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Old 07-20-2003, 10:43 PM   #17
Kuruharan
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Join Date: Jan 2002
Location: A Remote Dwarven Hold
Posts: 3,583
Kuruharan is battling Black Riders on Weathertop.Kuruharan is battling Black Riders on Weathertop.
Boots

Meanwhile, back in the barn, I mean stable…

Before the fearsome specter had a chance to respond the Gallowship noticed a growing commotion coming from somewhere nearby. "I say," said Earnur, "what’s that sound?"

"Uh-oh," said Orogarn Two. "It sounds like it is coming from the Great Shopping Mall of Missing Dentures. The plebeians are probably staging another riot to protest against the rampant price gouging! We’ll have to put a stop to this!"

With Orogarn Two in the lead, the Gallowship quickly made their way toward the Mall, ready to quell any form of civil disobedience should it rear its ugly head. However, when they rounded the last bend they saw that things were not quite as they had imagined them.

The source of the disturbance was a large dragon who had landed in the middle of the parking lot, which naturally aroused some degree of consternation in the crowd of onlookers.

"Forsooth!" cried Orogarn Two, "yon vile worm will burn down the Great Mall of Missing Dentures and ruin the economy of Grundor if somebody does not stop him!" So saying he took a firm grip on his sword and prepared to spring forward to do battle.

"Wait," said Merisuwyniel, "there is something familiar about that dragon."

Now that she mentioned it, there was something odd about the scene unfolding before their gaze. Instead of spreading forth fire and random destruction the dragon was unpacking several large bundles. The behavior of the crowd was also unusual. They actually had the air of people waiting for the opening of a particularly cheap and disreputable flea market. When all the bundles had been unpacked a well-dressed dwarf climbed on the dragon and he started to make a speech.

"Greetings Grundorians!"

[applause from the crowd]

"Noble and honorable descendants of the Dumb-admen* of old!"

[more enthusiastic applause from crowd]

"I have arrived," continued the dwarf, "through fire and brimstone to bring you the best deals of the ages as befit you, the most noble and antiquated inhabitants of Muddled-Mirth!"

[wild applause and cheering from the crowd]

"Today is your lucky day!" The dwarf held up a bottle. "Within this reasonably priced little bottle you will find a cure for all your most dreaded ailments. This stuff is guaranteed to remove warts, cleanse acne, lower your cholesterol, unstop clogged drains, repair leaky faucets, and cure baldness!!! And if that does not suit you, I’m sure I have something you’ll like!"

"HUZZAH!!!" cheered the crowd as they surged forward toward the merchandise.

"Kuruharan has returned," said Merisuwyniel. "This must be a sign that we are to continue with the Quest!!"

"What?" said Vogonwë.

"But…" said Pimpi.

"Doesn’t he know that it’s illegal to sell in this city without a license?!" snapped Orogarn Two. "Especially in the hallowed parking lot of the Great Shopping Mall of Missing Dentures!!"

"I’m sure that if you point this out to him he will halt the sale until he has filed the proper papers," replied Merisuwyniel. "Knowing the glacially slow speed of Grundorian bureaucracy it should give us plenty of time to finish the Quest before he is eligible to hawk his wares in this city! Let’s go talk to him!"

With that the Gallowship started weaving their way through the large crowd of prospective buyers. It took them some time to make any progress toward where the dwarf stood in the middle of the confusion.

Kuruharan was trying to talk a reluctant shopper into buying a bottle of his Miracle Cure.

"What’s in it?" asked the man.

Chrysophylax stooped over and took the bottle. He removed the cork and took a sniff.

"Filbert!" he announced. "He was my second cousin on my father’s side. He was scrumptious!! This stuff is bound to cure your baldness!!"

"But I’m not bald," said the man, running a hand through his thick head of hair.

"You see how well it works!" said Kuruharan. "Now drink!"

"Umm…" said the man as he handed over some money. He sniffed the contents and then took a swallow.

His eyes suddenly bulged out of his head.

"How is it?" asked Chrysophylax.

"HOT!!!" screamed the poor man. "OOOHHHH, PAAAIIINNN!!! MY INSIDES ARE ON FIRE!!!!!" he choked as he fell to the ground and started panting for air. Wisps of smoke started floating out of his ears.

Grrrralph was very impressed with the amount of pain this stuff inflicted.

"Hullo Kuruharan," said Earnur Etceteron, "It is most fortuitous that you arrived today. Merisuwyniel is reassembling the Gallowship to finish the Quest to Unite the Ent that was Broken!"

"Is she?!" said Kuruharan, glancing nervously about him.

"Yes," announced Merisuwyniel, striding up to the booth. "But beside that, you are going to have to stop this sale! Orogarn Two is off to fetch the Police and have you arrested if this ruckus is still going on when he gets back."

"Eh-?" said Kuruharan.

Chrysophylax sprang forward to change the subject. "Here’s some of that Snake-Oil that we promised to bring back," he said handing a bottle to Earnur. "This is a particularly fine specimen, my Great Aunt Edina. If ever there was any dragon that would ferment she was the one!"

"Ah, alas," Earnur replied, "I’ve given up drinking. Bettyfordeth hath changed my ways!"

"She’s been investing heavily in some Valleyum narcotics, I shouldn’t wonder!" ventured Kuruharan darkly.

"How dare you speak of Bettyfordeth in such a way!" said Pimpi, as she ran up with her hands full of useless trinkets. "How much is Vogonwë going to have to pay for these things."

Meanwhile as this sale was going on, Earnur was inspecting the bottle Chrysophylax had handed him. It was true that he had given up drinking, but this bottle looked so interesting. Of course it was all rubbish about there being powerful brain-addling drugs in the supplements that the doctors at Bettyfordeth insisted on him taking. He of all people ought to know. But…on the other hand, he had skipped his dosage this morning, and he had to admit that thoughts of double rum grew most strangely in his mind. "It can’t hurt to take a little sniff," he thought to himself. "Mmmm…," thought Earnur, "that’s not half bad!! One little swig for luck won’t do any harm."

{gulp}

"*AACCKK!!!*" choked Earnur.

"WOWEEE!!!" he yelped. "I haven’t had anything that good since that last time I was marooned off Dumbar!!"

Fortunately, everybody was too busy snatching up the "bargains" to pay much attention to Etceteron’s boozy transports.

"Hmm…," thought Earnur. "I’d better have one more little swig, just to make sure that the quality is up to par."

Well, one swig turned into two. Two swigs turned into twelve. Twelve swigs turned into the whole bottle. One bottle turned into seven, and by that time Earnur Etceteron was as drunk as a lord. He wobbled and staggered over to where Merisuwyniel was standing.

"Marshuwynl," stammered Earnur. "Yous gotta try shome o’ thish shtuff." He offered her one of the bottles that he held in his hand.

A moment of bewildered blinking and lurching followed. "Well, ifsh you don’t likes ‘at ‘ottle, I’ll give ya some o’ this othern." So saying he held out the same bottle again. There followed the same lack of response.

Alas, there were plenty of people paying attention to him now. And, as any one of the delighted spectators to this rather pathetic scene could have told him (if they had not been so busy laughing), "Merisuwyniel" was actually a rather homely hitching post. As for the real Merisuwyniel, the phrase "drowning in mortification" did not begin to describe the social disgrace that she was experiencing. The voice of one little girl in particular seemed to speak with prophetic overtones for the likely sequence of events that would unfold during the remainder of their Quest.

"Look Mommy, the clowns are here!" cackled the delighted little girl.

"Don’t look child," chided the mother. "Whatever he has might be catching!"

This was definitely not the preferred way of beginning a Quest that had the fate of the world bound up in it.

"Wot’s tha noise?!" demanded Earnur. He spun around to try and determine the source of this raucous guffawing. Unfortunately, that did in his rather rickety balance and he fell sprawling, occasioning a renewed outburst of derisive laughter.

It was at that moment, just when Kuruharan was considering charging everyone an entertainment fee, that disaster struck.

In the midst of the laughing crowd of onlookers was one Chrysophylax Dives. He was rolling on the ground in the throes of his mirth. In a desperate attempt to regain some air flow he inhaled deeply and exhaled sharply. Alas! Whatever it is in dragons that causes them to breathe fire kicked in at that moment and Chrysophylax spouted terrific flames right on Kuruharan’s stockpile of snake-oil.

*FOOOOOUUUUUUUUSSSSSSHHHHH* *KA-BOOOOM!!!!!!*

"Ooopsie!" said a suddenly sheepish Chrysophylax.

Ooopsie was right! The explosion sent flaming debris flying in every direction and one particularly large flaming object crashed down on the roof of the Great Mall of Missing Dentures, causing it to combust.

The crowd, terrified out of its momentary jollification, started running around in circles, flailing their arms like a horde of deranged orangutans, screaming, "The Mall’s burning!!! The Mall’s burning!!!"

Right at that moment Orogarn Two and the Police arrived. "What in the name of Kitzledoor’s hemorrhoids is going on here?!!!" he shouted.

"The Mall’s burning!!! The Mall’s burning!!!"

"Goodness Gracious, Great Balls of Fire!!!" bawled Orogarn Two. He quickly resolved to make hasty contact with the Minus Teeth Fire Department. It was fortuitous that, in the Government’s determination to run the city on the cheap, the Police were the Fire Department. All Orogarn Two had to do to make contact with the Fire Department was turn to the men following him and shout, "Put out that blaze!!!"

It was infortuitous that the Police were really rather better at being police than they were at fire fighting. About all they knew was that water did something to fire, they were not quite sure what. The fire continued to burn higher.

Vogonwë, meanwhile, did not give two straws about the blaze. The obscene cost of buying Pimpi all those trinkets was causing him, for the first time in his life, to seriously reconsider the usefulness of females. Maybe it was better to just write lovelorn poetry from a distance and not have anything to do with the real thing. This line of thought was something quite new and unsettling in his brain and he had no time to bother with the affairs of business conglomerates and firefighters.

Pimpi was munching on some delightful truffles that Kuruharan had sold her and, well, you can figure out the rest.

Orogarn Two was standing there fuming over the incompetence of his underlings. His station in society was far to high for him to actually lend a hand himself, so he was forced to content himself with shouting profanity at his struggling minions.

Merisuwyniel was doing her level best to aid the firefighters. However, being a battle-tested and deadly shield-maiden of the kindred of the Noodlar, she was rather better at burning down buildings than she was at saving them.

Grrralph was trying out a brilliant idea. He was setting alight great heaps of wood in unaffected parts of the Mall in hopes of staging a controlled burn to limit the spread of the inferno. Thanks to his unrelenting efforts, in half an hour the Great Shopping Mall of Missing Dentures was totally destroyed and the fire had spread to that entire section of the city.

Earnur was stumbling and bumbling his way about the streets singing…

"And I fell into a burnin' ring of fire,
I went down, down, down,
And the flames went higher,"


To demonstrate he poured on the current bottle of Snake-Oil, which had an effect similar to tossing a lighted match into an arsenal. Three more city blocks were flattened.

"And it burns, burns, burns,
The ring of fire, the ring of fire…"


Desperate to find a way to put out the blaze, the firefighters decided to try Grrralph’s trick of burning things down in order to save them from the flames. Thanks to the unstinting efforts of the Minus Teeth Fire Department, within another hour the entire city was ablaze. And through it all flitted the mysterious figure of the Gateskeeper enjoying many moments of pointing and laughing.

Thankfully, for the good of all concerned, Kuruharan and Chrysophylax had not been idle. As soon as the fire broke out they moved quickly to deal with the horrific problem confronting them. They were, at that very moment, heroically sneaking out the back gate of the city. For you see, the problem confronting them was the appalling prospect of prison time (or worse) for holding a public sale without the proper registration and for committing the worst act of arson in the history of Muddled Mirth. They acted with admirable speed and decision to deal with this problem in the most expeditious and efficacious manner possible.

-Note-

* Dumb-admen - Name used for the escapees from the downfall of Noodleor, or as it is now named in the Quixotic "At-th’-bottom." The Dumb-admen themselves believe that the name means "Noble Survivors and Descendants of the Heroic and Underappreciated Canon-Fodderians" but most everybody else thinks that the name means "Stupid Losers." This disagreement has led to several wars and many unpleasant acts of extreme violence.
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