Arlyle held up the badger, glaring at him.

“Who are you? Who sent you? How do you know I exist?”

“Ari!” Bethany gasped.

“He wants something!” Arlyle snapped. “And seems to know who I am. He even knows my nickname!”

“I said it!” Bethany said.

The badger gurgled something. Arlyle looked at him, and realized she was squeezing too tight for him to breathe. She loosened her grip, and he repeated.

“Thelonius Bricklebook, the fourth. I was sent my the Witch of the Murky Meadows, my adoring little witch for whom I am employed as familiar. And as to how I know you exist, if would be so kind as to let me reach my hole.”

Arlyle was going to obliterate him out of existence, but Bethany’s disapproval quelled that notion immediately. She released Bricklebook, who promptly scurried into his hole.

“I knew it wasn’t going to be easy to persuade the most powerful being in six counties, but really!” He scrambled through the hole, looking for his accoutrements. “I made it here posthaste, and yet retained my high standards of cleanliness!”

“You did!” Bethany called down the hole. “You’re one of the best-looking badgers I’ve ever talked to!”

Bricklebook stuck his snout out of the hole. “Little ma’am, I am a familiar, not an ordinary badger. I am almost certainly the first badger you have talked to.”

“Fifth, actually.” Bethany said. “The Raspthickets were nice, but not really clean-minded.”

As Arlyle thoroughly calmed herself, she noticed the spell trinket now clutched in the badger’s paw. She snatched it out of his grasp, and stared at it.

“A power attractor. Measuring magnitude and magical force, set over a distance of…a league or so?” When the badger nodded, she felt much better. He wasn’t looking for the Scourge of Darrenfell, just the most powerful being. That was manageable.

Bethany crouched next to the hole, and patted his head. “We’re sorry, Mr. Bricklebook. Ari doesn’t really like being snuck up on, and it seemed that way.”

“Announcing my presence without our intention was perhaps obtuse of me,” The badger admitted. “I will attempt to clarify.

“My employer and closest friend, Clissandra the Witch of the Murky Meadows, has been set upon by a horde of vandalous spellcasters. They are tearing apart the grasslands, disrupting her spellwork, and being a general nuisance that is bordering on dangerous. They are more than she can handle, and getting worse. She sent me to find the most powerful being in the county to deal with them.

“Would you please aid us in this quest?”

Arlyle looked at Bethany.

“Is the Witch a nice witch?” Bethany asked.


Bethany frowned.

“That means yes,” Arlyle clarified.


copyright 2018 Jack Holder

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