Dr. Cora Lee "Curly" Jones is a top Relativistic Astrophysicist and is working on an artificial wormhole. When the experiment goes awry, she is sucked into the wormhole and ends up in an alternate universe where magic works. In order to survive, and maybe to get home, she is forced to change from Scientist to Sorceress, a practitioner of magic, and to go on a quest for the Ultimate Magick, accompanied only by her faithful but dumb companion Noroth. In this quest she is challenged by the evil Sorcerer Vexin and his ally, the equally evil Prince Garamond.
Dr. Jones found herself somewhere else. At least, she was certainly no longer in the lab. Looking around, she found herself in what appeared to be a medieval castle, complete with an assortment of medieval people. Most of them appeared shocked by her sudden appearance in their midst and were frantically trying to get away. A few men armed with swords were holding their ground, and one man was approaching. He was a small man, but powerful in appearance. He had long white hair down his back and a long white beard down his front, both reaching past his belt line. His bushy white eyebrows hung down, barely failing to obscure his vision. He was clad in long flowing purple Sorcerer's robes embroidered with stars and mystic symbols, and wore a pointed hat.
Man, she thought, what a cliché! But aloud she said, "Hail, fellow Sorcerer. I hight the Sorceress, uh, Curly, and I have been cast here by a spell that went very wrong."
"Welcome, Kyrlie," he replied, pronouncing her name just a bit strangely. "I hight Vexin. What can I do for a fellow sorcerer, er, sorceress?"
Kyrlie—apparently that was going to be her name as long as she stayed here—put her arm around Vexin's shoulder and whispered in his ear, "I think we needs discuss this in private. In my land it would not do to talk about sorcerous affairs where all these common folk can hear. Is it not so here?"
"Of course, of course." He turned to the crowd and said, "People, go back to your affairs. Be not scared, the Sorceress Kyrlie has come to discuss many magickal matters with me and to seek my aid. She is a good sorceress, not an evil one. She and I will now retire to the privacy of my laboratory."
He took Kyrlie's hand and led her out of the hall, saying, "First thing we have to do, my dear, is to get you some fashionable clothes. I think your strange garb was a large part of what scared those in the Grand Hall."
Strange garb? she thought. What's strange about a lab coat over jeans and a Donald Duck t-shirt? What should I be wearing? She soon found out, much to her dismay.
Vexin led her to a room with a bunch of giggling servant girls. "Dress her as a sorceress," he instructed them, then left. They descended on her from all sides and did their worst. When she saw what they were carrying, she attempted to fight them off, but there were too many of them.
When Vexin returned she was wearing a very uncomfortable brass bra, and long heavy skirts which she intensely disliked… except they covered up the fact that this world had never invented feminine undergarments. They were going to simply discard her other clothes, but she threw a hissy-fit and had them bundled up to take with her.
When she was attired properly, at least for this world, Vexin came back and led her to the top of the highest tower, where he opened a very heavy oak door. The room would have looked like a modern chemistry lab, work benches and shelves filled with jars of reagents, if it hadn't been for a number of skeletons, bats, and assorted mummified animals hanging from the rafters. In the center of the far wall, directly opposite the door and apparently in a place of honor, hung the strangest skeleton of all. Much of the skeleton seemed human, but it had four arms, one pair above the other, and a tail.
Vexin led her over to a pair of overstuffed chairs and gestured for her to sit. He sat in the other, then said, "Now, tell me who you really are, and how you got here. I know all the sorcerers in the world, and you are not one of them."
Kyrlie thought quickly about what to say. The truth, she decided, but put in words this man could deal with. "Vexin," she said, "I come from another world, much like your world in many ways but different in others. 'Sorceress' is the closest I can come to my title there, where I am known as a 'Relativistic Astrophysicist.' I—with the help of some of my apprentices—was working on a spell called 'Wormhole' that will let a person travel from world to world. But it broke the pentacle in which we had confined it, and it grabbed me, and it brought me here."
"Ah, I see," said Vexin, but the glazed look in his eyes showed he had not understood one word in ten. "Can you cast this 'Wormhole' spell again and return to your world?"
"I fear not, noble Vexin. It requires the aid of the demon 'Nuclear Power' who must be invoked with the sacred metals, Uranium and Plutonium. Have you supplies of those on hand?"
"Er, no, I have never heard of Uran-i-a-mum. Perhaps you must learn the spells of our world to get back."
"Excellent!" said Kyrlie. "The very thing. Since I am a skilled sorceress in my own world it will be easy for me to learn the magick of yours." But to herself, she thought, Ye gods. Magick! I'm going to learn magick? If I ever do get back, I'll be damned if I tell them how I managed it! I'd get laughed out of the university. Magick!
Over the next few weeks Kyrlie threw herself into her magick lessons with Vexin's help. To her own amazement, in this world where magick worked she proved to be very proficient at it.
Vexin explained how important it was that each magic user construct his or her own tools. "Is it not so in your world?"
"It is similar but not quite the same. For simple tools like a wand, yes, but for some of what we must construct, apprentices are needed to assist." She thought of building the wormhole generator single-handed and shuddered.
Once she had finished her wand, Vexin took her to one corner of the room and said, "Come, now I will show you some of my proudest possessions, and let you try your new wand on them." There were two cabinets. The one on the left was normal with a small lock, the other was reinforced with iron bars and had a massive lock. He opened the left-hand cabinet to reveal a collection of rings. "Each of the rings has a magic power, these are all good. Now point your wand at one and utter the magic word, Ring-a-levio."
Kyrlie couldn't help giggling. "Is something wrong?" asked Vexin.
"Oh, no, just that the word is used in my world with quite a different meaning... but a meaning that would be hard to explain here." Before Vexin could ask any further questions that would be difficult to answer, she picked a ring at random, pointed her wand at it, and chanted "Ring-a-levio." Immediately the ring glowed with a beautiful violet light and a wave of happiness passed across her.
"A normal response with a good ring. Of course an un-enchanted ring would do nothing, and an evil ring... " He shut that cabinet and opened the other. The rings inside looked no different. "Try the spell on one of these."
She pointed her wand at one, and again chanted "Ring-a-levio." This time the ring glowed with a malevolent red light, and a chill washed over her. "Now I see why you keep these in such a strong and well-locked cabinet," she said. "But is there any way to know what good power or evil power each ring possesses?"
He carefully locked the cabinet before he explained, "Discerning the power of each ring is not a simple task. I have studied each of these, and those I have solved have little labels next to them—only a few, only very few, many are still unknown. When I acquire a new one, it takes me days, weeks, mayhap a year to solve its secrets and label it, if I can solve it at all. The Ring-a-levio spell tells me if the ring is good or evil. Beyond that my fellow sorcerers and I have discovered no sure way of determining a ring's properties. What works on one ring seldom works on another. There has been rumored to exist a ring of Identification, which would allow the wearer to know what all other rings are, but I don't have that ring, nor does any other sorcerer I know."
"Vexin, it is truly wonderful you have done as much as you have on these," said Kyrlie. "Your command of magick is amazing." To herself she thought, And if you believe that, I can get you a good deal on a bridge to Brooklyn, pal.