< The Gift
20: THE GIFT

It was spring, no doubt about it. No denying the verdant hills, the balmy zephyrs. No denying the pulsing streams, the mossy overflowing banks.

No denying, either, that Beanalsarion and Fleenoci were Visitors of Their Words. They'd said they would return for Schnaphaunce in the spring, and return they did--by ordinary transport this time--to take home their plinth. They just appeared one day, made the necessary amount of small talk and left, Schnaphaunce in tow.

Spanakopitae was bereft. He'd become her pet--more, her trusted daily companion, her confidant--as Polaris Two was Spanakopitus's. He'd become someone to talk to.

She moped silently, but Spanakopitus could see her crumpled spirits. Poor dear, he thought, she's going into quite a decline.

After careful thought and more than a little research, Spanakopitus hatched a plan: he would travel to a far galaxy and bring home a plinth for her very own. And he knew just the way to get there.

"You want me to what?" asked Bang!opolis.

"Chauffeur me to a far galaxy on your Cosmic Harley. Sidecar attached."

"I thought you didn't like my Harley."

"Only way to get there and bring back what I need."

"But Dazzle's been staying at my place. I can't leave her alone."

"Don't have to. She can stay at our castle, with Spanakopitae. It'd do my lady good to have some company while I'm gone." Spanakopitus crossed his fingers, hoping he was right.

* * *

"You want me to what?" asked Spanakopitae.

"Have Dazzle as your houseguest for a few days. I won't be gone long, I promise." Spanakopitus again crossed his fingers, hoping that indeed it wouldn't be long, and that his mission would be fruitful.

"But she . . . sparkles all over! And she wears goldfish in her heels," Spanakopitae wailed.

"Try to see the good in her, my dear. Just for a few days. I promise you won't regret it."

And so Spanakopitus and Bang!opolis departed for the far galaxy upon the Cosmic Harley, sidecar attached, intent upon their mission, while their ladies, as different as velvet and vermouth, paced the castle, smiling cautiously and eyeing each other warily.

* * *

Three days later (was it only three days? so much happened so fast, so far away), Spanakopitus and Bang!opolis returned, gliding silently into the driveway of the castle on the Cosmic Harley, so as to surprise everyone. Beside them in the sidecar, constrained with a rhinestone collar, sat a wide-eyed baby plinth, breathing only a very little fire.

Spanakopitus signaled to Bang!opolis to stay put and watch the plinth while he tested the temper of the ladies who'd been left behind these three days. Not knowing quite what to expect, he tiptoed through the front door and sidled into the living room--to find Spanakopitae and Dazzle happily having their hair done by Fromage de Maupassant!


Fromage de Maupassant

Dazzle was wearing a pair of velvet house slippers; Spanakopitae seemed to sparkle--just a little.

"Spanky!" she said, jumping up and throwing her arms around him. "Whadja bring me?"

"Very nice to see you, sir," said Dazzle. "And the two of you are quite well, I trust?"

Nonplussed at the sudden reversal, Spanakopitus would have forgotten the plinth, but for his wife's question.

* * *

Later, when all the oo-ing and ahh-ing was over and Bang!opolis and Dazzle had departed for their own quarters, when Spanakopitus and Spanakopitae were sitting by the fire, she with the baby plinth beside her (whom on first sight she named Snapdragon) and he with Polaris at his side, the Lord of the Crow 'n Bear asked his darling wife as she dreamily stroked her new pet, "What on earth happened to change your mind about Dazzle?"

"Well, it was funny. Unexpected."

"Yes?"

"Neither of us knew what to say or how to act around each other at first, but then she started asking me questions--about you, about the TrailMaster, about the Zom and both Polarises and Kinkajou."

"Yes?"

"And I answered each question in turn, and then she got me to telling her stories about you and me and this place.

"And she listened. She really listened."

21: Initiation
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