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Two to the Fifth: An Adventure in the Land of Xanth

Two to the Fifth: An Adventure in the Land of Xanth

4.4 11
by Piers Anthony

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The future of Xanth is in frightful peril. A powerful magical bird named Ragna Roc has embarked on a campaign to become absolute ruler of that mystical realm. Those who swear loyalty to him are spared. The rest have simply disappeared.

So powerful are Ragna's sorceries that even the Good Magician Humfrey dares not confront him directly. Instead he enlists


The future of Xanth is in frightful peril. A powerful magical bird named Ragna Roc has embarked on a campaign to become absolute ruler of that mystical realm. Those who swear loyalty to him are spared. The rest have simply disappeared.

So powerful are Ragna's sorceries that even the Good Magician Humfrey dares not confront him directly. Instead he enlists Cyrus the Cyborg, a handsome half-human playwright with little knowledge of the world, in a stealthy subterfuge. Cyrus must assemble a troupe of traveling players to attract Ragna's interest. And hidden in disguise among the bevy of beautiful young actresses are the young princesses, Melody, Harmony, and Rhythm, whose magics might just be a match for the evil bird.

But Ragna has planted a spy in the midst of the troupe, one who knows their deepest secrets, including the true nature of Cyrus's forbidden love for one of the young princesses. Only a mysterious child called Kadence, and a cryptic clue — "Two to the Fifth" — may give the companions the edge they need to defeat Ragna's dictatorial dreams.

Brimming with passion and merriment, drama and deception, Piers Anthony's thirty-second Xanth fantasy, Two to the Fifth, is a pun-packed performance sure to provoke applause and ovations from the series' myriad fans.

At the Publisher's request, this title is being sold without Digital Rights Management Software (DRM) applied.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“This being Xanth, the adventurers find absurdities, danger, and romance but also find themselves unwittingly involved in extremely complex intrigue. Classic Xanthromancy.” —Booklist on Air Apparent

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Tom Doherty Associates
Publication date:
Magic of Xanth Series , #32
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Read an Excerpt

Two to the Fifth

By Piers Anthony

Tom Doherty Associates

Copyright © 2008 Piers Anthony Jacob
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-4299-3265-3



"Get the lead out of your ass."

Cyrus jumped, almost falling off his donkey. "Who said that?"

"Get thee to a nunnery."

This time he placed the source. "You're talking!" he said to the donkey.

"Who said that?" the animal said. "You're talking."

"You're repeating whatever you have heard most recently," Cyrus said, catching on. "That voice unit was supposed to be for braying. How can you speak words?"

"Defective workmanship," the donkey said. "You installed the wrong unit."

Cyrus sighed. So using lead instead of iron wasn't his only error when he constructed the donkey. When the mechanical animal was too heavy to function effectively, Cyrus's father Roland had given him blunt advice: remove the lead. So he had done so, and had a robot animal he could ride.

"Who said the other?" he asked. "About the nunnery. That's like a monastery, isn't it?"

"Your barbarian mother said it," the donkey answered. "You weren't paying attention. She was not referring to nuns."


"Not. According to my defective data bank, it's old Mundanian slang for a house of ill repute."

"What is that? I never heard of an ill house."

"Naturally you wouldn't know. You were created halfway innocent, for some obscure reason. But she thought it would make a man of you."

"I'm not a man," Cyrus protested. "I'm a cyborg. Half robot, half human. I will never be fully human."

"That's what comes of getting yourself delivered to a humanoid robot and a barbarian. If you wanted to be normal you should have selected a normal couple for parents."

"I didn't have a choice, you nutty and bolty contraption. They signaled the stork, not me."

"Neither did I have a choice, half-breed."

"Had you had one, you should have chosen a more competent builder," Cyrus said with a halfway metallic smile.

"Indubitably. But since I'm stuck with you, how about giving me a name?"

"You're an ass. An equine breed. So suppose I call you —"

"Forget it, cogbrain!"

Cyrus reconsidered. "Donkey won't do?"

"Let's abbreviate it. Don will do."

"Don Donkey. Not phenomenally original."

"Neither are you, cyborg."

"It will do," Cyrus agreed with resignation.

He rode on, careful not to remark on the animal's jerky gait, lest he get another sour reminder of his clumsiness in assembling it. The varied terrain of the Land of Xanth passed, becoming less familiar as they got farther away from home. They were following one of the enchanted paths, so there was no danger.

Cyrus got thirsty, so fished a can of tsoda pop from a saddlebag. He was about to open it when it slipped out of his hand, fell to the ground, and rolled off the enchanted path. "Bleep," he said. Because he had been assembled adult, he was able to use that term. It signaled spot disaffection with the situation.

There was a golden streak. Something zipped after the can, caught it in its mouth, and brought it back, holding it up. It was a dog made from pure gold.

"Thank you," Cyrus said, accepting the can. The dog zipped away again. "I wonder what kind of creature that was?"

"A golden retriever, dummy," Don said. "Check your memory bank."

The donkey was right: the information was there. Cyrus simply hadn't made the connection. "Thank you," he said again.

"I'm low on fuel," Don complained.

Cyrus considered. Chances of getting where they were going today were small, so there was no point in pushing it. "We'll stop at the next grazing area we see," he said.

"We'd better."

They came to a small glade strewn with sticks and tufts of old dry grass. "And this is it," Cyrus said, dismounting.

They stepped off the path. Don put his head down and picked up a stick with his mouth. He chewed, and the stick broke in two. He swallowed the pieces.

"Oh what a cute little horse!" a voice exclaimed. It was a rather young pretty girl, in fact almost nymphlike, but clothed. She had flouncing bark brown hair and sky blue eyes.

Don lifted his head to view her. "I'm not a horse," he said sourly. "I'm an ass."

She looked bemused. "A what?"

"A donkey," Cyrus said quickly, realizing that the Adult Conspiracy prevented her from knowing the other term. "A robot donkey. Call him Don."

"Hello, Don," she said shyly. "I'm Piper Nymph."

"I don't see a pipe," Don said.

"I don't have a pipe. It's my name. My parents are Hiatus Human and Desiree Dryad. They named me."

Cyrus's data bank oriented. He knew of them; Hiatus was the son of the late Zombie Master, with the talent of growing things like ears on walls. He had fallen in love with a tree nymph, a hamadryad, and finally married her after a seemingly hopeless quest. Cyrus was jealous; he had no romantic prospects at all. At any rate, that explained Piper's nymphlike appearance: she was half nymph.

"What good are you?" Don asked.

"He's an ass — I mean donkey," Cyrus said quickly. "He has barnyard manners. Ignore him."

"No, I'll answer," Piper said. "My talent is healing. That can be very useful. In fact I have a pet whirlwind I healed, Dusty."

"A useful whirlwind?" Don asked, his voice fairly rusting with sarcasm.

"Sure. I'll show you. What do you most need?"

"More dry wood. It's my fuel. I'm a wood-burning robot ass." Don obviously thought he had stifled her positive attitude.

Piper put two fingers to her mouth and made an ungirl-like whistle. In a moment a whirling cloud of dust cruised in toward them, tossing leaves and small twigs about. "This is Dusty," she said as the whirlwind hovered beside her. "Dusty Dust Devil."

"What an ill wind," Don said.

The wind coalesced into a small horned creature. "Why thank you, asinine junk," the little devil said.

Don took it in stride. "Can you bring me dry wood, you horny midget?"

"Please," Piper said. "I've got a feeling there's a bad word there."

The devil disappeared, becoming the dust devil. It whirled all around the glade and into the surrounding forest. In a moment it returned, filled with brush, and faded. A pile of dead branches fell to the ground as the devil formed.

Don stared. "That will hold me for three days!" He started chomping wood.

"Say thank you," Cyrus murmured to the donkey.

"Why?" Don asked around a mouthful.

Cyrus realized that politeness was not part of the animal's program. So he gave a reason that would make sense to a selfish creature. "Because you want to encourage him to do it again some time, after you run out of fuel."

Don cocked an ear, understanding. "Thank you, Dusty."

The little devil blushed blue.

"Say you're welcome," Piper murmured.

"You're welcome."

Don paused in midchomp. He was coming to appreciate the possible benefits of common courtesy.

Piper smiled. She was pretty when she did that. "It's nice to see folk get along," she said.

Too bad she was only thirteen years old, according to Cyrus's data bank: too young to be a prospect for romance. Not that Cyrus knew anything about romance.

They had to wait while the donkey took in the pile of wood. "What are you doing here?" Cyrus asked the nymph.

"I'm just widening my horizons," she said. "Every year mother lets me wander farther from the tree. By the time I'm adult, I should be familiar with the whole area. Already today I met a man with the talent of selective friction: he can move anywhere, because if he's on slippery ice, he can make one foot have a lot of friction, and push with it, then change to the other foot."

"So what good is that?" Don asked. "There's no ice here."

"Maybe some day there'll be ice," Piper said. "Or something else that's slippery or soupy."

"What do you want to do when you are adult?" Cyrus asked, partly to stop the donkey from being obnoxious. But also because he did not know what he wanted to do, and perhaps she would give him an idea.

"I'd like to be an actress, I think," she said. "To be in a play and have people watch me and applaud. I wouldn't even have to be famous. I'd just like to be on stage."

That seemed like a curious ambition, but Cyrus's caution-circuit prevented him from saying so. "I hope you find your play."

"I hope so too." Piper looked around. "I'd better get home; mother worries when I'm out alone too long. She's afraid I'll run afoul of some strange man or something."

Like a cyborg? That, too, was worth not saying. "Tell her you met a robot donkey with asinine manners."

"I will," she said. "Come on, Dusty; I'll race you to the tree."

The little devil became the whirlwind. Dust devil and girl took off into the forest, racing each other.

Meanwhile Don had finished the pile of wood. His belly was full; it would, as he said, burn for three days, keeping him hot and active.

They wended their way back to the enchanted path. "You know, I'd be able to eat faster and last longer if you'd designed me to burn coal," Don said.

"Coal has to be mined. Wood's easier to get. Anyway, I had to use parts of wrecked robots, and they were all wood-burning."

"That also explains where you got my warped brain chip."

It did indeed. Cyrus was beginning to regret raiding that old battleground. But there hadn't seemed to be much alternative if he wanted to ride.

As the day waned they came to a camping area. There were pie trees galore, and a nice caterpillar tent.

As they approached the tent, a young woman emerged. She looked lean and aggressive. Could she be barbarian?

"Who the bleep are you?" she demanded. "This tent is mine; I got here first. Go away."

Cyrus sifted through his data banks. "Enchanted Path Camping Sites are open to all legitimate travelers," he said. "We are legitimate."

"What, you and that dumb ass?"

"I'm an ass, but I'm not dumb," Don said. "I'm a smart ass. How smart is your ass, wench?" He eyed her posterior.

The woman stared, evidently taken aback, or at least paused in place. "You talk!"

"Let's exchange introductions," Cyrus said hastily. "I am Cyrus Cyborg, and this is Don, a robot donkey."

"He's got a bleeping potty mouth on him."

"Look who's talking, you bleeping tart."

Cyrus interposed again. "And you are?"

"Tess," she said aggressively. "Tess Tosterone. I have a problem."

Don opened his mouth. Cyrus hastily stuffed a scrounged piece of wood into it. "May we inquire what it is?"

"I'm too pushy. They tell me I need S Trojan to fix it. But I don't know who or where or what he is, so I'm irritable."

Cyrus's data bank sifted again. "Trojan is one name of the Night Stallion who runs the dream realm. The horse of a different color. But he doesn't have a first name."

"Then it must be someone else. What would I want with a horse? Your talking mule is bad enough. Now are you going to clear out of here and let me be?"

Don had chewed and swallowed the stick. "Listen, harridan —"

Cyrus made another effort to settle things politely, though her attitude was both annoying and intriguing. "We feel we have equal rights to camp here, so we won't be moving on tonight. Why do you object to sharing?"

"Because you're a man," Tess said bluntly. "All you men want only one thing."

This interested him. "What is that?"

"Don't pretend you don't know, you jerk!"

"I'm not pretending. I don't know. That's why I'm traveling to see the Good Magician. I hope he will tell me what I truly want."

Tess gazed at him, taking stock. "You're serious."

"I am a serious person, yes."

"And a cyborg."


"What's a cyborg?"

"I am a robot-human crossbreed, part alive, part machine. I am not sure in which category I best belong."

She studied him. "You look completely human."

"Yes, I am crafted to be, externally. But my bones are iron, and I have a memory bank and consciousness chip in my iron skull. I am programmed to have a human outlook. My parents assembled me carefully."

"Actually, you're one handsome male specimen, with a perfect rough-hewn face, fairly wild hair, and nice muscles."

"My mother is a barbarian. She likes that type."

"She has good taste in men. Your appearance is appealing to women."

"It is? I did not know."

"And you really don't know what all men want."

"True. The information may be in my data bank, but I need a more specific description to evoke it. If you know, I would appreciate it if you would tell me. It might save me a year's service with the Good Magician."

Tess laughed, surprising him. "It might indeed. Very well, I will share the tent with you, and maybe by morning you will figure it out for yourself."

"I doubt it. I'm sure it would be simpler if you just told me."

"Simpler, yes. More fun, no."

Was she teasing him? Teasing was another human thing Cyrus did not properly understand. There were a number of things like that, that it seemed only experience and new information could clarify. At any rate, Tess seemed to have mellowed, so he didn't question it. Maybe she would tell him in the morning.

"I'll fetch something to eat," Cyrus said. "Maybe some of those lichens."

"Don't," she said. "Those aren't like-ens, they're dislike-ens. Eat one, and you'll be unfriendly until you find and eat a like-en to cancel it. I found out the hard way."

He might have guessed. "Thank you."

"The effect wears off eventually. But why complicate things?"

They foraged for pies and had a nice dinner while Don snoozed beside the pond. Tess was companionable, now that she had accepted him as legitimate, but she seemed privately amused about something. Cyrus suppressed his annoyance.

As night closed, Tess took charge, in the aggressive way she had. "There are two bunks in the tent. You take the left one, I'll take the right one. We'll wash up first."

"As you wish," he agreed.

"Not as you wish?"

"I am amenable to whatever normal procedure is. I admit to having had little experience. It is my first journey away from home."

"What, away from your mommy?"

There was something in her tone, but it seemed a fair question. "Yes. Hannah Barbarian."

"Just how old are you, cyborg?"

"As much as two years."

"Two years! You look grown!"

"I am grown. I was delivered as a grown-man kit, in a small cat-shaped box, with some assembly required. I understand that effort drove both my parents to distraction, but in the course of the following year they managed to assemble me, and here I am."

She gazed at him assessingly. "So are you grown, or a baby? Are you familiar with the Adult Conspiracy?"

"Yes, of course. It is in my data bank. It concerns the things that children must be shielded from, such as bad words and stork summoning. Naturally I honor it to the letter; it's in my programming."

"Have you ever seen a bare woman?"

"Oh, yes, there are pictures in my data bank."

"A real one."

"No. But I'm sure I know the description."

She shook her head as if bemused. "This way." She walked to the pond.

He followed. "Actually my data indicates that strangers do not readily show their bodies in public, so perhaps I should wait in the tent until you are through."


"But then —" He paused, for she had hauled off her shirt. She was somewhat leaner than the picture in his data bank, but it was clear that she was female. "I see."

"I'll bet. Strip, Cyrus."

"As you wish." Carefully he removed his shoes, shirt, and trousers.

"Well, you look mostly human," she said.

"I am nevertheless a composite, as I said. My bones may be iron, but my flesh is alive. I am remarkably strong, but my vessels do bleed when punctured, and I feel pain."

"Look at me."

He had not looked since she removed her skirt, for some reason. Now he did as directed. Her lower half was also lean but definitely female, according to his stored images. That gave him an odd urge, but he was unable to define it. "I am looking."

"And not reacting. You definitely have had no experience." She waded into the pond.

"This is true." He followed her. Soon they were standing chest deep (or whatever) in the water. Her chest was rather more curvaceous than his. He felt slightly guilty for being intrigued.

She stood beside him, eyeing him sidelong. Her glance angled off his shoulder and chest before striking the water beyond, raising an amused ripple. "You won't short out in the water or anything?"

"No, I'm proof against short-circuiting. I don't have wires as such. Thank you for your concern."

"That was irony, pun intended, not concern."

Now he was almost certain she was teasing him, but he didn't know how to react, so he didn't. "Thank you."

Tess shook her head. "You are a wonder! Come on, I'll wash your back." Before he could figure out how to respond, she came up behind him and splashed cool water across his neck and shoulders. Then her hands rubbed against his shoulder blades, and traveled down his back, under the water. "How's that feel?"

Actually it felt good. The flesh of his back was tight from traveling, and her touch made it relax. "Satisfactory."

"That so? How about this?" Her hands moved down and squeezed his bottom.

"That feels good in a different way," he said, surprised.

"Really?" She seemed to be stifling laughter. "Now it's your turn. Do me." She turned around.

He turned to face her back. He stroked her shoulders as she had stroked his, then moved down her back, and finally squeezed her bottom. It was considerably plumper than his, despite her general leanness. There was something really evocative about it. "You have a — a nice — posterior," he said haltingly.


Excerpted from Two to the Fifth by Piers Anthony. Copyright © 2008 Piers Anthony Jacob. Excerpted by permission of Tom Doherty Associates.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Meet the Author

Piers Anthony is one of the world's most popular fantasy authors and a New York Times bestseller twenty-one times over. His Xanth novels have been read and loved by millions of readers around the world. In addition to his bestselling Xanth books, Anthony is the author of a series of historical fantasies called The Geodyssey, that makes the broad sweep of human history into very personal stories. Piers Anthony has a devoted fan following, and he daily receives hundreds of letters and emails from them. Piers Anthony lives in Inverness, Florida.
Piers Anthony is one of the world's most popular fantasy authors and a New York Times bestseller twenty-one times over. His Xanth novels, including Esrever Doom, Luck of the Draw, and Well-Tempered Clavicle, have been read and loved by millions of readers around the world. In addition to his bestselling Xanth books, Anthony is the author of a series of historical fantasies called The Geodyssey, that makes the broad sweep of human history into very personal stories. He daily receives hundreds of letters and emails from his devoted fans, whose ingenious ideas are often incorporated into Anthony’s tales. He lives in Inverness, Florida.

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Two to the Fifth (Magic of Xanth Series #32) 4.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 11 reviews.
LATeachCO More than 1 year ago
I was so happy to see this book. "Yea! A new Xanth book!" I thought. Then I started reading and the more I read the more I disliked the book and the whole concept of the 'romance' in the book. An adult male has a romance with a 12-year-old girl... but its okay because SHE seduced him(?). It's okay because she didn't look 12(?). It's okay because she wanted it to happen(?). It's okay because he is a man and therefore unable to control himself(?). I know there is magic involved and this is fantasy - But HOLY COW! These are exactly the lines, the excuses, real pedophiles use to justify what they do. It is true that a young girl can appear older, seem to want a relationship - but adults are required to act like adults and realize that children CAN"T make adult choices. The entire concept of this story is twisted and after all the years I've read Anthony's books, I thought he was smarter.
Guest More than 1 year ago
The world of Xanth is in danger (so what else is gnu I mean new). The powerful sorcerer Ragna Roc is methodically taking over villages as the bird soars to new heights with plans to be ruler of the realm. Cyrus Cyborg knows nothing about the bird or much else for that matter and is worried about his future as his robotic father expects him to be a metallic chip off the old block and his amazon mother demands he become a warrior. He does not want to be either as he lacks the metal of his biological father and the muscle of his mother. He does what everyone in Xanth with a problem does: he visits Humphrey the magician for sage advice. Cyrus asks Humphrey the wrong question and receives a response that insists he should be a playwright. As part of his Service in payment for answering the question, Humphreys explains about the evil bird mage and insists Cyrus write plays and gather a troupe to perform them. He begins his remittance gathering performers as he travels around, but also gains the interest of Ragna. Cyrus is also falling in love with one of his new players, the child Princess Rhythm, who magically makes herself older so they can make love without the Adult Compromise taking hold. The stork delivers their child Kadence who is six years old, but cryptically informs them she is Rhythm¿s sister. Taken by Ragna to his castle, the sisters battle the bird knowing that only TWO TO THE FIFTH can defeat the evil mage, but have no Xanthian idea what that means. Xanthologists will have a field day or two with the latest whimsical pun filled fantasy. The story line is the usual Humphrey quest formula of the series, but the new array of outrageously humorous word plays make for a fun adventure. Readers will enjoy Cyrus¿ lament as he has parental troubles and loves what is happening to him since he got Rhythm as they work in secret together to beat the beak.--------- Harriet Klausner
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GrannyC More than 1 year ago
What can I say.... I am a diehard fan, especialy of his Xanth books.
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