The Great Yudonke - By Rosy 

1. Interdimensional travel. 

   “Imagine there's a river and that it's the longest river ever. And no one knows about it. Except for now, that is, because now Interdimensional Travel from Bradco Inc is, for the first time ever, available. 

   Now, for the first time you can see the fabulous river world earth, where the amazing Yudonke River flows from the northern pole three and a half times around the planet to the southern pole where it tumbles into an immense cavern that goes right on through and delivers the water, now sterilized by the terrible heat at the earth's core, to the north pole where it emerges in a huge spring, beginning its long southern flow that will get all stinky again. 

   Or how about the dinosaur earth, where giant beasts, extinct in most other dimensions, roam freely, munching on whatever they can. Tours are available for your enjoyment from Interdimensional Travel by Bradco!”      

   Rosy put the flyer back on the table. “Sounds interesting,” she told the crew. Rosy is captain of the All-Vehicle Rivitir and her crew consists of Rover, the navigator and second in command, along with Brak and Jant, twin professional heroes and ace pilot and radio chatter respectively. 

   “We've always stayed in this dimension,” Brak noted. 

   “So has everyone, pretty much,” Rosy answered. “No one knew how to do interdimensional travel before. At least not that I know of.” 

   “They do it using jeewizium down on Lillow's Farm,” Rover said. 

   “Yeah right, I forgot. Seemed kind of haphazard, as I understood it,” Rosy said, frowning. “I mean they didn't seem to know where they were going or if they could find their way back.” 

   “Yeah, that's right,” Rover confirmed. “It took a dedicated adventurer to do it.” 

   “I'll say,” Brak agreed. “I heard that Lillow's dad disappeared adventuring that way.” 

   There was silence as they pondered this revelation. 

   “In any case,” Rosy continued, “Bradco seems to have done it. Puffup, when he's not being an arch-criminal, encourages research of all kinds. I can well imagine him wanting to explore these new realms.” 

   “New ways to make money,” Jant muttered. 

   “Be that as it may,” Rosy continued, “Bradco claims to have found a way, a way that allows for choosing a destination and a way to get back.” 

   “Be kinda cool floating on that Yudonke,” Rover noted. “I wonder how long it takes to float the entire distance?” 

   “Perhaps we should look into it,” Rosy suggested. The crew, always ready for adventure, nodded agreement. 

    

2. Booking passage. 

   The AV Rivitir landed in front of Brad Tower, the tallest building in the universe, settling easily onto the special AV landing pad. There was a valet to greet them driving a small waggal to carry them to the tower's ostentatious front portal. Rosy was glad when the waggal zipped up the wide staircase and deposited them at the door. The stairway was quite imposing, very wide and very long, all in white marble. She could see elves of all sort laboriously making their way up or down. Probably take an hour, she thought, shaking her head. 

   “It takes forty-five minutes if you're young and healthy and don't take any breaks,” Rover told her, reading from another pamphlet. 

   “An old lady might take an hour and a half, maybe longer with breaks,” Brak observed. 

   “Well, I wouldn't know about that,” Rosy stated, eyeing the big doors of the front entrance. “Shall we go in?” and she pulled the door open.  

   Inside was huge, far beyond expectations. For example, Rosy expected to be able to see the ceiling, not blue skies interspersed with fluffy clouds moving gently across, nor did she expect to see a vast forest with paths and houses here and there. She saw a weird contrivance go by, like a waggal only with wheels pulled by an energetic donkey, and she gasped in amazement. 

   “Used to be a lot of those back in Lillow's day,” Rover informed her, “They called them wagons and usually hired a donkey or a horse to pull 'em.” 

   There was a big sign: ← IDT, which was, Rosy knew from the brochure, InterDimensional Travel, or IDT as they call it. Following the path indicated by the arrow they came to a beautiful forest park with a large stately building whose front porch contained four large pillars holding the majestic overhang above. They proceeded to a glass door that slid open automatically as they approached and entered a business like lobby. The receptionist looked up with a wide smile. 

   “Welcome to Bradco Corporation's Interdimensional Travel Bureau. Are you interested in traveling to other dimensions?” 

   “Uh, well yeah, I think so,” Rosy answered, looking at the others who were trying to be encouraging, nodding agreement. 

   “Well then you've come to the right place,” she said, smiling wide, like a ray of sunshine. 

   “We want to float our boat in the beautiful Yudonke River,” Rover piped up. 

   “Oh?” she answered. “What sort of boat do you have?” 

   “It's an All-Vehicle,” Rosy told her, “currently configured as a flying saucer. It's easier for transporting in that shape and we thought we'd have her be a boat after we got there,”  

   “Hmmm, yes, let me see,” she murmured, typing into her computer. “Oh yes, here we go. All-Vehicles can easily be transported to the River Earth.” We were thrilled, of course, and booked passage right then and there. 

3. Floating on the river. 

   Brak expertly brought the Rivitir into a large box like structure and set it down. The door behind us closed and there was a humming with shaking and sparks and a strong ozone smell, then the door in front of us opened, showing a ramp going down to an ocean, which from up here I could tell was a really, really wide river. The far shore was just barely visible and as Brak brought us down to the water it disappeared. 

   “Wow,” I said, “I didn't think it would be this wide.” 

   “This is the normal river size,” Rover told us, looking at his maps. “About a kilometer or two across. But there are places where it's wider, like inland seas and places where it's more narrow, looking more like a river.” 

   “I guess we go with the flow,” Brak said, steering for the center. 

   “Sounds good,” Rosy agreed. 

   The Rivitir was configured as a luxury river boat and they all stood on the bridge, watching the river and the far, far banks on either side. 

   “Lots of islands,” Rover told them as they passed a large forested island. 

   There seemed to be a small village at the end, by a little cove, but they couldn't see the people clearly. There was quite a bit of river traffic, barges and yachts, sail boats and schooners, even a few rafts. Also a lot of houseboats as the river is smooth and easy flowing for its entire length only becoming dangerous as you neared the grand waterfall pouring into the earth at the south pole. There are several big nets that stretch all the way across to catch anything that might be powerless out there. An emergency patrol stationed on both sides, is ready to dash out with powerful boats in case of an emergency. 

   “But that's a couple months of easy floating until we reach that,” Rover said, leaving the bridge and settling into a deck chair. 

   Jant had the radar picture on but was also watching a movie on another screen while Brak stood resolutely behind the big steering wheel. He watched the river all around us, steering for the smoothest channels, watching out for snags and boggy spots. He was training the Clear-View Pilot, the Rivitir's auto-pilot, so they could travel with no one actually driving. A red light or a buzzer or something goes off if things go wrong, but none of them knew for sure what, they just knew it would. The Clear-View was pretty reliable. Almost from the first they referred to the Clear-View unit as Clarabelle, which she liked and adopted. 

   Ellim is the other machine member of the crew. He is a Bradco 11:11BS service bot who kept the boat, or saucer or whatever, shipshape. He cooked gourmet meals, did laundry and gofer duties, and seemed to know before anyone what was needed in every situation, all with a fabulously smiling and chipper attitude. Everyone liked him.      

   The last member of the crew is a magic wand named Zingellawabix. More ancient than Mother Earth herself, he is their guardian. He communicates with Rosy telepathically and keeps their home, the Rivitir, safe from all assaults. Zingellawabix and Rosy are also fighters in the great war against the demons or anti-gods who are the destroyers of Mother Earth, seeking to end an era. 

   Four elves, two machines and a magic wand. Together they made the Rivitir invincible. Rosy smiled as she watched the bank glide by. It was fascinating and they all sat in the deck chairs for hours watching the ever changing near shore. The far shore was too far to see in this stretch. Ellim kept their cups and pipes full so there was contentment. 

4. Waterlog 

   It was after a full week of drifting along with the current that they came to the first big city. It was named Waterlog and was situated in a cove off to the side of the great Yudonke. The city seemed to go for as far as the eye can see, being home to millions. They tied up at the dock and while Ellim and Clarabelle took care of the Rivitir and her routine maintenance Captain Rosy and her crew set out to explore Waterlog.   

   The city was very drab, almost colorless, exuding a sense of foreboding. Checking his maps Rover told them the place names. Waterlog was situated on the high ground north of the cove, known as Badwa Cove, which was next to the giant bog named Dingle's Dab that occupied the western side of the cove. 

   A big poster on the dock told them they must register before entering the city. There were stiff fines for noncompliance. Capt. Rosy's party stopped at the Dock Office, which was the first place you passed when leaving the docks. They got registered and all that stuff as the talkative receptionist told them about Waterlog.   

   “We're proud of Dingle's Dab, our swamp,” she told them, “because to us it is so gosh-danged beautiful, and it is a pleasant swamp, you gotta admit, lots of tall reeds and secret waterways, homes of exotic fauna scattered here and there plus everything anyone ever needed comes from that swamp. We just love it.” She paused, handing Rosy the dock papers. 

   “Ah course, there is a bad side to the Dab, as we call it, and that's the swamp monster. Ol' Dingle. Every so often he comes a rampaging through the streets, causing a lot of upset, every time. Most the time he stays in the swamp though, and everything's fine.” She leaned forward and whispered conspiratorially, “In fact, he runs the swamp. He's the big boss and everyone knows it, including the Lord King Dobble himself, hiding up there in Waterlog. People think that it was when Dobble and Ol' Dingle got into an argument over something was when Ol' Dingle would rampage. But no one knows for sure,” she finished with a bright smile. Rosy thanked her and they set out to see Waterlog. 

   They wanted first to go to the capitol building because it was the biggest and this Lord King fellow sounded interesting. The streets were narrow and damp, marshy in places, sometimes with wooden planks to get across. They could see the capitol with its dome and the gaudy Waterlog flag, which was bright blue with a fluorescent brown, red and orange log across it, flapping from its top but they couldn't get to it. Every street, well muddy lane that seemed to be going toward it somehow ended up taking them further away. 

   In frustration they entered what appeared to be a resting area with tables and benches and sat down at a large round table. A man came demanding to know what they wanted. 

   “We're trying to get to the capitol,” Rosy told him, “and we're just resting because we've looked and looked and we can't find it.” 

   He frowned then pulled out a chair and sat down with them. He sat, looking downward and scowling. Then he looked up and signaled to another young man who was passing by, “Pabbon,” he yelped, “we must have tea! Bring us tea Pabbon, for we are facing an existential threat.”  

   With wide, frightened eyes Pabbon hurried off, hopefully to fetch tea. The dour man continued looking down, frowning fiercely, concentrating. 

   “Uh, hello?” Rosy ventured. He looked up briefly and nodded with a glum look before bowing his head again. 

   “So, uh, I'm Rosy Rivitir,” Rosy spoke softly. He nodded again, then slowly brought his head up giving her a look that was somehow hopeless. 

   “This here's Rover,” Rosy continued. He gave Rover a blank look. 

   “And this is Brak and that's Jant,” she finished, looking expectantly at the somber man. 

   Just then the tea arrived. Pabbon served them expertly, and silently, leaving a tray of biscuits before hurrying off. 

5. Rosy and her team hear what the somber man has to say. 

  “I'm glad to meet you all,” the somber man said dully, without inflection. “I'm . . .my name doesn't matter. I can tell you're not from these parts, maybe just visiting?”       

   “Well, yeah,” Rosy answered, “is that, I mean I hope it's okay?” 

   “I don't know,” he answered. “You see, we people of Waterlog, have been trying to get to the capitol for many years now.” He looked toward the capitol. “They send soldiers garrisoned in there and out by the Dab to collect taxes, high taxes, grab our boys for service and that's all, no other contact. We see big shipments arrive. Grabbed by the soldiers who hurry them in through their hidden and well-guarded back door, the only door nowadays, and then nothing. We have no contact with our King at all except to pay taxes and supply soldiers.” 

   “That sounds worrisome,” Rover said. 

   Rosy took a sip of the tea. It was a rich, piquant tea, quite strong but quite pleasant. “This is nice,” she said. “I don't think I've had it before.” 

   Now the man's eyes lit up. “No, if this is your first time here then I'm sure you haven't. The tea you're drinking is the famous DingleDab Tea, grown only in Dingle's Dab.” 

   Rover sat his cup down. “Swamp tea?” he asked. 

   “Ain't it grand?” the man answered, smiling proudly. “Plus, those cookies you ate? All from grains grown in the incomparable Dingle's Dab.” Rover looked at him with wide eyes. 

   “So, no one can get to the capitol?” Rosy asked. 

   His look became morose. “No,” he answered, “no one.” 

   “And you get no word at all from this Lord King Dobble?” 

   “No ma'am.”    

   “Well, we're going to have to look into this,” Rosy stated, looking at the crew, who were nodding in agreement. 

   They then engaged the man in conversation, trying to learn as much as they could. The man didn't notice when Rosy withdrew from the talk, sitting silently, seemingly meditating, as the crew continued asking questions. 

   {Zingellawabix?} Rosy sent mentally, as softly as she could so as to not jar him. 

   {Yes, Rosy, I hear you. I've listened to the discourse so far and from here it looks like this Dobble is either an anti-god demon or strongly influenced or controlled by one}       

   {Yes, it is what I think as well. I think I need to talk to the Lord King Dobble.} 

   {That seems the best move. I will be listening.} 

   Rosy resumed listening and asking questions until there was a lull. Then she asked, “So where's this back door?” 

   “There is no way you could get in that way, unless you were invited, and they won't take messages,” the man said, watching Rosy closely. She remained resolute. “But I see you're determined to try.” He shrugged. “Well, first you follow this boulevard in front of us,” he pointed outside. 

   “That's a boulevard?” Jant asked with wide eyes. 

   “Yes, ma'am, one of the nicer ones. Anyway you follow that 'til you come to twisted lane, about three streets down, then you turn left. You go on down 'til you see a big crossroad. Turn right onnit. It gonna be well traveled 'cause that's the road the soldiers use. That'll be you're main worry, ma'am, them soldiers until you get to the door. Then the soldiers and a whole lot more gonna be your worry.” 

   “Got it,” Rosy told him. “Okay team, let's get going.” She struck off down the boulevard with Rover, Brak and Jant following. The man watched with sad eyes that may have had a glint of hope in them. 

6. Meeting the Lord King 

   Rosy and her crew are heading for the capitol's back door, apparently the only way in. Following the instructions of the moody man at the rest area, they came to a busy looking street, mainly by virtue of it being the best maintained street they'd seen yet. Well packed and even paved  in spots, the street was currently deserted. Peering around the corner to the right Rosy could see the well-guarded back door in the distance. She noted the street's sides were boarded up so that it was a smooth wall on both sides, like a canyon, offering no hiding places. It was the same in the other direction. Looking upward she could see guards in towers posted every so often. Too often to sneak past. 

   “Okay team, follow me,” she announced, stepping out into the street and marching smartly toward the guards at the back door. When the guards saw Rosy and the crew they seemed startled, exchanging looks of alarm. Rosy marched right up to the what appeared to be the main guard, standing in front of the large wooden door that was visibly padlocked and bolted. 

   The guard stiffened and held what seemed like a projectile weapon from the mythical lands across his front, and yelled, “Halt!” 

   Rosy, being as close as she wanted to be, stopped, her crew arrayed behind her. “We're here to see the Lord King Dobble,” she announced. 

   The guard blinked a few times, as if what he was hearing was so preposterous it was unanswerable. Then he yelped, “Impossible! Dobble cannot . . . Dobble did not, I mean we weren't informed. No visitors.” 

   Rosy, wondering why the guard hadn't said Lord King, just Dobble, like a commoner, continued. “Ah, but you see, we did not come at the Lord King's behest, rather we are emissaries of King Umpalumpa the Great.” 

   The guard clearly had never heard of King Umpalumpa, who was in fact the king of a band of mushrooms far underground in another dimension, stared at her with worry. “You will wait,” he ordered, then he rushed over to a little hut, ducked inside and slammed the door. 

   Soon the guard came out and without a word unlocked the padlock and lifted the bolt. Slowly the big wooden door swung open and a voice inside loudly proclaimed, “The emissaries of King Umpalumpa may enter.” 

   They were greeted by an officious dark-elf who led them down a short hallway that opened to the spacious grounds of the capitol. No mud paths here. All the grounds were beautiful in a well-manicured sort of way, every flower and blade of grass in place, smooth paved walkways meandering under giant trees, all trim and neat. Curiously there were no visible groundskeepers. 

   The capitol building was like a castle and there was another huge wooden door to pass through. Then they were led down a long ornately decorated hallway with a high domed ceiling that ended in front of massive double doors. As they approached the doors swung open and an imperious voice spoke. 

   “Your majesty, the royal emissaries of the great King Umpalumpa.” 

   They approached the high throne and there sat Dr. Snarkey. Rosy just about yelped but kept her cool. It didn't seem as though Dr. Snarkey recognized them, but he was looking at them suspiciously. Rosy and her crew had been there when Dr. Snarkey and his troll army were defeated on Lillow's Farm, but she didn't think he'd seen her, although she was the one who'd wielded Zingellawabix. She hoped he hadn't seen her. It was possible. 

   “Greetings Lord King Dobble,” Rosy announced with a flourish, “we bring salutations from King Umpalumpa the Great!” 

    “Oh hey, gooda meetcha. I'm King Bubble, uh, also the great. I'm the boss here,” Dr. Snarkey told them in a flat voice without standing. He narrowed his eyes staring at them suspiciously for a moment, then asked in a whiny voice, “Okay, that's swell. Are we done?” 

   Suddenly the dark elf appeared. “Hurry, this way,” he hissed. He quickly led them back out. “Just leave your gifts in the foyer. Enjoy Waterlog!” And he was gone. They wandered out into the spacious grounds and sat at a table underneath a large and quite old shade tree.  

   “Well, that was weird,” Rosy told them. 

   “Yeah, it sure was,” Rover said, frowning. Then, looking around furtively, he whispered, “There was something awfully familiar about that Dobble character.” 

   “Yeah,” Rosy agreed, “it's 'cause it's not the Lord King Dobble, it's Dr. Snarkey. Remember? On Lillow's Farm?” 

   Rover looked at her with round eyes. “Oh yeah.” 

7. Dr. Snarkey 

   Last year Dr. Snarkey had used an old castle in a swamp to build trolls. The swamp was on a farm, called Lillow's Farm, situated in the wilderness of southern Elvenstead. He then used the trolls to attack Lillow's Farm, preparatory to attacking Elvenstead and then the world. He was defeated by the witches, elves and heroes at Lillow's Farm that day with the culminating defeat brought by Zingellawabix, the magic wand who bound all the attackers, stopping the troll invasion. The witches shut down the troll factory and used the machinery to cure trolls by running it in reverse.     

   Ego is Dr. Snarkey's real name. Ego began his career selling advertising for a radio station. It was a rough station that nefarious sorts, people like the Brown Weasels, dark-elves, shysters and all the deplorables who were morally and ethically challenged, would naturally gravitate toward. Most of his audience were delusional and felt that they were better, smarter, and wiser than those around them. They tended to be in the ne'er-do-well class, temporarily of course, blaming others for their failures while arrogantly flaunting their imagined superiority. They were, in fact, the perfect audience for Ego. 

   Ego was born Egor Blat to a super-rich elf couple in south Elvenstead City. His father owned a fleet of waggals and his mother was a super-model until she got married. The Blat's had two children, Egor and Egad who were spoiled unmercifully. Egad went on to become a ne'er do well, who would surely have become a bum on the docks if it weren’t for his paltry share of their parent's money, after their mysterious deaths, which kept him going. Egore, on the other hand, was ambitious, tricking the foolish Egad and taking most of their inheritance. He used the money to party and live a lavish lifestyle, based in the indisputable fact that he was a superior and stable genius deserving of all the good that the world has to offer and more. 

   The money could have provided Egor and Egad both a comfortable living for the rest of their lives, instead it just provided a few years for Egor's high life. When the money inevitably ran out he began working anywhere'd hire him. He was a lackluster employee who tended to look down his nose at his fellow workers and with time even his bosses. After getting fired from every job he tried, he decided to go into crime, specifically the con man game. He figured he'd be good at it after how he'd played Egad, but again, keeping true to form, he wasn't. Egad was just too trusting and ultimately too uninterested in the ways of the world. He'd finally just decided to let Egor have the money. 

   But, after a lifetime of massive wealth Egor wasn't worth a thing. Nothing. He didn't appear to even have a soul according to people who looked into his eyes. They were invariably disconcerted by the lack of humanity they saw there. He began preaching on corners about how things oughta be, but his vision was a dystopian nightmare when examined. That's when a radio executive happened by. His station was financed by people who would like all taxes for the wealthy eliminated, the poor made into serfs and all minorities caged or run out of the country which fit perfectly with Egor's vision, except with Egor as wealthy, not poor. The executive hired him on the spot to sell advertising for the radio. This he was good at, for all he had to do was continue his own rant to the money people who, because of his position, would listen to him. These wealthy manipulators benefited by controlling the gullible radio audience this station attracted. 

    One day when an announcer called in sick, Egor took his place and the rest is history. Their unsavory radio audience loved Egor's rant. Soon after Egor became Ego. He was not even aware when he dropped the r, his concern being only self-gratification and the belittling of the small people trying to run the world around him. His cruelty became legendary. One day, right after he got on the air, Dr. Snarkey appeared and took over Ego, and the show. Ego was unaware of Dr. Snarkey's appearance and is quite content to stay that way, as long as his luxurious life continues. Dr. Snarkey became a super star overnight, intent on getting rich by bringing down civilization through the use of trolls and deplorables, who just loved him for it. 

8. They made an awesome noise. 

   “Well, team, I don't think it makes much sense hanging around here,” Rosy told the crew. “I mean they're gonna figure out about Umpalumpa or that we know Dobble's a fake. Either way, it wouldn't do to get caught here.” 

   “No Ma'am,” Brak replied. “I think it'd be good if we ran,” and he took off running which Rosy thought was odd for a hero, until she saw Rover and Jant behind him, also running, so without another thought, she took off after them, running as fast as she could, which was fortunate because the thugs that Brak had spotted running frantically out the capitol door had spotted them and were soon at the spot where Rosy and the crew had been sitting, and were now giving chase, but still a goodly ways behind. 

   The guards at the entry gate and posted over the lane were all bamboozled by this change of direction. Their defensive stance was to the front not behind and Rosy and her crew were able to dash through without mishap and disappeared into the twisting lanes and ditches of Waterlog. It was useful that the people of Waterlog, seeing what was happening, quickly came to Rosy and the crew's aid. The people knew something was wrong at the capitol. 

   When Rosy and the crew were safely hidden in a basement, she found out more. This fake Lord King Dobble was using all the people's taxes to secretly amass a large army on the other side of Dingle's Dab. All the young men were either hiding or conscripted, and the King's patrols, like the ones looking for Rosy right now, kept the people subjugated and afraid.    

   “I'm going to call Zingellawabix,” Rosy told the crew and they kept quiet. 

   {Zingellawabix?} Rosy sent telepathically. 

   {Yes, Rosy. I've been listening and I know that the Lord King Dobble is actually Dr. Snarkey, who we know is an anti-god.} 

   {Yes, and he knows who we are. We've just escaped from the capitol and are hiding from the King's patrols. Snarkey's building a secret army down by that swamp.} 

   {Then we must move. Do you think you can get to the Rivitir? If not, I have established a rapport with Clarabelle and I'm sure she could bring the Rivitir to you.} 

   {Let me check with the crew.} 

   I didn't much care for the idea of our autopilot directing a rescue mission, especially in hostile territory. But I couldn't think of any alternatives. I filled in the others on what I'd said to Zingellawabix and asked what they thought. 

   “Clarabelle is good,” Brak said, thoughtfully. “I do think she'd get here. Thing is, how do we get to her when she's here. There's just narrow lanes that I could see, where would she land?” 

   “I wish we had a transporter beam like on that famous TV show where they just say, ah beam me up!” Jant said, with a grin.  

   “I think they needed a scotty,” Rover said, “but it would be cool. Zap, just like that and you're back on board.” 

   “Yeah, that does sound cool, except we don't have a transporter beam,” Rosy said. 

   “Nothing even close,” Brak added. 

   “I wonder if we could get on the roof?” Rover asked. 

   “That's a great idea! I'll find out,” Rosy answered. She climbed the stairs to check with the residents. When she returned, she told them, “We can, but we'll be totally exposed doing it since it's a ladder leaning against the house. They say there's a lot of patrols still.” 

   “So I guess we wait till it gets dark,” Brak said. 

   Rosy nodded agreement and they settled in. They waited until midnight then they climbed up on the roof before calling Zingellawabix and Clarabelle to bring the Rivitir. As soon as the Rivitir was overhead they had her descend until they could climb on board but before she was low enough a ring of spotlights surrounding them flashed on. The Rivitir stopped descending and hovered about half a meter above their heads. Despite being blinded by the bright lights Rosy could make out dark elves, orcs, and weasels, clearly members of the notorious Brown Weasels, surrounding them, standing everywhere between the lights, jeering, pointing and laughing. 

   Suddenly Dr. Snarkey appeared with an unsavory looking faerie by his side. “So!” Dr. Snarkey screeched, “You horrible scoundrels are trying to escape without leaving me a gift?” 

   “That's right,” Rosy replied. “Because you're not the Lord King Dobble.” 

   “What?” Dr. Snarkey barked. “How did, uh, wait. Haven't I seen you somewhere before?” He peered at Rosy suspiciously. 

   “That's the one had the wand, back on Lillow's Farm,” the faerie told him. 

   “The wand!” Dr. Snarkey screamed, “Oh my heavens people, run!” He was already leading by example and his confused minions followed, but it was too late and they ran into an invisible wall, a wall like steel so that they tended to clack and clang when they met it, being suitably armed and armored, which created a monstrous cacophony said to be heard kilometers away. Certainly the secret army garrisoned south of the city heard it. 

9. Setting them free. 

   Most of the soldiers in the garrison were conscripts from the streets of Waterlog and the surrounding countryside. The people have sent many delegations to petition the Lord King Dobble and demand to know why so many young people were being taken by the army. Was war imminent? The people should know if it is, but every delegation was turned away, unable to even access the capitol grounds. 

   Meanwhile the young people from the city and the countryside conscripted into the garrison were appalled at their leadership. The commanders were all orcs, Brown Weasels, dark elves or even trolls and not a one had the common sense of a gnat. Disgusted and fearful, the conscripts were too frightened to break away, instead spending their days in mindless military drills and abuse.                 

   Today while marching in the field they heard a terrible clamor from the capitol which was beyond their sight. Everyone stopped and stared in the capitol's direction, frozen in disbelief. Then they saw some figures on brooms fly upward and stop, slowly returning to earth. 

   “What the hale?” screamed one of the commanders, a tall and grizzled orc. 

   “Form ranks troopers!” the highest commander, a dark elf with two weasels in tow, yelled as he came running out of the headquarters building. “The capitol's been attacked! We're at war!” Then he ran toward the front but suddenly veered, going instead toward the tall, grizzled orc, and promptly stuck to him. 

   “What the hale?” the tall grizzled orc yelled with wide eyes as the high commander stuck to his belly like a . . . Then he kept screaming that exact same question over and over as every commander of the garrison came running and sticking to him. Many of them were asking the same question. The troops stared in disbelief, unsure what if anything they should do. Anyone trying to take control quickly found themselves stuck to this large group, all screaming “What the hale?” in dozens of different voices, all stuck to a tall, grizzled orc whose head rose above the others, marking the center. The conscript soldiers could only stare in disbelief before slowly coming to the realization that they were free. Somehow these slave drivers were stuck, quite solidly stuck. Then with laughter and whoops of joy they ran off, returning to their homes throughout the land. 

   Meanwhile at the capitol the brigands trying to escape were all captured, bound by the magic wand, Zingellawabix, and placed in a large cage. The real Lord King Dobble and his court were found in dungeons in the castle's basement and were released then returned to their rightful places, saying they'd do better next time. 

   There were parades, music and dancing. A drab, humorless society has come to life, and what a jubilant life it was! Rosy and the crew were awarded medals and certificates of wondrous gratitude, then amid cheering crowds they boarded the Rivitir, again a river boat, and floated away, down the great world river, the Yudonke. 

   At the next IDT Gate they transferred back to their own dimension. They loved floating the Yudonke and surely there are many more adventures to be had there, but they were all a little nervous about this new technology and wanted to make sure it could get them home. It did and they are now back cruising their natural world, enjoying its many side tracks and adventures. They've talked of going back to the great Yudonke but Rosy had a hunch, and she believes Brak and Jant do too, that somehow Rover will get them back to the Yudonke without using Bradco's IDT gates. Somehow he'll do it, without meaning to and without any idea how he did it, but somehow he'll do it.

A Deep Inner Yearning For Wondrous Things - By Rosy 

   It began in the meadow of a farm, far off in the southern wilderness of Elvenstead. Something had stirred, awakened perhaps, that began to charge and shape the land with magical energy, empowering it so that it began to sparkle and glow. Next came the small folk, faeries and such, pixies of course and others all magical, all thriving in that glow, all striving to be their best selves, elves and witches and gnomes, all came to be here and all together they made a very fine glow. 

   The able witch Aggy, just up and stretching, gazed out her window with love and appreciation. Soon to the season of scary tales and cozy nights, she thought with satisfaction. She could see her sisters, the able witches Tenner and Gretta, already out in the garden puttering about. The able witch Nellie would be in the kitchen soon, maybe already, setting the hearth for breakfast. She hurried her morning ablutions, then down the steps to help. Tenner and Gretta will be along soon with a basket of fresh vegetables and herbs.   

   These four witches lived like nuns perhaps, each in their own devotional spaces, each reaching for the ineffable in their own way, like witches do and each joyfully thankful, in love with life and with each other. It was a miracle, something Aggy loved, that brought these four descendants of the four original witches who made the farm, together. The farm is flourishing again and magic is afoot. 

   Their home, Witchhaven, is in Shady Glen, about half a klick north of the Swamp of Doom and about a klick west of the meadow, the focal point of the farm, called Lillow's Farm after one of the founders. It was in the Swamp of Doom that the mad Doctor Snarkey set up his troll machine, making trolls to attack the farm, which they did, in cahoots with the evil Brad Puffup, CEO of Bradco Inc. and arch-criminal. Puffup and Snarkey were set to rule all the known world using Snarkey's troll armies and Puffup's orc armies, but they were foiled by the farm's magical forces and the magic wand Zingellawabix. 

   Aggy mused as she worked. Now the farm has Snarkey's troll machine which, when operated in reverse, can unmake trolls. Even trolls made in Joten by Grimn-leapers, even these can be unmade with Doctor Snarkey's machine. Spike and some of the elves who work in the meadow have figured out how to duplicate this machine and we're now able to supply various outposts in southern Elvenstead with their own machines, plus Spike and his elves are teaching others how to make them. Maybe someday they'll be in all of Elvenstead. Perhaps the troll menace might finally be coming to an end. Except there will still be Grimn-leapers. 

   After breakfast and cleanup Aggy went to their back yard. Like most yards in Elvenstead it was open so anyone could enter or pass through, although the street in front offered much easier passage. It was difficult to tell anyone's yard from anyone else's. Aggy sat in one of the chairs they had behind the manor and settled back with a pipe full of Tenner's excellent weed. Soon Gretta and Nellie joined her. Tenner, who was the best farmer in the coven and tended to be outdoors a lot, was out in the fields somewhere. 

   Soon Mistle from next door joined them along with a couple of faeries, Sparley and Jazzip. They sat in companionable silence for a while, smoking and enjoying the beautiful autumn morning. 

   “Aggy, they're sending us too many trolls and we can't process them fast enough,” Spike huffed, appearing out of nowhere. 

   “Huh? Wazzat? Too many trolls?” Aggy asked calmly. 

   “That's right,” Spike replied, nodding. “Too many and they're milling about, shoving and fighting each other in a pen we built but I don't think it'll hold much longer, especially with new trolls coming in all the time.” 

   “Dang,” Aggy said, sitting up. She looked at Spike, “So, what should we do?”           

   “I dunno. We're on the verge of being overrun by trolls and none of our spells can bind more than three trolls at a time.” 

   “Dang,” Aggy repeated. She looked at the group around her and told them, “We need Zingellawabix.” 

   They nodded agreement and began to zing, “Ziiinnnnngggg, ziiinnnnngggg, ziiinnnnngggg,” they zang, all zinging, they closed their eyes and zang, zang zing. Or something like that. Then they waited. Soon a flying saucer appeared, then it circled around and landed in the open area beyond the chairs and benches. The hatch opened and Captain Rivitir stuck her head out. 

   “Rover, I don't think this is Mish,” she said without looking around. 

   From inside the saucer Rover replied, “That's impossible, Ma'am. Just look at this map. It's clearly Mish and . . .” 

   Captain Rivitir saw us as we'd gotten up and were approaching. “No it's not,” she interrupted Rover, “this is Lillow's Farm and here is Aggy and Gretta and a bunch of others. Gosh, how are you guys?” Just then Nellie arrived carrying a basket of herbs. “Oh, and here's Nelly! It's great to see you! All of you!” 

   Rover stuck his head out, “Spike?” he asked, then he dashed out, his tail wagging so fast it wagged his entire behind. 

   Spike, his tail also wagging fast, yipped, “Hey buddy! How ya doing?” Then they leaped and dashed around each other the way dogs do, sniffing here and there, both wearing big smiles, laughing and barking. 

   Captain Rosy Rivitir of the AV Rivitir, which currently looked like a flying saucer, had a crew of three. Rover was already out and he was followed by the heroes Brak and Jant, who were the rest of the crew. They were now greeting old friends and being introduced to the others. Soon everyone settled in with tea in Witchhaven's beautiful backyard. In the distance were the fields all ready for winter.       

   Rosy was sitting by Rover and Spike listening to their seemingly endless reminiscences of the old days. She especially liked hearing the stories about Lillow and her adventures. During a loll she asked Rover, “I do love being here on this magical farm,” Rover nodded agreement, clearly happy to be here. “but I can't help but wonder what brought us here?” 

   He looked thoughtful. “Well, I thought we were going to Mish, so I dunno. I haven't seen or heard of anything that needs our help, so I dunno.” 

   Aggy, sitting nearby, overheard and spoke up, “Oh, yeah, I shoulda told you right off. We called you.” 

   “I didn't get the call,” Jant, the Rivitir's communications specialist, said. 

   “No, no, we didn't call that way,” Aggy said. “We called by zinging for Zingellawabix.” 

   “Oh? Well, how about that,” Rosy said with a smile, shaking her head. “So, you need Zingellawabix?” 

   “Yeah. We got a troll problem,” Spike answered. 

   “Howzat?” Rosy asked. “I mean, I thought we'd settled the troll problem here last summer.” 

   “Yeah, we did,” Aggy replied. “But now we got this troll machine that'll unmake trolls and, well, word got out. People are bringing trolls here to unmake and we're getting overwhelmed.” 

   “Yeah,” Rosy told her with a laugh, “Zingellawabix can handle that. He can handle any amount of trolls near as I can tell.” 

   And so, for the next week, Rosy and Zingellawabix bound and unbound trolls for processing while Spike and Rover, along with Brak and Jant and several village elves built new troll machines. Brak even devised a way to prevent the machines from being used to make trolls so that they can only unmake them, which set Aggy's mind at ease. 

   “That was my worry,” she affirmed, smiling her approval. The four witches kept the operation working smoothly and soon they were caught up in it again. 

   “With these new machines,” Spike told them, referring to the troll machines he and Rover and their crew had built, “we'll never have overflow again, no matter how many they bring.” 

   “Gee,” Rosy commented, “Sure was a lot of trolls. Is there always this many in Elvenstead?” 

   “I don't think so,” Aggy said, looking questioningly at the others. 

   “No,” Spike told them, “there's definitely more trolls now.” 

   “Yeah, that's what I thought,” Rosy said, nodding thoughtfully. 

   “I've sent a few technicians out to install the one-way device on the earlier machines they gave out,” Brak told her, “so none of them can be used to make trolls anymore.” 

   “Good thinking, Brak,” Rosy said with a smile. “So you know where they're all at?” 

   “Yep, Nelly kept a good record.” 

   “So I guess we just wait and see what happens,” Rosy told her crew. 

   They took the Rivitir over to the meadow at the farm's center and settled in. The next morning three dragons landed by them just as Rosy and Rover were coming out. The dragons introduced themselves as Brak and Jant joined them. They were all thrilled to meet dragons as none of them had ever seen a dragon close up before much less spoken with one, or three. Rosy was amazed at their beauty, their iridescent coloring and the way they flashed in the light. 

   “I'm Tranador,” said one. 

   “I'm Fillop,” said another. 

   “I'm Maxidendal,” said the third. 

   It was exciting to meet dragons! Rosy and her crew had seen them before, at a distance of course, but they were rare in Elvenstead. Strangely enough one of the reasons they had for going to Mish, the dragon homeland, was to see the dragons, and here they were seeing them in Elvenstead! I wonder if we'll see faeries now? Rosy thought with a laugh. That was something else they'd seen little of. Soon the witches and several elves joined them. 

   They were all having a pleasant visit when suddenly Gretta yelled, “Here they come!” 

   Everyone turned to look at what appeared to be a giant glittering cloud heading their way. Rosy stared, transfixed. When it was closer, she could see that it was a swarm of some sort and that it was coming right at them. Frightened, she looked around at the others and, except for her crew who seemed as frightened as she was, they were all watching calmly, smiling with bright eyes. She looked back at the swarm and now realized they were faeries! Thousands, maybe millions of faeries and they were going straight to the dragons, who were smiling with delight. Soon the three dragons were covered with faeries and the entire area began pulsing with glittering faerie dust as they flitted and danced about making brilliant rainbow bubbles that popped with bursts of fresh faerie dust. 

   Seeing Rosy's look of amazement Aggy said, “The faeries love the dragons. I don't know why, they just do and the dragons, for the most part, love the faeries.” 

   Some forest elves, who had been playing music quietly, almost imperceptibly, around them began to appear and the music slowly got louder, then people started dancing until soon there was a maelstrom of dancing bodies, flashing lights, lively music and colors beyond belief. 

   The next morning, after partying all the rest of that day and well into the night, Rosy and her crew bid their hosts a loving adieu and boarded their flying saucer. They were looking forward to a long rest. 

   “Anywhere you want to go is fine, Rover,” Rosy told Rover and soon they were on their way. 

   Back on the farm Aggy and the witches continued the unmaking of trolls, and after a time their numbers finally began decreasing. Maybe the Grimn-leapers will quit sending them, Aggy thought as she helped process the latest batch of trolls. There was a lot of work to do to help the poor confused ex-trolls coming out of the machines. Through it all she and the others kept the farm, harvesting crops and collecting faerie dust and jeewizium to maintain the farm's magic. As always, the immortal Spike watched serenely over the meadow.   

Rover Has A Scare - By Rosy 

   Well, we've landed and we're all anxious to find out where. Even Rover, our navigator, who can be blasé about location, seemed interested. Our ace pilot Brak said it might be forest, or perhaps prairie or it could be desert. But he was pretty sure it wasn't water. He said it all happened so quick who could tell anything? 

   “I couldn't,” Rover said. 

   “Nothing on the radio except the usual noisy chatter,” Jant, our communications specialist, reported. “Radar says we're somewhere, though.” 

   “Well, that's encouraging,” I said, heading for the door. “Shall we look outside?” 

   The heroes Brak and Jant were on it, “Yes, ma'am,” they both snapped, wearing wide smiles. They really love adventure. 

   Rover held back, peering over their shoulders. “Let's do this,” he said. 

   I gave him a quick look which he didn't return then I opened the door and was presented a beautiful sunny day, with large copses of trees spaced about in a half desert half prairie setting. 

   “Looks to be forest in a prairie desert,” I said, smiling at the pleasant scene. “Good job Brak.” But Brak and Jant were already doing a perimeter run, becoming aware of everything in every direction, like heroes do, while Rover peered silently from inside the Rivitir. The air was dry with a hint of pine and sagebrush.  

   “All clear Captain,” Brak reported when they returned. 

   “Thanks, Brak,” I said Looking back at Rover I asked, “You coming?” 

   He was in the doorway holding a map, first looking at it, then at the hills in the distance. “Hmmm, wazzat?” he sputtered. 

   “You coming?” 

   “Huh? Oh, I uh, well, I think maybe I'll take a look at these maps some more, maybe figure out where we're at.” Something was on his mind. 

   “Okay,” I answered. “It'd be good to know. Meanwhile we're going to take a look around.” 

   He looked up abruptly, then with wide eyes said, “Don't go far.”          

   “What's up Rover?” I asked, turning back to face him. 

   “Nothing. Really, nothing, it's just that . . .” 

   “Just that what?” I urged sternly. 

   “Well, does this look like that?” He handed me a map with a small picture in the corner of hills, like the hills we could see. I looked at the picture, then back at the hills, then back at the picture. 

   “Hmmm, there is a resemblance, let's see, hmmm, yes, there.” I pointed at the hills. “See that peak that sort of looks like an open beak pointing upward?” He nodded. “Well, there it is in the picture. Same peak. Gotta be.” I looked at the bottom of the map at the legend. It said, Home range of the Giant Hickory Horned Devils. “Huh? What's this?” I asked. 

   “What's what?” Rover replied quickly, peering at our surroundings from inside. 

   “What's this about the home range of the Giant Hickory Horned Devil?”      

   “Oh, I didn't notice. Does it say that? Thing is, I'm not sure we're there, I mean if that peak . . .” 

   “Uh-huh,” I interrupted, “that peak over there that's in the picture? Is that the peak you mean?” 

   “Yeah, uh, well, if that peak is the same, well then, if it is that is, well, this could, uh, well it likely could be the home of the Giant Hickory Horned Devils. If that is the peak.”  

   I looked again at the picture. It was the peak. “So what're these Giant Hickory Horned Devils?” I asked. Now I was looking around. Where did Brak and Jant go? I felt a stab of worry. 

   “I dunno,” Rover said. 

   I began screaming, “Brak! Jant!” but there was no reply.     

   “But they sure don't sound good,” Rover finished with a worried look. 

   “Huh? Brak and Jant don't sound good?” I asked. “What do you mean?” 

   “No, the Giant Hickory Horned Devils. They don't sound good.” 

   They didn't sound good and I was silent. I looked again at the peak, then the picture, then the legend. No, this didn't sound good. I stepped closer to the open door. Then I noticed Brak and Jant approaching in the distance. They were walking with some curious creatures, big as donkeys but shaped like worms. They easily kept apace of Brak and Jant and seemed to be having a lively conversation. 

   “Here they come,” I said. 

   Rover, who couldn't see the approaching figures, shrieked. I watched with fascination as they got near. The creatures were large caterpillars with horns! And they were talking with Brak and Jant, apparently joking as Brak and Jant were both laughing. 

   “Hey Captain,” Brak called as they arrived. “Look who we met.” He gestured at three big caterpillars, all with horns who seemed to be smiling at me. “That's Henry and Florence,” he pointed to the end two. 

   “Just call us Hank and Flo,” Henry said. 

   “And that's Edmonk,” pointing to the third. 

   “Nice to meet you,” I said smiling, “I'm Captain Rosy of the AV Rivitir.” I pointed at the Rivitir. I looked around for Rover who stuck his head out and shrieked again. 

   “And that's Rover,” I said. 

   “Curious bark,” Flo commented. 

   “Curious dog,” I agreed. 

   Rover stepped cautiously out, watching the caterpillars closely. “Uh, hello,” he said quietly. “You guys live here?” 

   “Yes, this is our home,” Edmonk replied, smiling proudly. It was very beautiful country and the day was pleasant. 

   Rover looked around with wide eyes. “You aren't afraid of the devils?” he asked. 

   “Devils?” Brak questioned. 

   “Oh, I know,” Edmonk laughed. “It's what they call us, because of our horns I think.” 

   “You're the devils?” Rover asked with a stunned expression. 

   “That's right,” Edmonk grinned, “we're the Giant Hickory Horned Devils!” 

   “Wow!” Jant said. 

   “I told you they were cool,” Brak murmured behind her. Rover could only stare. 

   “Gosh, that's an awesome name,” I said, admiring their horns. “Sounds a little dangerous though, sort of scary, eh Rover?” 

   “Huh?” Rover huffed. “I uh, well yeah, now you mention it there is a certain ominous sound to the name.” 

   “We took the name years ago,” Flo told us, “to keep tourists away. It worked fine at first, and for a quite a long while really, but then we began to feel lonely.” 

   “We're gladda see anyone nowadays,” Hank observed. 

   Rover nodded, “Your name didn't bother me,” he said proudly. Then after a pointed silence, he added, “well, okay maybe a little but I am a professional navigator, you know, and well trained in cartography. I'm certainly used to ominous names, means nothing, most the time just a name.” He looked around. “Right?” 

   “Yes, of course Rover,” I answered with a smile. 

   We spent a marvelous couple of days visiting the Devils. They told us they were transitional people, to become something much greater than their current beautifully horned and spiked caterpillar selves. They will become moths!  

   “We will fly!” Flo told us enthusiastically. She was eager to teach us the ways of the Devils. “We will soar across the skies like eagles,” she crowed, “our formations will be tight, our dexterity unbelievable, we will fly like nothing before!” 

   It was an exciting future, that's for sure. The Giant Hickory Horned Devils were a pleasant people with a brilliant future. We had an enjoyable stay seeing all the caterpillar hangouts and trying the exotic caterpillar food. Caterpillar music is not what you'd expect and when they dance? Each caterpillar dances like a separate conga line. 

   Hank, Flo and Edmonk saw us off after our fun-filled stay. What great caterpillars! After promising to stop in if we're ever this way again, Rover gave Brak some numbers, coordinates probably, and we took off, excited and curious as to where we might end up next. It's great to be moving again, I thought, sitting proudly in my Captain's chair, totally in charge.     

The Infinity Hallway - By Rosy 

   On a day full of magic, in the year of surcease, or so it was hoped, we embarked on the adventure of the Infinity Hallway. There has always been that closed door, a door rarely mentioned or admitted, never even really seen though it's always been there. Just there, just so. Beyond perception and beyond thought, hidden in obscure disbelief. This then is the door whose secrets we set forth to unlock.   

   I knew I'd find it on the first page, probably mentioned in the first paragraph, but more likely to be in the second, and that was just where it appeared. In all its inane posturing, there it was, {The Door} the very door itself. I called my team. 

   I'm Captain Rosy and my team is the A Team! Gosh. Well, I just always wanted to say that. I mean it sounds really cool, right? But in actuality we're adventurers from the All Vehicle Rivitir so we're probably Rivinauts, or maybe Riviteers. Anyway I took the A from All Vehicle and I thought A Team, you know? But my crew wears the title unenthusiastically, claiming it has connotations to an old, cheesy television program where escaped criminals foil nefarious scams. 

   So, for now, they're just the crew again. The crew then are Rover, navigator and my second in command, Brak, our pilot and Jant who runs the radio and other electronic stuff. Brak and Jant are twins who grew up in the Heroes Я Us Collective and are professional, and quite probably fully licensed, heroes. 

   Having discovered {The Door}, we were poised for adventure, ready to face the unknown. We knew the Infinity Hallway was behind {The Door} and we were determined to explore its secrets. We just had to get past {The Door}. 

   First, I blasted it with my ray gun, then Rover tried the knob. Brak battered it with his indomitable hero shoulders and Jant administered advanced karate moves, all to no avail. {The Door} stood firm, plain and plainly unmoving. We tried everything we could think of until finally, in desperation, Jant cried out, “Door! Please let us by!” {The Door} opened. Before us stretched the Infinity Hallway. 

   We stood unmoving and stared, silently pondering this endless passage. The Hallway is wide, about three meters and perhaps three and a half tall in the center, because the ceiling is curved making it seem more like a tunnel than a hallway. It is all a featureless brown, seemingly forever. We have provisions for a few months and about a week's worth of water. 

   Brak looked at me and I nodded the okay. With Brak and Jant in the lead we embarked. Rover and I stayed close behind. We have packed flashlights and torches but it appears we won't need them as the Hallway is diffusely lit. We are unable to discern the source of this light, which is not very bright, keeping us in a sort of perpetual dusk. 

   After about an hour and a half of steady travel I was about to call for a break when I noticed the hall was darker ahead of us. We proceeded slowly, cautiously, to investigate this darker area. When we got there it lit up showing a large room with couches and tables. There was even a stove and a sink with running water. We spent about an hour or so there. Everything was so nice I was hesitant to leave. We may never find another spot as nice, but we needed to move on. We had adventuring to do.  

   As we walked on, I was thinking about the location of the Hallway. Today we accessed it by using {The Door} that was hidden in the second paragraph. Years ago Lillow accessed the Hallway by nearly being dead in the cosmic ocean and finding a giant turnip sticking up out of it with a doorway and steps leading down to the Hallway. She followed it back to the Darnalong stump and the lobby, seemingly where the Hallway ends. At least that time. Anyway the lobby's door is in the stump behind the Golly Orchard where the Darnalong's lived, giving easy access to the meadow. But then I thought, what if she'd gone the other way?  

   “She'd probably still end up in the meadow,” Rover stated. 

   “Wait, what?” I sputtered. “How'd you know what I was . . .” 

   “You mean like a big loop?” Brak asked. 

   “Yeah,” Rover agreed. “It'd be like a loop. A circular loop in the Infinity Hallway to accommodate a particular need.” 

   “So it's like the Hallway responds to thoughts?” Jant asked. 

   “More to needs, I think,” Rover replied. “I mean, it's sort of like a deep emotional need that's maybe stronger than just thoughts, so it gets heard better.” 

   “Makes sense,” Jant said with a dreamy smile. “We shape the Hallway according to our emotions.” 

   “Strong emotions,” Rover stated. 

   We walked in silence for a while. I was somewhat bemused because it was like they'd heard my thoughts. Suddenly I began to feel a little claustrophobic. Was the Hallway deep underground? I glanced at the ceiling. Soon we could see what appeared to be sunlight ahead. I hurried, feeling a sense of relief at the sight. We emerged into a broad grassy bowl surrounded by forest. It was so beautiful, so idyllic that it took my breath away. There was a fine little river flowing by and several rock lined pools of hot, warm then cool water from a hot spring mixing with the river. We were soon luxuriating in the pools, having walked all day. 

   After a good soak we set up camp on the edge of the grassy bowl, near the Hallway, which was the nicest spot by far to camp in. There was lots of dry wood around and we had a roaring campfire as the sun set. I didn't recognize any of the star patterns but the night sky was glorious. Curiously this place seems to have two moons, neither like the earth's moon. After a hot supper we spread our blankets and stretched out, watching the stars in that strange sky. 

   Morning arrived, her golden strands embracing us, pulling us awake. We all awoke at pretty much the same time feeling quite rested. Again I was loathe to leave this spot. It was so perfect that we were almost giddy. But one last dip in the ponds and we must be on our way. The entrance to the Hallway was quite apparent on the far side, being exactly like the one we'd left yesterday, behind us. We had merely to trek across the grassy bowl. 

   Brak took the lead with me behind, then Jant, then Rover. We went single file as a narrow trail had appeared just after we started. I was surprised I hadn't noticed it before because it crossed the river a short ways down from the hot springs. There were well placed steppingstones so we didn't get our feet wet in the crossing. Then we hiked up the other side of the grassy bowl and we were there. Before entering we stopped and took a long look back at the big grassy bowl and our campsite on the other side, next to the river. 

   Wow. What a place. I wondered if we'd keep finding wonderful places and things as we continued, then I wondered why we'd had so much good fortune this far. It's been like a luxury vacation, a walking vacation with more successes than we'd ever dreamed of, but not a drop of the danger or suspense we'd imagined we'd need to face. 

   This time I took the lead as we continued down the very familiar Hallway, although there was plenty of room across. Brak and Jant lingered, admiring the lush and mysterious grassy bowl then turned and caught up with Rover who was following me from a couple meters behind. They seemed uneasy about leaving the grassy bowl and I understood completely, because I felt it too. But we soldiered on, keeping to the plan of exploring as far as we could down the Infinity Hallway before having to turn back. 

   Every time we needed a break a rest area would appear. When we walked the way was easy. Evenings we'd arrive at comfortable accommodations, sometimes beautiful campsites on strange worlds, sometimes luxurious rooms with comfortable beds or cozy little cabins. Clean linen. Everything was so perfect my suspicion's grew. I mean this doesn't happen in real life, this incessant good fortune, these constantly comfortable settings, maybe once in a while but not like this. Normally some blah or even bad things happen every so often.  

   “Yeah, I been thinking that too,” Rover muttered.  

   “Feels almost like walking into some sort of trap,” Brak remarked. 

   I could only gape. How'd they know what I was thinking? I stopped and they stopped too, the four of us forming a circle facing each other. 

   “I can't believe you all are hearing my thoughts,” I stated. 

   Rover shrugged, “Yeah, well we can. Thing is, whatya think we should do?” 

   “We can't really stop, can we?” Jant stated. “I mean it’s either forward or back.” She glanced uncertainly back from where we'd come. 

   “Forward, I say,” Brak threw in, “I mean it's the only way we'll find out what's going on.” 

   “If we can find out,” Rover said, looking at the Hallway ahead of us. 

   “What do you mean?” Jant asked. 

   “I don't know,” Rover replied with a worried look. “Just a feeling, I guess.” 

   Still somewhat bemused I asked, “So, forward?”   

   “Yeah,” Rover answered. 

   Brak and Jant took off down the hall with Rover and me following. It wasn't long before our worst fears began to be realized. As we walked something took hold of our backpacks, all at the same time, and lifted us up almost to the ceiling. We dangled there for a while before we finally wiggled out and let the packs go. As soon as we hit the floor the packs disappeared, leaving us with nothing but the clothes we were wearing. We were stranded deep inside the Infinity Hallway. 

   “We can't go forward with our expectations being so low,” I told them. 

   “It's like we get what we expect,” Jant said. 

   “Exactly,” I agreed. “We started with high hopes and lots of good fortune, a lovely trek that was only dashed when we became suspicious.” 

   “So whadda we do?” Rover asked. 

   “Happy thoughts?” Jant suggested. No one responded to this and I could tell they were skeptical. I was. 

   “So where did we hope the Hallway would take us?” I asked.               

    “To answers,” Brak said. 

   “To the source of the answers, to the source,” Jant said quietly. 

   “To the source,” I echoed. 

   We began walking again, this time in a decidedly different frame of mind. Somehow, I was not surprised when we rounded a corner and there stood the AV Rivitir, our home. Ellim, our service bot, was waiting with hot tea and biscuits and Zingellawabix was humming softly on the mantle. I looked around, smiling. “Gosh Dorothy!” I gushed, feeling like other heroines who came home to deeper understandings. “We are and always have been the source, with all the answers within because we are the Infinity Hallway.” I posed heroically. 

   “Huh? Who's Dorothy?” Rover asked.             

The Magic Wand - By Rosy 

One: The AV Rivitir - - - - - - - 

   My name is Rosy Rivitir and I am the captain of the All-Vehicle Rivitir, a craft that can go anywhere. My crew has three members: Rover, our navigator, Brak, our pilot and Jant, our communications specialist. 

   Today we have landed in the southern wilderness of Elvenstead. There is an ancient farm nearby whose meadow is said to have miraculous powers. It is a beautiful place and I wondered what brought us here. We gathered in front of the Rivitir's door and breathed in the fresh air and the smell of a verdant country. 

   “Gosh, would you just look at this pastoral landscape!” Jant enthused. “Looks like a lovely place to picnic!” 

   “I think it is” I agreed, “but there's probably a lot of residual magic here from the ancient times when the legendary Lillow was having adventures, so you need to be very careful.” 

   “Used to be a lot of Jeewizium deposits around here that are quite dangerous,” Rover told us. “The stuff is invisible and if you step on it, you get zapped into another dimension.”  

   “Wow, that's scary,” Jant said. 

   “Oh yeah, you were here back then, weren't you?” I asked Rover. 

   “Yep. That was a really, really long time ago.” 

   “How'd you stay out of the Jeewizium?” Brak asked. 

   “Spike could see it, along with Lillow and the witches,” Rover answered. “They kept it scooped up, then the witches used it to imbue the farm with magic.” He paused, with a sad look. “We always thought Spike was immortal, not me. But somehow it got in me or something.” 

   “I wonder if all the magic that was here could have something to do with it?” I asked. 

   “Yeah, I think so,” Rover said with a shrug. “I mean it's definitely something that has occurred to me over the years, and I have to say, really, there's no other way to account for it, but still . . .” he paused, looking downward. “well, it's just that most people don't believe in magic these days. They say the legend of Lillow was all made up, that there were never such magical beings in the world and that I'm a delirious dog.” 

   “Yeah?” I said. “So what? I've heard them, the modern world people with their high-stakes games and devices along with the naysayers and trolls, all of them thinking their world is the real one. But what's that got to do with it? You know your experiences were real.” 

   “Uh-huh, you're right,” he agreed, “but you do get doubts, I mean about memory and stuff after a few hundred years. Things back there get hazy, you know? But here now, seeing this place again, it's like . . .it's like the magic is coming back.” 

   “I'll say,” I laughed, looking around. I could see more somehow, a kind of whispering depth that was exhilarating. “This place fairly shimmers with magic. It's below the surface, but it's there.” 

   “I know,” Rover said, sighing. “I think we'll see more and more as the land accepts us.” 

   “What if the land doesn't accept us?” Brak asked. 

   “Oh, it will. You're with Rover after all,” a disembodied voice announced cheerily. 

   “Spike?” Rover said, with round eyes. 

   Suddenly a large bulldog appeared. “Rover! Where you been, boy?” he asked. Rover was overcome with emotion. I've never seen his tail wag like that, like a million wags a second, and a big stupid grin on his face. 

   “Spike!” he yelped, “Oh my good golly, it's Spike!” He looked at us, “Spike!” 

   “Calm down Rover,” Spike said walking over to us. “You're acting like a darn puppy.” Spike sat down but his tail kept wagging and his big smile remained. “Gooda see you, boy. Been awhile, huh?” Spike said, sitting down near Rover. “I see you got some elves here with you.” 

   “Yeah Spike,” Rover said. “These guys are from the spaceship where I live now. It's called the Rivitir and these are my captain and fellow crew members. We're explorers and heroes, and Spike, we have such fun! Almost like the old days.” 

   “Well that's just fine Rover, meanwhile,” he looked at us. 

   “Oh, yeah. Sorry, this here's Captain Rosy Rivitir.” 

    “An honor to meet you, sir,” I said, bowing a little. “We've all heard so much about you.” 

   “Telling his stories, is he?” Spike laughed. “Well it's darn fine to meet you. Keeping this guy outta trouble?” 

   “I can't keep myself outta trouble,” I said with a grin. 

   Spike laughed. “No doubt,” he said chuckling. “And who might you two be?” he asked, looking a Brak and Jant. 

   “I'm Brak and this here's my partner Jant. We're professional heroes.” 

   “Good job, that,” Spike said, smiling broadly. “As to your worries Brak, I can tell you, the land has already accepted you, all of you.” He began walking across the forested meadow we'd landed in. “Com'on. I'll take you to the farm.” 

Two: Zingellawabix - - - - - - - 

   The magic wand Zingellawabix began his life, for a living thing he is, as ice. Simple ice from a world of ice, a world of contraction, a world where things are gathered, amassed and compressed. It was a great attracter world, and as such its complexity increased. Then, through emergent properties, a frozen precursor to life was created. This complexity, given enough time, and there was ample, will become the most complex thing of all, a living entity. 

   It started, perhaps, with a simple repetition; a pattern in the ice that accidentally replicates over and over until somewhere along the line it begins to absorb a little of the energy from its environment to maintain and, perhaps, to even enhance the flow, as it were. The available energies would be sunlight, which, while scant on the ice planet, was nonetheless available. Another was the ice planet's primal power of contraction, by far the stronger energy. 

   After eons of strengthening replications, these icy little patterns were forced to adapt, due to the changing conditions on the ice planet brought on by the approach of the fire planet. They were able to so because they could utilize the energy for their complexity to increase, to adapt, to become. 

   Closer the fire planet came, disrupting life on both the fire planet and the ice planet, until they finally collided in a massive impact, destroying both planets. The process of annihilation, however, left a more moderate space with a lot of debris. Enough for a rocky, watery-blue planet to form. It was here, in this space, that the living fire and the living ice that came from the fire planet and the ice planet were able to continue and blossom, combining in their evolution the energies of both fire and ice, and emerging as something new.   

  Zingellawabix was already alive and ancient when the great fire and ice collision occurred and he slipped easily into the emergent life of the blue planet. Finally, after billions of years, plants and trees evolved, nurtured by his energy and life force so that he naturally became a part of the flora, the woodlands. He flowed eagerly and naturally through wood, and when the time was right, after a few more million years, he emerged as a wooden wand, whose powers were enhanced by witches. From the primal ice he could bind, and from the primal fire he could shrink or consume. From his great age of billions of years he learned to harness and direct his powers, powers that grew and grew until he became one of the great magical tools of the world, as well as a blessing to the world, for he is devoted to the cause of goodness and light. 

   It is believed that he has attained many more powers since, beyond binding, shrinking and consuming. 

   Say his name with reverence, Zingellawabix, slowly, Zing-gella-wabix. Hear his song; {Zzzzziinnnnggg zing zing zithra! Zzzziinnnnggg zing zing zithra! Zingellawabix zithra! zithra! Zzzzziinnnnggg ziiinnnggg nnnngg!}  

  It was Zingellawabix who bound and shrank Dredung, the Well of Evil. Today Zingellawabix lives on a farm in an intricate box created by dragons. It is hidden on the legendary Lillow's Farm, the same Lillow who's adventures are told all across Greater Elvenstead. The stuff of legends, stories of the distant past, yet Zingellawabix remains. As does Rover. Oh, and Spike too, despite Rover's having lost touch with him. He's still around though, but just on the farm. 

Three: A farm in the wilderness - - - - - - - 

   We followed the bulldog Spike through the forest for a short ways, marveling at the beauty around us. This forest was old, very old and the glades were well traveled. I was amazed at the abundant flowers, and how sweet and fresh the air was. I think we were lulled into a semi-somnolent state, moving through this idyllic land so that when we crossed a small ridge what confronted us shocked us to our core. For there, stretched out before us was a long desolate swamp with creatures, ferocious creatures and dinosaurs and slithering snakes and . . . 

   Spike stood beyond that ridge grinning at us while we hid behind the trees. Except Rover that is. He stood staring, as if transfixed, then we watched with amazement as he walked over the ridge and stood beside Spike, easily within the reach of the monsters. 

   “I remember this,” Rover said, gazing at the spectacle with a smile. “It's the Glamoury Wall.” He turned and waved us to follow. “Com'on you guys!” he yelled. “It's perfectly safe, they're just illusions.” 

   “That's right,” Spike agreed, “Illusions. Com'on!” 

   Slowly we emerged, then a little faster when we saw Spike disappear into the vision. When we got to Rover he turned and followed Spike, waving us to follow, which we did, but not without trepidation. These were some fearsome looking beasts and all in a murky swamp as well. But as we followed, the path remained firm as we walked right past the dinosaurs who apparently didn't see us. It was quite bizarre because we didn't actually walk between them, we walked through them. And once through the scene quite quickly changed into a bucolic meadow with a large ancient manor house in the center and a big, well-kept, red barn to the south. 

   “We just passed through the Glamoury Wall!” Rover announced with obvious pride. 

   Spike laughed. “That wall is all illusion put in by the witches in ancient times to keep the unwary from wandering onto the farm.” 

   “It's still going just fine, isn't it?” I asked. “After all these years.” 

   “Yep. Those witches knew their stuff.” 

   We came to a curious passage that might have been a gate once but was now just two pillars on either side of the path which led toward the manor house, passing a lush orchard. 

   “The Golly Orchard,” Spike said as we passed. Soon we were at the manor which seemed deserted. We passed it and turned toward the big red barn. 

   “This here's Holly's Palatial Estate,” Spike told us when we got to the barn. “It's where I live.” 

   Quick as a flash I saw a winged creature zip by, leaving a trail of swirling glitter. 

   “Whoa! What was that?” I asked. 

   “A faerie,” Spike said. “You've got faeries in Elvenstead don't you?” 

   “Well, there used to be, or so they say,” I answered. “I've never seen one and I know a lot of people who don't even believe in them.” 

   “Yeah, well, things sure have changed,” he said without elaborating. 

   In front of the estate were tables and chairs and we were soon sipping tea and enjoying biscuits. I was still wondering what had brought us here so I kept looking for clues and hints. Somehow, I knew it was for more than just the reunion of Spike and Rover, although that was pretty special. I sent for the Rivitir and soon had it parked in the meadow. 

   That night I dreamed of a curious sound. It sounded like a small bell ringing, making an iiinnnggg sound, except it seemed to be zing. There seemed to be a zee sound preceding the ing sound. Very odd. 

Four: Glad Manor - - - - - - - 

   The next day I continued looking for clues about what could have brought us here, but that curious zing dream kept nagging at me. Brak and Jant were exploring around the Golly Orchard and then up around the main gate. I think they wanted to see that Glamoury Wall again. I was exploring around the meadow. I stopped to watch Rover and Spike cavorting in the grass and my gaze locked onto the ancient manor at the top of the hill. I began to walk up the path toward the manor. As I walked Spike and Rover joined me. 

   “What's in the manor?” I asked. “Anybody live there?” 

   “Noooo,” Spike answered, casting a nervous glance at the manor.  

   “So it's totally empty?” I asked. It was a marvelously ancient structure and it still looked sound. 

   “Uh, no,” Spike was uncomfortable. “I mean, there's nothing living there but, well, there's other things.” 

   “Huh?” 

   “There's ghosts up there?” Rover asked, looking at the manor with renewed interest. 

   “I dunno,” Spike answered, shrugging. “It's just that there's sounds sometimes.” 

   “What kind of sounds,” I asked. 

   “I don't know. A whining noise maybe, like spirits might make. Almost like a long bell ring but very scary. I could see a ghost making that sound.” 

   “Wow,” Rover said. “So there's ghosts there?” 

   “I never said that. I said there's strange sounds that could be a ghost but more likely is something quite natural. Yes, quite natural. Still, it is creepy.” 

    “Almost like a bell ring?” I asked. “Sort of an ing sound except maybe with a zee, like zing?” 

   He gave me a worried look. “Yeah. How'd you know that?” 

   “I dreamed it last night, Spike.” 

   He stopped and gave the manor, which was quite close now, a long hard look. 

   “I want to go in there. Is that possible?” I asked.   

   “No one's been in there for hundreds of years,” he said quietly. “maybe more. But I gotta admit, I don't know why. Just no one'd go in there anymore. Aggy and the new witches got a nice place over in Shady Glen, we should go up there so you can meet them.” 

   “Do they run the place?” I asked. 

   “No one runs the farm. It runs itself. Somehow the right person for any needed job just shows up and starts doing it. Aggy showed up when the farm's magic was waning and now, she and the witches do what the farm's witches have always done, and that is maintain the magic. They gather jeewizium and faerie dust and other magical things and use them to power the farm. You saw the Glamoury Wall.” 

   “Very impressive,” I agreed. I looked at the manor, wondering how to proceed. I had a feeling, a knowing in some strange way, that the zing mystery involved something inside this ancient Glad Manor. And it was a mystery that I needed to solve. 

   “I oversee the meadow, you know,” Spike continued, “the elves and faeries that work in it, sort of a community I guess and I, well, I'm the mayor. So to speak.” 

   “So are you the guy I go to to get permission to go in there?” I asked, nodding at the manor. 

   “Well, no, not really. No one's in charge like that, I mean it's all open and anyone who'd want to could go in, at their own risk of course, it's just that no one's wanted to for so long that everyone sort of accepts that there's a reason, a darn good reason I'd say, to stay out.” 

   “Oh, well, that's okay then.” I looked at Rover. “You wanna go in?” 

   Rover looked at the manor with fondness. “It's where I grew up, you know.” I nodded. I did know. “And I've been wanting to come check it out ever since we got here.” He looked at Spike, who seemed noncommittal, then at me, “Let's do it.” 

   I started up the steps. “You coming Spike?” I called back. With a wary acceptance he followed us up the steps. 

Part Five: Trolls in the wicket - - - - - - - 

   On the southwest corner of the farm is a swamp, known as the Swamp of Doom. It is the ancient swamp, along with its denizens, who are portrayed so realistically by the farm's Glamoury Wall. Fortunately, the swamp is unable to keep up with its own image and is today nowhere near the fearsome entity of old. The horrible, vicious creatures have mostly died off, the dinosaurs went extinct, again, and the swamp, while still dank and fetid, grows lots of exotic flowers and has acquired a largely non-toxic fauna. 

   In the middle of the Swamp of Doom is an island, called Silvia's Island, and on that island, in the exact center in fact, sits an ancient castle called Badstone Castle. Curiously, the stones that make up the castle are good, and despite being abandoned and being in that particular location, it has retained its structural integrity. It's a sound castle which, like the swamp in which it sits, is not as horrible as the stories say it once was. There are, nonetheless, lingering energies that can be disconcerting and misdirecting, malevolent energies that are a drain on the spirit. 

   Shortly before the arrival of the Rivitir expedition to Lillow's Farm, the Mad Doctor Snarkey had taken up residence in Badstone Castle. He brought a motley group of workers, mostly dark elves and a few brown weasels, who were industriously building a factory in the great hall of the castle. Dr. Snarkey has developed a new process for making trolls, a process he believed would produce trolls much cheaper than anything Joten could do. Plus, being here in Elvenstead would save a bundle on shipping. Dr. Snarkey laughed his mad scientist laugh as he watched the dark elves put his mad troll factory together. 

   Joten, Dr. Snarkey's only real competition, is considered the troll capitol because it produces the vast majority of new trolls, all fully hate-loaded and ready to mindlessly break things. Joten trolls, made by Grimn-Leapers, are the real thing, sturdy, reliable and easily the standard for troll production everywhere. But, since Joten was such a long ways from Elvenstead, and getting trolls to Elvenstead was so difficult and expensive, Dr. Snarkey believed his new method of troll production would knock Joten out of the water, so to speak. He, the Mad Dr. Snarkey, would be able to supply the Elvenstead underworld with cheap, functional trolls, allowing every hate-filled, greed addled control freak, who could come up with the money, a chance at success. His motto: Today Elvenstead, tomorrow the world! But right now, Dr. Snarkey's troll market conquest relied on cash flow, which totally suited his business partner, a smooth talking money man, so that money was paramount. And, as long as fear prevailed, it was way more important than customer satisfaction, that's for sure.     

   “First, I conquer Elvenstead!” Dr. Snarkey would scream, to no one in particular, “Then the world!” he'd finish, posing triumphantly. Some of the workers would overhear and shivered with foreboding, but the pay was good so they mostly shook it off. The others? Well, the others were just as evil minded as Dr. Snarkey himself. A promising new group of minions. 

   Dr. Snarkey's glib business partner worked in Greater Elvenstead. His nefarious job was to sell the prospect of cheap trolls, even a cheap troll army, to investors, convincing them that they would retain control when the trolls came to trample and destroy, as trolls must do. They would become the new masters, taking over when it became apparent that only they could control the trolls. They alone held sway over the monsters and everyone else was at their mercy. Such power! 

   That glib business partner was none other than Brad Puffup! Alleged billionaire and owner of the tallest building in the world, perhaps the universe. Brad is the well-known arch-criminal and CEO of Bradco Inc. the largest supplier of military hardware in Elvenstead, despite Elvenstead having no military. Instead, Brad made sure that every argument, conflict, petty disagreement or even vague misunderstanding was well armed. Both sides, proudly armed by Bradco Inc. Bullets are flying, thanks to the patriots at Bradco Inc.   

   From his secret underground fortress headquarters, Brad planned to make Bradco the largest company in the world! Brad would crow, whenever possible in front of adoring sycophants, about how big and grand Bradco was going to be, already was, because of his being a stable genius! Posing heroically, with his oddly small hands firmly grasping the reins, Brad was poised to take the world, with Dr. Snarkey as number two, while Dr. Snarkey was poised for the same thing with Brad as number two. Gosh, well I'm sure they'll work that out, meanwhile all they had to do was keep the common people frightened, and what better way than a troll army? After just spreading rumors of an impending troll invasion, Bradco Inc. made record profits selling guns, rockets and ammunition. Imagine if the threat became real. There's a lot of money in fear. 

Part Six: Finding Zing - - - - - - - 

   Meanwhile, back on the farm, Rover, Spike and I were in the main hall of the ancient Glad Manor. There is a simple 'keep out' spell surrounding the manor, fairly easy to push through if you recognized it, which an uneasy Spike did, but otherwise quite adequate to keep most out. The windows were dusty but allowed enough light to see by. I could hear a zing sound, but very faint. 

   “Do you guys hear that?” I asked. 

   “What?” Rover answered. He cocked his head. “I don't hear anything.” 

   “It's sort of a ringing sound, but real low,” I told him, “I can barely hear it, but I'm sure it's there. Can you hear it?” 

   Rover shook his head and Spike looked blank. “I don't hear it,” Rover added, looking oddly at me. “Could it be tinnitus? “ 

   “I don't think so Rover. I've only heard it here on the farm and it gets stronger in this manor, but it's still pretty faint.” 

   “I can't hear it,” Spike said quietly. 

   But I could. I noticed that it seemed to grow louder as I approached the stairway to the next floor. 

   “Com'on you guys,” I said, looking back at them. “I think there's something here that's trying to call me, sending me this ringing noise, almost a song, urging me forward, making that long buzzing zing sound that apparently only I can hear.” I began up the stairs. “Whatever it is, it's real and it wants to be found.” I felt the intensity increase. “It needs to be found,” I amended.          

  When we got to the top there was a hallway with open doors on both sides except for the very first one. This door was closed. It was somehow grander than the others and I felt the song grow stronger. I knew that the sender of the zing music was behind this door. 

   I reached over and grabbed the doorknob but it wouldn't budge. I pushed on the door but it was like a wall of granite. I could hear the zing song louder now, more insistent. I stopped, unsure how to proceed. 

   “There's a spell on that door that prevents people going in,” a strange voice behind me spoke. “Who are you and why are you . . . Spike, what are you doing here?” 

   “Oh, uh, hi Aggy,” Spike answered, sheepishly. “This here's Rover and that's Rosy at the door. She hears some sort of zing sound and she thinks it's behind that door.” 

   Aggy. Gosh, Spike had mentioned her, the head witch, I believe. I turned and looked at her. She was a pretty standard witch, with the pointed hat and holding a broom. Her hair was bone-white and her dress was a vibrant purple. 

   “You can hear the zing song?” she asked, watching me closely. 

   “Yeah. It's pretty loud here and I think it's coming from somewhere behind that door.” 

   “It's calling,” she murmured, mysteriously. She studied my face for a long moment, looking deep into my eyes with an almost hypnotic intensity, then she came over and stood in front of the door. Slowly waving her arms, she chanted something unintelligible. Then she spun around three times and when she stopped, she stepped back and the door swung open. 

   I gaped in amazement, but nobody said anything. They all stood watching me. I turned and entered the room. As soon as I was inside the zing song became faint again and I heard a voice in my head. 

   {Ah, at last you have come. I am Zingellawabix, the wand of power, and you are Rosy, the chosen one, the only one able to direct my power in the coming work that must be done. You will find me in a long wooden case under the Goddess altar.}  

   There was an altar to the Dawn Robin Redbreast, a goddess I knew was worshiped by the fauna in most the rural areas of Elvenstead, which occupied most of the facing wall. I walked over and without knowing why, I bowed. I held my head low for a moment, saying a silent prayer of gratitude. I wondered what the 'chosen one' was all about but intuitively it felt right. I opened the drawer under the altar and inside was a long, ornately carved box that seemed to sparkle with magical energy. Reverently I reached down and picked it up. Now the zing song was strong, mesmerizing, full of power. A power I could not comprehend yet somehow, I sensed that it contained the universe. I brought the box into the other room where everyone stood, wide eyed, staring. 

   “Rover, would you clean that table off?” I asked, nodding at a nearby table. He rushed over and with Spike and Aggy's help removed the accumulated debris and did their best at wiping the dust off. 

   “Thank you, guys,” I murmured as I set the box down. I could tell it was old, really old. The carvings and designs were exquisite. It's song was powerful yet sweet, almost like a purr. I unhooked the hasps on either side and opened the case. I was immediately overwhelmed with waves of love and a joy that was eager to get to work. I wondered what work needed doing? 

   {I am Zingellawabix,} the voice intoned in my head. {I am he that binds, I am he that reduces, I am he that calls on the waters, I am he that freezes, I am he that burns, I am he that cloaks from sight, I am Zingellawabix, the mighty Wand of power. 

Zzziiiinnngggg zithra! Zzziiinnnggg zithra! Zingellawabix zithra! Zithra!} 

   “Gosh, well hello. I'm Rosy . . .” I began. 

   “Who're are you talking to?” Rover asked. 

   “Uh, the wand. It's, er, he's the wand we're looking at.” 

   “It talks to you?” Rover asked with wide eyes. 

   “Yeah. At least I think so. I hear this voice and I think it's the wand. Zingella-something, he said his name was.” 

   {Zingellawabix.} 

   “Zingellawabix,” I repeated. “He's a wand of power and yeah, I'm pretty sure now, it is the wand speaking to me.” 

   “Just like with Lillow,” Spike murmured. 

   “I know little of this wand,” Aggy said, staring at it. “Just that we were tasked with keeping this room sealed until the time was right. Which appears to be now.” 

   “Oh, hello!” I said, turning and smiling at her. “So you're the Aggy Spike told me about? I don't think we've met properly.” 

   “Huh? Oh my gosh, I'm sorry,” Spike sputtered. “Uh, Aggy, I'd like you to meet a couple of our guests, Rosy Rivitir and Rover.” He looked at us, “This is Aggy, the head witch.” 

Seven: Getting to know you - - - - - - - 

   I was thrilled to meet Aggy, the head witch, especially in light of this powerful and mysterious wand that has apparently called me for some sort of work. Magical work it would seem. After the pleased to meet yous were over I asked, “So what can you tell me about Zingellawabix? I'm totally new at this sort of thing. I mean, I really don't know anything about magic.” 

   “Well, it isn't much, I'm afraid. We all, that's the other witches, Tenner, Nells and Gretta, well, we all knew about the stories, me especially since Lillow was my great-great Grandmother, but I never heard much about Zingellawabix. I knew Lillow used it to bind Dredung, the Well of Evil, that had manifested as the Grand Final of the Grimn-Leapers. Have you heard the tale?” 

   “Yeah, it's one of the more popular ones,” I answered. 

   “So you know, Lillow and Treywiz, wielding Zingellawabix, bound and shrank Dredung to the size of a pea.” 

   {It was much smaller than that.} 

   “Zingellawabix says it was much smaller than a pea,” I told her. 

   She regarded me with wide eyes. “After I don't know much else. None of the old stories that I know of tell what became of Zingellawabix. I did know that a dragon carved the case down in Mish which is where Lillow traveled to get the wand.” She looked at the box. “You gonna pick it up?” 

   I was trying to remember the old stories and looked back at the wand with a start. “Oh,” I said, in a small squeak. Then, deepening my voice and speaking with assumed confidence, I continued, “Uh-huh, well yes, yes, of course, I mean it, er, he did call me, and well, yes, yes, I'm going to pick him up.” I continued to stare at the wand. Nobody said a word as I walked slowly over and stood in front of the case, looking at the wand. 

   Uh, Zingellawabix? I thought, directing it at the wand. 

   {Yes, Rosy? Oh, and you don't have to yell. I may be ancient but I can still hear. Whenever you think of me, I will hear.}   

   Oh, sorry I thought, without directing it at anything. I uh, well I want to pick you up. Is that okay? 

   {Of course! I have been waiting. It is necessary.} 

   I reached down slowly and grabbed the wand in both hands. I felt an immediate wave of love and a deep, thrumming sense of almost bottomless power. I lifted it up and held it high in my right hand. There was a glow and all watching gazed with open mouthed awe, including me, as the area was lit up, like daylight, at the sight of him. He began to sing. 

   {Zzziiinnnggg, zzziiinnnggg zithra! Zithra! Zzzzziiiiinnnnnngggggellawabix zithra! Zithra!} 

   The song was somehow of huge power instilled with a deep and abiding love for me and my kind that left me teary eyed. I lowered him and held him in front of me. Zingellawabix, I thought quietly. I am thrilled, somehow just thrilled to my core, filled with excitement and trepidation at the same time. I feel like I've known you for much longer than . . . 

   {You have. There are many mysterious things of which I can only glimpse meanings. We are connected and have been for eternity, which is outside of time.}     

   Oh, I thought. I had no idea what to think of that. 

   After a few moments, I thought, Zingellawabix, may I ask . . . 

   {You may ask anything, bearer.} 

   Oh, okay, thank you. So I was wondering about the work you mentioned? You know, when we first met, you said something about some work that needed doing? 

   {Yes, just so. We will talk of this when the time is right. Now I must return to my case. You will find a backpack carrying case in the back of the drawer where I was at. Bring it and use it to carry me on your back.} 

   I put him back in his box, but he continued to purr, even after I closed the lid. When I snapped the hasps, he fell silent. 

   “He says there's a carrying case in the back of the drawer where he was at,” I said. 

   “Onnit!” Rover barked and soon he returned with a finely wrought case that held the box as if it was made for it. 

   {It was.} 

   I hoisted the pack onto my back and was surprised at how well it fit, how comfortable it was. 

   “Wow, this is intense. Zingellawabix says the case was made to hold the box. It's very comfortable.” 

   Aggy looked at me and nodded, smiling. “Looks like it was made for you,” she said. After a brief pause, she asked, “So, what now? What does Zingellawabix want?” 

   “I don't know. Just get to know him, I guess. He spoke of some work that needed doing but he didn't say what.” 

Eight: Connections - - - - - - - 

   I have found Zingellawabix in the ancient manor. Aggy, Rover and Spike are with me and we are preparing to leave. 

   “Well, shall we head out?” Aggy asked. It was dark and dusty in there and we seemed done with our business. 

   Yeah, I'm done, “ I said starting for the door. 

   “I wanna look around some more, now that all the magic stuff is done,” Rover said. 

   “The magic never stops, Rover,” Spike said with a chuckle. He looked at me and Aggy, now by the door. “Imma stay here with Rover. We'll see you guys later, huh?” 

   “Yeah, okay,” I said. “You two be careful. There's some very curious things here, you know?”  

   “That's for sure,” Spike said as Rover began walking down the hallway. He winked at me then turned and followed after Rover. I could hear him telling Rover as they walked away. “Remember how we used to howl? Yeah? Well that howling wall is still . . .”  

   “That cheeky dog winked at me,” I said, laughing. 

   “That sounds like Spike, alright,” Aggy said with a big grin. “He tell ya he's in charge?” 

   “Said he was the mayor . . .” 

   Aggy snorted. “Mayor! Hoowee, wait'll the girls hear about this. You gotta love that old dog.” I smiled, not sure what to say. “He's a good guy, mind you,” she continued, “keeps the meadow in order and all that. Been here forever, you know. They say he's immortal, that he was here in Lillow's time, but I don't know. He keeps all that to himself. Anyway, the truth is no one's in charge here, not even me and the witches.” 

   “Yeah, Spike mentioned that too. He was a little vague about being the mayor though.” 

   Aggy and I went to the meadow where I showed her the AV Rivitir and introduced her to Jant, who was the only one there. I told Jant about everything that had happened and asked where a safe place might be keep Zingellawbix.          

   {You must put me where I am easily reached with my box opened. Fear no thievery for none can succeed. I am the guardian. I can contact you anywhere if need arises.}   

   Gosh, okay. “So I guess I'm not hiding him after all,” I told them. “Zingellawabix just said to put him anywhere, but with his box open. He says no one can succeed at stealing him, whatever that means. Sounds like he wants to keep an eye on things.” 

   Aggy looked at him when I opened the box and set it on the mantle. The Rivitir, quite naturally, has a fireplace. 

   “I wonder what's happening that brought you here and awakened Zingellawbix?” she asked. I could only shrug as I had no idea. She looked worried. “I mean he's some heavy weaponry, you know? Like a huge magical bomb if he gets set off.” This sobered us and we looked at her with wide eyes. 

   “He gonna be okay on the mantle like that?” Jant asked. 

   Aggy and I both shrugged. “He says so,” I answered, “but I guess time will tell.” I felt odd, like I was doubting a friend's abilities, but it was how I felt. 

   “I needa be going,” Aggy announced. “You guys gotta come up and meet the other witches. We can have dinner, huh? How about tonight? Bring your gang and Spike too, we'd love to have you.” She looked at me expectantly. 

   “Well, I can't speak for the others, and Jant is on duty and stays with the Rivitir . . .” 

   “Imma home body!” Jant said with a smile. 

   “but sure, I'd love to come, and, if it's alright with you, maybe Brak, Rover and Spike will come too. Who knows?” 

   “Absolutely! We'd love to see you and whoever else tags along.” With that she was gone, her broom carrying her swiftly away. 

Nine: The work - - - - - - - 

   That night Rover, Spike and I went up to Witchhaven, which is in Shady Glen, a small elf village, where the witches oversee the farm's magic. Spike told me most the elves living there could see Jeewizium and knew how to handle it so they worked easily with the witches, keeping the farm's magic strong. I noticed several faeries flitting about as well. There seemed many more here, for some reason. 

   In the main hall at Witchhaven we met Tenner, whose actual name was Hortense Riviter. We were both Rivitirs, except she spelled it differently, er instead of ir. 

   “We're likely cousins,” she joked. Anyway I think she was joking. 

   Then there was Nells, or Nelly. She told us she'd answer to either, didn't matter. Her full name is Magnella Mercy, and she laughed uproariously when she told us. Gretta's full name is Lagretta Moran and Aggy's is Abigail Gladstar. The legendary Lillow's great-great Granddaughter. They were all descended from the farm's witches of Lillow's time and I felt like I was in the presence of royalty. But later at dinner quite a few elves joined us, and there was no deference shown. You could tell they were all fully equal, joking and calling each other by name. I guess Spike is right, there are no bosses on Lillow's Farm. 

   It was at this jovial dinner that the reason for Zingellawabix's awakening and his calling me became apparent.       

   “Trolls! Trolls are coming, get your guns! We got guns, people, come and gettem, 'cause trolls are coming!” a loud voice in the Shady Glen town square was yelling. The square, not far from Witchhaven, was lit up with lights of various colors and the red ones were flashing. The elf that was screaming the warning was pushing a cart loaded with an array of weapons. “Get yer guns! Trolls coming!” he yelled. Furtive elves could be seen dashing up and soon after leaving with a gun or guns. 

   Aggy, Tenner, Spike, Rover and I went down to investigate. “You!” Aggy yelled as we arrived, “What do you mean trolls are coming?” 

   He gave her a startled look. “It's what I heard,” he sputtered. 

    “Oh yeah! And another thing,” Aggy continued, “people around here don't use these projectile weapons. They're too dangerous, someone could get hurt.” 

   “They's gonna need 'em when the trolls come,” the elf sneered. 

   “What makes you think trolls are coming?” Tenner asked. 

   “I just know, that's all.” 

   “Yeah?” Aggy asked, giving him a long, cold look. He seemed discomfited and backed up. 

   “I got me sources. Can't reveal me sources, can I?”  

   Tenner had moved behind him as he faced Aggy. “Yes. You. Can.” Aggy hissed, stressing each word. He jumped and spun around. 

   “I can't!” He screeched. He seemed to be getting desperate, looking back and forth. He had an angry witch in front, another behind, me and Rover on one side and Spike on the other. We were all growling and casting dark, energy draining stares. He started to scream, “Aaaahhh!” Then he stopped. “Okay. Okay, listen. I can't say no names but you might want to look at that swamp. That's all I'm gonna say.” With that he darted past me and Rover and disappeared into the surrounding darkness, leaving his gun cart behind. 

   “What swamp?” I asked. 

   Aggy and Tenner exchanged a worried look. “The Swamp of Doom,” Aggy said grimly. 

   “Wow. That sounds bad,” I said. “Where's that at?”    

   “South of us, maybe half a klick or so, depending on, well, I dunno,” Tenner answered. “Sometimes it's more, sometimes it's less, no way to be sure. But usually around half a klick or so.” I was silent. How could the distance change? I wondered. 

   “That swamp has been quiet for years,” Aggy said, with a scowl. “Just too quiet, I guess.” She looked at Tenner, “Looks like we needa go take a look.” 

   “Yeah,” Tenner said, but she was already running to get her broom. 

   Aggy looked at us, “Sorry guys, we gotta run. Nells and Gretta are up at Witchhaven for a while longer so . . .” 

   “Thanks, Aggy,” I answered, “but I got a feeling we should be getting back ourselves.” 

   {Yes, things are quiet for now, yet there is a disquiet that seeps in. Something is amiss, but as yet I cannot tell what. It is time to return.} 

   “I just got a call from Zingellawabix!” I told Rover and Spike. “We needa get back, soon.” I turned to tell Aggy but she was already gone. “Com'on you guys,” I yelled as I took off running down the path, Rover and Spike close behind. 

Ten: Trolls - - - - - - - 

   Things were still calm when we got back but I put the crew on full alert. Spike did the same thing in the meadow and we dug in, waiting for the report from the witches. We weren't long in waiting. Tenner and Gretta arrived quickly with the first reports. Tenner began as soon as they were off their brooms. 

   “There's a troll factory in Badstone Castle!” Tenner exclaimed. “Somehow, without us noticing, someone built a troll factory in Badstone Castle!” 

   “Wow, that sounds bad,” I said. 

   I've had very little experience with trolls. Most people avoid them and Greater Elvenstead has banned them. As soon as one is caught it is deported to Joten, the troll kingdom where the Grimn-Leapers have several troll factories. All modern trolls are made in Joten so discovering a troll factory in the hinterlands of Elvenstead is terrifying.  

   “It is bad!” Gretta agreed. “More than bad. There's already a sizable force of trolls, milling about the castle grounds, ready to be deployed.” 

   “So, is this in the swamp, the uh Swamp of Doom, was it, that the gun dealer mentioned?” I asked. 

   “Yes, the Swamp of Doom. Badstone Castle sits on Silvia's Island smack dab in the middle,” Tenner told me, nodding grimly. 

   “Wow!” I said, “So, whoever the fiendish perpetrator is won't want to keep them there long.” 

   “Yeah, that's what Aggy said,” Tenner murmured with a worried look. 

   “So, we're going the fortify Witchhaven, and Spike, you better fortify the meadow,” Gretta told us.           

   “Onnit,” Spike barked. He took off running back to the meadow. 

   “What do you mean by, 'fortify'?” I asked. 

    “It means getting as many defenders as you can, armed with whatever weaponry you have.” 

   “I guess it's good in a sad sort of way that Bradco got so many guns distributed around here,” Tenner noted wryly. “Although I don't know how effective conventional weaponry will be against trolls.” 

   “Well, I've got Zingellawabix,” I said. “One of his powers is binding.” 

   “That's how they do it in Greater Elvenstead,” Rover put in, “whenever a troll is caught there, they use a binding spell to hold it for deporting.” 

   “I'll tell Aggy,” Tenner said, “but I'm pretty sure we already have that spell. Thing is we have one of our own that we like better.” 

   “How many trolls does it bind?” I asked. 

   “Ours is four, maybe five. Up in Greater Elvenstead it's probably about three. But binding magic tends to come undone if there's too many and a lot of resistance. Ours just lasts longer.”  

   I nodded. I wondered how many Zingellawabix could bind. Dredung, the Well of Evil must be equal to a lot of trolls. Rover and I ran back to the meadow, warning everyone we encountered about the trolls. Many asked if we had guns to sell. 

Eleven: Rumors of war - - - - - - - 

   The trolls marched out that next morning, but they seemed to get bogged down in the swamp. We were surprised, watching them advance as so many of these brutish beasts got stuck in what was no longer a terribly malignant swamp. But they were floundering, waving their arms frantically as they toppled over into the murk. The ones that got through seemed dispirited and confused. 

   “These are not Joten trolls,” Aggy observed, as we watched a couple bound trolls being carted to the troll deportation center. “They are unfocused and poorly coordinated. I almost feel sorry for them, I mean they won't survive long in Joten's harsh environment. I wonder who made them?” 

   “We're getting reports of some sort of mad doctor, Captain, hiring a bunch of dark elves out of Elvenstead's lower south side,” Jant told us. She's been getting all the news from Greater Elvenstead and keeping me informed. “Sounds a little like the Mad Doctor Snarkey, if you ask me,” she opined. “Also there's reports that the nefarious Brad Puffup has been selling interests in a troll army . . .” 

   “Sounds like he's profiting from fear and greed,” I interrupted. “He gets greedy investors to build the troll army which scares the people who then buy his guns. That's a darn nefarious scheme,” I said, angrily. 

   “I know what you're going to ask,” Jant said. “And yes, Brad Puffup has disappeared. According to Bradco's press releases he's been abducted by a band of orcs.”   

   “Hmmm,” I thought. “I'll bet Brad's leading a band of orcs, not being abducted by them and I'll bet they're headed south right now, headed toward us, to assist the troll's invasion that seems to be floundering.”   

   “This is not good news,” Aggy observed. “So now we gotta face orcs? Darn. Well, at least the trolls have been incompetent so far. I better get back to Witchhaven.” Aggy had been going back and forth between Witchhaven and the meadow to coordinate our efforts. Orcs were another thing I didn't have experience with. 

   After she left, we could only wait to see what transpired. “I think the guns might work better on orcs,” Rover stated. “I mean, they aren't much good against trolls who are just brainless machines really, tools of their master.” 

   “But orcs are really bad, nasty people who just weren't quite ambitious enough to become Grimn-Leapers,” Spike told us. 

   “Which means, as I understand it,” Rover continued, “that orcs aren't surrounded by magical shields the way the Grimn-Leapers are.” 

   “Is all this true?” I asked. 

   “Near as I can tell, from what I've learned over the years,” Spike answered. 

   “From what I've heard too,” Rover agreed. 

   “So orcs are creatures of raw anger who use whatever they can get their hands on to attack and destroy, while trolls are creatures of mindless hate, that just lumber along, breaking everything they encounter indiscriminately,” I said, trying to sum it up.        

   “Yeah, except it's not that simple,” Spike began. 

   “It never is,” I sighed. “But can they be stopped by bullets?” I asked. 

   “Well, yeah, more'n likely,” Spike answered, without conviction. “Trolls just sort of absorb bullets and spears until they collapse from lack of fluids, while orcs are probably stopped cold, like any normal elf would be.” 

   “Well, I hope you're right,” I said, “'cause there's lots of bullets here waiting for them.” 

   Just then there was a commotion outside. We hurried out to hear an elf telling the people of the meadow that an orc army was coming toward them from the north. 

   “Our scouts claim the nefarious Brad Puffup is leading them.” There were boos and hisses at the sound of Brad's name. What a dastardly villain. “Curiously,” the elf continued, “the trolls that have made it out of the swamp are amassing to the north of us as well, having in their dazed and confused state, circumvented the farm entirely to avoid the Glamoury Wall. Apparently, it totally fooled them. They now are north and appear to be facing north.” The people were perplexed at this but managed a few cheers. 

   “Sounds like they got confused and forgot about the farm,” I suggested.  

   “That could be,” Rover agreed. 

   “We want to do some fly-overs, to check things out,” Brak told us. Jant was with him and they both held brooms. 

   “That's a good plan, especially for professional heroes like you two,” I answered. “Just be careful, huh?” They nodded agreement and with a thumbs up they were off. 

   I'd heard nothing from Zingellawabix and I wondered at that. 

   {Don't worry Rosy. The trolls are poorly made and I sense no immediate threat. Nonetheless, remain vigilant, things could change quickly.} 

   I felt a lot of relief at hearing that voice and getting that message. Thank you Zingellawabix, I thought gently. 

Twelve: War - - - - - - - 

   Just then Jant returned. “You won't believe this!” she exclaimed after landing her broom. “The trolls are fighting the orcs! And Brad Puffup is leading the orcs! He took off somewhere, hiding no doubt, because those trolls, even as messed up as they are, are giving the orcs a beating, last I saw. Brak is still there, watching.” 

   “That's amazing,” I said, happily stunned. “I never imagined this outcome.” 

   “We shouldn't assume that we're safe yet,” Spike cautioned. We all agreed and resumed our vigil. When we were quiet, we thought we could hear the sounds of the distant conflict, the shouted curses, the clack of swords, faintly, a long way off. Then somehow, they seemed closer. 

   Suddenly Brak appeared, landing his broom hurriedly. “Quick, get ready!” he shouted. “The trolls have defeated the orcs and have turned around. They are now headed this way!” We could hear the approaching brutes, lumbering through anything in their path. “They're battle-hardened berserkers!” Brak yelled, looking frantically around for weapons. 

   {It is time Rosy. Please hold me aloft that I may observe their approach.} 

   I carried Zingellawabix out of the Rivitir and into the meadow where I held him high while facing north. The sounds of the trolls approach were getting louder and I was shocked to see orcs coming from the side, led by Brad Puffup! Then the troll army appeared and I gasped because the mad Doctor Snarkey was at their head. I felt a moment of genuine fear, with a troll army in front and orcs to the side. Suddenly I felt a curious vibration in my arm and I could hear his song, quite loudly. 

   {Zzzziiiinnnngggg zziiiinnnngggg Zingellawabix zithra! Zithra! ZITHRA!} 

   With that last zithra the trolls stopped and began tightening their otherwise loose formation with the outliers joining in, squeezing in, all of them in and getting tighter and tighter until they all just froze in place like a giant ball of trolls, casting mystified glances all around but seemingly unable to move. The same thing happened to the orcs which I could now see had been attacking from both sides. Now there sat a mystified ball of orcs on either side. The Mad Doctor Snarkey and Brad Puffup were similarly bound, stuck together, glaring and screaming at each other. A smaller ball of brown weasels and dark elves sat in front of them, hissing and barking.  

   Thank you Zingellawabix! That was amazing! I thought, trying not to think right at him. 

   {It was my pleasure, Rosy. These are despicable beings that I've bound here. You would be wise to transport these two leaders and their weasels and dark elves to the Elvenstead constabulary to face justice. As to the trolls, I'm sure that the Mad Doctor Snarkey's machines can undo the troll process by sending them through in reverse. They are poor quality, but the innocent creatures who emerge should be alright. As to the orcs, they are merely Grimn-Leapers without the black magic and as such are profoundly evil. All you can do is deport them to Joten, from whence they sprang.} 

   Yes Zingellawabix, this is surely how it must be. Thank you again. I . . . I was feeling odd and stopped. 

   {I love you too Rosy. It is I why we work effectively together but as to how? Well, that appears to be another thing that is beyond my ken, for now.} 

   Rover's friends, Detective Inspector Gee and Sergeant Goat, came down from Elvenstead in a special police waggal to take Snarkey, Puffup and the weasels back to face hideous charges. Rover says he worked with DI Gee and Sgt. Goat once, but I had trouble seeing Rover as a police dog, even after the Inspector confirmed it. What an astonishing life Rover has had. And a very long one at that, so that I was becoming a little more accepting that he might actually be immortal, or at least really, really, really old, which is even more curious in that he acts like a young dog, even a puppy at times. 

   We had a celebration at Witchhaven which still makes me dizzy. What lovely people reside on this farm. Spike, who I actually do think is immortal, has resumed his mayoral duties while the witches keep the farm's magic strong. When all the trolls were cured, we dismantled the factory and the witches vowed to keep a closer eye on the swamp. Then we were ready to leave, with a new crew member, the wand Zingellawabix, our guardian. I saw Rover getting teary eyed and asked if he really wanted to go. He gave me a solemn look. 

   “I never want to go when it's time, Captain. I truly love everyone I spend time with, which is sort of a dog thing, I guess, but when it's time to move on, it's time.” He turned and headed toward the Rivitir. “If you're ready Captain, I've already charted a course.” 

   I smiled, knowing we'd soon be lost again, and followed him in.

On Glodrot Island - By Rosy 

   One fine day, while standing on the shore of the great lake, Latawata, admiring the view, I was struck by a powerful gust of wind, probably around a hundred kilometers per hour or more, that carried me for quite a while before I was deposited, all willy-nilly, on the forbidden Glodrot Island, believed to be home to the scary Red Tings, a lost tribe of monkeys. 

   When I came to my senses, I looked around with trepidation. We've all heard the stories, usually late at night and better if the moon is full or there's a thunderstorm, about the Red Tings, the famous lost monkeys of Glodrot Island, and now here I was, in person, on Glodrot Island. The forbidden Glodrot Island, if memory serves. I wondered if the wind might possibly carry me back to the shore but the air was now suspiciously still. 

   I was becoming quite worried, thinking about how I was stranded on the forbidden Glodrot Island with fearsome Red Tings ready to pounce, so I began looking for hiding places. The rocky beach I was standing on offered nothing beyond the size of a pebble. Immediately inland were scrubby bushes and a low berm, then some rolling dunes with long grasses growing from them. Not too much further was impenetrable jungle. I walked toward the jungle.      

   When I got to the jungle, I stopped, for it appeared to be a solid green wall. You couldn't see a centimeter into it. As I reached up to touch it, I heard a creaking sound, then saw a rectangle shaped panel, like a door of solid green, opening outward near to where I stood, staring transfixed. A furry red head, with bright blue eyes, slowly emerged and upon seeing me screamed and ducked back inside, promptly slamming the door shut. I scratched my head. This didn't jibe with the stories I'd heard at all, not even a little. 

   Feeling a spurt of anger over the discrepancy I walked over and knocked on where I thought the door was. 

   From behind the wall a voice could be heard, “There's no one home! Go away!” 

   “Hey!” I yelled, “Look! I got blown here by a sudden gust of wind and now I'm stranded. I sure didn't want to come here.” There was silence. I knocked some more but still, just silence so I sat down, leaning my back against the door, pretty sure. 

   I sat for quite a while, then I must have dozed because I was awakened by the door pushing my back. It stopped, then started again, more insistent, pushing stronger. I stood and moved out of the way and it flew open. I got near, staying close to the wall, as a furry red head appeared with blue eyes that went round at seeing me and screamed, pulling the door shut, except this time I had my foot in it. The creature ran off, screaming the entire way, as I cautiously opened the door wider and stepped through.     

   Inside was a nicely paved highway with two lanes and a white line down the middle. I could see the creature bounding down the highway and screaming. Leaning against the green wall on this side was a curious bicycle. It was decidedly built for someone of a much different body shape than mine but I managed to get on it and pedal well enough to travel. Soon, growing accustomed to the bicycle's peculiarities, I was fairly flying down the road. 

   There were nicely tended farms on either side but never any sign of anybody tending them. In fact, the entire place seemed deserted. I came to a forest, not a jungle, and the road continued through, until I came to a town, only it seemed deserted too. I stopped to look around, see if I could figure out what was going on. 

   “Hello!” I called out, “Anybody home?” 

   “No, no one home,” a voice somewhere behind me answered. 

   A closer voice continued. “No one at all, so you might as well leave. Perhaps someone will be home tomorrow or more likely next month or could be never, could be never gonna be anyone home again ever. Could be.” 

   Another voice whispered loudly, “Hush Agar! You chatter too much.” Then with more volume, “It is true. We are not home. None of us , so go ahead and leave. Return to your own empty home. Nothing to see here.” 

The voices were coming from behind a door of the house in front of me, so I strode up the walk and rapped on the door. Silence. I reached over, twisted the knob and pushed the door open. There stood a terrified furry creature, bright red with blue eyes, staring at me and screaming. There were many more in the room beyond. All round eyed and screaming. 

   “Quiet!” I yelled. “I won't hurt you.” 

   The creatures stopped screaming and the one at the door looked suspiciously at me and asked, “You won't?” 

   “No! Why should I? I'm stranded and scared. I'm worried that the monstrous Red . . .” I stopped speaking and looked closer at the creature. It was furry and bright red. Hmmm. It could, in fact, it very well could, be a monkey. I realized in a flash that I was face to face with a Red Ting. And it was afraid of me. 

   “Are you a Red Ting?” I asked. 

   “Harumph!” it snorted. “Red Ting, I dunno this. We're the legendary Umpalumpa Monkeys.” 

   I'd never heard of them.  “I, uh, well, uh,” I sputtered. 

   “Yes, me too,” it said, looking oddly at me. There was a long moment of silence. “We're afraid of each other, aren't we?” it finally asked.  

   “That would seem to be the case,” I answered, feeling foolish. 

   “Why is that?” it asked, becoming less tense. All the monkeys in the room behind calmed down and resumed their normal monkey lives. Suddenly the street behind me was crowded with traffic, horns were honking and monkeys were scurrying to and fro. 

   “Because of what I've heard,” I told it. “We heard that the Red Ting's, that you, were a lost race of monkeys on the forbidden, you can see how that sounds, can't you? The forbidden Glodrot Island, the very island on which we stand!” It looked at me oddly. 

   “That's exactly what we heard about you,” he stated with a scowl. “That you lived on the forbidden Glodrot Island and that you were a tribe of lost elves called Green Tings.” I was getting suspicious, and angry. 

    “So you call us Green Tings?” I asked. That name sounded rude. 

   He looked sternly at me, “You call us Red Tings?” 

   I think we were on the verge of smacking each other when suddenly a strong gust of wind, probably a hundred kilometers per hour or more, hit me and carried me for quite a ways then dropped me all willy-nilly on a rocky beach. When I came to my senses, I realized I was back on the beach where I started, on the exact spot in fact, looking out over the beautiful lake Latawata with the mysterious forbidden Glodrot Island a mere dot in the far distance.   

Endless Deserts - By Rosy 

   We were cruising above the clouds on a cloudy day which meant we couldn't see Mother Earth at all. Just a curiously uniform and seemingly endless, fluffy white floor with shocking blue skies above. We were going slow, enjoying the sunshine despite it being freezing cold outside. Nobody was going to roll down any windows, after all, well, except maybe Rover. I keep my eye on him. 

   I'm Captain Rosy Riviter and my craft is the spacious All-Vehicle Rivitir, named after my dad. The aforementioned Rover is our navigator, a hound dog under whose direction we always seem to arrive at someplace unexpected yet someplace where we're needed, for some odd thing or another. Usually. 

   Brak is our able pilot, brave and reliable and his partner Jant is our communications specialist. What we used to call a radio operator, but with all this new gadgetry combined with the Rivitir's innate magical abilities, well, the nomenclature had to keep apace, I guess. I have been toying with the title Queen Captain myself. I'd be QC Rivitir instead of Capt. Rivitir. Hmmm. 

   Well, I might have been daydreaming when an alien flying saucer, commonly known as a UFO, pulled up right beside us, because when I glanced out my window and saw an alien a couple meters away grinning back at me I, well, I jumped a meter in the air, bumping my head on the ceiling. I looked at Rover and he was rubbing his head, as were Brak and Jant, and all were wearing the mystified expression of someone rudely awakened. 

   “Jant!” I barked professionally, “Get on the radio and see what they want.” 

   “Onnit!” she snapped and started turning dials and pulling knobs on her console.     

   “Rover! Do not roll that window down,” I commanded forcefully. 

   “Onnit!” he snapped, reaching over and rolling the window down. An icy blast, roaring loudly, filled the bridge. 

   “Do NOT Rover, I repeat, do NOT roll that window down!” 

   “It's already down, Captain,” he informed me, his ears flapping in the icy wind. 

   “Roll it up! Now!” I screamed, maintaining my professional demeanor in the face of outrageous fortune. 

   “They want to place an order, Captain,” Jant yelled over the wind. 

   I yelled, “WHAT?” at the exact same moment that Rover finished rolling the window up, instantly returning the bridge to its normal quiet hum and making my shout five times louder than necessary. Everyone looked at me with round eyes. 

   Putting my smart looking captain's hat back on, I repeated. “What? What did they,” I nodded toward the aliens, “want?”  

   “Uh-huh, uh-huh,” Jant was saying into the microphone, listening with her headphones. Then she looked at me, “They want to know if the crazy lady with the weird hat is the manager.” She stopped and listened for a moment, then asked, “Oh, and they want to know if we have those fried potato sticks, called fries or something?”   

   “Jant,” I asked calmly, “have we ever had fries?” I had a bad feeling about the Rivitir's current appearance. 

   Jant looked at me blankly for a moment, then said, “Well, I think we did last Thursday, wasn't it Rover?” 

   Rover was smiling at the aliens and looked back at us. “What?” he asked. 

   “Tell the aliens we're closed,” I told Jant. “Brak,” I continued, “take us down here please. Find a nice spot and land, and Rover, figure out where we're at.” 

   I went to my room and stared blankly out the window.  

   When we landed, I returned to the bridge. Outside I could see desert, endless sand dunes and sagebrush with an occasional cactus or scrub brush here and there. In the far, far distance there appeared to be purple shadowed mountain silhouettes barely poking above the horizon, under dark clouds and showing occasional flashes of lightning. A buzzard landed outside and stared at me through the window. 

   “Uh, Rover, where're we at?” 

   He looked out the window. “Endless Desert, ma'am,” he replied, somewhat wistfully. 

   “Uh-huh,” I said, “but what's it called?”  

   “Endless Desert,” he replied, with a worried look. 

   “Its name is Endless Desert?” I asked incredulously. 

   “Yes, ma'am. I mean, just look at it.” I looked at it. We all looked at it. 

   “It does have an endless aspect to it,” I mused. The light was odd because of the cloud cover. It was odd that it was totally overcast. I always thought deserts should have a scorching sun and blue skies. 

   Just then there was a tapping at our door and Jant opened it. The buzzard that had been staring at me now stood outside our door. 

   “What are you doing?” he demanded. 

   “Huh?” Jant said, then she pointed at me. “Ask her, she's in charge.” 

   “We're looking at stuff,” I said. “You know, like explorers.” 

   “You're tourists?” he asked, with a sneer. “Tourists with burgers? 

   “Well, yeah, I guess you could put it that way,” I replied with a frown. How odd. “Why do you want to know?” 

   “You're on my land,” he answered. 

   “Oh. I didn't see any signs or markers or anything. I mean, how were we supposed to know?” I said with a shrug. 

   “Ignorance of the law is nine tenths of owning it,” he stated, scowling at me. 

   “Possession is nine tenths of the law,” I corrected him, “Not . . .” 

   “Thass right!” he exclaimed, “An I owns it!” 

   “Okay then, we'll leave,” I said, with a shrug. 

   He stared at me with . . . well, it’s hard to tell with buzzard expressions, but it felt like consternation. I was confused as I began to close the door, saying, “Well, I hope you have a nice . . .” 

   “You could stay,” he said quickly. I stopped closing the door. He continued, “I give you permission. If you like.” 

   “Oh. Well, okay,” I said, uncertainly. Pause. “Would you like to come in?” I asked, “Maybe have some tea?”    

   “A little water would be nice, with some fries please,” he answered, stepping in. “Wow, this place ain't atall what it looks like onna outside!” he exclaimed, upon seeing our spacious and luxurious home. 

   “No it doesn't,” I told him with a chuckle. “It's a dimensional thing, not sure I understand it myself.” 

   “Wale ain't that somethin!” he exclaimed with a chuckle. 

   “No, not really,” Brak began, but I shook my head no at him. 

   “I'm sorry Mr. uh, buzzard, but Brak was going to get all technical. It's not really a thing, you see, our space here, it is, but it's also not, that's all. So. What do you do for fun around here?”   

   “Huh? Wale you can call me Ray an this here space is the most amazin thing I ever seen!” 

   “It's not a thing,” Brak murmured. 

   “Shush,” I shushed at Brak, then smiled at Ray. “Gosh Ray. Uh, that's a nice name. It short for Raymond? Or could it be Raynaldo?” I guessed. 

   “Hyuck, hyuck,” Ray said. I'm pretty sure it was a laugh. “Ya'll missed on both yer guesses! No ma'am, I'm Ray Volting and us Volting's been in these hyar parts for a darn long time. Harumph!” I watched him, unsure what to say. “Darn long,” he added. 

   “I'll bet,” Jant said, returning from the kitchen. “Here's your fries and water.” 

   “Tanks a lot!” 

   “So, were your people the first settlers here?” Rover asked. 

   “Yep, thass right. Why there weren't nothin hyar but desert afore we come along. Mmm, good fries.” I was impressed that Jant had found some fries in the kitchen to heat up. They did look good. 

   “You've managed the property nicely,” Jant said, looking out a window and nodding her approval. I couldn't see any difference between this desert and a hundred other deserts I've seen, I mean a desert is pretty much a desert after all, but I nodded agreement. 

   “Thank ya, ma'am,” Ray said, nodding his head. “Me and the missus got a nice spread over in Driendrier Gulch, and we're very happy there. Hoping for some rain, though,” he nodded upward, “haven't had a drop in three yars.” 

   “I'll bet,” Jant said. 

   “Got some propity available now, if'n yer intrested,” he said, grimacing at Jant. It could have been a smile. “Get ya in cheap, afore the rush come.” 

   “Oh, well, that is nice Ray, but I'm perfectly happy living here on the Rivitir,” Jant replied. 

   “I'll bet,” Ray said, looking around. 

   Later when Ray left, I walked him out. When I turned to go back in, I wasn't surprised to see the Rivitir's outer appearance was that of a hamburger stand. Inside I ordered the Rivitir to change her looks. “We don't sell fries,” I told her. 

    As we resumed skimming the cloud tops, I settled into my Captain's chair. I hope Rover leaves the window down, and that Rivitir's chosen a more functional appearance this time.

The Pugnacious Mr. Puffup - By Rosy 

A play in three acts by Rosy Rivitir 

The Players: 

Detective-Inspector Gee . . . . . . Rosy Gee 

Sergeant Goat . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Brakly Goat 

Arch-Criminal Brad Puffup . . . Brad Puffup 

Dr. Snooty, Forensics . . . . . . . . Dr. Snarky 

Queen of Police . . . . . . . . . . . . .Sassy Fat 

King Overwood . . . . . . . . . . . . .Anyone who looks and sounds Kingly. 

Narrator . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . A voice, mysterious and compelling. 

(Actor and stage directions are parenthesized.) 

- Act One - 

*Scene One 

- Narrator - 

A rundown motel room, probably on the wrong side of town. The gangster, Grand Riddance has been murdered in a curious way. His body is pinned to the wall by a spear through his chest, leaving him dangling about half a meter above the floor. He wears a surprised expression. Inspector Gee enters the room followed by Sgt. Goat. Dr. Snooty is measuring how far the body is above the floor.    

DI Gee: Well it looks like this gangster got murdered, eh, Dr. Snooty? 

  

Dr. Snooty: Yes, the preliminary findings would seem to indicate murder most foul, but further tests must be done before any conclusions can be drawn. It could easily be suicide or even an accident. 

(Sgt. Goat, examining the spear, turns and looks at Dr. Snooty with round, disbelieving eyes. Dr. Snooty does not notice.) 

DI Gee: Uh, well it's sort of difficult to see this as a suicide. I mean, the guy is what, half a meter above the floor, put there by the force of the spear? 

Dr. Snooty: Precisely. I'm glad you see what I'm seeing. Sometimes only I can see the truth. 

DI Gee: Uh, what truth is that? 

Dr. Snooty: The truth of this accidental suicide, of course. Hmmm, let me see . . . 

(Dr. Snooty peers intently at the spear, then jerks back in surprise.) 

Dr. Snooty: Dang! This spear is from a totally undiscovered tribe in the deepest and darkest jungles, somewhere in Mish, probably. 

(Dr. Snooty looks at DI Gee with haunted eyes. Sgt Goat is surreptitiously examining the crime scene and looks over at Dr. Snooty.) 

Sgt. Goat: What the heck, doctor? How could this spear get here from Mish? And just who are these undiscovered savages? 

(Slowly Dr. Snooty turns and looks at Sgt. Goat with a round eyed, amazed expression.) 

Dr. Snooty: It's the Umpalumpa Tribe! And this here shows just how far they can hurl spears! 

(The orchestra plays some ominously threatening music. They all stare with unfocused, dazed expressions as the curtain falls.) 

- Act One - 

*Scene Two 

- Narrator - 

The room resembles a rundown motel room but it is not. It is the Mayor's Office. 

Mayor Morpork, apparent victim number two, is dangling about half a meter above the floor with a spear through his chest, pinning him to the wall of his own swanky office. He wears a surprised expression. Dr. Snooty is examining him as DI Gee and Sgt. Goat enter the room. Dr. Snooty looks up with a grim expression.    

  

Dr. Snooty: Hello DI Gee, Sergeant. Only I can see the truth. 

DI Gee: Uh-huh. It's that undiscovered Umpalumpa Tribe again, isn't it? 

Dr. Snooty: We haven't got to that yet; we're still examining this mysterious copy-cat accidental suicide. 

(He pokes the dangling corpse a couple times then bends over to measure the distance to the floor.) 

DI Gee: I see. So what makes this an accidental suicide? 

Dr. Snooty: Only I can see the truth. 

(Sgt. Goat is examining the spear. He now looks over to speak.) 

Sgt. Goat: This spear is exactly like the last one, the one that accidentally caused the suicide of Grand Riddance, the gangster. Didn't that spear go missing? 

Dr. Snooty: Just so Sergeant, just so. 

DI Gee: So where'd it go? And why would a prominent figure like Wantim Morpork, the Mayor for gosh sakes, accidentally commit suicide, using Umpalumpa technology to impale himself on his office wall half a meter above the floor? Accidentally. 

(Dr. Snooty seems about to speak when DI Gee cuts him off.) 

DI Gee: Yes, I know. Only you can see the truth. So maybe you could share it, you know? This is a police investigation, after all, and you are police, more or less, 'cause we gotta figure these mysterious accidental suicides out. So spill it! What is the truth? 

Dr. Snooty: You are too close to my brilliance already, philistine. 

DI Gee: Well, phooey then! I don't mind backing up. Come along Sergeant. 

(DI Gee and Sgt. Goat exit in a huff. Dr. Snooty begins trying to pull the spear out, but it's pretty firmly stuck and he's straining.) 

(Brad Puffup sneaks in silently from behind.) 

Brad Puffup: Here, let me help you with that. 

  

(Dr. Snooty is surprised, glancing briefly at Brad with a puzzled expression before resuming his pulling, as Brad reaches up and begins yanking and pulling on the spear with him.) 

Dr. Snooty: Thanks. 

(Just then the spear pulls loose and the body crashes to the floor. Brad brandishes the spear high, like a victorious warrior might do, laughing with pleasure. Then he threatens Dr. Snooty with the spear.) 

Brad Puffup: Thanks sucker. And don't get any ideas, you understand? You've seen what my spear can do. 

(Brad Puffup walks away, twirling the spear like a baton and whistling a stirring and patriotic melody. Dr. Snooty, dumbfounded, watches him go.) 

(There is sinister villain music as the curtain drops.) 

- Act Two - 

*Scene One 

- Narrator - 

The room resembles a rundown motel room, but it is not. It is the police station. 

Police Queen Sassy Fat is reading a paper as Dr. Snooty comes running in. He has seen the truth and is now hoping to evade his own misleading actions, actions that he'd done in his clearly misguided support of Brad Puffup. 

Dr. Snooty: Queen Fat! I've solved the mysterious accidental suicide cases that have been plaguing our city for so long! 

Police Queen Fat: Yeah? Howzat? 

Dr. Snooty: It's Brad Puffup, pretty sure! He just grabbed that spear that got the Mayor like a victorious victor, a savage murderer, which means, of course, probably, that those unsolved accidental suicides weren't accidental at all and they likely weren't suicides either! 

Police Queen Fat: A compelling case Doctor. Unfortunately, Brad Puffup is our new Mayor since Mayor Morpork, well, I guess now allegedly accidentally committed suicide. 

(Just then DI Gee and Sgt. Goat enter the room.) 

DI Gee: Did I hear that right? Brad Puffup is Mayor? 

Police Queen Fat: Yup 

DI Gee: How did that happen? He's a prime suspect in the accidental suicide cases which we now have reason to believe were, 

(There is some tense, ominous music. DI Gee speaks slowly, emphasizing each nefarious word.) 

DI Gee: Murder. Most. Foul. 

Police Queen Fat: Gosh. Well, the acting Mayor appointed him. 

DI Gee: Who's the acting Mayor? 

Police Queen Fat: Brad Puffup. Appointed by the interim Mayor Brad Puffup who stepped up to take the job, temporarily of course, when Mayor Morpork, er, well, allegedly accidentally committed suicide. It's all quite legal, Inspector, plus it makes Brad look like an upstanding citizen, willing to take on the cruel mantle of government, when needed. And everyone knows the Mayor is above the law. Free of all faults and blemishes, that he may rule without bias. Amen. 

DI Gee and Sgt. Goat together: No! We're not gonna take it! 

- Narrator - 

The situation did indeed look bad, with nepotism and graft seeming at home in the Mayor's office. Police Queen Fat ponders. 

Just then Brad Puffup walks in carrying a bloody spear, just like the ones used to impale Riddance and Morpork. DI gee points angrily at him. 

DI Gee: Brad Puffup! I accuse you of murder most foul! 

Brad Puffup: You better be careful what you say, Inspector. Remember, I'm the 

Mayor. 

(Brad Puffup points the spear menacingly at DI Gee and is heard growling low in his throat. Then he turns and enters the Mayor's private office. Meanwhile, Dr. Snooty has disappeared, who knows where?)  

(Ominous music plays. DI Gee, Sgt. Goat and Police Queen Sassy Fat all stare with horrified expressions as the curtain falls.) 

҉   Intermission. Smoke 'em if ya got 'em! 

La-la, la-la, la-la, la-la, la-la, la-la, la-la-ah!  La-la, la-la, la-la, la-la, la-la-ah! 

- Act Three - 

*Scene One 

- Narrator - 

The room resembles a rundown motel room but it is not. It is a TV station. 

Brad Puffup is preparing a press release to be broadcast to every single person in Elvenstead, even if they don't have a TV. He definitely has power and money behind him, somewhere. Now the broadcast begins and all TVs, no matter what, show the following pronouncement from a smirking Brad Puffup. 

Brad Puffup: Hello you people! Yes, all of you, no matter what! That includes you, King Overwood! I hope you got your TV on because I am taking over and you need to know it. That's right! I'm now the Emperor of all Elvenstead, and soon the world! 

(Triumphant music blares out as Brad laughs maniacally.) 

  

- Narrator - 

As the triumphant music blares from their TVs many get up to turn down the volume, but it is useless. Brad continues to laugh maniacally. 

Brad Puffup: As of sometime this morning, pretty early in fact, I am officially the Emperor of Elvenstead, appointed by the Mayor. As Emperor I am even more above the law than ever. Way higher up than any of you puny elves and faeries can ever hope to achieve. So high that you'll never, ever see me, not once, never, but you'll surely feel my iron grip and the heel of my iron boot! You are powerless! Resistance is futile! 

- Narrator - 

Brad laughs maniacally as movie reels appear of marching elves with spears, bows and arrows, some with hammers, and all with fierce, determined expressions, all stalwart and true, marching off to war! There is patriotic music playing. 

The movie reels are, in fact, from Elvenstead's last war, over a hundred years ago  against the trolls, a detail that is curiously missing from this broadcast. 

Brad Puffup: There! Even now my followers march, see them! Look at them! Millions armed and prepared to take what is mine! 

(His eyes shine as he waves his arms, gazing skyward.) 

Brad Puffup: Taking what has always been mine! For I am the brightest, nay, the most brilliant star in the sky, I whose wisdom transcends all understanding! 

(He strikes a heroic pose, then glares into the cameras.) 

Brad Puffup: And you better listen up, you little people! You'll never get it, see? I know more than all of you, combined! So don't even try to get me! Just obey and remember . . . 

(The reels begin again, now including distant cannon fire and patriotic music, with Brad's stentorian tones dominating.) 

Brad Puffup: Only I Can See the Truth! 

(There is a disturbance to the side, then Dr. Snooty appears.) 

Dr. Snooty: Darn it Puffup, that's my line! 

Brad Puffup: Uh-uh, I thought of it first. 

Dr. Snooty: Did not, I did! Plus I'm the brightest star in the sky! That's my line too! 

Brad Puffup: No, I am! 

(DI Gee appears, then Police Queen Fat. DI Gee speaks with force.) 

DI Gee: Quiet you two! 

(DI Gee looks at Brad Puffup.) 

DI Gee: Sgt. Goat has checked the records you dastardly villain, and it's not legal for the Mayor to appoint the King. 

Brad Puffup: Too late! I'm already Emperor. I'm even higher, and higher than that plus way more above the law and you can't touch me. 

(Brad puffs up.) 

Brad Puffup: Remember, Only I Can See the Truth. 

(Dr. Snooty leaps forward and slaps Brad, then pushes him out of the way. He glares at the still rolling cameras before speaking.) 

Dr. Snooty: Listen you people! That was my line! I invented it way before Brad! Clearly, I am the brightest star! Most brilliant too! I've always said that, long before this charlatan came along, which is why only I can . . . 

- Narrator - 

Sgt Goat was seen in the background approaching the alleged Emperor Brad Puffup with handcuffs ready, just as the cameras stopped, cutting off Dr. Snooty's impassioned plea and leaving the stunned audience to wonder just what it was that only Dr. Snooty could do? 

When the TV image is restored, it is the alleged King Overwood speaking, alone at the podium. 

Alleged King Overwood: People of Elvenstead! We are in a crisis. Right now there's confusion and no one knows for sure who's actually in charge. We, that is the King and I, believe Brad Puffup's claims to be specious. We have instructed the Royal Lawyers to look into it. 

(Alleged King Overwood gestures to the side, then DI Gee and Sgt. Goat come into view. At the last minute Police Queen Fat squeezes into the picture.) 

Alleged King Overwood: Meanwhile, people, Inspector Gee of the Elvenstead Coppers, along with Sgt. Goat, have captured the arch-criminal Brad Puffup, bringing him to face justice for murder most foul! This villain may or may not be your Emperor, time will tell, but for now let's just all give a hearty cheer for Inspector Rosy Gee! 

- Narrator - 

Everyone, pretty near, in Elvenstead gives a cheer, many quite hearty. Police Queen Fat steps forward and waves into the cameras so that most viewers believe her to be Inspector Gee. The last thing you see as the curtain falls is Police Queen Fat's grinning face, with the sounds of cheering in the background. 

(The curtains close to triumphant and patriotic music.)  

- Act Two - 

*Scene Two 

- Narrator - 

The room resembles a rundown motel room but it is not. It is the throne room at Gladheim Palace, the ancient seat of government in Elvenstead and the alleged King Overwood's ancestral home. Alleged Emperor Brad Puffup currently resides in the Royal dungeons, pertaining to other matters, but, nonetheless, screaming executive privilege over and over. Alleged King Overwood is seated on the throne as DI Gee and Sgt. Goat enter. 

Alleged King Overwood: What'd you find out, Inspector? 

DI Gee: Well alleged King, first thing we found out was that it was definitely not legal for Brad to declare himself Interim Mayor after murdering Mayor Morpork. Second, we learned that not only does the Mayor not have the power to appoint an emperor but that since the Interim Mayor was illegal all of that Mayor's appointments, including that of the alleged Emperor Puffup, are illegal, null and void. 

Further, we found that the alleged Emperor Brad Puffup allegedly committed murder most foul not once, but twice, using the same spear each time. Then he allegedly tried to blame the innocent Umpalumpa Tribe, who are somewhere in Mish. Very difficult to meet with, I'm told, but they are clearly mad as hornets over these attempts to blame them for these two murders most foul. 

You should know, alleged King, that the alleged Emperor's guilt in all these matters is easily proven with the solid evidence we already have in the vaults.  

Sgt. Goat: And I'd like to add, if I may alleged King, that you can believe in the Umpalumpa innocence, because really, I know. Mish is much too far away to be throwing a spear from, and that's for sure.  

DI Gee: Just so. I would add that the blood of both victims was found on Brad's spear, a spear that he got just last month through mail-order. Came with a powerful crossbow that could easily pin someone to a wall. Both are in the police evidence vault.  

Alleged King Overwood: Good job Inspector! But why didn't the alleged Emperor Brad Puffup try to cover up his crimes? 

DI Gee: Because he believed that holding high office, even illegally gotten high office, would place him above the law. He thought he could just spear whoever got in his way, then, based on his self-professed vast public support, claim executive privilege. A stupid, naive notion, yet his evil scheme almost succeeded, fooling a startling number of people. Until Sgt. Goat, that is, working tirelessly, uncovered an ancient rule, rule number one, in fact, stating that no one is above the law. A rule that, despite its antiquity, is still in force today. 

Sgt. Goat: Soon as we got that rule, I arrested the nefarious Puffup. Got him at his own nefarious press conference.  

Alleged King Overwood: Well, well now, that sounds just fine. That, uh, well that means I'm King, right? 

DI Gee: That is the preliminary findings of the preliminary committee, alleged King. They will now forward it to the legal mumbo-jumbo department, who are sure to pass it on as well, so there is confidence, high ranking confidence, mind you, that your claim will be approved. In the happy occurrence of this blessed event I would remind you, alleged albeit quite likely King, to please remember: Rule Number One. 

Alleged King Overwood: Yaaay! I can't wait to tell everyone. I feel like a King already! 

- Narrator - 

Within a short period of time the Royal Legal Department announced: Alleged King Overwood, hereditary monarch of Elvenstead, is hereby deemed the probable true ruler against the allegations of the alleged Emperor Brad Puffup, attempted usurper. 

In further shocking news the recently deposed alleged Emperor, also known as the arch-criminal Brad Puffup, has been charged with double murder most foul. Sounds serious. 

(Victorious patriotic music is heard as the final curtain falls.) 

  

- finis  - 

The audience cheers and cheers, many are crying with joy as a huge standing ovation ensues. The actors come out and bow three times.

Shpeel Wamos and the Jondoes - By Rosy 

Part One - Buffer 

   We brought our All-Vehicle, the Rivitir, to a landing on a broad flat plain. There is a large farm nearby next to a good sized stream that roughly paralleled the gravel road we'd landed on. I'm Rosy Rivitir, Captain of the AV Rivitir and my crew consists of Rover, Brak and Jant, navigator, pilot, and communications specialist in that order. We go everywhere, looking at stuff and trying to do good or maybe rescue people or, well, whatever we can to make our planet, our home, a more amenable place. 

   We pulled the Riviter over to the side so as to not block traffic, although we couldn't see any, nor any movement at all for that matter, and Rover and I set out to investigate. Something did seem amiss. Brak and Jant stayed with the Rivitir, our standard procedure for mysterious investigations.    

   When we got to the farmhouse it was eerily silent. I knocked on the door with Rover behind me but could hear no sounds inside. Suddenly ten thousand elves appeared from out of nowhere and surrounded us, except for the door, which slowly opened revealing a cat-like elf with long pointed ears. His facial expression told me that he was no one to mess with, and I stepped back, stepping on Rover's foot, who yelped. 

   “What do you want?” the cat-elf demanded. 

   “We're explorers and professional heroes,” I explained, “and when we saw this area it looked darned interesting. Very quiet and still, up 'till now. I don't believe it's ever been discovered, has it?” 

   “What do you mean, 'discovered'?” 

   “Discovered by us, of course. Me and my crew. This here's Rover,” I gestured at Rover, “and he's part of the crew. Navigator in fact.” 

   “Is that so?” the cat-elf asked, sneering at Rover. “You navigated to here, Rover?” 

   “Uh, well no,” Rover admitted, “First I started with the wrong map, but I didn't know it and when my compass began acting strange, I mean, showing north where I'm pretty sure . . .” 

   “Quiet!” the cat-elf snapped, “You telling me you're lost Rover?” 

   “We're all lost,” I interjected, “not just Rover.” 

   The cat-elf gave me a withering look and I stepped back onto Rover's paw again, Rover yelped again, then an elf in the guard behind Rover yelped then another behind him and on and on. Yelp, yelp, yelp. Everyone backed up a couple steps. 

   The cat-elf scowled. “Really? You're just lost?” he asked incredulously. 

   “Well, yes,” I answered, “although to be fair we're always lost. Rare's the time where we know where we're going is the problem. And what happens, usually, is we get curious about wherever we're at and come out have a look around, like we're doing now.” 

   The cat-elf looked out over our heads, at the horizon. “We thought you was one of Count Snarkey's minions, from over there,” he said solemnly, while holding his gaze on the horizon. Then he looked back at me, then at the multitude surrounding us. “It's okay lads. They ain't Browns. The ten thousand elves relaxed and looking around I was pleased to see that my earlier assessment was off a little. There were now about twenty and they milled about, eyeing us surreptitiously.   

   “These here are Jondoes, our security team as well as being farmers,” the cat-elf announced beaming at the small group. “and I'm Shpeel Wamos. I'm the boss hereabouts, and these Jondoes are my team.” 

   “Nice to meet you all,” I answered, “I'm Rosy Rivitir and Rover here, who you've already met, is part of my crew.” 

   “Crew huh? That your spaceship over there?” Shpeel Wamos asked, pointing at the Rivitir parked out on the lane. 

   “Yep, that's ours,” I answered, giving the Rivitir a fond look. “I'm the captain and Rover here is the navigator. 

   “Nice,” he said, smiling. “We're farmers here. Our land is called Buffer, on the border between Utgard and Mish. I'm the boss and the Jondoes, Jaindoes and Dosidoes are who does the actual farming. I mostly do security these days.” I could see the elf guard was dispersing, going to different areas to work. There seemed to be quite a lot already out in the fields. Maybe there had been ten thousand. 

Part Two - Utgard 

   I knew about Utgard, a generally abysmal strip of land with Mish on one side and Joten, the Troll Kingdom, on the other. “What about this Count and the Browns you mentioned,” I asked. “I never heard of them before.” Although Snarkey was a name I knew, I hoped it wasn't the mad Dr. Snarkey. 

   “They's the raiders,” he answered, scowling at the horizon. “They come from over there.” He pointed at the horizon. 

   “That's a problem, innit?” I asked, looking at the horizon. 

   “Me and the team think so,” he answered. “They steal crops, block ditches and destroy equipment.” 

   “Dang, that is a problem,” I agreed. “Whatever happened to peaceful coexistence anyway?  Do you know why they do it?” He shook his head no. “Well, tell me more about this Count, the Browns and over there. Who knows, we might be able to help.” 

   “Hmmm. Well, okay. Couldn't hurt, I guess. He ushered us into the farmhouse where we sat on comfortable couches. “Jon!” he called. 

   Soon an elf walked into the room. “Yes boss?” 

   “Bring us some tea, would you?” 

   “Yes, boss, I'm onnit!” 

   “Oh, and Jon? Would you please send Jon in?” 

   “Yeah, boy!” He ducked out the door. 

   Mr. Wamos smiled at us. “I've sent for Jon who is our field boss. Now, to begin, Count Snarkey is an evil warlord lurking in a gloomy castle over there.” He gestured in the same direction he'd called over there while outside. “We think he might be a bear, or maybe a giant, or maybe something else, we're just not sure. One thing we do know is he's fearsome.” Just then there was a tapping at the door and Mr. Wamos called out, “Come in!” An elf, identical to the others we'd seen of the Jondoes, entered. “Ah, Jon, there you are. This here's Capt. Rosy and Rover who could maybe help us against the Brown raids.”      

   “Ah, well that's fine,” Jon said, smiling and nodding at us. 

   “So tell us about the Browns,” I asked. 

   “Yeah, the raiders,” Jon began. “Well, these are the notorious brown weasel's from out of the hinterlands of Elvenstead.” Oh my. I knew about these guys. I'd wondered why we haven't heard from them in a while. 

   “Seems like Count Snarkey,” Mr. Wamos continued, “needs something here, but we don't know what. So he just sends his raiders, always looking, always breaking things.” 

   “They take some food crops but mostly they just trample them,” Jon said. “They just wanna wreck things I think, but why?”  

   “I dunno, yet” I answered. “But by golly, we're going to get to the bottom of this.” I stood. “Com'on Rover, let's get back to the Rivitir.” I looked at Mr. Wamos. “We're going to investigate this matter Mr. Wamos . . .” 

   “Oh you can call me Shpeel,” he broke in. 

   “Oh, well, Shpeel, we're going to investigate first then we'll get back to you as soon as we know what to do.” 

Part Three - Snarkey 

   When we got back to the Riviter I started checking the country around us with our maps and stuff. We were fairly close to Utgard which was certainly where Count Snarkey was operating from. I think we needed to talk to Count Snarkey, so Brak and I headed over to Utgard.     

   As Brak and I approached the border the first thing we noticed is how clearly defined it is. There's a straight line that is degradation and decay on one side and life, albeit struggling, on the other. A natural yet perfectly straight line marking the border. Brak and I stared in horrified amazement. Off in the distance I could see the black silhouette of a castle that seemed in perpetual gloom. It was afternoon so perhaps that was why. I pointed to the castle. “That's where we're going,” I said, heroically. 

   “Gosh,” Brak answered, staring in round eyed horror. 

   I led the way across the border. It felt instantly colder and a sense of doom fell on us, which seemed to increase as we progressed further into Utgard. We went slowly, cautiously across this malevolent terrain. There were patches of black ice despite it being mid-summer, and sudden marshy areas with lots of slithering things. Something started throwing small pebbles at the back of our heads but no matter how quickly we turned there was no one there, no one ever seen throwing them. By the time we got to the castle we'd both had enough. 

   “Darn it Count Snarkey!” I yelled. “Get out here and talk to us, 'cause this whole aggravatin' business is out of hand!” I was angry. 

   “Yeah!” Brak yelled. He was angry too. 

   Soon this so-called count appeared and sure enough, just as I suspected, it was the mad Dr. Snarkey trying to hide his identity by changing titles. A clever ruse but one that failed. Behind him several brown weasels peered out. 

   “So, Doctor Snarkey,” I said, drawing out the doctor part. “Just what have you and these horrid brown weasels been up to?”   

   He glared at me, his nemesis. “Zounds! I cannot believe you have found me Rivitir! Listen, everything I'm doing is perfectly legal here, so go away.” He began waving us away. “Shoo! Shoo!” The weasels were laughing. 

   “But it's not legal in Mish!” I yelled. “And that's why we're here. Raid all you want in Utgard, villain, but stay out of Mish!” 

   “Fie you say!” he yelled back. “There's nothing, nay, less than nothing in Utgard and you know it! We must raid Mish to survive.” Now he seemed near to crying. 

   “Then why don't you clean this place up?” I asked. “Get rid of this dark cloud and plant some crops. It'd take as much energy to do that as it does to raid.” 

   “But raiding is fun! Breaking things is bliss!” 

   “That, Doctor Snarkey, is why we must stop you. If you raid Buffer or anywhere in Mish again, we'll use the Rivitir to drop indelible ink balloons on your weasels, making them red instead of brown. They won't be able to do much sneaking around when they're bright red, I think.” He backed up and the weasels glared at me, making hissing noises. “Then we'll bring the Rivitir here, Dr. Snarkey, and I will direct the heroes Brak,” Brak puffed up. “and Jant to break things, your things, using our advanced technologies. The Rivitir is not a war machine, Snarkey, but it can sure break things if necessary.” 

   “Zounds! Foiled again!” Dr. Snarkey exclaimed angrily. He shook his fist at us then turned to the weasels. “Pack our bags weasels, we're going back to Elvenstead. More pickings back there anyway!” He laughed in his maniacal way as he slammed the door. 

Part Four - Peace 

   When we got back to Mish, we told Shpeel Wamos what had happened. We parked the Rivitir in a field and the Jondoes covered it with brush to hide it and we waited for a couple weeks to make sure the evil Dr. Snarkey was really gone.     

   After two and a half weeks without disturbances we patrolled the area, including Utgard and the dark castle, but everything was the usual abnormal. Rover and I investigated the castle and found only the ubiquitous Utgard residents; snakes, rats, spiders, and other creepy things, but no brown weasels and no Dr. Snarkey. The place was deserted, ready for the next brigand to show up and take possession. We were all glad when we left Utgard. 

   There was a big celebration in Buffer and on the Wamos Farm! The Jondoes, Jaindoes and Dosidoes danced, sang, and frolicked in the warm summer sun, and well into the night. 

   Shpeel Wamos, along with Jon and, well, Jon and Jon came to see us as we were packing up to leave the next day. 

   “Hey Shpeel, assorted Jons,” I said by way of greeting. Shpeel seemed able to tell them apart but I cannot. 

   “Hey Rosy, Rover,” Shpeel reliplied, then, “Oh, hey Brak, Jant,” when he saw them in the other room. 

   Brak and Jant carried their bags in, joining us in the main room where we all stood around our packed bags that we had brought from the Rivitir. And while the farmhouse is quite large there are several Jondoes, Jaindoes and Dosidoes living there, along with Shpeel, so that to us, used to our spacious quarters on the Rivitir, it seemed cramped. It will be good to get home and see where we go next.  

   “We will always have a place here for you if you ever come this way again,” Shpeel told us. The Jondoes nodded agreement. 

   “It's been an honor working with you,” Jon said. 

   “Everyone is so grateful to have the raids stop,” Jon added. 

   “Yes,” Jon agreed. 

   “It's been a great pleasure for us,” I told them. “We are heroes after all, so this is just the kind of work we do.” I paused. “But I want to encourage you all to remain vigilant, for you are close to the dreaded Utgard.” 

   “We shall,” Shpeel Wamos agreed. “And I know that someday” he continued, “even Utgard and Joten will know peace.” 

   “Thank you Shpeel. I agree, and someday soon, I hope,” I answered. “Meanwhile, we love your farm and I hope we do land here again, only in happier circumstances.” 

   “Thanks for all your help, Jon,” Rover said to one of the Jons. “And you Jon for so skillfully hiding the Rivitir. It was brilliant.” 

   One of the Jons nodded, “Thanks Rover. We been hiding stuff for years so we're probably getting good at it.” 

   “You are.” Brak spoke up, “I needed Jon to show me before I could find the Rivitir again.” One of the Jons smiled and nodded. 

   “Well, gosh,” Shpeel said, “I wonder if we'll ever see you again?” 

   “Who knows?” I answered with a chuckle. “Some people we see a lot.” I was thinking of how often we cross paths with the nefarious Dr. Snarkey or the arch-criminal Brad Puffup, so I didn't name anybody. “But mostly we tend to show up in places where we're needed for something or other.” 

   “Some way to help out,” Rover added. 

   “Plus we love looking at stuff!” Jant sang out. 

   With that we headed for the Rivitir with heroic music playing from the Jondoe Orchestra.

An Inspector Gee/Sgt. Goat Mysterious Mystery - By Rosy 

Gee * Part One. What about the Lens? 

   “If there's one thing that I know for sure is that I don't know. This is an unequivocal fact. You need only ask me a few questions to know this as well.” 

   I watched the pixie closely. People who said things like that tended to know something. Thing is, I really didn't know anything either. In fact I'd say I knew a lot less than the pixie did, based on how well I was doing so far. He looked like a Len, one of those followers of the god Lenfast, the god of fast, and those guys were actually pretty fast, so we tried to block his escape routes. We'd found him lurking in front of the Big and Holy Church of Lenfast the Speedy, the main one I think, over on Verdandi Boulevard.  

   “So why do you say you don't know when I haven't even asked a question?” I asked. 

   “I don't know,” he answered. 

   “Yes, I believe you don't,” I said. He seemed to really not know. He looked smug. I looked away, unsure how to continue. 

   I'm Detective-Inspector Rosy Gee who, along with Sgt. Brakly Goat, solve many mysterious mysteries. Mysteries like our last investigation where we delved into the mysterious mystery of “Where Are The Ideas?” 

   Our current investigation, instituted when we reported the results of our last investigation, was quite simply, “Why?” as our commander, Queen of Police Captain Sassy Fat, so succinctly put it. It was a curious assignment, but then curious seems to be our lot. 

   “Well then, perhaps you might tell us Why?” I asked the pixie, pursuing our directive. 

   He gave me an odd look, “Why what?” he snapped. 

   “Nothing in particular, yet, well, encompassing everything, the big all, you could say, because I believe it to be the most important question of our time. And it's just, Why?” 

   “Why?” 

   “Yes, precisely. You said it exactly like the Police Queen did when she assigned us this baffling case.” 

   Sgt. Goat spoke up, “I think she wonders at times about the meaning of life, Ma'am, in particular, why we do what we do.” 

   “Exactly Sergeant. And we shall get to the bottom of this mystery whether you,” I pointed at the recalcitrant pixie, “help us or not.” 

   Sgt. Goat peered at the pixie. “What's your name and why do you think it is?” 

   The pixie looked confused then angry, “I ent saying nothing. Truth is, I don't know.” 

   “You don't know your name?” Sgt. Goat prodded. 

   “No I . . . well, I guess maybe I do know that.” He scowled at us. “It's Benlen Kwikfoot.” He looked uncertain, then defiant, “That's Lennerd Benlen Kwikfoot.”  

   I had a hunch he was high up in the church. “Thanks Lennerd,” I said. “So you got no thoughts about Why?” He looked at me suspiciously. “I mean, Why are we here? Why do we do what we do? That sort of thing. Why?” 

   “Speed,” he announced with certainty. 

   “Speed?” I asked. 

   “Yes.” He looked at me with a 'should I continue?' look. I nodded. “Well, all things move, Inspector. Everything, whether we can see it or not, moves. This movement is both of what we do and the vibration of what we do.” I nodded again. I think I was getting this. Anyway, Sgt. Goat was writing it in his notebook. “So the ultimate reason Why? is speed. To make your vibration as high as Lenfast the Speedy's, so that your vibration is the same as his, which is the same as heaven's.” 

   “Those vibrations attract and combine with other like vibrations, you could say?” Sgt. Goat asked. 

   “Just so. Now, if you'll excuse me, I have a congregation to attend to. People with actual concerns.” He turned and walked away. 

   “Thank you Lennerd,” I called after him. He waved his hand without looking back. 

   Sgt. Goat looked at me, “Ma'am, it appears that the Lenfast Church is committed to 'Fast!' regardless of the situation.”   

   “That does seem to be their guiding light, Sergeant. Hmmm,” I said, thinking. “But is that the Universal Why? Is that the right Why? for everyone?” He looked thoughtful. “Perhaps we need to visit Maestro, at the wreckage of the Bop Bop duBop,” I continued, walking toward our secret police waggal, utilizing the amazing Blendin® technology developed by Bradco Inc., rendering it virtually invisible. Sgt. Goat made the vehicle visible so we could find it and when we did, I was dismayed to see new dings, dents, and scratches. Why? I wondered. 

   “It's because no one can see it,” Sgt. Goat stated, getting behind the wheel. “They bump into it unawares.” 

   “Unawarity of the law is no excuse, Sergeant,” I told him, huffing importantly. 

   “Yes, Ma'am,” he answered, angling our waggal into traffic with lights flashing. We had to keep all our lights on so that people could see us. 

Gee * Part Two. Zing. Zing. Zing. 

   “Ever-body, zing, zing, zing! Ladi-dat-dat zing, zing, zing!” the great Maestro Songjoy was singing as we approached his corner niche in the wreckage of the Bop Bop duBop. Several Ballerina Bulls were dancing to his song in the vast empty space in front of him, vacated back when the wreckage first wrecked. The Bulls were majestic and beautiful, despite the Maestro's rather lame singing, which stopped as soon as he saw us. The Bulls continued to dance, hearing only their own music.    

   “Ah, Maestro, I'm glad I caught you!” I said, smiling at him. 

   He looked startled. “Caught me?” he asked. “I swear I had nothing to do with . . . uh, what did you, I mean, I didn't mean to say . . .” 

   “It's alright, Maestro,” I interjected. “We probably aren't here to arrest you. We just wanted to ask you some questions about our latest investigation.” 

   “There's no crime?” he asked, looking relieved. 

   “Do you know of any?” Sgt. Goat asked. 

   “Why no! No, of course not. I don't know a thing about any of those . . .” he looked startled. 

   “The only crime around here is the old, old music, honey,” a Ballerina Bull stated, walking up to us. 

   “Major, I don't think using old music, not that old I might add, is particularly illegal . . .” he looked at me questioningly, “It isn’t, is it?” 

   “No Maestro, old music isn't illegal,” I reassured him. 

   “How about twenty year-old music presented as new, Inspector?” Major asked. 

   I didn't know what to say. “Perhaps copyright infringement?” I suggested. “But it's not my department and that's not why we're here.” 

   They looked at me expectantly. 

   “Well, to begin I want to ask you both, if you don't mind,” I began. “You see, we're looking into the reason for Why?”  

   “Why what?” Maestro asked. 

   “Why everything,” I answered. “Why are we here and why do we do what we do?” Their eyes went round. 

   “It's because you're coppers,” came the annoying voice of Ego, who shouldn't even be there. “You're coppers and you ask stupid questions. That's why you're here and that's what you do.” 

   “Why aren't you at the Radio Galaxy?” I demanded. “Where you belong!” 

   Ego slowly turned and looked at me. He seemed to start seething and there were wisps of smoke coming from his feet. Suddenly, in a flash of blinding light, Ego transformed into Dr. Snarkey, Ego's radio persona, holding a pitchfork, glowing red with horns and wearing a black cape billowing in the wind. “You dare question me, foolish mortal?” he screamed in a huge voice. He seemed twice as large and there were lightning flashes all around. “Only I know why, for I am Why!” Now he was like a tornado surrounded by high winds and cracks of thunder. “Listen puny detectives! I am the reason Why!” He stamped his massive foot with that last Why! and the earth shook. Then he disappeared. 

   When the smoke cleared, I could see Maestro looking at me with a worried expression. “Am I under arrest now?” he asked.  

   “Ego's your friend?” I asked in angry disbelief. He nodded meekly. “Well, I oughta arrest you for that, but no, you're not under arrest.” 

   Sgt. Goat seemed confused. “I thought Ego was for the police, Ma'am? Even Dr. Snarkey seemed at times to be pro-police, not that I would ever listen, mind you, but still . . .”   

   “Not anymore,” I told him. “Ego is only for Ego. Always has been, always will be. He backed the police when it suited him, now it doesn't suit him.” Sgt. Goat appeared to be disturbed by this. 

   “Yes, it's true,” said Maestro “I'm Ego's only friend, or as close as anyone can get to being his friend, and I can tell you he'll drop anyone in a second if it will benefit him.” 

   “That's totally unscrupulous!” Sgt. Goat exclaimed. “Why would you ever be his friend?” 

   Maestro looked down with a sad expression. “I'm an idea man, make my living thinking new things up, except I haven't had a new idea in twenty years,” he said quietly. “I reshuffle my old scores every week and present them as new, and each week the audience cheers.” He looked at Sgt. Goat with a grave expression, “But the Bulls know better, they know it's a sham. The Bulls dance because that's who they are, they dance! They'll dance no matter what.” He paused. “But they hold me in contempt.” He looked forlorn and somehow worn out, then asked, “Why would anyone ever be my friend?” 

   Neither I nor Sgt. Goat could answer that question and we both felt bad when we left. 

Gee * Part Three. The big Why. 

   “Why does the universe exist? That's the 'Why' we're looking for Sergeant. Not the why of Lenfast the Speedy, which is fine for the moment but not for the big Why,” As we left the Bop Bop duBop I looked back with sadness, “And I think they're all grappling with their own why's at the Bop Bop duBop. Not much help there, I think, not in our quest for the big Why anyway.” 

   “No Ma'am, it doesn't look like it, but I do get a feeling that somehow the speed of the Lens and the struggle at the Bop Bop duBop are connected, both a part of the big Why.” 

   “Perhaps those efforts, and maybe all efforts, are part of the mystery of the big Why?” I suggested. 

   “Yes, Ma'am. Clues if you will.” 

   “I agree Sergeant. So where might we go for insights into the big Why?” He shrugged, showing that he didn't know. 

   “I feel like we missed something at the Bop Bop duBop but I can't think what,” I said, trying to come up with something. We began walking down Verdandi Boulevard, leaving our squad waggal at the Bop Bop duBop. 

   It was a fine day in a particularly rainy spring, windy with patchy clouds and intermittent showers. We both wore a regulation mackintosh and paid the shifting sky no mind. I noticed a park a couple blocks down a side street. “C'mon Sergeant, let's check out that park. It looks meditative and maybe we'll get some ideas about where to go next.” 

   “Sounds good, Ma'am.” 

   We walked down the street when suddenly a squall arose, hitting us hard in the face with wind and icy rain. We lowered our heads and raised our arms before quickly ducking into a recessed storefront door. We knew the squall would pass, hopefully quickly, so we were standing, aimlessly waiting, when the shop's door opened.     

   “May I offer a warm, dry place to wait out the storm?” a gentle voice asked. It was difficult to see who it was because of the gloom both indoors and out. I wanted to turn on my flashlight but thought it might be rude when Sgt. Goat did just that. He shone his flashlight's piercing beam into the speaker's face who calmly closed his eyes as the light revealed a placid, simian countenance, wearing a slight smile but otherwise apparently unperturbed by the light. Now the figure stepped aside and gestured us in. 

   I stepped in and immediately stopped so that Sgt. Goat bumped into me from behind. I could hear him gasp as he saw what I was seeing. The room was vast, with a long vaulted ceiling so high up it was barely visible despite being well lit. The gloom we perceived outside the door was completely transformed into this bright, almost daylight bright, panorama upon our crossing the threshold. We stepped into another world. I could not see any walls, just an endless room furnished with couches and tables, fountains and hearths, potted trees and bushes, aisles that extended beyond sight, passing ponds and cottages. The monkey smiled at our dazed gaping, clearly pleased. 

   “Follow, please,” he said, leading us a short distance to a room created by two long couches forming an ell shape in front of a large hearth with a crackling fire. The fourth wall was mostly open, the rest was a long cabinet with a sink and refrigerator. 

   When we were seated, he wheeled a cart over that had tea and biscuits, a perennial favorite in Elvenstead. 

   “This is most kind of you,” I said, sipping the excellent tea. “Allow me to introduce ourselves. I’m Detective-Inspector Rosy Gee and this is Sergeant Brakly Goat.” 

   “We are humbled at your acquaintance,” the monkey said with prayer hands and a bow. “I am called Veebrishar. Please enjoy your visit.” 

   “Thank you, uh, Veebrishar. But if you don't mind my asking, how is this room so grand?” I looked upward into the soaring heights. “I mean, I'm not aware of any buildings of this size in this part of town. Nothing even close.” 

   “It is not the structure that is given to meaning, rather it is the space inside,” Veebrishar answered with a smile. I nodded like that made sense while Sgt. Goat scribbled in his notebook. 

   There were flowery scents wafting across the room and the sound of a brook in the distance. I don't know how long we sat there but I don't think I've ever felt so peaceful and relaxed. Finally I looked around, returning to my senses. I looked at Veebrishar, “Oh, gosh! I'm sorry I must have dozed off.” I glanced at Sgt. Goat who was blinking and looking around as if just waking up. “We need to get back to our investigation, Sergeant.” I turned back to Veebrishar, “Thank you for your hospitality. It has been most helpful.” 

   “We are honored to serve,” Veebrishar answered. 

   “Golly, how long have we been here? Surely the rain must have stopped, and well, we've got an investigation to pursue.” 

   “You have been here but a brief moment, no more than a couple minutes.” 

   “What? It must've been longer, much longer.” I looked at my watch. It hadn't been longer at all. I looked curiously at Veebrishar. 

   “Eternity is but a single life moment,” Veebrishar intoned. 

   Sgt. Goat scribbled in his notebook and once more I nodded as if that made sense. “Thank you again, but we really must go,” I said. 

   “Of course,” Veebrishar answered. 

   Somehow, as soon as we stood, we were instantly back in the recessed doorway, looking out at what was now a nice, albeit overcast, afternoon. I quickly ran across the street and looked back at the building we had just left. It was nondescript, maybe two floors in places, depending on the trees, but all the upper floors appeared to be vacant. Below were three storefronts that faced the street comprising the main structure which were all small shops, well lit up inside. I walked back across to where Sgt. Goat was waiting. He wore a totally bemused expression that I'm sure matched my own. 

Gee * Part Four. It was us all along.  

   We returned to the Bop Bop duBop to fetch our waggal in silence then returned to the station. We decided to quit for the day and regroup tomorrow. The next morning I was feeling a little more grounded and met up with Sgt. Goat at the station. 

   “Good morning, Ma'am. Where're we headed today?” 

   “Morning Sergeant. I'm not sure. Let's get some coffee, eh?” With coffee in hand we returned to our office cubby. “I keep thinking about that vast room we were in yesterday,” I began. 

   “No way to explain it, Ma'am,” Sgt. Goat said, “except magic. I've heard that in parts of Elvenstead there is magic being performed every day.” 

   “Yeah, I've heard that too. Especially in the farms down south and out east.” 

   “Uh-huh. And how about the super tall mountains in Wayfar? Or the eastern deserts with millions of kilometers of drifting sand, where strange creatures lurk and . . .” 

   “Yes, I get your drift Sergeant. There's magic. Got it. But that room . . . well, I guess it could be explained by magic, although that seems almost like a cop-out, you know? Like, well, what if it wasn't magic?” 

   “Huh? What else could it be?” 

   “I don't know. Perhaps the monkey showed us another reality.” I paused, thinking. “It wasn't the building that was important, it was the space inside.” 

   “Yes, I remember, Ma'am. That's just what he said.” 

   “And it was vast Sergeant, much larger than anything in Elvenstead, and way bigger than the building it was in.” I paused. “I think we've solved our case,” I said, suddenly seeing the answer to the big Why. 

   “Yes, Ma'am,” he replied, giving me a questioning look. 

   “You see Sergeant, it's not about what we build, that's not the reason why, it's about the space inside, that's the answer to the big Why. The space inside.” 

   “I'm not sure I follow Ma'am,” he said. 

   “The space inside is where we live, Sergeant, whether it be inside our homes or inside our heads it's all about that existence. About being and becoming something greater, even about increasing our frequency like the Lennerd said. That is the reason why for everything.”  

   “Just being?” 

   “I wouldn't say just, sergeant. If eternity is in fact contained in a single life moment, as that monkey, Veebrishar, and his vast room suggested, then life is the ultimate treasure. Being and growing are the reasons why because consciousness is the creator as well as the answer to the big Why.” 

   “Yes, Ma'am, that makes sense.” 

   “I hope so Sergeant. Well then, let's write our report and turn it in. Another case solved.”