The Enchanted Duplicator

by Walter Willis and Bob Shaw

Chapter 3

In Which Jophan Tarries In The Circle Of Lassitude

The path was steep, and by nightfall Jophan was near exhaustion. Worse, he had entered a region of thick fog, and could no longer see the path in front of him. Afraid lest he would take a false step and fall down the precipitous slope, Jophan stopped helplessly and resolved to wait until the fog cleared. But as the sound of his own breathing subsided he heard voices above him. He felt his way inch by inch along the path and suddenly found himself at the entrance to a brilliantly lit, circular cave. It was full of people of all ages talking and laughing and playing games. As soon as they noticed his presence they hospitably invited him in, gave him something to drink, and then went on with their talking and playing.

After a while one of the youths finished his game and came over to him. "Where are you bound for?" he asked politely.

"I am going to Fandom to publish the Perfect Fanzine," said Jophan, "for that is what I want to do more than anything else in the world."

"But this is Fandom!" exclaimed the youth indignantly.

"Well, not exactly," said an older man who had overheard, "but it is good enough for us. Actually this is only the Circle of Lassitude. We've heard of Fandom, of course, but it's such a lot of trouble getting over those mountains that we don't know much about it. We have all we want here, you see, so we're quite happy. If you want to know something about it, though, I could introduce you to those three old men in the corner. They lived in Fandom for a time long ago, until they came back for a visit to the capital of Mundane. They were never able to tear themselves completely away or face another journey over the mountains. It's easier to come back, you know. By the way, my name is Leth, Robert George Leth. They call me Leth R. G. for short."

The Circle was so pleasant and hospitable that Jophan decided to spend the night in the cave. But they had so plied him with drink that he slept most of the following day until it seemed too late to start. The same thing happened the next day and the next, and by degrees Jophan sank into a stupor, in which he forgot the object of his quest. Now and then he felt dimly that he had lost some precious thing but whenever he tried to remember what it was one of the Circle would press a drink into his hand and distract his attention with the latest verses of the wits of Mundane.

One day while Jophan was talking with the others in the cave a great wind blew from Fandom and a sheet of paper was whirled into the cave. Jophan picked it up and examined it curiously. Its appearance stirred half-forgotten memories of the dazzling vision he had had from the touch of the wand called Fanac. "Why," he gasped, "it's . . . it's a Fanzine!"

"So it is," said Leth R. G., idly. "They blow in from Fandom occasionally. We never pay much attention."

Without another word Jophan shouldered his bundle and marched out of the cave. The others watched him in silence, and after he was gone it was a long time before anyone spoke. Then they renewed their talking and playing twice as loudly as before, as if they were trying to convince themselves that they were happy. -

This version is from GHUTENBERG'S BHIBLE -- Section 7-b (Appendix B) -- Copyright © 1994 by Greg Hills. All rights reserved.

All rights to the original material is retained by the authors.