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A Desperate and Despicable Dwarf: Section Five

       Last updated: Tuesday, December 9, 2003 00:33 EST




    in Which we Return to the Wizard and His Stupid But Loyal Apprentice, Examining the Curious and Bizarre Events Which Ensued in the First Months of Their Stay at the Kutumoff Residence, Not Flinching From the Depravity Thereof.

CHAPTER V. A Depraved Use of Mind-Altering Substances. An Elucidation of the Bizarre Legal Customs of the Mutt. A Dispute Concerning the Origin of Lawyers. A Dispute Concerning the Nature of Dreams and the Interpretation Thereof. The Dwarf Queried, and the Impudence Resulting Therefrom. The Dwarf Reproved, and the Sullenness Resulting Therefrom. A Bizarre Proposal!

    "I protest, sirrah!" exclaimed Zulkeh.

    He and Shelyid were ensconced in comfortable armchairs in Uncle Manya's study. To the wizard's left sat Alf the heretic, the tullimonstrum perched on his shoulder. Across the room from the mage, behind an enormous teak desk, sat Uncle Manya. The madman was vigorously inhaling upon a curved meerschaum pipe, the smoke from which, the gentle reader will be aghast to learn, was not the product of burning tobacco leaves.

    Zulkeh pursued his protest. "The use of such"—he glared at the blue-colored fumes writhing up from the bowl of Uncle Manya's meerschaum—"substances is a recognized crime the world over. In every land!"

    The tullimonstrum twittered. The heretic Alf translated.

    "Not in the Sssuj. In fact, the Sssuji frequently use—"

    "Bah! In every civilized land!"

    Uncle Manya removed the pipe from his mouth.

    "Not in the Mutt," he stated complacently.

    Zulkeh's eyes practically bulged.

    "Do you mean to say that the use of such substances is legal in this realm?"

    Uncle Manya shook his head.

    "Oh, my dear wizard, you don't have the hang of this at all. New to the Mutt, it's plain to see. No, no, Zulkeh. It's not legal, as such. Word simply doesn't apply. Technically, nothing's legal in the Mutt. Which, of course, also means that nothing's illegal."

    Zulkeh frowned fiercely. "That statement, sirrah, is nonsensical. An act is either against the law or it is not."

    Uncle Manya shrugged. "No laws in the Mutt."

    "Pardon me?"

    "I said: 'no laws in the Mutt.' Not real ones, at any rate. Oh, sure, every time we hold a civil war the winning faction immediately passes all sorts of decrees. Part of the tradition, you see, and it makes for great amusement in the taverns afterward. But since the winning faction doesn't have any way of enforcing the decrees—even if they wanted to, which they don't; they just pass them out of good sportsmanship—nobody pays any attention to the silly things."

    "But—but—" Zulkeh was, for a moment, at a loss for words. "But what does the government say?"

    "No government in the Mutt."

    Zulkeh's eyes actually bulged.

    "Impossible!" he cried.

    Uncle Manya shrugged again.

    Zulkeh waved his arms about. "But this is chaos! Anarchy!"

    "Things actually seem kind of calm and peaceful around here, professor," piped up Shelyid cheerfully. He immediately shrank from the wizard's hot glare.

    "Dolt of an apprentice! What matters is not the surface calm of the social structure, but its underlying essence!"

    He turned back to Uncle Manya.

    "I assume that the rationale for this frightful state of affairs is that people should mind their own business and not try to tell other people how to run their lives."

    Uncle Manya nodded vigorously, puffing on his pipe with great energy.

    Zulkeh snorted. "A philosophically absurd proposition! Anyone with either sense or knowledge understands that the only secure metaphysical foundation for morality is precisely the opposite. The dialectics of the matter are cunning in their subtlety, but the essence is simple enough. It is encapsulated in the Golden Rule: See what others are doing and make them do otherwise."

    The heretic Alf spoke up. "I thought the Golden Rule was do unto others as you would have them do unto you."

    Zulkeh waved his hand impatiently. "Yes, yes, of course. But that is merely the 14-carat Golden Rule. The 24-carat Rule is as I have enunciated it. The logic of the matter is inescapable. How can one do unto others as you would have them do unto you unless one has first spied upon the others to see what they are doing that they shouldn't do unto you? Or anywhere in the vicinity."

    Seeing the heretic's frown, Zulkeh snorted.

    "Surely it's obvious! The same principle is encapsulated in the old saw: an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure."

    The tullimonstrum twittered.

    "And what can this bizarre creature possibly have to add to the discussion?" demanded the mage.

    "As a matter of fact," replied Alf, "it was agreeing with you. It said that it was hanging around back when old Moses Laebmauntsforscynneweëld came down from the mountain after talking with the Old Geister. And—"

    "Absurd! That was millennia past!"

    "It's very long lived. Anyway, it said that old Moses was actually carrying three stone tablets. Two of them were the ones that bore the Ten Commandments, but there was also a much bigger tablet that just had the Ultimate Commandment written upon it."

    Zulkeh's interest was aroused.

    "And what did it say?"


    "Excellent!" cried the mage. "You see?" He wagged his finger in front of Shelyid's nose.

    "Pay keen attention here, Shelyid! I do not see eye to eye with the Old Geister on all matters, but there's no question that God's no fool. The Ultimate Commandment indeed! Without which, all the others are but straws cast into the wind."

    "But what happened to the third tablet?" asked Uncle Manya. The tullimonstrum twittered; Alf translated.

    "It says Moses dropped it just when he reached the bottom of the mountain. Shattered into a million pieces. It was a woman's fault, of course. A harlot by the side of the road asked him if he wanted some nookie just as he was passing by, and naturally the holy man was so shocked that—"

    "What's nookie?" asked Shelyid.

    Silence fell upon the room. Zulkeh coughed.

    "At some later time, Shelyid." The wizard regarded his apprentice with keen scrutiny.

    "You are reaching a certain age, dw—small one, at which certain dangers must be explained to you. I have not heretofore instructed you in these matters, but—soon."

    Shelyid made to speak again, but the wizard silenced him with a gesture.

    "Later, Shelyid, later. For the moment, I must still deal with the outrageous situation which immediately confronts us." The mage glared at Uncle Manya, who, for his part, placidly continued puffing on his pipe.

    "How did this insane state of affairs come to pass?" he demanded.

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