I tried to listen to the many conversations, and ended up instead focusing on those few people who remained silent.  Nen.  Rayya.  The Seven King.  Even the musicians seemed annoyed or concerned; it was hard to tell. They weren’t even as … human as my roommates.

I thought about that.  Roommates.  Roommates who had decided to invade my space, kind of literally, and create some kind of pocket kingdom in my house.  I was displeased about this.  Maybe I was getting soft in my old age about closing all the open doors, but just because my place was now slightly bigger on the inside, I wasn’t… it didn’t feel like a violation.  I don’t know what the difference was.  It didn’t feel that weird. It felt a lot like home.

If you thought about it, and I had on and off, maybe part of it was because I’d been partially raised by these books. I spent years visiting my friends and recalling their adventures. I had instincts I’d developed and moral quandaries I had navigated from maps of ridiculous situations into which only someone like myself could stumble.  I could find my way around the Kathseide in the dark, bargain with Puppeteers, survive the Badlands of Hark (maybe), but finishing college seemed ridiculous at this point, and buying a car was a burden I was still delaying.

I made a note to myself to write a fabulously funny fantasy novel about buying a car so I could feel better about it.  Then I made a note to myself about the hazards of thinking I could become a writer.  The notes to myself were beginning to pile up when someone asked me a question and I was pushed out of my introspection.

“Um, no,” I said.  “My current kind of quest is to find a demon and send it back to where it belongs.  Get behind me and all that.”

“Drama much?” the Questor’s wife teased. “Seriously, though, you should ask the Questor. That’s what he does.”

“Yeah, and I don’t want to just be another person using him,” I said. “I guess I feel pretty strongly about taking advantage of something he really can’t control.  It’s like… I don’t know… kissing a succubus. It’s not their motive: it’s their being, and they deserve consent, too.”

“True enough, but if I asked you to close this little door I knew about, how would you feel?” she asked.

“Like I should go do it as a favor to a friend,” I said, automatically.  “It’s different when it’s you asking the favor, though. How would you feel?”

She chuckled, and there was still an aspect of teasing to it.  “Maybe like I was keeping you out of trouble.  Why aren’t there any witches here?” she asked.

That was not a question I was expecting. “I’m sure there’s some kind of adage about spoiling the brew, or too many broomsticks a la that apprentice’s folly, but I really don’t know.  Maybe they didn’t want to invite any of my ex-girlfriends?” I frowned.  “You know, they can’t all be witches.”

“Why not?” she tee-hee’d.  I mean, I’d read the phrase in text, but I had never expected to hear it in real life.

I found myself grinning despite the plaintiveness of the situation.   “Tee hee indeed,” I said, loftily.  “I don’t want to seem racist.  Or bigoted on any spectrum. I definitely am, of course; I know how I like ’em.  The phrasing of which makes me totally sexist, too.  But I’m not sure what the equivalent is for witches. It’s not like I seek them out.  I just keep finding that all the women I know for more than a couple minutes are, shall we say, ‘magically-inclined’?  It’s got to be a curse.”

“Or a blessing, thank you very much,” she said, mock-affronted.

“Or a blessing,” I gave in quickly.

She grinned again.

Ed and Zach were looking this way, so I waved them over.  “You know Ed?” I asked while they made their way past the table where all sorts of chocolates and fruits were being displayed.

“I know Zach,” she said. “Ed you’ve mentioned a few times.”

I nodded, as Zach bowed his head and grabbed her hands.  “Misko! I was just talking to Ed about the Questor.  Misko, this is Ed, Ed, Misko,” he said, letting go.

“I’ve heard a lot about you,” Ed said, and they shook.

“Hmmm,” I heard myself say.

“Hmmm?” the Questor’s wife asked.

“Sorry, thinking. Is Misko a good use-name?”  I had actually been thinking about clasping hands, and the role it played versus shaking them.

“Is your name really Erysichthon?” she asked me, teasingly.

“That doesn’t roll off the tongue,” I noted, impressed. “`Eegaiarasan’ was the best off-the-cuff guess I think I’ve heard. Wrong country of origin, but what a name, eh?  I also liked ‘Eiel’ for the meaning.”

“I’m not familiar with it?” she said, curious.

“`Born to inspire fright,’ I believe,” I reported.

Ed snorted. “You’re more a ‘Born to be Mild,’ type, E.”

Zach shrugged. “The calmest person may just be expressing the eye of a storm somewhere else.  Except he and I,” he glanced at me with a grin, “would probably argue that that suggests a doorway needed to be closed.”

I nodded, having to agree. “Of course, if they could channel a storm, I’d be totally curious as to what kind of creature they were, and what rules applied.  Know of any?” After all, if I could ask anyone, the people I’d ask were kind of in the room.

“Is talking shop verboten at one of these?” Ed asked.

“Your kind,” I said with a firm tone. “You start talking shop and I have sympathetic itches.”

“Sympathetic?” he asked. “Itches for me? How nice.”

I rolled my eyes.

“Nah, he means First Law sympathetic. You talk about bugs and someone conjures them,” Zach teased, catching Misko’s glance.

“Nuh-uh,” she said. “The only bugs I like are the ones that get rid of ickier ones, and we don’t need a herd of tarantulas.”

“Herd?” I asked.

“Clutter.  Or cluster, but I like the first more,” said Ed, and well, he was the one who should know.