“We will discuss it when our resources are not tied into this effort,” she suggested, coyly.  I noticed that Doloise’s hands had a kind of violet tinge to them.  Maybe she had been burnt.  Mentally, I had already decided to call her family the Gillikins, but had been trying to avoid “Gillikins Island” jokes from the lame wisecrack portion of the brain.  You know, the part that was caught up in all the fuss but was trying to shout, “La-la-la-la-I-Can’t-Hear-You,” because it didn’t want to deal with the ideas of just how far up we were and after all of that, no one remembered to even pack a paddle.

I wondered momentarily if Toto was an analogue of R2D2.  I focused back on the issue and pressed the point. “I want to know I have the necessary resources to handle this.  I need a distraction for the main Power so that I can observe the portal firsthand.  I may need tools I do not have with me.  I need to be able to access them in a hurry in exact quantities.”  I thought hard.  “I may need physical or magical back-up.  I may need to address additional resources, all considerations relevant only to the goal of the event at hand, explanations given but at a time of my choosing.”  I took a breath.  “If this is acceptable, I will see which is the best route for your Power at hand, and make my professional decision as to whether or not to strand it away from its foci or source or if we can push it back, willingly or not.”

She committed it to memory.  Truth is, there are spells that can help you with that.  Maggie said mnemonics were just magical shortcuts anyway.  I thought they were a musical expression, but then again, I’m an undereducated dolt.  Well, she said it.  Once.  In the middle of an argument, which meant her defenses were down so she must have thought that way, right?

There’s a philosophy (Buddhist, I believe, in origin, but I may be incorrect) that suggests that you attract the things you need into your life.  Sometimes they’re the things you need to learn, sometimes they’re the things you need to grow, sometimes they’re the things you need to sever a connection that will poison you.   This is made more potent by acts of will; Maggie keeps telling me that coincidence doesn’t factor in with practitioners.  That we drive magic to fulfill even the wishes and longings that we can’t articulate.

Doloise was (and now that I took a few minutes to look at her) perfectly my type in a lot of ways.  Too much in some.  Physically I had been trying very hard to ignore her.  She had the legs, and the manicured look.  She was polished so hard she gleamed.   She could glitter in the sunlight if she wanted to, I’d bet.  She was a little too white for my tastes, a tad bit too angular, but I like to think I’m equal-opportunity when it comes to my lechery.  I tried to figure out what it was that made her off my list, since the hindbrain wasn’t poking its little head up to take a peek.  To mix a metaphor.  Or two.

Fear, sure, but that can be a turn-on in certain situations.  I think maybe it was a combination of her trying a bit too hard to look human, and her being so far out of my league.

All of this thought, yes, in the time it took her to run her hands through her hair and remove the black clip from those strange yellow-orange curls.  I like to think I think fast under pressure.

“Your terms are acceptable.”  The clip changed shape in her hand, and turned into a black bird, something nastier than a raven or a crow.  At least, it had a long beak designed specifically to poke your eyes out.

I don’t like birds.  Can’t trust them.  I once appreciated them, but, well, nevermore.

It danced on the palm of her hand.  “We will find the Questor, and he will tell us the best place to observe the portal.  From then on, I will be guide and guardian.”  She made a motion like she was throwing the bird, and it made an evil clackety noise in the air as it flew towards the misty mountains.

From then on, but not before, I noticed.  I was still in danger.