A/N: I know it's been a while, but now the redneck writer is back with a vengeance!


HOW (NOT) TO WRITE A STORY, DAY 8

CHAPTER THREE

Meet the Comradeship

"So you mean to tell me that this here rock ain't no rock at all, but a magical, mystical amulet of some kind?"

"Yep."

"An' it originally belonged to the Dark Lady?"

"That's about the size of it."

"Shit!" Steve let go of the EVIL object immediately, letting it fall to the dusty, wooden floor with a soft thud. "I want nothin' to do with this." But just as he spoke the words, the rock disappeared with a pop! and rematerialized in his hand. "What the heck?!" He tried it again, and again, but he couldn't seem to rid himself of that dark, glassy pebble of DOOM.

Slider crossed his hairy, muscular, tattooed, and battle-scarred arms and laughed at the half-breed's plight.

"What's so funny?" asked Steve.

"The Rock – it likes you."

"Well, I don't like it back!"

"No, no, you misunderstand! The object is attracted to you because you are the Chosen One, destined to fulfill the prophecy and save us all!"

Steve shrugged. The news didn't sound all that exciting. In the land of Zarnia, prophecies were being made all the time. Some of 'em came true, but most were a load of crap, thunk up by sadistic wizards with nothin' better to do than watch all the foolish little "Chosen Ones" run around like chickens with their heads cut off. Their EPIC QUESTS were nothin' but entertainment for the old coots.

"A prophecy, eh? So, how's am I supposed to fulfill this bad beast? Let me guess. First, I've got to assemble a crack team of ragtag, mixed-species adventurers with clashing personalities, who'll waste all their time arguing about ethics and whose race is better as opposed to actually fighting. Then, I've got to stock up on weapons, trek across dangerous geography, slay a couple monsters, fall in love with a female party member, gain some courage points, take a load off at some elfin palace, and finally do battle with the Dark Lady and/or destroy the Rock in the flames of some sinister-sounding volcano. Am I right?"

"Almost. You left out the part about the wizened mentor sacrificing himself in an EPIC BATTLE to save you."

"But I ain't got no wizened mentor, unless you mean Randolph back home, and he's in no condition for battlin'!"

"Don't worry, I'm sure he'll come through. In the meantime, why don't we round up the rest of the gang? You've already got me, a king in exile. Now all you need is an elf, a dwarf, a thief, a mage, a halfling, a loner, and a hot warrior chick."

Steve scratched his head in puzzlement, dislodging some dried scales in the process.

"Where are we gonna find all those people?"

"That's easy!" Slider stuck two fingers in his mouth and whistled. One by one, the aforementioned characters marched into the room and stood in a formidable line, each in his favorite tough-guy stance.

Steve blinked a few times to make sure he weren't dreaming. Once he was sure they were real, and not made of wax, he took to describing their appearance at great length inside his head in the most sickeningly poetic way possible.

The elf was tall, thin, and elegantly clad in a long, green, silken robe woven through with intricate floral designs and clasped at the neck by a pinecone-shaped brooch. His eyes sparkled like two silver pennies on a flawless porcelain platter. His smooth, flaxen hair hung well past his shoulders and hid all but the delicate points of his ears. On his head, he wore a crown woven of sweet-smelling oleander and baby's breath. Strapped to his back was a sturdy, handcrafted quiver made of the softest, finest leather and filled with a bouquet of golden-tipped arrows.

"Hi, I'm Pansy!" he chirped, in a clear, effeminate shrill. "Does this outfit make me look fat?"

"I refuse to answer that."

The dwarf was an interesting-looking fellow, to say the least. He was two heads shorter than Steve and carried a blunt, bloodstained battleaxe in his thick, meaty arms. Much of his face was obscured by a wild, rust-colored beard and an equally bushy monobrow. All that could be seen through this dank mass of hair was a pair of black, beady eyes that glowed like coals, fueled by his intense battle-lust. He wore an iron helmet decorated with a trident of dragon horns. His trunk was protected by heavy chain mail, but his bottom remained completely bare.

Steve shifted uncomfortably.

"Hey, uh, dwarf guy, d'you mind puttin' on some pants? There are ladies present."

"I be beggin' your pardon, Chosen One!" he apologized in a gruff, vaguely Scottish accent. "Lost 'em in a game o' strip poker! I'm Armstumps, by the way – son of Clubfoot, son of Groingrinder, son of – "

"Yeah, I think I've heard enough from you."

The thief was a sprightly lad of medium height. He wore a rough, hooded burlap cloak over many layers of stolen clothing, pinched by a rope belt dripping with satchels of pilfered gold. His eyes were a bright blue, his mouth set in a friendly grin, his jaw and cheeks dotted with stubble, and his nose purple and squashed, as he had no doubt come from a street fight. His grubby fingers poked through fingerless gloves and were always fidgeting, seeking out the nearest pocket.

Steve took a cautious step back, protective of the few personal items he had.

"Charlie's the name," he said in a meager, boyish voice. "I'm down on my luck."

"Aww! Well, in that case – here! Take my knife!"

Slider hurriedly intervened, yanking the knife from Steve's hand and shaking his head in disappointment.

"I wouldn't give that to him if I were you – not unless you want him to sneak in here at night and cut out your kidneys."

"Charlie's my pal! He wouldn't do such a thing! Would you, Charlie?" The thief smiled innocently and shook his head. "See? Charlie's a nice guy!"

"Yeah, I guess I am," he replied. "And besides, livers fetch a higher price."

The mage was as tall as Slider, but not quite as buff or handsome (not that Steve was judging). He wielded a slender, ebony staff topped with a glowing ruby cut in the shape of a candle flame. His eyes and hair were the same shade of brilliant, cardinal-feather red. He had tan skin and exotic markings all along his bare arms and chest. He wore billowing black pants secured with a gold-and-ruby-encrusted belt and golden sandals on his feet.

"I am Flamerick, of the Order of Flames – Twelfth Degree Fire Mage," he boldly announced, surrounding himself in a burning ring of fire. "Flame on!"

The halfling was short and fat, with a curly brown mop of hair on his head and another on each of his feet. He wore a mustard tweed vest over an off-white tunic and a pair of goat-hide knickerbockers. His olive eyes twinkled in the candlelight, his cheeks flushed from three pints of ale at second breakfast, and his halfling belly joyfully distended.

He released a hearty belch and introduced himself as Dildo Daggins.

The loner was a shady character all around. Pale, malnourished, and gray-haired with a twisted gray goatee and long, yellowed fingernails. He hunched in the shadows with his back turned to the rest of the group, muttering fevered maledictions and plotting his future treachery. He wore all black, which should've been a dead giveaway. This guy was bad business!

Steve tugged at his cloak and he whipped around, his charcoal eyes bulging and bloodshot.

"Malachi," he hissed, and then fell stone-silent.

The hot warrior chick was one hot warrior chick! Va-va-voom! Steve had no idea what her face looked like, as he was too busy staring openmouthed at her plump love muffins, stuffed tight in a steel bodice and heaving with every breath.

"Hello," she greeted, in a voice as thick and sweet as honey. "I'm Mary-Sue."

"I'm really horny."

"What was that?"

"I said…uh…these guys are corny. Let's you an' me blow this popsicle stand and – "

"Not so fast, lover-boy!" Slider stepped between them, diverting Steve's gaze and forcing him to swallow his drool. "What did I tell you earlier? Women ain't objects! You gotta respect 'em, jus' like you respect any noble steed. You gotta be kind an' gentle with 'em, and learn to keep it in your pants long enough to form a meaningful relationship!"

"Yeah, whatever. Sounds great. But when do I get to ---- her?"

The King of Men slapped his forehead in frustration and disgust.

Chapter Three is in the bag! Stay tuned for the next grandiose installment of…The Chronicles of Zarnia: Book I: The Comradeship of the Rock!!! I'm a naughty, naughty boy…