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The Earl of Zerces: chapter 20
“So then,” Lang asked. “Where are we going next?”
“Well,” the Earl began, when suddenly, he stopped and looked around. “Hold on.”
“What, is another frog going to pop out of the door?” Lang groaned.
“No,” the Earl looked around. “It’s just…”
Just then, a man appeared out of thin air. Lang yelped and lost his footing. As he fell on his rump, the man chuckled.
“Well, he certainly isn’t much,” the man said to the Earl. Lang glanced up at the man to get a good look at him.
When you looked at the man, you would not use the word fat to describe him. Despite the fact that he possessed a considerable amount of girth, you would never call him fat. It was one of those things that the mind does that makes perfect sense until you stop doing it and actually think about it. The man was dressed in splendid robes of black, with a black, furry cloak and a black turban crowning his head. Coarse black hair covered most of the man’s face, and the only pieces of the man’s dark skin that Lang saw were on his hands and around his eyes, which were also black. He carried a walking stick with him, which was crowned with a brilliant lapis lazuli.
“Perhaps,” the Earl smiled. “But I think that he’ll be very important concerning what’s to come.”
“Yes, that war going on between you and the Count,” the man shrugged. “Why do you have to involve everyone else in Zerces in this pointless squabble?”
“You wouldn’t believe me even if I told you,” the Earl sighed. Then he noticed Lang, still sitting on the ground. “Lang, get up. That no way to treat the Boyar/Emir de Black.”
“Boyar/Emir?” Lang furrowed his brow. “How many of you are there?”
“If you’re referring to the Peerage of Zerces,” the Earl raised his pupils in contemplation. “Including me, the Count, the Boyar/Emir de Black, and Herzog Johann, then there’s four.”
“Three, my lad,” the Boyar sighed. “I’m afraid that I won’t be in Zerces for a while.”
“Dear me,” the Earl took off his hat. “Whatever for?”
“Oh, something’s just come up,” the Boyar/Emir de Black shrugged. “You know how it is.”
“I haven’t the faintest inclination of how it is,” the Earl said, as his voice became more and more husky and accented for some strange reason. “But if you gotta go, then you gotta go. You gotta do what you gotta do.”
“Yes, yes,” the Boyar/Emir de Black sighed towards the Earl. Then to Lang, he said, “Well, have fun.”
“Um…” Lang stammered.
“Try not to destroy too much,” the Boyar/Emir de Black started to walk off. “Oh, and be sure to tell me how this all turns out once it’s done.”
“Certainly,” the Earl bowed politely. “Have fun.”
“Thank you,” the Boyar/Emir de Black waved goodbye as he disappeared.
Lang stared blankly at where the Boyar/Emir de Black had gone. He noticed that he was still sitting on the ground, and promptly got back up. Then he suddenly realized what he had just witnesed, and stared blankly into space as this realization seeped further into his mind.
“Really now Lang,” the Earl dusted off his hat before putting it back on. “That’s no way to treat another Peer. Sitting on your rump in consternation? Really, I thought Jules raised you better.”
“There are more,” Lang could only say that. “There are more of you.”
“You mean the Boyar/Emir de Black?” the Earl asked.
“Yes,” Lang was still in shock. “And the other one. What was his name?”
“Herzog Johann?” the Earl asked.
“Yes,” Lang continued to stare dumbly into space.
“Ah yes, Herzog Johann,” the Earl smiled fondly in remembrance. “He and I go far back. He’s really more Herz than Her and Zog. Wonderful fellow.”
“So there’s not just one man messing with everyone and playing God,” Lang placed his hand on his forehead. “There’s four.”
“Hm? Oh no, Lang. The Boyar/Emir de Black and Herzog Johann have no direct power in Zerces,” the Earl explained, perplexed. “They can give me ideas as to what to do, but aside from that, they only have powers in their respective lands.”
“Lands?” Lang stopped staring and turned to the Earl.
“Sorry, I can’t really think of a better word right now,” the Earl scratched the back of his head as he grinned sheepishly. “But I mean places like Zerces.”
Lang’s jaw dropped. “You mean that there are more places like Zerces!?!”
“Oh yes,” the Earl said. “Right now, I’d say there are about several billion, but it’s rising rapidly.”
“And in each of those ‘lands’, there are more worlds?” Lang’s brain couldn’t handle such enormity.
“I suppose so,” the Earl shrugged. “Why not?”
Lang sat back down on the ground.
“So, my whole universe is nothing but a microscopic dot on a microscopic dot,” Lang was aghast.
“I wouldn’t say that,” the Earl, realizing just now what he had said, moved a comforting hand to Lang. “You’re very important; you and your universe. And so is everyone else and everyone else’s universe.”
“But you just said-” Lang began.
“Just because we’re not interested in bugs doesn’t mean that bugs aren’t interested in other bugs,” the Earl smiled.
Lang paused for a moment, and then he said “Was that supposed to be comforting? Because really it just made me more depressed.”
“Really?” the Earl frowned. “I’m sorry. I’m not very good at comforting people.”
“You certainly aren’t,” Lang frowned as well.
“Oh well!” the Earl clapped his hands together and smiled once more. “Back to business. This time Lang, I won’t be able to offer you any assistance. I have business in another world, and so I leave you with this.” The Earl pulled out a handkerchief.
“Please tell me you’re joking,” Lang got up and groaned.
“Not at all,” the Earl grinned wider, and scribbled something on the handkerchief. Then he folded the handkerchief up, put it in his hands, and it morphed into the shape of a jellyfish.
Lang stared blankly at the Earl.
“Yes I know,” the Earl averted Lang’s gaze. “It’s not very graceful. But I don’t want to be accused of blatantly stealing someone else’s idea.”
“You make no sense.” Lang said.
“Do I?” The Earl asked. “I’m sorry.”
“Whatever,” Lang scooted away as the jellyfish floated closer to him. “What business do you have that’s so important?”
“I have to go talk to Lady Death,” the Earl pointed at himself, and then pointed at one of the doors. “And you have to go to that door and deliver this handkerchief to someone.”
Lang looked at the door. It was demonically gothic in design, and made Lang shiver. “How will I know who to deliver the handkerchief to?” Lang asked as he walked over to and opened the door.
“Oh simple,” the Earl said. “He’ll try to kill you.”
“Splendid,” Lang sighed as he walked through the door.