In which he finds out what he’s forgotten, but still doesn’t remember
Everything was exactly as he remembered it. The silence, the birds, the crickets, the flowers and the trees. It was a true haven of peace. He wandered around through the meadow enthralled.
“Hey! You’re back! It sure took you a long time, didn’t it?”
He turns around to see a girl standing there. Her face is vaguely, very vaguely familiar, and she seems to belong here, but he doesn’t truly remember her. He doesn’t even know her name. Come to think of it, he doesn’t even know where he is either. A look of confusion replaces that of bliss that was there before. Suddenly the familiarity of the place begins to fade, has he really been here before?
“You don’t remember me?” The girl gets confused too. “We used to be best friends! How could you forget me? All you did is, say ‘I see you tomorrow’, stay away for years, and then you don’t remember me!” Utter disbelief and rage battle for control of the girls face.
“But, but… I don’t… Where is this place! How did I get here?”
“You don’t remember anything? How we used to play here every day until it got dark? Nothing?” A look of horror replaces the other emotions on her face as the boy shakes his head. “Wow. Oké, I’ll start with the beginning. We were only about four when we met here. We didn’t live near each other, or at least I had never seen you before meeting you here. One day I was running from some bullies, turned a corner and I was here. And for a wonder, the bullies were not. But you were. At first I was afraid, but after you hadn't hit me for a few minutes and only looked at me, I lost my fear and we played. We played and played until we got hungry. We almost decided to go home, but we found some berrybushes first and ate those. So we played on an on until it got dark and then we went home. The next day I simply turned a corner again and came here again. And so did you. And again we played the day away. But then came the day that you didn’t return. I played here all by myself, pretending you were still here while waiting for you. And so the years went by. Until now, when you have returned. What happened?”
“I don’t know, I can’t remember anything. All I remember is suddenly being here and remembering that it looked the same. And then I saw you and even that memory began to fade. I don’t remember where home is, nor how to get there.”
“Well we can try just rounding the corner where you always did. That might work.” She grabs his hand and drags him off towards a stand of trees. “This is the place.” And while holding his hand she walks around the trees. Suddenly the scenery changes and they are in a big city, with cars zooming by on the street and people rushing by without even looking at them. The street they are on is a street filled with shops selling every item you can possibly think of. “Is this where you live?” Even the girl looks doubtful, this doesn’t seem like a place where people actually live with all that noise in the street.
The boy looks around to see if there is anything he recognises. “I don’t know, I can’t remember. I don’t see anything I recognise and I think I would, cause I recognised that other place too.”
“Lets go back then.” She drags him back around the corner they just came from. And suddenly they are standing in a very dense dark and especially quiet forest. There aren’t even birds that sing or crickets that chirp. It seems like the entire place is holding it’s breath. “I don’t think this is our world,” the girl whispers timidly. “The forest on our world has birds and crickets and other sounds. I think we might be lost now and I don’t like it here.”
Suddenly the boy grows angry. “No, we’re not,” he says stubbornly. “Let’s try one more time, this time I’ll try harder to picture our world. The birds, they crickets, the flowers and the trees. You do the same. I’m sure we’ll get back there!”
They close their eyes and turn yet another corner. When they open their eyes they are in their familiar meadow again. “It worked!” Both their faces light up with relief.
“I’m hungry,” says the girl, “Let’s eat before continuing this search.” The boy still looks decidedly unhappy but agrees to it.
Suddenly he frowned, “Hey, I still don’t know your name!” His frown grew deeper, “Come to think of it, I don’t even know MY name.”
“You don’t? Well your name is Arthur and mine is Cara. Ring any bells?”
“Hmm, Arthur. It sounds right somehow. I can’t really remember it being mine, but I like it.”
After eating their fill of all sorts of berries, they sat down in the shade of a huge tree, thinking about what they would do next, thinking about the clouds and finally not thinking at all and drifting off to sleep. A few hours later Arthur wakes up and looks at Cara. He’s seen her before like this hasn’t he? Since the sun has started to go down he wakes up Cara. “I think it’s time to go now, although I really have no idea where to go to.”
“Come home with me, maybe my mother and father can solve your problem.” She takes his hand again and leads him to the berry bushes again. They turn a corner and suddenly they are in a quiet town. A couple of dogs roam the muddy streets and some chickens are pecking at grains in a garden. A few people look up from their work to look at Arthur. After walking a couple of blocks and being watched by most people, Arthur starts wondering why everybody is looking at him like that and he asks Cara. “It must be your clothes. I’ve never seen clothes like that before I met you. Of course I saw loads of people wearing them today in that huge city too, but nobody here wears them.”
As they get closer to the edge of the town a woman calls out, “Cara! There you are, I was starting to get worried! Who is your friend?”
“Mommie!” Cara rushes to the calling woman and jumps into her arms. “This is Arthur, the boy I used to play with. You know, I told you all about him. He’s finally come back. But now he doesn’t know how to get home, so we went looking for his home and we got to a city and a huge scary forest. But we still haven’t found his home.” Cara’s mother looks at the boy bemused while she listens to her daughter rattle on about the adventures they had.
As Arthur watches Cara being lifted he feels a pang of jealousy, why didn’t his mother love him like that. The thought is followed immediately by a thought of wonder, he remembered something! But the loose thought was all he remembered. His mother didn’t love him like that, but he couldn’t tell what she looked like or how she did treat him.
“Well Arthur, come on in. It’s getting to be too late to do anything about finding your home, but we’ll discuss it in the morning. For now, I’ll fix you two something to eat and a drink, and then it’s off to bed with you.”
Arthur follows Cara and her mother into the house. It’s not a very big house, but it’s a sturdy little home made of rounded stones with a straw roof. On the inside it has a cosy room with a big hearth with a kettle hanging over the fire, and in the back of the room he can see an open dooway to a bedroom with several wooden beds. In front of the hearth are a bench and a rocking chair. In the chair is a bearded man smoking a pipe. “You must be Arthur,” says the man, “I’m Cara’s father. Pleased to meet you.”
“Please to meet you too sir.” Arthur sits down awkwardly on the bench.
Cara’s mom sets Cara down beside him and stirs in the kettle over the fire. “Diner is almost ready. Cara be a good girl and fetch four bowls from the cupboard.” Cara gets up and gets the bowls and some spoons. She hands a bowl and spoon to Arthur and also to her father. She puts another pair down for her mother and sits down again to wait for the food to be finished.
“You know Cara, I really owe you an apology,” Cara’s mum says, “I always thought Arthur was an imaginary friend, but here he is now. So unless I’m imagining him too, he’s very real.” Since neither Cara nor Arthur knows what to say to that, they wait in silence. After several minutes of waiting Cara’s mother announces that the food is now ready to be eaten. Cara gets up and hands her mother the bowls to fill and then hands them back filled with a thick stew. As they eat in silence Arthur wonders if he ever ate stew at home.
After diner, Cara and Arthur tell the entire story again about how Arthur returned to the meadow after several years of absence and how he can’t remember anything. Not of ever having been there, and not of his home and life there either. Cara’s parents decide that there is nothing to be done about it this evening and that they will think about it again in the morning, saying that he might remember something more then, after a good night’s sleep.
That night Arthur tosses and moans in his sleep, “No mummy, please, don’t... I promise I’ll never do it again... I’ll be good.” Cara’s mother is awakened by the moaning and sits up in bed to listen to it. She can’t help but feel sorry for the boy. After a few minutes, when Arthur quietens down a bit, she lies back down and goes into a deep sleep again.
The next morning Arthur wakes up to the sound of eggs and bacon sizzling in a pan. “Good morning Arthur.” Cara’s mother is already up and making breakfast for the family. From outside comes the sound of chopping. As she sees Arthur trying to figure out what the sound is, she answers his unspoken question, “That’s just Cara’s father chopping the firewood. Don’t they chop firewood at your home?”
“I don’t recognise the sound at all, so I guess they don’t,” Arthur says with a look of wonder. “I have this vague memory of just turning on something and then it would heat up the room in no time. I wonder how it worked.”
“You had some nasty dreams last night, didn’t you? It sounded as if you were afraid your mother would be angry at you.”
“Oh, she will be. She always is.” The minute he says it, he knows it’s true, but how come he is so sure? “I wonder how I know that? I can’t even remember her face! Yet I’m absolutely certain that it’s true.”
During breakfast they discuss the few things Arthur has been able to remember, how his mother is going to be angry, how he recognised the meadow. Cara’s mother added the things she heard him say in his nightmare. Cara adds what little she knows of him from previous encounters, which is very little. If Arthur’s mother had been angry at him then, he never told her about it. They decide that he should look for his home, but they haven’t got a single idea on how to do it, since he doesn’t know where it is.
“Well it sure isn’t anywhere near here from the look of your clothes. So that brings us to the question of how you got here. I’ve heard you two talking of your meadow, but there is no such meadow anywhere near here. How do you go there, Cara? You know you’re not supposed to leave the village!” Cara’s father has gotten very stern.
“But daddy, I never left the village! Honestly! We simply go to the other side of the village and turn around the corner, and there is our meadow.”
“Take me to this meadow then, maybe seeing it will help us decide on how to find Arthur’s home.”
They take of after cleaning up their breakfast. As Cara and Arthur turn around the corner Cara mentioned earlier, Cara’s mother and father are bewildered. Cara and Arthur are not around the corner. Cara and Arthur come back within seconds. Cara is surprised, “Why didn’t you follow us?”
“We did, you weren’t there anymore. How did you do that?”
Arthur thinks that Cara’s parents might not be able to follow them, just like the bullies couldn’t when Cara first came to the meadow. So Cara takes her mothers hand, and Arthur takes her fathers hand and they walk around the corner again. This time all four of them get to the meadow. “This must be magic!” Cara’s father exclaims, “Where did you get such magic, Cara?”
“Magic, I don’t know anything about magic! We simply go around the corner. Let me show you again, we’ll just walk around the corner of this bush, and ... we’re home again,” she says as they appear on the town street again. “How can it be magic? I never even saw a wizard or witch. So how could one have schooled me in magic?”
As they walk home, Cara’s parents have a troubled look on their faces. When they get home Cara’s mother says to Arthur, “You know this could mean you live very, very far away. It might even be another world if such things exist. We have never heard of persons who can ‘walk around the corner’ as you call it. It might even be dangerous to ask after a person such as that. No matter how you learned it, it still is magic. Maybe you were even born with it. Most people fear magic and will try to harm a person who has anything to do with it. It’s a miracle nobody ever saw you disappear like that. If they had you probably wouldn’t be alive anymore, Cara. Nor would we. Maybe that is what your mother was angry about in your dream, Arthur, the fact that you know some kind of magic.”
Arthur has the nasty feeling that she is right and says so. “But what do we do now? I still don’t know anything about where my home is. I don’t even know if I want to go home.”
“Well it would be wise to go home, even if it was just to see if you can get your memories back.” Cara’s father argues. “The only question that remains for me, is how to get you back. If only we knew of someone who knew about these things.”
Other than that my school day passed uneventful and I walked back home with my friend. We were still discussing all the wild things that might happen. Not all of them came true, but enough to have creeped us out under normal condition, although the conditions were far from normal and the events that would shortly transpire would exceed even our wildest imaginings.
I came home and had diner with my parents and siblings, whom I had chosen to ignore since nothing worthwile came out of them. Diner was good and with all our wild ideas still fresh in mind I think I enjoyed it more than I would have otherwise. I went upstairs and just as I turned on my computer, it happened. All of a sudden the world seemed to go black for a split second. Or maybe it would be more accurate to say that it suddenly looked as if the whole world was a movie and my eyes were the tv and a thunderstorm was passing between the transmitter and the receiver. Blacking out the movie with small white dots and lines all over the place. It was over before I really realised how weird it was. I even started doubting myself, thinking I must have imagined it. But then I heard my sister yelling to my mother and realised from her frantic shouts that she must have experienced the same. In my head a war was raging over the decision on whether to go to my mother for reinsurance, or to be cool about it, pretend nothing had happened and just do my homework. I decided on the homework, since the weirdness had passed and I was feeling fine now. But then I saw that the computer I had just turned on was now back off again. I pushed the button again, but nothing happened. I switched on the lights and nothing happened either. Since I now wasn't able to do homework anyway, I went down for comfort by my mother. Deciding that for some things you are never too old.
Downstairs I found that none of the other electrical devices was working either. It started dawning on me that the solar flare must have happened and that not only had it indeed effected the power grid, it must have also caused the weird tv-like noise I saw. I told my mother and she agreed that it was a little too much of a coincidence not to be connected to the event. My sister by now had decided nothing was wrong with her after all and had ceised her wailing. That evening we spent playing a board game, the last part of which by candle light. We had a piece of ice pie to go with it, since the freezer wasn't working anymore either, and my mother thought it would be a waste not to eat it.
The next morning I overslept, since none of the alarm clocks in the house were working. Even though I didn't really think there'd be class today, I decided to go to school anyway, figuring most of my friends would be there too. On my way too school, at first I didn't notice anything much. Sure the neon-signs weren't working anymore and the garbage of the last day hadn't been collected. But after a while I started noticing that there seemed to be more small niches than I remembered. And all of them seemed to be filled with garbage. In some of those garbage piles I even thought I saw something move. At first I thought they might be rats, although I had only heard of such creatures from stories and seen them in old movies. But after seeing several piles move I decided that whatever moved was too big for rats. I started walking a bit faster. Then finally I saw something that resembled a dirty arm sticking out from underneath a pile. At that point I started running. I suddenly desperately didn't want to be alone anymore. This was beginning to look like a horror movie. I ran so fast that I didn't even notice that I had already passed my bread shop without fetching breakfast. As I reached the park, I stopped abrubtly. In stead of the normal serene calmness, there seemed to be whole throngs of people in there. And not just everyday people either. These people were filthy and made raucous comments to each other. They didn't seem to notice me, though. And since I was still alone and the shortest way to school was through the park, I decided to take the chance and cross despite the people. As I walked through I was stunned by the life that filled it. Here were all kinds of people who didn't even notice me, but who took all the more notice of each other. Some people were making out in public, others were having a fight. Yet others were openly urinating as if nobody could see. There were so many strange sights that I didn't even think to run. Some people even seemed to live there. I was literally stunned. I just couldn't believe what I was seeing. I pinched myself just to see if I was actually awake. When I found out it hurt, I started running again. Everywhere I looked the horror continued.
Finally I came to the school yard, where I found most of my friends and the other kids just as stunned as I was. Some were even openly crying, even some kids who were normally among the toughest kids around. Some teachers were trying to console them, others were just as stunned and just sat on the floor somewhere. As I got closer to the entrance, and my circle of friends where I was heading, I noticed that a small group of teachers were arguing with the 'intellectual' clique. I ignored my friends for a while and headed for the entrance, wanting to hear what the argument was about. Of course it was about what was happening, but it was also about the people like those in the park. The ones that didn't see us, the ones we had never seen before in our life. Some argued that they had arrived there overnight, frightened away from their villages by the solar flare. Others argued that they must have already been there. As I listened to the arguments on both sides, I found that I had to agree with the latter group. If they had come here overnight, they wouldn't have been living in the park. They were behaving as if they belonged there. And if they had arrived overnight, they wouldn't ignore us the way they did. After having made up my mind, I lost interest in the debate as nothing structural was going on and everybody was just repeating their previous statements. I returned to my friends and discussed the event with them. Although the only one willing to discuss anything was my closest friend who had had the wild ideas the day before. The others were just waiting for it all to end or something. Waiting for the teachers to come and take control, or to arrange for it all to go away. I can't really say what they were thinking.
In which they go looking for all the things he’s forgotten
“I think you should go looking for your home Arthur, or at least someone who can tell you more about your gift. But we can’t let you go alone. Cara of course should come along, in case you do find someone who knows more about the gift. But you two are too young to go out on your own, I think your father should accompany you. I would too, but I’ve got this feeling that in a couple of months you might be getting a little brother or sister, so it isn’t a good idea for me to be tramping all over the world.”
“A child? You’re having a child? And you want me, us to go away from home, for who knows how long?” Cara’s father is outraged.
“Yes dear. I will be fine here, where there is a midwife and friends and a good house to keep in shape for the day you return. And besides, we can’t let Cara’s best friend down can we?” Cara’s mother gives her husband a stern look, that he knows means she will not tolerate further discussion.
“Fine,” he accedes grumpily. “I’d better go gather us some supplies then.” And he stomps out of the house.
Arthur looks unhappy, the prospect of going on what looks like a quest with a man that will be angry all the time because his wife forced him to come, doesn’t appeal to him. “I..., I could just stay here, you know. I think I’d be happy here.”
“I know you would dear, don’t worry about him. He’ll come around, you’ll see. Besides he’d been complaining for ages that nothing ever happens here. He was quite adventurous as a young man you see. I’ve always been afraid that one day he’d just get up and go on some quest or other. Now at least I know the quest is worthy, and with you two there I know he’ll not do any foolish things. Cara has been the reason he’s staid here all this time. He absolutely adores her. Mark my words when he walks in again, there’ll be a mischievous grin on his face.”
And indeed when Cara’s father comes in with three backpacks an hour or so later, he wears a grin from ear to ear. “Three backpacks, three coils of rope, some pots and pans, a flint and tinder, some satchels of herbs, blankets, knives for the both of you, a bow and a knife for me, some wire for making traps if we have the time, and some other odd stuff that seemed usefull. Now all you need to pack are some clothes and some foodstuffs. Don’t bring too much though, they’ll get heavy very soon!”
“Come Arthur, we’ll have to fetch you some clothes. I think Maria next door might have some old clothes that her boys have grown out of that might fit you.” Cara’s mother takes Arthurs hand and almost drags the startled boy out.
The woman named Maria indeed has some clothes that fit Arthur and she assures Cara’s mother that she doesn’t need anything in return, “Over the years you’ve given us enough to more than pay for these old things.”
When they come home again, it turns out that Cara’s father has not been sitting still. He’s been kneading some dough to bake breads that will last and has bought some smoked and some dried meat and also some small round cheeses. He’s just put the bread in the oven as they come in. Cara has packed some of her clothes and a sewing kit, thinking that if they stay away long, their clothes will probably need to be mended somewhere along the way.
As the bread rises in the oven they discuss all the things they might encounter and after Cara and Arthur tell about the world were everybody was rushing by, with Arthur trying to explain the concept of cars, they are uncomfortably reminded that they will probably encounter millions of things that they won’t know how to handle. “Well we won’t find out what those things are until we find them, in the mean time I suggest we think about the things we do know how to handle.” Cara’s father dismisses the gloom. “For one thing, you can’t keep calling me Cara’s father. My name is Brian. If we’re going to be adventurers together, you might as well call me Brian. And yes Cara, if you want you may too. In fact it might be wiser, although people are probably going to guess you are my daughter anyway.”
As they discussed what might happen, the day grew older and the bread turned golden. Late that afternoon Cara’s mother takes the bread out of the oven and sets it out to cool. The last bits of clothes, food and other odds and ends get stuffed in the backpacks and they start to prepare diner. During and after the diner, the discussion keeps turning around in circles and after doing the dishes, Brian puts Cara and Arthur to bed, saying it will be a long day for many days to come, so they should rest now while they still can.
After that he sits in silence with his wife for a long time. Finally she says that maybe they should go to bed as well, since tomorrow will be a long day indeed. “I will miss you you know. Miss you badly. Will you please be careful? I’d very much like to see you and Cara again. And Arthur too. He’s a good boy you know. He offered to stay here when you stomped off this morning. I guess he didn’t like the idea of going off with a grumpy man.” She smiles at the memory.
“I promise you I will come back as soon as I can. And I don’t think I need to tell you I will be carefull that nothing bad will happen to either Cara or Arthur. You know how much I love that little rascal of ours.”
As he carries her off to bed for the last time she wonders if he will be able to keep this promise the way he kept all of his promises during the time they were wedded. She fervently hopes so.
The next morning they pack the breads and Cara’s mother pushes some onions in their hands saying they should at least try to eat some vegetables during their journey. Brian gives his wife a final kiss, and while the tears stream down her face, they wave and set off. Cara’s lip has a distinct tremble as well, but she bravely waves and sets off with the two others, forcing herself to put one foot in front of the other.
They wave at all their friends in the village and Arthur waves as well, although he only knows Maria so far. The villagers wave back probably thinking Brian is taking his daughter and her friend out on a camping trip, perhaps even to teach them something of the woods and how to survive in them. When they have left the village, Brian asks them if they think they can reach their meadow from outside the village as well. Arthur says he thinks they can so they all hold hands and walk around a bush that is just outside of the view of the gates.
Brian, who had his eyes closed while walking around the bush, opens them and sees the meadow the four of them visited the day before. “It’s truly uncanny the way you do that. So where is that place you mentioned Arthur always used to go home? If you ask me, that would be the best place to start.”
And so they walk to the stand of trees they tried two day before. “This is it,” Cara says, “This is where he always walked around the corner when we were small. But two days ago, this lead us to this big city.”
“Well if we get to that city again, we’ll have a look around. Maybe somebody there will know more of this sort of thing.” He grasped both Arthurs and Cara’s hands and together they walked around the corner. And ended up in the same big city they had visited before.
This time, Cara no longer looks doubtful, but tries to take everything in by trying to look in every direction at the same time. Brian can barely comprehend all the things he sees, metal beasts roaring by, huge numbers of people rushing every which way and the beasts didn’t bother them, yet he could see that the beasts had already consumed some people. But those people didn’t seem unhappy about it. And one time he even saw one of the beasts open a jaw and a person crawling out, who waved at the beast as it set off again. This was definitely not the world he came from. If he still had had doubts about the meadow, which could have belonged to his world, he was sure about this city.
After about five minutes of standing still and clamping to their hands in an attempt not to be swept away by the masses and loose them, Arthur decides to try and shake them out of it. Sure this must be overwhelming if you’ve never seen it, but they really should go on. Several people have already looked at them with a decidedly odd look. And now there is this policeman coming their way.
“Got lost on your way to a Halloween party?” He asks good humouredly looking at their clothes.
“Hello officer, not really, we were looking for a magic shop, to buy some stuff to complement our costumes. Would you happen to know one in the area?” Arthur hurries to reply before Brian can ask what Halloween is. Brian gives him a reproachful look, but decides to keep quiet and let Arthur handle this, since he seems to know more about this world than he himself does.
“Aah, so you are those people who visit Renfairs and stuff like that! Great. I always wanted to visit me one of those. Now let me see, a magic shop. Yes, there is one near here. As a matter of fact it’s only two blocks from here. Go in that direction for two blocks and you will see the store in the street on the right on the left side. It’s called ‘Mr. Ian Woon’s magic shoppe’. They sell all sorts of those so called magical items. Good luck on finding the stuff you need, although I must say your costumes don’t look like a magicians costume to me!”
“Thanks a lot officer, we’ll go check it out right away!” Arthur says as he starts to drag his two companions in the direction the policeman pointed out.
“Magic isn’t feared here?” Brian asks unbelieving.
“Hmm, not quite, people in this world don’t actually believe in it. They have put their fate in what is called ‘technology’. If they would believe in magic, however, they probably would fear it. Some people do believe in it, but they are believed to be gullible or foolish, or even both. Shall we go visit this mister Woon?”
The instructions the cop gave them turn out to be correct. After a few minutes of walking they arrive in front of ‘Mr. Ian Woon’s Magic shoppe’. A bell rings when they enter the shop. “Good afternoon, welcome to my shoppe, I’m mister Woon, how may I help you?” A pleasant voice says from the back of the shop.
“Yes, I hope you can, do you know anything about walking around a corner?” Cara, who has been keeping silent for way too long, blurts.
“Walking around a corner? What do you mean? I assume you don’t merely mean making a turn while you are walking, since you seem perfectly capable of doing that,” the slightly fat and balding man who has come forward now, inquires.
“What she means is traveling between different worlds. You see I’ve lost my home and since I can’t remember it, I don’t know how to get there anymore,” Arthur joins in the discussion.
“Ah! Planeswalking! Yes I’ve heard of that, although I never actually saw a planeswalker before. And seeing your clothes you are either very clever frauds, or actually planeswalkers yourself. Lost your memory you say? Maybe you should consider hypnosis to make you remember. I could hypnotise you if you want. Now let me see, I should have some books on planeswalking around here somewhere,” mister Woon rambles while puttering around the shelves in his shop, or shoppe as he calls it. “Ah, here it is.” He reaches for a book somewhere high on a shelf, but can’t reach it, “Could you just take that book for me, it’s right there on the top shelf, nonono, not that one, the one on the right of it, that’s the one,” as Brian, who is taller, tries to help the man by reaching for the book. “So how about that hypnosis huh?”
Arthur and Cara have been standing rooted to their spot during this flood of words, stunned by so many words and especially so many subjects all jumbled together. Since mister Woon has now stopped his flood and is looking at Arthur expectantly, he fumbles for an answer, “Hyp, hypnosis? Will that bring my memory back?”
“It might, and it might not. You won’t know for sure until you’ve tried. So do you want to try?”
“Say what magic is this ‘hypnotising’?” Brian asks almost angry, “I won’t have you messing around with that boy!”
“Hypnotising is making a person go to some kind of sleep and talk to their unconscious self,” Arthur hurries to explain, afraid that mister Woon might take offense and withdraw his offer of help. “It’s nothing dangerous, especially not if you are there to watch it. I’ll do it. Oh! You will want money for it, of course.” The hope that has appeared in Arthurs eyes fades abruptly. “You run a shop in that sort of stuff after all. Never mind then, we don’t have money. And even if we did, it wouldn’t be the right kind of currency.”
“Now, now, whoever said anything about payment! I think a simple promise of you to come back after your travels, if you have any, and tell me all about the adventures you had, will be quite enough payment for me. I neve have any adventures you see, and there are hardly any people having them anymore nowadays, so I get to hear so few stories. You see, I love stories of adventures. So if you promise to tell me of yours when they are over, I will help you gladly!”
“Hmm, if you think it’s all right. But I do insist on watching the whole thing, like he said,” Brian gives in. “And as for the payment, we’ll gladly come back to tell you all about our adventures if we live through them. I think I love telling a good story as much as you like listening to one, you can ask Cara about that. She must be dead tired of all the stories of the adventures I had as a lad.” He winks at Cara as he says that.
“Well that’s all settled then. Come in to the backroom. I have some comfortable chairs there and a pot of fresh tea.” Mister Woon shepards them all to the backroom and settles them in the chairs he mentioned. When they are all sitting comfortably he pours them all a cup of tea in some beautifully handpainted Chinese cups. “There first some tea, hypnosis is thirsty work. Both for the hypnotiser and the person being hypnotised.”
And for a while all is quiet as they sip their tea and savour it.
“Ah, there that is better. Anyone another cup of tea? No, well let’s get started then.” Mister Woon get’s up and takes a stool that he puts in front of Arthurs chair. “Are you comfortable?” Arthur nods. “Good. I want you to focus on my watch.” He produces a beautiful antique watch from a pocket.
“What is that?” Brian informs, still a bit unsure about this whole thing.
“This my dear man, is what we call a watch, it tells us what time it is,” says mister Woon as he shows Brian the watch. “In hypnotising it is merely used as a pendulum however. I could also hypnotise with a pretty coloured bead on a chain, but I like my watch better.” Suddenly his voice changes, it’s still pleasant, but starts sounding a bit droning, “Now Arthur, focus on this while you listen to me. Look at the watch swinging, swinging. Your eyelids are getting heavy. They are getting very, very heavy. You are feeling sleepy. Let your eyes shut themselves and sleep. Sleep, little one. Rest. Give in to the sleep, there is nothing harmful here. Sleep.”
Arthurs eyes close as he stops struggling.
In which some secrets are revealed, but many more stay hidden
“I will ask him some easy questions first, that won’t make him dig too deep,” mister Woon tells Cara and Brian. He then asks Arthur, “Tell me young man, what is your name?”
“My name is Arthur Young.” Cara gasps. Mister Woon shushes her.
“How old are you?”
“I’m 9 years old, I will be 10 in March.”
“Do you know where you live?”
“I live in Shreveport Louisiana. That is in the United States of America.”
“Hmm, I’ve never heard of that place before.” Mister Woon murmurs while looking at Brian and Cara. They both shake their heads to indicate that they haven’t heard of it either. “Do you know why you forgot who you are?”
“Yes I had an accident. I got hit by a car while I crossed the street and ended up in hospital.”
“Tell us more about the place you live in.”
“ [WIRMI]... some facts about Shreveport ... [/WIRMI] ”
“Ask him about his mother,” Cara whispers.
“Arthur, how did you feel about your mother?”
“Nooooo, please mama, don’t hurt me, I won’t go away again, pleeeaaaaseee, don’t hit me, I won’t do it again, please, please, please...” Arthurs voice gets ever softer and he starts to whimper and moan.
“I will count to three and when I snap my fingers, you will wake up and remember everything you have told us. One, two, three.” Mister Woon snapped his fingers.
Arthur moaned a final time and opened his eyes as if he had waken from a nightmare. He looks at his arms and touches them as if he is surprised not to find any bruises there.
“Did your mother hit you?” Brian asks, “because you could go to that meadow?”
“Partly, it was mostly because she needed a reason to hit me, she was always drunk and violent. But it was partly because she could never find me until late in the evening when I came back, to hit me.”
“So was that why you stopped coming to the meadow?” Cara asks sympathetically.
“Yes, one day I stayed at home, and she was less violent. That lasted for a couple of months, so I forced myself not to even think of that beautiful meadow that was ours. Nor of you for that matter, cause if I would think of it, my longing would grow too great and I wouldn’t be able to resist coming. But after a few months when I really had forgotten of the meadow and you, she became abusive once more. When I was six and had to go to school, the teachers soon knew that something was wrong. I always had bruises and in places that it’s almost impossible to get them from mere falling down. So after looking at it for half a year, they alerted the authorities and they took me away from my mother and put me into a child care home. Which was a horrible place, because despite all my mother did, it was mostly the alcohol and she still loved me. In that place they didn’t love me, they only loved the money they got for me from the government. And then a truck hit me when I crossed the street in front of school. And I was taken me to the hospital. I was really frightened, I couldn’t remember a thing and here were all these people hurting me. Not deliberately of course, but in my fear I couldn’t see that then. So one day, probably only a day or two before they would have released me, I walked away. A nurse saw me go and followed me. He yelled for others, and suddenly around the corner I heard another nurse. And that’s when I ‘walked around the corner’ again, just so I wouldn’t have to encounter those nurses. And the rest you know.”
“So do you think you know enough now to find your home again?” Mister woon asks.
“I don’t know. I hope so, but I’m afraid there might be too many worlds that look exactly like it. I know this isn’t the right world, but it looks like it. People don’t believe in magic because they rely on technology, just like they do in mine. And that’s just one of the many similarities, I don’t know what the differences are, but it feels wrong somehow. I know there are differences. And I’ve got a feeling there are still holes in my memory. I just don’t know what they are now. I’ve been trying too hard to forget the fact that I could go to other worlds. I think that if it hadn’t been for Cara I might not have been able to get out of that meadow at all.”
“That might be the reason we ended up in the wrong world then. You knew what your world looked like, but I did the actual walking. So we got into a world that looked like yours, cause you had been trying, but got into the wrong one, because I didn’t know.” Cara gets enthousiastic, “So we’ll just have to train your ability again!”
“So is there anything useful in that book of yours?” Brian points at the book that mister Woon had taken back with them into the back room and promptly forgot all about.
“Ah! The book, yes, I had almost forgotten about it!” Mister Woon exclaims, “Let’s have a look.” He starts flipping through the pages. “Hmmm, I’ve never actually read this you see, so I don’t know if it does have anything useful, but it never hurts to look. Hmmm, accounts of people who claim to have travelled to other worlds or dimensions as they call them in this book. An explanation of theory of the four levels of parallel universes, that might be useful, and some conclusions the author draws, but those seem meaningless to me, just bits and pieces of yammering. Can you read?” He suddenly confronts Brian.
“Ehm, no, I never needed to before. Only the really rich people got to learn how to read,” Brian stammers a bit defensively.
“I know how to read,” Arthur quickly jumps in to hide Brians [WIRMI] shame [/WIRMI]. “I may not know all the words, but I bet if I read it out loud, together we can figure it out. If you want I can even teach you to read a bit.” Brian doesn’t know whether to be releaved that he won’t have to read, or ashamed that he is outdone by a nine year old boy. So he merely nods.
“Well in that case I will simply give you the book so you can read it on the road,” mister Woon happily goes on, pretending not to have noticed any of Brians emotions, “Your stories so far have already been ample payment. Oh dear, look at the time! It’s already evening again. I can just hear your stomachs growling! Please tell me that you will honour me by spending the night in my house and have diner with me. I am merely a man alone, so it would pleasure me to have some company. Then you can set of fresh, rested and with a full stomach in the morning.” The companions realise that they are indeed hungry and so take the invitation gladly. Mister Woon ushers them all upstairs since he turns out to have a house above the shop. After a lavish diner he makes them some beds on the floor and they all go to sleep.
In which they start looking for the rest of his memory
The next morning everybody wakes up refreshed yet hungry. Mister Woon soon fixes that with a lavish breakfast of toast, eggs, sausages, bacon and loads of fresh fruit. All of this accompanied by a fresh pot of tea, of course. After breakfast mister Woon wishes them a safe journey and hands them a small and strangely light tea kettle and some tea leaves. “Here, this will remind you of me every now and then when it get’s really cold. My guess is that your journey might last a long time, so use it sparingly. Don’t forget to return here to tell me of all your adventures if you can.” Before they can really thank him he has turned his back on them and returned to his shop. Brian can’t help but wonder whether he really saw that glimmer in the man’s eyes or if it was his imagination. And didn’t that look a bit like fleeing from them? He shrugs it off and puts the leaves and the kettle in his pack on top of the book, and they set off.
They walk back to the corner where they entered the world and since there is no change of it ever getting quiet here, they simply take each others hands without a word and walk around the corner.
Back in the meadow they sit down to discuss what Arthur has told them of his hometown. They all try to picture it in their mind. While Arthur now has a clearer image of what he is looking for, Cara and Brian have to base their images on the world they just saw, since it will look nothing like their own hometown. For one thing Arthur has told them that it was much more quiet in his hometown. For another there were trees lining the road, and the houses weren’t quite as big as the ones they just saw. They try to focus on the image that arises and describe to each other what they are seeing.
“I think we are ready to try it now. It may or may not help that I’m focusing on the image as well, but I don’t think it will hurt to try.” Brian takes their hands and pulls them back up to their feet. “Let’s do it!.”
Together they walk to the stand of trees and try walking around it again. This time they arrive in a town with all kinds of stone buildings and... a huge castle in the middle. There are inns and shops all over the place and lots of people walking around.
“Hey you! How did you get here so suddenly?” They see a couple of stout looking guards coming towards them. “I just saw them appear out of thin air,” the guard that had yelled at them explains his fellows, “it must have been magic!”
“Well if it was magic we’ll have to arrest them, the King clearly stated that no magic shall be used unless he or his councillor ordered it,” one of his fellows states.
Since quite a crowd has formed already, Brian sees no way to escape, and so urges the children not to do anything stupid. “Besides he was talking about a councillor, maybe he will know more about this magic, if things go really wrong we can always you know...”, he whispers. And so they let themselves be taken.
“But officer, we only came walking round the corner,” Arthur tries.
The guards roar with laughter. “Hahaha, he called you officer, Lutz! What a joke.”
“I’m no officer, kid, not by a long shot. But for that you get to call me Lutz. I like you. And to come back to your statement: I was watching that corner, and you seemed to be coming around it, alright. But you weren’t there before you did. I know that sounds weird, but that’s just the way it was.”
The three companions know the guard is right and that this time they are caught in the act, and in a country were magic isn’t allowed by everyone too. The guards take them towards the castle. When they reach the castle they see the gates are manned by several more guards. The guards at the gates ask the oncoming guards what they have caught, but apparently they have orders not to spread rumours before the King knows about it or some other order like that, because they’re not telling their fellows. They go to the right side of the courtyard and go through yet another gate there. They have entered a room that is dimly lit by torches with a table in the middle and shelves all over the walls with every thing you can possibly imagine on them.
“Where are we?” Cara wonders out loud.
“This is the antechamber of the jail, dear, this is where we store all the stuff belonging to the people that are in the jail. If the King decides to set them free again, their stuff is returned to them. You will have to leave your packs here as well.” Their guard walks to the table and takes a sheet of paper a bottle of ink, a quill, some cords and some sealing wax. When the group has put their packs down he begins to make a series of intricate knots around the packs. As soon as all three packs are tied up like this, he calls them forward and drops some sealing wax on the final knot. “Would you please put your thumb in this? It’s just so you will know that we don’t tamper with your stuff.”
“This King of yours sounds like a very decent man,” Brian admits.
“Oh he is. We can only hope he raised his son, the Prince, to be just like him. So far what we’ve seen of the Prince has sure put our hopes up, don’t get me wrong. It’s just that we all love our King Rald very dearly and would hate to see him go.”
As soon as all the packs are sealed the guard writes down their names and that they own three packs, a bow and a quiver of arrows. “I’ll put you in a cel now until the King has time to see you. He is a busy man, mind you, so it might be a couple of days, I’m afraid. But you’ll get breakfast and diner and enough good clean water to tide you over till then.” The guard takes them down to a cell that, for a surprise, is pretty clean. It has three bunks with clean blankets on them, a chamberpot in the corner and a small table that is bolted to the floor with a bucket of water on it.
They sit down on the bunks and wait in silence for a while. After a few minutes, Arthur breaks the silence, “What went wrong? I don’t mean us landing in this cell, but how did we end up in this world? We were all focusing on a world with technology, yet we ended up in a world with magic? How could that have happened?”
“I think we may have been discussing what your world looked like for too long,” Brian guesses, “By discussing it we changed the image you had in your mind with the ideas we had. And since we came from a world with magic... I guess our views were stronger than yours. We’ll just have to try harder next time. And have less discussion about it I guess.”
“I think I would be able to go back to that technology world we visited before. I mean, I’ve already been there and kinda know what it feels like. I just don’t know yet what that kind of world felt like I guess, but I think I do know what that particular world feels like,” Cara muses. “We’ll just have to learn more about the general feeling of worlds like that.”
“Let’s just hope this King Rald will let us go first,” Brian interrupts. They all fall silent again, wondering what the King will be like and what he will do to them, but to afraid to voice those fears. When Brian sees the fears on the faces of the children, he decides to tell them some stories of the many adventures he had as a youth. “Have I told you of the time I was in prison before, Cara? Oh, I did. Well I bet you won’t mind if I tell Arthur the story do you? I didn’t think so. Many years ago, in a land far, far from here, heh I can finally say that now, I always wanted to say that, ...”
And so the hours pass. Brian tells one story after the other and the fear on the faces of the children becomes replaced with glee as he tells them. After a couple of hours a guard brings them a simple but wholesome meal of a thick broth with big chunks of bread. They devour the meal heartily and after eating, Brian goes on with his stories.
When it gets dark they lay down on the bunks and go to sleep. The next morning a guard comes to bring them some breakfast consisting of some hunks of bread and some cheese. He also informs them that the King will see them today after he has finished his other business.
The children invent some games with a couple of loose bits of gravel they find in the cell and forget all time. Brian watches them and is just glad they’re not worried anymore, although he himself hasn’t stopped worrying. Surely the King will be lenient on them, because two of them are mere children, won’t he? How will they explain themselves to the King? Tell him the truth? Or devise some story? Since he can’t come up with any story that will explain what the guard saw, he decides on telling the truth and hoping for the best. But all through that morning he ponders on what to say to the King.
When the guards finally come for them, Brian is almost relieved. They are taken through the courtyard again and enter the castle itself. They pass through many hallways, and catch many glimpses of beautifull rooms as they pass them. Until finally they arrive in front of some huge oaken doars that are ornately carved. A clerk opens the doors wide and announces them, “The three prisoners Brian, Arthur and Cara who are accused of using magic without prior permission!”
The companions are nudged forward towards a stern looking majestic man. They have no doubt whatsoever that this man is King Rald. They walk forward to what seems like an appropriate distance and kneel with their heads bowed down. As Arthur risks a peek from under his brows he sees an elderly man in purple robes standing behind the King with an amused smile on his face. Somehow that smile reassures him and he hurriedly lowers his gaze again. This man must be the councillor and he looks like a very nice man.
“You are accused of using magic without prior permission, which is a serious crime. Do you have anything to say for yourself?” King Rald has a firm, strong voice that carries throug the whole room. None of the spectators of whom there aren’t too many, since it is late in the afternoon and most people who wanted to see the King have already gone home again.
“Well your majesty,” Brian begins.
But then he is interrupted by the councillor, “I would like to hear your story from the boy. If you don’t mind your majesty.” When the King nods, the councillor continues, “Well boy, do you have anything to say for yourself?”
“I, I, eh, your Majesty, I, that is, we, we didn’t know it wasn’t allowed,” Arthur stammers with a red head.
“And how is it that you didn’t know, when everybody in this kingdom and the ones that neighbour on it know this?” King Rald asks curiously.
“Well, you see ehm, your Majesty, we’re not from any of those Kingdoms. In fact,” Arthur blushes fiercely, “I don’t even know what kingdom this is.”
“This is getting more and more curious by the minute, how can you be somewhere and not know where it is?”
“You see, we are from another world. In fact we aren’t even from the same world. I met Cara in a meadow in some world when I was little, but then I lost my memory and I met her again and didn’t know my way back home, and, and, and now they are helping me find my home again,” Arthur finishes miserably.
“Is that true?” King Rald asks Brian.
“Yes your highness, every word of it,” Brian says with all earnesty he can muster.
“What do you think councillor?”
“I believe they are telling the truth, your Majesty,” the councillor says with wonder in his voice, “With your permission I would like to question them further on this before we pass verdict on them.”
“You have my permission councillor. As a matter of fact I’m curious after this myself, I may drop in on your interview if I can find some time. For now, curious strangers, this case is dismissed until later. I will have some guestrooms prepared for you, because it might be a while before I have time again to check in on you and it would be very inhospitable of me to keep you locked up for the duration of your stay here. Of course,” King Rald adds as he sees the joy spreading on their faces, “I will need your promise to stay here until I have decided, and that you will not try to escape.” The companions hurry to swear that they will keep that promise and not break the Kings trust.
The councillor tells them he will be with them after diner and then sends them away with a guard to lead them to their quarters. This time only one guard accompanies them. They are led towards a group of chambers that all border on a sitting room. Cara and Arthur are absolutely delighted about their rooms and keep running back and forth to tell each others of new discoveries made. Brian enjoys the rooms himself, but is even more joyful about having got off so easily. It looks like the guard was right to love his King so fiercely, the man truly seems like a good and just king. After checking out his own room and the children’s rooms he sits down in one of the chairs.
Just a couple of minutes later two young boys knock on the door and drag in their packs. After thanking both the boys, Brian sets to unpacking some essentials from his bag. As soon as Arthur and Cara sit down to rest a bit, he asks Arthur if they can start on the book together. “Sure!” Arthur gets up from his chair and moves over to where Brian is sitting. Together they study the book while Arthur reads out loud. Every once in while he points at an easy word for Brian to study, or points out a single letter to memorise. Cara, getting bored of doing nothing, joins them after a few minutes.
And that is how the councillor finds them as he brings them diner, the three of them bent over the book. “Scholars, are we?” He calls them back to the here and now.
Brian flushes hotly, “Councillor! No not really. To my shame I must admit I am only just leaning to read.”
“No shame in that at all, dear man, no shame at all. A man who can admit he doesn’t know something and then strives to lean that thing is an admirable man. So what was it you are studying on? It doesn’t seem like a beginners book to me.”
“It’s a book about ‘planeswalking’ as the author calls it, Cara and Arthur here call it ‘walking around the corner’. It’s how we came to this kingdom.”
“Ah, that sounds interesting indeed. May I read it sometime?”
“Ehm, well, ehm, sure why not?” Brian decides.
“Thank you, most kind of you. But now, could you tell me your story again? This time you may tell me, I think that will be a bit easier to understand than the boys telling earlier,” the councillor says smiling.
And so Brian tells the whole story of how Arthur found Cara again, how Cara took him home when they couldn’t find Arthurs home right away and how his wife had decided he should help him look for it. Of mister Woon and the help he gave them, including the book. And finally of being caught by the guards and being put in prison. He doesn’t forget to mention that he has never seen a prison where they treated the prisoners so decently, nor heard of one before.
“Hmmm... I might be able to help a bit as well. I have this crystal ball, no you can’t see the future in it, but it can help you focus on your memories, and if you have the talent for it, you can even show those memories to others in the ball. I’d be willing to part with it just to be able to read your book.”
“I must tell you that we don’t know what’s in the book yet. So far we haven’t got past the introduction, we don’t even know yet if there’s any usefull information at all,” Brian hurries to explain.
“I’ll take that chance, even the stories of people walking between planes are almost enough to be worth that crystal ball. And while you are here, I can help you on those reading lessons. I have been the private teacher of the Prince you know, and he now knows his letters perfectly. In fact I still have the charts I used to teach him.” A hint of pride has crept into the councillors voice. “We could start tomorrow if you like.”
“We would be honoured to be taugth by you.”
“Good then, I’ll leave you know to rest and come back in the morning.” The councillor gets up to leave. Just before he reaches the door, he smacks his head and turns around, “Oh, how silly of me, I didn’t even introduce myself. Please forgive me, I’m a bit absentmindedly at times. My name is Gereon. It would please me if you would call me by my name, in stead of calling me councillor all the time. There are too many people doing that already, to my liking.”
“Until tomorrow then Gereon,” Brian greets him.
In which they learn about memory and reading
“Good morning!” The councillor greets them as he comes in, yet again bringing them their meal himself. “Yes, I thought I’d save some poor maid the long walk from the kitchens to up here, since I had to be here anyway,” he says as he sees them looking from himself to the tray he is carrying. “Some cheeses, honey, marmelade, bacon, eggs and bread of course. And some coffee, tea and milk. Nothing to start the day better than a good breakfast!”
During breakfast the councillor asks them many questions about their own worlds and answers their questions about his own, together they ponder about the nature of the world with the meadow and the world where mister Woon lives. When they are all sated, the councillor fetches some books and charts from one of the many hidden pockets in his robes and starts the education of Brian and Cara. Since Arthur already knows how to read and write he retreats with the book about planeswalking.
By the end of the morning both Brian and Cara know how to write their own name and can recognise the letters that are in it, and some other letters besides. They both show their writing proudly to Arthur who is properly impressed. “All that in one day? That is impressive, it took me months to recognise the letters of my name and even longer to write it! Of course that was before I actually went to school, but that’s beside the point.”
As they stand watching the slates Cara and Brian used for writing a servant comes in with lunch. They sit down and celebrate their good morning with a hearty lunch.
After lunch, Arthur makes up to retreat with the book again, when the councillor stops him, “Wait a minute young man, I made you a promise too, didn’t I?”
“Promise, what promise?” Arthur asks curiously.
“I promised you the memory ball didn’t I? Well if I gave it to you just like that, it would be of little use to you. It takes training to use it. Even to use it merely as an object of focus.”
The rest of that afternoon is spent studying. Cara and Brian have gotten some exercises to practice writing and reading of letters and Arthur trying to use the memory ball to focus.
“Try to picture an object in your mind, while you hold the ball. You can pick any object you like. Try to remember what it looks like, what it smells like, what it feels like, what sound it makes, what it tastes like. Tell me what object you have picked,” the councillor tells Arthur while he gives him the ball.
“Ehm, the book, I’m picturing the book. How it smells slightly of tealeaves and dust and old books, how the pages have yellowed, the letters on the cover, the picture of that funny man, the faint smell of ink when you open it, the rustling of the leaves when you turn them, the feel of the paper, and the funny swirls of the first letter of each chapter.” As Arthur speaks with his eyes closed to better remember the object, the memory ball starts to glow very, very faintly.
The councillor looks at the ball in surprise, “You have a powerful mind young man! I have never seen the ball glow on a first attempt!” When Arthur opens his eyes, he catches sight of the glow just as it winks out. If the councillor hadn’t told him he’d seen it too, he might have believed it a trick of the light. “Try it again,” the councillor urges. Again the ball starts to glow fainlty when Arthur closes his eyes and concentrates. “Marvellous. Absolutely amazing.” Again the light winks out the minute Arthur’s concentration is broken. “Can you do it with another object? Like the crown of the King?” This time when Arthur closes his eyes, the ball doesn’t light up, he starts to frown and the frown deepens as the seconds turn into minutes and still the ball doesn’t begin to glow.
“No I can’t do it, I can’t remember the crown well enough!” Arthur exclaims without even having looked at the ball. “Let’s try the pillow on my bed.” This time the ball begins to glow again immediately. “And the bread we just ate.” Tiny flecks of light begin to swirl in the ball.
Arthurs eyes fly open bewildered and the light in the ball dies before he can even see it, “What did I do wrong?”
“You were going too fast. If you go this fast you will drain yourself. But you are doing well. Very well indeed. It seems like you can remember every thing you touched, but not the things you only saw for a little while. For now I would like you to focus on one object at a time, and only one object. You were seeing several things in your mind that last time, weren’t you.”
“Yes, yes I was, but how did you know?” Arthur has gotten over the shock the shout gave him and has gotten his enthusiasm and curiousity back.
“I could tell from the ball. Don’t try that again until I’m sure you’re ready for it. And don’t worry that I will try to hold you back, I know we may have only a little time and I will try to teach you as much as I can before you leave. That is a promise, so have no fear.”
Arthur hurries to make that promise, eager as he is to learn. They continue practicing and by the end of the day the swirling flecks appear when Arthur is only focussing on a single object.
Just after the councillor has announced that it is time to stop studying for the day and has looked at Cara’s and Brian’s work, there is a knock on the door. A shy boy opens it and announces them that King Rald has invited them to have diner with him. The councillor tells the boy they will be there at the appropriate time and then helps the companions choose their clothes for the occasion. They find that there are chests in their rooms that hold clothes that are exactly their sizes and the councillor picks some of those. He also gives them some tips about the etiquette of this court.
It all happens so quickly that Brian doesn’t even have time to get nervous until the councillor takes them down to the diner hall.
In the diner hall a large company had already assembled. By now everybody in the court had heard the rumours of the strange magicians from far away and everybody wanted to see them. So everybody who had the slightest excuse to be present during the diner was there. Every chair and bench around the tables was filled.
Arthur, Brian and Cara stop dead in the doorway, they have never seen so many people gathered for a diner in their entire lives. When the gathered crowd spots them a silence falls over the room. The councillor who at first hadn’t noticed the fact that they have stopped, turns around and beckons them to the main table. With every eye in the hall watching them, the three companions walk shyly forward to where the councillor is seated. When they arrive at the main table it becomes obvious where they are supposed to sit, the only three places available are at the kings left hand, opposite the councillor.
When they sit down an urgent murmuring breaks loose again. “Welcome, strangers,” King Rald greets them. “I’m glad you could convince the councillor that food was necessary for students, and that you might as well have it here.” He winks at the councillor.
“Your majesty, I just couldn’t keep them away,” the councillor jests back, “I wanted them to continue their studies, but they refused to go any further unless I let them come down here. I made them promise to study all night if I let them come here.” He in turn winks at Cara who had started looking pretty panicked at the idea of studying all night.
Diner is plentiful. There is fowl, beef, roast pork, and many other kinds of meet, prepared in every way imaginable. There are also huge stacks of vegetables, roast potatoes, roasted chestnuts, carrots, onions, and many other items that the companions can’t name. They try to taste tiny bits of everything, but Brians later thinks they have tasted maybe half the dishes there were. They don’t quite like everything, but because they taste only a nibble of it, it’s not a problem.
The King asks them many a question that they try to answer as best they can. He is also much interested in the progress Cara and Brian have made with their studies. When the King has run out of questions, the diner is that long, they make smalltalk. What the three don’t see, because they are not used to politics, are the looks of speculation, jealousy and in some cases outright hatred on the faces of the nobles around them. The councillor however sees them and takes note of it. He will have to take some precautions before the morning to prevent any nasty surprises the three innocent persons may encounter in the morning and after.
Late that night when the diner is over and the three have returned to their rooms, he has a few chats with some people. A couple of warnings to some of the nobles, some threats even, a couple of assingments for some of the [WIRMI]personel[/WIRMI] he knows he can trust, and an assignment for a young man he has known since the man was a mere toddler and who has been his assistent for quite a few years now.
The next morning the three travelers find a young man in their sitting room. “Good morning my name is Adalwin, I’m your secretary while you are here,” the young man says, “the councillor has sent me to deal with any possible, let’s say political visitors you may have. I would advise you to listen to my advice as to whom you let in and what gifts you accept.”
“Well if that’s what the councillor advises, we will gladly take your advice. We all come from mere villages and aren’t used to court life. I for one would be very thankful for your help.” Brian hurries to assure the man.
“In the mean time the councillor has given me your assignments for today, since he will be too busy to be here all day.” Adalwin first sets of Cara and Brian on their writing and reading assignments and then sits down to practice the memory ball with Arthur.
At lunch Arthur can make the flecks of light in the ball converge in the center and Brian and Cara have produced the entire alphabet on their slates. The letters aren’t as nice as Arthur can write them yet, but they are legible.
After lunch the practice continues, Cara and Brian now get exercises to write some simple words, among which tree, bees, rose, fire and a couple of others. And Arthur gets the assignment to make up a picture of something he hasn’t seen and hold that in his mind. During this exercise he can only make the ball glow again, but not make the flecks appear. No matter how hard he tries that day it doesn’t work.
An hour after lunch the first guest appears, some minor noble. Adalwin quickly sends him away again, saying that they are too busy studying to be disturbed. During the rest of the day some more nobles try to get an audience with the strangers, but all are turned away. Some loudly protest, but those are sent away under threat of calling the guards. About an hour before diner they start getting diner invitations. Adalwin answers them all, saying in polite terms that they unfortunately cannot attend.
The three have diner in their rooms together with Adalwin and the councillor, who yet again brings it up himself. “So how are the studies going?” He asks brightly, while they attack the food.
“I could make the flecks swirl when I pictured an object I knew, but I could only make the ball glow while I tried to picture something from my imagination.” Arthur doesn’t know whether to be excited or disappointed.
“And I can write some words!” Cara has no problem whatsoever with being terribly excited, “And the whole alphabet! Adalwin even said I was better at it than daddy!”
“Hah, but my writing is more tidy!” Brian enters the discussion triumphantly.
“I see you spent your day well,” the councillor says, amused by their enthusiasm. “And how many people tried to barge in here?” He asks Adalwin.
“Oh, a couple minor nobles tried. Some of them got quite agitated when I wouldn’t let them in. I had to threaten some of them with guards. But they all left in the end. And then there were quite a few diner invitations, even from some not so minor nobles. I was surprised they would give in to temptation so soon, I would have expected some of them to remain aloof for a bit longer.” Adalwin informs his master in between some bites of chicken.
When he names the nobles he was surprised about, Gereon nods, “I’m not too surprised about those, they try to play along in the politics, but they haven’t got the feeling for it. They miss what the others consider the right timing, as you have just found out. We’ll see who turns up tomorrow.” He turns to Brian, “If I were you I would consider bolting the door tonight, I wouldn’t be too surprised if some of the nobelwomen might decide you are worth a nightly visit.”
“But I’m married, and I have a child! And on top of that, I’m only a lowly villager. What would they want with me?” Brian exclaims nervously.
“Well people here don’t know that. All they’ve seen so far is a great magician... And they wouldn’t care even if they knew you have a wife. Most of them will have husbands, and most of those won’t care. Some of them will even encourage their wife to seek your bed. They won’t want you for long, just for a night or two. Everything to gain more respect and power. And those that can boast having spent the night with a mighty sorceror will gain a lot of those in the eyes of the others. In court it’s all about politics.”
“In that case I will bolt the doors and bar the windows! I wouldn’t want to find a woman in my bed that isn’t my own. You don’t want to know what my wife would do to me if she ever found out another woman had been lying in my bed!”
The councillor and his assistant burst out laughing. “By your reaction, I bet we can make a pretty good guess,” the councillor hiccups.
With the diner done, the councillor takes a look at the slates of writing. He is impressed by their progress and praises both of them. Then he has Arthur show him how he has been doing and is awed by how fast he is learning. “I’ve said it before, but you truly have a remarkable memory. Tomorrow I’ll come by again to help you in your lessons. I bet you will have mastered me in a few days.”
“I will?” Arthur is shocked. “But I’ve only just started learning and I can only make swirling flecks appear yet. I can’t show anybody anything in it yet.”
“Ah, but didn’t I say it needed talent to show things in the ball? I don’t have that talent. My master when I was a mere student taught it to me and when he passed away the ball passed on to me with the rest of his belongings. My master had the talent and could show people everything he wanted in it, but no matter how hard I tried, nor how long I practiced I could never show more than a few simple objects in it. I think you do have that talent. I’m glad I got to meet you so I can teach it to you.”
“But, but... What about Adalwin? Arthur blurts, “He’s your apprentice isn’t he? Shouldn’t he get the ball instead?”
“No Arthur, I don’t have the talent either. I never could do more than make it glow. It is right that the ball goes to you. I am more than happy with the books I can study.” Adalwin assures him.
“So, I’m going to be a memory master? That sounds kinda cool, doesn’t it,” Arthur muses.
“Arthur, the planeswalking memory master!” Cara gleefully declaims. “Yup, that definitely sounds cool to me. Better than ‘Cara the writing planeswalker’ anyway,” she giggles.
“Or than ‘Brian the writing man that can’t planeswalk’! Not that people back in the village won’t look up to me now that I can write,” Brian puts in.
“Well, you’re no master yet, but if you keep practicing, one day you will be one,” the councillor agrees. “And I have to agree with you all that that title does have a nifty ring to it.”
That night they sit together and talk about the good things in life. They have to send quite a few nobles away that want an audience and they actually call for the guards to remove a certain young noble lady who is a little to full of her own importance. Of course she is outragious and claims that she will go complain to the King, but they have quite a laugh about her. All in all it is a pleasant evening among friends. At the end of the night Brian ponders on how easily they seem to make friends, not counting the many nobles they send away of course. Before he goes to bed he locks the door, bars it and closes the shutters, just in case. His sleep is full of sweet undisturbed dreams.
Arthurs sleep however is full of nightmares about his mother and his life before the car accident. He dreams that he finds his world again only to be dragged back into the cold loveless home for unwanted children. A few hours before the morning dawns, however, his dreams change and he gets adopted by Brian and Cara’s mother and taken away back to their world.
When the rooster crows and the court slowly begins to come to life, Arthur wakes up happy, despite the disturbed night he had. He is the first to get up and finds many a note reaking of perfume laying before the door. He puts them all on a table for Brian to read and sits down with the book, for which he hasn’t had much time yet due to his studies. When Cara and Brian get up, they find him deeply entrenched in the book.
“Well good morning mister bookworm, find anything interesting?” Cara greets him.
“Oh, hi, good morning to you too. No not yet, so far it’s mere stories about people who supposedly were planeswalkers. Just accounts of people going into a room with just one door only to be gone when other people come in after them. Nothing much to help us yet.” Arthur sighs and stretches his limbs.
“What’s all this noise?” Adalwin gets out of his room grumpily. “It’s still way too early in the morning to go discussing stuff about planeswalking.”
Just that minute they get a knock on the door. The councillor has brought them all breakfast. “Good morning all, ah I see that my happy assistant is joyful as ever.” Adalwin doesn’t even reply to that, he merely grunts. “Don’t mind him, he’ll be better when he’s had breakfast. Come, sit and eat.” As they sit down to have breakfast he continues talking, “I saw King Rald this morning and he told me he’d probably have some time to hear your case again this afternoon. I must say I expect him to punish you in some way.” As he sees their panicked faces, he hurries to reassure them, “Don’t worry though, I’m sure he’ll make it some kind of punishment that will merely sound harsh, like banning you from the Kingdom for some time. It will sound harsh enough to satisfy the court, you did break a rule after all, even though you didn’t know it.”
“But why does he need to punish us?” Cara asks timidly.
“He can’t set an example by letting you go without punishment. If he does that than people from other countries from this world will go claim they didn’t know as well, even though they know perfectly well about the law. If the King would punish them then he might have war on his hands. So he gives you a punishment and nobody from this world will even try to claim they didn’t know,” he explains, “It’s all politics again. I’m not sure it will be banishment, but if it is, I bet he will make it temporarily. I have no doubt at all that he will want to hear from your adventures when you come back as much as I do.”
“Then we’d better study hard, hadn’t we. If we get put out again this afternoon there won’t be much time left for it,” Arthur says disappointedly, “I had so hoped to be a memory master before I left, but now that I think of it, that might have been a bit much to hope for anyway. That could have taken months. And I can’t keep Cara and Brian away from home for that long. But if I’d been a memory master I could have remembered my home world without any problems and we’d have been there in no time.”
They pack their bags and go to their studies. They work hard and the room is dense with their concentration and silence. Lunch consists of a bite of food every now and then in between the exercises. Around three in the afternoon, Arthur lets out a whoop of triumph, “I did it! Come and have a look!” As Cara and Brian watch Arthur concentrates on the ball and the flecks whirl and whirl until they converge and the picture of a book appears.
“It’s mister Woons book! It’s the book about planeswalking! Look daddy!” Cara cries out. “Arthur you did it!” And she hugs him fiercely, resulting in Arthur loosing concentration and the book disappearing from the ball. Arthur sags and if Cara hadn’t been holding him, he might have collapsed to the floor.
The councillor rushes in to support him and puts him in a chair. “Now you know what I meant about straining yourself too hard. This is what happens if you go too fast. Here have a bit of cheese, you need to get your strenght back.” As Arthur nibbles on the cheese the colour returns to his cheeks. “Well you’ll live and I bet you won’t do that again, will you? I thought not. Well there isn’t much left I could teach you now. The ball is yours now. And I must say I’m very proud of you. I don’t think even my master mastered it quite that fast. You not only have a magnificent memory, but a will to match it as well. Rest now until the King summons you all. And as for you,” he turns toward Brian and Cara who stood watching over Arthur with concern, “back to your studies for you. When you go I will give you each a slate and a box of chalk and some charts so you can keep practicing if you find the time. I bet Arthur can help you along just fine. But I wanna see some results today before you go.”
And so the silence returns until the guard comes to tell them that it is time. They hurry to follow him down to the court room. They find the room crammed. Everybody who could come, is there. And not just the nobles either. To Brian and Cara it seems as if peole from the entire country have come to watch them receive their sentence. This is of course not true, as it’s only people from the castle and the town around it, but that’s what it looked like to them. Even Arthur is impressed by the number of people that have showed up.
They are announced again and walk towards the King with their heads held high, Brian makes a flourishing bow and they all kneel to receive their punishment. The councillor goes to stand behind the King.
“What is your opinion of these strangers after interviewing them, councillor?” King Rald asks in a booming voice loud enough to be heard by all.
“I believe they truly didn’t know about the law, your Majesty. I also believe they would not have broken that law if they had known about it,” the councillor replies gravely in an equally loud voice.
“Is that true?” King Rald asks the three companions. They all nod to show that they agree. “Yes your Majesty, that is true,” Brian replies.
“Hmmm. Despite the fact that you didn’t know, you did break the law. And people who break the law should be punished, don’t you agree?” The three travellers all nod to show that they agree. Most of the people in the court look surprised, most especially the nobles, they hadn’t expected the travellers to agree, they were supposed to jump up and passionately plea for mercy. “I hereby banish you from this kingdom for the next five years.”
“Your Majesty! Five years? I think that is a much too harsh sentence! These are good people that only broke the law once and didn’t even know it then. They even agreed that a punishment was just.” The councillor bursts out in honest concern.
“Councillor!” The King reprimands, “You forget yourself!”
“Forgive me your majesty, but I truly thing such a harsh punishment is unjust,” the counillor argues stubbournly.
“Hmmm, well you may be right. Very well then, I will change that verdict to a banishment of one year. Scribe, you may put down that if the foreign strangers will be seen anywhere in this land between sunup tomorrow and one year after that date, they are to be arrested and will be sentenced to death.” The scribe nods and jots it all down on a piece of vellum. The crowd gasps, that is a harsh judgement for such a crime.
Brian clears his throat. “Your majesty, may I have your permission to speak?”
The King looks up, “You have my permission, speak.”
“Well, you see your Majesty our only way in or out of this country is by magic and since we need permission to use magic...” he fumbles.
“Ah, I see your problem. Very well then, you have my permission to use magic to leave this Kingdom and to use it again to come back after your time of banishment is over.” The gathered people starts murmouring, this is all very exciting and novel to them. “Order!” The King roars, “Order I say! Anyone disturbing this court will be removed!” The crowd immediately subdues again. “Case closed. Scribe, what is the next matter that needs my attention?”
Arthur and his gang are led off to their chambers to pack. They do so in a downcast silence. After a few minutes Adalwin slips into the room. “The councillor has asked me to beg you to stay until he has come to say goodbye. And personally I wouldn’t be surprised if King Rald himself would sneak up here to bid you farewell. Don’t be so glum, it’s only for a year and you needed to be going on your way again anyway. And the death sentence part was only to sound more harsh. Although I am afraid it’s also true, if you were to come back here before the year is over, you would be sentenced to death. Just to remind you that although it’s only politics, politics can hurt you.” They promise him that they will stay at least till an hour before midnight and he slips off again to tell the councillor.
In which they see technology again and learn to fear it
An hour after it gets dark councillor Gereon and Adalwin come into their room with a force of maids carrying trays with steaming dishes. “You didn’t think we’d send you away without a last diner, did you?” When they have set down all the dishes, the door opens again and King Rald comes in.
“Ah good, diner, do you mind if I join you? I’m starving.”
“Certainly your Majesty, be seated.” Brian invites him.
“I’m truly sorry I had to banish you, but I didn’t have any other choice. If I hadn’t, all foreigners would ignore our laws and the people who have no defense against magic would no longer be safe. You see, I’m not against the use of magic. Many people have permits that allow them to practition for example healing magic and they are greatly respected. But many centuries ago now, it wasn’t like that. There were a few magic practitioners who used it for their own good, and magic was widely feared. Even people who used it for the benefit of others where shunned and suspected of bad things. Then we put the use of magic under the law and people no longer feared it, because something that is bound by regulations doesn’t need to be feared. Of course this didn’t happen overnight, but it happened. And this Kingdom was happier because of it, even the magic users.”
“We understand your Majesty, the councillor had already explained it to us. That is why we all agreed we should be punished. We were merely shocked by the realisation that we would be executed if we came back. And I say realisation, cause it is of course logical that a banishment has to be enforced. But it’s shocking to hear such things, to realise that they are actually happening to you. Hah, I bet we’ve given these nobles something to talk about for years!” Brian exclaims.
Over diner they discuss possible courses of action and decide that they will go back from the meadow and try again from there, with Arthur using the memory ball for a focal point. After having made that decision the conversation turns to more pleasant things.
When the diner is over the three companions say goodbye to their new friends, King Rald gives them his wish that they return after the year is over to tell of all the adventures they had.
“Yes like Kings throwing you into their dungeon,” Adalwin interrupts and they all chuckle about that.
The King continues his well wishes and hands them a small purse with some gold and silver coins and some small gems. “I don’t think they’ll accept our currency in those other worlds you’ll visit, but I bet the gold and silver will be valuable everywhere. You never know when you might need some valuables to trade.” He adds.
Gereon echoes the wish to see them again and hear about their stories and tells them he hopes they will continue their studies. Adalwin says nothing, but simply hugs each one of them. They pick up their bags and hoist them on their backs. Adalwin accompanies them to the street corner they were first spotted on by Lutz, the guard. He hugs each one of them again, and then turns and walks away.
They watch him until they can’t see him anymore and then turn around themselves and walk around the corner hand in hand.
They arrive in their meadow again and find it in darkness. “You know, this is the first time I’ve been here after dark,” Cara says, “It’s beautiful here under the light of the moon and the stars. Hey, did you hear that? There are owls here too.”
“Why don’t we spend the night here,” Brian suggests, “It doesn’t look like it’s gonna rain and it’s a beautiful warm night.” And so they spread out their blankets and make a small fire, just because every camper should have a fire. After singing some songs around the fire, that Arthur simply hums along too since he doesn’t know the words, they roll themselves in their blankets and go to sleep.
The next morning they are awoken by birds song, they have breakfast on some berries they pick and the tea of mister Woon.
“Arthur, I think you should lead us this time and let yourself be guided by your memories and the ball.”
Arthur focuses on the few memories of his childhood he has and when the ball begins to glow, Cara takes hold of his arm while she holds her fathers hand with her other hand. Arthur concentrates real hard and here and there a tiny swirling fleck appears, but it doesn’t become the swirling mass they have seen him produce before. “Let’s go,” he says, “It won’t get any better than this.” They take a few steps and dissappear from the meadow.
The world they step into is a technology world again, but somehow Cara thinks it still isn’t what they are looking for. There is the constant drone of noise she has heard before, and the smells, but there are hardly any cars racing by, and the streets aren’t all made of stone. Nor ar the houses as big. “This isn’t it, is it?” She asks Arthur.
“No, no it isn’t. I think this world is somewhere in between our two worlds. A world where technology hasn’t completely replaced magic yet. Let’s walk around for a bit.”
As they walk around, they see people with dirty faces, a lot of them not looking all too healthy either. And all of them wear drab brown, baggy clothes. The streets are dirty and foul fumes hang everywhere. The houses are small and most of them seem to house big families, considering the number of children that play in front of them, usually looked after by an old crone in a rocking chair. Most of the people in the street seem to be heading in the same direction, towards a huge brick building with four towering chimneys spewing slate grey smoke. After a couple of minutes a horn sounds and the few people left on the streets start running. They seem to be late. After a few more minutes some even dirtier looking people with faces white with fatigue stumble home.
“Let’s get out of here, I don’t think we’ll find anything here. People won’t have time for us in this world, even if they would know something useful,” Brian says. But just as he says that some clean uniformed man appear and surround them. “Oh, no, not again,” Brian murmurs, making sure that only Cara and Arthur hear him. Aloud he says, “Gentlemen, how can I help you?”
“Slacking huh,” one of the men says menacingly, “We’ll teach you not to slack. The Procrastinator will teach you not to slack. No need to be out on the road hanging about as if there’s nothing to do.” It is obvious none of the men are very bright. The companions take care not to do anything that might offend the men, cause they seem to be looking for a chance to fight. They don’t even try to defend themselves, because everybody knows that is just what bullies are looking for. And bullies is what these men are. When the men find they aren’t being contradicted, they simply grab them by their arms roughly and shove them in the direction of the factory.
Inside the factory the smell is even worse than it is outside and the trio has to fight not to gag. They find out the factory is one huge hall with all kinds of machines in it. None of them can discover what it is that is made in here, but nobody seems too happy to be making it. Their bully guards are leading them to the far side of the hall where an immensely fat man sits on some kind of throne on a raised platform. “Well, well, well, what have you boys brought me? Some slackers? How odd, I thougth people had learned better than that in this town.” The man squints as he tries to get a better look of the travellers. “Hmm, odd clothes, way too fancy for people from around here. You are not from here, are you? Take them to be clothed properly and put them in the slackers pit,” the man who apparantly is aptly named Procrastinator, says.
The bully guards drag them away to a corner of the hall that is surrounded by screans and take them behind the screans where they find all kinds of neat piles of clothes. All are coloured the same brown, like the stuff the people outside had been wearing. One of the guards pulls a couple of shirts and trousers out of the piles and throw them towards Arthur and friends, “Put these on.” As Arthur puts on the garb he discovers that it is made from some kind of itchy fabric and that they already smell of the vapours in the factory. They don’t fit too well either, the sleaves are too tight and the trousers too baggy. When the guards see how his trousers fit, he is handed a bit of rope to hold it up. “There, no more fancy clothes for a couple of slackers. Leave your stuff here and follow me.” The guard walks away and they hurry after him afraid of the consequences if they don’t. They are taken to another corner where a lot of very tired people are plodding along on their machines. Every now and then a whip cracks and the wretches try to speed up their pace. The three companions are placed behind machines in such a maner that they cannot see each other anymore.
Arthur is put behind a machine that makes holes in some bits of leather. “Don’t put your fingers in the wrong place,” the guard warns as he shows Arthur how the machine works, “You don’t want to end up with a hole in one of your fingers do you?” He sets Arthur to work. Pick up a piece of leather from the basket drill a hole in it and throw it in another basket. Just as long until the basket is empty and gets taken away to be replaced by a new basket.
Cara has to man a machine that dies some pieces of cloth. Put the cloth in on the one side and take it out of the other when it is died. Pick it up by the corner edges so you don’t get too much paint on yourself. It’s brown paint, so she doesn’t have to worry about her clothes. Run to the begin of the machine, put in the cloth, run to the other side, take it out, stack it in a basket and run back again.
Brian is made to do the heaviest work of all. He is put behind a machine that flattens rods of steel. Put in a heavy bar of steel and take out the sheet of steel and stack it on a pallet.
On and on the mind numbing work goes. The three friends are in a good shape, but after about an hour they start getting tired and have to lower the pace slightly. As time progresses they go slower and slower until they go just as slow as the wretches that were already there. Every now and then a whip cracks threateningly close to their heads and then they try to speed up their pace a little, only to slow down again after a few minutes. Hour by hour the day drags itself on. It is only broken every now and then by a drink of water from the bucket that is carried around by a little haggard boy and at noon a bit of some stale bread with moldy cheese.
When the horn blows around diner time that night, Arthur expects that they will be allowed to stop, but the guard that comes by tells them that since they started later than the others they will have to work longer than the others as well. And despite the fact that it was maybe only an hour later, they are kept working till midnight, without getting any diner. When they are finally dragged away at midnight, they are ravenous and dead tired. Their guard drags them out of the factory and they deeply breathe in the relatively fresh night air. But their guard doesn’t give them much time to do so, he drags them onwards to a low brick building. He opens the door, unceremonially pushes them in and locks the door behind them.
As their eyes slowly get used to the darkness inside the building, they see that they are not alone in here. Several people have collapsed where they stood and are soundly sleeping. Only one or two are still awake. “You had better try to get some sleep,” one of those persons says, “Tomorrow they will come for us again real early.”
“Aren’t there any blankets in here? Or cots to sleep on?” Brian asks incredulously.
“No, we are merely indespendable labour, the ones that couldn’t keep up for some reason or other and tried to get away.”
“What about food?” When the man shakes his head, Brian hangs his shoulders and sighs. “Do you know what will happen to our stuff? The stuff they took away from us?”
“It will probably all go into the Procrastinators treasure. Although it might also still be lying where you got your clothes, all but forgotten till somebody comes by and gets the urge to put it away. That’s the only advantage we have, the guards are lazy,” the man, now that they can see a bit better they can see the voice belongs to a man, sighs.
“So why don’t you do something about it? Why not revolt?” Brian asks curiously, “I don’t think I would take this if this was my town. Nor would all my friends back home.”
“We’ve tried. Let me tell you how this all happened. This used to be a happy place, where people were mostly farmers. There were of course some that were the butcher and the baker and stuff like that, cause you need those as well, but most of us were farmers. We had a happy life, although we didn’t have much luxury. Then one day this guy came a long, the Procrastinator, although he didn’t call himself that when he first came. He told us about the town where he came from and how people there didn’t have to work all day, due to something he called technology. He promised us the same if we’d help him. Well everybody had been dreaming about not having to work so much on one day or another, so we helped him. He showed us how to make bricks and how buildings made of brick didn’t leak when it rained, and how the wind didn’t blow right through when it stormed. So we made bricks and one by one replaced all our houses by brick ones. Then he wanted us to build this huge hall, that building that is now the factory. We wanted to know what it was for, and he said we would use it as a factory and build stuff in there that we could sell so we’d have more money to buy stuff so we wouldn’t have to work to make them ourselves anymore. Then when the building was finished, he brought in the machines, although we didn’t know it yet since he brought them in at night when most of us were sleeping our exhausted sleeps. By that time we weren’t getting much sleep since we had to do both the work for him and our regular jobs to keep ourselves fed until the factory was finished. When all the machines were in place he taught us how to work with them. And at first all was fine. It was true, we only had to work eight hours a day, in stead of from sunup to sundown. And he did pay us handsomely. But ever so slowly he was taking over our village. First he made rules about how everybody was to work in the factory, and we all did, cause we all had helped build it. But after a few weeks some became bored of the mind numbing work and wanted to quit. Around that time some of us found out that we had been making pieces that could be fit together to make weapons and armour. Unfortunately that was also when he picked his guards and started to force those people to work for him. He made us believe they were slackers and we enjoyed how he forced them to work harder than the rest of us. But after some time, some of us started to wonder. Why are we doing this, why is it so wrong to want to do something else again? It wasn’t as if those people didn’t want to work, they simply wanted to go back to farming. So we planned an uprising. But what we didn’t know was that he had somehow gotten his hands on some things called guns and most of the people in the rebellion were shot down. At first we didn’t understand what was happening, all around us people started falling down for no apparent reason other than a loud bang. We urged them to get up and that was when we saw the wounds they had received. We were shocked and most of us just ran away home. That was the last time any of us thought of rebellion.”
“But haven’t you ever tried to get your hands on some of those guns?” Brian asks incredulously.
“No, one or two of us thought of it, but the guns are kept locked away in a special building called armory and there are always people guarding that building. So since we knew we couldn’t reach them, we gave up the thought.”
“What if we could get all those guns out of the armory for you?” Arthur asks quietly, “Do you know if they actually check if the weapons are still in the armory?”
“No, I don’t think they check that, why should they. Nobody can get in, because it’s a building without any windows and with only one door. And that door is guarded at all times. So no, I don’t think they ever look inside but when they need the weapons. Which isn’t often anymore.”
“The door doesn’t have a window either?” Arthur asks insistently.
“No, it’s a massive oaken door, probably so we can’t break it down easily even if we could kill the guards. There’s just no way to get to the weapons,” the man whispers miserably.
“I will ask you again, would you organise a revolt if I could get you those weapons?”
“Yes I will. But I’d need to see the weapons first.” The man says unconvinced.
“That can be arranged.” Arthur replies full of confidence, “But I need a little help in getting them. Nothing to get you into trouble, just some information.”
“Arthur what are you planning?” Brian asks him sternly.
“I’m going to the meadow from a place in this world where I know my position relatively to the armoury and then come back inside the armoury. I need to test my theory first, but I think it can be done.” And as he says that he takes a step forward and disappears. A mere few seconds later he appears at the end of the building again. “Just as I thought. The location of an object in this world relates to the location in the meadow. So if I take ten paces in there and come back, I’ve moved ten paces here as well.”
“Wow, that is some clever thinking!” Brian exclaims. He looks back at the man they had been talking to who stands looking back and forth between Arthur, who is carefully walking back towards them, and the place he disappeared from. “Ehm..., Arthur, I think we might have to explain some things to our new friend here...”
“Eh, oh, yeah. Look mister, I can walk from dimension to dimension. Apparently there are more worlds than the one we are in right now, and I can move from one to the other. That’s the short version. Brian can give you the long story later, but right now I need to know if you know what the distance is between here and the armory and in which direction it is. I don’t think I can work another day like today and then drag all those weapons out of there on my own.”
“You won’t go alone, Arthur, I’m coming too. You can need all the help you can get if we’re to do this in one night,” Cara insists.
“Very well then, we’ll go together. No Brian don’t look like that, you can’t come. You’d only hinder us, unless you’ve found some way to do it on your own? No, I didn’t think so. So what’s it gonna be mister, which way is it and how far?”
“Ehm, lemme see, it’s that way,” the man says as he points, “and I think it’s about a hundred meters.” He draws a quick sketch of the town in that direction. “Here are some house, so you should take some care not to appear in those. We built all the blocks of houses with ten metres in between them, so if you keep that in mind, you should be fine. If you want to know for sure how far it is, you had better appear about here,” the man draws an x in the map he drew. This is a row of gardens surrounded by hedges with a view of the armory. Everybody in those houses should be asleep and none of them has a dog. From there you can take a peek to determine how much further you should go and it should give you a safe margin not to walk into things.”
Arthur takes care to memorise the map. “You start organising things for tomorrow, we can’t keep it a secret for too long that the weapons are gone, they might get new ones or something as nasty as that.” Upon saying that he disappears and Cara follows after him.
“Let’s introduce ourselves before we start organising stuff together. I’ve always found that knowing someones name makes things easier. My name is Brian if you hadn’t heard it, what’s yours?”
“Jacob, at your service. Let’s go wake these folks up. We have plans to make and I need them for that.”
In the mean time, Cara and Arthur have appeared in the meadow and Arthur walks towards the gardens the man has told them about. “This is probably it. I’ll go take a peek and then come back. Will you stay here? If I don’t appear within 10 minutes again, go back and warn Brian.”
“Souds like a good plan to me,” Cara says a bit nervously, “Just be careful oké?”
Arthur nods and disappears. He reappears and finds himself in a garden as promised. As he peeks through the hedge he finds out that it is even the right garden. In his mind he thanks the man for his superb directions, he’d been a bit afraid that they might have been inaccurate. He could have walked right into the hands of the guards that are standing beside the door. He imprints the position of the door and the lay of the building, and then disappears back to the meadow.
“I’m back, come with me and keep very, very quiet. I’m going to lead us to the area just behind the door, since we can be pretty sure that there won’t be any weapons stacked there. The plan is to just bring the weapons here. If you make any noise, like dropping something that clatters, step back here and I’ll do the same. Same goes if I make a noise of course. Let’s just hope that doesn’t happen, cause they might decide to guard the inside as well after that.” He leads Cara to where he thinks the area behind the door is. “I’ll go first to make absolutely sure I’m right about this. I’ll come back right away to fetch you.” He disappears and two seconds later he’s back. “I was right, follow me.” They step into the armory and find all sorts of weapons in there.
“Look at all those weapons!” Cara exclaims in a whisper, taking care that she can’t be heard outside, “We’d better get started right away, this’ll take all night as it is!”
“Let’s start at the back, that way if we make a noise and the guards investigate they might not find out right away that something is missing.”
And so they start, Cara loads Arthurs arms, he disappears and then she takes a couple of weapons of here own and brings them to the meadow. Back and forth they go. Luckily their care is rewarded and they succeed not to make a single noise. Just before dawn they have emptied the entire armory. “I’m just very glad they didn’t have any canons.” Arthur exclaims as they are catching their breath in the meadow for a few seconds. “Come on, we’d better go back now. Let’s hope they already have a plan, cause I’m so tired now I couldn’t think of one if my life depended on it.” They walk back to the point where they entered the meadow from their prison and step back into it.
“Arthur, Cara! What took you so long? We were starting to get worried!” Brian grabs them in a fierce bear hug.
“Well you should have seen that armory! It was chockfull of all kinds of weapons. We’ve emtied it now. I don’t think there’s time to get the weapons here, though.”
Just as he says it the door is opened and a bunch of guards yell for them to come out, because it’s time to get to work.
As Jacob walks past Arthur, he tells him to wait for the sign. Arthur wonders what the sign will be as he walks out into the dim light towards the factory.
In the factory everybody is set to work again, but somehow there seems to be some kind of tension. Arthur wonders if it’s just him being nervous, or if the feeling can be felt by the guards too. He hopes not. The day drags on, the work gets tiresome again, but the tension seems to increase. The boy comes by with the water again, and yet again, and then there is lunch.
Just after lunch it happens. People turn off their machines and start walking outside. The people that didn’t know anything about it get curious and turn around. The guards try to stop the mutineers with their whips, but loose them quickly when there are five persons for every guard to disarm them. They starts calling for backup and arms. The people that haven’t heard of the arms gone missing turn hurriedly back to their work afraid to get caught up in the event and being shot. But then some guards cry out in dismay as the message is relayed that there aren’t any guns. Some of the braver men and women now turn of their machines as well to have a look outside. When no gunfire can be heard for some minutes other people follow. Soon the entire factory is empty.
Outside they find that the guards are already tied up. Without their weapons they didn’t form much of a problem to the crowd. But to everyones surprise the Procrastinator is nowhere to be found. A search party is mounted and they search the entire neighbourhood. After some hours they find him in a small brick house trying to hide till darkness.
As soon as the man is found, Brian, Arthur and Cara slip off into the factory to search for their belongings and find everything untouched in the corner where the clothes used to be distributed. When they get outside again they find out that despite the fact that many people were having murderous feelings for the Procrastinator, he is banned instead of being lynched. The whole village cheers and jeers as the fat man walks away from the village in shame.
“You might want to be careful of that man, he might return with some more cronies and weapons,” Brian tells Jacob.
“We thought we’d have some proper lunch first and then return all the weapons to the armory,” Arthur informs them. “We can’t leave them lying in the meadow, they don’t belong there.”
“That would be splendid. We’ll probably need them the next few days to go out hunting for meat. These people haven’t had a proper meal for way too long. We need to consider how we’re going to go on. We’re probably going to revert back to at least some of the old ways. We need to provide our own food again.”
“Well good luck on organising it all, it seems people consider you their leader now. I bet you’d make a fine mayor.” Someone standing by overhearing that remark agrees with it and repeats it to others, and soon somebody picks up the cry: “Jacob for mayor!” And in no time at all everybody is shouting it.
“People, if you appoint me to be your mayor, than I ask of you to find out what can be salvaged so we can go back to farming as soon as possible. We need to know how much food there is in the village, for winter will soon be knocking on our door. Let’s get to it!”
After a few minutes they find out that there is still plenty of food in the stores and they decide to celebrate their freedom. A huge meal is prepared and tables are set up in front of the factory that has stopped spewing the nasty fumes now that all the machines are turned off. Soon everything is ready and the people of the village celebrate their freedom with plenty of food and drink.
When Cara and Arthur have had enough, they set off for the meadow with four strong men and an equal amount of large baskets. In the meadow they fill these baskets, the men pick them up and Cara and Brian each put their hands on the arms of the men and thus they refill the armory. This time they are done much quicker for the men can lift a lot more than they could and many hands make light work.
As soon as the job is done, they say goodbye to the villagers who hail them as heroes. “Without you we would still be in slavery,” Jacob thanks them. “We’ll be forever in your debt, if ever you need any help, just come back here and we’ll see what we can do.”
“Thanks, but I have no doubt in my mind that one day one of you would have found a way to end the reign of that dictator. I hope you will all live long, healthy and above all happy lives now. We’d love to stay and see how you rebuild your village, but we’ve got to be going again.” Brian shakes hands with the new mayor of the village and they set off for the meadow again.
In which they find out about the good things of a world with technology
The minute they touch the grass of the meadow they all drop themselves down for a long, well deserved nap. They sleep for hours and when they wake up, darkness greets them. Since they’re not really hungry after the extensive meal they had for lunch, they have diner on some berries and nuts and a cup of tea of mister Woons supply. They light a fire to practice some reading, because none of them is sleepy anymore. While Cara and Brian fight with their slates and chalk, Arthur practices with the memory ball. He’s decided that since he wants to go home, he might as well try picturing that. His biggest problem with that, however, is that it has never felt like home to him. So he decides on picturing his favorite bookstore instead. That was the only place in his world he ever felt warm and comfortable in. This time he can get the sparks to swirl again and he happily dreams along of being in that store. After a little while he slides down from the tree he was propped up against and his breathing evens out. When Brian and Cara put their slates away for the night, they find the memory ball slid out of his fingers and put it back in his backpack. Then they go to sleep again as well. The two short days in the factory seems to have drained them like a weeks hard work without sleep.
In the morning they all wake up refreshed and have breakfast on more berries and nuts, of which there seems to be an ample supply, with some of the cheese from their packs and some water from a stream. They pack what little needs to be packed and pick a direction. Arthur takes out his memory ball and pictures the bookshop again. They take a step in the chosen directory and find themselves in a tiny bookstore. Not quite the bookstore Arthur has been trying to remember though. The chair is different, and the counter too. Even the shelves of books are different.
“Can I help you?” A little old woman comes from the back room and eyes them. “Oh, what a lovely costumes you have. Looking for books on costumes are we?”
“Actually we are looking for books on dimensions,” Cara informs the lady.
The little woman looks confused, “Dimensions? Oh. Ah, well, hmm. Oh, yes, I have just the book for you.” She shuffles to a corner and comes back slowly pushing a stool on wheels to a shelf. She gets up on the stool by holding on to the bookcase and takes a book of the shelf. “There you go a nice mathematics book for the little lady.”
“Mathematics?” Cara has never heard of such a thing, “What are mathematics?”
“Oh,” Arthur interrupts, “We don’t want a book about math, we want a book about how there are several worlds at the same time in other dimensions and how to get from one to the other. That kind of dimensions.”
“Why would I have a foolish book like that? I only have sensible books, young man. I don’t sell sillyness. If you want sillyness you will have to find another bookstore!” The old lady snatches the book back from Cara and all but shoves them out of the store.
Out on the street, Brian starts laughing, “That little old lady reminds me of my granny when she still lived! All loveliness until you did something foolish. She just couldn’t stand foolishness. So, what do we do now Arthur? Is this your world?”
“I’m not sure yet, we stepped through in another position so we’ll just have to walk around a little bit. And in the mean time I can show you some things about a technology world, cause this is definitely one of those.”
They walk from store to store and look in every window to see what new wonders wait for them there. Arthur explains and explains until his throat aches from it. Then he sees a pawn shop and drags the others along. He has them stand around him in a quiet corner and takes out a gold and a silver coin from the pouch King Rald gave them. He pockets those and puts the rest back in his pack, making care to push them way down so they can’t be pickpocketed all too easily. They walk into the pawnshop and a funny looking little guy comes out to greet them. Arthur immediately dislikes him, but since he doesn’t know his way around town and isn’t sure whether there is another pawn shop, he’ll have to deal with this guy. From watching the windows he’s gotten a pretty good guess at the value of money on this world and he plans to get the most for his coins.
“Good afternoon, I was wondering how much you would offer for this silver coin I got from my grandfather,” Arthur greets the man. He shows the man the coin.
“Well, let me see.” The man checks to see if the coin is made of silver and then weighs it. “I think I can give you five dollars for it.” He offers with a nasty gleam in his eye.
Arthur, who had been watching for that gleam, refuses the offer saying that if that is all he can get for it, he’ll keep the coin. It had been his grandfathers after all, and he didn’t have that many reminders of his grandfather. If the man had offered say, 25 dollars, then he might have considered selling it.
“Hmm, what if I offer you 10 dollars?” The man wants to know with the same gleam in his eyes.
“No, I think I’ll keep it,” Arthur says and snatches the coin back and puts it in his pocket. “But how much would you give me for this one?” The greedy look in the mans eyes seems to explode as Arthur fishes the gold coin from his pocket. The man bites the coin and looks even happier.
“Well, I think I might be able to offer you 15 for this one.” The man gleefully proposes.
“Are you trying to rob my son,” Brian interjects and puts out his chest in a menacing way, “I don’t like it if people try to cheat out on my children.”
The ratty man giggles nervously, “I was only joking, only joking. I’ll give you 25 for that.”
“I think it’s worth at least 200 dollars,” Brian says menacingly, “At the very least, I think if we would go to a collector, he would gladly pay us a thousand for a coin this unique.”
The man start to look definitely miserable now. “haha, just kidding you. I’ll offer you 250 for both the coins,” he says hoping that they’ll accept the offer and just leave his shop. The greedy gleam has gone from his eyes.
“Deal,” Arthur says. He had not been expecting to get that much for the coins. He had been praying to get enough to buy them all a drink and no more. The man hands him 250 dollars and he hands the man the silver coin. The man looks after them as they leave the shops and starts making plans to sell the gold coin for a thousand to some rookie collector.
As they stand outside Arthur slaps Brian on the back, “You were great! I would never have gotten that much money if it weren’t for you! I was hoping to get us enough money to buy us drinks! Now we have enough money to buy food for a couple of weeks!”
“Really that much for one coin? I was just naming a price I was seeing on a lot of the good in that mans shop. If it’s that much money, I think he’s overcharging!”
“Oh, he most definitely is. And he’ll sell those coins with a huge profit too. It’s a shop where people go to to sell stuff if they are really desperate for money. And then go back to when their wives find out they have sold grandma’s ring. I’m just really glad it worked out this well. Come on, let’s go get us some drinks” He spots a little café and leads Cara and Brian there. They find a free table among the myriad of tables that stand in front of the café and order some drinks and Arthur decides it’s time to celebrate their succes with a piece of apple pie.
“Hmmm, sweet!” Cara exclaims, “Mama’s pie never is this sweet! What did they do to it?” So Arthur explains that they added a lot of sugar and cinamon to it. “Well it’s almost a shame I ate this, I’m not sure if mama’s pie will ever taste the same now!”
After having paid for the drinks and pie, the trio sets off again. “I’m positive now that this isn’t my world either. The money is different, the politicians are different, just too many little differences. But at least this begins to look like my world,” Arthur informs them, “We are definitely getting closer. I think it would be a good idea to walk around in this world a bit more to find out exactly what the differences are so I can form a better picture of what I should be focusing on.”
They explore the supermarkets, the jewelry stores, the hardware stores and even the computer stores, although Brian and Cara cannot truly imagine what computers could do to make them so indispensible. They walk over the market, which Cara and Brian find comforting, because this at least is something they know. On the market they buy a pretty necklace for Cara and her mother, some cotton diapers for the soon to be born baby, some sparkling hair clips and upon Arthurs idea a tea egg to use with mister Woons tea.
And finally they go to the supermarket again, because Arthur remembered that they could buy some instant food, which would be a lot less heavy than all that cheese and bread and dried meat. They buy macaroni, a few different dry freezed sauces, some instant mashed potatoes and Arthur adds some mushrooms, sweet peppers and dried apricots as well, thinking they might as well have a feast that night to get rid of some of the heavy food.
As they grow tired they spend the last of their money on some tea in an outdoor café. After having quenched their thirst and rested their feet, they walk to a dead end street where noone can see them and cross over to the meadow. By now the sun is rapidly sinking again and they light a fire and have a feast with cheese, bread and a soup of some dried meat, the mushrooms and the sweet peppers. For dessert they have the peaches. When they are finally sated their backpacks are considerably lighter.
“I must say Arthur, those dried foods are an invention! But right now my stomach is so heavy, I still wouldn’t be able to put one foot in front of the other!” Brian jokes, lazily stretched out near the fire.
“Nor I,” Arthur replies, “Let’s just sit here and do some exercises again. We can continue looking tomorrow, it’s getting too late to do anything more today anyway.” And so they take out the slates and the memory ball and each works on his own excercises.
Suddenly Cara says wondering: “You know, we could visit mama tomorrow. We could just peek in there for a few minutes and then be on our way again.”
“No, sweetie, we can’t. If we’d do that it just wouldn’t be the same adventure anymore. If we did that, we’d go back every day and one day just quit looking. Because there would always be something else to keep us there. At first there will only be this one chore to do before we leave again. And we will still go looking in the afternoon. But after a few days the daily chores would simply swallow us whole again. Believe me, I’ve tried. When I first met your mother I frequently went into the woods and sometimes I even brought your mother along, but the adventures grew shorter and farther between until finally you were born and I decided to not even try anymore, because I knew it would only frustrate me that I wouldn’t be able to find the time. I’m not sorry I chose to stay with your mother and me, don’t get me wrong. Because it was my choice. I’ve never regretted it for a single day. But your mother was right, I did miss it. So we’re not going back until we find it or decide to give up completely.”
“Oh, if you say so. I do miss mama though,” Cara says disappointedly.
“I miss her too. We’ll just have to find Arthurs home quickly so we can go back soon.”
“You know, I’m feeling absolutely jealous of you guys for being homesick. Cause despite the fact that I haven’t been home for much longer than you, I have no longing to go there at all. There’s just this annoying feeling that I can’t find it. It’s more the kind of feeling you have when you can’t find something, like a brush or some other specific item, and know that it should be there if only you can remember where you left it. The only place I really want to go back to is this old bookstore that I used to visit...” Arthur puts the memory ball back in his backpack and rolls himself in the blanket and tries to go to sleep.
Cara and Brian look at each other with pity for the boy in their eyes, hoping that they will find his world soon so they can all decide whether they will leave him there or take him home with them again. They take out their blankets as well and go to sleep.
In which they go looking for help from a professional and get find it without knowing it
All day long the three companions step in and out of modern technology worlds. Yet the worlds they visit are never the world they are looking for. They contain lots of hospitals, childrens homes and bookstores, but none of them is the right one.
“We could search forever for this. We need a bit of help or at least some advice.” Arthur says dejectedly. “For all we know, I’m sabotaging this.” As he sees their worried faces he hurries to explain, “Maybe the fact that I don’t really want to go home is keeping me from getting home. I’m trying real hard of course, but maybe my subconscious is preventing me from remembering the necessary things.”
“But where are we going to find another planeswalker? All those worlds we visited are huge and we’ve only seen very small bits of it. That’s why we always start at the point where you used to go home, so we don’t end up on the other side of the world. Searching for someone who knows about planeswalking might be just as much searching for a needle in a haystack,” Cara sighs.
The rest of that evening they discuss possible ways to find either the right world or a person who can help them, but they can’t really find an answer. The idea of going through all worlds doesn’t appeal them. By now they have honed their ability so far that every world they visit is a technology world, but there still appear to be an endless number of that kind of worlds.
“Well let’s just keep on looking the way we have, but ask after magic shops in every world. There has got to be one that will know the answer. Not searching doesn’t get us any farther either, the chance of a planeswalker coming to this world isn’t very high either,” Cara suggests when the discussion has died down and they are making ready to sleep.
Arthur dreams badly again. He is being chased by his mother and the people from the youth home. But this time after having the same dream in which he is being captured by them, the dream changes and they still chase him, but after chasing him for a while and it is apparent that he can’t escape them, he turns around and faces them. And finds Brian and Cara’s mother standing behind him. He yells at the persecutors that he won’t come back for them and that he has new parents now who will love him without hurting him. The persecutors seem shocked and slowly dissipate. The scene changes from his old world to the world where Cara comes from. After that dream the nightmare is gone too and he dreams of happier things.
In the morning they have breakfast of the last heavy foodstuffs and repack their bags. They take off from the point Arthur used to use and enter another technology world. The first thing they look for is someone to ask a question, since most people hurry by without even looking at them. After a couple of minutes they spot someone who doesn’t seem to be in a hurry and inquire after a magic shop. The lady they have stopped doesn’t know about that kind of thing, but she does point them in the direction of a place where they will probably know of such things.
As they pass a dark alley, a dog walks out of it and follows them. It buts his head against Caras and Arthurs legs and looks at them pleadingly. They stop for a minute to scratch it behind the ears and then continue to the place where they will know about magic shops. The place turns out to be a tourist information centre and they can indeed tell the travelers of a magic shop in the area. When they walk out of the tourist centre again, they find the dog has been waiting for them. They scratch his head again and continue towards the magic shop. At the magic shop the dog stays outside when they go in.
On the inside the magic shop is only dimly lit and it seems like there is some smoke hanging around in the corners and swirling around low on the floor. The proprietor is a stout woman in flowing darkblue robes with yellow golden stars and moons on it. She has a golden sun painted on her forehead and her earrings are a silver moon and a golden sun. A beautiful opal in the form of a tear is hanging at ther throat. She asks them in a husky voice if she can help them and they ask her if she knows anything about other dimensions.
“Well, I do know about the other world, but most people wouldn’t call that a dimension,” she replies in her husky voice.
“The other world?” Cara asks curiously.
“Yes the place our beloveds go to when they have to part from us. The netherworld, heaven, whatever you like to call it. If you like I could contact your dearly beloveds for you. For a price of course...”
“Oh, no we’re not looking for dead people, we’re actually looking for live people!” Cara explains. “But thanks for the offer, I’ll remember it if ever I need that kind of help.”
“Oh, so you mean dimensions as in there are different worlds all in the same place? That kind of stuff?” The woman looks at them as if they are mad. Which they ignore because by now they return the feeling.
“Yes, that is what we are looking for. So you don’t know anything about it then?” Arthur asks a bit disappointed.
Suddenly the womans voice changes tone and it’s no longer husky. “So you are serious about this? You really are looking for a way to go to another dimension?”
“Ehm, no not for a way. We’re merely looking for the right dimension. More like something that will teach us how to find our way between all the different dimensions....” Arthurs voice trails away as he sees the incredulous look the woman gives them. “Sorry to waste your time, we’ll be going again.” He turns around and the others follow him out of the store. Outside they find the dog waiting for them.
“Hello there, little one, don’t you have a master waiting for you somewhere?” Arthur gets down to scratch the dog. The dog wags his tail and buts Arthurs leg. “Well we’re really sorry old chap, but we’re going to leave you now.”
“Bye doggie!” Cara waves as they walk away and step out of this world. “Shall we search another world? It’s not even noon yet.”
“Yes, let’s.” Arthur agrees. And so they step into yet another world and go searching for someone who can point them in the direction of a magic store.
Just as they reach the store some friendly young man told them about they hear a dog barking and when they look around they see a dog that comes running after them that looks suspiciously like the dog they just left in the other world. “Is that... Nah, it can’t be, can it?” Arthur is stunned. But sure enough, there comes the dog and it buts his head against their legs and is simply begging for attention, just like the other dog did. “How did you get here boy, or are you simply the other dogs counterpart in this world?” Arthur and Cara scratch his head.
Again when they enter the store, it waits outside. They all marvel at the coincidence as they go in. A bell rings and a wrinkled old man comes hobbling forward. “How can I help you?” He asks in a croaking voice. They quickly explain what they want and are disappointed yet again. The mans specialty turns out to be tarot cards. They leave the shop and say goodbye to the dog who is still waiting for them and leave the dimension again.
In the next world they enter they only have time to find a person who can point them in the right direction when a dog very similar to the two previous ones comes running for them. They look at each other incredulously and pet the dog. “This can’t be coincidence, can it?” Cara looks at Arthur and Brian. They shake their head not quite believing their eyes. Brian takes a handkerchief from his backpack and ties it around the dogs neck. The dog never ceases to wag his tail and seems to be quite happy with the new decoration. And so they continue the search for a magic store that can tell them what they need to know. But unfortunately this store is run by someone who knows more about stones and beads then about real magic and so they leave again. They scratch the dog behind his ears and leave the world.
They appear in the meadow and are followed right away by the dog. They all look at the dog, stunned. “Did it touch either of you?” Brian asks them, “I’m sure it didn’t touch me.” When Arthur and Cara deny that the dog touched either of them, he turns to the dog again. “Can you go from dimension to dimension too?” For an answer the dog takes a step and disappears and reappears ten metres farther away. It comes running back to them with a wagging tail.
“A planeswalking dog, incredible!” Arthur exclaims. “Can we keep him?” He practically begs Brian.
“I don’t see how we couldn’t keep him. He seems to follow you two around everywhere. I’d say we give him a name and accept him into the group,” Brian laughs. He laughs even harder when he is jumped by the dog who licks him in the face. “So you like it that I’m allowing you to stay, eh? Good boy.” He ruffles the dog on the head. “Hey, you know what? Let’s give him a name that starts with a d that would fit with the rest of our company!”
“Heehee, that would be funny. I know, let’s call him Dillion. It means faithful you know,” she tells Arthur.
“If that’s true, then it would be the perfect name for him!” Arthur replies.
Dillion barks to show how happy he is with his new name and jumps around in circles around them.
“Well I don’t know about you guys, but I’m getting hungry. Let’s go find some world where we can eat. Or do you want us to make our own diner?” Brian asks them.
“We’ll need some meat for Dillion, so I say we find a world. I don’t think that ratty man who traded with us earlier will trade with us again, so let’s just find another world and try the trick again.” Arthur suggests with a mischievous gleam in his eyes.
And so they depart for yet another world with Dillion following them after a minute or two. They quickly ask around for a pawnshop and find one soon enough. Arthur trades in a silver coin for a considerable amount and they find a shop that will not only sell them food, but that serves Dillion some meat as well. After eating their fill they go in search for a leesh for Dillion, because Arthur reasons it must be easier for Dillion to follow them if he is in contact with them through the leash. They find him a pretty blue leash with a bright red collar. Dillion seems to accept everything as long as he can stay with them and Brian imagines that it almost looks as if Dillion is actually proud of the collar and leash. They also buy some canned dogfood and a can opener, reasoning that Dillion can’t eat their dried food.
Their next step is to search for yet another magic shop and when they find it they leave Dillion outside again. “Wait here for us, boy,” Arthur asks him. But yet again they are disappointed by the shopkeeper. And so they leave again. That day they try another two worlds without success and return to the meadow for another evening of studying. They have their first meal of dried food and Cara and Brian love it.
“Hmm, it’s so nice and salty! And there are so many herbs in it. I can’t even identify them all! I think that when we get back home we may have to go shopping in one of those technology worlds every now and then. Just so I won’t forget this taste, it’s just incredible!” Cara muses.
Dillion seems to be enjoying his meal as well, he finishes it in seconds and then cleans their plates when they are done. “Hey, look at that, we will never have to clean our dishes again!” Arthur jokes, before he takes the dishes off to rinse them in the small river nearby.
That evening they do their exercises and Dillion plays with a stick that Arthur keeps throwing away absentmindedly. When they go to sleep Dillion curls up between Cara and Arthur. All through the night Arthur doesn’t have a single nightmare.
In which they finally find their wizard, but don’t like him one bit
In the morning they have breakfast and decide that they will keep on going in the way they had been, cause it seems like the best idea anyone has had so far.
Cara winces as she puts on her backpack. “Why don’t we leave those backpacks here anyway?” Cara complains.
“You know the thought simply hadn’t occurred to me yet. If we just take out a few simple things like the memory ball, some coins and some small foodstuff, we can leave the rest here. That’s a very good idea Cara, that will probably make people look at us a bit less funny. People in costumes is nothing out of the ordinary in most of those technology worlds, we’ve even seen some ourselves. But people in costumes with huge backpacks... Now that’s something they appear to have never seen before.” Brian grins. They take a few small things out of their packs and tie them up properly to a tree just so the birds can’t get to the food.
They set off feeling much lighter. Dillion is as enthousiastic as ever and is jumping up and down on his leash beside them. Together the party of four enters a new world and start searching for a magic shop.
The one they find is in a bit of an odd part of town. Most houses are nailed shut and graffitti is everywhere. Some bums are sleeping in doorways and a small number of scantily dressed women are already prowling the streets. The bell that sounds as they enter isn’t the soft wellbehaved little bell that most other shops have, but a heavy booming gong. From the backroom a strong, heavyset man enters the shop. And unlike the other shopkeepers he doesn’t ask what they want or how he can help them, but he just stares at them. They fidget uncomfortably under his gaze, unable to say anything.
Until he suddenly speaks: “Two apprentices without a master accompanied by a simpleton, how curious. And they have an object of power too. Hand it to me.” It is not a request either. Arthur has to fight the sudden urge he gets to take the memory ball out of his pocket and go skipping to the master to hand it over. “It refuses my command, how funny.” The voice of the magician is somehow pleasant and very unpleasant at the same time.
“I won’t give it to you, it was given to me by a wise man and he thought I’d earned it.” Arthur says defiantly.
“So it can speak as well. Did I tell you that you was allowed to speak? No, I didn’t think so. Next time you will keep silent as long as I don’t give you permission to speak. You might not like the consequences if you do. But to answer your ridiculous claim, if that man had been truly wise he wouldn’t have given an object of power to a small boy. So I repeat, give it to me.”
“I won’t have you threaten my children in this way!” Brian suddenly exclaims, but before the sentence is completely out of his mouth he groans and his knees buckle beneath him. Cara rushes to his side and tries to help him, but finds that there is nothing she can do. Arthur just looks at the man with a look of hatred and suddenly Brian stops groaning.
“Well, well, well, the little cub is stronger than I thought,” The man seems pleased about it. “Off course now I won’t let you go anymore until I have trained you enough that you won’t harm someone by accident anymore.” Arthur looks at the man stunned, did that man just imply that after the training he would hurt people on purpose? That is a ridiculous idea, he would never hurt someone on purpose.
“And how did you plan on keeping me here?” Arthur demands angrily.
“By promising to let your friends go without harming them if you stay here and give me that object of power, of course.” Right that moment both Brian and Cara start screaming. Arthur tries to make the man stop with all his might, but it seems that the man is stronger for there is nothing he can do. After a full minute of trying to stop their screams he gives in. “Very well I’ll stay here.” The screaming immediately stops. “Go, quickly, go now!” Arthur urges Brian and Cara. “Please just go!”
“But...” Brian starts groggily.
“No!” Arthur shouts afraid to burst out in tears. “For the love of life, go!”
“You’ll regret this!” Cara hisses as Brian drags them out.
“Will I now.” The man is amused. “Well I’ll see that when we get there, won’t I?” He mocks her.
When Brian and Cara have left the shop, he demands: “They are gone, I’ve kept my promise. Now give me that object of power!”
Arthur reaches in his pocket for the memory ball and fights to keep back the tears. He will get through this, he always has gotten through these kind of things. He replaces his fear and frustration with anger. When he hands over the ball red sparks are swirling inside it.
“So, you even know a bit about how to use it. Very good. We’ll get along quite well if you learn to obey me immediately. The first rule you have to learn is to always obey me, no matter what I order. The second rule is only to speak when spoken to and an answer is expected.” Arthur defiantly keeps his mouth shut. “Ah, very good! See, you will make an excellent student. You’re not even asking silly questions. Very good indeed. Well, I hadn’t been expecting you today, so your first assignment is to sweep this shop and dust the shelves. Don’t worry about touching anything, it’s all just knicknacks for the customers. You won’t find any magical objects in here.” The man points at a broom and leaves Arthur alone in the shop while he takes the memory ball into the back room, apparently to study it.
Arthur starts sweeping the floor and tries to keep his mind blank. He doesn’t know enough to start making plans about an escape and he had better not try to make them to early. You never know what this wizard can do.
In the mean time Brian and Cara have taken a whining Dillion back to the meadow to try to think what they can do for Arthur. They had never expected their plans to find a wizard to be so dangerous. And Brian is cursing himself for not thinking of the fact that not all wizards are nice.
“So what do we do now, there isn’t much we can do for Arthur, cause if we go back that guy will simply use us to manipulate Arthur. We can’t keep on looking either, cause he is the only one that recognises it. If only we could communicate with him.” Cara sighs helplessly. At her last words Dillion perks up his ears and pushes her leg with his head. When he has her attention he puts his paw on her lap and looks up at her with smart dog eyes. “What is it, boy? You want to communicate with Arthur too?” Dillion shakes his head. Cara’s eyes turn wider, “You want to bring him a message for us?” Dillion nods.
“Amazing. I’ve never seen a dog that understood humans that well. And you know what, his idea might just work too. But we’ll need paper for it. I say we go back to mister Woons world and give him one of those coins in return for some paper. I bet he would help us out.” Brian still isn’t over the shock of seeing a dog communicate with people. They get up, brush off their clothes and depart for mister Woons shop.
They find it without problems and enter it, this time taking Dillion along inside. As mister Woon enters the shop Cara bursts out into an explanation of how they need to contact Arthur and that they need paper to do it.
“Hold on, hold on, little one. Where is Arthur and why do you need to contact him?” Mister Woon interrupts her. Brian steps in and explains what has happened. “Well of course I will help you! And this dog can traverse between dimensions as well you say? Extraordinary! Let’s see, some paper and a pen. Have you thought about what you are going to write already? No, I didn’t think so. We can’t just write anything you see, if this evil wizard of yours intercepts the message he mustn’t suspect it comes from you. You know, I could even come along with you to this world and give him the first note in which we tell him to look for the dog. He might plead with that wizard to let him take care of it. We could give a first note with the dog that says something like, please take care of me, or some such thing.” During this speack mister Woon has found some paper and a pen. He takes them into the backroom and they start discussing the options they have to handle this situation.
Arthur has finished sweeping the floor dusting the shelves and he stands trundling around pondering what he should do next, go report that he is ready to receive his next assignment or obey the rules and keep his mouth shut. Before he can make a decision one way or the other, the wizard comes out of the backroom again. “Ah, you are finished. The third rule around here is that anytime you will have finished a chore, you report it to me immediately and I will give you a new one. If I find you slacking you will not like it. Oh, and the fourth rule is that you shall call me master. When customers come in you shall call me master Warlock. And don’t you dare looking as if I mistreat you when customers are around. If you do that you will find out exactly what mistreatment is.”
“Yes master.” Arthur tries to sound like a good deferential boy, the way he suspects master Warlock wants it.
“You learn quickly,” the master says with a wicked grin. “Show me how this object of power works.”
“It’s not an object of power master, it’s a memory ball.” Arthur replies, “It helps you focus on your memories.”
“What! That is ridiculous, what use is that for an object of power. And don’t tell me that it isn’t an object of power, boy. I don’t like to be told I’m wrong, because I’m never wrong.
Arthur wrecks his mind to come up with something useful to please his master, “It might help you focus on a spell better? To make it stronger or something?”
“Hmmm, that might be worth a try. So how does it work?”
“Ehm, may I show you? I can’t do anything foolish, cause I don’t know any spells or somesuch,” Arthur offers.
“Don’t you now. Very well, show me,” master Warlock says while handing Arthur the ball. Arthur takes it and pictures mister Woons book about planeswalking. Immediately the light begin to swirl and convalesce in the shape of the book. Slowly the blur of light begins to get a true shape and finally the letters on the cover can be read. “Impressive. Give it back.” The picture disappears and Arthur hands the ball back. “So how did you do that? Simply picture that book in your mind?” Arthur nods. The wizard stares fiercely at the ball, but nothing happens. “Why doesn’t it work for me? What kind of hex have you placed on it?” He demands angrily from Arthur.
“Nothing master, as I told you I don’t know any hexes or spells. There is nothing I could have done to it, even if I had wanted to. It simply takes practice. The first time it only started glowing. It took me days to get this far, and the councillor, the man who gave it to me, says it takes talent as well. He said I was extremely talented at it.” Arthur hurries to soothe the master.
Unfortunately the soothing tone only seems to enrage the master further. “Talent, talent. I am a warlock, how could I not have talent! I have memorised all the spells I could find in this miserable world. I have hexed several people. I have talent! How could some young cub like you be able to do something that I the great Warlock cannot do. This is no object of power, it’s just a little kiddies toy!” He throws the ball towards Arthur who hurriedly catches it, and stomps off to the backroom.
After a few minutes Arthur timidly knocks on the door of the backroom, when the master bellows what he wants he opens it and asks, a bit frightened, what his next chore will be. “What do I care! Just sweep that floor again and dust those shelves. Polish them! I want to see my reflection in them,” the master grumpily replies. And so Arthur picks up the broom and sweeps the floor again. With some rags he polishes the shelves and when he’s done you might not be able to see your own reflection, but they sure are gleaming. By that time it is also quite dark and he is getting hungry, but with the state the warlock is in, he is not going to ask for food.
In the meadow it is also getting late, by now they have devised several plans in case one of them doesn’t quite work. They have decided that mister Woon will visit the magic shop with a note that he will try to slip to Arthur and if that doesn’t work they will send Dillion with a note. The notes are already written by mister Woon, since he has had the most experience in writing, and are safely tucked away in Arthurs pack. “I just hope he will find a way to get that ball back again,” Brian says, “If he doesn’t than that might prove the hardest problem. But he’s a resourceful kid, I’m sure he can think of something if he hasn’t already done it.” They decide to wait for the morning, since the shop will no doubt by now be closed and have diner. Mister Woon is an excellent cook and Cara almost feels guilty, for somehow she knows that Arthur won’t be having these delicacies.
After diner Cara and Brian take out their slates and practice some more on their writing. Mister Woon is quite impressed by their drive to learn reading and writing and fetches some childrens books about magic from his shop and gives them those. They put away their slates and read out loud from the books in turns. Since the first book they tried isn’t very big, they finish it before the end of the evening. Cara beams with pride when her father reads out the last words from the book. “We can actually read now! Just wait till we tell mama about this. She won’t know what she’s hearing!”
“Yes, I don’t doubt she’ll be very proud of us. But I had better keep studying, because she won’t give me any rest until I teach your little baby sister or brother the same when it’s old enough!”
Arthur, in the mean time, has to wait until eight in the evening before the warlock remembers his existence again and gives him some food in the form of a coule of simple sandwiches. Arthur gobbles them all down, afraid they might be taken away again if he does something wrong. When he has finished his diner the warlock sends him upstairs to do the dishes. In the kitchen Arthur finds out that the warlock apparently doesn’t like doing his dishes, because there are enough dishes, glasses and cups for at least three weeks. It takes him an hour to clean all of them. As soon as he is done he goes back downstairs to tell the warlock he has finished them. He finds the man deeply engrossed in a book. To get his attention he clears his throat, “Ehem. Master, I have finished the dishes as you ordered. Is there anything else you want me to do?”
“Ah, Arthur! Yes, I want you to come over here and start reading this book.” The warlock hands Arthur a book, which reads ‘Spells and sorceries for beginners’. “I want you to memorise it all. I will question you every evening to see how far you have progressed. We’ll see how well you can learn.” Arthur is wary, a man with such moodswings is a dangerous man indeed, praising you one minute, knocking you down the next if you’re not careful. He intends to be very, very careful. He immediately starts reading and keeps at it until the warlock announces it is time for bed. When he looks at the clock it tells him that it is already past midnight. He hopes the warlock is not a morning person.
But after a mere six hours his hopes are dashed as the warlock roughly rouses him from his pallet in the back room, apparently the warlock is a man that doesn’t need a lot of sleep. He gets a whole list of chores from the warlock to clean the house. Somewhere in the morning as he is mopping the floor in the backroom he hears the voice of a customer and he would have sworn it was mister Woons voice, but that’s impossible as mister Woon doesn’t live in this world and can’t planeswalk. He decides it must be mister Woons counterpart in this world, or of course merely a man with a similar voice. Although his curiousity is most definitaly sparked, he makes sure to not even go anywhere near the door to the shop. He doesn’t want the warlock to think him a sneaky spyboy.
In the shop mister Woon looks around to see if he can’t catch a glimpse of Arthur somewhere, but his hopes are dashed, the boy isn’t to be seen in the shop. He figures that the warlock, who is standing behind the counter, has set him to work on something somewhere else in the building. Since Arthur has only been there for a few hours that the shop was open and this doesn’t look like the kind of shop that would attract a lot of customers, he doesn’t ask after him. It doesn’t seem wise to pretend he has heard of an apprentice when there might have been nobody to have heard it from. After browsing the shelves for a while and seeing nothing of interest he greets the warlock and leaves the shop again. A couple of streets away from the shop he meets Cara and Brian again and gives them the bad news. “Let’s just hope that Dillion will have more succes.” He finishes his report. They return to the meadow disheartened and decide to study. After about an hour of trying to study, they find they can’t focus and put the note in Dillions collar and tell him to bring it to Arthur.
Dillion instantly disappears and reappears only a couple of meters away from the store. He walks up to the shop and after futilely trying to open the door by pushing it with his head, he sits down in front of it and whines. After a few minutes the warlock comes outside to see why that dog is whining in front of the store and he finds Dillion sitting there with the note underneath his collar. Luckily for Dillion and his friends the warlock is a curious man and he takes the note from under his collar. Arthur who is sweeping the floor in the shop again has recognised Dillion and has given him a wink behind the warlocks back to show him that he recognises him, but continues sweeping and tries to look uninterested.
“Look here Arthur, this dog is seeking a master. What do you think, do we need a dog?” He asks a bit too sweetly.
“I don’t know master, what would we need a dog for? We’d only have to feed him, and brush him and take him out for walks. It seems to me that it would merely be a lot of work,” he replies with as uninterested as he can, hoping that his disinterest will only make the master decide to burden him with all that work.
“Well dogs are mans best friend and if he isn’t a good dog we can always practice some spell or sorcery on him. There are lots of spells that need to be performed on an animal, you know.”
Arthur desperately tries to hide the anger and fear from his face and succeeds quite well without knowing it. “If you say so master.”
“Very well then, I’ll leave his maintenance to you then,” the warlock decides, fulfilling Arthurs hopes. The warlock reaches down and strokes the dog on his head. Dillion shows him a happy grin, but refrains from licking his hand. Somehow he thinks the warlock would think of that as bad behaviour.
The warlock disappears to the backroom again leaving Dillion behind in the shop with Arthur. Arthur takes a quick peak to make sure the door is closed and gives Dillion a quick scratch behind his ears. “Sorry boy, I can’t show I care for you too much. You don’t want to know what the master might do to you if he finds out he can blackmail me with hurting you. So don’t let yourself be fooled by my cold appearance.” He whispers. Dillion gives him a quick lick over his hand to show he has understood. After that he quickly turns back to sweeping the store. Dillion tries to help him out by pushing aside the stuff that is in his way. It looks so comical that Arthur has to fight hard to keep from laughing, he manages to keep it down by smirking.
When the sweeping is done he reports back to the master that the sweeping is done. “Good, here is some money. Two blocks from here is a supermarket, go buy some dogfood there. And a bowl to put it in. And if you tie him to this rope you can walk him on your way there. I’ve put an old blanket for him in that corner over there.” The warlock points over his shoulder to where an old but warm blanket is lying in a heap and he hands Arthur a piece of rope and some money. “Don’t loose any of that money, and I’ll want a receipt to show what you spent it on.”
Arthur quickly ties the rope to Dillions collar and takes the money. He hurries outside and after having turned a corner he almost skips to the supermarket with Dillion jumping around him. He hurriedly buys the food and bowl and heads back immediately. When Dillion looks at him questioningly, he tells him that he doesn’t think the warlock will tolerate dawdling. On the way back he no longer skips, for fear that someone might see him too happy and tell the warlock about it.
Back inside the store he hands the remainder of the money and the receipt to the warlock and puts the bowl beside the blanket. He heads upstairs to put away the food and open one of the cans to fill the bowl. When all is done the warlock tells him to get back to his studies. Dillion lies on the blanket and Arthur takes his book and continues reading.
Cara and Brian are playing a bad game of chess at mister Woons. Bad because they have only just learned the rules and because they can’t really concentrate on it. Their thought constantly turn back to Arthur. Since Dillion hasn’t returned they have assumed that he has managed to reach Arthur and is accepted by the warlock. They merely hope that the warlock hasn’t done anything bad to him.
They shouldn’t have worried, for the warlock planned to spoil Dillion with attention and food and gifts to make Arthur jealous so he would study harder. Not that this would work, since Arthur loved Dillion and is every so grateful that the warlock doesn’t hurt him.
Arthur gets a late diner again and since it’s the only meal he has gotten so far since diner they day before he absolutely wolfs it down. As soon as he is finished he is set to doing the dishes again, and apparently the warlock has been taking lots of meals and snacks for there is a huge pile again. He stares at it for a second, almost not believing that one man can make so many dirty dishes in one day. When they are done he gets back to studying, but after only a short while the warlock takes away the book and interrogates him about what he’s learned. And the more answers Arthur knows the grumpier the warlock seems to get. He really doesn’t understand why, and merely tries to make his answers more elaborate hoping to please his master. But the elaborate answers aren’t helping either. Only when the warlock starts asking questions that Arthur hasn’t yeat read about and can’t answer, does the man seem to cheer up again, but only a little bit. Arthur doesn’t get it, he’s been going as fast as he can and the man seems pleased about the stuff he doesn’t know? It almost seems as if he’s jealous of my progress, he wonders. He gets sent to bed and the warlock retreats to the upper rooms of the house.
Cara and Brian are wondering why they haven’t heard of Arthur yet, but assume truthfully that he hasn’t had a chance to send away Dillion yet. What they don’t know yet is that Arthur hasn’t been able to get his hands on any paper either, so far. A pen won’t be a problem since there are plenty behind the counter, but Arthur hasn’t even seen any paper so far.
They have an excellent diner that doesn’t taste good to them, because of their worries over Arthur. They try to study again and that distracts them at least a little bit, but overall they are off worse than Arthur is, because at least he knows what kind of trouble he is in and he can be fairly certain that Brian and Cara are fine. At midnight they go to bed and have a restless night filled with nightmares.
The next morning Arthur is sent out for some shoppings again and in the supermarket he asks for a piece of paper to write something down on. The cassier is a friendly lady and gives him a small piece of paper used to write notes on. He also borrows a pen and quickly scribbles a note. Outside he tucks it behind Dillions collar and sends him off to Cara and Brian warning him to be back quickly, since he can’t stay away from the store too long. Dillion sets of running at full speed and runs straight to mister Woons place, crossing the dimensional barrier somewhere along the way. He howls to be let in and luckily for him and Arthur they do so quickly. They read the note and catching up with the feeling of urgency Dillion tries to get across by fidgeting, they quickly write a short note back to Arthur and put it beneath his collar. As soon as they’ve let him out again he runs back at top speed again until he stands beside Arthur again who has walked back towards the shop really slowly.
Arthur takes of the note and reads it while slowly walking in the direction of the shop, it tells him that his friends are at mister Woons and confirms that yes, he had heard mister Woon in the shop and they had sent Dillion to act as a messenger, they hope he can think of a way to get the memory ball back and that together they can devise a plan for him to escape. He stops dead in his tracks. Why hadn’t he though of escaping yet? Surely he knew enough now of the habits of the warlock to start planning? Was it that he really was so used to being dominated and being mentally abused that the thought hadn’t occurred to him out of self protection? Or had the warlock ensorcelled him not to think of it? After all now that he had his memory ball back nothing kept him here, did it?
His theory of ensorcelment is proved quickly right when he tries to walk away from the shop. He finds out that he can’t force his legs to go in any direction but the shop. He quickly abandons the attempt, afraid the warlock might sense him trying to escape. He hurries the last of the way back as if nothing has happened, the note crumpled in his pocket. The warlock doesn’t seem to have noticed anything, or at least he doesn’t show it when Arthur gives him the receipt and the change.
Arthur uses every minute he doesn’t have to do chores for the warlock to study his book, and when he has to dust the shelves he studies the objects and artefacts that are on them. As the warlock said there isn’t anything on them that seems particularly useful, but he tries hard to store them all in his memory so that if he learns more about them later, he can easily find them again. His book doesn’t really tell him anything useful about breaking a spell either. It’s all about minor ensorcelments, mostly to ensorcel people and have them do things that might be useful for you, but there are some ensorcelments that might be used to help people as well. That evening the warlock seems to be even grumpier when he interrogates Arthur about his knowledge and Arthur decides not to answer all the questions right tomorrow. Although he fears what the warlock might do if he actually answered a question wrong, he is even more afraid of what the man might do if he answers all questions correctly again tomorrow. Late that night when the warlock has gone upstairs again after ordering him to bed, he takes out his memory ball and does a few exercises with it again. He falls asleep with the ball clutched to his chest.
He dreams of being hunted by books. Books of spells, books of ensorcelment, books about general magic, and more of that sort. He tries to run away from them, but he cannot run fast enough. And finally the books catch up with him and pile up on top of him, just before they completely bury him he is awoken by the rough prod of a boot.
“Wake up boy! It’s time to put that new knowledge of you to the test. We’ll see how good you are at remembering when you are woken in the middle of the night. Although from the looks of you I might have actually done you a favour.” It’s the warlock, of course, that is kicking him awake at what seems to be deep into the night. He is set to work immediately, mixing up powders and potions. Since he is half asleep and had already been getting too little sleep the past few days, it takes a great deal of concentration to get even these simple things right, but by slowly going on and checking and double checking every single thing he does, he manages to get it right without a single mistake. The warlock who was watching him with ill conceiled pleasure, certain that he would get it wrong and already thinking up punishments, is not well pleased that he got it right, but Arthur is too tired to notice. When the potion he was set to create is done, the warlock leaves him to sleep again.
But all too soon it is morning again and he gets a list of chores again. It seems even longer than yesterday. He is very pleased when he finds out that he has to get some groceries, although he groans at the amount he has to fetch. In the supermarket he borrows a pen again and writes a note to his friends saying that he has his ball back, but can’t escape yet due to sorcery and that he can’t write too often because he can only write notes in the supermarket. He puts it under Dillions collar and the dog rushes away, while Arthur slowly drags all the groceries back to the store, making sure not to go too fast and resting often.
Brian and Cara are exstatic when Dillion enters mister Woons shop. They were despairing the fate of both Arthur and Dillion when they didn’t hear for them for so long. The note explains why they hadn’t heard of him for an entire day and they realise they really should try to be more patient, but the waiting is hard on them. They quickly write a note back to Arthur to tell him that they will try to find a way to counter the spell and send Dillion back with it.
As soon as Dillion is on his way again, they start hunting for books about sorceries and how to counteract them. Mister Woon has quite the collection of books and the three of them struggle through it, glad to have something to do now. All they long they read the books from the shelves, but when the evening comes they still haven’t found anything useful. They have diner with books beside their plates and the dishes remain forgotten on the table as they continue their studies.
Arthur, in the mean time, has been studying as well. The whole building by now is squeaky clean, even on the outside, which looks rather odd in this neighbourhood, so the warlock is having a hard time thinking up new chores and instead loads more and more books on him to study. He has reading like mad to find out about countering magic, but so far the books he is given don’t tell him anything about that area of magic.
The next day there are no groceries to be bought, but he has to walk Dillion anyway, so he goes outside walks to the post office that is near the supermarket and uses a pen on the counter there. People are looking at him a bit funny, but nobody mentions it. He reports that he is looking into counter spells, but so far hasn’t found anything. Dillion brings back a message from his friends saying that they are studying the matter as well and that so far they haven’t found anything either.
All day long both Arthur and his friends study book after book. Arthur a bit slower than the rest, because he actually needs to remember some stuff to answer the warlocks questions, but he doesn’t read it all as thoroughly as before anymore, because the warlock doesn’t like him going that fast anyway.
They continue studying until the books on the shelves run out. When they find out thos books don’t yield the results they’re looking for, mister Woon suggests that they hunt for more books in the other shops in town. He gives Brian and Cara some money and a set of directions to all the shops that he knows of that might have books on magic and ensorclements. He himself stays in the store in case Dillion comes back with a message from Arthur. Since Cara and Brian aren’t expecting a message anytime soon, because he has said he won’t send another message for a couple of days, they agree to this situation and start scouring the book shops in town. They spend hours and hours in every bookstore they can find, leafing through the books that look interesting hoping to find some clues that this might be the book they are looking for. Sometimes they buy a book for further studying it at ease in the evenings, but in the technology world very little is actually known about magic.
Arthur hasn’t been having much more luck, but he finds out that he can make quite a few potions and powders now, even some helpful ones. Most of them are about giving people things like boils and other nasty stuff, but the warlock also teaches him the potions that will remove them again, just so he can actually test the potions on his own arms.
Days pass by without any of them finding a solution. Brian and Cara are starting to get fidgety again, and the warlock is getting grumpier and grumpier with Arthurs progress, because Arthur is sucking up all the knowledge like a sponge and is quickly gaining on him.
Then one day the warlock announces that he will be gone for a few day, there is a congress of warlocks that he must attend and Arthur now knows enough to run the shop in his absence. This is his chance. As soon as the warlock is gone he sends Dillion out with a note, and he starts searching all the books he hasn’t been allowed to study yet. Since the warlock hasn’t mentioned how long the congress is, Arthur works under the assumption that he might be coming back the same evening, figuring that would be the safest assumption. And finally, after searching many of the forbidden books, he finds what he is looking for. A book about countering spells and sorceries. What Arthur doesn’t know is that he has already broken a sorcery, because the warlock had enchanted the books so he wouldn’t be able to read them. But by now Arthur is almost as strong a warlock as the master warlock, which by the way isn’t all that strong, so he probably could have just walked away by now. He doesn’t know that however and hasn’t tried escaping since that day that seems so long ago now, afraid the warlock might find out.
He finds out that there are several ways to end the spell. One is simply breaking it by force of will, but that requires to be as strong as the person who cast the spell. Another way is by saying a counter spell, but that requires to know exactly which spell the sorceror cast. And a third way, which he likes best, is by casting a stronger spell on the caster of the first spell that will do almost the same as what the original spell did to you. It’s not fail proof, because the spell needs to be very similar to the original spell, but he figures it is worth a try. And by now he has encountered several spells that might work for this purpose. The one he likes best though is to ban the warlock from his shop, to prevent him from ever returning to it.
And so he writes another note to his friends, because there are several ingredients that he needs, but cannot find in the warlocks shop anywhere. Dillion runs all the way to mister Woons shop. He is greeted happily by Cara, who immediately takes the note to her father and mister Woon. “It’s a note from Arthur! He writes that he has found a way to escape, but he needs some stuff for the spell.”
“Well, let me see that. Hmm, I can get those, but unfortunately it will take some time. Let’s hope the warlock will stay away long enough for me to gather them. You two write a note to Arthur telling him that I can get them, but that it will take time. These things,” he marks some of the ingredients on the note, “can be found in the kitchen. I’m leaving now to go get those other things he requests, we haven’t got a moment to loose.” He fetches his coat and hurriedly leaves the shop. Cara scribbles the note for Arthur while Brian hurries to the kitchen to find what can be gotten there. Dillion quickly takes the note back to Arthur who has already gathered the ingredients he will need, has copied the spell he wants to use, and has put all the books back where he found them, just in case the warlock will come back before he is ready.
After a few hours, that he has spent studying to kill the time and keep his nerves under control, Brian, Cara and mister Woon burst into the shop carrying a couple of bags with the requested ingredients.
“Is he here?” Cara asks breathlessly.
“If he was, you wouldn’t have had the chance to ask that,” Arthur replies dryly. Cara’s face colours a bright shade of red. “Put the ingredients in the back room. Maybe you should all wait outside the store, just in case he does come back. Dillion, you keep guard if he comes near, bark loudly so I can at least try to hide everything before he bursts in here.” They put all the stuff on the table in the backroom and hurriedly leave the shop again. Arthur takes out the stuff he has gathered himself and prepares everything for the casting of the spell. He mixes the ingredients in the exact order the recipe states and when the broth is ready he speaks the incantation to finish the enchantment. He waits in anticipation until he realises that if the spell works he will never notice it, because the warlock will simply stay away. He decides not to wait that long, packs his stuff and leaves the shop. “Let’s go guys, I’m not sure if the spell will work, but I’m not going to stay around to wait for it.”
“Ehm, Arthur, doesn’t the fact that you are outside of the shop without the warlock telling you to go there, mean that his spell over you is broken? And wasn’t that the actual purpose of the spell you cast yourself?” Brian inquires.
“Oh, yeah, right. I guess it worked then,” Arthur grins with a slightly red face. “But there’s nothing here to keep me here, so let’s go anyway.” They leave for mister Woons shop where they all have a nice big diner. Arthur, who hasn’t had a whole lot of food in the past two weeks, wolfs down almost as much as the three others eat together. Dillion is also spoiled with beef and chicken breast, and gulps it down almost as fast as Arthur does. After diner they spend the night talking about what happened during the last two weeks and it is almost midnight before they go to bed. That night Arthur has only good dreams for the first time since his memories came back.
In which they continue trying to find the right world
The next day they discuss what to do next. “Wherever you are going, I want to come along,” mister Woon tells them. I’ve never had an adventure before this one, and in this one I was only involved sideways. So whatever you do, count me in.”
“Well it is fine with me, what do you think about it?” Brian asks Cara and Arthur.
“Of course you can come along!” Arthur exclaims, “The more the merrier. And we can use all the help we can get.” Cara nods fiercely. Dillion barks happily.
“So do you think you could also find worlds that are more advanced than ours are?” Mister Woon asks curiously. “I’d love to see one, and who knows, they might have tools to help us find your home that we haven’t even dreamed about.”
“Hmm, that might be worth a try. Yes, I think I would like to see such a world as well. How about it Cara, ready for some world that is even farther away from yours than the last ones were?” Brian asks Cara with a twinkle in his eye.
“If you think it might help us find your world, I’ll follow you everywhere,” Cara replies gravely.
“Well let’s go then!”
They all hold each others hands with Arthur on one side, Cara in the middle and Dillion on his leash on the other side. They take a step forward and appear in another world. If Cara and Brian thought the buildings in the previous worlds were high, these are even higher. Even if you lay your head all the way back against your neck you still can’t see the tops of the buildings. Even Arthur and mister Woon are having trouble believing what they see. Down on the ground where they are there is hardly any traffic at all, but the entire space between the buildings from about ten meters up is filled with zooming, buzzing and most of all flying objects of all shapes and sizes.
They walk around with their mouths open, gawking at the mass of colour and sound, hardly watching where they put their feet. Brian and Cara had thought they’d seen it all when they finally got used to the worlds of mister Woon and the warlock and all those other worlds they visited, but this... This is plain magic again. Everybody is flying! Even Arthur and mister Woon are astonished, this is all just like the movies. It’s so hard to believe there is actually a world where this kind of stuff is actually happening.
Suddenly they hear this big booming voice coming from behind them, “Suspects who walk on the sacred earth spotted, elimination comences.”
Suddenly Brian yelps, “He’s shooting at us, run!”
They all start running immediately and Arthur calls to Brian while doing so, “Where did it hit you and what with?”
“Something grazed my arm, I didn’t see what it was!” He looks back over his shoulder, but despite the fact the air around them is sizzling he can’t see what the huge metal thing that is following them, is shooting at them. “I don’t even know what it is!”
They run around a corner and into a small alley that seems to be a leftover from earlier times, because no objects are flying around in here and it also seems to small for the robot as Arthur has identified it by looking over his shoulder. But the fact that it can’t come in doesn’t prevent it from shooting at them, and because there is nothing in the alley, there is also nothing for cover. Suddenly a robot appears from the other side as well, but before they can start thinking about despairing, a voice comes from their right, “In here!”
They see a small doorway and duck through immediately without asking questions, simply because there is no time for any. One more second out there is certain death, what’s in there can’t be worse. Once they are all safe inside they have a look at where they ended up, but there isn’t much too see. It’s a pretty dark room with a single small light bulb on the ceiling and some old fashioned furniture like a few simple chairs littered through it. There is also a dirty looking person in rags.
“Welcome. I thought I knew all the members of the resistance, but I have never seen you before. Who are you,” he says.
“Well I think you really do know all the members of the resistance, because we are not part of it,” Brian replies.
“But, you were walking on the ground. Only members of the resistance do that!” The member of the resistance is taken aback.
“Well we are not from this world, so we didn’t know that. We’re from a world where everybody walks on the ground and we don’t even have those flying things. We actually came here for help, hoping that the advanced people from this world might know about dimensions and could help us a locate a specific one, but I see we were wrong. I think it would be wise to leave again, how long do you think those things will stay waiting for us there?”
“They aren’t waiting anymore, they are right now looking for a way in here, so we had better get moving. And before you leave I want to hear more about your world. Could you take me there for example? Me and the other members of the resistance? All we want is to go back to a more natural life, but somehow the people who are in power don’t believe us and think we want to break all their precious rules, so now we are fugitives. But let’s go, we need to get out of here fast.” He leads them through a hatch in the floor and into a dark tunnel. “You were lucky I was there, if I hadn’t been you would’ve been toast by now.”
“So what were they shooting at us with?” Arthur asks, “We couldn’t see it because of all the running.”
“You wouldn’t have seen it if you had been standing still and staring them in the eye. They’re shooting with lasers. All you can see is the place where they are hitting you, the split second before the blast actually kills you. Laser is invisible unless something is in it’s way. If it would ever be foggy, you would be able to see the beam.”
“Laser? What’s that?” Brian asks a little bit confused.
“Laser is some very concentrated ray of light,” Arthur replies, “And I’d heard about you not being able to see it, but in the movies you always do, so I hadn’t expected it to really be invisible like this.”
“That’s right. Mind the step here, the floor is a little bit lower on this side of the door.” They all carefully step down and step into a room that is slightly better lit than the hallway was and has more furniture than the first room they were in. “Let’s go again, this is only a waystation. Still way too close to that room we were in.” They move down another corridor, and another and another. After walking for about half an hour through dark corridors and passing several rooms, they reach a door that is bolted from the inside. “Shield your eyes, this room will be well lit.” Their guide raps the door a few times in quick succession and they hear the sound of bolts being removed from the inside.
Inside the room are almost a dozen persons. Once the adventurers eyes have gotten accustomed to the light again, they are asked to introduce themselves and they tell their story again. Once that is done, the woman who appears to be the leader introduces the group to them in turn.
“So you claim to come from another world where there still are trees? And it is still allowed to walk on the ground?” She asks them in a rather interrogative way.
“Yes, that is right. In the world where I come from everybody walks on the ground,” Brian replies.
“And in the world where I come from most people don’t walk anymore, but use something called cars. A bit like you flying things, but with wheels riding on the ground. But that’s just cause most people don’t want to walk if they don’t have to,” mister Woon adds.
“Tell us more about these worlds of yours,” the woman commands. And they do. They tell about how there is no electricity in Brians’ world and everything is done by hand. They tell about how mister Woons world is rapidly going the way this world has gone.
“Are there any more of these worlds you speak of?” The woman asks, now curious.
“Yes, there are countless dimensions, an infinite amount of them. We’ve seen quite a few of them, yet I am convinced that we haven’t even seen a fraction of them all,” Arthur replies.
“Could you take us to one?”
“How many of you are there that want to come? And what kind of world would you like to go to. If there are too many of you I don’t think it would work,” Arthur replies, “I’m not sure what would happen if you took too many people through, but I don’t want to try.”
“As far as I know there are only 50 of us left. And I think an uninhabited world would be best for a group like us, do you know any of those.”
Brian and Cara look at each other. Cara nods. “Well, we aren’t quite sure it is uninhabited, but as far as we know it is. It feels uninhabited somehow, I don’t think I can explain that to anyone who can’t cross dimensions on his own. We are willing to take you there, but we can’t do it from underground. If we could get to the surface somewhere, preferably outside, I could take you through five persons at a time. Cara and Dillion could do the same.”
“Dillion? Who is Dillion?” The woman asks, suddenly suspicious again.
“Didn’t we tell you the name of our dog? I’m sorry, meet Dillion.” Dillion makes a bow by lowering his head.
“He understands what you are saying?” The woman asks incredulous.
“Well as far as we know, he does. He’s never proven us wrong so far.”
“We need to discuss all this. It will take some time to gather the rest of the group. Your guide will take you to a place where you can rest and treat your wounds. We will have a meeting and let you know what we have decided in the morning, is that oké with you?”
“That will be fine,” Brian replies, “It never hurts to discuss things like this properly and from what I’ve seen, I wouldn’t want to be in this world too long either. So I agree to helping you too.” The last of that is aimed at Cara and Arthur who didn’t include him in the decision.
Their guide takes them to another room and after showing them where to find some food in case they get hungry. Arthur looks at Brians wounds and asks for some ingredients and equipment to make a potion to help it heal faster. Their guide promises to send someone with the requested ingredients and then leaves them to help gather the other members of the resistance for the meeting. Since they didn’t bring anything to this world, they sit idly chatting away the time. After about an hour a small girl comes in with a bag filled with the things Arthur has asked for. He thanks her and mixes together the ingredients in a bowl. After chanting a spell he puts it on the wounds and puts a bandage around it to keep it in place.
All this working has made him hungry and they eat some of the food that is provided for them and then talk some more. When they get tired they go to sleep, since they haven’t got any idea of what time it is.
The next morning their guide comes back to bring them to the group again. This meeting is in yet another room that is quite a bit bigger than the previous one, which is a good thing since now there are over 50 people gathered in it.
“Good morning!” The woman Cara has dubbed the queen greets them, “We have come to the conclusion that we would indeed like to take you up on your offer. We have devised a plan to get us all to the surface in little groups at different locations. We would very much like it if in the first group one of your friends is present and if the other could leave with the last group. Just a little something to make us feel better about your intentions. Not that I don’t trust you, but we are a suspicious lot. Which isn’t too surprising, considering the world we live in and how it feels about us.” Brian looks at the others and when they all nod he replies that such an arrangement will be fine with them. “Good. We have split ourselves up in three major groups, one to go with Arthur, one to go with Cara and one to go with Dillion. I myself will remain here with Brian. Of both your groups, Cara and Arthur, one person will remain behind once all the others are gone over to the other world to guide you back here. The six of us will then go to another exit and leave this world there.”
“Sounds like a sound plan to me. When do we start?” Brian asks.
“Right now if you can.”
“Yes we can. Mister Woon do you want to be the first to leave, or do you want to stay behind?”
“I’ll leave with the first group, if that’s oké with you. This place is starting to get on my nerves,” mister Woon replies.
“That will be fine. See you back in the meadow then,” Brian greets them all.
The gathered people split up into three groups of about sixteen persons and lead Arthur, Cara and Dillion in three different directions. A few minutes later, all three of them appear in the meadow leading four persons each. Mister Woon is in Arthurs group and gathers the people and directs them to the wood to gather firewood, nuts and berries. The three planeswalkers go back to their respective locations in the other world and shortly appear again with 12 more persons. When all the people in the groups are gathered in the meadow, Cara and Arthur disappear again, while Dillion remains with mister Woon.
Arthur and Cara meet again in the room where the queen is waiting for them with Brian. “Well that was quick!” The queen tells them, “I had actually been expecting that it would take a lot more time.”
“Well it takes no more time than a single step does, so all the time it took was the time to walk to the surface and then eight more steps,” Arthur explains, “And now it is time for us to leave as well.”
The queen takes them through a long series of hallways and rooms and up some stairs, until they are standing in the open air once more. But the minute the door falls shut behind them a booming voice speaks up behind them, “Targets acquired, elimination commences.” And suddenly there is a gaping hole through Arthurs chest. His mouth forms a shocked o, and he suddenly disappears.
Brian is the first to come over the shock and he grabs the others, “Let’s go, there is nothing we can do for him, we don’t even know what happened. Come on, before that giant comes over the shock and starts firing at us too.” Cara snaps out of it and they all disappear into the meadow.
“Where did he go? I’ve never seen anyone disappear like that when they had a hole through them. Normally they just drop down dead and are taken by the bots for disintegration, or whatever they call it,” the queen is still stunned.
“I don’t know,” Cara answers still only half believing what she saw. “I can’t believe it. I can’t believe he’s dead. After all the things we went through to find his home again. He’s just gone.”
They are finally spotted by the other people that had already arrived in the meadow and mister Woon comes walking towards them with the others. “Where is Arthur? Why isn’t he here too?”
“He’s gone,” Cara replies, “A robot shot him through the chest and he just disappeared. I could see right through the hole for a second, just before he disappeared. Even that robot thing was stunned. That bought us some time to get away, otherwise we would have been shot as well.”
“Arthur is dead?” Mister Woon asks incredulous. He sits down abruptly. “He’s really gone? I can’t believe it. All the things he’s been through, all for nothing.”
“Hi everyone!” Everybody turns around abruptly and there they see Arthur, unharmed and walking towards them.
“Arthur!” Cara jumps up and rushes towards Arthur and hugs him fiercely. “You’re alive, you’re really alive? How can it be? What happened? I saw a hole in your chest! Nobody can survive that!”
“Well, I was shot, but I decided to try to step into a world where I wasn’t shot. I don’t know what I was thinking, but that’s what I decided to do. And for some stupid reason it actually worked. I suddenly found myself in another city just like the one where I was shot. After I had convinced myself I really wasn’t hit in this world, I started looking for you guys. You weren’t there so I looked around for a bit, still hardly daring to believe I actually pulled that stunt off. When I couldn’t find you I guessed that you had gone on to the meadow without me and I came here. You really believed I was dead?”
“Yes we did. I’m so glad you’re alive though.” Brian has joined them and hugs both of them. “I can’t even imagine telling your mother about him dying, Cara. I know how much that would hurt her. I am forever grateful for you not dying so I will never have to tell her that.”
That night they build a huge bonfire to celebrate the fact that everyone made it to this new world safely. The next day they discuss what they will do now. “We have no tools with which to build houses and things like that. And although it is nice to live out of doors now and see the sky all day long, we must think of the future as well. We don’t know anything about this world, but I bet this world has seasons too and it might rain and snow here,” the leader of the resistance tells them.
“Hmmm, maybe we could get you some tools, to get started. We probably can’t supply you with much, so you’ll have to go scouting this world for things that can be used for tools as well. It would also be wise to see if there are any settlements around. You might want to stay out of sight now until you know they are friendly, but in the future you might be able to trade with them. And maybe even intermarry with them for the continued existence of the group,” mister Woon suggest.
“If you could do that for us we’d be ever so grateful.”
“Hey! And you really could be a queen now!” Cara exclaims interrupting the leaders speach. When everybody turns to look at her she blushes, “Well right from the start I thought of you as the queen of these people. And now that you are in a new country you really can be.”
The people around her think of this for a few seconds and then start cheering their new queen. The queen only laughs. “A great people you have made me queen of, girl. But I’ll try to live up to that title. After all I truly was their leader already.”
“I suggest we get going, if we need to find you some tools,” Brian suggests, “And I bet your ladyship has a lot of court matters to attend to,” he finishes with a wink to the new queen.
“You have our royal permission to leave us to find the promised tools,” the queen jests back, “Too bad you are already married, otherwise I would have commanded you to be my king.”
The four friends and Dillion make a bow, link hands and step into mister Woons world again. “Now that was an adventure!” Mister Woon exclaims with a sigh when they get back to his shop. “I’m not quite sure if I ever want to go out on another adventure again. All those adventure books I read as a kid sure forgot to mention the fact that you might not be the main character and that you might die if you ever go out to have an adventure of your own!”
“Well I never read adventure books as a kid, not being able to read and all, but none of the adventures I’ve had so far, and there have been quite a few, was ever so dangerous as this one. It might have cured even me of my lust for them,” Brian replies, “But why don’t we go find one of those pawn shops to see if we can trade a few of our coins for some tools.”
“Yes that would be a good idea, much better than my own to buy a whole bunch of new tools. That would have been a lot more expensive,” mister Woon agrees.
Cara and Arthur decide to stay at home with Dillion, saying that they deserve a rest after rescuing over fifty people. Mister Woon and Brian agree and leave for the shop together. In the pawn shop they spend quite some time selecting all kinds of tools like hammers, saws, axes and other tools that don’t require electricity. They haggle for a while with the shop owner about the amount of coins they have to pay for it in return, but in the end they go home quite satisfied. Back home they drop off the tools and immediately leave for the next shop. They visit all the pawn shops in the city that day and return home with five hammers, six saws, five axes, two pairs of pincers and a big box of nails. They also buy some pots and pans, a bunch of freeze dried meals and some bottles of cheap wine.
That evening they return to the meadow with their hoard. The exiles rejoice at the sight of so much goodies. “So much! How can we ever repay you?” The queen exclaims in gratitude, “It will probably take a few generations to even attain the first beginnings of a society. It would take years and years to obtain anything of value!”
“We’ll see about that. For now it was money we could miss. We actually got quite a good deal on all this,” Brian replies.
Together they prepare a feast meal of the dried foods and all that evening they celebrate their escape. In the morning most people have trouble waking up, but with a few unfriendly prods everybody finally gets up and goes to work. The group is split up in to groups. The first group is a team of axemen that will go to work on building the main structure of a big hut. The second team goes to gather clay at the river with Cara to make pots and roof tiles and other usefull objects. The third group goes out to gather firewood for the fires to bake the clay. A fourth group goes out with Brian to find out what edible things they can find in the forest and to learn how to hunt. And the last group goes out to scout the land a bit further away. The next few days the groups rotate so that everybody can learn as much from Brian and Cara as they can. Arthur and mister Woon help out as much as they can, but they don’t have quite the level of knowledge that Cara and Brian have, since they weren’t born in a world where they need to do such things. After two weeks most of the people know enough to survive and the quick students are already teaching the others what they have learned in turn. The structure of the first hut is now almost finished and people are starting to work on the first primitive pieces of furniture.
The four adventurers say goodbye and go back to mister Woons shop to return to searching for Arthurs world again.
Back in mister Woons shop they take a day off to rest from the hard work of the last two weeks. They spend the day reading, playing chess, and hanging around idly, simply enjoying the fact that they don’t have to do anything. That night they go to bed relaxed again, but completely drained by doing nothing at all. It’s a feeling that they haven’t had in a long, long time and it feels quite good.
In which they find out that their guide has been with them for quite a while now
The next morning they have a large breakfast and they eat it while chatting amiably. But after breakfast the inevitable question arises again, how to find Arthurs home. Searching for a wizard in either a modern or a future world doesn’t seem like such an attractive option anymore, and just searching hasn’t helped them a whole lot so far either. Suddenly Dillion understands that the thing they have been looking for all this time is the world that Arthur has been born in. He can find that, that’s easy, so he barks to get their attention. “What is it boy?” Brian asks. Dillion gets up and walks away, looking back over his haunches to see if they are following him. When he sees that they are not, he turns back, takes Brians trousers between his jaws and gently tugs on them. “You want us to follow you?” Dillion barks happily. “You know how to find Arthurs homeworld?” Again Dillion barks, he rushes towards his leash, grabs it and brings it back to Brian, who puts it on and is almost dragged out of the store. The others who had been sitting stunned quickly get up, grab their packs and follow them. Outside they all hold hands and follow Dillion into another world.
“This is it!” Arthur exclaims bewildered, “This is my world! This is actually my world! I can just feel it! Good dog, Dillion! How on earth did you find it?”
“I guess we’ll never know the answer to that, unless you know of a world where dogs can talk.” Brian replies the question with laughter. “Let’s go find your mother shall we? Or doesn’t she live in this town, I remember you saying something about a childrens home?”
“Yes, my mother lives in this town, but I haven’t seen her for quite some while, because they wouldn’t let me go to her. They said she’d only hurt me again. The first thing I’d like to do is visit that bookstore I told you about. I’ve missed that place. And maybe the Bookkeeper will have some advice for us on what to do. He always used to have great advice for me.”
“The Bookkeeper?” Cara asks curiously.
“Yes, that is what people call him. You see he never seems to want to actually sell any books. He fusses over them like a mother hen fusses over her chicks. After a while he simply accepted the name and used it for himself as well.”
“Well let’s go then. We certainly could use some advice, because so far all our plans focussed on getting here in the first place. Dillion just saved us a lot of trouble. I wonder if he could just smell that you had been to this world or something, some sense for planeswalking that is better developed in dogs, just like his nose is.” Brian is extremely happy now they are on the move again.
“Yes, I’d like to meet this Bookkeeper as well. Any man that loves books must be a great person to meet.” Mister Woon adds.
And so Arthur leads them to his beloved bookstore. As he passes all the old places he used to visit and just walk by all his memories come back. He is surprised at how much he thought he had remembered again and how little it actually was.
As they reach the bookstore Arthur savours the sight of it, the books in the window, the sign with the name that is only legible if you know what it says, the almost crumbling books of the building and the solid oak door that leads you into the sanctuary itself.
“Arthur! You’re back!” The bookkeeper, a frail man with not many white hairs left on his scalp, comes forward and embraces Arthur, “I heard on the news that you had an accident and suddenly disappeared from the hospital, they already feared you were dead! Let me have a look at you, hmmm, you look as if you could use some food, but other than that you look perfectly healthy! And I see you’ve finally made some more friends? Come with me, all of you. I’ll probably have something edible and some drinks in the fridge.” He takes them all to a corner of the bookshop that seems to be used by him to live in. There is a comfortable sofa with a warm blanket over the back, a small refridgerator and a side table that is covered in books like the rest of the store. “Please sit down, all of you. There should be some more chairs somewhere in the shop, if you would be so kind to fetch them Arthur, then we can all sit down.” He produces some orange juice and some cheese from the refridgerator, some glasses from a cupboard hidden behind books and also conjures up a tin of cookies from under a pile of books somewhere, while Arthur chases through the shop for the mentioned chairs. The chairs are covered in books, so Arthur gently places them on the ground before moving the chair.
When everyone is seated, the bookkeeper inquires after Arthurs adventures, saying that since he disappeared so mysteriously, he must have had some. And so they tell the entire story from the beginning again. Arthur ends with explaining that they don’t know what he is to do now, visit his mother, go back to the childrens home, go back with Cara and Brian...
“If you want to be able to still come to this world to visit your mother and me every once in a while, I suggest you go to the childrens home and have Brian adopt you if that’s what you really want. Playing by the rules is usually a good idea. If you’re not planning on coming back than you can go right ahead and leave with them, but personally I will miss you. I always looked forward to your visits, it is nice to have a person over who understands my love of books. If you go with Cara and Brian without having them adopt you legally and then come back here, you might run into a policeman who recognises your picture who decides to bring you back to the childrens home, and I don’t think you’d be able to ever get out before you are 18 if that happens.”
“That’s a good point, but how can Brian adopt me? He doesn’t have any papers that will be valid in this world, since he’s from another world and all that. Not to mention the fact that they don’t have identity papers in that world at all.”
“Hmm, that is a good point. One option would be to arrange some falsified papers, but they have to be good, since they will have to pass through the hands of multiple officials. Good thing is that they won’t expect falsified papers in those institutions. Let me see, I might know someone who knows the right kind of people to get some falsified id and stuff like that. And you’d need a mail address as well. I’d give you permission to use my address, but I’m afraid that won’t work in this case. I’m afraid we might have to find you some place to live in this world. I’m not quite sure of the procedures, but you might have to get your wife here as well Brian. I’m pretty sure they won’t let a single father adopt a child here and telling them you have a wife without actually showing her... We might pull it off for a while, but at one point or other we will probably have to show her. Arthur I know you won’t like this, but in order to do this all, we will need you to go back to the childrens home. We can hardly adopt a child they haven’t go, now can we?”
“I guess you are right. If only I knew this would really all work out... Oh well, I’ll just hope for the best.” Suddenly his face grows bright red, “Oh! I never even asked you if you are willing to do this! I mean it’s an aweful lot of trouble. If you want I can also just come with you...”
“Don’t be silly, boy! Of course we’ll try this. And if all things have been tried and it still doesn’t work out we’d send you a note so you can try to escape and come after us.”
Arthur jumps up and hugs Brian. “Thank you! I guess this is goodbye then? Or should I stay until we at least have your papers?”
“No, the sooner you get back the better, they might not want to let you go if you come back too shortly before I come in telling them I want to adopt a kid. But we do still have to think of a story to explain where you’ve been. I suggest we keep it simple, that way you can’t forget things that will trip you up.”
“May I make a suggestion?” The bookkeeper interrupts them, “We could just say that he has been wandering aimlesly without knowing who he was or where he was, until he turned up in my shop.”
“But haven’t they been searching for him? I can’t imagine them searching for him and not finding him if he’s been out prowling the streets of this city. Maybe you were visiting another city and found him there?” Brian suggests.
“No, they would want to know which city that was. We could say I ran out of town to the forest that is on the east side of the city. That is sufficiently large that they wouldn’t have been able to find me even if they tried there, with lots of streams to loose my scent in. We could claim that the first thing I remembered again was a bump on my head and how I spent the next several days trying to find the city again and then showing up here,” Brian suggests in turn.
“Well it is a simple thing, would you happen to know a secluded place in the woods where you can say your memories came back?” The bookkeeper asks.
“Hmm, no, but then it took me several days to find the city again, didn’t it. I’ve been wandering around aimlesly, I didn’t know where I was and I haven’t got a clue how to get back there. I think it’s simple and credible enough to be believed by them. After all there are lots of stories of people getting lost in that forest,” Arthur explains.
“True, true, well we’ll just have to see how it goes and hope for the best. Shall I bring you back then? Since you showed up on my doorstep after all.”
“Ehm, Arthurs clothes...” Cara offers, “They don’t look as if he wandered around in a forest in them. Maybe it’s wise to go to that forest first and walk through some brambles first. Then we can only hope they will believe it, because the wounds won’t truly be days old.”
“Oh! You are right of course. I’m glad to have you here, without you I would have just walked to them like this and have been caught in the lie in no time!” Arthur exclaims. He takes his old clothes from his pack and puts them on again. “There, this will look more credible too. It’s hard to explain how you got new clothes in a forest,” he grins.
The Bookkeeper offers to take Arthur to the forest in his car to reduce the chances that he is seen. Arthur gratefully accepts, because it will be a long hike back and he will have to do that on foot to make the story all the more credible. And so the Bookkeeper takes Arthur in his car to the other side of the forest. “Good luck, kiddo. I hope to see you soon. I brought you some cookies, just to keep the hunger away. You already have the starved look anyway, so there’s no reason to go hungry all the way.” And that’s how Arthur begins the long trek through the forest, in his old clothes with nothing but a few cookies in his pockets.
The Bookkeeper watches him until he disappears behind the bushes and then returns to the bookshop in his car, hoping that Arthur will be allright and back in the shop soon. As soon as he gets back to the bookshop they start discussing what needs to be done to adopt Arthur once he is back in the childrens home. The Bookkeeper makes some phone calls to inquire discreetly after the terms for adoption and finds out that they indeed need a house and identity papers, but also a job. They discuss some options and the Bookkeeper makes some more phone calls to people who know people who might be able to help them, for a price of course. He also gives Brian and Cara an address where they can buy some clothes, and some money to buy them with and they go off to get dressed in the style of this world. In the meantime mister Woon and the Bookkeeper continue discussing where they might find a house and a job for Brian. They browse through the local papers and find several places that are offered for rent and also clip out some advertisements for jobs that Brian might apply for.
When Brian and Cara come back they are hardly recognisable, not only have they bought new clotes, but they also went to have their hair cut. After admiring their new looks they quickly discuss the clippings mister Woon and the Bookkeeper found. The first concern that arises is that they need money for a downpayment on a house, because without a place to live, you can never get a job. That’s when Brian remembers King Ralds gold. “But we have money! Well, not money we can directly spend here, but I bet a jeweler or an antiques salesman would love to buy it from us. Remember King Rald I told you about? He gave us a purse of gold and silver coins and also some gems. We’ve traded a few coins for money already, but there is still plenty left in that purse. I bet we could get enough for it to rent us a house for a couple of months.”
The Bookkeeper digs up an address of a friend of his who is a jeweller and makes a call to warn him that some people are coming with gold and jewels that they are willing to sell. Cara and Brian fetch the purse from their packs and set off for the jewelers shop. When they arrive their they find that the call of the Bookkeeper has helped them a lot.
“I normally don’t buy gold from cliens often, as I find that it is usually of too low a quality, but since you’re friends of the Bookkeeper I’ll make an exception,” the jeweler tells them. But when the man sees the content of the purse and examins it, he gasps. “Those are incredible, the purity of the gold and silver. And those gems... This is worth a fortune! I don’t even think I can buy it all from you. I’m almost tempted to go to the bank to loan the money necessary for this. How much do you want for it?” He finally asks them.
“Well we haven’t got a clue as to the value of this stuff, so you make a reasonable offer. We’ll take whatever you’ve got,” Brian offers.
“I can’t do that! That would be plain robbery! Tell you what. I’ll buy what I can from you now and I’ll buy more when I have sold the jewelry I’ll make from it. Is that a deal?” He practically begs them.
“Sure.” Brian is stunned, he knew gold and that kind of things were valuable, but he’s never seen a man almost sell his life for it.
The man continues examining the valuables and weighing some of them. He carefully selects almost a quarter of the gold, silver and gems each. “So to what account shall I transfer the money?”
“Ehm, account? We don’t have an account, I think.” Brian hopes he’s got the answer right for he doesn’t have a clue what an account is. “Does the Bookkeeper have an account? You could transfer the money to his account if that helps you,” he improvises since the jeweler was starting to look desperate.
“Yes, the Bookkeeper does have an account and I know the number. Do you want to keep the gold until you have the receipt of the account as proof that the money was transfered?”
“No, I think we can trust the friends of the Bookkeeper.”
“Very well then, I will write a receipt of the sale.” The jeweler takes out a notebook and writes down the amount of valuables and the amount of money that is to be transfered to the bank account of the Bookkeeper. “The money will be in the account in a few days. I’m very pleased to do business with you. Shall I contact the Bookkeeper as soon as I have the money to buy more?”
“Yes, that would be convenient.” Brian replies as he takes the receipt, still hoping he is doing this correctly.
When they are back outside Cara tells her father that she is very impressed with the way he handled things. “All those words, I didn’t even know what he was talking about most of the time!”
“Neither did I,” Brian replies, “I can only hope I did it right. We’ll just have to ask the Bookkeeper about it and pray I really did do it right, but he didn’t seem like a guy trying to rip us off, as Arthur would call it.”
Back in the bookstore, the Bookkeeper is as stunned as they were when he sees the amount the jeweler is willing to pay. “Yes, you were guessing right indeed. He is a reliable guy and he will transfer the money into my bank account. What a bank account is? Well there are these organisations called banks, that will keep your money for you. They simply take a piece of paper and write down how much money is yours, and they call that piece of paper an account. So if you put more money on the bank, they simply change the number on that piece of paper and when you take money out of it, they change it as well. That way it is easier to give large amounts of money to other people, because you simply tell the bank to put it in their account. You don’t actually have to lug around with large bags of money anymore, reducing the risk of being robbed. But for this amount you can live handsomely for a couple of months. Since I have quite some money in my bankaccount already, I can just loan you the money you need until it arrives. While you were gone I received a phone call from the guy who might be able to get you some ID’s, he said it could be done, but they need some pictures of you. So I suggest you get out again and visit a photographer. I have arranged for him to pick up the pictures tonight.”
And so Cara and Brian set out for the third time that day. They marvel at the beauty of these so-called pictures and when they get back they all have diner, that mister Woon has fetched from a Chinese restaurant. They all eat silently thinking of Arthur, alone in a big, dark and cold forest trying to make his way to them again.
Arthur in the mean time isn’t having such a great time after a couple of minutes walking he decides that it might be a good idea to push himself through some bramble bushes now, so the marks will be as old as they can be at least. The one advantage that he got because of this is that he finds some left over brambles in the centre of the bushes where nobody could reach them. He stuffs himself hurriedly and walks on, his clothes pretty much in tatters. He walks several miles before it gets dark and then he gathers himself a pile of dry leaves and crawls into them, covering his body against the cold night air.
He is awoken early by the birds singing and his own shivering, he hurriedly gets up and starts walking again to make his blood warm again and get some life back in his half frozen limbs. He munches a cookie to stop the gnawing in his stomach and looks around in vain for some nuts or berries. Somewhere during the day he gets lucky and finds a coat someone has left hanging over some bushes and he hurriedly puts it on, this far in the year, such luck is not to be sniffed at.
In the mean time his friends are chasing for yet more job and house advertisements. The previous evening the pictures were collected and they were told that it might take a couple of days. So they hoard advertisement clippings and have begun writing letters to respond some of the job advertisements. They can’t actually send them yet, since they don’t have a reply address yet, but at least the writing keeps them occupied.
And so the days pass by, Arthur keeps on walking orientating himself on the sun, sometimes needing to backtrack when he finds himself in a situation where he can’t go on, and his friends waiting for their ID’s, clipping out advertisments and writing letters.
After three days the guy who came to pick up the photographs is back with a couple of ID’s. After examining them, and not being able to tell the difference from a real passport, the Bookkeeper goes to the bank to fetch the money needed and they pay the guy the money he wants. That same day they go to a real estate agent and tell him they are looking for a house. They claim to have come from a different state and that they are staying with family. The agent, who knows the Bookkeeper, agrees to using the Bookkeepers place as postal address. When he asks them for their old address they tell him that the landlord has thrown them out there and refuses to even admit they used to live there and give him some random address from an appartment building in a state on the other side of the country, that they looked up for just this purpose. The agent seems to buy that story and takes them out to see a couple of places that he has available for rent per immediately. But none of them is really the kind of place they are looking for and they make an appointment to come back the next day to view some more places.
The next day they visit a place that they are in love with right away, three bedrooms, a beautiful kitchen with a wooden finish, a cosy livingroom, a bath tub, and best of all, the place comes with all the furniture still in it. So they sign the contract to rent the place and as soon as they get the key, they move in.
Brian starts putting the new address on all the letters he has already written and mails them out. Cara goes out to buy some more clothes for them all, including some for her mother. When she comes back, the Bookkeeper takes them all out in his car to buy some extra furniture, because they will need a crib for the baby that will be born soon and some extra bits and pieces to liven up their home. They drag one of the single beds from one room and put it in the other room with the other single bed and then put the crib in the empty room. Cara puts away all the new clothes in the wardrobes.
When all is done they go out for some groceries and have a splendid diner cooked by mister Woon, who shows Cara and Brian how all their kitchen utensils work. Cara especially is thrilled by all the tools. “Not all things about this world are bad, eh dad? Mom would love some of these. Too bad we don’t have electricity at home.”
“Yeah, well, I have this feeling that if we were to introduce all these nifty gadgets to our world it would turn as smelly as this one pretty quick,” Brian replies.
After diner they wash their dishes together and sit down with a pot of tea and some cookies that the Bookkeeper insisted they buy during their shopping spree, claiming that you can’t have a proper cup of tea without a cookie.
“So tomorrow we start sending out all those application letters and we’ll also have to buy you a suit Brian. We’ll need to buy some school books for Cara, and start some homeschooling. She has quite a bit to catch up on other children her age in this world, assuming that things work the same in this world as in mine of course,” mister Woon summarises what they need to do most urgently. “We’ll want to make a good impression once inspectors turn up, if they do, when you want to adopt Arthur. I’ve closed up my shop already so I can be her teacher while you go hunting for work, Brian.”
“Buy books? What do we need to do that for? I’ve got a whole shop full of books! As long as you’re careful with them we can put them back on the shelves when you’re done. That saves a lot of money. Not that you have any lack of that... And I could use a holiday as well, I haven’t been away from that shop for over ten years. I can’t even remember the last holiday I had. I’ll just close it up as well and help out in the teaching. And in the evenings we can give Cara some slack and teach Brian some stuff, some general education never hurts. Especially education about the things we consider normal that they don’t have in your world, Brian,” the Bookkeeper adds.
“But tonight, we rest and celebrate,” Brian counters, “Tomorrow will be busy enough as it is. We’ve been running and running for days now. I could use a nice evening of relaxing and not making plans. It feels like I’ve been making plans for years now! I hope this ‘adventure’ ends soon now, I’m starting to long for home again.” And so the rest of the evening is spent chatting about the adventures they had and about the good things in life in general.
In which Arthur finally goes home, wanting to leave again before he even gets there
Several days after he started, Arthur finally reaches the other end of the forest. Shivering cold, ravishingly thirsty and almost starved, but glad he has made it. He stops for a few minutes to enjoy the sight of the city, before plodding on to finish the last leg of his journey. By the time it gets dark again he has reached the bookstore. Only to find it closed. He stares at the sign disbelieving. Closed? How can it be closed, they knew he was coming didn’t they? He looks closer at the sign on the door. And that’s when he sees the note in tiny letters that is scribbled in a corner. “Gone to help some friends, in an emergency, call ...” with a number behind it. Fortunately he knows a phone booth near here, but he doesn’t have a quarter. On a whim he checks underneath the door mat, and his effort is rewarded. There he finds a gleaming quarter. He walks to the phone booth and calls the number, when a voice answers he inserts the quarter.
“Hello? Is the Bookkeeper there?” He asks uncertainly.
“Arthur? Arthur! You made it!” Cara cries out, “Hold on, I’ll send the Bookkeeper over as soon as I can find him, just wait in front of the store and we’ll be there in five minutes!”
Arthur is relieved. Apparently they have found a house for Brian and Cara and those are the friends the Bookkeeper has gone out to help. As he stands there wondering what their new house will look like, a car stops beside him and Cara comes rushing out and hugs him. “You made it. It took you so long! And look at you, you’re even thinner than you were. Come in the car, we’ll go to our house and have a feast meal!” Arthurs stomach growls appreciatively.
In the car on their way home, Cara and the Bookkeeper are silent. They are dying with curiosity, but Arthur doesn’t look as if he wants to tell his story twice and so they hold their tongues. Arthur can see how impatient Cara is, because she keeps shifting from side to side, her lips almost white from the strain of keeping her questions in. He smiles, it’s good to have such friends.
Back at the house Cara shows Arthur all the rooms, including of course the room that will be theirs. “Look and this will be our room. Right now I’m sleeping in that bed, but if you want I can switch. And this is my closet, see it has loads of clothes in it. I’ve been shopping, that was a lot of fun. And that will be yours. I wanted to buy you some clothes too, but they told me not to, cause we’re not supposed to know you yet. And on that shelf are my school books, mister Woon and the Bookkeeper have been teaching me. I have to work real hard, because I have a lot of catching up to do. But I really like learning so that’s oké. They said I have to be homeschooled, because I have to much of a backlog on the other kids, so I can’t go to a public school yet. Come on let’s go to the others, I’m dying to hear your story.”
Back in the living room mister Woon and the Bookkeeper have put a veritable banquet on the table. And Arthurs tale is frequently interrupted by his taking the next bite. They don’t even mind he is talking with his mouth full. His story is full of cold and hunger, the only bright points are the rare bunch of berries or nuts he’s found and the treasure that was the jacket. When his story is finished, Brian tells their story about getting the ID’s, their new clothes, their education, the looking for a house and the sale of King Ralds gold. There isn’t any particular order to it, but since he is a great story teller, nobody really minds.
His story finishes at about the same time as Arthur finishes his meal. They go to sit in the living room and simply enjoy each others company for a while. After a few minutes Arthurs eyes begin to droop and mister Woon nudges him and begins to discuss their future plans. “I suggest we bring you to the childrens home tomorrow. You can use a night of good sleep. As for what we are going to tell, I think we should stick as close to the truth as possible. We merely keep silent about the fact that we all have seen Arthur before he came back from the forest. Brian and Cara met Arthur when the Bookkeeper introduced him to them after receiving a call from Arthur who went back to the only friend he had. Brian and Cara like Arthur and think it’s not right he should go back to a childrens home when they have room enough to house him. They just came over from the other side of the country and Brian still needs to find a job, but is close to finding one. They rented the house on money he saved from the old job and an inheritance of old coins from his grandfather. And that’s all there is to know, I guess. If we make up more stuff, it will only be harder to remember. Brian maybe you can write this all down in a diary. That’s inconspicuous enough if it should be found and read, but it does give us all a way of keeping our stories straight when we need to make up more stuff. You can simply read us your diary every evening. I’m sure no one minds, because you know how to tell a story, and tell it well. I really enjoyed your account of all that’s happened so far.” Everyone agrees and they send Brian and Cara to bed.
On the following morning they first have a big breakfast and then Brian and the Bookkeeper return Arthur to the childrens home. They talk to the head of the house and tell him the story and Brian immediately inquires whether it is possible that he should adopt Arthur. The head asks him some questions about the status of their household and when Brian has given all the answers, he replies that he doesn’t think there will be a problem with that and goes on to explain what an adoption would entail. They find out that Brian really needs that job, unless his wife would already have a job, that an inspector would come by every now and then for the first year and some other more administrative requirements. The head greets them goobye and takes Arthur back to his old room, while Brian and the Bookkeeper are being showed out by one of the older kids.
“You are very lucky to have such friends, Arthur,” the head tells him, “I’m sure they’ll be able to adopt you as soon as that man finds a job. He seemed like a very nice man to me. Do you want to be adopted by him and his family?”
“Oh yes, I do. I’ve only just met them, but I already feel as if I’ve know them all my life. And I really like the girl, I bet we’ll be great friends!” Arthur replies enthousiastically.
“Even better, I didn’t want to ask you in front of them. I’m really happy that you have finally found a family you like. Do you want to write a letter to tell your mother about it?”
“Would that be a good idea?” Arthur asks doubtful.
“Well, maybe not, but some children feel as if they are letting their biological parents down when they get adopted. So it might not be a good idea, if you feel like it, feel free to do so. I’ve found that some kids need to do so to end that old chapter of their life before going on with the new one.”
“Hmm, maybe I will then. I’ll think about it, anyway. Thanks for the advice.”
And so Arthur rolls back into his old life. No friends, lots of homework and indifferent teachers. He struggles through bravely, because he knows that this time there will be an end to it, one way or the other.
When they have been in this world for two weeks, they spend a weekend in the meadow to relax and help the people there some more in their struggle to survive, introducing the Bookkeeper to their other friends. They bring along some more axes and saws, thinking that they might be going blunt by the heavy use they are put to. By now the first building is recognisable as a building, although it doesn’t have walls yet. It is more like a roof on four poles, but at least it will protect against the rain if there isn’t too much wind. It is a weekend of hard, but rewarding work and they go home quite tired, but satisfied. They are given back the tools that have gone blunt, to see if they can have them sharpened again.
In the mean time Brian is working really hard to get a job. He has several interviews each day and writes new letters by the dozens. He tries for jobs at anything he can imagine doing in this world that would earn him enough money to support his family. He tries for supervisor at several plants, he tries for parkranger, for forester, for game warden and lots of other jobs that he has at least some knowledge of. At the same time he has taken driving lessons, because he has found out that knowing how to drive a car is almost a prerequisite for every job he applies for.
Most companies turn him down of course, but after a couple of weeks trying he finally gets a call inviting him for a second interview. It’s the job of parkranger over in the forest. They ask him how his driving lessons are coming along, because at the first interview he truthfully told them about his not having a drivers licence. He is glad he can reply to them that they are going great, since he is taking lessons every day and that the instructor has already applied for an exam for him. They seem really relieved and tell him that all they need to do is talk about the conditions like wages, because he has the job. He is mightily glad and asks them what they believe would be a fair wage. They tell him a number that makes his heart skip a beat and he immediately agrees. It is almost twice the amount he would have expected to get on his first job. They shake hands on the deal and they tell him that they will send him the contract to read at his leasure and that he can start as soon as they have the contract back signed.
Back at home, they celebrate. He has found a job, and a job he will probably be able to do well, considering his knowledge of the woods in his own home world. Just to be sure he decides to buy some books on the subject of parks and forests, animals and plants. Later that day his driving instructor tells him that his exam will be in a week, so there is even more reason for joy. That night they start filling out the forms to adopt Arthur. They decide to wait sending them off until Brian has started his job, just to make sure he really, really has the job. He finds it hard to believe that everything is going so well.
Cara in the mean time is spurting through her schoolwork like crazy. The Bookkeeper suspects that soon she will be able to go to a public school and enjoy the pleasures of being among a large group of kids her own age. Brians education is now almost complete, both he and Cara now know most of the things about living in a technology based world and what they don’t know can be explained away by saying that they used to live out in the country.
Two days later Brian receives his contract, mister Woon and the Bookkeeper have a thorough look at it to see that there are no nasty things in it, but it appears to be a good deal. The pay is good and the fringe benefits are excellent as well. So Brian signs it and sends it back after having made a copy of it to keep. Together with his contract he posts the papers to start the adoption of Arthur. The Bookkeeper suggests they go find a school for Cara, because when Brian will be working there won’t be any time to do that anymore, and they all agree that that is a good idea. They find a school that is pretty close to where they live and call to make an appointment to come by to have a look. It turns out that they can come over right away and so they get into the Bookkeepers car. The school is a beautiful old-fashioned brick building with a courtyard in front of it. The kids all wear school uniforms and seem to be happy, insofar as kids are happy to go to school anyway. They meet the head of the school who informs them that Cara is most welcome to join their school, but will have to start a year lower than she normally would, because it is already so late in the year and she has missed too much to join the class whe would normally be in. The school still has a uniform in her size on stock and they buy it right away.
The next day is a saturday and they all go back to the meadow again, not having been there for two weeks. They had the tools they were given back sharpened again and have also brought along some simple tools to sharpen them themselves. By now the first building is finished, albeit a bit primitive still. There is now a log cabin without windows with a single door opening. There is a small hole in the roof to let the smoke through with a fire place underneath it. Building has started on some more smaller building, since the first one, though quite large is not very comfortable to live in with more than fiftly people. They help where they can and wonder at the small ingenuities the people have come up with on their own.
When the weekend is over and monday has arrived again, the Bookkeeper takes Brian to work and Cara to school.
“Remember if you need anything, just give me a call and I will see if I can get it for you,” he reminds them of the conversation they had the night before.
That night both Brian and Cara come home exhausted but happy. Cara happily chatters about her new class mates and teachers, and Brian talks about how nice his colleagues are and how wonderful the job is to do. The Bookkeeper and mister Woon look at each other and smile, happy that their friends are so happy about their new life.
In which Brian and Cara visit their own world again
Brian passes his driving test with excellent scores and life continues to be great. But both Cara and Brian are starting to miss their mother and wife. So one night they discuss going back to their own world during the weekend and talk to her about coming over as well. After all, it will be months before they can actually go home again. They decide to go the next weekend. Then mister Woon comes up with the idea to bring two or three of the people along with them to learn what they can from the villagers in their home town. They discuss that idea and think it is worth trying.
But just that friday they receive a letter from the childrens home that their application for adopting Arthur has been received, with a new batch of forms that has to be filled out. They decide to go anyway and try to fill out as much of the forms that night as they can. The rest they leave to rest until they return.
On saturday Brian, Cara and Dillion return to the place where they entered Arthurs world, take a quick glance around to see noone is watching and cross over to the meadow. There they talk to the queen and tell her about their plan to bring two or three persons along to Brian and Caras world to learn more of their way of life. The queen immediately agrees and selects a husband and wife who have a twelve year old daughter for the task. She tells them that these three are among the most inventive and the quickest to adapt to their current situation of all the people. Glad that this decision was taken quickly they guide the three to the place where they entered the meadow with Brian at the beginning of the adventure and cross over back to their own world. They almost run back to the village and back to their own home, ignoring the strange looks their new clothes and the strangers who are struggling to keep up with them, are getting. Outside their own house, they can see Cara’s mother hanging out the laundry her belly now fat with child. “Mama!” Cara cries out. Her mother turns around a wide smile breaks out on her face as she sees her family. But as they close the distance between them she frowns.
“You didn’t bring Arthur back? I really would have thought he’d come back with you. Did he change his mind about his world? And who are these new friends of yours?” She asks them, worry creeping into her voice.
“No, he didn’t change his mind, and this adventure isn’t over yet. Let’s go inside so we can tell you all about our adventures and why we are here before they are over,” Brian reassures her.
When they are seated inside with some tea, Brian tells her all about how they met mister Woon, their adventures at the court of king Rald, how they freed the people from the Procrastinator, how they met Dillion, their adventures in freeing Arthur from the warlock, their wanderings through the countless worlds where nothing much happened, how Dillion brought them all to Arthurs world, meeting the Bookkeeper, and finally their plans to adopt Arthur and his job as a park ranger, Cara’s education and their new house. Of course he also introduces the three persons he brought along and the reason why he brought them along.
“We have a house there?” Cara’s mother asks incredulously.
“Yes, and we’d very much like it if you came with us to live there until we have adopted Arthur. We’ll probably have to live there for at least a year, because an inspector will come by every now and then. They also have places called hospitals there where you can go if you need medical help, including help in delivering a baby. People hardly ever die in childbirth there anymore. Well in the rich countries like the one we have a house in anyway,” Brian explains, “You’ll need to learn a lot, but our friends make excellent tutors and with me at work and Cara in school, I have no doubt that they would love explaining it all to you. In the mean time our friends here could use the house as their own and learn our ways. I’m sure our friends in the village would love to help them out.”
“You mean I can come with you on an adventure without any risks to the baby?” Cara’s mother asks still not quite believing such a thing could be true. Her eyes have a hopeful gleam in them.
“Yes mommy, that’s what daddy has been saying, all right. Will you come?” Cara pipes in hopefully.
“Off course I will come! I will want to know all about your new friends and that world. The only reason I didn’t come in the first place was because of the baby. Do I need to pack anything?”
“No, you don’t. I’ve bough all these wonderful clothes for you. Clothes that won’t look as odd as the clothes from this world will in that world. I bet you will love them. Shall we go now?” Cara gleefully tells her mother.
“And besides our friends could use all the stuff in here better than we can. If the clothes don’t fit they can always trade them for clothes that do fit.”
“Well I think we should clean the house at least a little bit first, before we hand it over for. And we’ll have to give the neighbours some kind of explanation too. I think we’ll just have to tell them that you found a job for the King in some big city, or something like that and that you’ve found friends from the city there who want to learn how to live out in the country. If we tell them they used to live at the court before the got into disgrace, I bet that would explain why they know so little. I doubt they would understand this thing about other worlds. And I don’t think we’d like it if they did even a little bit.”
So they quickly clean what needs to be cleaned and then show their friends where everything is in the house like clothing and food. They will leave them everything, since they won’t be needing it anymore. Their neighbours are worried about them taking Cara’s mother with them to this far off city, but when Brian assures them there are some very good doctors there of high repute and that they will reach the city long before the baby is to come, they cease their protests and tearily say goodbye after promising to teach the newcomers everything they know. Brian in turn promises to come back in a few weeks time to see how they are doing. They wave goodbye and leave their friends at the neighbours house to talk about their future.
They wander out of the village and when they are out of sight they cross over to the meadow and from there cross over to Arthurs world. They finally walk the last bit back to their new house while telling Cara’s mother a thousand things about this world. Back at the house Cara’s mother marvels at the size of it and even more about all the furniture in it.
“This ‘couch’ is so comfortable!... And look at that table, beautiful!... Look at all those tools! How will I ever be able to use them all?... This bed is fit for a king!... And such lovely clothes! Did you really pick these Cara? You have a wonderful taste. I will have so much fun wearing all these. It’ll take me ages before I’ve worn them all. I’ve never seen so much clothes in one closet in my entire life!”
Brian and Cara introduce her to mister Woon and the Bookkeeper in the evening, who had gone to the bookstore for the day, since they didn’t have anything to do anyway. “It’s so nice to meet you, I’ve heard all these wonderful things about you. Please call me Siobhan,” she rattles nervously.
“Pleased to meet you Siobhan, my friends call me the Bookkeeper, and my friend here is mister Ian Woon, Ian to friends,” the Bookkeeper introduces them both.
After all the introductions have been made they settle down and tell each other about their days, like they do every night. “Ian and I have been thinking about moving him to this world as well. He told me he didn’t have many relatives or friends there anyway, and he could easily set up a shop here. We’ve already made some phone calls to inquire after a location and are going to look at a couple on monday. As soon as we have found a place he would like you to take him back, or maybe Dillion could do that. Can’t you boy? Yes, I bet you can,” he says as he sees the dog nod, “Anyway he would need to go back to sell his shop and take care of some other business to round up matters there and then take some of the stuff here for inventory. He’s told me he has some pretty rare stuff in that shop of his.”
“What a great idea, I’d love to have you live close to us forever. I’ve been dreading the day you would decide to go back,” Cara exclaims.
And in that manner they chat away the day until it is time to cook diner. Cara and mister Woon show Cara’s mother the kitchen and while they are cooking they show her how several of the tools can be used.
Diner and the rest of that evening are spent talking about their past adventures and the future ones that they expect are yet to come. They plan to spend the next day touring around the city to show Siobhan as much of the city as they can to make her familiar with this world, it’s many exciting views, it’s dangers, but most of all just the practical every day things.
The next day is indeed spent that way and Cara insists that they go find an outdoor café to have her mother experience the delights of apple pie in this world.
When monday comes around again, Brian goes to work and Cara leaves for school again, while mister Woon goes off to hunt for a shop with a house above or beside it, leaving Siobhan and the Bookkeeper alone in the house. They install themselves on the couch and the Bookkeeper starts the tedious job of teaching Siobhan how to read and write. She is a bit slower in learning than Cara and Brian were, but what she lacks in talent, she makes up for with determination. And by the time the others come home again, she has managed to write down the alphabet and her name.
That evening they finish filling out the forms for Arthurs adoption and put them in the mail.
Their life is falling into a pattern again. Every weekday Cara and Brian go to school and work respectively and the Bookkeeper teaches Siobhan to read and write, interlaced by lessons about the world they are now living in. Every now and then mister Woon joins them in their lessons, but mostly he is out looking for a building to have his shop in.
One day, just as mister Woon comes home telling them that he has finally found the right place that is not too far away from here, they receive a letter from Arthur. In it he tells them about his life in the childrens home and how he is studying hard to overcome his boredom. He also tells them that he has gotten a detention for disappearing, but that he has already had half of it and when it’s over he can come visit them every now and then. He even checked it with the head of the house to see if it was oké, because of the adoption thing that is going on. The head told him that it was indeed oké, so he hopes they will like it if he comes by in the weekends to spend time with them.
They hurry to write him a letter back telling them of the fact that mister Woon plans to open up a store here, that Siobhan has come over to this world as well and is now studying hard, and that they have sent out the forms to adopt Arthur. They mail it the same night and are almost ashamed that they hadn’t thought of writing Arthur a letter before. But then he hadn’t written them either, Cara reminds them all, so they shouldn’t feel too guilty.
Two weeks after Siobhan has come with them to this new world, they all go back to the meadow to check on the people there. This time they bring along some small looms that were actually meant for children, but will enable the people to weave small patches of fabric. Everybody is helping out again and Siobhan shows them what plants have the right kind of fibres to use for weaving. Brian takes Dillion along to lead him to his own world to check on the trio that is living in their house now. He promises to ask them to see if they can get their hands on some sheep so they can use their wool and milk and start breeding.
Back at his own house he finds that the three are doing great, they enthousiastically tell him about all the things they have learned. He relays the question about sheep and they start thinking about earning the money to buy some and how long that would take. After having told each other all the stories, Brian visits the neighbours as well to hear from them how the new people are doing. The neighbours are enthousiastic as well and tell him how wonderful the new neighbours are and how quickly they are learning the ways of the village. After telling them some made up story about his life in court and the big city in general, which he roughly bases on their actual life, he leaves them again, promising to return again someday soon. He then returns to the meadow and tells the queen and everybody else who asks that the three are doing great and will have a great store of knowledge when they return and that they will try to get their hands on some sheep. When everyone has heard the story he goes out to help as well and see what wood lore they already have and what else he can teach them. The weekend flies by again and they return home tired, but happy to have so many friends.
Life continues on in this way, with mister Woon and the Bookkeeper living in the new house owned by mister Woon, who is gone almost every day hunting for things to put in his new shop and addresses where he can buy such things. The writing of letters has now become almost a daily exercise, until one day a letter comes in that isn’t written by Arthur but by the adoption board that decides about all the adoptions of children from the children’s homes in the entire state. It states that they are seem to be a fit family for adopting Arthur, and that an inspector will come by next saturday to talk to them about it so the board can make a well informed decision about the adoption.
The rest of that week is spent in a kind of frenzy to clean up the house for the arrival of the inspector. When the inspector finally shows up the house is almost sparkling like Arthurs memory ball used to do. The inspector is a friendly lady, who explains to them that she is only here to insure that they will provide a stable environment for Arthur to grow up in, considering the environment he grew up in. She says that she wished every family with children in town would be checked like this, to prevent so many children from growing up unhappily, but alas there are no funds for such a thing. All too many children would be taken away from their families if every family were checked against the strict rules the board enforces on adopting families. Even under less strict rules, which would be fine too if you ask her, because they are a little too strict, but that’s not for her to decide, there would still be a lot of children that would be removed from their homes.
They chat for about an hour about what Brian and Siobhans ideas of raising a child are, about Brians job, about Cara’s education and some other stuff that seems less relevant to them. As the inspector leaves she tells them there is nothing to worry about, if it were up to her they would have Arthur in their midst tomorrow. She will give the board a positive advice.
That evening they write Arthur a letter to tell him about the inspector and celebrate by going out to a movie. Brian, Cara and Siobhan, who have never seen a thing like it, are overwhelmed by the experience.
“That was just a trick with light shining through some pictures? It almost seemed like magic to me!” Siobhan exclaims.
“Yes, it is almost like magic isn’t it,” the Bookkeeper ponders, “But I still prefer a good book. It’s a lot more magical to me that two different people can read the same book and have a completely different experience. A movie looks the same to everybody, but the characters in a book will look different for every person that reads it.”
One week later they return to the meadow again, and Brian goes to check on the people in his house again. They have already purchased one sheep and tell him that they are already saving for another one, it will probably take some more weeks before they can buy it, but their crops are doing well and the woman is good at weaving so they earn some money from that as well. They also tell him that they are missing the rest of their friends, but understand that they will have to remain here until they have at least four sheep that are not related so they can breed them back in their new world.
In which they are all reunited again and Arthur finally finds a true home
Almost two weeks after the inspector came by, Arthur calls them to say that his detention is finally over and that he would like to come visit them if that is oké with them. When Cara, who picked up the phone, relays the question to the people in the room they all loudly yell that they miss Arthur and that they can’t wait until he is there. Arthur is very happy that his friends miss him that much and tells Cara so. He then tells her he has to go again, because other people want to use the phone again. She tells him she looks forward to tomorrow and they hang up.
Cara and the grown ups immediately start making plans on what to do once Arthur is there. They decide to go to the zoo. That will be a nice outing, and still give them time to talk to each other at the same time.
Arthur likes the idea so to the zoo they go. Arthur wants to go see the lions and tigers, and Cara likes the little monkeys the most. Siobhan is most impressed by the sea lions and seals, whereas Brian likes the polar bears. The Bookkeeper likes the mongooses best and mister Woon prefers the owls. “I bet the warlock would have liked the snakes best!” Cara exclaims.
They eat french fries and hamburgers in the restaurant and buy plush pets for Brian and Cara. Brian a tiger and Cara a little monkey of course. Mister Woon buys some small statuettes of owls, for his shop he explains, but the others suspect he simply likes them a lot for himself.
They have a great day and are very sad when they have to bring Arthur back to the childrens home. Cara takes Arthur tiger home for him, because he is afraid it might be taken away by someone in the childrens home and he prefers to have it waiting for him until he is adopted. “I’ll put it on your bed for you,” Cara says, “I bet he’ll protect your bed really well. He looks so fierce, nobody will dare touch it with him on it.”
“I’ll come by again tomorrow, oké?” Arthur asks.
“Of course that’s oké, silly boy!” Siobhan tells him with a hug, “We’d be upset if you didn’t spend every minute you could with us.” The others chime in to confirm this for Arthur.
“You’re the best friends I ever had!” Arthur calls as he walks back inside the childrens home.
“See you tomorrow!” Cara yells after him.
But the next day, Arthur calls them to say that he can’t come. Apparently there are some kind of tests in the childrens home and everybody has to stay in. “A test on a sunday?” Brian asks incredulously, “What kind of tests would those be?” Arthur doesn’t know and says he has to go, because other kids need to phone home to say they aren’t coming too. He promises to come by again next week and that he will miss them all terribly during the week.
The rest of that day is spent hanging around. Halfheartedly reading books and playing some games of chess. Diner doesn’t bring much more cheer.
And on monday everybody goes back to work again. On tueday however a letter comes in again, that their application to adopt Arthur has been approved and that they are expected to pick Arthur up one week from now and take care of the last few formalities then. They immediately call Arthur who has already heard the news from the head of the house. Right after that Brian calls his work to ask for a day off next week to be able to pick Arthur up. Cara begs him for a letter to excuse her from school, but Siobhan is unrelenting, taking Cara out of school would make a bad impression on the board she claims. The other adults agree and so Cara sullenly resigns.
The week passes excruciating slowly, but finally the weekend comes round again and Arthur joins them when they leave for the meadow. He is greated like a hero by the people in the meadow and admires all the work they have done, before joining them to carry out more of that work. Brian visits his house again and comes back reporting that they now have two sheep and are missing their friends.
The village is now actually starting to look like a village, with one big communal building and several smaller huts around it. The communal building is the only one that is entirely made out of logs, the other huts have walls made out of branches, mud and clay. Most houses have tiled roofs though, since the clay at the river is plentyful. Arthur returns home in the evening and comes back the next day, since he has to spend the nights at the childrens home.
When the weekend is over they all go back home and wait for tuesday to arrive. That tuesday Brian, Siobhan, mister Woon and the Bookkeeper drop Cara off at school and go to pick up Arthur.
Arthur has packed his few belongings in a small suitcase provided as a parting gift by the house and is waiting in the office of the head of the house. The head himself is standing behind Arthur, almost like a proud father. In the room is also a small mousy man who is introduced as a notary. The head makes them sign a lot of papers and informs them that an inspector will check on Arthur every month for the first year. When they have signed all the papers and the notary has confirmed that all the papers are now indeed in order, he announces that Arthur is now officially their son. He congratulates them on their new addition to the family and politely inquires when the next one will arrive. Siobhan tells him that it will probably arrive in a month or so from now. After chitchatting for a little while longer they say goodbye to the head an the notary and go back home. Brian wants to take Arthur out to buy some more clothes, since he didn’t have that many and so Siobhan can rest, but she declares that she will only need to rest a little bit and that she can come with them after that without any problems. “In this world women may need to rest, but when I had Cara I kept on working till right before she was born and I don’t plan on doing anything else this time. I’ll let you know when I get tired or when it gets too much. You should know that after this many years together.” She winks to Arthur. “You two can go get him enlisted in Cara’s school first and by the time you come back I’ll have had all the rest that I need.”
And so they walk to the school. At the school the lunch break has only just started and they see Cara in the school yard. “Arthur! Hi! Are you coming this school too? Great! Tonight I’ll tell you all about the teachers and some of the students that I know.” As they go inside she skips off again to some of the girls from her class that she has befriended.
Inside the school they are awaited by the headmistress of the school who greets them warmly. “Welcome, welcome. So you want to join your new sister in our school, eh. Good for you. You are most welcome to. I have just received your score cards from the childrens home, when he heard you would come here he was so kind to send them here. I see you will be a year higher than Cara, and that lately you have been studying hard. Trying to be a good boy to get adopted, eh. Always a good idea. I hope you will keep up the good work now that you have adopted, but I have no doubt your new family will be able to motivate you. I always say that a good family environment is the best stimulation to study hard.”
She makes them sign some papers as well, and Arthur tries on a couple of school uniforms until he has found one that fits him. They buy that and make an agreement that Arthur will start school tomorrow and then say goodbye to the headmistress and go back home to drop off the uniform and pick up Siobhan.
Just before diner they come home with bags full of clothes, most of them for Arthur, but also some for the others. Mister Woon has been shopping for some groceries and has cooked a giant banquet to celebrate the fact that Arthur is now finally home. The Bookkeeper has brought some books from his shop for Arthur, since he hasn’t got any and Cara already has a shelf full. That night they celebrate and all too soon Arthur and Cara have to go to bed, because they have to get up early again in the morning to go to school.
After two weeks they bring a visit to the meadow again to bring some supplies and to help out with the work. Most work is now done on the fields since most people already have a roof over their heads. Brian reports that they now have two sheep and a ram and that their friends over in their house are doing great. A few more months and they will be able to come home with not only a small flock of sheep, but also a few bags of sowing grain and some other crops that can be used to help out in the farming.
Another week and a few days later they get a call from the inspector again that she will be visiting them the next week. They set the appointment for wednesday evening. So they can go to the meadow one more time before the inspector actually comes by.
But that wednesday during diner, Siobhan suddenly groans and grabs her belly. “What is it?” Brian asks her suddenly worried.
“The baby... it’s coming.”
“What? Now? But, but...” The look of worry in Brians eyes suddenly changes to a panicked look.
“Grab a blanket, spread it out over the backseat of the car and put her on top of it. I’ll take you two to the hospital. It’s too late to cancel the appointment with the inspector, Ian and the kids will have to take care of that. Let’s go,” the Bookkeeper orders.
Brian hurriedly grabs a blanket that was lying on the couch and guides Siobhan to the car. When they pass him Dillion hurriedly licks her hand for comfort and she smiles at him. “Don’t worry, little one. I’ll be allright. I hope to be back again soon.”
Arthur and Cara look at each other with fear, excitement and worry all mixed up in their eyes.
“Call us as soon as you can with some news!” Mister Woon calls after them.
And so the long wait begins, both for the inspector to arrive and for the Bookkeeper to call them with news. After two hours the inspector finally arrives and they hurry to explain to her why their parents aren’t there.
“A baby? How wonderful! I had seen that she was pregnant the last time I was here, but didn’t know it was this close to being born already. Well I was supposed to ask you all some questions, do you mind if I ask you some of the questions I was going to? You can say no, I would understand that, I have to make another appointment anyway. But I would simply love to wait here with you and hear more about your new brother or sister when you do.”
“Sure, I don’t mind,” Arthur says glancing at Cara, who nods to indicate she agrees with him, “It might just take our mind of things for a bit. Go right ahead and ask.”
The time slowly ticks away as the inspector asks them questions about how they like the new situation and they tell her all about school, the books they read, the room they share, about their parents and friends, and the kids at school they are slowly becoming friends with. After every answer they quickly take a glance at the clock. The inspector is quite pleased with what she hears, Arthur seems to be genuinely happy about his new situation. Every now and then she also asks mister Woon a question and he tells her about his new shop, about how he supposedly met Cara’s parents in the town they used to live in and how he helped them move and then met the Bookkeeper.
When the inspector runs out of questions the four of them go to play a game they recently got from mister Woon about colonising some planets owned by the other players guised as an alien with some kind of superpower that can influence the game. It’s quite complicated, but a lot of fun. And when the Bookkeeper finally calls they had almost, but not quite, forgotten that they were waiting for a call. The Bookkeeper that Siobhan gave birth not to one, but to two children, a boy and a girl, and that mother and children are fine and are now resting. They do have to stay in the hospital for a few days, just to make sure there will be no complications.
“Do you want to see your new baby brother and sister?” The inspector asks them. When they nod eagerly, she tells them that she will take them in their car. When Dillion raises his head eagerly and gets up to come along, mister Woon tells him that he won’t be allowed inside the hospital. He hangs his head disappointedly and goes to lie back in his basket. “That dog seems to understand exactly what you are saying!” She scratches Dillion behind his ears, “Sorry boy, I really wish you could come along too.” He licks her hand to tell her it’s oké and that he understands all about hospitals and their stupid rules.
Arthur quickly grabs the photo camera and promises Dillion that he will take pictures. “I bet we could have them developed at some one hour service or something, and if none is open anymore, we’ll find one tomorrow. But you will see those babies before they come home, I promise.” He ruffles the fur on Dillions head and quickly hurries after the others who are already putting on their coats.
At the hospital they find a tired looking Siobhan with a little boy in her arms. Brian is sitting beside her and is holding the little girl. “Hi there, I hope you don’t mind, but I was just curious after these little ones and I thought these three here would love to see them as well, so I played the taxi cab just to get a look at them myself,” the inspector explains their arrival.
“Do they have names already?” Mister Woon asks Brian.
“Yes they do, this little one here is called Fiona, and that rascal in Siobhans arms we’ve called Eric. The Bookkeeper whispered in my ear that that was his actual name and that he would like to see it put to good use by someone. And it fits right in with the little tradition we’ve started with Dillion.” He winks at Arthur and Cara. The two burst out laughing.
“What tradition is that, if I may be so bold to ask,” the inspector inquires curiously.
“Well when we first met Dillion, he didn’t have a name yet. But he kept following around and didn’t want to leave us. So we decided that if he kept hanging around us, he had better have a name. We were walking through the city with just the three of us then, Arthur, Brian and Cara. So we decided to pick a name starting with a d. It seemed to make the choice a little easier and it was a bit of a laugh. Dillion seemed to like his new name, so that’s what he became then.”
“Haha, I see and now the tradition is carried on with e and f. Well no matter the reason, the names sure are pretty.”
“Should we make an appointment for another day?” Brian asks.
“Yes, we should, but I’ll just give you my number so you can call me when you’re all back home safely. I’ve asked the children some questions and for now I know enough. Let’s say you’ll call me for an appointment in a month or so?” The inspector tells him, half distracted by Fiona in his arms who is holding her finger. He nods his agreement and she moves over to the bed after extracting her finger from Fiona’s clutches. She tickles Eric a little bit and then sighs. “As much as I like to stay here to play with these two angels, I really have to go home again. Do you people want a lift back?” She asks of Arthur, Cara and mister Woon.
“Yes, I think we should be heading back again. It’s already getting late and the kids have seen their siblings now,” mister Woon replies.
“Oh, I almost forgot, can I have two minutes?” Arthur takes out the photo camera that he has brought. “I brought a camera to take pictures for Dillion. He was so disappointed when we told him the hospital wouldn’t allow him in. Smile!” This last he says to Brian and Siobhan who are now sitting beside each other, since Brian went to sit on the edge of the bed the minute the camera came out. The proud parents smile happily to the camera while Arthur takes a few quick pictures. “I’ll have these developed at a one hour service tomorrow so Dillion can see the new babies before they come home.”
Brian tells him there is a one hour service in the hospital and that if they check to see if it’s still open, he will go to find out if the pictures are ready when he goes home. Downstairs they find out that the one hour service is indeed still open and that they will be open all night, so that Brian can pick them up that evening as well. They hand in the film and go home.
“Thank you so much for taking us to the hospital, that was really kind of you,” Cara says when they get out of the car again.
“Your welcome, but as I said it was purely for selfish reasons. I wanted to see those kids myself, I just love little babies,” the inspector says laughing. She tells them goodbye and leaves for her own home.
In which the children come home and Brian and Cara find out what it means to have small siblings
Siobhan and the twins come home again after two days. Two days in which Brian has been running around like mad. His boss has given him some days maternity leave so he can go out to buy an extra crib and a second of everything else really. They had bought stuff for a baby but not for two. And in between all the shopping he runs to the hospital during the visitor hours. Arthur and Cara are almost glad that they are in school. They wouldn’t have gotten any attention had they been at home and only be walking in Brians way.
So after two days of being growled at, they are very happy that Siobhan is home again to comfort them every now and then. The next few weeks consist of feeding, changing diapers and soothing two crying babies. When the inspector comes by again they are all a bit grumpy from being awoken too often during the night and getting too little sleep. Despite the grumpyness the inspector still likes what she sees and goes back to the board with a positive report.
And so the months go by. The babies grow like mad and start sleeping away the night. Everybody is happier now that they get their sleep again. By day the twins start crawling and getting their hands on everything that they shouldn’t and most fragile things are put out of reach.
Every two weeks they visit the meadow again to help their friends with building a community. After a few months the three in Brians house have a flock of five sheep and a ram, five bags of different kinds of sowing grain, a bag of seed potatoes and a whole store of new tools that they both know how to use, maintain and make. And Brian brings them back with him after saying goodbye to their neighbours. Everybody in the village comes out to welcome them back and show them their new village. By now they have also built a large sheep pen, where the new sheep can have lots of little sheep and still have room to spare. The three are properly impressed, but take mental notes of all the things they now know how to improve upon.
On the twins first birthday the inspector comes by with plush toys for both of them and tells them all that this will be her last visit, she is convinced that Arthur is now in the right place. He is happy, doing good at school and both he and Cara now have lots of friends who they visit and are visited by regularly. They haven’t planeswalked in that entire year, but that’s something the inspector doesn’t know, since they have never told her.
That evening when the inspector has gone home again, mister Woon and the Bookkeeper who have both gone back to running their shops again, now that everybody is busy, and able to read and write anyway. “So are you planning to go back to your own world now? Arthur is now legally your son for the rest of his life, without any last strings attached from the childrens home,” mister Woon asks them.
“I don’t think we can go back,” Siobhan says, “Even if we wanted to. We’ve lived here for over a year now and have gotten used to all that electricity driven equipment. I for one would be lost without it now. And Arthur and Cara are going to school, which is something that is unheard of in our world. Schooling is only for people like princes, who’s parents can hire a tutor. They have prospects for a good job here, whereas they would become farmers with a hard life ahead of them or maybe foresters or some such job like that, but they’re already too old for an apprenticeship now. So unless everybody else wishes to go back, I will stay here.”
“I hadn’t thought about it yet, but hearing you talk, I’d say you have and I agree. Maybe we can go back there every now and then when we go on holiday. See the old friends and neighbours again, tell them amazing stories of our life in court and how our children are taught by the tutor of some prince.” Brian grins mischievously and everybody laughs at the picture he paints, “Besides we now have our own ‘medieval’ village to go to every two weeks, where a lot of friends are for now still depending on what goodies we can bring.”
“And who knows,” Arthur fantasises, “Maybe when we grow up, Cara and I will go traveling through the dimensions and become great scholars of quantum mechanics or something like that. But for now we’ll need to go to school. I like this world, but then I was born in it. So in a way, you haven’t adopted me, but I have adopted you into this world.”
“Well, I’m truly glad that you are all staying here,” the Bookkeeper says, “I’ve started to like having friends around me. I would be lonely if I had to go back to living alone in my bookstore again.”
“So, now we live happily ever after?” Cara asks.
“We do,” everybody replies together.