Snook was at it again. He'd acquired a new stick and was trying to engage a beahive in an unchoreographed fencing match. He lunged, he struck, he parried at the air, he twirled and slashed, swished and grunted, jumped and shouted 'Ouch! Damn bees!' turned and ran into the house, slammed the door and panted for breath.

It was a very magnificent display, until you considered that he had just lost a duel to an inanimate object. Still, one had to admire his courage. Snook had battled that and the other beehives many times, and no matter how many beatings he received--or how many lashings from his mother--he always returned for another bout.

'What a trouthead', Snook's sister muttered. Hilfa was five years younger than Snook and--being a girl--already much wiser. Or maybe she just didn't see the sport in fighting beehives. Whatever it was, she found /watching/ Snook lose battles such as these much more entertaining than actually engaging in swordplay.

Having had enough swashbuckling for the time being, Snook came over to help Hilfa with the ice cream making. Half an hour earlier, he'd refused to partake in the task after Hilfa had refused to add lemon juice, insisting that their mother only liked plain shrimp ice cream. Snook was certain she was right, but he liked lemon, damn it. Still, ice cram was ice cream and it didn't sting like a bee. Hilfa gladly let him take over the task of grinding the ice while Hilfa got more salt.

They'd been working on the ice cream for just a few minutes when their mother came in the house. 'Have you two been torturing the bees again? I've had enough of this.' She quickly scribbled something on a piece of paper and handed it to Hilfa. 'Take this sign out by the road and hold it up for people passing by.'

Studying the sign, Hilfa read out loud '"For sale: you lovely children. Boy is an excellent sword-fighter and girl isn't. Yours for half a flounder. Inquire within." You can't sell us into slavery, mother. It's illegal.'

'I'm sick of your antics, so I'll sell you if I want. Now go on. And, here, take your dinner,' she told them, thrusting a quarter of a flounder into each of their hands.

'Cool!' exclaimed Snook. 'The two of us together are half a flounder? I have a quarter flounder right here!' He held up his plate. 'I hereby buy my freedom from you.' And with that, he headed out towards the road.

'Hey, wait! I'm selling you as a pair!' cried his mother. 'Come back here unless you can convince your sister to forgo her dinner as well! Give me that dinner!' she said, turning to Hilfa and snatching the plate from her hand.

Hilfa shrugged and headed out to join Snook. Picking a direction ('North! That's where polar bears live.'), they set out on their way. 'With luck, we'll meet a travelling companion.'


The captain of the guard stood nervously before Lord Vortin, royal head of military matters in Tanenbaum Region. 'Really, sir, we're quite sure the guy we let go had nothing at all to do with anything. There was no reason to suspect him.'

'He was there at the scene of the crime, was he not? He was with the two men you arrested. And yet did you even question him?'

'Well, no, sir. There was no reason to. He was a nice polite fellow. Didn't say a word the whole time. Why, he was so oddly polite it was almost as if he were one of those dreadful Pesce, with their formality and politeness. Wasteful, I call it. Waste of time, all around. They're the same way with fish, you know, sir? They don't eat them. They keep them in big tanks. Yes, this guy was just the sort of guy who could be our worst enemy, only, he wasn't, you know?'

'No, captain, I /don't/ know. And do you know why I don't know? Because you forgot to question him! What if he really was a Pesce! They're tricky little buggers. In fact, his politeness and ability to trick you make it ever the more likely. Being tricked by those bastards is completely understandable. That's what they live for.' Lord Vortin snarled, and then coughed.

'Oh, he absolutely wasn't, sir. He was a Tanenbaumian as the bes--wait: did you say "completely understandable"? You know, how that I think of it, his breath contained no hint of fish, his skin was well-tanned, and I believe--no, yes, I'm sure he bore the crest of the Pesce. Now that I think about it, it's perfectly obvious that he was one of them. I think he may have even mentioned it to us just before we sent him on his way. Yes, yes, that's definitely the case. So, no hard feelings about not questioning him, right? I mean, they are very tricky.' He looked up at Lord Vortin hopefully, who sighed heavily.

'You're not just saying that to get out of trouble, are you? He really was Pesce? He said as much?'

'Most assuredly, sir. I heard it with my own ears.'

'Fine, then. You're not fired. You're to prepare your men for battle. We shall march to war in a weeks time! I'll have the fleet prepared for a sea assault to distract the bastards.'

'Immediately, sir!' said the captain, snapping a quick salute. A quiet 'd'oh!' escaped his lips as he turned to head out of the chamber, but luckily, Lord Vortin was too preoccupied with battle plans to overhear.


Gar hopped down from the cart, thanked the couple with whom he'd hitched his ride, and set off at a brisk pace towards the palace. 'Oh ho!' he said to no one in particular. 'Here I am with a bag loaded with cash and nothing to do.For I am but a gullible tourist in search of cheap thrills. I do hope no one tricks me into paying them good money to visit the castle and then just shows the the boring old dungeon. I'm just dense enough to fall for such a ruse. Hey, pally. I don't suppose you'd be willing to show me around the castle in exchange for a small share of this wealth I have in my bag, perchance?' He pulled aside a passing servant heading out on his tea time break.

'I'm afraid the only place I could show you is the dungeon, mister. We're not allowed to bring tourists into the actual manse. But you said you don't want to go there, so I'll just be on my way.'

Gar, however, was not dissuaded. 'Oh dearie me,' he proclaimed in calm disappointment. 'If the dungeons are the only area a lowly tourist like me can enter, I suppose I will have to make do. Here, have a bit of my money.'

Though quite hungry, the servant now felt obligated to do as the well-spoken tourist asked, and led Gar along the path to the dungeons. 'I'll have to tell them you're the health inspector. They won't let you in otherwise. If you object to lying to the guards, we could just not go in. There's a delightful eatery not half a block from here.'

Gar expressed his continued desire to visit the castle dungeons, even if it meant some minor distortion of the facts, however undesirable he may find such truth-twisting, and the presently found themselves at a well-guarded gate.

'Health inspector' announced the servant. 'Well, I suppose I'll be leaving now. Enjoy the tour.' And with that, he was gone, leaving Gar smiling pleasantly at the guards.

' can go right in, I suppose. Everything's spick-and-span, but you gotta check that for yourself, don't you?'

'That's bureaucracy for you', Gar responded. 'Can't trust no one, even the very people keeping us safe and protected from those of the kind who might wish to do us some harm. I'll do what I can to ensure the brevity of my inspection. By the way, where are those despicable people you fine gentlemen picked up at the yacht explosion earlier? I ask only because I imagine they may be very dirty from the explosion.'

'Straight, through the fifth door on the left, then keep going until the tunnel branches. Take the second leftmost branch and continue on until the walls turn red. Take the first door to the right after that and walk about twenty feet. There you should find a stairwell. Go down two flights and then go through the smaller of the two doors. Head down the corridor until you reach the iron maiden. Through the door right beside that is the records office. They'll know where the prisoners are currently. They move around a lot, you see.'

His directions committed to memory, Gar headed down into the dungeons. After a couple small missteps, he finally arrived at the records office, where he found a sign saying 'Gone home. Person from the night shift: YOU'RE LATE!'

Just as Gar was about to perform a health inspection on the inside of the filing cabinets, a short man walked in, glanced at the sign, and snarled. 'I'm not late. The sushi brain's watch is still off. I /told/ him this before.' The man crumpled the sign and tossed it on the floor. 'What do you want?' he asked, turning to Gar. 'The new prisoners? They're in in section three, level four. Down this hall, through the door at the end, up the stairs, turn left, go four doors down and turn right. That will take you to another staircase. Go down two floors and then head to your left. You can't miss it.'

Gar headed out into the dismal passageways of the dungeons, and carefully made his way to section three, level four. Upon his arrival there, he found a tall guard standing before an empty room who explained that the prisoners had been here, but were now being moved somewhere else, he wasn't sure where, but they'd no in the records office, just up this corridor, up the staircase on the right, along the tunnel and then through the second door on the left...

At this point, Gar interrupted to say he was pretty sure he could find his way, thank you, and headed back the way he came.

'Yes, what do you want this time? Yes, they were just moves a few minutes ago. They're now in the secondary adjunct, one door down from before. Go down this hall, through the door at the end, up the stairs, turn left, go four doors down and turn right. That will take you to another staircase. Go down two floors and then head to your left. It's the only door to the right. I'd say you can't miss it, but you apparently managed last time, now didn't you?'

Once again, Gar thanked the guard, albeit with a slightly smaller smile this time, and reretraced his path. upon his arrival at section three, level four, secondary adjunct. There he met the guard who had been previously in section three, level four and had sent Gar to the records office to get directions to where they both now were, a good ten feet from where they had been.

Gar, upon spotting the guard sitting in a comfy chair chatting up the prisoners, decided to put the sack of bribing money to good use and gave the guard a good whollop. He then told the prisoners that if they gave him the name of their associate, his boss could ge tthem out of these drab and poorly-arranged dungeons. The prisoners, pointing out that Gar had just bonked their guard with a sack of money, refused, saying they could get out just fine now, thank you very much.

With a shrug, Gar stepped aside so the prisoners could walk out, and proceeded to follow them down miles of twisting passages, all alike. After a bit, he commented, 'Are you quite certain you don't want any help escaping? You've been down this particular tunnel three times now.'

The first prisoner said 'Fine, his name is Delmer.'

Just then the guard whom Gar had knocked unconscious with a bag of cash appeared and said 'Hey! You're under arrest for bonking me on the head, and for helping these prisoners escape!' Gar protested that the prisoners clearly had not escaped as they were still here in the dungeons, and pointed out that he still had a sack full of money, which could either be used for more bonking for for bribes. The guard, however, would have none of it. 'Nohow! You had your chance to bribe me. Now you're my prisoner, and I'll just /take/ the bag /and/ arrest you.'

So Gar bonked the guard with his handy sack full of cash, bid farewell to the prisoners, and dashed off. Two feet from the exit, he crashed into a guard on his lunch break. The guards corn on a cob with fish sauce struck the scythe by his side and split right in two. Gar quickly apologised, handed the guard a sack full of cash for a new ear of corn, and headed back towards Sawbill to report his findings to the boss.