It was a relatively short, though oppressive walk to the City of Setebos. The woodland clung to their breath as they toddled along in search of forgiveness and a potential cure. The sky looked down gravely on the heroes, overcasting doubt on the success of their mission. The Sun beamed her glorious smile onto the walls of the City, though her mind was elsewhere; she was trying to find a solution for a disenfranchised Sloth in the jungles of South America.
The City walls of Setebos had once been magnificent, a testament to the Greatness of the Old Fairies, The Lords of Uranus. Creatures had travelled from all over the planet to gaze upon the high white marble structures that told a tale of great wealth and great breeding. In those days the walls had been more than necessary.
They exhibited the splendour of the Fairy Kings but also were needed to keep out the riff raff, the ne’er do wells, down and outs, Harold Ramps, disgraced Defence Ministers, Letting agents and marauding Orcs.
Long gone were the times of the deadly Wars of the Fairies and Orcs. Many an Orc had been toasted before, during and after a battle and many a Fairy turned into a spit–roasted delicacy.
Fortunately this is no longer the Norm.
At the last great Siege of Setebos in the reign of King Grayson of Everard, the Orcs had caught a case of Darwinian Evolution. They went for a full one hundred and eighty degree about turn in their attitude. Here they lay at the walls of Setebos demanding the surrender of the City and the consumption of the majority of its inhabitants and then suddenly, shazam, they left to research the pros and cons of the Financial Services Industry.
Legend has it that the leader of the Orc Army, Krak Ed, sat musing on the costs of the siege. His men were getting very hungry, what with the long trek north, the building of siege wagons and the constant bombardment of the city with anything that could be catapulted; so Krak Ed began a cost-benefit analysis of being a devastating Warlord. What was the point, he thought, of putting in all this effort, losing good men to the slings and arrows of outrageous Fairies, only to find he was out of pocket at the end? This was not great asset management. He’d raised his own venture capital by stealing from everyone he’d ever met and his potential profit would be to eat the King of the Fairies.
Is this my raison d’être he mused in a pretentious manner.
His head began to fill with Profit and Loss accounts, Angel Investors, Debt Management, Claims Management, Fraud, Theft and Financial Scamming. There was more than enough reason to create a Financial Cartel.
So he called his Chieftains together and explained their new approach.
They would become Financial Advisors, Accountants and Tax Inspectors.
He had to eat a couple of the guys who initially disagreed with his plan; however they soon all approved so they packed up and went home. Thus began a New Age of Enlightenment on Uranus. Nobody would dare cheat at Tax because the consequences could be fatal; despite the attempt at civilisation some Orcs were still partial to eating their victims, and of course being eaten for failing to declare a proper income was considered a just punishment in these parts.
Many of the Orcs began to take on more conventional names in order to appear more acceptable to their clients. No one would be tempted to visit a Financial Advisor called Rippy Zedoff or Head Muncher or Fairy Eater; so they changed their names to things like Bob, Steve and Rupert. However in these later days there are some of the younger Orcs who like to be a bit of a throwback and take on names such as Gaz, Jonno or Wayne, Dwayne, Rap and David.
Thus it had been a long time, been a long time, been a long lonely, lonely, lonely, lonely time since anyone had attacked the great City of Setebos. As a result the Great Walls had fallen somewhat into decay, with buddleia, wall flowers and mosses covering much of the once Magnificent Marbled exterior. There were gaps that grew larger each year as the inhabitants helped themselves to the stones for more useful functions such as Wall Fillers, Door Stops and Argument Solvers. Even the Great Gate at the Western side of the Great City stood permanently open, its Great hinges rusted into place after so many Great Generations of Great Peace.
Things were just Great.
The City did like to maintain some semblance of its former glory, so posted a Guard on the bridge in front of the West Gate. The Guard usually consisted of ten to a dozen of the most friendly and helpful creatures to be found on Uranus, the Gnomes. The Gnomes that formed the Guard came from families in which generation after generation had dedicated their lives to the service of the City, not unlike The Household Cavalry and The Swiss Guard and The Hell´s Angels. These wonderful Gnomish families were known collectively as the Guarding Gnomes and wore the livery of the Guard, a green tunic, red belt, blue trousers and brown Welly-Bobs; headgear was left as a personal choice. In an attempt at remembering their role in the defence of the city each carried a shield of Red bearing a golden wheelbarrow and also carried a ceremonial Fishing Rod.
They were always very, very helpful.
Hence it was that Peter and Greg meandered out of the wood toward the Great Gate at the Western edge of Setebos. Greg lurched along like an Orang Utan on Valium, whilst Peter minced forward, buttocks pulling his legs in strange directions, chuff stuffed with melting lard. They made a handsome sight which any unattached female would have run from; except perhaps one of those girls you meet just before the last dance at a nightclub.
They approached the Gate.
A friendly Gnome approached, bowed and smiled a smile that would have made the smileyist thing in the Universe envious.
“Good day to you gentleman,” said the Gnome. “I am Steve, the captain of the Guard for today. What can I do for you? I would guess by the way you are moving that there is a tale of Great Deeds attached to you two fine young travellers!”
“He’s got the Dukes!” declared the Goblin, demonstrating his total lack of tact.
The Gnomes on the bridge took a collective deep breath and blessed themselves with the sign of the wheelbarrow. A Pixy with the Dukes! was more than a tale of Great Adventure, it was a tale of Derring-Do, without a Poo. It was a tragedy they had not experienced before, and one that threw their communal morality into a spin. There was only one way a Pixy could find himself in such a State, and that was a betrayal of the Royal Trust.
And yet deep down who wouldn’t risk their all for a chance with fine looking tart?
“In the name of the great Fishing Rod!” declared Steve, “you will need a lot of help with finding a solution to that problem.”
“Yes I worked that one out for myself!” said Peter.
“If the Dukes! strike harder it will be the only thing you can work out for yourself!” said Steve gravely.
“Well look at this, a Gnome with a sense of humour, how unusual.”
The scene could have got ugly now if it wasn’t for the inbreeding amongst the Guards and the subsequent automatic sense of duty to help.
“You’ll need some advice from the King,” said Steve.
“Is he at home today?”
“As luck would have it, yes!”
“So how do we get to see him?”
“Normally,” said Steve in a business like manner, “you would have to go and see the First Minister Lord Tchod or his assistant The Fub. However today those two are off playing a game of golf, so I reckon you should just go up to the castle, ring the bell and say ‘Is Innocent in?’”
“And that’s it?”
The Gnome continued his explanation.
“If Lord Tchod was here he would make you fill in Fairy Interview request form 117B ‘Audience with the King’. He would then interview you and ask the purpose of your visit and what you hoped to gain from the visit and any noticeable benefits to the King.”
“What type of benefits?”
“Oh the usual, you know; Gold, Silver, Silk, Pies, Cakes etc. The King is very fond of his Pies.”
“I see,” gloomed Peter.
“And after that interview you would be expected to spend a similar interview with The Fub, a scary experience by all accounts.”
“In what way?”
“Well apparently The Fub turned up here one day from the lord knows where. He is a fearsome creature, half man, half lard; some say he is a demon from another planet. But Lord Tchod likes him. Fub can scare away most folk that want an audience with the King. I believe he can just scare most people with his smell, his red face and very fat tummy. I think he is a semi-civilised Ogre myself, though a bit too intelligent. Lord Tchod likes Ogres too!”
“So have I got to see this Fub then?” asked a confused Peter.
“No,” said Steve. “I just told you he’s playing golf! Just go straight in. You’ll be more than welcome I’m sure.”
Peter and Greg looked at each other.
“So where are we going?”
“You walk down on the street, turn left and it´s door number three.”
The intrepid duo thanked the worrisome Gnome and set off for the next phase of this Great Adventure.