Four-armed is Forewarned
Brown Jenkin part ten
Brown Jenkin crept silently down the seven hundred stairs to the bottom. He could be really, really quiet when he wanted to, and this was one of those occasions.
It wouldn’t do to create any commotion. Not yet, at least.
Night-gaunts didn’t hear him coming. The Gugs didn’t feel the stairs vibrating. Jenkin stepped onto the grassy sward unmolested, the sun glinting off the silver key he wore around his neck.
He carried a small bag in his right hand. In it were several cans of sardines and a package of steaks.
These were his offerings.
Jenkin walked on three legs, making his way to the preserve of the Zoogs. He planned to give them the beef in return for safe passage through their territory, there and back. Coming back would be especially helpful.
He met up with a troop of zoogs, indicated by nods and pointing and grunts what he wanted. Brown Jenkin didn’t speak zoog. He didn’t even know if they had a language of their own.
His offer was accepted. The troop of zoogs accompanied him across their lands to the borderlands.
He rested for a bit on a medium-sized rock.
The cats were next.
Jenkin didn’t speak cat either. He had a paperback book in his sack, took that out, carried it in his left hand, approached the cats’ lands on his hind legs.
He sat down on another medium-sized rock, just inside the border, next to the small wooden sign with a pawprint on it.
The wind whispered through the trees. He listened, nodded to himself. He sniffed the air, his nostrils flaring. Ulthar had a little bit of ammonia in its atmosphere. Ammonia had bad associations for him.
So did cats.
The King of the cats himself came to meet Brown Jenkin. He was a large, stout tuxedo cat, with medium-length and very glossy fur and large yellow eyes. He frowned at the sight of his visitor, and growled a little, under his breath.
The King spoke English. He didn’t always do so, but he could when disposed to. He spoke with a slight lisp, and some consonants were difficult for him to shape.
“So,” he said. “Why isss Brown Jenkin visiting my landss? What bussinesss have you here?”
“King,” said Jenkin easily. “I mean no harm to any cat. I am here to read a few lines in a book, and will depart swiftly after that. I offer fish.” He unveiled the cans of sardines. “And I have feliscap for you as well.” He indicated a small plastic bag of catnip. “I ask but ten minutes of library time in return for these things.”
“Well, sir,” said the King. “You are an enemy of cats, it isss rumored. But that is rumor-there is no proof that I know of. Your misdeeds are numerous and well-known, though. What guarantee have I that you won’t misuse any knowledge that you gain?”
“There are no guarantees in this life, or any other,” replied Jenkin. “But it would not be in my best interests to make enemies of cats. We travel the same kind of benighted territories.”
“This is true. That doesn’t mean that you won’t do ssomething to betray my trusst, should I give it, but it is a ssstrong deterrent. I permit this.” He indicated several large and muscular cats. “These three will accompany you to and from the library. They will come and get you if you overstay your time. You will not be watched inside the facility.”
“I understand,” said Jenkin. “Thank you.”
And the small party moved forward, several hundred yards into the trees.
Brown Jenkin was allowed to use the front door. He did not allow it to snick completely closed.
Once inside, he gathered several scrolls and a small metal sigil. He put them in his bag and slung that over his chest, to keep his limbs free.
He counted the minutes. At ten minutes, he burst through the door at full speed, hoping to outdistance the cats, take advantage of their lesser endurance and so make his escape.
But cats are not stupid.
Outside the door, instead of a clear path through green grass and trees, was a large net.
Jenkin exited and was immediately snared deep in the net.
“This won’t stop me,” he snarled, and tore through it with his claws and teeth.
The cats fell upon him, and he rended them.
“You won’t stop me either,” he remarked, running. The cats gave chase.
So angered were they by the theft that they strayed into zoog lands. The cat party was detained and had to fight their way free.
Jenkin was not detained.
He scampered back up the seven hundred steps.
His escape was successful.
The cats and zoogs, at the bottom of the stairs, made an historic alliance.
“The next time, we kill him,” they said. “Brown Jenkin is the enemy of both of our peoples.”
The cat King and the zoog King touched foreheads solemnly.
“Cats will pursue him,” said the cat King. “And we will warn the other four-legs about his nefarious intent. Perhaps we can learn some of his plan by following him before we slaughter him.”
“Zoogs will await news. We do not travel out of the dreamside. But if we encounter Brown Jenkin, we will capture him and hold him until cats have spoken with him.”
They touched foreheads again, and made their way back to their homes.
Inside the door, Brown Jenkin stood and gasped and panted and heaved until he got his breath back, and then smiled, a black, evil, crooked little slash of a smile.
He opened his bag and peered in at his booty-the Pnakotic Manuscripts.
All he had to do now was to get them to him who had hired him to do the deed, and for that there was time.
He was seriously tired-worn out from his experience, and from running several miles.
His eyes opened. He was back on his couch, in familiar surroundings.
He went back to sleep.
Nat saw him stir, saw one eye open, then the other, saw him look around, watched him go back to sleep, shuddered at the smile that appeared on his face.
His cat, sitting on the windowsill, hissed, got his back up, jumped down lightly, landing on the tile. He looked at Jenkin and left the room.
In the center of the universe, the blind idiot god spasmed.