Piers Anthony’s “Xanth” series: Zombie Lover


Zombie Lover (1998)

In this story the narrative alternates between Breanna and “the three kings” (Dor, Dolph and Bink). A third lesser storyline follows Jenny Elf.

Breanna of the Black Wave is 15.  She was 9 when the Black Wave (a group of black people from Mundania) migrated to Xanth, 6 years ago.  But unlike the other teens of the Black Village, she has a magic talent; she can see in blackness.  Since she received this talent, she has been going out at night, without her parents’ knowledge, and wandering around.

This night, as dawn is approaching, she is tired, and sees a pavilion with a bed, and lies down and goes to sleep.

She is awoken by a man kissing her.  She has unwittingly lain down in the Pavilion of Love, where young women go to meet prospective partners.  The man is Xeth Zombie, the son of the living man Xavier and Zora Zombie.  (Xavier and Zora appeared in “Dragon on a Pedestal”.)  Xeth has been elected King of the Zombies, and wants to marry her.  She protests that she doesn’t want to marry him, and is too young to marry, but he isn’t taking no for an answer.  So she runs away.  But soon all the zombies are after her.  She learns from one of them that they are homing in on her magic talent.  She finally comes to the Region of Madness, which she hopes will confuse their ability to track her.

There she meets Imbri, who had provided her with her talent, and asks Imbri to take it away.  (Imbri was originally a Night Mare; she became a Day Mare at the end of the story “Night Mare”, but became a tree nymph at the end of “Faun & Games”.  But she can still revert to her old form as a mare, and still carries a few daydreams to people.)  Imbri tells her her talent can’t be taken away, and gives her a dream of events which had previously been wiped from her memory.

Chlorine and Nimby – the young woman and the donkey-headed dragon Forrest Faun had met in “Faun & Games” – had come to Imbri and Forrest , and revealed that Nimby was Demon X(A/N)th. (Demon X(A/N)th had taken the persona of Nimby, and Chlorine had become his companion, in “Yon Ill Wind”.) Nimby wanted to learn how to dream.  Imbri thought it best that he observe the dreams of a young person from Mundania.  In return he should give that person a magic talent.

So Imbri had met Breanna one day, and offered her a magic talent.  Breanna chose to be able to see in blackness.  Imbri had taken her to the Nameless Castle, where she had met Chlorine and Nimby, and she had agreed that Nimby could observe her dreams.  But then her meeting with Chlorine and Nimby had been wiped from her memory.

Now Imbri tells Breanna that it is unwise to upset a powerful Demon.  Imbri makes her forget the dream, and only remember that there is a good reason she should keep the talent. She should instead go to Good Magician Humfrey with her problem.

The three kings
At Castle Roogna, Queen Irene tells King Dor that she has heard that the zombies have been stirred up, and are wandering around, disturbing people.  Dor should investigate, and take his son Dolph and his father Bink with him.  Bink and his wife Chameleon have just received vials of youth potion from the Good Magician; Bink has been youthened from 81 to 21; Chameleon has been youthened from 76 to 16.  (Dor is 55 and Dolph is 24.)

Jenny Elf
Jenny Elf is in an office chamber in Castle Roogna.  She has been given a task by the Good Magician. She has to write a whole lot of invitations for a wedding to be held in the Castle in a week’s time.  But no one knows who is getting married, although the Good Magician had revealed that the groom would be a king or prince, who would marry a commoner girl, and make her a queen or princess.  The Magician had provided a list of the guests, and what roles they would play.  But Jenny discovers that there is no invitation for her.

The three kings
Dor, Dolph and Bink set off on their mission.  Dolph says they should have a name for their group, and Dor decides on “we three kings”.  (Dor is a king, Dolph is the son of a king, Bink is the father of a king.) Using his magic talent of transformation, Dolph transforms into a roc and carries the other two across the land as they look for zombies.  They find one, but when he speaks, he doesn’t make a lot of sense.  So they decide to go to the Zombie Master’s Castle.

When they arrive, they meet Millie, the Zombie Master’s wife. She tells them that the Zombie Master is visiting the Moons of Ida, to find a world suitable for the zombies to migrate to. He is visiting them via the dream realm, that is, his dream self is visiting a dream version of the Moons. His body remains asleep in the Castle.

The three kings decide they must follow him, to tell him the problem with the zombies, as it needs to be resolved before the wedding.  Millie tells them they will be able to follow the Zombie Master’s glowing footprints.

Breanna’s path to the Good Magician takes her past the cave of Com Passion.  (Com Passion is a lovable female machine of the same type as Com Pewter.)  But there are zombies ahead of and behind her, so she enters the cave.  Com Passion greets her, and introduces her to her mouse Terian (an actual live mouse), whom Com Passion transforms by illusion into a young woman.  Com Passion says she will give Breanna a spell so that the zombies do not notice her, if Breanna entertains her, to keep her from getting bored.

So Breanna teaches Com Passion how to play games of Solitaire, with Terian moving the illusory cards, while Breanna gives directions.  But Com Passion wants to see a game played through to completion.  And Breanna can’t manage to win the games.  Com Passion gives her the spell, on the condition that she goes and finds a player who can win a game.

Breanna leaves the cave, and discovers that the spell works; the zombies are not aware of her. She gets a ride to Com Pewter’s cave with the “De Censor Ship”, which can sail through land.

In Com Pewter’s cave, she meets Com Pewter’s mouse, who is actually a troll called Tristan, whom Com Pewter can transform into an illusory mouse.  She explains about Com Passion, whom Com Pewter hadn’t known existed.  Com Pewter and Tristan establish a data link, and the wall is transformed into a window into Com Passion’s cave.  Breanna teaches Com Pewter the Solitaire games, and the two machines commence playing card games together. So Breanna is free to leave and go to the Good Magician’s Castle.

The three kings
At Castle Zombie, Millie gets the three kings to lie down, and sniff the sleep potion.  They find their dream selves flying through the sky, and they land at Castle Roogna, startling one of the castle ghosts.  The ghost notifies Princess Ida that she has visitors.  Ida comes into the room, sits down and sleeps, and a dream version of her separates from her to talk to them.  She tells them to focus on the tiny moon, Ptero, which orbits her head, and to think small. The kings float towards the moon, which becomes a full-sized world, and they land.  [Doing this via the dream realm makes it a much simpler process than what Forrest had to go through in “Faun & Games”.]   They follow the footprints, and eventually come to this world’s version of Castle Roogna.  They meet Ptero’s counterparts of Bink and Chameleon, Dor and Irene, Dolph and Electra, Dawn and Eve, and Ivy and Ida.  (After the events of “Faun & Games”, Ivy had remained King of Ptero.)  They are all 11 years older than their Xanth counterparts. Dawn and Eve talk about the trip they had taken the previous year with Forrest and Imbri (in “Faun & Games”).  Then the three kings focus on the moon orbiting this Ida’s head, Pyramid.

Breanna arrives at the Good Magician’s Castle.  While she is attempting to overcome the Challenges, Imbri appears; she is also trying to enter the castle.  Imbri is mentally linked to Justin Tree. Justin had been a man who had opposed Trent when Trent originally attempted to take the throne, and Trent had turned him into a tree.  But later, when Trent offered to turn him back, Justin had preferred to remain as a tree; he is located at the North Village. He has lived as a tree for many years. Imbri puts Justin in mental contact with Breanna, and the three of them work together to overcome the Challenges.

Inside the Castle, Breanna and Justin ask the Good Magician their Questions.  Justin wishes to have a nice adventure, without changing from a tree.  Breanna wants to escape the zombies.  The Good Magician says that Justin should remain in mental contact with Breanna as she travels.  And Breanna should go to the Isle of Women.

The three kings
The three kings arrive on the moon Pyramid, and make their way to the home of the Ida of this world.  They proceed to the moon Torus, and then to the moon Cone.  Cone is a world which is shaped like a cone, and has two different habitats; the outer surface has an atmosphere of air; the interior is filled with water.  The glowing footprints lead into the interior.  They realise that since this is a dream, they will have no problem breathing underwater.  They find the home of this world’s Ida at the cone’s inner tip.

Ida asks a favour of them: there is a winged mermaid here called Aurora, who does not fit into this world.  They work out a way that Aurora can transfer to Xanth.

The three kings continue on to the moons Dumbbell, Pincushion, Spiral, Tangle and Motes, where they finally find the Zombie Master.  He doesn’t know why the zombies would be stirred up, but believes he will soon find a moon suitable for them, at which point the problem should abate.  The three kings return to their bodies on Xanth.

In the Good Magician’s Castle, the Gorgon (the Good Magician’s current Designated Wife) gives Breanna instructions.  She will be guided to the Isle of Women by a man called Ralph, but since he is a rude, obnoxious man, the Gorgon provides her with a “protection racket” – a small toy tennis racket, which Breanna places in her pocket, which protects her from harm.

Ralph turns up and escorts her to Xanth’s western coast.  He constantly makes rude remarks; Breanna, and Justin (who is linked mentally to her), are offended by them, but try not to react. Ralph tries to make sexual advances to Breanna, but the racket protects her.

The Isle of Women is one of many islands off the west coast.  They appear and disappear, and are not all accessible from Xanth at the same time.  Ralph takes her to a dock where a boat called Para is waiting.  But Breanna must wait; the Isle of Women is not yet accessible.

The three kings
The three kings awake back in Castle Zombie.  Aurora, the winged mermaid has also arrived.  Dolph transforms into a roc, and carries Dor, Bink and Aurora to Mount Rushmost, where Dolph had previously seen a winged mermaid called Erica.  (This had been at Chex and Cheiron’s wedding in “Heaven Cent”.) They find a group of female winged monsters, including Erica, and leave Aurora with them.  As penalty for the men intruding, the females kiss the men after applying lip bomb to their lips; it has an explosive effect. (“Lip bomb”, = “lip balm”, is a recurring pun in the Xanth series.)

Leaving the mountain, the three kings drink at a stream.  Then they realise they have forgotten where their home is; the stream is a tributary of the River Lethe, which makes a person forget the thing they were just talking about.

They find a man called Phil Istine, near the west coast.  He says he will tell them where they live if they bring him a girlfriend from the Isle of Women.

The three kings and Breanna
Dolph transports Dor and Bink to various islands along the coast, looking for the Isle of Women.  They finally come to the dock under which Breanna is sleeping.  She wakes and they tell each other their stories.  The island appears, and they all get into the boat, Para, and cross.  The boat is intelligent, and because of Dor’s talent (communication with inanimate objects) is able to speak to them.  It has several pairs of duck feet, which enables it to move by itself on water and also travel on land.

They now discover the nature of the Isle. Only women or royal men (kings or princes) can cross to it.  (Breanna realises that unfortunately this will permit Zombie King Xeth to come to the island.) The men will not be allowed to leave unless they each marry one of the women there.  When the three kings explain that they are all married, the women insist that they must dump their wives and marry women from the Isle.

Breanna is escorted to her own log cabin.  She soon realises this had been to prevent her interfering with the attempted seduction of the three kings.  A zombie woman called Zyzzyva arrives at her cabin.  Initially Breanna is revolted, but with Justin’s encouragement invites the zombie woman in.  Zyzzyva is well-preserved; she had been a warrior woman and had been killed in battle, and had been converted to a zombie soon after death.  She is keen to marry Xeth, but is not skilled in romance.  Breanna and Justin give her some guidance.  Then Xeth arrives looking for Breanna.  Breanna leaves Xeth and Zyzzyva together to get acquainted.

The three kings
The Isle women escort the three kings away to a building where they are confined in three separate rooms, while seductive women approach them one by one, attempting to persuade them to give up their wives and marry them.  Eventually Bink thinks of a solution which will provide the women with the men they want, and allow the three kings to go free.

The three kings and Breanna
The kings meet up with Breanna and they leave the Isle in the boat Para.  Breanna and Justin want to continue their association, and agree to travel with the three kings.  A troll woman called Tipsy comes with them; they had suggested to her that she might become a companion for Phil Istine.  Para, the boat, continues transporting them after they arrive back on land.  Then Dolph transforms into a roc, and carries them, in the boat, to Mount Rushmost, where the females there provide them with a supply of lip bomb.

They return to find Phil Istine, and Tipsy kisses him after applying lip bomb.  He accepts her, but states that a troll was not part of the deal; the kings can find the location of their home by asking the king of the werewolves on the Isle of Wolves.

So Para takes them to the Isle of Wolves.  There King Wolverton agrees to tell them where their home is if they talk his son Jeremy into training to become king.

So they go to meet Prince Jeremy.  He is depressed, and tells them he had been cursed by a curse fiend.  (The curse fiends are a community of humans who all have the same talent of casting magical curses.)  The curse states that there will only be one perfect woman for him.  She will be a foreign woman.  He will not be able to find her; she must find him.  She will not know he is her ideal mate, so will not look for him.  When she passes the age of 21 without finding him, they will never get together.

They persuade him not to give up hope; it may be that his ideal woman will still find him. In the meantime he needs to learn to behave romantically towards women; he should practise with Breanna.  Maybe his ideal woman is on the Isle of Women.

Dolph transforms into a bird and flies around the island.  He sees Para approaching the island, bringing Jenny Elf and her cat, Sammy.  Obviously people had started to worry about the missing kings, and Jenny had told Sammy to find them. (Sammy Cat has the talent of being able to find anything except home.)  But Jenny would be a suitable person for Jeremy to practise his romance on, as she won’t know he’s a prince.

The three kings, Breanna and Jenny Elf
Jenny arrives and tells the kings that she needs to take them back to Castle Roogna.  So that’s where home is!  Jenny meets Jeremy, and after a few clumsy interactions, Jenny is pleased to discover that Jeremy can transform into a wolf, and is telepathic.  Back on her home world, the World of Two Moons, she had been a wolf-rider; the wolves and riders there communicate telepathically.  Jeremy transforms into a wolf, and Jenny rides him.  They enjoy each other’s company.

Breanna (and Dolph)
A zombie werewolf called Stigma arrives on the Isle of Wolves.  The werewolves get ready to send him away.  But Breanna has learned to respect zombies, through her interaction with Zyzzyva, and welcomes Stigma, shaming the werewolves into accepting him.

Now that Breanna has developed a concern for zombies, she wonders who will represent them when the Zombie Master and Millie retire. She asks Dolph if he can take her to visit the Zombie Master and Millie. Dolph transforms into a roc, and flies her to Castle Zombie. The Zombie Master has returned, having discovered a suitable world for the zombies. Now he and Millie can retire there, along with any zombies who want to go there. He has raised the question with the Good Magician, of who would replace himself and Millie at Castle Zombie, and oversee the zombies that remain in Xanth, but so far had not got an answer. Millie gives Breanna a tour of the castle. Afterwards, because it is now night, Dolph transforms into a large night hawk (big enough to carry Breanna), and flies Breanna back to the Isle of Wolves.

The three kings, Breanna and Jenny Elf
The next day, the three kings, Breanna, Jeremy, Jenny and Sammy all go to the Isle of Women, where all the women line up to tell Jeremy that they love him.  But Jeremy realises that none of them is his ideal woman.  Where can he find her?

The time comes for Breanna and Justin to part from each other.  They both wish they could continue to be together, but obviously they are not compatible – a 15-year-old girl, and an older man who has spent most of his life as a tree.  Or is there some way it could work?