User:ICameHereInACloche/WIP/UnBooks:Hair Apparent

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<center>'''Hair Apparent!''' ''By An Anonymous Author''</center>
There once was a fantastical kingdom filled with rolling meadows, majestic peaks, and poor internal plumbing, and in this kingdom, there lived a fair and noble prince by the name of Horace Winchester the Third, eldest son of the esteemed High King Horace Winchester the Second. Although he definitely wasn't the smartest person in the land — several generations of inbreeding can do that to a man — he certainly was the most righteous and pious and regal and handsome and good, at least according to his father. The noble prince was what you would call a simple man, completely devoid of anything that could even be seen as intellectual or involving mental thought, but what he lacked in smarts, he certainly made up for it with his big heart. He suffered from a condition which caused Cardiomegaly, or enlargement of the heart, but his public relations team used the misleading definition of his symptom to fool the populous into believing that he was kind and generous and that he could even comprehend the meaning of those silly concepts. Despite all the complications involved with the care of such a dependent young man, the kingdom ran relatively smoothly for several years until one fateful day, one monumental moment in history that changed the fate of the poor little city-state forever.
While Prince Horace the Third was tending to his modest petunia field behind his estate's exquisite garden, a great and terrifying beast descended from the sky to wreck havoc: a Dragon! A ferocious flying creature of immense proportions, a true winged wyrm, escaping from the realm of penny dreadful fantasy stories and into the real world. Such a terrifying beast had not been seen in the kingdom for over three thousand fortnights, so this horrid, monstrous, and quite unexpected creature sent thousands of peasant serfs fleeing to their meager mud huts, where they were almost immediately burned to an unhygienic crisp. The richer and bluer blooded of the land fled to their gaudy homes or private castles, but Horace the Third stayed outside, woefully ignorant of the giant flying lizard just a stone's throw away from him. He never did truly learn of the dangers of flying leviathans — a subject usually seen as common sense — and he continued to water and care for his precious flowers. With an immense show of power, the dragon swiped his sharp claws at the Prince's face, but miraculously, the beast missed, only managing to grab Prince Horace the Third's flawless toupée before attempting a clumsy escape. In one final tragedy, the dragon crashed into the Winchester manor and crushed the king to death before flying off into the sunrise with the Prince's hairpiece in tow.
As soon as news of the king's death reached every corner of the land, the kingdom erupted into chaos as revelers plundered shops and raided the countryside. What little order and control the king brought to the land vanished with his death, and it was three whole months before the monarchy could finally put down all the peasant rebellions and ambitious generals wanting to take power. With all hope of a regime change dashed, most needed repairs made, and government restored under the only mildly incompetent temporary council, the official transfer of power from Prince to King could finally commence, but this was just the beginning of a new era for the pathetic city-state. Even as much needed order was restored, the weak kingdom was in a state of mourning. For the humble serfs, the loss of their dear leader proved to be a shocking ordeal: weeks on end, the streets were filled with the weeping of traumatized proles, and the few that didn't cry convincingly enough were executed for treason. For the tiny and ostensibly rich aristocracy that clumsily lorded over the serfs, they mourned for an entirely different reason. The much larger and more powerful nation-states that surrounded the quaint little kingdom hungrily sought after the region's large deposits of sulfur, saltpeter, and guano, and the nobles feared that without the rule and guidance of a king, they would soon be under the control of a state that imposed such foreign laws as granting liberties to the poor or banning the much needed and profitable practice of involuntary permanent indentured servitude. Because of this, the nobles sought a wise and strong willed king that could fight off the foreign fiends and favor the rich; unfortunately for them, the soon-to-be-king Prince Horace was neither wise nor strong willed. The rich class knew that a king that needed help with cleaning his rear wasn't much of a king at all.
Even as the denizens of the kingdom looked at their uncertain future with pained eyes, two men, both intimately connected with the Prince, saw the future with opportunity. As their world erupted into chaos, two men, Prince Horace's the Third's loyal "caregivers", were plotting to rule from the shadows. Their names were Lysander and Bob, and they had very ambitious goals to fulfill. You see, Prince Horace the Third was not at all fit to be king, much less put on his britches every morning, so he would have to consult with his two loyal retainers on almost every issue (his father's expert weakening of the legislative assembly's power to meddle with the king's affairs made sure of that). As soon as their lad was crowned king, the two would be set for life, forever living in wealth and luxury. Other than deciding where to buy their extravagant summer home, their plan seemed uncomplicated and foolproof.
It was the day of the king's funeral, and all the nobles and officials in the higher echelons of the bloated bureaucracy (along with an unsightly group of peasants) gathered at an old Gothic church to send their condolences and to bicker among themselves in hushed tones. Prince Horace the Third, accompanied by his assistants, Lysander and Bob, were traveling to the funeral in a rickety Cabriolet carriage, fashionably late as always. Because of his deep respect for his father and severe budget cuts, the king's funeral would double as the prince's coronation ceremony. After several hours of riding through muddy dirt roads and dilapidated hamlets, the trio finally arrived. Stepping out of the carriage with an aire of pomposity, the two "presented" the new king to the nobles. Lysander unceremoniously took the king's old crown from his open casket and awkwardly placed it on the naïve prince's head.
"Here is your new king, Prince Horace the Third! A worthy successor to his dear father, who valiantly fought the dragon to a standstill!" Bob bellowed. "Unfortunately, due to his cardiac arrhythmia, his poor heart gave out, and he died as he lived... a hero." Bob, disappointed at his audience's apathetic response to his heartfelt dialogue, continued. "But today, there is hope, for today begins a new era. A new king has risen from the ashes of the old! A new king that will lead this once-glorious kingdom to victory and prosperity! Ladies and gentleman, may I present to you: His Eternal Holiness, King Horace Winchester the Third!" Not a single word of response followed. An awkward silence fell upon the church for several seconds until one young noble replied, "Who in the flying fleur-de-lis is this man? And why is he saying that this poorly dressed country bumpkin is Prince Horace the Third?" Lysander and Bob stood, dumbfounded at the young noble's question. "What? Of course it's Prince — now ''King'' — Horace the Third! Are you in a drunken stupor?" Lysander said confidently. Another noble, this time a cranky old wench, responded passionately, "We're terribly sorry that you contracted syphilis and are now raving mad, but we haven't the slightest idea of who that man is. None of us truly know what the prince looks like, but I am fairly certain that the king did not beget a moronic circus clown, lascivious as his extramarital affairs may have been."
Bob, angry at what he thought was a prank in poor taste, shouted, "Here is your new king, the heir apparent! I don't know what sort of plot you are hatching, but neither I nor your new ruler will stand for it! You shall bow to him this instant!" Prince Horace picked at his nose as the nobles stared at him, only confused at the new lights and pretty colors of the outdoors. Almost spontaneously, the crowd erupted into laughter. Many, many years of conditioning to be upright, dainty, and stately were thrown out of the window as aristocrats and peasantry alike laughed at this sideshow; a few of the more enthusiastic of the bunch had to be carted off on a wagon. After the guffawing had subsided, an artist by the name of Finnegan Wake tried to be the devil's advocate and asked the two stern-looking individuals why they believed Prince Horace was Prince Horace.
"Although your... friend certainly has the mental aptitude of the prince, isn't the prince out trying not to get murdered by his younger brothers, as is custom in the kingdom?" The crowd listened intently, as there was absolutely nothing to do, and they had to wait a few hours before the royal guard could cart the three maniacs away.
"Of course not! The two younger brothers have already stabbed themselves silly arguing over who'd have the honor of stabbing the older brother! 'Tis how monarchies roll." Lysander replied, somewhat indignantly.
The artist asked again. "If he truly is Prince Horace the Third, heir apparent to the throne, where is his toupée?" Audible gasps came from all in attendance. "Everyone who follows current hair fashion trends in the kingdom knows that Prince Horace the Third has the most beautifully extravagant and elegantly designed toupée within a thousand miles, so you could let us look at his fine hairpiece, to prove he truly is the new king." Lysander and Bob stared at the smug man dumbfounded, for at this moment, they knew that their dreams of wealth and fortune would be dashed by a ''wig''. A very beautifully decorated wig, but a wig nevertheless. At that moment, the royal guard arrived and kicked the three out of the funeral. Lysander and Bob wept that day, but they had yet to give up on their aspirations: a dream deferred seldom lets itself wither and die, and not even the finest wig in the world could stop the dreams of the two conniving caregivers.
Of the three Winchester siblings that lived in the royal family's extravagant estate, Prince Horace the Second was the most shielded. Unlike the two other princes, who seldom forwent a chance to be adored by the public eye, Prince Horace was protected by the king, never to be seen by even the highest of government officials. Perhaps it was the king's deep love for his son that caused him to hide Prince Horace, perhaps it was his deep embarrassment over the prince's lack of hair, whatever the cause, the significance of this was that no one knew what the prince truly looked like. On the few rare occasions that Prince Horace had to appear before the public, his face was cleverly concealed, his toupée awkwardly poking out of his veil. So it was that the public knew of their future king only through his wig, and unfortunately for Lysander and Bob, a giant magical dragon took it, out of all the misfortune that could have befallen the two.
Lysander and Bob's plan seemed simple enough: retrieve the toupée, show the wig to the public, have Prince Horace proclaimed the true king, then murder anyone with a legitimate claim to the throne. The last three steps of their hastily created plan weren't the problem, it was the very first. Tracking down a dragon and then stealing a hairpiece from it wasn't a very smart or even sane plan, but that was all they could do to accomplish their goals. The both of them knew that they were essentially embarking on a suicide mission for a wig, but the alternative was much ''much'' worse. If they stuck to their mundane everyday lives, they would be forced to scrub the rear of a "developmentally delayed" man for the rest of their lives. Choosing between either most likely dying of immolation or living a life of fortune (perhaps with a burn scar or two) seemed the most logical to them.
At the outskirts of the kingdom, in a dingy farmhouse, the two argued over the finer details of their elaborate suicide. While the two argued, Prince Horace was sitting in a dirt corner fiddling with a twig. Embarking on a fetch quest to retrieve something of such value was a task not to be taken lightly, and they had to make sure that they wouldn't die the moment they stepped out the door. As they bickered, another man, an artist the two knew briefly, eavesdropped on their conversation just outside the barn entrance. Mr. Finnegan Wake, who was present at the king's funeral, also had an interest towards the toupée: instead of wanting to secretly rule the entire kingdom, he merely hoped to study its aesthetic properties for artistic research. He had heard of the two's mad ramblings of retrieving the toupée to prove Prince Horace's legitimacy while they were being carted off, and he wanted a piece in their strange adventure to come. Here was a man who would truly die for his art, regardless of the somewhat pathetic circumstances. When Lysander and Bob were done formulating their plan for the epic journey, which due to their not knowing of the location of the hairpiece, didn't go very far, they were confronted by the young artisan.
"You again!" Lysander said bitterly. "What do you want from us? Come here to twist the knife deeper into our wounds?" Bob stood defensively, attempting to shoo off the artist with his artful posture. He shouted triumphantly, "I say we gut this man like a porpoise and leave his decaying entrails as a warning to others who would dare cross the both of us!" Lysander and Finnegan both shot him a look of disapproval, and he quietly backed down. Finnegan, seeing an opening in the otherwise uncomfortable conversation, said, "I know what the both of you are up to. Trying to gain the right to secretly rule the kingdom through a hairpiece isn't something that happens every day. No, don't worry, I don't want a piece in your immoral plot to covertly usurp the throne, I merely want a look at the wig itself. I know how Prince Horace's hairpiece shines like the shared crown of a thousand angry sun gods, and I was hoping that its glorious spectacle would rub off a little of its power to me. All I want is to accompany the both of you on your tedious fetch quest."
Bob was the first to respond. "First of all, what make you think that we would allow the cause of our demise to journey with us, and second of all, how could your presence possibly help us? You'd just be a worthless burden on our well-toned shoulders!" Lysander, not a man of faux-prestige, merely asked him how in any way he'd be worth the trouble.
"I know someone who knows where the hairpiece could be." The prospects of Mr. Wake joining them on their quest suddenly shot up. Bob, still indignant, screamed.
"Lies! Damnable lies! If I could stuff a pigeon up your—" Lysander interrupted Bob with a terse "Shut up", and merely said to the artist, "Who?"
"The great and most magnificent Wizard Aristocleitus, though you can call him Cletus for short. He's... an expert on dragons and their ilk, their sacred traditions, their weekly holidays, and more importantly, where they gather. If anyone knows where the winged beast took the toupée, it would be him." Bob, with as much skepticism in his voice he could muster, screeched, "How do we know that you're not just creating a terrifyingly devious ploy to murder us in the middle of the night, hide our bodies in an elaborate—" Lysander interrupted him again, this time with a quick kick to the shin.
"I know who this wizard is."
"How? He's quite solitary. Secretive too, hides his location quite well. I don't even know where he is now." Finnegan asked, perplexed.
"He's... ''my uncle''." With this surprising yet otherwise unimportant plot twist in mind, the four of them — Lysander, Bob, Prince Horace and now Finnegan Wake — went in pursuit of this mysterious wizard.
Bob angrily rapped at the old wooden door of the Magickatorium, a worn old shop located in a busy downtown corner by Central Hafren, the cosmopolitan and psuedo-intellectual heartland of the Kingdom. Their research on his whereabouts led the three to this nearly forsaken building, which seemed more like a home for a retired street urchin than a feared and respected mage. "Open up!" Bob shouted, still striking the door. "The official representative of the heir apparent commands you to!" Lysander, even while the both of them were just lowly caregivers, had to tolerate his partner Bob's misplaced pompousness, but today, his patience for Bob's condescension had nearly ran out. Lysander was nearly about to wring his neck when someone from inside the shop shouted, "Stop banging at the door, you'll break it you miserable oaf! Now, who is it? And why are you knocking at the most inconvenient hour?" The voice coming out of the shop didn't sound at all like a wise old wizard, but a young woman. A bitter, disgruntled one.
Almost ignoring her, Bob replied aggressively, "Does a wizard by the name of Cletus live here? We're on very important business that requires his presence immediately."
"Quit your whining, sir. Cletus is a frail old man and doesn't need more stragglers harassing him, it could break his fragile heart."
Bob, now angered at the woman's refusal to help him, struck the door several more times until someone else from inside the building cried out, "Stop it with that racket! At least the peasants that protest outside my Magickatorium have the decency of not knocking at all!" The four of them outside heard the man haphazardly running down the stairs before stopping at the entrance of the shop. Slowly, he raised the rusted iron handle of the door and slowly creaked it open, peering at the four men outside. "My, my." he whispered. Prince Horace peered at him back, curious at the wizard's large protruding nose.
Standing at the entrance of the forsaken magic shop was the great and most magnificent Wizard Aristocleitus, clothed in ancient old rags and sporting a tangled beard. Bob and Finnegan stared at the man confusedly, but Lysander merely sighed. To him, the wizard wasn't an aging old urban hermit holed up in a cobweb infested dump, but a mentally scrambled and eccentric uncle. Another one of his increasingly strange relatives that dotted his genealogy. Cletus took one look at Lysander and shifted his mood from mad to joyful. The wizard Cletus said, "My dearest nephew! It's been too long... too long, since I've had the pleasure of being with you!" and embraced Lysander with all his feeble might. Bob, privately amused at this show of compassion, merely questioned the wizard's rank. "So this is the great and most honored Wizard you were talking about, Mr. Wake?" Finnegan stared at the ground in disillusionment.
"Come in! Come in! Don't just loiter around outside! Don't mind the smell." Cletus commanded. "It's from a weeks-old experiment I haven't bothered to dispose of. It won't bite you if you don't antagonize him."
Lysander, Bob, Finnegan and Prince Horace all entered the decrepit magic shop that the wizard called home. Careful to not step on the piles of paper and books that were scattered on the floor, Lysander scanned the contents of the room: old parchments, bubbling tubes of green stuff, novelty baubles, fake wooden skulls painted white, piles of unironed robes, melted candles and tin gas lamps adorned the chaotic storefront. Bob tripped on a taxidermied python, which brought the ire of the lady that had harassed him earlier.
"Clara! My dear assistant... please don't murder our honored guest and the first customer we've had in days." Clara backed down reluctantly and retreated to a private corner of the room to read.
Taking his place at the cluttered counter, the Wizard Cletus said his greeting to customers that he had rehearsed so well. "Welcome to the Magickatorium, The Kingdom of Hafren's number one source for spells, incantations, potions, poisons, wands, staffs, staves, rings and anything else vaguely connected to the magic arts! What may I do for you today?" He added, "Since my nephew's here I'll give you a discount. A tiny one. A very tiny one, mind you, probably unnoticeable. But, it's the thought that counts."
Lysander replied, "Sorry, uncle. But we're not here to buy anything. We're on some private business involving your artist fan over here and the King-to-be slobbering in the corner." Cletus noticed the country bumpkin sticking a finger up his nose and realized that he wasn't a mere peasant, but an orphaned prince. Cletus, along with the two caregivers, were the only two living people to have seen the Prince's face, back when the wizard was at the service of the crown. All the spells and potions he had crafted couldn't solve the prince's mental issues, and as punishment, he was shunned by the king in disgrace and poverty.
"What in the flying fleur-de-lis are you three doing with Prince Horace?" Cletus shuddered. He slowly walked back, apprehensive at meeting the prince again.
Bob attempted to reply to the wizard, but Finnegan stopped him. "I think I'd be much better suited at explaining the complicated machinations of the plot that the two here have crafted." With an approving nod from Lysander, the artist described their plan in length. How the two caregivers couldn't prove the prince's right to take the throne without the toupée, how the toupée was stolen by the dragon that had attacked the kingdom, how they had planned to steal the hairpiece from the dragon, how the two were going to rule the kingdom through the prince, and how they knew their plan was a completely inane and suicidal. Cletus was perplexed by this, partly with how his dear nephew could get involved with such deceitful plots, but mostly why a dragon would steal the hairpiece in the first place. An expert on Wyrms, stealing from mortals didn't seem like the actions of a proud flying beast.
"Help us or not. All we need is the location of the dragon who stole the prince's hairpiece." Finnegan offered. Cletus reconsidered the three's request, stroking his beard to appear wise and stately. With deep thought and care, the wizard proposed this: he would help them ascertain the location of the dragon if he could accompany them on their journey. He believed that a dragon stealing a hairpiece was most unusual, and that the answer to this conundrum could only lie in the realm of magic. In his mind, only something extraordinarily important could drive a dragon to steal the toupée. He wasn't about to let something mysterious of this caliber escape his grasp, and he explained his somewhat contrived reasons for seeking the dragon to the group. Lysander, Bob and Finnegan were naturally against the idea.
Bob was the most critical. Believing this little group of adventurers was already too large, he was the most vehement about letting another person join their ranks. He cried out, "What use could we have of an old man like you? We came here not to recruit more fools into our little gang, but to find something of utmost value to all the kingdom." He huffed indignantly.
"I can shoot fireballs from my hands, lightning from my elbows and bees from my toes," The wizard answered. Finnegan, seeing as how this dramatically increased their chances for survival, thought to embrace him with open arms. Lysander eventually agreed to letting him on the trip (not dying being a very convincing benefit of allowing a friendly mage in their midst), but Bob was stubborn. Only after some impromptu coercing involving his fear of monocles did he let the mage join their little team.
"Now that the business of my being part of your expedition is settled, we must now move onto the matter of dragon hunting!" Cletus stood on his toes, grabbing a massive tome from the top of a rickety bookshelf. Inscribed in gold and velvet lettering was the title, 'Dragon Sightings from the last 300 Years'. Cletus brought the book down on the counter for all to see with a forceful thud, and opened a yellowed, wrinkled page: "Tables & Contents"; Prince Horace stared in awe. Flipping through the contents of the book, Cletus eventually found the most recent entry, from three months ago.
"Ah, yes. The great dragon attack that set all these events in motion. 'This flying leviathan terrorized the kingdom, causing untold amounts of damage to buildings, infrastructure, and lives' it says. I should know, I wrote it." Cletus continued. "...The ferocious beast was last spotted flying westward from the ruined Winchester manor." Cletus took out a great big parchment, a map of the entire kingdom and the surrounding lands. "Matching the trajectory of the beast, coupled with the known locations of ancient dragon nests, we can narrow down the location of your dragon to a few sites."
"Finally, some positive news," Lysander interjected.
"A few hundred I mean," Cletus corrected. Everyone looked at the wizard in disappointed anger.
He added, "Don't you worry about a thing, most dragons are unique in its aesthetic qualities; if we match the description of the dragon with their corresponding nesting sight, we'd be one step closer to finding this wig of yours. Now, any one of you took a good look at that dragon?" For a lonesome moment, the only responses were blank stares.
Lysander finally said, "There is Prince Horace here — he saw the dragon with his own eyes — but he's..."
"He's what?" said the wizard. "He's what?"
"You see, his mind is... well, not exactly formed the same... with the rest of... Oh! You just ask him then."
So with that, the wizard gently nudged Prince Horace to a private room to ask him about the dragon. After several minutes and a few murmurs, the wizard along with the Prince emerged, content with whatever news he had gotten out of the man. "According to the prince, the dragon was a deep sanguine tint, had six limbs, and most importantly, a pointy arrow-shaped tail. Only two dragons in history have matched that description, and one of them's in Brittany, as a fossil exhibit in a museum!" The wizard pointed at the map, tracing his finger west until it met a deep red cross marked 'wyrm nest'. "Here is your dragon, and by extension, your hairpiece." Bidding his magic shop farewell and asking his assistant Clara to man the fort while he was gone, he (along with his new companions) went in pursuit of the hairpiece. Lysander and Bob could almost taste the wig on their palate, and it wasn't a very pleasant flavor.

Latest revision as of 07:08, April 2, 2012


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