Now this is the way it is. These are the tales from the Crow 'n Bear. First there were the Big Engines---big, huge, gigantic engines. Their cylinders alone were five feet across. It was so hard to get them started.

The Powers That Be worked and worked and worried and worried, and then the Spanakopiti said, "We can help you."

You must know that the Spanakopiti are most excellent engineers. Hard workers they are---wiry and slightly devious, but because of their hard work, wealthy . . . very, very wealthy. They own tens of thousands of acres and control all the cattle in the land. And they are especially good with engines.

They control all the cattle in the land.

But sometimes they need a little extra help---moving heavy things, and digging, and everything like that. Then they hire the Zom. The Zom are a fun-loving people who occasionally work for the Spanakopiti.

The Zom are a fun-loving people.

Sometimes the Zom complain that they are being worked too hard and need some time off. The Spanakopiti are suspicious of this, for they themselves know nothing but work. The Spanakopiti like the Zom, but they do not understand them.

The Zom have a pet monkey, Kinkajou, who frolics in the ancient and gnarly PerSisters. You can see him if you look closely enough. Kinkajou sometimes teases Polaris, the black-and-tan hound of Spanakopitus, but Polaris is patient with him, being a noble dog.

Last season the Zom and the Spanakopiti took a trek to the Ridge of Receding Dreams. The TrailMaster went with them. (The TrailMaster wears buckskin and has a white beard. He is omnipotent, we think. He owns the original Polaris, sire of Spanakopitus' dog.) They all invited the Teller of the Tales to go along, but he said no, for dreams at that ridge are always receding, and one can get lost in them.

The Ridge of Receding Dreams

Now, the Powers That Be put the Spanakopiti in charge of the Big Engines. And the Spanakopiti decided to move one of the Big Engines to the Crow 'n Bear, where they would use it to run a compressor to pump air into Wraith Lake to please the fish and reduce the algae. The Spanakopiti hired the Zom to take the Big Engine apart and move it, piece by piece, to the Crow 'n Bear. This was an arduous task, and the Zom (who are a fun-loving people, after all) had some complaints about how hard they had to work.

So when the task was finished and the Big Engine had been all moved to its invisible place at the Crow 'n Bear, the Zom had a big barbecue, to celebrate and to relax, and then they went on a bear hunt. The Zom asked to borrow Polaris Junior, but Spanakopitus said no, Polaris is his personal dog. So the Zom went alone. And the Spanakopiti went deer hunting, for that is their only sport, being of some value for the meat, you know.

And now you must know about the DrizzleMasters, for you will see them often at the Crow 'n Bear. The DrizzleMasters have heads of smoke and feet of snow, and they are in charge of all the rain and fog.

The DrizzleMasters are supervisors of the Foginators, who can be diaphanous or dense. (They are beautiful when diaphanous, but when dense they are deadly.)

And the DrizzleMasters know the WraithMasters, whom you have seen at play on Wraith Lake, with their heads of swirl and feet of sweep.

Wraiths descending

WraithMasters at play

And the DrizzleMasters are also friends of the Venturi, the WindPeople, whose help they need in planning winter. Ventus says so. He is the chief of the Venturi, though he has recently been away in the South States planning the Big Blow.

Now, the DrizzleMasters and the Venturi cannot put on a winter all by themselves. They mostly need Bang!opolis to produce their lightning and thunder. Bang!opolis has hair of sparks. His eyes are ions. He farts blue flames. He is a little crazy. At work he rides a lightning bolt, but off-duty he rides a Cosmic Harley and hangs out with the Zom. Spanakopitus doesn't like him because he's not serious enough.

Bang!opolis has hair of sparks

2: A Disconcerting Business Trip