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Xanth 14: Question Quest
Lacuna was slogging through a blue funk. It clung to her body, making her seem prematurely middle-aged. It infused her clothing, making it dowdy. It smirched her face, making wrinkles start to think of appearing. it washed through her hair, rinsing it dishwater dull. In fact, it permeated her whole life, making her thirty-four years old.
She hadbeen young once; she was sure of it. She and her twin brother, Hiatus, had been genuine mischief as children. She remembered fondly how they had messed up the wedding of Good Magician Humfrey and the Gorgon, when they were only three years old. At that time their parents, the Zombie Master and Millie the ghost, had been sharing the Good Magician's castle,because it dated from the time eight hundred years before when their parents had first lived. It seemed only natural the the cute twins should carry the end of the brides long train. But they had done more than that. Hiatus had made eyes, ears, and noses sprout from things, that being his talent, and Lacuna had changed the print in the manual so that instead of saying things like, "until death do you part, it had said "the few measly years before you croak." For some reason Lacuna's mother had not found that very funny. Well, Lacuna was older now, and could see her mother's point. But it only reminded her how she herself had never married. She would have settled for the worst of weddings, for the -sake of a good marriage. Or for a mediocre marriage, instead of mediocre old maidenhood.
Later they had moved to New Castle Zombie in southern Xanth, which had been fine. She andHiatus had had separate rooms, and had teased the poor zombies mercilessly. Somehow it mewed that the best of her life had been used up in childhood. Once she grew up and joined the Adult Conspiracy, her life had become a time of tedium followed by a period of monotony traded by an age of boredom working into years of sheer unmitigated blah. Finally the funk had jet in, and now she was fed up to her tired eyeballs with it. So she was doing something about it: she was visiting the Good Magician with a Question.
Now she came to the region of the Good Magician's Castle. It was not as she remembered it, because it kept changing. She understood that, and was not put off. She knew that she would have to brave three challenges before she could get in and see the Good Magician. At least they should be interesting.
A low jungle surrounded the castle. The magic path she was on led right up to it, then petered out in a thicket of hands and feet. She recognized the type: palmettos. The Palms were on stems, their fingers splayed, while the toes grew along the ground, covering it up
Well, such plants were generally harmless. The Palms could get a bit fresh when buxom young women brushed by them, but they would probably just ignore Lacuna. Still, it was best to find a path through diem, because dangerous creatures could hide among them and attack the feet of someone who plowed blithely through. So she walked to the side, finding a space between plants.
In a moment her way was blocked again by thickly growing palmettos whose fingers clutched at her plain cloth skirt and whose toes tried to catch her dull shoed feet. She avoided these by turning to the side again. But this -wasn't getting her into the castle; she was actually Bon away from it now
She reversed her course and explored on the other side. But seemingly promising avenues curled their way into dead ends, preventing her from getting any closer to the castle. How strange! How could the magic path hat been overgrown like this? It was supposed to be enchanted to
Then she realized that this was the first challenge! She had to find her way through this thicket of hands and fed, without getting into trouble. It could have been worse; she would really have hated walking over a potato patch and having all those eyes peer up under her skirt and wink at the dull color of herpanties. Men never quite appreciated why women always cut the eyes out of potatoes, , first thing. Or maybe they did, because when men got hold of potatoes they planted those eyes in the ground, where they would grow into plants with mom potatoes and mom eyes.
Fair enough. Them was always a solution to the challenges, if the person had the wit to find it. It had been that way in Magician Humfrey's day, and remained so in Magician Grey Murphy's day. Murphy had tried to run the castle without the challenges at first, but had been overwhelmed by folk with Questions, and so had adopted Humfrey's policy. He also now required a significant service for his Answer, which could be anything up to a year of mopping floors in the castle.That tended to discourage frivolous Questions.
Well, she was prepared to map. It wouldn't be any duller than her prior life. But she doubted she would have to, because she had something she believed Grey Murphy wanted very much: the key to his freedom from Com-Pewter. Com-Pewter was an evil machine wide of pewter and glass and crockery and wives and things, who sought to rule Xanth. Com-Pewter had two and a half great assets in this quest. First the evil machine could change reality in its vicinity, merely by printingXanth 14: Question Quest. Copyright © by Piers Anthony. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.