Later that evening, the Mudsharks set out in pursuit of Dinner. Down into the long tunnels and corridors which provided a useful, if somewhat dangerous thoroughfare under the ancient city, they made their voracious way.
Scarcely had they entered one of the dank tunnels, when Le.. Cholmondoley was approached from two sides by a couple of ruffians, who, heedless of the danger they placed themselves in by being disreputable in the presence of The Family, squeezed the hapless Mudshark between them in a stylish pinzer movement.
"I say!" commented Le.. Cholmondoley sharply "Have a care, ruffians, for I am a Mudshark, and even as I speak, I perceive your dastardly intentions, not to mention your hand sneaking all-too-visibly underneath my flowing cape and towards my capacious purse! Unhand me, or I shall not be responsible."
The ruffian wilted visibly. "Give us a break, guv," he whined pathetically, and somewhat foreignly "It’s the boy’s first day on the job" – he motioned with his head to his drooling and grinning companion. "Trying to get ‘is licence, ‘e is. Got to pass ‘is exams. Couldn’t you just … well… pretend you haven’t seen us? I know – you could go out and come in again, and we could approach you, threateningly and with menace, from another direction. How about we pin you down on the floor? Does that work for you?"
Le.. Cholmondoley’s steely stare brooked no argument. "Begone!" he cried. "Pivo! – ah, thank you - Never corner a thirsty Mudshark again, if you know what’s good for you!"
The two ruffians slunk away, dispirited, and the rest of the Family congratulated Le.. Cholmondoley on his diplomatic handling of what could have been a nasty international incident.
Le… Choldmondoley’s popularity was shortlived with Florentina, however, when she discovered that his Sausage Conspiracy Theory had made its mark on the evening’s repast.
"I see a suspiciously visible presence of vegetables on the menu", she grumbled (Monty took a napkin and attempted to wipe these off, to no avail)
"Stiff upper lip and all that, Flo," encouraged Sylvia "For, behold – the comestibles in this worthy establishment are not entirely a waste of your carnivorous time" And Sylvia indicated a favourite delicacy of Flo’s
"Garlic Chicken Feet! Splendid!" cried Flo, her spirits raised, and several other Mudsharks echoed her sentiment, with calls for many orders of this popular dish. Yet when it came, somehow it was not all Flo had been expecting.
"Chicken feet aplenty," she conceded, "..yet somehow it seems to lack, well, garlic, to be precise." "Ho, waitress!" she called, snapping her finger in the direction of the native serving wench.
"Tell me, my good woman, is there plenty of garlic in this sauce, for I can taste but little"
The woman looked at Florentina with a strange expression. "Off course it contains ze noxious stuff. Vhye vould ve include that vile and evil herb in ze menu iff ve vere going to substitute something much less repellent and hateful, possibly even mustard, Heh?"
Florentina shrugged "Search me. But I’m a bit cross that it isn’t as garlicky as I had hoped"
"Cross? Did you say cross??" shrieked the woman, and vanished in a flurry of her long cape.
"Odd sort. " mused Flo "Oh well, fanks anyway…" she called after the departing woman, who was unaccountably not to be seen in the large mirror adjacent to the table.
"Drink up," encouraged Monty, refilling her glass with a full-bodied red liquid. "It’s just a local foible"
"I am a man of refined taste and artistic sensibility, yeay, even without recourse to green fairies," he told his sceptical spouse "… and I have long yearned to decorate the draughty Towers with fine artworks. Artworks depicting astrological bodies, natural phenomena, mathematical designs and curliques…"
"…and semi-dressed women" added Flo (who wasn’t born yesterday)
"There is that." said Monty.
Fortunately for Monty’s artistic ambitions, he discovered that the divining card worked admirably well in procuring such things, and more!
The Bohemian spring weather was proving to be everything the Mudsharks were used to, bar the pouring rain. The air was refreshing, and frostbite a possibility on any exposed flesh. Monty’s advanced brain power, and the heat it subsequently generated, had caused him to lose some insulation upon this area, and, wishing to preserve his grey matter for destruction by alcohol, he sought to purchase a head covering fit for a man of his stature.
"What do you think, Flo?" he enquired of his wife, as he modelled his newly purchased hat.
Flo surveyed the dead animal atop Monty’s head and nodded her approval.
"It suits you, Monty. And will, co-incidentally, go remarkably well with my imitation beaver-fur biker jacket"
"It is of the finest weasel pelt" boasted Monty
"Tovarich" agreed Gregori.
"Still away with the fairies, Gregori?" enquired Sylvia "Tell us, how went your afternoon?"
"Kalashnikov!" exclaimed Gregori excitedly "da-ga da-ga da-ga da-ga…"
"Frankly," said Sylvia, "I wish he’d just cut off his ear and have done with it"…
Next day, Gregori had obviously taken Sylvia’s warning about his impending lobular amputation to heart, and had vowed to abstain from the absinthe. To prove his good intentions, and to prove that his coordinating skills were still keen, he seized the opportunity to organize the traditional celebration in a brewery.
"Staropramen" he announced to the eager Sharks. "Pivo!"
"Pivo!" they chorused enthusiastically, and set forth from the hostelry,
Mindful of the previous day’s adventure in the subterranean passages, the Sharks were vigilant as they made their progress, and all seemed well at first, but As they quit the tunnels for the light of day, the unlucky Le.. Cholmondoley was once again approached by a strange, foreign type, who halted his progress.
"Good grief, not again!" groaned Le.. Cholmondoley, but his assailant was unmoved.
"It has been brought to my attention that you have been the subject of pocket-pilfering activities. Under By-law 184, section 14b, subsection 12(vii), subjects of pocket-pilfering (or attempted pocket-pilfering) are required to have a licence to be pocket-pilfered. If you do not have the required licence, I shall have to ask you to accompany me to the station!"
Le…Cholmondoley protested his innocence, and in an effort to persuade the fellow that he was an innocent traveller with no knowledge of local customs, he thrust his hands into his pockets to indicate their emptiness. To his surprise, he found there a small piece of paper, which the Pocket-Pilfering Inspector snatched from his hand and stamped with an official flourish.
"Well I’ll be blowed!" exlaimed Le.. Cholmondoley "perhaps our trainee pocket-pilfering friends have a future in the trade after all. Now all they have to do is learn to take things out."
"Oh do hurry up Le.. Cholmondoley," scolded Sylvia "Some of us have not had a beer in many a long minute, and even this false tooth which I had fitted prior to our journey has now run dry. Let us follow our noses, O Mudsharks, for if mine deceives me not, then there is a vast beer factory not far from here!"
Sylvia was not wrong in her assessment. Suddenly, as if by magic, the clouds parted, and a shimmering ray of light struck down from the heavens, accompanied by the sound of angelic choirs, illuminating a magic rune:
"We’re here!" thrilled Lord Roberto, rubbing his hands. "Now where is my lovely wife – not Missing Presumed Shopping once again, I hope?"
"You hope!" Lady Ecaterina grasped her spouse firmly by the arm, the better to keep him from temptation.
"Pivo" announced Gregori proudly, as they entered, throwing his arm wide with a flourish.
"And now we shall be given a detailed inspection of this hallowed place!" breathed Le.. Cholmondoley expectantly.
At this, tall, dark priestess greeted them with a friendly scowl.
"You vant to see ze brewery?" She stabbed a finger in the general direction of a labrynthine collection of pipes, tubes and tanks. "Okay, zere it is. Now go avay and drink ze beer. Pivo!"
"Seems reasonable" Lord Roberto assented
"I’ll drink to that!" agreed Flo
"Whatever" said Sylvia, sucking on her tooth
The Mudshark clan piled into an adjacent chapel and waited reverentially for the promised liquid nourishment.
"Look," gasped Flo, almost moved to tears as she pointed out the large pipe connecting the tanks outside directly to where they were seated. "Direct from the source! Mudsharks, we have found the Motherlode!"
"Not only that," intoned Lord Roberto in a concealed aside to Monty, "..but this stuff is so thick and fulminous that a Mudshark may, with impunity, add a little something to it without his wife’s noticing, eh?" And as he spoke these words, Lord Roberto tipped a vial of something volatile into his burbling beery brew.
But even before Monty could construct an excuse, Flo’s excited voice carried across the table
"Nirvana, I tell you. Sheer Mudshark Nirvana. Beer and food, and none of that sissy vegetable stuff, either! This is the Big One! Pigs head in jelly! Fried cheese! Pork bellies! – Pickled Knackwurste!!!!!!"
Flo’s eyes lit up as she surveyed the feast set before her, and her lips smacked in anticipation.
"Now we’re talking sausages!"
Gregori, who, up until this point, had been congratulating himself on maintaining his equilibrium, fainted.