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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 and the captive magician regarded each other, and then the magician shifted a hoof under her crouching form. "Are we done?" she asked.

"Let me think," said Rowan, scratching the base of her neck. "So... Dahar is racist but she's pretending not to be to help her get other magicians to work with her, which she's bothering to do because she's mad at me and the others for basically killing her sister... and she makes fancy artifacts like this thing I took off A'at to buy their loyalty..." Rowan twirled the purple ring with the round holes in it around her finger. "And you don't trust her because you met her back when she wasn't being secretive about the racist thing and your horns don't swirl around the same way hers do."

"And," added the magician, "you said you'd send me to your world where I'd be safe."

"Read the ring for me," Rowan said, holding it up where the Datékali woman could see it through the shimmering bars of her cage.

"I can't," the magician said.

"You can see all three kinds of magic, can't you?" objected Rowan, narrowing her eyes.

The magician held up clawed hands in a calming gesture. "Sure! I see them! Twisting around all over the place on that thing! Give me paper and I'll draw it! But I can't tell you what they do."

Tipko had said something about it being difficult to read others' spells... "Why doesn't everyone make things like this, anyway?"

"And how would we do that?" the magician wanted to know. The question was half-rhetorical, half genuinely curious.

Rowan put the ring back in the back pocket she'd added - complete with velcro - to her costume's pants. "Don't think I'm going to share," she said. "Why don't magicians know how to - you know - do magic, apart from using beads?"

"We'd learn it how?" inquired the magician, this more sarcastically. "From our trusted allies? From old libraries written in dead languages, which as you know are lying around everywhere? Dahar's one in a hundred, and there aren't that many magicians. The only common knowledge is how to make paget collars; that's freely shared because we can't adapt the magic to make it work on each other. How did you learn?"

"From a friend," hedged Rowan. Kworil must have been unusual, too, in his interest in learning freeform magic and his access to resources. Tipko had learned from him. Most magicians wouldn't have the libraries or would be too dimwitted to take advantage...

There was another prolonged pause, and then Rowan said, "You're sure you can't read the ring?"

"Well, I suppose you could try threatening to set my tail on fire, see if that gets you anywhere - yes, I'm sure," snarled the magician. "I have no allies to protect, no secret agenda, I'm just trying to convince you not to kill me. I have no reason to lie. It's gibberish. Is there anything else you want to know?"

"Let me think," said Rowan again.

"How about if we -"

"I don't think we can find her, Kristi," Susie said gently. "We tried following a paget; she was gone when we got there. We tried Kworil's scrying trick; but it needs moon magic and he can't help from his box. I think we have to wait until she decides to come back on her own."

Kristi sighed heavily, blowing a tendril of yellow hair out of her face. "Where's Tipko? Maybe he has an idea."

"I think he's still bringing Keeda one of every kind of plant from miles around, since she's hungry," Susie said, and then the solemnity lifted from her face as she squealed, "because she's gonna have babies and they're gonna be so cute!"

Kristi smiled in spite of herself, then unrolled the map Rowan had made her to display enemy beads and frowned again. "Enemy" beads. What made a bead an enemy?

If Rowan came back, would the map beep?

"What did you say these were called?" A'at asked.

"I didn't," said Bid, "but, buttercups. Some of us don't seem to react well to them so try just one and only eat the rest if you're still feeling okay in an hour, all right?"

A'at nodded, accepting the bundle of flowers through the hole in the grid that kept her confined under the bush. As soon as she had them, she glared at the green paget who'd given them to her and laid her ears back. "This doesn't mean I like you," she hissed.

Bid dipped his head. "I don't know if you like me or not," he said. "You're under a spell."

"Yeah," she said, no longer under any compulsion to keep mum about it with the information so widely known, "but I wouldn't like you even if I weren't." She nibbled delicately on a buttercup.

"How do you know?" he asked.

"It's a very good spell. Dahar's very clever about magic," opined A'at.

"And it lets you know how you'd feel about things if it wasn't there?" Bid asked. "Why would she want that?"

A'at was momentarily stumped by this question, and then said, "So I know how much better it is that I am how I am."

Bid tilted his head, inviting her to go on.

"See," A'at said, "if I weren't under the spell, I wouldn't have helped Dahar, but I want her to be helped, so it's better this way than the other."

"Is it better not to like me?" Bid asked.

"Yes," A'at told him.

"Better than what?" he asked.

A'at opened her mouth, and then blinked, and closed it again. "Go away!" she shouted after a moment.

"Do you want me to bring you some dandelion leaves?" asked Bid patiently, unfurling his wings.

A'at's tail twitched, and she glanced at the denuded earth under her feet. "Yes."

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