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A Desperate and Despicable Dwarf: Section Twenty

       Last updated: Friday, July 16, 2004 00:20 EDT



MAGRIT et. al., Chapter One

    It is with great reluctance that I, Alfred CCLXXIX, include these next chapters in our chronicle. As the gentle reader knows, I have been forced on several prior occasions to supplement my ancestors' Chronicle with other narratives. These other narratives, being the product of human minds and hands, are naturally suspect. Yet, for all their unreliability, they are like unto the tablets of the prophet compared to the anecdote which is to follow here. For the epilogue consists of an extract from the diary of Wittgenstein, Magrit's familiar.

    "A salamander!" you cry. In my mind's eye, I can see the gentle reader's curling lip. And let me assure you than I fully share your loathly contempt! For 'tis well known that of all the species which dwell upon the planet, there is none so low, none so base, none so ignoble, as the salamander. And this is true even of the salamander in its proper state, wriggling through the swamp! What then can we think of the beast unnatural, given the power of speech by the arts of sorcery?

    Nevertheless, I have decided to include this fragment in our tale. Of course, I wash my forelegs of any responsibility for its veracity! But, who knows? Perhaps, for bizarre reasons of its own, the horrid creature chose to tell the truth. And if so, then the fragment from its diary is not insignificant.

    So, my preamble passed, I give you this extract from the diary of Wittgenstein the salamander:



    Damn Les Six. The way I see it, it's all their fault. Sure, you could blame Wolfgang. Humans would. That's because their minds are twisted and whenever disaster strikes—which for them, is about twelve times a day—they're always trying to figure out who's to blame by looking to see who caused it. Fucking idiots, the lot of them. The more educated they are, the worse. Intelligent humans (that's what the windbag would call an oxymoron) go so far as to prate on and on about the sufficient versus the necessary cause—blah! blah!

    Who cares who causes a disaster? What's important is—who's responsible for getting me caught in the middle of it?

    The lousy drunks, that's who. Ever since we arrived in the Mutt, Les Six have been acting like the world's just one giant party. Yesterday they kept me fetching alepots until midnight. And they started drinking at noon!

    True, I didn't have to listen to the windbag today. I don't care what Magrit says about the so-called "best actual sorcerer in the world." He's a windbag, windbag, windbag, windbag. That's it—pure and simple—question closed.

    But it wasn't all that great. The reason I didn't have to listen to the windbag is because the windbag was holed up all day with the other windbags, plotting some idiot scheme to travel to the "realm of words". No shit. I'm serious. Can you believe it? Why would they need to travel to the "realm of words" when they already live in it twenty four hours a day? Not only that! Everybody else seems to think this project is a really grand old idea—Magrit and Gwendolyn were talking about it all day! And when Les Six finally stumbled into the salon around mid-afternoon, belly-aching about their hang-overs (for which, naturally, the only cure is more drink—Wittgenstein! fetch us some alepots!), no sooner do they let out their first collective belch than they start prattling about the prattler's project!

    I'm not sure what's worse—listening to a windbag talk or listening to people talk about a windbag.

    Then, of course, once Magrit sees Les Six knocking back their alepots, naturally she suddenly develops an overwhelming thirst. Even Gwendolyn gets in on the act. So there I am, racing back and forth all day from the salon to the kitchen fetching alepots, when if it hadn't been for the souses I would have been somewhere else, when Wolfgang ambles into the room.

    At first, I was a little relieved. It'd mean more alepots, of course, but I figured Wolfgang's babble would distract the others from babbling. And I'd rather listen to a babbling idiot that to idiots babbling.

    Besides, I was hoping Wolfgang would start feeling Magrit up and the next thing you'd know, they'd be off to the sack. Then Gwendolyn'd leave, and I'd only have to fetch alepots for Les Six. I had every reason to hope, mind you. She's a proper witch, Magrit, I'd be the last to deny it, but she's also a complete slut. Of course, they're all sluts, human beings—male and female both. Never act rationally about sex, the way amphibians do. Civilized, we are. A clutch of eggs in the water, a quick spray of sperm, and that's it. None of this sloppy disgusting stuff—and they say we're slimy! But, I suppose you can't blame them, handicapped by nature the way they are. Evolution reached its peak in the Age of Amphibians, and it's all been downhill since. Humans are just a stupid accident of history. Hadn't been for that comet --

    Well, what's past is past. Anyway, it didn't work out that way, because no sooner does he sit down than Wolfgang starts moaning and wailing that the dwarf and the two Kutumoff brats have gone after the windbag into the "realm of words." (I'd thought better of that little guy. But he's only human, even if he is a dwarf.)

    Uproar! Uproar! Uproar!

    I could see the disaster coming, and there I was! I started looking for a mousehole but I was handicapped what with the alepots I was carrying and before I could dump them Magrit snatches me up.

    "No you don't, you mangy little lizard!" she hollered, adding insult to injury. "You're coming with me!"

    "Where?" I demanded, as if I didn't know.

    "We've got to go rescue the poor little tykes!"

    Me, I would have let natural selection take its course. And what was the fretting for, anyway? If Shelyid had survived years in the company of the windbag, I didn't see where a little trip to the "realm of words" could hurt him anyway. And what did I care about the Kutumoff brats? The boy was about as interesting as an encyclopedia, and the girl—well, if she'd been a proper salamandress, of course, I'd have told all kind of lies about being the most degenerate salamander who ever lived so's I could cash in on the Kutumoff Grand Old Tradition, but the truth is that swaying hips and batting eyelashes don't do a thing for amphibians.

    I tried to explain all of this to Magrit, but she wasn't having any of it and Gwendolyn was getting downright peevish with me. So I shut up. I'll take my chances with Magrit, but Gwendolyn's a different story. Woman scares me and every amphibian I know. Even the dumb frogs down at the Old Mill Pond call her The Knife. (Her knife itself they call the Edge of the Known Universe.)

    Now everybody's charging around all over the Kutumoff mansion. The Kutumoff elders show up demanding to know what all the ruckus is about. When they hear, Madame Kutumoff immediately starts wailing and wringing her hands. (Best hand-wringer I've ever seen, by the way. Really world class.) Papa Kutumoff, on the other hand, reacted kind of oddly. He just got this little smile on his face and wandered off muttering something about his boy getting into his first real scrape and his girl being a chip off the old block. Whatever that means.

    Then for a while I started getting my hopes back up, because soon enough it became clear than nobody had any real idea exactly how they were supposed to carry out this "rescue." First they charged over to Uncle Manya's mini-mansion and stormed into his library and started ransacking all his papers until they found the windbag's formula lying right there in plain sight on top of the desk where I'd seen it straight off but kept my mouth shut. Then they tried to read the formula and was that ever a laugh! Humans are all wingbags at heart, but there's still a whale of a difference between the Genuine Article and a bunch of boozy wannabes.

    Then they charged back to the Kutumoff macro-mansion and stormed upstairs into Magrit's room and Magrit started consulting her grimoire and brewing up potions and what not and was that ever a laugh! Mind you, the old witch is one of your all-time potioneers. She could whip up something that'd make a scorpion fall in love with a rock and the scorpion would die of heartbreak because she'd whip up something else that'd cause the rock to have a heart attack. But travel to the "realm of words?" No, no, no, no, no, no. No such potion. No such spell. No such hex.

    That requires Grade A, officially-approved, pedigreed, certified, documented, diploma-ed, WINDBAGGERY.

    But then, just as I was started to feel a little relieved, I started getting a bad feeling. Some of that came from watching Gwendolyn, who, since she doesn't know zip about magic wasn't trying to figure out a way to travel to the "realm of words" but was just relieving her tension by sharpening her knife which is already as sharp as a razor and I could tell she was getting to the point where she was just going to have to try the edge on something and whenever humans get to that point it seems they always remember that you can cut off an amphibians's tail without doing any "real damage" since the tail will grow back, which is true, but it hurts. But mostly it was because I had a bad feeling about Wolfgang, on account of the way he was drooling.

    Now, your humans always think that since Wolfgang's a drooling maniac and he always drools that it doesn't mean anything. But what'll fool a dumb human won't fool a salamander for a minute. There's drool, and there's drool. Even people who ought to know better don't really listen to the lunatic when he tries to tell them about the powers of madness and amnesia. But I know that particular drool that he always starts doing whenever he's going to spring some sly one. It's especially disgusting, even for Wolfgang's drool, which is especially disgusting, even for an amphibian who doesn't have that silly human aversion to slime.

    But it was obvious to me. I didn't know the ins and outs of it, of course. After all, I'm as sane as a salamander! But one thing was clear as a bell.

    Wolfgang Laebmauntsforscynneweëld was about to spring something. And whatever it was, it was going to be crazy.

    Really crazy. I mean—demented.

    Sure enough, Wolfgang suddenly starts raving about applying his twin powers of madness and amnesia and Magrit blows her stack at him and Wolfgang gets insulted and starts whining.

    "Well, I was going to go with you, but since you're going to be that way about it you'll just have to go without me! And it's just as well! Doctor Wolfgang Laebmauntsforscynneweëld has an upcoming appointment with God's Own Tooth himself, you know, and he insisted that I had to come along. Of course, I escaped from the asylum so I wasn't going to go but now I think I will! So there!"

    Magrit started hollering that he was a crazy lunatic and what did he know and Wolfgang started smirking and then—I knew it!—he started babbling in an unknown tongue.

    I hate it when he does that. Magrit hates it too, because she can't understand him. That's the only part I like about it. I hate it because part experience has taught me that when Wolfgang starts babbling in an unknown tongue sometimes it's just because he's an idiot and other times it's because he's applying his twin powers of madness and amnesia and humans can laugh at him but not me because --

    -- everything started getting hazy!

    The universe started spinning around!

    I heard voices everywhere!

    Sure enough. There we were. Not Wolfgang, just like he promised. But there was Magrit, and Les Six, and Gwendolyn—all of whom deserved it—and there was me, who didn't.

    In the "realm of words."

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