The Best of the Mage (Page 50 and 51)

TheBestoftheMage_1987_8_029.pdf

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Title

The Best of the Mage (Page 50 and 51)

Subject

Science Fiction

Description

These pages describe the continuation story of The Dwarf That Knew Too Much by Harry Dolan.

Creator

Rizky Suwoto

Source

The Best of the Mage (Number 8, Fall 1987)

Publisher

Colgate University Student Association

Date

Fall 1987

Rights

The Georgia Tech Archives and Records Management Department has made every effort to secure proper permissions for posting items on the web site. In this instance, however, it has either not been possible to identify or contact the current copyright owner. If you have information regarding the copyright owner, please contact us at archives-copyright@library.gatech.edu

Format

paper

Language

English

Type

Science Fiction

Document Item Type Metadata

Text

have arrested me, but there was a huge crowd, and they did not wish to cause a scene."
"Well," I asked, after a minute or two of unbearable silence and an abrupt shift of mood. "What do we do now?" "Oh, I don't know. Warn the king. Catch the bad guys. Collect the reward. That's my thinking." I mulled it over. "Works for me." Just then Bertrand the Yellow came in off the street, followed by a staggering Mephistopheles. The eat's tail and backside were charred; most of the hair had been singed off, but what was left seemed to have been dyed brown. "I imagine," said the dwarf, "that there's a fascinating story behind this. . . . " "There is, there is." Bertie ignored us. "I just saw a couple of palace thugs headed this way, Ace," he said. "What have you done now?" I shot a glance at the dwarf. "Did I mention that I may have been trailed?" he asked sheepishly. "I was certain I'd lost them ... . " "Nice of you to tell me now," I said, lifting him up and tossing him over the bar. Ace started to protest but not very strongly; he seldom passed up a chance to give the authorities trouble. Bertie scooped up Mephistopheles and hustled off to his booth, while I stashed the Kirinji shortsword and took my seat at the end of the bar, trying to look inconspicuous. A pair of Royal Elites stalked in, all decked out in fancy dress uniforms with silver piping and lots of medals. I knew one of them: his name was Malcolm and he was assigned to Prince Farris' family. The other one must have been a fresh recruit. They strode right up to the bar, and Malcolm addressed Ace. "We're looking for a dwarf," he said. The barman arched his bushy eyebrows suggestively. "We don't cater to that sort of thing here, boys. Try Madame Flannery's, two blocks down on the right. You can get anything there, no questions asked. Tell 'em Ace sent ya."
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The dwarf tried to stifle a chuckle from his hiding place under the bar. "Wh,at was that?" Malcolm asked. "Rats," answered Slippery Ace, breaking into a broad grin that exposed his yellowed teeth. "Little bastards are everywhere." "Sounded like a laugh." ''They've got a sense of humor." Malcolm grabbed Ace by the collar and hissed, "I don't, asshole." He shoved the barman backward so his head struck the silver mirror above the sink, jarring it and changing the angle. Now it reflected an image of the dwarf curled up underneath the bar. The two Guards saw him and began to climb over. Ace was pissed. He snatched up the loaded crossbow that was part of the arsenal he kept stashed behind the bar for these occasions and plugged Malcolm in the left shoulder. I drew my sword and swung at the second Pretty Guard who was crouching on the bar. The blow struck behind his right knee, causing him to lose his balance and topple backward to land headfirst on the hard wooden floor. He wasn't moving, and I was tempted to test the point of my blade on his smooth-shaven face and render him permanently unfit for duty, but it was too late: the fall had broken his neck. Back at the ranch, Ace was reloading and the dwarf was up and ready with a mace in his hands. Malcolm decided he didn't like the odds and broke for the side door. He made it through, but I followed and chased him down the alley, dodging heaps of broken bottles, half a dozen discarded chamber pots, and one ripe corpse. I finally tackled him in a pile of rotten tomatoes and wrestled him over onto his back, pinning his arms down in the muck. "Nice to see you, Malcolm," I said, spitting in his eye. "We've got so much to catch up on." He wouldn't look at me. He just kept pressing his chin into his shoulder, trying to stop the
bleeding. There seemed to be an awful lot blood for such a small wound, but the tomato stains confused the issue. "You were one of the prince's assassins, weren't you," I said, twisting his left arm until he howled. "Me and the dwarf got it all worked out." That got his attention. "Why'd you do it, Malcolm?" I went on. "Why?" He swallowed hard. "It was for the best," he said, "The king's heir should be a warrior, not some pansy mage." His reference to the Little Wizard only made me angrier. I released his lifeless arm and picked up my sword from where it lay in the slop, setting it against his throat. "Wait!" he begged. "I didn't kill the prince, Farris did. I just distracted you while he came up behind and knocked you out. He told me to finish you off, but I couldn't do it. We're brothers." Slowly I smih~d. "You're right," I whispered, soft and sweet. "I can't kill you." He let out a sigh and closed his eyes. They sprang open again when I plucked a medal from his chest and drew its pin across his cheek from ear to lip. He mouthed the word "no" as I carefully repeated the process on the other side. Tears mingled with his blood and rolled down his face. I'd had enough for now. Getting to my feet, I tossed the medal in the gutter. "Come on, brother," I said, grasping his good arm to haul him up, "let's go for a walk." I got him up on his knees before his body went limp and fell forward into the muck. After checking to see that he was still breathing, I kicked him in the ribs and went back to get Ace to help me carry him. When we returned, of course, he was gone.
Four of us sat around a heavy oaken table, five counting the cat. Ace had ditched the second Pretty Guard in the alley and locked all the doors. "We must get word to the king," the dwarf began. He was trying to look solemn, but his nose
was about level with the tabletop, and I was having trouble keeping a straight face. "You might send him a letter," Bertie suggested weakly. Mephistopheles purred in reproach. "What about slipping into the palace and fmding the king' s chambers?" the dwarf said to me. "You know the way." I shook my head. "Sure I do," I said, "but after the assassination Prince Farris tripled the guard. We'd have to be invisible to sneak through." The dwarf stared at me as if I were a slow child. "Oh yeah," I said, slapping my forehead as it dawned on me, "this is fantasy."
* * *
The dwarf and I entered the palace invisibly through the barracks. Bertie had provided a pair of potions that reeked of batwing and eye-of-newt but did the job well enough. My longsword rested in its sheath on my left hip and the Kirinji blade hung on my right; both were strapped to my legs so they wouldn't swing around, and I walked like I'd been riding a horse for three days. The dwarf followed me, tip-toeing along on stockinged feet, holding my belt so we wouldn't be separated. We turned a comer and headed toward the royal kitchen. It was midnight, and the dingy passages we travelled were abandoned save for the guards walking their patrols. Some were my old friends, and I wondered whether they were loyal to the king or privy to the schemings of Prince Farris. Others I didn't recognize, and I made invisible faces at them as they passed. Halfway up the stairs that led from the kitchen to the living chambers I heard the pitter-patterofpursuing feet and realized we were being followed. We stopped. Looking back through the dwarf I saw the prince's Saldarian puppy, ra~ged and undernourished, struggling to climb steps that weren't made for its tiny feet. When it caught up to us I was startled to see its pouting eyes gazing
curiously into mine. I checked to confirm that I was still invisible and reminded myself that the little tyke was, after all, the gift of an Archmage. I motioned it on ahead, raising a finger to my lips. It nodded, understanding. The guard at the top of the stairs stopped the pup and asked it for the password, playfully scratching it between the ears and rubbing· its furry white belly while the dwarf and I crept by and made our way toward the imperial suite in the east wing. The little dog savored the guard's attention, licking his hand affectionately, then broke away and followed us at a discreet distance.
The corridor outside the king's chamber was strangely deserted. I mosied up to the door, tried the handle, and found it was locked. The dwarf let go of my belt and whispered that he'd keep an eye out for guards. Pressing my ear to the wood, I could hear muffled shouting from inside. I was beginning to wonder whether I should bust the thing down when the prince's puppy tugged on my pant leg and shook its head. I stepped back as it turned its face up and stared at the lock. Its gray ears quivered, its brown eyes watered, and its fragile body shuddered with the effort, but finally there was a faint snick and the catch was released. I looked around for the dwarf, but didn't see him of course and didn't dare call out to him. Gently I eased the door open and let the puppy trot through, following silently. The first thing I saw was the king sitting in a wicker chair by his bed. He was wearing his royal pajamas and was bound and gagged with decorative handkerchiefs of fme Ekkothian silk. I feared I might have interrupted some intimate moment, but the queen was nowhere in sight. "Who's there?" Prince Farris demanded, crossing the room to investigate. "Ah, it's only my poor nephew's little mutt." He slammed the door. "Malcolm, I thought I told you to lock this." Malcolm seemed to have recovered from his fainting spell rather nicely; his left arm still hung
loosely at his side, but his right cradled a three-shot crossbow. It was pointed at the king. I approached him cautiously, intending to seize the weapon and take charge of the situation, but before I could reach him he blinked and took a step back, turning the crossbow on me. "Holy socks!" he shouted, and I knew the effects of Bertie's potion had worn off. ''Well, Lieutenant,'' Prince Farris said, turning his eyes upon me and covering his surprise. "I fear I've underestimated you. You're a clever man." He ran his fmgers through his thick black curls. "Perhaps you can help me with a problem I've been considering." Gesturing toward the king, he went on. "I've been trying to convince my dear brother that he should abdicate his throne in favor of his legal heir." He smiled, revealing perfect teeth. "I had thought that in his grief over the tragic loss of his son he might step down on his own, but he has proven most obstinate, and I have grown impatient." The king looked on, gray and weary but defiant, as Farris continued. "I am beginning to think that I should have dealt with my lord the way I dealt with his son ... but one hesitates to kill a brother." The dwarf had said the same thing. So had Ma1colm. I was getting tired of the repetition. ''It's a pity all the Kirinji' s were killed," I said sarcastically. "One of them might come in handy about now." "Yes, yes," he said, appreciating my remark, "but that particular scenario has been used; I wouldn't care to try it again." He stroked the dimple on his chin. "However, I have another to propose: a fonner Elite Guard, angry at having been discharged, breaks into the palace and takes revenge upon his king. What do you think?" I wasn't fond of the idea myself, but Malcolm clearly liked it: the comers of his mouth turned upward, and the cuts I had made earlier expanded his grin from ear to ear. I tried to change the subject. "Looks to me like the R.E.G. 's
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