25 Jul 1999. Master Long Tooth faces off against a Chronotopian general inside Great Gretchen.
(Chronotopia) (Master Long Tooth) (Nordika) (Mortal Wombat)
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Apparently that squid pastry was rather expensive. After several days of washing dishes, Master Long Tooth found himself being relegated to even more tasks. Maybe it was because customers complained about having dirty dishes, maybe it was because all the cooking wine in the kitchen vanished soon after Tooth's employment, or maybe it was just because someone with all that long shaggy hair might be slightly unsanitary for a kitchen.

Whichever it was, the Kiriga's employers soon found new work for him – some kind of food delivery in the "nearby" city of Blitzheim. Why, the cafe owner was even kind enough to loan the master the use of a delivery cart – an oversized tricycle with an insulated wagon on the back that had a picture of an ice cream cone painted on it.

The trip took much longer than the Kiriga's employers had made out. Luckily, he had something to eat along the way. Finally, after several days of pedaling, the martial arts master finds himself in a large bustling city populated mostly by Korvs, Cervani, humans, and black cats. Clocks are everywhere ticking off the time, and Tooth's delivery is at the largest one of them all: Great Gretchen herself.

Blitzheim
The City of Clocks. Everywhere in this city of towering architecture, clocks dominate the daily life of the citizens. Decades of work by master craftsmen have overcome the difficulties of technology through tight tolerances, precision and maintenance. Occasionally, a distant explosion of a 'regular emergency' can be heard. The clocks however, from the smallest Chronotopian Egg to Great Gretchen, tick away the seconds dutifully. They are a constant reminder that following the rules, and doing things precisely and properly, will result in a secure, predictable future. The clocks give order to the chaos that surrounds this land.

Grimacing as he does so, a panting and puffing Long Tooth pedals as best he can manage through the streets of Chronotopia, headed for his destination. (Despite several confused circles.) Every so often, he takes his concentration off steering to wave his fist at someone in the way, or a carriage that's cut him off, and jabber in a strange dialect of Imperial. Fuming, he keeps at his task, if distractedly.

"Disah no way to treat mastah," he grumbles.

Off in the distance is the sound of an explosion, followed by a siren and a cart laden with black cats with ladders, buckets, and a pump hose contraption. The wagon ruffles the old master's robes as it zooms past, but also has the added bonus of clearing away traffic a little bit as others move to get out of the way.

Up ahead is the biggest clock Tooth has ever seen – a massive tower that might rival the height of the Imperial Palace back in the Empire. A moat circles it with a (currently lowered) drawbridge leading inside.

Unsure of what the noise is all about, Tooth nevertheless takes advantage of the wagon's passing, lurching his trike into the wagon's wake and pedaling as quick as he can toward the mighty Gretchen. "Hah! Almostah done! I gettah dis finish, andah go back to search for Shikouju. Hmmm… maybe witha trike, I find him fastah… "

A human in a deep blue uniform steps out from around the corner of the entryway into the clock, momentarily blocking the entrance. He looks like a military man with medals shaped like gears on his right breast, golden braids on each shoulder, and an embroidered golden cogwheel on his hat. His skin is somewhat pale and his black hair has traces of gray streaking through it.

The human folds his arms behind his back and says a few unintelligible words to the Kiriga in a harsh sounding language.

"Heya jou!" replies Tooth, frowning his face into a great orange prune. "Don't no-wan speak Standah no moh? I gottah food from Gallah dog-face land, bringah heah to big clock."

Arching an eyebrow, the human momentarily purses his lips as if trying to remember something. Finally, "I speak Standart. You haf delivery?" He eyes the cart.

The old Kiriga fumbles through his cart. "Yessah, yes… I bringah weird expensive food."

The sound of the great clock causes the ground here to vibrate. Just behind the human, the creaking of gears and cogwheels can be heard.

"Ah. Ist probably for clock master." The uniformed human shrugs. "Unfortunately, he ist also out at der moment. But I vould be happy to haf you as my guest inside until he returns."

Making sure everything in his delivery is secure (relatively), Tooth nods curtly, his whiskers bobbling. "Ah? Rightah, den. I grantah jou honah of company of great old mastah… Justah make sure haffa good place put trike, or bosses dockah my pay."

The human nods and carefully pushes the oversized tricycle inside. "You do nut look like you are vrom Gallis. Ist you a special long diztance delivery man?"

Tooth takes a moment to pat the dust of a long trip off himself before hobbling after the doorman. "I am great fighting mastah from eastahn side of Empire… I justah delivah because there problem with mime in cafe… uh… but it lonk story."

Inside of the tower, two spiraling staircases lead upwards into the 'guts' of Great Gretchen. Gears the size of houses move slowly. The air has the aroma of oil and metal and mold. At the bottom are boxes of tools, a few spare gears leaning against the stone walls, and a table shaped like a gear (or maybe it's one of the spares put to a different use) that looks to have a half-unpacked lunch on it. The only other furnishings are a few crates, some tools, and a coat rack that currently sports a black duster with some oil stains marring it.

Removing his hat, the human extends his empty hand to the Kiriga. "I am Stirnrad Densch, General of der Black Cogwheel Brigade, und guardian of Great Gretchen. Ist not vurry often I meet a fellow master."

Tooth cranes his skinny neck around to take in the curious sights, squinting at the mighty cogs and machinations with a mixture of puzzlement and interest. At the General's words, he takes the hand and gives it one good shake. "Old Mastah Long Tooth, offa School of Ahthritic Open Paw of Seveah Drubbing." As if to demonstrate, one of the knuckles on his shaking hand pops, and the Kiriga winces slightly.

Stirnrad winces a bit at the noise before taking on a more stern expression. "Master Long Tooth? Der same vhun that defeated za Vykarin Master in der Wastes?"

"Ah? Howah jou know dat?" A long shaggy eyebrow arches into a white curl, and Tooth's pointed ears perk. "Nowan dere but foh me anna rockhead."

The human replaces his hat on his head and adjusts his thick leather gloves. "I vas on my way to challenche him myself vhen I hert of your victory. Cold Stone ist vhun of der more deadly opponents in der tournament. I had hoped to defeat him before he killed a weaker challenger."

"Huh. Well, I saveah jou trouble of fighting biggah battahring ram-wolf." Long Tooth rubs the back of his neck, recalling the battle, both the bad (smashing into walls) and the good (that fiery Vykarin drink that warmed the old bones up so well). "So, jou seekah to prove technique innah Emperor's tournament? Who jou seen so fah?"

Stirnrad motions for Tooth to sit at the table, and starts unpacking the rest of his lunch. It's just a simple thing consisting of a loaf of bread, a chunk of Bromthen ham and a wedge of cheese, but there's a green bottle poking out of the basket that looks awfully interesting as well. "Mostly small-time opponents. People mit no true school or real trainink." He shakes his head. "As I must guard der tower I cannot travel and must vhait for people to come to me. I plan to challenge der Blacksmith of Titania next."

The old master settles himself at a chair, sighing contentedly as he creaks into it. Crickcrickcrickcrackcrickpopsnapcrack. Whew, a nine-cracker… That was a long trip. "Ah? Dey Titanians, dey biggan slow, but deyah stronk. Dangerous. Jou wan be careful, jou know." He glances sidelong at the greenish bottle, and a narrow tongue curls around his single low-hanging fang for a moment. "So whyah you sit here, guard big clock, whenah jou shouldah be out training?"

"I train here. Dere are lots of people who vould like to see the symbol of Chronotopia be destroyed, so I guard dis place. Dere are alvays people to train mit here." For the first time, the human smiles a little. "And as much as I vould like to win der tournament, I vill be happy if der Blacksmith does not."

Tooth cocks his head to one side. "Eh? Whyah dat? Whatta dis blackusmit like?"

Stirnrad pulls out the bottle and two crystal glasses with etched cogwheel patterns on the stems. He carefully pours himself and the Kiriga a glass of the liquid that is so darkly purple that it's almost black. "Vurry dangerous. Ist unwritten rule that you do not kill your opponents. Matter of respect you see – but Crunch der Blacksmith does not respect anybody. He takes special pleasure in killink Chronotopians."

The human taps one of his medals. "He vhears trinkets of those he has defeated. I am sure he hopes to vhear my medals also."

The old master eagerly reaches for his glass, and sniffs over it a few times. "Huh… he sound strong, but he lackah… discipline." The Kiriga wags his finger sternly before bringing the glass toward his snout. "Jou shoulda not go. Iffah jou go, annah he get jou medals, who guard big clock, ah?"

That said, he takes a good swig of the stuff.

Funny, the wine smells more like very very strong beer. Of course, Chronotopia is more well known for its beer than for wine anyhow. Still, it most definitely smells like one of those mixtures that deserves a measure of respect unless you want to wake up the next morning with a massive headache.

Tastes like it, too.

"Ah… but dere ist still der wish." Stirnrad takes a sip from his own glass. "If der Blacksmith wins, he may demand that the Empire help Titania destroy Chronotopia."

Master Long Tooth finishes his pull of beer, and releases a gusty sigh, followed by a deep, bassy belch of approval. "Hmm, yes… datta true." He squints at the General thoughtfully, rubbing the bridge of his nose. "Jou lookah strong, but dah is risk. I testah jou… Iffah jou canna win on me, jou go to fight Titanian. Iffah I win, jou stay here, anna I go fight Titanian." He pauses, and adds, "Anna jou give me anothah bottle offa dis stuff."

The human arches an eyebrow, "Ist zhat a challenge?"

"Jes," replies Long Tooth, tilting back in his chair to stretch his back out. "I needah work off pastries anyway. We makeah sure jou ready for Crunch, iffa jou gonna go."

"Annehmen. Vurry well." Stirnrad stands up and removes his gloves, carefully placing them on the table. (Apparently the Gallis way of challenging people isn't the norm here… lucky for Tooth's cheeks). "My arena ist at der top of der tower. Vhenever you are ready, I vhill be in mein place." He salutes the Kiriga and heads up the maddeningly tall stairs at an impressive speed.

Tooth quaffs the rest of his brew, and clacks the glass back to the gear-table before rising to his feet, looking satisfied. With a rustle of robes, the old master bounds spryly after Densch.

It seems half the battle is in the ascent… You'd think they could install some kind of lift in this place at the very least. Finally after several minutes of repetitive steps that make the knees ache, the old Kiriga finds himself standing on a huge gear that turns at a snail's pace. Pendulums swing back and forth and threaten to swipe at a limb or bash in one's head, gears spin and whirr like gnashing teeth, and chains with balanced weights dangle down. There is no railing once one steps from the staircase, and a fall could mean certain doom either from the height or from landing in the teeth of one of the chewing gears.

The human remains in his uniform, including his hat, and looks to be doing a few warm-up movements – One would that that the climb would be a warm-up in itself. "You may rest if you vhant. I know that der climb can be hard on zhose not used to it."

"Hah! Puff" Tooth makes it out to the slowly rotating arena, trying not to look too wheezy. "Jou thinka I gasp too old foh dis, donchoo? Well… jes, I am. But I haffa experience! Dat most important." Standing relatively upright again, the Kiriga presents his side, and jerks his head back once, tossing the ends of his eyebrows over his stooped shoulders.

Densch nods without any expression and walks out to stand opposite the Kiriga on the floor of the arena. He lowers his head and curls up his fists in a brawler stance – nothing too impressive or dazzling, although his eyes show a calculated look about them: the sort of look that separates a bar brawler from an experienced fighter. "Zhen it begins. Defeat me if you can. Kampfbereit."

Directly behind the human, a great pendulum swings back and forth.

"Kamfawha?" The old master puzzles this over a few moments before shaking his head as if to rid himself of the thought. He stands up straight (kinda), and clasps his hands behind his back, sizing the human up thoughtfully, but making no other move, as if he were pondering philosophy, a chess move, or perhaps whether he should risk eating a poppyseed muffin at a Chronotopian bakery. (Those darn seeds get stuck in the choppers.)

"It means I am ready for battle," Stirnrad replies. He stands still as a statue, but there's a certain tenseness about him, like a coiled Naga ready to strike.

Tooth nods, understanding, but doesn't unclasp his hands. He still looks thoughtful. "Well? Dissa test. Show me whatchoo got."

"I prefer to vhait until I am attacked first, but if you insist… " And with that, the human leaps straight up… and doesn't come back down.

The gears and pendulums tick and clatter around the Kiriga like the mutterings of an audience.

Tooth's brow pinches together in surprise. "Hmm… musta got thissa from climbing stair allatime."

Suddenly out of nowhere, a leg flashes out to kick in the Kiriga's face! It seems as though the human reappeared from nowhere.

The somewhat perplexed Kiriga doesn't take the time to try figuring out where Densch got to, and instead leans abruptly to one side, a booted foot whistling past his nose and brushing his whiskers rather more closely than he'd have liked. Long Tooth skips to one side, his paws now in front of him and raised up in a proper stance. "Aha… jou ah good. I see jou haffa trained well. Actually… I don't see." The Kiriga peers around slowly, the tips of his ears flicking around.

As he misses, the human rolls into a ball and tumbles with the momentum just in case the Kiriga might try to grab a limb or take a potshot at him in the air. He uncurls just as quickly as he hits the arena "floor", and rises back up into his fighting stance.

Tooth eyes his opponent, nodding approval. "Very goodah." He begins slowly circling around, moving in the same direction that the gear rotates. One of his outstretched hands beckons again.

The Chronotopian studies his opponent to try to find a weak spot. There is one difference between him and the other tournament fighters the Kiriga has faced, though – namely that there's no look of anger or malice in those eyes. The human might as well be fixing the clock or guarding the gateway downstairs. He nods to the Master as though he'd just been given permission to approach and strides forward, his arms held up to fend off any blows, but this time he's not employing any acrobatic leaps or rushing in.

Stirnrad just stands there for a moment, bobbing back and forth to keep his attack intentions covered. Suddenly his fist flashes out and slams into Tooth's stomach.

Tooth grunts, his tongue popping out in surprise like a party favor as the fist connects with his gut. He hops backward, rubbing his side. "I see I cannot undahestimate jou! Jou ah competent. Very goodah, we really begin." With that, Tooth weaves as he advances on the human, watching for an opening.

The human backs off a bit and looks to be preparing for another attack – but suddenly the great clock starts to chime loudly, and takes him off balance. He should have been keeping better track of time.

It's fair game for the old Kiriga, who bobs, then comes forward with a series of quick straight-arm punches, varied in their aim and each accompanied by a scratchy, high-pitched cry. "Hyah! Kiai!"

Several of the blows hit their mark before the human can hop out of the way and steady himself. Amazingly, though, his hat still remains on his head. "You are very gut as vhell," he grunts out as he rubs his wounded side. After steadying himself, he raises his fists back up and moves in again for another swing.

Tooth nods distractedly in reply. He seems utterly fascinated by the hat, and over and over in his mind, questions turn over. How does it stay on? Is there a strap? Is it glue? No, glue would be ridiculous. Maybe he holds it on with chi force! Some kind of special dressy chi force that keeps his boots shined as well. Amazing. He circles as he thinks these thoughts through.

Finally, the human moves in and swings out with his fist.

A scoot to the side takes the old master out of harm's way, and his own paw shoots out to grab hold of the human's wrist. The other darts toward the bill of Densch's cap, but Long Tooth's hat fascination is denied as his paw is slapped away. Not to waste the grip, the disappointed reptile tries to twist the arm around into a lock.

Luckily Densch is off balance; judging by the size of those arms, the human is probably string enough to battle a Titanian if it came down to it. The Kiriga manages to twist Stirnrad's arm behind his back, but that might change once he gets his balance back.

Tooth's own scrawny limbs hardly seem up to the task, but strain they do. Rather than let his opponent keep his balance, the old master keeps his grip, let's out a loud whoop, and charges forward!

The human amazingly doesn't resist and in fact rushes forward as well. Then, suddenly, in the middle of the cog he pitches himself forward, trying to flip over and slam the Kiriga between his back and the floor.

The much lighter furred lizard is easily lifted up in the flip, and brought to the floor of the gear with a loud takedown slap and a sound from Tooth's joints like Titanians dancing on rubbery Temple bubble-wrap. The slightly stunned Tooth loses his grip on the General in the process, but reaches his legs beneath him, and with a firm two-footed kick, launches the human into the air. The old master immediately rolls to the edge of the cog, then looks up expectantly… but mysteriously, Stirnrad has vanished. The old master makes a mental note to slap his own forehead after the fight, and crouches warily.

"You are agile. Perhaps ve take this to higher grount?" The human leaps into view, swinging on one of the many pendulums about fifteen feet above the giant cog-floor.

"Ah moh pahfect test I couldah not think off." Long Tooth glances upward, then springs into the air to gain purchase on anything available, the wake of the leap leaving a lazy puff of clock dust and dried mold spreading away from patch of cog it coated.

The destination turns out to be a thick metal chain, possibly worth more in a few links than the old master has seen in his considerable life. It jingles as Tooth dangles from it upside down, his back arched to allow him to crane his neck and head out level. He sways gently back and forth, keeping an eye on Densch.

The human hops up a few more levels, climbing the pendulum, dancing on some gears, and swinging on a chain. Finally after reaching adequate height he jumps down, aiming the heel of his boot directly at the Kiriga.

It all happens pretty fast. To an onlooker, it might appear the General's powerful kick connects. Whether it does or does not, Master Tooth spins around the chain, an arm snaking out as Stirnrad hurtles past. Gnarled fingers curl into a fist over the back of the human's dress uniform pants. Long Tooth feels a primal martial-arts master cry welling up inside him as he jerks his fist back, and borrowing from some snippet of Chronotopian heard around, he cries, "UBER-WEDGIE!"

"Gyaaaaah!" Densch yelps, really the only tone of emotion (if you count pain as an emotion) that he's uttered this whole evening. His hand shoots back and flails around, trying to grab either the Kiriga or the chain… or anything that he can pull himself up on.

Tooth lowers himself down the chain farther, and with each attempt by the human to resist, he cruelly intensifies the long-forgotten fighting maneuver with a strong yank. "Do jou yield?"

The human manages to twist his head around to look sidelong at the Kiriga. "Only… on… vhun… condition… " His face is bright red.

The old master cocks his head. "Jes?"

"Zhat you vhill NOT tell anyvhun how you beat me!" the Chronotopian bawls out. His voice sounds like it's about to crack at the end of it.

"Jou haffa my wohd." With that, the reptile releases his captive, and a few seconds later, the chain, to land on the cog below. He bows deeply, respectfully, and somehow totally seriously.

The human crumples to the floor as he lands but eventually rolls over onto his back and starts to adjust his pants. "I yielt to you," he grunts out.

The instant the words escape his lips, a familiar golden glow starts to fill the area in the center of the cogwheel arena.

Tooth, standing placidly again, watches the glow.

The golden snake-head appears again, although this time it seems to be trying very hard to keep from snickering. "Snkt… *ahem* Master Long Tooth of the School of the Arthritic Paw of Severe Drubbing wins against… (chortle) against Stirnrad Densch, General of the Black Cogwheel Brigade." And with that it fades out, leaving only a few traces of giggling floating in the air amidst the ticking of the clock.

The old master stands by to help Stirnrad back to his feet when he's ready and able. "Jou fightah good… and jou know, jou first warrior I see in Emperor's tournament who didn't fight just to hurt, or because offa anger. Jou stay heah, where jou needed, lettah old man go deal witta Crush."

After the human's face finally fades a few shades of red into something more normal he accepts the proffered hand and pulls himself to his feet. "This is a battle vhere there ist a prize to be won. Most uf der people have selfish wishes, und that means most of the fighters are selfish people." He adjusts his hat which has still continued to stay on his head somehow. "No offense intended."

"I know dissa well," replies Long Tooth, hobbling back over to the stairs. Despite all the bounding and flying, springing and kicking just a minute or two ago, the reptile has returned to shuffling around, in this case, towards the stairs. "I see to it no-one who can't use prize wisely don'tah geddit. Most offa all, Shikouju."

Stirnrad motions for the Kiriga to join him at the edge of the platform, grabbing a chain in one hand and using the other one to adjust his trousers a bit more. "There ist a faster vhay down. Shikouju?"

Tooth nods, reaching out for another chain to cling to. "Sable Palm, Silvah Knife… one offa Compass Rose, he elude me foh yeahs. Nevah fight squarely, always sneak around widda his otah assassin friends. But I heah he inna dis tournament. I catch him, anna we haffa fair fight, straight on."

The clock guard hops from the platform and slowly descends to the floor. "I wish you luck in your battles. Und as it looks like I am out of the play, I can at least tell you about vhat you have to look forwart to in future battles."

The Kiriga perks his ears as both combatants are lowered down through the creaking confines of Gretchen. "Ah? A wise man always listen to advice. I listen anyway."

"You hafe mentioned a mime in Gallis und I heart about your battle in the Wastes. Who else has fallen to you?" The human swings around on his chain so he can face the Kiriga on the slow descent down.

Tooth rubs the hump on his snout thoughtfully, the chain rattling as his weight shifts. "Huh… well, I fightah Ryubushi… crumple him up inna mug anna punch out off window. Then I fightah something in wastelands… white bony thing datta go 'Whonk' anna fall apart when hit. Then it come backah togethah."

Finally the two hit the floor of the tower. Stirnrad rubs his shoulder and then opens up a crate sitting next to a pile of scrap gears. He produces two more of those green bottles and offers one to the Kiriga. "Then you hafe not fought Kahn yet. He und der Blacksmith are the most dangerous."

The human pulls the cork of his bottle out with his teeth and sits down at the table with the remnants of his lunch. Some dust from the battle above has fallen onto it, but the human doesn't seem to mind.

The old master accepts the bottle gratefully, taking a seat across the table and unstopping his bottle for a quick swig. Replacing the cork, he nods at Densch. "Dissah blacksmit, he deadly maybe, but he soundah like brute. Not a disciplined warrior… defeated befoh he begin. But Kahn… who issa dis?"

The general removes his hat and places it on the table. "Crunch ist not chust a brute. Most Titanians are stupid und easily distracted. The Blacksmith has killed enough good men to populate an army. Many of them vhere friends of mein. If he grabs you or hits you then it ist probably over." He pauses to take a pull from the bottle. "He also vill not fight fairly. You vhould be wise to not underestimate him. Now, as for Kahn… "

The general continues, "Kahn ist a Khatta from Abu Dhabi. Very egotistical cat but very well trained. You know that sometimes those born on the grount haf mutations or deformities?"

The Kiriga nods thoughtfully, idly tapping the side of the empty glass he'd left on the table before the fight. Ting, ting. He steals a glance at the hat, but then returns his attention to Stirnrad. "Jes?"

Densch holds up one hand. "Kahn has four arms, so he ist more likely to be able to hit you or grab you." He soberly takes another drink from the bottle. "Up until now, I thought he vhas the only one who had a chance at beating Crunch."

"Ahhh… " The Kiriga bobs his head, then, unable to really stop himself, opens his bottle again and pours himself a full glass of the strong drink. He takes it up in hand, and sips, then sets it down again. "Inna Empire, dere many Jingai widda many limbs. Shigai anna Rokugai. I knowah dem, I fightah dem." The reptile puts his elbows on the table to hunch over, looking very serious despite his left whisker dipping into his drink. Purple slowly starts to spread up it.

The human quirks an eyebrow at the Kiriga's whisker, but chooses not to respond. He seems to have accepted his companion's eccentricities. "There ist also a warrior from Gallee that I am surprised to hear you hafe not battled with. A fierce fighter who people say can bite trees in half vith his jaws."

The sound of the ticking gears seems to grow louder and slightly more hollow as Gretchen continues to mark the time.

Long Tooth shakes his head. "I nottah see anything likah dat in Gallah. Maybe iffa I haffa take trike back to my bosses, I seeya him. I will watch foh all tree." The purple beerstain continues creeping up Tooth's whisker, unnoticed. "Deh ah many warriors inna tournament… no saying how long one can be innit. It wassa honoh to fightah jou."

As the winestain creeps upwards, the ticking starts to grow louder and higher pitched. Also, the human's face starts to look slightly blurry. "Desgleichen. I hope you are der one who wins der prize, Master Long Tooth. Chust make sure that you do not fall to the Blacksmith."

The old master's squinting becomes more pronounced, and he weaves a little. "Jesh… I lose some offa it as I gettah old, but… I willah be careful, anna I will prove the Ahthritic Paw… too mucha ish depending onna dish… dish… mmmmmm… disha ish good schtuff." The stain has nearly reached his nose, while repeated sips have lowered the level of drink in the glass to the very bottom.

"Er… perhaps you shoult spend der nacht here. I vhill make sure that der Clockmaster gets his delivery." Wow, the ticking sounds a lot like singing now. Like some great voice singing to the Kiriga from far far away.

Long Tooth's ears wiggle, and his weaving becomes slightly more pronounced. "Hesha… thatta ish nice offa jou (largely incomprehensible slurred Imperial). Jou haffa nice shinging clock… " Slowly, ever so slowly, the old master tips backward in his chair, and slowly, the purple stain creeps upward. Tooth hits the ground at precisely the same time the stain reaches his nose, and after the clattering of his chair and the cracking of ancient joints, the reptile's gargling snore can be heard even over the grinding of gears, his tongue hanging over the corner of his mouth.

---

GMed by Zoltan

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