Suggested Audio Jukebox:
 Rage Against The Machine Know Your Enemy
 Tom Jones What’s New Pussycat
 James Brown Papa’s Got A Brand New Bag
 Foreigner Head Games
 Arctic Monkeys Knee Socks
 Gotye Somebody That I Used To Know
Hell’s bells and whistles this is exciting. With every enemy slain I am moving ever closer to my hard target, the grim reaper, and it’s all getting too much to take. Now I don’t wish to come across as cocksure but, it has to be said, there has been precious little to truly strike fear into my heart thus far and, dare I say, it’s actually been something of a cakewalk. Granted, I could have done without Monsieur Heureux almost suffocating me to death with a polythene bag, and his seven wayward Jezebels were none too hospitable either. However, on the whole, I’d say I’ve had a fairly trouble-free run-in up ’til now. Heaven forbid I tempt fate as I’m fully aware how rapidly shit can escalate when death is pulling the strings but the apprehension I felt at commencement has begun to subside and I’m actually rather looking forward to learning what he’s got lined up for me next. By my estimations, I shall be tackling the knights in just a few moments and, after the last curveball bounced my way, I’m at something of a loss for ideas as to who or what I’ll be facing. Given how things have been playing out, I’m under no illusions that death will play fair, thus my expectations have been pitched reasonably.
One thing is for damned sure, he is bound to have a few more tricks stowed up those gigantic sleeves of his but, whatever lies in wait, I shall be prepared like a bishop’s pecker at communion. Nobody is cramming a banana up this wrangler’s tailpipe, except for the wrangler of course as I have to find some way of getting my five-a-day after all. Looking at the order of play, the identity of the knights is decidedly vague. However, after flipping the flyer to reverse, I finally receive some clarity and I’m starting to wish I had gone in blind. The Paladins of the Dark Palace. Just saying the name over in my head brings a Cosby to the rear curtain and I would assume this is where I shall be required to start earning my stripes. All tertiary pieces have been vanquished, personal demons fought too, and now we enter the inner circle. I fully expect these cavaliers to give me the right royal run for my money, after all, the reaper will be watching every knuckle crack with his beady little pip gathering intelligence. What else can a reaper do? The constant boner may be all well and good but it’s not like he can go get a dash of henna done on a whim is it?
No he’ll want to see me overcome a couple of acid tests before I reach his citadel, that much I know. He didn’t get where he is now by cutting corners, I’m sure there were reams of young hopefuls all lining up to get their bony feelers around that scythe handle, and he soundly beat off all-comers so he’s clearly got some game. I’m not altogether sure that I wish to know just how many skulls he has cracked over the years but I’m guessing it’s well into triple figures at the very least. Shit in a pit, now is approximately the time that I curse my constant over-analysis, as I’ve only gone given myself the jeebies haven’t I! The heebies is one thing and I can deal with them skulking around my frontal lobe. The jeebies however are a whole different ball game and each one is currently represented by a goosebump. Mercifully Bonus Brain has crawled out of his hammock to keep me focused. I wonder what pearls of wisdom he has for me.
“Buck up bird brain or better yet grow a pair”
Hmm. Hardly the war cry I anticipated but I am mindful that right now he is neurons deep in TJ Hooker and Bonus Brain does love himself a nice bit of Shatner. He is, of course, on the money. I do need to get my shit together as the element of surprise is just one of the cards in death’s deck and I expect he’ll be playing his hand any time now. Still, bird brain? I could have him snuffed for such an act of mutiny. Another time you rebellious scoundrel you, another time. Right now I have business to contend with, double trouble on the double (which I guess would make it quadruple), two more impediments to swat aside before reaching the bishops. Whoa there wrangler, don’t get ahead of yourself or you’ll trip over your own boot laces and end up with an asphalt face pack. Knights first remember. Speaking of which, considering they haven’t found it necessary to show their sorry faces as yet, I believe it would be a good time to taunt them out of the shadows and ogle precisely what I’m up against.
“Come. Take your swipe if you dare you rapscallions”
That’s odd. Neither seem willing to put in an appearance. I hadn’t accommodated the thought that these Paladins of the Dark Palace may be bashful. Bless their blackened hearts, they’ve probably been observing the opening rounds and realized they’re about to bite off way more than they can chew. I almost feel sorry for them…almost. Anyhoots, I have a hypothetical chess game to win and mate isn’t checking itself. I know better than to harbor sympathy for the devil and that extends to every last one of his foul cronies too. What would Ralph Macchio do if he were in my gi? You’re darn tooting he’d bust out a crane, as long as he wasn’t waxing off his bonsai back at the dojo that is. I shall do like Daniel Son and allow my silhouette to do the talking. They won’t be expecting that little beauty. If nothing else I will remain entertained and a jovial wrangler is a mighty wrangler, yes indeedy. Darn toot it, I have to do something to pass the time as I feel like a jilted bride here and my thigh garter is on tight enough to jack up with. There’s no way I want death carrying me over the threshold as he’ll only end up putting his back out and I don’t wish to be triumphant on account of no walkover. You lot would never let me show my face again.
“Give me a sign death, I’ve got better things to do than to mince around waiting for you to pull your finger out of your hollow-cheeked hiney”
Say what you will about the grim reaper and you’ll likely be bang on the Washingtons but, to his eternal credit, he wastes no time whatsoever in getting back to me.
“But you already have your sign wrangler. Use those famous keeper peepers of yours and all shall become crystal”
Guess who’s about to feel quite the nincompoop? I’ll give you a clue, he’s 6″1, around 175 pounds dependant on the last time he pooped, washes far too infrequently not to smell vaguely like a sewer rat dipped in goose fat, once almost surrendered a vibrator to his small intestine, loves nothing more than to fart in the bath, spent half his teens searching for his elusive right gym sock, accidentally plucked out a nipple ring when exiting a vehicle in the usual lazy fashion and grew a bonus peak which he then had to wait three years to have lasered off due to being so far down the surgery list that little Timmy Stark’s grazed knee even took precedence, and has something of a personal beef with a certain Justin Bieber. Too obvious? Had you guessing though right? You see, there’s plenty of wrangling juice left in the tank.
So about that nincompoop deal then. Well here’s the thing. As I glance forward I spot a signpost directly before me and instantly feel quite the dick with ears. I’m convinced it wasn’t there moments ago but it’s neither the time nor place to get into it so I stroll on up. The first thing which catches my attention is a scraggy flyer, faded and torn, but sufficiently legible to obtain precious data on my next combatants. He is a hoot and two hollers that grim reaper, only gone and recruited a pair of cranky balcony puppets for my upcoming face-off. The bulletin reads as follows…
Hear ye, hear ye! All ye Kings and Queens. Knights and Nobles! A tournament is planned this day. It hath been decreed that the Brutal Word Wrangler shall do skirmish with The Hecklers in Bishop on A Star. Subject to availability.
I don’t need a degree in Mensa to tell me that I have my bishops and I feel instantly lighter in the foot as a result. Statler & Waldorf, sporting a combined muppet age of around 170, and thought to be confined to a crate somewhere in Bolivia until now. These miserable mopheads should pose little more challenge than the Bieber Queen and, if nothing else, will supply me a chuckle. I’m positively psyched and feeling like I finally caught the fly between my chop-sticks. Nothing can knock me from my pedestal this day as I have front row seats for…The Muppet Show!!! Light the lights bitches and, while you’re at it, tell that Bunsen fellow to either invest in some contact lenses or grow some ears. Henson’s got a brand new bag.
With that I cast my roving eye below to the second teaser and immediately plunge from said obelisk.
Hear ye, hear ye! All ye Kings and Queens. Knights and Nobles! Due to ill-health, The Hecklers aren’t quite ready to enter the fray just yet. Thus we’ve had a reshuffle and it hath been decreed that the Brutal Word Wrangler shall first do skirmish with stand-in knights the names of whom are…
Please be Ted and Beverley Hingle from Massachusetts. I hear that Ted is still recovering from a knee replacement and Beverley couldn’t punch her way through Waldorf’s colostomy satchel so I could be quids in here all being well.
…Heidi the Twelve-headed Hydra and The Beast with Eighty Knees
Fuck it! I was this close to hanging out with the Muppets as well. Guess that means no pigs in my blankets tonight. Curses for hearses, that’s a bummer. Whatever death, spilt lactose doesn’t really interest me, and I can take whatever you throw at me like Bieber at a Comedy Roast. That said, I’d swear blind that he sobbed like a milk maid on hamburger hill the very moment that final curtain dropped and Martha Stewart kicked the living dung out of his lily-white punnet for staying up way past his bedtime. For as much as I’m feeling resilient, the prospect of doing battle with Heidi the Twelve-headed Hydra doesn’t sound particularly enticing and I just pray she suffers a dozen migraines in unison as this promises to be a particularly punishing head-to-head-to-head-to-head-to-head-to-head-to-head-to-head-to-head-to-head-to-head-to-head-to-head. While my wrangler spirit has wilted some, my guard remains upright and this provides all the spider sense required to spin around 180 and investigate the sudden slurping to my right.
Sure enough it’s Heidi coming in with the tide and she looks every bit as slippery a customer as I had expected. Great, that’s just what I need right now – a battle of Herculean proportions, one of those triple health bar affairs and I have no continues to fall back on so I must somehow locate my A-game and keep my lone head on a swivel from hereon in. My first consideration is how delightful it would be to possess twelve penises right now as I would imagine she is pretty good at deep throats. However, judging by the steely look in all twenty-four of her beady pips and her lack of any discernible lip gloss, fellatio isn’t on the agenda here. The grim reaper has chosen well and this proposes to be a step-up from anything I have faced thus far so I should get to earn multiple stripes here or perish in the most heinous manner imaginable, whatever comes first. My money is on the latter.
I huff…then I puff…and unsheath my steel to slay this top-heavy blight on the landscape before she can claim first blood. In somewhat predictable fashion she lunges and, even more inevitably, I slice the first barnet straight off and watch it rapidly swept away by the high tide. Well tickle me pink and make it shocking, as long as her attack pattern remains constant, this should be akin to snatching candy from a twelve-headed baby. She’s not pretty, I’ll give her that. Those eleven remaining faces are littered in carbuncles and she’s got herself some pretty severe dental issues by the looks of it. Gnashers like a grand piano that has been dropped down a flight of stairs to be precise, jutting out in whichever direction they so desire, all Deadly Spawn like. Nothing that fazes the Brutal Word Wrangler however. You see, my own teeth have the bit between them right now, and I have momentum on my side. I learned how to count from Sesame Street and it will take more than a menstrual serpent with breath like Davy Jones’s Locker to knock me off my pedestal.
Heidi wastes not a second in lunging a second time and heads two thru six meet the same demise in swift succession. All appears ever so peachy as that’s the halfway house and I bear not so much as a solitary flesh wound to show for it. The hydra, on the other hand, is looking visibly rattled. I reckon death’s bony feet are shaking in his espadrilles right now as this proves one thing to him, that being that his opponent is not just here to make up numbers. I’m not leaving this place until I get a selfie with Beaker dagnabbit. In this irresistible form, those other half a dozen bonces should be feeling rather tumor-ridden right about now. In fact, I’m feeling so unflappable at this present moment that I shall screw shut my peepers and use the powers of a samurai to lop off any remaining stragglers. This’ll give that petulant prick pimple the show he wants albeit not one with the outcome he was hoping for. Blind fury has seen me good as the fearsome Heidi the Twelve-headed Hydra has now had another two top boxes subtracted and that leaves only four left to put to my sword. That said, it’s true that other senses heighten as you remove one from the equation as, before my eyes can open defiantly, I discern a most chilling audible introduction.
Scuttling. Dozens of knees knocking together and heading this way fast. It could only be The Beast with Eighty Knees, blighter #2 on the roster, and a creature so hideous that it dare not take a glance in its full-length mirror for fear of choking on its own chunder chunks. I will be taking nothing whatsoever for granted as complacency will be punishable by death most horrid and I’m not quite ready to push up daisies quite yet. With eyes wide open and blade at its prime, I wait for my sight to realign and, as clarity convenes, soak in the most macabre monstrosity I ever did lay my weary orbs on.
It comprises, quite literally, eighty knees all meshed together like twisted honeycomb and currently no more than ten or so yards from my very coordinates. Eighty knees against just one wrangler, that hardly seems fair. Now would be the ideal time for me to lay a bronzed egg in my slacks so I guess I’d better slacken that sphincter. Bye bye Beaker my oblong friend. It could have been so beautiful.
The chase commences and I keep my ears peeled for the fast-approaching knobbly rattlers and any opportune swipes from Heidi. The Beast is gaining ground and I am also aware of Heidi’s remaining gnashers snapping at my heels every second, not looking like letting up. Short of divine intervention or some kind of epiphany, I’d say I’m for the high jump here. Should I spin around to do battle then they will be upon me before I can hoist up my weapon, of that I am damn sure. I hate to admit it but assistance is required and post-haste no less. Bonus Brain, now would be a stellar time to put in a shift old fellow. No sooner has the thought been thunk than he leaps like a voltaic salmon from his recliner and offers his take on the situation.
“Duh! The clue is in the knees bozo”
I’m not entirely sure I approve of the tone but I’m pretty sure I get the message and, once again, it would appear that this lunkhead freeloader has come up with a masterstroke just in the nick of time. You see, for a number of years I have suffered from a nightmarish kneecap which sporadically pops and locks without prior warning. Bottom line is this – I turn too fast and it fails to reciprocate, leaving me sprawled out like a dime store hooker in agony. In order for one to truly stand chance of defeating no less than eighty knees, one should first think like eighty knees, and the answer is clear as the teeth in Heidi’s remaining faces. I dart off to the side and proceed to sprint around the beast’s circumference a full 360. Once complete, I perpetuate the cycle another time, then another until, all of a sudden, its entire brigade of knees lock out of joint and it capsizes in front of me. After being billed as the biggest shoe-in for victory since Michael Phelps carved himself gills, this must come as a crushing disappointment to the prying reaper.
I guess Bonus Brain will be feeling smug right now but I would point him towards the fine athleticism I exhibited in running rings around my foe as a plan don’t come together without affirmative action and it was I who did all the legwork. Granted, he planted the seed, but so did Kyle Reese and you don’t see him coughing up the alimony. Had there been a Terminator 1.5 then I’m assured that poor Sarah Connor would have been elbow deep in shitty diapers and expressing lactose like a mad woman. You see, nothing more than an in-and-out job. Needless to say, I’ll let my cantankerous sidekick believe that he has been instrumental in this triumph. But deep down he knows he’d be nothing without the wrangler and that’s more than enough for me.
Feeling suitably buoyant, I promptly turn my attentions to Heidi and finishing what I started earlier. Three more strikes, neither of which belong to her, one head left. Job is pretty much a good ‘un. Indeed, I can almost hear Beaker’s meeps as we speak. Just a slither of unfinished business to attend to, then it’s finally time to light those lights, and assist the Swedish Chef in rounding up those unruly chickies. Heidi is still recoiling, oozing mauve gunk from the six freshly snapped tendrils that flail desperately around her. This is my chance. There are pivotal points in any skirmish and none so monumental as that all-important ultimate strike of triumph.
I summon any concealed pockets of might and stride towards her, sword aloft and teeth clenched tight. In a last-ditch attempt she unleashes an assault with her final two prongs and this proves to be her fatal error. I grab the first arrival and proceed weaving it around the following one, until sufficiently knotted. I then go to work with my blade, hacking until the twitching ceases and I am enveloped head-to-toe in violet gunge. After surveying my handiwork like the consummate alpha, I drink in the scent of victory and reconvene my pilgrimage. The Paladins of the Dark Palace have been struck off, nay soundly slain, now for those Hecklers. I’m assured that Statler and Waldorf have observed the entire fracas while catching up on their bed rest and it will take more than an elevated vantage and hamper of rotten vegetables to take down the Brutal Word Wrangler in this kind of irresistible form. I’ve proven myself a man, not muppet, and there’s no way Henson’s getting his greasy paws up my back flap.
Truly, Really, Clearly, Sincerely,
Keeper of the Crimson Quill
Copyright: Crimson Quill: Savage Vault Enterprises 2014 (Revised Edition 2016)