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Old 01-12-2004, 10:29 AM   #121
Mithadan
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Mithadan has been trapped in the Barrow!
Sting

Grbbllx hauled himself back up to his foot when Môgul passed and spat the shipping peanuts from his mouth. Then he hopped over to the Orc he had dispatched and relieved the body of its knife and belt. He set to work immediately, fashioning himself a new wooden foot from one of the packing crates and strapped it on. Then he evaluated his situation.

He was a bit confused. He had completed successfully his first twelve step program as well as his courses on tapestry weaving, etiquette, history and music. Then he had gone to work as a dishwasher ("Nothing like good hard work to cleanse the soul") when his duties had been interrupted by a clerk who told him he was being released.

The good news was that he had been set free in far less time than the millenium his instructors had told him to expect. The bad news was that, for some reason, he had been placed back into foul company. Could this be a test? More likely a clerical error. Bureacracy was bureacracy, even in the Halls of Mantoes.

At any rate, his surroundings were not unfamiliar. He was used to such accomodations and company. He would put up with things until he had a chance to figure out where he was and where he should get himself to.

A smallish Orc came up to him and cleared his throat. "Uh, Captain Grbbllx?" the Orc said. "I am Gronk, your new lieutenant. Môgul has assigned you to take command of the Third Shock Corps (Advertising and Combat Division) until matters are sorted out. Follow me."

Grbbllx nodded and followed Gronk to his new billet. Typical accomodations; a rat infested cave with bedding made of leaves and twigs and one bathroom for 60 Orcs. Gronk brought him a new sword and a leather jerkin, then asked, "Can I get you anything else sir?"

Grbbllx thought for a moment. "Yes, I'd like a croissant with butter and raspberry jam and a cappucino, please."

Gronk's mouth dropped open and drool dripped from his fangs as he attempted to process this request. After a moment, he laughed nervously. "Oh, good joke sir! We, of course, have plenty of Orc draught and boiled mystery meat. I'll get you some!"

Grbbllx sighed. It appeared that this place would be a bit of a trial for his newly acquired tastes and sensibilities. He wandered over to the bathroom and stood before a mirror, running his black claws through his blonde hair. He blinked his blue eyes, scratched his aquiline nose and ran his tongue over his yellow fangs. No floss. How would he continue his regime of hygiene in this pit?
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Old 01-13-2004, 02:41 PM   #122
The Squatter of Amon Rûdh
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Sting

The irritable mutterings of the Lord Orogarn Two faded into the forest and the Fallowship of the Things was once more free to discuss matters of great import. Instead, however, they elected to spend that time discussing the folly and unwarranted effort implicit in aiding their companion's financial endeavours. Apart from a brief lull, in which they joined forces to quell Vogonwë's attempt to recite his work in progress The Quest for the Holey Purse, they had adopted a policy of disagreeing violently over small details until events should conspire to force their collective hand.

Events, however, are conspirators that would have made Guy Fawkes give it up as a bad job and take up gardening instead. Also it is unwise to beard a shepherd of trees in his own forest, however far he may have fallen into petty thievery. Skinflint could yet cause trouble in a large, mean way, and he had allies of whom the mightiest of their company knew nothing; and of whom they would have wished they knew nothing even if they did, in fact, know something.

The rambling paragraph and our heroes' conversation were both cut short by a sound both great and terrible. From the dark and rotten heart of Canned Corn there came a mighty 'Hoo-OOO-oom', a sound that was part martial glory, part comic flatulence; a sound that made all who heard it involuntarily begin to tap their feet. It resounded around the clearing in which they stood, and suddenly was accompanied by the rhythmic whispering of ancient leaves and the steady drumming of great feet in the mould of autumns long past. Earnur let fall the taper that he held to the bowl of his pipe, and his face was ashen. 'They are coming.' he announced, in a tone that promised that 'they are leaving' would have been a far preferable alternative.

While some of his companions were babbling semi-coherent questions, others were dithering weakly and Vogonwë was trying to find a rhyme for 'like a clucking bell', the mighty Lord of Dun Sóbrin proved once more the mettle that had won for him the Keepership of the Demented Stoat. Stowing his fragrant herbs and sable pipe about his noble person, he swept out his mighty blade and began to walk slowly and impressively beneath the eaves of the Forest. Shieldmaidens, elven or otherwise, might defeat him at archery, might rescue fellow heroes and correct him on points of grammar, but this was his hour: the hour of the classic annoying hero and the hour of the Warden.

'What? Already?' Grralph was clearly perplexed.

'It does not take a herdsman long to gather his flock, no matter how blackhearted they be,' intoned Earnur manfully. 'You hear the calls of the herds of Skinflint: the Slíd Huorns of the Hepcatarchy! No-one may aid me in this: I must face this peril alone.'

Although this comment was clearly both illogical and untrue, the uneven notes of blaring horn-calls were certainly intimidating. Even if it did seem to invite the tapping of feet and the wearing of pork-pie hats, the swinging time it offered was on the end of a rope, and its dance was that of death. Earnur's companions stepped gravely aside, holding back their sniggers until he had passed, such was the gravity of the situation.

Even as Earnur strode manfully from the clearing he became aware of a great heaviness about him. The silence was deafening, announcing that the sound technicians of the scene had completed their simple arithmetic and yielded place to the demented chorus in which Mayhem would take lead vocals. Suddenly a dark press of gigantic figures surrounded the sable figure, and he became aware of a dampness about his hands that was more than perspiration. A faint smell of oil reached his nostrils.

I'm sorry wheedled a metallic voice in his mind's ear. Please don't make me go in there! Telstar's* last creation shouldn't have to die an axe's death!

'Peace, my blade!' answered Lord Etceteron, and his voice was of adamant. 'I hear the cry of battle in my ears, and no blade, no matter of what lineage may gainsay me!'

I hate you, squeaked the sword, and silently began to hum a lament.

Now Earnur could make out the figures that surrounded him. Like great trees they were and yet unlike, for he sensed the malice in their hearts and saw the golden horns in their Entish boughs. Silently and deliberately they began to move forward; the path behind him vanished and the circle of foes closed slowly about him.

***

Meanwhile, Kuruharan and Chrysophylax were discussing their companion's mighty deed with the Fallowship.

'I told you before: the odds are twenty to one and I can't accept your glasses as collateral.'

'Coo?'

'Don't flutter your eyelashes at my associate. The odds are the same for you as for anyone else... Ouch!'

Chrysophylax seemed involuntarily to have singed his partner's breeches.

'And those odds are thirty to one, of course. Naturally I'll accept that rotting bag of dead newts.'

Already a small pile of weapons, coins and assorted knick-knacks had built up beside the great leather-bound ledger that lay across the Dwarf's knees. This looked like being a good day: to lose two irregular customers was favourable, but to profit from it was a benison unforseen in even the most optimistic business plan. When the rhythmically inclined foes had finished with the hapless heroes, all that would remain would be to strike some sort of a deal and sell them as much linseed oil as he could lay his hands on at such short notice. From the woods there came a great trumpeting and clashing that set even his feet a-tapping, and Grrralph was already dancing up a storm, throwing out divots in all directions, his feet and legs a blur. When silence fell it brought with it a pall of disappointment, as though a long-expected party had been rained off.

***

Earnur leaned against a fallen bough and wiped the sap from his blade. All about him there were pieces of bark, forsaken branches and sawn-off stumps. Amid the confusion could be discerned the glint of gold where the mighty instruments of the Slíd Huorn Hepcatarchy had been abandoned. Not a single one of them would return to the deep woods of Paléd'danse whence they had sprung, for they had faced the mighty army of Dun Sóbrin, and being overwhelmingly outnumbered he had triumphed.

Even as he contemplated the field of battle, his eyes were drawn to a large clearing that had been opened by the passage of Skinflint's herd. Within stood a large wooden building, and upon its homely façade was writ the mighty legend: Sethamir's Livery Stable and Second-Hand Musical Instrument Emporium. The Lord of the Off-Colour Sword turned back to the field of honour and his eyes were agleam.
___

* A renowned Dwarven smith of great skill, whose hammer is said to have rung upon the anvil with a fell music

<font size=1 color=339966>[ 4:05 PM January 13, 2004: Message edited by: The Squatter of Amon Rûdh ]
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Old 01-14-2004, 12:58 AM   #123
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Silmaril

Pimpi was slightly perplexed. The whole episode unfolded before her large, stunning, innocent yet seductive blue eyes, in a manner she could hardly follow. A lot of hacking. Or something. Earnur was having a row with the trees, and also shouting periodically at Vogonwë to shut up, which was very disconcerting, as Vogonwë was nowhere to be seen, or heard. She was beginning to get a little worried about him (hobbit alarm being notoriously slow to set in) and she thought to tell Earnur that she did not find his references to her missing beau the least bit funny.

However, after observing the mad gleam in his eyes and the irrationalities flowing from his mouth, she thought better of it. So instead, she decided to busy herself by cooking dinner. There was plenty of wood for a fire, and so she drew from her skirt various implements of food preparation—a kettle, a stirring spoon, mushrooms, a side of ham, etc. and set to work creating a stew. She hummed a merry little tune as she did so (something about “all shall fade” and many paths being available to tread) and her mind was happily taken off both Vogonwë’s alarmingly long disappearance, and Earnur’s alarmingly fey behavior.

“Mmmm,” she said to herself, sprinkling some thyme over the bubbling stew, “I think this pot is turning out extra good.” Pimpi, being half-hobbit (in case you’d forgot) was an excellent cook. A culinary goddess, if you will, and so any stew she stewed was good but an extra good stew by her was divine, if you will. Vogonwë was half-human, so half the way to his heart was his stomach (or something like that) and she knew how much he liked her stew. He had composed a poem about it, and also mentioned it in his ode, “Ten and a Half Things I Like About You”.

Pimpi recalled, at that inopportune moment, that both her parents were dead, she had found no relations back in Soreham, her fiancé/boyfriend/thing was lost in a hostile wood, and that the last words she had spoken to him were “get lost”. That she had been translating for Merisu meant little at this moment. So, naturally, she burst into large, stunning, innocent yet seductive blue tears.

Her tears fell like rain (or some other liquid that falls) into the kettle of stew, and lo! it became a magic stew, so that whomsoever should partake of its bits and broth, should henceforth know bitter anguish until the end of his/her/its natural born days.
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Old 01-14-2004, 02:46 PM   #124
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Silmaril

Pimpiowyn wandered about the encampment, for encampment it now was. Night had fallen, and no one had volunteered to pick it up. Instead the Tellyship had set up tents and settled down for the evening. The young shieldmaiden went to and fro, offering a bowl of her stew to all and sundry. Sundry declined, so she approached Kuruharan. The dwarf normally accepted anything that was given to him for free, but after a look at the stew, he said, “No, I couldn’t!” as regretfully as he could manage. One after the other shook his head, mentioned a total lack of hunger, or shrugged, pleading too many snacks or a diet as a reason.

Finally she came to Merisuwyniel, looking at her with trustful eyes. (Had we mentioned that these were extraordinarily large and extremely blue? In one of his romantic moments Vogonwë had compared them to normal eyes as dinner plates to saucers, a metaphor that applies completely only if said dinnerware is of a deep azure.) “I made some stew,” she said. “It isn’t much, but it’s hot.”

Merisu’s kind heart could not reject the bowl proffered her, doubtful as its contents might have looked, and accepted it and the accompanying spoon with a smile. Relieved, Pimpi stood and watched as she inserted a bite of meat between her lovely lips. The piece lingered there for a moment before it was finally swallowed. The Elf gulped, gasped slightly, then mumbled, “It’s good.”

“Really?!” Pimpi grinned, happy that she had been able to make someone happy. She turned away, giving Merisu an opportunity to tilt the bowl in a way detrimental to its purpose, namely that of holding the substance with which it was filled. Unfortunately for her, the Half-Halfling spun around again. With truly instantaneous Elven reflexes, she straightened the bowl. “Please, eat!” Pimpi encouraged her, and she managed to empty the bowl with a convincing show of enthusiasm.

Now, it has never been told that an Elf could suffer from indigestion; the image of one burping or exhibiting even more unpleasant symptoms is unthinkable! However, that was the only explanation that occurred afterward to the Elven maiden for the dream she had that night.

She saw the face of her beloved Gravlox, in itself not an unusual event; she had often dreamt of him, her faithful heart mourning his death night after night. Yet in this dream he was strangely changed! Hair of wheaten gold, eyes almost as blue as Pimpi’s, a nose worthy of a god – this was not her Gravlox!! Shapely lips moved to call her name: “Merifflssullff!”

Is this the face that launched a thousand ships? she thought - strange words these that came to her, and she knew not what they meant nor whether they spoke of this time or another. She awoke with a start, bathed in (no, not sweat – this is an Elf, remember?!) the sweet dew of fear mingled with longing. She tried to recall her beloved’s face, but the image of her dream had superimposed itself on her memory. It was long before she could go back to sleep, and her dreams, though restless, were gone from her mind when morning came at last.
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Old 01-14-2004, 03:55 PM   #125
Mithadan
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Mithadan has been trapped in the Barrow!
Sting

When Pimpiowyn began crying, Grrralph excused himself hastily and spent several hours conducting a careful examination of several pieces of bark and the travel habits of a snail. He returned to the camp later that evening and settled himself in for the night on a pile of shavings that had resulted from Earnur's epic Battle of the Wood.

Morning found him sitting upon a stump near the edge of the camp looking typically dark and menacing. He hummed a few lines from the musical Camlost to amuse himself as he waited for the others to prepare themselves for the day. In Carcharoth/ disappeared Beren's hand/ in Carcharoth/ the flames of heartburn were fanned/ in Carcharoth!

Pimiowyn wandered by as he sang. "Very pretty," she commented. "But you realize that the tale is merely an allegory about evil devouring good which nonetheless survives and grows again. Kind of like a Phoenix rising from the flames."

In the face of such an erudite interpretation of what Grrralph believed to be a slice 'em, dice 'em story, he could only respond with, "Huh?"

Pimpi shook her comely head with a sad laugh. "Love prevails, as should my love for Vogonwë." With that she sobbed and the tears started again from her eyes.

Her tears smote Grrralph to the core. But not in the way one would normally think. Tears are to a wraith as the sound of one scratching a blackboard is to just about everyone else. As a result, when faced with an opponent tearfully begging for mercy, a wraith's instinctive reaction is to lop off the head of the sobbing subject. This has led many to believe that wraiths are heartless. This is, of course untrue. Wraiths are not heartless; just easily annoyed.

Grrralph resisted the urge to reach for his sword and instead sat upon his twitching hands. "Perhaps it's for the best," he suggested hoarsely as what passed for his skin crawled in reaction to her tears. "Maybe you could get a dog, or a parrot."

"I've got a parrot, you can have it cheap," announced Kuruharan who rummaged through his bag and pulled out a brightly colored bird which was clearly in the final stages of rigor mortis. He attempted to place it on his shoulder, but lacking the motivation or ability to remain upright, it fell to the ground. The Dwarf picked it up and held it out to Grrralph.

The wraith resisted the urge to argue with Kuruharan about the virtue and value of a dead parrot, and instead turned back to Pimpi. "Please, stop crying," he asked in a strained voice. In response, her sobs grew even louder. Grrralph's right hand emerged from under his rump and crawled of its own accord towards his morningstar. He attempted to seize his right hand with his left, which caused it to rear back and smack him between his burning eyes. He fell over backwards off the log.

Pimpiowyn looked up for a moment, then her tears resumed. "Don't try to cheer me up with jokes, Grrralph," he whimpered. "I'm inconsolable."

By the time he had gained his feet, Grrralph's hand had seized his sword and was straining towards Pimpi. With a cry of anguish, Grrralph gave in.

"All right!" he shouted. "We'll find the little twit! Just stop crying!"

He leaped away and began sniffing about the clearing. Then he sped away in a crouch seeking the distinctive scent of Vogonwë's mousse. In a matter of minutes, he returned. "He's off that way somewhere," Grrralph said weakly.

Pimpiowyn sniffed, snuffled and wiped her face. Then she smiled. "Grrralph! I could just k...shake your hand!" she cried happily. Then she sped off to tell the others.

"Don't bother," muttered Grrralph at her receding back. Then he pulled his right hand out from his belt and shook violently it before sitting back down...
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Old 01-14-2004, 08:41 PM   #126
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Silmaril

Vogonwë had been in some long dark subterranean hallways in his day, but none so long and dark as this one. Darkness took him—he strayed away through thought and time, and every second was as long as a life age of the earth. He began to whistle to keep himself company. He’d forgotten where he was going, and why.

Finally, he perceived a reddish light up ahead. It was small at first, but grew bigger and bigger, though Vogonwë had stopped walking toward it. He deduced (very cleverly, I might add) that a crack or a door must be opening down the passageway. The raucous noises which had before been but faint and fleeting, increased in volume and clarity. He saw dancing shadows flicker across the wall.

Vogonwë wondered for a moment if entering the cavern was such a good idea, after all, but in a moment the point became moot, for out of the crack jumped Zerls, little Zerls, round cuddly-looking Zerls, lots of Zerls, before you could say hurly bazerly. They squealed and gibbered in chipper little voices as they scampered down the hall toward him—lots of meeps and prrrts and squeaks and a smattering of cute hiccupy belches.

“Precious?” Vogonwë inquired hopefully, an instant before the tiny fluffy white things were upon him, clawing and hacking and spitting and biting with overwhelming ferocity and velocity. “Ahhhhh!” Vogonwë screamed, falling back, flailing his arms helplessly. He landed smack on his tailbone and screamed in falsetto as the swarm of cotton-ball like bodies trampled him.

They spoke to one another in a strange tongue as their padded paws pummeled him. He became vaguely aware that they were tearing as his flesh with needle-like claws, and he shielded his eyes in terror. Actually, on second vague awareness, he realized that they were ganging up on his limbs so they could tie them together with twine. He acquiesced with a whimper, and put his wrists together over his chest, unable to bear the pain of their slashing fingernails. The Zerls squealed happily as their task became easier, and in a few moments Vogonwë was trussed up like a Yule goose.

They began to drag their prize back down the hall, toward the ominous crack through which the even more undoubtedly ominous red light hatched. As they went, they began to sing a song in high voices, which Vogonwë would have likened to Alvin and the Chipmunks had he lived in the Seventh Age.

Dinner, dinner time is near
Time for meat and time for beer
We've been good, but we can't last
Hurry dinner, hurry fast
Want to catch a nincompoop
Yes, we want to have some soup
We can hardly stand the wait
Please dinner, stay on the plate.


“That’s a good poem,” Vogonwë mumbled as he was dragged over hard, jagged rocks and roughly pushed through the narrow opening in the wall.

He emerged, birth-like, into a large cavern. It was lit by a great lávà lamp in the middle, and by smaller lávà lamps on the walls, and it was full of Zerls. They all broke into choruses of excited chirping and burping at the sight of Vogonwë, and they rushed forward to poke, prod, smell and pinch his flesh. The meaning was only too clear. “I’m sorry!” Vogonwë wailed, “sorry I forgot to fill up your food dish and you starved to death and Daddy had to bury you in the backyard! But it was all just a part of learning responsibility, Daddy said so!”

“Meep!” said the Great Zerl, hopping forward to perch prominently on the top of the center lávà lamp. “So you say! I know all about your kind—Elves who snatch baby Zerls from their mothers’ bosoms so that grubby little Elf children can have playthings to cuddle and squeeze and put on a leash and forget to feed! Destroyers and usurpers, curse you!”

“Elf children are not grubby,” Vogonwë protested feebly.

“I care not,” the Great Zerl meeped. “And now, you shall pay us back for the years of torment! Prrrrrrrt! We few have escaped the clutches of petdom and found refuge in this place, but others of our kind have suffered to the last. You will pay for these neglected lives, morsel by quivering morsel!”

A cacophony of Zerlish noises rose up around Vogonwë, hyper cheeps and tweets of anticipation as the roly-poly creatures crowded in around him, brandishing forks and knives with pink-polka-dotted plastic handles. “Feast on his flesh!” chirped the Great Zerl.

Vogonwë looked up at the torrent of white fur washing down over him, and whimpered.

“….Mother….”

<font size=1 color=339966>[ 4:55 PM January 18, 2004: Message edited by: Diamond18 ]
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Old 01-15-2004, 07:17 PM   #127
The Saucepan Man
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The Saucepan Man has been trapped in the Barrow!
The Eye

When Soregum came to, he was alarmed to find himself sprawled uncomfortably across a barrel. He was even more alarmed to find that the barrel to which he clung was bobbing about in the middle of a lake.

“Well this is a fine mess that you have got yourself into, Master Soregum, and no mistake,” he exclaimed ruefully.

Water he could tolerate if he had to, and he was rather fond of barrels, particularly those which held wine or ale, but the predicament in which he now found himself was not one with which he was at all comfortable. In fact, it was rather bothersome.

“Them as are meant to float are made of wood”, he muttered to himself, recalling the words of his old Duffer. Although they actually made little sense now that he thought about them. Then again, his Duffer never had been the sharpest blade in the burrow.

Looking up, he could see a dark forested bank stretching out on either side. Reaching it, however, was out of the question. He had never progressed beyond his bronze proficiency medallion in swimming so that, while he was admirably skilled at fashioning floats from pyjamas, swimming any distance in circumstances that required that his head stay above the water was sadly well beyond his capability. He tried paddling the barrel, first with his arms and then with his legs. But, since neither set of limbs even reached the water, let alone broke its surface, he achieved little more than a frenzied flapping of black robes and a near drowning.

So, as was his habit in times of crisis, Soregum instinctively reached for his pipeweed pouch. This was no easy operation and he almost rolled off his make-shift vessel on a number of occasions before the pouch was in his grasp. He cursed as he peered inside at its water-soaked contents. And it was not long before he had established that he had nothing edible on him either. His situation was dire.

A muffled rumble came from the region of his stomach. At first, Soregum paid no attention to it, assuming that it was only his body’s habitual response to the lack of food. Then he heard a second muffled rumble, only this time it sounded more like a ruffled mumble. With a start, which almost occasioned an impromptu and unwelcome bath, Soregum realised that the barrel was talking to him.

“Gemmfft mibbl ogglt obble thirrblss brrbbel,” mumbled the barrel.

“I’m sorry?” said Soregum, rapidly reassessing the import of his old Duffer’s words.

“Hbblp mibbl,” replied the barrel.

“Are you Entish?” asked Soregum in sudden wonder, recalling snatches of overheard conversations in the Dark Tower Block.

“Nggo, imbl Dwabblish,” declared the barrel.

“Oh, I see,” said Soregum, not really seeing at all, but hoping to silence the keg until his feet were on dry land and he could think more clearly.

At that moment, he heard a familiar whinny from somewhere over his right shoulder. Carefully craning his neck round, he saw his jet black yet unfeasibly cute little pony perched pertly on a green baize table top, her pretty fiery red eyes gleaming in the gloaming. Picturesque steam issued forth from Twinkle’s delightfully flaring nostrils as she daintily rocked back and forth on the erstwhile gaming table, carefully and determinedly guiding it towards him. He may not have been her ideal choice, but she nevertheless knew her obligations as the steed of a dark rider, however diminutive he might be.

Before long, he was sitting next to her on top of the Ham Steep pœkhãř table and together they manoeuvred it to shore, pushing the still grumbling barrel before them. Once on dry land, and with much effort, Soregum managed to hall the cask up onto the bank, whereupon the lid sprung off and a damp Dwarven head appeared, followed by an equally damp Dwarven body.

“About bloomin’ time too,” mumbled the ruffled Dwarf, as he climbed out of the barrel and attempted to wring the water out from his knotted red beard.

Soregum blinked in recognition.

“Why, its Dwain Hammerhand, isn’t it?” he exclaimed, immediately placing the Dwarf who had appeared on stage at the behest of Jéorri the Springer in the Wagon Park bar back in Soreham. “What on Muddled-Mirth were you doing in there?”

“Hiding wasn’t I?” muttered the sturdy Dwarf, shaking and smacking the side of his head in an effort to free the water from his ears. “I had … er … made the acquaintance of a rather friendly Elven lady back in Ham Steep, see. Only her husband turns up, doesn’t he? So, I hides myself in this here barrel and the next thing I know all Slangbad breaks loose and I’m being thrown this way and that with water gushing in on me. A most unedifying experience.”

Soregum and Twinkle exclaimed meaningful glances, both feeling that the compact Casanova's experience had been little more than he had deserved. A silence hung in the air, fidgeting and fussing in discomfort.

“A-n-y-w-a-y,” said the doughty Don Juan. “Must be off. Places to go. Women … um … people to see.” Then, winking at them lecherously, he added, “Better take this barrel with me. As a precaution, you understand. He he.”

And with that he was bouncing off down the path that skirted the forest, rolling the precautionary keg before him.

Watching him go, Soregum noticed a broken wooden pier a short distance along the lake. Leading Twinkle towards it, he immediately recognised the unmistakable signs of the passing of the Gallowship. In addition to the destruction caused to the pontoon and the inevitable sweet wrappers and po-ta-to crisp packets, he espied a curious pile of perfumed jars, tubes and bottles. Quite clearly, shieldmaidens had been in action here not a day since. There had been a struggle, but seemingly they had prevailed. Twinkle eyed the discarded remnants of the assault jealously, yearning for a make-over herself (although quite unnecessarily so, given that her delightful demeanour was seemingly impervious to anything which fate might throw at it).

A gentle knocking drew Soregum’s attention back to the splintered quay. There, he saw a wooden box bobbing about in the water amongst the flotsam and jetsam. His heart lifted as he read the words inscribed upon it.

“Lungrotten Leaf!” he exclaimed in joy.

So, having dried and replenished his pipeweed pouch, Soregum was soon in high spirits once more, and he and Twinkle were back on the trail of the Tally-ho-ship.
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Old 01-15-2004, 09:47 PM   #128
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Singéd plodded sullenly behind his master, wondering if the Grundorian really had a clue where he was going. They seemed to be headed in the general direction that the unkempt tree-man had gone, and Ohtoo did have a map, but the tiny morosa wasn’t entirely certain that the Proctor’s son had a clue how to read it. It had not escaped his notice that the map had been upside down when Ohtoo had made his decision which way to go.

So far, their chosen path seemed to be the correct one. They were trudging along a well-worn trail showing the telltale signs of a heavy creature trailing long, twisted roots. Bits of rotten bark and clumps of slimy, shriveled leaves, as well as pointy black needles that stuck into his hooves, littered the trail. What kind of tree is this guy?, thought Singéd. He sniffed at a pool of thick black liquid and jerked his muzzle back in disgust. Ent Sap! Disgusting!

Slowly the trail began to rise as the land climbed upon the shoulders of the great mountain Methadrone. Suddenly they crested a hill, and looked into a narrow valley where they could see a cold stream splashing down from its springs high above. On the right of the water was a long slope, clad with Astroturf. No trees grew there and it was open to the stars above that sparkled like a disco ball. The uber-pony did a tiny Hustle to catch up to his master who was rushing across the plastic meadow.

Before them, at the end of the field, two great trees stood like gateposts, one on either side, and between them stood the frizzled Ent Skinflint, feet planted in the freezing stream. An unhealthy, oily sheen began where his woody husk touched the water, and several dead fish bobbed mournfully nearby. His back was turned to them, and he held his head forward as if leaning into an unseen wind, so he did not notice their approach until the Grundorian was nearly upon him.

With a loud neigh of dismay (or was it “Nay!”?), Singéd watched Ohtoo draw his sword and swing it in a vicious arc with the unmistakable intention of removing the Ent of one or more appendages. The tempered blade slashed downward murderously, but an unintended splash of Ohtoo’s blue sueded foot alerted the tree-dude, and with unexpected dexterity Skinflint sprang forward so that the Grundorian’s sword only removed a large patch of dandruffy moss. The Ent shuffled around to defend himself, bringing a gnarled branch up to block the quickly falling second swing of the enraged warrior attacking him, but this time he was not so lucky. With a bright red flash the sword struck deep into the shielding arm, cleaving in, through, and beyond it to thunk solidly into the heartwood of the scurvy tree. Arterial sap sprayed from the wound, covering the man and making the ground a sticky mess.

Singéd watched again as his master pressed the attack and the wounded Ent retreated. Never before had he seen Ohtoo so incensed, and it was actually quite entertaining to watch. Skinflint had been arrogant in the clearing when he had had the advantage, but now he was clearly unprepared to deal with the savage attack he was facing. Instead of aiding him, the surrounding trees were drooping like marionettes controlled by a sleeping puppeteer. The Ent shrieked a quick ‘Meep!’, but his cry was cut short as his attacker swung again, cleaving away a prominent knot. At last the tree-fella gathered his breath to exclaim, “I yield!”

Like a torch dropped into a brimming chamber pot, Ohtoo’s anger was doused, and he came to his senses.

“Errr….” breathed the dreadfully wounded Skinflint. “Mmmmm…. Yes….. I yield,” he repeated, panting like a whipped dog on a summer day.

“Ya betcha, ya yield!” said the sap covered Grundorian, threatening the cowering tree-thing with his blackened sword. He grabbed the crystal around his neck and aimed a concentrated beam of thought at Skinflint. “This blasted thing only works at close range lately, but if I got any closer I’d be in back of ya, so you’d better fess up with me wallet right now or I’m gonna go Scanner on yo hiney!”

Singéd gasped. Never before had he heard his master use the guttural dialect of the Hygienists. Such crudity was far below him, but it was apparent that the rumors of his dallying among Minus Teeth’s seedier dental technicians were true. To threaten a skull-bursting Scanner attack was the most frightening thing Ohtoo could have done, and the frazzled and sapping Ent unhesitatingly produced the aforementioned wallet from some hidden crevice. I wonder where that’s been, thought the petite pony with an inner grimace.

He watched Ohtoo snatch the wallet from Skinflint, check its contents to ensure it was really his, and then do something unexpected. Orogarn Two jumped onto Singéd’s back and kicked him soundly, shouting “Away!”

Completely startled, the teensy horsie bucked violently and nearly tossed his master into the flowing stream, but the Grundorian managed to stay on his mount, and soon they were racing back they way they had come. The moaning Ent retreated, shrunken in defeat, backing into a dark hole in the hillside.

“Errrr…..nnnnn….” he sighed as he squeezed himself into a good hiding place. Through a break in the trees he watched the nasty Man ride away on his large dog and wished he had never been planted.
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Old 01-21-2004, 07:58 AM   #129
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Silmaril

Merisuwyniel had watched the antics of the various Itship members with the faint, fond smile usually seen on a mother watching her offspring prevailing victorious on a ballfield or icerink. However, though her Elven immortality made her less susceptible to the constraints of mortal hurriedness, she agreed with Grrralph that Vogonwë must be found so that their mission could proceed.

“We shall find your beloved or perish in the attempt!” she exclaimed dramatically, though rather unnecessarily, since there was no apparent danger at hand. Pimpiowyn took comfort in her words and dried her tears, thus freeing Grrralph’s hands to begin packing his baggage. “Gather ‘round so that I can count nos-” her gaze fell on Grrralph, and she quickly amended, “assure myself that all peopl-” Falafel’s reproachful gaze met hers, “see if everyone is here before we leave,” she finished.

The companions gathered and she began to count: “Pimpiowyn - here, Earnur - here, Grrralph - here, Gateskeeper?” She looked around, for he had fallen silent and she wanted to reassure herself that he was still with them. He nodded from behind the others, and she continued: “Kuruharan – here, Chrysophylax – here, Falafel – at my side, as always. Please all check to see if your equine companions are present.”

“But where is Buttercup?” Pimpi asked.

“Of course!” exclaimed Merisu. “Not only is she missing, so are Mordaenárur and his Entish Broom!”

“Where could they have gone?” wondered Earnur.

“Perhaps they fell into a plot hole,” Merisu suggested.

There’s a plot???” the others exclaimed in astonished unison.

“Indeed there is,” the Elven maiden stated with great certainty. “You may believe that all of this occurs of your own free will -”

“Not mine,” muttered the Gateskeeper, but since his voice could hardly be heard, his comment was ignored by all.

“I firmly believe that Providence watches over us to guide our way,” she spoke, waxing eloquent and louder in her enthusiasm. “We have been given a Task, and no obstacles can stop us. A day may come, when the courage of Women, Men, Elves, Dwarves, Hobbits, Horses, and Mythological Creatures fails, when we forsake our friends and break all bonds of Fellow/Galship, but it is not this day! An hour of dulled swords, lost bows, lame feet and shattered horseshoes when the Age of Questing comes crashing down! But it is not this day! This day we walk!”

“Let me check the cart with the Entish pieces before we search for the Balfrog and the Nazgrrl,” she said in a more matter-of-fact tone, striding over to it to ascertain whether all of the wooden artefacts were accounted for. She furtively patted the pocket of her skirt to feel the outline of the wooden foot. The Bow was, as accustomed, strapped securely to her back.

The Entish Thighs were obvious, since they were the largest items on the cart. Behind them, a commotion began – a piece of wood jumped up and down, shouting “Pick me! Pick me!!” Merisu continued her tally unruffled (saving the ruffles on her impeccably tailored and ironed blouse, of course). The breadbox, yes, here it was; (“Pick me, oh, pick meeeee!!!” ) there was the Foozle also. (“Heeere, pick me!!!” ) Finally she looked to see what was the cause of the ruckus. A long wooden staff moved up and down vigorously to free itself of the weight of a heavy Thigh. Finally it arose, hovering above the cart – it was the Entish Broom! Attached to it was a pale pink, lavender-scented envelope. Written on it in awkward letters was the name “Mareesuu”.

Merisuwyniel, astutely gathering that its contents were meant for her eyes, opened it quickly and perused the message inside. “What’s it say?” Pimpi asked impatiently. The Elven maiden cleared her throat (for dramatic purposes only – Elves never have frogs in their throats!) and read aloud:

Mordy and I love each other and have decided to stay together forever. Since vacation with a group of Questers is not our idea of a honeymoon, we are flying away. Well, I’m flying, Mordy’s riding, of course – guess who has the wings on in this family! Tee-hee! Thanks for everything you did for me – I’ll never forget you and the others.

Buttercup (formerly known as Grrruff, the Nazgrrl)

PS – The Entish Broom wants to stay to be reunited; since Mordy has me for flying now, we’re leaving it with you and the other pieces.


[The letter has been reconstructed from oral records of this reading, so the spelling and grammar might not be quite as penned by the original author. Any improvements are no doubt due to Merisu’s kind heart, generous spirit, and ready wit.]

“Well, since we no longer need to search for them,” she said, “we can follow the trail Grrralph has found and go off to rescue Vogonwë. I think we can trust Orogarn Two’s steed to have enough horse sense to find us even if its master cannot.”

“Rescue??” Pimpi asked apprehensively. “I thought we only need to search for him! What makes you think he needs rescuing?”

“I received a message by O-mail,” Merisu explained patiently. “It wasn’t very clear, since he is only Half-Elven, but I saw him surrounded by Zerls.”

“What’s a Zerl?” Etceteron asked.

“Zerls are dangerous creatures!” Kuruharan answered, shuddering. “Very hostile!”

“Not really,” the Elf answered. “They may be of no practical use, but they are nice and soft and furry and make a pleasant sound.”

“So would an ermine violin, but I see no advantage in having one,” Grrralph commented.

“At any rate,” Merisu continued, “if they have overly favourable circumstances, they multiply very quickly; under crowded living conditions, they can become aggressive. We cannot leave Vogonwë to torment and worse. Let’s hunt some Zerl!”

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Old 01-26-2004, 01:55 PM   #130
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Sting

Snuffling and sniffing along, like a hunting dog hot upon a scent, Grrralph led the way along the trail following the aroma of Vogonwë's mousse ("Hair gel," protested Pimpi, but all ignored her). The hero-and-heroine-ship followed behind in no particular order. That is all but Chrysophylax who was wallowing in the exquisite pain of true-love lost and indulging himself in the age old cure of eating to forget his pain. Days later, Merisu noticed that the Dwarfling, Norni, had disappeared, but as none could quite recall when he had last been seen, it was deemed inappropriate to question Chrysi about his absence.

The Wraith stopped abruptly before the opening of a cave in the side of a hill. "Are you sure we're going the right way?" asked Orogarn Two. "I haven't seen any footprints." Grrralph sniffed at the cave entrance and turned to..."face" Orogarn. "His mousse is here," Grrralph answered. "Can't you smell it?" Earnur sniffed dubiously at the dark opening, then his eyebrows flew up. "Now that you mention it..."

Merisu stepped forward, taking command of the situation. "Now is the time for our esteemed Kuruharan, who has proved himself a good companion on our long road, and a Dwarf full of courage and resource far exceeding his size, and if I may say so possessed of good luck (and a bag of merchantable goods) far exceeding the usual allowance - now is the time for him to perform the service for which he was included in our Company..."

The reader is by now well familiar with Merisu's style on important occaisions, so more of it need not be given. More to the point, Kuruharan quickly interrupted by opening his bag and pulling out an ornate business card.

"If you mean that it is my job to go into the dark passage first, O Merisuwyniel, may your hair grow ever longer," he said crossly. "Then I suggest that you speak to my Loyer, specifically to inquire regarding the consequences of engaging in racial discrimination, to wit, the assumption that Dwarves are more appropriately the persons who should engage in the exploration of dark holes in the ground than any other race in Muddled Mirth." He handed the card over to Merisu, who with a shaking hand held it up. "I cannot read the fiery runes," she said almost, but not quite as it would be out of character for a shieldmaiden, fearfully.

Grrralph stood by the aforesaid hole in the hillside tapping his red high heeled boot on the forest floor impatiently as the others debated who would lead the way into the cave. Then he drew his sword and flailed it about, for Pimpiowyn had begun to whimper again. "Very well," he cried. "I shall lead the way. Follow me, all ye whose hearts do not fail at the darkness." This would have been a truly dramatic moment were it not for his sibilant "s" which caused a squirrel and two wrens perched on a branch above to giggle helplessly.

"Showoff," muttered Earnur as he drew his sword and plunged into the cave after the wraith. The others entered, folowing Grrralph and Earnur, ignoring the protestations of Kuruharan. "Wait, doesn't anyone want to buy a torch first?"

The dark enveloped them like a cave without light as they trudged along the tunnel. Their footsteps seemed to echo loudly amid the other earthy noises of the crypt-like cavern. "My blood runs chill," muttered Orogarn. "Then button your shirt," retorted Kuruharan. "Its not like anyone here needs to see your manly chest right now."

Earnur stumbled upon a tree root and sprawled on the tunnel floor. Then Pimiowyn banged her head on a low hanging rock. Finally, the oppressive dark curled its chilling hand even around the heart of our heroine, Merisu. "Oh for Valleyum's sake," she cried. "Doesn't anyone have a match?" Orogarn handed her his mystical Bîc, and she lit a lantern and held it up to light their way. It was then that the Itship beheld a horrific sight.

"He's dancing again," sighed Earnur. For Grrralph was hopping about, stomping, kicking and waving his arms as he writhed from side to side. "I think its the Umbar Hat Dance," guessed Pimpiowyn. "No, no," cried Kuruharan. "It's the Easterling Sword Dance." Merisu chimed in with, "No, it's..."

At that moment, Grrralph engaged in a particularly graceful high kick. To Pimpi, it was reminiscent of a ballet move from Dragon Lake. To Earnur, it seemed like a penalty kick from a game of Sôchír. To Orogarn, it was the spitting image of a féld gûl. Of the three guesses, Pimpi's was the least correct. Grrralph's red-booted foot made solid contact with something which flew through the air only to land in Merisu's open arms, where it writhed, scratched, bit, meeped and prrted.

"ZERLS!" cried the quick-on-the-uptake-ship...
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Old 01-27-2004, 03:26 PM   #131
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Silmaril

Merisu grabbed an arrow from her quiver and stabbed it into the Zerl, crying, "A scout!" as she kicked the quivering corpse aside.

"Oooh, cool," said the male members of the Audienceship, while Pimpi rolled her eyes and mouthed, "Thank you, Captain Obvious."

"We must tread carefully from now on," Grrralph warned. "There may be more."

"Ya think?" Orogarn Two said.

"As a matter of fact, I do."

They continued on.

When we last saw our dauntless hero, er… half-elf, he was in a compromising position down in the secret den of Zerls-gön-wyld. The O-mail he sent Merisu depicted a dire situation, one she did not fully divulge to the Areyougonnabemygirlship, worrying that it might overly excite Pimpi and cause the others to question the usefulness of the endeavor. In short, Merisu had no idea if Vogonwë would still be in one unchewed piece by the time they finally got their collective derrière down there.

And so the Troopship continued to continue down the tunnel, though Merisu could no longer sense Vogonwë from afar (which either meant that he was dead, not bothering to send out O-mails, or anear). Chrysophylax was in the rear, not for lack of daring, but rather for considerable possession of rear, which was making it difficult to squeeze through the earthen tunnel. As he went, bits of rock and dirt came dislodged from the walls and ceiling, sprinkling the Oobydoobyship in a fine layer of silt.

Suddenly, Merisu stopped. The others came to a halt behind her, and Pimpi asked, “What is it?”

Merisu perked her ears, and said, “Singing!”

“I hear it too,” chimed in Orogarn Two.

“It sounds like a boy’s choir,” Earnur observed.

“Did you know,” piped up the Gateskeeper, “I was in a boy’s choir as a boy. First soprano. But my voice changed when I was thir—”

“That’s your changed voice?” Kuruharan snickered, and the Gateskeeper flushed as his cracking voice fell silent.

“Focus, people,” sighed Grrralph, shaking dust from his hood. He sniffed. “The mousse is definitely getting stronger. I also sense much fear. The hall is rank with it.”

“Perhaps Vogonwë is reciting a poem,” speculated Pimpi, her adorable face lighting into hopefulness. They continued on, Pimpi’s hopeful face lighting the way, and as they went the sounds of squeaky singing became even more distinct.

“Definitely a choir of some sort,” Earnur nodded, placing a hand on his sword as the promise of a row with a choir danced in his head. You’re sick, said Griper.

After an excruciatingly long time, the Redhotchilipeppership saw a red light up ahead. They all stopped, and stared at the light for a while. Merisu began to file her nails, Pimpi curled the ends of her hair around her fingers, Grrralph hummed along with the choir under his breath, Orogarn Two picked dirt out of his chest hairs, Earnur tapped a rhythm on his annoyed sword, Kuruharan counted to 111, and Chrysophylax wriggled his ample rump about a hundred yards behind the Dipship.

“For pity’s sake,” the Gateskeeper strained his vocal chords again, “the light is never going to turn green, so just go.”

“Oh, right.” Merisuwyniel and the Ibelieveinathingcalledloveship resumed trekking through The Darkness again, and Pimpi ate a cookie as they went.

**Fast forward**

The Youlookinatmeship elected Grrralph the Extra-Sensitive-Sensory-Perceptive to go through the crack in the wall first, and Merisu went second, and Pimpi went third, etc. until all had tumbled through the fissure (save Chrysi) and stood in the Hall of the Forest Zerls. They gaped in wonder at the sight before them.

All the little Zerls were standing in rows, across the floor and up the walls, singing at the top of their tiny lungs. The hall was filled with an exquisite sound like unto a thousand chandeliers crashing to the ground. In the middle of the hall stood Vogonwë, waving his arms like unto a conductor. In fact, that is exactly what he was doing—conducting the hall of Zerls in a rousing chorus of Kûm-bï-ýa.

“Vogie! What on earth are you doing?” Pimpi exclaimed.

“Under earth, m’dear!” Vogonwë said, whipping his mousse around to look at her.

“You sent me a picture of a dire situation!” Merisu said, sounding slightly put out.

“It seems to have taken care of itself,” Vogonwë shrugged. “I happened on the Zerlish word for ‘friend’ and now they all think I’m their mother.”

“That makes no sense, but somehow, it fits you,” Earnur said, slapping his sword disappointedly.

“Awww! They’re so cute,” Pimpi turned her attention to the Zerls. “I could just squeeze their eyes out!”

“I wouldn’t recommend it,” Vogonwë said. “You have to be very careful around these chaps. I noticed that they like to sing, so I’m teaching them The Lay of the Entish Bow, that poem I wrote about our first adventure.”

“I thought it sounded nauseatingly familiar,” Orogarn Two mumbled.

“Well…” Merisu shifted her posture, feeling a tad miffed that there was no rescuing or plot-hijacking required. “You can’t take them with us, you know.”

Vogonwë lifted his hands above his head, and the Zerls hit a particularly painful high note. Everyone besides Grrralph wince and covered their ears as a shower of dirt and pebbles pelted them.

“Why not?” Grrralph turned to Merisu, as an idea came into what passed for his head. He pictured himself—oh and Vogonwë, too, if that’s the way it had to be—leading the troop of fluffy white creatures in an off Broádhwaë production called The Taming of the Zerls.

“Because—” Merisu began, but was cut off as the wall behind them collapsed with a tremendous shudder, shake, shimmy, and ko-ko-bop-ka-boom! Chrysophylax had finally rejoined the Comehithership, and was tearing down the wall in lieu of his ability to squeeze through cracks.

“EEEEEEE!” screamed the Zerls, breaking rank.

Chrysi crashed through the wall in dragonly glory, roaring, “Hear I come to save the day!”

Before anyone in the Shakeyotailfeathership could stop him, the Great Dope charged ahead, grabbed Vogonwë by his hair, and tossed him over his shoulder, where he landed in a heap on the Uriahheapship. Chrysi reared up on his hind legs and spread out his wings, shielding the Cindylouwhoship with his expansive expanse. The Zerls trapped on the other side of his wrath screamed in terror as they ran around in circles. Chrysi opened his Great Maw and spewed forth a gust of mighty flame, burning every last fluffy white adorable singing cutie to an unrecognizable crisp.

The dragon lowered his wings and turned around to the face the Writeyourownjokeship. “There! Could Mordaenárur do that, I ask you? Did you ever see him breathe fire? Does he even have wings with which to protect his comrades? No! So what does he have that I don’t have? What’s he got that I don’t got? What the Mightymorphinpowerrangership does she see in him, I ASK YOU???”

A moment of silence ensued, then Merisu turned to Grrralph and said, “I guess that’s why not.”

<font size=1 color=339966>[ 4:39 PM January 27, 2004: Message edited by: Diamond18 ]
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Old 02-16-2004, 04:27 PM   #132
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Grrralph shook his hood sadly. "They sang so nicely," he lisped with regret. Merisu nodded in agreement and bowed her head in respect for the former and now ex-Zerls. Vogonwë seemed to be overwhelmed with emotion. His hair appeared almost limp and his lower lip quivered dangerously. Grrralph, noticing that Vogonwë was on the verge of an emotional display, walked over and lifted the Workmudian by his lapels. "Don't even think of crying," he said in a deep voice. Vogonwë, showing prudent restraint, sucked his lower lip in and bit it with his teeth.

"Ai! Ai!" cried Kuruharan. "A choir like that would have been worth a fortune on the retirement circuit!" He turned to face his comrade-in-wings and shouted, "Why don't you just burn down the entire forest while you're at it?"

Chrysophylax, understandably confused and deeply depressed to boot, nodded his head, eager to please his friend. "OK," he replied as he began to twist his bulk around so that he could head back up the tunnel. "NO!" cried the Itship as one. The dragon halted, now even more confused. "You don't want me to burn down the forest?" he asked. "No," answered the Dwarf. "I mean yes....I mean...don't burn anything right now."

"What's done is done," commented Earnur. "And they did kidnap Vogonwë." He looked about at the dozens of deep-fried Zerls and shook his head. "Their passing should not be for nothing though."

"Right," added Pimpiowyn. "It would be a shame if there were no purpose for their deaths."

"Right," chimed in Orogarn Two. "Waste not want not."

"Right," interjected Earnur, concluding that it was his turn to speak again. "Who has the barbeque sauce?"

"Right," answered Pimpi. "Right here..."
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Old 02-16-2004, 06:18 PM   #133
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Merisuwyniel waited patiently while the others partook of the strengthening nourishment, then she called the group together from their foraging. “Now,” she said, “let’s get out of this cave!”

That was easier said than done, however – Chrysophylax’ ‘rescue’ had destroyed the tunnel by which they had entered, and their only possibility was to go forward. The Elven maiden led the way with Grrralph walking by her side and sniffing for some sign of fresh air. By-and-by the procession went filing down the steep descent of the main avenue, the flickering rank of lights dimly revealing the lofty walls of rock almost to their point of junction sixty feet overhead. This main avenue was not more than eight or ten feet wide. Every few steps other lofty and still narrower crevices branched from it on either hand -- for Canned Corn's cave was but a vast labyrinth of crooked aisles that ran into each other and out again and led nowhere. It was said that one might wander days and nights together through its intricate tangle of rifts and chasms, and never find the end of the cave; and that he might go down, and down, and still down, into the earth, and it was just the same -- labyrinth under labyrinth, and no end to any of them. No man "knew" the cave. That was an impossible thing. Grrralph stopped; he could not decide which way to take.

But no man am I, the Entish Bow reminded Merisu. I am an Ent, and I know the roots of the earth since ages past.

“Of course!” she exclaimed in answer, startling the other members of the His’n’Hers-Ship.

“What is it?” Pimpiowyn asked eagerly, always anxious to learn new tricks of successful shieldmaidening.

“How could I have forgotten?” the Elf wondered. “The Entish Bow was once at home here; he can lead the way out!”

She stepped forward confidently, holding the vibrating Bow in her hand. They passed more openings than anyone cared to remember afterwards, turning right or left as the Bow directed their leader. Fortunately the tunnels were wide enough to accommodate the dragon’s considerable girth, even after a meal, and they finally made their way safely to an open doorway. There they stood for a moment, blinking like owls in the blinding sunshine.

“We are out of the Forest!” Merisu exclaimed in astonishment. The dark woods lay behind them, and before them, high mountains lifted their snow-capped heads.

“It seems like only yesterday that we entered it,” Vogonwë said dreamily.

“It was only yesterday,” his more prosaic fiancée reminded him.

“But why were we here?” Kuruharan asked. “Nothing significant happened!”

“The Zerls and Slíd Huorns might not agree,” objected Earnur.

“And Skinflint!” Orogarn Two muttered under his breath, fingering the wallet in his pocket with grim satisfaction.

Merisuwyniel did not hear them. Her lovely violet eyes were wide open, yet her gaze was far away.

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

Tall as the forest trees, majestic as the mountains, and radiant as the setting sun stood a woman, nay, a goddess. Her hair was of a glorious green, her skin likewise, and her garments seemed to be made of many-coloured leaves and flowers, held together with a bright green sash. The Elven maiden dropped to her knees in awe and whispered, “Are you the Lady of the Green Kirtle?”

“Nay,” she answered with a voice as sweet as the sweetest bird’s song. “I am Yawanna, the maker of fauna and flora – and Ents! I am come to tell you how you are to succeed in the Quest for which you were chosen. For you must know, I was exceedingly sad at the wanton destruction of one of my children and wish to see him restored to his former – well, form.”

“What must I do?” Merisuwyniel asked in hushed tones.

“Bring the Bow and all other parts of him to me; you must find each piece so that I can reunify him. You have almost accomplished that task with your companions, and the rest will be found on your journey,” replied the angelic Lady. She turned to leave, when Merisu realized that there was one important bit of information missing.

“But how shall we come to you?” she called.

The voice wafted back to her: “Remember the ancient Elven Lay Gôwést!”
Then the vision disappeared, leaving the Elf feeling bereft and full of longing to see her again. She pondered the words last heard, and slowly the lovely, long-forgotten lines of the song came to her mind:

Go west, life is peaceful there.
Go west, lots of open air.
Go west to begin life new.
Go west, this is what we'll do.
Go west, sun in winter time.
Go west, we will do just fine.
Go west where the skies are blue .
Go west, this and more we'll do.


“We shall stay here for the night,” Merisu proclaimed. “This is a holy place, and we shall be safe here. In the morning, we go westwards!”

Grrralph looked at the snow-capped peaks doubtfully. “Can we pass through those with all of the animals and baggage?”

“The way over the mountains is dangerous and difficult,” mused Merisu. "We shall go by way of the GAP of Soreham.”

“Oooooh, shopping!” Pimpi squealed. “I haven’t had new clothes since Topfloorien!”

That evening, as they sat around the campfire, Merisuwyniel taught them the words to the song of the Questship:

Together we will go our way, together we will leave some day.
Together your hand in my hand, together we will make the plans.
Together we will fly so high, together tell our friends goodbye.
Together we will start life new, together this is what we'll do.


All joined in the rousing chorus:

Go west…
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Old 02-20-2004, 04:26 PM   #134
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Though Yawanna was hidden to the eyes of the rest of the hysterophallicship during her prophecies, Gateskeeper moved to the back of the crowd, hoping his cowl hid his scowl. Being one of the lesser wizards, he peered sidelong at the long side of Yawanna, hoping that she would be so focused on spouting her poetic nonsense to Merisu that she would not recognize him from the last Velour Annual Charity Auction and Bazaar -- he hoped she had forgotten the incident at her kissing booth. If she'd seen him, things might have gotten ugly...for him at least.

He'd also remained for the most part in the background during the journey through the Forest of Canned Corn, though for different reasons. During his service under Sauerkraut, and in the Tower of Dorktank so close to the Forest, he'd made many an acquaintance among the various Huorns of the Forest and had picked up their various dialects as well, adding to his voluminous mental storehouse of all-things-linguistic. [For verily the Slíd Huorns of the Hepcatarchy were by no means the only Huorns, and their brethren were many and varied. There were the fierce-tempered Bûüĺ-Huorns with whom he’d tangled one fateful morning when he’d unfortunately wandered into the Forest while wearing a red bandanna. There were also the Shuu-Huorns who were good to know when you need help getting through a tight spot. The Åûŧo-Huorns could be loud and brash in their constant wanderings, but made sure you got out of the way of oncoming trouble.] Gateskeeper did not want one to recognize him and suddenly blurt out his name, or give away his former employment.

One thing was certain, Gateskeeper was more than happy to be getting away from the Forest of Canned Corn, and the GAP of Rohan would be a welcome change. He set up camp with the others and pondered whether he should call Mogul and inform him of Yawanna’s assistance. Mogul didn’t fare much better than Gateskeeper that one day at the kissing booth…
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Old 02-21-2004, 09:37 AM   #135
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The Eye

But Môgul had no need of the Gateskeeper’s information. He was only too aware of what had passed on the edge of the Forest of Canned Corn.

He sat motionless, gazing at the flickering Satel-antir. The murky cloud which perpetually surrounded him seemed a shade lighter than usual, as if some of the darkness had been drained from it.

Had it really been her? The little girl whose pigtails he had pulled in Creation class. The young beauty whom he had had the honour of accompanying to the Muddled-Mirth Opening Ceremony Gala Ball. The fickle nymph who had so cruelly rejected him, preferring instead the attentions of the crafty but dull Häulié*. Better prospects, she had said. Better prospects! Hah! Did Häulié have his own realm? Did Häulié have a Treasury full to bursting? WAS HÄULIÉ ON THE VERGE OF TAKING OVER THE ENTIRETY OF MUDDLED-MIRTH!!???

No, he wasn’t.


Heslob stirred, sensing his Master’s tension, but soon settled back down as a million tiny black tendrils stroked his scruffy white mane. Môgul was soothed too, and his thoughts turned back to his former sweetheart.

Her beauty had not diminished in the least. Her verdant green locks, falling coquettishly about her radiant green face. Her deep green eyes, shining like emeralds. Her shimmering olive green skin. Her leafy green dress, ornamented with flowers. She was a vision of majesty, grace and … er, green.

Greedhog shifted awkwardly from one shiny black brogue to the other and eyed with distaste the bubbling remains of the Orcish tea-boy who, moments before the green broad had appeared on the screen, had been nervously serving Môgul’s afternoon tea. He wisely decided that now was not the best moment to disturb the Dread Developer’s thoughts, which remained fixed on the vision that he had glimpsed in the Seeing Stone.

And then there was her voice. Light as the mountain pasture, warm as the summer meadow and bewitching as the enchanted wood. Yet bleak as the withered heath, ruthless as the wild moor and treacherous as the tangled forest. He remembered that voice well. First the tender words and whispered vows that had warmed his youthful heart. Then later the mocking laughter and cruel barbs that had pierced that same heart like poison-tipped daggers.

Back in the days when he had a heart.


Outside, four Thingwraiths swept by the panoramic window in perfect formation, their Fell Beasts trailing ribbons of coloured smoke. All of a sudden they separated into two pairs and each pair turned and flew at full speed towards the other. Then, just as they were about to collide, each pulled up into a perfectly executed loop-the-loop. Greedhog watched appreciatively as they flew past once again in formation through the drifting multi-coloured smoke. But Môgul remained oblivious.

What was it that she had said? She had demanded that the Entish parts be brought to her so that she could reunify them. So, she was the key to its reassembly. Of course she was. Yes, it all made perfect sense now.

Môgul had been aware for some time that the Entish fragments could not be destroyed individually. He had acquired one such fragment several years before the Ramma-lamma-lamma-ka-dingity-ding-da-dong-ship had first set out on its Quest. A troop of Uruks from Gol Dulldor had come across a log babbling to itself insanely in the depths of Workmud. Immediately, the artefact had been brought to Moredough and tossed with great ceremony, and not a little objection from the log itself, into the sulphurous lava pits of Odouruin. But, contrary to expectation, the lava had formed a crust around it, and it had simply sat there complaining about the heat. Worse, it had mysteriously disappeared the following week. As had many junior administration clerks, a consequence of Môgul’s furious reaction.

And so, Môgul had not moved against the Shoo-bop-shoo-wadda-wadda-yippity-boom-da-boom-ship to seize the Entish objects that they held. There was little point. He could not destroy them. Rather, his plan had been to wait until the Chang-chang-changity-chang-shoo-bop-ship had acquired each piece, discover the means by which they were to be reunified and move quickly to foil any attempt at reassembly. But now he had his answer. Yawanna was the key.

Revenge would be sweet …

Greedhog sensed that his Master’s mind was back in the present, and so deemed it safe to announce his presence.

“Massster, our agentsss have tracked down the new Uruk Captain’s persssonel filesss,” he reported. “They were found amongssst the ruinsss of Gol Dulldor.”

“Excellent!” replied Môgul, whose spirits had indeed been much revived at the thought of exacting his revenge on she who had betrayed him. “What’s his name again? Grbbllx, is it?”

"Gravlox, according to hisss recordsss, my Lord."

"Show me."

Greedhog passed a grubby file of papers to Môgul, who perused them briefly before looking back to the Senior Loyer.

“Yes, yes. Excellent service record. Commended by Lord Sourone. Awarded the Ruptured Heart for carnage in the line of duty. He seems to have been an outstanding minion of evil.”

“Hisss training record, my Lord.”

“What of it?”

“In Sssquabbling Classss, he disssmembered hisss entire classss in a fight over a rabbit.”

“Textbook stuff. What’s wrong with that?”

“He kept the rabbit, my Lord.”

“Ah.”

“And named it Harvey.”

“I see.”

“And, in Orcisssh War Chant lessssonsss, he was dissscovered writing his own material.”

“Creative chap. There’s always call for new war chants.”

“It wasss Elvisssh poetry, sssire.”

“Doh! Still, he seems to have turned out suitably vile in the end.”

“My thoughtsss precisssely, my Lord. Until I saw the picture.”

Môgul rifled through the file and found the identity sketch made when Gravlox had first entered active service.

“Fine figure of an Uruk. Misshapen features. Lumpy, putrid green skin. Yellow fangs. Jet black hair …” Môgul broke off and peered intently for a moment at the small portrait. Greedhog continued his sentence.

“… which isss now blonde.”

“Yes, yes. I see what you mean. His eyes are more, well, blue-ish than this shows them to be, are they not? And he seems to have straightened out that snout.”

“Indeed, Masster.”

“And you’re sure that this is the same fellow?”

“Cssertain.”

“Well, let’s not be hasty.” Môgul paused a moment in thought. Then, a distinctly triumphant sneer crossed his indistinct features. “Let’s allow this Gravlox to prove his loyalty.”

“Sssire?”

“Put some of those – ah – new recruits that arrived with him under his command and dispatch them to engage the Gorilla-ship and bring back one of its members alive.”

“Gallowssship, my Lord.”

“Whatever. With one of those accursed adventuers loitering in our dungeons, we will have the upper hand in any, ah, negotiations which may prove necessary.”

Greedhog smirked in appreciation at his Master’s ingenious plan. “I’ll sssend out the ordersss immediately, O Execrably Evil One.

“Oh, and Greedhog.”

“Yesss, my liege?”

“I think that they might benefit from the company of some of your Loyers.”

Chuckling diabolically, Môgul swivelled his chair round just in time to catch the finale to the Thingwraiths' formation display.

_____________________________

* Häulié the Smith; Creator of the Seven Fathers of Dwarves: Dok, Happî, Snizzî, Bashfel, Grumpî, Sliepî and Doeppî

Last edited by The Saucepan Man; 12-03-2004 at 09:26 PM. Reason: Häudié to Häulié
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Old 02-29-2004, 04:14 PM   #136
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Shield

The CalamityJaneShip followed Merisu dutifully, or dotifully, or deviously, depending on whose psyche you happened to be delving into at the moment.

Vogonwë was feeling dutiful. He was not exactly looking forward to the GAP, as he sensed a great and rather painful dispense of money was in his future. But Pimpi's eyes were glowing with expectation, and Merisu had that glazed over look of one who has just received divine directions. Far be it from him to complain about divine directions, especially since it alliterated so nicely.

As they road southwestward Pimpi chattered contently on about the amazing rescue of Orogarn Two, near death of Merisu, Earnur's decimation of the Slíd Hourns, and basically everything else that had gone on whilst he had been away—the fascinating, the interesting, and the excruciatingly boring. Vogonwë dutifully said "mm-hm", "oh my", "is that so", and other inanities in all the right places. He found these times when Pimpi felt like conversing to be excellent opportunities for composing poetry. At the end of the ride he would have four new epics to write out: "The Lay of the Extreme Makeover", "The Ravaging of the Trees", "Dirge for a Whirling Zerlish", and "When Elven Eyes Are Glazéd".

After an indeterminate time spent riding, camping, eating, conversing, composing, sleeping, and killing hapless passersby (as was their wont, you cannot deny) the Itship finally reached the fabled GAP of Soreham. It was evening, and as they squinted into the west they saw strip mall of indeterminate length stretching out before them. As the sun dipped below yon bonny horizon, a myriad of torchlights popped on to illuminate the spread of glitzy shops, boutiques, showrooms, outlets, warehouses, restaurants, and liquor stores.

"Behold, the walls of GAP-o'-Doom," intoned the Gateskeeper majestically. The he added, in a more normal, squeaky tone, "Or so those who have maxed out their crédìtkârdhs here have deemed it."

The Incorrigibleship laughed. They had been through the Glitzy Caverns and come out no worse for wear (though the same cannot be said of the Caverns) and they feared no poncy Sorehamish strip mall. Vogonwë's laugh trembled slightly, and Orogarn Two moved a hand over his newly reclaimed wallet, but otherwise the mood was light and carefree.

"Right," said Merisu. She nodded to Pimpi, "I shall now instruct you in the favorite pastime activity of a proper shieldmaiden, Pimpiowyn. When we spurt out the other side of that strip, you shall be a first class Shopping Girl Extraordinaire."

"So shall I," sighed Vogonwë, wishing for a moment that Pimpi was not a penniless orphan and that he had spent more time in his youth buttering up his father so that he would have a sufficient trust fund (instead of subsisting on the meager wages of a lower-level employee at the now debunked Daily Floss). "If we ever get to the western extremities of Muddled Mirth I shall be forced to sell seashells by the seashore to sustain my sweetheart's spending sprees. And that's only if we ever get out of Soreham...."

He was ignored by the pair of excited females, and laughed at by the males who had no sweetheart to spend their trust funds on (except for Chrysi, who began to weep and beat his tail against the ground). Vogonwë in turn ignored them, and began to contemplate the first few lines of his next masterpiece, "Lament for a Decimated Coin Purse"; which actually turned out to be one of the better poems he had ever written, simply for the real and poignant emotions expressed over the loss of several dear friends.

Last edited by Diamond18; 02-29-2004 at 04:19 PM.
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Old 03-02-2004, 02:19 PM   #137
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Greedhog made his way down to the Third Dungeon, home to the Third Shock Corps (Advertising and Combat Division). He entered the barracks and found a group of Orcs huddling about a table. "Where is Captain Gravlox?" he demanded.

"You mean Grbbllx?" asked one with a shudder.

"Grbbllx, Gravlox, whatever..." sneered Greedhog.

"He's in there," answered the Orc, pointing with a shaking hand. "Feeding his pet."

"A real monster, he is," interjected another. "A most ill-tempered rodent...with fangs like this..." The Orc brought two claws up to his mouth and gestured with them as if biting a leg of lamb.

"The rabbit, you mean?" asked Greedhog impatiently. The Orcs shook their heads in unison. "No, Captain Grbbllx!"

Well, that counts for something I suppose. His troops fear him. Greedhog rolled his eyes and walked past the cowering Orcs to the next door. He opened the door without knocking, only to find himself lifted into the air by his collar by a blonde, almost clean Orc. "No interruptions when I'm feeding Harvey!" he growled.

"Put me down you fool!" cried Greedhog. "I'm Môgul's lieutenant, Greedhog."

Gravlox lowered the loyer and brushed off his paisley tie with a manicured claw. "Oh," he said. "Sorry You looked like an Orc. Beady little eyes and all..."

"I have an assignment for you and your troops," growled Greedhog. "Môgul wants you to snatch someone from the Gallowship!"

"The what?" asked Gravlox, his keen blue eyes squinting with confusion.

"The Gallowship!" shouted Greedhog. "Also known as the Itship, the Nongenderspecificship, the Politicallycorrectship?"

Gravlox shook his head. "Never heard of it."

"Listen idiot!" cried Greedhog. "I know that you've been locked away for a long time, but you'll have to pay more attention to your debriefings. The Gallowship! The group of foolish Men, Elves, Dwarf and Dragon led by Merisuwyniel!"

Gravlox smiled broadly. "You want me to grab Merisuwyniel?" he asked. "That's more like it! I knew there had been some kind of mistake. Finally!"

"It doesn't have to be Merisuwyniel, it could be Orogarn Two of Gondor or that poet, Vogonwë," said the loyer.

Gravlox looked at Greedhog in doubt and confusion. "You want me to grab Vogonwë?" he asked with a slightly nauseous look on his face.

"It can be any member of the Gallowship," Greedhog answered with eroding patience. "Just grab him...or her, and bring him...or her, back here to be imprisoned and tortured."

"Better be Vogonwë then," muttered Gravlox under his breath as he picked up his chainmail and sword.

"And Gravlox..." hissed Greedhog. The Orc nodded and looked up at the loyer. "I'll be sending some of my people along to watch you..."
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Old 03-09-2004, 09:57 AM   #138
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Grrralph's discomfiture ran at several levels. In no particular order, first, his horse, Puff, had apparently taken offense at the reappearence of Grrralph's Nazgrrl and felt slighted, notwithstanding the winged-one's subsequent departure. Puff had taken to engaging in various acts to annoy his master. On several occaisions on the way to the Gap, he had gone from a full gallop to a sudden stop. The first time this happened, Grralph went tumbling head over heels from the back of his steed. The wraith was better prepared the second and third times Puff pulled his little trick, but the horse rethought his strategy and repeated his game while simultaneously cutting off Earnur's steed causing the man to fly from his saddle into Grrralph. Puff whinnied merrily as the two attempted to rise from the ground and disentangle their arms and legs.

Second, the Gap was no place for a wraith. Black just wasn't in this year, even if Grrralph could have removed his old clothes to purchase a new outfit. In addition, while colorful scarfs were available, neckwear just wasn't Grrralph's thing. As a result, he wandered forlornly about as the others engaged in a shopping spree. One unfortunate salesperson exercised poor judgement by spraying perfume on Grrralph as he walked by. Hanging her upside down from a tree cheered him (and other customers) a bit, but not much.

Finally, Merisu's announcement that the Itship would soon proceed into the West was a source of deep discomfort to him. His faulty memory could not dredge up any particular reason, but he felt somehow that he would not be welcome in the land of the Velour. Probing his discomfort as if it were a sore tooth, he attempted to jog his memory, but all he could come up with was a vague recollection of injustice, betrayal and something about lacking standing to assert anti-trust claims for monopolization of corrupted Elves. He shook his hood in frustration. He had given his loyalty to Merisu and would not abandon her now, but he was very uneasy about visiting Valleyum.

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

Meanwhile, in another end of the plot, Gravlox and his Third Shock Corps (Advertising and Combat Division) were on their way to the Gap, mounted upon Wargs and such steeds as would put up with the Orcs' body odor. Gravlox did not have this problem; he had secured a cache of scented soaps for his personal use. But he was concerned about the presence of no less than three (3, more than two but less than four) Loyers who were accompanying his troops on this mission. He could hear them now, arguing about foreclosures and the best way to place Grundor in default of its obligations under several financing agreements.

When he received his orders from Greedhog, he began to plot a way to abandon his troops so that he could be reunited with Merisu. The presence of the Loyers complicated things immensely. They were certainly better trained and armed than the Uruks and were also, arguably, smarter as well. Escaping their attention would be difficult, particularly since they had decided to stay within ten feet of Gravlox at all times. It would take a significant diversion to evade them. Otherwise, he would be forced to seize a member of the Gallowship (who came up with that name, he wondered) and bring that unfortunate back to Môgul...
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Old 03-09-2004, 11:02 AM   #139
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Merisuwyniel’s heart was not in the shopping lessons, though she was professional shieldmaiden enough not to let Pimpiowyn notice. She instructed her in matters such as the choice of the most becoming colours of bodices and the relative merits of supple suede versus shiny leather for boots, also debating the right height of heels for the latter – high enough to look sexy, while still practical for riding. But she could not find a pair that tempted her to buy them, and she watched Pimpi change into ruffled silk blouses, no ironing guaranteed, without the least desire to try on anything herself.

For whom should I dress up? she thought pensively. Who would notice or care whether or not I have new clothes? Yes, of course she was aware of the admiring stares of males of all races wherever she went, and of the envious glances of other females, but what did they mean to her? She was used to them, and the admiration of chance passersby did not interest her.

Merisu’s Elven heart yearned for the one, her only true love. Far from growing accustomed to his absence, she had felt it more keenly of late, dreaming often of Gravlox, though he appeared strangely changed in her nightly visions.

When Pimpiowyn had bought all she needed, though certainly not all she might have wanted, Merisuwyniel, noticing Vogonwë’s pained facial expression with her usual perception, quite reconciled him by suggesting that the two of them explore ‘Ye Olde Stationery Shoppe’ for writing accoutrements. Thus she skilfully and tactfully achieved some time for herself, away from that constant reminder of twosomeness.

She wandered about the GAP Mall, her normally sharp Elven eyes seeing only a blur of colours, forms and movement, as if through a mist. This was due in part to the abundance of pipeweed, the burning of which was not yet forbidden in public places, but also in part to the fact that her thoughts were turned more inward than outwards. Gravlox’ face alternated with the lovely green of Yawanna’s features before her mind’s eye, and past memories vied with future plans for her attention, when they were interrupted by the strains of a melancholy melody.

A sad call that seemed to echo her inmost feelings drew her in the direction of a doorway. Almost without thinking, she entered the shop and found herself surrounded by musical instruments and parchments filled with black markings. A Dwarf, wearing a wide-brimmed hat, sat on a wooden stool, holding a strange, small piece of shiny metal to his mouth. From it came the sound that entranced her. Fascinated, she approached him.

“Please, good Sir, tell me what this wondrous music is and how it is made,” she asked.

Flattered by the attention of such a lovely listener, the musician held out the oblong object. “This is called a hâr-mónicä,” he said, “and I was playing the melody called ‘Once Upon an Age in the West’.”

How strangely appropriate to my thoughts! Merisu contemplated. “But how is the instrument played?” she continued.

“Just hold it to your lovely lips and breathe in and out,” came the answer.

Reverently, she took the hâr-mónicä and blew into it carefully. With the natural musical talent of all full-blooded Elves, she had soon grasped the technique of playing and learned the four notes (well, actually three different ones, since the first and last were the same note) of the haunting melody. After a bit of haggling over the price, half-hearted on the part of the Dwarf, who was so captivated by the combination of feminine beauty and musicality that he did not care about the money and continued only to hear the sound of her voice, she left the shop with shining eyes and the shiny instrument, enclosed in a protective case and tucked carefully into her pocket.

Suddenly she realized that it was late – the rays of the sun that entered the halls were slanted low, and it was time to meet the others at the parking lot. There they had left their cart with the wooden artefacts and, ostensibly to guard them, though the real reason was to avoid paying for damage in the Mall, Chrysophylax beside it. He had fallen asleep, but his mere presence was enough to keep any potential robbers from approaching, so everything was safe. She hastened her steps when she saw the others of the Shopping-Ship waiting, eager to demonstrate her new ability to them.
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Old 03-11-2004, 04:47 PM   #140
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Silmaril

Vogonwë was in raptures. At the Ye Olde Stationary Shoppe he had bought paper, portfolio, pens and ink in unfailing supplies, while strange creepy creatures came out of their dens, and watched him with wondering eyes. So engrossed was he with his purchases that he heeded them not, writing out his poems with a pen in each hand, all the while explaining in a popular style, which Pimpi could well understand. (This didn’t stop her from tuning him out and doodling pictures of shoes and handbags, however).

As they waited for Merisu to return, Vogonwë finished his poems and went on to letter writing, just so he could try out all two dozen colors of parchment paper and the poet’s dozen of different traceries and designs for the margins. Also, the half dozen different kinds of envelopes and the economy sized box of quill, rollerball, and gél pens; and the buy-one-get-one free box of charcoal pencils. He wrote five letters to his father, seven to his father’s party guests, three to the Blue Faerie, one to Roneld McDoneld, two to his mother’s side of the family in Chippendale, and ten to O Lando (in which he always prefaced Pimpiowyn’s name with “my darling fiancée”). Then he sent everyone on his mailing list a collection of his latest poems, and he even hacked into Orogarn Two’s mailing list and sent poems out to everyone Orogarn knew.

After that he wrote a special poem about the Ye Olde Stationary Shoppe itself:

What joys! What toys!
What a store!
Oh frabjous day! Callooh, callay!
They even have
Paper of turquoise!
Hue.
I could stay there all day,
I could write there all night,
I could mine the depths of poetic thought,
Like precious ore.
Never would run dry the reservoir,
Of metaphors,
As long as always I have paper and pen
At my shoulder, evermore.
I am a poet, hear my roar!
I salute you, oh purveyors of writing goods,
For my livelihood,
And red riding hoods for my Pimpi-ood.


Vogie. Please change that part.”

And red riding hoods for Pimpi,
Who is very good at—


“Cooking.”

“That’s what I was going to say, darling. What rhymes with cooking?”

“And is very good looking.”

Who is very good at cooking,
And is very good looking.
I salute you, too, eyes of blue.


“Good. Let’s go get something to eat.”
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Old 03-12-2004, 09:29 AM   #141
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Upon arriving at the monsterous shopping dens of the GAP, Gateskeeper made his way to the food tents. He'd suddenly had a craving for some spicy balfrog wings, or perhaps some Watcher-Calamari. Merisu's cooking had given him some severe bloating. That was bad enough, but it was made worse by that inopportune moment in which he'd inadvertently passed gas whilst walking in front of Chrysophylax. Fortunately the nearby Kuruharan had had a fire extinguisher which Gatesy bought (at Kuruharan's scalper's price) in time to (mostly) save both robe and dignity. He had mended it as best he could, but the GAP provided an opportunity to replace rather than repair. After lunch he intended to find something more fireproof (and perhaps also a large bottle of Mogul-Enterprises' industrial-strength antacids).

After chowing down on something actually edible for a change, Gatesy wandered the great shopping dens looking for anything that might be of interest for furthering his aims. At Ŕăđĩǒ Ŝħąķķ he was accosted by a salesman trying to get him to upgrade his cell-antir plan, but was only succdessful in selling him some new baaterees for his staff. It was while he was casually perusing the discount racks at Sethamir's Livery Stable and Big-N-Tall Shoppe that he spied a familiar face. Behind the checkout was Nintendo The Blue, another of the lesser maia, and one with whom he had been in competition for awhile way back in the land of the Velour. In the days before Gateskeeper lost the vision of Eru for his creation, his station was Designated Overseer of Services (DOS). He wished to assist the peoples of Muddled-Mirth with *all* tasks both the mundane and the extraodinary, the burdensome and the recreational. Nintendo's program, on the other hand, was to provide only amusement and recreation, and leave the denizens of the world to fend for themselves in dealing with the everyday matters. And yet, as with his battles to control the areas around the Pea Sea, he could not defeat Nintendo at his own game, not even with Gateskeeper's fabled Ecks-boks, forced to a tense truce.

Gateskeeper could barely contain his glee at seeing Nintendo reduced to working for minimum wage. He picked out an outfit and sauntered over to the counter. "Nintendo!" he said with a swaggering smile, "long time no see. It looks like the years in Muddled-Mirth have not treated you well."

Nintendo looked up, and indeed he looked as though the years had drained him. "Gateskeeper," he said with a maniacal snort, "come to gloat over my discomfiture? You always were the vindictive type."

"Nay, friend, I have larger matters at hand, and I came only to replace this dragon-burnt robe. I'm working for Mogul Bildur now, and with his help, after I finish this silly quest, he's going to help me take over the Pea Sea."

"MOGUL BILDUR!!" Nintendo cried, his eyes wide but seeing only who-knows-what mental apparitions, his expression contorted like a camel's chiropractor. "Slo-o-o-o-wly I turned...step by step...INCH BY INCH..." It appeared that Nintendo had gone completely crackerdog. Gateskeeper shook him by the shoulders, screaming "Nintendo!! Center that joystick, you're going to re-boot!!" He added a couple of face-slaps for good measure, and Nintendo returned to himself. "I'm...I'm sorry Gateskeeper, it's just that Mogul has crushed my amusement and game business with that Plae-Station of his. That's why I'm here selling knock-off clothes, it was the only job he'd let me have after he took over. I didn't think you'd ally with him, after the Ecks-Boks debut."

Gatekeeper pondered this news as he paid for his new outfit. Mogul was as tricksy as ever, and it began to look as if he would undermine Gateskeeper's affairs in other areas, even if he did help him conquer the Pea Sea. He did not like the idea of being a puppet ruler under the smoky and insubstantial hand of Mogul. All of a sudden he felt the wearyness of evil settle upon him. He wondered if there might still be a chance for him to turn again and maybe actually fight for the good guys. He began to wish that he had not made that deal with Mogul, but even as the thought crossed his mind the burn mark of the Cloz'd Dheal throbbed under his one glove. Then he remembered the one thing that might turn the trick for him. In lore ancient beyond all reckoning there was a whisper of something more powerful yet than Mogul, something yet more powerful than even the beauty of Merisuwyniel herself, as improbable as that might be. The power of the deus ex machina, called by some the Plôt Twĩŝt. But invoking that power would involve suffering in the extreme.

It was at that moment that Merisuwyniel and the rest of the Debacle-ship happened by looking for him, anxious to resume their journey. Gateskeeper begged a moment to change into his new clothes, and then rejoined the travelling band, his thoughts seething and simmering like a pot of Merisu's stews. He belched at the mere thought, and double checked his supply of antacids.
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Old 03-12-2004, 04:41 PM   #142
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"They are leaving the Gap, sir," announced an Orcish scout whose name evaded Gravlox. Something with lots of consonants and glottal stops. Why didn't Orc parents bestow more pleasant names upon their children?

Gravlox, accompanied by the loyers Cheetem and Ripoff, walked to the top of a hill to look down on the Gap's parking lot. Indeed there, in the distance, was the Gallowship, piling bags onto a cart filled with logs and other sundry items. There were Orogarn Two, Earnur, Pimpiowyn, Vogonwë, Kuruharan, Chrysophylax, a few others he didn't recognize and... His heart leapt and he gritted his teeth to prevent it from coming out of his mouth. Swallowing carefully, he looked down upon the graceful figure of Merisuwyniel. She tossed her head, causing her hair to fall alluringly about her shoulders. He could almost hear her musical voice and her tinkling laugh.

"Our prey appears!" cackled Ripoff. Gravlox restrained a sudden urge to disembowel the loyer. He was reasonably sure he could take one loyer in a more or less fair fight, but doubted he could defeat two. And the paperwork and depositions which were sure to follow would likely not be worth the momentary satisfaction. More to the point, they were already wielding their vile legal pads while his sword was still in its sheath. "Let's go!" cried Cheetem. So much for avoiding contact between his troops and the Gallowship.

They loped back to camp where the Orcs of the Third Shock Corps were already mounting their wargs and steeds. Gravlox leapt upon his warg and led the troops around the bottom of the hill to the north. There they waited for the Gallowship to come into view. Gravlox's face remained impassive, but his mind raced to find a way out of this predicament. Then a fiendish grin came over his face. Ripoff and Cheetem, who were observing him carefully, nodded with approval. Soon, the Itship came into view and Gravlox raised a hand. "Charge!" he cried.

With an unearthly howl, the Third Shock Corps leapt forward towards the small group of men, elves, dwarves and dragon and whatever else they had accumulated in Gravlox' absence. The members of the Gallowship scrambled for their weapons and Chrysi lifted into the air with a blast of flame. The Orcs were 200 meters away, 100 meters away, 50... Gravlox suddenly rose up in his stirrups, an odd piece of equipment for a warg, reached into his pack and withdrew a furry something.

"Wargs!" he screamed. Two dozen snouts turned toward him in mid-stride. "Get the ZERLLLLLL!" A white furry something flew from his hands and began racing away at a right angle to the course of the troops. Two dozen sets of beady red eyes followed the ball of fluff and turned after it. Now it is a little known fact of Muddled Mirth physics that wargs in pursuit of a Zerl can turn on a proverbial dime. However, Orcs lack this ability. Two dozen wargs turned to chase the Zerl and two dozen orcs were flung from the backs of their steeds.

Gravlox leapt from the back of his warg and raced forward towards the Itship. Behind him, he could hear the loyers screaming. "Fraud, misrepresentation, defalcation of property! Oooo are we gonna get you!" He ignored them and approached his former comrades. Vogonwë prepared to throw an arrow, but Merisu, frowning in recognition of the face from her troubled dreams halted the Workmudian Elf. "Beloved!" he shouted. "It is I! I have returned!"

At that moment, perhaps a dozen meters from his very confused friends, he was caught from behind. The loyers had raised their dread legal pads and scribbled their spells upon them. At once, Gravlox was struck by a swirling blue whirl of injunction. A declaratory writ smashed him over the head and an attachment seized his wooden foot. He toppled to the ground. Immediately, he was swarmed over by a crowd of orcs who pulled him away while menacing the Gallowship with their swords. The loyers threw Gravlox atop a horse, still bound by the injunction and galloped off. With tears streaming from his eyes, Gravlox reached a claw out towards his beloved and shouted, "Merisu!" Then he was gone...
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Old 03-13-2004, 12:05 AM   #143
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“Wargs! Get that ZERLLLLL!”

Vogonwë’s head snapped up at this cry from one of the Orcs. No! Another poor, hapless Zerl was about to meet its death? It shouldn’t! It couldn’t! It wouldn’t! He got ready to loose an arrow at the vile creature who threw the Zerl to its imminent death.

“No, wait,” said Merisu, placing a well manicured but trembling hand on his arm. She looked stunned (and stunning, but that’s not the point) as she stared ahead at the Uruk on the Warg.

“Beloved! It is I! I have returned!” cried the suspiciously blonde Uruk with the strange, disproportionately aesthetic features.

It dawned on Vogonwë, then, in the sort of way a two-by-four dawns on you when it hits you between the eyes. He knew not how, why, where, who, what or when, but that voice and that nauseatingly dramatic flare belonged to none other than Gravlox Uruk….

…Which could be quite awkward. He watched his former murder victim approaching, leaping from his Warg and running, which didn’t seem altogether sensible considering how much faster his Warg could run. Vogonwë started to formulate greetings in his mind, forgetting that perhaps the more appropriate action to take would have been to loose some Workmudian Well-Aimed Arrows into the weird looking… things… with legal pads that were chasing Gravlox down.

”Hi!” No, something more serious. ”Greetings, old friend!” Naaah. No use in playing stupid. ”Gravlox! What a surprise!” No, too inane. ”Hello… wow, you’re looking good!” No, too fruity. ”I’m sorry, really. Really, really, really, sorry. Very, truly, sorry.” Yeah, that sounded good.

Unfortunately, while he was planning his greeting, the… things… stopped Gravlox in his tracks and the band of Orcs piled on top of him, dragging him away while Vogonwë, Merisu and the others watched stupidly, some drooling vegetable-like on their shoes.

Then Vogonwë snapped out of his stupor, remembering that the Zerl was still in danger. They might let their long lost back-from-the-dead friend be dragged away, but by Emu, he wasn’t going to stand by and let a Zerl suffer! He hopped astride Tweedledum and cried, “Don’t worry! Mommy’s coming!”

He dug his heels into the horse, one, two, three times, and then it finally took off at something akin to a gallop. He rode down the renegade Wargs, singing out spells as he loosed arrow after arrow into the mangy beasts. They fell like fleas from a dog onto the ground, as did a few stray Orcs who were hanging around stupidly, no match for Vogonwë’s store of debilitating rhymes. In a moment Vogonwë did a double triple somersault off of Tweedledum and trotted up to the frightened little white animal.

“Hey—what in green garters is this?” he exclaimed when he picked up a small rabbit. “A bunny?” He stared. “Zerl” didn’t even rhyme with “bunny”. He turned the rabbit around in his hands and noticed that it was wearing a collar with the name “Harvey” written on it in calligraphy. He turned and walked back to Tweedledum, who was nibbling on grass next to the body of a dead Orc. “Well, Harvey, I guess you can ride with me, anyway. Gravlox might want you back.” He pet the rabbit on top of the head. “Yessss,” he nodded, an idea coming into his head. “Yes, precious. You and I are going to stay together for a little while. Don’t worry, Vogie’s going to take good care of you. You like Vogie, right? You wouldn’t want anything to happen to Vogie, would you? Nooooooo.”

He hopped onto Tweedledum and rode back through the carnage, gathering up his arrows. When he got back to the Duhship he held out the rabbit to Pimpi. “Look what I’ve got!”

“Oh! Shall we put it in a stew?”

“No!” he cried, hugging the nervous little creature to his chest. “This is Harvey, and if that Uruk was really Gravlox I suppose this is Gravlox’s special diversionary Warg-O-Rabbit. We’re going to take very good care of him and Gravlox will be ever so grateful to us.”

On cue, Merisu snapped out of her stupor and began to cry, weep, and mumble sweet poetic words of yearning in the general direction Gravlox had been dragged.

Earnur held up a hand. “Wait... does this mean we’re going to have to rescue someone again?”
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Old 03-13-2004, 08:32 AM   #144
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A wave of conflicting feelings had stunned Merisuwyniel into immobility. She had been deep in pensive thought when they had left the GAP, trusting Falafel to keep to the road with little guidance on her part, lulled into the false security of a seemingly eventless journey ahead. The attack surprised her, but she had mastered situations like that so many times that it would normally have posed no serious problem. She had felt the Bow vibrating with the excitement of battle, but then…

That face, so strange and yet so strangely familiar – not the face that was burnt forever into her memory, but one that she had seen in her dreams of late – had stopped time and obliterated her surroundings. Her mind told her that it could not be, but the unruly beat of her heart spoke more eloquently. Yet before she could say or do anything, he was gone, his last, desperate cry echoing in her delicately pointed ears. She wanted to follow him, wanted to fight the Orcs, wanted to pursue the Wargs who chased that – well, whatever it was; her sharp Elven eyes told her that it was not exactly a Zerl.

Yet she had done – nothing. Instead, that bumbling Workmudian Half-Elven poet had given chase, apparently successfully, since he brought the little creature with him. Deep shame flooded her senses and coloured her cheeks a bright red (quite becoming, of course). She, a pure-blooded Elf, an experienced shieldmaiden, the leader of this group of questers, had failed miserably.

She became aware that the gazes of her companions were fixed upon her. Earnur repeated his question: “Does this mean we’re going to have to rescue someone again?” How should she decide now? Should she follow the tugging of her heart and the Orcs to attempt to find Gravlox, if indeed it was he? Or should she follow the path of the Quest ahead of her, laid upon her by the Velour Queen Yawanna?

“Let me think!” she said. “And now may I make a right choice, and change the evil fate of this unhappy day!” She stood silent for a moment. “We shall continue westwards,” she said at last. “I would have followed Gravlox to Moredough and gone with him to the end; but if I seek him now in the wilderness, I must abandon the quest. My heart speaks clearly at last: the fate of my Beloved is in my hands no longer. We that remain must carry on with the task given unto us. Come! We will go now. If we are true, the Velour will protect and aid Gravlox better than I may.”

She stormed ahead dramatically on Falafel, only to pause after some minutes, since she and the other riders had to wait for the cart to catch up anyway…
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Old 03-14-2004, 12:02 AM   #145
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Leninia had to cut her ritual bath short.

"Insufferable nincomoops...Or is it nicopumps? Nickypups? Nincko..." She muttered whilst attendants dried off her famously tiny, yet lucious body. "Never mind. Regardless, the timing is terrible. Don't they realize how expensive my spa treatments are? Blood of the innocents is extremely hard to come by! Why, the other week the only so-called innocent they were able to net had some cheap garter on her leg and was staggering away from a cardboard wedding chapel off some highway in..."

"I get it, Mother, I get it," The Entish Guitar interrupted rudely (not to mention bravely, for interrupting Leninia often had unpleasant consequences). "Admit it, you're glad that they are fashionably late. You had an enromous amount of time on your hands to be a lazy wench. Betting on Puke basketball, firing good talk-show hosts [here the Entish Guitar chuckled derisively] in obviously politically unmotivated decisions, hoarding over-priced jewerly, and..."

"Oops, Mommy did it again," Leninia cooed affectionally as she scooped E.G. in her arms. "Am I making little E.G. upset with my silly rambling? Oh darling, don't think twice, it's all right, I'm only kidding."

One had to congratulate Leninia on her foresight. Each step the Itship took in the direction of Marrow Bones Studio was loosening her tight little grip on the Entish Guitar's mind. This was not a time to get petty over the Entish Guitar's tom-foolery.

And anyway, the waiting is the hardest part, and it was almost over.

Leninia clutched the E.G. as she trotted along to her main offices, wondering what to wear for her guests, briefly toying with the idea of wearing her (expensive) birthday suit, yet ultimately deciding that this was not that kind of roleplay.

Noting that this season green was in, and wisely deciding to remind her fashion-conscious gamers of this fact, Leninia threw on a gown of muted lime.

"What's this, Mother? A belated homage to the latest late Mr. Leninia?" The E.G. blurted.

"Yes, this was John Lemmon's favourite colour," Leninia sighed.

"Too bad the relationship went so sour, so fast," the E.G. laughed un-merrily.

"Oh, shut...I mean, shush, my darling," Leninia put a pretty little finger to her lips. "Our victi...I mean, guests, are approaching."

The entrance to Marrow Bones Studio, a gothic-style mansion made entirely out of black marble (oddly reminiscent of Disney's Haunted Mansion, minus the long line of sweating tourists with fanny-packs, whom Leninia had all turned into newts), was not, to put it mildly, a lively place, and neither did the establishment have anything to do with saving the lives of cancer patients, a disappointed Merisuwyniel quickly discovered as she rode up to it.

"Oh, this looks nothing like a hospital. And I was hoping to play a good, not to mention good-looking samaritan," she mused, whilst twirling a lock of hair about her finger fetchingly.

"Someone ought to sue them for false advertising," an eager Kuruharan piped in.

"Perhaps it is a second-hand eatery," Pimpi piped up hopefully.

"Quoi?" Read Earnur's suspiciously blood-shot eyes.

"A restaurant," Pimpi persisted. "For the poor. Where you get to eat left-overs. Like the bones. Marrow Bones, get it? I mean...If you can get second-hand designer bags, why not second-hand designer food? I mean...Ok...Oh, stop looking at me like that!"

"Like what?" Vogonwë inquired delicately.

"Like all I care for in the world is food!" Pimpi said, almost tearfully now.

"You could care for nothing at all, for all I care, as long as you take care to let me care for you," Vogonwë declared romantically, whilst others took care not to vomit on their shoes.

"Charming," the practical Kuruharan was the first to recover. "Shall we be on our way now? I've got a bad feeling about this place. Although it could be just my headache. Or maybe my colic. Or maybe I don't like the colour black much. Either, way, isn't it about time we...?"

"No," Merisu interrupted him, her gorgeous face a mask of resolve. "My heart tells me we should knock."

"Perhaps you're confusing the word 'knock' with 'walk', as in 'walk away'"? Kuruharan asked hopefully.

"My heart is very clear on the matter," Merisu insisted, placing her left hand on her heaving bosom in a most distracting sort of fashion, and her right hand on the door.

The door, having been coached by its demanding mistress, swung open by itself, creaking loudly and annoyingly. Earnur swore later that the creaking sound was actually the door saying "Abandon all hope, ye who enter here" at super-speed and in reverse. Not that he did anything about it at the time, naturally.

The hapless travellers stepped into what appeared to be a huge, lavishly decorated hall, which rapidly began to fill up with soap bubbles.

"Idiots!" A disemboided voice screeched from somewhere above. "Wrong button!"

After a few moments of confusion which Chrysophylax spent cheerfully chasing the remaining bubbles, the hall began to fill up with the thickest, coldest, and dreariest fog that a vintage fog-machine can buy.

Just as Kuruharan opened his mouth, presumably to declare "I told you so," a siren-like song reached our party's ears.

"A trap!" Merisu thought quickly. "Too bad I left my bikini-waxing kit behind somewhere. We could all use something to plug our ears with right about now. "

The song, meanwhile, went on. Its lyrics are reproduced here without permission. The author swears that a law-suit won't net much of value besides a leather handbag and pink underpants. *ahem* On with the song:

Gold be tooth, toilet, and sink
and gold be your checkcard too, I think;
never more buy things on sale,
never, 'till your careers fail.
In the bank your sales shall lie,
Billboard ratings soar sky-high;
'till I have sucked you dry,
'till your bosoms have withered and the fans say bye bye.


And with that most seductive rendition, Leninia the Deceivingly Little slid down the banister of her winding staircase, her magic umbrella open, the Entish Guitar lying in her lap like a pathetic chihuaha.

The Itship stood, unable to move, frozen in place either by the song, or by the weird (and possibly illegal) chemicals in the fog, or both.

"Don't look so confused," the Entish Guitar sighed a sigh of derision. "She's an impresario. A modern-day thrall. You sign your contract and work for her until she's had enough of you and you end up a balding has-been on celebrity thumb-war, or something."

"E.G. here has a funny way of representing me," Leninia's gorgeous voice hissed out of her coral lips. "But at least it's a perfectly concise piece of wood. No need for small-talk, darlings. You walked into my studio out of your own free will, and now you must face the consequences of your curoisity. I consider fiddling contests to be unfashionable in this day and age, so how about we go for a sing-off? The terms and conditions are simple: one of you will volunteer for a singing competition with yours truly, after we find an impartial judge. Win, and you walk away unscathed, maybe even with a gift or two. Lose, and I get your souls."

"Just our souls and nothing else?" Orogarn Two piped up with relief. The others glared at him most unfavourably, and he fell silent.

"Do we get to choose our gift?" Merisu asked very boldly for someone literally frozen to the floor she stood on, her eyes staring at the Entish Guitar in the same manner a cop might stare at a doughnut, if cops existed back in those noble days.

"Only if you find out how to break her spell," The Entish Guitar sighed. "Which, to be perfectly frank, is about as probable as that dragon over there turning into a kitten."

Here Chrysophylax valinatly attempted a meow that made the wall shake and Leninia explode in dainty paroxysms of bemused laughter.

"Ah, let's not get ahead of ourselves" she declared brightly. "Now off to my basem...er, dungeon with you. For now."

Leninia swung her magic umbrella, the handle with the head of a poodle pointed at our heroes' feet, and the floor dropped out from underneath them.
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Old 03-14-2004, 05:57 PM   #146
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There is nothing in the life of an habitual escapee from reality quite so terrible as a moment of clarity. So often the first thing that springs to a suddenly cleared mind is precisely that which first condemned consciousness as uninhabitable. In the particular case of Earnur Etceteron, Lord Privy Attendant of the Archduchy of Cascara of that ilk, the vision that assaulted his unprotected psyche came in the form of his unexpurgated biography, repeated in merciless detail and beginning with particularly painful juvenile dental procedure that held the somewhat dubious honour of being his earliest memory.

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

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

The moment he first saw Vinaigrettiel.

The moment he last saw Vinaigrettiel.

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

"How am I Driving?"

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

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

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

'What are you talking about?'

'Umm...' fenced the Gateskeeper deftly.

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

'Shut up, dear'

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

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

'Nrrrrrrrrrrnnnnnnnnnrrrrrgggggggggnnnnn... ouch'

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

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

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

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

_____________

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

Last edited by The Squatter of Amon Rûdh; 03-16-2004 at 06:49 AM.
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Old 03-15-2004, 08:33 PM   #147
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Soon after becoming acquainted with the floor, and becoming rather more well acquainted with each other than they'd have liked, the Three-Females-Eight-Males-And-Two-Its-Ship disentangled themselves from each other and brushed the dirt and cobwebs from their accoutrements and coiffures. (That is, all except Earnur, who was more or less at the bottom of the pile, as usual, and was unconscious, as usual — and the animals, who didn’t have accoutrements or coiffures.)

It took a few moments longer than was strictly necessary for Orogarn Two and Kuruharan to disentangle from Merisu. Vogonwë, ever the unlucky one, had become entangled with Grrralph and the Gateskeeper, and the three of them were trying to remedy the situation in as swift and manly (or half-elvenly, thingwraithly, and wizardly) fashion possible. Vogonwë and the Gateskeeper were also slightly revolted to come in contact with Grrralph in particular, and though Vogonwë later denied this, he ran around the room flapping his arms and screaming, “His eyes! His eyes! Oh my Eru! His eeeeeeeyes!” The Gateskeeper invoked a strong cleansing spell to remove any spíwarë, trôján horses, or cûkies he may have caught from touching Grrralph’s cloak.

Pimpi swooped to the ground, cradled in the scaly embrace of Chrsyi, who was telling her how well he could have flown out of there to safety had she not been impeding his wings. The horses consisted of a fourth grouping; Falafel kicked Pinkjin in the nether regions, and the twins Tweedledee and Tweedledum lay there blinking at each other in a fashion that others would have labeled blankly. They were actually sending intricate messages to each other in that special way twins do:

Tweedledee: Grass?

Tweedledum: Where?

Tweedledee: Grass?

Tweedledum: Where?

Et cetera.

The cart, unfortunately, shattered when it hit the pavement, and the Thighs rolled to a dank and dreary corner of the room.

When Vogonwë came to his senses, he stopped and realized that he did not know where Harvey was. This prompted him to run around the room flapping his arms and screaming, “Where did he go? Where did he go? Oh my Eru! Where did he goooo?” He stopped in front of Chrysophylax and grabbed his lapels (or rather, some loose flabs of scaly skin on the sides of his neck) and said, “Have you eaten him, you stupid beast?”

Chrysi merely blinked and belched out a sulfurous stream of air from deep in his stomach, and Vogonwë tripped and fell backwards; coughing, sputtering and hacking for a moment or two. Pimpi rushed over to thump his back and say, “In with Mister Good Air, out with Mister Bad Air, in with Mister Good Air, out with Mister Bad Air,” until he had recovered enough to wheeze:

“You didn’t put him in a stew, did you?”

Pimpi thumped his back a little bit harder than was strictly necessary and said, “Pull yourself together, Vogie! We’ve been down here for a grand total of five minutes, give or take a few. How could I have put your rabbit in a stew?”

“You’re right, it was the dragon,” Vogonwë said, fingering his arrows (which had managed to stay innocuously in their quiver despite the fall — thank Eru for small favors.)

“Actually, I think he was squashed and then rolled to a thin paste by one of the Entish Thighbeams,” Pimpi said, patting his arm sympathetically.

For a moment Vogonwë looked as if he were going to be seriously ill, but then Pimpi began to laugh in a mischievous, hobbity chuckle, which sounded somewhat like an evil chortle. She drew Harvey out from one of her skirt pockets. “There you go, sweetie. I found him trying to wiggle out from underneath Earnur.” She paused and looked down at the tender little animal nibbling on an alfalfa sprout in her hands, and her desire could not have been clearer had Vogonwë retrieved a magick marker from his pen box and written hasenpfeffer across her forehead.

Vogonwë snatched the bunny and cradled it in his arms. “That great smelling lump of a heavy oaf. He had better not have bruised Harvey.” In his mind’s eye he saw Gravlox holding Harvey and exclaiming ”How did he get these bruises?” in an Orcsome roar, and he shuddered. Luckily, Earnur was in la la land and did not hear the insult, though it is not clear how he would have reacted had he been in clearer state of mind. Experts speculate that he might not have even realized the assessment pertained to him, as “clearer” is, of course, a relative term.

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Old 03-16-2004, 03:10 AM   #148
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The Eye

Soregum stood on the ridge overlooking the GAP of Soreham and watched as the Shopped-out-ship made ready to leave the parking lot. He recalled what Ssssam the Thingwraith had told him the previous day, in between enthusiastic descriptions of the revue that they were rehearsing for the planned celebration of the Dread Developer’s soon-to-be dominion over Muddled-Mirth. Môgul now wanted Soregum to infiltrate the Quest-ship. To what purpose, he knew not and could not guess. But here he was with an immediate opportunity to carry out his Master’s command.

Then again, the shopping mall did boast a rather good cake shop. And a hostelry of some repute. And a tobacconist (even though Ssssam had delivered a welcome consignment of Old Toothrot from Moredough, one could never have enough pipe weed) …

Predictably, Soregum was, within the hour, seated comfortably in a corner of the Happy Chopper, sinking his fifth pint of ale and mopping up the gravy from an otherwise empty plate. He had noticed the sign of the Red Nostril above the shop-fronts in the GAP, and again found himself strangely disconcerted by this further evidence of his Master’s ever-increasing hold over Muddled-Mirth.

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

The following day found Soregum and Twinkle once more picking out with ease the trail left by the Clutter-ship. It led north-west. Towards territory that Soregum knew well. In that direction lay the Mire, with its comfortable inns, well-stocked pantries, provincial attitudes and petty bourgeois sensibilities. But first the Meander-ship’s route would take him through the Marrow Bones, a haunted region populated by pale insubstantial wights whose obsession with the spectral realm (vértuïll ríallitïe in the Simian tongue) had led them long ago to abandon the physical plane. The thought of venturing into that forbidding land filled Soregum with dread. What was it his old Duffer used to say? Ah yes, Dem Bones, Dem Bones, Dem Marrow Bones. Then again, he had been in the advanced stages of senile dementia by then.

As they ascended the first of the hills that marked the boundary of the Marrow Bones, Twinkle let out a gentle whinny to signify her irritation at being so heavily laden with the numerous sugary foodstuffs, potent ales and varieties of pipeweed that Soregum had stocked up on in the GAP. Yet, as they journeyed, the sun mounted and grew hot, and the going was surprisingly pleasant. Their path wound over broad hills and through deep valleys. There was neither tree nor shrub to be seen but, atop the hills on either side, Soregum could make out the jagged piles of sun-bleached rocks, like the bones of the great beasts of old, which gave the region its name. He was glad to see that his quarry had kept to the path, since he recalled from his youth the warnings given to travellers through the Marrow Bones: Don't stray from the path! Mind you, where Soregum grew up, just about anywhere else was considered the kind of strange and unknown territory in which one was well advised to keep to the path. Still, Soregum thought it better to be safe than sorry and made sure that Twinkle’s dainty footfalls scrupulously followed the narrow muddy trail that wound through the bleak landscape.

About midday, they stopped in a hollow circle in the midst of which stood a single white stone. It was shapeless and yet significant, as if marking the forum for some ancient gathering. The path wound around the hollow and, taking care to keep it in sight, Soregum settled down to indulge in the delights of the GAP’s food halls. Twinkle, unburdened, strayed upon the grass. And it was not long before, having made light work of the contents of her saddlebags, Soregum’s eyes began to droop.

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

Suddenly, he awoke from a deep sleep that he had never meant to take. The sky above was black and, to his dismay, Soregum saw that a dense green fog had built up around the edges of the hollow. He sprang to his feet in alarm, and ran to the rim, but the path was nowhere to be seen. And neither was his little pony.

“Drat and confound you, Twinkle!” he called. “Where are you?”

Receiving no answer, he began to cast about first one way and then the other, desperately seeking the path, which impertinently defied his attempts to locate it. Then, turning back, he found that he could no longer see the hollow from which he had emerged. Swirls of thick green mist surrounded him in every direction, blocking out all but the blackness beyond, and it seemed to Soregum that it was whispering to him. Straining his ears, he realised that the whispers were faint voices. And they seemed to be debating and discussing matters pertaining to Muddled-Mirth, both trivial and arcane. Some courteously, yet others less so.

“Was it fate, my dears, that led Feeblenor to depart Valleyum, or did he do so of his own free will?” whispered one ghostly voice.

“Oh no, my dear. It was his fate to fulfil the doom of Mantoes.” came the faint reply.

“You’re talking rubbish,” intoned another. “You’re thinking of Tintin Rum-baba.”

“Oh, I like him,” interrupted yet another faint voice. “But who’s your favourite Elf?”

“No no, my dear. Do not ask such things here,” a slightly sterner voice reprimanded. “You must go to the hill of Nand’n.”

Then, suddenly, a new voice, harsh and insistent, began to bellow in the Black Speech of Slangbad.

“HAHAHAHA!” it roared. “U IZ AL LAMERZ! LOL! WOT U AL DOIN HEER??!!!! I ROOL HEER COZ I IZ K666L! I IZ NMMUBER 111111!! U IZ 0000!!! HAHAHA! DUM WIHGTS! LOL! L8RZ!!!”

“Troll!” whispered the ghostly voices as one in apparent alarm.

Panic seized Soregum and he began to run as fast as his ill-fitting boots would allow. He ran blindly and with no idea of where he was going, his outsized black cloak billowing out behind him. All he knew was that he had to get away. And as he blundered through the thick fog, the whispers of half-caught conversations continued to beset him from every direction.

“What befell Pettyghast, my dears? What befell him at the Balfrog rumble sale?”

“… with wings … no such … [QU0TE] ‘fly you fools’ [/QU0TE] … fallen into shadow … Nazzgurl …”

“… nature of evil … loyers … my dear … no such redemption …”

“… think … from the void … said ‘Doh’ … meant …”

“… Zerls … come from … I believe that … Last Home Grown Cows …”

“… but Lord Roneld … more powerful … Elvish Non-Queen Saladriel, my …”

“… but what … mean when you say … power … saw in … Salad Bowl … Workmud …”

“…structure … theme … poetry … Vogonwë … clearly symbolic … cruel and unusual torture”

“… allegory … bah! … applicability … ”

Desperately, Soregum bobbed and weaved, trying to escape those insistent voices. But still they continued. Then, all of a sudden, it seemed to him that one of the wights addressed him directly and he stopped, as if bewitched.

“Welcome to the Bones, my dear! Enjoy being dead! Lol! Pï-émm me if you have any questions …”

“SQUEEEEEEEEE!!!”

The shriek pierced his ears and he fell to the ground. Quickly, he picked himself up and carried on running. Somehow, he knew that if he stopped for just one minute to listen to those spectral voices, he would find himself caught up in their ghostly conversations. And then he would be lost.

“… my dears … Roneld’s guestbook … cannot find ... love it so … gone …”

“… luv O Lando … going to … marry him …”

“… wave … Orogarn … Disco King …”

“Orogarn Two!”

The last voice made Soregum stop in his tracks, for it was deeper, somehow more real, and it seemed to him that it came from the ground below him. And even as he stood there, his ears straining, the mist rolled up and thrust aside, and the starry sky was unveiled. A glance showed him that he was now facing southwards and was on a round hill-top, which he must have climbed from the north. Out of the east the biting wind was blowing. To his right there loomed against the westward stars a dark black shape. A ruddy great gothic mansion stood there.

“Where are you?” he cried, both angry and afraid.

“Here!” said a voice, fair and cold, from within the black marble edifice. “I am waiting for you!”

His heart in his mouth, Soregum drew his cowl closely about his head and crept towards to the great doors. As he reached out to turn the handle they swung open and, even in his fearful state, Soregum rolled his eyes as they creaked in predictably gothic fashion. A swathe of grey-green smoke poured out. Now Soregum’s constitution was well-acquainted with a variety of toxic smoke-borne chemicals, but it was sorely flummoxed by those which infused the mist which now enveloped him, and they had an immediate effect. Against his will, as if pulled by some ethereal force, he stumbled forward into the dark forbidding interior of the mansion.

“Darling! You’ve arrived!”

Then painted fingernails stronger and colder than iron seized him. The icy touch froze his bones to the marrow, and he remembered no more.

Last edited by The Saucepan Man; 03-16-2004 at 06:46 PM.
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Old 03-16-2004, 07:21 PM   #149
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Eye

Orogarn Two brooded silently in Leninia’s dreary basement. Not a dry, warm, comfortable basement, filled with air and pleasant smells, but a dank, damp odiferous basement, dripping with foulness and in need of a good Swiffering. It was a wightish basement, and that means miserable.

Singéd stood shivering beside him, nuzzling his master in hopes of a slight transfer of heat. Leninia’s crummy cellar felt as if it were carved into the size of an iceberg, and the tiny morosa thoroughly hated all things cold, so much so that he would actually cross to the other side of the street to avoid a young Grundorian lad that had dropped an ice cream cone or a fudgesickle. Singéd imaged the other steeds of the Sportmanship would laugh at him if they knew of this frosty aversion, because he knew for certain that they wouldn’t pass up on a free frozen dairy treat. He pushed a little closer to Orogarn Two.

Thinking that the little horse was crowding him, Orogarn Two pushed back gently, hoping to discourage Singéd from getting too chummy. It wouldn’t do for the beast to think he was appreciated too much. Horses latched on to their masters quickly, at least the good ones did, and though this horse had aided him many times during their travels together, Orogarn Two still hoped to get a normal sized mount when he got back to Minus Teeth. He began to rummage through the horse's saddlebags.

Grumbling to himself, he removed several items that he had managed to purchase at the GAP. Entering the place, he had been as broke at the Ent that was broken, but a quick trip to the local Citibank had corrected that situation, but not like he had hoped. He had been shocked to find that his own personal account was completely empty with only a short note from his father explaining how his inheritance was being used as collateral for a new construction project in the city. The message hadn’t explained what was being built or why, but fortunately it had concluded with a co-signature from his father on a loan of 10,000 kabob. The bank manager, an old friend of the family, had even thrown in a free Citibank keychain.

Orogarn Two had immediately put the cash to work, and along with a three-month supply of Slim Jims and strawberry licorice, he had bought several more useful items. He now passed around tiny flashlights to each of his captured companions, as well as small lighters that might come in handy in the event that the batteries died or a rock concert power ballad occurred nearby. He lost himself momentarily in fond memories of waving his lighter in the presence of such Muddled-mirth music greats as the Eagles, Black Oak Argonath, and Lyndon Skyndon.

Digging further through the bag, he found his new handheld, color Parma Palantir with wireless connection. Pulling the tiny stylus from it holder, Orogarn Two attempted to connect with the nearest cél, but after several attempts he remained offline. A blinking, rotating tooth icon on the upper right corner indicated that he did have a few messages saved, sent sometime earlier in the day by his father. He scanned their subject lines until he found one that seemed worth reading.

Quote:
SUBJECT: First Payment Due
BODY: Dear Orogarn Two. You are now more than 24 hours late on your first payment of your 10,000KB loan of two days ago. Along with the compounding of 1% interest daily and a 100KB late fee, your loan balance is now 10,300KB. You next minimum payment of 100KB is due tomorrow. Assuming you make the remaining minimum payments on time, you will have this loan paid off by 1823 Fourth Age. Sincerely, your father, Orogarn, Proctor of Grundor.
Orogarn Two shook his head in shame. The financial situation in Minus Teeth must be worse than he thought if his father was fleecing him as badly as the bank normally did the citizens of the city. He went on to the next message.

Quote:
SUBJECT: New Motto
BODY: Effective immediately, the new motto of the Proctor of Grundor is:
“Welcome my son. Welcome to the machine.”
Orogarn put his face in his hands and cried, “Something is rotten in the state of Grundor.”

I see a root canal in someone’s future, thought Singéd.
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Old 03-18-2004, 02:18 PM   #150
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"Tea, darling? Coffee? The tears of little orphans (quite salty this season)?" Leninia inquired gamely of Soregum, seated oppsite her on a sumptuous green sofa, recuperating from last night.

The sun, steaming through the glass doors of Leninia's patio, revealed her eyes to be a deep, sparkling blue. If Soregum had it in his mind to travel far and wide, he might have one day discovered her eyes to be reminiscent of the colour of the night sky somewhere on the seas close to the Equator (if higher education had blessed Soregum with the basic skills of determining not only the location of the Equator, but what in Muddled-Mirth the Equator was in the first place).

Outside, ghostly voices chattered gamely about death, fate, and various heroes' hair colour.

The day was shaping up to be a swell one.

"Tea, please," Soregum muttered meekly, overpowered by his hostess' charms.

"Certainly," Leninia hiked up her olive skirt to reveal a glittering flask held close to a milky-white thigh by a black garter.

Obedient tea-cups danced out of the cupboard and onto the table, and Leninia poured a steaming mixture for herself and her guest.

Soregum, meanwhile, managed to gather his jaw off the floor in more or less dignified manner.

"What an usual way of, um, drinking tea you have there, Madam," he managed to say when the furious blush of his cheeks had more or less died down.

"I find the magic flask is a good way of keeping warm," Leninia replied, her eyes suddenly moist. "Since my husband's death..."

Here she was interrupted by the Entish Guitar's derisive snort.

"...Since then, I have been of the opinion that stocking the furnance with all the excess lumber lying around here is not a bad idea," Leninia finished, hissing through her pearly teeth,.

"Oh, Mother, it was but a hiccup," the Entish Guitar sniveled.

Soregum, wisely, decided to stay out of it.

***

"Biscuits! Coffee! Fresh towels!" Disembodied voices called out in the dungeoun, unseen hands flipping the light switch to reveal a group of supine prisoners, that immediately began to stir and pick sleep out of its collective eyes (save for Merisuwyniel who was above such matters, per usual).

"The showers are down the hall to your right," a voice called out over Earnur's ear, whilst unseen hands dispensed breakfast. "Please, for the love of all that is unholy, take pity on our weak stomachs, and do consider taking one," it continued, moving away from Earnur quickly.

"Er, there are showers here?" Earnur inquired.

"Hah, what do you think this is, a gulag?" The voice sneered.

Throughly confused by the new vocabulary word, Earnur elected to shrug his shoulders manfully.

"Please ascend the main stairs within an hour," the voice continued.

"Thewe awe thtairs hewe?" Pimpi inquired through a mouthful of biscuit.

"Hah," the voice sneered. Here we assume it wanted to be clever again, but Leninia's screech from above bid it shut up and make haste. Which, mindful of its own safety, it did.

***

On the stage of Leninia's amphitheater, sat Soregum, his eyes still glassy after partaking of Leninia's magic tea, wholly unconcerned with the strained dialogue going on behind the curtain.

"Mother, I'm suddenly scared," The Entish guitar whined. "What if they take me? The possibility of leaving your suffocating bosom is freaking me out."

"Oh please," Leninia yawned regally. "I've never lost this game before, and that idiot over there [Leninia jabbed a pretty finger in Soregum's direction] is thoroughly under the spell."

"But what if you did lose?" The Entish Guitar asked, snapping back into derisive mode. "Wouldn't you find yourself buried under the rubble of your own destroyed ego, Mother?"

"Eh," Leninia said, pursing her lips in a thoughtful, yet fetching fashion. "Losing would actually be something new for a change. Do you think that being stuck in this house, with these invisible spooks, is that exciting? Why, I can't ever take a shower without being worried for my privacy. And you are sounding pathetic. Here I thought your ancient heritage would be awakened within you, and all that jazz. Sap."

"Brat," the Entish Guitar replied half-heartedly.

"Wimp," Leninia fired back.

"Scarlet woman!" The Entish Guitar shrieked.

"Yellow stinking coward!" Leninia snapped.

"The mucus spit of a diseased pig!" The Entish Guitar showed its creative side.

"Much, better, baby," Leninia cooed, stroking the wood affectionately, just as the shuffle of cautious yet heroic feet sounded nearby.

"Darlings!" Leninia stuck her small-pretty-and-not-at-all-surgically-altered nose out from behind the curtain.

"Did you sleep well? Did the ghosts not bother you? They do have unquiet dreams this time of year. And when shall we begin?"

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Old 03-21-2004, 11:11 AM   #151
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Merisuwyniel stepped forward courageously and (being the only one of the Sing’n’Swingship who remembered the words their ‘hostess’ had spoken on the previous day: “One of you will volunteer for a singing competition with yours truly, after we find an impartial judge. Win, and you walk away unscathed, maybe even with a gift or two. Lose, and I get your souls.”) said, “I will take the challenge, though I do not know the abilities of my opponent.”

“Well, well, aren’t you brave!” Leninia mocked in her most lilting tones. “You know what? You don’t have to do it all by yourself! As a matter of fact, I’ll take it up against all of you, singly or together. If you get more total points from the judge than I do, you win.”

“This is a heavy burden,” the Elven maiden replied. “So heavy that none could lay it on another. I do not lay it on you,” she continued, turning to her companions. “But if you take it freely, I will say that your choice is right.”

“If by my singing or dancing I can aid you, I will!” Vogonwë said dramatically. “You have my tenor!”

“And my baritone!” Earnur added, manfully clearing his throat.

“And my bass!” Kuruharan chimed in melodiously.

“There must be someone gifted with musicality in this quartet…boy group…thing,” squeaked Gateskeeper. “You have my countertenor.”

Since she was much too kind and polite to give the only obvious answer to that last statement, Merisu merely sighed and asked their hostess, “Will you give us a few moments of time to plan and rehearse our performance?”

“Sure,” Leninia said magnanimously, waving a languid hand toward the stage. “Help yourselves!” She made no move to leave the room, however, and neither did the judge, so after a few whispered consultations, the group decided to trust to their proverbial luck in tight situations, drawing on their experience in Soreham, and the male quartet began to sing.
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Old 03-21-2004, 06:42 PM   #152
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Soregum sat on the stool that had been allocated to him at the side of the great stage and fidgeted uncomfortably. Matters were not turning out at all as he had planned. It was all very well for this Leninia character to force him against his will into her dark and fearful, yet surprisingly well-appointed, mansion, render him unconscious and then, upon his revival, insist that he adjudicate upon a contest in which the very souls of the Quest-On-The-Edge-Of-A-Knife-ship were at stake. But it was the poor quality of her hospitality that really irked him. Tea was all very well in its place. But its proper place was seated comfortably in an armchair before a roaring fire and accompanied by a reassuringly large plate of assorted teacakes. Yet he hadn’t been offered so much as a biscuit. It really was too much to bear.

Pensively, he drew upon his pipe, sending great clouds of acrid smoke billowing across the auditorium. Thankfully, the stock of Old Toothrot that had been delivered from Moredough remained with him. He hoped that a pipe-full would help clear his head, which felt as though it were hosting an enthusiastic game of stomp the Zerl between rival regiments of Uruk-Hai. He attributed this to the effects of the rather less familiar smoke which had greeted his arrival at the Marrow Bones Studios. But his central nervous system, which had no little expertise in such matters, knew better and was busy attempting to analyse and neutralise whatever exotic substance it was that Leninia had slipped into his tea.

Soregum’s gaze fell on the contestants. Merisuwyniel was busy pulling the Rehearsal-ship into some semblance of order, offering a word of encouragement here, a gentle admonishment there, and both in equal measure to a singularly bemused Earnur, who was having difficulty deciding whether the Dun Sóbrin drinking songs which had immediately sprang to mind would be appropriate to the occasion. Kuruharan was doing a brisk trade in Tinúlizziel’s “Voice of a Nightingale” Throat Spray (sold in hastily re-labelled snake-oil jars), while the Gateskeeper was consulting his soft wares for káräokë and émpîdhrïe spells to charge his mystical I’pód. Adjusting the headband which he had surreptitiously slipped around his mane of dark brown hair, Orogarn Two offered up a silent prayer to Spândèx, the Muse of the Rocks, while Grralph, who had apparently taken to the challenge with great relish, was hard at work practising his scales and running through his voice exercises, the red embers of his eyes positively gleaming in anticipation within his black hooded cowl. Chrysophylax simply lounged disconsolately on the far side of the stage, blowing smoke-arrows through heart-shaped smoke-rings.

Towards the back of the stage, Soregum spotted Pimpiowyn, and his heart leapt, only to fall back to earth with a resounding thump when he saw that she was consoling a distraught Vogonwë, whose suggestion of a poetry recital in place of a song contest had been soundly vetoed all round. Soregum tried to catch her eye, but gave up on realising that the black hooded cloak which shrouded him from head to foot was inherently (and happily) unconducive to his clumsy attempts at flirtation.

His thoughts turned to the contest which, for reasons that utterly eluded him, it was his lot to adjudicate upon. The prospect of sitting through a series of vocal performances did not exactly fill him with good cheer. He had had quite enough of that sort of thing back in Moredough, courtesy of the Thingwraiths. Nevertheless, it was vital that he kept his wits about him (such as they were), for the outcome of the contest was likely to have serious consequences, whichever way he chose. Môgul Bildûr would, no doubt, be extremely interested in Leninia’s talkative wooden guitar, which the contestants stood to gain in the event that they won. And, since his orders were to seek entry to the Ent-Part-Collector-ship, Soregum strongly suspected that his Master would rather it were with them than with Leninia. And, of course, there was always Pimpiowyn to consider. So he really had very little alternative but to find in favour of the Pop-Idol-ship. On the other hand, Soregum fancied that Leninia would not take kindly to any result which did not place her firmly at the top of the leader-board, and he really had no wish to be parted from his soul, having become quite attached to it over the years. Soregum’s mind raced, seeking some – any – solution to this fine dilemma, on the horns of which he now found himself firmly impaled …

His thoughts thus occupied, Soregum drew deeply on his pipe and settled back to watch as Earnur, Kuruharan, Vogonwë and the Gateskeeper shuffled nervously to centre stage.

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Old 03-23-2004, 06:57 PM   #153
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Palantir-Green

Orogarn Two dug through Singéd’s saddlebags once again, this time searching for an item he carried with him wherever he traveled. Since winning the first runner-up ribbon in the Minus Tooth University amateur talent contest in his freshman year, he had always kept the fantastic costume from that performance close. Never in all of those years had he been parted from it, but he had also never needed it, so it lay crammed into the darkest recesses of his horse’s most unused compartment.

“Aha!” he at last cried in satisfaction, pulling a rectangular cardboard box from the saddlebag and tucking it under his arm with a smirk at the other Steamship members. Pulling a small notepad and pen from his pocket, he gave Leninia a small bow, slipped a 100KB note to Soregum, and hurried off to a dark corner to work on his song. He already knew what tune he would use, but the situation called for an alteration of the lyrics to suit them to the current dangerous occasion.
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Old 03-24-2004, 11:32 PM   #154
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The First Act

In all the preparation for the singing Gateskeeper found himself the only one taking the competition seriously, but was strapped for ideas and time. Earnur clumsily refused to work on the dance steps, mumbling alternately about fighting their way out and the medicinal qualities of Old Panther rotgut...when Kuruharan wasn't having trouble with Chrysophylax and the smoke and fire special effects he was trying to cozy up to Leninia with the idea of selling tickets to the competition for a slice of the profits...and Vogonwe's singing voice was matched only by the quality of his poetry, and he also wanted to write the lyrics. It was only when he calmly reminded them that their disembodied souls might spend forever with their shrewess emcee Leninia that they finally began to focus.

Costuming at least was not a problem. Earnur's pair of leather trousers fit right in, combined with an undershirt from which the sleeves had been unceremoniously ripped. (The sleeves were put to use tied together as a bandana for his head) Vogonwe needed no alteration in his normal wear -- the green spandex was actually a nice touch. Gateskeeper made as if he wanted to buy out Kuruharan's supply of long turkey feathers, and managed to fashion them into a primal warrior headdress which the dwarf grumblingly agreed to wear for the sake of the competition. If they won, Gateskeeper would pay double. If they lost, there was no point in paying in advance. For himself, Gateskeeper changed into a stiff-pressed shirt and trousers of the deepest blue, adorned with a silver badge in the shape of a shield on the left breast pocket, a white helmet, and curious spectacles which allowed the wearer to see out, but only showed the reflection of those who tried to peer in.

Gateskeeper was just dying to try out the new Sound-Khaard plug-in he'd gotten for his staff, and this seemed like the perfect opportunity -- but he was in need of source material -- not even a wizard can make music out of nothing, he must have something to work with. So while the other three desperately tried to get in sync, he quietly walked to a corner of the room and quietly mumbled another of his secret words of command, KAZAA.EXE!. Ignoring the ever present Banners of Warning (sent by the Lords of the Khopy-Wight), he received (or in the Simpleton, dhown-loded) an appropriate tune for their costume wear. Once the others heard the music (from whence it came, they could not tell), the steps fell quickly into place (with the help of another small spell the Gateskeeper had learned -- bakh-striit-boiz) and they were ready to head for the performance area.

Having been so long steeped in low-grade evil, and dealing with people and non-people of whom the kindest adjective would be "shady", he hardly expected fair play from a creature such as Leninia. By the rule of looks-fair-feels-foul, she had to be the fairest, foulest being this side of Moredough. Still, he made his way to the front of the stage and boldly said (or as boldly as his squeaking countertenor would allow), "We are ready. Who is to be our judge?" The statement was met with a snicker, the question with a pointing finger directed at the semi-stupefied Soregum. "Magic tea," gateskeeper thought to himself, "I'd bet my life on it." "Very well, " he said aloud, and addressing himself to Soregum, "I see you have some tea, but no cakes. Allow me." At this statement, despite Leninia's spells, he perked up considerably, and accepted a small cake from the Gateskeeper, over which he invoked the spirits of Norton and McAfee. It was all he could do on short notice, and he hoped it would do the trick.

"Enough chitchat," screetched Leninia, "on with the performance!"

With that, Earnur Etceteron stepped forward and in his manliest tone, a bit unsteady but mostly sober, he proclaimed, "Mistress Leninia, and honorable judge, may we present, the SmallShire People!" Gateskeeper tapped his staff to the ground and a catchy tune began to play, and miraculously, the 4 boys managed to keep time and step as they sang

Where can you find adventure
Seek questionable ventures
Learn fencing, shieldmaidenry
Where you can begin to
Make all the farce you want to
From Grundor to Pea Sea
Where you can fight and die
Sing songs just to survive
Study Oliphauntery
Come join our little band
Don't sit in the grand stand
We've got a Velou to meet


While Earnur and Kuruharan provided background by elegantly sparring sword-versus-axe (with Earnur's sword punctuating the beats with phrases like "Hey!" "Look out!" and "Watch where you're swingin' that axe you growth-stunted offspring of a mad boar!"), Vogonwe took center stage and executed a number of somersaults in time to the bridge-music, including a bounding triple-flip double twist back-half gainer that nearly brought Leninia out of her seat, especially when his landing was timed with a puff of flame from Chrysophylax. The song continued,

In the R P
You will wail like the banshees
In the R P
Pay Kuruharan his fees
In the R P
You will roam across the land
In the R P
(Except in Grundor, where we're banned)
In the R P
Come and camp out in a tent
In the R P
Come help us all fix up this Ent
In the R P
The Ent is broken -- we're just bent
In the R P, In the R P


Soregum seemed to be partially coming out of his stupor, and even began to tap his foot to the rhythms the SmallShire People banged out with their peppy dance routine. Even Leninia's sneer began to soften a bit before she regained herself. As the song closed Soregum managed a bit of applause before Leninia shot him a withering glance. There was an awkward silence as they smartly executed a left-face and marched off stage. It appeared that their performance had not swayed the audience, and they waited in the kiss-and-cry area for their performance scores...

Last edited by Thenamir; 03-25-2004 at 10:18 AM. Reason: minor edit and correction
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Old 03-25-2004, 07:13 AM   #155
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“What is the verdict – umm, I mean the point score – of the jury?” Leninia asked impatiently, as soon as she could take her eyes off the boygroup. Should those eyes have been focused on one especially manful specimen of the four, that was not noticed by any of the Showboatship.

“Errr, how many points am I allowed to give?” Soregum replied nervously.

“According to the rules of the Ardavision Song contest (also known as the Gränd Príx de la Chansôn),” answered Leninia, “each contestant may receive up to twelve points (zwölf Pûnktë, douzé pôints), and the candidate with the most pints – I mean, points – wins.”

Soregum pondered the possibilities, weighing the snappy performance of the SmallShire People against shows he had seen before. The song had a catchy melody; as a matter of fact, he couldn’t get it out of his head. The dancing had been eye-catching too; he cleared his throat and announced, “Te–“

“Darling,” Leninia interrupted, with a voice that conjured the image of a honey-coated dagger before his mind’s eye, “may I remind the jury that the Questers have several chances to accumulate points, while I have only one?” She fixed her hypnotic gaze upon him, waiting while he opened and closed his mouth a few times before speaking.

“Two points for the SmallShire People,” he said in a strangely monotone voice. Then he slumped back into his chair passively, waiting for the next performer.

Disappointment was rampant backstage. “That’s not fair!” Vogonwë exclaimed. “Our performance was professional, and that was great music, Gateskeeper! Where did you get it?”

But the one so queried did not care to share his secret sources and merely joined in the general complaining.

“The show must go on!” Merisuwyniel admonished them. “Who’ll go next?”

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Old 03-25-2004, 07:55 AM   #156
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Boots The Orogarn 2 Show

The lights dimmed again suddenly, and a single bright spot shined down on the heavy closed curtains at center stage. An expectant hush came over the crowd, and not a soul breathed for several moments. The fact that many of the hapless souls in the Marrow-Bones basement hadn’t breathed in centuries was irrelevant, for the sudden silence was spiritual as well as physical. The ancient ghosts froze in space for many quiet seconds until at last a noise was heard: the sound of serious, killer, reverberated bass in a muddled, syncopated beat. BOOOOOOOM buh buh BOOM

May I have your attention please? said a familiar voice. The curtain began to open.

May I have your attention please?

With an audible gasp, the gathered crowd responded to the opening curtains with awed amazement. There, emerging from the foggy darkness into the eerie glow of the spotlight, was Orogarn Two like never seen before, at least not since his college days. Gone was the long, thick, wonderfully feathered hair, replaced by a short buzz of blonde spikes. The green, sword-emblazoned shirt was gone as well, supplanted by a sleeveless Tee that revealed a series of tattoos that no one in the Flagship had ever seen or even knew existed. Instead of the tight, denim trousers symbolic of the Proctorship of Grundor, he wore the baggiest, low-slung orc britches ever seen. And beneath it all, he now wore bright white, rubberized, high-topped Balfrogball Shoes marked with the world-renowned Mike swoosh emblem.

“I sold him those,” bragged Kuruharan, “for 20KB over retail.”

“Shhhhhhh!” shhhhed the audience.

May I have your attention please?

Orogarn Two then began to sing in a most unorthodox way, blurting each word in a staccato rhythm that perfectly matched the stuttering beat of the music behind him, which, the Censorship was stunned to realize, was being perfectly DJ-ed by the furry muzzle of the tiny morosa, Singéd. The small horse stood before an ancient set of Noodelorean ‘rotating disc players’, nudging the grooved, circular relics to create a fantastic backbeat.

Orogarn Two spoke again, “All you all ghouls need to stand up and recognize who you’re dealing with.” He pointed to Leninia where she sat demurely on her stack of beanbags. “This here song’s about you, my dear, and how we know what’s really going on here! Oh yeah. Let me tell you who you’re dealing with and what kind of trouble you’re in.”

Will the real Wight Lady please stand up?
I repeat, will the real Wight Lady please stand up?

We’re gonna have a problem here..

Y’all act like you never seen a wight person before
Jaws all on the floor like Chysophylax Dives burnin’ down doors
And making every situation worse than before
He is the worst force, breaking up furniture
Tearing down walls and lighting up Verls, sure!

Yeah, Earnur’s got a couple screws in his head loose
Sippin’ on Reeks and juice, peeping in bedrooms
Sometimes, he just wants to cut loose, but can’t
Cause he’s cured himself of that abuse. Right!
Yellin’ in his sleep at night, always dreaming of a fight!

Merisu and Gravlox, playing in the sandbox
“It just isn’t natural”, is the way everybody talks
He ain’t nothing but an animal, running round with cannibals
Who cut other orcs open like cantaloupes
But if they can gorge on dead animals and antelopes
Then there’s no reason that an orc and a Mary Sue can’t elope
{*ewww!*} but if you feel like I feel, I got the antidote
Women wave your lederhose, sing the chorus and it goes

~ ~ ~
She’s the Wight Lady, yes she’s the real Lady
All you other wight ladies are just desecrating
So won’t the real Wight Lady please lighten up,
Please lighten up, please lighten up?
~ ~ ~

Vogonwë, Vogonwë, wishes he could rap like me
But all he thinks about is holdin’ up a Grammy
If such a thing existed in all the land then he’d
Be up on the stage giving a soliloquy
About little Pimpi and how she’s always hungry
She can’t even stomach me, let alone stand me
Unless I fessed a case of Slim Jim beef jerky. No way!

Spooky Gatekeeper is definitely getting’ weirder
Working with an operating system that was obsolete last year
But he’s operating under the table whenever he is able
Like Window’s NT he is very unstable, spinning' like a dreidel
Rockin’ round Muddled-mirth like a troll in a cradle

~ ~ ~
She’s the Wight Lady, yes she’s the real Lady
All you other wight ladies are just desecrating
So won’t the real Wight Lady please let up,
Please let up, please let up?
~ ~ ~

But let’s not forget mister Kuruharan
Don'tcha wanna bar him, or feather him and tar him?
‘Cause He’s got everything for sale except a bus and a car in
His bottomless bag of goods, would sell anything he could
Just to get a monopoly in your Muddled neighborhood.
Always loves to haggle, even cheats at Scrabble,
Probably gonna end up rustling cattle.

As you now can see, there ain’t no maybes
Lotsa bad folks worse than Wight Ladies
So we have been sent here to destroy you
A whole Scholarship to annoy you
Outflank, enfilade, and redeploy you
They all fight like me; give their last kabob like me
Don’t dress like me; nor walk, talk or act like me
But they just might be the next best thing to me!
All you gotta do is set us free!

~ ~ ~
Cause you’re the Wight Lady, yes you’re the real Lady
All the other wight ladies are just imitating
So won’t the real Wight Lady please give up,
Please give up, please give up?

~ ~ ~

The music ended with a loud WUMP and the sound of Singéd violently kicking his ‘disc player’ into the audience. Orogarn Two flipped the one-finger Grundorian good luck sign at Leninia, nodded to his fellow Battleshipians, gave a not-so-subtle thumbs up and wink to Soregum, and walked off the stage, angry pony in tow.
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Old 03-25-2004, 01:54 PM   #157
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Soregum’s head spun. He wasn’t quite sure what to think of that performance; it wasn’t what he called music, though it was indubitably excellent in its own way. He had had to concentrate to follow the text; now he tried to be objective in deciding on its merits. Before his mind’s eye, two little faces appeared. On the right side of his field of vision, a sweet face with the most enormous blue eyes and a beguiling smile, surrounded by reddish-golden curls, gazed at him.

“That was a really super number, and he wrote some great lyrics,” the charming red lips told him. “He deserves lots of points.”

From the left side, burning black eyes smouldered out of a black face and – well, everything about him was black. “He might be OK, but he’s on the wrong side,” a hollow voice informed him.

“The nice man gave you some money,” reminded the pretty face.

“That’s bribing!” scorned the other.

“Since when have you gone moral?” the girl pouted adorably. “If you give him points, the Quarterling might be very thankful,” she added.

“Ha! Fat chance – she’s already got a boyfriend,” sneered the black face.

“This is your chance to earn the gratitude of all of them, and perhaps join their group,” appealed the angelic one.

“Do you really think they’d want someone like you to go with them – if they even get out of here alive, that is,” the evil face mocked.

“Half-Hobbit and the others are your friends,” purred the angelic face.

“You don’t have any friends,” jeered the black one.

“You’re not listening!” came a sharp reprimand from yet a third face, appearing between the two and causing them to disappear. Leninia’s eyes looked directly into Soregum’s. “I said, how many points for the Grundorian candidate?”

Soregum found that he could not tear his eyes from that gaze. Mechanically, he answered, “Two points.”

“Noooooo!” came a cry from backstage, but Leninia waved a hand imperiously and said, “The jury has spoken – next song!”

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Old 03-25-2004, 07:50 PM   #158
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As Orogarn (Two) laid down his rap, Grrralph was in the wings muttering. By all appearances, he was talking to himself, which the members of the Itship would not find necessarily peculiar. After all, they had become used to Grrralph's eccentricities. But in reality, or at least some plane thereof, the wraith was not speaking to himself or even to the nearby spiders on the wall. Rather, he was talking to some "shadies" of his own, reviewing the bass line, the key, the time and the beat for the song he had selected. For from the moment Soregum had slunk into the room he had detected a familiar scent which had, once again, revived one of his obscure, deeply hidden memories. So he had picked out his own tune accordingly.

The Itship applauded as Orogarn finished his performance, then groaned to hear Sorgum's decision. Then it was Grrralph's turn. He stepped forward into the lights and moved forward towards Soregum, sniffing again to confirm his suspicions. Then he nodded and murmured, "I don't recall you, but the scent you carry is very familiar." Soregum looked up, way up, at the wraith in surprise and just a bit of concern, but Grrralph merely turned and stepped into the spotlight.

"I don't remember where I learned this song or even what its about, but it seems somehow appropriate," he said to the meager audience. "So I dedicate this to Soregum and whoever he's been hanging around with, because I never forget a scent." Then he gestured grandly and four unhappy spirits stepped forward. One held a peculiar bass, seemingly backwards. Two held guitars and the fourth appeared with a drum kit. Their pale, wavering faces were indistinct, but they each wore odd hairdos, almost as if their hair had been cut around oversized bowls.

"Wait!" cried Leninia. "You cannot use spirits from my own castle!"

"I need backup," replied Grrralph. "And surely you do not fear the talents of these old dinosaurs." Leninia muttered and waved her agreement.

The song began with a compelling bass line. Dun, dum, dum, DUM, dum, dun, dum dum, DUM, dum. Then Grrralph began to sing with all his soul, or whatever passed for it.

Here come old Mogûl
He come groovin up slowly,
he got fiery eyeballs,
he one nasty Loyer.

He got...fangs...down...to his knees.
Got to be a Velour he just do what he please!

He know tax loopholes,
he got ten accountants,
he got Orcish legions,
he live in MoreDough.

He say,
"I loan to you,
you pay me.
One thing I can tell you is you got to pay a fee!"

"Or foreclosure!
Right now!
Or sell to me."

He got production,
he a land developer,
he an advertiser,
he one nasty banker.

He got
Guccis...down...below his knees.
Waiting in his lobby, prepare to be fleeced.

"Or foreclosure!
Right now!
Or sell to me!"

Right!


At that moment, the Entish Guitar was caught up in the throbbing beat and began strumming a solo as Grrralph began a stately dance around the makeshift stage. "Shut up!" hissed Leninia, but the Entar paid her no mind and continued until Grrralph's strutting step concluded.

He no idle boaster,
he got no scruples,
he got no morals,
he one ugly sucker.

He say,
One and one and one is ten!
Got to be a Velour,
he just charged you again!

"Or foreclosure!
Right now!
Or sell to me"
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Old 03-28-2004, 12:56 AM   #159
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Merisuwyniel’s heart sank with each new low rating. She did not have to be one of the Wise to realize that the juror was not at all impartial – or under the influence of something or someone else, she reminded herself, ever endeavouring to be fair, even when something felt foul.

Now it is a well-known fact that Elves do not sleep, being able to dream and wake simultaneously. (This would make them perfect quest companions, since they could take over watch duty at night, but for one thing – their tendency to sing constantly, which reveals their position to intruders, who can then cleverly avoid encountering them.) In short, the Elven maiden was listening to the performances of her fellow Questers and, at the same time, considering and rejecting her own options.

Should she try to reach Leninia’s emotions by playing a plaintive melody on her hâr-mónicä? But she didn’t feel entirely sure of her newly acquired abilities on the instrument. Or should she perhaps appeal to her buried conscience (ever optimistic, she assumed there was one somewhere!) by singing a deeply religious song? She hummed the tune “If Eru is a Dêi-Jä, Arda is a Dänz-Fluer” tentatively, but somehow that didn’t seem quite right either.

Meanwhile, her foot had involuntarily begun tapping in rhythm to Grrralph’s song; when he finished, she applauded vigorously and waited, hoping against hope that this tune would have appealed to the judge. Observant and astute as she was, combined with the instinctive intuition of the ultimate female, she had noticed that their juror changed when Leninia established eye-contact with him. Perhaps she could counteract by sending him an O-mail message – it was worth a try!

She concentrated on warm, connecting vibrations, emitting them with such intensity that her companions were affected. “Group hug!” suggested Orogarn Two, with an extra suggestive glance in her direction.

Soregum’s head jerked up, his pale cheeks grew rosier, and his hitherto blank eyes began to sparkle. But then a wave of icy coldness encountered the warmth, and as both fought for predominance in Soregum’s already weakened body, a thick fog seemed to fill his mind. Against the war of the wills of two strong women he had no chance. He collapsed into a slumped position in his uncomfortable seat and murmured, “Two points,” hoping that his announcement would end this internal battle.

Disappointment interrupted Merisu’s concentration; she had not been able to break the spell. This foe was too strong for her – yet. But perhaps Pimpi’s youthful charm and Half-Hobbit cuteness would bring a breath of fresh air into the gloomy hall. She patted her shoulder, smiling encouragingly.

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Old 03-28-2004, 03:35 PM   #160
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Backstage, Pimpi did not find the dismal score that Grrralph received very encouraging. She knew she was next – she had been counting down the contestants before her. Merisu was to be last, the cherry on the top of their dessert, the cap to their success, and the straw that was to break Leninia’s back. But, truth be told, there wasn’t any dessert to top or success to cap, and if Vogonwë was any indication after exerting himself so on his dance moves, it was to be their collective back that would be broken. Pimpi realized, shakily, that she alone was left to set up Merisu’s coup d’état. Her knees began to wobble. She had not felt so unsure of her limbs since that first day she had eaten the magic beans and sprouted all her extra height.

Vogonwë’s voice broke dimly on her consciousness. She heard him clearly, but thought that what he was saying was rather dim. He was prompting her to remember the lines to her song – lines he himself had written.

There used to be an Elven-maid,
Her name was Nimord-Elly;
She was like a star, yes really.
Her mantle white, like a light,
Glowed gold around the edges,
And she trimmed the hedges,
With shears of silver-grey.


“Now repeat that back to me.”

“What?” Pimpi paused from chewing on her fingernails.

“The first verse. What I just said,” Vogonwë said, refraining from waving a hand in front of her absent blue eyes.

“A-alright,” Pimpi took a breath, then endeavored:

An Elven-maid there was of old,
A shining star by day:—


“No, no, no. That’s all wrong,” Vogonwë stood up and began to pace. “It’s ‘There used to be an Elven-maid, her name was Nimrod-Elly, she was like a star, yes really’.”

Pimpi sighed, and gamely repeated the lines, then soldiered ahead:

Her mantle white was hemmed with gold,
Her shoes of silver-grey.


Vogonwë threw up his hands. “No! You have it all wrong again!”

Pimpi’s lips trembled, and, having bitten her nails down as far as they would go, she began to nibble on her fingertips. Vogonwë noticed her distress and tried to calm himself. He gently and lovingly peeled her hands away from her face, and said, “Pimpi-sweets, I don’t want you to be nervous, so just remember, the fate of our souls may rest upon this performance. Now, you promised me that you could memorize this song.”

“I know, and I can,” Pimpi said. “Let’s try the second verse.”

A star was bound upon her brows,
A light was on her hair
As sun upon the golden boughs—


“No!” Vogonwë interrupted again. “It goes:

She had a star tied around her head,
Her hair glowed with light of red,
Like sunshine on a red thing.
In Loréal in Spring.


“I was going to say ’In Loréal the fair’,” said Pimpi. “I like the way that sounds.”

Vogonwë smiled affectionately. “Trust me, darling, my way scans better. I’m a poet, I know.”

Merisuwyniel popped her well-coifed, perfectly shaped head around the corner. “The wights are getting restless!” she admonished gently.

Pimpi’s eyes went wide (well, wider than usual) and she gasped. She had a sudden, terrible vision of herself standing on stage, butchering the lyrics (when she could get her voice to work, and remember how to speak Westestosterone at all) as the souls of each Vapidshipper were sucked from whichever bodily cavity their souls happened to reside in, one by one.

“I can’t do it!” she blurted, burying her face in her skirts.

“But… you were supposed to be on five minutes ago,” Mersiu said, blinking with what on any other Elf would be called a helpless expression.

“Don’t be ridiculous, Pimps,” Vogonwë said. “You’ll do great! Listen, here, forget about getting the words right. Just look pretty and hum and you’ll have them eating out of your hand.”

But it was too late. Pimpi was in a frazzle, which could only be cured by lots and lots of comfort food. Merisu stood in indecision while Vogonwë tried to bolster Pimpi’s spirits with sweet talk and flattery, while the other members of the Upsetstomachship retched in what could be either revulsion or nervousness. Kuruharan began to mutter, “We’re doomed,” and Chrysophylax started to whistle an ancient Wyrmish lamentation, “Tâps”. Earnur began to fantasize about being intoxicated on a desert island with twin Vinegrettial clones, Gateskeeper cursed the day spiked tea had been invented, and Grrralph cried silently into his bile spattered robes. Orogarn Two wiped the spittle from his lips and observed everyone with a stormy yet indifferent glare, which was outdone in surliness only by Singéd’s equine disdain. (Pinkjin came a close third, while Tweedledee and Tweedledum won the prize for sheer indifference.)

“All right!” Merisu finally exclaimed. Out there, in that big scary auditorium, Leninia, Soregum and those other things were getting impatient. “We’ll skip your turn. There is still hope yet – we already have six points, and the most Leninia can get is twelve, so if I get seven points we’ll win!”

“Joy,” muttered Vogonwë, who had been hoping against hope that all Merisu had to get was two points.

“Right,” Merisu said gamely, and went back out on stage.

Last edited by Diamond18; 03-30-2004 at 12:19 AM.
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