|"There is no such thing as being overconfident."|
-Captain Edward J. Smith.|
"Um, Aahz? Can't we find something a little smaller?" I asked. It seemed like a simple request. Hadn't Aahz himself once tell me that you can tell a true magician from the quality of his tailor? At least that was what he had said when questioned about the rather expensive outfits he had been charging to our company for his own personal use. Though now that I had thought about it, I realized that Aahz didn't seem too concerned about my appearance in general. In fact, I was suppose to be the Great Skeeve, Lord Magician of Deva and Court Magician to the Kingdom of Possiltum and if anyone should have the better tailor, it should be me. So right then and there, I decided to take a stand.
"I refuse to wear this coat, Aahz. It is uncomfortable and too large. I want something form-fitting and created with style and excitement. I want a coat that says, 'Here comes the Great Skeeve'." I announced. Aahz eyes began to grow in size.
"Listen kid. We aren't buying these things because they look good, we are buying them because they are on sale. Now if you want a coat that says, 'Here comes the Great Skeeve', " Aahz sarcastically growled, "then I'll get some paper and some ink, write 'Here comes the Great Skeeve' on it in big friendly letters, AND NAIL IT ON YOUR BACK!"
A few patrons of the store glanced over at us and quickly exited the store. A old Deveel standing behind the cash register watched them leave in horror and then swiftly glared over at us in fury.
"Besides," Aahz continued, " we are headed to Chirosovo, a dimension known as the Ice Capital of the Known Dimensions. And the last time I was there, I wished I had a coat like one of these. Do you know why?"
"Because it was really cold?" I suggested. Out of the corner of my eye I could see the shop keeper walking toward us.
"NO! BECAUSE IT WAS REALLY REALLY COLD!!" Aahz roared.
"Excuse me, Gentlemen. Is there a problem here?" The shop keeper asked as he studied both of us. I figured that Aahz wasn't quite in the mood to handle this formality, so I decided I'd give it a shot.
"No problem, just looking." I smiled. The shop keeper bit his lower lip as he looked from one of us to the other. I could see that he was trying to think of something to say as a response.
"Well, could.....that is to say, I would greatly appreciate it if you would shop a little more quietly." the shop keeper suggested. Aahz's face suddenly broke into a smile.
"Oh? And how appreciative would that be exactly? Say, an extra 25% off?" Aahz asked in a sweet tone of voice. Any suggestion of any kind of debt can mean only one thing to the discriminating Pervect, a reduction of cost.
"I beg your pardon?" the shop keeper said as he tried to recollect his thoughts. It was obvious that the idea of lowering the already, to the typical Deveel's mind anyhow, low prices was something of a shock. The Deveel needed some time to think, and knowing Aahz, he wasn't going to get that time.
"Sorry, buddy, I don't just give away my pardon. But for that extra 35% off from the sale price that you just offered, I might throw the pardon in too." Aahz suggested quickly. A sweat broke out on the Deveel's forehead.
"I didn't offer 35%!" the Deveel exclaimed.
"It sure sounded that way to me, didn't kid?" Aahz asked me.
"Uh, yes?" I added.
"Damn right it did. Unless you said 45%. Sometimes I can't hear right. Something to do with this Gezirah air, I think." Aahz said as he looked down at his claws and gently shined them on his shirt.
"45%!!! But I...."
"SOLD!" Aahz shouted as he shook the shop keeper's hands. "You are a tough one to haggle with, I wanted these coats for 50% more, but you held in there until I broke. I admire that. It was beautiful."
"But the coats are already at 55% off." the shop keeper said partially to himself. "With your 45% that means you.....that you......that the coats are FREE!"
"Really? Then in that case I'll take all twenty of them." Aahz said as he lifted the coats up into the air and looked at me. "Here kid, you carry." Before I could reply, a literal mountain of stinky brownish fur crashed down on me. "Just follow my voice, kid." I heard Aahz say through my muffled ears and that's exactly what I did.
In an hour, we were suited up in our fur coats with the extras placed in a large cloth sack. We went to the hotel to check out and pick up Gus. Instead of finding Gus, we found a note from him telling us that he was going to the mines to find Tanda and Chumley himself. He asked us to meet him a little later behind an old abandoned building a couple of blocks away. Gathering our things, we walked to the building where we had agreed to meet, sneaked around to the back and waited. After a few minutes, I started to get bored and extremely hot.
"Where's Gus?" I asked Aahz, "I am starting to sweat to death under this thing."
"He'll be here soon. Gus knows how to take care of himself. Luckily, given his physical makeup, he won't be needing any of our coats." Aahz said as he lovingly stroked his furry garment. We sat in silence for a while until I spoke up again.
"Aahz? Can you tell me what happened to you on Chirosovo?" Aahz didn't talk much about his past, so I was intrigued by his hint earlier that he had not only been to Chirosovo, but had obviously had a rough time there. It would also be nice to know what to expect from our upcoming visit.
"I don't like talking about it." Aahz growled as he began to use his fingers to make shapes in the dirt. I looked over to Aahz and tried to read his emotions. Not an easy thing to do for a Pervect; they seem to have only two real emotions, anger and greed. But something was bothering Aahz, that much I could tell.
"Quit staring at me." Aahz hissed without lifting his head to face me. He gave out a sigh and looked up toward the sky. "OK, I'll be honest. When I was a young pup of a magician, I did some pretty stupid things. The usual things. Popping into primitive dimensions and using magik to impress the natives. Toss a few fireballs around, levitate a few chairs, that sort of thing. We called it Dimensional Roulette. It was a game and sometimes very profitable. You see, once you've started to show your stuff to the natives, they come to think you are some kind of god and they'll give you access to just about anything. They'll heap piles of gold in your lap, offer their daughters, and then one day, you just disappear. They think they've offended their god, and meanwhile their god is enjoying a leisurely time at Mare Inebrium buying drinks for his friends."
"Just a place I used to hang out. Anyhow, like I said, I'm not too proud of it. That's one of the reasons I don't want you to learn too much too soon. Magik needs responsibility and when you're just starting out, you want to try everything."
"How does Chirosovo fit into this?" I asked as Aahz frowned.
"Well, Dimensional Roulette is gambling pure and simple. And where there is money to be made...."
"There will always be somebody bigger than you trying to get it." I finished for him. It was an old Pervish proverb that Aahz had forced me to memorize. That along with 255 others from the Pervish Child's First Book of Quotes, the illustrations for which still haunt my nightmares.
"Exactly. And on my second spin of the wheel of chance, I materialized right into a dimension owned by a very powerful wizard. Not only that, but I appeared right in the middle of some religious ceremony honoring him. He didn't take too kindly to that. So with a few well placed spells from this powerful wizard, I found myself stranded on Chirosovo. And this was a hundred years before it was 'discovered' by the Deveels."
"But you still had magik, didn't you? Why didn't you just hop off of Chirosovo and go back to Perv or something?" I asked.
"Because kid, this wizard was really something. He was a an outlaw, certainly, but he knew spells I still don't understand. He placed some bizarre curse on me that my magik wouldn't work right until I teleported a written apology promising to never again step into his little private dimension. Of course, he didn't tell me this until after I'd spent a full week on Chirosovo. Every time I tried to hop off of Chirosovo, I kept setting my clothes on fire. A result with chilling effects, if you get my drift."
"What was this wizard's name?"
"Penbrius." Aahz stated matter-of-factly. If it hadn't been from the ton of fur holding me down, I would have nearly jumped from where I was sitting.
"Penbrius?! But that was the name you used back at the lumber camp."
"Did I?" Aahz asked innocently.
"Aahz, you know you did." I shot back. Aahz frowned.
"Yeah, I guess I did."
"You think he might be behind all of this?" I asked suddenly.
"I'm not sure yet. Most of the dimensions involved in this labor problem are awfully close to Penbrius' personal realm. If he is still around and still as possessive, he might see Deva's dimensional search for natural resources to be something of a threat. I brought up his name to see if there was any reaction from that moron Blox, but he didn't seem to recognize the name. So I've just put it in the back of my mind. But listen, if he is behind this, you are going back to Deva immediately. Do you understand?" Aahz said in a harsh tone, "Penbrius is big and from what I remember from 500 years ago, not exactly the kind of wizard to play fair. Now forget what I said.
The chances are that he isn't involved. But if word has gotten out about how much money the resident wizard of Deva makes on a daily basis, then Penbrius just might be that 'somebody bigger than you trying to get it'."
Aahz shuddered and I admit, I shuddered too. I've never really seen Aahz scared before, and I certainly wasn't liking it now. Suddenly, the uncomfortable silence was broken by the sound of thunderous wings and Gus the gargoyle landed in a cloud of dust.
"We've got problems, Aahz!" Gus exclaimed. Aahz stood up and slapped his scaled hand upon his forehead.
"Not more bad news! I don't think I can take much more!" Aahz groaned.
"It's Tanda and Chumley. They're not on Gezirah anymore." Gus explained between deep breaths. He had obviously flown as fast as he could to get here.
"Not on Gezirah!? Where are they?!" Aahz shouted.
Gus sucked in a few breaths before continuing. "When I got to the hotel to leave them a note, I found a message already there, from Tanda. She claimed that Chumley had been arrested and placed in some makeshift jail at the mining camp. She asked us to come as soon as we could or they were going to transfer Chumley to Deva for trial. As soon as I read that, I took off for the mining camp."
"So what happened?" I asked.
"I was too late. The transfer was supposed to be last night." Gus answered.
"'Supposed to'?" Aahz questioned.
"Tanda got involved." Gus explained. Aahz shook his head.
"This is getting worse by the minute. This was going to be an easy case, remember? Live in a resort and break up a labor union. That was the deal. Now we have the Devan Department of Commerce wanting us to kill labor workers who, from what we have found, seem to be innocent, assassins who either are or think they are working for the same Deva Department of Commerce as we are but who are supposed to kill us, a cold miserable dimension we have to go to just to see how innocent these labor workers are and now this!. What lousy dimension did Tanda and Chumley go to anyhow?"
"I don't know, but as I was at the mining camp a couple of Deveels tried to arrest me as an accomplice. And guess on whose orders they were trying to do it."
Aahz's eyes narrowed. "Dierack!"
"In any case, I suggest we leave soon. If Dierack is looking for me, then he will certainly be looking for both of you as well." Gus said.
"But we didn't do anything. We weren't even at the mining camp." I said.
"Look kid, whatever is going on here, it isn't in our favor. I say we take Tanda and Chumley's example and get off this dimension." Aahz ordered. I saw the logic there, but it still didn't seem like something an innocent person would do.
"If we leave now, won't it look like we are admitting that we are guilty?" I asked.
Gus looked over at Aahz. "Skeeve has a point. If Dierack is on the up and up, running will make us look guilty of something."
"And if Dierack is actually planning on railroading us, I'd rather he does it later than right now." Aahz said.
"'Up and up? Railroading? What are you two talking about?" I asked.
"Besides," Aahz continued while ignoring me, "if there really is a labor problem and we solve it, the Devan Department of Commerce will drop the charges."
Of course, that was assuming that the Deva Department of Commerce didn't mind actually paying us our huge fee, I thought.
"So where are we going?" I asked giving up on getting any translation of what Gus and he had said.
"To Chirosovo, of course." Aahz stated as he pushed the red button on the D-Hopper and I suddenly felt my stomach drop.