In the Dungeon Now (filk)

To the tune of ‘In the Jailhouse Now’

I had a friend named Five-Finger Ted
a halfling who lived on ale and bread
not the best of rogues when all is said and done
Teddy snuck up to the Viscount
and tried to get “his discount”
but he blew it when his d20 came up with a 1

He’s in the dungeon now
he’s in the dungeon now
The judge just gave him heck
when Teddy blew his diplomacy check
He’s in the dungeon now

I know a human named Oak Strongheart
a manly man of the warrior arts
I told him Ted would no longer make our maps
Oak said, “We’ve got to rescue him, smarty
he’s a member of the party
and who else are we going to get to check for traps?”

He’s in the dungeon now
he’s in the dungeon now
Ol’ Strongheart bit the dirt
’cause the prison wizard cast his sleep spell first
he’s in the dungeon now

Now I’m a cleric of the god of duty
So I went and gathered up all our booty
I figured that I’d use it for the bail
I said, “We’ve got a date over in Myth Drannor
we’ve gotta give some orcs the hammer”
and the righteous bastard tossed me in the jail!

I’m in the dungeon now
I’m in the dungeon now
The judge said, “I can’t believe you would
try to bribe me, you’re Lawful Good!”
I’m in the dungeon now

-The Gneech

(Originally posted to my LiveJournal.)

Against Acheron

From the Scrolls of Gilgamesh…

The Fifth King [1] commands, and we obey,
that it be recorded what the sages say;
for that which the flood has lost
we forget at terrible cost;
the gods turn strange, and ever grim
the listening stars have now turned dim.

Acheron [2], that mighty land,
Acheron, the iron hand,
sleeps, and let it not awake.
Forever let its power break!
The Lord of Serpents on his throne
ruled the night, and ruled alone.

The Lord of Wealth, in his vaults
many and dark were his faults
dwells forever now below
never to see Anu’s glow
Where once his mountain tower rose
now the deadly Charybdis forever flows

For it is as the gods command
never the same will be the land
never again will be unfurled
the banner that once ruled the world
the evil of its unkilled king [3]
has lost forever its dark sting.

Not even the wisest of sages knows
Where the river of forgetfulness flows [4]
The Styx, still found, has wandered west [5]
and carries kings still to their deathly rest
Merciful the gods who brought the flood
and washed away a sea of blood.

Three thousand times, the moon’s shined bright
since Tiamat ceased her heavenly flight
Three hundred years since the second birth
Have mortals fought to reclaim the Earth
Let the poets and the spirits sing,
of Uruk, the land, and of Gilgamesh, king!

But let us remember, forget it not
that our prosperity was dearly bought
Good is our king, and wise his laws
but at the foundation, the Serpent gnaws
Let it never be that men will say,
‘Here again, rises Acheron today.’

-The Gneech

[1] Traditionally, Gilgamesh was the fifth king to rule Uruk after the great flood.

[2] In Greek mythology, Acheron was the “river of woe,” which circled the underworld, and was sometimes used to refer to the underworld itself. However, the Scrolls of Gilgamesh seem to treat Acheron as a terrestrial kingdom somewhere in what is now northern Africa, or possibly near the Persian Gulf.

[3] The meaning of this passage is vague at best. Some have read it to mean that the evil king of Acheron was not killed in the war … others have taken it to mean something similar to the modern “undead.” This, combined with the references to him ruling the night, have led to speculation that this dark king was a vampire.

[4] Referred to in Greek mythology as “Lethe,” the river of forgetfulness was the only drinkable water in the underworld, which made the spirits of the dead gradually forget their former lives.

[5] Again, a river of the underworld, specifically the one that Charon carried the spirits of the dead across to enter the underworld. What “Styx has wandered west” could mean, is anyone’s guess.

(Originally posted to my LiveJournal.)

Categories: Risk a Verse

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The Hotel in Portmerion (filk)

To the tune of “Hotel California”

On a long British highway
damp wind in my hair
claps of ominous thunder
still hang in the air
Up ahead in the distance
a big, bouncy ball
What’s up with the pallbearer?
And unconscious I fall…

I woke up in my own room
or a facsim’le thereof
outside was wholly other
with choppers up above
It was all very pleasant
but my surroundings caused me strife
a stern guy with an umbrella
welcomed me to my new life…

Welcome to the Hotel in Portmerion
Get your button ‘fixed (Get your button ‘fixed)
You are Number Six (You are Number Six)
Come to the Green Dome at the Hotel in Portmerion
In case it isn’t clear
We Want Information, here…

They play mind games that are twisted
to their nefarious ends
Who is us and who is them?
After a while your mind bends
Stay within proscribed limits
don’t try to desert
Or Rover will hand you your *ss
When they call Orange Alert!

So I came up with escape plans
and every one of them failed
even when I thought I’d won
in the end I was nailed
Even when I got out of The Village and far away
I’d be snatched in the middle of the night
And be back the next day

Welcome to the Hotel in Portmerion
It’s for the Good of all (It’s for the Good of all)
Don’t be Un-Mutual (Don’t be Un-Mutual)
Be Seeing You at the Hotel in Portmerion
When all is said and done
Who is Number One…?

Cameras in the ceiling
and all over the place
We are all just Prisoners here
all we can do is pace
And in the masters’ chambers
The ending is such a twist
Who is Number One? Why
YOU ARE NUMBER SIX

Last thing I remember
I was running once more
I got into KAR 120C
and put the gas to the floor
Number Two is in Parliament
I’m such a fool to believe
Even if you somehow get released
You can never leave…

-The Gneech (“Be seeing you!”)

(Originally posted to my LiveJournal)

Categories: Risk a Verse

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The Jackalope

Behold the noble jackalope
vicious fangs and gleaming eyes
he lives a life of freedom
under western skies

a cousin of the pooka
that rare and skittish breed
the jackalope shares none
of their shrinking violet creed

For he has mighty antlers
and his jaws will never fail
to tear you a great big new one
if you mock his fluffy tail

But beneath this prickly honor
he is not an angry brute
in fact in normal circumstance
he’s actually quite cute

He is a strange enigma
that much is plain to see
a cuddly little bunny
who shouts “Don’t tread on me!”

So treat you well the jackalope
if you ever get the chance
underneath the western stars
to see his ancient dance

Be courteous and friendly
be respectful and be nice
or else you risk your neck
on the luck of ancient dice

I know from hard experience
I am not a ranting nut
I stepped upon a jackalope
and he kicked my sorry butt.

-The Gneech

(Originally posted in my LiveJournal.)

Categories: Risk a Verse

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Lords of Khaldun

Lord Escaren, Steward of the Black Flame, ruler of Khaldun, lay dying.

He knew it was coming, he could feel it, creeping over him like a pervasive chill on a damp winter night. Outside, he could hear the temple bells, ringing out to the Goddess of the Black Flame, calling her to come and collect his soul. In his imagination, he could hear his advisors, trusted blood-loyals, high priests, and generals in the great hall, arguing and perhaps even killing over who would be the new Lord of Khaldun, just had Escaren had done when his predecessor, Voltner, had died.

Escaren had killed a handful of men to become Lord of Khaldun; he would have killed a hundred more if needed. He had been the best choice for the role, and everyone had known it. He had rich family connections, he had military genius, and he had an instinctive understanding for the ruthless world of international politics. He knew what had to be done, and did it, with no regrets. Under his rule, Khaldun had prospered. He had joined forces with Syrethia to force Iskedium to back down on its strangulation of sea trade. He had forced Kithria to fortify its borders, thus ensuring that the trade roads were patrolled — at someone else’s expense. He had even arranged for the building a temple to the Goddess of the Black Flame in Rastur, much to the consternation of Bastamishi.

Escaren had been a great ruler, one worthy of Khaldun, and now his life was slowly and inexorably slipping away. Part of him resented it; part of him was just glad it was over.

He became aware of a draft, suddenly, which caused the gauze around his bed to flutter. He heard the scrape of stone on stone, and realized that someone had entered the room through the hidden passage. As far as Escaren knew, only three living beings knew about that passage, and he was one of them.

“Edros? Sarnha?” he called out, weakly.

“No,” said a dry, cracking voice. “Not Edros. Not Sarnha.”

Escaren blinked; it was a voice he recognized instantly, even though it was distorted and weak, as if the words were spoken by someone who could barely breathe. It was Voltner, his predecessor, the former Lord of Khaldun. Escaren’s movement was limited, but he was able to jerk his head around enough to see the mummified thing that lurched up out of the secret passage.

“Voltner?” Escaren whispered, bleary eyes wide. “Returned from the dead?”

“Not returned,” said Voltner. The skeletal form seemed to be impossibly weighed down in an exquisite set of polished, blue-painted scale armor; a chain hood was on its head, and a thin gold and silver crown sat upon the hood. Cold white light burned in Voltner’s eye sockets as the dead lord came forward to loom over Escaren. “Your time to join us comes soon. Be prepared.”

“Join you?” said Escaren.

“Join us, yes, the Lords of Khaldun.” Voltner gestured to the secret passage, where more figures where coming up out of the darkness. Like Voltner, they wore the finery of kings … and like Voltner, they were all quite obviously dead. “You have spent your life in service of Khaldun, and you have ruled well. You are too valuable to be lost to death. Your knowledge, experience, strategy … all of these things, Khaldun cannot afford to lose. And it will not, for you will join us.”

Another figure stepped forward, its skeletal form wrapped in ancient leather. It spoke in a voice like dust hitting a windowpane. “We operate in secret,” it said. “We stay hidden from the eyes of the living. But as we served Khaldun in life, so we do in death. Did you really believe that so many of your great moments were entirely your own doing? The strange figure that caused Touros of Kithria to be flung from his horse? That was one of us. The voices in the night that drove Chancellor Parun mad when he opposed your alliance with Syrethia? That was our work.”

A cold worse than he had already felt crept into Escaren. “But … how…?”

“Sorcery,” said Voltner. “Necromancy. Black magic. It has been this way since the birth of Khaldun. We take only the most worthy into our numbers, those who serve Khaldun and the Black Flame best. We have watched you long and carefully, and decided that you would join us.”

“No,” said Escaren. “I have given my life — my whole life to Khaldun. Surely it can ask no more of me. My soul needs rest!”

“Soul?” said Voltner, with a dry coughing sound that may have been a cackle. “You traded your soul for lordship long ago! As did we all. Khaldun was all, to us, and to you as well. Put away such foolish notions. You are about to become the ultimate expression of loyalty to your land and your goddess. Don’t you see what an honor this is? Don’t you see the greatness you’ve achieved? You should be eager for this chance!”

“It’s horrific!” Escaren cried out.

“You will adjust to it, in time,” said Voltner, as the other shapes began to shuffle back into the secret passage. “We all do.”

“No,” said Escaren, as firmly as his weakened body could manage. “I have given Khaldun everything, but I will not give it this.”

“Your time is coming,” said Voltner. “I can feel your life draining away. You will be taken to the great temple, and interred there for a brief time, as we all were. But have no fear; soon you will walk again.”

“Have no fear?” Escaren groaned at the retreating mummified form. “What could I possibly fear more?”

-The Gneech

©2002 by John Robey, all rights reserved

Categories: Lords of Khaldun

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All I Want is a Cup of Coffee

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Daniel stared at the money in his hand, as the people behind him in line waited impatiently. $2.05. It wasn’t enough.

“God,” he said. “All I want is a cup of coffee … that’s all … after everything, is even just a cup of coffee more than I can have?”

Daniel had, until today, been a happy enough guy. Not perfect, nobody’s ever perfect, but happy enough … he had a good job, a girlfriend he’d met on that job who seemed promising, a car he liked and a nice house. He was what you might call “successful.”

Until today.

This morning, out of the blue, his girlfriend, Joyce, had said, “Daniel, I’m leaving.”

“What?” he’d said. “Why?”

“Well Daniel, to be perfectly honest, I never really liked you. I was only sleeping with you to get ahead at work.”

Daniel blinked as if he’d been shot in the stomach. “You … what? Why?”

“You’re buddy-buddy with Jon K., and I thought if I got in with you, it could get me in with him … and he’d give me a promotion. But I just found out in my e-mail this morning that the promotion went to Cynthia. So I’m screwed. So, since there’s no point in staying with you any more, I’m leaving.”

Daniel couldn’t understand it … this wasn’t Joyce, the charming woman who’d laughed so happily at his bad singing and worse jokes, was it? This was some shapeshifting harpy who’d eaten Joyce and taken her place!

The harpy was still talking. “But, so it shouldn’t be a total loss, I’m going to claim that you promised to get me that promotion in exchange for sleeping with you, and sue you for sexual harassment. You’ll hear from my lawyer.” And she’d walked out.

Daniel had finished getting ready for work that morning in a stupor … he didn’t watch what he was doing, or even think about it. His toast was left neglected in the toaster when it popped, and his coffeemaker bubbled away unnoticed.

Jon K. was waiting in Daniel’s office when Daniel finally managed to get into work. He was tapping a well-dressed foot on the beige carpet. “Daniel,” he said, “we need to talk.”

“Hi, Jon,” said Daniel, listlessly. “Can it wait until I get settled in? I’ve had a rough morning.”

“No, Daniel, it can’t wait.”

Daniel looked up at the tone in Jon K.’s voice.

“Daniel, Joyce has filed a sexual harassment suit against you.”

“But—!”

“This couldn’t come at a worse time for this company, Daniel! We’ve got everything riding on the line, right now; we can’t afford any embarrassment. So I’m afraid you’ve got to go.”

Daniel blinked, again, as if he’d been shot in the stomach.

“But I didn’t DO anything! She was just using me to get—”

“I don’t want to hear about it,” said Jon K. “Your irresponsible behavior may very well cost this company our biggest client, if the press gets ahold of this. I want you to clean out your desk, and be out of here in fifteen minutes.”

Daniel’s shoulders dropped. “Can’t I at least get a cup of coffee first?”

“No.”

So Daniel found a box and dumped all of his personal effects in it, plopped the box into the back of his car, and turned the key.

Click.

No engine.

Click, click, click.

Nothing. Either the battery was dead, or the car was. It had worked fine on the way in; now, nothing.

“What did I DO???” Daniel cried at the interior of the car, but it didn’t answer him. So he pulled out his cell phone to call the auto service, but its battery was dead.

The guard wouldn’t let Daniel back into the building to call the auto service, so he walked half a mile to a convenience store to make the call. Their coffee machine wasn’t working.

He rode back home in the passenger seat of the tow truck, listening to some hate-filled religious zealot on the radio.

“He’s right, y’know,” the driver said. “It’s them jews’ fault; them and the fags and the feminists, all trying to make people forget morality. Oughta just shoot the bastards.”

“Oh yeah,” said Daniel. “I’m sure God would really approve of that.”

A cold feeling settled in Daniel’s stomach as they got into his neighborhood; gray smoke hung in the air, and there were cars and people everywhere. As they turned onto his street, the red-and-white flashing lights told Daniel everything he needed to know.

If fit too well; it was just inevitable.

He got out of the tow truck and staggered past the “Danger — Do Not Cross” tape that surrounded the black mass that had one been his house. A stern man with a bushy moustache approached him. “You the owner of this house?”

“Er … yeah,” Daniel finally managed to say.

“So it was probably you who left the coffee machine on when you left this morning?”

“Yeah,” said Daniel. “It probably was.”

There were forms to fill out by the ream, and half of the information Daniel didn’t know, because he kept it in a file in the house … and that was gone. The driver of the tow truck had cheerfully charged him an extra $150 for making him sit there and wait while Daniel dealt with the fact that his house had burned down.

“Damn, fella!” the driver had laughed. “Can’t you even get a simple cup of coffee?”

It started to rain as Daniel sat on the curb in front of the smoking ruin of his house for an hour, just sat, staring at his inoperable car, letting the water wash over him, wondering what he had left. Everything, no matter how big, no matter how small, was beyond him, now. He would have to start over. He may have cried; he wasn’t sure. The moisture on his face might have been rain instead.

Without putting much thought into it, Daniel stood up, and walked. He walked for 45 minutes, trudging along the side of the road in that slow gait that says, “I’ve got a long way to go, and I’m not going to think about anything until I get there.” He was soaked through, and cold, and feeling half-drowned by the time he reached his destination.

It was a coffeehouse. Amber light glowed through its windows, and its green and white sign had been carefully crafted by some PR person to suggest a kind of exotic culture and sophistication. But the place smelled good, and it was warm, and Daniel went in and stood in line, dripping on the tile floor. When he got to the register, the guy asked what he wanted.

“All I want is a cup of coffee,” he said.

“Okay, that’ll be $3.25.”

Daniel stared at the money in his hand, as the people behind him in line waited impatiently. $2.05. It wasn’t enough.

“God,” he said. “All I want is a cup of coffee … that’s all … after everything, is even just a cup of coffee more than I can have?”

“Let me take care of that,” said a voice behind him. Daniel turned around, to see a strikingly tall man in a long, black coat. The man had startlingly blue eyes, that were deeply wrinkled around the edges, even though the rest of his face seemed young.

“Thanks, mister…” said Daniel.

“In fact, buddy, you look like you’ve had a rough day.” The blue-eyed man turned to the cashier and said, “Give him an extra-large mint mocha, my treat.” He handed the cashier a $5 bill, and said to Daniel, “I won ten bucks on the lotto today; my lucky day, I guess. I figure I ought to share my good fortune with somebody.”

Daniel couldn’t even begin to say anything. He just stared at the man for a long moment, and then said, “Wow … gee … thanks again.”

“My pleasure,” said the man. “And keep your chin up. You’ll be all right.”

“Yeah, well … I hope so.” Daniel collected his extra-large mint mocha, and found his way to a chair in the corner. He sipped it slowly, feeling its warmth seep down into him, settled back into the chair, and smiled.

Okay. He had a cup of coffee. He could at least do that much. He would build from there.

Outside, nobody seemed to notice when the blue-eyed man removed his coat, letting bright, white-feathered wings stretch out free, and kicked off into the sky.

-The Gneech

©2002 by John “The Gneech” Robey, all rights reserved