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Chapter 7

Above the door of castle Krak Herrenium was a sign that said ABANDON THE FANTASIES OF

REASON, YE WHO ENTER HERE.

Soft music came from within the castle. The tune was lively, yet it had something of a dirge about it.

Aretino wasn't exactly frightened—it is difficult for a poet to be frightened when he's walking with his demon. The demon is more scary than the "world around him.

A man came through a low arched doorway, stooping to fit under. He was a large man, and tall. He wore a billowing cloak over his baldric and jacket; on his feet were peaked boots. He had a bold face with large and expressive eyes. Clean-shaven he was, and there was about his face a look of powerful subtlety.

The man stepped forward and bowed low. "I am Fatus. Who might you be?"

"So this is Fatus' castle," Aretino mused. "How fascinating!"

"I knew you'd like it," Azzie said, "what with your well-known reputation for seeking novelty."

"My taste for novelty extends itself more to people than to things," Aretino said.

Fatus' eyes twinkled as he said, "Good day to you, demon! I see you have brought a friend."

"This is Pietro Aretino," Azzie said. "He is a human."

"Delighted."

"We have come on a quest that I think you can help us with," Azzie said.

Fatus smiled and gestured. A small table and three chairs appeared. There was wine on the table, and a bowl of sweetmeats.

Fatus said, "Perhaps you would care to have a snack with me while we discuss it?"

Azzie nodded and sat down.

They munched and talked, and after a while Fatus made a gesture calling for entertainment. At his signal, a troupe of jugglers came out of a back room. These men were of the breed called legal manipulators, and they threw a circle of torts and reprisals into the air and passed them from hand to hand and up and down and in and out, and Azzie marveled greatly at their dexterity.

At length Fatus smiled and said, "So much for illusion. What may I do for you?"

"I have heard," Azzie said, "that you store many old and curious items here in your castle."

"That I do," Fatus said. "Eventually it all comes to me, and I find room for it, whatever it is. Usually it's dross, but sometimes it's the real thing. Sometimes these treasures are truly prophesied, sometimes the stories are without a shadow of truth to them. I don't care, I make no distinction between real and unreal, realized and unrealized, manifest and hidden. What treasure are you seeking?"

"Seven golden candlesticks," Azzie said, "given by Satan to Father Adam."

"I know the ones you are referring to. I have some pictures of them you could look at."

"I want only the real things," Azzie said.

"And what do you intend to do with these candlesticks once you have them?"

"My dear Fatus, I am beginning a great enterprise, and these candlesticks play a part in it. But perhaps you need them for some purpose of your own."

"Not at all," said Fatus. "I'd be delighted to loan them to you."

"What I had in mind," Azzie said, "is loaning these candlesticks to humans so that they could get their dearest wishes fulfilled."

"What a nice idea," Fatus said. "There really should be more of that in the world. How do you plan to carry this out?"

"With the aid of spells," Azzie said.

"Spells!" Fatus said. "What a good idea! Spells can make just about anything work."

"Yes," Azzie said. "That's the wonderful thing about them. Now, if you'll permit, Aretino and I will just collect those candlesticks and then go back to Earth and get the spells."


Chapter 6 | A Farce To Be Reckoned With | Chapter 8







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