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Old 08-15-2004, 06:12 AM   #201
Estelyn Telcontar
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Estelyn Telcontar has reached the Cracks of Doom and destroyed the Ring!Estelyn Telcontar has reached the Cracks of Doom and destroyed the Ring!Estelyn Telcontar has reached the Cracks of Doom and destroyed the Ring!Estelyn Telcontar has reached the Cracks of Doom and destroyed the Ring!Estelyn Telcontar has reached the Cracks of Doom and destroyed the Ring!Estelyn Telcontar has reached the Cracks of Doom and destroyed the Ring!Estelyn Telcontar has reached the Cracks of Doom and destroyed the Ring!Estelyn Telcontar has reached the Cracks of Doom and destroyed the Ring!Estelyn Telcontar has reached the Cracks of Doom and destroyed the Ring!Estelyn Telcontar has reached the Cracks of Doom and destroyed the Ring!
And Meri kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart.

Since Merisu’s unsullied beauty meant that she was not, as the others, distracted by matters of cleansing and grooming, her impeccably coiffed head had opportunity to concern itself with a thorough analysis of the preceding events. And the more she attempted to analyze, the more she realized that they were fraught with unanswered questions and mysterious conclusions. So it came to pass that she spoke to the Gateskeeper, asking: “How comes it that you know – I mean, knew – this vile wizard? And whence comes your might to battle him? It appears that you were not only his equal, but are now what he should have been.”

She then turned questioningly to Grrralph: “And how came you by that Cell-antír? My mother possessed one, but there were few and I thought them all destroyed. And what connection is there with that Wyrm – is it dangerous? What was it that Sauerkraut called you? A L-…?”

Her voice was troubled, for she was not used to being surrounded by happenings and facts that she could not interpret. How was she to make decisions as the leader of the Quest when she did not have the information she needed?

Last edited by Estelyn Telcontar; 08-15-2004 at 09:45 AM.
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Old 08-16-2004, 03:13 PM   #202
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Mithadan is a guest at the Prancing Pony.Mithadan is a guest at the Prancing Pony.
Grrralph shuffled his feet in embarassment, while Gateskeeper pointedly engaged in a detailed examination of some mold growing on a nearby rock. The wraith reached into his cloak and brought forth the Cell-antir again. He examined it for a moment, then answered Merisu's query.

"This... Sellamper did you call it?" he began. "I have had it as long as I can remember. That is, I first became aware of it when... my former employer took it from me. He was very interested in it, but could not make it work. He gave it back to me and said, 'This is beyond my skill to repair. I suspect that the...errr...your former employers did something to it to render it inoperable. Perhaps a virus or some such thing. But if you ever run into Sauerkraut or one of his technicians, ask him to fix it. He will need to take care, for it may be dangerous. But if he fixes it, be sure to get it back. This dainty is not for him; tell him just that.' "

Grrralph glanced back at the smoking remains of Sauerkraut's cart. "I guess I forgot to mention to him that it might be dangerous..."

Earnur's eyes narrowed at this. "You mean that it was not a brilliant plan to defeat the wizard?" he asked.

"Uh," answered Grrralph eloquently. "What?"

"The Cell-antir?" prompted Merisu.

"It's right here in my hand," responded Grrralph.

"I should have known better," groaned Earnur. "He's a foot short of a yard."

"Yup," interjected Kuruharan. "When brains were handed out, he thought they said 'strains' and he didn't want any."

At that moment, a sizzling noise filled the air. TZZZZAP! The Itship looked about only to see Chrysophylax staggering a bit with smoke pouring from his ears. The electric wyrm stood nearby batting its silvery eyelashes innocently. The dragon shook his head and jetted flames from its nostrils. "What a woman!" he cried.

Merisu rolled her eyes prettily, then turned back to Grrralph. "And what about...her?" she asked.

Grrralph shook his hood. "I never saw her before today," he answered. "I guess she's just part of whatever my former employers before my former employer did to make the Sealandsear not work. Maybe I can kind of put her away."

He walked towards the wyrm slowly, just as Chrysophylax approached her again. "So what's your name?" asked the dragon. The wyrm gave him a toothy, if static-filled, grin. "Sasser," she replied coyly. Then she looked down upon the wraith who was fiddling with the Cell-antir. The device's screen glowed, but Sasser stayed right where she was. Runes scrolled briefly across the screen and then it grew dark again.

"What did it say?" asked Vogonwë who had just finished toweling off Pimpiowyn.

"I do not understand the fiery runes," said Grrralph. "It said, 'If you drink it you may come.' Then there was a little thing about Sethamir's Stables being the best before it went dark again."

"Pop-ups," muttered a voice behind them. They turned to find Gateskeeper standing there. Upon noticing their sudden attention, he turned away and resumed his examination of typical rock-dwelling Mudled Mirth fungi. Merisu was not so easily put off. She cleared her throat. "Uh, Gatesy?" she said. "What about you?"
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Old 08-18-2004, 02:31 PM   #203
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Thenamir has reached the Cracks of Doom and destroyed the Ring!Thenamir has reached the Cracks of Doom and destroyed the Ring!Thenamir has reached the Cracks of Doom and destroyed the Ring!Thenamir has reached the Cracks of Doom and destroyed the Ring!Thenamir has reached the Cracks of Doom and destroyed the Ring!Thenamir has reached the Cracks of Doom and destroyed the Ring!Thenamir has reached the Cracks of Doom and destroyed the Ring!Thenamir has reached the Cracks of Doom and destroyed the Ring!Thenamir has reached the Cracks of Doom and destroyed the Ring!Thenamir has reached the Cracks of Doom and destroyed the Ring!Thenamir has reached the Cracks of Doom and destroyed the Ring!
Gateskeeper, realizing he could no longer dodge the questions, motioned for silence, looking about him as if unseen watchers might be hovering around. After a tense moment, he walked up to Grrralph and pantomimed opening and using his cell-antir, holding out his hand. The rest of the Now-much-cleaner-ship watched with silent interest as Grrralph handed over the device, not without a moment's mistrustful hesitation. Gateskeeper took the device and examined it on all sides before picking Sauerkraut's mithril wire from out of the mucken debris, and connecting it first to the cell-antir, and then attempting to adapt the other end of the wire to the connection socket at the base of the Entish thighs.

"No!" cried out Merisu, "you'll destroy them!" Gateskeeper's startlement was such that his glasses fell into a puddle of ketchup at his feet. "Shhhhh!" he hissed, shaking his head "no" and looking again around for unknown listeners. He threw a pleading look at Merisu which she unerringly interpreted as a request for trust. She considered only a moment before her not-just-good-but-perfect-even-in-the-face-of-insufficient-data judgement decided, and she nodded to him, almost imperceptibly.

Gateskeeper nodded back with relief and began his work again, after first fetching and cleaning his spectacles of the muddy ketchup residue. Completing the connections, Gateskeeper turned the cell-antir on and observed the brief messages before the item went dead. He moved the switch to the off position and thought for a moment. Then, with motions almost quicker than the eye could follow, he switched the device back on, and before the messages could flash and the device again die he began a flurry of pressing buttons in seeming random order that lasted for several seconds...

...and in the currently unoccupied viewing room of the penthouse suite of the fell Tower Block of Barát-Höm, the private cell-antir of the Dread Developer, Mogul Bildur, rang once, sparked a couple of times, and emitted a thin trail of blue smoke before it again went dark... Gatesy completed the sequence and snapped the cell-antir shut.

"Now," he said, breathing a sigh of relief, "we can talk...for a time, until he can get a repairman out there from Dorktank. Here," he said to Grrralph, handing him the now-deactivated cell-antir, "it should be fixed now."

Merisu cocked her head at an angle (causing that one blonde curl again to fall fetchingly over one eye) and asked, "would you mind now telling us what this is all about?" Everyone else was paying attention as well, except for Chrysophlax, who was getting quite a charge out of his new friend, Sasser.

"I had to employ the power of the Entish Thighs to duplicate and send a copy of the Wyrm to disable the cell-antir of..." and even now Gateskeeper could not bring himself to say the name of his secret employer. Instead he peeled off the black glove that until now he had always worn in the presence of the others since they day they first rode from Minus Teeth. Taking down a torchlight as the others crowded around, he illuminated his ungloved palm and the diabolical symbol seared thereon. Pimpiowyn read the small inscription with some puzzlement, "Made in Valleyum??"

"Oops, wrong hand," Gateskeeper said, quickly degloving the other hand.

"By Emu the Flightless," cried Orogarn Two taking a stunned step backwards, "I recognize that symbol...from documents I found in the accounting department back in Minus Teeth...contracts and treaties negotiated in ages past by my grandsires with... Moredough!", he said, spitting the word out as if it were a mouthful of steaming dragon dung.

"Yes," said Gateskeeper sadly, and beginning from his employment with Sauerkraut, through the wars down south in Pea Sea, and through the unknown-to-anyone-else portions of his travels with the Devil-take-the-hindmost-ship, he spun his tale of greed, profiteering, and manipulation. Earnur nodded his head manfully, thinking to himself that now he had more than enough excuse to finally introduce Griper to Gateskeeper's spine. Orogarn Two calculated that you could clothe everyone in Minus Teeth and it's outlying villages with the amount of wool Gateskeeper had managed to pull over their eyes. Leninia sympathized with the dejected wizard, having only recently been herself liberated from the embraces of evil. Kuruharan wept openly, being in the presence of true greed-driven success and greatness the likes of which he could only dream of achieving...oh the deceptions, the cunning. Vogonwe was actually at a loss for words.

It was Pimpiowyn who finally put voice to the question all were thinking, "Well, now that we know who and what you are, what do we do next?"

Lord Earnur Etceteron, Ward of the Diminished Fifth and Proclaimer of the Bleedingly Obvious, drew his mighty sword Griper which, having heard the story as the rest of them, was actually egging Earnur on. "It is clear that we must spill the blood of this foul servant of the Dread Developer..."

Lenina and Pimpiowyn rolled their eyes in gratuitous disdain, saying almost in unison, "Men!" Earnur was stunned. "Do you mean to tell me that we should *not* kill this miscreant?" Gateskeeper certainly looked as though he expected no less.

Merisu stepped forward. "Gateskeeper is guilty of throwing in his lot with the Dark Side, true. But in the time since he joined the Are-we-there-yet-ship, he has saved our lives multiple times, and has made no move to actually steal the Entish Bow, even when opportunity presented itself. He has taken action to prevent Mogul from following our movenents for a time. And if he is penitent, well, he is a wizard after all, could be of some assistance to us, as he has been in times past. I mean," explained Merisu, "look what we've already picked up along the way at one time or another -- grocers, ex-uruks, hobbits, strange black creatures, and, ummm, whatever Leninia is -- what possible harm could one more do?"

There was a general nodding of the heads in the Time-for-bed-ship, as much from agreement as from being up *waaaay* past their bedimes.


Later that evening, Mogul woke and couldn't get back to sleep right away. Deciding to pass the time by checking on how events were shaping up with the New-revelation-ship, he entered his observation lair, turned on his custom cell-antir and waited for the picture to form. After several moments it failed to resolve into a definable image. When he began to fiddle with the buttons, the device began emitting a dark, foul-smelling smoke, which actually pleased Mogul until the smoke formed itself into an electric drake which looked not-surprisingly like Sasser...
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Old 08-18-2004, 06:01 PM   #204
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Mithadan is a guest at the Prancing Pony.Mithadan is a guest at the Prancing Pony.
Meanwhile, back in Moredough...

A terrible cry rang out from the Dark Tower of Moredough. Even at that moment all the hosts of Moredough, from the least Orc to the mightiest Loyer, trembled, doubt clutched their hearts, their laughter failed, their hands shook and their limbs were loosed. The Power that drove them on and filled them with hate and fury was wavering, its will was removed from them; and now looking in the eyes of their enemies they saw a deadly light and were afraid.

In a deep dungeon below the towers, one such minion of Mogul was sitting before a securely bound Uruk (more or less) and was in the process of questioning his victim in the midst of torment. "Still won't talk, eh?" cried Greedhog. "Well, rather than playing 'The Hobbit' cartoon for you again, maybe we'll just play the soundtrack..."

"Aiiiii!" commented Gravlox as Greedhog powered up a mighty surround sound audio system. But the Loyer's hand paused even as he was preparing to play the soundtrack. A scream echoed through the tower and, in response, Greedhog's hands trembled and his eyes became unfocused. Then he turned off the sound system and untied Gravlox's hands. He sat nervously in a chair before his captive and reached for his china service.

"Would you care for some tea?" he asked in an unsteady voice. "Perhaps a croissant?"

"What?" replied the Uruk. "I mean sure."

Greedhog poured the tea into a darling cup made of bone china from a silver teapot. He lifted a small pitcher of milk, then paused, glancing up at Gravlox, who nodded and added, "Two sugars." The Loyer finished preparing the tea and passed the cup to Gravlox along with a dessert dish containing a buttered croissant. With a great effort, the Uruk resisted gobbling the pastry and swilling the tea despite his hunger and, just as he had taught in the Halls of Mantoes, instead nibbled and sipped politely.

"Cheers," said Greedhog as his sipped at his own cup. "Now, Gravlox, who does your hair?"

The Uruk nearly choked, then swallowed carefully before responding. "Uh, what?"

"Your hair," replied Greedhog. "Its really quite nice. Flowing and well conditioned. I have a devil of a time with mine." The Loyer lifted off his helmet to reveal a frizzy mop of unkempt brown locks.

"It kind of came with the whole redemption thing," Gravlox answered nervously.

"Ah," said Greedhog. "Valleyum then. I've often wondered what it might be like to work there. Rather genteel and noble, I'll warrant."

"It is rather nice there," Gravlox confessed between bites.

"If...errr...things don't work out here," the Loyer began. "That is to say, if things work out well for you and yours and less good for my employer, I wonder if you might not consider putting in a good word for me in the West. If it's not too much trouble."

Gravlox shifted uncomfortably in his seat. His legs and waist were still tied, giving him little room. Otherwise, he might have sprung at the Loyer and attempted to tear out his throat. But being as he could not, he saw no reason not to be polite. He had been very well trained in Valleyum. "I would be glad to," he replied.

"Smashing!" cried Greedhog. "Thank you very much, old chap. Would you care for more tea?"

At that moment, Mogul managed to 'solve' the little problem that had appeared in his Satel-antir chamber and all returned to normal. Greedhog dropped his teacup, slapped Gravlox across the face a few times, tied his hands again and turned the soundsystem back on. The strains of 'The Road Goes Ever On" echoed through the halls along with Gravlox's screams of horror...
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Old 08-20-2004, 08:22 AM   #205
The Saucepan Man
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The Saucepan Man has been trapped in the Barrow!
The Eye

We interrupt this document to bring you the latest scores from the Mire Golf-im-ball League sponsored by Red Oliphaunt*: the drink that gives you wings – as drunk by Balrogs the Ea over.

Bog End - 3 : Bloodshot Row - 0
Over-the-Hill - 1 : Belch-under-the-Hill - 2
Broad Smials - 4 : Shandy Hall - 1
Stock - 2 : Bicestow - 2
Spooky Hollow - 0 : Grewsome End - 0
Upper Notch - 2 : Lower Dipthong - 1

And that concludes the Scoring of the Shire – er – Mire.

We now return you to your regular manuscript deciphering.

* © Mögul Enterprises LLP


Last edited by The Saucepan Man; 08-20-2004 at 08:26 AM.
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Old 08-21-2004, 11:37 AM   #206
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Kuruharan is battling Black Riders on Weathertop.Kuruharan is battling Black Riders on Weathertop.Kuruharan is battling Black Riders on Weathertop.

It was perfect, as if drawn straight out of some Romantic poet’s laudanum induced hallucination. The sky seemed to stretch on forever. It was dotted with clouds at only the most aesthetically pleasing intervals. The landscape below was a rich (yet tasteful) shade of green. It seemed to call for a boisterous frolic among its happy pools and meadows. (It was actually all fetid swampland, but who could tell at this distance?) Nevertheless, Chrysophylax had no desire to alight. He only wanted to remain among the clouds with HER!!!

Yes, this vision of beauty, this answer to his every desire, this reason for living, this…


Chrysophylax plummeted several hundred feet before regaining control of himself. Looking up he saw the object of his thinking, who had just playfully batted at his wing.

Her slightest touch caused him to lose control of all his bodily functions. No other female had ever made him, well…tingle like this.

There was no doubt about it; this had to be love!

It seemed to him that he had always been flying with her. He could not remember the Entish Quest that had brought him to this point. All thoughts of dictatorial dwarves, obsessed elf-maids, gluttonous hobbit lasses, and drunken aristocrats were banished from his thinking. There was only the sky, the ground, the clouds, and HER.

Sasser giggled, winked at him, and darted behind an artistically created (and strategically placed) cloud. Chrysophylax lunged after her, straight through the cloud and to the other side to find…nothing. Chrysophylax’s head darted about befuddledly. There was more giggling behind him. He turned to see Sasser hovering over another cloud. He flew toward her and she vanished.

This game continued. It mattered not how long. Chrysophylax had long since lost all track of time. Suddenly, Sasser popped out from behind a cloud with, oh, such a look in her eyes and kissed him.


No kiss of supermodel nor tongue stuck into electrical outlet ever gave a male as much of a jolt as Sasser gave Chrysophylax at that moment. He blacked out and plunged toward the earth.

As he continued his descent, he slowly came back to reality. “What a way to go!!” he thought to himself. He managed to force his wings into cooperating and arrested his downward track.

Sasser was upon him.


The pair resumed their descent entwined. But what’s this?! Something was wrong! Sasser coiled her form around Chrysophylax’s body but he only felt a numbing buzz. Even as she pressed close to him, she seemed to grow vague and indistinct. Sasser had a desperate but vacant look in her eyes. Chrysophylax panicked. This could not be happening!!!

Chrysophylax looked down and saw the ground rapidly drawing nearer. He did not understand what was happening but he could not go on without her. He held her diminishing form close and prepared for the end. Sasser leaned forward and kissed him again, which delivered a charge less impressive than your average shock of static electricity...

And they met the ground.


Instead of the comforting, hard impact of terra firma there was the wet, squishy embrace of terra not-so-firma (and truth be told, somewhat smelly). Chrysophylax surfaced and looked about him.

Sasser was gone. He only had his electrical burns to remember the happiest days of his life.
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Old 08-27-2004, 01:01 PM   #207
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Mithadan is a guest at the Prancing Pony.Mithadan is a guest at the Prancing Pony.
As the Wyrms gyred and gimboled in the wabe (Elvish for cloudy skies), Merisu gathered the land-bound portion of the Muddyship to discuss their course now that the evil wizard had been heroically (more or less) dispatched (or splattered, please pick one of the above). Orogarn Two and Earnur were all for resting and imbibing at one of the local inns, perhaps the Brine Flagon. Merisu and Pimpi advocated avoiding inns, cafes, restaurants, hotels, motels, bars, pubs and all similar establishments in favor of (soberly) moving on towards their next destination. Well, the truth be told, Pimpi wouldn't have minded a cafe or restaurant, but she decided to back up her mentor. Kuruharan inquired about the trade possibilities beyond the Shire. Gateskeeper was keeping a low profile and chose not to voice an opinion. Merisu turned to Grrralph in the hope that his vote would break the deadlock.

At that moment an odd little tune rang through the air. Before anyone could determine the source of the music, Grrralph, recognizing the refrain slipped into a tapdance while singing along. "Always look on the bright side of life, de do, de do de do de do..." Merisu, somewhat alarmed, called upon the wraith to stop. Then the Elves, having sharper hearing (and rather larger ears) than the others, listened carefully until they determined the source of the tune. "It's coming from Grrralph!" Vogonwë cried.

Grrralph rummaged about in his cloak, then drew forth his Cell-antir again. Flipping it open, he examined the small screen inside. The others crowded about, impolitely attempting to see who might be calling the wraith. "It's Sasser!" cried Merisu. At that moment, Chrysohpylax thudded heavily to the ground next to them. Hot (boiling in fact) tears welled from his eyes as he crooned, "She's gooooooone, well oh ah, I've done a lot of things, she's gone, she's gone, well oh ah, I'd pay the devil to replace her...."

"Shush," admonished Merisu. She turned to Gateskeeper who was frowning in confusion. "Can you summon Sasser back?" she asked. Gateskeeper took the Cell-antir and fiddled with it for a moment. Then he shook his head. "I have never seen such a thing before," he said. "It is beyond my power to call back the wyrm."

"If not you, then who?" asked Kuruharan, who was busily dodging the hot tears which were falling around him. A whistle sounded from the Cell-antir. Grrralph took the device and looked into it again. Mystic runes were superimposed over Sasser's sorrowful face. They read, "THE VELOUR, YOU IDIOTS!"

"Well," said Orogarn. "I guess that settles it. We're off to the Pay Havens right after we stop at a pub for a bit..." A deep, threatening growl filled the air. Orogarn looked up to find himself face to face with a broad (and sizeable) array of incisors, canines and other assorted fangs. Coughing and waving away Chrysophylax's less than minty fresh breath, he continued. "Right! We'll leave immediately."

As the Forwardboundship lifted their packs and set out towards the west, none noticed that Grrralph lagged behind. Then, with a mournful groan, he slowly followed...
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Old 09-05-2004, 05:31 PM   #208
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The Saucepan Man has been trapped in the Barrow!
The Eye

Shortly following the defeat of Sauerkraut, Soregum had withdrawn to The Ivy Bush. Although he had remained unaffected by the old wizard’s hot dogs, years of service in Moredough having accustomed him to such enchantments, he had maintained a low profile during the ensuing confrontation, unsure of how his Master would want this one to play out. Mögul was a tricky character to second guess. And the Gateskeeper’s revelations had given him much to consider. And what of Grrralph’s contribution? Should he tell his Master what he had learned? And, if so, how might he do so without alerting his companions to the true nature of his mission? Difficult questions all. So Soregum had concluded as always that a pint or five of good Mire ale might clear his head and help him think straight.

When Soregum entered The Ivy Bush, however, such thoughts were soon pushed to a spare recess in the back of his mind, right next to where his conscience had long ago taken up full time residence. A party celebrating the liberation of the Mire from Sparkey’s bonds was in full swing and Soregum was in no mood to miss it. And of course he took no time in claiming the credit for the wizard’s defeat.

“Well, when you have been adventuring as far and wide as me, you learn how to deal with wizards … Dangerous? Yes indeed they are, but my personal safety is nothing compared to the safety of the Mire … My companions? Well yes, of course they helped out, but as always they left the lion‘s share of the work to me … Oh you are too kind, but yes I suppose that I am a bit of a hero …”

Soregum was just enjoying his eighth (free) pint when it occurred to him that he ought to check on when the Quest-ship was planning on leaving. So, bidding farewell to his adoring and gullible audience, he made his way to the stable. Only to find it completely empty. Even Twinkle appeared to have taken her leave.

“A fine pickle you and your beerish inclinations have got yourself into now, Soregum, and no mistake,” he muttered to himself, as panic gradually seized him at the thought of the pleasure that Mögul would take in rewarding his failure. “Well they can’t have gone far,” he reassured himself as he made his way back round to the front of the inn. “At least Pimpiowyn will notice my absence,” he thought with increasing desperation as he hurtled at full tilt down the western road.

Not far along the road he caught sight of Daddy Twobellies in conversation with a tall imposing figure swathed from head to foot in a dark cloak. Soregum crept closer so that he was able to overhear their conversation.

“No, ‘baint no fella boi the nayme o’ Zorrgum rowd theez ‘ere paaarts. Yoom bezt try over in Grewsome End,” Soregum caught Daddy saying, his voice little more than a high-pitched squeak..

The dark figure stood regarding the old Hobbit for a few moments as Daddy Twobellies quailed under its baleful glare. Then it spoke.

“I’m awfully sorry old chap, but I have absolutely no idea what you are saying. I do apologise if I startled you, but I simply enquired whether you might have any knowledge of the whereabouts of a certain Hobbit by the name of Soregum.”

“Be arrff with yoom and yer faarncy worrds, before oi set moine darrgs arrn yoom!” said Daddy shakily, puffing out his not inconsiderable girth and desperately pulling at the leashes of his two diminutive Northmire terriers as they cowered and whimpered behind him.

“Oh really! This is hopeless. The fault is all mine of course, my good Hobbit, but I really ought to have taken that optional language course at Fell College instead of media studies,” remarked the cloaked figure as he fished among his robes for a Mire phrasebook.

Soregum jumped out from his hiding place and approached the two figures.

“Hello Rrrrogerrr,” he said to the dark figure. “You looking for me?”

“Ah, Soregum old bean, long time no see. How’s it going with the Gallow-ship?”

“Erm, fine. Just fine,” stammered Soregum, immediately regretting his decision to break cover. “In fact, never better, since you ask. Merisu and her companions are just waiting for me beyond that copse over there. They haven‘t left without me at all, they just …”

“You’ve lost them haven’t you?”

“Well, not lost as such. It’s just a temporary …”

“That‘s quite alright, old bean. Just as well really, as I need to have a little tête-à-tête with you,” continued Roger cheerfully, turning to Daddy Twobellies. “In private, if you don‘t mind awfully, my fine fellow.” The old Hobbit visibly shrunk under the Wraith’s imposing, albeit amiable, gaze.

“Itzz arrlroight, Daddy. Oi knowze thiz ‘ere fella,” Soregum reassured him.

“Well, if yoom bee zure, Mizter Gummidge, zorr. Oi’ll leeve yoom tow it tharrn,” replied Daddy sighing with relief and hastily retreating.

“The boss is a tad miffed,” Rrrogerrr explained to Soregum as they made their way to a secluded spot on Daizzzy, Rrrroger’s Nazgurl. “Seems his Satel-antir broadcast went down and he missed some of what was going on. He asked whether you might be able to fill in the gaps. Once we’ve had a chance to touch base, I can drop you off near to your companions.”

“Um,“ Soregum gulped.

“Oh, and I have some more pipeweed from Moredough for you,” Rrrrogerrr added.

Soregum’s face brightened considerably.


Meanwhile, some miles west, the Slow-in-more-ways-than-one-ship had belatedly discovered Soregum’s absence. Much to Vogonwë‘s annoyance, it had indeed been Pimpi who had first noticed that the Hobbit was not with them.

“Well, I don’t suppose it matters much,” remarked Orogarn Two.

“He’s not much use in a fight, after all,” agreed Lord Etceteron.

“No, nowhere near as manful as you,” said Leninia, sidling up to Earnur.

“Not a penny on him,” added Kuruharan. “We’re better off without him.”

“I never trusted him. He seems to know far too much about Mögul for my liking,” growled Grrralph, glaring at the Gateskeeper (who wisely kept quiet). “And he can‘t carry a tune.”

“Yes, no point in going back for him now,” chipped in Vogonwë enthusiastically.

“What’s the point of any of it?” sighed Chrysophylax mournfully.

“No,” uttered Merisu after a moment’s thought. “Soregum spoke the truth in the inn. We need a Hobbit to make our party truly representative if we are to entreat the aid of the Lords of the West. And it seems to me that he may have some part to play yet, for good of for ill, before the end. I can feel it in my bow.”

Vogonwë rolled his eyes, but even as he did so, he caught sight of a dark shape, like a cloud and yet not a cloud for it moved far more swiftly.

Ellevoguereth Cosmopolitaniel!” he exclaimed.

“Wha -?” replied his companions in unison, but they were cut short as a terrible dread fell over them. A fell sound, a trumpeting whirring roar, filled the air as the dark shape advanced from the east, speeding towards the Company, blotting out all light as it approached. Soon it appeared as a great winged creature, blacker than the pits of the night, although disturbingly its wings appeared to sprout from the side of its head.

Vogonwë quickly reached for an arrow and hurled it into the air towards the advancing creature. His companions looked up. Almost above them, the great shape swerved. There was a harsh trumpeting scream, as it fell out of the air, vanishing down into the gloop of the Mire countryside. The sky was clear again.


“Oh oh! Mögul’s going to be mad as Udûn,” muttered Rrrrogerrr as he watched the great shape fall to the earth. “That’s one of the Aircorps’ advanced patrols. I’d best get back. Much obliged for the information and toodlepip!”

Soregum watched as Daizzzy leaped into the air with Rrrrogerrr sat astride her singing away happily to himself.

“They go up-tiddly-up-up
They go down-tiddly-down down.
Up. Down. Flying around.
Those magnificent Wraiths on their …”


The Startled-ship were just gathering themselves together as Soregum appeared from behind a tree and flashed his decayed teeth at Vogonwë in a winsome smile.

“Nice shot!” he said as he hefted his newly acquired tobacco onto the wagon.

Last edited by The Saucepan Man; 09-05-2004 at 05:45 PM.
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Old 09-07-2004, 02:28 AM   #209
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For a group of Questers that had frequently been side-tracked, taken detours and experienced short-cuts gone wrong, they managed to make fast time westwards upon leaving the Mire. This could possibly have been due to the influence of an impatient, fire-breathing dragon who made sure that laggers caught up quickly. Chrysophylax did take a minute or two to fly back and find the body of that winged creature, making barbecued wings of its appendages (and something similar of the rest, presumably), but was back behind the others before anyone noticed his absence.

Merisuwyniel was glad to be moving toward the goal of her journey again. She rode her horse as gracefully as always, but her thoughts turned to the future. What awaited them in the West? How were they to proceed next? She took care not to show her uncertainty, but she had no idea what expected them at the Havens or beyond. The Entish Bow was silent; either it had no information to offer her, or it was withholding something for some reason unknown to her.

Though they rode through the midst of the Mire (and the mire too, if you take my meaning) all the evening and all the night, none saw them pass, save the wild creatures. Merisu idly wondered what had happened to the fox she had encountered so long ago. Talking animals were getting rare in Muddled Mirth. With a start, she remembered that her very own noble steed belonged to those few and leaned forward to whisper some pleasant words in Falafel’s ear.

They passed the White Downs, which for some reason reminded her of a lovely, soft pillow, then the Far Downs. (They avoided the Far Ups and the Near Downs, though… ) One evening they made their camp within sight of three tall, white towers. Pimpiowyn, who had been riding beside her shieldmaidening instructor, said, “I have heard tell that you can see the sea from the top of those towers. They say that they were built by the Elves long ago to look westwards.” Merisu turned to her in surprise; if that was true, would she not be well-advised to seek them out?

After a morsel of supper (the others needing a much longer time to partake of theirs), she rode there alone. They watched her depart with languid interest, though none volunteered to accompany her. After the sound of Falafel’s hoofbeats had faded, there was silence – at least if the slurping, chewing, smacking, chomping, and burping could be ignored. When they heard a far-off rumble, they looked to the sky apprehensively, thinking that it thundered, but the stars twinkled reassuringly. Suddenly a deafening crash alarmed the questers so that they jumped up from their extended meal. The earth shook under their feet. They ran to and fro without plan or purpose, since their leader was missing to tell them what to do.

Then she rode into the camp, breathless and covered with white dust. “Quick!” she exclaimed. “Pack your things – we leave here immediately!” They scrambled to do as she said; she made sure that the cart with the wooden pieces was not left behind and counted noses, which was not easy, as some of them were covered with handkerchiefs and others were sneezing violently. Even the dragon wheezed, causing the dust to light up eerily as his flames lit the dusk.

None dared to ask, now or later, what had transpired – or maybe they just forgot about it. At any rate, Merisuwyniel offered no explanation, and if Pimpiowyn chanced to notice that there was a large round bulge in her baggage that had not been evident before, she wisely said nothing. And that shows just how much she had learned as a shieldmaiden’s handmaiden!

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

And so they came at last to Mithfortune, the Pay Havens. They searched first for a dwelling place, finding Sethamir’s Hitching Post: Bed and Breakfast for Bipeds and their Animal Companions. Large letters on the sign proclaimed: “Last Sethamir’s Before Valleyum!”

“We will take lodging here,” Merisuwyniel announced. “In the morning, I shall see to finding a ship that will bear us across the Sea.”

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Old 09-07-2004, 03:19 PM   #210
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Hello Merisu...goodbye heart

In their haste to depart their last camp the entire clueless-ship failed, in the paleness of that night, to notice that Merisu-The-Unsulliable-and-Always-Perfectly-Styled managed to get covered with white dust -- that she to whom no mud can cling, whose hair neither rain nor humidity can spoil, the Lady-Who-Never-Needs-Deodorant, whom the slightest dust mote would not deem to touch, she who bathes but once per year whether she needs it or not, was positively filthy. In fact, the entire group looked like a cocaine-dealers' convention.

The Dusty-ship scouted the door and the foyer of the establishment beneath the sign with the grinning bartender, but found no one to meet them, check them in, or even (as was often the case) cast sidelong sneers at them and mutter under their breath about the imminent decline of local property values. It was as though the mere rumor of their coming had driven the townspeople into hiding.

The news of their coming had indeed preceeded them, though not in the fashion to which they were accustomed. In the light of the silvery moon the strangely-clinging white dust had transformed their appearance, such that the villagers and townspeople seemed to see a company of pale dead men, dead hobbits, dead half-halflings, dead elves, even a dead dragon, being led by an impeccably-coiffed spectre of commanding presence and otherworldly beauty. Lights went out in house and hamlet as they came, and doors were shut, and folk that were afield cried in terror and ran wild like hunted deer. Ever there rose the same cry in the gathering night: ‘The Queen of the Dead! The Queen of the Dead is come upon us!’

Long ago, none other than the 3rd-Cousin-84-times-removed of Orogarn Two, Isildur himself, had sworn the inhabitants of Mithfortune to the great battle against Sourone -- but the lure and luxury of their lush beachfront resorts and their posh lifestyles caused them to abandon their oath and their quest. Therefore, the leader of the eventually-victorious Good-Guys (tm) spoke a curse against them at the Stone of Ericky, as is recorded in the prophecy of Nell's Son, that one day the dead would come back to steal away the hearts from their descendants, with a familiar name but without so much as a sharp razor-blade:

You'll come to town one moonlit night
flash those big blue eyes our way
and oo you zombied us forever more
We once were folks that got around
But now our feet are stuck to the ground
and though I never did meet you before

I said Oh no, Merisu, goodbye heart
Ghost Merisu, I’m terrified of you
I knew Merisu, you'd do your part
Oh no no, Merisu, goodbye heart!

I saw your lips I feared your voice
believe me I just had no choice
wild horses couldn’t drag me back this way
I thought about a cold dark night
and a noose that's good an’ tight
that’s all it took to make me hide away

I said Oh no, Merisu, goodbye heart
Isildur's Hair can save us all from you
I knew Merisu, you'd do your part
So here goes, Merisu, goodbye heart!

Orogarn Two of course knew of these things, but either had wisely decided not to mention them, or they had completely and conveniently slipped his mind in the search for rest and repast.

No one spoke, and the inn foyer grew strangely silent until...the ever-sharp ears of Merisu picked up the sounds of someone weeping behind the closed door that led to the common room of the bed-and-breakfast. Motioning to the rest of the Pasty-white-ship to follow her quietly (and for Chrysophylax to remain outside), she stealthily approached the door and quietly peeked inside.

Beyond the door in an immaculately-clean but otherwise unoccupied common room was a lone man, weeping quietly behind the common room bar with his head down on his folded arms resting on the counter. He seemed not to notice as the Shake-rattle-n-roll-ship stepped into the room, leaving white-dust footprints as they went.

"Good sir," said Merisu gently, "what makes you cry thus? Is there anything we can do to help?"

The man behind the counter slowly looked up, revealing a homemade nametag that said simply "Sethamir", and seeing-yet-not recognizing the lovely but coldly-white Merisu, replied in a hoarse, fearful whisper, "Merisu is coming."

Reasoning that admitting her identity right now might not be the thing to do, she asked, "Why do you fear this 'Merisu', good sir? Surely you have a strong inn and a goodly set of neighbors to help you."

Sethamir merely replied,

If you knew Merisu - then you’d know why I feel blue
For its Meri - that Merisu
oh well, I loathe that gal - yes, I loathe that Merisu

Merisu, Merisu - my business was destroyed by you
oh Meri - that Merisu
oh well, I loathe that gal - and that fool bunch with her, too!

Merisu, Merisu - pretty pretty pretty pretty Merisu
oh Meri - that Merisu
oh well, I hate that elf and I see thru Merisu

"You see," said the innkeeper and erstwhile entrepreneur Sethamir (for he it was), "I am but a humble businessman, the former owner of stables and specialty shops all over Muddled Mirth operating under my family name, the good name of Sethamir. I say 'former' because some time ago a she-devil named Merisuwyniel, reputedly a very lovely elf lass, left Minus Teeth in the comapny of a band of miscreants with, it seemed, the sole purpose of burning down, crushing, or blowing up every single one of my shops. From Minus Teeth, to the lands of the Sorethighhim, even unto the Mire, I fled before them. I thought at first that they meant me no actual harm, that each loss had to be an accident, but over time, they have visited every single one of my enterprises, and this is the only one left, and rumor is that she is coming this way bringing death and destruction in her wake. Why, just last week it was reported that she singlehandedly battled the high wizard Sauerkraut, and destroyed him! What can one do against such reckless hate?"

By this time the entire Wish-we-were-somewhere-else-ship was studiously examining the floor for cracks into which they might disappear, all except Gateskeeper who was mumbling something about "not quite singlehandedly" when Pimpiowyn exclaimed "But we don't hate you, Mr. Sethamir." The innkeeper looked up, ready to be angry, but then sagged again against his bar. "Havin' a joke on me, lass. You couldn't be Merisu and her types. For one thing, they have a monsterous cruel dragon with them..." In a moment of bad timing surely worthy of any usage since the world begain of the word "oops", Chrysophylax chose that moment to stick his head in an open window and ask, "Would you have a nice rose lambrusco to go with this freshly roasted lamb?"

"Aiiiiiiii!" Screamed Sethamir as a response. "What, you've never seen a dragon before?" Asked Orogarn Two, picking at his ear which had unfortunately been rather close to Sethamir. "No, not that," roared the bellicose innkeeper, "you *are* Merisu and her Gang! And besides, everyone knows that it's chiani and not lambrusco that goes with roast lamb!!" "Well excuse me! I just thought 'lamb', 'lambrusco', geez!" began Chrysophylax, but Sethamir paid no heed. Running for the door he burst into the streets in full bellow about fear, fire, and foes, trying to rouse the people from their terror and take up arms after these anti-capitalist dogs!

The Been-here-done-this-before-ship signed heavily and trundled out into the village square, to where by the sheerest of coincidences, the Stone of Ericky stood. The moon was at her full, and indeed she must have been full and truly stuffed to be shining down so brightly, reflecting off the still-white-dusted Questians. That, and the shrill poppycock that Sethamir was screaming brought the eyes, and then the presence, of the villagers to the great Stone, drawn there as if an artist had drawn them there. Actually, the men of the village just wanted a closer look at the lovely Merisu (just as the prophecy foretold), the women came to keep the men in line, and the children came along just because they never got to stay up so late before.

Just at that moment, Orogarn Two, swatting at a buzzing mosquito, flicked his hair from his neck in the moonlight. There was a collective gasp amongst the villagers looking upon them with fear and yet inexorable interest. A wave of whispers flew through the crowd, "The Hair of Isildur!" Several of them pointed to Orogarn, then to a statue near the stone which was made in the likeness of Orogarn's distant relation -- albeit covered often with raw eggs and toilet paper in addition to the pigeon-droppings -- because of the curse he was, as you might imagine, a not-very-popular figure. And yet, they grudgingly admitted that their ancestors had had, well, a yellow streak. Orogarn, having had neither food nor sleep, finally recognized that the villagers were looking at him, and caught sight of the statue and of the words of their whispering. Merisu made her way to Orogarn Two's side and whispered, "Looks like it's your turn to get us out of this one."

With a heavy sigh, Orogarn Two climbed the Stone of Ericky and from it's summit he cried in a great voice, "Oathbreakers, why have ye come?"

And a voice was heard out of the night that answered him, as if from someone who wished he was far away, "To gawk at th' loverly lass there, guv'nor, and a right beauty she is, too..OOF!" said the man at the last as his wife suddenly decided that her husband's stomach could do with an introduction to her rolling pin. When he had recovered his breath, he went on, "er...I mean, to fulfill our oath, and have peace from Merisu."

Then Orogarn Two said, "The hour has come at last. We are upon a great quest, to reunite the sundered pieces of the Ent-That-Was-Broken, and thus make an end of the Evil One in Moredough. For I am Orogarn Two, with Isildur's Hair from Grundor." And with that He removed his helmet, and behold! his hair sprang out into the identical coif of the man in the statue. There was a general murmur of approval from the crowd, interrupted by one strident growl of "Balderdash!!"

It was Sethamir, striding thru the crowd who screamed again, "Balderdash I tell you! These are the very ones who have spread desolation on every place they visit, leaving smoking ruins in their path as often as not, who have destroyed my life and my livelyhood! Make him show the wallet, eh? Remember that silly bit of poetic rubbish we all learned as kids?

Seek for the Wallet that was stolen
In Mithfortune it dwells
There shall his ID be given
And his pedigree forth it will tell

Though the Driver's License be faded
And the picture be dated, it brings
A hope of a curse to be unmade-ed
A long-distant cousin of Kings!"

A new murmurning swept the crowd, this time of affirmation and expectation, as they turned again to the figure of Orogarn Two upon the great Stone. With a slow and deliberate gesture he pulled his wallet from the pocket whence he had kept it since retrieving it from the Entish thief, Skinflint. With a flourish, he released the ID section of the wallet, and all 84 names between himself and Isildur came unfolding out like a worn-out accordion. This time the murmuring swelled to a cheer, and even Sethamir had to admit that the man on the stone was genuine. When the cheer died away, one of the villagers piped up, "How will you lift the Merisu curse?"

Orogarn Two swept a grand arm over his companions and said "Behold, here is Merisu, of whom you have been so afraid these long years! She seeks to sail into the Uttermostest West to heal the Rent Ent. Assist her, and us, on our way, and not only will we never return, but the curse will be lifted and you may go in peace." The men of the town cheered to try to be the first to help the beauteous Merisuwyniel, the women cheered that they could help rid the town of what they thought was a brazen hussy, and the children cheered because they knew that the longer the ruckus continued, the later they could stay up.

Merisuwyniel herself went to Sethamir and actually bowed before him. "Indeed, we did not mean to single you out for all the disaster which has followed us from the first." She handed him a small bag with a generous amount of gold, and said, "I hope that this will in some small way help you, and will purchase a night's lodging with you, for your stabling and shops have been the finest we've seen in our travels." He looked down at the bag of gold in his hand, and then at the face of the one whose name he had sworn to destroy, and then grumblingly said, "well, we can at least give you a place to get cleaned up." And thus the Truly-weary-ship found for once a good night's sleep and managed not to wipe anything out for at least one post.
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Old 09-18-2004, 01:42 AM   #211
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When morning came, Merisuwyniel made her way to the Harbour of Pay Havens. She walked past the yachts of those rich enough to keep private ships, knowing that they were not likely to take passengers or make so far a journey. She also passed a huge pleasure cruiser called PDQE2; it looked lovely, with luxurious cabins and fancy trimmings, but she had heard of its exorbitant prices and knew that her small store of coins would not suffice.

Thus she came to the sailing ships that were large and sea-worthy. The first one had ‘HMS Bouncy’ painted on the prow, and a sign proclaimed that Captain Blighter was responsible for it, yet it seemed deserted. She wondered as she wandered, speculating on possible reasons for its abandoned state.

Next to it was moored a ship painted green, adorned with the letters ‘Peapod’. A row of globular, grinning, greenish faces peered over the side railing. Merisu called up to them, “Can I speak to your captain, please?”

“Captain Rehab isn’t here, lady,” the first face answered, “but you can sure talk to me!”

“Umm, what is your name, good sir?” she asked.

“Call me Fishmail,” he said, winking at her suggestively. His leering expression made her leery of his intentions, so she walked away as quickly as her graceful dignity allowed.

The next ship was a real beauty, with a high, gilded prow shaped like the head of a dragon with wide open mouth. She read the name, ‘Pawned Trader’; she wasn’t sure what she thought of that, but called out “Hello-o”, approaching the gangway rather timidly, only to fall back startled when a very large mouse appeared, brandishing a sword and shouting, “My name is Grim Reaperneep! You killed my father. Prepare to die!” Fortunately the light of the early rays of the sun reflected from the dazzling beauty of Merisu’s golden locks, causing the mouse to stop, look and listen. What he saw caused him to fall down on one knee before her, lay his sword at her feet and kiss her hand reverently.

“How can I be of service to you, lovely lady?” he enquired.

“Good… um, sir,” she said, “may I speak to the captain of this ship? For I seek passage for myself and my friends.”

“The Captain is busy planning our route. We sail to the end of the world tomorrow morning,” he replied.

“That is where we wish to go!” she exclaimed. “We must sail to the Far West.”

“But we are sailing to the Utter East,” the mouse explained. “That is where the end of the world is.”

“Then your end of the world is not the same as ours,” she sighed regretfully. “Do you know who might be going in our direction?”

“Well, normally I would say you could ask Captain Mithteriouth of the ‘Only Ithtar’,” he suggested. “He and his wife Bythentennial sail to unusual places, and he has told wondrous tales of Tol Erethëa.”

“Bicentennial?” Merisu was astonished. “You mean there are human women who reach the age of 200?”

“Nay,” he answered. “No human woman is she, but an Elf. That name was given her in her youth. However, they cannot help you, for they sailed away southwards some time ago, on a wild goose chase after a shape-changing Bird, it is said.”

“What ship will bear me ever hence across so wide a sea?” the Elven maiden cried out in despair.

“Well, there is one last possibility,” Reaperneep replied. “Go to the very last ship at the end of the docks – it is known to boldly go where no Man, Dwarf, or Hobbit has gone before. Its captain is named Cirkdan, ‘Dim’ Cirkdan, the Ship-Wight.”

“Why is he called ‘Dim’?” Merisu asked, puzzled.

“Oh, that is because the light of Valleyum in his face has grown pale after staying here so many ages,” the mouse explained.

“Thank you for your help and kind words,” Merisu said, curtseying respectfully. She would have liked to take him in her arms and cuddle him, but she felt that this would have offended him deeply.

“Best wishes to you and your friends, fair lady, and may the winds ever bring you to your home harbour!” He bowed gallantly, flourishing his feather-trimmed hat and twirling his moustache gravely.

Soon Merisuwyniel approached the last ship in the Harbour. It was of a silvery hue that gleamed in the light of the sun. Curious, she looked at the side to ascertain its name – the letters ‘Ent’s Surprise’ were painted there! That seemed a good omen to her, and she walked up the gangway with a feeling of confidence.
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Old 09-22-2004, 02:10 PM   #212
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While Merisuwyniel sought out an appropriate ship to carry the Itship across the Blundering Seas, the remainder of her companions settled in at Sethamir's and bought most of the bar (together with a few snacks). Soon all were merry and chatting animatedly about the coming voyage and their visit to Valleyum. That is, all were merry, animated and chatting except for one...

Grrralph, if it were humanly (or wraithly) possible, looked glummer than usual. As was his practice, he declined to eat or drink, but while the others engaged in a bit of revelry, Grrralph sat slumped on his bench with his hood pulled down over his non-face. He remained like this despite the best efforts of his companions... ok, well Pimpiowyn at least... to raise his spirits. He even refused to play his favorite game, set the drunkard's foot on fire. After about 3 seconds of concern, the Itship turned to other, more important matters, such as ale, porter, stout, wine and mead.

It was into this scene that Merisu entered, coming through the door of the common room with a bang, followed by a portly gentleman dressed in an odd uniform of gold colored cloth and black breeches. On the man's shoulder was a brightly colored parrot. Merisu made her way to the Slightly-soused-ship, and stood next to the table, bubbling with excitement. She waved a few of the bubbles away from in front of her face and announced proudly, "I have found a ship to carry us to Valleyum!"

In all likelihood, the reaction of her companions would have been as expected, ranging from polite interest to wild cheering, but for one thing. Even as she spoke, an unearthly wail shook dust from the rafters, shattered several wineglasses, and caused one chicken in the yard to die of cardiac arrest. "Put a cork in it, Grrralph!" cried Kuruharan as he shook his head to see if his hearing would return. But Merisu turned to the wraith with a look of concern, for she saw steam rising from his glowing red eyes.

"Grrralph, what could be the matter?" she asked. "Is this not good news?"

"Alas!" the wraith answered. "I cannot come with you fair Shieldmaiden!"

Merisu silenced Orogarn Two's cheers with a glare (and froze Gateskeeper and Earnur in the midst of a high five). "Why not?" she queried. "You have journeyed far with us. Surely you do not wish to leave us even as we approach the fulfillment of our quest? Come with us!" Kuruharan and Vogonwë began waving their arms and shaking their heads silently behind Merisu's back.

"I do wish to stay with you all," Grralph said. But, well, I do not think that I, a black wraith of evil, would be welcome in the land of the Velour. Even were this not so.... well... you see..."

"Wraiths don't like water," Gateskeeper chimed in, finishing Grrralph's sentence for him. Grrralph nodded sadly in confirmation.

"Indeed, the thought of sailing upon the waves of the Blundering Seas makes my cloak crawl," the wraith added. Vogonwë shuddered and slapped at the hem of Grrralph's garb which had began inching across the table towards him.

"Well," said Orogarn Two without a hint of sorrow. "That's that! Been nice knowing you. Don't forget to write. Bon voyage! Later! The road leads that way. Don't let the door hit you on your way out..."

"Now, now," said Merisu. "Surely there must be a way to solve this little problem. I'm sure the Velour would take into consideration your heroic..." At this moment, an odd coughing fit simultaneously overcame Orogarn, Earnur and Vogonwë. "HEROIC," continued Merisu. "Heroic assistance that you have lent us. As for your dislike of water..."

"Actually its more like a discomfort," clarified Grrralph. "A deep discomfort. Very deep. Deep down inside me. That kind of affects my digestive tract and makes me..."

At the verge of again receiving too much information, Merisu raised her hand to stop Grrralph's description of the adverse (and rather disgusting) effect which water had upon him. But before she could continue, her oddly garbed companion spoke up. Strangely enough, he punctuated every word he spoke with a gesture.

"Fear.. of... water... IS... nothing to be... ashamed of," he said in a choppy and over-emphasized fashion.

"And who might you be?" asked Earnur as he slid a knife from its sheath.

"I... am... Cirkdan," the man answered. "CAPTAIN... Dimwi T. Cirkdan of the... Ent's Surprise, but you... can call me... Dim." Kuruharan closed his eyes and muttered under his breath, "Of course..."

"And this... is... my ship's healer, Dr. Macaw," he continued. The Itship looked about in confusion, as there appeared to be no one else about. Then, to their surprise, the parrot spoke. "Pleased to meet you," it said.

"What?" said Leninia. "The pigeon is a healer?"

"I'm a doctor, not a pigeon," growled the bird irritably.

Sensing some doubt arising in his new clients, Cirkdan continued. "To... conquer... your fear... of water, you...must... look... deep within yourself... for courage."

Grrralph considered Cirkdan's words and seemed to search within what passed for his soul for a long moment. Then he shook his head. "Nothing!"

"Failing that," said Earnur as he unsteadily waved a pint about as if to emphasize his words. "I've often found that courage can be found in a bottle."

Grrralph pondered these words, then slowly and reluctantly, reached into his cloak and retrieved the bottle of Old Rotgut which Earnur had given him while at the Nancing Bow-ny in the Mire. As he uncorked the bottle of home-brewed spirits a hiss came from the flask as doubtful fumes escaped, causing the eyes of those assembled to water (except for Earnur who muttered something about "a good year"). The wraith raised the bottle to the dark space within his hood and drained the bottle in a single draught. His eyes glowed bright and he rose to his feet with a wheeze. A strong wind arose outside and caused the door to swing open. The breeze caught Grrralph's cloak and caused it to swirl about him like dark flapping wings of shadow. The glowing red coals which passed for his eyes seemed to spin like pinwheels and his body grew stiff. Then his eyes went dark and he slowly tilted and toppled, like a great tree falling, to the ground.

Doctor Macaw flew from Cirkdan's shoulder and landed on the ground next to Grrralph's prone form. He examined the wraith for a moment, then turned to Cirkdan and pronounced in profoundly shocked and sorrowful tones, "He's dead Dim."

Orogarn leapt to his feet with a loud cry, "YES!" But Merisu hurried to the wraith's side. "He's a wraith," she said irritatedly. "He's always been kind of dead." Then she brought her face close to his and listened intently. Hearing a slight hiss, she extended her arm and held the brightly burnished vambrace before Grrralph's non-face. A faint mist appeared upon the polished metal. "He yet lives!" she cried. Orogarn collapsed back into his chair and moaned in disappointment.

But every effort to rouse Grrralph failed. After propping him up in the corner and using him as a cloak-rack for a while, they dragged him off with them...
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Old 09-22-2004, 08:49 PM   #213
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The Eye Operation Darklord

Black clouds heavy with rain rolled thunderously over the skies of Moredough, their lower reaches tinged with scarlet as they caught the columns of flame that erupted unceasingly from Mount Odouruin. Occasional flashes of lightning burst through the gloom, threatening to split the murky skies into a thousand fragments. A fell gale howled down from the surrounding peaks of the Ered Lethargi and the Ephel Dûwot, driving a streaming torrent of greasy rain hard into the foetid Plateau of Gorgonbreath. One thing that could be said about the weather of Muddled-Mirth was that it had a profound sense of occasion.

Atop the dark and forbidding Tower Block of Barát-Höm, the noseless nostril flared and writhed fitfully as it savoured a scent that originated in the Pay Havens, some fifteen hundred miles to the west: the unmistakable scent of rent Ent (and the somewhat less savoury odour of rucksacks stuffed full of clothes that had gone unwashed for many months on end).

From his balcony below, Môgul Bildûr surveyed the vast army ranged across the Plateau. Battalions of Orcs, each ten thousand strong, stood in disorderly lines brandishing a perplexing assortment of viciously jagged and barbed weapons. The greater part raised their harsh guttural voices to their Master in anticipation of his impending victory, although those recently returned from Valleyum wandered silently and aimlessly across the plain, occasionally dropping the odd limb or facial feature, while their Uruk captains attempted somewhat vainly to herd them into some semblance of order. Hordes of great armoured trolls, the flame-hardened oL0g-hA1, each carrying a range of mighty insults to hurl at their foes, lumbered back and forth eager for action. And the races of Men who had pledged their allegiance to Môgul, the wild Beasterlings of Near Hardup, the pitiless Poltroons of Far Hardup and the ferocious Scallywags of Khant, Men who had entered the Land of Shadowy Deals through the Black Gate of Uncanon only days before, sat grimly in their camps. Their ludicrously exotic armour and weaponry gleamed in the light of their camp-fires as they touched up their war-paint and eyeliner. Here and there, the dark wraith-like figures of Korprat Loyers could be seen preparing their loopholes and sharpening their clauses.

But prominent amongst the forces assembled before the Dark Tower Block were the great beasts of the Aircorps of Dumbar. Each as grey as a mouse and as big as a house with a nose like a snake, they made the earth shake as they tramped o‘er the plain, tethered by chain. With horns in their mouth, they had flown from the South, flapping big ears - ruddy big ears. Aerophaunts were they. Arranged in squadrons, some carried great howdahs on their back capable of transporting whole battalions of troops while others were mounted with an array of heavy weaponry: trebuchets, arbalests and ballistas. A great trumpeting and roaring issued forth from the mighty beasts as their Dumbarian crews, clad in bright red uniforms, tended to them and loaded them with weaponry and provisions.

Satisfied with his inspection, Môgul turned and glided back into his office, carefully avoiding the remains of various Orcish clerks and functionaries, the legacy of the temporary disconnection of his Satel-antir and the downing of the Aircorps patrol. Within the office suite, Môgul’s Chiefs of Staff stood around a great table bearing a map of Muddled-Mirth. Tiny black flags stood ominously out from various locations: Ham Steep, Improvas, the Halls of Trebor and the Golden Malls of Topfloorien. Yet other locations bore brighter flags of varying colours: the Last Home Grown Cows, the Mire, the Pay Havens and, yet still, Minus Teeth. Carved wooden blocks represented the forces deployed throughout the land, the majority of them black and spiky.

A palpable sense of irritation emanated from the Dread Developer as he examined the blue denim flag that sprang defiantly from Minus Teeth.

“What news from the Wight City, Greedhog?” he enquired.

“It ssseemsss that Grundor has monetary resservesss of which we were unaware, O Profoundly Prosperous One,” the Senior Loyer hissed. “A dark cloud of Lítig-aî-Shön permeates the entire realm and the repaymentsss on our loan to the Proctor are crippling. Yet still he holds out.”

“He cannot stand alone against the financial might of Moredough for long,” spat Môgul. “There will be time enough to de-credit and discredit him and his upstart hair when we return from Valleyum.”

“Sire,” spoke up a thin, weasly figure with hair greased back into a ponytail and sporting bright red braces. “Our marketing campaign is meeting with great success.” The speaker was Perlandeen, Arch I-Mage of the dark art of Pé-Är. As he spoke, he conjured from the air a plethora of charts covered with graphs, pie charts and survey results.

“Consumer recognition of the red nostril logo is at an all-time high and our Môgul branded products are selling like hot-cram,” Perlandeen explained. “In tests, eight out of ten Muddled-Mirthlings expressed a preference for black over white, green, silver or, indeed, any other colour favoured by the so-called Free-Peoples. Evil really is the new good. And our cause has been greatly assisted by the general carnage spread throughout the land by the renegade Merisuwyniel and the buffoons that she laughably calls her companions.”

“At leassst until recently,” added Greedhog. “Lately it appearsss that they have found sssome sssupport amongssst those that they have encountered. Their defeat of the upssstart Sssauerkraut has won them sssome renown.”

“Yes, poor Colin,” replied Môgul. “He never was the sharpest note in the symphony, but he sure knew how to make an exit. Still, who knows when he might be popping up again.”

A dreadful wheezing, bubbling, grinding sound filled the office as the Dread Developer chuckled at his dreadful quip and his minions dutifully followed suit.

“We are most grateful to you for your information, Rrrogerrr,” said Môgul, recovering his composure and turning to the chipper Thingwraith, “It will stand us in good stead in Valleyum.” Although the Nazgul, being a Fell collective, had no appointed leader, they had all agreed that Rrrogerrr should attend the briefing to represent them and to relay in Wraith what he had learned from Soregum.

“That’s quite alright, my Lord, old chap. Glad to be of service.”

“Well,” continued Môgul. “If the people of this ripe and potentially lucrative land cannot be won over by subtle persuasion and crippling debt, there are always the more traditional methods. You have assembled a fine army, General Gzzmmmphllgg.”

“Thank you sir, Lord Bildûr, sir!” roared the General, standing to attention. General Gzzmmmphllgg was an enormous and heavily-built Orc, so enormous indeed that he might have beeen mistaken for an Ogre were it not for the fact that, as everyone knows, there are no such things as Ogres in Muddled-Mirth. He was extraordinarily old, having been born in the time of the Dread Developer’s rule of Dairyland, and had risen to become commander of Môgul’s armies in Moredough by virtue of the simple fact that he had not died during the intervening years (a feat which no other Orc had managed to achieve). But age and experience had taken their toll on him. He wore a patch over one eye, his left arm was withered and useless, he loped with a limp and his mottled and scabrous skin had turned a yellowish shade of pink through excessive exposure to the sun.

“You will take charge of Moredough while we are in Valleyum, General,” directed Môgul. A formidable force will remain behind. After all, we don’t want anyone sneaking in and getting up to no good while we are away, do we? Oh, and dispatch a detachment to secure Dorktank.”

“Yessir, Lord Bildûr, sir!” barked General Gzzmmmphllgg, raising his good arm in a salute.

“As for the remainder of the army, they will travel with us to Valleyum. Captain, are the Aircorps ready for action?”

“Yeah, right on, my Lord,“ replied a hairy brute of a man dressed in the bright red uniform of the Aircorps. “Mad for it. Sorted, like. Know what I mean.”

The Aircorps of Dumbar were a cruel and merciless outfit. And none was more cruel or merciless than their commander, Cap’n Ar-Kidd. He was descended from the corrupt line of Ar-Pheronome, King of Noodleor, who had flown an ill-fated mission to Valleyum some three thousand years before in defiance of the power of the Velour. A Black Noodleorian he was (or Morally-challenged Noodleorian as those of a more politically correct persuasion preferred to call them). And he was mad keen, like, at the prospect of launching an airborne assault on Valleyum to fulfil the vision of his ancestor.

“Shine on, man” he added, raising his great bushy eyebrows and flashing his gold-capped teeth in a broad grin.

“Yes, er, quite,” replied Môgul. “Very good. Commence loading the troops immediately. Dismissed!”

As the Chiefs of Staff turned to leave, Môgul called back Greedhog.

“You too will be journeying with us to Valleyum,” he said to the old Korprat Loyer. “Select a company of the most seasoned of your kind to accompany you. You will be escorting the prisoner. I want you personally in charge should negotiations become necessary.”

“I had hoped for no lessss, O Lord of Dark and Dirty Dealing,” replied Greedhog. “I fear neither battle nor negotiation, my Lord. For wasss it not foretold by Macbeth the Ssseer, and comprehensively drafted by Ssstrongclause the Watertight, that no Human, Elf, Dwarf, Halfling, Troll or Orc, or any combination thereof, whether living dead or undead, and whether male, female or otherwise, ssshall hinder me?”

“Indeed it was, my faithful advocate.”

As Greedhog departed, Môgul returned to his balcony and watched as line after line of Men, Orcs, Trolls and Loyers filed on board the Aerophaunt carriers. He was still there some hours later as, one after another, the great beasts lumbered across the poisonous plain and launched themselves into the dark and stormy Moredough sky*. In due course, he disappeared into the depths of the Dark Tower Block to make his own arrangements for the journey.

*Editor’s note: When they come to make the film, Ride of the Valkyrie would be good here.

Last edited by The Saucepan Man; 09-24-2004 at 08:46 PM.
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Old 09-22-2004, 09:45 PM   #214
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Boots Who Mourns For Adonaialion?

There's got to be a morning after and this was the one to beat all mornings after, except possibly for the morning after Vinaigrettiel had died. Earnur groaned. A familiar refrain, spoken with irregular stress, and accompanied by tatty tat music, reverberated inside the brain of the Lord of Dun Sóbrin like repeated strikes of dwarven blacksmithery--not that dwarves ever had labour problems or work stoppages. The words seemed punctuated like hammer blows upon an anvil. And Earnur, the Lord Etceteron, the very last of the very manly Manly Men, felt like the anvil. Misery!

These have been the sousings of the Manlyship Etceteron. His well-over-a-year-mission to seek out new beverages and abstain from them, to discover strange new forms of travesty with Merisuewyniel, to boldly go where Vinaigrettiel had not gone before ....

Although it was not a manly thing to do, Etceteron winced at the repetitions. He could not remember if it was the final beer or thoughts of Vinaigrettiel or his stay at the Houses of Bettifordeth which caused him to feel such pain. In search of the dull edge of courage, he fished around for his bottle of Old Rotgut and remembered giving it to Grrralph, who upon emptying it had rapidly gone where any reader worth his or her salt can imagine.

"Blimey, you sot," Earnur said to himself. "Now you've gone and done it. Drunk to the depths of Lethe or sunk or something daft punk like that." He hadn't the faintest idea what punk meant, as it was several ages down the road, turn left at the oak and then hang a right outside the middle of the Seventh Age, but he liked the sound of the word. He didn't think he had reached the depths of delirium, but it had been so long since he had drunk any considerable amount that the effects seemed ... considerable. Not since the screeching tyres of Vinaigrettiel's lamentable death and his lamentations thereof had he felt like this. Perhaps that is why he could hear her calling, calling him back again. Vinaigrettiel! His once and future girlfriend!

Earnur stood up in what can only be termed an approximation of upright stance. He shook his fist at his slanderous sword in one of the famous expressions of wordless sarcasm for which he held himself famously renown. He, Earnur, enobled noble and brazen warrior that he was, would not go before his time but only just before payment to the Taxman was due. Live long and prosper he always said. But this hour was indeed hard: Vinaigrettiel calling to him, in his state of O-can-I-drink-sake-I-can. Once, in the early hours of their relationship, she had tried the elven mind meld with him, but that thing with the fingers had been distracting and he had not been able to master it. But now here She was. Or, rather, she was, as she had renounced her role as She. And so Earnur began one of those famous conversations with himself, which can now be revealed in the pages of this book for the first time, where he gets to play several parts.

What are you doing thinking you would sail West?

Dunno. Seemed like a good idea at the time. It was good enough for Morriquendey of the Smithiels and Radiodhol. And like, there's Merisu and Pimpi and Leninia. And we'll have fun, fun, fun till Emu takes our shieldboards away.

This deserves to be discussed within the confines of heroic Muddled Mirth verse, especially the late-flowering epic style which The Entish quest typifies. Vinaigrettiel is not at Valleyum, waiting for you. She had forsaken the West when she pledged herself to you! Ungratefully, you have forgotten this and now she is correcting you, telling you you are not bound to the circles of the world, but that other bonds await you!

Oh right. This Old Age religious stuff with all the Big PoncyWords. I never could get through that book, whazzit called, The SmellyOnion. Why use lots of languages when one'll do?

Once this Muddle Mirth is overthrown in the Drag or Undrag Bath, you will be together again, but only if you don't sail west.

Gotcha. My thoughts must be harder now.

He hiccuped. Earnur was bound, but determined to think this through, although thinking was not necessarily his strong point. At first he couldn't see what the Prime Directive was. But this extra-sensual correction helped focus his mind wonderfully. He recalled one of his favourite Ortho Riddermarking songs and began to hum it: "She put the hurt on me," he sang. He belched a particularly strong belch and tasted the after effects. It was a rough trade, but he submitted to his fate. This brawn, he decided, was bound for glory. Wild meaeras couldn't tear them apart. Orcs maybe, but not wild meaeras.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Later, not wanting to be overthrown at the final test, he joined the Enterprising-Ship downstairs at Sethamir's. He made a handsome entrance even if he did say so himself, but it was wonderfully quiet. Nothing seemed to be going on and nobody seemed to want it to. Not after what had happened the night before. He spoke up in hopes of getting everyone's attention but they all scowled as if to say "SHHHHS.?"

"Flowerless is the grave of Vinaigrettiel."

"Sounds like a right sort of thing for a tart," retorted a muffled voice whose owner Earnur could not determine. It didn't sound like his flask talking this time, so he wondered if it could be his sword. But just in case, he retaliated.

"Be aware of whom you are castigating. I shall crack your knuckles faster than She could crack her whip! This is Merisuwyniel's Mother of whom I speak," replied Earnur. "Keep a civil tongue in your head or my butter knife will slice through your pate faster than you can spread a smile." Pleased with his witticisms, he could have continued in this vein had not another voice come to him. "Get on with it or you'll have me to answer to." Believing he recognised this voice, Earnur took a swig from his Flask of Eternal Refilling, which he swore was becoming as voluble as his sword ever had been. He began again.

"Flowerless is the grave of Vinaigrettiel and rootless the white tree I uprooted when I buried her. What ship would bear me across so wide a sea with such a garden untended as that?"

"Eh?" asked Kuruharan. "MeriSue has found us our ship."

"No, I don't mean what real ship. I mean, an existential ship. An Emuonic ideal."

"When I ask a question, it means exactly what I intend it to mean,?"said Vogonwe.

"You wish," retorted Soregum, willing to grab hold of any occasion to make himself look better than Pimpiowyn's boyfriend.

"As I was saying," intoned Etceteron, "It is time to drink the Cup of Farewell."

"I think we did enough drinking last night," piped up Gateskeeper.

"I have yet to finish shopping," moaned MeriSue, but in a most polite manner.

"Will you shut up and let me get on with it?" hollered Earnur, who slurped another swig from the flask.

"Get it on, by all means," answered Leninia winsomely.

"Cretins!" murmured Etcerton. "I've been surrounded by cretins all this time."

Earnur took yet another swig from his flask, for he was sure now each draught was beaming him closer to Vinnie. In fact, it tasted darn like Jim Beam, a not bad substitute for a Scottish elixir.

"I shall give you all gifts to remember me by for drink is flowing between us and you shall gain what I have lost."

"Did someone mention mathoms?" Pimpi asked.

Earnur groaned. This was turning out to be just as bitter a pill as other partings and he couldn't skip over it easy like as other authors had.

"To the Hair of Isildur I give this Brick that was Broken. I seem to have picked this up during our Seventh Age adventure. It has some runes on it but what Wovercot means I can't translate, unless it means 'Wictory over orcs.'" Orogorn Two grunted as he caught the relic Etceteron threw to him.

"To Gateskeeper who so loveth numbers I give this best of all numbers, its sound round but irregularly rhyming and its consonants pleasingly repeated: Forty-two." Gateskeeper looked up briefly from his ceyboarding and hurriedly typed in the magical number.

Now, the only members of the Soon-To-Be-Broken-Ship who had perked up their ears at the mention of receiving anything were the dragon Chrysophylax and the dwarf Kuruharan, who complimented Earnur's gentle words. Earnur was emboldened. "That no one call you grasping, let me reward your listening, that the both of you may preserve your hearing should you ever return to the smithies of your home. To you I give this golden ball of earwax."

Kuruharan was going to tell Earnur what he could do with such a gift, but MeriSue's gentle hand restrained him and her melodious voice requested The Lord of Dun Sóbrin to continue.

"Soregum, your fondness for the bottle has not gone unnoticed, and so to you I leave this bottle of Sparkling Crystal Waters. May it be a support to you in your thirst as it has supported mine." Soregum was ready to crack the bottle over Earnur's head, but once again our peerless if not perilous Shieldmaiden kept the peace.

"Leninia, my once possible dearest Leninia, whose acid tongue burned many a midnight oil with me, to you and to you alone I leave my talking sword, for you alone know how to keep his tongue in his cheek." Leninia was secretly ecstatic to receive so noble a gift, but, determined to stay in character, she thus sat nonchalantly blowing little puffs of air over her fingernails to dry her new manicure.

Pimpi, on the other hand, could not control her curiosity and began to tire of waiting for her mathom. Earnur turned to her and Vogonwe. "I shall suffer mild depression at leaving you, my dear half-Halfling." Vogonwe was ready to take offense at the wink which accompanied thus, but Pimpi held him down. "For the excellence with which you have followed this quest, I give to Pimpi my housecoat, my very best housecoat, and to Vogonwe, a very good cup of tea." Pimpi nearly choked, had Vogonwe not patted her solicitously on the back and murmured endearments about worrying not over canonicity and the bleeding of other books into this one. Who but Vogonwe could argue this best?

Finally, The Lord Etceteron turned to the last members of the Smaller-now-by-one-Ship. Grrralph had been stayin' alive, but barely so. Only one of his red glowing eyes could be seen. "In my stead, Wraith, you shall go and pass over the water without grief." And he gave to Grrralph the bottle of old Rotgut that had been broken the night before. There had always been a great deal of breakage wherever the Could Care Less Ship had been, and this was no little reminder of the indispensable aid they had always been. Grrralph knew he would be troubled by the memory of darkness only just a little from then on.

"Your hands are now empty, Lord Eceteron,"spoke MeriSue quietly.

"They are," he replied to the maiden he regarded as his stepdaughter. "Yet I leave you with the greatest gift of all. I acknowledge you MeriSuewyniel, daughter of Vinaigrettiel, and henceforth all ages shall know your name."

"That's it" That's all you leave me with?" she questioned, almost unbelievingly.

"It is more than other writers have left daughters with and if you appreciate it not, in later ages many others will thank me for this."

"I .. I ... I would have thought you would have left me with greater token of my mother."

"Ah, yes. I had a piece of her jewelry that I was going to leave with Cirkdan. He needed a cloaking device, he said. But when I went to hand it to him, a swan from the harbour walked up and pecked it and so it fell into the harbour. But don't worry. It could have been worse. You could have been a boy named Sue."

Silence fell over the room at Sethamir's. Something touched them deep inside, but it wasn't gratitude. More like disappointment. It was not quite the parting the Lord of Dun Sóbrin had been expecting. Nor what the others had imagined either. Bunch of self-indulgent narcissists, he murmured to himself.

"Well, of course I'd like to stay and chat. Of course I'd like to chew the fat. But I've got a date with destiny. I'm off," he said. "Those who are about to sail West, I salute you." And as Earnur departed, he no longer seemed perilous or terrible or even all that manly but as someone already left far behind.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

As with all journeys of heroic quests, Etceteron's return took fewer pages to cover than the setting out, especially since nothing more strenuous occurred than his constant recourse to the Flask that was Never Ending. In short, Earnur found himself back in Topfloorien in no time, and thence to the heart of the ancient emporium, to the Hotel sacred to him and Vinaigrettiel, the Roll and Toss, where their troth had been blighted.

And he dwelt there alone in the cold nights and partook of his Flask unfailingly, ever anxious to hold off despair. And the end of his days was utterly unknown for there came upon the hotell one night a huge flash of fire. It was said in after ages that the Lord of Dun Sóbrin had found a legendary end, one as highly wrought of fantasy as any subcreative faculty could imagine, for Earnur, the Lord Etceteron, went out like a flame, burning in the middle as well as both ends, combusting spontaneously one night and leaving behind nothing but blackened earth where grew no longer elanor and niphredil.

And who but the most obtuse reader could imagine unquiet slumbers for the Last Manly Man and his Vinaigrettiel when the Last Bath is drawn.

Last edited by Bêthberry; 10-06-2004 at 10:15 AM.
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Old 10-04-2004, 12:38 PM   #215
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While all this was going on, Kuruharan once again slipped off on yet another useless tangent. This was not his original intention, and it would turn out to be important later, so I guess it wasn’t entirely useless. It just didn’t make much sense at the time. Well, it still doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, but I digress.

Kuruharan had a natural desire to deposit his earnings in the bank. However, being a dwarf (and more than a little bit picky), he could not make a deposit in just any old bank. Thankfully, Khmun and Sons had a secret branch office in the Aquamarine Mountains right next door to Mithfortune.

By taking many wary and secret paths, Kuruharan and Chrysophylax managed to drag several enormous bags through the alleys of Mithfortune and only attract a small throng of onlookers. What happened to the onlookers is best left to the imagination. Suffice to say it was only dwarf and dragon who reached the secret entrance, knocked the secret knock, spoke the secret password, flashed the secret hand-signal, danced the secret dance, sang the secret song, pulled the secret lever, and kicked the secret door when all of the above failed to work.

“Chrysophylax,” said Kuruharan, “use your tail.”

Problem solved.

After the door was reduced to rubble, the pair shoved their bags into the hole.

“Wait here,” said Kuruharan, “I don’t want any repetitions of last time.”

So saying, the dwarf vanished in the darkness.

He dragged the bags along a rough and narrow passage for a considerable distance.

Without warning, the passage opened into a wide, colonnaded promenade overlooking a great plaza with a large fountain in the center. Kuruharan dragged his bags out of the tunnel and collapsed into a nearby couch, gasping for air. After collecting himself, Kuruharan looked about. There did not seem to be anyone else about, so he had to drag the bags along and down the stairs by himself. After more dragging and puffing, Kuruharan pulled his bags over to a large marble counter on the far side of the plaza. He stood there panting expectantly. Nobody came.

“Urrungh!” groaned Kuruharan. “Hello,” he shouted, “is anybody there?”

No reply.

Kuruharan reached into one of his bags and pulled out a single coin. He dropped it on the counter.

There was a noise deep beyond the closed door behind the counter. Kuruharan tucked the coin away as the sounds of footsteps and doors slamming neared him.

“WHERE IS IT?! WHERE IS IT?!” screeched a funny dwarf with a neon orange beard who came bursting out of the door. Catching sight of Kuruharan, the dwarf yelled, “JAIL BREAK!! JAIL BREAK!! Some of the money’s escaping!! Did you see anything?!”

Kuruharan cleared his throat to speak as the other dwarf dived under the counter.

“Sometimes it likes to tunnel out from underneath the floor!! Stomp will you!!”

Kuruharan reached over the counter and picked up the fiery dwarf.

“Stop that!” he said. “The money is not escaping!”

“I heard it!” cried the dwarf..

*SMACK* Kuruharan slapped him and plopped him on the floor.

“I’ve come to make a deposit and withdraw some articles from my safety deposit box,” Kuruharan announced.

“A deposit?” the other dwarf perked up mightily.

“Yes, I…” Kuruharan trailed off as he noticed that he had orange paint all over his hands. “Where did this come from?”

The other dwarf grabbed Kuruharan’s hand and started sniffing.

“A very good year!” he announced.

Kuruharan grabbed the other dwarf by his beard, but the beard was wet and the other dwarf easily pulled himself free.

“You’ve been painting your beard orange!” said Kuruharan

“Prevents baldness,” said the other dwarf.

“Hmm…I’ve got some stuff that prevents baldness, but never mind,” said Kuruharan. “About my deposit…”

“Deposit?!” yelped the other dwarf, springing up onto the counter like an overeager puppy with his eyes shining.

“Yeeeesss,” said Kuruharan. “I’d like to deposit these.”

“We don’t take bags here,” announced the painted dwarf importantly.

“Not the bags,” groaned Kuruharan. “What’s in the bags!” Kuruharan pulled open one of the bags and a mountain of coins poured out.

“MONEY!!!” shrieked the orange dwarf, diving into the pile.

“Stop that!” shouted Kuruharan. “You’re getting paint all over my coins!” Kuruharan grabbed the dwarf and tried to pull him out. “Stoppit!!”

Kuruharan dragged the dwarf out and tossed him over the counter.

“Just get the deposit slip,” said Kuruharan.

The orange dwarf handed over a slip and as Kuruharan filled it out, he stared down at the pile of money with all the intensity of The Thinker. After a moment, he pulled out a mallet and started sucking on it.

“Here you go,” said Kuruharan absently, without looking at the clerk. He glanced up.

“EEEKKKK!” he yelped, as the clerk turned around with the handle sticking rakishly out of his mouth.

“Oughsh hugh wawor?” said the clerk.

“Ah, hee hee erm,” stammered Kuruharan.

“Wuuclush cquan comen!” said the clerk.

Kuruharan reached forward and yanked the mallet out of the clerk’s mouth.

“Yeeouch!” cried the clerk.

“Why were you sucking on this mallet?” asked Kuruharan.

“It helps hold my gall bladder in place,” answered the clerk. “Want one?”

“No,” said Kuruharan. “Just get the money in the vault, tell it not to tunnel out in the middle of the night, give me my receipt, and let me have my safety deposit box, if you please.”

“Ahhh,” said the clerk. “That’s the trick isn’t it!” He looked carefully around to make sure that nobody was listening. He motioned Kuruharan closer. “That’ll be very…very dangerous because…” the clerk suddenly spun around and kicked the wall.

“GOTCHA!!” he cried in triumph. “Listenin’ in were ye!!”

“Let me guess,” said Kuruharan, “the walls have ears.”

“GASP!” gasped the clerk. “The skwerls told you too?!!”

“Evidently,” moaned Kuruharan.

“Then I can trust you,” the clerk leaned forward. “It’s the safety deposit boxes…they’re in cahoots with the green chicken gizzards!”

“You don’t say!” hissed Kuruharan. He looked over his shoulder. It was an awfully long way back to the surface, and there was no other bank this side of Beer.

“Hurry,” Kuruharan said. “You have to get my money into the vault before the flying gerbils of doom drop their coconuts upon us!”

“Right away,” said the clerk as he dragged the bags over the counter and back through the door.

“Give me my safety deposit box!” said Kuruharan, almost as an afterthought. “I’ll conduct a thorough interrogation and make it tell all it knows about the migrations of pooka-dotted ninja grasshoppers.”

“Here you go,” puffed the clerk as he came running back. He handed over the box. Then he leaned forward again.

“And always remember,” the clerk whispered as he pulled an awl out of his pants. He stuck the handle into his mouth, “Ouyghc, ouuggh wwwoic!”

“Right back at ‘cha!” said Kuruharan as he started to run across the plaza.

He stopped.

“By the way,” he said, “how did you get to be a banker?”

“King Gain Lotsomoola is my uncle-cousin four times removed-brother-sister-in-law,” replied the clerk.

“Figures,” said Kuruharan as he ran back up the stairs and darted into the tunnel.

“Phew,” he said as he stopped for a moment. He opened the box and pulled two small bundles out. He tucked the bundles in his robes and tossed the safety deposit box on the floor and walked off.

“We’ll show them some day!” thought the deposit box as it lay on the ground alone and neglected. “I have friends who won’t let me be mistreated like this anymore! The Lord High Toaster has promised! Someday all aardvarks and sprockets shall live as one!”
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Old 10-05-2004, 07:09 AM   #216
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Estelyn Telcontar has reached the Cracks of Doom and destroyed the Ring!Estelyn Telcontar has reached the Cracks of Doom and destroyed the Ring!Estelyn Telcontar has reached the Cracks of Doom and destroyed the Ring!Estelyn Telcontar has reached the Cracks of Doom and destroyed the Ring!Estelyn Telcontar has reached the Cracks of Doom and destroyed the Ring!Estelyn Telcontar has reached the Cracks of Doom and destroyed the Ring!Estelyn Telcontar has reached the Cracks of Doom and destroyed the Ring!Estelyn Telcontar has reached the Cracks of Doom and destroyed the Ring!Estelyn Telcontar has reached the Cracks of Doom and destroyed the Ring!Estelyn Telcontar has reached the Cracks of Doom and destroyed the Ring!
Sethamir’s was a beehive of activity on this day, the Sail-for-Sale-Ship’s last on these shores. Each member was busy preparing for the journey in his/her/its own manner. They realized that a journey to the end of the world was not just one of your run-of-the-mill There-and-Back-Again hobbit boating parties. Would they find the Straight-Jacket Way of which the old legends told? So many had gone mad searching for it. And if they reached Valleyum, would they be able to return afterwards? None knew, yet they prepared without hesitating: some recklessly, caring not about future risks; some bravely, despite their knowledge of the potential dangers facing them; and some ignorantly, not having stopped to think about the consequences of their foolhardiness.

Merisuwyniel had revelled in the last opportunity to seek out the Elven shops in Mithfortune. She saw many beautiful things which she would have liked to possess, but considering how few of her precious coins were left after advance payment of their passage (and how little baggage they were allowed to take on board), she hesitated. Then, assuming that Muddled-Mirth coinage would not be needed in Valleyum, she recklessly splurged, buying a lovely new blouse – ruffled, as always, since she was, as always, unruffled. It was made of a shimmering material and had the colour of a pale pink rose, which set off her golden locks and violet eyes to great advantage. She managed to convince herself that it was a necessary purchase, in order to appear appropriately attired before the Velour.

At the next shop, a music store, she found a booklet called “101 Favourite Mournful Melodies for the Hâr-mónicä”. It contained such perennial hits as:

Sittin’ On the Dock of the Pay Havens
500 Leagues (Away from HoME)
Hang Down Your Head, Tom Bomby

and many more…

That was certainly a good investment for a long cruise, especially as her companions had given her to understand in no uncertain terms that they did not want to hear ‘that Western tune’ ever again.

When she returned to Sethamir’s, she found Orogarn Two struggling with a long, narrow package. Courteously opening the door for him, she inquired, “What did you purchase, Orogarn?”

“Two,” he replied.

“I see only one package,” Merisu answered, puzzled. He sighed in exasperation, realizing that her female curiosity had gotten the upper hand over her usual polite attentiveness to such details as name suffixes, and said, “It’s an Umbar-Élar.”

“An umbrella?” she asked.

“Umbar-Élar,” he corrected. “It’s a portable precipitation protection which can be opened in times of need.”

“I saw those in the Mire,” she said enthusiastically. “They really need them there, what with the terrible rain they have; but they called them ‘umbrellas’. I suppose they must have corrupt- um, adapted the original name to their own language. But why are you taking one along on our journey? Do you not remember the words of the Wise, who said: ‘It never rains in Valley-Fornya’?”

“I’m not taking it along,” he mumbled. “I’m sending it to my father.”

Merisu had met his father, and at the thought of the incongruity of the Proctor of Grundor carrying an umbrella, she almost burst into peals of her silvery, melodious laughter. Her kind heart stopped her just in time; she knew how eager Orogarn was to find something that would finally please his fastidious father. Thankful, not for the first time, that she could share her amusement silently with the Entish Bow on her back, she thought, LOL! Just imagine! Denimthor the Stewed carrying an umbrella, my dear! Isn’t it delicious!

;D Most astonishing wonderful! came the mirthful answer.

What she actually said was: “Oh, that reminds me – I want to write a postcard before we leave. I’d better get that done now.” With those words, she vanished into her room to pen a brief “Wish you were here” missive to Roneld at the Hidden Valley Ranch. Somehow it just didn’t seem right to her that she was leaving her foster father behind when departing from Muddled-Mirth. Now that Earnur, her deceased mother’s once-and-future beloved, was leaving the DiminishingShip, she felt quite fatherless and shed a brief tear. (It glistened most becomingly on her cheek and left her lovely Elven eyes unreddened, of course.) However, the excitement of preparing for the journey soon drove sad thoughts from her mind.

As she checked to see if her bags were packed so as to prevent the creasing of the garments contained therein, she found herself singing a little Elven ditty that was currently in the Top Ten and consequently playing everywhere at all times:

O! What are you doing,
And where are you questing?
The Loyers are sueing,
And you need a resting!
O! tra-la-la-lavens
Here down in the Havens!

O! What are you seeking,
And what do you carry?
The Entwood is creaking,
It’s time to make merry!
O! tril-lil-lil-lolly
The Havens are jolly,
Ha! Ha!

O! Where are you going,
With locks all a-flowing?
No knowing, no knowing
Why eyes are a-glowing,
What brings a shieldmaiden
Down into the Havens
At noon.
Ha! Ha!

O! Will you be staying,
Or will you be sailing?
Your horses are neighing!
The daylight is failing!

To sail would be folly,
To stay would be jolly
And listen and rest
Till the end of the Quest
To our tune -
Ha! Ha!

So she laughed and sang in the Inn; and pretty fair nonsense I daresay you think it. Not that she would care; she would only laugh all the more if you told her so. For she was an Elvish shieldmaiden!

Last edited by Estelyn Telcontar; 10-07-2004 at 06:15 AM.
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Old 10-14-2004, 10:21 AM   #217
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Grrralph wandered through black and empty places as he slumbered. The best efforts of the Itship, which included prodding him with a sword, splashing him with cold water, exposing him to Chrysophylax's heady breath and beating him with clubs, sticks and a mace, failed to rouse him. Ever quick on the uptake, the members of the Itship realized that this was no normal sleep and, grudgingly, dragged him about wherever they went.

Grrralph himself had little awareness of what was happening. Indeed, he had no awareness at all, at least until he began to dream.

He dreamed he was in an Elvenwood musical,
and that he was the star of that musical.
That really blew his mind,
that he, a long-legged, black-cloaked, leaping wraith
was the star of an Elvenwoog musical.

But there he was,
he was taken to a place,
the hall of the Mountain King.
He stood high on the mountain top,
cloaked before the world,
in front of every type of Zerl.

There was black ones, brown ones,
big ones, round ones,
short ones, long ones,
pink ones, fat ones.

Out of the middle,
there came a Zerly.
And she whispered in his ear,
something crazy.
She said:

"Well, what shall we do with him?" And another Zerl approached him and answered, somewhat reluctantly. "I suppose we should should restore him. After all, he did break the curse..."

The first Zerl looked carefully at the wraith, then sniffed. "I suppose he did. What was it? Oh yes:

'You've been traded to me,
for fair compensation.
For a reasonable fee,
you'll join our dark nation.

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

They'll weigh on your mind,
they ain't going away soon,
until potion you find,
made from light of the moon.'"

The second Zerl nodded. "Rather nasty, but that Sourone did turn out to be rather a bad egg. So he drank that bottle of moonshine and the curse is broken. I guess we take him back."

And Grrralph thought to himself,

What could this mean?
Am I going crazy or is this just a dream.
Now wait a minute.
I know I'm lying in a field of grass somewhere,
so it's all in my head,
but then he heard the Zerl say

"But what about all the horrible things he did during the War of the Thing?" The second Zerl answered, "Well, he was under the curse and in Sourone's power. And he was traded to Sourone for a minor leaguer and compensation to be named later if I recall."

The first Zerl scowled. "Yeah, we got a musty old Barrow-Wight and some old rusty shields..." The second Zerl nodded. "A deal's a deal. So we restore him?" The first Zerl scowled again. "I guess we do. You're right. A deal's a deal and the curse is broken..."

Grrralph could feel hot flames of fire roaring at his back,
as the Zerl disappeared,
but soon she returned.
In her hand was a bottle of wine
and in the other a glass.
She poured some of the wine into the glass,
and raised it to her lips,
and just before she drank it, she said:

"A deal's a deal. Darned Loyers. I sometimes wish we could just round them all up and.... never mind." She snapped her fingers with a sound like a clap of thunder, and Grrralph fell back into blackness. But even as he lost what little consciousness he had, he heard the Zerl's final words. "It'll take a little while to set in. Just what the world needs. Another..." And he heard no more...
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Old 10-17-2004, 12:39 AM   #218
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There comes a time in every tale when a ship must be boarded. This ship can be a real vessel made of wood, or steel, or canvas, or bark, or inflatable rubber, and can be launched into real water, salty or fresh. Or, it can be a metaphorical ship launching into metaphysical waters, destined for metacercaria lands and metacestode adventures of metabolic magnitude. It could also be the result of searching the text of a tale to find the words “board” and “ship”, not necessarily in relation to each other, but contained in the same manuscript as a code which proves Mary of Magdala was the wife of Jesus Christ and bore him a son. Or daughter, depending on how many times the words “board” and “ship” appear and whether “boarded”, “boarding”, “boat”, “canoe” and “rubber dinghy” also appear in said tale.

But I digress.

In Muddled-Mirth, the Itship knew naught of such things, and if you said “Mary of Magdala” they would politely (or rudely, as the case may be) correct your spelling and point you in the direction of Merisuwyniel, who is from Topfloorien but was raised at the Elven Farm, not Magdala, you silly, strangely dressed human. And yet, even unknowingly, they were poised to fulfil the Great Rule that stateth a ship must be boardeth if the tale is worth two shakes of salt on a snail’s tail.

Last minute preparations, departures, and hysterics out of the way, the portentously named Itship headed dutifully out to board the ship.

Vogonwë paused a moment on the gangplank and looked back out over the Pay Havens. “I have passed hundreds of years upon the shores of Muddled-Mirth,” he said wistfully, “and though I am still a young half-elf in the reckoning of my people, I feel a great weight upon my heart and weariness of spirit as I look my last upon the land I have known for so long. Ah, ’Mirth, what joyous poems thou hast inspired, what countless wonders thou hast shown me in my time, what heterogeneous peoples thou hast suckled upon they motherly breast, what… what is it, Pimpi my dear?”

Pimpi stopped poking him in the ribs and said, “The others are waiting, can you do this from the ship as we sail away?”

He sighed. “You’re awfully eager to leave. Does not your heart tremble at the thought of forsaking the home of your youth and departing to the lands of the immortals?”

“If it doesn’t scare Meri, it doesn’t scare me,” Pimpi declared pluckily.

“But Merisuwyniel is immortal,” he pointed out.

She blinked her big blue eyes and asked, “Your point?”

He assumed his most Elven expression and pose, replying loftily, “I only wonder if you realize what you are getting into, a mere quaterling, sailing to the realm of the Velour, eldest and wisest of beings.”

She poked him in the stomach and shoved him up the gangplank with a firm heels-of-hands-to-pectoral-region maneuver, “Oh, pshaw, you’re the one who’s scared. Quit acting like an old gaffer and get onboard before the others leave us behind.”

“I fear neither Velour nor Valleyum,” Vogonwë said with as much dignity as he could salvage while tripping backwards up the plank. “Though I would like a reminder of why we are doing this in the first place.”

“I can’t remember why Merisu and the rest are going, frankly, I haven’t been paying close enough attention,” Pimpi shrugged. “But we’re going because of our unique special differences; you are going to entreat the Velour to allow me to stay with you in Never-Never Land despite the fact that I’m a ‘mere quarterling’ of wholly mortal descent.”

“Valleyum,” Vogonwë corrected. Then he sighed, “I love it when you say ‘unique special differences’.”

“I know.”

“That reminds me,” he mused as they finally got to the top of the ridiculously long gangplank and stood upon the deck of the ship, “whilst the others made their last minute preparations, I devoted my time to composing a fitting farewell to our friend, Lord Etceteron. It seemed wrong that he should leave, bestowing upon us gifts, and receive no tribute or token of esteem from us in return.”

He paused, awaiting a response, and when he got none he looked around. Pimpi was nowhere to be seen, and indeed, the entirety of the remaining Itship was likewise removed from his near vicinity. But in their stead stood many innocent sailors, readying the ship for setting and unawares of the ill about to befall them. Vogonwë, satisfied that he had an audience of sorts, cleared his throat and turned toward the shore. It mattered little to him that the sailors knew naught of Lord Earnur Etceteron, He Who Liked Vogonwë’s Poetry Till He Got Sober, since the object of the tribute wasn’t even around and that wasn’t really the point. There really wasn’t a point, which is very much in keeping with the events thus far.

“Ahem,” he intoned, “I will now speak a special work which I have written, titled ‘Lord Earnur the Fairish’, an epic haiku for two voices. I will be supplying both voices.”

A deckhand spit enthusiastically over the side of the rail, thus providing a prelude to Vogonwë’s great experimental endeavor.

His name is Earnur
Lord Etceteron, call him
Of Dun Sobrin, see

His grand demeanor
And dark manly eyebrows
Where envious to behold

He liked to kill orcs
And lollygaggers and such
With his mighty blade

Long he rode with us
Then he kind of up and left
We’ll miss him, I guess

Well I remember
The first time I met the man
By Bovine Fountain

His horse, Baklava
Was black and shiny, and sneered
At me, and was rude

But Earnur was a
Jolly good fellow, he was
A poet like me

We had adventures
Which I wrote about, in my
Lay of the Ent Bow

And then we rested
In the Wight City a while
Until the fire

When adventure called
Earnur was one of the first
To call back loudly

He was hasty
Ah but we liked him for it
Red wine and red blood

Flowed in his red veins
And so I hope that wherever
He goes he will not

Drink himself to death
Or anything bad like that
Farewell E. old chap

Several loud splashes signaled that at least on third of the ship’s crew had abandoned ship and were at that very moment swimming to shore. One man committed hara-kiri right on the deck and made an awful mess which detained enough of the compulsive obsessive neat freaks to stay aboard and clean it up. Vogonwë, oblivious to the chaos, settled down to breathe in the salty ocean air and watch the shores of Muddled-Mirth shrink.

Merisu and the rest of the remaining Itship, such as they were, came up onto the deck after a time and joined him at the rail to wave a fond goodbye to their homeland.

“I say…” Soregum said presently, looking around, “we seem to be missing someone. Don’t tell me the young hobbit lass decided to stay home?”

“What?” Vogonwë said stupidly.

“What?” Soregum echoed. “Surely you, her… um… intended,” he forced the word out, “know her whereabouts?”

“Last I saw she was boarding the ship with me,” Vogonwë said. “Just as I got onboard, I looked about and she had disappeared.”

“And you didn’t think to look for her?” Soregum stared at him in disbelief.

Vogonwë frowned. “She often disappears when I am about to recite a poem.”

“But think,” Soregum peered between the spindles in the rail, down at the water, “what if she slipped off the gangplank and fell into the water and drowned? What if she thought she forgot something on shore and ran back to get it and the ship launched before she returned? What if a suspicious seafaring type kidnapped her attractive young personage with intent to ravish? Hmmmmm? With a clueless boyfriend such as yourself standing by spouting poetry any number of things could have happened!”

Vogonwë had listened to this tirade with increasing alarm. At first he was inclined to tell the hobbit where he could shove it, but as the possibilities of Pimpish doom rolled off the smoke-stained tongue he fell into agitated pacing and finally, when Soregum was spent and panting against the spindles, the half-elf snapped.

“Oh my Eru,” he cried, tearing at his long silky brown hair, “what have I done? I must go back and find her!”

Merisu, who had observed the testosterone charged dramatics with typical unruffled patience, was about to speak a calming word when Vogonwë abandoned all reason and took a flying leap over the railing. So ruffled was he that he didn’t bother to add any airborn gymnastics to his dive, and indeed was so frazzled that instead of slicing into the water he bellyflopped with a sickening smack. Yet he doggedly paddled on toward shore, not hearing Merisu’s cries of, “But I saw her in the mess hall!” through the water in his ears.

“Well this isn’t good,” Merisu said, watching his flailing body tossed about by the waves.

Orogarn Two looked at her curiously, “Why?”

“Pimpi will be very upset when she finds out Vogonwë swam back to shore.”

“I would be more than willing to comfort her,” Soregum volunteered.

“Can I have his hair kit?” inquired Leninia.

“Perhaps there is a rowboat the young lass can row back to shore,” the Gateskeeper suggested. “If the loss of Vogonwë really troubles her that much….”

Merisu made a quick decision, as was her wont. “Someone must go get Pimpi and let her decide what she wishes to do about this.”

Just as Soregum volunteered to go fetch Pimpiowyn, they were interrupted by shouts and screams from the crew. They turned and looked where the sailors pointed, seeing a massive beast flying above the waters.

“What are they screaming about? It’s only Chrysophylax,” Leninia yawned.

“Oh!” Merisu looked stricken for a moment. “Kuruharan and Chrysi! We left them behind!” For a moment she teetered on the ruffled edge of decomposure, but heroically drew herself back at the last minute and said, “Well it is a good Chrysi is here. He can fetch Vogonwë back for us.”

Even as she spoke the dwarf and his dragon were zeroing in on their target, and in a moment Chrysophylax plucked from the waters a very wet and angry half-elf. The dragon flew on toward the ship and landed gracefully on the deck, ignoring the panicked cries and runnings to and fro of the ship’s crew. Vogonwë, deposited in a dripping heap on a coil of ropes, sputtered, “But I must find Pimpi!”

“Calm down,” Merisu said with the merest tinge of impatience. “She is aboard the ship, as I tried to tell you before. I saw her not a few moments ago, becoming acquainted with the cook.”

“What?!?” Vogonwë shook his head, sending driplets every which way. “You said she was lost!” he pointed an accusatory finger at Soregum.

Soregum shrugged, looking more than a little disappointed. “I was merely speculating….”

“This is all fascinating,” Kuruharan commented, sounding distinctly unimpressed. “What I want to know, is why when I arrived at the docks, surprise! No ship! Now if I didn’t know better, I’d say—”

“I am so sorry,” Merisu said with genuine penitence, as she was never anything but genuine. “But what with preparations and all, I did not have time to take a head count. If I had noticed you were gone, I would have made the captain wait, I assure you.”

Chrysophylax muttered something about overlooking the absence of a dwarf being one thing, and forgetting about a dragon being quite another, but it was difficult—nay, impossible—to stay miffed with Merisu for long, and so she soon had them eating out of her hand. But, since all she had had in her pockets were a couple biscuits and that was hardly enough to satisfy a dwarf and dragon, they all decided that it was high time they joined Pimpi in chumming it up with the ship’s cook. And so the Itship made their way down to the mess hall.

That is, save for Grrralph, who, as we all know, is most certainly not going to wake up before reaching Valleyum.
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Old 10-17-2004, 09:22 PM   #219
Fair and Cold
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Leninia watched the proceedings on the ship, chewing on her claws, an unseemly habit she had picked up since de-glamourizing her existence and falling in with the GettingThereBitByBitship.

"Designer nails are better food than anything served on this floating funny farm," she snapped when Pimpi gave her a look of outmost horror.

I can't seem to be able to say anything clever, Leninia mused, as Pimpi turned away in terror. Alliteration only takes you so far, even lumberjacks that have their poetry published in cheap anthologies meant to rip off the gullible public (ha, they're even better at it than I was once upon a time) know that. Am I losing my touch? Have I been watching too much cable? What's going to happen to me in the Not Entirely Great (But Kinda Fabulous) Beyond?

Perhaps the answer to Leninia's woes could have been found in the fact that her life was being recorded by an irresponsible, tired, slightly mentally ill, more than a little neurotic college student, who was currently cornered by midterms and brainwashed by corporate culture into freaking out over the fact that she doesn't own the "right" pair of boots this season. If such a thing were possible, that is.

Unable as she was to find a cure for her present, most peculiar condition, Leninia finished feasting on Chan-hell nail varnish, and wandered onto [insert informed-sounding part of the ship; something that Leninia couldn't be bothered to remember] to enjoy the stale sea air.

The wind played with her hair like a bored playboy plays with the affections of the sweetly bland girl-next-door in a formulaic movie with a cheap script. She slapped at the wind, and the wind stuck its tail between its legs and left. She thought about John Lemmon, and blew him sea-foamy kisses, wherever he was. Though certainly, she thought, she would have never had as many (mis)-adventures had she not driven even her favourite husband to suicide.

Ah the strange fortune of the perpetually obscure anti-heroines! To be young, beautiful, ill-tempered and long-clawed, and not be killed off halfway into the story was something new in the history of "literature."

She felt life coursing through her veins (or was it the contents of her eternal hip-flask?) and she welcomed the feeling with the same hesitancy that one would welcome another one of Vogie's masterpieces, but, just like the afore-mentioned masterpiece, the whole thing was inevitable.

I'm going to be Ok over there, she thought, looking out toward the horizon and reflecting on all she had already survived, Vogie's ministrations, Orogarn Two's misplaced values, and stiff competition in the hair department from Merisu in particular. And if not, the Plāiböi Māñcion is hiring
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Old 10-20-2004, 02:18 PM   #220
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Kuruharan is battling Black Riders on Weathertop.Kuruharan is battling Black Riders on Weathertop.Kuruharan is battling Black Riders on Weathertop.

“Ah, the Sea! This is what life as an Elf is really all about!” thought Merisuwyniel to herself as she sat on the bow of the Entish Surprise and giggled merrily to herself as she watched the crew use Grralph as a handy mop. Vogonwë fell down from the crow’s nest (where he’d been trying to find some seagull named Livingston) and hit the deck with a mighty *splat.* The crew thought the half-elf was a particularly stubborn stain and furiously scrubbed at him with Grralph.

Merisuwyniel turned and watched the sea rocking and pitching beneath her. “Yes, this is the life,” she thought to herself, ignoring the sound of retching as Soregum heaved up his breakfast, midnight snack, last night’s second dinner, last night’s first dinner, and his afternoon snack.

A commotion erupted behind her as Kuruharan burst on deck. Being at sea had wrought the strangest transformation in the dwarf. No more was he the scheming landlubberly merchant. Now he had adopted the persona of a scallywag in a schooner to the hilt. He’d set aside the traditional layered robes of a dwarven magnate and was dressed in baggy sailor’s trousers, a stout blue overcoat of broadcloth with gold buttons, and a silly laced and feathered hat. To make matters worse, he’d strapped a peg-leg to himself and now hobbled and staggered about the ship making a terrible ruckus and addressing everybody as “AAAARRRRRR” at the top of his voice.

It was this new Kuruharan who now shot out of the stern cabins, reeled across the deck, and crashed into the mainmast. The crew started to chuckle.

“AARRRR!!!” bawled Kuruharan, as he righted himself with the aid of the mast. He weaved his way to where Soregum was making his offerings to the Sea. Unfortunately, he tripped and flopped right into Soregum, knocking the poor chap over the rail and screeching into the drink.

The crew burst into uncontrolled spasms of laughter.

Ignoring the fact that Soregum now bobbed helplessly in the water below, Kuruharan clattered his way up the stairs over to where Merisuwyniel sat.

“ARRRRRRR, lassie!!!” he bellowed.

“Uhhh…good morning,” she replied. “Don’t you think somebody should throw Soregum a line, or something.”

“I know not what swill ye’ve been…whoops!!!” howled the dwarf as he lost his balance again and fell into a nearby barrel.

Pimpi came out of the galley munching on an apple. She saw Soregum’s predicament and, deciding that competition was a good thing as far as Vogonwë was concerned, tossed him a line. Soregum dragged himself out of the water to the unrestrained chortling of the crew.

“Never mind,” called Merisuwyniel over the crashing noises Kuruharan was making in his barrel.

Merisuwyniel gazed back out over the ocean and took a deep breath of the sea air. (The crew stopped laughing to gape at her.) She could have stayed happily perched there until The End, but the plot intervened again (or maybe I should say, for once).

Shouts and thumps started coming from below deck. Peeved at the distraction, Merisuwyniel turned to see what was causing all the fuss. Someone kicked a door open and a knot of struggling crewmembers emerged, holding something that thrashed fiercely about in their grasp.

“A STOWAWAY! A STOWAWAY!” the crew shouted to each other. “Someone call the cap’n!”

At that moment Kuruharan knocked over his barrel, tumbled out, rolled across the deck, fell over the ledge, and landed in a pitiful heap at the foot of the steps leading up to the forecastle. “Make ‘em walk the plank and hang ‘em from the y-AAARRRR-d AAARRRRR-m!!” he yelled in a most contradictory (and annoying) fashion.

The captain and his officers emerged on deck.

“What…do…WE have…here?” the captain asked. He turned to his elven navigator. “Mister Neemoi…analysis.”

The elf, who had very straight black hair, stepped forward and peered at the whatever-it was the sailors were holding.

“Curious,” the elf said, almost to himself. “It seems to be some sort of giant rat!”

“Villain, Poltroon!!” shrilled a voice. “Tell your ill-bred ruffians to loose hold of me and give me my sword! I’ll cut the lot of you to ribbons!!”

“It seems to be a talking rat,” observed Dr. Macaw.

“Yes, doctor,” replied Neemoi in a tone that had the faint ordure of condescension. “I have heard of such things before.”

“What…SHOULD …we…do…with him?” interrupted the captain.

“Blast it Dim,” squawked Dr. Macaw, “I’m a doctor, not a practitioner of jurisprudence!”

“I am a mouse, not a rat, rapscallion!” shrilled a voice. “And if you fail to unhand me this very instant, I shan’t be responsible for the consequences!”

Something about this voice seemed vaguely familiar to Merisuwyniel. She climbed down the steps to the deck (making sure to stomp on Kuruharan on her way over) to have a look at this stowaway.

What she saw was a mouse that would have been almost two feet tall had he been standing, His fur was black and he wore a band of gold about his head through which was stuck a crimson feather (at the moment it was a little worse for wear).

“Why, it’s Grim Reaperneep!” she cried.

Upon seeing her, the mouse bit right through the hand of one of his captors and sprung free.

“Most Noble Lady,” the mouse piped as he knelt at her feet. “After seeing you I could not continue in this mortal coil if I failed to place my sword at your unending disposal. In pursuance of this great goal, I…ahem…gained passage on this vessel to pledge myself to your service.

Every head snapped around to stare at Merisuwyniel. Other maidens might have been abashed at this, but Merisuwyniel secretly lived for these moments so she blushed just enough to make herself more attractive before responding.

“We would be honored to have your blade Seigneur Mouse!” she declared grandly. “All aid is appreciated in our Quest to Reunify the Entish Bow.”

*BONG* goes a sudden realization.

“Uhhh, Pimpi, my dear,” Merisuwyniel gently intoned, as she grabbed the quarterling in a grip of steel. “You did remember to load our special wagon on board, didn’t you.”

“I’m not a porter,” came the incensed reply.

“Gateskeeper,” Merisuwyniel hissed.

“What wagon?” he asked.


“I had an ode to compose!”






“As if…”


The dragon was out of earshot.

“TURN THE SHIP AROUND!!!!” screamed Merisuwyniel.

“But…” said the captain.

Merisuwyniel grabbed him by the throat. “TURN THE SHIP AROUND!!!”

They made remarkably good time and were back in Mithfortune later that afternoon. There on the pier sat the Ent that Was Broken, mocking them.

*Whew* sighed Merisuwyniel when she saw the Ent and heard its taunts. “That would have been embarrassing to show up in Valleyum with no Ent!”

After the Ent was safely contained in the hold, they set sail again.

“Now, to the Uttermost West and the End of the World!” cried a joyous Merisuwyniel as she watched the shore vanish to the rear.

“The end of the world is in the East,” said Reaperneep.

“What?” said Cirkdan. “That…IS…nonsense. The…End…lies to…the…West. I…HAVE…been…there.”

“What ca-ca!” shrilled Reaperneep. He turned to Merisuwyniel. “Is our noble quest destined to fail because of the addled ravings of a sea-borne lunatic? We must sail East!!!”

“Ugh!” snapped the captain. “Mister Neemoi…explain…to…him.”

The elf stepped forward.

“It is not logical that we should sail east, the land we just departed from lies to the east. If we sail east we’d run aground!” Neemoi stated.

“A minor problem!” cried Reaperneep. “Are we to be so easily defeated by such a trifling thing?”

“Err…” said Merisuwyniel.

“Claws,” said Cirkdan, “do…something.”

“Blast it Dim,” squawked Macaw, “I’m a doctor, not a navigator! That’s the Elf’s job!”

“Where’s…Tottie…our…engineer?” called the captain.

“Bombed out of his mind,” replied Neemoi.

“Oh good, another one,” thought Merisuwyniel. Out loud she said, “Gentlemen and et cetera, this quarreling cannot get us anywhere.”

“East,” cried Reaperneep.

“West,” snapped Neemoi.

“There must be something we can do to settle this,” Merisuwyniel shouted.

“West,” said Neemoi firmly.

“East,” said Reaperneep as he drew his sword.

“Perhaps we could go north,” Pimpi piped in. “That way both of you will get to go in half the direction you want.”

“You can’t sail in half the direction you want to go,” said Neemoi. “It’s not logical! You won’t get where you want to go!”

Reaperneep’s sword glinted.

“Uhh, maybe we had better go north,” said Merisuwyniel uneasily. She wanted to avoid adding to the Gallowship’s already impressive body count and there was something in the distant past about her people about arriving from Valleyum from the north. Unlikely as it was it seemed the only workable compromise.

“Very…well,” said Cirkdan. “North…”

“AAARRR,” bellowed Kuruharan as he lurched off. Unfortunately, he tripped and flopped right into Soregum, knocking the poor chap over the rail and screeching into the drink.

The crew burst into uncontrolled spasms of laughter.

And so, here is our Quest, heroically embarked upon an attempt to save the world, sailing in a direction none of them think will take them where they are going.
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Old 10-30-2004, 05:49 PM   #221
Estelyn Telcontar
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Merisuwyniel sat in the captain’s office, studying the sea charts as she had so often done during the past days. The first officer, Mister Neemoi, sat beside her, watching her with his usual impassive expression. Strangely, that emotionless face had inspired many females in the past to seek to awaken emotion in him, yet he had remained steadfast in his logical outlook on life, the universe, and everything. Even now, in the presence of a young and gorgeous Elven maiden, it was impossible to see what he thought of her, if he was thinking of her at all. He had explained some points of nautical navigation to her, pleased (quite logically) with her ready intellect and quick grasp of facts.

“So in going north, we are now approaching the island of Angol,” she said questioningly. He nodded in affirmation. “If we stop there, perhaps even go on land, and then sail on, we could change the direction without drawing Reaperneep’s attention to that, don’t you think?”

“That would seem likely,” he answered.

“It is a land famous in legends of old,” Merisu mused. “It is said that there are marvellous jesters there and tellers of great tales.” …and fabulous fashions, she added to herself, not wanting to speak aloud of something that would seem frivolous and superficial to the male Elf.

“I gather that you intend to go ashore,” Neemoi said, lifting one eyebrow. “I must warn you that none of our crew have done so for many years; we do not know if it is safe there. Therefore, I presume that all of our senior officers will want to go with you. Our captain never misses a chance to take risks.”

“I will inform my companions, offering them the choice; those who wish can come along. Yet we should not tarry too long; we have lost precious time already.” Merisuwyniel curtseyed prettily and left the room; the door swung open for her as if moved by magic. Then again, it might have been Elven technology that only seems like magic to us…

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

After what had been a rather boring shore leave (Angol didn’t have a reputation like the vacation paradise of Risa), Merisu, her companions, and those of the ship’s crew who had formed the landing party boarded the little boat that was to take them back to their ship. Dr. Macaw had flown onto his favourite perch on Merisu’s shoulder, where he had a good view – err, was able to monitor the regularity of her heartbeat. The captain had not shown up, so a search party was sent out and eventually found him pulling on his boots after what he called ‘negotiations’ with a female tribal leader.

Pimpiowyn and Vogonwë had spent time wandering in a forest that reminded him of his home and inspired several new poetic creations. Fortunately for the rest of the group, he was too busy planning how to unite them into one large epic to be able to recite any parts to an unwilling audience. A picturesque river had been his particular joy, and he thought to name himself after it. “The Bard of Avon” sounded good, he thought, and Pimpi had agreed somewhat absentmindedly.

Reaperneep had insisted on accompanying Merisu “to protect her from harm”. It had taken all of her diplomatic skill to keep him from duelling with a number of the natives, since he had considered their natural curiosity and interest in her beauty a personal affront. She was rather relieved that they were going back on board, hoping that he would stay out of trouble there. Kuruharan’s pockets were bulging more than they had when he left the ship; whether he had bought new wares or sold the natives something for an exorbitant price was anyone’s guess, and Merisu did not intend to ask him about it. Chryshophylax had flown over the island, but after several unpleasant encounters with knights and farmers who had such outlandish names as George and Giles (not to mention swords of great brightness and lineage), he returned to the ship earlier than the others.

Soregum, Leninia, and Gateskeeper had stayed on the ship, ostensibly to watch over the still sleeping Grrralph, but each of them actually wishing to keep a low profile for reasons of their own. Mister Neemoi had also remained on board, since the Captain had insisted on going ashore. It was illogical for both of the highest-ranking officers to leave the vessel, he argued.

(Pimpi had teased Merisu about the first officer, misinterpreting the amount of time they spent together as personal interest. She felt sorry for her idol’s loneliness, since she basked in the attention of two rivalling males, and wished that Meri could be happy with someone new and forget Gravlox. She remembered a snatch of an encouraging song: “If you can’t be with the one you love, love the one you’re with”, she warbled. It was below Merisu’s dignity to answer.)

One disadvantage of the island of Angol was the rainy weather, and as the crew members (whose names she did not know, all of them wearing red shirts) rowed the little boat back to the ship, she shivered. Clouds drew nearer, darkening ominously, and the waves grew larger. Thunder rolled in the distance. Just as they pulled up to board the ship, a flash of lightning struck the mast of the small vessel in which they sat. Merisu’s skin tingled and she heard a slight crackle, then all seemed to be normal again. Hands reached down to help her climb the ladder.

When all were on deck again, she turned to go to the cabin she shared with the other two females. Astonished, she saw that Pimpiowyn was wearing clothing that seemed to have shrunk inexplicably. “What happened to you?” she asked.

“What happened to you?” came the Half-hobbit’s shocked answer.

Merisu looked down. Instead of her usual long divided skirt, she was now wearing a garment so short that she was not sure it deserved the name ‘skirt’. Her midriff was bare, unadorned by ruffles and frills. As if to make up for the lack of fabric, her boots were now thigh-high, and a wicked-looking dagger was shoved into one of them.

She turned to look at the others. Kuruharan looked like a pirate, but then he had already taken on that appearance during their journey, so that was nothing new. Vogonwë, now covered with fine mail and carrying a shield and sword, looked more a soldier than a poet. And Captain Cirkdan sported something unprecedented in a Elf – a beard!!

Already confused, she was not prepared for what came next. Neemoi, now with a very fetching goatee adorning his face, rushed up to her with a big smile, hugged her enthusiastically and said, “I’m so glad you’re back, darling! I missed you so!”

Leninia, dressed as exotically as usual, came up and exclaimed, “Aww, if I’d known that you were going to Carnaby Street to shop, I would have come along! Did you get those miniskirts at Mériquaunts? And your hairdos! You must have been to Sassûn’s salon. I’m jealous!”

Bewildered, Merisu decided that she apparently needed a rest; perhaps there would be a logical explanation for everything, if she could only understand what was happening. Yet instead of going to the girls’ cabin, Neemoi led her to his, where she found all of her belongings. Even the Entish Bow stood beside the bed, as if she had left it there. “Why don’t you take a nap?” the first officer suggested. “I’ll be back after meeting with the captain to plan our course of action for capturing the other Elven ships for our journey. I want to make sure none of the other crew members tries to assassinate him and take over.”

Though she tried, she could not sleep. Finally she sent an O-mail message to Vogonwë, asking him to bring Pimpi, Kuruharan, and Reaperneep to her cabin to discuss what had happened. They brought shocking news with them, of a crew that seemed to have turned barbarian, and of a plot to murder other Elves to capture their ships.

“A Kinslaying?” she gasped. “But who has heard of Elves killing one another? That is horrible – it must be stopped!”

“Shall I kill the whole crew to stop them?” Vogonwë asked, standing tall in his armour. Pimpiowyn looked up at him admiringly.

“I shall help you!” exclaimed Reaperneep.

“Waste of a good opportunity for profit,” muttered Kuruharan.

“Something has changed,” Merisu stated. “This is not the same ship nor the same crew; though they look similar, there are differences. Perhaps the lightning changed us so that we are no longer in our own Arda, but in a parallel world – as in a mirror, darkly. We must find a way to return to our world, but can we do something to avert a catastrophe here?”

“Do nothing hasty,” she continued. “I shall contact the Captain and Dr. Macaw to see if we can duplicate the conditions that brought us here. And since this ship’s Mister Neemoi seems to be my husband in this world, I will reason with him. Logic will show him that peace is better than the slaughter they have planned.”

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

Being an Elf who accomplished what she set out to do, it did not take long before Merisuwyniel and the other members of the landing party were once again seated in the small boat. Neemoi, his face filled with sorrow at losing the Elven maiden who had charmed him so (the one he would be getting back was less even-tempered than she), let down the ropes. He had promised her (what price she paid for that promise is left to the imagination of the reader) that he would turn aside the bloodthirsty schemes of the Elven Empire and seek to lead them to peace.

Once again, the wind tossed their small vessel to and fro. Once again, ominous clouds enveloped the sky, and thunder sounded from them. As lightning struck, Merisu’s thoughts called out to Yawanna for help and guidance. She fervently hoped that there was a benevolent equivalent to the green goddess in this world. Then she found herself and her companions aboard a ship that was just as she remembered it. All was as it had been, she was as she had been, yet though she was greatly relieved, why did she found herself wishing that Neemoi’s greeting had been more than just a cool nod?
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Old 11-09-2004, 08:44 PM   #222
The Saucepan Man
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The Eye

With every day that had passed since the Goodship Entish Surprise had set sail from Mithfortune, Soregum’s misery had increased. When he wasn’t being hauled unceremoniously from the water, he was fully occupied studiously emptying the contents of his stomach into the sea. Which, quite apart from being a shameful waste of perfectly good food, was particularly unsettling on the frequent occasions when the high wind swiftly reacquainted him with said contents.

Better out than in!

Soregum recalled the words of his old Duffer and cursed the senile old twerp for his trite homilies as yet another partially digested helping of salted beef and diced carrots made a break for freedom. Had he not been so indisposed, he might have reflected on the fact that the ship’s stores were utterly devoid of carrots, diced or otherwise.

After a few days, however, (and to Soregum’s great relief) the winds finally died down and the turbulent waves subsided. The ship sat becalmed amidst the peaceful ocean, still and serene. The midday sun glinted on its gently undulating surface, giving it the appearance of a great blue cloth bejewelled with a thousand bright diamonds. As Merisu and the ship’s officers fretted at the delay occasioned by the lack of breeze, Soregum stood on the deck and took in great lungfuls of the fresh salty air, tempered with the acrid smoke of his favourite pipeweed.

All was peaceful, save for the occasional cry of a seabird on the wing and the gentle murmur of Kuruharan, seated to the aft, counting his doubloons and muttering “Pieces of eight! Pieces of eight!” to himself. As Soregum surveyed the wide expanse before him, there came another soft sound: a swish, followed by a plop, as if a fish had disturbed the still surface of the water. Turning his head, Soregum saw ripples widening outwards from a point some fifty feet ahead of the boat. But he thought no more of it as Orogarn Two and Pimpiowyn joined him on the deck.

“It’s a fine day, little one,” ventured Orogarn Two.

Soregum’s irritation at the Grundorian’s insistence on calling him “little one”, was soothed by his delight at Pimpi’s presence. Idly, Orogarn Two stooped and picking up a large stone he cast it wide into the surrounding water. The stone vanished with a soft slap; but at the same instant there was a swish and a bubble. Great rippling rings formed on the surface out where the stone had fallen, and they moved slowly towards the bow of the ship.

“Why did you do that Orogarn?” said Soregum. “I am troubled by the ocean. Don’t disturb it!”

“Two”, replied the Grundorian automatically, wondering what a large stone was doing on board a ship.

“I wish we could reach Valleyum,” sighed Pimpi. “I’m getting fed up with ship’s provisions.”

Some of the crew seated nearby, a group of Elvish sailors, suddenly struck up an old sea shanty. The song spoke of their wistful yearning for the Western realm and the companions listened in wonder at their pleasing close harmonies.

Topfloorien girls are hip
I really dig those styles they wear
And the Workmud girls with their party punch
It knocks me out when I'm down there

The Mid-Mire farmer's daughters
Really make you feel your height
And the Dwarven girls with their braided beards
They keep their gold hoards warm at night

I wish they all could be Valleyfornia
I wish they all could be Valleyfornia
I wish they all could be Valleyfornia girls

The West realm has the lamp lights
And the girls all get so tanned
I dig a squid bikini on Calamari dolls
By a Mallorn tree in the sand

I've been all around this Muddled-mirth
And I’ve seen all kinds of girls
Yeah, but I can't wait to sail the ancient road
To find the cutest girls in the world

I wish they all could be Valleyfornia
I wish they all could be Valleyfornia
I wish they all could be Valleyfornia girls

The companions were reflecting on the poignant longing expressed in the words of the song and the wondrous picture painted of the land for which they were bound when suddenly, without warning, Kuruharan sprang into the air with a cry, his doubloons scattering. The cause of his impromptu launch was immediately apparent. A long sinuous tentacle had emerged from the water and, wrapping itself round his leg, had hauled him from the deck. A second tentacle, pale-green and luminous and wet, curled itself around Pimpi’s waist and lifted her too into the air.

“Help!” cried Pimpi “Help me!”

“My doubloons!” wailed Kuruharan as they rolled and bounced across the deck and into the water.

Soregum’s reaction was immediate. Without hesitation, and with no thought as to the consequences, he promptly dived under the nearest cover.

Vogonwë, hearing Pimpi’s cry, rushed out on to the deck and, drawing an arrow from his quiver, swiftly hurled it at the offending limb. But the missile bounced harmlessly off its tough rubbery surface. Orogarn Two’s sword flew across the deck as it too rebounded from the tentacle which held Kuruharan.

An immense shape, as large as the ship, emerged from the water. Two blood red eyes, deep as the ocean itself, peered out from a mass of writhing tentacles: eight in number. Beneath the tentacles, a fearsome beaked maw, framed by a thick growth of seaweed, opened and closed as the great beast drew the hapless captives towards it.

“Where’s that confounded Dragon when I need him,” grumbled Kuruharan, cursing Chrysophylax for having chosen this moment to go hunting and rummaging in his knapsack for something which might avail his predicament.

“Help me, Vogie,” screamed Pimpi, stabbing at the fearsome limb that enveloped her with the Elven blade, Hush. Having spent much of her life devouring, she was in no hurry to have the tables turned on her.

In desperation, Vogonwë drew another arrow and aimed for one of the glowering eyes, when his arm was stayed.

“Do … not … harm it”, warned Captain Cirkdan, who had appeared on deck accompanied by Mister Neemoi, Dr Macaw and the remainder of the All-at-sea-ship.

“But the vile creature has my beloved Pimpi in its evil grip!” cried Vogonwë.

“Are you out of your Half-Elf mind!” squawked Dr Macaw. “Don’t you know what that thing is?”

“But we must do something!” cried Merisuwyniel, readying the Entish Bow.

“The good Doctor is correct for once” said Mister Neemoi calmly, prompting the avian medico to raise an improbable eyebrow. “If you attack, you will merely drive it off, and your friends with it,” he continued. “It means no harm. Listen.”

And as they listened, the burbling that issued from the creature’s terrible maw resolved itself into something recognisable.

“It’s singing!” exclaimed the Gateskeeper.

“How delightful,” muttered Leninia. “A singing squid.”

The beast had brought Pimpi and Kuruharan level with its crimson eyes and was indeed serenading them, in a deep mournful tone.

Where darkness rules the ocean deep, and sea begins to freeze;
Where light doth fail to penetrate, untouched by any breeze;
Where creatures strange and monstrous live, in black and watery lair,
Come back to me! Come back to me, and say my realm is fair.

Then its voice changed, taking on a lighter, more feminine timbre, although the tone remained mournful.

Where light is come to shallows clear through curtains green and blue;
Where fishes play and corals lay, in bright and varied hue;
Where sunlight shines and shellfish fine adorn a rocky stair;
I’ll linger here, and will not come, because my realm is fair.

“That … is the … Bachelor in … the Water,” explained Cirkdan.

“One of the great Krakens of old,” added Macaw. “The first of all the great sea creatures to awaken in Muddled-mirth.”

“It is … said … that they were awoken … by … the songs sung … by the … Calamari … as they … sailed … in their squid ships out … from their great … haven, … Valleyfornia,” said Cirkdan.

“Their story is a sad one,” continued Macaw. “They haunt the wild depths of the ocean and once swam there happily with their wives. But the Kraken-wives yearned for the gardens of the sea: the coral reefs and rocky shallows. It is said that one day the Kraken-wives just upped and left and the Krakens have been searching for them ever since.”

“A most improbable tale,” said Neemoi. “The existence of a life form in which the two genders are unable to cohabit harmoniously is highly illogical.” Oblivious to the stares of disbelief which greeted his words, from male and female alike, he continued: “And even if true, it is most improbable that there are any Kraken-wives left in existence, and so their persistence in continuing to search defies all logic.”

Merisu shook her head sadly, despairing of the first-officer’s complete failure to grasp the concept of romance.

“But there can be no doubt as to the creature’s identity,” continued Neemoi. As he spoke, he unrolled a chart. “We are here,” he said, indicating a point on the chart which bore the legend: Here be Keening Krakens.

By now, the Kraken had returned Pimpi and Kuruharan to the ship, having secured their promise to keep an eye out for the Kraken-wives. Kuruharan contentedly pocketed the pearls which he had extracted as the price for his promise, and also for a lotion which he had sworn blind was “guaranteed to attract over-sized female squids across the ocean wide”, but which was in fact an application for the treatment of unsightly blemishes. Tragically, unsightly blemishes were considered the height of attractiveness in Kraken society.

As the noble beast disappeared once more beneath the waves, Pimpi waved farewell.

“Goodbye Seabeard!” she cried. “I hope that you will find Eightlimb one day.”

When all had become quiet once more, Soregum crept from his hiding place. Luckily, it seemed, no one had noticed his absence in all the commotion. And yet he was thoroughly ashamed of his cowardice. How could he have deserted Pimpiowyn like that? The nagging doubts in his heart surfaced once more and he began to conceive of a possibility that went against all that he had learned throughout his many days: perhaps there was more to life than pure self-interest.

Last edited by The Saucepan Man; 11-10-2004 at 03:21 AM.
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Old 11-10-2004, 04:08 PM   #223
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Deep water: Shrimp on the Horizon

These thoughts and more rushed like greased rabbits down a glacier through Soregum’s mind as he went to stand at the bow, ever looking forward. ‘Onwards and upwards’, as their newly met fresh-faced rodent chum was prone to mutter. Something took his attention then.

“A bird! A big white bird!” he shouted.

“Arrr!” said Kuruharan, approaching absent-mindedly, desperately scanning the nearby deck. He was a coin short after the affair with the melodious monster.

“Perhaps it’s an albatross,” suggested Vogonwe, more usefully as he neared. The Itship gathered around them, leaving the crew peering round ropes and halyards to look at them. By now, they were all looking at the darting white shape, swooping below the dark clouds and riding the strong winds.

“A bit small, really,” said Pimpi, doubtfully. “I thought albatrosses were the big ones.”

“Bad luck, anyway,” muttered Oragarn Two.

“Aye,” said Vogonwe, readying an arrow.

“No!” cried Kuruharan. “It’s only bad if you harm them.”

“Oh. Well how do you know?”

“It’s a long story,” said the merchant. “I heard it from this wizened sailor in a pub, a few years back. Ayn Chunt Marrinar was his name. Fool shot one of these albatrosses, anyway. Next thing you know, some band had written a dirge about it that stayed at Number One for ages. Nightmare.”

“Frogmorton Mac,” nodded Orogarn Two. “I heard rumours. A nasty business.”

At this moment, they sailed into a patch of calm, and the winds slackened. As the waves fell away around them, they caught sight of the oddest boat on the horizon. Curved and carved at the bow and stern to resemble a giant shrimp, it had a full sail, but was barely long enough to be termed a ship. It looked fundamentally implausible, and certainly not sea-worthy, but it was making strong progress towards them. Through a gap in the cloud, sunbeams poured now, sparkling on the wave tops. The strange non-albatross swooped to seat itself on the rail of the ship, nearest Merisuwyniel. The pure white bird fixed her with an eye that can rather predictably be termed beady.

In fact, as Merisuwyniel gazed back at their new acquaintance, she realised that beady was a more apposite term than she could have imagined. One of the bird’s eyes was indeed a carved blue bead. Their feathered omen was only partially sighted! Peering closer, she saw a nametag around its snowy neck. Fetherfled the Unsteady… Curiouser and indeed, more curious.

As they sat, now becalmed, drying in the sun, they watched the progress of the shrimp-shaped vessel, as it tacked to and fro, almost comically awkward on the water, like a skittish water beetle approaching them. Their new avian pal said little, being a bird, but seemed cheerful enough.

The reason for his name was becoming apparent, as the decking below his new perch, was liberally strewn with thick white down. Yet the shedding seabird seemed to remain thickly feathered. Questions arose in Kuruharan’s mind, bubbling to the surface like a miasma of capitalism. A never ending supply of white feathers…Boy, would his cousin dwarves Bawlin and Snorin, with their dwarf bedding superstore be pleased with that…!

As she watched their would-be rescuer approach, Merisuwyniel felt her heart leap, like a limber young salmon with a sight of upstream water, into her mouth. They could make out a figure at the tiller. A tall, broad-shouldered familiar figure, with a thatch of what appeared to be Gormlessar hair. She gasped. It couldn’t be…? A rush of memory engulfed her, a feeling of intense exasperation, and astonishment at someone else’s stupidity…

Their hospitable captain now came forward with Mister Neemoi.

“Madam, should we let the vessel approach?” ventured the latter, levelly. “We could still outrun them, even with our increased warp factor.”

“Warp factor?” questioned Orogarn Two.

“Yes,” replied the taller, arching an eyebrow, then squinting in pain.

“Are you alright?” asked Merisuwyniel, a little too quickly for her own liking.

“Fine,” muttered Mister Neemoi, rubbing the eyebrow in question. “Cramp. Since we’ve been at sea, we’ve suffered some warping of the timbers. This affects our speed through the water. Through a complex system of mathematics, we’ve been able to calculate the exact effect of this ‘warp factor’ as we…”

Vogonwe, who had rather switched off after ‘complex’, shouted over him, “Too late now! Here it comes!!!”

And indeed, the other vessel was sliding alongside. All could see its name written in flaking pink paint below the rearing shrimp’s head at the bow. Their newly met seafarer was The Prawn Spreader.

They all pushed their questions to the back of their minds, as the other vessel nudged alongside and there was some rather haphazard rope throwing, tying and climbing that is frankly to tedious to record.

Nevertheless, the Shipborne-ship soon found themselves face to face with a shadow of the past.

“Halfullion!” gasped Merisuwyniel. “It can’t be!”

“Indeed, it cannot be,” interjected Mister Neemoi. “As you have told me, the well named Lord Gormlessar is dead. And if I remember rightly, he was a man of great beauty, whereas…”

And indeed it was so, as they looked. Although the unprepossessing man before them was of a stature with Lord Halfullion Gormlessar of The Gilded Scissor, and his hair was of the same remarkable teased colour, there the resemblance stopped. For he hunched, and he limped, as one leg was longer than the other; his hair was not the frankly mind-blowing follicle-ensemble that had been their privilege to witness astride their old companion, but an uneven straw-like thatch of tousled and knotted hair, unkempt from the wind and seawater.

His teeth, as he opened his mouth to talk to them, they noticed were slightly crooked. His voice, when he spoke, held not Halfullion’s timbre and tone. Moreover, there was a look of acuity in the grey eyes, which had been…missing from their deceased pal. Yet brothers they must be, and so it turned out.

“The half-half-elven Right Hon. Halfemption Gormlessar, son of Old Gumption Gormlessar IV, half-brother of the, admittedly self-titled, Bravest Half-Elf in the World Ever, Captain of The Prawn Spreader, at your service,” said the newcomer with an improbable number of clauses, bowing deeply, and ignoring Mister Neemoi’s slight. His voice held a slight quaver, yet despite this, there was a personality behind the words that Halfullion had lacked.

There was dead silence. This of course, wasn’t true, as the pedant in me points out. There was the sound of the wavelets lapping at the newly twinned hulls of the ships, the creaking of timbers, the slight flap of the sail, not to mention the breathing of a large assembled party, the shouts of the crew, and Kuruharan’s faint clinking as he resumed another hurried recount of his trouser-and-purse-held financial assets. Yet, in terms of direct speech between the immediate protagonists in this scene, there was a…lull for some time. It was only understandable really.

Eventually, Merisuwyniel came to her manners. “Dear sir,” she said. “Welcome to the Entish Surprise. We knew your brother well, and your appearance reminded us of him.” The It’snotaboat,it’sa-ship made their own introductions, but Gormlessar seemed not to be listening.

“Knew?” asked Halfemption. “My brother rarely has the politeness to cease accompanying people, if…” and he gestured to the motley group, “…they appear to be questing.”

Merisuwyniel swallowed. “Lord Gormlessar is…dead!” she squeaked.

Again, dead silence, (with qualifications).

Eventually – “Ah,” said the stranger. “Father will be devastated. He always preferred Halfie. You run off to fight the war, Halfie! You get the expensive haircut, Halfie! Your mother won’t miss that, Halfie, she doesn’t fit into it anyway. Et cetera, et cetera.” The Fellow/Gal-ship detected a note of bitterness.

“Are you not also a ‘Halfie’?” asked Pimpi, trying to brighten the mood.

“No, ‘fraid not,” said Halfemption. He sounded rather mournful. “The family called him Halfie, and so naturally called me Empty. I eventually got them to call me as I wished.”

“Which was?”

“Hal. And listen. If my brother died in the service of this Company, than I feel it is my obligation to succeed him and carry on his work. What help can I give you?”


“If you'll be my Company - I can be your long lost pal; I can call you Meri, and Meri when you call me - you can call me Hal,” quoth the Gormlessar man, with a grandiose flourish, if a little soft in the middle.

The quarter-elf noticed Kuruharan muttering to himself and rooting through his pockets.

“What do you think you’re doing, Kuru?” asked Hal, ominously.

“Ah!” said the Dwarf triumphantly, holding up his missing coin. “Two thousand and one!”

Last edited by Rimbaud; 11-11-2004 at 03:19 AM.
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Old 11-19-2004, 03:19 PM   #224
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Kuruharan is battling Black Riders on Weathertop.Kuruharan is battling Black Riders on Weathertop.Kuruharan is battling Black Riders on Weathertop.
Boots Invasion of the Body Snatchers...

“Land Ho!” squawked the lookout in the crow’s nest.

“Hmmuphh…” groaned a suddenly awakened Merisuwyniel.

She sat up and got out of bed and went to investigate the commotion out on deck.

The sea was a scene of moonlight tranquility and Merisuwyniel took a moment to admire the view and smell the breeze.

(She did not notice how dead silence fell like a two-ton boulder as she did this. The wind had caught her gossamer robe and had its way with it.)

The graceful elf strode over to the captain.

“Wot’s all the hubbub, bub?” she melodiously intoned.

The captain pulled his jaw up off the deck and tried to form coherent sentences.

“Uhhh…errrm…I…woo…ha…” replied the captain.

“Mister Neemoi?” said Merisuwyniel.

“We have sighted another island off the starboard bow,” offered the navigator. “We were discussing if we should send a shore party.”

“Oh, yes, let’s,” said Pimpi pleadingly. “We haven’t had a good party in ages.”

“Not that kind of party,” snapped Neemoi.

“We…need…to…determine…how large…the…island is,” said Cirkdan. “Claws…opinions?”

“Blast it Dim, I’m a doctor not a cartographer!” replied the old bird.

“Captain,” said Neemoi, “I believe it logical that we should avail ourselves of the opportunity to resupply. This may be the last island for a considerable distance.”

That settled it. Within moments the ship was in a frenzy of preparation. The crew donned their red shirts to make sure and attract the attention of any enemies who might be present, the entire Gallowship decided to go ashore and frolic, and the captain and his officers went to oversee the crew in their provisioning.

When the party reached the shore, the Gallowship immediately cut down a swath of trees to make surfboards while the crew killed most of the animals in the general area and refilled the water barrels.

Afterwards, the Gallowship sunned themselves while the crew stood in a little knot over to the side. They began to be puzzled by this mysterious whistling noise. It continued to get louder and louder and louder. Then they noticed that it was suddenly getting very dark right in the area where they were standing. The crew glanced up. There was a large object above their heads that was getting bigger by the second. How curio…


Dr. Macaw flapped over to the giant rock that had suddenly appeared right where the crew had been standing. The doctor sniffed about the base of the rock.

“Their dead, Dim,” he sadly conveyed.

This was enough for Cirkdan and Mr. Neemoi. They were veterans of the seas and they had seen this happen about 80 times or so. They knew exactly what to do.

“RUN AWAY! RUN AWAY!!!” they yelled, as they scampered into the jungle.

“But…” said Merisuwyniel.

“RUN AWAY! RUN AWAY!!!” howled the Gallowship as they scattered into the jungle, Vogonwë and the Gateskeeper dragging Grralph along with them.

“But…” said Merisuwyniel.

She stood alone on the deserted beach.

“Well, I guess it’s up to me to rescue everyone,” she thought, as she walked into the jungle.

Behind her there was a sudden sound and she knew no more.


She awoke to find herself in a most comfortable bed. It must have been a dream. She yawned deeply and scratched her beard.

Wait a minute, her beard?

“Oh, how silly!” she thought to herself. “Someone’s having a little prank with me and put a false beard on my face while I was asleep.

She reached up and tried to pull it off.

“Ouch!” she gasped. It was some very stubborn glue. She yanked on the beard. “Yeeouch!” she cried. “Okay, maybe the beard can stay until I find some solvent,” she thought.

She was just thinking there was something familiar about that beard she suddenly noticed her hands. They were not her hands at all. Instead of the slender and graceful appendages she was accustomed to wearing, these were stubby and rather chunky hands. She stared incredulously at them as they waved at her. Then she noticed these hands wore the same rings that Kuruharan was always wearing.

“It couldn’t be,” she thought with a feeling of growing horror. “It just couldn’t be!”

She looked carefully at the beard again. It certainly did look like Kuruharan’s. She noticed she was not feeling as long and slender as she was wont. Truth be told, she felt rather short and stocky. This couldn’t be! She was a lovely female elf! Not a short bearded male dwarf! She was a She and…


She noticed there was a tall protrusion sticking up under the covers. She tore them off to reveal…Kuruharan’s peg leg which was still strapped to her leg, except it wasn’t her leg, but it was her leg, but it couldn’t be, but the strap was cutting off the circulation. She took the peg leg off and got out of bed.

Time for some panic-stricken flight!

She (sort of) bolted out the door and down the hall. The hallway was lined with doors, but Merisuwyniel did not notice.

Flying round a corner she crashed right into Soregum.

They picked each other up off the floor.

“Kuruharan,” said Soregum, “something strange has happened here.”

“I’ll say,” said Merisuwyniel. “I’m not Kuruharan.”

“And I’m not Soregum,” said Soregum.

“Who are you,” asked Merisuwyniel.

“I’m Orogarn Two, who are you?”

“I’m Merisuwyniel.”

“EEEWWWWW,” moaned Orogum Two. He went rather green in the face.

“We need to get out of here,” said Kuru-suwyniel.

“Excuse me,” groaned Orogum Two. “I think…I have…”

He darted into a nearby door. Sick noises came from behind the door.

“Stop doing that to my chair,” came a voice.

The door flew open and Orogum Two hastily backed out.

“Sorry…natural reflex,” he muttered.

The Gateskeeper came storming out.

“Is that how your mother taught you to behave around a lady?” snapped Gateskeeper.

“Lady?!” cried Orogum Two as he burst into laughter. Even Kuru-suwyniel couldn’t resist a giggle.

“What’s so funny?” demanded the Gateskeeper.

“Err…why don’t we go to your mirror,” suggested Kuru-suwyniel.

In the interests of good taste this account will tip-toe around the unseemly scene where Pimpi came to terms with the fact that she wasn’t feelin’ like a woman anymore.

Orogum Two shuddered as he walked down the hall. “I never knew a man’s voice that could screech that high…”

“Oh, there I am,” piped the voice of Grim Reaperneep. He walked up to Orogum Two. “How does it feel to be me? And who are you?”

“I’m Orogarn Two,” Orogum replied, “and I seem to be adjusting better than some people.”

After that round of introductions, the motley crew proceeded onward.

After meeting up with Mr. Neemoi in Leninia’s body, Dr. Macaw in Pimpi’s body, and Vogonwë in Cirkdan’s body, Kuru-suwyniel said, “I don’t think this hallway goes anywhere.”

“Where should it go?” muttered a surly MacPimpi.

“Cheer up, darling! Don’t be so glum!” said Cirk-onwë

“Blast it Dim, I’m a doctor, not your darling!” snarled MacPimpi

“Sorry,” said a suddenly sheepish Cirk-onwë. “And don’t call me Dim.”

“I’m your darling,” snapped Pimpi-keeper, “and I’m in need of some serious consoling.”

“Errr…,” said a suddenly dubious Cirk-onwë, “maybe later.” He ran forward to join Kuru-suwyniel and Neelinia at the front.

After following the hallway some more, meeting Cirkdan in Orogarn Two’s body, Leninia in Halfemption’s body (in high dudgeon too), and Gateskeeper in Grralph’s body, they came to the end of the hall.

“Now what?” asked Orogum Two.

“Idiots!!!” screeched Half-Leninia, administering a sound whallop to Grrrateskeeper.

“Watch it!” snarled Grrrateskeeper. “Not only am I possessed of the powers of Norton and McAfee but now I can freeze you to the core and leave you shriveled up before the Hairless Nostril for all eternity!”

“Oh, please!” said Half-Leninia, rolling her/his/something eyes.

“Why don’t we try opening one of these doors,” suggested Sore-neep. Unfortunately, he could not reach the doorknob. Kuru-suwyniel opened it for him. It was a room just like all the ones they had all awakened in. In the bed they found the unmoving form of Neemoi.

They tried to revive him but failed.

“Must be Grralph,” Cirk-onwë opined.

Carrying Grrmoi with them, they went back up the hallway, opening all the doors as they went, but all the rooms were empty.

They continued on until they reached the room where Kuru-suwyniel had awakened.

“Now what,” asked Orogum Two.

“Someone…is…following…us,” warned Cirk-garn Two.

The lithe figure of Vogonwë sprang into view. He danced and twirled and did a few somersaults before landing gracefully in front of them.

“So this is what it is like to float like a butterfly,” mused Vog-emption.

“We could try opening this gigantic door at the end of the hall,” offered Sore-neep.

Seeing little choice, the More-ill-sorted-than-usual-ship moseyed on over. They found Dr. Macaw attacking the door. More accurately, they found Kuru-caw attacking the door. Upon seeing the Gallowship, the parrot flew over and landed on Kuru-suwyniel’s head.

“How did you get in there?” he demanded. “Get out!!”

“Believe me, I’m as unhappy with the situation as you are,” replied Kuru-suwyniel.

“I’m not sure how to take that,” muttered the bird.

“Take down the door!” shouted Orogum Two.

“What with?” asked Pimpi-keeper.

“Use Grr-moi as a battering ram!!” yelled Half-Leninia.

“NO, THAT’S NOT LOGICAL!!” bawled Neeninia.

Alas, for him/her, no one paid attention to his pleas. They seized Grr-moi and battered the door with his head.

“Oh, my body,” whined Neeninia, “my poor, poor body.”

The door finally fell into ruins.

On the other side of the door sat a fussy little man behind a desk. The desk was piled high with papers. He was speaking into a most curious instrument which he held to his ear.

“No, no, no,” he was saying. “I filled out the forms in triplicate and faxed the copies to the relevant agencies day before yesterday. This office cannot be responsible for your mechanical foul-ups. The schedule says the materials should have been here this afternoon.”

He paused and seemed to be listening to some sort of reply coming from the device he held against his ear.

“And the same to you!” he shouted as he slammed down the device.

“A dangerous enemy, this,” intoned Orogum Two solemnly. “A bureaucrat. None know how to defeat their impenetrable defense of non-recognition.”

“We’ll see about that,” said Pimpi-keeper. “Time for me to put my improving shield-maidenly skills to the test.”

There was a furious burst of ill-controlled sniggering somewhere to the rear of the Gallowship.

“Uuhh,” said Cirk-onwë, “I think this might…”

But Pimpi-keeper was already sauntering gracefully over to the desk. (Well, Pimpi-keeper thought she/he/it was sauntering gracefully, lumbering garishly would probably be a better description for it.)

Pimpi-keeper leaned over the desk and adopted her patented pouty-face that usually had men eating out of her hand.

“I need a favor,” she/he/it whispered engagingly.

“No interviews without appointments, except between Nine and Ten P.M., second Saturday of every month,” replied the bureaucrat without even looking up.

Pimpi-keeper opened her eyes to the size of saucers and did the trembling lip routine. The ill-controlled sniggering turned into scarce-repressed chortling.

This time the bureaucrat did look up.


“Wotsamatter?” purred Pimpi-keeper.

Alas, this had the effect that one might expect of a computer geek trying to seduce anyone.


Pimpi-keeper went flying across the room and crashed into the opposite wall. The Really-In-It-Now-ship picked her/him up and beat a hasty retreat.

“Now what?” asked Orogum Two.

“We need to try and find my body,” said Kuru-suwyniel.

Will our heroes find Merisuwyniel’s body? Will they return to being the people they once were? Will this plot ever progress? Will this writer ever shut up?

Find out next week, same bat-time, same bat-channel! (yeah right)

Last edited by Kuruharan; 11-20-2004 at 11:23 AM. Reason: left out a 'the'
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Old 11-30-2004, 03:12 PM   #225
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Parsnips turn on you, you know.

Face it, Hal, you came out pretty lucky, thought the quarter-elf, inside a half-Elf’s head. Halfemption mused on their predicament, but realised that he was spending most of the musing time working out who was who, or rather who wasn’t who. Or something. He began to feel a little like his late half-brother. He felt a little like the deceased Halfullion as well, but it was his actually-always-late half-brother, Hees Tardierthanthou, that he felt like. Second to every conclusion, first to none. Or in his youngest brother Runt the Monk’s case, first to nuns.

“I wish,” he started out loud, in Vogonwe’s velvet tones, “that all this confusion would just sort itself out and save me the trouble of devising an improbably clever solution to it all!”


There was a loud noise and a blinding flash of light.

They all looked nervously at each other. Sadly, they realised , nothing had altered, they were still the Hellthisissomemixedup-ship.

“Nice try,” said Pimpi-keeper, rubbing her/his shin. “Bad luck – hang on, who are you?”

“Hal,” said Vog-emption.

“Thinking of a way out?”

“I am putting myself to the fullest possible use, which is all I think that any conscious entity can ever hope to do,” replied Vog-emption, a little snidely.

“I read you, Hal,” replied Pimpi-keeper.

“Look!” exclaimed Kuru-suwyniel, and for once it wasn’t so much of a pleasure to do so. “We have some priorities.”

Everyone relaxed. It was comforting when Merisuwyniel took control, even when she was trapped inside the somewhat less aesthetically pleasing Dwarven form.
The Heroine-in-a-Halfman continued. “One, we need to find my body. The pretty one. Two – we need to get through this door and escape.”

Vog-emption said, “Since this is the only way out, and it seems we all woke up in here, logic suggests that your body is back whence we came.”

They all looked back down the maze of passages, little rooms and corridors with an under whelming enthusiasm. The sort of enthusiasm that is normally garnered when your unwanted guests suggest another bottle. Of your wine.

Kuru-suwyniel’s hand edged backwards, surreptitiously. No wonder men are always scratching. She caught Kuru-claw looking at her suspiciously and cleared her throat.

“I know in my heart,” she began.

“My heart!” squawked a dwarf in a parrot’s body.

“…in my heart, that we need to find my body before we can leave. And what anybody would want to do with my body is quite beyond me,” finished the be-dwarfed wielder of the Ent that was Broken.

There was some liberal shuffling of feet after this last bit, and few met her eye.

But the usual suspects for tedious heroism stepped up to the metaphorical plate, although they looked an even more motley crew than normal: Orugum Two, Cirk-onwe, Vog-emption and Half-Leninia volunteered to explore for hijacked Elven waifs, while the others remained behind worked out a way of overcoming the fearsome bureaucracy of the only way out.

And so it was that on Stardate, um, three-ish, that the Company known as the ReallyConfused-ship split asunder, if only for a short time.

The Hero Searchers

Those that would seek the Elf that was Hijacked, named themselves the Body Snatchers, after a brief but passionate row. The corridors of their strange new prison were duly invaded by the Body Snatchers, who decided after tripping over each other for a while to divide into two further sub-groups. After more bickering, the two sets were the Aggressively Deadly Duo, comprising Half-Leninia and Vog-emption (Halfemption felt proud to be wholly included), and the Concern of the Alliance of Grundor and Elves, comprising Orugum Two and Cirk-onwe.

The ADD moved absent-mindedly off to the left, and the AGE Concern shuffled off to the right.

The search was long and not especially funny to describe, not even the scene where the ADD found themselves in a sauna with a small penguin, a priest and a rabbi. It was, the ADD mustered the attention to be annoyed by, the AGE Concern who discovered her body. Piloted, it seemed, by a rather confused rodent, she had simply curled up and gone to sleep. Orugum Two cursed his weaker body, as he saw Half-Leninia effortlessly hoist the fair maiden upon her shoulder and trek back. She, naturally, was rather pleased by the whole affair.

When they arrived back, they came across a scene that can only be described by someone with the willpower to do it, so we’ll skip right to the dialogue.

“Why on earth…?” began Vog-emption.

“That’s just not right…” said Half-Leninia, depositing the Mouse-in-Elf gently on the ground.

“Oh good grief…” muttered Orugum Two.

“Sweet heavenly Errata of the skies…” mumbled Cirk-onwe.

The Remainder of the Reunited-ship were, frighteningly, writing. Scribing. Scratching. Looking a bit, well, academic. Well, all apart from Kuru-claw who was flying around and landing suspiciously close to everyone’s pockets.

“What the…” began Vog-emption again, still not grasping the true horror of what
he was seeing.

“It had to be done,” sighed Kuru-suwyniel. “We have to fill out these forms. I don’t think there’s another way.”

“Really? replied the Quarter-in-a-Half, divisively. “I was thinking brute force.”

“We don’t have any champagne,” replied Pimpi-keeper, missing an ‘e’.

However, Kuru-suwyniel had her way, and the forms were filled. The Mouse and Grrmoi slept still. The parrot-dwarf flew around, but agreed with them that there was certainly a limited number of options.

Finally, they were done. Forms were filled, and as everyone was thoroughly sick of the whole trans-corporeal experience, they delivered them straight to the quite staggeringly named Mr Smith.

However, as they had not detached the yellow duplicates, he refused to accept the originals. There were further hold ups, before he finally agreed that they had a) no right to be there and further were b) utterly improbable as people so that c) they probably weren’t there at all and therefore d) it mattered not if the door was opened or not.

Vog-emption, Pimpi-keeper and Orugum Two leant their shoulders to the task, and swung the double doors open, as one would open a large pair of double doors.

There were gasps.

They had reached – a superior bureaucrat’s office. Who had a similarly large door at the other end of his office, which was slowly closing. Through which they could see another office. And another.

“This won’t do,” said Kuru-suwyniel, slumping to the ground. “This isn’t the answer.”

“Brute force?” asked several of the Company of Lost Souls again, and she wearily acquiesced. Several splintered doors and satisfyingly dead bureaucrats later, they all confessed that that probably wasn’t the key either.

“What do they want?” asked Pimpi-keeper frantically. “What is it that has caused this?”

It was, oddly, Grr-moi, who solved it. Or rather, Kuru-caw, who was pecking at his finger. At the large gold ring on his finger. The large unfamiliar ring on his finger. This sentence is redundant.

“Um,” said Cirk-garn Two. “I don’t remember Neemoi having any jewellery.”

Then, slowly, they all realised they had identical rings on. Kuru-suwniel gasped.

“There are fourteen of us! And fourteen rings! This is the work of the mysterious Saturday the Fourteenth Gang. This is the band of pirates who were not quite as hard as the Friday the Thirteenth Crew. The Saturday Gang forged fourteen rings of power, to enslave all who wore them.”

“But,” said Pimpi-keeper, sounding increasingly Blanchettian. “They were all of them…deceived. For another Ring was made…”

“One so shiny and glittery that only the tasteless would wear it!” shouted Vog emption.

“The Status Symbol of the Small Minded!” bellowed Cirk-onwe.

They all cried, “The One Bling!!!”

“Handy, really,” said the Parrot-Dwarf Kuru-claw, settling on his mind’s true body.
“Because I bought it at a jumble-sale just two months past.”

“You mean?” said Kuru-suwyniel blankly.

“Yep,” said the Parrot. “It’s in that bag on your back. My back. Your back. You know.”

Kuru-suwyinel dug around in the pack, and eventually came up with the gaudy great Ring. As soon as she pushed it onto her thick, gnarled finger, everything turned white around them and then black, and then some static, and then a small snippet of a Radio Four program about tourism in Hull, and then darkness, and then they were back on the beach.

In their own bodies. Which made everything a lot easier. Except. They. Had. Lost. Both. Syntax. And. The. Damn. Boat.

Yep – couldn’t see it anywhere. In the words of Marcel Proust – shucks.
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Old 12-03-2004, 02:37 PM   #226
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The Maroonedship stood flummoxed, bollixed and bebothered upon the sandy, but otherwise empty and quite boatless, beach. Pimpowyn, who had just eaten her last sandwich, was particularly vexed by this unfortunate turn of events.

"Well this is just great!" she screamed, ranted and raved. Vogonwë cringed, then ducked as a largish seashell came hurtling through the air, folowed by a smaller, but undoubtedly harder rock. "Marvelous!" she continued. "Just spiffy! No boat! Did you hear me? NO BOAT! No boat and no food equals no quest and a bunch of dead adventurers."

Orogarn (2) and Gateskeeper clucked sympathetically as Vogonwë attempted to calm his betrothed down. "Now, now dear," he said calmly. "Something will come up. Things will work out."

"Things will work out?" she cried ignoring Merisu's whispers about conduct unbecoming a shieldmaiden. "How will they work out?" She stalked purposefully over to the edge of the waves, raised her right hand high and extended a thumb. "I suppose we can just hitch-hike and get a ride back to our ship?"

"Need a ride...?" came a voice from nowhere.

Actually not quite nowhere. For just as Pimpi extended her thumb, a ship came around a conveniently located, nearby promontary and floated up to the Itship. It was a grand old ship, crafted by Elves in a slightly dated style reminiscent of the late First Page. It had a high prow shaped like the head of a duck and three tall masts. Upon the top of the tallest mast a light swirled, flowed and glowed so that it could be seen from miles away, at least so long as a pesky promontary was not in the way.

"Ear-hand-ill," whispered Merisu in awe.

"Need a ride?" offered the mariner once again.

"Yes!", cried the Itship as one.

"What's that?" he said. "I'm a bit hard of hearing you know." And indeed, as he turned to face them, the Guyandgalship saw that his right hand was firmly ensconced in his right ear. They clambered aboard the vessel, using a rope ladder which the mariner slung over the side and communicated their desire to be carried to their ship via much shouting and hand signs.

As they got underway, the Itship gathered around Merisu. "What's this guy's story?" asked Kuruharan. "You seem to know of him."

"It is a long tale, and a sad one," she answered. "Perhaps someday there will be time to tell it in full, but for now, here is the Tale of Ear-hand-ill the Mariner.

"Perhaps you have heard of Benny Clammyhand and Lucy-Jane Thinguviel. Benny was a simple farmer in Mytoenien, long ago in the First Page, when he was evicted by Mogul Bildur. Homeless and sad, he wandered until he came to the enchanted realm of More-iath, which signifies 'lots of trees' in the common tongue. There, at an all night keg party, he met Lucy-Jane, daughter of King Thingy and they fell in love. But Thingy was displeased and declined to allow them to marry until Benny proved himself by capturing one of the Silmaroils, the great Lava-lamps of old.

"Benny went off, idiot that he was, to seek a Silmaroil, but Lucy-Jane came with him and they went even to Slangbad where they were taken before Mogul. Then Lucy-Jane recited heroic Noodlarian poetry for hours on end until all his minions fell asleep from boredom. But Mogul would not sleep. He challenged Benny to a duel. But Benny, who had been hiding under a chair, would not fight. He kept whimpering about being good and eating many fishes if he were allowed to leave. Instead, Lucy-Jane offered to play one hand of poker with Mogul, winner take all, and I do mean all. Mogul drew two pair, but Lucy-Jane filled an inside straight and beat him. Mogul was so angry, he smote himself on the forehead and knocked himself out. Seeing their chance, they pried one of the Silmaroils from Mogul's crown and fled back to Thingy who had no choice but to let them marry."

"A beautiful tale!" said Vogonwë with a sniff and a tear. "Especially the part about the poetry. But what's it got to do with Ear-hand-ill?"

"Popáyë the Sailor was a down on his luck mariner who moonlighted as a bartender at the Crow's Nest on the shores of the great sea. He was in love with Birdwing, a princess, but she would not marry him until he became rich. One night, Thingy came to town with his posse and the spent a long night drinking at the Bird's Nest. In the morning, he woke up with a horrible hangover only to discover that his purse had been stolen by the legendary Dwarvish thief, Kururobinhood. Having no money, he offered Popáyë a Silmaroil to settle his bar bill.

"Popáyë and Birdwing resolved to take the Silmaroil to Valleyum where they could cash it in for a reward. Now Popáyë was poor and not that bright, but he was a great sailor. He took ship and they journeyed for many weeks through storms, shipwrecks and other adventures until they reached Valleyum. There, they were greeted joyfully by the Velour and were wined and dined until they were quite snookered. Then the Velour took him before Mantoes for his reward to be decreed. And Mantoes asked Popáyë, 'Do you love the sea?'

"Popáyë, being quite fully in his cups, answered yes. And Mantoes asked, 'Do you really, really, really love the sea?' And Popáyë cried 'Yes, I love the sea with all my heart!' So the Velour rewarded Popáyë by making him the official Coastal Patrol of the Velour. They enchanted his vessel and affixed the Silmaroil to its mast and sent him off to pick up trash and rescue castaways for all time. But they also decreed that he must always stay on his ship. So Popáyë and Birdwing sailed back to Muddled Mirth..."

"But what does all this have to do with Ear-hand-ill?" asked Pimpiowyn.

"When they reached port, Birdwing asked Popáyë about their engagement. And Popáyë responded with the famous staves which are heard even now in sailors' bars on the shores of Muddled Mirth. He said:

you're a fine girl,
what a good wife you would be!
But my life, my love and my lady,
is the sea.

Orogarn, Gateskeeper, Soregum, Vogonwë and even Kuruharan winced upon hearing this. No wrath like a woman scorned, and all that. Merisu, seeing their expressions, nodded thoughtfully. "I told you it was a sad tale. Birdwing seized Popáyë's hand and shoved it into his ear. Then she stalked off and they never saw one another again."

Merisu sighed sadly. "I see that we've reached the Ent's Surprise..."
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Old 12-03-2004, 10:19 PM   #227
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The Eye

A great white seabird glided majestically over the western reaches of the Blundering Sea, heading homeward to roost on the cliffs that spread north along the coastal regions of Valleyum. Beating her powerful wings against the wind, she wheeled and passed over the Isle of Toll Entrihëa, where the VIA (Valleyum Immigration Authority) diligently enforced Valleyum’s rigorous immigration policies. None born in Muddled-mirth entered Valleyum without passing via VIA, and few that attempted to pass via VIA were permitted to enter Valleyum. They had a strict “Elves and Those seeking to save Muddled-mirth from ruin only” policy.

Catching a thermal, the magnificent bird relaxed once more, gliding high above the Laurinandon Bridge, which led from Toll Entrihëa to the port of Valleyfornia on the mainland. The water sparkled brightly beneath her as the westering sun caught the sails of the beautiful vessels of the Calamari, the Squid Ships of old, which bobbed and ducked prettily in the sea. Nearer to the sandy shore, which swept southwards from Valleyum, a multitude of tiny figures could be seen perched proudly on carved wooden boards, the legendary sërf-flets of the Elves, as they navigated through the coasters that rolled into Valleyfornia’s beaches, while others paddled out to meet the towering waves. The art of sërf-fletting had long been forgotten in Muddled-mirth, but was carried on by the Elves of Valleyum, the Calamari and the Vaniti, since they had little else to occupy their time. The craft had been taught to them by the Velour in the First Page of the Light-Fittings, although the Velour themselves sërfed only on private beaches reserved for their sole use.

As she approached the shore, the great bird of the sea caught the first strains of the Musac of the Velour, its hypnotic, melodic, yet somehow bland, tune accompanying the pulsating rhythm of her wings as she once more wheeled, turning north towards the wilder northern coastal regions.

Had she carried on inland for perhaps ten miles, she would have come eventually to the modest country cottage where dwelt Häulié and Yawanna. Yet, although the dwelling itself was humble, the grounds were extensive and bounteous. Every plant that had ever put up shoots in Muddled-earth, and yet more that were native only to Valleyum, grew there amongst its fragrant gardens. The scent was intoxicating, and it was said that few that passed time there could resist becoming overpowered by the ambience of Yawanna’s gardens: the legendary gardens of Kïuw.

A radiant figure clad from head to toe in green hummed softly to herself as she tended to the gardens. Her skin was olive green and her verdant hair was bedecked with flowers. With tender care, she clipped an errant shoot here and soothed a fresh leaf there. She was in her element. As always, when Häulié was away on business, toiling in his workshop under Mount Tangential, Yawanna found solace amongst her flowers and shrubs.

“Hello Princess!”

The voice stopped Yawanna in her tracks.

“Mel?” she called out uncertainly, her voice wavering with emotion.

Slowly, Môgul Bildür stepped out from the foliage.

Yawanna stood blinking in amazement as a series of staccato drumbeats rang out, quickening in rhythm as they reached their climax.


or, Long Ago and Fur Away

During the voyage Gateskeeper remained alone on most days in the cabin he shared with Soregum, seeing that on deck there was nothing to see but sea. (Soregum usually spent his time away from the cabin, alternating between filling his stomach in the galley, emptying his stomach over the rail, and following-Pimpi-dodging-Vogonwe.) Ever since the revelation of his former association with the Dread Developer, the All-aboard-for-Valleyum-ship had understandably withdrawn from him somewhat. Kuruharan would come down on the pretense of being friendly, but after a few pleasantries he merely pressed him for his inner-circle product secrets and high-pressure sales techniques. Pimpi and Merisu did check in on him from time to time in a motherly fashion to make sure he was alright, and to encourage him to join the rest on deck for a new game that Orogarn Two had invented.

O2 had taken the Brick-that-was-Broken, the memento left to him by Earnur before their departure from the Pay Havens, and rounded it off at the sharp corners, polishing the side opposite the inscription to a flat smoothness, intending to use it as a paperweight when (or if) he returned to Grundor. As he worked with it on the deck one sunny day, the stone slipped from his grasp and, to his surprise, slid scross the deck on the smoothed side for a considerable distance. Inspiration hit him like, well, a brick. By the end of the day, he had with Cirkdan's permission created a set of marks on the deck to use as targets with differing point values. By pushing the stone across the deck with the tip of his sword he could cause the stone to come to rest atop the targets from the other side of the ship with some accuracy. He decided to name this new game Schuphilboerd (after a half-remembered Muddled-Mirth children's story about a toothless dwarf and an orc-midget) and invited everyone else to take turns at the new diversion.

In spite of the levity, the inferior Maia still sought some way to show that he was "with them" in their quest now, despite the now-almost-continuous throbbing of his gloved hand. Perhaps a gift of some kind, especially for the two ladies which had shown him such kindness. It was at that moment that Captain Cirkdan poked his head through the door to announce that they would be stopping briefly for rest and resupply at the small and totally non-canonical island of Tol Kayssevin. Gateskeeper marvelled -- Cirkdan's skull must be thick indeed to poke through a solid-wooden door like that. "Nay," replied Cirkdan, "the only way to make the ship light enough to lift off the ocean for Valleyum was to use balsathrond, the lightest of all woods." "That's not exactly what I meant, you could have just opened the door" muttered the wizard under his breath as Cirkdan withdrew his head, leaving a splintered hole.

For Gateskeeper, the timing of this landing could not have been more perfect if the author had intended it that way -- which of course, was the case. Being a waypoint on the way to Valleyum for immigrating elves, what passed for the mall on Tol Kayssevin was actually a strip of duty-free shops selling mostly cheap miruvor,, low-quality pipeweeds, and knock-off Silmaroil-baubles -- but there were deals to be had for those with a keen eye. Once the ship had made berth, Gatesy wasted no time in disembarking (a term at which the Entish Pieces seemed to take some offense) with Kuruharan secretly following along to watch a master at his craft.

While the rest of the So-far-so-good-ship rested or shopped a figure that appeared to be a lame elf boarded the ship, introduced himself as "Mobilhench", and asked for the Captain. Cirkdan was otherwise occupied, having invited a local lovely down to his private cabin in hopes of boldly going where no man had gone before, and was not happy about the interruption. Eager to return to his guest, he swallowed the stranger's story about wanting to finally go to Valleyum and being weary of Muddled Mirth, etc, etc, and accepted the new passenger without the normal screening. After all, reasoned Cirkdan, aren't the folks at VIA supposed to keep out the undesirables? The new passenger laid his bundle on the bed of his cabin and opened it up straightaway, pulling out a gleaming Cell-antir. He poked a few buttons on its screen, waited a moment, then said only "I'm in." before snapping the cover shut.

Gateskeeper made his way from store to store, as Kuruharan took notes -- it was amazing how quickly he could sidestep the fluff and frippery and persuade proprietors to bring out the "good stuff" for his perusal. Nevertheless, the wizard bought nothing, obviously looking for something special, until he arrived at a small and exceedingly overpriced bar to take refreshment. As Gateskeeper nursed his beverage Kuruharan sauntered in as if by coincidence, hailed his shipmate, and dropped his pack by a chair at the table. "Friend dwarf," Gatesy began unexpectedly, "you are a trader of some reknown, and carry a store of things both useful and bizarre -- I wish to repay a kindness."

"Male, female, elf, dwarf, human, or other?" replied the subtle and crafty dwarf with a grin.

Gateskeeper retold most of the foregoing post to the listening dwarf, who nodded with the practiced sympathy of a successful used-car-salesman. "I think I have something that might do the trick," said Kuruharan, reaching into his pack and rummaging around. In a short time (and after discarding a small mountain of miscellaneous other items onto the table) he cried, 'Aha!' and produced what appeared to be a fist-sized cream-colored ball of fur which trilled and cooed. "What is that?" asked Gateskeeper out of morbid curiousity.

"This, my friend," replied the It-ship's master of the garage-sale-in-a-bag, "is a troubabibble." .

"Come again?" replied the sharp mind on the other side of the table.

"The perfect cute pet. It's soft, furry, and makes a pleasant sound."

"So would a chinchilla trumpet. I fail to see..."

"Look, Gatesy, I know it's not a guy-thing, but you know women and cute furry animals. They'll be swooning over it as soon as they see it, and you'll be restored to their good graces."

"Hmmm. Do you have more?" said the wizard in hopeful tones.

Kuruharan put the troubabibble back in his knapsack along with a cookie. "Any moment now." There was a brief crunching sound and then a strange pop noise, after which the diminutive trader pulled no fewer than eight Troubabibbles from the knapsack.

Gateskeeper returned to the Ent's Surprise with both his spirits and his pocketbook a bit lighter, with Kuruharan following after. As soon as they boarded the ship he bowed deeply to Merisu and Pimpi and handed each one of his newly-purchased Troubabibbles. The adorable furballs immediately began purring and trilling in a manner that would make the disposition of the most amiable cat look like that of a hemorrhoidal cave troll. Before his morning coffee.

This of course set up such a truly nauseating chorus of "awww", "so sweet", and "aren't they just darling!" that the rest of the crew and passengers gathered 'round, making even more such noises, except for Vogonwe, who glowered that his love was fawning over something other than himself, and Soregum, for the same reason. Gateskeeper winked at Kuruharan, but the dwarven entrepreneur was too busy to respond...he was selling the rest of his troubabibbles to those gathered around at a high markup. It was capitalistic greed enough to warm Gateskeeper's heart. Everyone was so enamoured with the new fuzzy arrivals that no one noticed when the ever-present comestibles in Pimpi's hand were suddenly and inexplicably not present.

Later at dinnertime, taken for once onshore at a touristy but moderately priced inn, the Ship-O-Ship was introduced to their new passenger. Everyone seemed to accept the newcomer right off, except for Merisu. Being practically perfect in every way ( as was her sister, Meripoppins) she was conflicted in her heart, suspecting something not quite right about the lame elf, yet not wanting to point it out and ruin the convivial dinnertime atmosphere. She did feel compelled to point out something that immediately had everyone on their feet, swords drawn: Pimpi was late to dinner.

Reeperneep immediately piped up, with good leaf too, before waving his rapier and shrilly crying out, "We must find out what foul play is afoot, and I will challenge the villain to single-combat..."

"Sorry I'm late everyone!!" Cried Pimpi as she ran into the room clutching something bound up in her pillowcase. "I couldn't get away because my troubabibble was having...kittens? babies? troubabibblettes?" The assembled gathered around to see the new arrivals and began another round of positively puke-inducing cuteness. All except Mobilhench, who backed tenuously away from the sack of furballs. Merisu, holding one of the adorable hairballs walked up to their newest guest and fawned, "isn't he just the most precious snookie-wookums? Here, see for yourself." Suiting the action to the word, she held the creature almost under the nose of Mobilhench.

Perhaps not surprising to some, the troubabibble began to screech and hiss in a most appalling fashion. Merisu raised an eyebrow. "How odd," she began, "it doesn't like you." She gestured around the room. "They like elves, humans, dwarves, wizards, halflings, half-halflings, and even parrots...but not you. I wonder why? Doctor McCaw, if you would be so kind?" Mobilhench tried to remain still, but the cold claws and sharp beak of the medical mockingbird made him flinch as McCaw mumbled things like, "no heart...heavy makeup...fake ears...foul stench...Dim, this man is a orc-Klingon!"

Dimwi T. Cirkdan jumped to his feet again. " you mean...orc-Klingon?"

McCaw replied in a yelping screech, "Blast it, Dim, he's an orc, clingin' to my feet and wings -- he's taking me hostage!!"

Once the groans at the long-expected punny had subsided, Merisu wailed "Mobilhench -- Mogul Bildur henchman!! Why didn't I see it sooner!!"

The malevolent miscreant bellowed, "That's right, and I mean to blow holes in your ship and keep you here until The Dark Lord can arrive to deal with you right and proper. And if any of you makes a move to stop me, I'll rip this cockatoo's wings off."

"Blast it, I'm a parrot, not a cockatoo!" squawked the purloined parrot before Mobilhench wired his beak shut.

"You'll never get away with this," spoke Merisu the expected line.

"Ah, but I will," Mobilhench sneered, "All I have to do is escape through the kitchen door here behind me, and if you follow me, the bird dies!"

The What-do-we-do-now-ship stared in frozen horror as the parrot-carrying-shifty-eyed-ex-lame-elf-now-orc tried to open the door, which seemed to be stuck, causing the horror to thaw just a bit. At last the door slid to one side, and the would be Docnapper tried to make good his escape.

Unfortunately for him the kitchen was filled to bursting with troubibabbles, thousands upon thousands of decendants of one lone creature which had managed to roll itself into the restaurant's pantry stores of grain. With nothing to hinder them, they ate and reproduced at will, and boy did they have a lot of will. The mountain of fur tumbled out of the kitchen doorway, and in surprise the orc to released the hapless Doctor McCaw who wasted no time flying out of reach.. The troubibabbles, though, finding themselves piled atop the one thing in the universe they hated, screeched and howled with fear and rage, tearing into the orc which was rapidly disappearing under the accumulating balls of fluff. The Never-Seen-That-Before-ship, seeing that (a) the problems with the newcomer were being taken care of by the troubabibbles, (b) there would be no dinner forthcoming from this particular kitchen, and (c) the troubabibbles were still eating (and therefore multiplying), beat a hasty retreat from the restaurant and back to the ship.

Once all were back aboard, Orogarn Two and Cirkdan counted noses to make sure no one had been left behind. All the noses were there, but one snout was still unaccounted for -- Chysophylax! All of a sudden there was a thundering boom and a flash of light from where their restaurant once stood. A few moments later Chrysophylax himself could be seen taking off from the site of the explosion, alighting a short time later on the quay beside the ship. Casually breaking a plank off from the wood of the dock and picking his teeth, the fiery dragon burped, and said only "Tastes like zerl."

It was not long after that the Oops-we-did-it-again-ship was again under sail before they could be caught.
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Old 01-06-2005, 10:25 AM   #228
Estelyn Telcontar
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Weeks passed, and the Sail-Away-Ship saw no more land. The water surrounding them seemed endless, spread from horizon to horizon. Days were long and tempers short, and Merisuwyniel soon tired of hearing the males’ favourite complaint: “Water, water everywhere, but not a drop of ale…” After patiently answering Pimpiowyn’s dozenth “Are we there yet?” one afternoon, she decided to occupy them with Tales of Toll Entrihëa and songs of the Lessened Realm. Her companions and those of the ship’s crew who had survived their various adventures listened, enthralled by the charm of her voice so much as by the beauty of her words. If the attention of several wandered to noticing the shape of her lovely mouth or the falling and rising of her breath (frequently detrimental to their own), who could blame them?

She sang to them a song of the Straight Road:

Would you like to fly in my Elven sailing ship?
Would you go up high in my Elven sailing ship?
We could float into the West together, you and I,
For we can fly!

Up, up and away in my beautiful, my Elven sailing ship!

So engrossed were they that they heeded not the background noises nor heard Captain Cirkdan’s voice calling out, “…three, two, one, zero, lift-off! We have a lift-off!” Only when the crew members began to cheer did they look, and lo! the waters beneath the ship faded away. It seemed that its prow rose, or perhaps the sea sank; at any rate, they appeared to be sailing on air.

Uncertain, Merisu’s voice faltered and halted, at which the ship rushed downwards, falling toward the waters below. Neemoi, the enigmatic first mate, ran to Merisu and shouted above the din of waves and screams, “Keep singing! You must keep singing, for your song creates the Straight Way upon which we sail. Without the singing, it cannot carry us.”

And so she lifted up her clear voice once more, and the ship steadied itself and rose again – as did the spirits of her companions, save one. Soregum stood at the railing, and none cared to come closer to aid him.

“We must all sing,” Merisu rallied the Song-Sung-Blue-Ship around her. “You must help me, for I cannot do this task alone.”

“But your voice is better than ours,” Gateskeeper replied.

She answered, “The woods would be very silent if no birds sang there except those who sang the best.”

Soregum moaned, Dizzy, I’m so dizzy, my head is spinning. Like a whirlpool, it never ends. And it’s you, ship, making it spin, you’re making me dizzy.

“Wonderful!” their Elven leader exclaimed brightly. “That’s the spirit!”

Hang down your head, poor Soregum, Vogonwë sang, rather spitefully, hang down your head and retch…, breaking off when Merisu looked at him reproachfully.

Orogarn² struck up “Varda in the Sky with Diamonds” in his fine baritone, and all joined in, singing “La, la, la” most of the time, since they didn’t know the rest of the words, but it mattered not. As long as they sang, the ship sailed onwards, upwards.

“How about you, Kuruharan?” Meri asked. “Is there a song of your people that is fit for this occasion?”

He hesitated. “Well, Dwarves are not normally allowed to take this road, but perhaps I can change one to fit.”

Hi-ho, hi-ho, it’s off to Valleyum we go..., he began, and the others soon learned the catchy melody and sang with him. He followed that up with a rousing chorus of “Chrys, the Magic Dragon”, which seemed appropriate to a journey beyond the sea. Unfortunately, Chrysophylax was not allowed to sing along, as his fiery enthusiasm would have been detrimental to the ship’s sails and other accoutrements.

Next Reaperneep sang them a song of wistful homesickness:

I’m not by Tolkien, I’m by CSL, my dear,
For me, this journey is not right.
Speaking animals are rare over here,
I’m a Narnian in Muddled-Mirth.

Oh, I’m an alien, I’m an Arda alien,
I’m a Narnian in Muddled-Mirth.

“Leninia?” Merisu directed a questioning look at the reticent pop star. “I’m sure you have a wealth of songs to perform.”

Leninia shook her head, muttering something about the audience and the money not being worth the effort, then reluctantly began:

I made it through the Sundering Sea,
Somehow I made it through,
Didn’t know how far it was
To sail with this crew.

Like a Velour,
Landing for the very first time,
Like a Velour,
With your sërf-flet
Next to mine.

Her movements, decidedly un-Velour-like, were calculated to attract attention, and she soon had all of the males goggle-eyed.

All but Vogonwë the Faithful, of course – he was looking at Pimpi, happy to have her undivided attention. (Soregum was seated in the back, near the railing – just in case.) He began to sing a new poem he had written for her.

Lay down
Your sweet and curly head.
Ship is falling,
You’ve come to journey's end.
Sing now
Of the ones who came before;
They are sërfing
The waves on the distant shore.

Why do you eat?
What are these crumbs upon your face?
Soon you will see
All of your hunger will pass away.
And you’ll be here in my arms,

What can you see
Upon the menu?
When does the dinner gong call?
Across the sea
Neon lights beckon
’Restaurant at End of Universe’.

Her big blueberry eyes and cherry lips smiled at him so sweetly that he grasped her hand and pulled her to the prow of the ship. “Do you trust me?” he asked.

“Well, I suppose so,” she answered, more truthfully than romantically.

He clasped her waist and held her as she spread her arms wide to welcome the wind. Unbidden, a song came to her and she warbled,

Every night in my meals
I see you, you feed me.
That is how I know I eat on.

Far across the table
And plates in between us
There is food for us to feed on.

Hot, cold, not timid, but bold,
I help myself and you carry on.
Once more, we’re never too poor,
You’re here sharing my meal,
And our meal will go on and on.

In the meantime, the ship’s crew had struck up a hymn to their beloved ship.

Ent’s Surprise, Ent’s Surprise,
every journey you greet me,
Sails so white, shining bright,
You look happy to meet me.

Waters below do we leave and go
To Valleyum forever.
Ent’s Surprise, Ent’s Surprise,
Find my homeland forever.

So engrossed were they in their singing that none noticed the droplets that filled the air until they ceased, and Hal’s voice, still unfamiliar to them, sang:

I can see clearly now, the rain is gone,
I can see all Valleyum in my way.
Gone are the dark shores that had me down,
Gonna be a bright, bright sunshiny age.

And lo! the grey rain-curtain turned all to silver glass and was rolled back, and they beheld white shores and beyond them a far country under a swift sunrise. From afar they smelled a sweet fragrance on the air and heard the sound of music that came over the waves. They listened, enraptured, to the words that welcomed them: “Good, good, good, good vibrations!”

Unfortunately, they had stopped their own singing a bit too soon. The ship pitched downwards and crashed on the sandy beach. It splintered, destroyed beyond repair (What, that surprises you?!), but all survived. Well, at least the Questers and the crew did; no one noticed the white feathers flying up from below the prow.
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Old 01-06-2005, 10:47 AM   #229
The Saucepan Man
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The Eye Of Melvin and Yawanna

And it came to pass that on the Two Hundred and Twenty-Ninth Post of the Sixth Page Melvin Bluenote who was called Môgul Bildûr appeared unto Yawanna who was called Kámomyltî in the Gardens of Kïuw saying unto her the words Hello Princess! And Yawanna was sorely flummoxed and said unto Melvin Mel! You scared the bejeepers outta me! And Melvin did not reply but bestowed upon her a roguish grin. And Yawanna’s heart was sorely moved, for she had known him of old and in sooth he had appeared unto her in a seriously fanciable guise.

What are you doing here, Mel?

Oh I was just passing and I thought I’d look you up.

No, really. How did you get past VIA?

I didn’t. I came by another route. It gave me the chance to catch up with an old friend on the way.

But none can enter Valleyum without passing via VIA.

I can. This place was once my home, remember.

And verily did Yawanna remember. For she and Melvin had been going steady in the Olden Days when the world was young and the living was fast and easy for a free-spirited and nature-loving Velou in the bloom of her youth. Truly had those days been the happiest of her life.

How’s Häulié?

Oh, you know Häulié. Always tinkering in his workshop.

You’re not expecting him back soon, then?

Yes, he’s …

But Yawanna could not tell a lie for she was pure of spirit and had lived all her life in the blissful realm of Valleyum where evil had ne’er till this day penetrated. And Häulié who was called Wèrkâholik was a neglectful husband for in sooth he spent the greater part of his days in his Great Workshop under Mount Tangential.

… No. No, he probably won’t be home for days yet.

I should imagine that you get rather lonely then.

I have my children.

Wherefore Yawanna spread her bounteous arms and, behold, all the flowers, grasses, bushes and trees that grew in her fertile gardens revelled in the glory of her gaze.

Must be a blast!

Why have you come, Mel?

And Melvin did not at first make reply but stood beholding his former sweetheart. And lo his eyes were dark and terrible, but also rather gorgeous. And at length he spake unto her and his voice was grave and serious yet deep and manful.

The Ent must not be re-made.

Of course it must, Mel. It’s all that I have been working towards since first it was disassembled. It is what has kept me going. Do you realise how boring it is for me sitting alone here in my gardens while Häulié’s off creating Emu knows what? I love my children of course, but I crave intelligent conversation. Every Elf that I take into my service conks out at the first whiff of this place. I will simply die of boredom if I don’t have some company soon. And now the shield-maiden Merisuwyniel and her noble companions have arrived on the shores of this land bringing with them the Entish parts. Soon the Ent – my Ent – will be whole again. Someone to be with – to talk to – a companion at last! Surely you cannot deny me that?

And verily had Yawanna worked herself up into a bit of a bother. Yet Melvin remained unmoved.

But it’s your own fault that the accursed thing was broken in the first place. You had Mantoes pronounce my doom upon it just to spite me. All because you made the wrong choice in marrying Häulié.

No. No, it was because you had changed Mel. You had become someone that I no longer recognised. Someone … evil. Someone that I could love no more.

Is that true? You no longer have any love for me?

Yes, I …

But Yawanna could not tell a lie.

Of course I love you Mel! I always have!

And so it came to pass that Yawanna broke down into a weepy fit. And dramatically did the violins play, yea unto a great crescendo.

And you know what will happen to me if the Ent is reunified? Do you want my destruction?

Yes … no … I … oh I don’t know what I want …

There is another way.

Whereupon Yawanna looked long and hard at Melvin. And verily did he perceive a gleam in her eye.

Another way?

Yes. Come with me. Be my consort. Together we can rule the lands of Muddled-mirth and bring to its people bounty and plenty and profit. What need will you have of your Ent then?

But, Mel, you have always destroyed that which I love the most. You lay to waste the meadows and the forests and build in their place monstrosities of stone and iron.

No. You are mistaken. After the rather … erm … unfortunate circumstances that led to the creation of Orcs, I have learned the errors of my ways. I realise now that the denizens of Muddled-mirth cannot live in concrete landscapes alone. They need the beauty of nature to fully realise their potential as efficient and profitable units …ahem … happy and fulfilled spirits.

Wherefore Melvin produced from his dark cloak an ordinance bearing the mighty seal of Môgul Enterprises LLC. And writ upon that very ordinance were the words: A quarter of the lands of Muddled-mirth shall be left in their natural state or given over to parkland and gardens – by order of Môgul Bildûr. And Yawanna, being pure of spirit and unsullied by evil thoughts could not conceive that the ordinance might be a sham, nor did it cross her mind that Melvin might be her spinning her a bit of a yarn. Yet she was not so pure as to abstain from indulging in a little horse trading.

Well … a quarter does not seem very much.

You drive a hard bargain Princess, but so be it. Let’s say a half, shall we?

You mean it? Half of the lands shall be left unsullied?

Yes. And you shall be their Queen.

And I can bring my children?

But of course.

But Yawanna did not perceive that Melvin had his fingers crossed behind his back. And even had she done so, she would not have known their import. And so it came to pass that Yawanna, believing her former beau to be true, surrendered to the feelings that had lain dormant within her for countless millennia. After all, he was a bit of a dude.

Oh Mel! You really have changed.

Come with me, my Princess.

Yes Mel. Yes, I shall. We shall be together at last.

And the Entish parts?

I … I suppose that they shall have to be destroyed. After all, I shall have no need of the Ent if I have you.

Well then, what are we waiting for?
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Old 01-07-2005, 05:45 AM   #230
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Concerning the viability of entering via VIA with or without a vial

Merisuwyniel shook the sand out of her skirts and looked around to see if all were unharmed. Reassured of that, she checked the condition of their equine companions, who had spent much of the journey under deck, and of the baggage, most importantly, of all the Entish Parts. She was still counting them when she heard a sharp, unfamiliar voice behind her.

“Who is responsible for this unauthorized landing?” it asked. She turned around and saw a black-cloaked, yet obviously not evil, person (you could tell the latter by the state of his grooming – shining hair, squeaky-clean; pearly white teeth; and a fair, unblemished skin). She pulled herself up to her full height, standing tall and gracefully before him.

“Oh, you are an Elf!” he exclaimed. “You are welcome here, but why in Manuël’s name did you allow these other … creatures … races … persons … to accompany you? Anyway, you must all come with me, for none can enter here without first passing via VIA.”

“And who are you?” she asked, with an eyebrow raised so high that it would have done credit to Mister Neemoi.

“I am Bürôkration, a Toll Maia,” he replied.

“Uh, wots a maiar???” Soregum’s voice could be heard somewhere behind them.

Merisuwyniel was used to ignoring such questions; surely one of the others would be more than happy to increase his knowledge.

“You mean we have to go through formalities?” she asked.

He had taken a roll of a red, sticky substance out of his pocket and began wrapping it around their possessions.

“Look here, what’s this?” O2 strode up to the official and stood before him with all of the authority of the Wight City’s junior ruler. “I am Orogarn Two, son of Orogarn One, third cousin of Isildur, 84 times removed, heir to the Porcelain Throne of Grundor, of Noodleorian heritage, and I demand to know what is going on.”

The Maia answered politely, though coldly, “I’m very sorry, but it is necessary for me to apply this VIA-duct tape to all who desire admittance here. Unless, of course, they have a green vial.”

“What is a green vial?” the Gateskeeper, who recognised the official’s firewalling techniques, asked.

“Is it possible that you do not read your O-mails?” Bürôkration asked. Now it was his eyebrow that was raised to improbable heights.

“Spämfiltér,” Gatesy muttered. “I never look at those offers.”

“Had you a green vial, I could quickly check the viability of a quick entrance via VIA, but since you do not, you must endure the red VIA-duct tape,” came the answer.

“But – I do have a green vial!” Merisu exclaimed.

All spun around to look at her.

“Just a minute,” she said, rummaging through her luggage. She lifted a round object and removed the cloth in which it was wrapped.

Her companions gasped. A shining Cell-antír appeared, with a bright green light glowing from within it.

“The Green Goddess sent me this whilst we were yet upon the shores of our homelands, at the White Towers, and bade me keep it against our coming,” she explained. “I suffered much to attain it.”

“Then that settles things, right?” Pimpiowyn asked cheerfully.

“Wait just one moment,” the Toll Maia said. “Do you have any viands to declare?”
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Old 01-07-2005, 06:06 AM   #231
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While the Itship dealt with the Toll Maia, Captain Cirkdan stood sorrowfully before the wreckage of the Ent's Surprise. Dr. Macaw flapped over to perch on his shoulder and squacked sympathetically. Dim shook his head in grief and wiped tears from his face. Then he spoke.

"My Emu.... Macaw! What... have... I.... done?"

"You've done what you always do, Dim," replied the healer. "You've disregarded all rules, regulations and common sense in favor of imposing your own sense of values, standards and morality upon all you come across, often resulting in a brief and tawdry affair, or, in this case, a moderate fee for your misguided services..."

The Itship, being engrossed in satisfying the inquiries of the Toll Maia, did not notice the loud squack or the flurry of colorful feathers which filled the air behind them. Indeed, all seemed to be going well with the VIA. Each member of the Itship proclaimed, in turn, that they had nothing to declare to the VIA agent. Merisu, Pimpiowyn and Orogarn coveniently became engrossed in examining the scenery when it was Kuruharan's turn to make his declaration, though Soregum and the others covered their grins as the Dwarf proclaimed that he had nothing to declare and was not carrying any contraband, forbidden items or fruits or vegetables. Then the Toll Maia browsed about the wreckage on the beach, occaisionally pausing to brush some blue down which had settled upon his robe. Suddenly, he stopped and prodded a black lump which lay sprawled on the sand.

"A-ha!" he cried.

The Itship rushed over to see what could be the problem. The Toll Maia scowled at them. Then, straightening up to his full height, he proclaimed, "I'm afraid I can't allow you to enter Valleyum."

"Why ever not?" cried Merisu in alarm.

"You are attempting to bring in, over our borders and into our sovereign territory, in violation of Chapter 346275, Subpart 3.27, Paragraph 6(a)(1)(B) of the VIA Code.... a dead Wraith!" he replied.

"What's the matter with a dead Wraith?" inquired Kuruharan. "Just out of curiosity, of course."

The VAI agent took a black manual from a pocket of his robes. He flipped through its pages for a moment, then squinted at its nearly microscopic type before clearing his throat. Then, to the Itship's dismay, he sang, off-key and in a squeeky voice:

"Dead wraiths aren't much fun.
When you call them they don't come.
Dead wraiths aren't much fun.

You can't make them beg for food,
you can try; it's no good.
They won't roll over, won't play ball,
they'll play dead - that's all.

When you pick them up they sag
when you walk them it's a drag.
Yawanna isn't feeling well,
I think she doesn't like the smell.
Dead wraiths aren't much fun.

The Toll Maia straightened his robes and glared at the Itship. "Well, I guess that's all," he said with an officious smile. "Good morning!"

"Wait!" cried Merisu. "He's not dead! He's resting!"

The VAI agent stood still, looking as if he had been slapped. Then, after some hemming and hawing and another glance at Grrralph's unmoving form, he replied, "Look, I know a dead wraith when I see one and I'm looking at one!"

At that moment, a slightly ragged looking parrot flew over. "See Dim," it squacked. "I told you he was dead!"

"You stay out of this!" cried Pimpiowyn as she directed a kick at the parrot's posterior.

"No!" continued Merisu. "He's not dead. He's just resting."

"Resting?" repeated the Maia with a dubious look on his face.

"Yes," continued Merisu. "Remarkable things, wraiths. Lovely cloak..."

"Look," interrupted the now highly disturbed Maia. "His cloak doesn't even come into this. He's stone dead! All right, if he's resting I'll wake him!"

The VIA agent stood over Grrralph, leaned over and shouted into his hood, "HELLO WRAITH. I"VE GOT A NICE ORC FOR YOU. WAKE UP!"

Ever quick on the uptake, Vogonwë sidled over to the prone waraith and nudged it with his foot. "There!" he cried. "See? He moved!"

"No he didn't," hissed the unfortunate civil servant. "You pushed him."

"I did not!" demurred Vogonwë.

"Yes you did!" growled the Maia. His face had turned red and his right eye twitched nervously. Taking a deep breath, he approached Grrralph and, with wild eyes began kicking the wraith while he shouted. "HELLO WRAITH! TESTING. TESTING. THIS IS YOUR NINE O'CLOCK WAKE UP CALL!"

Panting heavily, the Maia turned back to Merisu. "That is what I call dead."

He's not dead," retorted the Shieldmaiden. "You stunned him. Wraiths stun easily you know."

"'Wraiths stun...easily," muttered the VIA agent. "Madam, this wraith is dead, deceased, departed. He has passed on, kicked the bucket. He is pushing up daisies! He is an ex-wraith!"

At that moment, a voice came from the body formerly known as Grrralph. It said, "Hi, hello. Good morning! Thank you for waking me! I'm feeling very rested now."

After a moment's pause Vogonwë and Orogarn (Two) rushed forward and eased Grrralph up from the ground. Propping him up between them, they smiled at the Maia. Kuruharan, sneaking up from behind, lifted the wraith's arm and waved.

The VIA agent became very pale. He took a ragged breath, then sighed, before continuing in an unsteady voice. "Very well. Move along. Enjoy your stay in Valleyum." Muttering under his breath and shaking his head, he stalked off, vowing to seek a position with the Valleyum Organization of Ozone Management ("VOOM").

Merisu waited until the Maia disappeared, then looked about. Behind her, Gateskeeper was putting away his Cell-antir with a toothy grin...
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Old 01-12-2005, 01:05 PM   #232
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“Now what?” asked Pimpi.

Merisuwyniel drew herself to her full height and her eyes shown with the light of one who is about to achieve a lifelong goal. “Yea verily! We must proceed onward to the Velour and the accomplishment of our Quest!”

“HUZZAH!!” cried the rest of the Gallowship, or some of them anyway.

“But how do we find them?” asked Pimpi.

“For those whose souls are true and strong,” intoned Merisuwyniel, “who are loyal to the Quest…Behold! The light of the Velour will reveal itself and show the way to those who are pure in spirit and…”

“Why don’t we just follow the signs,” interrupted Orogarn Two.

Sure enough, enormous signs proclaiming in sizzling neon pink “VELOUR THIS WAY!!!” lined a gigantic highway meandering through rococco hills off into the distance.

Mounting their horses (and dragon) the entire group began the last stage of their journey.

“I don’t see why you people couldn’t have walked,” said an annoyed Kuruharan to Cirkdan, Neemoi, and Macaw, who shared his perch atop Chrysophylax.

“Physical…ACTIVITY…is not…MY…cup…of tea,” said Cirkdan.

“I can tell,” said Kuruharan, reproachfully jabbing a finger into Cirkdan’s middle.

“Talk to my physician he’s in charge of my diet,” snapped Cirkdan. He turned to look at the parrot.

“Blast it Dim,” Macaw squawked, “I’m a doctor, not a…wait a minute.”

Down on the ground, Merisuwyniel’s ears pricked to a mysterious sound. “What’s that noise?” she asked.

“What noise?” asked Gateskeeper.

“I hear it too,” said Halfemption. “It sounds like the charging of a group of great beasts. How strange, I thought Valleyum was a dull and peaceful land.”

“Let’s climb this hill to get a better view,” said Merisuwyniel.

The group above them already had a better view and whatever they saw seemed to have started an argument. However, the rest of the group took no notice.

“Look,” said Soregum, “there is a great dust cloud to the North.”

“Aha!” cried Reaperneep from his perch on Merisuwyniel’s saddle pommel, “Let them come! I will be able to display my prowess with a blade!”

The harsh sound of shouting fell upon their ears as the quarrel on the dragon grew heated. It seemed Kuruharan and Chrysophylax had some sort of dispute with Cirkdan, Neemoi, and Macaw. The rest of the Gallowship still took no notice.

And, as if in answer to the squabbling, there came from far away another note. Horns, horns, horns. Across the vapid countryside they dimly echoed. Great horns from the North wildly blowing. With the horns came yet another note. Hounds, hounds, hounds. Great hounds from the North wildly barking.

Suddenly, a great stampede of creatures broke from cover and scattered in all directions. With them ran the usually sedate Elves and mighty Maya, their faces fallen into masks of abject terror.

“Run away!!! Run away!!!” they all screamed.

“Cowards! Poltroons!” shrilled Reaperneep. “Stand and fight you villains!”

Above them, Cirkdan seized hold of Chrysophylax’s tail, trying to steer him in the other direction. Kuruharan hopped up and down, stuck a hand in his robes and pulled out a very small object. He said something strenuously, but the words were lost by the distance.

“What do you suppose all this ruckus is about?” inquired Orogarn Two.

“Ummm,” said Merisuwyniel dubiously.

“Look!” cried Halfemption.

Several hills away a pack of hounds burst into view. They were bigger than houses, much bigger than houses. They were charging due South, but then turned and started charging West. As they vanished behind the next hill the Rider appeared. At this distance it was impossible to see him distinctly but he was dressed in crimson and white and a light seemed to surround him and emanate from him. As he topped the hill he raised a great golden horn to his lips and blew a great merry blast that shook the countryside. Then his great horse leapt down the slope after the hounds. A few seconds later a band of smaller figures, also in scarlet and white, went running over the hill and then vanished.

The noise began to recede.

Above them, the argument had abruptly ceased and Kuruharan resumed his seat with an air of smug and insufferable complacency.

“They seem to be moving off,” noted Gateskeeper dryly.

“Cats!” cursed Reaperneep, “He looked to my eyes to be a worthy foe! After him!”

“No,” said Merisuwyniel, “we must be on our way. However, if that was who I think it was, then you shall see him again.”

And the party resumed its journey.
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Old 01-13-2005, 08:36 AM   #233
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Shaken, but not stirred, as the great but spittlesome Third Age poet Eean the Phlegming would have had it, they went on through the land; as a stoat pushing through an anti-stoat fence; soon they were, so totally like, near Valleyfornia.

“All the leaves are brown,” said Hal perceptively and pre-emptively, suspecting someone might soon make the same observation.

“And the sky is grey,” mentioned Meri. “Looks like we’re in for a bit of a walk.”

“On a winter’s day,” shivered Hal in return. “I’d be safe and warm, if I was in LA.”

“Where?” asked Meri. Hal said nothing, but at that moment the sun came out from through the clouds, and spread warm light upon the Wellittakesusawhilebutwegetroundtoiteventually-ship.

“Valleyfornia’s beamin’,”said Hal, dreamily. “On such a winter’s day.” And indeed before them, the sunbeams alighted lightly on the City of the West, which the author would love to suggest was gleaming spires, with perhaps the odd minaret thrown in, but was rather some rather pricey looking stuccoed villas, and carefully manicured lawns. It was eerily quiet.

“Quite finished?” asked Orogarn. “We do have work here, not mere idle banter.”

And so they walked down the broad avenue, into the heart of the sun’s final location. They saw a sign for what appeared to be a great high street, or shopping centre, which reminded them of the boutiques of Topfloorien. This place was called Valleyfornication.

“I expect,” mused their fair Elven leader, “that the inhabitants of this wondrous yet curiously deserted place are at the mall.”

If she was honest, the idea of a little boot-shopping in Valleyfornia did also seem pretty righteous. She pushed this pedal-purchase-penchant to the back of her mind and led them on.

Yet the party were hungry, and at a sign saying Mamas and Papas’ Nip-in Nippon Dining, they stopped for refreshment. The tables were terribly low, but they were ravenous enough not to care.

So they stopped into a place, they passed along the way. Well, they got down on their knees, and they began to eat. The Fellowship, they liked the food – thought they were going to stay. Valleyfornia dinin’ – such a winter’s day.

When they were sated, it was time to take stock. Hal took vegetables, and Vogonwe collected up gravy boats. When they had taken stock, it was time to appraise their situation.

“So what’s the gist of what you chaps are up to, anyway?” asked Hal reasonably.

“It’s complicated,” sighed several people.




“…great quest…very heroic…Elrond…”


“…need to find the rest…to be honest…no real idea…”

Eventually, Hal thought he had the story straight. He was stuck in a party of the most ludicrous insanity, with a slim chance of survival, no chance of dignity, and the ominous fear that at any minute his storyline might be corrupted by a veritable gaggle of puns. Unfortunately, he knew not that the correct collective noun for the pun was in fact a ‘punishment’. This, as will be seen, was as apt as one might singularly imagine. And ones were about to become singularly important. Because, as any child worth his salt knows, firstly – salt isn’t worth much, and secondly, if a large group goes shopping together, in no short order separation ensues.

Valleyfornication mall was huge, the size of a small country. And it was teeming, oddly not with teams, but with people. People who liked each other a lot, or rather just liked the word like a lot.

Thus it was, among the shops of Valleyfornia, that the Notagainship was rendered, rent and remaindered.

Hal found himself wandering, if not as lonely as a cloud, then certainly as ambivalent as a mild fog. He trudged through the bright lights and vast crowds. He would have trudged slowly over wet sand, but no one would get that. He ambled through the thickets of bleached blonde baby-faces of this western oddity.

So lost was he in thoughts of this strange place, that he bumped into Merisuwyniel inadvertently.

“Ah,” he said gallantly, feeling more like his brother than normal. “How are you?”

“Fine, Hal, fine,” she said “but we need to get on with finding the Velour.”

At the exact moment she said the word, a giant bubble appeared before them, rotating and blue. It popped, *pop*, and inside sat a small man, no taller than three inches, sitting on a flying carpet.

“Velour?” he squeaked.

“I’m dreaming,” murmured Hal.

“Of genie?” questioned Merisuwyniel. “Let us follow him.”

And follow him they did, for he set off through the shopping district at a ferocious pace. They weaved through the thronging Elves until they came to a great staircase. Before the staircase was a peculiar feature: what appeared to be a water-fountain, but rather than clear water, strange devices tumbled noisily down to smash on the stone base of the thing. They were black or silver, with strange apertures on one side, and blinking red eyes on the top. They clicked and buzzed oddly, and occasionally emitted blinding flashes.

“Fount Olympus,” murmured their guide. “No pictures up here.”

“We must summon the others,” cried Merisu. “Hal, your brother carried a piercing tin-whistle. Do you have a family heirloom of similar use?”

“Sadly,” began Hal, in his doleful voice, “my family left me an actual loom as my heirloom. I suppose it’s what you would call irony. It’s of no use now. However,” he added, brightening and feeling at something tied to his belt, “I do have this trumpet.”

“Then call the others!”

He did, and they arrived all at once, with the convenience of large groups in poorly narrated stories. They stood gazing at the stair, which wound its way up beyond the clouds that formed, oddly, below the ceiling of the great hall. Inscriptions were carved on each step: “All that glitters is gold”, “She knows if the stores are closed”, “A songbird who sings” and so on.

Thus they went on the stairway to heavens higher than the clouds, with feet of lead, but hearts of zeppelins. They were nearly there now.

Last edited by Rimbaud; 01-14-2005 at 04:22 AM.
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Old 01-19-2005, 11:58 PM   #234
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“Now,” said Merisuwyniel as they ascended up toward the ceiling, “we have the pieces of the Ent that was Broken…”

Kuruharan smacked himself in the forehead. Orogarn Two rolled his eyes at the stupidity of his companions. “The what…?” inquired Halfemption. “Not again,” groaned Vogonwë and Leninia. “We’ve already done this gag,” muttered Chrysophylax.

“Look!” cried Gateskeeper. “A plot hole!!!”

Sure enough, hanging in mid-air right next to the escalator was the biggest, ugliest, most inexplicable plot hole in the history of literature or moviedom.

“HUZZAH!!” cried the Gallowship, or some of them anyway.

“Plot holes of this nature are incredibly dangerous,” intoned Merisuwyniel. “Who now is able to fathom them? Characters, plot elements, even coherence itself have all vanished in such plot holes as these. Conversely, characters, plot elements, and usually more incoherence have emerged from such plot holes. What…”

“If you don’t shut up it’s going to be two stories below us before we can do anything!” snapped Orogarn Two.

“There’s nothing else for it,” said Kuruharan. “Somebody is going to have to jump into the plot hole and return with the Ent that was Broken.”

Everyone glanced at everyone else uneasily.

“I nominate the Captain,” said Soregum.

“I second,” said Pimpi.

“Now, wait just a minute,” said a suddenly ruffled Neemoi.

“But,” said Cirkdan. “We…SHOULD…do our…bit…for the…QUEST.”

“Blast it Dim,” chirped Macaw, “I’m a doctor, not a go-fer.”


Quick as thought, a sharp struggle broke out. Cirkdan, Neemoi, and Macaw were tossed over the edge of the escalator and into the waiting maw of the plot hole.

“Don’t forget to toss back the Ent that was Broken!” shouted Orogarn Two after them.

“AAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!” replied the brave volunteers.

The plot hole emitted a sudden overwhelming cacophony of noises. Great tentacles reached out and seized the three crewmembers and dragged them through the opening. The noises grew louder. The agonized cries of ten thousand souls in torment mingled with a roaring and banging that defied description. Above it all rose a noise that sounded for all the world like the scream of a Thing-wraith.

Grralph stirred uneasily in his slumber.

“What’s taking them so long?” demanded Leninia.

Suddenly, out of the gaping plot hole popped the head of none other than Earnur Etceteron.

“Hullo, there,” he said cheerfully. “I say, one of you wouldn’t happen to have a bit of something to drin….whoops,” and he vanished. “Bonehead pillock!” laughed a metallic voice out of the maw.

The Gallowship stared with their mouths hanging open.

The Balfrog’s head shot out of the hole and took a swipe at Chrysophylax, who bravely tucked his tail between his legs and scrambled out of the way. The Balfrog roared and disappeared.

The plot hole heaved…and belched.

“Eeeeeewwww,” moaned Merisuwyniel and Pimpi together. “How crude!”

Out flew the wagon bearing the Ent that was Broken. It crashed on the escalator a few steps behind them.

The Gallowship breathed a sigh of relief and gratitude, or some of them did anyway.

“Thank you captain, wherever you are,” sighed Merisuwyniel. “And to you my darl…I mean Mr. Neemoi,” she added.

“What?!” bawled Orogarn Two. “They were both pompous a…”

“Watch it!” snapped Merisuwyniel.

“Were here,” said Pimpi.

“Where’s here?” inquired Vogonwë.

That was a question not so easily answered. The Lostship stepped off the escalator (dragging the wagon with them). They could see nothing except white light and a vague outline of the floor beneath them.

Reaperneep sniffed the air and trotted forward. “Are we to be halted here at the completion of our Quest?” he shrilled.

“No,” said Merisuwyniel. “Muddled Mirth is counting on us.”

“The light makes my head hurt,” moaned Chrysophylax.

The Bemused-ship slowly walked forward. They had not gone far before they noticed the Muzak. It was beautiful and strange. It roused a longing that was pain (even worse than lust for Merisuwyniel). Nothing else seemed worthwhile but to listen to that sound forever.

“Come on,” cried Reaperneep, his naturally adventurous nature aroused by his adventurous surroundings. The Brainsnearingthestateofjellyship staggered on.

The music began to call to them. It was a merry bubble and joy, thin, clear, and happy. The call of the music became stronger than the music was sweet. The Brainsreachingthestateofjellyship could not help but move forward now.

They came to a great golden door that was more magnificent than mere words could describe. The liquid of that glad music broke on them like a wave, caught them up, and possessed them utterly. They were conscious that they were nearing The End…whatever that might be.

“We must go in,” whispered Merisuwyniel.

“…just…five more minutes, Mommy,” muttered the Gateskeeper, with his eyes closed.

Kuruharan slowly swayed from side to side. “If I could only make a recording of this stuff and sell it! I’d make a fortune!!!”

Slowly, trembling with doubt and hesitation, Merisuwyniel reached to push open the door.

“Oh, let me do it!” cried Reaperneep, who was beside himself in eagerness and impatience.

He opened the door.

They were filled with the feeling that they were exactly where they were meant to be at that moment in time.

As they passed over the threshold, the music was overwhelmed by a Great Theme of Muzak. It was greater and more wonderful than any yet revealed. The Motleyship were overcome by its glory and splendor. They bowed down inside the door.

The Muzak stopped. They waited.

…and waited.

Finally, Reaperneep dared to look up. He beheld great shining thrones upon a dais on the far side of a pillared hall. He stood and trotted forward.

“Look,” he cried. “I found something.”

The Puzzledship gathered around him.

He had found A Sign. And upon that Sign in glorious letters of fire and ice was writ…

“Next Throne Room Please -->”

They turned and beheld another door, even more magnificent than before. The Muzak swelled again. The Deepship was drawn forward again. The sound of harps and lutes, and pipes and trumpets, and viols and organs, and like unto countless choirs singing with words, began to fashion yet another Theme, like unto the first, only more stirring.

Without haste, they opened the great doors before them and beheld a Great Light. They fell to their faces.

The Great Muzak swelled with great profundity and became triumphant. It achieved a poignancy unutterable in these poor houses of Time.

It ceased and a great silence fell as if the Muzak had never been. And the Upthecreekwithoutapaddleship waited.

…and waited.

Finally, Reaperneep dared to look up. He beheld greater shining thrones upon a greater dais on the far side of a greater pillared hall. He stood and trotted forward. He continued on and on until he vanished in the light.

And lo! Long seemed the time until his return. But, return he did.

He strode up to where the Expectantship lay huddled on the floor.

“I have found a Token upon one of the Thrones,” he announced grandly. He handed something to Merisuwyniel.

Merisuwyniel took it up and looked at it. “It seems to be a sheet of…notebook…paper…”

She opened the sheet and read those words that echo loud through the ages.

“Out to Lunch.”

“WHO DO THEY THINK THEY ARE?!!!” screamed Leninia.
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Old 02-06-2005, 05:33 PM   #235
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1420! The Ever Lovin' Luncheon of Manuël and Prada

Somewhere, out there, in an unidentifiable hall in an unidentifiable palace in Valleyum (that I can identify, thank goodness) someone was having lunch.

That someone was Prada, known by the Elves of Muddled-Mirth as El Beer Breath the Fair Enough, and known to the Hobbits of the Mire as Snow White Applebottom the Plump and Fair Enough. By the Dwarves of Muddled-Mirth she was known and Snow White the Lazyassed. Some also call her Fanny, or She of the Ten Thousand Shoes. She was, at that moment in time, dining on rice and codfish, with a goblet of fine imported Mire beer and a side of lamb liver. This she would follow up with a fine imported chocolate cake with strawberry pie filling on the side.

As she sat on her fanny with her niftily clad feet propped upon a pillow, she called out to her husband, “Manny, stop making that racket and come to lunch, your codfish is getting cold and your ’ard liquor is getting soft.”

Her husband, Manuël Sàntana, Lord of the Breath of ’Ard Liquor, did not cease in his racket, for he knew that ’ard liquor could not get soft. And he preferred his codfish cold. “Coming,” he said insincerely, as he played upon his guitar, known as TícTàc the Magnificently In Tune. TícTàc was renowned throughout Valleyum, and many Elven musicians far away on the shores of Muddled-Mirth swore by the Ever Lovin’ Guitar Strap of Manuël Sàntana and dreamed of one day collaborating with the Master of Muzak. Even in the deepest woods of Workmud, poets dreamed of one day setting their lyrics to the ever lovin’ strummin’ of Manuël Sàntana. Also there was the chance of getting drunk on ’ard liquor, a drink so strong it puts ’Mudwater to shame.

Manuël and Prada were alone in the unidentifiable hall save for the Seven Dwarves, Prada’s special guests from Muddled-Mirth. It was not widely known in Muddled-Mirth that there were actually Dwarves living in Velour, but Manuël had granted them a special status due to some kind of bond they had formed with Prada once upon a time. No one really like to talk about that incident, as how Prada had ended up in Muddled-Mirth, hiding from a wicked witch, and getting kissed by a handsome Elven Prince, was a delicate issue in the Sàntana household. Or rather, Unidentifiable Hallhold.

The Dwarves were dancing and shaking their posteriors to the ever lovin’ racket Manuël made upon his guitar. But I will not elaborate further on that, since no one wants a detailed description of dancing dwarves.

In upon this happy homey scene, burst a messenger. “My Lord, my Lady,” he said, hastily bowing. “There is a bizarre and dangerous looking ragtag bunch of malcontents requesting a conference with you. One of them says he’s a big fan of your muzak, my lord. Will you see them or shall I throw them out on their posteriors?”

“In good time, in good time,” said Manuël. “A fan, eh? Well, we can at least hear what they have to say before we throw them out. Tell them we shall see them after lunch.”

Last edited by Diamond18; 02-06-2005 at 06:38 PM.
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Old 02-07-2005, 07:40 AM   #236
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Estelyn Telcontar has reached the Cracks of Doom and destroyed the Ring!Estelyn Telcontar has reached the Cracks of Doom and destroyed the Ring!Estelyn Telcontar has reached the Cracks of Doom and destroyed the Ring!Estelyn Telcontar has reached the Cracks of Doom and destroyed the Ring!Estelyn Telcontar has reached the Cracks of Doom and destroyed the Ring!Estelyn Telcontar has reached the Cracks of Doom and destroyed the Ring!Estelyn Telcontar has reached the Cracks of Doom and destroyed the Ring!Estelyn Telcontar has reached the Cracks of Doom and destroyed the Ring!Estelyn Telcontar has reached the Cracks of Doom and destroyed the Ring!Estelyn Telcontar has reached the Cracks of Doom and destroyed the Ring!
And so it came to pass that the ceremonial gong was sounded to summon the Kings and Queens of the Velour to a Great Conference. (Yes, though multiple kings and queens of a land are a reason for war in this world, boys and girls, in fantasy stories it works! And amazingly well with brethren and sistern, even… ) And the sound of it was heard throughout Valleyum, and the resounding echo of grumbling, irritation at the interruption of other pleasures, or curious gossip was heard in answer.

And lo! they came from the beaches and bars and there was much stashing away of serf-flets and much tying of diaphanous scarves over itsy-bitsy teeny-weeny yellow polka-dot bikinis to meet the minimal dress-code and much donning of fishnet muscle shirts likewise. At the entrance of the Great Conference Hall they paused to adorn their feet with the ceremonial flíp-flets, in accordance with the warning runes that were writ above the doorway. (Translator’s note: The ruins of these runes were found in the ruins of Valleyum in recent times; they have been reconstructed and their contents can now be repeated. In the Common Tongue they read: “No shirt, no shoes, no service” )

They took their places at the circular table that signified their equality, though they were fully aware of the fact that some of them were more equal than others. The most equal of them came last – Manuël and Prada ascended the ceremonial staircase at one end of the Hall. While waiting for them, some of the Velour whose physical attributes proclaimed them to be male or a reasonable facsimile thereof began to sing a playful chorus of “We’re Kings of the Round Table”. Interestingly, it blended in perfect counterpoint with the three-part harmony rendering of “Good Vibrations” (the national anthem of Valleyum) from the female side of the table – well, it is to be assumed that it was sung by the females, since no self-respecting, fully-functional male could sing that high.

Manuël winced almost imperceptibly, but his benign expression showed that he could tolerate the musical taste of the lower – um, equal on a different level – colleagues. He stood majestically and patiently, waiting for them to arise for his ceremonial introductory speech. His patience was needed, but after much clearing of throats and some clinking of spoons against glasses, they were finally inclined to give him their only minimally divided attention.

“My brethren and sistern,” he began pompously, “we are assembled here this day to…”

“Aw, come on, Manny,” T-M Ulmo protested. “Speak normally and get down to business. The waves won’t wait all day, you know.”

There were assenting nods all around the table, and much shuffling of feet to indicate the wish to continue proceedings in a sitting position.

“Oh, all right,” he capitulated. Much relieved, they sank into their comfortable lounging chairs and sipped their favourite refreshing Cok-tailz. “Well, like, it’s like this,” he continued. “A bunch of weirdos from Muddled-Mirth has, like, sailed over here, and it looks like they, like, want something from us. I know we have a non-interference policy required of us by the Prime Directive, but we can at least listen to them before, like, sending them back, right?”

“Sounds cool,” “OK with me,” “Yeah,” and some assenting murmurings answered his, like, question. After all, even serf-fletting got boring once in awhile, and new kidz on the block were not an everyday occurrence.

Two lovely young Maya twins, Pollí-Esther and Pollí-Unsaturated, opened the doors and ushered in the Flotsam’nJetsamShip. The Questers hardly dared to look up, fully expecting to be blinded by so much royal brilliance, and when they did, their jaws dropped, for before them was assembled a wealth of suntans and blond-streaked hair and lean-muscled bodies such as had never been seen in eastern lands, yet no shining light surrounded them, though the dark-shaded glasses they wore seemed to have been made for that purpose.

Merisuwyniel stepped forward almost shyly, not quite knowing how to address this awe-inspiring group; yet drawing upon the wisdom and diplomatic skill of generations of Elves, she began. “Four-score and seven years ago- ” Flustered, she stopped. Wrong generation, she admonished her inner Elves. “My Lords and Ladies,” she began anew, fervently hoping that it did not matter to Valleyum etiquette if the males or females were addressed first. “We have come on a quest of great importance to Muddled-Mirth. We wish to remedy an unprecedented cruelty – the hewing and sundering of an Ent! We have done our best to reassemble all the parts that were separated, yet is the reunification beyond our skills, yea, beyond the skills of any who reside in Muddled-Mirth. Nevertheless I had messages from these shores, telling me to ask for aid here.”

She looked around at the ladies, searching for the familiar green face of her visions, but she could not find it. Expectantly, she waited for an answer, and her companions waited, speechless for once, with her.
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Old 02-07-2005, 11:21 PM   #237
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Boots Constitutional Velour

“How did that degenerate bum become Lord of the Breath of ‘Ard Liquor?” demanded Orogarn Two, a bit more loudly than might be considered prudent.

“Shhh,” hissed Merisuwyniel.

“I would think being degenerate might be of assistance,” mumbled Kuruharan in a much more subdued tone.

“Duuuude,” intoned Manuël Sàntana, “chill out!! I was chosen because, like, I was, like, the awsomest dude on the block!”

“Oh, very nice,” said Orogarn Two, clearly unimpressed. “And how do you figure that, eh?”

“By the Valleyfornia way, dude!” replied Sàntana. “By plebiscite!”

“What?” snapped Orogarn Two. “Are you proposing that you come from some sort of anarcho-syndicalist commune?”

“Like, totally, dude!” said Sàntana. “When my Old Man cooked up this new gig for us, we had, like, a competition to see who would rock out the most. I promised the peeps that if I was chosen I’d, like, keep running Muzak non-stop, the surf would always be up, and everyone could, like, lie around on the beach and drink strawberry margaritas day and night. Then everyone went and marked their super-secret decoder ring ballots. I won in a landslide, no hanging chads or nothing! So mellow out dude!”

“What?” cried Orogarn Two. “You weren’t crowned or anointed or…something?”

“Nope,” replied Manuël with a grin. “But I’m The Man, man!”

“Listen,” said Orogarn Two earnestly, “a bunch of people stuffing pieces of paper into a box is no basis for a system of government! Supreme executive power derives from the Mandate of Emu, not some farcical counting ceremony!”

“Chill out, man” said Sàntana.

Orogarn Two paid no attention. “You can’t expect to wield supreme executive power just because a bunch of misguided surfers with visions of utopian debaucheries dancing in their heads put checkmarks beside your name.”

“Duuude...” said Manuël.

“I mean,” continued Orogarn Two, completely unfazed, “if I went round saying I was premier just because I convinced a bunch of chumps to stand in line to shove some papers into a tin, they’d put me away!”

“Hey, man,” said Manuël Sàntana, becoming just ever so slightly flustered, “you’re, like, crimping my style, man! Just chill out, man!”

As if to emphasize his point, he raised TícTàc and played a mellow bit of Muzak.

“See, man,” said Manuël. “Just take it easy, man. Like, go with the flow!”

Orogarn Two turned to Merisuwyniel, “I begin to think our cause is hopeless!”

“I don’t think this conversation is being very constructive,” said Merisuwyniel.

Last edited by Kuruharan; 02-07-2005 at 11:24 PM. Reason: Deep flows the river of MersuwyNILE...
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Old 02-08-2005, 07:01 AM   #238
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“I’ll show you constructive,” exclaimed Hal, unexpectedly, and with a grandiose flourish, produced a very small black leather case.

Oh no, thought Merisuwyniel, another ‘his guitar is very small’ type running joke. How tiresome.

Fortuitously, this was not the case, for with fingers defter than those of the be-pickled-peppered Peter Piper, Hal opened the case, and swiftly constructed from the items therein an ornate but serviceable guitar. He strummed the instrument, introduced as Wailur, as if experimentally, as Manuel watched sceptically, and although the sound was not the soaring joy his host’s fretwork, it was not unpleasant.

“Dude,” said Manuel appreciatively. “Let’s, like, jam.”

“I already do,” said Hal, suspiciously.

“Just play, and maybe we’ll get what we need,” hissed Pimpi, in what she had hoped would be an inaudible whisper to their hosts.

Prada smiled fashionably. “Get on with it.”
And so the quarter-elf and the legend played their instruments together, and the music of Wailur and TicTac rose to the ceiling in a minty-fresh cacophony.
Then the voice of the Wailur, like unto harps and lutes, and pipes and trumpets, and viols and organs, but all played by incontinent weasels, and like unto countless choirs of 80s hair-band singers singing with ‘words’, began to fashion the theme of Hal and Manuel to a great bloody din; and a sound arose of endless interchanging discords woven in some sort of musical purgatory that passed beyond hearing (oh hell, yes) into the depths and rarely troubling the heights, and the places of the ears of the so afflicted were filled to overflowing, and the ghastliness and the echo of the aural mayhem went out into the Void, and it was not void.

The valorous Velour were dolorous.

“Alan McGee’s on the phone,” said Polli-Esther fibrously, as she pocked her plastic-enhanced features around the door.

“Seriously, no one will get that,” said Hal, ceasing and desisting, “but I’m guessing you’re going to leave it in anyway.”

Damn right.

In the sickening silence that followed the last shocking twang of the Wailur, Merisuwyniel adjusted her superbly crafted hair, and asked Prada what she used on her hair, to make it so sleek, soft and shiny.

“In fact,” said Merisuwyniel, “I could even say it was three times as shiny as hair with other products.”

“How on earth could you quantify that?” butted in Orogarn Two. The Gateskeeper whipped out an odd pocket instrument, with many buttons and runes scribed upon it.

“It’s a P’Ann-Tene,” said Prada, softly.

“Pound ten?” screamed Manuel querulously. “And you so totally like, complain, about my board wax?”

“Your board wanes, dude-dear,” replied Prada airily.

“Oooh, good one,” said Pimpi.

At this point a particularly well-built fellow entered, without knocking and looked slowly at each person in the room. The room was far from empty and this took some considerable time and there was much shuffling of feet. Still, the imposing bulk of the man, allied to one glowing red eye and a Mr Valleyum belt, quietened any potential rebellions, like an SUV through a pack of baby seals.

“The Reunitership?” he asked in a deep Teutonic voice.

“What the Muddled-Mirth is a Teuton?” asked Vogonwe quietly.

“Um, yes,” answered Merisuwyniel firmly, turning to face the dramatic entrance.

“I am the Governator,” said her interlocutor equally firmly, with the same rich accent. “My word is law here.”

“Um,” said Manuel tentatively. “Du-ude…”

“Do not dude me,” ordered the Governator, terminating Manuel’s sentence callously. “I am the law. Democratically.”

“Sweet,” subsided Santana.

“Now,” said the Governator turning his baleful red-eyed glare back to the fair Elven princess. “You wish the power to reunite the mighty bow? Such unions are not possible throughout the rest of Muddled-Mirth, but here in Valleyum anything can be reunited.”

“Good,” said Merisuwyniel. “I’m all for things being, er, reunited.” She felt like she had only the most tenuous grasp of the conversation by this point.

Hal had completed the repackaging of Wailur, and now addressed himself to their formidable challenger.
“So you’re the boss? Or they are? And who has the power? And will you be able to fix it, and moreover, will you actually do so? And will any of us die? And what’s the fastest land mammal?”

“Yes, no, me, yes, possibly, probably and the cheetah,” answered the Governator reasonably, before turning sharply on his heel.

“Come and see me up in Cleverly Bills, my mansion,” he said over his shoulder. “Ignore these cretins, we only use them for tourism. Their lies are true lies, and I feel like some sort of nursery policeman…”

“Kindergarten…” began Hal.

“Yes, yes,” interrupted Merisuwyniel, before the Governator spoke over her.

“…and basically until the end of days I am stuck here, unable to terminate their contracts.”

“Du-ude…”, said Manuel, looking irate. “We only accept you here on sufferance. This goes too far.” And he lifted Tictac and struck such a chord that lightning flew from the head of the guitar, blue and wild, and struck the Governator who crumpled twitching to the floor, acrid smoke seeping from his huge frame. The red-eye fixed on the great wound on his back, in a highly improbable manoeuvre. Liquid bubbled from the cut, which was small but producing a considerable amount of steam.

“Oozing nine millimetres,” said the Governator. “But, I’ll be back.”

“Never thought he’d say that,” said Hal, turning away from the corpse. “Now can we get on with the reuniting stuff?”

“Come, sit,” beckoned Prada, and they fashioned themselves in a semi-circle facing their fairest hosts.

Manuel had remained standing, and now he spoke again. “Few have ever come hither through greater tenuousness or on an errand more absurd. We must discuss this at length.”

Thus was the Council of Valleyum Entertaining New Travellers Requesting Insight (COVENTRI) begun, and shortly thereafter they all felt like they had been sent there. They were interrupted only by a small flat-faced dog, which waddled in and spoke to them. “Wot, no puns?” he said, pugnaciously.

Last edited by Rimbaud; 02-09-2005 at 10:23 AM. Reason: Filling in save
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Old 02-10-2005, 09:52 PM   #239
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The Eye Soregum pipes up

Throughout the audience with the Velour, Soregum had kept his cloak and cowl tightly wrapped around him. Given his previous employment history, he couldn’t afford to take any risks. And so he lurked silently behind his companions, trying to find a convenient shadow to conceal himself in. Unfortunately, in the Blessed Realm of the Light-Fittings, shadows were in short supply.

“Hey, who’s the dude in the black cloak?” said Mantoes.

“You should like know, man,” quipped Tickle-Me Ulmo.

“Du-ude!” they chimed together as they gave each other a high five.

Meanwhile, all eyes in the Uh-oh-ship turned nervously to the prone figure of Grrralph.

“Er …” began Merisuwyniel.

“No, the other dude in the black cloak,” interrupted Mantoes, taking out a small white paper tube and setting light to the end of it. An aromatic scent filled the air as he puffed on it.

The Non-black-cloaked-ship began studiously to examine each other’s apparel in confusion.

“No, that dude in the black cloak. Like, the little guy hiding at the back,” continued Mantoes, pointing at Soregum and passing the white tube to T-M Ulmo.

“Who? Oh him. That’s just Soregum,” said Merisu, as the poor Halfling began to back towards the door to the chamber.

“Hey little fella. Why don‘t you like introduce yourself,” said Manuël Sántana languidly.

With a nod from Manuël, the Nîlon twins manoeuvred Soregum forward towards the front of the group until he stood quaking before the mightily bronzed Lords and Ladies of the West Coast.

“I dig the black threads, dude. But why don’t you like lose them so we can see you like for real.” said Prada, her voice rising at the end of the sentence as if she were asking a question.

Slowly, Soregum removed his cloak and hood. The Velour stared. Soregum’s cheeks flushed red. The Velour carried on staring. Soregum cheeks carried on flushing red. The Velour still stared. Soregum’s cheeks were by now a bright shade of crimson and dangerously approaching meltdown. The white tube, which had been slowly making its way round the Round Table had reached Manuël. As he took a drag on it, he started to chuckle.

“Man, what is that!” he giggled.

One by one, each of the Velour began to snigger, until the whole Chamber was filled with the melodious, if rather cruel, sound of their mirth. Most of the Titter-ship joined in too and Orogarn Two was soon on the floor, convulsed with fits of laughter.

“I am a H-h-h-obbit, s-sir!” stammered Soregum as his cheeks engaged shutdown mode and he turned a shade whiter than Leninia‘s palest foundation. Hoots of merriment rang out

“A Huhuhuhobbit?” guffawed Manuël, wiping the tears from his eyes.

“Awesome!” sniggered Mantoes.

“Rad!” giggled Nír-Vana.

“Cool!” chortled T-M Ulmo.

“Far out!“ laughed Prada.

“Cowabunga!” roared Tulk Hogan.

Immediately, the laughter stopped and the Velour all turned to him disdainfully.

“Ew. That’s like so Second Age, Tulk.” said Prada. “You can be such a retard!”

“So amigo, like what’s a Huhuhuhobbit got to do with my Council?” asked Manuël, starting to chuckle once more.

“He’s a Hobbit, and so am I.” said Pimpiowyn, stepping forward defiantly. “Well half of me is anyway.”

She would not stand by while her mother’s race was held up to ridicule. And she felt rather sorry for Soregum too. Vogonwë fumed silently.

“Oh, so that’s what a Hobbit like looks like,” said Mantoes. “ Way cool!”

“Yea, I think that I like sang about them,” added Nír-Vana, the Maiden of Grûnge.

“No wonder they live in a place called the Mire”, quipped T-M Ulmo.

“Du-ude!” he and Mantoes sang out together as they high fived again.

“Ew. It’s so like short!” sneered Estë-Lynn.

“Omigod, and so fat!” added Chanessa contemptuously.

“Like gross. Just look at those teeth,” chipped in Vairsacë, screwing up her pretty Velour nose.

Soregum earnestly scanned the floor of the Chamber for any hint that it might swallow him up. Then, his hands trembling, he reached for his pipe and tried to fire it up.

“Hey, hobbit dude,” Prada said sharply and pointed at a no smoking sign on the wall. Soregum stared speechlessly from the sign to Prada to the smoking white tube, which had now reached Tulk Hogan.

“Man, Yawanna. That’s like great gear you grow in your garden,” said Tulk, as he puffed on it. “Like totally tubular, man.”

“Hey, where is Yawanna?” said Manuël, belatedly noticing her absence.

“Search me,” answered Prada. “Nír-Vana?”

“How should I know?” replied the Maiden of Grûnge. “I’m not my sister’s keeper.”

“Hey, like the Breadhead’s missing too, man,” said Mantoes.

“Yea, where’s Häulié?” added T-M Ulmo.

“The Dweeb’s probably in his workshop, trying to make some more of those little dudes with the beards,” replied Mantoes. “He’s so like lame.”

“Oh man, you mean Dwarfs. Remember them? Man, they were like hardcore,” said T-M Ulmo. “But so gross. He sure made them with the ugly-stick, man.”

“Dwarves!” Kuruharan muttered angrily under his breath, his beard bristling, as the Velour duo once more high fived with a resounding “Du-ude!”
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Old 02-28-2005, 04:03 PM   #240
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At that moment, the door swung open with a sonorous groan. A tall, mighty thewed, figure trudged in, pausing only for a moment to oil the hinges of the door, which closed silently behind him. He wore a black leather apron which was soiled from his great and momentous toils, and a great belt swung on his hips in which were hung tools inumerable. Hammers, he carried, and wrenches great and small. Spanners and screwdrivers, tape measures, awls, drills, saws and many others besides, and about each of his mighty wrists were great rolls of silver, glowing duct tape. Over his eyes was a visor made of some magical clear material. Before him ran two odd little persons, each of whom carried what appeared to be a golden plate hanging from a string.

"I thought they were mithical..." whispered Merisu in awe.

"What manner of beings are these?" asked Orogarn.

"They are..." began Merisu. But before she could finish, each of the little persons drew forth from their belts a metal hammer which they used to strike the plates.


The room shook with the noise. As the tone faded, the figures bowed and retreated to the door.

"They are Gongs," answered Merisu. "Or Gongers, some call them. Long ago, it is said they were Elves who dedicated themselves to serving their master. They are now bent with their labors and..."

"Strange..." interjected Kuruharan.

"Yes," finished Merisu. "They are strange. And deaf."

The tall figure approached the table at which the Velour were seated. Mantoes grinned and cried out, "Woot, woot! Geek alert!" The great one, for clearly he was one of the Velour scowled, but did not reply. Instead, he nodded to Manuël. "Haulië..." muttered Manuël by way of greeting.

"I am sorry I am late," said Haulië. "I was working on my punchlist. Item number 4,678,242, in fact. I was fixing the plumbing of the great waterfall of the Holy Mountain..."

"You fixed the shower, how sweet of you!" piped Prada.

"... which you broke while snowboarding down the glacier," continued Haulië. "Next I will begin work on the great fjord whose walls you crumbled while sailboarding."

"Cool," replied Manuël as he examined his fingernails. They were all there.

"I came as quickly as I could once I received the summons," continued the legendary carpenter of the Velour. "What is happening?"

Tickle-me-Ulmo rose and gestured at the Itship. "These," he said with a sniff. "Were washed up on our shores. Which reminds me, add removal of the wreckage of their ship to your punchlist." Haulië pulled a voluminous scroll from under his apron and unwound it, which took the better part of a half hour. Then he scribbled some runes on it before rolling it back up. "I'll get to it in about 27 years," he replied. "Go on waterboy."

"They requested an audience which we oh so graciously have granted them," continued the dripping wet Lord. "They request that we fix some tree or other."

"I don't do trees," answered Haulië. "That's my wife's gig. So if there's nothing more..." He turned and made as if to go.

"Not a tree," piped up Pimpiowyn. "An Ent. We have come to ask you... great... wonderous... dudes..." Prada cleared her throat. "...and dudettes to re-unify a broken Ent."

"Well, that's still not my job," replied Haulië. "After I made the Dwarves we amended our Charter to clarify that I am not to mess around with making or fixing living things. An Ent would be within Yawanna's jurisdiction. Where is she anyway?"

"Like, last I saw her, she was communing with a tree, dude," said Tulk Hogan. "Why don't you throw her a vine?"

Haulië sighed. "Very well." He reached under his apron again and withdrew the thinnest, lightest, shiniest Cell-antir the Itship had ever seen. Gateskeeper's eyes bulged. "A T-2000!" he whispered. "Full color screen, messaging, net access, video, speakers with woofers, tweeters, sub-woofers..." Kuruharan kicked him and Gateskeeper fell silent as Haulië dialed.

A beep was heard, then a voice spoke. "This is Yawanna," it said. "I can't answer your osanwë right now. I'm busy... (tee hee, stop it) ... I'm occupied... (Shhh I'm recording)... I'm... uh, negotiating with Melvin about my new role as Queen of Muddled Mirth. Please leave a message and maybe I'll call." A second beep was heard, then a moment's silence which was broken by a few snickers.

"Duuude," laughed Manuël. "You've been dissed. Yawanna's dumped you like dirty laundry and hooked up with Mel again."

The Cell-antir fell from Haulië's nerveless hands. Kuruharan leapt forward and attempted to pick it up, but a miniature bolt of lightning shot from its screen and burned his hand. "Ow!" cried the Dwarf. "I was only going to pick it up for him..." Vogonwë and Orogarn exchanged glances and rolled their eyes. But then, Haulië's face turned bright red and he roared in anger. Seizing a huge hammer from his belt, he swung it about his head and brought it down on the floor before the council table with a mighty crash. Cracks appeared, then a portion of the floor fell in with a rush like the imaginary wings of a Balfrog. Flames leapt up from the newly opened fissure.

"Dude," Manuel intoned with a serious look on his face. "You better add that to your punchlist too." But Haulië ignored him.

"Mogul has gone too far!" he shouted. "He has come even unto Valleyum and soiled the sands of this shore. We must hunt him down and rescue Yawanna!"

"We agreed not to mess around with Muddled Mirth," Mantoes replied. "And next week is our annual clambake and beer-fest! Besides, I'm not sure Yawanna wants to be rescued."

"Of course she wants to be rescued," cried Haulië. "She loves me! Besides, who would want to hang with Mogul? I will go to Muddled Mirth myself if none will aid me."

This pronouncement threw the council into chaos, with some crying that Mogul must be stopped and others saying that the surf was up and who cares about a few trees, Elves, Men and Dwarves anyway. It may be that this debate would have gone on for some time, but the council was once again interrupted. Two Elves rushed in with wide eyes and impeccably coiffed hair.

"My Lords and Ladies," cried the first Elf as he raced forward. "There is... AUUUGGGHHHH!..." He screamed for a long time as he fell into the fissure that had opened on the floor.

"Pity," murmured Prada. "We really should put up a 'wet floor' or 'caution' sign or something."

The second Elf stopped just before the fissure. "My Lords and Ladies," he cried. "There is a great army or Orcs, Trolls, Elephants and Loyers encamped upon the plain before the Hill of Fish. They carry banners bearing the mark of the Red Nostril. They have sent this message." He tossed a scroll over the fissure to Manuël.

He read it aloud. "Greetings my boring brethren. Melvin Bluenote, also known as Mogul Bildur, sends his regards. I would like to offer Valleyum a covenant of peace and future trade with my realm in Muddled Mirth. In exchange, I ask only for a trifle that has caught my fancy. A little token of your friendship. I would like something returned to me that was stolen by a certain Elf, known as Merisuwyniel. Just some shards, pieces, fragments of wood that once were an Ent. In exchange you shall have my gratitude and friendship. If not, well I've come to party!"

Manuël slumped back into his chair. He pronounced a single word of great power and portent: "Bummer!"
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