Tiny Hamburgers or Bust!
In this installment:
- Unholy abominations!
- Inappropriate nudity!
- Stoner jokes!
- The first female speaking role in this story!
All this and more, in: Let's Read Adventurers Wanted!
Chapter 7: The White Tower
Another reason for taking a break: This is a long freaking chapter.
Thankfully, it is only slightly less eventful than the annual Easy Chair, Love Seat, and Recliner Convention.
So our company comes to a three-way fork in the road. They decide to screw the whole "less traveled by" business, and go to the White Tower, where the Oracle lives. Of course
she lives in a snow-white magical tower! Of course, we don't know if this is the same oracle who made !~*THE PROPHECY*~! about Alex, but eh, whatever. Strangely, they can get to the oracle by taking either the East or
north forks. I guess they both merge back into the magical freeway.
Strangely, the Adventurer's Handbook—which is described as a "slim volume," remember—apparently knows exactly this road
, and knows it well enough to say "South is safer!" I got the impression here that adventurers go across many different lands. Apparently, though, this book knows Eviltopia in especial
However, Alex wants to know how far it is to the White Tower. Andy's answer: "It depends! Base on Wheels
, yo! Some say she only lets you in if she likes you!"
So... all that stuff about the east or north road potentially leading to it is total bunk,
then, because the tower could be anywhere?
Solid! Alex thinks they'll find it, though, and admits he is partially motivated by a desire to see some people who don't smell like gym socks and horses.
For which the others berate him. Apparently, adventurers aren't supposed to need
other people, or see cities, or even have fun, because most adventures are boring. I agree with the concept (adventures can be mundane), but seriously—making fun of him for wanting social interaction?
Outside of your
cardboard personalities? C'mon, guys!
All is quickly forgotten, though, after the others tell stories over dinner! Dwarfbeard has a good one, as does Tayo. This prompts Alex to wonder about Tayo's continuous silence and gloomy attitude.
Gee; you could've fooled me. Every time he appears on the page, it seems he doesn't shut up!
I mean, poor Dwarfaxe Jr.'s barely had like three lines! Maybe me and this author just have different definitions of "brooding and silent."
So everyone goes to bed; Alex wakes up the next morning, and—
Oh, creebus. I'd forgotten about this part. Let me give you the author's description of the beast Alex wakes to find lurking on his chest:
Standing on his blankets was a strange-looking creature. It was the size and shape of a bowling pin, but bright yellow, with a red stripe zigzagging around its middle. It had a single bird-like leg.
Um, yeah, story, what is this?
"Oh, that," said Thrang. ..."It's a geeb, of course. Well, a bottle-necked geeb to be precise. Wonderful creatures."
It can answer questions, where "Ding" means yes and "Honk" means no. "Ding" transforms its head (I guess the top part of the "pin") into a bell, while "honk" transforms it into... a bicycle horn.
...Welcome to our story's slightly malformed and rather unsettling attempt at whimsy.
Here's the Thing About Fantasy(TM):
Look, the genre is called "fantasy." That tells you right off the bat that you have some leeway when it comes to reality. But when it comes to fantastical elements, you have to apply them wisely. Even if they are fantastical,
they still must feel natural in their setting.
They must also have a sense of consistency;
no matter how wacky they are, they still have to make a kind of sense, again with relevance to their setting, and shouldn't feel "forced."
This thing breaks both of those rules.
Up until now, this story has been a very typical fantasy, relying on classical fantasy pieces and themes to build its world. Even if it isn't a very creative world, by our standards, it is still a built world. Everything we've seen so far suggests that this is a very typical D&D, Lord of the Rings
style swords-and-sorcery world. If you suddenly toss in a candy-colored, silly-sound-making, anachronistically-morphing bird creature of some kind, it is going to fell abrupt and out of left field. It looks and sounds like a refugee from a Looney Toons cartoon, and does not belong in this very conventional fantasy universe.
The second problem is that it definitely feels like it's trying too hard. To go back to the Looney Toons, it feels like it's trying to emulate the look and style of the Dodo, but even by fantasy standards, it seems forced. A bicycle horn? That does not seem like an element that would exist in this world.
I am probably supposed to laugh and be amused at the curiousness of this creature. As it is, I want to scoop it up and drop it back in the What Do You Mean, It Wasn't Made on Drugs?
kid story it originally came from, because this poor little blighter is more lost than a castaway in purgatory.
Despite obviously having wandered in from a different book, it has a message for our heroes. (Assumed contents: "Psst! Hey, Alex! You seem like a nice kid, but your story looks like it's going pear-shaped. Want to join me in a more interesting one? I can get you a nice background role, and I promise you won't be killed off in the climax. Sincerely, Harry.") Rather than just ask the bowling pin for the message, they go through a long schpiel about asking him who the message is for, and seem shocked when—surprise surprise!—it's for Alex.
You have no call to be surprised about anything pertaining to yourself, Alex. You warp this world around you as you go.
"A thin hole like a mouth appeared in the middle of the geeb"
(trying to picture that description is profoundly unsettling) and it spews and evelope at Alex. Dwarfbeard tells him to pay it. He chucks a gem at the geeb, which it catches in midair—with what? The tiny hole-mouth?—and barfs change—in gold coins!—at Alex's feet.
It's a fance-pantsy message from—dun dun dun!
—The Oracle of the White Tower! Why, the one they were just going to see!
How convenient! In fact, she's inviting them to lunch in two day's time.
Mmm... Think she'll have sliders?
Dwarfbeard tells Alex, "Ohyah, sure, say yes, nobody else will care" and Alex is all like "Uh OK if you say so." So he attemps to write the Oracle back:
I am pleased to accept your invitation and am confident the rest of the company will accept as well.
Arconn, who is naturally curious, comes over to check this out, and scoffs at the letter. Scoffs, I say! Why, that's no good at all!
So he rewrites the letter to be more "appropriate!" And in this case, "More appropriate" means... uh, thesaurus abuse?
I am honored at your favor and pleased to accept your kind invitation. I am confident my companions will feel as honored and pleased as I do.
Is this like the Japanese custom of refusing presents/drinks once or twice before accepting? Because from what I can see, all Arconn did is stuff more words in there.
The party is naturally compliant. Detours schetours! Guys, we're goin' to White Tower!
"At the very least, we will have a grand meal."
Because man, have they got the munchies somethin' fierce.
On the way there, the team discusses on the nature of the White Oracle, who is the subject of many rumors and much scuttlebutt in the Adventurer's Handbook.
And lo! There it is! A great white tower in a great, not-white valley, guarded by a great white shark. ...Or maybe not the shark part. A rider with a green banner comes up to meet them, and tells them the lady has been preparing for their arrival. Lucky them! He leads them to her gardens (those move with the tower? Wow; lady's got talent) and Alex gets a weird tingling feeling
in his arms.
The rider shows them to her guest houses, which are nice, small, neat little places. And her stables, so yay, even Pretty Pony gets to sleep in comfort! (We also get a moment where Alex stops to tell her she's a clever horse, though this is an Informed Conversation
. I just can't help but picture him going, "Clever girl...
They enter the second house, and hello! Banquet!
"The Oracle knows the way to a man's heart," Skeld complimented, piling food on his plate."
"Duude, this Oracle's got some gooood stuff,
man. Like, pass the ketchup, Dwarfdude!"
Dwarfbeard and Dwarfaxe Jr.:
Oh, and guess what? These are just the appetizers!
Before they have that, they get to bathe!
One of the other houses is a bathhouse, so in they get. There are changing rooms, but the tubs themselves are separated by... walls. Just walls. No doors or anything, since the adventures still want to talk
when they're bathing, of course!
So... there are rooms to get undressed
in, but... the tubs are just sitting there? The characters are all just kind of... standing around next to each other naked? And from the sound of things, the tubs are arranged in sort of a circular shape, so... Even in the water, the person across from you gets a free show?
I know I've made jokes about the homoerotic nature of this getup before, but... dayum.
This basically just sits there and screams, "PEDERASTS WELCOME." And given the nature of Alex, I'm not sure he's capable of giving his informed consent to... well, anything.
This story should be rated NC-17, for "Needlessly Creepy Times 17."
Tayo naturally wants to know why the Oracle is being so gosh-darned nice. Alex dresses in a costume that's more or less a ripoff of Link's
, while Dwarfbeard basically tells Tayo to shush and not look a gift horse in the mouth.
They are greeted by a servant of the Oracle's—a young woman.
HOLY COW! SOUND THE FEMALARMS! A WOMAN WITH A SPEAKING ROLE!
Aside from Ponylove, this would be the first bona fide female presence in this story. And only 140 pages in!
She leads them to the Oracle's dining hall, and seats Alex right next to the Oracle, even closer than Olaf Leaderson!
Gasp of gasps! ...In a story with more subtlety than this. In this one, however, Alex's specialness is handed to us with all grace and adroitness of a falling barrel of bricks.
The Oracle (dark hair, pale skin, pure white dress, check and check and check) intorduces herself as Iownan, Oracle of the White Tower. But tonight, merely your gracious hostess!
She reveals why she invited them here: She's been watching them. All of them. Everywhere.
And, goody-goody, Alex has the potential to be a true wizard! And a wizard deserves respect. But! She says. She has a favor to ask.
It is a favor! A big favor! An important favor. Oh, but they don't have to do it! But it would be really nice if they did. It sure is a favor! She dances around the subject of asking them to do a favor for her so long before finally telling them: Even though she herself brought it up,
she isn't going to tell them what it is until tomorrow.
What a rip.
We learn that the inside of the tower changes too (naturally
) as Alex leaves to go pet Most Precious Ponykins before going beddy-by.
But just as he's about to have a tender moment with his One True Love, Iownam (who is always looking over you. Always.
) sneaks up on him!
There is some blisteringly stupid dialogue here where Alex ceases to talk like a real human being—or at least, one from Earth—and there's sadly too much to transcribe. To sum it up, Iownam asks him why he's not going to sleep.
Alex's reponse: He's just so confused!
...Buddy, we all are. We all are.
For those of you scratching your head at some of the jokes in this installment, educate yourself.