John, Bill and Jeannine followed the man who had approached their vehicle into the now-ravaged palace. John was appalled by the sheer magnitude of the damage that had been done in so short a time, mostly because he didn’t think his insurance would cover it.
He demanded an explanation, but the man guiding them couldn’t talk; he just led them inexorably onward, toward what had previously been Claudius’s throne room.
Inside of it, a group of guards in tattered rags, with bent and broken weapons, stood miserably in a circle, talking to each other in low voices. When John entered the room, they stood at attention. He was, after all, their king.
The man who had led them there turned to John, inhaled deeply, and finally said, “Welcome to what remains of your kingdom, my King. I am Pompetus, a random vassal.”
“What happened here?!” shouted John. “What could have done this to my palace? It’s not like I was gone for long. Are you people that incompetent, that you can’t hold a kingdom together for two weeks?”
“A kingdom without a king is a kingdom most vulnerable, King John. Immediately after you departed, a savage fiend came to us in the night and slaughtered forty men,” said Pompetus.
“Well, you can’t spell slaughter without laughter!” offered Bill helpfully.
“We tried to fight him, but our weapons did no damage. Even our sharpest blades couldn’t pierce his wretched skin,” he continued.
“Why didn’t you use guns? We have plenty of them,” said John. “And why do you have swords at all? That’s just stupid.”
“Ah! AH! You see? This is why we need a king! We never would have thought of that,” said Pompetus. “Your majesty, now that you have finally arrived, you must purge your kingdom of this evil. Then you will truly be beloved.”
“What are you talking about? I’m already beloved! Brilliant, handsome, strong – who wouldn’t like me?” challenged John, taking great comfort in Jeannine’s vigorous nods of agreement.
“Well, you are a bit arrogant, my Lord,” said Pompetus cautiously.
“Insolent fool, I’m not arrogant; I’m just better than everyone. Oh, but I wouldn’t expect you to understand. After all, I’m like a god to you people,” said John. “All right, I’ll slay this monster. I’ll slay it dead. What is it, anyway? Dragon? Giant? Robot?”
“It is no ordinary beast. Indeed, you actually used to know this monster personally, my Lord,” explained Pompetus. “You see, he was once human: a great friend to our kingdom. He grew up here. He was your closest childhood companion, if I recall correctly. But alas, under Claudius’s reign he was stricken with acne, and poor eyesight; and he developed an unhappy addiction to tabletop role-playing games. Claudius banished him, and that was his end…or so we thought. This monster is the apotheosis of nerdy darkness: the foul creature Wendel.”
“WENDEL?” blurted out John. “Wendel Berenbaumstein, evil? You must be mad! I demand some sort of proof. If you can’t prove it, I don’t believe it.”
“Well, he’s eating that man over there, right behind you,” said Pompetus. “You’d see it if you’d turn your head a little bit.”
“That evidence is pretty hard to ignore, John,” said Jeannine.
“I’m sure it is, but I’m far too important to turn my head and look,” snapped John. “And Bill! What the hell are you – no, not on the floor, you – dammit, Bill!”
“Er…sorry to interrupt, Sir, but aren’t you going to stop him or something?” asked Pompetus.
“Stop Bill?” asked John. “No, I’ve found it’s a losing battle trying to control that moron. This one time, he –”
“No, my Lord, I’m talking about Wendel,” said the vassal.
“Oh, right. Fine, I’ll kill him – but only on one condition,” said John.
“What is it, my King?” asked Pompetus.
“Give me those potted daisies I saw in the courtyard,” commanded John.
Pompetus was perplexed, but he couldn’t find any harm in that request, so he agreed. Little did he realize that it would be the last thing he would ever agree to…
Because he was, by nature, extremely contentious and rarely agreed with anyone about anything. He doesn’t die, though, if that’s what you were thinking. It probably was, wasn’t it?