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Chapter 98 - Wake up, people!
1. The King.
The King awoke the next morning completely refreshed, despite his dream. He always woke up refreshed because he slept in the secret Narwhal Position he had learned in India. It aligned his various heart chakras just so, and they formed the beautiful fractals that were the key to restful sleep. He put all thoughts of his dream aside, screwed his hands on and resolved to inspect the ruckus outside his window. He didn't even need to pick the crust out of his eyes to see – his eyes were clear and in perfect working order. A little bit of fuzz might have helped though, because what he saw outside was not relaxing at all.
2. Yvonne Larcher.
The King's girlfriend awoke with a terrific fright. Where there had been sleep and peace and contentment, there was suddenly the distress and panic of the King in an almighty flap. He ran into her room, screaming at a stage-whisper, and unthinkingly punched a chair to kindling with one blow because it was almost in his way. He powered through racks of clothes and dressing-mirrors by the dozen, scattering a pack of ladies-in-waiting like ninepins. He flew onto her bed and grabbed her naked shoulders in his mahogany vices. Her eyes were as wide and wild as his when their gazes met and for one awful, delicious instant, wherein the pit of her stomach fell right away, she hoped that this would be the moment he finally took her – violently and suddenly and to hell with Super-Chastity and Winter and all of it. He moved quickly. He came very close and he said,
“Yvonne! You need to go!” at a medium-level yell.
“Go where? Now?” she stammered when she had recovered.
“It has happened too soon and too close. We thought that Ground Zero would be in Spain for sure, or old Viking Europe – somewhere that isn't strong – but it's happening here, my love, it's happening right outside!”
He took her to the window, smashed out the glass and showed her the two clouds of people, heavy with bad vibes, that were squared off against each other on the steps of the Palace. At the sound of the broken window, many faces turned up at them. Voices rose from the ground below.
“Who's that up there?”
“I saw the King!”
“Your Highness! Come down and settle this!”
The King hurled himself back into Yvonne's room, taking out a cadenza and two handmaidens in his haste.
“They will find me and I will be sucked into this madness!” he screamed. Then he picked himself up from the mess he'd made and clenched his extendo-hand and his rocket hand. “So be it. I will slow them and delay them for as long as I am able. Yvonee, soon it will not be safe here. Go to Colonel Glowfist at the Bibliotheque Royale, tell him he must leave immediately. Tell him that are to go with him.” He ran to the door.
“Your Highness!” his girlfriend called out to him. “Where is Mr. Glowfist going? Where am I going? The library is miles away! You never tell me what you and your friends are -doing!-”
“It'll take too long, goodbye – I love every part of you!” he shouted as he slipped through the door and charged down the passageway. Yvonne put on her shoes and wondered what on Earth could be happening.
3. Colonel Glowfist
Colone Glowfist woke up with the now-familiar deathly pain gnawing at his stump and the faint idea in his head that someone was in his room and wanted him to expend a lot of effort on something he didn't really want to do. After he'd grabbed his staff propped up by the side of his beds and fired a few Heal and Anti-inflammatory spells at his leg, the image of the King's girlfriend formed in his mind and her frantic attempts at getting him out of bed became clear to him.
“Colonel Glowfist, you must get up, sir!” she hissed as she pulled his arm about, at this point, more out of irritation than a real effort to move him.
“No, I was up very late, give me until ten, woman,” he moaned. Yvonne straightened up, dropped his arm, let it fall limp over the side of the bed where his knuckles were dashed against the wrought-iron bedframe. He yelled in confusion and hurt. Yvonne waved her own fists in the air.
“Now listen to me Colonel, the King said a lot of stuff way too loud and I didn't understand any of it but I rode all the way here on my own and he said it's started and you've got to go and I've got to go and we've all got to go together and he won't even say why or where and I'm at my wit's end, I really am!” Her plea did the trick. Colonel Glowfist rolled out of his beds as fast as he could, crushing David's unoccupied demon cot when he thumped to the ground.
“It's started?” croaked Colonel Glowfist, unperturbed by the smashed bed beneath him.
“Yes!” cried Yvonne. “He showed me out the window – they're all arguing on the lawn outside the Palace. They're trampling the grass and I had to leave by the servant's entrance!”
“Roxy!” he spluttered. He waddled to the door of his little alcove and called into the gloom of the library's clock tower's staircase outside his room. “Mantis! Did you hear all of that?”
“Yes, honoured Colonel,” came a distant voice.
“Find Princess and bring her here!” called Glowfist. An answer from the dark was not necessary. He turned back to his room. The King's girlfriend, having nothing else to do, had begun to make the beds. “Don't do that now!” said Glowfist to her as he squeezed past to get to his staff. “You'll need to help little David,” he struck his staff on the floor and it dropped a dimension and spread out to form a door that led to a small classroom, lit by some floating magical orbs. Yvonne peered inside. There was a desk and a table inside, some stacks of exercise jotters, an empty bookshelf and not much else.
“What is that?” she asked plainly. Colonel Glowfist's sense of calm was getting away from him.
“It's where David is to take his lessons while we travel!” he said as he picked his Infernal Gauntlet off the bedside table. “But he has no books, nothing to take a lesson from! I've been at the Palace all the time, talking to the King about Ireland. I was going to do it tomorrow!” He squeezed a Haste spell out of his Infernal Gauntlet and the spell rolled and fumed across his substantial frame. “I must go to warn darling Roxy of this urgency. Yvonne, by the King, fill this classroom with David's books, please, and with food for the journey. He must learn!” He lumbered out of his room at a medium speed, clutching his wig to his scalp, and disappeared into the darkness beyond his door, his stump sounding a softening 'clomp clomp clomp' in time with his exit.
Yvonne Larcher was left with a half-made bed, a shimmering doorway and the smell of bachelor all around her.
“How do I know which books are David's?” she asked no one. Then, with a sigh, she finished making the bed.
4. Roxy Tripfoot
It was surely Colonel Glowfist's intention to be the one to gently wake Roxy and softly alert her to the Big Important Stuff he was intimately embroiled in, and then to give her the exact instructions that would lift her from the danger and confusion. He would be her saviour. He would see her safely leave this peril behind and, when next they met, she would remember this great deed he had done. It all stacks up. You have to be your best all the time. He arrived at her room in the Palace with all of his Haste Spells exhausted. He had somehow managed to exhaust an Awesome Horse on his flight from the library, and it had evaporated in protest halfway through the journey. But he was here now. He would be her rock.
However, when he came through the open door of her room, he found her already awake with the other members of her Adventure Team assembled around her. She was quickly and unfussily overseeing the preparations for her upcoming departure.
“Flightfeather, get down to the kitchens and have them put all of the leftovers from last night into Tupperwares. Ah, Cajun, you're back - did you get the walking boots? They had them in Bernadetta's size? Good. Colonel! My love! So good to see you – David's just getting changed into his travel clothes.” she said all this in one smooth line. She was making things happen. Colonel Glowfist felt that he was in the way as soon as he entered the room.
“Roxy, it is not safe, the Civil War is beginning, they are all gathered together outside, it -”
“Yes Colonel, I saw it all perfectly well from my window and heard the King's shouts an hour ago. They've all cleared out now, as you would have noticed,” she said. Colonel Glowfist hadn't noticed that the courtyard was empty, he'd been too focused on finding her. He let his mouth move around his face for a few seconds, but as he did so he saw that he did not have long before Roxy went back to her organising and order-giving. He had to be quick.
“I need to talk to you,” he said. “Outside!” he cleverly added. Roxy gave only the tiniest pause, but for all her display of coldness, she was highly sad at being kept apart from the Colonel for another adventure. She'd been greatly heartened by his dandification, for it seemed to her that he'd turned a corner and left behind his bad case of bandit self-harm. The finery and powders were not exactly to her taste, if she had to be honest, and he was still so dreadfully girthful – but, all told, she would miss her friend and proper goodbyes are very important. She stepped outside to the corridor with him, leaving the others about their tasks. They encountered David out there, having just returned from the shower.
“Ah David, how nice to see you – we're just about to leave, you know. Go to the library and help your father's sweetheart with the packing – she's probably making a mess of things as we speak.” David nodded, stole a glance at Roxy and turned to go, when Roxy leaned forward and put a halting hand on his shoulder.
“I think the packing can wait, Colonel, until I've bid goodbye to my future husband,” she said with a smile. Glowfist stepped back and glummed up. Just now it had been his turn for a proper goodbye. She took David a few paces down the unlit corridor of the Palace. She crouched down to get level with him and said a few things that Glowfist mostly couldn't hear, but the message seemed to be that David should be brave and stay brave. Colonel Glowfist stood in the doorway and tapped his stump against the floor. No duh, David was brave, thought Colonel Glowfist. He'd been invincible for most of his life. He'd seen him take out a swamp full of alligators, not to mention dozens of rustlers and rattlesnakes and the like. The boy grew more magical by the day. He didn't need to be told how great he was all the time – it might spoil him. And it's not like he deserved special treatment just because his mother was dead. Colonel Glowfist's mother was killed by Terrorthaw's science project back in the day but -he- didn't get Brave Credits or any sweet hugs and soothings for it, did he?
Roxy said her last goodbye and David ran off in the direction of the library. She rose and faced Glowfist. She inspected him for a few beats.
“Don't think mean thoughts, Colonel,” she said. He uncrossed his arms and stopped tapping his stump on the floor. He'd been an embarrassingly open book. “You can't be the guardian of a boy you're jealous of, you'd spite him every day with a thousand tiny thorns,” she said, and as she did she took a step towards him. He held his breath. “You don't deserve this, you know,” she said before she kissed him. It was a gypsy kiss – strong and quick and full of secret messages and hidden meaning. Colonel Glowfist had never been kissed like that before in his life and he hoped that every day he lived could contain a kiss of that sort. “May we meet again soon, Colonel,” she said, leaving him flushed and dehydrated. “Look after the boy – we're all bound to him, one way or another,” she melted back into the light shining out of her room. “And lose some weight, please,” she finished. He blinked and worked up the saliva to lick his lips then popped his head around the door to say farewell to the others. Roxy gave him one last small smile and then he was hobbling through the brightening hallways of the Palace, his head swimming, his wig itching, on his long way back to the library.
5. Timothy Clashradish
Some time previously, before the sun had even considered rising, Timothy Clashradish came rudely to consciousness, still quite drunk, as his good friend, Jacob Hillmounter – who'd been his crèche-mate in Ms. Merriweather's nursery, been drinking with him in Leiden when Sergeant Fistknocker had come recruiting, had gone through the Academy with him, marched alongside him on the road to Dark Spain and Cario, joined the Royal Brussels Guard on his recommendation, rode next to him on Gappy's magical back where they starved and suffered quite terribly, and had been at his side as slew legions of the undead in Romania – this lifelong companion of his was trying to murder him with one of his own shoes. He was spinning it up by the lace and then raining down the blows upon Timothy's side. It hurt, even through the duvet.
“Die!” barked Jacob, swaying uneasily.
“Jacob, no!” shouted Timothy.
“She was into me!” said Jacob to the accompaniment of another shoe-strike.
“Obviously she wasn't so much,” said Timothy, but his voice was muffled because he was holding his duvet up and stretching it out to form a shield. Jacob knew the tactical counter to this, which was to hammer on Timothy's hands. He was serious about this murdering.
The fly lady at the eye of this fraternal storm then came to Timothy's door, for she had stopped vomiting, and then she shrieked at the appalling use of shoes that she saw inside. Timothy had been too drunk for entirely effective and prolonged lovemaking and he had snored violently throughout the night and ignored her repeated requests for a glass of water, but she had been into him, had liked his dancing and drinking skills and had been glad that he was a Taurus, so she felt bad that he was getting badly shoe-whipped. She realised that she had to stop these two going on like kids fighting over a dolly. She would shout loudly to get their attention, point out their folly while she had it and make it clear that she considered this behaviour to be supremely unattractive, and then she would leave, thus removing a volatile element from the conflagration and allowing a reconciliation to rise from the embarrassment. She would have a Palace Guard escort her home and she would call the following day, when she was feeling better.
But when she subconsciously reached for a crop of magic that would turn the preceding description into real events, she came up short. It was through no fault of her own – the magic was just not to be found. Instead, what she did was run out in front of Jacob, waved her arm about in an attempt to grab the shoe from the seasoned and high-level warrior and snarled in his face that she -loved- Timothy and -hated- him and that he wasn't even a Taurus. She was struck across the face with the shoe and then Timothy was on his feet and, naked as a summer breeze, leapt through the space between him and his old friend / new adversary. Their fighting spilled out into the hall and took them down the winding stairs, with the fly lady (whose name was Jean, everybody) screaming and cursing at their backs all the way. The fuss they kicked up alerted the guards on duty and stirred the men in the garrison from their beds. When they crept into the angrily echoing hallways and saw their respected Lieutenant Commanders in undignified combat with just one shoe and one pair of boxer shorts between them, they too, to a man, thought first that they should do what they could to defuse the situation, to make peace and mend friendship and to assert that everything would look different in the morning. But then they found, to a man, that the energies required to act so cool and understanding were no longer within their grasp and soon they were taking sides – Jacob's or Timothy's – and they based their decision on petty things, like which of the two had been the last to speak to them or which one was taller or who was more naked. Then came the second wave of side-taking, where men picked sides not on account of Jacob or Timothy, but on the account of those who had already taken a side. Every quarrel, every tease or unkind remark, every time the last sausage had been snatched in the mess hall, every towel-lashing and dirty look – they were all remembered then by the soldiers and guards of Laeken Palace, and they organised their faction lines to those recalled scowls, slights and suspicions. Then came the third wave of choosing, where people would pick their side based on the feel of the crowd – which one was bigger, which one had more girls in it, which one was more colourful or louder or whatever.
By the time Jacob and Timothy's sweaty grapple (refereed by the shrieking Jean) had gained too much mass and momentum to be contained by the walls of the Palace and the combatants had toppled over the steps that led to the regal courtyard, the show had gathered an audience of nine hundred garrisoned soldiers, two hundred of the wenches bedding with them, eleven excited dogs and some assorted servants, night-owls and slaves. Their numbers were split evenly down the middle – one half singing the praises and cheering the strength of Jacob, the other half evangelising the deeds and works of Timothy. The competing crowds furnished their respective champions with clothes and armour from their own bodies, along with items and weapons from their own inventories. And so the bare flesh, boxer shorts and whirling shoe was replaced with an ill-fitting but functional mish-mash of plates and helmets and some cheap swords that the donors did not mind to lose. The clang and clatter of steel on borrowed steel was greatly masked by the thrill of the crowd and, rising above even that din, were the complaints and curses of Jean – the fly lady.
Even from within his fortified Narwhal sleeping position, those screams were able to penetrate the King's dreaming. In his sleep, he took them to be the awful cries of She-Who-Shall-Never-Again-Be-Named, rising from her pauper's pyre, all apart and aflame, immune to physical attacks, screaming all the way, promising dread and death and destruction...
Soon there was a crash from the King's girlfriend's window and several young men from both factions looked up to see the King looking down upon them. They knew that the King would pick the right side, the true side.
“Your Highness! Come down and settle this!” said one, while the fighting continued.
“Yes, do!” said another. And then everyone was saying it and things just like it. It was the cool thing to say. In no time at all, the King was at the top of the Palace steps, stood before the opposing factions and, at last, Timothy and Jacob's fight broke for a cut-scene as they both fell to their knees and prostrated themselves before the King and blurted out their accounts of the night's events while Jean stood behind them, suddenly silent.
“He started in, My Highness -”
“Unprovoked aggression -”
“We were out partying -”
“Look how fly this lady is, my liege,”
“She was into me -”
“She was totally into me -”
“Broke all the laws of Europe!”
“Hit me with a shoe!”
“ENOUGH!” roared the King. For a beat, the Palace was as silent as the grave. Even the crickets and frogs that made a home on the grounds fell still. “Everyone go back to bed!” said the King. “When the sun has found a decent angle in the sky, the cooks will make us a breakfast the likes you've never seen. After breakfast I will show you the new coin tricks I discovered on my travels.”
The response was instantaneous.
“They'll smother us in our sleep!” said a representative of Jacob's camp.
“They'll put toothpaste on our faces!” said one of Timothy's men.
“They'll poison our share of the breakfast!”
“They'll put laxatives in the juice!”
“They'll sharpen the coin, Your Highness, so that it will cut your hands.”
“They'll heckle your performance and make sarcastic remarks!”
“They hate you, Your Highness!”
“Timothy's side hates you!”
“Jacobs men hate you!”
Then someone grabbed the King's arm and began to pull him towards the crowd. The King recognised him. He'd been there in Romania and fought the undead at the Dracula King's castle. He was one of the thousand or so who had returned to Brussels after the King had disappeared. Those thousand men now made up the bulk of the highest-ranking officers in Europe's army. He commanded a lot of men and was of a relatively high level, and he'd sent the King handmade cards on every birthday but, even with all these qualities, he could not move the King by pulling on his arm. He tried to state his case to the King as he did so:
“Stand with us, Your Highness, for we are the ones that truly love you. Join us and Timothy and we shall crush these haters!” As the King turned to answer him, he felt a tug at his other arm. The one behind this this new tugging was another who the King recognised – but let's just come right out and say that the King knew the names, birthdays and favoured sports team of everyone in Europe because he cared so much. This man was also a soldier, a grizzled veteran of the Palace Guard and a lifelong supported of the new Jacob faction, who'd fought magnificently against Terrorthaw's last invasion. The King had seen him utterly destroy seven gypsies during the defence of the city and remember that gypsies were hardcore. He too had sent the King birthday cards, and the King remembered that he had often used three colours of glitter, which in those days was just as impressive as the gypsy-destroying. He too pleaded for the King to join his side. He tugged insistently.
The King tried to be patient. There was no way that the men pulling on his arms could command the strength to physically move him to their respective sides of the Palace steps. If he could just remain resolute and steadfast until everyone calmed down, he could reason with them and let them know what assholes they were being. This wasn't even something he would have needed his Ring Of Diplomacy for, the case was as clear as the nose on his face. He could wait all night if need be.
This is what started the European Civil War: one sharp and sudden tug. The tug was made by the veteran Palace Guard and what he tugged at was the King's wooden hand – his wooden extendo-hand, which had been so useful during the Bird Wars for swinging from particularly-surfaced ceilings that appeared suddenly all over Europe, allowing him to land on some otherwise-inaccessible platforms, where he found many sacks of money or a vital lever to pull. Point is, the King's extendo-hand was old and oversensitive and tended to go off at comically inappropriate time or when his Super-Chastity was being tested, for a cheap laugh. When the veteran Palace guard gave that fateful tug, he triggered its extendo mechanism and was punched right off his feet, through the air and into the crowd at the bottom of the steps.
First, the King's lightning mind computed exactly what the outcome of this punching accident would be, and he released from his soul a 'No' noise with more 'o's' than would be possible in this modern age, what with air pollution and pharmaceutical companies mucking everything up. The King's 'No' would have looked like this:
Second, the Timothy crowd surged at the Jacob crowd, thinking that the accidental punch had been an instruction to attack their age-old enemy. The Jacob crowd, conversely, had seen the accident for an accident but had somehow interpreted the King's 'No' as being a cry of 'Jacoooo(etc.)b!” This is how it would always be. No matter how clouded by uncoolness the minds of Europe became, no one could imagine themselves aligned against their beloved King. The first blows of the Civil War were stuck with his imagined blessing. The first fatality was dealt by a young fresh-faced member of the Palace guard upon his bunkmate, and both had the King's name on their lips as the sword pierced his heart.
The King facepalmed and the facepalm was epic. It really had come to this. They would fight and they would kill for any reason in front of them and he knew that he was the biggest reason of all. He would have to do something drastic – something he wasn't sure he could even do while his powers were so low.
He needed to concentrate and the mild slaughter in front of him was really upsetting him. It was growing less mild and more extensive by the minute, with civilians and housemaids and children and other NPCs joining this side or that. Soon all of Brussels would be involved – then all of Belgium, and the fight would spread across all of Europe exactly as the awesome party had begun just a few weeks before. Well, if there was going to be a big fight, it might as well be a war. Wars have rules, they have a purpose and they have a leader. These would be his gifts. He called for silence. Silence came. He knew it would not last for long so he spent the time dearly. He breathed deeply and spiritually, brought his hands together as if in prayer, grit his teeth and then screamed and pulled his hands apart as if he were prying open the doors of Heaven. Slowly came apart his hands, first at the rate of a hair's breadth a minute, accelerating to an inch a minute as his hands came to a rabbitsbreadth apart, then a foot a minute, a metre a minute and then, suddenly, a mile a minute, and then the King's hands were so far apart they were on opposite sides of the Palace's front step. Attached to each hand was a wrist, an arm... and a King. The King stared over at himself and the King stared back. Then both of them looked out at the completely astonished crowd.
One King was standing in front of the Jacob crowd and the other was standing in front of the Timothy crowd. Each side got a King, that's how it would be. The King looked deeply into his own eyes and both of them understood their roles. They stuck out their one hand at each other. The King of Jacob's camp had retained the powerful rocket-hand and the King of Timothy's camp had inherited his useful extendo-hand from the fission. This was the limit of their differences – in every other aspect of form of mind and voice they were identical. Otherwise it wouldn't be fair. The rocket-hand was formed in the shape of a scissor, the extendo-hand was flat, akin to a sheet of paper.
Best out of three.
The crowds watched enraptured as the ancient and mystical ritual named Rocket-King as the one favoured by fortune. At first the crowds surged again, thinking this was a sign to attack, but the Kings called for calm, and the crowds gave calm for a short while, though the uncoolness in their hearts could not be tamed forever.
“Close your eyes, my followers!” bade the Rocket-King. The ritual had named him Seeker. He closed his eyes and so did the several hundred people assembled before him in their night-clothes.
“One!” roared the King. The crowd echoed him. “Two!” he went on, and again the crowd repeated it. They went on like that until at last they reached the ancient and mystic number of 100, lord of all numbers, whereupon they opened their eyes and saw that the opposing camp had disappeared without a trace.
The Rocket-King ran through the crowd's body, passing out through its rear and continued his run out to Brussels, to Europe, into the new day ahead.
6. Axe Axewound
Out the back, in the little mission on the Palace grounds, Father Dominoes shuffled speedily to the guest bedroom which had been Axe Axewound's ward for the past few weeks. A messenger boy had awoken him and given him some very specific instructions from the King. His staff of healers and witches and lesser priests were nowhere to be found, but he could hear the distant shouts from the other side of the Palace and would have to assume the worst. He searched in the pale light of the new morning for a lantern and spoke loudly and clearly so that Axe could hear him.
“Now Axe, I don't want to panic you, really I don't, but I know you don't scare easily, so what I am to say, I'll say unadorned,” he stammered. He didn't want Axe to get a word in edgeways for fear that he would start predicting things again. He'd been predicting things all day yesterday and the day before, often in the mornings. They were little things – a certain tree falling on the Palace grounds, a missing hairbrush, a fridge in the Royal Kitchens that was about to fail, a flock of birds flying overhead at exactly three 'o clock... He was ever so eager to make these prophecies known to whoever came to see him, from Astrid to the lowliest bed-changer, and Father Dominoes would be very tired of hearing them by the end of the day. He did hope that today's batch could wait until they'd got themselves organised.
“So here it is – we're going to pack up our things, very carefully so as not to forget anything, we'll summon all of your animal friends out there, then we're going to go to Hell. It's safer there, I think. There are a lot of rooms kept open for me so I'm sure we can put you up in one and I can talk some some healing demons into looking after you. I've got quite some clout in Hell now, you see.” He came across a lantern at last – right on the bedside table, where he'd left it, of course. Axe could have made a -useful- prediction and told him where it was, but that's not the way they seemed to go, unfortunately. “Once you're, ah, back on your feet, so it were, I can arrange a path through Hell back to Celtland for you. Most of Hell's restructuring around there is complete now and I don't suppose it will be too much of a bother to pinpoint a gate...” He lit the lantern and the wan morning was brighten up to mid-afternoon levels. Axe's bed was brought into fine detail.
Axe was gone.
Father Dominoes put his hand to the bed. It was cold. A short search of the grounds found that his animal friends had gone too. Father Dominoes did not know what to do.
7. Princess Princess
Rigor Mantis, with a manner as soft as a vampire bat lapping at a bloody slit, whispered the Princess into wakefulness. She had not been difficult to find. She had built a squat fortress out of the library's books and made made a nest of paperbacks inside of it, upon which she lightly snored atop a eunuch. As she came to, she grabbed listlessly at his chest and thighs while giggling under her breath and the assassin recoiled to the entrance of the book den.
“You smell nice, I want to smell you,” murmured Princess. Rigor Mantis coughed.
“Princess, this is no time for games. You must prepare yourself for a long journey. We are to leave very soon, very soon,” he said.
“I'll need my things then,” said Princess, idylly tossing aside a few volumes of bard-verse.
“Tell me where your belongings are and I will fetch them, my Princess,” said Rigor Mantis. Princess yawned.
“They're back in the Tower, we'll have to go there first, quickly,”
“My Lady, the Tower Of Super-Chastity is in France,” he said mildly.
“I know that, you idiot.”
“We are headed North, to the Chillinous...”
“Go and get me my things. It isn't -that- far. You must have travelled further than that before, mustn't you? I'm the Princess and you're the smelly man. My other eunuchs are there and I can't go North without them, it would be bad luck. You wouldn't be the one to bring -bad luck- on a -Princess,- would you?” she said. Then she looked at him, smiled and began to take off her night-gown. He looked away.
“We have wasted enough time,” he muttered and was gone from the fortress of books. “You don't look after books,” he scolded as he left. He drifted up the stairs to Colonel Glowfist's room and found Yvonne sorting the archmage's clothes into piles of whites, brights and darks.
“I don't know -what- to do about these books,” she tutted to him. “I can't tell one from the other. David hasn't even put his name on the right ones!” Rigor Mantis sat down on the immaculate bed and massaged his eyeballs. There never used to be so many women about. There was just Sally and she did what she was told, on the occasions she wasn't dead. Presently, David returned, as did Colonel Glowfist and there was a lot of fuss and bother about the books and the piles of clothes that Yvonne had made because his clothes didn't even need washing and then Princess appeared and started screaming about her eunuchs and Rigor Mantis had to go outside for a little bit.
The Palace was deserted and the King was gone. Fires had broken out across Brussels. The smoke turned the sky over the city to a smudge of brown. He did not feel that he was in Europe any more. This was but a place, these things he saw were but buildings and trees. He did not know when Europe would be back.
End Of Chapter 98