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Old 03-14-2004, 05:57 PM   #146
The Squatter of Amon Rdh
Spectre of Decay
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There is nothing in the life of an habitual escapee from reality quite so terrible as a moment of clarity. So often the first thing that springs to a suddenly cleared mind is precisely that which first condemned consciousness as uninhabitable. In the particular case of Earnur Etceteron, Lord Privy Attendant of the Archduchy of Cascara of that ilk, the vision that assaulted his unprotected psyche came in the form of his unexpurgated biography, repeated in merciless detail and beginning with particularly painful juvenile dental procedure that held the somewhat dubious honour of being his earliest memory.

Earnur felt cheated somehow. The quest thus far had surpassed even his more exotic dreams in surrealism and confusion, to the point where he found himself wandering around some faux-marble hell surrounded by clothing and objects of the most profound tastelessness and stared at by people from whom he would not have bought clothes-pegs without grave misgivings. Indeed all had been quite sufficiently bizarre until this moment to make the contents of his various vials and pouches seem more than a little superfluous; but now, when most he needed them, their effects had deserted him. He found himself plunged, like a modern pseudo-medieval Don Giovanni, into a purgatory whose doors were opened by dreadful figures from the past, and like any gentleman worth his salt, he blamed the port.

Not that some of the past wasn't worth a second glance. The night when he sneaked into the wine cellar at Dun Sbrin and polished off a case of priceless claret; the day he killed his first Orc (how pleased father had been); the day he was first given the custody of (allegedly) mighty Windsil...

The moment he first saw Vinaigrettiel.

The moment he last saw Vinaigrettiel.

Vinaigrettiel first-thing in the morning after a particularly lively hunt ball. For some reason the sight of her with her hair in papers was particularly annoying, since he knew that never in her life had she looked worse, not even...

"How am I Driving?"

'Not very well actually, old chap,' mused the Sable Smoke-head, and vowed eternal vengeance variously on that quack of a herbalist who had sold him the current contents of his pipe, the idiot who had first led him into this dreadful place, the bounder who had dropped him into this hole and the unmitigated cad who had made it sufficiently deep for him to get past the good bits. His reluctant and enraged viewing was cut short as his head came into sharp contact with a well-built stone floor, and his last conscious experience was of breaking the falls of several of his companions. 'More than one way to skin a Zerl,' he mumbled as he reflected on the recreationally mind-altering powers of a severe concussion. The rest, as they say, is silence.

He awoke to the familiar dulcet tones of a heated argument, such as people have when they are in a position that is not really anyone's fault and are for the moment incapable of doing anything about it.

'Well, it wasn't my idea. A completely black building in heavy Gothic style with magic doors? And at least a thousand years before the Goths even existed? You don't have to be Mri Shell to know there's something fishy about that!'

'What are you talking about?'

'Umm...' fenced the Gateskeeper deftly.

'O dark, dank, dingy dungeon: dolorous, drear and dull'

'Shut up, dear'

'I recognise this stonework. My uncle never does a job properly if you're more than five feet tall. That block near the middle's almost a full ten-thousandth of an inch out of alignment.

Earnur had nothing to bring to this discussion, so naturally he stuck his manfully inappropriate oar into this storm in a metaphorically mixed teacup.

'Nrrrrrrrrrrnnnnnnnnnrrrrrgggggggggnnnnn... ouch'

'So glad you could join us,' greeted the lovely Merisuwyniel archly. The tiny smear of dirt on her flawless cheek could have been mathematically placed there by the greatest beauty expert of the age in response to the latest court fashion and not looked so glamourous.

'Abndn hop al y wh entr hr,' replied the debonair disaster with his usual urbane wit. 'Why's ev'ryone so tall allofasudden?'

Strong hands dragged him into a sitting position, and the inevitable white-hot daggers of pain shot through his clich-beset head in a somewhat tired display of auctorial hackery. He was sitting in a dungeon so dank, drear and dismal that he was obliged to quote Vogonw in order to describe it. A wave of officially unrelated nausea swept through him at the thought, but was rapidly dispelled by a certain morbid curiosity. He glanced around at the new lodgings of the Austenesque-blank-ship and noted by careful deciphering of the plain Westestosterone numerals over the door opposite that they were confined in Cell 101b of an unknown dungeon somewhere in somewhere. No doubt other details would be forthcoming later, when sneering foreign gaolers with indeterminate accents came to taunt them by numbers.* Until then, he decided, there were more important issues to which he should attend. Jamming the broken bowl-end of his pipe between his teeth and breaking across a one-sided conversation about the quality of the masonry, he posed the burning question of the age.

'I say: would one of you happen to have such a thing as a light?'


* It is a fact almost universally acknowledged that any dark dungeon possessed of a reasonable dankness must be in want of some sinister foreign gaolers, who must possess the unique facility of sounding foreign regardless of the listener's nationality. There is a distinct danger that one of them may be called Vlad. If he is, the other will almost certainly be called Kurt.

Last edited by The Squatter of Amon Rdh; 03-16-2004 at 06:49 AM.
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