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A Desperate and Despicable Dwarf: Section Eight

       Last updated: Tuesday, January 27, 2004 01:11 EST




    In Which We Exercise Our Narrative Responsibility; and in Which, By Way of Further Benefit, We Provide the Gentle Reader With an Invaluable Historical Document, the Which Illuminates the Hard Struggles of the Times As Well As Distinguishing Right From Wrong.

    Know, gentle reader, that we have reached an important stage in our chronicle, speaking from the point of view of narrative objectivity. Heretofore, with the exception of occasional excerpts from minutes of the meetings of the Senate Committee Armed and Breveted to Investigate Odious and Unconscionable Sedition which my ancestors were able to obtain at great risk to life and hexapod, our narrative has (of necessity) related the events leading to the Great Calamity solely from the vantage point of those individuals who played a major role in effectuating that selfsame social catastrophe.

    Such a vantage point, it goes without saying, carries certain dangers. The tendency exists (subconsciously, to be sure) for the gentle reader to accept uncritically the attitude toward the events unfolding of the most prominent individuals in our narrative—individuals who, regarded in the cold light of historical Reason, were a pack of subversive scoundrels.

    It is now possible, I am pleased to announce, to counteract any such tendency. Beginning here, and at suitable occasions thereafter, I shall be presenting excerpts from the voluminous correspondence of that most legendary of all secret agents of the old order, I speak, of course, of Godferret Superior No. 5, often known as the "Fang of Fangs."

    In actual fact—as the gentle reader will be astonished to discover—Godferret Superior No. 5 was simply the name assumed by that semi-mythical undercover operative, G. Gordon Inkman. Yes, yes, I say it again: G. Gordon Inkman, the renown undercover operative of Ozar's Commission to Repel Unbridled Disruption—known (by his multitude of admirers) as the "Crud of Cruds," "Mr. Tough Guy" and "the Bushido Burglar,"; known, as well (by his handful of detractors), as the "Creep of Creeps," "Mr. Fall Guy" and "the Banzai Bungler."

    As the gentle reader will now discover, it was G. Gordon Inkman, acting undercover as Godferret Superior #5 (or, perhaps, the other way around—it is difficult to tell, as Inkman himself never seems to have been quite clear in his own mind which secret service he was infiltrating in the service of which other), who first infiltrated the inner councils of the developing subversive movement. His letters to his superiors, recounting his exploits, are thus an invaluable historical supplement to our tale.


    Glory unto the Old Geister and His Vicars on Earth, the Twelve Popes.

    Glory unto the Old Geister and His Instrument on Earth, God's Own Tooth.

    Your Excellencies and Exalted Sir:

    It is with great pleasure that I, your humble servant Godferret Superior No. 5, operating undercover as CRUD Special Agent G. Gordon Inkman, operating undercover as Godferret Superior No. 5, may inform you that I have succeeded in infiltrating the forces of subversion in the course of carrying out my assigned mission. In this hastily written letter, I shall attempt to transmit to Your Excellencies and Exalted Sir such information as I may, in the brief time at my disposal.

    Pursuant to the orders of the Exalted Sir, I departed Godferret Lair No. 23 (Groutch Sector, North-Eastern Division) on the evening of November 1, Year of the Jackal. My mission: to organize the hunt for the scoundrels who had reived the Rap Sheet in Prygg, and, having done so, to oversee the hunt for said reivers, and, having done so, to bring said reivers to justice and recover the Rap Sheet.

    The first part of my mission was accomplished with celerity. Despite the disappearance without trace of Godferret Superior No. 8 (operating undercover as Rupert Inkman, Groutch Chief of Station for the Ozarean Commission to Repel Unbridled Disruption, in turn operating under cover as Godferret Superior No. 8) down the ravening gullet of a rock snarl who had escaped the state of captivity, deprivation and abuse to which the monster had, cleverly but perhaps injudiciously, been subjected by Godferret Superior No. 8, the Godferrets assigned to Prygg had already launched themselves into a frenzy of activity.

    This activity, as I discovered upon my arrival in Prygg, had been concentrated in two areas: First, rigorous questioning of witnesses present at the devourment of Godferret Superior No. 8 in order to ascertain the cause of the disaster. Secondly, to scour the surrounding hillsides in the hopes of recovering some particle of the body of the now-deceased Godferret Superior No. 8 in the hopes that God's Own Tooth might be able to resurrect the body of said devouree through the application of the Exalted Sir's unparalled magical powers.

    By the time I arrived, the first of these tasks had been successfully carried out despite the absence on the scene of my supervisory skills. All witnesses present had been rigorously interviewed, as a result of which our picture of the events leading to the disaster was reasonably complete. (I might add that a beneficial side effect of the investigatory process is that Pryggian high society, which was much too large, is now significantly reduced.)

    To summarize, what appears to have happened is that the wizard known as Zulkeh, physician of Goimr, who, as Your Excellencies and Exalted Sir are aware, has for some time been the subject of CRUD suspicion and a Godferret manhunt, is the culprit responsible for effectuating the dastardly theft of the Rap Sheet. In this project, the subversive sorcerer was abetted by his apprentice, the dwarf Shelyid, who, as Your Excellencies and Exalted Sir are aware, has for some time been the subject of CRUD suspicion and a Godferret dwarfhunt due to the gnome's insidious attempts to debase the currency. Indeed, by all accounts, it seems to have been this despicable dwarf who was directly responsible for the unleashing of the rock snarl and the beast's subsequent engorgement at the expense of Godferret Superior No. 8.

    The second of the tasks which our Godferrets in Prygg had set out to accomplished was, alas, not so successful. An exhaustive search of the nearby hillsides did in fact uncover the multitudinous droppings of a number of rock snarls. Unfortunately, these droppings did not, even after careful sifting and examination, produce the slightest remnant of the body of Godferret Superior No. 8. Furthermore, the effort itself resulted in numerous casualties to our Godferrets on the scene, the specifics of which are as follows:

    Godferret No. 566—devoured by rock snarls; no remains recovered.

    Godferret No. 387—devoured by rock snarls; no remains recovered.

    Godferret No. 508—devoured by rock snarls; no remains recovered.

    Godferret No. 299—dismembered by rock snarls; one leg and part of an arm recovered.

    Godferret No. 222—dismembered by rock snarls; both feet and part of a spleen recovered.

    Godferret No. 884—dismembered by rock snarls; his head recovered from a rock snarl cub which was toying with it, in the course of which recovery:

    Godferrets Nos. 754, 933, 287 and 260 were (respectively) disemboweled, disemboweled, quartered and exsanguinated by said rock snarl cub.


    Godferret No. 671—fell from the top of a precipice; remains recovered (but see below).

    Godferret No. 672—crushed at the bottom of a precipice beneath the plunging figure of Godferret No. 671; remains recovered (but difficult to distinguish from the remains of Godferret No. 671—see above).

    In light of the casualties and the lack of success of the project, I took it upon myself to call off the search for the remains of Godferret Superior No. 8. The correctness of my decision was, I believe, substantiated by the later report submitted by the specialist in rock snarl digestion, Godferret Auxiliary No. 89,455 (Denys Laebmauntsforscynneweëld), who states that the digestive system of a snarl closely resembles the fiery flames of the cauldrons of Hell and thus no usable remains of the departed Godferret Superior can expect to ever be recovered.

    Unfortunately, in their frenzy of activity the Godferrets at the scene had overlooked yet a third necessary task, which was the pursuit of the actual culprits who had stolen the Rap Sheet. This unfortunate oversight was not only criminologically regrettable but showed as well, it seemed to me, an inexcusable lack of religious fervor piety on the part of said Godferrets on the scene. Accordingly, I took it upon myself to reprove them vigorously, with the following results:

    Godferrets Nos. 388, 657, 551, 800, 777, 902, 909 and 089—expressed deep contrition; beheaded; remains recovered.

    Godferrets Nos. 434 and 603—bore their reproof in stubborn and impious silence; drawn and quartered; remains recovered.

    Godferret No. 166—cursed me for a villainous dog; boiled in oil; bones recovered.

    Necessary discipline having been restored in the ranks of the Godferrets present at the scene, I set off in hot pursuit of the culprits. My ability to organize the pursuit was initially hampered by the fact that there were no longer any Godferrets on the scene to organize, but I soon rallied to my side such Godferrets as could be found in the surrounding countryside and set off after the villains.

    We caught up with them in Blain, where they were discovered hiding in the crowd at the auto-da-fe of the heretic Alf. Immediately we fell upon them, but our imminent capture of the scoundrels was thwarted by a bizarre train of events set in motion by a bizarre woman. The exact identity of this woman is unknown. Her description is as follows: slightly above average height, average weight, attractive figure, blond hair, blue eyes, extremely myopic; she carries on her person a large sword in the use of which she is proficient; she moves in a bizarre and awkward manner; and she seems to be possessed by the burning conviction that one "Schrödinger" has, at some time in the past, done her harm. (It is possible that the individual referred to is Schrödinger Laebmauntsforscynneweëld, who, as Your Excellencies and Exalted Sir is aware, is currently employed as one of the top scientists in Project Nibelung; I recommend that you transmit the above description to the individuals encharged with security at the Project.) As a result of the actions of the female described above at the auto-da-fe in Blain, chaos ensued, in the course of which the wizard Zulkeh and the dwarf Shelyid succeeded in eluding our grasp.

    Their accomplices in the theft of the Rap Sheet appear, at this point, to have gone in a separate direction. I chose, for self-evident reasons, to concentrate our efforts on pursuing the wizard and the apprentice, as a result of which the exact identity of these accomplices remains unknown. I can report that one of them is said to have huge thumbs. I can also report that Zulkeh and Shelyid have new accomplices, whom I can identify as the heretic Alf and the grotesque creature who accompanies him (whose exact identity is unclear, but which I suspect to be a tullimonstrum).

    The pursuit which followed was long and arduous, involving the use of a multitude of vehicles. In the end, now on horseback, we succeeded in catching up with our prey just as they entered the boundaries of that accursed land known as the Mutt, whereupon, I regret to say, we were assaulted by a pack of dogs led by a hound of Hell named Fangwulf. In the course of the struggle which ensued:

    Godferrets Nos. 109, 339, 753, 057, 645, 398, 463, 912, 444, 736, 717 and 844—torn to shreds; bits and pieces (exact identity unclear) recovered later from various scavengers.

    At this point, as I was attempting to rally such Godferrets who remained alive, an attempt made difficult by the fact that I was the only survivor, Godferret No. 228 arrived on the scene from Prygg, where, he informed me, further investigation by the Godferrets who had recently arrived as reinforcements from Godferret Lair No. 19 (Groutch Sector, South-Eastern Division) had determined that the Rap Sheet, although stolen by the wizard and his apprentice, was actually in the possession of yet other accomplices. These accomplices had been identified as a certain witch named Magrit and a gang of proletarian lowlifes known collectively as Les Six, which villains, it had been discovered, were apparently still resident in Prygg.

    Now apprised that the incompetence of my subordinates had caused me to lose valuable time in pursuing a false trail, I uttered several phrases indicating my great displeasure, whereupon:

    Godferret No. 228—confessed to being the bearer of bad tidings; hung himself; remains recovered.

    As quickly as possible, using every variety of transport available to me, I hurried back to Prygg. There I called a meeting of all Godferrets present, in which, after examining all the new evidence which they had uncovered leading to the conclusion that the Rap Sheet was now actually in the hands of Magrit and Les Six, I vigorously reproved the newly-arrived Godferrets for not having uncovered said evidence soon enough to prevent me from going upon a wild goose chase, resulting in:

    Godferrets Nos. 559, 810, 104, 662, 393, 558, 719, 843, 592 and 300—confessed their error; hurled themselves into the sea; bloated remains recovered.

    Godferrets Nos. 329, 971 and 448—attempted to plead innocence on the grounds they were not present when the error was made; cast into a pit of vipers; remains recovered.

    Godferret No. 612—characterized me as a bureaucratic, self-serving jackass; tied into a sack with a rabid dog and cast into the river; remains not recovered.

    Following these necessary disciplinary actions, I set underway a systematic search for the whereabouts of the culprits Magrit and Les Six, a search which was made slow and difficult by the fact that, for some time, I was once again the sole surviving Godferret present on the scene. Within a week, however, reinforcements arrived in the persons of Godferrets from Godferret Lair No. 20 (Groutch Sector, North-Western Division), and the pace of the search was stepped up. By the end of the third week after my return to Prygg, sufficient evidence had been collected to determine that the culprits had fled the city some few days earlier and were attempting to seek refuge, as had their co-conspirators, in that satanic land known as the Mutt.



    The facts obtained, I immediately set the hunt in motion. Employing all the cunning of my long experience as an instrument of God's justice, I was soon able to uncover the trail of the villains and track them down to an abandoned farmhouse in the southwestern portion of Pryggia. There, under cover of night, my band of Godferrets crept up upon the culprits and, finding them in a drunken stupor, seized them after a valiant struggle in the course of which:

    Godferrets Nos. 468, 321, 846, 099 and 460—beaten to lifeless pulps under the hamlike fists of Les Six; pulp recovered;

    Godferrets Nos. 558 and 402—turned into toads by the witch Magrit; one toad (believed to be Godferret No. 402, but identity is not certain since all the creature does is croak) recovered; the other (believed to be Godferret No. 558) not recovered due to making its flight to a nearby pond, where, before the tragedy could be prevented, it was devoured by a snake believed to be --

    Godferret No. 377—turned into a snake by the witch Magrit; not recovered; currently believed to be residing in said pond where, in the manner of constrictors, it is lying in torpid slumber, slowly digesting the amphibious body of its former comrade.

    Godferrets Nos. 709, 660, 191 and 549—turned into beetles by the witch Magrit; immediately devoured by the witch's familiar, a loathsome and unnatural salamander named Wittgenstein which, it grieves me to relate, accompanied its consumption of the transmogrified servants of the Lord with jocular remarks regarding their condition and bitter complaints regarding their taste; remains not recovered; presumed to be scattered across the surrounding countryside in the form of salamander excretions.

    As soon as the culprits were firmly bound, manacled, chained and gagged, I began interrogating them. Despite rigorous lashings of the whip, the culprits refused to provide coherent answers to my questions. After some time, Godferret No. 609 advanced the suggestion that our efforts to obtain understandable confessions would be heightened if we removed the gags from the culprits. Finding, after careful consideration, that his suggestion contained merit, I ordered the removal of the gag silencing the witch Magrit, during the course of which:

    Godferret No. 609—confessed to making his superior look like a fool; cut his throat; remains recovered (but see below).

    Upon removing the gag from the mouth of the witch Magrit, I ordered Godferret No. 239 to resume the flogging of the suspect. I regret to say that Godferret 239 failed in his duty because, as soon as the gag was removed, the witch Magrit uttered several demonic phrases which result in:

    Godferret No. 239—turned into a scorpion by the witch Magrit; whereupon the apostate immediately applied his venomous stinger to:

    Godferret No. 581—stung to death by (former) Godferret No. 239; remains recovered; whereupon:

    Godferret No. 239—crushed beneath the heel of Godferret No. 808; remains not deemed worthy of recovery.

    Following this unfortunate event, I immediately ordered the gag replaced over the mouth of the witch Magrit, following which I ordered my subordinates to assist me in the necessary chastisement of:

    Godferret No. 609 (lifeless corpse thereof)—refused to confess to having made his superior look like a fool (second offense) despite rigorous application of torture; the remains of his remains were buried in unhallowed ground.

    Thereupon, after careful deliberation, I determined that the witch's accomplices would make more suitable subjects for ungagged interrogation. Choosing the accomplice whom I judged to have the closest familiarity with the witch Magrit, I ordered the salamander to be interrogated.

    The initial attempt to question the suspect was fruitless, as the salamander proved, upon further examination, to be too small to fit upon the rack. My subordinates made vigorous efforts to overcome the disparity between small amphibian and large implement of torture, efforts which became even more vigorous as they were subjected to a stream of verbal abuse and disparagement by the vulgar little beast; but, in the end, their efforts proved to be in vain.

    At this point, Godferret No. 543 suggested the use of thumbscrews, following which I pointed out that the suspect possessed no thumbs and ordered:

    Godferret No. 543—stretched on the rack; confessed himself to be a blithering idiot; disjointed remains recovered.

    Forced to the conclusion that the standard instruments of inquisition were inapplicable to lower forms of life, I decided to subject the suspect to the simple but salutory methods of our forefathers. Accordingly, I ordered several of my subordinates to sally forth into the forest and recover a large quantity of dry wood. Upon their return, I supervised the construction of a pyre and ordered the suspect bound to the stake.

    Satisfied with the preparations, I began the ensuing interrogation by warning the villainous amphibian that a failure to confess would be punished by immolation. Shortly thereafter, I ordered the immolation of the beast after the creature responded to my warning with a stream of profane ridicule.

    Unfortunately, upon further examination, burning at the stake proved to be a useless method of interrogating the witch's familiar. To my surprise, the creature was apparently indifferent to the salutary effects of the fiery flames, an attitude which it confirmed by the continuing stream of profane ridicule emerging from within the raging conflagration.

    At this point, Godferret No. 399 advanced the opinion that the creature's insouciance was due to the well-known immunity of salamanders to fire, following which:

    Godferret No. 399—cast into the flames for withholding information from his superior; cinders recovered.

    Forced to the conclusion that the salamander was not the best subject for interrogation, I ordered Godferret No. 106 to remove it from the bonfire. Godferret No. 106 carried out his assignment, following which:

    Godferret No. 106—died in agony due to the third-degree burns which covered his body; charred body recovered;

    Godferrets Nos. 597 and 444—cursed me for an incompetent clown; executed for inciting to mutiny; bodies cast into the refuse pit and not recovered.

    My authority re-affirmed, I now ordered the removal of the gags silencing Les Six. Once they were ungagged, I ordered the application of thumbscrews to the persons of Les Six. This initial round of questioning was fruitless, because the thumbscrews proved, upon further investigation, to be too small to fit around the massive thumbs of the proletarian subversives. That fact ascertained, I immediately ordered the construction of larger thumbscrews. After much effort, the project of constructing larger thumbscrews failed to come to fruition because, as was determined in the course of further investigation, none of the Godferrets present possessed the slightest knowledge of any manual skills other than those of murder and mutilation.

    I thereupon dispatched three of my subordinates to a nearby village with orders to bring back the person of the local blacksmith. This task they failed to accomplish due to the fact that all of the now-revealed-to-be-impious villagers had apparently fled upon learning of our presence in the vicinity.

    Displeased at this slackness in carrying out my commands, I took the following disciplinary measures:

    Godferrets Nos. 330, 709 and 746—dismembered and their bodies rendered into oil in a cauldron; status of remains self-evident.

    With the bubbling oil now at my disposal, I ordered the waist-deep submersion of one of Les Six into the cauldron, pursuant to further interrogation of the culprit. As he was being manhandled toward the cauldron, the suspect proceeded to utter several curses and oaths. These, of course, I took with the same indifference with which I have spent a pious lifetime receiving the curses and oaths of miscreants, but I found that I was unable to receive with the same indifference the information, which the villain imparted along with the curses and oaths, that I and my comrades had been thwarted, once again, in that the witch Magrit and her accomplices had long since passed the Rap Sheet into the possession of yet another member of the subversive cabal to which they themselves belonged. The suspect proceeded to elaborate upon his confession, an elaboration which I found singularly useless since it imparted absolutely no information concerning the identity or whereabouts of the person into whose hands they had passed the Rap Sheet, but consistently simply of a long peroration to the effect that Godferrets in general (and I in particular) were the sorriest lot of cretins to be found on the face of the earth.

    Perhaps in not as timely a manner as possible, I now ordered a search of the premises with the purpose of discovering the Rap Sheet which I had, for the past many hours, presumed to be in the possession of the apprehended culprits. Alas, the long-sought object was not to be found, and I was reluctantly forced to the conclusion that the uncouth proletarian scapegrace was indeed correct in that I had, once again, been foiled in my purpose.

    As Your Excellencies and Your Exalted Sir can understand, I was now in a quandary. On the one hand, the necessities of discipline and morale required me to order my subordinates to execute themselves for having, once again, allowed me to look like a fool. On the other hand, I required the services of those same subordinates to carry out the execution of Magrit and Les Six after subjecting them to further torture with the purpose of uncovering the identity of the accomplices into whose keeping they had given the Rap Sheet.

    In the event, my quandary was quickly resolved by the intervention of yet another party in the affair. For, just at the point where I had reluctantly concluded that it would be necessary to postpone the rigorous imposition of internal discipline until after the rigorous application of external chastisement, the door to the farmhouse was shattered asunder and a singular figure entered the premises.

    Initially, I was delighted by the unexpected event, since it afforded me the opportunity to apprehend a long-sought fugitive from justice. For—there could be no mistaking the description—the person who now strode into the farmhouse was none other than the villainess Gwendolyn Greyboar whom we have long thought to have been responsible, in some unknown manner, for the disappearance of an entire pack of Godferrets in Goimr the previous year.

    My initial delight, however, rapidly waned. Further investigation enabled me to determine the manner in which the villainess had caused our comrades to disappear in Goimr, following which I was soon forced to the conclusion that my own pack of Godferrets was about to undergo a similar experience.

    Let me take this occasion to pass on to Your Excellencies and Your Exalted Sir a more detailed description of the suspect known as Gwendolyn Greyboar. The suspect is an enormous woman, not a single ounce of whose weight, judging from appearance and the evidence provided by the astonishingly violent results of the huge and razor-sharp cleaver which she wields (she is left-handed, by the way) results from fat. To the contrary, in a manner wholly unseemly for one of the lesser sex, the suspect hurls her body about with much the same force and speed as a tigress.

    Furthermore, close examination led me to the firm conclusion that the suspect Gwendolyn Greyboar has had considerable experience working in a slaughterhouse. As I said before, she is very large and possessed of a positively grotesque strength, speed and physical agility. Her complexion is dark, her eyes and hair are black. All in all, a most unattractive specimen of the fair sex, and it was discouraging to see the celerity with which she dispatched my subordinates to their heavenly reward. I must place here on record that:

    Godferrets Nos. 559, 808, 729 and 166—decapitated like chickens;

    Godferrets Nos. 436, 338 and 885—gutted like pigs;

    Godferrets Nos. 227 and 508—slaughtered like lambs;

    Godferret No. 446—dressed like a turkey.

    The recovery and proper disposition of their remains is improbable (see below).

    My subordinates once slain, the subversive Gwendolyn female advanced upon my own person. Careful consideration forced me to the conclusion that I was shortly to become deceased myself. The evidence which led me to that conclusion was as follows:

    The numbing effect upon my arm caused by the blow which struck my poignard from my grip, which blow fell with the speed of lightning;

    The sudden and total asphyxiation caused by the seizure of my throat by the culprit's right hand, which hand resembles a vice in its effects;

    The sight of the razor-sharp cleaver in the suspect's left hand, which implement descended upon me like the blade of a guillotine.

    To my surprise, however, my decapitation did not ensue. To the contrary, the bellowing cries of Les Six caused the villainess to stem her homicidal purpose. The essence of their cries, stripped of the profanity which was their primary content, was that the plebeian sextet demanded the privilege of beating me to death.

    Gwendolyn Greyboar thereupon bestowed upon me a huge grin which not only lacked the demureness of expression which one prefers to see upon the visages of the gentler sex, but one which, I was forced to conclude, boded ill for my future. Without relinquishing her grasp of my throat, the female subversive woman proceeded to cut the bonds holding Les Six. Immediately thereafter she cast me to them, whereupon, in short order, I found myself being beaten to death under the hamlike fists of the uncouth working class.

    To my surprise, however, extinction did not occur. Under the circumstances, as Your Excellencies and Exalted Sir can perhaps understand, I was not entirely conscious of all the events taking place around me. However, careful consideration after the fact has allowed me to deduce that:

    As Les Six were proceeding, with gross glee and wild abandon, to pound me into a pulp, Gwendolyn Greyboar removed the manacles and gag from the person of the witch Magrit; whereupon:

    The witch Magrit immediately ordered Les Six to cease and desist inasmuch as she felt I would be more useful as a captive than a pile of pulp; whereupon:

    Seeing their refusal to obey her command, the witch Magrit turned Les Six into midgets; whereupon:

    Seeing the unabashed manner in which the half-dozen midgets were continuing to assault my now-prostrate body with fists which, though no longer hamlike, were wielded with no less vigor and enthusiasm, the witch Magrit turned them into quadraplegics; whereupon:

    Seeing the fanatic zeal and unalloyed pleasure with which the now-paralyzed-from-the-neck-down-Les-Six were attempting to spit me to death, the witch Magrit convulsed to the floor in laughter; in which unseemly display she was immediately joined by the murderess Gwendolyn Greyboar but not, unfortunately, by the salamander Wittgenstein, which unnatural beast, to the contrary, chose rather to join the enterprise of causing my death-by-expectoration, appointing itself the artillery spotter for Les Six, in which endeavor the vile little beast, to my chagrin, proved uncannily adept.

    In the end, I discovered myself still alive. Bloodied and bruised, to be sure; covered with the most malodorous phlegm which it has ever been my misfortune to encounter in a lifetime of being spat upon by subversives, true; but alive, nonetheless—and thus in an ideal position to continue my mission of tracking down and capturing the villains who had stolen the Rap Sheet.

    Indeed, careful consideration led me to the happy conclusion that I had already completed—and most successfully!—the first half of my mission. For there could be no question that I had indeed tracked down the culprits. True, it could be said that they were still at large, in the sense that it was I who was now manacled and they who were jeering at my shackled person. But it is a truism in law-enforcement circles that tracking down culprits is much harder than apprehending them once brought to bay, and so I was filled with the conviction that I was now on the verge of success.

    My voice ringing with authority, I immediately ordered the suspects to surrender themselves. Following their failure to do so, I ordered my subordinates to rise from the dead and seize the culprits. Following their failure to do so, I excommunicated the lot of them and ordered the culprits to feed their remains to the pigs who inhabit the nearby farms. Somewhat to my surprise, since they had refused to obey any of my other commands, Les Six proceeded to do so.

    While Les Six were engaged in this activity—I should mention that the witch Magrit had restored them to their normal abnormal selves—the witch and Gwendolyn Greyboar held a short conference in which they decided to journey together to the Mutt, bringing me along for the purposes of later interrogation. I also discovered, in the course of eavesdropping on their conversation, that Gwendolyn Greyboar had not happened upon the scene by accident but had been directed there by an earlier missive sent by Magrit before she and her accomplices had fled Prygg.

    In the event, as I discovered, they intended to remain in the vicinity for some little time whilst they awaited the arrival of yet another (as yet unidentified) co-conspirator. The identity of this individual was soon made clear. For no sooner had Les Six departed the farmhouse bearing the remains of my former subordinates in a variety of sacks, than the co-conspirator arrived.

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