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HTHT is about a trio of magical girls defending the world from interdimensional invaders.
It has concluded.
If you like HTHT, you might like Elcenia, my fantasy series.

Rowan looked at the spot where the portal had been. She'd unmoored the captive magician's bonds from the ground and sent her along, for Kristi and Susie to handle. There wasn't even a shimmer left in the air to mark the passage.

Dahar was a problem. She pulled off more sophisticated plans than any of the other magicians. Swiped their beads, planted a spy in Rowan's house, collected and equipped her colleagues in large groups.

Rowan could pick off magicians who weren't allied with her, box them up and ship them home, but she couldn't take on Dahar and her current set of friends alone.


"I," said Rowan to the empty, lavender grassland, "am sometimes very, very stupid."

Nothing and no one answered her.

"Wings," she added, and when the familiar feathered weights added themselves to her back, she launched into the air and started for the palace she'd been trapped in before. Most likely Dahar wasn't even there; Rowan and the others had trashed the place during the jailbreak. But it might have clues. Notes. Scavenging rumor-dispensing natives.

"When?" Tipko asked, for the hundredth time.

"I don't know," repeated Keeda, ever patient. "More than a week, less than two months. It depends on when I got pregnant."

Tipko scraped his claws against the dirt. "It's better than it would have been, back then, but we probably should have waited anyway - until we're all safe -"

She nuzzled the side of his face. "You said you didn't want to go on waiting."

"I was half out of my mind from seeing you again after so long!" he cried. "I wasn't thinking clearly!"

"Well," said Keeda, amused, "that explains the once."

He huffed indignantly, but wrapped his tail around hers. "I did want kids," he said. "Just - when it was safe."

"I have every confidence in the girls." Keeda rubbed a paw over her distinctly rounded belly, then reached for a carrot from her stash. At least she understood why she'd been eating so much; before she'd thought it was just a reaction to finally being allowed to have as much food as she liked. (That, and she enjoyed the flavors available on Earth quite a bit.) "We should think of names. At least four of each, in case they're all boys or all girls."

"All right. Hmm," sighed Tipko, peering at her middle like it would have their children's names written on it.

"Take whatever you want out of the red box or the wooden one," Marlene said. "Seriously, whatever. Anything you don't take I'll try to give to Paula or Dinah and if they don't take it it's going to Goodwill. Stuff I ever actually wear is in the blue box or the rack on the wall."

Kristi sifted through excess earrings. "Why do you have so much jewelry you don't want?" she asked.

Marlene rolled her eyes. "Try having like a hundred aunts and uncles and cousins who want to get you presents for your birthday and Christmas and also when they mix up your birthday with someone else's, and all any of these hundred people know about you is that you have a bunch of piercings because you only ever see them at family reunions and nobody can hear anyone else talk, and you'd have to pare down your collection too."

Kristi started picking out items. "I had my ears pierced before but I let them heal," she murmured. "But if you're just giving these away I'll get them re-done. Earrings appeared in the old version of my costume but now they don't anymore because I thought they were way too much, and to be honest I have no idea how they were staying in. I don't know how my wings go through my shirt, either."

"Magic," said Marlene. "Right?"

"I guess." She paused. "Marlene, what do you think you'll do after high school?"

"See if I get into college anywhere, I guess," Marlene said. "What about you?"

"I think my parents expect me to go to college. I'll probably get in somewhere." She picked up a pair of pearl studs and leaned towards Marlene's mirror, holding them beside her face. "I don't know." She didn't add that Bid seemed to expect her to go on being a champion for pagets. Marlene didn't know about pagets yet, let alone Bid in particular. (How will anyone react to them?)

Kristi walked out with a plastic bag full of jewelry, and flew to the paget ranch. She spent more time there than she did at home, not counting sleeping.

Bid flew to her side as soon as she touched down and sat on her shoulder, wrapping a wing around the back of her head in an odd sort of hug. "Kristi!" he exclaimed brightly.

"Hi, Bid."

"I think A'at likes me, under all the magic," he said triumphantly.

"Really? Good for you," said Kristi, although she wasn't sure how much of A'at was left under the magic. There was a companionable silence, and then Kristi asked, "What do you want to do with your life, when things calm down?"

"I don't know," said Bid. "I have been helping President Tipko and Vice President Papaki with some things. Maybe I can keep doing that. Or I can help you with things. I like helping people do important work."

Kristi let slide the assumption that she would be doing important work. "Mm," she said.

Dahar's old palace was deserted. There wasn't any fire damage - Preschal's flames extinguished themselves without actually burning anything except other beads after mere seconds, however much they stung people who were on fire during those seconds. But half the structure was rubble and the rest didn't seem stable enough for her to risk going into it. Rowan picked through it, directing one of her newer beads that had an approximation of hands to move rocks and chunks of wall out of her way. Most of the building had been unfurnished, unlit, uninhabited. Just for show, to make it big enough to justify the ornamental spiral horn. The parts of it that had been actually used were picked over of everything useful. Rowan found splintered furniture, shredded curtains, and a trash pit, but no books, no tools.

By the end of the search, Rowan wasn't convinced that Dahar had lived in the palace at all, at least at the time it came down.

So she got into the air, spiraling higher until she saw a town, and then dove into it. The usual round of explanations and good-faith offerings of magical assistance later, she asked who ruled their area.

It was Dahar, they said, but when she probed further, the palace under the mountain was new. She'd hired a lot of local workers to work on it - had in fact actually paid them, which seemed to surprise the locals even in retrospect - and that had been a nice boost to the local economy, but normally their liege lived farther away.

Where exactly, they didn't know, but the larger town up the trade route might; perhaps the moon alien should try there.

Rowan took wing again.

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