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(If you missed the first chapters, check them out online at www.newrichlandstar.com!)

The sun never set in Steinland. This much Martin remembered as he trudged through the Foggy Forest with his childhood creations, led by Fix and Bit. Still, as he peered up through openings in the trees, the pink sun (Why pink? he continually asked himself) looked more like a champagne pink instead of the hot pink he had probably used when he first created Steinland.

Fix had mentioned that everything was withering and fading under the rule of Mundrago and his magic. In fact, Martin had noticed that there wasn’t much fog in the Foggy Forest when he arrived, though it seemed to be slowly increasing again as the group marched toward the Too-Tall Tower. He stopped in his tracks; Fix and Bit seemed startled by the questioning look on Martin’s face.

“Does the fog have something to do with the magical qualities of Steinland?” he asked them. “I mean, it seems to be waxing again.” Then it dawned on him and he slapped his forehead. “Of course! It took a lot of magic to bring me here, didn’t it? That’s why the fog had dispersed.”

Bit’s whiskers twitched in approval. “Of course, Sir Martin. That’s how you designed this land, isn’t it?”

Was it? Martin was remembering more and more of his creations from years back the longer he was here. Still, he was unsure of many of the ins and outs. It was entirely possible that he had put some “rules” down with his drawings. But he hadn’t looked at those in years; they were packed away with many of his other school things in a tub in his office at home. He and Pam used to take them out and laugh at some of his crazy ideas. Of course, it was those crazy ideas that had first brought them together in Mrs. Schlereth’s class all those years back.

Pam had always wanted him to pursue his creative urges and try to latch on with a comic book company or children’s book publishing house or something. He’d never really had the gumption to follow through on any of that. Maybe if he ever got back home, he’d have to change that. After all, experiencing his creations so directly could be the inspiration he needed. Really, as he looked around at all the animals here, he was a bit impressed with himself.

Of course, he had also created Mundrago, the evil magician they were going to see. Like every teenager, Martin had gone through a dark phase. He liked reading dark fantasy and read about Saruman in Lord of the Rings with vigor. From that period had come Mundrago, though the influence of his more light-hearted creatures kept him from ever making someone of pure evil; that was one hope he had in going to talk Mundrago down from his perch in the Too-Tall Tower.

Martin suddenly noticed the argle-bargle around him and was brought back to the reality around him. “Are you all right, Sir Martin?” asked Fix with a look of concern in his face.

Martin shook his head to clear his thoughts. “Of course, sorry. I was just thinking about the magic here and about Mundrago.” A shudder ran through the group at the mention of the wizard’s name. Martin quickly added a conclusion he’d reached. “So that’s why it took Shedeerbit a couple days between trips to my world, right? The magic had to be replenished.”

“We believe so,” answered Bit. “There’s only so much to go around, and Mundrago uses so much of it for his personal reasons that there is not much left for everything else. We hesitated to even try the crossing since it might endanger other life here.”

“Life which is slowly dying,” mused Martin. He steeled himself. “Let’s keep going,” he commanded.

As the group continued on, Martin asked another question he’d thought of. “So what was Mundrago doing before taking over the Too-Tall Tower?”

“We hardly knew of him,” responded Fix. “Every now and then, a darkness would briefly settle on the land and rumors of dark magic would reach us wherever we were at the time.”

Bit picked up from there. “We knew of Mundrago, but few had ever seen him. However, a number of those here observed as he took down the magical protection around the Too-Tall Tower and wrested control of it. From that day on, we’ve felt the magic slowly ebb as he uses more and more of it to maintain himself there. Most of the living creatures have moved to the Foggy Forest and the Cozy Caves to stay nearer what seems to be concentrated magic.”

“So if Mundrago can be brought low, the magic he’s hoarding can be returned to replenish the land,” said Martin. The nods he saw gave him his answer.

The group reached the edge of the forest. “Here is where we leave you, Sir Martin,” said Fix. “We cannot continue without risking the wrath of Mundrago. Only you might have a chance of defeating him.”

“Good luck!” cried Bit as Martin turned to face the Too-Tall Tower a few miles distant. Martin glanced back just once to see most of the creatures sinking back into the forest; only Fix and Bit remained outside it to watch their creator march on to meet his malignant creation.

Word of the Week: This week’s word is argle-bargle, which means a vigorous discussion or noisy dispute, as in, “The argle-bargle both inside and outside the political conventions was immense.” Impress your friends and confuse your enemies!

 

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