(Kirby) Shelob’s Web

Rebecca couldn’t get something written for today but didn’t want to leave anybody without their morning Hitherby, so Kirby kindly stepped in again.

–Hitherby Admin

Once upon a time, on a not-so-sunny day, in a not-so-sunny place, a young piglet happened to wander into a rather frightening cave. Such things were apparently more commonplace in the days of yore than in modern times, you’ll understand. This little piglet did seem nervous, but it was not his sinister environs that caused him such distress.

A voice was heard from the dark places above, the crisp crackle of death itself. One ominous word was uttered:

“Salutations.”

The little pig was startled, not realizing he was not alone. Fortunately for him, he was a garrulous sort, and the owner of the voice was actually quite lonely in her desolate lair.

“Hello! Who is there? My name is Wilbur, and I’m a pig! Are you a pig? What does sal-bru-trations mean? Can I have a peanut?”

A form lumbered from the darkness and into the dim half-light of the tunnel. She was larger than even the horses Wilbur had known back on the farm, and with far more legs than seemed wholly natural.

“Salutations is a fancy way of saying hello to your next meal. And I am certainly not a pig, little one. I am the dark nightmare of the arachnophobe, the source of fear, that all may know themselves only as prey when they think upon me. I am the mother, the god, and the devourer. I am the Spider. You may call me Shelob, little pig.”

Wilbur was a simple sort, and didn’t make much of Shelob’s introduction. He latched on to the one thing he understood, and luck was indeed on his side.

“Oh, well, hello to you too! I’m afraid I’m lost. Would you be my friend?”

Shelob was expecting a quivering porcine ball of fear. However, she was firmly of the belief, despite scientific evidence to the contrary, that fear was a requisite for the seasoning of a meal, and this little pig was not nearly afraid enough. She considered correcting that, but it had been a long day, and as we mentioned she had been feeling terribly lonely of late.

“Very well. We shall be as friends, for a time. Mind the rat, for while I find him useful, his heart is treacherous.”

“Okay. I don’t know that I much like rats myself, but I’ll do my best!”

And so they lived in peace for some time. Until one day, when two Orcs came upon the cave, and discovered the pig, resting under a rather unusual web.

“There’s where my pig has gotten to. Zug-zug! Let us take him back to the tower, and have a feast!” said the first Orc.

“Zuckerman, you fool!” said the second Orc. “Look, look at the web. Can’t you read?”

Zuckerman admitted that he could not, in an orcish fashion that involved far more spitting than is truly hygienic.

“You thrice-cursed stupid farm orcs! Old Shelob seems to think this is Some Pig. We must take him to the Master, now!”

“No,” disagreed Zuckerman, “It turns out that I still would rather eat the pig.”

“I must now kill you for your insolence!” said the second Orc, whose name was never revealed to Wilbur.

Zuckerman nodded. “Our society is inherently flawed in that manner.” And so they fought until no living Orcs remained at the scene, a tendency that would cause them great trouble in future days as well.

And the spider, and the pig, and the rat all ate well that night, but they were worried that more Orcs would be back the next day.

“We need a new word. A word that will sow confusion and fear amongst the enemies of the pig, and cause them more violence, so that we may feast upon their flesh once again!”

Wilbur agreed, “Orcs are yummy! And I don’t want them to eat me, that’s why I ran away!”

“Mr. Rat, give me the next word.”

The wrinkly creature snarled. “We iss not rats. But we hateses nassssty orcs, we do! We will give you our best word, yesss.” He added in a strange guttural sound, that could not easily be pronounced in either the tongue of Spider or of Pig.

“Thank you, Mr. Rat! We’ll let you have the liver next time!”

And so it was that the next day, not two, but a whole legion of Orcs marched to the cave outside of Cirith Ungol. In these days, before the Great War, many Orcs were very bored.

“See, see, it is a sign! Is it not Some Pig?”

It seems Zuckerman had escaped, although somewhat the worse for wear and still quite illiterate. However, his story has spread, and all the Orcs wanted to see, and perhaps taste, Zuckerman’s Famous Pig.

“There is a word, alright, but that’s not it. We really need to review our educational practices. We’re now ranked behind Gondor, Rohan, and even Harad in literacy, and our Math scores are even worse!” This Orc was not terribly popular.

“Well,” said Zuckerman, “What kind of pig is he today?”

“He’s a precious pig. There’s some extra S’s on the end, though. Shelob’s not a stickler for spelling, I guess.”

“Precious? What’s a precious pig, Borbag?” Zuckerman had no experience with such a concept.

“Precious: highly esteemed, or cherished.” Borbag recited.

This set off the obvious argument, about whether he was cherished for his deliciousness, or whether he was some great prize to be delivered to the Master, who was even now gathering his powers for a terrible strike at all Man-kind. And the pig, and the spider, and the little rat-man ate well that night.

The rat-man, however, was not appeased by his full belly, for seeing the word in the web had awakened memories in him. “Preciousss, my preciousss, they stoles it, they did!”

“What’s a precious, Mr. Rat?”

The rat-man turned towards the pig, a wild expression in his eyes. “Precioussss is preciousss! My birthday present!”

Wilbur could understand that. “Oh, somebody stole your birthday present? That’s terrible. Who would do such a thing?”

This was a topic that the rat-man was happy to discuss. “It was filthy hobbitses! Filthy Bagginsses! Nasty, nasty thieving tricksy hobbitses!”

“Oh, well, where do Hobbitses live? I’ve never heard of them. I’ve heard of ducks, and geese, and sheep, and horses, and cats, but not Hobbitses. They don’t sound very friendly.”

The rat-man made more of his funny noises, which made Wilbur laugh. “Oh, no, hobbitses not friend, not friend. We knows where they lives. They liveses in Shire! Nasty Bagginses told us, he did, told us and then stole our preciousss!”

The rat-man was quite prepared to go off on another long rant of self-pity, and probably would have stayed in that cave until the end of all time doing just that, if not for Wilbur.

“Well, it’s not right. That’s your Birthday Present, after all. Why don’t you go to this Shire, and ask the Bagginses to give it back?”

Such an idea had never occurred to the rat-man before. “Yes, yes, give it back. They might give it back, if we jussst asskes nicely. Yes, good pig, we will go get our preciousss back now!”

And, in the end, he did get his Birthday Present back. Hurray!

And what of Shelob? Well, things didn’t go so well for her. Those nasty Hobbitses eventually came through her cave, bringing swords and bright lights and all sorts of things that had no business being there. And, one day, after a fateful encounter, she crawled back to Wilbur, terribly wounded.

“Pig. Pig. I have great need of you.”

“Jeepers, Ms. Shelob! You don’t look so good! Can I help?”

“Yes, pig. The light of the elves has blinded my dark spirit, and their gleaming swords have pierced my foul hide. It is my time of endings, and I fear it shall soon be the end for many dark things. Yes, even I know of fear in these Light Times.”

“Golly. I don’t want you to die! I’ll be sad!”

“No, you must not be, for I leave you with a task. You know that thick area in my webbings, that I’ve asked you time and again to not approach, lest I sting you and disembowel you and suck the marrow from your bones, pig?”

“Sure! It smells like chickens!”

“If my need was not so dire, I would dare not tolerate such a comparison. However, my longwindedness may soon be my undoing, so I shall not linger upon it. That is my egg-sac. It will soon hatch. You, pig, must see to it that my brood survives.”

“Wow, you’re gonna be a Mommy!”

“Yes, soon the land will be plagued with a thousand thousand such as myself, ravenous predators crawling the underbelly of the world, preying on the weak and strong alike, spreading fear like a disease across the world of Man.”

“That’ll be something! And I’ll teach them how to spell!”

“Yes, it shall be a glorious day, for both Pig and Spider alike. Oh, but one thing you must know, lest dire consequences befell all my children, for ours is a sinister species with very particular needs. Be sure that you never— that you never—“

And alas, that was the end of poor Shelob. She was correct, that her lack of brevity was costly in the end. And while she did have many, many children, none of them grew to be of her immense size. And very few of them learned how to spell, though the descendants of the Men of Gondor do not eat Pork to this very day, and I believe that Wilbur and the children of Shelob had a great deal to do with that, don’t you?

(Kirby) Free as in Freedom

Since Rebecca’s having trouble getting online, she arranged for some interim entertainment for her loyal readers. As I understand it, she gave Kirby a few seeds before she went offline and, in typical Kirby fashion, he spun off his own yarn. Now, I’m posting it. Hopefully, everybody will be entertained and nobody will get hurt!

xxoo,
Hitherby Admin

It was a cold day, not unusual in this part of New York. A very short, but impeccably dressed man stood in a parking lot of a bar. The fading paint on the sign indicated that the proprietor was someone named Harry, but that’s not who the little man was looking for. He entered the establishment, casually running a finger across one of the grubby tables, and sighed.

“Nobody has any respect for cleanliness anymore. Everything’s always quick and dirty, slipshod. They could at least get a nice tablecloth, make it look presentable.”

Only one other customer was there at this early hour, well before beer-thirty in the afternoon when those that could leave work early would start to trickle in. He was a giant of a man, with both fat and muscle to spare. He was dressed in a motley outfit, pieced together from a hundred different bits of fabric, and held tight by an astonishing array of buckles, snaps, ribbons, velcro, and suspenders. He turns to face the smaller man, his demeanor downcast.

“There you are, ‘Mac,” the little man bows gracefully towards the giant. “I should have expected to find you at a place like this. Look, if this is still about that girl—”

“Vi.” The giant sighed melodramatically. “I just can’t stop thinking about her. She was so cute, and limber like you wouldn’t believe! She was the one, G.”

The little man laughed, dismissively. “She was a right unfriendly bitch, ‘Mac, and you know it. Moody as hell, too, remember? One day she’d be in command mode, barking out orders like she was the Queen of Egypt, and then you turn around, and she’s little miss tell-me-what-to-do. Besides, she was never going to be one of us, you know that, right?”

“But, but I loved her! We’d have made it work!”

The little man patted the giant’s arm consolingly. “No, man, I’m sorry. You just can’t win once it gets religious. Remember those two Indians we ran into, back when we were kids? They’re still not talking, got themselves two whole separate tribes that can’t even speak the same language anymore. You gotta let these things go, buddy.”

“But—”

The little man was saved from further outpouring of angst by a melodious sound from the devices each carried on his wrist. A holographic image of a skinny boy with thick glasses and wild hair appeared, projected from each. In stereo,

“Oh, good, Gnome, ‘Mac. We’ve got a code 500. Assemble back at the mansion, real-time!”

**

A gathering of multicultural individuals sat around the conference table, looking at a large monitor filled with hopefully pertinent information. An old man rolled in, in a futuristic looking wheelchair. He seemed to command everyone’s respect, as the conversations stopped. Behind him came a young man with brightly colored orange hair spiked up in a style that suggested action, dressed in orange and blue tights, with the symbol of some sort of abstract furry animal emblazoned across his chest.

“Hey, Ed, who’s the kid?” the Gnome asked.

Ed, the old man, spoke in short, choppy sentences. He sounded military. “This here’s Firefox. Trained by my pal Mo himself. He’s got some intel, on some save the world stuff. Came to us, instead of those flashy X-11 showoffs that the TV likes so much. Fox, this here’s my crew.”

He pointed to the short man in the dapper suit first. “This is the Gnome. Don’t judge by his size. Damn useful fellow. Likes things clean. Watch out for his feet, he’s got a mean stomp, man wouldn’t see it coming.”

Next, he pointed to the Giant, ‘Mac. “This here’s Emacs. That’s with a cs, not an x, no matter what you read in the Bugle. He can do just about anything, if you give him enough time. Real mechanical wiz. Hey, ‘Mac, sorry about my kid, eh, these things happen.” He didn’t sound terribly sympathetic.

Next, he pointed to the nerdy fellow, last seen as a hologram. “This here’s our search and recovery expert, Grep. Boy’s got more information than the library of congress and the search index of Alta Vista in his brain. A team’s only as good as its intel, and nobody can sort through it faster.”

Next, he pointed at a woman. She seemed a tad on the pudgy side, but she had a brilliant and friendly smile. “This is Perl. No a. Spelling is important on this team, you can’t spell, just go home to the big Lizard right now. She’s our linguist, she can charm a tax collector out of his pocket change in just about any language known to man. Hey, Perl, what’s that thing on your shoulder?”

She giggled. “It’s my cyber-parrot! Eventually, I’ll be able to interface with him, and be able to do just the most amazing things! I’ve got a spec for quantum superpositions already written, that will allow me to exist in multiple places at the same time! And he’ll be able to curry favors better than any construct ever devised, and the new grammar parsing is out of this world!”

The Gnome spoke up, “Don’t parrots usually have, I dunno, beaks?”

Perl looked stricken. “Well, he’s not finished yet. I’m a little behind schedule, if you really must know.”

“Yeah, yeah. So, what’s he do so far?”

Perl brightened up. “He can turn into a snake! He’s more snake-like than a real snake, for four out of seven criteria acknowledged by the American Herpetologists Association!”

Ed cleared his throat. “Anyway, yes, right, we all look forward to your upgrades, Perl. Next, we have—is that damn ghost in here?”

A whispery voice came out of the shadows, sounding as if it had come from beyond the grave. “Yes, boss.”

“Good. This is Ghost Script, espionage expert. Not much to see, and that’s the point. Can’t be a spy if they see you. Can you imagine ‘Mac sneaking into Redmond? Hell no. Anyway, finally, we’ve got Bison. Just what you’d expect, heavy weaponry and heavy hitting. Also a master at word games. We don’t accept mental midgets here.”

“Hey!” said the Gnome.

Bison laughed. He was pretty much your everyday anthropomorphic Bison with a minigun.

Ed finished, “So, them’s the Gnu Mutants. And you, Fox, what do you do?”

“Um,” the young hero stammered. “I’m just your basic Fire Blaster. I shoot things. With fire.”

“Ah, the classics, wonderful. Now, what’s this about SCO?”

Firefox looked around the room nervously. That acronym got everyone’s attention. “Right, um, we’ve recently learned that the Society for Creative Oppression is back, and planning a major attack.”

“Back?” asked Grep. “So soon? I thought the X-11 Men humiliated them so badly last fall, they’d never show their faces again! And aren’t they bankrupt?”

Firefox nodded. “Were. The google on the ‘net is, Big Bill’s funding this job.”

“Damn.” The Gnome pounded his fist into the table. “Bill Billionaire himself. I thought we had him tied up in court for the next six years, at least.”

Grep shook his head. “No, he’s all buddy-buddy with the new boys in Justice. Comp.os.watchmen has been warning about something like this for the last three months. So, what’s he got SCO doing this time?”

Firefox paused, for drama. It didn’t much work, but conventions must be maintained. “He’s going to launch an attack on Moon Base Penguin, while Linus himself is there presenting the FSF Grand Master medal.”

The faces twist into shock and panic, as Firefox adds, “If we don’t act now, LINUS WILL DIE!”

Be sure to pick up the next exciting issue of The Gnu Mutants! Will Linus be saved from the evil minions of SCO? Has Big Bill revived the Borg Agenda? Will the Galactic Protector League’s most bizarre offshoot team be able to turn the tide in time? Will Perl 6.0 ever be released? Guest starring Mo Zilla himself! Be there in 30, true believers!