The last thing anyone, Betty, Maralith, Heather, or even the Spinner, had expected to interrupt their life and death chase was a flight of dragons. From their reaction on arrival in the web realm, the dragons were just as surprised to find a crumbling mega-web, a horde of ghosts and a titanic class spider as the welcoming committee that awaited them.
Gravity had other ideas than allowing for a pause in the action though and as Betty, Heather and Maralith reached the low point of their final swing, the tattered web skin that Heather was possessing finally shredded into threads and Betty felt the sinking sensation of an uncontrolled plummet into the bottomless void below.
“Oh no you don’t,” Rosie said, snagging Betty from the air. “I’ve got you!”
Betty felt like passing out, but a disturbing thought occurred to her.
“If you’ve got me, who’s got you?” she asked.
“I do,” the wyrm Rosie was flying on answered.
“You’ve got a dragon,” Betty said. “Where did you get a dragon?”
“The Floral Bower,” Rosie said, as though Betty had the first clue what that was.
“If we live, explain that ok?” Betty said.
“Oh, we’re going to be fine,” Rosie said. “I figured out what went wrong!”
“Did you notice the giant spider?” Betty asked. “It kind of wants to eat me.”
“My companions are having a discussion with the local shaper,” Rosie’s Wyrm said. “It would seem that our realms are conjoined, so there will need to be treaties, and talks, and a number of lengthy debates I imagine.”
Above them, fire bloomed and green sparks danced. From within the Spinner came the sound of artillery deploying and from the dragons came a chorus of mighty roars. The UnderWeb was burning, freeing the ghosts trapped within faster than even the Spinner’s rampage had managed.
“That doesn’t sound like a discussion,” Betty said.
“Oh, what? That?” Rosie’s Wyrm said. “Think nothing of that. It’s just how shapers tend to say ‘hello’.”
“I don’t think I’d like that sort of hello,” Betty said.
“Yes, well, we only speak like that with other shapers.”
“How did you get here?” Betty asked.
“There are natural portals between the two world,” Rosie said. “A lot of them, but my new friends said they’ve been sealed over for a long time. I’m guessing something you did unsealed them, because when we looked for them we found a few were already open and more were opening every second.”
“It must have been the Spinner’s rampage,” Betty said. “That thing was unstoppable. Just pure mindless destruction all focused on me. It wouldn’t let up!”
“It’s leaving,” Rosie’s Wyrm said.
“It’s what?” Betty asked, looking up as she did so and see that the giant beast was happily crawling back up it’s webline to the Mechanical Web above them. “It’s leaving? Just like that?”
“Just like that,” Rosie said.
They made it back to Rosie’s room before anyone in the house noticed they were missing, but they didn’t make it back alone.
“So why did the Spinner leave?” Heather asked, her ghostly form somehow less creepy than web mummy look she’d possessed when Betty first met her. Apart from being variably translucent, Heather looked like any other girl of thirteen. Taller than Betty, but then everyone was, lighter than Rosie but that wasn’t uncommon either and dressed in the same sort of clothes Betty and Rosie favored.
“The Floral Wyrms asked it to,” Rosie said. “Apparently it was a very polite conversation by the standards of what the wyrms expected.”
“They wrecked as much of the UnderWeb as we could see,” Rosie said.
“Shame they didn’t wreck all of it.” Heather said.
“The Floral Wyrms are going to discuss that with them,” Rosie said.
“I feel like I missed something there,” Betty said. “How did you manage to find an army of dragons right when we needed one?”
“They found me,” Rosie said. “I miscalibrated the Spelling Roses. I wanted them to work so badly, and that’s what I got – Spelling Roses that worked so badly they almost killed us.”
“But instead they lead you to an army of dragons?” Betty asked.
“In a sense yes,” Rosie said. “I’d put so much energy into the Spelling Roses that they took the first moment they could find to release it and that release threw us to the two different ends of the Spelling Rose’s spectrum. The Flower aspect and the Mechanical aspect. I got tossed to the Floral Depths, where the Wyrms spend their time tending the under roots of an enormous world of flowers that are breed to soak up tainted magic and transform it into a clean form.”
Rosie spun the Spelling Rose she carried and it looked for a moment like a real flower rather than something made of brass and silver in worked gears and artificial petals.
“On your end, you got the Mechanical Web, where magic is filtered by a carefully designed mechanism with little active input from those who created the mechanism. That’s what the Mechanical Web is. It converts the magic that’s drawn to the realm into a form that’s safe for the Spinners to ingest.”
“What about people like Maralith?” Betty asked. She had an appointment to meet back up with Maralith in a week, once things had settled down on the mechanical web. Maralith wanted to know how Betty had worked out just the proper spot on the UnderWeb to pull apart to set off the chain of events that transpired. She said there were many talks among her people of mounting further expeditions to the ruins of the UnderWeb to discover what other realms they were connected to.
“Maralith and her people are in symbosis with that system,” Rosie said. “The Floral Wyrms didn’t think they were created as part of it, but were more likely an indigenous people who discovered methods of co-existing with the Spinners mechanisms.”
“But, aren’t they machines?” Heather asked.
“Technically, we’re all machines,” Betty said. “Mar’s got gears and circuits, I’ve got chemicals and minerals and you’ve got mana traces and ectoplasm. Doesn’t make any of us any less of a person.”
“I can buy that,” Heather said. “It helps me feel more like a real girl still.”
“Oh, you’re real alright,” Rosie said. “And I’m guessing you can do a lot more now than you used to. That’s why UnderWeb trapped you – you were too powerful to be allowed into the Mechanical Web. How powerful you are would require some experiments to figure out though.”
“That’s my cue to leave then I think,” Betty said.
“What? Why?” Heather asked.
“I’m no good to have around delicate magics,” Betty said. “I think the Spelling Rose proved that perfectly.”
She got up to leave but a vice locked around her wrist.
“You’re not bad luck,” Rosie said, not releasing her grip in the slightest. “If it wasn’t for you, neither of us would be alive now. I owe you everything.”
“Me? What could you possibly owe me?” Betty asked, shocked by the seriousness in Rosie’s eyes.
“I misjudged the Spelling Rose,” Rosie said. “I was the one who set it off. I knocked it off the table. You caught it, and if you hadn’t, we’d have been blasted randomly into the cosmos. It was only because you were there that we were connected by the Roses and ended up in realms related to them and to each other.”
“That’s ridiculous,” Betty said, wondering if it was, and hoping that it wasn’t.
“How do you think I was able to work out how to get to you?” Rosie asked. “I had to figure out what would happen if an overcharge released and a stroke of nearly the best possible luck turned it in our favor. That was the only equation that said we ever got home and that was the equation that let us find where you were. So believe me when I say that I know this for sure; I owe you my life and that I am never, ever, going to try anything like that again unless you’re around to back me up.”
“But…but I’m a goblin,” Betty said.
“What you are is amazing,” Rosie said. “And if anyone ever says differently, I’m going to sic my army of dragons on them.”