Strap was dreaming: he and the golden-haired nymph were walking—or, perhaps, flying slowly—through a field of yellowgrass, which glinted in the moonlight. Her blue eyes were like sky-diamonds, her hair a river of gold. She smiled at him, and he heard birds singing, and chimes tinkling—
Or pebbles, rather. Strap awoke to hear little rocks being flung against his window. He got up, dashed some pale-worm’s-blood on his hands to fend off any nightgoodness, muttered quickly the malediction, “How evil are your lairs, O’ Balberit,” and rushed to the window.
It wasn’t the nymph; not at all. Instead, a faun stood there, a faun-footman, by his uniform. Strap had never seen one up close, but he had seen them from a respectable distance, trailing their nymphae mistresses in the market around Leprechaun Street and Bubbemyseh Boulevard, downtown. The creature looked up, stretched, yawned, and squinted at the morning sun. His hair fell loosely in redgolden ringlets, and his long, elfin ears wiggled as he listened to a faroff call of birdsong, smiling. He wore a vest of woven birchbark and blue-dyed wool. As he leaned against an acacia-tree, he munched grapes from a bunch in his hand, idly spitting the pits onto Kedorlaomer’s mailbox, whose top bore a small gargoyle.
Strap spread his wings, climbed out his bedroom window, and gently hovered down until he was at eye-level with the faun, but did not touch ground; it would not do for a kobold, as one of the Chosen, to share the soil polluted by a debaucher, a pagan whose days were spent in drinking, rioting, and orgies. Strap knew all this; his Drabbi Tanglebeard in the Daemon Yeshiva had taught him well the laws of purity and impurity (tumah v’taharat shaydim), and his Yodling kobold friends had told him in vivid detail of fauns, satyrs, and centaurs, and what they did to the Greco-forest-female-Maenads at their Bacchanalia.
The faun looked him up and down, slowly, chewing thoughtfully. He spit another grapeseed out, angling its trajectory so that the slightest bit of spittle landed on Strap’s wing. He curled his lip at Strap, who hovered like a bumblebee before a fragrant flower, but said nothing.
“Well?” asked the kobold.
The faun waggled one long-clawed finger at Strap, and reached into his woolly pocket, taking out a smallish pink envelope, whose heliotropen odors perfumed the morning air, teasing Strap’s nostrils. The kobold reached for it, but the faun held it back, shook his head, and grinned. Strap gnashed his teeth, and thrummed his hoverwings harder: rmm-rmm-rmm—
“Air you the Jewbold to whom my mistress, Clymene Fair One, sends this billet-doux?” asked the faun, in a deepdown, lazy voice, taking long pauses between his words (As though he were drunk, thought Strap.)
“I am,” said Strap, and he made a graceful little bow in midflight. “May I have it, please?”
“Air you the Jewbold—(here the faun made a great show of unfolding the paper, squinting at it, spitting a seed out the side of his mouth, which whanged softly off the mailbox, and, finally, looking at Strap) known as—Strap?” asked the faun.
“I am, Faun,” said Strap, “and can we move this along? I have a class, at Daemon Yeshiva.”
“Ah,” said the faun, “fast-heart ne’er won fair lady, Jewybold me boy.”
“Strap,” said Strap, “My name is Strap. Leatherstrap, really. My friends call me—“
“Clymene,” said the faun, unrolling the letter, and starting to read, “My mistress. The fair, the uttermost of maiden nymphs, Zeus save the mark! Doth beg of thee, most humble and besmirched of all demonic cray-churs, one Leatherstrap”—is that chure name, Jewybold? What sort of name is that? But I digress—“That is, one Strap, to visit her—“
“Strap!” came a voice, angry and sudden, “You Strap! Who is that you’re talking to, Sir?”
“My father!” Strap groaned, “O Ashemedai—give me the paper, Faun!”
He reached for it, but the pointy-eared imp, half elf, half goat, snatched it away, shaking his head until his ringlets waggled.
“I cannot give the invitay-shee-OWN until I read it through—that is the Law,” he said, turned, and began to leap away like the deer he was.
“O Lilith, O Tiamat, O Lucif—“ Strap tried to follow, but his wing was caught from behind: he turned, and saw Kedorlaomer holding one wing, Arurah the other.
“Following a faun to folly—“ scowled his father, “Into the house with you!”