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      I am Trebuchet and they don’t fool me with their filo socks sickle twaddle. I heard a tale on one of my trips (trips is my thing, trips and tales, not to be confused with tripping over a tail, or stripping a trail), a tale with a moral, that is to say the tale included a mention of shooting the messenger, loosely translated as slapping the host. The lack of finesse and discernment is astounding in these parts, these parts being, for want of a better expression, my home base.


        Aunt Idle:

        I bet you were expecting reports of action and adventure, a fast paced tale of risks and rescues, with perhaps a little romance. Hah! It’s been like a morgue around here after that fluster of activity and new arrivals. Like everyone lost the wind out of their sails and wondered what they were doing here.

        Sanso took to his room with no explanation, other than he needed to rest. He wouldn’t let anyone in except Finly with food and drinks (quite an extraordinary amount for just one man, I must say, and not a crumb or a drop left over on the trays Finly carried back to the kitchen.) I told Finly to quiz him, find out if he was sick or needed a doctor, or perhaps a bit of company, but the only thing she said was that he was fine, and it was none of our business, he’d paid up front hadn’t he? So what was the problem. Bit rude if you ask me.

        Mater had taken to her room with a pile of those trashy romance novels, complaining of her arthritis. She’d gone into a sulk ever since I ruined her red pantsuit in a boil wash, and dyed all the table linen pink in the process. The other guests lounged around listlessly in the sitting room or the porch, flicking through magazines or scrolling their gadgets, mostly with bored vacant expressions, and little conversation beyond a cursory reply to any attempt to chat.

        Bert was nowhere to be seen most of the time, and even when he was around, he was as uncommunicative as the rest of them, and Devan, what was he up to, always down the cellar? Checking the rat traps was all he said when I asked him. But we haven’t got rats, I told him, not down the cellar anyway. He gave me a look that was unreadable, to put it politely. Maybe he’s got a crack lab going on down there, planning on selling it to the bored guests. God knows, maybe that’d liven us all up a bit.

        I did get to wondering about those two women who wandered off down the mine, but whenever I mentioned them to anyone, all I got was a blank stare. I even banged on Sanso’s door a time or two, but he didn’t answer. I made Finly ask him, and she said all he would say is Not to worry, it would be sorted out. I mean, really! He hadn’t left that room all week, how was he going to sort it out? Bert said the same thing when I eventually managed to collar him, he said just wait, it will get sorted out, and then that glazed look came over his face again.

        It’s weird, I tell you. We’re like a cast of characters with nobody writing the story, waiting. Waiting to start again on whatever comes next.


          Petra woke up with a sickening lurch, her head swimming. Siting up she peered around at her surroundings. Where was she? Dolls? Cats? Petra didn’t have any dolls or cats, what was she doing here? Aghast, she suddenly realized that she had no idea who she was or where she was. And yet….



            I had my doubts about them deciphering the clues I’d sent, but pinned my hopes on Ricardo. “Unknowingly foci of arachnid so I…..” Made a really clever anagram I did, “Ahoy Inn Food Awful Sick Icon Grin”, in fact I was worried that it looked so legit that it would be taken at face value. The food was truly awful. Anyway, that was the first part. I wasn’t going to write the whole thing in the same message, obviously. And if Ricardo didn’t get it, well, maybe Lucinda would. I’ve been sending her messages as well. Keeping my options open, you could say. I wasn’t at all sure where this story was going, but it felt like a big one. Or even more than one. I think what I’ve been doing, truth be told, is tossing clues to the wind in the hopes that the answers may seed themselves along the way. Toss them here and there and see what comes back.


              “Perhaps it’s an anagram,” Ricardo ventured tentatively, “Look: INNFOODAWFUL is an anagram of “I found lawn of”, see?” He cleared his throat nervously, demoralized by the agitated energy in the room. Everyone was looking at him expectantly, so he bumbled on: “All we need to do it work out the rest…”

              Exasperated looks were exchanged around the room, making Ricardo feel a fool. He was just about to excuse himself for a trip to the lavatory to wring his hands in private (hangovers always had that effect on him), when Miss Bossy tart herself piped up excitedly, “Wait a minute, by George I think he might be on to something!”

              Sophie cast a skeptical eye in her direction, as Ricardo plopped back down in his chair with an audible sigh of relief. He reached for his water bottle with a trembling hand and took a swig. God, his mouth was dry.

              AHOYSICKICONGRIN is “shack in Congo!” the Boss Tart continued. “Of course!” she said, slapping her forehead.

              Ricardo tittered.


                “UN-BE-LIE-VA-BLE!” Miss Bossy was flustered. “The cheek of those two!”

                She was ranting, rather elegantly, with lipstick and all, as she’d found a little agitation to go a long way in expelling the sluggishness. Her meditation teacher, Lim Monk had told her “Abundance of quantity isn’t going to tempt you into a frenzy of delete, so long as you keep trying”; so she felt compelled to meditate the funk out of this no man’s plot.

                “They’ve been there for THREE DAYS, three bloody full days, with wifi and access, and they are only sending news now!”

                Ricardo was looking mutely at the scene, not daring to move a muscle.

                “Can you believe it, and to say I almost got worried about them!”
                AND Look at the cryptic sheet they send me: QUOTE “Ahoy! Inn food awful, sick icon grin.” UNQUOTE. Now, what should I make of that?”

                She walked energetically to Sophie and planted her arms in front of her desk, waking up from her nap.

                Sophie blinked twice, and said:
                “I know you’re like me, fond about old-fashioned technology, but you should really consider throwing your pager to the waste bin; if you’d been on faecebrook, you’d see Hilda and Connie’s blog is pretty active. Look! They can’t stop posting stuff there, even when they were in the plane…”


                  Aunt Idle:

                  As if I didn’t have enough to think about without this! Bert had let it slip that he’d been down to the old Brundy place but that man is like a sardine tin without a key when he’s got a mind to be secretive, and he wouldn’t tell what the dickens was so important down there that he had time for it, now of all times. That got me thinking about that time the twins brought a life sized doll from down there and scared me half to death, but before I had time to start thinking about those ripped up maps that ~ I’ll be honest ~ I’d forgotten about, Finly burst in with her hand over her mouth and a wild look in her eye.

                  “Don’t be sick in here!” I snapped and quickly swung her round by the shoulders and gave her a shove in the direction of the bathroom, but then she blurted out that Prune had eaten the chicken. “Prune?” I said, admittedly rather stupidly, I mean, nobody told me Prune was coming, or had I forgotten? And then Finly shook me ~ actually shook me bodily! ~ and shouted, No, The CHICKEN! That’s when my own hand flew to my mouth, and I said, Not the chicken. Finly said Yes, and I said No, and this went on for a time until I had a moment of clarity.

                  Don’t tell her what was in the chicken, Finly, I said, Just go and give her something to make her sick. Quickly!

                  Bloody woman rolled her eyes in a most unnecessarily exaggerated fashion at me and fled. I was left contemplating the nature of modern humans and their love of theatricals when it dawned on me that making Prune take something to make her vomit, at such short and urgent notice, with no explanation forthcoming, might be difficult to accomplish. Especially for the likes of Finly. I wondered if we had time to devise a cunning plan, or if we had no choice but to resort to brute force.

                  That’s when a little voice popped in my head and said, “Magic: The last resort.”


                    There were strong wind currents when they passed above land, drafts of warm air competing with each other, and it took some skill to land the Jiborium Air Express without any damage.

                    Albie was impressed as he observed Arona swinging between cordages, pushing the levers for added hot air, or throwing away some ballast to adjust their elevation.

                    “It’s incredible the distance we can travel without refueling,” he mused aloud. As if Australia’s coasts weren’t huge enough, their travel inland seemed to have stretched for days. Sanso had been seasick most of the time, and at first Arona thought his retching was just emotion sickness, but it was only motion after all.

                    “The secret is in the lard, boy. It burns longer.” Sanso said, before reaching for a bucket.
                    He resumed. “Arona could have taken a Zeppelin you know, the Emporium always used to have few spares, they’re so much more comfortable, and still quite affordable.”

                    “Guess your comfort wasn’t the priority, nor were you expected, were you?” Mandrake was in a somber mood, well, somberer than usual.
                    “Mmh, someone’s sprightly today! Guess it doesn’t have anything to do with Ugo the gecko, does it?”

                    The bickering continued a while longer after all the landing was done, and the balloon was folded back in a neat package.

                    Mandrake! are you coming, or do you prefer to argument to death under the sun?”
                    “Of course I’m coming.” The cat stretched and jumped on his feet, with Albie in tow.

                    “Before we venture further in Mutitjulu land, we’ll need to seek permission from the local shaman.” Arona said.
                    Noticing the boy, she asked “Aren’t your parents going to be concerned, you seem a little far from home!”

                    “We can still send them a postcard?” he answered tentatively. “It’ll be like a quest, a rite of passage for me. After that, I’ll be a man in my village!”

                    “Well, when you have had enough, let me know. I think most bodies of water are connected to the Doline, I can just send a magical trace with the last pearls to guide you home.”

                    “That is kind and generous, Milady. Thank you.”

                    “So what is our quest?” Sanso seemed to creep out of the shadows where he was lurking.

                    “I don’t know about you Sir,” Albie jumped, “but mine is clear now. I am at Milady’s… and Milord’s (he added for Mandrake) service.”

                    “Well, that won’t surely get us run in circles now.” Mandrake sniggered. He turned to Arona who was already ready to trek in the rocks and sand. “What about you? Has your quest anything to do with that key you got?”


                      “You could train it to play dead,” said Finnley giving Godfrey an enigmatic smile which he found rather disturbing. “Or to sit and wait till you give the command for it to take a mouthful of your blood.”
                      Finnley took a moment to snigger at the thought, noting that Liz and Godfrey seemed less appreciative of her inventive suggestion.
                      “Anyway,” she continued, “back to Bronkel. Something I neglected to tell you … because I have been SO busy cleaning … he called the other day. He is coming to collect the manuscript in person. Next week.”
                      “Is this your idea of a sick joke, Finnley?” Liz suspected it was, especially coming after the ridiculous flea suggestion.
                      “Nope,” said Finnley. “Sorry, notifications had been turned off in my brain. Better get writing, Liz.”


                        In the white silence of the mountains, Rukshan was on his knees on a yakult wool rug pouring blue sand from a small pouch on a tricky part of the mandala that looked like a small person lifting his arms upwards. Rukshan was just in the right state of mind, peaceful and intensely focused, in the moment.
                        It was more instinct than intellect that guided his hands, and when he felt inside him something click, he stopped pouring the sand. He didn’t take the time to check if it was right, he trusted his guts.
                        He held the pouch to his right and said: “White”. Olliver took the pouch of blue and replaced it with another. Rukshan resumed pouring and white sand flew in a thin stream on the next part of the mandala.

                        After a few hours of the same routine, only broken by the occasional refreshments and drinks that Olliver brought him, the mandala was finished and Rukshan stood up to look at the result. He moved his shoulders to help relieve the tensions accumulated during the hard day of labor. He felt like an old man. His throat was dry with thirst but his eyes gleamed with joy at the result of hours of hard concentration.

                        “It’s beautiful,” said Olliver with awe in his voice.
                        “It is, isn’t it?” said Rukshan. He accepted a cup of warm and steaming yakult tea that Olliver handed him and looked at the boy. It was the first time that Olliver had spoken during the whole process.
                        “Thanks, Olli,” said Rukshan, “you’ve been very helpful the whole time. I’m a little bit ashamed to have taken your whole time like that and make you stand in the cold without rest.”
                        “Oh! Don’t worry,” said the boy, “I enjoyed watching you. Maybe one day you can teach me how to do this.”
                        Rukshan looked thoughtfully at the boy. The mandala drew its power from the fae’s nature. There could certainly be no danger in showing the technique to the boy. It could be a nice piece of art.
                        “Sure!” he said. “Once we are back. I promise to show you.”
                        A smile bloomed on Olliver’s face.


                        In the white silence of the mountain, Lhamom sat on a thick rug of yakult wool in front of a makeshift fireplace. She had finished packing their belongings, which were now securely loaded on the hellishcarpet, and decided it was cooking time. For that she had enrolled the young lad, Olliver, to keep her company instead of running around and disturbing Rukshan. The poor man… the poor manfae, Lhamom corrected, had such a difficult task that he needed all his concentration and peace of mind.

                        Lhamom stirred the content of the cauldron in a slow and regular motion. She smiled because she was also proud of her idea of a screen made of yakult wool and bamboo poles, cut from the haunted bamboo forest. It was as much to protect from the wind as it was for the fae’s privacy and peace of mind.

                        “It smells good,” said Olliver, looking with hungry eyes at what Lhamom was doing.
                        “I know,” she said with pride. “It’s a specialty I learned during the ice trek.”
                        “Can you teach me?” ask Olliver.
                        “Yes, sure.” She winked. “You need a special blend of spiced roots, and use pootatoes and crabbage. The secret is to make them melt in yakult salted butter for ten minutes before adding the meat and a bucket of fresh snow.”

                        They continued to cook and talk far all the afternoon, and when dusk came Lhamom heard Rukshan talk behind his screen. He must have finished the mandala, she thought. She smiled at Olliver, and she felt very pleased that she had kept the boy out of the manfae’s way.


                        Fox listened to the white silence of the mountain during that brief moment, just after the dogs had made it clear, despite all the promises of food, that they would not help the two-leggeds with their plan.

                        Fox sighed. For an instant, all felt still and quiet, all was perfectly where it ought to be.

                        The instant was brief, quickly interrupted by a first growl, joined by a second and a third, and soon the entire pack of mountain dogs walked, all teeth out, towards a surrounded Fox. He looked around. There was no escape route. He had no escape plan. His stomach reminded him that instant that he was still sick. He looked at the mad eyes of the dogs. They hadn’t even left the bones from the meat he gave them earlier. He gulped in an attempt to remove the lump of anguish stuck in his throat. There would be no trace of him left either. Just maybe some red on the snow.

                        He suddenly felt full of resolve and camped himself on his four legs; he would not go without a fight. His only regret was that he couldn’t help his friends go home.
                        We’ll meet in another life, he thought. Feeling wolfish he howled in defiance to the dogs.
                        They had stopped and were looking uncertain of what to do next. Fox couldn’t believe he had impressed them.

                        “Come,” said a voice behind him. Fox turned surprised. On the pile of his clothes stood Olliver.
                        How did you,” he yelped before remembering the boy could not understand him.
                        “Hurry! I can teleport us back to the camp,” said the boy with his arms opened.

                        Without a second thought Fox jumped in Olliver’s arms and the next thing he knew was that they were back at the camp. But something was off. Fox could see Rukshan busy making his mandala and Olliver was helping him with the sand. Then he could see Lhamom cooking with the help of another Olliver.
                        Fox thought it might be some case of post teleportation confusion. He looked at the Olliver who helped him escape an imminent death, the fox head slightly tilted on the side, the question obvious in its eyes.
                        “Please don’t tell them,” said Olliver, his eyes pleading. “It just happened. I felt a little forgotten and wanted so much to be useful.”

                        Fox turned back into a human, too surprised to feel the bite of the cold air.
                        “Oh! Your clothes,” said Olliver before he disappeared. Fox didn’t have time to clear his mind before the boy was back with the clothes.


                          Margoritt’s left knee was painful that day. Last time it hurt so much was twenty years ago, during that notorious drought when a fire started and almost burnt the whole forest down. Only a powerful spell from the Fae people could stop it. But today they sky was clear, and the forest was enjoying a high degree of humidity from the last magic rain. Margoritt, who was not such a young lady anymore dismissed the pain as a sign of old age.
                          You have to accept yourself as you are at some point, she sighed.

                          The guests were still there, and everyone was participating to the life of the community. Eleri, who had been sick had been taken care of in turn by Fox and Glynnis, while Rukshan had reorganised the functioning of the farm. They now had a second cow and produced enough milk to make cakes and butter that they sold to the neighbouring Faes, and they had a small herd of Rainbow Lamas that produced the softest already colourful wool, among other things. Gorrash, awoken at night, had formed an alliance with the owls that helped them to keep the area clear of mice and rats and was also in charge of the weekly night fireworks.

                          The strange colourful eggs had hatched recently giving birth to strange little creatures that were not yet sure of which shape to adopt. They sometimes looked like cuddly kittens, sometimes like cute puppies, or mischievous monkeys. They always took the form of a creature with a tail, except when they were frightened and turned into a puddle. It had been hard for Margoritt who mistook them for dog pee, but Fox had been very helpful with his keen sense of smell and washing away the poor creatures had been avoided. Nobody had any idea if they could survive once diluted in water.

                          The day was going great, Margoritt sat on her rocking chair enjoying a fresh nettle lassi on the terrace while doing some embroidery work on Eleri’s blouse. Her working kit was on a small stool in front of her. Working with her hands helped her forget about her knee and also made her feel useful in this youthful community where everybody wanted to help her. She was rather proud of her last design representing a young girl and a god statue holding hands together. She didn’t think of herself as a matchmaker, but sometimes you just had to give a little push when fate didn’t want to do its job.

                          Micawber Minn arrived, his face as long as the Lamazon river. He had the latest newspaper with him and put it on Margoritt’s lap. Surprise and a sudden sharp and burning pain in her knee made her left leg jerk forward, strewing all her needles onto the floor. Margoritt, upset, looked at the puddle of lassi sluggishly starting to covering them up.
                          “What…” she began.
                          “Read the damn paper,” said Minn.

                          She did. The front page mentioned the reelection of Leroway as Lord Mayor, despite his poor results in developing the region.
                          “Well, that’s not surprising,” Margoritt said with a shrug, starting to feel angry at Minn for frightening her.
                          “Read further,” said Minn suddenly looking cynical.
                          Margoritt continued and gasped. Her face turned blank.
                          “That’s not possible. We need to tell the other,” she said. “We can not let Leroway build his road through the forest.”


                            “I dreamed of a red dog,” Liz said with her mouth full of dimpled baby chin, “And a white dog, down by the river.” She picked up a chocolately shell like baby ear off her lap and popped it into her mouth, and continued, “I was going to bring the red dog home, you know, and then, “ Liz paused to bite the little baby button nose off, leaving just the eyes and forehead, “I realized that it was just fine where it was.”

                            “Must you speak with your mouth full of baby faces, Elizabeth?” asked Godfrey, miming a green sick emoticon.


                              Anna tapped on Godfrey’s door, pushed it open a crack, and informed him that she’d locked Elizabeth in the downstairs lavatory but was unsure if she’d be able to cajole her back to her bedroom.

                              “Drat!” exclaimed Godfrey, “What on earth was she doing downstairs? You know I can’t bear seeing her when she’s sick! And why weren’t you watching her as I instructed?”

                              “Well, I was, sir, but I heard a commotion outside by the pool. I was on my way to investigate, when I heard a loud knock on the front door. By the time I got there, Liz had answered it, so I slammed the door shut, and locked Liz in the lavatory, and came straight here for further instructions.”

                              “Who was at the door?”

                              Anna hadn’t noticed, but didn’t like to say. “Oh it was someone selling toasters only.”


                                “My key won’t work! Let me in!” shouted Finnley, banging loudly on Liz’s front door.

                                She saw a slight movement at the dining room window and spun around, just in time to see the new maid’s face furtively disappearing behind the curtain.

                                And then, with a shock of horror, Finnley realised what must have occurred.

                                “That stupid girl can’t even cook toast! You can’t just discard me after all these years of faithful and devoted service. Goddamit let me in!

                                “And,” she added loudly, “there is dust!” Finnley spat the word dust with great emphasis and contempt in her tone. “I saw it. I saw it when the curtain moved!”

                                “Well,” she said eventually, “I’m not one to stay where I am not wanted!” And just as she was about to turn away, somewhat huffily, the front door opened an inch. And then stopped.

                                Finnley Finnley! is that you?” hissed Liz croakily from behind the crack.

                                Liz? “

                                Finnley, thank goodness! You’ve got to help me! I’m sick as a dog and Godfrey is no good … he is completely under the spell of that awful new … “

                                Suddenly, the door slammed shut.


                                  It didn’t take much time for Godfrey to figure out that Walter may have been one of the missing husbands of Liz. She’d been always rather discreet about the total number of her past marriages, and she wasn’t very good at keeping archives either, so it was mostly guesswork from his part, but some signs were unmistakable, such as the spellbound speechless face on Liz’ and Walter.
                                  Frozen in time as they were, Godfrey could probably say anything, without fear of breaking that spell.

                                  “Well, that is rather awkward, Inspector.” Godfrey said, dropping the empty peanut butter jar into Finnley’s hands before she could make her escape for the sideway door.
                                  “Weren’t we all worried sick about that poor child since she left hurriedly from the mansion.”
                                  He felt compelled to add “our dear maid Finnley the most, I believe. She had all her belongings stacked in a safe place, for when she would return. Isn’t it, Finnley? That would surely help the Inspector if you could fetch those in the garden, wouldn’t it Inspector.”


                                    Absentmindedly, Eleri put the bones in her pocket and continued to gaze down upon the valley, lost in thoughts of the past. What had that tree said to her, that day it came to life?

                                    Yorath sat quietly, watching her. He noticed the mushrooms growing on the exposed roots beside him, wondering if he had unwittingly crushed any when he sat down next to the tree.

                                    “Mushrooms,” he said quietly to himself.

                                    Eleri didn’t answer, wasn’t even aware that he has said it, but now she was remembering the days of the floods in the lowlands. The wet, dismal months and years when everything was damp, if not saturated or submerged, when mold grew on every surface. Bright green mossy mold, and slimy dank black mold, and fungus everywhere. Nothing would grow like it used to grow and the odour of rot permeated everything. The fruit trees crumbled in a sickly sweet stench into the mud, and the people named it keeg, and started wearing keegkerchiefs wrapped around their faces to keep the stink out of their nostrils.

                                    “Goodbye, farewell,” the tree had said to her. “We are moving north, migrating. But fear not, little one, there are mushrooms migrating here to replace us.”

                                    At the time Eleri had thought it was a ridiculous idea, imagining trees packing their trunks and pulling their roots out of the ground, and stomping off into the sunset. A few years later, she understood what the tree had meant.

                                    Before the last of the fruit trees crumbled into the swamps, the people has resorted to eating the snails and the mushrooms, unwillingly at first, missing the bright colours and refreshing juices, but as time went on, they found more and more varieties of fungi springing up overnight. There came more and more bright colours, and more interesting flavours. It wasn’t long before they noticed the healing and restorative properties of the new varieties, not to mention the recreational effects of some of the more elusive ones. There was no need for any organized farming of the fungi, because they simply sprang up overnight: the days menu would be whatever had appeared that morning.

                                    And so it was considered a gift from the gods in times of trouble, and the people were grateful. Their faith was restored in the earth’s capacity for magic and abundance, and they were inspired and rejuvenated. Eleri vowed never to forget the earth’s magic providence, in the form of mushrooms


                                      Fox awakened from an agitated night in the forest. He was feeling weak and not so hungry. His stomach growled. Fox hoped it was not the precursor of another discharge of his bowels, but silence settled in. His body relaxed. He had the strange impression it helped him being more present. Anyhow, he couldn’t keep on running like that now. He needed to find food to refuel his body.

                                      Don’t take advantage of your invisibility, had said the woman.

                                      Fox thought there were two ways to look at his little misadventure. Either it was retribution for stealing that meatloaf, the meatloaf karma theory, or he had helped a poor family to avoid being sick all night. Which is just another expression of the meatloaf karma theory. All in all, the karma account was still balanced.

                                      Fox smelled the forest wind. It was full of earth and water. Not so much fire with all this morning dew, he thought. There were also the scents of little animals, and mushrooms. Among it all, he was surprised to feel sadness. It was not so much about himself and his condition. He had been through worse. And it was more a quality of the atmosphere than a physical smell. It was as though the whole forest was feeling sad. Fox felt the tears at the corner of his eyes.

                                      “I can’t continue running around like that,” he said.

                                      “Good,” answered a deep voice.


                                        Deftly Glynis reached inside the flowing sleeve of her burka and pulled out a small vial of clear liquid she had strapped to her wrist. She pulled off the top and quickly threw the contents over Fox.

                                        “There you go, little Fella,” she said. “Now no-one can see you.”

                                        “Where’d he go, dammit! I saw him come over this way,” shouted a podgy red-faced man, puffing heavily with the unaccustomed exertion. “I’ll teach that little varmint to try and eat my hens! What did you do with him, Witch!?”

                                        Glynis took one of the remaining jars from her table and held it out to the man.

                                        “Give your wife three drops every evening as she sleeps,” she said, trying her best to sound crackly and old. “She will get well after 3 days — you don’t need to sell your hens to pay that doctor any longer. He wasn’t doing her any good.”

                                        “Eh?” said the man in surprise, at the same time taking the jar. “True enough that is, but how did you know?”

                                        “I know many things,” she answered mysteriously. “Now, take your hens home, and I wish you and your good wife all the best.”

                                        “Well, this is remarkable. Thank you very much indeed,” said Fox when the podgy man had gone.

                                        “If you are hungry I have a hard boiled egg and some fruit in my bag. Help yourself.”

                                        “Ha ha!” laughed Fox. “People will think you are talking to the ground.” He was quite delighted with his new invisible status and considering the various possibilities it offered him.

                                        “Now don’t you go taking advantage of any more hens just because you are invisible. It will wear off in about an hour, I think. I haven’t actually tried it on anyone other than myself before … I’ve never thought it ethical to sell the invisibility potion in case someone gets up to no good with it. But I like to keep some handy, just in case. “

                                        Just then the Town Clock chimed.

                                        “I’d best be going now. I have to go before the warden comes to check my permit … I don’t have one but as long as I get away early it is usually okay,” said Glynis. “Now, if you have any problems with the invisibility spell come and see me. I live in the old mansion in the enchanted forest. Do you know your way there?

                                        “I think I can find it,” said Fox. “Thanks again for your assistance.”

                                        Glynis had intended to head directly towards the forest after she left the market, but on impulse took the longer route through the pretty and tree lined Gingko Lane, part of the ‘Old City’. She walked slowly, in part to continue her ruse of being a person of advanced years, and in part because she felt a reluctance to leave the city and return to the solitude of her home.

                                        She pondered the events of the morning as she walked.

                                        The vision … the sandy haired woman on her sick bed, like stick and bone she was, with the doctor of dark intent leaning over her… and then the podgy faced man standing in the hen house and grieving over his hens.

                                        It had been so vivid. And unexpected. So she had acted on it, her heart beating in trepidation though she had spoken with authority to the man.

                                        And it had worked!

                                        It was not the first time Glynis had such a vision. But never in such testing circumstances!

                                        A young man was walking towards her. His face deep in concentrated contemplation, he did not look up.

                                        Fae, thought Glynis, though she was not sure how she knew.

                                        As he passed, Glynis reached out on impulse and touched his arm. He jumped, startled.

                                        “I think this is for you,” she said, handing him her last vial of potion. “Use it when you need it most.”

                                        The young man hesitated, unsure, but taking the vial.

                                        Glynis shook her head, wanting to deflect his questions. She turned quickly away.

                                        Relenting, she stopped and looked directly at him.

                                        “Magic comes from the heart. You will know when to use it.”


                                          “Oh, there you are Hilda, can I have a word?”

                                          Hilda started guiltily at Connie’s voice, and pushed her teacup behind a stack of papers on her desk. Slurping down the last of the tea before making her way to the airport for the Boston flight, she hadn’t been able to resist looking into the dregs for a minute or two. What she’d seen had made the hairs on the back of her neck stand up. But what was she to do about it? And now here was Connie, fidgeting in the doorway. Well, see what she wants first, Hilda told herself, and then decide.

                                          “Do you know anything about these?” asked Connie, thrusting the flight tickets in front of Hilda. “And what’s the background on the old crone, Sophie? I thought she was just a temp?”

                                          Hilda’s head was spinning. Should she say nothing, let Connie take the flight, and hope for the best? Or try and prevent her making the trip, just in case? How accurate was her tea leaf reading really? What if she had misinterpreted the signs? It could be too embarrassing. Better just hope for the best and say nothing.

                                          “Sorry Connie, must dash.” Hilda quickly gathered her things together and shoved them in the flight bag at her feet. Pushing past Connie she said, “Er, have a good trip!” and with a sickly smile she fled.

                                          When Hilda arrived at the airport an hour later, she made a snap decision to change her flight. Luckily there were a few seats left to Keflavik in Iceland. She really hadn’t fancied Boston and the crotch grabbers anyway. She wouldn’t tell the others she was already in Iceland, but at least she would be there to monitor events as they unfolded.


                                            He arrived early to the new world’s consuelambassy. He liked being spontaneously on time.
                                            In order to go to this new world, you didn’t need a visa, only a new identity. The office was in a super mall. You had to get through the shops first. There were elevators to go to the next floor, and you had to change to a new one each time. Of course the elevator to the next level was always after a labyrinth of luxury or food stores.
                                            Sam felt tired and sick just after the second level. Twenty more to go, he thought. He reminded himself of his grumpy meditation training and looked at the fire alarm. It would certainly clear the area. But might just render it too chaotic for his taste.

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