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    Planes of Parody

    By Sam Smith

  • Introducing the Planes of Parody

    "The Plane of Tranquility" Arkanth muttered, staring around. "That's what it said on the brochure."
    Graham looked around, "It's not too bad. I like it."
    Arkanth groaned, paladins these days just didn't know how to criticize. Arkanth was a dark elf, and proud of it. He had somehow become friends with Graham; a stout paladin wearing a big, gormless smile, a suit of armor so polished that the rust gleamed, and inexplicably, a pair of novelty Hawaiian sunglasses. Arkanth cringed.

    He looked around, there were some huts along the beach, followed by some stone buildings further off.

    It was quite scenic, a stream gurgled down through some rocks in a series of little waterfalls, and then cascaded down over a steeper drop. In the middle of this larger waterfall, someone had stuck some weighing scales. Probably some students had, during a night of heavy drinking, thought of what at the time had seemed like a very amusing use for those scales, and then they had been stuck under the waterfall in the vain hope of ever getting them clean.

    He consulted the brochure. "Lets see.. things to do." He found the list and read it out, "Pestilence and plague in the Plane of Disease! Ohhhkay... These people really know how to sell their stuff. A Plane of Storms, now that's just great. Ooooh Torment! Yay! This is a joke, right?" Arkanth actually liked the sound of torment, obviously provided that it was someone else being tortured, but that had really lost its appeal since Norrath TV launched the torment channel. "Remind me again why we're here."

    Graham smiled a simple smile, and his eyes became glazed over as they always did when he was thinking of valor. "I heard there were many brave acts to be done here. We could be heroes! I heard there were plots a foot and tyrants planning devious deeds!"

    Great, thought Arkanth. "Graham, why the hell have we come here in search of bloody danger. And your not a hero, remember the incident with that cat stuck up the tree? When you tried to climb the tree and snapped it? That poor cat...."

    What Graham would think of as a 'heroic rescue', others were more inclined to call 'ecological terrorism', 'breaking and entering', 'ruining my hedge', and on one rather unfortunate occasion, 'manslaughter'. Still, he remained as stubbornly optimistic as he was innately destructive. Arkanth had to give him that.

    "Besides", Graham hesitated, "Mithaniel Marr lives around here and I wanted to, to you know, seek guidance and stuff. You know how it is."
    Arkanth coughed. "Queer."
    Graham looked at him sharply, "What was that?"
    "Nothing.. nothing."
    "I'll have you know that I respect Mithaniel Marr because he is the very embodiment of valor, he is a very noble and intelligent being, he is -"
    "Didn't he create the paladins?" Arkanth cut in. "Doesn't sound very intelligent to me. You need a special kind of stupidity to make a blunder like that."
    Graham glared, muttering something distinctly un-valiant under his breath.
    Arkanth gave in. "Well anyway, we're here now. Lets have a look around."
    Graham nodded.

    They wandered towards the wooden huts that sat on the shoreline. As they got nearer, it looked more and more like the huts had been fashioned by random logs washing up on the shore and smashing together. They fact that they were still standing defied all known physics. They walked up to the rickety building. Graham reached out to knock on what passed for a door, but Arkanth stopped him, from the looks of the building, he wasn't sure if it would be able to withstand the impact.

    Instead he cautiously cried out, "Hello? Anyone in here?" His words caused the building to give a cautious wobble.
    There were faint sounds from inside the hut, which shook slightly. Someone very carefully opened the door, somehow managing this without causing the ragged assortment of rough wood to collapse. An old man appeared, looking every bit as rickety as his home. He eyed them suspiciously before appearing to reach a conclusion. "Tourists!" He exclaimed.
    "Excuse me, kind sir, we're looking for-" Graham began, but the old man raised an ancient hand.
    "I know what you seek." He said, his tone ominous and, Arkanth couldn't help feeling, more than a little pompous. The old man continued. "I am a wise man. I have the knowledge of ages. You are seeking the ethereal fan of uncertainty, am I right?"
    "Sorry, no, we are actually -"
    "Are you sure? It's a pretty nice fan. Go on then, are you seeking the temporal broom of the ancients?"
    "Erm.." The old man cast his eyes around his room desperately. "The mystical rug of... errm... purple? The transient mug of supreme knowledge featuring the pattern of err.. the teddybears of the ages? I've got a teapot around here somewhere..."
    Graham stared at him, dumbfounded. It was Arkanth who spoke. "Look, whatever your selling, we aren't interested. Alright?"
    "Not even a celestial mirror of superficiality?" The man tried, desperately.
    "Sorry. Look, we need to find someone, do you know where we might find Lord Mithaniel Marr?" Graham asked, in the slow and deliberate tones reserved for addressing chronic salesmen.
    "All my priceless artifacts now have 50% off you know."

    They walked off, the man was obviously not going to be any use. As they did so they heard the man running inside to try and find some more junk to sell them, they heard him reemerge and crying after them, "Symbolic fish of opressio- o oh."

    They turned to watch just in time to see the "wise man" cover his head with his hands as the makeshift hut came crashing down. It is one of the mysteries of the universe that even the most enlightened and wise men still build decrepit huts held together by sheer willpower, while the most unenlightened and foolish still opt to live in proper houses, held together with more traditional adhesives, which are generally a lot stronger. There was muffled cursing from the wreckage.

    They walked further down the shore, until eventually they reached a building that appeared to be relatively sturdy. They ventured inside. A sign was hung on the door, "The Tranquil Hospice". A nun walked up to them. "Welcome, kind sirs. Welcome to our voluntary hospice. I assume you are just visiting? Right then, I'll just be out of your way. Oh and if you want to make a donation, there are donation boxes just about everywhere we could fit them."
    Graham nodded, "Thankyou ma'am."

    The room they were in contained two patients, both were lying down and not looking in a particularly brilliant state. Graham nudged Arkanth and tried to whisper while maintaining the deep and booming voice he thought that heroic paladins should use at all times. The effect was rather unusual and completely unsuccessful. "Arkanth. Do you think that, well. Whats the point in visiting these people, we do not know them, it will serve no purpose."
    Arkanth sighed. Sometimes people could be so stupid. "Graham. Everyone knows that small hospitals run by nuns are the obvious first place to look when your trying to save the world. It's obvious that one of these patients will tell us something that will set us on our way to, I don't know, something pretty far fetched and ridiculous. Like, oh I don't know, probably capturing some weapon which would destroy the world, or distributing really good value balaclavas, or- maybe something really ridiculous like saving some ethereal prisoner who is suspended in time. You know how these things happen. Either way, it's something we have to do and hopefully this book will finally have some kind of plot, ok?"
    Graham looked thoughtful for a second. "Is it heroic?"
    "What? Saving the entire of humanity from certain destruction? Yes, I think that would generally be classed as reasonably heroic."
    "Well that's ok then. Wait a second, why do you want to do heroic things and save the world?" Graham asked, suddenly suspicious. "Usually you never like saving the world. When we were saving the world from evil Lord Nagathan you were always whining and asking when we could go."
    "Ph4t l00ts." Arkanth said simply. Effortlessly pronouncing numbers as vowels.
    "Ah. Okay, that sounds about right." Graham conceded. "But how do you know this stuff anyway. You've been looking up spoilers, haven't you!" He pointed an accusing finger.
    "No, it's just obvious, that's all." Arkanth replied sharply. "Anyway, are we going to get on with it or just stand here talking all day?"

    They walked over to one of the patients. He was lying down and looked to be asleep. On a table by his bed was a book, propped open about half way through. It looked like old and worn, Arkanth picked it up and examined it. The cover read "Cazic's spooky bedtime stories." There was a picture of a fat man who appeared to be made of something rather unhygienic. Arkanth turned it over and read the blurb on the back. "The lore of Cazic Thule. Knowledge that men were not meant to know. Translated into the letters of mortals by Zeberoux." Arkanth thought it sounded pretty boring. There were some reviewer comments below it;

    "Praise for Cazic's spooky bedtime stories;

    'Truly Terrifying!'
    - The Telegraph book review.

    'It's true what they say! Those who read these words, the lore of Cazic, will feel their mind invaded by the faceless prince of fear, leaving you forever cursed and totally terrified and tormented! Genuine mortal peril! 5/5!'
    - The Times

    'Help me! It's got a grip on me, aaaaarg... Please... kill me now. Aaaaarg...'
    - The Best Book Guide "

    Arkanth tossed it aside. He prodded the sleeping man, who suddenly sat up and let loose a violent scream of pure terror as he awoke. "AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAARGGGGGGGGGG! Terris... no..." He panted.
    "Are you ok dude?"
    "I do not know you, but I must ask you to help me." The man was sweating a cold sweat, his terrified eyes were darting madly around the room. "I am Thelin Poxbourne."
    "Hi Thelin, how are you 'Thelin' today?" Arkanth couldn't have stopped himself for a hundred platinum pieces. Thelin gave him a glare of pure hatred for a moment before deciding to ignore it.
    "You must help me. I am constantly tormented by the child of the faceless. Terris Thule has been tormenting me night and day. Please... you must save me from her grasp."
    With that, the mans eyes closed again. They could hear him uttering shallow screams beneath his breath. They decided to leave him be, but his words had left both of them uneasy. Graham gave an involuntary shudder.

    They got up and walked over to the second patient. The nurse had just sat down with the man, so they stood and waited respectfully. The nurse ladled some thick goop from a bowl into his mouth. "Now then, is that better?"
    The man looked seriously ill; his skin was incredibly pail, his bloodshot eyes were glazed over, and he was coughing terribly. When he spoke it was a shaky croak. "Thankyou."
    "That's quite alright. Now, Tylis, how is this tummy ache of yours?"
    Tylis laboriously sat up. "I have told you this before, it is not a tummy ache. I have been cursed by the vile and deadly pox of Bertoxxulous. The plaguebearer himself has struck me with a horrific disease that resides inside my body, leaving me in a constant state of unrelenting agony. I am within the grip of the Lord of Decay himself. I am constantly on the verge of death, but it remains a mercy he has not allowed me."
    The nurse raised a reproachful finger. "Now, now Tylis. What is it we always say here?"
    "Nobody likes a hypochondriac." Tylis recited exasperatedly, falling into a vicious bout of coughing, and collapsing backwards from physical weakness.
    "That's right." Chided the nurse. "Stay optimistic and that tummy ache will be gone before you know it."
    The nurse seemed to interpret the look of pure contempt on Tylis' face as an optimistic smile. "That's the spirit!" She exclaimed in what was probably meant to be an enthusiastic and encouraging tone, before exiting the room.
    Arkanth and Graham walked over to the long suffering patient. "Hello good sir!", chided Graham. "We are brave adventurers seeking to rid the world of evil and to assist the needy in any way possible, as befits my Paladinial nature!"
    "...For a very small fee," added Arkanth. Graham looked appalled, but decided now was not the place to try, once again, to explain the foreign concept of 'charity' to the Dark Elf.

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