"'How'd you know I was ripe for the plucking?'" said Lord Cool, delivering the last line of a dirty limerick. According to his calculations, Sugar should already be taking her clothes off.
"Will you be silent?" snapped Dolt. "I am trying to have a conversation with my beloved."
"You weren't acting like I was your beloved a couple of minutes ago," accused Sugar.
"Yeah," said Lord Cool. "She needs a real man!"
"You weren't much better," Sugar told him. "Why don't you go look at Evette's butt some more or something?"
Cool glanced across the table, but she was seated facing him and he did not have a good view.
"From what I've heard," added Dolt coolly, "you are exactly one-fifth the man that I am."
"What's that supposed to mean?" demanded Lord Cool.
"Besides, you're gay," finished Dolt making the universal wrist gesture.
"I am not gay!" shouted Lord Cool.
Evette looked up and shook her head sadly. "You must not be afraid to come out of zee closet," she advised him.
"I'm a real man," offered Mini-E.
"Will you people kindly take it somewhere else?" scolded Solo. "The rest of us have some serious work to do!"
"I told you to stay the hell/hell away from me!" Dr. Bruce shouted as Biff drew too near.
Solo closed her eyes and counted backwards from ten.
Sugar, sensing the Bard was about to express her frustration in Chain Lightning, said: "I'm going upstairs."
Automatically, Dolt and Lord Cool followed her. Mini-E followed them. Deathspit got up, looked from Elsie to Lord Cool and back again, and finally followed Lord Cool.
When she reached the door to her room, Sugar stopped and regarded her suitors coolly. For a brief instant, she considered inviting them both in. She didn't know as much French as Evette knew, but menage a trois was definitely in her vocabulary. She shuddered and pushed the idea from her mind. This was, after all, Dolt Lungren and Lord Cool. What worked as as fantasy would certainly prove to be an embarrassing, awkward, physically uncomfortable, and emotionally traumatic reality. "Why are you two even here?" she demanded. "Go ogle Elsie and Evette or something."
Lord Cool snickered. "You said 'ogle.'"
Sugar let out an angry sigh. "You two cannot even begin to imagine how unimpressed I am with you right now. Get lost." She turned and entered her room. Mini-E squeezed between Dolt and Cool in an attempt to follow her, but she slammed the door in his face, apparently without ever noticing that he'd been there in the first place.
"Beloved!" called Dolt, but Sugar did not respond. "Somehow I must prove myself worthy and earn her love," he said to himself.
"Earn?" echoed Cool. That sounded too much like work. Maybe he'd go downstairs and see what Elsie and Evette were up to. But then again, Sugar had been at least this exasperated with him on occasions too numerous to count. She'd always come around in the past. Besides, thought Cool, a bird in the hand was worth two in the bush. The word "bush" made him giggle.
Solo, Ichabod, Stupidhead, Choas, Dr. Bruce, Biff, and Journeyman Jay remained at the table, along with Elsie and Evette. Elsie watched Sugar leave, admiring her walk. Evette regarded Elsie carefully.
"Zis Sugar, you 'ave zee feelings for her, no?" she asked frankly.
"Ahh..." hesitated Elsie.
"Someone needs to go to Lut Gholein and pick up the second Compelling Orb," said Solo, who had heard enough about Sugar for the time being.
For her part, Elsie was grateful for any excuse to steer the subject away from her relationship -- such as it was -- with Sugar.
"Not me," said Stupidhead. "If I set foot in Lut Gholein, the Harem Guild has promised to teleport me -- or selected parts of me -- to an alligator pit in Kurast."
Choas shrugged. "Well, obviously I should go, since it's my father who has it," he said. "It might be good to have Journeyman Jay along with his orb to help convince Dad that we need it for legitimate reasons."
"Then Biff should come too," said Journeyman Jay.
"No!" cried Biff. "Biff want to stay with cute, puny Dr. Bruce!"
"You stay away from me!"
Jay sighed. The only way to get Biff to come with him was to invite his rival along. "Dr. Bruce should come to Lut Gholein too."
"Cute, puny Dr. Bruce go camping with Biff?"
"We also need a way to imbue the orbs," continued Elsie.
"Sugar once mentioned that the smith at her order, the Sisters of the Sightless Eye, had an enchanted hammer that gave her the power to do that," volunteered Stupidhead. "The Sisters are pretty shy about having men in their fortress -- or at least, they've made it clear that Cool and I aren't welcome -- so you, Evette, and Solo are the best candidates for that mission. And Sugar, of course."
"So what do the rest of us do?" wondered Stupidhead.
"That's easy," answered Dr. Bruce. "You, CowLord, CowLad, Dolt, Mini-E, Lord Cool, and Deathspit raid the Chamber of Bone and monkey pile on NQBus until he coughs up the last Compelling Orb. While you're at it, you take out the rest of my ex-teammates and clean out the dungeon to clear us a path to the Adversary."
"Your basic explore and destroy mission," nodded Ichabod. "We should gather up our gear and get going."
Stupidhead noticed Adria entering the tavern and shook his head. "The morning is soon enough, and we all need a good night's rest. If you'll excuse me?" Stupidhead got up and went over to talk to Adria.
"Hmm, I don't see a lot of rest in his near future," commented Ichabod, watching Stupidhead and Adria go upstairs together.
Elsie and Evette also excused themselves and headed upstairs, taking the "Fallen Madonna" with them. Dr. Bruce also went up to his room, followed by Biff, followed, in turn, by Journeyman Jay.
Solo shrugged and headed for the door.
"Where are you off to?" asked Ichabod.
"There aren't any more rooms upstairs, so I'm crashing in one of the empty cottages in town," explained Solo. "I need a quiet place to write anyway. You guys have a good night."
"Say, where'd Wirt wander off to?" asked Choas, once the party had dwindled to him and Ichabod.
"He went out to get some milk," said Ichabod. "It's taking him an awfully long time to milk a cow though."
"Oh well," shrugged Choas. "How much trouble can a one-legged boy get into in a cow pasture?"
Ichabod and Choas were still discussing sorcery over some beers when Dolt, Cool, and Mini-E came back down the stairs.
"No luck with the fair Sugar?" asked Choas.
Lord Cool just shrugged, but Dolt announced: "I must go forth and win her love in the time-tested way of my clan." With that, he drew his battle axe and stalked out into the night.
"Mana have mercy on anything that gets in his way," commented Ichabod.
An idea seemed to occur to Minimum Evil, and he too exited the tavern.
Lord Cool sat down with the sorcerers and started reaching for Ichabod's beer when he remembered why he'd returned to the tavern. "Hey, where did Evette and Elsie go?"
"They went upstairs," said Choas.
"Seeya!" shouted Cool, dashing up the stairs.
"You were going to tell me about your feelings for Sugar," Evette prompted Elsie in French as soon as they were alone in their room.
Actually, Elsie had planned on avoiding discussing her relationship with Sugar for as long as possible. Still, she owed Evette an honest answer. She replied in French, "I used to be married to her."
Evette frowned. "How is this possible?"
"It's a long story. It was a lifetime ago. Several lifetimes ago, in fact. I was literally another person. She doesn't even realize who I am," said Elsie.
"But you feel you have unfinished business with her?" asked Evette.
Elsie sighed. "Something like that. I don't know."
"Then you must go talk to her," declared Evette.
"Go. I will wait for you, beloved."
"Are you sure?" asked Elsie.
"You said you would never leave me. What cause have I to doubt you?"
Elsie got up and kissed Evette. "You're the greatest. I promise I won't be long."
"If it's Cool or Dolt, I have a headache," Sugar shouted in response to the light tapping on her door.
"It's me: Elsie. Can I talk to you for a minute?"
Sugar opened the door. "Sure. What do you want?" Elsie knew that Sugar usually slept nude, but once in awhile, she liked to slip into a lacy little something that was hot enough to ignite dry brush. Tonight was one of the latter occasions and Elsie caught her breath. Not quite sure what to do with her hands, she tied her hair into a sloppy braid.
"Stare much?" asked Sugar when Elsie failed to respond to her first question for a few seconds.
Elsie shook her head and tapped into her internal database for Major Leage Baseball statistics from 1959 through 2041. "I'm sorry," she said, still attempting to regain her composure. "I, um... You look lovely, Mindy."
"How did you know my real name?"
"It's a really long story," said Elsie. "Can I come in?"
Sugar stepped back and allowed Elsie to enter. She sat down on the bed and invited Elsie to sit next to her.
Elsie quickly calculated pi to 31,642 places, and then sat next to Sugar.
"So what's this all about?" Sugar wanted to know.
"I wasn't always as you see me now," began Elsie.
"Well, I figured you'd had your boobs done," said Sugar.
"No, no, no. That's not it," said Elsie. "I can remember a time when we... I mean, I was once... I mean, we used to..." Too flustered to finish, Elsie took a few deep breaths and completely debugged Windows 95 in her head. Even with her enhanced cognitive abilities, this took Elsie several seconds.
"Are you okay?" asked Sugar.
Elsie nodded and leaned closer to Sugar. "I want you to look into my eyes and tell me what you see."
"I don't get it," said Sugar, her green eyes staring deep into Elsie's blue.
"Shh," whispered Elsie. "Just trust me."
Sugar let out a little gasp. There was something familiar in Elsie's eyes. Something she'd known intimately. Something cool....
Elsie reached out and gently caressed Sugar's fiery red hair. "Mindy..." she whispered.
Just then, the door to the adjoining room flew open with a crash. Dr. Bruce dashed through it and vaulted over the bed. "You stay the hell/hell away from me!" he shouted as he ran out the other door, into the hall.
A split-second later, Biff bounded into the room after him. The Barbarian giant jumped on the bed and snapped it in two, spilling Elsie and Sugar onto the floor. "Come back, cute puny Dr. Bruce," called Biff. "Biff just wants to hug you and squeeze you and bathe you and call you George...." Biff followed Dr. Bruce, banging into the door frame and splintering it on the way out.
Elsie felt the warmth of Sugar's weight as she leaned on her for support.
"Goddamnit, Biff!" cried Journeyman Jay. "Can't you see that he's no good for you?!" Of the three men, Jay was the only one to notice Elsie and Sugar as he scrambled past them. "Pardon my French, ladies," he apologized as he raced into the hall.
"French?!" cried Elsie shoving Sugar away. "Ohmigod! What am I doing? I have to get back to Evette!" She leaped to her feet and raced out the door. "I'm sorry, Sugar!"
As she hurried down the hall, Elsie narrowly avoided colliding with Dolt. He was carrying over one shoulder the corpses of a half-dozen Fallen. "I have slain these demons in the name of my beloved in the tradition of..." he began.
"Not now, Dolt!" snapped Elsie shoving past him.
"Pig-tailed girl! I mean, Elsie! Damn!" He looked at the dead Fallen in dismay. "These tiny demons are unworthy of my love!" Angrily, he hurled the disembowelled corpses down the hall where they crushed a delicate flower sculpture that Mini-E was constructing for Sugar.
"Ah! Lord Cool, come in!" said Evette when Lord Cool knocked on her door. "I was just getting ready for bed."
Lord Cool came in and looked around the room. "Did you say bed?"
"Oui, oui," answered Evette.
Cool giggled and handed her the chamber pot. "You said 'wee-wee.'"
Evette looked at the chamber pot with a puzzled expression and then put it back.
Cool looked around the room. "Where's Elsie?"
A sad expression crossed Evette's face for a split-second. "My love has gone to see Sugar," she answered. "I hope she will not be gone long."
Cool wondered what Elsie and Sugar were up to, but then, like he'd said: A bird in the hand was worth two in the bush.
"What is so funny?" Evette asked when Lord Cool giggled at the word "bush."
"Nothing," he smiled. He wondered how next to proceed. Perhaps saying something in French would put her in the right mood. "Uh..." began Lord Cool. He had suddenly remembered that he didn't speak French. Damn! But how hard could it be? (This made him giggle too, but he persevered). "Uh... Cherchez... uh... oui oui uh... voulez-vous... um, parsley Francis..."
Evette was staring at him in a vain attempt to make some sense of his babble.
He had her undivided attention! Speaking French was easy! "Um, oo-la-la," continued Cool. "Tour de France la oui oui!" He gestured vaguely toward his trousers and Evette handed him the chamber pot.
Cool looked at the chamber pot with a puzzled expression and then put it back.
"I am sorry," said Evette. "I simply do not speak zee English well enough to understand what you are saying."
Lord Cool opened his mouth to explain to the confused girl that he had, in fact, been speaking French, when Evette yawned and stretched luxuriously. She arched her back magnificently, causing her generous endowments to strain insistently against the confines of her dress.
"Forgive me," apologized Evette. "It has been a long day. You do not mind if I undress for bed?"
Lord Cool's jaw dropped further, coming to rest near his belt buckle.
Evette smiled. "Since you are un sissy flamboyeux -- zee flaming sissy -- I feel comfortable taking off all my clothes in front of you." She began to unbutton her dress.
A small, but growing puddle of drool was accumulating at Cool's feet.
Evette removed her dress and held it up, eying it critically. "Zis dress is filthy," she sighed. "C'est la vie."
"La vee," complied Lord Cool. He was staring at Evette's black fishnet stockings and matching bra, panties and garter belt.
Evette felt Cool's eyes on her and smiled. "Do you like zem?" she asked.
"An American G.I. gave zem to me. I do not know why he had zem. Perhaps he was gay too," said Evette. She sat down on the bed, unfastened her garters and pulled her stockings off.
"Oh, mama," breathed Cool.
Words failed Lord Cool again.
She stood and walked over to him. She lifted her raven hair and turned her back to him. "S'il-vous plait?"
With trembling hands, Cool reached out to unfasten Evette's black brassiere.
"What the hell/hell is going on here?!" demanded Elsie, returning from Sugar's room.
"Elsie! Ma cherie!" cried Evette rushing to embrace her.
"Don't you 'ma cherie' me. What are you doing with him?" Elsie wanted to know. She nodded toward Lord Cool, who was frozen with his hands still outstretched to unfasten Evette's bra.
"Oh!" laughed Evette. "Lord Cool was helping me undress for bed. But zere is no need to worry, since he is gay."
"Gay?!" cried Elsie. "If he's gay, then I'm a ham sandwich!" She handed Evette a robe. "Now put this on before he gets any funny ideas."
Lord Cool saw opportunity slipping through his fingers. "Wait a second!" he cried. "I am too gay!"
"You are not," laughed Elsie.
"I am too!"
"Am too! I am a very gay man," insisted Cool. "I am completely spurting with homosexual gayety! I'm a gay, gay, gay, gay guy!"
Elsie rolled her eyes. "Then prove it."
"I will," snapped Cool stomping out the door. "Stu!"
"This, I've got to see," said Elsie.
"I wanted to thank you again for letting me borrow your staff," Stupidhead told Adria.
Adria hung her floor-length black dress in the closet. What she was wearing underneath was black, leather, and scandalous. "Well," she said. "Since I let you handle my staff, it's only fair that you let me handle yours. What have you got under that robe for me?"
Stupidhead opened his robe and Adria eyed him critically. "Still taking those Viagra potions?"
"I ran out some time ago," admitted Stupidhead sadly.
"Have a seat," said Adria gently pushing him into a chair. She searched the pockets of her dress. "I've got something here that makes your Viagra potion look like a kids' drink. Here." She handed him a vial of indigo liquid.
Stupidhead pulled the stopper out, sniffed it, and then downed the potion. The results were immediate. "Sweet Mana!" he cried.
"Much better," agreed Adria smiling. "And the best part is that it will last until I give you the counter-agent."
"Well, then," suggested Stupidhead, "we'd better put it to good use."
Adria glided over to him. "I have a position in mind. It will take a few hours, but it will put hair on your head..."
The door burst open and Lord Cool rushed in, followed by Elsie and Evette, who was still trying to get her robe tied.
"Stu, will you tell these two that I'm gay?"
"What in the name of Mana are you talking about, you imbecile? Can't you see I'm busy?" Stupidhead grabbed a pillow and covered his lap with it.
"Tell them that we're gay!" demanded Cool.
"What?!" demanded Adria.
"I'm not gay!" shouted Stupidhead.
"Told you," said Elsie.
"We are too!" cried Cool. He stepped behind Stupidhead's chair and began to massage his shoulders. "Kiss me, Stu."
"Gah!" cried Stupidhead. He started to get out of the chair, but then stopped, remembering that his Rod of Onan was fully charged and ready to enter the Catacombs.
Cool kissed Stupidhead on top of his bald head. "See?" he told Evette. "We've been together ever since that night in the cow pasture!"
"I can't believe this!" snapped Adria. She grabbed the clothes nearest at hand, which happened to be Stupidhead's robe, and stormed out the door.
"Adria! Wait!" cried Stupidhead, still seated in his chair with the pillow in his lap.
"Aren't you even going to get up and go after her?" asked Elsie, hoping that he would.
"Oh, believe me," grumbled Stupidhead. "I already am up." Then another thought occurred to him: "Great Mana! She's the only one who has the antidote!" He leaped out of the chair and began struggling into Adria's dress.
"I told you we were gay," said Cool. "He's putting on a dress and look how glad he is to see me!"
Elsie was dumbfounded. "I guess that makes me a ham sandwich then."
"Peut-Ítre, puis, je vous mangerai plus tard," whispered Evette saucily.
Stupidhead turned to face Lord Cool, Adria's tight dress stuck halfway between his chest and his navel. If looks could kill, Lord Cool would have been nothing more than a stain on the floor, if that. "I have never been less glad to see you in my life, or in anyone's life, you moron," breathed the old wizard.
Lord Cool took an involuntary step backwards. Perhaps it was the icy glare, or perhaps it was the fact that Harry Potter's broomstick was flying high and pointed directly at him for some serious Quidditch.
Stupidhead looked as if he was about to add something, but then turned and ran out the door in hopes of catching Adria.
"I guess that settles that," said Lord Cool. "You can go ahead and take your clothes off now." He turned just in time to see Evette and Elsie leave together through the side door."
Sugar was confused. And strangely aroused. Not that it was at all strange that she was aroused. What was strange was that it was Elsie who had aroused her. She had never felt that way about another woman before.
Except for Gillian, but she didn't count. Everyone who came to Tristram did Gillian. Coming to Tristram and not doing Gillian would be like going to Baskin-Robbins and not having ice cream.
And then, of course, there was her initiation into the Sisterhood of the Sightless Eye. But that didn't count either. That was strictly ritual (it involved fifteen other girls and ten gallons of vegetable oil, but that's a story for another day).
Then there was that fling with Charsi. And the one-night stand in Kingsport with Blood Raven and Kashya. And...
Well, in any event, Sugar had never felt this way about this particular woman before. Or had she? There was something irritatingly familiar about Elsie. The other thing strange about Elsie was that she had turned her on and then mysteriously left. With notable exceptions, few people who went to the trouble of getting Sugar this worked up went away unfulfilled. She had to go find Elsie.
One of the above-mentioned notable exceptions was at her door.
"I have slain this mighty Balrog as a token of my love for you," announced Dolt. The headless corpse of a gigantic demon lay in the hall behind him, spewing ichor all over the hapless Mini-E who had been sitting in the hall composing a poem for Sugar.
Dolt's broad, bare chest glistened with sweat and Sugar caught her breath. She considered it for a moment, and then decided against it. She needed to figure out what the deal with Elsie was, and besides, she was still a little mad at Dolt. Also, after fighting monsters in some Zakarum-forsaken dungeon, Dolt smelled more than a little ripe. "Oh, a dead Balrog," yawned Sugar. "My old boyfriend killed one of those for me in junior high."
Dolt bit his lip. "Wait right here," he told her, and stalked off in search of more impressive prey. Sugar smiled. Dolt was everything she loved in a man: big, muscular, not too bright, and easily manipulated, er, motivated.
As she headed down the hall toward Elsie's room, Sugar noticed Mini-E writhing on the floor in the acidic Balrog ichor.
"Argh! It burns! It burns!" whined Mini-E.
"Are you okay?" asked Sugar.
Mini-E smiled bravely. "I'm fine," he winced.
Sugar nodded. "Okay," and continued down the hall.
Minimum Evil's smile widened. "She asked if I was okay! She noticed me!"
Conjurer Ichabod looked up from his beer to see a furious Adria storm out the door into the night. She was wearing Stupidhead's clothes. That was interesting. He shrugged and resumed drinking.
A few moments later, Stupidhead came down the stairs with Adria's dress wrapped around his chest and Gandalf's staff proudly pointing the way to Mordor in front of him. Ichabod looked at Stupidhead and then examined his beer. Clearly he needed to ask the bartender a few very specific questions about this beer.
Stupidhead spotted him and ran toward him. "Ichabod!" he called.
"Careful," advised Ichabod. "You'll put someone's eye out with that thing."
Alas, the warning came too late. Ubet Choas, returning from the men's room, collided with Stupidhead. He fell back on the floor, his hand clapped over his right eye in pain.
"Oh, geez, Ubet," said Stupidhead. "I'm sorry."
The diminutive sorcerer looked up with his good eye and saw Stupidhead's magic flying Dragonlance.
"Are you okay?" asked Stupidhead.
"I feel so violated," said Ubet.
"See, Adria gave me this potion and..." began Stupidhead.
"I don't want to hear about it," said Ubet firmly.
"And I..." Stupidhead tried.
"This didn't happen," insisted Ubet. "We are never to discuss it again. Are we clear on that?"
The look in Ubet's remaining eye made it quite clear. "Er, did you see which way Adria went?" he asked Ichabod.
Ichabod pointed toward the front door.
"Thanks," said Stupidhead running out into the night.
"Are you okay?" asked Ichabod when Ubet climbed up on the barstool next to him. "He could have at least bought you dinner first."
"I need a cigarette," said Ubet, his hand still over his eye.
When Sugar arrived at Elsie and Evette's room, the door was ajar and the room was empty except for a large puddle of drool on the floor. She knelt next to it and immediately guessed its source. She'd been salivated over (and on) enough times that she'd have to be a fool not to recognize Cool's drool.
Obviously, while she'd been talking with Elsie, Cool had been in here getting it on with a certain French tart. Sugar calculated from the size of the puddle that Cool had gotten her down to her underwear, or perhaps further, depending on how interesting her underwear were. "Fine!" she snapped. "If that's the way he wants it, maybe Dolt's getting lucky tonight!"
Stupidhead spotted Adria crossing the river on the other side of the cow pasture. "Adria!" he called to her.
She was too far away to hear him.
Stupidhead ran into the field. "ADRIA!" he called. "Please! It's all a big misunderstanding! I'm not really gay!"
Adria kept on walking, but turned her head to look at him. This turned out to be a fatal mistake. Where the outhouse had been earlier in the day -- before the Collector of Souls, a.k.a., Cameron Diaz, had spirited away Rob -- there was now an open pit.
"Adria!" cried Stupidhead. "Look out!"
Too late. Adria disappeared into the chasm. Her scream lasted several seconds before ending with a sickening crunch. Tied to her now non-existent lifeforce, Adria's shack collapsed in a heap and then burst into flame before turning into slime and draining into the river. With it went any hope of finding the antidote for the potion Adria had given Stupidhead.
Stupidhead sighed. Perhaps he could find a tailor to let out his robes. Maybe the blacksmith could fashion him some sort of armored codpiece and...
Stupidhead suddenly realized he was surround by cows. A lone human stood among them.
"Wirt?" asked Stupidhead.
"Once, perhaps," replied the boy. "I have lived among these gentle, peace-loving people and embraced their ways. They have made me one of their own. Now, I am Dances With Cows."
Stupidhead frowned. Against all odds, here was someone having a stranger evening than he was having.
"You have wronged one of these kind, beautiful beings," accused Dances With Cows. "You must do the honorable thing and take her as your bride." The boy regarded Stupidhead's fully charged cattle prod. "You clearly appear willing to do what honor demands."
Stupidhead blinked, and then recognized one of the cows. "No! I was drunk! I was under an enchantment! I mean, it was my evil twin! It wasn't my fault!"
"Moo," sighed the cow. It was a clear invitation to stick his meat thermometer in her rump roast.
"Oh, hell!" Stupidhead turned and ran. Wirt and the cows followed.
Ichabod and Ubet sat silently at the bar, their only companionship being several empty beer mugs.
A little way down the bar, Journeyman Jay sat literally crying into his beer. There was a crash as Biff chased Dr. Bruce through the tavern and and out the side door. "Come back!" he called. "Biff will give cute, puny Dr. Bruce a massage!"
No sooner had they exited than Stupidhead ran in, still sans pants and still waving Gnarled Root. He dashed up the stairs and was immediately followed by three cows, one of whom carried Wirt on her back.
Dolt Lungren dragged the corpse of gigantic monster up the side stairs. "Beloved! I have brought you the testicles of a Horned Demon!" he shouted.
Sugar, who was coming down the stairs, saw the bloody melon-sized offerings dangling from Dolt's fist and gagged. She turned and ran back up the stairs. Maybe Dolt wouldn't be getting lucky after all.
"Damn!" swore Dolt. "Still not good enough!" He hurled the giant monster 'nads away in frustration. They flew through the kitchen door as Gilbacca was exiting and hit Minimum Evil square in the face before landing in the souffle he was preparing for Sugar.
Dolt stomped down the stairs, leaving the the dead monster where it lay, much to the delight of the puppy Deathspit who had gone unfed so far that evening.
As Dolt marched past and out the door while, at the other end of the bar, Journeyman Jay began crooning a wretched, mournful version of the Carpenters' "Goodbye to Love." No sooner had Dolt exited than the front door flew open again. This time Red Vex stood framed by the night, her horns and the claws on her wings honed razor-sharp, her eyes ablaze with hatred and hunger. With the exception of a whisp of a gossamer loincloth and her black spike-heeled boots, every inch of the lethal pleasures the demon had to offer was on display. "Where is Lord Cool?" she demanded.
No one even glanced up at her. No one knew, and no one cared. Red Vex stared into bar. Fear was one thing. Desire was another. But complete jaded indifference was brand new, and it made her feel vulnerable. Obviously she hadn't fully recovered from her ordeal. "You can't hide forever, Lord Cool!" she shouted. "I'll deal with you at a time and place of my own choosing!" She turned and exited.
Ubet peered around Ichabod to have a peek at Red Vex's thong (with his good eye), but his view was blocked when Stupidhead ran past again, still pursued by Wirt and the cows.
"What the hell is in this beer?" Ichabod wondered again.
Mini-E, covered in gore, unspeakable slime, and the remains of his violated souffle trudged out of the kitchen and took the barstool next to the despondent Journeyman Kay. He ordered a Shirley Temple and listened to the despondent man in black sing. The bubbles of the first sip of his drink went straight to Mini-E's head, and before the glass was half-empty, he was crooning along with Journeyman Jay.
"'All by myself! Don't wanna live! All by myself!'" they wailed. After that, they sang 'I am a Rock,' by Simon and Garfunkel, Gilbert O'Sullivan's 'Alone Again, Naturally,' and finally, a version of 'Born to Lose' that would have made Ray Charles weep (and file suit).
"Where did you learn those marvelous songs?" asked Mini-E, wiping the tears from his eyes.
"I've been around," muttered Jay.
"I'm so unhappy!" Mini-E burst out.
"There's a lot of that going around," agreed jay.
"She'll never notice me as long as those two giant goons, Lord Cool and Dolt Lungren, are around! I wish I could just scratch their eyes out!"
Jay smiled in spite of himself. "I know exactly what you mean."
The color drained from Mini-E's face. "Oh no! You're not in love with Sugar too?! I feel faint!"
"Relax. I'm in love with Biff, but he only has eyes for Dr. Bruce," explained Jay.
"Biff?" puzzled Mini-E. "I didn't know you were gay."
A frown creased Jay's dark brow. "I'm not gay. I'm enchanted."
Mini-E blushed. "Oh, I'm so sorry!" he apologized. "I can never keep up with the latest P.C. terms."
"Er, come in," said Elsie when she opened the door and saw Sugar standing there in the hall. Evette, in her robe behind her, looked on curiously.
Sugar shot a hard look at Evette as she entered the room. "I thought you were with Lord Cool."
"Why would you believe zhat?" asked Evette innocently. "No doubt 'e is right now in zee warm embrace of his lovair."
"That big jerk. I should have known he'd," began Sugar. "Wait a second. You're here. I'm here. Elsie's here. Who's he with? Solo?"
Evette laughed. "Of course not, monsieur Cool is avec Stupid'ead. Zhey were quite eager to be alone together." She made the universal wrist gesture.
"Cool and Stupidhead? Are you nuts? Those two may be inept, but they're as straight as they come. Hell, I was married to Cool, and I've been groped by Stupidhead more times than I care to remember."
Elsie shrugged. "I saw it myself, though I never would have believed it. Stu might be bi, but Cool is as gay as a caballero." She shook her head. "Absolutely unbelievable." She had all of Lord Cool's memories, but never suspected he had a trace of those tendencies. Maybe the late Dr. Pepin had known something she hadn't when he arranged to have Cool's brain copied into a female body.
"I don't buy it," insisted Sugar. "Those two are so..."
At that moment Stupidhead burst through the door, preceded by his Rod of Lordly Might. "You've got to hide me!" he gasped.
"See?" shouted Sugar. "I told you so!" Then she added to Stupidhead, "No one here wants to play 'hide the wand' with you, you wrinkled old pervert! Why don't you go take a cold..."
It sounded like a stampede of cattle in the hall.
"Oh, hell" swore Stupidhead. "They've found me!"
"Quick! Follow me!" cried his King's Staff of the Ages. With that, Stupidhead ran and leaped out the window, just as Wirt and the cows burst into the room.
"We won't be ignored!" the boy shouted out the window. "Attention must be paid!"
The one-legged boy and the cows left the hotel room without a backward glance.
"C'est incroiable!" breathed Evette.
Sugar nodded. "I had no idea Stu was so well hung! But, was it talking to him?"
"Did you see how he used it to vault out the window?" asked Elsie.
The three women rushed to the window. Below, there was no sign of Stupidhead or Wirt or the cows. Instead, they saw a pair of gigantic eight-toed feet. The feet were attached to a pair of gigantic slimy legs that were, in turn, attached to a monstrous body somewhere on the other side of the river.
"Beloved!" rasped an exhausted voice from behind one of the feet. "I have slain the Great Cthulhu as a token of my affection for you!"
"Is it just me, or has this been the weirdest night?" wondered Sugar.
E-mail: comments (at) theboojum.com