Piers Anthony’s “Xanth” series: Ghost Writer in the Sky


Ghost Writer in the Sky (2017)

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

Night Colt
Goar is a night watchman and cleanup man for a Complaints Office.  He hates his job.  He really wants to be a writer, but all the stories he has submitted to publishers have been rejected.

One day he gets the news that his Great Uncle Hoarfrost has died, and in his will he has arranged that Goar will have an income, as long as he keeps writing, and submitting his stories each month to a listed Cloud Office.

Goar happily quits his job and attempts to write stories.  But none of the stories he starts to write are any good; he has writer’s block.

He has been trying all night.  When dawn approaches, he falls into a daze, and sees a black horse walk through the wall into his apartment.  The horse speaks to him telepathically; he tells Goar that he is the Night Colt from the Land of Xanth. He has a deal for Goar.

He tells Goar that the Night Stallion oversees the production of bad dreams, which are delivered by the Night Mares to their recipients.  Similarly the Day Mares deliver pleasant daydreams to people in the daytime.

The Night Colt has an ambition to take over the Night Stallion’s job some day.  But the Night Stallion eliminates or banishes any males he perceives as rivals.  The Night Colt wants to get practice in the delivering of dreams, but he can’t go abroad openly at night for fear that the Night Stallion will catch him, and he can’t do it during the day because he is a night horse.  The only times he can travel around are the half hour before dawn and the half hour after sunset.

The solution seems to be to deliver a dream before dawn, just before the sleeper awakes, which they will then act out during the day.  But he can’t craft dreams himself, which is why he has come to Goar.  Goar is bad at writing, but he can set the title and the opening scene, and then the affected people will act out the rest of the story, which Goar can then write up.

The Night Colt’s time is up; he says he will return at dusk, and disappears.

Goar picks up a book of fairy tales to get some ideas, but soon falls asleep.

He wakes up in the afternoon.  As dusk approaches, he falls into a daze, and the Night Colt arrives.  The Night Colt had meanwhile realised that only night mares can carry dreams.  Goar suggests that he can ride the Colt and distribute the stories.  The Colt says he does not have much substance; Goar could not ride him physically.  But a dream version of him could ride the Colt, while Goar’s sleeping body remains in Mundania.

In his dream state, Goar jumps on the Colt’s back, and the Colt flies into the sky.  Goar is the Ghost Writer in the Sky.

Princess Eve is following the path from her castle in Hades to Caprice Castle, where her twin sister Dawn lives.  (The sisters are 26 years old.) Dawn has asked her to come because she has something disturbing on her mind. But on the way Eve comes across a tavern on the path, which is surprising since it is a private path not open to other people.

Eve’s talent is to know everything about any inanimate object she touches.  Dawn’s talent is similar: she knows everything about any living creature she touches.

Eve tries to touch the tavern, and discovers it is illusion.  She enters the tavern, and realises it has become real.  Touching the wall, she realises she is locked in.  The room is full of males – human and humanoid creatures – drinking their beverages.

There is a mug on the table labelled “Princess Eve”.  There is also a sign floating in the air that says “The Princess and the Grog”.  She remembers she had had a dream about this the previous night.

She touches the mug and realises the grog contains the date-rape drug: it would make her drunk and incapable of saying no to anything anyone else suggests.  And it would wipe out her memory of the day.  And apparently the males in the tavern realise this.

She climbs on the table and mashes together the letters “GR” of the sign: it now says “The Princess and the Fog”.  The liquid in the mug turns to vapour and fills the room, affecting all the males.  In the meantime Eve jumps off the table, drops to her hands and knees, makes her way to the door and exits.  She continues on her way to Caprice Castle.

In the castle, she meets Dawn and her 5-year-old children Piton and Data.  She tells Dawn what had happened to her.

Dawn tells her that their cousin, Princess Rhythm, had had a similar strange experience the day before.  (Princesses Melody, Harmony and Rhythm are triplets, and are nearly 21 years old.)  Dawn plays back the scene on the magic mirror:

Princess Rhythm wakes up.  She has an urgent call of nature.  But she discovers her bed has 20 mattresses; there had only been one when she went to bed.  And there is a potty on the floor.

But she realises that none of this is right.  She has a sense that someone is watching her.  And there is a sign hanging in the air: “The Princess and the Pee”.  She cuts some shapes from the top mattress and adds two letters to the sign.  It now says, “The Princess and the Peeve”.

The call of nature has gone, but now she must visit the pet peeve.  (The peeve is the title character of the story “Pet Peeve”.  It is an obnoxious bird, constantly insulting people. Presumably it is still living with Grundy Golem and his wife Rapunzel.)  Rhythm leaves home, races through the jungle still in her nightie, and comes to the peeve’s home.

She discusses the situation with it.  Since she is a Sorceress, there must be something fairly powerful responsible for this.  The peeve says she should get help from the other princesses of her generation, so there would be 5 of them working on the problem.

Now Dawn tells Eve the other princesses are on their way.  And Caprice Castle is proof against spying.

Melody, Harmony and Rhythm arrive, with the peeve perched on Rhythm’s shoulder.  It flies off to play with Piton and Data.

Rhythm had done some research with Goggle, and discovered some other incidents: “Goldilocks and the Three Beers” and “The Three Little Prigs”.

Melody had done some research with Binge, and learned that a night colt is responsible.  He is planting the dreams during the twilight between night and day, which then affect the dreamers the following day.  The colt is in league with a Mundane writer, who is adapting the stories from Mundane fairy tales.  The colt is carrying the dream form of the writer, who is therefore like a ghost.

They need to stop the colt and the writer.  They will need someone from Mundania, who can appear as a ghost in Xanth, and in physical form in Mundania.  The princesses decide to create a picture, which is a portal from Mundania to Xanth, which will attract a suitable person.

Tartan is visiting an art gallery which is selling surplus paintings. (For the remainder of the book, Tartan is the point of view character.)  He finds an interesting painting, titled “Mystery”: it shows a jungle scene with a path leading through it.  There is some cryptic writing at the bottom.  He sits down on a bench opposite to look at it.

He is joined by a young woman, who also admires the painting.  Her name is Tara. They discover to their surprise that they both see the picture differently: he sees a jungle scene, but she sees a flower garden.

The scene looks so real, Tara reaches into it, and picks a petal from a flower.  But when she withdraws her hand, there is nothing in it.  Tartan does the same and picks up a leaf.  But again there is nothing in his hand when he withdraws it.  Could the painting be a portal to another place?

This makes them curious, so they pool their money and buy the painting.  Tara’s apartment is within walking distance, so they take the painting there.  They prop it against the wall opposite her bed.

After some hesitation, they decide to try stepping through the portal.  Tartan tries first, and finds himself in the jungle scene.  He tries touching a tree, but his hand passes through it.  He seems to be a ghost in this scene.  He steps back through the portal.

Tara repeats the process, and has the same experience, except that she is in the rose garden.

They join hands, and the cryptic writing now says “The Land of Xanth”.  They both step through the portal together.  Now the scene contains both the jungle and the rose garden.  But they still can’t touch anything.  They step back through the portal.

After they have a meal, they decide to experiment again.  But if they become ghosts when they step through the portal, what happens to their bodies?

Tartan steps through again.  He looks back and sees his body sitting next to Tara on the bed.  He points to it, and Tara sees it; she is surprised because she hadn’t seen it before.  She enters the portal, and now they can see both of their bodies sitting on the bed: alive but without awareness.

They also discover they can transfer their consciousness from their ghost selves to their physical bodies without having to step through the portal.

They decide to try again the next day, and Tartan returns to his home.

The next day, Tartan returns to Tara’s place and they step through the portal together.  They walk along the path.

They come to a sleeping dragon – which is a bit of a shock!  But they realise the dragon shouldn’t be able to harm them because they are ghosts.  Then they see a sign that says “Dragon”.  Maybe this is a guided tour.  And since there is a dragon here, the Land of Xanth must be a fantasy land.

Further along they see a goblin mound, a nickelpede crevice, an ogre’s den, a winged centaur, and a tangle tree, all with the appropriate signs.

Then a cloud appears on the path and transforms into a woman.  She says she is Demoness Metria.  She can hear them talking but she can’t see them.  But she finds them dull and disappears.

Then they come to a castle.  There is a sign that says “Caprice Castle”.  Tartan knocks on the door.

A young woman comes to the door.  It is Princess Dawn.  She can see and hear them.  She tells them how she and the other princesses had crafted a spell to enable them to come to Xanth.  But they had only expected one person to arrive. She invites them in.

She tells them about the Land of Xanth, and the problem caused by the Ghost Writer.  She hopes that Tartan and Tara can help, possibly by observing the Ghost Writer as ghosts in Xanth, tracing him back to his point of origin in Mundania, and encouraging him to stop his story raids.  But he might not listen to reason.  They will need hosts in Xanth, and they should visit Good Magician Humfrey for advice.

Tartan and Tara return home to think about this.  They are able to achieve this by transferring their consciousness directly back to their bodies, while their ghostly selves keep their places in Xanth.

They return to Caprice Castle the next day, having decided to proceed with the mission.

Dawn introduces them to a young man called Demon Ted and a young woman called DeMonica.  They are both half demons.  (Ted and Monica have appeared in the series previously, as children; they have now grown to adulthood.  They are not related, but have been close friends all their lives; their relationship is like brother and sister.)  Ted is the son of Demoness Metria, whom Tartan and Tara had met on the path to Caprice Castle the day before.  Monica is the daughter of Princess Nada Naga and Demon Prince Vore.

Ted and Monica are to be Tartan and Tara’s hosts.  Tartan will occupy Ted’s body and Tara will occupy Monica’s body.  That way Tartan and Tara will be able to interact physically with things in Xanth.  Ted and Monica will still be present, and will be able to take control of their bodies when necessary.  Ted will be able to talk mentally with Tartan, and Monica will be able to do the same with Tara.  So they can give Tartan and Tara advice when necessary.

So Tartan walks into Ted’s body, and Tara walks into Monica’s body.

Tartan (in Ted’s body) and Tara (in Monica’s body) leave the castle and make their way to the enchanted path.  This will lead them to the Good Magician’s Castle.

But evening falls before they get there.  They stop at a campsite.  The hosts remain here while Tartan and Tara return to their bodies in Mundania. Tartan and Tara will need to do this each day to take care of bodily needs – to eat and to visit the bathroom.  Tartan and Tara, excited by their experience in Xanth, make love.  They are not sure they are in love at this stage, but their love develops over the period of their adventure.  Then they sleep, sharing Tara’s bed.

The next morning they return to their hosts in Xanth.  They continue on along the enchanted path.

They come to a woman who is sitting crying, beside the path.

She tells them her name is Emerald.  She is a dragon who can transform into human form.  Several years previously (in “Currant Events”) a large number of dragons had migrated to Xanth from Dragon World.  She is the daughter of the Dragon King: that is, she is a princess.  But now there are tensions between the dragons and the humans, which could lead to war.  Her father sent her to the Good Magician to ask how to avert the war.  The Good Magician had told her that the most expedient way is for her to marry a human prince.

But Emerald is a lesbian.  The idea of marrying a man horrifies her.  She is considering committing suicide.

Ted suggests that she wait here, and when they return from the Good Magician she can join their quest.

Prince Dolin
They arrive at the Good Magician’s Castle.  They are met by Wira, the Good Magician’s daughter-in-law, who takes them to meet Dara Demoness, the Good Magician’s current Designated Wife.

Dara tells them their Service (as payment for their Answer from the Good Magician) will be to take Prince Dolin on the quest with them.

Prince Dolin had been brought to Xanth by his aunt in the form of a ring, which contains his soul.  He has been provided a host, who is wearing the ring.  So Dolin is much the same as Tartan and Tara: a ghostly visitor animating a local host.

Dara calls the Prince, and a handsome young man enters the room.  Then Dara calls Dolin’s aunt; this is Princess Merari. (This name also appears as Merara in a few places in the book. It is usually shortened to Mera).

Dara tells them that Dolin and Mera are from an alternate reality, which is accessible via the world Ptero.  (Ptero is a moon which orbits Princess Ida’s head.  It looks small but is in fact a full-sized world.  It contains counterparts of all Xanth’s characters, and all those of possible alternative histories.)

Migration from or via Ptero to Xanth is restricted.  Dolin can only remain in Xanth for a month, unless he marries a local princess.  He is under a geis (a magical obligation): he is not permitted to be told his background.  He has no knowledge of his past, and will not know it until he figures it out for himself.

[From what we read in the rest of the story, migration via Ptero seems a bit unnecessary, as later we have various people moving between realities without involving Ptero – although admittedly a trip to Ptero is included in the story.  Maybe Mera wanted to ensure that Dolin’s migration was strictly according to Xanth law.]

Mera is under a similar geis, but she knows her past, but can’t tell it.  She is also in a local host.

If Dolin gets to remain in Xanth, his host will become Dolin’s permanent body.  The host, who wishes to remain anonymous, is quite happy with this, as he will be leading a princely life.

Dolin’s talent is to know the right thing to do.  (This will come in useful in their quest, as Dolin can tell them the right path or the right course of action to take.)

Mera will only remain in Xanth until Dolin’s situation is resolved, and then she will return to her own reality and report to Dolin’s mother, Princess Taplin.  Mera will remain in the castle and track them via magic mirror.

Now Wira conducts Tartan and Tara in to see the Good Magician.  Tartan asks, “How can we solve the problem of the Ghost Writer in the Sky?”

The Good Magician tells them they must go to the Goddess Isis.  Only she can solve it in a suitable manner.  They will have to persuade her.  And to find her they must ask a woman called Amara.  They won’t be able to find Amara themselves; she will find them if she wishes.

(The Goddess Isis appeared in “Isis Orb”.  She is the Goddess of Fertility – in other words Sex.  She is the ancient Egyptian goddess from 8,000 years ago, and had come to live in Xanth.)

So Dolin says goodbye to Mera; Tartan, Tara and Dolin leave the castle.  Dolin uses his talent to indicate which way they should go.

They arrive back to where Emerald is.  Tara introduces Emerald and Dolin to each other.  It is ironic that Emerald needs to marry a prince and Dolin needs to marry a princess, but they are not suitable for each other.  So Emerald joins them and they continue on together.

They come to Caprice Castle.  It is in a different location from before, because the castle travels around.

They enter the castle and meet Dawn.  They introduce Dolin and Emerald to her.  Since Dawn’s talent is to know everything about any living thing, she might be able to tell Dolin about his history.

She touches him and is surprised.  Then she hugs him and kisses him and faints.  She soon recovers.  But the geis prevents her from telling what she has learnt.  She tells them they should go to her sister Eve in Hades.  She shows them the path they should take.  She would contact Eve by magic mirror to tell her they are coming.

So they follow the path and finally reach Eve’s castle in Hades.  Eve is there, and also her 7-year-old son Plato, and Plato’s governess Zosi Zombie.  (As explained in “Esrever Doom”, Zosi is currently in the form of a fully-alive woman, rather than a zombie.)

Eve’s talent is to know everything about any inanimate object she touches.  So she touches Dolin’s ring.  Then she too hugs and kisses Dolin.  But she says the geis prevents her from telling what she had found out.

The group stays at the castle overnight, except that Tartan and Tara return home to Mundania.

In the morning Tartan and Tara return to Eve’s castle.  They set off again following the path that leads from Hades to Xanth.

Dolin tells them that Eve had recommended that he visit Princess Electra at Castle Roogna.  Electra is Dawn and Eve’s mother.  So they proceed in that direction.

Ted and Monica tell them Electra’s story.  (This is as told in Electra’s backstory in “Heaven Cent”.)

This happened more than 800 years ago. Electra’s talent was electricity.  She had the job of charging a coin called the Heaven Cent for the Sorceress Tapis.  A princess (actually Tapis’s daughter) came to Tapis to ask her to make a coverlet for her, to keep her warm while she took the Long Sleep.  The princess was destined to bite a poisoned apple and sleep in a casket for a thousand years.

However, Magician Murphy, whose talent was to make things go wrong, cursed Tapis.  This curse caused Electra to bite the apple and fall into the casket instead of the princess.  She had slept for about eight and a half centuries, and then been woken by Prince Dolph, who subsequently married her.

The group eventually arrive at Castle Roogna.  Electra comes out to meet them.  Eve had contacted her to tell them the group were coming.  When she sees Dolin, she also hugs and kisses him, but again she can’t tell them why, because of the geis.  She tells them their mission is important and then returns into the castle.

The group continue on and stop at a rest stop.  There is a woman there; this turns out to be Amara.  When they ask about the Goddess Isis, Amara says that Isis is confined to comic strips.  (A comic strip is a strip of land with various obnoxious puns; entering it can be a rather nasty experience.) Isis can manipulate comic strips to some extent, to move them around, and to move herself from one to another.

Dolin tells her that, according to his talent, it is the right thing that she joins their group.  But Amara isn’t interested.  She can tell that the men of the group are interested in her.  But she is asexual and aromantic – she is not interested in sex or romance.  And she leaves.

After some discussion, Dolin tells them that the right thing to do is to follow her.  Dolin’s talent tells him which path they should take. Also Emerald is able to track her scent; she retains her dragon’s sense of smell even when she is in human form.

They come to a sign that says “Troll House Cookies”.  But there is something strange about the sign: it is just hanging in the air with no support.  (They learn later that this is one of the Ghost Writer’s stories.)

There are indications of a struggle on the path ahead.  Emerald turns dragon and flies ahead to investigate.  She returns to say a troll had captured Amara.  She leads them to a pool with an island in the middle.  Amara is tied up with vines and perched on a grill.  The troll is gathering kindling.  Amara calls out to them that the pool is full of sharks, and the troll has dragon’s bane.

While Tara tries to distract the troll, Emerald flies Dolin across to the island.  Then Dolin fights the troll with his sword; the troll has a club.  Eventually Dolin manages to kill the troll.  He releases Amara, and Emerald flies them back to shore one at a time.

Amara feels obliged to repay them for the rescue.  She tells them that she is the host for the Goddess Isis.  Isis is occupying her body as a ghost.  And Isis manifests: Amara’s body changes so that she appears more regal and with greater sex appeal.  She is willing to reward them for saving Amara’s life.

Tara asks her to stop the Ghost Writer from messing with Xanth.  Isis says this would be difficult as she is confined to the comic strip.  (As stated in “Isis Orb”, Isis was allowed to migrate from Mundania to Xanth to protect a certain store of magic.  But the Demons Xanth and Earth were afraid that she would make herself ruler of Xanth, and confined her to a comic strip to prevent this.)

In the meantime, Amara would remain with their group, and Isis would check with them every now and then.  Amara tells them her talent is to know where some object will be at a future time.

They travel on and stop at a rest stop where they plan to stay overnight.  Dolin says his talent tells him that something drastic will occur the next day, in which there will be no right choices to make.  Tartan and Tara return home for the night.

Lizard of Waz
Tartan and Tara return to the group the next day.  But as soon as the group leaves the rest stop, they see a sign that says, “The Lizard of Waz”.  This is obviously one of the Ghost Writer’s signs.

Amara says she is Doorthy from Mundania, who has been brought here by a tornado.

Emerald says she is the Lizard, animated by the Wicked Witch of the Vest.  She is pursuing Doorthy, who should flee to the Ruby City, the capital of the Land of Waz, along the Yellow Tricks Road, and seek help from the Wazard of Wiz, also known as the Whiz of Waz.

Amara runs off with the Lizard chasing her.  The others are frozen in place; it seems their roles are yet to be assigned.  Tartan recognises the story as a parody of a well known Mundane fantasy story.

It starts raining cats and dogs – literally.  A small dogfish lands near Amara: it is a combination of dog and fish, covered with metal and with a computer screen for a face.  He is able to swim through the air.  The dogfish stays with her, and she gives him the name Tata.

Soon Amara meets the other characters of the story:

  • the Carecrow (Tara) – a human woman transformed into a crow by the Wicked Witch
  • the Trim Woodsman (Tartan) – a stick figure made of wood
  • the Cowardly Scion (Dolin) – a man in a lion costume. His ancestors had all been bold, but the Wicked Witch had cursed him and taken away his courage.

They all race ahead along the Yellow Tricks Road, trying to stay ahead of the Lizard.

They come at last to the Ruby City and the Whiz’s palace.  They are ushered into a central chamber.  A man’s voice asks them what they want.  They all make their requests.  The voice asks to speak to Isis.  Isis manifests in Amara’s body.  The voice says he wants a half hour of wild passion with her every day.  Isis refuses.  The voice says he is the Ghost Writer; they will all be locked into their roles until she complies.

Tata grabs a curtain and pulls it aside.  Behind it is a man operating a console.  Isis grabs him.  The man objects that he is not the Whiz or the Ghost Writer.  He is just a hireling.  But the Ghost Writer will turn up in the half hour after sunset.

Having broken out of their roles, they all depart from the palace, joining Emerald outside.

Dolin suggests that if they go to the place he comes from, they might be out of reach of the Ghost Writer.  Maybe Mera can help them.  She won’t be able to tell Dolin anything, but she can tell Tara.  She is watching via magic mirror from the Good Magician’s Castle.

Tara writes a message on a wall, “Mera, help!”  Then she becomes aware that Mera is nearby in ghost form.  Mera speaks to her.

Tara tells them all to gather round.  Mera is about to cast a time travel spell; she obtained the spell from the Magician of Time.  Mera casts the spell.

Sorceress Tapis
They find themselves in a pleasant garden.  Tata the dogfish had come with them.

There is a 13-year-old girl there.  She says this garden belongs to Princess Merari, Princess Taplin’s younger sister.  They all introduce themselves.  The girl says her name is Electra.

Amara asks her what year this is.  Electra says it is 237 (according to the Xanth calendar).  They tell her they have come from the future, the year 1117.

She takes them into the nearby mansion, where Mera is setting the table for dinner.  But this Mera looks different from the one they had met previously; that is because the previous one had been occupying a host body.

Mera invites them all to stay for dinner.  They are joined by an older woman, Sorceress Tapis.  Although Electra is a servant, Tapis asks her to join them at the table after she serves the food.

Dolin introduces all his group, describes their background and explains what had happened.  Some of his memories are coming back to him.

They discuss the situation over the meal. Tapis asks Dolin a series of questions to confirm his identity, and becomes convinced he is who he says he is.  The following facts are revealed.

[In this chapter in particular, but also elsewhere in the book, the concepts are complex, confusing and apparently contradictory, particularly as they relate to alternative realities.  I have shown my interpretation below in my statements in square brackets, but it is possible that this is different from the author’s intention. Some of this relies on what we subsequently find out in the chapter “Love and Magic”. (I have revised this webpage a few times, as I try to work out what is going on.)

Mera comes across as not completely understanding alternative realities and her own talent.  Tapis also seems to confuse the two versions of Mera.]

  • Dolin’s mother is Princess Taplin, who is Sorceress Tapis’s daughter. Mera is Taplin’s sister, and therefore Dolin’s aunt.
  • Taplin is the princess who was unnamed in the story of Electra (in “Heaven Cent’).
  • The Mera they had met in the future had come from the time they have arrived in, and had travelled to the future to help her sister Taplin.
  • Mera’s talent is to transfer herself or other people from one reality to another.
  • It is apparent that Tartan and Tara’s group have ended up in a different reality from the one they started from. The future Mera had sent their group back in time, but she must have moved them to a different reality as well: from Reality #1 (or the prime reality) to Reality #2.  This is the same reality that Dolin comes from.

(Note: the alternative realities in “Stork Naked” were also numbered, but the numbering systems of the two books are independent.)

  • In Reality #1 it was Electra who had taken the Long Sleep. In their current reality (Reality #2), it was Taplin.  She had departed on her Long Sleep a year ago.
  • In Reality #1, Dolph had married Electra. In Reality #2, he had married Taplin.  Dolph is Dolin’s father.

Dolin realises with some surprise that this is why Dawn and Eve greeted him so warmly: they are his half sisters.  And Electra is his stepmother.

  • Taplin’s talent is sleeping. She is able to sleep indefinitely without any harm to her body.  This is how she was able to take the Long Sleep.  And she will now sleep until Mera returns with news of Dolin.
  • Electra’s talent is electricity. This would have put her into a kind of stasis to survive the Long Sleep.

Note:  Based on “Heaven Cent”, we would have assumed that biting the poisoned apple was sufficient to enable the person to take the Long Sleep.  The current story includes the new facts that in Taplin’s case, her talent of sleeping was also required, and in Electra’s case her talent of electricity was also required.

  • Dolin describes how when he was 8, he observed the Sea Hag changing hosts. (The Sea Hag takes over the body of a young woman when her old body wears out.  She appeared in “Golem in the Gears”, “Question Quest” and “The Dastard”.)  When the Sea Hag realised that Dolin had seen her, she threw him to a monster, who consumed him.  (This story was previously told in “The Dastard”; it was Dolin’s counterpart in Ptero who had told it.  But the inhabitants of Ptero “remember” the lives of their other selves in Xanth.  Dolin of Ptero was presumably remembering the experience of Dolin of Xanth of Reality #2.)
  • When Dolin died, his mother Taplin captured his soul in a ring. But Dolin cannot return to his original reality, where he died as a child.  So Mera brought the ring to the Xanth of the primary reality, where he needs to marry a princess in order to remain.

Dolin and Emerald have become good friends.  As Dolin describes his need to marry a princess, Emerald says that although she doesn’t want to, she is willing to marry him to save him from oblivion.

  • Tapis states that since the future Mera had travelled forward in time to be with her sister, this is what the current Mera must do to avoid a paradox.

[I initially assumed that the two Meras were the same person, at different points in her life, and that their personal timelines would eventually join up.  It seems that the characters in the story had assumed this too.

However, we find out in the later chapter “Love and Magic” that their personal timelines do not join up, and that they continue to live independent lives. This could be the result of the group travelling into the past and altering the timeline, or all the movements between realities, or because of the exercise of Mera’s talent.  But I think it is because the two Meras actually originate in two different realities.

So in fact there is no need for the current Mera to travel to the future to avoid a paradox. But she has her own personal reason for doing so – you’ll have to read the book to find this out.]

  • Tapis says the future Mera had used a Self Storage unit to travel to the future. This type of unit keeps a person in stasis for a specified time. But such units are rare, and would be too small for the whole group, so they can’t use this to return to the future.
  • The current Mera can’t return them to the future. Her talent is to cause reality shifts, not time travel.  The future Mera had obtained a spell from the Magician of Time to send them back in time.
  • Mera says that she had shifted Tapis and her household to an alternative reality (that is, from Reality #1 to Reality #2), so that Taplin could undertake the Long Sleep, instead of Electra.

[I think that the current Mera originated in Reality #1. Dismayed at the fact that Electra had bitten the apple and fallen into the casket, she had exercised her talent to cause a reality shift, so that Taplin could take the Long Sleep instead. However this didn’t alter Reality #1: the Reality #1 versions of Tapis, Taplin and Electra remained in that reality since they are known to history. Instead Mera’s action shifted Mera into Reality #2. It may have even caused Reality #2 to come into existence.

The Mera that the group had met in the future originated in Reality #2. She had entered the Self Storage unit to travel into the future. It is possible that she had done this before the Mera from Reality #1 had moved herself to Reality #2, so the two Meras may not have met each other.

Tapis and Electra of Reality #2 happily welcomed Mera of Reality #1 as a replacement for their own Mera. None of them quite understood what had happened, which accounts for some of their confusion.]

  • But now the current Mera is wary of using her talent, being afraid it could send people into a completely different reality.

Tapis’s talent is to make magical tapestries.  After the meal, she takes them to see her collection.  Amara tells her that Castle Roogna still has one of her tapestries in their own time; it is an animated map of Xanth that shows any scene, past or present, that the viewer wishes to see.

Emerald admires a tapestry which shows a dragon taking off and flying through the sky.  Tapis takes it down, rolls it up in a tubular sleeve and gives it to her.

They all stay in the mansion for the night, except Tartan and Tara, who return home.  Fortunately time travel and reality shifts do not affect them in Mundania.  [This is presumably because it is the nature of Mundania to resist magic.]

Tara tells Tartan that Monica had mentioned the Timeline that the Muse of History uses to record events in Xanth’s history.  Maybe the Timeline has a physical existence, and they can use it to travel back to the future.

They return to the mansion the next day.

Electra is interested to hear about the daughters, Dawn and Eve, of her counterpart in Reality #1, so the group tell her everything they know about them.

Tara puts her suggestion about the Timeline to Tapis, who thinks it might work.  Mera should go with them so she can travel to the future with them.

Tapis is sorry to see Mera go, but she still has Electra.  Her relationship with Electra is virtually that of mother and daughter.

Dolin wonders how they can get to the Timeline.  Tata barks.  Amara, who has been closest to Tata all along, is usually able to interpret his barks.  She says that Tata will find the way.

So they say goodbye to Tapis and Electra, and set off, Mera having been added to the group.  Tata leads the way.

They come to an ocean shore.  Ted remembers that Tapis’s home is on the Isle of View.  They find a boat and row across to the Xanth mainland.

As they continue they have several adventures and encounters.  They finally find the Timeline, which is a tall metallic column, covered with carved words and numbers.  But they wonder how to use it.

Tata barks: he has some information.  But Amara says it is too complex to be conveyed by barks.  They ask Tata a series of questions, to which he responds with one bark for yes, two for no and three for maybe.

The solution is that they must touch the point on the Timeline which represents the time they want to travel to.  But the column is so tall they will have to build a platform.  And in order to ensure that they all remain together, one person must touch the column while the others are all touching that person.

They hunt around and find some nymphs who have some planks.  They do a deal with the nymphs, who build the platform for them.  Amara climbs onto the platform.  They all hold onto her, with Tartan holding Tata.  Amara touches the correct year on the Timeline.  The scene changes.

There before them is Caprice Castle.  Dawn must have brought it here to verify they were safely back.  And they are not currently under the spell of the Ghost Writer.

[The group seems to assume that the forward trip in time would return them to Reality #1.  I would have thought they would remain in Reality #2.]

They go to the castle door and knock.  An unfamiliar man appears.  They ask for Princess Dawn.  He says he is Drew, the proprietor of the castle; there has never been a Princess Dawn here.  They have landed in another reality!  This reality would henceforth be referred to as Reality #3.

Seeing their confusion, he invites them in.

They introduce themselves and tell their story.  Drew says he is the son of Prince Dolph and Princess Nada Naga.  (In the story “Heaven Cent”, Dolph had become engaged to two girls, Nada and Electra, and this wasn’t resolved until “Isle of View”, when he married Electra.  He had wanted to marry Nada.  In this alternative reality he had married Nada.)

Drew’s talent is the Sensate Focus.  He can focus on tiny objects microscopically, or telescopically to study the stars.  He has similar ranges in his other senses.

He now notices something about Tata.  He has an aura which indicates he is host to a Sorceress.  (Drew is similarly aware of all of the ghosts within hosts.)  Drew gets a magic mirror and invites the Sorceress to manifest in it.

And Princess Eve appears in the magic mirror!  She tells them she had been concerned about Dolin, and had used a spell to transfer her spirit to Tata to keep an eye on him.  She has been lending her talent to Tata to enable him to find things.

Now Drew invites Mera to describe her part in this adventure.  Mera realises at this point that her other self is hovering nearby in spirit form.  She had found them again when they arrived back in their own time.  [This of course means that the other Mera’s spirit has moved from Reality #1 to Reality #3.]  Mera (the one who had come with the group from the past) allows the other Mera to inhabit her body to explain her history to the group.

The other Mera explains how Dolin had been killed by the Sea Hag, and how his soul had been captured in the ring.  Mera had then gone to the Good Magician and arranged that she and the ring would be transferred to an alternative reality.  Mera had transferred her spirit into a female host, while her body remained behind to ensure she could return to the correct reality.  The ring was given to the man who became Dolin’s host.

But while at the Magician’s Castle, Mera had met the Magician of Time.  She had obtained a time travel spell from him in exchange for sending him to another reality: one where he hoped he could find a Sorceress to marry.

At this point Drew tells them that Bernard, the Magician of Time, had come to this reality.  He is present in Caprice Castle.  And this must be why they ended up in this reality: their return to the present had been affected by Mera’s previous reality shift, and they had come to the same reality that Mera had sent Bernard to.

Drew doesn’t know how they can return to their own reality, but suggests that if they go to Ptero, they might find someone who can advise them.

Drew calls Bernard, the Magician of Time, into the room.  Unfortunately, Bernard has not been able to find a suitable Sorceress in this reality, and is willing to settle for any suitable girl.  He will come with them to Ptero, to see if there is a suitable girl there.

Drew contacts Ida on the magic mirror.  Ida responds; she is not currently at Castle Roogna; she and her husband Prince Hilarion are on the way to his kingdom.

So Drew moves Caprice Castle to pick them up.  Ida and Hilarion enter.

Ida recognises them all; she has made sure to know all the people of adjacent realities. She knows Emerald, as Human/Dragon relations are important to her.  And she will be working with Mera in the future to resolve mixups between the realities.

Ida tells them they should go to visit her counterpart, Ida of Ptero.

They all sit, and Ida releases some incense.  Their spirits all leave their bodies: this includes both those who are ghosts, and the spirits of the hosts as well.  Drew comes with them to guide them. They all float into the air and towards the moon Ptero, orbiting Ida’s head.

The moon appears to grow larger, and when they land on it, it is a full-sized world. (People from Xanth who visit Ptero in spirit form find that their spirits behave like physical bodies while on Ptero.)

Drew tells them that Ida of Ptero lives to the north.  They set off.

It starts to get cold. They will need warm clothing.  They gather them from some clothes horses in a nearby pasture.

There is a storm ahead.  They have to divert to the east.  But travelling to the east in Ptero makes a person younger and travelling to the west makes a person older.  Bernard, the Magician of Time, detonates a time stasis bomb to lock them into their current ages.

Then they have to divert through a comic strip.  But of course Isis is used to comic strips and guides them through.

They come at last to Ida’s winter abode.  The area is covered in snow.

Ida directs them to a sauna, which is in an igloo.  It doesn’t look big enough for the whole group, but as they enter one by one, it becomes larger, and is able to accommodate them all.  They strip down to their underclothes.

Now Princess Dawn enters the igloo.  Dolin is pleased to see her, and tells her he now knows she is his half sister.  Dawn’s children Piton and Data have come with her, and Eve’s son Plato and his governess Zosi have also come.

[We previously knew that people from possible alternative histories exist on Ptero. We have an additional rule now: People from different realities can visit Ptero and can meet each other.  But they can only return to the reality they came from.  It seems that the one occurrence of Ptero is accessible from multiple realities.]

[How did Dawn know to come at this time? Is it coincidence, or was she informed by magical means – e.g. by being told by the Good Magician?]

Princess Eve follows Dawn into the igloo.

[There is some confusion here; the story seems to mention two arrivals of Princess Eve, which would mean that there are now two Eves present: one who has made the trip with Tartan and Tara’s group, as a ghost within Tata, and the other who has travelled directly from Xanth to Ptero, bringing Plato and Zosi with her. Both of these would have originated from the Xanth of Reality #1.  This situation would be impossible unless there is some complicated explanation.

This is surely not the author’s intention: the characters do not comment on the fact that there are two Eves, and there is no explanation given.

A simpler explanation is that there is only one Eve (who had been a ghost within Tata), and she lingered outside the igloo to greet her sister Dawn and her children, and Plato and Zosi.  Zosi and Plato either came on their own or with Dawn. Of course Eve’s physical body is asleep back in Xanth (or maybe Hades) of Reality #1.  Presumably Eve had told Zosi and Plato, and maybe Dawn as well, what she was doing before she transferred her spirit to the dogfish.]

Now Demoness Metria arrives.  Ted greets her, as she is his mother.  [The text says “Drew” rather than “Ted”, but this doesn’t make sense; it has to be “Ted”.] She splits into her alter egos: Metria, Mentia and the 5-year-old child Woe Betide.

The four children – Woe Betide, Piton and Data, and Plato – go outside to play in the snow, accompanied by their nannies.  Dawn explains to Eve that, although her usual nanny is Kelei, here on Ptero she has access to people from other realities, and she has employed Jody to look after her children.

(Jody is from Reality #3. Dawn presumably met her on a previous visit to Ptero, and arranged that Jody would sometimes babysit for her. We find out a bit later that on this occasion, Jody had been contacted by Ida (of Xanth of Reality #3) by magic mirror, and had come to Caprice Castle after the group had left for Ptero, and Ida had sent her to Ptero as well.)

At this point Dolph enters.  Dolin, Drew, Dawn and Eve all greet him as their father.  He is their father by three different wives – from the three different alternative histories.

But Dolph tells them they must leave the sauna; a snowshoe is coming.

They all hurry out of the sauna, still in their underclothes.  Dolph’s wives are standing nearby: Electra, Taplin and Nada.  [Presumably Dolph and the three wives are the Ptero versions of these characters.]

A huge shoe, made of snow, is jumping along, heading for the igloo.  Jody offers to divert it.  Ida suggests that Drew goes to help her.

Ida tells the others that Jody is a distant descendant of Jordan Barbarian and Threnody.  (Jordan and Threnody appear in “Crewel Lye”, “Golem in the Gears” and “Roc and a Hard Place”.)  [Assuming that Jordan and Threnody’s history in Reality #3 is essentially the same as in Reality #1, Jody is presumably a descendant of a child delivered to Threnody, following their journey together in “Crewel Lye”, over 400 years ago.]

Jody’s talent is to create healing music; it makes people feel so much better they want to dance.  She starts singing.  They all start dancing. The snowshoe dances too, and soon shifts to the side.  It continues on and doesn’t collide with the igloo.  Jody stops singing and they all relax.

Drew and Jody talk together.  He discovers she is from his reality.  And he realises Ida has set them up as a match.  This looks like a promising relationship.  They kiss.

Bernard wonders if Ida has a match for him.  Ida calls Kelei (Dawn’s regular nanny) to her.  She tells Bernard that Kelei already had a crush on him.  She had known Bernard in Reality #1, but Bernard had not noticed her, and then Bernard had moved to another reality.

(Kelei must have come with Dawn as well, presumably in her capacity as Dawn’s nanny. When they arrived and discovered Jody present, Kelei must have handed over her responsibilities to her. Kelei may not have known Bernard would be there, unless she had been informed by the same magical source as Dawn.)

Kelei demonstrates her talent: the snowscape becomes a scintillating pattern of light and colours.

They all return to the sauna.  It is time to discuss the reason they have come.  Dolin repeats their story for those who don’t know it.  Bernard adds that he now wants to return to Reality #1 to be with Kelei.  Mera says she is reluctant to use her talent to shift them to Reality #1, because it could go wrong and send them off to a different reality.

Tara says they need a map of the realities.  Metria says she has seen such a map in the Good Magician’s Castle, when she snuck in.  It is in the Book of Lost Answers.

But the Book of Lost Answers causes things near it to spoil, so the Good Magician’s wives didn’t like it, and it became lost.  Maybe they should talk to the wives.  But they would have to return to Reality #1 to do this.

There is further discussion, but they don’t know how to proceed.  They all go out and have a snowball fight.

Amara has an idea and they return to the sauna to hear it.  She says that surely the Good Magician and his wives exist in Reality #3 as well, so they can return to their bodies in Xanth of Reality #3 and then go to see them in that reality.

So the group who had come to Ptero from Reality #3 say their farewells and return to their bodies.  Jody has returned with them.  Drew invites the others to stay for lunch, then takes Jody for a tour of the castle.  Tartan and Tara return home.

Tartan and Tara return to the castle.  Lunch is over and Ida and Hilarion have departed.

Mera says they have come up with a plan to find the Good Magician’s wives, who are in a hidden location.  Emerald, in her dragon form, will scout for likely locales, taking Tata with her.  He will land and sniff out prospects.  Tata, of course, has the use of Eve’s talent.

The group departs the castle.  Bernard has been included. (Drew and Jody remain behind.)

Emerald transforms into her dragon form.  Tata flies up and lands on her back.  Emerald flies off.  Eventually she returns.  They have found the wives’ cottage.

They set off along the enchanted path.  They stop at a camping area for the night.

Tartan and Tara return home.  They wonder whether they will still be able to visit Xanth when the mission is over.  Tara thinks Monica is unhappy about something.  Maybe she is interested in someone she shouldn’t be.

In the morning they return and the group travels on.

They finally arrive at the wives’ cottage.  One of the wives, the Gorgon, meets them at the door and invites them in.  They meet the other wives: Maiden Taiwan, Rose of Roogna, Sofia Socksorter and MareAnne.  Dara Demoness is absent, as she is the current wife on duty at the Good Magician’s Castle.

The Gorgon tells them that she had been the Good Magician’s wife when the Good Magician had gone to Hell and rescued his previous wives. (Refer “Question Quest”.)  But in Xanth only one wife is permitted at a time, so they take turns being in the Good Magician’s Castle, a month at a time.  [In “Question Quest”, Humfrey’s deal with Demon Xanth had required the off-duty wives to remain in Hell.  This no longer seems to be the case.]  [In “Knot Gneiss” we discovered that Maiden Taiwan spends some of her time in another house, with her sisterhood of Maidens.]

Tartan explains their situation and that they need the Lost Book of Answers.

The Gorgon tells them the Book is dangerous.  It is true that it causes things to spoil.  But in addition, it contains answers that could seriously disrupt life in Xanth and cause needless suffering.  Besides, the Book is lost.

Tartan insists they only want to look at the maps.

The Gorgon says they can take the Test of the Roses.  This will prove their basic integrity.  They agree.  Mera says there is one additional thing she wants to check in the Book.  She confides in MareAnne, who says this is acceptable.

Rose conducts them outside to her rose garden.  The roses are different colours: Red for Love, White for Indifference, Yellow for Friendship, Pink for Romance, and Black for Death.  They must each take a rose and make a statement relating to that theme.  If it is true, the rose will break off in their hand; if it is false, the rose’s thorn will cut them.

They each take the test.  And they all pass.  The statements they make are all unsurprising, except for two:

  • Monica makes the statement, “I love a person I will not name.”
  • Mera makes the statement, “I love someone who doesn’t know it.”

Book of Lost Magic
Rose tells them she had hid the book in a cellar.  She takes them to the cellar.

She says she had placed it on the top step, intending to return when it was light to hide it in the depths of the cellar, but when she returned it was gone.  She had locked the door, so maybe someone had come from below.

The group descends down the cellar stairs.  Emerald turns dragon so she can breathe a little fire and light the way.  Rose remains behind and locks the door.

The stairs go a long way down and then open into a larger chamber full of fog.  They all get a giddy feeling.

They continue along a tunnel and come to a room where harpies are dancing to loud music.  The harpies try to detain the men of their group, but they manage to trick the harpies and continue on to the next cavern.  Here there is a pool containing a kraken weed.  They walk past the pool and continue along the tunnel.

They come to a really big cavern, which extends upwards as far as they can see, and a brightly lit floor which appears to reflect the sky and the clouds, although they can’t be seen overhead.

Tata barks.  Amara holds him to try and work out what he is saying.  And what she learns is unbelievable.  When they walked through the foggy chamber and felt giddy, they were changing orientation: they changed from solid creatures passing through air to gaseous creatures passing through rock.  And up and down became reversed: what looks like the reflection of the sky and the clouds below actually is the sky and clouds, above.

Maybe this means those of them that are ghosts are solid.  The five ghosts emerge from their hosts and confirm they can touch each other.  The floor containing the sky is a hole for them; they have to be careful not to fall in.  But Tartan discovers he can break off a piece of the rock next to the hole.

They return to their hosts.

They come to a mountain (which would actually be a big pit in the ground).  There is a small castle on top.  The ghosts separate from their hosts again and walk through the closed door of the castle to search for the Book.

They see a female troll preparing a meal in the kitchen; she can’t see them.  And a male troll in the study, with a nameplate which says “Con Troll – Bad Actor”.  They find the Book under the male troll’s bed.  They leave it there (since they can’t touch it) and return to their hosts.

They discuss the situation.  They don’t feel they can just take the Book; it would be like stealing.  They should ask the trolls for it.  And Bernard thinks Con Troll might willingly give it to them, as it is probably spoiling his dreams.

They decide to camp for the night, and go to meet the trolls in the morning.  Tartan and Tara return home.  They discover to their surprise that they still have the roses from Rose’s garden.

In the morning they return to the others.  They all go to the castle and knock on the door.  The female troll comes to the door.  They tell her they have come for the Book.  She says she will be glad to get rid of it; Con hasn’t been the same since he found it.  She tells them she is Trudy, the housekeeper.  She goes to get Con.

When Con comes, they tell him they have to return the Book to the wives of the Good Magician.

He says the Book won’t do them any good.  It is not indexed, and the answers are not listed alphabetically or numerically.  Each person can only ask it one question each day, and the answer doesn’t correspond to the question.  Con tells them some of things it provides answers for, and they sound like the sort of things they want answers to.  Con has been asking it how to become a good actor.

They have promised not to look for answers, except for the maps, plus the one thing Mera wants to know.  But they decide (given the way the Book behaves) they should each ask a question until they get the maps, Mera’s answer and Con’s answer.  Amara’s talent tells them that the maps will be present at noon.

Con puts his hand on the Book and says, “How do I become a good actor?” He opens the Book, and the answer written there is, “Lesbians can marry in Xanth”.

The others take turns to ask their questions, but none of their answers are relevant.

Until they come to the answer “Trudy”.  That is the female troll’s name.  So the answer might have some relevance.  Tara asks her why she is working here.  Trudy says she is an aspiring actress.  She had thought she would get some experience associating with Con.  She prefers romantic roles.

Tara tells her to kiss Con, as practice for acting in a romantic role.  So the two trolls kiss, and they discover they are really attracted to each other.  This association is going to work out.

When it is Mera’s turn to ask a question, she says, “How can we deal with the Ghost Writer in the Sky?”  But again the answer is not relevant.  Tartan is surprised: was this the question she had needed special permission to ask?

And finally, at noon, the reality maps appear in the Book.  There are three pages labelled R#1, R#2 and R#3, with a note saying, “You are here.  You should be here.”

They ask the trolls to return the Book to the wives after they leave.  Then all the group members touch Mera, and she touches the map for R#1.  The scene changes.

Dream Realm
They are on the side of the mountain.  But in this reality there is no castle here.

They retrace their steps and return through the room with the bright floor, and come to the cavern with the kraken pool.  The kraken looks bedraggled, and there is a part of the pool which is all churned up.

Maybe in this reality, the harpies took the Book, but then they got fed up with it and threw it into the pool.  Amara dives in, finds the Book and returns with it.

They return through the harpies’ ballroom.  The harpies see they have the terrible tome and stay clear.  Then the group pass through the foggy chamber and feel the giddy feeling again; they realise they are reverting to their normal natures.  They climb the stairs back to the cellar door.

Rose opens it.  She says the other Mera and Kelei had told her they were coming.  And the other Mera (now in her host’s body) and Kelei are there with Rose.

They return the Book to Rose.  The two Meras hug.  Bernard and Kelei hug and kiss, and then leave together.

Rose has an idea.  They should go to the dream realm and talk to the Night Stallion. He should be able to deal with the Night Colt.

But for now they go to a nearby cottage to rest.  Tartan and Tara return home.

Tartan tells Tara that Mera didn’t get her answer.  Tara says she thinks Mera changed her question, because one of the previous answers had answered her original question.

In the morning they return to the group.  Rose leads them all to a gourd patch.  They all lie down, touching each other to ensure they all arrive in the same place in the dream world, and look into the peepholes of their gourds.

They find themselves in the dream world.  They pass through several scenes.  In the process, Tara acquires a new dress: imitation blue chipmunk fur with a Freudian slip lining.

Finally they meet the Night Stallion, and tell him their problem with the Ghost Writer.  He is interested to hear that Isis, the Goddess of Sex, is with them.  Isis manifests in Amara’s body.

He says he will give them a way of getting out of the Ghost Writer’s daydreams in exchange for her participation in occasional passionate dreams as an actress.

He shows them a dream being prepared: it is a bad dream for a lecher who preys on children.  Actors are acting out the parts, and the story is being filmed.  After this, the night mares will deliver the dream to its intended recipient.  Isis tells him some improvements that should be made to the dream.

Isis agrees to direct and/or act in a limited number of dreams.  The Stallion tells them the spell to escape the Ghost Writer’s dreams; they should say the words, “Dream Skit, Scheme Quit.”

Tartan asks him if he will stop the Night Colt’s involvement in this.  The Stallion says no; he is letting the Colt get this practice, as a possible replacement for when the Stallion retires.  The Stallion disappears.

Emerald says the words of the spell, and to their surprise, disappears from the dream realm.  They all repeat the process, and appear back in the gourd garden in normal Xanth.  Tara is surprised that she is still wearing the blue chipmunk fur dress.

They decide to take a break, and Tartan and Tara return home.  And Tara is still wearing the blue chipmunk fur dress, back in Mundania.

Tara points out that the Night Stallion had mentioned that Monica is in love with someone in the group.  Who could it be: Dolin, Ted or Tartan?  And why doesn’t she say anything?  Tara will try and find out.

Love and Magic
They return to the others in Xanth.  Dolin says they have decided to go back to the Good Magician again.  Tartan wonders about that, then realises that this is a false plan, for the benefit of the Night Colt, who may be spying on them.  The others must have made the real plan while in the gourd garden, under the protection of the Good Magician’s wives.

He silently asks Ted.  Ted tells him they intend to walk into the Ghost Writer’s story, and play it out.  Then they will step out of their roles, which may shake the Ghost Writer up so much he’ll quit.  Plan B is for Isis to confront him directly and hopefully subjugate him.

The group walks along the path and come to a floating sign that says “The Princess and the Hog”.  They continue on, and find themselves caught up in a parody of the fairy tale “The Princess and the Frog”.

Amara is the princess and Tata becomes the golden ball.  The ball rolls into a rabbit hole.  A hog emerges from the bushes and offers to get the ball if Amara allows him to share her royal life in the palace.  Amara agrees.  The story plays out along the same lines as the fairy tale, and the other members of the group play the appropriate parts.  As night falls, the hog tries to get into bed with Amara.  But she pushes him out onto the floor, and he turns into a prince.  And at this stage the Ghost Writer has arrived and is playing the part of the prince.  He wants to have sex with her, and expects Isis to manifest in Amara’s body.

Amara says the words, “Dream Skit, Scheme Quit,” and is no longer bound by her role in the story.  The other players do the same.  Isis manifests.

There is now a struggle between Isis and the Ghost Writer.  He wants to have his way with her; she wants to kiss him and make him her love-slave.

Tartan suspects the Night Colt is invisibly present, and is coaching the Ghost Writer.  He and Tara emerge from their hosts, and because they are ghosts, they can now see the Colt close to the Ghost Writer, apparently communicating telepathically with him.  They advance on the Colt, blocking him off.

But the Colt dives under them, comes up under the Ghost Writer and carries him away.

They call it a day, and Tartan and Tara return home.

The next morning they return.  No one has any ideas about how to proceed.

Tartan and Tara emerge from the hosts to check for the presence of the Night Colt.  Isis joins them; she has something to say to them privately.  She is concerned about Monica, who is showing signs of a hopeless love.  She is distressed and potentially suicidal.  Isis knows who she is in love with, and tells them.  They need to confront her and get this resolved.

They return to their hosts, and Tara brings up the subject of Monica’s love.

In what follows, various secrets come out from various members of the group.  And most of their problems are resolved.

Afterwards, Mera tells them that the other Mera had returned to Reality #2 to report success to Taplin.  The current Mera will remain in Reality #1. But the two Meras remain in mental contact, despite being in different realities.

Tartan and Tara return home.  Later, Isis joins them, occupying Tara’s body.

They work out a plan to defeat the Ghost Writer.

Tartan also discusses with Isis ways she can exercise her sexual proclivities, despite the fact that her body is physically confined to the comic strip.

They return to Xanth to present their plan to the others, hoping it will work.