Friday, January 26, 2007

MDS Ch. 4 - The plan prepared

“I thought you’d never ask,” said Jarrod, “Hang on.”

He ran toward the back of a stable and dug around for a bit, and returned with a sleek but sharp looking knife.

“I’m going to teach you to use this. Keep it on you, hidden, at all times from now on.”

“…Okay,” I said, “That’s the plan? Jarrod, I think –”

“That’s the back-up plan. The plan is way cooler. Well, plans really. I came up with a few, and I guess you can pick your favorite. Plan one: we build some kind of trap in a cave somewhere. When you get captured, tell the dragon that if he lets you go you’ll take him to a cave where there’s twice what he’s asking of your parents. Since money is their whole goal in this sort of thing he’ll have to go for it. Anyway you get there, he goes in, he springs the trap, BAM! Dragon slain.” He looked at me with a dumb smile on his face. “What do you think?”

“I think it’s risky. Have you figured out how to build the trap yet?”


“What do I do if the dragon doesn’t go for it?”

“Use your knife I guess. Hey, listen to plan two.”

“I’m all ears,” I said, smiling in spite of myself.

“Okay. Plan two: I get some armor and a horse – it’s alright, I know a guy – and I ride off, presumably to rescue you. Only when I get there, I ditch the armor and sneak in real stealthy-like, and give you a sword – or a bow. Can you use a bow?”

“I sincerely doubt it.”

“Ok, well a sword then. Anyway,”

“Um, I’m not so good with a sword either, Jarrod.”

He paused for a minute, thinking.

“Okay, I’m obviously going to have to train you a bit first, but it won’t be a big deal. Anyway, then I sneak out and then challenge the dragon. I’ll wear super light armor so I can dodge a lot, and I’ll try not to engage the dragon but just get his attention, but then you see, you attack from behind and kill him.”

I was kind of speechless. I was definitely expecting Jarrod’s plans to, well, not suck.

“You know,” I said, “Never mind.”

“Maddy,” He said, pleading in his eyes, “Let me teach you to shoot. As much as we can in the next few days. And I’ll build the trap and tell you where it is. That way you can try plan one, but if it happens too soon or the dragon won’t buy it we can use plan two.”

I smiled and, to my own surprise, started to cry. “Why are you doing this for me?”

“Because you’re my friend. And this is wrong, so we have to make it right.”

So the next day we started my knife and bow training. It was tricky, because mother wold never approve, and she was starting to get very annoyed with all the time I was spending with Jarrod. So Jarrod got me some of his old clothes and I spent several days “sick in bed.” I was old enough to handpick my servants, and I managed to bribe the servants paid to look in on me so I could actually go out with Jarrod, in boys’ clothes with my hair stuffed into a sort of pointy archer’s cap and no one would recognize me. I met some of his friends and they taught me how to fight. It was an exciting time for me because everyone of Jarrod’s friends flirted with me, and he was constantly getting protective (or jealous) and warning them off.

I remember one time when his friend Arty was showing me how to shoot. He stood right behind me, with next to no space between us, and put my hands where they needed to go on the bow, then drew back with me. When I released, he stayed there, wrapping his arms around me.

“Nice shot, kid” he said, although it had barely hit the target.

“Thanks,” I said, smiling.

Jarrod appeared out nowhere and pulled the boy off of me.

“Arty, you rat! You know who this is, and that kind of thing could get you in big trouble. Anyway we’ve only got a few days.”

I guess the days I spent with all those boys proved one thing to me: I was not against courtship and marriage; I was against parent-approved courtship and marriage. And if the princes were good picks compared to Jarrod, Jarrod was a king compared to his friends. I’m ashamed to say I was flirting with them a lot for just that reason. Well, and because I liked to see Jarrod “protect” me.

Anyway, in the four days that I could realistically be sick without being overly worried about I got to be a decent bow shot. One time out of four I could hit within a one-foot box of the target. As far as the knife goes, I could beat two or three of the weaker members of Jarrod’s little gang and could occasionally best Artie, though I couldn’t touch Jarrod himself. He said he was pretty sure I had a fighting chance, and, on the last day, took me back to the stables. The hay wagon was there, filled with odd bits of lumber. Jarrod disappeared to the same shelf from whence my knife had come and appeared this time with a small but complex wooden mechanism.

“This is a scale model,” he said, “But it should give you an idea.”

The model looked like a ballista, but with a bunch of pieces of metal foil in place of one large arrowhead. The back of the arrow was connected to a series of gears and odd pistons, which led back to a plate in front of the barrel. There was aother plate in the middle of the mechanism that was similarly connected to two large spikes pointing in from either side.

“Well, it’s not exactly to scale. But what’ll happen is, the door to the cave will be real low, so the dragon’ll have to duck to enter. As he enters he’ll step on the pressure plate that activates the whole thing. As soon as he steps on it, the trap will let fly with little metal shards that’ll blind it,” Jarrod explained.

“Blind it? I thought we wanted to kill it!” I objected.

“Well, once blinded it’ll either turn around or charge forward. If it turns around, it’s tail will hit plate two, and if it charges ahead, it’s head will. Either way the spikes will impale it.”

“They’ll puncture dragonhide?”

Jarrod looked sheepish.

“I hope so. But if not, at least we’ll only have to fight a blinded dragon.”


“Of course. I’ll come to the sight and wait at first news of your capture, so I can give you backup if you need it.”

“Ok, Jarrod, but let me do the killing blow, and you can’t tell anyone you were involved. You get that, right?” I pleaded.

“Well I don’t see why- ”

“Because if there’s any chance that my parents could sell this as you rescuing me, they will. They’d rather marry me to a commoner than not at all.”

Jarrod looked positively crushed for a moment, but then smiled.

“As you wish, your highness,” he said. “You’d better get back home now. The boys and I will leave tomorrow to set the trap. It’ll probably take us a couple of days so don’t lure the dragon there for at least three if you can.”

“No promises,” I said.

Jarrod and I walked different directions as I tried to get up the courage to do something I’d planned to do at this moment, something I wouldn’t get a chance to do later, and something I would regret doing for a long time.

“Jarrod!” I said. He turned. I ran to him, grabbed the sides of his face, and kissed him awkwardly. The adverb I’d like to use is more like passionately, but in my royal protected existence I’d never been kissed, much less initiated a kiss and this one was awkward. Luckily, when Jarrod caught on he quickly righted it. He was obviously no amateur.

“What was that for?” he asked afterward, surprisingly cool.

“For good luck, and as a thank you,” I said. “Don’t read too much into it.”

I longed to tell my friends about the exchange but did not want to risk telling them the rest and couldn’t make the story work without 90% of it, so I painfully kept my mouth shut.

When I returned home I found my mother waiting in my room with Hell itself in her eyes.

“Sit down,” she seethed. I complied.

“Madison. I’d like you to tell me where you’ve been the last couple of days, while you’ve been bribing your servants, or rather you former servants, to lie to me.”

Oddly enough, what I felt was guilt at the servants’ dismissal. Then, shortly thereafter, panic. I was glad I’d decided to change into my dress before I left. I grappled for an excuse that would make sense, but still calm my mother.

“I was with a boy,” I said truthfully. “A very rich boy,” I lied.

“He came to my room four days ago, dressed in fine silks, with a silken black mask. He was so handsome, and he said that if I’d go away with him for just a few days he might marry me, and I knew it would make you so happy, so I just went for it. I shouldn’t have, but he was so sweet. He wined and dined me so expensively for the next four days, but he was so much of a gentleman he didn’t touch me, except to kiss me once lightly before departing out my window, and saying he would call again.” I added a dreamy sigh for effect.

My mother looked at me, sighed, and gave me a big hug.

“Don’t ever worry me like that again,” she said between tears, “But thank god you’ve found yourself a rich man.”

“And nice,” I said wryly.

“And nice,” she said, concluding her hug.

“Now you still have to be punished. I’m grounding you for a week. You can’t leave this room.”

I tried one last bid.

“If I don’t leave the room, a dragon can’t come for me,” I sighed.

“Good point,” my mother replied embarrassedly, “I’m grounding you in the east tower instead. You can come out for meals and official functions. Use the time to practice your knitting and your lute. The window is to remain open!”

Not exactly the response I’d hoped for, but I resolved to use the time to practice, like she said. Only instead of lute and knitting, I’d practice the bow and knifing. It wasn’t too far off.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Mortimer at Mindor ( I )

Mortimer smiled as he saw Narrin arrive over the horizon. She was a nearly flawless steed, but she had a tendency to become anxious when they were apart. His friend, the stabler whom he trusted, knew to let her go when she got a certain way - an Mortimer knew to pay in advance.
"Well, there she is," said Mortimer, "I suppose I'll be going. You can handle things here?"
"I absolutely can, sir," said Milly.
"Alright." He turned towards the balcony.
"One thing, sir," she said.
He turned around.
"There's a new royal order that all Her Majesty's soldiers and guards must carry one of these when abroad." She handed him a scroll of parchment. "Don't open it unless you need it."
Mortimer read the side of the scroll. It said: Scroll of Summon Lawyer III.
"I have to take a lawyer scroll?" he asked, "What's the deal? One time use?"
"Not exactly, sir, but I wouldn't use it too much."
"Well, I'm sure I won't need it at all. What prompted this, anyway?"
"Well, Sir Teleos finally slew the Dreaded Llamabeast he's been questing after all these years -"
"Good for him!"
"And it's family sued for Wrongful Death."
"Oh," said Mortimer, shuddering, "Well hopefully it won't come to that. I'm out."
He gave a quick salute, then lept over the edge of the balcony onto his waiting steed. He could feel beneath him how refreshed Narrin was. He knew the feeling. Spending the night in his own bed had been wonderful, but he was ready to go. A short flight later he arrived at the Mindor Shrine.
The shrine itself was a collection of huge, reddish stones jutting out from the ground in the middle of a desert field. In the center was a circle of perfectly cut shrubs, with a gap in the front for entrance and exit, and in the center of that was an ancient marble altar. The inscription beneath it read:
Ye who seek to enter Hell, and venture back to earth,
Give thy blood to come and dwell, but lose the gift of thy birth.
Alright, he thought, Here goes nothing.
He took out the knife. He took out the jelly. He slid the knife's blade across the jelly. He put it to his hand. He took a deep breath. He sliced. Quickly, across his palm. The wound hurt like being sliced in the palm with a knife, but there was also a harsh sting from the jelly he hadn't expected.
"YOWWWWWWWWzerderblermuffin!" he cursed as he allowed a little blood to drip from the wound. The sting wasn't going away. Had Melvin tested this stuff in open wounds? Probably not, Mortimer concluded. At that point his thoughts were interrupted by a thick billow of red smoke emerging from the shrine, where his blood had fallen. As he watched the smoke rise, Mortimer wrapped his handkerchief aroud his hand. If any extra blood fell on the ground he could be in trouble.
The smoke was becoming denser and smaller, forming into the shape of a man. A man with horns. Wait no, a woman with horns. And a paisley dress. A rather rotund woman at that.
"Hello dear," she said, "Have you called upon the unnatural forces of this place to open up a portal to the land of the cursed dead?"
"I have," replied a slightly taken aback Mortimer.
"Tim Strong," he tried to say, but the words came out " "
"You're in a zone of truth, dear," the demonic receptionist said, "You can't lie here. Name?"
"Mortimer Lima Bean."
"You understand that by dripping the blood you've entered into a contract with Satan, pledging your soul to him at the time of your death?"
"Alright," she said, magically producing some papers, "Sign here, and initial here, here, and here."
"What is this?" asked Mortimer suspiciously.
"New Security measure, honey. Nothing to worry about. We like to do a written contract in addition to the blood to make sure nothing's funny."
A written contract? Mortimer had never heard of that practice. And Mortimer heard everything. Plus if he didn't get through soon, the jig would be up - the blood would dissolve and he'd be exposed. He wished there was an easier way to get the information he needed. He looked down at the contract. It was in so much legalese he couldn't make heads or tails of it. He did the only thing he could think to do. He got out the scroll.
Will Mortimer make it into hell? Will he make it out again? Will the trip prove at all useful? Find out when Mortimer Lima Bean returns!

Friday, January 12, 2007

Mortimer and Milly

Milly Carrot was having a disaster of a time in her boss's absence. Her weapon of choice, the five-lemured soupshooter, was currently trained on five of the seven soldiers who were somehow walking across the moat. Unfortunately, the five lemurs that had to jump onto the targets were incapable of walking on water, as the soldiers should also have been.
She put down the soupshooter. Time enough for that later. She wondered once more where the beasts that were supposed to inhabit the moat had gone off to. She had certainly fed them enough, and the food always disappeared. Oh well. She would take out as many as she could with an old-fashioned crossbow. She raised the bow, trained it on the first soldier and fired. A direct hit! Right in the chest. But it hadn't stopped him, hadn't even slowed him down. The bolt had bounced harmlessly off of his armor. Some armor!
They were much closer now. Once they crossed the moat, only the wall would stand between them and the castle. She put away the crossbow and readied her bug-gun. One of Melvin's inventions, the gun launched an egg sack which would cover an enemy with flesh-eating insects within seconds. She readied it and fired. She hit the same soldier. This time there was an effect. After a few seconds the sack burst open and his body was covered with insects. But something was wrong. Effortlessly the man sank into the water beneath him. He re-emerged a few seconds later, insect free.
They were on the land now, all of them. 'The wall will surely stop them!' she thought feebly. But of course it didn't. They turned upward and began walking up the castle wall at the same slow but relentless pace. This was ridiculous. She realized she might have to call in the army. That would be a headache. But wait, the soupshooter would work now. She readied it again and whistled. The lemurs were on their targets in a flash. She'd make short work of them with the soup-shooter. 3.. 2.. 1.. SOUP'S ON! she thought as she let her rip. The five men in front were splattered with hot soup. Nothing, though there armor looked worse for wear.
They were right on top of her. She'd have to call in the army. She turned toward the army bell, but just before she rang it she heard a familiar sound.
She turned around to see the leader falling from the top of the wall, into the moat. Sploosh!
Seven shots, seven perfect hits with the marmalady. It could only be one person.
"If you could lower the drawbridge I'd be grateful," Mortimer called out.
Fifteen minutes later the two were sitting inside the castle armory. Milly had hardly had time for a friendly greeting when her boss started in.
"First of all, where were the beasts? Have you been feeding them?" he asked.
"Yes, of course!"
"How much?"
"As much as you instructed. More, actually, just to be safe."
"MORE?" Mortimer exploded, "Well there's the problem. They can hardly be expected to be hungry for blood when they've already gorged on slop."
"It was a tiny fraction more!" she protested, "And you said if they didn't get enough they'd eat each other!"
"It's a delicate balance!" said Mortimer, "That's why I usually do it myself. Second of all, why were you using soup on the Brotherhood of the Walk?"
"The what?"
"Honestly, Milly, do you think or do you just pick your favorite gun and shoot?" Mortimer asked angrily, "You can identify the brotherhood of the walk by the frying pan on their armor or by the fact that they CAN WALK ON WATER AND UP WALLS!"
"The symbols were on the back of their armor! And I've never encountered them before."
"Well for future reference, only jam and marmalade can deter them."
"And insects!" Milly added.
"True. I'd forgotten about the bug-gun. Very good. Look, Milly, I don't mean to be so hard on you, but I need to know I can count on you."
"You can sir, I promise," she was on the verge of tears, but managed to look proud and tall.
"Alright then. I came for some special weapons. Anything anti-demon."
"Ok, we'll start looking."
"Oh, and one more thing," said Mortimer, pulling out a business card, "If you need a dragon killed, throw this girl some work. I owe her one."
"Yes, sir. Very good sir," said Milly, already renewing her efforts, "Will do."

Thursday, January 04, 2007

TNT: Ch. 61

"Whoa" said Sam, "That is quite a story. Sounds like you've had a hard life."
"Well, not really. I lived like a princess for most of my life. It's only lately things have been tough," Gina replied.
"Yeah, since you got caught ip in the crazy brigade. Do you really believe there's all this hulabaloo about a toaster?"
"Well, a month ago would you have believed in all this nonsense about some springs?"
Sam smiled. "Good point."
"Still, I have to admit it's nice to meet someone who's so sensible about things. Eric is great, and he's really come through for me. But it scares me how into this toaster thing he is. I mean, no one should care that much about a household appliance, should they?"
Sam thought for a minute as he chewed his pancake.
"What did you say he did for a living? Something boring, right?" he asked.
"He told me once and I think I fell asleep," Gina laughed.
"Well, that must be it, then," said Sam, "See, he's compensating for a life in which he feels like he's accomplished nothing by making this toaster thing into something epic. I can't blame the guy."
"Maybe," said Gina thoughtfully. "But again, you two aren't so different. What are you compensating for, with this whole spring thing?"
"Me?" Sam said defensively, "I'm not compensating at all. I told you, these springs are something special. You'd understand if you'd seen them. I just don't want the government wasting them somehow."
"You think you know best what to do with them?"
"Well, maybe. It just seems right. Finders, keepers. I wish the law were so simple." He gazed off, lost.
"So you really don't know what you're going to do with the springs?" Gina said, back in reality.
"Do we have to talk about this?" asked Sam, "Let's get dessert."

"Master Lin is out," said the receptionist, "But he said to connect you to his cell if you called."
"I have his cell," said Eric impatiently.
"He has two. I'll connect you."
"The hour of seven has passed, Toaster Seeker," said the voice over the phone a few seconds later, "I thank you."
"No problem, Master Lin," said Eric, as he walked to the Ringo Harrison, "I think someone's hired the government to push this thing, someone trying to stop us. Do you know who that could be?"
Master Lin was silent for a brief while.
"There is a force that would see the prophecy unfulfilled. A dark force of marketing. I have long suspected their existence but only recently confirmed it. But do not let them trouble you, they will not succeed."
"Master Lin, I've found a man who might help us, but I need to tell him everything, straight. I know there's something big going on here and I don't know how much I know, but if there's anything you can tell me that will persuade him that we're the good guys, that would help."
"Tell him to look inside himself to find the peace he seeks."
"That's it?" asked Eric annoyedly.
"On second thought," said the voice in stereo- on the phone and beside him, walking up to the car, "I'll tell him myself."
"Master Lin? You're here? But how, and why?"
"The prophecies aren't all about you Eric," the old man said, hanging up his phone "I have a part to play as well. So where did you tell this man to meet you?"
"In the woods tomorrow."
"Good. Have you a hotel?"
"We do. It's just me and Gina."
Master Lin nodded knowingly.
"Then surely there will be a bed for me. It is prophesied."
"It is not," argued Eric, getting into the driver's seat.
"You're right," admitted Master Lin, "Before we head to the hotel room, our destiny requires a trip to the hardware store."
Eric rolled his eyes and complied, hoping to find one on the way.

A Design Update

I objected to being shanghaied into the new blogger, but if I'm here I've decided to make it work for me. The new template tools have finally given me the tools I needed to make this blog what I always wanted it to be: Namely labels. To your left you will see a list titled "Stories." From here you can navigate to the story of your choice, see the list of stand-alone stories I've posted, or see all the Non-story posts I've made (Not that you'd want to). There is also a "Silly" Label, which I've applied to anything in any story that's particularly ridiculous. So if you've been waiting to read the back-issues of a story because it was inconvenient to navigate them, you now have no excuse. Get reading!