Something M.Y.T.H. Inc.
Revolution is in the air. The king's court sorcerer is being eyed with suspicion. Not for dabbling in the black arts...not for consorting with a demon...not for having a dragon as a pet...not even for being mobbed up. But for the greatest crime of all: raising taxes.
Who is this terrible tyrant? None other than Skeeve the Great.
Oh, how the mighty have fallen...
If there is one thing that a background as a Mob rough-off artist does not prepare you for, it is conducting a democratic-type business meetin'.
Business meetin's in the Mob is usually conducted with as few participants as possible, to keep the potential witness count to a minimum, and the agenda consists of outlinin' a situation in as little detail as possible, and endin' with the simple instruction of “Handle it.” Havin' to utilize one's people-type skills to obtain opinions and input from the other participants is as unlikely as havin' to conduct a press conference.
Still, this was the specific situational I found myself in, and was determined to do the best I could with what little trainin' I had.
“I assume there is some specific reason for this summoning.”
That was Chumley talkin'. Even though he does a good job of playing dumb muscle when he's hired out as a troll, when he isn't workin', he talks as good as anyone and better than most.
“Ask Guido.” Nunzio sez, jerkin' a thumb at me. “It's his show.”
Now Nunzio, in addition to bein' my cousin, is also my usual workin' partner of choice. Unfortunately, as sometimes happens even in the best of partnerships, we happen to be in disagreement as to the necessity of this meetin'. As the senior partner, I have pulled rank and the meetin' is happenin'. As junior partner, however, Nunzio is standing on his right to bein' a royal pain in the butt while assistin' me.
“Well,” I sez, ignoring Nunzio, “since we're all here, we might as well get started.”
“Just a minute, Guido. Aren't we missing someone?”
This is Aahz pipin' up from where he has been leanin' against the wall next to the door. Him, I've been expectin' trouble from.
I favor him with a level stare.
“If youse is referrin' to the Boss, Aahz, I am well aware that he is not present. In fact, that is one of the reasons for this meetin'. You see, certain information has come to the attention of Nunzio and myself, and it is our . . . my desire to consult with all of youse as to whether it is wisest to pass said information along to the Boss, or if we should simply act on it ourselves.”
This is, of course, the crux of the disagreement between Nunzio and myself, as, in the Mob, to hold a meetin' without the participation or even the knowledge of one's boss is to invite the interpretation that one is planning some kind of takeover attempt. In the Mob, such activity is justification for termination of the most permanent kind.
Now, knowin' the Boss the way we do, I do not fear that this is a likely possibility. Particularly as we are tryin' to figure out how to support him, not attemptin' any kind of power play. The truth of it is, we is quite fond of the Boss and have prospered individually since havin' been assigned to him.
Nunzio, on the other hand, maintains that the Boss is at least technically a Mob sub-chieftain, and that callin' this meetin' is therefore treadin' on even thinner ice than some of the capers we have taken part in since joinin' the Boss's crew. At least then, he sez, we could claim that we was actin' under orders from the Boss. This meetin' is definitely my own idea, and as such I will be held personally responsible for any fallout which might occur from it. There are times when bein' an order-takin' goon and therefore low on the chain of accountability has its advantages.
“Let him talk, Aahz. I, for one, want to hear what he has to say.”
That is Massha talkin', earnin' her one of my widest smiles for her support, which she returns with a wink.
Aahz starts to say somethin', then just shrugs and gestures for me to start.
“Okay,” I sez. “Now you all know that durin' our recent assignment to stop or curtail the expansionist type efforts of Queen Hemlock, Nunzio and me stood duty for a while as Army types. Well, it seems that Hugh Badaxe's scouts have uncovered some news that affects the Boss. Not wantin' to take official action or use official channels, he looked up one of the squad that was servin' under Nunzio and me and sent `em here to pass the word along to us.”
I turn and wave a hand at the figure lounging against the wall behind me.
“This is Spyder. I guess you'd call her an old Army buddy of mine. Spyder, I'd like you to tell the crew what you told Nunzio and me.”
Now Spyder was probably the toughest member of our squad after Nunzio and me. She is whipcord lean with the grace of an alley cat and twice the attitude. Due to Army regulations, her short hair is now a uniform light brown instead of the rainbow of colors it was when she enlisted. This has not, however, made her look any the more military or otherwise domesticated. She continues to give the impression of bein' an over-aged gutter punk ready to fight and half-lookin' for it, which is exactly what she is.
She has been studyin' the assemblage as they came in like a store security type durin' the holidays. As I feed her the cue, like, she cranks her cat-eyes around to look at me direct.
“I don't think so,” she sez, shakin' her head.
“Spyder,” I sez, tryin' to keep my voice level. “This is not the time to get cute. I told you I wanted you to talk to these folks. Now tell them what Hugh Badaxe told you.”
“You said you wanted me to talk to some friends of yours, Swatter,” she snarls. “And I agreed. Didn't even say `Boo' about us meeting in a stable. But who are these people? The big hairy guy with the different-sized eyes, and the two with the green scales and pointed ears? You can't tell me they're from around here. And unless I've gone completely around the bend, that is definitely a dragon listening in from that stall. I want to know whom I'm talking to before I open up. I know you and Nunzio, but these people . . . ?”
She shakes her head again and lapses into a sullen silence.
“What's with the `Swatter' bit, Guido?” Massha asks.
“It's an old Army nick-name,” I sez wavin' her off. My attention is focused on my cousin. “Nunzio, I thought you explained things to the squad back when we was hangin' together at Abdul's.”
“You said to explain about Abdul being a Deveel,” he sez with a shrug. “I told them that our work with the Boss had involved traveling to other worlds and dealing with strange creatures, and occasionally some of those creatures popped up here in our world. I also said that they could be tricky or nasty or both, and if any showed up, like Frumple, to let us handle them.”
“That's it?” I sez. “You didn't tell `em anything about dimension or dimension travelers?”
“At the time, that seemed more information than was necessary,” he sez. “They accepted it.”
I am findin' this hard to believe, especially as Nunzio is usually one who loves to go on endlessly about anything at the drop of a straight line.
“Well,” I sez. “That was then and this is now. Perhaps you could elaborate a bit for Spyder's benefit, with particular attention to the players currently in the room.”
“No problem,” he sez, and turns to Spyder. “You see, those worlds I mentioned before are actually called dimensions. There are thousands of them out there, and the beings that live in them do so, for the most part, without any knowledge or awareness of the other dimensions' existence . . . except, perhaps, for occasional legends or folk tales. A few, however, are not only aware of other dimensions, but often travel back and forth between them either as part of their work or simply adventuring. These dimension travelers are generally referred to as `demons' when they're in a dimension other than their own.”
He paused and cocked his head at her, quizzical-like, but Spyder just keeps starin' at him.
“Now the group assembled here,” he continues, “is known in some worlds as M.Y.T.H. Inc. We've joined together to provide services to individuals or groups who require assistance of an unusual nature or capacity. Our leader, or Chairman of the board, is the Boss . . . or, more commonly Skeeve. You know him or have heard of him as Skeeve the Great, currently serving as Royal Magician to the Court of Possiltum.
“The green, scaly gent with the impressive teeth and the dour expression is Aahz. He was Skeeve's main instructor in magik and things dimensional, and is currently the boss's main advisor and second in command. He hails from the dimension Perv, which makes him a Pervect, as is his cousin, Pookie, the lean mean feminine version over there, who has recently joined our ranks to assist Guido and I with our bodyguarding duties.”
Those two individuals incline their heads politely to Spyder, who nods back.
“The large, hairy gentleman is Chumley. He and his sister Tananda, who is currently covering our home office, are from Trollia. As you might guess, he would be what you might have heard referred to as a Troll.”
Chumley gives Spyder a deep bow. I notice with some approval how quickly Nunzio skips past the reference to Tananda. She and Spyder met briefly on our last assignment, but Tananda was disguised at the time so Spyder didn't spot her as a demon. The two of them didn't really get along, as they were both interested in the same man, so Nunzio is wise not to dwell on the subject.
“Last, but certainly not least, is Massha. As you can see, it's hard to miss her, due both to her larger-than-life size and her propensity for bright outfits and jewelry. She and the Boss met on a caper in the dimension Jahk, and she was impressed enough to sign on as his apprentice. Within our crew, however, she's a full-fledged member.”
“Hiya, Sugar!” Massha sez, wigglin' her fingers at Spyder. “Don't worry. We're not nearly as nasty as we look.”
Spyder is so busy starin' at Massha she forgets to nod. This is not surprising, as Massha is quite an eyeful. Nunzio's statement that she is `larger than life' does not to begin to encompass her stature. Massha is huge, in all directions except up. What's more, her bright orange hair and green lipstick are upstaged by her loud, flashy clothes and enough jewelry to stock a small craft show.
“The other member of our troupe is Bunny, who isn't with us at the moment because she's meeting with Skeeve to go over the kingdom's finances. Like Guido and me, she's from this dimension, which is known elsewhere as Klah, incidentally, so there's nothing unusual about her appearance other than she's cute as a button.” He notices Spyder makin' a face at this, so he adds, “It might also be worth noting that she is the niece of Don Bruce, the Fairy Godfather of the Mob locally. Speaking of which, you should also probably know that as far as Don Bruce is concerned, our whole operation is a part of the Mob. An independent, stand-alone part, but a part nonetheless.”
“Oh yes,” Nunzio sez, pointin' to the contributin' party. “The aforementioned dragon is Gleep. He is the Boss's pet and has assisted us on several capers, much to the dismay and demolition of our opponents. Does that satisfy your curiosity, Spyder?”
He has not bothered to include either himself or me in the introductions, since, as was earlier noted, we have worked with Spyder before during our brief hitch in the Army. Of course, our own appearance is no less memorable than the rest of the team. We both have the size and build of professional athletes of the contact sport variety, only more intimidatin'. This was pretty much a prerequisite in our earlier work as Mob collection specialists.
“I guess. At least, explains a few things,” Spyder says comin' off the wall at last.
“Then, returnin' to the point of this meetin',” I sez, “could you now tell everyone what Hugh Badaxe asked you to pass along?”
“If you say so,” she sez with a shrug. “Basically, General Badaxe has been getting reports that pockets of malcontents are forming in the kingdom. Right now they're small and mostly talking, but he's concerned that they might eventually try taking action. Specifically, armed, organized action.”
“Pardon me, my dear,” sez Chumley, “but I'm afraid I'm missing something here. Why is Hugh having you tell us about this? If there's a possible rebellion shaping up, why doesn't he simply handle it with the Army?”
“I'm getting to that.” Spyder waves. “You see, it's not the kingdom they're talking about overthrowing. It's the magician. The Great Skeeve. The Boss, as you call him.”
“How's that again?”
Aahz is no longer leanin' against the wall, but standin' tall and looking very attentive.
“Well, it seems the word going around the kingdom is that an evil magician, that's Skeeve, has the Queen in thrall and is actually running the kingdom from behind the scenes,” Spyder explains. “While most folks don't seem to care much one way or the other, there are those who are talking about trying to . . . how do they put it . . .
free the kingdom from his merciless grasp.”
“But that's patently absurd!” Chumley sez with a frown. “We all know Skeeve. He's got a good head on his shoulders and shows marked potential as a magician, but mostly he's an organizer. There isn't an evil bone in his body.”
“I'll tell you something else, Missy,” Massha puts in. “Skeeve is helping to bail out the kingdom at Queen Hemlock's personal request. She's the one who's trying to blackmail him into marrying her. How does that fit with your `magician holding the Queen in thrall' scenario?”
For a second I am afraid that Spyder is going to go after Massha for the `Missy' comment, but she doesn't. This is a good thing, as Massha not only outweighs her on a factor of five or six to one, but also packs a mean magikal wallop in some of the jewelry she wears.
“That's how you all see him,” Spyder sez, “and I'm inclined to believe you, mostly because I trust the Swatter and Nunzio. You've got to look at it through outsider's eyes to understand what's going on.
“Skeeve definitely has the Queen's ear, that much you admit. Then there's the rumor that he consorts with strange, otherworldly creatures.” She pauses and looks pointedly around the room. “And some say he's guarded by a ferocious dragon.” She nods toward Gleep, who cocks his head at her. “And, finally, there's persistent talk that he has underworld connections and is supported by local organized crime.”
She pointedly does not look at Nunzio and me, but the message gets across.
“Not to offend the current company, but the citizens are thinking that `If it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck . . .”' She lets the sentence trail off. “Anyway, whatever the truth is, that's what the talk is that's going around the kingdom. General Badaxe thought you should know.”
I let the silence drag on for a few minutes as the team digests what they've heard.
“Thank you, Spyder,” I sez at last. “I guess the big question, and the reason I called this meetin', is: What are we going to do about all this?”
“I think you were right, Guido.” Aahz sez. “Both for calling the meeting and for thinking that it's best if Skeeve didn't hear about this.”
“I'll have to second that,” Chumley sez. “The lad's never been particularly good at handling women, and this thing with Queen Hemlock has him tied up in knots. I say let's look into this ourselves and let Skeeve focus on his other problems.”
“Right,” sez Aahz. “Particularly since this might get a bit messy, and Skeeve has always had a bit of a weak stomach when it comes to out-and-out violence, however necessary.”
He looks around the assemblage, and receives a round of nods. I am glad to see him takin' command of the meetin', since this now gets me off the hook.
“Okay,” he sez. “Here's how I see it. For the time being, I think most of us should hang tight here at the palace to keep an eye on Skeeve and be sure nobody tries a sneak attack or assassination. Guido, I think you and Nunzio should do some scouting to see exactly what the situation is and what we can do about it. Maybe you can figure out a way to rig it so Spyder here gets assigned to assist you.”
So much for gettin' off the hook.
“I think I'd like to tag along on that as well, if nobody minds,” Pookie sez, speakin' up for the first time.
“If you can handle the disguise spells so you don't scare the populace, I don't see why not,” Aahz nods. “Okay. If everyone agrees and there's nothing else right now, I suggest we break this up and get back to what we were doing before Skeeve comes looking for us.”
As the various players start to wander off, Aahz draws me to one side.
“Just one thing, Guido,” he sez. “If you have to call another one of these meetings, I suggest you do it somewhere other than the stables. Skeeve has a habit of dropping by here from time to time to talk to his dragon.”
I glance over at Gleep. Instead of his usual playin' around, he is sittin' very still and starin' off into the distance, just as if he were thinkin' hard about somethin'.
"Give yourself the pleasure of working through the series. But not all at once; you'll wear out your funny bone." -Washington Times
"Stuffed with rowdy fun." -Philadelphia Inquirer
To keep up-to-date, input your email address, and we will contact you on publication
Please alert me via email when: