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Chapter 9: Tea for Two Whichfore Art Thou, Aralia


— Sorcerers Almanac, Section Six:

On the Successful Use of Magic

Erwyn stared a moment more at the two Aralias. “Listen, uh, Aralia—”

“Yes, sweetcheeks?” They responded, once more in unison.

“Which one of you is the real Aralia?”

“I am.” They said together. “No, you’re not, I am!” The two sorceresses each took a threatening step toward the other. “You are not!” It looked for a moment like they would come to blows.

Excuse me!” Erwyn glared at them both. “I have a little problem.” Several, actually, but he needed to resolve one in particular before he could even begin to think about the others. “I found this little hideaway of yours the same way you did and, uh...”

“And what?” The left-hand sorceress crossed her arms over her chest and leaned against a convenient slab of rock.

Erwyn took a deep breath to steady himself before continuing. “And I haven’t the faintest idea of where I am. I also don’t really know any transportation spells to get us out of here.” The Aralias looked as if they were going to question him on the subject, so he rushed on. “Even if I did, it wouldn’t do any good, because I’m not sure where we were before we were here. And I think the two of you are over my weight limit, anyway. You know what I mean?”

“Yeah, I know what you mean.” The right-hand Aralia sighed.

“Uh-huh,” added the Aralia on the left. “You mean we’re up the creek.”

“Couldn’t you do something? You’re supposed to be a fourth-level Master, er, Masters.”

“No can do, sugar.”

“Yeah. We’re not sure whether it was the transport spell that did it, or the duplication spell, but the fact is we’re powerless.”

“You sure?”

“Yup.” Aralia Left made a complicated gesture involving several fingers and one elbow. “See? Not even a fireball.”

“So how are we going to get out of here?” Erwyn wondered about the hand gestures, but decided to save his question for later as he slumped onto the damp floor of the cave.

“We were sort of hoping you’d come equipped with an answer.”

The Aralia he’d been thinking of as “Aralia Right” started pacing the cave. After watching her for a few steps, Erwyn realized that “Left” and “Right” were not going to work to identify them.

“How could I?” he finally answered her question. “I stumbled into that transport spell while trying to figure out what had happened to you.” He paused, trying to decide what, if anything, he could do. The cut on Aralia’s arm caught his attention. “Okay, first things first. Let’s get that arm bandaged.”

He ripped a piece from Aralia One’s robe.

“Hey! What do you think you’re doing?”

“I’m going to dress your wound.” He indicated the cut, which Aralia apparently had not noticed yet.

He ripped the cloth down the middle, then rained on one of the pieces. After using the wet scrap to clean the wound, he used the remaining piece to bind it. Next, he checked her for additional unnecessary openings. There weren’t any.

Relieved, he turned to Aralia Two, who had already ripped two pieces off her robe. She handed them to him without a word.

“What happened, anyway? I noticed the trace of magic left by the spell. I was just too dumb to know what to do about it.” He finished tying off the bandage. Now, he could tell them apart. A knot for Aralia One and a bow for Aralia Two. “How’d it catch you?”

Both Aralias blushed dark red and Erwyn wasn’t sure he wanted to hear the answer, after all. Especially in stereo.

“I was kind of occupied.”

“Occupied.” Erwyn raised one eyebrow, the way Chesric did when he wanted more information.


He didn’t say anything.



“Okay, I was dancing.” They blushed again.

It took Erwyn several beats to find his voice. “You were dancing?!”

“Uh-huh.” Both of them suddenly found their cuticles much more interesting than looking Erwyn in the eye.

“Mind if I ask why?”

“Well, uh...” Aralia One adjusted her robes nervously.

“Actually...” Aralia Two looked across the cave, pleading. “You tell him. You’re the one who claims to be the original me.”

“Seems to me you laid some claim to that honor yourself.”

They stared at each other for a moment before nodding. “Together,” they said together. Then they turned to Erwyn. “Some people cast spells by singing, some by reciting incantations or boiling potions.” They paused.

“Uh-huh.” Erwyn didn’t know what else to say as the pause stretched into almost a full minute. “And?”


Now it was Erwyn’s turn to stare. “Um, I don’t remember any instructions in the spell books on how to perform spells using dance.” They didn’t have instructions for just thinking or feeling the spells, either. But that wasn’t much different from reading them aloud. Making the adjustment was fairly straightforward. Most of the time.

“That’s the problem, sugar. There aren’t any. I had to pretty much come up with my own.” The “original” Aralia blushed again

“And I don’t think I ever noticed you dancing before.”

“Well,” Aralia Two picked up the explanation, “the dance doesn’t have to be complicated or flashy.”

“Yeah, sometimes it only requires wiggling a finger or tapping a foot.” Aralia One cut in.

That explained the hand gestures.

They sighed. “But for what I wanted to do, I needed something more elaborate.”

“So, basically, you weren’t paying attention to your surroundings.”

“Uh,” they looked like they were trying to think of a good defense. They failed. “Yeah.”

“And now it’s up to me to figure a way out of here because you danced your way into a serious power shortage. That’s just terrific!”

Both Aralia’s stared at the ground, their lips trembling. Erwyn reconsidered his approach. Maybe losing his temper wasn’t the right way to handle this.

“Listen, Aralia, I’m sorry.” He softened his voice and lowered the volume a little. The Aralias looked up at the change in his tone. “I didn’t mean to yell at you like that. It’s just that...”

The expressions on both Aralias turned suddenly to ones of pure terror. Confused, Erwyn started to stammer another apology, uncertain how he had frightened them. But it wasn’t anything he’d done that had terrified them. They stared, not at him, but past him.

Slowly, the young sorcerer turned, not quite certain he wanted to find out what had frightened the Aralias, but not willing to die ignorant. He stopped cold, gaping at the creature in front of him—all seven and a half feet of it, with huge shocks of bristly fur and fangs six inches long.

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