Chapter 3 of The Parody That Almost Was. Missed the first chapters? Start here.
CHAPTER 3: A SHORT (SHORT… HOBNOB… GET IT?) REST
The troupe of stubby people traveled for several days with few events of note, save the roasting on the second day of Bulbous’ mule for dinner. On the morning of the fourth day since their escape from certain, savory, mouth-watering death, Thornless pointed and cried out, “Look there!”
“What? I don’t see anything,” Bulbous said.
“It’s the Missing Mountains!” Happy said.
“What mountains? Why, there’s nothing there but a flat, open plain!”
“They’re right over there, just as plain as the red in my beard!” said the white-bearded Glowin.
Gadfly kneeled and gestured for Bulbous to come closer. Then he spoke quietly to the Hobnob.
“When the powers that be made Myrtle-Earth, the plans called for a mountain range near here. Problem is, they… well, they sort of got distracted and forgot to install them, but they’re still on all the maps. Now, you and I can see there’s really nothing there, but it’s considered very bad form not to pretend the mountains are in fact where they belong. So just play along, alright?”
“Uh, oh, yes… those mountains,” Bulbous said loudly. “Quite majestic! Slopes of green and growing things rising to rocky, snow-capped peaks, the wind wafting through the-“
“Don’t overdo it.”
* * *
That night, at last, they came upon Farmrinthedell, the Last Affordable Motel, home of Goldbond and his people. They knew they had drawn near to this place of rest when they heard Elven song echoing through the woods:
O! More you will be paying,
And less will you be sleeping,
If elsewhere you be staying,
So here you should be creeping!
O! Mastercard, Visa card!
Hundred bucks a night!
O! Sure it sounds expensive,
Since the rooms are kind of tiny,
But facilities extensive
Make your gripes seem pretty whiny!
O! Fa la la lillow,
A mint on every pillow!
O! Our pool is indoors, heated,
Spa and sauna and masseuse,
Restaurant that can’t be beated,
You should try the chocolate mousse!
O! Tra la la la linging,
We’re finally finished with our singing!
“Well, what do you think – should we stay?” Gadfly asked.
“I don’t know, sounds kind of expensive, and we don’t exactly have a lot of cash,” Slappy said.
“Well,” suggested Blinky, “if we sleep sideways we can fit three to a bed and save money that way.”
“Don’t worry,” said Thornless. “I’ll just put it on my Dwarrowdelf Express card and pay it off when we get our treasure back.”
* * *
So it was that the weary band of travelers checked into the Last Affordable Motel, ate a sumptuous, expensive feast, spent the night singing lewd ballads and buying drink after drink at the karaoke bar, then returned to their rooms and raided those little refrigerators filled with snacks and sodas.
They found it difficult to rise in time for the noon check-out the next morning, but Thornless assured them that it was fine, he would pay for another night even if they didn’t stay. So early that evening, after two more meals and a few more drinks at the bar, they all finally gathered in the lobby to check out.
The manager, a pretentious elf named Goldbond, made a show of totaling up their bill.
“Let’s see… two nights, plus meals… snacks… drinks… repairs to the pool filtration system damaged by excess hair intake… out-of-court settlement of the maids’ harassment lawsuits… ah, yes, here you are, sir!”
He handed the itemized list to Thornless, who paled visibly. “Alright,” he said unsteadily. “I guess that’s fair. Put it on this card, please.”
Goldbond accepted the proffered engraved square of sheet metal and did something arcane and mysterious behind the desk which resulted in a “riiing… beeeeeep… khhhhhhhh” sound. Moments later, he looked up and smiled.
“I’m sorry, Mr. Thornless, but your card has been rejected.”
“Rejected? But that card is backed by the full financial might of the mithril mines of Kissuv Doom! It can’t possibly be rejected.”
“Sir, those mines were abandoned hundreds of years ago. Something about a pest problem.”
“Abandoned? Is this true?”
He turned toward Gadfly, who gave a sagely, affirmative nod.
“Why am I never told these things?”
“Perhaps I could suggest an alternate form of payment?” Goldbond asked.
* * *
So it was that the weary band of travelers spent two weeks living at the luxurious Farmrinthedell resort. Living in a run-down shack in the woods behind it, that is. By day, they laundered sheets and towels; by night, they washed dishes. There in the bright, sunny shadow of the Missing Mountains, strengthened by the exertion of their daily drudgery and fed a steady diet of table scraps and leftovers, they grew strong and hale. Soon they were ready to face the challenges ahead – just as soon as the damned elves let them take off those embarrassing French maid outfits and be on their way!
Early on the morning of their fifteenth day of indentured servitude, as he had each day, Goldbond visited the Dwarves to assign them each a list of tasks to complete. Before the Elf could pass out that day’s roster of chores, Thornless spoke up.
“We’ve been slaving away for two weeks. How much longer do we have to stay here?”
“Hmmm… well, I don’t have the specific numbers at hand, but figuring minimum wage for fourteen people, minus income tax, city wage tax, insurance costs, run-down shack rental… oh, and the cost of your uniforms, of course! – I’m going to say about fourty-two years, give or take.”
“Fourty-two years?” Bulbous piped up from the back of the room.
“It’s not my fault you mortal types have life-span issues to deal with. You should have thought of that before you got yourselves into this mess to begin with! Besides, with our generous retirement fund you’ll be able to retire somewhat less than completely destitute. Though I fear contributing to it might lengthen your stay by a decade or so.”
“Isn’t there something of value we could offer you in trade to shorten our stay?” asked Gadfly.
“Perhaps. What have you got?”
“We have these great swords!” said Kinky, revealing the weapons by lifting the vermin-infested mattress under which they were hidden. “Ouch!” he added as Blinky’s subtle full-body tackle (which passes for an elbow to the ribs in Dwarven society) sent him sprawling to the floor.
“Let me have a look at those. Why, these are Elvish blades! Forged in the lost realm of Condomin for use in battle against ancient darkness. This one here,” he said, reading the runes engraved in the blade Thornless had chosen for himself, “bears the name Ochrist. It is a magical blade that sings a song of warning just after something terrible has befallen its owner. And yours,” he said to Gadfly, “is none other than the sword of the King of Condomin himself. It is said that as the forces of the enemy laid siege to his city, a servant held out this blade so his King could take it up in a last, hopeless defense of his citadel, charging no doubt to glory and certain death. The sword’s name is Damthing, taken from the King’s words at that historic moment: ‘You keep the Damthing, I’m out of here!’”
“So these must be of inestimable value, correct?” asked Gadfly hopefully.
“Pfft. I have a closet full of them myself. Ever since Dungeons and Dragons came along, magical swords are so plentiful you can’t even find a sucker on elfBay willing to pay much more than the cost of shipping. What else have you got?”
Thornless was plainly becoming desperate. “We do have this old map,” he said, offering up the parchment that had been the subject of discussion toward the end of Chapter 1. “It’s in good shape, and might be an antique or something.”
To Bulbous’ surprise, there was a gleam of curiosity in Goldbond’s eyes.
“Yes,” he said, examining the map closely. “This is very old, indeed, and quite rare, I’d say. We must just be able to make a d-… oh, no I’m sorry, but this is damaged.”
“Water spots – subtle, but a collector would notice them in an instant.”
To prove his point, he held the parchment into the sunlight that streamed through the largest of the gaping holes in the walls of the shack. Sure enough, sections of the map allowed a small amount of light to shine through, suggesting the material had degraded from water damage. Curiously enough, the damage spots seemed almost laid out in the shape of letters. In fact, if one looked closely, these words could be made out:
Key under doormat around back.
Love & Kisses, Durnit
“Durnit!” whispered Thornless, his voice tinged with awe. “My oldest ancestor’s illicit lover! I might even be his descendant!”
“That’s very nice,” Goldbond replied, casting the map aside. “But unless Mr. Durnit shows up to pay your bill, you’ve all got work to do.”
“Wait!” Gadfly implored. “I am a wizard of no small skill – perhaps there is some work of magic I may perform in lieu of payment?”
“Wizard? Old man, you’re no wizard.”
“A skeptic, eh? Very well, bring me my staff and I shall provide a demonstration!”
Happy fetched the staff for him. This magnificent talisman consisted of an old broomstick with a softball epoxied to one end, and it was imbued with such power that it needed neither engraved runes nor mystical auras of any kind to proclaim its special nature.
Gadfly grasped the end of his great rod two-handed and raised it aloft, chanting words of power in an ancient language of magic:
Voy a pegar esta imbecil en su cabeza!
“Now, to demonstrate my power, esteemed Goldbond, I shall call darkness down upon you!”
With that, he brought the staff straight down onto the top of the Elf’s head. In the brief moment after experiencing a sound and sensation that felt like being caught inside a thunderclap, but before total darkness set in, Goldbond had the time to think, “Wow – he really is a wizard!”
“Let’s get out of here before he wakes up,” Gadfly said after checking the Elven lord’s pulse and pockets.