Two elderly women were on their way to the breakfast rooms. They were dressed in matching sh.e.l.l suits and cackled quietly to themselves.
'This is the new foundling, Tiger Prawns,' I said. 'Tiger, these are the Sisters Karamazov Deirdre and Deirdre.'
'Why do they have the same name?'
'They had an unimaginative father.'
They looked very carefully at Tiger, and even prodded him several times with long bony fingers.
'Ha-ho,' said the least ugly of the two, 'will you scream when I stick you with a pin, you little piglet you?'
I caught Tiger's eye and shook my head, to convey they didn't mean anything.
'Prawns?' said Deirdre. 'Is that a Mother Zen.o.bia name?'
'Yes, ma'am,' replied Tiger politely. 'The Blessed Ladies of the Lobster often use crustacean names for the foundlings.'
The sisters looked at me.
'You'll educate him well, Jennifer?'
'To the best of my ability.'
'We don't want another... incident incident.'
And they hobbled off, grumbling to one another about the problem with spaghetti.
'They used to earn good money on weather prediction,' I told Tiger as soon as they were out of earshot, 'a skill now relegated to little more than a hobby after the introduction of computerised weather mapping. Don't stand next to them out of doors. A lifetime's work in weather manipulation has made them very attractive to lightning. In fact, Deirdre has been struck by lightning so many times it has addled her brain and I fear she might be irredeemably insane.'
'Winsump.o.o.p bibble bibble,' said Deirdre as they vanished into the dining room.
'This place is mad,' remarked Tiger, 'even when compared to the Sisterhood. I'm stuck for nine years with a bunch of lunatics.'
'You'll get used to it.'
I was confident that he would. For all the shortage of funds, bad plumbing, peeling wallpaper, erratic incantations and dodgy spells, Kazam was fun fun. The sorcerers spent much of their time talking fondly about the good old days, and telling tales of past triumphs and disasters with equal enthusiasm. Of the days when magic was powerful, unregulated by government, and even the largest spell could be woven without filling out the spell release form B1-7G. When they weren't reminiscing they spent their time in silent contemplation or practising weird experimental stuff that I was happier not knowing about.
'I'll show you to your room.'
We walked down the corridor to where the elevators had once been. They had not worked for as long as anyone could remember, and the ornate bronze doors were wedged open, revealing a long drop to the sub-bas.e.m.e.nts below.
'Shouldn't we take the stairs?' asked Tiger.
'You can if you want. It's quicker to just shout out loud t
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