In this episode, the brother of the Kybee leader, Billy Boy, with his face erupting in wards, soars, and patchy facial hair, tells stories to Charles and his friends. The first story is about a horse-thief from Charles’s world. “One-Eyed Joe” he is called, and the story concludes with someone looking for Joe’s brain in a jar. The second story is about a witch who turns an unfortunate boy into a murderous, rampaging elephant. But the third story is the one that matters.

Third, Billy Boy tells of Ayana, Queen of Hyadon, who enticed her bravest knight to go into the Red Realm. In the tale, as the queen and knight recline on her sofa, she explains the door to the secret world is concealed behind the mirror hanging at the entrance of her bathing den. At first, the knight, Sir Ronald, assumes she is teasing him, but when he examines the mirror, he discovers the hidden hinges. The mirror opens like a door, and, just as the queen promised, there stands a corridor of stone.

As the queen and knight stand at the tunnel, Ayana explains her plan, that Sir Ronald should enter the Red Realm and deliver to that land’s king a prized the queen has secured in a lockbox. Also, thirteen additional knights are to go with him.

In preparation to the quest, Ronald is given two noble weapons: one is the royal sword, and the other is a gun made by a wizard. If he succeeds in his mission, the queen promises anything he wants, including her own hand in marriage.

But that is a prize Sir Ronald will never collect because he and all his fellows are killed in the Red Realm.

At the end of the story, a pair of important details come to light. First, the treasure hidden in Ayana’s lockbox is the heart of her father. Second, that the Lord of the Red Realm can use royal blood to cast powerful spells, even to open doors to other worlds.

Learning this, Charles wonders if Castatine used the Patch Fairy’s blood to escape his world. Captain Kid says, probably not, but Charles isn’t convinced.

After the Kybee’s stories, Captain Kid leads his rescue party once more into the desert, but this time they are riding in one of the Kybees’ sand buggies. That evening, at one of their stops for gas, Charles finds an opportunity to speak to the captain privately. He wants to know why Captain Kid didn’t like the kybees.

“I mean,” he says, “they’re rough around the edges and a little strange, for sure. I think maybe radiation or something like the plague was turning Billy Boy’s face into road-pizza. But that wouldn’t make you dislike them. So, level with me.”

What the captain says next, Charles would never forget. “They’re werewolves.”

As soon as the words are out, Charles hears the distant howls. And then he remembers the Kybee flag, a cartoonish full moon against a field of deep-blue sky. The Kybees. The moon folk.

If Captain Kid hadn’t made them leave the picknick, the Kybees would’ve eaten them.

Here, feeling the pressure of near death, Charles again gets into an argument with his leader, this time, over the fact that Captain Kid isn’t admitting how much danger he’s put everyone in. Also, after being asked to fix a broken flashlight, he’s sulking over his mundane tasks as the team’s electro-technical officer.

So, that’s where we’re at, the Kybees behind and Dolloptree ahead.

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Email: joseph@thebluedeck.com

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