Friday, January 6, 2012

Bathroom Monologue: The Ring of the Lord

The Red King seemed permanent. He had so many waterways, and his army was so vast, so motivated by fear and malice. Some skirmishes, it seemed like the sky obeyed him, raining down hill on his foes. He was even gifted a ring by the very Devil himself that granted immortality, an everlasting contract to walk the earth and do his damnations.

It took all the High Houses, all the fleets of the world, and quite a few bribes just to turn it into a fair fight. All those war machines, and all those regimens, and the biggest port city in the world in flames. It’s funny, devilishly funny, that it only took one man to cut off the Red King’s hand. Brave Hixon, the foot soldier who would become a commander and a prime minister, lopped it off with a bayonet. I watched it fall into the surf. It looked like a diving blackbird and the ring was its eye.

His hand plummeted between sailors treading water and sharks tasting men. It made a gory morsel, and was swallowed by a thirteen-foot great white. All the maelstrom had attracted all manner of predators, and a giant squid soon snagged the shark. She remained on the upper levels of sea for all the fresh hunting, and so the squid was harpooned and netted by the victors of the Red War. In the belly of a shark, in the belly of a squid, in the hold of a privateer vessel, the ring came back to land.

The squid’s guts were sold to the High Houses that now ruled. It was part of a buffet celebrating great commanders, and one bit found its way to the plate of the most notorious defector. Without his opening the westerly gates, the High Houses never would have had their second front. He was gloating when the ring passed through his colon. It managed to pass through him entirely before he realized his bowels were not merely straining from the feast, but bleeding.

The ring travelled through the sewers as he travelled to his family crypt. There were state honors. There were rumors, too, that the Red King had cursed his betrayers. Silly talk. His remains were rotting in a second-grade tomb in a tourist backwater.

You may not know it, but sewer runoff was one of the sources of water used to mix cement for all the new High House buildings. By high misfortune, the ring was sucked into the foundations of the first free court house in the region. In its annals law was handed over to the juries, and populist justice would overturn all the evils of the Red King’s reign. For twenty-two years lawyers and summoned free peoples debated our rights, and signed quite a few dubious concessions.

Then, in the twenty-second year, anarchists bombed the city. They hit the magistrate’s mansion, two postal offices, and the court house. The memory is acrid, for that was the day Brave Hixon spoke on the steps. He was very inspirational until everything exploded. It was only part of a civil war.

Rescue workers shuttled in from around the region. Brave men and women were coughing up the dust for months afterward. Bits of the rubble got everywhere, including in-between the treads of boots. The ring travelled halfway across the continent before its shine was spotted on the bottom of one such boot. The rescue worker was trying to pry it out when his shuttle derailed. Awful mess. Probably the anarchists again.

The boot was pulled from the wreckage ten hours before its owner. Brigands showed up before aid, and they pillaged the luggage and bodies. One particular brigand absconded with four sets of boots and a designer rucksack. He didn’t even notice the embedded jewelry; he actually wore that pair of boots when he went grave robbing that night.

Grave robbing was endemic back then. With the High Houses building up the world, old and superstitious things like crypts went untended. And with all these attacks around the continent, the High Houses couldn’t be asked to care. They might even have been happy to see the Red King’s hole desecrated.

They might have been happy to see this grave robber prying open the lid of the largest sarcophagus. It was stacked on top of three other boxes. They jostled as he worried the lid. They creaked, and slumped, and one of his feet slipped. The sarcophagus came down on top of him. Crushed his skull just as the ring popped loose from his boot. It rolled up the slate floor, wobbled around his knee, then down through the broken lid. It came to rest in the Red King’s palm, for he still had one hand.

29 comments:

  1. Har har.. This is like La Ronde of the Ring..Lovely play on "ring" as well! Fantastic fun.. much better than the other ring thingy. Great use (and playful abuse) of the fantasy genre. Peter Jackson must be shaking in his boots..tsk

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  2. Ha ha I was expecting him to say 'my precious has returned.'

    Good story.

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  3. Har! Nice 'remix' of the original tale. Highly entertaining. I love stories that come full circle.

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  4. I'm anxiously awaiting the trilogy to be published, and I'm not entirely kidding! This would make an awesome saga-type story, humor and fate and a weird ring that just won't die... :D

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  5. Clearly, when a contract with the Devil says "forever", it means forever, and forever is a long time. A couple of decades being dead is just a blip.

    Good one, John.

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  6. Tom, I am also a shameless Nibelungenlied fan.

    Helen and Alan, it does have the ring of truth, doesn't it?

    Catherine, you'd like me to do more? Maybe the old dark lord rehabbing in a post-industrial world?

    Tony, it is very difficult to get out of those bargains.

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  7. Had a genuine fairytale feel to it. Great work. And liked when the squid showed up, an epic story is always better if there's a squid involved.

    And with the mention of the designer rucksack I wonder if the setting is not as old as I thought it was.

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  8. Yes, John, I genuinely would. :)

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  9. I'm with Ganymeder, this could go somewhere. Not only as a Tolkien spoof but as an epic in its own right.

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  10. Love it. I had such fun reading it and it really did pull me in.

    It may have been a playful effort, but it did really intrigue me beyond that.

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  11. That ring gets around more than a magic bullet!

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  12. Very enjoyable story. Well told,n ice nods to the original and very neat ending. Full circle indeed.

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  13. Fantastic. A lovely little journey we just went on!

    Plus, it has been scientifically proven* that a story featuring Giant Squids instantly becomes 47% cooler.


    *Possibly not proven.

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  14. That ring is deadly. Of course, it's more from all the bacteria it's collected than anything else.

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  15. What a wonderful journey, I have to say that I think the ring managed to find its way home, back to the place where it was really meant to be.

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  16. Fun! I was actually bummed when it ended, I was so caught up in the Ring's.

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  17. LOL I am thinking he's going to come back as a zombie now.

    note, feels like a word is missing: "He even a ring provided. . ."

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  18. Craig, haha, I didn't realize there were such advocates for squid in literature around. I would say this world is a little further on, and tried to nudge at that with the bayonet, 1910-ish fears of anarchists, populist courts and so-on.

    Larry, I tried to play it as more sinister than spoofy. Did it read that way to you?

    Kate and Virginia, so glad it sucked you in. Did anything in particular work on you two?

    Tim, it might have been melted down for such uses later, I guess.

    Jack, haha, superlative comment. And these squid are vital.

    Danni, I certainly wouldn't touch it without some hefty gloves.

    Steve, did you actually feel good for the ring in the end?

    Aaron, would you add yourself to the list of folks who want more from the Red King and his jewelry?

    Sonia, you are right about that sentence being off. I'll fix it now. Thanks for the heads up.

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  19. Epic. I like that rehabbing idea. Intrigued by the concept that all wars need to be nearly equal, feels a little like the way the media seems to encourage equivalence in politics.

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  20. Wow, what a trip! As others have said, this one has an epic feel to it to go along with your usual humor. Enjoyed this from beginning to end.

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  21. Always inventive John and always entertaining. I too enjoyed the 'circular' nature of this tale, the ring holding it all together. Star attractions for me: the squid and its subsequent buffet. These were great touches, esp. the many ways the ring finds to keep on its own quest.

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  22. Ah I see what you meant about the narrative voice now. I think it works well here, there's a sense of inevitable doom throughout.

    Very nice.

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  23. John, this is obviously quite vivid as I easily imagined reading it as an illustrated story. Fantastic twist on the tale!

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  24. Quite a journey of destruction. Nothing good can come of the ring for what it represents. They were all deceived...

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  25. Rings like this one don't break easily, do they? Great fun, John, I enjoyed it.

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  26. Great cyclical nature to this one - no matter how hard you try, you just can't keep a good villain down!

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  27. What an ace read Wis! You pulled me in right from the start and carried me through wonderfully. That damn ring!

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  28. As usual, top drawer writing from Mr. Wiz. Thanks for the giggle, John!

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