“This is really charming,” Eddie butts in. “Would you care to explain?”
I sigh, but Pulse leaps right in.
“Once upon a time,” he says, “there were three friends. Hilarious, slap-each-other-on-the-back friends, all of them Rangers and one of them a King.”
“Oberon,” Adrian says.
“Shush! And these friends, they did things together that were truly funny. Fires, and droughts, and plagues, and all the best things to induce a good belly laugh.”
“Ha ha,” Mike says slowly. He isn’t laughing. “Cagado.”
“And one day, the King tells his two friends that the Queen has a visitor. Oh, is it like that? the friends laugh. No, it isn’t like that, he tells them, she has a fancy important visitor from another court, they’re scheming together big schemy plots, and the King and his Rangers are supposed to arrange a parade, and a chariot.”
“Belial.” Adrian remembers.
“Belial, very good, one of the biggest Princes of Hell, sits right on the Infernal Council, and he needs a ride because his own beasties don’t travel so well in the Queendom.”
“Because of the light,” Mike guesses.
“Because of the light,” I tell him. “Some of the folk of hell take it fine. Others are burned at the touch, like the Baal Zavuv.”
“Stop interrupting me, Pony!” Pulse snaps. The doll’s smile is fixed and greasy. “So these three friends plan a little joke, and it’s going to be a good one, because the more people who are upset, and the more important those people are, the funnier the joke. The chariot’s going to be pulled by six white horses. Or ponies. And the King doesn’t have but the one shape, but his two friends can both show horse.”
“I thought you said you were a lemur,” Adrien interrupts. “Isn’t that like a monkey? Or a raccoon?”
“I can show a lemur,” Pulse admits. “And also a big warhorse, a destrier.”
“With a lemur’s tail,” Mike says.
“And proud of it.”
“Not anymore,” I remind him.
“I told you to stop interrupting. So the King and his two friends have access to the chariot and all the horses, you see? And they’re Rangers, so they can move around in the Outer Bounds without anyone thinking anything about it. So the three of them make a quick trip through to the Outside, and they collect beans. Bushels of beans.”
“Hell,” Eddie curses. “You’re like children.”
“Bean, beans, the musical fruit,” Adrian chuckles. “You know…”
Eddie snorts. “I’m surrounded.”
“And when the chariot team is eating, to get their strength up, an hour or so before the chariot ride, the friends make good and sure that the team eat lots and lots of beans. And their stomachs aren’t used to beans, naturally.”
“Naturally,” I say.
“Why not?” Mike asks.
“Because they’re not Mexican fairies,” Adrian sneers a bit.
“Lots of people eat beans.” Mike looks annoyed.
“Yes,” I agree. “But not fairies. Beans are a human food, like maize, or Twinkies. The Queendom doesn’t have such innovations. Mab’s subjects mostly eat fruit, and nuts, and meat.”
Eddie laughs sourly. “You’re all paleo.”
Pulse laughs with audible glee. “We were paleo before there was a paleolithic! And so we meet him at the Crossroads and carry him across the Queendom, and right there, on the Avenue of Stones leading to the main gate of the Shadowless Palace, it happens.”
“Trumpets,” I say. I don’t mean to, but I chuckle a bit. It’s funny, after all.
“Trumpets!” Pulse yells. “Great blasting farts from bellies unable to handle legumes, all aimed at blobby, tentacle-faced Belial, and the horses can’t even turn away to be discreet about it, because they’re all in harness, and me and my friend Pony here right in the back, right in front of the Infernal, hooting away!”
He cackles. I laugh, too. It’s hilarious. I guess we laugh too long, because Eddie Guitar cuts us off.
“Then what?” he asks.
Pulse is silent for a moment. “Show him.”
Pulse says nothing. Then he snaps. “What? I nodded yes, didn’t I?”
“No,” I say, “you didn’t nod. You can’t nod anymore, remember?”
I pull apart the stitching at the back of the doll’s head. It’s tricky work with just one hand, but I do it, and then I reach inside and pull out stuffing, so I can remove Pulse from his container.
Pulse is just a skull. A smallish skull, like a child’s, though a human scholar would puzzle over it, note its lemur-like snout and front teeth, and pronounce it a new species of pseudo-hominid, and congratulations to Charles Darwin. That funny old man gets credit for us all the time.
“Carajo,” Mike says.
“What happened,” Pulse continues the story, his jaw not moving at all as the sound of his voice clearly emanates from the bone, “is that Belial blasted me.”