TITLE: The Nice Man
SERIES: The Adventures of Lord Sam and Lady Brooke
AUTHOR: Jos Mous
DISCLAIMER: Most characters herein are not owned by me; some of them are. However, no profit is being made by the use of any of them.
PAIRINGS: Several, including Sam/Brooke
NOTE: It's a Lord Sam story, what more needs to be said? Just be ready to face a lot of really bad jokes and an ending that's even worse.
Prince Jessica, heir to the throne of P'p'l'r, sat on a hard wooden chair at a small wooden table looking without much interest at the blackboard in front of her. She had never been particularly interested in the subject of theology, especially since she was a subject of theology, but her parents insisted that she took some sort of education and since her educator was Priest Glass theology became an almost inescapable subject.
Prince Jessica sighed as Priest Glass meticulously sketched the very extensive family tree of the descendants of Handira, the dragon Goddess of Infidelity.
"Feeling bored are we?" Priest Glass demanded. "The sex lives of the Gods not interesting enough for us?"
"The only godly sex life I'm interested in right now is the one I could be having if I wasn't here," said Prince Jessica.
"Hormones playing up again, eh?" Priest Glass said with a mocking cheerfulness.
"Yes," said Prince Jessica. "And they're holy hormones which makes it a hundred times worse."
"Too bad. Class ends in twenty minutes so you'll just have to control your urges for the moment."
Prince Jessica blasphemed under her breath for a moment when a thought struck her. She was a Goddess for crying out loud. True, she wasn't the Goddess, that honour belonged to her girlfriend, but in the rather curious faith of Cassandraism she ranked pretty highly and that meant that she had a few very nifty powers, like the powers to, say, bend space and time.
Prince Jessica grinned. She expected class to be over real soon.
The country of Dunc hadn't always the dark, infested wasteland of doom that it was now. Once upon a time it had merely been really, really poor. This, of course, had been a situation that the Duncian government of the time had wanted to change and they went about it by giving all kinds of neat tax benefits to rich people. They did this in the hopes that foreign rich people that were fed up with paying all that tax to flock to Dunc and invest all their money into Dunc's non-existent economy. What the government had failed to realise, however, was that the foreign rich people were usually the ones who collected the taxes and, as such, had no particular desire to go anywhere quickly.
There was, however, another kind of rich foreigner that the government had not thought of. Evil Overlords were the kind of people who made lots of money and, after acquiring all this money, wanted to go someplace else really quickly on account of the angry mob standing in front of the gates. And so all manner of Warlords, Dark Knights and Black Magicians had moved into Dunc.
Dunc still had a government and it was still chosen in a democratic fashion. Nobody listened to it, however. For some reason, the Duncian commoners tended to listen to the people currently holding a sword up to their throats.
But there was one place in Dunc that had not been touched by the black magic and the pillaging bands. Here, daffodils grew brightly at the edge of a well-tended lawn lying in front of a small white cottage. The cottage belonged to Mr. Gartin, an old man who wasn't special in any way. Mr. Gartin spent his days tending to his lawn or enjoying a good book or sharing a nice cup of tea with a visitor. Lately, Mr. Gartin had been getting a lot of visitors and, for some reason, all these visitors tended to wear black armour or robes with design that were clearly inspired by skulls. Mr. Gartin didn't understand why skulls featured so prominently, but, then again, he realised that he certainly wasn't up to date on modern fashions. He also didn't really know what his visitors were talking about exactly. Terms such as "scorpion pit" or "deadly maze of doom" translated themselves into names of popular games and suchlike.
There was, however, one thing that Mr. Gartin knew very well without actually knowing it. Namely, that everyone needs someone to talk to over tea and a biscuit.
Lord Sam was feeling bored, which was surprising considering the vast amounts of work she had in front of her. Her wife, Lady Brooke, had gone to the Northern Forest to be the guest of honour at some sort of Wildcat ritual and so Lord Sam had to deal with all the affairs of state without anything to look forward to once it was all finished. It was therefore a bit of a pity that everything in P'p'l'r was going smoothly. So smoothly, in fact, that the P'l'r'arians had more than enough time to busy themselves with their favourite pastime: complaining. All of which resulted that, standing in front of her throne, was a small table with two gilded trays on it. The tray marked "In" contained a lot more paper than the tray marked "Out". Below the table, which Lord Sam informally thought of as the "Ignored Because Of Its Stupidity" tray, was a very large pile of crumpled paper.
Lord Sam picked up the next paper out of the in tray and read it. It came from the national Guild of Butchers and it was a complaint about the recent behaviour of the Wildcats. When the tribe had first moved into P'p'l'r they had great difficulty seeing the difference between cattle belonging to humans and simple woodland game. As a result, the meat prices had gone through the roof, which had greatly pleased the butchers. Now, however, the Wildcats had agreed not to hunt any more livestock, so the meat price had once again plummeted and the butchers weren't happy about it, demanding that the Wildcats go back to their old ways of eating other people's property.
Sighing, Lord Sam chucked the letter into the "Ignored Because Of Its Stupidity" tray.
As Lord Sam turned to the next piece of drivel in her in tray, the doors to the throne room flew wide open. A man, his black cloak billowing around him, strode forward, sparks of magic crackling between his fingers. Closely following the man were several monks in black habits, singing ominous tones.
Lord Sam frowned. "Can I help you?"
"I am Xtr'adnigt'sdh," said the man. "Lord of the Abominable, Ravenous, Roaming Yrts."
The chanting monks increased their song in volume as the man made his announcement.
"Yes?" said Lord Sam, wholly unimpressed.
"I have come here to demand your allegiance to me," said Xtr'adnigt'sdh.
"Is that a fact?" said Lord Sam.
"Even now, my Yrt Legions are descending upon this very castle-"
"Palace," said Lord Sam.
"Palace to claim it for me so that it may add to my glory!"
"Really?" said Lord Sam. "And I suppose you want me to surrender unconditionally and all that."
"Yes! Surrender now if you want to die a swift and merciful death. Resist me and suffer a thousand."
Xtr'adnigt'sdh halted as one of the choir monks stepped forward and whispered something into his ear.
"Yes?" said Xtr'adnigt'sdh. "Is that so? Ah, yes, I. ah. remember, yes," he said, his voice growing worried. Then he cleared his throat and turned back to Lord Sam. "Err. if it's alright with you, could you please, sort of, forget what I just said?"
"You mean, the whole conquering my country bit?" said Lord Sam.
"Err. yes, that bit, yes, indeed. I was. sort of. caught up in the moment, so to speak."
"I take it you're another one of those Duncian Evil Overlords, eh?" said Lord Sam.
"What!?" shouted Xtr'adnigt'sdh. "Another one!? I am Xtr'adnigt'sdh, Lord of the Abominable, Ravenous, Roaming Yrts, mightiest of men, evilest of Evil Overlords. You shall pay for this outrageous insu."
There was some more urgent whispering from one of the monks.
Xtr'adnigt'sdh quickly wound down again. "Oh, err, sorry," he said.
"Caught in the moment?" said Lord Sam.
"Figured as much," said Lord Sam. "So, any particular reason you're here, other than giving me a pleasant diversion from work?"
Xtr'adnigt'sdh looked bewildered for a moment. In his personal worldview, anyone who wasn't one of his minions (or a Mistress of Darkness wearing leather in exciting places) should be trembling in fear. The only thing Lord Sam was trembling with, however, was with repressed laughter. Xtr'adnigt'sdh managed to pull himself together, however, by reasoning that Lord Sam was simply in shock of over his greatness and could therefore not be held accountable for her actions.
"I have heard tales of your son," said Xtr'adnigt'sdh. "A mighty warrior, I have been told."
"My daughter is a gifted mathematician, that's for sure," said Lord Sam, with a touch of pride. "She's especially good and angles and the like."
Once again, the feeling stole over Xtr'adnigt'sdh that he was not entirely in control of the situation. "So, not a great warrior then?"
"Oh I don't know," said Lord Sam. "If you want to stick a sword into someone's heart through their ribcage, a basic understanding of angles and, indeed, biology, becomes very important."
"Ah?" said Xtr'adnigt'sdh. "How. intriguing. Err. your son has been on a number of quests, right?"
"Yes she has," said Lord Sam.
"Ah," said Xtr'adnigt'sdh, smiling. "Then I shall ask of you that you would allow him to join me in my quest for World Domi- I mean, to heroically save someone from the Clutches of Darkness."
"I thought you represented the Clutches of Darkness," said Lord Sam.
"These are different Clutches of Darkness," said Xtr'adnigt'sdh. "So, will your son join me on my quest?"
"Nope," said Lord Sam. "She's grounded."
For several seconds, Xtr'adnigt'sdh made a very impressive impersonation of a dead fish. Finally, he managed to utter, "Gr-grounded, you say?"
"She was trying to skip school by toying with the fundamental laws of the universe. And, you know, I've told her a dozen times already that we mustn't toy with them too much, but she never listens, that's teenagers for you. So, she's grounded and won't be able to join you on your quest for at least another three weeks."
"Ah," said Xtr'adnigt'sdh, disappointed.
Lord Sam glanced at the paperwork in front of her, then back to the Evil Overlord. Here was an opportunity to ditch the paperwork and go questing with a complete, if amusing, idiot. Lord Sam smiled.
"Of course, I myself would be more than happy to accompany you," she said.
"Ah? Would you?" said Xtr'adnigt'sdh. "And are you any good at questing by any chance?"
"I met my wife by saving her from the vile dragon Julian," said Lord Sam, which was technically a bit of a lie. "I think I got the questing down pat."
"Good!" roared Xtr'adnigt'sdh. "Then we shall leave this place and darkness shall sweep- I mean, we shall. err. let in the light!"
"Whatever you say," said Lord Sam, standing up from her throne. "So, Lord of the Abominable, Ravenous, Roaming Yrts, do you mind if I call you Larry?"
And so Lord Sam set out with Larry nťe Xtr'adnigt'sdh (along with his background chorus of dark monks) on their quest to. to.
"Say, what are we questing for by the way?" Lord Sam asked as the first expanses of the Kennedy Mountains came into view.
"We are on a mission to slaughter the inno- oh blast, I mean, to rescue Mr. Gartin from the Clutches of Darkness," said Larry.
"Yes, you already mentioned the Clutches of Darkness bit," said Lord Sam.
"So who's Mr. Gartin?"
"Ah," said the Evil Overlord hesitantly. "Mr. Gartin is an. old man."
"Who taught you everything there is to know about being evil?"
"Well. no. The "Evil for Dummies" course taught me everything there is to know about being evil. No, Mr. Gartin, ah, well, he."
"I. err. I often visit him for a. umm. nice spot of tea."
"Pardon?" said Lord Sam, trying to resist the grin from spreading over her face too much.
"Mr. Gartin is a nice old man who's always there for me with a nice cup of tea and maybe a few biscuits," said Larry, sounding horribly embarrassed.
"Really?" said Lord Sam.
"It's nice to have someone to talk to, you know," said Larry defensively. "Evil Overlords have feelings too and when some wandering hero has just burnt down your Fortress of Doom you just want a shoulder to cry on sometimes."
"And maybe a cup of tea with a biscuit."
"And maybe a cup of tea with a. Say, are you making fun of me?"
"Wouldn't dream of it," said Lord Sam. "So, who's holding this Mr. Gartin captive?"
"A fiendish dark knight," said Larry darkly. "Someone so viscously cunning he managed to outwit all of us."
Lord Sam wasn't surprised by this statement. She had a feeling even rocks could outwit Larry. There was, however, something else about the statement that surprised.
"What do you mean 'all of us'?"
"Well, obviously, I'm not the only Evil Overlord to visit Mr. Gartin," said Larry. "Of course, those other Evil Overlords aren't nearly as evil as I am, of course."
"Of course," said Lord Sam. "So what's this dark knight's name then?"
"I know not," said Larry. "But I do know the dark, blackened place where he resides."
"Oh good," said Lord Sam. "We'd better hurry then."
The dark, blackened place where the dark knight resides turned out to be a dark castle at the edge of a dead, blackened forest. The dark knight was, apparently, not a necromancer since none of the dead things had even so much tried to thwart the quest of Lord Sam and Evil Overlord Larry. That is to say, apart of the Evil Twig Of Doom that Larry insisted hadn't been there mere seconds before he tripped over it.
"So," said Lord Sam, "any ideas on how we could get into the castle?"
"Certainly," said Larry brightly. "All I require are three virgins. Preferable female."
Lord Sam frowned. "Why? I mean, who're three virgins going to help us sneak into that castle?"
"Well, obviously, I need those virgins to sacrifice them to the Dark God Nebul so that He will alter reality, putting us in a reality where we are in the castle's entrance hall rather than this reality where we are standing in this forest."
Lord Sam sighed. "Larry, we're here to rescue someone," she said, trying to be patient.
"That technically makes us heroes."
"Heroes don't go around sacrificing virgins."
"They don't?" Larry said, honest surprise ringing from every word. "Then how come whenever a hero leaves any kind of village or hamlet there are suddenly a lot less virgins?"
"Oh come on, tell me you're kidding," said Lord Sam.
"No," said Larry. "I'm not. Evil Overlords don't kid as a rule."
"Well." said Lord Sam hesitantly, "let's just say, those heroes tend to. get involved with the local virgins so that they. sort of. cease being virgins."
"But they don't sacrifice them?"
"But, why not? Sacrifice is what virgins are for. I mean, that's their entire purpose," said Larry, sounding positively bewildered.
"Look, let's just say that virgins aren't just sacrificial material and leave it at that, alright?" said Lord Sam. "Anyway, from here I can't see any guards. I think we'll be able to sneak in somehow. Of course, we'll have to ditch your choir, but that's not going to be a problem."
"Sneak in?" said Larry, appalled. "You mean, fight dirty?"
"Well, yeah," said Lord Sam. "It's quick, efficient, we're not likely to get caught and it'll get the job done."
"But that's not an elaborate scheme at all!" shouted Larry. "Where's the shark tank? The slowly lowering platform? The vicious assault of killer snails? The easily escapable restraints?"
"Larry, stop thinking like an Evil Overlord and follow me!"
"Well all right," said Larry grudgingly. "But I'll just want you to know that this plan has no hope of succeeding."
"OK, so it succeeded," said Larry as he and Lord Sam slipped quietly through the corridors of the dark castle. "But it was just a lucky break for you," he added.
"If you say so," said Lord Sam, peering around a corner and finding the connecting hallway empty.
"And why are you looking around every corner so long? Do you find hallways so fascinating?" Larry said, a tad annoyed.
"No, I'm trying to see if I'm not going to be walking into any traps. Come on."
Lord Sam hurried stealthily through the many corridors and hallways and Larry muttered about how she wasn't doing it right until they reached a branching in the corridor roads. They two corridors looked the same, apart from the fact that Lord Sam could hear voices coming from the left and also apart from the sign that said "Caution: Bottomless Pit" and had an arrow pointing to the right.
"This way," said Lord Sam, turning to the left.
"What!?" said Larry. "But that leads to the bottomless pit!"
"No," said Lord Sam, "this leads to talking people. Maybe to the cells or something."
"Of course not," said Larry. "Obviously there's some kind of voice mill over there that'll make you think there're people over there. But they're really over here, to the right."
"What? That doesn't make any sense."
"Look, if an Evil Overlord says that the bottomless pit is to the right, it is obviously to the left. It's basic Evil Overlording."
"Well, whatever," said Lord Sam. "But I'm the more experienced hero here and I'm saying we're turning."
"Well fine," said Larry. "But if you fall into oblivion I won't help you get out again. In fact, I'm going to gloat because I'm evil."
"Sure you are," said Lord Sam. "Now let's go."
Lord Sam and Larry turned to left and found a corridor filled with dust, but completely lacking any kinds of bottomless pit, although Larry did notice a really deep dent in one of the cobblestones and was very annoyed when Lord Sam insisted that it wasn't actually bottomless.
There was a door at the end of the corridor. Lord Sam, sword drawn, kicked it open and rushed into the room to.
Stop and look at a crying man in black armour talking to an amiable looking old man.
"And you know what he did then, you know what he did then?" said the black knight.
"Do tell me," said the old man sympathetically.
"He said I had to try to actually kill all the heroes out to get me. I mean, kill. And I'm not even a violent person."
"He sounds very unreasonable," said the old man. "Would you like another cup of tea?"
"Yes please," sobbed the dark knight.
It was at that point that Lord Sam managed to get a grip on herself. "Harrison!?"
The dark knight formerly known as the lowly peon Harrison jumped up. "Lord Sam, how did you find my lair!" he shouted.
"It was not him, it was I who found your lair," said Larry. "I am Xtr'adnigt'sdh, Lord of the Abominable, Ravenous, Roaming Yrts! Unhand Mr. Gartin right now!"
"Never!" roared Harrison. "He's my guest! I invited him over!"
"Oh hello Larry," said Mr. Gartin. "How are your haemorrhoids?"
Larry deflated for a moment. "Err. doing fine Mr. Gartin. Thank you for the ointment by the way."
Mr. Gartin smiled. "Any time. I'm just glad to be of help."
"Err. yes," said Larry. Then he turned back to Harrison. "You know, you're lucky I don't happen to have any cabbages on me right now or you'd be in some serious trouble!"
"Oh yeah!" yelled Harrison. "Well, you're lucky I didn't put on my green socks today or you'd be feeling the agonising pain of my cunning plans already!"
"Hah! I sneer at your cunning plans on account of my plans being a lot more cunning and involving yellow socks!"
"Damn you!" shouted Harrison. "Is there no limit to your evil!"
Lord Sam, trying her best to ignoring the arguing Evil Overlords walked over to Mr. Gartin. "Hello," she said. "How'd you like it if I escorted you home?"
"Oh I'd much appreciate it," said Mr. Gartin. "I'm sure I wouldn't need to worry about anything with such a fine lass as yourself protecting me."
Lord Sam smiled, mostly because here was someone who had correctly spotted her gender in just one go. "It's no trouble, Mr. Gartin."
"Well then, once we get home I must treat you to a nice cup of tea. It's the least I can do."
"Will there be biscuits?" Lord Sam asked.
"I'm sure I'll be able to scrounge up some."
"Then I'm not saying no," said Lord Sam.
Mr. Gartin watched Lord Sam walked down his lawn and away over the blackened wastelands beyond before he went back inside his cottage. He'd rather enjoyed the girl's company and it had been a refreshing change from all those people who complained about the recent lack of virgins. Yes, reflected Mr. Gartin as he turned in for the night, selling his soul to the Dark Gods so that people would like him more had turned out to be a very good decision indeed.
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