“There, that should confound them for awhile!” said Susan Jones, hurrying back to the terrace from the front room of the office suite.
“What did you do, Susan?” asked Stephanie.
“I just changed the arrow on the front desk, and wrote on it that visitors should go widdershins down the hallway. They’re sure to get lost down that way, at least long enough for us to figure out what to do.”
“Damh,” said Phllip, “did you say that Nims reported an ogress was with them?”
“Yes, Phlipp, that’s what she said. I’m thinking it must be Gladys; how many ogresses do we know?”
“Ah, yes, Gladys," said Phlipp. "Tell me, Damh, did you know that they have three?”
“Well, er, perhaps you didn’t see, but when I snatched the pumpkin medallion away from her, my hand brushed against -- and I assure you it was an accident -- but, well, they have three!”
“I still don’t understand,” said Damh, looking around at Susan Jones and Stephanie, who had just walked up.
“Ah, well, you see,” said Phlipp, blushing furiously, “it’s bosoms of course that I mean. I never knew it, but ogresses have three bosoms, a perfect triad of …”
“Phlipp!” shouted Susan and Stephanie together.
“What is this organization coming to,” muttered Susan, hands on hips. “A crisis of epic proportions that could have OBOD bowing in disgrace, and our Chosen Chief is fixating on the great green bosoms of an ogress! And where is Billy Joe Bob?”
“Aw, don’t get lumps in yer gravy, I’m here,” said the cowboy, stumping out onto the terrace wearing his boots, cowboy hat and red flannel longjohns. “What’s a feller gotta do to get some sleep around here?”
“Listen, Mister Druid Cowboy Tutor,” hissed Susan. “If you hadn’t left those letters sitting out where anybody could see them, we wouldn’t be in this mess, would we?”
“Well butter my butt and call me a biscuit,” said the Texan. “How was I ‘sposed to know that you was sendin’ a bunch of folks out to the ranch, and how was I ‘sposed to know that them idgits would march right in the front door and start spyin’ around? And on top o’ that, who was it that screwed up the Homin’ Spell on that thar punkin thang, huh? The way I heared it, if that dadgum thang hadn’t been a floatin’ around all over the place, nobody but mebbe Selene woulda figgered out nothin’ anyhow.”
A fight would have ensued on the terrace right then and there, but Phlipp quickly stepped in and exerted his authority.
“We don’t need to be casting blame right now. What we need are solutions! Hmmm,” he said, pacing. “Susan, what was it you said about ‘OBOD bowing in disgrace?’ By gods! That gives me an idea! But I hear noises downstairs. Susan, it looks like your little diversion didn’t delay them as long as we’d hoped. No time to explain, the rest of you just follow my lead!”
Suddenly a door opened and out onto the terrace marched Kat Lady, followed by Seeker, Wren MacDonald, Wolf Spirit, Crow, Lorraine, Dryadia2, CelticDao and Gladys. Dair Ciúin, of course, was still exploring the Gwers Development Lab, and Beith and Lily were practicing Bushmillsancy at the Stonehenge Club, which, thanks to Susan Jones’ bit of subterfuge, the group had discovered during their wanderings on the 78th floor.
“Okay folks, the jig’s up,” said Seeker, leaning heavily on Heyoka. “With apologies to Beith, who I see is not with us anyway, none of us believe what you said about tootering, and Kat Lady here saw a letter written to her in Texas that would seem to indicate that Billy Joe Bob is masquerading as a tutor. You must admit that’s a shocking prospect, so now we all think it’s time for you to come clean!”
Sighing theatrically, Phlipp Phlopp strode around the terrace.
“Quite right, quite right,” he finally said. “You see, we only had the best interests of the organization in mind, but the story about tootering and Gwers 8,642 was a total fabrication. I can see now that we were wrong to mislead you, and that only the truth will do, and that we must rely on your good judgment to not repeat anything I’m about to tell you until the proper time. Isn’t that right, Susan, Steph, Damh, Billy Joe Bob?”
The four of then nodded affirmatively, nervously wondering where their leader was going with this.
Phlipp continued: “Well, as most of you know by now, part of the druidic tradition is honoring the ancestors, and that involves some study, some genealogical work, and, well, Billy Joe Bob here is no different.”
Phlipp paused for effect and saw that he was met with blank stares, none blanker than those on the faces of Susan, Billy Joe Bob, Damh and Stephanie.
Clearing his throat, he plunged ahead. “Yes, well, in exploring his past, Billy Joe Bob came across quite a shocking discovery, one that we’d hoped to conceal until the appropriate time. In fact this was supposed to be a surprise, but I see now that there’s nothing for it but to reveal the truth.
“It’s like this,” he said, “the letter you saw, Kat Lady, and all the other letters like it, were indeed forgeries in the names of your tutors, and in fact they were invitations … invitations to come here, to OBOD Tower, for a rather special event. A surprise coronation, in fact.”
“Coronation?” said Kat Lady, Seeker, Wolf Spirit and Wren MacDonald together.
Phlipp looked over to Susan Jones, Damh, Stephanie and Billy Joe Bob, but saw that they all had a rather pasty look.
He swallowed hard and continued:
“Yes, well, you see, it’s about the genealogical work and honoring the ancestors … Billy Joe Bob’s, I mean. You see, Billy Joe Bob’s last name isn’t really Fodd. His surname was changed to Fodd many centuries ago to conceal his relatives’ true identity. Much work remains to be done to ascertain just why this was necessary, and that is why we weren’t quite ready to reveal all of this, but the truth is … Susan, do you want to tell them?”
Susan Jones, looking like she was about to faint, managed to shake her head “no.”
“Oh very well then,” said Phlipp, “I’ll do it.”
The Chosen Chief strode over near the cowboy, who was still clad only in his underwear. Looking Billy Joe Bob up and down, Phlipp finally turned to the others and said, “No, he isn't a T-U-T-O-R, nor is he a T-O-O-T-E-R. The truth is, he’s a T-U-D-O-R, and the rightful heir to the British throne."
Except for the loud crash of Susan Jones fainting onto the floor, there was complete silence and nobody moved. Even Crow had stopped scribbling in his notebook.
“Ah! I see at least one of you has the right idea!” said Phlipp brightly, looking at Susan’s prone figure. “All the rest of you, please bow to your king!”
After what seemed like an eternity, Crow finally saw movement. It was Lorraine, who stepped two paces forward and curtsied deeply to Billy Joe Bob.
Crow shook his head and blinked. He wondered what would happen next …