Seeing Tsars, Again

This was posted on alt.callahans by Paul de Anguera ( in response to the “Seeing Tsars” shaggy dog.

May I ask a huge favor? I would really like to borrow your multiverse for a minute. I had been trying to work out an addition to mine, but needed a certain element to carry it off which seemed to me impossible to concoct — only to discover that you had done it!

You see, Cilantro, the ex-spy whom the ship picked up in Lisbon, turned out to be part of the mystical plot to astrologically unseat Peter the Great. It had been his task to lead the Portugese Navy in through the Baltic Sea to Russia, to lend its strength to the revolt of the Brotherhood. But no Portugese man o’war would venture into such cold waters — in fact they writhed and quivered at the very idea. So he went to ground until that clever dog, Ali, dug him up. Then he persuaded the Legume’s skipper, Kattemzamer Quid, to sail to Russia.

But the First Mate soon found that Cilantro led a dark and disturbed life. Haunted by threats, fears and memories unspeakable, the embittered and lonely spy had turned to hashish for comfort. The night watch soon became accustomed to the alternating glow and bubble of his water-pipe at the foot of the ship’s bowsprit. Then they would hear his erie voice moaning: “The secret police! They will find the book — they will find it — all is lost, alas, gollum, gollum!”

So the ship was not surprised to discover one morning that Cilantro had left behind all his posessions, stolen the Captain’s pinnace and fled to the mainland. The First Mate shook his head sadly; “What an inconvenience for the skipper! And what will his wife think of it?”

But the H.M.S. Legume sailed resolutely on through the Gulf of Finland to St. Petersburg, where Captain Quid hoped to make contact with the mysterious robed and cowled members of the Brotherhood. And two emissaries of that grim order did come aboard. But they came reluctantly, and it was plain that they did not trust the British.

“How can the Brotherhood do business without Cilantro?” one of them demanded. “Can you even prove he was ever on board? His supposed disappearance at this time would be most convenient for you — if you were agents of the Tsar’s secret police!”

Quid, unused to long speeches, placed an object on the table and explained; “The spy hookah, men from the cowled!”

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