Faun And Games - LightNovelsOnl.com
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Forrest stared. "You're not rhyming!"
"I never did rhyme. No ogre does. It is merely your perception that changed."
"But you still look like an ogre to me."
"But now you see me as an individual, instead of a monster. You have achieved respect. So you are able to hear me as I am."
"I never realized! Do you mean that all ogres are cultured, instead of being stupid?"
"That depends entirely on your perception."
"I was afraid you were going to crunch me."
"I was, until you showed that you had discovered respect. We ogres crunch only the ignorant."
"This is an education," Forrest said. "I'll never view ogres the same again."
"Excellent. You should have no further fear of us. But why did you come here?"
"I need your help. I'm looking for the dear horn."
"Olio! You wish to trade services."
"Yes. Is there anything I can do for you?"
"I'm afraid not. I am completely satisfied. I am sorry you came here for nothing."
Forrest had been afraid of this. "I came here with two companions. They remained apart, for fear of getting crunched. They might be able to figure out a service that you need. Then we could trade. Would it be all right if they joined me here?"
"That depends on their perspective. If they are ordinary, I'll be obliged to crunch them. Protocol., you know."
"Suppose I explain to them about respect?"
"They may not listen. Most folk are sure they know the nature of ogres."
"But if I can make them understand?"
"Then they will be welcome to the hospitality of the castle."
"Let me go fetch them. Maybe we can do each other some good after all."
"As you wish. Meanwhile, I shall return to my bas.h.i.+ng."
As Forrest walked out of the castle, Orgy Ogre waded into the nearest wall, bas.h.i.+ng it into rubble with his two hamfists. The whole structure shuddered. Such was the ogre's ferocity that it was a wonder that any of the castle remained standing. Forrest realized that this was the sound he had heard before, when he stood outside the door. No wonder it required the bell-weather to get the ogre's attention. .
He went out the door, which remained open. But it swung closed once he was clear; apparently it was set to let visitors out, but not to let them in. So it was a magic door. He departed the bleak castle environs, and walked on across the blasted terrain to where the two fillies stood. They looked amazed and relieved to see him.
"You may enter the ogre's den," he said. "But there is a caution."
"That's a severe understatement," Cathryn said. "Are you sure it's safe?"
"It will be safe if you have the right att.i.tude."
Both mares looked at him doubtfully. "How can att.i.tude save a person from being crunched by a monster?" Imbri asked.
"You have to leave your prejudice behind, and have proper respect."
"For an ogre?" Cathryn asked incredulously.
Forrest realized that there was a problem. "He's really a very cultured creature. You just have to see him as such."
The two mares exchanged a Significant Glance. "I suppose even a stink horn has its culture," Imbri remarked to no one in particular.
They were locked into their prejudice. He had to get rid of it, or it would not be safe for them to enter the ogre's den. "Remember how you viewed me, at first? As just another faun looking for a nymph to chase?"
"Do you still view me that way?"
"No," Cathryn said. "You have a lot more character than I originally supposed."
"So can you appreciate that originally you were operating on prejudice?"
"Nonsense! Centaurs aren't prejudiced." Then she reconsidered. "But I'm very young now, so maybe you do have a point."
"So can you appreciate that the ogre may have qualities to be respected, if you viewed him without prejudice?"
"An ogre?" Then she heard herself, and laughed. "You wouldn't be teasing a centaur foal, would you?"
"No. I am serious. It is a matter of life or crunching. The ogre doesn't crunch those who respect him."
Imbri was having her own problem. "Respecting an ogre is an oxymoron, a contradiction in terms. They are sheer brutes."
"Then respect his brutishness. But see him as worthy in his own right."
"Well, I suppose I can make the effort."
"So can I," Cathryn said. "Even if I do get crunched."
They walked back to the castle. They came to a stop before the great door. "Now remember: he's an individual. You will know this by his speech: it doesn't rhyme."
"All ogres speak in stupid rhyming couplets," Cathryn said.
"No. They are merely heard that way by ignorant outsiders. If you hear him rhyming, don't speak, because he'll know you don't respect him.
"This is weird," the centaur said.
Forrest picked up the rod and banged the bell-weather. The fierce little storm formed, and the commotion summoned the ogre to the door.
This time all three of them were sucked inward by the swoosh of air. The ogre stood there, as huge and brutish as ever.
"Orgy, these are my friends Mare Imbrium and Cathryn Centaur," Forrest said. "Mares, this is Orgy Ogre, master of this castle."
"h.e.l.lo, Orgy," Imbri said bravely.
"Likewise," Cathryn said, looking as if she were ready to spread her wings and fly away.
"I am glad to make your acquaintance, fair mares," Orgy said graciously.
Imbri hesitated, then smiled. "And I yours, ugly ogre," she replied.
But Cathryn kept her mouth shut. Forrest knew that was trouble. Orgy stared down at the centaur. "Please repeat what I just said to you," he requested.
Cathryn took a step back with each hoof, looking twice as nervous as before.
"But all he said was-" Forrest began, but stopped when a severe glance from the ogre cut him off. He realized that this was a test the centaur had to pa.s.s on her own.
"You said 'Who cares, she mares?" she said. Then, after half a pause, she reconsidered. "Wait, that isn't quite it. You said-you said you were glad to make our acquaintance, and you called us fair mares."
Forrest breathed a silent sigh of relief. "Then welcome into my castle," Orgy said grandly, and led the way down the hall.
"You're right," Cathryn inuri-nui-ed as she walked beside Forrest. "He doesn't- rhyme, when I listen with an open mind."
Forrest noticed that one of the walls he had thought was in rubble was actually solid. Maybe this was a different pa.s.sage, though it seemed to be the only one available.
They came to a central hall that had some spare furnis.h.i.+ngs. "You must be hungry," Orgy said. "Come sit at my iliagic table."
Actually the rough-hewn tree-trunk timber table was way too big and high for any of them. But the ogre found blocks to put on the seats of the huge chairs, for Forrest and Imbri, and gently lifted them up so that they could sit at the level of the table. Cathryn was able to stand on her chair so that her head was high enough.
Food appeared. Steaming pots emerged from a window in the wall at the end of the table and walked on stout little legs to the center, and a big cocoa pot arrived similarly. Plates and utensils slid along until they took their proper places before each person. Then the pots lifted serving spoons and plopped stew onto each plate, while the cocoa pot siphoned steaming cocoa into each mug.
Orgy dived into his stew with gusto, slurping and splas.h.i.+ng. But then Forrest reminded himself- about att.i.tude, and looked again, more carefully-and saw that the ogre was using a big spoon in the conventional human manner, and neither slurping nor splas.h.i.+ng. His prejudice had tried to rea.s.sert itself.
They tried their own portions. Forrest found the substance in his stew to be almost nut-like, and quite good. The mares seemed to be enjoying theirs too.
"If I may inquire," Cathryn said, "what kind of stew is this?"
"Horse dropping stew," Orgy said.
She blinked. The stew was brown and lumpy. Then she smiled, surmounting her prejudice. "Horse chestnuts," she said.
"Yes. The chests and nuts drop from the horse trees, and we collect the chests and the nut droppings too."
"And the cook makes stew from them," Imbri said. "How nice."
Then, as they ate, Forrest got down to business. "We need to find a service we can render Orgy, in return for information about the location of the dear horn. Do either of you have any ideas'?"
"Not at the moment," Cathryn said. "But perhaps if we knew more about Orgy and this castle, we would get an idea."
"That is too simple to be interesting," the ogre said.
"Even the most stupid thing becomes interesting, when there is a need," Forrest said.
He had uttered a magic word. "Stupid," Orgy said. "I am as stupid as any ogre. Very well, I will tell you about me and this castle. Two years ago I was "just another ogre, happily bas.h.i.+ng rocks, tying trees in knots, and teaching young dragons the meaning of fear. I mean, it's what ogres do. Then I happened across an odd looking horn that someone had left lying around. Dimly curious, I picked it up and sniffed it, but it had no particular smell, but it didn't taste particularly edible. In short, it didn't seem to be very useful. The scorn this horn," I said, or words to that effect; after all, there might be someone listening. Then I put it to my mouth and blew."
He paused. "Are you sure you want to hear more? This is so stupid that even I am being bored."
"I don't want to be a spoilsport," Forrest said, "but I find it fascinating. Please do go on."
"Oh," Orgy said. "Well, it gets duller. When I blew the horn, it made a noise like none other I had heard. It was, if you can imagine this, the sound of utter longing. When I heard that, I wanted something so badly that I could think of nothing else. I didn't even know what it was, just that I had to have it. So I blew the horn again, and this time I heard an echo from afar, and my longing focused on that distant response. So I trudged toward it, and when I began to lose my way, I blew it again, and got another echo. Gradually I realized that I was the only one who heard either the horn or the echo; other creatures I pa.s.sed paid no attention, apart from getting hastily out of my way. They did not realize that I was on a mission; they thought I had come to maraud as usual.
"I continued in this manner for some time, until at last I hove into view of this castle. The echo came from it. It seemed to be unoccupied, so I entered. Naturally I bashed down a wall or two, and found it very bashable, so I continued. It was a real thrill, once again destroying something solid. Eventually, pleasantly exercised, I dropped to the floor and snored valiantly for a few hours. When I woke, there was a table loaded with victuals. So I got up and gobbled them down, then resumed my bas.h.i.+ng of the walls.
"So it continued for several days, before I realized that the walls did not stay bashed. They restored themselves overnight, or even sooner.
This pleased me intensely, for it meant that I could bash them down again. And indeed, so it has been ever since. Bash, eat, sleep, bash, in a perpetual routine. I love it; it is an ogre's heaven. Since I had no more use for the horn, I threw it out a window. After a time several months-I realized that this was the purpose of the horn: to lead me to my heart's delight. A perpetually bashable castle. So this is surely the dear horn you seek, and I know exactly where I threw it-memory being inversely proportional to intelligence-and will be glad to tell you, if you can find any equivalent service to trade for the information. But I doubt that you can, as I am completely happy as I am."
"It does seem as if this castle was designed with an ogre in mind," Cathryn remarked. "Perpetual bas.h.i.+ng."
"With feasting in between," Imbri agreed. "There doesn't seem to be anything missing."
"Yet I, too, thought I had everything I wanted," the centaur said. "Now I realize that I simply had not thought of my missing desire."
Orgy looked at her. "You have a missing desire?"
"Yes. That's why I seek the dear horn."
"To find your True Love?"
"Yes. A companion to be with, to love and cherish and breed with-" She paused. "Oh, that's it for you!"
Orgy was taken aback. "I don't think I would be a good companion for you."
She laughed. "Surely not. I favor intelligence and wings. I mean that maybe you could use a companion of your own kind. An ogress."
"I'm not sure. She might be uglier than I am. Then the castle might like her better than me."
"Maybe a merely moderately ugly ogress?" Imbri inquired.
"Who would want a merely moderately ugly ogress?"
Forrest saw that this wasn't getting anywhere. But it did suggest a line of investigation. "What about one who is distinctly inferior to you in strength, ugliness, and stupidity, but who really appreciates your ogrish qualities?"
Orgy pondered, and the fleas began jumping. "There is something appealing there."
It fell into place. They had sought to applaud the ogre, letting him win an ugly contest. That had worked, in a manner. An ogress could surely do it much better. "Someone to admire your achievement in continuously bas.h.i.+ng down the walls. Where's the fun of a job well done, if n.o.body notices?"
The fleas jumped higher, as if their feet were getting burned. "Yes, I hadn't thought of that."