6 05 2014

Fazgood’s thought was to Warren, [Stay upstairs with Calzjha.]

The Earl used his surprise as part of his affectation, and stammered. “Ah! The…the Scout Brigades! How can I possibly help you?”

“Please, good aspirant,” the fellow smiled warmly. “There is no reason to be concerned.”

But his eyes looked deep at the Earl.

He’s appraising me, thought Fazgood.

The Earl made his made his smile more rubbery and squinted more. He took the opportunity to assess the inspector as well.

The Inspector was a stout, pale Therihe man, a half-a-head taller than Fazgood, with curls that gleamed copper in the lamplights of the foyer. His nose was straight and skin clear, but around the eyes and mouth the skin were creased. His hands were well-manicured, thick, with only little, old scarring around the knuckles.

He can fight a bit, but doesn’t have to. You don’t get to be an Inspector at his age. Inspectors are usually fifty years or older.

Respiration drew up. “Why have you come to my door, Inspector?”

The scout lowered his eyes. “Goodwife Paragon, I wanted to extend the apologies of all brigades for our scouts’ evil behavior.”

The man’s warmth was broad, confident, authoritative.

He is ambitious! Though that tells nothing. He could merely be sucking up to a Paragon when he discovered the Foofaloof had her favor.

The goodwife smiled. “That was two nights ago, so I have been told.”

“A day was lost in locating the offended party. A terrible inefficiency on our part. We apologize for that as well.”

“I believed you were to be in mourning for your magnate, Inspector,” her voice hardened. “We had heard the throng at the Plaza from our windows. Would he condone your shirking his service?”

Her tone had a polite severity to it. Fazgood wasn’t sure if she was belaboring the Inspector about his responsibilities, or because the thought of someone escaping obligation made her jealous.

“The magnate,” said the Inspector, “had declared courtesy to citizen-aspirants to be a high priority. I felt he would have condoned a few minutes away from his ceremony.”

“You had interrupted our dining.”

The Inspector bowed again. “I apologize again. My only desire is to fulfill my sworn duties with efficiency.”

His efficiency trounces her convenience.

It perturbed her to do so, Fazgood saw, but the goodwife turned to the Earl for subtle guidance.

“Would the Foofaloof be averse to speaking with the Inspector?” she asked.

“I will gain the Foofaloof’s attention, and bring him here.”

[And get this over quick.] the Earl thought to Warren, [The longer this Inspector is here, the more of a chance for someone to slip.]

Calzjha was cued for a dramatic entrance by Warren, and strode down the stairs. Warren the Brumpf stayed upstairs in reserve; this was a practice, encouraged by the Earl, that in uncertainty one of the three should always stay concealed.

At the bottom of the stairs, the young man arched an eyebrow to Fazgood. “Is there business to attend, Pehzpersist?”

Fazgood stretched his smile and bowed slightly. “Foofaloof, I introduce an inspector from the Scout Brigades. I apologize, Inspector. What is your name?”

Said the Inspector pointedly to Fazgood. “I am Inspector Mehzadapt. I represent the interests of the Magnate’s office.”

That name….

The Earl had always disliked all of the Mehz clan. Now he couldn’t place why.

Calzjha said, “Our condolences to you at the passing of your Magnate.”

The Inspector bowed in gratitude. Then he looked up at the Foofaloof in surprise.

“You…good aspirant…sent two scouts to hospital?”

Fazgood smiled. “The Foofaloof is an artful fellow.”

“Indeed,” the visitor blinked. “And we had heard that you were quite the throw at the arcade, aspirant Pehzpersist. I apologize for the scouts’ ruining your evening.”

“It was an ease,” the Earl said cheerily. “Once those scouts were thrashed, our spirits improved.”

It warmed him to see the Inspector seethe a little.

Mehzadapt then turned to Calzjha. “On behalf of the Scout Magnate, I apologize for the behavior of the two scouts who assaulted you.”

“And were then thrashed,” interjected Fazgood.

“Please, good servant,” Calzjha warned. “Good inspector, I accept the apology, and hold no ill feeling towards the scout brigades.”

An earnest smile eased across Mehzadapt’s face. “I am profoundly relieved. I thank you for your indulgence. Goodwife, I thank you for your patience.”

Respiration nodded. The Earl sighed with a broadly affected offense.

A twinge of annoyance slipped from the Inspector. “And I apologize to you. Good servant. Again. Enjoy your meal.”

He backed out of the door, which was held open by Obdurate. Outside, beyond the doorway, another scout waited, head down and hat in hand. Both turned and walked into the square.


*         *         *


“Did you see that Pehzpersist’s nose?” said Mehzadapt. “Pushed around like putty. How many times had it been broken?”

The Inspector walked quickly, his excitement sharpening the smell of the salty air, brightening the glow of lanterns in the dusk, making the laughter of passersby louder and more garish. A Human deputy trotted alongside.

That fellow’s eyes, his hair, his reported throwing at the Amusatorium, his being smaller in height than most; it all holds true to the one I remember.

I saw no surprise or recognition when he saw me. I have changed much, of course, but my name should have charged him.

The Inspector looked at the deputy. “Did you see the soldier within?”

“Yes!” the man said. “I saw his rank! That was the civil adjutant from the Army!”

An army adjutant has access to payrolls, armories, and documents.

“Fetch Varalam.”

“Yes, Inspector.”

The Inspector looked around Lanthornmount Square, and found that the assigned scout for the evening was also at mourning. He determined where the two people would be discrete, and still have a good view of the keep throughout the night.

He is The Comet. He is here as some scion of destruction. I allowed his escape, and now he is returned to destroy, either me or the Kingdom. I shall catch him at its commission. I shall be Magnate.

Perhaps I can put the Paragon and the adjutant of the corps to use as well.


*         *          *


At the keep, the dinner was completed and the maids cleared the dishes away. The evening was spent chatting about the disposition of the Army of Invitation; its number of ships and troops, its great Cumulid, its naval cavalry. At the twenty-first hour, they stood, faced the rose porcelain shrine at the east wall and sang the Royal Anthem. At that, Fazgood took his leave to retire, and all agreed to retire as well. A maid saw Obdurate to the door, and his charade was performed with great familiarity.

Fazgood’s head ached as he walked up the stairs. Calzjha bade the goodwife a pleasant sleep as she continued to her room upstairs. Just inside their door, the Brumpf sat.

The Earl edged along between the packages, bolts of cloth and tottering baggage. He slipped off his shoes and stretched out on his back upon the bed.

Calzjha said, “This afternoon, I took Respiration aside and said I could show her how to best massage and activate a man’s energies. I offered to demonstrate for both she and Obdurate in her room tonight, but she said Obdurate would be shy around a man in such circumstance. This kingdom has such strange perspectives.”

“Set that aside,” said the Earl in a whisper. “An Inspector for the Scout Brigades stood at our door.”

“Yes, that was exciting. But he was here to apologize!”

“The adjutant said every lotcaster in the city has been mobilized.”

“He called it an unusual event. It is coincidence.”

Fazgood sighed and closed his eyes.

Calzjha rose to the door. “Will you sneak upstairs with the Brumpf and I?”

“Perhaps I will join you later. Go to the windowsill. Take one jug of caml-zre with you. Give it to the Goodwife and the good officer.”

“What of the other jug?”

“Leave it for another evening. Heed Warren if he says your voices grow too loud.”

[You are quiet, my liege.]

“I am planning.”

The young man did not say more, and slipped out the door.

The Earl turned the lantern low and dozed. He was aware of himself snoring for a time, then, curious, he cast his mind down the tunnel that led to Warren, as he had when they had escaped the customs gate.

He was in the goodwife’s bedchamber, viewing from the left of the doorway. The room was dark but for the very dim light of a lantern on the rug. Behind the lantern gleamed the opened bottle of caml-zre, the dry, fruity aroma mixed in the air with, something sour…musk? Sweat?

Calzjha’s whisper. “Do not worry about the result. Just feel.”

The three were seated on the bed, each leaning upon the other. All were naked to the waist.

Obdurate’s bald pate shone on the left. He is leaning on his elbows toward the foot of the bed, his legs tucked almost into a curl. Beside him, Respiration massaged his back and neck. She pressed her thumbs gently into the vertebrae between his shoulders, and glided her hands over muscles that were solid and strong.

Calzjha massaged Respiration’s back.

“Press once more,” he said. He kneaded his thumbs into Respirartion’s back. Her head leaned back and her mouth twisted from pleasure. She touched Obduarte the same.

Warren was obviously too distracted and disturbed to sense his liege was within his mind. The Earl cursed himself for watching. He had enough to think about without all of this getting his blood up.

Fazgood had long given up understanding Calzjha. There was no lasciviousness in the young being; all the sensuality in him was dedicated toward higher purpose.

Years ago, the Earl had told Calzjha of what a voluptuary does, Calzjha was outraged. To take money to heal! To share touch without spiritual responsibility!

He watched the hands slide around shoulders, breasts, hips.

To watch an enlightening act is for my own spiritual betterment, Fazgood considered, then was irked at even trying to fool himself.

On the bed, Obdurate stretched out full upon his stomach. Calzjha whispered something to Respiration, who then stretched full against her lover’s back. Calzjha stretched out full against hers. Beyond Obdurate’s shoulders, undulations began at Calzjha to break and writhe against the soldier.

So it went of many minutes.

“I am sorry, but your presence unnerves.”

Calzjha asked guilelessly, “Is it because of my ability, or because I am male?”

Obdurate nodded as if made purely if languor. “Male. Your touching her disturbs me.”

“I appreciate that you are honest.”

Respiration blinked in a sensate stupor. “Truly, Obdurate! I am doing this for you.”

Calzjha hushed. “Do not deny his emotion. You continue as you learned. The memories of the sense are strong. They may be invoked at any time, and for the body is just as valid as the experience.”

A hand on Respiration’s forearm. “Remember.”

“Just enjoy,” he said to Obdurate.

They nodded, sideways glances to one another.

“For tonight, just touch. As for my male aspect, there are ways to resolve that. Obdurate, perhaps you should activate Respiration.”

He gestured and Respiration lay back. The soldier slowly sat up.

The Earl blinked and returned from Warren’s perceptions.

Yes, I am jealous, Fazgood admitted, She is impressive. But how did she end up in this keep, and married to a criminal! She lacks perspective! Indeed!

And tension has value! I would be a dead man if it weren’t for my tension.

The Earl twisted the lantern’s valve, and lightened the room. He rose, rubbed the remains of his headache, and slipped through the hedgerows of boxes and packages to the window. He stayed close to the side, so as to keep from being observed from outside. Beside the wickerwood box of perfumes and emollients sat the other green jug of caml-zre, its white wax seal still around the stopper. Beside that was the crystal glass bottle of relish with the gleaming gold-stoppered seal.

He looked at the note tied around the neck of the bottle, Hrikinik’s little taunt written in the paper so hard that dimples of letters are on the paper’s back. There was a slight smear of ink on the edge of the back as well, at the bottom of the lower left quadrant.

Such smears were part of a code taught at the College, a means that the writer can convey a secret: Upper-edge right, the message lies; upper-middle edge, confess all to the bearer; and so on.

Lower right: another message is hidden.

Fluxion. If it is a code, I’ll never break it.

No, Hrikinik knows I haven’t the patience for codes or ciphers.

He brought the paper close to his lips and hummed.

He watched the paper. Slowly, the dots and slashes of Adanikarese slipped around the parchment. Now it read in the block-shaped forms of Birqmuirish:


“Never think of this without moosecrab!

Me, Earl of Weiquand”


It was his own careful, straight-stroked handwriting.

He groaned. He had even signed in his secret jesting way, to be certain against forgery.

But I do not remember writing that note, or telling Hrikinik to write a note, or make this relish! To hide a value from myself! How could I be so rude! What sort of game do I mean to play with my time and freedom?

I have always trusted my own council. I must have had a very good reason to play myself a fool.

I’ll boil the crab myself. Tomorrow, I eat the damn thing raw if I have to.




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