A Brief Return to the Rubble

Now, some of you may remember a story that I am telling once about how Griselda helps this high-class Lunar doll Aurelia when she is in a most difficult situation, what with having no dough and hanging around at Rowdy Djoh Lo's, living off his charity. Griselda has her own reason for doing this, of course, which is to get in good with the hard guys who hang out at Rowdy Djoh Lo's and want Aurelia gone, because they feel inhibited from serious discussions while she is present. So Griselda puts much effort into helping Aurelia, and finally gets her married off to this Lunar guy Simplicius, who has plenty of dough but not much class and greatly wishes to improve his social standing, and to do this he is even ready to marry Aurelia, because she is the real thing when it comes to Lunar high-class, although her personality is a bit hard to take [1].

But Griselda does not get even a thank-you from Aurelia in return, and when she tries to congratulate Aurelia in public for the improvement in her situation, which is likely to be a way of reminding her how much she is owing to Griselda, she is snubbed in front of everybody, and so Griselda gets mad enough to tell a bunch of us the whole story. Now, Griselda does not state that she wants us to keep this story to ourselves, which is probably because she figures that by now this is generally understood. For we all know that to be blabbing stuff about Griselda's business that she does not wish to have blabbed is the surest way to make her mad at you, and nobody in this man's town who has enough sense to come in out of the wind wishes to have Griselda mad at them, because it is an even surer way to have unpleasant things happen to you than drinking a Troll drink. And while it is well known that Griselda does just this, in fact she drinks three different drinks and survives [2], this is generally considered to be one of the surest proofs that Griselda is truly exceptional.

Now for me this story begins when I walk into Lilina's one day, and it is after my usual time, because when I am first waking up I am not feeling too well, and I do not know why this is unless it is connected with the drinks which I consume the previous night, although as I remember it these are not so very many.

"Hey, big spender!" Lilina says, giving me a grin, which is most unlike her and makes me think that maybe I spend more then I think in there the previous night. "Ready for a hair of the dog?"

"He will need it to drown his sorrows," calls Topknot from his usual place, "because, unless I miss my guess, for once we know something about Griselda that he does not." He sounds very cheerful when he says this, and the others with him, who are Old Gil and Sweet-Talking Shamus and Elsa from Adari, all laugh and make agreeing noises.

So I ask Lilina for my usual and say to Topknot like this, "What is this you are speaking of? Does she tell some story earlier, when I am not here?"

"By no means," says Topknot, "and she is in no shape to do any such thing, because she is nowhere in town, and it is widely believed that she is hiding out in the Rubble with Wolfhead and his guys, just like before. But I guess they will have a different hideout, or it will be too easy for bounty-hunters to track them."

"Why, what is this?" I say, more astonished than somewhat. "There is a price on Griselda's head?"

Topknot nods. "But she has to be brought in alive," he says, "because she is accused of stealing jewellery from that Aurelia doll and so reducing her to relying on Rowdy Djoh Lo's charity. And to show you what an ingrate this Aurelia is," he says, "she also claims that while she is in Rowdy Djoh's she overhears Wolfhead planning big jobs with others of Rowdy Djoh's clientele."

"The story is all over town," says Old Gil, "and folks are saying, Rowdy Djoh is mad clear through, that she is repaying all the food and drink he stakes her to by ruining his business, for he is likely to be closed down if his dive is proved to be a base for serious criminal activities, and maybe he will even be sent to the salt mines."

Well, this is quite a situation, to be sure, and things are certainly looking bad for Griselda and Wolfhead and his guys, not to mention Rowdy Djoh Lo, and I find that I have little to say, except to acknowledge that this is all news to me, and I just sit there doing some thinking about it all. For what is not clear to me is why Aurelia suddenly takes it into her head to do this, and furthermore, how she will make this serious charge against Griselda stick. At first I think that Aurelia must be getting some payback for the remark that Griselda makes after she is snubbed, which is spoken to that smart priestess Broosta but in such a tone that many are bound to hear, and this remark is clearly meant to suggest that Aurelia may look very impressive in her high-class get-up, but she is basically a plain bum. But I cannot help feeling there must be more to it, and the only thing I can think of is, there must be a link to the story that Griselda tells about her and Aurelia, so I ask Old Gil if the story is on the street now.

Old Gil raises his eyebrows at me like he is surprised. "So you do not hear that either?" he says. "Well, to be fair, I only hear it yesterday, and maybe that is when Aurelia hears it too, because that is when she makes these accusations. But someone must tip off Griselda very fast, because she is gone by the time law enforcement persons go looking for her."

"But how does Aurelia hear this story?" I ask. "She is not such a doll as is likely to be tuned in to street gossip."

He shrugs. "Your guess is as good as mine. Maybe some servant of hers hears it and tells it to her."

Now, Sweet-Taking Shamus plainly hears these last remarks, for he turns to join in. "The way I hear it," he says, "from a contact of mine, and I will not say who, is that a servant of the Patroma family picks it up a while back, and she tells it to Viridia Patroma, whose maid she is, and Viridia just naturally tells her family, because Aurelia is so snooty about the Patromas being 'new money', and I guess the story may be beginning to get around. And my contact tells me how one time Aurelia is coming on like she is the Queen of Tarsh among the Lunar ladies, as usual, and makes some reference to the time years ago when Viridia is visiting what Aurelia describes as a 'low drinking place', meaning Lilina's right here, when she has this yen to meet Griselda. Well," he says, "Viridia practically sinks into the floor at this reminder of her youthful indiscretion, but Lucia her sister, who is tougher, looks Aurelia right in the eye and says something like, Lilina's is nowhere near as low as Rowdy Djoh Lo's place in Riverside. That is all she says, but I am told there is some muttering, and one person laughs out loud, like she knows what this is referring to, and Aurelia goes white and marches right out, looking most upset and right after that the hunt is on for Griselda and Wolfhead too."

Well, this certainly sounds believable to me, and I am wondering who lets out at least part of Griselda's story, and I am hoping very much it is not someone I know, and after Shamus stops talking, I say, "Whoever is indiscreet enough to let the story out better be making plans to leave Pavis very fast, because once she gets this settled Griselda will be after them hot and strong."

But Topknot shakes his head at me. "You think it will be easy for Griselda to wriggle out of this one?" he says. "I wish I can share your confidence. I hear a whisper that the Lunars, or some of them, are taking dead aim at Griselda this time, and Aurelia has strong backing."

I think for a moment, and then say, "That may be so. But Griselda and Wolfhead are quite highly thought of in the Pavis temple now, and they are likely to get strong backing from there."

Topknot shakes his head slowly, like he is by no means persuaded, and then he grins like a curly wolf. "Maybe you will care to wager a certain amount on this?"

He says this in a way that seems to suggest I will back off if it is a question of dough, and I find this so aggravating that I say, "Sure I will," without thinking, and slam my pouch on the table like a real gambling pro. Then Topknot figures out how much dough he has and suggests ten Lunars, and although this takes most of what I have I will not back down now, so I agree. We go to the bar to make a spoken agreement to our bet before Lilina, as is our custom, and when I step away someone comes up beside me quiet-like, and this is no one but Hilda, who is now known to one and all as Griselda's sidekick, and she is looking very serious.

"So you bet on Griselda, huh?" she says. "Well, I guess she will be pleased to know of your loyalty, which she does not deserve and is most unlikely to repay."

I look at her in surprise. "Why, what is this?" I say. "Are you not pals?"

"Not any more," she says darkly, and moves off again before I can question her on this surprising development, and I am left feeling somewhat unhappy, because maybe I just make a bad bet. Others in Lilina's wish to question me about what Hilda says, for after Topknot and I make our bet there is much interest in this proposition, but no one can figure out whether Hilda's comment affects the odds or not.

Well, a day goes by, and then another day, and I am beginning to get quite nervous, for I never like waiting too long for the results of any betting proposition. So I commence to go all over town, trying to pick up any word of what may be going on, but I cannot learn anything to add to what I already know, except that Hilda is seen visiting the house of Simplicius and Aurelia, and I figure this looks bad for Griselda, for Hilda is as smart as she is, and knows her well, and so she can be much help to Aurelia. Finally, I go to the temple of Pavis, but no one can tell me anything new there either.

I seldom do so much walking, and so I pause on the temple steps, to rest my weary bones, and suddenly I hear this noise behind me, like quite a number of persons are coming out of the temple, and when I get up and turn around to look, sure enough, there are the Governor, and his brother, and a whole bunch of important-looking Lunars, with Constable Jorjar among them, and a bunch of Pavis people with Fleeter Nemm and Broosta to the fore, and with them, but only just visible because she is so small, is Griselda. No one has the arm on her or anything, so I guess that somehow she wins out once again and my money is safe. And naturally I am on fire to hear the story, but I know better than to go running in among such important persons, in fact I move to one side a little, and in doing this I happen to notice two persons hurrying down the side of the steps. One is a woman with a veil pulled round her head, who looks like she should be Aurelia, and the other is this guy Simplicius who marries her, and he seems to be scowling, but they are moving too fast for me to be sure.

Then I hear the Governor and Fleeter Nemm exchanging hearty farewells, and when I turn back to look the Lunars are all departing, and some of them seem displeased, but the Pavis people remain on the top step, and they are all regarding Griselda with some benevolence, or so it seems. I edge closer, so I can maybe hear what they are saying, and I see that Griselda is all dressed up in her best, with jewellery all over her, and she is even wearing the gold arm-ring with a big red gem on it that I see her wearing after the Great Chart Caper. But as I approach cautiously I see her take this off and present it to Fleeter Nemm, saying something very earnestly that looks to be some form of thanks. Fleeter Nemm accepts it with a smile, and Broosta smiles also and pats her on the shoulder, and then they turn back into the Temple and she is left all alone, except that Jareen is with her, who I do not see before.

When she sees me, Griselda grins and beckons. "Here you are again, you old story-hound," she says. "Do you get a line on this, or is it luck?"

"Just plain luck, Griselda," I say. "I go all over Pavis looking for news of this affair, and am taking a breather on the steps when you all come out."

Griselda nods, and turns to Jareen. "Thanks again," she says, holding out her hand, and Jareen takes it.

"I am glad to have a chance to give that bitch a good kick in the ass," says Jareen, "and many of my clientele will be grateful to you also when they hear of it, even if they dast not say so publicly. She will not be missed, I can tell you."

"So I hear," says Griselda with a little smile. "I think the Patromas will be among the most pleased, in fact."

At this Jareen giggles and winks, and Griselda winks back, looking very pleased about something, but then she says, "Well, I must go down to Rowdy Djoh's and tell him he is off the hook, and so are all his customers, of course, including Wolfhead. Olaf, maybe you will care to accompany me?"

Now, normally I will not go anywhere near Rowdy Djoh Lo's, because the company is apt to be a bit nerve-racking for a peaceful guy like me, but I know that Griselda will not let me come to any harm, and while we are walking there she may tell me things, so I indicate that I will be happy to accompany her.

As we start off across City Court, Griselda says in a casual way, "I understand that you are betting on me to escape my troubles."

"Why, yes," I say. "I see you come through worse troubles before, and I do not figure this Aurelia's accusations will stand up to scrutiny. For it is surely well known that she is on her uppers before you ever show up in Pavis."

Griselda gives a little shake of the head. "Well, there I must disagree with you, for the word of a high-class Lunar will carry a lot of weight, and she has powerful supporters. But when I get warned about this by Fleeter Nemm, I set something up that I hope will discredit Aurelia in the eyes of the Governor."

"And what is that, Griselda?" I ask.

She shakes her head at me, and grins. "All in good time. This is not something to be told in the street, where anyone may be listening."

So I have to be patient until we get to Rowdy Djoh Lo's, and to pass the time I ask if Griselda can at least tell me where she is hiding out, and and I also say that I hope she does not have to deal with Chaotics, like when they are hiding out in the Rubble the first time.

She laughs and says, "No, we are as safe as you can be anywhere in the Rubble, just about, which is in the Real City. All the work we put in for Pavis really pays off there."

Then she asks me if anything notable takes place in Pavis during her absence, and we go on talking of this and that until we reach Rowdy Djoh Lo's. The guy on watch outside straightens up and gives Griselda a very big hello, and asks if she brings good news.

"The best," she says, "and I am about to tell Rowdy Djoh the same."

The guy almost falls over himself opening the door for her, and she thanks him graciously as she kind of struts in. There are only a few guys in the joint, all huddled round a table looking serious, and with them is nobody but Hilda, and they all turn to look at who comes in, and when they turn to see Griselda there is something like a cheer, and Hilda jumps up and hugs her, so I perceive that Hilda's supposed enmity to Griselda is a hoax, and must all be part of Griselda's plan.

"So, you make out okay but what about me and my customers?" says Rowdy Djoh, who is looking uneasy still.

"All is well," says Griselda. "I find a chance to work in the idea that little stock can be put in what Aurelia reports, since she is drunk most of the time, judging by what I see her put away in here, and Fleeter Nemm backs me up on this. He says that she is likely motivated by spite in fingering Wolfhead, because he is my associate and she is dead set against me, and while there is some argument over this the Governor finally states that he thinks the case against your joint is not so strong, Rowdy, and he will let it go, especially as I offer to carry a warning to you, to show more care over who you accept as your customers."

She is grinning as she says this, and everyone has a good laugh, including Rowdy Djoh, and then we are offered seats and Rowdy asks what what we will have, on the house, and Griselda suggests two of his least poisonous beers and everyone has another laugh.

"So, Wolfhead is in the clear?" asks Snakefang, who is among those present.

Griselda nods. "Fleeter Nemm puts in a good word for him, how maybe he has a bad rep in the past but he and his boys are doing steady work trying to make the Rubble safer for the law-abiding population, and he deserves credit for that."

"Okay," says Snakefang, looking pleased, because Wolfhead is something of a friend of his. "But now we come to the great big question, Griselda: how do you get them to believe you, and not that long-nosed bitch Aurelia?"

"Ah," says Griselda, as she takes the drink that Rowdy Djoh offers her, "now that is a story," and she takes a long pull at the drink while everyone looks at her eagerly. She puts the mug down and looks around. "Now, you all know how Aurelia stiffs me over the dough I lend her, and keeps some bits of jewellery that I also lend, and she probably figures I dast not claim them back, now that she cuts such a figure among the Lunars, and also she slights me publicly. So I lay a plan to get a proper revenge on her, and I bring Wolfhead in on the plan, and also Hilda, because I need someone to talk to Aurelia that she does not know. And first off, I will reveal that I am the one who tells Viridia Patroma's maid about the time when Rowdy is supporting Aurelia here, figuring it will go the rounds in the family and come out. But I must admit, I do not expect Aurelia to bite the hand that feeds her and badmouth Rowdy's place, and Wolfhead, as well as me."

Here she pauses and takes another long pull at her drink, looking very calm, while everyone is waiting for her to continue.

"Sooo ...?" Snakefang prompts her. "Where does Hilda come in?"

"Hilda goes about telling everyone she is my friend no longer, and this gets to Aurelia, as it is meant to do, and so she accepts Hilda's offer of help in her desire to pay me out for my revelations about her past," Griselda says. "Hilda tells Aurelia that if I am called to a hearing before the Governor, like the Pavis people are demanding, I am just naturally bound to put on a show, and will very likely be wearing that gold arm-ring with the red stone to gain the Governor's favour, for, as she tells Aurelia, it is his gift to me. But she explains that in fact the Governor dast not admit this, because it will be a strong hint that he is in on the Great Chart Caper, and if Aurelia claims the arm-ring as hers he will be ready to accept this with no argument. And so it turns out, for when I show up wearing the arm-ring, the Governor looks most uneasy, and he says nothing to dispute Aurelia's claim that it is hers."

She pauses again, to take another drink, and grins at us all as she puts the mug down, and Snakefang slaps the table impatiently.

"Aaaand ...?" he says.

"And then I say I can produce a respectable witness to prove the armlet is mine," says Griselda, smiling, "and this is nobody but Jareen, who stands good in this town as you all know. So Jareen is sent for, and she swears that she sees me wearing the armlet when I am all dolled up, but she never sees Aurelia wearing it, and furthermore she states that one time she sees me wearing a necklace which is among the jewellery that Aurelia is wearing when she marries Simplicius. So now the Governor jumps in and wants my side of all this business about jewellery, and I get a chance to relate how I help Aurelia to marry Simplicius and how much effort I put into persuading them both, and what I lend in money and jewellery to Aurelia that she does not return. Of course, this burns Aurelia up quite some, because I will admit that I tell the story for laughs, to some extent. So the Governor and Fleeter Nemm and a third guy who is some Yelmalio high-up all agree that what Aurelia says about the jewellery is nothing but falsehoods motivated by spite, and nothing further will be done about any of her accusations, but they will leave her punishment to the gods."

"I wish I am there to see that," Hilda says, "for my experience of this Aurelia is short, but I get a very bad impression of her."

"Well, I suspect that no one in Lunar society will want any part of her now," Griselda says, "and I will hazard a bet that Simplicius will send her back to her family in the Empire, and for once just about the whole of Pavis will be agreed on something, which is to say, good riddance."

"I will drink to that," says Hilda, and she finishes her mug with a flourish. And just then Wolfhead comes in with his guys Kroked and Fylchar, for they must get the word that they are in the clear, and quite a party develops. I am feeling so good at the way things work out that I am buying drinks with all the rest, and in the end I fall asleep in Rowdy Djoh's, and I discover the next morning that my pouch is totally empty, so I hope I am able to collect my winnings from Topknot very soon.

[1] See No Way for a Lady to Behave for all this.
[2] See A Tasty Morsel.






2017 Oliver Dickinson
"Glorantha, RuneQuest and HeroQuest are trademarks of Moon Design Publications and used with their permission."

updated 2nd October 2017