By Kim McFarland

It was a dark and stormy day. Which was rather surprising for St. Canard at this time of year, especially in the Posiverse.

The storm - a sullen, cold drizzle - matched the mood of one of the inhabitants of the house at 537 Avian Way. Morgan stared out the window apathetically. He may have had something to do with the storm; if he did, it was unintentional, and he didn't to care about it one way or the other.

He had felt depressed and apathetic for two months now, ever since the household had lost one of its members. Drake Mallard, Morgan's father. He had been fighting the good fight as Posiduck for decades, and passed on the role to Joey, Morgan's older brother, when Joey had come of age. When he had come out of retirement to help out in a minor capacity, his luck had abandoned him, and he had been killed. Just like that. That had been his reward for protecting the city for most of his life.

Everybody had been hit hard by Drake's death. Morgana and Launchpad, Morgan's other parents, had consoled each other and their children. Gosalyn pretended not to be affected at all, and back when he had cared Morgan had been angry at her for it. Joey had recovered quickly, considering that he had found out about Drake's death the same way that Morgan had. Felice and Alegria, his younger twin sisters, had been distraught at first, but they had also recovered the fastest. Now life seemed to have gone back to normal for everyone. Except Morgan.

He didn't understand how the others could just return to the usual routine as if nothing significant had happened. Morgana, his mother, had tried to reach him when she saw that he was taking it the hardest of anyone in the family. When she understood that Morgan didn't want to talk, she and the others left him alone to deal with it himself. That was what he wanted. To be left alone. He no longer cried any more; he had gone dry some time ago. Now all he did was go through the necessary motions of living, and stare listlessly out the window.

Two hundred years into the future and one universe over, it was also a dark and stormy day. The drake who stared out the window knew he could not have had anything to do with it, but he silently cheered the sharp gusts of wind, the flashes of lightning, and the rain which battered down the grass.

It had been ten years since Essobee had called up a storm. He was now forbidden to use any magic. Not forbidden, but prevented, by a powerful enchantment that his captors had laid on him. It was a condition of letting him out of his prison. Pulling the snake's fangs, so they thought. If he could not use his magical powers, they could eventually make him see the error of his ways and become a useful part of society. Ha!

For ten long years the Eldritch Academy had had custody of Essobee. After his attempt to break into Shambhala, it was a wonder that they had not left him to freeze in the snow in the Valley of Light. But, being Good Guys, they could not let someone suffer and die. So they had taken it upon themselves to rehabilitate this poor, misguided wretch. They were so moral they would not even try to alter his mind with their spells, even though they could. No, he must choose to be good willingly. So Essobee had learned, after a few false starts, to behave himself. He had even gained the use of the Academy's library, and been employed as a servant of one of the sorcerers, a Vampire who spoke in a gentle, oddly accented voice.

In other words, Essobee was biding his time and nursing his resentment until the Elders were fully satisfied that Essobee had indeed paid back his debt and deserved to be given his freedom and his powers again. It had been ten years; he was over thirty now. Ten years of life wasted. He would pay them back for that. Starting with that smugly polite Vampire. But, until then, he would smile and play the game, and in his spare time learn as much as he could from the spellbooks in the Library.

It was not a dark and stormy night. But then it never was, because it was never night. In places, however, it was quite dark and stormy.

"Ain't I due for some luck about now?" Lucifer grumbled, looking at his monitor.

Negaduck, leaning on the hilt of a trident, stood behind him. It looked over Lucifer's shoulder as he rapidly flicked through a succession of Earthly scenes. It commented, "That's the Posiverse, isn't it? Why're you looking there?"

"'Cause I ain't gonna give up on that place, that's why! I got the Negaverse in the palm of my hand, and I got a good foot hold on the Regulaverse. But the Posiverse - zip!"

Negaduck thought to itself that he would be better off forgetting that place existed. "Too bad you can't just go back in time and take out a few people. A few changes in the right places, and things wouldn't be so screwed up now."

"Oh, really?" Lucifer swiveled his chair to look at Negaduck. "How the heck do you know that?"

"Did it myself." Negaduck grinned. "Got a time machine and scrambled things around. Every time I did, things turned out worse. It got so bad I put things back the way they were. But I'll bet that if I did that in the Posiverse, it'd be a lot easier to cause some devilment up there."

"You may have something there." Lucifer mused. "But I can't just do it. I gotta follow the rules."

"Why?" Negaduck asked.

"'Cause that's the way it is, all right?!" Lucifer flared.

"Okay, okay!" Negaduck said, shielding itself with a batlike wing.

Lucifer glared for a moment longer, then went back to the monitor and started flicking through the scenes again. After a minute of this Negaduck was about to turn to leave when it saw a certain image. "Wait! Turn back!"


"I saw someone! Back one more - yes!" Negaduck stared at the monitor. It saw a male duck with long black hair streaked with silver at the temples. "I don't believe it! I thought he was dead!" Negaduck breathed.

Lucifer clicked his pointer on the image and read the information that appeared in a pop-up frame. "Essobee McCawber, born in 2002 in the Negaverse ... hey, that's your kid, ain't it?"

"Yes." Negaduck hissed. "What is he still doing alive?!"

Lucifer scrolled down through the text file on Essobee. "Says here that he went into the future by accident, and summoned you up to help him find some 'City of Wisdom'. And got himself caught by those goody-goodies in Shambhala."

"Loser." Negaduck grumbled. "Dumb brat."

"I dunno. Could have potential there, if he got loose." Lucifer said speculatively.

"He'll never use it. He's too big a fool."

"Wanna bet on it?"

Negaduck shook a finger at Lucifer. "You always win bets somehow." it said.

"Don't you think you can do it?" Lucifer countered with a toothy grin.

Negaduck's reply was cut off by a voice from the screen. Essobee had just slammed shut the book he was reading. They heard him growl that he wished he was the devil out of there.

Lucifer said, "Now is that a cue or what?"

"Did you plan that?"

"Who, me? Perish the thought. Now get going!"

Essobee closed the book he was reading. It was hard to learn just from reading, without any practical experience. He was doing as well as he could under the crippling circumstances. "What's the bloody point?!" he asked out loud.

"You tell me." came a voice behind himself.

Essobee whirled around. Nobody was in the room with him. He looked around, then caught a flicker of movement in the silver mirror. Peering closer, he thought he saw the faint tracing of a face. "Who are you?" Essobee demanded.

"Your guardian angel." came the answer.

Essobee laughed bitterly. "I don't have one of those. And if I did, it'd be a devil."

"Have it your way." the face in the mirror replied, sharpening slightly. It was beginning to take on a recognizably Avian form. "You wished for help. I'm here to grant your wish. Or would you rather live the rest of your life like this?"

"Got any other stupid questions, so I can answer them all at once?" Essobee asked.

"Ah, you're still spirited." the face growled, its eyes glowing. "Back up."

Essobee stepped back. The image in the mirror came into focus, startling Essobee. Before he could react the image leapt out of the mirror and landed on flinty hooves in front of Essobee. It backwinged a beat to regain its balance. Then it looked at Essobee and grinned. "You don't look happy to see me, sonny boy."

Essobee looked around frantically, as if afraid they would be discovered. Negaduck held up a hand. "Oh, calm down. Nobody'll find out until it's too late. Look outside."

Essobee did. The air was perfectly still and clammy. Raindrops hung suspended in the air, starkly illuminated by a frozen lightning bolt. Still wide eyed, Essobee looked back. "How in the world did you do that?"

Negaduck blew on its claws. "The same way I did the mirror trick. It comes with the job. You never noticed why nobody ever walks in on a demon making a deal?" It smiled and rubbed the backs of its claws on its yellow, double- breasted jacket. "You got friends in low places, you know that? I have a deal for you. I'll bust you out of here, if you'll help me with a minor task. Then I let you go free. What do you say?"

"Anything has to be better than this. You're not going to abandon me on top of a glacier without my magic again, are you?"

"Suspicious little creep, aren't you? No, I'm going to let you go scot free. With your magic. So, do we have a deal?" It extended a clawed hand forward.

Essobee looked at the hand. What did he have to lose? He took it.

They vanished.

They reappeared in a familiar city. Negaduck was now disguised as its mortal self. Essobee looked around. "This is St. Canard!" he exclaimed. "I'm home!"

"Look again." Negaduck said.

Essobee did. Then he saw what Negaduck meant. "This isn't the Negaverse, is it?"

"No, it isn't. It's the Posiverse. I don't need any help stirring up trouble in the Negaverse." Negaduck said.

"Well, I can't be much help if you don't take that spell off me, the one that keeps me from using magic."

"We're two hundred years in the past. It hasn't been cast yet."

Essobee glared at Negaduck. "You expect me to believe that!?"

"You will if you want to get along with me. Go on, try it out."

Essobee turned and looked around. Spying a trash bin full of newspapers, he gestured at it. It burst into flame. He stared at the fire in surprise. "I really DO have my magic back!"

Negaduck gestured. The fire disappeared, leaving behind charred newspapers. "Way to be inconspicuous. Haven't you learned ANYTHING since Posiduck beat you?"

"Posiduck - wait a minute. This place is a magical desert!" Essobee exclaimed. "There's almost no power to be had here!"

"So conserve." Negaduck said simply. "Not only have I set you free, I'm also giving you a prime opportunity for revenge. Don't whine or I'll throw you back!"

Essobee glared at Negaduck briefly. Then he asked, "So, what is this 'minor task' you need me for?"

"Whatever I want you for." Negaduck snarled. "You owe me now!" It seized the front of Essobee's robe.

Quickly Essobee made a gesture. Negaduck was forced back a step. Essobee, holding his hands up in a warding position, said "Cut the bull, Daddy Dearest. I know your limitations; I didn't spend ten of the longest years of my life studying sorcery without learning a few things!"

Negaduck tried to step forward; the protection spell would not allow it. "Without being able to practice what you've learned, I don't think you could hex your way out of a paper bag, kid." it scoffed.

"Oh, really?" Still holding his hands in a warding position, he concentrated. Threads of light spread around Negaduck, solidifying into lines of force.

The lines were weak, Negaduck saw - but they were in the shape of a pentagram, and glyphs had appeared at the points of the star. Negaduck tried to step through, and found that he could not. The runes were correct, down to the last detail. It took no mean amount of concentration to cast a spell like this with no preparation, just from memory. Negaduck rose into a pillar of flame, then dove at Essobee. Essobee did not try to escape; he stood there as the demon dashed itself against the borders of the pentagram.

Negaduck was secretly pleased. This was not the whiny brat it had left in the snow at Shambhala ten years ago! It resumed its earthly form and grinned. "I see you've grown a spine in the last decade. At least I won't have to babysit you this time around."

"What is the task?" Essobee asked in a flat voice, not breaking his concentration on the ward.

"Like I said, revenge. I have an old grudge up here, and so do you. It'll be just like old times."

"We never did ANYTHING in the old times but fight." Essobee reminded it.

"Details, details." Negaduck said. "Hold that thought."

It disappeared from the pentagram, leaving behind a thin wisp of smoke.

Negaduck reappeared in Lucifer's chamber. "Well, what do you think so far?"

"Nice start. You're not planning on offing Posiduck, are you?"

"Yeah, what of it?"

Lucifer fiddled with his computer. He typed:

and scrolled down a long list. When he stopped he highlighted a specific entry. Negaduck read on the screen:

POSIDUCK: Deceased 07/04/2023 Assignment: Elysium

Lucifer shook his head. "Nice try, but you're a few months too late."

Negaduck growled, "Then I'll just go BACK a few months!"

Lucifer shook his head. "Nope. You can't mess with him after he's gone upstairs. Against regulations. Not mine, theirs." He jerked a thumb upwards with a sour expression. "You can try, but take my advice and save yourself a lotta headaches and don't bother." He clicked on the name to call more information up on the screen:

Mallard, Gosalyn
McCawber, Morgana
McCawber, Alegria
McCawber, Felice
McCawber, Joseph
McCawber, Morgan
McQuack, Launchpad

Lucifer gestured up at the screen. "You still got a whole pack of 'em to play with. Including Posiduck number two, you remember him?"

"Yeah. He's the one who made Essobee look like a fool. Well, one of the ones, anyway."

"Those guys have been a pain in my tail for so long now. And it would just KILL Posiduck if he found out you were bedeviling his loved ones and he couldn't do a thing about it, wouldn't it?"

"Yes, it would." Negaduck replied, grinning. "You sure he can't get in my way?"

"Oh, please!" Lucifer laughed. "When's the last time you heard of angels doing anything besides appearing in plates of spaghetti and making statues cry? Now go up there and get rid of those other do-gooders."

Negaduck reappeared in front of Essobee. "All right, kid, I got - hey, what the-?"

Essobee folded his arms and watched Negaduck calmly. "Yes?"

Negaduck looked down. It was standing in a small pentagram drawn on the ground, bordered by carefully executed glyphs. "Would you give it a rest already?"

"No. Not until you swear on your name that you will bring no harm to me, directly or indirectly. In those exact words."

Negaduck rolled its eyes. "All right, all right, whatever turns you on. I swear on my name that I will not knowingly cause you harm, directly or indirectly."

Essobee nodded. A demon could not break such a vow. Even if it had not said its given name out loud, it still added its power to the spell, making it unbreakable. He rubbed out one of the pentagram lines.

Negaduck stepped out. "Now that we got the prelims over with. Let me spell it out for you, kiddo." it paused briefly, but Essobee did not bother to react. "You remember the last time you were here, when you got yourself trounced by the goody-goodies?" It laughed. Essobee gritted his teeth; he remembered all too well. Negaduck continued, "Well, they're our target. Posiduck is already dead, drat it, but that still leaves a bunch of 'em for us. Including Posiduck the second."

"NOW you've finally said something interesting." Essobee said. "I still owe them for that trick with the iron wire!"

"Good." Negaduck rubbed its hands together. "First things first - we find them."

"How? By causing trouble?"

"Nahh. Don't you know where they live?"

"How should I?"

"Prepare to feel really stupid." Negaduck replied, and clapped its hands together at arms length.

They appeared in front of a suburban house. Essobee looked at it, then at Negaduck. "Why should I feel stupid?"

"This is - oh, never mind!" Negaduck had forgotten that Essobee had grown up in McCawber Manor, not 537 Avian Way. "Anyway, here's where they live. All of 'em."

Essobee started scanning the area for the presence of magic. While he did that, Negaduck studied the house. It was nauseatingly bland. Shades of blue, well maintained lawn. Curtained windows all open to the sunlight. It caught a glimpse of movement in one window. A face appeared and looked out. It met Negaduck's eyes, and they locked gazes, surprised. The face disappeared immediately.

Negaduck seized Essobee's arm and said "No time for that now." Quickly it teleported them back to the blind alley in which they had first appeared.

"What was THAT for?" Essobee exclaimed, annoyed at the interruption.

"We were seen, that's what." Negaduck answered, sounding distracted.

"Seen? So what? You don't look like a demon now. Who saw us?"

"You did."

Morgan looked back at the window. They were gone now.

He ran downstairs. "Mom! 'Pad! I saw him!"

"Who did you see?" came Morgana's voice from the kitchen.

He ran into the kitchen. Morgana was at the stove, stirring something in a deep pan. Alegria, one of his younger twin sisters, was chopping something on a wooden board to help Morgana. In the alcove, Launchpad was playing cards with Felice, the other twin. Morgan was about to speak when he suddenly realized how silly he would look. He glanced around, then said, "Uh, Mom - could I speak with you? Alone?"

"Of course. Alegria, please make sure this doesn't scorch. Remember, stir from the center." She handed her daughter the wooden spoon.

They walked out of the kitchen into the foyer hallway. Morgan led them into the living room and looked out the picture window at the sidewalk in front of the lawn. "You're gonna think I'm nuts, but I just saw Dad, with someone else, right out there."

"You saw Drake?" she said softly. "With who?"

"I don't know. She had long hair, whoever she was. In fact, she had hair like yours, including the streaks. And-" he looked up at her. She was wearing a very patient expression. "You think I'm seeing things, don't you."

"I think you saw something." Morgana answered tactfully. She put an arm around his shoulders.

He stiffened at her touch. "Mother, I'd know if I was hallucinating. In fact, you could tell if I was by reading my mind. Why don't you do that?"

"Morgan, I believe you-" she began.

"But. But I couldn't have seen what I saw, could I?" he turned away from her, stepping out of her reach. "Never mind. Maybe I AM seeing things. After all, there's no such thing as ghosts, is there?"

"Calm down." came a voice from behind him. A hand touched his shoulder.

Morgan turned to see Joey, his older brother. The thought flitted through Morgan's mind that every year he looked more like Launchpad. Joey said, "Don't get mad-"

"I am NOT mad." Morgan said, stepping back to put him out of their reach. "I said, I was just seeing things! Never mind!" Without another word he turned and ran back up the stairs.

Joey started forward. Morgana laid a hand on his shoulder. "Stop. If you follow him, he'll just run from you."

"Why's he acting like that?" Joey asked.

"You know as well as I do that Drake's death hit him hard. He was so close to him. But I wouldn't have thought it'd be this difficult." She said sadly, "When he was younger, I could make everything better with a hug or a healing spell. I wish I knew what to do now."

Negaduck waited while Essobee concentrated, sitting cross-legged on the ground, his eyes closed. After what seemed like an interminably long time he opened his eyes and got to his feet again. "What did you see?" Negaduck asked.

"That was me." Essobee answered shakily. "The Posiverse me, anyway. And what a WUSS! He's all broken up over his dear Daddy's death. You'd never catch ME getting upset over something silly like that."

Negaduck caught Essobee around the neck with one arm and knuckled his head. "The feeling is mutual, you little bastich."

Essobee broke away and smoothed down his hair. "What about that vow you just took?!"

"Oh I didn't hurt you, did I?" Negaduck smirked.

Still recovering his dignity, Essobee said, "Anyway, they're all witches in there, of one degree or another, except for one of them. They all have some power, but only two of them are really strong. And only one is a true sorcerer. Morgana. The others are really just apprentices of hers. Her children." Essobee clearly thought the idea very strange.

"Children? You mean, more than one? Ugh! Better in this universe than mine!" Negaduck stuck out its tongue in disgust.

"Looks to me as if one - Morgan - is the weak link in the chain." Essobee stated. "The others are all boringly sane. But Morgan seems to be about to have a breakdown or something."

"Maybe that's it. You just set down and watch 'em some more. I'm going to do some research down under. Back in a flash." The demon faded from sight.

Essobee sat back down and concentrated on his target again.

Morgan heard a tap on his door. He sighed in annoyance and opened it. It was Joey. "What do you want?"

"Morgan, I'm worried about you. We all are." Joey said simply.

"Yeah, well, I know what I saw. I can't help it if you all don't believe me. Just leave me alone!"

Joey stopped him before he could close the door. "Look, I know-"

"You know? What do you know?!" Morgan shouted. "It's not like you lost your father!"

Stung, Joey started to reply, "He was-"

"Oh, he was, was he? Then how come you have red hair? I'm not that stupid, Joey!"

Joey sighed. He never was good with words. He did not take offense at Morgan's remark; he knew that pain was behind his words. Their mother was right, Morgan needed more than kind words this time. But what else could Joey give, besides time? He said, "I'm sorry, I guess a bunch of platitudes isn't going to do you any good right now. Just - well, I'm sorry."

"Yeah, I know." Morgan muttered, somewhat pacified.

Joey looked at his younger brother for a moment longer. Then he left, closing the door softly behind himself.

Essobee looked up when Negaduck reappeared. The demon was grinning. "What're you looking so smug about?" Essobee asked.

"Oh, I got a sad, tragic tale to tell. It seems that poor Morgan was a party to his father's death-"

"Lucky stiff."

"Smart alec. Now he feels guilty as sin because he didn't do anything about it. He just let Daddy bleed to death. Doesn't it bring a tear to your eye?"

"Yeah, of jealousy. So what's your point? Who cares about Morgan? It's Posiduck and Morgana we need to get rid of."

"Oh, come ON, use your brain if you have one under that long hair! Morgan's the weak link in the chain. We can use a bit of psychological warfare on him, and have him in our hands before he knew what happens. And you know those Good Guys - once we have one of them, the others will follow like lemmings."

"You know what? You always were a sucker for a cliché."

"Clichés are clichés for a reason." Negaduck replied drily.

By that evening, the tension had still not dispelled at the McCawber residence. Everyone felt it, even Felice and Alegria, who were normally impervious to depression. Dinner had been quiet and uncomfortable. Though Morgan had retreated back upstairs immediately afterwards, the cloud still hung over the others.

Launchpad spoke to Morgana as they were cleaning the kitchen afterwards. "I'm worried about Morgan." he began.

"So are we all." she replied.

"Joey told me he tried to talk to him, and he just got mad. Morgan usually listens to him. I don't know what to do."

"Neither do I. He doesn't listen to me either. It looks like the one person he would listen to is permanently absent." she forced a laugh; it sounded more like a cough. "Pushing him won't work, and we've seen what happens when we just leave him alone."

Launchpad rinsed dishwater from his hands, wiped them dry on a towel, then put an arm around her shoulders. "I hate to see him like that." he said simply.

She was silent for a time. He stroked her long, black hair with his free hand. When she spoke again she said, "I think I know what might help."

"You do? What?"

She paused before she spoke. "Perhaps I could arrange for a farewell. If Morgan had a chance to speak to him, maybe that would set his mind at rest."

"But, ah, we already had a funeral. He was real quiet then."

"No, I don't mean a funeral, Launchpad. I mean, try to call Drake back in a seance. I know that if he knew what was happening to Morgan he wouldn't mind."

Launchpad answered slowly. "Well, it couldn't hurt."

"It may be what he needs. I hope it is."

Once she had decided on her course of action, she lost no time in setting up. Candles, herbs, and a brazier went up to the Audubon Bay Bridge tower, a place that still had a strong connection to Drake. When she had everything set up, including protective circles in case some other, less friendly spirit should try to interfere, she called the family together. Even Gosalyn, who had moved out over ten years ago, was present; Launchpad had asked her to come. Morgana announced to them, "We are going to have a seance."

All of the children looked at her in surprise. Morgan spoke. "A what?!"

"A seance." she repeated. "Up in the tower. Come with me."

"You're kidding me, right? Ouija board and everything?" Gosalyn scoffed.

"I am not kidding, Gosalyn. I am perfectly serious. This is the time, right now. Come along. Morgan, get the bell that Drake gave you. We'll use it in the ceremony." She clapped her hands and vanished.

Launchpad sat in one of the transport chairs. To the others, who were still wearing questioning frowns, he said "You heard her. To the tower, c'mon." He patted the chair beside himself. "Morgan."

Morgan looked at the chair disdainfully, then clapped his hands together and vanished. Gosalyn sat in the chair. "He's still being a little pain, isn't he?" she remarked.

"No, he isn't." Launchpad said softly. Then he hit the switch.

Joey appeared in the tower last, having teleported himself and his younger sisters the same way Morgana and Morgan had. Morgana indicated the correct spot in the patterns she had drawn for each of them to sit. Despite his skepticism, Morgan was intrigued. He had never been a part of a seance before; he had only seen one when he was much younger, and he could remember only little bits of it.

"Everyone, join hands." she directed. To Launchpad and Joey, who were sitting on either side of her, she said "Put your hands on my shoulders."

She held a long, thin white candle in front of herself. In a low voice she said, "Silence. Say nothing, just listen and concentrate. I need all of you to focus. Calling a spirit that is at rest is not easy. And it will take all of our effort." Looking at Joey, Gosalyn, Felice, Alegria, and Morgan, she said, "Concentrate on your father, Drake Mallard." Morgan started to speak. She fixed her gaze on him and said firmly "Silence. Concentrate."

Morgan looked down. She said, "Morgan. Light the candle."

Morgan, a puzzled expression still on his face, looked at the wick. She could feel a flick of power touch the tip. The wick ignited. She lit the candles - one in front of each seat - then set her candle in a holder in front of herself. In the brazier in the center she placed a mix of herbs and powders and touched it with the long candle. Instead of flaring into a bright, short-lived braze, the mixture smouldered and sent out a fragrant, thick smoke.

Close your eyes and concentrate, she thought to the others. By now drawn into the ceremony, they obeyed automatically. She took out a flat, black board covered with a thin layer of pale beeswax and set it in front of herself. With the tip of her athame she began carving symbols, speaking them aloud as she did to give them power. The pattern taking shape on the board defined the path for the spirit to follow. When she was finished she set the knife, point down, in a cup of water and began mentally calling out to the spirit. She reached for the bell.

Her call was answered before she touched it. The spirit had traveled down the path that she had created like fire down a trail of smoke. "I'm here." it said in a voice like a breeze.

They all startled. Morgana said, "Drake."


She suddenly found herself flustered. What do you say to a spirit, even one to whom you had been married in life?

"I know why you have called me. I've been watching." A face formed in the smoke. Its mouth did not move as it spoke. "You need me one last time." The face become more sharply defined, almost lifelike. It looked directly at Morgan. "You need me." it said in a low voice.

Morgan said "Yes." almost inaudibly, as if the admission hurt him physically.

"Perhaps this should be private." it said. Suddenly everyone except Morgan was as still as a statue. The candle flames were no longer flickering, and the smoke hung motionless, frozen in the air.

Morgan looked around in alarm. His sisters sitting on either side of him looked like mannikins. Their hands were stiff in his. "What happened?"

"Just a little trick I picked up in the afterlife." the face answered. It was no longer composed of smoke. In fact, it was condensing into a solid form. The form of his father, even down to the Posiduck costume. It hung in the air over the brazier. "Morgan, do you really want me back?"


It shook its head mournfully. "I can't come back. Once you're dead, you're dead. But I can bring you to where I am now."

"Really? You mean-"

"The afterlife. Yes. Do you want that?"

Morgan did not hesitate. Even if he had to die first, getting to Heaven would be worth it. There sure wasn't much he cared about on Earth right now. "Yes."

"Then take my hands." The spirit solidified further and reached out to Morgan. "Come to me."

Morgan removed his hands from his sisters' and reached out to the spirit. The spirit did not move from its spot over the brazier. Morgan stepped out of the protective circle to clasp the outstretched hands. When he touched the spirit, he disappeared.

The spirit grinned and solidified. Then it said, "Essobee, come on."

Essobee appeared. "Nice act. Why didn't Morgana recognize you?"

"I didn't give her the time to get suspicious. You got a good look at Morgan. Disguise yourself as him; you're going to take his place."

"Wait a minute! I don't look or act anything like him!" Essobee objected.

"You look EXACTLY like him, with worse hair. And he's a whiny little punk, just like you. So get to it."

Essobee didn't waste any more energy grumbling. Instead, he cast a disguise spell to make himself look ten years younger and change his hair to Morgan's short ponytail. He changed his robe into a replica of Morgan's shirt. He said to the demon, "Close enough?"

"Your own mother wouldn't know you. Here's what you're going to do. You're going to sit tight and make them think you're Morgan so they don't know I've got the real one."

"What do you want him for anyway? He's such a putz. If you're not using him against them, who ARE you going to use him for?"

"He's bait. I'm going to catch a bigger fish." Negaduck said with a nasty grin.

Essobee could tell that he wasn't going to get much more of an answer than that. He sat in Morgan's place and took his "siblings'" hands. Negaduck faded back into the smoke. The smoke started drifting again. And, without warning, it flashed brightly, dazzling them all. When the glow faded the ghost was gone.

The spell was broken. Morgana stared at the smoke in blank shock. Launchpad asked, "What happened?"

"I don't know." Morgana asked softly. She looked at Essobee. "What did he say to you?"

"Nothing." Essobee said morosely. He took his hands out of his "sisters'" grasp and stood, then clapped his hands together and disappeared.

The others looked at each other. This hadn't helped at all. Morgan would feel worse than ever.

It was a hot and humid day. The air hung stagnant over a plain of sand, dirt, and scrubby bushes. The foliage was not apparent at first; it was the same grey-brown color as the earth. Here and there puddles lay in depressions in the ground. Above all this was a cloudy, grey sky. Well, it looked like clouds, but it was so featureless one could not be sure.

Morgan looked around. Where was he? This couldn't be Heaven! The air positively reeked, and bugs swarmed around the pools. In the distance, he could see something like a large, long flag moving across the landscape, and people chasing it. What was that?

Looking in the other direction, he made out what looked like a wall with a gate. Lacking a better direction, he started walking in that direction.

After twenty minutes he reached the gate. Someone else was standing there, looking in through the iron bars. When he heard Morgan approach he turned to look at him. Drake stared for a moment, then said "Oh, no! What are you doing here?"

"What am I - what do you mean?! You brought me here!" Morgan said. "Where is this?!"

In a low voice Drake said, "This is the outermost circle of Hades."

"H- what?" Morgan exclaimed.

"Hades. Morgan, how did you get here?" Drake said, looking closely at him with a saddened expression.

"I didn't do anything! I'm not even dead! You brought me here! WHY?!"

Drake raised his hands. "Calm down, Morgan." he said. "I didn't bring you here. I don't know who did, but I wouldn't do that to you."

"Dad ... what are you doing here?" Morgan asked.

"I'm not sure. I was sent here because someone would need me." He looked at Morgan and forced a smile. "Hmm, I guess I know why after all."

"In Hades." Morgan said. It was beginning to sink in.

"Morgan, whoever brought you here - what happened?"

Morgan grasped the iron gate in one hand, and was mildly surprised to find that it was cool, not hot. "Um... It was when Mom was holding a seance to call you back."

"Really? Why?" Drake asked, surprised.

"Well..." Morgan was embarrassed. "For me, I guess."

From the look on Morgan's face, Drake guessed that making Morgan elaborate would only embarrass him. He prompted, "What happened at the seance?"

"You - something pretending to be you - appeared and stopped time. Then he said that he'd take me to where he lived now, and when I said yes I wound up here."

"Morgan, you were tricked." Drake said. "Did he make you promise him anything in exchange? Or did he give you anything?"

Morgan shook his head. "No. It was just like I told you. If I'd known he was a fake-!" He looked sick.

Drake put an arm across his shoulders. "Listen to me now. Someone played a really ugly trick on you. But if you don't belong here, and you're still alive, then he has no claim on you."

"So what? We're here! What does it matter whether someone "claimed" me or not?!"

"It makes a lot of difference." Drake replied softly. "I wasn't sent here to keep you company. I think I know why. Morgan, do you remember Dante's Inferno?"

"Dante? Didn't he see this place in a dream?"

"Maybe. But do you remember how the book ended? Dante and his guide went to the center of Hades, and found the way out there."

Morgan looked up. "Way out? Yeah! That book ended with them escaping into Purgatory, didn't it! But I thought that was just a story."

"No, I don't believe so. I'm sure it isn't." Drake said with conviction.

Morgan stepped back. "Wait a minute." he said suspiciously. "How do I know YOU'RE not a fake, just trying to get me to walk deeper into Hades?"

Drake looked steadily into Morgan's eyes. "I could tell you all sorts of thing that only you and I know, but I'm not sure someone else couldn't do that too. Maybe even by getting the answers from your mind. Demons can do that, I think. But there's something I don't think any demon could tell you - I've missed you ever since I died. I love you, Morgan."

Morgan's eyes blurred. He fought to control himself. Drake embraced him and patted his back. Morgan held him tightly, as if afraid that he would disappear again.

When Morgan finished crying Drake said, "I understand why they held that seance now. I'm sorry."

"You're sorry? You're the one who died!"

"Morgan, everyone dies." Drake said gently.

Morgan had no answer to that. Drake drew back so he could look Morgan in the face. His eyes were red, and the feathers below them were wet. Drake said, "No Kleenex in Hades, unfortunately."

Morgan smiled weakly. Drake said, "We've got to go through whatever's down there to get out of this place. It's dangerous. Especially for someone who's still alive."

"Isn't it impossible?"

"I wouldn't have been sent down here to help on a hopeless errand." Drake looked through the bars. On the inside was a river. A boat was approaching them from the far bank. Drake pushed the gate open. "Let's go."

Morgan followed obediently. While waiting for the boat Morgan commented, "So Hades has a moat. Where are the sharks?"

Drake smiled but did not reply. As the boat came closer Morgan commented, "Wait a minute, that isn't a rowboat."

"You're right." Drake looked at it. A rowboat wouldn't leave a wake. As it came closer they could hear the buzz of a motor.

It pulled up to the shore and extended a gangplank into the water. "Get in!" exclaimed the man at the wheel.

Drake and Morgan exchanged looks, then waded to the gangplank. The ground below the water was unpleasantly warm and soft, and Morgan thought he felt things moving under his feet. As he was about to enter the boat the man pointed at his feet and shouted, "Hold it right there! Wipe that mud off before you get in here!"

"Well, if you'd pulled up to the shore instead of making us-" Morgan began. Drake laid a hand on his son's shoulder and, when he looked back, shook his head in warning. Morgan glared back at the man, whose name tag read CHARON, then scraped the worst of the muck off the soles of his feet onto the gangplank and stepped in. Drake did the same.

Charon punched a button and the gangplank retracted. "I can't believe I made this blasted trip for just two blasted passengers. I should've made you wait." he muttered sourly.

Morgan and Drake stood at the front of the ship. There were no seats in the passenger area, and nothing to hold onto, so those who were not at the sides if the ship would have a problem remaining upright. Especially since Charon seemed to prefer jerking the ship around to steering it smoothly. Morgan commented, "Thank goodness I was never prone to seasickness."

"That's good. Around here it helps to count small blessings."

"Why'd that jerk make such a big deal about my feet, anyway? This ship is a mess already!" He gestured at the deck behind them, which was covered with dirt, dried mud, and sand.

"This is Hades. I don't imagine anyone is here to be polite." Drake replied. "To get through, we should remain inconspicuous. Keep a low profile. Don't put up unnecessary resistance, and you'll slip through."

"You mean, if someone gives us a hard time like that, just let him?"

"Getting angry about it will only waste time and energy." Drake said simply. "We'll have to fight before this is over, I'm sure. No point in looking for more fights."

The opposite shore was approaching. Charon stopped the boat - a good three feet from the pier - and didn't bother to extend the gangplank. "Get out." he ordered.

They leapt the distance to the pier. Leading from it was a path through yellow, weedy land. They followed it to a building that extended toward the horizon in either direction, curving faintly inward. In front of them was a set of turnstiles, and dozens of people waiting in line.

Morgan said, "A line? Turnstiles?" He wanted to laugh, it was so grotesque.

Drake replied, "I don't know. It seems rather appropriate to me."

A red goat in a uniform and wearing a badge shaped like the print of a cloven hoof shouted at them, "You two! Keep it down!"

Morgan started to reply angrily that they weren't being loud, but stopped when he felt Drake's hand on his shoulder. "We'll lower our voices." Drake said softly.

"Good." said the demon in smug satisfaction, and walked on.

Morgan was still annoyed, but he could see Drake's point about not making waves.

As Morgan and Drake whispered to each other, the lines moved forward. They were surprised to see that all the lines led to the same room, at the head of which sat a tall, regally robed jackal. People came forward and spoke to the jackal, who listened, then smiled and lashed his whip at them. Instead of striking them, it wrapped itself around them, and the jackal flung them out the other side of the room, where they fell into the bowl-shaped landscape. Morgan whispered, "I thought Minos was supposed to be here. That's Anubis."

"I think you're right." Drake said. "But Dante didn't see all of Hades, just a cross section. There must be more than one judge of the dead."

They heard a cackling laugh. "We have a pair of geniuses here!" They turned to see Anubis looking right at them. He crooked a finger at them, beckoning them over. Drake walked through the crowd toward Anubis, and Morgan followed.

When they were in front of the throne Anubis grinned down at them. "You came together, eh? What do you have to confess? It'll be easier than if I have to drag it out of you, you know." He tilted his head to one side. "Let me guess. Seventh circle."

"We are not here for judgement." Drake replied calmly. "I have been sent here on a mission of mercy. And he has not died at all, so Hades has no claim on him."

"Say what?" Anubis looked at them in surprise, then poked at Morgan with his whip handle. "He is still in the flesh. I have to call the Admin Office about this."

"No." Drake said. "You may not detain us. Let us pass through."

The jackal stared at him for some seconds, the waved them toward the open wall of the room. "Go ahead, then. You'll probably wish you'd taken my judgement, but that's not my problem. Go on, git."

Essobee looked about Morgan's room. It was uncomfortably small for Essobee's taste, and the clutter made it look smaller. But in that clutter there were bound to be useful things, spellbooks or magical items from which he could leach the mana to power himself.

He started with one of the two bookshelves. He scanned it for magic. None of the contents showed any sign of having a concentration of mana, so either they were magically inert or they were cleverly shielded. But why would he shield anything? In a lovey-dovey family like this nobody would keep any secrets. So he wouldn't bother seeing if any of the books were hollowed out, either.

A knock on the door disturbed him. Drat, this loving family would also be concerned about what had happened to him at the seance. Oh, well, time to put on an act. He paused for a moment, relaxed into an attitude of mild depression, and opened the door.

It was Morgana. She was as tall as Essobee's mother, and had the same features and long hair, but somehow her expression made her look completely different. She said, "I'm sorry about what happened at the seance."

"Ah, forget it." he said with a shrug. "I guess it really wasn't meant to happen."

She looked at him oddly. "I don't know what went wrong."

He shook his head. "I really wasn't meant to talk to him after all. He's gone. I just have to get used to it." He put a hand in front of his bill and drew in a deep breath, as if gathering his strength, then smiled at her weakly. "I'll be all right, really. Mother."

"All right." She touched his cheek with her hand lightly, then left.

Essobee closed the door and locked it. Why did he feel so strange now?

This weird place must be getting to him. He went back to his search.

Drake and Morgan had found themselves at the edge of a barren, rocky slope. It was not sharp enough to be called a cliff, but it was hard to pick their way down it. The wind did not help. If it had been coming from one direction they could have guarded against it, but it blew in gusts from every which way, buffeting them around this way and that.

The people being blown around in the wind did not ease their task, either. They made all sorts of awful noises as they rose and fell in the air currents. Morgan shouted above the din, "I didn't think it would be so literal."

"There's a crack in the cliff!" Drake shouted back. "Climb down through here."

Morgan inched his way around, and found to his surprise that there was indeed a huge vertical crack in the cliff, as if someone had split it open. They were able to inch down, their feet against one face and their backs against the other, with the wind only annoying them by blowing in their faces. To take his mind off the distraction, Morgan searched his memory for what this place was in Dante's book. If only he had read it more recently!

When they arrived at the ground Morgan looked up. People were tumbling around in the wind, some alone, more in clumps of two or more. "So that's what happens to 'The Carnal'. I don't get it."

"Don't get what?" Drake asked.

"Look, I know what 'The Carnal' means. But if it's consenting adult stuff, why are they being punished for it?"

"These are people who wasted their lives on carnal pursuits, I believe." Drake said. "An analogy could be alcohol. One can enjoy a glass of wine when it's appropriate, or one can be an alcoholic."

"That makes sense." Then another thought occurred to him. "Wait a minute. That was the second circle. What about the first?"

"I think the first was outside the gate." Drake replied.

"No, not that. I think that's Limbo or something. The first circle was supposed to be the Virtuous Pagans, wasn't it?"

Drake shook his head. "No. There's no place here that punishes moral people for calling their embodiment of good by another name."

"But it was in the book."

"Books are written by people and colored by their own beliefs. Think about it, Morgan. If all the people who came before the 'proper' religion was invented, or who happened to be brought up in the 'wrong' church or without one at all, but who still had a strong sense of morals and justice, were punished here, what would that say about justice? It's what's in your heart and your actions, not which direction you face to pray."

Again, that made a lot of sense. And Drake said it with such assurance. Why shouldn't he, though? When you're dead you're supposed to learn all the secrets of the universe or something like that.

Drake pointed out, across the plain. "Let's go, we're not getting any younger. Well, you aren't anyway." he smiled.

Morgan grinned back. Looking over the landscape, he said "Is that a storm in the distance? It looks like it's snowing."

"It looks like that, all right."

"And I'm not dressed." Morgan commented. He gestured and spoke some words under his breath. Nothing happened. He looked at himself in dismay.

"What's wrong?" Drake asked.

"I was trying to conjure us up something to wear. But it didn't work."

"I don't think the laws of physics apply here." Drake pointed at the people in the wind. "That must include magic as well."

"Without my magic..." Morgan started, alarmed.

"Without your magic, you're like anyone else. Why should you have to be a sorcerer to survive Hades?"

"I know what you mean, but that's a really weird way to put it."

Drake shrugged and beckoned to Morgan to follow him.

They soon found themselves in a Winter storm. A mixture of rain and sleet slopped down from the sky. The ground was slushy. And people were floating in the slush. Many of them were overweight to some degree, but not all. In fact, some were painfully thin. Morgan would have commented on this, but the ice melting into his feathers and chilling him hurried him on.

They came out of the storm without encountering any obstacles. The storm kept the visibility down to a dozen yards or so, and those who reacted to them at all showed only surprise. If Drake was cold, Morgan had been chilled to the bone. They spent some time talking as Morgan rubbed the feeling back into his fingers and feet.

"That was 'The Gluttonous', right? Not everyone I saw was a whale." Morgan said.


"In fact, I saw a couple really skinny people. What do you make of that?"


"Oh, yeah." Morgan looked back. "Sheesh. I can't believe there's a place in here just for eating wrong. What's it matter?"

"It's not the weight. I think it's the same as with the people in the winds - getting too carried away with one thing, so it takes over their lives."

Morgan looked dissatisfied. "Then why doesn't this place have a 12-step plan or something?"

Drake paused, looking as if he was listening for something. After a minute he said, "I don't know."

"What? Mr. Goody-two-shoes doesn't have ALL the answers?" Negaduck said.

Lucifer watched the monitor. "Gotta give 'em credit, he's got some brains behind that ugly face of his." Lucifer replied. "Either that, or somebody's kibitzing."

Negaduck scowled at the implied insult. "They won't make it all the way through. They've had it easy this far."

"You can bet on that." Lucifer replied. "How far you think they'll get?"

Negaduck replied at once. "Dis. They won't get past Dis. Nobody could."

Lucifer said, "You think so? Wanna make a bet on that? A year in the lake if you lose."

"And if I win?"

"A year topside. No restraints. Cause all the devilment you want."

"You're on!" Negaduck replied.

Morgan looked up. "What was that?"

"It sounded like a rock falling." Drake said, searching his memory.

"Rock-?" Morgan didn't remember that. Why hadn't he paid more attention when he read Dante?

They both remembered when they peered over the next cliff. They saw two crowds, each gathered around a huge, milky-colored boulder. Gathered in the loose sense of the word; many were lying on the ground. They got up one by one and joined the others, who were straining to push the rocks away from each other. When all the people had recovered, the rocks began to roll apart. Slowly and painfully the boulders receded across the landscape, and the crowds with them.

"This place sure is literal minded." Morgan said.

"Come on, let's go." Drake said.

They climbed down the cliff, holding on to protruding roots and cracks in the rock. When they had gotten to the bottom and started across the plain Morgan commented, "I didn't think Hades would be tectonically active."

"Why do you say that?" Drake started across the plane.

"That split cliff up above, and the cracked rock. It implies tectonic activity."

Drake looked back. "That wouldn't have occurred to me. But it does look like there's been an earthquake here."

"I wouldn't call it an 'Earthquake'."


"Wonder where this is, anyway?" Morgan asked. "On another planet or something?"

Drake almost smiled. "What does it matter if it is?"

"I guess it doesn't. I'm just thinking-"

"Watch out!" Drake grabbed Morgan's arm.


When Morgan looked in the direction Drake was pointing he saw one of the milky colored bounders rolling towards them, propelled by a crowd of people. A glance in the opposite direction showed a similar sight. Drake and Morgan ran back to the cliff to get out of the way.

As they watched from safety the boulders smashed against themselves with a resounding CRACK, the impact flinging more than half of the combatants away. Morgan flinched. "That had to hurt." he muttered.

"I'm certain it did."

"I remember! Hoarders and wasters. I wonder which crowd is which?"

They started forward again as the stunned combatants started getting up again. When they neared they could hear the people shouting at each other. "You'll never grab our stone!" "You wastrels couldn't keep water in a canteen!"

Then one elderly duck wearing a kilt and sporran caught sight of Drake and Morgan approaching. "Who are you?" he demanded in a thick Scottish accent.

"We're just passing through." Drake said amiably.

"Passing through? Nobody is 'just passing through' here!"

As Morgan peered at the nearest boulder Drake answered, "We're on our way to the bottom, and out."

"You're crazy." someone else said. They were drawing the attention of more and more of these people. Another said, "It's worse down there! I've heard about it!"

"I know. But it's where we have to go."

"Say, are these-?" Morgan asked.

"Aye. The biggest diamonds in the world. And those fools over there are just wasting them! They're worn down to nothing now. They used to have the most bonny facets!" the duck sputtered.

"Hah! If you had your way, you'd hide yours away forever, where nobody would ever see it!" someone else shouted.

Morgan said, "Why don't you just stop trying to bash each other with them?"

That united the crowd. Every single person stared at Morgan as if he was insane. Morgan said, "Never mind, never mind." backing away from the angry glares.

"He wants them!" someone cried.

Drake said, "Let's move on."

They retreated back to the cliff. While they waited for the rocks to roll apart Morgan asked "What would happen if they stopped?"

"I can't imagine them stopping. Perhaps if they stopped they'd lose those diamonds."

"But what good are diamonds here?" Morgan exclaimed. "They don't buy anything. They aren't even pretty, those two anyway! What are they, status symbols?"

"They obviously don't see it that way. Come on, let's go."

Drake led Morgan across the plain to the next drop. As they climbed down a dry, dusty cliff they heard another sharp CRACK! and more shouts.

The dry air soon turned damp and musty. By the time Drake and Morgan reached the base of the cliff they were in a swamp. The air hung steamy and still, no breezes threading their way through the tired, mossy trees. They could not keep dry; there was no dry ground at all. There were only deeper and shallower areas. By staying near the trees, they kept to the shallower areas.

Their journey was complicated by the inhabitants of the swamp. People stood in the mire, some shouting at each others, others just staring angrily. Morgan said, "The Sullen and Wrathful. I think this could pose a problem."

"You could be right." Drake replied. "Hopefully we can be inconspicuous."

"Hah. Wishful thinking."

They threaded their way through the swamp, flinching at the shouts around them. Fortunately, the inmates already had their favorite opponents, and paid the travelers little attention. They were making good time until Morgan exclaimed, "Hey!"


Morgan was staring down into the water. Someone was staring sulkily back up at him. Morgan said, "He's going to drown!"

"Morgan, everyone here is already dead. You can only die once."

Morgan continued looking into the water. "There are LOTS of people underwater. Why don't they get out?"

"Hey, you! Feather dusters! What are you looking for, bread crumbs?!"

Morgan looked up angrily. A muck-spattered feline shape was striding toward them. Why don't you just go fly south?"

"Feather duster? Well, you sure could use a cleaning, hairball!" Morgan shouted back.

Drake clamped Morgan's bill shut with a hand. "Stop it!" he whispered harshly.

Morgan shook his head free. "Did you hear what he was calling us?!"

"Yes, I heard. He called us a nasty name. And you called him one back. Are you going to sink to this level?" Drake scolded. "Come on!"

Drake started to move ahead. Growling under his breath, Morgan followed him. Behind them, the feline said, "Hey, I'm talking to you! You birds deaf because you don't have ears?" Morgan glanced back in time to see the feline trip over one of the people under the water and fall face down into the muck. Morgan turned back and continued following his father, feeling a little better.

They emerged from the swamp onto a bar of dry land. Beyond it was a river, on the other bank of which they could see a wall. Morgan said, "Now what?"

"I'm not sure. We have to get across somehow."

"Maybe we should make a raft?" Morgan looked back at the swamp. "There are trees, and vines to lash them together with."

"What would we chop the trees down with?" Drake asked.

"Uh ... next question."

They surveyed the river quietly. "I wish I'd read that book more carefully. I don't remember what comes next." Morgan commented to break the silence.


"Uh, Dad ... sorry about getting mad back there. I couldn't help it."

Drake looked back at him. "It's difficult not to react when someone insults you. But you have to learn that those kinds of insults are words said in ignorance, nothing more. They don't mean a thing."

"Except that the one who said them is a pinhead. I know. I just couldn't help it. I wasn't expecting it."

Drake patted him on the shoulder. "Don't agonize over it, Morgan. Just learn from it. Isn't that someone?" Drake pointed across the water.

Morgan peered into the distance. "Yeah. It looks like another boat."

At it approached they saw that this was not a modern boat like Charon's motorboat. This was a raft poled along like a gondola by a man standing in the back. Morgan couldn't help smiling.

When the boat pulled up to the shore the man - who was wearing the same uniform as Charon had - said, "What're you doing out of the muck?" He raised the pole to hit them.

Drake raised his hands in defense. "We are not supposed to be in this circle." he answered.

"Oh, really?" the man - his tag read "PHLEGYAS" - said sarcastically. "Then how'd you get here, wise guy?"

"We are traveling down to the center." Drake said calmly.

"Oh, a liar, eh? That'll get you to the eighth circle, anyway." Phlegyas smirked. "Well, you'll have to explain what you're doing to the main office then. Get in." He set the end of the pole back down in the water.

"Thank you." Drake said as he entered. Phlegyas looked blankly surprised.

When Morgan entered the boat, it lowered several inches into the water. Phlegyas exclaimed, "Hey! What're you doing! You trying to sink my boat?"

"It won't sink." Drake said.

"Hmph. Smart alecs. I can't wait to see where they assign you." he grumbled as he leaned against the pole to start them across the river.

They made surprising speed for a boat sitting low in the water poled across by one grumbling man. Morgan did not comment on this; he was beginning to believe that the laws of physics simply did not apply down here. Or, if they did, they were drastically changed.

The boat pulled up to a dock in front of another gate. Above the entrance was carved three letters:


In front of the doors stood more turnstiles. Morgan said to Drake, "Déjà vu."


They started to walk in, since there was nobody waiting in front of the turnstiles. A red goat in a uniform shouted at them, "Hey! Can't you read?!"

"Read what?"


"I thought the forms were inside." Morgan replied.

"Well, they're not." The goat shoved a pair of clipboards with a stack of papers on each at them. Attached to each clipboard by a chain was a ballpoint pen.

"All this? Just to get in?" Morgan exclaimed in dismay.

"That's the rules." the goat answered smugly.

Drake had already started writing. Morgan sighed and started on his form. After several minute he sat down cross- legged and rested the clipboard on his knees. The goat shouted, "Hey! No loitering!"

"I'm NOT loitering, I'm filling out these precious forms!" Morgan answered heatedly.

"Well, don't do it sitting down!" the goat ordered.

"Very good." Drake nodded approval. "I like an employee who pays attention."

"Huh?" both the goat and Morgan said.

"Every rule and regulation must be strictly enforced to the letter, no matter what. Too many are willing to make exceptions when it's convenient. This will look good on my report." he said with satisfaction.

The goat looked pleased. "Uh, is there anything else I can do for you?" he said in a poor imitation of a polite tone.

"Yes, as a matter of fact. You can find a chair for my companion so he does not have to break regulations and sit on the ground."

The demon scurried off. Morgan looked at Drake in surprise. Drake winked. "I know how to handle bureaucracy. I got plenty of practice when I was working with the government."

"Oh. Uh, what about you? Why didn't you ask for a chair too?"

"I don't get tired as you do. Remember, my body isn't mortal any longer."

"Oh." Morgan went back to his form. Before he had completed the first page the goat returned with a metal foldout chair, set it down, and scurried off again.

A half hour later Morgan whispered, "What IS all this?! They want my blood type and Earthly occupations, most recent first!"

"I've never seen it this bad myself." Drake admitted. "All I can say is keep at it. We have to play with their rules here, and I don't think we can avoid the paperwork."

"You pulled a good bluff just now. Couldn't you bluff us the whole way through?"

"I don't think so. I wouldn't want to count on it."

They went back to the forms.

An hour later they had finally finished. They displayed them for the goat, who made a show of inspecting them thoroughly before taking the clipboards back and waving them on. They went down a hallway, at the end of which was a pair of gates hanging open, almost torn off the hinges. Morgan smiled at that. Drake looked at him curiously. "What's funny?"

"I just had a thought. It looks like someone had less patience with those forms than we did."

Drake chuckled. They walked through - into a room filled with people waiting in long lines. More than half the windows at the end of the room were closed, and at the head of each of the lines people argued over various things with clerks.

Morgan sighed and looked at Drake. "More waiting."

"Yes. If nothing else, this place will teach a person patience and perseverance."

"If it doesn't drive 'em nuts first."

They waited. And waited. The lines would move much faster, Morgan thought, if the people at the heads of the lines didn't turn every little thing into an obstacle. And if those who were being obstructed weren't so quick to pick fights. But, considering where they were, why should he expect anything else? He could either get mad about it or take a cue from his father and just wait it out.

By and by they reached the head of the line. Drake presented his papers to the clerk, who started looking them over, page by page. Irritably she pointed to a set of blanks. "You didn't fill out this section. Leave the line and finish the form before you get back in."

"That section is not applicable to me." he replied. "It only applies if the destination lies in the third through fifth circles, or the fifth section of the eighth circle."

"Then you should have written 'Not Applicable' in each blank. Get out of the line." She turned away and shuffled some papers on the shelf. When she turned back Drake was still there, looking evenly at her. "What part of 'Get out of the line' didn't you understand?" she demanded.

"To finish the form, I need a pen."

"Don't they all." she groaned in annoyance. She disappeared into the shelves behind the counter, then returned with a three-page form. "Here, fill this out."

Morgan read the title: PEN REQUISITION FORM. Drake asked, "And what will I fill this out with?"

"That's your problem. Next!"

With clearly forced patience Drake said, "I would like to speak with the supervisor of this area."

"He's not here." She slapped a thick paperback on the counter. "Here's the regulation manual. Read this if you have a problem!"

Drake took the manual, and he and Morgan left the line. Drake muttered to Morgan, "I can definitely see how those gates might have been damaged."

Morgan stifled a laugh. "So what now? I can't believe we've walked all this way through Hades to be stopped by a stupid pen!"

Drake said, "Now we just stop and think. Maybe there's something useful in here." He handed the manual to Morgan.

Morgan turned to the back, then to the front. "Hey! It doesn't have a table of contents or an index!"

"I'm not surprised."

Morgan flipped through the pages, scanning the tiny print for possible useful topics. In the process he noticed that the procedures for routine duties, the kind which should come instinctually, were the longest. There was even a procedure for how to clip forms to a board! Did they have a regulation on how to turn on the lights, too? A few pages later, he found out that, yes, there was a regulation for that too, and it included the order in which they should be turned on.

He was two-thirds of the way through the manual when he read "EXCEPTIONS" He scanned down the section - the only one he had seen that was shorter than a page - and then looked up for Drake. His vision was a little bleary after squinting at the tiny, smudgy print. "Dad! I think we have something."

"Really? What?" asked Drake, who had been having no luck with his task.

Morgan pointed to the section. Drake took the book, squinted, and held it up so it was almost touching the end of his bill. He read the paragraphs, then patted Morgan on the shoulder and smiled widely. "Morgan, I should have thought of this!"

"I would never have guessed it myself." Morgan said.

"Anyway, let's be on our way." Drake dropped his forms into a waste paper bin. A fire flared up to burn the paper, nearly scorching Morgan. Morgan shied back, then cautiously dropped his own in.

They headed down another hall, toward the next section of Hades. Morgan was dismayed, but not surprised, when they found themselves facing a closed door, at the side of which was another clerk's window. The clerk said in a bored tone, "Let me see your papers."

"We don't have papers."

"You don't have-?! What are you, some kinda heretic or something?! Go back uphill and get them!" He clerk pointed back down the hall from which they had come.

Drake said, "I'm sorry, but we are not subject to that regulation."

"Oh, yeah? And why not?"

Drake opened the manual. "Section 31.415, paragraph 9. 'Persons who are not assigned to Hades by proper procedures, or living persons under the guidance of same, or persons who are capable of summoning Angels {see Angel, Definition of, Subsection 47.11} are not subject to the regulations contained in this handbook until applications have been made and approved.' And those applications have NOT been made." He closed the book.

"You need to make the applications, then. You can do that in the main hall, back up that way."

Drake shook his head. "No. I am not subject to THAT regulation either, and neither is he." He indicated Morgan.

"Oh, really? Why?" the clerk peered at Morgan.

"He is still living."

The clerk stared at Morgan, shocked. Then he said to Drake, "Okay, okay, just don't call on any angels. We had a bad enough time repairing the place after the last time."

"Then simply let us through that door."

"You got a living guy there, and you still want to go downhill?" The clerk smiled viciously. "Then go on ahead." He pressed a button on his desk, and the door clicked.

"WHAT?!" Negaduck and Lucifer exclaimed in unison as they watched Morgan and Drake exit the other side of Dis. Negaduck shouted, "How did he get through that place! Nobody gets through there!"

"I dunno, but I'm gonna send an inspector to find out." Lucifer muttered darkly. "You lose the bet, Negaduck."

"Double or nothing they won't make it the rest of the way!"

"You got it." Lucifer replied.

"I'm going to find out myself how they got through there!" Negaduck stalked towards the door. Before it reached it it vanished.

"There's one who dies every minute." Lucifer smirked.

Negaduck appeared in a pentagram in a cluttered room. There, sitting on a chair, resting his chin in his hand, was a duplicate of Morgan. He stared at Negaduck with an expression of bored annoyance. Negaduck hissed, "What the devil do you think you're doing, summoning me here?!"

"What do you think you're doing, leaving me here in this place?" Essobee demanded. "You think I can make them believe I'm him forever? It's been only a day, and they're suspicious already!"

Negaduck leaned forward as far as the boundaries of the pentagram would allow. "What I'm doing is I'm letting then wander around downstairs. They're going father in, and the farther they go the worse it'll be for them."

"So what does that have to do with me?" Essobee demanded. "You can do that without me here to fake 'em out!"

"I don't want anyone messing up my plans. You'll stay here until they're good and planted in Hades, and these guys up here can't do anything about it."

"Wait a minute." Essobee said. "You said 'they'. I saw you take Morgan. Who else is there?"

"Somehow, his father came down from heaven to help the little feeb." Negaduck said disdainfully. "Fine with me. It's been a while since we caught an angel in Hades. So just sit tight!" Without another word, Negaduck disappeared.

Morgana's eyes went wide. Launchpad asked, "What's wrong?"

She turned and stared at him as if shocked. She shook her head, closed her eyes, and said, "I don't know. Wait." She went upstairs.

She had felt a strong disturbance in the ether. It was hard to imagine how Launchpad had not heard it; it was like a shout in Morgana's ear. It had been centered very near, as well. She hurried upstairs, to where she guessed the source was. As she drew closer, she could feel that she was correct.

She opened the door to Morgan's room. He whirled and stared at her, a startled, infuriated expression on his face. She said, "What happened here?"

"What do you mean?" Essobee stammered. Curse that stupid demon!

"Morgan, whatever you do, don't lie to me. I sensed something here. Something disturbing. What has happened?"

He glanced around. Then he seemed to deflate. "A demon came here."

"A demon?!" she exclaimed.

"I don't know just what it wanted. I got rid of it as fast as I could, but I have the feeling it wanted to hang around. I didn't listen to anything it said."

She looked at him. Her gaze seemed to pierce through Essobee's heart. Then she said, "If that thing, or any of its kind, returns, call me. Immediately!"

"I will!" Essobee promised.

She left. Essobee closed the door behind her, a sinking feeling in the pit of his stomach. It was a terrible bluff, he knew, but he had had no time to formulate an alibi. Negaduck had better do its work, and fast!

Morgana came back down the stairs. Joey was there with Launchpad. Joey asked, "What was that?"

"You felt it too? I don't know what it was." she said uneasily. "Morgan claims that a demon appeared to him, and he refused and banished it."

"A demon?!" Joey and Launchpad both exclaimed.

"I'm afraid that there is something wrong with Morgan. He has been behaving strangely." She did not want to tell them that she feared that Morgan had been possessed.

"What can we do?" Launchpad said, distressed.

"Keep your voice down." Morgana cautioned him. "We can't do anything yet, not until I know for sure what has happened to him. Until then, we can't let him know we're suspicious. For now, close ranks."

Morgan and Drake sat on the lip of another cliff. They had made their way through a mazelike mausoleum. The ghosts inside the crypts often rose to look at them, occasionally to speak, but they were incapable of otherwise interfering. Some of the tombs had been incredibly elaborate. Morgan had been unable to guess what these people had been guilty of. According to Drake, their crime was raging egotism. These people had built monuments to themselves - literally or figuratively - while they had been alive; now they were trapped within monuments. Morgan supposed that made poetic sense, but he wasn't convinced that it was fair.

They had emerged from the mausoleum into the smelliest, noisiest sauna ever invented. A glance down explained everything: below them was a boiling lake, with people standing in it. And the water was red and smelled horrible. Morgan, weak kneed, had asked what the lake was made of; the answer had made him nauseous. He had managed to hold back, although he didn't know why he bothered. It wasn't as if it would make this place any fouler than it already was.

Now they were resting and trying to figure out how to approach the next part of the journey. This wasn't just a smelly swamp or a windy cliff. That was boiling blood that they would have to cross! And it was full of people, all of whom had been murderers and the like! To Morgan it looked hopeless. Drake disagreed. Morgan asked, "How are we supposed to get through that? We'd be boiled to death!"

"The people in the lake aren't dying." Drake pointed out.

"Yeah, but they're dead already!"

"So am I... but you're not." Drake looked at Morgan. "This is definitely going to require caution."

"Talk about understatement." Morgan said. He looked down. Goaty demons perched on the shore of the lake, using their pitchforks to keep their victims from escaping.

"Are you ready to go on?" Drake asked.

"Almost." Morgan replied. "Say, you never get tired!"

"Remember, I'm not subject to fatigue as you are."

"But you look normal enough. You're made of feathers and flesh."

"But I'm not mortal. I can get tired, but not for long. And if I get injured, I'll heal, no matter how severely hurt I am."

"You mean, if you fell off this cliff-"

"It'd hurt a lot. But I'd heal."

Morgan looked ill again. "I hope I don't have to see that."

Drake stood. "Shall we go?"

Morgan reluctantly got to his feet. "Might as well."

They descended the cliff. As they got closer to the next plateau the smell got thicker, and the sound of screaming got louder. When they reached the bottom Morgan coughed and asked, "Now what?"

"Now -" Drake stopped and stared across the lake.

Morgan followed his father's eyes. There, rising beyond the lake, was ... something. It had wings and a whiplike tail, and it was coming closer to them. Morgan wanted to run away, But Drake seized his arm and said, "We can't hide. It sees us."

The creature flew over them and landed between them and the cliff. "Well, well. You know, I didn't think you two lost lambs would get this far. How did you get through Dis?"

"Regulations." Drake answered simply.

Morgan stared at the demon. It had bat wings, goatish legs and hooves, horns, and a barbed tail. It also wore the face of his own father, and it sported a yellow, double-breasted jacket. Then something clicked. He said, "That was you at the seance, wasn't it?"

"You're just now figuring that out?" Negaduck asked, grinning widely.

"It's your fault that we're here!" Morgan shouted angrily.

"Guilty as charged."

Morgan felt Drake's hand close around his wrist. Just in time - he had been about to cast a banishment spell. It would have been a useless gesture; even if his magic worked here, where would he banish a demon to but Hades?

Negaduck reached behind itself and produced an iron pitchfork. "You know, you can't go back." it said in a conversational tone as it stepped forward, the prongs of its trident aimed at them, forcing them toward the lake. "You'll just work your way deeper and deeper, and you'll never get out. Unless..." It smiled at them both. "We make a deal."

Drake stopped backing up when he felt something scald his heel. He stopped Morgan.

"Now, you don't BOTH want to end up here, do you?" Negaduck asked. "After all, this lake's crowded enough as it is. Guess what, I'm going to let one of you go. You even get to choose who."

Morgan whispered to Drake, "If I die here, my soul won't be trapped here too, will it?"

"'Fraid it will, kiddo." Negaduck answered. "Once you're here, you can't get out by yourself. You're stuck."

"I don't believe you." Drake stated.

"You got no choice." Negaduck answered. "Only one of you goes. The other one stays here. Come on, which one of you will it be?"

"No." Drake said, and pushed the pitchfork to the side. "This is a trick, Morgan. If we accept his 'bargain' he WILL have one of us."

"You little creep!" Negaduck shouted, infuriated. It drew back as if to spear them with the pitchfork - Morgan had no doubt that it would do it - but, instead, it hit them with a blast of force.

The next thing Morgan felt was a sharp blow to his back and head. He lay, stunned, for a minute, then sat up abruptly when he realized what had happened. He wasn't in the lake! Where was he?!

He was on the other side! Negaduck's blast had blown him clear across the lake! But where was Drake? Morgan didn't see him on the shore on either side of himself. Could he have fallen into the lake? It'd kill him!

No, stupid, he told himself. It wouldn't kill him. It would hurt him a lot, but it couldn't kill him. He scanned all the people in the lake. The ones nearer the opposite shore were only in up to their knees or waists; the ones farther out were immersed up to their necks. All stood in place, yelling their heads off.

Except for one. He could see someone actually wading, then swimming out towards the deeper shore. Morgan peered at that one figure. It was hard to see, but-

Yes, it was him! He watched as Drake swam across the lake. Morgan watched, unable to help, as Drake approached. When he got to the shore Morgan dragged him out, though he was almost untouchably hot.

Drake collapsed on the ground, staring blankly in shock. He gasped for air. Morgan did not dare to touch him; the cooked nerve endings must be in unbearable pain. The best that he could do was let him rest, and hope that he would indeed heal from this.

Drake raised his head and looked around. "Morgan... are you all right?" he asked weakly.

"Am I all right? You're the one that just swam the bloody English Channel!" Morgan exclaimed.

"I know. God help me." Drake moaned before passing out.

The family was gathered in the tower for the second time that day. Morgana had gathered them all - with the exception of Morgan - for another attempt to contact Drake. She had set out fresh candles and repeated her incantations. This time, though, there was no answer. The smoke just floated upwards, spreading along the ceiling of the tower before drifting out the windows.

This was truly upsetting Morgana. Why wasn't Drake answering her call? The spirits she called were not bound to answer, but certainly Drake would respond if he knew that they were trying to contact him!

When she finally ended the long ceremony she was in tears from frustration. Gosalyn herded her younger siblings back to the house, leaving Morgana and Launchpad alone. Morgana sat down, covered her face with her hands, and started weeping. Launchpad put an arm around her and drew her close. "It's all right."

"No, it's not." she said. "Something is going on with Morgan, I'm being blocked and can't find out by what, and..."

And trying to call Drake up had opened an old wound. She did not say it, but Launchpad understood. It must be worse for her, since she was the one doing the spell and she really had to think about him hard. He could say nothing to comfort her - words always failed him - but he could hold her while she wept. When she took her hands from her face, he dabbed at her tears with his scarf.

The storm soon passed. When she had gotten it out of her system she took several deep breaths, then stood up. "We can't call on outside help, that's clear now. We'll have to handle this ourselves." she said softly but firmly.

Launchpad put his arm around her waist and walked with her to the transporter chairs.

It was about an hour before Drake recovered consciousness. He had healed completely, as far as he could tell. Morgan, however, was frantic. "You were just about dead by the time you got here!"

"Remember, I can't die." Drake replied, trying to brush the worst of the dried, rusty muck out of his feathers. The stuff crumbled off, leaving him clean.

"You sure looked like it." Morgan insisted. "You passed out as soon as you got here. I'm surprised you made it at all."

"Yes..." Drake looked back at the people in the lake with sympathy. "It hurt like you wouldn't believe when I first fell in. After awhile, though, it was just so much I couldn't even understand it. Like-" he stopped suddenly.

"Like what?"

"Never mind. Just an old memory." Drake shook his head.


"Soon we'll continue. It's a miracle I was thrown in the lake and not you; you WOULD have been boiled to death for sure."

"You call that a miracle?!" Morgan exclaimed. "I don't!"

"I do." Drake replied quietly.

Morgan looked oddly at him.

Drake looked over then rim of the cliff. Below them was a wooded area. He said, "We'd better be on our way."

They climbed down another cliff. This one was easier than the ones above, because of the gentler curve and the talus slope at the base. Morgan commented, "This is getting monotonous. When are we going to run out of cliffs?"

"This is the sixth circle. I think the woods won't be so dangerous."

They started walking through the forest. It was peaceful enough. Well, in the beginning. After awhile the wind through the branches started sounding like whispering. Morgan noticed that the trunks were an unnatural-looking gray, and some of them were streaked with vivid red. He finally remembered what this place was when he saw something tangled in the upper branches of one tree. A discarded body, a reminder of the life that had been deliberately thrown away. Morgan shivered.

When they reached the edge of the forest they found Hades' industrial section. Squat factories dotted the landscape, their tall smokestacks belching smoke and foul gases into the air. There, in the distance, worked a field of oil pumps. Oily ponds dotted the landscape. Morgan commented, "Now THIS I can understand."

Drake saw a car speed between two buildings. "Watch out, I have a feeling that even if this place had crosswalks nobody would pay attention to right of way."

Morgan said, "Pollution is a crime against the world, so they punish people by polluting Hades. That makes sense, at least."

Drake nodded and beckoned Morgan forward. They skulked through alleyways between buildings and darted across streets. In the buildings were people hard at work on assembly lines that seemed to produce nothing, because the part that one person added on would be removed by someone farther down the line. They crossed a bridge over a river that was made of the foulest stuff they could imagine. The river was fed by pipes spewing noxious, brightly colored fluids. People were chained in the mouths of the pipes. Cars with exhaust pipes feeding back into their passenger compartments sped by.

They finally came to a large, graffiti-covered wall about thirty feet tall. It did not look tall enough to hold the pollution in, although that seemed to be exactly what it was doing. Morgan looked to either side, where the wall receded into the distance. He saw no breaks. "How do we get through?"

"How do you get through? You're kidding, aren't you?" said a voice above them. The speaker was a graffiti- painted demon perching atop the wall.

"No, we're not." Drake replied.

The demon looked wistful. "Wish I could help ya, but you gotta stick with what they give ya."

"We have not been sentenced to any area of Hades." Drake replied.

"Is that so?" The demon peered at them. Then it grinned widely. "I do think I can help you after all." It tied a rope to its pitchfork and threw it into the ground in front of them. "Climb up."

Drake started, but Morgan grabbed his arm. "Dad! Do you think we should?" he whispered urgently.


"I think that demon's trying to trap us!"

"It is. It thinks it'll be trapping us in the next circle." Drake answered, and started climbing up the trident, then the rope. Morgan had to follow. When he reached the top, the demon gave him a hand up that seared Morgan's palm. It pulled on the rope to retrieve the trident as they looked down into the next circle.

If Morgan thought that the boiling lake was overkill, then he had no word to describe this. In front of them stretched a vast desert. It was weirdly lit, not by the sun or whatever else was above the clouds, but by falling chunks of flame. People were running around, vainly trying to keep their feet off the hot sand and avoid the fire. The farther from the wall, the thicker the fire seemed. A red river - the continuation of the boiling lake - ran in a thread through desert. Morgan looked at Drake in dismay. "How are we supposed to survive that?"

"Too late for that." said the demon behind them. He had recovered his pitchfork, and had aimed it at them. "Another regulation - you can't go back, so down you go."

Morgan looked down. The sand was thirty feet below them. Drake said to Morgan, "Don't try to land on your feet. Drop and roll like I do. Watch." He stepped off the wall. When he landed in the sand he seemed to collapse bonelessly, but a moment later he got up again and brushed the sand off. He looked upward at Morgan, beckoning him.

Morgan felt a sharp stab in his rear, and leapt forward out of reflex. Before he knew what had happened the ground had knocked the air our of his lungs, leaving him dazed. Drake was saying, "Are you all right? Morgan, answer me!"

Morgan opened his mouth to speak, then gasped and spat sand. "That dirty gipnoid jabbed me in the tail feathers!"he snarled in outrage. He looked up. The demon was still watching them. It grinned toothily back.

"So I see. You will have to sit carefully for a little while, Morgan. Can you get up?"

"Yeah, I think so." Shakily he forced himself into a sitting position, then yelped and jumped to his feet when the hot sand struck his wound.

"Good, I was afraid you'd broken something, the way you landed. Come on, the sand's not getting any cooler." Drake said, trying to hide a smile.

Morgan looked into the desert. "How in the world are we going to get through that?"

"I think we'd better go along the river. It doesn't seem to have any flame falling in it." Drake pointed.

They started in that direction, keeping close to the wall to avoid the fire. The graffiti-colored demon watched them go, a grin on its face. Then it put its fingers in its mouth and blew shrilly.

They both looked back. The demon just waved them on. Drake and Morgan looked at each other, shrugged, and continued on their way.

When they came to the river they saw that it flowed from a crack in the wall. Morgan asked, "This comes from the boiling lake, right? How did it get past that river, the one that smelled like a chemical dump?"

"I don't know." And, from his expression, Drake obviously didn't find the question too urgent.

"Oh well, the laws of physics are screwy here anyway," Morgan shrugged. "Say, why doesn't the fire fall in the river?"

"I'm not sure. But it's quite a blessing for us." Drake replied.

They started walking through the desert, as close to the waterline as they could come without getting their feet wet. Although the river was only hot as opposed to scalding, it still smelled awful and made Morgan ill to look at it.

After some distance traveled in silence, Morgan wondered, "All the people out there, the ones the fire's falling on - why don't they try to get in here? It's disgusting, but it has to be better than being burned alive."

"You ask a lot of questions." Drake smiled at him. "I don't know. I suppose they're kept away somehow. Maybe they're punished if they come here."

"Punished? What's worse than this?!" Morgan exclaimed, gesturing at the blizzard of flame ahead of them.

"We'll see soon enough." Drake answered seriously.

They walked for several more minutes. Then Morgan spoke up hesitantly. "Um, I just remembered what people are put here for..."


Morgan paused uncomfortably. Drake waited. "I don't see why that's such a crime!"

"Someone obviously has a different concept of justice."

"Doesn't it make you wonder?" Morgan insisted.

Drake looked at his son. "Morgan, I think I known what issue you're skirting." Morgan blushed. Drake said, "I think the key here is the perversion and abuse of love, not just being of a, shall we say, alternate lifestyle. Think about it - in some times, in some parts of the world, polygamy and other variations were considered the norm. Still are, as a matter of fact..." he looked upwards, as if listening for something. Then he continued, "Love and its expressions are never crimes. But those acts can be misused and twisted out of true. With the use of force, for example, or with harmful intent. I think people get confused when they don't realize that there is more than one way to love."

"That makes sense." Morgan said, and meant it. He was relieved; the idea had come into his head that perhaps the reason his father was here was to be sentenced to a particular part of Hades. Morgan found that thought unbearable.

"Do you hear something?" Drake said.

"A lot of yelling." Morgan said. He had almost succeeded in tuning out the din when Drake reminded him.

"Not that." Drake was looking into a thick patch of blizzard. The people there were scattering away, as if in fear of something other than the usual fire. Then they saw a giant, one-eyed, purple creature barreling toward them. Morgan shouted, "It's a Taronga! Run!" He took off, back up the stream.

Drake caught up with him. "What's a Taronga?" he asked as he ran.

Morgan answered between panting breaths, "It's a kind of troll. You saw how the flames are thicker around it, right? They're very territorial, too."

"What is its territory?"

"Anywhere it roams."

Drake pointed out into the desert. "I'll try to lead it out there and lose it. The flames won't bother me too much. You go to the other end of the river - I'll meet you there."

Ar he started to veer off Morgan caught him by the arm. "NO! Don't split up. It'd have us in the paml of its hand then! We have to stick together." He panted for a moment, then his face lit up with a smile. "Wait a minute, I know what to do." He pointed to the side and said loudly, "Look at those two people over there. All this fire, and they can still form a binary!"

"WHAT?!" the Taronga shrieked in outrage. It sped off in the direction Morgan had pointed, looking for the offenders.

Drake looked at Morgan in surprise. Morgan was laughing. Drake said, "What was all that about?"

Morgan said, "It doesn't like to see anyone having unauthorized fun in its domain. I remembered that from studying the demonolgy. The only thing it hates as much is being splooshed with water, but there's none of that around here." He grinned, proud of himself.

"Good idea." Drake agreed. "Now, let's get out of here before it comes back."

"Right." They started back down the river as a jogging pace.

They made it to the end of the river without further mishap. It terminated in a steep waterfall. Morgan said, "I don't think we could go down that in a barrel. If I remember right, some monster is supposed to fly up and take us down. Right?"

"We have to give it a signal. Throw something down."

Morgan thought, then drew something out of a pocket. It was a cord, knotted in an intricate pattern. "It's a protection spell. I don't think it's going to be much good here, especially since it got splashed by the lake up there. That probably soured the magic for good. How about this?"

"I think that'll do." Drake said. "Toss it over."

Morgan did. Then they waited, looking over the edge of the cliff into the mist that hid the next section of Hades.

After a few minutes a strange, snaky shape rose out of the clouds. It seemed to swim through the air like a fish through water. When it approached closer they saw that it looked as if two creatures had been sewn together: its body was that of some finned aquatic creature, but it had a face like - like nothing they had seen before. It had narrow, cold, almost feline eyes, an elongated face, and no muzzle or beak to speak of. Its skin was a much paler shade of the grey of the scales on its body, making it looks almost sickly. Its face was framed by wavy black hair, a few wisps of which had strayed into its face.

The creature, which was the size of a full-grown killer whale, beached its front half on the shore to the side of the waterfall. "What is it?" it asked in a tone of annoyed boredom.

"We want passage down to the next circle." Drake answered.

"Oh, really?" the creature - Morgan remembered suddenly that its name was Geryon - said in amused voice. It leaned its head on one fin, and tapped the ground with its other. That fin, the right one, looked as if it had been decimated by the flames; nothing was left of it but bony struts. "Why should I take orders from a pair of puny creatures such as you?"

"Puny?" Morgan exclaimed. To Drake he said, "He couldn't even carry one of us, let alone both."

Geryon laughed. "Nice try! But that old trick won't work on me." It waved a bony fin as if scolding Morgan.

Drake said, "We have come from the upper level of Hades. We have been permitted to travel. Our destination is the center of Hades. We must be taken downward."

Geryon pinned the duck in front of himself with an annoyed gaze. It had opened its mouth to speak when it heard a shout, and looked up.

"You're not getting away with - OOH, a MAN! Come here, Geryon, honey!" the Taronga shrieked as it stampeded toward them.

Geryon screamed in horror. Then it said, "Come on, hurry up!" Drake and Morgan barely had time to get on - Morgan in front, holding on to the mane, Drake behind him, his arms around Morgan's waist.

Geryon shoved back from the cliff just in time to avoid being seized by the Taronga. It shouted after them, "I'll get you some day, you know I will!" They felt a shudder run through Geryon's body.

"Looks like you got a friend, Geryon." Morgan could not resist commenting.

"With friends like that, who needs to be here?" it growled back. "Loosen up or I'll drop you!"

Morgan did not think it would follow through on the threat, but he looked for something else to hold on to. There, almost concealed under the black curls, was a chain. Morgan stared. Between every few links was a flat segment, on which were imprinted flying runes.

They drifted slowly down in a spiral. Geryon set them down at the base of the red waterfall. It seemed to have recovered its cheerfully sarcastic mood; as it flew away it said, "No need to thank me - you'll probably fall into a rut."

As Geryon disappeared into the mist Morgan said, "I think I know what it meant. The are ditches ahead."

Drake nodded. "I see they have bridges. Good."

The first few trenches they crossed over were not dangerous, but they were unpleasant. In the first, people were walking in lines, being whipped by the everpresent goatlike demons. When they reached another they were nearly overpowered by a foul odor. Morgan could not help it; when he crossed over the pit he looked down. When he saw what the people under the pit were standing in he doubled over, sick to his stomach. Drake had to force him the rest of the way across. The next trench featured the eerie sight of people's feet, their soles on fire, sticking out of cracks in the stone. Morgan did not ask what they were here for. It made him ache to think that these people would suffer endlessly for whatever they had done in their short spans on Earth. He couldn't remember what the various sections here were for. He would look it up when he was safe at home.

When they were over the fourth trench Morgan heard a voice calling his name. He looked down, and saw a woman looking back up at him, her back bent over at what must be a painful angle. Her long, long black hair hid her body. She called up, "Morgan, it's me!"

"Mom?" he breathed, looking down.

She stretched her arms upward to him. They bent strangely. "Come here, let me see you."

Drake took Morgan's arm. "No."

"It's not so bad, here, Morgan." she called. "At least we'll be together."

"She's right, you know." said a familiar voice.

Morgan turned to look at the rim of the pit. Negaduck was standing there, leaning on its trident. It gestured into the pit. "That's where the witches go, you know. You'll wind up there anyway."

"No!" Morgan shouted. "That's not Morgana!"

"I am Morgana." she called. "Surely you know I'm not lying to you."

Morgan could tell that she was telling the truth. But he still did not believe it. "My mother is still alive!"

"Or was, the last time you saw her." Negaduck grinned. "Take a look at her now."

"Morgan, they are not punishing those people simply for using sorcery." Drake said softly.

"Oh, yeah? That's what sent her up the creek." It pointed at her with its trident; flames lashed out towards Morgana. Morgana turned and cursed at Negaduck. Negaduck listened, then replied, "You don't know a thing about my parents, and I like to rest on my OWN accomplishments, thank you."

When Negaduck looked back at the bridge, Morgan and Drake were already across.

Morgan said, "Did you see that? Her head was on backwards! I can't believe I didn't notice that at first!"

"I think I know what her crime was. It was not in her being a sorcerer, but in her calling on the powers of evil to aid her. Lucifer once helped her; now she is his slave." he said softly. "That is Morgana McCawber, but from Negaduck's universe."

This was too much for Morgan to grasp at one time. He was still shaky. He nodded silently and looked for the next bridge.

The next bridge was a good ways away. And this time the demons were on the side of the pit, not in it. They were keeping people from climbing out of a thick, black, bubbling substance. Morgan said, "This I remember. Grafters. When I read that part of the book I always wondered what 'pitch' is. Now I know. Phew!"

"It's not going to be simple to get past those demons. I don't think they'll be willing to just let us by." Drake said uneasily.

They felt a breeze and heard the beating of wings. They looked upwards. Negaduck landed at the base of the bridge next to them. It said, "Wherever you belong, it sure ain't here. I'll keep 'em away."

Drake and Morgan looked at each other. Drake nodded imperceptibly, then said to Negaduck "All right."

Negaduck turned and bellowed to the other demons, "Coming through, you knobs! By orders of the Boss!" From the looks the other demons gave it they were not pleased, but they would obey. Drake and Morgan followed at a safe distance, to avoid Negaduck's lashing, sting-tipped tail.

When they had passed the demons and reached the base of the next bridge Negaduck stood aside. "You don't need me to protect you, they can't get you here."

Drake caught Morgan's eye and held it for a few seconds. Then he started up the bridge, with Morgan following close behind. He slowed so Morgan was walking beside him. Morgan whispered, "That was way too easy. I don't trust him."

"Of course not." Drake whispered back. He looked around. The other demons - and even some of the people in the pitch - were watching them.

They had nearly reached the end of the bridge when they saw that the two demons nearest the end of the bridge were looking not at them, but beyond them. Drake whispered, "Run!" to Morgan, then took his own advice.

Negaduck shouted, "STOP THEM!" to the other demons.

The demons rushed to grab Drake and Morgan. They got in each other's way, allowing Drake and Morgan to fight their way through. When they did, they found themselves at the edge of the next pit.

They heard Negaduck's voice behind themselves, and turned to look. Negaduck leered at them. "Well, well. Look like you're in a little pickle, aren't you? Let me help you out!" On the last word it planted a palm on Morgan's chest and shoved him backward. Morgan fell, screaming, into the pit. His cry was cut off abruptly when he hit the bottom.

Drake looked down, then glared furiously at Negaduck. Negaduck smiled back, daring him to attack. Drake braced himself - then stepped backwards.

Negaduck looked over the rim of the pit in surprise. Then it muttered, "I'll never understand those guys." It opened its wings and started gliding downwards into the pit. It disappeared before its hooves touched the bottom.

Negaduck reformed in a pentagram. Essobee was glaring at it and tapping his foot. If Negaduck could have crossed the lines of the imprisoning pentagram, it would have throttled him. "What are you doing, you little idiot?!" it hissed.

"I'm telling you that you had better get your act in gear." Essobee replied coldly. "This coven's suspicious. They're watching my every move. I can't stall for much longer! If you don't do your part then the plan's off, and I'm getting out of here."

"Oh, no you don't." Negaduck growled. "We had an agreement. I get you out of the Academy's clutches, and you help me with this little errand. Well, we're not finished yet!"

Essobee folded his arms. "You better finish up quick, or your plan's going to fall through."

"I know my business. You just take care of yours!" the demon snarled and disappeared.

Negaduck appeared in Lucifer's control room. "Have I ever mentioned what a pain in the neck kids are?" it muttered.

Morgana found Launchpad in the living room. She beckoned to him silently, a grim expression on her face, then sat in one of the transport chairs. Puzzled, he sat in the other. She tapped the switch.

When they were in the tower she stated in a grim tone, "That is not Morgan."

"That ain't?" Launchpad asked, surprised. "Who is he then?"

"I don't know. I've been 'listening' to him through the ether. Someone is possessing him. He told me that the demon had come on its own, and he had banished it. I know that this time he summoned it, and that it left of its own accord. That is not Morgan."

"What do we do?" Launchpad asked, worried.

"Now, whatever else we do, we do not panic, and we do not challenge him. If we do we may force his hand, and that could lose the real Morgan to us forever. I am going to work on a spell to summon him back and knock the imposter loose. Tell Joey what I have told you, but just tell Felice and Alegria to leave him alone. Don't talk about in the house, bring them here to tell them. And if they ask questions, just tell them to do it and I'll explain to them why afterwards."

Launchpad nodded. "OK, I will."

Morgana smiled forcedly at him. She held out her hand. He took it. "Thanks." she said.

"No problem-o." Launchpad replied, and squeezed her hand gently.

Morgan gradually regained consciousness, wondering where he was. He could not remember. What time was it? He opened his eyes. When they focused he saw sharp rocky cliffs and a heavy grey sky. What?

"You're awake?"

"Yeah." he croaked.

"Can you feel this?"

Morgan felt a sharp pinch on the sole of his foot. "OUCH! Hey!" he exclaimed as he jerked his leg away.

"Thank God." Drake sighed. "Does anything hurt badly?"

"Yeah. All of me." Morgan struggled to sit up. Drake, sitting beside him, helped him. "What happened?"

Drake pointed to the top of the cliff. "You fell from up there."

Morgan looked up. The gorge they were in must be at least forty feet deep. He stared for a moment, then said "It's lucky I wasn't killed!"

"I'd say it's a miracle." Drake replied as he ran his hands over Morgan's arms and legs, checking for fractures.

Morgan looked down. He had fallen on a bush. "It must have been this thing. Some miracle."

"Who said miracles have to be showy? Let me check your ribs."

Morgan raised his arms and let Drake prod him. At length Drake was satisfied, more or less. "You seem all right. Promise me you'll tell me if anything starts hurting."

"I will." With some effort he stood. His legs were shaky. He looked down at Drake - and saw that his father's upper leg was horribly swollen and purpled. Morgan said, "Your leg! It's broken."

"I know."

"I'll make a splint-" he started.

Drake grabbed Morgan's wrist. "I don't need a splint. It's already better now than it was."

"Doesn't it hurt?!"

"Yes, it does." Drake looked down at his leg. "But the boiling lake hurt much worse. And this will soon heal."

Morgan shook his head. "You are too optimistic sometimes."

Drake smiled. "Your mother used to tell me that all the time."

Morgan said, "I'm going to check this place out, see what nasties are around here. All I see are golden statues. I'll be back."

"All right. Be careful."

Morgan returned a few minutes later, wearing an expression of disbelief. "There are people in those statues!"

"Yes." Drake said.

"What are they here for? I asked one, and he and the one beside him just started bawling like babies and saying 'I have sinned'. They sounded like they were faking it, too."

"They probably were." Drake replied.

"Oh. I get it." Morgan looked around again. Then he took another look at Drake's leg. "Hey, you're almost healed!"

"Almost, but not quite. The swelling is going down, though. Soon I'll be able to walk again."

Morgan sat down. "Dad ... did it hurt when you, when you died?"

Drake closed his eyes. "At first, it did. Quite a bit. Well, maybe not, I think that was actually before I died. Afterwards, I didn't feel a thing."


Drake looked at his son. He was obviously struggling with something. Drake said, "What is it?"

"I'm ... I'm sorry you died."

"So am I." Drake said gently. "But nobody lives forever, and I was getting on in years."

"Yeah, but..."

"But what?"

"I just wish I had done something about it. I could have, if I'd only gotten to you earlier!" His voice broke at the end.

So that was what had been on Morgan's mind all this time. Drake put a hand on Morgan's shoulder. "No, you couldn't have. You and Joey could not have known."

"But you got killed for nothing!"

Drake sighed. "Morgan, I remember it all perfectly, as if it happened yesterday. You two were doing your jobs perfectly. But you cannot predict what a criminal will do. If I hadn't been the last hostage, someone else would have been. Perhaps someone with a much longer life ahead of himself."

"If I'd known it was you..."

"Then I'd hope that you would have done the same thing."

"But it got you killed."

"No. A nutcase with what was probably an illegal gun got me killed."

Talking about it had brought it all back to both of them. Morgan remembered what seemed to be an ordinary bank robbery. Joey, as Posiduck, was St. Canard's official protector, but Morgan was training as a backup in case he was ever needed. Morgan had secretly been jealous that it was Joey and not him - after all, Morgan could control his powers, which seemed to be more than Joey could ever manage! To further aid them, Drake had inserted himself into the situation by playing the part of a harmless, nondescript old man. He had not been expecting a simple bank robbery to turn into a hostage situation. None of them had. Most of the people in the bank had been taken hostage, and Joey and Morgan had managed to get most of the hostages out. Only one had remained behind, and when the criminals - who had not seemed sane to Drake in the first place - had panicked ... only later, when Joey and Morgan had finally caught their quarry had they discovered that the one remaining hostage had been Drake. By then it had been too late; he was already dead.

Morgan was weeping now, his face in his hands. Drake hurt for Morgan. His younger son always had been closer to him than to anyone else; he could see that his death had devastated him. He put his arms around him and, stroking his hair gently, whispered "It wasn't your fault."

When Morgan was able to speak again he wiped his eyes with the back of his hand and sniffled. "Jeez. I'm acting like such a baby."

"You're acting like someone who's very sad." Drake replied. Morgan tried to say something, but he choked. Drake continued, "Just remember, we'll see each other again, in someplace much better than this. And, whatever happens, it will pass away. You'll heal." He paused. "Dying wasn't bad at all, really." Morgan looked at him skeptically. "No, really. It was kind of like..." he looked upwards, searching for a metaphor. "It was like being hatched. You live all your life in a little shell, and you don't even know it until the shell breaks and you see the whole world around you. It's ... well, dramatic."

Morgan had had time to recover. He said, "I'm all right now."

Drake looked down. His leg was still a bit swollen and discolored, but the pain had faded to a ferocious itch. He flexed it experimentally, then said "So am I. Ready to go on?"

"Yeah." Morgan stood, and gave Drake a hand up. Drake stood, took a few steps with Morgan's assistance, then continued on his own.

After a few minutes Morgan said, "Dad, I don't want to sound dense, but there's something I don't understand."


"Well, it seems like people are being punished for specific things, but there are exceptions. That just doesn't sound right. Am I missing something?"

Drake looked upward. "You have to look beyond the rule that they seem to be punished for breaking. The rule is there for a reason, and it's that reason that you have to heed."

"I still don't understand."

Drake thought, trying to decide on the right approach. "Blind rule following is not morality. If you think it is, think back about Dis. You can't trust the rules to be right for every situation, and you can't have blind faith that the people writing the rules know it all. For example, 'Suffer not a witch to live'."

"Dad, you know that's a mistranslation. That should be 'poisoner', not 'witch'."

"Correct. But not everyone knows that. So, if someone found a witch, theoretically they should not suffer her to live. That's when a person has to stop and consider whether that really should be carried out. Is it right to kill someone who practices sorcery, for that reason alone? Obviously it isn't, since your mother is still alive. People know that she never uses her skills for evil, so she deserves no punishment." He looked at Morgan. Morgan still looked unsure. "Another example. Your mother, Launchpad, and myself. Even though it was Morgana and Launchpad who were married in a civil ceremony, it was the three of us who were handfasted." He smiled briefly, remembering the ceremony clearly. "It was an interesting time for us, when we realized how we all felt. We could have gone with a more traditional arrangement, but no matter which two got married, one would have been forced out. Each of us loved the other two too much to inflict that on him. Or her. Not to mention that it would have split up our team. After a bit of soul-searching, we decided not to make that choice. And the result was that we three built a stable, loving family. Do you understand what I'm driving at?"

"Yes." Morgan said softly. "You're talking about deciding what's right, rather than just following what everyone else says is." He looked up, hoping for approval.

Drake said, "That's it. Morality isn't just memorizing a rulebook. You have to make your own decisions."

"What if your decision is to follow the rulebook?" Morgan suggested with the hint of a smile.

Drake grinned back. "You ought to have been a sophist." he said.

"Hey, your limp is gone."

Drake looked down. "So it is. Swelling's gone down too. Just in time." They had reached the next break.

After carefully surveying the cliff, they climbed up what looked like the roughest, easiest-to-climb face part. Morgan commented, "You know what? Climbing up is a lot harder than climbing down. I wish I had Geryon's flying chain." Then he frowned.


Morgan shook his head. "Oh, nothing." He looked in either direction for the bridge, then started towards it.

When they reached its base Morgan looked down over the sides. Then he recoiled. "Snakes! Eww, why does it have to be snakes?"

"Watch." Drake said.

Someone was fleeing from a lizard as big as a medium-sized dog. The person jumped over a stream, expecting that to put it out of reach. But the lizard, despite its short legs, managed to leap across it and bite its prey. Then the two fell to the ground, seemingly in great pain. Before Morgan realized what was happening the person had melted into a lizard, and the lizard had taken on a human shape. The new human stood up, picked the lizard up by the tail, and flung it squirming into the distance.

Morgan gasped. "I remember that part of the book! But I didn't think it would be literally like that!"

"Just be glad we don't have to go down there." Drake said.

Morgan turned back. "Uh oh. Incoming!"

Drake looked over his shoulder. Some of the demons they had encountered at the pitch were flying toward them. Morgan said, "Hurry!"

"I am!"

They ran the rest of the way across the bridge. Before they reached the end two of the demons alighted in front of them. Grinning, they held their pitchforks out to spear their prey. Before they reached the end Drake seized Morgan's wrist and jumped off the side of the bridge.

The demons watched them fall into the small lake against the inner wall of the trench. One of them said, "What do we do now?"

"Forget 'em. They'll never get out of there. The lizards will see to that."

They flew off.

Morgan broke the water's surface and coughed out some brackish water. "Jeez, give me some warning!" he exclaimed.

"Sorry, but I didn't have any warning myself. It just occurred to me as we neared the end."

"Say, are there water snakes...?"

The two of them scrambled out of the water. On the shore, things were scarcely friendlier. Serpents of various kinds were creeping up to inspect them. Drake muttered, "Where's a forked stick when you need one?"

"I don't think those work on Komodo dragons!" Morgan said as he shied away from a particularly large beast.

"Morgan, get back in the water." Drake said without turning to look at him. "It may be the only safe place here."

"If it was safe, it'd be full of - HEY!" Morgan struggled against something that had encircled his waist.

"What-" Drake looked down and saw that something like a vine had also seized him. It pulled him off his feet and dragged him through the water, then up the cliff.

Morgan's protests ceased as the vine stared pulling him up the side of the cliff. It constricted around his chest, cutting off his air. By the time it dragged him up onto a ledge halfway up, Morgan was close to blacking out. When the vine released him he panted, trying to regain his breath. As he did he looked over the side, and saw that the other vine was fastened around a lizard.

Morgan looked up - and saw someone who looked as if he had been turned into a plant. Morgan backed away. It was rooted to the ground, so it couldn't get to him. Except with its arms, which seemed to be made of elastic!

The plant creature spoke. "It's OK, they can't get up here." It drew the lizard onto the ledge. "Aw, one of the water snakes must have gotten him."

Morgan looked down. Drake was nowhere to be seen. Morgan looked at the lizard, which was watching him silently. "Dad?"

The lizard nodded. It opened its mouth, but only a soft hiss came out.

The plant creature said, "Don't worry, he'll go back to normal by himself, if he doesn't bite someone first."

"How long will it take?"

"I don't know. They never stay still down there long enough for me to tell. But don't worry, you can wait up here." it said affably.

"Oh .. Okay, I guess." Morgan murmured. "Uh, I don't mean to be rude, but what are you here for?" He gestured at the ledge.

"We're all thieves. You can call me Reggie." said the plant creature. "We stole things from other people when we were alive, so now we steal each other's shapes. That's poetic justice, I guess. Except me, I got stuck up here out of reach. I can't move, either." He indicated his feet, sunken into a crack in the rock.

"But what turned you into a plant?"

"Oh, that. This is how I used to be." Morgan stared at him in disbelief. "Really. I was a botanist, and I accidentally turned myself into a mutant plant duck with one of my experiments. I didn't ever change back because, well, why should I? I got stared at a lot, but I saved a lot on food bills. All I need are air and water." He sighed. "Well, I have air, anyway. I can't get to the water down there."

"I guess you must have done something right, to get set up here and out of the fray." Morgan said, glancing at the lizard, which was watching and listening attentively.

"I guess I did. I spent a lot of time cleaning up the environment, using my plant powers to regrow forests that had been chopped down and stuff like that. But before ... I did a lot of stuff that I don't like to think about. I guess this is where I deserve to be." He said in a low voice.

The lizard crawled forward. Reggie spoke to it ruefully, "I wouldn't mind being in your shoes. At least you can walk around." He extended a hand like a sassafrass leaf toward it. When he touched the lizard, it bit him.

Reggie yelled in surprise and jerked his hand back. 'Hey! I was kidding!" He thrashed as the change began to take effect. Within a minute he had shrunk into a small, green-brown lizard. Drake, once again in his natural form, picked him up by the tail.

Morgan exclaimed, "Dad, he rescued us! He wasn't trying to hurt you!"

"I know." Drake replied. Then he addressed the lizard in his hand, which had begin struggling angrily, trying to bite Drake. "I'm sorry I surprised you, but I couldn't speak. I turned you into a lizard so I could take you out of that crack."

The lizard looked down at the crack into which his legs had been wedged. It stopped struggling. Drake lowered it to the flat of the ledge and sat down between it and Morgan. "No hard feelings, I hope. If you're still angry, you can bite me, but please don't bite Morgan. He isn't like us; the venom might poison him."

The lizard looked over at Morgan, who waved uneasily. Then it looked back at Drake, making no move to attack him.

"Good." Drake said. "We're traveling down to the center of Hades. There is a way out at the center. It won't be easy, but I think we can make it. If you want, you can come with us."

The lizard paused, looking at them, and then down into the trench. It crawled to the cliff wall and began inching its way up the stone.

"Um, I don't think you're going to get very far like that. You don't have claws." Morgan said. "How about just getting in my pocket? You'll fit."

The lizard nodded. Morgan put it into his pocket, and he and Drake started climbing up the wall, aided by the everpresent cracks in the stone.

When they reached the top Morgan took the lizard out of his pocket. Not a moment too soon, either, because as he did it began metamorphosizing back into Reggie. When he was able to he stood up. "Thanks for rescuing me. Uh, sorry I tried to bite you."

"That's all right, it was a natural reaction." Drake answered. "Thanks for rescuing us from that pit. I don't know if Morgan would have survived it."

"Why? He'd just turn into a lizard like anyone else." Reggie answered.

"No, I don't think so. He and I didn't come here the way most people did. He is still alive; a demon tricked him into coming here. And I was sent here to help him."

Reggie stared at them. "Really? Wow, you'd be headline news if this place had newspapers! Say, you sound familiar. What did you say your name was?"

"Drake Mallard."

Reggie looked upwards. Then he shrugged and said, "Oh well, I'll probably remember later."

"I don't think we've ever met. I would remember someone as unique as you." Drake commented.

"Yeah, I guess so." Reggie said with good humor.

"Anyway, let's go." Drake beckoned toward them as he started toward the next bridge.

As they started across the bridge Morgan said, "How is it so dark in there, if there're all those candles down there?"

Drake replied, "Those are not candles. Those are people on fire."

"On fire?!" Reggie exclaimed.


Reggie shuddered. Morgan could guess why; after being on that ledge, unable to get any water for so long, he was nearly dried out. He was probably afraid of catching fire.

The next bridge was more difficult for Morgan. He saw people being chopped into pieces by larger, stronger versions of the goat demons. What was even worse, though, was that even after they had been mangled they still continued on their way. One woman carried her left arm with her right hand; another held his head in his hands. Morgan said "This place is demented!" as he tried to hold back his nausea.

"They will heal." Drake said, "And they'll be sliced up again, over and over, unless they wise up."

"How do you know?" Reggie asked.

"I ... it's hard to tell, really." Drake said, unsure of how to explain.

"A little birdie tells you?" Morgan commented, trying to distract himself from the sickening sight below.

"Actually, that's not far off." Drake answered. "I think someone is telling me, because I sure don't remember the book well enough."

By this time they were almost to the next bridge. From the trench rose a foul odor. Morgan gagged and covered his bill. "Someone call a doctor, this place smells like a plague ward!"

Reggie looked down. "Hey, you're right. They are sick. I didn't think anyone got sick here. Just beaten and sliced up."

"The sickness is their punishment." Drake stated.

"Oh, I remember this." Morgan said. "Fraud and counterfeiting and the like, right?"

"That's it."

"I hope the quack doctors go down there too." Morgan said, scowling into the pit. "I know at least one I'd nominate."

"We're not the ones to judge them." Drake replied.

"Hey, I know what was bugging me about Geryon earlier!" Morgan said suddenly.

Drake looked at him, taken off guard by the change in topic. "What's that?"

"He had a magic chain around his neck to help him fly."

"So?" Reggie said.

"But farther up, we saw people being blown around like leaves! And magic doesn't work here! Plus, all the demons I've seen can fly. Why in the world would Geryon need magic? Look at him, flying's what he's built for!"

"I hadn't even thought about that." Drake said.

"It just doesn't make any sense!" Morgan shook his head. "This place is crazy!"

"Actually, it makes sense to me." Drake said softly. "Perhaps that chain was there to make someone realize that you can't take everything at surface value here."

Morgan looked at him in disbelief. Drake continued, "This isn't just a huge torture room. There are reasons for this beyond mindless suffering. It makes some people think about what they've done, and maybe learn better." He looked at Reggie.

"I ... guess you're right." Morgan said after a long pause.

"I never thought about it that way, either." Reggie said.

Drake continued, "Geryon lied without saying a word, as you figured out. It's the same kind of lie that's told to everyone who enters here. There's always mercy, for those who earn it."

"And if that's the way it really is, then there has to be a way out, doesn't there?" Reggie said hopefully.

"I believe so." Drake replied confidently.

All three heartened to some degree by this thought, they continued on their way. After this bridge there were no more trenches, just another steep cliff. They peered down into the gloom below, and saw what looked like water. The cold air told them that the water was no longer liquid. "How cold is it down there?" Morgan asked nervously.

"I don't know." Drake replied. "But I think we'd better run across this part. I don't see anything that should stop us." he said as he surveyed the landscape. "We're nearly there, you know."

"I know. I wish I'd brought a parka."

Drake started down the cliff. "You'll never be better equipped for this than you are now. Be glad you're a duck, you at least have warm feathers and feet that will keep you from sinking into the snow."

Reggie said to Morgan, "If you get stuck, I'll help you. My sap won't freeze."

Morgan doubted that, but he said, "Thanks." and started after Drake.

Snow had piled up around the base of the cliff in deep drifts. Which was very fortunate, as Drake and Morgan, their fingers stiffened by the cold that intensified with every foot they descended, lost their grip. They landed safely, and Reggie followed after them, figuring he would take advantage of the same shortcut.

Drake shouted to Morgan, "Get out of the snow! Shake it off before any of it melts!"

Morgan picked himself up and obeyed immediately. Wet feathers and clothes were certain to bring on hypothermia. Drake brushed some snow off Morgan's back, then said "Follow me!" and started across the icy landscape at a jog.

Morgana had once more gathered the family - minus Morgan - in the tower. They were all a bit frightened now, both of what might have happened to Morgan and of the possibility that Morgana might not be, well, all there any more. Morgana ignored their doubts; if she was correct then it would be worth it. She did not like to think about what would happen if she was not correct.

She gathered them into a circle around a new pattern she had drawn on the floor of the tower. None of them would recognize it for what it was - a spirit trap. If Morgan's body had been possessed, then the first step in bringing him back would be to locate his spirit. Then, when she had it she could knock the invader loose from Morgan's body so its rightful owner could reclaim it.

Before she lighted the candles she looked around at Launchpad, Joey, Felice, Alegria, and Gosalyn. She said, "I know you may not believe that this spell will work, but for now you must put that doubt out of your minds. If you can't help doubting, then hope for the spell to work. Pray for it." Without further pause she stepped into the center of the design. With a white candle she lit each of the candles around herself, starting with the one at the north. Then, on her cue, they all took hands and closed their eyes.

Morgan could keep up with Drake; he was in good physical condition. Even Reggie could manage it, although Morgan could not see how, since the plant-duck's feet seemed better adapted to leaching water out of the ground than running.

Morgan nearly tripped over something protruding from the ice. A moment after he passed it he realized that it had been a face. And other faces were sticking out of the ice here too! There were people frozen into this plain! "Sorry!" he gasped.

As they continued Morgan's breath began to give out. His legs ached. He pushed himself to catch up with Drake, and gasped, "Let's rest a minute!"

"No. You have to run to keep warm. Don't talk, conserve your energy." was the answer. But Drake did slow his pace a bit.

Morgan found himself wishing they would meet a Taronga down here. The flames would keep them warm, and it would also motivate them to run faster.

By the time they reached the end of the ice Morgan was stumbling ahead mechanically. He nearly ran into Drake's back when Drake stopped. Drake pushed him back, and said, "Stop! Another cliff!"

"Another?" Morgan moaned. "I can't climb down. I can't feel my hands and feet."

It was not a steep cliff; it was more of a slope. As they looked across the landscape, they saw that it looked like a crater in the ice with a small mountain in the middle. The slope was solid ice, so they would not be able to gain traction. Reggie looked over the edge, at the overgrown wilderness at the foot of the glacier. "I wish my powers still worked." he sighed. "I could get those vines to grow up here."

The plants stirred. Surprised, Reggie gestured at them, saying "Would you grow up here to me?"

a vine began snaking up the face of the glacier. Morgan said, "How did you do that?!"

"It's an, er, gift of mine. I can talk to plants. I had no idea I could still do that, there were no plants in the snake pit." Reggie answered.

When the vines had reached the rim of the glacier and sent out anchoring tendrils, Morgan started down. When he reached the ground safely Drake started down, and Reggie followed him. When he reached Drake and Morgan he put a hand on the vine that had helped them. "There is some honor, even down here." he said.

Lucifer looked at the monitor in shock. "I don't believe it! They shoulda boiled, burned, and froze by now!"

"I don't know how they got this far. But they won't get past me." Negaduck snarled. He picked up his trident. The metal grew hot in his hands.

"Are you sure?" Lucifer asked, a teasing note in his voice. "After all, this is your last chance to stop them."

"How much will you bet that I can't?" Negaduck growled.

Lucifer grinned back. "Ten years topside versus ten years in the boiling lake."

"Done!" Negaduck struck the floor with the prongs of the fork, sending up sparks.

Morgan soon thawed out enough to recover his inquisitiveness. He said, "I thought the devil was supposed to be standing in the center. Hundreds of feet tall, freezing the ice with his wings. But all that's here is a hill."

"He must be inside, then." Drake said, and stared to walk around it.

They soon found a hole in the stone. Drake peered into it. All he could see was rock. He looked back and said, "Well, this looks like it."

"Isn't there supposed to be more to it than just a hole?" Morgan said uneasily. "It seems too easy."

"That was easy?!" Reggie exclaimed.

"You don't know the half of it." Morgan said.

"Let's go. Whatever is waiting for us, is waiting for us. It'll be there whether we dither about out here or not." Drake beckoned.

Reluctantly they followed him in. It was dark, but it was dry, and the rocks were worn smooth, and there were no branches in the path, so it was not so difficult. Before long they saw a dim red glow. Turning a corner, they saw its source - a large cavern lit by a huge bonfire in the middle. Against one wall was a computer console with a gigantic screen set like a framed picture above it. In the screen was an image of themselves, looking back out.

The person sitting in the terminal's chair turned to look at them with an expression between a smile and a snarl. Its face was shaded by a red, broad-brimmed hat. "I don't know how you got this far, but the game's over!" it growled.

When it stepped close to the bonfire they could see its face. It was no longer wearing a mask. Both Morgan and Drake were surprised to see that this winged, goat-legged demon had a face identical to Drake's. The demon smiled at Drake and held out its hand. "I didn't think you'd be able to drag that young punk all the way down here, but you did! Good work. I'll take him off your hands now."

Drake folded his arms. "No. You can't have him."

"Oh, can't I?" Negaduck snarled. "Like I told you before, one of the two of you gets to stay here. Step aside!" It shoved Drake away.

Drake pivoted as soon as Negaduck's back was turned, came up behind the demon, and seized it in a hammerlock before it could touch Morgan. "Morgan! Reggie! Find the way out!" he shouted as the demon beat at him with its wings.

Morgan ran past them. Reggie started to follow him. Then he looked back at the struggle. Drake appeared to be losing. Reggie extended his vinelike arms and wrapped them around Negaduck as if they were lengths of rope. Reggie nodded in the direction Morgan had fled. "He went that way!" he exclaimed.

On hearing Reggie's voice, Negaduck looked up. The it growled, "Bushroot, you knob! If you don't get your cotton-picking hands off of me, you're going to play the guest of honor in that bonfire!"

Reggie's expression turned to one of dread - but the vines did not loosen. Reggie said to Drake, "G'wan, go, before he gets loose!"

Drake needed no further encouragement. He ran down the path that Morgan had taken, feeling in the back of his mind that it was the right one. Physically he could see no difference between this one and the one through which they had first entered this room, but the oppressive feeling of Hades began to lift from his mind.

The tunnel widened. From far down the path he could see a point of light. This was the tunnel out, Drake thought with joy. He called to the figure moving ahead of himself, "Morgan!"

The figure turned and looked back. Then it ran toward him. When Morgan approached close enough he said, "This really is it!"

"I know!" Drake said happily. "We're officially out of Hades. We'll get you home yet."

"NO YOU WON'T!" a familiar voice bellowed at them. They turned to see Negaduck standing between them and the exit. It was holding its trident, now glowing cherry red, in front of itself to bar the way. "THIS IS AS FAR AS YOU GET!"

Drake walked up to Negaduck and said in a soft voice, "Don't you ever get tired of this place?"

"Huh?" Negaduck said.

Drake gestured broadly, indicating the whole of Hades. "The stench, the ugliness, the suffering. The constant misery. Who can be happy here?" He indicated the exit by looking over the demon's shoulder. "It doesn't have to be this way. People are meant to escape from this place when they are ready; why else would there be an exit at all? Those who understand the mistakes they've made, and repent them, deserve to escape. Even you could, if you were truly willing."

Morgan watched the scene fearfully. His father had just walked up to the demon and started speaking to it! He heard a sound behind himself. He glanced around to see Reggie. "What's he saying?!" the plant duck whispered.

"I don't know, I can't hear. Hey! What happened to you?!"

Reggie looked at the charred stumps where his arms had been. "Negaduck burned himself loose."


"I used to know him. I'm not surprised that he got a job down here."

"But what about your arms?"

Reggie held one stump up. A bit of green was already forming in the char. "They'll grow back. They always do."

"Oh". Whatever.

Drake was still speaking to Negaduck. Negaduck spread its wings in rage and pointed its trident at Drake - and nothing happened. Negaduck glanced down at the pitchfork, which had cooled in its hands.

"He gets his powers from Hades," Morgan mused, "So when he's out of Hades he doesn't use any power against us. And since we're out of Hades, technically speaking..." Experimentally he whispered a quick spell. A tiny globe of light appeared between his hands.

Patiently Drake said, "You see, you cannot stop us. We are no longer in your domain. Let us pass."

Negaduck threw the trident down. "There is no way in Hades I'm going to let you past me, you sickly sweet Good Samaritan!" it snarled and leapt at Drake with bared claws.

The two fought. Reggie flinched when he saw a blow land or a claw tear, but what could he do to help now? Morgan was quickly chanting and drawing on the rock wall with a piece of charcoal. He finished drawing, stepped back, and started shouting an incantation.

Drake felt Negaduck's hold slacken. Then the demon was no longer fighting him. He looked around, and saw that Negaduck was somehow fastened to the wall, and Morgan was speaking to it. Drake smiled when he saw that Negaduck was spread eagled - its hands, feet, and head in the points of a pentagram.

Morgan spoke in a steady tone. "Now you can't harm us."

Negaduck looked at the pentagram around itself. "This crude thing? I'll break out in less than a minute, so say your prayers!" It began struggling.

Morgan did not waver. "The pentagram isn't enough to hold you. Only one thing will get you out of our hair. Your name." He glanced over at Drake.

The demon grinned at him. "I hate to tell you, punk, but 'Negaduck' ISN'T my name!"

Morgan stepped back and summoned the power that was available to him. "You are constrained to obey the command of your name. I banish you back to Hades, Dracob Mallard!" He opened his hands, and white light flooded toward Negaduck.

Negaduck's eyes went wide with surprise. It drew in a breath to shout something - and was gone from the pentagram.

Drake stared for a minute. Then he smiled widely at Morgan and clapped a hand on his shoulder. "Well done!"

"His name was Dracob?" Reggie said in disbelief.

"The same as mine." Drake acknowledged.

"Wait a minute - you're-?" Reggie stared at Drake.

After a moment Drake realized what Reggie was thinking. "No, I'm not Darkwing Duck. I was Posiduck."

"I wish I could've done more to him than just send him back." Morgan said, looking at the rough pentagram that he had sketched in the wall with a bit of Reggie's charcoal. "After all he did to us!"

Drake shook his head. "I pity him."

Both Morgan and Reggie looked at him as if he were crazy. "What?" Morgan said in disbelief. "He nearly killed us both! Several times!"

"He has his powers and privileges in Hades, but in accepting Lucifer's gift he lost much more. Now Hades' claim on him is too strong. He is more thoroughly damned than any other soul we saw."

Morgan and Reggie were silent for a moment. They had not thought of it that way. They had seen him only as a force of evil, not as a person.

Drake turned toward the exit. "Perhaps he can be rescued. But he would have to recognize and repent his errors, and he has a LOT to repent for." He started walking. As he did, the tunnel around him began to glow.

Morgan said, "Dad!"

Drake turned back. "What?"

Reggie was staring too. Morgan said, "Look at yourself!"

Drake looked down. Apparently he did not notice the soft glow. Morgan said, "No, behind you!" Drake turned, then looked back at Morgan inquiringly. Morgan said, "Oh, come on, Dad! You've just grown a pair of wings!"

Drake looked over his shoulder. Then he touched the white-feathered wing he saw there, as if making sure it was real. He fanned the air with a few gentle wingbeats, then turned back to Morgan. "It looks like I've been promoted." he said, his voice filled with surprise.

"Like a chess game." Morgan said. "The pawn that gets to the other side of the enemy's board becomes a queen."

"It looks that way." Drake chuckled. "Well, we still need to take care of you." Drake folded his wings tightly along his back to get them out of the way. He put a hand on Morgan's shoulder. "I'll miss you, Morgan. Behave yourself, and we'll see each other in another sixty or seventy years. Remember that I love you."

Morgan struggled against the tears that were threatening to come. "I wish I didn't have to go back." he said in a small voice.

"But you do." Drake said gently. "Your time isn't up. You have plenty to do on Earth. And the rest of the family must be worried sick about you."

"I guess..." Morgan said to the ground.

"And I want to thank you for bringing me down here, too." When Morgan looked up at him in disbelief he continued, "Heaven is a good place, but it's a bit ... well, pastoral. I enjoyed crimefighting when I was Posiduck. It was often a nasty job, but it was worth it. Now I see another job that needs doing." He gestured at Reggie. "There must be others like him who are ready to leave, and who need a guide."

"Yeah." Morgan said. He did not know why that made him feel better, but it did.

"Speaking of which, Reggie, you can go on ahead. You don't need to wait on us. I'll need all my concentration." Drake said.

"Okay. Thanks. A lot!" Reggie said, then started toward the light. He paused and looked back once, then continued on.

Drake drew in a breath, then looked upward. "Now is where I could really use a hand, please." he said under his breath.

"Uh, Dad - up there's Hades."

"It's the thought that counts." Drake replied. "Get ready, Morgan." he said, and closed his eyes to concentrate.

Behind Morgan, a hole collapsed in the air, and Morgan felt something within pulling at him. Surprised, Drake grabbed onto Morgan's wrists. "I didn't do that!"

"What is that?!" Morgan shouted over the sudden wind rushing into the tunnel.

"I don't know!" Drake shouted back. He planted his feet on the ground, but was pulled into the tunnel with Morgan. He beat his wings against the wind, to no avail. The wind blew violently, trying to tear his son from him.

Morgan looked toward whatever was pulling him. He thought he could hear something, but his senses were too confused to tell what. Drake sensed it too.


"Who are you?!" Morgan shouted.

Morgan! Is that you?! The presence, able to focus on him, sharpened into the image of a female duck, her long hair blowing in the gale.

Drake said, "There's your way home, Morgan! Tell them I love them!" and released Morgan's wrists. He fell upwards, back into the passage from which the had just come. Morgan fell into the grip of the presence. It seized him and held him tightly. He clung to it as they shot back down the tunnel.

With a jolt they stopped. The wind had ceased its howling, leaving him with ringing ears. He realized that he was no longer holding on to a ghost. His arms were tightly gripped around someone solid. He looked up. His mother smiled back down at him, tears in her eyes.

He looked around. Launchpad was there, and so were all of his siblings. They had been sitting in a circle, helping Morgana cast a spell. All of them looked dumbfounded.

Morgana broke the silence. "Morgan, are you all right?" she said softly, loosening her hold on him.

"I am now." he answered after a pause. "You won't believe where I've been, though."

"Where?" Gosalyn asked.

Morgan paused again, then said, "Um - can I wait a little to tell you? It's a lot to believe at one time." he answered slowly.

"Yes. You can wait. And we have something else to deal with right now." she said in a firm tone, looking around at the others. "I know that this is Morgan. Which means that there is a cuckoo's egg in our nest."

"I forgot all about him!" Joey exclaimed.

"I say we bash some head." Gosalyn stood up, her fists clenched.

"No." Morgana said. "This is a job for sorcery, not for force. Joey, Morgan, come with me. The rest of you, sit tight."

The three appeared in their living room and began preparing a restraint spell.

Upstairs, Essobee sensed the spell. When he looked into a scrying mirror he saw that his double was back in this world. Negaduck's plan had fallen through. Quickly he cleared the scrying mirror - no time for a full summoning - and concentrated again.

The face of a red goat appeared in the mirror. Essobee nearly dropped it in surprise. Lucifer said in a smug tone, "Negaduck lost a bet. He ain't gonna be too much good to you where he is now. Yer on your own, kid. Unless you want to make some kind of deal...?"

Essobee dropped the mirror when he heard a tap at the door. Fortunately, he had locked it with a spell. He went to the window and drew his hands back to cast a fireball at it, to make himself an escape route.

The door opened. a duck who looked almost like himself - just ten years younger, and with much shorter hair - walked into the room. Morgan waved a hand, dispelling Essobee's disguise spell. Then he glared at him. "You are going to pay for what I went through!" he hissed.

Essobee glared back. "You just made a big mistake." he answered, and drew his hands back to cast a fireball at Morgan.

Morgan crossed his hands in front of himself. Essobee cast the fireball - which faded and died barely a foot from his fingers. He tried to cast another spell; this time it did not even produce a spark. Morgan was sapping the already thin magic, leaving Essobee with nothing to work with! What kind of fool tactic was that?! Essobee could summon power from outside, and then he'd smash this upstart into paste!

Essobee was midway though his spell when a glowing sphere appeared around himself. How had - no, Morgan hadn't done that! Morgan was still concentrating on the magic sapping spell! It was the others! In his home universe, the Negaverse, Essobee would have been able to break through this. But here the magic was too thin for him to cast a powerful enough spell. They had him!

Unless he could bluff them. He grinned at Morgan, waved goodbye, and jumped backwards. Before his feet touched the ground again he vanished.

Morgan shouted, "He's gone!"

Essobee watched as Joey and Morgana rushed into the room. They looked in consternation at the spot where Essobee had been a moment ago. Essobee grinned. These people were just too easy to fool!

Morgana said, "I know what he's done. He expects that we'll be tricked by a simple dimensional pocket. That may fool an amateur. Morgan, help me set a snare for him when he finally comes back out."

Essobee cursed to himself. When they had their trap in place all they would have to do would be outwait him!

The heck he was going to allow himself to be captured again. He had spent ten long years imprisoned by the Eldritch Academy. Anything was preferable to that! If he cut himself away from the Posiverse, he would be adrift between dimensions. He would have the devil of a time finding his way back to anywhere, but he had done it once before. He took out his athame and made a slicing motion in the air.

Morgana halted her spellcasting. "He's gone!"

Morgan scanned with his magical senses. He could find no trace either. "Where did he go?"

"Either he cut himself off from this dimension, or he no longer exists." she answered. "I don't know which."

Joey shook is head. "I don't know why some people don't know how to surrender."

Morgana said, "Well, in either case, he can no longer interfere with us." She sighed with relief, then turned to Morgan. "It's good to have you back." She hugged him warmly.

"Thanks." Morgan said.

Joey asked, "Ah - who was that anyway?"

"Would you believe my evil twin from another dimension?" Morgan asked with a grin. He had been waiting to say that to someone. He was rewarded by Joey's bemused expression. Morgan said, "It's a long story. A real long one. And I have a message to give you all."

Morgana said, "I want to hear this story. Let's gather everyone in the living room."

"OK." Morgan said. But, uh, I really ought to change clothes and take a shower first."

"Agreed." Morgana smiled. She released him. Before leaving him she touched his hair lightly, as if to make sure that he was real.

Morgan watched her go. The simple gesture had communicated much to him. He looked after her, then got a change of clothes out of a drawer. He took off his shirt and considered throwing it away, then decided against and put it in the hamper.

Something glittered at him, catching his eye. It was a small bell, the same one they had used in the ceremony earlier. Morgan tapped it with one finger. It rang a single soft, pure note. "Thanks, Dad." he whispered.

Negaduck, Bushroot, the Taronga, and this version of Lucifer are copyright © Disney. Morgan, Joey, Felice, and Alegria McCawber , and Essobee are copyright © Kim McFarland. The jury is out on just who has the copyrights on Posi-Morgana, Posi-Gosalyn, Posi-Launchpad, and Posiduck/Posidrake. This story is copyright © Kim McFarland. Permission is given by the author to copy this story for personal use only, provided no changes are made to the story or this notice.

Back to My Etchings