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It was third-past nine bells or so -- the Witching Hour as they call it there in Kroon -- as I finally reached Montressor's Casks 'n' Kegs, somewhere in south-central Lotnikk, in search of a new opeidovinoscope. I was cashiered from my unit, plenty of cash on hand, and trying to rebuild my collection, which had been scattered to the five winds after Abraham accidentally lost the Closet Dimension I had them packed away in.

The proprietor of establishment was one of the Reluctant Folk (or an "RF," or, sometimes, "Arf"), name of (or so his badge said, along with a hearty, "Hello, my name is") Verbels. He was, as most of his kind are, close on four foot, with a rather ratty-looking beard and mottled complexion. His ears were pointed, as after the nature of the genus, though the right one appeared to have been gnawed-upon a bit. He wore a stained short-sleeved tunic ("My Kin Were Mysteriously Exiled from Alumzembobway, So Now All I Have Is This Lousy T-Shirt" -- I think the adjective was meant literally, not figuratively) and blue work pants with patches on the knees. He smellt faintly of pipeweed, garlic, and elderberries.

Now, there are those who might think I carry some prejudice against the Fair Folk in toto from the unfortunate incident at the Battle Of Twelve Thousand Berserking Faeries, but nothing could be further from the truth. In point of fact, my father regularly entertained delegations from Ainslough when I was a child (they made most agreeable houseguests, eating little, quite literally), and I myself took the initiatve to allow Midtown Elves provisional membership into the BAS (I decided to take the name quite literally, not to mention they usually brought the most exquisite liqueurs to the pot lucks). A less biased soul you are unlikely to meet.

The Reluctant Folk, though, I tend to treat a bit askance. In many ways, they are the most un-Fair of their kind, having intentionally, subsequent to the Great Fire Of 1447 (and the Great Blaming Of 1448), decided, if with many deep sighs and shuffling of feet, to move their entire race in with the Humans and try to adopt their ways as much as possible. Thus, given the Faeries' propensity to excel in what they endeavor, their faults are less those of genus Aelph and more those of humanity, only writ large (or, rather, somewhat short).

(There are rumors that a small group of the Arfs, more reluctant than their kin, instead set off to the Xtant Mountains to found their own separatist society in peace, or at least until they were strong enough to come back and slaughter all their turn-coat cousins. As that particular mountain range is well-known to not exist, such rumors seem most unlikely, albeit true, but that's an anecdote for another time.)

So, then, the slackers, dimwits, educationally incomptent, and usual mouth-breathers -- such as friend Verbels here -- were like their Kissing Cousins (a term coined by the elusive philosopher Jac Ka Lope after the Rather Scandalous Mass Bundling Of 1703) in the "Fengak Eating Belt," only more-so, out-seeding the hayseeds and out-yokeling the yokels. On the other hand, those Reluctant Folk who made a go at higher society have set new standards of ruthlessness and success, forming the backbone and pelvis of such successful and influential-to-the-point-of-menace organizations as the IOFCP and the Sytynuatroe Haberdashers.

The result was that some societies (or factions thereof) shunned the little blighters, while others simply resented them for their successes. Both cases poke continuing fun at the Reluctant Folks' only-grudging decision to alter their entire society, their disinclination to become Human whilst, in the end, "out-Dawesing Dawes," as my uncle used to say. There are innumerable jokes that have been made up about them, but because different cultures either see them as a dire threat or as a bunch of yokels (both being accurate, in part), most of the jokes fall flat with one audience or another, and stand-up comedians who play the Jugular/Charnel Circuit learn to leave those jokes only to gatherings where they are positively certain they'll go over correctly (a notable exception being the well-known if now-martyred comedian, Shecky Shiningpate).

In short, I should be reluctant to let my sister marry one. Had I a sister, of course. Elder brother Abraham can marry whoever the deuce he wants, which he has, the bastard (speaking figuratively, not familially). If that be prejudice, then so be it.

The counter (you will remember we were in Montressor's Casks 'n' Kegs looking for an opeidovinoscope) was littered with tawdry items -- Oolac? jerky, Fengak-flavored lollies, placards warning of the dangers of Girasol smoking, bottles of ostensibly fake Faerie Dust breath freshener, hip flasks, breast flasks, underarm flasks, flasks that nobody will want to take a hit from once you withdraw them from where you hid them, &c.

Around me, the wine shop was in tremendous disarray, following a 14th Century AP custom (which hadn't had the decency to completely die out) of arranging the casks in the prismatic order of the crests of the nobility which first had the vineyards established. Thus the Rondemel was next to the Trismegistus, the Grand Kroon was in between the Laughing Dwarf and the Sandisk, and the Crepiscular was ... well, one gets the idea. Madness.

The less said about the beer aisle, the better.

"Have you," I inquired of Verbels, "any opeidovinoscopes?

Verbels, who was bending all his fae talents to out-dullwitted-store-clerking any hypothetical human dullwitted store clerk, looked up from the sports news scroll delivered new a few weeks back, gazed at me with eyes the color and sparkle of pepperonis the night after the pizza party, chewed his Girasol cud a few moments, spat on the floor, then shook his head. "Nope."

"Ah. Well. I must have been misinformed."

He parsed that sentence a few moments longer. "Guess so." Then his attention seemed to perk up, as though realizing there was a real live person standing before him. "Say, whaddya think of them Bodea Bogsloggers? Think they'll take the pennant from the Ji'Li this year? Their lead toss-whomper, Saunders, looks like he has a pretty good arm left. I told 'im so at the game last week, but I guess he couldn't hear me from the top o' the stands."

I departed, quickly.

-- Aetherioscope Interview with Lord Braden Polz, OCD, A Scandalous Life (2984 AP) (special bonus DVD feature)

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Page last modified on October 29, 2008, at 12:59 PM by DoyceTesterman

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