How to Rescue a Dead Princess

BOOK: How to Rescue a Dead Princess
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Hard Shell Word Factory
www.hardshell.com

Copyright ©2000, Jeff Strand

August 2000

NOTICE: This work is copyrighted. It is licensed only for use by the original purchaser. Making copies of this work or distributing it to any unauthorized person by any means, including without limit email, floppy disk, file transfer, paper print out, or any other method constitutes a violation of International copyright law and subjects the violator to severe fines or imprisonment.

This book is dedicated to my mother.
And not just because she said I had to.

Published August 2000 by

Hard Shell Word Factory

PO Box 161

Amherst Jct. WI 54407

[email protected]

http://www.hardshell.com

Cover art copyright 2000, Dirk A. Wolf

All electronic rights reserved.

All characters in this book have no existence outside the imagination of the author, and have no relation whatever to anyone bearing the same name or names. These characters are not even distantly inspired by any individual known or unknown to the author, and all incidents are pure invention.

Chapter 1
Introducing The Main Character

RANDALL'S JOY AT winning the hand of poker was substantially diminished as the three barbarians at the table drew their swords. He paused in mid-reach for the pile of coins.

“Problem?” he asked.

The barbarian to his right, a seriously unattractive thug whose beard contained remnants of his past twelve meals, slammed his fist against the table. Randall reversed his reach for the coins and put his hands back in his lap, where they were more likely to remain happily connected to his wrists.

“You cheat!” snarled the barbarian, pointing the tip of his sword at an especially soft part of Randall's face.

“I did not!” Randall protested, trying to sound indignant. Unfortunately, his current state of anxiety added a tremor and a squeak to his voice, two elements which have the unfortunate effect of reducing vocal indignation.

“You cheat!” the barbarian repeated, not so much for emphasis as for an inability to think of something else to say.

Randall pushed back his chair and slowly got to his feet. The barbarians did the same. “Listen to me,” said Randall, “I give you my word as a squire that I didn't cheat. I mean, I can't help it if you're all such lousy players!”

Randall did a mental rewind of that last statement and played it back. He carefully weighed the evidence. The verdict: It hadn't been a particularly intelligent thing to say.

One of the barbarians let out a roar of rage and overturned the table, sending overpriced, watered-down, and spat-in drinks flying everywhere. The other pub patrons looked up from their various reality-muffling beverages then launched into a betting frenzy based on how many limbs Randall would have remaining at the end of the scuffle. One-and-a-half seemed to get the best odds.

“Make you a deal,” said Randall. “You gentlemen can take all the money. I'll even let you keep the deck of cards. I'm just going to wait for the feeling to return to my legs, and then walk out of here. Is that okay?”

“No,” said the barbarian who'd overturned the table. “You cheat! We kill cheaters!”

There was some more betting amongst the patrons, based on this new shred of information.

Randall drew himself up to his full height of five feet and six inches. He was extremely thin for his height, and though he tried to dress in bulky leather garments to hide that fact, he still wasn't an especially intimidating figure. Plus, he looked a good five years younger than his age of twenty-two. And he was currently trembling like a frightened rabbit.

“All right,” he said. “I guess a fight is pretty much inevitable. But I need to warn you about something. My father was Sir Randall, leader of the Density Warriors, and he taught me everything I know!”

That was the truth. Sir Randall was a legend, and not just because he'd given the Warriors their unusual name by misspelling “Destiny” on the coat of arms.

The barbarians seemed taken aback. “That your father?” asked one of them. “The man who slay dragon that kidnap Queen Charlotte?”

Randall nodded.

“Your father defeat entire ogre horde with fork?”

Randall nodded. It had been one hell of a fork, but the deed was still impressive.

“Your father stop flounder invasion of Mosiman Kingdom?”

Randall moved his head in an up-and-down motion several times in rapid succession to signal assent.

The barbarians exchanged glances, then the one who'd been speaking stepped forward. “We
hate
that bastard!”

Randall tried to make a run for it, but he'd only gone one step when the nearest barbarian violently shoved him against the wall. The barbarian lifted his sword and let out the most painfully annoying battle cry ("yagga-yagga") Randall had ever heard. His life flashed before his eyes, forcing him to relive the infamous corset incident but reminding him where he'd left the key to his room.

“Stop!” shouted a voice filled with so much masculinity that one could almost see individual testosterone molecules rushing through the air in its path. The barbarians immediately turned toward the doorway of the pub, and one of them let out a tiny whimper.

There stood Sir William. Nobody messed with Sir William. He was the bravest, strongest, and overall mightiest knight in the king's army. He was also the handsomest and had the most fragrant perspiration. Randall was his squire, a fact that both frustrated him (when he had tons of squiring to do) and pleased him greatly (when he was saved at the last second from being killed by barbarians who thought he'd cheated at cards).

“Leave him alone,” ordered Sir William, “or you will all bear witness to a
tremendous
amount of anti-social behavior!”

Since the barbarians were stupid but not suicidal, they all lowered their weapons and quickly backed away. Randall wanted to make a face at them, but couldn't come up with a sufficiently funny one in time. He bent down and started to reach for a handful of coins, known throughout the Generic Fantasy Land as dvorkins.

“Leave them!” Sir William shouted. “Get over here, squire!”

Head hung, Randall slowly made his way over to the doorway. Sir William glared at him, then turned and began silently walking toward the stable. Randall cast a quick glance back into the pub, where the patrons were paying off and collecting their bets, then hurried after him.

It was a beautiful night, save for the thick mist hanging in the air from the various noxious spells cast by the local wizard. The Non-Vile Air Act had been passed within the walls of Mosiman Kingdom, but out here in the neighboring town of Tilton there were no such restrictions, so the air was rancid.

“Uhh ... thanks for helping me,” Randall said, sheepishly. “You showed up just in the nick of time, as usual.”

“I'd been standing outside the door for the past twenty minutes, waiting for you to get into trouble and seeing how you would handle the situation.” Sir William informed him. “As usual, I was extremely disappointed. How many times am I going to have to rescue you?”

“I dunno,” Randall replied, being honest.

“Well, it's becoming very tiring. How could you be so foolish as to cheat at cards with barbarians?”

“I didn't cheat! I swear it! I was
going
to, sure, but they were so awful that it wasn't necessary!”

They handed their claim tickets to the stable valet, who went to retrieve their horses. “We have a very important mission tomorrow,” said Sir William. “We'll be escorting Princess Janice to the kingdom of Rainey.”

“Hey, that sounds like fun. I hear they serve really great stuffed dragon lips there. Who all is coming with us?”

“Just you, myself, and the princess.”

“That's it?” Randall was flabbergasted. “A knight and a squire doing a royalty escort? Was the king sniffing the queen's breath when he decided that?”

Sir William raised a fist as if to strike him. “You will
not
mock our king, squire! If I hear talk like that again, I will personally see you locked in the dungeon with the Beggar Who Sings Badly On Purpose!”

“I'm sorry. It's just unusual that he would trust his only desirable daughter with two lousy escorts.”

“The king knows that I am more than capable of handling any situation that occurs. For example, the barbarians you angered have already gathered reinforcements and are hiding outside this stable as we speak, preparing to ambush us. And yet I remain absolutely confident of my ability to defeat them.”

Randall's eyes widened, and he glanced furtively outside the stable. No sign of them.

“They're hiding around the corner,” said Sir William. “I expect that they'll attack a few seconds after we exit.”

“You're, uh, not going to take this opportunity to test me on my combat skills, are you?” asked Randall.

“No.”

“Thank you very much.”

The stable valet returned with their mounts. Sir William climbed upon Crunch, the largest, fastest stallion in the king's army. Randall climbed upon Thud, a sieve-brained horse that usually just stood around sweating.

“You're, uh, going first, aren't you?” asked Randall.

“Yes.”

“Thank you very much.”

Crunch let out a mighty whinny as Sir William rode him out of the stable. Randall eased Thud forward a few steps into the doorway, but didn't see any reason to overexert the poor animal for the time being.

Ten barbarians rushed out from around the corner of the stable, all of them carrying various implements of skin-puncturing. Sir William threw his sword, smacking one of them in the forehead with the handle. That barbarian dropped his axe, which was promptly stepped on by the barbarian directly behind him. That barbarian howled in pain and threw his arms out to keep from falling, accidentally stabbing the barbarians on each side of him with the pair of daggers he'd been carrying. This caused those two barbarians to shriek in unison, startling the barbarian in the back of the group and causing him to drop the Stone of Vaporization, which the other barbarians had told him to be very, very careful with. As it struck the ground, the stone let out a flash of light with a rather anticlimactic fizzle sound, instantly disintegrating all nine of the barbarians in front of it.

“Uhhhhh...” said the last barbarian.

“Please leave,” Sir William requested.

The barbarian hesitated. “Can I take stone? It rented.”

“Go ahead.”

The barbarian picked up the Stone of Vaporization, then ran off as fast as he could. But his speed lessened his accuracy, and he tripped over an inconveniently placed patch of dust. He dropped the stone, vaporizing himself.

“There's a lesson to be learned here,” announced Sir William. “Whenever possible, fight stupid enemies.”

“I'll do that,” said Randall, as they began to ride their horses back to the castle.

Chapter 2
Getting Into the Plot

RANDALL'S departure at sunrise was slightly delayed by an unforeseen plunge into quicksand. He'd taken this particular route on his morning jog/stagger a couple times before, but this time vandals had changed the “Quicksand” sign to “No Quicksand Here.” Which is how he ended up waist-deep, sinking fast, and screaming for his life.

“Heeeeeeelp!” he shouted for what seemed like the hundredth time but was actually the ninety-seventh. He was a good two miles from the castle, so it was unlikely that anybody would hear him, but he was a strong believer in keeping busy.

“Heeeeeeelp! Hee—”

He cut off his scream as a kiriki stepped out of the woods. A kiriki was a cross between a wild boar, a dragon, and a cow, with a boar's size and temperament, a dragon's scales and ability to breathe fire, and a cow's desire to chew cud. These animals were the scourge of the area. Ferocious man-eaters, with long, brutally sharp teeth to assist in eating the aforementioned man. Basically, it was the kind of creature that provided a serious distraction from sinking in quicksand.

“Go away!” cried Randall. “Shoo! Scat! Skedaddle!”

The kiriki neither shooed, scatted, nor skedaddled. It licked its lips and walked up to the edge of the quicksand.

“Nice kiriki,” said Randall, in a babyish voice that implied a couple dozen I.Q. points had been pulverized into oblivion. “Nice, sweet, non-hostile kiriki! You're a good boy, aren't you? Yes you are! Yes you are! You're not going to open your mouth and sizzle the flesh right off my skull, are you? No you're not! No you're not! Because you're a
niiiiice
kiriki!”

The niiiiice kiriki opened its mouth.

Randall cringed.

The kiriki sneezed, sending out a burst of flame that ignited the sleeve on Randall's left arm. He dunked it beneath the surface of the quicksand, extinguishing the fire. And, unfortunately, trapping his arm in the muck.

“Bad kiriki! Baaaaad kiriki!”

The kiriki opened its mouth again.

The blood drained from Randall's face and exited his body in the form of another liquid.

The kiriki glared at him for a moment, then turned around and began to walk away. Randall breathed a sigh of relief, which was then replaced by a jolt of panic as he remembered that he was now up to his upper respiratory area in the quicksand. But he didn't dare shout for help with the kiriki so close by. The rather annoying, high-pitched, nasal-sounding Voice of Reason told him he was dead meat.

BOOK: How to Rescue a Dead Princess
10.88Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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