I sat there, slack-jawed and wide-eyed. My mind and my heart were both racing. I didn’t know which was the bigger bombshell – that Miles and I could read the four books that had entered our world through a magical conduit from the world of my characters, and my characters could not; or that my Old Dwarf suspected two of my characters were planning to find a way to return to their world in order to introduce objects from our world there.
Both pieces of information boggled my mind, and I was unsure which I should address first. Around me, Miles, my Old Dwarf, Dragon, Sorceress, and Cleric all awaited my reaction. Finally, it was Miles who broke the silence.
“These books aren’t going anywhere, honey. Perhaps it would be best to deal with your Arrogant One and your Bounty Hunter first.”
All four of my characters present nodded their heads in agreement. Dragon was the first to speak. “I will return the books to their protective magical grid, just to be certain they go nowhere.”
“Thanks, Dragon. Now, what about my Arrogant One and my Bounty Hunter?”
My Old Dwarf stepped forward. “Methinks the elfie be practi-sizin’ his illusion magic so’s he can be creatin’ stuff from this world one’st he an’ his accomplice be findin’ a way back ta our world.”
Cleric grimaced and rubbed the back of her neck. “If he creates illusions of any objects from this world in our world, especially any technology presently unknown in our world, it could cause panic and chaos.”
Sorceress nodded. “Or it could lead to world domination by whoever appeared to hold that technology.”
My Old Dwarf nodded and stroked his beard. “I be thinkin’ thet be their plan, lass. The two o them, the annoyin’ elfie and his Bounty Hunter accomplice, be thinkin’ ta make themselves Sovereigns.”
Dragon’s eyes narrowed dangerously, and she spewed forth a huge cloud of black smoke. “They must be stopped, by any means, even if it entails their destruction.”
“I be wit’ ye on this, beastie!” My Old Dwarf slapped the flat of his war axe against his open palm. “I be right there wit’ ye!”
As am I, I thought; but I said, “I need a clearer understanding of this. Why would my Annoying One want to create illusions of this world’s technology once he is back in your world? Why not just take the technology itself with him?”
Sorceress scowled and shrugged. “Mayhap some of the objects he wishes to take are too large, such as your world’s war machines. Mayhap he is uncertain if he and the Bounty Hunter would be able to take any real objects from here with them when they return to our world. Who knows his reasons?”
I nodded. “True. They have not yet found a way to get back to your world themselves, let alone finding a way to take things with them. And I imagine you are correct, too, about the size of some objects presenting a problem, if they could even procure the items. I see why he would have to use his magic to create illusions.”
Cleric narrowed her eyes and scowled. “That must be why he needs to practice his magic. Anything less than a solid and substantial illusion, such as those Dragon can create, would do little good.”
Miles frowned and scratched his chin. “I’m not sure I understand the concept of solid and substantial illusions.”
I looked at Dragon. “I’m not certain I have a good enough understanding of it myself. Could you explain it again?”
“Of course. Think of some of the illusions you have seen the annoying elf create. Think of the illusion of Morcant or of the Innkeeper. Those illusions did not last very long, did they?”
Miles and I shook our heads.
“When the elf loses his concentration, as he did when he became anxious that you were about to discover his chicanery, the illusion dissipates. Also, had you attempted to touch one of his illusions, it would have dissipated. You would not be able to lay your hands on it.”
Dragon looked first at Miles and then at me to see if we understood. We both nodded, and she continued. “Now, consider my illusions. When I create the illusion of the fireplace, you can see it, you can touch it, you can feel the heat emanating from it, you can smell the smoke, you can hear the crackle of the burning wood. I can leave the room, or lose my concentration, and the fireplace will remain. The same thing with the illusions of the horses I created for your Foreman and the lads. The horses can be groomed and ridden; you can smell them and hear them. Only a magic user greatly proficient in the detection of magic can tell the illusions are not real horses or a real fireplace. And the illusions will remain until I intentionally release the magic that creates them.”
Miles scowled and raked his hand through his hair. “So, if the Annoying One can perfect his magic of illusion, he would be able to create an illusion of anything with which he was familiar, and it would be virtually indistinguishable from the real thing?”
Dragon nodded. “However, I doubt that he will ever be that good – he was barely able to create an acceptable illusion that could be seen and heard! But you can understand why we can leave nothing to chance.”
Miles nodded; but I frowned, trying to remember a previous conversation. “But would the illusions create any real and lasting damage? Dragon, Sorceress once said you would have little trouble conjuring anything imaginable – a desert sandstorm, with wind enough to knock a person down, and heat enough to bake a person . . . or a blizzard, with snow enough to bury someone and cold enough to freeze someone in their tracks.”
Dragon and Sorceress both nodded.
“But then my Gypsy said illusions are just that – merely illusions. Once an illusion was dispelled, everything would revert to the same condition as before – no one would remain baked or frozen or deaf, although they would remember how they felt during the illusion.”
Again, Dragon and Sorceress nodded.
“So what benefit would my Arrogant One and my Bounty Hunter gain from the elf’s illusions?”
Dragon narrowed her reptilian eyes and templed her scaly fingers. “You do not think as deviously as does the annoying elf. Picture a huge battle scene, with weapons and war machines from this world mowing down thousands of soldiers ostensibly from my world. If the elf could perfect his trade, he could create this illusion, and the illusion of the dead soldiers would remain to be examined by the residents of my world. The elf would be able to convince people that he has the power and the means to destroy them. They would acquiesce. He would take over as reigning monarch of the world.”
My jaw dropped. “Can he really do such a thing?”
Dragon sniffed disdainfully. “I highly doubt he would ever be so skilled – I would be pushed to the limits of my considerable power to create such a vast and encompassing illusion – but that is probably what he aspires to.”
Sorceress had been shaking her head as Dragon described the scene of devastation she believed my Arrogant One might create. Now she crossed her arms in front of her and frowned. “Must you be so dramatic, Dragon? Must you always envision the most epic of outcomes? I believe you are overestimating what it would take for the elf to gain power. It would not take such a bombastic and grandiose display as you have described. I have watched Mistress Writer’s magic box and have seen historical accounts of wars in this world. I have seen depictions of flying machines that fired two rows of metal projectiles at people on the ground, in what I believe were called strafing runs. That, or anything similar, is all that would be needed. If the elf could create a solid and substantial illusion of even a single such machine flying through the air and firing projectiles that could rip through any known armor in our world, even the Great Wyrms would fear to go against him.”
Cleric scoffed. “Pfft! Methinks you are both too dramatic! I daresay even a hand-held weapon from this world, firing high-velocity metal projectiles, would render the people in our world indefensible. The illusion of even such simple armament would give the Arrogant One and the Bounty Hunter great power.”
Dragon inclined her head. “You are both right, of course. I, too, have seen such things on the magic box, both the flying machines and the personal weapons. I should have remembered.” She turned back toward me. “Mayhap I was being a bit overly dramatic. I ought not to let my imagination run so wild. Indeed, it would take much less than I originally posited for the elf and his cohort to assume supreme power in our world.”
I sighed. “Then we must decide how to stop my Arrogant One and my Bounty Hunter from doing this. Alert my Foreman and the lads. We will meet in the conference room later this evening to make plans.”
Be sure to come back and see what is decided about my Arrogant One and my Bounty Hunter. We’ll leave the porch light on for you.