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VII. Birthday party



We head straight for Sleepy’s and grab some dinner, their beef stew with bread and mugs of beer. We have money, but we don’t spend or even really look at the yellow stuff. Then we head over to my place. Mom’s standing in the middle of the shop with her coat on. She takes fifteen seconds to bawl me out and then she’s out the door. We lock up and go upstairs to my room, throw our boots out in the hall and and sit on my floor. Gurth plunks the sack of coins between us.

“Wow,” says Janet, looking around. “You got rid of your teddy bears. Is this because of—you lost your—you know?”

“What? Oh, ha ha,” I respond. I’m sure I’m redder than usual, which isn’t hard because I’m the whitest person I know.

“How long have you guys known each other?” asks Gurth, who’s still standing.

“We all went to nursery school together,” says Jan. “You’re lucky we let you join our play group.”

“Oh,” he says. He fidgets. “Can I take off my chain mail?” We sort of shrug and snicker. Undaunted, the warrior pulls off his cap, shrugs out of his rather loose shirt of rings and gets down on the floor and folds his legs like he’s in our nursery school class. We all look at each other. “So,” he says, “should we just dump it out or what?”

“Let us pray,” says Janet. We all take hands and close our eyes. “Mother Virgin, we thank you for this bounty you have granted us, and we ask your guidance as we divide it up equally, Fenric, amongst us. Amen. And Fen, I’m not letting go your hand till you say Amen.”

“Amen,” says Fenric. Gurth and I giggle add our own amens.

“Okay, dump away,” says Janet.

Gurth pulls the bag toward him: he’s sitting next to me, with Janet on his other side. I untie the twine at the top of the bag, and with some effort, he turns it on its side and then pulls it back. A pleasantly large pile of gold and silver spills out. We take a minute to enjoy the vista, and then we make Fenric roll his sleeves all the way up—“Professional courtesy demands they ask me to do that,” he explains to Gurth—and get down to divvying. Five blissful minutes left we have lined up, in stacks of ten, 182 gold pieces and 140 silvers.

“Most of these are Daphnes and Cyanes,” says Fenric, “but we do have a few Saphnes and this stack is all Silontian coins.”

“I know I saw one from Rion,” says Janet.

“So,” says Gurth, “even divvy, we decided?”

“It was a matter of Prayer,” says Janet.

“More importantly,” I say, “should we ever see Zelin or Yanos again, we solemnly swear that they don’t get a cut.”

“Of course not,” says Fenric with a professional indignation. “They weren’t with us when we found the loot. They got a cut from what that gnoll had.”

“And of course,” says Gurth, “if they made it out, they might have found who knows how much treasure and that would rightfully be theirs.” He looks around at us. “Not, um, ours.”

“That is a point,” I say.

We look at each other. Fenric heaves a sigh. “Sadly, that’s the law of the dungeon,” he says. “So, shall we? At twenty shillings to a gold piece, 140 is seven gold, so that’s 189 gold. 189 divides by 4 into 47 with a remainder of one, so we have 47 each, and one gold left, but that’s twenty silvers, so we should each get 47 and five shillings.” He smiles at me.

Everyone watches me while I calculate. “182, that’s 45 each, two left over. 140, that’s 35 each. The two left over gold are forty silver, so that’s ten each, so we each get 45 gold and 45 silver, which is the same as 47 and five.” I smile sweetly at Fenric.

“Like I said.” He looks at Janet. “Do the honors?”

“Sure,” says our vicar, and she begins lining up stacks of gold and silver in front of us. I jump up and get my little strong box, find the key, open it up and dump out the dead flowers, hair bands, poems I never want to see again, and cheap crystals. The stacks of gold look very nice in there. It fills right up, leaving a dozen gold and fifteen silver I can’t fit. Pocket change. Nice.

“Um,” says Gurth, pulling out a small pouch. He’s already filled a bigger one with his share. “I have some herb, if we want to consecrate this.” He laughs his nervous laugh. “Since, ah, Zelin’s not here.”

“In her honor, then,” I say.

“Oh, nice,” says Janet. “Daisy has some wine. Want some?”

“Sure,” I say, “share out my wine. What’s mine is yours, after all.”

So we have a smoke and then we toast our future endeavors and down our mugs. We’re pretty happy about things, and Fenric is on his best behavior. I’m very much in a “you guys are my best friends ever” kind of mood.

“What’s our next endeavor, anyway?” asks Gurth.

“I dunno,” I say. “I’ll tell you, this puts a different look on things. I’m not, ah, Fenric, don’t take this wrong, but I’m not so into the Lapis Circlet now, I hope that’s okay.”

“I feel kind of the same,” he says. “I mean, I figured we sell it. But there’s all kinds of rumors about what incredible powers it has and stuff. I mean, I bet at least 90% of them are made up, but you know,” and he runs his hand through the pile of gold he’s slowly putting back in the bag for himself, “this stuff, I fully understand its incredible powers.”

We all nod.

“So,” I say, “let’s lock this stuff up in my room here, and head down to the Mouse or someplace and see if there’s a band to dance to.”

It’s generally agreed that this is a good idea. It’s a still night, under a cloudy ceiling, as we make our gay way to the Golden Mouse. We’re four adventurers walking arm in arm down Beaker Street: me on one end, then Fenric, then Jan, then Gurth. The world could not be more wonderful if it was a clear summer night.

And then I see someone in a doorway up a side street. Someone, and not just anyone. The world is suddenly ten percent less wonderful. I’m suddenly sober. I pull Fenric close and say, “I’ll catch you guys up,” and then I’m just a figure blending into a doorway half a block from that figure in the doorway.