Previously in Only Slightly
On Arelon, Anneka, Elizabeth and The Geraldine heard the Karema version of their war with the
Ikhshiid. Once the tale was told, they became convinced Yarek had lied to them, whether deliberately
or through being misinformed by the Ikhshiid. Along with the Karema who revealed the truth to them,
they determine to confront Yarek and discover his true intentions.
Meanwhile, the gestalt entity formerly known as Riy, Harriet, Bath, Agnes, Pord, Bidet, Fridgara
and a Karema wizard continued its search for Yarek's hiding place, intent upon killing him to stop his
plan from coming to fruition and annihilating the Karema as a species.
Yarek's hall was unchanged, as always, when Yarek's recall spell brought The Geraldine back to
'Geraldine! What's been happening? I haven't heard from anyone in...' his voice trailed off as he
studied her. 'You come carrying Karema magic.'
'They told us the truth.'
'They told you lies.' Yarek's voice was flat and cold; any doubts The Geraldine had that he had
been deceived by the Ikhshiid vanished.
'You told us lies, Yarek. Your spell will destroy the Karema. Every single one of them will
die. We cannot allow that to happen.'
'I see only you. You cannot stop me.'
'Want to bet on that?'
The Geraldine smiled, and as Yarek's fireball streaked towards her she was water, then steam, a
cloud rising to the ceiling where she re-formed, dropping back to the floor next to the ancient
wizard, who waved a hand, casting a spell which flung her backwards across the room, where she
splashed against the wall. Puddles and water droplets rolled together again, and she stood unharmed
on the other side of the dining table from him.
'Oh no, you'll have to do better,' she taunted, and attacked.
His fireballs came straight for her, so she curved around them as two streams of water, bouncing
off the shield he wove about himself, then clinging to it, probing, looking for a gap in the magical
bubble as Yarek started to prepare another spell. This one sprayed her outwards in all directions,
but even as she re-formed herself from the thousands of drops of water she had become, she was
aware that Yarek's attention had become diverted, for on the other side of the room, Anneka had
appeared and was spinning up a whirlwind that ripped and tore at Yarek's robes, picking up dust and
straw from the floor to impede the wizard's vision.
He broke Anneka's magic with a contemptuous word, but his retaliatory spell hit a sparkling
barrier and blasted a substantial chunk from the ceiling. In shock, Yarek stared at the Karema
standing on the table.
'You brought one of them here? How dare you!'
'I dare a lot of things when I'm right,' The Geraldine said.
'I will kill you all for this!'
I THINK NOT.
The Karema's spell threw Yarek against the wall, his head hitting stone with an audible crack. He
slid to the floor, limp, just as a shimmer in the air presaged the arrival of Bidet. The Geraldine
rushed quickly to assure the Karema that Bidet was not an enemy.
'I didn't know you could do that,' she said to Bidet by way of greeting, for he was looking around
the hall curiously.
'We have learned many things,' Bidet replied absently.
'And where is Fridgara?'
'We are here.'
To The Geraldine's amazement, Bidet was now Fridgara. She smiled. 'A few things happened to us
on Mars,' she said. 'He takes the blame for that, as well.' A jerk of her head in the direction of
Yarek made it clear who she meant.
YOU HAVE MERGED WITH ONE OF MY KIND, the Karema who had come from Arelon
said. Fridgara nodded, then she was another Karema.
WHILST NOT INTENTIONAL, THIS MERGE HAS PROVEN
'fortuitous,' finished Bath. He looked at Yarek's still form, oblivious to The Geraldine and
Anneka's gasps of surprise. 'But we have to deal with this one.' Fire flickered around his raised
'No!' cried Anneka, reaching out to stop the old wizard.
'And why not? He plotted to kill us. All of us.'
'That is no cause to kill him in return,' The Geraldine put in. Bath looked at her.
'We remember a time when you were not so hesitant about killing,' he said. 'A time not so long
'Many things have changed, Bidet.'
'Yes, they have,' and it was Agnes who spoke, still eyeing Yarek with distaste and a flaming hand.
Abruptly, the flames winked out. 'He is harmless enough for now. What do you propose to do with
'Honestly? I have no idea. Can the Karema hold him securely?'
WE HAVE FACILITIES WHICH WOULD PROVE SUITABLE. HOWEVER, I WOULD
SUGGEST THAT HE BE TRIED BY HIS OWN KIND.
'So we take him back to Earth?'
NOT HUMANS. HIS OWN KIND. THE IKHSHIID.
Agnes burst out laughing.
'Oh, we like that idea,' she said, bending down absently to stroke Rmurr, who had emerged from
whatever hidey-hole she'd found during the brief fight. 'We like that idea a lot. We will need a ship.
A human one, as I doubt they would appreciate seeing a Karema vessel again. At least, not without
'Elizabeth can arrange it,' Anneka said. 'I'll go back to Arelon and tell her what's required.' She
waited long enough for Agnes' nod, then dissolved into the air and was gone. The Geraldine found a
chair and sat down.
'Perhaps you'd better tell me exactly what happened to you on Mars,' she said. Rmurr jumped onto
her lap and settled down, purring contentedly. Agnes, blinked, became Pord, and took another
'Yes, of course. We went to Mars...'
It took two days for Elizabeth to get a ship to Arelon, which was an improvement over the three
weeks it would have taken to get one to Yarek's planet, which, as it turned out, was entirely in the
opposite direction to where everyone had started to think that it might be. Even the Karema had to
admit that the redirection spells Yarek had laid around it were quite impressive, but this didn't stop
them demolishing the spells with an almost casual efficiency.
Yarek himself was a problem of course. The Karema who had come with Anneka and The Geraldine
from Arelon, and the gestalt entity formerly Bidet, Bath, Agnes, Pord, Harriet, Riy and another
Karema eventually devised a spell which, they assured the others, was absolutely impossible for him
to break out of, using as it did Yarek's own magic to hold him. It was Bidet who explained this to The
Geraldine, and she got the impression that he was rather self-satisfied about the solution.
'Because we're forcing his magic into making the enclosure, he can't use it for anything else,' he
explained as they watched Yarek poking at the shimmering walls of his cell about an hour before they
would be ready to teleport him to Arelon for the journey to the current Ikhshiid central world.
'Without his magic to contend with, making an impenetrable cell is really quite simple.'
'And which of you thought up this cunning plan?'
'I did,' Bidet said. 'But the others helped me refine it.'
'Come on, Geraldine. It's not like there's any real difference between us anymore,' Agnes said.
The Geraldine looked over at her, startled by the sudden change in voice.
'I do wish you'd stop changing like that.'
'Sorry. It's taking us some time to get used to things as well.'
The other Karema came into the room. Its name had proven to be completely unpronounceable, and
Karema biology and social structure had proven equally incomprehensible to the humans when it had
tried to explain them. Well, except to Bidet and the others in the gestalt, who, to all intents and
purposes, were part Karema themselves, although you couldn't always tell.
HE IS SECURE? it asked. The Geraldine had eventually figured out that she could call it
P'tarig and get close enough to its name that people knew who she was talking about. The Karema in
the gestalt, she had taken to calling Vurrt.
'He is,' Agnes confirmed. 'Are we ready to go to Arelon?'
'Well then, we'd better see to it.'
That journey was largely uneventful, and Yarek arrived complete with his cell in the cargo hold of
the fastest ship Elizabeth had access to, a sleek cruiser called the Stilletto. They only had to
wait a few hours for the ship to finish refuelling before it jumped to hyperspace for coordinates
provided by the Karema.
Three days into the journey, The Geraldine was awakened by something. She lay in the dark,
trying to think what it might be, but nothing came to mind - just a sense that she should be awake.
And out of bed.
She rose, switched on the lights and dressed, then left the room and wandered the corridors,
finding herself inevitably outside the cargo bay where Yarek was held. Inside, the lights were
dimmed, and Yarek was asleep on the mattress they'd given him, the magical barrier shimmering
contentedly. For long minutes she watched him sleep, then turned to leave and was surprised to find a
figure watching her. A figure with four legs, scaly skin and glowing orange eyes.
'Not this time,' the figure hissed. There was a roaring in her ears, and everything went dark. She
didn't feel herself hit the floor, but the noise woke Yarek, who blinked groggily until he saw the
'Ask no questions. Only come.' The alien touched Yarek's cell, and the spell sputtered, dispersing
rapidly. Almost immediately afterwards, alarms began to sound. 'They watch spell all time,' the alien
said. 'Here soon. Come; plan soon complete.'
It extended a hand. Yarek took it, and a moment later they were both gone.