"Are we there yet?" groaned Qwade.
The other Magi all clapped their hands to their foreheads.
"Almost," said Ashio with a wearied tone.
"That's what you said last time," groaned Qwade.
"That's because you only asked me thirty seconds ago!" yelled Ashio in return.
"Oh," said Qwade, and for a short while, the group proceeded along in blessed silence. No five-fingered Magi slinging doom. No Naroomese jumping out of the grass and summoning carillions. No torch-carrying mobs hunting them down. No Lanyx hitting them to show he was in charge. No troubles, not even any bickering, because they were too tired. Just blessed--
"Are we there yet?"
* * * * *
The renegade Shadow Magi--Ashio, Lanyx, Harror, Chur, Qwade and Korremaróat last stood at the edge of Naroom at the borders of the Weave. They stood atop a tall cliff that dropped precipitously into a wide river, and stared at the great bridge that crossed the gap and linked the two regions; it was a long, stone bridge, smoothly sculpted into a pleasing, organic shape. From the top of the cliff on the Naroom side of the river it arced across to an immensely tall tower on the Weave side, then the pathway spiraled a few times around down the tower. From there it arced to another tower, once more spun a few circuits, and then to another tower, and so on, all the way down to the floor of the Weave.
"Do you think it's safe?" asked Qwade. "I donít think I could handle getting hurt again."
"Well," said Harror, "for us, it's no more dangerous than any other place in the Moonlands."
"I was afraid you'd say that," said Qwade, his voice trembling.
"Let's go," said Ashio.
"Forward, people," said Lanyx. "Ashio, you're in front."
With grumbling and bickering, the six Shadow Magi moved forward. Even Ashio moved tentatively across the high, thin bridge.
Lingering, hesitant to cross such a tall structure, especially when the guard rails were crumbling and unreliable, Qwade paused and turned, taking one last look at the rest of the Moonlands. "Well, I suppose an ocean of grass is better than no ocean at all," he grumbled, but then, just as he was turning to follow the others, he stopped himself short. "Hey, folks, what's that over there?"
The others moved back to stand next to him. Something was moving in the distance, exiting the forest of Naroom and moving south, towards Paradwyn or maybe Bograth or the Teeth.
"Is it a twee?" asked Harror. "I hate twees."
"No," grunted Korremar. "It's red."
"Maybe it's a twee on fire," said Harror eagerly.
"On fire? You guys deal with it," said Qwade tremulously.
"I hope so," said Ashio.
"Hey!" said Lanyx happily. "It's Grega!"
"Grega?" asked Chur. "Isn't she the one who--"
"After all this time she finally knows where she belongs!" said Lanyx loudly. "She's returned to her place at my side!"
"Hey," said Chur sternly. "Isnít she the one who blasted you with her ring when--"
"Huh?" asked Lanyx. Then he waved a hand dismissively at Chur. "For a while she was intimidated by my willingness to live free and defy the traditions that bind us. I knew she'd come to her senses, once she realized that there are advantages to being so close to one who is above the law!" He stepped away from the other Shadow Magi.
"Blasted him when he what?" murmured Ashio, leaning closer to Chur.
"When he proposed," she whispered.
"Oh dear," said Harror.
"I'm going to leave now, okay?" said Qwade, but in truth, he was too scared to move.
"HARK!" bellowed Lanyx, cupping his hands around his mouth. "I am here, my love! Come, return to my side as I journey to Cald and BURN THE PLACE TO THE GROUND for being a stumbling block to my glory!" And so saying, he sent a vast geyser of flame skyward, a gout of red and oily black, a flame as impure as the Calder spells were bright.
He succeeded in part of his ambition. He did get Grega's attention. Grega did begin coming to him. But she didnít look terribly pleased to find Lanyx. Nor did the half-dozen fire Magi with her.
Then again, the five Shadow Magi behind Lanyx didnít look pleased, either.
* * * * *
"What in the world is that?" asked Valkan, as a veritable sheet of greasy black-tinged flame erupted from the midpoint of the bridge to the Weave.
Grega clenched her fist and narrowed her eyes. "There's only one Magi who can make fire like that," she growled.
"Lanyx?" said Valkan, recognizing the seething disgust in Grega's voice. "Then why is he waving at us?"
"He still thinks I want to marry him," she said through clenched teeth.
"You don't... right?" said Valkan. In the blink of an eye, he was lying on his back in the grass, and his nose hurt an awful awful lot. "I'll take that as a 'no,'" he said.
Gar casually stepped between the two Magi to prevent any further fisticuffs. "Regardless, we can't let them escape. I don't know how they got out of the Shadow Geysers, but we can't let them remain at large in the Moonlands. Who knows what vile tricks they'll perpetrate? We have to go after them."
"I agree," said Valkan from the ground. "Grega? Are you sure you're up to it?"
"That... that thing over there insults me, my family, and my whole region, by his very existence," said Grega as Valkan regained his feet. "I will make him pay for his insolence. Let's get them. But leave Lanyx to me."
"No problem," chorused the other Magi.
What happens next? Read Part 5 "Brushfires"
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