Story by Brian Spiess
Illustration by Toe Keen
Wandering through the woods and cobblestone roads of Central Park, Sunny P had become a squire without a knight. Angrily remembering all the crazy stuff that librarian had put him through that day, Sunny P kicked aside several pebbles as he wandered down the dark and winding paths back home. One could practically hear angsty music playing overhead as he sulked through the softly falling rain. However, as more raindrops kept falling on the former con man’s head, he began to feel a hint of remorse for his former companion. Maybe I was a little hard on Dorothy, he thought. Well, to be fair, she nearly killed me twice…but she did save me from those goblins…plus she actually thought I could be some kind of hero! Seriously…what was up with that? Sunny P pondered as he trudged ever deeper into the woods. Still…it was fun to play knight…even just for a minute…
As the former squire puzzled over his current situation, he came to a hill overlooking the park – with a fork in the road deciding his fate. There was the path to the left, which he could see would take him out of the woods and back to the cardboard booth from whence he came – and the path to the right…which he really had no idea what lay beyond that. However, he soon found a subtle hint of said mystery by the high-pitched plucking of a lute and some guy moaning in Old English some distance away. Over these sounds of Elizabethan drama, he could hear an audience collectively moan in boredom. “Curiouser and curiouser…” Sunny P thought as he walked down the rightmost path.
Meanwhile, in some other corner of Central Park, Dorothy cautiously rode Silversharp down a slick cobblestone path, eager as ever to find her way to the McGuffin Stone. However, as much as she looked the part of righteous knight, a certain darkness loomed over the armor-clad librarian. As much as she felt betrayed by her former squire, she couldn’t help but miss him. Eh, maybe he wasn’t cut out for the adventurer’s life anyway, she thought. I mean, I found him in a cardboard fortune teller booth, and I starting to think that was entirely legal! Though, she thought, he was fun to hang out with. Though in hindsight, maybe I should have given him his own scooter…she thought. Though she could apologize to Sunny P later, she had a quest to go on! The McGuffin Stone was somewhere at the end of the park, and she had no time to lose before it fell into the wrong hands. However, as she started to speed up on Silversharp, she heard a strange rustling sound in the trees. “Did you hear that?”, Dorothy asked. Silversharp roared his engine as if to agree with her. Drawing her sword, Dorothy dismounted her faithful scooter and cautiously stepped forward. “Who goes there?”, she called into the trees. Suddenly, as if to answer her, a shape dropped down from the branch above her. Dorothy gulped in fear as she stood in front of the most terrifying opponent she had ever met – in all her years of heroism and danger, she had never met a force so unyielding in its might, and so cruel in its temper. Indeed, she might not come back from this battle alive.
Dorothy stood, ready to fight, as the squirrel in front of her twitched its head.
— ♦♦♦ —
A few miles away, Sunny P had followed the theatrical sounds as far as he could, until he had reached a sort of hedge that blocked his view of what lay beyond. “Heh…like that’ll stop me.”, the former squire said to himself, as he flipped out his trusty pen knife, cutting away a few of the branches until he could successfully walk through the hedge. Once on the other side, he started to regret his words as he lay eyes on a truly horrifying sight. It was a performance of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet – and a bad one at that. As Sunny P watched in utter confusion, the actors fumbled through their lines with a dull look on their faces, and the music droned on, making the story about two hormonal teenagers marrying two hours after they met seem even more angsty and stupid than usual. Eventually, Sunny P could watch no longer, deciding he had to continue his way. No sooner had he turned around, however, did he here a whispered “Help…” from one of the back rows. Turning around to see the caller, he found the source of the sound – a middle-aged man who seemed especially nervous for such a boring production.
“What’s going on?” Sunny P asked. “And how fast can you summarize it, so I can get out of this freakshow?”
“Please – you have to help us!”, the man whispered in a frightened tone. “The audience – we’re here against our will. These crazy actors kidnapped us and forced us to watch their play! They won’t let us leave!”
Sunny P looked out at the rest of the audience, who had the same frightened looks on their faces. As he looked closer still, they all seemed to be tied to their seats. Talk about a captive audience, he thought, and chuckled to himself.
“Wait, you can help us!”, another woman whispered. “Please, we need someone to help!”
Sunny P thought long and hard about what to do. His inquisitive mind raced through thirty years of experiences, both on the streets and on this ridiculous quest he had been a part of. Finally, he knew what he had to do.
“Well, good luck with that, but Sunny P is out! Peace!” Chucking up the deuces sign to the audience, the con artist calmly strode away, whistling a happy tune. At least – he tried to do so. For some reason, he couldn’t stop hearing the people’s cries for help. And for some reason he actually felt…bad! OK, this is weird, Sunny P thought to himself. First, I actually join a knight’s quest and now I’m feeling…I think compassion?
Sunny P looked back to the audience. Some of their faces met his – the balding man, a few parents, and a little girl all with one thing in common – though silent, he knew that they cried out for a hero. Sunny P looked back at them – and nodded.
OK, that’s it, I must help them. Sunny P concluded. Think, think, you idiot! What…what would Dorothy do?
Looking below him, Sunny P noticed something interesting – a prop sword that one of the actors must have dropped. He picked it up, and a look of what could only be described as determined fear grew on his face. I can’t believe I’m doing this…he thought to himself. Striding up to the stage with a growing confidence in his eye, Sunny P drew his sword and stared down the kidnapping actors.
“Producers and actors of this terrible play,” Sunny P called out in a commanding voice. “Let these people go or suffer the consequences!” The actors looked down at him with a look of confusion on their faces.
“And…. who, beith thou, exactly, that commandeth us so? As one can see, we outnumber you like locusts outnumbered the Egyptian crops – or something…”
“I’m Sunford Patrick Jr. – but you can call me Sunny P.” Sunny P stood firm, surprisingly ready for a fight. “And if you will not release these people…then DRAW. THY. SWORDS.”
The collective unsheathing of at least twenty swords echoed throughout Central Park.
Well…this cannot possibly end well, Sunny P thought, as a few dozen Shakespearean actors charged forward to taste his steel.
— ♦♦♦ —
Meanwhile, just a few miles away, Dorothy Quinn was locked in the heat of battle with a ferocious squirrel. The rodent abomination lay waste to her armor, biting and tearing at her cape until its twitchy little nose and buck teeth were stained with noble yarn. Nevertheless, Dorothy fought on, swiping at the squirrel with her sword, to no avail. “Is that the best you can do, you furry demon?!” Dorothy cried out as the squirrel effortlessly leaped between her swipes, landing blow after blow on her face and armor. While it could do little damage, being a squirrel, Dorothy was getting really tired of it scratching her face. Besides, her honor was at stake – she had never lost a fight in her life, not even to the Fighting Champion of Trenzalore during that foreign exchange trip a few years ago. However, with the squirrel attacking her at such a merciless pace, she wasn’t sure how long she could keep standing. Panting and out of breath, she prepared to swing at the ferocious beast one last time – but hesitated. Wait a minute, she realized. Maybe fighting isn’t the way to go here. In all her years of being a hero, Dorothy had indeed come across battles that could be ended through peace – but they were few and far between. Maybe, just maybe…this was one of those times. Ok…I’ve got to find some way to reason with this squirrel. Think, think…! Suddenly, a new thought popped into her head – What would Sunny P do? As grouchy as he was, he seemed to be…adequate at charming people.
Slowly and cautiously, Dorothy put down her sword and stared down at her opponent. “My dear…squirrelly friend,” she began. “I do not wish to fight you. Indeed, how could I beat such an unrelenting force or pure power and destruction, oh Squirrel the…amazing?” Dorothy thought she was laying on the charm pretty thick, but the squirrel merely twitched its head. Dorothy looked from side to side, wondering what could appease this tiny beast. Suddenly, she spotted it – a tiny acorn, carelessly discarded by some other inhabitant of the woods. Dorothy picked up the small nut and kneeled, bestowing the tasty prize to her opponent. “Oh, might squirrel, in return for safe passage, I offer thee this humble acorn. May it sate you for the…several minutes you spend eating it.”
Humbly tossing the acorn to the squirrel, Dorothy once again locked eyes with her furry foe. The two of them kept staring at each other, as if each set of eyes was trying to make the other look away. Finally, after what seemed like an eternity, the squirrel twitched its head once again – as if to nod to a worthy opponent – and scampered off into the trees. As it did so, Dorothy breathed a sigh of relief. The rodent peril was finally over.
— ♦♦♦ —
Sunny P’s peril, on the other hand, had only just begun. While Dorothy had been battling a ferocious squirrel, the former con artist and new knight had been battling the cast of Romeo and Juliet, dueling five members at once with speed and ferocity. Quite frankly, he couldn’t believe it – other than one time in middle school where he pretended to be the Dread Pirate Roberts, Sunny P had never held a sword in his life. And yet, here he was, battling against a horde of mediocre fencers for the chance to save an entire audience from their capture. However, each clang! and slash! brought him closer and closer to the stage – where the rest of the cast was waiting to finally subdue him. What was a guy to do? Luckily, Sunny P had newly found himself to be a hero – and with that, he had a plan.
Ducking under the wave of swords that swung in front of him, Sunny P ran over to the audience and cut a few of the members free. “Go, get the others!”, he heard himself telling those few he had unchained, ran back to the stage. Dodging and sweeping past the swordsmen once again, he made his way into the rafters of the wooden stage the players had built. Once there, he knew what he had to do. While the actors tried to catch him, Sunny P made himself busy, slicing through wooden boards and cutting down ropes, swinging around as the stage collapsed around him. Luckily, he himself managed to escape the destruction just in time, jumping out of the way as the balcony crashed down onto the main stage, sending a cloud of dust and wood chips into the air while the actors fled for their lives.
“I guess it’s – CURTAINS for them!” Sunny P cried out and laughed heartily. Though he felt excited and invigorated, inside, his inner cynic had to admit – Seriously? Did you really just say that? Well, nevertheless, the day was saved, and while the actors ran back to the art school from whence they came, Sunny P set to work freeing the rest of the audience. Cutting the rest of the people free, he could not help but smile as the former captives ran over to their loved ones, hugging their children, friends, and significant others with a tightness that could not be rivaled. Many of them ran over to say, “Thank you!” and “Bless you, you set us all free!”, but Sunny P paid them no mind – besides one small child. A ten-year-old girl, to be precise, who took some time to run over and hug his knee. “Thanks for saving us,” she said to him with an adorable smile on her face. “You really are a hero.” Sunny P smiled as she then ran off to her parents. Sure, he thought as he started back on the path to the end of the park. I guess I am.
— ♦♦♦ —
Riding out of the park on Silversharp was a huge relief for Dorothy Quinn. Now that she was out of those infernal woods, she could finally get back on track. It was late in the afternoon by that point, and the McGuffin Stone couldn’t wait all day! However, as the librarian knight was about to zoom off in search of adventure, she bumped into a rather familiar face – Sunny P, who by pure coincidence was leaving the park by the same exit.
“Oh…hey again.” Sunny P started, with a sense of awkwardness as all the conflict between them came back in full. “Hi yourself…must admit, I never saw this coming.” Dorothy responded. Really, she had no idea what to say as the two of them looked at the other, both parties clearly looking like they had been through hell.
“So… what happened to you?” Sunny P asked.
“Oh…just had to fight a squirrel, bribed it with an acorn to win. You?”
“Battling Shakespearean actors. Turns out Romeo and Juliet actually requires a literal captive audience to be watchable.”
An awkward silence ensues as the two stared at each other with remorseful expressions on both of their faces. Eventually, Sunny P was the first to crack.
“Look, Dorothy…I’m sorry about what I said. This quest you’re going on…I don’t think it’s crazy. If you need to find this McGuffin Stone, then I want to help however I can.
“Really?” Dorothy asked in a hopeful tone. “What made you change your mind?”
“Well,” Sunny P explained, “through a series of strange events involving Shakespeare and me having an unusual talent with a sword…I think I would enjoy this…hero sort of thing. It feels good to…help people and actually be selfless for once in my life.”
Dorothy stared at Sunny P for a good minute…then walked over and embraced her comrade.
“You know…I always knew that’s what you were meant for.”, she told him. “And I’m sorry too…I never meant to put you in… excessive danger from this quest. That, and insulting your fortune teller booth; that was uncalled for.”
“It’s cool.”, Sunny P told her. “Now then, if we’re done forgiving each other…what do you say we find this McGuffin Stone you keep gushing about?”
“I couldn’t agree more.”, Dorothy said. On that triumphant note, she grabbed her sword, and the two heroes zoomed off on Silversharp, eager for adventure and the chance to be heroes.
With this, it came to pass that the knight and her squire, after a duet of insane adventures, were finally reconciled. The quest for the McGuffin Stone could continue.
— ♦♦♦ —
After another half hour or so of scooting down the streets of Manhattan, our heroes had finally reached their destination. Before them lay a gleaming building of marble and stone – and inside lay their final prize.
“According to the map, the McGuffin Stone should be inside here.” Dorothy told Sunny P. As they walked up the stairs to enter the citadel known as Castle Metropolitan, the two could almost smell their goal on the other side of those great doors.
“Now there is one last obstacle to cross before we find our prize.”, Dorothy added. “According to the map, there’s some sort of…Riddle-Master that guards the door to the stone. For each traveler that comes along, he asks them an ancient riddle, one that has never been solved. If we answer correctly, we get in. If we don’t answer correctly…”
“Yeah, I think I get it.” Sunny P drew his sword that he had stolen from the Shakespeareans and walked up the stairs with Dorothy, who too had drawn her sword. Cautiously creeping up the marble steps, the two stepped towards the large wooden doors, and prepared to enter. However, just as they were about to open the doors, a large puff of smoke came out of nowhere, blowing the two onto their backs!
Out of that puff of smoke stepped a man who could only be the Riddle-Master, a middle-aged, balding man in a robe and holding a staff topped with a question mark.
“Halt!”, the Riddle Master called. “Those who would enter this sacred place must answer the ancient riddle, ere the McGuffin Stone he faces.”
“Wait a minute,” Sunny P realized. “Aren’t you that guy who I rescued back at the park?”
“Well, yes,” the Riddle-Master admitted. “And now you see why I had to get out – I was late for work! Now then, as I was saying – Those who would enter this sacred place must answer the ancient riddle, ere the McGuffin-
“We heard that part already.” Sunny P pointed out. Dorothy stepped forward and resheathed her sword. “Ask the riddle, Riddle-Master, we’re not afraid!”
“OK then,” said the Riddle-Master, and spoke:
I turn polar bears white
and I make you cry.
I make men turn to stone
and women into Formica.
I make celebrities look stupid
and reality stars look like celebrities.
I turn pancakes brown
and make lava bubble.
If you squeeze me, I will pop.
If you look at me, you will pop.
Can you solve the riddle?
Dorothy and Sunny P thought long and hard about their answer, recalling all the possible combinations that could make for this kind of ability to transform and modify the world around them. However, all they could think of – was either a nine-legged unicorn or absolutely nothing at all
“I don’t get it!”, Sunny P grumbled. “That’s not a riddle, it’s just a nonsense poem!”
“Don’t give up,” Dorothy responded. “There has to be some way to make sense of the riddle.
The two of them thought some more. What did it mean? What turned men to stone, and women to Formica? What turned pancakes brown and made lava bubble? Dorothy read over the poem time and time again and had to admit – there really was no way to answer the riddle. But, just as she was about to give up and say some random thing in hopes of getting it right, she realized something – the final line of the poem.
Can you solve the riddle?
Suddenly, Dorothy understood! Turning to the Riddle-Master, the librarian/knight proudly stated, “No. I can’t answer the riddle.”
The Riddle-Master stared back at the two heroes for a good minute, but eventually an answer came out of his mouth. “Your answer…is correct. Enter, and receive your reward.”
With that, Dorothy and Sunny P entered the castle, the wooden door quickly slamming behind them.
— ♦♦♦ —
As the two heroes walked through the ancient halls of the castle, Sunny P just had to know: “Hey, Dorothy, how did you manage to solve the riddle?”
“Oh, that was easy,” the librarian explained. “The poem really was nonsense – so the only logical response was to say that there was no answer, that we could not solve the riddle. Instead of giving some random solution, the correct answer was just to tell the truth.”
“Ah,” Sunny P concluded. For a crazy knight, she really was smart…
As the two ventured further and further into the ancient castle, they could not help but marvel at the paintings and sculptures that adorned each hall and room. It was like a…museum or something, but sightseeing could wait. Rounding a few more corners and climbing a flight of stairs, Dorothy and Sunny P came across an even larger wooden door. What was on the other side, they did not know – but they had a pretty good feeling.
“You ready for this?”, Dorothy asked.
“Totally”, her squire answered, as they pushed open the door to find…a vast chamber, decorated in marble and silver as far as the eye could see. In front of them, a pathway of spotlights led to the center of the room, wherein lay their prize – the McGuffin Stone! Dorothy and Sunny P walked forward to where the stone lay, on some ancient pillar that emphasized the majesty and raw power that emanated from the ethereal rock. Once they reached the ancient boulder, Dorothy drew her sword and knelt, clearly trying to honor the fates that led her to the end of her quest.
“Finally, we made it, Sunny P!” Dorothy exclaimed in delight as Sunny P smiled alongside her. “After all these hours, after every peril that I unintentionally dragged you through – we finally made it to the McGuffin Stone! Truly, this shall be known as a quest for the ages, a testament to true heroism, ands an immortal chronicle of two of the greatest-”
“FINALLY, YOU TWO ARE GONNA GET WHAT’S COMIN’ TO YA!”
Seriously, what was it about goblins that always spoiled a good ending?
Dorothy and Sunny P jumped up and drew their swords, once again facing the goblin gang that had attacked Sunny P that same day. The gang of five or so had grown in number, apparently gathering their allies from all across the city to fulfill this day-long vendetta. Armed with gnarly-looking swords and axes, and decked head to toe in makeshift armor – Sunny P nearly chuckled at the one goblin with a salad bowl for a helmet – the goblins looked angry, riled up from a day of pillaging, and ready to slice up our heroes. Still, they could not be allowed to destroy what is obviously supposed to be a happy ending.
“Ok guys look – I do NOT have time for this.” Sunny P said as he stepped forward. “You guys had your fun on pages five and six, but we really have to speed up this climax. We found the McGuffin Stone, now just head off and leave us alone!”
He was quickly answered by a stray arrow narrowly missing his head. Clearly these goblins were not going to comply.
Stepping forward and assuming a charming smile, Dorothy seemed to take the situation a lot more seriously. “Don’t worry, Sunny P, I’ve got this…” she assured her squire.
“Good goblin horde,” she began. “I’m not sure what Sunny P did to tick you guys off, but I’m sure that we, er, he, can pay you back in-”
“Gold and assorted intestines?”, one of the goblins prematurely responded.
“Um…no… but if you want to come to some sort of…non-death-related agreement-”
The second stray arrow that narrowly missed her head indicated that the goblins had no time for this sort of negotiation.
“Fair enough,” Dorothy replied as she drew her sword alongside Sunny P. “If you want to do it the hard way…”
With the drawing of swords came the sounds of battle as Dorothy and Sunny P entered one last fray with the goblin horde. Dueling ferociously against the seemingly infinite gang of monsters, the two of them demonstrated their skills with the sword against such an insurmountable force. Dorothy did her usual routine of flips, slashes, and slices that made Inigo Montoya seem like a rank amateur, while Sunny P – who had just started to learn his craft – was mostly just swinging the sword around like a giant stick, mostly relying on luck and the cowardice of goblin hordes to avoid death’s icy touch. As a result, he reminded himself to sign up for some sort of fencing class when one of the goblins knocked his sword out of his hands, knocking him on his back in front of the McGuffin Stone.
“Now then…” said goblin rasped as the hordes surrounded Sunny P, ready to slice him to pieces. “Any last words before…you know, we make you stop living?”
Sunny P didn’t know how to respond, mostly feeling around for something he could use to get out of this. However, once he wrapped his fingers around a blunt object above his head, he knew exactly what to say.
Knocking one of the goblins out with the McGuffin Stone, Sunny P turned to the rest, unleashing the full power and might of what a somewhat large stone in his hand could do. Bashing goblins left and right, Sunny P fought his way to Dorothy, similarly fighting her way through horde after horde of goblins with her trusty sword.
The battle that day was truly a terrific one – two heroes fighting side by side to defend the mighty McGuffin Stone from the forces of evil. Despite that annoying pebble in her shoe, Dorothy sliced and diced through goblin after goblin, demonstrating her mastery with the sword while generally kicking but in the process. Sunny P was similarly adept in battle – having found his niche in blunt instruments, he was a similar force to be reckoned with, now that he had the McGuffin Stone in his hand. Eventually, after several minutes of glory and carnage, all the goblins had fallen…save for one small foot soldier, shaking from fear in the middle of the room.
“I don’t suppose you could…surrender, just for the sake of it, you know…?”
Dorothy and Sunny P brandished their weapons once more, sending this last of the goblin horde screaming and running for his life.
The battle was finally over! As the two heroes rejoiced, Sunny P held up the McGuffin Stone in triumph. “I can’t believe it – we actually did it!”, he shouted, as Dorothy held her sword aloft. “Truly this is a great day for knights and squires-er, knights-in-training everywhere!”
Sunny P looked surprised – and a little awestruck at being given this honor. “Knight in training – really…? I… don’t know what to say.”
Dorothy looked at her new apprentice with a smile that inspired total confidence in the former con artist. She believed he could be a hero, and under her training – a hero is what he would be. “Say yes.”, she told him, and the two high-fived.
“Now then – let me get a look at the Stone!” Dorothy could not take the stone from Sunny P’s hands fast enough! After all this time, after all the quests, all the adventures – she and Sunny P had finally reached their prize – the McGuffin Stone! Dorothy looked at the rock with pure awe and wonder, knowing that she had finally saved the-
“Wait a minute!” Dorothy looked a bit closer at the McGuffin Stone. Something was a bit off here – the stone had a strange texture to it, almost…like plastic. “Hey, Sunny P – could you take a look at this?”
Sunny P walked over and scanned the McGuffin Stone like a hawk. His eyes flew over the ancient boulder time and time again, until he saw something that made him step back in both shock and disappointment:
MADE IN CHINA.
“Dorothy…I’m not sure how to tell you this.” Dorothy looked over at Sunny P in confusion and a bit of nervousness. “What happened? Is the stone OK?”
Sunny P sadly walked over and placed the stone back on its pillar.
“The stone…it’s a fake.”
“WHAT?!” Dorothy ran over and looked at the stone again. Once more she felt the plastic texture and the manufacturer’s label. And once more…she turned to Sunny P with a look of pure dejection and disappointment on her face.
“Dorothy…are you gonna be OK?” Sunny P asked, clearly concerned for his friend.
“…Sure.” Dorothy answered, but the truth of her response seemed questionable.
“Come on…let’s go home.
— ♦♦♦ —
And so, the two heroes started their long and dejected journey home, both shocked and disappointed at the seeming futility of their quest.
Riding down the streets of Manhattan on Silversharp, Sunny P tried to lighten the mood with a few jokes, but Dorothy seemed rather quiet, and hunched over her shoulders in a brooding fashion. It was as if she was taking on the full burden of her quest…and how she saw it to be a total failure.
“Hey, Dorothy…you sure you’re OK?”, Sunny P asked. “Look, I know we didn’t find the McGuffin Stone in the end but look on the bright side! At least we-”
Suddenly, Dorothy slammed on the brakes, bringing Silversharp to a full stop in front of Washington State park. Quickly parking the scooter, she stormed off to a bench, sat down, and did not say a word more.
Knowing he had to do something, Sunny P walked over and sat next to her.
“Dorothy…I know the quest didn’t turn out like we thought, but it’s not the end of the world. I mean, it’s not like-”
“You just don’t get it, OK?!”, Dorothy shot back, wiping a stray tear from her eye. “I was chosen to go on this quest! You think a giant head from the cosmic outreaches of the universe chooses ANYONE to go on mythical quests?!”
“Wait…a giant head told you to do this?”, Sunny P interrupted, genuinely confused.
“Not important! It’s just…I thought if I found the stone, I could prove myself…you know, as a great knight or a true hero or something. I just wanted to find it so bad, and now…now I’m thinking this whole thing amounted to…just about nothing.” Dorothy sunk lower onto the bench, clearly doubting herself and all that she had been through. Sunny P looked at her nearly broken spirit and realized – he would have none of this. Striding over to his friend, Sunny P stood Dorothy up and looked her straight in the eye.
“You know, Dorothy – for once you’re absolutely wrong. This quest didn’t amount to nothing! We went on a completely insane adventure through the city – we fought monsters, helped people, solved riddles! sure, I might have nearly died a couple of times, but you know what? In the end, we still had fun! I can’t believe I’m saying this – but I actually WANT to be a knight now! Seriously, I’m just as surprised as you are!”
Dorothy looked confused. “I was never surprised…”
“Exactly!” Sunny P stood taller and walked Dorothy over to a better spot, giving her a full and gorgeous view of the park. “I’m not sure how you did it, but you actually believed I could be better than some guy giving out fake fortune readings on the sidewalk. Weirder yet…you actually made ME believe that. Because of you, I think this city’s going to have one more knight racing around doing knightly stuff. And if that isn’t an upside from this quest…quite frankly, you have a very strange outlook on what quests are supposed to be.”
Sunny P looked over at Dorothy with a look of assurance in his eye. The librarian/knight seemed to have her spirits improved from his rousing speech. Wiping her eyes, she looked at her new protege – and knew that despite everything, she made a man into a knight, and that wasn’t half bad for some half-baked quest to find a rock that may or may not exist.
“Thanks…I really needed that.”, Dorothy said as she came over and hugged Sunny P. Much to his surprise, Sunny P hugged back. “You know, looking back, this quest truly was one to remember. A testament to heroism, to knighthood, to adventure, and most of all to- Gah! Seriously, what is up with this pebble?!”
“You OK?”, Sunny P asked her.
“I’m fine,” Dorothy responded, fiddling with her shoe to take it off. “It’s just this stupid pebble in my shoe! It’s been driving me crazy all day!”
“Here, let me help.” Sunny P helped pull Dorothy’s shoe off and watched as she fished around for the pebble that had given her so much annoyance all through that day. Finally, Dorothy pulled out the tiny stone, no bigger than a marble, and examined it with a watchful eye.
“So… you’re what’s been in my shoe all day.”, Dorothy said as she brought the pebble closer to her eye. Something seemed odd about it, but she couldn’t tell what. “Now then…what exactly are you- WAIT A MINUTE!”
Sunny P ran over to get a look at the pebble. “What? What’s going on?”
Dorothy looked at Sunny P with a look of both joy and shock on her face. “This pebble…this is it! This is the real McGuffin Stone!”
“Seriously?” Sunny P had no idea what she was talking about but looked at the rock anyway. While the pebble looked like any ordinary rock that might slip into a person’s shoe, he had to admit – it shone with a humble glow that, while not noticeable to the untrained eye, seemed to betray an unknown power that would warrant a quest such as theirs.
“I can’t believe it, but I think you’re right!” Sunny P handed the stone back to Dorothy. “I seriously can’t believe I’m saying this…but we did it! We found the McGuffin Stone!”
With this news of their quest being successful after all, the two friends held the pebble up to the sky and jumped for joy, almost feeling like there was heroic and triumphant music playing in the background. At long last…their quest was at an end. The McGuffin Stone had been found, and it seemed Manhattan now had two knights to defend its streets – and perhaps go on several more ridiculous and logic-defying quests in the future.
And so, it came to pass that Dorothy Quinn found herself back at the New York Public Library, once again taking pride in her role as keeper of the adventure section. While she resigned herself to the mundane role she played in these hallowed halls, she did feel a sense of happiness – after all, there’s no place like home.
“Hey, when you’re done with organizing the books upstairs, can you help out with one of the customers?”, she called to her new trainee. “Apparently he borrowed some Egyptian scroll that summoned mummies to his apartment.”
“Sure thing!”, Sunny P called as he pushed one of the book carts up the stairs. Got to admit, he thought to himself, this is not what I thought she meant when she said training to be a knight. Still…it does beat getting your fake soothsayer stand destroyed by goblins on a weekly basis.
Dorothy smiled as her new trainee got down to the usual grind, whistling a tune as he reorganized the shelves and dusted between the nooks and crannies. Sure, he had much to learn before truly becoming a knight. But, then again – he had come that far. Somehow, she knew he could make it the rest of the way.
“Man,” Dorothy sighed as she stamped a few more return books. “I’ve got to admit. I could get used to this! The library’s lively, the books are staying quiet – plus no one’s returned any of them late! To be completely honest – I think this is the perfect way to end-”
ROOOOOOOOAAAAAARRRRRR! Dorothy jumped up as she heard the horrific howl coming from the third floor. Sunny P ran up to her as well, having just finished with his dusting.
“Let me guess – T-Rex again?”, Sunny P asked, and drew his sword in anticipation.
“Yep – something tells me one of the kids opened that cursed dinosaur book again.”, Dorothy concluded, and drew her sword alongside her apprentice. “Are you ready?”
“You better believe it, boss.”
Suddenly, the room shook as the T-Rex made its way down the lobby, destroying each step with its mighty feet. It stared at Dorothy and Sunny P with a look of both rage and unadulterated hunger.
“In that case – I think it’s time to be knights again.”, Dorothy quipped, as she charged towards the giant lizard, sword in hand and victory on her mind. It’s good to be back, she thought as the battle began, with Sunny P running over to lend his sword to the battle.
And as the two fought a tyrannosaurus rex spawned from a magical children’s book, they both came to the conclusion that things, despite the crazy way in which they turned out, really did work out for the best. Against all odds, a librarian had become a knight, a con artist had become her squire – and a powerful magic of immeasurable power had been found in a random sneaker. Though it was ironic, they both thought – while that quest may have been insane and beyond belief…it was one of those lesser adventures, that while interesting, they would both remember somewhat vaguely for a long while.
— ♦♦♦ —
Just a Spark. By Tannar Miller, Art by L.A. Spooner
The Captain and his ship were the ace up the Nazi’s sleeve. He couldn’t save all the men that had unwittingly served him with honor and valor he had never expected from them. Too late, his first officer realized the Captain’s betrayal. In an instant, however, the Captain made it right. All it took was just a spark.