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Old 10-13-2003, 07:01 PM   #81
The Barrow-Wight
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Sting

After hours of waiting and wishing, the Togethership at last reached the head of the line and was allowed to pass between the pearly gates of the heavenly entrance to the Glitzy Caverns. Beautiful statues of various creatures, including angels, devils, and bearded lady dwarves, lined the long and brightly lit foyer that stretched for nearly the length of a REB-I Etceteron bar receipt and was traversed via a leisurely ride on a Topfloorien “People Mover” Sliding Sidewalk. Between each statue was a tall mirror in which each adventurer admired himself, herself, or itself as they sidled toward a growing barrage of peculiar sounds. Orogarn Two looked up from his handsome reflection just in time to avoid stumbling at the end of the trip.

“Slots!” he shouted, and rushed forward to push a little old Sorethighem lady away from the machine she had momentarily neglected. He looked back to the group. “Anyone have a coin?”

Everyone quickly coughed a lame excuse for not proffering any money and took off in different directions, leaving the smiling Grundorian standing alone with the disgruntled blue-haired horse lady.

“I’ll have my machine back, you big brute!” she shouted, and made to swing her hefty purse at him.

“Not today, madam,” replied Orogarn Two with a quick kick to her walker that sent her stumbling into another machine. He fished deeply into his front right pocket and produced a rusty copper Grundorian kabob. “I believe this game is mine!”

Ignoring the fallen gambler (who could not get up), he turned back to his machine triumphantly and slid the coin into its hungry maw.

---- Horse Head ---- Horse Head ---- Hunk of Rock ----

“Argh!” he cried and kicked the machine. “Am I ever cursed to suffer such misfortune?”

“Yes!” growled the old lady, finally hauling herself upward. “Now go suffer somewhere else!”

Not having another kabob and seeing no better alternative, Orogarn Two gave her the one fingered “good luck” sign and walked in the direction of an Automatic Moolah Machine he had spotted near the far end of the slot hall. Before he reached the machine he heard a loud siren go off behind him and he turned to see the old woman and her walker dancing in circles (very slow circles) under a great shining “$1,000,000” sign. She was shouting and singing, and when she noticed him she returned his good luck sign with both hands.

Sighing, he turned to the machine and slid his Citibank card into the reader.

For Instruction in Grundorian Press 1
Buz Gluzngub ne Moredough Grek 2

1

Please input your PIN and hit Enter.

Orogarn Two looked around carefully and shielded the keypad with his jacket to hide his actions from a nosy dwarf who had gotten in line behind him. He slyly punched his code number with four quick jabs of his good luck finger.

* * * *

ENTER

1 Quick-kabobs
2 Withdrawal
3 Deposit
4 Balance

2

How much do you wish to withdrawal?

GK 1,000

He waited while the machine steadily whirred and buzzed, finally spitting out 1,000 kabobs in crisp 50 kabob bills. He took the receipt and his card and walked away from the machine quickly, hoping the dwarf hadn’t seen how much he had withdrawn. With any luck, he’d be a rich man by morning.*

* For clarity’s sake, Orogarn Two and the entire family of the Steward are already stinking rich, but even the well-to-do love to win at gambling.

[ October 14, 2003: Message edited by: The Barrow-Wight ]
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Old 10-14-2003, 10:21 AM   #82
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Sting

Gateskeeper did not like waiting in long lines, even though he refused to hire more help to assist the long lines of people returning or needing assistance with his soft wares back at his headquarters on the shores of the Pea Sea. The fact that Kuruharan got in so quickly without having to wait with the rest of them was suspicious indeed. The covetous capitalist-dwarf was too wily to spend the required coin to bribe the guards, so why did they treat him with such deference? Once he saw the avaristic munchkin disappear past the guards, he retained the presence of mind to furtively toss a "trace" spell at the rapidly receeding backside of the dwarf so that he could listen in on the dwarf's activities. Within 15 minutes he had logged everything he needed to know.

At long last Gateskeeper and the others were admitted to the great Casinos and Dancefloors of Ham Steep, and even his jaded eyes were amazed at the facade of posh splendor, the gold-painted crown molding, the zircon-encrusted chandeliers, the long-bearded serving-wenches. But he did not head first to the dice games or the disc-jockeys, but to a secluded corner where he fired up his pocket cell-antir and entered the secret combination of symbols that would direct his image to the land of Moredough, and the topmost floor of the great Tower Block of Barát-Höm.

Môgul's cat, "Heslob" slept on his desk atop his private satel-antir, while he himself stretched his nebulous form out in his luxurious desk chair, smoky feet propped beside the cat, for a bit of entertainment and downtime. Môgul derived much pleasure from watching his favorite show, El Amon Lhaw, true stories of the Korprat-Loyers taken from the Journal of the Muddled-Mirth Bar Association (or was it Korprat-Loyers drinking at the Bar of the Muddled-Mirth Journal Association), and seldom allowed anything to interrupt. Nevertheless, when the jangling satel-antir sent the cat screetching and scampering from the room, he dutifully activated the device.

"Gatesssy."

"How did you know it was me, O Victorious Viceroy of Vileness?" Gateskeeper said in a clandestine whisper, remembering to string together alliterative titles and hoping none of the rest of the Whatevership was close enough to hear.

"Caller-ID. You have something to report? Make it fast, the Korprat-Loyers on El Amon Lhaw are just about to crush this poor widow out of her tumbledown shanty, and I want to see her weeping on the stand, and my video tape machine is broken."

"As you wish, O Excrable Evil Excellency. You are aware that we found a couple more pieces of the Ent-that-was-broken, are you not?"

"Yes, nice work on that by the way. You're at Ham Steep?"

"Yes, O Most Malfeascent Monstrosity. The Lord Dimli seems to be doing quite well here. Are the Loyers having trouble with the hostile takeovers?"

"How did you...never mind!" said Môgul in an annoyed huff. "What have you to report?"

Gateskeeper played his card. "One of our Nondescriptship is a partner with Dimli. For some extra...'consideration'... I could open a channel for you here..."

Môgul mused on this for a moment with a smoky hiss, followed by a hacking chuckle. "You never cease to amaze me, Gatesy. First Improvas, and now Ham Steep. You know what to do. I'll make sure you have your choice of office here at the Tower Block when this is all over. And the Entish Bow."

"Indeed, O Beastly Behemoth of Brutality," Gateskeeper said, trying to hear over the thumping disco inferno in the next room, "I'll begin right away."

The Dark and Somewhat Insubstantial Lord deactivated his satel-antir and sat back. El Amon Lhaw could be entertaining, but not as entertaining as the look he imagined on Sauerkraut's face when he would be told that Gatesey would replace him.

Back in Ham Steep, Gateskeeper tucked away his cell-antir into his robe, pulled his black glove a bit tighter over his marked hand, and walked lazily to a hotel balcony overlooking the grand casino area. There he could see the flying cards of the pœkhãř area, a table where he’d recognized Jack, a Black Noodleorean, dealing games of “twenty-one”, and evern a bleary-eyed Orogarn Two frustratedly dropping Grundorian coin into the cheap slots over on the side. Then he spied his game of choice. He ordered a Tipsy Balrog from the barkeeper and meandered over to the tables of rûë-léţ with its spiked spinning wheels, a game he’d learned from watching Sauerkraut on Casino Night back at the Annual Dorktank Office Party. And he’d learned well.

Seating himself at the table with his drink, he witnessed an interchange between a slightly-inebriated dwarf-waiter, sporting a natty tag that said “Hello, My Name is Sam!”, and one of the other patrons who was complaining about the dish which had been set before him.

“This is a Quiche Lorraine! I specifically ordered a bacon pie!

You lush, remember this!
A quiche is still a quiche,
A pie is still a pie!
The culinary terms apply
As time goes by!


Now bring it again, Sam!”

Gateskeeper smirked and turned to the numbered wheel and the board that matched the numbers. Fishing out a pocketful of gold coin, he tossed a handful to the dwarf behind the wheel, who dutifully bit each one before exchanging them for the gambling chips. He observed the board carefully, then placed a 3-inch stack of large-denomination chips on the double-zero square. There were some awed oohs and ahhs (and not a few knowing chuckles) from the crowd at this maneuver, but the dwarf merely said, “Very good, sir!” before setting the wheel in motion in one direction, while sending a small ball travelling around the rim of the wheel in the opposite direction. It was at that moment that Gateskeeper whispered over the table the words he’d heard Sauerkraut use that night at Dorktank so long ago – “www.cheatcode.com”.

As the wheel and the ball slowed, the ball fell from the rim onto one of the numbered slots on the wheel…double zero. There was an immediate burst of applause from the spectators (and a collective gasp from the chucklers), as the dwarf running the game pushed 4 massive stacks of chips towards Gateskeeper for his winnings. With a dismissive wave of his hand, he pushed them back, saying “let it ride.” There was an even greater gasp of awe as the dwarf nodded and sent the wheel and ball into motion again, the nervous tension growing as the rolling and whirling continued seemingly forever until the ball lost enough momentum to trip off the rim…and back into the double-zero slot.

As the gathering crowd looked on in stunned silence, Gateskeeper thought to himself, “I’ll own this entire complex inside of an hour…”

[ October 15, 2003: Message edited by: Thenamir ]
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Old 10-14-2003, 03:25 PM   #83
Diamond18
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Silmaril

Vogonwë and Pimpi strolled along the glamorous walkways of the Glizty Caverns, taking in the sights and sounds of cold, hard cash (and the lack thereof). Any quibbling quarrels they’d had earlier in day were forgotten, as both parties were given to mood swings and emotional amnesia. Besides, a Casino/Arcade/Carnival/Amusement Park is no place to be at odds with one’s honey.

Pimpi’s blue eyes were wide as saucers as she surveyed the many wonders of Dwarven entertainment swirling around them. She cocked her head innocently at the bright lights, sales pitches, greedy drooling and subsequent rending of clothing and sprinkling of ashes as races from all over Muddled-Mirth were cajoled, fleeced, hustled, cheated, and shanghaied out of their money. Vogonwë walked with one hand holding his love’s, and the other holding onto his purse. (Yes, purse. A little leather pouch containing his livelihood in gold coins. What, you thought it was a handbag with powder and lipstick?)

“What should we do, Voggy?” Pimpi asked, her head fairly swirling with the glitz and glam calling out to her. Fortunately, this did not extend to the literal sense, otherwise she may have been forced to cough up the peas she’d eaten for afternoon snack.

“Strolling’s nice,” Vogonwë said, with a gulp as he witnessed a naked Elf being shaven by a pair of Dwarves running a kabob pawn stand (after V & P passed by, the Elf cashed in his hair to buy more kabobs. He lost them all within ten minutes, and the Dwarves began to debate what to cut off of him next).

“What, you mean we’re not going to do anything?” Pimpi pouted.

“We’re doing something, we’re window shopping.”

She sighed. Vogonwë realized that it would be in his best interests, perhaps, to find something to do. Something moderately safe, expenditure-wise, that is, something not guaranteed to suck his purse dry within ten minutes. Something that would restore the light in Pimpi’s eyes and not force him to go through another “you-are-boring-and-you-don’t-understand-me” conversation. Something he could win at, by Emu!

After a few more minutes of strolling along silently, observing the antics of the monetarily challenged and the desperation of the losing endowed, fortune smiled upon the Half-Elf and Half-Halfing. They came upon a game called “Spin the Dart-Board”, where contestant after contestant failed miserably at the task of throwing darts at designated spots on a circular spinning board. The aim was not so easy as getting a bull’s-eye, nay, for a bull’s-eye remains in the same spot not matter what the torque on the rest of the board. Instead (the observers learned) the impossible goal was to hit all eighteen of the little glowing diamond-like icons ringing round the rosy bulls’s-eye.

The Dwarf running the game, one Fungus by name, we reeling in the dough from hapless wretch after hapless wretch drawn in by the hypnotically spinning wheel. “This looks like fun,” Vogonwë said, stepping up to the back of the nearly catatonic line. “Start picking out the prize you want, Pimps.”

“Oooh,” Pimpi mused, looking at the full shelves of Dwarven trinkets—jewelry and silverware and candlesnuffers and other cheap imitation odds and ends. “There’s so much of choose from, how will I ever…?”

“Well, you’d better,” Vogonwë preened, “because I could win this contest with my eyes half-shut. Maybe I will….”

“Oh Voggy,” she hung on his arm in a cloying yet gratifying display of affection, “knock ‘em dead!”

When they reached the head of the line, several minutes and many more broken banks later, Vogonwë flung a coin into the grubby hands of the Dwarf, then gathered up a handful of darts with a jaunty air. Winking at Pimpi, he threw them lazily in the general direction of the whirling board.

*FWIP FWIP FWIP FWIP FWIP FWIP FWIP FWIP FWIP FWIP FWIP FWIP FWIP FWIP FWIP FWIP FWIP FWIP*

Eighteen arrows hit eighteen icons in quick succession. One Dwarf jaw hit one pair of Dwarf feet.

“I’ll take the purple palantír plush toy!” Pimpi proclaimed.

“B-b-b-b-b-b-u-t—” the Dwarf stammered.

“You heard her, Master Longbeard,” Vogonwë said, relishing Fungus’s expression. “One triple P for my Lady.”

“Who are you?” the Dwarf picked up his jaw and reinserted it in his skull.

“Vogonwë Brownbark, Arrow Throwing Champion of Workmud One Hundred Years Running,” Vogonwë puffed out his chest.

“Hmmm…” Fungus reluctantly picked up the plush purple palantír and handed it over to the eager young girl with the golden curls.

On the shelf behind where the palantír had been, sat a dusty and forlorn looking breadbox. Vogonwë and Pimpi began to turn away, with visions of other unsuspecting Dwarves and their seemingly un-winnable games dancing in their heads. But then they heard a strangely wooden voice say, “Oh pick me, pick me, oh pick me!”

They halted, and turned around. Fungus began to whistle and then broke out into a chorus of,

”Oh pick me, oh pick me,
Pick me pick me pick me,
A picka picka picka meeee!”


“Vogonwë, try another round, I’ve suddenly remembered that I’m in dire need of a breadbox,” Pimpi said.

“Whoops, sorry, we’re closed,” Fungus said, whipping out a “closed” sign.

“I really need that breadbox,” Pimpi whined.

“Yeah, you should see how stale our bread is,” Vogonwë agreed. “We really need that breadbox. I almost chipped a tooth last time I had a sandwich.”

“Hellllooo, Mister Tossing Champion of Workmud—”

“Arrow Throwing.”

“Whatever. I said, we’re closed,” the Dwarf crossed his stubby arms.

“Are you schizophrenic?” Pimpi inquired.

“What?”

“Never mind. Pleeease just let us go for the breadbox?”

“No! No breadboxes today! We’re CLOSED!” the Dwarf shrieked, snatching the breadbox from the shelf and tucking it under his arm.

“Oy vey, ever heard of bathing?” the wooden voice muttered.

“Listen, if you won’t let us earn it honestly,” Vogonwë offered, “just hand over the box now and no one will get hurt.”

“Are you threatening me?” Fungus asked, eyes narrowing as he swept the darts off the countertop.

Vogonwë and Pimpi smiled in unison, looking as genial and innocent as they could manage (Pimpi did a smashing good job). Fungus found this extremely disconcerting, and began to back away. Suddenly, Vogonwë jumped over the counter and attempted to snatch the Entish Breadbox from the smelly pit of the Dwarf.

Fungus surprised the would-be thief by lowering his head and ramming it into said half-elf’s abdominal area. “Oooof,” Vogonwë gasped, and kicked Fungus in the shoulder. Unfortunately, he found that most of his karaté moves were useless against the Dwarf because of the difficult angle caused by his shortness. Fungus began to punch Vogonwë repeatedly in the knee-cap.

“Ow ow ow ow!” Vogonwë screamed, then swore rather unpoetically in Simian and Quixotic as he boxed the Dwarf’s ears.

“Do you need help, sweetheart?” Pimpi asked hopefully.

“Argghhh!” Vogonwë replied, as Fungus tripped him up. Dwarf and Half-Elf fell to the floor, kicking and biting and punching. Fungus clung tenaciously to the Entish Breadbox, which gasped, “Ooooh! They’re fighting over me!!!!”

Pimpi climbed on top of the counter awkwardly, lying on her stomach as she tried to swing her legs over the side. “Oof,” she grumbled, falling over the edge on top of the brawling males. “Aha!” she exclaimed, grabbing Fungus by the beard with one hand and fumbling to get Hush out of its sheath with the other. “Aha!” she repeated, pointing the hilt at the Dwarf. “Oops,” she turned the dagger around and held the point close to where she supposed his throat to be. “There. Aha! Say hello to Hush!”

“Hello, Hush,” Fungus gulped.

“Now ask Hush how Hush’s day was.”

“How was your day, Hush?”

“Not bad,” Pimpi said in falsetto, “you?”

“Uh, Pimpi…” Vogonwë interrupted from where he lay pinned underneath the Dwarf.

“Right. Hand over the breadbox or I’ll make you better acquainted with Hush!” Pimpi threatened, jabbing Hush at the Dwarf menacingly.

“Never!!!” Fungus declared with a fey look in his eyes. Vogonwë pushed the Dwarf up toward the point of the blade, and Fungus rethought his position. “All right! All right!” he thrust the breadbox at Pimpi, “here, take it, black hearted thieves!”

“Thank you,” Pimpi chirped, hopping off of him, breadbox in hand.

“Police! POLICE!” Fungus began to scream at the top of his lungs as soon as the blade was far away from his jugular vein.

“Shut up!” Vogonwë yelled, but Pimpi took a more drastic course of action, and bopped Fungus over the head with the breadbox.

“Uck,” the Dwarf passed out.

“Ouch!” the box protested, “why didn’t you just stab him?”

Vogonwë rolled the inert Dwarf off to the side and stood up, brushing his hair from his eyes. Ever since Pimpi had done away with his hairbow, snarls and the in-the-way factor had increased dramatically. “Wasn’t that fun,” he observed, pilfering an el ástick band from the trophy shelf.

“Are we really black hearted thieves?” Pimpi asked, knitting her brow in a fetching fashion.

“We,” Vogonwë said solemnly, “are liberators.”

“Oh,” Pimpi was relieved. “All right then.”

Vogonwë chivalrously lifted his love over the counter, then did a backflip over it, himself. As they left the scene of the liberation (dartboard still twirling away without a care in the world) Vogonwë began to sing,

”Won’t Merisu be so glad with us,
We’re bringing her an Entish Breadbox,
Yes.”


[ October 16, 2003: Message edited by: Diamond18 ]
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Old 10-14-2003, 08:16 PM   #84
The Saucepan Man
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The Eye

The children sat expectantly, chattering excitedly amongst themselves. Although it was dark outside and there was no apparent source of light within, their faces shone with an inner radiance that lit the hall as brightly as any lamp.

The door opened, and a man stepped in. Although he was youthful in appearance, his deep blue eyes belied a profound wisdom well beyond his apparent years, indeed beyond time itself. His kindly face beamed brightly as he paused for a moment by the door and surveyed the children, his children, sitting cross-legged before him. The chattering stopped and all eyes turned to the man in excited anticipation. An indulgent smile briefly played upon his lips before he walked slowly to the front of the hall and addressed the assembly.

“Now, my children,” he began. “The time for practice is over. I have instructed you as best as I can. You must now breathe life into the theme that I have laid out for you. Sing now, my children. Sing as you have never sung before.”

And, upon his cue, the children began to sing. The sound of their voices filled the hall, great and wondrous in its beauty, full of splendour and glory, magnificent and yet somehow haunting.

“All things droll and comical,
All sub-plots great and small,
All things fun and farcical,
In Muddled-Mirth shall rule.

Each play on words and pay-off
Each little jape and jest,
We like the quick one-liners,
But running gags are best.”

But, as the children’s song unfolded, a low hum could be heard, almost imperceptible at first, but insistent and gradually growing in intensity. A look of displeasure crossed the man’s face as he brought the song to a halt.

“Who’s making that dreadful racket?” he asked, surveying the radiant faces before him. His gaze alighted on a boy sitting at the back of the hall, bigger than the rest with dark, tousled hair and a mischievous twinkle in his eyes.

“Ah, Melvin. I should have guessed. Would you please stop that nonsense right now?”

“Oohhh!” groaned Melvin, obviously reluctant to give up his little game. Then, as the man’s eyes shot him a piercing glance, he grudgingly gave way. “Yes Dad,” he said sheepishly, his eyes staring fixedly at the floor.

The song started up again.

“All things hale and humorous,
All satire well-observed,
All things light and ludicrous,
The blithe and the absurd ...”

“Ow!” exclaimed a girl with pigtails and flowers in her hair. She promptly burst into tears and, with each drop that fell to the earthen floor, a delicate green shoot sprang up.

“Dad, Melvin just pulled Yawanna’s pigtails,” said one of the boys, almost identical to Melvin in looks but smaller in build and fairer of face. Melvin shot him a withering glance.

“Yes, Manuel. I saw him,” replied the man. “Melvin! Will you please stop playing up? You’re spoiling the song for everyone else. I won’t tell you again.”

“Hmmph!” snorted Melvin before nodding unconvincingly. “Yes Dad,” he muttered once again.

“And you can stop sniggering too, Colin,” he said, directing his gaze towards one of the younger boys, a pasty, bespectacled fellow. As Colin nodded his head vigorously, the song resumed once again.

“The carefully crafted pastiche,
The witty repartee,
The slapstick and the horseplay
And fine tomfoolery.

All things …”

“NA-NA-NA-NA-NA-NA-NA-NA-NA-NA-NA!” shouted Melvin, his fingers stuck firmly in his ears.

“Right, that’s it young man!” exclaimed his father, striding over to Melvin, grabbing him by the scruff of his neck and propelling him towards the door. “If you can’t behave yourself, we shall have to carry on without you. Now, out you go!”


Môgul Bildûr’s eyes snapped open.

Father!

A pang of grief stabbed momentarily at his black heart. For a few brief seconds he longed once again to be that child, sitting attentively among his breth/sist-ren, bathing in the radiant glow of his father’s bounteous smile. He yearned then to run headlong into those welcoming arms, to feel the tenderness of his father’s touch, and to beg for his forgiveness. But the moment was fleeting and the pain and regret that he had felt turned quickly to bitterness, resentment and anger.

He never loved me! Not like he loved the others. What does he care of Muddled-Mirth? He abandoned it long ago and so did they. It is mine now. Mine to do with it as I please. My preciousss.

A knock on the door of his office suite roused him from his dark brooding and an Orc dressed in a blue short-sleeved shirt and blue shorts stepped warily into the room dragging a bulky post-bag behind him. It was his first day on the job and his colleagues had cruelly volunteered him for top-floor duty. This was an intimidating task at the best of times, but the hapless fellow today had the misfortune to encounter Môgul while in the process of reasserting his habitual malevolence after an uncharacteristically warm moment. With hardly an acknowledgement of the Orc’s presence, the Dark Developer grabbed the wretched creature by the throat and flung him across the room. The luckless Orc, together with his post-bag, hit the wall at speed and collapsed into a crumpled heap on the floor. A flurry of letters, internal memos and invoices hung in the air for a brief moment before slowly fluttering to the floor beside his prone body.

“That’s better,” Môgul thought to himself, his mood brightening.

And there was much for him to be in a good mood about. The Gateskeeper was excelling himself. So much so, in fact, that Môgul was seriously considering offering him Lordship over the Dell of Hardwairaith as reward for his endeavours. And now it looked like another member of the Equal Opportunities-ship was coming over to his way of thinking. He would have to send a memo to the Master of Dungeon #379 requesting him to step up his “gentle persuasion” of that Topfloorien dissenter, Celedimbore, to “encourage” him in his efforts to crack the Thingwraith spell. After all, Môgul was sure that the Elf would rather not end up (literally) fronting his latest poster campaign.

The news from the dread Loyers was good too. One by one, through a series of leveraged buy-outs, refinancing deals, leaseback offers, hostile (excessively hostile, in fact) take-overs and occasional incidents of good old fashioned bribery and corruption, the realms of Muddled-Mirth were coming under the control of Môgul Enterprises LLC. The media campaign had been a resounding success. For the most part, the formerly free peoples of Muddled-Mirth had been content to accept evil dominion in return for a constant supply of consumer goods and services which, although shoddy and sub-standard, were generally less shoddy and sub-standard than those that they had become accustomed to. And evil was so less threatening when accompanied by reassuring words and happy faces.

Of course there were isolated outbreaks of resistance, but most of them had been brought under control. The servants of the Dark Tower Block were most adept at uncovering skeletons in cupboards and, with the help of well-placed articles and smear campaigns in the Daily Maul (proprietor: one Môgul Bildûr Esq), the ringleaders had largely been weeded out. And where that was to no avail, brute force always offered a most satisfying alternative.

Soreham remained a problem, though. Môgul bristled at the audacity of Lord Dimli’s resistance (although he did of course admire the Dwarf’s methods). And then there was Sauerkraut’s treachery. Môgul still thought of him as Colin, the geeky kid with glasses that everyone had picked on, although he had to admit that the nerdy kid had come a long way since then. But treason such as this had to be dealt with in the severest manner, not least because the Dread Developer greatly desired to learn the secret of Sauerkraut’s mass media coverage. If only he had a few more troops at his disposal, he would have little difficulty in acquainting both the impertinent Dwarven Lord and the conniving Wizard with their (un)just desserts. But Orcs and their ilk were in such short supply at the moment, what with the need to suppress his newly-acquired subjects while maintaining a suitably impressive force to man/orc/troll the Land of Shadowy Deals. And the Beasterlings and Poltroons were far too busy squabbling amongst themselves over the lands to the south and east of Moredough to be of any use.

Môgul grimaced as he stared ruefully at the twitching body of the unfortunate Orcish postal clerk. Absent-mindedly, he picked up one or two of the scattered letters and memos. He experienced a moment of mild irritation as he was duly informed that a fire drill was due to take place that afternoon and mentally noted his assembly point at the foot of Mount Odouruin. Then his gaze was drawn to an official-looking notice bearing a seal that he recognised only too well: the Seal of the Velour. He scanned the solemn missive with renewed interest.

“Of course!” he exclaimed aloud. “The Orcish Conundrum Concordat!”
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Old 10-15-2003, 05:21 PM   #85
Thenamir
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Sting

Meanwhile, back in Improvas…

Sauerkraut’s “cable repairmen” had picked their way thru the detritus of the Goldlame Debris in vain. Not only were the Great Thighs missing, but King Theboleggen had unceremoniously thrown them down what was left of the staircase leading up to the old hall site, straight into the bone-crushing arms of Érry, son of Tait the Terrible.

“Yo think yall can jus’ waltz in here like nuthin’s wrong and jus’ take ova tha King? And overcharge him for yo stupid Net? You just logged on to Érry’s Painsite, G, c’mon an’ browse!!” Érry’s wrath was terrible indeed, and would have destroyed them then and there, had not some dark and furtive characters suggested that too much blood had been spilled already. They were, however, escorted to the city gates and sent on their way.

They had not gone far when those same dark-and-furtive types blocked the road ahead, beat them heartily, and sent them back to Sauerkraut with a message…

…when Sauerkraut woke up the next morning, lying there beside him in his palatial bed was the old sign from the Horse Head Inn…

[ October 15, 2003: Message edited by: Thenamir ]
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Old 10-19-2003, 08:21 AM   #86
Kuruharan
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Kuruharan is battling Black Riders on Weathertop.Kuruharan is battling Black Riders on Weathertop.
Boots

Meanwhile, Kuruharan was in a bit of a bad mood. At that moment, he was exiting the casino by a side door. The words of Lord Dimli still rang in his head.

"I’m sorry Kuruharan, old chum, but I can’t afford to give you your share of the take right now," the mocking voice intoned. "I have many expenses. Besides, you brought a very unseemly group into my little establishment and some of them have been causing problems. I fear that the Board might have to bring your status under review."

"Status under review my foot!" (The actual word used here is genuine Khuzdul and the translation is uncertain. We decided to place the word "foot" because it tends to convey the general meaning of the sentence.) Kuruharan muttered furiously to himself as he stalked down the slope.

As luck and the plot would have it, the enormous river that appeared on no map that Orogarn Two had fallen in happened to pass nearby.

Looking up at the enormous dam that provided power to the Ham Steep Resort & Casino, Kuruharan smiled and started leisurely trotting in its general direction.
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Old 10-22-2003, 04:04 AM   #87
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Estelyn Telcontar is battling Black Riders on Weathertop.Estelyn Telcontar is battling Black Riders on Weathertop.
Silmaril

Merisuwyniel watched the Disco-Ship disperse in various directions when they entered the Glitzy Caverns. Though Pimpiowyn and Vogonwë had smiled at her encouragingly, she chose not to join them in their activities. Seeing them so obviously happy together made her feel quite despondent. There were times when she almost regretted her faithful Elven heart and would have liked to find romance and companionship anew, but still she hoped, however faint that hope might be, that one day Gravlox would come back from the Halls of Mantoes to be with her again. As so often when she thought of him, her left hand wandered to a secret pocket hidden within the folds of her divided skirt. There she kept the one tangible reminder that she had of her true love, the Entish Foot. No one remembered that piece of the Ent-That-Was-Hewn, she mused – they had all forgotten him who had aided them in their search for revenge and had fallen so valiantly. It was just as well, she reflected; she preferred to treasure her memories silently.

Her steps had taken her through the hallways, seeing what passed for entertainment without desiring to take part in it. She watched Orogarn losing coin after coin with not a chance of winning, then observed the Gateskeeper making rûë-léţ look like it wasn’t a game of chance. She gazed at the florid decorations in gaudy colours, deciding that the remodelling team of HGTV (Hole and Grotto Teleri-Vision) could have a heyday doing a makeover. Almost blinded by the garish lights and sparkling signs, she suddenly realized that the Entish Bow was vibrating noticeably on her back, trying to get her attention.

Go back, it told her urgently.

Why, and where? she asked, puzzled.

Go! was its only reply. She turned her steps back, breaking into a run as both the Bow and the Foot showed considerable excitement. When she raced around a corner, she almost collided with Pimpiowyn, closely followed by Vogonwë.

“Merisu!” the Half-Halfling exclaimed, “We’ve been looking for you! The most wonderful thing has happened!” Triumphantly, she produced a wooden bread-box from the folds of her skirt, which she had made after the same pattern that her role-model used. (No, unfortunately, this pattern has not been discovered nor can it be reproduced – a garment that would enable wooden feet or breadboxes to be hidden without impeding the movement, even the gracefulness of their wearers, would most certainly be very practical and feminine too!) “Guess what? It can talk!! Do you think it’s a piece of the Ent?” Pimpi added breathlessly.

The Elven maiden held the box carefully; she did not need to hear its voice to know the truth - the confirming vibrations of the Entish pieces she already carried had made it clear that here indeed was one of the missing parts. She could feel waves of communication passing through her hands and limbs, though her knowledge of Entish was too rudimentary to be able to follow the conversation. After some time, the Bow began to tremble – not the usual humming vibration of its thoughts, but tremors that seemed almost fearful! Merisu’s face grew graver as she concentrated, then she turned to her friends and said, “There is danger here – the Entish Breadbox has heard rumours of an unknown evil that has arisen.”

“What is it?” Vogonwë asked.

“Well, since it’s unknown, we don’t know,” the Elf answered patiently, with only a tiny inward sigh.

“Deep they delved, low they built, gaudy they wrought – would that they were gone!” a wooden voice chanted.

The three companions stared at the Breadbox. “Now what does that mean?” Pimpiowyn wondered.

[In the light of other historical accounts, written later than this one but translated earlier, these rather cryptic words can be explained to the readers. While searching the Grundorian National Archives for the ultimate chocolate lembas recipe, a hopeful loremistress found the following document. Its origin is obviously Elvish, though the author is not named.

‘In their greed to earn ever more and more profit, the Dwarves dug ever deeper, building ever more discos with ever greater amplifiers and larger bass boosters, so that the sound of the pounding music reverberated throughout the caverns, down, down to the depths, where it woke one who had slept for unknown times past and would better have been left sleeping…’]
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Old 10-22-2003, 02:12 PM   #88
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Sting

The line to enter the casino was very long and moved very slowly. Grrralph stood patiently in his place sandwiched between a very regal looking Elf maiden and a rather rustic looking chap from Soreham. Nearly four hours had passed since he had taken his place in the queue. At last the gates were in sight.

The Elf stood in front of him, pointedly ignoring the wraith. She wore red sequin encrusted high heel shoes, a royal blue silk skirt cut fashionably above the knee, and a stole made of some handsome but unfortunately deceased fuzzy creature. On the few occasions that Grrralph attempted to engage her in conversation, she peered at him frostily over an elevated nose, examined him quickly from head to toe, and, apparently finding what she saw to be somewhat wanting, sniffed and turned away without responding.

The Sorethighhim behind him was clearly what some euphemistically call 'a man of the earth'. Indeed, there seemed to be quite a bit of earth on him, to the point where it was not entirely clear where the grime ended and his grey stained clothes began. Upon arriving in line behind Grrralph, he had enthusiastically introduced himself as "Arry Ar-flizzlephlegm". Upon receiving blank, or frankly astonsihed, looks from those around him, Arry translated his name into the Simple Tongue as "Lord of the Herders of Pigs". Most of those near him in line could have guessed his profession, either from the cloud of flies which surrounded him or the manly aroma of a man of the earth (and pigs) which he exuded. On the few occasions that Arry attempted to engage Grrralph in conversation, he peered at him frostily over an elevated...blackness , examined him quickly from head to toe, and, apparently finding what he saw to be somewhat wanting, sniffed and turned away without responding.

It was another hour until Grrralph, at last, neared the gates. The Dwarf who vetted the prospective clientele looked over the Elf with a scowl on his face. "Aredhel Ar-Whiniel, isn't it?" he asked, tapping a clipboard with a pen. She blushed bright red, and nodded reluctantly. "It seems," he continued, "that you have an unpaid barbill of 767 silver pennies from your last visit. I assume that you have returned to settle up?"

Ar-Whiniel smiled and took him by the sleeve, drawing him a bit away from the rabble, though not quite out of earshot. "There must be some misunderstanding," she purred. "Perhaps an accounting error?" The Dwarf frowned and shook his head. Instantly, four large Sorethighhim appeared and stood beside her with hands on their swords. The Dwarf rummaged through his filofax and produced a lengthy strip of paper which he handed to the Elf.

"Oh, THAT barbill," she said with a not-so-convincing smile. "I intended to pay it. I must have forgotten." One of the Sorethighhim growled menacingly. "Can you take a check? No? Well, there must be some accomodation which we could reach; some way I can make everyone happy."

The Dwarf peered at her frostily over an elevated nose, examined her quickly from head to toe, and, apparently finding what he saw to be adequate, sniffed and turned away. "Around back, third door from the trash heap. You'll have to sign a confidentiality agreement."

As the Elf was escorted firmly away, Grrralph stepped forward. Before either he or the Dwarf could speak, the members of the Itship exited the casino hurriedly, looking warily behind, around, and above themselves. As they went throught the door they broke into a run towards the stables. Grrralph looked at their receding backs for a moment and the wheels of what passed for his mind turned slowly. Then, a flash of insight, or perhaps a premonition of severe bodily harm, struck him and he ran after his comrades.

The Dwarf shrugged, then turned to the next person in line. "Arry", he cried as he bowed deeply three times. "So good of you to stop by our establishment. You'll be wanting the Valleyum Suite I assume. And we'll arrange for some company for you. We have a new...entertainer, a very pretty Elf..."
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Old 10-22-2003, 09:26 PM   #89
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Kuruharan is battling Black Riders on Weathertop.Kuruharan is battling Black Riders on Weathertop.
Boots

Earlier, as Kuruharan was slinking off and Vogonwë and Pimpi were "liberating" pieces of the Entish Bow, Chrysophylax was huddled in the Creature's Lounge feeling monumentally stupid and sorry for himself.

He tried to ignore the nearby Phoenix spontaneously combusting for the third time in the last half hour. That suddenly reminded him, he ordered his fortieth "Petrol-and-Tonic." After finishing that off he finally noticed that he had fallen out of his chair some time ago.

With the wonderful view of the exquisite ceiling to inspire him, marvelously executed with mating hell-beasts I might add, Chrysophylax let his mind wander over the last time profound and all-consuming lust had burned in his dragonish heart.

Boy, had that turned out badly! One minute she was flirting with him like there was no tomorrow, the next minute she was saying that she had to go to the other side of the continent to arrange transport for the dowry, the minute after that she was promising to send him love-letters by hell-bat every time she thought of him, the minute after that she flapped off into the distance, and for the next two weeks Chrysophylax had stood there looking pathetically up at the sky waiting for that first letter to be delivered.

Some rather unpleasant events followed afterward. "All consuming" are good words for Dragon Love because when it goes wrong large numbers of innocent villagers are apt to suffer mightily for it. But I digress.

Soon afterwards Chrysophylax met up with Kuruharan and...

Editor's note: The text mysteriously breaks off at this point. The original manuscript was shredded by large claws. The story resumes with the next legible fragment.

...an arrangement that was not dissimilar from joining the Grundorian Foreign Legion.

Ahh, memories. Chrysophylax's mind drifted further back. The awful consequences of failing to properly explain to one ex-girlfriend why he had another dragon's Cell-antir number. The scars from that encounter were still visible on his side.

More booze to drown that particular memory.

Further back in time. The awful humiliation of finally screwing up the courage to ask out a beautiful dragon-girl and having her laugh in his face saying something to the effect of "Eeeecckkk!!! You're soooo weird!!!" Tears started to pour down Chrysophylax's cheeks.

Another miserable memory, spending twenty agonizing years in the company of a mysterious chimeric beauty, but never having the courage to talk to her.

More booze.

Then the anger came. Anger over being constantly harassed by pathetic little lizards that he just couldn't think about without shuddering. Then there was the frustration about not realizing that the neighbor dragonette had been in love with him until she was killed by an itinerant hero. Then to top it all off, there was the everlasting fury of...

...his bottle being empty.

He hoisted himself to his feet and tried to figure out the way to the bar. After four wrong guesses he finally staggered into it.

"I think you've had enough," said the bartender.

"Whishted! Ouinvus euinbmbnx ytnsgnc!" snarled Chrysophylax.

"I'm sorry," said the bartender, "I didn't quite get that."

"Qoungou," moaned Chrysophylax, "toungs vmbxin regixmbod!" Having relieved himself of that particular observation, Chrysophylax hung his head and delivered a great platitude for the ages, "Womenshes, cansh livers ith umses, cansh livers ithouth umses!!!"

"Riiiight," said the dwarf.

"That shettllesh if!" cried Chrysophylax, slamming his claw down on the bar. "I'llsh beshpeeketh to herumses of myth abidering lovers orth I'llth killers meshelf trying!"

With that determination firmly resolved in his heart, Chrysophylax fell forward on the bar and passed out.

He did not revive until a great crashing resounded through the Ham Steep Resort & Casino.

[ October 23, 2003: Message edited by: Kuruharan ]
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Old 10-23-2003, 10:01 AM   #90
Thenamir
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Sting

Gateskeeper sat on the velvet couch in the Lord Dimli's posh office smoking Dimli's finest pipeweed from the lebethrond-wood humidor on Dimli's massive office desk. Dimli himself sat behind the desk, shaking in his dwarf-boots, grinning foolishly and acting as conciliatory as a dwarf can when his back is to the wall. Gateskeeper had broken the bank at the Glitzy Caverns and was now trying to cash in.

The most incredible streak of "luck" had kept that ball falling on the double-zero slot for the better part of an hour. Even when the dwarf running the game nailed a board over that particular spot, the ball had managed to find the only knothole in the wood and fell in anyway. Most of the crowd on that half of the casino had gathered around the table to see the monsterous pile of chips growing exponentially. Especially two large, dark figures who hovered near Gateskeeper's elbows.

Those two massive beings now stood one on either side of Gateskeeper, arms folded, scowling at the Lord Dimli from behind pinstripe hoods that could not obscure the
smouldering rubescent glow of their eyes. They were Korprat-Loyers, the demon barristers of the ancient world, their wing-tip shoes spread from one wall of the cavernous office to the other. (Translators note: it is a matter of great debate amongst Muddled-Mirth scholars as to whether Korprat-Loyers actually wore wing-tips, or whether it was a metaphorical description of their imposing presence.)

"So," said Gateskeeper in a cheery voice, "I believe you owe me...let's see...how much was it again, Golfboll?"

Golfboll, on Gateskeeper's left chafed at having to attend this upstart wizard-boy. He had once been one of Mogul's chief lieutenants. He was charged with the real-estate contracts and shopping centers of Minus Mallcool until he missed a clause at the Fall of Mandolin. Golfboll nevertheless glared at Dimli and said, "Four billion, two-hundred twenty-seven million, eighty-nine thousand, four-hundred sixty-one kabobs, boss. And two calzones."

"Ah, yes, that was it," said Gateskeeper, oozing all the geniality and smoothness of Martha Stewart selling snake oil. (One of Kuruharan's largest competitors for that lucrative market.) "And I'd like to be paid now. In cash." he said, relighting his pipe. He took a long draw and blew several smoke-rings that fashioned themselves into the form of handcuffs, chains, and hangman's-nooses that drifted lazily around Dimli's face.

"M-m-mister G-g-gateskeeper, sir," gulped Dimli, his mouth suddenly very dry and his brow suddenly very wet, "w-w-we...don't have that much money in our bank. It's m-m-more than this entire complex is worth."

"Oh," said Gateskeeper, his tone changing to one of mild commiseration and regret, "that is too bad. However, I've taken the liberty of having Golfboll here draw up a contract deeding over the entire operation to me. Just sign the papers. Then leave."

Dimli would have bristled at this request except for the towering Golfboll hovering over him, exuding that black breath that threatened to eat away the finish on his desk. Dimli had not been this scared since that insufferable elf, Lackalass, kept trying to pull him into dark corners while he was giving the grand tour.

The trembling dwarf knew he had no choice if he wanted to save his miserable hide. He took his quill in his shaking hand, scrawled a signature, and pushed the papers back across the desk. Golfball snatched them up from the desk and carried them to the waiting Gateskeeper, who examined them briefly before looking up at Dimli. "I believe you're in my chair," he said with no trace of emotion. He snapped his fingers. The other Loyer, Dirtbag, strode to the desk, lifted Dimli from his chair, and set him down on the floor near the office door.

With a smug grin of satisfaction Gateskeeper walked around to the chair and sat down. It was then that he discovered that the chair was built for dwarf-kind, and he was now firmly stuck between the armrests. He still retained enough dignity to say, "That's all, ex-lord Dimli. Show him out, Dirtbag." The Loyer moved to obey, but all in the room froze when a loud rumble grew to a deafening roar...

[ October 23, 2003: Message edited by: Thenamir ]
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Old 10-24-2003, 07:46 PM   #91
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Sting

“What in the name of Míc’rôsöftar is this new devilry?” exclaimed the Gateskeeper from his rather awkward and mighty uncomfortable position. But the roar echoing in the room being deafening his words went naturally unheard by the Loyers as well as the recently disentitled Dimli. Luckily the Gateskeeper’s perplexity didn’t last for long and he soon remembered that being an all-powerful wizard in the field of wizardry meant he had all the needed powers to solve this burning (yes, he could sense the heat) issue on his own. So without further ado - and completely ignoring Dimli and his attempt to peddle earplugs (‘Plugs-sale: only one Casino!’ read the Dwarf’s hastily scribbled sign.) – the Gateskeeper straightened in his chair and, with greatest effort he had thus far had to make during the quest, sent out an undefined number of o-mails To: whom it may concern.

For a moment there was a dead silence - or would have been had not the ear-splitting din drowned it. The Gateskeeper stared from over his spectacles into the distance, his knitted brows reflecting depth of concentration. Another similar moment passed - and the Gateskeeper’s eyes began to water. The third fleeting moment that lingered by was finally too much for the wizard: there was a jerk in the corner of his eye and then --- he blinked. *zap* Undelivered o-mail returned to sender. “Damnit! Now I have to go out to find out what’s going on…” quoth Gatesy and rolled out of the door in his office chair.

* * * * * * *

In the meanwhile, somewhere deep in the depths of the Glitzy Caverns, the source of the tremor and clamor - that caused the Entish artefacts to tremble and the Sex-Mix-Ship to flee (in what surely resembled but obviously couldn’t be panic) – was having one quite ordinary day. But now, to finally remove the veil of secrecy that has shrouded the identity of Him even from the Gateskeeper and his army of all-intruding o-mails… Ladies and gentlemen, lads and lasses - and those in-between: it’s time for a flashback!

Quote:
They raced through the passageway, and there it was – the mighty Escalator of Ka-Boom! Out of breath, they stepped onto the mechanical transportation device that took them upwards. At the top, far away, they saw a faint flickering light that came ever nearer. Something huge and fiery was approaching them, coming downwards on the opposite side of the escalator.

“Ai!” wailed Vogonwë. “Ai! A Balfrog is come!” Pimpi didn’t know what he was talking about, but grasped his hand instinctively.

Kuruharan’s Pain! the Dwarf thought.

“Jolly good opportunity for a battle!”
Etceteron exclaimed, but Wylkynsion, who was more learned in lore than his master, cowered silently in his sheath.

Halfullion blanched. Too well did he know this foe and recognize its danger.

Orogarn Two held up his crystal, but it had gone dark and dull.

Merisuwyniel could feel the Bow trembling at her back and shuddered to think of the potentially destructive effect of fire upon it.

Only Chrysophylax was undaunted. After all, he knew a bit about fighting fire with fire. He pushed the others aside and strode up the moving stairway to reach the oncoming threat faster.

From below, the company heard drums, drums in the deep. Merisuwyniel saw graffiti scrawled on the wall: They are coming!

“Dratted buskers!” muttered Halfullion.
Then their doom was upon them. Chrysophylax breathed a mighty flame at the Balfrog, but the foe replied by lashing at him with his long, fiery tongue. The dragon was pulled onto the downward escalator and about to disappear from their sight when Kuruharan shouted, “Fly, you fool!”

And fly he did! For the dragon indeed had wings, and he could use them as well. The Balfrog fell into the deep, whether alive or dead, this story does not tell.
But luckily (for the readers at least; the Gallowships opinion on the matter is debatable) this story tells what the previous failed to reveal… Reunification of the Entish Bow proudly presents: Mordaenárur the Balfrog and his loyal companion the Broom!

The This-and-That-Ship escaped the Subway and left the wretched Balfrog to fall to its doom and destruction. And long was the fall he took (so long indeed that had there been a wizard or such clinging to its fiery figure the two would have had plenty of time to play out an impressive battle scene before hitting the bottom of the void which then, of course, would have turned out to be the top of the highest mountain in the neighborhood… But now I digress.) – before remembering his last hope.

“Fly you broom!” the severely shadowy creature exclaimed (conveniently in westosterone so that those unfamiliar with the fell language of the fallen Máyôrs are able to follow the script) and lo! A faint shiver went through The Broom - which hereby steps into the story without any explanations whatsoever – with a squeak and then a squeal:

“My goodness, Master; this is terrible, Master!”

“More flying and less whimpering!” demanded Mordaenárur the Fiery-yet-Wingless (or de-winged?; this will be a matter of further debate), clutching the Broom tight. The Broom snapped shut its knothole and silently and smoothly, like MôgulAirs special Wraithflight, it stopped the fall, then hung in midair for a moment before taking off to a wobbling flight back towards the Escalator.


How Mord and the Broom eventually passed from the Subway to Soreham and Ham Steep is undoubtedly a story worth telling. But alas! that has to wait for a more fitting time and place (we’ll move forward only with the mention that 1) if you’re planning a trip to the Fancorn Forest we suggest you forget about it and that 2) nomen est omen, at least when it comes to the newly named parts of Soreham such as Woid or West-Ermnot.). Now - to take us back to where we ought to have been the whole time but from where we have managed to stay away through the better three quarters of this rambling review… - let’s delve deep to the roots of the Wight Mountains…or maybe we’ll rather stay tuned and see what happens later…

[ October 25, 2003: Message edited by: Annunfuiniel ]
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Old 10-24-2003, 09:26 PM   #92
Kuruharan
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Kuruharan is battling Black Riders on Weathertop.Kuruharan is battling Black Riders on Weathertop.
Boots

*CRASH-BANG*

"Huh-wha...?" Chrysophylax moaned as he awoke with a start. His dragon instincts told him that something was seriously wrong.

"Owwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwww," he groaned, clutching his head with his claws. He determined that the something seriously wrong was this massive hangover of Etceteronian proportions.

*CRASH-BANG*

"Keep it down," he gasped weakly. He put his head down on the bar. That proved to be a mistake because...

*CRASH-BANG*

...and the bar shook and bashed Chrysophylax in the jaw.

"AI!" shouted Chrysophylax. He reared up and looked around him. The room seemed to be spinning. He did not trouble to wonder if that was caused by the crashing or his sorry state, such reckoning was currently beyond him. It did not matter anyway. He knew what he had to do. It was the only thing that mattered.

He had to find something to drink!!!

Then he had to find Grrufff and tell her of his undying love for her, before the world fell in on them or his head split open, whichever happened to come first.
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Old 10-26-2003, 07:28 PM   #93
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Sting

Orogarn Two sat in the furthest corner of the bar watching Crysophylax drown himself in potent potables and wondering where that infernal racket was coming from. What had started as a quiet noise barely heard over the dragonly sobs had soon grown to a deafening howl that threatened to shatter his eardrums. He desperately tore a soggy cocktail napkin into shreds and twisted them into thin wads, which he shoved forcefully into his ears. This helped to dull the clamor, but it did nothing to abate the emptiness in is heart or his pockets. Why’d they have to have slots?

For two solid hours he had dutifully shoved one kabob after another into the greedy maw of nearly every machine in the casino. If his calculations were correct, out of the 1000 individual kabobs he had slid into the greedy coin slots he had won exactly 8. Considering that most gambling establishments offered a fun and entertaining 90-95% return on their slots, Orogarn Two could not help but be flabbergasted by the unconcealed avarice of the Dwarf proprietors of the Glitzy Caverns and their unbelievably low return of less than 1%. He had looked around him in amazement as other casino visitors had cheerfully given up their money for absolutely nothing in return except the thrill of pulling a metal arm and watching those shiny wheels spin. Gullible peasants.

Kabobless, he had returned to the only place that made any sense – the Automatic Moolah Machine. All he needed was another KB 1000 and he was sure he was going to hit the big one. With a little luck and a lottta dough, he was going to take these dirty dwarves for all they were worth and then some. But his plan had backfired.

When he had slid his card into the AMM, instead of the normal instruction set he had been presented with two completely unexpected choices:

(1) Avoid a lecture from your dad and get only KB 10 so at least you won’t starve
(2) Get KB 1000 and quite a shouting at from your father who’s about tired of shelling out money for your addictions!


He had stood there for several minutes mulling over which button to push. Denimthor’s lectures were laboriously loud and likely to last loads longer than Orogarn Two could possibly stomach. Still, 1000 kabobs would really hit the spot, and he just knew that the Mighty Mount Pantaloon machine at the far end of the hall was ready to pay off big-time in not more than 100 pulls. He had reached to push 2, but just them the an upset Chrysophylax had wandered by and swiped him (accidently on purpose, I’m sure) with his gigantic tail, bruising his shoulder and sending his finger into the 1 instead. With a cry of dismay and a look of rage at the departing dragon, Orogarn Two had taken his ten kabobs and the AMM receipt and set of in pursuit of the clumsy beast, intent on revenge but unsure of how to go about it against such a large adversary.

And now he sat with ears stuffed with Kabloohah-soaked paper watching the dragon crash to the floor in a drunken stupor. He had followed the dragon to the bar thinking to tape a “Kick Me” sign to his back, but instead he had ended up sitting in a dark booth reading the receipt he had gotten from the machine. He had escaped a harangue from his father, but the Proctor had still sent him a message through the Automatic Moolah Machine, which, of course, was connected directly to the Citibank. What he had read had sent shivers down his spine.
Quote:
Dear OT2,

Hoping this finds you well, for things are certainly not well here in the city of Minus Teeth (yes, the Denturians have repaired our fair home!). Though our great enamel towers again stand tall, I fear they may not stand much longer in our name. Since the great calamity, the Porcelain Throne has been assailed by wave after wave of law suits holding the Stewards responsible for everything from the damages caused by the fires to the rising costs of dental floss. Long have I sat high in the Tower of the Citibank communicating on the ancient cell-antir which only you and I know about (and now all of our readers), and I can see that our cause is quickly becoming hopeless. There is no way we can fight off so many attackers at once. I am afraid I may have to start selling off stock (yours, of course,) to pay for our rising legal costs. You’ll understand if I have to suddenly cut off your AMM access.

In recognition of our trouble times, I have written a new motto, effective immediately.

You can bank on the Proctor: Better to be Minus Teeth than minus kabobs!

Sincerely,
Denimthor
Orogarn Two sipped his drink and wondered what could possibly go wrong next....
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Old 10-27-2003, 11:47 AM   #94
Estelyn Telcontar
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Estelyn Telcontar is battling Black Riders on Weathertop.Estelyn Telcontar is battling Black Riders on Weathertop.
Silmaril

It seemed to Mordaenárur that it had been only a very brief time since he had found a safe refuge deep under the fortress of Ham Steep. He had fled after his ignominious defeat in the Great Subway, nursing his wounds and his hatred against the foe that had toppled him there. When he discovered a long-abandoned wine-cellar in the depths of the caverns, complete with packaging materials that made a good sleeping place, he turned around several times to make himself comfortable and dropped off into a healing hibernation.

The Broom, bored in the dark (and just a little bit afraid, though he wouldn’t have admitted it), whistled a happy tune to the rhythm of the Balfrog’s snoring, then gave in to an uneasy rest with dreams in which he could no longer distinguish between waking and sleeping. It was he who first noticed that a noise louder than Mord’s snores became ever more audible. He tried to hum a lullaby, for he feared the consequences should the Balfrog awake an age or so earlier than necessary. His flammable temper could be disastrous for wooden objects!

To no avail – the pain of yet unhealed wounds added to the innate wrath of the creature, and with a roar of such dimensions that it sounded throughout the whole of the Glitzy Caverns, he awoke. Flames and smoke surrounded him, and the Entish Broom cowered in a corner behind a jutting of rock, trusting that it would protect him from the all-consuming burning.

So great was the Balfrog’s rage that he completely forgot his flying companion, much to the Broom’s relief, and stomped out of the cellar, his footsteps pounding and echoing with a might that chilled all hearts in the Dwarven entertainment retreat, though they knew not as yet what caused the clamour. His Entish companion followed at a safe distance, hoping to escape notice from both fiery friend and unknown foes.

Fortunately for the furnishings and decoration of the gambling complex, to say nothing of the customers and personnel, a turn of the hallway tunnel brought Mord to a backdoor opening. He emerged on the hillside overlooking the entrance and leading to Sethamir’s Livery Stables and Pawn Shop. Unfortunately for the valiant Co-Ed-Ship, the first glimpse he had was of their fleeing figures.

Due to their experience in Heroic Questing and the forewarning the Entish Pieces had given them, the companions were the only ones in the whole fortress who were not completely immobilized by sheer terror. Merisuwyniel, well-versed in ancient Elven wisdom, had recalled the lines of an old Lay and quickly taught the most important ones to the others.

You got to know when to hold 'em, know when to fold 'em,
Know when to walk away and know when to run.
*

(Orogarn Two, in whose veins some Noodleorian blood yet flowed, must have known this Lay, but had conveniently – or inconveniently – forgotten it.)

“This is a foe beyond any of us,” she said, “it is definitely time to run. Let’s go!”

As they headed for the stables, Merisu whistled for Falafel, a long tremolo, low at first, then higher. And Falafel, being an intelligent steed, freed not only herself but also the other horses from their boxes. The lovelorn Grrruff, whom she had been comforting, dashed for the door with them. They raced toward the Fellow/Galship at full speed, turning toward the drawbridge to leave the Fortress when the flaming Creature burst into sight. Down the mountain it came, streaming with fire.

“Over the bridge!” the Elven maiden shouted to her companions. They ran, then turned to face the danger bravely, yet with little hope. Where was Chrysophylax when they needed him? The Dragon was the one who had saved them at their last encounter with the Balfrog.

It reached the bridge, opening its mouth to show its fiery, lashing tongue. Suddenly a voice spoke: “You cannot pass! This is a one-lane highway bridge! I am the Wielder of the Ticket of Moredough. Your speed will not avail you – you cannot pass!”

Astonished, the heads of the Itship turned toward the speaker. It was the Nazgrrl! She had spread her wings to their full width; they cast vast shadows behind her. The Balfrog stopped in his tracks.

Mordaenárur had never before seen such a creature. Instinctively, he knew her for a female, but unlike other females that he had approached in the past, she showed no fear of him. A feeling yet unknown encompassed him, and the flames withdrew from his surface to kindle a new fire in his heart. Unbidden, poetry began to form in his mind: Is this the face that launched a thousand ships? (He did not know it, but the answer to that question was surprisingly affirmative, though unlike the story of another female with a similar function, the ships that launched upon seeing the face of the Nazgrrl launched not for love… )

Puzzled by what was happening – or perhaps, what was not happening – the Hero-Ship stood still, looking from the Balfrog to the Nazgrrl and wondering what to expect next.


° ° ° ° ° ° ° ° ° ° ° ° ° ° ° ° ° ° ° °

*(Note: Merisu would have liked to sing them the whole song, but had little time due to the urgency of their situation. Here it is, for those scholars of Elven poetry who wish to know it in its entirety:

On a warm summer's evenin' on a quest bound for nowhere,
I met up with the Hero; we were both too tired to sleep.
So we took turns a starin' at the stars up in the darkness
'Til boredom overtook us, and he began to speak.

He said, "Elf, I've made an age out of readin' people's faces,
And knowin' what their fate was by the way they held their eyes.
So if you don't mind my sayin', I can see you're out of maces.
For a taste of your miruvor I'll give you some advice."

So I handed him my flask and he drank down my last swallow.
Then he bummed a lembas and asked me for a bite.
And the night got deathly quiet, and his face lost all expression.
Said, "If you're gonna play the game, Elf, ya gotta learn to play it right.

You got to know when to hold 'em, know when to fold 'em,
Know when to walk away and know when to run.
You never count your money when you're sittin' at the table.
There'll be time enough for countin' when the questin's done.

Now ev'ry Hero knows that the secret to survivin'
Is knowin' what to throw away and knowing what to keep.
'Cause ev'ry quest's a winner and ev'ry quest's a loser,
And the best that you can hope for is to die in your sleep."

So when he'd finished speakin', he turned to the horizon,
Brushed away the lembas crumbs and faded off to sleep.
And somewhere in the darkness the Hero found his treasure.
But in his final words I found advice that I could keep.

You got to know when to hold 'em, know when to fold 'em,
Know when to walk away and know when to run.
You never count your money when you're sittin' at the table.
There'll be time enough for countin' when the questin's done.
)
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'Mercy!' cried Gandalf. 'If the giving of information is to be the cure of your inquisitiveness, I shall spend all the rest of my days in answering you. What more do you want to know?' 'The whole history of Middle-earth...'
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Old 10-27-2003, 04:57 PM   #95
Mithadan
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Sting

The Itship stood on one side of the bridge and the Balfrog stood at the other. Between them was Grrruff, with wings outstretched, talons extended, fangs bared and collar spread. The Balfrog took a remarkably hesitant step forward, onto the bridge.

"Grrralph," asked Vogonwë. "What does your...thing think she is doing out there?"

"Beats me," answered the Wraith. "I didn't even know that she could talk."

"How could you not notice that she talked?" asked Felafel indignantly. In the commotion, this comment was overlooked by the members of the Gallowship and, upon later reflection, was attributed to hallucination brought on by excess adrenaline.

"She cannot stand alone!" cried Grrralph. He drew his sword from its scabbard and pulled his morngstar from beneath his cloak. Then he stepped forward onto the bridge.

"Wait!" cried Merisu. Grrralph paused and looked over his shoulder at the shieldmaiden. "Technically speaking, Grrruff isn't standing," the Elf continued. "Actually, she's sort of hovering."

"That's right," added Earnur as he tugged nervously on the Wraith's cloak. Vogonwë nodded. "Definitely not standing," he confirmed as he edged farther away from the bridge.

"You don't want me to risk my life in battle with the Balfrog?" asked Grrralph.

"Well, you might make him even more angry," said Pimpionwë reasonably. "I wouldn't like him to be more angry," added Vogonwë. "Nothing personal. Please feel free to take...er...risk your life at any other time."

Grrralph considered their words, then lowered his sword. "Very well," said Grrralph with a voice that quavered a bit. "I will stay with you all."

"You don't have to stay," muttered Earnur. "Just don't tick off the Balfrog." But by this time Grrralph's attention had returned to the bridge. No one noticed that steam rose from his eyes...

-------------------

A completely unrelated event was taking place at almost precisely the same time elsewhere. Far away, deep in the bowels of a massive edifice built of black marble, a third level clerk opened an envelope. The clerk read the missive inside and his eyebrows flew up. He directed the envelope and its contents to his superior, who passed it on to his superior, who passed it on the the head honcho himself.

Putting on a pair of reading glasses, he read the letter. "Hmmm," he muttered. "He's never done that before. Still, it's all done proper and as required and the terms of the Orcish Conundrum Concordat are very clear in this regard." He consulted a very large ledger, then turned to his assistant. "Bring up number 3624368 and get him ready to go." A sly smile appeared on his face and he halted his assistant before he could depart. "...and go down to the Düng-Hép and empty it. Let's send him those too and take them off our hands..."

[ November 05, 2003: Message edited by: Mithadan ]
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Old 10-28-2003, 08:17 AM   #96
Birdland
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Sting

Suddenly a voice spoke: “You cannot pass! This is a one-lane highway bridge! I am the Wielder of the Ticket of Moredough. Your speed will not avail you – you cannot pass!”

"Grrralph," asked Vogonwë. "What does your...thing think she is doing out there?"
"Beats me," answered the Wraith. "I didn't even know that she could talk."


And had it not been for the fact that Grrralph was catching his first sight of a genuine Balfrog, (who, unexpectedly, was wingless, and also smaller than he had pictured), he would have remembered that his faithful, lovelorn, impossibly aerodynamic steed could, in fact, NOT talk.

So who had spoken? Who had stepped forward and in ringing tones commanded this very spawn of Môgul to cease and desist his vicious pursuit of our Whatsitship?

Well, you had to look close, since he was standing in between two of the largest creatures of evil on Muddled Mirth, and there was a lot of smoke and flame. It was Norni Thistlebuck, the Dwarfling, the unfortunate disdained love-child of the Halfling croupier and a petty-dwarf cigarette girl. Norni was such an embarrassment to denizens of the Glitzy Caverns that he had been exiled to this lonely outpost of the caves, where he was assigned the job of toll gate keeper, and told - for Emu’s Sake - to keep out of sight.

Norni was perfectly happy with his life, having inherited his father’s happy-go-slothly hobbity ways, and none of the social-climbing skills of his mother. Also his beardless, chinless face and stubbled feet tended to scare small children, and Norni was soft-hearted when it came to the kids. So the tiny dwarfling spent his days napping, chain-smoking bowl after bowl of Old Soapy, dropping pebbles off the bridge to see how long it took them to hit bottom, and staring vacantly into space. Every so often a lost Elven spelunker or a dwarf thinking he had found a shortcut to the VIP level of the casino would pass through, and Norni would dutifully collect the bridge toll from the wayfarer, punch a hole in the receipt to show that they had paid, and then return to his lonely, futile, worthless existence.

Norni had been taking his post second breakfast nap when the horrified Gallowship came storming across the narrow bridge. The sounds of thundering feet and hoofs startled the dwarfling into action. Thinking that a bunch of gate jumpers had dashed across the bridge to avoid paying the toll, he manfully (or dwarfully) threw himself down from his kiosk onto the span, stopping (or so he thought) the Balfrog just as the malevolent Máyôr caught his first sight of our broken hearted fell beast, Grrruff.

Grrruff had sat woefully yet hopefully in the stables, waiting anxiously for the halfling croupier to deliver the billet-doux composed by the Entish Thigh. The croupier - a bitter, down-on-his-luck Bucklander who had once dreamed of making it big in Minus Teeth - had tossed this letter in the nearest floor drain (which were placed conveniently throughout the casino for the use of the patrons.)

And so the day had passed, with no word from her erstwhile heart‘s desire. Grrruff had sank further and further into despair, despite the encouraging words of Falafel, who had tried desperately to stem the Nazgrrl’s tears (This because a tear-soaked Nazgrrl has a very funny smell.) As the infamous Balfrog stormed the entertainment complex, Falafel had pushed, nudged and finally kicked the listless creature of darkness out of the stable just before the roof collapsed in smoke and flame from a well-placed whip-crack.

Grrrruff plodded over the bridge, following on the heels of the scrambling, panic-stricken Run-awayship. At that moment there was only on thing that could snap her out of her broken-hearted funk: a direct command from her shrouded master.

“Grrruff! Sit Pretty!” screamed Grralph, in a last desperate attempt to block the bridge. And just as Norni plummeted down upon the span and started demanding that the Balfrog cough up the toll, Grrruff the Nazgul stretched her wings, extended her talons, bared her fangs and spread her collar. Backlit by the spreading flames and a neon advertisement for Old Winyards, it was a stunning display.

Thus Mordaenárur the Balfrog, for the first time in the half-light of the caverns beheld Grrruff, Fell Beast of Moredough and thought her dark, dark and scorched, like a crisped sapling standing amidst the the debris of a slash-and-burned grove, while a small, annoying dwarfling hopped up and down at her feet, screaming.

And Grrruff now was suddenly aware of him: tall heir of an Entish broom, wingless - though it looked good on him - and hiding a grudge against all, that yet she felt. For a moment, still as stone she stood and stared at Mordaenárur. And it was at just this moment that Chrysophylax entered the scene, clambering over the destruction left by the Balfrog, flashing a drunken smile as he bawled loudly “Hey, baby! Here I am! Whosh your dragon, baby?”

Chrysophylax was brought up short by a broad, wingless back as he tried to cross the bridge to the object of his desire. Poking the obstruction in the back with a talon, Chrys slurred “Hey, buddy, ya wanna step aside there? I got a date with a Maia…” He waved frantically towards the blushing Grrruff, then greeted her again with a potent, smoky belch.

[ October 29, 2003: Message edited by: Birdland ]
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Old 10-29-2003, 08:10 AM   #97
Kuruharan
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Kuruharan is battling Black Riders on Weathertop.Kuruharan is battling Black Riders on Weathertop.
Boots

Mordaenárur spun about and dealt Chrysophylax a blow to the noggin with the Entish Broom. Chrysophylax just stood there for a minute. Then he took a drink from his bottle and said, "Pardon misunderstood your beg but I you perhaps me! Bridge have to cross the I!"

Everyone stared at him for a minute.

"Canyon!" snapped Chrysophylax. "Me unless you listen way want suggest I you toss my get of out you to into the that!"

Everyone only stared at him for another minute. Only Earnur Etceteron gravely shook his head. He’d been down this road before.

The Balfrog made no reply, he only stood there with an extremely befuddled look on his face.

Meanwhile, Chrysophylax was trying to figure out why his demands for passage and threats of bodily harm were having so little effect. Then he had to try and remember why he needed to get across the bridge in the first place. That blow to the head had not helped matters! He took another drink and tried to remember how that had happened.

Suddenly, he noticed that there was this funny group of five wingless, yet shadowy, creatures spinning around in front of him. Each one of them seemed to be wielding a large broom.

Finally Chrysophylax said, "This is your last chance! Either get out of my way or I will ram those brooms down your throats!" Well, that’s what he tried to say. What he actually said was something more along the lines of, "Last this your chance is! Ram either my broom that way out your or I will get down!!!"

The Balfrog started to sneer and chuckle.

That did it!!!! Throw down time!!!!

Chrysophylax threw down the rest of his bottle (which certainly made him feel like breathing fire and brimstone) and then chucked the bottle at the mysterious creature that was second from the left.

Strangely enough, even though the bottle seemed to hit the creature squarely in the head, it just smashed down on the ground behind it as if the creature was not even there.

Everyone burst out laughing.

While Chrysophylax was still standing there and stupidly trying to figure out what had just happened, the Balfrog stepped forward and smacked Chrysophylax back into the wall with his Broom.

Chrysophylax rolled over and looked up.

"Oh-NO!!! This is not good!!!" he thought to himself. "They’re multiplying right before my eyes!!!" Indeed, they seemed to be, because now Chrysophylax saw ten of them. Chrysophylax dragged himself to his feet and tried to reckon up which one of his adversaries looked the most dangerous. By using geographical logic he decided that the third from the right was the one that posed him the greatest danger. Gathering all his powers together he sprang at his attacker.

"Ha-Ha!!" Chrysophylax chuckled to himself. "Let’s hear them laugh now!!!"

BUT WHAT’S THIS???!! Chrysophylax’s unerring instincts had somehow managed to fail him! He pounced squarely on top of the third creature from the right and had grabbed…

Nothing at all…

*THUMP-CRUNCH* he went on the ground!

Yes, he was definitely hearing them laugh now! As Chrysophylax rolled over on the ground, his twenty-five opponents (amazing how well he could keep track of these things considering his condition!) walked up to him and prepared to smash him with their Brooms.

Finally, Chrysophylax did something sensible (sort of). He decided that this was no time to mess around. He lashed out with his tail in a desperate effort to fell some of them and give him a chance to get up.

Chrysophylax was still feeling a bit mystified by the decided lack of the delightful sensation of his tail smashing the craniums of multiple attackers when he finally managed to land a blow on the real Balfrog.

*SMACK*

The Balfrog went hurtling toward the chasm. The Balfrog (being the sentimental type) took a moment of his flight to pause and reflect on how many wonderful stars there were down in that chasm! "How odd!" Mordaenárur thought.

This moment of introspection gave Mordaenárur the presence of mind to grab hold of the nearest thing that could keep him from falling in. This thing turned out to be Chrysophylax’s tail.

Alas, momentum and inertia being what they are, Mordaenárur pulled a very startled Chrysophylax down into the depths with him.

"Oh well," thought Mordaenárur to himself, "now we get to have that falling fight sequence we missed earlier in the story!"

"Oh yes, Grrufff, that’s right!" thought Chrysophylax, remembering his new-found love but forgetting his wings.

[ October 29, 2003: Message edited by: Kuruharan ]
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Old 10-29-2003, 08:46 AM   #98
Annunfuiniel
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Sting

And so the two fell beasts fell into the chasm in a bundle of fire and smoke, tails and talons – and a couple of unused wings. Wings!?! thought Mord, finally getting into the heart of the matter; So not fair! That drunken excuse for a dragon has wings and I don’t, “So not fair!!!” The Balfrog now abandoned silent musings and roared in rage – waking up Chrysophylax who had huddled up in Mord’s lap and then passed out (dreaming of Grrruff).

“Whatscha fumin’ now, babe? Jusht wondered what mighta beesh hidden unda thatsh corr…corl…collar… ” drooled the dragon (revealing that the word ‘awake’ wasn’t exactly befitting to describe his state of consciousness), unaware of the danger he was in – and of the danger he just avoided as his words went unheard by the Nazgrrl.

But before we get back to Mord’s answer let’s travel back in time (about half a minute) to have a quick look on how the Gallowship reacted to these happenings…

* * * * * * *

Up on and behind the bridge a lot was indeed going on. As the burning bundle of bloody beasts plunged into the void an admirably simultaneous gasp escaped the lips of the better two thirds of the - obviously soon to become dragonless - Itship. Those not engaged in the gasping were the Gateskeeper and Kuruharan who had things of far greater importance on their minds.

The former sat still in his new chair (earlier Earnur Etceteron had been so kind as to offer to give him a push over the bridge but Gatesy had politely declined; Lord Etceteron’s stammering “Could I help you over the edg…*cough* bridge?” and the curious gleam in his eyes had somehow not assured him.) and feverishly scribbled these and other odd marks in his notebook: a = S F / m, v = v0 + at. His concentrated expression relaxed into a triumphant grin only after careful calculations. “That’ll be one Big Bang…” he chuckled.

The latter on the other hand wasn't present at all; a matter which had somehow gone unnoticed by all. But had Kuruharan been there he would undoubtedly have taken up the task which his stand-in, the diligent Dimli, now enthusiastically executed (for, you know: 'Any Dwarf will do...'). And so it took no time at all before a box office rose to the financially more advantageous side of the bridge, its neonlights blinking blindingly: ‘Cruel Chrysi vs. Monstrous Mord (place your bets here)’. The dwarf wasn’t really worried over what would happen to the falling creatures; as long as they kept falling and fighting it was all the same to him - and good for business. And as the gullible guys and gals – and one kabobless Grundorian - began to float towards his stand Dimli rubbed his hands together and chuckled: "O-boy-o-boy-o-boy-o-boy!"

But in the middle of this mayhem everyone had forgotten about a creature and a thing of whom/which the latter was vitally important to the Potpourriship and the former was about to become a real pain in the a**terisk. So we will now turn our attention to the Broom and Norni the dwarfling. And first, to understand how the Broom lay there, in the middle of the bridge in the middle of the mayhem, all forlorn, abandoned and outcast, we need to go still a bit further back in time:

This moment of introspection gave Mordaenárur the presence of mind to grab hold of the nearest thing that could keep him from falling in. This thing turned out to be Chrysophylax’s tail.

Now you see: when Mordaenárur clutched to the dragon’s tail he naturally had to let go off what he had been holding before - and that would be the Broom, which then came hurtling across the air right to Norni’s furry feet. And Norni, while gasping together with the Alltogethership* (but for different reasons; he was just trying to express his feelings on this outrageous attempt to avoid bridge toll), grabbed the Entish thing that landed on his toes and peeped solemnly:

“I’ll take this then! For no-one crosses this bridge without a pay!”

“No!!!” Merisu let out an ear-splitting and utterly feminine screech; “That Broom is part of the Ent-that-was-Broken! Get that dwarfling!”

Grrruff would have been nearest to the hybrid whose status had now become ‘Wanted: dead or alive’. But her interests were totally elsewhere, namely at the void which had swallowed not one but two potential boyfriends.

Things started to look very bad for the Itship and their quest (‘As bad as a Nazgrrl in garterbelt’ the Broom would likely have put it. And so it definitely was the Broom’s luck that it had been knocked unconscious and was thus unable to speak up.). But luckily there was always one manly man** to take up the challenge of heroic deeds! Yes, Lord Earnur Etceteron indeed saw that his time had finally come and that against such devoted bridge-toll-collector words would be of no use. So the Lord of Dun Sóbrin stepped forward and reached for his (daunting?, daunted?) sword Griper, which then began to whimper: Thrust me into that mongrel and I shall never speak to you again!. This of course was something that by no means halted Lord Etceteron: “Is that a promise?” he instead queried and manfully took another step towards the dwarfling.

“Fly you fools!” Norri commanded in a tone not so commanding as he would have hoped it to be.

“Fly? With what? Our only winged companion just fell into the chasm!” put practical Pimpi in between. But right at that moment the Broom came round and turned its wordy self again. And hearing the half-halfling’s last words (and considering his state of mind after all the whacking) he had all the reasons to burst into a song (as usual he could only remember the catchy chorus of this Ardavision megahit):

Fly on the wings of love,
fly baby fly.
Reaching the stars above,
touching the sky.
***

Letting it pass that the stars appeared to be below and not above, the lyrics were so befitting for the situation that even grieving Grruff was shaken from her mourning. Fly + wings + love = Grruff flies to catch love! She reasoned and plunged after the couple, at the same time trying to figure out which ‘love’ she was then supposed to save.

* * * * * * *

In the meanwhile, crashing down the chasm

While all the above mentioned action went on back on the surface of the earth Mord and Chrysophylax kept falling and falling and falling and their speed kept accelerating and acceler... Well, you got the picture!

*knock, knock - WHACK*

The Balfrog was still trying to free himself of the dragon that clung to the him in a way no self-respecting dragon cared to remember. Luckily Chrysophylax’s less than half-conscious condition didn’t enable any permanent marks to be left into his memory. Yet, as Mord delivered the fiftieth or so slap on his scaled forehead, Chrysophylax managed to inch open an eye. And so he found himself face to face with one of the identical enemies he had been fighting just a while ago! Yes, this close contact with the Balfrog aided in that this time there was room for only one beast in his visual field – otherwise the dragon saw little good in his position.

Mord saw his foe squint and then prepare for a fight for his life. The Balfrog sneered; I’ll rip off your wings! he thought and slashed his whip. But trying to lash your enemy when he’s right under your nose isn’t very effective, not to mention wise – and so it happened that the only thing he managed to do with all the (s)lashing was to tie them into a nice, tight packet!

For a while there was a silence between the two that was disturbed only by the wind’s wailing in their ears. Then the not so silent silence was clearly broken as both beast uttered synchronously:

“Erm…”

The continuous falling, which had previously bothered neither the fiery Máyôr nor the almost as fiery dragon, now suddenly began to appear as a serious problem to both of them. For now that Chrysophylax’s wings were tied he all of a sudden became very aware of them. And when it came to Mordaenárur he began thinking that landing at the bottom of the void (by-passing the fact that void is usually considered as something altogether bottomless) with a dragon in his lap might prove a bit too painful even to his liking.

And just then it happened.

“Did’ya hearsh that?” Chrysophylax questioned and tried to gaze up from under the Balfrog’s armpit (not a pleasant task, one might add!).

“Think so, though your talon’s in my ear!” puffed Mord while desperately trying to get rid off his unwanted earplug.

“Cooooo!” came from above!

“Grruff!” exclaimed Chrysophylax.

“Grrrr…” went Mord.

And the two twisted and turned so that finally the bundle of fire and smoke seemed to have four arms, four legs, at least one tail and two heads facing the same direction: up towards their angelic savior.

“Cooooo?” the befuddled Nazgrrl rightly queried.

“Later, love.” Chrysophylax put it simply - and Mord wondered if he should bite off the dragon’s head now or later. But seeing that that would hardly impress Grruff he decided that later would have to do this time. “Later: you and I.” Mord murmured into the dragon’s ear right beside his jaw.

“Coo-o-ooo!” Grruff used all her means to express herself and crooked her talons around the whip that tied the rival suitors together. So the endless fall finally ended and the trio began their long way up towards the ground…
_____________________________________________

*two alternative syllabications: 1) all-together 2) all-to-get-her

** in to the Itship belonged naturally many manly males but with Kuruharan totally absent, Orogarn Two back at the box office, the Gateskeeper deep in his calculations, Grrralph trying to comfort the woebegone Nazgrrl and Vogonwë busy with composing a lament (quoted below), he was at that moment the only one available.

Our friend Chrysophylax,
He was not lax,
But dragon rough and tough,
Just right for this gal Grruff,
dragon of ancient and imperial lineage,
was he.


***Thanks go to the Olsen brothers

[ November 06, 2003: Message edited by: Annunfuiniel ]
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Old 11-07-2003, 10:27 PM   #99
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Boots

Grruff carried her heroes up to the surface and plopped them on the ground.

Merisuwyniel briefly considered untying them, but changed her mind. As she stood and looked at the Broom she was hit by an unpleasant realization.

The cart with the other pieces of the Ent that was Broken had been abandoned somewhere and she could not remember where.

Meanwhile,

The hooded figure of Kuruharan darted furtively about the mighty edifice of the Unmarked Dam.

"Let’s see here," he muttered. "Fifteen sticks should do the trick in this spot…"

He pulled the required number of long red tubes out of his bag and put them down. Then he attached some lengthy wiring and then tossed the loose ends of the wires over the ledge. He continued this process as the Balfrog awoke in his wrath.

About the time that Grruff and the Balfrog were giving each other the eye, Kuruharan finished his work and climbed down. He proceeded to gather all of the loose wiring and bundle it together. When Chrysophylax and Mordaenárur were making their first acquaintance, Kuruharan was busily attaching the immensely fat bundle of wires to a large box with a funny lever sticking out on top.

"Hee, Hee, Hee, Hee," Kuruharan chortled to himself as he finished his wiring.

"Hoo, Hoo, Hoo, Hoo," he giggled as he walked along the lines and made sure that everything was in order.

As Chrysophylax and the Balfrog were plunging into the depths, Kuruharan took a moment to survey his handiwork. The Unknown Dam was literally covered by those mysterious red sticks and wires were everywhere.

"Heh, Heh, Heh, this’ll show ‘em!" laughed Kuruharan. "Lord Dimli will be bankrupted and the king will give the license for the casino to somebody else, namely ME! Hee, Hee, Hee!"

Kuruharan took a firm grasp of the lever on top of the box, and just as Grruff put Chrysophylax and Mordaenárur on the ground, he gave the lever a vigorous push and shoved it all the way down into the box.

*FLASH* KA-BOOOOOOOOOOMMMMMMMM!!!!!!!!

RRRRUUUUMMMMMBBBBBBBBLLLLLLEEEEEEEE

The Unknown Dam vanished in a violent explosion and an enormous wall of water shot forth toward the Ham Steep Resort & Casino.

"HA!!!" cried Kuruharan in triumph.

He stood there a moment to admire the sight. Then the little problem with his plan suddenly dawned on him as the wall of water loomed over his head.

"Hmmm," he thought to himself, "maybe I was a little…" *WHOOSH* "…gurgle!"

The waters swept Kuruharan away like any old flotsam and sent him spinning down toward Ham Steep.

Meanwhile…

"WHAT WAS THAT???!!!!" cried Orogarn Two, Earnur, and Pimpi in unison. The Gateskeeper spun his chair in the direction of the noise. Since most everyone else in the history of the world had failed to notice the Unmarked River he did not see anything amiss. "I have no idea," the Gateskeeper replied. "I hope it was not the central heating in my new investment going up in flames!"

Only Orogarn Two had any inkling of what was amiss. He’d been in this particular river before, and he had his crystal to help him.

"What’s that?" he demanded of the crystal. "Slower! I can’t understand you!" He held the crystal before his face for a moment.

"The Lawnmower of Death is pregnant?!" he asked.

The crystal flashed menacingly.

"Umm…your aunt is a kangaroo and she just swallowed her shoe?" inquired Orogarn.

The crystal started skipping about on its chain.

"You don’t mean to say," said Orogarn hesitantly, "that the Unmarked Dam has burst…"

"The dam has burst!!!" cried Norni, running in circles and flapping his arms.

"THE DAM HAS BURST!!!!" screamed Lord Dimli. He exchanged a frantic look with his dwarves and they all bundled off down a side passage.

"THE DAM HAS BURST!!!" screamed everyone else. The crowd of customers fled in all directions trying to escape the raging waters.

"Oh, there it is," said Vogonwë, noticing the flood for the first time.

"Umm…could somebody give me a hand here?" queried the Gateskeeper, struggling to get out of his chair. The Korprat Loyers had instantly buggered off at the first sign of danger.

Suddenly, the flood was upon them.

*WHOOSH-SLOOUSH*

The Gallowship desperately leapt for the entwined bodies of Mordaenárur and Chrysophylax.

*GLUG!!!* went the Balfrog and the Dragon as they instantly sank under the weight of their companions. Fortunately, Grruff was there to save the day again. She swooped down and grabbed hold of Vogonwë’s hair and dragged him aloft. Pimpi grabbed her boyfriend’s feet, Merisuwyniel grabbed Pimpi, Orogarn Two grabbed Merisuwyniel (and, boy! he was a happy man), Grrralph grabbed Orogarn Two and started slapping him about to get him to settle down, Earnur grabbed Grrralph, and Mordaenárur grabbed Earnur. Norni hopped on Chrysophylax’s wing and settled himself for the ride. With all this weight dragging her down, it was all that Grruff could manage to manage to keep Chrysophylax’s head above water.

Chrysophylax was totally unaware of all she was going through (partially) on his behalf and he just floated along singing…

Nobody knoooowss,
How dry I ammmm,
Nobody knooowss,
How dry I ammm,
How drrryyyyy I ammmm!


"Shut-UP!" shouted Mordaenárur, who would have hit Chrysophylax if he’d had a hand free.

Earnur was watching the flood water go by, and remembering all the nautical adventuring of his youth. (He’d been on one brief summer cruise that had ended rather badly in an unfortunate marooning and ultimately being sold into slavery.) Still, he did not let that dampen his spirits. He was damp enough all ready. He was rather enjoying this. It would have been all fun and games except for the fact that he was clinging to an undead creature whose touch chilled him to the bone and had two primordial creatures of evil, both of whom were about fifty times his weight, hanging on his feet. Oh well, nobody said that adventuring was a rose garden!

Vogonwë was another matter. He did not at all like the feeling of having his hair torn out by the roots. To take his mind off the pain he sang a song of his people that seemed eerily appropriate to the current situation.

Ka-Boom! Splash thump!
Down it goes, down it bumps!
Down the dark swift stream you go
Down past plots you'll never know!
Float beyond the world of themes
Out to where a madman beams!


The Gateskeeper just floated and spun beside them, helplessly stuck in his chair. He was reduced to shouting, "Help, I say!!!" at the scarcely less helpless Gallowship.

At that moment, Lord Dimli and his dwarves floated by aboard a luxury barge. They had aboard all the safes from the Ham Steep Resort & Casino, which the Gateskeeper had not had time to plunder.

"Come back here!!!" shrieked the Gateskeeper. "That belongs to me!!!" He tried to shake his fist at them, but alas, it was penned to his side.

"Serves you right," shouted Lord Dimli. "You can tell your dam destroying friend that he has not heard the last of me!!!!" he shouted as the barge floated past.

At that moment, Grruff could not fly any farther and she fell from the sky. Thankfully, the plot required that there be a large rock immediately underneath where she gave out so everyone landed safely (although a little smashed from the impact).

When she recovered (and freed herself from Orogarn Two) Merisuwyniel went over and pulled the Gateskeeper out from where he had been bobbing in the water.

"Well," she announced, turning to the rest of the little group. "Here we are! Now what are we going to do? Does anybody have any idea where we are? Does anybody have any food? How are we going to get off of this rock? Who are we? Where did we come from? Where are we going? How can we get there? Who’s on first and what’s the inning? What shall we do with the drunken dragon?!!!"

Early in the mornin’, sang Kuruharan as he floated into the rock. *BONK*

"Ouch!" he cried as he scrambled up to join them.

"Where have you been?" demanded Merisuwyniel.

"Ummm…" articulated Kuruharan.

"Never mind," snapped Merisuwyniel. "How are we going to get off of here?"

Fortunately, the plot intervened again. The cart that the Gallowship had abandoned at the gates of Ham Steep went floating past, miraculously, all the pieces of the Ent that was Broken were still inside.

"HUZZAH!!!" cried everyone as they scrambled aboard.

Thus they floated off on their next adventure, to the sounds of Earnur teaching Vogonwë a new tune of the sea.

What shall we do with the drunken dragon?
What shall we do with the drunken dragon?
What shall we do with the drunken dragon,
Early in the morning!!!


[ November 11, 2003: Message edited by: Kuruharan ]
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Old 11-11-2003, 12:48 PM   #100
Estelyn Telcontar
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Silmaril

Merisuwyniel’s gaze turned from a horizon that looked uncomfortably wobbly to take inventory of the motley crew which was clinging to the cart turned ark. Strange, she mused, the vehicle hadn’t seemed this large when it had rumbled along Sorethighian paths beside them. Who would have thought that it could carry so many persons and creatures, to say nothing of staying afloat under those conditions?! She wondered whether it would prove to have other, yet hidden abilities. Her hand touched a rune that was carved into the side of the cart, and she leaned forward to decipher it. Ästôn-mar-Tín, it read.

She decided to count noses in order to ascertain whether all members of the Grand-Quest-Ship were there. Let’s see, Earnur, Vogonwë, Pimpiowyn, Kuruharan, Gateskeeper, Orogarn Two too - at that point the weak spot in this procedure became obvious, for Grrralph had no visible nose to count. She did not let such a trivial technicality daunt her though, and continued – but what was that Dwarfling doing here? Oh well, perhaps he would have a role to play yet in their continuing quest. Nine persons, she finished.

Then there were the mythological creatures – Nazgrrl Grrruff and Chrysophylax, who was inextricably entangled with the Balfrog. Though the dragon was not yet sober enough to recognize his old foe, Merisu had an Elven heritage of ancient memories of battles with various members of that species, involving deaths on both sides. She was afraid, but since not even a pure-blooded Elven maiden can run around shouting “Ai!” all day, her thoughts were rather more prosaic.

Drat and bebothered! she exclaimed inwardly, How am I to solve this problem? I do not wish to kill a helpless foe coldbloodedly, but I certainly do not wish any of our group to be endangered.

While she thus mused, her eyes had continued their tally – yes, all horses were accounted for, and it looked like all pieces of the Ent-That-Was-Broken had survived the deluge. Prompted by an urge that emanated from the Bow, which was slung securely to her back as always, she reached out to touch the broom that had dropped into the adventure so mysteriously.

Of course! It too was Entish – the fortunate coincidences found no end. She made little attempt to follow the ensuing conversation; for all she knew, the first half-hour could have been only an Entish exchange of the time of day. The Bow would let her know what was of importance in due time.

Instead she looked back at yet another ruined location, remembering the swath of destruction that followed the path of the Fellow/Galship. What a horrible reputation we must have in Muddle-Mirth, she pondered, worse than a drunken football team or an over-hyped rock band. Somewhere at the back of her mind the nagging suspicion of a connection between the catastrophes and the chance absences of Kuruharan and Chrysophylax arose, but she had no time to pursue that train of thought.

Pimpiowyn, whose shieldmaidening motto was “Look and learn”, had been watching her holding the Broom and realized that it too must be Entish. Thoughtfully she bent her head toward the Elf and asked quietly, “How many more pieces of the Ent-That-Was-Hewn do you think we will have to find?”

Merisuwyniel looked at her in astonishment; the Half-Halfling had grown during the course of their quest, as Hobbits tend to do, and she was not only thinking of the physical growth spurt brought on by Saladriel’s gift of beans. Pimpi was no longer merely a comic relief Hobbit with a constant appetite and the tendency to wreak havoc with her clumsiness. She was truly becoming a shieldmaiden!

Pride in her apt pupil welled up within the Elven maiden, swelling her already fully adequate breast to impressive proportions.

Orogarn’s eyes almost popped out of his head.

The Gateskeeper took off his suddenly steamy spectacles to wipe them.

Earnur and Vogonwë were looking in the other direction, practicing the fascinating new repertoire of colourful seaman’s epithets and shanties that Etceteron was teaching the Half-Elf.

Grrralph’s reaction could not be seen underneath his hood.

The Dwarfling had fallen asleep, fortunately for his young and impressionable mind.

“I do not know,” Merisu replied. “But I do know where we must go to find out.” Standing up gracefully, though rather precariously, she announced to all, “It is growing dark; nightfall draws nigh.” (OK, even a perfect Elf can state the obvious sometimes.) “When morning comes, we shall endeavour to reach the shore of this newly created lake. Then we shall find our way to the Forest of Canned Corn. That is the ancient home of the Ents; I hope we can learn there how our Quest can be achieved.”

Falafel watched her mistress with pardonable pride in her wisdom and leadership. However, if her breast also swelled, none took notice of it…
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Old 11-13-2003, 01:56 PM   #101
The Squatter of Amon Rûdh
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Pipe

'******?'

'No, ********.'

'********?'

'That's the one, old boy.'

'It sounds very earthy. What does it mean?'

'It's what you might call an all-purpose declaration of dissatisfaction. For when one of the sails parts, or someone who owes you money falls to his death.'

'Already you inspire me with talk of the rolling deep! I shall use that expression in my next great ode: The Rime on the Aged Seafarer!'

'Ah. Well, it's not the sort of word one normally uses in an ode. It's more what you'd call limmerick material. Still, the ways of Elven bards have ever been a mystery to me.'

Him too.

'Sh!'

Teaching Vogonwë the salty tongue of the sea was proving to be a nice rest from lifting mythological creatures by main strength. Already Earnur could feel his vertebrae sliding back into their wonted positions, and a strident crack from his elbow reminded him that his limbs, too, were returning to their customary lengths. When flying in a large chain of non-flying creatures, he reflected, a hero of average stature should always hold on below anything more than twelve feet tall. Still, it had been fun. Add a few creature comforts (like enough seats for everyone and perhaps something to drink) and there might be something in this flying business after all. He jerked slightly as some tendons in his thigh reached their normal length, and remembered another discomfort of the journey: 'Air fresheners too,' he mumbled.

Where, the more perceptive reader might ask, has Lord Etceteron been while the others have been drinking, gambling and engaging in aggressive corporate expansionism? Indeed, that self same reader (navigating unerringly towards a knuckle sandwich, I might add) would probably wonder how he had managed to remain in the area at all without being inveigled into a Dwarvish game of no chance.

The answer was, as with most such explanations, ludicrously simple. Some years before, during one of many trial separations from his mind, he had happened by the Glitzy Caves. At that time, Dimli's operation had been a good deal less sophisticated, and one of the most popular games had been a challenge set by the bar to see who could drink every cocktail on the menu. A roll of honour had recorded the names of the fatalities. There had not even been a board for successful challengers.

Needless to say that several hours later he had left Ham Steep quite a lot richer and with breath that could cut steel. He had also been promised that any further attempt to enter the casino would be met with violence of Singular proportions, plus ejection for any who accompanied him. So it was that he had quietly removed himself to guard the wagon of Ästôn-mar-Tín and its contents, disguising himself as a dwarf stable-hand using the time-honoured method of kneeling on the floor with his shoes on his knees. When destruction loomed he had guessed that their work in the Glitzy Caverns was done, and quietly followed the others to the bridge.

There was definitely something odd about the cart. It wasn't just the winged-rune symbol that festooned the vehicle, nor even the sporty wire wheels and extendable arrow shields. What really got his attention as never before was that beneath the driver's seat was a bank of levers, most of which seemed to operate hidden crossbows. It reminded him of someone he had once known, although the name escaped him. Something in
exports, he recalled.

Wrenching his thoughts from their oddly buouyant transportation, he considered the group. Although he had been reasonably sober during the adventure, the sudden appearance of what looked like a garden gnome, not to mention the fearsome Balfrog, had put him in mind of earlier errantry. A surreal panoply of bizarre and misguided quests danced before his mind's eye: waking in a glass case wearing a tutu; running from an enraged cold-drake with a marriage licence; his famous bid to steal the fabled potential diamond, the Eye of Teiresias (the only piece of coal he had ever seen that refused to burn under any circumstances); and now, having determined to start heroing sober, this. A lesser man might have given up sobriety in the face of such damning evidence, but Etceteron came of the mighty stock that had invented the whisky milkshake and he was implacable. For no good reason he began thinking about glue.

Pinkjin aimed a kick at a passing log. Ham Steep was legendary as an abode of loose fillies, but true to form his master had decided that they would spend their whole time there smoking something noxious and looking after a tree. It had been all right for the Lord of Misrule, since he had spent most of the time thinking that he was one of the Entish fragments (one conversation, which had consisted of Earnur and one of the Thighs shouting 'What?' and 'Pardon?' at each other for four hours in Old Entish and Low Westestosterone respectively, stuck in his memory with limpet-like tenaciousness), but it was no fun for a red-blooded young charger like himself. There hadn't even been any spilled beer to lick up. For a few moments he considered kicking the assinine aristocrat to the other side of the cart before launching the attack with pleasure.

Merisuwyniel paused in her consideration of some dust on her sleeve to glance at the tangled mess of limbs that was Lord Etceteron. An incurious and long-suffering syllable slouched from her lips.

'Why?'

'Umm... I think my horse has thrown a shoe,' replied the retarded avenger. 'I just wish that he'd throw his and not mine. Or at least that I wasn't in it.'

'Horseshoes are twenty Sorethighimish Guineas apiece!' shouted Kuruharan from the other end of the vehicle. 'Thirty with nails!'. By now his frequent special offers were ignored unless he used the contact hallucinogens, but Etceteron had found out about the trick and tended to shake his hand every five minutes unless he kept his distance.

'Entish artefacts many beseemeth me we hath,' spake Etceteron as he mountethèd once more to his feet. 'Lead us to their brethren mayhap shall they.'

'You don't have to talk like that to me,' quoth Merisuwyniel. 'I'm not a tourist.'

There was much up-shutting.

'I hope they can help us, though,' she continued thoughtfully. 'We reached the third-party claim limit on my insurance back in Grundor, and they can take Entish artefacts in lieu of payment.'

Lord Etceteron nodded understandingly, then realised he was doing it and stopped. 'Truly is it written: "Go not to the Elves for cover, for they will take both arm and leg."' he intoned.

'Look, I'm from around here too, you know,' snapped the Elven maiden. 'Knock that nonsense off before I brain you.'

'I will well,' he answered, and ducked away, deftly avoiding a well-swung bow that fell on his horse's flank. He returned to his philological discourse with a warm feeling of satisfaction.

'Now, ***** is a positively disgusting word. You should use it often in conversation.'

[ 7:42 PM November 26, 2003: Message edited by: The Squatter of Amon Rûdh ]
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Old 11-13-2003, 10:08 PM   #102
The Barrow-Wight
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Eye

A series of pitiful groans and regular splashes marked Orogarn Two’s position at the rail of the spinning and teetering cart. Not since his first and only ride on the Astronaut Accelerator at Park Galore had his stomach so violently rebelled, and then he had been only 12 years old. Ever after that time he had avoided all vorticular conveyances, even shying away from the slowly rotating Noodleorean Needle Restaurant atop the Citibank Spire, regardless of its wonderful view. Now, as the Insertcleveradjectivehereship floated down the torrential outflowing from the flooded dwarven city of sin, each boulder the cart struck sent a signal directly to his lurching stomach that outwardly projected what remained of the prodigious portions he had scarfed from the all-you-can-scarf buffet at the Glitzy Caverns.

Unexpectedly, the overfilled floating wagon snagged on a tree limb projecting from the shore, and everything suddenly stopped, nearly sending over half of the occupants into the water. Those that had not been tightly gripping the rails were thrown forward into a pile of rusty metal and sweaty flesh, but a lucky few who had been smartly steadying themselves were able to remain standing. Orogarn Two’s queasy stomach found itself momentarily stabile, and the Grundorian found himself able at last to look around and see exactly where the rushing waters had taken him and his companions.

Near the front of the craft was a great heap of various adventurers, at the base of which was the drunken Chrysophylax, still bound to the writhing Balfrog. In fact, besides Orogarn Two, the only person left standing was the beautiful Merisuwyniel, who seemed to have not noticed the calamity surrounding her, but instead was busily applying a fresh coat of blush. Orogarn Two watched her with a combination of intense desire and unbelief. Though she was wonderfully charming, he also found her incredibly haughty, and her ability to maintain her makeup during such a collision was very disturbing. Normally he admired such spaciousness, but the combination of pointy ears and self-admiration was not something he could make himself comfortable with. Her ability to fard while floating was also distressing.

He was considering pushing the elven lady into the mangled pile of his comrades when the cart abruptly broke lose from its captivity and the entire Concomitantship bounced back to its feet. Concurrently, Orogarn Two’s dinner pail proceeded to empty itself again, but it was interrupted when the cart crashed dangerously into a tall wooden pier. Splinters flew, as well as curses, as the group again found itself again wedged into a small corner of the cart. As before, only Merisuwyniel and Orogarn Two remained standing.

“Oh my,” said she. “I do believed we’ve stopped.”

Orogarn Two looked around and noticed the obvious lack of motion, either forward or in circles. “You don’t say?”

“I do,” she replied.

“You would,” he answered. “Correctly, of course, for we have indeed stopped. Let us disembark as soon as possible.”

The Clustership heartily agreed with the Grundorian, and everyone quickly left the cart and climbed onto the dock where they found themselves at the end of a long, wooden landing that stretched to the shore of the Unmarked River. At the river’s edge, the pier met a gravel path that led into a thick wall of trees.

“BEHOLD THE FOREST OF CANNED CORN!”, shouted Kuruharan from within the tangle and holding up a selection of forest brochures he hoped to sell.

“No Caps!” yelled everyone as they extricated themselves from the pileup.

“Sorry,” muttered the chastened dwarf, angrily castigating himself for buying so many of the Canned Corn maps without thoroughly studying the potential market for them.

“If I’m not mistaken, this must be the entrance to the Forest of Canned Corn,” said Earnur.

“No kidding?” asked Kuruharan. “What ever gave you that idea?”

Lord Etceteron missed the sarcasm and answered truthfully, “The sign at the end of the pier that says “THE FOREST OF CANNED CORN”.

He was right. Where the path met the forest it passed through a wooden arch topped by a sign with the very words Earnur had spoken. Below the sign, on one of the posts that supported it, a large white parchment had been nailed:

Quote:
To all who here enter…

Per Order of his most honorable Orogarn One, the Denimthor and Proctor of Grundor, notice is hereby given that the Forest of Canned Corn is declared off-limits to all Grundorians and people of decent upbringing who are not total cretins.

Hear ye, that the Ents of the Forest are knowingly harboring persons of ill reputations, including the renegade Skinflint, who is suspected to be trafficking in stolen goods, including the wallet of the most favored son of Minus Teeth, Orogarn Two.

Sanctions against the Ents are in place, and all peoples buying an selling from them will be added to our “We Don’t Like You” list. This inlcudes you, Kuruharan!

Until such times as this situation can be resolved, all people are advised to boycott the Forest of Canned Corn.

Signed – Denimthor – Proctor of Grundor.
[ November 14, 2003: Message edited by: The Barrow-Wight ]
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Old 11-14-2003, 07:43 AM   #103
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Sting

The Politically-correctship shuffled off their makeshift vessel in various stages of disarray. Merisu, for example, was...well, perfect as usual. None the worse for the wear, her dampened hair seemed to sparkle in the sun and when she shook her head, sending a spray of water into the air, rainbows appeared halo-like over her locks. On the other end of the spectrum were Chrysophylax and Mordaenárur, who were still hopelessly tangled, as well as being wet and sporting a variety of bumps, bruises, dings and scratches. Worse was yet to come though the two did not yet know it.

Grrralph was somewhere in between. Predictably, he was nowhere near flawless like Merisu. Nor was he unable to disembark because his legs were pinned by various body parts of another, like Chrysi and Mord. But he was wet. Very wet. And for Grrralph, this meant trouble.

From the moment his feet touched solid ground, he began shaking, twirling, leaping and spinning. Having seen such behavior from the inimitable showtune fan before, the members of the Itship were somewhat non-plussed. Kuruharan, Earnur and Vogonwë looked on with a degree of boredom.

"I think it's Elves and Dolls this time," commented Earnur with a yawn.

"No, no," disagreed Vogonwë. "It's Springing in the Rain."

"Nope," proffered Kuruharan, wondering if he could profit from a guessing game. "It is clearly Westernesse-side Story."

"Aiiiii!" commented Grrralph as he began scratching himself vigorously. "The water has aggravated my condition."

Orogarn (Two), concluding immediately that he was on the verge of receiving too much information hurried off towards the forest. Earnur, Kuruharan and Vogonwë looked at one another and, after some quick discussion, engaged in a mystical contest known as rock, paper, scissors. "Paper wraps rock, rock breaks scissors," cried Earnur in triumph. "You ask him!"

Vogonwë ambled reluctantly over to the wraith who was now lying in the dirt, scooting along on his back, propelled by his feet. "Um, Grrralph," said the Half-Elf. "What seems to be the problem?"

Grrralph leapt to his feet and dived into a nearby thornbush, writhing desperately. "My curse!" he cried. "The spell!

'You'll wear my gear,
cloak, armor and hood,
now don't shed a tear,
but they're with you for good.'"

He extricated himself from the brambles and Vogonwë winced as the threads bordering the tears and rents in Grrralph's cloak began to writhe like snakes as they rewove themselves into whole cloth. "I've worn these same clothes, this same armor since I was enchanted by...my former employer," explained the wraith.

Earnur cringed and took a step back. "Uh, how long would that be Grrralph?"

The wraith again began scratching his chest, arms and legs. "Almost 600 years," Grrralph answered.

Kuruharan gasped. "You mean...?"

"Yes!" cried Grrralph. "I suffer from chafe! And dampness makes it worse!"

Vogonwë backed away until he stood next to Earnur. "I could have lived my whole life without hearing that," he muttered.

"The Mother of All Rashes!" said Earnur with awe (not to be confused with awwwww).

At that moment, a new sound filled the air. Or actually it was a series of sounds. It sounded something like this: Hic. Foooshhh. Aiiiiiiiii! When the odd succession of noises repeated itself several times, the Nongenderspecificship turned back towards the cart/raft. Chrysi and Mord had apparently managed to roll themselves to shore and were now, more or less, sitting upright. Hic. The dragon hiccoughed. Foooooshhhh The ethanol-tinged gases ignited in the dragon's gullet. Aiiiiii! The Balfrog screamed as the blast of flames broiled the back of his neck, which is where Chrysi's snout was presently located.

Grrralph raced over. "Dragon, could you manage to turn your snout towards me when you next burp?"

"Yes, please do!" cried Mord.

Chrysi pondered the request for a moment, then craned his neck and faced the wraith. "No!" cried Merisu. "Yes!" cried the rest of the Thingship. Hic. Fooooshhhh.

Grrralph was immolated in the resulting gout of flames. His cloak, breeches, gloves and other articles of clothing burned merrily. In moments, he was reduced to a smouldering suit of armour, standing like a burnt treetrunk after a forest fire. Then the black threads began writhing and bobbing and weaving in and out as Grrralph's clothing reassembled itself, good as new.

"Ahhhh," sighed the wraith. "Dry at last!"

[ November 20, 2003: Message edited by: Mithadan ]
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Old 11-14-2003, 09:01 AM   #104
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The Eye

“How can it have come to this?” Cir-Roïalle the Underwrighter mused sadly to himself as he watched a troop of Orcs removing the nameplate outside his offices under the direction of a coven of gleeful Korprat-Loyers.

The Last Alliance Mutual Insurance Company had been serving the insurance needs of loyal customers in Muddled-Mirth for some 3,000 years. But two recent claims in short succession had devastated the company’s balance sheet and left Cir-Roïalle with no option but to sell out to the highest bidder. The claim for structural damage to the Goldlamé Hall would have been manageable on its own, but the flood damage and business interruption claim lodged by Lord Dimli shortly thereafter had been enough to seal the Last Alliance’s fate*.

The Elven Underwrighter absent-mindedly stroked his beard as he reflected ruefully on the circumstances that had led him to this sad state of affairs. Was it coincidence? Or was there some terrible and catastrophic force at loose in Muddled-Mirth leaving a trail of destruction and devastation in its wake? Suspiciously, reports of Dragon sightings had found their way into the loss adjuster’s reports on both incidents. And then there was the Minus Teeth claim. That had seemed to involve a Dragon too. Cir-Roïalle wondered at the foresight of Malbeth the Insurer of the Arnorian Royal Exchange in writing an Urulóki Exclusion into his coverage of the Wight City.

He grimaced as the Orcs replaced the previous nameplate with a massive obsidian monstrosity bearing a Red Nostril insignia and the inscription: “Môgul Claims Direct, a subsidiary of Môgul Enterprises LLC”. Then, ruefully, he turned away resigning himself to his new life in his brother’s shipbuilding business.

**************************************

Meanwhile, back in Soreham, a small cloaked figure astride a dark but delightfully delicate pony was lost in pleasant thoughts involving a comfortable hole in the ground and a certain cute, blue eyed, red curled maid as he made his way towards Ham Steep.

On reaching Improvas, he had deduced from the pile of rubble that had once passed for the Goldlamé Hall that the Whatevership had already passed through. Clearly, there was no time to lose. And so he had immediately headed for the nearest tavern.

Some hours later, having enjoyed yet another hearty Sorethighim repast and restocked his pouch with the local pipeweed, Sorehamlet, he had been relaxing in a comfortable chair by the window downing his eighth pint of ale when a commotion outside had drawn his attention. Gazing out, he had seen a group of sheepish Orcs bearing the sign of the White Mouse that marked them out as minions of the Wizard Sauerkraut being forcibly ejected from the city. With some concern he had wondered whether his Master’s plans for Soreham might have gone awry. And his concern had turned to confusion as he had observed the sinister figure of a Korprat-Loyer, surrounded by Red Nostril Orcs, in deep and conspiratorial conversation with Théboleggen King. But, placating himself with the thought that his Master surely knew what he was doing, he had turned back to share his pint’s fate in getting well and truly drunk.

The next day, a somewhat bleary-eyed Soregum had experienced some difficulty in tearing Twinkle away from the delights the Sorethighim stallions that had spent the night vying for her attentions. But, at last they had been on their way and had soon picked up the rubbish-strewn trail of their untidy quarry. And, as they had navigated the paths of Soreham, on route to Hams Deep, Soregum had noted with interest the billboards that appeared to have sprung up overnight, each bearing the unmistakable Red Nostril of his Master.

“Hello Boys!” declared one underneath the image of a flirtatious Shieldmaiden clothed in a chainmail bikini that seemed to emphasise her upper body musculature (or something like that).

“Because I’m worth it!” announced another as an unfeasibly gorgeous Elf ran his fingers through his golden locks**.

“Vorsprung dóork Têknik” stated a third in the harsh tongue of the Dwarves, next to the image of a suitably dour Dwarven Craftsman displaying a range of Axes for every occasion.

Soregum should have been comforted by these signs of his Master’s success in these lands, and yet he had felt strangely saddened by what had seen.

And so it came to pass that, after only two day’s hard (but dainty) ride, Soregum and Twinkle found themselves on the final approach to Ham Steep. As their journey had taken them closer to their destination, Soregum’s spirits had gradually lifted. The luxury resort and casino was well known to him and he had veritably bristled in anticipation at the thought of a brief interlude enjoying the delights of its rûë-lét wheels and pöekar tables, not to mention its exotic wines and spirits.

“Happiness is a pipe called Sorehamlet,” Soregum thought to himself as he puffed away contentedly, recalling yet another of the billboards that had lined his route. And, as a distant rumble reached his ears from beyond the spur that marked the entrance to Ham Steep, he wondered at the power of the music machines on the dance floors of the entertainment complex. Yet the rumbling seemed to be getting louder. Twinkle began to whinny nervously (yet cutely) at the building crescendo.

Then the wall of water hit them.
___________________________________________

* Fortuitously (for him), Lord Dimli had somehow managed to “lose” the documents transferring ownership of Ham Steep to the Gateskeeper in the confusion occasioned by the impromptu flood.

** Sad to relate, but O Lando L'oréal Bloom’s agent had not been able to find it within himself to refuse the offer made by Môgul’s publicists.

[ November 17, 2003: Message edited by: The Saucepan Man ]
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Old 11-14-2003, 12:26 PM   #105
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Sting

* * * SAVE * * *

Gateskeeper mourns the loss of his title to the Glitzy Caverns and reminisces about how he managed to escape while stuck in an ergonomic wooden rolling dwarf-sized chair.
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Old 11-22-2003, 10:42 PM   #106
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Sting

Gruff the Nazgrrl stood by the sodden dripping cart, where her friend the Thigh was desperately trying to spit river mud out of his various knotholes and bemoaning his finish. She silently, bleakly took in the sight of her partner dancing on the shore, waving his arms, hopping up and down and then reaching under his robe to frantically scratch his vaporous nether regions. Then her gaze rested on her erstwhile amours, Chrysophylax and Mordaenárur, as they struggled and tumbled, still tangled together like some devilish dust puppy from the bowels of a 2-star Sorehamnian inn. Gruff gazed numbly at the scene, blinked twice, turned her gaze directly at the unseen audience reading this page, blinked again, then returned her gaze at the grumbling, belching, farting, scratching scene before her. She had never felt so desolate in all her, long, miserable, working-grrl life.

And it was just at this moment that Norni ambled up to the stunned fell beast and announced helpfully: “I like cheese.“

“COOOOOOOOOOO!” cooed Gruff, as she rear up on her hind legs and grasped her head in frustration. Every male in the Gallowship stared blankly at the frantic Nazgrrl, before shrugging their shoulders and returning to their grumbling, belching, farting, and scratching.

Gruff fell forward on the soggy forest floor in despair. Was this all there was? Where was the love? The laughter? The romance? Her infernal clock was ticking! She wanted spawn! And a cave in a nice barren cliff-face, near good schools. Family dinners around a rotten carcass that she had dug up herself. Maybe a dog, once the offspring were old enough to eat one. Was this all too much to ask? And yet could she bring herself to settle for these two boorish creatures of darkness before her? Why, Chrysophylax couldn’t even slaughter his enemy without making a muddle of it. And had she really, really seriously considered dating a demon without wings?

Gruff stared bleakly at her partner, flapping his robe with relief after his sulpherous blow-dry. HE was no help. Oh, he was alright when they were storming a keep or reducing an army to screaming insanity. But had he ever, ever once introduced her to one of his more interesting acquaintances? Ever taken her to any of the more high class regions of Muddled Mirth? Ever throw her a coin or two so she could buy something pretty for herself? Grralph had just never realized that his little Nazgrrl was growing up.

Then, suddenly, Gruff realized that the one person who might help her had been there all along! Why had she not thought of it before. If anyone could help her make a fresh start, she could!

Merisuwyniel was just showing Pimpiowyn how a simple incantation to Yawanna could take wrinkles right out of taffeta, when suddenly the two shield maidens found themselves confronted by Grrralph’s fell-beast, wringing her talons, then frantically pointing to her own mud-spattered underbelly, her scaly, dry scales, and the beginnings of crebain-feet around her eyes. Gruff gazed hopefully into Merisuwyniel’s eyes, and cooed beseechingly.

“Why, whatever can she want, Meri?” Pimpi asked in astonishment.

“Why, Pimpi, it’s obvious!” declared Meri. “The poor dear’s just begging for a make-over!“

**************************************
“Should we take him, now, Precious?“

“No, Fluffy. We’ll wait until they have wandered into the Canned Corn Forest. We’ll lure them off the path, then we‘ll take him!”

“Meeeeeeee-meeep-meeep-meeep-meeeep! Meeeeeeeee-meeeep-meeeep-meeep!”
*

* Note - Think mischievous laughter.
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Old 11-23-2003, 12:22 AM   #107
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Silmaril

Pimpiowyn looked upon the fell beast with new interest. "My!" she exclaimed, and sidled up to Grruff, a little suspiciously. But the Nazgrrl cooed encouragingly, and Pimpi reached out to touch her... (head? horns? pointy ears? who can be sure?). "Awww," Pimpi smiled, "she likes being scritchied. You like that? Hmm? Does that feel good?"

Grruff tossed her head with an impatient coo, and Merisu stepped up helpfully. "The poor dear must have horrid dermatitis. Here, in my pack I have several lotions, each tailored to a particular skin type!" Why Merisu carried enough lotion for several different skin types is a mystery which Entish scholars, to this day, have not quite understood. At any rate, after a little ruffling, Merisu pulled an attractive bottle of pinkish cream from her pack and read the label. "A soothing mix of strawberry and peach extract, rose petals, riboflavin, baby's breath, tongue of goose, and pomegranate juice. With dissolving moisture beads! Especially effective for dry, scaly skin! I think we have a winner!"

Grruff cooed, and thumped her tail.

"First, however," Merisu declared, "we must wash and exfoliate the surface in preparation!" She reached into her pack again, and drew forth bottles of body wash, body scrub, body polish, and body spray, along with a large wooden scrubbing brush, a sponge, and an electrical sander.

"Right! Let's get to work," Pimpi pulled on a pair of laetéks gloves. "Into the river again... Thing."

A few hours and several attractive empty bottles later, Grruff's skin from snout to tail was polished to silky smooth perfection. Meri and Pimpi rubbed her down with terry-cloth towels (they always remembered to carry towels with them) and then applied the soothing skin cream with paint rollers.

"Now!" Merisu wondered, "what next?"

"Hmmmm," Pimpi tapped her chin thoughtfully, leaving a dab of cream there (which, of course, looked very cute). Grruff cocked her head to the side and cooed excitedly as her eyes darted from beautiful female to beautiful female. She thumped her tail and wiggled with anticipation.

"My, what an iiinteresting monster," Pimpi mused, "have you ever seen such an iiinteresting monster? But, who does her hair? An iiinteresting monster should have iiinteresting hair! What shall we do with it?"

"I know!" Merisu looked at her half-halfing associate, and felt inspired. "Let's curl it!"

Pimpi squealed in agreement. "Oh! Let's do!"

Grruff cooed and bobbed her head up and down in a paroxysm of joy. Most people in the Itship (read: males) had not yet even noticed that Grruff had hair, but have it she did. At the moment it looked like no more than a few greasy black strands straying over her forehead and ears, but under the Four Magic Hands of the Two Beautiful Beauticians (as the poem Vogonwë would later compose deemed them) this would all change.

Merisu dipped into her bottomless pack and pulled out an assortment of combs, brushes, scissors, tweazers, curling irons, curling rolls, and Fémi's Fantastical Follicle Fripper (no one, not even Fémi, was quite sure what "fripping" was, but it sounded good). "Oh dear," Merisu muttered, "none of my shampoos match Grruff's hair type... There's no 'stringy'. Well, perhaps, 'thin' will suffice, but—"

"I have something that might work," Pimpi offered, pulling a half-empty bottle out of her skirts. "It's a sample from O Lando L'oréal Bloom's new 'all-purpose' collection."

Vogonwë, who had not previously been around, suddenly appeared at her shoulder and asked, "Where did you get that?"

Pimpi blinked at him. "He sent it to me by express air mail.* The note said it was a free sample/engagement present."

"Engagement? What engagement?"

"Our engagement, silly."

"Oh. He didn't send me anything."

"Excuse me," Merisu said, as Grruff cooed with annoyance and began to toss her head and bare her teeth in Vogonwë's general direction. "We are undergoing an extreme makeover here, and if you don't mind I think our subject would appreciate a little privacy?"

It was Vogonwë's turn to blink.

"She means 'get lost', sweetheart," Pimpi said gently.

"Oh, alright," Vogonwë eyed the bottle of shampoo one more time, looking as if he suspected O Lando himself to pop out of it, genie style, at any moment. But then he shrugged, feigned indifference, and wandered off into the forest, where he promptly got lost.

After mucking about in a benighted manner for a little while, he gave up and sat down to compose that poem I was talking about earlier, while shadows fell and unseen eyes (but not unseeing, obviously) watched him. But that's another story.

Meanwhile, Pimpi popped open the bottle of All-Purpose Hair Wash #9 (which, being part of a "one-size-suds-all" collection, was no different from #1-8, except for price and hype). She took a whiff of it and was reminded immediately of the elf with the nose of a hound dog and face of an angel, more or less. She smiled fondly.

Meri and Pimpi set to work sudsing, rinsing, blow-drying, combing, curling, teasing, twisting, and tweaking Grruff's hair. It was a challange, make no mistake, but after a while where once there had been stringy strands, there now tumbled a cascade of glossy black ringlets which shone like ebony in the sunset. Grruff tossed her head and felt the exhilerating bounce and swish of truly trippin' (and frippin') hair.

She cooed.

"Oh, it's lovely," Merisu clapped her hands together.

The male members of the Fe-male-ship heaved a belching sigh in unison and tapped their watches (except for Vogonwë, who was obediently lost in the forest, trying to come up with a rhyme for pinkish). Failing to take the hint, Merisu moved on to Phase 3, which promised to be the hardest phase yet, as it involved brushing Grruff's fangs.

Pimpi and Merisu each strapped on a surgical mask and spritzed themselves with Eau de Strong Stuff before tackling the teeth. Pimpi squirted toothpaste from an industrial sized tube into the gaping cavity that was the Nazgrrl's mouth (this cleansing cream had to be bought from Kuruharan, who stopped tapping his watch long enough to make the sale) while Merisu closed her eyes and scrubbed with all her might and steel wool. After about an hour they said "good enough" and hosed the tongue and throat area out with power-acting Listerine (the number one export from that Grundorian city).

"Phase 4!" Merisu declared, as she glowed attractively from the exertion, and paused to wipe a fetchingly damp lock of hair from her sparkling eyes.

"What's that?" Pimpi panted, her cheeks ruddy and her blue eyes positively luminescent with fatigue.

"Make-up!" said Merisu. Then, they exchanged an eloquent look, which said with only the merest twitching of eyelashes and slightest arching of eyebrows:

This is going to be a bit like spray-painting rusty, twisted metal and calling it "art", but oh well!

They set to work, and toiled long into the evening, testing out many different hues of rouge, lipstick, mascara, claw-polish, and greenish pancake stage paint. Then, as the light was fading, Merisu held up a mirror for Grruff to see herself.

The lighting, as I have already mentioned, was bad, but Grruff's eyes began to glow with an unearthly greenish light, allowing her to see her reflection clearly. What she saw made her burble, coo, squeal, snicker, whicker, and purr with unearthly greenish joy. Merisu and Pimpi exchanged another looked and shrugged. If it works for her....

The members of the uncouth gender, their watches having long since stopped working, had almost all fallen asleep. The notable exceptions were Grralph (who never slept, duh) Moreandur, and Chrysopholax (both who, apparently, the stunning makeover also "worked" for).

Grralph walked up to his Nazgrrl and stared for a moment, then said flatly, "You're not going out looking like that. I didn't raise you to look like a two-bit she-lizard in a reptile-house, so wash that paint off your face and do something about that smell!"

Pimpi, who had been putting on the finishing touches by dosing Grruff with high-concentration Smell-O-Well, stopped and looked guilty. But Grruff simply swished her tail back and forth, cooed, then whalloped Grralph like he was a baseball and said tail was a bat. The Thingwraith went flying through the air till he struck a tree and fell to the ground in a crumpled mess of magic robes and cockeyed blades.

Earnur woke up long enough to feel a small modicum of satisfaction, before he turned over and resumed his dream about spiked salad dressing. Orogarn Two just kind of giggled absently in his sleep. Gateskeeper snorted and made a whistling noise. Kuruharan stirred and muttered, "I want to ride the pony...."

(He later vehemently denied this and requested that it be struck from the record.)

"Oh, dear," Merisu said half-heartedly, looking on the insensate Grralph.

"It's okay!" Pimpi proclaimed, "I don't think he's hurt. She didn't use her spikes." (The pink polish on her tail spikes was still wet, and she probably didn't want to smudge it.)

"That's nice," Merisu said, one-fourth-heartedly. Then she turned back to Grruff and her tone brightened, "Well! That's a job well done! We should do something special to commememorate the occasion...."

---

*Express Air Mail in Muddled-Berth consisted of Eagles down on their luck who would transport anyone and anything anywhere for any amount of money and/or birdseed. Names have not been mentioned, to protect what little dignity they once might have had.

[ November 24, 2003: Message edited by: Diamond18 ]
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Old 11-23-2003, 06:52 AM   #108
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Silmaril

“I know!” Merisu shouted triumphantly, “a toast! And I have just the thing here, something I brought from one of the coktäl lounges of the Glitzy Caves.” She rummaged in her astonishingly capacious travelling bag quite awhile, giving the readers time for a bit of background information.

You see, little is known in these times of the Lore of Elven Luggage, and you may have wondered at the capacity manifested by this seemingly lowly bag. It was indeed of ancient and imperial lineage, bearing the noble name of Säms-on-Knight, being a receptacle suitable for both Over-Knight and Under-Knight journeys. In times past it had belonged to such illustrious persons as Meri Popadillins, a mythological nanny who lived in Lôn-dôn and Sheri Baggins, strikingly similar to the first in appearance and profession, but living in a later age in Spring-Feld.

Yet enough explanation, lest this narrative should become sidetracked by the insertion of overly much information – Eru forbid! Those interested in learned details should refer to the Appendices to satisfy their curiosity. Besides, Meri had by this time apparently found what she sought.

She lifted up a box of a clear material through which shimmered myriad jewelled colours. Opening it, she took out small glasses, each containing a congealed liquid of a different hue. They looked fascinating, as if Feeblenor’s gems had come back to earth in drinkable? edible? form. She handed a red one to Pimpi, grasping a golden one for herself and holding out a green one to Grrruff.

“These are called Dzhellô-shotz”, she explained. “They contain a tasty specialty made especially for females. Now, here’s to… oh dear, we just can’t call you Grrruff any longer – that doesn’t go with your new look at all! As a name goes, it may be practical, but there’s nothing feminine to it. Shall we choose a new name for your new look and new life?”

The Nazgrrl nodded vigorously, which Merisu took to be affirmation, though it is of course possible that she only wanted to feel her curls bounce. Looking at Pimpi, she asked, “What kind of name do you think would be suitable?”

“Hmmmm,” Pimpi mused, “how about ‘Pinkie’ to go with her new complexion and nail polish?”

“I don’t know,” the Elf hesitated, “maybe if it was spelled with a ‘y’ it would look OK – names with a ‘y’ are always cool.”

“True,” Pimpiowyn answered Merisuwyniel. “Pynkie?”

“You know,” the shieldmaiden mused, “it should show both sides of her nature, the innate strength and the girlish light-heartedness. How about something like ‘Atomyk Kytten’?”

“Mithril Magnolia?” suggested the Quarterling. “Sheryl Crebain? Destiny’s Grrrl? Grrritney Swords? Grrr-Lo?”

“Somehow nothing seems quite right,” Merisu sighed. “And I so want it to be perfect for her.”

“I have an idea!” exclaimed Pimpi. “Among my mother’s people, it is customary to give girls flower names. Maybe one of those would suit her.”

The Elf’s face brightened. “That’s wonderful!” she answered. “Let’s see – Elanor, Rose, Niphredil, Violet, Simbelmynë, Daisy, Athelas, Lily…”

“Buttercup!” Pimpi called out triumphantly.

“That’s it!” agreed Meri enthusiastically. “It sounds down-to-earth, yet worthy even of a princess bride! Do you like the name, dear?” she turned to the Nazgrrrl for approbation.

The Creature-Formerly-Known-As-Grrruff nodded with what could certainly be taken for approval. And so it came that the females of the Grrlship raised their dainty glasses and woke the males with a rousing toast: “To Buttercup the Beautiful!”

[ November 24, 2003: Message edited by: Estelyn Telcontar ]

[ 4:45 AM November 29, 2003: Message edited by: Estelyn Telcontar ]
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Old 11-30-2003, 08:03 AM   #109
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Pipe

Darkness. Utter and all-consuming blackness that smothered the very soul in lightless oblivion. Yet here were also blind and senseless presences of unimaginable scale that spun and gyrated through the void in an obscene, mindless ballet to the piping of blasphemous flutes. And throughout the cosmic horror that is the motion of the Other Gods, a single voice: sweet with corruption and bathed in ancient sin; herald and soul of thoughtless, voiceless entities of unfathomable power that chanted a primæval dirge as old as darkness itself:

'You've let it run out again! You bone-idle pillocks are good for nothing! Who's got some change? Come on! I was watching something good!'

A click, a whirr and the darkness is dispelled by a terrible light, which reveals in stark and merciless detail a scene from a god's nightmare: great bulbous and tentacled things blunder in the light; a sickly smell of unwholesome incense swirls about a space as vast and unknowable as Time, in the centre of which is an old Chesterfield sofa and a wooden box on legs. Now the window in the front of the box begins to flicker, and to show things that no man should see. Images that would harrow the soul without imparting understanding; that would suck out the mind and make of it an hors d'oevre in a cosmic all-you-can-eat buffet.

And Môgul spake, and spake thusly: 'I can't wait to get out of here. Oi, you! Squid-boy! Hold this antenna for me would you? No, you can sleep later. I'd have thought you'd have had enough by now.'

*****

'Ph'gnash g'sclorble sn'vaargh. Gra'phlogre sna'glui ph'gnasha.' muttered Lord Etceteron in his sleep, and then screamed. It was a scream that had been torn from the throats of tortured captives in dungeons before the birth of the Sun. It was a scream that was the test-card on the home-cinema system of Doom. It was the scream of one who has looked upon the balance sheet of his own soul and found it to be in Confederate dollars. In short, something about him told those of his companions who remained wakeful that perhaps something was slightly amiss.

'Go 'way, Dad,' muttered Orogarn Two. 'Jus' wannanother five minutes.'

'Cooooo?' crooned Buttercup curiously. This sort of scream usually meant that she and Grrralph were about to have some fun; but she wasn't sure that she should let him off the hook just yet. Two-thousand years old if she was a day and still he expected her to cuddle up with a mutilated corpse like any hatchling. She decided to ignore the siren call of a tortured mind snapping in two, at least until he apologised.

Business, they say, never sleeps. This is, of course, an utter lie: business sleeps very soundly, but the best businessman can sense a deal from well beyond the walls of sleep. Kuruharan was upright and into his sales patter before his eyes were even open:
'Sounds as though you've just had the futility and insignificance of our existence brought into sharp focus: why not try some... errr... some of this!'

Kuruharan may be a preternaturally good salesman, but even he cannot select a useful item at random while still asleep. He was holding a wooden spoon and a salad fork. Earnur stopped screaming and started to look confused.

'Are you trying to sell me a salad set?'

'I've got a fondue set if you'd rather: honestly, every home should have one. The next castle along does.'

'I doubt it. The Count doesn't really go in for cheese much.'

'I beg to differ. I sold it to him myself, along with some patented splinter cream. Anyway, the point is you're cured. My fee is fifty gold pieces or your immortal soul. We prefer cash.'

If there was one thing that being an aristocrat had taught Earnur, it was that one should never pay today what one can put off until the next generation. Deftly, he changed the subject.

'There's no time for that now. I've had a dream of cosmic significance and I need my pipe.'

He picked up his long-stemmed briar pipe and filled its bowl with a strange brown mixture from a green pouch by his bed-roll.

'If you used this yourself,' he said; 'you might find that smoke breathed out clears the mind of shadows within.'

The mighty charger, Pinkjin, swished his tail and snorted. A clear mind was the last thing that his master would find in that packet; and well he knew it too.

By now the ever-alert (not to mention ever-groomed) Merisuwyniel had roused the remainder of the company, who had gathered around Lord Etceteron. He dragged harshly on his pipe, causing the fragrant leaves within to glow a deep red. As usual in moments of great stress or drama, he spoke in accents strange.

'It beseemed me that I saw as 'twere a mighty room of sitting. And in that place were bodies, monstrous and without form. And there was music, strange and filled with horror. And in the centre of that place there was a thing of Seeing, that did show events both real and unreal to their oblivious eyes.'

'You were in a student's living room?' asked Orogarn.

'Shut up: you'll ruin this mythic quality I've got going here. Anyway, there was one among them, whose voice was fair and foul; and whose words were words of power. And he watched these things that flickered before him, and spake a great and powerful incantation. And the words he spake were these: "Why is there never anything good on? I'm sick of these bleeding soaps!"

'It still sounds like a student's living room to me,' said Grundor's favourite son.

'Shhh... And then there came a voice that spoke to me these lines:
'By hook or crook I'll have the bits
That used to be an Ent.
And then the world shall suffer sore,
That from itself me sent.


'Then I woke up.'

'I think that I should lay off that stuff if I were you,' said Merisuwyniel. 'That's the worst poetry I've heard from a dream on the Quest so far'. But behind her the Gateskeeper stood; and his spectacles flashed in the moonlight; and he said nothing. But he did not forget.

Long billionths of a second they pondered this dark premonition. Chrysophylax and Mordaenárur glanced at Buttercup, Heavenly Creature of Darkness and preened themselves in a hopeless parody of discretion. Grrralph listened carefully and then took himself off alone to consider his options (much to his recently refurbished mount's chagrin); Orogarn fingered his crystal and then went back to bed, and Kuruharan remembered something important.

'Enough about that! Where's my fifty gold pieces? I'm charging interest, you know.'

[ 11:37 AM December 04, 2003: Message edited by: The Squatter of Amon Rûdh ]
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Old 12-01-2003, 11:55 AM   #110
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Orogarn Two tore Denimthor’s notice down from where it was nailed, folded it neatly in half and then in half again, and shoved it forcibly into one of Singéd’s saddlebags, the one overstuffed with reams of various legal documents intended for the prosecution of Skinflint. Collecting his father’s notes was an obsession of his, and he had nearly two rooms full of them back home in the Wight City. According to his therapist, each letter contructed another brick in the wall between he and the Proctor; a wall higher than the Citibank Spire. One day Orogarn Two intended to push it over on dear old dad.

The Forest of Canned Corn stood before him like the iron bars of a prison through which one small gate had been bolted. The trees formed a barrier of striped blackness that was pierced only by the gravel path before the Gaggleship and an occasional ray of sunlight that had managed to escape the tangled boughs. No creatures, large or small, crossed the trail, but the noises of something large and clumsy could be heard crashing through the underbrush deep within the wood. Perhaps it was the sneaky Ent or someone who knew his whereabouts. Orogarn Two rushed through the entrance in search of the source of the commotion.

Once beneath the murky canopy of Canned Corn, it was if he had entered a portal into another world. Looking back, he could still see his companions milling about in the bright sunshine of Muddled-mirth, but under the trees things seemed blurred and deadened, as if the forest fed on all things light and cheerful. Even sounds seemed muted, each running footstep coming back to his ears as only a muffled slap of iron-shod, blue-suede shoes against a pile of soft pillows. Psshhh Pssshh went each trod down the rocky way. How odd, he thought. Even the clamor ahead seemed much quieter before, and he hoped that he would continue to be able to follow it.

Pulling his tiny horse behind him, Orogarn Two continued deeper into the forest until he could no longer see his friends nor even see the light of the gate, and he began to suspect that he had gone further than was wise. The trail seemed to be turning leftward as he proceeded, and he soon found himself walking through a narrow defile that sloped steeply upward between rocky, moss-clad walls. The way itself had narrowed considerably so that the overfilled saddlebags made it difficult to squeeze Singéd through. Finally he came to a spot where he would have to abandon the documents or the horse.

“I’ll be back shortly, little buddy,” he said to the creature as he removed the important bags and slung them over his shoulder. “You wait here.”

The mini-Morosa merely snorted and turned away, obviously hurt at the lack of loyalty, especially considering what he had done for the Grundorian after the cliff-falling incident.

Oblivious to the feelings of others, particularly those of who he was their better, which included about everyone, Orogarn Two pressed on up the trail. It soon became even steeper, and he was forced to climb it like a ladder – hand, hand, step, step. Looking back he could still catch a glimpse of his beast of burden far below him, but the animal seemed to be walking off. Disobedient wretch, he thought, turning back to his task at hand. Not far ahead, the path leveled off, and he thought how nice it would be to take a break and maybe have a snack.

Cresting the top of the incline, Orogarn Two was surprised to find that he had climbed to a very high spot in the forest and now stood on a rocky ledge overlooking a leafy roof of trees that stretched on to the mountains. Beautiful silver and grey butterflies filled the air in a cloudy of fluttering wings. Looking down, he could see a natural earthen bowl, empty of trees and underbrush and covered in a thick carpet of dark green moss. Standing in the middle of the clearing was a bent gnarly figure, leering up at him.

The creature stood about 10 feet tall and closely resembled a dead bonzai tree that had recently been in a forest fire. Its blackened skin was flaking and peeling, and it showed signs of termite infestation. The being had huge, twelve-toed feet that were splayed out across the ground like cracks on the surface of a frozen lake, and its monstrous arms, held high above it like crosses in a cemetary, ended in hoary wooden claws. One hand held something familiar.

“My wallet!” shouted Orogarn Two, dropping his bags and drawing his sword.

Skinflint creaked a rustling laugh and waved the wallet around in circles. “Umm….ooof…..Is this what you are looking for, little manling?”

Orogarn Two looked about but could not see a safe way to decend to the Entish thief.

“Skinflint, I arrest you in the name of Grundor and her Porcelain Throne! By the power invested in me, I command you to release that wallet and give yourself up!”

The Ent tossed the leather money pouch back and forth tauntingly.

“When I get down there, I am going to use you for firewood if you don’t relinquish my property!”

“Eeeep……Errr…. let me help you down,” rumbled Skinflint.

Tree roots writhed suddenly out of the ground and tangled Orogarn Two’s legs as a branch pushed him hard from behind. The warrior quickly turned and swung his sword at his attacker, but it was too late. He plummeted from the ledge and crashed into the mossy forest floor with a dreadful crunch. His sword slipped from his fingers and he lay gasping, only barely able to look up a the wicked Ent.

Skinflint chuckled quietly and slowly turned away, walking into the forest and melting into its shady heartland.

“Oooo…… pfffft…. Good-bye little Grundorian,” came his voice through the trees.

Great roots reach out and grasped Orogarn Two’s ankles, pulling him into a gap between two ancient trees. A wind began to blow, and all of his letter and legal documents were torn from their bag and tossed in a sudden maelstrom that finally settled into a pile atop the hapless man. The only sign that he had ever been there was his silver sword laying an the ground – and his muffled pleas for aid.

“Help!” he shouted, but in Canned Corn it was little more than a quiet groan coming from the forest floor.

~ * ~ * ~

“Oh, my! What is that?” shouted Buttercup, touching her cheeks with the tips of her fingures in a dainty gesture of surprise.

“Looks like a small dog,” said Crysophylax, licking his lips and thinking of how long it had been since he had eaten.

“That’s no dog!” shouted Earnur. “That’s Singéd.”

"Where's Orogarn????" everyone gasped?

~ * ~ * ~

"Two!"
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Old 12-02-2003, 05:07 PM   #111
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Sting

"Where's Orogarn????" everyone gasped?

~ * ~ * ~

"Two!"

"I thought he was with you," said Kuruharan to Merisu.

"No, he was with you," answered the Elf with a nod towards Earnur.

"Nope, he was with Grrralph," cried the doughty warrior.

Everyone turned to look at the wraith who was busily smoothing out a wrinkle in his cloak. He looked up, suddenly aware that he was the center of attention. "What?" he asked with understandable innocence.

"What have you done with Orogarn?" cried Earnur. He advanced upon the wraith and reached for the hilts of his blade. Fortunately for all concerned, his sword twisted out of the way of its master's hand and Earnur instead pulled from his belt a paisley print kerchief which he flourished vigorously in Grrralph's direction.

"No thank you," said Grrralph. "I don't do prints. They clash with my motif. Now who are we looking for?"

"Orogarn!" shouted the Unisexship.

"Oh, the rude Grundorian," responded the wraith. "Why didn't you say so?" Mustering his preternatural tracking skills, he flopped down to his knees and began sniffing about the campsite.

Merisu rolled her eyes in exasperation, then looked about again. Her eyes narrowed in concern and she did another quick nose/hood count. "We're missing someone else," she said.

"Who?" asked Pimpiowyn as she pulled a pack of peanuts purloined from the casino from her pack and began munching happily.

"I'm sure there was one more of us," said Merisu while she cutely tapped her chin in concentration.

"Other than Orogarn?" asked Pimpiowyn between bites. "Someone else is missing? I can't think of anyone..."

Behind them, Falafel rolled her eyes, snorted and began vigorously banging her head against a nearby tree. The loyalty of a horse to its rider is said to be legendary but her reserve of equine patience was wearing thin, at least with regard to Merisu's companions.

"I've got the scent!" cried Grrralph suddenly. "Orogarn Two went this way!" He stood and pointed to the entrance to the Forest of Canned Corn, then began dusting off his breeches. "Oh, and the....uh, poet? He went that way too."

"Orogarn Two and Vogonwë are missing?" cried Merisu. Earnur and Kuruharan exchanged a high five.

"We must find them!" cried Pimpiowyn. The Shieldmaiden and Shieldmaiden-in-training seized their packs and headed down the path towards the Forest. A visibly disappointed Earnur and Kuruharan followed after a moment's hesitation, as did Grrralph, the Gateskeeper, Norni, Chrysophylax, Mordaenárur, Buttercup, several steeds and various pieces of the Ent that was broken (and their wagon).

A squirrel in a nearby tree watched the procession pass, then ran along a branch back to his nest. He just had to tell the missus that the circus was in town.

[ 10:16 AM December 05, 2003: Message edited by: Mithadan ]
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Old 12-03-2003, 01:41 AM   #112
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Silmaril

By mute and mutual consent, Merisuwyniel and Pimpiowyn mounted their steeds and, with a glance back at the sluggish males of the Conglomerateship, rode off into the forest. Buttercup needed no urging to stay with them, and so it was that a bevy of beautifully-groomed females astonished the woodland creatures who saw them. (Even Falafel was looking her very best, since her Elven mistress had braided her mane elaborately, thus showing her delicately pointed ears off to great advantage. [Interestingly, the matter of pointed horse ears is considered canonical among scholars of Muddled-Mirth history, and there is little debate on precisely which leaf shape could be meant.] ) Even Tweedledee, though not female, was adorned with a yellow ribbon to match Pimpi’s festive mood.

Dark locks and golden of various hues waved in the wind, and whether it was because of some magical properties of the trees, or the whisperings of the Bow which Merisu felt without understanding them, they were not tangled in the close-growing branches. Singéd led the way, and if he had had time to think about it, he would have been astonished that the trees which had blocked his progress and sundered him from his master earlier now made a path for them to follow.

The woods are lovely, dark and deep,
but I have promises to keep
and miles to go before I sleep…


The lines of a long-forgotten poem occurred to Merisu; she would have loved to have more time to explore the forest. But first there was a hapless, helpless hero to be saved. Soon her Elven eyes espied something bright lying in the grass near an ancient, gnarled and deceivingly decrepit looking tree. It was Orogarn’s sword!

She dismounted from her horse with a graceful leap and ran to the tree. But there was nothing to be seen, not even any tracks which they could have followed. Desperate, she sent a silent plea for help to the Bow. You once knew this forest well; can you tell me where to search for our friend?

This is Old Man Wilted, the Entish Bow answered. His heart is rotten, but his strength is green, and he hates all things that walk free upon the earth. He has captured the man and holds him tightly. We must hasten to make the tree release him. Alas, I have forgotten which word or song can master him. You shall have to attempt with whatever knowledge your Elven memory can find.

Merisuwyniel stood tall, raising the Bow high in a gesture of power, and called out, “Open Sesame!” Nothing happened, not even a rustling of the withered leaves.

“Mellon!” she shouted. Still nothing, though a slight shiver as if of mocking laughter rippled through the branches.

What is the word for ‘friend’ in Entish? she asked the Bow.

My dear, by the time you say ‘friend’ in Entish, the human will have died of old age if he does not suffocate first, the Bow answered.

The Elven maiden tried out several spells which she knew, all to no avail. [No, these cannot be repeated here – who knows how much havoc a mischievous person could wreak by misusing them?!]

She stepped back to think a moment and, since her mind was quick, of course, her face brightened seconds later when a brilliant idea came to her. She turned to Pimpiowyn.

“This is a chance for the young half-Halfling shieldmaiden to show her quality,” she spoke, as if uttering a prophecy. “Now is your big opportunity – let us see what power lies in you!”

[ 5:42 AM December 04, 2003: Message edited by: Estelyn Telcontar ]
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Old 12-08-2003, 12:28 PM   #113
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Silmaril

“Huh?” Pimpi replied, pausing in the pre-digestion of an apple mid crunch. Her attention had wandered during the chase, and she was fiddling with Tweedledee’s yellow ribbons (they brought to mind a song Vogonwë had once written, which went “Tie a yellow ribbon round the old mallorn tree”).

“Can you get Orogarn free?” Merisu rephrased her question.

.
.
.

“Two!”

.
.
.

“Oh, have you found Orogarn?” Pimpi asked.

.
.
.

“Two!”

.
.
.

“Yes,” Merisu replied with the barest hint of impatience, “he’s under the tree, can you not hear him?”

Pimpi stopped chewing and listened. Silence.

“Orogarn?” Merisu called.

.
.
.

“Two!”

.
.
.

“Oh,” Pimpi looked at the roots. “Nasty sort of predicament…. What do you want me to do?”

“Do you know of any spells or words that could make the tree give up our heroic Grundorian friend?” Merisu explained patiently.

“What makes you think the offspring of a hobbit and a man of the Mike would know anything about magic tree spells?” Pimpi asked nervously, eyeing the intimidating tangle of roots snaking through the ground.

“You never know,” Merisu shrugged (gracefully, of course).

“Wellllll…” Pimpi thought hard, “let me see… Vogonwë might know of something, he’s from Workmud after all. And he seems to know every sort of poem.”

“Vogonwë isn’t here,” Falafel pointed out, but neither shieldmaiden paid attention to the observation, so patently obvious it was.

“Did he not teach you any useful Workmudian spells?” Merisu prompted.

“I can’t say I was much interested in learning,” Pimpi admitted. “But if you give me a moment the repressed memories may unpress themselves.”

“Whatever that means,” Falafel muttered, annoyed at being ignored. Buttercup had found a small spring at the base of another tree and was admiring her reflection, twirling her curls with her newly painted claws.

“Patience, Orogarn,” Merisu called, “give us a minute and we’ll get you out somehow!”

.
.
.

“Two!”

.
.
.

“That’s getting old,” Falafel sighed.

“I have one!” Pimpi declared. “It’s called ‘Variations on a Theme by Bombaganini’:

Hey dol! Merry dol! Ring a dong dillo!
Ring a ding a dingalong a dingalonga a longading
Merry o merry me merry my a merry mo
Fal la, la fal, falla lalla lilly lo
Lilly lo a filly ho a dilly dol a derry dol
Derry dol a dolly der, dilly dally derry o
Fa lal la la lo, derry de, derry di, dirry derry dorry o
Hop a long a fop along a ring a long, hop a loppa leap alonga
Whazzzaaaa!


“Oh my sweet Eru,” Falafel stomped her hooves, and Buttercup’s curls drooped somewhat.

“I know,” Pimpi nodded.

At that moment, the tree emitted a low, guttural, unearthly, moaning noise that was also reminiscent of a toilet overflowing. “I think it’s working!” Merisu exclaimed.

And lo! the tree then belched forth an awful spew of leaves, dirt, mud, sticks, mice, raccoons, opossums, skwerlz, skwerl droppingz, acorns, peanuts, mockingbirds, bluebirds, chickadees, finches, and Orogarn.

.
.
.

“Two!”

<font size=1 color=339966>[ 7:31 PM December 08, 2003: Message edited by: Diamond18 ]
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Old 12-12-2003, 05:29 AM   #114
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Estelyn Telcontar is battling Black Riders on Weathertop.Estelyn Telcontar is battling Black Riders on Weathertop.
Silmaril

Merisuwyniel was delighted that Orogarn (Two! she reminded herself) had been rescued, and proud of her shieldmaiden handmaiden. Pimpiowyn had proved her worth, giving her teacher the feeling that she too had accomplished something. (Her well-trained mind had already pushed away the helpless feeling that had prompted her to give Pimpi the task.) Now all they had to do was get back to the rest of the Company-Ship.

Orogarn was shaking Pimpi’s hand vigorously in thanks; he would have been inclined to express his emotions more – well, heartily, one could say, but there was no telling when the lost boyfriend would turn up. The Half-Halfling maiden beamed with joy and pride; I really am a shieldmaiden!, she thought.

But even as Merisuwyniel turned to leave, the tree swung out a root, and it lashed and curled about her shapely legs, dragging her to the ground. She staggered, and fell, vainly grasping for the mane of her horse, or Buttercup’s curls, or anything she could have held onto. “Try your tools!” she cried, and was gone.

Her companions stood rooted with horror, staring at the black-hearted tree. But it heeded them not. The crack in its trunk snapped shut. Orogarn was alive, but Merisu was taken by the enemy.

(Here ends the part of the second part that is part of the whole history, at least in part. Holiday hiatus…)

<font size=1 color=339966>[ 6:29 AM December 12, 2003: Message edited by: Estelyn Telcontar ]
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Old 01-01-2004, 01:14 PM   #115
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Sting

After mucking about in a benighted manner for a little while, he [Vogonwë] gave up and sat down to compose that poem I was talking about earlier, while shadows fell and unseen eyes (but not unseeing, obviously) watched him. But that's another story.

"...beautician...mortician...perdition...oh drat! It just won't scan! And it does seem to be getting a bit dusky - and cold - perhaps I should be heading back. My little Pimpikins having had ample time to make over an entire flock of Nazgrrls by now. But which way is back?"

"Meeeep?"

"What was that? Who calls?"

"Prrrrt?" (A flash of fluffy white skips through the gloom)

"Show yourselves, or I shall throw...why...it can't be...Precious? My Precious! But Mummsy and Daddy said that you ran away to the Happy Haven Farms, oh, so long ago. C'm here, Precious. Ahhhh, c'mon, lil fellow, that's it...my precious..."

And it was at that moment that the trap door opened.

*******************

The hole between the roots dipped suddenly down, so suddenly that Merisuwyniel had not a moment to think about stopping herself before she found herself falling down what seemed to be a very deep well.

Either the well was very deep, or she fell very slowly, for she had plenty of time as she went down to look about her, and to wonder what was going to happen next.

(Note - the following two paragraphs based - loosely and badly - on the first chapter of the Lewis Carroll Classic Alice in Wonderland, serve only to indicate that Merisuwyniel's fall is EXTEMELY LONG! Therefore, skipping these paragraphs will in no way prevent you from understanding the plot of this tale - such as it is.)

"Well!" thought Merisuwyniel to herself "After such a fall as this, I shall think nothing of throwing myself down from the battlements upon the heads of twenty-three orcs! How brave they'll all think me at home!"

Down, down, down. Would the fall never come to an end? "I wonder how many miles I've fallen by this time?" she said aloud. "I must be getting somewhere near Bottom-earth. Let me see: that would be four thousand miles down, I think-" (for, you see, Merisuwyniel had learnt several things of this sort in her lessons, and though this was not a very good opportunity for showing off her knowledge, as there was no one to listen to her, still it was good practice to say it over) "-- yes that's about the right distance -- but then I wonder what Latitude or Longitude I've got to?" (Merisuwyniel knew perfectly well that that Latitude, or Longitude either, would be of no help to her at all in her present situation, but she thought they were nice grand words to say.)

Down, down, down. There was nothing else to do, so Merisuwyniel soon began talking again. "Pimpi will miss me very much to-night, I should think! I do hope they'll remember her half-gallon of milk at tea-time. Oh, Pimpi, I wish you were down here with me!
I don't believe I will find any orcs, but it is possible that there may be dorks. Hmmm, I wonder; do dorks eat orcs? I wonder?" And here Merisuwyniel began to get rather sleepy, and went on saying to herself, in a dreamy son of way, "Do dorks eat orcs? Do dorks eat orcs?" and sometimes "Do orcs eat dorks?" for, you see, as she couldn't answer either question, it didn't much matter which way she put it. She felt that she was dozing off, and had just begun to dream that she was walking hand in hand with Pimpi, and was saying to her, very earnestly, "Now, Pimp, tell me the truth: did you ever eat a dork?" when suddenly, thump! thump! down she came upon a heap of sticks and dry leaves, and the fall was over.

Note - OK, you can start reading again. It starts to get exciting, now!

Merisuwyniel slowly picked herself up from the pile of leaves and rubbish, brushed off her skirt and fixed a stray hairpin before whisking a bow from her quiver and fitting to the taunt string of the Entish Bow. For at the end of a tunnel, a reddish glow filled the air, and a chorus of high, clear voices was chanting softly, Boink!...Boink!...Boink!
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Old 01-02-2004, 08:55 AM   #116
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Silmaril

It is time!

Time for what? the faithful reader may ask.

It is time for the true hero of this story to come forward and claim his right to be acknowledged as such!

The faithful reader might object that the chief protagonist is a heroine. Yes, it may seem that everything is about Merisuwyniel – or should I say “Mary Sue”?! No amount of fancy spelling or Elvish name suffixes can disguise the fact that she has done precisely what every Mary Sue does – she has taken over the whole story and made herself the main character.

But I ask you, faithful reader, is this tale titled “The Revenge (or Reunification) of Mary Sue”?! No!!!

Everyone forgets that this is my story; they treat me like a common wooden object, only remembering that I am a senti-Ent when they need my special abilities. And why does everyone give her credit for marksmanship when I am the one doing the shooting for her??

Well, now we are in my home territory. I know every square foot of Canned-Corn Forest, every black skwerl that leaps from bough to bough, every tree from nut and acorn. I am Ent, I command, and Old Man Wilted does as I say. As soon as he lets me out, he will crush Merisu, destroy her completely, end her existence, and this tale will be mine, all mine, mine alone!! [What, were you expecting cheap verbal effects with several gratuitous “My Precious” from me? Never would I stoop so low!]

No more fighting her battles for her, no more doing what she requires of me, no more being carried ignominiously on her back, no more brushing the shapely lower end of it, no more silky waves caressing me in the breeze, no more arrows fitted to me by her slender hands, no more soft yet firm stroking of my upper and lower limbs, no more vicarious visions of her torrid dreams when her arm moves to touch me in her restless sleep…

Oh, confound it! She’s done it to me too – how humiliating! I’ve fallen in love with this little chit of an Elf; now I can’t leave her nor let anyone harm her. Let us out, Old Man Wilted – she’ll never know what I almost did. She’s still dreaming some strange vision.

° ° ° ° ° ° ° ° ° ° ° ° ° ° ° ° ° ° ° °

With a gasp, Merisu opened her eyes wide. Though she held the Bow, vibrating with a strange agitation, there was no tunnel; pale daylight filtered through the trees surrounding her. She shook her golden-tressed head in an attempt to remember what she had been thinking, but it evaded her. Her companions were running toward her, their gazes filled with a mixture of relief and horror. She stroked the wildly humming Bow comfortingly.

“Oh, Bow! I am glad that you are here with me! I thought it was the end of all things! I couldn’t bear to think that we could have come so far as your home and then not accomplish what you have waited for so long!”

It was a good thing that she had no time to ponder on the emotions emanated by the Ent-That-Was-Broken – the combination of shame and desire would have puzzled her exceedingly.
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Old 01-03-2004, 10:43 PM   #117
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Silmaril

Where the Wild Things Are

Vogonwë did not at first realize that he had fallen through a trap door. He was too busy falling to realize much of anything besides, “Hey! I’m falling!” and remember to curl up into a defensive ball accordingly. (A lesser Elf would have flailed his arms and screamed, but Vogonwë had taken gymnastics lessons in Workmud, where you never know when you’re going to fall into a black hole or what have you. So he was okay.)

After the falling portion, came the hitting-the-ground portion. “That’s going to make a lovely bruise,” he mused as he lay prone on the hard ground, in the dingy dank darkness. “I wonder if I’ve broken something? There must be some internal bleeding, at least.” But after a few moments of self-assessment, he determined that he had no more damage than a few bumps and bruises, so up he sat.

“Precious?” he called. “Precious? Where did you go? Come back, Precious!”

Silence.

(Isn’t that just so dramatic? One word, one paragraph. The spaces on either side lend it such a striking air. It’s not just “silence”, it’s ”Silence”. You can really tell it was silent, just by the formatting!)

Now would be a good time for some well-placed backstory. Unfortunately, Vogonwë had hit his head and was too discombobulated to reflect on the past that had led him to this point. Instead, he assumed a crouching position in the dark, and began to navigate his general area. He lifted his arms above his head and waved them around experimentally, but did not encounter anything (which wasn’t surprising considering that he had just fallen from that general area) so he stood up. He put his arms out to either side of him, and felt the cool, slightly gritty surface of cavern walls. He turned and put his arms out in front and back of him, and felt nothing but the slight movement of sluggish underground air.

“By Emu!” he ascertained, “I’m in a tunnel!”

Meep!

“What was that? Precious? Is that you again?” Vogonwë strained to see in the dark, but failed miserably. He thought he heard faint scampering noises a ways down the tunnel. “Could it be? Was I seeing things up there, or has my Zerl come back to me?” he wondered out loud, cautiously edging forward through the narrow corridor. “Heeere Precious, heeeere Precious Precious Precious…” he called into the dark (rather uncautiously) and strained his ears to hear the tweeting, twatting, frittering and frattering noises far away.

“In fact,” he thought, “it sounds something like a frat house, really.” Vogonwë had only been to a frat house once, back when he’d visited O Lando at Workmud U. (His own father had not been able to finance a college education, instead investing his money in champagne, crackers, Easterling Lanterns, etc.) And though O Lando had only invited Vogonwë to a frat party that once (he didn’t know what went wrong, everyone seemed to enjoy his poetry, drunk though they were) he never forgot the sounds of merriment and retching. And as he traversed the dark underground tunnel, his fingers brushed something odd on the walls. “What is this? It’s sticky!” he said to himself, then sniffed his fingers. “Plllech! Orc blood!” he exclaimed, then rethought— “No, wait. It’s vomit. Bird vomit? No, bird in vomit. Someone ate a bird! And vomited it up on the walls! Eeeeew!”

Meeeeeeeeyap… eep… prrrrrrt prrt prrt prrt prrt… came the sounds down the earthen hallway.

Apparently, his Zerl was throwing a party. “What? My little Precious, partying?? Vomiting??? Drinking, mayHAP???? Say it ain’t so!” He quickened his pace.

And so he made his way down the long, dark, narrow tunnel of the soul, deep in the bowels of Canned Corn. And thus he came ever nearer to the abode of his long lost Precious, all the while talking to himself quite a bit more than was altogether healthy.
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Old 01-09-2004, 12:24 PM   #118
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Sting

Grrralph watched as first Orogarn Two and second, ironically, Merisu (One) popped out of the maw of the willow. He was pleased by the latter reappearance and non-plussed by the former. But as the Itship resumed its discussions regarding locating and, if need be, rescuing Vogonwë (Velour knows why) he became aware of... something. Something odd. An odd feeling. Somewhat like the sensation of sand being ground between teeth. In an attempt to capture the feeling, he sat cross-legged on the dirt, and began to hum.

"What's with Lurch?" asked Earnur, evidencing a substantial lack of concern. He was busy lifting Orogarn from the ground and brushing him off (while simultaneously rifling through the pockets of the dazed Grundorian).

"Don't call him Lurch," replied Merisu. "It makes him angry."

"You wouldn't like him when he's angry," chimed in Kuruharan helpfully as he came over to assist Earnur in ripping off... brushing off Orogarn. Being thus occupied, he ignored Earnur's muttered retort about "not liking him anyway."

Then Grrralph rose and intoned in a deep and foreboding voice, "There is a disturbance in the Force..."

Earnur, having found nothing of consequence (or value) in Orogarn's pockets, turned and snapped at Grrralph. "What are you babbling about? Have you gotten into the Dwarf's cough medicine?" Kuruharan promptly trotted off to check his inventory.

The wraith turned to face the members of the Unisexship. "I have a bad feeling about this," he moaned mournfully.

----------------------

Far away, indeed an ocean and two rainbows away, strange events were taking place. Two of the lesser gods, the Meowrr, were conversing before a stout gate, ironwood reinforced with structural steel, which stood closed in a very tall wall of basalt. Behind them waited a sizeable and well-armed contingent of Meowrr, Velour and Elves.

"Are you sure about this?" asked Loci, the Bearer of the Keys. He fumbled with a keyring nervously and eyed the great door.

"Here are Mantoes' orders," replied the other as he handed over a sheaf of papers. Loci reviewed them quickly. As he read, his eyes rose high on his sloping forehead. "All of them?" asked Loci. "Very well."

He approached the gate and inserted a key into the lock. It turned with a click. The gates swung open silently and from behind the walls emerged a foul, no fetid, no... what's worse than 'fetid'? A really bad smell flowed through the gate. Loci, his hand over his nose, entered through the gate. "All right!" he shouted. "Everyone out! Form three lines! Organization please! Step lively now! Come on!"

From behind the walls came an unearthly chant. "O-WE-O. WE-O...O. O-WE-O. WE-O...O." Then hundreds, nay thousands of dark forms began shambling through the gates. The host of Meowrr, Velour and Elves split into two and flanked the procession on either side as it made its way down to the docks where dozens of boats waited for them.

Hours later, the procession ended and Loci peeked inside the gate. "Is that all of them?" asked Mantoes' assistant. "No," replied Loci. "A lot of them are in no shape to move." He held up a severed leg by way of example.

"Tsk, tsk," clucked the other officiously. "Well, they're not our problem now..." He wrinkled his nose slightly as a contingent of Wood Nymphs, Brownies and Gremlins descended with brooms and trashcans and began sweeping up the "remains" that had fallen off the procession. It took a lot of Wood Nymphs, Brownies and Gremlins...

<font size=1 color=339966>[ 3:36 PM January 09, 2004: Message edited by: Mithadan ]
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Old 01-09-2004, 06:59 PM   #119
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The Eye

Day may have been dawning in Moredough, although it was impossible to tell for sure in that Land of Shadowy Deals. As always, Mount Moody spewed out its rank, malodorous gasses like some dreadful great egg sandwich well beyond its barter-by date. Close by (somehow too close, it seemed), suspended above the pinnacle of the Tower Block of Barát-Höm, the nostril of Môgul Bildûr, wreathed in red flaming gunk, strained and twitched to catch the scent of rent Ent. Suddenly, a luminescent green flare went up from the Ered Lethargi and was answered by a purple and gold starburst above the Ephel Dûwot.

“Damn those blasted Goblins and their infernal fireworks,” cursed Môgul as he surveyed his realm from the panoramic window of his office suite, high in the Dark Tower Block.

Turning away, he glanced down at the docket that had accompanied the recent consignment from Valleyum, delivered in accordance with the terms of the Orcish Conundrum Concordat.

******************************

The Origin of Orcs

It is often said that Orcs were created wilfully by Môgul Bildûr, the Velour formerly known as Melvin Bluenote. This, however, is a misconception. In fact, it might be said that Orcs were a misconception on Melvin’s part, or at least an unintentional by-product of his original good intentions.

When Melvin was cast out from Valleyum by his breth/sist-ren and first came to Muddled-Mirth, he immediately marked out the furrowed fields and green pastures of Dairyland for redevelopment. It is said that he did so in greed, and solely with an eye to profit. But it was not always so. For when he first looked upon the Sindiar Elves of Dairyland he saw how they toiled every day of their immortal lives to work the land upon which they lived. And, taking pity on them, he conceived a plan to offer them an alternative to their arduous lifestyle by building for them affordable and community-based housing. And so, in the northern regions of Ihnä-Sîti, Ghêtö and Slóm, near to his stronghold at Slangbad, Melvin ordered the building of vast estates of houses and raised blocks of flets*. Then he counselled the Sindiar to leave their ploughs and dairy herds and make their homes in these mighty edifices of Kôn-Krít**. And many heeded his entreaties and took up residence in the housing of his counsel.

At first all went well. Melvin provided them with all they could want and their lives were rich and fulfilled (albeit somewhat cramped). But Melvin soon became dissatisfied with providing socially responsible housing, and wished to generate some profit for himself from the land that he had claimed as his own. And so he began to build the high-rent office buildings, luxury apartments, vast industrial complexes and exclusive shopping malls for which he later became renowned. But, as the money rolled into Slangbad, Melvin became greedier and greedier. And soon he began to neglect the counsel estates and tower blocks of Ihnä-Sîti, Ghêtö and Slóm. No longer were their residents provided with their needs on demand. Rather, Melvin’s administrators, charged with reducing Slangbad’s outgoings, required that they fill out eight different forms in triplicate every week in order to establish their entitlement to the pittance handed out to them by Melvin’s Treasury. Life became hard for them, but no longer could they return to work the land, as they had done in times long past, for they had forgotten how and there was in any event precious little open space left within Dairyland.

And so, with limited resources available to them, nothing to occupy their time and nowhere else to go, they became boorish and aggressive and turned to squabbling amongst themselves. They defiled the desolate grey-clad buildings with the ancient runic symbols of Grá-Fïti, which marked out their territories and declared who fancied who. Many departed for the few Sindiar havens that remained. Yet the most mean-spirited remained, and gradually, as years turned into decades and decades into millennia, they changed. They became twisted, mentally and physically, until they were beings filled with hate ruled by violence. And they became known as Orcs***.

The Orcish Conundrum

But this presented the Velour with a conundrum. For the Orcs were, in origin, Elves, and so entitled to return to the Halls of Mantoes upon the death of their phwoarr****. And Orcish lifestyle being what it is, they tended to die frequently and in large numbers so that, very soon, the number of Orcish souls running amok in those ancient Halls and spoiling Mrs Mantoes’ garden parties became too much to bear for delicate Elvish sensitivities.

And so it came to pass that Mantoes created a Great Chamber in which the Orcish contingent might suitably be housed, declaring “I have created a Holding Pen … um … Great Chamber … in which those Orcish scum … er … our esteemed Orcish contingent … might suitably be cordoned off … um … housed.”

And yet, by the will of Iluvtar, it was decreed that any Orc who renounced his or her brutal Muddled-Mirthly nature might nevertheless find solace in Mantoes’ Halls.

But the Elves remained unhappy at the thought of Orcs being present in the Halls reserved for them, reformed or not, for they felt that they would lower the tone of the place. And so a Concordat was agreed with Môgul Bildûr, whereby he would be entitled to reclaim those Orcish souls who sought redemption and bring them back to Muddled-Mirth. To this purpose, a notice was to be dispatched to him from the Office of Mantoes every time that an Orc sought entry to Mantoes’ Halls. And, because the Elves weren’t too chuffed about their noisy, smelly neighbours in the Orcish Chamber either, an option was included allowing Môgul to reclaim them too, if he so desired.

Of course, it was unknown for Orcs to seek redemption, and so the Orcish Conundrum Concordat was never invoked. Until now that is. And, given his need for readily available and disposable troops, Môgul had ticked the option box.

******************************

Môgul’s thoughts were interrupted by the arrival of an Orcish messenger who understandably entered in great trepidation given the incident with the mail room Orc the previous week.

“Er … Sire, the delivery awaits your inspection.”

“Excellent. I will be right there.”

The Orc turned to leave, delighted that his Master was in such a good mood. His delight, however, was brought to an abrupt conclusion (as indeed was his life) as the end of a spiked pseudopodium made a sudden and unexpected appearance in his forehead.

Well, why not, thought Môgul, smiling. I've got Orcs to spare now.

“Janitor!” he called as he stepped over the remains of yet another hapless mail room clerk and made for the door.

******************************

Once in the mail room, Môgul surveyed the numerous crates awaiting his inspection. The vast number present exceeded even his wildest expectations. Most of them were of huge proportions, but a smaller, coffin-sized one marked “Handle with care” drew his immediate intention.

“Ah, this must be the Captain,” he said. “Open it up at once.”

A leering Orcish mail room clerk holding a large iron crowbar immediately levered off the top and peered expectantly inside. Suddenly, a dark hand whipped out and grabbed the clerk by the throat, strangling the life from him within seconds. As the owner of the hand sat up in the crate, Môgul bridled in appreciation at the magnificent figure of the Uruk-Hai Captain before him.

“What is your name?” inquired Môgul.

“Grbbllx” answered the Uruk Captain.

“And who do you serve, er, Grbbllx?”

“Merifflssullff!”

Believing the Uruk somewhat disorientated from his journey, Môgul was satisfied with the response. But his satisfaction was short-lived since, as the Orcish Captain made to stand up, he promptly fell flat on his face. Unfortunately, it appeared that the Uruk was missing a foot.

Slightly crestfallen, but nevertheless expectant, Môgul ordered that the remainder of the crates be opened. The mail room Orcs, nervously eyeing their fallen comrade, reluctantly began to lever open the remaining crates. Now, Orcs are of course equipped with the most hardy of stomachs, which rarely, if ever, let go of their contents whatever the provocation. And so it came as somewhat of a surprise to Môgul that, upon opening the crates, his Orcish minions immediately turned away with wrinkled snouts and began retching. Then the stench hit him, and even he, greatest of the Dark Lords, was overcome with queasiness.

A dull, monotonous murmuring could be heard coming from the open crates. The odd flailing limb flew out. And then, slowly and inexorably, the occupants stood up. An Orcish army it was indeed. Yet one which had spent far too much time mouldering in Mantoes’ Holding Pen. Dark, lifeless eyes gazed out from skeletal heads, attached to bodies missing many of those parts which most bodies took for granted. And, for some reason, the entire contingent was bathed in a bright glow of putrid green.

“Get me the Korprat-Loyers!” screamed Môgul as he surveyed the desolate and bodily deficient army before him. “I’ll teach those Valleyum morons to send me defective Orcs!”

Then, as an evil grin spread across what passed for his face, he added “Yet, they may have their uses.”
_________________________________

* Flet, a Simian word denoting any raised dwelling place
** Kôn-Krít, a dull, grey building material highly prized in the First Age but largely disused (for aesthetic reasons) since
*** From the Quixotic Eeurrch, meaning “Get away from me, you proletariat scum”
**** Phwoarr, a being’s physically incarnate Muddled-Mirthly body, so-called because of its association with physical impulses

<font size=1 color=339966>[ 12:09 AM January 11, 2004: Message edited by: The Saucepan Man ]
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Old 01-11-2004, 07:36 PM   #120
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Sting

Orogarn Two checked his pockets thoroughly to make sure that Earnur hadn’t pilfered anything valuable. The Dun Sobrin’s poking and prodding had seemed very intentional, and he couldn’t be sure if Lord Etceteron had been trying to pick his pockets or cop a feel. Since Earnur was constantly breathing heavy sighs at the irritatingly lovely Merisu, the latter was very unlikely, so Orogarn checked his pockets again. Everything was in place, so he took a moment to gather up his scattered papers and re-stuff them into Singéd’s saddlebags.

Since his removal from Skinflint’s trap, Orogarn Two had noticed his pony was hanging his head a little lower than usual. He realized that the poor creature was upset at having been left alone in the creepy forest, but it had been for his own good. Still, it wouldn’t hurt to show Singéd that he was appreciated, so he went through one of his bags, removing a clear, hard container with a soft lid that popped as he opened it.

“Is that Tarkerwár”, gasped Pimpi, rushing forward to play with the lid. “Yes, it is! It is! It’s amazing.”

“Yes, it’s Tarkerwár, alright,” grumbled Orogarn Two unenthusiastically. His eyes closed and he drifted back to the endless Tarkerwár parties his mother had forced him and his brother to sit through when they were children. The Citibank would be full of every housewife, princess, and shieldmaiden in the neighborhood, each convulsing ecstatically with every newly shaped container his mother would reveal. The awful things came in a variety of sizes, and he was forced to model them for the ladies, opening and closing the lids to prove their durability and air-tightness. On occasion, he had tried to make the party more exciting with a demonstration of their quality. That morning he had carefully packed each of his brother’s hamsters into its own quart size Tarkerwár bowl, but when his mother brought them out later that afternoon, he did not get the reaction he was hoping for. Along with a solid beating from his father (and a second one from his brother), he was forbidden to attend any more Tarkerwár parties.

“It keeps things incredibly fresh for long periods of time,” he said to the glowing half hobbit.

He reopened the lid that she had closed and revealed that the container was full of oats, which he held out for Singéd to sample. The tiny morosa dove in greedily and emptied it in less than ten seconds, and then nuzzled his master. All was forgiven.

With that taken care of, Orogarn Two’s thoughts turned to the treacherous Ent that had limped off into the forest. The scrubby thing had looked very unhealthy, as well as tired, so it was most likely that Skinflint had retired to his house, thinking that the Grundorian was dead and no longer a threat. Orogarn Two unfolded an old street map and looked at it for several minutes until turning it 180 degrees clockwise. He then stared at it again for a while, sometimes running his fingers along it and shouting loud “Aha!s”. Finally, he closed the map, turned to the north, and started walking, pulling his pony behind him.

“I shall return!” he yelled without looking back. Singéd did look back, though, and gave a plaintiff Help me! look.

Everyone watched the Grundorian walk into the forest, but no one made a move to follow.

“I guess he’ll have to save himself this time,” said someone.

“That’s for sure,” said another, “because I’m not going after him again.”

“Nor I,” agreed a third.

“I’m guessing he’ll not only survive, but come back to tell us what happened,” said the narrator in one of those really cool narrator voices.
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