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April 16, 2006



Actually Skeeter liked to read and owned quite a few books... After the past week’s isolation they could be found strewn over the carpet and heaped on desk and chair.  One was in bed with her now, the very best book of all time: and that, of course, was Bagelanna.

—The Ups and Downs of Skeeter Kitefly 

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A Tale of the Thrice-Ten Realms

I  —  If Bagels Were Horses

Anna o'Jrebma is born to a family of bakers in the Tablish town of Kozeppont.  From childhood she manifests great power as a "speller," but since she lacks patrician blood this skill is confined to breadmaking.  By the age of thirteen she runs the bakery, but is troubled by cryptic dreams.

II  —  The Sarvulo

A Sarvulo (legendary flying horned-horse) comes to Kozeppont in search of Bagelanna.  Her family presumes this to be an imperial summons—"Perhaps the Emperor's heard tell of our Anna's bagels"—but the great winged beast says only that it has been sent to fetch her; no clue as to why.  Bagelanna impatiently packs a bagelbag and goes along, saying she must be back in time to see to the ovens.

III  —  The Vaeresh Beast

The Sarvulo flies Bagelanna to the Forest of Galagonya.  Their way is blocked by a serpentine Vaeresh Beast; the Sarvulo, unable to remember the password, decides it has no choice but to fight.  After a furious battle the two beasts slay each other, leaving the aggrieved Bagelanna alone in the Forest.  Before it (literally) passes away, the Sarvulo remembers the password: "Tengeren Túli."

IV  —  The Gobbogoki's Ghaanks

Feeling herself drawn further into Galagonya, Bagelanna comes to the dwelling of a three-headed Gobbogoki and is hired to look after his ghaanks.  Her fellow ghaankherdesses are querulous Damsels in Silver and in Gold; Bagelanna saves them all from the gluttonous (but myopic) Gobbogoki, feeding him three ghaanks in their stead.

V  —  Damsels in Silver and in Gold

Fleeing the ghaankland, Bagelanna has to quell spats and tiffs between the Damsels, and overcome their scorn for herself as a "peasant-wench."  Though their spellcraft is more polished and genteel than Bagelanna's, it's hers that can kindle campfires and keep them sheltered as they go deeper into the Forest.

VI  —  Ishkiuppu

Stumbling across a dark wisp of a beggar-lad, they save him from starvation (though Bagelanna's bagelbag is far from full).  The lad thanks them in ornate language, claiming to be the Emperor's son on a marvelous quest, just like in the fables of yore!  Bagelanna and the Damsels think him a raving mooncalf, but listen to his story.

VII —  A Shadow of Royalty

The tale of Archprince Ishkiuppu, born to the Emperor Budel and Empress Ineki thanks to the advice of a granny-dame who turns out to be Gruelm of the Greathag Hexarchy.  As reward she demands Budel's crown, sending both the Emperor and his empire into a decline.  Young Ishkiuppu, blamed for these woes by his tosspot uncle Prince Sothel, vows to go challenge Gruelm and win back his father's crown.

VIII  —  Footfalls and Teardrops

Still feeling drawn on (and more so the farther and deeper she goes), Bagelanna leads the Damsels and Ishkiuppu to a hedge of hawthorn trees surrounding a hexagonal portal.  Seeking admittance, they are surprised to find a weepy little maidservant as gatekeeper.  For her part, the tiny-voiced Triftay is taken aback by their being a baker-girl, two Damsels and a mooncalf.  Even so, their arrival has been anticipated.

IX  —  The Stronghold of the Greathags

Triftay conducts them into the underground Stronghold of the Greathag Hexarchy.  In its central thronechamber sits the aged ashen Gruelm, last survivor of her order. She welcomes Bagelanna (ignoring Ishkiuppu's grandstand demands) and explains her summons as an alarum: fresh reinforcements with spellcraft power are urgently needed, lest the way to the Thrice-tenth Realm be lost forever.  Bagelanna & Co., raised "orthodoxly," think this to be the Realm Beyond the Sea; Gruelm corrects them, saying it is in fact the Realm Beyond the Seen.

X  —  The Realm Beyond

The Greathags had long sought to reach this realm; misunderstanding their aims, the long-ago Emperor Alonce had blockaded the Sea and made war on Galagonya.  The Hexarchy retaliated by slaying Alonce and his sons, and capturing the Archprincess Alionca—needing her prodigious spellcraft to achieve their end.  Rather than abet the Greathags, Alionca transformed the passageway to Beyond into a labyrinth woven about herself.  Should she perish within this labyrinth, the Thrice-tenth Realm will be unreachable.  Five of the six Greathags have succumbed in the struggle to keep Alionca alive and the passage open: hence Gruelm's spellbinding tocsin.

XI  —  Tengeren Túli

Hearing that the Realm Beyond is called Tengeren Túli, Bagelanna agrees to enter the labyrinth leading there.  Aided by Gruelm's counsel, she is able to track down Alionca at the heart of the maze.  The Archprincess proves impervious and unreceptive till Bagelanna, fully tapping into her own powers for the first time, resurrects the Sarvulo from the Back of Beyond.  Alionca allows the labyrinth to give way and herself to be flown out of the Thrice-tenth Realm.

XII  —  Coronets and Caravans

Gruelm expires, her power exhausted, but the Realm Beyond remains accessible.  Alionca, taking Ishkiuppu at his word, insists on accompanying him to his father's realm and assert her right to the imperial title.  Ishkiuppu leads the way (guided by Bagelanna riding the Sarvulo) to the Easterkingdom, where it turns out he truly is the son and heir of Emperor Budel—but a mooncalf regardless, declaring that a couple of coronets he'd swiped from the Greathag Stronghold were his father's crown, magically remade.

XIII  —  Would Witches Be Fried?

Alionca is proclaimed Empress and takes Sothel the Tosspot as consort; they return to Galagonya with the Damsels in Silver and in Gold, to maintain the gateway to Beyond.  Triftay weds Ishkiuppu, now the Easterprince, who writes an elaborate geste about his adventures—adding a talking chicken-bird and an army of enchanted oak-trees, while relegating Bagelanna to comedy relief.  The Sarvulo returns her to Kozeppont, where Bagelanna strides into the bakehouse, dusts off her hands, and lights the oven.

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