The Story (and links to corresponding reviews)
Part 2: The Oily Adventure
As they left the keep, Makhabesh snarling at anyone who stared, Quintus said, "I'll need a new name." "Why?" "Quintus is for the fifth wizard. That's not me anymore." "What's your real name?" "A wizard never reveals his true name - too dangerous." "All righty then. Quint it is!" Makhabesh announced. "Unless you prefer Percival? Bertram? Horace...?"
"You should ditch the robe," Makhabesh said as they left the city. "Wizards always wear robes." "That's why you should ditch it." Quint - without the "us" - hmm'ed for a while before saying, "Quin." Makhabesh glanced at him sideways. "What?" "I think I like Quin better than Quint." "Uh-huh. Well, Quin, I'm thinking you should ditch the robe."
Makhabesh followed as Quin turned off the road and stopped at a circle of flat stones embedded in the ground. "What's this?" he asked. "It's a portal," Quin said. "We're going to use it to travel to the portal near Bicbiro." "What!?"
Quin and Makhabesh stared at the distant walls of Bicbiro. Makhabesh turned his head this way and that, looking sideways at the oozing, undulating walls. "What is that?" he finally asked. "Those are the oily walls of Bicbiro, designed to keep out intruders." Makhabesh shivered as a chill ran up his spine, and nearly fell from Quin's shoulder. "Ow! Get your claws out of me."
"Why are we doing this?" Makhabesh asked. "We're going to track down Marsell and take him back to the Wizards' Council for trial." Makhabesh nodded. "Trial for...?" "Don't you see? He was fifth wizard before me, when I was just an apprentice. He broke his oath, turned to forbidden sorcery, used his magic to trap people in that sphinx...."
When Quin finally finished telling Makhabesh about Marsell's crimes, and the plan to track down and capture the Oily Sorcerer before the world was condemned to live under his oily rule, Makhabesh slapped a paw against Quin's chest. "This is why I left home! Well, this and my mother kicked me out. Told me to go find a pretty sphinxette and start my own pride. But mostly this!" Quin nodded knowingly.
Fortunately, Quin had long since ditched the robe - or put it in his pack anyway. The guards of Bicbiro never would have admitted a foreign wizard. But they didn't bat an eye at the bespectacled "historian" planning to write a comprehensive treatise on the rise of the Bicbiro "empire".
Once he'd secured a room in a respectable, but modest inn of Bicbiro's university district, Quin opened his pack. Makhabesh scrambled tumbling out as if his tail had been set alight by the Oily Sorcerer himself. "I am never going in there again!" he proclaimed, shaking himself as if trying to dry his fur.
As they entered the university library to establish Quin's cover, the librarian looked askance at Makhabesh. "A sphinx?" Her nose twitched up as the corners of her mouth turned down. "He's an excellent assistant," Quin said. "The wings, you see." Makhabesh snarled quietly. "He should be with his own kind," she replied. Makhabesh grinned. "Clearly you've never met my mother."
After a month of dividing their time between the library and exploring the city, Quin and Makhabesh came up with two plans. One involved pizza, the other, cheeseburgers. Both involved bacon.
While Quin and Makhabesh argued over the last piece of bacon, Bicbiro secret police stormed into the restaurant. "Fly!" Quin urged as he cast a smoke screen spell. Makhabesh clawed the face of the first officer before flying over their heads toward the door. Behind his smoke screen, Quin rushed for the kitchen.
Makhabesh clawed his way through three more officers before soaring up as fast as he could. An oily ball flew past him. He dove and veered as the ball exploded into an oily web. He veered again as one edge of the web struck the tip of his left wing. He rounded the nearest corner, then dove into the first alley he saw, scurrying behind a dumpster and trying to shake the oil from his feathers.
Quin raced into the kitchen. He cast a shielding spell across the doorway as cooks and servers shouted at him. Ignoring them, he weaved through them toward what he hoped was the back door. Behind him, police shouted orders. A cook swung a skillet, clipping Quin's shoulder. He stumbled toward a door marked "EXIT".
Makhabesh held his breath as a troop of secret police stomped past the alley, all looking skyward. As soon as they were past, he took wing in the other direction, slightly off balance because of the oil on his feathers. He had to get back to help Quin.
Quin pushed the door open and ran straight into a squad of secret police. He had no chance to cast a spell. An oily ball struck his chest and exploded into an oily web. In the same instant, a hood dropped over his head. Fly, Makhabesh! he thought. Escape!
Makhabesh watched from behind a sooty chimney as the secret police dragged Quin away, hooded and wrapped in oily strands. He started to growl, but stopped himself before the sound grew loud enough for anyone to hear. He flew carefully from one hiding place to the next, following as they dragged Quin away.
After seeing where they took Quin, Makhabesh flew as fast as he could back to the inn. After a thorough check for secret police, he flew to the unlocked window of their room, pushed it open, and dove inside. He found Quin's pack still in the bottom of the wardrobe. He opened it, grit his teeth, climbed inside, and pulled it closed.
Meanwhile, back at the wizard's keep: "Did he not consider who would have to do all the chores when he kicked Quintus out?" Quartus asked. "Pffff," Tertius replied. "What does he care? He knew
Meanwhile, back at the wizard's keep: "Did he not consider who would have to do all the chores when he kicked Quintus out?" Quartus asked. "Pffff," Tertius replied. "What does he care? He knewhe wouldn't have to do them." Quartus wrung out his dish rag. "Inky stars forbid we hire someone."
Meanwhile, on the plains beyond the desert: "No Mom, no one's seen Makhabesh since he went to find his fortune," Enketa said, rolling her eyes. Mom growled. "I swear that brother of yours has gotten himself in trouble again. If I have to rescue him one more time, I'll pluck out his wing feathers."
By the time the guards shoved Quin into a chair, he'd lost all track of how they'd gotten there, and given up on working magic - the oily web kept his magic completely suppressed. "Where are the others?" Marsell's voice demanded. "Primus wouldn't have sent just you." "Primus kicked me out," Quin answered. The hood was yanked from his head and Quin squinted at the sudden light.
Marsell's narrowed eyes bored into Quin's. "Why did you come here?" Quin's mind raced for ways to take advantage of the situation. "Just exploring my options." Marsell leaned back in his chair. "Looking for options, eh?" Quin didn't bother trying to hide his nervousness - it fit. "Now that I've lost my mentors, I need to find something new..."
Makhabesh tried to relax as a guard stomped along with Quin's pack over his shoulder. They went up and down and seemingly all around before pausing. A door opened. Makhabesh held his breath as he heard Quin say, "So the oily magic is easier?" Makhabesh almost growled.
Makhabesh, inside Quin's pack, was dropped into a corner at Marsell's instruction. As his stomach flipped over, Makhabesh listened to what sounded like Quin deciding to switch sides and take up oily sorcery! "So you're saying my magic can go further before I have to rest?" Quin asked.
While Quin and Marsell yammered on about oily sorcery, Makhabesh carefully and quietly explored the contents of Quin's pack by the dim light that filtered in through the top. Most of it appeared mundane or too mysterious to handle. Then he found a fountain pen, already filled with ink, and a blank notebook.
The two wizards were still yammering, and Makhabesh was giving up on his plans to rescue Quin. Which meant he would probably die trapped in an oily web. And if he was going to die, it might be a good idea to write out his will and a letter to his mother. So he uncapped the fountain pen and began to write in the language of the sphinxes - Riddlese.
Quin was sure he had Marsell believing his interest. Oily sorcery certainly did seem to have some appeals, especially for basic needs, but it was so oily... It took all the art out of magic. "Well," Marsell said, "while you ponder that, let's just see what's in this pack, shall we?"
As Marsell started shifting and removing things from Quin's pack, Makhabesh crouched behind the full-length mirror, quickly scribbling the end of his letter: "I wish you were here, Mom. Actually, I wish the whole family were here."
Marsell pulled the mirror from Quin's pack. He glanced back and cocked an eyebrow. "And what does this do?" he asked. Quin tried to look embarrassed. "It shows me how I look in various robes," he lied, offering a sheepish grin. I sure hope Makhabesh has done his part.
"What's happening!?" Enketa cried as she, Mom, and others were pulled by some unseen force into a strange, dark place. Makhabesh's jaw dropped. "Mom!" More and more of his family began to pop into the pack. Light suddenly shone from above. Marsell shouted. Makhabesh grinned, clipped the fountain pen on the chain with his spider pendant, and gripped the notebook in one paw.
Quin jerked to his feet as Makhabesh and more than a dozen other sphinxes flew out of his pack. "Guards!" Marsell shouted. Makhabesh went straight for Marsell's eyes. One of the sphinxes roared - it had to be Makhabesh's mom. Quin lunged for the mirror stand. The door crashed open. Guards stood gaping in the doorway. Sphinxes were clawing and growling everywhere. Quin pressed his fingers into one of raised images on the mirror's stand.
The mirror rippled into a portal back to Quin's old room at the wizard's keep. "Through the mirror portal!" Quin shouted. Makhabesh grabbed the front of Marsell's shirt and flapped with all his might. "Help me, Mom!" In moments Makhabesh and half a dozen other sphinxes were through the mirror, pulling and pushing Marsell with them.