Wednesday, February 29, 2012

World Gathering,Episode 4: Helper Elf Hullabaloo


There’s nothing like a bloodcurdling scream to wake you up in the morning.
The scream in question was coming from another wing--Gozon’s I guessed from the direction of the sound--but by the time I’d thrown myself out of bed, the screams had morphed into vows vengeance, so I relaxed.  No one had been murdered.  Yet.
When I got to the room, Grace was already there, checking for magic.  A security guard was rolling his eyes and shooing people from the scene, but I just gave him The Grin, and he paled and let me pass.
“What’s the problem?” I asked as I moseyed into the room that was a smaller version of ours.
“The problem?!  This is the problem!” shouted a pajama-clad male Caucasian with thinning blond hair.  He had his back to me, and the momentum from the theatrical sweep of his arm he used to indicate the room spun him until he was facing me.  His rant died in his throat.
“Calvin, this is my partner, Vern.”
I gave him a tamer version of the grin I treated the security guard with then looked around the immaculate room.   “Something’s missing?” I ventured.
“It’s not that!  Everything’s… organized!”  Losing any fear of me in his rage, he stormed to a drawer and pulled it open.  The shirts inside were folded more neatly than for a Macey’s Grand Opening.  I glanced at the open closet, where the pants and Bermuda shorts were similarly neat.
My imitation of human facial expressions must be getting pretty good, for he glowered at my bemusement.  “I’m color blind!  Before I left, my wife packed everything in coordinating outfits.  Now I have to get someone to help me match everything.  And then there’s this--“  He shoved a puzzle magazine at me.  Magic Squares.
“I know Soduku is the new thing, but I happen to enjoy these.  But someone’s gone and filled them all in--wrong!”
Grace offered to help Calvin get his clothes coordinated while I perused his book.  At first glance, it did look like numbers were filled in at random--every number was less than 19, some were fractions, some even had letters.  Mishmash. 
If you were using a Mundane number system.
Calvin took one of the outfits Grace picked for him and ducked into the bathroom to change.  Grace went to work on the rest.  “Well, it’s definitely helper elves, but why would they come to this room?” she asked.
“And who brought them?”  Helper elves could be all but invisible.  We never saw any on the airship, and none had been on the passenger list.
“Who?” Calvin asked as he came out of the bathroom in a pale blue collared shirt and navy Dockers.  He reached into the closet for his shoes, then sat on the bed to put them on.  Suddenly, he stopped and looked at the sole of his clean and polished loafer.
“Broken before?” I asked.
“Just starting to tear.  I noticed it at the airport.  How did you know?”
“You, my friend, have had the privilege of living a fairy tale.  While you slept, the wee folk snuck into your room and cleaned.  They even repaired your shoes--and probably anything else that was broken.  They even finished what they thought was your work,” I told him as I tossed the Magic Squares book on his bed. 
“But it’s all nonsense!”
“Actually, it’s a legitimate numbering system--and one you’re familiar with, though it’s far more complex than the one Mundanes use.  You like a good mental challenge, right?”
Grace and I left him with a closet of neatly pressed coordinating outfits, a charm to keep out any future “assistance” and a grin on his face as he dove into his puzzle book, scribbling in the margins and trying to work out the number system.
Neither of us were grinning as we made our way down the hall.  Faerie helper elves would not be at this convention on their own--someone would have brought them. That meant that someone would have ordered them to “clean” that room.
Somehow, I couldn’t believe it was a random act of kindness.
I said as much to Grace, speaking in Faerie Gaelic against curious ears of the Mundanes poking their heads out of rooms or passing in the hall.  She sighed and replied in kind.  “It gets better.  There was a mix-up in room assignments yesterday.  That room was supposed to be Gozonvabosomofic’s.  I checked:  there’s no trace of harmful magic or substances, and Calvin is sure nothing is missing.  Seems to me that they were directed to the wrong room and, as long as they were there, did what comes naturally.”
“Except Gozon doesn’t like helper elves,” I protested.  “In the centuries I’ve known him, he’s never once allowed someone else to handle his stuff.  Neurotic, that way. See?”  We were passing by his room.  In addition to the “Do Not Disturb” sign on the doorknob, Gozon had put up a simple security spell.  I did a quick listen, but there was no one in the room, High Elf or helper.   “Breakfast?”
“Him or for us?” she teased, then turned back to the problem.  “Remember how neat the luggage was in the airship?  The purser only knew it was tampered with because everything was re-arranged.  No one’s reported anything missing, either.  So Calvin’s room wasn’t just cleaned--it was searched?”
“Looks like it.  So we’re back to who and why.”  I twitched my tail in annoyance. 
More work we weren’t getting paid for.


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

Sunday, February 26, 2012

World Gathering, Episode 3: Living it up in the Hotel California


Grace shoved the key card into the magnetic lock with an angry jerk.  As soon as the light glowed green, she pushed her way in and flung her suitcase on the bed, opened it, and pulled out some of her work items.  I slunk in behind her.
It had been a long day of playing tour guide, security and babysitter, but we were finally at the California Resort at Billy Beaver's Fantasylan, though what made this Florida hotel "Californian" was a mystery I'd probably never solve.  The Faerie who had presentations were with the convention coordinators.  The other Faerie were in their rooms.  The Selkie were in the lagoon.  And I was in the doghouse.
Shouldering past me, Grace stuck her various medallions, relics and potion ingredients in the room safe, locked it and placed her hands over it, muttering a spell to activate her "Karma shield."  The wards mentally attacked any intruder in direct proportion to the evilness of intent.  I hoped we wouldn't need to be looking up any psychiatrists this trip.
Finally, she whirled on me.  "You know, we expected trouble on this trip, but I thought it'd come from the other Faerie!"
"It wasn't my fault!"
"First, you intimidate the front desk clerk--"
"All I said was a smoking room was fine!"
"No, you said, 'As long as I can smoke with it.'  Then you gave him The Grin."
"It was a joke!  It got us a nonsmoking room, didn't it?" I tried and failed to hide my smirk.  Grace hates the smell of American tobacco.
"Uh-huh!  He was so scared he couldn't do his job properly until you left.  Five hours I spent alone trying to keep everyone under control and check them all in, while you took a nap by the Lagoon!"
"Who had the brilliant idea to put the water Magicals in the lagoon, huh?  Besides, you're the one who told me to take Gozon.  He just kept droning on and on about how misunderstood he's been among his clan of late--150 years 'of late.'  It wasn’t a nap.   It was hibernation defense!  And it wasn't a picnic for me, either."
"Oh, right!"  She flung up her arms.  "The family!  Couldn't have handled that better, could you?"
“The guy stuck a kid on my back!  What was I supposed to do?”
“Ask him to take him off?”
“I did!  Twice!  The idiot just kept going on about animatronics and asking where Leno’s cameras were.”
“Fine, fine!  But did you have to pick the poor child up with your tail?”
“You'd rather I’d bucked him off?  I’m not double-jointed,” I snarled defensively.  “Kid was having the time of his life ‘till his mom started screaming.  In my ear.  Where she’d been trying to stick the quarter.  You want my opinion, I should be getting praised for my restraint.”
"Well, what'd you expect?  We're at an amusement park resort."
"Who would put a dragon ride in a hotel with a Southwest theme?"
Grace gaped at me a moment, then burst out laughing.  With a loud groan, she fell back on one of the beds.  "This is going to be the toughest job we've not gotten paid for," she sighed.
I curled up on the king-sized bed.  I wonder whom they'd displaced to get it for us.  I hoped it was Gozon, though it was probably the Selkie, like they'd be interested in anything but the bathtub.  "That's what you get for having a sidekick."
"Speaking of, 'Sidekick,' we're going to need to watch out for Siegfried.  He's insisting on wearing 'traditional dress.'"
I sighed.  Related to the Siegfried of Viking legend, "our" Siegfried believed he had been born out of his time.  Although a scholar by trade and temperament, he nonetheless liked role-playing his ancestor as much as he did talking about him.  On the airship here, he'd kept a low profile, wearing modern Faerie clothes and trying to learn a few phrases of English.  His only nod toward his obsession had been to make cow's eyes at Brunhilde.  Now, however, he seemed to have decided to come out of the ancestral closet--wearing their clothes. I wondered if there's a RenFest in town we could ship him to.  "Well, he's got the muscles for it," I said.
"And the broadsword.  I had to make him put it away before the desk clerk had apoplexy.  Sped things up, though.  It's not that.  I heard a couple of bellhops snickering. 'What's in your wallet.'"  She parodied their accent.
Great.  Of all the bellhops in all the hotels, we had to get the ones who actually like credit card commercials.  Next will be circus and tiger act jokes.  "Let's be thankful he's not good at languages."
"And for this room," she said, spreading her hands across the double-sized bed.   It was pretty ritzy by our standards.  She sighed and pulled herself up.  "And, since my order does not have any proscriptions against luxury, I am going to enjoy it, starting with a long hot bath.  What're the chances everyone will stay quietly in their rooms tonight?"
"About the same as their all staying in the passenger areas on the flight over," I growled pessimistically.  The airship, a half-blimp, half-plane, had been perfect for accommodating the various sizes and needs of the Magicals.  Unfortunately, with folks free to move around--and even a private cabin or two--it was hard to keep track of everyone.  So, naturally, someone took advantage of that to go through the stored luggage.  He, she or it left no clues, so Grace and I concocted a story that turbulence had jumbled things and for folks to report to us if anything was missing.  (And to make sure we weren't lying, Yours Truly went out and provided some turbulence. Most fun I'd had all day.)  In the meantime, we knew we'd have to stay alert for trouble.
"Enjoy your bath.  I'll take first watch."  I put on a clean vest from my luggage and transferred into its pockets the tools of my trade:  lock picks, "official" PI identification, and the stealth charm Grace made for me after watching a documentary on the B-2.
No way was someone putting a kid on my back again.

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

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

World Gathering, Episode 2: Pixies in the Program


“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.
“’Helrei├░ 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.”
“Vern?”
“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