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TOO MUCH MAGIC

Title: Too Much Magic

Series: N/A

Author: Jane Tesh

ISBN: 978-1-60975-247-7

Product Code: BK0166

Format: Trade Paperback

Pages: 214

Release Date: March 2020

Cover Price: $17.95

Our Price: $17.95

 

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Book Jacket

 

Coronation Day looms for Mel Worthington, surprise heir to the throne of Eldenfair, a fairy tale land located on a vast alternate world called Andrea on the Other Side of his human home.  Mel is also the grandson of Sorena, Eldenfair’s most powerful sorceress.  Sorena has mysteriously disappeared, so Mel must depend upon her familiar, the snake Sleek, to guide him as he learns how to control his own unexpected magic.

            

Warned by the court wizard, Zorill, of a possible takeover attempt by a rival wizard, Mel and his Captain of the Guard, Riley Evensong, are searching for answers when they fall through doorways of light, landing in various Andrean lands, all threatened by the Cavern-born, evil beings set on conquest.

 

Mel has three days to get back to Eldenfair or forfeit the crown.  More importantly, can he, Riley, and the rabbit Timmon, Official Talking Animal Sidekick, solve the mystery of the doorways and survive the Cavern-born invasion? 

 


 

Book Excerpt

 

1

 

 

 

 Mel Worthington rolled over in bed and wasn’t surprised to find the space beside him empty. Riley was extremely careful about leaving before daybreak. He didn’t mind if anyone knew about their sleeping arrangements, but as Captain of his Palace Guard, Riley was sensitive about How Things Looked, even though their relationship was the worse kept secret in Eldenfair

 Eldenfair. He still couldn’t imagine he lived here, much less heir to the throne. If that weren’t enough, he’d discovered his mother was a magical being, the revered Diamond Queen, worshipped, adored, and followed by almost all of the inhabitants of the fairy realm.

 He was followed, too, although not in the way anyone would have dreamed of in earlier Fairy Tale times. He had a rabid following on Flitter, the fairy equivalent of Twitter, his every movement recorded and posted to the delight of all the young fairies and elves who found anything human fascinating, the son of the Diamond Queen and future King of Eldenfair in particular.

 Well, I’m not that fascinating, he thought. He pushed back the silky blue sheets catching a glimpse of his reflection in the mirror over the bureau. I still look like me, even in blue silk pajamas, pale gold hair and regular features, although his brown eyes that had slowly transitioned into dark purple as he spent more time in the magic land.

He stood at the bedroom window, one hand on the sill. The window looked out on the white marble courtyard of the palace and the clear blue moat filled with white swans and frolicking gold fish. Beyond the palace gate, a lush carpet of green grass spread to the sunlit forest. It was a stunning view. He was happy with the room and didn’t want the huge ornate bedroom the king was supposed to use. Besides, the reigning king, King Brandon, was still in it. Mel’s coronation was several weeks away. That part of the job was daunting, but nothing was quite as intimidating as the fact he was expected to do his mother’s job, as well, and she had been revered as a goddess.

He sat down in the white chair with blue silk cushions by the window, reached for his cell phone, and scrolled through the photos, a few pictures of friends and co-workers, a few pictures of the Parkland gardens in the spring. Here was his old office in the Parkland Public Library, wall to wall books and a desk covered with papers and notes. Here were pictures of the associate librarian and her staff dressed as fairy tale characters for Fairy Tale Day in the children’s section. Here was his own library in the study of his small apartment, a peaceful haven with subdued lighting and quiet shades of blue.

 

♦   ♦  

 

I didn’t have much of a life outside the library, he thought. Now I have too much. The palace library is fantastic, overwhelmingly so. Every fairy tale book I could ever want in clean beautifully bound books with glorious illustrations. But sometimes I wish I could be back in the Parkland Library, rooting through the dusty stacks, or back in my study, searching the Internet for rare and out of print volumes.

He shook his head at the idea of returning to his old life. If I hadn’t gone over the edge, I wouldn’t have met Riley. I could never leave her. If there was a way for both of us to go back to Earth—but that would be vastly unfair to her. She’d hate all the noise and pollution and crime. Although she’d make one hell of a police officer. Crime in Parkland wouldn’t stand a chance.

But I can’t go back. I’m needed here.

He stared out the window, wondering how he could possibly do everything that was expected.

“Are you all right, Mel?” said a timid squeaky voice.

He turned his head and looked into the bright and sympathetic bead eyes of the little white mouse with brown spots. She’d climbed up on small matching table to be level with him. “Oh, hello, Sophie. I’m okay, just a bit overwhelmed.”

Sophie put her little paw on his arm. “You’re doing fine, Mel. Everyone says so. Are you worried about the coronation? The king can talk you through it.”

“Not exactly worried. I want to make sure I do everything right.”

“Oh, my goodness, you shouldn’t be worried about that. This will be a big day for everyone. It’s been forever since we’ve had a new king.”

“Really? How long has it been?”

“I’m not sure I remember.” Sophie did a little dance on the table and clapped her paws. “I’m so excited! There will be people and creatures here from all over the land, and I know there will be an amazing feast.”

He smiled, recalling how much the mouse and her brother loved to eat. “To which you and Pete are certainly invited.”

She peered closer. “Are you not excited about it?”

Excited was not how he’d describe his feelings. “I might be able to help rule the kingdom, but I can’t do what my mother did, too.”

Her eyes widened and her whiskers twitched. “That is a lot.”

“She was a goddess, Sophie. I can’t compete with that.”

“But she was also a person, a real person like you, trying to do her best. What was she like as a mother?”

Her image immediately came to mind, her bright flowing hair, her sweet smile, and the way light seemed to dance around her. “Very kind and loving and patient.”

“You’re very kind and loving and patient, too. The first time we met, you promised to bring me and Pete some food from the Fair, and you did. We’ll honor you, too.” She started to put her front feet up toward her head.

Mel caught her little paws before she made the reverent sign everyone made when they mentioned his mother’s name. “Oh, no. Don’t do that. Not for me.”

“But, Mel, you’re the Diamond Prince. You have the power, don’t you?”

“Yes, and I can’t control it.”

Another voice joined the conversation, as squeaky as Sophie’s, but lower. “Then we’ll find someone who can teach you.” Sophie’s brother, Pete, a fat brown mouse, scurried up the table leg and plopped himself beside her. “Have you thought about asking Sorena?”

Mel’s grandmother was an immensely powerful sorceress and notoriously elusive. “No one’s seen her for weeks.”

“Bound to be someone else. What about the other Queens?”

“I wouldn’t trust the Queen of the Inverted Heart,” Sophie said, “but the other two might help.”

One of the most startling things Mel had discovered about life on this side of the gate was a religion based on the four queens of the playing cards. His own mother had taken on the aspect of the Queen of Diamonds, known as the Diamond Queen to the fairytale folk. The Queen of Hearts had become the Queen of the Heart, the Queen of Clubs was referred to as the Queen of the Flower, and the Queen of Spades was called the Queen of the Inverted Heart. Mel had to admit that the spade she carried did look like an upside down heart on a little stem.

When the Diamond Queen mysteriously disappeared, no one knew what had happened to her, but as Mel discovered, his mother had fallen in love with his father, a mortal man, and her love brought her over the edge into the human world. The memory of her lived on in songs and stories of her wonderful deeds.

Now he was expected to carry on her legacy, and he had no idea how to do that.

“Have you ever seen the other Queens?” he asked the two mice.
 “Well, no,” Pete said, “but I’d think they’d come if you called.”

Mel wasn’t sure he could deal with that.

Riley knocked on the open door and entered. “Mel, they’re waiting for you in the throne room.”

“Thank you.” He took a moment to gently pat Sophie and Pete on their soft little heads. “And thank you, too, for listening.”

They both started to make the sign of respect. Sophie caught herself in mid gesture and stopped Pete. “Our pleasure,” she said.

 

♦   ♦  

 

There were a number of new suits hanging in his bedroom closet, all styled after the one he’d been wearing when he came over. He’d tried to explain tee shirts and jeans to the Royal Tailor, who replied stiffly that such garments were not Convention. Well, if he was meeting the King for coronation practice, he needed to look his best. He chose a light blue suit and a white shirt, took a few moments to tie a dark blue tie, and then put on his shoes. He joined Riley in the hallway. “Is there any way to summon the other Queens?” he asked as they went down the hall to the curved staircase that led to the lower floor.

Up went her expressive dark eyebrows. “Summon the other Queens? What for?”

“I thought one of them might be willing to teach me how to control my power.”

“Not a good idea,” she said.

“Are they even real?”

“Your mother was real, wasn’t she?”

“I know my mother was considered the avatar of the Diamond Queen. What about the other three? Do they have living counterparts, as well? Has anyone ever actually seen them?”

Riley, as far as he could tell, was not religious. Beautiful, intelligent, extremely good at her job, but not religious. She was tall and graceful with a slight curve to her ears. Her dark hair was tied back in a neat braid, and the expression in her dark eyes was, as usual, intense. Her father had been Captain of the Palace Guard before her and had written all the rules for the guard. He’d died protecting King Brandon, but Mel didn’t know all the details and hesitated to ask. Riley’s mother was also deceased. She was of elven ancestry, and Riley, her only child, had inherited her mother’s magic, the ability to create fire. It wasn’t a strong spell, but it had come in handy during their former adventures.

“We have a bigger problem,” she said. “Someone is contesting your claim to the throne.”

“I thought we took care of that,” Mel said. “Is it another farm boy, or another sorcerer?”

 “Reports say it is a wizard from the Grim Mountains. He claims no allegiance to any Queen, least of all your mother, and says it is too far out of Convention for a half-ling to rule this world.”

 Mel had to grin. “Did he actually say ‘half-ling’?”

 “Be serious. He plans to attend the coronation, and I’m sure he plans to disrupt it. My greatest concern is not knowing the extent of his power.”

 “Well, I don’t know the extent of my power, either. Why don’t I set up a meeting with this fellow and see if we can come to an agreement?”

 He could tell she didn’t like this idea, either. “I suppose,” she said in a calm voice that meant she was stalling. “That might be a possibility as soon as I gather more information.”

 They reached the throne room. Two guards in gleaming armor opened the doors, and Mel stepped in to be greeted by King Brandon and his three advisors, plump, happy Sifal, who always agreed with everything the king said; thin, negative Dirand, the King’s Brother Who Was Always Scheming to Take Over the Throne; and royal goofball, Ponsonby, who was tall and gangly and always tripping over his feet. All three wore red and purple robes. All three gave him a respectful bow. Sapphira, Official Damsel in Distress, wasn’t there, but since meeting and falling in love with Hugh, the original Farm Boy with Claim to the Throne, she wasn’t really in distress anymore, and Hugh had given up his claim to marry her.

 “Will I be needed, sire?” Riley asked. “There are several palace concerns I should address.”

 “You are welcome to stay, but it isn’t necessary,” the king said. “We shouldn’t be long. Come on in, Mel. Let’s get started.”

 

♦   ♦  

 

Riley went back out into the hall, gave a brief nod to the guards at the door, and strode down the hallway to the courtyard. The security for the coronation was a massive undertaking. Besides the Palace Guard, she had called upon soldiers from three neighboring provinces, as well as the troll guards she knew and trusted. Thousands of beings would descend upon the kingdom for the ceremony, and chances were very good a few of those beings planned to cause trouble. Mel’s magic was no doubt powerful enough to repel any disruptive spell, but he was still learning to control it. She did not want anything to backfire. Or fire of any kind.

Now he wanted to meet this wizard? And the other Queens?

Sometimes she despaired of ever understanding him.

She had been attracted to Melchior Thaddeus Worthington the minute she saw him at the gate that separated their worlds. Expecting an elderly scholar, she’d experienced an uncharacteristically girlish flutter at the sight of the young, handsome Waysider. That the entire land of Eldenfair welcomed him flustered her even more until she learned, as he did, that he was magic and had a legitimate claim to the throne. So did she, but she had decided to remain Captain of the Palace Guard, a title she’d worked long and hard to achieve.

Now her main objective was to continue to protect Mel from any enemies and to see him safely and traditionally crowned in accordance with Fairy Tale Convention. This was ordinarily an easy task, but nothing about Mel followed Convention.

Still, the palace was secure. The forest around the palace was filled with wood elves loyal to the Diamond Queen. The creatures who lived in the rivers and streams also pledged allegiance to Mel’s mother. She had set up stations along the main road leading to the palace where her guardsmen could check all the guests coming to the coronation. Everything should be totally safe.

But this wizard worried her.

“Here’s the brave captain, looking stern and broody, as per Convention,” said a gratingly cheerful voice, and a large white rabbit hopped into view.

Riley sighed inwardly. “Good day, Timmon.” There was no way to avoid him. As Official Talking Animal and Sidekick, Timmon had permission to be on the palace grounds.

He bounced along beside her. “Walking the fence to make sure everything’s right and tight?”

“Yes.”

The rabbit smoothed his ears. “Well, no need to worry about my people. I’m telling you, every talking animal from here to the gate is on board with Mel being king. Even the ants are happy.”

She gave him a skeptical eye. “You’ve talked to the ants.”

“Yep, and they don’t say much. Mainly, ‘Work, work, work.’ I told them that wouldn’t change.” He hesitated. “I mean, nothing’s really going to change, is it? We got rid of Jonquil. The Flitter fad’s under control. Life’s gonna gone on as usual, right?”

The very questions she’d asked herself. “I would think so, but we’ll have to wait and see.”

“So where’s Mel?”

“Rehearsing his part in the ceremony.”

“Ooo, I’ll bet he loves all that pomp and circumstance. How’s his magic coming along? I hear he took out a wall in the garden.”

“He was trying to move a statue.” As annoying as Timmon could be, she had occasionally found him useful. “Do you know anything about a wizard named Talon?”

“As a rule, I don’t associate with wizards. Have you asked Zorill?”

“Not yet. Mel wishes to meet with Talon. He also wants to meet the other Queens.”

“That sounds risky. Have they been invited to the coronation?”

Riley paused. “I don’t know.”

“You know what happens when someone’s left out of the party.” Timmon made a slow circle with both paws and thrust them forward. “Boom!”

“I’ll check on that.” Riley realized she hadn’t assigned any guards to the gate that led over the edge. All she needed was for some hapless Wayside tourist to cause havoc during Mel’s coronation. “Excuse me, Timmon.”

Although Wayside intruders seemed an unlikely threat, Riley found four guardsmen and women who could recognize anyone from the other side and set a schedule. Was there anything else she’d forgotten? She could not shake the uneasy feeling that something was missing.


 

 

 

 

 

2

 

 

 

The throne room was a large chamber with a smooth marble floor lined with golden chairs for guests and visitors. The floor length windows let in sunlight and warm breezes that fluttered the gauzy white curtains spangled with little gold stars.

“You will simply walk up to the throne, like this,” King Brandon said, demonstrating a slow even walk to the dais at the far end of the room. He was every inch the perfect example of a Fairy Tale King, tall and broad shouldered, with gray hair and dark eyes. He wore a silver crown and his blue jacket glistened with medals. “Stop about here.” He paused in front of the throne. “I’ll ask you a few questions, such as, ‘Do you swear to protect the land of Eldenfair and all its people?’ You answer yes, and then I’ll take the crown from Sifal.”

Sifal handed the king the crown. “You kneel here on a special cushion, Mel.” He pointed to a spot just below the first step. “We won’t crown you now, of course, but once the crown is on, you stand up. The king will make an official statement, and then you’re king. Simple enough?”

Mel eyed the heavy-looking crown, all velvet and gold, encrusted with different colored jewels. “Do I wear that crown from now on?”

“No, this is the special one for the ceremony.” King Brandon handed the large crown back to Sifal and pointed to the smaller circle of silver on his head. “This is my every day crown. I get to keep this one.”

Mel felt relieved. The last thing he wanted to do was swan around the palace in a giant crown that looked extremely unwieldy. “So I don’t have to wear one, at all?”

“Well, I’d have one for council meetings and hearing the concerns of the people. Makes you look more official. People expect it.”

“The royal crown maker can make one for you in any style you choose,” Dirand said. “We’ll send for him today.”

“I’ll go,” Ponsonby said, and the others agreed. Though still officially the court fool, Ponsonby had proved himself to be brave and resourceful during Jonquil’s takeover plot.

Mel thanked him. He was far more concerned about the council meetings and days when anyone could come to the court to have grievances settled. “I hope I can call on you to attend the first of these meetings to lend your expertise, sir?”

Dirand made a disapproving sound, and King Brandon looked pensive. “That’s not Convention, my boy. When a new king comes in, the old king goes out.”

“Nothing about this situation is conventional, sir. I’d appreciate your help.”

There was a long moment when Mel thought he’d asked too much. The king was a staunch believer in the Way Fairy Tales Should Go, but having a human Waysider from over the edge of their worlds unexpectedly turning out to be the son of their most beloved deity and heir to the throne, as well as defeating an evil witch who tried to take over Eldenfair through cell phones set Convention spinning off its axis.

King Brandon’s stern face relaxed into a smile. “I can’t argue with you about that. I’d be honored to help.”

“Thank you,” Mel said. “Are there any other duties I should know about?”

“It’s a good idea to ride out every now and then and see how the land is being used, talk to the farmers, the folks who are tending vineyards, local gardeners and such.”

Riding out would involve a horse. Mel was not a rider, but was pretty sure Riley would enjoy teaching him.

“Oh, one other thing, Mel,” the king said. “It’s not necessary to make a speech during the coronation unless you wish to. It will be enough for you to come out on the balcony and wave to everyone. Then there will be the usual cheers, dancing in the streets, carousing, and feasting. I have every faith in Captain Evensong’s ability to keep the crowds under control.”

“Has everyone been invited?” Mel asked. He knew the fairytale danger of leaving someone out.

“Yes, in the traditional way and over Flitter.” His brow lowered. “You know I’d hoped to see an end to that nonsense, but it doesn’t look like it’s going away.”

“No, sir.”

“I suppose it can be controlled, and you are skilled in its ways.”

“I don’t think anyone will be able to manipulate it the way Joanie did, sir.”

Joanie, his former boss on the Other Side, known as Jonquil in Eldenfair, was the witch who had almost taken over Eldenfair via Flitter.

“We need to make certain that these devices do not interfere with your coronation. Should something happen to prevent you from attending on that day, you’ll forfeit the crown.”

Mel hadn’t heard of this rule. “I’m sure I’ll be here, sir. It’s, what, the day after tomorrow?”

He’d never seen the king look so serious. “Because of your unusual circumstances and magical lineage, we have stretched and altered Convention to accommodate you, Mel, but on this, we have to be very clear. You must be in the throne room by ten o’clock that morning for the ceremony.”

“I understand,” he said.

King Brandon nodded. “Very well. I believe that takes care of everything. If you have any more questions, I’ll be glad to answer them.”

 Mel did have a question. “This wizard, sir, Talon. He says he has a claim to the throne. Do you know him?”

“I’ve never heard of him. Perhaps Zorill could help you there. Or Fortuna.”

Zorill was not happy with him, oh, no. A human with techno-magic from over the edge had been a severe threat to the elderly Tradition-bound mage, and Zorill still didn’t trust him, especially now that he had inherited super magic. Fortuna was the court soothsayer and a bit on the squirrely side. But he would ask their opinions.

He thanked King Brandon, bowed, and left the throne room. In the hallway, he paused to take a deep breath and focus his thoughts. Zorill first.

 

♦   ♦  

 

Zorill was up in his tower, unrolling a large map and muttering to himself. Mel tapped on the open door. The wizard turned and gave a slight nod.

“Melchior.” His voice was gruff. “Do what do I owe the honor?”

The old wizard looked more annoyed than honored. “I have some questions.”

“Oh, do you now? Come in, come in.” Zorill used a skull, a crystal ball, a book, and a large candle to hold down the corners of the map. He straightened his purple robes and readjusted his pointy hat. “Sorry there’s no place to sit. I’m in the middle of a most important study.”

There was just enough light from the round tower window for Mel to see into the wizard’s chamber. The room was lined with bookcases crammed full of books, papers, and scrolls. A large armchair sagged with another load of books. The small round table next to the chair had a stack of volumes held in place by another skull being used as a candle holder, candle wax dripping down into the skull’s empty eye sockets. More stacks of books leaned precariously against the walls. Overhead, spider webs clustered in the corners of the ceiling, and strange stuffed creatures dangled like model airplanes. Zorill’s desk was a large circle of wood with the map on top, along with things in jars and an inkstand with a quill. Mel was pretty sure Zorill used a pen and paper like everyone else, but all the wizardy trappings made a good show.

Zorill folded his arms, drew his shaggy eyebrows together, and frowned down his impressive nose. “So. Ask away.”

“A wizard named Talon contests my claim to the throne and plans to disrupt my coronation. Should I be concerned?”

“I have heard of him. We have never met, but then, wizards as a rule are a solitary lot. We don’t like anyone else in our territory.”

He said this with a decidedly pointed tone. “I understand,” Mel said. “Does he have a legitimate claim?”

“I would have to do some research, but I sincerely doubt it.”

“Does he have significant power?”

“Greater than your own somewhat scattershot technique? I highly doubt that.”

Zorill had been the first one Mel had asked when he was looking for a teacher. The wizard had refused, saying his own magic was too narrowly defined to encompass all Mel would need to know. Mel secretly thought the man preferred to be aloof and critical, his odd way of saving face. He had assured Zorill his position as court wizard was safe. He didn’t know what else he could do.

“If you find out anything useful, I would appreciate the information,” he said.

“Of course. It is my duty to serve the king.”

The wizard managed to make this sound both polite and sarcastic. Mel changed the subject.

“What’s this map?” he asked, moving over to the table for a closer look.

Zorill unfolded his arms and came forward. “Ah, part of my study. I am looking for other gateways between worlds, researching accounts of travelers, reading journals, maps, anything that might be a clue.”

“You anticipate traveling to other worlds?”

The wizard’s eyes gleamed. “No telling what kinds of magic they might reveal. Look here.” He pointed to a spot on the map showing a curve of clouds. Riley had once explained this was a thick cloud cover with many strange and dangerous places on the other side. “Just beyond this, there is an intriguing place called Traditional City, where magic and science co-exist! Can you imagine? And here.” His finger stabbed a vast green ocean. “Dreenum on the Green Sea, populated by fish people. There are so many things to explore.”

Mel had just gotten used to a fairytale world. He wasn’t ready for anything else, but if it kept Zorill happy and occupied, he was all for it.

“Well, thank you for your help,” he said. “I’ll leave you to your studies.”

The wizard made a harrumphing sound that may have been, “You’re welcome.”

Mel thought more than likely it meant, “Get out.”

 

♦   ♦  

 

His next stop was Fortuna’s lair. The soothsayer had her own chamber in the east tower of the palace, but was rarely there, preferring the small dark hut at the edge of the woods. Mel heard an off-key song and the clanking of pots and pans. He knocked on the door and the sounds stopped.

“Who’s there?”

“It’s Mel, Fortuna,” he said. “Are you busy? I can come back.”

He heard scraping noises and then the door opened. He received a much more friendly welcome from the woman who beamed at him. “Mel! Come in, come in. I was just making some lunch. Please, come join me.”

He had to duck his head to get in the door, but the room inside was big enough that he could stand. Something bubbled in a pot hanging over the fire in the fireplace. Dried plants and flowers hung in branches on the rafters. Fortuna, a bony woman with slightly bulging eyes and an otherworldly air, bustled about, setting another place at the small table. She stacked up her fortune-telling cards and covered her crystal ball with a black cloth, moving it to one side.

“There now. Have a seat.”

Mel sat down at the table, and she spooned what looked like vegetable soup into his bowl. He didn’t recognize any of the vegetables, but the soup smelled good, and there was a chunk of fresh bread and piles of crackers.

Fortuna fixed her bowl and sat down across from him. “Well, this is nice! It’s not every day I have the future king of the realm dining with me. But you must be on a mission. Do you need your fortune told? I can assure you I’ve looked into the future and see only good things ahead.”

“I’m glad to hear that,” he said. “I have concerns.”

“Of course you do. But you will be an excellent king, don’t worry about that.”

Mel took a careful sip of soup. It wasn’t bad. Maybe those were green beans, after all. “Thank you. Riley tells me that a wizard from the Grim Mountains might be a threat. His name is Talon. Have you seen anything like that in your cards or crystal ball?”

“I haven’t seen a threat of any kind.” She picked up her bowl, slurped down half the soup, and set the bowl down. She wiped her mouth with the sleeve of her black robe. “Talon, you say? I’ll do a search.”

Mel expected her to reach for her cards or uncover the crystal ball to set it into action. He was surprised when she pulled a cell phone from the depths of her robe and tapped on its surface. “Are you on Flitter? I thought you didn’t believe in it.”

“This is something new. I believe the youngsters call it Reveal. It can find things for you. Sometimes it’s faster than asking the cards or the ball. Let’s see. I’ll type in ‘Talon.’” She waited a few minutes. “Ah, here we are. ‘Talon, also known as the Master of the Wand, The Great Spell-Caster, and the Dark Conjuror. Wizard grade five. Lives in Obsidian Castle in the Grim Mountains. Marital status unknown. Serves no one but himself.’ There’s a picture, but I wouldn’t go by it. Wizards traditionally hide their true faces.”

She tuned the phone so Mel could see. It was a picture of a tall dark man in robes and pointed hat. He had a long beard, piercing dark eyes, and a grim expression. He looked exactly like a typical wizard.

“I’ll be happy to find out more,” she said.

“Thank you,” he said, still trying to get his head around the fact there was now a Google-like search engine in Fairyland.

“Anything else I can do for you, Mel?”

“I don’t think so.”

She set her phone on the table. “Oh, almost forgot. I have a prophecy.”

Mel hoped his expression looked interested and not apprehensive. The soothsayer’s usual information was somewhat scattered and unreliable, but her last prophecy had been frighteningly accurate.

“Came to me last night.” Her eyes bulged at him. “Are you ready?”

As ready as I’ll ever be, he thought. “Yes, go ahead.”

Fortuna cleared her throat, raised both arms, and spoke in loud ringing tones. “Light will shatter all around! What is up and what is down? The light is from the past we know, but cannot reach above, below.” She drew out the last word, “Belooooow,” until she was out of breath. Then she shook her sleeves back down and beamed at him. “Did you get all that?”

And it made just as much sense as the last prophecy. “Yes, thank you,” he said.

She reached over and patted his hand. “Don’t look so worried. Your coronation will go splendidly. You have Riley to protect you, as well as your amazing magic. How’s that coming along, by the way?’

“Not as well as I’d like,” he said. “It has a mind of its own sometimes.”

“Never fear. You will learn to wield it. I only wish I had the skill to show you how.”

Mel wished she did, too, but Fortuna’s talents lay in interpreting the cards, gazing into the crystal ball, and having the occasional prophecy, which did come in handy during Jonquil’s takeover attempt. But there was no way to predict her prophecies or interpret them at first, like the one she’d just proclaimed. Light shattering? What is up and what is down? There was no way to tell what that meant, and from the sound of it, he didn’t really want to know.

Fortuna sat back and took another slurp of soup. “You need to relax and let your magic flow,” she said. “You’ll see. It will become second nature to you. With your magic and Riley by your side, the ceremony is going to be a once in a lifetime event. What could go wrong?”

Everything, Mel thought as he left Fortuna’s lair and took the smooth path into the forest. Oh, Riley could keep away arrows and knives and hoards of wild trolls and anything else that was actual and real. But she couldn’t protect him from himself. He had to find a teacher and learn to control his magic.

Right now, though, he needed a break.

 


 

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