He walks into the hospital room. His daughter lays motionless in the hospital bed, looking like Darth Vader – “more machine than man”. She is attached to a heart monitor which emits a steady beep, an IV hooked up to her arm, and a ventilator which hisses as it blows oxygen into her lungs.
The sight causes the anger and rage her father had been feeling to dissipate and is replaced by a cloud of guilt and sorrow.
Unable to look at his debilitated daughter, Simon Sparrow focuses on the flowers and cards decorating the room. A get well card from Madison and Jace. A flower arrangement from Connie (a.k.a. The Wabid Wabbit). A floral wreath with a large silver ribbon that reads “GET WELL SOON” sits in a corner on a stand. The accompanying card reads “DON’T GO INTO THE LIGHT, ‘THE GODFATHER’ DON MARIO”. He rummages through the other gifts – more flowers, a couple of stuffed bears, and a few cards carefully displayed on a table near the window, all from people he has never met.
He feels a twinge of disappointment that there was not more of a turnout from his side of the coin. Not that this was a competition, but if it were, Gary and Linda would have blown him out of the water with a nuclear torpedo.
He turns back towards Gilda, taking each step almost to the beat of the beeping heart monitor.
The doctors, Dr. Van Houten (his first name was Harold, not Milhouse) to be exact, explained that the surgery for the gunshot wound was a success but the loss of blood caused her to have a stroke which, in turn, has placed her into a coma. The doctor gives her a one in seven shot to come out of it. But even then, they cannot speculate what, if any, damage there is to the brain.
Linda and Gary have been to see her at least four or five times (which allowed them to build a rapport with Dr. Van Houten, unlike him) but because Gary is a bitching and moaning little twat and Linda is a malignant bitch, Simon got the brunt of the consequences for their altercation.
He reminds himself that Linda is Gilda’s mother. She has the right to be angry just like he does. It is easier to put the blame on each other when they are in the same room. Simon is present, not the tweaker rich kid who pulled the trigger, which makes him the easy target.
He takes a seat in the cheap, bright orange upholstered chair with the bright yellow “leather” cushion. It’s a relic from the seventies. The sound of the air “farting” out of the cushion is heard. Under any other circumstances he would inquire, quite accusingly, “Who cut the cheese?”
In front of him, Simon does not see a twenty-four year old stuntwoman and former HOW wrestler, he sees the seven year old on the videotape in the depths of his underground Montana bunker that asks her mother to watch her dance, innocent to the evils of the cult her mother raised her in.
He takes her hand and gives it a comfortable squeeze, part of him hoping she will squeeze back.
They say people in comas respond to familiar voices. Dr. Van Houten did not seem to ascribe to that theory. He said in a coldly clinical tone that there is no medical evidence to support that theory, but he does not necessarily disbelief it either. He did not sound convincing. It was as if he wanted to say “Go ahead, waste your time with that. It’s not gonna help, but knock yourself if you want to believe that poppycock.”
Simon wants to say something poignant or meaningful. He desperately wants to find those magic words that will wake her up. Nothing comes to him.
After struggling with what he should say, in a calm and comforting tone, her hand in his, he decides to tell his daughter a story.
The Land of High Octania was in a state of turmoil. Several weeks prior, the Mad King Lee, a tyrant who kept the eyeballs of his fallen enemies in a jar next to his bed, was deemed unfit to rule by his advisors due to a rather deadly case of syphilis. It had been assumed that his son would take his rightful place as heir to the kingdom.
Unfortunately, unbeknownst to all, his brother, Oliver, whom the Mad King had beheaded as a threat to his throne years prior, had been resurrected by a group of necromancers. Oliver rode into town on his noble steed, Besty, and announced his ascension to the throne much to the delight of the peasants.
After all, King Oliver would certainly not be as ruthless or cold as Mad King Lee.
King Oliver, in his first address to his new kingdom, proclaimed that he would invite the greatest warriors of High Octania to a battle to the death! The last man standing would not only be deemed Champion of the Kingdom which came with riches beyond their imagination but they would also be named as the true heir of the throne.
The peasants were enthusiastic! There were rumors and speculation abound! One such rumor came about after hearing that Kostoff the Feared emerging from his banishment and defeating the dreaded Vohaul – The Death Bringing Minotaur, that he would be one of the champions, especially since he and the Mad King Lee had a rather bloody history together.
Alas, that was not to be.
Each day, King Oliver would stand on his balcony, the sunlight reflecting off of his gold crown, and announce the participants to this fight to the death.
On the first day, to no one’s surprise, he announced that the Son of the Mad King, Prince Michael the Saint would compete.
When people uttered the name “Prince Michael the Saint”, they did so in one of two ways. To his fans, it was said with pride and adoration. To his detractors, it was said with sarcasm and derision.
Prince Michael the Saint’s exploits have been sung by bards and minstrels throughout the land, not just in High Octania. His fame had reached new heights once news of his epic battle with the Evil Minister, Max, the deranged high priest who attempted to summon the demon Kael to the realm – it had been said that once Kael had been summoned, his presence would suck the lifeforce out of every living thing on the planet until became a dry, deserted wasteland. Once Prince Michael the Saint defeated the Evil Minister and prevented the demon Kael from rising, he became a legend.
The majority idolized him and sang his praises.
However, behind closed doors and out of the public eye Michael the Saint was anything but. In hushed tones throughout the land of High Octania, rumors of his sadism ran rampant — burning busty wenches, beheading puppies, forcing his servants to torture one another while he watched — in hushed tones they would refer to him as Michael the Depraved or The Depraved One. There was a story that he heard someone call him “depraved” and promptly flayed the skin from their body and had it made into a pair of gloves.
On the second day, King Oliver announced the second entrant….
Sir Cecil the Gentleman. The bastard child of a High Octavian lord, he grew up to be Prince Michael’s number two and personal genitalia washer. Sir Cecil and Prince Michael had pledged loyalty to one another at a young age. Prince Michael loved having a “yes man”. And Sir Cecil loved the wealth and privilege that being Prince Michael’s number two brought. That is not to say that Sir Cecil was a weak swordsman, he is considered the best in the land, he would tell you so any chance he gets. But more importantly, Sir Cecil would be the one to get his hands dirty when the Prince could not be bothered.
On day three, King Oliver emerged and stated that the third entrant would be…..
Clay the Behemoth. Allegedly the child of a snow giant and a widowed pig farmer, Clay was a towering, lumbering man with a reputation of ripping heads off of wolves, riding a lion during a joust, besting a centaur in a foot race, and, his biggest accomplishment, defeating a dragon with his bare hands. He was a champion of the people, as he too was one of them, a commoner with meager beginnings who battled in their name. It was said that Clay the Behemoth’s strength and prowess with the battleaxe exceeded Prince Michael’s. So incensed was the Prince of this blasphemy against his name, he had Sir Cecil ambush him and cowardly break his arm. Clay the Behemoth was told that he could not wield a battle axe again. But his anger and hatred fueled him to prove his doubters wrong. And he vowed he would split the skull of Prince Michael. The beggars and farmers rejoiced but no one else.
On day four, King Oliver announced his fourth entrant….
Jace the Handsome. Jace’s adventures were renown. He bedded seventy-two virgins at the Shrine of Madisonia. He led the quest for the Silver Gauntlets of Wo’amsee. He defeated the succubus E’li from swallowing the souls of maidens fair. The people were enamored with him, but worried that for all of his accomplishments, he would meet his bloody end in this contest. But he was a confident, almost cocky sort, believing he was destined for greater things. With the lure of great power and his desire to be King of Everything….there was no way he could lose. It was, after all, his destiny.
On the fifth day King Oliver shocked the land with the fifth competitor for this battle to the death….
Jeffrey the Eunuch. As a young man, as the story is told, his genitals were bitten off by a duck. The word spread all across the small fishing village where he was raised and the humiliation caused a psychotic break. The embodiment of human malevolence, he murdered men and women with impunity. Jealous that the men could sire offspring and hatred that he could not share a bed with the women.
On the day of the announcement, he had murdered one hundred and thirty-three people.
Whilst the subjects of the kingdom were confused by the Eunuch’s inclusion in the contest, King Oliver had an ulterior motive. A win-win scenario. The King believed that the only man who could slaughter Prince Michael was someone as vicious and vile as the Eunuch. Getting rid of Prince Michael would silence those who believed he was the one true heir. On the other hand, Prince Michael would be the most likely person to kill the Eunuch and end his murder spree.
And should Jeffrey the Eunuch win it all? The commoners would not stand for it, so he planned on having his best archers at the ready to take the psychopath out.
By day six, the word had spread of this battle and, standing above nearly a thousand people, King Oliver stated that the next participant invited was…..
Conor the Alchemist, a name he was given whilst in the Dominion of Porcini and accidentally discovered that by combining a mushroom and a glowing flower, he could temporarily shoot fireballs from his hands. He would be the youngest and least experienced warrior invited but should not be underestimated.
Conor wanders from realm to realm with his mute ogre and bodyguard, Yobemag, seeking new foes and battles. It was said that when you fight Conor, you will gain the upperhand early, but what he is actually doing is sizing you up, finding your vulnerabilities, and just when you think you have the fight won, he unleashes an onslaught you are unprepared to match.
Conor does not fight for a cause or glory. Each opponent is a puzzle for him to solve, he treats violence as a game. The end justifies the means for him. Conor knew the stakes going into this bloodbath, but for him, the crown and riches were secondary to what he would deem the ultimate puzzle….becoming victorious over six of the greatest warriors in the land.
On the seventh, and final day, King Oliver looked down at the crowd which was becoming more bloodthirsty by the day, and listed the final invitee of this brutal match…..
Jatticus the Jester. Once a soldier in the Mad King’s Army, he gained respect from the Mad King and Jatticus pledged his fealty towards the Mad King. His bitter conflict with Kostoff the Feared’s Dark Legion made him immortal in the minds of the High Octanians, especially through his numerous victories over the wicked Wing of Dark – a vile winged bat-like creature with razor sharp claws, a scorpion’s tale, and laserbeam eyes. But that is a story for another time.
The point is, Jatticus became High Octania’s champion and the Wing of Dark ended up selling horses with goat horns glued on their heads and claimed they were unicorns.
Jatticus eventually began to lose favor with the Mad King especially with the rise of Prince Michael who likely poisoned the Mad King’s affection for Jatticus with his lies and the Mad King made Jatticus his jester. A thankless job but it had some benefits, he was given access to the Royal Physician – Doctor Keller.
But eventually, Jatticus decided that he no longer wanted to be a joke or be forced to dance around like a fool…because he couldn’t dance, which caused people like Lord John the Skeleton and Jiles, the Earl of Cancerberry to mock and throw turkey bones at him. The degradation caused him to drink a bit too much mead to the point where he would get drunk….the point is he didn’t like who he was, so he respectfully left the castle and retired to a small cottage in the country. Where he blissfully lived in solitude.
Accepting this challenge would not have even crossed his mind until he found out he had a daughter….a daughter he never knew he had. Her mother and Jatticus had a dalliance twenty-plus years prior during one successful military campaign against the Dark Legion. Jatticus tried to find her again, a week later, but, alas, she was gone. Kidnapped by deranged carrot farmers that worshipped the vile, foul, deceitful, diarrhea inducing goddess of bile, Bobadook Scary.
Jatticus the Jester’s daughter lived with him for a time. Whilst out hunting, as she had become proficient with a crossbow, she was shot in the leg with a poisoned arrow. The poor, commoner physicians stated that it was a poison found from the legendary Bobby Dean Tree, a tree whose fruit, if ingested, will cause your organs to slowly rot and decay over the course of thirty days causing a most painful and violent death.
The only one who could help was Doctor Keller, for he knew where to go to reverse the effects of the poison. But he sees no one unless they lived inside the castle.
Therefore, to save his daughter, he decided to enter the fray.
The battle royal to the death was set to take place in a fortnight.
Clay the Behemoth travelled to the castle of High Octania by taking the most dangerous route! He battled the evil Cyclops, Buddy Doozer….he took on a trio of werelizards….he killed a mutated thirty foot tall piranha and ate it for breakfast….his journey was fraught with immense challenges and overcame them all…to the poor, he was their folk hero.
Jace the Handsome, he took a carriage to the castle, stopping every so often to brawl with a loudmouthed hooligan, kick their ass, sleep with their lass, usually making the ones that he leaves barely conscious watch as he…we get into a bit of a ratings issue when it comes to Jace the Handsome’s exploits. Let’s just say, he kicks asses and bangs lasses.
Meanwhile, Prince Michael and Sir Cecil concoct a rather devious scheme to undermine the entire competition. They agreed that should either of them win, they will have the necromancers resurrect the other in an effort to cheat death and really stick it to King Oliver. It is here, in fact, we learn that Prince Michael had his personal guard, affectionately known as “The Sentries of Doom” to secure some of the Bobby Dean fruit and test it. Firing an arrow at an unsuspecting hunter. He has had his guards monitor the progress of the poor, dying young woman.
Prince Michael boastfully tells Cecil of his plan to have the Sentries of Doom ambush Jeffrey the Eunuch with an array of Bobby Dean poisoned arrows in effort to significantly weaken the murderous monster.
Once armed with this knowledge, Sir Cecil begins to implement a strategy of his own. By now, it has been known that the hunter that was poisoned was Jatticus the Jester’s daughter. Sir Cecil has his personal servant deliver a message to Jatticus with this news, thus betraying the Prince, a man he had looked up to almost as a deity.
As Sir Cecil’s servant leaves with the message to Jatticus, Conor has begun his trek to the castle using a path with obstacles and creatures that will be initially easy to beat and then steadily get more and more difficult the closer he gets to the castle…initially battling the Sloth Beetle of the Dooze and eventually duelling with David the Black Knight of Falling Leaves. Conor would be successful in all battles and make it to the castle.
Jeffrey the Eunuch, on the other hand, did not give a rat’s rectum as to what or whom he encountered on his journey. They all ended up dead. Until he encountered the contingent of Sentries who had hoped to get the drop on the Eunuch. A flurry of arrows came from all directions, the Eunuch spun, crouched, jumped and evaded them all. The Sentries came out and Jeffrey beheaded all but one. As he loomed over the wounded sentry, he brought his greatsword above his head, the sentry grabbed one of the poisoned arrows laying on the ground and stabbed the Eunuch in his calf.
The pain shot through Eunuch’s leg and brought the greatsword down onto the head of the sentry, crushing his skull. Enraged, he continued to hack and chop at the sentry until he was nothing but a gloopy pile of minced flesh and gore. Looking down at the Prince’s Coat-of-Arms on the fallen soldiers around him, he vowed vengeance.
As the day of the battle approached, Jatticus received the anonymous letter implicating the “saintly” Prince. Jatticus looked at his daughter, whose face had become pale and white. Her body reeking of sweat and impending death. He knew in a matter of days she would be dead unless he won the competition.
But if Jatticus failed, he would make sure that he brings the Prince with him to the gates of the Underworld. He pulled out his chest and opened it. Inside, he pulled out his steel, spiked mace with the small head of a chicken on it, the same mace he used to defeat Trent, the Warlock of Chronic Reef who attempted to raise man-eating plants in an effort to rule the world.
With his mace in hand, which he called Paco, he exited his cottage and headed towards the castle.
It was the day of the battle. Thousands filled the Coliseum to watch these warriors battle to the death. The rabble was yelling and screaming profanities, desperate for their bloodlust to be satiated.
From his balcony, King Oliver rose to his feet and introduced the combatants one by one….
Prince Michael the Saint!
Sir Cecil the Gentleman!
Clay the Behemoth!
Jace the Handsome!
Conor the Alchemist!
Jeffrey the Eunuch!
Jatticus the Jester!
The Prince receiving the largest reaction, by far.
King Oliver goes over the rules, a fight to the death, the winner becomes the heir to the throne, etcetera. His Highness looks at the crowd with his hand raised.
Jeffrey, looking a little unwell, sweating and shaking, eyes the Prince.
Sir Cecil, his sword, Farthington, in his hand, darts his eyes from one opponent to another.
Jatticus eyes the Prince, gripping Paco, seething, thinking of his daughter dying.
Jace eyes the ladies in the crowd, nodding at them and arrogantly posing.
Conor takes a step backwards, clearly taking a more wait and see approach.
King Oliver drops his hand and says “BEGIN!”
And if you want to know what happens, all you have to do is wake up.
Wake up, Gildy.
Please wake up….
::::Simon Sparrow weeps next to Gilda, pleading with her to wake up. She needs to wake up. As he begs his daughter to come out of the coma, he knows that one hundred feet away Linda and Gary are meeting with Doctor Van Houten in his office with the hospital’s attorneys discussing an end of life decision. END SCENE.::::