Katie and Richard
A Tale of Wizardry
THE STORY SO FAR: On their way to school one bright May morning, Katie and Richard - two normal American fifth graders - have suddenly found themselves transported to an unfamiliar and magical world, where a renegade wizard named Grendell is scheming to release a malevolent form of magic, the Dark Arts, from its centuries-long confinement in an immense Black Cube. The children, together with an old wizard named Malvolio the Adroit; a dwarf named Gert; and a young wizard named Lorenzo the Solemn, have been charged by the wizards' ruling body, the Ring of High, to try to find out what the children's presence (and the diamond figurines Gert has been carving for a mysterious client named Clarence) might have to do with Grendell's schemes. There has also been a sixth member of the group - Fluffy, a pet mouse in a small wire cage. The companions have escaped from a troll, survived an attack by a red ant while shrunk to the ant's size, and made their way through the traps and dangers in Grendell's underground tunnel complex. When we last checked in with them, they had reached Grendell's workroom at last - and Fluffy had abruptly transformed himself into Grendell.
This week: Grendell explains. Richard acts.
Chapter XXII. Grendell
"You mean," cried Richard, "we've been carrying you around with us all this time?
"I'm afraid so," said Grendell. "It's been a bumpy ride at times, but on the whole I would say it was enjoyable. And the food has been good, despite claims by some that you were spoiling me." He furled his brow at Malvolio.
"You were the one inside our heads at night."
"Yes, I was. It was very convenient of you to blame it on Lorenzo, although it did mean I had to refrain from my explorations while he was away."
"I see now," said Malvolio, "how we got through the locking charms."
"Why didn't the last one fail, too?"
"The one in my quarters? It did. I was holding the door shut myself. It's easy if you know how." Grendell was obviously enjoying himself.
"You pushed me," said Katie suddenly. "Into the werewolf's den. That was you."
"That was a calculated risk," smiled Grendell. "I assumed that Lorenzo and Malvolio would save you and, of course, they did not let me down."
"Why did you push me?"
"To make you think it was Lorenzo."
"And why did you want them to save me?"
"Because I need you – or one of you, at any rate." He looked from Katie to Richard. "You see, I need to become one of you for a while. I have not decided which, yet."
"Become one of us?" asked Richard.
"Yes. It has become necessary, if my plan for Erthwold is to succeed." He looked from one to the other of the Group of Five. "I might as well tell you the whole tale," he said. "We have plenty of time. I have plenty of time, at any rate, and you have all the time you are ever going to have.
"I suppose I should begin – Oh, about fifteen billion years ago, at the event which the scientists in Katie and Richard's world have so quaintly named the Big Bang. Something tipped over in the Primal Singularity, and it exploded, creating the Universe. So the scientists believe, and they are correct. What they have not yet grasped, however, is that there were an infinite number of universes created by this event, not just one. Some of these universes had magic in them – some did not. Some were completely independent, others were entwined with each other. And it just so happens that we inhabit an entwined pair of universes, one with magic in it, the other without. The one with magic is, of course, our own world. The other is Katie and Richard's.
"In the beginning, the entwining was very deep indeed, but as time went on the two universes began to grow apart. Their geography grew different, for one thing. The geography of Erthwold is affected by magic, while that of Earth is not, and as a result rocks take slightly different relationships to each other. I wouldn't do that if I were you, Malvolio. My staff wields much more power than yours, and I have increased it even more by adding the diamond cap."
Malvolio, who had been slowly lowering his staff so that its tip would point at Grendell, quickly raised it to the upright position again.
"Where was I?" the dark wizard resumed. "Oh, yes – geography. What I wished to point out is that our world has steeper cliffs and deeper gorges and taller mountains than Katie and Richard's world, and that there are things here, such as a desert full of diamond sand, which you would never find there. However, the correspondence is otherwise quite remarkable. We speak the same sets of languages, for example, and we have the same animals and plants. With the exception, of course, of creatures such as trolls and dragons and unicorns, which depend upon the Dark Arts and other magics for their existence. These exist only in Erthwold.
"Now, if Katie and Richard have been properly trained in the folklore of their world, they will remember that stories of trolls and dragons and unicorns are almost as common on Earth as they are in Erthwold, and they may be wondering why. The reason is quite simple. Earth and Erthwold are closely intertwined, as I have said, and travelers used to be able to pass from one to the other quite easily. These travelers, upon returning home, would quite honestly report that they had seen fantastic things. They did not realize that they had seen these fantastic things in our world, not in theirs.
"Please note," Grendell continued with a smile, "that I said used to. They used to pass easily from one world to the other. This has not happened, now, for six hundred years. Why not? I asked myself that question early in my study of the so-called Dark Arts, and I was able to answer it quite quickly. The clue lies in the correspondence of that six-hundred-year timespan with the time that has passed since the First Conclave. Do you see, my friends? the Dark Powers were the glue holding our two worlds together, and when the Conclave locked them up, Erthwold and Earth were no longer able to communicate with each other. They were still paired, but the pairing was now blind.
"If Katie and Richard have also properly studied their Earth history, they will note that what happened on Earth six hundred years ago was the beginning of the Renaissance. Your historians claim that it was the enlightened attitudes of that time which led to the birth of science and technology. Actually, the First Conclave led to the birth of science and technology. With the Dark Arts locked up, the little magic that had previously managed to leak through from Erthwold to Earth was no longer available. Science and technology were developed to compensate for this loss. But enough ancient history. Let us talk about why Katie and Richard are here, and what roll Gert's figurines are about to play in the history of both worlds."
"If I'd a' knowed Clarence was you," growled Gert, "I'd a' carved nary a one."
"Which is precisely why I became Clarence to deal with you, my gnarly friend. But let me back up again, just a little bit, and tell you of the discoveries which led me to this great work.
"My first discovery, all the way back at Wizard School, was a historical text buried deep in the stacks of the library which gave an account of the First Conclave. Accounts of the Conclave are quite common in our histories, of course, but this one was different. It was first-hand, for one thing; and it had an appendix, for another. This appendix contained several obscure riddles which, I eventually deduced, were clues leading to the location of the Black Cube. I saw at once that this document must have been written by Grimelda, the wizard who cast the Spell of Forgetting – or perhaps by one of the wizards who had actually done the locking up of the cube, before the Spell of Forgetting took his memory away.
"Using the clues now provided to me, it was no great task to find the Black Cube buried beneath the Diamond Desert. It was after I found it that I built my small abode here. I encouraged others to assume that my hermitage had been located to provide solitude. That was a convenient fiction – it was the Cube that was the real draw. I built these rooms, and I built this workshop, and in the solitude that others assumed was what I craved I studied the Cube. And I discovered two things. One was that the seal on the Cube is not complete – small amounts of Dark Powers are continually leaking from it, and have been for six centuries. The other was that there are means available to magnify and control those powers. By using them, I could become a dark wizard – the first since the Powers were locked up. And if I could then release the Dark Arts from their long confinement in the Cube, I would be the only one who could control them. Quite simply, Erthwold would be mine, to pluck and eat as I desired.
"The clue to controlling the powers lay in an old children's rhyme, which was also included in that ancient appendix, but with an unusual last line. You saw the second stanza at Rhymegard: let me repeat the whole thing for you now:
Se sa, wind and stone,
Troll breath and troll bone.
Only thing to take him down:
Diamond scepter, diamond crown.
One's alone, two's a pair,
Three to see, four to fare,
Five for size, six for when,
Seven times seven, then seven again."
The dark wizard smiled once more. "It was when I connected the first stanza of this rhyme to the second," he continued, "that its secret became clear. One of what? Two of what? Why, diamonds, of course! Three or more diamonds, properly used in conjunction with the Dark Arts, would allow one to see long distances; to travel without crossing space; to change size at will; and to control time.
"I first tried the sand-grain-sized diamonds from the Diamond Desert. These failed to work. I reasoned that it was their size which was at fault, and went out in the world seeking larger gems. With some difficulty I managed to assemble five of these, and the spells came alive. With practice, I found I could control them. I could see what I wanted to see, go where I wanted to go, and change my size at will by the amount I wished to grow or shrink.
"Once I had developed this last skill, of course, I had access to all the diamonds I wanted. I merely had to go into the Diamond Desert, shrink myself by the right amount, pick up the diamonds, and grow back to my normal size. The diamonds grew with me. Lorenzo and Gert, please stay where you are. I assure you that even if you did circle around and sneak up behind me, you could not possibly overcome one who wields the Dark Powers. If Lorenzo had his staff, he and Malvolio might work together and at least put up a good battle; but, thanks to Katie, he does not. So I advise both of you to not even try.
"By this time, using certain ancient and arcane texts, I had deciphered the altered last line of the second stanza, which must be read in conjunction with the first line of the same verse. Seven times seven, then seven again refers to the number 343, or 7 x 7 x 7 – the number of diamonds which, when placed in the proper patterns, will break the seal of the Black Cube and release the Dark Powers. And one's alone, two's a pair refers to the twinned worlds of Erthwold and Earth. By duplicating the pattern of 7 x 7 x 7 on Earth as well as Erthwold, the Dark Powers could be made to flow through each world. And as the only living master of the Dark Arts, I would be the ruler of both of them.
"But for this to succeed, I reasoned, I would need an intimate knowledge of Earth. I had already made several visits to Erthwold's sister universe, but now I began studying it in earnest. I took numerous trips across the barrier between the worlds, entering it at various places through the doorway you so recently puzzled over, which is currently not focused on any specific place and thus appears to lead nowhere. I collected books and artifacts. But I could not learn enough to reliably pass as a resident of Earth long enough to place 343 diamonds in the proper pattern. So I decided to become a child."
Grendell looked from Katie to Richard. He smiled beatifically. "Children have two advantages," he said. "One is that they are already being taught, so I could continue to learn about Earth's culture, painlessly, without stepping out of my assumed role at all. The other is that no one expects children to be fully aware of all that the adult world does, anyway. Any mistakes I made would thus be covered up and accounted for by my presumed innocence and immaturity. So I picked a school, and I set a trap, and I waited for a child to trip into it. As it happened, two of you tripped into it at the same time. Which is excellent, because I now have a choice."
"How will you become one of us?" asked Richard.
"By assuming your body. The personality inhabiting it now will, regrettably, be destroyed."
"Was that why you were poking around inside our heads?"
"Yes. Forgive me. I needed to know which of you was the more appropriate vehicle. And I also needed to know enough of how you think and behave so that your personalities would not appear to change when I took over."
"Which one of us will it be?"
"I still don't know." Grendell frowned. "You are both perfectly matched to the task I wish to undertake, and I have not yet been able to decide between you. That is the only reason your little party has made it as far as it has. If I had been able to decide earlier, the work would have already begun."
"While ye're choosin," said Gert, "ye mought tell what ya needed me fer."
"Is that not obvious? You were brought into the scheme for your skill in diamond carving. It would be very difficult to hide 343 large diamonds in either world, so I decided to hide them in plain sight – by making them into figurines, which would then be well protected by those who found them in their possession."
"It was yer fellas what took me stuff yestiddy."
"Yes. The work was done. It seemed pointless to leave such valuable materials out in plain sight."
"If you're placing figurines around the world so carefully," asked Richard, "why did you take the one in Lorenzo's room away after Katie and I saw it?"
"I didn't take it away," Grendell explained patiently. "I merely covered it with cobwebs so that it looked as though it had been taken away. It is still there – properly placed and ready to do its part."
"I have a question, as well," said Malvolio. "The Dark Arts have been getting much stronger, lately. Why is that, if you have not yet succeeded in breaking the seal?"
"Ah – you noticed," smiled Grendell. "I suppose you couldn't very well not notice, could you, with the interruptions of healing spells and the plague of trolls. And with what you described so quaintly a few moments ago as 'teddy bears with teeth,' which – I am proud to say – are the first goblins to be seen in Erthwold in six centuries. The answer is a concept I borrowed from Katie and Richard's world: amplification. I deduced that, if the size-reducing spells also reduced the power of magic – yes, I have felt it, I have been through my own size-shifters – then if I turned them around they would increase the power, instead. I have installed several of these reverse size-shifters, in series, placed so they will capture the leakage from the Black Cube. Among other things, they have enabled me to build Rhymegard – by making the Dark Powers useable at some distance from the Cube. It has had a side effect of trolls, which is unfortunate but necessary. And I have been forced to curtain the window behind me here that used to look out on the Cube. I must now study it at a distance, from Rhymegard."
"How do you expect to get Katie and Richard home?" asked Lorenzo.
"Well, of course, only one of them will be going. I will be the other. But the answer to your question lies in the piece of machinery here which so puzzled you – the one which seems to have pictures of Katie and Richard on it at the moment they made the transfer from their world to ours. Those are not pictures. They are the moment itself, frozen in time. Time has gone on without it, in both worlds. All that must be done is for each child to walk into the proper moment. The moments will then be released, and will catch up to their proper context. It may be a bit dizzying, but it will not be harmful."
"If Katie and Richard are frozen in time," frowned Malvolio, "why are they here? And have they not been missed in their own world?"
"I think you misunderstand," explained Grendell patiently. "It is not they who have been frozen in time. It is the moment. Time itself has gone on, bearing the results of that moment with it, as those results will be shaped when the moment is released."
"Will the one of us who is not you remember what happened here?" asked Richard.
"No." Grendell smiled again. "You would, ordinarily. But I will erase your memory first, back to that instant in time at which you first came into my world-shifting fog. That is another advantage that comes from my having 'poked around,' as you call it, inside your minds while you slept. I have learned precisely which techniques to use and which places to apply them. And now the time has come to do just that. This has been a pleasant diversion, but I really must be getting on with my work. I will choose, and then I will destroy two wizards and a dwarf plus one child's personality and another child's memory, and then the remaining child and I will step into our pictures." He smiled. "I hope no one minds."
"I must remind you," said Malvolio sternly, "that I still have my staff. It may be difficult to destroy me."
"What do you intend to do, Maladroit? Turn me into a petunia? Two wizards with staffs might worry me just a little, but you are absolutely no threat by yourself. Now don't bother me, I am deciding. Eeny, meeny, miney –"
Richard dashed forward and snatched the crown from Grendell's head.
Next Week: how to catch a Grendell