III. A Near Miss. The Pixie Police.
“Keep your distance, Satyrshits!” warned Strap, as he and his friends got off the bus, looking over his shoulder at Big Lares, the Nosepicker, and Little Penates.
“C’mere, now, ye argymentative Yoddlebabe,” said Nosepick, twirling his chain-mace so quickly, that it blurred with speed, “C’mere. I’ll ram these ribbons up yer leather-ass.” He and Penates laughed noisily; laughed until they cried.
“And then, Yoddershits,” shouted Penates, “I’ll pull down yer pants, and wi’ my teeth, I’ll tear off yer winkydick!”
“In Ashmedai’s Name!” said Strap, and he tossed down his bookbag, careful first to pull out his incense-spray, which followed the mortal great Rabban Gamliel’s recipe: balsam, onycha, and urine, unfit perhaps to be brought into the earthly temple, but perfect as a demonic weapon. Beating his leathern wings, he ascended into Middle Air, proper element for kobolds: he hovered there, and looked for his friends.
Karkadal and Coxnbox had a rougher time of it: because they were carrying their heavy homework books—Masechet Shaydim and Targum Atonatan (Tractatus Demonicus and the Commentary of Balaam’s Ass), they were to weighty to fly up by the time Lares was upon them, swinging his mace. Karky got off only a slight squirt from his sprayer before Lares knocked it out of his claw; it went rolling beneath a parked Oboroguruma, a Japanese demon-car. Karky tried to fly up and away, but Penates caught one of his wings between his teeth, hairy belly shaking with laughter, as he reached up with long brown arms to pull him down. Nosepick smiled, and walked closer to Karky, twirling the chainmace slowly as Penates yanked the trembling little kobold down and pinned him against the Oboroguruma.
“Cox,” said Strap, as they hovered above the three, “this is no good for Karky. Let’s divebomb those two satyrshits while we still can.”
“What can we do, Strap?” asked Coxnbox, “they’re both bigger than we are, and our incense sprayers will only make them madder.”
“Drabban Mekalel, our Demonic Adviser—remember the charm he taught us, yesterday?” asked Strap.
“The Ultimo?” asked Cox.
“Ow! Let me go!” cried Karkadal, as Penates bit more firmly into his wing, and Lares reached for his neck.
“Snap you like a twig, I will—“ Lares began.
“Let’s do it—Arur atah Ashmedai—“the two kobolds began, “Cursed are you, Ashmedai—“when suddenly, they heard a Siren’s wail.
“Run, Lares—it’s the cops!” shouted Penates, letting Karkadal loose. The frightened, but safe, little kobold flapped his wings, and joined Strap and Cox in the Upper Air. As they hovered, they watched the two satyrs trying to jump the fence around the playground, but red lights all around repelled them. Six policepixies flew from their Patrol Toad; the sergeant, wielding an acacia wand, let fly a puff of glittery redgolden faerydust, which froze them where they stood. A squad of elvin police, holding tiny truncheons that glittered with fairyspell, quickly cuffed the hapless satyrs and shoved them against the playground wall.
“Ahrahr!” shouted Penates, when an over-zealous elf knocked the satyr’s head against the brickwork, “Mind my brains, can’t you?” The cops only laughed; it sounded like birdsong.
“Let’s just fly quietly off, shall we?” said Cox, but, just then, a pixiecop looked up, and in a voice sounding like gentle rain on autumn leaves, said, “Just come down peacefully, boys. We don’t want to have to zap you, but we will if you give us any trouble.”
“My parents will kill, just kill me,” moaned Strap, and the two hovered down, to stand sullenly against a wall that read
--the first, in screaming yellow; the second, in magenta, paint.
“Now, boys—“ said the lead policepixie, “I am Lieutenant Krixkee of the Demonic Anti-Rumble Squad. You wouldn’t know who painted that sad business on the wall, would you?”
The satyrs grunted. Hovering by the wall near them, the three kobolds said nothing.
“They’re in for it now,” Cox whispered to his friends. Being demonic, his wounds were already healed, and he was back to his old self. The elf watching them, a cop six inches high, but with white hair, beard, and mustache, jabbed Cox in the ear with his toothpick-sized truncheon, and letting off a short spark of fairyspell.
“Ow!” said Cox, “Careful with that thing, can’t you?” The elfcop narrowed his eyes.
“Just keep yer trap shut whilst Lieutenant Krixkee does her interrogatin’, and we’ll all get along fine, yes thatwewill,” he said.
As all watched—cops and kobolds—the lieutenant, clad in a pink uniform with yellowgreen wings, and looking less like a peace officer and more like the Tooth Fairy (which she had been before a tooth shortage among earthly mortals had steered her onto the Force) fluttered her butterfly wings, gently flew up to Lares-the-Nosepicker’s nostrils, hovered in his line of vision, and patted his nose, which sloped gently, almost handsomely, into a plentiful mustache and beard, and was marred only by an intricate spiderwork of red veins—probably from too much drinking wine at Bacchanalia.
“Do you—know—possibly—who might have—painted—those words, Lares?” she whispered, looking into the satyr’s milky-brown, goatlike eyes.
“My father is Bacchus, my mother is Niobe; I pray you, speak to them, if you wish to question me,” the satyr answered, reciting a memorized formula. He had been detained by police many times before.
“But I don’t want to speak to Bacchus or Niobe, Lares; you’ll do just fine.” And with that, Krixkee yanked the satyr’s nose-hairs as hard as she could. The satyr roared, and tears sprang to his eyes.
“Rahrr! Leave go, ye pixiepunk—Ahhrrr! ‘Twas Clytus, son of Nessus, what done it! Ahhrr, leave me nose alone!” he shouted, covering his offended nostrils with dirty hands and long, yellow-brown, filthy claws.
“Thank you, Mr. Lares,” smiled Krixkee, “No further questions.” She turned to the three kobolds, standing by the wall. “And you three Yoddles may go. Watch out for yourselves in the future: know that we are watching you. All Thief-brews are under suspicion here in Faeryland, as you may know. Now, scurry along, Yoddles: scat—move-move-move!”
The three did, indeed, scurry away: they knew not to mess with the police. Stretching out their leathern wings, they pointed themselves homeward, to Koboldiana, the Yoddle Ghetto.
Flying through the Upper Air, the three young kobolds spun and twisted to avoid the heavier vehicles of Daemonic Rush Hour: fairy wagons drawn by phoenixes, whose tails trailed rainbows; Earthworms manned by Gnome Miners, with clumps of black dirt flaking off in the evening moon; tiny cars built of dandelion seeds, each one bearing a pixie, whose seedling wand gave a purplish-lit power to the midget motor. Far off, they heard the tones of the Demonic Kirk-Keep; not a bell—the sounds of bells were anathema to all faeryfolk—but a deeper, metallic thrumming which sent waves of energy into their hearts’-core.
Soon enough, they saw the brown-gold glimmer of their parents’ homes, built into toadstools brown and green and grey, each one with a pazuzah on the doorjamb, which they were careful to kiss as they entered.
“Night come, Karkadal, Coxy,” said Strap; his house was first on Evil Thereof Boulevard, and he corkscrewed down, to land lightly at his front door. His friends waved, dipped their wing-tips in salute, and continued on their way; he heard their faint reply, “Come night,” completing the circle, as they faded off into the mist.
“So you’ve come home at last, Master Strap,” said his mother, Arura. Standing over a huge black cauldron, her bluegrey wings pinned back out of the heat, black headcloth round her forehead from the heat, she dipt a wooden spoon into the thick slumgullion, and ladled it into a bowl of stone, which she placed on the dark-wood table at which her husband, Kedorlaomer, was sitting, his young daughter, Kinah, next to him.
“How was Daemon Yeshiva today, Strap?” he rumbled.
“Goodagain, Poppa,” said Strap, picking up his spoon and pulling off a chunk of his mother’s home-baked manna bread: it tasted like whatever the eater wished: this time, he wanted it to resemble a dark pumpernickel with sunflower seeds. His mind was full of the blonde nymph, and he could think of nothing else.
“I said, ‘How was Dr. Pataport’s class today?’ Strap,” repeated Kedorlaomer, “And you did not hear me. Your body is here, Sonny-me-lad, but your mind is parasangs away.”
“Sorry, Ta,” said Strap, shaking his head, as if to clear it of cobwebs, “I haven’t been getting much sleep lately. I have to go to bed early, you know….”
“What’s this, what’s this?” cried Arura, suddenly. She had been going through Strap’s bag, taking out his books, and making sure that his lunch items had not been left behind. She was waving a scrap of paper, from which clouds of pixie dust were rising.
“Give me that, Roorie,” said Kedorlaomer, stretching out a thick arm and hand, while Strap watched and wondered what his mother had come up with. The crusty old kobold unfolded the small pink paper, sniffed at it with his bulbous nose, and sneezed.
“Ah-rumpf!” said Strap’s father, “What is this troublous doodad, then? A—letter! Yes! From whom and to whom?” He read it, silently. Then—“Strap. This is for you. A kobold-gel, I believe. Are they letting the gels into D-Y, then?” He held the paper out to Strap.
Strap took it, and read:
Kobold-Boy—You were so brave, today, facing down those two louts on the ‘bus—and I saw you looking at me—so cute and fine—give me a call on the snailphone--
“Clymene? Clymene? Odd name for a kobold-wench. Are her parents kobolds-by-choice?” asked his father.
“I would so much prefer that they be kobold-born,” sighed Arura, “Still….”
Kinah giggled into her wing, which was just a small, pink shoot coming out of her shoulder.
“I, uh—I—“ stammered Strap.
His father’s eyes narrowed. “Leatherstrap ben Kedorlaomer v’Arura,” he said in a low and threatening tone, “if there is anything you ought to be telling me, then say it now!” but then, his eyes opened wide. “Of course, of course. That is why she has a Greeky, greasy-sounding name, my Goodwife, Arura. She is no kobold-wench, no good, kobold-kosher girl for our boy.”
“Is she Drisraeli, then?” asked Arura.
“Drisraeli? No! I should writhe so long. She’s a Greek! A—“ Kedorlaomer had trouble even saying the horrible word—“A groy! A Greekentile! For our boy! I tell you what, Sir Strap—“ Kedor bent his horrible head forward, and his lips and nose puffed out, all blue-red-purplish with rage—“Sit down, shut up, and eat your dinner—you ain’t goin’ nowhere, not to meet that little witchbitch, oh no!”
At that, something seemed to pop in Strap’s brain.
“I shall meet her!” he cried. “I’m well past brat avayrah age; I’ve been a good Yoddle all my life; always ‘Yes Sir’ and ‘Yes Mam,’ to whatever any, any adult Bolder says to me—and I crack those scrolls night and night, I do—PoppaMomma—I have no time for my own—and I mustmustmust meet a girl one day can’t I? Pa? Ma?” His tears sprayed everywhere, and he stopped to take a breath, panting.
The two adult kobolds stopped their shouting. This was, indeed, their son; their future-curse, the one who would say “Malefied and stupefied Art Thou, O’ Ashmedai” after their passage into Outer Dark—Outer Dark or Reincarna?—Who knew?....Ah, well….
Kedorlaomer patted the rough wooden bench alongside him. “Sit, My Son,” he said, and tried to smile past his long, yellow-bone teeth; it came out as a grimace. Arurah reached for the siphon and squirted them all a drink of seltzer, with Wolfbane’s U-Curse Cherryblood Syrup.
“Sit, Son,” she repeated.
Strap sat. His shoulders sagged. It was already eight of the clock: the sun was rising; it was time for all good faeryfolk to draw shutters tightshut, for the youngerkin to sleep, for elders to study Masechet Nezek—the Tractate of Damages, for badwives to study the Bee’ah Ra’ah—“Come in to do Evil,” a commentary by Aton de’Chamor (13th Cent.), and for the wee folk to play at casting spells.
“It’s not that we don’t love you, Strap,” Kedor began, “How could we not? You are our son, our only son. But there is the Law. We Outcast Yodden may only marry our own kind, while—they—they—“
“The Greeks, Poppa,” said Strap, impatiently, “Why do you have such trouble saying who they are? They are demons, just as we.”
“Not the same,” said Arura, shaking her head vigorously, “Not the same. We are, for all our fallen nature, still part of the Israelite nation. They are but paganfolk, and not worthy of such as we….”
And the lecture went on, until deep into the morning.