Excerpt from The Magic of Last Resort

Book Six of The Western Lands and All That Really Matters

Copyright © Andrew Einspruch, 2018. All Rights reserved.

Chapter 2

Blödsinn. Stupidité. Idiozia.


As the group stood to leave, Eloise said, “Assistant Seer to the Court Seer, can you please stay a moment? There’s something I’d like to discuss.”

“Of course, Your Highness.” Jerome climbed back up on his chair and stood with his forepaws clasped, waiting for the others to go. When the door closed behind them, he said, “What’s up, El?”

Eloise sat down and indicated for him to do the same. She drummed her fingers, trying to figure out how to phrase what she had in mind. It was a terrible idea, and she needed to figure out a way to make it sound better than it was. “Jerome, I need you to keep researching the Star of Whatever.”

The size and weight of a decent grapefruit, the Star of Whatever was an emerald-colored stone that was the most powerful and least understood magical object in all the realms. It seemed to suck the magic out of whatever it was near. Two centuries before, Melveeta the Elusive had used it to benefit her queen, Gwendolyn the Irritable, by casting a spell that laid waste to half the Northern Realm, turning it into the Half Kingdom. Ever since Eloise had taken possession of the stone and bonded to the spark of something inside it, she’d worn it in a box at her hip, making sure it didn’t fall into anyone else’s hands.

“Sure. Of course,” said Jerome. “We’ve been trying to figure it out for months now and haven’t really gotten far. But I’m happy to keep looking. Do you have anything in particular in mind?”

“I’m wondering if we can figure out how to use it.”

Jerome lifted his head. “Use it, use it?”

Eloise nodded. “Use it, use it. As in, deliberately harness it for a specific purpose.”

“El, that’s… That’s risky. You better than anyone know it’s risky. Tell me, is your right eye still blurry?”


“And your right ear. Does it still have its constant buzz?”

“It does.”

“And did they, or did they not, undergo those changes the last time you tapped into the Star of Whatever and used it in conjunction with the Orb of Alleged Omniscience?”

“What are you? A magistrate?”

“Answer the question, Your Highness.”

“Don’t go all formal on me, Jer. But yes. The blur and buzz are magical remnants from my use of the Star.”

“Permanent magical remnants, El.”

“We don’t know that they’re permanent.”

“They sure seem permanent. But, OK, persistent then. Persistent magical remnants.” Jerome hopped from his chair onto the table and walked over to her. “So why would you want to do that again?”

Eloise stood and paced the length of the table. “I’m thinking that it might…” She lowered her voice, even though no one was nearby. “I’m thinking that it might be necessary to use it.”

“Necessary?” The chipmunk tilted his head. “Necessary how?”

“As a defense.”

Jerome’s tail fluffed and his eyes saucered. “You’re kidding.” He stared at her. “You’re not kidding. Çalaht slurping a salad sandwich, El. That’s a spectacularly bad idea. A stupendously bad idea. A catastrophically, monstrously, superlatively bad idea. Blödsinn. Stupidité. Idiozia.”

“Are you quite done yet?”

“Not quite. Narishkeyt. Stultitia. Glupost. Dommheet—”

“That’ll do, Jer. I get the idea.” She massaged her right wrist, a habit she’d gotten into on the advice of a healer after the second time it was fractured. “I’m not saying I want to use the thing.”

“And I’m saying you don’t even want to contemplate using it. Why even go there?”

“I may have no choice.”

Jerome threw his paws up in the air. “Because that worked so well for Gwendolyn the Irritable. And even better for her champion, Melveeta. At least old Gwen didn’t have to spend two hundred years living a painful half existence enthralled to a spell she’d conjured that both kept her alive and fed on her. But, hey. What’s a couple of centuries of torment here or there?”

Eloise leaned over him. “At least Gwendolyn won that war.”

Jerome matched her, leaning in. “For some values of ‘winning.’ I’m not sure Melveeta would agree that she’d won much.”

“Melveeta stayed true to Gwendolyn to her last breath.” Eloise paused, remembering. “It was both sweet and incredibly sad. She said I had Gwendolyn’s eyes. Melveeta recognized my sister and me as relatives.”

“Creepy. And yes, sad.”

Eloise sat back down. “Look. It’s like you said. More than anyone, I know this idea is as cracked as a tinker’s teapot. But I’ll need to do whatever needs doing to protect my queendom. The Western Lands and All That Really Matters comes first.”

“But at what price? Because it seems like there’s always some kind of price when you use that thing.”

Eloise lifted and dropped one shoulder. “The Star of Whatever scares the stuffing out of me. It leaves me utterly stuffingless. But if Queen Aglandau is marching across my realm and my soldiers are beaten—which would hardly be a surprise, given the state of them—and I’m desperate, then I might have no choice but to use it. Believe me, I don’t want to.” She patted the box on her hip. “I want it to stay nestled in here. But I want using it to be a realistic option that won’t leave half my queendom destroyed.” She clasped Jerome’s forepaws in her hands and gave them a little squeeze. “That’s what I want from you, Jer. Help me at least keep it an option. Keep looking for information about it, and maybe we can find a way to practice without me getting maimed or permanently enslaved. Please?”

He squeezed back. “Sure. Of course I’ll help. But can you promise me something?”

“Sure. Anything.”

“If you find that you do need to use it, give me a couple months’ warning so I can get as far away from here as possible.”

“If it comes to actually using it, it’ll probably be too late for you to escape. Most of us will already be under siege. Or dead.”

“That’s a chipper thought. Çalaht slinging saucepans, I hope it doesn’t come to that.”

“Me, too, Jer. Me very much too.”