Monday, August 25, 2008

27. Hard to Swallow

Sara, Edith, and Felipe stood in the shade of the great oak. Felipe was unusually upset.
"But you have to come with me," Felipe wailed agitatedly. "I saved you!"
"That was very kind of you, good sir, but I am afraid it is my duty to remain here," Edith responded.
"But I saved you!"
"Sir, you heard my-- this woman yourself. I must wait at this place for a man whose quest is of much greater importance than yours. I cannot go."
"But I saved you!" he sobbed again.
"Felipe, you may not take the princess back to the city," Sara put in. "I spoke with one of the spirit kind last night and he informed me that she must not leave yet.
"But I saved her!" he cried for the fourth time.
"I am sorry. You will have to return alone." Sara finalized.
"But...but...LOOK OUT BEHIND YOU!!!" he suddenly shouted. "GET DOWN, NOW!!!"
Sara and Edith threw themselves to the ground. Rolling backwards, Sara grabbed her daughter and with surprising strength, dragged her behind the tree trunk. Dust billowed all around them, then settled. Edith rubbed her eyes, trying to clear the sand from her vision. When she could finally see, she peered around the corner. On the opposite side of the tree, Felipe lay in the sand, writhing feverishly and clutching his stomach.
"Mother, quickly!" Edith screamed. "He's been wounded."
Scrambling from behind the tree, the two women dashed to Felipe's side. He was shaking with spasmodic motion. Tears streamed from his eyes.
"Tell me where you're hurt!" Sara commanded. The color had drained from her face and she looked old.
"Look me in the eye, boy. Where is it?!"
She lifted his face in her hands, then let it drop. She took a step backward.
"He's not hurt, Edith." Sara said, "He's laughing."
"I...I...haha....I fooled you!" Felipe managed to stutter, before giving in to another convulsion of laughter.

Sir Edward of Stranfordam, looked around. His eyes hurt.
"Curse this heat," he muttered to himself. "Curse this desert. Curse this quest. Curse Kelthisaid!"
He sighed through his teeth. Behind him he heard a disturbed murmur among the men. Turning, he was just in time to see a man topple from his horse to the brush below. The man managed to stand up and began to stagger toward Edward. Something was wrong. The man's eyes were rolled back in his head. Stumbling on, the man came up before his leader and drew his sword. Edward stepped back in fear. Remaining where he was, the man turned his sword over in his hands and firmly grasped in upside down in his hand. Blood ran down his arm and trickled to the ground as the blade sliced into his hand, but he gripped it tighter. Paralyzed in confused horror, Edward was unable to react as the man lurched forward. Swinging deftly, the man smashed Edward over the head with the hilt of the sword, sending him crashing to the ground, unconscious. Kelthisaid entered his dreams.
"What are you doing, Edward?!" shouted Kethisaid.
"I have been following your orders, Master! I was doing what you told me!" Edward shouted back.
"You are on the complete wrong track, you idiot! Can you not see! This boy, Jard, your rival, is striving for the same goal you are! Yet you still oppose him!"
"I do not know what you are talking about!"
"Jard also seeks to free my kind! For a different reason, but nonetheless it is the same immediate goal!"
"Master, I did not know this!"
"Ignorance is no excuse. You have been wasting time."
"Then, Master, may I return home!?"
"You may not! You must follow this boy! Let him do all the hard work, but if he fails you must pick up the quest where he leaves it! The portal must be broken if it costs you your life! Do this. Follow this boy. Do this or you will curse the woman who brought you into the world! I will instruct you further when the time comes. As you now know, I can find ways to reach you even when you are not asleep." At these words, Kelthisaid vanished into blackness.

A blanket of what appeared to be snow lay thick over the City of Tears as Felipe's two men approached. Except for the castle itself, nearly every dwelling in the city was swathed in whiteness. As the men passed through the gate and trudged toward the castle to make their report, they realized that what they were seeing was not snow, it was toilet paper. Passing down the street, they marveled at the disaster, for not only was each house covered in toilet paper, an expensive luxury used only by the rich, but each yard was pincushioned with metal forks. How many centpieces had been squandered on this pandemic prank, neither of them could imagine. Upon reaching the king's chamber, they stood at attention, anxiously awaiting their turn to enter. Muffled sounds of King Horatio's obnoxious laughter could be heard through the door. "Hahahaha--oh oh--hahaha it was beautifully done Sheriff, beautifully done--oh hahahaha." "Thank you Thire, for you complimenth, but may I go to bed now? I am very thleepy after latht nighth exthpedition."
"Haha...what! You cannot go to sleep, you have work to do! This bit of fun took a great toll on the treasury, so the taxes must be raised! Twenty-six percent should do it! And also, Sheriff, you must make sure that each household returns those forks! We cannot afford to lose my royal silverware, now can we!"
"Thire! I am tired!"
"Be off! Go! Get out of my sight! NEXT!"
The door burst open and Sheriff Bob waddled out, grumbling to himself. Felipe's two men entered.
"We bear a report of your servant, Sir Felipe Adajo, oh King Horatio the Not-Very-Nice, ruler of the City of Tears, Lord of the Desert of Dreams, Master of the Million Pranks, etc. etc," one man announced rapidly. "We are much disturbed to inform you that said Sir Felipe has had the misfortune to be swallowed by a tree. We are sure this news is a great disappointment to you, Sire. That is our report. Good day, Sire."
With that they rushed from the room, fleeing the wrath they knew would follow.
"Swallowed by a tree! Get in here and explain this right now! Come back POO-POO HEADS!!!!"
The king's words echoed down the empty hallway, but the only response from the men were receding footsteps. The two were never seen again.

--Thomas H

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