|"The third kingdom," the Webmaster Alta explained, as her sisters gleefully
installed their new copy of Penultimate Doom, "lies at the very center
of the Web of the Wide Worlds amid a prosperous netscape rich in its connections
to the wealth of the Web. Some even say the Web began there. Of course
there is no true beginning or end to the Web, but the magic behind the
great portrait of the Supreme Court at Ithaca that allows one to walk through
the painting to reach the libraries of the individual justices was created
"But do not think the journey will be easy. You must pass through three
false kingdoms to reach the true."
"How will I know them?" Conan asked.
"Trust your training as an information warrior. And follow the golden
"What are they?"
"That is all I can tell you. Go now."
With that she turned back to the caldron where her sisters worked busily
at their spells, their dark robes flowing with their movement and their
long wisps of gray hair floating in the magic ethers that rose from the
cauldron. Conan was about to protest that this was rather scant direction
when Deja turned to fix him with her pale eyes and spoke.
"Links of gold, from times of old,
through touch and glow, the way they show,
past snares and shadows, longing and lust,
false kings and magic that tempt the trust.
For travelers past did come and look,
and left their marks as in a book,
And divined the difference 'twixt the two,
shadows of seeming and truth's gold hue."
As she finished, a dense cloud of steam swirled up from the caldron
filling the end of the cave and hiding the sisters from sight. As if from
a great distance, Conan heard Lyca's voice say "And don't take any poison
applets!" Then he was alone in the darkness.
© 1996, by Hadley V. Baxendale