Dirk Blackpool in Skies of Death (5_99)

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Birthday Greetings

Anna M.C.
Vector's Monocle


From: Anna M.C.
Subject: Birthday Greetings To Val/Crownhelm

In honor of Val's birthday, Galen and I would like to present a transcript of a lesser-known episode in the Continuing Adventures of Lady Perrin in Aperans:

The story

From: Val (Crownhelm)
Subject: Re: Birthday Greetings To Val/Crownhelm

Dearest Anna & Galen -

After having to listen to Crownhelm chuckle and snort (most unbecomingly, I might add) while receiving her email this evening, I thought I should take a look for myself. I found the birthday greetings you sent, which is evidently why she is currently overcome with laughter and unable to respond. So here I sit with Malin on my shoulder, replying to you both. I believe I am acquainted with the Cross of Over - Crownhelm often mentions something called a "video" of the Holy Grail when discussing this concept. (I had thought the grail was cup-shaped, but it turns out that it looks rather like an squarish electronic device of some sort. Interesting.)

Oh yes, back to the greetings. At any rate Malin and I find our further adventures to be unusual, sometimes painful, but quite amusing. Especially the bits about Vector getting hit by the coconut. Twice. Lying wizard! He deserves everything he gets. I must say, however, I feel more than a bit uncomfortable when I visualize Prince Blackpool in nothing but rabbit fur and a black leather spiky collar. (Did I say uncomfortable? Perhaps that isn't exactly the correct word, but I think you understand. By the gods, it's much too warm in here tonight!) And bugger the teeth, though Malin seems to twitch a bit about that part. It's a good thing my shoulder pads are reinforced for just such an occasion.

Please, extend my heartfelt thanks to the African swallow (windspeed unknown) and to Coulter for lobbing the Holy Hand Grenade of Antioch and saving us all. (Though I don't know if I'll ever get all the soot out of my leathers.) However, I must now be off. I feel strangely compelled to fetch a nice shrubbery, perhaps a herring, and then go feed carrots to Blackpool. (He's hoping the craving ends soon. I hope it lasts for quite a while.) He's recently employed a band of minstrels for some unknown reason. They're damned annoying. I'll let you know how that all turns out. I'm sure it will be the cause of much rejoicing, either way.

Best regards to you both,
Lady Perrin Hawtrey


From: Dirk Blackpool (via Tamara)
Subject: Happy Birthday Val

Happy Birthday Val. A greeting of epic proportions.

*Dirk Blackpool and the Wizard Vector appear tape-delayed via the vision scope*


Well, Val, it would appear that once again the anniversary of your birth is upon us like a chronic case of Crimson Fever, despite my recent attempts to cure it . . . permanently. Also once again, I am forced to recognize that if I want something done right, I must attend to it myself. Take, for example, your recent trip to the City of Death.*clears throat* . I mean, Toronto. I bring this up only to set the record straight, since I just received the disgustingly nice thank-you card you sent. A pastel picture of rainbows and kittens? How could you? Now, *that* is evil.

I shudder to think how you must have returned from your vacation still deluded by a completely wrong idea about the whole thing. As I'd hoped, you actually believed me when I assured you that package with the free hotel room and the tickets to Castle Dracnil -- I mean, Castle Loma -- was merely a fortuitous birthday coincidence, intended for you to test the new travel agency service we'll be adding to the Dirk's Dungeon Tours concept. Wars *are* expensive to finance, after all. Still, the phrase about looking gift horses in the mouth leaps to mind. I felt certain that a bright girl such as yourself would remember a certain ticking unicorn . . . Yet much to my astonishment, you accepted without a second thought -- the last mistake you would ever make. Or so *I* thought.

You see, it was in fact one of Vector's innumerable plots to worm his way back into my good graces and possibly win back his monocle. He assured me that he could afford me the opportunity to visit pain and death instead of blasted birthday scrolls for once and I, in my eagerness to have some 'fun', actually agreed to go along with the plan. So imagine my delight when he told me that not only could he deliver you into my clutches for a prolonged period of . . . ehem. dungeon conversation, but that he could also deliver the one person on the list that dares to support Erik Greystone. Given Vector's track record, I should have known that it would all go horribly wrong. *gets a faraway and somewhat haunted look in his eyes, but recovers quickly*

So before you go thanking me and spreading vicious slanders about how I did a *shudders* good deed in cold blood, I would like to tell you what was really going on. Or at least what *should* have been really going on, but for the ineptitude of a certain hatless -- and apparently brainless -- wizard. *gives Vector a pointed look; Vector appears grateful no pointed objects accompany it*

Vector's first blunder was handing the job of assassina ahem . . . assigning you to Commander Coo and the other operatives of the PLF, while you dined at that rather.quaint outdoor café. Unfortunately, he neglected to secure the allegiance of the still-disgruntled Commander. Nobody but a Blackpool can hold a grudge like a pigeon. I dare say it will take months to get all the..ahem.ammunition out of his robes. I, of course, emerged unscathed. *Behind Dirk, Vector looks like he is about to object, but a glance from the prince silences the wizard. Discreetly, Vector points out a crusty white spot on Dirk's otherwise immaculate leather shoulder pads*

Now, where was I? Ah yes, the second attempt to.*clear throat*. contact you. Now, that would have been a truly magnificent sight, had Vector managed to pull it off. *another eloquently disappointed look at Vector, speaking volumes about how he would dearly love to pull off various essential portions of the wizard's anatomy* However, I must concur with Vector's sniveling about this. The failure of this particular device of your doom was more your fault than his -- specifically, the fault of your complete and utter lack of taste. I'm sure you remember the garishly decorated Tourist Moose. *scrunches his face into an expression of intense revulsion*. Well, Vector assures me that had you and your rather misguided friend not been so enamored of that gaudy statue, his little scheme would have been executed -- pardon the pun -- exactly as planned. It was quite a shame that the two of you had to so distract the torture trooper assigned to detonate . . that is, show you one explosively good time down at the harbor. Whatever possessed you to accost him to take pictures of you with the statue? I'm sure the blame lies with the Greystone groupie; what more solid evidence of deplorable taste could one ask for? At any rate, from our vantage point across the street we were unfortunately unable to clearly see the expression of shock and terror on the man's face after you left and he realized just how badly he had failed me, but at least we had a lovely view of the detonation. I'm sure you were wondering just what that loud bang was. I can assure you that it was that trooper, a little belatedly fulfilling his mission . . . well, with just a little help from the monocle. *winks* After all, I do know how to use it a little. *winks again for good measure*

Ah, but I digress. Now where was I? Ah, yes, telling you all the ways in which you so *coughs* fortunately escaped Vectors clever little traps. I believe the next one was on your way to dinner. *there is the sound of discreet coughing in the background. Grits his teeth and turns to Vector* What is it, Vector?

*Vector approaches the vision scope* A thousand pardons, your majesty, but you seem to be leaving out one of the more imaginative parts of the plan.

*Dirk grits his teeth and gives the wizard a pointed look* I'm not leaving anything out.

*smiles patiently, like one would with a small, rather slow child* Oh no, my lord. I'm quite sure you're leaving out one of the most important parts. After all, you do want her to know just how narrowly she escaped your wrath, correct? *waits for a moment, unfazed by Dirk's dark glare* Shall I tell this part, then, if you're having trouble recalling? It wouldn't be at all surprising. Lightning hawk charges have a way of incapacitating brain cells. *waits a moment until it becomes clear that Dirk is not going to tell this part of the tale, then looks into the vision scope and continues* You see, knowing how much you like birds, hawks in particular, I had rigged one of the prints in the antique mall with a Lightning hawk charge. Not enough to kill well, not really. Wizards can't kill after all. *smiles and ignores the obviously not thrilled Dirk, who mumbles "No, but Princes can."* After arranging for you and the little Greystone groupie to be separated and manipulating you into finding the stall selling the prints, I thought that I had finally achieved success. Alas, the saleswoman misplaced the second page of the print, the one I had uhm...enhanced for your viewing pleasure. I'm sure you can imagine my utter shock when she inexplicably sold you one page without the other. *looks to the seething Dirk* I can still so clearly see the look of furious disappointment on your face, after she left unscathed, and you stormed across to the stall to point out the exact location of the charged page to the stupid saleswoman. I suppose I should have yelled a bit more stridently for you not to touch it, but you did say you wished for us to remain entirely anonymous. And who knew leather and studs could be so . . . conductive? *smiles again* Well, no harm done, really. It only took a few moments for you to regain consciousness and what with the smell of the dust no one really noticed the smell of burnt ozone.

I think that's rather more than enough, Vector. *motions stiffly with the monocle for Vector to back away from the vision scope. The wizard complies with a less than obedient bow and smirk* Now, where was I? Ah, yes, dinner. *glares at Vector once more, with a look that promises imminent retribution, then looks back into the vision scope* I do so hope that you both enjoyed the ride I arranged for you. The driver was hand-picked from the Karteian Royal Asylum for the Criminally Insane.  Of course it should have been a ride to die for, quite literally, but unfortunately you exited the tram a little too soon. I'm sure you got the idea though. *winks*

I had thought that perhaps dinner would be the ultimate end to your evening. In a stroke of genius, I had arranged for Geoffrey to be the chef for your last supper. *shrugs and sighs* Who knew the cretin could really cook? I mean, he tends to mess up every other task I've ever given him. So when I told him, make a nice meal for the, ahem, young ladies, I was under the impression that you would be poisoned beyond my wildest dreams. But no, instead my idiot brother comes up with a culinary masterpiece. Goat's cheese, indeed. *looks disgusted and smirks, knowing that Geoffrey is at this very moment hanging upside down from the North Tower contemplating his sins*

Ah, but yet again, I digress. You will be happy to know that we escorted you both home. Given our need to remain inconspicuous, we kept waiting for just the right moment to make our presence known to you, and satisfy your oft-stated preference for leather-clad companionship in my own inimitable way. However, you were never alone on the street long enough to make that possible. And you thought that feeling of impending doom on the back of your necks was just the cold Toronto breeze! But alas, you arrived back at your hotel safe and sound. *appears thoroughly disgruntled by this*

I'm sure now that you know the whole tale I will be receiving no more of these *waves aforementioned brightly colored card at the vision scope as if he's holding a very large and fuzzy spider* disgusting displays of sentimental gratitude.

*Vector looks pensive for a moment, as if weighing his options, then steps forward again* But that's rather not the whole tale, my lord. If I am not mistaken, there was one other attempt on their lives, that is, attempt to liven up their lives.

*flashes Vector a warning look and speaks very slowly and deliberately, enunciating each word as if pronouncing a death sentence* I recall no such other attempt.

*smiles patiently again* Again, it is to be expected, my lord. *steps forward* If I might? *Dirk refuses to back away, but Vector, unfazed, merely steps in front of him to stand before the vision scope again.* You see, we had overheard you discussing the possibility of a late night swim before retiring for the evening, and as Prince Blackpool had hoped to make your retirement one of a permanent sort, I had arranged for Larry the Lightning Hawk to deliver a nice little blast of electricity to the pool just prior to your entering it. Who would have guessed that the pool would have been indoors? At any rate, as my desire to please my lord is always paramount, *Dirk snorts rudely on half-suppressed, openly skeptical laughter, which Vector ignores* I summoned up the last vestiges of my strength and delivered the charge myself. Imagine my surprise -- and your surprise, my lord -- when your swim was not the .electrifying experience it was meant to be. After you left we attempted to ascertain exactly what had gone wrong. I suppose I should have rememberedabout the time zone differential on such spells as this, particularly since Aperanian time and the time in this mundane little reality differ greatly. If I had, then perhaps I would have been able to warn you not to lash out quite so violently at the pool. Leather and studs, again, who knew? Perhaps Greystone's apparel does have some advantages. Still, I'm sure your bangs will return to normal eventually.

*Regards Vector with an evil glint in his eyes* And speaking of conductivity, wizard, I wonder just how well that silly hat of yours would have fared.

*Eyes Dirk rather nervously* I'm sure I don't know what you mean, my lord. And I don't wear a hat.

*Imitates Vector's patient smile* Of course not. *looks into the vision scope once more* Ah, well, since it appears that you will have a happy and healthy birthday despite my best efforts to prevent it, I shall have to console myself with knowing that I at least set the record straight. And now, if you will excuse me, I believe I have some experimenting of my own to do. Bye. *walks out of the range of the vision scope, but his voice can still be heardproclaiming in a rather vicious sing-song* Here, Larry . . . There's a good lightning hawk . . .

From: Val (Crownhelm)
Subject: Re: Happy Birthday Val

Ah, your royal black leather-ness. How you could plot against me, one of your most staunch supporters, I have no idea. I'd pout, but I'm not the type. I think you'll find that pastel card of a rainbow and unicorn (never mind the slight ticking - it's just one of those amusing musical cards - really - trust me) that I just sent off will express mysentiments exactly.

My compliments to you on the new travel agency you’re running. My cyber-sister and I had a lovely time. Not your intention, I’m sure, but we’ve each a bit of Hawtrey blood in us you know. Or perhaps you didn’t?

There were so many pigeons about the café at all hours that even if we *had* noticed the commotion and flying cloud of feathers from over the back hedge by the fence, it wouldn’t have come as a surprise. Amazing what pigeons will do for a few loaves of bread though.

With a hundred moose statues in the city, didn’t you just have to choose the tourist moose? Rather obvious, don’t you think? (Side note: My cyber-sister’s tastes are most certainly not deplorable. She just happens to like blonde heroes. You’re just jealous.) The outfitting of the man, his “wife” and “daughter” in matching grey and black togs was also a small clue. Of course we had to ask if we could take their picture, making sure we got ours taken first. They were quite impressed with our friendliness (and our ability to disappear into a crowd quickly).

The antique mall was grand. So much to look at, so little time. And not enough kolnas for the things I would have liked to take home with me. And of course I didn’t purchase the second page that went with the print. Why would I need the descriptions of the birds of prey pictured when I have my handy Peterson Field Guide to Hawks? Especially when I noticed the light blue glow.

The streetcar operator/agent was easily recognized. It would have been simple enough to discern what with the death trooper scowl (and the small Minion Of Blackpool logo on her shirt sleeve) but was immediately apparent when she yelled at anyone daring to direct innocent questions her way. And the “I ask questions, I demand answers” bit? Vector’s handling the training again, hmm?

Your brother, bless his amazing culinary skills, made us swoon with delight. I had been meaning to catch a glimpse of the masterful man in the kitchen. Now I wish I had. It was the best meal either of us have ever eaten. Of course we had to walk back to the hotel after all of that goat cheese. And a dark, brooding man dressed in black leather doesn’t escape my notice, believe me. Neither does a short, hatless wizard. Especially when each are furtively darting into doorways and alleys for nine blocks.

Ah, the pool. It was lovely, wasn’t it? Who’d have thought it’d be on the 27th floor? Obviously not you. Though I’d love to see your bangs. I’m sure it’s a wonderful new look for you.

In closing, thanks ever so much for such a lovely vacation package/birthday gift. It has given me treasured memories for years to come.



From: Anna M.C.
Subject: Happy Birthday, Val

My gift to Val:

Val's Card

Enjoy the chocolatey, leathery goodness . . .

Anna M.C.

From: Val (Crownhelm)
Subject: Re: Happy Birthday, Val

Umm... *gulps and grabs her handy drool bucket* that was (searches for an appropriate word to post to the list)... nice. I think I'll just be working off my sugar buzz with that yummy Karteian prince now, so if you'll excuse me, I must be going.

Many thanks for the dream fodder, laughs and friendship, Anna! :-)



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