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13

In Which They Return to the Enchanted Forest at Last

They told Telemain and Jack the whole story over dinner and discussed it late into the night. Telemain was intrigued by their description of Kazul's imprisonment.

"You say these wizards have an enchantment capable of confining a dragon?" he said eagerly. "Are you sure?"

"That's certainly what it looked like," Cimorene said, pouring herself a cup of hot chocolate. The stew and the dinner dishes had long since been cleared away and were piled in the bucket of soapy water waiting for someone to have the time or the inclination to wash them.

Mendanbar wondered idly whether a bucket of soapy water plus lemon juice plus dishes would be as good for melting a wizard as one without dishes, and what effect the dishes would have on the process. Being melted was probably not very comfortable, but being melted while cups and plates and forks were falling on your head was likely to be even less so.

"I knew I was right to join you," Telemain said, smiling. "I might not have heard about this enchantment at all, if I hadn't. It sounds like a simple modulation of the upper frequencies of a standard reptilian restraint spell, but on an enormously increased scale. I wonder where they're getting the power."

"I don't care how they did it," Cimorene snapped. "I care about getting Kazul out of it as soon as possible."

"A trivial detail, once the construction of the spell is properly understood," Telemain said confidently.

"Trivial?" Mendanbar said. "Aren't you forgetting about the wizards? I don't think they'll just let us walk in and take their spell apart."

"And goodness knows what they'll do to Kazul in the meantime," Cimorene muttered.

"Nonsense," Telemain said. "I comprehend your concern, but it is highly unlikely that this episode will prove more than a minor inconvenience so far as your dragon friend is concerned."

Cimorene did not look convinced, so Telemain launched into a lecture on the political implications of the situation, the main point of which was that it would be stupid for the Society of Wizards to hurt Kazul and that wizards were not stupid. Privately, Mendanbar thought that it had been stupid of the wizards to kidnap Kazul in the first place, but saying so would not reassure Cimorene, so he kept quiet.

After a while, Telemain finished his lecture. He did not wait for Cimorene to respond, but turned at once to Mendanbar and asked about his sword. Like Cimorene, the magician could feel the sword spilling magic "like a beacon on a mountaintop," and he was amazed-and completely fascinated-to learn that Mendanbar noticed nothing unusual.

"I don't understand why I didn't spot it at once," Telemain said, shaking his head over his cup of chocolate (which looked to Mendanbar as if it had gone cold during his long speech about the relative intelligence of wizards.

"You mean when you met us?" Cimorene said. "Mendanbar's sword wasn't spraying magic all over right then. He'd just used up most of it on the rock snakes."

"It seems to recover very quickly," Telemain said with a sidelong look at the sword. "Is it always like this?"

"How should I know?" Mendanbar said, running a hand through his hair in frustration. "I can't tell when it's doing it, much less when it isn't."

"Yes, you said that before." Telemain sipped at his chocolate, staring absently into space. "I shall have to think about this for a while," he said at last, as though making a profound announcement. "It's a pity you haven't time to visit my tower for a few tests-" "Absolutely not?" Mendanbar interrupted.

"We have to rescue Kazul from the wizards," Cimorene put in quickly.

"Before this business turns into more than a minor inconvenience.

Before those wizards decide she's too much trouble to keep around and feed her some dragonsbane."

Telemain considered this for a moment. "An excellent idea," he said at last with evident sincerity.

Mendanbar and Cimorene stared at him.

"If the Society of Wizards poisons the King of the Dragons, there is certain to be a war," Telemain explained. "Wars are very distracting.

I don't like being distracted; it interferes with my work. So it would be a very good thing if we made sure there was no war."

"I'm so glad you think so," Cimorene said. Her voice sounded a little strange.

The discussion continued for a little longer, but it was getting late and everyone was tired. Finally, Jack suggested that they go to bed.

"It's all very well for you adventurous types to sit around jawing until past midnight , but some people have work to do in the morning," he said pointedly.

"I am not an 'adventurous type," "Telemain said with dignity. "I am in research."

"Fine, fine," Jack said. "So go research my second-best bed. You and the King, here, take the room on the right, Princess Cimorene gets the one on the left, and I get to bunk under the kitchen. Good night, everybody."

That settled things for the evening, but the conference continued the next morning over a breakfast of flapjacks and honey.

"It seems very likely to me that you are correct about Kazul's location," Telemain said. "She is probably being held somewhere in the Enchanted Forest. Our first task, therefore, must be to find her."

"Our first task is to get back into the Enchanted Forest," Mendanbar corrected. "I don't even know which direction it's in anymore."

"It's over that way,"Jack said, waving at the large mountain in back of the house. "Not far if you're flying, but a long way to walk. You have to go around, you see. Now, I've got a nice broomstick that'll get you there in a jiffy. It's extra long, so it'll seat all three of you very comfortably, and it's hardly been used at all."

"No, thank you, Jack," Telemain said firmly. "Broomsticks are only reliable transportation for witches. We will manage this ourselves.

Pass the flapjacks, please."

"Here," said Cimorene, handing him the plate. "Do you mean that you're going to take us to the Enchanted Forest the same way you brought us here? I thought it would be harder than that."

"Actually, it is," Telemain said. "The Enchanted Forest is unique, magically speaking, and therefore the interface between the forest and the rest of the world is equally unique. Penetrating that interface requires a specific application."

"What's that mean, when it's at home?" said Jack.

"You need a special spell to get into the Enchanted Forest , because it's different from everywhere else," Mendanbar translated.

Telemain looked irritated. "That's what I just said."

"Is that why Mendanbar's spell dropped us into the ravine with the rock snakes instead of in the forest?" Cimorene asked.

"Possibly." Telemain frowned. "It seems unlikely, however.

Mendanbar's magic is of the same variety as that of the forest. It should have worked perfectly well, assuming it worked at all."

"Well, why didn't it?" Mendanbar asked crossly. He was getting tired of puzzles, especially puzzles connected with his sword, his magic, and his forest.

"I'm afraid I can't answer that from your description," Telemain replied, his frown deepening. "I can think of half a dozen things that might have gone wrong, but without seeing it myself I don't know which of them it was."

"So do it again, and watch it this time," Jack said. "Hand me the honey, would you, Your Majesty?"

Mendanbar picked up the honey pot, which was shaped like a fat purple bear. Resisting the urge to throw it at Jack's head, he handed it over and said mildly, "I don't think I like the idea of repeating the spell.

Last time it knocked me out for four hours, and I'm not willing to do that again just so Telemain can find out why."

"Oh, that's easy enough to fix," Telemain said. "A few wards, properly set, and there won't be any backlash worth worrying about."

"How much backlash does it take before you worry about it?"

Cimorene asked, sounding dubious about the whole idea.

"A three-day headache," Jack put in before Telemain could answer.

"And that's only because if his head hurts he has trouble thinking about the wherefore of the whatsit."

"That is a serious exaggeration," Telemain said stiffly. "And I don't anticipate that this experiment would result in any kind of prolonged effect, particularly if I set wards first. I have some idea of what to expect, you see, so I can customize the shielding spells to correspond to the specific variety of backlash."

"It sounds good," Cimorene said. "I think. But what happens if it doesn't work?"

Telemain began a long, involved, and somewhat indignant explanation of why his shielding spells could not fail to work. Mendanbar listened with only part of his mind; the rest was busy thinking about Telemain's suggestion.

It looked to him as if the only way they were likely to get back into the Enchanted Forest was by means of his own magic. Telemain hadn't actually said he couldn't do it himself, but Mendanbar was fairly sure that was what he had meant. And from the way Jack talked, walking would take more time than they had to spare.

Even if it took Telemain two tries, or three, to figure out what had gone wrong with Mendanbar's transportation spell, it would still be much faster than walking. Of course, they could always rent some of Jack's wares, but after their experiences with the magic carpet, Mendanbar was not at all happy with that idea.

Repeating the spell would be a chance to find out more about the sword, too. His adventures since leaving the Enchanted Forest had made Mendanbar see just how little he really knew about his magic, and the sword seemed like a good place to start finding things out. The only question was, could the wards actually keep the transportation spell from knocking him head over heels again?

"Telemain, how sure of these shielding spells are you?" Mendanbar asked as soon as there was a lull in the conversation.

Telemain looked at him. "Very sure indeed. I have just spent no little time and breath telling Princess Cimorene, here, exactly how sure that is, why I am sure, and how unlikely it is that I am wrong.

Obviously, you have not been attending. Do you wish me to repeat the entire explanation?"

"No, of course not," Mendanbar said hastily. "I'm sorry I wasn't listening, but I had to think for a minute."

"And?" said Cimorene.

"And I think we should do it. As long as Telemain is sure he can keep me from being knocked out again, that is."

"I am," Telemain said, sounding faintly put out. "I have been telling you that all morning."

"Good," said Jack. "I like to have things settled. You sure you don't want a pair of seven-league boots for backup?"

"There are three of us and you only have one pair of boots," Cimorene pointed out.

They finished breakfast quickly and helped Jack clear up. Telemain had some things to discuss with Jack, so Mendanbar and Cimorene went outside to give them a chance to talk alone. Mendanbar noticed that the worry line between Cimorene's eyebrows was back.

"What's the matter?" he asked.

"Are you sure about this?" Cimorene said. "Doing the transportation spell, I mean. After what happened before…"

"I'll be more careful this time," Mendanbar said. "And Telemain's wards should help. Between the two of us, it ought to be all right."

Cimorene did not look convinced. "You're still taking a big chance.

There are other ways to get into the Enchanted Forest."

"Not in a hurry, there aren't," Mendanbar said. "And once we get back, we still have to find Kazul. We can't afford to waste any more time."

"I know." Cimorene chewed on her lower lip, frowning. "Look, you're the King of the Enchanted Forest . You shouldn't be taking chances like this just to help me out."

"I like helping you out," Mendanbar said. "But it's not just that.

It's my job to take care of the Enchanted Forest . If the wizards have Kazul trapped somewhere in my kingdom, it's my responsibility."

"You're not responsible for what the Society of Wizards does."

"No, but when it involves the forest it involves me, too, and I have to try to put it straight."

"No wonder you looked so tired when you showed up at Kazul's cave," Cimorene muttered. "Mendanbar-" The door of the house slammed.

Telemain came hurrying down the steps, carrying the wizard's staff.

"I'm sorry I kept you waiting," the magician said. "Are you ready to start?"

"Yes," said Mendanbar.

"You aren't bringing that along, are you?" Cimorene demanded, eying the staff with disfavor.

"Of course I'm bringing it along," Telemain said. "I told you how long I've been looking for one. If I leave it with Jack, odds are he'll sell it to somebody before the day is out. He wouldn't be able to help it. Here, hold this for a minute while I set up the wards."

With visible reluctance, Cimorene took the wizard's staff. She grimaced as her fingers touched it, as if it felt slimy and unpleasant.

At the same time, Mendanbar laid a hand on his sword and pushed a tendril of magic at the staff, to see whether there were any lingering spells, but he did not sense anything.

Raising a hand, Telemain began to mutter rapidly. Mendanbar watched with interest as the magician worked, calling up magical power and shaping it into a loose net that surrounded all three of them.

"There," Telemain said at last. "That should do it." He repossessed the staff from Cimorene and looked at Mendanbar. "Whenever you're ready."

Mendanbar studied the net uncertainly. "Is that all there is to it? Should I aim through one of the holes or through one of the threads?"

"Holes?" Telemain said. "Threads? What are you talking about?"

"This net of yours," Mendanbar said. "The warding spell. Does it matter where I aim?"

"You can see the warding spell?" Telemain looked and sounded considerably startled by the very idea.

"It's not seeing exactly," Mendanbar said. "But I can tell where it is and how it's put together."

"Fascinating," Telemain said. "Have you always been able to do that?"

"No. It comes with being King of the Enchanted Forest ."

"Does it?" Telemain's expression was all eager interest. "Can you do it for any spell? Here, let me try a listening spell, and you see if you can spot it.

"I thought we were supposed to be trying to get to the Enchanted Forest ," Cimorene put in pointedly. "Can't you wait and experiment after we rescue Kazul?"

"Of course," Telemain said. "Do forgive me. I sometimes get carried away." He nodded apologetically, but Mendanbar thought he sounded disappointed.

"About this net-" Mendanbar reminded him.

"Oh, yes, you wanted to know about aiming." Telemain considered for a moment. "It shouldn't make the least bit of difference."

"Good," said Mendanbar. He drew his sword, and both Telemain and Cimorene jumped. Mendanbar supposed the sword must be leaking again.

He pushed careful little dabs of power through the sword to mark Telemain and Cimorene, to be sure that they would come along with him.

Then he raised the sword and pointed toward the mountain, where Jack had said the Enchanted Forest lay.

"I think I'll try to take us straight to the palace," he said, and began forming the picture in his mind.

"No, no!" Telemain interrupted. "Do it exactly the way you did before.

That's the whole point of this exercise."

"I thought the point was to get to the Enchanted Forest," Cimorene muttered.

Mendanbar shrugged. The castle would be a better place from which to try and locate Kazul, since it was at the center-near the center-of the Enchanted Forest, but once they were in the forest, getting to the castle would be no trouble. If Telemain wanted to watch an exact duplication of the transportation spell that had dumped them in the ravine, there was no reason not to let him. Releasing his image of the palace, Mendanbar substituted a mental picture of the Green Glass Pool.

He took his time over the image, painstakingly remembering every detail of the rocks and trees and water. When the picture was as clear as he could make it, he took a deep breath and gave the power of the sword a slow, twisting pull.

The mountains and the trees and Jack's queer little house faded to gray ghosts, then melted into mist and were gone. An instant later, the mist vanished. They were standing at the edge of the Green Glass Pool.

"Absolutely fascinating!" Telemain said. "That is, without a doubt, the neatest transportation spell I have ever had the pleasure of utilizing. But I thought you said you had some trouble with it."

"He did, last time," Cimorene said.

"Well, you'd better not put your sword away, then," Telemain said. "I can't tell what the problem was until I see it. You'll just have to do the spell again."

Mendanbar, who had already stuck his sword back in its sheath, shook his head. "I never use the sword to move around the Enchanted Forest .

I don't need it."

"By the way, your sword has stopped spraying magic around again," Cimorene said. "I thought you might want to know."

"So it has," Telemain said. "What an intriguing phenomenon."

"That reminds me," Mendanbar said. "The burned-out area I told you about should be right over there. Would you mind taking a look at it, since we're here?"

"Happy to oblige," Telemain replied.

"What about finding Kazul?" Cimorene asked.

"I'll try and locate her while Telemain is examining the clearing," Mendanbar said. "A locating spell takes a while to set up, anyway, so we won't lose any time to speak of, unless looking at the charred spot takes a lot longer than I expect it to."

Cimorene still did not look altogether pleased, but she nodded, and Mendanbar led the way between the enormous trees. There was the burned section, as empty of life and magic as it had been when he had first seen it.

Cimorene's expression changed to one of shock and anger, and even Telemain looked shaken.

"I see why you wanted me to look at this," Telemain said.

"So do I," Cimorene agreed.

Setting the wizard's staff under a tree near the edge of the charred area, Telemain walked slowly forward until he reached the spot where the ashes began. Kneeling, he ran his fingers over the dry, dead earth. After a moment, he rose and moved on, into the burned section itself. Little swirls of ash followed him.

For a few minutes, Mendanbar watched the magician work. Then, remembering his promise to Cimorene, he tore his attention away and turned to his own task.

It was a relief to be back in the Enchanted Forest, where magic was nearly automatic. Quickly, Mendanbar sorted through the invisible threads of power, selecting the ones that ran all the way to the farthest edges of the Enchanted Forest. They made quite a bundle, but it was better to do it all at once than to split them up and risk skipping one by accident.

When he was sure he had all the threads he wanted, he looped them around his right wrist and twined his fingers through the strands as they fanned out in all directions. With his left hand, he caught a free-floating filament and wound it into a small ball. He set the ball on the web of unseen tendrils that radiated out from the bundle at his wrist. In his mind, he pictured Kazul and the wizards as he and Cimorene had seen them in Herman's window. Then he gave the invisible ball a flick and sent it rolling rapidly out along the first of the threads.

The ball picked up speed and vanished. Then it was back, bouncing to the next thread and spinning away along the new path. Out and back it went in the blink of an eye, over and over, eliminating one thread each time.

And then it went out and did not return.

Mendanbar frowned. That wasn't supposed to happen. If the spell-ball didn't find Kazul, it should come back and hop to the next thread, to check along it. If it did find Kazul, it should come back and stop, marking the thread they should follow to lead them to the dragon.

Either way, the spell-ball was supposed to come back.

"What is it?" Cimorene said.

Mendanbar looked up, startled, to find Cimorene watching his face closely. "Something's wrong," he told her. "Wait a minute while I try something."

Gently, he wiggled the last thread down which the spell-ball had vanished.

He felt a vibration travel the length of the thread, and for a moment he hoped that it was the spell-ball returning. Then, with a high, thin sound like a tight wire breaking, the thread snapped, leaving a long end waving loose in the air in front of him.

"What was that?" Telemain said, looking up.

"Something very wrong indeed," Mendanbar said grimly. "You'd better stop that and come over here. We're going to the palace right now."


12 In Which Yet Another Wizard Tries to Cause Trouble | Searching for Dragons | 14 In Which Mendanbar Has Some Interesting Visitors