Airborne with Homer and Bert
My heart fell as I saw Bob dropping through the air, destined to splat on the ground like a fallen fruit. I knew it was my fault and I would fall into despair at the loss. But, somehow, the two crows knew my every thought. As Bert carried me off towards the fairy ring near the abandoned barn, Homer dove after Bob, grabbing him by his left foot a mere ten inches above the dirt.
Soon, Homer and Bob were winging next to us, poor Bob hanging upside down by one foot.
“Ah, Derfentwinkle, we meet again,” said Bob.
“I didn’t mean for you to leap off the balcony. I was going to come back after this temporary escape.”
“My master told me to protect you. And I knew you wouldn’t let me die.”
“But I didn’t know I had the power to save you!”
“Never fear, Mistress. Bert and I will always do your bidding the moment you wish it.” Homer the crow blinked his eye on the side that could see me.
“Which one of you is actually my familiar?” I asked.
“We both are equally. I wrote a contract and Bert signed it.”
“No, we didn’t… that I can remember,” said Bert.
“Don’t you remember? I wrote it in the mud on the riverbank. You signed it with your bill.”
“No, I didn’t. I was digging for a worm. Besides, that wasn’t writing. It was just random scratches in the mud.”
“You don’t know the truth of it because you can’t read.”
“Well, yes. But you can’t read either.”
“What’s your point?”
“Okay, stop arguing,” I said. “You are both my familiar, I guess. And you can read if you look at the writing and let me see it through your eyes.”
“Oh, good, that makes me feel smarter already,” said Bert.
“Your crows are funny,” said Bob.
It wasn’t far as the crow flies. I hope that is something I can say at this point because I know that is used so often it becomes meaningless. But it was literally only a mile and a half north of the willow castle, and we were flying in a straight line as crows do, and we were in the grasp of literal crows. Not literate crows, mind you, but literal ones.
“So, you kidnapped me to bring us to a bovine sanctuary on a Slow One’s private kingdom?” Bob asked.
“I didn’t kidnap you… intentionally. I was going to meet my contact here, but I had always planned to return to my captivity with Master Eli… and you.”
It was embarrassing to even hint to him that I admired the shape of his buttocks… and his gentle, quiet ways. You must understand… I liked him in more than one way.
Circling to the northeast of the ruined barn, we came down next to the fairy ring of white toadstools. Homer dropped me on my feet. Bert dropped poor Bob on his head.
She was there to meet me already. Dollinglammer was a raven—haired butterfly child with beautiful blue, black, and green wings.
“Derfentwinkle! You’re alive!” she exclaimed with a surprised smile.
“Yes, and I am more than a little lucky that it is so.”
“How did you get the birds to bring you here? Necromancy?”
“No. I somehow seem to have acquired wizarding skills on this adventure. The birds are my familiars.”
“You’re kidding! And who is this lovely lad you have brought me?”
Bob walked up beside me, expecting, I believe, to be introduced.
“Dollinglammer of Mortimer’s Mudwallow, meet Bob, the apprentice of the powerful Sorcerer Eli Tragedy.”
“Sorcerer? Really? As powerful as the lamented Yens Sidd?”
“I really don’t yet know the answer to that,” I said with a sigh. “What do you think, Bob?”
“I don’t know the sorcerer you speak of. And Master Eli is, as you have seen, more a master of parlor tricks, Slow One Lore, and chemistry than actual sorcerous magics.”
“Still, he’s powerful in the way of treating people better than they probably deserve.”
“You only say that because you have never yet been turned into a pigeon by him.”
“Pigeon? Where? I hate pigeons!” declared Bert.
“Why are we meeting here? Be honest with me,” Bob pleaded.
“Derfentwinkle was taken by the evil necromancer. The one who slew Master Yens. We are part of a plot to drive him out of our village of Mortimer’s Mudwallow.” Dollinglammer put a hand on each of Bob’s shoulders and looked him squarely in the eyes. “Derfie sacrificed herself to try and free her sister from the villain’s clutches.”
“And I failed, Bob. I would’ve had to destroy Cair Tellos to succeed and free her. And all I could manage was to get captured.”
I let the tears flow at the thought of what Kronomarke was probably doing to poor Poppensparkle.
“So, what’s the next part of your plan?” Bob asked. He was looking at me with smiling eyes, as if he were amused by our plight.
“We don’t have a next part of the plan. I thought I would only make this meeting if, by some miracle, I actually succeeded in destroying Cair Tellos. I really thought I would be dead by this point.”
“We shall have to think of something,” Bob said with a smile. I couldn’t believe what a kind and helpful boy Bob was.
“When we need a plan, we take wing and just fly by the seat of our pants, Bert and I,” declared Homer.
“Homer, we never wear pants.”
“We never make plans either, so what’s your point?”
“My boyfriend, Torchy, had a suggestion,” offered Dollie.
“Really? That Fire Wisp? He’s your boyfriend now?”
“Derfie, he’s a good boyfriend. And he used to live in Cair Tellos.”
“Oh, I know… I just don’t want you to get burned in the relationship.”
“He has his powers under better control than most Wisps.”
“I remember Torchy. He’s a relative of the great Wisp hero Gariss the Overheated,” said Bob. “So, what was his plan?”
“He knows a Slow One that could help us.”
“No way!” I said.
“Let’s all go back to Cair Tellos and talk it all over with Master Eli,” suggested Bob.
“Even me?” asked Dollinglammer.
“Especially you with Torchy’s plan. Master Eli was always fond of the way Torchy would burn up things the Master didn’t want around anymore.”
It was settled then. Homer and Bert would take me back to my prison with a glimmer of hope that someone might actually help me for a change.