Piers Anthony’s “Xanth” series

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Overview
Books in the “Xanth” series

  1. A Spell for Chameleon
  2. The Source of Magic
  3. Castle Roogna
  4. Centaur Aisle
  5. Ogre, Ogre
  6. Night Mare
  7. Dragon on a Pedestal
  8. Crewel Lye
  9. Golem in the Gears
  10. Vale of the Vole
  11. Heaven Cent
  12. Man from Mundania
  13. Isle of View
  14. Question Quest
  15. The Color of Her Panties
  16. Demons Don’t Dream
  17. Harpy Thyme
  18. Geis of the Gargoyle
  19. Roc and a Hard Place
  20. Yon Ill Wind
  21. Faun & Games
  22. Zombie Lover
  23. Xone of Contention
  24. The Dastard
  25. Swell Foop
  26. Up in a Heaval
  27. Cube Route
  28. Currant Events
  29. Pet Peeve
  30. Stork Naked
  31. Air Apparent
  32. Two to the Fifth
  33. Jumper Cable
  34. Knot Gneiss
  35. Well-Tempered Clavicle
  36. Luck of the Draw
  37. Esrever Doom
  38. Board Stiff
  39. Five Portraits
  40. Isis Orb
  41. Ghost Writer in the Sky

Links to Xanth pages

Overview
Xanth is a magical land, which is somehow in our world, but not easily accessible. It occupies the same area as the state of Florida, although somehow removed from it. The inhabitants of Xanth refer to our own world as Mundania.  (However, later in the series, the relationship of Xanth to Earth/Mundania changes, in conjunction with Ida’s moons.)

The land is populated by various magical creatures and part humans: eg centaurs, dragons, elves, ogres, harpies, goblins, nymphs, fauns and merfolk. The humans who live there each have a single magical talent – a different one for each person. For example [for characters early in the series], Trent can transform any creature into another creature, Iris can project illusions, Dor can communicate with inanimate objects, Irene can make plants grow instantly, and Grundy Golem can translate the language of any creature, including plants.

The stories generally involve the characters in adventuring through the Xanthian wilderness, which is rather hazardous, with dangerous animals and plants, which have evolved magical ways of catching their prey. There are other hazards, such as the love spring, which if you drink from it, causes you to immediately fall in love with the first being of the opposite sex that you see. Or you could be captured by a tribe of goblins.

Each story generally has a central character, who has to go on a quest, usually with companions, travelling across Xanth, having various adventures, having to make significant decisions, and making use of magic if possible.  Generally there are romances as well.  Usually the central character will begin by consulting with Humfrey, the Magician of Information (also known as the Good Magician).  There are three challenges to get into the Magician’s Castle.  Then Humfrey provides an answer for any question, in exchange for some service. The stories are often resolved in unexpected ways.

Although all humans born in Xanth have a magical talent, only a few have really strong and useful talents. Those who have are called Magicians (if they are male) or Sorceresses (if they are female). Only a Magician can become king. As a result, the monarchy does not necessarily follow the hereditary line. Ruling queens are not permitted. This convention is eventually circumvented in the book “Night Mare”, by the declaration that a female Magician (ie a Sorceress) can become the ruler, but must be referred to as “King”, not “Queen”.

As the series continues, the focus changes to different characters from book to book, so that the minor characters of one book may become the central characters of a later book. Also, as time passes, some of the characters have children, and the series continues with the lives and adventures of the children.

A major feature of the series is puns. The author goes a bit overboard with puns as the series goes on, as he tries to accommodate all the suggested puns that his readers send in.

One of the types of beings in the Xanth universe are demons.  There are two levels:

  1. Demons, spelled with a capital D (and occasionally referred to as Senior Demons), who are associated with the planets and the forces of the universe.

These Demons are constantly trying to increase their status. This is the reason for the infamous Demon Wagers.  There is a hierarchy within these Demons: Major Demons, Dwarf Demons and Minor Demons.

In the beginning of the series, these Demons’ names are given in the format of mathematical formulae, eg X(A/N)th.  Initially the idea is that the Demons increase their status by modifying the variables. A bit later in the series, an increase in status results in a Demon getting more ornate brackets in their name.   But later in the series, this format is abandoned, and their names given in normal print, eg “Demon Xanth”.  (The word “Demon” is normally included, to distinguish the Demon’s name from the realm they rule, but may be omitted when it is not ambiguous.)

  1. demons (or lesser demons), spelled with a small d, who are generally confined to the Land of Xanth, or the other magical realms.

However, with both types of demons, a capital D is used when referring to them by name.  Often (generally only with the lesser demons) their names form a word when combined with an initial D, eg, Demon Fiant = D. Fiant = defiant.

Also, of course, a capital is always used when beginning a sentence, eg “Demons don’t dream.”  All of the above also applies to the feminine form, “demoness”.

As well as the land of Xanth, the stories describe a place called “the gourd”, or the Realm of Night, or the dream realm, where bad dreams are manufactured, and carried to their intended recipients by night mares – ie black female horses, who can pass through material objects. This land is ruled over by the Night Stallion. Ordinary people cannot usually go to this place physically, but if they look into the peephole of a hypnogourd, they are projected into the realm in spirit form, with their bodies remaining behind, although they feel as if they are physically present in that realm.

Starting from the book “Faun & Games”, a new series of worlds are introduced – the Moons of Ida. Princess Ida has a tiny moon, Ptero, orbiting her head. It is possible for people to travel to this world in soul form, by releasing their souls from their bodies and leaving their bodies behind. Ptero also contains a Princess Ida, who has another moon orbiting her head, and so on. This provides virtually unlimited settings for adventures to occur.

A theme often mentioned is the Adult Conspiracy (to Keep Interesting Things from Children), whereby adults conceal certain facts from children, such as how to summon the stork which brings babies. In particular this is emphasised in “The Color of Her Panties”, when Gwenny Goblin has to take on the responsibilities of becoming the first female chief of her tribe.  The Adult Conspiracy is also responsible for adults enforcing rules on children, such as making them eat healthy meals, go to bed on time and attend their lessons.

There is a certain amount of sexual innuendo in the series. This mostly takes the form of flirting and teasing, and descriptions of nudity. There is occasional sexual activity, usually described in discreet language, using euphemisms like “summoning the stork”, since it is storks which deliver babies in Xanth. The inclusion of sexual activity seems to be becoming more frequent and obvious (although still not described explicitly) in later books such as “Two to the Fifth” and “Jumper Cable”, which I find a disturbing development, especially since I imagine most of the readership are children. However, the author makes the following statements in the Author Note of “Jumper Cable”:

“I have tried to slowly age the material, so that some four-letter words are used though generally bleeped out, and some adults signal the stork onstage instead of in the unmentioned background. But in general this remains a fun series, suitable for mature children if not for the freakable mothers of teens.”

As the series continues, Xanth’s historical background is filled in, and reasons are given for many of the magical features of the land. The book ‘Question Quest’ has a history of Xanth up to that point, compiled by a reader, which the author has adopted, and to which he remains consistent. The history can also be found at http://www.hipiers.com/timeline.html.

I started the reviews of this series some years ago.  Initially I attempted to keep the reviews of the individual books fairly brief, but found myself writing longer reviews as time went on.  As at 2017, I am rereading the earlier books, rewriting the reviews to be longer, and therefore more consistent with the reviews of the later books.

I have kept a copy of the shorter reviews on page Piers Anthony’s “Xanth” – short descriptions.

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Books in the “Xanth” series
A Spell for Chameleon (1977)
In the land of Xanth it is the law that everyone must have a magical talent.  But Bink doesn’t have one, and he is approaching his 25th birthday, when he must demonstrate a magical talent or be exiled to Mundania.  He decides to go to Magician Humfrey to ask whether he has a talent that he doesn’t know about.

The trip takes many days, and he meets various people and encounters various hazards along the way.  Then he encounters the wide Gap Chasm.  Wynne, a beautiful but stupid girl, shows him the way down into it.  But then he has to run for his life from the Gap dragon.

Later he meets Iris, the Sorceress of Illusion.  She proposes to use her powers to make it seem he has a talent. Then he could become the King, and she, the power behind the throne.  But Bink rejects this offer.

Bink finds an injured soldier, Crombie, in a ditch, and heals him with magic water from the Spring of Life.  They travel on together.  They meet a plain-looking girl called Dee.  But Dee leaves them due to some made by the comments of the woman-hating Crombie.

Bink arrives at Magician Humfrey’s castle.  Humfrey determines that Bink has a strong magical latent, but there seems to be some magic preventing it from being identified.

Bink returns home, and then goes on trial before the King, to demonstrate his magical talent.  The King, who is known as the Storm King, is old; he previously had the power to generate storms, but now can hardly raise a gust of wind.  He does not accept the note from Magician Humfrey, and sentences Bink to exile.

Xanth is surrounded by a magical Shield which prevents living things from crossing. This is to prevent the waves of invasion of people from Mundania, which has resulted in violence and bloodshed in times past. A temporary gap is made in the Shield for Bink to leave Xanth. But outside the Shield, Bink is captured by soldiers under the command of Trent.  Trent, known as the Evil Magician, had tried to take the throne of Xanth 20 years previously, but had been defeated and exiled.  He has the magical talent of transforming any living thing into any other living thing.  He has now gathered an army, and is attempting to enter Xanth and take the throne again.  He wants Bink to tell him where the stone controlling the Shield is, so he can destroy it with a catapult, but Bink refuses.

Shortly afterwards, the soldiers capture another exile from Xanth, an ugly but smart woman called Fanchon.  Bink and Fanchon are imprisoned together.  But they manage to escape.  Somehow Bink, Fanchon and Trent end up back in Xanth, but without Trent’s men.  The three decide on a truce, while they help each travel through the hazards of the Xanth wilderness.

They find an abandoned castle, Castle Roogna, which had been the King’s Castle many generations ago.  While staying there, Bink notices that Fanchon is becoming more attractive; in fact she looks a lot like Dee, whom he had previously met.  Fanchon confesses that her real name is Chameleon; over the period of a month, she changes from Wynne (beautiful and stupid), to Dee (average in both appearance and intelligence) and Fanchon (ugly and smart).  The only way she can get rid of her magical nature is by living in Mundania, where she would always have the appearance of Dee.  Meanwile, Bink is starting to think that Trent is not quite as evil as his reputation.

Then they travel on.  But as it comes time for Bink and Chameleon to part from Trent, Bink challenges Trent to combat, in an attempt to prevent him taking the throne.

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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, whom Trent has transformed into a griffin for the duration of the quest.  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 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 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 harming 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 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.  Bink and his party 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, a creature she rides which can phase through rock, to find the others.

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.

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Castle Roogna (1979)
It is 12 years since the events of “The Source of Magic”.  Dor, the son of Bink and Chameleon, is 12 years old.  His talent is communication with inanimate objects, which is considered a Magician-level talent, so Dor is the heir apparent to the throne.  Trent and Iris have a daughter, Irene, a year younger than Dor, who has the talent of growing plants, which is not considered a Magician-level talent, and in any case, a woman can’t become the ruler.

Bink and Chameleon are often on trade missions to Mundania for the King, so Dor is left in the care of Millie, his nursemaid, who is 29 years old. Millie’s talent is sex appeal, and Dor has reached the age when he is starting to notice the opposite sex.  Millie had been a ghost for 800 years, but had been brought back to life in “The Source of Magic”. (However, people continue to refer to her as “Millie the Ghost”.)  She has a frequent visitor, Jonathan, a zombie.

King Trent gives Dor a quest, as practice for becoming king. He must find a way of bringing Jonathan back to life, for Millie’s sake.  So Dor goes to Magician Humfrey.  Humfrey tells him he must travel back in time 800 years to the past to consult with the Zombie Master.  (The Zombie Master’s talent had been to bring the dead back to the half-life of a zombie.)  Humfrey gives Dor a spell to enter the tapestry in Castle Roogna, which shows moving images of the events of 800 years ago.

Dor casts the spell and finds his consciousness transferred to a big strong warrior from Mundania, in the Xanth of 800 years in the past. But the spell had also accidentally picked up a tiny spider from the tapestry, who became a man-size spider within the tapestry world.  Dor places a piece of spiderweb on his shoulder, and using his talent, gets it to translate the spider’s language.  They become allies and travel together, helping each other through the hazards of the wilderness, and fighting creatures such as goblins and harpies.  As they travel, the spider, whose name is Jumper, learns the human language from Dor.  Dor heads for the past version of Castle Roogna, to find out where the Zombie Master is.

On their way, they are joined by the 17-year-old Millie (back before she had become a ghost), who is also going to Castle Roogna, to get a job as a maid.

They meet King Roogna whose talent is to modify magical objects or spells for different purposes.  His castle, Castle Roogna, is in the process of being built by centaurs.  But he has a rival, Magician Murphy, whose talent is to make things go wrong.  They have come to an agreement that if Roogna can complete his castle by the end of the year, he will remain king.  But if not, he will abdicate, and the resulting chaos will no doubt favour Murphy as the dominant power.

And things are going wrong.  The goblins and the harpies are planning a war against each other, and their paths will meet at Castle Roogna.

Dor, Jumper and Millie have learned the location of the Zombie Master’s castle, so they go there, to ask that the zombies come to defend Castle Roogna.  Also Dor asks for a way of bringing a zombie back to life.

But the Zombie Master rejects them.  As Dor, Jumper and Millie leave, they are attacked by Mundane warriors.  Jumper is injured, and they return to the Zombie Master’s castle.

Dor knows the location of the healing spring, so flies there on a zombie roc, and returns with the elixir, which cures Jumper, and also allows the Zombie Master to repair zombies.  The Zombie Master also makes the potion Dor has asked for, to bring a zombie back to life.

Castle Zombie is besieged by the Mundanes.  The zombies defend it, commanded by Dor and Jumper.  During this period, Millie tries to become close to Dor, but Dor rejects her, knowing that he will be returning to his own time soon.  So instead she becomes friendly with the Zombie Master, and they become engaged.

Dor and Jumper sneak out of the castle to get help from the Dragon King, lord of the jungle.  The Dragon King brings all the monsters of the forest to fight against the Mundanes, and so, with Dor, Jumper and the zombies fighting as well, the Mundane army is defeated.

The Zombie Master agrees to bring the zombies to defend Castle Roogna, so they set off.  Dor and Jumper scout ahead.

Dor and Jumper arrive at Castle Roogna.  The goblins and harpies start attacking the castle, each with their allies.  Dor organises the centaurs, who are archers, to fire at the attackers. Neo-Sorceress Vadne (not a full Sorceress), who is also in the castle, helps in the battle. Her talent is changing the shape of things, so she uses it to change enemies into balls or blocks.

The zombies arrive, and it is necessary to lure the enemy away to allow the zombies in.  Dor, riding Cedric the centaur, and accompanied by Jumper, plays a pied-piper flute, and lures a portion of the goblin and harpy forces away to the Gap Chasm, where he detonates a forget-spell, so the enemy can’t remember what they were doing.

So the goblins and the harpies are defeated.  Dor also finds solutions to the goblins’ and harpies’ grievances.

But Murphy’s curse is still operating, and tragedy strikes Millie and the Zombie Master.

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Centaur Aisle (1982)
It is 4 years after the events of “Castle Roogna”. King Trent appoints Dor as temporary King for a week, while he and Queen Iris go to Mundania on a trade mission.  But they don’t return at the expected time.  Dor consults with the Elder Roland (who is also his grandfather), but Roland insists that Dor continue in the role until Trent returns.  Dor gathers his friends to assist him: Princess Irene, Grundy the golem, Smash the ogre and Chet the centaur.  (Grundy is actually no longer a golem, that is, an inanimate object brought to life, but had been changed into a living being at the end of “The Source of Magic”. But everyone still refers to him as a golem. And he still remains tiny.)

But another week passes without the King and Queen’s return.  Dor goes to consult Magician Humfrey.  Humfrey tells him he must go to Centaur Isle, off the southern tip of the Xanth mainland, to find a new Magician who has suddenly appeared.

So Dor takes his friends Irene, Grundy, Smash and Chet.  They travel by boat and then through the islands off the western coast, encountering various hazards on the way.  To escape a sea monster, they use a magical salve to climb up a column of smoke and then travel on the clouds.  But then a group of wyverns attack them, and Chet is bitten.  As the magic of the salve fades they find themselves lowered into the sea, but are rescued by the centaurs of Centaur Isle.

On Centaur Isle, they discover that the unknown Magician is a centaur called Arnolde the archivist, who has a small region of magic around him – the Centaur Aisle – but this is only noticeable when beyond the magical boundary of Xanth.  If he travels with them to Mundania, this will enable them to use their magic talents in Mundania, where magic normally does not operate.  However magic is considered obscene by centaurs, and the centaurs of Centaur Isle accept his resignation from the museum where he works.

So Dor and his friends, plus Arnolde, set out for Mundania to the north of Xanth, to try to locate the King and Queen. (Chet is still recovering, so can’t come with them.) Dor uses his talent to question the rocks and ground on whether they have seen the King and Queen pass by, but with no result.  With Arnolde’s knowledge they figure out that the connection between Xanth and Mundania keeps changing, to different points in Mundianian history and geography.

They continue on into Mundania – this region turns out to be modern America – and go to a library for research. They are assisted by an archivist called Ichabod.  From clues that Trent had given Dor, they figure out that the King and Queen had gone to the Kingdom of Onesti, in medieval Europe, in 650 AD.

The sea at the boundary of Xanth and Mundania changes colour every time a new connection is made.  By questioning the ground, they eventually find the connection which leads them to the correct time and location.

They travel by boat up the river until they reach Castle Onesti, and meet King Oary of Onesti.  But Oary drugs their wine and then imprisons them.  While in prison, Dor and Irene confess their love for each other.

Then they learn that Oary is an impostor; he has imprisoned the true King Omen, and Trent and Iris, at another castle, Castle Ocna.  Arnolde has been imprisoned separately from the others, so they can’t use their magic.  How can they escape, and rescue Trent, Iris and Omen?

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Ogre, Ogre (1982)
Tandy is the daughter of Crombie the soldier and Jewel the nymph.  She lives with her mother in the underground caverns.  Her father works at Castle Roogna, and only occasionally visits them.

Demon Fiant (D. Fiant = defiant) is expressing an unhealthy interest in Tandy.  Then he invades her bedroom, intending to rape her.  Tandy’s magic talent is the tantrum, which has physical force.  She throws a tantrum at Fiant, hitting him, and the demon departs.  But Tandy is afraid this will not work in future.

Tandy keeps being visited by nightmares – which are black female horses who deliver bad dreams.  While still being in a state of sleep, she jumps on one of the mares, and rides it to the surface world of Xanth.  She tells it to take her to Castle Roogna, but instead the mare delivers her to the Good Magician’s Castle.

Smash is an ogre.  Ogres are big, strong and violent, stupid and ugly, and proud of all these qualities.  They also speak in inane rhymes.  Smash’s mother is actually one of the curse fiends, who are of human derivation, but Smash considers himself an ogre.  But he is half-civilised, having lived in the vicinity of Castle Roogna, and become friends with humans.

Smash feels there is something missing in his life.  He comes to the Good Magician’s castle, but then realises he can’t formulate his question.  Tandy has been working as a servant there for a year, as payment for the answer to her question.  Humfrey gives them both the answer: Smash will find what he seeks with the Ancestral Ogres.  Smash and Tandy should travel together.

The Gorgon is married to Magician Humfrey.  (This is the same gorgon Bink and his companions encountered in “The Source of Magic”.  Humfrey had nullified the gorgon’s stare by making her face invisible.)  She explains the Magician’s answer: Tandy needs protection, so Smash will become her protector, as she searches for the solution to her problem. They should go to Lake Ogre-Chobee, where the Ancestral Ogres live.  She asks that on the way they take her greetings to her sister, the Siren.

There would be many dangers in the adventure that follows, but Smash’s strength and ferocity would generally solve the problem.

On the way, Smash gets tangled in an Eye-Queue vine, which sinks into his head, and suddenly makes him a lot smarter.  This state continues through most of the adventure, often making him clever enough to solve their problems, although he keeps wishing the Eye-Queue’s curse will leave him, to enable him to return to the normal stupidity of an ogre.

They visit the Magic Dust Village and then the Siren’s lake.  The Siren, hearing of the Gorgon’s life with Humfrey, wishes she also had a man, and decides to come with them to search for one.  (The Siren is a mermaid, but can change her tail into legs to walk on land, and her scales turn into a scale-sequined dress.)

They arrive at Lake Ogre-Chobee. The Siren and Smash explore the lake. When they return to Tandy, they find her in a trance, staring into the peephole of a hypnogourd.  They remove the gourd, but she remains in a trance-like state.

Smash looks into the peephole himself.  He finds himself in another place, the Realm of the Night, where the nightmares come from. (This realm can be entered through any hypnogourd.)  First he finds himself in a haunted house, then in a graveyard.  He hears a voice coming from a coffin.  Tandy’s soul has been claimed for her abuse of the nightmare.  Smash makes a deal: Tandy’s soul will be returned, but Smash’s soul will be taken in three months time, unless he can substitute another soul.  Or he can take the matter up with the ruler of this realm, the Night Stallion.

Back in normal Xanth, Smash realises there are no ogres at Lake Ogre-Chobee, and remembers they had moved to Ogre-Fen-Ogre Fen, in the far north of Xanth.  So they set off.

On the way Smash rescues a fairy from a group of monsters.  This female fairy’s name is John; she had received the wrong name.  She wants to find the male fairy who received her name, so they can exchange.  So she joins the group.  This sets the pattern for their travels; several female creatures would join their group in search of their goals.

Then they meet a hamadryad (a tree nymph) called Fireoak.  The villagers near her tree are threatening to cut the tree down.  They agree to go with her to defend the tree.

They come to the Gap Chasm.  They meet Chet Centaur and his sister Chem. Chem’s talent is to project maps.  She wants to map the uncharted sections of Xanth, and wishes to travel with them.  Chet leaves to take a message to King Trent asking for protection for Fireoak’s tree.  Smash and his companions use Chet’s rope to let themselves down into the chasm.  But they are attacked by the Gap Dragon.  There is a long and ferocious fight between Smash and the dragon; it is eventually Tandy’s tantrum that stuns it.  With difficulty they climb up the other side of the chasm.

Then they are captured by a tribe of goblins. The goblins let them go when they promise to take the chief’s daughter Goldy to another goblin tribe.  Goblins are exogamous; their girls must marry in other tribes. [This seems not to be a universal rule; there are examples in the other books where female goblins marry within their tribe.]

Smash has not recovered his strength after fighting the dragon.  He confesses to the others the deal he made in the gourd; he is losing his strength as part of his soul is taken from him.  Smash must go back into the gourd, and travel to all parts of it, because the Night Stallion will be in the last place he looks.  During the period that follows, Smash visits the gourd several times, and visits the various locations: a plain where he is surrounded by the nightmares, the City of Brass, a shuttle to the moon, Paper world, a desert area with an ifrit in a bottle, Mirror world, and a room full of cakes. He accidentally brings a girl made of brass, called Blythe, out to the normal world, and she joins their group for a while, until Smash can return her to the City of Brass.

They arrive at Fireoak’s tree, and Smash scares off the villagers.  Then Prince Dor, Princess Irene, Chet Centaur and Grundy Golem arrive, and declare to the villagers that the King has proclaimed protection over Fireoak’s tree.  Then Prince Dor’s party departs.  Fireoak remains there when Smash and his companions travel on.

They continue on through the lands of the Flies and the Dragons, and the Regions of Air, Earth and Fire. (There are five major elemental regions in Xanth: Air, Earth, Fire, Water and the Void.)

Then they come to the land of the Goblins.  But when they meet the goblin chief, he refuses to accept Goldy into their tribe.  Tandy hits the chief with her tantrum, but the goblins punish her by stranding her on a sinking island.  They permit Smash to rescue her, and give him a magic wand; they haven’t discovered how to make it work.  But Smash works it out and rescues Tandy.  He gives the wand to Goldy, who is now sure to find a husband in the tribe, with such a powerful possession.

They continue on through the land of Griffins, and then into Birdland.  There they find a community of fairies, and John finds the male fairy Joan, who had received her name. She decides to stay there.

Then they come to the Region of Water, also called the water wing.  There is a community of merfolk there.  The Siren meets Morris the Merman, and decides to stay there.

The party is now down to Smash, Tandy and Chem.  They arrive at the Void and enter, but then discover they can’t back out.  They seem destined to be lost in the black hole in the centre.  Smash re-enters the gourd for his showdown with the Night Stallion.  He is faced with a number of terrible ordeals.  He hopes that if he wins, the nightmares will rescue his friends.

And if so, will Smash and Tandy find what they seek?

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Night Mare (1983)
[During this story, a series of people become King in turn.  I have marked their names in bold at the point that they come to the throne. Trent is already King at the beginning of the story.]

Mare Imbrium (Imbri) is the night mare Tandy had ridden to escape Demon Fiant in “Ogre, Ogre”.  She received a half-soul from Chem Centaur as part of the payment when she and her fellow mares rescued Smash’s party from the Void.

But Imbri is too kind-hearted to be a good bearer of bad dreams.  The Night Stallion calls her in to give her a new assignment: the liaison between the World of the Night and the World of the Day, during the coming crisis, the Nextwave – a wave of invasion of Mundanes into Xanth.  Imbri is to go to Chameleon and become her steed, and take a message to King Trent: “Beware the Horseman”.  Normally night mares cannot go out into sunlight, but Imbri’s nature will be changed; she will become solid during daylight hours, but at night she will retain her ability to dematerialise and pass through solid objects.

Emerging into normal Xanth, she is delighted to experience the sunlight.  She meets a white stallion – apparently an escaped horse from the Mundanes, as there are no true horses in Xanth. But the horse becomes frightened and runs off.

Then she meets a man, the horse’s owner, who refers to his horse as the “day horse”.  Night mares are able to communicate with other people by projecting dreamlets into the other person’s mind.  The man persuades her to let him ride her to find his horse.  But he is revealed as a cruel man when he puts a bit in her mouth and uses spurs on her sides.  He gives his identity as the Horseman, and learning that she has been warned about him, he forces her to go to his camp, where his Mundane companions hobble her and confine her to a pen.  She would normally have been able to escape at night by dematerialising, but they build a big fire, whose light prevents her.

But the day horse turns up in the night and puts the fire out, which enables her to escape.  He is afraid of Mundanes, in fact humans in general, and is willing to help her, but will not come to Castle Roogna.

Imbri goes to Chameleon’s house, near Castle Roogna.  But Chameleon is in her stupid beautiful phase, so cannot understand about the message for the King.  So Imbri goes to the King herself, and tells him of her mission.

The next morning Grundy Golem arrives at Chameleon’s house; the King has given instructions that Chameleon should ride the night mare to Magician Humfrey’s Castle to get his advice.  When they get there, the Magician tells them again “Beware the Horseman”, and gives her another message “Break the chain”.  He cannot tell her any more than this.

Chameleon knows that her son Dor and his fiancée Irene are planning to be married secretly that night, by a zombie justice of the peace, outside Castle Roogna.  But the couple don’t realise that all their friends know about it, and will be present, disguised as zombies.  Chameleon and Imbri arrive back at the castle in time to attend the wedding.  One of the other guests is Ichabod, the archivist from Modern America, whom Dor and company had met in “Centaur Aisle”, who now often visits Xanth.

After the ceremony, Imbri, Chameleon and Ichabod search for King Trent in the castle, but find him motionless and mindless, sitting at his desk.  Dor, as heir to the throne, must become king.

Dor appoints Chameleon, Imbri and Ichabod to travel north to spy on the Mundanes and gather information. Grundy goes with them because of his ability to communicate with plants and animals.  And Imbri persuades the day horse to be Ichabod’s steed.

The border between Xanth and Mundania is constantly changing to connect to various parts of Mundania’s history and geography.  Ichabod’s knowledge should enable them to identify the time and place the Mundanes come from.

But then Imbri, Ichabod and Grundy are captured by the Mundanes, and taken to their leader, Hasbinbad.  Ichabod soon learns that the Mundanes are Carthaginians, or Punics, from the time of the Second Punic War, around 210 or 215 BC, and they were attempting to enter Italy in support of Hannibal when they entered Xanth instead.  Then the Horseman turns up – he is second in command to Hasbinbad – but he allows Imbri to escape. So Imbri rescues Ichabod and Grundy, they rendezvous with Chameleon and the day horse, and return to report to King Dor.

Dor leads the soldiers of King Trent’s former army. The two armies meet north of the Gap.  (Castle Roogna is south of the Gap.)  It is apparent from the numbers of Mundane soldiers that half the soldiers are still up north, kept in reserve.  But at dawn on the next day, Dor is found motionless and unresponsive just like Trent.  The healer says they are not ill; they are victims of a magic spell.

The Zombie Master arrives at Castle Roogna to take the throne.  (How the Zombie Master, of 800 years ago, is alive in the present is explained towards the end of “Castle Roogna”.)  He takes an army of zombies to meet the Mundane army at the main bridge of the Gap. (There are 3 bridges over the Gap: the main bridge, the invisible bridge, and a one-way bridge from south to north.)  As the battle progresses, Chet Centaur cuts down the bridge.  But that night, the Zombie Master falls victim to the same spell as the previous kings.

Humfrey comes to take the throne. He says that the chain to be broken, which he had mentioned previously, is the chain of lost kings. There will be ten kings during the invasion, counting from King Trent. He names Bink and Arnolde the Centaur as the next two Kings.  He then sets up a series of spells (mostly in glass bottles) at the baobab tree near Castle Roogna. He sends inflatable nymphs, floating through the air, to bring the Mundanes to the baobab tree, so they will not be attacking the castle.  He explains the spells to Imbri in case he is taken before he can cast them.

In the meantime, Imbri, Chameleon and the day horse go to meet Bink and Arnolde, who are returning from a trade mission in Mundania.

When they return, they discover that Humfrey had been found unconscious like the others. However, he had captured his voice, saying the name of his attacker, in a bottle: it says “Horseman”.  So the Horseman is a person from Xanth, with a magic talent, not a Mundane.  He must be using the Mundane warriors to enable himself to become king.

Bink becomes king. It is generally believed that Bink has no magic talent, but Humfrey had figured it out.  Bink’s talent is that he cannot be harmed by magic. The talent conceals itself, and often operates as an apparent coincidence.  In this current situation, it means Bink can operate Humfrey’s spells without being harmed himself.  He defeats the Mundane army, and finally fights and defeats Hasbinbad. But then he is found unconscious.

In anticipation of Arnolde’s succession to the throne, Imbri goes to Centaur Isle, to ask the centaurs to send an army, in support of the Centaur King, to fight the Mundanes’ reserve army.  The centaurs agree, on the condition that Centaur Isle is granted legal autonomy.  In any case, the centaurs don’t want the Mundanes ruling Xanth.

Arnolde the Centaur becomes king.  He confers with Elder Roland on the interpretation of Xanth law: A Magician must be king. Sorceresses are female Magicians, so a Sorceress may be ruler, but must be referred to as “King”, not “Queen”.  In the absence of a person of Magician-level magic, someone with a lesser magical talent may rule. These interpretations clear the way for Iris and Irene to be the next kings.

Arnolde also discusses with Imbri the fact that the Horseman’s spell is like a person becoming entranced by looking into a hypnogourd.  Maybe the Horseman can alter a person’s line of sight, linking their eye to a hypnogourd.  In which case, all the Kings are in the gourd in spirit form.  Imbri goes into the gourd and finds that all the lost Kings are there.

Imbri guides the centaur army north to where the reserve Mundane army is.  But the centaurs are defeated when they are ambushed, although with their excellent archery skills, they take out a large number of the enemy.  Imbri returns via the gourd, and finds Arnolde there with the Kings; he has also been taken by the Horseman’s spell.

Iris becomes King. She creates illusions of monsters attacking, scaring the Mundane soldiers into making disastrous mistakes.  She also makes it appear that there is level ground at the Gap, so the soldiers fall in.  She creates an illusion of herself to taunt the Horseman, who is leading the Mundane Army.  But this enables the Horseman to cast his spell on her.

Irene becomes King.  She nominates Chameleon as her successor.  Chameleon is mother of one king, and wife of another, and she is coming into her smart ugly phase; she will need her intelligence for the crisis.  Irene starts growing aggressive plants to protect the castle.

Imbri and Chameleon go to cut down the invisible bridge over the Gap.  Chameleon names Imbri as her successor; she is the only one immune to the hypnogourd, and therefore the Horseman’s spell.  They meet the day horse, who takes Chameleon back to the castle while Imbri goes to the Good Magician’s castle, to organise the Gorgon and the other women to defend Castle Roogna.

Imbri fetches Blythe Brassie from the City of Brass in the gourd, and discovers both Irene and Chameleon in the gourd with the other Kings.  They have both been victims of the Horseman’s spell. Chameleon had brought the Horseman into the castle, and he is trapped there by the plants Irene had grown around the castle. (Chameleon had been King for two minutes, but she had been putting her plans into effect from the time Irene named her as successor.)  Imbri is now King: it is up to her to save Xanth.

The next battle will be fought by women.  The invisibility spell has been removed from the Gorgon’s face.  The Siren’s dulcimer has been repaired; with her singing and music she can lure men to be turned to stone by the Gorgon.  Goldy Goblin has come with her magic levitation wand.  Most of the other female companions from Smash’s journey in “Ogre, Ogre” are there: Chem Centaur, Tandy and Blythe Brassie.  Smash has been guarding the castle, but now the remaining Xanthian males – Smash, Chet and Grundy – must leave before the Siren starts singing.

The Mundanes come, but the women’s magic is effective against them – until the Horseman starts casting his spell on them, from the castle.  Night is falling, when Imbri will able to dematerialise – to enter the castle and confront the Horseman.

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Dragon on a Pedestal (1983)
Dor and Irene became King and Queen when Trent and Iris retired.  They now have a three-year-old daughter called Ivy.

Dor and Irene have been invited to the Zombie Master’s castle, ostensibly for the debut of Hiatus and Lacuna, the Zombie Master and Millie’s 16-year-old twins. (This is New Castle Zombie; Humfrey’s Castle is now on the site of the original Castle Zombie.)  However, it is actually a meeting of the Magicians for an important announcement from Magician Humfrey.

Humfrey arrives on a magic carpet with his son Hugo.  Hugo is eight, backward, and his talent is to conjure fruit, but the fruit turns up rotten.  Humfrey’s announcement is this: The forget spell on the Gap Chasm is breaking up and forming forget whorls, drifting out of the Gap, and causing people to lose their memory.  The Gap Dragon has left the Gap and is roaming around.  They have to do something about these problems. And then Humfrey and Hugo leave.

The Gap Dragon attacks Castle Zombie.  The zombies defend the castle, and Irene grows plants to attack the dragon, and the dragon leaves.  However, in the confusion, Ivy goes missing, and wanders off into the jungle.

Irene flies to Magician Humfrey’s Castle on a bird-of-paradise plant, to ask how to find Ivy.

Irene’s talent is growing plants. She has always been able to grow them rapidly, and give them commands to some extent.  But now she can grow them almost instantly.  This improvement occurred when Irene was pregnant with Ivy. Ivy’s talent is Enhancement, so maybe Ivy’s presence is responsible for the improvement.  [Interesting point: in these early books, human pregnancy is mentioned a couple of times.  In later books, babies are delivered by storks.]  And now Irene’s talent is at Magician level.  This talent is useful for growing plants for food, or clothing or weapons, etc; all of this becomes handy for this adventure.  A lot of Xanth plants have strange attributes: some of them behave like the animals they are named after.

But at the Good Magician’s Castle, the Gorgon tells Irene what has happened to Humfrey, playing back the sequence in a magic mirror.  Humfrey and Hugo had gone to the Fountain of Youth to replenish the Magician’s supply. The Gap Dragon attacked.  Hugo splashed both the dragon and Humfrey with Fountain of Youth water: the dragon became younger and smaller, and Humfrey reverted to a baby.  The Gorgon had used the emergency conjuration spell to bring baby Humfrey back to the castle, but Hugo is missing.  So the two mothers now have to search separately for their two children.

Back at the Zombie Master’s castle, the party has broken up into search parties to find Ivy.  Irene joins Chem Centaur and Grundy Golem.  At Dor’s insistence, they take a zombie called Zora with them, to take word back to Castle Zombie if needed.

Ivy is wandering in jungle, seeing various things.  She meets a yak, who is very talkative, but the yak departs when he encounters a forget-whorl.  Later she meets the youthened Gap Dragon.  Not being aware she should be frightened of him, she admires him, saying how wonderful and friendly he is, how strong he is and how hard and shiny his scales are, and how hot his steam is.  And her talent of Enhancement makes it so. She gives him the name Stanley Steamer.  Ivy and the dragon continue on together, but are then caught in a witch’s trap – one which could keep them frozen in time for nearly a century.

Irene, Chem and Grundy are captured by the witch Xanthippe, who has hypnotic powers. (Zora is with them, but the witch’s powers don’t work on her.)  The witch wants Irene to marry and breed with her son Xavier, even though Irene is already married.  She tells Irene she has Ivy captive.  But Xavier is not keen to do what his mother says.  Xanthippe releases the group when Irene offers to do the other thing Xanthippe wants: fetch the Seeds of Doubt, Dissension and War from the Tree of Seeds, which is guarded by the Simurgh (a huge bird), on Mount Parnassus.  Xanthippe also wants one of the Simurgh’s feathers, which is able to heal wounds.  Xavier and his hippogryph Xap go with them; Zora rides with Xavier on the hippogryph, who flies most of the way.

Meanwhile, Ivy and the dragon escape the trap, because of Ivy’s talent of Enhancement; Ivy is in fact a Sorceress, although she is not aware of the fact.  They encounter Hugo, who is also wandering in the jungle.  Ivy’s talent has the effect of making Hugo more handsome and smarter, and the fruit he conjures is ripe.  In a similar way to Irene’s plants, Hugo’s fruit is useful for all sorts of purposes: food, weapons, etc.

During Irene and her companions’ adventure, Zora Zombie saves their lives several times, suffering injuries that they would otherwise have experienced.  They learn her story: when she was a living woman, her true love had been false, and she had committed suicide.  Her family had brought her body to the Zombie Master, who had made her into a zombie.  Irene and her companions are grateful and sympathetic to her, and Zora’s body responds to their care and love by becoming less decayed.

On Mount Parnassus they are attacked by the Python (a giant snake) and the Maenads (the wild women of wine).  They meet the Muses at their temple.  Irene, Xavier and Grundy climb to the peak.  They see the Simurgh and the Tree of Seeds, which has the seeds of all possible kinds of plants. (The Simurgh is the wisest creature in the universe, and has seen the universe created and destroyed three times.)    The Simurgh gives Irene the feather and the seeds she asks for, then bounces on the tree, making a huge number of seeds fly off: Irene can take all the seeds she can catch and hold in her skirt.

[The author borrows from a lot of elements of Greek mythology in this story: Parnassus, Python, Maenads, Muses.  The Simurgh is from Iranian mythology.]

Ivy, Hugo and the Gap Dragon meet Glory Goblin (the younger sister of Goldy, from “Ogre, Ogre”).   She is in love with Hardy Harpy, one of the rare male harpies, but she knows her father, Gorbage, won’t allow them to marry.  So she has run away to find Hardy.  The goblins and the harpies live on opposite sides of the Gap, and with the forget spell and the dragon, this has kept them somewhat at peace with each other (since the war 800 years ago in “Castle Roogna”).  Together the group locates Hardy.  But then the goblins catch them and put Hardy on trial and condemn him to death.  But the group, including Glory and Hardy, escape.

Irene’s party returns from Mount Parnassus:  They meet the Gorgon; she has been affected by a forget-whorl, and forgotten to keep her veil on, and has been turning people to stone.  Again Zora saves Irene by intercepting the Gorgon’s stare; however the effect is to repair Zora’s body, so she appears more recently dead.  Xavier realises he cares for Zora, and he and Zora depart on Xap.  Irene reminds the Gorgon to put her veil on.

A new goblin/harpy war is starting up.  But Irene and her companions manage to intervene, to stop the war.

They discover a wiggle swarm in progress.  Wiggles are small wormlike creatures that hover in the air, and then shoot off in a straight line, boring holes through everything in their path, which could kill any creature in their way.  Creatures from all over come to defeat the wiggles: humans crush them between rocks, animals crunch them with their teeth, etc.  And Ivy, Hugo and the Gap Dragon play an important part in defeating the wiggles.

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Crewel Lye (1984)
Ivy is out of sorts and bored. Her mother is not paying attention to her, a baby brother, Dolph, has arrived, and Ivy has been confined to the castle for some apparent misdeed.  She tries watching the tapestry with its moving images of long-ago historical figures, but it is boring, and the pictures are fuzzy.  She notices that Jordan, one of the palace ghosts, is also watching the tapestry.  Jordan had helped Imbri defeat the Horseman in “Night Mare”.  And during his time as a ghost, he had come to love a female ghost called Renee.

Jordan had lived 400 years ago, but his memory of it is fuzzy, just as the images on the tapestry are fuzzy.  Ivy decides she must clean the tapestry, and then Jordan will see the pictures well enough to tell his story.  She needs to go to Good Magician Humfrey, to get the recipe for a cleaning solution.

Jordan finds a night mare’s horse shoe, and Ivy uses it to travel through the gourd to the Magician’s Castle. (Zora Zombie is there; she is babysitting the youthened Humfrey; her talent is to age people faster than normal.  When Ivy visits, she enhances Zora’s talent, which speeds up the aging process. So Humfrey is now a young child.)  Humfrey gives Ivy the recipe.

Ivy returns to Castle Roogna and follows the recipe, and makes up the cleaning solution: crewel lye.  Jordan tells his story:

Jordan is a warrior barbarian living in Fen Village, in the far north of Xanth.  He decides he would rather go adventuring than settle down with his girlfriend. So he heads off.

One night he hears the rattling of chains.  He follows the sound, and sees a pooka, a ghost horse, who remains tangible because of the chains wrapped around his body.  Jordan chases the horse until he eventually catches him, and the horse becomes his steed. He calls the horse Pook.

Jordan’s magic talent is that his body heals itself, which is a useful talent for these dangerous adventures.  It takes longer to heal for more serious injuries.  He can even come back to life if he is killed.

They run into a tribe of goblins.  They escape into a tunnel in the mountain, but then are attacked by big humanoid monsters called callicantzari.  Jordan is killed by the monsters, cut up and put into the cooking pot. But they delay cooking him, and he comes back to life, and heals, overnight.  Pook had escaped, but now comes back and rescues him.

Then they encounter a tribe of elves, who invite Jordan to be their guest.  (An elf is a quarter the size of a human.)  An elf tribe always has its camp around an elf elm; closer to the tree, the elves have greater strength.  After they eat, and Jordan tells them his story, a female elf, Bluebell, takes him to her room in the tree, and they sleep together (or “summon the stork” according the usual Xanth euphemism).  Bluebell uses an “Accommodation Spell” to turn them into compatible sizes.

Jordan and Pook travel on.  They find an injured stork, who is attempting to deliver a baby ogre (or ogret), but had been attacked by a dragon, so it can’t fly.  Jordan loads the stork and the baby bundle onto the horse, and they continue on.  But they are attacked by dragons and have to fight.  Still under attack, they arrive at the Gap Chasm, and Jordan, the stork and the baby fall from the horse.  The stork is dead, but Jordan recovers, and the ogret is okay. They find their way down into the Chasm.  The Gap Dragon starts chasing them but they find a tunnel in the southern wall, and make their way back to level ground.

Jordan and Pook find their way to the ogret’s parents’ home and deliver the baby.  Then they continue on to Castle Roogna.

The castle is run down, and there are only two occupants: King Gromden, and a serving woman.  But they welcome Jordan as a hero who had been prophesied.  The King is dying, and must choose a successor. There are two candidates: twin brothers, Magicians Yin and Yang. Jordan must go on a mission which will decide which will be the new king.

Jordan meets the Magicians on two successive days, as they refuse to come together.  First he meets Yin who explains Jordan’s mission.  He must go and fetch a certain object and return it to the castle.  If he successfully returns, Yin will win, otherwise Yang will win.  Yin is the Good Magician who tells the truth, Yang is the Evil Magician who lies and deceives.  Yin gives him a bag of seven small white objects; they are spells, whose shape indicates their function.  Their purpose is to counteract the corresponding harmful black spells which Yang has placed along his route.

The spells are:

  • a shield: the corresponding harmful spell is a black sword which cuts and kills, the white shield preserves life;
  • a figure of a monster: the black monster figurine summons a monster, the white figurine banishes it;
  • a skull: the black skull brings death; the white skull brings life;
  • a stone: the black stone will turn him to stone, the white stone will return the stone to flesh;
  • a doll: the black doll will exchange his identity with another person, the white doll will exchange it back.
  • a tangled length of vine (the eye-queue vine): the white vine provides intelligence, the black vine idiocy;
  • a magic compass: the white compass points the way to the target object, the black compass will prevent him from knowing the way.

When Yang comes the next day, he inspects the spells Yin has given Jordan. He tells Jordan that Yin and the King are stupid, and tries to get Jordan to abandon the mission. But Jordan insists on proceeding.

So Jordan sets off the next day on Pook.  He knows that he must head northwest. He comes to a mountain, and thinking that this may confuse the predicted route, he goes over the mountain rather than around it.  But at the peak he encounters the black compass spell, and loses his sense of where he should go. He invokes the white compass, but instead of giving him back his sense of direction, it turns the rocky mountain to flesh.  Yang had mixed up the white spells, so they no longer perform what is indicated by their shapes!  Jordan doesn’t know where to go, but Pook does, and they continue down the mountain and in a northwesterly direction.

Then he encounters the black monster spell.  A tarasque appears: this is a dragon with a lion’s face, bears’ legs, a thick carapace and scorpion’s tale.  Jordan invokes the white monster spell, and suddenly becomes more intelligent.  He fights the monster, but is critically injured.  But then Pook attacks it, leads it away, and traps it in a cave.  Jordan’s body starts to heal, but is still unconscious. Pook gets Jordan on his back and carries him to the home of a young woman called Threnody, and Jordan recovers.

Jordan tells Threnody his mission.  She tells him about King Gromden’s background.  His wife, the Queen, had been jealous of the King’s daughter; she put a curse on the girl so that if she stayed in the castle, the castle would fall down.  This would mean the kingdom would fall, and humans would no longer be the dominant power of Xanth.  So the daughter left.  But the Queen also put a curse on the King, so that he would not remember the first curse.  As a result, the King keeps trying to bring his daughter back.  He wants her to marry his successor, which will satisfy the people, as his bloodline would continue.

Then Threnody tells him that she is the King’s daughter.  But she has poisoned his wine. She dumps his body down a chute into the Gap Chasm, where it gets smashed to pieces.

Pook sees Jordan’s body fall, and finds a way into the Chasm.  Pook doesn’t understand about Jordan’s healing ability, and tries to find a way to bury him.  Pook hauls Jordan’s body out of the Chasm.  But Jordan comes back to life overnight.

And then he encounters the black stone spell.  As Jordan starts to turn to stone, he invokes the white doll spell (a random choice, he doesn’t know which spell does what), and an arrow appears in his mind, showing him the way to his target.  Jordan dies again as he turns to stone, but eventually his healing ability brings him back to life again.

Jordan and Pook follow the direction of the arrow, which eventually brings them back to Threnody’s house.  And Jordan discovers that in fact Threnody is the object he is supposed to obtain.  But Threnody doesn’t want to come.  So Jordan ties her onto the horse, and they start back toward the castle.   Threnody escapes a few times, but the arrow in Jordan’s mind points out her location, so he manages to get her back.  Threnody tells Jordan some more about herself: she is not the daughter of the Queen; she is the illegitimate daughter of the King and a demoness.  This is the scandal which has left the castle almost deserted.  Threnody has inherited a talent from her demonic heritage: she can become diffuse like a ghost (she had used this ability to escape), or change her shape, or her size.  But all of these changes take time.

Then they encounter the black sword spell.  The spell expands into a full-sized sword and attacks Jordan; he counters it with his own sword.  The opposing sword keeps attacking, while Jordan is tiring.  He invokes the white vine spell, and his consciousness transfers into Threnody’s body.  Meanwhile the black sword continues to attack Threnody, who is now in Jordan’s body, and kills her.

But Jordan’s body starts to recover.  Jordan (in Threnody’s body) drags Threnody (in Jordan’s body) into the hollow of a dead tree for protection, and then discovers stairs going underground, and continues down them.  There they encounter the Gnobody Gnomes, the cowboys (humans with heads of bulls and cows) and the Knock-Kneed Knights.  They find a female ghost horse called Peek, who comes with them.  Eventually they emerge above ground again.  And they encounter the black doll spell, and their consciousnesses swap back to their correct bodies.

So they now both have a ghost horse to ride on.  But then Jordan encounters the black vine spell, and is afflicted by idiocy.  In this state, Threnody persuades him they should turn back towards her home.  The horses leave them, not wanting to be involved in this betrayal.  Jordan invokes the white skull spell, which turns into a full-sized white shield, which becomes handy for defending himself against the various monsters that attack.

As they travel together, it seems that Jordan and Threnody are falling in love with each other.  Jordan starts to recover from the idiocy spell, and Threnody reluctantly agrees to continue with him to Castle Roogna.

But at the castle’s drawbridge, Jordan encounters the black skull spell, and falls down dead.  Magician Yin tries to persuade Threnody to cross the drawbridge to the castle, but she refuses. She uses Jordan’s sword to chop up Jordan’s body, and hides all the parts in different locations, preventing him from coming back from the dead.  It seems that Threnody’s profession of love had been a cruel lie.

Back in the present, Ivy wonders whether the ghost Jordan can be brought back to life.  Can they find the parts of his body, and bring them back together?  The female ghost Renee says she knows where his body parts are.

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Golem in the Gears (1986)
At the end of “Crewel Lye”, Stanley Steamer, the youthened Gap Dragon, had disappeared as the result of a monster banishment spell.  He had been living at Castle Roogna, as Ivy’s pet, and Ivy (now 8 years old) misses him.

Grundy Golem feels small, useless and insignificant.  He seizes the opportunity to be useful, and offers to go and find Stanley Steamer.  So he goes to ask Magician Humfrey how to do this. (Humfrey now has an apparent age of 12 years.  Grundy tells him a method whereby he can be instantly any age he wants.)  Humfrey gives Grundy his answer: Ride the Monster under the Bed to the Ivory Tower.

Monsters under the Bed (or Bed Monsters) are a species of creature that live under children’s beds, and try to grab their ankles as they get into bed.  The only one Grundy knows is Snortimer, the monster under Ivy’s bed. Ivy is willing to accept Snortimer’s absence.  Also she has heard of the Ivory Tower: that’s where her pun-pal Rapunzel lives.  So Grundy will ride on Snortimer’s back. But Bed Monsters cannot stand the light of day (which will require travelling at night), and it will be necessary to take the bed with them.  Bink (now about 60 years old) and Chester Centaur offer to go with them, with Chester carrying the bed on his back.

They don’t know where the Ivory Tower is, so they decide to go and ask Stella Steamer (also called Stacey), the female Gap Dragon who is filling in for Stanley in the Gap.  They encounter several hazards on the way, but Bink seems not to be worried about the dangers and difficulties; they seem to be escaping them by coincidences occurring. (This is Bink’s hidden talent manifesting, although it seems to be a bit different from previously stated: often seeming coincidences result in good fortune for Bink and his friends, even when magic is not threatening to harm him. And later, Bink’s talent brings good fortune to his friends even when he is not physically present. )  They meet the ghost horses, Pook, Peek and their foal Puck, and Pook shows them the tunnel system down into the Gap.

But when they get there, Stella doesn’t know where the Ivory Tower is, but she suggests they ask the Monster of the Sea.  Bink and Chester must return home, as their wives are expecting them back. So, Stella carries the bed to the east coast.

The Monster of the Sea has a reputation of eating damsels in distress, so Grundy creates a mock damsel of driftwood, and calls out in the voice of a damsel in distress.  And finally the Monster comes.  But the Monster has been misunderstood; he rescues damsels in distress, he doesn’t eat them.  He knows about the Ivory Tower; it is a lighthouse on the coast, which is inhabited by the dreaded Sea Hag.  The Sea Hag is a Sorceress with the talent of Immortality; when she dies, she takes the body of another living creature, preferably a young woman.  Rapunzel must be the Sea Hag’s next victim. This means she is a damsel in distress, so the Monster is willing to help rescue her.  He carries Grundy, Snortimer and the bed to the Ivory Tower,

When Rapunzel, in the Tower, hears Grundy’s voice, she thinks it is the Sea Hag returning, (she calls the Sea Hag “Mother Sweetness”,) and lets down her hair to let Grundy and Snortimer climb up.  She is pleased to meet friends of her pun-pal Ivy.  She reveals that she is a descendant of Jordan and Bluebell Elf (refer to “Crewel Lye”), so she has both human and elf ancestry.  She can change her size, from elf-size to human size, and any size in between, and a little beyond these limits.  This means she can make herself the same size as Grundy, who is smaller than an elf.

But when Grundy explains about the Sea Hag, she doesn’t believe it.

Then the Sea Hag arrives.  She tries to kill Grundy.  In answer to Grundy’s taunting questions, she lets slip her intention to take over Rapunzel’s body.  Grundy, Rapunzel and Snortimer escape from the Tower.  But then the Sea Hag throws herself from the Tower, killing herself.  They know that the Sea Hag’s spirit can take the body of any creature, to attack them and try and get Rapunzel back.  (Intelligent beings like Rapunzel can only be taken over if they agree to it; the Sea Hag is relying on being able to persuade her.  It is not clear whether the Elf Prince – see below – gave his permission for the Sea Hag to possess him.)

Rapunzel knows where Stanley Steamer is; she has heard of the presence of a dragon in the community of Fauns and Nymphs at Lake Ogre-Chobee.  Rapunzel (human-size) and Snortimer carry the bed a short distance into the jungle.  But it would take ages to travel to Lake Ogre-Chobee like this.

Grundy and Rapunzel are becoming fond of each other.  But Grundy believes that Rapunzel should find a partner of her own kind, either a human or an elf.  And he thinks there is no possible female companion for him, the only one of his kind, a living golem.

Several creatures in sequence attack Grundy, and they realise it is the Sea Hag occupying their bodies.  Then, by seeming coincidence, Jordan and Threnody turn up (Bink had suggested they travel in this region), and Jordan kills the latest attacking creature, a chimaera.  After this, Threnody uses her shape-shifting talent to turn herself into a sphinx, and carries them towards Lake Ogre-Chobee.

Then they get stuck in the Ever-Glades: this seems to go on forever.  Threnody changes into a swift to fly and look around, but is attacked by a falcon – they realise that it has been taken over by the Sea Hag.  Jordan shoots the falcon with an arrow and kills it, but Threnody is injured, and takes a while to recover.

Then Arnolde the centaur turns up.  He is experimenting with reverse wood, which converts his magical Centaur Aisle into a Mundane aisle, which nullifies magic in the area immediately around Arnolde.  Bink had suggested the Ever-Glades as a suitable place to test this. So Arnolde nullifies the magical affect of the Ever-Glades on them, and continues on with them, allowing the group to leave the Ever-Glades.

They arrive at the Fauns and Nymphs Retreat, and find Stanley Steamer.  When some goblins arrive to capture the fauns and nymphs, Stanley scares them off.  Grundy and company realise that Stanley is preventing predators from attacking the vulnerable fauns and nymphs, and can’t leave.

Then the community is attacked by B’s.  These are like bees, but come from a B-Have, and their stings affect the way their victims behave.  And Grundy learns that the Sea Hag has taken over the body of the Queen B.  He sneaks into the B-Have and captures the Queen, but she escapes.

They discover that Snortimer is able to fight off attackers of the fauns and nymphs, and is quite happy to remain in this community. This frees up Stanley to return to Ivy.

So Grundy, Rapunzel and Stanley head back toward Castle Roogna.  Grundy still thinks Rapunzel should try joining an elf community, so they go to the elm of a tribe of elves which is on the way.  The elf prince Gimlet escorts Rapunzel into the tree, but then the elves poison Stanley (he is ill but not dead), and throw Grundy into an underground cell.  This is uncharacteristic of elf behaviour, and Grundy wonders what has gone wrong.  He escapes and climbs a long hidden shaft within the tree, and finds the Prince’s room.  The Prince is trying to persuade Rapunzel to marry him, but she is in love in Grundy.  Then Grundy realises that the Sea Hag has taken over the Prince’s body.  The elf guards arrive, and decide that the disagreement must be settled by trial by combat.

The trial is held using a system of lines hanging from the tree, and platforms on poles.  The contestants swing between the platforms on the ropes and cut the ropes to try and confine their opponent to a single platform. Then they must dump their opponent down a funnel through a hole which exits to somewhere else, from which no one returns.  But in the struggle both Grundy and the Sea Hag (in the Prince’s body) fall through the hole.

They find themselves in the underground cavern of Demon X(A/N)th.  This Demon is the source of the magic of the land of Xanth, whom Bink and his companions (including Grundy) had encountered in “The Source of Magic”. He is one of the Senior Demons, associated with the planets and the forces of the universe, who are constantly in competition with each other to gain status.

The Demon challenges Grundy to provide a strategy whereby the Demon can improve his status with the other Demons.  If Grundy fails, he will be held in suspended animation indefinitely in the Brain Coral’s pool.  If he succeeds, he will be returned to the surface, and to Rapunzel.

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Vale of the Vole (1987)
Esk is the 16-year-old son of Smash and Tandy; he is a quarter ogre, half human, and a quarter nymph.  So he is essentially human, but if he gets angry or desperate, he gains ogre strength briefly.   Esk needs to get away from his parents occasionally, so has located a hideout in a beer-barrel tree.  But then this space is invaded by a demoness called Metria.  Each tries to get the other to leave, and finally Metria threatens Esk’s parents.  Esk decides he must go to consult Magician Humfrey.

He sets off on the enchanted path.  He meets Chex, a female winged centaur, who is the daughter of Chem Centaur and Xap hippogryph: they had had a liaison during the adventure of “Dragon on a Pedestal”.  Although Chex has wings, she can’t fly, because her body is too heavy; she wants to ask the Magician how she can fly.  Then they meet Volney Vole; the vole community in the Vale of the Vole has a problem: demons who live in the valley have straightened the Kiss-Mee River, making the valley dry and barren.

The three querents (people with questions) arrive at the Magician’s Castle, and find it deserted. They travel toward Castle Roogna to report to the King.  They meet Chet Centaur (Chex’s uncle), Princess Ivy (now 10 or 11 years old) and Stanley Steamer.  The King and Queen are currently away from the Castle, so they all decide instead to go to the Gap Chasm; Chem Centaur is there, mapping the Chasm.  Since her talent is projecting maps, maybe she has a map which shows lost Magicians.

They find Chem and Stacey Steamer together at the Chasm. But Chem doesn’t have a map showing where the lost Magician is.  She returns with them to Castle Roogna.

Chex had been dreading meeting her grandparents Cherie and Chester, as it is obvious from her wings that she is a crossbreed.  They have not previously known about her existence.  (Centaurs generally do not accept crossbreeds of their species.)  And now, at the Castle, Chester is accepting of her, but Cherie is not.

The King and Queen have returned, so the travellers report that Magician Humfrey’s Castle is deserted. Volney also reports the problem of the Vale of the Vole.  But the King can’t address Volney’s problem; he considers Humfrey’s absence a priority.

Esk, Chex and Volney all resolve to work together to get rid of the demons from the Vale of the Vole.  They will all go to the beings of their races to ask for help.  Ivy will also help to the extent she is permitted.

Chex heads off towards Centaur Isle, with Ivy on her back.  But they reach an area with a terrible smell: a sphinx had died.  So they divert to Castle Zombie.  Millie provides them with a guide, a zombie centaur called Horace, who will take them via another route.  Horace leads them through the peephole of a huge hypnogourd (a zombie gourd), so they travel physically via the realm of the gourd, and arrive on the coast opposite Centaur Isle.  But the centaur who takes people across on his raft won’t take Chex because she is crossbreed; the centaurs of Centaur Isle would not accept her.

Esk travels to Gateway Castle, under Lake Ogre-Chobee, where the curse fiends live.  They accept him because his paternal grandmother had been a curse fiend.  But they require him to be the audience for plays they are putting on, and to provide feedback.  At the end of his stay, they provide him with an old woman called Latia, to investigate the situation at the Vale of the Vole.

Latia tells Esk her cursing talent is defective; one curse in three turns out to be a blessing.  The next curse is due to be a blessing, so Esk asks her to curse him.  Nothing seems to happen initially, but then, when Latia isn’t looking, he falls down a sinkhole, and his eye is caught by the peephole of a hypnogourd.

The Kingdom of the Voles consists of all kinds of digging creatures, ranging from the large diggles to the small wiggles, and various kinds of squiggles in between.  And then there are the civilised voles, such as Volney.  Volney travels underground to talk to the diggles.  But the diggles do not want to antagonise the demons, so will not help.  He then goes to the squiggles, but they can’t help.

Chex and Volney meet back at Castle Roogna.  Esk is not there, but Latia arrives, and tells them that Esk is lost.

Esk is in the gourd.  After trying a few paths, which lead to dangerous outcomes, he tries another which is less defined.  He finds a walking skeleton called Marrow Bones, who tells him this is the Path of the Lost.  Marrow had got lost after running away from the graveyard, when he was scared by Smash (in “Ogre, Ogre”). But now he wants to come with Esk, so he will no longer be lost.  Further on they find Bria Brassie, a brass girl from the City of Brass, who had also got lost. She also comes with Esk.  Then Esk returns to the normal world of Xanth, because Chex, Volney and Latia had found him, and removed the hypnogourd.  Marrow and Bria had returned with him.

Chex and Marrow travel to meet Chex’s father, Xap Hippogryph, to ask if she can meet with the winged monsters.  Xap wants her to meet a centaur called Cheiron, but Chex, having received rejections from the centaurs, doesn’t want to meet another.  Xap tells her that the winged monsters are meeting on a mountain, so she can make her case, but she must get there on her own.

Chex laboriously makes her way up the mountain, with Marrow helping her.  She finally makes it to the plateau at the top, where the winged monsters are gathered.  She presents the case for getting rid of the demons, so the Vale of the Vole can be restored.  The opposing case is presented by Cheiron, who indicates the danger to the monsters from the demons.  Chex’s argument carries the day.  Then she discovers that Cheiron is a winged centaur; she is sorry she had not met him earlier when her father asked her to.  Cheiron says he will welcome her when she learns to fly.

Esk, Bria and Latia return to Castle Roogna to report to Ivy. Ivy gives them a pathfinder spell, which creates a magical path to their next destination, Ogre-Fen-Ogre Fen, the home of the ogres.  The path takes them to various strange places, but gets them to their destination a lot quicker than travelling directly.  They manage to convince the ogres to come to the Vale of the Vole.

Volney now travels undergound to find a wiggle.  Wiggle swarms, one of which had occurred in “Dragon on a Pedestal”, consist of the small wiggle larvae.  But an adult wiggle looks much like a smaller version of a vole.  Volney locates a wiggle princess called Wilda, who will soon produce offspring.  He asks her to come and make her nest in the Vale of the Vole.  The resulting swarm will devastate the area and upset the demons, making them leave.  But to prevent injury to nearby creatures, a containment spell will be required.  Wilda tells him of one that had been taken into the gourd and lost.

Esk, Chex, Volney and Marrow go to the zombie gourd, where they can enter the gourd physically. They invoke the pathfinder spell, to find the containment spell, and follow the path into the gourd.  They have various strange experiences, finally travelling through the gourd equivalents of the five Elemental Realms: Air, Earth, Fire, Water and finally the Void.  It turns out that the gourd equivalent of the Void, itself, is the containment spell. They pick it up and take it with them.

They all gather at the Vale of the Vole.  Esk assigns roles to his companions: liaisons to the voles, the winged monsters, the ogres and the demons.  Crunch Ogre (Esk’s grandfather) and Xap Hippogryph arrive as the representatives of the ogres and the winged monsters respectively.  And Demoness Metria turns up as the liaison for the demons.

The winged monsters and the ogres arrive, and start attacking the demons.

Meanwhile a romance is developing between Esk and Bria.  But creatures from the gourd cannot remain in normal Xanth – they eventually fade away – unless someone gives them half a soul.  Esk has to decide whether he is willing to give half of his.

But ultimately, all the fighting doesn’t force the demons to vacate the Vale.  The ogres and the winged monsters depart. The demons cause the river to flood the valley.  Esk and his companions make their way to higher ground, but Marrow and Bria are captured by the demons.

Then Wilda Wiggle arrives to make her nest.  Esk must set up the containment field, but this means he will have to remain in the path of the wiggle swarm.  Surprisingly, Metria offers to protect him by wrapping herself around him like a sheet; as a demoness, she can make herself impervious to the wiggle larvae.

And the wiggle swarm begins.

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Heaven Cent (1988)
Dolph, the 9-year-old son of Dor and Irene, decides to go searching for the missing Magician Humfrey. His parents insist on him taking an adult companion, so he takes Marrow Bones, the walking skeleton.

Dolph is a shape-shifter; he can transform himself to any living creature. This is handy for fighting off attackers, travelling, and making use of other creatures’ abilities.  Typically he transforms into an ogre for fighting, or a roc (a huge bird) for travelling long distances.

Dolph and Marrow arrive at the Magician’s Castle.  They search all the rooms, and then discover a hidden room.  In it they find a paper with the message: “Skeleton Key to Heaven Cent”.  Marrow suggests that the “skeleton key” may refer to the coral islands along the coast: some islands are referred to as keys, and they are built on the skeletons of the coral organisms.  The orientation of paper suggests the direction to the Isle of Illusion, on the east coast.

When someone kicks Marrow, his bones fly apart, and he can rearrange them into a different formation.  So when they reach the coast, he reorganises his bones into a boat, so they can cross to the Isle of Illusion.

The Isle of Illusion is filled with magnificent buildings. But it is all illusion; Iris’s talent has left her and returned to her old home.  They send a message to Iris about this.  They discover a female walking skeleton, Gracile (Grace’l) Ossein.  It seems she had accidentally left the gourd and found herself on the island.  They search the island, but the Heaven Cent is not there.

Now when they need to cross the water, Marrow can form the boat, and Grace’l can form its sail. They set off for the next island. On the way, they meet Mela Merwoman. Mela tells them what she knows about the Heaven Cent. In the past it has sent people to the place they were most needed.  But she says it doesn’t currently exist. It needs to be recreated after each use.

But then Mela kidnaps Dolph and takes him to her underwater home. (Her magic allows him to breathe underwater, in her home, or when she is with him.) She wants to keep him and marry him when he becomes old enough.  She was previously married to Merwin Merman. But a dragon had killed him and stolen his firewater opal. If Mela still had the opal, she could attract another merman.

Meanwhile Marrow and Grace’l are still trapped in their boat formation.  Marrow calls for help with his his hollow finger, which is a whistle. Chex Centaur arrives (she can now fly) and rescues them.

Marrow and Grace’l make their way underwater to Mela’s home.  She agrees to release Dolph, as long as they go to recover the opal from the dragon.  Grace’l remains as a hostage.

Dolph and Marrow fly to Mount Etamin, where the dragon, Draco, has his cave.  Draco is absent, but they have to get past the guardian piranhas and bats.  Marrow is searching for the opal in the nest when Draco returns.  Dolph transforms into a series of different creatures, and fights Draco, but they are too well matched.  Draco asks for a truce – he wants to go to a ceremony of the winged monsters on Mount Rushmost: Chex and Cheiron’s wedding!  Dolph wants to go, and transforms himself into a dragonfly, and gets a ride on Draco’s back.

They discuss how Draco had acquired the opal.  Draco already had another opal, and he and Merwin each desired the pair.  They played a game such that the winner would get both.  Merwin had lost, but had taken both opals anyway.  So Draco had attacked him.  But now Draco realises he and Merwin had been playing by different rules. He promises to return the opal to Mela.

The wedding ceremony is conducted by the Simurgh.  She announces that the offspring of this union will be important to the land of Xanth, and gets all the winged monsters to swear to protect that offspring.

Marrow had been left to defend Draco’s nest.  But goblins, living in the caves of Mount Etamin, invade to steal Draco’s hoard of precious stones. Marrow fights them off with the help of the bats and piranhas, so the goblins don’t get many gems, but they break Marrow’s bones apart and carry them away.

Draco and Dolph arrive back.  Dolph wants to rescue Marrow.  Draco is too big to go through the cave system, but he takes Dolph to the naga, who also live in the caves.  The naga are a human/snake crossbreed race: in their natural forms they have the head of a human and the body of a snake.  They can transform into either human or snake forms.  King Nabob Naga agrees to help rescue Marrow, as long as Dolph marries his daughter Nada.  Or since Dolph is currently too young, if they become betrothed.  Dolph meets Nada; she is apparently 8 years old, close to his age.

The naga men, with Nabob, Dolph and Nada along, attack the goblins and recover Marrow’s bones.  Dolph puts Marrow back together again.  Draco rewards them by giving them both opals. Nabob insists that Dolph takes Nada with him when they leave.

Dolph, Marrow and Nada return to Mela, and give her both opals, and Grace’l is returned to them.  They continue exploring the islands down the coast, having adventures on each one.

But now we discover the truth about Nada, but she doesn’t tell the others at this stage.  She is actually fourteen, but her transformation ability enables her to appear a similar age to Dolph.  Nada’s older brother Naldo had gone to Humfrey to ask for help for the naga against the goblin encroachments. Humfrey’s answer was: “Marry what Draco brings.”  Naldo thought that this must mean he would marry Ivy, resulting in an alliance with the human King, for assistance in fighting the goblins.  But it was Dolph whom Draco brought – so it was Nada who had to marry him, in order to form the alliance.

Grace’l realises Nada is upset about something.  Grace’l confesses her own situation: she was exiled from the gourd, for messing up a bad dream.  Nada confesses her situation to Grace’l.

Finally they come to Centaur Isle.  But the centaurs don’t welcome outsiders.  How can they search there for the Heaven Cent?

Nada uses an Eye Queue vine to become smarter.  She realises they can go through the zombie gourd (mentioned in “Vale of the Vole”) to the gourd realm.  There must be an exit from that realm to Mundania, because night mares and storks go there.  But Dolph and Nada will have to go alone, as Marrow and Grace’l can’t exist in Mundania.  Nada will turn into a snake in Mundania, because the majority of her genetic material is that of a snake.

So Marrow leads the way through the gourd realm, and then Dolph and Nada make their way to Mundania, emerging in a place called No Name Key, in Florida. Dolph finds a man called Turn Key – the keeper of the portal into Xanth from Mundania.  Turn Key uses a computer to translate the Mundane language to the Xanthian language, so they can understand each other.  And he takes Dolph out in a motor boat to search for the Heaven Cent off the coast of Florida.  He uses a device, which looks like a watch, to point to the direction of the Heaven Cent.  The device points back towards the mainland.  He gives Dolph the watch, and Dolph and Nada return to Xanth.

Dolph flies the group back across the mainland of Xanth, following the watch, and ends up on the west coast.  There they find a monument to Trent’s return to become King (which occurred in “A Spell for Chameleon”).  The watch points them to an island off the coast.  When they get there, Dolph reads the island’s name:  “Isle of View”.  But Nada mishears him; she thinks he said “I love you”.  She confesses that she doesn’t love him, and tells her whole story. They both become upset.

The place where the watch indicates is empty.  Maybe the Heaven Cent is in the corresponding location in Mundania.  They return to the monument on the mainland where they had seen a gourd.  They meet the guardian of the monument, an argus (a really strange monster).  He tells them there is supposed to be another monument on the Isle of View, indicating the location of a dying maiden in a coffin, who has the Heaven Cent. A prince is supposed to wake her with a kiss. But that other monument has gone.

Marrow, Grace’l and Dolph enter the gourd.  Since Dolph has entered in spirit form, Nada stays behind to watch his body.

They enter a confusing setting within the gourd.  It is obviously a simulation of a Mundanian airport, but they do not realise that.  They steal a small plane, and fly to the place corresponding to the Isle of View, and land.  There is a tomb there, but Dolph can’t open the door.  They realise that the reference to the “skeleton key” is to one of Grace’l’s rib bones, which plays the key of G (a grace note) when she taps it.  She does this, and the door opens.  They find the coffin inside and open it.  There is a sleeping girl inside. Dolph kisses her and she wakes. She says her name is Electra, and he must marry her, or she will die.  So he says he will.

But the Night Stallion appears.  Grace’l must go on trial, for spoiling the dream and violating her exile.  Dolph says he will go on trial with her.

We now learn Electra’s story:

This occurs more than 800 years ago (shortly before the past part of “Castle Roogna”).  Electra’s talent is electric shocks.  The Sorceress Tapis is a creator of magic tapestries; she created the tapestry which hangs in Castle Roogna in the present day.  Tapis employs Electra to charge up the Heaven Cent, a copper coin which sends the invoker to the place they are needed. Electra wears it on a chain around her neck; the charging takes three years.  Tapis wants to use it to go to the place where she can do the most good, before she reaches the end of her life.

A Princess comes to Tapis.  She is fated to bite a poison apple and lie in an enchanted sleep for a thousand years.  She has the apple, and has set up the coffin, and she wants Tapis to make a coverlet for it.  At the end of a thousand years, she expects a prince to wake her up with a kiss.  If the prince doesn’t turn up, she will die, but the Princess is sure he will turn up.

Magician Murphy (who previously appeared in “Castle Roogna”) comes to Tapis for her support against King Roogna.  Tapis refuses, and Murphy casts his curse on her.

The Princess prepares to enter the coffin.  But Murphy’s curse operates.  Electra accidentally invokes the Heaven Cent, falls into the coffin, bites the apple and falls into an enchanted sleep.  The situation intended for the Princess has happened to her.

Back in the present: What will be the consequence of Grace’l’s trial?  And if Dolph survives, he has become betrothed to two girls: how will this be resolved?

Dolph loves Nada, but she doesn’t love him, but she doesn’t want to break it off because of the alliance.  Electra loves Dolph, but he doesn’t love her, but if he breaks it off she will die.

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Man from Mundania (1989)
Three years have passed since “Heaven Cent”. Dolph’s betrothal situation with Nada and Electra has not changed. Ivy is now 17, and Nada is the same age. Dolph is 12. Electra is 15 (not counting the more than 800 years she was in an enchanted sleep), but she looks 12. (Dolph at this time is grounded, until he decides which girl to marry. However, he is allowed on some trips, supervised by Ivy, if essential to the purpose of the trip.)

Ivy, Nada and Electra have become good friends. They now take a trip, accompanied by Stanley Steamer, to the cave of Com-Pewter, an evil machine, who can change reality in his vicinity, and tries to confine people to his cave. Ivy wants to recover a magic mirror which Com-Pewter had stolen from them. After some conversation with the machine, and recovering the mirror, Electra uses her electric shock talent to enable them to escape.

Magician Humfey is still missing. Ivy invokes Heaven Cent, expecting to be transported to where the Good Magician is.

Grey Murphy is an 18-year-old young man, living in Mundania. He is attending college, and finds life tedious. He sends away for some computer software which promises to improve his life. When the program, called “Sending”, is installed, it responds to his spoken words by displaying sentences on its screen. It provides a list of girlfriends for Grey to choose. And when he chooses one, Grey discovers that girl living in the apartment opposite. But she doesn’t prove satisfactory, so he chooses another. And discovers that now, the second girl is living opposite him. Thus a series of girls, chosen by the program, appear in the opposite apartment, finally ending with Ivy.

Grey and Ivy can only communicate while near the computer, and when the computer is on, otherwise their words sound like gibberish to each other. Apparently the program is translating between Xanthian and Mundanian. Ivy realises that Sending is an emissary of Com-Pewter, which Sending confirms. Ivy tells Grey that she is a princess from a fantastic land called Xanth. Grey thinks she is delusional. And Ivy wonders why the Heaven Cent sent her here? Could Murphy’s curse still be in operation from 800 years ago? Is it just coincidence that Grey’s last name is Murphy?

Ivy decides to take Grey to Xanth to show she is telling the truth. They travel to No Name Key, which Dolph had visited previously, and meet Turn Key, who allows them to enter the gourd into the gourd realm of Xanth.

They see various strange sights (the gourd realm is stranger than Xanth proper), and climb a high mountain to a replica of Castle Roogna. But Grey thinks this is all caused by the technological tricks of an amusement park, and some of the magic which Ivy hopes will convince him doesn’t seem to work. Finally they arrive in Xanth proper.

Then they are captured by a nasty tribe of goblins, the Goblinate of the Golden Horde. These goblins capture travellers and cook them and eat them, but before they put them in the pot, they torment them. They strand Ivy on an island in a lake supplied by a hate spring. Contact with this water supposedly causes people to hate each other so much they hurt and even kill each other. But Grey doesn’t believe this, and wades through the water and rescues her. They are unaffected. Ivy is so overwhelmed, she asks Grey to marry her, and Grey accepts. They escape on a centaur called Donkey, whom the goblins had captured.

They reach the Gap Chasm, and meet Stanley Steamer, who has now returned to the Gap. By this stage Grey is having trouble explaining away all the magic he sees, so he believes everything Ivy has told him.

They arrive at Castle Roogna. The King and Queen announce that Ivy, as a Princess, can only marry a prince or a man with significant magical talent.

Dolph wonders if Grey might have a talent, and they examine the Tapestry, showing Grey’s and Ivy’s adventure in Xanth up till then, to see whether things that happened could be caused by his talent. In particular, had he affected the magic of the hate spring? They confirm that other travellers had succumbed to its power. But the results are inconclusive; the magic of the water could have just become weak.

They decide to visit Clio, the Muse of History, on Mount Parnassus, to see if she can tell whether Grey has a talent. Ivy, Grey, Nada and Electra fly there on the backs of Cheiron and Chex Centaur and Xap Hippogryph.

Clio knows future history. (She has already written the next few volumes, which, not surprisingly, have the same titles as the next few books of the Xanth series.) But she says it would be unethical to tell them what Grey’s talent is.

Leaving the Muses’ temple, the group run into conflict with the Maenads and the Python. And in the process, Grey discovers his talent: he can nullify magic. And when he restores the magic, he can make it stronger than before – this is the Rebound effect.

But how can Grey have a talent if he is from Mundania? They must resolve this before the marriage can go ahead. Since Com-Pewter had been responsible for the Sending program, Grey and Ivy go to see him, this time chaperoned by Grundy and Rapunzel.

Com-Pewter shows a story on his screen in movie form. Toward the end of the events of “Castle Roogna”, 800 years ago, Magician Murphy and Sorceress Vadne had been confined to the Brain Coral’s pool, where they were held in suspended animation. But in the Time of No Magic (this occurred briefly at the end of “The Source of Magic”), the magic of the pool had stopped, and Murphy and Vadne had escaped. They had sought Com-Pewter’s help to escape from Xanth. But they had to promise that their son would serve Com-Pewter. Watching these events on Com-Pewter’s screen, Grey realises that Murphy and Vadne are his parents. They had “summoned the stork” in Xanth, so this is how Grey had a magic talent.

Grey feels obliged to honour the pledge if he remains in Xanth. But Com-Pewter wants to rule Xanth, and Grey can’t be party to this. If he can’t find a way to nullify the commitment, he must leave Xanth. After experiencing Xanth, he can hardly bear to return to the tedium of drear Mundania. Com-Pewter gives him a month’s grace period. Ivy realises she would have a devastating choice: if Grey has to return to Mundania, will she stay in her beloved Xanth without Grey, or go with him to drear Mundania?

In the meantime, Grey must briefly visit Mundania to confirm with his parents whether Com-Pewter is telling the truth. Grey, Ivy and Electra ride the ghost horses Pook and Peek, and the centaur Donkey, to the isthmus in the north of Xanth, which leads to Mundania. Then Grey, Ivy and Electra continue on by themselves into Mundania.

But in Mundania, Electra ages rapidly, since she is actually nearly 900 years old. So they will have to make their visit quick, and get her back to Xanth.

Grey, Ivy and Electra visit Grey’s parents. King Dor has promised that Murphy and Vadne may return to Xanth and will be pardoned, if they swear allegiance to the current regime. And Murphy can cast his curse on Com-Pewter. So they all return.

Grey and Ivy discover a scene in the Tapestry, where gremlins were captured by the Goblinate. One of the gremlins had a paper with Magician Humfrey’s address. This is a magical address which updates itself with the Magician’s current location. So Grey, Ivy and Dolph go and visit the Goblinate, and administer justice/revenge, and obtain the address.

Grey, Ivy and Dolph follow the instructions of the address, which involves travelling through the gourd, and eventually find three coffins, presumably containing Humfrey and his wife and son. They open one coffin; Humfrey is inside, alive. Humfrey tells Grey that he must go to the Magician’s Castle and serve him until he returns.

So Grey and Ivy go the Magician’s Castle, with Marrow and Grace’l as chaperones. They start cleaning and tidying the place. Then various creatures, thinking that Humfrey had returned, start coming with their questions. Grey and Ivy do their best to answer them. But Com-Pewter’s deadline is running out. It doesn’t look as if Humfrey is returning. So will Grey have to leave Xanth?

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Isle of View (1990)
Chex discovers that her 5-year-old son Che has gone missing – possibly kidnapped.  (Her husband, Cheiron is away at Mount Rushmost, at a convention of winged monsters.) After searching the vicinity of her home, she flies to Castle Roogna, and reports to Murphy, who is acting King, while Dor and Irene are away on an official visit to King Nabob Naga.

Murphy calls all available people to form search parties.  He also lays his curse on the people who had kidnapped Che.  Chex is partnered with Grundy.  They return to the clearing near Chex’s home, and find an elf – but she looks different from Xanthian elves: she is bigger, has pointed ears, and 4 fingers on each hand.  And she doesn’t need to stay close to an elm as Xanthian elves do. She says her name is Jenny; she comes from the World of Two Moons.  [The author has based Jenny on the elves of the ElfQuest graphic novel series.]  She had followed her cat Sammy, and somehow ended up here.  Sammy can find anything except home.  He races off the moment someone mentions something that needs to be found; Jenny spends a lot of time running after him.  Jenny is short-sighted, so Chex gives her a pair of spectacles from a spectacle bush.

When Chex mentions her lost son, Sammy takes off again, with Jenny following after. Jenny finds the centaur foal tied up with goblins guarding him.  Jenny throws exploding cherries (cherry bombs) at the goblins, scaring them off, unties Che, and they run off together. But they are captured again by goblins. Jenny tells Sammy to find help.

Electra and Nada have been partnered as a search party; they go to Humfrey’s Castle to ask for information.  Grey is answering questions in Humfrey’s absence; in fact people are now referring to Grey as the Good Magician.  He is learning to find his way around Humfrey’s Book of Answers.

Electra is 17 (she looks 15); she will turn 18 in a week.  This is the deadline for when she must get married, or else she will die, due to her enchantment.  It seems most likely that Dolph will choose to marry Nada, who is 20, and very attractive.  Dolph is 15, due to turn 16 in a few months.  (According to Xanth law, the girl must be at least 16 when she marries, but it does not give the minimum age for the boy.) Everyone has been telling Dolph he ought to marry Electra, but Nada is the one he loves.

Electra and Nada arrive at the Castle and ask Grey about Che’s location. Grey is surprised because he had expected them to ask about their betrothal situation, and this is what he had researched.  He asks a magic mirror, which shows a scene of Che having been captured by goblins.  Then he asks Ghorge the ghost writer (a ghost who writes messages on paper).  The ghost writes a message saying that Che is at the With-a-Cookee River.  Grey has a few of the large gourds, which enable people to pass through the gourd realm physically, to get to their destination quickly.  Electra and Nada enter one and follow the trail of cookie symbols.

Dolph, meanwhile, is searching the Regions of the Elements for Che. He takes the form of a ghost, which is less likely to be affected by strong winds etc. Demoness Metria appears; she is teasing and seductive, and constantly in search of interesting situations. She tells Dolph that Che has been captured by goblins, he is at With-a-Cookie River, and that Nada and Electra are headed there.  She also tells him that there is a hole in the fabric of the world, which Jenny Elf had come through. But other creatures from other worlds could also come through, so he ought to plug the hole.  (Throughout this story Metria appears to various characters, often to tease, but sometimes to challenge their ideas or offer helpful suggestions.)

Dolph doesn’t know whether to believe her, so he continues searching the Elemental Regions.  But then Metria takes him to the hole.  A strange alien creature comes through.  Dolph overcomes the creature and plugs the hole with it.  Then he takes the form of a nighthawk and flies off to With-a-Cookie River.

Ghorge the ghost writer brings a message to Chex and Grundy from Grey.  Che is at the With-a-Cookie River, and has been captured by goblins.  Nada and Electra are on the way there. But Chex mustn’t go there. If the goblins see a winged centaur arrive, they’re likely to put Che in the cooking pot on the spot.  Chex (with Grundy on her back) flies to Mount Rushmost to tell her husband the situation.

Jenny and Che are led away by the goblins, and confined to a hut. They realise that this is a different, and worse, lot of goblins from the ones who had captured them before.  These are the Goblinate of the Golden Horde: a nasty lot, who torment their victims before cooking them and eating them.  Jenny has the ability to sing, and bring her hearers into a dream state, if they are not paying attention to her.  Can she use this to allow them to escape?

Nada and Electra arrive at the With-a-Cookee River.  They encounter Godiva Goblin and her three henchmen, Moron, Idiot and Imbecile.  After an initial struggle between them, they call a truce.

Godiva tells them she is from the tribe at Goblin Mountain.  She is the daughter of Goldy (refer to “Ogre, Ogre”), and has inherited the levitation wand from her mother.  Godiva’s daughter Gwendolyn is lame and needs a steed; this is why they had kidnapped Che.  Che is not yet big enough for a rider, but will grow.  They had used a tunnel spell to get to Che, but on their return journey the spell had gone wrong (because of Murphy’s curse), and they hadn’t reached home.  Then the elf girl had released Che. But then the elf and Che had been captured by the Golden Horde.

The two parties agree to work together to free Che and the elf girl.  Then they will decide who would take Che. Through their combined effort, plus Jenny’s singing, they rescue Che and Jenny, and they are all on the run from the goblins of the Golden Horde.

Dolph is searching the With-a-Cookee River, when Sammy Cat arrives.  Dolph changes into a cat to talk to Sammy. Then Dolph tells Sammy to find Nada, and follows him.  He meets up with the others and learns the situation.  The two parties now play a game of chance to decide who will take Che.  Godiva wins.  Dolph changes into a sphinx to carry them all to Goblin Mountain.  Jenny wants to stay with Che, and Che wants her with him.  So Godiva takes Che, Jenny and Sammy into the mountain.

Cheiron, on Mount Rushmost, has received the news from Chex.  He flies to the harpy grove, to talk to Gloha, the winged goblin daughter of Hardy Harpy and Glory Goblin (refer to “Dragon on a Pedestal”).  (Gloha is 15.) Gloha checks with her grandfather, Gorbage Goblin, and says there is no goblinwide conspiracy against the winged monsters.  Gloha decides to come with Cheiron; she can negotiate with goblins if necessary.  Back at Mount Rushmost, Cheiron receives news from various winged monsters on sightings of Che.  (Grundy provides a translation service.)  Then Metria appears; she had been present with Dolph as he carried the group to Goblin Mountain; she tells him the whole story.

Cheiron flies to Goblin Mountain, carrying Grundy and Gloha, and accompanied by a posse of winged monsters.  They meet up with Dolph, Nada and Electra.  Cheiron gives his ultimatum to the goblin chief Gouty; they must deliver Che, Jenny and Sammy by noon, or the winged monsters will start attacking.  But noon comes, and the captives are not released, so the rocs start dropping boulders on the mountain. The dragons get ready to breathe fire, smoke and steam on the mountain.

Che, Jenny and Sammy are locked in a room in the goblins’ tunnels.  Then Godiva comes to talk to them.  She asks them to promise not to tell anyone what she is about to tell them.  Che is unwilling to do this, but Jenny agrees, so Godiva takes her to another room.  Godiva tells her that she, Godiva, is the wife of the chief, Gouty.  Her daughter, Gwendolyn, is the chief’s heir; she is in line to be the first female chief of a goblin tribe.  But Gwendolyn is virtually blind.  If the goblins knew she had such a weakness, she would be killed, and the position of chief would go to Gouty’s illegitimate son, Gobble.  This is another reason Godiva wanted a centaur as a companion; he would be able to communicate to Gwendolyn what she is supposed to be able to see.

Then Godiva introduces her to Gwendolyn (known familiarly as Gwenny). (Gwenny is 12, the same age as Jenny.)  Jenny returns to Che, and tells him it is okay to make the promise, which he does, and Jenny tells him about Gwenny.  They then move into Gwenny’s suite of rooms.  But Che can’t decide whether he agrees to be Gwenny’s companion, so he asks Jenny to decide for him.  She says she can’t decide yet.

Gloha and Electra enter Goblin Mountain to parlay.  They meet Godiva, who is Gloha’s cousin, and is handling things while Chief Gouty is indisposed.  She introduces them to Prince Naldo Naga (Nada’s brother) and Bud of the Flower tribe of elves.  The goblins have called in their allies, the elves and the naga, for this conflict.  There are ancient alliances between the land-based creatures, just as there are between the winged monsters.  And the land dragons are on their way.  Gloha and Electra then go to see Che, Jenny and Gwenny.  Che tells them he has not yet decided whether he will be Gwenny’s companion, and Godiva says that until he decides, he cannot be released.  Electra and Gloha feel that Che and Jenny are hiding something; however, Jenny hints that their situation is somehow parallel to Electra’s betrothal situation. Gloha and Electra report back to Cheiron.

Chex had arrived in the meantime.  Cheiron and Chex fly off to confirm that the land dragons are approaching.  Dolph transforms himself into a winged centaur and joins them, with Gloha riding him. Dolph and Gloha debate what Jenny’s hint could mean.  When they see the land dragons on their way, Cheiron is keen to recommence the attack, before the land dragons arrive.  But Dolph persuades him to hold off, while they parlay again.

Dolph, Nada and Gloha enter the mountain.  They meet Naldo – Nada is happy to see her brother again – and then they go to see Che, Jenny and Gwenny.  Jenny tells Che she has now decided that Che must become Gwenny’s companion, and Che agrees.  Dolph, Nada and Gloha return to Cheiron.  But they have figured out about Gwenny’s near-blindness, and its consequences, and they tell Cheiron and Chex.  Che, Jenny and Gwenny come out of the mountain, and Che tells his parents his decision.  When Godiva comes out, Cheiron tells her he does not accept the decision; Che must be with his own kind.  The attack will still go ahead.

But then Chex comes up with a solution that will satisfy them all.

But there is still the matter of which girl Dolph will marry.  Naldo Naga comes up with a solution.  It is not entirely satisfactory.  But the situation develops in an unexpected way.

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Question Quest (1991)
Lacuna is the daughter of the Zombie Master and Millie. She is now 34 and her life is boring.  She goes to the Good Magician’s Castle to ask where she had gone wrong.  Grey looks up the Book of Answers and says that she should have proposed to the man she loved 12 years ago. Ivy asks him whether there is some way Lacuna can correct this situation.  Grey says that only Humfrey can tell her that.  He is still absent; he is in the anteroom to Hell.  Lacuna insists on going there, so Grey gets her to lie in a coffin, while her spirit travels to the anteroom to Hell in a handbasket.

Lacuna arrives there, and finds Magician Humfrey.  He has been waiting there for 10 years, for a meeting with Demon X(A/N)th, to ask that his former wife, Rose, might be returned to him from Hell.   He must wait there without leaving the room, or he forfeits the interview.  The Demon is no doubt aware that he is waiting, and is hoping he’ll give up.

Lacuna tells Humfrey about Queen Irene’s pronouncement that no man can have two wives, originally made to apply to Dolph’s case.  Humfrey hadn’t anticipated this complication; he is already married to the Gorgon.

Lacuna’s magic talent is making writing appear, or altering existing writing.  Humfrey asks her to display his life history on the wall at his dictation.  When he reaches the present, and is about to tell about his future, this will somehow coerce the Demon into turning up.

Humfrey was born 157 years ago. (He had discovered the Fountain of Youth along the way.)  He leaves his home at the age of 15 to go adventuring.  He has no magical talent which he is aware of, but he has great curiosity, and collects all the information he can discover, and all the magical items and spells he can find.  (This is before the law is enacted which requires citizens to have a magic talent.)

He discovers a girl with a unicorn; they have both been injured, so he helps them.  Her name is MareAnne, she is also 15, and her talent is that she is able to summon equines (horse-like creatures).  She and Humfrey travel together.  They are in love, but MareAnne doesn’t want to lose the ability to summon unicorns, so their relationship remains chaste.

They meet King Ebnez, where he lives in the South Village. The King gives Humfrey the job of Royal Surveyor – to search out all the magic talents.  In particular, the King wants to find a successor with Magician-level talent.  So Humfrey and MareAnne travel all over Xanth, generally riding winged horses which MareAnne summons.

They come to Mount Parnassus, and see the Maenads, but it is too dangerous to interview these wild women.  Humfrey goes to the temple of the oracle, and asks how he can interview dangerous people.  He is given the answer: “Demon Conquest”, which doesn’t seem helpful.  (This foreshadows the coming of people coming to Humfrey with their questions, and receiving cryptic answers.)  Then a demoness called Dana comes to him.  She has somehow acquired a soul, which she doesn’t want.  She had asked the oracle, and received the answer: “Marry the King.”  She hopes that Humfrey can introduce her to the King.  In the meantime she joins them in their survey.  She interviews the Maenads, but they do not have any significant talent.

Humfrey introduces Dana to King Ebnez.  Since the time of King Gromden (refer “Crewel Lye”), there has been a prohibition against the King associating with demons.  But hearing how useful Dana is to the survey, the King varies the law to permit her to visit him.

After three years the survey is finished.  Humfrey hears that Ebnez is dying.  Humfrey returns to the King and tells him he has found no one with Magician-level talent.  Ebnez declares Humfrey to be the Magician of Information, and names him his successor, and then dies.  Humfrey feels guilty, because he has no magic talent, but there is no one else, so he accepts and becomes King.  He must marry, so he asks MareAnne, but she still does not want to lose her unicorns.  So he marries Dana.  And after a time, MareAnne leaves.

(In a later book, it is revealed that Dana’s real name is Dara; Humfrey keeps getting it wrong.)

Some time later, a baby son is delivered to Dana, a half-demon child whom they call Dafrey.  But Dana’s soul is transferred to the baby, and she is no longer in love with Humfrey, and she leaves.  Humfrey needs a new wife, so he marries a woman called Maiden Taiwan (referred to as Matron Taiwan after they are married).

Years pass, and Dafrey, now 17, leaves home.  Humfrey has found a young man, called the Storm Magician, with the talent of generating thunderstorms.  Humfrey makes him the new King, and abdicates.  Matron Taiwan had only been interested in the trappings of royalty, and leaves Humfrey.

Humfrey decides to try to locate the lost Castle Roogna.  It had been abandoned after King Gromden’s death when King Yang took the throne.  Humfrey realises there must be an aversion spell on the Castle, preventing it from being found.  He locates where it must be, and heads towards it.  When he reaches the Castle, he meets a beautiful woman, Rose of Roogna.  They fall instantly in love,

Rose is the granddaughter of King Yang.  She had been born more that 200 years ago.  Yang died suddenly, and the throne was taken by a really nasty man, Muerte A Fid, whom it was suspected had poisoned Yang.  When Rose was 20, her father died of poison, and the King wanted to marry Rose to legitimise his reign.  But her parents had planned for this, and her mother directed her to the path to Castle Roogna.  The castle had magic; she was allowed access because she was a royal descendant, and she was protected and confined there, without aging, until a Magician who would become King came to marry her.  Her talent is growing roses, so she planted a rose garden there.

Eventually, after more than 200 years, Humfrey had arrived.  Rose tells him he must become a real Magician before he marries her.  So he enrols in the University of Magic, run by the demons in their underground realm, and he spends a year studying, and passes.  Humfrey and Rose get married, and move to the Castle previously occupied by the Zombie Master.  This becomes the Good Magician’s Castle.

Humfrey continues his research into magic, and starts compiling his Book of Answers.  Rose helps by sorting the pages and indexing them.  Humfrey takes trips back to Castle Roogna to consult the library there.  They have a daughter called Rosetta.  Time passes, and Rosetta grows up and gets married.

One day, when Humfrey is away at Castle Roogna, Rose rides the winged horse, Peggy, to the Gold Coast in southeastern Xanth. She sees an Ivory Tower being built.  She meets an old woman who says her name is Peril, although she says some people call her the Sea Hag.  But then the woman traps her in a hollow tree!  There is another captive there, a boy called Dread Redhead.  He explains that the Sea Hag takes over people’s bodies (as described in “Golem in the Gears”).  But his magic talent is creating tunnels, and he enables them to escape.  But then he puts her in a handbasket to Hell!  Dread Redhead is actually a demon who has captured her so she can make Hell more attractive by planting roses.

Humfrey arrives back at his Castle, and discovers he has missed the deadline for rescuing Rose from Hell.  He can’t bear living without Rose, so he drinks Lethe elixir to forget her, enough to last 80 years, thinking he’d be dead by then.

After drinking the elixir, he realises he has forgotten all the time since his first approach to Castle Roogna.  He finds the Book of Answers, which he doesn’t remember writing. He realises there had been a woman living in the Castle, but can’t remember her.  He finds his certificate from the University of Magic, and he does remember his time there.

Humfrey decides he needs a wife to sort his socks, and finds Sofia, Sock Sorter, listed in his Book of Answers. But she lives in Mundania; she sorts socks for the company she works for; later “Socksorter” would be used as if it is her last name.    So he goes to Mundania and asks her to marry him, and brings her back to Xanth.

In due course they have a son called Crombie.  [Yes this is Crombie the soldier mentioned in previous books.  The author has retroactively made him Humfrey’s son.]

People start coming to the Castle asking questions.  Humfrey establishes the regime where the querent must pass three challenges before getting in.  Then they must pay for their answer with a year’s service or something equivalent.

With all that is taking his parents’ attention in the Castle, Crombie feels neglected.  He goes out and finds a substitute mother, the mischievous Demoness Metria, whom he sneaks into the Castle.  Metria is able to become invisible, or disguise herself as various objects.  But she lets him do what he likes, and helps him cheat in his studies. And eventually she leaves.  Having been let down by both his mother and his substitute mother, he comes to hate women.  Humfrey sends him off to become a soldier.  Crombie effectively disowns his parents.

During this period, first Trent, and then Iris, both children at the time, come to the Castle, and Humfrey gives them training in their magic talents.

When Trent reaches 24, he tries to take the throne from the Storm King, using his magic powers on his opponents.  But he is betrayed and exiled to Mundania.

Eventually Sofia returns to Mundania, to die there.

At this point in his dictation to Lacuna, Humfrey has reached the part of history where the Xanth novels begin.  He recaps the events of these novels from his point of view.  His marriage to the Gorgon occurs in “Centaur Aisle”.  Of course, since Crombie is his son, this means Tandy (“Ogre, Ogre”) is his granddaughter, and Esk (“Vale of the Vole”) is his great-grandson.  Humfrey continues with the description of events which occurred in Xanth after his disappearance.  He has been able to observe them on a magic mirror in Hell’s anteroom.

The disappearance of Humfrey, his wife the Gorgon, and his son Hugo occurs at the beginning of “Vale of the Vole”.  He sets up the challenges for the three querents of that story.  An elf who is serving him had been creating holy smoke, but it gets out of control.  (Because of the smoke, Dolph had not been able to observe the actual disappearance via the Tapestry, in “Heaven Cent”.)

At this point the effect of the Lethe water wears off.  Humfrey remembers Rose.  He thinks that with his greater experience of magic, he may now be able to get her back.  Using the magic power of the holy smoke, he transports himself and his wife and son to the Isle of Illusion (which is now empty of illusions).  There are coffins there; they each get into one, and drink sleep potion.  They find themselves in the realm of dreams.  They meet Electra, still in her enchanted sleep – prior to her awakening in “Heaven Cent”.  She introduces them to a girl called Wira. Her parents had given her sleep potion to get rid of her, because she is blind.  She was 16 when she was put to sleep, and appears that age in the dream world, so would be a good match for Hugo, who is the same age.  But her parents had used a cheap kind of sleep potion, which does not prevent her body from aging. She would now be 28.  But the Gorgon points out that they can give her water from the Fountain of Youth when they awake.

The Gorgon and Hugo don’t want to go with Humfrey to the anteroom of Hell. They will remain in the dream world; the Gorgon will get acting jobs with the Night Stallion, to appear in bad dreams.  So Humfrey proceeds in the handbasket to Hell alone.

Now Humfey has reached the present in his dictation.  Will Demon X(A/N)th appear?  And can Humfrey do a deal with him?  Will the Demon try to cheat?

And if Humfrey can get Rose out of Hell, what will he do about the fact he already has a wife?  In fact it becomes even more complicated: all his previous wives, plus his former girlfriend MareAnne, are in Hell, because they have died – except Rose, who had been transported to Hell while still alive, and the Demoness Dana, whose home is in Hell.  Do any of them get to be released?

And what about Lacuna: will she get her answer?

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The Color of Her Panties (1992)
Mela Merwoman hasn’t been able to get a suitable husband, despite possessing the two firewater opals.  All she wants is the nicest, handsomest, most manly and intelligent unmarried prince in Xanth, who will be pleased to let her do anything she wants (such as swimming in salt water for hours, and eating raw fish), and will brush her hair for her.

She decides to go and ask the Good Magician. She emerges from the water, and changes her tail to legs, and sets off.  After a while she reaches Kiss-Mee Lake, and meets Okra Ogress who is rowing across the lake.  Okra had started from Lake Ogre-Chobee, and without realising it had continued up the river to Kiss-Mee Lake.  She also wants to see the Good Magician, to ask how to become a Major Character, as they survive and have success.

For the past two years, Gwenny Goblin and Jenny Elf (both 14) have lived happily with Che Centaur (7 years old) and his parents.  Both Jenny and Gwenny are short-sighted, and have been provided with spectacles. Gwenny’s lameness has been cured by water from a healing spring, but this can’t correct her eyesight. They have received education with Che from his parents.

Gwenny’s mother Godiva arrives and tells Gwenny that her father, Chief Gouty, has died.  Gwenny must return to Goblin Mountain to contest the position of chief.  But there will be opposition, and Gobble, Gouty’s illegitimate son, will also contest.  Male goblins are generally ugly and mean, whereas female goblins are beautiful and good-natured. If Gwenny can become chief, this will improve goblin society.

But she can’t wear her spectacles at Goblin Mountain; this would be seen as a weakness.  They have tried unsuccessfully to find a contact lens bush.  So they need to ask the Good Magician.  Gwenny decides she must take the trip to see him, with her companions Che and Jenny, and Jenny’s cat Sammy, but without adult help.  But since all the winged monsters had sworn to protect Che, there would always be winged monsters keeping watch over him, although not actively participating in their mission.

Jenny offers to be the one to ask the Good Magician the question, and to do the year’s service, as Gwenny cannot delay taking up the position of chief.

They travel across the country, having adventures and experiencing hazards.  On the way, Demoness Metria appears and tells them about the other group, Mela, Okra and Ida.  She tells them how (in “Isle of View”), an elf was chosen as the “Jenny” character instead of an ogress. Effectively Jenny Elf had displaced Okra Ogress as a Major Character.  [This is a decision the author made while writing “Isle of View”.]

Okra Ogress comes from the ogre community at Lake Ogre-Chobee.  This group had got turned around during the ogre migration to Ogre-Fen-Ogre Fen and had ended up back at Lake Ogre-Chobee.  Okra is a misfit in her community: she is small for an ogress, plain (not ugly), relatively weak, and smart; she has to pretend to be stupid. Her family were arranging a marriage with an ogre called Smithereen from Ogre-Fen-Ogre fen.  Okra was not keen on marrying a typical male ogre, and she decided to leave, and go to the Good Magician to ask how she could become a Major Character.

Mela and Okra travel together, helping each other against the hazards. On the way they find a shed with a young human woman encased in a block of crystal.  They try to break the crystal. Finally Okra shatters it with her ultrasonic voice.  The young woman doesn’t know what her name is, so they decide to call her Ida. She decides to come with them to the Good Magician.

Gwenny, Jenny and Che arrive at Castle Roogna.  They meet Electra, whom they know from the “Isle of View” adventure.  She is now married to Dolph, and has twin baby girls, Dawn and Eve.

They continue on to the Good Magician’s Castle.  As their Challenge to enter the Castle, they encounter a giantess, representing the Archetypal Adult.  She asks them questions about the Adult Conspiracy.  Gwenny and Jenny are 14, which means they are too young to be part of the Adult Conspiracy.  Che is 7; however centaurs are more intelligent than humans, and are more open about bodily functions, although they observe human conventions in human society.  However, it is essential that they become part of the Adult Conspiracy for what will follow.  As a consequence the three of them are inducted into the Adult Conspiracy.  They continue on into the Castle.

We now learn Ida’s backstory. Ida is a foundling.  She appeared as a baby near the Fauns and Nymphs Retreat.   But the fauns and nymphs of the Retreat forget things from day to day.  There was a nearby community of otterbees, who didn’t believe she should be raised as a nymph, so they took her and raised her.  They got an itinerant centaur, Cerebral, to educate her in the human mode.  So she learnt human speech, and dressed in human clothing.  When she reached 21, Cerebral said she would be better amongst her own kind.  He told her to go to the Good Magician and inquire about her destiny.

Ida set off.  She encountered Dragoman Dragon.  Dragoman’s hobby was to capture young women, breathe on them, encasing them in crystal, which preserved them, and place them on display in his collection.  This is what happened to Ida.  But there was no room in the display chamber, so he stored her in the shed.

And it is there that Mela and Okra had found her.  They are going to Good Magician, so she travels with them.

Jenny, Gwenny and Che meet Ivy and Grey in the Good Magician’s Castle.  Dana Demoness is Humfrey’s current wife.  She explains how, as a result of Humfrey’s deal with Demon X(A/N)th (in “Question Quest”), Humfrey’s six wives take turns each month to be with him, while the rest remain in Hell.  MareAnne had married Humfrey at the end of “Question Quest”, so she is the sixth wife (or as she is sometimes referred to, the five and a halfth wife).

Jenny asks the Good Magician how Gwenny can get some contact lenses.  He tells them there is a contact lens bush in the gourd. It is used by night mares, and enables the wearer to see dreams.  But dreams often have elements forbidden by the Adult Conspiracy, which is why they had to be inducted into the Conspiracy.  Jenny will not be required to perform her service for the Good Magician until their current mission is complete.  The route to the bush in the gourd will be marked by mock lenses.

Jenny, Gwenny, Che and Sammy enter the gourd in spirit form. As usual, they have various strange experiences. They find the lens bush, with one pair of contact lenses, and Gwenny puts them on.  She discovers that she is able to see people’s dreams, which includes daydreams, or even things they are imagining. This will help her to determine whether people are telling the truth, which will be useful when she becomes the chief of her goblin tribe.

Mela, Okra and Ida arrive at Iron Mountain.  They receive a visit from Demoness Dana. Dana has no soul, but tries to emulate a souled person by doing a good deed each day. She makes comfortable beds for each one: a saltwater pool for Mela, a hard pallet for Okra, and soft moss for Ida. She will send Metria the next day to arrange clothing for them.  (Mela is naked; Okra is not wearing clothes but is furred; Ida wears clothes, as she had been taught by the centaur.)

Next day Metria arrives and takes them to a chamber within a tree, with lots of pairs of panties.  Metria tells Mela about the question Demon X(A/N)th had put to Humfrey in “Question Quest”: what colour would Mela’s panties be, when she left the water to look for a husband?  After trying on lots of pairs, Mela chooses the ones she wants.  Okra also chooses some, and Ida chooses some spares.

They travel on.  But Metria had mischievously omitted to tell them to wear other clothes over their panties.  Along their route, men are freaking out at the sight of Mela’s panties. (This is a characteristic hazard in Xanth.) (Okra’s black panties hardly show against her black fur.)  They meet Grey Murphy outside the Good Magician’s Castle. His nullification talent prevents him from freaking out.  But he tells them they must get properly dressed when they get into the Castle.

After returning from the gourd, Gwenny, Jenny and Che leave the Good Magician’s Castle, to travel to Goblin Mountain. Ivy has given them a pass for the Gap Dragon; he will recognise Ivy’s smell on the paper.  Sammy leads the way with his talent of finding things.  He finds a way into the Gap Chasm: they slide down on toboggan tree leaves in a river that goes down into the chasm.  But then they realise they’ve lost the pass from Ivy, so the dragon might attack them.  But the dragon recognises Che; as a winged monster, he is required to protect him.  The dragon leads them to a suitable path to exit the chasm on the north side.  Eventually they reach Goblin Mountain.

Godiva gives them bad news about Gwenny’s half-brother Gobble. He has been eavesdropping on goblins’ conversations, and has learned the forbidden words (swear words) of the Adult Conspiracy.  He threatens to tell all the goblin children if he is not made chief.

Mela, Okra and Ida enter the Good Magician’s Castle.  Sofia (who has replaced Dana as the current wife) tells Okra how Jenny had displaced her.  Okra decides to change her question to the Good Magician.

They ask the Good Magician their questions.  Mela’s question: How can I find a suitable husband?  Ida’s question: I seek my destiny.  Okra’s question: How can I get rid of Jenny Elf?  But Humfrey refuses to answer, saying it would be counter-productive.  At their persistence, he tells them to go to Nada Naga.

Following Godiva’s instructions, Gwenny, Che and Jenny take Gobble to the River Lethe, to sprinkle him with its water, and make him forget the forbidden words.  This is a dangerous trip, because they have to travel through the caves of big strange monsters, the callicantzari. With Sammy leading the way, and with Gwenny’s use of the levitation wand, they are successful.  But in their struggle against the callicantzari, Jenny’s spectacles get broken, so Gwenny gives her one of her contact lenses.

Mela, Okra and Ida leave the Good Magician’s Castle, wondering where to go to see Nada Naga. Metria appears.  She says that Nada is with the demons, working on some project that has been kept secret from her.  She will take them there, so she can find out what the secret is.  She disguises herself by taking the form of a little ragged girl, called Woe Betide, who sells matches.  So they go with her to the demon realm, where they find Nada practising her lines for a game (refer to “Demons Don’t Dream”).  When Nada hears their questions, she says they should go to her brother Naldo.  Professor Grossclout, the demon directing the game, conjures them to their destination.

Gwenny, Jenny and Che arrive back at Goblin Mountain. It is time for the challenge for the position of chief.  For their first task, the candidates each have to fetch something; these are listed in sealed capsules. They are each allowed two companions, so Gwenny will take Che and Jenny (plus Sammy).

Gobble’s task is to fetch an old wives’ tail (a tail feather from a harpy).  Gwenny’s task message says:  “Fetch what is between the roc and the hard place.”  Che knows what this means: In the Nameless Castle there is a roc, sitting on an egg on a stone nest: they must have to get the egg. But he doesn’t know where the Nameless Castle is. (Gobble must have cheated, and planted this difficult task.) They will get Sammy to find the way to the Nameless Castle.

So off they go, following Sammy.  They finally realise that the Nameless Castle is on a cloud. Che flies them up to the cloud. (Gwenny had sprinkled him with Lethe water to make him forget he had never flown before.)  They find the Castle, made of hardened cloud material.  They explore it and find the roc on the stone nest.  The roc looks like a statue.  Gwenny uses the levitation wand to move it. But it comes alive, and they are in danger.

Mela, Okra and Ida arrive in Draco Dragon’s cave. Naldo is there with the dragon.  They explain their situation to Naldo.  Naldo has news from Draco from the winged monsters: Che, Jenny and Gwenny are in danger.  If Mela, Okra and Ida do something for him, Naldo will give them their answers. They must go to the Simurgh and tell them that Roxanne Roc is about to eat Che.

Draco organises griffins to fly Mela, Okra and Ida to Mount Parnassus.  They give the Simurgh the message and she gives them two seeds: a seed of Thyme to give to Roxanne, and a rock-et seed: this expands into a rocket.  The three of them get into the rocket, and it takes off.

Gwenny, Che and Jenny try to communicate with Roxanne.  Gwenny’s and Jenny’s contact lenses help them to see Roxanne’s thoughts, and Jenny’s talent of bringing people into dreams enables them to communicate.  They discover Roxanne’s backstory. The Simurgh had taken away her power of flight, as punishment for flying over Mount Parnassus.  She must sit on this egg until it hatches, then she will get her power of flight back.  But Roxanne won’t cooperate with them.  They struggle, and Roxanne puts Che and Jenny in a cage.  Gwenny has the wand, but it is stalemate.

Okra operates the rocket and sets its destination to the Nameless Castle, and the rocket flies them there.  Okra experiments with the seed of Thyme, and discovers that it can speed up or slow down time for the persons she specifies.  They enter the castle, and using the seed of Thyme, rescue Gwenny, Che and Jenny.  They communicate with Roxanne via the dream Jenny generates.  But the Simurgh can’t have intended them to take the egg; they look and find something else in the nest: an old shed claw. Okra gives Roxanne the seed of Thyme; Roxanne can speed up the egg so it can hatch, and she will have her power of flight back.

All six of them (plus Sammy) travel to Goblin Mountain in the rocket.

The next part of the Goblin challenge is a physical combat contest, which will take place the next day. The candidates can choose champions.

Che will fetch a champion for Gwenny, by getting Sammy to find the champion.  Sammy takes him to Nada.  But Nada says she will be busy with the demons.  She gets Professor Grossclout to conjure Che and Sammy to Naldo, who is still in Draco’s cave.  Naldo agrees to be Gwenny’s champion; they must put out a sign to tell him where the contest is.

The time of the contest arrives. Gobble has chosen the ogre Smithereen as his champion (who was supposed to marry Okra).  But Naldo hasn’t turned up, and they discover that Gobble had changed the sign, so Naldo must have gone to the wrong place.  But Okra, wearing a madcap, and wielding the roc talon, fights instead and, surprisingly, wins.

So Gwenny is the new chief, and banishes Gobble.

But what of Mela’s, Okra’s and Ida’s questions: do they get their answers?  There have been hints that Ida’s destiny is significant: what could it be?

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Demons Don’t Dream (1992)
In Mundania, a teenage boy Dug is given a computer game “Companions of Xanth”.  He is not familiar with the Xanth series of books, but he has played various fantasy computer games.  He runs the game, and discovers he must choose one of several Companions to guide him through the game.  He chooses Nada Naga.  Nada tells him they will have to go to the Good Magician’s Castle to get advice on how to find the prize.  Dug wants to first go to the Isthmus Village, where he can get weapons and supplies.

The game is actually an interface between Mundania and Xanth, although the Players do not initially realise that.  The possible Companions and other characters are actually real characters within the land of Xanth.  To the characters in Xanth, a Player appears as a screen which floats in the air.

The game is being organised by the demons. Professor Grossclout is in charge.  It is actually part of wager between the Senior Demons, X(A/N)th and E(A/R)th.  E(A/R)th is trying to take over the land of Xanth, which would result in the magic disappearing from the land.  The wager will be settled according to which of the Players wins the game.  (Demons don’t dream, they just get mortals to act out fantasies for them.)

Jenny Elf, accompanied by Sammy Cat, is another potential Companion.  Another Player arrives, a teenage girl called Kim, who chooses Jenny as her Companion.  Kim is familiar with the Xanth series, and is keen to explore the land she has read about.  Against Jenny’s advice, Kim asks to go to see an ogre.  Sammy leads the way to Ogre-Fen-Ogre Fen, and they find a community of ogres.  But an ogre hears Kim talking and captures Jenny.  But then Kim engages the ogre in a word game, and persuades him to release Jenny.

Dug and Nada arrive in the Isthmus Village.  The people there are a bad-tempered lot.  Their problem is the censor-ship:  a ship sails into port each day, and its censers send out incense smoke, which ruins the people’s dialogue (preventing them from using bad words), making them bad tempered.  To prevent this, Dug and Nada must get a solution, a magic fluid, and pour it into the censers.  This involves a complicated side trip, but eventually they get the solution.  But seeing Nada on the screen, struggling onto the ship to pour the solution, Dug feels he must help her, and suddenly finds himself physically transferred into Xanth.

Kim and Jenny are wandering near the Regions of the Elements.  Kim’s screen almost falls into the Void, but Jenny grabs hold of the screen and prevents this from happening.  Then a storm cloud appears.  This is Cumulo Fracto Nimbus (or Fracto for short), the meanest of clouds.  Kim starts insulting him, but the cloud retaliates by producing a horrific storm.  The water sweeps Jenny away; she is about to go over a waterfall.  Kim feels she must save Jenny, and suddenly she is physically present in Xanth, being swept over the waterfall too.  But then they are both rescued by a merman.  This is Cyrus Merman, the son of Morris Merman and the Siren.  Cyrus invites them to his home, where they meet his parents.  Cyrus asks Kim and Jenny if he can travel with them, as he wants to find a mermaid to marry.

Dug and Nada come to a sign that says “Shortcut to Success”.   Following this path is probably a riskier option, but they will presumably get the Magician’s Castle quicker.  Dug chooses to take the shortcut.  They find themselves in the cave of Com-Pewter.  Com-Pewter had been reprogrammed from evil to nice at the end of “Question Quest”, but for the purposes of the game he is evil again, and quite pleased to play that part.  The machine engages Dug in a riddle game.  But Dug loses, and he is out of the game.

Nada is back in the pool of potential Companions. Before each Player arrives, one of the potential Companions is selected as a False Companion, whose goal is to make their Player lose.  Previously Nada and Jenny had been lucky not to be chosen as a False Companion.  But now Nada is selected as the False Companion.  And Dug re-enters the game and chooses Nada again.  Nada is ashamed of the fact that she must betray him, but she is not permitted to let him know that, and this means behaving like a Fair Companion until late in the game.

Dug and Nada intend to go to Isthmus village again, but instead they find a village of black people who have migrated from Mundania. (This migration becomes known as the Black Wave.) They want to move to somewhere where they will be welcomed.  In exchange for providing Dug with weapons and supplies, one of them, a man called Sherlock, will travel with Dug and Nada to find a suitable location for the black community.

Kim, Jenny and Cyrus are travelling by boat.  Kim sees a series of bubbles floating through the air. She sees a dog in one of them and reaches up and bursts the bubble and catches the dog, falling out of the boat in the process. Cyrus rescues her and the dog.  It is a female dog and Kim calls her Bubbles.  They continue on through various hazards.  Then a monster attacks their boat, and they get stranded on an island.

Dug, Nada and Sherlock come across a group of female rocs dancing: the roc-ettes.  But the rocs are annoyed at being interrupted, and the travellers have to run for their lives, with the rocs chasing them.  They come to a river.  There is a bridge, but it is controlled by a troll.  There is a diggle nearby.  Dug sees a piece of fluff, and discovers it is the Germ of an Idea: this will come in useful several times in the future.  He realises they can escape the rocs by riding on the back of the diggle.  Dug has to sing to the diggle to make it go.  It delivers them to the With-a-Cookee River.  But now they have to cross the river. They use cold cream to freeze the water. A pack of werewolves attacks, following them onto the ice. Dug chops off the ice floe they are on, with his knife.  There are loan sharks in the water.  The ice floe is starting to melt. Then they hear Jenny calling from the island.

Cyrus (on the island) throws a rope to the people on the ice floe. Then the ice floe capsizes. While Jenny holds the rope, Cyrus and Kim swim out to rescue the others. They finally all make it to shore.

The combined group travel on together.  They encounter some centaurs who let them stay the night in their village.  The next day the centaurs carry them to the Gap Chasm.

They wonder how they are going to get down into the chasm. Then Fracto arrives and it snows heavily.  Maybe they can travel down on sleds.  Sammy leads them to a shed containing two bobsleds.  Dug, Nada and Sherlock take one; Kim, Jenny and Cyrus take the other; there are two clearly shaped trails down into the chasm.

Kim’s sled comes to a stop on a ledge.  But Dug’s sled has hit a dead-end and jammed, and is no longer usable.  Kim, Cyrus and Nada do not want to continue.  So the Players swap Companions; Kim (with Bubbles), Nada and Cyrus climb back up out of the chasm, and Dug, Jenny (with Sammy) and Sherlock continue down on the remaining sled. It is a horrific ride, but they land in a pillow bush.  But now the Gap Dragon is coming.  Dug starts insulting Fracto, who gets enraged and snow starts falling again. This hides them from the dragon, so they can start climbing the opposite wall of the chasm. Even so, Dug is left running around and dodging the dragon for a while. Then Sammy leads them on the path out of the chasm.

Kim, Nada and Cyrus walk east alongside the Gap Chasm, and reach the sea. They see a merwoman in the sea; she introduces herself as Merci, the daughter of Mela Merwoman and her former husband Merwin. She emerges from the water, changing her tail to legs. Cyrus and Merci are attracted to each other; however Cyrus can’t stand salt water and Merci can’t stand fresh water.

Merci shows them a tunnel under the Gap. It is a goblin tunnel, but they decide to risk it.  Merci comes with them.  But once they are in the tunnel, goblins do attack.  But the group notice a portal in the ceiling for seawater and another in the floor for fresh water, and open them both, flushing the goblins out.  And Cyrus and Merci realise they can stand brackish water, salt water and fresh water mixed. So they can get together at a freshwater spring near the shore.  Once they are through the tunnel, Cyrus and Merci leave the others.

Dug knows that he now has to face Com-Pewter again.  He spends some time preparing, collecting samples in a field of weird plants.  One of the things he collects is a New Monia flower.  This makes him quite ill.  The others don’t know the cause, and have to help him continue. The next day they enter Com-Pewter’s cave. Com-Pewter is taken by surprise, seeing Dug with an unexpected Companion. And Dug infects him with the Germ of an Idea, a bugflower, and the New Monia flower. Com-Pewter has a system failure, so Dug has won the challenge against him.

Thinking back to Nada’s behaviour since he re-entered the game, Dug realises she is the False Companion.  He must warn Kim; it isn’t fair that Kim get the False Companion who was meant for him.  He asks Sammy to find the best way to meet up with her.

After various further adventures, Kim and Nada arrive at the Good Magician’s Castle.  Kim asks the Magician her question: “How can I get what I most desire?” (Maybe Kim has some other desire than winning the prize?)  Humfrey’s answer is: “Go to the realm of the gourd. You will find it there.”  There are three gourds ready for Kim, Nada and Bubbles in the Castle guest room.  They enter the gourd realm in spirit form.

Dug, Jenny and Sherlock arrive at Castle Roogna.  Jenny introduces the others to Princess Ida.  There is a man called Curtis in the Castle; he is one of the curse fiends; they are looking for a community of people to settle around Lake Ogre-Chobee.  This fits in with Sherlock’s quest for the Black Community.  Ida brings a magic mirror, which tells Dug that Kim is in the gourd. Kim, Jenny and Sammy can use gourds from the Castle’s garden to enter the gourd realm.

Within the gourd, Kim and Nada come to a scary-looking castle made of bone.  Presumably this is where the prize is.  But what traps lie in wait for Kim?  What treachery does Nada, the False Companion, plan?  Will Dug catch up with Kim to warn her?  And what about the Demons’ wager?

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Harpy Thyme (1993)
Gloha is a winged goblin girl, a goblin/harpy crossbreed.  She is now 19, and thinks it is time for her to find her ideal man.  But she is the only one of her kind.  She goes to ask the Good Magician about this.  He tells her, “Go see my second son.”

But Gloha doesn’t know who Humfrey’s second son is.  She asks various people, finally ending up with Tandy.  Tandy suggests she ask Tandy’s father Crombie, whose talent is to point to anything which needs to be located.  Crombie, having retired, now lives in the underground caverns with Tandy’s mother Jewel Nymph.  Tandy will take her there.

They set off, walking (since Tandy can’t fly), and come across what looks like a mudslide.  This is actually a creature called Swiftmud; riding on its back are Retired King Trent, Retired Queen Iris, Bink and Chameleon.  They are all going to visit Crombie and Jewel for a fade-out party. (Major Characters in Xanth do not die, they fade away.  These four and Crombie and Jewel are now quite old. Jewel, as a nymph, was originally ageless, but started aging when she married Crombie.)  So Gloha and Tandy join them on Swiftmud.

Eventually they reach Jewel and Crombie’s cave.  Crombie is confined to his bed, and close to fading away.  Gloha asks him to point to Humfrey’s second son, but he says he can’t.  Then she asks him to point to her ideal man, and he points in a particular direction.  She asks him to point to someone who can help her in her search, and he points to Trent.

Gloha has a suspicion, and asks Crombie if he is Humfrey’s second son, and Crombie admits that he is, and tells of his unhappy childhood experience and alienation from his parents.  Gloha persuades him to be reconciled with his father, and Crombie agrees.  At that point Humfrey arrives.  He gives Crombie youth elixir, so he will not fade away yet.  He also gives youth elixir to Trent, who will be Gloha’s companion in her quest; Trent’s apparent age has been reduced from 96 to 26.

The fade-out party has been postponed.  In the meantime, the others will remain in suspended animation in the Brain Coral’s pool.  In exchange, the Brain Coral releases a female winged centaur called Cynthia.   Cynthia was originally a human girl, who had opposed Trent in his original attempt to take the throne.  Trent had retaliated by turning her into a winged centaur.  But not being able to fit into Xanth society in her new form, she had voluntarily gone to the Brain Coral’s pool. (She was 16 at that time.)  She now prefers to keep her current form, and accepts their suggestion that she might go to live with Cheiron and Chex.

So Gloha, Trent and Cynthia set off, finding their way out of the underground caverns. They encounter various hazards on the way, including a horde of goblins who had left Goblin Mountain when Gwenny became chief.  They finally reach the surface.

They travel to the home of the Winged Centaur family. There they meet Chex, Cynthia agrees to be youthened from 16 to 8 (the same age as Che), with youth elixir Humfrey had given to Trent.  That way she can grow up again, receiving training as a centaur.  She remains there when Gloha and Trent move on.

Gloha and Trent pass Mount Pin-A-Tuba, the bad-tempered volcano, which is rumbling, and producing smoke and ash.  They have to be careful not to attract the volcano’s attention.  The rumblings increase and boulders are shooting out.  They need to take cover.  They find a house made of bones, and discover Marrow Bones inside.

Marrow needs to acquire a soul; otherwise, as a creature of the gourd, he will fade out.  In appreciation of his involvement in the game “Companions of Xanth”, Professor Grossclout had told him to camp near the volcano, and he would obtain a half-soul, which would serve his purpose.  But Trent can’t give him half his soul, because it is old, and Gloha can’t because she is female – her soul would not be compatible.  But they suggest that Grossclout meant that he should travel with them, and Marrow agrees.  Trent transforms Gloha into a roc, so she can safely carry Trent and Marrow away from the volcano.  She continues on and lands near where they emerged from the underground. From there they can follow the direction Crombie had indicated for Gloha’s ideal man.  Trent changes her back to her natural form.

They continue on and reach the Magic Dust Village.   One of the villagers, Pa Troll, tells them of a problem the village has.  A vent has opened in a nearby mountain, and a poisonous fluid is flowing towards the village. They can’t get close to it because of the fumes.  When the fluid gets to the village they will have to flee, and the magic dust won’t get distributed. They had sent one of their number to the Good Magician, and he told them to “carry on until Harpy Time”.  The villagers now wonder whether Gloha, as a crossbreed harpy, is the fulfilment of that statement.

Trent and Gloha can’t see how they can help, but Marrow can, since he is immune to the poison fluid and fumes.  Marrow climbs the slope and plugs the vent.

The next day they continue on into the Region of Madness.

A wave of madness hits them, and Gloha finds herself reliving an event from her past: an unhappy experience within the harpy community, where she had never fit in.  When it ends, she discovers that Trent and Marrow had seen it too.  At that point, Demoness Metria arrives. (The demoness, curious about what is going on, comes and goes during this adventure.)

Another wave of madness hits, and Gloha relives another experience.  She is telling her Aunt Hoary Harpy she wants to leave the harpy nest.  But Aunt Hoary says she is not ready when she can’t swear in typical harpy style.  The flashback ends.  Metria says she had got caught up in the flashback, and had found herself playing the role of Aunt Hoary.

And then there is another flashback.  Gloha had run out into the storm, but then got attacked by various creatures, and fallen into an underground tunnel.  She had encountered gargoyles there.

Trent suggests that he stand upwind of Gloha.  That way it will be his memories that they experience.  When the next wave of madness hits, they all experience Trent’s time of exile in Mundania, and all play the parts of characters in Trent’s life.  Metria plays the part of Trent’s former wife, who had died.

Finally they leave the Region of Madness and come to Lake Ogre-Chobee.

The storm cloud Fracto is approaching, and it is threatening to rain.  They come to a building labelled “The Thunderdome”, and enter it to avoid the rain.  They find a giant inside, lying down, asleep.  They wake him; he introduces himself as Graeboe Giant. He is normally invisible, but he is sick, and can’t maintain his invisibility. The Good Magician had sent him to this location.  His symptoms are: general weakness and susceptibility to illnesses, he sleeps often, but remains tired. He thinks he is likely to die soon.

A crowd of people arrive in the building.  The Curse Fiends have arrived to put on a play.  But the travellers’ presence had disrupted this, and the Curse Fiends insist that the travellers put on a play instead.  So Gloha, Trent, Metria and Graebo improvise a play, combining elements from various fairy tales, and perform it.

Afterward they continue on their way, with Graebo coming with them.  But he keeps on getting weaker; he says it is a disease of the blood; his body is not making enough of it.

They come to the Faun and Nymph Retreat.  They notice that there seem to be more fauns than nymphs; something must be happening to the nymphs.  The travellers camp nearby.

Gloha goes for a walk, and is suddenly captured by an ugly man, who carries her away to his castle. The castle contains many cells containing nymphs.  The man, whose name is Veleno, says he wants to marry her.  Gloha says no.

The demons had put Veleno in this castle, and provided him with everything except love.  When he finds a woman who loves him, he will be released from the enchanted castle.  The demons told him that the woman who will love him would be hidden within the nymph community.  So every day he has been kidnapping a nymph and marrying her, and consummating the marriage.  But the nymphs can’t remember it the next day, so the marriage is invalid.  He has been keeping the nymphs in the castle because he can’t tell them apart, and doesn’t want to waste time kidnapping the same ones.  But since Gloha is not a nymph, maybe she is the woman for him.  He locks her in a cell, saying she will stay there until she agrees to marry him.  She goes to the window and screams.

Graebo hears the scream.  He reports to the others.  He carries Trent and Marrow and heads in the direction of the scream, and they see the castle.  Metria pops into the castle, then reports the situation back to them.  Graebo tries to lift the roof of a turret, but with his illness, he is too weak.  Metria discovers that that the castle is enchanted; she can enter, but she can’t physically touch any part of it; it is intangible to her.

Trent and Marrow find a way into the castle through the roof, but then get locked in a passageway.  Graebo comes close to them from the outside, and Trent transforms him to a mouse to bring him in, then into an elf, so he can search for the key to the cells.  The double transformation makes Graebo very weak.  So Metria has to take human form and carry him.  They find the key, and return to release Gloha.  But Veleno manages to lock Graebo in with her.

Meanwhile, Metria goes for help from the relatives of the group.  But Graebo might not survive until they arrive, especially since Veleno is not providing them with food and water.

Ever since Metria had played the role of Trent’s wife in the Region of Madness, she had been wondering what it would be like to be a loving, caring person.  But she is a demoness, with no soul and therefore no conscience.  Now she offers to marry Veleno, in order to release them all.  Maybe if she pretends to love him, it will break the enchantment.  Veleno agrees.

So they are all released from their cells, including the nymphs, and the wedding preparations begin.  A few demons turn up including Professor Grossclout.  Grossclout conducts the wedding ceremony.  Then Metria realises she has received half of Veleno’s soul, and she is now capable of love and care, for her husband and for others.

The next morning, they have to leave the castle in a hurry because it is collapsing, as the enchantment has ended.

And then the various people Metria had informed turn up: the winged centaurs, the goblins, the harpies, the giants and the walking skeletons.  If they are not careful, the goblins and harpies will start fighting each other.

Expecting to die soon, Graebo offers Marrow his soul.  Trent works out how Graebo can be cured: by a bone marrow transplant from Marrow.  It would then be a fair trade for Marrow to receive half of Graebo’s soul.  But they will need a bloodroot and a trans-plant.  Trent organises all the creatures to search for these things.  They soon find some bloodroot.  But the only trans-plant they can find is in a crevice on Mount Pin-A-Tuba.

Trent decides to use the various creatures for a siege on the opposite side of the mountain, to distract its attention from the group approaching to use the trans-plant.  The harpies have discovered that the boats in the nearby Miracle Lake have mirror-barnacles (miracles) which can be used to make magic mirrors.  The creatures will raid, but the mountain will not want to give up this valuable treasure.

Trent transforms Veleno into a Slowmud (a cousin of the Swiftmud) in the shape of a chair, to carry Graebo (still in elf-form) to their destination on the mountain.  A giant carries Veleno to the mountain.  Then Metria guides Veleno up the slope along the route they had worked out.  Trent, Marrow and Gloha go with them.  It is a dangerous journey.  It seems Graebo might die before they get there.  But Gloha and Graebo confess their love for each other; this gives Graebo the will to live; he is willing to be transformed into a winged goblin to be with her.  Finally they reach the trans-plant, and Graebo is restored to health.

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Geis of the Gargoyle (1994)
Demoness Mentia (D. Mentia = dementia) introduces herself to Gary Gargoyle (sometimes referred to as Gary Gar).  She is the alter ego of Demoness Metria, but had become so disgusted with Metria marrying, getting a soul and falling in love that she had split off.  Also, Mentia is a little crazy.

Gary responds by telling her how his family had been under the obligation of honour (or geis) for centuries to purify the water of the Swan Knee River entering Xanth from Mundania.  But recently it has become very polluted.

Mentia suggests he ask the Good Magician if there is an easier way to do the job. She will guide him to the Good Magician’s Castle.  So he dams the river, and sets off with her.  Currently there is a drought, but he will need to be back when the rains come.

They stop at the winged centaurs’ home, where they meet Chex, who flicks Gary with her tail to make him light enough to fly over the Gap Chasm with his stone wings.  (This is the magic of winged centaurs: they flick themselves with their tails, to make themselves light enough to fly.)  So Gary and Metria successfully cross the Chasm, and arrive at the Good Magician’s Castle. Mentia departs. Near the castle, Gary meets a warrior woman called Hannah Barbarian.

Inside the castle, Gary meets the Gorgon.  Realising that Gary can’t spare a year away from his river, she tells him that the Good Magician has arranged a different service.  He has to tutor a human child.  He will be transformed into a human by Magician Trent for the duration of the service.  But since he won’t have the usual protection of his stone body, he will have the Sorceress Iris with him to protect him; she can scare away monsters with her illusions.

Having accepted this, he asks the Good Magician his question: “How can I more readily purify the water?”  Humfrey’s answer is: “Get a philter.”  Then he adds, “Ask Hiatus.”

Outside the castle Gary meets Mentia again.  Mentia offers to take him to the Brain Coral’s underground pool where Trent and Iris are in suspended animation.  They ride a figgle (which is like a diggle, but expects to be rewarded with a fig).

Gary enters the pool and finds Trent. (The occupants of the Brain Coral’s Pool are usually asleep, but from time to time wake up and interact with the other occupants.) (As mentioned in “Harpy Thyme”, Trent had been youthened to his twenties.)   Trent locates Iris who is 93.  He tells them that the child whom Gary is to tutor is Surprise, the 6-year-old daughter of Grundy and Rapunzel, who has a seemingly endless series of different talents.  Trent transforms Gary into a human man, and gives Iris youth potion, so she youthens to an apparent age of 23.  Gary and Iris exit the pool and take the Brain Coral’s freight elevator to the surface.

Mentia appears and guides them to Grundy and Rapunzel’s home.  Rapunzel is quite happy to hand Surprise over; the little girl is out of control, constantly performing different kinds of magic and causing chaos.  In addition to the magic of her talents, she has also inherited her mother’s ability to be any size.  Surprise continues to perform her chaotic magic while on this adventure.

Now they must go to the Zombie Master’s Castle to find Hiatus, the son of the Zombie Master and Millie.  Iris wishes they had a flying carpet, and before they can stop her, Surprise conjures one up.  So they use it to fly to the Castle.  Inside they meet Millie.  She tells them Hiatus is unhappy and lacks ambition.  She calls him in and Hiatus (now a man nearing 40) tells them his story.

Hiatus’s talent is to grow temporary organs on various surfaces, such as eyes, ears or noses, on windows, treetrunks or rocks. This has not always been popular with other people.  Once when he was a child of 11, his mother had yelled at him and sent him out of the house.  He had ridden his zombie dragon, Doofus, as far as he could, into the forest.  Then he had sent the dragon home.  Then he had met Desiree Dryad. She had looked after him and fed him, and pointed out the path he should take home.  But when she heard his views on the wife he might have some day (that she would do all the housework), she told him to look at her and said, “When you are a man, you will never see a girl as fair.”

Ever since, Hiatus has not been able to get interested in any other girls.  He keeps longing to see the dryad again, but can’t find his way back to her.  As a dryad, Desiree had to stay close to her tree. This had been near the Region of Madness.  But the Region of Madness had expanded, so the area was full of weirdness, and difficult to search.

Gary decides that maybe the Good Magician had meant that Desiree would tell them how to find the philter, so Hiatus joins them as they head off to find her.  Mentia appears, to find out what is happening; she joins them and helps look after Surprise.  They arrive in the Region of Madness. Their magic talents don’t work as expected, but Mentia is less crazy than usual.  They find their way to Desiree’s tree, which appears to be sick, and the dryad herself appears to be haggard.  They have been affected by the madness.

Iris uses her talent of illusion to make the dryad and her tree appear beautiful again.  Hiatus tells Desiree he wants to marry her.  But Desiree never intended that; she had only been teaching him a lesson.  But she will do anything to save her tree, so if he succeeds in saving it, she will marry him.

Desiree tells them the philter is in the ruins, but she can’t remember where the ruins are. She directs them to where there is a giant, who may be able to tell them.  So they continue on and find Jethro, an invisible giant, who had fallen down, and is now resting, in no hurry to get up.  He tells them to follow his footprints to the ruins.

The Region of Madness has been expanding: this seems to have started at the Time of No Magic. This also seems to explain various other magical effects: such as, giants growing bigger than previously.  Could there have been a spell holding the madness back, which failed at the Time of No Magic?  Maybe this also accounts for the increase in water pollution.

They continue on, and eventually come to an area with many large stones.  They seem to be the ruins of an ancient city.  But they can’t find the philter.

Because of Gary’s association with stone, with an effort he can examine a stone and discover what the stone was able to see in the past. By choosing an appropriate stone, he can work out what its view of the city would have been.  And by describing the view to Iris, she can create an illusion of that view of the city.  They repeat this on several appropriately placed stones, and build up an illusion of the whole city.  They learn that this is the ancient city of Stone Hinge.

Part of the illusion contains the image of a train.  Mentia and Surprise get on board, and the rest follow.  Against all logic, the train starts moving.  It seems that the madness has given substance to the illusion.  Eventually the train arrives at a station.  They are greeted by two people: one is Hanna the Handmaiden, who looks just like Hannah Barbarian, whom Gary had met outside the Good Magician’s Castle; the other is Desi the Desolate, who looks just like Desiree Dryad.

Hanna takes them all to a palace.  There are various creatures doing work around the palace.  Iris tells Gary that the palace and the creatures are illusions, but not of her making.  But the illusions are different from Iris’s, as they are tangible.  Hanna and Desi are also illusions, agents of the unknown illusionist. This person must have created them from the images in Gary’s and Hiatus’s minds.

All of this seems to be a recreation of the ancient civilisation 3 thousand years in the past.  (This is 2000 years before the official beginning of Xanth’s history with the First Wave.)  There had been humans living in Xanth, but their numbers were diminishing as they drank at love springs and interbred with other creatures. Hanna and Desi are acting as if it is 3000 years in the past, and Gary’s group are the last remaining humans of that time.  The travellers go along with it for the time being.  In fact, as the waves of madness come, they find themselves reliving the lives of those people of ancient times.

The ancient group of people were preparing a magical spell to create an Interface, to counter two problems: the diminishing of numbers of humans due to interbreeding, but also the invasion of human barbarians from Mundania, causing violence and bloodshed.  They were creating a protective field around Xanth, to discourage people from entering from Mundania, but to also permit migration to a small extent from the north-west of the land.  Gary and his companions re-enact the casting of this spell.  At this time they also meet Gayle Goyle, a female gargoyle – a real creature, not an illusion, who is purifying the city’s water supply.

Then they realise that there had been something missing from the spell.  There was supposed to be a filter, or philter, to purify the water coming into Xanth. This problem had been solved by giving gargoyles the role of filtering the water.

But now the group has the chance to perform the spell again, and to include the philter this time.  This will properly filter Xanth’s water supply and reduce the Region of Madness to its proper limits.  But where is the philter?  The unknown illusionist does not want them to find it, and Hanna and Desi, as his agents, do all they can to oppose them.

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Roc and a Hard Place (1995)
Demoness Metria and her husband Veleno have been summoning the stork many times during the last two years, but the stork doesn’t seem to have got the message; there has been no baby delivered.  She had sent her “worser half”, Mentia, to Demon Grossclout to find the answer, but Grossclout’s answer was that she should go and ask the Good Magician.  And having delivered the message, Mentia merges back with Metria.  But throughout the rest of the story, Metria and Mentia have internal debates.  And depending on need, one or the other come to the fore.

(Metria’s usual way of travelling is to pop instantly from one place to another.  She can also fly or float through the air.  But there are times when she is constrained to travel as other people do.)

So Metria goes to the Good Magician’s Castle.  And asks the question: “How can I get the stork to take my summons seriously?”  Humfrey’s answer is: “That will be apparent after you perform your Service.  Go to the Simurgh.”

MareAnne, who is the current Designated Wife, tells Metria that the Simurgh is not currently at Mount Parnassus, which is only her summer retreat.  MareAnne summons a quarter horse, called Eight Bits, who knows the way to where the Simurgh lives.  But the horse won’t allow a strange adult to ride him, so Metria transforms into her third personality, the waif Woe Betide (a form she had previously taken in “The Color of Her Panties”).  But now she needs an adult companion, so MareAnne assigns her Demoness Helen Back, who also knows the way, and will float along in the air above the horse.

Helen tells her they are going to Qaf, a mountain range which circles the Earth.  When they arrive at the Simurgh’s mountain, Helen tells her to climb to the top. And Helen and the horse leave.

So Metria climbs.  The mountain has a series of sections, coloured green, blue, yellow, pink, white and red: all different types of beryl (of which emerald is the green shade). Metria finally meets the Simurgh at the top.  The Simurgh gives her a bag of 30 summons tokens, made of black beryl.  They are each marked with a person’s name on one side, and their role of the other.  Metria must deliver the tokens to the people, and guide them to the Nameless Castle where Roxanne Roc will be put on trial in a fortnight’s time. (The Nameless Castle is on a cloud, floating in the air.)  Metria returns home.

But why would Roxanne be put on trial?  She is a decent bird, serving the Simurgh loyally by sitting on the egg in the Nameless Castle.

So Metria goes to deliver the first summons token to Roxanne.  But then she realises she can’t understand roc-speak.  She needs the Court Translator, who is Grundy Golem.  So she goes to the Golem home, and delivers the tokens for Grundy and Rapunzel. (Rapunzel will be a juror.)   Grundy comes back with her to the Nameless Castle.   But Roxanne doesn’t know what she is to be tried for.

Next she delivers a summons to Professor Grossclout, who is to be the judge.

The next summons tokens are for Trent and Iris.  Metria goes to the Brain Coral’s pool, but learns that they are taking a second honeymoon, on the moon.  She finds them, and hands the summons to Trent, who is to be the bailiff.  She transfers control of her body to Mentia, who gives the summons to Iris, as Iris and Mentia had been together in the previous adventure (“Geis of the Gargoyle”).  Iris’s role is Special Effects.

The next token is for Grey Murphy.  Metria discovers that each token exerts a tug in the direction of the named person.  This will enable her to find people whose location she doesn’t know.  The token leads her to where Grey is, out doing a job for Humfrey. She gives him the token, which indicates that he will be the prosecutor.

Metria arrives at Castle Roogna.  Gary Gar and Gayle Goyle are on the roof, spouting water into the moat.  Mentia takes over the body, and delivers the summonses to the two gargoyles, as she had associated with them in “Geis of the Gargoyle”.  They are to be jurors.

Metria continues into the Castle, and delivers a summons to Ida. Her job will be to defend Roxanne.

The next summons is for Threnody, as a juror.  This is a meeting Metria has been dreading, because, as is now revealed, Threnody is her daughter, and Threnody feels resentful towards her.  (As mentioned in “Crewel Lye”, Threnody is the daughter of King Gromden and a demoness.  We now learn that that demoness was Metria.) She finds Threnody in the forest, with Jordan the Barbarian, near the Region of Madness

Threnody refuses to accept the summons.  She sings a sad song (this is her magic talent), which keeps Metria at bay, and then Threnody and Jordan head into the Region of Madness.  Metria follows.  Mentia takes over the body since, although normally slightly crazy, she becomes sane within the Region of Madness.  She persuades them to use the effect of the madness to reenact the events of about 440 years ago – first from Threnody’s point of view, and then from Metria’s point of view.

Jordan takes on the role of King Gromden.  Threnody takes on the role of the Queen.  Metria takes on her own role.  When playing the part of the child Threnody, Metria changes to the form of Woe Betide.

The first reenactment:

King Gromden had married for political reasons, and love and joy are missing from the marriage.  He meets a young woman (actually Demoness Metria) who says she had left home rather than be married to one of the village louts.  But she couldn’t find acceptance anywhere.  The King takes her to one of the royal station houses, currently unoccupied.  She kisses him, and before long they have slept together.  He visits the house the next day, but she is gone.

Later, the woman shows up at the palace, when the King and Queen are at supper with visitors.  She hands over their illegitimate daughter, shames the King about their adulterous relationship, reveals herself to be a demoness, and disappears.

The King accepts the child as his own.  But eventually the Queen puts a curse on the girl.  If she remains in the Castle, it will fall down.  So the girl, Threnody, leaves the Castle at 10 years of age.

The second reenactment:

The original meeting of the King and Metria occurs as before.  But although Metria has no soul or conscience, she is impressed by the King’s goodness, and resolves to reward him with a night of joy.  And their relationship lasts some time, with them sleeping together many times.  Demonesses can prevent the signals going to the stork, but Metria misses one of the escaping signals.  So a baby is delivered.  Metria thinks that as a demoness she can’t look after the child, and delivers her to the King privately. Over the years, Metria observes the girl without revealing her identity.

The Queen is in charge of educating the girl, but poisons her mind against her mother.  Eventually as Threnody grows up, she becomes the image of her mother.  The Queen is jealous and curses her.

Back in the present, Threnody realises that Metria’s version is the truth, but is not entirely willing to forgive her.  Mentia leads Threnody and Jordan out of the Region of Madness, but persuades Metria that giving Threnody the summons had not been part of the deal.  Threnody says that if Metria can remove the curse, which prevents her entering Castle Roogna, she will accept the summons.

Mentia comes up with a plan that will achieve this.  The next person to be summoned is a woman called Phelra, who will be a witness.  Metria brings her to Castle Roogna, as several people will be travelling together from this Castle to the Nameless Castle.  Mentia’s plan is devious, and involves both the fact that Phelra has not previously heard of the curse, and Princess Ida’s talent.  And the plan seems to have worked, but this will only be proved when Threnody arrives.

Metria returns to Threnody and Jordan, and tells them she will arrange transport to Castle Roogna for the next day.  Then she goes to the home of the winged centaurs.  She has a summons for Cynthia, as juror.  She asks that Cheiron and Chex come to transport Threnody and Jordan the next day.  Then she goes to Goblin Mountain, where Che Centaur is Gwenny Goblin’s Companion.  She gives Che his summons as a juror, and Gwenny her summons as a witness.

Metria’s next summonses are for Dug and Kim in Mundania, who are to be jurors.  Since they had been involved in the demons’ computer game (in “Demons Don’t Dream”), she goes to Com Pewter.  She gives him a summons, as juror.  But when she asks him about Dug and Kim, Com Pewter says they don’t play the game very much any more.  Metria will have to go physically into Mundania to get them.  But since, as a demoness, she can’t exist in Mundania, she will have to go with Arnolde the Centaur, to be protected by his magical Centaur Aisle.  But to find Arnolde, she will need Jenny Elf’s cat Sammy.

Morning has arrived, so Metria returns to meet Threnody.  Cheiron, Chex, Cynthia, and Che arrive, with Gwenny riding Che. So they all fly to Castle Roogna, with Jordan and Threnody riding Cheiron and Chex.  And Threnody discovers she can enter the Castle, which had been her childhood home.  She and Metria become reconciled.

Now Metria has to find Jenny Elf.  Since Jenny had been involved in the demons’ game, Professor Grossclout should know where she is.  So she goes to see him.  But he wants to make a deal: he will tell her if she agrees to get his son, Demon Prince Vore (D. Vore = devour), married.  She agrees, and he tells her that Jenny is now living in the naga caves with Nada.

So she arrives at the naga caves.  Nada and Jenny are currently out, but Metra meets King Nabob Naga.  He wants Nada to get married, to a prince, as she will be ruling over the naga when the King steps down.  (Naldo is no longer suitable to rule since he married Mela Merwoman.)  Metria and Nabob plan on a strategy to get Vore and Nada together.

When Nada and Jenny return to the caves, Metria delivers their summonses, to be jurors.

So Metria tells Jenny and Sammy that she wants to find Arnolde Centaur.  So Sammy races off, with Jenny running behind, and Metria flying through the air.  After a long trek across country, they come to the Region of Madness.  Mentia takes over the body, as they enter the Region.  They find Arnolde and his Mundane archivist friend Ichabod, who are studying the lifeforms of the Region.  They are both very old, and have only survived this long because of the intense magic of the Region of Madness.  Arnolde and Ichabod agree to go with Metria to Mundania.  Mentia fetches Jethro Giant, whom she had met in “Geis of the Gargoyle”, who carries them to the north-west boundary of Xanth.  (Metria had not intended Jenny and Sammy to come, but through an oversight, Jethro had brought them along too.)

So they enter Mundania, staying within Arnolde’s Centaur Aisle.  They go first to Ichadbod’s home, to collect his pickup truck, so Arnolde, with his centaur body, can be concealed in the back.  Metria experiments leaving the Aisle, and gets turned into a dust devil, a whirl of mindless energy. It is an awful experience, and luckily she gets back into the Aisle.  When Jenny leaves the Aisle, she appears to be a human child of ten; her ears become round instead of pointed, and she has five fingers on each hand instead of four.  But she won’t be able to understand the Mundane language when outside the Aisle.

Ichabod drives the truck, with Metria giving directions, as indicated by the tug on Kim’s summons disc.  As they travel, Metria learns how Ichabod operates the vehicle.

They arrive at Squeedunk Community College, where Kim and Dug are studying.  They find Kim and Dug at their respective dormitories.  Since the events of “Demons Don’t Dream”, Kim and Dug have become girlfriend and boyfriend.  So Kim and Dug join them in the truck.   They return to Kim’s parents’ home to pick up Bubbles the dog.  Then they return to spend the night at Ichabod’s home.

But in the morning they realise that Arnolde’s Centaur Aisle is shrinking.  And Ichabod is feeling his age, and can no longer drive the truck.  The truck has manual gears, and Dug and Kim are only used to automatics.  But Metria has learnt how to drive it, so she becomes the driver, with Kim guiding her from the passenger seat.  They all load up and set off for Xanth.  There are a few delays on the way, and Metria can feel the magic of the Aisle shrinking.  Eventually Kim has to take over the driving with Metria guiding her with the gears.  They have to take a rough track, and end up in a swamp.

Kim had won the talent of erasure in the demons’ game, which she can use in the Centaur Aisle, so she sets about erasing part of the truck, and turning it into a boat.  And then Kim, Dug and Jenny drag the boat by a chain, while Metria transforms into a slippery sheet, to allow the boat to slide across the ground.  And so they reach Xanth.

Metria’s next summons is for Chena Centaur.  But she also has responsibility to deliver Kim, Dug and Jenny to the Nameless Castle, and to return Arnold and Ichabod to the Region of Magic.  So they all travel together on foot, with Metria following the tug of the summons token towards Chena.

And they find her.  She has been living alone in the Xanthian wilderness, and at first tries to run away from them.  But Metria explains about the summons, which indicates she is to be a juror.  She tells them her story.

Chena had lived on Centaur Isle.  She had been taught that it was obscene for centaurs to have magic, but it was okay to use magic items.  So she collected magic rocks.  And then the authorities discovered she had to magical talent to activate the magic of the rocks, and she was exiled.  She had had to survive in the wilderness.  Her brother Carlton had secretly brought a package to her, containing a bow and arrows, and a knife.

Then she had been chased by a catawampus – a crazy feline monster – and had fallen into the Gap Chasm.  But she had been saved by Che Centaur, before she could fall to her death.  Che was based with Gwenny Goblin and a horde of goblins performing military field exercises nearby.  She stayed with them for some time, helping them with her magic stones.  She was falling in love with Che.  But then Gwenny told her that Che had a commitment to Cynthia, and Chena left, upset.

But Arnolde suspects that her greatest wish is for something else.  Chena realises that what she wishes for is to have wings, and to fly, like Che.  One of her magic stones is a wishstone, so when she states her wish, wings appear on her body.  She has become a flying centaur.

Time is running out to deliver the summonses.  Ichabod suggests that Metria enlist Prince Dolph, who can transform himself into a roc, to transport all the people.  So she goes to see Dolph at Castle Roogna.  He transforms himself into a hummingbird, so she can carry him, and she pops back to the group.

Then Dolph transforms into a roc, and transports Arnolde and Ichabod back to the Region of Madness.  Then he carries Kim, Dug, Jenny, Chena and Metria, in a gondola, to Castle Roogna.

Then Metria and Dolph (in hummingbird form) go to Gloha Goblin-Harpy’s nest, and deliver summonses to Gloha and Graebo, who are to be jurors.  They can fly to the Nameless Castle themselves.

Then Metria and Dolph go to Mela Merwoman, who is now living in the naga caves with her husband Naldo Naga.  Mela is to be a witness.  Naldo wants to come too, so he will be a spectator.  Dolph transforms into a roc, and flies them to Castle Roogna.

Next they locate Okra Ogress, who is now living with her husband Smithereen in the forest.  Okra is to be a witness.  Dolph transports Okra and Smithereen to the Nameless Castle.

The next summonsee is Stanley Steamer, the Gap Dragon, who is to be a juror.  They fly to the Gap, where Stanley is quite pleased to see Dolph again; they had spent time together when Stanley was Ivy’s pet.  But Stanley is now has a mate, Stella, and a son Steven.  Stella will remain to patrol the Gap, but Stanley must take Steven with him.  Metria and Dolph will return to take them to the Nameless Castle just before the trial.

Amongst the summons tokens had been a blank one.  Now it has a name on it: MPD, who is to be a witness.  Metria and Dolph follow the tug of the token north, close to the Void, and then into a gourd, to the dream realm.  Metria has trouble finding the recipient, until she realises it is a person with multiple personalities.  But this person cannot leave the gourd, and the token goes blank in his hand.  This can’t be the correct summonsee, so they return without him.  The token must have been enchanted by someone, making the writing appear.

Next they deliver a token to Marrow Bones, who is to be a juror.  Marrow’s wife Grace’l and their children Picka and Joyn’t come along too.  Marrow forms a basket from his bones, so Dolph can carry them.  They continue on to the Black Village (the place where the Black Wave settled) at Lake Ogre-Chobee, and Metria delivers a token to Sherlock, who is also to be a juror.  Dolph carries them all to the Nameless Castle.

Metria delivers the last token (not counting the blank one) to the Simurgh, who is to be a witness.  She asks the Simurgh about the blank token, and the Simurgh tells Metria her job is not yet finished.  Metria tells her about the writing that had appeared on the token.  The Simurgh realises that there is interference; there must be a Demon Wager in progress, on the result of the trial.  It seems that after Demon X(A/N)th‘s win in “Demons Don’t Dream”, now Demoness V(E\N)us is challenging X(A/N)th.  Metria must do all she can to ensure the trial goes ahead, otherwise the Demoness will win by default.  And if she wins, the Land of Xanth will be handed over to V(E\N)us.

The day of the trial arrives. Everyone is gathered at the Nameless Castle.  The Judge, Professor Grossclout, appears.  He confirms that all personnel are present.  Then he announces that Roxanne is on trial for violation of the Adult Conspiracy.  The jury is selected from the Prospective Jury Roster.  Grey Murphy, the Prosecutor, insists that all selected jurors accept the validity of the Adult Conspiracy.  Ida, the Defence Attorney, insists that, to be properly accepted as Roxanne’s peers, the jurors must either be winged monsters, or isolated from mainstream Xanth.

A storm arises outside the Castle, threatening to destroy it.  It is Fracto, who must have been sent by Demoness V(E\N)us to disrupt the trial.  Metria borrows Chena’s wishstone, and wishes for the storm cloud to leave.  But her wish is not strong enough, and her other two personalities, Mentia and Woe Betide, must make the wish as well.  Fracto departs.

Grundy stands by to translate, and Iris creates illusions of the scenes the witnesses describe.

Phelra gives her evidence.  She had been at her home, when an unpleasant man approached.  Her talent is summoning animals, so she started to summon a Rocky Mountain Goat, so she could leave.  But she was interrupted by the man crashing into the house.  She had got as far as “Roc”.  But when summoning birds, she always gets carried away to where the bird is.  So she found herself transported to the Nameless Castle, where Roxanne was.  Roxanne had uttered some squawks.  Grundy translates this as “What? Darn!”  Grundy explains that “Darn” is an objectionable word, not suitable to be heard by small children.

The Simurgh gives evidence.  The egg that Roxanne is sitting on is hers; the chick which hatches will be her successor.  But the chick is intelligent and aware, inside the egg, and so would have heard Roxanne utter the objectionable word.

Ida gets the Simurgh to state that she had chosen Roxanne, as a qualified and honourable creature, to sit on the egg, and Roxanne had performed this duty well for six centuries.

Gwenny takes the stand, and relates the encounter that she, Jenny and Che had had with Roxanne in “The Color of Her Panties”.  Okra and Mela tell of their encounter, which occurred in that story.  Phelra tells how Roxanne’s utterance seemed to be one of surprise and dismay at her appearance, and Roxanne had ensured she returned home safely.

Ida asks Roxanne to tell what had happened at the Time of No Magic.  When the magic ceased, Roxanne realised the cloud on which the Castle stood was dropping towards the ground. She flapped her wings to force the cloud to drift toward a lake, where it splashed down.  At the moment of impact she protected the egg in her claws, but suffered a broken wing in the process.  The cloud was softening in the water, so she moulded the edges to prevent it sinking too quickly.  Then she forced it to drift towards land.  A monster attacked, but she fought it off, and lured it away from the Castle.  She went to a healing spring, to heal her injuries, and fortunately the magic returned at that point.  She returned to the Castle in time for the cloud to drift into the sky again.

Ida hopes that all of this evidence indicates that Roxanne is a loyal, caring bird, and the jury should take this into account when delivering the verdict.

The Judge tells the jury that a hung jury will not be acceptable.  The jury leaves to consider their verdict.

Sammy Cat comes to Metria.  Concluding he is lost, Metria takes him to Jenny in the jury room.  But the jury had not been able decide on their verdict, so Jenny had sent Sammy to find someone who could help them.  The jurors put on a play for Metria, with Kim and Dug in the lead roles.  The play has obvious parallels to the court case, and Metria must make a decision in relation to the play, which the jury will use to make their decision in the court case.

But Metria is conflicted.  Which way must she decide?  And what will be the consequences?

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Yon Ill Wind (1996)
The Senior Demons of the Solar System are unhappy that Demon X(A/N)th has been winning all the Demon Bets recently, so they make a new wager with him, which they think he won’t win.

  • He will take the form of a mortal being, a strangely coloured donkey-headed dragon called Nimby, and go among mortals for the duration of the contest. He must not reveal his true identity.
  • He will be able to speak to one person for one moment (but he will have the voice of a duck). After that he will not be permitted to speak.
  • He will be able to use his demonic powers on himself and that person, but only to the extent requested by that person.
  • To win the contest, he must receive at least one tear of love or grief from that person.
  • If that person leaves him, he will become immobile, and eventually his mortal body will die of starvation, at which point he will lose the contest.

And so the Demon, now to be known as Nimby, finds himself in the form of a donkey-headed dragon, in the Region of Madness, in the Land of Xanth.

Nimby becomes aware of a young woman approaching, whose name is Miss Fortune, who will be a suitable companion.  But she might become afraid of his appearance, so he hides behind a pile of rocks.  When he hears her arrive, he starts speaking.  He explains that he is an ugly non-human creature, that he needs her company, and that he has magic powers. He can make her whatever she wants, as long as she remains his companion.

Then he raises his head over the pile of rocks, only to discover that there is a different girl there.  Her name is Chlorine, and her talent is poisoning water.  She laughs at his strange appearance.  Nimby realises how unsuitable she is.  She has a harsh personality, is cynical and heedless of others’ feelings.  She had once had some sensitivity, but it had been beaten out of her by her abusive family.  And she has only one tear left, and is unlikely to shed it on him.

Chlorine, realising the possibilities, asks to be made beautiful.  And Nimby makes her beautiful, including her clothing.  She asks in turn to be made smart and healthy, and Nimby does it.  She is aware that she is mean-spirited, and asks to have a nice but realistic personality, and Nimby does it.

Then she asks him to make himself equivalent to her, so he becomes a handsome, smart, healthy, nice, but realistic human man.  (Nimby continues in this form throughout the adventure, except when he can more conveniently do things as the donkey-headed dragon.)

Meanwhile, Nimby realises that when he had entered Xanth as a character, the Interface had wavered, permitting a storm to enter Xanth from Mundania.

The Baldwin family are currently driving home to Miami from Key West, in their recreational vehicle (RV).  The family consists of the parents, Jim and Mary, and their children, Sean (aged 17), David (aged 12) and Karen (aged 7).  They have three pets with them: Woofer, the dog, Midrange, the cat, and Tweeter, the parakeet.

But they are driving through a storm, Tropical Storm Gladys (which Karen has nicknamed Happy Bottom), which is building up to a hurricane.  Driving is difficult, and they can hardly see out the windows.  The RV’s motor is skipping, and they are looking for a safe place to stop.  They reach Big Pine Key, but then somehow end up on No Name Key.  The engine gives up.  They spend the night sleeping in their seats.

In the morning they find themselves in a strange place.  They see a centaur.  After some confusion on both sides, the situation becomes clear: the storm has caused them to cross into Xanth; they are on Centaur Isle.  The centaur, whose name is Cedric, takes the family into the centaur village, and hands them over to a centaur called Carleton. (This is the brother of Chena from “Roc and a Hard Place”. His name was spelt “Carlton” in that book.) He calls a female centaur called Sheila, to provide food for them.

When Carleton hears about their RV’s motor failing, he sprinkles some healing elixir on the motor, and the engine starts.  Then the centaurs ferry the RV and the family across to the mainland, on a raft.  Sheila comes with them, to hand them over to the guide that the Good Magician will be sending. She mentions how Carleton is sad about Chena being exiled, and asks them to take Carleton’s best wishes to her if they meet her.

Chlorine feels the need to show off her new beauty, so she decides to go to the Good Magician and ask a question, so that during her subsequent service, she will have opportunities to show off.  So Chlorine and Nimby travel to the Good Magician’s Castle.

Chlorine asks the Good Magician: “Where is my last tear?”  Humfrey tells her that she has half of the tear in each of her eyes.  But if she sheds it, she will go blind.  Then, impressed by her beauty, he adds that he hopes she never becomes so unhappy that she sheds that final tear.

The Baldwin family are waiting near a giant pillow.  A figure flies through the air, and lands on the pillow.  It is Chlorine; her assignment from the Good Magician is to be the family’s guide through Xanth, to the northwest, where they can exit to Mundania.  A moment later, Nimby arrives on the pillow.  They have been thrown there by the cat-a-pult: this is a giant cat whose tail springs up and hurls things where they need to go.

Sheila departs, to return to Centaur Isle. The Baldwins, and Chlorine and Nimby board the RV, and set off.  They come to a sign marked “Trollway”.  Jim pays the troll two cents, and proceeds.  Chlorine tells them the trollway is enchanted to prevent harm coming to them.

Chlorine explains how Xanth’s Interface had failed, and let the storm through.  As the wind builds up, it will stir up the magic dust to greater concentrations, causing strange occurrences and madness.  They have to try and stay ahead of the storm.

Jim has mentioned that they will need gas, so eventually Nimby points out the exit they should take.  They find a creature called a gas guzzler.  He fills their tank from his tail in exchange for an ant-acid tablet.

Chlorine explains her background, and Nimby’s nature, and how Nimby had changed her.  Nimby seems to be aware of everything around him, including dangers, although he does not volunteer the information unless Chlorine asks him.  Since Nimby can’t talk, they ask how Nimby can warn her of complicated dangers.  David suggests that Nimby can write a note.  Chlorine says she can’t read, and Sean suggests that Nimby make her able to read.  So Nimby does, and he writes a note telling of danger ahead: goblins are setting up an illusory barricade and detour, but Jim should just drive ahead through the illusion.  Chlorine tells Nimby to write a note whenever there is danger – to her, or to any of the Baldwin family.

They come to the barricade and the detour.  Jim brakes, but Chlorine tells him to go ahead.  It turns out to be an illusion, as Nimby had warned.

They stop at a rest stop.  Nimby writes a note warning that the storm is stirring up bad creatures that could frighten the children.  Then Nimby says (via another note) they should set their pets free to roam around: the increased magic is making them more intelligent and responsible, so they won’t wander off.  This turns out to be so.

As they continue on, they are attacked by various flying creatures: a roc, a dragon and a harpy.  But the creatures can’t harm them on the enchanted road, although the harpy could drop explosive eggs on their vehicle.

They arrive at the Gap Chasm. Part of the trollway service is a ferry across the chasm.  The ferry turns out to be a cloud. With some nervousness, Jim drives onto the cloud, but the cloud supports them satisfactorily, and carries them across.

As night falls, they look for a place to stay, and find an imp village called Imp Erial.  The hotel there is run by an imp woman called Quieta, and her father Imp Ortant. (All imp men have names which make a word when combined with “Imp”.)  (Quieta and Imp Ortant were previously encountered by Smash in “Ogre, Ogre”.)  The hotel makes use of an accommodation spell to change the humans and pets to a compatible size to enter.  The family is surprised at how sumptuous their suite is, and that no payment is required.

After dinner, the adults and Sean are taken on a tour of the village; the villagers’ main occupation is making gems; these are the gems which end up in the barrels of nymphs such as Jewel, for distribution.  The imps are trying to clear everything out to their shelter cave before the storm hits.

After their return to the hotel, the pets come to Sean, and through a process of responding to his questions, tell him that the imps will have trouble clearing everything out by the following night when the storm arrives.  Sean tells his father, and they go outside to see if they can help.  Quieta and Ortant are involved in the evacuation; their responsibilities to their guests have made it difficult to do as much as they could.  But Quieta says that the Baldwins will have to leave at dawn, to stay ahead of the storm.

So, feeling somewhat guilty, they leave at dawn.

But as they approach the boundary between Xanth and Mundania, the family decide they must go back and help the imps.  Besides, they feel they are not ready to leave the fantastic land of Xanth, and return to their mundane lives.  So they head back.

Nimby asks them stop, and he collects a branch with cherries.  These are actually cherry bombs, new clear cherry bombs, more powerful than ordinary cherry bombs.

The rain comes down heavily.  They reach the Crimea River, which brings tears to everyone’s eyes.  The road is flooded.  Nimby tells them the goblins have dammed the river; they need the cherry bombs to destroy the dam.  The adults and Sean leave the vehicle to do this, leaving David and Karen in the RV.

But Karen hears a bell, and runs off to see where it is coming from, with Tweeter going with her.  David sends Woofer after her.  But when she hasn’t returned, David goes looking for her, but can’t find her.  He goes and tells his mother that Karen has run off.  (Mary is holding the branch of cherry bombs; Sean is building a framework of driftwood for the bombs.)  Chlorine and Nimby go to find Karen.

Mary tells David to check on Jim, who has gone to find the best place to set the bombs off.  David finds him, surrounded by goblins.  He distracts the goblins, while Sean blows up the dam, so David and Jim escape.

Nimby and Chlorine return.  They had found Karen in a tree.  The area is full of wraiths – ghostly beings which mimic other people, so Karen was not sure whether Nimby and Chlorine were real.  So David goes with them, and convinces Karen that he is real, so she returns with them.

But now Woofer and Tweeter are missing.  Nimby can’t tell where they are, because the area is full of phantom images of the two pets.  David sends Midrange off to find them. Midrange swallows a magic tonic, which causes phantom images of Midrange to split off, which will hopefully fool whoever is creating the phantoms; the cat phantoms will also cancel the images of the other pets.

Midrange follows the scents of Woofer and Tweeter.  On the way he finds a doglike creature – a snarl, which had been combed from a little girl’s hair.  Midrange and Snarl follow the scents to a cave.  This turns out to be the cave of Sending, the offspring of Com Pewter (refer “Man from Mundania”).  Much like his parent, he is confining creatures to his cave, to help him take over Xanth.  Sending has captured Woofer and Tweeter, and now captures Midrange and Snarl as well.  But Chlorine and Nimby rescue them.

They all, including Snarl, load into the RV, and set off.  Further on they find Snarl’s owner, the girl whose hair he had been combed from, and return him to her.

The madness is building up; illusory flying monsters attack, and the landscape appears distorted.

They arrive back at the imps’ village and help transport their possessions to the shelter.  Midrange overhears some imps saying that Xanth will be destroyed, except for those creatures sheltering underground.  Nimby confirms this: the wind and magic dust will devastate all of Xanth. But there is a way which may possibly save the land.  Nimby and Chlorine will fetch the windbreaker, while the others go to Castle Roogna.

Nimby and Chlorine ride a cloud to Sending’s cave.  Sending will ask Twenty Questions.  If Nimby and Chlorine get them all right, they will get the windbreaker.  Otherwise they will become Sending’s slaves.  In response to Sending’s questions (which are generally on the subject of apparent contradictions in Xanth’s history), Nimby writes the answers, and Chlorine reads them to Sending.  Of course they win, and get the windbreaker, which is a jacket.

The Baldwin family drive in their RV to Castle Roogna.  They have a guide, Trenita, Quieta’s daughter.  Mary drives to allow Jim to get some sleep.  They cross the Gap Chasm on a bridge, as the ferry service is closed.

At the Castle, they meet Electra and Dolph, and later King Dor and Queen Irene.  While the adults work out the plan, David watches the Magic Tapestry, and Jenny Elf takes Karen to see Electra and Dolph’s daughters Dawn and Eve (slightly younger than Karen), then Ivy and Grey’s baby daughters, Melody, Harmony and Rhythm, and Nada and Vore’s baby daughter Demonica.

Karen and David return to the adults.  Trenita will remain at Castle Roogna.  Their new guide, to Mount Rushmost, is Demoness Mentia, as she becomes sane in the madness.

The Baldwin family and Mentia get into RV and travel to Mount Rushmost.  They enter a tunnel in the side of the mountain, and follow it in a spiral to the plateau at the top.

They gather fuel for a fire.  The winged monsters come to help. (The mountain is a place of truce for winged monsters.)   A roc arrives, carrying Chlorine and Nimby.  The fire generates a big cloud, which attracts the attention of Fracto.  They make a deal with him, to help herd/lure Hurricane Happy Bottom to the Region of Air.  She can then become Fracto’s female companion.

Sean has separated from the group.  A winged girl appears and addresses him by name.  And Sean remembers her.

When he had set off the bombs at the Crimea River, he had been thrown into the water. He had trouble finding his way to the shore.  A winged girl arrived in the air and guided him.  Then she told him she was Willow, a winged elf.  She came from a tall winged elm; her people were bigger than other elves, although still smaller than humans; they could roam further from their tree than other elves.  Both Sean and Willow had become muddy, so they went to separate pool to clean up.  However this was a love spring; they fell instantly in love.  But they realised that, coming from different worlds, they had no future together.  Willow knew of the location of a Forget Whorl.  Sean entered the Whorl, and forgot about his encounter, and returned to his family.  But the Forget Whorl had been used up, and Willow couldn’t forget.  And so she had rejoined him at Mount Rushmost.

So the two of them are in love, and don’t want to separate again, although their future seems impossible.  Willow joins the family as they return to the RV.

The Baldwins and their companions drive their RV back through the tunnel and exit the mountain.  Nimby gives them the names of a few more people they will need for the plan, and they proceed to pick them up.  They are: Modem, a boy who can connect remotely to Com Pewter, to change reality in his vicinity; Keaira, a young woman who can control the weather to a small extent; Chena Centaur; and Adam, a young man who can make himself like anything he sees (hard as a rock, liquid like water, light and fluffy like a cloud).

Chena is the winged centaur from “Roc and a Hard Place”, the sister of Carleton.  The Baldwins give her Carleton’s best wishes.  She has a friend Crystal with her, a winged centaur who had been transformed from a human girl.  Crystal also joins them.

Modem uses his talent to make the vehicle big enough for them all (except the centaurs, who remain outside).  The centaurs make the vehicle and the people light, so they can tow it through the air.  Keaira controls the weather around the vehicle so they are not buffeted about.

They land the RV.  The next stage involves a few of the party pushing Happy Bottom northwards to the Region of Air. David wears the windbreaker and rides Chena, Keaira rides Crystal and Willow flies nearby to explore and guide.  They all must fly close the hurricane’s eye.  When David opens the jacket, it creates a high pressure which pushes the hurricane’s eye.  Keaira is controlling the weather in the vicinity.  There are various complications, but eventually they succeed in pushing the hurricane to the Region of Air, where Fracto proceeds to romance her.

After celebrations at Castle Roogna, the Baldwin family set off to return to Mundania.

But what of Nimby and Chlorine, and the Demon Bet?

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Faun & Games (1997)
Like many fauns and nymphs, Forrest Faun has a symbiotic relationship with a tree, in his case, a sandalwood tree.

Demoness Mentia meets Forrest, and tells him a nearby tree is wilting.  Forrest discovers that it is the clog tree belonging to his friend Branch Faun, who seems to have gone missing.  He follows Branch’s footprints, and realises that he had been chasing a nymph (as fauns do), but they had both slipped and fallen into the Void, from which there is no return.

But without its faun, the tree will become essentially mundane.  Forrest wonders how he can get another faun to come and adopt the tree.  Mentia suggests he go and ask the Good Magician.  She can’t guide him herself, so she will send a friend.

But the Magician requires a year’s service or equivalent in exchange for answering a question, and Forrest can’t be away from his tree that long.  He goes to see Com Passion, a lovable female cousin of Com Pewter.  Com Passion gives him two discs, which will slow down time for the two trees, but he must be back in a month’s time.

Demoness Sire (D. Sire = desire) shows up to guide Forrest to the Good Magician.  She owes Mentia half a favour. They reach the Gap Chasm, and Forrest doesn’t know how to cross.  He finds a dog caught in briers and rescues it, and treats its scratches with balm.  This is Woofer, the Baldwins’ dog, previously mentioned in “Yon Ill Wind”.  Then Forrest sees two figures flying over the Chasm.  They arrive; they are Sean Baldwin and Willow Elf.  (They had gone to Mundania at the end of “Yon Ill Wind”, but had since returned.) Sean had been surprised to discover he could fly without wings.  Sean and Willow are grateful to Forrest for helping Woofer, and Willow blows a whistle that brings Chlorine, riding on the back of Nimby, who is in his donkey-headed dragon form.

When Chlorine hears Forrest’s story, she offers him a lift on Nimby’s back; Nimby takes Chlorine and Forrest down the side of the Chasm, across the bottom, and up the other side.  Forrest continues on and arrives at the Good Magician’s Castle.

But the Good Magician refuses to listen to his question, and just tells him that Mare Imbri will soon arrive to clarify things.  Wira, Humfrey’s daughter-in-law, conducts Forrest to a room where he can communicate with Imbri.  And Forrest becomes aware of a voice speaking in his mind; it is Imbri.

At the end of “Night Mare”, Imbri’s body had been lost in the Void.  But Imbri had been given a half-soul by Chem Centaur (in “Ogre, Ogre”); her connection to Chem had enabled Imbri to survive in spirit form, although she is without a body, and invisible.  And she had become a day mare, bringing pleasant daydreams to people instead of the bad dreams of the realm of night.

Imbri can communicate with people in the form of a dream.  To Forrest she appears as a ghostly image of a human woman, and he imagines he can hear her talking.  She tells him how she had asked the Good Magician a question. She is not quite satisfied with her life, and wishes to “gallop in some other pasture”.  The Good Magician will grant her wish after she performs her service, which is to take Forrest to a place called Ptero.  She had been there before, to take daydreams to people. On Ptero are counterparts of all Xanth’s characters, and also others who could potentially exist in Xanth. They must have to go there to find the faun that Forrest is looking for.

Forrest and Imbri now travel together to Castle Roogna.  Here they meet twin Princesses Dawn and Eve, who are 6 years old, and their mother Princess Electra.  Then they meet Princess Ida, who takes them to the Tapestry room.  Ida has a tiny moon orbiting her head: this moon is Ptero.  [The moon had appeared, orbiting Ida’s head, in “Roc and a Hard Place”, and it had been named “Ptero” by Karen Baldwin in “Yon Ill Wind”.]    Forrest must sniff the contents of a bottle provided by the Good Magician, and this will release his soul to travel to Ptero, while his body stays behind.  Imbri, who is already in soul form, will guide him there.

As they approach Ptero, the moon appears to become a full-sized world, and they land on it.  Forrest’s soul takes on the shape of his physical body, which feels like his normal body and is solid on this world.  He discovers he has brought his knapsack with all its contents with him, apparently formed from part of his soul.  Imbri is visible, in her form as a horse, but is rather hazy (she is not very dense, as her half soul occupies the volume of a horse), so changes to the form of a small woman, which enables her to talk normally.  They encounter various people, and discover that to obtain a service (such as information about this world, or guidance to a location) they must provide a service in exchange.

They learn that the colour of the air indicates the direction: blue for north, red for south, yellow for east (referred to as “From”) and green for west (referred to as “To”).  Travelling east makes a person younger, and travelling west makes them older, so their range is limited by their life span.   (“Time is geography.”)   Both Forrest and Imbri are about 200 years old, so are not significantly restricted.

Locations in Ptero tend to be divided into regions according to species.  The place they have landed is the equine region (with centaurs, unicorns, etc).  They meet a winged centaur called Cathryn, who could guide them to the faun region.  However, she doesn’t think there is anything she needs, so they can’t exchange a service.

Forrest consults a list provided by the Good Magician; the first entry is “Dear Horn”.  And Cathryn realises this is something she wants; blowing the dear horn will locate a person’s True Love.  Imbri, as a dream horse, is able to detect a flickering glow in the direction of the horn; it is to the north, and slightly to the east.  So they set off to find it.  They eventually reach the boundary of the equine region, and have to cross a comic strip; this is a strip of land with various obnoxious puns, a rather nasty experience.  (This is the first of many that characters in the Xanth series will encounter.)  They enter the ogre region.  The further they have journeyed to the east, the younger Cathryn has become, so by this stage she has become a young child.  They come to a castle occupied by an ogre.

Ogres can be dangerous creatures, but Forrest volunteers to go to the door to meet the ogre. The ogre’s name is Orgy, he speaks in the typical inane rhymes of ogres.  After conversing with Orgy for a while, Forrest realises that Orgy is no longer speaking in rhyme.  Orgy says that no ogres rhyme; it is just the perception of other people; when they come to know and respect ogres, they are no longer prejudiced, and perceive them as speaking normally.  However he still admits that ogres are strong, ugly and stupid.

[The author is obviously introducing this new rule in order to give us a message about prejudice.  But I am not happy with this explanation.  It is well established that in general ogres speak in rhyme. Many of the examples in the series make no sense if this is not so.  In fact, speaking in rhyme is supposed to be part of an ogre’s magical nature.  Okra Ogress, in “The Color of Her Panties”, does not speak in rhyme, but admittedly she is more intelligent than most ogres.  The only conclusion I can come to is that in general ogres speak in rhyme, but some do not; it seems to be related to how intelligent the ogre is.  However, a bit later, Orgy spoils his own argument by stating that he deliberately speaks in rhyme when other people might hear him, thus reinforcing the stereotype.  The other ogres in the story behave in the same way.

As the series continues, the two conflicting rules persist.]

Forrest invites Imbri and Cathryn to come into the castle. Initially they perceive Orgy as speaking in inane rhymes, but then realise he is speaking normally.

Orgy describes how he had found the dear horn, and it had led him to this castle, which although unoccupied by other people, automatically provides him with food, and repairs the walls that he bashes down.  Having no further need for the horn, he threw it out the window.  If they can provide a service for him, he will tell them where he threw it.  They propose to find an ogress companion for him, who will admire his ogreish qualities.  Orgy says his friend Ogle Ogre might be able to lead them to such an ogress.  So Forrest, Imbri and Cathryn locate Ogle, who leads them to an ogress called Olé.  Olé willingly comes to Orgy’s castle to be his companion, and Orgy tells them the location of the dear horn.

They return to the region where Cathryn is an adult, and she blows the horn.  The echo, which only she can hear, comes from due east; this must be the direction of her True Love.  They travel as far as they can, before Cathryn becomes too young to continue, so Forrest and Imbri continue on, and find a young male winged centaur called Contrary. He is initially unwilling to come with them; he doesn’t want to grow up or have a female as a companion, but they persuade him.  So he comes with them to meet Cathryn and realises she is his True Love.

Forrest and Imbri ride on the centaurs’ backs as they fly as far west as they can before they become too old to continue.  The faun region is beyond their range.  But if Forrest and Imbri continue on, they will reach Ptero’s counterpart of Castle Roogna.  Dawn and Eve should be able to guide them to the faun region.

Cathryn’s talent is to conjure up blankets, although not the regular kind.  During their travels together, dragons had attacked them several times, but Cathryn had concealed them by conjuring, in turn, a security blanket, a blanket of fog, and a blanket of silence. To assist them in their mission, she gives them a canned blanket of obscurity, which they can invoke as needed.  It lasts an hour, after which they must reinvoke it.

So Forrest and Imbri continue on, but instead of reaching Castle Roogna, they come to Ptero’s counterpart of the Good Magician’s Castle.  They decide to enter, to ask for directions.  This requires them to pass the challenges, and Forrest will have to provide a service when he asks Humfrey his question.  Humfrey assigns him the service of adviser to Princesses Dawn and Eve, to enable them to save the territory from marginalization.  Sofia Socksorter, the current Designated Wife, directs them to the magic path to Castle Roogna.

They stay overnight at a rest station. Forrest and Imbri sleep next to each other, sharing a blanket.  But Forrest is disturbed, feeling sexual urges, lying next to a female human body.  In the past he has “celebrated” with nymphs many times, but doesn’t feel that he can do this casually with an intelligent creature like Imbri.

The next day they approach Castle Roogna.  They see a whole lot of lines criss-crossing the valley, enclosing the Castle.  This must be the “marginalization” that the Good Magician had referred to.  Forrest invokes the blanket of obscurity as a safeguard.  They continue on and enter the Castle.

Inside they meet Ida, Electra, Dawn and Eve, Ivy and Grey.  But because they are so far in the “To” direction, they are all 12 years older than their counterparts on Xanth.  Dawn and Eve are 18, and very flirtatious; they continue to act amorously towards Forrest throughout their subsequent adventure together.  The occupants of the Castle explain to the visitors what has happened.  All the other humans of the territory have been captured by the margins; when enclosed by the lines, they turn ghostly, and cannot return.  Where the lines appear, there are actually invisible walls, which the remaining humans can’t cross.  Forrest figures out that he and Imbri had managed to cross because of the blanket of obscurity.

Dawn’s magic talent is to know anything about any living thing she touches.  Eve’s is to know anything about any inanimate object she touches.

Forrest, Imbri, Dawn and Eve go to investigate the lines, and Eve discovers that energy is being supplied to maintain the invisible walls.  It is coming from above, but the beam of energy bends, and is coming from Castle Roogna.  They figure out that it is coming from Ida’s moon, which in this world is Pyramid, consisting of 4 triangular sides. They must travel to Pyramid to find the source.

So Forrest, Imbri, Dawn and Eve go through a process similar to Forrest and Imbri’s previous experience.  Dawn, Eve and Forrest sniff the bottle from the Good Magician in Xanth. (Imbri doesn’t need to do this.) Dawn’s and Eve’s souls separate from their bodies; in Forrest and Imbri’s case, a small part separates from their souls; they all travel in soul form to Pyramid, where they form into the familiar shapes of their bodies.  Imbri has enough mass to form into her natural form of a mare.

Pyramid’s four faces have different colours: blue, red, and green, and the base is grey.  They land on the blue face; everything there is in shades of blue.  But they standing at an angle lilted from the perpendicular.  They find some squirrel-like creatures called lings, whose magic is to make the impossible possible.  At their request, the lings turn them blue, so they don’t stand out, change their orientation to be perpendicular to the ground, and ensure the obscurity blanket operates in this world.  The group learns that when a person does a favour for someone, the giver increases in size, and the receiver reduces in size.

They decide to head for the centre of the blue face; this is likely to be the source of the margins.  They come to area occupied by cat people.  Forrest has invoked the blanket of obscurity, so the cat people do not notice them, but Dawn touches one of them, and finds out all she knows.  In the centre of the blue face is the Blue Wizard’s Castle; it is guarded by monsters.  The cat woman is afraid of him; he has given away so much he has become enormous.  They conclude the Wizard has been stealing talents from Ptero and giving them away.  There must be Wizards on the other three faces doing the same thing.

They approach the Wizard’s Castle and find a garbage dump; Dawn and Eve use their talents on the living and inanimate components of the garbage to find out all they can about the castle.  They work out the castle’s layout.  The lines are coming from the dungeon.

They decide they should consult with the Ida of this world.

They meet a man called Todd Loren, originally from Mundania.  His talent is to create a gust of wind to lead someone to a particular place.  So he creates a gust to lead them to Ida.  So they eventually find her on an island in a lake, where the Blue Wizard had confined her.

Ida tells them their solution can be found on her moon Torus, which is in the shape of a doughnut.  They repeat the same process as before, and land on Torus.

They find their way to where Ida of Torus lives, on an island in a small sea.  Eve touches the water, using her talent to find out about it. The sea is called the Sarah Sea, and the island is called Niffin Island, which is inhabited by many magical creatures.  And Ida is on the island. Afterwards Eve comes and holds Forrest’s hand.

They cross to the island, and meet Ida and explain their mission.  This Ida has a moon called Cone; it is shaped like a cone.  The information they need is on Cone, but Ida is able to take a conic section to obtain the information.  But on this world, if a person provides a favour to another, the giver incurs a burden of emotion; they start to like or love the receiver.  To avoid this, they exchange favours.

They realise at that point that Eve had fallen in love with Forrest when she provided the information about the Sarah Sea; this is why she was holding his hand.  And it is now too late for Forrest to provide a return favour.

But now Forrest must provide a return favour to Ida, in order to obtain her information.  Ida wants to know everything about the Sarah Sea, including the creatures of the depths.  Eve returns to the Sea, and gathers all the information and tells it to Forrest.  (She is already in love with him; it seems that her love cannot increase.)  Forrest passes this on to Ida.  Ida tells what she had learned from Cone; they will need to find two additional people on Pyramid: Ghina (on the red face), the daughter of Graebo Giant and Gloha Goblin-Harpy, whose talent is to put people to sleep; and Jfraya (on the green face), whose talent is to draw a door which opens.

Dawn wants to do Forrest a favour, so she will love Forrest as much as Eve does.  Forrest’s only wish is to find a faun.  Dawn asks that they all join hands so she can find whether anyone knows anything useful.  She discovers something, and declares that she has now done Forrest a favour, and is also in love with him.  But she doesn’t tell him what the favour is.

The group returns to Ptero.

They make their way to the red face, and find a colony of lings, which turn them red and adjust their orientation to that face.  They find their way to Ghina’s house.  She is an invisible winged goblin; she has inherited her invisibility from her father, and wears a red cloak so people can see her.  She agrees to come with them.  She takes them to her Uncle Kerby, an invisible giant, who carries them all to the green face.

But they can’t find any lings, so their orientation is wrong; they are at about 90 degrees to the perpendicular, so have to crawl along.  But they finally make it to Jfraya’s house, and she agrees to come with them.  She draws a door on the ground, which opens into a tunnel system; the tunnels are pre-existing, and had been created by goblins.  The group discovers they are able to comfortably walk along the tunnel walls.

They exit a short distance from the Green Wizard’s Castle, and wait till night.  Imbri stays behind; she has difficulty crawling, but will be able to communicate with them via dreamlets.  Ghina manages to fly, with difficulty.  Jfraya can walk normally, the others crawl.  Ghina puts the guardian monsters to sleep one by one.  Jfraya draws a door in the wall and they enter.  There they see a dozen small pyramids; these are the margins, the creatures causing the lines.  Imbri communicates with them; the Wizard had convinced them that they were confining evil people on Ptero. Imbri persuades them that this is not so, and they agree to stop in three days time, so the other Wizards are not warned.

They will go to the Red Wizard’s Castle next.  Jfraya opens a door into tunnels which take them there directly.  They repeat the process there, asking the margins to stop in two and a half days, which would be at the same time as the green margins.  They pass through another tunnel to the Blue Wizard’s Castle, and ask the margins to stop in a day and a half.

The travel to the Grey Wizard’s Castle is going to be difficult, as there are no goblin tunnels leading there.  They locate some centaurs, who agree to carry them to the blue face’s boundary with the grey face. Four centaurs carry Imbri in a sling.

The ground on the grey face is covered with snow; they manage to walk by making trenches, and walking on the walls of the trench.  But they are running late.  When they enter the Castle, the Wizard (who is a woman) is ready for them.  However, she thinks that one of their party is missing, believing that Imbri is just an animal.  She orders a mermaid, Cerci, to start turning them into pigs.  But Imbri manages to communicate with the margins, who stop generating their lines.  The Wizard shrinks to the size of an elf, as all the talents she had gained are returned to their owners.

The Wizard negotiates.  She will return to her home village.  All the servants in the Castle wish to stay there, and Jfraya agrees to be their mistress.  The Wizard tells Ghina where she can find a winged goblin male on the blue face.

Forrest, Imbri, Dawn and Eve return to Ptero.  All the missing humans have returned.  They form a receiving line to meet and thank Forrest and Imbri individually.  Many of them are alternative children of well-known people in Xanth.  Two handsome princes, called Mourning and Knight, meet Dawn and Eve, and suddenly the girls are more interested in the princes than in Forrest.

This is followed by a banquet.  Then it is time for Forrest and Imbri to move on.  Two giants carry them to the edge of the faun region.

And in the faun region, Forrest meets Deanna Fauna, a female faun.  Forrest had never heard of such a thing.  But he soon discovers she is not interested in caring for a tree, or becoming real, or being stuck at a single age.  And she assures him that all the other fauns feel the same way.  It seems that Forrest’s mission has failed.

Forrest and Imbri return to Xanth.  Imbri, now appearing to him in her ghostly human form, accompanies him to his tree.  They are both disappointed; they believe that the adventure has spoiled them for regular existence.  They wish they had made love together when they’d had the opportunity on Ptero.

Imbri approaches the clog tree, and suddenly the tree is projecting a scene with its foliage: a nymph and a faun in a loving relationship. Then they realise that it is them: Imbri and Forrest.  The tree had picked up on Imbri’s daydream.  Forrest blows the dear horn, and discovers that Imbri is his True Love.  And he discovers a note in his knapsack: Dawn had written the word “Imbri”, when she realised the favour she could do for him.

The tree can provide substance to give Imbri a solid body, and Imbri can become the tree’s carer for the tree.  And Forrest and Imbri can become lovers. This is Imbri’s “new pasture”.

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Zombie Lover (1998)
Breanna of the Black Wave is 15.  She was 9 when the Black Wave 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 (refer “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 is now a tree nymph, but can still revert to her old form as a mare, and still carries a few daydreams to people.  She becomes intangible away from her tree.) Imbri tells her it can’t be done, and gives her a dream of events which had been wiped from her memory.

Chlorine and Nimby had come to Imbri and Forrest, and revealed that Nimby was Demon X(A/N)th.  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 the Good Magician with her problem.

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 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 is in an office chamber in the Castle.  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.

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.)  Dolph transforms into a roc and carries the other two across the land as they look for zombies.  They find one, but he doesn’t make a lot of sense.  So they decide to go to the Zombie Master’s Castle.

They meet Millie, who 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, it is a dream version of the Moons he is visiting.  His body remains 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.  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 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, as long as 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.

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 a ghost.  The ghost notifies Princess Ida.  She 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 her moon, Ptero, and think small.  They float towards the moon and 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.  They are all 11 years older than their Xanth counterparts.  (As long as inhabitants of Ptero remain in the same place, their ages do not change.)  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 of Ida’s moon, 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, they 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 arrive on the moon Pyramid, and make their way to the home of the Ida of that world.  They proceed to the moon Torus, and then to the moon Cone.  Cone 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 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 she 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 of 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 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 intruding, the females kiss the men with lip bomb; it has an explosive effect.

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.

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 and cross.  The boat is intelligent, and because of Dor’s talent is able to speak to them.  It has several pairs of duck feet, which enables it to move by itself on water and can 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 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 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 kings meet up with Breanna and leave the Isle.  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 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 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; they 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.  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 practice 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 Sammy Cat.  Obviously people had started to worry about the missing kings, and Jenny had told Sammy to find them.  But Jenny would be a suitable person for Jeremy to practice his romance on, as she won’t know he’s a prince.

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.

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

Dolph transforms into a roc, and flies Breanna to Castle Zombie.  The Zombie Master has returned, having discovered a suitable world for the zombies.  But who will replace him in Castle Zombie when he and Millie retire there?

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.  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?

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Xone of Contention (1999)
Edsel and Pia are a young married couple in Mundania.  They are friends of Dug and Kim, who previously appeared in “Demons Don’t Dream” and “Roc and a Hard Place”. Dug and Kim are now married.  The four of them are in business together, writing and selling computer software.  (Back at the beginning of “Demons Don’t Dream”, Pia had been Dug’s girlfriend, and this still affects the way they relate to each other.)

But Edsel and Pia’s marriage is in trouble.

One day, when Edsel is on the Mundane Mega Mesh (the computerised network which circles the globe), he finds himself on a site called the O-Xone.  He suddenly finds himself in a hall with screens showing images.  One of these is of Breanna of the Black Wave.  He knocks on it; the image comes alive and Breanna talks to him.  She tells him the O-Xone is a computer interface between Mundania and Xanth.

Edsel says he’d like to visit Xanth, and Breanna says she’ll see what can be arranged.  Before long it is proposed that Edsel and Pia will swap bodies with Nimby and Chlorine, so that Nimby and Chlorine can visit Mundania while Edsel and Pia vist Xanth.  Breanna and Justin will be Edsel and Pia’s companions in Xanth.  Dug and Kim will be Nimby and Chlorine’s companions in Mundania.

Breanna is 16.  Justin was previously a tree (refer “Zombie Lover”), but has been transformed back into a man and youthened. (He is still referred to as Justin Tree.) His actual age is 99, but his apparent age is 19.  Breanna and Justin are girlfriend and boyfriend.  But Justin has conservative ideas, and is not willing to marry or have sex with Breanna until she is 18.  She finds this frustrating.

Pia tells Edsel she wants a divorce.  Edsel persuades her to go with him to Xanth – maybe the experience will make them happier with each other.  Afterwards, if she still wants a divorce, he will not oppose it.

Nimby is actually the Demon X(A/N)th – given all the interactions between Xanth and Mundania, he wants to experience what Mundania is like.  However Demons are jealous of their territory; Demon E(A/R)th will not be happy about X(A/N)th entering Mundania, so it must be done secretly.

[In much of this story, Demon Earth’s name appears in normal print rather than as the mathematical formula.  The group also takes to referring to him as “Dearth”.]

Nimby doesn’t normally talk; his awareness of all things makes it difficult to focus on individual thoughts.  So Chlorine speaks for him.  Nimby is able to communicate his thoughts to her by touching her.

When they all meet in the O-Xone, Nimby (who is in human form) transforms himself and Chlorine, so they are identical in appearance to Edsel and Pia.  Then they swap bodies; Nimby with Edsel and Chlorine with Pia.  Pia has diabetes; she will still suffer from it in Chlorine’s body while in Xanth.

In Xanth:

Edsel has been given the talent of creating solid illusory creatures.  He practises by creating a tangible ghost.  Pia has been given the talent of being able to see one day into the future.  She tries this out, and sees a pretty shore, with pleasant trees by blue water.  She sees Edsel in the scene.

Edsel, Pia, Breanna and Justin walk along an enchanted path, observing various things. They encounter Demoness Metria.  The two men are so fascinated by the attractive demoness, they agree to what she requests, that they look after Demon Ted (Metria and Veleno’s son), and his friend DeMonica (daughter of Nada Naga and Demon Vore), both 3-year-old half-demons.  The demoness disappears and the two children appear.

They continue on their tour, which includes a tangle tree and a dragon.  Monica finds a magic locket: anything can be put into it, even something much bigger than the locket.  They get things out by wishing them out.

Pia gives Breanna some tips about getting physically close to Justin, without going as far as sex.

At the end of the day they come to a rest area; they will sleep in large nests in trees.  Demon Vore comes to pick the children up.

In Mundania:

Nimby and Chlorine are getting used to life in Mundania, with Dug and Kim’s help. There is no magic, and the facilities in Edsel and Kim’s house are unfamiliar.  Dug and Kim take them in their car to the mall, and to see a movie.  After returning, Chlorine (in Pia’s body) feels dizzy, and they realise she needs to take insulin.  Dug and Kim help her.

In Xanth:

Breanna comes to Edsel and Kim during the night, and tells them that they must come with her, as there is danger. So they go with her.  But something about Breanna seems wrong; they discover this is not Breanna, it is a spook (an intangible phantom).  But they are on a one-way path; they can’t go back.  The spook fades when dawn breaks.  They see a dark castle; this presumably was where the spook was trying to lead them.  They see a boat in a stream and get in.  The current carries them to an island in a lake.  Pia realises this is the place she had seen in her vision.

They soon discover that the island exchanges talents; they now have different ones than before.  If they leave the island and return, or even jump up and come down again, their talents are exchanged again.  They find a disc called a teller; it tells them what their current talent is.

They leave the island and return to where they had got in the boat.  They still have the teller with them.  They discover that their talents keep changing; each is only good for one use.  They experiment with the talents; Pia’s body is transformed into the one she had at age 16; Edsel causes his Lemon motorcycle to appear.  But the motorcycle is not useful in this terrain.  Then Breanna and Justin catch up with them.  Justin tells them the teller is a demon; it is causing them to keep changing talents.  They can’t get rid of it, so they will need to return it to the island.

They find the boat Para (who previously appeared in “Zombie Lover”) in the tentacles of a tangle tree.  They persuade the tree to exchange the boat for the motorcycle.  Then they travel in the boat (who can travel on both water and land) back to the island.  Edsel and Pia swap their talents until they come up with useful ones; Edsel’s is to modify or deflect someone else’s talent; Pia’s is to know what is inimicable (harmful) – when she touches something harmful she feels a tingle.  They leave the teller behind and depart the island.

They decide to investigate the dark castle, which only appears after dark.  As they enter, they realise that it is an illusion.  In the centre there is a manhole, with a stairway going down. Pia and Justin go down while Breanna and Edsel keep watch.

Pia and Justin find a passage, which goes round in a loop.  Along its walls are six pictures, illustrating the melting of the snow in the mountains and the flooding of the valley, causing trees to die. Then they discover a passageway down to a lower level.  Justin recognises that what look like columns are actually the roots of the Coventree, an intelligent tree with the power of illusion.  The tree is telling them it needs help.  Pia resolves to make it her mission to solve this problem.

In Mundania

Dug and Kim show Chlorine and Nimby how to connect to the Mundane Mega Mesh.  They login to the O-Xone, and leave their daily check-in for Edsel and Pia.  Dug and Kim also show them other Mesh environments.

Nimby learns to ride Edsel’s Lemon motorcycle. [Apparently the one Edsel conjured in Xanth had been a copy.]

Then Dug and Kim show them another Mesh environment: the Xanth Xone: the players in this environment take on the personas of characters from Xanth.  The players like to think they have a connection to their Xanth counterparts.

Dug suspects there is more to Nimby’s visit:  Nimby admits that there is a Demon bet in process – whether he can enter Mundania and stay for three days without being discovered and caught by Demon Earth.

In Xanth:

Pia and Justin return to Breanna and Edsel, and take them to show them what they have found.

After staying overnight in the underground passageway, they head off in Para to the mountains.  They meet various interesting people on the way.  Metria appears and dumps the children on them again.

Arriving at the mountains, they encounter the Demon CoTwo, who is responsible for warming the snow to make it melt. When Pia tries to remonstrate against him, he blows the whole group away so they land in the river.  They struggle out and try to get dry.  They set up camp for the night.  Demon Vore comes and collects the children.

They decide to go to the Good Magician to ask what to do about Demon CoTwo.  They reach the Gap Chasm, and wonder how to get over it.  A flock of harpies arrives; the harpies carry them over in Para, in exchange for Justin telling them the location of the cir-cuss, an event where harpies and male goblins compete in cussing contests.

They arrive at the Good Magician’s Castle, and tackle the challenges.  Edsel admires Pia’s cleverness, and realises that part of the problem with their marriage is that he has been admiring her body without properly respecting her mind.

In Mundania:

Nimby, Chlorine, Dug and Kim travel to the Apple-aching Mountains for a camping trip.  Nimby and Chlorine ride Edsel’s motorcycle.  Dug and Kim follow them in their car.

They check in to a motel for the first night while they plan their trip.  They attempt to access the O-Xone on Kim’s notebook computer, for the daily check-in with Edsel and Pia.  They get the message “Not Available”.  Is this just a problem with the Mesh Server?  Or is Demon Earth on to them?

In case it is the latter, they decide to send a message through the Xanth Xone.  Nimby tells them there is indeed a tenuous link between a person who adopts a Xanth persona and that actual person in Xanth.  They ask all Xanth Xone members to attempt to send a message (mentally) to their counterparts in Xanth.  The message is:”To GM: Nimby eats dust.”  GM means Good Magician.  The expression “eats dust” has a double meaning: Nimby is in trouble, and he needs a supply of magic dust.  Nimby only has limited magic in Mundania, but some additional magic dust will enhance it.

The group sets off on their hike on the Apple-aching Trail.  Later they check in to the O-Xone successfully, using the satellite link.  Maybe the previous failure was a false alarm.

They sent up their tents for the night.  But during the night there is a big storrn.  Kim’s notebook is ruined.

In the morning, they see a symbol in sky.  It is rainbow coloured, a cross within a circle, the symbol of Earth. Demon Earth has issued his challenge.  Nimby needs to return to Xanth in three days or lose the bet.  Demon Earth will try to stop him.

In Xanth:

Pia and Edsel enter the Good Magician’s study. Pia asks the Good Magician how they can solve the problem with Demon CoTwo and the flooding.  He tells them they need the magic locket, which the half-demon children have.  They should capture Demon CoTwo in it.

Wira, Humfrey’s daughter-in-law, then takes Pia and Edsel to Grey Murphy and Princess Ivy to be told their service.

At the end of “Man from Mundania”, Grey had got out of his obligation to serve Com Pewter, by becoming the Good Magician’s assistant: service to the Good Magician preempts other obligations.  But Grey feels he still has an obligation to Com Pewter.

Com Pewter has created a tiny female golem called Robota (similar to Grundy in his original form).  She has the same ability as Com Pewter to change reality, but only with respect to her own body; she can also use the power of illusion.  So she can change her size and appearance.  She has been filled with magic dust, so she has a limited ability to operate in Mundania.

Com Pewter wants to send her back in time to study how Aeolus, the Storm King, controlled the weather.  [The Storm King wasn’t given a name in “A Spell for Chameleon”, but his name appeared in the Book of Kings in “Roc and a Hard Place”.]  Grey and Robota will travel back together.

Edsel and Pia will be observers.  Their role will be to safeguard against changes to the timeline.  They will be linked to Grey and Robota, and so will be able to see through their eyes, while remaining in the present.  Since the adventure will take some time, Edsel and Pia will be able to fast forward through the boring bits.

As Mundanes, they should be immune to any changes which occur in the timeline of Xanth.  If they observe any changes they will advise Com Pewter.

They all travel to Com Pewter’s cave. Edsel is linked to Grey and Pia is linked to Robota.

Grey and Robota are carried by the invisible giant to the boundary of Xanth in the northeast.  They cross the boundary to arrive in Italy, 1885.  With Robota concealed in Grey’s pocket, they meet up with Trent’s army in France (at the time of Trent’s exile), and travel back to the Xanth of the time of the Storm King.

[This adventure in Xanth’s past occurs during the events of “A Spell for Chameleon” and “The Source of Magic”.]

Grey and Robota separate from Trent’s army and enter Xanth, Grey using his nullification talent to disable the Shield.  Robota takes on the form of an elf, called Silica, a princess of the Mineral Elves.  They make their way to the North Village, where Aeolus lives.  Robota asks Aeolus to demonstrate his storm magic.  After some persuasion, Aeolus agrees.  He enters a chamber.  They follow, and see him taking something out of a magical strongbox.  It is revealed that Aeolus has stored his soul there, to ensure a long life, but he needs his soul to operate his talent.  Aeolus demonstrates his ability to create a storm, to Robota’s satisfaction.

Grey and Robota depart the North Village.  But then Grey takes Robota off into the wilderness.  She reverts to her golem form.  Grey believes that Aeolus, being without soul and conscience, will try to have them killed, for having seen the secret which the king believes will give him long life.

They make their way to the Magic Dust Village, and live and work there for a time.  As described in “The Source of Magic”, the males of the village have been lured away by the Siren, and turned to stone by the Gorgon.  But Grey is immune to the Siren’s song because of his talent.

Grey and Robota visit the Siren.  Then Grey decides to visit the Gorgon, to persuade her not to turn all the men to stone.  (His nullification talent would make him immune to the Gorgon’s gaze.) Robota strongly advises against this; it would be a violation of the timeline.  But Grey falls into the lake, and then unexpectedly sees the Gorgon face-to-face.  He doesn’t get a chance to use his talent, and he turns to stone.

Back in the present, Edsel and Pia believe this is the end of Grey.  But Com Pewter points out that the Gorgon’s victims came back to life at the Time of No Magic.

Robota, who also realises this, returns to the Magic Dust Village, and continues to live and work there.  Eventually Bink and his party arrive (as described in “The Source of Magic”).  This group includes Grundy; Robota becomes friendly with him.  [And this explains the presence of a female golem in the Magic Dust Village in that story.] Bink and his party depart.

Robota returns to Grey in time for the Time of No Magic.  When the magic departs, Grey comes alive again, and Robota loses consciousness.  Grey puts her in his pocket.  He explains to the Gorgon what is going on, and escorts her to Com Pewter’s cave, as it is dangerous to travel in Xanth with all the bewildered magical animals.  The magic returns.  Grey explains the situation to Com Pewter, who nullifies the Gorgon’s magic.

But Grey had not anticipated what happens next.  Grey’s parents, Murphy and Vadne, who had escaped the Brain Coral’s Pool, arrive in the cave.  [This event is described as backstory in “Man from Mundania”, but it occurs in the timeframe of “The Source of Magic”.]  Grey tells them he is their future son.  But after this Com Pewter wipes Murphy and Vadne’s memories, and Grey is introduced as a stranger.  Murphy, Vadne, Grey, Robota and the Gorgon travel together to Mundania.  The Gorgon travels to a different part of the Mundanian timeline from Murphy and Vadne.  Grey and Robota return to present day Xanth.

Edsel and Pia agree that no harm has come to the Xanth timeline.

They now need to obtain the magic locket from DeMonica.  Edsel, Pia, Breanna and Justin travel in Para to Mount Etamin where Nada Naga and Monica are visiting Nada’s family.  Monica tells them she left the locket at the Fanta Sea.  Nada agrees that Monica can go with them to help find it.

The Fanta Sea is a place where wild dreams appear; people encounter the dreams of their worst fears.  Para takes them out onto the water.

Each of the party encounters an image which makes them afraid.  They are able to neutralise them by getting the images to crash into each other, or making a pun of the image’s name that renders it harmless.  They recover the locket.

At that point Willow Elf arrives, flying to their boat.  (Willow previously appeared in “Yon Ill Wind” and “Faun & Games”.)  The Good Magician has asked her to obtain the locket, load it with magic dust, and take it to Mundania to provide help for Nimby.  She will take it to load in the magic dust now, and return it to them to capture Demon CoTwo, before taking it to Mundania.

As they leave the Fanta Sea, another dream image looms.  It is another fear belonging to Pia, but she doesn’t know what it is.  It follows them on land.  As it approaches, it takes Pia’s own form, but in a dark shade.  Pia realises that this is her guilt: for the shallow relationships she has had with both Dug and Edsel, and the thoughtless way she had dumped Dug.

Ashamed she throws herself into a pool – but it is too shallow for her to drown.  She gets out and addresses the image: she resolves to face her guilt, learn from her mistakes, and make her marriage work.  And her contact with Monica and with Ivy’s children has persuaded her to have children.  Then Breanna tells her the pool had been a healing spring; it has healed her guilt as well as her diabetes (although of course this is a borrowed body).  The image fades.

They continue on and encounter Demon CoTwo again.  But they don’t have the locket – Willow has been delayed.  The demon threatens to possess Pia sexually and treat her sadistically.  It is looking bad for a while, until Willow shows up, and Edsel tricks the demon into conjuring himself into the locket.  Willow flies away with the locket.

In Mundania:

The group cut short their camping trip and return to base camp, only to find that Dug and Kim’s car won’t start.  So they get it towed to a repair shop, and wait until the car is repaired.

A storm is building; obviously Demon Earth is preventing them from returning home, to swap back with Edsel and Pia. The rain and wind come on strongly.  The rivers between them and their home become flooded.

They could possibly connect to the O-Xone on the computer system of a local library, except that Demon Earth will ensure that the power goes out.

Nimby, on the motorcycle (with Chlorine riding behind), and leading Dug and Kim in their car, tries to follow unpredictable routes.  When Nimby gets a chance to rest, he expands his awareness, and discovers that Willow has joined the Baldwins at No Name Key, and they are attempting to bring the locket with the magic dust to him. (In Mundania, Willow doesn’t have her wings.)  But there are flooded rivers between Nimby’s group and the group with the magic locket.

Will Nimby be able to return to Xanth and win the Demon bet?

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The Dastard (2000)
The Dastard is a young man who has sold his soul to a demon, in exchange for the talent of “unhappening”. Whenever he encounters someone who has received enjoyment through some lucky event, he travels, through limbo, back to the time of the event, and prevents it from happening, thus preventing the person from experiencing that enjoyment.  He can also undo mistakes he has made within the last day, and get himself out of trouble.  Having no soul, he doesn’t care about other people; he is concerned only about self-gratification.

Becka is a dragon/human crossbreed.  In her natural form she is part girl and part dragon, but can transform into either human or dragon forms.  She is 14 years old.  She comes to Magician Humfrey to ask what her purpose is.  He tells her it is to effect (not “affect”) the welfare of Xanth. He tells her to go, in girl form, to the statue of the Sea Hag.  When a man passes, she is to go with him and help him in any legitimate way he wishes.  The Good Magician also gives her a spell of awareness.  She follows his instructions; the man she meets is the Dastard.

The Dastard isn’t too keen to have Becka accompany him.  When he tries to kiss her or see her panties, she turns into a dragon, and threatens to chomp him.  He quickly unhappens these occurrences.  But since she has been sent by the Good Magician, he thinks he needs to be careful about getting rid of her, before finding out what is going on.

The three 4-year-old princesses, Melody, Harmony and Rhythm, are watching the magic tapestry in Castle Roogna.  They observe the Dastard perform one of his unhappenings, and decide this is not good.  They should do something about it.  They tell their parents, Ivy and Grey, who agree they should go to the Good Magician.

The three princesses are all powerful Sorceresses – able to perform practically any magic.  Each one is powerful in her own right, but together they are even more powerful.  They perform their magic by singing and playing their instruments: Melody hums, Harmony plays the harmonica, and Rhythm beats the drum.

They conjure up a flying carpet and fly to the Good Magician’s Castle.

Becka has decided that the Dastard is not a very pleasant man, but the Good Magician has assigned her to him, so she stays with him.  The Dastard doesn’t particularly want her, but she won’t leave, so he gives her the job of collecting food.  After Becka has been present at some of the unhappenings, her spell of awareness enables her to remember both versions of what has occurred: the original, and the changed version after the unhappening.   The Dastard is able to sense a nexus – a location of significance where an unhappening can occur.

They meet a woman called Ann Arky, who is absent-minded.  She tells them she comes from Mundania and had accidentally wandered into Xanth.  When the Dastard asks her to kiss him, she does so so agressively, the Dastard becomes alarmed.  He travels back in time to before Ann entered Xanth, and drags thorny bushes across the path where she had crossed into Xanth, so in the revised timeline, she doesn’t enter.

Then Becka is possessed by a malevolent spirit.  It is the Sea Hag.  There had been a glitch in the Brain Coral’s Pool, where the Sea Hag had been confined (at the end of “Golem in the Gears”), and several inhabitants had escaped.  [In “Golem in the Gears”, the Sea Hag had required Rapunzel’s permission to possess her. In this story it is no longer the case; the Sea Hag can possess anyone, without their permssion. Possibly the way she can now “renew her spirit” (see below) accounts for the difference.]   The Sea Hag forces Becka to cooperate with her, and to reveal her memories to her.  The Sea Hag had previously possessed Ann Arky, which accounts for Ann’s change in personality, but then the Dastard had unhappened that possession.  Becka is incapable of resisting the Sea Hag.

At the Good Magician’s Castle, the princesses ask the Good Magician what they can do about the man they had seen in the Tapestry.  He says it is not something they can currently do; they will have to exchange with their older selves.

At that point, Wira tells Humfrey that the next querent, Sim, the son of the Simurgh, is approaching.  (Sim had hatched from the egg at the end of “Roc and a Hard Place”.)  He is 5 years old, he is brightly coloured, and is about the size of a grown man.

When Sim gets into the Castle, he asks the question (which the Simurgh had told him to ask):  How can I obtain the broadest feasible education?  The Magician tells him that he will accompany the princesses as they exchange with their older selves.  Sim will also exchange with his older self.  They will all go to Ptero.  It is their older selves from Ptero who will come to Xanth to defeat the Dastard.  The whole mission must be kept secret, and told to as few people as possible.

The princesses and Sim return to Castle Roogna, and go to meet Princess Ida.  Ida tells them to focus on the tiny moon Ptero. They find themselves floating toward it.  On the way they encounter their older selves, touch hands with them, and then continue on and land on Ptero.

The princesses and Sim find themselves in Ptero’s counterpart of Castle Roogna.  Everyone there is 17 years older than their Xanth counterparts. The princesses’ older selves, who have gone to Xanth, are 21; Sim’s older self is 22. (From time to time, Castle Roogna is moved, to enable the inhabitants to be different ages.)  Princess Ida introduces the 4-year-old princesses to their 19-year-old sister Green Murphy, an inhabitant of Ptero who does not have a counterpart in Xanth.

The Dastard and Becka continue on, having several encounters.  The Dastard wonders a bit about Becka’s increased maturity of manner and worldly wisdom, and finally the Sea Hag admits that she has taken possession of Becka.  The Dastard does not trust her, and travels back in time, makes a necklace of a herb which repels loose spirits, puts it around Becka’s neck, and tells her not to remove it.  He returns to the present.  Becka remembers the possession with horror, and is grateful to the Dastard for freeing her.

The three big princesses and Sim arrive in Castle Roogna in Xanth.  Princess Ida tells the princesses of their mission.  Ivy and Grey arrive, and there are hugs all round.

It will be necessary to conceal the fact that the 4-year-old princesses are absent from the Castle.  Metria and Demon Vore arrive with Demon Ted and DeMonica.  Monica takes the form of the younger Melody; Ted takes the form of the younger Harmony, and Metria, after transforming to Woe Betide, takes the form of the younger Rhythm.

Grey, Ivy, Ida and the princesses discuss ways of nullifying the Dastard.  (1) They might remove him to another world, such as Ptero.  Maybe he would be attracted to one of the princesses.  (2) Ivy says they have a loose soul available.  If they can give it to the Dastard, he would have a conscience, and might stop doing what he is doing. (3) They could try and persuade him.  He might realise he would be held in higher esteem if he uses his talent for good.

The Dastard and Becka have a few more encounters.  One of these is with Nadine Naga, the 8-year-old daughter of Mela Merwoman and Naldo Naga.  But Becka realises that she has been possessed by the Sea Hag.  This time, the Dastard takes Becka with him as he travels back in time.  Becka gives Nadine a necklace of the herb, which prevents the possession.

Another encounter is with a female called Xena who involuntarily transforms between several different forms every few minutes.  But soon Becka realises that she too has been possessed by the Sea Hag.  The Dastard again takes Becka back in time, so that Becka can give Xena a herb necklace.  But they also learn that Xena had discovered the Stream of Life.  She intends to pour water from it over the Heart of the Dead Forest, to bring the forest back to life.  (The Curse Fiends had attempted to curse Crunch Ogre in “The Source of Magic”, but the curse had misfired and killed the trees of the forest.)

Anticipating that the Dastard is about to unhappen Xena’s discovery of the Stream of Life, Becka quickly suggests that it will be more mischief to revive the forest, which will confuse everyone, as the Dead Forest is a famous landmark.

The Dastard, Becka and Xena arrive at the Forest.  Xena sends Becka with the flask of water from the Stream of Life, to pour it on the Heart, while the Dastard and Xena dally together in a bower.  Becka pours the water on the Heart, and the forest comes back to life.

In Ptero, Green Murphy is showing the younger princesses and Sim around.  Green has the talent of manipulating time, and since in Ptero, geography is time, this enables her to travel long distances instantly.  She takes them the equivalent of two hours walk to the west, and immediately they are all 2 years older.  She takes them further to the west; the princesses are now 20 years old, and Green is 35.  They meet Xander and Zelda, twin half-zombies, children of Xavier and Zora.  King Xeth is their brother, but unlike Xeth, Xander and Zelda do not have counterparts in Xanth.

In Xanth, the older princesses look at the Magic Tapestry to determine the Dastard’s whereabouts.  They locate him at the Dead Forest, although as they watch, the forest comes alive.  The princesses have made themselves and Sim invisible to preserve the secrecy of the mission. Sim takes them to the forest; they continue on on foot.  The plan is that Melody will distract the Dastard, while the others force the spare soul on him.  Melody becomes visible to ask for directions.

But suddenly Melody experiences a strange feeling; the Sea Hag has taken possession of her.  The Sea Hag prevents her from telling her sisters, and forces her to behave as if everything is normal.  But it is late in the day, so they camp in the forest.  But the Sea Hag’s goal is (while in Melody’s body) to marry the Dastard, but then to torment him until he commits suicide.  While the others sleep, the Sea Hag (controlling Melody’s body) slips away.

The Dastard and Becka see Melody coming towards them.  She introduces herself as Princess Melody from Ptero.  She kisses the Dastard, and he collapses.  She had used lip bomb.  Becka realises she is the Sea Hag, but the Sea Hag threatens to possess her again if she tells the Dastard.

But the Dastard is not completely unconscious; he had heard their conversation.  But how should he handle this?  He needs to get rid of the Sea Hag, so she doesn’t keep coming back, but he also wants a relationship with the princess.

The Sea Hag attempts to seduce the Dastard, but he is wary of this; he is likely to come under her control.  Becka suggests he needs to do an unhappening (obviously meaning he should unhappen the Sea Hag’s possession of Melody).

The Sea Hag tells him of an unhappening he can do on the Isle of Fellowship; this is one of the many islands that appear temporarily along the coast.  Becka, in dragon form, carries the Dastard and the princess to the Isle.  The Isle has only been inhabited for the past three years.  The inhabitants are mostly mixed-species couples.

This is tempting – to unhappen the establishment of the community on the Isle of Fellowship. But Becka warns the Dastard that because of the overlap, this would prevent the unhappening of Melody’s possession.

But the Sea Hag persuades him that a partnership between them would benefit both of them. They could keep this version of Melody in Xanth, eliminate the other princesses, and Melody would become heir to the throne.  With the Dastard’s talent of unhappening, they could eliminate any opposition. The Dastard agrees.

When Melody had slipped away from her sisters, Sim, still invisible, had followed, and had realised that she was possessed by the Sea Hag.  He saw her join forces with the Dastard.  He returns to tell Harmony and Rhythm.  He is aware there is a connection between the Sea Hag and Prince Dolin; if he can find out what it is, they may be able to defeat the Sea Hag.

But Prince Dolin only exists on Ptero; he has no counterpart in Xanth.  Sim asks the princesses to trust him, and returns to Ptero, swapping with his younger self.

Sim has to travel a long way in the From direction to meet Prince Dolin, getting younger all the time. He meets Lacky, a daughter of Lacuna and Vernon, who also has no counterpart in Xanth, and they travel together.

Prince Dolin is the son of Prince Dolph and Princess Taplin.  Taplin is the unnamed Princess mentioned in Electra’s backstory in “Heaven Cent”. In an alternative version of history, it is Princess Taplin who had slept for nearly a thousand years, and had married Dolph.  (Since Dolph and Electra’s daughters Dawn and Eve also exist in Ptero, it appears that characters from alternative histories can coexist on Ptero.)

But Dolin had died young; that is, his range is only 9 years.  (Characters on Ptero are essentially immortal; they can travel backwards and forwards between the limits of their birth and death.)

When Sim and Lacky meet up with the young prince, they manage to persuade him to tell how he died.

Prince Dolin had come across a monster in a hole in the ground. (This is Ptero’s counterpart of the alien creature Dolph had stuffed in the hole between worlds in “Isle of View”.)  Then the Sea Hag had arrived, dragging a young girl.  The Sea Hag had tied the girl to a tree and then walked up to the monster and allowed it to eat her.  Shortly afterwards, the spirit of the Sea Hag had taken over the girl’s body.  Seeing Dolin there, she threw him to the monster, and it ate him.

Sim figures out what had been happening.  The Sea Hag keeps a store of souls in the space beyond the monster’s hole.  From time to time she needs to renew her spirit, and visits this store.  But this secret makes her vulnerable, so she had killed Dolin to stop the secret getting out.

But Sim realises that if the monster gets a soul, it will block the Sea Hag’s spirit from travelling through the hole.

Back in Xanth, the Dastard unhappens the Fellowship Isle community; only the three of them remain: the Dastard, Melody (possessed by the Sea Hag) and Becka.  The Sea Hag delivers Melody into the Dastard’s embrace, but allows Melody to speak for herself briefly.  Melody protests against what the Dastard is doing, until the Sea Hag takes control again.  Becka intervenes and carries Melody away.  The Dastard unhappens the sequence.  This process, with some variations, occurs a couple more times.

The other two princesses and Sim arrive, but are invisible.  They rescue Melody, making her invisible, and carry her away.  Harmony remains, making herself visible and taking on Melody’s appearance, to delay the Dastard’s realisation of what has happened.

Sim and Rhythm confine Melody inside a rock, saying they are getting someone to get rid of the Sea Hag’s spirit from her body.  But the Sea Hag forces Melody to use her Sorceress powers to escape from the rock, and fly to the location (in Xanth) of the alien monster.  The Sea Hag’s struggle with Melody has required her to renew her spirit.  She stuns Melody, emerges from her, and heads through the monster’s hole.

Then Rhythm appears and revives Melody.  She and Sim have given the monster the spare soul, thus blocking the Sea Hag from returning to Xanth.

It is not long before the Dastard and Becka realise that Harmony has substituted for Melody.  Melody, Rhythm and Sim return.  The Dastard attempts to travel back in time to unhappen the Sea Hag’s defeat, but now the three princesses have discovered how to travel through limbo as well, and block his actions.

The princesses try to persuade the Dastard to give up his deeds.  But he is only willing to do this if he can marry Melody, and she doesn’t want to marry him.  Becka encourages them to spend time together; maybe Melody will change her mind.

The Dastard and Melody agree to a truce. They will spend a day together in a magic castle. They will not perform magic unless they both agree.  Becka will be the objective observer and notify the other two princesses if the rules are broken.

The three princesses have been conjuring up castles since they were young.  Originally they created a doll house made of chocolate, but have continued to improve the pattern over the years.  Now they transform Becka into a full size castle, called Castle Maidragon (as in maid/dragon); she will be both castle and observer.   The Dastard and Melody enter, and Melody shows the Dastard around.

There is a forbidden chamber; the princesses always create this secret chamber in their castles; they don’t know what’s in it.  The Dastard wants to open it, but Melody won’t let him.

The Dastard and Melody play a game: if Melody wins, the Dastard must leave Xanth; if the Dastard wins, they open the door of the forbidden chamber. The Dastard wins.

They open the door.  A manlike figure labelled “Random Factor” is revealed; he points at them and there is a flash of magic; the door closes.

Their souls and their talents have been exchanged; but since the Dastard hadn’t had one, now Melody doesn’t have one, and the Dastard has Melody’s.  Melody becomes a mischievous, swearing seductress, and the Dastard becomes a responsible caring man.

The Dastard opens the door again, thinking this will change them back. But instead they are both sent off to a comic strip, an area with nasty puns.  Eventually they find their way out, and appear back in the castle.  But Melody opens the door again, and they find themselves in a series of locations in the gourd.  Eventually they arrive back in the castle.

The Dastard calls to Harmony and Rhythm; the castle collapses and Becka emerges from the rubble.

But now Melody wants to cause mischief, with the talent of unhappening she now has. She travels through limbo to various places and times, with Harmony, Rhythm and the Dastard following to prevent her mischief.

Finally Melody arrives at Castle Roogna.  The others arrive and block her from entering limbo again.

The Dastard tries to persuade her that there is no satisfaction, meaning or love in a life without a soul.  She can go back to the point in time when their souls were exchanged, and unhappen it.  He has taken poison, realising now the damage he has caused to other people’s lives, and that he will again when he no longer has a soul.  Melody is not convinced.

But as Melody and the Dastard come close to each other, she feels the effect of her soul again, and realises she misses it.  She performs the unhappening.

Now she has her soul back, Melody recognises the sacrifice the Dastard has made, and finds herself in love with him; she wants him to take him back to Ptero with her, and to marry him.

But the Dastard is still dying.  Becka has a thought: the Dastard can trade back his soul from the demon he originally traded it to.  So they call the demon, and make the trade.  The Dastard takes his original name: Anomy.

The princesses conjure up the antidote to the poison, and Anomy takes it.

The three princesses, Anomy and Sim return to Ptero, swapping with their other selves.  A 5-year-old Anomy arrives in Xanth from Ptero, not being too sure how it happened.

Princess Ida takes Becka to the new Castle Maidragon that the older princesses had created.  Becka is to be its caretaker: a dragon protector outside, and a human hostess inside.

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Swell Foop (2001)
Demon Earth has been kidnapped, which could result in the loss of Gravity on Earth and therefore also in Xanth. Six adventurers – Cynthia and Che Centaur (engaged to be married), Breanna and Justin (also engaged to be married), Sim Bird (son of the Simurgh, the largest and wisest bird in the world), and Jaylin (a girl from Mundania) – must each go on a separate quest with a zombie guide to find one of the Six Rings of Xanth. Once gathered, these rings should guide the way to the Swell Foop, an object said to have power over the Senior Demons, and which should enable them to rescue Demon Earth.

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Up in a Heaval (2002)
Umlaut, a good-natured but awkward young man, has been given the task of delivering a batch of letters from Mundania to various people in Xanth. He is accompanied in this by Sammy Cat – formerly owned by Jenny Elf – who has the talent of finding people and things, another cat called Claire Voyante, and Sesame Serpent, with transport provided by the duck-footed boat Para. They hope by this task to discover how to avert Xanth’s destruction by Demon Jupiter. However there are also other puzzles – why is Demoness Metria thwarting their deliveries, and why can’t Umlaut remember his past? And to make things interesting, Umlaut meets and falls in love with Surprise, the daughter of Grundy Golem and Rapunzel.

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Cube Route (2003)
The girl Cube is given the quest of finding the route to Counter Xanth, the contra-terrene territory won by Demon Xanth from Demoness Fornax. In the process she is to choose nine companions, who will be magically miniaturised and concealed within a pouch she carries, and may be brought out to assist her when necessary. The route takes her to various places in Xanth, to Mundania, and the Moons of Ida. However Demoness Fornax is determined to sabotage her mission.

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Currant Events (2004)
Clio, the Muse of History, discovers a book she has apparently written, but is unreadable because the writing is blurred. Magician Humfrey sends her on a mission to Dragonworld, to persuade dragons to come to Xanth to replenish the dragon population. Then back in Xanth she meets Sherlock of the Black Wave, who has developed a magic talent with reverse wood, despite coming from Mundania. Clio and Sherlock continue the quest to find the Currant, which should enable her to read the unreadable volume. Their travels take them far and wide in Xanth, Counter Xanth and the Moons of Ida, meeting interesting people and experiencing dangers – as Clio has a curse on her, which means that she will encounter deadly dangers daily when away from her home on Mount Parnassus. A tentative romance begins between Clio and Sherlock.

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Pet Peeve (2005)
Goody Goblin is a rarity – a good-natured male goblin. He is given the task of finding a home for the pet peeve, a bird which constantly insults everyone. So, accompanied by the warrior woman, Hannah Barbarian, he travels through Xanth. In return for a favour from some dragons, they bring a program back from Robot World (one of the Moons of Ida) to produce a robot to assist the dragons to produce a nest. However, before they realise it the program is producing large numbers of robots, who are threatening to overrun Xanth. Goody and Hannah have to summon the various creatures of Xanth to combat the threat. In the process Goody meets Gwenny Goblin.

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Stork Naked (2006)
The stork delivers a baby to Surprise Golem. But then he takes the baby away again, thinking that Surprise is too young, and delivers it to Surprise’s counterpart in the Xanth of an alternative reality. Surprise and her companions must search several realities trying to find the baby. Then the three children travelling with Surprise go missing, and the several members of the group split up to search for them, each having a separate adventure. Surprise finds herself with several difficult decisions to make.

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Air Apparent (2007)
Hugo, son of the Magician Humfrey, has disappeared from the castle, and the Magician’s Book of Answers has become scrambled, so is no help. Wira, Hugo’s wife, sets off to look for him, with Debra, a girl from Mundania, temporarily transformed into a winged centaur. In the meantime, the Random Factor, a man who is normally confined to a cell in Castle Maidragon, has escaped. His talent is to transport himself to random locations. Along the way, Debra and the Random Factor meet and fall in love, but the Factor detects that Debra may be a threat to him, allowing him to be recaptured. Later, the Factor and Hugo meet and travel together – however, the Factor’s talent gets them more and more lost, with them ending up in the Moons of Ida, with apparently no way to return. The two women follow, along with other companions.

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Two to the Fifth (2008)
Ragna Roc, a huge bird with powerful magic, is threatening to take over the land of Xanth. Magician Humfrey sends Cyrus Cyborg on a mission to defeat Ragna Roc. He will have the help of the three powerful Sorceress princesses, Melody, Harmony and Rhythm. To disguise his intention, Cyrus sets up a travelling acting troupe, with himself as the playwright. He hopes that Ragna Roc will hear of their performances, and invite them to his castle. Cyrus soon finds himself surrounded by seductive actresses – but the girl he is really interested in is the young Princess Rhythm.

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Jumper Cable (2009)
A spider called Jumper (a descendant of the spider of the same name in “Castle Roogna”) is somehow transported from the micro world of spiders and bugs to the macro world, where he finds himself to be a giant spider amongst the humans of Xanth. Wanting to return home, he joins a group of women travelling the enchanted path to Magician Humfrey’s castle. They all have problems they want the Magician to solve. Humfrey gives them a mission – to locate and repair the cable which joins the Mundane Internet to the Xanth Outernet. It had been severed in anger by Demon Pluto, when he was downgraded in status to Dwarf Demon – and he and his minions are likely to oppose their efforts. Princesses Dawn and Eve (aged nineteen) join the group. Jumper is given potions to transform himself to human and back. The group has a prophecy to guide them. The mission takes them to the gourd (the realm of dreams) where they must return a number of lost objects to their owners.

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Knot Gneiss (2010)
Wenda Woodwife is given a mission by Magician Humfrey: to fetch the knot of petrified reverse wood from the Gap Chasm. She chooses several companions, including Jumper Spider. Jumper has been given a transformation spell: as well as spider and human forms, he is able to transform into a roc, and carry the group long distances.

The knot of petrified reverse wood (a big and heavy boulder) – the Knot Gneiss – makes everyone nearby terrified, so that no one can approach it, except Wenda, because of her association with all things to do with wood. It also seems to radiate a malevolent personality. (It is not nice.) Wenda surrounds it with normal reverse wood to counteract its effect, and then the group load it onto a wagon to transport it.

The group has a number of adventures, travelling through magic doors, to Comic World with its nasty puns, and to Reverse World, where characteristics such as appearance, direction and gender are reversed. As usually occurs in this series, each group member has a wish to be fulfilled, most of them to do with finding a life partner.

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Well-Tempered Clavicle (2011)
[As the author explains in his Author’s Note, the book’s title is a pun on “The Well-Tempered Clavier”, a piece of music by J S Bach. A clavier is the keyboard of a musical instrument, such as a piano.]

Picka Bone and his sister Joy’nt are walking skeletons, twins, aged 24, the children of Marrow Bones and Grace’l Ossein. They meet the three Baldwin pets (Woofer the dog, Midrange the cat, and Tweeter the bird, who previously appeared in “Yon Ill Wind”), who have now moved permanently to Xanth.  They all decide to go on an adventure together. Picka wants to find out his magic talent, and thinks Princess Eve could help, as her magic talent is to know anything about any non-living thing. But Eve had married Demon Pluto, and lives in a palace in Hades. So they go to Castle Roogna to ask Eve’s twin sister, Princess Dawn, how to get there.  Picka and Joy’nt had been childhood friends of Dawn and Eve, who are now 20.

Dawn has a pass to Hades, and takes them all there. When Eve meets them, she tells Picka that he can detach his clavicles, and use them to play tunes on his ribs.

But Dawn feels jealous of her sister’s married status, and on their return from Hades, she and her companions go to ask Magician Humfrey where she can find a suitable husband, who must be a prince, or have a similar special status.

Humfrey gives Dawn a mission, to locate and bring back Pundora’s Box, which previously contained all the nasty puns. The box is located in Caprice Castle, which continually changes its position.  It is thought that the Castle is looking for a worthy occupant. The two skeletons are given spells which can turn them into living humans for an hour a day.  Humfrey gives them a list of people who might help them find the Castle.

The first person on the list is Attila the Pun.  Woofer has the magic talent of being able to track anyone, so they set off following him.  They find bicycles at a rest stop along the way, which speeds up their travel.  Woofer leads them to a forested area where Attila is destroying puns with a sword.  But Attila is not interested in taking them to Caprice Castle.  Unfortunately, when Dawn points out to Attila that he is a pun himself, he drives the sword into himself, and disappears in a puff of smoke.

The next person of the list is Granola.  Woofer leads them to the Gap Chasm.  Dawn knows a magic path down into the Chasm, and rides her bicycle down the side, with the others following her.

They find Granola (Granny Ola), who is an invisible giantess.  Granola has a curse, such that anything she is looking for is in the second last place she looks, which means she can’t find things.  But Dawn thinks as a group they can get around this curse.

Night is approaching, so they decide to stay there overnight.  Picka plays music on his ribs with his clavicles, and the others play instruments or sing.  They all agree that Picka is a good musician, and improves each time he plays.  They will continue to play at intervals during their adventure.

The next day they travel on, with Granola carrying the others in her invisible handbag. They visit several places.  Granola has a sense of possible places they should look for the Castle.  One of these is in the Region of Water.  Picka drops down into the deep water and finds another walking skeleton, Skully Knucklehead, originally from the gourd, but who had got stranded on a shipwreck. He joins their group and becomes a close companion of Joy’nt.

After Granola gives up looking for the day, they return to the second last place she had looked.  There had previously been a rocky outcrop, but it is now gone.  They realise that it had been Caprice Castle, disguised.  They meet a woman called Doris, who can determine the truth of any statement.  When Dawn says their music is not relevant to their mission, Doris says that, on the contrary, their music is important to the mission.  Maybe if they play, the Castle will appear.  And so they play, with Picka adding improvised tunes.  A storm is approaching, so when indeed the Castle materialises, they all rush in to escape the rain.

They find bedrooms prepared for them.  Dawn and Picka enter one.  Dawn tells Picka that she has fallen in love with him because of his beautiful music.  She persuades him to invoke the spell which turns him into a living man, and they make love.  But when Picka reverts to a skeleton, he is no longer sexually attracted to her, and doesn’t think there is any future in a relationship between them.

The next day they search the Castle, but do not find Pundora’s Box.  However they do find a book telling the history of the Castle.

Demon Pundit had lost a Demon wager, and was required to collect all the puns of the universe and confine them. He built Caprice Castle to contain them, and appointed a man called Piper (a magnificent musician who played the pipes) to do the collecting.  He used his music to stun, weaken and summon puns, so he could capture them.

But one of his puns, a girl called Pundora, betrayed Piper, and allowed all the puns to escape. Pundit punished Piper by turning him into a goo monster, who can only be turned back if he marries a princess.  Piper has gas vents in his body which function as organ pipes, so he can now use his music to capture animals for food.

The history book now shows current events.  Attila had been Pundora’s boyfriend.  When Pundora discovers that Dawn had been responsible for Attila’s death, she vows to take revenge on her.  She goes to Piper and says she will help him capture and marry Dawn, which will break his curse.  But since Picka will oppose him, he will have to destroy Picka.  Pundora has Attila’s sword, which is actually a woman called Steel, who can transform herself into weapons.  But she can also transform herself into a magic mirror, which can tell her Dawn’s location.

Picka and the others now perform their music again.  But the Castle disappears, leaving them behind.  Maybe it had judged Picka’s music not to be good enough.

The next night they stay at a private house.  The residents give Dawn and Picka a room together.  This time Dawn invokes Picka’s spell, and becomes a walking skeleton.  Picka is attracted to her beautiful bones.  Afterwards he admits that he loves her, whatever form she is in.  But he does not believe himself worthy to marry a princess.

The group travels on and comes to Mount Rushmost.  There is a winged girl there called Mim Barbarian, who insists they leave, since they are not winged monsters.  But they trick her into believing they are.

Then they discover Dawn’s great-grandfather, Bink, on the mountain.  His wife, Chameleon is also there, but she has had a magical mishap, and turned into two women, the two extremes of herself: Wynne, who is pretty and stupid, and Fanchon, who is ugly and smart.  Picka suggests a way that will turn her back, and this works.

Piper arrives on the mountain, with Pundora riding him.  Piper can use his music to summon or stun people, throw fire balls, and disintegrate matter.  He stuns the living creatures in the party, and summons them to him.  But Picka, learning from him, opposes Piper with his own music.  They all fight against Piper.  Mim summons a dragon, and Piper gives up and leaves.

Bink tells Picka of an expert musician called GoDemon in the town of Rap Port.  They should go there so that Picka can learn from him and improve his music, so he can oppose Piper.

So Granola carries Dawn and her group to Rap Port, where Picka is taught by GoDemon (a human man, but with some demon ancestry).  But Piper attacks again.  GoDemon and the townspeople help the group fight against Piper, and Piper, overwhelmed, departs.

They realise that Piper has been so successful because Pundora has been guiding him. GoDemon tells them he has heard of a man called Battila, who may be Attila’s brother.  Maybe when Pundora meets another man like Attila, she will leave Piper.

So they travel on and discover several siblings of Attila: Battila, Fattila, Gattila, etc.  When Piper attacks again, Gattila the Gun lures Pundora away from Piper.  Picka fights against Piper while the others of the group help the siblings escape. Finally Picka throws sand in Piper’s vents, which spoils the music.

Granola carries the group to an island off the west coast, where Picka can practice his music and improve.  Then Granola carries the three pets back to the mainland, so they can investigate what Piper is doing.  Piper attacks several communities, which requires the rest of the group to come and repair the damage.  It is clear that Piper can continue attacks of this kind.

Dawn decides it is time for a showdown.  There will be a musical contest between Piper and Picka, including both combat and musical excellence.  Dawn will marry the winner, and they will live in Caprice Castle, taking on the job of collecting puns.

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Luck of the Draw (2012)
Bryce is an 80-year-old man living in Mundania, who finds himself suddenly transported to Xanth, and youthened to 21 years old. He learns that as a result of a Demon wager, he is now one of six suitors for the 16-year-old Princess Harmony, who is expected to be the next ruler of Xanth.

The six candidates have to travel on a quest together to find six objects to be presented as gifts to the princess. The suitor with the best gift will marry her. They are accompanied by the servant girl, Mindy. The journey has the usual kind of dangers found in Xanth, as well as the challenges of locating and obtaining the objects of the quest.

Bryce has been given a magic pen and pad, which enables him to draw pictures of objects, which then transform into the real things. This, as well as his sensible advice, proves useful to the group as they travel.

But although Bryce has been youthened, he still thinks of himself as 80, and cannot accept the idea of marrying a girl the age of his granddaughter. And to complicate things, the 20-year-old Mindy says that she loves him.

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Esrever Doom (2013)
Kody wakes up in hospital. He has been in an accident, and they need to operate. And then, while under the anaesthetic, he arrives in Xanth via a dream. The land of Xanth is under a curse. Beautiful people are perceived as ugly, and vice versa. Only Kody is immune. Magician Humfrey sends him on a quest to destroy the source of the curse. Accompanying him is Zosi, a zombie woman who has been transformed into a fully alive woman for the time being. She has her own quest, to solve the problem of the dwindling numbers of zombies since the Zombie Master retired.

Soon they gain other companions, the attractive girl Yukay, the griffin Zap, the beautiful naga woman Naomi, and the man Ivan. Kody enjoys the attentions of three attractive women, which they are pleased about, because other people perceive them as ugly. But it is Zosi that he is falling in love with. But what future do they have? When the quest is over, Kody will wake up in Mundania, and Zosi will return to being a zombie.

The group travel around Xanth by means of a magical travelling chessboard, testing the strength of the curse, to try to determine its location. They visit Princess Dawn at Caprice Castle, and Princess Eve in Hades. Maybe Eve’s little son Plato has part of the solution.

But there is an enemy. Someone is responsible for the curse, and will attempt to defeat their efforts.

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Board Stiff (2013)
Kandy goes to a wishing well, telling it she is board stiff (making a mental typo), and wishes for adventure, excitement and romance. She gets turned into a stiff board. Then a man called Ease arrives at the well, and wishes for the perfect weapon, the perfect adventure or the perfect woman. When nothing seems to happen, he sees the board, and takes it with him, to use as a club, and for other useful purposes.

Ease then goes to the Good Magician Humfrey to ask for the same things. He is given a quest, to find the antidote to a virus which is destroying puns. Humfrey gives Ease a cryptic clue: “Merge the hair”.

Astrid is a basilisk who has been transformed into a human, in the hopes of finding a more fulfilling life. However she still has a deadly stare, so she wears dark sunglasses, and she has an intoxicating, and potentially poisonous, ambiance, which prevents people getting close to her for long. She wonders if this will prevent her forming a relationship with a human man. She accompanies Ease, to act as his bodyguard for the mission. She has a dress with sequins: the Sequins of Events. When a sequin is removed, and then replaced, an Event is triggered, transporting the questers to another location. As they travel, more people are added to the group.

Kandy (in her form as a board) discovers she can project her thoughts to Ease, and influence him, although he thinks they are his own thoughts. And she can only return to human form when Ease is asleep. She is attracted to Ease, and finds the current arrangement frustrating. As other people are added to the group she lets them know her identity, but she doesn’t inform Ease himself. However, Ease has dreams about her, and wonders if she is real.

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Five Portraits (2014)
This novel continues on from the previous book, where the group of questers search for, and eventually find, the antidote to the anti-pun virus.

This story centres on Astrid Basilisk, who is now able to change between her human and basilisk forms. But in either form she still has a deadly stare, and poisonous ambiance. This is convenient for fighting enemies, but otherwise she wears dark glasses, and tells people to hold their breath when they come close to her.

Now they are just mopping up the remaining infestations.

Demoness Fornax wants to be Astrid’s friend. So the two of them decide to rescue some children from 50 years in the future, when there is a possibility that Xanth will be destroyed. But to avoid a paradox, they instead rescue five children from a parallel Xanth whose setting is 50 years ahead of them, and where the disaster is already in progress. They return with the children to the virus-fighting group of friends.

There is currently a Demon Wager between Demon Xanth and Fornax on whether the land of Xanth will survive the predicted disaster. Some of the other Demons are also wagering on this.

The five children all have talents with which they can defend themselves from danger. But they also have a joint talent of “communing”: when they come together, they are able to obtain guidance about what they should do in future. Using this talent, they determine that they are the solution to avoiding the future disaster; they each have to be adopted, and Art, Astrid’s boyfriend, must paint a portrait of each child with their adopted family.

But some of the Demons attempt to sabotage this plan. Astrid finds herself alone with the five children in “the Storage”, a dangerous place entered from the storage area of a playground. They must make a journey to escape, fighting off creatures which attack them. Fornax is sometimes present to help them, but she must do it secretly, to avoid disqualifying herself from the wager.

Astrid is becoming fond of the children, as they are of her, and she is not looking forward to the time when they must leave to be adopted.

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Isis Orb (2016)
A young man called Hapless is dissatisfied with life, but doesn’t want to go to Magician Humfrey for help.  But then Humfrey turns up at his door and tells Hapless what he (Hapless) wants: to be able to play a musical instrument, a good girlfriend, and to make a difference to Xanth. (Hapless has the talent of conjuring any instrument, but when he tries to play them it sounds awful.) He will get all of these by going on a quest.  Hapless has an appointment at the Magician’s castle for three days time. Humfrey gives him a box, which will generate a path to lead him safely to the castle.  Then Humfrey leaves.

So Hapless sets off, and after some adventures on the way, arrives at the Magician’s castle.  Humfrey gives him the quest: to get the Isis Orb, which can grant any wish – so it can grant Hapless’s wishes and those of his companions.  He will need to gather five companions for the quest.  Then the group will need to collect the totems of the five regions: Fire, Water, Air, Earth, and Void.

Now, opening the box will produce a picture of each companion, and a path to the companion.  The path will be magically safe, and also can cross water or travel through the air.

So Hapless leaves on his quest, and eventually gathers up his companions: Feline, a woman who can turn into a cat; Zed, a zebra-striped male centaur; Nya, a female naga/winged-dragon crossbreed; Quin, a male dragon/harpy crossbreed; and Faro, a female winged centaur who is afraid of heights.  All of them have wishes that they hope the quest will fulfil.  And Hapless and Feline become quite friendly.

As they travel along, Hapless conjures up instruments for his companions, and they play music together. They discover they can play better than they usually do – maybe this is part of Hapless’s magical talent: they play better when he is present.  They are also able to put creatures into a trance with their music.

After collecting all the companions, they proceed to collect the totems, visiting each of the regions in turn. They find that the guardians of the regions are reluctant to give up the totems, but the group makes use of their enchanted music to put each creature into a trance.   When a companion touches the guardian, that creature turns into the totem, which looks like a miniature version of the original creature.

And then they meet a woman called Merge (who appeared in “Board Stiff” and “Five Portraits”). Hapless and Merge fall instantly in love, which becomes complicated because Hapless is also quite fond of Feline.

Finally Hapless and his companions meet Isis, the ancient Egyptian goddess, the keeper of the Isis Orb, who is very seductive.  She offers Hapless power, as her companion.  But Hapless realises that such power is very addictive, and tends to corrupt.

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Ghost Writer in the Sky (2017)

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Links to Xanth-related pages

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