"I've never seen so damn many Indians."
—G. A. CUSTER
THE words of alarm had an interesting effect on the
crowd below. After a brief glance to see us descending
into their midst, to a man they turned and ran. In a
twinkling, the street was empty.
"What's going on?" I called to Aahz, unable to
believe our good fortune.
"Beats me!" my partner shouted back. "I guess none
of the normal citizenry want to tangle with an escaped
murderer. Better get us down fast before they figure out
how badly outnumbered we are."
I didn't have to be told twice. Our escape had just
gotten an unexpected blessing, but I wasn't about to
make book on how long it would last. I cut my magical
support, and we dropped swiftly toward the pavement.
"What was that that blew the whistle on us?" Massha
said, peering up into the darkness where our mysterious
saboteur had disappeared.
"I think it was that Vic character," Guido answered
from below me. "I got a pretty good look at him when
114 Robert Asprin
he bolted past me back at the Woof Writers."
"Really?" I asked, half to myself, twisting around to
look after the departed villain. "That's one more we
"Later," Aahz commanded, touching down at last.
"Right now we've got to get out of here."
Guido was beside him in a second. I had to drop a
ways, as with the extra weight removed from the rope,
we had ceased to sink.
"C'mon, Massha!" I called. "Cut the power in that
thing. It's not that far to fall."
"I'm trying!" she snapped back, fiddling with the
belt buckle once more. "The flaming thing's malfunc-
The belt setting had changed. Holding the rope, I
could feel that there was no longer an upward pull.
Unfortunately, Massha wasn't sinking, either. Instead,
she hovered in mid-air about fifteen feet up.
"Hey, Boss! We got company!"
I followed my bodyguard's gaze. There was a mob
forming down the street to our left, and it didn't look
happy. Of course, it was hard to tell for sure, but I had
the definite impression that their eyes were glowing red-
der than normal, which I was unable to convince myself
was a good sign.
"Maasshhhha!" I nagged, my voice rising uncon-
trollably as I tugged on the rope.
"It's jammed!" she whimpered. "Go on, take off,
Hot Stuff. No sense in all of us getting caught."
"We can't just leave you here," I argued.
"We don't have time for a debate," Aahz snarled.
"Guido! Get up there ahead of us and keep the street
open. We can't afford to get cut off. Okay, let's go!"
With that, he snatched the rope out of my hand and
took off running down the street away from the crowd
with Guido out front in point position and Massha
MYTH-ING PERSONS 115
floating over his head like a gaudy balloon. For once, I
didn't object to him giving orders to my bodyguard. I
was too busy sprinting to keep up with the rest of my
If the watching mob was having any trouble deciding
what to do, the sight of us fleeing settled it. With a
howl, they swarmed down the street in pursuit.
When I say "with a howl," I'm not speaking figura-
tively. As they ran, some of the vampires transformed
into large, fierce-looking dogs, others into bats, pre-
sumably to gain more speed in the chase. While Aahz
and I had been chased by mobs before, this was the first
pack of pursuers who literally bayed at our heels. I must
say I didn't care much for the experience.
"Where are we going, Aahz?" I panted.
"Away from them!" he called back.
"I mean, eventually," I pressed. "We're heading the
wrong way to get back to our hideout."
"We can't hole up until we've shaken our fan club,"
my partner insisted. "Now shut up and run."
I had certain doubts about our ability to elude our
pursuers while towing Massha overhead to mark our
position, but I followed Aahz's instructions and
pumped the pavement for all I was worth. For one
thing, if I pointed out this obvious fact to my partner,
he might simply let go of the rope and leave my appren-
tice to fend for herself. Then again, the option to run-
ning was to stand firm and face the mob. All in all,
running seemed like a real good idea.
Guido was surprisingly good at clearing a path for us.
I had never really seen my bodyguard in action, but with
his constant carping and allergy problems throughout
this venture, I was tending to discount his usefulness.
Not so. The vampires we encountered in our flight had
not heard the alarm and were unprepared for the whirl-
wind that burst into their midst. Guido never seemed to
116 Robert Asprin MYTH-ING PERSONS 117
break stride as he barreled into victim after victim, but
whatever he did to them was effective. None of the
fallen bodies which marked his progress attempted to
interfere with Aahz or I ... heck, they didn't even
"River ahead. Boss!" he called over his shoulder.
"What's that?" I puffed, realizing for the first time
how out of shape I had grown during my prosperous
stay at the Bazaar.
"A river!" he repeated. "The street we're on is going
to dead-end into a river in a few blocks. I can see it'from
here. We're going to have to change direction or we'll
get pinned against the water."
I wondered whether it wouldn't be a good idea for us
to just plunge into the river and put some moving water
between us and the vampires, as I seemed to recall a
legend that that was one of the things that could stop
them. Then it occurred to me that my bodyguard prob-
ably couldn't swim.
"Head right!" Aahz shouted. "There! Up that
Guido darted off on the indicated course with my
partner and I pounding along about fifteen paces
behind him. We had built up a bit of a lead on our pur-
suers, though we could still hear their cries and yelps a
block or so back, and for the first time I started to have
the hope that we might actually elude them. Now that
we were out of their line of sight....
There was a sudden cry from above, and Massha
came crashing to the ground, gaming the dubious
distinction of being the first person I've ever witnessed
doing a belly-flop on dry land. I'm sure the ground
didn't actually shake, but the impact was enough to
leave that impression. I experienced a quick flash of
guilt, realizing that my first thought was not for the
well-being of my apprentice, but rather unbridled relief
that she hadn't landed on one of us.
"I think the controls just came unstuck," Aahz said,
rather unnecessarily to my thinking.
"Are you all right, Massha?" I said, crouching over
"Wha—ha ..." came the forced reply.
"Of course, she's not all right," Aahz snapped,
assuming translator duties. "At the very least she's got
the wind knocked out of her."
Whatever the exact extent of the damages suffered
from her fall, my apprentice wasn't even trying to rise. I
would have liked to give her a few minutes recovery
time, but already the sounds of our pursuers were draw-
"Can you carry her, Aahz?"
"Not on my best day," my partner admitted, eyeing
Massha's sizable bulk. "How about you? Have you got
enough juice left to levitate her?"
I shook my head violently.
"Used it all supervising our aerial maneuvers back at
"Hey. Boss!" Guido hissed, emerging from the
shadows behind us. "The alley's blocked. This is the
only way out!"
And that was that. Even if we got Massha up and
moving, all it meant was that we'd have to retrace our
steps right back into the teeth of the mob. We had run
our race... and were about to lose it rather spectacu-
The others knew it, too.
"Well, it's been nice working with you, Guido,"
Aahz said with a sigh. "I know I've gotten on your case
a couple of times, but you're a good man to have
around in a pinch. You did some really nice crowd work
getting us this far. Sorry about that last turn call."
118 Robert Asprin MYTH-ING PERSONS 119
"No hard feelings," my bodyguard shrugged. "You
gave it your best shot. This alley would have been my
choice, too, if I'd been workin' alone. Boss, I warned
you I was a jinx when it came to jailbreaks. I gotta ad-
mit, though, for a while there I really thought we were
goin' to pull this one off."
"It was a long shot at best." I grinned. "At least you
can't say that this one suffered from over-planning."
Aahz clapped a hand on my shoulder.
"Well, partner?" he said. "Any thoughts on how to
play this one? Do we try to surrender peacefully, or go
I wasn't sure the crowd would give us a choice. They
were almost at our alley, and they didn't sound like they
cared much for talking.
"NOT THIS WAY! THEY'RE DOUBLING BACK
TOWARD THE JAIL!"
This unexpected cry came from the street near the
mouth of our alley.
I.couldn't believe it, but apparently the mob did.
There were curses and shouted orders, but from their
fast-fading manner it was plain that the crowd had
turned and was now heading back the way they had
"What was that?" Massha managed, her voice re-
turning at last.
I motioned her to be silent and cocked an eyebrow at
Aahz, silently asking the same question.
He answered with an equally silent shake of the head.
Neither of us knew for sure what was going on, but
we both sensed that the timely intervention was neither
accidental nor a mistake. Someone had deliberately
pulled the crowd off our backs. Before we celebrated
our good fortune, we wanted to know who and why.
A pair of figures appeared at the mouth of the alley.
"You can come out now," one of them called.
"Sorry to interfere, but it looked like so much fun we
just had to play, too."
I'd know that voice anywhere, even if I didn't
recognize the figure as well as the unmistakable form of
"Tananda! Chumley!" I shouted, waving to pinpoint
our position. "I was wondering when you'd show up."
The sister-brother team of Trollop and Troll hastened
to join us. For all their lighthearted banter, I can think
of few beings I'd rather have on or at my side when
things get tight.
"Are you all right?" Tananda asked, stopping to help
Massha to her feet.
"Really never had much dignity," my apprentice
responded, "and what little I did have is shot to hell.
Except for that I'm fine. I'm starting to see why you Big
Leaguers are so down on mechanical magic."
Chumley seized my hand and pumped it vigorously.
"Now don't be too rough on your little gimmicks,
ducks," he advised. "That little ring you left us was just
the ticket we needed to get here in time for the latest in
our unbroken string of last-minute rescues. Except for
the typical hash you've made of your end-game, it looks
like you've done rather well without us. We've got all
present and accounted for, including Aahz, who seems
remarkably unscathed after yet one more near-brush
with disaster. Seems like all that's left is a hasty retreat
and a slow celebration ... eh, what?"
"That's about the size of it," I agreed. "It's great
having the two of you along to ride shotgun on our exit,
though. Speaking of which, can you find the castle from
here? I've gotten a little turned around...."
"Hold it right there!" Aahz broke in. "Before we get
too wrapped up in congratulating each other, aren't
there a few minor details being overlooked?"
The group looked at each other.
"Like what?" Tananda said at last.
"Like the fact that I'm still wanted for murder, for
one," my partner glared. "Then again, there's the three
fugitives we're supposed to be bringing back to Deva
"Oh, come on, Aahz," the Trollop chided, poking
him playfully in the ribs. "With the reputation you
already have, what's a little thing like a murder war-
"I didn't do it," Aahz insisted. "Not only didn't I
kill this Vic character, nobody did. He's still around
somewhere laughing down his sleeve at all of us. Now
while I'll admit my reputation isn't exactly spotless, it
doesn't include standing still for a bum rap ... or let-
ting someone get away with making a fool of me!"
"Of course, saving the money for paying the
swindlers' debts plus the fines involved has nothing to
do with it, eh, Aahz?" Chumley said, winking his larger
"Well... that, too," my partner admitted. "Isn't it
nice that we can take care of both unpleasant tasks at
the same time?"
"Maybe we could settle for just catching Vic and let
the others go," I murmured.
"How's that again, partner?"
"Nothing, Aahz," I said with a sigh. "It's just that
... nothing. C'mon everybody. If we're going to go
hunting, it's going to require a bit of planning, and I
don't think we should do it out here in the open."