Our suspects knew better than to make me angry. When Shirley, Grace and I walked into the Santa Fe room, they were already seated and waiting.
Gozonvabosomofic and Galendoropynphordaladys were tossing each other dark looks. Princess Galinda held Galendor's hand and was trying her best to look regal--and like she didn't recognize Cambridge Ramada. Cambridge had apparently decided his hefty physique had had enough of the miniscule seats and was standing (not leaning, mind you) by a column, hands on his walking stick. Sigfried leaned against the opposite column and glared at the portly PI. Brunhilde's seat made a neat triangle between them. She sat straight and prim, her hands clasped in front of her, her head hung.
Coyote sat on the drinks table, lapping water out of a pitcher.
Others had seen them entering, made the logical conclusion that something was up, and decided to join in. they filled the rest of the chairs, but kept a discreet distance between themselves and the Faerie. Whaddya know? Mensan are savvy as well as smart.
Fine by me. I didn't mind an audience.
We strode, in and Grace and Shirley each set a briefcase on a table. I loved watching the reactions--they tell so much.
"Rule Number One--speak English and speak Human. For every long Elvish phrase, I get to eat a body part."
Galendor just had to stand, "Vern, great wyvern, mystery solver and peacekeeper--"
I showed him my incisors.
"Got it." He sat down fast. He can be taught.
"For those who don't know what's going on: This week, Gozonvabosomofic had intended to use his farewell speech to brag about the magnificent ploy he'd concocted to keep in power. Gozon, quick scowling. It's too late to impress them, anyway. I can explain more later, but part of the plan involved presenting you with the "recently-acquired" papal bull, a historic artifact of Elves and humans. However, the bull has been stolen." I paused for the gasps. "And not once, but multiple times, like some kind of Faerie game of hot potato. The game is over."
I turned to my suspects. "I'm going to give you one chance to make this easy. Whoever has the bull, give it up now."
Everybody looked at everybody.
"Does anybody know where it is?"
Again the blank looks.
I sighed. That's what I was afraid of. In their frenzied efforts to acquire the papal bull they'd lost the papal bull.
"Fine. Let's start from the beginning. We may as well entertain our Mensan hosts--that was your intention, wasn't it Gozon? You were going to use your Farewell speech to brag about the cunning theft of the bull from Galendor, which disgraced his family line and placed yours--and you--in power. Don't speak--just nod."
"Excuse me?" a Mensan raised her hand. "Why would that impress us?"
"Exactly my point!" Galendor stood up and sneered down at the elder Elf. "You don't understand Mundanes--that's why your job in jeopardy! Our House needs someone younger, who understands humans and I--"
I pushed him into his seat with my tail. "Siddown and shut up. You can take that up with Queen Imdaboz'ndonchafuggeditt. So, he brings the bull because what good is gloating without a visual aid? Of course, the spies of Galendor's family find out--but Gozon prepares for that, right?"
Gozon just glared at me. I'd ruined his little brag fest, but that wasn't why. It also kept him from glancing at his accomplice.
Of course, I'd figured that part out. "Bruni, you've got some 'splaining to do."
"Yah," she said, and it was amazing how a booming voice could also sound so small and mousy.
"Start with the hotel reservations--you got them scrambled, didn't you?"
She nodded. "Yah, Gozonvabosomofic asked me to. He arranged for me to be a presenter, said I'd have lots of opportunities--"
Now her voice started to boom, "For my fashion line, you big buffoon! How many millennia do I have to cater to roudy, sweaty men before I get to do something for me? Gozon offered to help me make contacts if he retained his position. So IM'd the Reservations desk to confirm my hotel room, started flirting with Carl, and asked him if he'd help us with a joke."
"That's not the only joke you'll have played in this, either. You carried the bull on the trip in, didn't you?"
"Yah, in my breastplate." I heard a few low snickers and comments from the crowd, but didn't bother correcting them. In fact, Brunhilde's breastplate had a long pocket for tools of the trade--a small dagger, a hairbrush and braid-ties... The bull, rolled up, would have fit snug but fine if she were careful.
"In the meantime," I continued, "Galendor decided to hire allies himself. You convinced the brownies to get the bull for you."
"Of course," Galendor said. "An elegant solution. I simply bribed them--and I shan't say how--and suggested that the bull was no longer where it belonged, but I knew approximately where it was and who had it. Then, I merely had to prepare a place for it and wait."
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