On The Cards

On The Cards
A Collaborative Effort

Story Notes

Created as a round-robin in 2001.

On The Cards

In the city of Immanion, no single event is so anticipated, so talked about and so dissected after the fact than the annual Tigron’s Cup race meeting. The elite of Wraeththu society go to great lengths to assure their presence, to compete for most elegant pavilion, to gossip over whom is wearing what and who is escorting who, while outside the members’ area, the lucky citizens who have managed to buy a ticket, spend their day watching the watchers. For the most part, the actual racing is secondary to the social shenanigans except, of course, when the racing becomes part of the show. The horses that race are not the legendary companions of the Gelaming, but ordinary steeds, without magical powers.

There was the incident two years ago, where it rained right before the flag fell on the Phaconian Two Year Old Handicap and the brown shoe polish on one of the entrants began to run, but no one cares to remember that, especially not the horse’s owner, a Gelaming har named Enron, who was mustered out of the Tigron’s guard and stripped of his rank.

But mostly, the ordinary citizens of Phaconia place their bets, drink their betica and wine and watch the goings-on in the filmy pavilions of the famous, or infamous, as the case may be. They comment over the arrival or non-arrival of certain prominent hara from the provinces and territories, discuss what they are wearing and whose tent is closer to the Tigron’s this year than it was last.

***

The day dawned bright and breezy. Flags and banners on the pavilions danced in the gentle eddies and the air was redolent of flowers, spice and all good things. Servants scurried about, filling ice buckets, washing strawberries and generally making certain that everything that was meant to be there, was there.

In the stables, the horses were being washed down, curry-combed and braided. Their wrappings were checked, their saddles oiled and their handlers had stopped for a quick breakfast before the owners arrived.

The crowds had begun to gather at the gates as soon as the sun rose, determined to get the best picnic spots beneath the perfectly trimmed trees that ringed the course. By mid-morning, most of the guests had arrived at the pavilions. . .

Most of the pavilions were flung wide open, so the little hara could have a good look at the goings-on among the great and famous (what joy is there in being a celebrity if you’re not stared at by the hoi polloi?), but one of the tents drew conspicuous glances by the mere fact that it was tightly closed. Something more important than mere society seemed to be going on in there, from the intermittent shouts that emerged from the closed flap.”Can you do it, you barbarian sorcerer, or can’t you? Or won’t you?” a grating voice was screaming inside. This was Fireblossom the Dark, Colurastes consort to one of Phaonica’s most highly-placed generals. “YOU told me to throw my lot in with the option that sounded least feasible – so I put all my money on that miserable beast, and now you tell me that you DIDN’T MEAN IT THAT WAY???”

“Ahem. I meant it more as general spiritual advice”, a glum voice with the most horrendous Thaine accent conceded.


Fireblossom had sent away all his other hangers-on to have one last heart-to-heart with the newest society guru, a renowned shaman from somewhere beyond Thaine. Now it seemed the guru wouldn’t deliver.

“I’m not interested in my spiritual growth, you idiotic yokel; I need that money, or I will get into the most horrible problems with Donal the Ferelithian, and THAT would be real bad for my spiritual growth!”

Dejectedly, the guru was pulling his greasy hair and moaning. “What do you expect me to do? This is abolutely outside my province. I’m a shaman, not a horse doctor.”

“You have been curing everybody from their ailments these last months – so do it to the horse, in pelki’s name!”

The unhappy shaman seemed genuinely shocked by the obscene curse. “But tiahaar, all I needed to cure most of them from was their boredom – and I can’t take aruna with the horse, now, can I?”

“DO SOMETHING,” the excitable Colurastes har shouted, and the guru recoiled in genuine fear.

“Ahm, we could always try and raise some energy for the horse”, he finally blurted, mustering his courage and taking a step towards Fireblossom.

“OH NO YOU DON’T, YOKEL!”

“But who else with?” the shaman demanded dejectedly.

“What do you mean this is our pavilion?” A loud brash voice rang out over the crowd.”This is all we could afford,” Marzo whispered to his consort, the lovely, but infamous Carpanthia. “They put the prices up this year, remember. I did tell you.”

“But last year we were next to the Tigron’s tent, itself. Right next door . . . our door fronted their door. We were invited to drink with them after the final race. Just how far away are we, Marzo? I can’t even see the race-track from here!”

“Well . . . we are at the back,” Marzo said quickly, then picked up one of the crates holding their dandelion wine and disappeared through the flap.

“AT THE BACK! Just how far up the limshit back?”

“Um . . . as far back as they could put us . . . You would only pay thirty spinners, so what do you expect?”

“But after last year . . . when we had such fun with Caeru and Calanthe . . . I thought we would be given the best pavilion on the whole grounds.”

Marzo laughed loudly. “Maybe, Carpanthia . . . because of what happened last year, they probably made sure we were as far away as possible.”

“Well I couldn’t help losing all my clothes . . . I mean, our horse Mars was supposed to win. The magick just didn’t work properly, that’s all. It will work this year . . . I’ve been assured by that pompous Huyana, Athana, that he would run like the wind.”

“WHAT! Did you bribe the priest again, Carpanthia? If the Lexy hears about this, you’ll be thrown out of the tribe.”

“No one will know. Athana owes me after last year. The embarrassment he caused when that stupid horse of ours came last. I mean how was I to know that when I made that stupid bet, the price would be doubled if he came last. They didn’t explain that, did they?”

Carpanthia looked about the pavilion and frowned, then groaned loudly. “This is pathetic. It’s too small to entertain guests, where am I going to put all that wine that stupid human woman with the goat sold us at half price. It’s probably off anyway. We have to move . . . you have to do something, Marzo.”

“What can we do? We only have enough money to bet on Mars.”

“You saw the sign on the pavilion when we came in with our name on it.”

“Yes!” Marzo replied impatiently.

“Well, take it off and go to the pavilion nearest the Tigron’s and put it on the front of that one. We’re one of the first ones here. Who will know?”

“But . . . what if we get found out?”

“Just do it, Marzo . . . and be quick about it.”

The Founders of Tamiranthis arrived in style, with four pairs of hara, ten harlings, and three Kamagrian in their number. That is, they came wearing outrageous silk and leather, were armed to the teeth, and looked gorgeous.

Aranne wasn’t too happy about all the knives, and let Kai and Creed know it.

“What are you going to do if the children decide to grab a couple of those for playthings?” the Kamagrian lectured.

“Hope they remember which end is the sharp one,” countered Creed, who so far hadn’t sired any youngsters. “Now where’s the money? I’ve got bets to place.”

“Rough translation,” drawled Kai. “He’s looking for suckers to cheat so he can take Val on that trip to Kitty-Cat City.”

“Zaltana, you moron,” Creed answered, affecting boredom. “Come on, let’s get the money and go.”

Aranne sighed and looked at her fellow Kamagrian. Lynara and Rowan shrugged. “What else is new?” Rowan told Aranne. “They go have fun, and we watch the little ones.”

Watching the hara walk off, Aranne muttered a curse on all their bets and turned toward the harlings who clustered around, having discovered the sweet-stands and food pavilions. “Let’s all behave ourselves, and we’ll have fun,” she said decisively, in tones that made all the harlings exchange wicked grins. This was going to be good; Aranne was up to something. “Come on, sweets. We’re going to find a horse to bet on.”

“YAY!” the harlings screamed and followed after their Kamagrian watchers.

***
After slinking out of Fireblossom’s pavilion, spent and rather disheartened, the shaman made his way towards the improvised stables where the highly bred but utterly unmagical horses ware waiting for their great day. On the way there, however, he was unceremoniously bowled over by a gaggle of screaming harlings, with two rather disinterested Kamagrian (of all people!!) in attendance. A small bottle in his pocket broke, provoking a shriek of pain from the would- be guru. An swirl of mildly colourful mist rose from the stained robe of the Thaine tribesman, careening around him for a while and then settling on the pair of parages…

***Marzo insisted that Carpanthia come with him to do the deed of changing over the names on the pavilions. Carpanthia, didn’t want to make the effort himself, he was already cracking open a bottle of dandelion wine and taking a swig. “I can’t remove the sign and keep watch at the same time, you harshit. Now put your tassels and beads away, and cover your head with your scarf. I don’t want to get caught.”

Carpanthia downed half a bottle of wine then reluctantly followed Marzo out into the makeshift streets between the pavilions. Quite a few hara were already milling about, and they were concerned that they had left their run a little late.

“Whose pavilion is this?” Carpanthia asked, as they rounded the corner. “It says it belongs to the ‘Founders of the Tamiranthis,’ that weird bunch with the Kamagrians. They probably won’t even notice we’ve changed the sign . . . so long as they haven’t arrived yet.”

Marzo was just reaching up to change the take their name off and put theirs up when he heard a commotion and discovered he was surrounded by what looked like a dozen screaming harlings. Through the mayhem he saw a har lying on the ground with a purple mist rising about his body.

“What in all of Immanion is going on?” Marzo looked desperate as he searched for Carpanthia, who was hiding behind a rather angry looking Kamagrian.

Just as he shoved one of the harlings aside to make his escape, he heard a whistle and a large sharp knife whizzed past his head.

***”What do you mean, you ~think~ you left it in the pavilion?!” Aranne snarled at Rowan as the younger parage hurried across the gathering. With Lynara and the harlings on her heels, the senior of the Kamagrians glared at her companion, who gulped and ducked her gaze.

“Well, we got here, and then ~they~ took off, and you decided to rush off with the harlings. I simply forgot I didn’t have my wallet!”

Aranne clenched her teeth to keep from swearing. Goddess knew the harlings heard enough of it from their parents! And so far they were being more trouble than they were worth, all ten of them. As the harlings started begging again to go back to the pastry pavilion, Aranne growled, “You’d better hope I ~don’t~ have to track down their parents.”

“You don’t, I swear! It’s just–”

At that moment, the harlings crashed into a weirdly dressed stranger, knocking him over. “Hey!” Aranne pushed the harlings back–Raven and Coriander were laughing their little heads off–and started to help the har when she noticed the purple smoke rising from his clothes. “Back!” she ordered the harlings, who saw the smoke and began to scream in terror.

“Oh, for–” Aranne paused in alarm as the smoke settled on Rowan and Lynara. “Shit!” She backed against the pavilion and nearly stumbled over a slender beauty trying to hide behind her. Another har was trying to get away and shoved little Raven down in doing so. The Kamagrian prepared to smack the har into next week when a big knife almost parted the har’s scalp from his skull. That wasn’t good. There was only one Founder at Tamiranthis who was that good with knives. And Raven was his oldest harling.

She looked sidelong at Kai, who had another knife in his fingers and whose eyes speared the strange hara like dagger points. “Please,” he invited them, smiling fiercely. “Move. I need the practice.”

“Daddy, did you hurt him?” Raven gasped as he got to his feet and hurried to his parent’s side.

“Not yet, sweetheart. Go stand over there.” Kai turned back to the two hara. “Mind telling me what the fuck you’re doing near my pavilion, not to mention mishandling my pearl?”

***Meanwhile, the shaman had picked himself off from the ground, wincing from the broken glass in his pocket. That had been dangerously close to vital parts of him, he thought, and he gave silent thanks to his favourite goddess from back home that it hadn’t broken closer to target, so to speak.

But now to catch the energy that had been meant for the horse – Fireblossom would rip every single petal off his ouana-lim and then strangle him with the famed Colurastes hair if this terrible sacrifice had been wasted – although the sacrifice couldn’t have been all that terrible after all, the poor hapless guru mused, thinking of the state he’d left his patron and employer in . . .

Ah!! There it was; and the persons fighting it off were – Kamagrians! The shaman had always been very curious about Kamagrians and was grateful for this opportunity to have a closer look at the Wraeththu’s elusive and powerful sister race.

Disregarding the sting from the broken glass at his hip, he sprinted over to the two ladies and grabbed the nearest by the front of her dress, throwing back his head and staring at her, trying to draw the escaped arunic energy right back into himself . . .

***Aranne screamed and slapped the guru in the face. “Get your mitts off me, you big–” She broke and suddenly stopped. “You big strong Wraeththu harrrrr . . . . .” All at once her arms reached out and drew him in, encircling him as she captured his lips with her mouth. “Let me see what it’s like to share breath with a–”

“Hey, no way sister!” Rowan butt in suddenly, pulling Aranne’s tongue from its position half-way down the shaman’s throat. “I’ve tried it with hara before and it’s just not the same.” She planted a kiss on Aranne’s cheek before briefly sharing some breath of her own. “Not like when ~we~ do it!”

Aranne was quite randy — the mist still swirling, her body still tingling, her mind still up to naughty tricks — but she still had enough sense to be conscious of her surrounding. She pushed Rowan away saying, “Not here, not with the ~harlings~ . . . Let’s go . . . .”

The shaman was stuck in the middle, both literally and figuratively, but looking at the two Kamagrian, he thought he knew a way to conserve the arunic energy — or at least make sure it didn’t go to waste. Placing his hands on the shoulders of the two would-be lovers, he spoke to them in a low voice. “Come with me . . . I think I know just the place for you.”

***Cal wandered around between the pavilions, trying to remain inconspicuous. It wasn’t difficult; he’d left his jacket in the Tigrons’ tent and was clad in plain pants and shirt. He’d even left the makeup and jewellery at the palace today. Race day was soooo boring when you weren’t allowed to bet and consequently he found it tedious in the extreme. Presenting prizes to sweaty horses and their equally sweaty jockeys was not his idea of fun. He’d leave that task to Pell and Rue and find himself some fun amongst the tents, even if it was only voyeurism.

Already, the place was filling up and he came around the corner of one tent, only to be nearly mown down by a pack of harlings in full flight, followed close behind by a couple of Kamagrians with expressions of anticipation on their faces. Anticipating catching up to those runaway harlings, he supposed.

He neatly sidestepped and pulled up alongside the front of the tent. A vaguely familiar looking har was standing on the other side of the opening surreptitiously switching the name plates over. Or at least, that’s what it looked like.

What was his name? Marzi? Morzo? Something like that. Cal considered saying something, but, considering the frightened look on the har’s face, thought better of it; he’d not like to scare the poor thing to death!

Instead, he eased back the way he’d come and made his way around behind a wagon to avoid a cadre of Gelaming soldiers who were heading his way. The last thing he wanted was to be spotted and end up with an official escort.

Waiting for them to pass, he idly scratched the back of his neck. The tickling sensation that had prompted his action did not abate, however, and he turned to find the cause only to be confronted by a pair of slitted yellow eyes that, for one horrid moment, he thought belonged to Thiede. But the eyes were surrounded by coarse fur and he realised that his tickler was a goat, a very familiar goat!

<‘Eloo.> said a goat voice in his head.

Cal sighed, remembering. <Morning, Steffi.> he greeted.

<Nice day for it, isn’t it? . . . what ever it is . > Steffi continued conversationally.

Cal considered . . . here before him was a talking goat, one that had created much havoc at the Phaonica ball the previous year; however, the association had been most beneficial and had secured Cal a fine source of his favourite Gimran tipple. Cal thought hard. Goat – Wine . . . there was something missing . . . Goat – Wine . . . ah, yes . . . human!

“Where’s your Mum, Steffi?” Cal finally managed.

The goat led Cal around the back of one of the tents to the shade of a large oak tree. There, barefoot and clad in a shabby silver velvet robe and sunglasses sat the human, gently fanning herself with a folded race programme. Beside her were two wicker panniers now only half full of bottles of the finest wines ever to come out of Gimrah.

The woman pushed up her sunglasses and looked quizzically at Cal. “Come to play with the peasants, Cal?” she enquired.

“Nope,” he replied, “come to get a decent drink for a change.”

The woman grinned and pulled a bottle out of the panniers. With practiced ease, she removed the wrapper from the neck of the bottle before exracting the cork with her teeth and spitting said cork far into the distance. She handed the bottle to Cal. “Raspberry,” she said, “a new recipe.”

Cal took the bottle, sat down beside her and took a long pull. He closed his eyes. “Spot on,” he said. “Now then, Steffi,” he continued, “while your mum and I get wasted and catch up on news from Lemarath, I’ve got a little job for you . . .”

***It wasn’t easy steering the two Kamagrian towards the stables, especially not as one of them seemed hell-bent on tearing the clothes off the other there and then. It wasn’t easy living in the big city, the shaman thought. In one morning, he’d had to take aruna with a dangerous Colurastes consort and control two amorous Kamagrians, and all before proper breakfast time.

Back in his village he’d known where he stood. There were the farmers, the herders, the teacher, the shaman, the shaman’s apprentice (him), the head of the village, the shopkeeper, the horses, the cattle, the sheep and the goats.

No sooner had he thought about goats than he almost fell over one, a magnificent speciment resolutely barring his path.-

***Shaman looked at goat, goat looked at Shaman.

<I hear you’ve been having a bit of trouble with a certain bottle, matey,> a bleaty voice sounded in the Shaman’s head. <Perhaps I can be of assistance.>

The Shaman blinked. “Wha . . .”

***Marzo thought he was dead . . . standing over him was this ferocious looking har with a knife in his hand . . . and if he hadn’t been mistaken a few moments earlier, he had caught a glimpse of the Tigron himself . . . the infamous Calanthe.

He looked about desperately for Carpanthia, who seemed to have disappeared.

~That would be right . . . chesna of mine . . . piss off when the going gets tough.~

“Mind telling me what the fuck you’re doing near my pavilion, not to mention mishandling my pearl?” the ferocious har asked him.

“Um . . . er . . .” Marzo was at a complete loss for words.

“Well?”

Just as Marzo saw the glint of a knife, he heard a commotion behind him and saw a rangy goat running through the crowd that had surrounded them. The distraction gave him just the opportunity to flee . . . which he did rapidly, running right into Calanthe again, who was apparently getting rather drunk with the human who had sold him all the wine earlier.

“What a stroke of luck,” Marzo said, more to himself, but his comment was heard by Calanthe and the human, who both looked up.

Cal just raised one eyebrow at him, and the human woman held up a bottle of wine.

“Want some?”

“By the Gods, do I ever.”

***Still at a loss as to how he had found himself in a quiet, neglected corner of the stables with two Kamagrian and a talking goat, the Shaman took stock. Unbelievably he had managed to persuade the now compliant Kamagrian to partake in a little ritual which would allow him to draw the lost arunic energy back to himself and then into the small, decorative green glass vial that the goat had supplied. “Some higher power must be at work here”, he thought, but for the life of him he couldn’t figure out who.

The group sat in their corner concentrating hard whilst the Shaman chanted every mantra he knew. Slowly he visualised the deep purples, blues and magentas of the lost energy. Gradually the coloured mists rose and swirled about them. The Shaman stopped chanting and began drawing the energy to himself. Deeper and deeper he inhaled until the final wisp had been drawn in. Pausing for a beat to consider the solemnity of what he was about to do, the Shaman brought the bottle towards his mouth. There was something in the way.

He opened his eyes to find he was face to face with a deeply curious goat. Before he had chance to shove the bloody animal out of the way, a goaty whisker tickled his nose . . . “Oh, s**t” he thought . . . “Aaaaaaaaaaaachoooooo!” he said.

A multi-hued flash of light shot out of the Shaman and into the gaping mouth of the goat. “Oooops,” said the goat, looking smug . . .

***Raven watched as the strange har who’d pushed him away blanched at the fury on his father’s face and ran away. It made him curious. Most hara didn’t turn pale when his father got mad. His hostling certainly didn’t. His hostling usually shouted back at Kai or did something like what Rowan was now doing to Aranne. He sighed and looked up at his sire, who resheathed his knife and smiled at him. “All right, heartling?”

Raven nodded. “I guess. He didn’t hurt me.” He glanced at the Kamagrian, who were being led away by the strange har in the funny clothes. “But Rowan was going to let us buy some ices and cakes, and we don’t have any money.”

“There you are,” and his hostling walked up, his scarlet braids jingling with the coins he’d attached to them. “I thought Aranne had you lot,” and he grinned as the other harlings clustered around him, begging for fillarets. “Kai, what the hell is this? Two hara running away from here, and you pulling a knife out of the pavilion? Where’s your head?”

“Daddy made a har stop pushing me,” Raven announced proudly to Meridian.

“Did he?” Meridian’s smile disappeared as he met Kai’s eyes. “And where did the walking corpse go, my pearl?”

“Forget it,” Kai advised, reaching inside his shirt. “C’mon, Raven, you and Coriander take this and split it fairly. Shit,” he breathed, throwing a sidelong glance down the aisle as Coriander’s parents Issan and Keshile hurried toward them. “Quick, you harlings take the money. Go!” Raven took the money and raced away, with Coriander and the eight other harlings on his heels.

Kai turned to Meridian, who was searching the crowd. “You won’t find him,” he told his consort. “He’s run off. Look,” and he attempted to console the redhaired beauty, “Raven’s just fine. Everything is all right, no one stole anything, and our supply of joyweed is untouched.” He kissed Meridian’s cheek; his consort grimaced, but leaned into the caress. “Hello, Issan,” Kai greeted the slim blond Founder, who put his hands on his nearly non-existent hips and glared at him.

“I told you somebody should have stayed behind to guard the weed!” he spat, the chainmail on his shoulders jingling as he tossed his mane of crimped, serpentine locks. Behind him, dark Keshile rolled his eyes and took the smaller har’s arm.

“He’s upset because we can’t bet on our own horse,” he informed Kai and Meridian. “Come on, love. Let’s go shopping. I passed a stall here that has a full set of edible paints . . .”

Issan rolled his eyes. “Is sex the only thing on your mind?” he huffed, striding away. Kai mouthed `good luck’ as Keshile followed him, and turned to Meridian. “You know,” he murmured, placing his hands on his consort’s waist and pulling him closer, “I had some plans for today that did not involve gambling.”

Meridian grinned wickedly, wrapping his arms around Kai’s neck. “What did you have in mind?”

Chuckling, Kai stepped away, took his lover’s hand, and led him through the pavilions. “I heard a rumor last year that a Kamagrian had a load of Gimrah wine. I thought if we found her, got a bottle, and tucked ourselves away until lunch . . .” Meridian’s answering laugh was all the agreement he needed. “Do you think Creed and Val will want to join us?”

“Not a chance. Creed thinks he’s got 50-to-one odds on some chestnut in the second.” Meridian wrapped an arm around Kai’s waist. “I’m all yours for the morning.”

“Just morning, hmm?”

“You know what I mean! Let’s find this Kamagrian.”

They moved through the pavilions, occasionally distracting each other with a random touch or sharing of breath when a blast of vituperous cursing made them stop in their tracks. “Wonder what all that’s for,” Meridian wondered.

“Maybe they’re out of wine?” Kai suggested.

A particularly vicious obscenity made Meridian jump and stare in awe. “Whoever he is, I like him,” he told Kai, grinning. “I’ve got to remember that for the next time you do something stupid.”

“Very funny,” Kai retorted, grinning back. “Just remember something, my sweet. I know where every single sensitive spot on you is located. You’d just love for me to tie you down and teach . . . oh, I don’t know, maybe Keshile, Jaheris and Seren where they all are? Using feathers?” He caught his consort as Meridian pretended to swoon. “Uh huh. I thought so. I think I’ll just avoid doing anything stupid . . .”

“Please don’t!”

Kai brought his mouth down on Meridian’s, savoring the taste of him until the redhead’s knees gave way and he clung to Kai’s shirt to keep upright. “Why don’t we,” he gasped, feeling the need to collapse himself—preferably on top of his consort—when suddenly the flaps of the pavilion were flung wide, and a peerlessly beautiful har stormed out. The three stared at each other in shock, Meridian still clinging to Kai’s shirt.

“Oh, fuck!” raged the beautiful stranger.

“My feelings exactly,” Meridian moaned.

Kai rolled his eyes. “This day just keeps getting better and better . . .”

***There weren’t many spectators yet, this early in the day, but those that were already idly watching the race course later agreed that it had been the most unusual race of the day: a beautiful, shiny goat with long white fur and the purple shimmer of some magical energy around it against the shaman from Thaine, fashionable society guru of the day, who ran after the animal in his ourlandish clothes, tatters flying, feathers drifting, bells jangling and the large round mirror bobbing on the back of his multi-hued coat. He was screaming obscenities and curses that might even been powerful, yet slowly but steadily, the goat was gaining against him.

***Aranne let out a pent-up gasp as the shaman raced out of the barn after the goat. “Woops,” she remarked.

“I think that qualifies as this Ai-Cara’s understatement,” Rowan retorted, brushing straw out of her hair. She sighed. “All that time spent chanting, and it goes off into a goat!”

“Well, it wasn’t all a waste,” Aranne murmured, exchanging a wicked smile with Rowan as the other Kamagrian caught her meaning.

“You know, it’s pretty comfortable here . . .” Rowan drew closer. “And no harlings.”

“Wonder how Lynara’s doing with them,” Aranne managed to get out before Rowan tackled her in the straw.

***

“Wow! They’re at it again!”

“So keep taking pictures, you limshit!” Caridis could barely keep still, and it was all Zerik could do not to hit him. Sighing, the older harling kept snapping picture after picture of the entwined Kamagrians.

<<This will make such a great story,>> he told his friend. <<The Enquirer’s gonna pay big money for these!>>

<<Yeah—two Kamagrians—and a GOAT!>>

<<Wait—the goat’s not there now!>>

<<Shut up, you stupid limshit! We’ll add the goat later!>>

Sighing, Zerik was tempted to remind his best school buddy that it was HIS idea to bring the camera to the race, and if Caridis didn’t shut up, he’d be lucky to get 10% of whatever they made.

***

Meanwhile, in the stables, a young groom was making the rounds of the horses, waiting for the owners and members of the media to leave. He had his eye on three horses: one a spectacular black that was rumored to be favored by several high-ranking Gelaming; one a dappled grey that had won the Almagramba Cup last month; and a chestnut with a bloodline almost as good as the Tigrons’.

Well—maybe better than the Tigrons’, actually. But the groom wasn’t about to say something like that aloud.

Reaching into his pocket, he made sure that the sponge pieces were secure, and still wet—dry sponges wouldn’t fit just right into the nasal cavities of the horses. And he thought longingly of the bet his employer was going to make on the big bay, Number 17. Part of that was his, once he did this job . . .

[Story Ends]

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1 Comment

  1. Nighthorse said,

    January 17, 2010 at 2:05 am

    “The elite of Wraeththu society go to great lengths to assure their presence, to compete for most elegant pavilion, to gossip over whom is wearing what and who is escorting who”

    It should be “who is wearing” and “who is escorting whom”. Here’s an easy way to tell which is the correct word: replace every “who” with “he” and every “whom” with “him”. Using this process, we get: “He is wearing” and “He is escorting him”. If the replacements make sense, you have used who and whom correctly.


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