Creepy was waiting for me when I led Torquis out of the stable.
“That’s your horse? That’s what you spent the last of our money on? They saw you coming, mate,” he hooted. “Not that I’m at all surprised, considering those clothes you’re wearing.”
“First of all, it’s proper knightly attire,” I said loftily. “Second of all, I wouldn’t go laughing too loudly. Look at what you’re wearing. You look like the official mascot of the Xix Asparagus Board.”
Creepy, as much as a five-foot-ten, seventy-pound geek in green tights was capable, puffed himself up.
“Just because I have the figure to carry off doublet and hose and you don’t-”
“And that’s another thing. That codpiece…”
“What about it?”
“It’s a bit out of place.”
“What?” Creepy looked down at the front of his pants. “I spent a lot of time in front of the mirror making sure it wasn’t, and a lot of tape making sure it stayed that way.”
“It’s shaped like a horned skull with a .54 Magnum sticking out of its mouth.”
“So,” I started, and then gave up. “Come on, let’s go to the tavern.”
We started down the muddy street. However many years had passed since Sir Garçon de Chapeau of Cola – the real one – had last made an appearance, the Xixians hadn’t managed to solve their sewage problem.
Torquis was clip-clopping alongside with deceptive submissiveness, which told me he was waiting for somebody to get within biting range. That was what horses did. Creepy was muttering about the unfairness of it all. That was what Creepy did. So in a way, all was well with the world.
“I still think we should use our knowledge of future history and technology to become as Gods upon this Earth,” he concluded.
“How many times do I have to explain this to you?” I sighed. “This isn’t Earth. It’s almost Earth – some of the languages seem to be interchangeable, the culture matches in most parts – but it’s not. If this were Earth, I wouldn’t be able to do this,” I spotted a grubby young street urchin coming our way, and as she limped past us I quickly and discreetly Laid Hands on her.
Creepy was looking at me out of the corner of his eye when I straightened.
“Not without going to jail, you wouldn’t,” he said disapprovingly.
“It’s magic,” I explained, pointing at the little girl, who had begun to skip merrily. “I healed her … whatever it was. Polio, I think. Anyway,” I added, “there’s another problem with your plan. We don’t know anything about Earth’s history or technology except vaguely what might have happened in the past hundred years, and how to use inventions made in the past twenty. We can’t just go and invent the light bulb.”
“They have tungsten in them.”