“If you are reading this, then you have Will, and you have Purpose.
“But what more do we know of these mysterious forces? We know this much: in Purpose consists all meaning and propriety, and in Will, all fallibility and failure. Purpose is silent and serene. Will is forever screaming its fickle nonsense. Purpose is irreproachable. Will is the great curse. Even the tiniest granule of Will can obscure a grand mountain of Purpose.
“It remains my sole hope and ambition that we may one day learn to divine the true Purpose within one another. Until that day comes, our only recourse is to conform to strict hierarchies. You would know them as states. The rulers must tell their peasants what to do, and the peasants must do it. Ideally the peasant should be given such a monumental task that he is not left with time to consider what he might otherwise like to be doing. Granted, the purposes rulers assign may be arbitrary. But even a contrived sense of Purpose is more to be heeded than Will…”
- Magormissahr, Referendums on the World, Vol. 835
The subtle warning of the foghorn filled the modest estate house, volunteering its bluster to the prevailing sense of pandemonium. The floor quaked. Splinters flew. Furniture lay in shambles. The air bore a hint of some astringent odor. Watching all that was transpiring in the reception room with intense interest, Jek nervously patted his hair down and rubbed at the crust in his eyes again. A veritable eternity ago, he had been sleeping. But in real-time, he knew it couldn’t have been five hours since he’d gone to bed in the first place…
Another dresser was no more. Jek had never stopped to consider just how many dressers there were around the house, until the Inquisitors had set about breaking them.
The next to go was a lampstand. It was a nervous business, but as Jek was forced to admit to himself, it was really rather impressive to see the cloaked creatures break his things with their bare hands. Three of them there were – two busily setting about searching for and destroying anything that seemed potentially excessive on the property, while the other looked on, arms crossed.
The pensive one had been instructing the others since their arrival. With some dread-curiosity, Jek found himself observing her, even as she herself observed the work of her subordinates. Occasionally she stopped them from destroying this or that, evidently guided by parameters too nebulous for Jek to reason out. Her speech was terse and infrequent, and though she proved attentive, he couldn’t help feeling she seemed preoccupied. Though, she wasn’t Human, and of this he was powerfully aware. That made it hard to even speculate about her true state of mind…
Presently her gaze wandered, and something by the far wall seemed to catch her eye. She strode heavily across the room on bare feet, nails as big as carving knives. Jek watched her pluck a particular clay knickknack up from a small display shelf. She turned back (in his direction!) even as she kept fixated on the trinket – small in her scaly grasp – tumbling it deftly in her hand to see all sides.
He wasn’t at all sure how the chief Inquisitor could see what she was holding – or anything, for that matter. Her mask had no eyeholes. There was only a sharp slit about where he guessed the nostrils would be. And through it came pungent air, and blisteringly hot. The entire headdress was one shiny, elegant curvature that converged acutely to a sort of downward-facing chin, with an odd pair of panels gouging out of the flanks. The mask craned toward him…
As she approached, her footfalls menaced a series of creaks and moans out of the floorboards. She stood well over Jek, conservatively approaching seven feet. Standing there, letting her get closer and closer, had roughly the aspect of being voluntarily stalked by a dinosaur (and not the comfortably familiar egg-eating kind, either). She held forth the crude clay object in her hand…
“What is this?” she asked. Her voice was rich and metered.
How to answer? It was essentially a vase – or else a very misshapen bowl. It had been made by his father during a brief foray into the art of pottery. Jek was young when his father had made it, but he remembered that he had seemed rather proud of it, with just that noticeable hint of doubt that every creative person experiences when, deep down, they realize that their workmanship is actually terrible.
Jek started to construct his answer to the Inquisitor, but it was difficult to phrase. He felt obliged to answer with care. For there was a Human tradition, which held that one should always address one’s superiors with special, high-falootin’ grammar. But time was whiling away and he was only getting more nervous, so he had better start spitting it out…
“M’lady, thou hold’st’eth a work of pottery-craft which mine father did’st…”
Now she put forth her other hand… with one, long, knobbed, deadly-sharp finger extended accusingly. Her head stooped forward with a sudden, unnatural snaking action. On a conscious level, he was aware there was a long neck coiled back under the hood of her cloak. Veiled as it was, it created the deeply unsettling effect that her head was floating above her shoulders, and could spontaneously go wherever it chose.
“Do not speak to me in that fashion! I would not have you pay insult to my humility.”
He blinked hard, banishing a bunch of apologies he instinctively fumbled for, deciding they too would probably make her upset.
“…It’s a family heirloom,” he answered simply.
She looked at the thing again – doubtfully – and then back at him. “Is it registered?”
“It – it is,” he said. “Would you like to see the certificate?”
“That would be prudent, yes.”
He felt silly that he’d even dared hope she wouldn’t make him dig it up. “Alright, let me go get it; it’s upstairs.”
Suddenly he experienced a moment of relative relief, seeing this small errand would get him a moment away from the Inquisitors. He whirled around and started for the staircase, but he heard her footsteps behind him, over the sound of his own.
“I’ll accompany you. We need to process your second floor as well.” So much for relief.
As they started up the stairs, he felt a fresh wave of anxiety as the creaking behind him became so bad, he honestly wondered if she might fall through the simple cross-board steps. That would be horribly uncomfortable for all parties…
“We also need you to resolve a query about the layout of your first floor. What is the purpose of the room across from the master bedroom?” she asked. Jek’s mind went blank. The room across from the bedroom? He never used it. But at last, he remembered what it was for…
“It’s meant to be a nursery,” he answered.
There was a pause.
“Your profile did not include a child. Will you be having offspring in the near future?”
His face turned ruddy, and he nearly laughed at the question. He couldn’t imagine the day when he’d have time to raise a child…
“I suspect not,” he said.
“In that case, we will be eliminating that room. You may rebuild it, if and when you should decide to procreate… provided you fill out the proper paperwork, of course.”
“Thank you,” he said – embarrassed – unsure what else to say…
For the remaining steps, Jek focused on his breathing, endeavoring to steal himself. He knew this kind of domestic demolition at the hands of the Inquisition was a naturalized part of life, even if it was still quite an uneasy ordeal. He remembered going through it once before when he was a boy. The Inquisitors of that distant memory had seemed hardly more huge, alien, and terrifying. As he was just a child at the time, one of them had been careful to delicately explain the process to him (even as the others began breaking things), taking a knee and resting an enormous claw on his back, as if to reassure him.
He could still recall the words of the Inquisitor as if each was a matter of life and death. Though, in reality, his short speech had to do with much larger concepts than that…
‘Take heart, little Human,’ he began. ‘No doubt you are troubled and confused. But do not fret. All experience this, at their first purging. Still, you will have questions. Let me see if I can answer them, with a story…
‘Thousands of years ago, the Creators withdrew from our universe, moving on from infinity to infinity. They purposed to begin an entirely new universe from scratch, ultimately finding in us a dissatisfying creation – fundamentally flawed. When this happened, seven of the world’s most ancient dragons, who had borne witness to the works of the Creators longer than any other sentient beings, took it upon themselves to try to make what amends they could. It was their aim that if the Creators ever did return, they would find a more humble, penitent world than the one they left. These are the dragons now known as the Grand Inquisitors – they who founded the Inquisition, and continue to preside over it to this very day. To all citizens of every nation, we – their lesser Inquisitors – come at whiles, to curtail material excess – destroying your nonessential possessions with both care and comprehensiveness. But this is only one of many virtuous functions of our order. We have crushed countless uprisings, mediated as many international crises, uprooted heresies of all stripes, protected civilization from unrepentant dragons, and installed order over chaos time and again throughout the ages. But please, do not thank us. We only wish we could do more.’
That was the story the enormous lizard-man had told him, anyway. But in Jek’s part of the world, it was not entirely uncommon to run into someone who doubted the altruistic intentions of the Inquisition. Jek rejected the entire question. He just wanted to make it through the day.
Finally they reached the second floor. It was a drafty space that essentially consisted of one large room with many windows from which to see the grounds, and a door on the south side with an external staircase that led down to the road – and to the hill with the foghorn beyond. There was also an alcove in the opposite corner with a work desk. Apart from that, the floor was basically storage space.
As he rounded the desk that contained the heaps of paperwork, he saw something else that distressed him. The Inquisitor was looking in the other direction. She was looking at the backup lens!
And after all, how could she miss it? In the middle of the large upper room, there was a huge, deeply-ridged glass globe. It was used to amplify the simple torch that illumined the lighthouse…
Or rather, that would be its use, should their current lens ever fall into disrepair. Jek could feel the question coming…
“This is merely a reserve lens, in case the other one breaks, yes?” the Inquisitor plied. He really didn’t want to answer…
“Yes,” he answered, sifting through papers.
There was another short, perilous pause.
“Is it mandatory to maintain a reserve lens?” He definitely didn’t want to admit that it wasn’t.
“There was talk of making it mandatory. That’s why we purchased this one, at great expense. But we haven’t had an update to the inventory of equipment we’re required to maintain on-site in months.” All of this was true. Jek hesitated, bit his lip, but then came out with it anyway. “You’re going to break it, aren’t you?”
“Yes,” she said.
But then in a concerted action, she very quickly produced a document, scrawling on it with impressive speed. After a few moments, she advanced on the desk and held the paper out to him.
“Here is a requisition order. If a reserve lens becomes mandatory, the Inquisition will foot the bill for the replacement of this one.”
He was awed by two things. For one, the great sense of gratitude he felt to the frightening lizard-woman who was about to destroy his expensive backup lens. For the other, the clear sight of her hand holding the paper. Her long and deadly pointing finger had been impressive enough on its own before, but he hadn’t realized just how inhuman her hand truly was until now. The scaly, elongated first and second digits weren’t even the longest fingers… the knuckles of the third and fourth digits jutted out an inch or so beyond the others, and on the outside of the final knuckle was what seemed to be another thumb, oriented opposite the normal thumb. That thumb and the last two digits also shared webbing that reached all the way to the nails.
At length, feeling a bit boorish for staring so long at her hand, he accepted the paper. “Thank you,” he said.
About the time he found the family heirloom certificate he was looking for, yet another thing began to go wrong. The blair of the foghorn was starting to weaken noticeably. He shot a glance out the window. Still too hazy. It would need more fuel again. He felt a bit of a relief once more. This time, he could surely excuse himself from the cacophony of shattering possessions and difficult questions for a while…
“Sounds like the foghorn needs more coal,” he told the Inquisitor as he handed her the certificate.
“Of course, we do not wish to intrude on your duties,” she said, evidently to excuse him, even as she scanned his certificate with great intent.
Jek tried not to look like he was rushing out the door. But before he could pass the threshold and start down the outside stairway, he found himself paralyzed with a word…
“Wait!” commanded the Inquisitor.
Jek reeled. What was wrong? What had he done!?
“Don’t forget your firearm,” she said.
Phew! She was just reminding him of the state of open warfare between the nation of Jast-Madiir (his nation), and the Dire Mantids that lived deep in its native jungles. Lighthouses were important fixtures, especially in an archipelago such as Idriulthoronta – they needed to be guarded in times of open war. This essentially meant that lighthouse stewards were required to carry a musket around anytime they went outdoors. The nearest jungle was perhaps fifty miles to the north… and to date, he’d never heard of an actual incident where Mantids had attacked a settlement. War with the Mantids cropped up every couple of years, and always went the same way. A troop was marched into the jungle against the savage insects, never to return. It was kind of a zero-sum arrangement, but deemed necessary by the Czarina of Jast-Madiir for the up-keep of proper relations with the Mantid tribes.
There was really no danger, but an ordinance was an ordinance, and so he hurriedly grabbed his musket, attached the bayonet, slung the weapon over his shoulder, and finally passed through the door.
* * *
As he hoofed up to the foghorn, Jek was surprised to see a stranger already there, shoveling the coal. He hesitated, but as he started forward again, he saw that he was only half-right. It was his wife.
She had her hair pulled back and she was wearing a green frock he hadn’t seen before, so he could hardly have recognized her. Since they met (on the day of their wedding), they hadn’t seen much of each other. As the sole stewards of Brighamok’s Lighthouse, they each had to take a shift. Someone needed to be awake and alert at all times; constant vigilance was part of the job. You had to be sure the light didn’t go out or stop spinning. You had to watch for fog, start the horn the moment there was any, and keep it fed. You also had to feed and care for the horse whose sole purpose was to pull the wagon that could carry one day’s supply of coal back from town. You had to patrol the grounds – even when there was no war on – because naturally lighthouses were a known target of opportunity. And, of course, the cleaning, cleaning, cleaning. As the night-shifter, any time there was a foggy morning, Jek would end his vigil by starting up the horn and going straight to bed. Every morning was a foggy morning.
As she heaved another load of coal into the furnace that fueled the steam-powered foghorn, Jek glimpsed the face of his wife in profile. It was a nice face, he thought. Nothing to wax poetic about, necessarily… except that left cheek bone of hers. It was positively the most sublime cheek bone he had ever laid eyes on. The other one, though essentially identical, was nothing special.
Well, he’d told the Inquisitor that he was going to see about the foghorn, and regardless of his wife’s getting there first, he figured he’d better follow through and shovel the rest of the coal…
“Hey!” he called out, waving awkwardly. She sort of half looked back at first, but evidently saw him and turned her full attention.
“What?!” she called back.
“Let me do that shoveling for you!” he shouted.
Uh-oh, he suddenly thought. I bet she’s the sort who’ll be offended by my insisting on doing the shoveling just because she’s a weak little woman, or something. What rotten luck, his falling into an obvious faux-pas like that!
She squinted at him intensely. “WHAT!!!!?” she said.
Ah, good luck after all; she hadn’t heard him over the horn. Maybe he could come up with a way to phrase the suggestion more delicately. He said it the best way he could think of…
“LET ME DO THAT SHOVELING FOR YOU!!!!”
Internally, he winced. Now he knew for sure he was an oaf.
“HEY, THANKS!” she said with a beaming smile. She abruptly handed him the shovel and walked away.
* * *
Wiping sweat from his brow, his grey skin blackened by coal powder, Jek was at last satisfied that the horn was adequately refueled. Shoveling was hard work now. With a twinge of yearning, he remembered his youth, spent working on a farm, when the greater physical demands of the job had kept him much stronger. He knew his former self could whip the tar out of his current self.
It was amusing to remember the end of that era – discovering that he would soon become a lighthouse steward – the excitement he had felt. Whenever he told people that he was finally moving up in the world, their shared enthusiasm had always seemed to fade noticeably, when they learned what exactly it was he would be doing for the rest of his life. Somehow, they must’ve all known better than him what he was getting into…
Jek was still propping himself up with the end of the shovel when he saw something else was afoot. Back down at the estate house, there were two soldiers standing at his doorway, looking out. Ahead of them was another man, demonstrating all of the conspicuous signs of impatience, looking straight back at him…
It was Rurik Howitzerov… the lighthouse inspector. Today was inspection day.
Jek ran full-clip back to the estate house. Wheezing and puffing, he watched inspector Howitzerov produce a clipboard and stare down his nose as he made some notes.
“Failed to welcome the inspector at the door at time of arrival,” he stated. “A fifteen-point deduction.”
It wasn’t a good start. One hundred deducted points would mean execution!
Jek passed to the door and, inclining his head, wheezed out, “Thou art’est most welcomed unto this house.”
Howitzerov grinned smuggly as he strode through. He certainly did not share the Inquisitor’s qualms with being addressed as a superior.
Entering the house, the fact that it had been ransacked was immediately observed. What was not immediately observed, importantly, was the Inquisition. They had evidently moved on to a different part of the house. Jek swallowed. Out came the clipboard again.
“The furnishings are in substandard order,” the inspector remarked, walking over to a smashed dresser.
“Thou should’st know’eth that the Inqui –”
“Ah-ah!” protested the inspector. “I did not invite an explanation,” he said, scratching something else down, before kneeling in front of the dresser. He ran a finger along what would have been part of the top of the dresser. He looked at his finger, then rubbed it with his thumb, thoughtfully. “However distressed, this surface at least appears to have been properly dusted.” He made another note. “You are therefore awarded only a total of 47 deducted points thus far.” Jek sighed in relief. He had learned early that the dusting was a major deciding factor. Most lighthouse stewards were executed for lax dusting.
But wait! he thought. His mind suddenly returned to the small display shelf that his father’s vase-bowl-thing rested on. He couldn’t remember dusting it! It was a darned good thing that the Inquisitor had inquired about the pottery, because he probably would never have thought of that shelf otherwise…
He watched the inspector for a while to be sure he was preoccupied with some inspecty task… and then quietly, sneakily shot over to the shelf. He lifted the vase-bowl up in one hand as he wiggled a sleeve out past his fingers to swab the dust with the other…
But something was amiss. There was a clamor from the vase.
Brusquely he went ahead and whisked the shelf with a heavy brush of his arm before, more carefully, he brought the vase down in front of himself, peering in quizzically. He couldn’t possibly have found anything inside which would have been more out of place…
It was a zenithyst. An honest-to-goodness zenithyst. And a big one! He brought it gently out of the vase to be sure. The characteristic indigo color of the imposing gemstone could not be mistaken. His eyes were huge. This was a doozy. Jek had never been nearly so wealthy in his life as he was in this moment – the moment he spent holding what was, as far as he knew, the second-most valuable kind of stone in the world…
So many questions arose. How? Why? Who? What? Where? Admittedly, what and where were maybe not so much in question, but they arose just the same.
But there was no time for it! He pocketed the gem, turning back around to check on inspector Howitzerov. He remained providentially oblivious.
Before he could even count himself fortunate, the next calamity came with a piercing crash that made both Jek and the inspector jump into the air in unison. Howitzerov flailed wildly for a few seconds after he reached the ground. But Jek already knew what he had heard. It was the sound of the backup lens, shattering to a zillion pieces just above them!
Evidently his wife had been just outside the back door when the lens hit the floor. She threw the door open. “What in the HECK was –!”
She saw the inspector.
“What’eth in the Heck’eth was’est –”
“Never mind asking, dear,” Jek cut her off. Her high-falootin’ grammar just wasn’t as polished as his was… and anyway, it was important that they get up the stairs in time to catch the Inquisitors in the act. They didn’t have enough points left to take the blame for any more screw-ups. “Cometh along!” he said, waving both the other Humans after him to the stairway…
* * *
Jek had thought showing the Inquisitors to the inspector would make things better. Somehow now they felt worse. It had taken mere moments for the two parties to begin arguing, and the stress was mounting. Jek wondered where the inspector got the constitution to argue with an Avarican. But maybe that just came with being an important person…
“They are mandated to keep a backup lens!” Howitzerov insisted.
“No. I checked the inventory of mandated equipment myself. It is not as you say,” the Inquisitor countered, producing the document.
“Let me see that!” Howitzerov said, snatching the paper. He zeroed in on a particular area, held a finger over it and turned the paper back around to the Inquisitor. “See that date? Over five months old! A Berlberi Clerk was supposed to hand-deliver an updated inventory no later than this morning!”
“Be that as it may, nothing was delivered. You should have sent it in the mail. Clerks are unreliable in these matters.”
In their zeal, the lesser Inquisitors broke a window while the argument ensued. The sound of the foghorn was now sharply intruding into the already explosive environment.
“What are you doing!?” the Inquisitor demanded of her subordinates.
“It’s almost midday! Turn that blasted thing off!” Howitzerov demanded of Jek’s wife, indicating the foghorn. She shot off for the outside stairway. The door slammed behind her. Then it abruptly reopened as she reached back in for her musket, and it slammed again.
“Forgetting firearms during a time of open war!” Howitzerov called out. “Another deduction!”
“You could have reminded her before she rushed out the door… at your behest!” the Inquisitor insisted.
“And you could have stayed your minions before they smashed that window!” he snapped back.
Her head craned upward in her hood, and she took a few deliberately heavy steps – her bare feet crunching shattered glass – toward the inspector, who at last seemed to realize he was addressing a huge, powerful creature. “You do not need to place the blame on these people for my shortcomings… nor your own.”
Though staring up into the mask of a several-hundred-pound killing machine, Howitzerov, lips quivering, somehow kept the verbal battle going…
“You need to replace this broken lens immediately!” he said, his voice cracking a bit.
“The requisition is already filled!” she insisted.
“That’s not good enough!”
“What more could possibly be done!? Would you have us glue the entire lens back together?”
“I just might!”
And on and on the bickering went from there, with little obvious hope of resolution. It was a peculiar contest. She was an Inquisitor, with immunity to operate throughout the world. He was an agent of Jast-Madiir… just one of many states in the Archipelago… still he dared to stand on his essential, supreme authority over all things lighthouse in these parts. That their spheres of influence should overlap in this contentious way was certainly a unique misfortune. But at least the foghorn was starting to wind down. Jek tried to interject… to bring things back to a manageable intensity. He tried to make an opening in the argument, calling on his most advanced grammar…
“Thee… thine… thon… ye… yhine… yon…!” But it was no use.
Finally, outside stimulus once again imposed itself on the situation. There was a knock at the door. Jek was happy to answer it. Whoever it was – maybe a hostile Mantid, or even O’nyxon himself – could hardly make things worse…
Jek budged the door open. As it swung, it revealed a large jellyfish-like creature suspended about half a foot off the ground – self-illuminated with substantial cascading energies. It pulsated and thrummed with electric power as its seven tentacles – each gloved at the spade-shaped ends – wafted lazily in the air beneath itself. This primordial specimen was dressed in an extremely high-collared coat, as if to compensate for the fact that it had no head. To that end, it also wore a rather silly little hat, nestled in the midst of the collar, which was low-cut in the front, exposing the glow of part of the creature’s central, bulbous body.
One tentacle wafted up… reached into a satchel… and snatched forth a piece of paper. This was the overdue Clerk. Jek hoped he was just here to drop off the inventory, and not to inquire about the upwards of two-dozen surveys he hadn’t filled out yet…
“Good day to you, sir,” the Clerk said, in a guttural but friendly voice, inclining himself in midair. “Permit me to introduce myself! I am Baegulgog, Clerk Second Class of the Clerical Dronehood of Berlberi. If you are a proprietor or resident of this fine establishment, then I have been tasked with delivering to you this updated inventory by the official Lighthouse Oversight Commission of Southern Jast-Madiir, LLC.” Another tentacle from the same shoulder-type-area rose to the satchel and produced an entire wad of additional documents. “Please fill out these various waivers attesting to the fact that you are indeed a proprietor or resident and that you did in fact receive said inventory.”
There was a tense silence. Jek received the inventory with one hand and the waivers with the other. “Thank you,” he said.
Finally the floodgates opened and Howitzerov began shouting at the unsuspecting Clerk, followed nearly instantly by protestations from the Inquisitor.
Baegulgog floated slowly past Jek into the room, waving two of his tentacles in front of him. “Now, now, see here…!” he began, but soon what he was saying was completely subsumed in the din. Jek, standing in the doorway, decided he’d simply let them have it out, and stepped outside, pulling the door closed between them.
The sky had grown dark and blustery. Trouble was brewing outside as well as in. He had come out just in time to see his wife disappearing over the hilltop, toward the bay. Jek winced. She seemed to be in a big hurry.
More motion caught his eye, and he looked further up. In the sky over the coast, next to the light tower, there were dozens of encircling birds. It was an odd sight. They were small birds; much too small to be guls or vultures, though they flocked in true scavenger form. With the foghorn finally silenced, he could hear many chirping sounds – pleasing to the ear, yet agitated. It was a confused assortment of songbirds.
What in the wide, wide Undervoid is it now?
Gross expletives aside, he fumbled with his paperwork, stuffing it into deep pockets. The fitful wind caught one of the waivers and whisked it up into Jek’s face, where it stuck for some seconds. Momentarily incensed, he finally snatched the document and crumpled it in with the rest. He hated when paper blew in his face! And it happened much too regularly. But brushing aside the moment of irritation, he grabbed hold of his musket strap and hurried down the stairs and up the hill.
Once again driven almost to the point of breathlessness, he gasped as the coastal winds burst on him. He had summited the hill, and he at last laid eyes on the source of all the new commotion. There – almost right at the foot of the light tower – was a beached fishing boat. The sails and mast were damaged significantly. And in the boat itself, an old man was flailing around desperately.
Jek’s wife had nearly reached the boat, and he knew he’d better get there too, as fast as he could…
As Jek arrived at the scene, he joined his wife in trying to coach the old man out of the boat. It appeared well within his ability to simply climb out onto the shore, but the geezer had nonetheless planted himself in the stern of the boat, still flailing madly and shouting for help.
“Halp, halp!!!” he shouted for help.
At once, both Jek and his wife climbed into the boat, and continued trying to wave the man forward. They could hardly carry him out of the boat! But still he stayed planted and they were forced to come ever closer to him, hoping he’d soon regain his senses…
The old man finally fell silent, his jagged bottom teeth protruding through his scraggly beard as he huffed and puffed with wide eyes, which kept shifting between them and some elevated point behind them. Suddenly Jek heard shouting again over the wind and the crazed little songbirds, and he whirled around. The inspector, the Inquisitor, and the Clerk were on the hilltop now, evidently trying to get their attention.
Before he could make out what they were yelling, he felt a profound ‘thud’ on the back of his head. He had only enough time to be aware of falling into a heap before he was totally unconscious….