The Quest in Which Clyde Strives to Write a Guest Post For Alexx Momcat
Paddlelump Stonemonger sat hunched in the usual booth at Trip Trap’s diner, laptop in front of him. He was clothed in his regular business casual, tufts of red hair brushed back as best as could be expected. Between his round face, large brown eyes, lovely ear hair, and just the start of tusks, he looked altogether too young and too nice to be taken seriously. It was hard to believe that he was the most successful businesstroll in Kingdom City, but then again, Kingdom City was full of surprises and disguises. He was fixated on the device, on the usual updating of toll figures and profit projections. His goblet of iced tea sat neglected by his arm.
The neglected bird, however, paced impatiently across the sticky tabletop. His feathers were sleek green and blue, though they shimmered with hints of gold and purple when the light hit him right. His large eyes stared up at the troll with a mixture of knowledge and impatience. “Lad.” His voice was gruff yet held an undercurrent of honey. The command was impossible for Paddlelump to resist, though the fact that his friend was speaking in public rattled him.
“I require your assistance.”
Paddlelump frowned. “For what? What’s troubling you? Is there something going on with Lord Mayor Addlebaum that I don’t know about? Nobody hasn’t come back around, has she?” He paused and flicked his tongue over his lower lip. “It isn’t…well, things aren’t aligned again, are they?”
The pseudo-bird gave him a pitying glance and hopped up onto his shoulder. “Do not be a fool, lad. I require you to take dictation for the wisdom I wish to pour forth.”
The young troll’s bushy eyebrows rose toward his hairline. “You want me to what?” Not for the first time, he was glad that it was a slow day at the diner and that no one was seated near his usual table. That wasn’t necessarily a gesture of respect, but preservation. The last time the diner had been full, a very noteworthy fight had broken out because of the occupants at said usual table.
Clyde pointed a clawed foot at the screen. “Type. I am on a deadline and the Mother of Cats wishes me to impart my wisdom to her followers.”
Although it was usually hard for Paddlelump to resist Clyde’s commands, he suddenly remembered that he had somewhere else to be, and took his laptop with him.
“Can you believe he would not assist me, or even believe me? How am I to deliver a special message to the Mother of Cat’s followers? I cannot type with these little things!” Clyde complained for the thousandth time, wiggling his toes for emphasis. I was used to him appearing at will now that he’d proclaimed himself to be not only my muse, but the go-between for Kingdom City and my promotional efforts. I got the sneaking suspicion that he hadn’t bothered to tell any of the other characters this, however. As far as I knew, they didn’t know my part in things, and that was the way I wanted to keep it. Not that I had time or energy to cater to Clyde’s whims, though.
“The way you phrased it, he probably thought you were addressing one of your old friends to try to assemble an army or something,” I sighed. “I mean, come on! Mother of Cats, really? Does everything you say have to sound so…”
“Eloquent?” he fished.
“Creepy,” I corrected. “Do you think I’m going to just stop everything and type for you?” I asked, pausing my own attempts at guest post writing. “I’ve got my own to do list to get through.”
“You are my bard and minion.” The little thing looked so certain of this, it was hard to not swat him across the room. He was so lucky he was cute.
“Uh-huh. And technically you’re my character,” I shot back.
“My presence is requested.”
“A character post is requested. She did not say ‘Pretty please can Clyde come over and bore me to death.” The text on my screen abruptly bled together. “What the…no. Not now! I don’t have time for this now!” I hissed, fussing with the keyboard. No matter what keys I pressed, the laptop screen only displayed the letter ‘Z.’ A baritone tittering at my elbow riled my suspicions. “Stop it.”
“I do not know what you are talking about.”
“Clyde, stop it! That is so annoying!” I snarled.
He tilted his head and blinked his large blue-green eyes. “Surely ‘tis not my doing. My magic was mostly restrained many ages ago.”
I didn’t buy the cute animal routine for a heartbeat. I also knew from experience that he would keep up what parlor tricks he could manage until I gave in. “Fine. I’ll help you.” Immediately, my screen went back to normal. “You’re such a jerk.”
He’d lighted on my shoulder and paused to smooth a ruffled feather on his chest. “Jerk,” he mused, saying the word as if he was testing its use. “Is that a love term in your realm that I am unfamiliar with?” I didn’t need to reply. He took one look at my narrowed eyes and sour expression and gave a low whistle. “Ah, an insult then. My apologies. ‘Tis hard to keep things straight between realms. Let us begin.”
I rolled my eyes and poised my hands over home row. “Okay, hit it.”
For a little animal, Clyde could clear his throat thunderously loud. “A post for the blog of the Mother of Cats. By Clyde.” He frowned. “Do I need to give my real name? ‘Tis been ages since I gave it in your realm and I do not know if reality itself would be unmade—”
“Yeah, yeah, I get it, you were powerful once. Clyde is fine. Get on with it,” I grumbled.
He gave me a look. From the way his toes were twitching, he was probably fighting the urge to flip me off. Instead, he cleared his throat again. Right in my ear. “To those enlightened readers of fantasy tales, harken your minds and remember. Once there was an age where your kind was ruled by those such as me. Would your lives not be much easier if you devoted yourselves to my cause now?”
“Clyde, What are you doing?! I’m not typing that!”
He glowered. “Perhaps it is too vague. Try this: ‘Would your lives not be much easier if you devoted yourself to my cause now and purchased the title of which I speak?”
My temples had started to throb. “Okay, you really can’t say that.”
“Why ever not, milady bard? ‘Tis all to help your title, after all,” Clyde reasoned. It had never occurred to me that he’d have such a steep learning curve with promotion, but it was probably too late to worry about it. Thank God I hadn’t made him my official PR manager like he’d suggested.
“A guest post isn’t supposed to be a sales pitch. Or a bid for world domination,” I pointed out.
The little bird frowned in thought, head tilted so that his feathered topknot sloped to one side. “Can I threaten them into sending me ice cream?”
“What about wine?”
“Then what, do tell, am I supposed to talk about?” His voice was cranky and put-upon, and I was beginning to feel the same way. He looked so deceptively cute in my imagination and on the cover.
“I dunno, what about a piece about what your life is like? What’s it like to hang out with Paddlelump and his friends?”
Clyde’s snort was as dry as a desert. “Boring as blazes, what do you think the experience is like?”
“Oh, come on! You must have some fun!”
“I keep the two ugly ones in line. I listen to their foolish jokes. I deal with Flora and Padlelump’s awkward flirtations, and I prevent him from being killed. ‘Tis a day job.”
“Well, how about something about the Olde Ones, maybe?”
He blanched, hopping back away from the screen, tail feathers rippling in indignation. “And give the game away? Although I could speak of some of the more delightful sacrifices I organized back in the day—”
“No. Keep it clean,” I warned. His sigh racked his entire body and his feathers fluttered from the effort. “What about Kingdom City?”
“What about it? ‘Tis nothing like seeing your former stomping grounds turned into suburbs and city throughout the ages.”
I racked my brain for an idea that might appeal to the beast. “What’s it like to have magic?”
He grumbled something under his breath that was most certainly a curse in some ancient language. “Wonderful. Thank you for reminding me now that I do not have much of it.” I had to start keeping quality chocolate in the house for when he got like this. He groaned and stamped his little claws in frustration, wings flung out to his sides in exasperation. “We must think of something! I do not wish to disappoint the Mother of Cats!”
“How about a story from your past? You’ve been around a long time. What kind of story would you like to tell?” I had to learn to stop saying stupid things.
His blue-green eyes lit up and he trilled a brief whistle. “Do you realize how hilarious it is to convince parents that the best new child-rearing technique is to leave their offspring out in the woods with only breadcrumbs for aid? ‘Twas a fun pastime back in the day!”
Back at Trip Trap’s, Clyde paced the vacated table that his little group usually occupied. Now that his bard had so heartlessly refused to help him, he had to attempt a different tactic, but what? “’Tis my luck that I finally get a bard and she has no sense of humor at all,” he muttered. After all, he was good and helpful now, wasn’t he? That’s what counted, after all! “And everyone goes around saying one should not have any regrets,” he muttered. “Yet when one chooses to embrace their past, are they applauded? Nay, they are vilified!” He hopped up onto the rim of the goblet he’d ordered on Paddlelump’s tab and sipped his lemonade through a straw. To add to his discontent, it was far too sweet to be pleasing.
At that moment, Paddlelump’s waitress friend Flora bustled past, notepad and mechanical quill in hand. “Milady!” he called.
Flora paused and raised an eyebrow, flicking a chestnut curl back behind her ear. She was pretty for a human, but the pseudo-bird knew from experience that she could fight as fierce as any knight from the Golden Age and before. It was things like that that made him occasionally miss the days when he had the power to make the strongest wills bend to his whim. The only thing that really made up for it in these modern times were the glories of cable television and a good, rare steak. Creatures and people these days had no idea how lucky they were. “Oh, hi, Clyde,” she greeted him. “You on your own today?” Flora was wary of him, and probably had a right to be, but he had a mission to complete.
“Aye, but for business purposes,” he assured her, mind already working overtime. “You have a laptop, do you not?”
“Yes,” she replied, her tone and face as cautious as they came.
“And you can type?”
“I can,” she admitted, still suspicious. “I had one of the best words per minute in my class when I was in school.”
“Excellent!” he chirped and hopped a little on the table. “If it might suit your schedule, I was wondering if you mayhaps could do me a bit of a favor. Paddlelump and others do not have the quick mind and nimble fingers that you possess.” While he could use his vocal powers to command her to obey, she’d figure it out fast enough and then he’d surely be kicked out of the diner and possibly lose his cable privileges.
Flora bit her lip and twisted the quill in her hands. “Just let me finish with my tables and then I’ll see if I can help you out. Though I’ll probably regret it,” she added as she whisked back to the kitchen.
Clyde gave a pleased little trill and went back to sipping on his lemonade, as sub-par as it was. If he played his cards right, the Mother of Cats would have a guest post for her blog after all. “All shall go well and soon I shall be famous, I just know it,” he mused, and chirped happily to himself while he waited.
About the Author: Selah Janel has been blessed with a giant imagination and a love of story since she was little and convinced that fairies lived in the nearby state park or vampires hid in the abandoned barns outside of town. Learning to read and being encouraged by those around her only made things worse. Her work ranges from e-books to traditional print, and she prefers to write every genre at once rather than choose just one. The stories “Holly and Ivy”, “The Other Man”, and “Mooner” are available online through Mocha Memoirs Press. Her work has also been included in The MacGuffin, The Realm Beyond, Stories for Children Magazine, The Big Bad: an Anthology of Evil, Thunder on the Battlefield: Sorcery, The Grotesquerie, and the short story collection Lost in the Shadows, co-written with S.H. Roddey. She likes her music to rock, her vampires lethal, her fairies to play mind games, and her princesses to have adventures and hold their own.
Catch up with her thoughts and projects at
Book Synopsis Olde School: Kingdom City has moved into the modern era. Run by a lord mayor and city council (though still under the influence of the High King of The Land), it proudly embraces a blend of progress and tradition. Trolls, ogres, and other Folk walk the streets with humans, but are more likely to be entrepreneurs than cause trouble. Princesses still want to be rescued, but they now frequent online dating services to encourage lords, royals, and politicians to win their favor. The old stories are around, but everyone knows they’re just fodder for the next movie franchise. Everyone knows there’s no such thing as magic. It's all old superstition and harmless tradition.
Bookish, timid, and more likely to carry a laptop than a weapon, Paddlelump Stonemonger is quickly coming to wish he'd never put a toll bridge over Crescent Ravine. While his success has brought him lots of gold, it's also brought him unwanted attention from the Lord Mayor. Adding to his frustration, Padd’s oldest friends give him a hard time when his new maid seems inept at best and conniving at worst. When a shepherd warns Paddlelump of strange noises coming from Thadd Forest, he doesn't think much of it. Unfortunately for him, the history of his land goes back further than anyone can imagine. Before long he'll realize that he should have paid attention to the old tales and carried a club.
Darkness threatens to overwhelm not only Paddlelump, but the entire realm. With a little luck, a strange bird, a feisty waitress, and some sturdy friends, maybe, just maybe, Padd will survive to eat another meal at Trip Trap's diner. It's enough to make the troll want to crawl under his bridge, if he can manage to keep it out of the clutches of greedy politicians
Olde School is Book One of The Kingdom City Chronicles