Hardacre Investigates: Mysterious Missteps

Started by Fabulous Secret Powers, September 07, 2023, 12:27:35 AM

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Fabulous Secret Powers


In a dimly lit office in the Palm Heights, a strangely alluring figure sat, lounging in an aloof manner. The ramshackle chair below him was just barely holding together, despite his featherweight frame. Such furnishings were the only sort that the poor man could afford, due to the overpriced nature of his lodgings. The fact that he dealt with crime, and nobody in Ephia's Well actually wanted it to be solved, didn't help his finances either. Stuck to his lips were four lit cigarettes, and his chair was surrounded by at least a hundred more, all burned down to stubs.

Inspector Jo Hardacre. A half-elf, marked by a complex mixture of both masculinity and femininity. His sensuous appearance confused those with boring taste. Despite this, everyone could tell that he was a man, because he emanated a certain aura of masculinity that wasn't chained by more outdated definitions. Even more curious was the fact that despite his penchant for excess alcohol and chainsmoking, he was perfectly healthy, and extremely good looking. His dashing leather coat, an avant-garde fusion of crocodile and tiger, could barely hide his attractive physique.

He was a truly beautiful creature. Raven black hair which reached his shoulders, preened to such an ultimatum that the shine could blind those of lesser endurance. Stunning hazel eyes, which could find any weaknesses in any scoundrel, whether they were of the moral or romantic sort. A cute little nose, which turned upwards at the tip. Perfectly chiseled abdominal and pectoral muscles, perhaps crafted by the Gods themselves. Tautly round buttocks, formed to perfection by the squats he did during every smoke break. Plainly said, he was hot.

There was a knock at the door. Then another. Then a third. All in the span of one second. Hardacre sighed, and walked to the door, in an aloof manner. His tastefully manicured fingers grasped the handle, opening the rickety door. Whack! The poor inspector received a blow right in the face, dropping him to the dirty floor. It felt like someone had hit him with a greasy bag filled with two misshapen cantaloupes.

"Bonjour, monsieur. Pardon! It seems that my poitrine was too close to the door, non?" undulated a flabby woman from behind the doorframe. She was dressed provocatively, obviously because she couldn't get any attention without doing so. She ran her fingers along her disgusting bags of fat, before more supposedly carnal drivel escaped from her overtly painted lips. "I've an ample case for you, non?"

"I ain't servicing no sluts!" yelled the handsomely beautiful inspector, leaping to his feet, and slamming the door shut. "Not lady ones, anyw—" The door proceeded to bounce off the broad's bosom, causing it to crash straight back into him. Yet again, he found himself on the dingy floor.

"Perhaps I was mistaken, non? I shall leave you then, and annoy someone else with the random usage of my désagréable native tongue, and my humongous sacks of sand, non. Salut! Non."

As the flabby doorstop left, Hardacre cursed under his breath, getting up and closing the door. A mere ten seconds later, there was another knock at the door. The inspector reopened it, ready to yell.

"Sod off, harl—" The inspector's harsh yet well intentioned words were interrupted by a divine sight. A pale elven Nadiri stood there, with a lit cigarette between his fingers. He had curly ginger hair, like a tuft of exquisite saffron. Emerald green eyes, that would cause bijou curiosity even in the most unadventurous of men. Full lips, that had a tendency to quiver in such a way that it made you want to protect him, no matter the cost. His prominent cheeks and cute little nose were further perfected by a layer of adorable freckles. By popular demand, the men's Nadiri uniform had been changed, so that it consisted of tight leggings, a half-shirt that revealed the midriff, and a cute magely tuque. The snug assembly revealed every contour of the elf's mostly slender figure.

"Greetings, good inspector... I am Nadiri Fairbottom... I have a case for you... of the bending sort..." the Nadiri uttered in his lovably low tone, accentuated by a nonchalant vocal fry. He took a pause to adjust his tuque to make himself look even cuter, before continuing. "Reality bending, that is..."

Hardacre only had to look over the Nadiri's most prominent feature for a mere second, before he knew what he wanted.

"I'll take the arse! Uh... The case!"

Fabulous Secret Powers



The usual sounds of the Krak de Roses reverberated throughout the gray stonework. People getting far too enthusiastic about petting some goats. Trumpet solos and shouts about big halberds. Wajeebheads looking for their next hit of that blue ambrosia. A cacophony of desperation.

A curious crowd surrounded the Verdant Stage. An officer of the Fourth legion was attempting to shoo them away. Lieutenant Pree Ik. A stonefolk of gargantuan size. His bulging musculature attracted the attention of many, yet his harsh demeanor soon dissuaded lovestruck fools from further attempts. Despite many calling him hardnosed, he actually had a cute little nose. He had a gorgeously thick beard, not because of any chinful weakness, but rather due to it masculinizing his manly jawline even further.

Hardacre walked up to the Lieutenant, in an aloof manner. Nadiri Fairbottom followed behind, disappointed that he couldn't be in the front.

"Ah. Hardacre. I'm surprised ya ain't too busy
HELPING some REFUGEE in ta HASHEEMA'S HOPE ta get some PAYING work," the Lieutenant bellowed.

"My pleasures ain't no business of yours, Ik. Only my own, and my neighbors'. Now, what the
BLIMEY happened here, yeah?" retorted Hardacre inquisitively.

"Accident. Seems like ta
TALENTED dancer, Twinkletoes, tried ta do an upside down heel-click, but instead... Ta GENTLEMAN kicked 'is own PATOOTIE and died," answered Ik.

"He did what?" asked Hardacre, his chin dropping to the floor.

"'E kicked 'is own
PATOOTIE," the Lieutenant repeated.

"He kicked his own
PATOOTIE?" queried Hardacre again, with his chin now beginning to dig a hole into the stonework below.

"'E kicked 'is own
PATOOTIE! LISTEN!" repeated Ik, in an irritatingly tautological fashion.

"Um, sir, there's also... um, the the deal with the—" an androgynous voice attempted to mutter. The voice belonged to a tiny figure hidden behind the Lieutenant's humongous form. Scarab Pussywillow. A beautiful specimen of a hin. He had luscious blond hair, cropped into multiple gorgeous layers, like windblown dunes. Aquamarine eyes, often just misty enough that you just had to ask what was wrong. A gorgeous swimmer's physique, which he had attained by swimming through the ash like a tiny little sandfish. Since the scarab uniform could be just about anything, he was wearing a silken bathrobe. His nose, it should be noted, was cute and little. His attempt to speak was interrupted by Ik's yelling.

"Shut ta
CONVERSATION up, RECRUIT! What'd I teach ye, last BEAUTIFUL night?!"

"I'm... just a scarab, sir..." whinged Pussywillow, holding his arms behind his curved backside.

CERTAINLY yeah ye are, and don't ya DARE fuhgeddaboud whose scarab ya are, BOY! Or I'll EAT yer FALAFELS!" yelled Ik, grinning toothily.

"I'm your scarab, sir..." Pussywillow murmured, causing Ik to grin even toothlier.

"Good boy... Anyway, get ta
INVESTIGATION in there, Hardacre! Slight's tryin' ta use 'er wrist thingamajig on ta corpse, fer some MYSTERIOUS reason. Dunno why, as this is obviously a TRAGIC accident!" Ik roared, pointing towards the stage.

Hardacre walked up to the stage in an aloof manner, and discovered a malnourished figure, hunched over a flamboyant cadaver. Apothar Slight. True to her name, thin as a straight line. If she hadn't been wearing that potato sack that had been dyed blue, Hardacre wouldn't have had any hopes of finding her.

"Oh hello Hardacre I need to save energy because I only eat one grain of rice a week so I'm speaking really quickly because that makes sense anyway I'm using the wrist whatchamacallit because I detected a gravitational singularity here it seems that someone might have pulled Twinkletoes' leg to his oh no—" The Apothar's string-like arm fell to the floor, not being able to bear the weight of the wrist doohickey any longer. Whatever residuality that remained of her body followed soon after.

"Here, let me help you with that..." Fairbottom stated vocal fryingly, removing the wrist doodad from the skeleton's arm.

"Thank you the wrist gizmo is so heavy because I upgraded it with the Baublium Finder 8000 oh nooooooo—" A slight breeze from the Plaza picked Slight up, and carried her off into the wastes.

She was never seen again.

Fabulous Secret Powers


The queue to the Legate's office meandered like a river, reaching the Pyramid's stairs. A brief meeting with the Astronomers had lasted an entire week, and all the issues of that time period had jumbled together. The Scribes had evacuated the building three days into the crisis, as every petitioner had refused to state their business in advance. They were enjoying a nice beach vacation in Qadira, which had worked out just fine because the Scribe uniform included swimwear as an underlayer.

As Hardacre had no time for such nonsense, he had opted to skip the queue, carrying Fairbottom on his shoulders. This was a mistake, because he couldn't really see much from beneath those thick thighs. Somehow, they managed to reach the fourth floor, and Hardacre kicked the Legate's door open. Nobody protested, because everyone hated that door.

In his ostentatious throne, sculpted out of gold, and bejeweled with various gemstones, sat Faruk al-Fatin. The Sugar Legate. A disgustingly corpulent Ashfolk, covered in so much body hair that he looked like a tiny bear. His toga, weaved out of golden string, was bursting at the seams. As he was fat, there was no reason to describe his physique in elaborate detail. Also, he didn't have a cute little nose.

"Well, I do declare, Hardacre. That was most uncharitable. I reckon that door cost at least 25 dinari. I'll tell you what. If you quit being ugly, I'll forgive you. What brings you to my office? Want some sugar?" the tub of lard bellowed, and digged out some sugar from his pocket, handing it towards the attractive duo.

"Don't camelshite me, Faruk. I know you're connected to the murder. Everyone knows that you gave Twinkletoes plenty of gifts. Some of it wasn't even sugar," Hardacre responded, sliding Fairbottom's tasteful thigh out of the way of his vision, in an aloof manner.

"Oh, don't throw such a hissy fit. I say, your boyfriend looks hungry. Come on, take some!" the assembly of fat hollered, jumping into the air and shoving some sugar into Fairbottom's hands. The Nadiri accepted the sugar, and began shoveling it into his mouth quietly. There was a greasy aftertaste.

"Yes... Yes!" the grognak baby shouted from atop his throne, enjoying the Nadiri's admittedly cute eating far too much. Hardacre groaned.

"If you're done being a gross weirdo, I really want some fu—" A skinny and far too tall figure dropped from the ceiling, interrupting Hardacre by wrestling both him and Fairbottom down to the floor.

"SURPRISE! Meeting inside a meeting! WOO!" the drop-elf yelled. She was dressed in an orange toga, and carried a torch. Oh, and a giant rolled up paper cylinder filled with mizzar. Though the weight of Fairbottom's cheeks on his face made it difficult, Hardacre managed to pull himself up to stand. He looked over the mizzarbearer with angered curiosity, in an aloof manner.

"What the arse? Neenee? Ain't you supposed to be exploring the wastes, looking for vaults containing ancient evils of unspeakable nature, so that you can let them out?" Hardacre asked. Everyone in the queue nodded at his wisdom.

"Oh, we quit that racket! Now we explore our minds, man! What did you think the torches were for?!" the obviously inebriated Neenee answered, using her torch to light the giant mizzar roll. After a few puffs, and a few bottles of wine, she continued. "WOO! Anyhow, Legate, gimme some sugar... Which means to say, can you allot some of the treasury to us so we can have a few parties on that sweet government money?!"

"Heavens to Baz'eel, hold your camels. I ain't funding no party..." the Largeate began, taking in a few puffs of secondhand mizzar, before continuing. "...unless I'm invited! WOO!"

"Of course you are, Legate! Let's celebrate! WOO!" Neenee whooped, lighting another colossal roll of mizzar, smoking two at the same time. Somewhere in the queue, a hedonist of the Sabotage shed a single tear of pride.

An impromptu dance party erupted inside the Largeate's office, as everyone in the queue joined in on the palatial partying. Hardacre joined in too, dancing skillfully, in an aloof manner. However, it was all part of his master plan. He shimmied, pranced and twirled to Fatruk's desk, and began searching through the papers, stained with grease and sugar. There it was! A clue, in the form of an overly convenient note! On the evening preceding the murder, the Largeate had deposited a sizeable amount of dinari and sugar into someone's bank account.

Someone with the initials "NAF".

Fabulous Secret Powers


A beautiful evening. The stars could not calm themselves, and neither could Ephia's Well. Atop the battlements near the Gate of Coin, the enticing duo with a questionable business relationship reclined in their seats, drinking delectable coffee. They were outside the Soot Lamp, which definitely was the only coffee shop in the entirety of Ephia's Well. There were no others. Any tales to the contrary were mere fabrications, pranks played on those who did not know better. For the affordable price of five dinari, anyone could get some delicious and energizing coffee.

The constellation of the Stupid was shining extraordinarily bright tonight, blessing Ephians with their usual intellectual rigour. Fairbottom was stirring his coffee with the handle of his tiny backup broom, meant for emergencies in case he was shrunk to a miniature size. While doing so, he was staring at Hardacre's beautifully handsome face in confusion, though some things he had became more certain of than ever before.

"Why are we here...?" vocalized Fairbottom fryingly.

"Oh, every investigation must involve some inexpensive and palatable coffee... Besides, we ain't had the change to talk much, really, since we keep getting interr—" Hardacre began, interrupting himself to peer around the surroundings. He expected an ash raven to build a nest in his glorious and admittedly homely hair, or perhaps for one of the Balladeers to serenade them about the folly of employment, or maybe even an impromptu Gloomology Card game tournament, but as those did not occur, he continued. "—upted. What's your first name, anyway?"

"Well, Jo... It's Agatino..." the Nadiri revealed.

"Agatino Fairbottom... That ain't no elf name," Hardacre protested.

"Well, I was adopted by some lovely humans... At the young age of 102..." stated Agatino, making further revelations about his tragic past.

"At least you got adopted. I grew up on the rough streets of the Tablet. We had to fend for ourselves, man. Every time me and the other street kids managed to build ourselves a home, a bloody grognak ate it. Or some arsonist burned it down. Blimey. They were really talented, it being stone and all..." one-upped Hardacre, making it evident that his life was far more tragic and interesting.

"Well, being an elf adopted by humans... I obviously lived in a house that wasn't a tree... But was shaped like one..." the Nadiri stated, making a further attempt at some pathos, but couldn't quite manage, as such an abode sounded far too whimsical.

The moonlight glistened off Fairbottom's cheeks. The bountiful cheeks of his absolutely beautiful face, that is. It did shine off the apex of his glorious butt cheeks also, as those slinky leggings could just barely contain their wanton desires. But that was merely a coincidence.

"So, what are you into, Agatino?" questioned the inspector.

"Oh... The usual... Bread with muhammara... Being excessively adorable... Guys with huge co—" Fairbottom was interrupted by a shooting star. He stared at Hardacre's gorgeous sweat-laden chest, revealed through his tastefully sheer attire. The Nadiri made a wish that his deepest desires would come true, before continuing. "—in purses..."

"Muhammara is the best spicy dip for accompanying some bread, and anyone who disagrees is a bloody idiot... As for me, being a detective in Ephia's Well, I obviously enjoy not being paid, sorting out other people's screwups, and Nadiri with big bu—" A sudden chase interrupted the detective conveniently. Three elven pickpockets, chased by an overweight janissary. She was obviously unable to catch them. Hardacre kicked the rotund chump over the wall, and continued. "—siness. After all, you run a succesful tuque stall on the side. Everyone knows that."

There was a pause, as the two stared into each other's ravishing eyes. The connection they shared over muhammara was undeniable, for certain, but there was something more. A primordial passion, embedded in the hearts of every man with actual taste. The adorable Nadiri coughed nervously, prompting Hardacre to continue with his questions.

"So, what made you join the Astronomers?"

"Well, my adoptive family has always worked under utterly insane mages... So I figured that I might as well continue that adoptive tradition... Wasn't always like that, though... I used to be a broom dancer before deciding to follow my adopted destiny..." murmured Agatino.

"What the shite is a broom dancer?" asked the fabulous detective, and for good reason. Broom dancing was an ancient art, of which many did not know of.

"Oh, it's someone who dances around a broom... and slowly strips down to their underwear while doing that..." the Nadiri by day, dancer by night answered. Hardacre's tongue rolled onto the table. Steam started coming out of his ears. He slammed his fist against his powerfully yet delicately beating heart, making sounds akin to a lustful trumpet. Fairbottom bit his lip impishly before continuing. "As I knew my way around a broom... being a Nadiri sort of came naturally to me..."

"Blimey. That's hot and dishy... Much like Xu Yin's falafels, which you can buy at the Souk, for only six dinari. To change the topic to something utterly uninterestingly boring... What's your thesis about, anyway?" added Hardacre to his establishing questionnaire, in an aloof manner.

"Oh... Gravity singularities, and how they can be used to manipulate body parts..."

Fabulous Secret Powers


In the Souk of Salt and Spices, the chase of the century was afoot. Hardacre ran after Fairbottom as fast as he could, but the slender frame of the tempting Nadiri gave him quite the advantage. While the sight of Agatino's backside made Hardacre walk like a camel, it did not grant him the speed of one. As we all know, the camel is the fastest land animal. As such, camel theft was the only hope that the detective had left, in order to catch such a speedy little mink. And so, Hardacre proceeded to commandeer a camel from a drunken Janissary of the Third Legion, and gave chase in the fastest way possible. In an aloof manner.

For a moment, the odds were evened. Yet the playful Nadiri soon slid his fingers along the length of his broom, muttering a few words of astrological enchantment. And soon, the broom was levitating above the ground. The Nadiri leaped atop it, and started moving at an alarming speed. Agatino had regained his advantage, even if the broom could barely handle the weight of his rump.

"Oh my gosh... Stop being such a Nadiri chaser, Jo... Sure, all of the evidence seems to point towards me... But I could never kill Twinkletoes... I am not capable of such a crime against the art of dance... Also, he was really hot... I could only kill a really ugly person..." Agatino murmured lengthily behind him.

"If ya ain't guilty, then stop running... Err, flying on yer broom! If there ain't no guilt, ya ain't got no reason to run! Blimey!" yelled Hardacre, giving his camel a quick smack on the hump.

"But I love the chase... I didn't really want you to stop... I can't help myself... Besides, if you knew the truth, then we'd never... We'd never..." the Nadari purred clumsily, stumbling to collect his thoughts. The sensuous figure of Agatino was becoming smaller and smaller, as he got further away from the tastefully dressed detective.

Hardacre had to think fast. And act fast. So he did. Digging through his detective bag for some of Xu Yin's humongous falafels, he threw a few of them at Agatino. It worked! The Nadiri could not resist those greasy balls of chickpea and pork, and began nibbling on them adorably. The added weight slowed him down noticeably. Hardacre continued throwing more falafels at him, and with every throw, the Nadiri's speed decelerated.

"Mm... Nom... These are too good... And so cheap and affordable..." uttered Agatino, shoving more and more falafels inside his mouth, looking like a chipmunk before winter. And then, due to a lack of focus...

The Nadiri crashed into a wall. His broom splintered into a thousand pieces, and the poor astronomer landed on his head. Thankfully, due to all the sand, it was a soft landing.

Stricken with worry, Hardacre pulled on the reins, and jumped off the camel. As you can't really slow down a camel, the animal kept running. And running. Through buildings, through the walls of the Well, through the Shade, leaving a camel-shaped hole in all of them. Some say that the camel is still somewhere, running. Running away from its troubles. Running away from its past. Running away from the truth. That camel had lived a hard life.

Hardacre ran up to Agatino, pulling him up to stand. He examined the Nadiri carefully, making sure that he wasn't wounded. Yet the Nadiri had only hurt his pride, and was sobbing, tears streaming down his cheeks.

"I... I l—" the Nadiri stuttered, but was interrupted by Hardacre.

"Ya love me?! Blimey!"

"What...? Fuck no... We've only known each other for one day... But I like you a lot... You're really good looking... And you're kind of an asshole, but in a strangely endearing way... So I wondered if we could have a casual fling... Maybe even make it a regular weekly thing if there's more to you than meets the eye... What do you think...?" responded Agatino with a flush, looking to Hardacre curiously.

"Does this answer yer question?!" yelled the strangely endearing detective, and pulled Agatino closer. Their gorgeous eyes locked. It was if time had stopped. And finally...

Hardacre pushed his lips against Agatino's. The Nadiri's emerald eyes revealed a hint of surprise, stuck wide open. Yet he did not pull back, and soon responded by wrapping his lips around Hardacre's lower lip, tugging on it playfully. Soon, their lips interlocked yet again. A salty kiss, one that tasted of sweat and cigarettes. A curious mixture of grime and ecstasy. Agatino's crimson curls ruffled against Hardacre's face softly, a silken embrace that tickled euphorically. As their lips danced around each other, the Nadiri's fingers kept wandering, from the inspector's sinewy chest to his shapely abs. Hardacre's approach was rougher, fondling Agatino's comely thighs with a vigorous grip.

It might not have been a loving kiss, but it was passionate. Years of yearning, satisfied for a moment, in an instance of warmth. After what felt like an hour, the two pulled away from each other, still gazing into each other's eyes.

"I like that answer... You get really handsy when you kiss, don't you...? Also, why are you talking like that now...?" Agatino swooned, pushing Hardacre's hand away from his butt. His breathing was intense.

"I got more comfortable so I ain't got to talk in my slightly more professional voice... So if ya didn't kill Twinkletoes, then what bloody git did?" said Hardacre, beginning to stroke Agatino's hair.

"Oh... It was probably Zenithar Bhuta... He's assessing my thesis, so he's intimately familiar with it... Also, he's an evil sociopath who likes killing people through elaborate schemes that make it look like someone else did it..." the Nadiri answered, placing his hand against Hardacre's.

"Bhuta... That plonker! It all makes sense now!" yelled the detective, hurting the ears of the nosey spectators who had been gawking at the duo's intimate moment from their windows. He threw a few of the leftover falafels at the onlookers to distract them, before continuing. "Anyway, we got plenty of time before we go to the Mount. Wanna neck for a few hours?"

Agatino nodded quietly. And so, they necked in the alley for a few hours.

Fabulous Secret Powers


The distractingly blue lobby of the Astronomers' Tower was filled with strange devices. Like the thingy that pulled stars closer to the Disc. Or the widget that hauled the Disc closer to the stars. And what about the thingamabob that brought stars and the Disc closer to each other? Oh, and there was of course, the most important invention of all time: the Opuntianator 8000. It was capable of removing needles from prickly pears in a matter of seconds. Its invention had ensured that the Astronomers would receive their share of the allotment until the end of time.

In the corner, three Nadiri were holding their weekly book club. They seemed confused about the intentions of an irreverent novelette. They had high expectations, despite it only being published as filler in the worst tabloids of the Well.

"I think it got too obvious in the later chapters," bumbled the first dweeb.

"I think it was too scatterbrained, at first..." titubated the second dickweed.

"In my opinion, there should be more competent women!" stammered the third noddy.

A dimensional portal opened in the ceiling, and a miniature starwhale fell on the obnoxious trio, crushing them under its weight.

"Oh nooooo I guess we should have respected the artistic inteeeeent!" they yelled in painful unison, realizing the consequences of their actions.

Agatino proceeded to sweep the starwhale's head with his new and shiny broom. The strange animal spouted some water up from its blowhole as a sign of gratitude. Amidst the stream of water was a muffin. Agatino accepted it, and began munching on the bizarre bun. Hardacre shook his head, not approving of the consumption of baked goods of dubious origin. He then began walking towards the front desk. Behind it sat an intellectually beautiful hin woman, with such a friendly presence that even Hardacre had to accept the fact that he liked her, even though he didn't really do friends.

"Here to see Zenithar Bhuta," Hardacre said, showing his official badge of the Office of Hardacre to the hin.

"M'kay, honey. Would that be, um, Zenithar Kokou Bhuta, Zenithar Al Mont-Bhuta, or Zenithar Helianthus Bhuta?" the receptionist queried. She was the most esteemed receptionist in Ephia's Well. Diplomas, medals, trophies. She had them all, and not through nepotism, but due to her own hard work. She also had a complex yet healthy social life, one with many close friends. She volunteered at Hasheema's Hope, and her colleagues had a deep respect for her. In short, she had it going on.

"How many bloody Bhutas are th—" began the detective, before being interrupted, yet again, in an aloof manner.

"Zenithar Kokou Bhuta..." mumbled Agatino from behind Hardacre, still gnawing on that outlandish muffin.

"Um, m'kay, he's on the 54th floor, room U7042. And um, like, there's 67 Bhutas among our ranks. It's a big family. And they're like, totally all into astronomy, m'kay? It's like, so humbling, to have such a dedicated family working here with me? So inspiring!" answered the receptionist, in an amiable manner.

The sensual duo, having been serviced in a most competent fashion, took steps towards another astronomical invention. The dimensional elevator. It was able to move dimensionally, from one floor to the other. Its motion was 0.2% faster than a regular elevator, giving the Astronomers an important advantage in elevatorial efficiency. They stepped inside, and Agatino quietly pressed the 54th button from a total of 282. The elevator began moving, teleporting from one floor to the next.

"So, uh. Would ya l-" began the prone to be interrupted inspector.

"I have a headache..." interrupted Agatino mischievously.

"I wasn't going ta ask about that!" protested Jo Hardacre, detective extraordinaire.

"You're insatiable..." teased Agatino.

"I was going ta ask if ye'd like some halva!" the confectionery possessing inspector revealed.

"You have such a dirty mind..." tantalized the tantalizing Nadiri.

"IT'S HALVA, YA HUSSY!" yelled Hardacre, throwing some delicious sesame halva at Agatino. It landed right in his mouth. He began chewing happily, with an impish smile.

It was a long and eventful elevator ride, full of hijinks and tomfoolery, all of which originated from the devilish Nadiri.

Fabulous Secret Powers


The elevator doors slid open. Floor 54. A strange, labyrinthine place, consisting of disturbingly blue corridors that seemed to continue on endlessly. The risqué duo began their search, looking over the name plates on the various doors. U3113 – Philosophical Enquiries of Consequential Rationalism... U4459 – Department of Insect Care and Keeping... U5678 – Congregation of Oracles for the Containment of Knowledge...

Finally! U7042 – Muscle Enhancement via Astronomical Technology. Hardacre kicked the door open, which was easy, as it was one of those 25 dinari doors. Inside, behind a giant granite desk, sat a human of enormous size, wearing Zenithar robes. They were ridiculously tacky, and just barely managed to fit his gorged frame.

Zenithar Kokou Bhuta. An imposing figure, yet with several embarassing qualifiers. He was tall like a tree, if said tree used heels to further enhance its already ludicruous height. He had extremely sinewy musculature, yet not because of any diet or routine, but rather due to an exorbitant amount of magical enhancement and muscle enhancing herbs. A bushy brown beard, that was obviously just a bunch of goat hair that he had adhered to his embarassingly weak chin. He was pale as untouched snow, which made him look more like an anemic jester than a mage of renown. And last, but not least... He had a malformed schnoz, which was neither little nor cute.


Agatino stared at the Zenithar for a moment, looking as if he was ready to say something. Yet the phrasing was so obvious in its bawdiness that he didn't see any point in adding anything, so he just shrugged.

"Feck, this duffer's voice carries a lot!" interjected Hardacre.

"Oh... He's just enhanced his voice with the power of the stars... You should hear his regular one... It's like a gnomish teenage boy... Going through a voice change... While high on several stimulants..." Agatino revealed.


"Ugh... Fine. Reveal yer cack-handed plan. I'm sure it's as interesting as a debate about ta Gate of Sand..." Hardcare said, gesturing Bhuta to hurry up with it.


Agatino and Hardacre were engaged in an enthusiastic exchange of Gloomology Cards, not paying any attention to the dull monologue. Agatino's deck was based around maximizing Wine Element cards, which was easily the best strategy, an obvious fact that was denied only by utter morons. Zenithar Bhuta was not pleased. He slammed his fist against the desk and changed his tirade to a more desperate one.


"Oh, don't worry, ya yammered about light and sun so much that I caught ta gist of it... A Pra'rajite among ta Astronomers? Blimey, that's a tad rich... In obviousness!" retorted Hardacre.


"That don't make any bloody sense," stated the detective in confusion.

"YOU'RE JUST A DETECTIVE, HARDACRE! WHAT DO YOU KNOW?!" Bhuta questioned impotently.

"I know that pale arse of yers is going ta get a touch of color, toots," said Hardacre, firing a quick shot from his pocket crossbow towards the Zenithar's crystal ball, which was on top of a granite bookcase behind him. The bolt ricocheted off it, straight into Zenithar's snowy buttocks, in an aloof manner. Bhuta seemed unfazed, and merely tensed those disgustingly sinewy globes, crushing the bolt into a thousand pieces.

"HARDACRE, PLEASE. THIS GIRTHY PHYSIQUE IS NOT JUST FOR SHOW. NOW WOULD YOU BE SO KIND AS TO TAKE YOUR BEAUTY SLEEP?" Bhuta uttered mockingly, slamming his veiny fist against a button on his desk. Soon, sleeping gas started pouring into the room. Escape was futile, as the button had also erected a Shade barrier around the doorframe. As Hardacre fell to the floor drowsily, Agatino made a last moment effort to wrap his arms around the detective's alluringly gorgeous body.

Adorable snoring soon followed.

Fabulous Secret Powers


Hardacre's eyes opened. Blurred vision, conjoined with a massive migraine, made it difficult to discern anything beyond a disarray of blue-green shapes. Yet soon those fuzzy patterns assembled into the outlines of what looked to be palm trees and various ferns. Below him, absurdly soft moss and grass, offering him a great deal of comfort. Above him, the moon and the stars offering what little light they could muster. And on top of him... Agatino Fairbottom, clutched against his chest, and seemingly sleeping, offering him a fair share of saliva.

"Wake up from yer kip, Agatino! Case ain't over yet!" Hardacre yelled, his mouth tasting as if a frog had lived inside for at least a week.

"Mmh... But it's so comfy here... Fine... Let's get to it, then..." mumbled Agatino, leaping up to stand with graceful ease.

"Waitaminute, why didja sleep anyhow!? Elves ain't supposed ta do that!" questioned the detective. He arched his back upwards, to sit against the comfy greenery below him.

"Well... Being an elf adopted by some lovely humans... And a very empathic elf, at that... I am able to imitate sleeping... And I felt sorry for you, so I did that... Also I wanted to feel your chest against my face..." the elf confessed.

"Bloody hells, I'm flattered and fuming at ta same time... Anyway, where ta feck are we?" the detective asked, glancing around from his seat of moss.

Agatino took out his sextant, and pointed it towards the skies. After a few quick measurements, he was able to give his answer.

"Considering that the constellation of the Stupid stays perpetually above Ephia's Well... Combined with these mathematological measurements... I would say that we are somewhere off the coast of Qadira... Perhaps even... Goblin Island..."

Just then, a young goblin with a most elaborate white wig walked up to the duo, and began leaning against his cane dandily. Dressed in a red justaucorps, black leggings and black court shoes, he eminated an aura of dignity and style that was completely foreign to most of his kinsfolk. And most Ephians.

"Salutations! Be welcomed to... Goblin Island!" the dandy goblin stated, in a surprisingly amiable fashion.

"Get ta feck away from us, goblin man!" Hardacre yelled, and began massaging his temples, in an aloof manner.

"How rude and prudish! I was merely going to inquire if you'd be interested in the exchange of some delectable antiques. I simply cannot resist something old and venerable... Matured to perfection by the passage of time... Marked by experience..." the goblin continued, licking his lips.

"Nope. Gotta say though, yer quite eloquent fer a goblin..." the inspector remarked.

"Oh, I attended the College of the Balladeers for a spell... What a grand old time. The parties... The sponsorships... The risqué tension between us and the Banda... Whew!" voiced the antique dealer, fanning himself by hand.

"What did you specialize in...?" Agatino inquired.

"Decoupage. I adored it. But I am certain that you two are very much aware of how volatile trends are in Ephia's Well... So I had to switch to paper marbling. I loved it too, simply marvellous... But then the mode shifted towards papier-mâché... And that was just too fucking silly for me! So I moved back here, to my childhood home... Goblin Island. And now I'm an antique dealer! Pity that all the other goblins keep trying to kill me!"

"Grand, just grand... Ya wouldn't happen ta know where Zenithar Bhuta is...?" enquired Hardacre, not caring much for paper crafts. He preferred macramé.

"Oh, right over there," the posh goblin answered, pointing his cane towards a massive sunbleached shape in the distance. An ur-colossi skull. The gargantuan remnant's eye sockets and mouth were flanked by a number of torches and braziers. Their flames swayed in the evening breeze, creating eerie shadows along the osseous walls.

"That's bloody convenient. Thanks!" Hardacre uttered, performing a cartwheel to stand up.

"It is no trouble. And I do hope that you enjoy your stay on... Goblin Island," the goblin expressed ominously. He then gave his cane a whack, after which it transformed into a comfortable armchair. Sitting down, he began sipping tea from a floral cup, raising it upwards to bid the couple goodbye.

As they took their initial steps towards the skeletal lair, the duo began wondering why exactly Bhuta had dumped them on the island with nary an obstacle in their way.

Fabulous Secret Powers


The journey to the cranial lair was rather uneventful. Pleasant, in fact, since Agatino had packed enough snacks with him to share. The massive natural structure now stood before the duo, a yellowish vestige of the past that had lost its alabaster gloss aeons ago. Its fearsome aura was undermined by the embarassingly simplistic entrance. It was a shabby affair, consisting of red brickwork and one of those 25 dinari doors. Hardacre prompted to kick the door, causing the entire wall to fall down with great ease.

Behind the entrance was what seemed like an endless corridor. Blue carpet. Blue wallpaper. Blue ceiling tiles. Such was the Astronomer obsession with blue. They were the Disc's foremost manifacturers of blue dye, as everybody else refused to make something that they wouldn't get paid for. The duo began walking through the hall, and after about ten minutes of utterly dreadful walking, they finally reached the center of the lair, and what they saw was simply eerie.

A colossal contraption of Pra'raji make. Countless pillars of copper and steel permeated the dreary chamber, so flawless and stainless that observing them felt simply wrong, somehow. Sinuous tubes emerged out of them, slithering towards a central platform, raised high above the metallic floor. And on that platform levitated Zenithar Bhuta. A true display of his magical aptitude, as he weighed a few tons. Gravitational magic was pouring out of his palms into the various thingamabobs and thingamajigs of the peculiar device.


"Please skip the monologue... You oversized beef jerky..."

"Yeah! Why'd ya just leave us on this bloody island, anyway?"


"Yeah, about that... Was just one goblin. And a bloody weird one, too. He liked old junk... And he liked old junk."


"We did pass by a goblin fortress on our way here... But since it's Tesrin Hray... Their only gate was closed... So they couldn't get out..."


"Ya ain't that good at this, are ye?"


"Well, ye coulda, I dunno... Trapped us inside a cell of sorts, with poisonous gas seeping in at timed intervals. Filled it with materials that we woulda needed to craft tools outta to escape. Make us use our smarts in a timely fashion, and all."


"Or you could have sealed us inside our own minds through a psionic trap... Forced us to face our fears... Like Hardacre's fear of commitment... Or my fear of fat people..."

"Yeah! That's bloody brilliant! Wait... I ain't scared of commitment! I just like bonking strangers, but I hate cheating!"


Increasing quantities of graviturgical energy began streaming out of Bhuta's disturbingly veiny hands. Hardacre grasped his pocket crossbow, and shot a couple of distracting shots towards the Zenithar. The bolts were quickly dispatched with a few lightning bolts, yet while the beef jerky was occupied with that, Agatino and Hardacre had started leaping from one pillar to the next, dexterously moving alongside the dense metalworks. The Zenithar kept hurling lightning at the brave duo after every hop. Yet Bhuta's excessive frame, combined with the additional pressure from the altered air, made his movements slow and arduous.

Soon, our questionably attached couple had reached the swollen Zenithar. Agatino proceeded to slam the handle of his broom against Bhuta's ugly face, yet it seemed to simply bounce off it. Bhuta merely laughed, and suspended Agatino inside a gravitational bubble. The pressure of the magical prison was so heavy that the Nadiri was sneering out of agony. Hardacre knew that if he didn't do something soon, Agatino would be crushed like an ant. He also knew that there was only one option left... The dirtiest trick in the book. 

He cartwheeled backwards to get some distance for speed...

He then began running towards Bhuta, leaping to the sides to dodge any further lightning bolts...

And with great glee, he proceeded to kick the Zenithar right in the crotch. The crunchy sound of his steel-toe boot hitting those underdeveloped grapes echoed throughout the room.

Suddenly, the surge of graviturgy ceased. Bhuta fell against the platform with a loud thud, holding onto the smallest part of his body. He was crying. Lowered from his gravitational confinement, Agatino ran up to Hardacre, embracing him in a loving hug.

"piss," bhuta squeaked impotently, now sounding like a castrated mouse.

"Seems like yer dealing with a minor nuisance down there, Bhuta!" Hardacre said, turning over Bhuta with a kick to the side. He took out some enchanted manacles from his pocket, locking them in place around the emasculated idiot's wrists and ankles.

"oh fuck you nnngh uh that isn't me um that's actually mgh my mirror image yeah i'm really good nnnnggh at illusions too so i can make it feel just as ngh disgustingly lumpy as my actual body nnggh it hurts"

"Uh-huh. If this ain't ye, why are ya in pain, then? And why'd yer voice change?"

"umm i got a sudden headache and uhh the sending head nnngh i am using to speak with you is um it is uhh really old and broken ngggh much like my balls mmggh uh ignore that it was uhh the guy who sells balls yeah he sells balls get out of here ball merchant nnnggh spokes it hurts so fucking much"

"Yer a moron, shuddup."

Hardacre grasped the wrist manacles, and tried to pull Bhuta along. Even he couldn't manage to do so, despite his painstakingly earned physique. He shrugged, and rummaged through his detective bag, taking out a bell. He rang it once. Just five seconds later, Lieutenant Pree Ik crashed through the ceiling, Scarab Pussywillow on his shoulders.

"Shit, Hardacre! Ya interrupted an important training session, this best be fucking important... Oh."

"oh grand just nnnggh grand it is the two janissaries who spend mmggh more time fornicating than working nnrrrggh everyone knows that you are doing it too aagggh it hurts i do not know why you bother making it sound like it has anything to do with work either aughh"

Ik and Pussywillow shrugged concurrently. Pussywillow jumped off Ik's shoulders, and grabbed the chains around Bhuta's ankles. Ik grabbed the ones around his wrists. They then lifted the Zenithar up with surprising ease, and carried him off, waving to Agatino and Hardacre as they left through that corridor of blue.

"You did it... Hardacre... You solved the case... I knew that you could do it..."

"Yeah? I was mostly improvising. I just got a horseshoe up me arse. Blimey. How are we getting off this fecking island, anyway? I don't even know how those two got here. Or why. I was just ringing that bloody bell to annoy Bhuta."

"Oh... Goblin Island is famous for its ferry... Tourists from all around the Disc come to see it..."

"A ferry? That's bloody convenient. Let's see it, then..."

Agatino grabbed Hardacre's hand, and the two walked off, hand in hand. Behind them, the Pra'raji device stirred to life, electricity and graviturgical energy surging through its serpentine tubing... Until the whole contraption fell apart, disintegrating into a pile of metallic powder.

Granny Bhuta's allowance wasn't that considerable, in the end.

Fabulous Secret Powers


In a not-so-dimly lit office in the Palm Heights, an obviously alluring detective sat, next to his absolutely adorable beau. The payment for the gravity patootie case had been so great that Hardacre could afford another ramshackle chair and a lantern. Such rewards made the job all worth it. Or perhaps they didn't, and Hardacre simply enjoyed solving cases anyway. The two were surrounded by many guests, who had arrived to the dingy office to celebrate Hardacre's genius. Everyone that they had met during the case was there. Well, everyone except Apothar Slight. She was still missing. Her wanted posters depicted a thin line, and nothing else.

"I do declare, Hardacre. That was some mighty fine detective work. I already deposited that 50 dinari into your bank account, but I'll tell you what... I'm feeling mighty charitable, so I'll get you connected with one of my many delectable interns, too... My treat!" stated the Sugar Legate, raising a glass of what seemed to be clumps of sugar, grease and wine. Such a mix was often called a Sloppy Legade in the back alleys of the Well.

"Don't need any sluts... Because I'm marrying this one!" Hardacre said, giving Agatino a swift smack on the butt. Agatino swooned, bringing his well manicured hands up to his cheeks.

"Wow... Marriage... Due to our promiscuous personalities, this is surely a difficult step for us both, certain to change our lives forever... Of course I'll marry you, Jo... It's destiny, as divined by the Witch of Love and Lust, whom we met during our ferry ride... Also, you're really hot, and your muhammara is so delicious..."

"Yeah, we'll hafta talk about ta details later... I ain't getting you any bloody gifts either. Too expensive. It's why I invited ta squad of morons that we met on our adventure here, actually. Now they're forced ta give us gifts later, 'cause they can't say that they didn't know."

"Woo! You know, Hardacre..." Neenee began, lighting another rolled up paper cylinder of mizzar. This was her tenth. The guests had arrived five minutes ago. "...as a filthy hedonist, I don't agree with the obviously reactionary construct that is marriage. But if it makes you two happy... And as long as you two invite me to all of the parties involved... I won't burn your office down to sate my pyromania! WOO!"

"As an aside, I must thank you for catching my great-nephew. He did not exemplify the values of the Astronomers of Q'tolip... Of which there are none. But he was still especially bad. What a jerk! The Bhutas are so embarassed by him that we're completely disowning him! The Astronomers, on the other hand, are simply giving him a stern warning... It's what he deserves!" A kindly old man dressed in gaudy blue robes murmured. Zenithar Helianthus Bhuta. He had a smile that made it obvious that he was one of those geezers that carried an assortment of various mints and taffies in his pockets. Soon, he had given at least ten to everyone in the room.

"You never know, Hardacre... Perhaps marriage shall be your hardest case yet!" said the geezer loving, antique dealing goblin, whose tiny figure was hidden behind the corpulent form of the Largeate. He was there too, hired as al-Fatin's newest intern. As a further oddity, his attempt at a joke caused everyone in the room to burst into laughter. Well, everyone except Hardacre and Agatino. They had actual taste.

"Shuddup, ya morons! It ain't that funny!"

"It really wasn't... Gosh... Did Neenee's mizzar have something else in it, as well...?"

Despite their protests, the laughter continued for a few hours. It was so loud and obnoxious that the newly engaged couple had to abandon the office. They took the stairs up to the Soot Lamp's terrace. And there, beside the definitely only coffee shop of a definitely stupid town, they proceeded to gaze at the nocturnal outline of Ephia's Well. They grasped each other's hands tightly, sharing a moment of meaningful silence.

"Jo... I look forward to spending the rest of our lives together..."

"Aww, feck. I ain't good at this sappy shite... But sure, I look forward ta it too."

"One does not have to be an unemployed Balladeer to know how to speak of love, Jo... There are three simple words, that everyone knows..."

"Let's jump bones?"

"I love you..."

"Oh! I love ye, too..."

Our delectable couple embraced each other, beginning a a kiss that would last the entire evening. Elsewhere, it was business as usual... Somewhere in the Souk, a cat enjoyed its eternal slumber. In the Krak, bloodthirsty brutes prepared for goblin genocide. In Hasheema's Hope, wormers shoved worm meat into a strange contraption. In the Hall of Jurisprudence, jurists argued whether killing janissaries about to arrest you was an act of self-defense or not. But here, on top of the battlements...?

Something new, yet something old... Something that could perhaps last... Something that could bloom, even in such a thoroughly hopeless town as Ephia's Well...