Irontrias was in our path, lounging against the frame of a store that sold wearable pastries. “Well-met by bridgelight! Three of you are alive now, and against three I will simply slightly exert myself. This shall be straightforward, and simple, and my Iron shall perform its music of skull-crushing, and all those alive shall be happy and full of rejoicing.”
Hditr glared at him. “I’m not in the hoopery habit of getting beaten up by buttery boys.”
«Language» says that ‘buttery boys’ refers to a human pseudo-mating practice that should not be further described. The words seemed to sting Irontrias. “But I am in the habit of striking insolent badgers on the head until their brains burst forth and spill into the street.”
Vong cried, “Hditr!! Call upon the mighty gods of the Rogalian Pantheon to destroy this assassin!! I do not wish to be slaughtered!!”
Hditr smirked. “Which spell are you thinking of? Rejection of Pus, in which Ethelea cures certain diseases? An Effusion of Sweet Lemons, in which Ethelea causes a seed to sprout into a mature plant? Canticle of the Architect, in which Vlutscrag trebles the effectiveness of construction workers? Or perhaps you’re thinking of Dulce et Decorum, in which Vlutscrag makes the subject die instantly?”
“Yes, yes!! That one!! Make Irontrias die!!” cried Vong.
Hditr shrugged. “It only works on willing subjects. Irontrias? Are you willing to die right now, quickly and without pain?”
Irontrias scowled. “Precisely the opposite. I am willing to kill right now, slowly and painfully. The preconditions for your wicked magic shall not be fulfilled!”
“It’s not wicked magic, Ironny. It’s for mercy death. Very nice really,” said Hditr. “Anyways, Vong, I ain’t got any clubbery combat magic.” She folded her arms, with her hands in the voluminous sleeves of her semiformal travelling anti-bishoply robes.
“Quite right. The only one with the least bit of combat ability is the three-headed lizard, and even that isn’t anything to worry about,” said Irontrias. He stepped towards Hditr, raising his steel rod for a crushing blow.
Hditr whipped her hands out of her vast sleeves, and dashed a jar of some clear fluid into his face. Irontrias wailed in pain, let his rod fall, and frantically wiped at his eyes. «Cuisine» disapprovingly identified the fluid as an over-proof distillation of fermented oats, cheap and harsh-flavored, most reasonably used for (1) getting drunk quickly, or (2) as an inexpensive and inferior alternative to good brandy for flambéeing strongly-flavored dishes.
Well, that was a good suggestion on «Cuisine»‘s part. I tried to cast a «Cuisine» spell to flambée Irontrias, but «Cuisine» complained that Irontrias was not currently an entrée. So I darted forward a few steps and breathed my blue-purple flames on him. He caught fire quite nicely, pale cyanic alcohol flames covering his head and hands, and pouring down his shirt.
Hditr took the opportunity to pick up the Iron of Irontrias and administer a pair of sharp blows, one to each of his elbows.
”— !!” cried Vong. I turned one head to look at him. Softbelt, evidently giving up on the purity of his nickname, had a thin metal chain in both hands, wrapped around Vong’s throat. Eric was all in Softbelt’s face, waving his ghostly arms and yelping and trying to distract the strangler. It did no good. Softbelt evidently did not need to see to strangle.
I trotted over, and took advantage of the fact that Softbelt’s hands were busy and his eyes were blocked. Specifically I rammed the twirly horn on my right head into Softbelt’s belly, breathed ice into his face with my left and fire on one of his hands with my middle. The breath weapons didn’t do much. (They’re not really heavy enough to hurt something human-sized, unless the human has been properly marinated in high-proof liquor.)
But my horn made a nice big bloody hole. Softbelt cried, “Tllith, why are you being so stabulous? It is not you I am strangling, but the the traitor Vong! He is foeluous to you even as to me!” He did let go of Vong, and draw a knife and a buckler.
Hditr had, by this time, broken Irontrias’s knees and elbows. “Eric, get your intangible eyes over here! Tell me if this hoombly human is doing anything dangerous!” She strode into combat with Softbelt, aiming a quick blow at his knife.
He flicked it out of the way and tried to slice at her arm in riposte. He obviously knew what to do with a knife. I glared my large middle eye at his belly-wound, which instantly swelled into an angry scarlet, radiating streaks of infection all across his chest. (I presume – that’s what it usually does. He was wearing a shirt so I couldn’t see.)
I’m not exactly sure what happened for the next minute or two. Softbelt really knew how to fight with a knife, but he started out wounded and feverish. Hditr is tough and fast, but not very warlike. I’m fast and a good killer of small swamp creatures, but not very dangerous to human warriors several times bigger than me.
Softbelt cried, “Irontrias! A mite of assistance here, if you please! I am beset and woundulous!”
“I am keeping Vong out of the fight,” said Irontrias calmly.
“Vong is standing aside, dancing as if he most severeulously needs to pee, far away from you!” exclaimed Softbelt.
“I am keeping my eye upon him; he is mightily intimidated by me. My non-ocular activities are limited by my injuries,” explained Irontrias calmly.
“Do not speak of me as if I were not here!! As if I were a briscuit of venison being prepared for your delectation!! I am a mayor, and, hence, mighty!!” cried Vong. He bravely ran away.
“You are now credituous of driving him off,” cried Softbelt in a passion. “But this is useless. We were to kill him, not send him fleeing.”
So it wasn’t a brilliant combat on anyone’s part. Irontrias, already rendered hors de combat by his own Iron, was obliged to offer a commentary. “Oh, Softbelt! Watch out for … yes, that, that sharp horn about to pierce the back of your leg. Now quickly wheel forwards to block my stolen club with your buckler — la, you managed it! Swift, swift Softbelt! Disregard the flames playing over your shoulder, for they not reaching your hair and they are not hot enough to claim your shirt. But do not disregard Hditr’s clumsy slash at your elbow …thus … yes; had it connected you would have been in a poor way. Pay no attention to the dancing, japing ghost, for it cannot hurt you. If it obscures your vision, simply listen to my directives. Block low-left, feint low-left, slash right — hah, you have sliced the lizard’s flank, your knife has tasted the blood of both! But you should have moved your wrist away quickly; I fear the beast’s head of purple ice has generated a field of lightning, which has stung you.”
Softbelt cried, “I am knowulous of this thing, Irontrias! Your ex-post-facto commentary is disingenuous and disinusefuluous!”
Irontrias pouted. “Then I shall not give you a piece of advice which is on the tip of my tongue and which you will regret not knowing.”
“Your advice is as useless as your lying-there-ness!” said Softbelt. Then he fell beneath a mighty blow of a sledgehammer in Vong’s hands.
“Actually, that particular piece of advice might have been useful,” said Irontrias.
Hditr stared at Vong and his hammer. “You’re back.”
“I am mighty!! I told you!! Unarmed, I found it needful to go to yon nearby hardware store and purchase a weapon!! Then I can fight and fight well!!”
Hditr crouched by Softbelt. “You crushed his slumpering skull. I don’t know if he’s going to survive that.”
“He can die for all of me!! Let him suffer the concussions or the death for his attempt on my life!! But now!! You are wounded, Tllith is wounded!! You are not such great warrior-generals as I, for you have not come through this battle unscathed and victorious!! But I am generous!! A private doctor makes his place of office next to the hardware store!! I shall treat you to treatment for your wounds and your injuries!!” said Vong.
“Some observers might disagree with your asinine assessment of the fight,” grumbled Hditr. “But I’ll go to the doctor. What should we do with Irontrias and Softbelt?”
“They are defeated murderers and assassins!! Leave them to live or die as they see fit!!” said Vong.
“Actually, let’s take them to the doctor too. If we don’t the police will be here and we’ll probably get jailed or something,” said Eric. “That’s what it sounded like the law is like from when Suzie Spunglemarr got killed, anyhow.”
“The dumbledorous doctor better keep them there for a good long time!” said Hditr. “Hey, Tllith? You can undo the wounds you inflicted, can’t you?”
“Just the ones from my horn,” I said.
“Why don’t you do that now. I hear doctors don’t like when their patients die.” (So I did. Not the infections since those aren’t horn-wounds.)
Outcome: We were at the doctor’s for about three hours. One hour while he tended Irontrias and Softbelt’s most life-threatening injuries; one hour for treating us, and another hour while we left for lunch and came back to see how the matter was going. Softbelt will probably die; a human skull is not much protection from a sledgehammer. Irontrias was never in danger of dying from his wounds, but he will probably be ugly from burns on his face, and he will probably be stiff and slow from broken joints. We emptied the assassins’ purses to pay the doctor for everything — Vong wound up not actually treating us.
“Let’s go see the Idol of «Nudibranch» and get out of here,” said Hditr.
“Why see this idol in the first place?!! Will Tllith inscribe that mighty rune upon its wings?!!” wailed Vong. “I wish to depart!! I wish to be in a different universe than Xshaothshash!!”
“I don’t want «Nudibranch»,” I said.
“Research program in how the idols work. That’s the actual purpose of this trip,” said Hditr. “Remember?”
“Which nobody but you actually signed up for. Remember?” said Eric.