Zabulus enters

Meeting the monk

Evening descended on the town of Tselt.

The inn’s bell sang again, and again her patrons turned to see the newcomer. Quint Diantoni started visibly and nearly dropped the glass he was polishing. Another canine—two in one day!

At first he thought “Wolfen”, but this one was far too short. He (or she, or it) was well under six feet tall—most wolfen started at about seven feet. Coyle, then? But he couldn’t fathom a coyle, descendants of coyotes as the wolfen were of wolves, wearing clean monk’s robes. Coyles were the goblins of the canine races, barbaric, foul, slovenly and anarchic. “Clean” was not in their vocabulary. “Scorched earth” and “salting the land” were perhaps the closest analogues.

The canine approached the bar, rubbing his hands over each other as though washing, eyes never lingering on any spot for an entire second.

“Yes, honoured sir, can I help you?” Quint offered.

Without meeting his gaze, the canine spoke in flawless Eastern Human. “I spoke to, uh… the owner some, er, some days ago about, em… collecting some, er… résumés…” His manner was hesitant, jerky. Quint got the impression that here was a being who spent far more time with dusty books than with living things, and maybe wasn’t used to speaking aloud. At least not to anyone other than himself. Quint kept his face straight, but felt a growing sense of superiority over this bookish fellow.

“Oh, you’re that fellow. The missus told me about you. I got ’em right here,” he replied. He appreciated that Eastern lacked the essential Wolfen pronouns that indicated superiority and inferiority in every sentence. “Y’know, not a one applicant before today, and that in just the last couple of hours. Five brave souls; here’s the paperwork you wanted.” He handed over the fresh parchment.

“Thank you,” replied the monk, in his stammering, syncopated speech, and took the five crisp sheets. He stood twitching at the bar, scanning the Elvish script so quickly that Quint could scarcely believe he was actually reading. Quint himself was proud of his literacy (in several languages!), but he couldn’t imagine anyone reading without the help of a forefinger and sounding the words out under his breath.

After a surprisingly insufficient amount of time, the monk produced a slender portfolio from his satchel and lovingly placed the sheets between its thin wooden covers. He secured the portfolio away and then looked quizzically at the bartender.

“As it just so happens, they’re all right there.” Quint pointed to the newcomers. “Will, erm, will their meals be going on your tab?”

“We shall see,” said the monk, and approached the table in his fidgety manner. “If all goes well, their meals will be well worth the expense.”



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