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Aeromancer

When the beautiful Aquamancer, Myrn Manstar of Flowring Island, journeys to a far off land on a rescue mission, she is kidnapped and offered up on the auctioning block at the market.

Her husband, Master Pyromancer Douglas Brightglade, along with his furry familiar Marbleheart, and Apprentice Aeromancer Cribblon must give the highest bid to secure her freedom.

Book 4 of the Mancer series

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Don Callander

Donald Bruce Callander
March 23, 1930 -- July 25, 2008

Don Callander was the best-selling author of the 'Mancer series and the Dragon Companion series. Don originally worked as a travel writer/photographer and graphic designer before retiring to start his writing.

Don was born in Minneapolis, brought up in Duluth, Minnesota, and graduated from high school there before enlisting in the U. S. Navy in 1947. After serving four years on active duty (including the Korean War) he transferred to the Naval Reserve where he served as a 'weekend warrior' for twenty additional years.

He settled in Washington, D.C., where he married, raised four children, and worked on the Washington Post newspaper and in National Headquarters of the American Automobile Association (40,000,000 members!) until his retirement in 1991.

During his retirement, Don lived in Florida and at the age of 62, began writing his bestselling fantasy books until he passed away in 2008.

Reviews

4 Stars A wonderful book, and a wonderful series

I have read this whole series, and all of it is wonderful. In a simple seeming world, of familiar and simple names.... wonderful things occur. The author makes an unbelievable household of Wizards High, and makes you wish you lived in this world.... read this series... very good.

Amazon Review


5 Stars Entertaining and delightful!

Callander does an excellent job, especially with his various characters.All of the books in the 'mancer series, this is #4, are charming and fun! This is extremely easy reading, if you haven't read any of these, do so. You'll enjoy them.

Amazon Review


5 Stars

An interesting addition to this series with new twists makes for fun reading. I look forward to reading the next book.

Richard C. Barbee III -- Amazon Reviews



4 Stars Fun!

Fun on every page, and a light romp through fantasy. Advised for all ages and genders, as all are addressed.

Aubrey J. Barrus -- Amazon Reviews


A cozy kitchen, a roomful of magicians and their familiars, walking and talking kitchen accessories... Welcome to the fourth book in Don Callander's Mancer series, Aeromancer. The series began with Pyromancer, the tale of Douglas Brightglade's introduction to the mysteries and secrets of wizardry in the discipline of fire, and to his beautiful wife-to-be Myrn Manstar. In Aquamancer, Douglas sets off alone on a Journey to investigate a Coven of Black Witches, which is necessary for his promotion to Mastery. He finds his Familiar, Marbleheart Sea Otter, on his journey and in the end is rescued by his beloved, Myrn. Geomancer, tells the tale of the Stone Warrior Tribe's curse, and the search for a Geomancer by Douglas and his companions to break the curse. Three years pass -- Douglas and Myrn are wed, have twins (one boy and one girl), and everything is at peace. But now it is time for Myrn's Journey. Aeromancer tells the tale of her Journey, the next step in her progression to the Mastery of Aquamancy.

Myrn's task is find the Aeromancer Serenit, formerly the evil Ice King Frigeon, now reformed and missing. Kidnapped and being held against his will somewhere in the Nearer East, Myrn's must Journey to find him. Accompanying her is a small gray flying horse, who came to Wizards' High seeking aid. On her Journey, Myrn is kidnapped herself and sold to a Sheik to serve as a wife for his son. But never fear, it is all part of her plan. It doesn't prevent Douglas from worrying however, as he follows his wife at a distance, fearing for her safety. It turns out to be a good thing, because after Myrn rescues Serenit, Douglas, Myrn and the rest of their wizardly companions must deal with a Servant of Darkness. But, never fear, their skills are sufficient for the task and they all return home to celebrate the completion of Myrn's Journey.

Callander's Mancer series, and in fact, all of his books, have a warm, cheerful feel to them. Though they follow the eternal struggle of Light vs. Dark, Good vs. Evil, they are still light, pleasant reading. Though they are not children's books, they are ideal books to read to children, with talking animals, animated kitchens and incredibly polite people, even the villains. The villains are never very evil and the heroes would always rather reform them rather than slay them. They are the kind of books where, if a hero and a villain are fighting and the villain drops his sword, the hero will bend down, pick up the sword and return it to his opponent, so that they may continue. There is still plenty here for adults, though.

Callander's vision of magic is not unique but it is well-done. Wizards are rare, and specialize in one of the four elements: earth, air, fire or water. They train new wizards via an apprenticeship program, ensuring that only suitable people are given the powers and responsibilities of being a wizard. The magic has a practical nature as well, as is seen throughout his books. Too often in other books, magic is treated as precious, used only for important tasks. In the Mancer books, the wizards use magic to cook their food, cloth themselves, and communicate with their loved ones. That itself is different from many other fantasy novels - wizards with families and friends. Too often wizards are treated as solitary individuals, sacrificing their personal lives for magical power. In Callander's books, it is possible to be a wizard and a parent.

Callander's books are not for everyone. If you are looking for high action, darkness and intrigue, you should look elsewhere. But if enjoy light and cheerful fantasy, that leaves you with a pleasant, warm feeling when you put down the book, pick up Pyromancer and don't stop until you finish Aeromancer.

Todd Richmond -- SF Site Reviews



5 Stars

Myrn Manstar Brightglade is required to complete a successful Journeying before she can take the exam to become a full Master Aquamancer. Her assignment is to rescue Serenit who has been kidnapped by a dark force and taken to the distant port of Samarca. In order to complete her task successfully, Myrn cannot be aided by anyone who outranks her, so she is on her own with only Nameless, a magical but mute flying horse, as a companion. However, her husband, Master Pyromancer Douglas Brightglade is also in this strange land on a mission of his own, and he is keeping an eye on Myrn from a distance, not that she needs it.

This is the fourth novel in the ‘Mancer series, but it works fine as a standalone novel as all the background information that a new reader would need is given clearly and immediately at the beginning. The plot is filled with many twists and turns as Myrn and Douglas each work on separate parts of a much larger problem. The action is fast-paced and the novel is a real page turner. But what I liked best about it is the depth of the author’s imagination in creating a multitude of fantastic and interesting characters in a world filled with wonder. I really felt as if I were in Samarca and the descriptions of the places within the novel are so richly drawn that the world feels completely real.

Likewise, the characters are unique and distinct. Myrn takes the lead in the adventures, demonstrating her enormous capabilities. She allows herself to be kidnapped and offered on the auction block at a slave market and then succeeds in engineering the sale so that it helps her with her mission. She does all this with a lot of skill as well as a healthy helping of humor, which makes for a delightful combination.

I highly recommend Aeromancer, and indeed this entire series, to fantasy lovers of all ages. It is a thrilling adventure with a great deal of imagination and humor.

completedreviews -- Long and Short Reviews
Excerpt

Chapter One

Little Lost Filly

“The trouble with you Geomancers,” maintained Journeyman Aeromancer Cribblon of Farflung, flipping an eight-inch flapjack deftly into the air and catching it neatly again in Griddle, “is you want everything immutable, solid as the hills ... engraved in stone, as it were.”

“Of course!” agreed Geomancer Litholt Stonebreaker of Wyvern Hills in the Serecomba Desert of Choin. “How else may one deal with history, geography, economics, politics, sociology, geology, and the other, younger branches of science—such as your own, my dear Cribblon?”

“My own feeling, if I may say so, gracious lady,” put in Marbleheart Sea Otter, polishing off his third flapjack stack with thick, amber maple syrup and sweet Valley butter—some of which was still dripping from his long gray whiskers, “is that one can be too hard-set in one’s expectations. It’s a changeling and changeable world, I’ve observed.”

Fire Wizard Douglas Brightglade sat on the edge of the firelight, his son Brand sprawling across one knee and Brand’s twin sister Brenda perched on the other, listening to his friends arguing amiably.

His pretty wife, dark-haired Myrn Manstar Brightglade, merely listened and nodded her head when she agreed with a good point. She kept a sharp eye on the twins—in happy contemplation of their daughter and their son at this early-summer-evening picnic, the twins’ first ever—on the wide, gently sloping front lawn of Wizards’ High beside the ancient Fairy Well.

In a World where you could expect high adventures and sudden disturbances to pop out of just about anywhere, Myrn was most content. Her own Examination for Advancement to full Mastery only lacked a suitable Journey in her Craft. Her Examination could be set as early as Midsummer’s Eve, yet a month and three weeks off.

She’d wed her beloved Douglas, completed her studies of her Master’s books and demonstrations of Aquamancy atop the high Water Tower of Waterand Palace, and conceived, borne, and greatly enjoyed her twins, all in the space of three hectic years.

Myrn was supremely happy just listening to the good-natured banter between the Journeyman Aeromancer and the Lady Geomancer while finishing the latest two pancakes from cast-iron Griddle nestling cozily in the embers.

As for Flarman Flowerstalk—the famous Pyromancer—he appeared to be sound asleep, having recently devoured a round half-dozen flapjacks. His eyes were closed and his hands were clasped loosely over his ample tummy. He leaned comfortably against the ancient fìeldstone curbing of Fairy Well, only half-aware of the pleasant drone of conversation.

The Sea Otter, Douglas’s Familiar, lay curled into a furry ball near the fire. Not far off the elder Pyromancer’s own Familiar, the tomcat Black Flame, solemnly instructed four of his youngest sons and daughters in the fine feline art of stalking fireflies.

The glowing insects enjoyed the chase at least as much as the kittens.

Black Flame’s wives, Pert and Party, rested contentedly on the still sun-warmed stone curbing of the ancient well, watching the Beginner’s Class in Stalking ... and purring compliments to each other on their latest litters.

An errant breeze, called forth by the nighttime cooling of the eastward hills overlooking broad Valley of Dukedom, fanned the fire. Flarman stirred and sat half-erect. Marbleheart and the seven cats stood suddenly very still and turned their heads to listen to what the wind was sighing.

Douglas caught Brand just as he was about to tumble to the grass and held him and his sister close while he turned his inner Wizard’s ear into the wind.

Litholt and Cribblon paused in their banter.

Myrn laughed in delight. “ ‘Tis my Master, come from Warm Seas for a bite of pancake picnic and cool Dukedom evening, I believe!”

As they turned to look at each other in pleasured wonder, a darker part of the night swirled soundlessly against the stars and Augurian of Waterand suddenly appeared in the soft circle of firelight.

“Welcome, Water Adept!” hailed Flarman, sitting straighter yet and beginning to rise.

“Magister!” Douglas and Myrn called in unison.

“Pfumph!” shouted young Brand, waving his arms delightedly.

“Don’t get up, please,” begged the tall, spare Water Adept, smiling warmly at everyone but especially on his Apprentice. He bent to give her a kiss on the forehead, and then kissed the twins on their rosy cheeks, ignoring the traces of maple syrup still adhering there

Brenda cooed sleepily, and smiled up at him. Brand gurgled in delight again.

They made him comfortable against the well curbing next to his very best friend, Flarman. The cats came to pay their respects, along with the Sea Otter.

Cribblon bowed and shook the Water Adept’s hand firmly, beaming with pleasure.

And Litholt, as he sat beside her in the grass, kissed him quickly but firmly on the left cheek.

“Everybody here?” Augurian asked, looking about himself and beaming happily at them all.

“We can call for Wong, if you wish. He could be here by breakfast-time tomorrow, I’m sure,” Flarman told his friend.

“No need, Fire Eater. Leave the poor old Choinese gentleman to his stone trees and tea plantations. Doing well, I do believe, even without our intervention, is the Emperor’s Foremost Magician?”

“Right as spring rain!” agreed Flarman, sharing a pillow with his oldest friend. “We didn’t expect you just now, Waterman. But you’re always welcome... of that there’s no doubt. I even think our Air Adept might find a bit more batter in his bowl to make you some flapjacks—if you’re hungry.”

Augurian made himself comfortable and agreed that he had come away from Waterand without breaking his fast, so Cribblon busied himself once more cooking the last of the pancakes.

Marbleheart searched the night sky until he saw, as he’d expected, a silently circling smudge of gray-white, high overhead.

“Ho! Ha! Come on down, Featherbrain,” he called, standing on his hind legs and waving both forepaws. “You could use some pancakes, too, I imagine!”

Stormy Petrel, Augurian’s silent, shy Familiar, needed no further urging, and shortly both the bird and his Master were busy eating pancakes, which were delicious, light, and fluffy, as only an Air Adept can make them.

“How now?” asked Flarman Flowerstalk when the newcomers had finished eating and settled back to enjoy the company, the cool night breeze, and the countless stars wheeling overhead.

“Even a Wizard gets lonely,” admitted Augurian with a slow smile.

Across the fire from him Stormy Petrel nodded emphatically.

“I was looking into reports of several of old Frigeon’s lost enchantments,” the Water Adept continued. “We can discuss them in the morning, if you’ll lend me a bit of your hottest spelling, Firebrand.”

“Serenit lose track of some of his enchantments?” asked Myrn, shaking her head.

“He was banging them out so fast and so furious for a while there,” her Master explained, “that he kept almost no records at all. He now recalls them piecemeal. These spellings he remembered when he started to build a levee to control the spring flooding of the New River a few weeks ago.”

“This has been going on and on,” Douglas observed. “Maybe we ought to make an audit with Serenit-that-was-Frigeon, to make sure we haven’t missed anyone.”

“I’ve been doing just that,” admitted Flarman, nodding his head at his former Apprentice. “It’ll be several years yet before we get them all, I’m afraid.”

“But I’m determined to get them all,” insisted Augurian. “As I need special help, be sure I’ll call on you, individually or as a group.”

Flarman sighed and rested his head against the stone curbing.

“Time to get some aspiring young Wizardlings into their cribs,” decided Myrn, rising reluctantly.

“I’ll keep an eye on them until they’re full asleep,” Marbleheart offered.

He and his young Master’s wife went off, each bearing a sleepy toddler, into the High cottage, heading for the double crib old Michael Wroughter had whipped together on almost no notice when the word had first spread of the births of twins to the popular young Brightglades.

The older Wizards finally wended their sleepy ways off to their beds, leaving Douglas and Myrn, returned from bedding her twins, to quench the cooking fire (which Douglas did with a gentle word and a gesture of thanks) and pick up stray scraps of pancake to feed to the hens and their chicks in the morning.

Despite many adventures together, a happy marriage, difficult studies, and the birth of their son and daughter, in many ways the young couple acted as if they had just met and first fallen in love.

The low new moon was so romantic and the air so soft after the sharp nip of winter, and the stars so thunderously silent above all, they took advantage of the very late evening hour to sit on the edge of the lawn above Crooked Brook talking of absolutely nothing important at all.

As the young Fire Adept rose at last to suggest bed, his wife placed her hand on his sleeve. Following her gaze he sensed rather than saw, at first, a large and darkling figure moving along River Road on the far side of the Brook.

“Dwarf?” wondered Myrn. “Goblin, perhaps?”

“Neither Goblin nor Hobgoblin, I’m sure,” murmured her husband. “It came from Precious’s house. Yes, I see ... it is Precious ... and someone else. A pony, perhaps?”

The confusion wrought by the thin moonlight and deep shadows under the apple trees was resolved when the figures stepped onto the loose planks of Old Bridge and the young Wizards could hear the sounds of a pair of heavy farm-boots and four dainty hooves drumming on the wood.

“Who’ve you got there, Grandfather?” Douglas called, in case the old farmer couldn’t make them out in the dappled moonlight by the old Fairy Well.

“Ah! Douglas!” called Precious. “A friend, I deem! Someone come to ask for your assistance, I suspect.”

“At this time of night?” yawned Myrn. “I’m sorry! I didn’t intend to be rude but it’s well after midnight and I’m very sleepy.”

“Sleepy comes easy with twin babies,” chuckled the orchardman.

Now that they were closer, Douglas and Myrn saw more clearly who it was accompanied Precious—a small, dark gray horse dappled with paler patches.

“This is ... ?” asked Douglas when Precious and his companion drew up before them.

“Drat ‘f I know, Wizard!” laughed the orchardman with a shrug. “Came to the barn over to our place long after I’d fed the stock. To stay the night with my old Jennifer, I guess. I heard them two whinnying and snuffling up a storm a few moments back and went out to see was someone hurting or affrighted.”

“And it was this adorable little pony?” cried Myrn, charmed by the perfect tininess of the animal. “Hello, my darling! Welcome to Valley and to Wizards’ High!”

“Thing is,” Precious went on, speaking softly as he might of someone with a serious illness. “Thing is she can’t—or won’t—talk! Nary a word out of her mouth since I found her in the stalls with Jennifer and her Roland. Tame enough, and intelligent, I daresay, but not a word out of her.”

Myrn approached the filly carefully, so as not to startle her, and stroked her neck, running her hands through her long, soft mane, and clucking consolingly to her all the while.

“Not a wild horse, I’d say,” guessed Douglas. “Or she’d not come so close to be petted, not even by Myrn. Shod, too, I see. And her coat’s quite smooth and hardly damaged by rough travel.”

“She’s not of Valley,” Precious said firmly. “I know every stallion, mare, colt, filly, mule, and donkey in three days’ ride of here. Stranger, she certainly is.”

“Not really a wild pony, by the looks of her,” agreed Myrn thoughtfully.

She stroked the horse’s forelock and smoothed down her silky flank. “Not really a pony at all. A youngish girl-horse, I’d guess. She’s not quite full grown, still very young, don’t you think, Precious? She hasn’t the too-long legs of a foal.”

Precious leaned thoughtfully against the well curbing and examined the creature in the light of the moon, which was now slipping fast down toward the western horizon.

“A very young lass, but a filly, for a’ that,” he agreed. “But from whence d’you think she’s come?”

“We can ask Captain Possumtail or Squire Frenstil later in the morning,” decided Douglas, yawning. “They know more about horses than I or my Sea-sailor lady, I think.”

He let the tiny horse, which stood at her shoulder only as high as his chest, sniff his right palm and wrist.

“Come with us, pretty horseling!” he urged her gently. “We’ve a warm, dry byre with six lady cows and two new calves to keep you company. In the bright of morning, perhaps we can find where you hail from—and why you’ve come here.”

The tiny beast sniffed at his hand again and nodded her immediate assent.

Observed Myrn, falling in on the other side of the animal, “She shows clear signs of good breeding. Coming up to the High with us, Precious?”

“No, Mistress Myrn, me dearest! Must return to me good-wife, Lilac. Left her sound asleep abed and if she wakens, it might startle her to find me gone and no sign of me in barn or milk shed, although dawn’s only a few hours away.”

He bade them a fond good night... “Or what’s left of it!” ... and turned back down the sloping lawn toward Old Bridge.

The Wizards led the dainty filly between them up the lawn and around the cottage, hearing old Precious’s boots ring solidly on the bridge planks behind them as he recrossed to his fields and orchards and sleeping wife.

 

****

 

Flarman Flowerstalk rose early, despite the lateness of the pancake picnic the evening before, and tended his dairy cows and chickens, rather than awaken his former Apprentice and now Master-Wizard-in-his-own-right.

Black Flame accompanied the older Pyromancer to the byre under the High and watched as Flarman oversaw the milking of the four High cows (leaving a generous portion for the two newborn calves), swept out yesterday’s bedding with a gesture that called upon a stray breeze, and waved down fragrant fresh hay from the loft. The Ladies of the Byre had already filed out across the cobbled yard and through the gate into the early-summer meadow just beyond.

Flarman had been startled for a moment at the sight of the tiny horse, but a few kind words and a handful of last summer’s barleycorn mixed with rich Valley oats won her trust and approval.

“You’ll be more comfortable without that blanket, I think,” Flarman suggested.

He unbuckled the thick leather strap that held a gray blanket in place across her back. She gave a grateful shake and shed the covering—and Flarman gasped in surprise!

For the blanket had hidden a pair of beautiful, sturdy wings, reaching up higher than the horse was tall at the shoulder. Their feathers were of shimmering gold and pale cream, in contrast to her gray-and-dapple coat.

The filly shook her wings with evident relief and swung them up and then down to loosen crimped feathers, almost sweeping the Wizard off his feet at her first eager flap.

“Oh, I say!” he said with a laugh, catching himself from falling against a bale of wheat straw, on which he then sat suddenly. “What a beauty you are, indeed!”

Black Flame jumped on his shoulder, both to assure himself the old Wizard was unhurt and to get a finer view of the newcomer, who was looking at Flarman apologetically.

“Where did you come from?” asked Flarman, but the pony merely shook her head sadly and nosed gently against his arm.

“Well then—finish your breakfast,” the Wizard advised. “I’ll leave the gate open so you can stretch your legs and wings in the warm meadow air while we’re breaking our own fast.”

The gray-and-gold horseling nodded happily and trotted from the byre into the morning sunshine; in unspoken thanks at being unconfined at last, her wings glistened and flashed in the sun.

“Where in World did she come from?” Flarman asked his young friend and pupil, Douglas Brightglade.

“The horse?” asked Douglas, reaching for a piece of golden-brown toast and watching while Butterknife jumped forward to spread it with creamery butter. Jam Pot stood ready to add her own sweet strawberry contribution as soon as the butter was spread and melted in to Butterknife’s satisfaction.

“The flying horse, you should say,” said Flarman.

He described the little animal’s golden wings, unfurled in the bright meadow morning light.

Douglas accepted a generous dollop of strawberry jam from Jam Pot.

“Precious brought her over early this morning, sir. She came to seek shelter in his barn sometime late last evening.”

“Good old Precious! Never could turn away a stray,” laughed the older Pyromancer.

“But I must have been half-asleep last night... this morning ... for I didn’t notice any wings,” Douglas added.

“They only came to light when I unbuckled her saddle-blanket,” Flarman explained.

Myrn Brightglade came singing down the winding stair, bearing both of her children, one on each hip, bright-eyed Brenda and sleepy-eyed Brand.

“A flying horse!” she exclaimed, popping each twin into a high chair on either side of her before she sat down. “Must’ve been too sleepy to notice!”

“A flying horse!”exclaimed Marbleheart, bursting into the big sunny kitchen from the courtyard. “There’s a flying horse circling the High!”

Douglas and Myrn rushed out to look. Flarman stayed to watch the twins, who squealed in delight at the antics of Salt and Pepper fighting a mock duel with shining, sharp fruit knives in the center of the vast kitchen table for their amusement.

“I discovered her wings when I took off her blanket,” explained the older Wizard when the young couple returned.

“She’s exercising them, just now,” Myrn said with a nod. “So beautiful! We just waved at her. No need to interrupt, especially if her wings have been bound for very long under a blanket.”

“I never heard of any such beast in this part of World,” mused her husband.

Quickly checking the breakfasting progress of his children, he fell to eating his oatmeal with a will. The strawberry-jammed toast quickly disappeared, to be replaced by a second cup of steaming coffee with heavy cream and a plate of scrambled eggs and sausages, all hot and savory.

“I’ve read of them in my studies,” Myrn told them, following her husband’s lead, but keeping an eye on the twins at the same time. “They’re not native to this part of World, are they? I seem to recall mention of them in the distant Grasslands.”

“I think you have it, there,” agreed Flarman, tucking into a bowl of sliced peaches. “I know I’ve never seen one outside of books, nor heard of one in this part of World. What do you say about it, Rainman?”

This last was directed to Augurian, who just then entered the kitchen from the hall.

“Flying horses?” he asked, sitting at the table opposite Flarman. “Cream, please! I’ve heard of them ... but never in our corner of World.”

Creamer dashed over to the Water Adept’s place and tilted a generous dollop into his coffee. Sugar Caster was standing right behind Creamer. The Water Adept loved sweet and creamy coffee with his breakfast.

Blue Teakettle, supervising breakfast preparations from her usual perch on the front of Range, clucked impatiently at Griddle. He’d spent the night producing perfect pancakes over an open fire and now was being asked to grill rashers of hickory-smoked bacon and patties of pork sausage for the people of Wizards’ High and their guests, but with good will and savory results.

“Have you ever seen one, Magister?” asked Myrn of Augurian.

Brand decided it was time to feed his mother’s left ear some oat porridge, but she deftly managed to forestall catastrophe and guide the spoon back to its proper orifice.

“Only from a distance,” Augurian replied thoughtfully. “Once, long ago, when my travels took me into the Nearer East for a short while.”

“Never been that far east, myself,” murmured Flarman, pushing back his empty porridge bowl and reaching for another piece of hot buttered toast. “What’s it like?”

“Mountainous. Dry. Sandy desert or endless grassy steppes. Sparsely inhabited,” replied Augurian. “Interesting flora and fauna—of which flying horses are only one of many. I spent little time there, unfortunately. The War against The Darkness interfered with youthful wanderings, just as it did yours, Fire-starter.”

“Are all animals there mute?” wondered his pretty pupil, rejoining the conversation now that her twins were actively engaged in feeding themselves, not each other ... nor the kittens waiting expectantly for droppings on the floor under their high chairs.

“No, I don’t recall any dumb animals among those I encountered there. But I never really met a pegasus close-to,” admitted the Water Adept. “They must speak, for they are known far and wide for their classical poetry, I’ve heard.”

“I think I’ll look into that question this very morning,” murmured Douglas. “I’ve a feeling this horse-with-wings has a tale to tell, if she could or would talk.”

“I agree,” said Flarman. “I, too, will pursue some investigations in that line, m’boy. Let’s agree to compare notes over lunch, eh?”

Douglas and Flarman left the Water Adepts ... Douglas to climb to the library at the top of the stairs, and the older Fire Wizard for his workshop under Wizards’ High.

“Have you an assignment for me?” asked Myrn, gathering up her children.

“No,” replied Augurian. “I’m going to do some research on the subject, myself. I’d like to discuss it with you, once you’ve settled our young persons.”

He tickled Brand under the chin, much to the boy’s glee, ignoring the oatmeal that had lodged there during the baby’s attempts to feed himself.

“Uncle!” cried his twin sister, and the Water Adept paused to give her a kiss and a pat. She was much the neater eater of the two, he noticed.

“After your baths,” Myrn told her twins with a warm smile, “I understand Bronze Owl’ll talk to you of fairies, goblins, and banshees and such.”

Nanshees!crowed two-year-old Brand gleefully. “Bronze Owl’ll tell us of Nanshees!”

“Nothing frightens these two,” Augurian chuckled. “Join me when you can, Journeyman. We must speak of your Journeying.”

Myrn threw him a kiss and nodded eagerly.

“Come along, little Banshees,” she said to her babes. “No, this time you shall walk. Flying spells are all very well, but they don’t do anything to develop strong young legs, do they?”

While the several Wizards went off to research the origins of the little winged horse, Marbleheart Sea Otter headed for the still-icy waters of Crooked Brook, intending to swim a bit and check on the development of a bed of freshwater oysters he’d planted in the shadowed water under Old Bridge.

On the way he stopped to greet the Ladies of the Byre, contentedly cropping tender spring grasses and watching their two calves cavort in the sunshine.

“What do you think of this winged horse?” Marbleheart asked the Matriarch of the Milk Cows.

She lowered her head to look the Otter in the eye and then shook her horns.

“No comment, eh?” the web-footed animal said, sighing. “Well, that makes it more difficult, doesn’t it? She not being able or willing to speak, as it were.”

The beautiful little horse trotted over to greet him shyly, nodding and pawing the damp earth in a pleased-to-meet-you fashion.

“Is it that you can’t speak?” Marbleheart wondered. “Or that you don’t care to?”

The horse, given the choice, managed to indicate her complete inability to speak.

“Was it ever thus?” asked the Otter, shaking his head sadly.

The filly shook her head also.

“You could once talk? Is that it?”

The little horse nodded vigorously.

“And you miss it, don’t you?”

The horse signaled a definite “Yes!” by bobbing her head up and down several times.

“Well, the ‘mancers’ll fix you up, never fear—if it’s possible for their powers of Wizardry. We’ve got a whole bunch of expert Wizards here, you see. You came to the right place!” He gallumped off to check on his oysters and when he looked back later, he noticed the little horse looking much more chipper than she had, teaching the calves to jump over stones on the bank of the Brook as their mothers and aunts looked on contentedly.

“There’s a story in yon pretty head,” Marbleheart said to Augurian’s Familiar, Stormy Petrel, who’d come to watch his good friend swim and dive. Stormy nodded judiciously.