Empire on Ice #16: J Henge
[On a peaceful Halloween evening, just after sunset, some of the most important people in all of Joshalonia are gathered at a serene meadow featuring a spectacular ruin of stone architecture, around which has been erected the makings of a funfair. Josh is giving a speech and wearing a pumpkin hat.]
Josh: Thousands of years from now, the poscient druids of Greater Joshalonia will gather here and build the mysterious megalith, J Henge, to conduct their sacred rites—including but not limited to orating, pontificating, and expatiating. Though assumptions are easy, for truth’s sake we admit that we know not why the druids will fashion this place into the shape of our most important and illustriousest letter of the alphabet, J. However, we are assured that it shall be neither a transpiring of coincidence nor purely an aesthetic whim, for it will be said that inexplicable and Joshly powers shall emanate from these stones long from now, and, as we know, all poscient texts are true as surely as all ancient ones.
Josh: More incense, bearer! Stoke the flames brightly! On this spooooky Halloween evening we gather in this hallowed place to commune with our postcessors, and we must have more incense! It is your lofty honor to bring us more incense!
DeLatia: [Shaking a very smoky incense burner and coughing.] Does someone else want this lofty honor?
Josh: We stand now looking west, at the remnants of the light of day, for indeed the stones of J Henge are aligned perfectly to the west, to the nearest thousandth of a degree, and only in a westward gaze can the J said to be in its natural upright splendor. The druids of Greater Joshalonia will have understood that any true monument must uphold this natural order.
Gregor: [Aside.] Except that technically we’re looking at it from underneath.
Josh: And they shall have understood that the permanence of any true monument cannot be broken by the flow of time, that it must radiate into the past as well as into the future, and so we have J Henge now, which Imperial radiocarbon dating suggests shall be constructed within the next four thousand years.
Galavar: I have a question.
Josh: You didn’t say the thing.
Galavar: I have a question, O Exalted Trickster of Treats.
Josh: You may speak.
Galavar: How are they going to build it if it’s already here?
Josh: Assuredly the ways of the Joshalonian druids are mysterious. Perhaps they will dismantle it first. Or maybe, having built it initially, it will never need to be built again. Maybe J Henge will simply be here in four thousand years, as it is now.
Galavar: That doesn’t seem logical.
Arderesh: If anything, wouldn’t that diminish Joshalonia’s grandeur by depriving us—or, our descendents rather—of the opportunity to bear witness to J Henge’s construction?
Josh: Good point. I am foolish to speak whereof I do not know. Suffice it to say that, in four thousand years, we will find out.
Arderesh: That’s a bit cryptic.
Josh: Rationalism and mysticism are intertwined, though to mooks perhaps they would seem antipodal. How often do we begin a venture not knowing how it will end, nor even knowing how we will proceed. Much like the contents of our spoils is unknown to us when we begin the trick-or-treating road, yet candy is assured, so too here do we begin with an intangible vision—notwithstanding the sensitivity of our Imperial cognitive brainometer—and move forward reasonably, inevitably, toward our dulcet destination!
[The crowd cheers.]
Josh: Now, let us sing the traditional Imperial Halloween Anthem, “O Halloween.” Songmate Afiach Bard, bring forth with the music!
[All sing, with Afiach leading.]
Here at our native Henge!
May treats abound and tricks be on the fringe.
With spooky masks we now disguise,
Our True Forms on this spree!
And pumpkin pies!
O Halloween, we wait all year for thee.
Josh keep our Henge glorious and free!
O Halloween, bring forth our candy.
O Halloween, bring forth our candy.
Josh: I now declare the Spooking…in season!
[The crowd breaks up and everyone disperses into the carnival. Silence and Galavar join Josh.]
Silence: So, Boss, what are you going to do this year? The Ferris wheel? The apple-bob? The 1990s Pop Music House of Horrors?
Galavar: What about the 100-candy challenge?
Josh: It’s harder than it sounds.
Silence: The 10-eggnog challenge?
Josh: Also extremely harder than it sounds.
Galavar: Maybe the Haunted Henge? I hear there’s a ghost this year.
Silence: Ooh! I want to see the ghost. I want to compare notes!
Josh: I’m not sure I want to ask what that means.
Galavar: Come come, mon Imperator. Aren’t you the one who says “Ignorance is bliss, and bliss is for mooks”?
Josh: I do say that, don’t I?
Silence: I want to see the ghost!
[A kid dressed like a pirate runs up to the trio.]
Kid: Trick or treat!
Josh: Well, well! What do we have here? A sporting specimen of Joshalonian youth, you are, lad! A sporting specimen indeed.
Kid: You sound like the Emperor. That’s creepy.
Josh: I am the Emperor! I am the Emperor of all the Sovereign Empire of Greater Joshalonia!
Kid: Yeah right, Mister.
Josh: You don’t buy it, eh? What if I showed you…my pets!!! Muah ha ha ha hah! Draggy! Esmris! Come forth!
[Two small dragons descend in a violent flurry of wing strokes, one mostly white with flecks of teal, about the size of a Volkswagen, and the other the color of Pepto-Bismol.]
Josh: Behold! The Emperor’s personal pets.
Kid: They’re too small to be dragons.
Josh: Careful, kid. The pink one breathes fire. Draggy, a small demonstration if you will.
[Draggy shoots flames into the sky. The kid is not impressed.]
Kid: With today’s technology, that could be anything, Mister.
Josh: That’s Mister Emperor to you, kid!
[Silence and Galavar are snickering.]
Josh: Oh ho! Something funny?
Josh: Say, kid, what if I told you that that pair there was Silence Terlais and the Great Galavar?
Kid: Nope. They’re only dressed up as them, and it’s not a very good job.
Josh: Oh, so then. Who do you think those two people actually are?
Kid: A fat lady from the asylum and a drug-dealing Republican sleaze ball.
Galavar: How the?!
Silence: He’s mostly right though!
Galavar: What?! I am not a—
Silence: Did I not see you licking that John McCain yard sign in Florida back in 2008?
Galavar: I told you there was Pixy Stix powder on it!
Silence: Sure. “Pixy Stix.” In Florida. Mm hmm.
Galavar: That little brat insulted you too.
Silence: Well I’m hardly skinny—which is a strange word considering that being fatter means having more skin—and I do have a padded room at my house. I go there sometimes to bounce, or sometimes to cut things. ^_^
Galavar: That’s one of the less disturbing rooms in your house, by the way.
[Josh turns back to the kid while Silence and Galavar continue arguing.]
Josh: Kid, I gotta hand it to you, you sure do know how to sow enmity and discord.
Kid: Thanks, Mister! You’re not too bad yourself, for a washed-up loser who thinks he’s the Emperor.
Josh: How adorable. Run along now, and Happy Halloween!
[The kid runs off.]
Josh: Ah, the next generation. Brings a tear to me eye.
Galavar: [Still arguing.] —not fit to wipe my dog’s butt on!!
Josh: You know those awkward pauses that happen when somebody has lost perspective and ends up yelling something completely humiliating, and then all of a sudden a statistical variation causes a sudden quietness that makes sure everyone else can hear it?
Silence: Yeah, you know those?
Galavar: I just don’t think that children should be so disrespectful and rude. I wasn’t anything like that when I was a teenager.
Josh: Oh, don’t worry about that little snotrag. While she was insulting you, I planted some drugs and conservative campaign literature in her candy sack. There are about two hundred police dogs here at the carnival tonight. She’s going to play roulette, and odds are that she’ll wake up in jail tomorrow.
Silence: [Swoons.] I knew there’s a reason I hang out with you. Which reminds me! I have to go!
[Silence dashes off.]
Galavar: Where is she off to?
Josh: Who knows? Say, I didn’t know you have a dog.
Galavar: Technically she’s my wife’s dog. Old Deuteronomy.
Josh: Wasn’t that a cat’s name?
Galavar: I think that’s the point. It’s kind of a joke.
Josh: Your wife has a good sense of humor.
Galavar: She also tends to call him “Old Doodyronomy” a lot.
Josh: Well, hit or miss then. Say, let’s go check out Madame DeHenge and see if she’ll give us a tarot reading.
[They show up at the madam’s tent. She is wearing all kinds of bangles and rings and shit. Underneath, it’s Lilit DeLatia. She has a startlingly good European accent.]
DeHenge: Good Evening, Your Majesty—and The Great Galavar, too! How auspicious an alignment inside my humble tent. Are you ready to be…un-henged? That is! To depart from the Imperial custom of ratiocination and deliberation and logical induction, and proceed into the twilight realm of the spirits?!
Josh: Hell yeah! I want to know what numbers to pick for the lottery.
DeHenge: That literally one of ten things you never ask a tarot reader. It says right there on sign.
Josh: Ah! Oh, hey. These are some of my other questions.
DeHenge: Perhaps you need a new question then, yes?
Galavar: I have one, Madame. How do I get more sex appeal?
DeHenge: Ah, well…let us read the cards. [She deals one.] It Three of Pentacles! That mean encouragement. Perseverance. Keep trying. Perhaps, new cologne. Perhaps, better shoes. Perhaps, dating profile on magic cloud.
Galavar: You mean the Internet.
DeHenge: Yes. Here, I have infernal looking box. You can use this to make profile right now. Five Jiggities per minute, no refunds.
Galavar: Say, what’s wrong with my shoes?
DeHenge: Those look like shoes that go past their retirement. In fact I may have to report you to shoe police. Lucky for you, I also sell many footwears. [She gestures to a shelf against one of the tent walls.] Forty Jiggities per pair, no refunds. Try on any of these for one Jiggity per shoe.
Galavar: Not for the pair?
DeHenge: Got to make a living, you know. The spirits may commune with me, but they no have money. You have money.
Josh: Try on the shoes.
Galavar: Oh, I guess. Why not, right? It’s Halloween!
DeHenge: That the spirit! And what about you, Emperor? You like card reading? Have legitimate question yet, maybe?
Josh: I’d like to know how they’re going to build J Henge when it’s already there.
DeHenge: Ah! A most intriguing question. But…questions of specific events in the future, hard to say. The spirits no give such clear answers. But! Let us see what deck say. [She deals a card.] The Moon Reversed! Very fitting, very fitting. This card say you unhappy with J Henge because you don’t know its deepest secret. You must accept this and look for true answer within yourself! Moon Reversed card of anxiety and illusion. The mystery of J Henge is actually the mystery of you, Your Majesty!
Josh: That’s fascinating.
DeHenge: Twenty Jiggities. No refunds.
[A police officer rushes into the tent, gasping. Following behind her is a very scared looking police dog.]
Officer: Josh! There’s a ghost at J Henge!
[Galavar steps back, holding a pair of sequin-studded white disco shoes.]
Galavar: So I’ve heard.
Officer: I mean, a real one. She’s terrorizing people and stealing their Halloween candy.
[Josh and Galavar look at each other and nod.]
Josh: Does she have feet?
Galavar: That’s your first giveaway. Ghosts never have feet.
Officer: But she’s green from head to toe.
Galavar: That’s your second giveaway. Ghosts are always white. Green body paint is more like it.
Josh: Is she being weird?
Officer: She’s running around naked, taunting people, and eating all the candy she steals in an irresponsible fashion that glorifies gluttony and avarice.
[Josh and Galavar nod to each other again.]
Josh: That’s no ghost.
Officer: But, she waved her arms and spoke all spookily.
Josh: You’ve been had. That’s our resident mischief-maker, Silence, who is apparently being true to the ancestral traditions of Halloween.
Galavar: Whilst simultaneously upholding some of the highest virtues in the Joshalonian Empire.
Josh: I have to admit that stealing candy from children under the pretense of being a ghost and then eating it right in front of them is pretty impressive.
Galavar: Let’s roll.
O day and night, but this is wondrous strange!