The Ups and Downs of
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TO BE HONEST
MARAT À LA MODE
13 BLACK CATS
UNDER A LADDER
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April 16, 2006
Actually Skeeter liked to read and
owned quite a few books... After the past week’s isolation they could be
found strewn over the carpet and heaped on desk and chair. One was in bed
with her now, the very best book of all time: and that, of course, was
—The Ups and Downs
of Skeeter Kitefly
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A Tale of the
If Bagels Were Horses
Anna o'Jrebma is born to a family of
bakers in the Tablish town of Kozeppont. From childhood she
manifests great power as a "speller," but since she lacks patrician
blood this skill is confined to breadmaking. By the age of
thirteen she runs the bakery, but is troubled by cryptic dreams.
A Sarvulo (legendary flying
horned-horse) comes to Kozeppont in search of Bagelanna. Her
family presumes this to be an imperial summons—"Perhaps the
Emperor's heard tell of our Anna's bagels"—but the great winged
beast says only that it has been sent to fetch her; no clue as to
why. Bagelanna impatiently packs a bagelbag and goes along,
saying she must be back in time to see to the ovens.
The Vaeresh Beast
The Sarvulo flies Bagelanna to the
Forest of Galagonya. Their way is blocked by a serpentine Vaeresh
Beast; the Sarvulo, unable to remember the password, decides it has no
choice but to fight. After a furious battle the two beasts slay
each other, leaving the aggrieved Bagelanna alone in the Forest.
Before it (literally) passes away, the Sarvulo remembers the password:
The Gobbogoki's Ghaanks
Feeling herself drawn further into
Galagonya, Bagelanna comes to the dwelling of a three-headed Gobbogoki
and is hired to look after his ghaanks. Her fellow ghaankherdesses
are querulous Damsels in Silver and in Gold; Bagelanna saves them all
from the gluttonous (but myopic) Gobbogoki, feeding him three ghaanks in
Damsels in Silver and in Gold
Fleeing the ghaankland, Bagelanna has
to quell spats and tiffs between the Damsels, and overcome their scorn
for herself as a "peasant-wench." Though their spellcraft is more
polished and genteel than Bagelanna's, it's hers that can kindle
campfires and keep them sheltered as they go deeper into the Forest.
Stumbling across a dark wisp of a
beggar-lad, they save him from starvation (though Bagelanna's bagelbag
is far from full). The lad thanks them in ornate language,
claiming to be the Emperor's son on a marvelous quest, just like in the
fables of yore! Bagelanna and the Damsels think him a raving
mooncalf, but listen to his story.
VII — A
Shadow of Royalty
The tale of Archprince Ishkiuppu, born
to the Emperor Budel and Empress Ineki thanks to the advice of a
granny-dame who turns out to be Gruelm of the Greathag Hexarchy.
As reward she demands Budel's crown, sending both the Emperor and his
empire into a decline. Young Ishkiuppu, blamed for these woes by
his tosspot uncle Prince Sothel, vows to go challenge Gruelm and win
back his father's crown.
Footfalls and Teardrops
Still feeling drawn on (and more so the
farther and deeper she goes), Bagelanna leads the Damsels and Ishkiuppu
to a hedge of hawthorn trees surrounding a hexagonal portal.
Seeking admittance, they are surprised to find a weepy little
maidservant as gatekeeper. For her part, the tiny-voiced Triftay
is taken aback by their being a baker-girl, two Damsels and a mooncalf.
Even so, their arrival has been anticipated.
The Stronghold of the Greathags
Triftay conducts them into the
underground Stronghold of the Greathag Hexarchy. In its central
thronechamber sits the aged ashen Gruelm, last survivor of her order.
She welcomes Bagelanna (ignoring Ishkiuppu's grandstand demands) and
explains her summons as an alarum: fresh reinforcements with spellcraft
power are urgently needed, lest the way to the Thrice-tenth Realm be
lost forever. Bagelanna & Co., raised "orthodoxly," think this to
be the Realm Beyond the Sea; Gruelm corrects them, saying it is in fact
the Realm Beyond the Seen.
X — The Realm Beyond
The Greathags had long sought to reach
this realm; misunderstanding their aims, the long-ago Emperor Alonce had
blockaded the Sea and made war on Galagonya. The Hexarchy
retaliated by slaying Alonce and his sons, and capturing the
Archprincess Alionca—needing her prodigious spellcraft to achieve their
end. Rather than abet the Greathags, Alionca transformed the
passageway to Beyond into a labyrinth woven about herself. Should
she perish within this labyrinth, the Thrice-tenth Realm will be
unreachable. Five of the six Greathags have succumbed in the
struggle to keep Alionca alive and the passage open: hence Gruelm's
Hearing that the Realm Beyond is called
Tengeren Túli, Bagelanna agrees to enter the labyrinth leading
there. Aided by Gruelm's counsel, she is able to track down
Alionca at the heart of the maze. The Archprincess proves
impervious and unreceptive till Bagelanna, fully tapping into her own
powers for the first time, resurrects the Sarvulo from the Back of
Beyond. Alionca allows the labyrinth to give way and herself to be
flown out of the Thrice-tenth Realm.
XII — Coronets and Caravans
Gruelm expires, her power exhausted,
but the Realm Beyond remains accessible. Alionca, taking Ishkiuppu
at his word, insists on accompanying him to his father's realm and
assert her right to the imperial title. Ishkiuppu leads the way
(guided by Bagelanna riding the Sarvulo) to the Easterkingdom, where it
turns out he truly is the son and heir of Emperor Budel—but a
mooncalf regardless, declaring that a couple of coronets he'd swiped
from the Greathag Stronghold were his father's crown, magically remade.
XIII — Would Witches Be Fried?
Alionca is proclaimed Empress and takes
Sothel the Tosspot as consort; they return to Galagonya with the Damsels
in Silver and in Gold, to maintain the gateway to Beyond. Triftay
weds Ishkiuppu, now the Easterprince, who writes an elaborate geste
about his adventures—adding a talking chicken-bird and an army of
enchanted oak-trees, while relegating Bagelanna to comedy relief.
The Sarvulo returns her to Kozeppont, where Bagelanna strides into the
bakehouse, dusts off her hands, and lights the oven.
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