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2.

They decided that the next departure could wait for morning. Lilah and Marius were having coffee when Annelise emerged; Andre joined them and they talked, as they ate scrambled eggs and bacon and swilled coffee, about spells they particularly liked or spells they had learned and hardly used. Rob joined them, and ate and swilled coffee while the others joked. They were laughing at a Marius observation when Henry emerged.

“Henry,” said Rob, “least useful spell that you know?”

“Oh,” he said, and he gave it serious thought. “Well, there are many I never use, such as tuv zin, because, well, who needs a small whirlwind full of ice, except to interrupt exams? And I learned at least four damage spells, which is four more than I ever have a use for.”

Annelise and Rob laughed politely. Andre said, “I have both partial invisibility and invisibility. Never used partial after the day I learned it. Now I have a—hmm.” He looked at his hand. Then he put his hand, which bore no rings, at his breast, where he had a small clear gem on a pin. “A pin,” he said. “Funny. I thought it was a ring.”

“Did one of you have a pin and one of you have a ring?” asked Rob. Andre just looked puzzled.

“If indeed this Andre is an amalgam,” said Annelise, “he won’t remember which way was which. He’ll probably remember both, and not be sure which was the real event.”

“Because neither one is,” said Andre. He laughed and shook his head. “I’m not used to this.”

“You say he’s a what?” asked Henry. “An amalgam?”

“Evidently,” said Marius, “this Andre is the ghost, in a metaphorical sense, of the Andre versions who were sort of squashed out of reality by the collapse of those histories. He remembers everything—even things that didn’t happen to every Andre, just one or two of them.”

“Andre,” said Lilah, “do you remember growing up on Groria-2? Do you remember, what was it, Rion?”

“No, actually.”

“Well, that’s a clue. I don’t know what to, but it’s a clue. This Andre is only an amalgam of the Andres who grew up in Olvar.”

“Maybe,” said Annelise, “it’s because the Andres who were in the collapsed histories all grew up in Olvar.”

“With other time traveler stuff, like stuff Andre and Lucy did, there must be millions of those histries.” She looked at Henry. “My most useless spell is og zon vu. Big fist comes down and starts trying to flatten people. In school, I thought it was very cool, for about the first week I had it.”

“I had that one too,” said Henry. “Never once used it.”

“But there can be useless spells that you actually use,” said Lilah.

“There can,” said Henry.

“The ones you regret later. The ones you regret ever learning. The ones you wish you could unlearn.”

“I didn’t know that spell,” said Henry. “The other me learned it. He learned it off Parkavan, actually. Now there was a chap who knew some things it’s better not to know.”

“Where did your younger self find him?”

“Shakaran,” said Henry, glancing at Annelise.

“Same time as the dumping of the worms in front of the library?”

“No, actually. A century earlier.”

“Really.”

“Yes. Odd chap, as I say. Preferred things that were older, preferred the old ways. Talked about that some. Odd for a researcher, but I thought very odd for someone whose hobby was inventing new kinds of animal.”

“So he stayed at Shakaran, but went to groung in the past?”

“That’s the size of it,” said Henry.

“You say a century. Do you know exactly?”

“No, but he was one of the first hires made by the newly-founded Shakaran Institute.”

“He was a prof?” asked Annelise. “I went there. Much later, of course.”

“Tell me,” said Lilah. “Lab alchemy? He was a teacher? Professor Parkavan?”

“He was a natural teacher,” said Henry. “He was kind of dull on his own, but he lit up like a magic lamp in the classroom. Why, is this strange? He had to support himself somehow, keep himself in touch with lab space. And he loved teaching, I know he did. Pathetic excuse for a human being, really, but he was good in the classroom. I guess you could say the same for me.”

“You’re not a pathetic excuse,” said Annelise.

“For one thing,” said Marius, “you’re giving testimony in our inquiries. Which are, evidently, not quite at an end.”

“No, they are not,” said Lilah. “Henry, how were you going to be sure that Lucy wound up going the way you wanted, after she came back from Llanduvar and couldn’t find Home?”

“Oh, Parkavan took care of that too,” said Henry. “Damned clever fellow in some ways. Many ways. He knew someone on the ground, you might say, some sort of early resident of Olvar.”

“Really.”

“What?” asked Rob.

“Get up, big guy. We have to visit Shakaran. Annelise can show us around.”

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