Piers Anthony’s “Xanth” series: The Source of Magic


The Source of Magic (1979)
Trent is now King of Xanth, and Iris, the Sorceress of Illusion, is his Queen, and their palace is in Castle Roogna.  The Shield has been deactivated and movement between Xanth and Mundania is unrestricted. There is no longer a requirement that citizens have a magic talent.

Bink has married Chameleon. It is now a year since the events of “A Spell for Chameleon”. Chameleon is currently in a bad mood because she is in her ugly phase, and is also nine months pregnant.

Trent sends Bink, in his capacity as the Royal Researcher, on a quest to find the source of the magic of Xanth.  Bink has two companions: Chester the Centaur, and Crombie the soldier. Using his talent of transformation, Trent has transformed Crombie into a griffin for the duration of the quest; griffins are formidable fighters. Crombie’s magic talent is that he can point towards any specified thing, such as food and supplies, sources of danger, and the way they should take.

They make their way to Good Magician Humfrey’s castle for advice.  Humfrey warns Bink against going on this quest, but when Bink persists, Humfrey insists on coming with them.  He also brings Grundy, the golem, a tiny man made of clay, wood and cloth, whose talent is to translate the language of any living thing, since Crombie can’t speak the human language while in griffin form.

They have lots of adventures on the way.

They come to a house which turns out to be owned by an ogre called Crunch. They are somewhat nervous of him, but they discover he is friendly; he provides them with a meal. Crunch speaks by growling, but Grundy translates this as simple rhyming couplets. They eventually figure out that Crunch is actually speaking in rhyming couplets, as ogres typically do, but his accent is so rough that they can’t understand it.

Bink wonders what they can do to repay Crunch. Crunch tells them he is wondering whether to take a wife. He tells how he had gone to a nearby castle and found an ogress there. He had grabbed her and carried her away. But the inhabitants of the castle, whom Crunch called “fiends” had tried to cast a spell on him. Crunch had said, “me crunch no bones,” declaring himself to be a vegetarian, and the spell had misfired and had killed all the trees of the forest. Crunch had left the ogress, stunned, in the forest.

Crombie, Chester and Bink tell of their experiences with females, and Crunch resolves to go and fetch the ogress. Bink and his companions leave the next morning.

Next they arrive at the Magic Dust village.  The inhabitants of this village dig up magic sand, pound it into dust, and disperse it throughout Xanth to prevent too high a concentration of magic.  This suggests the source of magic is underground, but there is no immediate way down.  But then Bink and his party are lured away by the song of a siren, and also encounter her sister the gorgon, whose gaze turns men to stone.  But they manage to nullify these threats without lasting harm to the two females.

They enter the Region of Madness, a forested area which is downwind from the Magic Dust village, and therefore has a high concentration of magic.  They experience various strange things, and the constellations seem to come alive at night.

Then they arrive at the underwater castle of the curse fiends. These are the people Crunch had referred to as “fiends”, who had tried to cast a spell on him. They are a community of humans who all have the same talent of casting curses. Typically, several or all of them cast a curse as a group, often in the form of explosions. (In later books, curse fiends often cast verbal curses.) They also perform plays; the woman who Crunch had thought was an ogress was actually one of the curse fiends made up to look like an ogress.

Bink and his party manage to offend the curse fiends, who threaten to curse them, but Bink and company escape via a vortex to an underground cave system. But Bink and Chester have become separated from the others.

Bink accidentally drinks a love potion, and falls in love with Jewel, a nymph whose job is to plant jewels in the rocks for miners to find.  But Bink restrains himself; after all, he has a wife he loves back home. Jewel takes Bink and Chester on the back of a diggle, to find the others; the diggle is a creature which can phase through rock.

All through their adventure, Bink has had indications of an unseen enemy, opposing his quest.  Now this entity takes control of the Magician and Crombie, forcing the members of the party to fight each other.  The unseen entity does not want Bink to find the source of magic.

And when he does, Bink finds himself forced to make a decision which threatens the magical nature of their land.