I had no idea what she meant by “the Questor,” but I was thinking something Campbellian, a stew of intrigue and heroes. I wondered what message the clipbird sent, and then wondered if I had reached true paranoia to take meaning in the … okay, deliberate releasing of a creature into the wine-coloured fog. Because, you know, maybe she just wanted to let her hair down or something like that.

“So, this Questor dude,” I started.

“He knows the maps,” she said, as if that explained anything.

“Ah, it is a conspiracy of cartographers?” I offered.

“He knows where things are,” she tried again.

“So, he’s like the human Google.”

“Human, yes.” I wondered if she knew Google. I wondered what kind of power Google had on fey authority, if any. I could only feel a faint portion of the implications before I had to think of other things.

Doloise began to walk, and I followed her, making it look natural, not like I wasn’t trying to figure out how to put together a boolean string of fey search terms. You know, something like, “plus fey, bang faerie,” and boy, does that sound more perverted than I meant. OK. Cue small talk. Distraction. Whatever.

“So he’s a wizard of finding things?” That’s not hard. Anyone with the faintest bit of will to apply to a sympathetic leaning could find something. Wizards don’t lose their car keys unless something else is interfering with them. That’s a hard and fast rule. I could even count on it.

“He knows where things are.”

“You said that,” I remarked.

“You may have heard, but you did not listen,” she replied. There was the quirk of a smile on her face, and I decided it was close enough to a real expression that maybe it wasn’t deliberately designed. They are really that tricksy, I’ve heard. Give us special facial clues so we respond like they have a sense of humour or something. “We must go to him.”

“And do we need him to find him?” I asked, but I was only being sarcastic. Call me out for not listening. Why, that reminds me of what my mother kept trying to tell me. I tried to remember what it was, and realized I’d never listened to her, either. Maybe Doloise had a point.

“No.” She answered anyway. I knew she would. The idea of, “Rhetorical question,” was one that was somewhat tricksy in light of the fey’s delight with words. “We will need to gate near, but not too near, in consideration of his protections.”

“Will it be as exciting as our last trip?”

“I do not believe I understand.” Was that another hint of a smile?

“I am not used to using portals…” I was going to add, “As methods of transportation,” but decided it was redundant and unnecessary. Ahem. I am not used to USING portals. Closing, yes. Opening, not so much. It’s like a door – anyone can shut one, but in order to open them, sometimes you need to have the right key.

And when all you have is a hammer…

“I do not know whether or not to believe you,” she said. This time, when she opened the gate, it followed some of the rules. It lit up the area using the curved column as an anchor, bits of heliotrope steam wafting back and forth, as it seemed like a strange lense, a bubble on the surface of reality.

To close this portal would be like popping the bubble, and there would be the inevitable splashback. She looked mostly relaxed, but still as if she was concentrating from the set of her jaw and the placement of her heels. (Both of which I could notice at the same time. I’m a multitasking ogler. Still, under those amber shades I couldn’t tell you what colour her eyes really were. It was beginning to bug me.) I didn’t have the same level of fear this time; maybe I was just getting used to her high magic crowd. Or maybe my system had suffered enough shock. Or maybe I had just inhaled too much of this psychedelic mulberry smoke. Enough to wonder about purple clouds and maybe purple rain, if I were a prince among men.

I needed to get out of here.