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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 watched, and listened.
Gradually, she put the pieces together, from what Dahar and her new paget ("Ikati") said to each other.
"Your magic will still work there, even after the severing?" Ikati wanted to know, slavishly anxious. Rowan had never directly killed anyone, but she might make an execption for the magician who thought it was clever to reprogram pagets like that.
"That's what this is for," Dahar said, patting the magic torc around her waist, the one with the suns and moons and stars. "Get me the smallest awl."
Ikati fetched the awl, and Dahar scratched signs into the wall of the arch. "When will you go? Can I come with you?" asked the paget. Rowan ground her teeth, feeling the scrape even though it was silenced.
"Not soon, not even if I finish it today," Dahar said. "If I wait, the witches will find themselves with no worthwhile enemies except each other, and I can take over easily; if I go at once, it will be no different than attacking before they seal the worlds away from bead portals."
"What if they don't attack each other?" Ikati asked.
"They will," Dahar said calmly. "If nothing else, I do not need to telegraph the sources of my own incursions; I can play them against each other even if all they have done before that time is argue. No one has the trust Ménid and I shared."
Rowan listened to Dahar's sister's name with a wince. And then the wince deepened, as she considered that Dahar didn't seem to know that she'd already fractured the so-called "Celestial Gems". Had Kworil been coached, or did Dahar just know him well enough that she could leave a small gap in her security and expect him to do as he did? It hardly mattered. Dahar expected to be able to attack the sealed-off Earth easily with the defenders separated -
And she was right. If Dahar and her allies could travel, with her arch, and the human witches couldn't...
Well, Rowan thought. That will convince Kristi if nothing else will, that we can't do the sealing.
Rowan crept out of the room, and fled.
At a safe distance from Dahar's palace, she called up one of her new beads and portaled back to the ranch.
"BEAD!" yelled Kristi at the top of her lungs when the map beeped, by way of letting her parents know she was going to be out. "Ruby Sunshine, wings..." She charged out the front door and beat her way into the sky, map in hand. The ranch. Hopefully Susie was already there...
Susie was already there. And by the time Kristi arrived, she was sitting on the grass with Rowan, the bead long condensed and stuck back onto the moon-tipped staff.
"Kristi!" exclaimed Susie. "Rowan's back, and she -"
"Fire!" roared Kristi, aiming the heel of her hand at Rowan; the other girl, eyes flaring with light, batted it away with a wisp of silver magic.
"Kristi!" said Susie indignantly. "This is Rowan!"
"She's a traitor!" Kristi snapped. "What are you doing back here -"
Rowan unfolded from her sitting position without visible muscle movement. Was she doing everything by magic now...? "I came back to warn you," she said.
"About what? Are you going to start delivering threats to - to aid organizations and governments, demanding help for the Datékali - and you want to tell us in advance so... so..."
Rowan was giving her that damned condescending look, the one that said I have no idea what your grades are like but I am going to judge you ignorant because you like to wear attractive outfits. Never mind that they were both in their magical girl costumes. It was even more annoying when Rowan seemed to have opals for eyeballs. "Noooo," Rowan drawled. "I'm here to warn you that Dahar's building a device that will let her move from world to world whether or not we declare our magic independent of Datékaln's. I don't know if she told Kworil to come here and suggest it or not, but either way she knew he was going to and let him escape. If you do take me down, steal my beads, and get someone else to take over as the representative of moon magic for Earth for the sealing ritual, Dahar's going to be able to attack us - with anyone else she chooses to bring. And we won't be able to follow."
Kristi gaped at her.
Then she sat on the grass. Rowan sat back down too, regarding her mildly.
"Damn," said Kristi.
"You should apologize for attacking Rowan," Susie said.
"Sorry," Kristi said automatically.
"Wouldn't have actually injured me even if you'd hit," Rowan said. "Anyway. We have some time before Dahar turns up here. She's counting on us turning on each other without a common enemy." Pause. "I can't imagine where she got that idea." Longer pause, raised eybrow. Kristi rolled her eyes. "We didn't wait nearly that long. But I'd rather be working together when she comes. What about you?"
"I think Rowan's right," said Susie, looking steadily in Kristi's direction.
"Sure," mumbled Kristi. "Right. Three against however many is better than two."