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Dungeon & Dragon – Part 3

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I found a relatively comfortable spot at the base of a broad tree in the middle of the grove. I was well-concealed, and other than a man who took a leak on a bush at the edge of the treeline, nobody paid it much attention.

The temperature continued to rise, but not to the point of being uncomfortably warm. The birdsong and somnolent buzz of insects lulled me, and soon I found myself nodding off.

I must have fallen completely asleep, because the next thing I knew, I started awake with a jolt. The sun was much lower in the sky; I must have slept most of the afternoon away.

That feeling of being watched had returned, and with it a deep sense of unease. I sat still, trying to determine if someone was in the little grove with me. I could hear rustlings and movement, but it could very well have been squirrels.

It also could have been something else.

“Okay, enough bullshit!” I said loudly, trying to sound menacing. “I know someone’s there. You’ve been following me all day. What do you want?”

“I want you to stay calm,” said a voice. I nearly jumped out of my skin. It was a rough gravelly voice, yet high-pitched and reedy. It sounded like a five-year-old girl with a three-pack-a-day habit.

“What?” I exclaimed, now frightened. “Who is that? What do you want? WHY ARE YOU FOLLOWING ME?!!”

“Okay,” said the voice. “I guess we’ll have to work on the ‘staying calm’ bit, eh?”

 “What do you expect?” I said. “I’ve been through a hell of a lot over the last few days. I don’t even know where I am, okay?”

“I can tell you are a stranger in these parts,” said the voice. This was followed by a low chuckle.

This sounded super-creepy. My fight or flight mechanism kicked in, and since I couldn’t even see who I would have to fight, it looked like it was going to be flight. I pulled my legs up underneath me and prepared to make a run for it.

“Easy now, friend,” said the voice. “You have nothing to fear from me. There are plenty of others out there who can do you harm. You need a real friend, youngster – and I’m pretty much your only option, eh?”

I paused. He – because it was definitely a masculine voice – was right. I really had no other options. I had to trust this person, at least up to a point. I was going to be exceedingly cautious, though.

“Okay,” I said. “You’re right. I guess I’m going to have to trust you. You got a name, buddy?” I attempted to inject plenty of sarcasm into that last word.

“You can call me Rocko, friend,” said the voice.

“Okay, Rocko. Why don’t you show yourself, so we can talk face to face.”

“Absolutely,” said Rocko. “Although I must warn you that my appearance is a little, um, unconventional. That is why I didn’t just pop up and introduce myself, as would have been proper, given the circumstance.”

Jesus, this encounter just kept getting weirder. What sort of mutant was I dealing with here? Given some of the oddities I’d already encountered, I knew this could be weird. I tried to brace myself. “Okay,” I said. “We might as well get this over with. Rocko, step forward and introduce yourself.”

“Okay,” said Rocko. “Here I go.”

There was a rustling in the bushes, and a small man stepped into the clearing before me.

At least, I think he was a man. He was only about three feet tall, and was wearing a fur cloak and hood. He had short, thick legs and arms that hung down nearly to his knees. His most prominent feature was his nose, which was red and large. I mean, really big. It took me a moment to think of who he looked like: the old-time actor Jimmy Durante.

“There,” said Rocko. “Are you happy now?”

“I guess so,” I said. “You’re certainly the funniest-looking man I’ve ever seen!”

“Funny?” said Rocko. “I don’t hear you laughing.”

“Look, I don’t mean any disrespect or anything,” I said. “I guess that it’s about par for the way my day’s been going.”

Rocko sighed, then reached up his long arms and hoisted himself onto a low-hanging tree branch. He squatted there with his hands dangling below his feet. “I am a man, you know,” he said morosely. “At least on the inside. On the outside, however …” he thumped himself on the chest. “On the outside, I appear to be a proboscis monkey.”

The wonders never cease here – even though I didn’t even really know where here was. “Look, Rocko,” I said. “I don’t even know where I am. What is this place?”

“A small grove of trees just outside the town of Whipgate, in the duchy of Kernia, in the realm of Tuckycoppria,” said Rocko.

“All of that means nothing to me,” I said.

“Not surprised,” said Rocko. “I said it before and I’ll say it again: you ain’t from around here, areya boy?”

“How about you?” I asked. “Someone turned you into a monkey, is that it?”

“I guess so,” said Rocko. “This happened to me, oh, about a year ago. I just woke up on Lalia Hill, with no memory of what happened or who I was.”

And I thought I had it bad, waking up in this strange land, but at least I hadn’t been transformed into a Jimmy Durante-monkey. “I can relate,” I said. “That’s what happened to me. Is Lalia Hill the one over that way?” I waved vaguely to the southwest. “The one with the ring of stones at the top?”

“That’s the one,” said Rocko. “I really have no idea who I was before or what happened to me. I guess I lived near here, since I’m able to find my way around pretty well. Beyond that, I don’t know.”

“So you’re saying that you were some average local schmoe, and somebody turned you into a monkey?” I asked.

“That pretty much sums it up,” said Rocko.

“But who would do that?” I asked. “And why?”

“I don’t know for sure who did this, but I can take a good guess. Anlar Ellas. It seems the sort of thing he’d get up to.”

“Who’s Anlar Ellas?”

“Oh, you’ve seen him, I think,” said Rocko. “You witnessed that revolting display in the town square earlier, huh?”

“Yeah,” I said. “I’ve got a few questions about that …”

“I’ll tell you what I know,” said Rocko. “Anlar Ellas is that tall, ugly drink of water escorting Duke Noe. Ellas is the Duke’s advisor, confidante and conjuror. A very powerful one at that.”

So the World’s Tallest Accountant has a name, I thought. “How do you know?” I asked.

“Because he turned me into a fuckin’ monkey!” exclaimed Rocko. “At least I think he did. How about you? How did you come to be here? Was this also the malign work of Anlar Ellas?”

“I don’t think so,” I said. “I’m pretty sure I’m here because of a guy named Dr. Wu.” I related the story of being thrown forty years back in time to inhabit my eighth-grade body, then ultimately meeting Dr. Wu in a cemetery, where he tossed a three-headed nickel to decide my fate.

“Hmm,” said Rocko. “So maybe Ellas was not involved, or maybe he and this Wu fella are in league somehow. I do not know.”

“So why are you telling me all this?” I asked. “Why bother helping me? Seems like you have troubles enough of your own.”

“We outcasts need to stick together,” said Rocko. “I felt you come into this world. It was like a tug in my brain. I was able to track you down and follow you, just waiting for an opportunity to reveal myself to you without revealing myself to others. I think that if we work together, we might be able to help each other. I won’t be a freaky-looking monkey anymore, and you can go back to where you’re from.”

“You mentioned ‘outcasts,’” I said. “Are there others? Can we contact them?”

“Yeah, I’m pretty sure that there are others, but it could be dangerous to contact them,” said Rocko. “It seems to me that most of them are in Fester, in the dungeon of Duke Noe’s castle.”

My jaw dropped. “Did you say Fester?” I asked. “That’s a town, about twenty miles west of here?”

“Yes,” said Rocko, raising an eyebrow. “How did you know?”

I knew because I’d been there – and been here. That’s why the hill I’d come to on seemed so familiar – it was the same as Rose Hill in Weaverville. A lot of things snapped sharply into focus – the geography, the landmarks, all of it. The town of Whipgate was the same as Weaverville, albeit much smaller. The road by the river is where the interstate ran, the river being little more than a trickle in a creek bed in my time and place.

“You were wrong about something,” I told Rocko.

“What is that?”

“You said that I wasn’t from around here,” I said. “I don’t think that’s true. I am from around here, just a different version of here.”

“What do you mean?”

“Well, I was so freaked out that I didn’t recognize the landscape. The hill I woke up on – I think you said it was called Lalia Hill. I know it as Rose Hill. The town of Whipgate is the same as my hometown, Weaverville. And there is a Fester in my place and time, too.”

“Is it disreputable?” asked Rocko.

“The disreputablest,” I replied.

“It is odd that most of the places have different names,” said Rocko, “but Fester is the same.”

“It figures,” I said. “That place is super-odd. So that Duke Noe is from there? What’s the deal with that guy?”

“Well, you probably figured out most of it yourself, if you were in the square earlier,” said Rocko. “Duke Noe rules the Duchy of Kernia from his castle in Fester. Whipgate is part of Kernia, but it’s pretty far from Fester and very independent. Lord Robert Harmon controls Whipgate, and he is no great friend of Noe’s, I can tell you that much.”

“It looks like they’re going to be in-laws soon,” I observed.

“When marriage is illegal, only outlaws will have in-laws,” said Rocko, and made a strange chuffing sound that I guessed was proboscis monkey laughter.

“From the look on Lady Gieselle’s face, I bet she wishes marriage was illegal,” I said.

“You are absolutely correct,” said Rocko. “This is an arranged marriage – although arranged sounds a little too formal. Forced would probably be more accurate.”

“So Noe wants to marry Lady Gieselle because she’s a beauty?” I asked.

“I imagine that’s part of it,” said Rocko. “Although Noe has bigger plans. Mostly, he wants to keep Lord Robert and the rest of Whipgate in line. The rest of Kernia he rules with a fist of stone. Whipgate has always been too autonomous for Noe’s liking. It’s also likely that they would put up a fierce fight if Duke Noe decided to control Whipgate by force. Marrying Lady Gieselle is a much more subtle ploy, and strengthens his master plan. If Noe expended his troops in taking over Whipgate, it would leave him much weaker, and open to invasion or rebellion.”

“What is his master plan?” I asked.

“Well, the Duchy of Kernia is just a part of the Kingdom of Tuckycoppria. The king is called Farnis, and he is in a bad way: he is old, infirm, and only has daughters. Noe has his eye on the throne, but there is no way the Council of Nobles would even consider him if he can’t even keep his own realm in control. So Noe has to control Lord Robert and Whipgate if he wants a chance. You saw how popular this marriage is with the townsfolk.”

“I did,” I said. “But did you?”

“Of course!”

“But how? Surely you would have stood out in that crowd. People don’t just shrug off talking monkeys around here, do they?” It was possible. After seeing that six-legged camel-beast, anything seemed possible.

“Oh no,” said Rocko. “I must keep a very low profile. Oh, I have friends around – mostly people who have been done wrong by Ellas.”

“So how did you watch the marriage announcement in the square?” I asked. “Surely someone would have noticed you.”

“Easy,” said Rocko. He reached up and climbed into the tree branches so quickly it was almost as if he’d disappeared. I craned my head back, and after a few seconds, I could see him hanging from a branch near the top of the tree. And grabbing his crotch. My new friend was definitely a class act.

He plummeted through the branches and came to rest easily in front of me. “So you see – say, what is your name, anyway, traveler?”


“So you see, Scott, people pretty much do not see past the ends of their. I just stick to the treetops and rooftops and no one notices me.”

My stomach rumbled mightily – I don’t know how long it had been since I’d eaten. The excitement and weirdness of the day had gone a long way towards tamping down my appetite, but now it was back with a vengeance. “Hey, Rocko,” I said. “I need to see about getting something to eat. I don’t know how long it’s been since I’ve eaten. Literally.”

“Well, you do not want what I eat, I suspect,” said Rocko. “Mostly leaves and berries. I have a better idea: the Widow Jessen. She lives on a farm a little south of town with her nine-year-old grandson. Her son died not too long ago, and they desperately need help. Do you know anything about farming?”


“No matter – you look like you have a strong back and are smart enough to know what a weed looks like. She would, I suspect, happily provide room and board in exchange for labor. She’s a good cook, from what I have heard.”

My stomach rumbled at the thought of a rustic, home-cooked meal. Hell, even leaves and berries were starting to sound good. “Okay, that sounds great – but what am I supposed to tell her? That I’m from a parallel universe and that a talking monkey told me to find her?”

“No, that is probably not a good idea,” said Rocko. “She would not understand anyway. Just tell her that you are from Corbu Village. It’s a town in the Duchy of Longtoss, about two days ride away. It’s far enough away to explain your odd mannerisms, but not so far as to be really exotic.” He told me how to get to the Widow Jessen’s farm. It wasn’t too far from the intersection with the house with the charred roof.

“Okay, great,” I said. “Thanks so much, Rocko. You’re definitely the coolest proboscis monkey I’ve ever met.”

Rocko scowled at that, perhaps not liking being reminded of his present corporeal form. “Yes, wonderful,” he said. “Look, we have other topics to discuss, but I have things to do and you had better get going before it gets too dark.” He motioned through the trees, where the sun was approaching the western horizon. “I will come find you at the Jessen farm tomorrow at midday. Fare well!” And with that he launched himself into the tree branches and disappeared.

I poked my head out of the grove of trees and saw that the coast was clear – the crowd from earlier probably scattered hours ago. I stepped out and soon found my way to the river road, and headed back the way I’d come. About a mile out of town, I spotted a willow tree that marked a small lane that led away from the road. This was the landmark that Rocko had given me to find the Jessen farm.

I was feeling a little better about my situation. I’d made a friend – a very strange one – and hoped to soon have a decent meal and a good night’s rest.

I walked past the willow tree and could see a small cottage in the distance. There was a rustling behind me and suddenly everything went dark, and I couldn’t move my arms. Someone had thrown a bag over me! I started to cry out, but there was an impact on the back of my head and a bright flash. Then everything stopped.

Part 4