I banged on the door to Galinda and Galendor's room, an irate Gozon lurking behind me and, no doubt, crafting the Elvish Declaration of War in his head. At the moment, I was entertaining a few thoughts myself, though they had more to do with roasting a couple of elves who thought it'd be fun to play games at a Mensa convention than bothering with any declaration. Grace pulled up the rear. We'd brushed off the hotel security man with some BS about diplomatic matters, but picked up a curious Shirley, who followed a discreet step away from Grace. Couldn't blame her: any former Catholic schoolkid seeing the look on Grace's face would no doubt be thankful she wasn't packing a ruler.
Me, I was glad she'd left her harp in the room.
The door was opened by--the butler? OK, had to admit, that stopped me for a moment, then I pushed my way through the narrow hall. Galinda and Galendor were having a glass of wine; Galinda almost spilled it when she saw us.
"Where is it?" I demanded. I didn't bother explaining myself; if Galendor was innocent, he wouldn't know what I was talking about; if he were guilty, I'd see it on his face.
What I didn't expect was for him to blurt out, "It's gone?"
What followed was an hour of top-volume discussion in Elvish, Elvish-translated-into-English and even a little bit of Irish. Shirley sat on the couch watching with determined attention usually reserved for someone trying to understand Calvinball. Jeeves seemed equally perplexed. I'll spare you the trouble.
Gozon started to accuse Galendor of stealing something out of his briefcase when Galinda jumped in and--in High Elvish, no less, I was impressed--put him down hard for daring to accuse so noble an elf--and her consort. The accusatory looks she tossed at her husband, however, said she didn't quite believe in his innocence.
Rather than defending himself, however, Galendor started in with his own Elvish Personal Challenge of Honor, accusing Gozon of shameful carelessness, bringing such a prize to a place like this, risking the honor not only of his tribe but their entire House.
Whereupon Gozon out-yelled Galendor with his speech about his great scheme and how it would win for him honors among his people and the Mundanes...
"That's enough!" Grace's voice, quiet and musical, nonetheless carried the power of the Holy Spirit. Everyone shut up immediately. She sat primly on a Queen Anne chair. "Gozonvabosomofic, you never told us what was stolen."
Both elves looked at their finely crafted shoes. Finally, Galendor muttered, "The bull."
Grace leapt to her feet. "What? Of all the stupid, sacrilegious--"
Everyone took a step back.
"OK. I give up!" Shirley threw her hands in the air. "What is going on? Gozon had livestock in his briefcase?"
I moved toward her, putting myself between Grace and the elves at the same time. "Not that kind of bull. A papal bull, a document between the High Elves and the Church--"
"Penned by St. Patrick, signed by St. Leo." Grace sank back into the chair, head in her hands. She was shaking with rage. "And. You. Used it in a power play?"
"I'm sorry," Shirley said. "I still don't understand."
"It's the way of elves," I said. I put my tail around Grace, ready to comfort or restrain as needed. "The papal bull recognizes that High Elves have their own salvation relationship with God since they are not children of Adam and Eve. It's a highly revered treasure."
"So why would Galendor steal it?"
"Not steal it," Galendor interrupted, "Steal it back. Gozon stole it from me when I was Keeper of the Ages some seven decades ago. My tribe was put to shame and I--"
Galinda set a hand on his arm.
"Wait--Gozon took it? Seventy years ago?"
I answered. "Seventy-five. It's not theft like you think of it, Shirley. More like counting coup. But why would you bring it here? Unless--that was your big speech? You were going to present the bull to the Mensans and brag?" I groaned.
Gozon preened until Shirley said, "And why would that impress us?"
"Exactly!" Galendor interjected. "You do not understand these Mundanes. That is why you are losing influence as Speaker of the House and no amount of posturing will help."
"We shall see. I planned a mere year to remove the bull from your possession and have patiently held it for the right time. You're ridiculous, impulsive act of theft has now brought war between our tribes and you can be sure that my tribe, which still values the patient Old Ways--"
"How dare you accuse my husband!"
"You will not make a holy document the cause of a war!"
"Enough!" I didn't have Grace's magical power, but I had lung power. The elves clasped hands over ears and Galinda cringed. Silence reigned.
Jeeves calmly righted a fallen plant.
"If you didn't take it, who did?"
Everyone looked at everyone else.
"Don't look at me," Jeeves said. "I'm afraid this is one cliché that did not take."
The walkie-talkie security lent me went off.
"What now?" I growled under my breath, then switched it on. "Vern."
"Hey, Vern, it's Schrödinger. I can't be certain, but I may have something that'll interest you."
Dare I say it? The purse sounded like that cat that caught the canary.
Or brownie. Whatever.
If you like the story, the book is even better!
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(c) Karina Fabian. World Gathering first appeared in serial in The Prairie Dawg