I stepped quickly off through the narrow city streets, half-blinded at times by the resilient reflections from this metallic metropolis, but intent now upon making my way to the rogue Du Pont for a final showdown. I know not how long I trod upon the peculiar pathways of the blighted urban landscape, for here time seemed to have little meaning and no two streets were in any way discernible from one another, whether by my own confounded state or some strange power of the city to confuse any poor soul who might stumble upon it. A wrenching thirst took hold of me and as the hours tolled by, I soon began to fear that the scoundrel had deposited me here in this luckless, labyrinthine land only to let me die alone and without even the chance to look my egregious enemy square in the face and die in a manner befitting a gentleman.
Rounding a corner I suddenly was struck for this time instead of endlessly repeating pathways I came upon the torn and broken body of a well-dressed gentleman. Rushing to his side, I peered into his eyes and saw instantly that he was long-dead, his life’s blood oozing out into a perfectly circular pool surrounding his body oozing from a gaping gut wound. The fashion of his moustachio and his bountiful black brows struck me familiar and I jumped back with the sudden realization that before me lay the body of my poisonous prey, Eleuthère Du Pont!
As I stood stunned and shocked by this most irregular incident, the voice of my now reposed rival echoed throughout the piazza, causing me great alarm.
"Kermit my old friend… what have you done to me? Your lust for this lamp has brought this about… you’ve killed me, my constant companion… my fanciful familiar, have you forgotten that you proclaimed that no matter the paths we took in this life, forever should we remember the fellowship we once shared? Kermit my confrere, what have you wrought?"
My mind raced back to our summers on the Du Pont estate in Delmarva. Rushing through the woods, two innocent young rogues about on their moonshines. Gathering mushrooms in the pale light of the sunrise, bathing in the cool clear mountain springs, practicing kisses upon one another that we might not offend the fairer sex with amateurish affections. A harsh protestation rushed from my throat, "I have not done this thing! You were mad with your own power Elly, seeking to work some malignant mischief upon our most noble of nations. Yes, yes I sought to cease your scheming, but I have not slain you!"
But no sooner had I said it than I looked down at my own hand and felt a great welling of shame rise up in my body, for in my portside palm was my sabre, drawn and blooded and the trail led right to the wound that had so mangled his mortal parts. "I.. I did not do this thing!" I stammered quickly, then being overwhelmed by a great panic I dropped my sabre to the ground and ran from the lethal locale as fast as my legs would carry me.
Half-blinded by tears of rage and confusion I tore through the twisted terrain of this bedeviled borough for minutes or hours, but no matter which turn I took, I could not escape the voice of Eleuthère, "Twas the green fiend Envy who slew me Kermit, for I alone amongst men knew your most secret desires, and I alone held the lamp by means of which you might achieve your unnatural inclinations! And I shall haunt you until the end of your days!" and a sinister satanic sniggering bore into my brain and I could find neither rest nor refuge from the archfiend’s articulations.
For how long my legs pounded upon the burnished boulevards I know not, save that after some time the horrendous heat and constant imposition of the sun’s ire began to take their toll upon my weary frame. Then, as though by some queer magic, a great fountain appeared before me, constructed of gold and silver and inscribed with innumerable runes and strange symbols which, though I could make no true sense of them, spoke to me of the aqueous amusements that I might find were I to sip of this spring. The icy clear water ran in great rivulets, spouted out from the mouths of strange Gods, received lovingly by the calm currents that ran through the great collecting dish beneath, I felt that taking one runty refreshing guzzle from this remarkable reservoir, I would never need feel thirst again and I quickly became quite obsessed.
Resolving in my mind that I would not sully the sylvan spring with my mere mortal flesh, I searched about for some worthy apparatus with which I might bring forth a cool, deep draught. Then in my hands was a strange golden cup of sorts, of magnificent manufacture and I quickly reached into the fountain and nearly drowned myself in the enchanted elixir, only to find that it had become nothing but common lantern oil. Tossing the vile poison upon the ground I gathered a goblet-full and once again was dismayed to find that the fantastic flood was nothing but common rendered whale-fat. Falling to my knees I began to weep, cursing the Gods who had brought me to this benighted place, when suddenly a strange sound resounded from behind me, myriad melodies combining to create one pure voice.
"This fountain is not for the living, nor is this city if truth should be told. For here some of the shadows have been cleared away with great effort, and what is cold and sweet and clear in your world is only a pale reflection of the truth, and it is this desire for truth which drives you to seek to drink from it’s depths, but here your immortal soul discerns what your mortal body can not, and to drink from the fountain would mean your sure death."
Wiping the tears from my eyes I turned and caught only one gaze upon the most extraordinary sight that I have ever seen. A great ball of light, it’s size I could not begin to estimate for it easily dwarfed the greatest creations of man, yet it floated here in the strange plaza with me which was proportioned to people of my own persuasion. Ten-thousand feathered wings of unimaginably varied hue held aloft the strange being, while ten-thousand eyes, no two alike, peered out from every facet, some the cool eyes of the reptiles, some alike to the thin and mischievous eyes of a feline, the faceted eyes of an insect, the clear blue eyes of the greatest of men and great broad eyes of creatures vast and ancient with intellect beyond comprehension, all focused in upon my paltry, pathetic personage.
"How did you come here creature, and why have you disturbed our ten-thousand year slumber, here in this city which so long ago swore off the savage world of man that we few Djinn might travel to realms beyond mortal comprehension and seek out the true purpose of being?"
Struck dumb by the majesty of the strange being I could only feebly stutter, "I… was seeking the lamp." which caused a great chorus of high-pitched bell-ringing to sound all around me, as though delighting in my answer.
"Not since the days of Alah ad-Din! You seek to make real your fondest desire, but I warn you that truth is not what you would expect. As we traversed the higher levels of reality which your minds merely glimpse in their proudest of moments, we have learned that what you seek is never what you will uncover. But come man-thing, let us plumb the depths of your base mortal desires, greedy and grasping for riches you can not carry beyond this world? Perhaps the insecure desire to extend your tiny will, is it the power of a King you seek? Soon we shall see!" And with that I was struck back upon the ground and my frame grew rigid as my most secret of thoughts transformed into tangible reality.
Is the world ready for Staind By Me, St@nd By e-Me, and Crank 3: Stand By Me?
Finally: an advice column for the rest of us! (Who seek to enslave humanity.)
A Goon outs himself as a wizard and gets a warm reception from the rogues/rangers/paladins gallery!