For some bizarre reason, many fountain pen ink reviewers writeas sample text. Pangrams are useful for learning to type, but they're somewhat absurd for demonstrating fountain pen writing - it's not as if the fountain pen will write differently depending on the letter of the alphabet. Anywho, it's a common practice.
So, when I started doing ink reviews, I decided to have fun with these pangrams. One of these pangrams is "The five boxing wizards jump quickly." Eventually, this morphed into stories about "the fifth wizard", who was given a name by the user "yazeh" on the Fountain Pen Network.
Quintus / Quint / Quin - the fifth wizard
Makhabesh - a male sphinx (emphasis on the first syllable, second emphasis on the last syllable, with the "ah" between them de-stressed; the "kh" is a "hard h" - sort of like clearing your throat; both "a" characters are pronounced like "ah"; also, the consonant-vowel grouping is unusual: MAKH - abesh - with a pause / break before the "abesh", rather than the more common grouping of: ma kha besh)
The other wizards: Primus (in charge), Secundus, Tertius, and Quartus
Marsell, the Oily Sorcerer of Bicbiro (Bicbiro is a city) (For you non-fountain pen people, ballpoints use oil-based ink. See this Wikipedia page about Marcel Bich for more.)
Enketa - Makhabesh's sister
Mom - Makhabesh's mother
The Story (and links to corresponding reviews)
Part 1: Quintus, the Fifth Wizard
Long after the other four wizards went home, Quintus’ patience finally paid off. On the right foot of the sphinx of black quartz, the largest toe showed a slight abnormality. That toe had to be the way inside, and in time, Quintus would unlock its secret.
Quintus stood before his wardrobe staring at a virtual sea of black robes. With a sudden grin, he whispered a secret spell, then pulled out a single blood-red robe.
Clad in his blood-red robe, Quintus returned to the mystery of the Sphinx’s toe. The glyphs indicated the toe had to be pushed and pulled at the same time. A clear impossibility. But impossibilities were why magic existed in the first place.
Poor, exhausted Quintus flopped down onto the sand. All his efforts to both push and pull the Sphinx’s toe had failed. And yet, he was sure there had to be a way...
Quintus sat in the sand, pondering pushing and pulling. Push one part and pull another? But the toe seemed whole. Which part should he push, and which pull? Compression? Tear it apart? But in which direction or in what sequence? "Well," he said, "there was only one thing to do: try!"
Quintus laughed hysterically as his twin spells pushed the sphinx’s toe out from the inside and pulled it out from the outside. It’s possible he was suffering from sleep deprivation.
As night fell in the desert, Quintus conjured an orb of light, straightened his back, and told the butterflies in his stomach there was no need to flutter about so nervously. "No need at all," he whispered as he stepped into the gap left by the sphinx’s push-pulled toe.
While Quintus toiled upward in the night, the other four wizards slept safely in their beds: one with a lazy dog at his feet, another with a quick brown fox at his back, the third with a box of five dozen liquor jugs hidden under his bed, and the fourth dreamt of waltzing zebras.
On and on Quintus trudged - along narrow passageways and up quartz staircases. Clearly the sphinx was larger inside than out. Just at the edge of his vision, something blinked! "Gaaaaaaah," Quintus screamed.
As echos Quintus’ scream faded, a voice came from the darkness: "What a strange greeting. Still, one must be polite." Quintus moved his light closer. "Gaaaaaaah!" the creature screamed. After Quintus’ heart returned to his chest, his eyes beheld a tiny sphinx, no longer than his forearm.
After their morning ablutions, each of the four wizards asked each of the other wizards whether they’d seen Quintus since they left the desert. How many times was Quintus asked about? (Leave a comment.)
Quintus blinked at the tiny sphinx. "I’m Quintus," he said. "Nice to meet you," the sphinx answered. "I’m Makhabesh. I don’t suppose you know the way out of this trap?"
After a dozen confirmations that no one had seen Quintus since they had left the desert, Primus announced that they would undertake a search and rescue operation - immediately after breakfast.
"Trap?" Quintus asked. "But I worked hard to get in here." Makhabesh nodded sagely. "That's how they got me - a mysterious set of glyphs around the sculpture's left eye. Took me days to figure it out. But when I returned to leave, they eye was sealed tight."
The four wizards stood staring at tracks in the sand. "Well," said Tertius, "he managed to get the toe out." Secundus pointed where smaller tracks disappeared between two toes. "He must have gone inside." Quartus scratched his head. "But why pull the toe back after him?"
Quintus and Makhabesh raced down quartz stairs and along narrow passageways, following the orb of light bouncing ahead of them and praying they weren't too late.
Primus shook his head. "Quintus wouldn't pull it back." Unless he had something to hide from us. "First we figure out what spell he used!" Then I have to figure out if I want my troublesome fifth wizard back.
Quintus nearly smashed into the inside of the sphinx's toe (the big sphinx, not Makhabesh). His own footprints appeared to come from under a quartz wall. "Nooooooo!" he cried. "The good news," Makhabesh said, "is that there's a very nice cafe right about where this thing's stomach is supposed to be."
"We've got it," Secundus and Tertius shouted in unison. The four wizards watched as the toe pulled slowly away from the rest of the sphinx. When it cleared the other toes, a faint cry came from deep within, "Wait for me!"
Quintus and Makhabesh were had just topped the first set of stairs on their way to the cafe when light appeared behind them. Makhabesh took wing and disappeared back the way they'd come like a dart. "Wait for me!" Quintus cried.
Makhabesh flew as fast as he ever had, twisting to squeeze through the narrow gap and out into the sunlight. "Free!" he yelled, soaring into the blinding light. And suddenly he was so overtaken with a fit of hysterical laughter that he had to land before he crashed.
As the other four wizards stared at the tiny laughing sphinx, Quintus tumbled out into the sunlight. "Thank," he gasped, "the inky stars!" At the sound of his voice, Makhabesh flew up and perched unsteadily on Quintus' shoulder. "So," Makhabesh said, "when do we go in and rescue the others?"
"Go in?" Quintus shouted. "It's a trap!" Makhabesh patted Quintus' shoulder with one paw. "Sure, but now we know it's a trap, can't you five use your magic to prop the door open?" The other four wizards continued to stare.
"What others?" Primus finally asked. "Well," Makhabesh said, "there's the archeologist and his assistant, and the couple on their honeymoon, and the other couple celebrating their retirement. Then there's the treasure hunters - we could leave them inside. And there's a history professor who won't stop talking, and that guy in the corner muttering to himself..."
[Two days later...] Armed with their staffs, potions, and spells, the others left Secundus and Tertius at the entrance, just in case, and set off into the sphinx-trap. "Maybe before we do the rescue part, we could get one of their bacon cheeseburgers," Makhabesh suggested. "Mmmm."
After getting six cheeseburgers to go (a request which made the server suspicious), Primus pounded his staff against the floor three times, cleared his throat, and announced, "We're here to rescue you! The right forepaw-" A fireball flew from one corner of the cafe - straight at Primus.
"Noooo!" Quartus yelled, thrusting his staff into the path of the fireball! Primus ducked as the fireball split. Quintus set his staff and cast a shielding spell around himself, Quartus, and Primus. Trapped patrons screamed and scattered. And Makhabesh flew right into the face of the fellow muttering in the corner, and began to claw his eyes out.
"My eyes! My eyes!" cried the muttering fellow from the corner. "Sieze him!" Primus ordered. Quartus and Quintus dragged the enemy into the light. "Gaaah!" shouted the three wizards in unison. "It's Marsell, the Oily Sorcerer of Bicbiro!"
While the three wizards bound Marsell and stripped him of his magical paraphernalia, Makhabesh directed his fellow trap-ees toward the big sphinx's right forepaw. Suddenly, all light vanished, there was a bang, a flash, smoke, and when the wizards re-conjured their orb-lights, Marsell was gone!
After a moody trip home, Makhabesh took a flight around the wizards' keep while they held a private meeting. Later he found Quintus turning circles in his room, staring at his belongings as if he didn't recognize them. When Makhabesh flew into view, Quintus sagged into the nearest chair. "They're kicking me out," he said.
"I'll claw their eyes out!" Quintus flicked a hand and the door swung shut. "There's no point." Suddenly he stood and pulled a pack from his wardrobe. Makhabesh watched in fascination as far too many things disappeared into the pack. "No more laundry," Quintus muttered. "No more dishes. No more ... just no more." He looked up with a grin.
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 he wouldn't have to do them." Quartus wrung out his dish rag. "Inky stars forbid we hire someone."
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 he 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."
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.
As soon as he was through the portal, Makhabesh warned his family to keep the wizard restrained and blinded while he rushed to find the wizards. Meanwhile, on the other side of the portal, Quin called to the last sphinx out of his pack and she grabbed it in her claws. As soon as she was through the portal, Quin tumbled backwards through the frame.
After much hubbub, Marsell was locked in the keep's prison. There followed several introductions and numerous apologies to Makhabesh's mother, who assumed command of the entire wizard's keep - unchallenged, even by Primus. Later, Makhabesh jabbed a claw at Quin's chest. "You were supposed to stall, not switch sides!" Quin blinked. "That was stalling." "Didn't sound like stalling..."
Quin noticed his fountain pen hanging from Makhabesh's necklace. "So that's how you got your family into my pack!" Makhabesh grinned. "Brilliant, right?" "That wasn't the plan," Quin mumbled. "Don't look a gift horse in the mouth!"
"Give me back my pen," Quin said. "Oh no, it's my pen now." "What are you going to do when it runs out of ink?" Quin grinned - the pen would be no good without magic ink. Makhabesh bared his teeth in a grin, or maybe a snarl. "You'll refill it, or I'll complain to Mom." Quin's grin turned to a frown. "Ahem. OK. But you have to help me get my stuff back." "Fine." "Because, it's no good without the book." Makhabesh grinned and pulled the book from under one wing.
"You!" Mom jabbed one extended claw at Quin's chest. "Ma'am?" "You're the one dragging my son into danger!" "I... er... he..." "You could have gotten my baby killed!" "Ah... uh... um..." Quin realized she was working sphinxy Riddlese magic on him and snapped his mouth shut. "Anything happens to my little boy and I'll barbecue your ribs and feed them to my grandbabies!" Quin quickly nodded his understanding.
Quin sighed in relief as the wizards opened a portal to the sphinxes' home territory. "Bye, Quin," Enketa said, waving a paw and winking. As soon as she was through the portal, Makhabesh smacked a paw against Quin's chest, claws extended. "What was that?" "Uh... um..." "Were you coming on to my sister?" "What!? Never!" "Are you saying she's not good enough for you?" "I... No... She..." Riddlese!! "Stay away from my sister, bud!" Quin nodded his agreement.
Once the sphinxes were gone, Secundus and Tertius took some apprentice wizards and a company of soldiers and portaled to Bicbiro to clean up the mess. Quin met the new Quintus - an awkward moment if ever there was one - and then Quin and Makhabesh moved to a guest room on the far side of the city, away from the wizards' keep, to await the return of Quin's belongings - assuming they could be found.
"Pack some food," Quin said. An apprentice had just returned his things from Bicbiro. "We have to get out of here before Primus gets any ideas!" Makhabesh watched as Quin hastily packed. "You're not the fifth wizard anymore. You don't have to obey Primus." Quin stared at Makhabesh a moment. "He's Primus! All the wizards in the city have to obey him."
Part 3: The Old Goat Adventure
Makhabesh grabbed an ordinary sack and started stuffing food inside. "Why not--" A knock at the door froze Quin and Makhabesh in place. Quin heaved a sigh and went to the door. Outside, an old man with a stringy little beard hunched over his cane. Makhabesh thought he looked very much like an old goat.
127 Diamine Blue-Black
"Sir!" Quin said, straightening his spine. The old man cleared his throat. "Wizard Quin, sphinx Makhabesh, you are summoned to Mount Ferovere, to the Wizards' Palace. You are to appear before the High Wizard himself. You are to leave at once! Primus awaits at the keep to open a portal to Norvelt." Quin gaped. "Who's the old goat?" Makhabesh whispered.
128 ESS Registrars Ink
"He's the Keep Steward," Quin whispered back. "He serves the High Wizard." Quin stuffed the food bag into his pack, then he and Makhabesh followed the old man toward the keep. "So, where's this Norvelt?" "It's the nearest portal to the palace." Makhabesh jumped up onto Quin's shoulder. "What's this High Wizard want with us?" Quin shrugged. "Ow!" "You shouldn't shrug with a sphinx on your shoulder."
129 Sailor Shikiori Chushu
As the portal closed behind them, Quin glanced around quickly, comparing what he saw to accounts he'd read as an apprentice. Ahead of them, a trail curved uphill. Elsewhere, trees formed a dense forest. "Why not send us straight to this palace?" Makhabesh asked. "The palace has magical protections against portaling too close."
130 Pelikan 4001 Blue-Black
Makhabesh launched himself from Quin's shoulder. "Ow!" Once above the trees, he circled, and saw nothing but forest, the trail, and a walled city in the distance. He returned and landed again on Quin's shoulder. "I'm going to need to buy a leather jacket," Quin muttered. "What is it with wizards and walls?" Makhabesh asked.
131 Sailor Shikiori Yonaga
Halfway to the first curve of the trail, Quin turned into the forest. "I thought we were supposed to go straight to the palace," Makhabesh said. "Exactly. The path curves." Quin grinned. Makhabesh cocked an eyebrow. "When I was an apprentice, I spent a lot of time in the library. Turns out, the best way to the palace is a straight line. There are magical herbs and such in the forest - ingredients for things like ink."
132 KWZ Grey Plum
While Quin collected a plant with jagged purple leaves, Makhabesh flew ahead until he came across a giant red punching bag hung from a tree limb. He landed on top, puzzling and waiting. When Quin finally appeared, his face contorted through surprise to fear. "Look out!" he yelled. Before Makhabesh could move, something smashed into the bag from behind him, sending him reeling.
133 Diamine Purple Rain
Makhabesh barely managed to get his wings working before he hit the ground. He soared up. A smoke screen puffed into existence and Quin took off running on one side of it. On the other side, a giant black goat with curly horns snorted and smashed into the punching bag again. Makhabesh dove after Quin.
134 Diamine Registrars Ink
"What was that?" Makhabesh asked when he caught up with Quin. "One of the dangers of the forest," Quin said. "They put up the punching bag to distract it from attacking travelers." Makhabesh couldn't figure out how to answer that. "Fortunately, that one wasn't magical, or it could have been much worse." "And you couldn't be bothered to warn me about magic goats!?"
135 Diamine Deep Dark Blue
"So, what else do we need to worry about?" Makhabesh asked. "I'd tell you to avoid stepping on mushrooms, but all you do is ride on my shoulder." Makhabesh ignored that. "What happens if we step on a mushroom." "Depends on whether it's sentient. The sentient ones are all connected underground, and will track you and mob you as soon as they get the chance." And he wonders why I ride on his shoulder.
136 Diamine Midnight
"Are you sure that's not sentient?" Makhabesh asked as Quin reached toward a mushroom. "Positive," Quin said. "The sentient ones all have spots or stripes. These green ones are good for several potions, mostly for healing." Makhabesh watched carefully. Quin had spent the past hour telling about magic bugs, animals, and sentient plants. The sooner they reached the palace, the better.
137 Hero 232 Blue-Black
"Wizard Quin and sphinx Makhabesh," Quin told the guard at the city gate. "We've been summoned to the palace." "They've been waiting," the guard replied, and ushered them into a horse-drawn carriage. As soon as the door closed, the carriage accelerated into the city. "Wings are quieter," Makhabesh said, shouting to be heard over the clatter.
138 Pelikan Edelstein Olivine
At the palace, a man calling himself the High Wizard's personal aide whisked them away so quickly they barely had time to see anyone or anything. Faster than they knew, they were standing in a room with six other wizards - the aide, and five counselors, each wearing a dark blue robe with a different pattern in gold thread embroidered throughout.
139 Colorverse Anti-Matter
"Welcome, welcome," the aide began. "Your work in finding Marsell was--" "There's no time for that!" said a wizard with geometric patterns on his robe. "The High Wizard is missing and we need the two of you to find him!" Quin and Makhabesh gaped. "We'll provide the best supplies we can, and an enchanted object for each of you, but we must hurry."
140 Monteverde Azure Noir
"Uh," Quin said, "there must be someone more experienced..." "We can't send anyone from here." A wizard with wavy swirls on his robe stepped forward. "For all we know, someone from here is the reason he's missing." "We need outsiders," geometric said. "And after your success in apprehending Marsell, you're the logical choice." Quin and Makhabesh exchanged a glance.
141 Platinum Carbon Black
"Just one enchanted object, huh?" Makhabesh mused. "There's no time to make more," geometric said. The lone wizardess, with leaves and vines on her robe, addressed them: "You should pick complementary enchantments. But first, Wizard Quin must choose a new staff from the Staff Grove." Quin's eyes went wide.
142 Montblanc Homer Greek Blue
Staffs from the Staff Grove were the most powerful ones a wizard could have. Magical trees of every kind grew in the Grove. "We'll do it!" Quin said. Makhabesh whispered, "Are you insane? This smells like politics." Quin turned away from the others and whispered back, "For a staff from the Grove, I'd track down a dozen Marsells." "OK, but I get to pick the first enchantment." "Done."
143 Diamine Chopin
Quin wandered breathless through the Grove, gaping at all the magical trees. The wizardess in the leafy robe had explained that it was best to let the staff choose him. So he wandered. After nearly an hour, he thought he heard his name whispered on the wind, and turned to follow the sound. If that's Makhabesh, I'm going to be really disappointed.
144 Kobe #38 Kitanozaka Night Blue
The geometric wizard had explained that it was best to enchant an object with which Makhabesh was already familiar, so he'd agreed to let them enchant his spider pendant. He flipped through a book of enchantments: healing, speed, a shield against magical attacks, another against physical attacks, the ability to entrance enemies.... I want them all!
145 Diamine Twilight
Quin stared at the ironwood tree that had called him. Bark so dark it looked black contrasted with leaves so white they seemed to emit light. At the base of each leaf, a small 3-petal flower grew, its white petals streaked with green, blue, and dark brown. "Quin, son of Omira by Aithen..." Quin's jaw dropped as the tree named his parents. "...come, receive the staff I have made for you."
146 Diamine Graphite
The staff protruded from the tree's trunk, held only by its tip. "Take this staff made from root and branch," the tree continued, "with strength and wisdom drawn from her who knows all who live upon her sphere." The branch and root entwined from the base to merge into a smooth, round handhold, then twined again to the top, where they split into tendrils holding a crystal sphere streaked like the tree's flowers.
147 Pilot Iroshizuku Ina-ho
Quin wrapped his hand around the grip and felt it form to his hand as the staff came free of the tree. "Hold the staff in both hands and plant it in the ground while speaking the word 'shield' and it will shield you and those near you from attack," the tree said. "Cast your spells through its sphere and they will be strengthened. Learn its name and it will reveal the wisdom of the earth."
148 Van Dieman's Ink Eggplant
When Quin returned to the palace, Makhabesh paced at the leafy wizardess' feet. Her face paled for a moment. "You have received a rare gift." Quin beamed as he explained the staff's powers. Makhabesh jumped up onto his shoulder. "Yeah, yeah, nice stick. Let's pick enchantments!"
149 Diamine Safari
They practically flew through the rest of their time at the palace: enchantments were completed; the five counselor-wizards tried again, and failed, to scry the High Wizard's location; and they laded Quin and Makhabesh with food, water, and magical supplies - including a pouch-size infini-pack for Makhabesh, complete with mini notebook and mini pen with magical ink; Quin got his pen and notebook back, with extra ink, and a leather jacket with padded shoulders.
150 KWZ Green Gold
As they approached the gate through which the High Wizard had departed, geometric handed them a map. "The High Wizard was on his way here," he said, pointing to a spot further up the mountain, "to counsel with Kri Nachi, The Ancient of Goats. If you can find him, you may learn where the High Wizard disappeared to. Keep your wits about you - the goat-wizards can be dangerous!"
151 Noodler's Baystate Blue
Quin: "Should we have told them what really happened with Marsell?"
M: "Pfff, no." Quin spun his new staff. Makhabesh switched shoulders.
Q: "Yeah, they would've sent us anyway. We've probably been set up to take the blame if we can't find the High Wizard."
M: "That's what I told you. We can always run to Mom for protection." Quin shivered and Makhabesh spread his wings to avoid falling. (He was trying to use his claws less often.)
Q: "Ow! Get your wing out of my face! We should probably come up with a plan."
M: "Yeah, a better plan."
Q: "Right. Only we have no idea what's going to happen next."
M: "You should have gone for the enchantment that lets you see the future."
Q: "Maybe they'll give us a reward when we get back."
152 KWZ Walk Over Vistula
The next day, Makhabesh cocked an eyebrow when Quin began talking to his staff. "Don't worry, staff. I'll take good care of you. You can trust me." "You know that's a stick, right?" "Don't listen to him. He doesn't understand anything. When you're comfortable, you can tell me your name. It'll be our little secret." Makhabesh rolled his eyes.
153 Monteverde Olivine
"My turn!" Makhabesh said once the fire was laid. Before Quin could beat him to it, he concentrated on the wood and his pendant, and shot a bolt of fire right on target. The wood whooshed into flame, sparks flying. Makhabesh cackled with glee. "That never gets old." "Next time you have to gather the wood," Quin muttered, quickly adding more logs to replace the ones Makhabesh had just turned to ash.
154 Van Dieman's Ink Blackened Seas
After several days of talking to his staff failed to yield any revelations, Quin asked Makhabesh, "What sort of name do you suppose a staff would have?" "How would I know that? I've never been on a first-name basis with a staff." He looked away and rolled his eyes. "I don't even know if it's a he or a she or maybe an it. Maybe it's more of a descriptive name: Staff of Earthly Wisdom." He held the staff in front of his face. "Is that your name?"
155 Sailor Shikiori Rikyucha
"Goat prints!" Makhabesh jumped to the ground. "Goat smells, too," he said and launched into the air. While he circled, Quin followed the prints. "Goats inbound," Makhabesh announced as he landed on Quin's shoulder. "They've got a surprisingly tall tower, complete with stairs and watch-goats. You might want to warm up that stick of yours." Quin continued to follow the goat prints through the trees. By the time he spotted the tower, he also spotted a whole herd of goats racing toward them.
156 Monteverde Smoke Noir
The herd showed no sign of slowing. Quin took his staff in both hands. "Maaah," bleated the lead goat, and all the others bleated in response. "Shield!" Quin said as he planted his staff. The air seemed to waver around him, as if a thin layer of water surrounded him. The lead goat slammed horns-first into Quin's shield, followed by the second, while all the other goats flowed around him. "Maah, I win!" announced the first goat. "Mi-ine." Quin and Makhabesh exchanged a glance.
157 Private Reserve Infinity Red
The herd bleated and danced around Quin's shield, some battering their forehooves against it. Quin tried to get their attention: "We come--" A deep voice boomed from the direction of the goat tower: "Ma-ah!" and a man-sized goat stalked toward them on his hind legs. "Ba-ack to the village you ra-ascals!" he ordered. All but the first goat raced away. "Mi-ine," said the first goat. "He's a wizard," the big goat answered. "You cannot have a wizard. This one is for Kri Nachi." The smaller goat stomped away with a departing kick.
158 Rubinato Writing Ink Blue-Black
"Thank you," Quin said. "We come in search of the High Wizard." "You'll have to talk to Kri Nachi about that," the big goat answered. "Follow me!" Quin followed as the goat led him past the watch tower and along a narrow trail up the mountain toward an even larger tower. "I don't like this," Makhabesh whispered. "Why?" Quin asked. "Remember the last time you were led into a tower?" Quin hesitated only a moment before following the guard into the tower. They were better prepared this time.
159 Robert Oster Graphite
"Ma-ah. Sphinx," Kri Nachi said, curling his upper lip. "Try to eat one of my herd and I'll roast you with magic!" "I prefer bacon cheeseburgers," Makhabesh answered. "Speaking of which," Quin said, "I brought a gift, most honorable Ancient of Goats." He carefully reached into his pack and pulled out a silver tray, then piled several cheeseburgers on it. "You brought cheeseburgers and didn't tell me?" Makhabesh demanded. Quin ignored him. "In gratitude for any help you might offer in finding our High Wizard."
160 Waterman Intense Black
As soon as Kri Nachi caught a whiff of the cheeseburgers, he came down from his goat-y throne and chomped a bite out of the top one. "Ma-ah. Mmm. Um nom nom." Quin waited patiently. "We accept your gift," Kri Nachi announced after finishing his first burger. "Your High Wizard requested my help to--" The door smashed open behind them. Hooves clattered. Quin turned his head. "Mi-ine!" The goat who had butted his shield smashed into his behind. Quin stumbled forward. Makhabesh was sent spinning.
161 KWZ Grey Lux
Quin fell to his knees, barely avoiding the remaining burgers. As he spun, Makhabesh saw more of the smaller goats at the door. He flapped like mad to avoid hitting the floor and getting stomped. "Mi-ine!" the smaller goat cried as it crashed into Quin's back, knocking him on his face. "Mi-ine!" it declared as it hopped victoriously on his back. Makhabesh kicked off the floor, and then perched in the rafters. One paw felt for his pendant. "Ra-ascals!" boomed the man-sized guard. Kri Nachi snatched another burger and returned to his throne.
162 Diamine Grey
"Explain yourself, Ricky Cha," Kri Nachi ordered. "Ancient One, they're intruders," the little goat began. "I saw them first. I butted them first. I should get to keep them." Kri Nachi glanced at the stack of cheeseburgers. "We're not intruders," Quin said, pondering how to get the goat off his back without giving offense. "We're visitors; official representatives of the Wizards' Council. I promise any offense was unintended." Kri Nachi glanced from Quin to Makhabesh, then scratched his goaty beard.
163 Pelikan Edelstein Moonstone
Makhabesh kept one paw on his pendant, but couldn't decide on a target. It wasn't too late to get help from the goats, so he waited, scowling at Kri Nachi and Ricky Cha in turn. "Try a cheeseburger, Ricky Cha," Kri Nachi ordered. After a brief hesitation, the little goat clambered off Quin's back. Quin was on his feet in the next instant, both hands on his staff. "Um nom nom," Ricky Cha said. "You must offer Ricky Cha a gift," Kri Nachi announced.
164 Waterman Serenity Blue
"No!" Ricky Cha shouted. "I want a wizard!" Quin started racking his brain, trying to remember what was in his pack. "I accepted the wizard's gift and agreed to help him. You will accept another gift in exchange," Kri Nachi said. Ricky Cha glanced up at Makhabesh, who snarled. "Not him, either," Kri Nachi said. Ricky Cha stomped with all four hooves at once. All eyes turned to Quin.
165 Van Dieman's Ink Hanging Lake
From his pack, Quin extracted a cylindrical case about a pace long and a span in diameter. "This is the best I can offer," he lied. "Once the case is open, the enchantment will be activated and it will only last for a year. The object will only work for a few hours per day, and only in daylight. It must be rolled up and put back into the case overnight to recover energy." "What is it?" Ricky Cha demanded. "It's a carpet. That will fly. Slowly. Close to the ground--" "Done!" Ricky Cha declared, grabbing the case and racing from the tower with his friends close behind.
166 Colorverse Bluish Green
"Your high wizard sought for a Muirdoor," Kri Nachi said. "Get them a map," he instructed the guard. Makhabesh swooped down from the rafter to land on Quin's shoulder. "What's a Muirdoor?" "A door to another world," Kri Nachi answered. "He said the wizards had a problem for which this world has no solution." "What problem?" Quin asked, suddenly concerned. "He didn't say, but it must be serious if he was willing to travel into the dark forest." The guard returned and handed them a map. "If I were you, I'd go home and pick a new High Wizard."
167 3Oysters I.COLOR.U Doldam
Quin and Makhabesh climbed a narrow trail up the mountain away from the goat village. Once Kri Nachi had provided them with all the information he had about the High Wizard, they couldn't leave fast enough. Quin almost jumped at the sound of a familiar voice behind them. "Only crazy people go that way!" Makhabesh reached for his pendant. Quin turned to find Ricky Cha floating up the trail behind them on his flying carpet. "There's snakes and giant mushrooms and Mad Mara, the Wacky Goat-Witch up there."
168 Pilot Black
"Thank you for the warning," Quin said, then turned and increased his pace. "Keep an eye on him," he whispered. Makhabesh watched behind them until the goat and his flying carpet could no longer be seen. "Good riddance," he muttered. "Now, got any more cheeseburgers?" "They were veggie burgers. Goats don't eat meat." "You couldn't have mentioned that before?" "Sorry. Maybe you can roast Mad Mara if we run across her." Makhabesh rolled his eyes. "Yeah, sure, along with some 'shrooms."
169 KWZ Aztec Gold (Iron Gall Light)
By the second day, the forest was so thick they navigated by light orb even at midday. On returning from a flight over the trees, which revealed nothing but trees and the setting sun, Makhabesh said, "Admit it, we're lost." "Nonsense, we're almost there." "You've been saying that for hours." "I'm pretty sure it's just beyond that boulder." "You should have gone left at the stream." "I know how to read a map." "Maybe you should ask the mushrooms if they saw any wizards recently."
170 3 Oysters I.COLOR.U Hangangmul
"Sentient mushrooms don't speak our language," Quin answered. "Then how do you know they're sentient?" Quin stopped and looked down at a cluster of mushrooms, each larger than Makhabesh and sporting a variety of brightly-colored patterns. "Huh. I don't know. It's just what I was taught. Anyway, I'm not lost." Quin resumed heading toward the boulder. Makhabesh jumped carefully to the ground and walked toward the mushrooms. "Hi," he began. "I wonder if you've seen another wizard go by here recently, and which way he went?"
171 Lamy Black
Quin rolled his eyes, then glanced back. "They're not--" He nearly squeaked. The mushrooms leaned in unison toward Makhabesh. "Look out!" Makhabesh leapt into the air. The mushrooms kept leaning. Makhabesh landed on Quin's shoulder. Some of the mushrooms leaned in toward the others. Makhabesh started to laugh. "I told you we were lost!" Quin gaped. The mushrooms formed an arrow. Quin glanced in the direction they pointed. "Could be a trap," he mused. "Pfff. Who'd want to eat a wizard?" Makhabesh returned to the 'shrooms. "Thank you!"
172 Pelikan 4001 Brilliant Black
After several minutes walking in the direction the mushrooms had pointed, Quin and Makhabesh spotted another group of mushrooms. As they neared, this bunch swayed first toward them, then away, indicating a slight course correction. "I don't know about this," Quin whispered. "Pfff." Makhabesh jumped to the ground, trotted over, and thanked the 'shrooms before returning to Quin's shoulder. This pattern repeated for nearly an hour. "There!" Makhabesh shouted.
173 Colorverse Ham #65
"What do you think?" Quin asked. They circled two pines and the door between them. "I think that's where your High Wizard went. That or the 'shrooms are in league with the goats." "But which side did he go through?" "Does it matter?" "It might." "Well, the 'shrooms pointed us to this side, so I guess we should go in here." Quin reached for the door knob. "Ma-a-a-a-a!" Quin nearly jumped out of his skin. He spun. Makhabesh sank his claws into Quin's coat to keep from falling. When he saw what had made the sound, he whispered, "Quick! Open the door!"
174 Private Reserve Infinity Blue
A hideous goat with vines twined through her matted black hair glared at Quin. Makhabesh counted a dozen pendants hanging around her neck. "Through the door! Through the door!" he hissed, grabbing his own pendant. Quin backed into the door, felt for the knob. "Ma-a-a-a-a-a," she cackled. Quin turned the knob. "Death awaits you!" The door sprang open. Quin stumbled backward through the frame. Suddenly he was falling backward in darkness. His fingers brushed the door as he dropped. Makhabesh spread his wings. "Quin!"
175 Robert Oster Bass Straight
Quin saw the doorway disappear as he plummeted down a cliff face. Makhabesh dove after Quin, seeing him only because his orb of light fell with him. Quin squirmed out of his pack, one arm at a time, the other holding his staff. Makhabesh caught up in an instant. "Hurry," Quin said. "Take pack. Carry it while I get inside!" Makhabesh didn't dare point out that the pack was surely too big. He grabbed the straps and held tight as Quin let go. Surprisingly, the pack seemed to weigh almost nothing. Quin stuffed his staff into the pack, then shouted, "Slow!"
176 Van Dieman's Ink Sweetheart Cherry
Makhabesh plunged past Quin. He spread his wings and flapped back. Quin had slowed almost to a stop. Makhabesh tried to get the opening of the pack below Quin's feet. Something whinnied! Out of nowhere, a horse appeared in mid air. It spread a pair of wings and before they knew it, Quin was flying on a winged horse, still under the speed-altering enchantment. The horse began to climb back toward the top of the cliff. Makhabesh flapped after them, holding tightly to Quin's pack.
177 Sailor Blue Black
By the time the winged horse had carried Quin back to the top of the cliff, the enchantment had ended. Quin dismounted and took his pack from Makhabesh. He couldn't see anything outside his orb's light. "Thank you!" he breathed. "I'm Quin." "Hi, I'm Makhabesh," Makhabesh said as he flew a circle around the horse, then landed on Quin's shoulder. "Call me Peg," the horse replied. "It's a good thing you had that orb and spell, wizard. Otherwise I might not have noticed you in time. You really don't want to encounter the things below."
178 Monteverde Moonstone
Peg continued, "What brings you to this side of the Roodrium?" "Roodrium?" Quin asked. Peg pointed her nose toward the doorway. "Oh," Quin said, finally recognizing the word. "We call it a Muirdoor." "Ah, yes, that's what the last wizard called it." Quin's eyes lit up. "He's why we're here! He's our High Wizard." Peg nodded. "His arrival wasn't so, uh, exciting." She turned and led them from the cliff edge to a cabin. "In the morning, I'll take you to someone who can tell you more. Tonight you can stay here. Lock the doors. Sometimes the things from below climb up."
179 Sailor Kujukuri Coast Hakkakuao
The next day Peg led Quin and Makhabesh to a large building labeled "Unique Tours". A door slid open and out stepped a unicorn. "Hi," she said. "I'm Unique." Peg introduced them and explained their quandary. "Oh sure," Unique said, "I remember the older wizard." "Can you tell us where he went?" Quin asked. "I'll do better; I'll take you there." "Uh, I'm not sure we can afford--" "Don't be silly, wizard. We don't need money on this side of the Roodrium - we have magic."
180 Gutenberg Museum Bible Ink
As they followed Unique from the village, she explained. "Your High Wizard wanted to consult the Oracle Sivad. But Sivad lives at the center of a maze and will only speak to those who can find their way to him. I took your High Wizard to the nearest maze entrance. There's no way to be sure where he is. You'll have to decide whether to wait for him, go in after him, or check the other exits. But we can assume he'll eventually return to the Roodrium." Several hours later, Quin and Makhabesh gaped at the giant block that housed Sivad's maze.
181 Gutenberg Urkundentinte G10
"Roofed," Makhabesh said after a flight over the giant maze. Unique had returned to her village. Quin frowned. A sound came from somewhere: "Pththt." Quin and Makhabesh glanced at each other. "Was that you?" "No." The sound came again. "Pththt." They looked around. "Pththt." "There!" Quin said, pointing to a small snake just inside the maze entrance. Makhabesh hissed. "Hi!" the snake said, "I'm Ethri." "Nice to meet you Ethri," Quin replied. "Not Ethri, Ethri." The little snake heaved a great sigh. "I have a lithp. It'th E-eth-eth-R-I." "Oh," Quin said, "Essri." The snake nodded enthusiastically.
182 Private Reserve Infinity Black
"I don't like snakes," Makhabesh said under his breath, "even if they talk." "I'm not a thnake," Essri said. "I'm a thnek." He rose a little taller and puffed out his chest. "What's the difference?" Makhabesh muttered. "We have magic. And we're thmol and cute." He grinned, showing his fangs. "Therpentth are the wortht. Don't trutht them, they're all mean." "What's your magic?" Quin asked. "I can find your friend." "You know where he is?" The snek shook his head. "I thaw him go in. I can find him. That'th my magic - finding."
183 Sheaffer Skrip Blue-Black
"Let's go!" Quin said. "I don't trust him," Makhabesh said. "I'm harmlethth. Unlethth you want to hide." Essri grinned. "I like him," Quin said. "I'll find him if you help me," Essri said. "See?" Makhabesh asked. "Help you how?" Quin asked. "The otherth made fun of me becauthe of my lithp, and then the goat witch chathed me under the Muirdoor. I want to go home, find friendly thnekth who won't make fun of me." "You want us to go looking for snakes?" Makhabesh demanded. "Sneks," Quin said. Essri nodded vigorously.
184 Herbin Perle Noire
"It's important that we find our High Wizard as soon as possible," Quin said. "But you can come back with us, and when we're done with our mission, we'll help you find a friendly snek community." Essri grinned. Makhabesh growled. "Thith way!" Essri led them into the maze. Inside, the walls were formed from thick hedges. Essri explained that Sivad's magic prevented one from hacking or burning through the maze, but Sivad hadn't thought to prevent sneks from slithering under the hedges, allowing Essri to quickly find his way.
185 Diamine Oxford Blue
After a few hours in the maze, Quin and Makhabesh adjusted to Essri's lisp and hardly noticed it. They stood at an intersection waiting for the snek to return and tell them which way to go, when suddenly he slithered out from under a hedge and headed to the right. "Here he comes!" They followed and at the next intersection nearly crashed into the High Wizard. "Sir!" Quin blurted. "Do we know each other?" the High Wizard asked. "I'm Quin, formerly Quintus--" "Bicbiro. What are you doing here?" "Your counselors were worried." The High Wizard heaved a great sigh.
186 Noodler's Borealis Black
"You'd think the world would fall apart without me." The High Wizard quickly resumed his pace. Quin offered the end of his staff to Essri, who coiled around it. Then he raced to catch up. "So, you're going back now? There's nothing to worry about?" "No, and of course there's something to worry about - the whole world's falling apart. Why is there a snek coiled around your staff?" Quin didn't even think the High Wizard had noticed. "He's our new friend, Essri. We're going to help him back to the other side of the Muirdoor." "Hi!" Essri said. "Hmm," replied the wizard.
187 Sailor Kujukuri Coast Hamachidori
"So, uh, what's this about the world falling apart?" Makhabesh asked. The High Wizard stopped so suddenly Quin almost smashed into him. The High Wizard turned and narrowed his eyes. "Whose idea was it to go to Bicbiro?" "Mine," Quin said, suddenly uncomfortable. "Hmm," replied the wizard, and resumed walking, faster than ever. "What's your magic, Essri?" "I can find thingth." "Thingth?" "He has a lisp," Quin said. "Oh. Why?" "I wath born that way." "And no one offered to heal you?" "Uh-uh." "Hmm."
188 Kaweco Royal Blue
By the time they exited the maze, the High Wizard had quizzed all three of them about their backgrounds and abilities. They might have taken off running were they not so certain the High Wizard had the ability to stop them. "We need to find silkworms," the High Wizard announced. "Very happy silkworms." Quin and Makhabesh exchanged a glance. Essri slithered further up Quin's staff, almost to the top. "I can find silkworms, but I can't know whether they're happy," he said. "And the more I know about them, the faster I can find them."
189 Monteverde Garnet
"Makhabesh," the High Wizard said, "fly back and ask Unique and Peg if they know of any happy silkworm colonies." Makhabesh stared at the old man, thinking he looked a lot like an old goat with an over-large beard, then he launched off Quin's shoulder, whacking the back of Quin's head with one wing tip as payback for letting the snake tag along. "Some days," he muttered, "it doesn't pay to have wings." After he left, Quin said, "He'll be happier when he returns if we've found pizza or cheeseburgers." "That way," Essri said, extending himself a bit from Quin's staff.
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.
210 Diamine Ancient Copper
"Your staff is very friendly," the High Wizard said as they waited for sunrise. "What do you mean?" "It was talking with Essri last night." "What!?" "You didn't know?" Quin gaped. "What!?" "Didn't they teach you how to communicate with your staff?" To Quin, the world seemed to spin. "What!?" The High Wizard chuckled. "Until you learn its name and link with it, you have to touch the orb to hear it." Quin stared at the orb atop his staff. "And," the High Wizard continued, "if it tells you its name, you must keep it secret."
211 Montblanc Corn Poppy Red
Makhabesh was jolted out of sleep by someone shouting. "Hey! Keep it down!" he muttered. "He'th awake! He'th awake!" Essri slithered quickly off the sphinx. "We were afraid we lotht you." Quin and the High Wizard rushed over to them. "Makhabesh?" Quin asked, kneeling beside his friend. "My little buddy and I are thtill thleeping," Makhabesh grumbled, then laid a wing over the snek. Quin and the High Wizard laughed. Essri grinned.
212 Monteverde Amethyst
Makhabesh gave Essri a piece of bacon, then scarfed down his second breakfast burger. "Hey, where's Quin?" "He wanted to meet his staff in private," the High Wizard answered. "Oh, finally figured it out, huh?" Makhabesh tugged open his mini Infini-pack. "Ever been flying, Essri?" Essri grinned and shook his head. "Huh uh." "Well crawl on in, we can scout the trail while we wait." Essri slithered into the pack, then poked his head out. Makhabesh tugged the drawstring a little tighter, then launched into the air. "Wheeee," Essri shouted.
213 Diamine Silver Fox
Quin's hand shook as he placed it on the orb atop his staff. "Uh, hi. I'm Quin." He heard laughter like wind in leaves. "Hello, Quin. I'm glad you finally learned." Quin felt his face warm. "Sorry. No one told me..." "I know." "So, do I get to learn your name?" "First trust, then names." Quin realized she didn't know his true name either. "Oh," he said, "of course. Well, uh, I just wanted to say thanks for all the help." She laughed again. "You're welcome. You were very brave against those monsters. I think we'll have great adventures together." Quin smiled and stood a little taller.
214 Diamine Writer's Blood
Only half a day from their campsite, they crested a hill. "Oh no," Essri whispered. Below lay the wreckage of the silkworm colony. After a moment of stunned silence, the High Wizard began fishing around in his pack. "We must help them," he said. "And they can help us." He handed out small, empty vials. Essri wrapped his tail around the smallest one. "Remember," the High Wizard continued, "we need happy tears. Only happy ones." As they began their descent, the High Wizard quizzed Quin about the content of his pack.
215 Platinum Classic Citrus Black
While Essri explained their intent to the silkworms, and Makhabesh circled overhead to watch for more dangers, Quin and the High Wizard discussed the repairs. "As much as I hate to lose them," Quin said, "I think the silkworms need my wall-builders more than I do." "You have wall-builders?" "Yes, sir. My father's specialty is building. He gave me several when I became Fifth Wizard." The High Wizard began to laugh. "Perfect! The silkworms will be happier than I imagined. Let's get to work!"
216 Jacques Herbin Gris Orage
"You can do that?" Quin asked. "We can do that," his staff answered. "But I don't know any spells for healing plants," he said. "I don't even have potions for that." "Oh, Quin, you have so much to learn. You don't need spells or potions. You need the will and vision of a wizard. I can do nothing unless you believe." Quin stared at the mulberry tree. Half its limbs were broken clean off, the others damaged, its leaves shredded. "Vision," he said. "See it whole, then will it whole," his staff said.
217 Platinum Pigment Blue
Three days after they started, they stood atop one of the new walls, looking down at the restored silkworm colony. Damaged trees had been healed, debris removed or recycled, bodies buried, homes and equipment repaired. All were exhausted, but happier than they had ever been. "We did good," Essri proclaimed with a grin. "Indeed," the High Wizard said. His pack held two large vials filled with the happy tears of silkworms - more than he had dared hope. It was time to head back through the Muirdoor. With luck, they weren't too late.
Part 5: The Quest to Heal the Source of Magic
The morning they were to go back through the Muirdoor, Quin woke to find the High Wizard gone. A note and four magically protected boxes lay on the table in their cabin. "He's gone," Quin said after scanning the note. He wasn't sure how to feel about that. "Where?" Makhabesh asked. "Back to the Wizards' Palace." "But what about the Source?" Essri whispered. "He says we have to go without him. That people will be watching for him when he returns and he would just put us in danger." Essri shivered. "Who needs him," Makhabesh said.
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