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7.

Lilah held the Henry-scented box up in the air, and they all put their violet ring gems to it. The orchard wavered and disappeared, and then they were, almost, in a place.

It was almost a place. And they were almost in it.

At first the place seemed to have a road, and hills, and things that branched and leaved like trees. Things shook as if in the wind. A sun-like glow infused many things.

But there was something funny about that breeze. The light was sunlight but it was a curiously sunless sunlight. The road was just parallel lines converging in the distance, or were they angled lines meeting right here, was there actually no distance?

There was sound, sound of waters, sound of wind, sound of tree branches, sound of motors perhaps, but there was something about the sound.

It seemed to arrive all at once, in a sort of combined screech. She felt she should have felt it like a wind on her skin, but she felt as if she felt nothing, nothing but the fear of her comrades growing like weeds in a rainy garden.

Of smells and tastes there were none.

Lilah tried to look around, but could not seem to move her head, only her eyes in their sockets. She was not all the way in wherever she was.

She reached to grab a hand, and found one, and even then, the feeling, of Annelise’s fingers, Annelise’s palm, was not a real feeling.

Her other hand was not in the world.

She pulled on it. She was starting to panic. How would she get Rob out of here if she couldn’t grab his hand?

But finally her right hand came through, or came through just enough. It held George’s box.

There was a grinding screech, much louder than the combined screech it overlay. Things were dropping around them and onto them. Annelise and Rob were both trying to cry out.

Lilah relaxed. She knew they would make it out of here. She looked down.

At her feet there lay a body. It was horribly disfigured, eaten away. But she knew what it was. She knew who it was.

Lilah pulled Annelise’s hand to the box, and found Rob’s hand on it. She tweaked her ring. They were gone.

The three of them were standing on a windswept hilltop overlooking a village. It was early on a fall evening. They turned around. There was a castle there, a bourgeois affair but a castle nonetheless. Its gate stood thirty meters from where they found themselves.

“What the hell was that?” asked Rob. “I felt like it was eating me. I felt like it was eating away at me.”

“I concur,” said Annelise. “We were losing dimensions somehow.” She looked from Rob’s eyes to Lilah’s.

“That’s what I got,” said Lilah. She reached out and brushed something off Annelise. It hit the ground and Lilah threw the handy little cold spell on it. “Those worm things,” she said as they looked at the frozen corpse.

“Ugh!” cried Rob. “Ick! I hate these—!” cried Annelise. They brushed half a dozen worms off themselves, and one each off each other. Lilah checked herself, found nothing, and settled for watching her colleagues clear off their parasites and freeze them.

“What the hell is this all about?” asked Rob. “Really. Tell me.”

“Why tell you when I think I can show you?” She advanced to the gate, which was just a big wooden double door. “Rok!” she said, waving a hand at it. The doors sprang open. Lilah advanced into the courtyard, a much more compact affair than the one at Whistler. She took four steps toward the keep, then stopped and looked up the nearby squat round tower, and then turned her head to consider another round tower, thinner but taller. She put the box back in her pocket.

“It’s Endweith, isn’t it?” asked Rob.

“Good job, Champ,” said Annelise.

“Hey now.”

“Take hands,” said Lilah.

“Aw, mom.”

“We didn’t like the last place you took us,” said Annelise.

“Oh, big babies, we’re just going up there,” Lilah explained, “and I don’t feel like taking the stairs. Wands out.”

With a mutual shrug, Annelise and Rob took Lilah’s hands, their wands in their other hands. Lilah smirked, then let go a sigh.

She muttered a spell: “A rok an nef se va ont.” She tweaked her ring, and in a moment, they were in a round room high up, the top room of the tower. There were two men standing on opposite sides of a table, like generals planning a campaign. An owl watched with interest from a perch nearby.

The two men looked up at the intruders. The two men appeared to be the same man, except that one was in his twenties and the other around forty. They were both named Henry.

They went for wands. Annelise and Rob were about to enter the fray, but words were rolling off Lilah Bay’s tongue, seven, eight, nine of them, and the two men found their spell powers ebbing swiftly away. Annelise went ahead and imposed a time prevent, while Rob kept his wand on the owl, who thought better of getting involved, fluffed up and closed its eyes.

“Henry,” said Lilah. “Or should I say, Henry 1 and Henry 2.” The two Henrys looked at each other. “My name is Lilah Bay. And in the name of the Violet Council, I am putting you under arrest for the murder of a three-year-old child. Along with some number of billions of other people.”

“You what?” asked the older Henry.

“What do you think you are going to do with us?” asked the younger one, who looked as if he was considering having a go at Lilah in spite of her cease spell.

“My first thought would be to leave both your steaming remains here for Lucy to find. Right now, I don’t guess I have enough of an excuse. You want to give me an excuse?”

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