The Echelons of Human Thought – Chapter 4

REJOICE, ALL WHO READ! After much wandering and roaming, our daft adventurers and Günter have made it to the border between the Regal Center and the County Snuggleville. Unlike that bothersome parapet differentiating the former with Cardinal & Husker, this particular border is bereft of stoic and indifferent shrubbery. Instead, there is an arch over the royal road signifying entry into the next realm. Actually, it is composed of two arches: One arch welcomes travelers to Snuggleville and immediately faces another arch that welcomes those coming in the other direction to Regal Center. Essentially, one may never read the fact that you have entered another county because each arch is covering the other's warm greeting.

It is under this one arch/two arches that our three nomadic personages pass under and enter this strange land of new sights, foods, cultures and parking regulations. Undoubtedly, our brave and wonderful Sir Gannehan is ready for any and all challenges that threaten his venture into this new patch of country as he continues towards his recently given lands in Fluffington and thence to Valverdia and the long-sought good life.

In due course, the knight errant, his radiant female beauty Amelda and still-hungry tagalong Günter approach a thick and dark forest full of trees.

"This," said the gastronomically growling Günter, "is the Forest of Trees, home of scary creatures that no one wants to talk about, my lord."

"Pish posh, b'gosh, juvenile mouser!" Sir Gannehan replied, with his hand stroking the pommel of his sheathed sword. "Thy expressions are but an exhalation, a forgotten threat to the sword I wield. No creature can handle the sharp steel of this most revered weapon. If such creature dares comes to our pass, I shall smite it with advantages!"

"Oh, my liege," the portly teen responded, "Have you ever been through the Forest of Trees? People who stop at the liquid hay station in Odz say that there is a really big pig with really big teeth in those woods, a pig that eats children and uses their bones to make tourist souvenirs."

"What!? Thou uninformed wretch!," Sir Gannehan growled back. "Dost thou not know that I am the Brave Knight Errant who Walks the World? Hast thou not heard the ballad of how I saved King Toppingham from the clutches of the evil dragon-king Garesha with the Staff of Wizard Hollingran? Why, all of the entertainment fowl across Aslandia have chimed that ballad for weeks! It might even garner an award!"

Indeed, Günter was not at all aware of such exploits. However, seeing that he has incensed the knight errant's spirits, Günter collapses to the ground and with head firmly facing the ground apologizes in a trembling voice, "Verzeih mir bitte, mein Herr, because no one has actually told me why are you so brave and wonderful, but that you just are. Oh, and can I have my meal now? I got you to the border, and you said you would feed me."

"What sour cur, with thoughts of food blinding your eyes! Thy feeble mind is in need of forethought and vision for better!" With that, Sir Gannehan takes out a magical cape from his horse purse, unfurls it and sweeps it across his side to reveal a banquet of mouth-watering delights. Günter's eyes take a shine once he witnesses the tables upon tables of succulent dishes before him. What joy for him: Not one pot of mouse stew is in sight!

"This is but a sliver of the goodness that can be found in Valverdia," the knight exclaimed, "where my eyes take sight and the good life is to be found."

"Oh, Sir Gannehan, this looks most incredibly delectable for a bountiful feast," said his maiden Amelda, who remains seated behind the knight errant on his horse, saying something that adds nothing to the conversation.

Günter then ravenously advances towards the magical buffet, to which Sir Gannehan quickly sweeps the cape again and the banquet suddenly disappears. Günter stops once he sees what the knight has done and hangs his head in disappointment.

"Silly mouser, 'tis only a vision, Gunther!" said Sir Gannehan. ("GUEN-tehr, my master.") "For the present, thou makest good with a mild repast." With that, Sir Gannehan hands Günter a bowl of Grape-Nuts cereal. All Günter can do is look with trepidation at the bowl full of wheat-based, fiber-rich cereal that one would easily mistake for miniature rocks.

"Keine milch?" asks Günter.

But Sir Gannehan and company are already trotting into the Forest of Trees. Günter takes a taste of the cereal. It crunches in his mouth and feels as though it was cracking the enamel of his teeth. Thinking that the knight's present payment may indeed warrant some milk, Günter trails the wandering duo and their equine beast into the forest.

Then he stops cold to remember: He's scared of the forest! Günter tries his best not to buckle at the knees from the panic that overwhelms him.

…However, he does want some milk to go with his Grape-Nuts.

He eyes the thick forest before him, whose mysterious and unseen beasts exude a smorgasbord of morose wails. He then eyes his bowl full of Grape-Nuts. As he debates the issue in his head, Günter can't help but conclude that his cereal may taste better with milk and that Sir Gannehan, a presumably wealthy warrior, would have no qualms in providing a dribble of that liquid dairy product. Günter doesn't want to enter, but he is so anxious for some milk to complement his cereal. After closing his eyes for focus, Günter purses his lips, sighs in resignation and softly treads into the gloomy woodland to find the knight errant.

As the hours pass and darkness from the trees above continues to envelop the path, a flurry of sparkles forms at the top of a tree branch before our pair of travelers. The steady stallion kicks the air in fright and Sir Gannehan makes more EKEL-EKEL calls to appease the terrified beast. The sparkles take shape to become a short and green-clad leprechaun with a face of an old woman with too much Botox. Sir Gannehan couldn't have been more repulsed at the sight.

"Oh, lucky Sir Gannehan of Featherdale! Thy presence honors me, the Leprechaun Kokodee! Dost thou chase for me lucky charms?" aired the leprechaun. The knight errant pulls his stallion back and shoots an irate countenance towards the small but proud creature now perched on one of the forest's towering arbors. "I should wish from thee a blessing if I was the solicitor."

"Thou tottering rascal!" cursed Sir Gannehan upon seeing the leprechaun. "Begone from our sight! Thy wiles are of the foulest nature. For want of a fraud, I could not request it from a more apt character!"

"Ah, thou art much too wise to beguile, and so my tricks are lost on thee," Kokodee responded. "However, art thou not in search of safe passage through the Forest of Trees before the night sky returns at its expected hour?"

"I seek no help from thee, accursed diglot on two legs! Dost thou forget who kneels to whom? Thy tongue doth best to speak as though thy fallow mind doth know the distinction!"

"Thou needest a dose of good humor, but I suspect that a swift route through this fear-inducing work of wood is not as pressing in thy mind. Dost thou care to join me for part of a complete breakfast?"

"How dare thou spendest my precious time on thy tomfoolery! What is thy word, so that my lover and I part from thee?"

At this point, our young mouser Günter, thoroughly affrighted from the journey through the ill-omened forest, rejoins the wayward but impeded travelers, waiting to ask for milk once the conversation between the knight and the—Yikes! That's one hideous leprechaun! Günter can't help but flinch with clenched teeth upon seeing the distorted figure on top of the tree.

The leprechaun Kokodee, however, will give no such parting as the knight errant requested. "I dare thee to a duel of riddles!"

"Pfft!" growled Sir Gannehan, "Thou art an abominable federation of body and members! What fanciful incantation must I pronounce to away thee? Ah! A swift greeting by my sword will do right to your illicit language!"

Amused with the knight errant's reaction, Kokodee makes a flowery gesture towards a nearby bush and says, "Bush, I command thee: Misundererstimate!"

At the leprechaun's word, the bush burns brightly and a voice not unlike that of Morgan Freeman comes through.

The stars ring for the future, but I ring for the past
the bars sing for the past, but I sing for the future

"Methinks it is a mighty miracle, a bush that speaks!" Amelda proclaimed at the sight. "What perplexing riddle, my most marvelous hero! Will you bravely take this leprechaun's challenge and expound your profound knowledge of the world! Oh please take it, my brave and wonderful hero!"

"Though your discernment is of great service to the chair in your future home, I fear this is but a ploy by the leprechaun Kokodee to deceive us." Then Sir Gannehan wrathfully turns to Kokodee. "What is thy interest in this action?"

"My only interest is in making thee an amusement to my person, and thou hast succeeded in fair measure," Kokodee replied.

"Well! I shalt amuse thee no more, for I will pronounce the answer to this riddle. It is but the swift stick of justice with game dice on one end, roasting over an open flame!"

"Curses!" Kokodee growled in defeat, "NO! Two out of three for thee!"

"No, most despicable fool! It is I who will now pronounce a riddle to thee:"

Birds fly but I run
Girls tell but I talk
Crime pays but I spend
Trees stand but I lie

This one proved somewhat perplexing for the leprechaun, but after some mulling, he comes up with the answer.

"Thou dost believe one can dupe me? Why it is the revolutionary masses of the vengeful proletariat mixed with ground nutmeg and shards of glass!"

"CURSES!" Sir Gannehan shouted in disgust.

For what it's worth, Günter, who has been paying attention to the showdown unfolding before him, puzzlingly asks beneath his breath, "Is not the answer something they call a politician? It sounds like the riddle was talking about a politician."

The leprechaun, however, could not help himself. The bush speaks once more:

I have words but I do not speak
I have leaves but I do not shade
I have spine but I do not curve
I have thoughts but I do not mind

After some thought, the knight errant was utterly stumped. He tried to hide his frustration from his face, but Kokodee was too observant to ignore the fact that Sir Gannehan cannot figure this one out. However, with the answer suddenly dawning in his mind, Günter excitedly jumps and waves his raised hands to gain attention, his portable mouse traps and equipment clacking along his tool belt.

"Ooh, ooh! I know I know! Es ist ein buch, a book!"

"Silence, mouser!" snapped Sir Gannehan in return. "I am concentrating on answering this most trivial riddle and thy clattering inhibits my thoughts!"

With that, Günter sadly calms down and stands quietly alongside the knight errant and his dame mounted on their horse.

After a moment, Kokodee announces, "Aha! Thou hast lost!"

"Dost not press me, thy palpable stench! Givest me more time!"

"But the time is past, and now I shall claim my prize!" With that, the leprechaun from the heights of his tree gestures towards Amelda, and suddenly a bubble wraps the fair maiden, raises her from the noble steed and whisks her away into the sky. Amelda is terrified; she tries to break through the now heavenly bubble but to no avail.

"Help! Somebody save me!" cried Amelda as she floats above the Forest of Trees to a point unknown.

Meanwhile, the leprechaun Kokodee suddenly teleports from his one tree onto another deeper into the dark forest, leaving a trail of sparkles behind. "Thou art brave to chase for these lucky charms?" mocked Kokodee as he again teleports into the black of the woods.

At this point, Sir Gannehan picks up Günter and mounts him onto the knight's horse.

"Thou meddlesome bother will be punished in due course. Yet my dame is taken and such is a more pressing matter. As such, thou shalt join me in my hunt for this most foul leprechaun, Gunther!" ("GUEN-tehr, my liege.") With that, Sir Gannehan defiantly airs his horse and takes chase into the forest. Günter, still wanting his milk for his Grape-Nuts, takes in another gulp of breath and tightly holds onto the brave and wonderful knight with one hand and his bowl of cereal with the other.

The knight errant keeps close to the ever disappearing and reappearing Kokodee even as the two head further into the foreboding forest. After following for what would seem for the reader like a few minutes at the DMV, Sir Gannehan finally comes across a not-too-high condominium complex with dated 1980s architecture, a building so complex, so dated, so '80s that upon entering one cannot help but hum a tune by Depeche Mode.

Sir Gannehan then lifts Günter with his hand off the horse and onto the ground.

"Thou shalt wait here, for thou art feeble against the most trifling of terrors!"

But Günter's face grew even paler than before. With eyes closed in anguish, the mouser clutched the pants of the knight errant still on his horse. "Please, kind knight! Abandon me not in this forest of hungry beasts, I plead to you!" Apparently, no terror is trifling in Günter's eyes and ears.

Exasperated, Sir Gannehan retorted, "Thou yellow-livered tot! How am I to save the maiden fair with you clasping onto my apparel!? Dost thou not take courage and fight like a prospective warrior instead of cowering in the face of danger?"

Hearing the knight errant's question, Günter then opened his eyes, still holding onto Sir Gannehan's pants. Somehow the thought of Sir Gannehan considering him as a prospective warrior quelled his fears to a point.

"My lord, how can I be the warrior my liege wishes me to be? No one sees your humble servant as anything more than a fearful mouser." Then, Günter looks up to the knight errant's face and adds, "Not even me."

Upon the sight of the hefty youth's dewing eyes, Sir Gannehan finds in himself a morsel of sympathy towards the lad and alights from his horse. He then reaches into his horse purse and pulls out a cloth. Sir Gannehan unfurled the cloth on the ground to display an array of weapons ranging from daggers to lances, from maces to crossbows.

"Dost choose a weapon!" Sir Gannehan ordered the mouser.

Günter, however, doesn't even know where to begin. There are so many weapons to choose from. All he can do is look around and gawk at his choices.

"Thou art a dawdling picker," Sir Gannehan snarled. "Dost elect a weapon, for time is hasteful!"

Pressured, Günter turned towards an arming sword that looked polished and in good shape, for what the mouser could make of it. After all, Günter knew nothing of weaponry, so he couldn't make a more informed decision. At last, Günter reached for the arming sword and raised it with his free hand. It proved quite heavy for the unfit teen, to the point where Günter had to point it down just to move with it.

"Now, I must charge to the top of the building before us to save the beautiful maiden. Dost wait here and slay the leprechaun should the creature attempt an escape… though it is my intention to dispatch this creature upon first sight and see that such escape does not happen. "

With that, the knight boldly charges with his horse into the complex, while Günter waits outside, saddened that he cannot join the knight in saving the most angelic Amelda. However, he still has his bowl of cereal at hand and he was getting hungry, so….

Once inside the complex, Sir Gannehan instantly runs into a bit of trouble: A long hall with multiple doors awaits him. To make things simple, Sir Gannehan continues down the hall until he reaches a set of stairs. The knight and his horse climb the stairs and meet two halls, to which Sir Gannehan continues down the hall to see a courtyard and more stairs, some going to a few floors, some going to many floors. He picks one and ascends to another floor, where the process begins again.

This goes on for several more DMV minutes. More halls, more courtyards, more stairs, some of the floors are terraced, an occasional cute neighbor, some doors are actually fire exits in tune with Snuggleville building codes, some stairs seem to skip floors entirely, some floors don't even show up… and this goes on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on….

…and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and onandon and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on…

… on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on….

…until he finally, finally makes it to the roof, where the leprechaun coolly waits, Above the roof, the hapless maiden remains trapped in the leprechaun's high-floating bubble. Strange that the building did not seem as tall when he was standing before it earlier.

"Help me, Sir Gannehan, help me!" cried Amelda as she screams for her dear life from within the confining sphere.

"Aha! So, dost thou desire my lucky charms? I dare thee to catch my 7 vitamins and minerals!"

"Dost thou wish a hasty end?" shouted Sir Gannehan. At that, the knight unsheathes and raises his sword, ready for combat. "In the name of Aslandia, I shall slay thee!"

Sir Gannehan takes a swipe with his suddenly glowing and sparkly sword, ostensibly to express his irritation towards the short and pruned figure. However, the leprechaun retaliates with an explosion of rainbows radiating from his forceful hands. Sir Gannehan then bends, writhes and twists in taking the hit. Then, Kokodee shoots another band of rainbows towards the knight. The bright rainbows blind our brave and wonderful knight errant as they wrap around our hero as in a coil.

"Oooh, it appears thou art not so bright and gay, do I assess?" the leprechaun rebukes to Sir Gannehan, who wrestles against his rainbow bounds to no avail.

However, with failure not in his interest, Sir Gannehan proclaims, "Your homosexual taunts are no match for my lack of irony!" The knight then sheaths his sword, turns to his horse and says: "Rehsuru biimu paawaa mehku appu!" Instantly, lasers shoot from the horse's robotic hoofs and blast the leprechaun with requisite explosions. Kokodee, however, remains resilient and now starts attacking the horse with his rainbow powers.

While this goes on, the elevator on the roof rings its bell and opens its doors to reveal Günter, who still holds his bowl of Grape-Nuts in one hand and his sword in the other. ("Wow, those fairy tales are true: Elevatorsreally exist!") He walks out of the conveyance but then stops in wide-eyed surprise upon sighting the fight between the horse and the leprechaun, with lasers and rainbows flying across the scene. Then he turns to see that both the knight below and the maiden above are trapped.

"My lord and mistress!" shouts Günter in shock as he stands in bafflement.

"Unbind me, thy unfledged peon!" Sir Gannehan commands to Günter.

The mouser obediently dashes to Sir Gannehan and tries to hurriedly tear off the rainbow ribbon, with no success. Even biting and chewing doesn't do anything.

"What puerile work! Dost use your sword!" Sir Gannehan sneers.

Günter looks around to see the sword in his own hand. The mouser tries to raise the sword but is too weak to hold it with just one hand. Günter fumbles it onto the roof floor, to which the weapon clangs with a distinct, steady and all-too-glorious ring.

Kokodee hears the resounding ring and turns to see the confused glandular figure picking up the sword with his free hand and with all of his strength. (Remember, Günter is still holding that bowl of Grape-Nuts in his other hand.)

"Gunther!" ("GUEN-tehr, my sovereign!") "What kind of strange and desperate work is this? Why these are not the methods of a prospective warrior! Raise the sword and sever these bonds!" Sir Gannehan barks once more.

Surprised that the experienced knight still calls him a prospective warrior, the mouser takes a dollop of encouragement, redoubles his strength and lifts the heavy sword from the ground. As he does so, however, Kokodee quickly conjures another rainbow attack towards the sword, pushing it off Günter's hands and into the back of the elevator shaft.

"What silly boy!" shouted the maniacal leprechaun. "Perhaps it is time for thee to taste my sugary strengths!" At that, the leprechaun splits into two leprechauns, with one chasing Günter while the other continuing his fight with the noble laser-shooting steed.

"Thou hast done me no fair service! Leprechauns duplicate when improperly provoked!" the knight errant angrily directs Günter. "Makest towards your sword, bumbling bairn!"

Even more startled at Sir Gannehan's irritation at him, Günter reactively bolts away from the leprechaun double, who continues to attack the poor youth with rainbows. With tears in his eyes, Günter makes it to the back of the elevator shaft. There, he sees his arming sword lying on the floor.

Short of breath but never short of common courtesy, Günter politely asks with a quiver in his voice, "Can you please stop fighting? He sounds like he doesn't like being trapped like that! Also, I need to ask Sir Gannehan for milch!"

But the second Kokodee will not have any of it and thunders towards the elevator shaft. Still hiding, Günter grips his belt in fear. Then suddenly he feels one of his spring traps usually reserved for mice. Then it hits him: Set up the spring trap to capture the leprechaun! He takes it out but realizes he cannot set the trap with just one hand. He eyes his bowl of Grape-Nuts in one hand.

Well, thought Günter, I want my Grape-Nuts, too… But if I trap the leprechaun, then I can pick up the sword… and use it to cut Sir Gannehan's rainbow bonds,… and then he'll be free to give me my milch for my meal! That makes me feel smart!

With the plan now set, Günter boldly sets down his bowl of cereal to free his other hand, sets up the trap and waits for Kokodee 2 to rush in.

Just as the duplicitous leprechaun sweeps into the back of the shaft… SNAP! The torrid creature jumps and screams in pain.

Günter wastes no time, takes the sword with both hands, runs out from behind the shaft and to the fettered warrior, raises the sword and slashes through the bounds, freeing Sir Gannehan. At that, the knight errant quickly removes his own sword from its scabbard and whistles for his horse, which turns to his rider even as he continues fighting with Kokodee 1.

Meanwhile, Kokodee 2 pronounces the chant, "Windmills are the breath of the world!" He shoots a beam of colorful light towards the mouse trap ensnaring his foot, and the trap is transformed into a random and harmless woodland creature.

Sir Gannehan then pronounces an incantation, "Windmills are the breath of the world!" With a beam of light, the noble steed gallops towards his brave and wonderful rider. Sir Gannehan mounts the horse and makes a sky-high leap towards the floating Amelda, complete with appropriate sound effects. The knight slashes through the bubble with his sword, grabs the shaken bride by his arm and drops squarely onto the back of his serviceable stallion and onto the roof floor.

"Oh, Sir Gannehan, you saved me!" said Amelda with lilting gratitude.

"Now, we must away through this wretched construction and return to our merry path!" Sir Gannehan then directs his most trusted equine creature through the stairwell from whence they came and into the labyrinth of stairs and floors that he previously ventured through.

While all of that happens, Günter remains on the roof and sees that both Kokodees are focused on the portly teen. They shoot a pair of rainbows, to which Günter dodges and again makes his way towards the back of the shaft, where his bowl of Grape-Nuts awaits.

Thinking that the mouser is cornered, the two Kokodees creep towards the shaft and slyly speak, "Come out come out my cowardly clod!"

Terrified and out of ideas, Günter drops the heavy sword, grabs some Grape-Nuts from the bowl on the ground, emerges from behind the shaft and throws the cereal in hand towards the leprechauns, hitting both creatures.

At that, Kokodee 1 and 2 instantly stop and writhe in agony. "Aaaaah! Healthy whole-grain cereal! My one weakness!" The leprechauns start thrashing across the roof as though in a seizure. Even more terrified of the leprechaun's breakdown than of his attacks, Günter jumps back to his hiding spot, dropping his bowl in the process.

Soon the two leprechauns get a grip on themselves and again march towards the large and shaken young man behind the shaft, shooting some rainbows to scare our nominal hero. However, while hiding, the gears in Günter's head again start turning: They felt pain when I threw that healthy cereal at them, he thought. The cereal actually hurts them!

With his mind suddenly blown at this dawning realization, Günter again picks up his bowl of Grape-Nuts, pops just ever so slightly out from behind the shaft and again pelts the leprechauns with the cereal. As he does, the leprechaun's rainbow attacks dissipate. Somewhat more emboldened, Günter further emerges from the shaft and throws a barrage of Grape-Nuts to cancel out Kokodee's attacks. Further encouraged by his own discovery and its efficacy, Günter exits from behind the shaft and chucks enough of the cereal to hit the leprechauns' bodies, to which the two Kokodees plead for their lives at every touch of those unsavory projectiles.

With the continued pelting from our chunky mouser, the leprechauns start burning and morphing, crying in pain until both turn into a single, fully inanimate box of marshmallow cereal. Günter then approaches the box of cereal and opens it to reveal its contents. He dumps the Grape-Nuts remaining in his bowl and pours some of the marshmallow cereal in their stead. The blonde teen tastes the contents and declares with no hint of arrogance, "Mmm, zucker! He was magically delicious."

Satisfied of this one good turn in his life, after so many disappointments, Günter takes the bowl and the box and enters the elevator.

Meanwhile, Sir Gannehan, Amelda and their horse slog their way back down to the ground floor and make their exit out of that ever-so-'80s condominium complex. Undoubtedly they had quite an adventure through the convolution, but this author is too tired to expound. Surely enough, Günter awaits them outside, having saved some time by using the elevator.

"Uhm, my master," Günter meekly approached the knight errant and tugged him by his mail, "Could I have some milch?"

"Thou shalt have copious pours of liquid dairy once we enter the next town, where I shall earnestly attend to your questionable warring methods. Until then, let us ride!"

"Oh Sir Gannehan, so brave and wonderful!" Amelda responded as their steadfast beast takes an air and starts his gait through the dark wood before them. (Much interested in having some milk in his cereal, Günter shoves the bowl into the cereal box, grabs the horse by the tail and hitches himself with the rest of the gang.) With that, our adventurous travelers gallop through the Forest of Trees, using the horse's eye lights to show the way. Günter gets whipped hither and thither as he continues grabbing the horse's tail, holding fast to his well-won box of sweet cereal.

So what awaits our knight errant and his most adorable damsel (and our bumbling companion who is, out of nowhere, a prospective warrior per Sir Gannehan's expressions) as they head towards their first town in the County Snuggleville? Will Sir Gannehan finally reach the County Fluffington to amass his army for Valverdia? Will Amelda once again require the brave and wonderful knight errand's services to escape from the clutches of our next zealous villain? Will Günter get some milch for his cereal? Only time will tell, time that is as abundant as one possesses when waiting in line at the DMV.