Double For Nothing
by Dr. Mercurious
This is Avalon, a place where magic still roams wild even in the most tame of areas; it’s a great vacation spot, but not for the inexperienced. All sorts of powerful entities make their home on Avalon and some of them equate ‘tourist’ with ‘delicacy’, even carrying around a sack of condiments – just in case.
One of the most famous – and notorious – of the Avalon, city-states is Saqquara, racial home to a race of winged lions named the Sphinxes. Saqquara sprawls in the heart of the Tiphraeteus Valley as the Ibis River undulates down the center. The Sphinxes have a reputation for being fussy, hedonistic, indolent and lecherous. The part about being fussy is a bold-faced lie; after all, one never knows if someone is a good lay just by appearances.
Arena Block is one of the most infamous places not only in Saqquara, but throughout Avalon, beaten only by the Faire of Sun and Moon – which tops all toppers – and rivals the Foreigner’s District of Gehenna. The Arena itself seats twenty thousand and is crafted from a light-colored stone, carved elaborately to depict various types of physical games such as running, weightlifting and synchronized masturbation. Ringed around the structure are shops, inns, taverns, brothels and smokeries – the last being a Sphinx invention, a restaurant where various hallucinogens, sophorics and narcotics are served along with hot and cold food and wait-staff .
Arena Block is a monument to a good idea gone berserk. The Sphinxes long ago decided to have their prisons pay for themselves by putting the prisoners to work doing all the dirty, nasty and necessary jobs no one else wanted to do like trash collection and street sweeping. Then one day, someone decided to build an arena where not only could you have free athletes but slave-gladiators. The idea was implemented swiftly; the bookies moved in almost before the dust settled and before you could say, ‘whoops’, Arena Block became the place in Avalon for sports betting. Since in every sport there are favorites, some of the slave-gladiators became stars – wealthy stars. Several in fact, once they served their time, would hurry up and commit another crime and hope they kept the same agent.
One such agent is Harathur, although he prefers to deal in free gladiators. He’s a slim Sphinx with a sandy coat of fur, dark feather-mane and chocolate wings with cream tips, and has only four free gladiators on his payroll. Normally that would classify him as a very small fish, but he’s always believed in quality over quantity. In fact, two of these gladiators are very, very popular and very, very good which means he is quite wealthy. Tonight, he is even wealthier as all four of his clients have won spectacularly. Normally, Harathur was of simple tastes – for a Sphinx – but to celebrate his good fortune he planned to splurge. First, he paid a visit to Pothecarius Wineries for a bottle of Very Orignial Sin which has been described as ‘black silk with a raging hard-on in a bottle’. Next, he hired a runner to deliver a message to Bahera’s for one of her ‘topsy-turvy’ working girls. Finally, he stopped at his favorite deli for a goat-and-pepper pie – served hot –and flew home to his brownstone on Anderos Street. Harathur was whistling a happy tune to himself as he passed his foyer, through the receiving room, and into the kitchen, where he dropped his pie and almost his liquor.
Lounging on his dining room table was a Legend.
One hears of Legends, of course. Avalon is a place of high magic and high adventure, and every so often someone manages to go beyond just being an adventurer or even a hero. There’s Lord Phaeron of the Unicorns, who once fought the Dragon King Sardonyx for a whole week straight. General Viris of the Griffons, another Legend, once slaughtered an entire brigade by himself. Eros of the Sphinxes is also on that list, even if what he’s known for generally can’t be gone into any detail if there are littles present.
And then, there’s Bridgette.
Bridgette is a Vulperus. Vulperi occur when a Kitsune and a Cerberus get very friendly and one gets pregnant. Bridgette had three heads and three tails and classic fox coloration. As for why Bridgette is considered a Legend…some call her the world’s greatest thief, some call her a consummate spy, some call her a trickster supreme, and some claim she’s nothing special. Whatever the opinion, everyone agrees wherever there’s trouble Bridgette is usually right in the middle of it laughing from all three heads and some sort of valuable trinket tucked under one arm.
In short, Bridgette is an Interesting Time. There’s a well-known curse about that.
Harathur proffers his bottle. “Can I offer you a drink?”
Bridgette chuckles in triple harmony and sits up. All three heads have the same headfur-style; poofy on the sides and very short. Her thin frame is shown to good effect in something the Mundane World calls a ‘school uniform’; white blouse buttoned at the front, short pleated skirt in plaid, bare legs, short white socks, shiny black shoes. Sphinxes have been known to wear far more daring outfits but something about it just pulls at the eye. “Business before pleasure,” her center head smiles. “I have a proposal for you.”
“I see.” Despite having three heads, Cerebi have only one personality, so he addresses her as one person. “Well, as my plans for the evening seem to have been, ah, disrupted, it appears I’m available. What did you have in mind?”
Left head. “I wish to rent Pollux and Castor’s contract for a year and a day,” she replied.
The only thing that stopped Harathur from laughing at her outright was his sense of self-preservation. “I see. What could you offer me to give you Agent control over my best money-makers?”
Bridgette held up a rolled-up scroll he hadn’t noticed before. “I happen to have here the contract of Juniper, which I will give to you to manage in tra-“
“Done,” Harathur replied at once, licking his lips. How she’d managed to acquire the contract of one of the top concubines in Avalon was a mystery, but he really didn’t care. Juniper was a Gifted who knew shapeshifting magic and a standard part of her contract included carnal rights for her manager. Juniper always put her contracts up for bid and unless one had at least a six-figure number to commit, one should not even bother showing up. “Once I’ve checked it over, of course.”
“Of course” Bridgette stood up. “Don’t you want to know why?” She gave him a triple pout.
“Not really,” he admitted. “As long as Juniper’s contract is legal, I could care less.”
Bridgette handed it over. “I’ll let you be the judge of that. Take three days to authenticate it if you like – Seven Hells, pay Juniper a visit if you wish. I’m sure you’ll find everything in order.”
Harathur had already broken the seal and was scanning it. “Three days should do it,” he replied absently. “Anything else?”
“Only a request….may you live in interesting times.”
Harathur looked up to find his dining room empty. He couldn’t stop a shiver scampering down his spine.
Three Days Later
Today, the Arena is packed, for today is End Day. End Days only occur once a quarter; the purses offered to the participants are rather plump, but the risk is great for all events scheduled on an End Day are to the death.
Three raised dais has been erected in the center of the Arena for three different battles. The ones to the right and left have their fans, but the center one is commanding all of the attention, because that’s the match which promises to be interesting.
Contestant One is a Naga. From the waist-down, she’s a large snake, silver scales with a black diamond pattern. From the wasit-up, she’s a fem feline, dark blue with silver tiger-stripes. She’s dressed in a leather brassiere with a ‘skirt’ draped over her hips. There’s no rattle on the end of her tail, marking her as a spell-caster. Her expression is calm, almost serene as she regards her opponents…or opponents, in this case.
Cotestants Two and Three are a two-headed, four armed male black panther. They’re dressed in leathers dyed to match their fur. Each hand grips an ornate saber, and both pairs of eyes are fixed on their opponent.
The right head glances over at the left. “Remind me again why I agreed to do this, Castor?”
“Because we’re getting paid an almost indecent amount of money, Pollux,” the left head replied. “Besides, our Resurrection Insurance is all set, so at worst we’ll be laid up for a week.”
Pollux sighed to himself. All of the above was true, but Mistral wouldn’t be an easy defeat. Plus, resurrections didn’t always work. “I must have been drunk.”
“Actually at the time you were schmoozing an Elf tart with big – ” A Hobbit stepped into the ring wearing a white sash. “Here we go.”
The Hobbit called both contestants forward. “Okay, you know the rules,” he told both of them. “No mind powers, no poisons.” Mistral peeled her lips back to show her fangs had been capped. “If you do not have a resurresctionist, one will be provided you at your cost by the Arena,” the rabbit continued. “Understand?” Mistral nodded, Pollux and Castor copied the nod. “Excellent; to your corners, and come out when the bell sounds. The fight ends when one side or the other is dead. ”
“Do we have a plan?” Pollux murmured to his brother as they returned to the northeast corner of the ring.
“I was thinking Plan NINT,” Castor replied, also keeping his voice low.
“Little risky, isn’t it?”
“Not especially – she is a Naga female, after all.”
The brothers turned around. Mistral was regarding them like an armed adult regards a child with a peeling knife. They kept their own gaze neutral. Suddenly a gong sounded; they kept their top swords in a blocking position while the bottom pair held at the ready and ran forward. Mistral lunged, hand arcing in front of her; four daggers of ice streaked out at the brothers, but they managed to deflect all of them. Mistral was already on the move; air crackled and snapped around her as her vulnerable torso was sheathed in ice and an ice-forged spear appeared in her right hand. She sprung forward and attacked to their left, but the brothers dodged right. Her left hand suddenly opened and a snowball shot out of it, hitting Pollux in the face. He sputtered and switched the swords on his side to full defense, which barely parried a spear lunge.
“Smooth,” Castor snapped at him. “Real smooth.”
“Shut up.” Pollux cleared the snow, but Mistral was already behind them. Castor threw their shared body flat as a white ray spring from her outstretched hand and encased a section of ropes in ice. “Hey!” Pollux declared. “Warn me next time, would you? I almost broke my muzzle!”
“Whine, whine, moan, moan,” Castor taunted. He snuck a peek at Mistral’s expression; sure enough, her muzzle was screwed up in a grimace of derision. “Don’t you do anything else?”
“Listen,” Pollux snarled as they got to their feet. “I pull more than my share of – aggkfpt!” Mistral threw another snowball in his face, but he quickly wiped it away. “What you couldn’t block that?”
“That’s my line,” Castor shot back, lowering his guard. Mistral slid closer. “You know what’s going to happen one of these days if you keep this up?”
Mistral raised herself up, spear poised to ram it right through them. As she did her ice armor shifted upwards, exposing her waist. Instantly, the brothers lunged forward with all four swords, skewering the Naga. Mistral shrieked and went down, spurting copious amounts of blood. Thus, Plan NINTT – or, ‘Now Is Not The Time’ – was successful once again.
The brothers took a bow; Mistral wasn’t going to be continuing the fight. “How come I always have to be the hothead?” Pollux complained.
“Because you’re a better actor,” Castor lied. It was a given that Pollux had personality quirks Castor found irritating just as Castor could sometimes get on Pollux’ nerves. However, since the brothers were stuck together for life – no spell could give each his own body it seemed, at least no spell they could afford – compromise was essential.
Pollux kept his peace as they took their bows. Like his brother he too knew that they had to both bend over backwards to get along, or even breathing could be a battle. Still…it didn’t stop him from thinking about what it would be like to be separate from his brother. Or, something just as good, someone to talk to who understood. Ah well, no sense wishing for the impossible, he thought to himself.
The Free Gladiators had their own hang-out; it was called the Trusty Friend, and no bar was safer – mainly because nothing is more irate than a gladiator whose mead has been ruined by a would-be tavern thief. Pollux and Castor had decided to indulge a bit, and the two brothers reclined on a pile of cushions in one of the privacy rooms upstairs. Their pillow was the lap of a busty Nightmare who fed them anchovies while a voluptuous Sphinx fem busied herself with their pedicure. Castor was just about to ask the price of something more intimate when their manager Harathur burst in, out of breath. “For the hundredth time, knock first,” Pollux told hid with flattened ears. “We might have been in the middle of someones.”
“I thought you were out of town today?” Castor asked.
“I was, but I heard from one of my contacts,” Harathur wheezed. “Slavers’ Market has something that might catch your and Pollux’ fancy. Two somethings, actually – a conjoined pair of fem cats.”
“If this is another wild goose chase –“ Pollux growled.
“Isn’t.” Harathur collapsed into a chair. “Whew. I checked out myself. I even placed a hold-fee on them for you.”
The brothers relaxed. “Thanks,” Pollux nodded.
Harathur waved it aside. “Hey, I know you fellows have been looking for other conjoinees like yourselves. Don’t sweat it.”
The two sat up, earning an annoyed snort from the fem Sphinx. Castor eyed Pollux. “Buying them will probably eat up all our seed money.”
“The training school can wait,” Pollux shot back. “It anyone else buys them, it’s the brothels or worse.”
Castor nodded. “I feel the same way.” He focused his attention on Harathur, the Nightmare and Sphinx fems forgotten. “What’s their status?”
“Grabbed by one of the minor Gehenna slavers, sold to Slavers’ Market directly,” Harathur replied. “No warrants, no outstanding debts outside of their slave-bond. Physcially they’re a little clumsy so I’m guessing they haven’t been conjoined long. Mentally they’re doing okay.”
“Well, that’s something at least,” Castor allowed.
“Well if you two don’t hurry it up, it may be nothing,” Harathur urged. I’ve got a one-day hold, but anyone who’ll do business with a Nighthorse will have flexible ethics.”
“Right,” both brothers chorused. They turned into a whirlwind of activity as they pulled on some cleaner clothes and strapped on their weapons. With a quick wave to Harathur, they bolted out the door.
Harathur, or at least the person who looked like him, smiled at no one in particular. Everyone always forgets that if one is part Kitsune, one is also a shapeshifter. It’s something Bridgette often uses to her advantage. All three of her.
It’s inevitable: every city that practices slavery has a Slavers’ Market. Most cities do, although admittedly the cities of the Light races have very strict rules on what you can do to a slave and what you can’t. These rules are even written on every slave contract, just so the owner has a handy reference. Nighthorses call these ‘wipe sheets’ as in, ‘they’re worth about as much as it costs to buy toilet paper’. Unfortunately, there is some truth to that comment. Saqquara’s Slave Market is in the same area of the city as Arena Block. Slaves for cleaning, fighting, and the bedchamber are bought here and it’s illegal to sell any other kind. Pollux and Castor pick the ‘bedchamber’ section, figuring that’s where the joined slave fems will be, and they are correct.
The fems have been set up in their own stall. They’re chocolate point Siamese; their heads are set so close together on a single trunk that one could not even turn around and look at the other one. Likewise, their arms – one pair behind the other – also appear to be set very close together so as not to allow a full range of motion. In short, it seems as if their sexy, lilthe form is good for really only one thing, and that thing doesn’t require clothing – apt, since the fems are being displayed without so much as a loincloth on. A sign has been placed, announcing that the two will be up for auction tomorrow.
Both fems are in deep discussion with each other when Pollux and Castor approach. The one on the right notices them first. “Well now,” she chirrups. Her sister also turns to focus her attention.
Pollux smiles back; the fems’ grins certainly look genuine, and he likes the way their eyes rove over his and his brother’s shared body. Love is fine, but physical attraction’s always a plus. “Hello yourselves,” he grins. “So at the risk of sounding corny, what’s a couple of pretty kitties doing in a place like this?”
The one on the left makes an indelicate noise. “Trust us, it’s an improvement. Last clear memory we have is taking the private jet home; it got caught in a nasty storm. There was an explosion and we both blacked out. When we came to, we’d been changed into this form and bound in chains.”
Pollux frowned. “What’s a plane?”
“It would take too long to explain,” the sister on the right replied. “I’m Tina, and my sister’s name is Theresa.”
Castor and Pollux introduced themselves. “So, you weren’t born joined?” Castor asks.
“Actually we were,” Tina corrects. “Our parents wanted normal-looking children so they had us separated. Then a friendly sorceress rejoined us.”
“Originally we were connected by our bellies,” Theresa explains. “We don’t know how we got this way.”
“Who owns your Slave Papers?” Castor replies.
“Smooth,” Pollux muttered. “Real smooth.”
“Thinking of buying us, handsome?” Tina cooed.
“Ahm….” Castor composed himself. “Actually, we were thinking of, well, freeing you.”
“What’s in it for you two?” Theresa replies.
Both brothers chorused, “Dinner?”
The sisters glanced sideways at each other, then back at the brothers; their expressions softened. “Alright, dinner it is and maybe more,” Theresa purred. “His name is Glock.”
The brothers looked at each other. “Orge,” they chorused.
The sisters nodded. “He’s not as dumb as Ogres are supposed to be, either,” Tina warned.
“Few are,” Pollux replied sourly. “Everyone just thinks they are, just like everyone thinks Minotaurs eat people.
“Minotaurs can’t even digest meat,” Castor adds, looking around. He spied a young Harpy with a white sash. “Messenger ho!”
Instantly, the Harpy flew over. He looked to be about sixteen with good markings on his arms and back; his hyena muzzle was clean and his wings nicely groomed. “Sirs?”
“Take a message,” Castor replies. “To Glock, from the Gemini Brothers: Regards hold put on conjoined feline female slaves, wish to talk price.”
The Harpy’s eyes grew distant as he fingered a gold ring on his left hand. “I can reach him in five minutes.”
“Do it in two and there’s fifty percent added to your fee. Bill it to our account.”
Instantly, the messenger jumped up and flew away at top speed. “You know how to motivate people,” Theresa approved.
“Thanks,” he smiled. “I’m Castor, and this is my brother, Pollux.”
The sisters both grinned widely. “Nice names,” the chorused in a giggle.
“So, were you two born this way?” Tina asked.
“Yes,” Pollux nodded. “And let me tell you, being born different’s not much better and being shaped different.”
Castor caught a figure pushing its way through the crowd towards them. “The history lesson can wait, brother – looks like our slaver’s eager for a meeting.”
“Either he really wants to sell or he wants to trade,” Pollux mused. “I’ll wager the latter.”
Castor nodded, and focused his attention on the approaching figure. Glock was a bit pudgy for an Ogre, but his broad shoulders and bulging arm muscles let everyone know he wasn’t exactly a weakling. His hooves were shod, his tusks capped and even his snout was brushed and groomed. Glock seemed to be a firm believer in good personal hygiene. “Mr. Glock,” Castor nodded. Pollux decided to keep his muzzle shut – his brother was better at dealing with people that both of them would rather chop into fish bait.
“Pollux and Castor,” he wheezed, bowing elaborately. “I must say, am surprised at your interest, yes?”
“We pride ourselves on being unexpected,” Castor smiled. “Now then, what are you asking for this very pretty pair?”
He looked them over. “Yes, well, you understand for such custom slaves, plus the cost for their original procurement, the price is quite high.” He examined his nails in an exaggerated show of casualness. “However, I am open to the idea of a trade.”
“What’s the trade?”
Glock licked his muzzle. “I need a Second.”
The brothers glanced at each other. “Who’s the duel with?”
“A minor Griffin officer,” Glock replied. “First Wing Lieutennant. He picked a subordinate for his Second.”
“What’s his name?” Pollux cut in.
Glock fidgeted. He sighed. “Alright alright,” he groaned. “It’s Lithicar.”
“Lithicar??” Pollux exclaimed. “As in Lithicar Shadefeather? As in Lithicar of the Liegeslayer Line? That Lithicar??”
“Yes,” Glock said in a small voice.
“What the fuck did you do to piss him off, and what possessed you to be that stupid?”
Glock stiffened. “That is not your concern. Do we have a deal?”
“Why?” Pollux returned. “We’ll just purchase them from your estate sale.”
“Well then, since that’s your attitude, I’ll sell them to Cathaul for use in his Flesh Fantasy club,” Glock snaped. “He’s already expressed interest.”
The brothers looked at each other again. “You have to fight Lithicar for thirty seconds before calling us in,” Castor replies.
“Ten,” Glock argued.
“Twenty,” Castor countered, “and not a second less or we’ll take our chances dealing with Cathaul.”
“Done,” Glock nodded. “Meet me at the Sighing Dame; I’ll have a Truthfinder ready to witness.” He put out a hand,
“Deal,” the brothers chorused. And, just as they each put out a left, Pollux added, “We get to take them home for the evening – to inspect them for health issues.”
“Good show,” Castor murmured.
“Fine,” Glock snorted. “But I’m keeping their Geased collars with me, so don’t try anything.”
“Wouldn’t dream of it,” the brothers chorused. Glock glared as them as if to say ‘I don’t buy that for a minute’, but unlocked the pen and the stalked off with nary a grunt.
The sisters stepped out. “So this is where we make a break for it?” Tina asked hopefully.
“I wish,” Castor told them. “Glock’s got your Geas collars. Even if we stole them it wouldn’t matter. We can’t afford what it would cost to have them undone.”
“I take it neither of you think you can beat this Lithicar?” Theresa asked.
The brothers looked at each other and shared a nervous laugh. “Not even a remote chance,” Pollux finally told them. “There’s a reason no one’s stupid enough to piss Lithicor off enough to get challenged to a duel – and honestly, Lithicor is hard to piss off. I wonder what Glock did?”
“Maybe you could get ahold of this Lithicor and ask him?” Tina suggested.
Polux and Castor both opened up their mouths. They closed them. They looked at each other. “It couldn’t hurt,” Castor admitted.
“No it couldn’t,” Pollux added. “Let’s get ourselves a messenger and get you two a room.”
Both sisters raised an eyebrow in unconscious synchronization. Theresa gave them both a slow, sexy smile. “Separate sleeping arrangements, handsomes?”
“I would have thought we’d be sharing, if you know what I mean,” Tina added, licking her lips. “Why else did you two throw in that last clause?”
“Because we do want to check you two out for health issues, both supernatural and not,” Castor replied with a shrug. “Since Glock is still your official owner, he has to pay for it. After that, you two aren’t going to be in the mood to do much except sleep.”
The sisters looked at the brothers, and a tightness to their expressions that neither Pollux nor Castor had noticed before seemed to melt away. “Thank you,” Theresa replied warmly, and this time her smile lit up her face. She glanced over at her sister Tina, who nodded slightly and then their conjoined bodies lunged forward to grab Pollux and Castor.
Kissing in public is not frowned upon in Saqquara, and neither is open caressing. A good thing, since the sisters did quite a bit of both to their would-be saviors. “Well then,” Tina whispered in the closest male ear. “How about tomorrow then, after the fight?”
The brothers exchanged a look. “It’s best to have something to live for after the battle,” Pollux mused aloud to Castor.
“We’ll see how you two feel about it later,” Castor replied, ever a gentleman to the end.
“That’s the idea,” Tina grinned.
Both Pollux and Castor blushed.
In direct contrast to Arena Block, Duelist Circle is quiet, dark, and solitary. Held in the one of the sub-basement of the Arena the only participants allowed, outside of the duelists are the ‘seconds’ of said duelists and one immediate family member.
Glock had already shown up before everyone else. He’d kept his face serene as he relaxed on a chair he’d had brought, bandaged foot propped up, but it was hard when those freak gladiators took one look at him after climbing down the iron staircase. “What happened to you?” the one on the right declared.
“I took a tumble last night,” Glock told them casually. He’d bet even a Truthfinder wouldn’t be able to discern that the tumble was deliberate. “Compound fracture, the Healer said and, well, that takes a Master to fix – and it’s expensive.” He paused deliberately. “Of course, that means as my seconds, you two will have to pick up the slack. Too bad about the injury clause, isn’t it?”
The right one looked over at the left. “Should we tell him?”
Glock’s eyebrows drew into a frown. “Tell me what?”
“Now now, Pollux,” Leftie soothed. “Let’s wait for Lithicor.”
“Let’s not,” Glock insisted.
Rightie – Pollux – glanced at him as if he was a piece of rotted meat. “You, my double-timing, greasy little pedophile, are in no position to demand anything.”
A stone sank in his gut. “You talked to Lithicor.”
“We did,” Leftie agreed. “Why, Glock? Aren’t there enough willing fems in Saqquara? Or did you have a hankering for something not so ripe? I’ll give you points for trying it with a griffin pup -- I’m surprised the tyke didn’t rip your throat out instead of just kneeing you in the nutsack and flying off. You’re lucky there were no other witnesses and a Truthfinder’s word isn’t admissible in their courts. Oh, Lithicor isn’t coming, by the way. We settled with him.”
Glock almost stood up, despite his injury. “You can’t – that’s illegal!”
“I want to tell him this,” Pollux cut in. To Glock, “actually, it’s perfectly legal, now that you’re injured and unable to fight. Lithicor’s wife is amazing with all she knows about dueling law, so we came to an understanding; me and my brother serve him for a year and a day and the debt is square.”
Glock smiled. “Which means I’m off the hook.”
“Yes it does,” Pollux agreed with a nasty smile. “As far as he is concerned, anyways. However, there’s our duel.
The Ogre’s satisfaction vanished like a soap bubble. “What?”
“You tried to have us killed,” Leftie told him. “It’s bad to let that sort of thing just slide. Oh, and because of our debt to Lithicor he decides if we’re to fight our duel or he fights it for us.”
“Considering how well things turned out, we’re tempted to thank you,” Pollux adds. “We now have an ‘in’ with the Griffins, so we can get certified through their combat schools. It’ll be tough, but we can do it – and once we do, we can double our price as gladiators, sell-swords, or whatever strikes our fancy.”
“You’d have to deal with my Second, not me,” Glock insisted, latching onto a sliver of hope
“You’ll never get one willing to help you out,” Pollux snorted, “since Lithicor’s already offered to be our Second, and has no problems stepping in – immediately.”
The sliver of hope vanished. Glock licked his lips. “Maybe we can come to a deal.”
Pollux looked over at his twin. “He’s full of deals, isn’t he Castor?”
“He’s full of something,” Leftie – Castor – agreed. To Glock, “I’d love to say ‘fuck off’ but it turns out there are two things you can provide: one is ownership of Tina and Theresa and the second is a sum equal to the price Cathaul offered for them. Oh, and don’t even think of trying to pull one over on us, because we already know what that figure is.”
“I…I’ll have to liquidate most of my holdings!”
“What’s your life worth, Glockie-boy?” Pollux really looked like he was enjoying this.
Glock gritted his teeth. He was well and truly pinned between a rock and a sharp place. “Fine,” he snapped. “I’ll have the banknote delivered to you two personally.”
“You’ll swear in front of a Truthfinder as to exactly when that will be,” Castor told him as the twins leaned forward. “Be at the Sighing Lamb in twenty minutes. Oh, Lithicor’s wife has already pushed paperwork through seizing your total assets if you fail to show up. I think that covers all the loopholes both legal and non you could use to get out of this.”
“Alright, alright!” Glock said, throwing up his hands. “You win!”
The brothers smiled at each other, while Glock steamed and fumed at the unfairness of it all.
Later that night, very, very late, outside the gates of Saqquara in a place deep in the woods, someone who looked enough like Harathur to fool his mother stumbled along, cursing and foaming at the knobby roots.
“Language,” a voice scolded.
Harathur snorted and turned to face a certain male Harpy messenger. “Don’t Sphinxes have good night vision?”
A large bird fluttered down onto a branch. “They do, normally, but Harathur’s night-blind.”
“Poor male.” Harathur grinned. “I’m betting he wishes he could see, what with Jasmine sharing his bed.”
Laughter erupted from bird, Sphinx and Harpy. The laughter changed as the laughers did, until it sounded like three young, identical women all laughing at once. Then, in the blink of an eye, each was a single one-headed Bridgette. “I love sexy endings,” the one who was a Harpy smiles.
“You mean happy endings,” scolded the former bird.
“Do you think they’ll find out?” The ex-Harathur worried. She hated being the wet blanket of the sisters, but the job needed to be done.
“Eventually,” was-Harpy shrugs. “But not before all have had their happily ever afters – except for Glock, that is.”
“There are no endings,” ex-Harathur scolded, “because nothing ever ends. Except for maybe us – or did you two ninnies forget already?”
The other two Bridgettes looked at each other, panic on both their faces. “Oh, crap!”
“How many days have we been here?” the former bird asked in a way that said she already suspected the answer.
“Almost too long,” ex-Harathur replied. “Come on, we’d better go.”
The others jumped off their perches and approached her. The best way to describe what happened next is to say they ‘stepped’ into her. Their form ripped, heaved and contracted until they were once again a three-headed, three-tailed vixen. “I oughta hate you for being a spoilsport,” the left head hissed.
“Do you want to explain to Mom that we took an extra-dimensional holiday?” The middle head demanded.
Right head winced. “We can come back soon, though, right?”
“You are so bossy!”
“You forgot smart and cautious -- which is why I’m in the middle.” One of their hands fished out a long, cylindrical object with a multitude of dials. “Some one’s has to rain herd on you two and – unfortunately – I’m it. Now, which one is the return button agai-“
There was a flash, and once again, the woods were undisturbed.