“MAD EARL FAZ” Chapter Eight (The Hunt Begins And The Quarry Discovered)

20 03 2014

            High clouds dusted the sky over the Square of the Superb. Sparrows flicked from tree to tree above the heads of three singers sharing a ballad. Along the sidewalk, Mehzadapt and two of his deputies strode through the crowd to the headquarters of the Scout Brigades. Varalam slipped from the entrance and lumbered to the Inspector.

            The Adactoid reported to Mehzadapt, “The Magnate still hasn’t woke up.”

            The Inspector bit back a curse. It was easier to ingratiate than to battle, but the Magnate’s stroke now forced Mehzadapt to do both.

            He told the deputy, “Stay close and keep alert. Get something to eat if you need.”

            The singers sustained a note, and the rumble from the deputy’s stomach drowned it. The Inspector gave an indulgent smile.

           That deputy was Cornpudding, the thickly-built, black-haired Therihe. Sweat ran down his cheeks from the walk. He gave sheepish shrugs to the Inspector and the other deputy.

            Mehzadapt clapped the large man on the shoulder. “Don’t distress, Cornpudding. Because of your mission last night, I may gloat a little.”

            They entered the headquarters. The walls of the entrance hall narrowed, and either side displayed a fresco of the founding of the Scout Brigades. The narrowness forced the scouts in attendance to loom and impinge upon all who entered.

            Just within the anteroom door, a shiny-groomed Fabri pimp pressed hard back against the Scout antecedents sneaking bread to the caged slaves of the Prevaricate. As the Inspector entered the main hall, two houseburglars heavy with grief pressed back to let him pass; only the blue-green aura of The First Magnate showed behind them. Around the battered shouldercase of the second clerk, the rabble of unchained races trailed away. At the end, grieving swindlers blocked faded Scout Brigades of old bestowing foraged food and clothing to grateful freedbeings.

            Up the stairs, a servant opened a door to the contemplation room.

In this small, windowless chamber sat two beings beside each other at a small tea table, a plug hat resting on the table before each. A brown-feathered Exult in a business suit whose plain perch of wood that was so worn and antique that it glowed lustrous black. Beside him sat enfolded an Adactoid, its head and body round like two boulders of deep sapphire clothed in business garb. Both wore ascots of five colors.

Scout Inspector Midoktik, the Adactoid, spoke angrily to Scout Inspector Akekek-Hekek. It was rare for all three Inspectors to be in the same room at once. Both looked up.

            Mehzadapt smiled. “Good afternoon, Midoktik. Greetings, Akekek.”

            The Adactoid turned its head with disgust.

            Giggled the Exult, “We greet, Mehzadapt.”

            Mehzadapt sat at the table and placed his hat just so. “I came as quickly as I could. How fares the Magnate?”

            Midoktik’s voice rumbled through to one’s bones. “The Magnate sleeps in a terrible slumber hemorrhagic. The physicians fight to staunch his leaking into the dusk. I have been attending.”

            “I will visit with the Magnate tonight.”

            “He is adrift in the sea of thoughts.”

            “I shall consult with the physician as to the best time to visit.”

            Mikdoktik said sharply, “It would not be tonight.”

            “As I said, I shall consult with the physician.”

            Without authority to countermand, Mikdoktik fell silent, lips clenched.

            That inspector finally spoke. “Last night, one of your deputies spied on the Magnate’s house.”

            Mehzadapt laid a finger to his chin and made to think. “That is odd. Did he show you respect?”

            “A fouled stream was he. His respect is a rancid trickle.”

            “That could be any one of my deputies, as you have said many times. Such a poor description does not help me to identify which deputy.”

            A round blue fist tightened. “When next I see one of yours near that house, you may plug the leaks in that deputy.”  

            The Exult watched the exchange from his perch. His giggles refined to light, dog-like sniffs.

            The servant placed a tray of tea on the table and slipped away.

            Midoktik gripped the edge of the table with hands resembling pitted blue marble.

            The Human shook his head. “Do you imagine that I poisoned the Magnate? I had nothing to do with the Magnate’s turn of health.”

            Akekek spoke up. “No one believes you did. The physicians declare that it was his time. His family is rife with such illness.”

            Mikdoktik gave a begrudging nod.

            A ruffle of brown feathers and renewed giggling: “But the lotcasters say there is no document anywhere in which the Magnate declares his worthy successor.”

            The Adactoid pointed at Mehzadapt. “That rogue gambler in the Foreign Due has leaked into the dusk. No one saw her leave her home last night. Yet she has disappeared from behind locked doors. Script and coin lay as if forgotten.”

            Akekek whispered, “Wonders, wonders, wonders always!”

            The blue fingers tightened anew. “She claimed her testimony in your competence review would have had you paving the royal roads.”

            Said Mehzadapt, “I surmise she has found a way to leave the city. Still, how disappointing for you.”

            “Yet another problem boils away, Mehzadapt. Was your punishment for her suitably greasy?”

            “My fellows had nothing to do with her relocation. Mikdoktik, do you have any suggestions as to how the gambler may be found? In theory, there may be a value in your advice.”

            The Adactoid sneered. “Goon-master!”

            Akekek’s giggles froze at the insult, eyes eager, hackles raising.

Mehzadapt looked around to the deputies standing behind him. But he flipped a wrist.

            He said, “Goons they were. They are rough and uncivilized. Goons require a firm will to lead them. I chose these roughest and made these goons into proper scouts, then made them efficient deputies.”

            “While your guile blinds all to their failings!”

            The exclamation made the cups rattle.

The Human leaned closer to the glaring Adactoid. “Do you have such a will? To transform the rejected into the admired? Perhaps…”

He turned in his seat to the large deputy. “…my Deputy Cornpudding has a comment.”

            The heavy man stood with his plug hat in his hand. Under dirty black bangs, his gaze remained cast to the floor.

The Adactoid snorted. “Could he not bathe? He is a sulfur spring.”

Mehzadapt clicked his tongue to express disappointment.

            “Sadly, it is a result of an affliction he contracted in the tropics. You would have him relegated to a lower rank because you find his smell distasteful. Now that, Inspector, would have been a criminal waste.”

He turned again to the discomfited man. “I know that Cornpudding has more inside than most deputies have outside.”

            Cornpudding glanced up and tucked his head further.

            “And what would that be?”

            “Faith, good Mitdoktik! Faith brought this poor man from a low affliction to his present respected state. The same faith in our royal provenance brought us from slavery to the Prevaricate unto liberation. That same faith will bring us through this terrible crisis of the Magnate’s health, whatever the result.”

            Mehzadapt clapped Midoktik on the shoulder. Both the Adactoid and the Exult started.

            “Have faith! It may be that the gambler is closer than you think.”

            The Exult sipped his tea and gave a long sniff of disappointment.

            Mehzadapt rubbed his hands. “I will back the decision of the captains, because I have faith in them. And if the captains stalemate in their vote, I have faith that royal guidance will provide for our future.”    

            The Adactoid eyed him suspiciously. “The populace smells the reek of death! The people say that the Scout Brigades are a corpse-revenant which steals to make a finer shroud. Controversy and corruption may cause our funeral pyre.”

            All fell silent at that prospect.

Akekek’s feathers smoothed. “Whatever the result, unity and tradition must hold the wall.”

            Inspector Mehzadapt took his leave. He suppressed his laughter until outside, where he gave a dusty, wheezing whinny. Being unaccustomed to the sound, the deputies stepped forward to help their boss.

            He shook them off and took a breath. “Ah! That cleansed my spirit.”

            The deputies said nothing. They walked outside and rejoined the retinue.

            A small pale Therihe with an unsettling smile held court over two other deputies. “No, see, the captains will vote for whoever’s got the upper hand out of the three, see –“

            “Tlezjoy!” said the Inspector. “If you can’t keep your own council, at least keep it where no one can hear.”

            “Just explaining how the river flows, Inspector.”

            “What do I instruct?”

            “’Be discreet.’  My apologies, Inspector.”

            “We walk to the singers. Come.”

            The four men trotted after the Inspector. Some five paces from the tonesmiths, Mehzadapt turned and gathered the scouts around him.

            “See you this? I face away from the crowd to counsel.”

            Tlezjoy nodded. “Yes, Inspector.”

            “And so be discreet in replying regarding details. I seek someone. Do you hear me over this din?”

            All nodded and leaned closer.

            “He is an adult Therihe man about forty years old. He has black hair, but he may have dyed it. With a little help, I discerned that as of yesterday he resided in the upper half of Paradesend.” 

            Tlezjoy said, “There are many like him living in that neighborhood, Inspector.” 

            “This one will have arrived only yesterday. Also: he has an accomplice. All we know of the accomplice is that it is a being who can articulate laws, and can resemble a human female. My new friend seems to have acquired magic devices to obscure his nature, but he is not a magician.”   

            “Swimming under the waves with this one, Inspector?”

            “Such is this circumstance, deputy. The Linden Arch Brigade is not to know about our interests in their neighborhood. Make your inquiries discreet.”

            Tlezjoy scratched an armpit. “Any Linden scouts who see us will want to know what’s going on. They’ll make trouble for us.”

            The Inspector stared at the offensive scratching hand until it dropped from ministration.

            Merhiazadpt said, “Then lie. In any case, gain enough confidence to have them betray their names. They trouble you, I trouble them.”

            “Are there any aliases this one may travel under, Inspector?”

            “There is one that I am aware of. He used to be known as Fazgood.”

            The deputy looked over a shoulder. “There are a lot of Faz families all over the region. The name ‘Fazgood’ is not uncommon, Inspector.”

            Another chimed in: “Like that fellow in that story being posted. ‘The Best Man Something Something?’”

            Tlezjoy brightened. “The one about the Mad Earl? The fellow who helped kill the Abomination of the North!”

            “Have you read that chapter yet?”

            “No, they’re still traveling to Birqmuir.”

            “That Blonbirq starts out friendly, but he gets all demanding!”

            Mehzadapt glared at them. All fell silent.

            “This fellow must be found. Discern his motives. Follow him. This needs to be sorted out, especially during such a troubled time.”

            Cornpudding coughed. His mouth worked with a wet clicking. The deputy brought his hand to his lips.

            The Inspector prompted. “Handkerchief.”

            Cornpudding snatched a handkerchief from inside his blazer and spat into it. He glanced inside and walked to a gutter.

            “Tlezjoy, assign the tasks. Find the Fazgood fellow and keep a constant watch on his movements. Above all things, be discreet.”

            Tlezjoy took the first two deputies toward an errand post. The Inspector gestured to Cornpudding, then turned and sped away into the crowd.

            Deputy Cornpudding shook the cloth over the drain. A round blazer button of brass clinked on the stone and vanished into the dark hole. He turned and puffed after the Inspector.

 

*                    *                    *

 

            The customarian clapped his hands. “Our class ends. What will we do now? We will adjourn for private time and then prepare for a leisure visit.”

            All rose and rubbed their aching necks and temples. As all filed out to the hall, Kitpoktik approached Calzjha and Fazgood.

            “We were disturbed when you were late for class, Foofaloof.”

            Fazgood startled from his snoring to protest, then saw Kitpoktik’s attention was fixed upon the bright pupil Foofaloof.

            Calzjha said, “We had gotten lost on a walk, customarian. It was my mistake. I am sorry for causing you worry.”

            “You had been so attentive during the morning.”

“I enjoy learning, customarian. You are a good educator. Is that the correct word?”

            “It is the proper word. I thank you, but I owe all to everyone’s enthusiasm.”

            Kikpotik fumed at Fazgood, who had been sleeping sporadically all morning. “You are fortunate to be in the employ of such an energetic person.”

            “Oh yes. Every morning, I feel my joy doubling.”

            The tone of Fazgood’s voice gave the customarian pause, but Calzjha spoke:

“You said we will be going to the city tonight.”

            “Ah! Yes! We will be going to the Amuseatorium. It is in the Golden Utility neighborhood, near the reservoirs. Why are we going there? There you will learn some ways we in Harmonium relax and enjoy each other’s company.”

            Calzjha beamed. “Wonderful! I love to meet new people.”

            “What new people shall you meet? Artists and musicians and citizens! How do they relax? Dancing! Games of skill!”

            “Would there be a zoo?” asked Fazgood.

            “No, but the Garden of Edification is farther down the hills, closer to the river.”

            “Could we stop at the Garden for about a half-an-hour?”    

            The customarian sighed. “We will visit another day.”

            “Ah. How about food?”

            “We will be eating there. There are many kitchens.”

            “Many cooks, eh? I thank you. I was merely curious.”

            The Fabri sidled up to the customarian and Calzjha. His folds sagged into a downcast expression.

            Calzjha said, “Khuoro! I want to tell you: I am impressed with your Rahsic.”

            That mossy aspiring citizen drooped less, if slightly. He squeezed around his bagpipe.

            He asked, “You are…liking my Rahsic? I feel such a fool.”

            “I would be honored if we could practice together  –“

            In Fazgood’s mind came Warren’s thoughts, [My liege! They have games! You haven’t played dodgley in ages!]

            The Earl looked to the closed basket. [Yes! My arms are feeling restless! And we can see about applying one cook to one crab and be done with all this.]

            [I recommend bribery.]

            Calzjha nudged Fazgood. “Pehzpersist!”

The Fabri and the customarian looked at the Earl.

“You dream, Pehzpersist,” Calzjha said, “Let us go to our room.”

            “Ah! My apologies, Foofaloof.”

            The customarian gave Fazgood an impatient shake of the head as they passed to the stairs. They passed the open entrance. Outside the front porch, the Sixteenth Hour Summer Rain blew a mist onto the congregated residents.

            They called, “Come on outside, Foofaloof!”  “The rain is grand!”  “Join us!”

            Calzjha turned to Fazgood, his face red that they did not also ask for Pehzpersist.

He asked in Adanikarese, “Would you mind? They call for me.”

            “Go with them.”

            “Are you certain?”

            “Go with them.”

            He gave Fazgood the basket. “I will be upstairs soon.”

            Fazgood had a last look at the chatting crowd, then turned and trod upstairs.

            He droned in mocking of Kitpoktik. “What would I do? I would nap. What kind of nap would I have? An epic nap of which storytellers may speak of for centuries.”

            [I would stroll on the upstairs porch, if that is permitted.]

            [You have done too much basket-sitting. Go stroll.]

            Fazgood opened the door, opened it and stepped back subtly. Warren popped his head out of the lid.

            [I smell nothing odd, my liege. No one has interfered while we were away.]

            The Earl entered the room and set the basket down. Warren clambered out as Fazgood removed his jacket and collapsed into his chair. The cane rattled to the floor, and he was asleep instantly to the sound of the rain.

            When Calzjha slid open the door an hour later, the Earl awoke refreshed. They showered. Calzjha changed his shirt, and Fazgood his shirt and suit. They shared the grooming kit; the young man brushed and combed his hair, the older one spending effort to bring the extra foliage of his age under control by trimming his nose hairs and plucking ear hair.

            The Earl rubbed an ear. “I miss the street barbers in Adanikar. My ears could use a good digging.”                       

            “Yes. My ears, also.”

            They contemplated their reflections in the grooming kit mirrors, picking and plucking themselves until they felt prepared for the evening.

            Fazgood said in Adanikarese, “I will find the cook first. That is best.”

            “Yes.”

            “I will bribe. If that no good, I make threats.” 

            “Perhaps if you asked nicely.”

            The Earl snorted.

            He carefully swept up the clipped and plucked hairs, nail-clippings, ear wax and the like into the kit’s tiny caution brazier and set a fragrant candle to burn them.

            Warren resumed the role of Brumpf and squirmed into the basket. Fazgood adjusted his medallion comfortably under his shirt. They joined the fellow citizen-aspirants and customarians in the common room and set off

            The pedestrian traffic seemed to be keeping pace with them. The Earl noticed the same tall Rahsic in a bright maroon army uniform twice, which was odd in that military types in general like to travel in pairs or groups. No plug hats to be seen in the mass of bobbing heads, which eased Fazgood’s mind not at all. Calzjha chatted with Khuoro and a married couple of Rahsics from the Principality.

            It was a brisk half-hour walk to Golden Utilities. They followed the lane as it merged with Rewards of Betterment Boulevard. They walked past a wall of patterned brickwork and saw stream of children in school tunics enter under an awning which read “Garden of Edification”.

Fazgood swallowed a sudden mouthful of saliva. His toes seemed to steer themselves toward the gate, until Calzjha gave a sharp glance. Both the Earl and his stomach grumbled.

            Warren slipped his head out of the basket and looked up. [Ah! What a spirited place!]

            Their path led to a grand palace that glowed white in the setting sun. Seven stories tall, it was the tallest building they had seen other that the bowl of the Royal Resonant Citadel.

            The Adactoid said, “This is the Crystal Amusatorium’s first anniversary. Its bricks of spun glass are imprinted with magic symbols.”

            Kitpoktik actually smiled. But then, imula thrilled when contemplating grand masterworks.

            “The evening. What will happen? A show of lights and sounds that brighten the whole garden for acres. There is no place in the civilized world which has the resources or populace to create such a marvel.”

            Calzjha blanched at such ignorant boasting.

            “All for the delight of the common citizen!”

            The Earl smirked. [Squire, places of common delight usually have blood flying about! I’ve heard no mention.]   

            [Indeed! The Birqmuirish would demand spun-glass fighting pits.]

            They followed the crowd into a courtyard before an arched, roseate entrance.

At one side of the arch, a Exult stooped with age stood wearing a pristine brown smock. “There is racing, quizmastery, clambers, fetchnets, tests of strength, tests of skill, tests of will –“

            The Earl approached the elderly Exult and harrumphed. “Excuse my interruption, but do you have dodgely?”

            “A whole row of dodgely! Down the center aisle to the end, then turn right, that is where the row is to be found.”

            The citizen-aspirants entered.

            The ceiling streached upwards until it lost in a cloud of slowly shifting rainbows. Throughout the haze, clouds of Booloobs drifted, singing favorite ditties. Before the entrants, a concourse of white brick some forty meters wide led off into a thick and boisterous crowd. On either side, playgrounds sized for any age of any race. Stilt-walkers cavorted with guildsmen. Businessmen sang arm-in-arm with a braided-and-beaded Fabri clown. The air tingled with baking fruit and molasses pies, roasting nuts, garlic barley, and neekgrass.

            “Delightful!” gasped Calzjha.

            [Wondrous!] thought Warren.

            “There’s no booze?” asked Fazgood. 

            “Please, let us meet back here at twentieth hour! Why at that time?”

            Fazgood had forgotten the customarian’s presence.

            Kitpoktik continued. “We will observe the gorgeous and ingenious lights! This is followed by singing and dancing! Please meet here at the twentieth hour!”

            The citizen-aspirants found that all agreeable. 

            Calzjha declared, “I am invited to walk with some classmates. I meet you in due course.”

            “Foofaloof, you should take the Brumpf with you.”

[May I please stay and watch you play dodgely?]

            [I need you with him in case something goes awry with any of us. Go with the Foofaloof, and you will still see me play when you return.]

            The weasel grimaced. [Yes, my liege.]

            “Come, Brumpf,” said Calzjha. “Let us go meet people.”

            [May we eat?]

            “We will eat, yes.”

            [Then I deign to be with you.]

            Calzjha huffed and walked to the awaiting throng.

            Fazgood remembered the usher’s directions and walked deep into the Amusatorium. He went to buy a bag of neekgrass, then was told that the palace had its own currency. He located an exchange booth, changed some light script for round ceramic chits, then supped a tall flaxen folder of grass. It was of good quality, thick with sweet-and-salty seeds. He sipped some grape-ade, returned the cup then went to play.

            He maneuvered the crowd, resisting the occasional urge to pick a pocket. He checked his hair in reflecting surfaces, turned to appreciate beauty and artistry, doubled-back twice to examine flowers, and in general did everything necessary to assure himself that he wasn’t about to be stabbed in the spine.

            Twice he noted the lanky Rahsic soldier, who both times startled at Fazgood’s sudden change of direction.

            Is he alone? I see no others. The scouts and the police are too smart to send a tail in a bright soldier’s uniform. Perhaps he is a distraction?

            The Earl found the lane of booths. Here the crowd thinned to reveal a variety of booths. His attention caught the last, for it was the most splendid dodgely booth, the size of their suite’s living room. The best booth he had seen since a child. Better than the traveling ones in Birqmuir and the Principality.

            This booth was set with many layers, shelves and corners. Thick throughout the booth, dozens of fanciful targets awaited; false animals, mirrors, bolts of cloth brocade weighed with bells, strings of chimes, plus many other novel ones. Some targets hung on ropes and poles that spun and rotated at a steady pace, so that their locations alternated at regular intervals. Other targets traveled on tracks and reeds, so that when struck the targets would slide these items were never in the same location twice. All whirred and spun constantly, kept in motion by the hidden pedaling and operation of the dodgely dealer.

            Three booths down, a Rahsic threw with a grim eye. Came from his booth a ping. A whee! The ball sprang back and struck him in the shin and clattered to the floor. In the booth farther down was a Therihe man with two girls, obviously his daughters. He threw, his face red. Ting! P’too! He reddened further when his ball didn’t make it back to him.

            A voice from above rang through the din. “Dodgely! A surprise for your eyes! Lay your skill for a prize!”

            Above the booth, the dealer sat in an alcove. The dealer was an old Therihe man, bright pink and quite wrinkled. His eyes squinted into thin, twitching slits that looked into nothing. To the left of the booth, a large basket of wickerballs tempted. Above that, the pulley which held a cup to make bids.

            “Bid one,” called the Earl, and he dropped a chit into the cup with a clink.

            The pulley zipped upwards. Fazgood took a wickerball from the basket and shook it in his hand.

He bounced the wickerball off a wall. It struck one chime, then rebounded into the Earl’s hands with a clack!

            The dealer held up two chits.

            “Bid the two,” said the Earl.

            He bounced the wickerball off the wall with a slight backspin. It struck a wall, struck a chime farther back, then deflected a twittering bird nest to rebound to the Earl’s hands –- clack!

            “Bid three.”

            The ball smacked a wall, strummed a fabric tree, bounced off a ceramic whimm’s head, spun a mirror, banked a last wall, to be caught by the Earl.

            The dealer said, “You have twenty-four.”

            “You have good hearing. I can barely hear myself in this place.”

            “Yes, sir. I have been at this a while. You have a pretty good hand.”

            “I am merely ‘pretty good?’”

            The man shrugged. “I have heard better.”

            The Earl’s pride took wind. He let fly.

            Within fifteen minutes, he was up to eight targets at a throw. His booth resounded with hoots, whinnies and rings. People walked regularly to see the fuss. A small crowd of children and fuzzy Exult fledglings had formed to gawp at the strange man’s skill. Fazgood advised young males on throwing techniques. He showed the young father how to direct backspin, whereupon the dad won two dolls for his girls. Fazgood informed the children which targets he planned to hit, so that they would be ready to make accompanying noises.

            At the fringe of the crowd, two plughats in blue suits stood beyond by the spinning, clacking dunk-wheels. They eyed his dodgely booth and chatted.

            This is perhaps too much attention, Fazgood thought.

Distracted, he threw and missed another eight. All around groaned with friendly disappointment.

            “Ha! You squat spastic!”

            He turned.

            “You decide to miss now when I wagered!” cried the plughat with a thick chin.

Fazgood shouted, “How about you having a throw, so I can lose more money on you? Come here and best an eight!”

            The scout sneered, but made no reply. The crowd made quiet celebration at such pluck.

            “That’s what I thought,” Fazgood turned back.

“What an accent you have, yokel! Did an orchard-ape teach you throw?”

That was the plow-chinned scout again.

“Citizen,” said Fazgood, noting his crowd, again noting the annoyance his voice, and for a moment noting his prevarious position in this society. “Perhaps some time with orchard-apes would improve your manners. And teach you to throw.”

Some chuckled, some drifted away warily. A path opened between the combative two. Eager to share the fun, Fazgood said to Warren, [It seems I am tormenting some scouts. See their faces?]

            [Ah, yes, I do see them. Indeed. They…are quite large men. This is something I believe I should share with Calzjha.]

            “You! Yokel!”

            Fazgood made to look innocent and baffled.

            The children scattered. The few people near-by found business elsewhere.

            The plughats wore the magenta scarves of The Sunset Creek Brigade.

            Beyond the plughats, a movement of red caught his eye. The solitary Rahsic soldier stood by the wheels, watching.

            Plowchin and his associate strolled over.

            Plowchin asked, “What week is this in the orientation cycle for customaries?”

            The other was a tall Rahsic man with a head full of long sausagelocks. “It’s first day, I think.”

            “Week Three’s coming early.”

            Fazgood asked, “What is Week Three?”

            “That’s when you strangers are scheduled to be robbed.”

            “You schedule robberies in Harmonium? Do the customaries know?”

            “The Board of Customaries makes the arrangements. It’s a part of your training to be a citizen, so that you respect us in the Brigades and know how the Police operate.”

            Plowchin poked Fazgood’s shoulder. “We do it all orderly around here, see?”

            “Except for you,” Longlocks smiled. “We’re robbing you now.”

            “Eh?”

            “This is a robbery.”

            “Ah. Then you will need weapons.”

            “We are civilized in Harmonium. We say, and you hand over.”

            The Earl pondered this. “I could resist.”

            “We would break your arms.”

            “Ah.”

            Plowchin shoved Fazgood again. “Can’t fill out your forms for the tests, then. Out you go and we’d be glad of it.”

            Longlocks breathed sour halitosis in Fazgood’s face. “The city’s too crowded as is.”

            He reached into Fazgood’s coat. Faz reached for his hand. Longlocks slapped the hand away. He plucked out the crystal bottle of relish.

            Longlocks picked at the gleaming stopper. “What is this? Gold?”

            The Earl stepped under the man’s chin and purred. “Return that.”

            The beyond that scout’s shoulder, Calzjha stood primly in his rumpled suit, carrying the wicker basket under his arm.

            “I was told that you had made new friends.”

            “I can handle this!”

            Plowchin looked at Fazgood. “No you can’t, grandfather.”

            Calzjha chuckled. “What is remarkable is that you have gotten into a fight while sober.”

            “I wouldn’t be sober if there was some booze in this place!”

            “You do not mean that. You should come out with the rest of us. You will have fun.”

            Plowchin chuckled and walked over. “You can go anywhere you like. First, though, as the dealer says, ‘bid one, pays two’.”

            Calzjha’s eyes searched for the translation.

            Plowchin plucked at the basket. “What’s in this?”

            Calzjha looked to Fazgood and gave a theatrical and thoroughly Harmoniad shrug. “It is nothing you would care for. I certainly don’t care for it.”

            Plowchin yanked the basket from the young man’s hands and felt inside.

            “What is this, like fur?”

            [Hands off me, you wretch!]

            Warren sprang from the basket and ran up his arm. He bit the plughat on the lip. 

            Plowchin shreiked. Warren clambered past the man’s shoulder and down his back.

Above, the old man swore and slammed the dealer door.

Warren lost his purchase on the man’s hair. He tumbled to the floor and scurried behind the Earl.

            Plowchin grew red. He raised the crystal bottle of relish to strike Warren. Calzjha crooked his own right arm, stepped over and trapped the scout’s arm before it swung the bottle.

            Calzjha spun his left arm over the man’s hand. He secured the man’s grip with his right. hand He pulled the plughat’s arm crooked, then took a step back and twisted. The scout yowled and dropped to his knees.

            Still cursing and holding his lip, Plowchin stepped and swung at Calzjha. Calzjha ducked, spun and slid over the yowling scout’s back without releasing the arm. The scout’s shoulder dislocated with a grinding pop.

Fazgood plucked the bottle from the thug’s limp hand, swung the skullwarmer into his chin with a crack. The scout flung over backwards. Fazgood skipped back out of Calzjha’s way.

            Plowchin stepped around his partner to pursue Calzjha. Calzjha kicked the man in the shin.

            Calzjha crooked his fingers into Hand Position Nine (The Supplicant Claw) and dug them upward into the scout’s testicles, then twisted. The scout went pale and collapsed.

            Longlocks still doubled over with pain. His right shoulder sagged lower than his left. He grimaced with pain and with both hands grabbed Calzjha’s coat. He tried to knee Calzjha in the stomach. Calzjha squirmed within his ill-fitting coat, secured his arm under a second missed kick and swept Longlocks’ legs skyward. The young temple dancer followed the scout down to the floor with his weight. Longlocks struck the floor with their combined weight with a loud grunt.

            Both scouts lay thrashing on the floor. Longlocks rolled with a groan and tried to push himself up with his left hand.

            Calzjha spun before him and twisted the scout’s ascot at the back of his neck. The scout trembled, then passed out.

            From beside Fazgood’s leg, the Brumpf hissed. [Calzjha, you wretch! You handed me to that creature!]

            “I did so knowing you would make light labor of him.”

            [My liege! I protest! Kill Calzjha immediately!]

            Fazgood whispered to the squirming worthy. “It is true, squire! Calzjha’s expression was quite comical.”

            [Comical!]

            “Warren, you made a quick meal of the goon.”

            [I did? Yes, I did, didn’t I!]

            As one, a mass of ushers and police arrived. Given that the two hulking scouts sprawled unconscious, and that the two small humans only suffered Calzjha’s torn jacket, and that a robbery had not been scheduled, it left for all to marvel at the Foofaloof’s splendid dispatch. The police removed the scouts, who would be traded back to their Brigade in exchange for property stolen. The spectators jeered the scouts’ unwillingness to wait three weeks, when the robbery would have been more acceptable.

            Fazgood shook his head, his head in a muddle at such civilized behavior.

            The Foofaloof and Pehzpersist told and retold the tale. Calzjha gave the Brumpf his due in the battle, explaining to all that the Brumpf was not only ceremonial, but also a practical companion. The old dodgely dealer related the bullying that started the excitement, even mentioning Pehzpersist’s marvelous playing. The Foofaloof suggested to Pehzpersist that he stand everyone to drinks and snacks to celebrate. All greatly enjoyed the food, and related to each other similar tales of captured criminals and brash fighting.

            Kitpoktik practically glowed. “Pehzpersist! What a splendid, inspiring person you serve!”

Fazgood muttered as he fetched more garlic barley.

            The time came to leave the Crystal Amusatorium to watch the light show. The crowd of aspirants joined the rest of the citizens on the grounds outside.

            Throughout the crowd, Booloobs and other magicians began to keen. The spun glass architecture glowed and iridized to the music. The musicians all struck up even more happy tunes, which all sang or soon learned to sing.

            “You were good to give your winnings like that.”

            “I should have beaten out of those scouts the name of a corrupt cook.”

            “Do not regret.”

            “I am no closer to finding a cook. I need that cook. The crab without a proper cook would do me no good.”

            “But through building good will this evening, we may find good favor.”

            Fazgood scratched his head. “What if the Foofaloof…no! The Brumpf! What if the Brumpf were to take ill and only a moosecrab may revive him?”

“Why?” Calzjha pouted. “Why does he get to perform an illness? I portray the afflicted remarkably well! Long and lingering declines, sudden onsets –-“

“Your illness would just arouse curiosity. Only a few teachers and smarty-types in this city would know of weasels! Who would contest our say-so?”

            A man’s voice stammered. “I beg your pardon, but I believe I know you.”

            “Eh?”

            Both turned.

In the flickering light of the Amusatorium was the tall Rahsic soldier.

The soldier whispered. “Please! I mean you no ill! But you are Fazgood Weiquant. Please hear me: I am here to ask for your help.”

            Behind a perplexed expression, Fazgood seethed, Zhazh, you god-poxied piss-god!

           


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2 responses

18 09 2014
mencegah vertigo

I have fun with, result in I discovered just what I was looking for.

You’ve ended my four day long hunt! God Bless you man. Have
a great day. Bye

18 09 2014
timwburke

I have provided a thing and I am glad you found it fun.
Was it worth four days? Only God knows.

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