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The Wishing Map
Chapter Eighteen: Spiffwits and Storysmiths (Continued)
Previously: Convinced the only way to escape from Naimian was to teach the naims how to be storysmiths, Zack gathered them together and tested their ability to pretend.
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Within five minutes he had pinpointed the most imaginative naims, and pronounced them “Semi-Finalists.” Then he gathered them into the middle of the chamber and said, “Congratulations! You’re going to Hollywood!”
The Semi-Finalists were excited but completely confused.
“We’re gonna have a competition,” Zack explained, “to discover Naimian’s Greaty-est Storysmith.”
“But that’s yer, Master Zaggyzim!” a thoughtful young fellow said, “an’ there cannot be but one storysmith at a time.”
“Aye!” All acknowledged this universal truth.
“Ah…well…there can now,” decreed Zack.
Clouds covered the sea of faces.
“In order to make the contest fair,” Zack plowed on, “I’ll have to pick ten Leaf Naim Semi-Finalists too. Only…”—he motioned for all to move in close—“…you guys are a million times better than them!” In a sudden rush of inspiration, he said, “Root Naims rock! Leaf Naims are lame!”
There was an excruciating silence, the kind that drives comedians to drink. Finally a soft-spoken female said, “I know nay crippled Leaf Naims, Master Zaggyzim, save my cousin Flitter.”
“Ah, right. Uh, what I meant was ‘Root Naims rock and Leaf Naims fall off tree limbs!’” The naims looked like third graders learning to cuss—guilty and excited all at the same time.
“Traith?” a teenage naim asked.
“Root Naims rock!” the chamber erupted. “And Leaf Naims fall off tree limbs!”
“And just to show how proud I am of my team,” Zack said, “I’m gonna wear the team colors!”
To make good on his promise, he visited Root Naim’s best garment makers and had them improvise a simple tunic for him, though it was a bit misshapen (they’d never outfitted a giant). They also made tunics for the ten Root Naim Semi-Finalists, and onto each stitched a patch featuring the image of a bright red tree root.
Two hours later, Zack repeated the same strategy with the Leaf Naims, while Lyffwyn and her cronies brooded in the shadows. He selected ten Semi-Finalists and led them in an ad hoc pep rally designed to incite Leaf Naim pride: “Leaf Naims soar! Root Naims eat mud!”
He went to the best tailors in Crown Naimian, a group of grookwarfs whose razor sharp beak-scissors were legendary. They were overseen by an old female naim known as Miffy Mufferslip (“Mistress Stickpin”). Zack commissioned simple tunics for each of his ten Leaf Naim Semi-Finalists, as well as one for himself, and had them sew a blue leaf patch on the sleeve of each garment. He also had them fashion a lavish red and blue-striped greatcoat for him.
Then he took Miffy Mufferslip aside and commissioned a secret alteration.
Thoughts: Elaborate plans have great potential for failure. And covert plans are often recipes for disaster. Elaborate and covert? Make your funeral arrangements now.
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