Last issue, we discovered Galendor's and Gozon's political intriguing has led to the disappearance of the papal bull, an important artifact to the High Elves and the Faerie Church. Vern has rounded the suspects--Gozon and Galendor, Galendor's wife, Princess Galinda Tavendor, the Valkyrie Brunhilde, Coyote the Trickster, and Cambridge Ramada, a Mensan and private detective specializing in rare items. Plus a Mensan audience. He's revealed that Gozon intended to show off the bull, Galendor wanted to steal it back using brownies to find it, and Gozon threw them off by having a very common-looking briefcase and having Brunhilde smuggle the bull around in her breastplate. But that's not all!...
"This, of course, would not have been so bad if the rest of you hadn't gotten involved," I said. "You know, Cambridge, despite everything, I did not have you down for a thief."
Cambridge puffed up his chest, not that you could tell with his belly. "Of course not, my dear dragon. My client was merely interested in negotiating to borrow it, for an exhibit on Faerie religious artifacts. I was, in fact, here to discuss a most interesting necklace of relics belonging to the Tavendor royal family--"
Gozon pointed an accusing finger at Galendor, "And you offered him the bull? Galendoropynphordaladys, traitor to his kind--"
"No!" Galinda stood. "That was my fault. I told him. I, I hired him." She turned to her husband, hands clasped in supplication. "I'm sorry, my love. The brownies were having such trouble, I though, just in case..."
He pulled her close, kissing her head, whispering reassurances in Elvish. The audience "awwwed," but I sighed. It was going to take him at least five minutes to say, "It's okay."
Cambridge added his reassurances. "It was not entirely her idea. I had already learned something of the bull at the welcome dinner."
"Brunhilde!" Gozon yelled. I gave him a flash of fangs and he closed his mouth fast. He could spend an hour chewing her out later if he wanted. We were on my time.
Brunhilde nodded. "The champagne went to my head. I said I'd give him the bull and he could negotiate for his exhibit, and he introduced me to the pleasures of--"
"Brunhilde!" This from my partner, Sister Grace. The audience leaned forward.
Cambridge laughed his asthmatic chuckle. "Cleanliness, my dear nun. Tips on how to make her 'sweaty rowdy men' more hygienically palatable."
"Ja! He gives a good pedicure, see?" She stretched out one shapely leg so everyone could see her toes. Galinda swatted her husband.
"But the two of you weren't exactly quiet in your dealings--at least not where inhuman ears are concerned." I looked at Coyote.
He set down the half-empty pitcher and leaned forward eagerly, "Oooo! Is it my turn now? Do I get to tell my joke, please? Can I? Can I? So I found out from Brunhilde when she made the trade--wanna know how?" He jumped up off the table to face his audience.
"No!" Grace said. "Sit!"
He settled onto the table without hesitation, but he was bouncing with excitement.
"Just tell us where it is."
"In Cambridge's briefcase. But I won't tell you where that is! You have to find it. Won't that be fun? It should be easy for you, Vern. It's 'marked.'"
"You peed on the bull?" Grace's beautiful voice rose to a screech.
"No!" Coyote actually looked hurt. "I mean, not really. Just the briefcase."
"What?" Cambridge started to raise his cane.
"Relax!" I told them both. "We have the briefcase. The brownies found it and cleaned it. But the bull isn't in it."
I glared at Coyote, but he looked as surprised as Grace and Cambridge had horrified.
"So where is it?" he asked.
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