Piers Anthony’s “Xanth” series: A Tryst of Fate


A Tryst of Fate (2021)

[In this review I have used the actual chapter headings from the book.]

At the beginning of the story, this book is set, as it was in the previous three books, on Fibot, the Fire Sail Boat, the magical flying boat with the fiery sail.

The significant characters at the beginning of the story are Squid and Larry/Laurelai, who are members of the Fibot crew.

Squid is one of five children who were rescued from an alternative universe whose setting was 50 years ahead, by Astrid Basilisk and Demoness Fornax, in “Five Portraits”. The five children became very close, and regard each other as siblings. They are all crew members on Fibot, along with a few other people. Squid is actually an alien cuttlefish who was visiting that alternative Xanth. She is able to transform her appearance, so she normally appears as a human girl.

Larry is a transgender child, who was born male, but was actually a girl trapped in a boy’s body. His true identity was female, Laurelai. He received his wish to become female in “Skeleton Key”, when the crew of Fibot were provided with devices called portable portals, so they could swap gender anytime they liked.

This book follows on from “Skeleton Key”, in which Demon Chaos threatened to return the universe to its original formless state. A Demon Wager was established, in which the actions of Squid would determine the fate of the universe. Squid was successful in the trials, and the universe was saved. In the process, Squid and Demon Chaos fell in love with one another; it is this that convinced the Demon not to destroy the universe.

Demon Chaos is now hosted by Larry during daylight hours. Larry becomes Laurelai at night. Laurelai sometimes plays host to Demoness Fornax; at other times, Fornax manifests as a separate person. (Under this arrangement, Larry/Laurelai’s gender is swapped by Chaos and Fornax; the portable portals are not required for this.)

Squid is now 12, and Larry/Laurelai is 13. (As stated in this book, the author follows the convention that a year passes from book to book, and everyone ages one year, even in this case where only one day has elapsed since the end of the previous book. I’m not sure when the author started this convention; in some of the early books, several years elapse between books.)

Squid wakes up in her bedroom on Fibot, and goes to breakfast. The pet peeve is there; it is a parrot-like bird, who is a member of Fibot’s crew. It teases her. It is a somewhat mischievous creature, and constantly insults people.

Squid is still the protagonist (as she was in “Skeleton Key”); she is not happy about this, as this means she is the centre of attention; she wants to spend time with Chaos without everyone watching.

She goes on deck. Chaos (hosted by Larry of course) is just outside the boat, and he helps her onto the ground. He reminds her that they had planned to visit her family. (The boat had parked close to Squid’s adoptive parents’ home.)

Squid has been dreading this; her adoptive parents are somewhat conventional; they might not understand about her dating a Demon. However she decides to go ahead with the visit, and they proceed to her parents’ home.

Her parents, Kandy and Ease, meet her at the door. She introduces Demon Chaos as her boyfriend. Her parents are taken aback – first saying that she is too young to have a boyfriend, and then being shocked that that boyfriend is a Demon.

Chaos provides his background, how he was the original Demon, when the universe was without form and void. But then the other Demons appeared on the scene. Chaos had challenged the other Demons, wanting to return the universe to its original state. But Squid convinced him with a kiss to let the universe remain in existence.

But then Squid’s parents admit that they have been teasing her. They have known about Squid’s relationship with Chaos all along. The peeve has been providing regular reports to the adoptive parents of all of the five siblings.

Chaos presents Kandy and Ease with a gift: it is a chaos bomb. He demonstrates its use. They go outside, where a termite mound is under siege from an army of ants. Just when the two sides are about to attack, Chaos drops the bomb; it is invisible, and it does not cause any damage, but its effect can be seen; the soldiers on both sides lose their organisation, racing around aimlessly.

When Squid and Chaos leave, Chaos tells Squid that Fornax wants to borrow back Larry’s body, even though it is not nightfall, as she has a message for Squid. Larry transforms into Laurelai.

Laurelai says that Fornax has told her that they must prepare for a trip to another reality immediately, to stay there for a month or more. Fornax has not told her why.

They return to the boat and go to Nia’s cabin. Nia and her husband Dell are co-captains of the boat, and are responsible for the several children that make up the crew. They tell her Fornax’s message.

Squid says goodbye to her two sisters, Myst and Win. Her brothers are busy elsewhere. Squid and Laurelai pack for the journey.

Fibot sails to the location specified by Fornax. Squid and Laurelai leave the boat and meet Fornax, who appears as an older woman. She tells them to take her hands.

There are an infinite number of alternative realities – also referred to as alternative universes. Some of the universes are shifted in time relative to their own universe, so there is a series of universes, each shifted one second from the universe next to it. By travelling through this series, it is possible to get to a universe whose setting is at a different point in time from their own.

The sun starts to move more quickly across the sky, and they appear to be travelling forward in time. Squid had already experienced this (in the other direction) when she was brought back from her alternative universe 50 years in the future. But it is new for Laurelai. It is not actually time travel, which has the potential to cause paradoxes.

They are able to talk while they travel. Fornax explains that they have to handle a murder mystery. They must cover up the murders, then solve them, identifying the perpetrator, and then establish justice. Fornax and the two girls must do it, because there may be Demon involvement. And because Squid and Laurelai are the victims.

The reality they are heading for is 7 years in the future. The Squid and Larry/Laurelai of that reality frame (aged 19 and 20) were about to be married in a double ceremony: first Larry male and Squid female, then Squid male and Laurelai female. But the night before the wedding, as Squid and Larry walked along a path and paused at a romantic pavilion to kiss, something came and hacked them to pieces. No one else knows about it. They need to cover up the crime before it is discovered.

A Demon must be responsible. He must have sent his minion to do the killing. Fornax and the two girls must make it appear that the murder had not occurred, so the Demon will send his minion again, and they can catch the killer.

In the meantime, Squid and Laurelai must substitute for their other selves by appearing at the wedding ceremony. Laurelai’s talent is to advance her own and a companion’s age; she says she can age them by 7 years for the few hours required for the ceremony. But Fornax tells them Laurelai’s talent has been enhanced, so they can remain at that age for a month or more.

They arrive at their destination reality frame. It is night, half an hour after the murder. They are on the path leading to the pavilion. Fornax arranges to clear up the remains; a grisly bear arrives to do the cleanup.

Laurelai ages herself and Squid by 7 years. Their clothing no longer fits. Fornax tells them to go back along the path to the room provided by the wedding site, where they will find new clothes. They do so.

Squid wonders how they can be expected to know what they are supposed to, to pose as their older selves, given that 7 years have passed. Fornax provides them with a recording, in a magic mirror. It shows their older selves walking along the path. But in this recording the attack does not happen. Fornax explains that the recording is an emulation, constructed from many of the adjacent reality frames. The murder only occurred in the single reality frame, which is evidence that a Demon was involved. (Fornax has avoided time travel because of the complications of paradox, and this method of constructing the recording from alternative realities fulfils the same function, but it means Fornax has not been able to capture images of the actual murder.)

The recording also shows them the day before, when their other selves talked with friends and prepared for the wedding. Then they view the next day, with the wedding ceremony, and all their friends attending. Their friends are all 7 years older, but still recognisable.

Now Squid must tell Chaos what they have learned. She must be careful so that Chaos does not overreact. Laurelai transforms to Larry, who is hosting Chaos. Squid explains. Chaos wants to destroy the murderer, but Squid tells him to wait, asking him to read her mind so he knows their plans.

The next day, Fornax casts a quiet acceptance spell, so there will be no suspicions unless they make a really bad mistake. The wedding proceeds as it should, and there is a banquet to follow.

Nia, aged 30 in this frame, makes a toast, in which she talks about the events (as described in “Skeleton Key”) when the two Dwarf Demons captured Caprice Castle and attempted to capture Fibot as well. However her story is different from the one Squid and Laurelai know: Demon Chaos does not appear, and there is no battle of the Demons, and none of the trials that Squid was involved in. Squid realises that in this reality, her counterpart had not met Chaos, and she was marrying Larry, not Chaos.

Afterwards, returning to their room, Squid realises that she, and Chaos’s host Larry, are the right age, and are married, to permit her and Chaos to make love. Chaos agrees. But then she thinks she can’t; inside she is still underage. Confused, she decides to go for a walk. Larry transforms to Laurelai, so it is the two girls walking together. They walk to the pavilion. Fornax communicates mentally with them: the killer is in the vicinity; he has received orders from his master to complete the job that he apparently messed up previously.

Squid says she thinks that the two Dwarf Demons – Demon Not Announced and Robot Not Announced (D NA and R NA) – are the culprits. They must be taking their revenge for the Fibot crew foiling their attempts to capture the boat. But then why would they have waited 7 years to murder them in a random alternative frame?

Fornax says that the Dwarf Demons were put on trial and will be on probation ever after. They didn’t have to wait 7 years; they could have crossed the realities in a short time, just as Fornax and the girls have. Maybe it was the closest frame they could reach without being observed by the other Demons.

She tells them there is a cloud of conscience vapour nearby; this was created when Good Magician Humfrey dropped a bottle of elixir. The girls should run towards it, and when the killer follows, he will be affected by it, and won’t perform any more killings.

The killer is getting close, so the two girls run in the indicated direction. They feel twinges of conscience as they approach the conscience cloud.

And then the killer appears. It is shaped like a man, has spikes on its knees, and wheels with caterpillar treads for feet. It has a black metallic torso and circular saws in place of hands. Its head is a bald dome with a blank face-plate. Eyes and a mouth are displayed on the face-plate. It says, “I killed you. I sawed you asunder. How did you reconstitute?” It tells them its name: Goar Golem. It charges forward to attack them.

Laurelai throws a handful of dragon’s teeth to the ground. They grow into robot soldiers and face the golem. But Goar cuts the soldiers to bits. But pieces of the robots jam his treads, so he stalls.

Two cloaked figures appear behind the golem. They cause the robots to disappear, and the golem to be restored. One of them says, “Foolish girls! You thought to save your fleshly hides with dragon’s teeth? From Demon vengeance? Now we will make sure of you.”

Fornax appears and grabs the Demons; they are indeed the two Dwarf Demons. They disappear as Fornax sends them off for trial.

But now Goar Golem says, “What am I doing? This is not right!” He has been affected by the conscience cloud. Fornax says he is now destined for oblivion. Goar, filled with guilt, says that instead he deserves torture.

Laurelai opts for oblivion. But Squid is not sure. The golem was not in control of his actions; he had been under the control of the Dwarf Demons.

Fornax warns them mentally to say no more aloud. She tells them there is something else that is hidden. Maybe there is another Demon who is setting up a trap to catch Demon Chaos. Then she says they can start talking again.

Squid opts for torture for Goar Golem. But the torture she has in mind is for Goar to become the protagonist of the story. He must continue in that role until he atones for his crimes – that is until he earns their forgiveness. She tells Goar to go to the Good Magician to find out what to do. Fornax and the girls will be keeping an eye on him.

In the meantime, Squid can spend time with Chaos without being observed.

Goar Golem
As he watches Squid and Laurelai depart, Goar Golem wonders how he could have killed such creatures as them. He wonders if it is possible for him to be forgiven.

But now he must go to see the Good Magician. He had the ability to orient on his assigned prey, so he finds that he can use that ability to determine the direction to the Good Magician’s Castle. He sets off. But the distance is too far to get there by nightfall, so he stops at a shelter beside the path.

A woman emerges and screams in terror at the sight of him, calling him a bare-naked robot man with spinning saws for hands. Her male companion comes out and orders Goar to leave.

Goar retreats. He realises that he needs some clothes. He meets a young woman who looks slightly angelic and slightly demonic. She takes him to a grove of clothing trees. She says her name is Misty; she is the daughter of Beauregard Demon and Angela Angel. (Beauregard and Angela appeared in “Air Apparent” and “Knot Gneiss”.) Her nature rotates between Bad, Good and Neutral.

She locates a small sewing kit, called a Housewife, on a nearby pedestal. [I had to look this up, but yes, the word “Housewife” does have this as one of its meanings.] But then Misty departs; she is due for a bad act, and doesn’t want to do it to Goar.

The sewing kit transforms into a woman. She says she is a woman by day and a house by night. She selects a shirt and trousers for him from the grove. He puts them on. She also finds some magic gloves to cover his circular saws, so now they look like gauntleted hands. She sews them to fit properly. He looks in a mirror and sees that he looks more like a human man than a metallic robot.

As night falls, she turns into a house. He spends the night in the house.

In the morning he leaves the house, and it turns back into the woman. Then she turns into the sewing kit. Goar takes it with him.

When he arrives near the Good Magician’s Castle, he has to undergo the Challenges, which is quite complicated. But he eventually succeeds and arrives at the castle gate. He is met by Wira, the Good Magician’s daughter-in-law. She takes him to see Sofia Socksorter, the Magician’s Designated Wife of the Month, who is sitting, mending socks.

Sofia says she needs to make modifications to Goar’s appearance. She hands some long stockings to him, and he puts them on. They had belonged to the Good Magician, and had absorbed some of his magic. They cover his legs and feet, including the spikes on his knees, and makes his legs and feet look like those of a normal human. She also gives him some shoes. She gives him a sock to put over his head, making it look and function as a normal human head. She gives him a cookie and some tsoda pop (from Lake Tsoda Popka), and he is able to eat and drink normally.

[There seems to be an omission here. Later parts of the story talk about Goar having magical socks on his arms and hands, covering his circular saws and making his arms and hands appear normal. These references don’t seem to refer to his magic gloves, which don’t affect the appearance of his arms, and gives him the appearance of having gauntleted hands. My conclusion is that Sofia also gave him these socks for his arms and hands, either replacing the magic gloves, or somehow combining them together.

To complete the picture, later parts of the story make more sense if all of the magic socks (this term seems to include the stockings) extend their magic to his torso, so that the whole of his body appears to be a normal human body, and is fully functional – that is, a naked body; he still needs to wear clothes if he wishes to appear clothed, rather than naked.]

Then she gives him an anklet; it is a tracking device from Squid and Laurelai, which Goar is required to put on his ankle. But if he needs to contact them, he can touch it and say, “Please.”

Wira returns and takes Goar to see the Good Magician. She tells the Magician that Goar is here to ask what to do with his life. (Goar had not worked out what to ask, but realises that this is true.)

The Magician says, “You will join the Oma Incident and her three companions. She is approximately human. You will assist them to the best of your abilities.” He tells Goar that this is both his Answer and his Service. His Service will be done when Larry and Squid forgive him for killing them.

Wira takes Goar out to the courtyard. There is a tree with a door in its trunk. Wira tells him he must go through the door to the people waiting for him. She gives him an envelope.

Goar goes through the door. There is a short hall leading to another door. He opens the envelope, and reads the note inside: it has four names: Hack, Gloria, Moxie, Xylia.

He goes through the other door. He has emerged somewhere else; it is a glade in a forest.

Goar sees an ugly girl, and with her, three ugly animals, a bird, a rabbit and a turtle. The girl is unclothed, but he is not attracted to her, because of her ugliness.

She tells him her name is Incident, and the animals are her companions and assistants, Bird, Rabbit and Turtle. She is an Oma: she and her companions have the job of delivering tumours to undeserving people, some of whom die of them. They don’t like the work, but they are locked into it. If they stop, they will die and go to Hell.

[The author tells in his Author’s Note, how he had been diagnosed with a spot in his lung. He read up about this, and discovered that such accidentally discovered spots were called “incidentalomas”. There were three kinds: birds, which meant you were doomed already, rabbits, which you could catch and treat if you hopped right to it, and turtles, which were so slow they never got anywhere. His fortunately was a “dead turtle” – not a cancer, just dead tissue.]

Goar says he is supposed to work with them. He tells how he had got caught in the conscience cloud. Incident says that they, too, had passed through the conscience cloud, and can no longer do evil, which has caused a conflict with their job. The Good Magician told them that he would send a golem to help them; Goar must be that golem.

But Goar says he doesn’t know what he is supposed to do.

They go to Incident’s nearby temporary den. Incident explains that they have been getting uglier every time they do a bad deed. Goar removes his clothes, and all his magical socks, to show her the ugliness of his own body: that of a killer machine.

Goar tells her his history. He was once a human child, but had always been bad. Then he placed a metal bar on a railway track, causing a train to derail. Several people were killed. The ghosts of the adults focused on getting to Heaven, but the ghosts of the children haunted Goar, until he committed suicide. But the ghosts continued to harass him as a ghost, preventing him from going to Heaven or Hell.

Then the two Dwarf Demons needed a ruthless killer. They built a robot body, and then grabbed Goar’s soul and put it into the robot body.

Incident tells how she was originally a Sylph called Elle, a nymph of the air, without a conscience. She entered a contest for her kind, to see who could lure the most handsome man to his death, and won. But later she discovered she did have a rudimentary soul, and regretted what she had done. But she ended up wandering into the realm of Oma, and taking a job there, not realising what she was doing. She became a dark creature, virtually immortal and invulnerable.

Incident and Goar realise they have a lot in common. And in stories like this, where a man and a woman have been brought together, it would be expected that they would fall in love and become a permanent couple. But they don’t think that this would work because they are both ugly.

Incident continues her story. She was assigned territory AL. (The Oma territories have 2-letter codes.) She needed to get three animal assistants: one flying, one racing and one crawling. She had been given the ability to sense the locations of things she wanted, so she was able to locate these animals. In each case, she rescued them from a trap, and they agreed to work with her. Like her, they received immortality and invulnerability. They also received near-human intelligence and the ability to transform themselves.

Bird, a sparrow, could assume any bird form, large or small. Rabbit could assume any rabbit form, and with an effort, any mammal. Turtle could assume any turtle form, and with an effort, any reptile.

But now, with their newly acquired consciences, they no longer want to do the work, but they can’t hold out much longer; if they don’t place a tumour, the pressure keeps building up. If it reaches bursting point, the tumour seeds fly out randomly and infect the closest people.

The tumours arrive in the form of seeds in a special box. They are assigned by the Demon Oma. The team currently have a backlog.

Incident gets a sense of a suitable person to receive a seed, but she has some choice in the matter, although it can be hard to find another suitable person. Most of the recipients are neither good or bad, just average.

The recipients are not just Xanthians. Most of them are Mundanes, because of the greater population. The animals take the seeds from Xanth to Mundania.

Goar wonders if there is some way a tumour seed could be a benefit to a person rather than a liability. Maybe if they were dying of some other disease, but would suffer in pain for years with it. A tumour might cause them to die more quickly, and be a mercy.

Inspired with that thought, Incident decides to set off immediately to place some seeds. This will clear the backlog. She closes her eyes, turns and orients to the north. There is a prospective recipient in that direction, but some distance away. They will have to fly.

Bird transforms into the biggest bird, a roc. They all (including Goar) get onto his back and hold on tight. Bird takes off. He flies for some distance and finally lands.

This is the location in Xanth that corresponds with the location in Mundania where the recipient is. He is in a hospital, with a chronically inflamed brain that keeps him in misery. Rabbit commences digging: he has the magical ability to tunnel through from Xanth to Mundania.

Incident tells Goar that the different animals deliver the seeds according to the speed of the seeds’ action. Bird delivers the fastest ones, that act quickly before anything can be done about them. Rabbit delivers the medium ones, which can be stopped if they’re detected quickly. And Turtle delivers the slow ones, which probably won’t take effect before something else does.

Goar says he’d like to see the delivery. He has a webcam, which the Dwarf Demons had given him, to make sure he did the murder right the second time.

Incident tells him to talk to Rabbit, saying, “Where is the Updoc?” Goar does so, and Rabbit transforms into a large comic-style hare, standing on his hind feet, and responds, “What’s Updoc?”

Incident says that in this form he is called Beetle Bunny, and can talk.

Goar asks him to take the webcam and attach it to himself. Beetle attaches it to his chest. Incident gives him the seed. He transforms back into his normal form and dives into the hole. A holographic image appears above the hole, showing the vision from the webcam.

Rabbit continues through the hole and emerges in the hospital room. He places the seed on the man’s shoulder, where it digs in. Then Rabbit returns.

They continue with the other deliveries, until there is one seed left.

Incident says there is a problem. The location they have to go to is in the sub-realm of the Goddess Isis.

(Isis, the ancient Egyptian goddess, came to live in Xanth in “Isis Orb”. She has also appeared in “Ghost Writer in the Sky” and “Jest Right”. She is confined to her own region because she does not necessarily accept the existing order of Xanth. However, she is able to travel around Xanth by having her spirit hosted in other women’s bodies.)

Incident says Isis is the Goddess of Sex. She doesn’t like Incident because of the job she does, and is liable to cause Incident to perform some degrading sex act. Goar says he will distract Isis by threatening her with his circular saws.

So they fly to Isis’s region. Isis appears and demands to know what Incident is doing there. Incident says she is making a routine delivery, and introduces Goar to her. Incident and her animal companions depart to make the delivery.

Isis becomes interested in Goar. Someone had told her that a golem would be visiting.

She tells Goar that she has a visitor, another ancient goddess called Tiamat. Tiamat comes from a region called Akkad, in the Middle East. She is the mother of the early gods, as well as the monsters, including especially the dragons. She needs a new home, and Isis would like her to stay in Xanth. Isis thinks Tiamat would like to meet Goar.

Thinking this will give Incident time to make her delivery, Goar agrees.

Goar finds himself walking along a path through a rocky plain towards a distant castle. No doubt Tiamat is in that castle.

A series of dragons of all kinds attack him. He uncovers his circular saws and fights back, killing them all.

He arrives at the castle, and sees another dragon. It transforms into a beautiful woman. She says she is Tiamat. She is the mother of dragons; the dragons who attacked him were her children.

Goar apologises for killing them. But Tiamat says not to be concerned; her children could be vicious.

She invites him to walk with her, and leads him on a path away from the castle. She asks if he has children.

Goar says no, as he has not had a girlfriend. Tiamat tells him that Incident is interested, but her appearance is a turnoff. She suggests he tries chips of reverse wood.

She proposes that he listen to her history, and then she would teach him the art of lovemaking. Goar has not made love before; when he was human, he was too young.

They arrive at a glade with a pool. They sit down on deck chairs that are there.

She tells him her story (which is according to the ancient mythology: there is a lot more detail in the book than I have given here). Back at the time of the Earth’s Creation, there were two elements: Apsu, the male spirit of fresh water and the void, and Tiamat, the female spirit of salt-water and primeval chaos. She was the first dragon. They produced offspring: the first gods, the first monsters, the first dragons.

But the dragons rebelled against Apsu and Tiamat, and killed them.

But Tiamat was immortal, and continued to exist in some sense, searching for a new home. And she came at last to the Land of Xanth.

Tiamat tells Goar that he is destined to be with Incident. But if it doesn’t work out, he should come back to her, Tiamat.

She proceeds to educate him in lovemaking, including the importance of complimenting his lover.

Afterwards, she gives him a gift: a chaos bomb.

He finds himself walking away from the castle. He returns to where Incident is waiting for him.

After they leave the Goddess region, Incident asks Goar what had happened with Tiamat. He says Tiamat had told him to court Incident, and to pay her compliments. He tells Incident he admires her skill and dedication in her job. And then he kisses her. He says Tiamat said they should get some reverse wood, so they will appear attractive to each other. Then he admits that Tiamat had taught him how to make love.

Incident is able to sense the location of some reverse wood, so they go to get it. But there are only a few fragments. They spread it on their upper bodies, and as they kiss again, their faces and upper bodies appear attractive to each other. But Incident says they should wait for the real thing – to become attractive in reality – before going any further.

A new tumour seed arrives in the box. It is for Turtle to deliver. Incident says that at least it won’t kill anyone soon.

The team walk in the required direction, but come to a crevasse. Bird will have to fly them across. Goar says it is a pity the rest of them can’t fly.

Incident says the other animals can. Rabbit can transform into any mammal, such as a bat, but it requires a lot of focus. And Turtle can transform into any reptile, such as a pterodactyl, but that requires focus as well.

Goar says it would be good if he and Incident could fly too. Incident thinks there might be a solution; she senses something, but its direction is also across the crevasse. They will go there after Turtle’s delivery.

So Bird transforms into the roc and carries them all to Turtle’s destination. They arrive at a village, and Turtle goes into a hut to make his delivery.

When he returns, Bird carries them to their next location – the place which may have the solution to Goar and Incident being able to fly. They arrive at an old abandoned house. Inside, in a closet, they find two feathery backpacks.

Incident puts one on and goes outside. She focuses. Wings erupt from the backpack. As accessories there are feather flippers for her feet and a cap with a feathered crest to help her fly.

Goar puts on the second backpack. Wings erupt from his backpack as well, with the same accessories.

They try to fly, but don’t have much luck. But Bird transforms into eagle size and demonstrates how he flaps his wings. They copy him, and are successful this time. They spend some time flying around.

Incident thinks she should get some clothing.

They go to a clothing grove, and she harvests some clothing and tries it on. Goar appreciates that the dresses enhance her appearance.

Another seed arrives in the box, again for Turtle.

But a storm is building up. Incident takes Turtle to a broad mound in an open field, and tells him to expand to giant size. He does so. His shell is as high as the treetops. He withdraws his head, legs and tail into his shell. But there is also room for the rest of them in the shell. They enter to escape from the storm.

Inside the shell it is dark, and Goar and Incident are able to touch and kiss each other without anyone seeing them. And they can’t see each other’s ugliness.

After the storm passes, Bird carries them to Turtle’s next destination. It is an old mausoleum. Incident says that maybe the seed is for the groundskeeper.

Turtle enters the mausoleum to deliver the seed.

Meanwhile, Goar and Incident fly around together. There must be quite a lot of reverse wood sawdust in the air, because they appear attractive to each other. They hover and kiss. Goar realises he has fallen in love with Incident.

They return to the ground. Turtle has not returned. Has something gone wrong?

They all enter the mausoleum. Suddenly they are attacked by a fearsome glowing wraith. Goar turns to Incident, but instead sees a beautiful princess. But then he realises it is Incident, looking as she does when affected by reverse wood. With her is a phenomenally handsome rabbit and a bird of paradise. But they are all looking at him with hostility.

Goar realises what has happened. The reverse wood sawdust in the air is reversing their appearance, their actions and their words. (The reverse wood sawdust inside the mausoleum must be of a different kind, and have different effects, from that outside.) He grabs Incident and explains. While in contact, the effect of the reverse wood is nullified. Her tells her that when separated, they will have to communicate by saying the opposite of what they mean. The wraith must have been the man Turtle had gone to plant the seed on.

Incident goes to explain to Rabbit and Bird, and also to the man (who turns out to be the caretaker), and Goar hunts for and finds Turtle, and explains to him. They all leave the mausoleum, and once outside, the effect of the reverse wood disappears.

The caretaker says he is new to the job, and had heard that the mausoleum was haunted. Now that he knows the explanation, he will stick with the job; no one is likely to take it from him.

Goar returns to the subject of the animals flying. He thinks that once Rabbit and Turtle take on their flying forms, they will find it easier to change to those forms in future. So Rabbit transforms into a bat, and Turtle transforms into a pterodactyl, and they all fly around together.

Goar finds he is relating well to the three animals as well as to Incident. They have become a team of five.

The next day, Incident gets a call on the grapevine (a Xanthian equivalent to a telephone). She says they have a meeting of the Omas, at the junction of territories AJ, AK, AL, AM and AN.

She explains that the Oma territories are laid out in a matrix. They are all different shapes, but those particular territories meet at a point.

They set off, all of them flying, and arrive at the junction. There are four other teams, each with an Oma and three animals of all different kinds. They are all ugly, but Goar notices there is something different about the other teams. Incident says that they don’t have consciences.

All of the Omas are called Incident, so they are known by their territory codes, or nicknames based on them. Incident herself is referred to as AL, or ALma.

The Omas are interested to meet Goar. The other two female Omas (AJane and ANnie) flirt with him, but not in a nice way.

AMos calls the meeting to order. There will be a New Clear Bomb set off in Mundania, killing several hundred thousand people. But there will also be many survivors who suffer from radiation poisoning. The Omas have to deliver half a million cancer seeds. But they can’t possibly manage this, and they will get blamed and punished.

Goar wonders if they can stop the explosion from happening. Can they go and find out who set off the bomb and stop him?

AMos asks for volunteers, and Goar is the only one to volunteer. Incident says she and the team will assist him. The other Omas wish them good luck (ironically) and depart.

Incident tells Goar they will have to plan their approach. They will have to go to Mundania and interact with the people there, something she has never done, except indirectly, through the animals’ placements of seeds.

Goar says they will have to observe first, and find out what is going to happen, and when and where. Maybe they can steal the bomb and dump it in the sea.

But Incident says they can’t do that; they would not be entirely real in Mundania; when the animals go there, they are in a semi-solid state. They will have to interact with people in Mundania, appearing to them like ghosts, and persuade them not to detonate the bomb.

Goar suggests they get the animals to investigate first, and then they can work out what to do. Incident calls the animals to them, and tells them what she and Goar have discussed.

Goar remembers the note that Wira had given him. He tells the animals to check out the people with those names: Hack, Gloria, Moxie and Xylia. The animals can use their special abilities to orient on a given name. The animals depart.

Incident says they should spend the night rehearsing their speeches for the different scenarios. They will need a shelter.

She sees a creature she refers to as a boxer, and approaches it. Goar follows. She tells the creature to do its thing, and a box forms around them. This is their shelter.

Goar remembers his anklet, and that he can use it to summon Squid and Laurelai. He touches it and thinks, “Please.”

The box doubles in size, and Squid, Laurelai and Fornax appear. Fornax says she will help them.

She explains to them about alternative realities. She will take Goar and Incident to a future reality so they can witness the Bomber in action. Then they will be able to orient on him in their current reality, and prevent him from setting off the bomb. While they are away, Squid and Laurelai will relax in their house box.

They take her hands. The box disappears and they are in the glade. Then they seem to be moving forward in time. After a while they stop. They are in daylight in the glade. Fornax tells them they are two days into the future. They will have that much time to accomplish their task.

They walk with Fornax through the forest. She asks them to take her hands again, and they cross into Mundania. They are in a city street. Fornax tells them the people there are not aware of them.

She asks Incident to orient on someone with suicidal intent. Incident does so, and indicates a multi-storey building. They enter and go into an elevator. (Goar and Incident had never experienced an elevator before.) As they rise, Fornax tells Incident to indicate which floor they should stop at. She does so, and they exit the elevator at that floor. And as they walk along the corridor, Incident indicates which door they should enter.

The door won’t open, so Goar cuts it down with his saw. There is a man there, sitting at a computer. (Goar and Incident don’t know that it is a computer, but Fornax tells them afterwards.) Incident asks him if he is the Bomber. He replies that they are too late.

Fornax says they must leave. They take her hands, and she begins the return journey through the realities. They see a dim flash: that was the Bomb going off.

Fornax explains that the man was a computer hacker – that was why he was called Hack – and he had used the computer to access the military codes to set off the nuclear bomb. He was committing suicide, and taking a hundred thousand other people with him.

Incident concludes it must have been because of a woman.

They arrive back in their box. (Squid , Laurelai and Fornax depart.) Goar and Incident continue working out their scenarios, and then sleep.

The next day the animals return to make their report.

Bird transforms into a parrot, to speak on behalf of the three of them. He had investigated Hack, and learned that he was very good with computers, and had worked out a way to sneak into a military complex to do something awful.

Incident responds, saying that he can set off the Bomb from his computer.

Bird continues. Rabbit had found Moxie. She is a prisoner in a cell, due for lifetime imprisonment. Turtle had found Xylia. She is a country girl; she is pretty and is shy. She came to town looking for a better life, and is not having much success.

Incident concludes that Gloria is the one who will dump Hack, making him suicidal.

Goar wonders if they can introduce Xylia to Hack, before Gloria dumps him. Then maybe he won’t want to commit suicide. But Incident says Xylia is too shy; she doesn’t have initiative or nerve. Bird says Moxie has both of these. But she is not pretty and she is not free.

Goar says it is a pity they can’t merge Xylia and Moxie.

Incident thinks maybe she can. She thinks she might have, as one of her special powers, the ability to transfer a person’s mind to another body.

Goar and Bird volunteer to be subjects of an experiment. Bird perches on Goar’s hand, and Incident touches them both. She says they each must will themselves into the other body. And it works; they each find themselves in the other’s body. Incident says she is letting go, and they return to their own bodies.

The animals had found a secluded public park in Mundania for them to cross into. They would be in ghostly form, but it would be possible for people to see them if they are looking, so they would have to avoid being seen.

Rabbit takes them to the site in Xanth, and digs a hole for them to cross into Mundania. They arrive in the park. Bird leads them to the building where Hack lives. Goar and Incident recognise it from their trip with Fornax.

They pass through the closed door, which they can because they are intangible in this world. Goar realises they had been more solid during their trip with Fornax; she must have been using different rules.

They take the stairs up to Hack’s floor, and pass through the closed door.

Hack is unaware of their presence. He is practising making his proposal to Gloria, and is getting frustrated because he can’t get it right. He talks to himself, saying he can do all these clever things on the computer, but doesn’t know how to talk to his girlfriend. He has a date with her that afternoon.

The team departs. Bird takes them to another building. They go to Gloria’s apartment.

She is in bed, with another man. She tells him she is going to dump Hack. Their meeting is in three hours. She was only dating him so he would use his computer to cancel her credit card debt.

The team leave. Rabbit is going to take them to Moxie. They take the train to the prison complex. Then they make their way through the complex, concentrating on not being seen. They come to Moxie’s cell.

Now Incident has to get Moxie’s attention; this the opposite of what they have been doing so far. She stands in front of Moxie, and concentrates on contacting her mentally. And Moxie sees her.

Incident explains (speaking aloud so she can focus her thoughts) that she is a visitor who is immaterial – not really a ghost. They need a woman with plenty of know-how, experience and nerve. There may be a way for them to get her out of prison. She would have to be a girlfriend of a smart but unstable man.

Moxie says she wants to reform. But they’ll never let her out of prison.

Incident introduces Goar to Moxie.

Incident continues. She says there will be a New Clear explosion tomorrow, but with Moxie’s help this can be prevented. (After Moxie uses the word “nuclear”, they pronounce it that way from then on.) They will bring Xylia here, and transfer Moxie’s mind into her body, so the two women are sharing.

Moxie doesn’t believe them, but is willing to try it.

The team leave the prison. Turtle is the one who will take them to Xylia. He transforms into a man-sized turtle, standing on his hind legs. Incident says this is his mutant ninja form; in this form he can talk.

Turtle says he will guide them mentally. He transforms into pocket size, and Goar puts him in his pocket.

Following Turtle’s mental instructions, they take the train back into the city and return to the park. They find Xylia there.

Incident introduces herself to Xylia. She tells Xylia there is a crisis they want her help with. They want her to win the heart of a man who is about to be dumped, to prevent him committing suicide. And to prevent a nuclear bomb being detonated. She explains their proposal that Xylia will have another woman’s mind in her body to give her advice.

Xylia agrees to the plan.

They take the train back to the prison, and Xylia checks in to visit Moxie. Xylia tells Moxie that Incident and Goar had brought her.

Moxie says that given they have only an hour to win Hack’s love, they had better seduce him. Xylia admits she has no sexual experience. Moxie says she will tell Xylia what to say, as a prompter.

Incident tells the two women to take hands, which they do through the cell bars, and Incident puts her hands around the clasp.

As Moxie’s mind transfers to Xylia, Moxie’s body collapses, effectively in a coma.

The prison guard rushes up and orders Xylia to get out of there. Xylia does so. Then the guard has second thoughts and orders her to stay; she might have done something to the prisoner. Other guards arrive.

There is a combination of fleeing and struggling as Xylia tries to leave. Moxie (hosted in Xylia’s body) threatens one guard with an accusation of attempted rape. Goar attacks some guards with his circular saws: being ghostly, they do no physical damage, but they hurt. And the animals manifest as a vulture, a tiger and a crocodile, frightening the guards. Eventually they get away from the prison.

Xylia and Moxie have been communicating mentally, and have concluded their natures complement each other: Moxie has experience and steel-hard nerve, and Xylia has innocence and youth.

They go to Hack’s apartment. Xylia (with Moxie’s prompting) proceeds with the seduction. Soon Hack and Xylia withdraw into the bedroom.

Eventually they emerge, happily dishevelled. Moxie tells Hack that Gloria is going to dump him. She says he should check Gloria’s Mugshot account on the computer, where she has been boasting about bamboozling him. Hack does so, and sees that it is so.

There is a knock on the door. It is Gloria. She tells Hack she is dumping him, and leaves.

Xylia and Moxie have explained to Hack about the two of them inhabiting Xylia’s body, and he is quite happy about it. They have also told him about Incident and Goar, and that they are present as ghosts. And Hack will not set off the nuclear explosion.

Goar, Incident and the animals leave. They go back to the rabbit hole in the park and return to Xanth.

Incident had hoped that doing this good deed would make them beautiful, but they are unchanged.

They return to their box and sleep the night there.

In the morning they go to meet the other Omas again. Incident explains that they have prevented the nuclear bomb from exploding.

Then suddenly Incident and her team’s appearance changes. Incident is now beautiful, Goar is handsome, and the animals are attractive as well. And the other Oma teams are improved too; they are now plain instead of ugly; they had contributed to a lesser extent.

Goar realises the reason for the delay: history had not changed until that day, when the bomb didn’t go off.

The meeting breaks up and the Omas all depart for their own territories.

Goar tells Incident she can now retire from the Oma business. With her new beauty, she can get any job she likes. And the animals can find girlfriends and form families.

However, Goar can’t retire yet. He still needs to wait for Squid and Laurelai’s forgiveness. He will continue to hang around, trying to do good deeds. Incident says that in that case, she won’t retire yet; she will stay with Goar. The animals agree.

The next morning, Incident and Goar emerge from their box and wash in the nearby pool. They had made love during the night, and it had been wonderful.

Goar realises he has a new mental connection to Incident. And to the animals too. Incident says she had given everything she had to him, and this included the mental connection she has to her companions, as part of her talents as an Oma.

Goar wants to check if it is real. He retreats to the box to see if he can detect her remotely. He can sense her splashing water on her body and washing her hair.

And then he detects a male stranger approaching Incident and paying unwanted attention to her. Goar races to protect her. But the animals had detected the stranger too. Bird had transformed into a roc and got there first; he grabs the man and throws him across the pond; the man flees.

Incident says that now that she is beautiful, she will be more prone to unwanted attention from men. Goar says maybe she shouldn’t go nude anymore. Incident says that the same applies to Goar; now that he is handsome, women are likely to pay more attention to him.

Rabbit tells Incident the location of a nearby clothing grove. They go there and select some clothes.

[In this and other places in the story, it is suggested that although Goar and Incident had both previously acquired clothes, they have mostly been going around naked. Or maybe the author had forgotten that they already had clothes. However, there would be nothing to stop them getting more.]

Later, Goar and Incident return to their box. Incident needs to sleep; she hadn’t got much sleep the previous night. She wants Goar to lie next to her to keep her warm, but not to distract her from sleeping. She suggests that Goar should practise sensing the animals.

Maybe the animals could do something interesting, like rescuing a damsel in distress. Incident focuses and locates such a damsel, but she is some distance away; Bird will have to be the rescuer.

She calls Bird and gives him this task. Goar will be in touch with him mentally. The location is half an hour away as the roc flies. So Bird transforms into the roc and flies off.

Bird arrives at the location and finds the distressed maiden locked in an isolated tower. He transforms into his sparrow form and lands on the window sill. The girl is wearing a little gold crown; she is a princess! She is delighted to see him.

Goar advises him mentally to take a form that can talk her language. Bird transforms into a junior bird man – essentially a man with wings. He explains that he is a bird who can take the form of any bird. She replies that she loves birds.

She says that she is Princess Birdie – that is her nickname. She is of the Shee, known in Mundania as the Sidhe, a species of Light Elves.

She loves all kinds of birds, but her father, the King, complains that they eat the crops and poop on the rugs. So he has confined her here to keep her out of mischief. Also for her refusal to settle down and marry a prince and have lots of babies. But she would be willing to marry a prince who loves birds as she does.

Bird wonders if there is any way she can placate her father. She says she can if she marries a prince of his choosing, or one she finds herself.

Then Birdie proposes that Bird marries her. If he can transform into any kind of bird, maybe he can become a king bird, and this would meet her father’s requirements. Bird transforms into a kingbird, and then back into the junior bird man.

Bird is uncertain, but Birdie proceeds to seduce him, and soon there was no question: they are destined to be together.

Birdie wants to meet his folks. So Bird exits the window and transforms into the roc. Birdie climbs onto his back, and they start flying. The trip will take a while, so Birdie wants to learn about Bird’s friends. Bird can’t speak the human language in this form, but Birdie has a bird talk translation spell, so she is able to understand his squawks. By the time they reach the box, Birdie knows all about the members of the team.

When they arrive, the team members greet Birdie and introduce themselves.

Then Birdie thinks she must return to the royal castle and settle with her father. They all climb onto the roc’s back and set off.

Finally they arrive and land in front of the castle. But a volley of arrows greet them. Maybe they don’t know it’s the princess. Birdie calls out to her father and waves her handkerchief. But the King sees her and orders the archers to destroy them. It seems he would rather see his daughter dead than give in to her rebellion.

Turtle has had enough. He expands to mountainous size and crashes through the castle walls.

But now there is no point in staying. They climb onto the roc’s back again, and set off on the return journey. Birdie says this probably means she is no longer a princess. Incident tells her she is still welcome to stay with them; their interest in her was because she was a distressed maiden, not because she was a princess. And Bird still wants to marry her.

Incident explains that they intend to retire soon. But when they do they will lose their powers. And they don’t want to until Goar’s situation is resolved.

Birdie wonders what Goar has to do to earn Squid and Larry’s forgiveness. Maybe she can use her skills as a negotiator to find out.

Goar touches his anklet and thinks, “Please.” Fornax appears, riding on the roc with them.

Birdie explains how the team have helped her, and that she wants to return the favour. She asks how Goar can earn his forgiveness. Fornax replies that that is indeterminate. Squid and Larry will know it when they see it.

Birdie then points out that when Goar earns his forgiveness, his friends will be able to retire, but then they will lose their powers. This seems like a punishment for his friends for helping him. Goar might try harder if he knew there would be no such punishment.

Fornax pauses for a moment and then says that they would retain their powers. Then she disappears.

But then Fornax returns. She tells Birdie that the people of her kingdom did not like what the King had done, and have deposed him and confined him to his quarters. They now want Birdie to return and they will offer her the crown. (Goar believes that Fornax may have been responsible for this situation.) Fornax disappears again.

Belatedly, Goar thinks he should have asked Fornax for chaos bombs for his companions. Then he hears Fornax’s mental thought: they have each been granted three chaos bombs.

The roc changes course and flies back towards the Shee kingdom.

This time the team are welcomed. In due course they leave Birdie to organise the kingdom, which will take a month or so. After that Bird will go back to marry her.

They fly to an island in a lake. Incident says that now that they are beautiful, and know they will retain their powers, maybe they should retire and help Goar win his forgiveness.

But Goar says he thinks that something else is going on: something big that they don’t know about, which is why the Demoness is getting involved. Retiring now might precipitate something they are not prepared for.

Then he explains to them all about the chaos bombs, and how to detonate them.

Now Incident thinks they should organise girlfriends for Rabbit and Turtle. This would prepare them for retirement. She decides to orient on distressed maidens, starting with a rabbit girl. Goar can help Rabbit mentally as he had with Bird.

She locates a lady rabbit in trouble. But the location is some distance away, and there seems to be a time limit. Bird becomes the roc again and they climb on board. They fly to a clearing near a mountain range.

Rabbit sets off for the indicated location. Goar is mentally tuned in to him, and sees what Rabbit sees.

Rabbit comes to a cave. But then Rabbit says it is a rabbit hole – very old and very large. He enters and comes to a larger cavern. He sees a woman there, with long rabbit ears, sitting on the floor, sobbing.

Goar consults with Incident, who says she must be a rabbit/human crossbreed. Rabbit transforms into Beetle Bunny and explains to the girl he had come to rescue her.

She says her name is Ruby Rabbit. Her parents – a male rabbit and a human woman – had run afoul of a love spring, resulting in Ruby’s delivery. But she hasn’t been able to fit into either the rabbit community or the human community. She can transform between human and rabbit, but she maintains the same mass. So she becomes a small human or a giant rabbit.

Then she had heard of a magic mushroom, in a footlocker in a cave, which enables a person to become large or small, but with their mass in proportion to their size. Nibbling one side of the mushroom makes a person bigger; nibbling the other makes them smaller. She had a map which had led her to this cave.

She had found the locker. It was transparent, and she could see and smell the mushroom, but when she tried to open it, it had transformed into a manacle and had locked onto her left foreleg (in human terms, her left wrist). It had become a foot locker in the sense of locking onto a person’s foot. She was now chained to the floor. There is a key on the wall, but it is out of reach.

Incident warns Rabbit that it could be a trap. Rabbit thinks it might be meant to trap the rescuer; then they would have two rabbits instead of one. But why would someone do this?

Ruby says they have done it to take possession of lucky rabbits’ feet.

At that point a white rabbit appears, holding a watch and saying, “I’m late! I’m late!” He takes no notice of them, but runs from the entrance to the exit, which takes him further into the mountain.

Rabbit has a solution. When he touches the key, it will probably set off an alarm, so they will need to act swiftly. He will expand to giant size and take and use the key without crossing the chamber. When he unlocks the manacle, and it changes back into the footlocker, Ruby should grab the mushroom. Rabbit will fool their captors by transforming into something unexpected, and Ruby should race for the exit.

Rabbit expands to Giant Rabbit size. He removes the key from its hook and puts it to the lock on Ruby’s wrist. It unlocks and the manacle converts to the footlocker. He puts the key back and shrinks back to normal size.

A grim-looking hare appears. Rabbit transforms into a Welsh rabbit, a dish of melted cheese on toast. The hare is confused.

Ruby recognises him; he is the March Hare and is crazy.

In his current form, Rabbit can’t speak, but Goar projects his thought and tells Ruby to get out. She races for the exit. But she has taken the wrong exit – the one that leads further into the mountain.

Rabbit turns back into his Beetle Bunny form and runs after her.

They find themselves in a weird landscape; it looks like a child’s painting. There is a castle in the distance. They take a path that leads away from the castle. They find a garden with various strange things, and then a bog with gators.

Then they are confronted by a royally garbed queen, with hearts on her robes. She orders her henchmen, “Off with their feet!” The henchmen advance.

Rabbit sets off his chaos bomb, and the henchmen run around aimlessly. The Queen falls over with her legs in the air.

And then the scene fades. Rabbit and Ruby find themselves outside the cave, with Goar, Incident, Bird and Turtle.

It takes a while for them to work out what had happened. The magic mushroom had given first Ruby, and then Rabbit, hallucinations. Everything apart from the mushroom and the footlocker had been illusion. And since Goar and Incident were locked into Rabbit’s perception, they experienced the illusion as well.

Bird and Turtle had realised something was wrong. They had guided Goar and Incident, unresisting, toward the cave. Then Bird had anchored his claws to the ground and flapped his wings to blow the fumes away.

Turtle, holding his breath, had entered the cave and seen the two unresponsive rabbits, with Ruby chained to the floor. He had seen skeletons and decaying bodies around the cave, all missing their feet. Transforming to his Ninja Turtle form, he had taken the key from the wall and unlocked Ruby’s manacle. Then he had used his shell to nudge Rabbit and Ruby, to guide them out of the cave.

Incident greets Ruby and introduces her to the others. She asks Ruby if she wants to stay with them. She knows Rabbit would like her to. Ruby says she will stay; she owes her life to them.

Incident asks Ruby if she still wants the magic mushroom. It is still in the footlocker. But Ruby doesn’t want to have that hallucination again.

Goar says the smell of the mushroom was probably polluted by the decaying bodies in the cave, and the mushroom would be quite safe when removed from that environment. It would be useful to have something that enables them to change sizes. And removing it will prevent other people being caught in the trap.

So Rabbit goes back into the cave, holding his breath, and gets the mushroom from the locker. And he leaves a chaos bomb in its place; he hadn’t actually used one before; it had been part of the hallucination. He returns and presents the mushroom to Ruby.

She tries it out, nibbling the different sides of the mushroom, and expanding to giant size, then shrinking to imp size, and then back to normal. (Presumably the mushroom keeps renewing itself, so it doesn’t become consumed.)

They spend the rest of the day getting to know Ruby.

The next day, Incident says she has been trying to find a lady turtle in distress for Turtle. She has picked up a signal, but there is something strange about it; the person she has located is certainly in distress, but Incident is not sure she is really a turtle.

Bird says he is satisfied with Princess Birdie, and Rabbit says he is happy with a rabbit/human crossbreed. Turtle says his girlfriend doesn’t have to be a full turtle, if she is anything like Incident.

They have to go some distance, towards the sea, so they fly there on the roc. They land on a rocky promontory. Their destination seems to be underground. Bird transforms into a seagull and flies along the shoreline. He locates a cave.

In order not to be caught in a trap like that of the magic mushroom, they decide that Goar will track Turtle, and Incident will track Goar.

Turtle plunges into the water and finds a passageway through the rock wall. It leads to an air cave. There is a human woman there. He transforms into his ninja form so he can talk to her.

He says he is looking for a distressed lady turtle.

She says her name is Terza. She is the only person here. And she is a distressed lady. She is trapped in this cave and can’t get out. She can’t swim very well.

Turtle communicates with Goar: is this the wrong place? Goar replies that Incident says it is the right place and the right maiden.

Turtle asks the girl how she came to be there. She says she doesn’t know. She has amnesia. There are some cards here with writing, which tell her she has amnesia. She thinks she must have written them herself.

Turtle is suspicious of this. He talks to her, relaying some of the thoughts Goar and Incident are sending him. Terza recognises one of his comments as originating from a female mind. Turtle replies that that came from Incident. But that means that Terza is reading his mind. She is a telepath! She says she hadn’t realised that.

But now Turtle is forgetting things. He calls out in alarm to Goar and Incident.

Goar thinks that there is gas or magic in the cave which causes people to lose their memories.

Turtle tells Terza about his companions. Terza asks to communicate with Incident. Incident tells Turtle to hold Terza’s hand to facilitate the mental contact.

And as Incident and Terza communicate, Incident detects that Terza is in fact a turtle. Incident finds a hidden memory: when she was a hatchling, she had scrambled across the sand towards the sea to escape a hungry bird.

And Terza remembers that, and realises that she is a turtle. She is now too big to be caught by any bird except for a roc. Terza’s form changes and she now has the appearance of a turtle.

She had lost her memory because of the ambiance of the cave. But the cards had told her she was human, and she believed it. And because of her strong telepathic ability, she had projected an image of a human.

Now that she knows she is a turtle, she joins Turtle as he swims back through the sea to the shore, and meets up with the others. Incident introduces them all to her.

Incident explains that she is slightly telepathic; she can sense her friends from a distance, and orient on other people she needs to locate. But Terza’s telepathic powers are a lot stronger.

Terza says she had detected a powerful mental signal, which had drawn her to the cave.

Goar and Incident think the cave was set up as a trap. The people who set it up must have wanted a telepathic sea creature who could also operate on land.

Turtle says there are kingdoms in the sea. He knows of one that has aspirations to expand onto the land. Maybe they were trying to recruit her.

Incident asks if Terza wants to stay with them. Terza says she does: Turtle had saved her. (She is a bit nervous of Bird, because of her past experience, but gradually gets over that.)

At that point they see a flight of dragons approaching them. They must be from the sea kingdom who had hoped to recruit Terza.

Goar removes his clothing and the magic socks, and becomes the killer golem. He takes a bite of Ruby’s mushroom and becomes fifty feet tall. He shouts out to the dragons that if they attack, he will destroy them. But they keep coming. He slices them with his circular saws and kills them all.

Then biting the opposite side of the mushroom, he shrinks back to his normal size.

Now a small sea dragon approaches them. She wants to parlay. Her name is Doris Dragon and she is from the Sea Kingdom. She explains to Terza that there are job opportunities for telepaths in the Sea Kingdom, and she would have the company of other telepaths. Terza is tempted, but turns down the offer. Doris departs.

Terza says she had detected that Doris was sincere. But Terza couldn’t trust the motives of the rulers of the Sea Kingdom.

Bird transforms into the roc, and flies them away from there.

Incident wonders why Doris had yielded so readily, after the ferocity of the attack of the other dragons.

Terza says she thinks Doris was directed to by her superiors.

Incident thinks they should discuss this with a ruler, specifically Queen Birdie. So Bird flies to the Shee kingdom.

When they arrive at the castle, Queen Birdie comes to greet them. Incident introduces the additions to their group: Ruby Rabbit and Terza Turtle.

Realising they have something serious to discuss, Birdie conducts them into a pavilion in the aviary. Incident tells her about their experience with the Sea Kingdom.

Birdie says the Sea Kingdom had tried the hard touch, and then the soft touch. They will surely now try something else. She whispers something to a pigeon, and it flies off.

She says the Sea Kingdom might kidnap someone Terza values, such as Turtle. Or they might set a trap to eliminate the group, so they can’t interfere with their plans for Terza. Birdie had read the manual on Empire SOP (Standard Operating Procedure) and knows the sort of things that can be done.

And no doubt the Sea Kingdom had marked Terza in some way, so they know where the group is at all times. Terza’s mind has probably been imprinted with markers that can be tracked, such as her meeting with Doris.

The pigeon returns with a note. Birdie says she had sent it to her researcher to find out what the Sea Kingdom was planning.

The note tells her that the Sea Kingdom had made an alliance with the Godforsaken Goblin clan. They plan to commence a conquest of Xanth on two fronts, sea and land, working together. And the Shee Kingdom is right between them, and would likely be the first to be overrun.

Incident says she might be able to use her powers to orient on a key person who could defeat this plan. This will take a while while she focuses.

Birdie says that meanwhile she has errands to attend to. The rest of them can explore the garden.

Birdie returns just as Incident is completing her mental search.

Incident tells them that she had located a goblin girl. She has some kind of problem, and is hiding. She is critical to their mission; somehow she can stop the war of conquest. The team must go and find her.

Birdie suggests that Ruby and Terza remain with her. They would be good company for her. But also because Terza is being tracked. The Sea Kingdom will probably assume that the rest of the team will be with Terza, and will not detect their real location. The team should leave inconspicuously during the banquet to follow. Ruby gives Incident the mushroom, as they might need it for the mission.

During the banquet, Birdie surreptitiously passes something into Goar’s hand, telling him there are instructions with it, and to keep it a secret until afterwards.

Then the five team members leave the castle secretly. At a suitable distance, Bird transforms into the roc, and flies them in the direction of the signal, keeping to the clouds as much as possible.

Goar looks at the object Birdie had given him. It is a locket, with a capsule and a note with instructions. He reads the instructions, then chews and swallows the note.

They approach the Godforsaken Goblin mound. But the signal is coming from the nearby troll village. They land near it.

They find a very ugly goblin girl, digging a hole to bury garbage. This is strange, because female goblins are usually beautiful, while male goblins are ugly.

Incident introduces herself, and says she wants to talk to her.

The girl isn’t interested; she just wants to do her work. She was rejected by the goblin mound because of her ugliness, and was only able to get a job doing menial work for the trolls.

Incident tells Rabbit to dig a hole for her, which he does. This will give them time to talk.

The girl says her name is Gusta, which means majestic or sacred.

Incident tells her about the coming war. But Gusta knows about the war, and can’t think what she can do about it. Incident is at a loss.

Goar introduces himself and, coming face to face with a handsome man, Gusta becomes more willing to be helpful. Goar asks her about the significance of her name.

Gusta says she came from a royal family. Her mother was one of the handmaids to the mother of Gustave, the current goblin king of the clan. Gusta and Gustave were both delivered to the royal suite at the same time. They may have both been delivered by the same stork. So she is the same age as the king. If she had been beautiful, she might have been the king’s companion or mistress.

Incident says she had read a story where a boy and a girl received the wrong names. It had taken forever to find each other so they could swap them back. (This, no doubt, refers to the fairies, John and Joan, in the story “Ogre, Ogre”.) Maybe Gusta and Gustave had their appearances swapped. She asks Gusta what King Gustave looks like.

Gusta says she has never seen him. He is very secretive. Incident suggests that he is attractive, like a goblin female, and that is why he remains in hiding.

Incident invites Gusta to come with them.

A troll appears, asking Gusta why she is taking so long. Goar tells him that Gusta has found other employment and she is leaving. The troll tries to beat Goar up, but only succeeds in hurting his fists against Goar’s robot body.

Incident tells Gusta that she, Incident, may have the ability to swap Gusta’s and Gustave’s appearances. She uses her orientation talent to find the goblin king’s location in the goblin mound.

But first they get Gusta to strip and wash in a pool. Bird fetches new clothes for her from a clothing grove.

Rabbit has scouted out a safe way to the goblin mound, avoiding the goblin guards. Bird flies them all there. Then they all take bites of the mushroom. Rabbit shrinks down to mouse size, and the rest of them to flea size. They get onto Rabbit’s back, and he takes them through the passages of the goblin mound to the king’s quarters.

Goar gives Gusta the capsule from the locket, telling her in a whisper to swallow it. It is a love potion; the king will fall in love with her when he touches her. Gusta obeys.

The door to the royal suite is locked. A meal is waiting there. Rabbit shrinks down to flea size, and they all hide in the cookie jar. Soon a servant carries the tray into the suite, and departs.

The king emerges and takes the tray into his room. When Incident thinks the king isn’t looking, the team emerges, revert to their normal sizes and hide in the shadows.

Then Incident addresses the king, who quickly covers his face with a mask.

Incident tells him that she believes him to be handsome, and that he and the goblin girl Gusta had had their appearances swapped when they were delivered. She believes that she can swap their appearances back to what they should be. She says she is telepathic, and invites him to read her mind to confirm that she is sincere. He does so. (And since Incident doesn’t know about the love potion, the king doesn’t find out about it.)

Incident calls Gusta forward. She tells them to hold hands, and she puts her hands on top of theirs and concentrates. And the change occurs: the king becomes ugly and Gusta becomes beautiful. And the king falls in love with Gusta. He kisses her and says she will be his queen.

The king asks Incident how he can repay her. She says he must call off the war of conquest. Gusta pleads with him to do so, and the king agrees.

The team departs.

Smoke & Smog
They arrive back at Shee Castle. Birdie says there is a message for Goar from Squid, which she thinks originates from Demoness Fornax. It is that he will gain significant favour by enlisting the smoker dragons in the defence of Xanth. Xanth will soon be under attack from aliens. The team is assigned the task of enlisting the Godforsaken Goblins, the Sea Kingdom and the Smoker Dragons.

Enlisting the Smoker Dragons will be the hardest, so they should do that first. Gusta Goblin will no doubt agree to their request, so the goblins will be on board, and Terza can contact Doris Dragon for the Sea Kingdom, and point out that once the aliens conquer the land of Xanth, they will turn their attention to the sea.

They decide to take just the core group of five to the Smoker Dragon Kingdom. The roc flies them to the border, as a roc flying over dragon territory might be seen as a threat. Bird, Rabbit and Turtle shrink to pocket size and are carried in Goar and Incident’s pockets. Goar and Incident sprout their wings and fly to the castle. They are conducted in to Dragon Queen Smote.

Incident begins explaining their mission, but the queen wants Goar to speak. The queen transforms from dragon to human, and attempts to seduce Goar. Goar remains loyal to Incident, but diplomatically he tells the queen he does not want to be distracted from his mission.

Smote tells them she will commit to the defence against the aliens, if the team provide her with a Spinosaurus as a pet.

Turtle, concealed in Goar’s pocket, mentally advises him that a Spinosaurus is a large ancient reptile – a dinosaur – which would likely gobble Smote up. Furthermore, they died out 100 million years ago. Goar repeats his words to Smote.

Smote says that they should bring her an egg. If the creature was raised from the egg, it would see her as its mother. And she believes they are capable of time travel.

Incident says they will see what they can do.

They fly back to the border, and switch to travel by roc to return to the Shee Kingdom.

As they fly, Incident tells Goar that time travel is one of the lesser exploited powers of the Oma. There is the chance of paradox. But since the dinosaurs died out 65 million years ago, any change to the timeline would have little effect on the present day.

She says Turtle can focus on an ancient relative of the time, and she will get a fix on that time, and they will travel back to that time. They will not actually interfere with that ancient relative; it will just be to orient on the time period. That time in Mundania was before science and magic separated, so they should both work. And they will need to get the advice of an expert on the Spinosaurus.

They arrive back at Shee Castle.

Incident orients on a Spinosaurus expert; she finds one in Mundania; her name is Sarah Spinel; they will go there to visit her.

She says that they will not have their powers in Mundania. They will not be able speak the Mundane language, and will not be able to change shape. Maybe Terza can help with her telepathic power; Incident thinks it will work in Mundania.

It is decided that Goar and Terza will go. Terza bites the mushroom and shrinks to pocket size. Goar puts her in his pocket.

[In the events that follow, Goar and Terza travel physically to Mundania, not as ghosts. Incident had previously said this was not possible, when the team took the trip to prevent the nuclear explosion. There is no explanation given why it is now possible, or how Incident knows it is possible.

This physical travel to Mundania is more like the trip Fornax took Goar and Incident on in the future reality. Or like other trips characters from Xanth have taken to Mundania in previous books: these generally occurred before Xanth became a separate world in its own right.

I can think of two possible explanations:

  1. Since they are on a mission for Fornax, she has made it possible. Maybe she had advised them of this in her message.
  2. Incident has discovered this power to send team members to Mundania physically, a power she had not previously known she had.

The inability to speak the Mundane language has occurred in previous books. Why wasn’t it an issue in their trip to prevent the nuclear explosion? I think they were able to communicate because of Incident’s telepathic ability.]

The roc flies them to a suitable location in Xanth. Incident tells Goar he must persuade Sarah to come to Xanth. He should use his manly charms on her if he has to.

Rabbit digs a hole, and Goar crosses into Mundania. The air is full of smog.

Incident had given Terza the location, so Terza telepathically guides Goar to Sarah’s apartment. Goar knocks, and Sarah comes to the door.

Goar tries to introduce himself (Terza is translating telepathically), but Sarah is not interested; she is busy working on a paper. Terza tells Goar to kiss her; Sarah has a fantasy of being kissed by a handsome stranger. So he does.

Now Goar tells her that they need help with a Spinosaurus. That raises her interest.

He tells her about the Land of Xanth, the smoker dragon and her demand for the Spino egg. Then he tells her they are communicating via a telepathic turtle, and shows Terza to her.

Sarah is finding all of this hard to believe. Goar asks her to come to Xanth and meet Incident and her animal companions.

Sarah asks what they offer in return for her assistance. Goar asks what she most desires. She says she wants to become the chairperson of her university department. As a woman she faces the Glass Ceiling. She needs to write a truly phenomenal paper to achieve this.

Goar says that if she comes with him, she will get a chance to see a live Spinosaurus when they travel back in time to fetch the egg. She can write a paper about what she experiences. (The mention of time travel adds another element to Sarah’s incredulity.)

But Sarah is willing to give it a go, and she drives them back to the rabbit hole in her car. They cross into Xanth. Sarah is impressed with the fresh air, in contrast to the smog back home.

(In Xanth, Terza does not need to translate, as the magic of Xanth enables all people to understand the human language.)

They meet up with Incident and her companions; Incident does the introductions.

Sarah asks to see some magic, so Incident shows her how the animals can change form.

Sarah asks that Terza stay with her, to clarify things as she encounters them. Goar transfers Terza to Sarah’s pocket.

Goar tells Sarah that the Land of Xanth is largely made of puns. They see some timbre wolves (not timber wolves); the wolves sing in four-part harmony.

Bird transforms into the roc and flies them all to Shee Castle. Sarah is introduced to Queen Birdie and Ruby Rabbit.

Incident sits down with Sarah and tells her about the plan to travel to the distant past to fetch the egg. Sarah tells the team details about the Spinosaurus and the period it lived in. The Spinosaurus was probably the largest carnivorous dinosaur, with the jaws of a crocodile, front claws like a bear, hind feet of a mud dweller and a sail on its back.

They decide to use the core group, plus Sarah and Terza.

The seven of them gather in a guarded private room, with a ceiling that shows the sky above. Turtle grows to giant size, and the rest of them nestle together inside his shell, in contact so that they will stay together as they travel in time.

Incident says that when they travel in time, they must stay in a fixed location physically.

Turtle focuses on his ancestor of the time of their destination. Incident tunes in on his mind and the rest of them tune in on Incident; in Sarah’s case, she is linked to Incident via Terza.

The sun appears to go backward in the sky. (They are seeing this through Turtle’s eyes.) It becomes faster and faster, until they can no longer distinguish day and night. Finally they stop.

They will have to come back to the same spot, so Incident marks it with a pointed stick stuck in the ground.

The air is hot and steamy, and there are strange animals and plants. Incident focuses on a Spinosaurus, and they head off in the indicated direction.

[This time there is no explicit crossing into Mundania. How have they managed to get there by just travelling in time? I think the explanation is that Xanth and Mundania have a shared history.

The chronology of Xanth begins with the arrival of Demon Xanth. I think that the Demon arrived on Planet Earth, and the region that he settled in developed into the Land of Xanth, and became somewhat separate from Mundania, but still connected somehow to Planet Earth. It was still possible for people to cross physically between Mundania and Xanth, until Xanth became a separate world at the end of “Air Apparent”. So Xanth’s history before Demon Xanth arrived is also the history of Earth/Mundania. And the Age of the Dinosaurs is apparently before Demon Xanth’s arrival.]

Before long they arrive where the Spinosaurus is snoozing in the sun, in the shallow margin of the sea. Sarah admires it, and comments on how its sail regulates its body temperature.

Incident points to where there is a clutch of eggs, in the muddy water. Goar goes and picks one up: it is leathery, and is the size of an ostrich egg.

But the Spinosaurus hadn’t been asleep. She jumps and races to attack him. There follows a period of running and dodging, with the animal companions intervening. Turtle transforms into various ancient reptiles to try and discourage the Spinosaurus’s pursuit.

They finally make it back to their departure point before the Spinosaurus catches them, and start the return journey through time.

But then they hear a knocking sound. The baby dinosaur is starting to break out of its shell.

They arrive back in the present, in Shee Castle. But now the baby dinosaur is emerging from the shell. Sarah takes the egg from Goar, and cuddles the little creature.

But there is the possibility of imprinting: the dinosaur may fix on Sarah as its mother.

Bird transforms into the roc, and Goar, Incident, Sarah and Terza get on board, and they fly to the Smoker Dragon Castle. Queen Smote comes to meet them.

They explain that the baby dinosaur may have imprinted on Sarah. Sarah tries to hand the creature over, but he turns back to Sarah.

The guard dragons threaten to direct their smoke at Sarah. But Goar quickly suggests that Smote hire Sarah as the creature’s nanny. As he grows, he will lose his need for a nanny, and go to the one which feeds him.

Smote pauses for a moment and then accepts Goar’s argument.

They enter the castle, where the central court has been set up as a steamy jungle, as the habitat for the baby Spinosaurus. Smote orders a servant to set up a human-style chamber for Sarah.

Smote tells Incident that she will abide by the agreement and the smoker dragons would defend their part of the border when the invasion comes.

Incident tells Sarah that when she is ready to go home to Mundania, she should mentally focus on Incident, and Incident would come for her. In the meantime, Sarah would have a chance to study the baby Spinosaurus, and write her paper.

Goar, Incident and Terza return outside, and the roc flies them back to Shee Castle.

When they arrive, Queen Birdie comes out to meet them. She tells them the invasion has started.

Her people had been in contact with the other kingdoms, and a cooperative defence has been organised. Queen Gusta had acknowledged, so King Gustave would get a war after all. Terza still has to contact Doris Dragon to get the Sea Kingdom involved. (Presumably she does so at this point, although it is not explicitly mentioned.)

The invaders are the kingdom of Bug-Eyed Monsters, or BEMs. Until now they had only been a threat to fantasy conventions in Mundania, but now they are attacking in earnest.

Birdie had heard from King Ivy of the human kingdom of Xanth. They would be defending their territory. However there is an uncharted border which no one is in a position to defend.

Incident volunteers her team to defend that border.

Birdie tells them of a spell that had been found in the arsenal. No one quite knows how it works. It is a five-minute forward flash spell. When you invoke it, it shows what will happen in the next five minutes, so if necessary you can change your strategy.

Goar thinks that might be useful. A servant brings out a box containing the spell, which is in the form of a copper bracelet.

They get ready to leave. The core team plus Ruby and Terza would be coming. Bird transforms into the roc and they all get on board. They take off.

As they fly, Incident tries out the spell, invoking it by rubbing the bracelet. They get some sense of how it works, but it is hard to know how useful it would be.

As they approach their destination, they see the vast BEM army, spread out like a carpet on the land.

There are five places where the BEMs could get through:

  1. A straight, level and broad path, but with poison ivy, poison oak etc on either side.
  2. A pass over a high mountain.
  3. A path across a dismal bog.
  4. A highly curvaceous path twisting around the slopes of hills and ponds.
  5. A path through a thick jungle. This jungle is haunted; it has all kinds of spooks. But if a person stays on the path they are all right.

The team discusses ways they can stop the BEMs passing on each of the five paths.

They notice that the army has stopped moving. Terza says she can read the mind of their chief. It is late in the day, and the army is setting up camp for the night.

Goar has an idea. He thinks they might be able to talk to the chief and persuade him not to proceed. They can make use of the five-minute forward flash spell.

They land at the BEM camp. Goar and Incident wave a white flag of parlay. Rabbit, Ruby and Turtle are miniaturised and hidden in their pockets. Bird takes off again, carrying Terza.

Two BEM soldiers approach. Incident tells the soldiers to take them to their leader. The soldiers take them to their headquarters, where they meet Bezoar BEMking. He eyes Incident lecherously; BEMs are fond of groping human females.

Incident says there are only five paths leading into Xanth proper. Their telepath (Terza) is currently located at Path 1. She would project an image of each path in turn. Bezoar should picture the army moving along the path, and the telepath would animate the image with the details from his mind. Incident would imagine the team’s defence, which would be included in the projection. They are using the five-minute forward flash spell to show what would happen.

    • Path 1: The BEM soldiers can be seen marching along the path, four abreast. Incident appears and flashes her panties at the first four soldiers. They freak out, freezing in place. The soldiers behind march over them, only to be freaked out as well. Soon the path becomes completely blocked.
    • Path 2: The BEM soldiers are marching up the mountain. Bird, in his roc form, is perched on a boulder on the mountain peak. He spreads his wings and tugs at the boulder. The boulder rolls down the hill and smashes into the BEMs, killing them. The roc flies and fetches another boulder, and repeats the process with the BEM soldiers that follow.
    • Path 3: The BEM soldiers march along the path. Goar appears in his killer golem form. He attacks them with his circular saws, slicing them to bits. The body parts that fall into the bog are eaten by the bog predators.
    • Path 4: The soldiers march along the curving path. Ahead they see Ruby in her rabbit form. She digs a rabbit hole, jumps in and disappears. But the rabbit hole appears to be no threat; it is only big enough for a rabbit. But as the soldiers reach the hole, they fall in, and this continues as the column proceeds. After all the soldiers disappear into the hole, Ruby emerges. (What they don’t realise is that Rabbit has dug a much bigger hole and covered it over with branches and leaves.)
    • Path 5: The BEM soldiers march along the path. To the sides of the path are all kinds of nasty spooks. Sirens beckon the BEMs, and some of the BEMs go to them. But the sirens morph into horrible zombies and bite their limbs off. The rest of the army keep to the path.

Turtle is ahead in the path in his moderately small size. But as the BEMs approach, Turtle gets larger and fills the path. They try to climb over him, but he shakes them off and the spooks get them. They try to lift him, but he is too heavy.

So all of the projected visions have resulted in defeat for the BEMs. Either enraged or tempted beyond reason, Bezoar grabs at Incident. But she flashes him with her panties and he freezes. Goar and Incident depart.

The roc arrives with Terza, and Goar and Incident get on board. They fly to a suitable location nearby where they can camp for the night. Several times during the night, Bird (as the roc), flies out with Terza on board to check that the BEMs are not advancing. Between checks, the companions and their girlfriends spend time together. Bird flies back to Shee Castle and brings Birdie back, so they can be together. And Goar and Incident spend time together too.

In the morning, Goar and Incident spread their wings and check the BEM camp. But the BEMs have all departed.

A bit later, Bird and Terza arrive and report that some of the BEMs have returned. But they are not passing along the five paths; they are building two bridges across a chasm that the team had thought was impassible.

Goar and Incident go to look. The BEMs had fired arrows into trees across the chasm, trailing lines. They were now using those lines to guide heavier lines. Then they would send some BEMs across to anchor the ropes and build the bridges.

There are two groups of BEMs, one group for each bridge. One group is all male, the other is all female. They must have done this so that one of the groups could not be freaked out by Incident flashing her panties.

Incident can flash the group of males. But she tells Goar that he can freak out the group of females, by doing a strip dance. It works on females if they are stupid enough and the man is handsome enough. She teaches him how to do a bump and grind.

So they set off to flash the two groups of BEMs. But when Goar arrives at his designated group, he realises that they have gone to the wrong groups.

But it is too late now. He goes into his bump and grind routine. The male BEMs laugh so much they lose their footing and fall into the chasm.

He goes to see how Incident is doing. It has turned into a class. Incident is doing her sexy dance, and all the female BEMs are copying her.

A group of male BEMs turn up to see how the bridges are going, and the female BEMs all flash them, freaking them out. The female BEMs depart, dragging the male BEMs behind them. From now on the female BEMs will be able to flash the male BEMs, and the male BEMs will be less likely to go after human women.

The invasion of the BEMs has been halted.

They board the roc to fly back to Shee Castle.

Goar is concerned again about whether he can earn Squid’s forgiveness. Incident thinks there must be some chance, otherwise Fornax would not have helped him.

Terza says she thinks there is some way, since she has detected Squid coming into range. She must be approaching the castle. And then she realises it is not Squid, it is Laurelai.

They land at the castle. A servant comes out and tells Birdie that there is a visitor. Birdie says they will meet her in the main audience hall. She asks the servant to set up refreshments.

They gather in the audience hall. Goar goes to speak to Laurelai. She tells him his looks have improved. He says he has been rewarded for doing good deeds. And then he notices something about her: she is hosting Demoness Fornax.

Goar returns to his seat. He sees Birdie confer with Laurelai.

Then Laurelai addresses the group. She mentions how Goar had murdered Squid and Larry – that is, the versions that originated in this reality. (And of course since Larry and Laurelai are the one person, the Laurelai of this reality had died as well.) But Goar had been under the control of the two Dwarf Demons.

Larry is Laurelai’s male counterpart. Laurelai momentarily transforms into Larry, and then back again. She says that she and Squid had been brought by Demoness Fornax from another reality to investigate the murders and to substitute for their counterparts. Once their business is complete, they will return to their own reality.

But they believe there was another Demon behind the two Dwarf Demons, who was motivating them, both in the murders, and in the Dwarf Demons’ earlier attempt to capture Caprice Castle and Fibot. The murders were in retaliation for Squid’s involvement in the earlier case. But that Demon remains anonymous.

Demons perform games in order to gain Status. According to the rules of these games, if the unknown Demon is not identified by tomorrow, the Demon statute of limitations will expire, and he will no longer be accountable for his actions. But if they are able to identify him and call him out, he must manifest or lose in status.

This hall has been chosen for the finale. They will have a square dance. There will be four couples:

  • Goar and Incident. (As his name is mentioned, Goar realises that this will be his chance to earn forgiveness.)
  • Beetle Bunny and Ruby Rabbit in human form.
  • Bird Man and Birdie.
  • and Larry and Squid, who will be coming tomorrow.

Ninja Turtle will call the dance, and Terza Turtle will track the four couples mentally. There may be an intrusion tomorrow.

But now they are going to have a rehearsal. Ninja and Terza (mentally projecting her human persona) will substitute for Larry and Squid for the rehearsal, and Laurelai will be the caller.

So they practise the dance. The next day they would have music and would be in costume.

Then Laurelai says she will name the guilty Demon. (Goar realises that is Fornax speaking now.) She addresses the unknown Demon, saying, “You are to be called to account for your crimes when the grace period ends tomorrow. If you do not appear for the hearing to defend your supposed innocence, you will lose your case by default.” And she names him, “Demon Oma.” (This is the Demon whom Incident and her animal companions serve.)

Now Fornax manifests in Laurelai’s body and says, “I, Demoness Fornax, charge you, Demon Oma, with the unwarranted killing of my host Laurelai, so it is personal.”

Laurelai transforms into Larry, and Demon Chaos manifests. He says, “I, Demon Chaos, charge you, Demon Oma, with the unwarranted killing of my host Larry, so it is personal.”

Larry transforms back into Laurelai, and tells the group they are dismissed. She departs.

The next day would be the showdown with Demon Oma.