14 05 2014

When night still walled the window with black, the Earl’s door creaked slightly. A rustle at the door jam told Warren’s entrance. With that perceptive and rousable worthy with him, the Earl turned to sleep.

He dreamed he was back in the earldom, ten years ago. Fazgood was on his veranda gazing at the broad, sunlit lawn, the dirt-patches still showing where the traps had been laid. Beyond the lawn, beyond the wood-and-barbed wire barricade, laborers were building the brick wall higher. He looked down and discovered he was in a white muslin suit, sprawled in a cushioned wicker chair. His knuckles were smooth with youth.

He thrilled, I’m young again!

A glass tumbler of brown liquid was in his left hand. He sipped. Sharp and spicy Birqmuirish tziembroask smoldered down his throat. In his right hand, the brass hilt of Kekeltuk’s Protractor cooled his grip. The edges were in the scabbard of pebbly, unidetifiable skin.

He mocked the device, the Birqmuirish language a welcome surprise for his tongue. “Now I know your plans, eh? Trick me into giving my fortune away to charity?”

Gagged by the scabbard, the treacherous enchantment could say nothing.

The Earl took another fiery sip. “After I get my fill of this tziembroask, you will get your fill of the river! Ha!”

[My liege! My liege!]

Warren’s brown shape sprang and squiggled across the lawn, darting around the brown patches. The Earl felt his smile stretch little-used smile-muscle.

“Good Warren, what does the rabble say of their leader?”

[What do you mean, my Earl?]

“Did you visit the Imperial Blue Barrelhouse? How loudly do they sing my praises?”

[Oh, my liege! You are dreaming we are back in the Earldom! You are imagining I’m in the dream with you.]

Fazgood started, looked at his surroundings, then took a quick, greedy slurp.

He grumbled. “Or perhaps…I should go to the Barrelhouse myself and –-“

[My liege, it is Calzjha!]

Calzjha is not for many years…no, please.

Fazgood could feel his youth drain away.

[Calzjha has broken your agreement!]

There was only one agreement Calzjha ever honored.

Fazgood’s eyes snapped open.

The blessing-engraved wood rafters over his head reminded him where he lay. Instead of the feel of his light muslin suit, his skin was clammy from sweat-soaked clothes. His nose flared from his stink. He raised his head, heavy from feeling so many years slip away.

At the foot of the bed, Calzjha was turned toward the window. Only his head and shoulders were visible above the bedfoot. Fazgood realized that Calzjha had to be standing in a wide, deep stance in order to be so low to the ground. The shoulders quaked with deep, shuddering breaths.

Warren had crawled up the bedsheet and sat by the Earl’s right shoulder, [I returned before Calzjha. Calzjha began speaking about his people’s beliefs, and I’d heard that so many times that I excused myself.]

Calzjha’s hands were held beside the shaking shoulders, and positioned strangely. The thumb and middle finger were held together, and the fingers pointed down, making a graceful arc of the wrist.

Where have I seen that position?

Then Fazgood gasped, Fluxion! He is performing The Sacred Garden Landscaped By Moonlight!

[He entered before dawn and disrobed. He started one of his prayer-dances instead of going to sleep. That wasn’t unusual for him, so I took a nap. Something smelled strange, so I woke up and there Calzjha was! He made no mention! I would have told you immediately!]

The Earl rose upon his knees, his shirt and pants sticking to his skin. The bedboards creaked. Eyes squinted with denial, he stretched around. The Earl peered over the naked shoulder. Calzjha’s face streamed with sweat. Strings of black hair were plastered to Calzjha’s neck. The Earl peered farther.

Calzjha’s new breasts gleamed like round, dewy breadfruit.


The Earl proceeded to curse in every language he knew. He shouted into his arm, then into his pillow.

Calzjha took a final breath, then reached a cup of water and drank deeply.

“A new day to all,” she said, and staggered to the bed.

The young woman wrapped a sheet of cloth around her shoulders.

The Earl swore into his arm and his pillow and a bolt of yellow fabric and into the sweaty bedsheet. Warren maintained a cold, indignant stare throughout.

After many minutes, the Earl took a breath. He picked his head up from the bedsheet. “You will change back.”

“You know from when I had done this in Adanikar: I cannot become male for a month.”

Fazgood felt his eyes would burst from their sockets, such was his rage. But he kept his voice soft.

“Why have you done this?”

“Will you listen to my reasons?”

Through clenched teeth: “It seems I have no choice.”

“Obdurate and Respiration are trapped. They are in distress. She is in a Paragon family. Whatever peace I can give her, she will convey through her associations and demeanor to the kingdom. There is no greater place I can exercise my ministry than in this house.”

“You agreed not to become a woman! You swore to me that you would not become a woman!”

“Because you are uncomfortable with my female aspect. I am sorry for breaking my word, but this is a higher calling. Two people in love and a kingdom all need healing.”

Calzjha stepped to the bedtable. She picked up the pitcher in two seemingly unchanged hands and drank.

Snarled the Earl, “Back in Adanikar I said I needed a bodyguard and you said, ‘That will be my vocation. I will be your bodyguard.’”

“And so?” she coughed.

“Bodyguards do what they are told! They honor their contracts!”

[You cannot hold two vocations! What is your priority?]

“I can minister and be a bodyguard. No one will know the difference in my appearance. My hips are always slim. I always wear my hair long. I will bind my breasts and fill my crotch. I had bought good muslin strips just for this purpose.”

“You planned for this!”

She jabbed a finger. “You say ‘Have the tools for any circumstance.’ I did not know that our host would have such a dire problem. And Obdurate has such an obstacle against a man ministering them.”

Fazgood swallowed the breath that would have told what he saw last night.

“My faith demands that when I see the All-That-Flows being imprisoned or even frustrated, I must help free it.”

[In Adanikar, you cared nothing for the enlightenment of others.]

Calzjha shook her head. “Who in that city could I have helped? Hrikinik alone would take hundreds of my people decades to enlighten.”

The Earl gave the weasel a stare. [Warren, we have a mission after the customary. You and I will decide this circumstance in a bold act.]

[Why…certainly, my liege. I will join you.]

The Earl turned his attention to the newly formed woman. “I will not be at contemplations again this afternoon. Warren will join me.”

Calzjha gasped and sagged. “What will I tell those attending? They have not heard a word about the Ijkallas. I cannot dance today; I am exhausted! You could at least leave Warren to convey help –”

“Ah! You discover that you need my guidance again! That is what I call ‘enlightenment’.”

Calzjha threw the cover off and made to dress. Fazgood suppressed a snarl and turned away.

He tired of contemplating the bolts of expensive cloth at the opposite wall. “What you shall do is request that Respiration gather the army reports on the Ijkallas while we are at customary. You shall take time reviewing them before contemplations. You shall then rearrange the information in your mind.”

She said nothing; Fazgood knew Calzjha feared improvisation.

“When they arrive,” he continued, “pretend to review the papers as if for the first time. That will steal time. Discuss with them your idea for the shared performance with the customary class –“

“Ah!” she gasped with relief. “Indeed!”

“—- and steal more time that way. If you are pressed, then use ornate language, and tell them precisely what is in the reports as if remembering your childhood days.”

“But shouldn’t I add –-“

“Do not add! If you do, you will say something that will contradict yourself or the reports, and those people are much, much smarter than both of us.”

“You can look,” Calzjha said.

She bound her breasts, brow creased with annoyance that Fazgood felt he had to turn in the first place. She had bound her crotch with a simple, clever pattern of white cloth to secure another roll of muslin. Her hands were pale and shaking from her transformation.

“Where are you going today?” she asked.

“I have a task at hand. I work toward its completion.”

“Have you a plan?”

“We shall speak more on this in the evening.”

She put her arms in the sleeves of her shirt, and stabbed her hands forward rudely to put the shirt on. The cuffs still fit well; Calzjha’s race did not grow or shrink in height when they changed sexes.

“How will you shower?”

“The bathhouse is unused in the evening, and the maids are busy with dinner. I will shower then. That is not unusual here. As for my testes, I will bury them.”

Both Warren and the Earl suppressed shudders, but said nothing, as all species have their own ways. There were water newts who could change their sex, without leaving remains. But Calzjha’s species, the Zhif, was created by their god to be a medium of spreading spiritual satisfaction throughout the world. The very blood and flesh of the regenerating Zhif was used as fertilizer, and those plants so fertilized would spread bliss through their newly-lovely fragrance, fruit and sturdy wood.

Fazgood whispered his morning beseeching with added insistence. Not daring to let Calzjha out of his sight, the Earl trotted to the bath, showered, relieved himself with grevious slaps to head and heart, dressed quickly in fresh clothes, and trotted back upstairs. Calzjha was still panting and fatigued, and was refreshing herself by smelling from the fragrance bottles. They walked together down the hall to the contemplation room for breakfast. The Brumpfbasket swayed under Calzjha’s arm.

Why don’t I have a true entourage, such as an army? I tell myself it is so to travel more lightly. But an army doesn’t cause this much aggravation.

They entered the room, and the Earl noted the goodwife’s rested nature.

“A new day for all,” they conceded and they sat.

Respiration gave a meaningful, inquiring look. When the younger maid turned her back, tired and sweating Calzjha managed a clownish face and pulled down the front of her shirt. Though taped, her refreshed endowments still swelled the fabric.

Respiration glanced to Fazgood, hoping for a confirmation. Fazgood glared at his gummytoast and gave a curt nod to be done with it. The goodwife’s eyes widened with amazement and she shook her head with giddiness.

Even the goodwife knows plans before I do. And fresh hells, I hate gummytoast.

*         *         *


After the meal, which was rife with too many meaningful glances and celebratory expressions, they prepared for their days commitments. The Earl acquired his toolbag, filled with the brown robe and a stout knife, the stretch of canvas and the long spikes, placed the skullwarmer in a pocket, and the slivers of metal and ablewood in his cuffs. He joined Calzjha at the foyer.

Outside, the square was already too busy and the sun glared too hard for the Earl to spy any suspicious behaviors. The three took a rickshaw to the customary, Calzjha in a fresh blue suit and carrying the Brumpfbasket, Fazgood likewise in a cotton business suit

As the driver trotted, Calzjha broke the silence that had descended between them:

“Where do you go this afternoon?”

“To further the plan,” said the Earl.

“May I know details?”


Crestfallen, Calzjha whispered, “You may trust me with details of your new plan.”

Fazgood affected contemplation. “Or I may trust you with nothing. Ah! I have chosen!”

Calzjha waited until the point was made.

She protested. “I made my decision…”

The Earl affixed her with a dreadful stare and would have none of it. Calzjha slumped and wiped sweat from her brow.

Warren stayed in his basket and made no observations.

When the rickshaw pulled up to the customary, Fazgood rubbed his face and dispelled his foul mood as best he could. They stepped from the conveyance to the building, and the Earl looked about, noting many on the busy street: the neighbor Rahsic mother; a lanky Adactoid child with a parcel under his arm making to rap upon a door across the street; a Therihe bread vendor with a basket.

Pehzpersist and the Foofaloof met the class and greetings were exchanged. All sat as the customary entered.

Kitpoktik began the class. “What shall we discuss today? Let us begin by discussing the responsibilities placed by the Saline Concord. What of these responsibilities? Tell us, Khuoro.”

Khuoro, who had been flourishing as a student since Calzjha’s tuning, squeezed a finely turned set of notes. “The Saline Concord is a treaty between the Kingdom and the spirits of nature!”

The husband of the married couple, their names were something-something-whatever, gained permission: “It is for our mutual safety and nurturance.”

“What favor do the spirits grant? Nowhere else is there such calm sea. Nowhere else do the insects behave so agreeably. Nowhere else is the rain just.”

Kitpoktik’s wide eyes narrowed, and the Adactoid’s voice became sharp. “Why did the spirits grant us such favor?

“Tell us, Pehzpersist.”

The Earl resented the arch tone: it seemed Kitpoktik doubted Pehzpersist knew even the basics. Fazgood made to ponder, then:

“The Prevaricate destroyed forests and mountains. He fouled the headwaters of the Quand far beyond Alpia, so much that all the forty-seven plummets of the Gezgezlazr Falls flowed thick and stank of death. The spirits knew that the Concord was their best chance at surviving.”

The Earl could note the Adactoid’s small satisfied blink before it continued its lecture,

“What terms are presented by the kingdom? Our discipline. The rules of diet: from eliminating the herding of animals as it wastes land, to our rituals of preparation. The rules of manufacture, which restricts our metal only to mastercrafts and keeps all other materials to the Two Tepid Distillations. The rules of our behavior: from the pools the Booloob can use to foam, to the cremation of all beings at death.

“Who insures the Concord? All citizens insure its sanctity. Those who will not abide the Concord will not be allowed within our borders.”

With a smile, Kikpotik gestured. “The Foofaloof has made acquaintance with Goodwife Greatsergent. Who is her family? Her family is of the Paragons, like the Moakaks, the Hervz, the Yy-Algaedancers and the others. Why are they Paragon? The Paragon families volunteered themselves and their descendants to be living examples of the Kingdom’s sincerity. The Paragons’ examples encourage all in the kingdom to best behavior and sacrifice.”

All in the room bent their heads ruefully to contemplate this responsibility.

“They have a lonely honor,” said the Adactoid. “Theirs is to strive and inspire. It is theirs to prove an example for the soulful, and theirs to live as evidence to the spirits of the kingdom’s integrity.”

Fazgood kept his eyes fixed at the teacher. He would not give Calzjha the satisfaction of a glance.


*         *         *


After the customary, the Earl bade Calzjha well for the afternoon. Calzjha’s look of discomfort and anxiety struck Fazgood as most satisfying. He walked to the corner grocery. He had slept reasonably well, and the toolbag was light in his grip. Warren was within, perhaps dozing. This also struck the Earl as satisfying.

He walked to a vendor and took a leisurely lunch of caramel bean-nuts and tea. The gangly errand Adactoid came to another house and knocked, and found no one at home.

The same errand Adactoid as knocked on a neighbor’s door that morning, noted the Earl.

After an hour of fortification, the Earl relived himself in the proper nook behind the fountain. He walked to the corner grocer and entered.

“Could you tell me the proper way to prepare crab?” Fazgood asked.

From within the toolbag: [My liege! Do you mean to steal the moosecrab today?]

[We just may.]

Unaware of the dire conversation, the kind purveyor jotted down a note for the length of time to boil, and what herbs to season.

The Earl asked, “And so would such preparation work for all crab parts? For all crabs?”

The grocer declared it a splendid method for all seafood.

The Earl smiled and watched a basket lined with pitch filled with sawdust and ice. The grocer tucked six of the blue-shelled nippers within and buried each under a handful of ice. Vials of vinegar, paprika, met-met and nutmeg nestled inside.

“Have you moal flakes?” the Earl asked knowingly. “They take the bitterness from the vinegar.”

A small bag of moal flakes was added. Fazgood gave Pehzpersist’s flabby smile and gracious thanks.

[Good squire, I have changed the plans. I cannot cook in the keep. Too many uncertain behaviors there.]

[Where would you find a kitchen?]

[I will ponder that more.]

Warren was quiet, which Fazgood knew meant pensive.

He walked out of the grocery and closed the door. The street was busy and bustling. No plug hats. Another errand child knocking at a home two doors down. A Exult answered. The child, a thick-set coal-black Rahsic girl, and the Exult conversed, then the child turned and trotted up the street.

Fazgood hailed a rickshaw. The ice basket and bag were bundled beside the Earl and they sped off. Once in motion, the Earl nestled the folded canvas onto the ice to keep in the cold.

“God-pox!” he declared.

[What is that you say, my liege?]

[What I say is ‘god-pox!’ I say that to the customary about the lonely Paragons. Any attempt to escape a prison is better than enduring it. She has nerve and brains. She would do well in the world.]

Warren poked from the toolbag and turned his face full to the Earl.

[Respiration is determined, but not resourceful. She is trapped by their high esteem.]

Fazgood reflected upon last night’s dream. After being blessed with title and lands, it took less than a decade for the Earl to flee his holdings.

“Eh, resourcefulness. There is that.”

[And she does not want to see the city destroyed.]

[Come now! I’ve ruined a couple of cities and I’m still healthy. This is as treacherous a city as any other. Surely you cannot be revering the architecture!]

The Earl looked past the rolling bastlements of the Exhus gate and spied a perfectly edged garden. [There are many cities with juicy construction, squire! There is Birqmuir City with the Imperial Palace!]

[Birqmuir City has many impressive buildings, but the populace is full of brutes! Even the scholars and actors labor single-mindedly for war.]

[We were discussing buildings.]

[Forgive me, but we are discussing civilization: the betterment of souls, my liege.]

Smiled Fazgood, smug that Warren walked into his trap: [And the Three Cities are dedicated to the betterment of souls, squire. And there are three of ‘em!]

[The Three Cities are learned and the people are kind, but they barely have paved roads. In a century, the Three Cities will begin to make their mark in the arts and knowledge. Knowledge based upon the teaching of Harmonium.]

Along the arterial in Cliffside-Bastles were the buildings of commerce and trade. These were newer constructions faced with elaborate matrices of brick. Of one building, Fazgood counted nine floors. These were taller than any in Birqmuir and rivaled the huge dilapidations in Adanikar.

The Earl argued. [If it is accomplishment and teaching we discuss, then why not Adanikar? The City of Sounds has the most accomplished wizards. The colleges and plazas are as large as all of Harmonium.]

The weasel sniffed. [I believe the Earl jests. Even silly Calzjha assesses rightly about Adanikar; it has all the trappings of civilization, but its grand days are past. I believe you described it as “a fixed, pitched riot with sewerage.”]

Back at the Earldom, he had given Warren the job of Chief Litigator for very good reason.

The squire leaned from the basket and pressed further. [Harmonium is the apex of civil life! Could you imagine a dozen races living peacefully anywhere else? The Adanikarese do not even like each other, and the Emperor –- may his name be eternal –- would have exiled at least eight races or made war with them. Harmonium is the only true and enlightened city, with the possibility of those of the Abdurynes, and they are near civil war.]

The Earl tired of the argument. [The Kingdom allowed my mentors to burn to death.]

There was nothing thought. They passed under the gaily-painted, wide gate of Golden Utilities.

[You have told me many times, my liege. I am sorry for that. But for us to allow harm to this city…. My Earl, you wouldn’t take your revenge with the mask? Destroy the Kingdom by exposing the hypocrisy?]

The Earl started at Warren’s conclusion. Then around a turn was the Amusatorium, the glass reflecting the sun like a huge jewel.

He looked away from it, uncertain.

The rickshaw stopped. The Earl rose from the seat and paid the driver. He set his bag and basket down and watched the driver jog back toward the city. Through the summer haze, the red roofs tricked the eye and seemed to ripple like streams between banks of lush green. Beyond was the copper gleam of the Secure, unconquered and perhaps unconquerable. Beyond all, just peeking over the far right rise of the wall, was a sliver of pink from the Citadel.

“But why am I always the one to put my tongue out to see what’s been pissed on?”

[The world uses you poorly, my liege.]

Fazgood reached down and gave his accomplice a pat on his neck.

“I have a friend I’d like you to meet, squire.”


Within the park, the Earl noted that there were more beings that day than before. Also, he was puffing quite a bit from carrying the basket and the bag.

Damn Calzjha to most unfortunate hells! He was –- she was supposed to be carrying these!

He had an ache in his shoulders by the time he struggled to the pool with the moosecrab. The crustacean of note sat on a rock just beneath the wind-rippled surface. The tops of its swept-back antlers and its eyestalks barely emerged the water.

Then Fazgood noted the Adactoid errand child. Fazgood turned and walked into the park quickly.

[Keep an eye out during our work, squire. We are being followed.]


[Our inspector has errand children following us. That Adactoid was across the street this morning. The child must have gotten curious about the bag. That means someone else is around to follow while it poked around in the bag.]

He trotted through the gate.

The Earl walked straight past the Cathedral for the Skywards and into the home of the tremblar. The smell of rain was thick. The wind tossed his hair as he entered.

Behind the hornwood bars, the tremblar lay at the far corner. Otherwise, the room was empty.

I thank you, Zhazh! I thank you, exalted alumni!

He took Warren from his pocket and placed him inside the bag. “If anyone opens it, scream at them. I will return.”

[Where do you go? The rain is almost here!]

“I need a seedcone!”

He dashed back across the courtyard and found a seedcone vendor. He bought two and received his change as a wet wind made the vendor’s parasol spin. The Earl dashed through the visitors looking for shelter and made his way back to the tremblar house. Both weasel and bag were undisturbed.

The Earl paused. He took a deep breath, put his hands out to his sides with finger spread. He fished a comb from a pocket and carefully swept his hair back into place. He twirled the comb and tucked it away.

“Now,” he said.

Warren dashed to the open door and stood watch.

Fazgood plucked the hornwood picks from his pantcuff. With a deft, remembered twist, the lock clicked open. The door was unlatched. He pulled the roll of canvas from the toolbag, opened the door, and unfurled the roll into the pen with a pop!

The canvas opened still doubled-over lengthwise, and snapped out to cover the slope of sand. The Earl pulled the edge of the canvas past the doorway to the stone floor. With his left hand, he fished and scooped the spikes from the bag. With his right, he pulled the skullwarmer from his jacket pocket.

He found the seams between the floorstones, held a spike and hammered the spike through the edge of the canvas with about a handspan of the tough material to spare. Three more were hammered in short order. The tremblar turned his great gray head.

The Earl swung the door open and snatched up a seedcone. He broke off the tip and flipped it to the large beast. The sand around the tremblar trembled, and it glode forward on the vibrations to the morsel. The candy bounced into the animal’s maw.

Fazgood broke off large pieces and tossed them in a line progressively closer to the open door.

Outside, there was a crack! Rain rattled and sprayed across the doorjam.

[The rain lasts two-tenths-of-an-hour, my liege!]

“Come on! Have some tasties, you landslide!”

The tremblar’s appetite for the candy was well-whetted, for it followed the trail up to the canvas. At the material, it stopped and puzzled.

The Earl whistled. The tremblar looked up. Pieces of the other seedcone landed upon the canvas.

The creature lurched forward onto the slope. Instead of slipping back on unsteady sand, the tremblar gained purchase on the canvas and undulated up to the door.

The canvas began to rip around the spikes.

Almost within arm’s reach. The Earl dropped a piece outside the cage door, then another piece just behind Warren. A torrent buffeted his back.

The canvas ripped along a seam. The creature surged forward. The cloth ripped away from two spikes. The tremblar’s delicate lips reached to the piece of seedcone just outside the door.

The canvas ripped from another spike. The Earl swore and lunged to hold the cloth. But the tremblar lurched forward and its bulk landed in the doorway. The brickwalk thundered under it and rose as a cloud of brown dust.

He tossed the seedcone out the door. “Praise all bastard gods!”

Grabbing basket and bag, Fazgood stepped with Warren outside the house.

The Earl tucked Warren into the bag and dashed over wet, shining bricks to the courtyard. The tremblar’s head poked from the doorway, and it roared forlornly at the rain.

Fazgood splashed across the empty courtyard to the crab pool. The moosecrab stood upon the rock. The crab’s pincers were larger than Fazgood’s hands, and sharp. The Earl placed the bag upon the stone pool-edge.

Fazgood vaulted the edge and landed in the water. He swallowed some and choked upon the brine. He surfaced and found himself face-to-eyestalk.

The crab did not move. The Earl took a breath, then threw the blanket over it. He seized it the easiest way possible, around the sides. Clumsily, the crab dragged himself aside as Fazgood pulled himself from the water.

This is mad. This is mad. This is mad.

He tumbled over the edge and grabbed the brown Pathetics robe from the bag. A rush of mist struck his eyes, and the clouds lightened to gray.

Warren leapt back into the bag. The Earl tucked the toolbag under the crook of his arm. He took the basket and tilted it to the pool. He scooped out half of the ice in the basket, crabs and all. He placed the moosecrab atop the ice basket. Joints aching, the Earl shambled for the exit.

There was a burst of glass as loud as lightning, and another roar from the tremblar.

At the exit was a refuse cart. Placing his burden upon it, he scurried to the road.

Do not look over your shoulder. If you look over your shoulder, Zhazh will be there laughing…

[My liege! The sky is breaking!]

At that, there was one last puff of spit-like precipitation, and the rain was gone.

Fazgood quickly scraped ice from the basket and placed it into the toolbag. He buried the antler in the ice, then set two crabs atop it, alongside the kitchen knife and the spices. He shook the loose ice from his hands, grabbed his comb and combed his hair. He picked up Warren and the bag, then limped up the slope to the Amusatorium.

He was tempted to rest and have some tea, but knew he must be gone from Golden Utilities and quickly.

He opened his jacket and Warren crawled into the pocket. He walked through the hedge garden around the upriver side of the great construction, then exited near the Amusatorium entrance. A rickshaw arrived, and the driver looked at Fazgood’s drenched clothes. “Ah! Did you get caught in the rain?”

The Earl climbed inside. “Indeed! Terrible!”

“That happens so often to people!”

As they trundled off, the Earl thought, [Had I needed that basket all the way to the Amusatorium? Such a detail would not have passed me by.]

Then he cried out in despair!

[What is it, my liege?]

[The relish! The damned relish! All of that planning, and I left it in my room! How could I have forgotten? I am unraveling, Warren! I am unraveling!]

To that, the squire could give no comfort.







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