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10

In Which Mendanbar Decides to Experiment

Mendanbar stared at the window, angrier than he could remember being in a long time. In the back of his mind, he could hear a voice reminding him that the King of the Dragons was no concern of the King of the Enchanted Forest and that the Society of Wizards was a dangerous group to offend or interfere with. He could hear another voice that sounded very like Willin's, suggesting envoys and formal complaints. But he was in no mood to pay attention to either of them. Mendanbar was not going to stand by and let the Society of Wizards kidnap and imprison anyone, King of the Dragons or not.

"Huh," said the dwarf. "So you weren't kidding about looking for that dragon."

"Of course not," Cimorene snapped. Her eyes were fixed on the window, and there was a little crease between her eyebrows. "But where are they? Window! Show me where they are."

Magic rose up around the window in a great wave, and Mendanbar felt an answering surge in his sword. The window turned bright green, glowing brighter and brighter, then suddenly shattered into dust.

"Hey!" said the dwarf. "My window!"

"Drat!" Cimorene's hands clenched into fists, and she glared at the empty space where the window had been. After a moment, she shook her head and turned to the dwarf. "I'm sorry, Herman. I didn't know it would do that. And we don't really know any more than we did before."

"Oh, yes, we do," Mendanbar said. "We know that some wizards have captured Kazul, and we know that they're somewhere in the Enchanted Forest ."

"We do?"

"I'm sure of it. I think that's why the window couldn't show a more general picture of where they were. Things in the Enchanted Forest move around a lot, especially if the forest doesn't like something.

I'll bet my best crown that that"-Mendanbar waved at the empty window frame-"is something the Enchanted Forest doesn't like one bit."

"All right, but that doesn't help much," Cimorene said. "The Enchanted Forest is a big place. How are we going to find them?"

"That won't be a problem," Mendanbar said. "I'm the King of the Enchanted Forest , remember?"

"That makes you good at finding missing dragons?"

"It makes me good at finding out what's going on," Mendanbar said.

"I can tell when places are moving around, and I can get where I want to go even when it's moving. I don't think it will be too hard, once we get back inside the forest."

"Then let's go," Cimorene said. "I didn't like the look of that bubble thing those wizards had around Kazul."

"At least they don't seem to have hurt her," Mendanbar offered.

"That's true. Oh, I wish I knew what they were up to!" Cimorene scowled at the broken window, then turned sharply away, almost running into the dwarf.

"I don't understand this at all," the dwarf said, looking from Cimorene to Mendanbar with a puzzled frown.

"I'm sorry we don't have time to explain," Mendanbar said. "But I'm afraid we don't."

"Thank you for all your help," Cimorene added.

The dwarf shook his head and led them back to the front door, frowning in such deep concentration the whole time that neither Mendanbar nor Cimorene could bring themselves to interrupt. In the doorway, the dwarf paused.

"Are you sure you don't want any gold?" he asked.

"Quite sure," Mendanbar said. "We have a long walk ahead of us, and gold is awfully heavy."

"I thought you didn't want to spin gold anymore," Cimorene added.

The dwarf looked down. "It's not the spinning, it's the rest of it," he said, not very clearly. "And spinning's the only way I know to make money, and you wouldn't believe how fast kids grow."

"Oh," said Cimorene. She bit her lip. "What if we asked you to spin some gold for us and then let you keep it?" she asked without much hope.

"No," said the dwarf. "I tried it once. It just doesn't work."

"Can you spin for the children?" Mendanbar asked.

The dwarf shook his head. "They're my responsibility, so it's the same as spinning for myself as far as the spell is concerned."

"What are you going to do with them all?" Cimorene asked as renewed shrieks and the sound of pounding feet came through the open door.

"Oh, most of them will grow up and save their kingdoms from something or other in the nick of time," the dwarf said. "Long-lost heirs, you know. That's what makes it so difficult. I have to see that they're properly trained on top of everything else."

"Training," Mendanbar said under his breath. He squinted into the sunlight, trying to catch hold of an idea that hovered just out of reach.

"I don't suppose their parents" Cimorene's voice trailed off as the dwarf shook his head.

"A bargain's a bargain. Besides, it wouldn't be the same without them running all over. I can't give them back."

"Of course not," Mendanbar said, blinking. He smiled suddenly. "But you can charge for training them, can't you?"

An answering smile lit up Cimorene's face. "A boarding school for long-lost heirs. What a good idea[" "A school?" the dwarf said as if the words tasted funny. "A boarding school? I don't know-" "why not?"

Cimorene said. "It would solve your money problems for sure. Special schools are always horribly expensive. You could charge the parents of your children for just the training part, and take on a few more kids at training plus full room and board."

The dwarfs eyes gleamed at the idea, but then his face fell. "what about my spinning?" he said. "It's a family tradition."

Cimorene rolled her eyes. "Haven't you done enough of that already?"

"Well-" "I have an idea about that, too," Mendanbar put in. "The problem with the spell is that you can't spin for yourself or for anyone who's your responsibility, right?"

"That's it in a nutshell," the dwarf said. "And there's nothing to be done about it."

'"what if you set up a scholarship fund?" Mendanbar said. "I'll bet a really good lawyer could design one that would get around the spell's restrictions so you could spin for it." Good thing. And if that doesn't work, you could spin for other scholarship funds and only take part of the gold, the way you usually do."

"I never thought of spinning for a fund," the dwarf said in wonder.

"You think about it, then," Mendanbar said. "We have to go."

"Yes," said Cimorene. "I won't feel quite comfortable until I know Kazul is out of that bubble. Thank you again."

They left the dwarf in the doorway, muttering to himself about rooms and expenses, and walked over to the rolled-up carpet.

Mendanbar looked at it with distaste, remembering their wild ride. He hoped Cimorene wasn't going to insist on using it right away. His stomach hadn't completely settled from the last time. He turned his head. Cimorene was looking at him with a wary expression.

"Let's carry it for a while," she suggested. "The children are probably watching, and we shouldn't give them ideas."

"Right," Mendanbar said with relief. "Do you want the front end or the back?"

Cimorene took the back end, and they hoisted the carpet to their shoulders and started off. Walking with the carpet was surprisingly easy.

Cimorene was a good match for Mendanbar in height, and she was quite strong. Mendanbar supposed it must be from carrying around dragon-sized servings of lamb and beef, and before he thought, he said as much.

"Actually, it's the chocolate mousse and cherries jubilee," Cimorene said.

"I didn't think chocolate mousse was particularly heavy."

"It is when you've got a bucket full of it in each hand," Cimorene retorted.

"Oh," said Mendanbar. "Yes, I suppose it would be."

He was trying to figure out how much a bucket of mousse would weigh when the carpet jerked suddenly. Mendanbar grabbed at it, thinking Oh, no, it's going to start dancing around on its own-Then he realized that the carpet had jerked because Cimorene had stopped. He looked reproachfully over his shoulder.

"It's time for lunch," Cimorene said. "All this talk about food is making me hungry, and I don't want to have to face a lot of wizards on an empty stomach."

Now that she mentioned it, he was hungry, too. "Good idea," Mendanbar said with enthusiasm. "And this looks like a nice spot to stop.

Will you serve, or shall I?"

Cimorene laughed. They set the rolled-up carpet on a stretch of grass between two pines and got out Ballimore's package, then sat down to see what the giantess had sent along with them. It was, as Mendanbar had expected, an enormous quantity of food-seven fat pastries stuffed with chicken and herbs, a large bottle of cold spring water, a round loaf of bread and a generous wedge of yellow cheese, four large red apples, and a small box filled with a wonderful, creamy chocolate fudge.

"My goodness," Cimorene said when they had unpacked everything.

"Ballimore certainly believes in feeding people well. Look at all of this!"

No, no," Mendanbar said, picking up one of the pastries and handing it to Cimorene. "Don't look at it. Eat it."

"I wonder where she got the fudge," Cimorene mused. "Everything else is probably from the Cauldron of Plenty, but it doesn't do desserts very well."

"Maybe she made it herself."

"I hope so." Cimorene smiled at Mendanbar's look of surprise. "If she did, I can ask her for the recipe."

By an unspoken mutual agreement, neither Mendanbar nor Cimorene mentioned Kazul or the wizards during lunch, though they were both certainly thinking about them. Instead, they had a pleasant talk about some of the odd and interesting people they had each met over the past few years.

Cimorene knew a lot of unusual folk. Many of them were dragons, of course, but her position as Kazul's Chief Cook and Librarian meant that she had also met most of the visitors from outside the Mountains of Morning who came to pay their respects to the Kin g of the Dragons or to ask her questions.

Near the end of the meal, Mendanbar noticed that Cimorene was gazing intently at him. No, not at him: at his sword.

"What is it?" Mendanbar asked worriedly.

"Have you been doing things with that sword again?" Cimorene demanded.

"No," Mendanbar said, puzzled. "I used it on your sink, and to stop the nightshade, and when the carpet started falling, but that's all.

Why?"

"Because it's leaking magic all over the place," Cimorene said. "I thought so before, but now I'm positive." She finished her second pastry and stood up, brushing crumbs from her lap. "That sheath must not be as good as I thought. Would you mind letting me look at it? Without the sword."

"Not at all," Mendanbar answered. He stood up and drew the sword.

Cimorene flinched. "Is something wrong?"

"I don't know," Cimorene said. "Can't you feel it?"

"Feel what?"

"Your sword. It isn't the sheath after all; it's that dratted sword.

It's gotten worse. Put it away, quickly."

Thoroughly puzzled, Mendanbar did as Cimorene asked. "All right," he said. "Now, would you please explain?"

"I'm not sure I can," Cimorene said. "You didn't know what I meant before, when I said your sword reeked of magic, so I suppose it's reasonable that you can't tell that the reek is twice as strong now.

You'll just have to take my word for it."

Mendanbar looked down at the sword, thinking hard. "It's linked to the Enchanted Forest , and I've never taken it out of the woods before," he said at last. "Maybe it doesn't like it. Maybe it's trying to make the mountains more like the Enchanted Forest ." It sounded silly put that way, but he couldn't think how else to say it. It would sound even sillier if he told her that he thought the sword was trying to stuff some magic into the empty, barren-feeling land around it.

"Um," said Cimorene, gazing absently at the sword. After a moment, she looked up. "I'll bet you're right. Bother. That means we have to use the carpet." She bent and started packing up the remains of their lunch.

"Wait a minute," Mendanbar said. "What has my sword got to do with that carpet?"

"If being outside the Enchanted Forest is what makes your sword behave like a-a magic beacon, then we have to get it back inside the Enchanted Forest as fast as we can," Cimorene explained patiently. "Otherwise every ogre and wizard for leagues and leagues around will come looking for whatever is making all the fuss. And the carpet is a lot faster than walking."

"I don't trust it."

"We managed before. It ought to be easier now that we know what to expect. Here, help me." She knelt and began unrolling the carpet as she spoke.

'Do we know what to expect?" Remembering the bumping, spinning, unpredictable ride, Mendanbar shuddered.

"Look, I don't like it any better than you do, but we have to do something about that sword. Besides, the sooner we get to the forest, the sooner you can find out where those wizards have Kazul. And do we have any other choice?"

"I could probably use the sword to get us to the Enchanted Forest," Mendanbar suggested.

Cimorene sat back on her heels, staring at him. "You can do that? Why on earth didn't you say so to begin with? We could have gone straight to Kazul's grandchildren's cave and saved a lot of time."

"I didn't mention it before because I'm not really sure it will work," Mendanbar said. "I've never tried that particular spell outside the Enchanted Forest before, and it wouldn't be a good idea to test it for the first time to get somewhere I've never been. Especially somewhere that isn't in the Enchanted Forest either." Actually, he hadn't tried any of his usual spells outside the Enchanted Forest before, for the very good reason that he hadn't been outside the Enchanted Forest since he'd become King and started working magic, but he didn't like to mention that in front of Cimorene.

He was quite sure that if she had suddenly become the ruler of a magical kingdom, she would have tested all her new spells and powers and abilities immediately, under as many different conditions as she could come up with. He didn't want her to think he was careless or neglectful.

"So we can either experiment with the carpet again or experiment with your spell," Cimorene said. She scowled thoughtfully at the teddy bears, then looked up at Mendanbar and smiled. "Let's try the spell.

What do you want me to do?"

"Just stand there," Mendanbar said, returning her smile. "I've never worked with another magician, and one experiment at a time is enough."

"Why haven't you?" Cimorene asked as she climbed to her feet.

"Worked with another magician, I mean. From what you were telling me yesterday, you've got more than enough work for a couple of assistants."

"I've never had time to find any assistants," Mendanbar said. "Except Willin, my steward, and he's never learned much magic."

"You mean you're trying to run the whole Enchanted Forest by yourself?"

Cimorene said. "You're as bad as the dragons!"

"What?"

"It took me six months to persuade them that the King of the Dragons didn't need to do everything all the time," Cimorene explained. "And then it took me three more months to get a system set up so they wouldn't keep returning to Kazul with every little problem."

"You set up a system? How? I mean, how did you know"

Mendanbar's voice trailed off.

To his surprise, Cimorene flushed very slightly. "I studied a lot of unusual things when I was growing up," she said. "Unusual for a princess, I mean. Politics was one of them."

"It sounds like a perfectly reasonable thing for a princess to study to me," Mendanbar said. "Look how useful it's been for you."

"Well, it's not one of the things a princess is supposed to learn," Cimorene said. "You wouldn't believe the fuss they made when they found out I'd talked my protocol teacher into covering it."

"What were you supposed to be learning, then?"

Cimorene made a face. "Embroidery and dancing and etiquette and proper behavior."

"No wonder princesses are silly, if that's all they're supposed to know about," Mendanbar said without thinking. He blinked and added hastily, "Not you. I mean, you aren't silly, even if you are a princess. I mean-" "Don't try to explain any more; you'll only make it worse," Cimorene said, laughing. "Now, hadn't we better try that spell? We are in a bit of a hurry, remember."

"Right." With some difficulty, Mendanbar pushed the discussion out of his mind and tried to remember how he had been planning to work the transportation spell. Usually he simply twisted one of the threads of power that crisscrossed the Enchanted Forest , pulling himself to his destination, but outside the forest there were no threads that he could feel. There was power in the sword, though, and it was linked with the Enchanted Forest . If he pulled on that, he should be able to move whatever he chose back to the forest.

Before he moved anything, however, he would have to indicate who and what he wanted to move. He didn't want to arrive in the Enchanted Forest with a magic carpet covered with pink teddy bears and no Cimorene.

Mendanbar suppressed a sigh. Spells were so much easier at home, where he didn't have to think about them as much. He dismissed that thought and concentrated on figuring out the shape of the spell he wanted.

When he was satisfied that he knew exactly what he intended to do, and in what order, he put a hand on the hilt of his sword and looked at Cimorene. "Ready?"

"Whenever you are," Cimorene said.

Mendanbar nodded and drew his sword. He heard Cimorene suck in her breath as he raised the weapon over his head and swung it in a slow circle. Carefully, he pointed the sword at the carpet and pushed a tiny bit of power out to label it for the next part of the spell. Then he pointed the sword at Cimorene and repeated the process even more gently than before.

Cimorene shivered, but she remained silent.

Turning, Mendanbar pointed the sword in the direction of the Enchanted Forest. Now for the tricky part. He drew on the power in the sword, feeling it hum through the hilt and into his hands. In his mind he pictured the giant trees of the Enchanted Forest, ranged in silent rows around the rocks that edged the Green Glass Pool, with the still water reflecting them like a green mirror. When he was sure he had the picture clear and steady in his mind, he gave the power in the sword the same twisting pull he used to move from place to place within the Enchanted Forest.

Slowly, almost reluctantly, the rocks began to blur and fade. Mist rose, wavering, to veil the mountains and sky. Then, just as the landscape was about to vanish into thick, woolly grayness, the mist stopped condensing.

For a moment, everything was still. Then the mist thinned and the outlines of the rocks and mountains grew sharper.

Almost, thought Mendanbar. It must need more power because we're outside the Enchanted Forest. He clenched his hands around the hilt of the sword and pulled again, hard.

Gray fog slammed down around him like a window shutter dropping closed. Something hit him like a giant's hammer, and he felt himself falling. Now I've done it, he thought vaguely, just before everything went black. I hope Cimorene is all right. Then he lost consciousness completely. He didn't even feel himself land.


9 In Which They Discover the Perils of Borrowed Equipment | Searching for Dragons | 11 In Which Mendanbar and Cimorene Are Very Busy Something was wrong.