“Alowishus, what do you want with that much gold and silver? Are you financing a new kingdom?” was all Dee could think to say when Alowishus came into her shop to arrange an unusual purchase.
“For two related yet distinct purposes, the details of neither concerning you,” came the gentle but firm reply.
“I’m not allowed to be curious?” the young jeweller pleaded.
“You may certainly be as curious as you wish, yet expect no satisfaction,” huffed Alowishus, affecting annoyance. He gave her a grinning sideways glance as he settled onto her desk chair.
She looked at him for a moment before offering, “I know what the silver is for,” unable to contain her reciprocal grin.
Not looking directly at her, Alowishus sighed and intoned, “As well you might. The social fabric of this town conducts rumour like no other material known to humankind. As you’ve surmised the nature of its intended use, you may just as well be commissioned to fashion the blade yourself.”
She paused to stare at him for a moment then puzzled aloud, “Blade?”
“Ten full inches from hilt to tip, as broad as you might manage while leaving sufficient section to withstand some struggle intact.” He made certain to verify eye contact with her before continuing, “Some struggle should be expected.”
Shock enveloping her face, she stammered, “You’re not going toe-to-toe with that thing…”
“As crowded as are these streets, I dare not risk a bullet landing astray. I shall only do the best I can.”
For many minutes the only sound emanated from the elegant grandfather clock behind them. Alowishus looked up at her, his heart sinking as he saw the terror he had expected to find on her face. “The shell that creature now occupies is not the person we knew. He is gone, absorbed into the core of eternity, his soul consumed, his memories lost. Wishing it false will not make it thus.”
“Alowishus, it’s not him. I know it’s not him—”
“Dee, I caught sight of his eyes, that stare…” Alowishus paused then felt a check in his breathing. He steadied himself before sternly continuing, “We both know what must be done.” Sensing that she was trembling, he stood and reached out to steady her arm, and allowed her to hug him tightly. After a minute or two he discerned that she was finding no comfort in the embrace. He took a deep breath and whispered, “You haven’t inquired about the gold’s function…”
Chuckling as some of the tension left her body, she jibed, “I’m afraid to find out.”
“I require a small brass sheep, laminated with gold foil.”
Separating from the hug, Dee looked up at Alowishus suspiciously. “Um, a gold-plated sheep? What’s that for, to choke a dragon or something?”
Alowishus grinned. “Let us propose that it is a monument, for a ship.”
Laughing, she dared ask, “Ok. What does the sheep represent?”
Alowishus’ grin turned sly, “Foolishness and avarice.”
Dee felt herself share his grin, “Ah, so a monument for a royal ship, then?”
Alowishus chuckled and shook his head. “Strictly commerce, my dear. The monument is to be exchanged rather than mounted.”
Dee rolled her eyes. “See, this is why I was afraid to find out.”
“In due course—when you are privy to its principal elements—you will surely find in this tale some peculiar humour,” the gentleman pledged. “Another thing which may amuse you is the manner I’ve chosen to compensate you for your efforts. I offer you one and one half tons of Ceylon’s finest tea; nearly all that is left after salvage from the Tea Hag. I have of course subsisted from its proceeds in the mean.”
Dee chuckled and then looked sideways at him, “You know, I think I may know just how to liquidate that.”
Alowishus winced at the pun, and knew precisely how she might dispose of those tea assets—finding the irony delicious, yet choosing to remain tight-lipped until it was safe to share more of the adventure’s oddities with her.
“I’m going to need some time to get rid of the tea and get the gold. I’ve never hammered gold into leaf, so it will take me a while to work out the technique. I’ll see the girl who frames my art for some tips,” Dee reasoned aloud.
“It may prove timely if you are able to fashion the blade for me in the mean. If I am accurate in my assessment of that creature’s origin, it may in fact be stalking me expressly. I do share your wish that my appraisal may be off the mark, yet sadly not your conviction. In any event, if you are able to make available the agreed-upon weapon before the next full moon, I can pledge to you my sincerest appreciation,” offered the old salt as he prepared for the chilly autumn evening air. “And Miss Wells, your confidentiality is of course appreciated .”
The young jeweller winked and nodded. “I just have to figure out an explanation for suddenly possessing a massive quantity of tea, and Bob’s your uncle!”
Shaking his head and chuckling, Alowishus made his way out into the October night.