Saturday, October 17, 2009

Jane the Phoole's Collection of Barbarian Hordes

(I originally clickety-clacked this as a response on a thread over at the Bristol Discussion Board, , but I had so much fun composing it I thought I'd share it over here. It doesn't appear that I have previously disclosed anything on this blague regarding my modest collection of Barbarian Hordes, which is what I collected before I took up collecting the words "bad monkey" in foreign languages. Enjoy!)

At the moment I only really have two: Dark Cloud and their tiny-but-tenacious rival, the Nation of Ukhatar.

It all started two years ago when a Fantastickal whispered, ethereally (i.e. told me backstage), "There are some people in the parade who don't yell 'God Save the Queen.' It sounds like they're yelling something like 'All Hail Dark Cloud.'" I went and found the fellows, and offered to bribe them (some pittance, really; they were very acquiescent and actually quite nice and reasonable) if they'd say "All Hail Jane the Phoole" during the parade ten times instead of "All Hail Dark Cloud."

Their King, His Most Royal Majesty King Zavier, protested, "But we only say it twelve times overall!"

I suggested they say it 15 times, and make 10 of those "All Hail Jane the Phoole!"

Next day, reports came in that they were saying "All Hail Jane the Phoole!" all throughout the parade. So I made it my custom to hail them whenever I encountered them - "All Hail Dark Cloud!" - and they would thunder in response, "All Hail Jane the Phoole!", which suited me PERFECTLY.

This custom continues to this very day. In fact I look forward to visiting them at TRF some day to see if the allegiance survives the distance!

Meanwhile, shortly after acquiring Dark Cloud as my first Barbarian Horde, I was on my way down to the Priory at day's end to attend Her Grace during Audience when I encountered three guys on a bench near Grandmother Cob's web, all dressed in armor that looked very much like the kind purveyed by King Zavier and his Horde. So I greeted them: "All Hail Dark Cloud!"

They sneered and hissed, "We SPIT on Dark Cloud! We are their sworn enemies and will vanquish them in battle!"

Awkward! A gaffe of INTERNATIONAL proportions. I coughed politely, squirmed, and tried to amend: "Crying your most earnest and heartfelt pardons, I beg your forgiveness, noble guests. I am, after all, an idiot. Whom am I pleased and humbled here to greet?"

They bellowed, "We are the Nation of Ukhatar!"

I blinked. (You may imagine a "plink-plink" sound.) Then, smiling expansively, "Well met, my Lords. And you are the whole Nation of Ukhatar, the three of you gentlemen?"

They looked at me, then at one another, then at me. "We...ARE the Nation of Ukhatar!"

"Ah." I paused, thinking how well it would go over if I asked them how their rate of reproduction fared, given that there are three of them, and they're all butch-ish blokes, but I decided that could wait. While I considered, I noted the middle one of them wore a silver, pointy, rather twisty and scary crown. "And might it be gently and non-threateningly assumed that I am addressing none other than His Most Royal Majesty, the King of Ukhatar?"

The crowny chap sat up a bit taller. "I AM the King of Ukhatar!" His men grunted happy assent.

"Excellent, Your Majesty. And how are you called?"

They looked at me.

I entreated, "I mean, Your Grace, how shall I address Your Majesty?"

They kept looking at me. One of the men inclined his head slightly to the left.

I smiled kindly. "I am called JANE the Phoole, Queen of Jesters and Jester to Her Majesty, Queen ELIZABETH, Queen of England, Ireland, Wales, France, the Virginias et. al. And Your Majesty is King...?" I leaned forward, hopeful, hands spread wide.

They all exchanged looks again, and then His Majesty thundered, "I am the KING of UKHATAR!"

"I thank you, your Grace, for your patience with my stupidity and dwarfish scope of perception." I offered then to act as emissary from England to Ukhatar, but that seemed to puzzle and upset them only slightly more, so I reverted to the thesis of the entire meeting: " war with Dark Cloud, are you? They your neighbors or something?" I entertained myself momentarily by imagining Dark Cloud as this vast, bleak, stepped blight of a country, haunted and windy and barren, with twisted dark dead trees and scorched fortresses and violated graves and a big pointy wall around it, and Ukhatar being these three guys poinking li'l flaming arrows against the battlements.

As could be predicted, they simply bellowed, "We are the SWORN ENEMIES of Dark Cloud!"

I sighed, realizing I wasn't going to draw them off of their script. "Look, Your Majesty, I have a lifetime of experience in International Espionage. If you want to work toward peace, or if you need help fighting, I'm really acquainted with those Dark Cloud fellows, so, you know, let me know. God be with Your Majesty; I must away to Her Grace; well met..." and I bowed and scooted away. As I descended the hill I heard them jostle each other and say, "We are the Nation of Ukhatar!"

The next weekend, I addressed myself to King Zavier. "Your Majesty, I hear you're at war!"

He laughed, then stopped. "Huh?"

"With the Nation of Ukhatar. Your sworn enemies."

He squinted, then rumbled, in his gruff Texan baritone, "Jane, you're not making any sense. I hear you usually don't, but -- what?"

I explained about the guys and their King and their phrases, and King Zavier stroked his beard and looked thoughtful.

I finally described their appearances: "They look like they either bought your armor, or possibly they tried to copy it at home, in their parents' basements, but they were of, um, SLIGHTER BUILD than you beefy fellows, and they looked a bit pale..."

A light ignited in His Majesty's eyes. "Oh, THOSE guys!" He threw back his head and guffawed. "Really? They're at war with us? Aw. Well, okay!"

I let him know I'd offered to spy for them, and if they wanted to return aggression, I'd be happy to double-agent the affair. King Zavier patted my shoulder and said they'd handle it. As I toddled off to whatever my Next Thing was, I heard him spreading the news to the rest of Dark Cloud, and enjoyed their surprised laughs.

Unfortunately, not much came of it, and a few weeks later I learned they'd made a peace accord, without my involvement! Well, it saved time, I suppose. The next year I saw Ukhatar again, and they had increased their population -- quadrupled it, in fact, but had not yet gotten any girls in the Nation; still all blokes. But they seem to be having fun, and that's really the name of the Barbarian Horde game. I was going to try to acquire Iron Wolf, but they're not strictly Barbarian -- didn't I learn from all those Brian Friel plays that the Celtic cultures were the Guardians of Knowledge and Learning during the Dark Ages? -- and anyway they seem to be devoted to the Earl of Northumberland, and I don't want to get mixed up in that Windows-Into-Men's-Souls Recusants-vs-Precisionists business any more than I already am. Maybe next time I'll try to acquire Barbarian Battles. They're very, very nice, and they look comfortable, and they don't seem to be at war with anyone until 4:30 every day, when all those kids get run over in Wyckham Field, which is fun.

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