With apologies to Jack Vance...

The apprentices were not happy. Galeth heard them whispering behind his back as he checked the fire. He did not need to glance away from his work to tell that Marne had that old, familiar worried look on his face. After training the boy for three years, he knew exactly how Marne’s brow would crease when he felt that something was wrong, but did not wish to disrespect his master.

He shifted the heavy ladle a few inches so that the starmetal would soften more evenly, and waved to the boys to pump the bellows again.

“A little more attention to the bellows, if you would, dear Jes,” he reminded them. “This is tricky work. Starmetal dislikes melding with baser things. This scarab requires a fire somewhat hotter than we would use to soften fine copper filament.”

He turned away from the raging heat of the forge and looked at the boys taking turns at the bellows.

“Marne, why does your brow wrinkle as if you smelled something foul in my workshop?”

The newer apprentice gave Marne a you’re-in-for-it-now look, but Marne was unafraid.

“I do smell something foul, sir,” he replied. “I smell sorcery of the darkest kind. Irrespective of your exalted position and superior wisdom, I must ask myself if it is right that we so eagerly embrace this commission, knowing as we do that our work will bring no good to anyone.”

"You know, then, what the wizard Camounth plans to do with this golden bug?”

Marne shook his head.

Then how can you be so sure our work will bring no good?”

Marne took the other boy’s place leaning on the bellows, and sweat flew off his chin as he answered, “everyone knows that Camounth is wicked, sir. I don’t have to know exactly what he is doing to know that it is evil.”

“They say you can hear screams from his house all night long,” the other apprentice joined in.

“They say that?”

“Yes, sir.” Both boys nodded earnestly. The smith checked on the state of the gold in the forge. Almost ready. He surveyed the workbench where the mould for the scarab’s body lay, made sure that his tools were all in the proper places, and nodded in satisfaction.

Turning back towards the apprentices, he asked, “I am a lowly goldsmith, and must defer to your intimate acquaintance with the upper crust of Shaltanese wizardry. What, in your opinion, is Camounth?”

Hesitantly Marne ventured, “a wizard?

“It is as I have heard it, as well. A wizard, our friend Camounth. A man, or manlike being at any rate, who performs sorcery and enchantment. A man who works with the darkest elemental energies that weave our world together. One who melds flesh to stone, if rumour serves, and feathers to scales. A man who summons fire from the air itself. And, unless memory betrays me, a member of the Golden Circle. Is that, more or less, what you have heard?”

“Yes, sir.” They both knew that Galeth was angry.

“And what, may I ask, are we?”


“Again, the very answer I myself would have given. We are goldsmiths. Men of hammer and forge, who melt and shape precious metals. Jewellers. Craftsmen. Do you have any knowledge of sorcery, Marne?”

Marne shook his head despondently.

“Are you girded with any of the protective charms, any of the runes that sorcerers often weave into the fabric of their clothing, Jes?”

The other boy confirmed that he was altogether ignorant of the fashions of wizardry.

Am I mistaken, or is this workshop entirely devoid of ensorcelled weapons and amulets of power?”

Both apprentices shook their heads.

“Good, then our esteemed neighbours will finally have a chance to observe at first hand the results of a skirmish between three poorly armed goldsmiths and one of the most powerful wizards in Untral Minla. There will be no interference from extraneous factors, nothing to spoil the purity of the righteous – and brief – melee that will surely follow in the highly unlikely event that I should decide to tell this legendary Camounth that his wicked business is not good enough for our shop. Let me ponder this matter a while. Cease your huffing and puffing there, dear boys, and rest a few moments. Let the bellows stop! Let the gold and starmetal cool while I devise a strategy for the safest way to inform this sorcerer, this vivisectionist, this dark enchanter whose name is whispered in fearful tones from Saltheart Harbour to the Southern Swamp that his patronage is not needed in our worthy shop. But wait, I perceive a renewed vigour in your bellows work! Why do you not stop?”

The apprentices had resumed pumping the bellows with great alacrity. The taller Marne, sweat flying off his brow, grunted a response while Jes took his turn.

“You argue with commendable sincerity, esteemed Master, but I have just recalled the old adage, of Dejali origin I believe, that it is better to finish one job poorly than to start five jobs well. I believe this saying applies to our current situation, with only a minor extension of the basic metaphor.”

The master smith nodded slowly. “Reluctant though I am to abandon my virtuous stand against the tyranny of wizards, on this occasion I will defer to the wisdom of the Dejali. It shall be as you say. Let us finish this evil bug, and curse it at our leisure when we are spending Camounth’s silver in the tavern down the street.”

Other sketches: The Society of Three, Jezi and Calico, Windmawr Market, Protector of the Small...

binmen pouring all
my loneliness into their
big iron chalice

the city morning
is a banquet of silence;
winter smothers all

It’s not easy being green.

Especially when you’re really, really little and green like I am. Most of the time I go around unnoticed by everybody else. Sometimes I get really, really lonely too and wish I’d grow big like the Jolly Green Giant so that everybody would see me standing there with my hands on my hips and laughing over a valley and the sun would be shining behind my back. How exciting would that be?

It hasn’t happened yet and maybe it never will but I think I should keep on hoping. You never know.

I guess it’s easy to be jolly when you’re big.

And green.

Like he is .

He’s my hero!

I don’t think I could wear that green Tarzan thing that he does though.

I’d be too embarrassed.

Someday I’m going to write about a day in the life of a little green man so that everybody else will know too.

Then they’ll see how hard it is to be different.

Cassie Stevens
, GAP Cashier
Vichizzle McNizzle, Pimp Daddy

Fashion Today

Vichizzle: Fashion, huh? Ah-right. First of all, all ye muthafuckas out there, ya gots t'have stylin' threads, specially if ya wants to pimpin' like the Vichizz, knowhaddi'msayin? Bright culuhs is a must. Purples, greens, fuckin sea foam, and makes sure they shines a little! And they gots to be business-type shit, just pimped out. Don't be fuckin tryin to do no pimpin' in no whitey Dukes of fuckin' Hazzard cutoff jeans that y'all painted purple. You do and I will personally put a cap in yo ass! I means a fuckin nice jacket, maybe a tie, smooth silky pants, and the fuckin shiniest, sparkliest shoes you can find! And after that, ya gots to ass-ess-orize! Get ya a muthafuckin matchin' hat, maybe with a feather comin' out of it, and then maybe a fuckin boa round yo neck, and--

Cassie: Like I am totally like into fashion and junk and like me and my girlfriends, yknow, we like, totally like shop the entire mall, right and like we know totally all about fashion and like that big black dude says one of the, like, important things is accessorizing and junk and you have to, like, know what you're doing because if you don't, like, know what accessories go with your outfit, you are like such a freakin dork I'm not even kidding, y'know, and so basically ya gotta, like, take a really good look at your outfit when you're at - where else - the freakin GAP you dweeb and like totally pick out the right belts, shoes, and junk and you know what is totally hot right now, well that's little dogs, like that freakin Taco Bell dog, that's the real hot in accessory right now, get yourself a little dog and like make sure the leash matches the collar and both, like, match your outfit, like for sure, everybody's doing it, like, Lindsay Lohan, Britney Spears, my girl Paris Hilton, like, everybody, you know?

Vichizzle: Who the fuck is this bitch?! Where the--

Cassie: but, you know, like you totally gotta get the outfit right, for sure, cuz that's like the most important thing, right, cuz, like, accessories that go with a totally dorky outfit, well that makes them totally dorky, too, right, so like matching your skirts or jeans or whathaveyou with your top is an absolute freakin must, no kidding, cuz like you don't want to look like total freakin nerdfood, you know, so first of all ya gotta, like, match your colors and junk, make sure you don't look like total puke when you stand in front of the mirror, you know, and oh! one important thing ya gotta remember when, like, putting together an outfit, despite what, like, your parents say, and I know it's been like this for a long time, but skin is still in, folks, that's right, get whatever, like, shows the most skin that won't totally get you arrested, you know, like bring those jeans, like, down, and the shirt up, and guys you listen, too, this is totally freakin for you guys, too, cuz like low riders aren't just for chicks now, you know, oh, yes, metrosexual, remember that, OK, watch Queer Eye and junk, cuz the gay guys totally know fashion today and have lots of good advice and junk so like watch that show if you wanna totally know what's in and what's not, right, but anyway, like I was saying, the more skin the better, like even you guys, hello?, people like seeing the belly buttons these days, time to stop hidin the bb's, cuz, like, well, I dunno, like, they're cool and stuff, innies, outties, doesn't matter and remember sometimes you can go too low, well, I mean, you can't go too low most of the time, just remember to, like, shave those pubes if, like, any start showing and you know some girls ask me about butt crack, like it to worry about it if when you bend down or sit or anything how a little crack can show and you know, I tell them, look, a little crack's ok, you know, no I don't mean the stuff you smoke, cuz that's like total nasty shit, I mean your butt crack, but if it really bothers you maybe take your pants up a notch, I mean like as much skin as possible but only what you're comfortable with...

Vichizzle: Hey, HEY! It's my fuckin turn, bitch, I was finished with what-- know, that's the most important thing, you gotta at least be like somewhat comfortable, don't wear something you totally don't feel comfortable in or whatever, although if you're not comfortable in the really cool stuff well then you're a frickin dork or maybe one of those freaky goth chicks, like, EW! get away with your black hair and leather and chains, ew, ew, ew, take those boots off and stop shaving your head you weirdo, hello? like whatever you freakin goth loser and...well, sorry, I just, like, when I get started goin off on those goth people it's hard to stop you know, yeah, I know, breathe, Cassie, breathe, all right now...

Vichizzle: Motherfuck--!

Cassie: anyway, like OK I have to clear something up, no not my skin you freakin dweeb, like, with boots, OK, I know I totally just like went off on boots, but actually some boots are OK, it just depends on what kind, like get some, like, Manolo Blahniks or like something by Dolce & Gabbana and since it's, like totally winter right now those sherpa-lined booties are in so get yourself a pair of those cuz like before you know it spring will be here and then if you're wearing those in spring you'll look like a total freakin dork and you don't want that, y'know, and then you'll wanna get a nice pair of rainslicker slides, those are totally hot and when summer gets here you totally gotta get a pair of flip flops or ballet flats...

Vichizzle: Who the fuck cares about flip flops?! Would you shut the fuck up?! I miss debatin' with that little Tyler shit, this is bullsh--

Cassie: but, like, if you wanna be in fashion this spring, the word out is that shorter, boxy cropped jackets will totally be the thing, and you also totally gotta get some A line gypsy skirts and a total accessory that's coming up, remember these, like, two words: tribal jewelry, if you're into that ethnic junk that is...

Vichizzle: Ah-right, I've had enough! You shut the fuck up little girl! You disrespectin' the Vichizz now and I ain't gonna fuckin take it anymore! Fuckin wit yo flip flops and gypsy skirts, fuck dat, I'm talkin' bout real style, not no shit fo little g--

Cassie: All right, pimp man, you just step back now, OK, cuz like you wouldn't know fashion if it was, like, a truck or some junk and totally ran you down, OK? so like totally zip your lip and listen to some real advice here, OK?

Vichizzle: Dat's it! You innerrupt me one mo time and I'm gonna fuckin--

Cassie: Do what, you big freakin dork, you'd better step back cuz I like got some mace here and I'm not afraid to freakin use it, yknow? I totally, like, maced Justin Baker last week when he tried to freakin touch my boob so you can like totally chill out and junk, OK?

Vichizzle: Now I gots to make this point about matchin yo pimp clothes to yo pimpmobile, ah-right, so you just sit down, now bitch, and--AHHH! AHHHH! FUCK, FUCK! FUCKIN BITCH! AHH, MUTHAFUCKER!

Cassie: So, like, anyway...let's talk belts now, OK...?

Vichizzle: My eyes

11/24/04 == 12/20/04 == 12/21/04 == 12/30/04 == 01/31/05 == 02/10/05 == 02/14/05 == 05/18/05 == 07/25/05 == 09/01/05 == 10/24/05 == 12/22/05 == 07/20/06 == 10/31/06 == 02/07/07 == 07/13/07 == 12/18/07 == 9/17/08

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