“There never was a solid border, you see, and that's why all the confusion, really,” Miss Mars said with a worried look. “It was just that people were going from everyday reality to magical illusion simply by walking along. No signs, you know. Nothing to let 'em know.” Inspector Widefoot nodded wisely, jotting in his notebook. “I mean you gotta warn 'em, don't ya?” she finished.
“Well, yeah,” a Dwarf standing behind them muttered. “'Course ya do. Jess plain common sense anyhow. I mean you coming to a rocky patch, why, you warn 'em.” Miss Mars nodded agreement.
Inspector Widefoot looked up from his pad, eyebrows high. “Well, yes,” he replied, smiling, “simple enough really. You just find the border, a border that is always moving as you'll recall, sometimes normal, sometimes magical and then you put up a sign.” He smiled as the Dwarf scowled and Miss Mars looked confused.
“Can't you just attach it to the border?” Miss Mars asked. “So that it stays wherever the border goes?” Inspector Widefoot regarded her with wide eyes that slowly became thoughtful. The Dwarf spit on the ground and walked away.
Inspector Widefoot jotted a note then slapped his notebook shut. “I shall look into this Miss Mars,” he said with a determined expression. They both gazed in the direction the unsuspecting traveler had gone. A confused looking duck gazed back at them.
That duck was a human once, strolling along on his own private business, thank you, when he stepped on something squishy. He knew immediately he had done a bad thing, a really bad thing seeing the magical border whipping around like in a windstorm so he was not terribly surprised to find himself transformed into a duck. He'd known this was disputed borderland so he should have been more careful he berated himself, but it could be worse, he thought. All he had to do was step in that pile again and it would put him right.
Then the magical border disappeared, off somewhere else it would seem and he was left a duck. He looked over at what he'd stepped in and saw a large dropping from some animal, likely, that was not only disgusting, but no longer magically imbued. Miss Mars gave him a sad look and with a shake of her head walked away. He wiped the muck off his foot as best he could (curious things these duck feet) then followed Inspector Widefoot back to his headquarters, wondering what he might discover. There seemed no other course available.
Widefoot strutted into the headquarters building like a triumphant king entering his palace. Various secretaries and junior detectives suddenly became noticeably busier.
“Hardly and Widefoot! Into my office,” he called as he strolled importantly through the desks of his outer office and staff. Chester Widefoot, Detective Chief Inspector Widefoot that is (boss) had been criticized for hiring his son but claimed he didn't know that Chester Widefoot Jr. was his son. He seemed surprised when the similarities of name and family resemblance were pointed out, totally ignoring the woman who claimed to be his wife and Chester Junior's mother. He told the investigators that it was all poppycock, then he waved his hands mysteriously, saying, “Nothing untoward here. No nepotism here. Look away, look away.” And the investigators did just that, so that now Detective Widefoot Jr. is an up and coming member of Chief Inspector Widefoot's staff. His parents are so proud.
Chief Inspector Widefoot sat at his desk, sipping the coffee that one of his secretaries had left for him and rustled papers, a practice perfected from his own rookie detective days. Junior was the first to arrive followed quickly by Detective Olive Hardly, a promising young newbie like Junior except she probably wasn't the Chief Inspector's daughter.
“Curious case has come up with the magical border over in the disputed lands,” Chief Inspector Widefoot started. “Got another tourist turned into an animal, duck this time, rather routine I'm afraid, but what is interesting is an idea that I had when I was looking into it.” He looked around smugly. “See, I thought, well, why don't we just attach a sign to the border so that whenever the border moved the sign would move with it.”
“Brilliant!” Widefoot Jr. exclaimed.
“Sounds plausible,” Detective Hardly muttered as she jotted in her own notebook. “I'll get the department wizards on it immediately.” She snapped her notebook shut and walked away.
Later at the wizard's place, after the wizards had pretty much finished laughing at her, the head wizard explained, “See here detective, this problem is millions of years old and every possible solution has been thought of and tried already, many of them two or three times.”
Detective Hardly looked surprised then turned and stepped away, muttering, “DCI Widefoot isn't going to like this.”
“That disputed border's always been a headache,” Miss Mars, who just happened to be near, uttered sadly. “Looks like it's gonna stay that way now,” she finished with a sigh.
“It's been a real problem in my family,” said the duck, a familiar looking, though it's hard to tell with ducks, duck who also just happened to be near.
“Widefoot isn't gonna like this at all,” Detective Hardly repeated with a worried look as she left the wizard's place. Miss Mars and the duck followed. When they got to headquarters Detective Hardly pushed quickly in and they stood outside wondering what would happen next. Soon Chief Inspector Widefoot appeared and seeing them he stopped.
Clearing his throat and looking as dignified and important as he could, he spoke, “Ahem. I'm sorry to inform you, Miss Mars, but your fanciful idea about signs being attached to borders is the complete poppycock that I always thought it was, from the first, although, for your sake, I submitted it anyway.” He sniffed, shaking his head sadly as Miss Mars and the duck watched, expressionless. “They said no, of course, said it couldn't be done, silly idea really, so from now on we'll have no more foolishness on my watch! You understand? No ma'am, no more foolishness at all, by golly.” With that he strutted away, followed by Detective Widefoot Jr. and Detective Hardly who both sneered at her as they passed. No one noticed that the duck had already left.
Later that afternoon the magical border was back, moving slowly across the disputed lands with a rather obvious warning sign attached to it and moving along with it. A duck followed behind the sign and when it crossed a pile of something nasty that someone had stepped in earlier, why he just walked over and put his foot right in it and hey, presto, zap! There stood an ex-unsuspecting traveler who smiled brightly and walked away.