The Story (and links to corresponding reviews)
Part 4: The Quest to Find Happy Silkworms
190 Waterman Tender Purple
"Sir," Quin asked while they waited, "what do you mean the world is falling apart?" The High Wizard stared at him a moment, glanced at Essri, then waved a hand. A transparent, rippley dome appeared over them, instantly blocking all sound from outside. "Our source of magic has been corrupted. Most of the world won't care, but wizards and wizardesses are already weakening. Stopping Marsell was a good start, but it's not enough." "I haven't noticed my power weakening," Quin mused. "You're barely above an apprentice. When we restore the Source, you'll feel it." "We?"
191 Herbin Bleu Nuit
Makhabesh returned just in time for dinner, with word of a silkworm colony in the forest. As the High Wizard explained the problem and solution, he cut small pieces of pizza and cheeseburger for Essri, who gulped them whole. "And so," the High Wizard concluded, "we need to visit the silkworms." After several worried glances were exchanged, Makhabesh declared, "We're going to need a bunch of cheeseburgers to go." And after a glance at Quin's Infini-pack, he added, "And a couple of pizzas. Folded up."
192 Diamine Jet Black
Essri woke from his post-cheeseburger sleep and slithered out of Quin's pack, intending to slither down Quin's staff to take care of business, when he spotted the far side of a canyon, its walls a shade of greenish grey that made him think of rotting flesh. "What's that?" he asked. "The edge of the world," the High Wizard answered. "The what?" "On this side of the Muirdoor," the High Wizard explained, "the world is flat - thick, but flat, with positive magic on this side and corruption on the underside."
193 Noodler's Revolution Blue
Essri shivered as the High Wizard continued, "Sometimes, the creatures of the underside manage to climb all the way up and try to drag things, and living beings, back down. That's why we're keeping well away from the edge." Essri almost slithered over to Makhabesh's shoulder, but decided against it. Later, as they were looking for a place to camp, a creature scuttled from behind a shrub several paces ahead of them. "What's that?" Essri cried. The beast's six legs seemed not to work in harmony as it staggered this way and that, but mostly right at them.
194 Diamine Shimmering Seas
Makhabesh launched from Quin's shoulder as the greenish-grey monstrosity jerked toward them. An arm protruding from its back had no fewer than five joints and was tipped with what looked like a stinger. "I've got this," Makhabesh said as he focused on his pendant and released a firebolt. The beast staggered just before the firebolt struck. Only half its legs turned to ash. It screamed. Makhabesh's fur stood on end. "Behind us!" the High Wizard shouted. "Left," Quin yelled at the same time. Makhabesh fired again.
195 Kaweco Pearl Black
The High Wizard cursed himself for leading these children within sight of the edge. He focused his attention on the nearest three beasts, pointed Lightcaster, and commanded, "Lightning!" Streaks of lightning jumped from Lightcaster's orb, burning through the mutants. He'd been warned of small raiding parties, but there were a dozen in his sight alone. Perhaps he should have told the children what happens to those dragged under. "Scythe!" he commanded, and one sprouted at Lightcaster's end. "Or perhaps not," he whispered as he took the head from another brute, putting it out of its misery.
196 Montblanc UNICEF Turquoise Blue (LE)
Quin gulped at the sight of so many deformities scuttling toward him. He snatched a glass ball from one pocket, hurled it into the midst of the beasts, then planted his staff and shouted, "Shield!" The ball struck and exploded into magical shards that shreaded the nearest four beasts. He grabbed his second, and last, ball and released his shield. More deformities scuttled over the remains of the dead. He hurled the orb and shielded himself again. "I don't have enough magic for this," he whispered. "Hold tight, Essri!"
197 Sailor Kobe INK Story #67 Ogo Farm Green
Essri coiled tightly around Quin's staff, his scales clamped down to keep from shaking in fear. He felt helpless and useless. His venom might stop a few, but there were so many. The High Wizard was casting lightning and severing heads. Makhabesh was launching firebolts. Quin was hurling bombs. But beasts surrounded them. "You have magic too, Ethri," he whispered. He squeezed his eyes closed, slowed his breathing, and concentrated on finding the safest route through the enemy. He stretched away from Quin's staff. "Go that way!" he shouted.
198 Noodler's Zhivago
Makhabesh began to fear there were too many. He could only fire one bolt at a time and had to wait for it to strike before he could fire the next. None of the enemy seemed to have wings, but that wouldn't help Quin and the High Wizard, or even the cursed snek. He picked the largest beast he could see, one with two arms on its back topped with pincers, and launched a firebolt. "Take that!" he shouted as the beast whooshed into flame and ash. Something grabbed his tail. He started to spin. It grabbed his right wing. He screamed as wing bones cracked. "Help!"
199 Private Reserve Infinity Green
Quin turned in the direction Essri pointed, and since he knew his magic wouldn't be strong enough, he did the only thing left to him. He reached a hand over his head toward the opening of his pack and shouted, "Sword!" An instant later he felt the hilt touch his hand and gripped it. "This way!" he shouted to Makhabesh and the High Wizard. He released his shield. Half a dozen mutants clambered toward him. Behind him, Makhabesh screamed, "Help!" He glanced back. He could never reach Makhabesh in time.
200 De Atramentis Document Ink Dark Blue
Essri watched in horror as one of the monsters jumped up and grabbed Makhabesh by the tail and then the wing! "Help!" Makhabesh cried. Quin and the High Wizard both glanced in his direction, but they were in the middle of fights. The monster dragged Makhabesh toward the edge. Essri slithered as quickly as he could down Quin's staff. "Throw me!" he shouted. "Throw me!" Quin understood and used his staff to fling Essri toward the beast that had Makhabesh. Essri locked his eyes on the beast and shouted, "Find!"
201 Sailor Kiwaguro
Quin flung Essri toward the monster that had Makhabesh, but there was no time to see if it worked. "Fast!" he commanded. Everything seemed almost to stop. The monstrosities came to a near standstill. Quin raced through them, hacking and slashing. He cleaved bodies, removed heads, chopped off arms. If I can just kill enough of them, he thought, I might be able to save Makhabesh. When he could find no more beasts in front of him, he turned back to fight his way toward Makhabesh.
202 Diamine Peach Haze
The High Wizard's heart froze in terror as he heard Makhabesh scream for help. He cast six bolts of lightning at once. Five hit true. Not enough to free him to help Makhabesh. He scythed another head and spotted a streak of bright green hurtling straight at the beast that held the sphinx. "Brave snek," he whispered approvingly and cast more lightning. From the corner of his eye, he saw Quin turn into a blur. "Good man," he declared, feeling like they finally stood a chance. "Lightning!" he commanded. Five more abominations died.
203 Parker Quink Blue
Makhabesh struggled to free himself despite the pain. From the corner of his eye he saw a pincer coming down. "Help!" The pincer clamped around his middle, digging into his skin. He couldn't even work his pendant. The High Wizard was surrounded. I'm going to die. He spotted Quin, but he was too far away. The beast was going to drag him down to the underside. Then Quin swung his staff, as if casting a spell. Please work, he thought. A green arrow flew straight toward him. Then he saw fangs. "Essri!?"
204 Robert Oster Aussie Brown
Essri stiffened his spine and bared his fangs. Between Quin's aim and Essri's magic, he flew straight to the beast. Just before he struck, he felt a moment of fear: What if my venom doesn't work? What if the monster's poisonous? What if it's too late? What we go over the edge? But there was no choice. He couldn't let Makhabesh die without doing everything to save the contrary sphinx. He sank his fangs into the monster, pumping in venom. The beast screamed. It dropped Makhabesh. Essri withdrew his fangs and slithered to the battered Makhabesh.
205 Pennonia Zöldike (Greenfinch)
When the speed-altering enchantment wore off, Quin found himself next to the High Wizard, surrounded by carnage. When they couldn't find more monsters, they rushed to Makhabesh's side. Essri stood guard, fangs bared, ready to attack. The High Wizard unslung his pack and fished out a small vial. He took a sip then handed it to Quin. "A drop for Essri, then swallow the rest yourself. I'll look after Makhabesh." Essri swallowed a drop and shivered from head to tail. Quin downed the rest and felt a jolt of energy race through him.
206 Pelikan Edelstein Star Ruby
Essri watched the High Wizard gently lift the unconscious Makhabesh and lay him on his back. He spread the sphinx's wings and carefully aligned his broken bones. He took another vial from his pack. "Stand guard," he commanded. Essri started up Quin's staff. Quin stepped up onto a nearby boulder. While the High Wizard worked healing magic, Essri slithered all the way up to the orb atop Quin's staff. He shivered at its chill temperature and then gasped in surprise. "Oh! Hello," he said. "Did you see something?" Quin asked. "No, no, it's alright."
207 Van Dieman's Ink Pepperberry
Quin alternated between watching for more monsters and watching the High Wizard. After laying Makhabesh out carefully, the wizard dripped a single drop of dark green potion into Makhabesh's mouth, stroked his throat until he swallowed, then took his staff and commanded, "Heal!" Light enveloped the sphinx. When it faded, Makhabesh was still unconscious. The wizard examined him for some time. Essri whispered something. The wizard repeated the treatment and then carefully picked up the limp Makhabesh, cradling him in his arms.
208 Jacques Herbin Gris de Houle
Essri was more than a little surprised when Quin's staff said hello. He was even more surprised to discover that Quin had yet to meet her. "He's rather clueless," she said. "But I like him anyway. He's good-natured, and braver than he knows." "I like him, too," Essri said. "You're a charming little snek." Essri blushed. "And adventurous Makhabesh is a loyal friend," she added. "Wish he didn't hate me," Essri whispered. "He's afraid of snakes, like all his kind. Give him time." "Does he have time?" Essri asked, glancing down at the sphinx.
209 De Atramentis Jane Austen
"Is he alright?" Quin asked. "Time will tell," the High Wizard answered. "He needs to sleep. Please carry my staff until we find a safe place. Essri?" "On it!" The little snek closed his eyes tightly. "Good idea," he said. "What's a good idea?" Quin asked. Essri extended himself from the staff. "That way." "Touch my staff to my hand, Quin." When Quin complied, the High Wizard commanded, "Light." The orb atop the High Wizard's staff cast a beam of light. Quin adjusted the staff to point the light and they set off.