[For the October 1st highlight, click here].
The second chapter begins with Snuff’s master Jack “acquiring mandrake root in a field far from here at the place of a killing by somebody else.” It’s one item from a “long list of ingredients” Jack needs to obtain according to a certain schedule. Some arcane ritual is clearly starting to unfold (that specification of a killing by somebody else also furnishes an early clue concerning Jack’s own dire past). The real highlight of the short October 2nd segment, though, is the first interaction between Snuff and the cat Graymalk (whom Snuff catches lurking outside his home, spying for her mistress Crazy Jill). After these two unordinary, talking animals feel each other out, they begin to trade information. Graymalk reveals that a skulking predecessor, “the owl, Nightwind, consort of Morris and MacCab,” has left behind a feather “tainted with mummy dust, to do you harm.” Grateful for the news, Snuff offers up that he spotted “Quicklime, the black snake who lives inside the belly of the mad monk, Rastov,” acting suspiciously outside Graymalk’s residence: “He rubbed against your doorpost, shedding scales.” Zelazny’s narrative evidently will feature a menagerie of unusual characters, engaged in high-stakes magical intrigue.