Wheel of Iron (Day 162)
Punishing the Innocent
Tarcuna, Csirnis, and I were eating at Porphirio’s. We knew How It Is Done At Porphirio’s, and, being polite alien invaders and native collaborators, politely asked waiters to carry all our plates and planned to leave a few extra thurnies at the end of the meal. Politeness did not seem to help very much. The waiters were awkward and haphazard, and spilled a large bowl of hot pea soup on Tarcuna out of very intentional carelessness. I’ve healed her of worse than minor burns, of course. And, since they’re not our hovens, and Csirnis is as Uplifty as my mother, we demonstrated just how fearsome and dreadful we monsters are by giving them a very small tip afterwards.
As usual, Tarcuna ate a modest breakfast for a hoven, and got a copy of the Magic Horn of Dorday to entertain Csirnis and me with as we ate a tiny breakfast with tiny bites. She looked at the front page. Her fur went miserably muddy, and she read intently, silently.
“What’s the news? You look stung!”
She pried her head away from the words. “The gendarmes raided the Red Spire and took my friends to prison. Three of them died, my friends I mean, and some gendarmes too. Can I read it all and find out who and how?”
I spread my forewings. “Certainly. And I will interrogate Ythac about it. With my claws if need be!” And that got some serious staring from the rest of the diners. Not the proper sort of staring that subjects should stare when one threatens their beloved ruler with injury, unfortunately.
Tarcuna finished her reading, and set the paper by her plate. “This is bad, this is terrible.” So we asked her to explain.
“Last night, the gendarmes arrested lots of us. Wormridden, I mean, from all over Dorday. All of the Red Spires, the deputy mayor, everyone I know,” she said. “They argued, demanded their legal rights, saying they weren’t wormridden anyways and even if they were it’s not a crime. Somehow the gendarmes got the idea of intrascoping them. They dragged them all to Dr. Wulpmegarn. Elesma went second, and she said she’d be quiet, but she struggled and twisted when they turned the intrascope on. Moving during the intrascoping must have injured her worm and spilled its poisons. She died before the intrascoping was done. And Tiri was sedated, but she died before she even got into the intrascope. We’d always said that sedation was very dangerous for wormridden; worms live in blood, and drugs can kill them so easily.”
“Oh, that’s a pair of sorrows,” I said, and curled my tail around Tarcuna’s shoulders.
She sniffled a bit, and continued. “When the other wormridden saw that, they went berserk. They’d have had to, their worms would make them try anything to survive. The Magic Horn didn’t give a lot of details. The deputy mayor got one of the gendarmes’ twistor pistol and used it and killed six of them — or maybe everyone did, I’m not sure. They shot him back and killed him. Oh, and Dr. Wulpmegarn’s laboratory got ruined, too.”
“That’s rather a disaster,” said Csirnis sympathetically. “Is there anything to be done, do you think? We can scold Ythac and Llredh; I do not think it is what they want!”
So I wrote a note to Ythac about it.
«I know, Jyothky. Llredh is furious. He’s given orders that the gendarmes never use intrascopes on the wormridden ever again.»
«That’s won’t help Elesma, though, will it?» My letters were all slashy in my imagination, and probably worse in his.
«No, it won’t. We’re still trying to figure out how to use the hovens for Llredh’s revenge. Ha! You should have seen the chief-of-gendarmes’ face when we told him he was going to be hunting cyoziworms. Even after the demonstration, hovens aren’t believing them.»
Tarcuna went to the deathyard to say farewell to Elesma. The rest of us didn’t, but there should have been plenty of actual amusement to do in a tourist city like Dorday, shouldn’t there?