Hauling Strap into their burrow by one wing, Kedorlaomer flung his firstspawned into a corner of their danglingroom and thundered:
“So soon! So soon after I warn you—those greasy, feta-cheese eating, debauching, orgiasting, olive-sucking Greco-peasants—and you lust after them? Well I know that you lust after them, you misspawned kobackslider!”
“Kedorlaomer, please! Not oblique to the baby!” cried out Arurah, while baby Kinah began to cry, frightened at her Papa-kobold’s fury.
“I will not bestill myself, Maldame Arurah!” shouted Kedolaomer, stomping toward Strap on pointed clawfeet, while the little kobold cowered, “I will be satisfied here, once you are punished—“
The belltower of St. Maudlin’s struck nine: Throw the vandals in court say the bells of Newport….
“Papa,” said Strap, “I will submit myself to any grounding or groveling, and gladly, but I will be late for Daemon Yeshiva. Please, let me go.”
Kedorlaomer stood, four distinct plumes of steam coming out of both ears and both nostrils. He ground his yellow teeth so all could hear: Grr-rr-rr.
“We will speak of this further, Master Strap,” he said, in a voice low and menacing, “I must go now, to sour some milk in a rebbetzin’s pitcher. Nineteenth Century. Vilna, Poland. A rainy day. She has brown eyes, a saucy lip, and has been lusting after the stable-boy….” His voice became quieter, and his eyes distant, as he looked into himself, his thoughts, his personal evil, and where he had to fly, back-in-time-and-place, to carry out his demonic duty.
“Thank you, Papa! Lilith hang you,” said Strap hurriedly, as he seized hold of his bookbag, shedding pages of Tractatus Malleus Maleficarum (King James, "The Hammer of Witches") and Masechet Machshayfote (Tractatus Sorcerii) and corkscrew-flying out the window, while his mother waved a blue handkerchief after him, to fend off any stray goodness.
Strap spun madly into the maelstrom of morning in Faeryland; dodging in and out, as elves, pixies, and gnomes ran, flew, and waddled toward the Demomnibus. He alighted at the BusPort just in time: the 9:06 was loading. An elderly Werewolf-driver, green of eye and yellow of tooth, was slavering as the dull brass, bright coppery-metal, and black iron vessel filled up with its otherworldly passengers, hissing in low tones as it stood near the walkway. It was Lion and Unicorn Day, and so some passengers brought white bread, some brown; the occasional plum-cake the Werey growled at, reached out a long, beclawed hand, and gouged out a gaping chunk, which he stuffed into his gaping maw, the purple juice dripping down his chinny chin chin, while he patted his belly and watched the swelling inhumanity slowly filling the 'bus.
At last, the shiny black 'bus hissed, steaming from all ports, and took off, caterpillars slowly reeling and unreeling as it wound its way skyward puffing and chuffing dark dank clouds of blueblack and grey pixiedust. Strap made his way to the central Jewplatform, and took a surreptitious glance at the back: no Clymene; just some hung-over-looking centaurs, who gave him back a maddened, bloodshot stare, and one elderly Silenus-type who, after making sure that the Werey driver was preoccupied doling out slices of brown bread for a hungry dragon-passenger, took out a bota-flask, and squirted some sangria into his slavering, toothless jaws, grinning like a demented scarecrow.
Strap felt dizzy: the odors of stale wine and fresh manure from the centaurian stall were overwhelming; he was glad when the ‘bus tipped up and beyond the last mountain of Dracul Heights, the morning breeze blew, and he saw, coming close, the redgold stones of the Daemon Yeshiva. He reached for and rang the Departure Bell, which told the Conductor-Pixie to whisper over the loud-hailer,
Powers of Nature, hasten Departure; Elvin or Pixie, Performing no Tricks, he;
We need you, you need us; Leaving Demomnibus.
Strap gripped his bookbag in a hindclaw, grabbed the exitpole, began to swing his way off the Demomnibus—and felt a solid thump on his back, making him fall forward, and only with difficulty, and some quick-fluttering-of-wings, able to regain my footing. Remembering the attack of yesterday, he outsprang his claws and looked round, only to find—
“Satan’s rump! What ails you, Thundermug Strap?”
It was only his benchmate from Cursory Class, Windowseal, a giggling fool of a kobold, who loved practical jokes. He was always late, and was glad to see Strap: now, the two of them might have to come up with some believable excuse to give Drabbi Tanglebeard. The bell of the Greek Paradox Church at the top of Belvedere Hill was chiming 9:30 after meridian, as they tucked their pointy chins into their chests and made speed to the Daemon Yeshiva.
They never tired of seeing the setting sun burning its dying rays against the copper, reddish-brown, and brassy tones of the ancient pile which was their school. Yeshiva-folk were boiling through the open doors on the first floor, while the koboldry, as b’nai aveer, winged-folk, or "children of the air," went darting up and around the open windows of the second and third floors, like so many moths around a candle-flame. Gnomish matmidim, perpetual scholars, clutching their ancient leathern tomes of Targum and Talmud, Kobold Kolbo and Kabbalah, with heavy brass buckled hinges and snaps, stood on the stony steps of the front and side entrances, arguing how many flies had buzzed into the head of the evil Emperor Caligula, consuming his brains and driving him sufficiently insane to make his horse a Roman senator. Werewolves who had taken a vow of Naziriteship and would never trim their fur, no matter how long and straggly it grew, clung to iron bars strung alongside the building, quarreling over what charms would make a demon enter a sapling, so that it would explode.
As they neared the northern door, Windy and Strap saw two senior vampyres, all pale skin, bloodred lips, and black clothes, wave their cloaks of invisibility over their heads, muttering, “Hye zye hine….” They quickly hid behind them, and crept into the building, as tails to their head.
“Better a tail to lions than a head to foxes,” Windy said, as they left their malefactors and ran up the stairs, ducking into corners to avoid a pair of winged Celtic dragons who were visiting from the Catholic reliquary across town. They whisked into their classroom just as Drabbi Tanglebeard was calling the class to order.
Tapping on his desk and glancing about, Tangle began, “Windowseal, Bookstrap, Hiddenface, Sentrygo—where is Shiversoul? Shiversoul?”
“Here, Drebbe,” came a tiny voice. Shiversoul was a new demon, recently born of children’s errors, and would have to suck upon more of the sins of their parents before he could take his place as a full-fledged kobold.
“Shiversoul,” said Tangle, patiently, “I want you to take two doses of Korach’s Cave Emulsion during Break today. We must build up your sinfulness, or you won’t be sufficiently evil to attend the lecture by our Mashgiach Machlati, our Demonic Supervisor, Drav Onesh, the Cursor Plenipotentiary, the Drov Himself.”
This was an unexpected sufferance: the keetaht koboldim, or kobold class, knew that Drabbi Tanglebeard had been a favorite student of the Drov in his earlier days, but for them, firstyear kobolds, to be visited by the Cursor Himself was a true honor. They fluttered their wings in anticipation to offer m'cheeaht kanfay or, leathery applause.
“That is, if your work this morning warrants it,” said Tangle, “So, first, let us open our Targum Sheydim to, ‘If a demon comes from a foreign land, bearing a writ of possession, he must state, “Before me were these evils stated, before me were they sealed”….’” What does Drabbi Mahvet ask about stating and sealing? Windowseal—did you study this in kobolduta?”
Drab Tangle meant the groups of demons that he designated, to go over the morning’s learning in pairs.
Strap's friend Windy was a joker by nature, but he loved Targum, and took it very seriously. If any mortal left a Hebrew holy book open so that the letters showed clearly and visibly, Windowseal was always among the first to spring upon it, pluck out the Hebrew letters brimming with holyjuice, and suck them dry. Often, Strap would come flying along too late, only to discover him leaning against the pages, a letter yood or hey dangling from one corner of his mouth, the sweet sap dripping down—these letters, in particular, spelt out the Name of The Ineffable, the Unapproachable Reproachable, and were most precious. Kobolds could sustain theirselves on the very dust from the floor of a mortal-yeshiva classroom, but Hebrew letters were a special treat for them.
“Stated, Drebbe,” began Windy, “meaning that we kobolds, like our cursed ancestors, are fond of scrambling words; even Satan, father of us all, is the Liar of Liars. Sealed, Drebbe, because once sealed, there is no changing. Stated and sealed: even we kobolds, indeed all demons, are bound by words. And the people from whom we spring, the Jews, are the people of words, as well.”
“Jews—yes, Jews,” smiled the Drabbi, “And what is our duty among the Jews?”
“We are Jewish, as well,” said Windy, “and proud of it. We cause dissension and strife among them; we cause them to argue among themselves; that is our way of keeping them, and ourselves, Jewish.”
“Yes, Windowseal,” said the Drabbi, “A good answer, with an evil intention—that is the best kind of answer from a demon-in-training, as are all of you. Hearken well to his answer, my students! And now, we turn back to the malevolent text….”