The atmosphere inside the inn was very much like that of any Public House anywhere in the Known Universe. It was probably the same as any Public House in the Unknown Universe but that will never be known.. There was one major difference; you have to travel far and wide on earth to find a pub full of Orcs, Fairies, Pixys, Goblins and Gnomes – though a trawl around Norfolk would probably do it.
The four travellers booked in at reception discussing whether to pay by cash or credit card and if they wanted a morning call or breakfast in bed. There was some discussion as to what type of breakfast, Full Fairy or Continental; in the end they said they’d suck it and see. Being simple characters from the other side of the sky their luggage was minimal; each carried a small pack with the preparations Hanny had insisted on, including spare trousers, socks and pants. Hanny carried an extra bag for her make-up.
Soon they found themselves in amongst the crowd in the main lounge, drinking beer and swapping tales with other travellers. It is a universal phenomenon that travellers will always try to outdo each other with their tales of mishaps and misadventures. If one traveller lost a friend in a flooded river then the next lost his entire family in a similar flood; if one stood in the plop of a Harpy then the next was plopped on by a flock of Harpies; a third would claim to have been eaten by a Harpy, digested and plopped out amazed that he was still alive. And there was Reganmy Five Heads boasting about her trip to Eleven-a-reef; ‘So much better than Tenerife’.
Our awesome quartet listened to such far fetched tales and tongue in cheek jibes until one strange looking Orc asked what they were up to.
“Heading for the fabled Lake of the Gloompty Fish,” said Greg without thinking.
“There’s no such place!” quipped a one eyed Orc, an accountant from Setebos with a penchant for yellow trousers and meat cleavers.
His smile disappeared quickly.
Conversation started up again in the room, though at a lower level as most people were now sitting down. Every now and again a face would turn to look at the quartet, then turn away laughing to its companions. The strange Orc sat with them. They began to feel uncomfortable. Orcs were no longer the fearsome warriors of the past but there was always a possibility that this one was a tax inspector.
“I can see I’m making you a little uncomfortable,” said the Orc. “Let me introduce myself. My name is Regan. I’m a chief Financial Advisor for a corporation of Imps, Ogres, Trolls and Alchemists from the far west. IOTA they called themselves though personally I couldn’t care a jot what they’re called as long as they pay me on time. And they do pay on time or else I’ll eat them! I’m not a Tax Inspector,” he added, “though I do know a few!”
He said this with a wicked glint in his single eye.
“Nice to meet you I’m sure,” came the stunted replies of the trio plus one.
“How did you get that wicked glint in your eye?” asked Greg.
“There was a sale on recently at ‘Glints-R-Us’. I got it at a fifty percent discount and counted it as a tax deductible expense,” explained Regan.
“Was it half price because it was for only one eye?” asked Greg.
Regan ignored him though made a mental note about the correct oven temperature for cooking Goblins, and what would be the most suitable Vegetables and sauce.
“And Garlic bread, “ mumbled Regan.
“So you’re off in search of legends?” said Regan, changing the subject.
“That’s right,” returned Steve, still nervous over his upcoming Tax return. “Do you know much about self-assessment?”
The Orc laughed.
“Not really my field. These days I’m much happier advising on Mutual and Trust funds, Pension Planning and Will Writing.”
There was a pause.
The Orc took a large chug of his beer.
As he put the glass down he asked, “So which one of you has the distressed arse?”
Hanny smiled. “A learned Orc! A rare treat. So if you know of the legend you know the answer to your question.”
“Well little Pixy,” said the Orc, “caught with your hand in the tarts box. Serves you right. But it could turn out to be of mutual advantage to both of us!”
“Well you see my lovely wife Ena needs a bit of a holiday. She’s a lovely girl but she still has a bit of a desire to walk on the wild side. You know we Orcs became sophisticated many moons ago. We realised that there comes a point when it really just isn’t worth fighting against the system. What you have to do is get inside the system if you want to change it. So that’s what we do these days. We control the system surreptitiously from within. Everyone on the planet now keeps good financial records and as such we have almost alleviated poverty and reduced corporate excess. Except of course with the King and Queen. In spite of this I’m sure that will come. Lord Chalfont has more than a passing sympathy for the Ways of The Accountant. And Kings don’t last forever.”
Hanny felt an uneasy shiver in her spine as he said this.
“So what can we do you for pal?” asked the agitated Goblin.
“As I said we get throwbacks in our race, Orcs with a desire for the wild life. My wife Ena is one such Orc. And I just thought if you lot were on a trip into the wild searching for legends then perhaps you could take her with you.”
“Look Regan,” began Peter, “we have a nice little team here ready to take on the world in the search for a Permanent Cure for Sore Bums. We’re happy. Why would we want another member of the team? More specifically why would we want the company of an Orc who thinks she’s born to be wild?”
“Excellent points and well made. But let me ask you this; who would want to come under the close scrutiny of a team of Tax Inspectors. Who would want every penny of income checked and double checked by some of the most boring but dangerous creatures on the planet?”
The next morning the five travellers set off from the ‘Slug and Rider’ much invigorated. As a sign of his gratitude Regan had agreed to pay all of the bills for the quartet, knowing he would be able to claim it back as travel expenses. Regan was a bully and knew how to get his way.
Ena was an irritating bitch.
She was also the oddest looking Orc any of them had ever seen, even including all of the fiscally aware characters in Banks and Building Societies. Ena had a large mouth that rarely stopped talking, displaying an awesome set of pointy gnashers. She also had ridiculously large ears that looked as though someone had glued two half’s of a saucer to either side of her head.
Ena immediately wanted to take charge of the group, claiming she had scored one hundred percent in a map reading competition. By lunch time they were lost. Ena said ‘what do you expect if you try to lead Goblins or Gnomes anywhere; they are stupid creatures with no sense of direction. Hanny said ‘what do you expect when we don’t even have a map to read’.
Ena dismissed this comment and demanded lunch of cheese and chutney sandwiches with Ryebena.
´Through a weird twist of fate and a weird twist of a wormhole, it once came to pass that a Dead Famous Writer picked up the tale of Dumbell Ena, though got confused between a very small person and a person with a very small brain. Still, it kept Danny Kaye happy for a while.
Ena did keep them all entertained with her stupidity. Whilst walking through the Woodland she admitted to enjoying the sight of a Lumberjack with a marvellous chopper; she constantly gave all of the mountains their wrong names; and whilst crossing a rather murky stream asked ‘what are water purification tablets used for? When she noticed the label on Steve´s T-shirt she said ‘ yes that´s about right , your name must be ‘S’!’
The other four grimaced at the daftness which carried an air of menace.
Yet somehow, despite the trials and tribulations the jovial five made their way slowly south, inching day by day toward the fabled Lake of the Multi-Coloured Gloompty Fish.
Well that is assuming that south is the right direction for the Lake, which might not exist.