Clouds were forming over Castle Blackscar as the besieged occupants
clustered grimly around that night's ration of candlewax and string,
desperately trying to keep warm and dry.

Then, the Lord of the castle spoke up.
	"Well, we've been under siege for nearly seven months now. Have any of
you anything useful to report? What about you, Arsal? Have you managed to send
any message of our plight to the outside world?"
	"Well, sir," spoke the small, balding man that replied, "We did send
out half our supply of carrier hedgehogs to try and get a message out. Eight in
all set out. Unfortunately, Three were eaten by villagers before they got
outside the castle compound, two were ridden over by tracked vehicles of one
sort or another, and the other three were last seen finding a bed of leaves to
hibernate in."
	At this point, several chuckles emanated from a small group of bleary
eyed men in the corner of the room. The Lord was quick to respond:
	"Well, and does the Necromance and Information Branch have anything
more worthwhile to tell us?"
	"Yes, liege," spoke a man whom, if it were not for the rolls of fat
under his chin could have been mistaken for Death on a bad night. "We are at
this moment preparing a great store of magical power so that we can run our
most powerful sorcerer at full operating capacity. We intend to summon some
help from another reality."
	"Hang on, let me get this straight, instead of doing some kind of
sending a very short message a very short distance to other castles, you intend
to transport a whole army from another universe, with great expenditure of
magic power?"
	"No, not exactly," came the reply, which for a moment made the old man
hopeful of something vaguely sensible "We're going to transport one person
through."
	"I think your brain's been seeing too many alternate realities already!"
	"No - there are reasons. Firstly, an alternate universe is much closer
than any castle in this region, it's just that you have to travel at right-
angles to reality. Secondly, a whole army would take up far too much power.
Thirdly, it wouldn't be half so impressive to produce an army that would wipe
the besiegers out before we get past the next page. Fourthly, and I have to
admit, this is the clinching point in our favour - we control the magic power
in this place, and if we don't get our way, you'll be relying on candles for
light, and toasting forks whenever you want bread at slightly more than room
temperature.  Put simply - no agreement, and we cut off the supply."
	"Right then, all those in favour? Carried unanimously." cried Blind Len
the official siege committee secretary.

	And so it was that later that day, Exidy, the sorcerer, was summoned to
the main courtyard to perform his spell. The great preponderance of magical
power being channelled into the area could be gauged by the amount of coloured
silk handkerchiefs that were mysteriously pouring out of cardboard tubes, and
the large number of coins appearing behind peoples' ears.
	A group of sages from the Department of Applied Magic, and Theoretical
Prestidigitation were gathered around the sorcerer muttering unhelpful phrases
such as "It's not a software problem - it's a bug in the hardware." Exidy was
then deloused, and the argument continued -
	"Can't you get around it by using a different chant? This sorcerer
hasn't been designed to run on a basically low-level chant as VERBAL - his
operating system has been designed to use the very latest languages."
	"Does that explain the odd mumbling noises he keeps making?"
	"You're just jealous that you haven't been allowed to design the
pyrotechnics.  Just face it - you're not a graphics programmer!" and so on.
	At last, all was prepared. The mystic inscriptions had been made, the
protective glasses of Holy GlenLivet had been placed around the edge of the
pentagram, and already the software engineers were beginning to drain them. It
was time for one of the most massive out-pourings of magic the castle had ever
seen. The crowd bated their breath, and held aloft the mystic protection
devices that had been handed down from their forefathers time, several of which
were still capable of opening, and shielded their owners from the rain that had
started to fall.
	Finally, the magic student that got the lowest pass the previous year
was sent out to where Exidy stood, trailing a long, snaking magical conductor
behind him. Exidy licked his fingers, and placed them across the prongs that
would start the greatest flow of magical power he would ever experience. There
was an expectant hush, broken only by the sound of the students running in the
treadmill that powered the magical dynamo, and finally, the connection was
made. Exidy stood up, and started screaming the words of power:
	"Oh, powers of magic that flow through my fingers, we need some great
help, and not merely ringers - I stand here with my hand in the socket, so send
us some aid, let it come like a rocket."
	There now followed several minutes which should have been the pyro
programmer's greatest hour, were it not for the fact that it fell about 45
minutes short of this target. When the smoke finally cleared, Exidy was found
to be sat in a corner, piteously moaning "Pretty, pretty lights, do it again.",
and there was no trace of the unfortunate assistant, although people were later
prepared to swear that a black, person-sized lump of charcoal had landed in
their village, and had sat smouldering for several hours, before being cut up
by wandering bands of artists for drawing materials.
	"Okay, fine, that's all the magic Exidy could hold, an incredibly fine
firework display, and parts of my castle are still falling. Where's this help?"
	"Ah, well, there's a bit of a problem there - apparently too many
people were drawing magic from the ley-grid, and so he had to submit the job
for processing when the demand isn't so high. Until then, I'm afraid we won't
get anything coherent from the system. But that's a software problem." said the
hardware consultant, and the rest of the lord's technical advisors couldn't
help disagreeing.

	*************************Part 2*******************************

	And so it was, that many days later, the heads of the Department of
Practical Meta-Magical Scrying reported to the Lord of the castle that many of
their number had seen a vision of the man who had been summoned to save them.
They did not, of course, remind him that statistical improbabilities, such as
scrying, did not have the hardened mathematical proofs behind them as current
magic had, and so should not be relied upon, but merely spake thusly:
	"Well, sire, some of our pre-search students have been seeing things in
their crystal balls."
	"Haven't you cut their alcohol ration yet?"
	"Ha ha, sir, very droll. No, they need alcohol for their more
illuminating visions. What these pre-graduates have seen may affect us all.
They have seen the arrival of the output of Exidy's last batch run."
	"Yes, some of the less useful outputs have already been appearing. Did
his program have to generate so many silk scarves and handkerchiefs?" said the
Laird, brushing another head-scarf from his shoulder.
	"Well, sir, it is inevitable when one is using such a complicated
method as a self-modifying mage, that bugs will creep in and cause minor damage
to the spell. What we see here is an effect of silk-worm damage. Nevertheless,
what we have seen is a concrete result of his project expiring - and no, I
don't mean cement handkerchiefs. We have seen the man who is to save us - the
only problem being his location."
	"Oh, why? Is he going to appear above Exidy's crater?" (The chieftain
referred to the still faintly glowing hole rendered by the action of Exidy's
spell.)
	"No, well out of it. It's just that he's going to appear seventy miles
North-East of the castle walls. It appears that Exidy's programmers forgot to
take the movement of the astral field into account."
	"Do we have any reliable sourcerers out there?"
	"Well, yes, as it happens - a rather self-idolised young man who calls
himself Master. He never reveals his first name, but we know his initials are
B.B.C.M., and we should be able to warn him not to leave any spells on the boil
at that time, and to avoid the strong magical field surrounding the entrance
portal.  We'll just have to hope he gets to our man before the enemy do. If you
want to contact him by mail, we'll have to crank up a Post-graduate. I'll
contact you when we're ready, sir."
	Having said the longest, and last line, in his script, Barry Scryer now
leaves stage left and collects his fee.

	The action now moves to the Mail room, curiously the only place to
allow femail conjurers in the whole of the castle. Enter a minion of Barry
Scryer, the lowly seer Stower:
	"Hello, can I help you?" asked the attractive woman behind the counter.
"Hang on, I'll just finish counting, and I'll be with you in a flash."
	Ignoring the possible sexist comment that could be made here, Stower
waited for the operation to finish, and the tools to be cleaned of body fluids.
It can be messy when you use a rib cage as abacus.
	"Now, how can I help you?"
	"I have an order from the great Barry to send this letter to B.B.C. Master, pos haste."
	"Certainly, I'll give it to the Network_Mailer Demon when he next
appears. Is there anything else?"
	"Yes there is. I haven't seen you here before. What's your name?"
	"Oh, I'm called Janet, as if you couldn't guess." replied the shapely
lady, as we fade the sound and picture for another scene shift.

	Acorn Master was deep in thought, or as his assistant would say,
sleeping, when the Demon from the castle arrived. He woke up, however,
immediately the explosion occurred.
	"Silly place to put a pillar," said the demon as soon as the dust had
settled. "I don't know, they expect you to materialise half-way across the
island, and then don't tell you the geography of the place you're going to
appear in. Good thing you weren't standing there, squire." All this before the
startled wizard could shake a reply from his shocked voice.
	"Wh..wh..wh..what do you mean, coming in here, and blowing my
structural support to pieces?" moaned the young wizard as he finally gathered
his wits.
	"Oh, sorry to hear your back's in trouble. Still, I don't see how a
pillar can make any difference to it. Anyway, I've got a letter for you. 's
from the great Barry."
	"You mean Barry O' Reef?"
	"No, the head of DPMMS, Barry Scryer. Anyway, must go, there's a cabal
on at 7, and I'm just dying for a drink. Don't forget to make a magical 'Pass
on your postcode'!" quipped the Demon, as it disappeared into the nether
regions.  Sadly, by doing this, he removed his own body from the position the
pillar had occupied, and thereby the house slowly decided to fall. Because of
the construction methods used in the house, and since the pillar was supporting
the roof, the house collapsed slowly, floor by floor, and could thus be said to
have broken down in tiers.

	Pulling himself out of the wreckage of his broken home, Acorn struggled
to find the letter which had unwittingly removed all vestiges of a house on
this plot [there - this story does have a plot -ED.]
	On reading the letter, all colour drained out of the wizard's face, as
he realised what he had been dropped into. This could mean fame, fortune, and
DEATH. It was this last option that made up his mind, and he rushed towards the
hills, from where he could watch the arrival through a very powerful telescope,
and then run a long way away from whatever came through the portal.  He knew
what troubles awaited people who went on adventures, he'd read Tolkien, and
knew what awaited him.

	It is said by some that fate knows just when to deal you the most awful
Yarborough, and it was obviously Acorn's term now.  There was a cacophony of
odd noises, the sort of thing that the BBC Radiophonics workshop could knock up
in a half hour from the chimes of Big Ben, and a few electronics bits. There
was a flash of bright light, of indeterminate colour, and Acorn was knocked
down by a large object that landed heavily on his back.
	"Sheesh, I've heard of dropouts on the line, but this is ridiculous!"
exclaimed the object (with a few more profanities), which revealed itself to be
a short man in a pin-striped suit. "Where the [expletive deletive - ED.] am I?"
	"Oh [exp del]. You must be the one I was told about. Welcome to this
reality. I hope you have a worse time than I'm having right now, and I most
sincerely hope that you get off my back."
	"Ah, sorry about that. I'm just a little disorientated. Am I dreaming
or something?" said the short man, picking himself up from on top of Acorn.
	"No, but I wish I were. You've been summoned here at enormous magical
expense to save Castle Blackscar from imminent doom at the hands of the
Electro-plated folk."
	"Fine. How do I wake up?" said the man, walking off in to the distance.
	"You don't. Not until you've saved the Castle, defeated the Electro-
plated folk, and produced a really good story."
	"I'm not going to like this you know - I never enjoyed RPG's, even when
I was young."
	"What about me then? I've been singled out by the author to escort you
round this world, and make you avoid areas he hasn't created yet. You've got to
be careful, or you'll walk straight into an un-formatted paragraph, and then
how would you justify your actions, eh?"

	At this point, we shall leave them while they read the story so far, or
we'll get caught up in an infinite recursion.

	*************************Part 3*******************************

We now rejoin our two heroes, as they decide how best to avoid the plot.

	"So, introduce yourself, person from another dimension! I myself am The
Master, although you _can_ call me Acorn." said the afore-mentioned wizard.
	"And I am known as Jonathan Thomas Merrihacker." said <%naiveuser> in
reply.
	"Now then, if we've got to save Castle Blackscar before the readers get
bored, we'll have to get cracking - a few of the hardened Compscis are already
dropping off. First of all, we have to find you some clothes. We also need to
find something that you're useful for - otherwise there would have been no need
to summon you, as opposed to any other person. Can you sing or play guitar?"
	"No, but I can whistle the odd tune. Is that any use?"
	"Hmmm... Spellwhistler... let's keep trying on that count. Anyway, as
for clothes - we need to get some money, and then find a clothiers. I don't
suppose you have any money on you?"
	"Only silver dollars. Are they any use?"
	"Only as scrap, the way dollars have been going recently.  I guess I'll
have to create some gold magically. Stand back, the code might crash."

	After the smoke and dust had cleared, the two looked down at the pile
of glistening metal beneath their feet.
	"Two gold coins? Is that all you could manage? They're not even very
large coins - I've seen bigger quarters! I'll be willing to bet they're
chocolate inside, as well!" said Jon-Tom
	"Oh. I must be running out of credit. Either that, or the ley-lines are
being accessed by too many users. Oh well, we'll try later. Anyway, this ought
to be enough to get you to the next paragraph without starving."
	"But paragraphs change every time another person speaks." replied our
hero, as the coins melted in the on-coming light of midday.
	"Anyway, come back to my house - I'm sure I can fix it up - I'll just
use a variant of the 'Here's one I made earlier' spell, and run the story
backwardsdrawkcab yrots eht....." Fade into interior

	"See, didn't take long, did it? Anyway, we've got to find something
that you're good at, and that can be used as magic in this world."
	"Well, in my own world, I was a Natural Sciences student," and then, on
seeing the wizard's face fall lower than the FT index a year after Big Bang,
rallied with: "But I also programmed computers."
	"What are these computers? The only thing we program around here is
conjurors. Still, a programmer is a programmer.  Have you ever hacked?"
	"I've been fired from three multinationals because of it!" said Jon, in
a very hurt tone.
	"Great, great - the one thing those stuffy wizards can't stand at
Blackscar is someone who alters their thaumaturges to do useful things. I mean,
they could have used Network_Mailer Demon to ask for re-inforcements. Still,
ours not to reason why Alun wanted to write a longer story. Presumably he's got
more puns up his sleeve. Possibly next to his humerus?" joked the young wizard,
to no avail, since Jon-Tom was as un-knowledgeable as the next NatSci. "Okay,
forget I said it. I suppose we'd better get on with the plot. The basic outline
of the next few chapters is that we've got to travel through alien landscapes,
meet and have dinner with hostile creatures, and sleep in cyclopean hotels. In
addition to this, we've got to meet some interesting people on the way, crack a
few really corny jokes, get groaned at, impress the locals with displays of
magic, train you up to full sorcerer status, and stay alive. Personally, I'd be
happy with just the last. Still, the author _is_ rather insistent." said he,
carefully pulling his arm down from behind his back. "Now, we have to find you
a weapon, and a magical implement. Here, have this big stick."
	"As a weapon?"
	"No, that's a staff - point it at people, and try to convince them they
ought to be worried about what you might do to them if they push you just that
inch more. It's remarkable how good you can be, when your life depends on it.
Now, this is more like the sort of weapon I picture you with." said the wizard,
as he handed Jon-Tom a red painted metal shaft with a cross on it. He performed
a few deft moves, and a fish disgorger, a saw, a pair of scissors, and a thing
for getting boy scouts out of horses' hooves appeared from out the handle.
"Pretty good, huh? I got it cheap from the Swiss army, when they were summoned
for the prequel to this book. And finally, a cloak, because the cover artist
says he can't draw cloaks very well, and I want to see him sweat. Now, only one
thing remains - you need another idiot prepared to come on this trip with us -
it improves our chances of staying alive. What we need is somebody completely
unsuspecting, snide, vicious, nasty, and about as thick as the average sequoia."
	At this point a hobbit entered, deftly caught the ring, and rushed out
after realising he was in the wrong spoof.

	Five minutes passed. Ten minutes then, and after a bit, half an hour.
Finally, the author decided that it wasn't worth waiting any more for the
characters to do anything by themselves, and made a few mystic incantations
over his keyboard. There was a small purple hum, accompanied by a glowing light
at C sharp, in the middle of the room. The light grew, and the hum faded, as it
took on the form of a creature.
	"Bleedin' 'ell," it said, in a voice more accent than language - "What
happened? One minute, an' I'm eatin' my breakfast, the next, an' I'm in some
poky hole cut out o' a tree." the accent became uncertain, as the author tried
hard to keep the number of apostrophes down to a minimum. "An' if that weren't
bad enough, some berk's changing all me apostrophes into Gs! Where the gell am
I?"
	"You are currently in the great hall of the Master." said Acorn, in a
vague attempt to bring the level of the story up a tone. "More to the point,
what are you?"
	It is at this point that the author has to try and describe a creature
that, up until now, has only been an accent, with a few words hung on it. If he
were Terry Pratchett, he would say something like "It is at this point that
normal language fails, and goes off pleading a dinner engagement..." Sadly, he
is not Pratchett, nor even Adams, merely the lowly Jones, and has to cope with
a description like "squat, furry, stockily built, line-backer" and other such
phrases. Were the truth to be told, he would merely have said that the creature
standing in front of them was a bi-pedal capybara, but since very little of
this story has anything to do with truth, and since I have doubts about
spelling capybara right each time, I'll refer to him as a wombat.
	Readers who know me from the past will now expect me to come out with a
joke such as 'what do you use a wombat for? Hitting womballs, while playing
wom', or some other inanity.  However, that would be far too facile for this
particular story.
	I would, however, point out that, since there are no woms in this
world, the bat is going to have to find some other food. Since he will have to
be referred to in future, it might be pleasant to give him a name, as going
round calling major characters 'wombats' is liable to cause offence. This
particular wombat is called Jeremy, and will be referred to as Jez from now on,
since this rather annoys him. Frankly, I think it serves him right for having
such an awful accent.

	*********************************Part 4*********************

	Having now introduced three of the main characters, I propose that this
story should now try and develop a plot. To ensure this tale proceeds hand-in-
glove with public opinion, I shall just take a vote amongst the characters...
okay, a bit close, but the more important characters want some kind of plot to
this thing.
	Now, to recap on previous plot - castle Blackscar, home to all the
major wizardry in this particular world, is under attack by the Electro-plated
folk. To combat this unmentioned, and unseen (as yet) evil, the sorcerers have
summoned help from a nearby reality, and this has turned up in the shape of
Jon-Tom Merrihacker, a Natsci who will shortly have a lot of explaining to do
to his supervisors. This Natsci is also apparently a hacker, and has been
introduced to this story's equivalent - a wizard who goes by the unlikely name
of Acorn Master. They have just been met by a wombat called Jez, and we rejoin
them as they prepare for their expedition to the castle.

	"'ang abaht, mush - we've got to get this guy some kind o' weaponry."
said Jez, indicating Jon-Tom. "I'll take 'im into the city, and we'll see wot
we can nick."
	"Now now, Jez - I hardly think theft will be necessary." chided the
wizard.
	"Oh yeah? Jus' look at your efforts at producin' money so far - a
coupla choc'late coins. Veeery impressive, I must say!" said the wombat, and
took Jon-Tom out of the building. The wizard had only one more thing to say to
them:
	"See if you can get me a pair of Bermuda shorts - the ones with the
triangle missing..."

	"Nah then, me ol' 'acker - we's gotta get youse some kind of equipment.
In view of your height, I recommend something in the Ronnie Corbett range. Now,
since you're a bit too tall for the dwarves, we're not gonna get anyfink in
miffril, but there's a good chance for something from the land of the fair
creatures."
	"You mean I'm the same size as an elf? Gosh!"
	"I wouldn' treat it as a compliment, mate - you'll be lucky if you don'
get summat in dayglo pink, with a 'ole cut out yer backside. Anyway, lets go in
'ere, and see what I can extort for yer." and so saying, the pair entered the
elven shopping mall, known to others as Elfridges, but called by the 'fair
creatures' Slothsleepingin, which is the land of the forever-claiming-back-tax.
	As Jez rang the bell, the assistant put down his copy of 'Elf and
Efficiency', and waddled towards them.
	"Can I help you, _friends_?" he asked in a manner slightly less smarm
than the average American game-show host.
	"No, but yer could try and sort aht gettin' this bloke a set o'
clothes, an' maybe some kind o' weaponry. Nah, 'e isn't an elf, so get him
sumfink a bit less conspicuous than your outfit."
	"And what, may I ask, is _wrong_ with this charming little outfit in
taffeta and lace?"
	"Well, since yer asking, I suppose it could be the plunging neckline,
or maybe the shape of the sleeves. But I think the clincher has to be the neon
cod-piece."

	Having now attired our hero in a fetching suit in the particular shade
of brownish-purple known to man as puke, we follow Jez and Jon to the
armourers. This is the place that many dungeoneers will instantly recognise,
partly because of the large amount of weapons arranged in handsome display
cabinets, partly due to the preponderance of barbarians window-shopping, but
mainly due to the screams of the apprentices in the fitting room.  The two
characters now proceed up to the counter, in view of buying something suitable.
	"Have you got a razor-tipped Filofax?" said Jon-Tom, and immediately
the building fell silent, as the massed ranks of body-builders, and body-
demolishers edged away from him.
	"Wot my friend 'ere is trying to say is - 'ave you got any weapons
which might suit 'im?"
	"Well, I'm not sure that our regular weapons would suit him - I suggest
he buy a mega-phone, and merely _bores_ his opponents to sleep. But seriously,
I believe that for his height and build, this weapon should be ideal." so
saying, the shopkeeper handed Jon-Tom a length of wood, designed for a man of
his build and experience.
	"Aha - a CSstaff! The low-tech equivalent of the byte-saber! How much
is it?"
	"Nothing - just get out of here - you're ruining our image. We don't
normally get people in here wearing elf garments.  As it is, some of our normal
customers are a bit dodgy, but we'd never persuade Conan to come in here if
he'd heard about this - he gets insanely jealous, you know!" said the
storekeeper, as he propelled the young man out of the premises.

	"Right ven, nah we've got yer summat to hit people wiv, and some cloves
so's yer don't look a complete pratt, it's time to engineer a meeting wiv
anuver character in vis story.  Meanwhile, less go to ver pub and get rat-
backsided!" said Jez, as they picked themselves up from the floor. "Less go ter
my local - the Brahms and Liszt."

	Cut to interior of pub. Several of the city's low-life are here,
largely due to the fact that the door is pitched at 5 foot 6, and cuts the
high-life out a bit. Nonetheless, we find our heroes sat in a dark corner of
the bar, mulling over the local brew.
	"Yes, of course I like tea, Jez, it's just that when you said 'brew', I
thought you meant alcohol."
	"Believe me, guv, you don't want to try the alcohol in this place -
they use it to clean the night's encrustations off the walls. Sit back an'
watch the dancer - she's a personal frien' of mine."
	Here, I was to give a description of the voluptuous body of the pure
white albino female lemming that whirled across the stage, in the animal
equivalent of a strip tease, but I won't because I have a couple of strongly-
feminist friends who I don't want to lose. Suffice it to say that government
ministers only came to see this if they were disguised heavily - since a large
proportion of the clientele are newspaper reporters. I shall, however, refer
you to the original description in Alan Dean Foster's version of this story,
entitled 'Spellsinger'. The orchestra played in a fury, rising finally to a
crescendo, as the finally naked white form leapt across the stage, and fell
screaming through the specially prepared hole in the floor. The audience
cheered, applauded, and generally expressed their admiration with crude
gestures implying all manner of obscene personal acts to be performed in the
second half of the show.
	"Personally," said Jon-Tom, "I think that this sort of exploitation
should be cut from bars - all she was doing was exploiting our natural
reactions to her body to produce a feeling of lust. It's a terrible liberty!"
	"Yeah. Yer right there, mate. Let's check aht the second act to see if
she exploits us any more!"
	"No, I insist we leave - I can't stand any more of this place, with its
loud music, terrible occupants, and indigestible food. Waiter - the bill,
please!"
	At this, the whole pub fell silent, and there was an uneasy hush. It
was clear that this last comment had offended the large number of ducks in the
room. The band made a short attempt to get the music back, before a large
pelican flopped noisily onto the piano, and crushed the player's fingers,
before resting to face Jon-Tom and Jez.
	The pair took out their weapons - Jon-Tom his staff, and Jez his white
flag on a pole, and retreated to the back of the room, as the crowd closed in
on them. Suddenly, Jon was grasped by the realisation that in no way could he
escape without being violent, and steeled himself for the assault he was about
to make. Jez, having been a thief for most of his life, decided to steal
somebody else, but the young lady he had tried at first didn't appreciate his
attempts to pinch her, and initiated combat by clouting him with her lead-lined
handbag.
	After this, the bar became a bit of an unorganised melee, as assailants
jumped in, and hit anything that came within reach.  Jon-Tom flailed about with
his staff, catching several people without quite realising it, and finally, he
and Jez had cleared a small area around them. Jez turned to Jon-Tom, and said
in a whisper:
	"When I yell now, turn around and jump six foot in front of you. -NOW!"
and with this, stood there, as Jon turned fast, jumped six feet forward, and
then slowly peeled himself of the wall he had hit, holding his nose, and with a
pained look on his face. "Alright then," said Jez "While they're still rollin'
on the floor wiv laughter, it's time for us to make an escape." And they rushed
to the main door, leaving just as some large, and presumably lethal, object
slammed into the door behind them.
	They ran across the street, and Jon-Tom followed Jez into a darkened
alley. As they tried to enter an even darker doorway, the two were stopped by
something six feet tall, and stocky with it.
	"Oh, you poor man," it said to Jon. "I see Jez has been using his usual
trick to get out of a fight. I'd better bandage that nose for you. Come inside."
	The woman who spoke, it was then discovered, went by the unlikely name
of Tallear, and had been a partner-in-crime with Jez for several years. The
set-up, Jon learnt, was that Jez would lure the marks with promises of
perversion, and then Tallear would brain them with a large club she kept
secreted about her person. Quite how a chocolate bar could seriously hurt
someone, Jon wasn't quite sure, but since this wasn't his world anyway, he
wasn't going to argue. Especially not with someone as large as Tallear to argue
against.
	As the conversation progressed into the night, it was discovered that
she was getting bored with her job as a secretary for a research establishment,
and wanted to find a career which wouldn't entail people making comparisons
between her and a Valkyrie. It was then proposed that Tallear should, at least,
accompany Jez and Jon on their trip to Castle Blackscar to save the world.
	At last I have introduced the fourth character, and those of you who
have read the original book will know that from here on in, we get a bit more
plot to deal with. However, I shall leave that till the next part of
Spellthinger.

	********************************Part 5**************************

	Jon-Tom and Tallear, with Jez in reluctant tow, set off for the forest
home of the magician, Acorn. Sounds of argument seemed to be coming from the
dimensionally enlarged tree that belonged to the Mage.
	"'ang on, guv, I recognise them two voices - one of 'em's 'is
assistant. You really better watch art for 'im, guv - 'e can get to be a real
pain in yer neck." said Jez, in the peculiar mixture of apostrophes and letters
that passed for speech among the wombats.
	They edged nervously towards the door, and pushed it carefully. It was
only several minutes later that Tallear noticed the PULL sign hanging from the
door handle. Jon-Tom jerked the door open, and they could hear fully the argumen continuing within.
	"...but that's not the point. What _is_ the point is that I sent you
out to get a dragon skin. I didn't say that it should be dried, did I?"
	"Vell, not in zo many vords, no, but zen again, you didn't tell me not
to. Besides, I vas sirsty on ze vay home." came the Rumanian tones of Acorn's
assistant. It was then that Acorn appeared to notice the group standing in the
doorway.
	"Ah, hello to you all. I see Jez has managed to find another to
accompany us on our trip to Castle Blackscar. Jon-Tom, you haven't met my
assistant. Jon-Tom, the bat with the large black cloak is Zlog, a late Captain
of the Vlad's own Air force.  Captain Zlog, this is Jon-Tom Merrihacker. He is
the extra-dimensional help I told you about."
	"Gut evenink, Johan-Tom. To vot group are you belongink?"
	"Me, I'm only a session musician - I played for the Monkees."
	"Ach, zo you are Rhesus positive? I ask purely from a thirst... fur
knowledge, you underztand?" said the tall, dark stranger, greasing his hair
back, and polishing his incisors. "I myself prefer type A, und alzo, you could
do viz a bit more meat on you."
	"So then, Zlog, are you coming on this trip with us?" asked Jon-Tom,
ever eager for extra protection where possible.
	"Ja, ja, I vill - I like to see vere ze action is - or, as you vould
say - keep my teeth on ze pulse of life."
	"You're not, by any chance, a Vampire bat, are you?" asked Jon-Tom, and
the more witless of the readers.
	"Nein, votever gave you zat impression?" asked Zlog, as he packed his
coffin for the long trip.
	"Well, it's partly the accent, a little bit the hair style, but I think
what makes it for me is those great big teeth of yours."
	"I don't get it - everyvun criticises me, just because I can't find a
good dentist. Ja, zo I have a bit of an over bite, and maybe I am a little
blood-thirsty, but zat doesn't make me Vincent Price, does it? Anyvay, it's
time ve pack for zis trip of yours. I sink ve shoult take a packed lunch. I'll
go get mine now." So saying, he leapt out of the window. Shortly afterwards,
there was a piercing scream, and Zlog flew back in the window carrying a six by
two by two foot tupperware box. Seeing their querulous glances, Zlog explained
"I like big drum-sticks, okay? Now, vat for you lot, hmm?"
	After discussion, Jon-Tom was ready to place their order. "Two half-
pound beef-burgers, a side order of fries, and I'll have a large steak."
	"Vill zat be viz or vizout a hammer? Ooops, sorry, I thought I vas back
viz ze peasants." So saying, he set off for the Vimpy, saying that he would
meet them at the Oricle.
	"Now then, Jon-Tom, we're going to have to find something that you can
do in this world that makes you special. You mentioned earlier that you were a
session musician. Which instrument do you play? Rock guitar, perhaps? Maybe the
trumpet?"
	"No, the tambourine." replied Jon-Tom, partly joking.
	"Okay, Mr Tambourine man, play a song for me." continued Acorn. "Better
still, let's see if we can find you a magical instrument."
	Acorn pressed a knot-hole in the tree, and the lift doors opened. As
they went up in the lift, Jon-Tom expressed a thought he had been wondering
about for some time.
	"With all this wood around, why don't you get woodworm?"
	"I'm glad you asked that, boy - you see, when I first built this place,
there were colonies of woodworm all over the place. I tried getting Zlog to
bite them, but they grew immune to that. Eventually, I made the bark of the
tree poisonous."
	"You mean..." said Jon-Tom, expecting the worst pun of the story so far.
	"Yes, my bark is worse than his bite."
	At this point, readers are advised to check that nobody's looking at
them, and then groan long and loud. Finished? Right, on with the story...
	"Here we are, the attic."
	"You live in a tree with an attic?" queried Jon-Tom.
	"Why not? You didn't query the lift, I seem to remember.  Besides,
where else could I put the skylight?" replied the wizard, whilst searching for
something amongst the clutter of his loft. "Ah, here we are - musical
instruments. We have a drum kit, a guitar, and a comb and paper. So, what is it
to be? Spelldrummer, Spellstrummer, or Spellhummer?" At this point, the room
fell silent, as the author exercised his divine right to try and control the
plot, and the room was enveloped in a puff of smoke, a loud bang, and a bright
flash. As their eyes grew accustomed once more to the normal level of lighting,
the group could just about make out five SAS men carrying the drum kit, comb
and paper between them. "Well then," said Acorn, after a short pause. "Looks
like Spellstrummer it is. Now, this isn't an ordinary guitar, it's magical. In
our universe, it is known as a blittar. The reason it is so named is that the
construction industry uses them to move large blocks quickly. Without them, the
blocks in Stonehenge would have to be only 25 feet tall."
	"Let's try it then. Unfortunately, I only know one tune on the guitar.
Here goes..." and Jon-Tom launched into playing the blittar. There was a sound
like 'Whhoooff', as part of the wall exploded in flames beside them. Acorn
brushed his singed eyebrows, and said:
	"I wish they'd taught you something other than 'Great Balls Of Fire'.
Still, I suppose it'll give us some defence, until I can teach you a few more
tunes. Besides, it's only a seventy mile journey; what could possibly happen to
us in seventy miles?"

	Tune in next week to find out.

	***************************Part 6******************************

	Jon-Tom, Acorn, Jez and Tallear, having now packed their bags, set off
for the two mile trip to the Oricle.
	"Have you ever been to this Oricle before?" asked Jon-Tom of the young
wizard.
	"No, but I hear the predictions are usually accurate. Now, follow me,
and do everything I do - these Oricles are real sticklers for tradition."
	"So, which way do we go from here?"
	"North. Walk this way."
	"If I could walk that way, I wouldn't need predictions." replied
Tallear, trying to lighten the tone of the trip.

	As they travelled through the forest, a strange feeling began creeping
all over Jon-Tom. He told Tallear to leave that until after they were married,
some time between the fifth and sixth books. Then the magician stopped the
group, saying: "I have the feeling we're being watched."
	"So do I, sir. I think it could be those massive dogs over there; the
ones that are about to attack us."
	One of the creatures howled loudly.
	"They're not dogs - they're wargs. Dogs go 'Woof'."
	A malicious gleam crept into Jon-Tom's eyes, as he brought the blittar
to bear on the ferocious creatures. A couple of quick choruses, and they burst
into flames with a 'Whhhooof' sound.
	"I suppose you think that's funny." remarked Acorn. "But at least it
solves the question of what we eat tonight." and with that, picked up the roast
corpses, and dragged them in the direction of the Oricle.

	When they arrived, Zlog was there to meet them, carrying the packed
lunches for the next day. He introduced them to Madame Cyn - a noted psychic,
and party-thrower. The old lady leant over the crystal ball, and muttered in a
low voice:
	"There is a cloud across the face of the ball. It draws back, to reveal
a blinding white light. It's a pleasant blue-white that I really like. Oh, hang
on - that's the commercials. Ahh, here we are - the rest of this story. I can
see you consulting a powerful force. I also see you meeting a strange dragon,
and defending a castle against Electro-plated folk. You will also clean up on
the advertising and marketing deals, making especially large amounts on the
film rights. One piece of bad news, however - there will be a sequel."
	"So, no terrible omens? No cows lying down facing east, crows flying
backwards, or Freddy Laker marketing a range of condoms?"
	"No, I don't go in for all this omen stuff - that's only for the people
who read intestines. I'll give them this much, though - their job does require
plenty of guts, and all that that entrails." At this point, the old lady fell
off her chair in uncontrollable hysteria, and the group had to leave.

	"So, what's this about consulting a powerful force?"
	"I'm going to try and summon a great being, the sum of all magical
power on this world."
	"Boss, do you sink you ought to do it? Ze strain could be enough to
seriously injure you."
	"No, I'm afraid I have to risk it. We must know what the Electro-plated
folk are planning. Follow me, and I'll lead you to where we shall summon the
creature."
	The party followed Acorn into the woods, going on a twisting trail,
until they finally reached a small sundial, old and decrepit, without its
gnomon.
	"Its gnome must have gone off!" joked Jon-Tom. "Perhaps its a
gnome-ad!" he continued, merely re-inforcing the image that Acorn had of him,
as the sort of person who would write scripts for Tony Blackburn.
	Suddenly, there was a small 'ting' sound, and lift doors at the top of
the sundial opened, and a small creature wandered out, replacing his flat cap
with a red hat, and assuming a comfortable pose with his fishing rod. Acorn
noticed a sudden change of expression in Jon-Tom.
	Journeying North-West from the sundial, they reached a magical glade.
At a nod from Acorn, Zlog changed into a spangled leotard, as Acorn lay a top
hat on the ground in front of him.  Taking ten paces backward, he waved his
white-spotted handkerchief at the hat, while saying various magical words under
his breath. A great flash of light appeared, along with a large amount of green
smoke. A shape could be made out in the middle of the cloud. On seeing the
thirty foot long apparition, Acorn cried "Behold the great Mnixamatosis!", in a
voice loud enough to wake Alex Perry.
	"It's a rabbit." stated Jon-Tom, in a surprising outbreak of
observation. "I'll admit it's big, but it's a rabbit."
	"Ah, but not just any rabbit! This is the great Chinchilla Galactica -
the last of its breed. Said to be the greatest magical power known to man, he
is seen to be endlessly loping to the end of the universe, and the great fence
to Mr.  MacGregor's cabbage patch. But hush, the creature is about to speak!"
	"NYAAH, WHAT'S UP, DOC?"
	"I-I-I-I beg your pardon?" stammered Acorn, in a complete lack of
comprehension.
	"OH DEAR, I'M SORRY - IT'S JUST THAT MY CONTRACT WITH WARNER BROTHERS
MEANS I HAVE TO SAY THAT EVERY TIME I APPEAR. NOW, FOR WHAT PURPOSE HAVE YOU
INTERRUPTED MY ENDLESS BOUND?"
	At this point, I would ask those mathematicians among you not to groan
so loudly at jokes the general public are unlikely to get.
	"Well, actually, we summoned you so that we could find a little bit out
about the plans of the Electro-plated folk."
	"WELL, TO PUT IT SIMPLY, THEY'RE PLANNING TO ATTACK CASTLE BLACKSCAR
USING KNOWLEDGE GIVEN THEM FROM A BEING FROM ANOTHER REALITY. I'M NOT SURE WHAT
MAGIC THEY ARE USING FOR THIS CREATURE, BUT ITS BRAIN APPEARS NOT TO BE ALIVE."
	'I think I can count on the fingers of one foot the amount of readers
who reckon this isn't a computer.' thought Jon-Tom to himself.
	"Is there any way you can help us defeat them?" asked Acorn.
	"GIVE ME TEN MINUTES, AND I'LL TEACH YON SPELLSTRUMMER A SONG OR TWO.
INCIDENTALLY, WHY THE TOP HAT AND THE ASSISTANT WITH THE SPANGLED LEOTARD?"
	"I'm a magician, and you're a rabbit. We each have our professional
integrity to keep up."

	***************************Part 5 and a bit***********

	Suddenly their conversation was interrupted by a gigantic rumble as of
thunder, or possibly a dragon hiccoughing in a methane atmosphere, and the
trees were lit up either by lightning or the afore-mentioned hiccough. The
rabbit stirred nervously in his pentacle, and his six foot bob-tail quivered
with fear. His black-hole eyes stared up at the sky as if he were Ford Prefect
trying to get run down by a Vogon space ship, and he spoke in as hushed a tone
as he could manage in upper case.
	"THE AUTHOR HIMSELF HAS DECIDED TO INTERCEDE ON BEHALF OF THE PLOT.
APPARENTLY YOU MANAGED TO MISS A WHOLE CHUNK OUT OF HIS STORY. HE APPEARS TO BE
RATHER PUT OUT ABOUT THE WHOLE THING."
	"Well, what can we do?" asked Jon-Tom, pleased at foiling the author's
attempts at a plot. "It's not as if we can go back and do it again!"
	"AH, THAT'S WHERE YOU'RE WRONG, YOU SEE - THE AUTHOR WANTS ME TO DO A
SORT OF A FLASH-BACK WITH YOU, AND TAKE YOU BACK TO WHERE YOU MISSED OUT ON.
DON'T WORRY - IT'S VERY EASY REALLY - JUST THE TEMPORAL EQUIVALENT OF TIPP-EX
(TM). JUST INHALE AT THE NOZZLE, AND YOU WON'T NOTICE ANYTHING UNTIL THE PLOT'S
BACK TO NORMAL."
	"Vell, I'm game." said Zlog, and was immediately 'liberated' by hunt
saboteurs.
	Finally the rabbit managed to persuade the cast to breathe deeply of
the mystic gases, and they drifted off into the land of Nod. Strange visions
assailed their eyes as they were swept through the time-streams - visions of
worlds which were, had been, and would be once again. Worlds which could not
possibly exist within any logical rules - even worlds where airport disaster
movies were taken seriously. Eventually their travel was at an end, and they
appeared each at their respective locations. We shall follow Jon-Tom's
location, as he reaches the end of Part 4. More precisely, we join him as he
enters Tallear's terraced cottage accompanied by Jez. (He's the one on the
accordion)
	"So, Tallear," continued Jez, "We's gonna need somewhere to 'ide up in
while them ducks is still after ahr blood. Is your place still safe when the
'eat's on?"
	"No, the gasman isn't coming to call till Monday morning.  However, I
can take you to a place that is safe. Wait here while I bring the cart round."
	"Why, has it fainted?" asked Jon-Tom, making a mental note to thank
ISIRTA for the use of the pun. Suddenly his face fell, as he heard Tallear
slapping the cart-horse's cheeks, and throwing buckets of water over it.
	Finally, the cart arrived, pulled by a large shire-horse with an ice-
bag on its head. "Get in, but don't shout on the way," he said, and winced
slightly. "I need to get out of Lynchmobby too - my bank didn't extend me
enough overdraft for the horse-trough full of whisky I drank last night."
	"I suppose that explains why you're facing the wrong way in your
harness. Normally, a horse should have unbridled cheek!" punned Tallear, before
blowing two large aspirin into his mouth.  "Jon-Tom, Jez, may I introduce you
to Throbbin, so named due to his persistent hangovers."
	AUTHOR'S DISCLAIMER:There is no intended crudity in the naming of the
horse, and any such crudity read into the name by any reader is entirely
his/her own fault. Any resemblance to persons dead alive or otherwise is purely
ridiculous.
	After having turned himself around between the shafts, Throbbin urged
the cast in to the cart. "Okay, where are we going, pretty lady?" he queried.
	"We're going to the local branch of the intracounty association of
disadvantaged self-employed artisans and underachievers." replied Tallear. On
seeing blank looks from Jon-Tom, she explained: "The home of the biggest lot of
crooks this side of central government."
	The horse clarified it finally to him: "We're going to visit the Inland
Revenue. No member of Lynchmobby's police force will dare go there - they're
all registered as inhabitants of Jersey." and so they set off out of the town.
	After two more days travel, they arrived at an unimpressive clearing,
in which the only building seemed rather shabby. The picture above the door
seemed to include a large and rather nasty-looking knife, and the windows were
full of pieces of ham.
	"A pork butchery." exclaimed the horse. "What policeman would _dare_
enter such a building! Luckily, it's not a French butcher, or _I_ wouldn't have
brought you here. Anyway, all out - it's time for me to part ways with the
story. I might see you on my way through the next chapter, but otherwise,
goodbye!" and so saying he trotted off into the page-breaks.
	Tallear walked slowly up to the door, and knocked on it in the secret
knock learnt by all Lynchmobby children before the age of five. A small
aperture opened in the door, and through it poked an exceedingly large thermo-
nuclear device.
	"Free entry to those who know how to live life well. Half price for the
under 16s, students and OAPs." said a voice in a sort of sing-song monotone.
	"The freedom to nick candy from babies, the freedom to mug grannies,
and the freedom to kick Vending machines."
	"Welcome friends." said the voice, in a tone that suggested that if
they weren't friends, they would regret such for the rest of their lives, or
for five minutes, whichever were the longer. The door swung open, knocking Jez
against the window, and the three entered the dimly lit corridor inside. Rooms
peeled off in both sides, and there were sounds of large crowds carousing
inside each room. "You two I recognised. Who's the skinny one?" said the voice
that had admitted them. The voice belonged to quite a large bear, who seemed to
have taken a great interest in poking nails the wrong way round into his club.
	"'im?" suggested Jez, nonchalantly. "'e's just a guy, yer know? In
fact, yer could say 'e's out of this world." at which the bear put his club in
the general direction of down, and resumed his patrol of the door. "Nah then,
Jon-Tom, why don't you go stand in 'ere, and watch the dice game. And _don't_
get into trouble! Me an' Tallear've got a bit of business to sort aht wiv a
friend."
	Jon-Tom obeyed Jez' advice, and, entering the room, found himself
amidst a crowd of people eagerly watching a game in progress in the middle of
the room. As far as Jon-Tom could see, the idea was to cover the floor in a
certain manner with sets of small tiles. Jon-Tom asked the large beaver next to
him what the game was about.
	"Well, it's a sort of strategy game. You see, whenever you roll the
dice, you get to lay that many Roleps. Eventually, you connect two sides of the
floor, and you win. It's a very simple example of a Rolep laying game. You can
take part if you think you stand a chance of winning."
	Jon-Tom applied his NatSci mind to a method of winning the game, and
almost immediately, he saw a route. Obviously nobody in this universe knew
about the theory of games, he thought to himself, and placed himself in the
next game. Game after game went Jon-Tom's way, and he eventually amassed a
large amount of winnings in the lining of his cloak. Finally, it became clear
that one of the players was running out of stake money, and it was unlikely
that he could stay in the next round. Being a resourceful young fox, he put
forward his girlfriend as stake. Jon-Tom tried immediately to quit the game,
but found that anyone had to give a game's notice before quitting. He played
resolutely, and won his last game. He collected his winnings, said his good-
byes to the other players, and started to leave.
	"JUST one moment," said the slim young coypu. "My boyfriend put me up
as stake. It's the done thing to accept all stakes. What's the matter with me?"
	"Sorry," said Jon-Tom, "it's just that I like my stakes rare, not done
very much at all."
	Several of the crowd heckled, and it seemed that Jon-Tom had argued
himself into a very sticky situation. Finally, Jez and Tallear arrived to
rescue him.
	"It's alright" they shouted "He's with us." The three were then picked
up bodily, and were thrown unceremoniously through the plate sugar glass
window, which - true to cinematic traditions - smashed in slow motion, as the
three bodies tumbled to the rough earth outside.
	"I'll say this for yer, Jon-Tom - yer sure know 'ow to make an exit."
said Jez, brushing bits of Tallear off from himself. "Still, yer 'ave caused
one slight problem - where the 'ell can we stay until the ducks calm dahn? It
looks like we're gonna 'ave ter trog off to Acorn's place, and set off on this
mysterious quest of his. Besides, we need another character to confuse the
readers a bit more." and so saying, they chased after Throbbin, to try and
cadge a lift to the forest.

	**************Part 5 and another bit*****************

	"I don't believe it!" said Tallear, with an exclamation mark. "It's
already the next part, and that horse isn't anywhere around. Oh, hang on,
here's a note."
	NOTE: Throbbin has gone, with his hangover, to visit a rabbit belonging
to a canine acquaintance who attacked him once. "It says he's gone for the hare
of the dog that bit him." said Tallear to those of the party that couldn't
read. "It looks as though we're going to have to walk to the Gongwoods."
	They trudged onward in silence, punctuated only by the occasional
comma and full stop. Finally, a question which had been drifting around
Jon-Tom's mind for some time decided to escape before it died of loneliness.
	"This Gongwood - why is it called that?"
	"Because it's not large enough to be a forest."
	"Very funny. Why call it the _Gong_ wood?"
	"Because the leaves are thin metallic discs, and they ring in the
breeze. I suppose you could say it's Gong with the wind." Tallear replied, and
immediately fell silent, on seeing the glares the other two were giving her.

	For the next three days and nights, they trudged onward, stopping only
to hunt, sleep, eat, and occasionally crack bad jokes. Finally, as they were
about to cross a rocky slope, Jon-Tom noticed a small bag hidden underneath a
rock. "Don't look now," he said. "But there's an old woman hidden underneath a
rock. And a couple of yards away, there's a sack."
	They investigated the sack. It had obviously been dropped by a
wandering minstrel, since it contained musical instruments of different shapes,
sizes and colours. One in particular caught his eyes, since he seemed to
remember seeing a similar instrument before. He queried it with Tallear.
	"That? That's a blittar. The reason it is so named is that the
construction industry uses them to move large blocks quickly...hang on, haven't
we had this conversation before?"
	"You're right, we have - we found the blittar in Acorn's attic
tomorrow. If it's not there by then, we'll have broken the fundamental law of
causality."
	"Sod causality - this is a fantasy. Anyway, have you worked out any
other songs on it? Perhaps one for transport?"
	Jon-Tom, being a Prince fan, started to play 'Little Red Corvette'.
	"I'll admit it's red, and it's a little corvette, and maybe it could be
thought of as a mode of transport. However, I wasn't exactly thinking of a
foot-long plastic battleship. Try something else."
	Jon-Tom again took the instrument in his arms, and began to strum
gently. The familiar melody of a Beatles' hit began to fill the plain with
sound. Finally, he ceased, and asked Tallear what had been produced.
	"I seem to have this stub of paper, on which are printed the words
'Female single to Ryde'. However, since buses aren't about to be invented just
yet, I suggest you try something a little more effective. Try conjuring up a
bicycle made for two. We can fit Jez to the rack for a stretch."
	"That reminds me," said Jon-Tom. "how come Jez is so quiet this
episode?"
	"I think it might have something to do with my right fist filling his
mouth. Now get singing - my feet hurt."
	Jon-Tom began on the only song he knew which mentioned a bicycle made
for two, and got as far as the first two words before Tallear stopped him, and
indicated that he'd summoned what was required.
	"It's a L'boring riding cow! It's even got three saddles. You've
excelled this time, Jon-Tom."
	"Hop aboard then," said Daisy "Oi take it you be wanting ter go ter the
Gongwoods."
	"That's right. How did you know that?"
	"Oi'm looking over the author's shoulder. Now climb on, and we'll set
off. Hold very toit please." and with that they began to move. Jon-Tom leant
back in his seat, and started to play on his new-found toy. A raucous noise
suddenly assailed their ears, and Tallear asked what the matter was. "Sorry,
dear, Oi'm ruminating on our situation." came the reply.

	As they rode, Jon-Tom strummed and plucked his way through a medley of
instrumental hits that he knew, well aware that any wording would almost
instantly produce something very similar to what he sang. After a while, he
noticed that there were some very odd, small white creatures floating in the
air around him. He asked Tallear what they were.
	"Ah, well, that's all to do with the way the blittar works. It builds
up a powerful magical charge. Those white bits flying around you are mainly
bits of dandruff that have been repelled from your head. Play a little longer -
you may attract some Geebees. They're a really odd species - their voices range
higher than the descant, and they're never to be seen without a beard." said
Tallear, neatly explaining away a difficult point in the plot.
	Finally, the group neared the dimensionally enlarged tree-house that
Acorn called home, and they all three dismounted from the cow, who immediately
set about hunting for grass.
	As they walked through the doorway, Zlog was there to greet them. Since
this bit has already been covered, I'll skip the introductions, and assume they
know each other already.

	"Hey boss - zose two bimbos you sent off to Lynchmobby have come back.
Zey've brought viz zem a girl. If I wasn't already promised, I vould say this
was love at first bite."
	"So then, young lady, who might I have the ...err... pleasure of
addressing?"
	"I am Tallear of Woozy County, of the Ripecherries that ferment at
night in illegal stills, third on my mother's side, fourth on my father's back,
first of green hair and red eyes (especially after extended opening hours), and
I am afraid of neither man, woman, beast ... nor vegetable. Wizards worry me a
little."
	"Anyway, that doesn't matter right now - I get her in the end." said
Jon-Tom, quite obviously jealous. "What does matter is that I've found out what
I can do here - I'm a Spellstrummer.  Perhaps now I can actually help you
summon something useful."
	"I doubt it." replied the wizard.
	"Why?"
	"I've read the script already. Still, let's not annoy the author too
much - on with the plot!"
	With this, the wizard started rummaging around in his drawers. Thank
goodness this isn't television! Eventually, he found the chalk he was looking
for, and carefully drew a circle on the floor. Within the circle, he drew some
more weird designs, before standing back with the others.
	"Very interesting shapes you've drawn there." commented Tallear.
	"Yes, I used to work for forensic - I just loved drawing those bodies.
Anyway, to work, young Spellthinger - play away!"
	Jon-Tom cradled the blittar in his arms, and started to strum across
its many lines. His voice came across in an eerie swell, as he sang these words:
	"I really have a yen - to go back once again, back to the place where
no-one wears a frown. Back to those ordinary extra-special folks, in my home
town."
	"It's almost working - try the next verse."
	"No fella could ignore the little girl next door - she sure looks sweet
in her first evening gown - now there's a charge for what she used to give for
free, in my home town."
	"Alright, stop there - this song's magic has been exhausted. It now
merely behoves us to find out who this young girl is. I presume she's your
next-door neighbour, Jon-Tom?"
	"Si, I em efraid I em. I also talk weeth the seely accent, no? Where
em I?"
	"Well toots, let me put it this way - you're in a fantasy world
inhabited by demons, dragons, wizards and the like."
	"Sheesh, the vallium nayver gave thees eefect beefore! Let me
eentroduce myself - I am Florist Intera. My friends call me Flo." said the
young lady as the chapter faded out for another break.

	*********Part 5 and the last bit, honestly, guys.**************

	Having finally sorted out most of the infelicities of the plot so far,
this really is the last bit of flashback - no more Part 5, I assure you. We
fade back to the characters now, as they try to explain to Flo what has
happened in the last ten thousand words.
	"Well, basically, you've just been summoned to a world where things
don't happen quite the same way - there is no electricity, just magical energy.
There are no traffic wardens, just dragons. Also, there are no good jokes -
puns in this world are used as a highly efficient method of torture."
	"Yeah - vis place really is bad on vose wiv a sense of 'umour. 's even
worse if yer 'appen to 'ave an accent." said Jez, ducking and weaving to avoid
the apostrophes. "It's a really odd world."
	"When you come from the _barrio_, nothing surprises you." replied Flo.
	"Jes' leave me alone wiv yer for 'alf an 'our - I'll surprise yer!"
continued Jez, with all the charm of a strange quark.
	Acorn then explained to Flo precisely how it was she had been summoned.
She took it surprisingly well, and when Jon-Tom came round again, she was in
earnest discussion as to how best she could be of assistance.
	"Well, I may not be an engineer, but at least I've passed a Turing
test."
	"Can you fight? You seem to be quite a big errm... young lady - you
aren't averse to killing a few people, are you?"
	"Who, me? The only female line-back in the history of Blood Bowl? Me,
who grew up with a switchblade in my boot, and a distributor rotor arm in my
engine? I laugh in the very face of death."
	HA HA HA echoed a mysteriously funereal voice from another author's
story.

	Acorn directed Zlog to fetch suitable weapons from the cellar. He
returned quickly, carrying a large assortment of very sharp, heavy, or
generally ugly looking implements, which he dropped in a clear area of the
floor.
	"Take your choice," said Acorn, determined to avoid the pun. "All
these weapons are at your disposal. I myself prefer to rely on my magical
abilities."
	"Giff me a mornink star any day." muttered Zlog under his breath.
	After a good deal of deliberation, Flo selected her weapon. To describe
it as dangerous, deadly, or even lethal, would do the thing a dis-service. In
truth, the weapon had obviously been designed with instant decapitation,
maiming, and general disfigurement and loss of life in mind. It was a three
foot long piece of steel, serrated on both edges, and with a pommel that could
take your shoulder off if you wore the scabbard slightly to the right. Flo
stood up, testing the weapon in the air for balance. A deft series of
manoeuvres brought the sword through a sequence of flashing arcs around her
massive torso. Every one of the assembled party stepped back in admiration, as
the sword carved its way through countless vortices of dust, slicing several
motes as it passed. Finally, in a sharp movement that ended with Flo holding
the pommel stock still in both hands, the blade flew across the large hall, and
embedded itself two feet into the solid oak wall.
	"I theenk I better take thee dagger." she concluded. "Anyway, meester
magician, you now have another coat hook on your wall."
	She stood up, and attempted to put the dagger she had chosen into her
belt. It was as the blade sliced through her flip-flops that she realised she
was still wearing her bikini.
	"I theenk I need some sort of appropriate clothes. Perhaps eef we could
go shoppeeng?"
	Jez groaned loudly, before soundly decrying that idea. "We 'ad enough
trouble wiv the last trip to Lynchmobby. Can't yer magick 'er some cloves,
mate?"
	"That won't be necessary, I'm sure," replied Acorn. "I have ample
stocks of materials, and I'm sure the ladies are both superb seamstresses."
	The cries of 'sexist' from the readership were only narrowly beaten in
volume and vociferocity by the enraged yell from Jez. "You mean we went through
all that Lynchmobby bit for nuffink? You better cast some kinda protection
spells mate, coz I'm after your blood!"
	"Is zis a private feast, or can anyvun join in?" came the reply from
the famulus, as the two converged on the cowering sorceror. Yet again, a
massive peal of thunder boomed out, as though a small dragon had inhaled in mid
puff. The author's hand descended, rescinded, ascended, and absconded once
more. All was silent in the wizard's hall again, until the two 'ladies' skipped
in, with Flo modelling a snappy line in studded leather armour.
	"I've always wanted to fulfeel a feteesh of mine!" she cried, in
obvious delight at the snug fit of the shiny leather, and the warmth of the
size ten Beef Wellington boots encasing her feet. "At last I can go out and
keel theengs in style."

	Again, Jon-Tom was resuscitated, and the wizard outlined to the
assembled group the visions he had seen of the forthcoming invasion.
	"During the massive outpouring of magical energy that accompanied Jon-
Tom's cacophony, an insight was revealed to me."
	"'old up," whispered Jez, "'e's become one o' them T.V. evangelists
this time."
	"As I was saying - an insight was revealed to me concerning the
movements of the Electro-Plated folk. Massed ranks are marching out of the
Sheffield factories. They have already reached the fork to the Groom pass. The
Le Groom gate hangs an a knife-edge, and they will spoon be upon us. All that
protects us is a load of old crocks, whose place set on the table mountain is
in gravy danger of being their first course of action."
	"Sounds like they're really making a meal of things."
	"Yes, and we'll be on the menu if something isn't done about the
mysterious force they have supporting their side. Even the ordinary mugs have
been pressed into the service. We're in a right stew. That's why we've got to
cook up some way to beat them. I'll need broth of you from the other world to
assist me, as we go up the Staidat'hoam river."
	"UP the river? Are yer crazy, mate?"
	"There are ways and means of surmounting every obstacle."
	"But the falls! 'ow yer gonna get up them? This ain't a James Bond
film, yer know!"
	"It is a problem that has been solved before. We need to pack
immediately."

	Several hours later, the group had packed those belongings and supplies
they were to take, and had secured their baggage to the L'Boring riding cow.
Luckily, this was a large cow, and I am a generous author, and so they each had
their own comfortable saddle. Finally, the plot caught up with them at the
Oricle, just as Madame Cyn was falling off her seat in hysterics.
	"Slap her out of it!"
	"What, hit her?"
	"Yes, didn't your mother tell you? You're supposed to strike a happy
medium. Anyway, let's off to the glade."

	I intend now to ignore the party for a bit, until the summoning rite.
As before, Zlog changed into the spangled leotard, and Acorn placed his hat in
the centre of the glade. The summoning ritual was long and complicated, and
included many poly-syllabylic words, such that I would be unfair to my word-
count were I to type them here. Finally, the magical creature was summoned.
	"NYAAH, WHAT'S UP DOC? OH, IT'S YOU AGAIN. I TAKE IT THE FLASHBACK WENT
WELL? I AM NOW AT LIBERTY TO REVEAL TO YOU THE INFORMATION YOU SEEK. HOWEVER,
DUE TO MY CONTRACT, I REGRET I HAVE TO SPEAK IN RIDDLES. UNFORTUNATELY, THE
ONLY RIDDLE I KNOW IS 'WHAT CAN GO UP A CHIMNEY DOWN, BUT NOT DOWN A CHIMNEY
UP?' I DOUBT THAT THIS WILL HELP YOU. PERHAPS YOU WOULD CARE TO ASK YOUR
ENEMY?" said the white rabbit, in a voice so loud that Richter rumbled in his
grave. He twitched his dainty, four-foot long nose, smiled, and faded away. As
the glow subsided from the magical glade, a stunning view was revealed, of a
strange form. The creature was indescribably horrifying, and totally alien to
human eyes - unparalleled except by the host of 'The Price Is Right'.
	"It's one of the Electro-Plated folk!" cried Acorn, for the benefit of
those readers with an IQ smaller than their shoe size.
	Suddenly the creature turned round, emitted a shrill cry, and pointed
at Jon-Tom. As it faded, its laughter could still be heard echoing through the
glade.
	"Ah well," said Acorn. "At least we've given them something to worry
about - anyone with a dress sense like yours has to be hiding something pretty
awesome!"
	"Believe me," said Flo "That body is enough to put the fear of God into
anyone! Not that I ever looked, of course."

	And so, we leave the characters arguing once more amongst themselves.

	*****Part 10 (the part after part 5 and the last bit.)******

	There was panic in Badluch Keep.
	Everywhere this panic was felt - all the way from the high surfeitors
through the menial slaves, right down to the television producers.
	All the Electro-plated Folk were in a state of disruption, as rumours
abounded of strange magic, fish falling from the sky, of Robert Heinlein
writing a book that didn't refer to any other he had already written; of the
earth turning blue, the skies turning brown, and dogs turning round three times
before falling asleep. Many were the tales of lost harvests, destroyed crops,
and radio jamming during Gardener's Question Time. Workers bent hurriedly down
to their tasks, Hunters left town on any excuse for foraging, and only the
Breeders were happy. In short, I could have avoided writing this paragraph, but
it helps keep the word count up.
	Even those who knew the truth of the matter scurried around nervously,
looking over their shoulders. At least, some of them looked over their
shoulders - those that _had_ shoulders, necks, or even eyes to look over,round,
or with. Indeed, many a nervous courtier was found crumpled in a heap, after
turning round repeatedly to see if anything was following him. In short, there
was panic in Badluch Keep.
	Empress Itch was on the rampage. Previous to this, she had been on the
Cretaceous age, and she was about to enter the Jurassic, when her adviser,
Derylict, crept cautiously into her chamber.
	"Ah, Derylict, there you are. Lend me your spanner, I can't undo the
restraining bolts on this creature - I want to get its BorisKarl off. Now, has
everyone recovered yet from that terrible apparition?" said the Empress, in
tones that implied that she always talked to her food while it was still fresh.
	"Yes majesty, all but the court golfer, who has asked the tailor for a
similar outfit. I've just sent them both off for psychiatric observation."
	"But enough of this, how does our secret weapon prepare? Has Muskrat
told you of any misfortune arising from our recent troubles?"
	"No, ma'am - I believe all is well in hand there. Also, our troops are
drilling as they have never drilled before. The entire landscape is riddled
with holes. If the enemy try to attack on pogo-sticks, we will have them
trapped."
	"Very well. However, this intrusion still worries me. We must march
immediately - even if it is only February. Advise the sorcerer to bring his
manifestation with him. This time, the squishies will prevail to our might!"
	The Empress turned her back on Derylict, signifying that the audience
was over. She gazed out across the plane before her, marvelling at the sight of
the forces mustered there. "Colman's English" she thought, irrelevantly, before
closing her mind to sleep.

				*  *  *  *

	Jon-Tom woke up to a cold, fresh morning, puzzled to find that half of
him was hot. Opening his eyes, he saw the reason - six foot four of Mexican
woman, who was obviously half hot, half chilli. Shifting slightly, he turned to
see Tallear standing over him with her sword ready in her hand. Instinctively,
he groped for his staff.
	"Don't look so worried, Jon-Tom - it's not you that's the target of my
sword this time. Come on, help me get the others up."
	They went round the group, ignoring all the cries of annoyance from the
early risers.
	"Vot is ze reason for zis avakening? Ve haffn't been sleepink for more
zan eight hours!"
	"Yes, please do explain." added Acorn. "I never like to rise until
after the dew has dried off. Despite living in a tree, I'm not used to rising
damp."
	"Yes, what ees thee problem? I have trouble starting my accent this, I
mean, thees early on a cold morning."
	"Hasn't anyone noticed that there's an accent missing?" explained
Tallear. "There aren't nearly enough apostrophes flying about the place, and
all the aitches are being pronounced properly. So, where's Jez gone?"
	"I surmise, young lady, that, despite my assurances of a painful
reprisal if anything untoward occurs, the young scoundrel has removed himself
from the possibility of a future affray with the forces of darkness and evil."
	"You mean to say he's deserted the party."
	"Quite so. I suggest that I set into action one of my speciality spells
- an F-19."
	"F-19?" queried Jon-Tom.
	"Yes, it's a new development from America. Don't tell anyone about it -
it's the secret stealth seeker - flies low, and has all the latest counter-
measures against magical radar. When it reaches its intended target, it
delivers a concentrated blast of magical energy to the intended recipient of
the spell, wherever he happens to be. Put simply enough for the plough-boy
here, it zaps him where he stands."
	The magician carefully prepared a magic circle, and burnt several rare
and valuable herbs before preparing to speak the final words of conjurement.
	"'ere, mate, what's all vis 'ow's yer farver? You castin' annuver o'
vem conjuration fingies, eh? Wotcher conjurin' up nah? One o' vem gian'
rabbits?" shouted Jez, more than making up for any previous lapse in amount of
apostrophes per sentence. The wombat was barely recognisable under the weight
of food, which would have admirably filled the entire reptile section of the
Natural History Museum. "If yer do conjure 'im up again, make sure I 'ide the
food first - rabbits'll eat anyfink, if vey're not involved in uvver
activities, kno wot I mean?" he continued, with a wink to Tallear, who blushed
almost as red as her eyes.
	"Actually, my fuzzy acquaintance, I was casting a spell to discern
quite what region of these hills you were secreting yourself in. However, since
you are quite obviously here, I suggest we set to devouring the choice morsels
you have procured for us."
	"For zose off you who do not unterstant ze bureaucrat here, he means
dig in."
	"First, I gotter offer up a prayer in 'onour of me patron goddess,
Diana."
	"You mean the goddess of love and war? What would you be allied with
her for?"
	"Vey're me two great loves - 'untin' and 'umpin'."
	"I heard a nasty rumour about her," added Tallear, "They say she's gone
narcissistic. Apparently, it's a love-hate relationship."
	While the rest of the party writhed at yet another excruciating pun,
Jez offered his prayer to his goddess. This 'prayer', while being succinct in
its demands, was also precise in its language, and thus unprintable.
	Jon-Tom was quite repulsed by the food content - not even a homely
E-number on the side, and certainly no instructions as to where to insert the
can opener. Nonetheless, seeing the gusto with which his assembled friends were
attacking the food, he decided that to avoid embarrassment, he might as well
chew a bit.  As he sat gnawing his bone, he realised that despite the skin
being green, and the author not doing enough homework to discover the colour of
the meat, the food itself was almost pleasant, its taste being somewhat akin to
that of the waxed cups which fast- food shops give out with hot drinks.
	"Hmm, thees ees good," said Flores "But I theenk my leezard used to be
a cyborg."
	"Yeah, vat's right - it's one o' me specialities - it's called sili-con
carne." replied Jez, ending yet another part with an appallingly atrocious pun.