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“Come with me,” said Bagardo. As I followed him, he went on: “Let me get your name right. Zadim, is that it?”

“Nay, Zdim,” I said. “One syllable. Zdim son of Akh, if you would be formal.”

Bagardo practiced the name. I asked: “What will be my duties, sir?”

“Mainly, to scare the marks.”

“Sir? I understand not.”

“Marks, rubes, shills are what we circus folk call the customers who come to gawp.” (Bagardo always called his establishment a “circus,” although others alluded to it as a “carnival.” The difference, I learnt, was that a true circus needs must have at least one elephant, whereas Bagardo had none.) “You will be put in a traveling cage and introduced as the terrible man-eating demon from the Twelfth Plane. And that’s no lie, from what Maldivius tells me.”

“Sir, I did but carry out my orders—”

“Never mind. I’ll try to give more exact commands.”

We came to where the track from the temple joined the road from Chemnis to Ir. Here stood a large, iron-barred cage on wheels, like a wagon. Hitched to the wagon, grazing, were a pair of animals like Maldivius’ mule, save that they were covered with gaudy black-and-white stripes. On the driver’s seat lolled a squat, low-browed, chinless creature, naked but for his thick, hairy pelt, like a man and yet not like a man.

“Is all well?” said Bagardo.

“All’s well, boss,” said the thing in a deep, croaking voice. “Who this?”

“A new member of our troupe, hight Zdim the Demon,” quoth Bagardo. “Zdim, meet Ungah of Komilakh. He’s what we call an apeman.”

“Shake, fellow slave,” said Ungah, putting out a hairy paw.

“Shake?” said I, looking a question at Bagardo. “Like this, does he mean?” I twitched my hips back and forth.

Bagardo said: “Clasp his right hand in yours and squeeze gently whilst moving the hands up and down. Don’t claw him.”

I did so, saying: “I am gratified to make your acquaintance, Master Ungah. I am not a slave, but an indentured servant.”

“Lucky losel! I must swink for Master Bagardo till death us part.”

“You’re better fed than you ever would be in the jungles of Komilakh, you know,” said Bagardo.

“Aye, master; but food is not all.”

“What, then? But we can’t argue all day.”

Bagardo threw open the door of the cage. “Get in,” he said.

The door closed with a clang. I sat down on a large wooden chest at one end of the cage. Bagardo swung up on the driver’s seat behind Ungah, who clucked and shook the reins. The wagon lurched off to westward.

The road zigzagged down a long slope into the valley of the Kyamos River, which runs from Metouro across Ir to the sea. Another hour brought us in sight of Chemnis at the rivermouth. This is a small town by Prime Plane standards, but a busy one, for it is the main port of Ir. Over the roofs I saw the masts and yards of ships.

On the outskirts, a cluster of tents, gay with pennons, marked Bagardo’s carnival. As the wagon turned into the field, I saw a score of men laboring to strike these tents and pack them into wagons. Others hitched horses to these wagons. The clatter and shouting could have been heard leagues away.

As my cage-wagon drew to a halt, Bagardo leapt down from his perch. “Ye idiots! Loafers! Idle witlings!” he yelled. “We should have been ready to roll by now! Can you do nought without me to command you? How shall we ever reach Evrodium by tomorrow night? Ungah, cease your insolent grinning, you bare-arsed ape! Get down and get to work! Let Zdim out; we need every hand.”

The apeman obediently descended and opened my door. As I issued from the cage, some of the others looked at me askance. They were, however, used to exotic creatures and soon returned to their tasks.

Ungah busied himself with lashing a sheet of canvas around a bundle of stakes. He handed me one end of the rope and said: “Hold this. When I say pull, pull!”

On signal, I pulled. The rope broke, so that I fell backward and got my tail muddy. Ungah looked at the broken ends of the rope with a puzzled frown.

“This rope seems sound,” he said. “Must be you’re stronger than I thought.”

He tied the broken ends together and resumed his task, warning me not to exert my full force. By the time we had the bundle lashed and stowed, the main tent had come down and the workmen were cleaning up the last pieces of equipment. I could not but marvel how, despite the frightful confusion that had obtained before, everything was packed up at last. Bagardo, now mounted on his horse and wearing a trumpet on a cord around his neck, waved a wide-brimmed hat to emphasize his commands:

“Yare with that harness! Siglar, run your cat wagon up to the gate; I’m putting you at the head. Ungah, put Zdim back into his wagon and pull into line . . .”

“Back you go,” said Ungah to me. When I was in the cage, he untied the lashings of a pair of canvas rolls on the sides of the roof, so that the canvas fell down on both sides of the wagon. Since the ends of the cage were solid, I was cut off from the outside.

“Ho!” I cried. “Why are you shutting me in?”

“Orders,” said Ungah, tying down the lower edges of the curtains. “Boss would not give Chemnites a free show.”

“But I am fain to see the countryside!”

“Be at ease, Master Zdim. When we get into open country, I’ll pull up a corner of your sheets.”

Bagardo blew a shrill tucket. With a vast noise of cracking whips, neighing horses, clattering hooves, jingling harness, creaking axles, shouts, curses, warnings, jests, and snatches of song, the wagons lurched into motion. I could see nought, so for the first hour I settled into a digestive torpor, lolling and swaying on the wooden chest.

At length, I called out to remind Ungah of his promise. At a halt to breathe the horses, he untied the forward lower corner of one curtain and tied it up, affording me a three-sided window. I saw little but farmers’ fields, with now and then a patch of forest or a glimpse of the Kyamos. The road was lined by a dense belt of spring wildflowers, in clusters of crimson, azure, purple, white, and gold.

When a bend in the road permitted, I saw the rest of the train before and behind. I counted seventeen wagons including my own. Bagardo cantered from one end of the line to the other, making sure that all went well.

We followed the road by which I had come to Chemnis. We climbed to the plateau whereon the temple stands, since the vale of the Kyamos here narrows to a gorge. The horses plodded slowly up the grade, while the workmen got out to push.

When we reached the plateau and passed the jointure with the path to the temple of Psaan, the road leveled and we went faster. We did not continue towards Ir but turned off on another road, which bypassed the capital to the south. As Ungah explained, we had milked Ir lately and her udder had not had time to refill.

We had covered less than half the distance to Evrodium when night descended upon us. The wagon train pulled off the road on an unplowed stretch of flatland, and the seventeen wagons formed a rough circle—for defense, Ungah told me, in the event of attack by marauders. The cook’s tent and the dining tent were set up inside the circle, but the other tents were left in their wagons.

We ate by yellow lamplight at one of a number of tables in the long dining tent, together with fifty-odd other members of the troupe. Ungah pointed out individuals. Half were roustabouts—workers who did such chores as erecting and striking the tents; harnessing, driving, and unhitching the horses; fetching food and water to the beasts; and carrying off their dung.

Of the rest of the company, half—a quarter of the total—were gamesters: that is, men who, for a rental fee, accompanied the carnival and plied their games with the public. These games entailed wagers on such things as the roll of dice, the turns of a wheel of fortune, or the location of a pea beneath one of three nutshells, all nicely contrived for the undoing of artless marks.

This left a mere sixteen or so performers, who appeared before the audiences. These comprised Bagardo himself, as ringmaster; a snake charmer; a lion tamer; a bareback rider; a dog trainer; a juggler; two clowns; three acrobats; four musicians (a drummer, a trumpeter, a fiddler, and a bagpiper); and an animal handler who, clad as a Mulvanian prince in turban and glass jewels, rode around the ring on the camel. There were also a cook and a costumer. These last, together with the snake charmer and the bareback rider, were women.

The company was more versatile than this list implies. Most of these folk doubled at other tasks: thus the snake charmer helped the cook to serve repasts, while the bareback rider—a buxom wench clept Dulnessa—assisted the costumer in cutting and stitching. Some roustabouts, seeking to work their way into better-paying jobs, betimes took the stead of performers when the latter were sick, drunk, or otherwise out of action.

After dinner, Ungah took me the rounds of the carnival, presenting me to individuals and showing me the exhibits. These included the camel, the lion, the leopard, and several smaller beasts such as Madam Paladné’s snakes.

Ungah approached one long cage on wheels with caution. I sensed a distinctive odor about the cage, like that of Madam Paladné’s serpents but stronger. Ungah pulled back the curtain.

“ ’Tis the Paaluan dragon,” he said. “Go not close, Zdim. It lies like dead thing for a fiftnight; then when some unwary wight comes too close: snap! And that is end of him. That’s why Bagardo has trouble getting the roustabouts to service the brute; have lost two men to its maw in last year.”

The dragon was a great, slate-colored lizard, over twenty feet long. As we neared the cage, it raised its head and shot a yard of forked tongue at me. I stepped close, trusting in my quickness to leap out of harm’s way if it snapped. Instead, the dragon extended that tongue again and touched my face with a caressing motion. A wheezy grunt came from its throat.

“By Vaisus’ brazen arse!” cried Ungah. “It likes you! It knows your smell as that of fellow reptile. Must tell Bagardo. Belike you could train the creature and ride about ring on it with the rest of parade. It seems stupid, and nobody had dared to meddle with it since Xion was et; but black wizards of Paalua train these beasts.”

“It is a mickle of a monster for me to handle alone,” I said doubtfully.

“Oh, this one only half-grown,” said Ungah. “In Paalua, they get twice as big.” He yawned. “Back to wagon; am fordone with today’s stint.”

At the wagon, Ungah took a pair of blankets out of his chest and handed me one, saying: “Straw in bottom of the chest, if you find the floor too hard.”


The next day’s sun had set when we came to Evrodium. The caravan’s halting place was fit by torches and lanthorns, which shone on the eyeballs of a swarm of villagers standing about the margin of the lot.

“Zdim!” cried Ungah. “Bear hand!”

He unrolled the canvas I had helped him tie up. Inside was a bundle of stakes longer than I am tall. Our task was to drive these stakes at intervals into the ground and attach the canvas to them, to enclose the carnival and thwart the curious locals who wished to see but not pay. Ungah chose a place on the perimeter of the lot and pushed the first stake into the soft ground. He set a small stepladder behind it and pressed the handle of a mallet into my hand.

“Get up there and drive stake in,” he directed.

I mounted the stepladder and gave the stake a tap.

“Hit hard!” cried Ungah. “Is that your best?”

“Mean you thus?” quoth I, swinging the mallet with full force. It came down with a crash, splintering the top of the stake and breaking the handle of the mallet.

“Zevatas, Franda, and Heryx!” yelled Ungah. “Meant not to smash it to kindling. Now must fetch another mallet. Wait here!”

One way or another, we got the canvas fence up. Meanwhile, the tents had been erected and the early confusion had subsided into an orderly bustle. Horses neighed, the camel gargled, the lion roared, and the other beasts made their proper noises. I asked: “Shall we put on a show tonight?”

“Gods, no! Takes hours to get ready, and everybody too tired. We pass the morn in preparation and, if rain hold off, do one show. Then off on the road again.”

“Wherefore pause we here so briefly?”

“Evrodium too small. By tomorrow night, all marks with money have seen the performance, and game players be cleaned out. Stay longer means battle with the marks. No profit in that.” A gong sounded. “Dinner! Come along.”


We were up with the dawn, readying the day’s performance. Bagardo came to see me.

“O Zdim,” he said, “you shall be in the tent of monsters—”

“Your pardon, master, but I am no monster! I am but a normal, healthy—”

“Never mind! With us, you shall be a monster, and no back talk. Your wagon will form part of the wall of the tent, and the marks will move past it on the inner side. Ungah will be next to you. Since you occupy his cage, I’ll chain him to a post. Your task is to fright the marks with hideous roars and howls. Speak no words of Novarian. You’re not supposed to know how, you know.”

“But sir, I not only speak it, I read and write—

“Look here, demon, who’s running this circus? You shall do as told, like it or not.”

And so it befell. The villagers turned out in mass. From my cage, I heard the cries of the gamesters and the rattle of their devices, the tunes of the musical band, and the general uproar. Bagardo, splendidly attired, ushered a host of marks in with a florid oration: “. . . and first on your right, messires and mesdames, you see Madam Paladné and her deadly serpents, captured at inconceivable risk in the reeking tropical jungles of Mulvan. The large one is clept a constrictor. Were it to seize you, it would wrap you round, crush you to a jelly, and swallow you whole . . . Next, messires and mesdames, is a demon from the Twelfth Plane, evoked by the great warlock, Arkanius of Phthai. I knew Arkanius; in fact, he was a dear friend.” Bagardo wiped his eyes with a kerchief. “But in evoking this blood-thirsty monster of supernatural strength and ferocity, he left a corner of his pentacle open, and the demon bit his head off.”

Some of the audience gasped, and a few of the women uttered small shrieks. A mark, in a rustic accent I could scarcely understand, asked: “How didst that take him, then?”

“Arkanius’ apprentice bravely cast a spell of immobility . . .”

I was so fascinated by Bagardo’s account of my past that I forgot to roar until he scowled at me. Then I champed my jaws, hopped up and down, and did such other antics as seemed called for.

Bagardo gave an equally fictional account of the capture of Ungah, who sat on the fought chained to a post, behind a railing to keep the marks at a safe distance from his clutches. When the marks gathered at the railing, Ungah grimaced, roared and slapped a sheet of iron with a length of chain, making a much more impressive racket than had I.


After the performance, Bagardo unchained Ungah and opened my cage. Ungah entered the cage and dug out of the chest a huge, moth-eaten old cloak, a battered hat with a floppy brim, a pair of gap-toed boots, a belt, and a purse. He did on all these things.

“Wherefore the fine raiment, Master Ungah?” I asked.

“Boss insists. Go to Evrodium to buy things. When the light fails, villagers take me for roustabout. If they see Ungah the Terrible talking polite, they wouldn’t pay to see me in tent. You want anything?”

“I know of nought at the moment. But tell me: What do you buy with?”

“Money. Bagardo gives me allowance.”

An hour later, Ungah returned with his purchases: some sweetmeats, which he shared with me; a needle, thread, and scissors; and other things. After dinner, Ungah was patching his cloak by lamplight when Siglar, the lion tamer, approached our cage. Siglar, a tall bony man with pale-blue eyes and lank, tow-colored hair, was a barbarian from the steppes of Shven to the north.

“Master Zdim!” he said. “The boss is fain to see you.”

I suspected that Bagardo would complain about my lackluster performance. I said to Ungah: “Couldst accompany me, old fellow? I need moral support.”

Ungah put away his sewing and came. We wended to Bagardo’s small private wagon. Inside, the vehicle was luxuriously fitted up with silken drapes, a thick rug, and a silver-gilt lamp to shine upon this splendor.

Bagardo was seated at his desk, casting his accounts with a slate and a piece of chalk. “O Zdim!” he said. “In twenty years in this business, never have I seen a worse performance than yours. Briefly, you stink.”

“I am sorry, master; I endeavor to give satisfaction, but to please everybody were oft impossible. If you paid me an allowance, I might be inspired to a more vital act.”

“Oho, so that’s it? With the circus teetering on the edge of failure and the entire company’s pay in arrears, you strike me for pay. A murrain on you, demon!” He smote the desk so that his inkwell danced.

“Very well, sir,” I replied. “I will do my best; but, in my state of destitution, that best may not be very good.”

“Insolent ouph!” roared Bagardo. “I’ll destitute you!” He came around the desk with the small whip that he cracked as ringmaster. He took a cut at me, and another. Since this was no magical wand, I scarcely felt the blows.

“Is that the hardest you can hit, sir?” I said.

He struck me a few more times, then hurled the whip into a corner. “Curse you, are you made of iron?”

“Not quite, sir. It is true that my tissues are stronger than yours. Now, how about that allowance? As we Twelfth Planners say, every pump needs a little priming betimes.”

Red-faced, Bagardo glared. Then he laughed. “Oh, all right; you do have me by the balls, you know. How about threepence a day?”

“That were agreeable, master. Now, could I but have a few days’ advance for pocket money . . .”

Bagardo brought ninepence out of his strongbox. “That’ll have to do for the next fiftnight. Enough of sordid commercialism; who’s for a game of skillet?”

“What is that, sir?” I asked.

“You shall see.” Bagardo set out a small table and four folding chairs. As Siglar, Ungah, and I took our places, Bagardo produced a package of oblongs of stiff paper with designs upon them. Prime Planers play a multitude of games with these “cards,” as they call them.

The rules of skillet seemed simple. Various combinations of cards outranked others, and the trick was to guess the other players’ hands and wager on one’s ability to outrank them. I had a terrible time in managing the cards with my claws, which are not suited to such slippery objects. I kept dropping the wretched things on the floor.

Bagardo kept up a fire of talk. He boasted grandly of his prowess in fertilizing the females of his species. He was especially proud of having copulated with six inmates of an institution called a whorehouse, all in one night. I was puzzled by the pride that male Prime Planers take in this ability, since any number of lower animals, such as the common goat, can easily outdo the human male in this regard.

When all had lauded Bagardo’s penial powers, he said: “Zdim, since you arrived on this plane, have you known any wizards other than Doc Maldivius?”

“Nay, sir, save for his apprentice Grax, who—ah—met with misfortune. Why?”

“We need one. We had one, old Arkanius.”

“I heard you mention him, sir. What really befell him?”

“Something not greatly different from the lies I told about him, I’ll warrant. Arkanius would experiment with spells too fell for his limited powers. One night we saw blue flashes from his tent and heard screams. On the morrow there was no Arkanius—just a spattering of blood. I offered the job to Maldivius, but he declined, uttering something about the Paaluans making his fortune for him. He was a bit drunk at the time. Know you aught of what he meant?”

“Nay, sir. I have heard that Paalua is a land of mighty magicians across the ocean, but that is all.”

“Bear it in mind. Dulnessa has been running a fortune-telling booth besides her regular work, but ’tis not the same as having a genuine magicker, you know. Whose deal is it?”


Bagardo won my ninepence away from me, coin by coin. I noted that, from time to time, my tendrils picked up a strange vibration. This often happened when he was about to win some of my money. I could not, however, properly interpret the sensation. When I was down to my last farthing, the door opened and in came the buxom Madam Dulnessa, the bareback rider. In a raucous voice, she cried: “When is one of you limp-yards coming over to service me?”

Bagardo said: “Take Zdim. He’s broke, anyway.”

“Mean you he can?” she said.

“Certes. Demons engender even as we do. Now get thee hence and leave us to our play.”

Perplexed, I followed Dulnessa back to her wagon. When we were inside, she turned to me with a smile and half-closed eyes.

“Well, Zdimmy,” she said, “this bids fair to be at least a new sensation.”

With that, she began to remove her clothing in a slow and provocative manner. When she had doffed all her garments, she lay supine on her bed. I was naturally interested, since this was my first view of a live human female without clothing. I was gratified to observe that the illustrations in the schoolbooks on my own plane were correct in their depiction of the form and organs of this species. My tendrils received a vibration of extraordinary intensity, which I did not recognize.

“Now go to it, if you have the means to go to it with,” she said.

I began to see. “Mean you to engage in carnal communication with you, madam?”

“Whoops, what pretty language! Aye, I mean just that.”

“I am sorry, but I was taught only the refined, literary form of Novarian in school. The vulgarisms I have had to pick up on my own.”

“Well, have you in sooth a true member under all those scales—and, hey, you’re changing color!”

“Emotion so affects us, madam. I assure you that I am equipped with a proper male organ. Amongst us, however, it is withdrawn within the body when not in use, instead of dangling vulgarly and vulnerably as amongst human males. Doubtless that is the cause of this curious custom—which has long puzzled our philosophers—of wearing garments, even in the hottest weather. Now, amongst us demons—”

Dulnessa: “Spare me the lecture. Canst do it?”

“I know not. Although I strive to give satisfaction, this is not the breeding season, nor does the site of a Prime Plane female arouse my desires.”

“What’s the matter with me, dragonman? True, I’m not so young as once upon a time, but—”

“That is beside the point, if you will pardon my saying so, madam. With that soft, pale, nude skin all over, you look—how shall I say it?—squashy. It were like copulating with a giant jellyfish, ugh! Now if it were my wife, Yeth, with her pretty fangs and tendrils and her lovely, glittering scales—”

“Then close your eyes, fancy ’tis your wife lying here, and try to work up a stand.”

Well, as we say at home, nought essayed, nought achieved. By a powerful effort of will, I envisaged my dear mate and felt the blood rush into my loins. When I was sure I was an upstanding demon, I opened my eyes.

Dulnessa was staring at my yard with horror. “My gods!” she cried. “Put that ghastly thing away! It looks like one of those spiky maces that knights bash in each other’s armor with. ’Twould slay me dead.”

“I regret not to be of service to you, madam,” I said. “I feared you would not find the prospect pleasing. Now why should Master Bagardo have sent me with you? It seems like one of those irrational ‘jokes’ that you human beings are ever perpetrating. If Bagardo had lust enough for a score of women, I should think he were glad of the opportunity—”

“That bully-rook talks fine, but his performance fails to match his brag. The last time, he had to call on Siglar to take his place after one gallop. The apeman’s worth three of him on a pallet.”

“Do all human females require such constant replenishment?”

“Nay; I’m a special case. Because I wouldn’t let him make free with me, the cursed Arkanius cast a spell upon me—the spell of unrequited lust. He was a dirty old lob, and I joyed when the demon fanged him. But that leaves me under the spell, with no wizard to lift it.”

“Perhaps it will wear off in time,” I said. “Spells do, I understand.”

“Maybe so; but meanwhile, if I be not well stroked several times daily, my desire drives me mad.”

“I should think, with all these lusty roustabouts—”

“Most never bathe, and I prefer cleanly lovers. Still, if all else fail . . . But to get back to your game. How fared you?”

I told of my loss.

“Ha!” she said. “ ’Tis like Bagardo to advance you money and then get it back by card-sharping.”

“Mean you he cheated me?”

“Certes! What thought you?”

I pondered. “That must be the meaning of that tingle I sensed.”

“Canst read minds?”

“Nay, but I detect vibrations that betray the emotions of other beings.”

“How much does he pay you?”

“Threepence a day.”

She laughed hoarsely. “My dear Zdim, you go right back to Bagardo and make him double it; he pays the roustabouts sixpence. Then borrow another advance and win back your poke. That will be the right sort of joke on that great coystril!”

I did as bidden. Bagardo laughed heartily at the tale of Dulnessa’s abortive seduction. It put him in such a good humor, in fact, that he even agreed to the rise in my pay, doubtless counting on speedily winning it back.

We resumed the game. By dropping out instantly every time I felt the warning tingle, I soon had won back several times the original advance. Bagardo stared, saying: “I must be losing my card sense. Anyway, ’tis time we were abed. We needs must rise early to get to Orynx, you know. I maun say, Master Zdim, you have mastered skillet the quickest of anyone I’ve taught. Are you in some sort a mind reader?”

“Nay, master.” My reply was truthful if “mind” be taken in the strictest sense, as comprising only the intellectual faculties; but some might take philosophical exception to it on the ground that the term should be extended to include the emotions, which I could in fact read. I went on: “The principles are not difficult. As we say in my world, perfection waits upon practice.”

“Too bad you don’t read minds; I could use you in an act. At the next show, now, remember: when the customers flock in, go into a veritable frenzy. They expect it. Roar, howl, shake the bars as if you would leap down amongst the marks. Strive your utmost to escape from the cage!”

Ungah said: “Boss, I think—”

“Never mind your thoughts, Master Ape. I would make sure this demon knows his script.”


Orynx, up the Kyamos from Ir, is larger than Evrodium, albeit smaller than Chemnis. We planned to spend two full days there and to give three performances: two of evenings and one on the second afternoon. We opened the first show on the even of the first day.

The first mark to enter the tent of monsters was an old man with a wobbling gait. From the odor of wine he emitted, I inferred that his unsteadiness was due not merely to age. He staggered up to my wagon and peered. I returned his gaze, not wishing to go into my ferocity act until I had garnered a larger audience.

The aged man took a bottle out of his coat and drank. He muttered: “Dip me in dung, and now a see them everywhere. Go away, spook! Evanish! Get tha gone! O gods, ask me ne to give up me drink, me old man’s milk, me one remaining solace!”

He reeled away, weeping, and other rubes streamed in. When Bagardo had given his turgid introductions, I growled, roared, screamed, and beat on the bars. Remembering my orders, I seized two bars and pulled them until they bent.

The nearest marks recoiled, while those further back pressed forward. Bagardo flashed me a grin of approval. Thus encouraged, I gave forth a bellow like that of a turtle-dragon of the Marshes of Kshak and put forth my full strength.

The bars bowed outward. With a loud snapping sound, one pulled out of its lower socket. I tore it out of its upper socket as well and cast it clattering from me. Then, as instructed, I squeezed through the gap and leapt to the ground, roaring and snatching at the nearest marks.

I had no intention of harming the customers; I merely essayed to put on a good show. But the marks in front hurled themselves back with piercing screams. In a trice, the floor of the tent was a shambles of struggling bodies. Prime Planers fought and scrambled and fell over one another in their haste to get out, shrieking: “The fiend’s loose!”

As they poured out into the night, their panic spread to others, who were streaming in the gate and towards the main tent. I have never witnessed such irrational behavior on the Twelfth Plane. We may be slow of wit, but an unwelcome surprise does not drive us insane.

Some people tried to climb over or burrow under the canvas fence around the lot. Those who had been knocked down and trampled limped or crawled towards the exit. Fights broke out. Some of the gamesters’ booths were upset, and townsfolk began looting them. A tent blazed up. Somebody shouted: “Hey, rube!” Thereupon the roustabouts fell upon the marks with tent stakes or any other weapon they could improvise.

The deafening noise died down as all the marks who could still do so fled. Many lay hurt or unconscious about the lot. I glimpsed Bagardo, muddy and battered, staggering about and trying to bring his company to order. Seeing me, he yelled: “You’ve ruined me, you lousy spook! I’ll kill you for this!”

Others ran between us, and I lost sight of him. I followed Ungah in fighting the fire of the burning tent. By the time we had it out, a man wearing a helmet, a mail shirt, and a sword appeared on horseback at the entrance. A score of locals with crossbows, spears, and staves followed him afoot. The mounted man blew a trumpet.

“Who in the forty-nine hells are you?” said Bagardo, confronting the horse with fists on hips.

“Valtho, constable of Orynx. These be my deputies. Now hear this! Ye do all be under arrest for injuries done the citizens of Orynx. Ye face criminal charges and civil suits. Since our gaol would ne hold so many, ye shall remain here under guard this night—ho, whither go ye, sirrah? Stop that man!”

Bagardo ran back among the tents. Before any could catch him, he had thrown himself upon the piebald horse and kicked it to a gallop. He raced through the scattering carnival folk.

The horse soared over the fence, and Bagardo was gone into the night. Constable Valtho shouted an order to his men, who began to spread out and surround the lot, and spurred clattering after Bagardo. Several carnival folk ran off into the dark, to cut their way through the fence before the circle closed. I said to Ungah:

“Ought we not to flee, too?”

“Why? Can’t get along on our own, for every man be against us. Best we can hope for is better masters. So take it easy.”

Presently the constable came back from his fruitless pursuit of the showman, his horse puffing and blowing, to superintend the posting of his men. In the panic, one man had perished. This was the old drunkard, trampled to death at the entrance to the tent of monsters. There were many injuries, such as broken limbs and ribs. Besides these, every Oryncian who had even been jostled or gotten a spot on his coat had filed suit against Bagardo the Great. Had Bagardo been master of ten carnivals, each more prosperous than this one, he still could never have satisfied all the judgments against him. Had he not fled, he had probably ended in debt slavery.


Before the magistrate in Orynx, I explained that I was not really a blood-thirsty monster but just a poor indentured demon trying to follow his master’s orders.

“You do not sound like a fiend,” said the magistrate. “On the other hand, you are not human, so destroying you were no murder. Many citizens favor that measure for their own protection.”

“Permit me to say that they might find my destruction difficult, Your Honor,” I told him, “as anyone who has dealt with the Twelfth Plane will tell you. Moreover, I can forestall such a fate by returning to my own plane.” (I was bluffing, having forgotten part of the decamping spell.) “So long as no extreme measure be attempted, however, I am fain to cooperate with the good people of Orynx in obeying their laws and meeting my obligations.”

The magistrate—one of the few reasonable Prime Planers I met—agreed that I ought to be given a chance. About half the company had escaped from the lot ere it was surrounded. The members of the troupe who had been captured had so few possessions, that, rather than support them in idleness in the gaol, the magistrate let them go with warnings.

The animals, including Ungah and myself, and the wagons, tents, and other properties were gathered, inventoried, and sent down the road to Ir to be sold. The auction was a dreary business, and I doubt if the plaintiffs in Orynx got a farthing to the mark on their claims. But that is how my contract of indenture was bought, at the auction ground outside the city, by an agent for Madam Roska of Ir.

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