Editor’s Note: This week, we begin a new foray into parody. Luke Haines, our UK correspondent and editor, will give us today the first in a series of short, comic pieces that will run over the next few issues. He describes his effort with: “ A while back I wrote something in which I compared Baby Boomers hoarding wealth to fantasy dragons sleeping on piles of gold. I was going to write something expanding on that image, and then somehow this happened. It is a pale facsimile of, an insult to, and for legal reasons quite distinct from, The Hobbit.”
In a hole in the ground there lived a Millennial. Not a nasty, dirty, wet hole, filled with the ends of worms and an oozy smell, nor yet a dry, bare, sandy hole with nothing in it to sit down on or to eat: it was a Millennial-hole, and that means it was rented at an extortionate mark-up, and also dirty and wet and had nothing to sit down on or eat. There was probably also a fair bit of asbestos kicking around, but we’re getting off topic.
One morning a wizard came by. Or if not a wizard, certainly an old man with a beard who could trick the millennial into believing wonderous things…
…but the Millennial was out at his second job trying to make ends meet, so he couldn’t be recruited into an adventure.
This put the whole narrative in a precarious position, but luckily, the team of Dwarves for whom the Wizard Corbyn was on retainer were determined to journey across the Misty Mountains and were still looking for a Thief to join their party. They placed an ad in a local newsagent window for some other millennial with flexible morals and an empty bank account and, well, that’s where I came in.
“Are you an experienced thief?” asked Studly, the lead Dwarf. You’d have thought he looked like a typical fantasy Dwarf, but for some reason he was needlessly attractive.
Honestly, it was distracting.
“My experience is mostly in skimming from cash registers in service jobs,” I admitted, “but I’m willing to give this the old college try.”
Some of the Dwarves shifted uncomfortably and gave each other less-than-convinced looks.
“Besides,” I added, “I’m already a much better pickpocket than any of you guys. For one thing, I can actually reach people’s pockets…” There was a general murmur and a few “He’s got us there”s from the crowd of under-written and largely forgettable Dwarves. Some of them might have been character actors I’d seen elsewhere in a lot of prosthetics, it was hard to tell.
“How are you at finding a ring in a dark passage?” asked the Wizard Corbyn.
“…Are you flirting with me?” I asked. “I mean, I’m flattered, but…”
Corbyn muttered something, irritably, and went back to smoking his pipe. He blew an enormous amount of smoke and made it change colour and all that other wizard stuff. Really good at blowing smoke, Corbyn. Seemed to be his main talent.
With no other applicants for the job of Thief – largely because I wasn’t born yesterday and had surreptitiously stolen the ad from the newsagent window to improve my chances of being hired – the Dwarves hired me on and we set off for the distant mountain where, they assured me, their treasure awaited.
There was a lot of singing and some rambling descriptions of everyone’s cloaks and the like, but I’ll spare you the details because it’s 2019 and nobody needs to hear it. “Give the people what they want,” that’s what I say. Or, now that I was hired as a Thief, “Take what people want from them” would probably be a better motto. I’d have to get my business cards reprinted.
On the third evening of the adventure we made camp between some boulders. As night fell and we drifted off to sleep, we slowly became aware of a skittering, clicking noise and the sound of sniggering. A sour, unwashed smell began to drift towards us as we sat up in our sleeping bags.
“You guys smell B.O. and hear laptop keys and idiotic giggling?” I asked.
“Trolls!” someone gasped.
We rolled from our beds and dragged our belongings into the treeline as a pair of Trolls emerged from their underground lairs. They were bloated, lumpen creatures who lived underground on their mothers’ property, but they were too engaged in 4chan memes to notice any signs of our hastily dissembled camp. We clambered into the branches of a tall fir tree where the Trolls were too weak and flabby to reach us with anything except derivative, unpleasant Tweets.
“If we’re caught, they’ll roast us!” whispered Samey the Dwarf. He was the one that was the same as all the other fucking Dwarves who weren’t Studly. Seriously, I’m not even sure how many of them there were, and I worked with these people.
“Whose idea was it to pitch camp here?!” I groused under my breath. “Corbyn! Aren’t you supposed to be all powerful?! You didn’t see this coming? You can’t do something to fix the trolls that are stomping around your party’s home turf? Are you not even going to TRY to retake the middle ground?” I asked, pointing to the patch of land where we’d been trying to sleep.
Corbyn stood up on his branch with a serious expression. “Obviously I’m against Trolls in all their forms, and we should be ready to stand up against them in firm and resolute terms,” he began, and then said some other stuff which I’d already grown too bored to pay attention to. I think it was about sandals or veganism or something, I don’t know. I was seriously starting to question just how impressed I’d initially been with this asshole.
If we were going to do anything about the situation, we’d have to do it ourselves. Cautiously, I clambered back down, stole out of the woods and crept up behind one of the Trolls, who was “ironically” posting White Supremacist propaganda in a forum for expectant mothers in the hopes that someone would think he was edgy instead of just a dickhead. I pulled my standard issue thief’s bandana up over my face, not for the sake of disguise or professionalism in theft, but just because this guy smelled like a wet dog had rolled in a box of assholes. Gritting my teeth, I picked up a rock and threw it in a long, looping arc to the other side of the clearing. It bonked off a tree trunk just loudly enough to draw the Troll’s attention, and I grabbed a pillow that he was seated next to. It was a pillow shaped like a Japanese schoolgirl. It was damp, and fuck you if you want me to speculate about why.
I worked my way around to the other side of the clearing and gently placed the pillow next to the other Troll. Then I crept back to the woods, climbed back into the relative safety of the tree and waited.
“Dude, did you take my wife pillow?!” the first Troll suddenly asked. His friend could have probably defused the situation, but he was overcome by his instinct to be the worst possible dumpster fire of a human being possible in any given situation. “Lol!” he shouted. “I made you a cuck!”
“I’m not a fucking cuck, you n00b fag! Why don’t you kill yourself?!” the other retorted. For self-professed nihilists, they sure seemed thin-skinned. Pretty soon they had both lumbered to their feet and were nose-to-nose in a free-form eruption of racial epithets, homophobic slurs and internet acronyms that descended into one of the saddest attempts at a fist fight I’d ever seen. There was a lot of shoving and slapping, someone’s “ironic” Donald Trump hat got knocked off, then there was more ineffectual flailing and wheezing, some sobbing and some pulling of shirts.
“…and that is why, I propose we call in some eagles for the many, and not just the few,” Corbyn finished. He sat down and began sucking his own pipe with a self-satisfied expression.
“Holy shit, were you still going?!” I asked. “And what was that about eagles? You can summon eagles?!”
The wizard nodded. “All I have to do is create a smoke signal.” “Well, Jesus, let’s do that!” I said. “We could knock a lot of running time off this whole, hackneyed adventure.”
There was a general murmur of assent from the dwarves in the other branches of the tree, who were already underwritten and no happier about being in this godawful parody than people in the future would be to read it.
“Very well,” said Corbyn, and cast a fireball at the base of the tree. It exploded and the trunk began burning at an alarming rate.
I watched the progress of the fire for a moment. “…You, uh… You couldn’t have set fire to a different tree?” I said, as tactfully as I could manage. “One that we weren’t all in? Or just used your pipe?”
“This was the will of the people, and I have to respect it,” Corbyn said.
“I didn’t really understand the full extent of what we were voting for, if I’m honest,” said one of the Dwarves, moving up a branch as the flames started to lick at his ankles.
“Smoke signal means smoke signal,” another one pointed out, testily.
“Your beard is on fire,” his companion observed. “Maybe I like it that way,” he sniffed.
We made our way to the upper branches of the tree, not so much by choice as through basic self-preservation. The flames were spreading to other trees, now, as the Wizard Corbyn watched stoically from his branch. I grabbed him by the shirt collar and hoisted him up to a safer perch. He didn’t seem to notice. Eventually, he seemed to reach a conclusion. “I’m willing to back a second vote about the tree burning,” he said finally, as his cloak began to singe.
Several of the dwarves were still arguing about whether the fire was a good idea or not when the first enormous eagles arrived to carry us off. At least three dwarves were insisting that the whole conflagration would be good for the forest overall if we’d just give it a chance.
As the last eagles swooped low and plucked us from our branches, the trees below a raging inferno, I shouted to Studly the dwarf. “Why don’t we just take these Eagles all the way to the mountain? It would be quicker and establish a precedent that would save time in sequels, too…” He considered for a moment. “I had been planning to fight some Goblins,” he said, handsomely. “And then I was going to do some of that kind of brooding that really highlights the cheekbones, y’know?”
I have a face like a potato. I did not know and told him so. “I just think flying there would make narrative sense, as much as anything,” I said. “Besides, there will be plenty of time for sexy brooding once we get there.” “Well, alright,” he said. “As long as you promise I can do some smouldering soon.”
“I think I’ve done enough smouldering for one night,” said Samey the dwarf. Or possibly one of the others. We were all a little charred and smoke damaged.
“We could stop at the Elvish fortress and patch ourselves up,” I said. A lot of the Elvish women there looked like Liv Tyler, and I could think of worse places to recuperate. Even their uglier women still looked like Orlando Bloom.
“Nah, they’d charge us a fortune,” Samey said.
“Jesus Christ,” I muttered, “When are you guys going to understand the need for Universal Elf Care?!”
Luke Haines is a British writer whose idea of proof reading is checking the label on a whiskey bottle. He sporadically tweets as @lukedoughaines, and can be sent death threats, scorn, nude pictures and offers of employment via email@example.com
He shares a name and temperament with the cult 90s musician, but isn’t him.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.