English: Wishing pool inside the glasshouse Vi...




 “Oh, sorry, I’d dropped off.”

 “No naps before stories!”


 “I see you remembered. Yes, I’m twelve. Well done.”

 “Good. So, I’d like to tell you a heist story.”

 “What’s a heist story.”

 “It’s a story where I show how clever I am by stealing things.”

 “Is that..moral?”

 “Yes, in that the person I’m stealing from is someone who deserves it.”


 “He’s rude and horrible and I don’t much like him.”

 “I think he probably didn’t like you much either, given that you want to rob him.”

 “Ah, but it is a convention of these stories that a charming rogue is good and a wealthy miser is bad.”

 ‘That’s ridiculous.”

 “Not really. The listener is more likely to be a poor rogue than a miser.”

 “But, aren’t I the listener?”

 “Are you ever going to be a miser?”

 “Storing provender for the winter is wisdom, old man.”

 “Ah, but that’s not miserly. It’s not the love of provender, is it? A miser loves gold not for security, or for power, but for itself.”

 “Ah. Let us continue, and see if this is suitable as a story. I remain dubious.”

 “So, there was this miser. He was a terrible man.”

 “Says you.”

 “No, he really was. He was cruel, and mean, and loved the sound of gold coin clinking to an obsession. He made his servants wear clinking coins so he could tell if they were working hard, and he made them work all the harder for his love of the clink-clink-clink sound. And he hated flowers.”


 “Yes. Hated them. Ordered his people to never grow them. Practical foods only in his garden. All cabbages and onions.”

 “Oh, now I dislike him. You can rob him as hard as you like.”

 “So, he had this pretty serving maid…”


 “Who I eventually married! Ah-ha! Gotcha!”


 “Oh, she and I had fallen out of touch. We’d had a row. Dramas adults have, you know. So, he kept her chained in the basement, and every time she breathed she’d make a clink-clink noise and it was driving her to distraction. So, she sent a letter to the Embassy in Venice, and they eventually got it to me.”

 “The Embassy?”

 “Yes. Lovely place…have I ever told you about the fountain of the black wine of Serica?”


 “Well. There’s a fountain there, and the water in it is boiling hot, and there’s a plant from Serica that is breweed in the water, like small beer. They mix it with fruit juice, and it refreshes the mind and body, and lets you see the Enigma!”

 “Which Enigma?”

 “All of them. They’re all the same Enigma.”

 “Sorry, you’ve lost me there.”

 “Yes, that’s because I’m too enigmatic.”

 “I’m not understanding a word of what you’re saying. I mean, there are words I understand, but I don’t get your point.”

 “Well, the Enigma is like a story…”

 “No. I’m sorry I asked you about that fountain now. You’ve gone all weird on me. I’d like a swift return to characters and plot and so forth.”

 “That too is the Enigma.”

 “If I throw this dishcloth at your head, is it part of the Enigma?”

 “So, where was I?”

 “You went to rescue Grandmother.”

 “Ah, yes. I had a friend, who was a magus. She was a Tremere. She’d considered killing me and let me go in an early story, so she kind of owed me a favour.”

“I’m not sure that’s how it works.”

“Of course it is! Europe’s full of people who have decided not to kill me and owe me favours. Anyhow, she had a spell I needed. She cast it around the tower of the miser.”

“What did it do?”

“Oh, nothing much, initially. So, then I set fire to his house, which was a tower. Snuck up onto the steeple of a nearby church and set a fiery arrow onto the roof.”

“Does that actually work?”

“It does, if the arrow is tipped with a piece of a very special banana.”

“So, terrible fire.”

“Yes, terrible fire. All these things are almost about to burn. The man’s steward unlocks his servants and they flee in only the clothes they stand in, although each has at least two gold coins on his or her person acting as castinets, so that was worth running away into the country for, in most cases, I imagine.”

“Where is the miser?”

“He is trying to save his money, but money is heavy stuff, so he can only get little bags of it, and even then, who to give the little bags to for safekeeping?”

“So, what did you do?”

“I sidled up to him and said “You could smash the wall of the mill-race. You tower’s basements would be flooded, but money’s waterproof,.” and he agrees.”


“So he uses the money he has in his little bags to pay men to divert the mill-race through his tower, so that it is basically sitting in a tiny, artificial lake, connected to the larger lake, where the town takes its water from.

“And then?””

 “And then my friends ritual goes off, and every gold piece turns into a gold fish, and every silver piece turns into a silver fish, and every copper piece turns into a red fish.”

 “So they all swim out to the lake!”

 “Yes, and then, the sun sets, and they turn back into coins.”

 “So you went and collected them?”

 “Yes, your grandmother and I went to the weeds, where little fish gather, and we pulled up vast numbers of coins. Then she drugged me and stole them all.”


 “She drugged me and stole them all. That was her plan all along. She left a note, saying the miser’s ruffians were looking for mee, which was kind of her.”

 “But…I thought the point of the story was to show how clever you are.”

 “But, I am. It does.”


 “Well, she’s your grandmother, so clearly I got everything back eventually.”

 “I’m not sure that’s how this works. It’s not about you stealing from the miser, at all. It’s about how Gandmother paid back a bully. What’s the moral of this story?”

 “Not everyone offering to help you, isn’t helping themself.”

 “But she didn’t offer to help you.”

 “Maybe it should be “Be careful your grandmother isn’t drugging your food!”

 “Oh, that’s just silly.”

 “Well, how about “Your Gandmother is a cunning woman with great taste in men?”

 “That’s not a moral lesson! It verges on an immoral lesson!”

 “Alight, how about this: it’s not gold that has value, it’s what gold lets us do.”

 “That has the shape of a moral, but it means that things aren’t what they are, only what they are doing.”

 “That’s true, in some sense.”

 “That’s a scary and unpleasant moral.”

 “Well, some things are prone to do certain things, and so they seem to be the thing they are doing. Does that make things more dependable and certain?”

 “Yes, but it’s still not an enjoyable moral to think upon.”

 “Well, that’s your moral. Time for your supper. Any luck with the shoes?”


“You promised to findthem.”

“I’ll look again tomorrow.”

 * * *

 “Grandmother, did you really turn a man’s gold into fish?”

 “Yes, dear”.

 “And did you really drug Grandfather’s food so he fell asleep, while you stole it all?”

 “Yes, dear.”

 “But why?”

 “Well, I wanted to steal a great deal of money, and only rich people have large sums of money.”

 “Did he deserve it? Had he treated you badly as a servant?”

 “I’d begged him for the job, my dear. He was no worse than many masters. He had sins, venal ones, like many men.”

 “Then why?”

 “I had to lure your Grandfather back to me. Life wasn’t the same without him.”

 ‘Then why drug him and steal all the money?”

 “Why, so that he’d chase me across Europe, my dear. Now, eat your supper.”



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