All Black Sheep Here [7 Hispis 4385]
Grinwipey had an intricately-carved spiked club, with a spell of mild oblivion on it. Anyone struck by it would forget (I estimated) the last three or four minutes, unless they resisted the spell. And it wasn't a terribly strong spell: any reasonable adventurer could fight it off, probably, or anyone willing to spend two cley for those memories. It wouldn't have worried me -- or Rheng, say -- that much as a weapon, and shouldn't have worried Saza either, I didn't think.
Grinwipey:"Yah, so very bad. Hey, you wanna know what's the one thing worse than me having a club with this Accanax-bootering forgetty spell on it?"
Saza:"I suppose I should find out."
Grinwipey:"Spiggin' right you should -- spiggin' right you will! The one thing worse is, m'aged mother has one too, and m'dear auntie in Inihithre also got one. 'n they're way-the-vootsies out of range of anything you've got."
Saza:"Well then." Zie put zir chopsticks away. "May I surrender now, please?"
Grinwipey:"Sure, and I think you ought to buy Uncle Eggnoster a nice bit brandy to cheer him up after what you did to him."
Saza:"I see. How nice a bit of brandy?"
Grinwipey:"Let's say, a hundred and seventy thousand lozens worth."
Saza:"That's quite a bit of brandy."
Grinwipey:"He's got a lot of forgetting to do, does poor Uncle Eggnoster. As do we all. Gotta forget those curses you put on him, and how unhappy they made him. Gotta forget about these forgetty clubs too, don't he? Only he doesn't want to use them on himself."
Grinwipey:"Aww, you look like you're startin' to appreciate the inconvenience 'n sorrow you put our family through. Seein' as that is rather what we're after -- the appreciating I mean -- I think we can appreciate the inconvenience you might have trying to get all that brandy shipped to Vheshrame. So we'll make you just appreciate the inconvenience. You don't have to buy the brandy yourself. You can just send the lozens to the Bank of Teleportin' Hexagons, and we'll do the actual acquisitions."
Saza:"I don't have that much money."
Grinwipey:"Well, I ain't about to ruin your family reunion by dickering. You don't want to look mingey and poor in front of your young cousin here, do you? We'll take it in kind."
Saza:"I suppose you will."
Grinwipey:"Some shoggy'll be in touch in a few days. Okie, that's all the pudding dance! Now go enjoy the reunion, spaggot!"
Saza turned to me, zir wings shaking. "Sythyry, may I speak to you privately for a moment?"
Zie popped us into a spare universe. "I need your help. And I suppose I owe you an explanation."
"If you want, Saza."
"I do. So you know the real story. Your Khtsoyis might embroider a bit."
"That is his job. Not blackmailing my relatives. I am going to point that out to him."
Saza shook zir head. "I suppose zie's got a hobby too. Or a tentacle in the family business, it sounds like. Anyhow. You're an enchanter, right?"
"You know I am," I said.
"I never got much into that. I tried a bit, but I hate getting up at dawn every day. Don't know how you and Grandparent manage it. I'm in the family trade of course, but not that end. Ritual magic." (Ritual magic is the art of casting exceedingly complicated spells that often exceed the bounds of what magic is supposed to be able to do. It is useful, but not terribly well-loved: by primes or by god.)
"I have noticed that. You generally defeat me with ritual magic," I said, which is roughly true.
"And I've got four households in four cities to keep up. Which takes a good bit of cash. And ritual magic is a spotty trade these decades: sometimes there's plenty of call for it in a year, and sometimes there's not. So sometimes I take work that's not really very good to do in cities."
"Like putting forgetfulness spells on nicely-carved wooden clubs?"
"Like mind-tying the Traitors of Tauvane, three hundred ... no, nearly four hundred years ago," Saza said. "It was a wicked end to a wicked business in all ways. There was a bit of an uproar in Craitheia about it. I won't try to justify what I did, but I lived in Tauvane at the time, and my house was one of the ones that burned, and my friends were some of the primes who died. Our grandparents didn't approve of the mind-tying ... lots of people didn't approve. They made me vow never to use Mentador ritual magic again."
I flicked my tail against the bumpy floor of the spare universe. "I suppose that those clubs were yours, then?"
Zie drooped. "I'm afraid so. I needed money; I usually do. A Khtsoyis chieftan from Dlesty -- that's a country thousands of miles away on Choinxeia -- commissioned them from me. He wanted someone far enough to be untraceable and unproblematic at home, his messenger said, and of course the clubs would be far enough away to be untraceable and unproblematic for me. And the price was very good."
"It could be very good indeed, if Grinwipey's uncle was going to get it back as blackmail."
"Get it back and more. I still have four households to pay for. I'm going to have to work my wings off, and scare up a lot of business," zie said with a sigh. "I hate having to work more than two or three weeks a year!"
"If I hear of anyone wanting ritual magic, I'll send them to you," I said. "I'll write to the guard in Vheshrame on your behalf, say."
"That will be a help. But there's the favor I need to ask."
I tilted my head, and wished my crest didn't sway when I did that. "What favor?"
"Can you get your people not to talk about this? A dozen of them must have seen it. If word gets back to Verehinga, I'd be better off cutting off my own head."
"I will do what I can. There were eight people in the room, and six of us are traff and used to keeping secrets. And if Grinwipey were going to tell Verehinga, he'd have done it already. For that matter, Ochirion is used to keeping his mother's secrets. I'll let them know it's important."
"Thank you." Zie twisted zir tail. "This is not how I wanted to introduce myself to you when we finally got to meet."
"Nor me. I didn't know I had your enemy on my yacht. I'd have left him at home."
We apologized to each other for a while more, and then he popped the miniature universe and precipitated us back to ordinary reality. I stopped the full introductions, though. Phaniet, Vae, Saza, and I retreated to my laboratory, and did our best to discuss inconsequential and pleasant things. And offer soothing teas -- not brandy -- to my dismal cousin.