The Usher



Chapter1        "TheSwirling Mists"

Deep in thecaverns of Ord, Sindor was disturbed. He decided to call for Soag. Silently, theblack mist seeped out from under Sindor’s chamber door, pausing only slightlybefore crawling in all directions at once–hundreds of hands attached to theblackness of a single arm.

The evil Sindor senses that one of the fivestaffs of power has been found. He sends Grilla and Grat, the incompetent pairwho lost it in the first place, to find it.


Chapter2        "AMost Unusual Problem"

"I must gethome," he said aloud, and the mist picked up his words. Suddenly, swirlingall around him was his own cry, "I must get home," words racing,blurring together into a mournful wail that made his mind reel. Pim stumbled,first in one direction and then another, but there was not a speck of light tobe seen anywhere. The wailing became louder, and Pim sank to his knees, and thencollapsed, still struggling for control of his mind. "Home, home,home!" it shrieked. Then, suddenly, there was light–brilliant light–andthe mist was gone.

Pim is the adolescent boy who found the staffin the woods, thinking it was just a plain, old walking stick. The staff revealsa bit of its power there in the woods and Pim has a vision where he sees and isseen by all the other staff-wielders. Finding himself back home after losingconsciousness in the forest, Pim thinks it is all a dream and tells his AuntMarion (his guardian since the deaths of his parents) only that he has had anightmare. Marion reminds Pim that Pim’s friend Marshall carried him homeunconscious from the woods the night before and Pim becomes fearful again. Hegoes to visit his friend Bubot and his sister, Annar.


Chapter3        "MagicSticks"

If Mr. Webb saidmore than that, no one heard him. Everyone was too busy watching the brightlight that came up from the floor and circled around him like a corkscrew. Tothe three it seemed brighter than anything they had ever seen, yet they had notrouble looking at it. Bubot wanted very much to run for the door, but somehowhe couldn’t make his body move from the couch. Pim also watched in a daze, notentirely sure that he shouldn’t go back home to bed and start the day over. Ina moment the light was gone, and Mr. Webb looked troubled. Annar looked moretroubled, and Bubot wasn’t looking at all.

 "Pim,"said Mr. Webb, "you must go home at once." Mr. Webb’s face wasgrave. "Your Aunt Marion is in danger."

Bubot and Annar go to Pim’s house to seethe magical stick for themselves. Not only does it reveal its nature to them,but it is spotted by the prying eyes of Alof, a suspicious neighbor with an eyefor Pim’s Aunt Marion. Frightened, the children go to visit the eccentric butwise Mr. Webb who rushes them back home with a warning.


Chapter4            "Kidnapped"

When two shallbe united
And five become as four,
Then screams will shatter peaceful dreams,
And five will be once more.
‘Til the dawn of the Mage’s Moon.

When stoneshall reunite the lost
And light complete the meld,
The Usher stand; the door at hand
Or the darkness be not quelled.
At the dawn of the Mage’s Moon.

The heir ofthem that needless died,
The Usher yet is hidden.
And thus will stay until that day
When he steps forth unbidden
In the dawn of the Mage’s Moon.

Pim and his friends return home to find thehouse ransacked and Aunt Marion missing. William, a kindly town leader isleading an investigation. Pim collects some things and returns to Mr. Webb’swith Bubot and Annar. Mr. Webb fills them in on the nature of the staff Pim hasfound and the prophecy about it. He tells about the Orgilstone, once used tounite two of the five staffs of power to rule the Inner Dominions, and tells themurderous tale of how the staff and stone were lost. Mr. Webb volunteers to findAunt Marion’s kidnappers with the able assistance of his magical spider,Horace, while the three friends go in search of the Orgilstone.


Chapter5        "EnemiesIn The Dark"

Bubot had gonealmost a mile before realizing that his sister was not in sight. "Confoundlittle sisters!" he said as he turned back to find her, "They’realways getting themselves lost." He had not gone far when he heard thesound of two people running. Bubot ducked into the bushes by the side of theroad. Soon the pair were running by and Bubot could see that one of them was hissister. "Annar!" he shouted, and the two stopped. Bubot climbed out ofthe tangled shrubbery only to find a tall figure threatening him with a verysharp-looking knife. "Yipe!" cried Bubot and jumped back into thebushes.

Grilla and Grat try to make their way to EastKenting to find the staff. Mr. Webb advises Pim and his friends to leave EastKenting and to search for the Orgilstone in Tarn, one of the Kingdoms that onceheld the staff, kingdoms where Pim’s parents lost their lives as royalservants. Mr. Webb helps each of the three friends to discover their racialheritage and the special gifts that accompany that race. Bubot and Annar returnhome to collect supplies for their journey, but are intercepted by the sinisterMrs Kimball on the road. When they finally return to Mr. Webb’s, Pim’sfriend Marshall is added to their company.


Chapter6        "UnwantedCompanions"

Bubot sleptfitfully and awakened several times. Once he thought he saw a shadow deeper thanthe rest moving among the trees, but memories of his faulty eyesight at Mr.Webb’s kept him from waking the others, and soon he was back in a nightmare ofspiders and knives. The others all slept soundly and without dreams. ButBubot’s eyes had not deceived him, and as the party slept, the shadowy figurecrept stealthily toward Pim.

Mr. Webb prepares a farewell feast for thegroup, helps them get organized, and gives them magical gifts to use along theway. Mrs. Kimball reports to Sindor that she is progressing toward obtaining thestaff. Her pharmacist husband continues to slowly poison Dora, an elderlyresident of East Kenting, with the pills he provides for her. Marion, bound andgagged in a closet, overhears the plot and later tries to warn Dora when shepasses by a window. We learn that Alof works for the Kimballs.

Having left Mr. Webb’s, Pim and his companyspend their first night in the wild. They are dramatically awakened when Aloftries to steal the staff and Pim’s dog, Wolf, lunges and bites Alof’s leg.Alof hobbles off, wounded and without the staff. The friends decide to post awatch. During Bubot’s watch another intruder appears, frightening them all.This one is merely a nuisance young man from town, Fat Ralph.


Chapter7        "Dora"

Mr. Webb listenedin astonishment. "Then," she continued, "One of them came at mewith a knife, but I managed to loosen a big curtain just in time to let it dropon him. Well, he struggled like the dickens to get out from under that curtain,running this way and that around the room. The light wasn’t so good, since itwas the middle of the night and only a couple of candles were lit, and when hisfriend saw him, he ran shrieking from the room, yelling something about theKing’s ghost. When the poor fellow under the curtain heard his friendscreaming, he must have thought the whole castle had set on them, because hefollowed the screams right out the door, curtain and all!"

Marshall confronts Fat Ralph and theydiscover that he was simply following a trail of candy wrappers that Annar haddropped as she munched her way from East Kenting to their campsite. As much aseveryone would like a different arrangement, they decide that Fat Ralph mustjoin their company. It is to dangerous for anyone to travel back toward thetown.

Back in East Kenting, Mr. Webb isinvestigating the kidnapping. He overhears the senile Dora talking to somebushes, as is her somewhat odd custom. As she mentions an actual conversationwith bushes outside the Kimballs, Mr. Webb decides to invite her home fordinner. He encourages her to take the advice of the "bushes" at theKimballs’ home and not take her medication. Reluctantly she agrees and remainsunder his care. After several days her mind is clear and she realizes whysomeone would be trying to kill her. She was the only living witness to themurder of the King and Queen. Agreeing that the Kimballs probably held Marion,they hatched a plan.


Chapter8        "TheSpider’s Web"

Suddenly Mrs.Kimball screamed as William picked her up by the collar. Mr. Webb was rightbehind him and held Mr. Kimball fast. Reaching out with his other arm for Alof,William did not see the knife until it had pierced his chest several times. Heslumped to the ground, and Mrs. Kimball sprang free. Alof, now crazed with thetaste of blood, lunged at Mr. Webb, only to be caught in a sticky substance thatburned his skin. Horace stood bigger than ever in the doorway, and the threeassailants were instantly bound together in a strong web.

Dora and Mr. Webb carry out their plan tofind and rescue Marion. They are successful, although the kindly town leader,William, is killed in the fray. The Kimballs and Alof are put in prison. Mr.Webb fills Marion in on the adventures of Pim and the others and tells her oftheir mission to find the Orgilstone. Marion reveals that she has the Orgilstone,given to her for safekeeping by Dora, who picked it up the night of the murders.

The Kimballs call on the power of Soag,Sindor’s chief advisor, to free them from prison. Grilla and Grat finallyarrive in East Kenting only to find that they are too late and that boy andstaff have left town.


Chapter9        "Enchantments"

"‘Don’tworry," continued the wizard, "The rest of you will be set free assoon as we have gone." He tugged on the rope, but Ralph would not move."Goodness, you are a troublesome lot!" he said, exasperated."Fortunately, I have completed my training for a few spells." Hedorwaved his arms again, and there was a puff of orange smoke. Where Ralph had beenstanding there was now a sapling oak. "Rats," said Hedor. "Ireally did pass this spell once–but just barely. Let me see." He wavedhis arms again, and when the smoke cleared, a small cat had replaced the oak."Oh, no, no, no!" cried Hedor, each "no!" followed by a loudsneeze. "I’m quite allergic to cats!" Quickly he waved his arms athird time, and the cat became a rather pudgy rock. "Well," he said atlast, "it wasn’t what I had intended, but he’s easy to carry this way,and he can’t bite." With that he picked up the new Ralph and carried himoff into the woods.

As the companions travel along, suddenlyRalph finds himself stuck to the ground. He has been grounded by Hedor, awizard-in-training who needs the left arm of a fat boy to complete a spell andget his first stars. As Pim and the others try to plan a rescue, they find–orrather are found by–Konn, a dragon in search of a tasty lunch. A twist of fatechanges the dragon from foe to friend and Konn, long the nemesis of Hedor, helpsthe group to rescue Ralph. Konn then agrees to fly the companions over themountains to the border of Tarn.


Chapter10      "GuestsOf Honor"

"The mind ofa warrior, Pim, is always on the task," said Borghild. "We are focusedon what we are doing. While we are at work, we work, and because of that wefinish soon enough to have time in the evenings for feasting and play. Theemotions of the Melnir run deep, they are simply held in check when there aretasks to be done. It would hardly do to be in the midst of battle and suddenlybe overcome with grief for lost comrades or fear of death or capture. Evencompassion for the enemy could mean that we lose our grasp on a greatergood."


Pim thought aboutthat for a bit. Maybe it was the Melnir blood in his veins that had allowed himto put the grief over Aunt Marion deep inside him and concentrate on the taskthat could save not only her, but all of them. But maybe it was also the Melnirreserve that kept him from hearing the music of life or from feeling the fullforce of a love that was strong enough to summon the Light.

At last reaching the fortress city of Tarn,Pim and his friends are welcomed as honored guests. After a royal feast withmagical entertainment, they are told that the advice of the King and Queen willrequire them to remain in Tarn for a month, learning skills appropriate to theirrace. Ralph and Bubot both learn the hard way to respect the laws of Tarn.


Chapter11      "Tarn"

"‘Lookaround you, Bubot," he said, and Bubot looked. "This is my house, butit is my house in a way that not many can claim. I guilt this house with my ownhands. I cut every tree, I shaped every beam. I formed every cabinet and everycupboard; I shaped every table and chair. These blistered fingers carved everyfigure that you see, and I can describe every knothole in the house indetail."

           Bubot looked at Matt with more respect. "But I don’t haveyour skill, Matt," said Bubot.

Matt looked himin the eye. "All Herks have this skill, Bubot. What all Herks do not haveis patience. My craft did not come by magic–I am not a young man. For yearafter year I toiled at my craft. I smashed my thumbs, I cut my fingers, I gotsplinters in my hands and arms. But at the end," he paused and smiled."At the end I could offer a valuable service to my fellows, and I was nolonger a burden, but a prize."

Bubot felt a lumpin his throat as he realized that he was, like Matt had been, a burden to hiscompanions. No one had ever even come close to calling him a prize, except Annar,who called him the booby prize. "Give me the knife," said Bubot.

Each of the five companions spends a month intraining. Pim and Marshall are trained as warriors. Bubot is trained as anartisan while Annar learned the courtly crafts as well as self-defense. Havingdisgraced himself and insulted his host at the feast, Ralph is put to hard laborand learns self-respect.


Chapter12      "InSearch Of Rabbits"

"‘Oh,please," said Hedor. "We could be a team–yes, that’s it, ateam." He got down on his knees, his long nose poking Grat in the thigh."Please, please, I do need my stars. I’d be ever so helpful."

"Spareme," said Grilla in disgust. "All right, we’ll go find this dragonof yours, but one false move and you’re history."

"Oh, thankyou!" cried Hedor. "I’ll just wait right here then, shall I? Youwon’t be long? He’s just over beyond those trees." Hedor began to singoff key and dance around a nearby bush. "Three big stars for a wizard’scloak, one fat boy and an artichoke..."

           "Come on," said Grilla to Grat. "The man’sdelirious."

Trying to follow the trail of Pim and hisfriends, Grilla and Grat meet the wizard Hedor, who joins them in the hopes ofre-capturing the fat boy he lost. The Kimballs and Alof are also on their trail,and the two sets of pursuers encounter each other. A fight ensues, as eachbattles to eliminate the competition. The battle is decided by the spider,Horace, as Mr. Webb and Marion happen into the fray and side with anyoneopposing the Kimballs.

With the Kimballs immobilized by Horace’sweb, the others leave together. In a conversation over tea, it is revealed thatGrilla and Grat work for Sindor and Mr. Webb realizes that these two matchDora’s description of those who murdered the King and Queen. Another fightensues, and thanks to the blundering of Hedor, Mr. Webb, Marion and Horace walkaway freely.

Thanks to the dragon’s weakness toflattery, he reveals the whereabouts of Pim and his companions, so Grilla andGrat set out to find a way across the mountains.

Chapter13      "UnheededWarnings"

Quietly, Wolf gotup, pointed his nose in the air, and howled. It was a sound that pushed its waythrough the branches and past the trees that surrounded them, echoing throughthe air as if all of Erdgarth was covered in a glass dome. All activity aroundthem came to a standstill as the howl continued, sometimes changing pitch,sometimes changing intensity as if it were not a howl but some primeval songcreated for a single purpose.

"As the laststrains escaped from the nearby trees into the night wind, Pim began to feel awarmth radiating throughout his body. The area immediately around him was asbright as day, yet his friends still slept in the shadows of the flickeringfire. He felt suddenly at peace. There was so much he had planned to say, if theLight should really come, but somehow he didn’t have to say it now. It was asif the Light already knew what he wanted and had only been waiting for Pim tocome and ask.

Unsure of their next steps, the company leaveTarn divided about what to do. The weight of worry about his Aunt Marion iskeeping Pim from focusing on their mission, and Marshall remains skeptical ofthe mystical Light that Mr. Webb promised could help them. Over Marshall’sobjections, Pim tries to contact the Light. Bubot is trying to find clues in themagical Lorebook he was given–memorizing as he read because the writingdisappeared once a page was turned. All feel uneasy about the forest beforethem, but they are driven to its borders by a storm and make camp under itsbranches.

As they are headed for the wood, Grilla andGrat spot them moving across the fields and make for their camp. As Pim and hisfriends settle down for the night, Bubot is put into a trance by some flickeringlights from the forest and is carried off into the wood. With the watchmancarried off, Grilla, Grat, and Hedor enter the camp and kidnap Annar.


Chapter14      "TheNecklace Of Queen Upali"

Bubot’s eyeswere becoming accustomed to the light, and he saw that he was in a small roomhewn out of rock, which emptied into an immense cavern filled with more of thesemysterious little lamps. Waving his arms to keep the lights away, he began tosay, "Who are you?" but as he drew in his breath, he felt somethingstrange in his throat. Suddenly the room was quiet.

"He’sswallowed Gwendolyn!" cried a bright blue light to his left, and in secondsthe room was in an uproar. Bubot looked puzzled. He hadn’t meant to swallowGwendolyn; really he hadn’t; and even if he had, they had kidnapped him afterall. He was going to say all this, even at the risk of swallowing someone else,when he felt a very strange thing indeed going on inside his head, and in amoment Gwendolyn emerged unscathed from his right nostril.


Pim and the others wake to find two of theircompany missing and a ransom note from Grilla, Grat, and Hedor. Annar regainedconsciousness in a cage under the watchful eyes of her kidnappers. Bubot awokein the caves of the Glimmers, tiny points of colored lights who have beenimprisoned in gemstones in the rock. They roam the forest and waylay travelersto mine the caves and free the trapped Glimmers. Unfortunately, they chain theminers to their task and force them to work until they die. Bubot is taken intothe mines to work under the supervision of a large, grim man named Mug.

Annar escapes her cage, but her captorsoutrun her and bring her back to a more sturdy prison. There she sits until shediscovers that the necklace she was given upon leaving Tarn enables her to talkto animals. Wolf shows her this skill as he arranges for a friendly snake tosnitch the keys to her cage and carries her back to the camp.


Chapter15      "FromDeep Within"

Each of the boyswoke, as Bubot had done, in separate rooms off of the great cavern. Like Bubot,each heard the tragic story of the Glimmers, and the dull "Time towork" of Mug. Unlike Bubot, however, they did not easily adjust to thedarkness and could not see more than a few feet in front of them as they wereled to their respective tunnels. They stumbled often as a result, but they alsocould not see the poor unfortunates who had worked the cave before them. Life inthe dark is sometimes a form of grace. They were taken to their tunnelsseparately, and each thought he was alone in his fate.

As Annar tells her story to others back atthe camp, the Glimmers return and bewitch the other boys, carrying them off intothe wood to work the mines. Thanks to the clever thinking of Ralph, they areable to unlock their chains and the boys try to make their escape, stumblingthrough the dark maze of tunnels without direction. Above ground, Annar hasfound the mine’s entrance and with her newly found communication skills sendsa rabbit in after them. As the boys run for their lives with Mug in hot pursuit,they find the rabbit and follow it to safety. Annar has also procured horses forthe party and they head quickly out of the wood.

           In the meantime, the storm that sent Pim and his friends into thewood for shelter send Marion and Mr. Webb scrambling for shelter in a mountaincave. The night is interrupted by a scream, as Marion finds herself beingsurrounded and squeezed by a giant serpent from deep within the cave. Pim’sconcern from the other side of the mountains sends the Light to her rescue andthe snake retreats. They resume their journey to Galwood Gap, where they cancross to the other side of the mountains. A couple of days behind them are theKimballs and Alof, freed at last from the spider’s web.


Chapter16      "ANight’s Lodging

Alof cried outand jumped to his feet, waking the Kimballs with his yell. Quickly they ran fromthe cave and started to climb to the ground below. The snake moved quickly,however, and reached the limping Alof before he could get down, dragging himback into the cave. Mr. Kimball saw what was happening and began to climb backtoward the cave.

"Don’t bea fool, George!" cried his wife from halfway down the rock face."Leave him and let’s get out of here! It’s got one of us, there’s nosense in it getting all of us."

           Mr. Kimball paused. "We can’t just leave Alof to beeaten."

"And whatare you going to do?" said his wife with a sneer, "say, ‘Bad Snake!Let go of Alof?’ He’ll just finish him off and then start on you. Then howwill I get down from here?"

           "But we can’t..."

"We can andwe have," snapped Mrs. Kimball, as Alof’s cries echoed in the rock."Now help me down."

A sudden fire litMr. Kimball’s eyes. "We can’t and we won’t," he said withdefiance, and he climbed back into the cave. Mrs. Kimball waited. In a moment hereturned, his face downcast. "I was too late," he said.

"Toobad," said Mrs. Kimball with a sneer, and they climbed down the mountain insilence.

As chance would have it, the Kimballs seekshelter in the same cave where Marion and Mr. Webb had slept a few nightsbefore. Alof, limping along from the earlier dog bite, becomes more and morefrustrated with the abuse he receives from the Kimballs. As nighttime falls, hetakes a large stone from a corner of the cave, planning to use it to kill theKimballs during the night. The stone had been placed there by Mr. Webb to blockthe path the snake had used to get into the cave. With the stone gone, theserpent emerges again during the night. Because of Alof’s injury, he cannotget away fast enough and the snake takes hold of him, and he dies.

The five companions, in the meantime, havemade their way to Randers, where they find an inn. Close to winter time, the innis empty except for an old man seated by himself. Annar feels sorry for him andinvites him to join them. They tell the man a bit too much and Annar accepts aninvitation to winter with him. Later that evening the innkeeper comes to theirroom wondering if they have lost a cape, since he found it in the dining room.They declare that it must have belonged to the old man. The innkeeper declaresthat there have been no other visitors in the inn. They are the only ones. Therewas no old man.

Grilla, Grat, and Hedor are once again ontheir way. Since the companions had horses, these three are now far behind andthey contact eagles to give them swift travel to Randers. The eagles, however,have been in contact with the dragon, who still feels badly about betrayingfriends out of pride. The eagles fly Grilla, Grat, and Hedor in the oppositedirection, back across the mountains.

Chapter17      "Disguise"

My helmet is coal
And gray are my eyes;
Men call me "exalted"
Burr’s treasure I hide.

The next morning there is no sign of the oldman at the inn and Marshall discovers that his magic compass is missing. Theyfind the old man in the next town, but refuse his offer this time. They decideto stay at the inn for the winter. During the cold months, Bubot reads a lot inhis book and discovers a riddle that he believes holds the answer to thelocation of the Orgilstone. Excited, they try to solve it.

Grilla, Grat and Hedor have arrived in townby Spring. They don poor disguises as mother, father and little girl and go insearch of Pim and his friends. They find them and overhear the riddle, realizingthat the answer is what they are seeking. They cannot figure out the riddle, butthe repeat it aloud, enabling Mrs. Kimball to hear it from an upstairs window.


Chapter18      "TheMusic of Erdgarth"

Suddenly, Marionlooked up. "Either I’m going mad or that moon is shining bluetonight."
Mr. Webb felt suddenly cold. "The Mage’s moon," he said in awhisper.

"When stoneshall reunite the lost
And light complete the meld,
The Usher stand; the door at hand
Or the darkness be not quelled
At the dawn of the Mage’s Moon."

Mr. Webb paused."Erdgarth will rise or fall tonight."

The companions and the Kimballs both solvethe riddle and realize that the answer is Marion. Grilla, Grat, and Hedor decideit is easier to let others solve it and then follow them to their quarry.Thinking Marion was still back in East Kenting, Pim and his friends head out forhome. Unable to cross the mountains, they head for Galwood Gap and arrive therejust as Marion and Mr. Webb are headed through the gap the other way, lookingfor them.

The Kimballs find Marion first. With a knifeto Marion’s throat, Mrs. Kimball takes the Orgilstone and begins incantationsto contact Sindor. Grilla, Grat and Hedor come charging in at that moment andsoon Pim and friends have entered the melee. The stone flies from one set ofhands to another. At last, Soag arrives to take the stone for Sindor. He sendsMrs. Kimball into the black mists for her failure and then unites staff andstone.

Soag tries to claim the power for himself,which angers Sindor enough to make a personal appearance. A terrible stormbegins and the howls of Sindor’s darkness draws closer. At the height of thestorm, the Usher steps forward...




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