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A Trick on the Tail

by Giulio N. Caroletti

Chapter Two: ENTANGLED

A guard looked at me. "Hi man, wanna enter 'ere, man? What's ya business 'ere?"
The man had a terrible accent. I was barely able to understand him.
"Is this the palace of Milady Eloisa?"
"Is it, man. Whaddya want 'ere, Thy?"
"Uh...well...I have this..." said I, and handed him Ertran's message.
The guard smiled and nodded:
"Yah, ay see. Well, ay goin'a call the Hous'massa and he'll gonna speak to ya." He handed the message to the other guard and entered in the Palace. After ten minutes he returned smiling and said "Ya just gonna wait a minit, yeh?"
I nodded. It was really difficult to understand him...

I waited more than an hour, standing outside the doors of the marvellous palace. The guards didn't talk to me, and I didn't want to speak, fearing that my difficulties in understanding their slang could prove dangerous to me and my mission. Then, the doors were opened, and two other guards arrived, looked at me, then at the guard I had talked to.
"Him?". "Yah." "Hav'a nice day!" I had really problems in understanding them.
I was brought in a wide room, where a man, surrounded by four other guards, suddenly appeared. He was tall, with long golden hair and brown eyes. He was of coppery skin tone, and thus a Common Alphatian. His face was beautiful, but he had a twisted, cruel smile, and I didn't like this. He looked at me with interest, then, with a gesture, he told the guards to make room for him. He advanced with a mocking smile, arrived near me, and begun to turn around me, like if he was studying a dog in a kennel. I didn't say a word.
"Well, you seem to be a good specimen. But let's see." He drew a knife from the shaft, and first cut off my poor belt, had a guard throw away my jacket and cut off my shirt. He didn't look too enthusiastic.
"Misses some muscles, to be really excellent. Somehow weak, huh? Well, it's alright, wide shoulders, a beautiful neck, a beautiful face, beard, exotic outlook with that brown hair, Thyatian-style cut, and brown eyes..." He pointed at my legs, and a guard took another knife and stripped away my trousers.
"Beautiful legs. Not fat at all. And seems to be quite clean too." He turned away, followed by three of his guards, while speaking to the fourth "Soldier, bring him to the maidens to have him cleaned and then bring him to the room."
I was scared to death. I know it is not the custom of a Thyatian soldier to fear, but this was not a battle where I had to fight manly for my life. This could be the beginning of a life of torture and enslavement, forever victim of the tortures of an Alphatian sorceress.

Well, my foolishness was evident. I had misunderstood everything. I was sent to a warm bathroom, where I was washed, perfumed and cleaned by some slaves. There were a couple of Thyatians, and one Pearl Islander, but the others were all Alphatians. They seemed very scared, and was almost afraid of touching me, but nevertheless they did their job...very well. They even shaved me, paying attention to keep my "Thyatian styled beard". Then they came with a copy of a Thyatian toga, and they dressed me with it and some comfortable sandals. I felt very stupid, but that was my least problem at the moment. I was brought in a comfortable and wide room, and my suspicions were confirmed.
The room was elegant and showed the artistic tastes of its mistress (or maybe of her housemaster?). There were paintings, a small statue, a beautiful couch, two comfortable chairs, a small marble table with a bottle of red and one of white wine and two glasses; a desk with some fruit (and I recognised a couple of zzonga fruits too), some biscuits and crackers, and a decanter full of water. I turned to the maiden to ask her what I had to do there, but she had already left without trace. I felt very frustrated, without any idea of what to do. I looked around the room, but was afraid even to sit down on one of the chairs, so you can guess I had no wish to drink the wine nor to eat the food.
However, I noticed a small book on the desk, that I hadn't seen at first because it was placed behind the fruit. It told the story of the Squonk.