Bisset sat at the table of the great room and permitted himself a small smile. Things seemed to be improving considerably. Clackprattle’s list was being ticked off to plan. Pook had convinced the fat idiot not to try the next challenge himself. Best of all, he now knew the details of that challenge. The door creaked open and Bisset wore the mildly pleasant expression that seemed to work best for these two. He started repeating the mantra that kept the little pookah from invading his mind.
“Ah Bisset,” said Clackprattle as he beared down on the table. “Do you have any news for us or has your band of posh idiots failed us yet again?”
Bisset smiled indulgently.
“My dear sir,” he said. “I am able to report the best possible news.”
Clackprattle and Pook sat down.
“That does indeed sound most encouraging,” said Pook. “I am sure I can speak for both the Master and I that we would be most desirous to hear this news without even a second’s delay.”
Pook and Bisset smiled warmly at each other. Bisset felt his temples throb a little. “Not today, little one,” he thought.
“I can tell you not only the location of the next key… not only the creatures that guard it but also the nature of the challenge itself,” Bisset said.
“Creatures?” said Pook. “As in plural?”
“Just so,” said Bisset. “Scared you can’t influence a group?” he thought.
“What utter gibberish is this?” said Clackprattle. “You told us very clearly that there were four of these things, not a horde of them.”
“They are… somewhat unusual,” said Bisset. “They are something of a group mind, called the Oisienne.”
“The what again?” said Clackprattle.
Pook’s brow furrowed.
“If I were to hazard a guess, would I be wildly off the mark if I were to guess some manner of bird-like creature?” he said.
“Most astute, Mr Pook,” said Bisset. “For as ideas are things of air, the Oisienne are those ideas incarnate. They are in some sense the body politic of the thought of the city, the sum of current thinking and ideas of the intelligentsia.”
Clackprattle made a snorting sound.
“There can’t be very many of them then,” he said laughing heartily at his own joke.
Bisset smiled wanly.
“Very droll,” he said.
“The challenge then?” prompted Pook.
“The challenge is to be presented to and to debate in a… parliament, I think they say. To explain one’s ideas and thoughts and see if they are accepted or championed by the Oisienne. If they are, then the key is yours.”
Clackprattle chuckled some more.
“Is that it?” he said. “This one should be able to convince a bunch of bird brains in five minutes.”
He slapped Pook on the back, causing a flash of surprise to appear on the pookah’s face.
“It may not be quite so straightforward…” started Bisset.
“Nonsense!” said Clackprattle, cutting him off. “It’s all but ours. I’m going back to my room. Tell me when we leave to go.”
Pook and Bisset faced each other.
“What happens if one fails,” said Pook lightly.
“We aren’t certain,” said Bisset, “on that point. Except we notice there is another name for a collection of birds which can be called a parliament.”
“A murder?” said Pook.
“Just so,” said Bisset.
“I shall go prepare,” said Pook. As he stood up, a quizzical look passed across his face and he looked around the room. Eventually, he left.
Bisset allowed himself another small smile. Indeed everything was going most well. One way or another all the problems would get solved. He settled back in his chair then noticed with irritation that an insect was running on the armoire opposite. He resolved to speak most firmly with the staff on the matter of cleanliness.