The Science Of Magic

Chapter 15

Minerva and Piewacket

"On the contrary, familiars are not bound to do their masters bidding. Like everything in Magic, it's a trade off. The master uses the familiar's connection to Færy magic and, in a way, does the familiar's bidding.

"The familiar has the use of hands." She stroked the cat with her crooked fingers, bringing it to a purring, squinting frenzy. It gnawed on her shawl and kneaded its paws in her lap.

"Mine is rather hedonistic, a problem with cat familiars I'll admit, but Piewacket and I have a fifty-fifty relationship." The cat froze in mid-frenzy and tilted its triangular head toward the Witch, still clutching the shawl in its teeth.

"Well, mostly." The cat resumed its orgasmic dance.

Minerva levered herself slowly out of the arm chair and headed for the pantry. After Minerva left, Piewacket stared at Dot,  long enough to make her nervous.

After a few moments Dot leaned forward to inquire of the cat, "What!"

Piewacket, in reply, flicked an ear and said, "Pur-r-ree-row?"

It sounded like a question, to Doris, and indeed it was. Of course, Doris had no idea what the cat was saying.

The cat was actually talking to himself, for it does no good to talk to skins (all that gibbering and pointless cooing,) "I wonder would you be suitable? You seem to be capable, even if you are mouthy and rude."

"Who are you calling mouthy, fur-ball?"

Piewacket did not expect the females to understand his body language and pheromone signals. Humans seemed to be ill equipped for that. It was rare indeed that one got any answer from a skin-bag. For one of them to sass him, was unbelievable.

He looped his tail to the right and flexed his posterior scent glands. It was a rank insult, but the skins were too ignorant to know it.

This is the dominant life form? It was a clear case of appendage discrimination, rank digit prejudice! Without another sound he leapt from the table and went in search of Minerva.

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the Queen of Cats

"There's no doubt about it, Minerva, she's the one. She understood everything I said. I thought that was just a legend."

"What? What's a legend?" Minerva was visibly upset.

"The Queen of Cats. Typical legend stuff; the Queen of Cats vanquishes the evil Pixie and redeems Catdom."

"That's ridiculous! She's a Pixie. How could she become the Queen of Cats?"

"The legend is rather vague on that point, although I had imagined-"

"You're going to abandon me after all these years together? Piewacket how could you?" She didn't relish the thought of losing her familiar at her age. She needed magic more than ever.

"Minerva," The cat chided her, "I'm not abandoning you, try to look at it as a vacation." Piewacket smiled gently. (Cat's do smile. Most humans don't recognize it as such; it looks nothing like a human smile.)

"Besides, you don't need me anymore."

"But I'm so old now, Pie, I need the magic more than ever." She was close to tears.

"That's what I mean." The cat said, sheepishly (no pun intended). "You haven't needed me, for magic, for some time, now."

Minerva puzzled over this for a bit, then replied, "How long, exactly?"

"Oh, about fifteen years."

"Why didn't you tell me?" Minerva was beside herself (not literally, of course).

"Well, I didn't have anywhere to go, and you are great little back scratcher."

"I'll be darned." mumbled Minerva.

"Now that's settled, let's go tell the Pixie she's mine."

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They were both somewhat embarrassed, they could hear most of the conversation through the thin, pantry walls.

"But I hate cats." Dot was doing her best to be pleasant, which was none too good. No matter how hard she tried to smile, the strings in her face couldn't hold the formation for long. She gave the appearance, to Doris, of being tense and irritated. That this is how she always looked, did not relieve her frustration, or make it easier for Doris to understand.

Minerva did have a tendency to ramble on and on, but for her to give up Piewacket, like that, is unprecedented. The cat certainly seemed to have a say in the bequest, from the amount of yowling in the kitchen; probably Minerva is too old to perform much magic, any more. But she must have been a go getter, in her day.

Still and all, one thing puzzled her, "Uh, Dot?"

Dot was still attempting the smile, trying to figure out how it should fit on her face. To her credit, she continued to try, as she looked at Doris.

"If I remember correctly, you asked directions of a stoat, on the way here, didn't you?"

"He was the only one around, squirrels are better at it, because of their point of view. Birds are best of all, but they are rather close-mouthed."

"So you can talk to squirrels, birds, stoats and apparently cats. Can you talk to any other animals?"

"Well, sure. All of them."

Doris watched Dot for a moment, examining her expression to see if she was lying.

"And you've always been able to do this?"

"Yes, can't everybody- Pixies I mean?"

"Frankly, no. Most of us have to pick a language and study it. One per customer."

"But, I never had to study. Well, I do have to warm up a little, sometimes. It depends on the animal, I never thought much about it. I just listen and I can understand. Is it important?" Dot was having trouble with the implications: there might be something special about her.

"Well, what did the cat say?"

While Dot was explaining, the vocal commotion in the pantry grew even louder. Piewacket bounced out of the doorway, followed by a dour-faced Minerva.

"Listen," whispered Doris from the corner of her mouth, "if she offers you the cat, accept. I think he's magickal. I'll take care of everything, just do it."

Dot nodded in agreement.

Minerva spoke. "Well, it's like this..."

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the McElern Brothers

"Well, yes. We did get a visit from a Pixie, no more than 'arf an hour ago. Had a cat with her, she did"

The second monk shook his head in agreement, "Right surprised they looked, too." He looked at monk number one, "Who are you?" He imitated in exaggerated falsetto.

"Boy what a mouth on that one, eh?" Said the first.

That was her.

"Rude? Dressed like she was mugged at a rummage sale?"

"I couldn't say about a rummage sale, but she did look like some one done her hard; she was in bad shape." He turned to the other brother.

"Could na' hardly stand on her own." He added, to be polite.

I cringed from the visceral twist I felt on hearing this. I had hoped she was only running from trouble, apparently it had already found her.

"Did they say where they were going?" As I bent to re-shoulder my pack, the gem slid out of my tunic and skittered across the floor. It came to rest against the shards of statuary, that littered the alcove. The sunlight used the opportunity to unveil itself and beam through a ventana, directly on the diamond.

I have no illusions about the moral character of holy men. By the expressions on these two, (a mixture of awe and greed, transmogrified by the glowing gem) I was in big trouble.

I glanced up at the monks with a timorous grin, examining their faces for some sign of charity. They grinned back.

The McElern brothers were as devoid of morals, as they were of intelligence (and, therefore, perfect candidates for the new priesthood). This fault was not peculiar to them, most of the people they knew didn't live up to their own religious (or any other kind of,) ideals. The miracle and tragedy of human kind is that they will invariably reach for more than they are willing to grasp.

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"But I thought the big people were in charge." Dot had become more and more confused about things as she talked to the cat. "Are you sure about all this?"

"Let me put it to you this way; have you ever seen a cat get up to feed a person?"

"Well, now that you mention it, no."

"And you're not likely to either. Most felines have their owners well trained. Humans are our hands. I wonder, in the evolutionary scheme of things, why the ape-types got the hands?" Piewacket stopped and licked the fur on his chest with a bobbing motion of his head. He sat back on his haunches, licked both sides of a paw and scrubbed his nose. He stopped squinting and scrubbing, to scrutinize his paw.

"Ah, to have hands. There are so many things I would do." He turned his attention toward Dot.

"Hands made you biped-skinbags the dominant species here, it didn't make you better or smarter, just more capable of manipulating the natural resources. They used the resources to fashion tools, with which they fashioned more dangerous tools. Then they started killing everything. Mark my words, no good will come of it. I don't trust a species with no built-in weapons."

"Bloody bipeds, you have to watch out for them," he squinted down his nose suspiciously, "walking upright leaves two appendages free for mischief. Mostly they use their hands to write." Piewacket let out a long hiss of air, followed by a kack-kacking sound.

"Mostly they write about being the dominant species, and how bloody wonderful they are; over and over again. Salmon on a cracker, it's nauseating.."

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are we there yet?

"You're just too big to dislocate, Rosie. I'm not strong enough." Hanna was genuinely upset. Rosie was willing to risk her life to help extricate Tiela, and the egg, but flying through the front door would never work. Try as she might, Tiela could not manage the egg. It was just too big for her to move.

It was just as impossible to sneak in (even if she wasn't pink) because the Labyrinth was surrounded by the Desert Plains. There was always a dragon set to watch the plains. The plains went on for as far as the eye could see, and even for a poorly sighted dragon, that was quite a bit.

It seemed that spatial dislocation was their only hope. But, Rosie didn't have the powers to use the spell, and she was just too big to hitch a ride with Hanna.


"Yes, Hanna?" Herbert made a half hearted attempt to mask his annoyance; he failed.

"We want you to take us with you." She wagged her hand about, indicating Rosie and herself.

"I've never done this with more than one other person."

"I thought that didn't matter." Hanna went on skeptically.

"What about all the townspeople you zapped?"

"And the slaves." Assisted Rosie.

"And the slaves." Echoed Hanna.

"That was different, I didn't have to drag them with me, I opened a door and sent them on their own. It's not like carrying them. It's a question of control and navigation."

"Well, we just thought, you know, it's been a long time for Rosie, since she's been home. And I, well, I'd just as soon we were all together, if something happens."

"And things do seem to happen around you." Assisted Rosie.

"But this is supposed to be quick, quiet, in-and-out. It's not a sight-seeing tour."

They aggressively ignored his pleas.

"But, if you don't want to help us, we won't think any the less of you for it, will we Rosie." Hanna pooched her lip a bit.

"Tiela is better at that sort of thing, you know." Herbert pointed out.

"Yeah, but she'll do." Rosie interjected, indicating Hanna's pouty face with a flick of her tail.

"At what point did I lose control?" Even as Herbert was thinking this, he realized that Hanna had his left hand clasped in both her hands. He made the mistake of looking in her eyes. She fluttered her lashes.

"Actually, I could zap us all together." Herbert offered, reluctantly. He could tell by their expressions that he'd better explain.

"I figured on waiting until the scepter was restored, but as long as we're here-" He held his hands out, and shrugged.

"I'm willing as long as you understand the risks involved."

"What risks?"

"Well, we'll be materializing inside a hole, inside 500 million tons of rock. I don't know precisely where the hole ends and the tons of rock begin." Herbert bent back a finger to indicate his first point was closed.

"Every time I use my powers, it notifies the local bad guys of my whereabouts, and therefore, yours." He bent a second finger back.

"I've never tried this with more than two people," Herbert paused and examined the Dragon and the Dryad, "beings, before, but I am fairly sure I can do it. Still, I'd like to explore some other options, before we try that."

Hanna wrapped her hands around her elbows, and tapped her foot. "Does that mean we are going?"

That, as they say, was that.

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It was pure reflex. When he raised the sledge at me, I whipped the sword from its sheath and whooshed clean through the handle. I really didn't intend the sledge to land on his head like that, not that he didn't deserve it. It wasn't intentional, though.

Hitting his compatriot in the nose with the biggest piece of masonry I could find, however, was intentional.

I sat among the shards of fallen gods, to contemplate my plight.

I was sad and tired. I hadn't slept in who-knows-how-long. I was also tired of the improvisational acts of violence being thrust upon me, I had enough killing and hurting people. I wanted to go home, now.

I stretched over a shattered bust of Cytherea, to retrieve the diamond. Her face was chipped off below the nose. The resultant expression seemed sad and tired, too.

I hefted the diamond in my palm and stared into its facets. The hard geometry of its planes and the softness of the light fascinated me, and I lost track of time for a while.

Once again, I wished I was home.

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the stoicism of cats

"I can fly!" Dot did everything but stick her tongue out and say, "nanny-nanny-boo-boo" (and she thought about doing that.) When she realized she was mimicking one of Tiela's squinty-nasty faces (#38), she acquiesced.

"Cat's don't need to hunt the air. Even the albatross lands, eventually. Flying is unnecessarily flashy for any species, don't you think?" Piewacket was insufferably pleased with his own rhetoric, he paused to lick a paw and grin. "Cat's are the perfect species."

"Many of the ants I've spoken to, claim the same thing." Dot countered with a spurious air of superiority.

"Ah, the ant, industrious little - did you say you talked with ants?" He tilted his head, so he could scent her and feel her pulse, at the same time. He narrowed his ears to focus on the tone of her voice. Cats make reliable lie detectors.

It was Dot's turn to be pleased with herself, though shy of insufferably so.

"Yes. I've spoken to many ants."


"Do you mean, why did I need to talk to ants?"

"No, I mean, whatever for?"

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Enkvil turned three full circles, examining the confines of the jet black, stone cavern. He peered out the entrance and exit tunnels, he peered at Tiela.

"Glosthoriafinkle? Where are you?" He turned again, and stared at Tiela.

"Where is she?" It was not a demand. He was mostly puzzled, but his puzzlement was mixed with a little fear. How Tiela could know this was beyond her, so she accepted it.

"You won't be able to see her yet, just listen." Tiela lit on a rock. She watched Enkvil. Fires were ablaze in his huge oval eyes, fires that were not quenched by the slow tears that issued forth.

"Granddaughter, is that really you?" Enkvil clasped his delicate front feet together over his pancreas, in the manner of dragons who are emotionally touched by something.

"Yes Grandfather," thought Rosie gently.

"And you are well?" Enkvil seemed suddenly stiff and officious to Tiela, who, as the channel between them, couldn't help but overhear. She couldn't account for the change.

"Yes, Grandfather," Rosie switched, to think directly to Tiela. "This is not turning out as well as I hoped; he's angry with me."

"He's not angry, he's confused, here wait-"

Tiela projected her current image of Enkvil at Rosie. At the same time, she was filling Enkvil's sulfurous, old noggin with images of Rosie. She thought nothing of tainting the images with unbearable amounts of cuteness, sweetness and light. There was no malice or misrepresentation intended.


"That's impossible. No one could make it out, with a dragon's egg tucked under their arm, not even a dragon.

"Herbert the Wizard is here, he's going to conjure it out of there."

"He can't, that is, he mustn't."

"Why not?"Herbert countered.

"The Labyrinth is burglar proof, you can't conjure anything from the outside without setting off a whole slew of alarums."

"There is no "U" in alarm."  Herbert stated flatly.

The old dragon ignored Herbert.

"What if I zap myself in there, then zap everyone back out? Can we do that without waking all of Dragondom?" The tone of resignation in his voice, was anything but good natured.

"As I said, you can't conjure anything from the outside."

"Ah, Herbert?" Tiela inserted her thought.

"Just a moment, Tiela. I'm stumped."

"I could just -"

"Tiela, Rosie's egg is much too big for you to -" Hanna began to explain impatiently.

"Will you be QUIET!" Tiela stamped her foot and, mentally, brought the conversation to a stand still. Everyone took a mental step back. Enkvil actually moved.

"That's better. Now listen; I'll reach out and merge with you, then maybe I can zap you in here." Tiela punctuated her proclamation, with a glow of warm, self-satisfaction.

"Good show, Tiela." Hanna beamed.

"I believe that would work." Offered Rosie, followed by an;

"Oh, surely." from Enkvil.

"Could you explain that in English to me." Asked Herbert.

"Simple, we join minds, then you're here and I'm there and Visa-Versa, or whatever. I mean we'll both be both places, you know, at once. That way you won't be zapping from the outside, cause you'll be in here," she giggled when she realized that he couldn't see her, pointing at her head, but she didn't pause; "well, you'll be in here, too, but that doesn't matter cause the spell, or whatever, will originate from here, so the alarms won't go off and that-"


"Yes, Hanna?" Unconsciously, the little fairy raised a finger nail, to her mouth.

"Slow down dear. Perhaps if I...?"

"Oh yes, I'd appreciate-"

"Think nothing of it, dear."

Herbert thought it was eerie, the way they did that. It had nothing to do with mind reading, the company was all used to that. This was different, it was spooky.

"Trust me on this, if Tiela thinks it will work, it will."

"I haven't done that kind of thing much, you know the joining stuff; it's kinda personal-" Herbert was close to a mental whisper, by now. Hanna turned loose for a moment to see him with her eyes. He looked like a little boy.

"You don't have to do anything, just relax, and Tiela will do the rest." Hanna said, tenderly.

"And this zapping you intend to do, could it be you mean Spatial Dislocation." Enkvil pointed the thought at Herbert.

"I didn't realize you were familiar with the term."

"Oh, yes; I'm a dragon, not an idiot." The old dragon made unmistakable snervling sounds.

"O.K. Herbert, I'm going to home in on you, stay still and for goodness sake, concentrate."

"I just know I'm going to regret this."

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never mind St. Ives, what was he doing with all those cats!?

They rested in the shade of an arbor of broad Catalpas. Piewacket yawned and stretched in the waning sunlight, but never stopped talking. Dot did her best to focus her attention on the mumbling of the water, as she rested her aching body.

After trudging beside the River with the pedantic fur ball for hours, Dot was beginning to cast about for a sack to stuff him in, and some rocks to weight it down. She wanted no more information from the miserable feline, but would do her best to be nice. She had promised Doris.

The rhythm of his speech was much like a waltz and, like a waltz, it was mesmerizing her. Trying to keep her mind active, she had categorized most of the nuances of tail punctuation. She should write a book (Pussycats: a Pixie's Primer).

The mellifluous sound of  Piewacket's voice was pleasant, and Dot was an easy and experienced subject. She trusted the cat, in her own way; she judged that she was smarter than he, and could take him in a fair fight. Such was her definition of trust.

She had not taken into account that, however tall he was on all fours, he was thrice her girth, twice her length, and outweighed her three to one. She did not consider their main differences; she was a Pixie, equipped with cute wings and Pixie dust; he was a vicious predator, equipped with claws and teeth.

Before she could re-think her position, she was fast asleep.

Piewacket curled on a knotted, black log and took a cat nap.

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look under the hood

I don't think it was despair, exactly, but it was really close. I watched the two struggling with their bonds, from my perch on the collected rubble of the gods.

"No harm meant gov'ner." Groveled one from his position on the floor. "It was an act of desperation, it were. I've got eleven children, Ian has eight and we're poor men we are, Sir."

"Not to belabor the obvious, but you're also monks. I thought Monks weren't allowed to marry."

"Oh, we're not married, sir, perish the thought."

"So I take it, you were not always monks?" O.K. They caught my interest.

"Mercy, no. We used to be highwaymen, but we gave it up for the Brotherhood."

"Gave it up?"

"The competition, Sir, drove us out."

"We weren't very good at it, gov'ner.

"So why didn't you just ask me for some money?"

"That would be rude." Ian stridently joined the conversation.

"As rude as crushing my skull and robbing my corpse?"

They glanced at each other, and Ian chewed his bottom lip, but neither had an answer.

"Well, tell me what you know of the Pixie; make it good and perhaps I'll spare your lives." I reached for my sword, and it fell to the ground, with a rattling clatter.

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with apologies to Arthur and Stanley

Herbert, Hanna, Spike, Tiela, Rosie and Enkvil watched silently. It was the muted rumble, coming from the Labyrinth, that first caught their attention. As they spun about to look, a billow of dust swept out of the doorway and formed a growing cloud.

"Oops!" said Herbert. Having just recovered from the inevitable lightning bolt, he was stamping on his smoldering hat.

"Did we do that?" Tiela formed her mouth into an ooh shape.

"From the sound of it, Cut 2- East just collapsed. And that was a sturdy section, too. It was, as a matter of fact, the section from which you conjured us."

Herbert looked around, eager to change the subject.

"Has anyone ever noticed this column of rock here, before?" He indicated a sixty-foot-high column of stone, about ten paces to the rear of the assemblage. As he pointed, the sun provided a spectacular backlight behind the perfect, jet black, stone rectangle.

"It looks to be made of the same stone as the Labyrinth hall we were in." Hanna offered, helpfully.

"Mere coincidence, my child. Why I could show you-

Enkvil hovered near the free standing column of stone, examined it minutely by eye, then he sniffed it.

"It is indeed, stone from the Labyrinth, 2-East. A bearing wall I think. I wonder how it came to be..."

Enkvil snaked his neck around to peer at the growing cloud of dust issuing from the entrance of the Labyrinth. After staring at the column, he squinted at Herbert.

"I don't suppose you could shed any light on the situation?"

"I don't think so."

Hanna, Tiela, Rosie, Spike and Enkvil stared quietly at the wizard. Not a word was spoken, but an air of recrimination hovered over the escapees, none the less.

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As she slept, Piewacket gently insinuated himself into her thoughts. It's a talent all cats possess, to some degree, though he was unusually adept.

"Worms." He thought, "The child has worms in her head. And I know how they got there. That thrice-damned Phineas has been in here stomping around, this has his heavy handed signature all over it."

Piewacket touched nothing, changed nothing, there was nothing he could do for her. She would have to work this out, on her own.

"All the more reason," he thought, with all the pussycat vehemence at his command, "to get rid of this guy once and for all. He is plain evil and should be disemboweled." Piewacket would volunteer for the duty.

Piewacket discovered something else on his mental expedition, something he had taken on faith, before. It was in fact the whole point of his foray.

She was just the Pixie for the task.

"Still," he thought, scouring his rear paw with his tongue," That doesn't explain her mental ability; Pixie's aren't telepathic. Are they?" It seemed to him that further investigation was called for.

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two steps behind

I was out of ideas for finding Dot.

The McElern brothers were not a fount of information, but, I did learn she was traveling with a cat.

Dot hated cats (and apparently, most other life forms, as well). This did not jive with previous reports, which had her in the company of another female pixie, a Pixie who wore eyeglasses. I knew of only one Pixie who affected eyeglasses, the receptionist at Centerville City Hall. Which made it a very curious alliance.

What was she doing with Dot and why wasn't she with her anymore? And how did Dot get hooked up with a cat? I didn't know what to think.

Sadly, I resigned myself to leaving Dot to her own devices, for a while. I doubted I could do better than stay two steps behind her, anyway. At least she was running from danger and not at it.

After all, I reasoned, no one would be in trouble if the scepter business were over. For good or ill, I decided, I must bring this to a halt. I would zap to the scepter, zap to Westkeep and put the thing in its place, wherever that was. I would have to play it by ear when I got the scepter to the Keep, I had no clear idea what to do, once there.

There is going to be some row, when I tell them my plan- If I tell them. If I could just find a way to keep them all busy, I could slip away.

I stretched my thoughts as far as I could. I couldn't actually reach Herbert or the others; they were, seemingly, all in transit. But they were easy enough to locate, it was nothing to extrapolate their destination.

Herbert's manipulations of probability shone like a beacon, through the misty aether. For the first time, I understood his reluctance to use his ability; in the featureless grey of the space between spaces, he was a lighthouse.

My newfound cautiousness slowed me a bit. If they were all conjuring together, they may be in trouble. I aimed for a spot, about twelve paces behind their destination, went up to reality and turned left.

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Spatio Temporal Dislocation

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Herbert turned from the recriminating glances. So what if he had accidentally dragged this slab of stone with them, when they popped out. Even if it had caused some eh, structural instability, (and there was no proof of that,) everyone was entitled to make mistakes.

The stone itself, was a slab of jet black, so dark it seemed to absorb the light. It measured 60 feet in height, 40 feet in width and went 2 feet from front to back. The sun peered over the edge, for a moment, and the wonder of the sight silenced them. There was something hauntingly familiar about the thing, but he couldn't quite place it.

"I wish you would all quit staring at that thing. It's just a big rock." A big familiar looking rock, that he unburied from its ancient resting place. "Now what the hell does that remind me of?" He thought, but he didn't have time for riddles.

Herbert broke the silence, but they were all pretty restless. They were barely out of the Dragons' Den, (so to speak,) and Herbert's patience was wearing thin. He was not young anymore, and he never was athletic; though lately he was getting his quota of exercise. Without knowing it, he was in better shape than ever. Were he aware of this, it wouldn't have curbed his growing restlessness.

Hanna was so glad to see Tiela safe, she was cradling her in her arms. She gazed tenderly at the little Fairy. Hanna could see what she was thinking; Tiela's eyes flitted from face to face, and returned to hers with a big question mark.

"Why don't you see if you can find him?"

Before Tiela could begin, there was a muffled thump from the other side of the monolith. She opened her mouth, then closed it. Unsure of what was going on, she repeated the maneuver, looking much like a baby bird, awaiting lunch.

As a group, they turned to Herbert for guidance and understanding, all displaying their own version of a quizzical expression.

"Don't look at me, I didn't do anything." 

Hanna was the first to peer around the waylaid rock. When she discovered Nod prostrate, with a bloody nose, she ran to his aid.

"Where did that come from?" He was rubbing his nose, "and where's Herbert, did he find you? Is everyone O.K.?"

"Herbert, over there, yes and pretty much, any other questions?"

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the Fourth-and-a-half Dimension

"As near as I can figure, it's the fourth-and-a-half dimension. It may even be the center of the universe, or a figment of my-" Herbert glanced away for a moment, "that is, our imagination. Anyway the scepter is there, and quite safe, I would imagine."

Having been there myself, I quite agreed. The Scepter was beyond the reach of everyone except Herbert and me, at least as far as I knew. I felt confident I could pop into the void, and back out again with the Scepter, on a moment's notice.

Herbert continued, scratching his beard.

"I must admit, though, I don't see much use in attacking the Keep. And then there's the care and feeding of Captain Dyna's men."

"Well, I had thought to send them along to Centerville. There seems to be a flock of Elves there, lately. I figured to leave the Scepter where it is 'til last. That way, it can't get into the wrong hands."

"There's going to be many unhappy citizens in Centerville, if we get the Scepter, back to the Keep."

"You mean 'when'." I asserted.

"I mean 'if'. Things look pretty good right now, but that could change. There's still plenty of opportunity to screw things up, The best laid plans of mice and men ..."

"Is worth more than two in the bush." I replied.

Herbert stared at me, then blinked a couple of times. I blinked right back, and stepped away, quietly. (And no, I don't know what it meant either.)

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Phineas had been working on a special project, of late; it was nearing completion. It was the largest magical undertaking in seven generations. Phineas made sure to play up the Lucky Seven angle. He had a hand picked team of specialists working on a spell. The spell would attempt to recreate the forgotten system of mediation for all magical energy: a reservoir, to trap and contain the vast amounts of wasted magical energy, and a system to make use of it.

He had sold it on that premise, and the Council gave its approval. Though the lion's share of the excess energy would be divided among the Councilors, some small benefit would trickle down to the common folk. It was, therefore, billed as a magnanimous gesture, on the part of the Council.

In fact, this incantation, was nothing like the ancient interface of Drinn's time. In the beginning only the very sensitive would notice anything, and with such a large pool of magical energy, he could keep the Councilors satisfied for quite some time: at the expense of the rest of the Faery. Phineas' spell would set a tap on everyone's magic, one that he would control.

The greedy Councilors would scarcely notice, and hardly care, that he was draining power from the rest of the Faery. Then he would have All The Magic In The World!

"Holy-" He thought. "Did I say that aloud?" He resisted the urge to scout the area.

The only catch was; to control it he had to incant the damned thing himself.

Such enchantments were incredibly long, and easy to get all bollixed. It was estimated that this particular spell would take 34 hours to incant. Phineas was pretty sure he couldn't even stay awake for that long, much less recite spell strings, non-stop. He encouraged the team (with vague threats and sinister body language,) to shorten the spell.

The team had complained about the rider on the spell, whining that it made it harder to develop and couldn't he please leave out the bit about the cats.


Cats! Evil, insidious, inferior in blood to every other creature (excepting Elves, of course); they were a scourge upon the earth. No creature deserved to be eradicated more than the Cat, except perhaps, the Stoat. Maybe he would do something about Stoats, once he controlled all the magic. A maniacal laugh was called for, here, but he had to answer another question from the General.

Chapter 14 Contents Chapter 16

Nod's plan

"Hi, Spike." I swear the big bunny jumped three feet in the air. When he came back down he was facing me and snarling. When he saw it was me, he sheathed his incisors.

"Ach! you scared me." He scanned the area a few times and turned back to me.

"Undt, how in the vorld did you get here, mit out I be zeeing you." He narrowed a big pink eye at me, "Unless- not you too mit der pooping-"

"That's popping-"

"Yah, undt dat, too." The twelve-foot-long, flying rabbit, ruffled his immense wings and let out a long sigh. "Doesn't anyone fly like a natural creature, anymore?" .

"I wouldst ask a boon of you, Noble Spike." I tend to get formal, when I mean to be polite, it's a common error.

Spike tilted his head speculatively, and said, "Vat ist dat you are saying? Enough mit der schtick, already; boon, schmoon, von of us is enough for der funny talking."

"I have a favor to ask you." I was hoping he would understand my plight; I meant it, when I called him noble.

"Zo ask, already."

As I explained it to Spike, I was busily convincing myself that I was right. How do you explain your destiny, and not sound like a fool?

"Ya, I agree."

"You do?"

"Ya. If you must to do dis ding, you must do it."

"You agree?"

"Vy else vould I come all dis vay, mit you?"

"Frankly, I thought it was because of Rosie."

"Vell, ya, dat too. But I don't dink you should go alone, I come vith you."

I didn't want him to come. That would defeat the whole purpose. I was certain the mission to the Keep would end in disaster, you see, that's what I left out of my explanation. While I expected to succeed, I didn't expect to return. I explained his end of my plan.

"Zo, you don't vant I should come?"

"No, Spike. I need you to keep the others out of harm's way, until this is over."

"Sheee! You vant I should lie to them?" Spike rotated his right ear backward, the lepurian version of a cocked eyebrow. "You haff zeen der little von mit der pouty face, no?"

"Only for their own good. Let me explain."

"Oh, boy!"

Chapter 14 Contents Chapter 16


After the cannon went off, Dyna's men were silent. Those that had not disappeared into the surrounding shrubbery, lay prostrate and trembling. Dyna and his Corporal, backed away in silence, visibly shaken.

I had planned the demonstration for days, covered every safety issue I could think of. I drilled them mercilessly in the procedures, checked everything twice. Still and all, I missed one little detail, forgot to mention one thing.

"Hey guys," I should have said, "this thing is going to go BOOM!"

Well, I didn't think of it. Perhaps I can be forgiven, coming from an age of sirens and rock concerts. But these guys had never heard anything that loud (thunder is only about 80 dB, the canon was about 140 dB) especially something man made. Some of the men, literally, wet themselves.

If I ever had any hope of convincing Dyna I was not a wizard, it was gone now. Since then, they have treated me with reverence. It's embarrassing.

Chapter 14 Contents Chapter 16

Fairy Tale

O.K.; I was in a fairy tale. It was a demented fairy tale, I grant you, but it retained certain aspects of more normal ones. I had resigned myself to this and tried to ignore the little discrepancies in perceptual reality. Ginger Bread Houses, Pink Dragons, singing diamonds. Is this somebody's idea of a practical joke?

Mercy, did that sound paranoid?

Everyone agreed that I couldn't just leave the great, black, stone thingy there, so I was left to zap it away. It wouldn't require any great effort on my part, just a willingness to accept one hell of a lightning bolt. It seems the bigger the object I zapped, the stronger the resulting lightning. I believe it had something to do with the mass of the object.

Before I zapped it away, I had to decide where. We all agreed that trying to put it back in the Labyrinth, would probably do more harm then good. I couldn't indiscriminately zap it away. I turned over a few things in my head while I waited for inspiration.

Things like: What was going to happen next?

Even given the screwy way everything happens around here, I should be able to reason out the next most likely series of events, at least the one's for my friends. Nod was right about one thing, though, the shit was about to hit the fan.

Nod sent Rosie and Spike to assist Captain Dyna move some of the bigger equipment. Lately, and partly due to me, Captain Dyna had become interested in artillery, as if swords aren't dangerous enough. Then the pair were headed for the Labarynth to enlist the aid of the dragon's there.

Rosie and Spike were hot to get thier mission over with, they now had an egg to care for, and Spike was a dedicated family man- er rabbit, see what I mean! It's enough to make me gibber and drool.

If I understood Nod; Dot has taken a cat, or cats in partnership and is off to Dellbury. I believe he said something about a coronation, but I may have been (I hoped I was) mistaken.

I had underestimated the lad again, thinking that he had not realized that his proximity to "Fairy Land" was a big reason his little village was safe from the marauding feudalists. When I brought it up, he was not shy about his response.


"No telling what those barrel-chested morons would have done if they ever thought the Faery were vulnerable or at each others throats."

"Perhaps we could use the help?" I suggested, anything to add confusion to the adversary.

"Not that kind of help, Herbert. Those guys are everything that is embarrassing and nasty in the human race, in a metal wrapper."

It would be some years before an imaginary king, would bring honor to knighthood. Meanwhile, anyone in armor was dangerous. I was beginning to think that full, tin-can, body armour may have been developed to protect the wearers, from the stones and arrows of those they subjugated.


Nod sent Hanna and Tiela off to Centerville to keep an eye on Dyna's men, with an admonishment to:

" ... just watch, don't get involved, don't get caught."

I can't help but worry about the lad, he takes it all so personally; almost as if it was his fault, his personal responsibility. Then again, he did have the crown jewels of an ancient civilization sing to him, personally. I suppose that puts it on a slightly different plane; I guess I would take it personally, too.

It's a good plan, Nod's done all right, so far. So why was I worrying at it, picking it apart? I don't know, just a vague feeling that something stank. I couldn't quite pinpoint it, - ah hell! If he wanted to take solo responsibility for the fate of the world, let him.

I didn't have time.

I have never heard a banshee, but I now knew how one would sound. The piteous wail came through loud and clear. Not as sound waves, but as a gigantic thought wave. Tiela was in big trouble and this had nothing to do with being cute.

At that point, I had one of the few "Eurekas" I've ever experienced. It is a giddy, happy feeling, but even as the first rush crept through my synapses, it was damped by the realization itself: 

Nod set us all up, and I could do nothing to stop him. He was going to take the Scepter to the Keep, alone.

I would have to move pretty fast. A flash of inspiration hit me, I zapped the monolith to the only safe place I could think of, buried deep on the surface of the moon.

Now what did that remind me of? Ah, there was no time, perhaps I would think of it later. Just now I needed to locate Nod, in a hurry.

Geez, what a putz!

Chapter 14 Contents Chapter 16

Grandma! What big teeth...

"He shellacked a fish and put it on his wall! Are these people crazy? Took a perfectly good fish, ripped out the innards and threw them away- threw them out, mind you- stuffed it full of saw dust, painted it and hung it in the wall. Now I ask you- Get out of my head this instant!!" Piewacket was adamant, and loud.

"There's no need to get boisterous, fish-face." Dot used her usual amount of choleric charm.

"It's unspeakably rude." Piewacket's posture was an unmistakable rebuke, as one who recriminates a kitten, for an unpardonable faux paw. It reeked of forbearance.

"Don't take that attitude with me, hair ball." Dot had her hands on her hips, leaning forward in the cat's face. "This was your idea." When the moisture from her breath wilted his whiskers, a deep, gurgling growl formed, in the back of his throat. It was enough to shut her up.

They had traversed the distance to Dellbury on foot. Neither of them thought to ask the other if they could dislocate, which, of course, they could. They just naturally assumed the other was incapable, being the inferior species.

They were tired, hungry and slightly uncomfortable with each other. They were not counted among the socially adept in their own circles. They were, however, uniquely suited to communicate with each other, mentally or verbally. So it was that these two, who had nothing good to say, kept tripping over each others thoughts.

"Twerp." Added Piewacket.

"Hairball." Replied Dot.

They were approaching Dellbury and therefore the River, just South of West. The land was mostly rolling meadow, littered with the remnants of autumn wild flowers. The road they followed, was lined with tall Ashes and lumbering Oaks. The sun melted over the meadow, like a pat of butter on hotcakes.

They were going to Dellbury so Dot could claim her crown, and gather her forces. After which they would beat  Phineas T. into Guava Jelly; or that was the basic idea, there were still a lot of details she didn't understand.

"When we get there, let me do all the talking-"

Dot cut him off, "Why should I let you do the talking, footpad?

"Have you ever been to Dellbury before?" Piewacket rocked back on his haunches and curled his tail (which was twitching, uncontrollably) around his hindquarters.

"Well, actually I-"

"Do you have any notion why we are going to Dellbury?"

"No, I was just following-"

Piewacket unslinked to his full height. He narrowed his eyes and brandished his fangs. "Then have the good manners to be quiet, if you've got nothing constructive to say."

She opened her mouth to reply, but as she stared up at the feline, she realized for the first time, just how large he was.

"Would you care to explain?"

"We are on the way to Dellbury to contact some of my friends there. They will arrange a coronation with the Elders, and you will become the Queen of the Cats."

"For real? I thought you were speaking figuratively."

"No, it's 'for real' as you say. First you'll stand before the panel of elders, where you will be required to pass a test."

"What test?"

"That remains to be seen, there are some variables to be considered. Then you'll be crowned regent, vanquish the Pixie Oppressor and ...come back to claim the title."

"Oh, is that all!?" Dot stopped flitting and landed on the road. She scrunched up her face in questioning disdain, "What variables?"

Piewacket stopped and blinked at her. His expression imitated chagrin, as far as any cat is able.

"Well, everyone else thinks you're a cat."

She wasn't sure what to make of that. "And just how do I vanquish Phineas?"

"I always thought you'd pounce on him and rip his neck open with your teeth, but given your anatomical deficiencies, I may have to re-think that. The rest is a piece of cod." He licked a paw and squinted at her.

"You mean cake."

"I mean cod, you eat what you want-" He stopped and changed tack.

"Listen, Peridot," something like compassion rang in his voice, enough that Dot did not think to rebuke him, for the use of her given name.

"You'll be just fine, I'll guide you through everything, mentally. Just stay quiet for the first day or so, so we can get a feel for it."

Chapter 14 Contents Chapter 16


The Science Of Magic

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