Jeanette was alarmed by the motion, but she identified it as Grandmère’s long powerful arm reaching over her back and feeling for something. The hand tapped along her necklace with a delicate touch, and, finding the proper jewel, tapped it harder. The sound of the battle muffled as a shield covered them all. Jeanette had actually thought of the shielding power, but she hadn’t wanted to safeguard herself only--but the orangutan took the chance.


What looked like a nest of giant fang-mouthed worms started coming through the broken windows. “What is that?” Shouted Dr. Ransom at the paladins of Broceliande.

“Never seen this before!” Answered Sir Ogier, who nonetheless had his sword out and swung powerful strokes at the things, as were the others. The worms were slimy and flexible, and the blades slid off the surface without biting. They had more success chopping at the fangs, but the mouths seemed to extrude new ones.


At the center of a tight circle of their armed companions, in a wrecked house lit only by flames of its burning wreckage, Terence Ransom kept administering CPR to his daughter with the tormenting voice in his head that she had to be dead. She couldn’t be alive after all this time, it said. She’s still not breathing. While the Paladins, the tiger, orangutan and capybara were still hacking away at the tubular mouths of the attacking monster, surely they must be thinking the same thing, coupled with “Poor guy…”


Terence Ransom sat at his daughter’s bedside with his hand resting on her forehead. All he would have to do was take off her gloves and her orchid and she would be back on Earth, and safe. She would remember nothing.

God, did he have the right to do that?

Did he have enough courage to take the coward’s way out?


The arm reaching up from the hole in the table was his wife’s, Terence Ransom was sure of it: size, proportion, lack of muscle tone, everything. And it wore their wedding ring. She might still be wearing it, since she had decided to keep their married name. But by going through that period of reasoning, he didn’t go with his first impulse, which was to grasp the hand. He lowered his arm.


To Grandmère Hutan, the city of Avalon was perhaps the most civilized city she had ever been in. She realized this was self-centered, but the idea of a great city so interwoven with trees, would be, to others, like having a metropolis having couches and playgrounds every few yards--not to mention free refreshment stands. She started to range wide among the trees--at least until she felt the protected sensation she had gotten used to in the city leave her.


There were several things competing for Terence Ransom’s attention: There were the giants raining giant boulders down on him; there was King Oberon, the being of vast power he had been counting on, unconscious in his harms; another giant attacking his friend Lord Silvertyger Elphinstone, who was fighting, for the first time in Terence’s experience, without armor; and there were the giant boulders completely blocking the tunnel mouth that was their way out of this unfriendly universe.


The team of attendants assigned to Jeanette were in the room, as the companions came in: Lord Silvertyger Elphinstone, Senhor Capoeira Capybara, Grandmère Hutan, Thyrsis and Antithyrsis the crows, and Jeanette’s father  Terence Ransom. The paladins from Broceliande, Sirs Amadis, Ogier, and Huom had come in behind the tiger: all four had entered with swords drawn, but sheathed them when no enemy seemed present. King Oberon came in with a retinue of guards, but dismissed them since that nearly filled the capacious bedroom.


Dr. Ransom stood before Lord Silvertyger Elphinstone, by turns angry, bewildered, and finally guilty. Still, he held on to the stone.

“I saw your face and your hands as you watched Jeanette. I knew you had something you wanted to bring to bear on her plight. I also knew in was shameful.”

“What do you mean, shameful?” Despite the towering presence of the armored tiger, despite the fact that he knew this terrible warrior didn’t play games, he bristled.


“What do you say--two hundred dragons?” Sir Amadis asked as they wheeled overhead.

“Maybe two hundred fifty,” said Sir Ogier.

“And that close to the water, probably not a lot of worthwhile fire among them.” Added Sir Huon.

“Still--a good day’s work,” Said Amadis.

“Remember--our first concern should be for the protection of our charges. Our companion Lord Elphinstone will be wroth with us--again--if we jeopardize their safety.” said Sir Ogier.