ON THE ROAD AGAIN

A Parody Like Many Others, by Darren Madigan

The small company, representing all the races of Moderate Earth who were aligned with Being Nice, strode manfully down the road towards the distant Big Evil Mountains, arms swinging, frankly just whanging along, an enthusiastically off key rendition of Ray Davies' "Lola" bellowing from their lungs as their heavy leather boots clomped doughtily off the ancient roadway.

"Lola! L - O - L -A, Lola! Lo Lo Lo La LoooooLA!" they sang, as Moredambeer and Airguitar, the two humans in the companionship, lustily played imaginary instruments while swaying their hips in a manner reminiscent of the Rolling Stones back when they were younger and spryer.

It crossed young Fondle's mind to wonder if perhaps they maybe shouldn't be being... well... you know, QUIETER... given the whole 'evil agents everywhere seeking the Nose Ring of Power' thing... but what the hell, this was a lot more fun, and certainly Goatgland the Groaty would warn them if they were being silly... wouldn't he?

And yet, Fondle was the Nose Ring Wearer. It was on his tiny, childlike, Halfwit shoulders… well, actually, in his tiny, childlike, halfwit nostrils, but what the hell… that the primary responsibility fell. Perhaps he should say something...

Abruptly, the singing column came to a clumping, stumbling, careening halt, as a cloaked horseman with glowing red eyes, mounted on a vast, dark steed that seemed to be made of coal-black smoke shot through with blood and silver moonlight, which appeared to be breathing hellish red flames from its vast, cavernlike nostrils and fanged, carnivore-like maw, stepped from the dense forest into the roadway ahead of them.

In the horseman's mail clad hands was a long, ash white spear, studded with carvings depicting various humanoid faces writhing with expressions of torment and terror. Around the horseman's waist was a belt made of miniature human skulls, which, if not replicas, must once have belonged to babies; hanging from that belt were various scabbarded blades with hilts made of bone wrapped in black shark skin.

"Shit in a barrel!" squeaked Fondle, immediately darting behind Goatgland and crouching down to peer between the elderly wizard's bony, and rather skanky, ankles.

"By Dave Van Ronk's awesome chords!" Airguitar swore, drawing his glowing mithril sword which he had named VanHagarSucks.

"By the brilliantly intricate finger-fretting of Buck Dharma!" grunted Mordambeer, as he hauled out his enchanted battle-axe MetallicaRules.

"By Grumpy, Doc, and Dopey!" said Gimpy, the Midget, nervously reaching into his pocket to grab the butt of his hideaway derringer.

"Yowzer!" shrieked Mellow, one of the party's other three Halfwits.

"Woo hoo!" bellowed Homer, another of the party's Halfwits.

"Fuck ME," muttered the earthily wise Clam Dandy, the last of the party's four Halfwits, and constant companion to Fondle, the Nose Ring Wearer.

"Uh," said the dark horseman, peering at them uneasily with his glowing red eyes, and then essaying a somewhat nervous smile. "So. Um. Hi." He paused. "Uh, say... you guys got any... you know... Nose Rings... you want to sell?" He blinked several times, then added, hopefully, "Or... er.. trade? 'Cuz I got cool stuff."

Goatgland drew himself up haughtily and brandished his long, gnarled staff. "Be off with you, foul Undead hellspawn!"

The black horseman hastily averted his eyes. "Dude, that's nasty. Please, close your robe."

Grumbling, Goatgland tied his bathrobe closed again, and then brandished his other long, gnarled staff. "Get outta here," he said. "Get lost." His heart really didn't seem to be in it the way it had been the first time, though.

"KILL THE FIEND!" screamed Mordambeer suddenly, as, with a clattering crash of sundered branches, he hurled his heavy battleaxe enthusiastically into the dense coniferous forest immediately to the left of the party.

There was a moment of brief, embarrassed silence. Finally, Airguitar smacked Mordambeer ringingly on his helm, knocking it askew on Mordambeer's head, obscuring momentarily the Oakland Raiders emblem on the side. "I keep telling you, we don't throw our MAIN weapons," Airguitar said. "Now what are you gonna fight with, you big moron? Your eyebrows? You want to throw something, throw the throwing knives. Throw the throwing axes. Throw the throwing stars. You'll notice the word 'throwing' in all those weapon names? That's not a coincidence. Is the word 'throwing' in the weapon name 'Battle Axe'? Well? Is it?"

Mordambeer looked down shamefacedly as he re-adjusted his helm. "Sorry," he muttered. "Got carried away." He tromped off into the woods to disconsolately look for his battle axe.

The dark horseman pursed his lips. "Ah," he said, finally. "So. About those Nose Rings...?"

Fondle poked his head out around Goatgland's bony ankles. "You're Evil!" he piped, shrilly. "Go away or... or Airguitar will whack you a darned good one with his mighty mithril sword!"

The dark horseman looked down at himself and his demon-steed in an overly obvious display of incredulity. "What? Evil? I am not." He peered dubiously at his black cloak, his black chainmail, the belt of infant skulls around his waist, his black, firebreathing, liberally be-fanged horse-beast. "I mean, you don't even know me. You don't think you're being a tiny tiny bit judgmental?"

Airguitar groaned. "Dude," he said. "You've got glowing red eyes. Your spear is covered with tormented visages. Your belt is made out of baby skulls. You're Evil. Now don't make me come over there. I mean it."

"I dunno," Gimpy said, doubtfully. "He could just be goth. I mean, we are kinda jumping to conclusions. 'Cuz, seriously, I know what that's like. I'm short, and people judge me on that all the time."

The dark rider spread his hands. "There, you see? A reasonable Midget. Okay, I'm not wearing a suit and tie, sure, but it's a big world! This is... you know, how I dress! Look, I'll give you this solid gold guitar pick, autographed by every member of the Moody Blues, for the Nose Ring." He held up a small, gleaming triangle of gold, turning it so it glittered in the mid morning sun.

Airguitar blinked at it. "Even Justin Hayward?"

The black clad horseman snorted. "Well, it wouldn't be much good without Justin Hayward, would it? I mean, the man WAS the Moody Blues, for god's sake."

Airguitar leaned down and whispered to Fondle, "That's a good deal. Take it."

Fondle glared up at him. "Shut up," he said. He took something out of his pouch and sighed as he slipped it through his pierced septum. "I hate this," he said, "this always hurts."

A shadow of authority seemed to fall over Fondle, and despite his diminutive Halfwit size, he somehow seemed to tower darkly over the entire group now.

"No no noooooooo," Clam Dandy moaned, "it will corrupt you, it will corrupt you!"

"It will not," Fondle said, "now shut up or I'll blast you good." He looked at the black horseman. "Look, you, you have to obey the Nose Ring Wearer, right?"

The dark horseman narrowed one eye and squinched up his mouth thoughtfully. He raised one hand and see-sawed his palm back and forth. "We-e-e-e-ellllll," he said, "certainly, the Nose Ring Wearer is a figure of some authority with us, I grant you. I mean, I don't know, 'obey' is a pretty strong word, but, you know, sure, there's a certain amount of respect for the office..."

"Shut the hell UP," Fondle moaned in exasperation. "You have to obey me. Get down off your horse and kiss the ground."

"Oh noooooooo," Clam Dandy muttered, "it won't coRRUPT you, oh gosh, what was I ever WORried about..."

"I will give you SUCH a zotz," Fondle hissed out of the corner of his mouth, as the black rider clambered out of his saddle, got down on all fours, and began kissing the earth. "Okay, okay, enough ground kissing. There's more of you guys around, right?"

The kneeling dark horseman, mud smeared around his mouth now, said reluctantly, "Well... yeah... a few more. You know. Just hanging around."

"Combing the Earth like hell's own bloodhounds seeking the Nose Ring of Power, you mean," Goatgland said, grimly. "Mercilessly, ruthlessly, without a shred of... of... mercy, or..."

"Ruth?" Mellow suggested, helpfully.

"Quiet, you," Goatgland said, haughtily. "My point is, that..." He stopped, squinting in deep thought. "What was I saying, again...?"

Fondle ignored the maundering old lecher. "You can get in touch with these other Ickies, right?"

The black horseman sighed, reached into a pocket in his black cloak, and took out an enchanted device of puissant sorcerous power. Fondle nodded decisively. "Call 'em up and get 'em all here," he said. "I'm sick of this skulking around, avoiding everyone, let's-cut-through-the-abandoned-Midget-mines fight the monsters bullshit. We're gonna have a whole different approach from here on out."

"Okay," the dark horseman said, "but you know, I only get so many free minutes on this thing, and then Sourgum starts getting really pissy about the bills. And we don't even want to talk about the roaming surcharge beyond the Big Evil Mountains... I mean, seriously."

Mordambeer came stumbling back out of the forest, axe over one shoulder, pine needles in his hair and bristly black beard. "Say," he said, "can I have that spear of his? It's bitchin'."

Hours later, the rapidly growing Army of the Nose Ring Wearer had encamped at the foot of the Big Evil Mountains. As the hordes of Nazgirls, urks, gobbles, and hill trulls rapidly denuded the surrounding forest to build greasy bonfires on which to roast the various human villagers they'd taken captive during the long day's march, seeking out brooks and rills and picturesque spring fed pools to poison forever with their supernaturally toxic bodily wastes and the half raw leavings of their awful feasts, Fondle and his original companionship sprawled in the rough center of the vast legion, atop a low, once grassy hill.

"Dude," the first Nazgirl they had encountered continued to insist to Airguitar and Mordambeer, "it is totally a gay song. I mean, seriously."

"You just shut up," Mordambeer growled, brandishing his axe threateningly, "or I'll..."

"Throw his axe into the forest again in a really frightening manner," Airguitar said. "Especially since there isn't any forest around here." He glared at the Nazgirl. "But he's right, there's no way it's a gay song, so shut up."

The Nazgirl sighed. "Lola is a guy, you morons," he said, with great exasperation in his tone. "He's a transvestite. 'Girls will be boys and boys will be girls it's a mixed up muddled up shook up world except for Lola...' Come on. Where the hell have you BEEN?"

Airguitar and Mordambeer began moving their lips as they sang words to the song under their breath, gyrating their index fingers back and forth like miniature batons.

"Well, I'm not the world's most physical guy but when she squeezed me tight she nearly broke my spine," muttered Mordambeer.

"I'm not the world's most passionate man," murmured Airguitar, "but I know what I am and I'm glad I'm a man..."

The two exchanged horrified glances. "Holy SHIT," the both groaned in unified appalled disgust.

The Nazgirl spread his hands. "Well, they are called 'The Kinks'..."

"I'm gonna find Ray Davies," Mordambeer declared, hefting his battle axe, "and I'm gonna KICK his ASS."

Airguitar glared suspiciously at the Nazgirl. "So how do you know so much about this gay transvestite stuff anyway?"

"Well," Homer said, "they are called NazGIRLS. I mean, there's probably a reason for that."

Mordambeer, Airguitar, Gimpy, Mellow, and Clam Dandy all fixed the Nazgirl with speculative gazes.

"Hey," the Nazgirl protested. "It's an ancient phrase meaning 'real mean motherfucker'. Don't even think about..."

"You know, I thought those were robes, but I suppose it could be a dress," Airguitar mused, rubbing his bearded chin thoughtfully.

"And those are fairly high heels on those boots," Mordambeer mentioned, his eyebrows raising.

"And do those eyes really glow red, or is that just rouge?" Gimpy wondered.

Warily, the Nazgirl began to back away from the Fellowship's campsight. "Now look," he said, nervously, "nothing personal, you fellows are all sweet guys, but I don't think..."

Airguitar and Mordambeer growled and lunged forward, their hands outstretched to grab. The Nazgirl shrieked womanishly and sprinted away into the darkness.

The Fellowship, including the two human warriors, fell to the ground in laughter. A few seconds later, the Nazgirl, stopping to catch his breath a few hundred yards away in the midst of a particularly noxious urk encampment, heard once more a tuneless version of "Lola" ringing out from the hilltop on which the Fellowship was encamped, only this time they were singing:

"Nazgirl! N-A-Z-G- urrrrrl! Naz Naz Nah NazGIRL!"

Months later, Fondle stood beside the Crank of Gloom, his fingers toying with the Nose Ring of Power where it hung from his septum, thinking about the course of adventures that had brought him and his ever-sniveling companion Clam Dandy this far.

'Adventures' might, actually, be too strong a term. Certainly the dreaded demon, wafting up out of the abandoned Midget mines to attack Fondle and his companions, had been rather surprised to find itself suddenly gang tackled by several thousand of Fondle's mentally enslaved gobbles and hill trulls. Fondle could still remember the look on Goatgland's face as the eight foot tall apparition, bearing rather a resemblance to Dennis Rodman, had appeared, long brown fingers wrapped deftly around its mystic orange globe of death. "It's... a Ball Hog!" the aged geezer had wheezed, eyes as big as pie plates. "It's dreaded Bullet Pass will destroy us all, and it will annihilate any survivors on the rebound!"

"Yeah, yeah," Fondle had said wearily, pointing at the hugely grinning creature. "Yo! Guys! Pig pile on the Ball Hog!" The resultant immediate avalanche of noisome urk, gobble, and hill trull flesh had crushed the Ball Hog into a moist smear of smelly goo before it could even finish its showy opening dribble.

Then there were those giant spiders in the dreaded stinking forests of Ickiebleah, or wherever it was. Despite the whimpered pleas of his involuntary followers, Fondle had kept resolutely ordering his vast legions of nastiness to march off into the spider-infested areas until the arachnoid giants had entirely run out of webbing fluid and lay, panting and exhausted, hanging disconsolately from their dark, shadowy tree lairs. Still thousands strong, Fondle and his traveling cohorts had then marched on past, eating the ground bare like a horde of locusts as they went, devouring the exhausted spider-monsters like so many venom spattered lobsters, as well as the paralyzed battalion of their fellow urks, gobbles and trulls they found struggling feebly in the spiders' vast webs.

The gigantic spider in the mines of the Big Evil Mountains Fondle had dealt with similarly. Clam Dandy had wanted to go forward all by himself and kill it with his trusty Halfwit Scout knife, and Fondle had been tempted to let the whiney bastard get eaten, too, but in the end, he'd simply ordered a few hundred urks into the mines instead. Even a voracious sentient arachnid-fiend can't devour that many urks without succumbing to a bad case of food poisoning, and although the way past She-blob's lair was fairly nasty by the time they got there, there had been no peril other than to the party's digestion.

At the foot of the mountain he and Clam Dandy had climbed, the still vast hordes under Fondle's supernatural control gathered. If Fondle strained his huge hairy Halfwit ears, he could faintly make out the cries of "My pretty, my pretty! We wants it, we wants it!" as the chained up Gulp'em cried out in between servicing the endless ranks of urks and gobbles that were lined up to make use of his voracious need for degradation and humiliation. Fondle shuddered. She-urks and gobblettes were pretty gross, granted, and only a desperate old pervert like Goatgland could possibly enjoy the favors of a hill trull (and he resolutely kept his mind away from the Nazgirls, he found them deeply disturbing in a manner he didn't like to think about at all), but in Fondle's opinion, they were all frickin' Broadway chorus girls compared to the walking... well, generally, crawling and scuttling... nastiness that was Gulp'em. Still, he seemed endlessly popular with Fondle's hordes. It took all kinds.

Fondle sighed. "Anyway," he continued to Clam Dandy, "the thing is, what I'm thinking now, is..."

"You're keeping the Nose Ring of Power so you can rule all of Moderate Earth wisely and well," Clam Dandy sneered, rolling his eyes. "Suuuuuuuuure. Like we didn't all see THAT coming thirty chapters back, eh?" He seemed to be nervously fingering something in his pocket.

For a moment, Fondle felt an urge to ask Clam what had he got in his pocketses, eh? But he restrained it, and turned to stare back out over the Crank of Gloom, that vast ancient piece of grinding machinery that, if turned vigorously by any sentient being, would grind anything placed within its many toothed embrace into a fine powder faster than you could say Tom Bumblesbounce.

"It's not just that," Fondle said, finally, taking on a tragic air. "I HAVE to keep the Nose Ring. For if I do not..."

Clam's stealthily drawn blackjack struck Fondle perfectly at the nape of his neck, and the Halfwit Nose Ring Wearer went down like a sack of Alpo. With enormous satisfaction, Clam reached down, yanked the Nose Ring out of his master's septum - "YEEEOWCH!", the groggy Fondle shrieked - and tossed it into the enormous interlocking gears of the ancient cyclopean engine of destruction. Then, grabbing the always well oiled Crank, he whirled it enthusiastically, listening with glee as the great wheels ground the Nose Ring of Power into ineffective dust. "Hyar har har!" Clam Dandy, who really wasn't playing with a full deck and most likely never had been, chuckled derangedly. "I win, I win, now I get a brand new Mustang and the big vacation trip to Rio!"

An hour later, Fondle glared over at Clam Dandy, who was, like Fondle himself, dangling from a pole slung between two muscular urks and being carried over to a nearby bonfire.

"...if you'd let me FINISH," Fondle said, "I'd have mentioned that I had to keep the Nose Ring of Power because, otherwise, the legion of urks, gobbles, hill trulls and Nazgirls I mind controlled into protecting us on the way here would climb up the mountain and kick our asses."

Clam, drool running out his mouth and falling off his upside down face to the stony ground below, ignored the furious Fondle, continuing to sing "You're one of a kind, Ford's got your ride" over and over again until he was finally silenced, as his roasting spit was set up over the bonfire, by having an apple thrust into his mouth.