The sounds of Trink’s pursuit die in the distance as the adrenalin of battle subsides, and the company takes stock of the mayhem. Kibu gives James a kick, but the swordsman remains inert, and the seriousness of his wounds becomes apparent. He whistles to Nhymeri, and she and Yachak pool their talents to bring James around and tend to his concussion and the axe wound in his chest. Marina checks the perimeter for any other foes or lurking danger, while Mully struggles to gather up the horses and calm the skittish warhorse, Mountain
Just as this is getting under way, a shriek is heard from the house and the massive figure of the cook comes hurtling towards the group at a startling rate, waving a large meat cleaver in her hand. This is the same cook who had been seething in anger at Kibu over the theft of the servants’ food, and as she spots the lad standing near the huddling healers, she veers towards him and closes the distance before he has a chance to react. With a tearful cry, she grabs him into a bear hug against her huge, pillowy bosom and whirls him around in a Fantasia-worthy pirouette. Relieved more than embarrassed, Kibu endures this with as good grace as he can muster. He can’t understand her words, but her gestures eloquently convey her invitation to come into the house for a big lunch. As interested as Kibu is in this proposition, he indicates that he’ll be in a bit later after affairs in the courtyard have been ironed out.
Weed has been keeping a low profile and trying to stay out of Kibu’s sight while, under the pretense of searching for his thrown knife, he casually loots a few of the fallen enemies. His cover is blown, however, when Kibu asks why his friends are here, and the guileless Nhymeri tells him it’s because that blond kid over there warned them the Chateau was under attack. Weed tries to put the best face on it, but Kibu’s suspicions are aroused. For the moment, Nhymeri steers him away from that line of inquiry by asking what Kibu himself is doing up here, which none of them expected. Kibu grins and says “Wait till you see what I have.”
Weed chimes in, seizing on the point that they are surprised to find Kibu here, but he says too much, and Kibu narrows his eyes. “You tried to trick me,” he says, as he produces the key which he had stolen from Weed the night before. He gloats over having found it in Weed’s bag, prompting Weed to mutter, “Gonna have to look out for this one.” In indignation, Weed rants that if Kibu had only done as he was told, none of this would have happened, to which Kibu replies that if he hadn’t been up here, “these people would have killed everyone in that house.”
“You don’t know that,” counters Weed. “You don’t know that they would have done that. They were coming up here to look for yo—I…they were coming up…”
“What?” say both Nhymeri and Kibu. Weed stammers for an out and starts walking towards the gate, picking up on his theme that they all need to leave town as soon as possible, but Kibu cuts him off. Marina points out that it was Weed, after all, who told Edibal that Kibu was up here, although the fact that Weed thought he was lying to Edibal when he said that is not yet made clear to Kibu. Anyway, Marina continues, they can’t go anywhere while there are thugs attacking Vastavika, and wasn’t this whole threat precipitated by Kibu stealing something from Edibal in the first place?
Now Kibu is thrown somewhat on the defensive, but Weed can’t keep his mouth shut. “You, Kibu, you made a mistake. Edibal is not a man to be twifled with. These thugs are just the tip of the icebug. Do you know what that means, ‘tip of the icebug?’”
At that point Mully pipes up that his boss, Thornton, would like to know what’s going on and who all these people are (or were, as the case may be). Marina presses the point, trying to be discrete, that Kibu’s action has now put Vasta in danger. “Whatever,” mutters Kibu, and then a thought occurs to him, and he starts marching towards the back of the house. “Come back heah soon!” hollers Weed. “Don’t wun away again!” Having received no direct response to his question, Mully explains what’s happening as best he can to Thornton, and then mentions to Nhymeri that there is another ruffian back there who doesn’t seem to be dead.
James is doing better now, bandaged, sitting up, and, while somewhat groggy under his meds, fully aware of what is going on. Noting this, Yachak feels free to slip into a momentary trance to check in with his eagle. He can see Trink far down the mountain path, well behind but keeping pace with the rider ahead of her, whose horse is showing signs of fatigue. It will not be long before they are both too distant to distinguish from the other travelers on the coast road approaching Timble-tain. There are no other threats approaching the Chateau that he can see, so he keeps his counsel and continues to monitor James.
Marina offers to stay with him if Nhymeri wants to join Kibu. Meanwhile, Weed doggedly forges ahead with his reverse-charm offensive, taunting James for having fallen in battle. “Hey, I thought you said you could handle these things on your own.” “Marina, could you do me a favor?” says James wearily. “Does it involve hitting Weed?” she asks. “Yes, yes it does.”
Kibu has been trying to revive Chike, but to no avail. When Nhymeri sees him, she remembers him as the scout in Edibal’s caravan who stood by Kibu when he defended her from the harassment of the other guards. Considering this, she thinks it’s strange that Chike would have joined the marauders, to which Kibu agrees. When Chike finally comes around, he looks daggers at Kibu, but his expression softens when he sees Nhymeri. Mully is summoned to translate, and Chike is questioned about why the attack occurred. He says they were informed that Kibu was up here, and wants to know why Kibu stole the necklace.
Kibu claims it was because Edibal himself joined or condoned the harassment of Nhymeri. Chike says they have no idea what a firestorm it started, and adds that giving it back is not likely to quell it – Spekso wants blood. None of the caravan guards are getting paid until Kibu is captured, and ordinary trade activities at Spekso’s camp are all but suspended. He says the merchant is angrier than he has ever seen him, and since that day has been unable to sleep or do anything except rave at the sneakthief, railing at him as if his very life depends upon the artifact. (Privately, Weed wonders why Chike is not also mentioning the terrible insults Kibu is supposed to have directed at Spekso. Apparently, his embellishments of the story had not really been necessary to set the man off.)
“Why? It’s just a piece of metal junk,” counters Kibu, and Thorton breaks in, asking to see this thing that was stolen, if he still has it. Kibu sighs and goes into the house to get it. As he uncrumples the necklace from the rag it was held in, he notices flecks of paint coming loose from some of the “gems,” and the quality of the workmanship appears to be extremely questionable. Chipping more of the paint off one of the beads, Kibu recognizes that this is another example of that special kind of gem he had seen in Vastavika’s tiara (some more of which were also recovered from the fire), with intricate facets and lattices embedded throughout its interior. Before he can tear the necklace apart, Chike stops him, alarmed.
Chike stands up and looks around the corner of the house, concerned about whether the rest of his band of thugs is nearby, and is stunned by what he sees. There, laid out around the courtyard, are several of their bodies, none of which appear to be moving. He walks towards the scene, taking in the extent of the mayhem. “Who did this?” he asks, unable to locate the army he assumes it would have taken to wipe out the brutes he knows them to have been.
“We all did,” says Kibu brightly, and Marina casually concurs. Chike starts to tell them that these were the fiercest and meanest guys that Spekso and that Crimner guy could find, but Weed interrupts him in Timble-tainian and tries to get Chike to say that there are plenty more like this coming to get them. Chike recognizes Weed for the first time as the kid who visited Spekso the night before and informed the merchant that this is where Kibu and his cronies could be found. Weed implores him not to tell that to the group, but Weed means nothing to Chike, and he scornfully dismisses Weed’s threat to kill him if he talks.
Marina can tell something fishy is going on between them, and anyway, Mully, whose loyalties have not yet extended to encompass Weed, has already heard the exchange. Mully is put in an awkward position, but there’s never really a question that he should report what has just been said, backed up by the approval of Thornton. As he does so, Weed, defeated, returns the object he had surreptitiously palmed from his pack and walks towards the gate. Marina catches up to him and questions his involvement and motivations. Weed tries to claim that the details of his relationship to Spekso are not important, but of course Marina begs to differ. Weed then asserts that he is completely uninvolved, nothing he has done has affected the course of events, and it’s all Kibu’s fault.
“Why do you care so much about helping us out of this then?” asks Marina.
“Because I need to find out what happened to Nemo. That’s it. You ah a means to an end.” There is shocked silence at this, and Weed, realizing he has gone too far, turns red and looks at the ground. “I’m sowy, that was not vewy nice. I just…you people ah vewy…diswuptive. And you’ve, you’ve upset Timble-tain. And I just wanted…I don’t even know what I wanted, I want to know about Nemo, and you’ah heah, and…Aaacht! I don’t know. Just finish up heah, and let’s leave.” At this point, he’s choking back tears, and tries to brush Marina’s sympathetic hand from his shoulder.
Marina explains that while they all want to find Nimmo, they can’t leave while Vastavika is in danger. This mention of Vasta reminds Weed of something and he perks up. He says something to Chike, but Chike is talking to Mully and ignores him. Through Mully, Chike tells them that he’s always been loyal to Spekso, who trusted him for protection through thick and thin, but lately, from what he’s seen, he’s begun to question the wisdom of that loyalty. Spekso has turned into a different man, and Chike is ready to wash his hands of the whole thing. It makes no sense to risk his life over a piece of junk jewelry.
Marina enquires how long Spekso has owned that piece of jewelry. Chike thinks back, and believes he hasn’t had it for more than a year, although he’s always doted and preened over one bauble or another. The first he really became aware of it was in Almatia, the land at the Eastern end of Spekso’s route, which is about three month’s journey northeast of Kaddabullah, the desert city where Kibu and the redhead joined them. Spekso was proud of the thing, showed it off to all his friends, treated it like it was some great treasure, but looking at it now, he has no idea why. All he knows is that as soon as it was gone, Spekso exploded, and was like an animal, threatening everyone, paying no one, and doing nothing but fretting and fuming. Chike would almost say that Spekso acts more afraid than angry, as if his very life depends on getting the necklace back.
As if that’s not enough, Chike continues, then that other guy, Inspector Crimner got into it, and the whole episode became a federal issue. He got wind of the story two mornings after the item was stolen, long after Spekso had kept showing up at the police station to badger them for help. The lofty Inspector finally condescended to attend to the annoying merchant personally, and for the first time heard the account from the horse’s mouth. When Spekso got around to mentioning that the thief knew one of his customers named Nimmo, Crimner suddenly became intensely, even obsessively, interested. He went into a frenzy of interrogations and sent his men all over the place in search of the kid in the posters which Spekso (with Weed’s assistance) had printed up and plastered around town.
They had no luck finding him all that afternoon, although there reports of some kid fooling around on the high wire in the carnival, and bystanders who were questioned remembered seeing a redhead running around. [Apparently, they never thought to look in a certain hay wagon.] The search came up empty until the evening, when the kid was spotted and chased into the sewer. Spekso’s men, including Chike himself, followed him down there, but he disappeared in the darkness and gave them the slip. They were eventually overtaken by the cops, nearly the entire force of which was marshalled by Crimner as soon as he found out what was going on. A few of them were arrested, but after Crimner questioned them closely, he had them released.
Then later that night, Weed showed up at Spekso’s and told the story about having spotted and eavesdropped on the nefarious Kibu, who had suddenly transformed into a dangerous bandit at the head of a heavily-armed band of cronies and outlaws. Weed claimed to have heard them plotting to ride up north to their hideout in the mountains. Inexplicably, Weed was even able to describe the exact landmark on the mountain ridge where this hideout was located, and, warming to the tale, had added that Kibu was laughing at Spekso and taunting him at his loss. He urged the merchant to send all of his men up there at once, and then left.
Spekso was in no mood to examine Weed’s story too critically, but he wasn’t about to assume all the risk of such a pursuit if he didn’t have to. If this Inspector was so interested in the case, he mused aloud, let’s see what he’s willing to do about it. Spekso personally went to Crimner’s apartment house in the pre-dawn hours and had him roused out of his bed to hear the new information. As Spekso had hoped, Crimner personally took charge of assembling the posse and had a much tougher breed of thug at his disposal than Chike would have thought, especially considering that Crimner at this point had decided not to involve the police in the pursuit. Chike suggested to Spekso that he should try to get at least one of his own men to join the group, and the Inspector had reluctantly allowed Chike himself to accompany them.
Chike adds that when they rode out at dawn that morning, they had no clue that they were heading up to a manor house. When they finally got on the right road and realized they were approaching the Chateau, the leader, a hulk named Armhof, decided to scout ahead and see what kind of reception awaited them. He chose Chike to join him as the least threatening member of the gang, and Chike thinks Armhof was actually intimidated by the idea of entering the gates of what he assumed was one of the great estates of the Elites. When he encountered nothing but unarmed servants, however, Armhof found his courage and tried to break down the front door, while sending Chike around to the back. And for Chike, as the saying goes, that was the piper’s last peep.
As he’s been telling his story, Chike has been walking around looking at the bodies, and he now points out that somebody is missing. Marina tells him that one guy got away, and one of her friends has left in pursuit. Chike nods, and says he thinks that one was one of the Inspector’s personal men, because he didn’t look like as much of a scrapper as the rest of them. In fact, he struck Chike as kind of a sneak, or maybe an informer, because the muscle guys were disgusted by his presence, although they never tried to lay a hand on him. From their talk, Chike surmises that this was a special squad of enforcers that Crimner used to strong-arm locals who stood up to him. They were about as mean and ruthless a crew as Chike, in all his days of defending the caravan from robbers, has ever encountered.
And that leads him to look around again in disbelief, and ask, “Who are you people?”
Marina brushes that aside and asks him if he thinks Crimner was trying to get the necklace before Edibal did. Chike says maybe so, because he can’t see why else Crimner would get so involved in a simple case of theft. She decides to take matters in hand and calls the assembled members of her group to council. She proposes that they get the necklace back to Vastavika as soon as possible, to get her input about what to do, but when it’s pointed out that her Competency hearing will start before they can get there, she agrees with Kibu that they’re probably safer up here at the Chateau for the time being.
The cook announces that lunch is available, and James has already made his way inside to find somewhere comfortable to rest. Weed, however, refuses, and plants himself under the bush at the front corner of the house. Marina is about to go in when she realizes that Kibu and Nhymeri have drifted down to the barn and brought something out. Mully says it’s Lady Vasta’s zebra, and urges her to go have a look. “Lady Vasta’s?” she says, but shrugs and tags along.
Kibu and Nhymeri are involved in a discussion about how difficult it will be to train “Spot” to accept a rider. Kibu dismisses this advice and hops on anyway, only to be promptly bucked off. He still thinks it will only take a day or two. Nhymeri points out that the markings on the zebra are called stripes, not spots, but Marina defends the name Spot. Kibu clearly recalls that Vasta, too, has already expressed her amused approval of the name [though she was unaware at the time that she was actually sanctioning its acquisition, at least in Kibu’s mind]. So Spot’s name becomes official, and after everyone admires him for a while, he is led back into the barn and they all repair to lunch.
On the way in, Kibu notices Chike standing about uncertainly, and he invites him to come in with them. The servants eye Chike suspiciously, recognizing him as one of the attackers, but since Kibu seems to have accepted him, they press their lips together and set him a place. Chike himself is embarrassed to be shown such hospitality, and again tells them all how astonished he is at the outcome of the battle. He reiterates the part of his story about the head ruffian, Armhof, being so reluctant and intimidated to assault a rich house, and now supposes that the man should probably have heeded his instincts and kept clear. If that kid Weed hadn’t insisted that their quarry was up here…
This time Kibu picks up on that crucial detail which he had apparently missed before. No longer able to think about food, he gets up abruptly and heads out the door. As he leaves, Marina notices him draw a large, wickedly curved dagger from his belt. Uh oh, she thinks, and follows him out, finding him searching the trees and bushes toward the entrance. “Kibu, what’s up?” she calls.
“I’m lookin’ for that little rat.
“Is there something I can help with?”
“Yeah. Find that little weaselly bastard for me…that little blonde one.”
“Weed? Isn’t he back at the house?…You think he took off?”
“Why would he stay with us?”
“Because he wants to help save Gary.” Kibu hesitates. “Do you find that hard to believe? We were all strangers days ago, but…”
“He’s not gonna make it that far.” At Marina’s confusion, he clarifies, “He’s not gonna make it to see Gary.”
“You think he might hurt Gary?” He thinks about this, and shrugs. She continues, “You thought that Trink was going to hurt Gary, and she’s definitely on our side. Why do you think that Weed would?”
“He locks me up, he sticks me with somethin’, and then he tries to beat me up – but he couldn’t. And now he’s sending the bad guys after me?”
“My understanding is that he was trying to send them away from you….”
“Yeah, he did a really good job!”
“He didn’t know – none of us knew that you were going to be up here. We thought you were coming back to the townhouse. We didn’t know where you were…which is why we were out all night looking for you. But…I can understand that you’d be upset with him, but I think there’s more that he could tell us that could be useful, both in Vasta’s situation and in helping with Gary.”
Kibu listens to all this and sighs. “You really think he’s worth keeping around?”
“I think he’s worth keeping around. We can find out if he’s worth trusting as we go. Maybe you could take over officially looking after him. Although James was doing a pretty good job of that earlier.”
“Well, I don’t trust him.” Kibu puts the dagger away and shrugs. “Whatever.”
At this, Weed sighs heavily, which causes him to lose his balance and fall out of the bush in which he has been hiding in only a few feet away from them. Kibu spins around and dashes at him, and Weed trips over himself trying to get back into the bush.
“Don’t kill him!” calls Marina, as Kibu snarls “Get out here!”
“No!” wails Weed. “Didn’t you just say that you’ah ok with me now?” Kibu starts thrashing at the bushes as Weed tries to crawl all the way in, but then his foot gets tangled and he falls out the other side onto his stomach. Kibu is on him instantly and starts punching him in the back of the head.
“Gawy!” shouts Weed. “It’s Gawy, for Gawy…Gawy!”
Marina intervenes and starts pulling Kibu off of Weed, and Kibu switches to kicking him until he’s out of reach. When he’s finally separated, Kibu calms down and dusts himself off.
Weed sputters incoherently. “…just…kicking and punching…wheah…I don’t even know…you’ah such a savage!…you…
“Weed,” Marina interrupts. “If you really want to help yourself, I think you’re going to have to come in and do some explaining to all of us together…instead of skulking out here – what were you doing out here?”
“I wasn’t doing anything. I wasn’t doing anything and he attacked me! You saw…”
“He was probably sending them after us again!” yells Kibu.
“Well you…” tries Marina. “I can’t tell exactly what you’re doing but you’re not participating in the group, and if you really are on our side and want to save Nimmo, you’re going to have to start participating or it’s not going to be easy for us to trust you.”
“Well I’m participating right now in getting hit by this…puhson.” He scooches back as Kibu tries to break from Marina’s grip and come at him again. “You have formed yoah own opinions as to why we ah all heah, why do I need to come in and talk? I’ve told you evwything that has happened. I’ve told you evwything. You know why you ah heah, you know why I’m heah, you know why they’ah heah, and you’ah just going to form yoah own opinions, and they’ah gonna let him attack me again, so I don’t even know why you’ah asking me.”
“Well, I could let him attack you…” starts Marina, who is getting exasperated. (“No!” cries Weed.) But Kibu is finally starting to feel the fatigue that’s been building in him since the battle, and he slumps down. Marina senses Weed is not telling them the whole story, but she’s at a loss as to what to say next. “Weed,” she says wearily. “Have you eaten anything recently?”
Weed jumps up and point at Kibu. “If I walk inside, he is going to attack me again. He foah some weason has it out foh me.” Kibu jumps up and is ready to get all fisty again, proving Weed wight – I mean right.
Marina restrains Kibu again and says, “Well, he certainly isn’t not attacking you out here, so I don’t think coming inside is going to hurt matters much. And, you can at least get something to eat.” [while you’re getting punched, she presumably means.]
“Yes, well, I don’t eat…gwoss things, so, we’ll see, and I am sawt of hungwy.” Weed finally allows himself be led into the Chateau while eyeballing Kibu and keeping his hands close to his belt pouch. He seats himself as far from Kibu as he can, and picks at what is offered. The others at the table say little, and one gets the impression they’ve been listening to the whole thing out the open window. Marina tries to start the conversation up again. “Weed, do you have any questions for us?”
“Yes, why did you come up heah? How…Why are you up heah? You wewn’t supposed to be up heah!”
Kibu says, “I walked up here. Of course I’m supposed to be up here. Did you think I was going to let you keep me in a bag?”
“You would have been safe in a bag. And yoah fwiend…” (he points at James with a stagy flourish) “…wouldn’t have gotten his head bashed in if you had stayed in a sack. So it is Kibu’s fault that yoah head is bashed in…puhson!”
Kibu lunges across the table at him, but Nhymeri pulls him back.
“Finger pointing aside,” says Marina, “why didn’t you come back to the townhouse, Kibu?”
“Because it wasn’t safe in town. I didn’t want to bring anybody to you guys. Besides I had to get Spot, so I figured it was safe up here. I didn’t know HE was going to send them after me. And if I had stayed in that bag, you would have sent them there anyway.”
“You don’t know that – I saved you fwom them. Do you not wemembuh that? Kibu? I saved you, they would have found you, and they would have cut off yoah ahms and legs, aw they would have taken you to Edibal who would have made you his slave aw something…”
“Yeah, you saved me by capturing me in your little…lock thing, and poking me with that…with your little…things.”
“So ah you saying that I didn’t save you?”
Momentarily confused, Kibu hesitates. “Maybe.”
“Seems like he saved himself, to be honest,” puts in James.
“I seem to wemembuh that you wuh being chased by some wuff customuhs.”
“Yeah, well they’re not so rough, are they?” Kibu flicks a hand towards the yard.
Weed turns red and looks down. “But I was…see…in the sewahs, you…” and he trails off.
Mully pulls on Weed’s sleeve and says, “What was that you were pokin’ him with?”
“It doesn’t mattuh wight now…It’s not impawtent.”
“But I’m curious,” persists Mully. “What do you call it?”
“I don’t call it anything!” snaps Weed. “Why don’t you ask him? I told him.” He turns to Kibu, trying to change the subject. “So you came up heah, you left the safety that I gave you, I gave you safety, I locked that doah, no one could have gotten in. If he wouldn’t have taken that key, none of us would be in dangeh. We could be out, we could be…”
“No it wasn’t,” cuts in Nhymeri.
“Yes it was!”
“No, it wasn’t.”
Weed swallows heavily. “It was…locked…”
Kibu digs the key out of his pocket and slaps it down on the table. “Kind of hard to lock a door without your key.”
“You, you did all this. Alwight. I understand…that mistakes…wuh made…”
“Mostly by you,” mentions James.
“…and maybe, people made decisions that wuhn’t vewy…intelligent…”
Tears appear at the sides of Weed’s eyes. “If Nemo is in dangeh, we could alweady be theah wight now, if you had stayed still. But heah we ah, out heah, and you need to save some othah puhson, and we ah still in dangeh, and all we need to do is just go back to town, and, we need to get to Nemo because he is dangeh, like you yoahself said, so what…do we need to do now?” His voice cracks as he finally winds down.
“Yes,” puts in Marina. “I believe I also mentioned that he’s being guarded by an army, so what is your plan for getting around that army?”
“You’ah asking me?” cries Weed indignantly.
“If you wanna rush off and get yourself killed, go for it,” suggests James.
Weed gestures around the table. “That’s why I’m talking to you people. Because you’ah stwong, and you’ah big, and you’ah dangewous, and you…stuck knives into people lout theah that I would have twouble cwossing on the same side of the stweet with them. And that is why I need yoah help. And you may need my help too, I don’t know. But maybe, if you can find it in the good gwaces of whatevah diety you savages—” He cuts himself off. “…Whatevah diety you people hold stwength with, maybe you can help me and I can help you, and we could…figuah something out!”
Quietly, Nhymeri asks him, “How do you know Nemo?”
“I know him. He…”
“Mm mm. That’s not what I asked. I said ‘how do you know him?’”
Rapidly twiddling his thumbs together, Weed squirms. “All I know is I haven’t seen him in ovah a yeah, and that is vewy stwange. Because I would see him often in town, and he has not shown up in a yeah, and he’s in dangeh now.”
“So you know him from looking at him,” follows Nhymeri.
“He does not know you, does he?”
“No, he does. He does! He’s my fwiend. He’s my fwiend, and he has helped me, a lot.” Kibu scoffs at this, and Weed raises his eyebrows. “What? Is he not allowed to be my fwiend too?”
Nhymeri sweeps this aside. “He can be your friend, but you still haven’t explained how.”
“He taught me things. He gave me an oppuhtunity to leahn about the wohld outside of Timble-tain, outside of this pwison that I’ve been in, this town that’s been my univuss foh seventeen yeahs. He gave me an oppuhtunity to see what it was like outside. He gave me books, and he gave me things, and he gave me a chance to become gweatah, than this…[Timble-tainian expletive] town! [He was] the window to the outside wohld, and I was hoping that one day he would show me what was outside of Timble-tain. And without him, theah was no life any moah, and I had no oppuhtunities. And that’s why I need him back. I need to know that he is ok, and…” He starts crying and can’t talk anymore.
In the silence that follows, Kibu is starting to look moved, in spite of himself.
Marina says “We seem to all have had a similar experience with him…”
“Not me,” interjects James.
“…and I wonder why he singled all of us out (sorry, James).”
“So why didn’t you just leave?” James asks Weed. “The defenses aren’t that strong.”
“Do you see,” warbles Weed, “what I look like? I’m not big. I’m not stwong. I’m smaht, but smaht doesn’t get you anywheah in the outside wohld. People pwey on smaht people. I don’t have any…”
“You’re not so smart,” says Kibu.
“You…I’ve bested you twice.”
“I’ve seen that lab of yours,” says James. “You could have made something to protect yourself.”
“Do you know wheah I got that lab?” counters Weed. “Do you know who gave me that lab? Do you know who that building belongs to? Do you know that?”
“We really don’t know much about Timble-tain,” says Nhymeri.
“That was Nemo’s building. He gave me evewything in theah. He allowed me to leahn, he allowed me to build, he taught me things, he gave me oppuhtunities that I was nevah given by my family. My family did not ca’ah about me. All they ca’ahed about was making money fwom the twadahs that wuh constantly wunning thwough this town.”
“Yeah, well, join the club, why don’t you?” says James.
“The no parents club,” says Kibu.
“No, I have pawents, you misundahstand, you…puhson. They own a shop in Timble-tain. They just nevah paid attention, they wuh happy with me being mediocuh. Nemo was not happy with that, Nemo saw in me potential, and he allowed me to become biggah than anyone in Timble-tain. But that does not get you out of Timble-tain because these small people ah eaten alive. And that’s why I need you, because you people ah big, and you’ah stwong, and you can get out of heah, and I can get to Nemo with yoah help.”
“Alright, suppose we do let you go with us to find Gary,” puts in Kibu. “How can you help us?”
Weed reaches into his pack and pulls out a handful of surrettes and tosses them on the table. “These. Do you see these? Do you wemembuh these, Kibu? That’s wight, we wuh in the dahk. You pwobably didn’t…we wuh in the dahk. But if you wuh to touch the end of one of these, I’m suah you would wecognize what it felt like. Because I wemembuh, twice, you wuh in the gwasp of one of these. You see these, these ah the tip of the icebug. That means that theah is moah wheah this came fwom. I know how to make things that can take contwol of people. I can make them see what I want them to see, I can stop them fwom seeing what I don’t want them to see. Do you know how the cawidges move in town, with those wheels that spin awound one anothah? I can hawness that enuhgy. I can cweate things that ah like that.”
This has piqued Kibu’s interest, but Marina shifts uncomfortably. James states, “If you try and control one of us, I’ll kill you.”
“It’s not contwol. I can change puhceptions. I can get wid of yoah eyesight. I can make you fall down against yoah contwol.”
“Wait,” says Nhymeri, again in quiet, measured tones. “Do you see how many people there are here? If you use any of those things against any of us, you won’t live till morning.”
Marina jumps in to smooth the air. “I don’t think he’s threatening any of us, he’s just not…”
“I know,” replies Nhymeri, “and on that point, if you can help us get to Nemo, we should accept your being here.”
Weed turns red and looks down in his lap. “What do we do now?”
Kibu pulls out the necklace with a look at Nhymeri, and places it on the table. “Alright. We need to at least get this to Miss Gary. She’ll know what we’re doing with this next. ‘Cause there’s something really weird about this. And you know where this Edibal is?”
Weed confirms he does, but he’s reluctant to engage with the merchant again. But Marina introduces a new idea. “Weed, you say you can ‘make’ things? I’m looking at this necklace and wondering how hard it would be to counterfeit.” James asks to see it, and judges the workmanship shoddy and easily copied. In fact, most of the gems are glass, and except for the painted, latticed beads, it looks like little better than costume jewelry. Weed is skeptical, and is sure Edibal would know the difference if it were copied. He wants to know why they can’t just give him back this one if it’s so worthless.
Nhymeri points out that not all the gems are glass, and Kibu chimes in – “They’re more than that. There’s something in these gems. I don’t know what it is, but Gary keep collecting these. So until I get a chance to talk to Miss Gary, I don’t know. We can’t just give it back. And I don’t think he’s going to have much use for it anyway.”
James says they don’t need to copy the whole thing, just replace the ones they want to keep and repaint it. Weed thinks he can come up with a chemical that could reproduce the color of the paint. Marina wants to know how long this would take, and James thinks only an hour or two. She hopes that returning it will calm Edibal down for a while, even if he doesn’t forgive Kibu for the theft. Weed is finally calm enough to begin picking at the food on offer, and James asks for his bag of tools to be delivered.
Chike pipes up at this point. He’s quietly listened to as much of the dialog as Mully could translate to him, and he points out that Edibal is not the only factor to consider. Inspector Crimner is also involved, and his resources are much greater, while his motives are murkier. Chike isn’t sure whether a plausible story could be concocted that would let him ride back to Edibal with the necklace, but he figures he has to go back one way or another, and is willing to be of whatever use to the group that will not get him killed. He no longer feels any loyalty to his former employer, and will extricate himself from the episode as safely as he can.
[From here the action will move to Septimus, then Trink, and then perhaps to the various afternoon activities of the remainder of the group. But first, there is an interlude out near a certain bush.]