Dear Auntie Ora
What's the best way to remove water buffalo stains from your carpet?

A cold wind blows across the face of the hill as Pythia DiStefano, Hardened Adventurer, walks into the ragged little village. Small children beating one another with sticks drop their game and come running up to her, laughing and chattering.

"Pythia!" "Pythia's back!" "Pythia, what'd you bring us?"

"Here ya go, kids."

She reaches into her sack and pulls out a basketball.

"Yay!" "Thanks Pythia!" "Hey waitaminiit, it doesn't say 'NBA Approved' on it!"

She tousles the hair of the nearest urchin and leaves them to their new toy. Continuing through the village, she waves and exchanges greetings with numerous tribespeople, some in English, some in the old tongue.

"Yo, Pythia!"

A slightly pudgy, spotted young man runs towards her. His buffalo skin kilt is a bit baggier than those of the other villagers.

"Hoi, GRONDO."


"How's the hunt these days?"

"Okay. BWANGA bagged a five-hundred pound bull last week, and he was all like 'Ph3ar my l33t skillz, d00d', but then I got one that was six-fifty, and I was like, 'suck it bi0tch'. It was cool."

"Good on ya. Big daddy around?"

"Yeah, he got back from a hunt this mornin'. Doesn't sound like they caught much, so be sure to butter him up if you gotta question."

"Right. Thanks."

She turns and heads for the largest hut. Two large, muscular tribesman stand guard at the door; she slips them each a twenty, and they let her through.

She steps inside. The stale scent of the peace pipe assaults her nostrils. Her eyes are still adjusting to the dimness when she hears a voice.

"Greetings, Pythia DiStefano."

She curtsies awkwardly.

"Oh Great Chief ZANDAR, King of the Hill People and Lord Emporer of the Surrounding Plains and All That He Surveys, Liege Prince of the Buffalo God, I come to do You great honour, as of which You are worthy and deserving."

The chief is sitting cross-legged on a mound of skins in the middle of the hut. Wise and red-lined eyes peer at her from underneath an over-sized head-dress and war paint.

"Nicely put, Pythia DiStefano. You suck up like no other of the City People, save ZANDAR's broker."

"How's life treatin' ya, y'old bugger?"

"The seasons pass. Autumn follows summer follows spring. The buffalo elude the spear, only for the spear to seek their heart again in a different moon. Nortel's down 3 and a quarter, but I'm up by five in my NFL pool."

He takes a puff on the pipe, and offers it to her.

"No thanks, mate, I'm still hung-over from that last one."

"What honour may we do you, Pythia DiStefano, that you come to seek ZANDAR?"

"Got a question from a client, that's right up your area of expertise."

"Indeed. For knowledge, I must ask a price."

"Same as always?"

"May it always be so."

She slings down her sack and opens it. She hauls out a brightly coloured box and puts it down on the earth floor in front of ZANDAR. With her bowie knife, she tears open the top of the box. Metal foil glimmers in the dim light. A gap-toothed grin splits ZANDAR's stern face.

"There you are - a whole bloomin' case of Pokemon cards. Gotta be at least a couple rare ones in there."

"Excellent. You have done well, Pythia DiStefano. I feel that I will, indeed, catch 'em all on this day. You may ask your question - then we shall feast."

"Too right - I've been hiking all morning, I'm bloody famished. Right, so here it is - how do you get water buffalo stains out of a carpet?"

"Deep pile or shag?"

"Dunno. Assume generalities."

ZANDAR puffs on the pipe, and ponders. At last he speaks.

"There is a saying amoung the Hill People. In the City Tongue, it is roughly rendered as - 'A little kiss, a little hug, a little seltzer on your rug'. Try club soda or a warm solution of baking soda. If this should fail, your noble client will have no choice but to pay for steam cleaning."

"Thanks, ZANDAR."

"It is as a feather on the wind, my friend. Now to feast - Pizza or Chinese?"

"Both'll involve buffalo innards in some way, won't it?"

"You know the Hill People take-out places well, Pythia DiStefano."

She shrugs. "All part of the job, mate."