The easiest way to catch up on past installments of this serial is here on Messages from Mâvarin at http://mavarin.blogspot.com. However, all links in this entry are to AOL unless otherwise labeled. This is because I'm up for an award over there for "Best Fiction/Poetry Journal If you have an AOL or AIM screen name, you can vote for me, if you do it today (10/30/05). After that, it's all over for another year.
Synopses to Parts One through Six can be found at the top of Part Seven. Synopses to Parts Eight through Thirteen can be found at the top of Part Fourteen. Synopses to Parts Fourteen through Eighteen are at the top of Part Nineteen. Synopses to Parts Nineteen through Twenty-Five can be found at the top of Part Twenty-Six. The installments themselves can be read in order on Blogspot using the sidebar, or on AOL from the links at the bottom of this entry.
Part Twenty-Six: Cathma and Cathy wonder why they haven't lost consciousness with everyone else.
Part Twenty-Seven: Cathy and Cathma belatedly collapse and faint, much as the others did. They find themselves in a place without physical bodies, surrounded by a thousand versions of themselves. The only person present who doesn't have their face is Joshua Wander.
Part Twenty-Eight: Cathma is pretty sure they're in something called the subjective plane. Joshua Wander is pretty sure he's meant to be their guide. The other versions of Cathy and Cathma disappear, leaving just the two of them to work out the answer to Josh's question: which one of them will be the one to return home?
Part Twenty-Nine: Joshua Wander explains that there is an imbalance in magic between the worlds, which can only be solved by someone relocating to the other person's world - permanently. However, the explanation makes no sense, and Cathy doesn't believe it.
Part Thirty: Cathy refuses to sacrifice her normal life on the basis of what she's hearing. Angered by the lack of cooperation, "Joshua Wander" disappears, replaced by Cathma's self-proclaimed "oldest enemy" - Imuselti, former royal mage to a family of usurpers.
Part Thirty-One: Based on her secondhand memories of who Imuselti is, Cathy realizes that the man in this no-place knows things that the real Imuselti would not know, such as who the Beatles were. She begins to suspect that of all she sees and hears around her, "nothing is real," and nothing to get hung about.
Part Thirty-Two: Although the identity of the man making the offer remains in doubt, Cathy becomes convinced that unless she signs a blood oath agreeing to give up any chance of going home, she may never even leave this no-place in which she's trapped. She signs the oath, but only in exchange for a promise that everyone else "who wants to go home, will go home." Shortly afterward, she finds herself back in the mall in Mâvarin, surrounded by family, friends and cold pizza.
Part Thirty-Three: Croatoan
Cathy’s reaction to what Cathma had said must have showed on her face, because Carl frowned. “Thanks for doing what? What is she talking about, Cath?”
“She’s thanking me for sacrificing my chance to go home, so that other people can get there, and so that I wouldn’t be trapped nowhere at all,” Cathy said, a little bitterly. She pushed the pizza plate away.
Carl stared at her. “You did that, too?”
“I was just in this weird dreamland place, all dark, just me and, well, more of me, and King Carli, and this other guy. Were you really there with me, Your Majesty?”
King Carli nodded. “That’s what I remember. Yes.”
“And I agreed to stay behind, too, just as you say you did. I even signed something called a blood oath.”
“Okay, so we were both maneuvered into giving up our lives in the real world,” Cathy said. “But we did it under duress. Isn’t there a way out of it?”
“Not if you took a blood oath, no,” said Fayubi. “Violating one of those has lethal consequences. Fabian and I had a similar experience, but we didn’t agree to anything.” He looked around. “Oh, and I’m myself again. For whatever reason.”
Jamie Barrett nodded. “Whatever that was, a dream or weird astral plane or something else, it straightened the two of us out, too. But nothing was said about giving up on going home. How could you two do that? I thought I raised you better than that. What about high school, your friends, your college plans, to say nothing of my feelings in the matter? What about the rest of your lives?”
“It looked as though I wasn’t going to get a chance to go home, regardless,” Cathy said. “I thought if I did this, at least you and Carl, Randy, the two teachers and everyone else could go home, even if I couldn’t.” She turned to Carl. “But no, you had to be all self-sacrificing too, didn’t you?”
“What, am I not allowed to do something heroic, and try to help my family, too?” Carl asked. “Are you sorry that we’re in this fix together?”
“Well, no,” Cathy admitted. “I think I’m grateful.”
“So what do we do now?” Jamie asked.
Jami Baret pointed to the other end of the food court, where Lee and Li and Josh Wander had just appeared around a corner, followed by Randy and Rani. “I think we’re about to find out,” Jami said.
The new arrivals looked around, apparently spotted the twins and their friends, waved, and hurried over. “I think we’ve got the portal working the way it’s supposed to work,” Li said.
Josh was all smiles. “It seems to be working great, in fact. Some of the Americans have gone home already, feeling almost completely like their old selves again. Are you folks ready to go?”
Cathy stood up. She was shaking with anger. “How dare you even ask me that? Where do you expect me to go?”
“Why, home to DeWitt, of course.” The itinerant magician looked around at all the angry faces directed at him. His smile fell away. “What’s the matter?” he asked. “What’s happened here?”
Cathy told him.
“Well, that wasn’t I,” Josh told her. “I suppose it could have been a different Joshua Wander.”
Carl frowned. “A different one? How many are there?”
“At least two others that I know about,” said JW. “One of them is a pretty nasty character, much more insane than I ever was. He seems to think he can only get home if he can deprive other people of the same opportunity.” His lips parted. “Oh, my. I should have thought of this before. He could have caused this whole mess.”
Li shook his head. “I really don’t think so. This was at least mostly my fault.”
“He took advantage of the situation then, at the very least,” Josh said. “As I told you, he’s insane. He even tried to steal my daughter from me once. Fortunately, Ariel was too smart to fall for his tricks.”
“You have a daughter?” Cathy asked. “You didn’t mention that before. Where is she?”
“Oh, didn’t I tell you about her? I thought I had. She’s in school, most of the time, but she’s inherited her dad’s tendency to wander the multiverse as well.”
“Where does she go to school, then?”
“Croatoan College. It’s a wonderful place, sort of an educational Callahan’s Crosstime Saloon, except with fewer puns.” He looked at Cathy and Carl in turn. “You know,” he said thoughtfully, “you two would probably fit right in there.”
There were a number of discussions that followed Joshua Wander’s idea, an argument or two over whether Jami or Randy or both would accompany Cathy and Carl into their new life, and more than a few tears when it was decided that both would return to DeWitt instead. Then it was time for everyone to say their goodbyes. Large portions of the mall had already vanished, presumably back to DeWitt, by the time Jamie, Randy and the two teachers walked away through the portal’s nexus point and disappeared.
“You know, despite all the trouble it caused, I like this shopping mall,” Fayubi said. “I’m rather sorry to see it go.”
Cathma chuckled. “Well, perhaps you and Mera can open your own little outlet mall. But not tonight. It’s been a long day, and Carli and I really need to get back to the Palace. Will we ever see you again, Cathy?”
Cathy shrugged, but Fayubi said, “I’m pretty sure Cathy and Carl will make a return appearance here – but probably not for quite a while. In my vision, they’re at least ten years older than they are now.”
“Really? What else can you tell us?” Carl asked eagerly.
Fayubi shook his head. “Nothing. What little I’ve seen would not help you now. But at least you know you will survive your adventures, for the next decade at the very least.”
This was not exactly encouraging, but Cathma reassured Cathy that Fayubi meant well. There was one more round of goodbyes, and then the Mâvarinû were gone, leaving behind only Cathy, Carl and Joshua Wander. Even the last of the mall had disappeared.
“Now what?” Carl said.
“I’ll take you in my castle,” Josh said. “Ariel will be pleased to meet someone from her dad’s home town—I hope!”
Hand in hand, the twins followed Joshua Wander into the blue castle, now restored to its full size. Joshua fiddled with what looked like a box of rocks, and said words that sounded like Lopartin, the vaguely Latinesque spell-tongue used in Mâvarin and Mâton. Cathy was pretty sure she heard the name Ariel mentioned. This time there was little sensation of movement, but in a few minutes the castle’s front hall was suddenly filled with a pleasant green light. “Ah! Here we are,” Josh said happily. “Are you ready for your new lives?”
“I guess we have to be,” Carl said. He didn’t sound too upset about it, though.
Josh opened the castle’s front door into Technicolor sunshine – and an entirely new adventure.
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This serial on AOL:
Part One Part Two Part Three Part Four Part Five
Part Six Part Seven Part Eight Part Nine Part Ten
Part Eleven Part Twelve Part Thirteen Part Fourteen
Part Fifteen Part Sixteen Part Seventeen Part Eighteen
Part Nineteen Part Twenty Part Twenty-One Part Twenty-Two
Part Twenty-Three Part Twenty-Four Part Twenty-Five Part Twenty-Six
Part Twenty-Seven Part Twenty-Eight
Part Twenty-Nine Part Thirty Part Thirty-One Part Thirty-Two