"No, Tiela! He won't understand. I was banished, a non-dragon. Just speaking about me could get him banished."

"Yes, she's a dear friend of mine." Tiela ignored the pleas from Rosie, in the back of her mind.

"As a matter of fact it was her description of the Labyrinth that brought me here in the first place." She had a feel for this old dragon, and now was the time to play her hand.

 

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trying

"No, Peter. It's not like that anymore. We've both moved on." Doris knew all along, they'd wind up in this conversation. Men could be such boys.

"Aw, Tink-" a sharp look from Doris cut him off. He sniffed at the tacit rebuke.

"Peter, you're 236 years old, grow up! It will never work." She was trying to be kind, yet firm.

He was trying her patience.

 

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the first left

As far as I could tell, it worked. Herbert closed his eyes, held up his hand for silence and disappeared. There was no way for me to tell how or where he landed, but he got off okay.

Now it was my turn.

I had certainly come a long way since my days of selling herbs to charlatans. I was more confident, better able to deal with danger (except, of course, the females,) and in the best physical condition ever (although, I could use a nap.)

All that not withstanding, I was scared shitless at the prospect of jumping again. I hoped to wind up in Centerville to rescue Dot. I knew without knowing how, that she was there and in trouble. Big trouble.

Once again, releasing a great sigh, I went up to reality and turned left.

 

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inertia

Tiela didn't answer.

"Can you pop us in there?" Rosie was near frantic. She snerrupped so uncontrollably, (a nervous habit, I'm afraid) that Hanna had to calm her down before she spoke.

"Rosie, I think you're too big." Hanna was concerned, too. Tiela was taking a big chance.

"Then there's only one thing to do." Rosie unfolded her wings and made ready to take off.

"No!" shouted Hanna, as she ran to intercept the big dragon. The folly of her actions had not yet occurred to her.

Rosie decided that it was unwise to leave the little Dryad behind, and screeched to a halt.

Hanna, suddenly aware that she was on a collision course with the now-stationary Dragon, dug in her heels.

 

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inertia pt.2

Herbert homed in on Rosie and Hanna. They were the only two he could pick up, and he got a busy signal. Apparently, they were so involved in mental activity, they didn't hear him call. He zapped himself as near their vicinity as he could.

There was a tremendous WUMP! as the three were introduced to the laws of inertia. Inertia, which is rarely affected by magic, took over. The three rushing at each other, became two (Hanna and Herbert) slamming into one (the large and immovable Rosie).

The two sat on their respective posteriors, dazed and winded. Rosie was not dazed but had been hit in a rather delicate part of her dragon anatomy. Unnoticed by all, clouds began to gather over them.

Herbert was first to notice, he barely had time to snatch his cap from his head and whimper, "Oh, no" when it struck.

Thzzzzack!!!

Herbert stood shakily and replaced his cap over the thin tendrils of smoke, rising from his head.

"Actually" he thought, rising unsteadily to his feet, "that wasn't so bad, I must be getting used to it. I did manage to save my hat, this time." Whatever pleasure he took in the thought, was dispersed by the next thought, which he said aloud.

"Am I on fire anywhere?"

 

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Centerville

It's really disorienting. Any kind of travel is, but ordinary means give you time to adjust. Even a slow transition can be disconcerting.

This popping in and out stuff, though, is murder. No matter how hard you concentrate before leaving, arrival is always a slap in the face.

Hungry, tired and scared, I had to stop for a moment. Besides, the kilt itched like crazy. I wondered if you ever got use to it. I crouched in the shade for a moment, to gather my wits, get my bearings and scratch my..., and scratch.

I was familiar with several areas of Centerville, mostly through business dealings. I made many deliveries here, over the years; the Pixies were extraordinarily fond of aphrodisiacs.

It was a congenial place, filled with trees and fine, clear streams, that were diverted from the River. Though there was no conscious plan by the Pixies, the streamlets followed the course of an ancient system of shallow, stone ditches. They were made of the same indestructible, blue stone as a prominent heap of ruins, from an ancient castle.

Everything in the Pixie magical repertoire had been tried to remove the stones but, to no avail. Quentin "Lefty" Brown had even bargained with humans for some physical device called ‘black powder’. He tried it on the blue stone in '43 and he's been called Lefty ever since.

Over the years, the streamlets had been nurtured to form little pools of surprising clarity. It was not unusual to find Pixies bathing in them, at odd times of the day. At first glance, a casual observer might miss the village. It was bright and cheerful, in it's own way; but it blended into the woods so well, that it seemed to have grown there.

I arrived in a grove of apple trees, a few meters north of the City Hall. The profusion of gnarled trees hid me from the idle curious (of whom there were many, in Centerville). The scent of ripening apples made me delirious with hunger, so I eased my pangs with two speckled McIntosh and stuffed a couple in the sporran of the kilt, for later delirium.

I had no idea what I was letting myself in for. I moved through the trees, quietly but with ease, this was familiar territory. My plan was to make it to City Hall on foot, gain access to the place, and somehow rescue Dot, bare handed (well there was my sword, but for reasons we all know, I considered that a last resort).

Let me reiterate: I was a babe in the woods. I had no notion that a Red General was peering over the shoulder of Phineas T., watching my approach in a crystal ball*.

They watched and I sauntered along, as unobtrusively as I could. Unobtrusive may be the wrong word; the tallest Pixie I ever met was fourty-two inches tall. I was closer to six feet, so I could only be relatively unobtrusive.

The only things I had going for me was my knowledge of Centerville and the fact that I was known here. The latter might not be an advantage.

Ah, well.

 

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Enkvil

Enkvil was in a frenzy, now. Tendrils of steam wafted from his nostrils, and various other (you should pardon the expression) vents on his sinuous body. It was unfortunate for Tiela, who was flitting around his head as they explored the caverns. The steam wilted her wings. She had to perform an elaborate mid-air dance, including a cartwheel and two complete back flips, to get them straightened out.

By the time she had fluttered them back to proper form, she was exhausted.

Enkvil slammed his tail against the wall of the cavern, instigating sprinkles of dust and a scattering of scales.

"Listen to that!" Enkvil transfixed her with his eyes, so she listened.

Tiela concentrated all her energy into hearing what Enkvil was hearing. She squeezed her eyes shut and listened. She did not realize that she had invaded the old dragons mind, and was hearing with his ears.

If she had thought about it, recognized the sensations, she would have attributed it to the ruby. If you told her she did it without the ruby, she would have giggled incredulously.

What she heard was a series of deep rumbling tones, that changed over time, intertwining as if the cavern was-

"It's singing!" She exclaimed, aloud and in her thoughts. So loud was her thought voice, that Enkvil was shocked into silence.

They were so engrossed, neither of them heard the frantic mental calls of Hanna and Rosie.

 

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you can't fight city hall

The magnificent stone steps led to a ramshackle, two-story affair, that listed to the left. Though the blue stone had been used for both, the differences were evident. Unable to work the stone, or cut it, the Pixies made use of the loose blue stones that were so abundant. They had chinked much of the stone work in the Hall, with a mixture of straw and mud. The Pixies were artisans in their own right, and took great care with the work; but in comparison, the steps were seamless works of art.

I was standing on those steps when I felt a tug from nowhere. I froze in place for a moment, feeling as if I had lost something, some part of my anatomy. I reached out, through the ruby, and stretched my awareness as far as I could. Dot was gone. The tug I felt, was her popping out of City Hall. I was just thinking, "Ah, well" and about to turn, when a dozen Elves came streaming out of the doors.

Big, burly bastards, they came bounding down the steps, screaming, "Bash the Dwarves, Bash the Dwarves," with great enthusiasm. It took them some time but, when they finally realized there were, in fact, no Dwarves to bash, they turned their attention toward me.

"Hoy, then, just who might you be?" Asked the biggest, ugliest of the group. As the Elves figure things, that made him a natural leader. A loud voice helped, too.

"Hey, Nod!" Herbert's thought-call startled me.

"Not now, Herbert! I'm busy!" Herbert had the worst timing. I turned my attention back to the Elves

"And don't I know you from somewhere?" The troop of Elves gathered around him, there was a good deal of murmuring and shoving.

"I'm just an innocent passerby, minding my own business." I had to think fast, the elves looked mean, that is, meaner than usual. Thank Gaea, most Elves are slow and dull-witted. What they lack in intelligence, though, they gain in durability.

"Is that why you're carrying an unsheathed sword up the steps of City Hall?" The elf reached out and grasped the hem of my kilt, "In a skirt with no drawers?" This elicited a mean spirited chuckle from his cohorts.

"Well, I er, just dropped it in the stream back there and I was drying it off." I didn't remember unsheathing my sword, perhaps instinct was getting the better (or worse) of me. The excuse was lame, it even sounded lame to me. I hoped the Elf was as slow-witted as he looked.

He peered at the blade, then looked at me, "Doesn't look a bit wet to me." He moved closer and put his hand to his own sword hilts.

"Ah, well. It must be dry, then..." I continued to babble at him, though I've no notion what I might have said. I turned the blade slowly toward me, keeping the hilts from his grasp. I pretended to examine the blade for water, while carefully positioning the handle.

With a swift jab, I poked him in the eye with the pommel. He jerked his head backwards. Before I knew what I was doing, I drew back the long blade and swished it through the air at his neck. He wore an expression of mild disbelief for a moment, then his head rolled off his shoulders and tumbled to the ground. Great gobs of blood erupted from the open neck, the body trembled and fell forward.

I backed up a step and swished my blade at another Elf. I popped out before his head hit the ground.

 

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prudence

"Listen, Tiela's doing just fine in there. Hanna, you of all people, should have faith in her. She can cute anyone into anything, practically." I had to calm these two down, they were determined to do something foolish.

"Rosie, how many dragons live in the Labyrinth?"

"All together, probably 500 or so."

"And you feel it's prudent for the three of us to tackle that many dragons?" I didn't tell Rosie that I knew a dozen ways to handle all those dragons. For instance, I could zap a short-range chemo-nuclear device (cold fusion did work in some places, and they were incredibly simple to make,) in there- zap the whole Labyrinth. Or, in lieu of that, zap away a substantial amount of the rock beneath it. Any of which would make me personally responsible for wiping out most of Dragon-kind. Dragons or not, genocide is not a good thing. The other alternatives were equally grim, equally fatal.

"Now, let's get back in contact with our favorite fairy and make sure she's still okay. If she gets in trouble, then we can all suicide to her rescue, together."

I sent a mental call to Nod, while Rosie and Hanna, who were much better at it than I, contacted Tiela.

 

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nightcap

I crouched on my haunches and went violently ill, in the bushes. I examined my sword in the failing sunlight. The viscous, drying blood that oozed toward the pommel, reminded me of that Elf's expression as his head rolled away. I performed a reprise, in the bushes.

It was strange that I couldn't locate Dot, now. I had no trouble until she disappeared at the City Hall, then I lost track of her. As I had no clear idea as to how to find her again, I decided to pop over to my house to pick up a few things. By the time I reached home, I was exhausted. Besides all the exercise, spatial dislocation had worn me out.

I wanted to take a stiff drink, and go to bed; my own bed. Nothing would have pleased me more.

I couldn't quite remember how long I had been gone. It felt like a very long time, indeed. The place seemed once removed, as if I was visiting a relative's home, after a long absence. The sight of the kitchen table, made me think of Maggie Pottrattle, on the day of my parents funeral.

Bed would have to wait, as would sleep and probably food (I did have a notion of going by the pantry, on the way out). I had come here for a reason.

On the way to the library, I stopped at my bedroom and snatched handfuls of clothing from my closet. I was still dressed in a kilt. By the bed, on a stand of driftwood I had carved, was a pendant Mother had given me. On a whim, or maybe a hunch, I grabbed it and worked the chain over my neck, still moving.

Tossing unwanted garments left and right, I headed straight for the family journals. I ran my fingers across the spines of the books until I reached mother's third, and last, journal. I didn't take time to open it, I shoved it in my pack.

Still scattering clothing, I headed out through the kitchen. Once I had stuffed the remaining clothing in my pack, there was barely room for the few jars I managed to grab.

I was halfway to the stables before I realized I didn't need a horse. I giggled just a bit, at my own lack of wit. Tired, sore and confused, I was leaving the only safe place I had ever known and heading into the jaws of danger: I still had time to be a dunce.

Ain't it great to be alive?

 

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Herbert is amazed

Once again, the lad - (I suppose I should stop referring to him as Lad, but it feels so natural to say, anyway, he-) amazed me.

The whole group looks up to him, like a hero, (even me,) and he doesn't see it. I guess that's to his credit, although it's a shortcoming, as well.

I have always been a radical pacifist, violence is anathema to me. It bothers me to see him on the rampage like that. It bothers him, too, but like his magic, I think it comes on him of its own volition.

When he's up against the wall, he always finds hidden reserves. I suppose that makes him an under-achiever. I wish I had listened closer when he told me about his parents.

He dispatched two of the Elves, with skillful swipes of his sword*, then popped out before anything else could happen. I monitored him mentally, (I believe he was unaware of this) until he popped out, then I lost him.

 

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never say never-never

"If anyone knows how to fix your problem, Minerva does. Feeling up to a small jaunt?"

"I'll be okay, I need a little rest before I go back." Dot's eyes fluttered and closed.

Doris bent over and touched her hand to the wounded Pixie's temple. She shook off her look of deep concentration, with a flip of her hair.

Peter watched her tresses scatter over her delicate shoulders. He stifled his mournful sigh, by placing the meat of his index finger in his mouth, and biting down hard.

"She's just sleeping, I don't wonder, after all she's been through. I think she's doing quite well, actually. We should try to find her some nourishing food," Doris idly kicked at one of the myriad piles of candy wrappers, that decorated the tree house.

"Don't you ever clean up in here? These things are a fire hazard."

Peter wasn't sure if he liked it when she got bossy, but he didn't want to aggravate her. He took the defensive.

"They're not trash, they are a valuable resource." Many years of bad house keeping, (two-hundred-ten to be precise,) had sent piles of wrappers flooding out of the tree house, down and around the base of the tree. The once-secret, tree-fort could be spotted by the candy-wrapper confetti, from as far as two miles, on a clear day.

It hardly mattered, since the Captain disappeared, there was nothing to defend from. Just play and eat candy all day, God, he was sick of it.

"Peter!?" The rising inflection in her voice was a clear indication to Peter that he'd better have something to say, that was worth saying. None of the jilted lover stuff, it wasn't working anyway.

"Gosh," thought Peter, surreptitiously eyeing her tight, business skirt, "Since she went to work for that Terwilliger fellow, she's been totally unreasonable."

Of course there was that bit with Wen- he looked up nervously. He had sworn to Doris that he wouldn't even think her name, and the Pixie had a way of making promises stick. Then, there was the incident with the Indian princess and the lost boys; she was furious about that, too.

He stopped in mid-thought and glanced around the tree house at the sleeping "boys". Pudgy had a five o'clock shadow that would do credit to an alcoholic, Irish seaman on a binge. Matthew had developed a limp, that was arthritis for sure.

Peter had noticed a strong desire to take naps, in the early afternoon.

 

Chapter 13 Contents Chapter 15

Aphrodite's nose

Throughout the monastery, the brothers were busily re-consecrating the remnants of the past. Official word had been passed through official channels, all heathen artifacts were to be reconsecrated.

"A bit like de-consecrating if you ask me," spouted a particularly burly brother. The arc of his massive sledge ended with a splash of masonry and a rising cloud of stone-dust.

"And nobody has- Hoy! Watch where you be swinging that thing, you bloody fool." The second brother did not fill out his robes as well as the first. What he lacked in girth, he made up for in redolence. As he dove out of the way of the sledge, his aroma permeated the room.

"Ah, Cytherea." He gazed at her nose, lying on the dark, dusty floor, among the shards of forgotten gods. "Now there was a fine, strapping Goddess. They don't  make'em like that any more." Brother two had hitched up his robe, to root out whatever tiny hitchhiker was molesting (what he referred to as,) his 'giblets'.

Rob and Ian McElern were genetic brothers as well as brothers in the faith. They were highwaymen by trade, just like their father and his father, before him. The McElerns had a long history of larceny.

Originally, their line followed the Druids, of course. But as the Celt language, was full of consonants and tongue-twisting words, so the religions were full of vague explanations and gaping inconsistencies.

The language evolved, finally being discarded in favor of alphabets with more vowels. These were supplied by conquering Vikings, Romans, Frenchmen, Danes, Germans and what have you, who also supplied the new improved religions. They had as many inconsistencies as the old, but more celebrations. Most of the old holidays stayed the same, and several more were added.

"I miss the old religion, Ian. I was rather keen on that bit about the virgins." Rob wielded a rather inadequate straw broom against the growing pile of god-rubble. He stopped and peered at the handle end, to see if that might work better, but dismissed the thought as too dull-witted, even for him.

"How have the mighty fallen?" Replied Ian.

 

Chapter 13 Contents Chapter 15

chastity

Since the City Hall at Centerville, I had made it a habit to pop in a few yards away from my destination. Had I popped in on the front steps of City Hall, I'd probably be dead. So I took it in stride, when I could hear voices, but could not see the speakers.

Dot had certainly gone the long way around to wherever she was going. From the dungeon, she went to the east bank of the River. From there, she went to a tree house, which I had every reason to suspect was her home. It overlooked the river, and the spot where we first met..

It was a poser, I'll admit. Here they were, (she was not alone,) fleeing from danger and they stopped to sight-see? something was definitely wrong here.

I overheard parts of a conversation between two human people. Most of it was garbled and the few words that did get through, made no sense at all. I knew I shouldn't move any closer, my ear was already pressed against the crack in the wall.

They didn't see me at first, so I picked up some of the debate. I moved as quietly as I could, without appearing to be sneaking.

From what I could gather, they were discussing religious philosophy. I was not an expert, but I was no slouch either. Everyone was talking about this monotheistic trend in religion. Chastity, one of the main constraints of the new religion, was on the upswing. I didn't see the reason for it's popularity, but it did seem to be most popular with females.

 

Chapter 13 Contents Chapter 15

the Council of Mages

"Strictly speaking, it's not even magical. It's a product of Industry, though I'm not sure that word has the same meaning where the Scepter came from."

"What do you mean, where it came from? I thought it came from the Keep." Vellicon looked confused, which was pretty normal for him. He tucked his lacy white hanky with precision, in his equally lacy sleeve.

Drinn did not believe it for a moment. Vellicon couldn't be as stupid and foppish as he played. "It does, in a way. It was made for the Keep, as part of it and it belongs here."

A vague murmuring crept through the crowd of assembled mages, magicians, conjurers, witches, warlocks and what have you.

Drinn was a capable speaker and a whiz (if you'll pardon the expression) at public relations. He orchestrated the whole affair toward the precise outcome, he desired. Letting the noise fade, he continued.

"Arianna explained it to us before she went with the others, I'm not going to try to explain it now. Suffice it to say that, it is the lens that focuses the interface. Without it, our world is invisible to magical location efforts." Drinn paused for effect.

"So Dimitri wouldn't be able to bring in any more of his slave troops!" Frenelda was in a high state of excitement.

"Exactly. Dimtri hoards the main body of his troops off world, zapping them back and forth as necessary. Without unlimited troops, he is doomed to fail."

"What do you mean, off-world" It was Vellicon again, he was generally ignored. It was a measure of Drinn's patience that he did not roll his eyes and sigh impatiently.

"If we can catch him with his drawers down- I beg your pardon ladies," Drinn bowed chivalrously. "That is; shut down his supply lines, with most of his troops elsewhere, he's finished."

Drinn was feeling very satisfied, but he fixed his expression as one of eager wisdom. He felt like jumping up and down and screaming Hooray! He got his point across and everyone understood, even Frenelda (who really was none too bright). He must force them into action before somebody thought to ask; "What happens to my magic when the magical interface goes away?"

"All in favor?" Drinn counted raised hands until he got to Vellicon, who had a puzzled expression on his face. He made several false attempts to say something, but just  leaned back in his chair.

Chapter 12 Contents Chapter 14

 

The Science Of Magic

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