“Oh, Vern, why are you so hacked? This conference looks like a gas.”
I didn’t bother to answer. When Natura made up her mind about something, there was no arguing with her. Instead, I opened my mouth and poured half a bottle of Kingfisher into it. Not that beer can get me drunk. It takes about five gallons of ethanol to do that, and now that I’ve got my fire back, it’s not the smartest idea. One wrong belch and I could make a dragon-sized hole in the pavement.
Beside Natura, Bert Logan took a pull from his beer and rolled his eyes at his wife’s vocabulary. They made an odd match. Natura had never left the Sixties, while Bert had “bought into the Establishment” at an early age and was sheriff the first couple years I lived in Los Lagos. She’d been a believer in “free love,” while he had never even dated. He’d had it bad for her, though, so bad, he actually came to me for advice once.
The only experience I had with human courtship was someone stealing my lunch and my treasure, poking me in the side while he was at it, mostly in a show of over-polished armor and testosterone. I told Bert he was on his own.
Glad he got it figured out, though.
He leaned closer to his wife to look at the program that Grace and I had brought to go over as we ate. It was Hindu Night, and Grace loves Natura’s dahi wado.
“I gotta agree with Natura, Vern,” he told me. “That polygraph lecture looks interesting.”
“I want to go to that one,” Grace said, carefully wiping a piece of fallen rice off her habit. “We have a spell for compelling the truth based on the Eighth Commandment, but detecting the truth has always been trickier. People can make themselves believe the most unlikely things.”
“We’ve had the same problem,” Bert started, but I cut him off.
“It’s not the Mundane speakers I’m worried about.” With one claw, I pointed to the Friday 10:30 lecture.
“’Helreið Brynhildar--Bryndhildr’s ride to Hel. Faerie Valkyrie Brunhilde talks about her near-death experience in this magical multimedia event.’” Natura read. “Like, wow!”
I was not so enthusiastic, but Grace merely shrugged. “We just have to remind her that 'multimedia' means sound and visuals. She’s surprisingly reasonable.”
I grunted, not willing to be comforted. “And Goes-on-Verbose-Soporific of the Eternally Long-Winded? They actually list him as keynote speaker for the closing dinner.”
“That’s ‘Gozonvabosomofic of the High Winds Eternal,’ and you know it,” Grace chided lightly.
I growled my response. I knew only too well. Gozon was the Speaker for the Forests of one of the largest clans of elves in Faerie Ireland, once a great warrior, now a scholar and always a pontificating airbag. And this was his reputation among elves, who being long-lived, are also long-winded. In their native language, it takes half an hour to ask where the bathroom is. And I know from experience that Gozon’s never been able to figure out Human, no matter how many human languages he’s learned. Folks attending his speech risk missing their flights home, and I mean the ones scheduled for next day.
“We’ll figure something out,” Grace said, though she, too, looked concerned.
“Hey,” Bert said as he pointed at the program with a folded piece of flat bread. “’Elvis Meets the Dalai Lama!’”
“Not ours,” Grace and I chorused. Elvis was one legend that didn’t parallel in Faerie.
“Oh, look! One of the Muses is going to be at the poetry workshop.” Natura’s delight dissolved into confusion at the look on Grace’s face. “What?”
Grace shrugged. “It’s just that Kalliope is a notoriously finicky editor. Lots of ‘happies’ to ‘glads.’ And of course, she’s always right. Compose a poem with a Muse and it’ll be perfect, but, well, it’s not yours anymore.”
“Like the individual voice is lost? Bummer. But--wow! Look at this. ‘Erotic Photography--A Practical Guide.’”
Her husband almost choked on his flat bread.
“Oh, Bert, don’t be so conventional. It’s art.”
“Yeah,” he managed to gasp. “Amazing how many teenage discover art in their teens.”
Natura elbowed him. “C’mon, Grace, go and take notes for me? It’s celebration of the beauty of the human body.”
Grace held up her hands. “The only body I celebrate is Corpus Christi.”
“Forget it. To me a human without clothes is like an apple without its skin.”
Bert looked confused, but both ladies groaned and explained: “They both lack appeal!”
Bert’s eyes went wide and he almost choked on his beer.
If you like the story, the book is even better!
More antics, more mystery, new ending. Order from Amazon.
(c) Karina Fabian. World Gathering first appeared in serial in The Prairie Dawg