Sarah didn’t know what to do. At least her hair was changing back to its original color. She gingerly picked up the hat, afraid Wormwood could be lurking under the brim.
She reached Conundrum and nuzzled him with one of her paws; he remained motionless. Bending down to his face, she brushed her whiskers on his stony features.
A few drops of unicorn elixir were left as she poured them from the silver flask. One drop fell onto Conundrum’s lips, then a second. Surface tension lingered as the last drop tricked into his mouth. He opened his eyes and his whole body relaxed as he recognized Sarah with a smile.
“Where’s the devil who petrified me?”
“He’s gone, vanished without a trace.”
“How, how is that possible,” asked the groggy magician?
“You missed the Hatter’s return, but his magic hat remains.”
Conundrum surveyed its exterior. “This hat has been disguised to appear ordinary. How and when did Wormwood disappear?”
“He vanished while talking to himself.”
“Maybe he muttered some incantation,” murmured Conundrum as he handled the magic hat.
“Wormwood twirled a playing card sown into the hat when he vanished. I counted him doing it six times.”
“A curious number, six,” whispered Conundrum. “I wonder if a magician must don the hat and twirl the card in order to disappear. You said the Hatter’s body was eaten?”
“What happened to the night crawlers Wormwood left behind?”
“They devoured the Hatter’s staff and turned to salt.”
“Did you see what happened to my top hat?”
“I’m afraid it was burned in the fire when Wormwood unveiled himself.”
“That’s a shame. We should inspect the fire to see if the unicorn hair incinerated. I’d guess it remained intact. No ordinary fire can consume something sacred.” Conundrum carefully got to his feet and rested his weight on his friend’s shoulder. They looked closely into the fire, seeing a solitary hair unscathed.
Without hesitation, Sarah reached into the blaze, brandishing the hair. “My you have quick hands. I’ll have you sew that into an old hat.”
They returned to the gypsy cart and Conundrum took a dusty hat from his cupboard. “This is a very special hat,” he remarked. “It belonged to my father, Vassal Hatter. He gave it to me before I left his plantation. It was passed down from one Hatter to another, even before magic entered man.”
The rabbit pulled a needle from her sewing kit and began to stitch. She gave the finished hat to her master. He promptly reached for a pair of scissors and snipped two horizontal slits into the ancient hat. “I want you to have it,” he said. “You learned to wheeled magic. I trust you’ll always use it to gain understanding.”
“I will,” whispered the rabbit modestly.
“Then the hat is yours. I’m prepared to journey backward in time where magic was born. I trust you’ll use my family’s hat responsibly while I’m gone.” Conundrum turned the ace of spades counterclockwise and vanished.
Magic is a disappearing act. It survives because it exists in the shadows. It can be used to rejuvenate living things during periods of darkness. Conundrum traveled in a blinding flash of light seeing billions of sunrises in a rushing second. Suddenly, he found himself in a much younger forest.