As I have previously noted, I am a big believer in the power of drinking to solve problems.
No, not my drinking. That’s just stupid: even my mentor Arghash had known that. It’s other people’s drinking that solves my problems. For example: Two days ago, Djug the goblin got drunk enough to think he could get away with burgling an orc-lord’s summer house. The orc-lord’s dire-wolf ate Djug and broke off two of its teeth. Pulling the teeth for the orc-lord solved my problem of paying the rent for my veterinary practice.
Well, I didn’t say it brought in repeat business.
But sometimes I join people in drinking, because we have the same problems.
In this case, I was drinking with Ulghash, Arghash’s son. Ulg and I had grown up together. Only he became a doctor and a self-made man. Well, orc. And I inherited Arghash’s veterinary practice.
Hard feelings? Why? Ulghash and Arghash both got what they wanted: namely for Ulghash to rise to a higher level than fixing up animals. I, on the other hand, as a human slave, wasn’t going to start my own business in the Dread Empire. So we all got what we wanted: I grew up as a higher class of slave, and Arghash got someone to keep the practice going.
Even so, Ulghash was saying, “Days like this I want to take Dad’s practice back from you.” He drained half his beer. “At least your patients don’t decide they know better than you.”
“That’s right,” I agreed. “Their owners do it. I told you about the human vampire-wannabe Countess who kept her basilisk on a diet of blood, right?”
“Yeah, but at least you can feel sorry for the basilisk.” Ulghash held his head in his hands. “I’m treating a clan chief for impotence. ‘Use the herbs,’ I said. ‘The herbs work. And stop trying every day, for the Dark Ones’ sakes. Relax a bit.’ Did he listen?”
“What did he do?” I asked.
“Got someone else to look at it.”
I stopped in mid-pull from my beer. “You don’t mean he got her to… look… at… it?
“Yep. He wanted it stiff. Well, it is now. I may have to cut it off before it gets infected. At least he can still piss, or he’d be dead already. He just has to watch the, uh. The range.”
I groaned. Then I told Ulghash about the de-petrification unguent (because you really don’t want to treat basilisks and cockatrices without a supply on hand) and sold him a jar at cost.
He shook his head. “It may be too late already. Blood doesn’t pump well through stone vessels. But he can damn well apply it himself.” He thanked me and we went home.
I hadn’t been back in the office long enough to do more than check on the recovering patients – business was looking up for a change, now that Morrough was gone – when Harriet knocked on the door.
“I thought we didn’t have any more appointments for at least an hour?” I asked.
“I think you want to see this one.” Then she giggled. Not a “something’s funny” giggle, but the “too weird” kind. Harriet found something weird?
This was a woman who had impersonated a dark elf for three years, tended bar for orcs, and crawled around in dragon guts beside me. Harriet didn’t weird easily. I peered into the waiting room.
There was a wizard and a dwarf standing there. Either of those would have been fairly unusual. What was almost unheard of was that they were the same person. His beard was long and yellow. His staff was carved with runes. Tellingly, the staff appeared to have started life as a pickaxe handle. And he wore long mystic robes rather than armor or mining gear. Beside him was a small wooden cage with an iron-grated door. I couldn’t see what he’d brought in.
“And how can I help you, sir?” I asked.
“I need you to take a look at this,” he said, imperiously. The merest suggestion of uncertainty tinged his voice. “So to speak.” He raised the carrier. I looked inside. The interior was dark. I waited for my eyes to adjust.
The interior was empty.
I opened my mouth to ask what sort of joke this was, and that’s when I heard the snoring.
Very carefully, using my left hand, I reached into the cage. I touched a warm, furry surface for an instant before it jerked away. I felt the wind of snapping teeth on my hastily-withdrawn hand.
“Okay,” I said. “So, you have an invisible what in there?”
“A, uh… weasel,” the dwarf said, looking away.
“A weasel,” I said. “And what did you do to it? Invisibility spell gone wrong?” The dwarf looked uncomfortable.
“What did you do to it?” I repeated.
“It ate… an item,” he said at last.
I rolled my eyes. “An item?” I asked. “If you tried, could you possibly be less specific?”
The dwarf looked puzzled. “No.”
I sighed. Dwarves. Too literal for anyone’s good.