The Funniship of the Ring – Book 1
‘In Which Four Blobbits Are Duped, Mortified, And Otherwise Robbed, Belittled And Wearied’

“Well, Hoho,” said Handoff the Gloomy to his friend the Blobbit, “It looks as if the Ring your Uncle Dumbo found underneath the Messy Mountains may be more than it seems.”
Hoho looked up from his whittling.

“Huh?” he said.

Handoff looked up at the clock on the wall. “Whoa! I’m almost late for the Flighty council! I gotta go, Hoho, thanks for the turkey dinner,” and with that, the blizzard breezed out the door, upsetting Hoho’s dinner as he went.

“Doggone blizzard. I don’t know why uncle Dumbo ever let him in here in the first place,” muttered Hoho. “I wonder what he meant about my ring? Oh well.”

Tomfool Sandwich entered through the heptagonal door. “Your lawn is all mowed. And I managed to miss most of your flowers.”

Hoho suddenly had an inspiration. Why didn’t he go find Uncle Dumbo and ask him why he let the parasitic blizzard into the Blobbit’s hole so many years ago? And why not take a few friends along? Oh, sure, it might be dangerous, but they needn’t worry-at least until they had a good reason to worry.

“That’s good, Tom. Uh, I was wondering, how would you like to take an extended picnic? I’d like to get out of the Mire for a few days.”

“Ooh!” Tom squealed, “We can take Piping Take and Mary Christmas! It’ll be fun! I’ll start packing.” And the over enthused Blobbit bustled off to pack and invite Hoho’s other friends.
Hoho breathed a sigh of relief. At least if some vicious beast decided to attack the little “picnic”, he would have a 75% chance of getting away.

Tom flew in an hour or two later, dragging the luggage and two very unwilling, whining Blobbits, who knew something of Hoho’s ways.

“I don’t want to die!” wailed Piping Take.

“My hay fever is at its peak!” shrieked Mary Christmas, who was hard put to find an excuse better than Piping’s.

“I wanted to bring Slim Bolder too, but he has a nasty case of pneumonia,” said Tom, setting down the three heavy looking picnic baskets. Hoho, hungry already, eyed the baskets with greed. He smelled the distinctive aroma of little red cherry tomatoes, cooked with a light basting of basil lemon sauce. Ham Sandwich entered the room.

“Tomfool, now y’all be careful out there. Some outlandish Big Person dressed all in paisley was asking about you. I said you had all gone off, because I thought you had,” he said looking hard at Tom.

“Thank you, Ham,” said Hoho, wanting him to leave so they could be on their way. But the two younger Blobbits had seen their chance to delay their departure possibly indefinitely and were talking up a storm and begging Ham to take them home. It was well known that Hamslow Sandwich could not resist a long, drawn out conversation.

It was a good half an hour later before Hoho and Tom could drag the two whiny blobbits away.
The four Blobbits made their slow, painful way out of the Mire.

Hoho was mulling on Uncle Dumbo’s last cryptic message. “I’ll be in Flivenbell, if you want me, Hoho.” Hoho wondered if his crazy old uncle really meant what he said, or if he was just going off on one of his crazy thought processes.

Then he noticed he was up to his armpits in slime. He wondered how he was going to get out of this one. He surmised that this must be the reason that the whimpers of the younger (and shorter) blobbits had suddenly ceased.

He looked over his shoulder and to his horror he saw a man in paisley. Not that paisley itself is horrifying, but the colors left the impression of total insanity. Hoho barely suppressed a loud and shrill scream, but Tom was not so lucky. A yowl of frightening proportions escaped from his direction.

The Paisley Rider looked up. It was just about ready to leap when it heard the sound of music. Hoho strained his ears. Why, it was the sound of Selfish boom boxes, playing the favorite band of Selves everywhere, MeToo, and the song “Horrible Day”!

Hoho almost let loose another terrified scream. The rider let loose a long, drawn out shout of anguish. It was immediately followed by another, almost in Hoho’s ear. It was too much for the Blobbit. He screamed with such agony that the great slime beast that was about to eat him was frightened off. It even drowned out the songs of the Selves. Tom, who had managed to fend off the slime beast and rescue the younger blobbits immediately, took command of the situation.

“Hide!” he yelled.

But it was too late. A voice was heard close by.

“Here they art, the little scoundrels!”

A great company of Selves appeared. The head Self frowned down upon them and spoke words that they did not catch.

“Say what?” said Hoho.

The Self made a waved his hand and all the boom boxes of the Selves were turned off.

“We’re in trouble,” whispered Hoho to Tom. “A Self lord never turns the music off unless he’s going to say something that he wants to make sure someone will hear. The silence doesn’t bode well with his followers.”

The Self frowned at the blobbits. He raised his hand and a sense of awe fell upon them. Hoho found himself wanting to laugh.

“What art thou doing, thou little short folk? Thou art irking me. Dost thou think that my patience is everlasting? Thy bumbling ways have brought the Paisley Riders forth, which have not ridden the earth in ages! Knowest thou the penalty for such wickedness?”

Hoho swallowed. He thought he could guess.

“Death?” croaked Piping.

“Death?! Thinkest thou that we are barbarians? Nay, little short folk! The penalty for such is that you must be our slaves! And as the king of these swamplands, so do I sentence thee!”
He spoke to several burly looking Selfish warriors and they plucked the frightened blobbits out of the slime and started carrying them.

The entire company of Selves walked on for several miles until they were on firmer ground and could carry the blobbits without dropping them. Then they made them walk. But they soon picked them up again when they found that blobbits have a peculiar trait of running very quickly from their captors. They finally came to an arbor overshadowed by very large trees. The Selves placed the blobbits under heavy guard under a great beech with overhanging boughs.

“How do they get so big?” whispered Mary.

“I suppose they eat all their vegetables,” hissed Tom.

“No, I mean the trees!”

“Oh.”

An hour or two later the guards came and brought them before the Selfish lord who had spoken with them earlier. His entire court stood around him with solemn looks on their faces.
The guards placed the blobbits before him and retreated. The Self frowned upon them.

“Dost thou know what thou hast done, little short folk?”

Hoho cleared his throat and said what was on the mind of all the blobbits just then.

“I want my mommy.”

The Self frowned on them until they all felt like crying. Then to their amazement and everlasting shame he started laughing uncontrollably.

“I want my mommy!” he chortled, “I have not heard anything so funny since I dost not know when! And if thou couldst just have seen the looks on thy faces! Har har har!”

He collapsed in a fit of mirth. His entire court was laughing heartily.

The blobbits looked at each other in doubt and suspicion.

“Perhaps I should explain,” said the head Selfish guard seeing the looks on the blobbits’ faces. “The Lord Screendor is a great one for practical jokes. He meaneth no personal offence.”
Hoho remembered one of the tales that his Uncle Dumbo had told him, long ago when he was just a youngster in the Mire. He had told him about the Selfish Lord Eitheror, who mistakenly used a hand buzzer in the Great council on the Lord Moron, which explained the wars that ensued.

“Then, we aren’t going to be made slaves of?” said Tomfool, voicing the other thought on the blobbits’ minds.

The Lord Screendor recovered himself just then.

“Nay, little short folk,” he said wiping his eyes. “But I do hope that thou wilt stay for dinner.”

Hoho dithered. “I think we’d better be going. Can you just point the way back to the Road Going East?”

The Self looked troubled.

“Nay, short one. That I cannot do. For we know not the way out of this wood. We have been wandering for six days with nothing to eat. You misunderstood me when I extended the invitation to dine with us. What I meant was will you be so kind as to let us partake of your bounty, or wilt thou let us perish of starvation in this forsaken wood? I trust you have enough for all gathered here.”
He took a deep breath. “Do mine nostrils smell little red cherry tomatoes with a lemon basil sauce?”

The blobbits had no choice but to let the Selves partake of their food. They watched glumly as their hopes for dinner were dashed. The food disappeared at an alarming rate down the gullets of the incredibly greedy Selves.

Screendor finished his last tomato. He leaned back in his chair and fell asleep. The rest of the Selves gathered around a large fire and were singing songs about food.

Hoho leaned over and whispered to the other blobbits.

“When I give the signal, we’ll escape into the woods.”

There was no answer. Hoho turned around to see what they were doing. They were not there. They had snuck off when Screendor had started snoring. Hoho had to run almost five minutes before he caught up with them. Of course, he had to convince them that he was really the genuine Hoho Flaggins before he could get within ten feet of them.

“Look,” he said. “Who but the real Hoho Flaggins would have a wallet with a picture of Mount Lurbalurba in it?”

“You could have stolen his wallet!” said Mary. “Or falsely developed an obsession with the stupid mountain!”

But Hoho soon dispelled any doubts by threatening to go back and alert the Selves of their escape. They walked on for about three seconds. Then Piping stopped short and gave a great cry. Of course, he being in front he stopped the others rather more rapidly than they would have liked.

“It is! It’s the Road Going East!” he cried with joy. The other blobbits cried aloud with great clamor. Their happy shouts were met with a tremulous yowl from a hilltop on their left. It was soon followed by another, followed by what sounded like a sneeze directly ahead of them.

“The Paisley Riders!” the blobbits cried in terror. They ran along the Eastward Going Road until they saw the lights of a town almost a mile away.

“Whatever happens,” puffed Hoho, “I am not to be addressed as Mr. Flaggins. I want to be known as Mr. Overtheriverandthroughthewoods.”

“What?” said Mary.

“Mr. Flaggins is getting one of his funny fits again, I expect,” said Tom, not relishing the prospect.

They came upon the town.

“Why, It’s Flee!” said Piping in surprise. “I didn’t know we were near the place!”

“We sure haven’t traveled long enough to get here,” agreed Hoho.

“No!” said Piping. “I thought we’d be at least to the end of the earth by now!”

The blobbits were now at the gate. Hoho knocked at the gate with all of his might. Still it was half an hour before he was answered.

The gatekeeper glared down at them.

“What do you want?” he snarled.

“We want to come in,” said Hoho.

“Well, why did you wake me up? Didn’t you see the sign? ‘Come on in, the door’s open’! Can’t you read?”

The blobbits were once again embarrassed beyond words. It was fifteen minutes before they could convince the guard to let them in. Even then, it took all the money that they could muster that the Selves had not stolen from them.

They walked on. They did not notice the dark figure that crept to the top of the wall behind them and fell to the ground with a muffled yelp, before dusting itself off and creeping off into the shadows.

Hoho was very anxious. He had planned on a nice journey, but already he had been robbed, chased by big people in very hideous clothes, and embarrassed greatly. Now all he wanted was to find an inn where he could get a cheap meal and room. He wondered where could find such a place. He looked up all of a sudden. There was an almost abandoned looking place. The sign above the door read ‘The Dead Bunny by Barleyguy Margarine’. It looked like just the place Hoho was looking for. He had never been more wrong in all his life.

They walked in. The very dirty common room was all but abandoned, save for several dark and sinister characters slinking in corners. One of them caught sight of the blobbits as they looked warily about them. He motioned to the others and they gathered about them, and blocked the door.

“What do you want?” cried Hoho, “Don’t rob us! We have no money, all we want is a place to stay and some hot food. We didn’t come all this way to be robbed and beaten by a bunch of scallywags and hoodlums!”

The biggest man stooped and looked into Hoho’s face. “Hoodlums it is, huh?” he grinned at him, showing very dirty yellow teeth. “Hoodlums nothing! I happen to be the proprietor of this fine establishment.”

Hoho’s heart dropped to his toes. Then it jumped into his throat and choked him and made tears form in his eyes. His stomach did flip-flops and his head felt 4 feet above his shoulders. For a moment he felt like he was at his sixth birthday party all over again.

“Well,” said Barleyguy, “It looks like you’ve found the right place!”

Hoho seriously doubted that. His suspicions were confirmed when Barleyguy and his henchmen made them do dishes until they thought their arms would fall off and plop into the cold slimy dishwater. Then he rewarded them with a paltry meal and a night in the worst room in the building. While the blobbits were eating their dry bread and water in the common room, Hoho noticed another sinister character sitting off in another corner. (Hoho had never seen so many corners in a single building before.)

He was staring very hard at the blobbits. Hoho wondered why he hadn’t joined the other henchmen’s game of taunting the blobbits. The guy beckoned to him. Hoho looked at the other blobbits. They had fallen asleep at the table. Hoho swallowed hard and walked to the corner. As he approached the guy threw back his hood, revealing a head. Hoho didn’t even blink at this, expecting the man to have one. Hoho sat down cautiously.

“I am called Slimer,” the guy said. “I am also called stupid. Anyway, I wish to speak with you, Mr. Overtheriverandthroughthewoods, if I got your name right, which I hope I did.”

“You’re speaking with me now, aren’t you?” snapped Hoho irritably.

Slimer held up his hands in defense. “Hey, don’t have a cow, man, I just wanted to warn you.”

Hoho was suddenly very interested in what the guy was going to say.

“Warn me about what?” he said cautiously.

Slimer looked around and bent towards Hoho. “I wish to warn you about dark men slinking in corners. Don’t listen to them!”

Hoho got up to leave.

“I don’t mean me!” cried the man. “Seriously, you are in grave danger. Paisley Riders have been seen riding on the Eastward Going Road. It is rumored that they are looking for “Flaggins”. Everyone I know of is very mad at the person who called them forth. Would you know where I could find this Flaggins? It would mean a lot to me. You see, there’s a price on his head,” at this point in his dialogue he paused and laughed. “And I happen to be short on cash.”

Hoho was rather nervous at this news. “But why are you warning me of this? My name isn’t Flaggins.”

“Oh, isn’t it?” said Slimer, and stood up. Hoho suddenly saw just how tall and muscular the guy was. Slimer continued. “While Barleyguy and his henchmen were making you do dishes, I stole your wallet!” He cackled and held it forth. Hoho gasped.

“Oh, you recognize it, do you, short one? Well, you’d better be happy that I’m returning it. What kind of a guy do you think I am, anyway?”

Hoho didn’t say what he thought, which was just as well. Slimer handed Hoho his wallet back. Hoho inspected it. Everything was there, even his precious picture of Mt. Lurbalurba. He stuck it in his back pocket.

Slimer leaned back in his seat. Luckily, he had the presence of mind to keep from tipping over completely. “Actually, Mr. Flaggins, what I wanted to warn you about was that Barleyguy is not to be trusted – or his henchmen. You are not safe here. I would recommend that you leave immediately, if not sooner.”

Hoho sighed. “Yes, I must leave. But I don’t know where to go. My original plan was to go to Flivenbell, to see my Uncle Dumbo, but I don’t see how I’m going to get there.”

Slimer’s face brightened. “Flivenbell? Oh, I know where that is! I could take you there! I know lots of shortcuts. I’ve been lost, er, wandered these lands for many years. I am older than I look.”

Hoho looked doubtful. “I don’t know, Slimer, my uncle had a saying that he loved to say, it went ‘He who tries a shorter way may not get home ere break of day’, or something like that. He was very pessimistic, Uncle Dumbo.”

Hoho remembered the day Uncle Dumbo had first told him that. He was very young. They had spent the day looking for wild flakkberries in the woods of the Mire. Hoho had thought he knew the way home but the trail soon proved to lead to an abandoned swamp. Uncle Dumbo had given him a long lecture after that.

Hoho was suddenly aware of daylight peeking in the windows. The younger blobbits were waking up. Hoho decided to go with this strange guy, at least until all his good advice ran out.
Slimer led the blobbits through the sleeping town to the eastern end. They traveled several miles down the road to shake off any who were following. Then he led them through a swamp with many crossing paths. The blobbits were soon confused, and soon it was evident that Slimer was too. They wandered in the swamp for three days before Slimer got his bearings back.

“I knew we should have stayed at the Dead Bunny,” hissed Piping to Hoho as Slimer was trying to get his boot out of a tree. “I kind of liked that Barleyguy fellow.”

They wound their weary way around the feet of the looming hills just as twilight colored the crests of the clouds the color of the mountains in the far distance.

“It looks like it’s going to storm,” said Piping irritably and wearily.

“Shut up,” said Slimer, knowing he was right and not liking it. “I think we’ll camp on that hill over there. It’s called Weatherornot. At the top you can see for miles around. Now get up and let’s get started.”

They made their even wearier way up the hill. Halfway up the large, looming hill was a small bowl, facing away from the road. Tom and Piping stayed to make camp while Slimer, Hoho and Mary crawled wearily all the way up to see what they could see.

They paused wearily halfway up the hill. It was wearily higher than it looked.

“Man, am I weary,” said Hoho wearily.

“Aren’t we all weary?” said Mary even more wearily.

“Shut up,” said Arrogant wearily. “We’ve got to make our weary way to the top of the hill soon, or else.” He gave the blobbits a menacing yet weary look. They continued wearily on.
Finally, they stood on top of the hill and looked wearily all around. All they could see was landscape, landscape, and more landscape.

“We climbed all the weary way up only to see this?” said Mary incredulously and wearily.

“Didn’t I tell you (wearily or not) to shut up?” growled Slimer weary of the blobbit’s wearying jabber.

While the man and the blobbit were screaming loudly yet wearily at each other, Hoho made his weary way over to the edge of the hill and wearily looked at the road. To his horror, there were five brightly colored dots, approaching rapidly from different directions. Hoho was weary just looking at them. He wondered if he could somehow wearily creep down the other side of the hill unnoticed by the dots or his weary companions, except he was so weary he didn’t know if he could. The idea was soon squelched as one of the dots emitted a loud howl. Slimer wearily threw Mary and Hoho to the ground and started to wearily crawl off towards their camp. Hoho and Mary wearily scrambled after him. As they wearily rushed into camp, they found Tom and Piping wearily lounging about without having unpacked. Slimer started yelling wearily at them to get up, but before they could stir, the sun had set, and the paisley riders were upon them.

They and the riders stared at each other momentarily, and wearily. Then with a yell Slimer sprightly ran off into the night, leaving the weary blobbits to fight alone. Once again, Tom, as weary as he was, took control of the situation.

“Run!” he yelled.

But it was too late. The paisley riders threw themselves into battle with a fury. It was all the blobbits could do to keep themselves ahead of them. Then the Rider in the most garish costume stood up and pulled something out of his belt. Hoho saw in horror what it was. He tried to run, but with Piping mistaking him for a Paisley Rider it was something less than easy. (Also he was still weary.) The Paisley Rider threw the object at Hoho and then all the Riders suddenly disappeared.

The projectile struck Hoho a glancing blow on the shoulder, spinning him out of control. He fell to the ground in a swoon. The blobbits gathered around Hoho and wondered how to divide the spoil.

!!pagebreak!!

The Funniship of the Ring. Book 2
‘In Which Slimer Develops An Unnatural Dislike Of Blobbits’

Hoho woke up to the sound of arguing. He wondered where he was, and why his arm felt cold and numb. He opened his eyes to see Tomfool bent over him, groping in his pockets.

“Good old Tom,” he murmured.

“You mean greedy old Tom,” said Piping. “Why, his pile of loot was…”

His speech was cut short when Tom kicked him swiftly on the shin.

Hoho tried to sit up. “What happened, Tom? Why is my arm cold?” He looked around at the wet ground.

“Well, Mr. Hoho, you were very lucky, I’d say,” said Tom.

“Yeah,” said Piping. “Lucky to wake up in time. Why, Tom was just about to…”

Once again, a swift kick silenced him.

Tom continued. “When that Paisley Rider threw that thing at you, they suddenly all ran off. I suppose they thought you done for.”

“Done for?” cried Hoho, “What did they throw at me?”

Tom grimly held up what was left of the object that was intended for Hoho’s demise.

“Oh!” said Hoho weakly, “Why, I could have been, would be…”

“Soaked,” finished Tom quietly. He contemplated the pieces of the water balloon thoughtfully. “I suppose they thought you drenched, and what with this wind blowing all the time up here, you could have caught pneumonia. We’ve been trying to start a fire, but Slimer ran off with all the matches.”

Hoho closed his eyes and leaned back, worn out and starting to feel very cold.

Tom wrapped Hoho in a blanket. Just then, Slimer returned.

“Where did you go, you highway robber?” snarled Mary Christmas.

“I, uh, forgot something at the bottom of the hill and I went back to get it,” Slimer said lamely.

Tom looked angrily at the man. “Well, your faulty memory almost got Mr. Hoho soaked! If he catches a cold, I hope you live in misery the rest of your life! I hope you contract head lice from a Daft! I hope you get severe toenail fungus and…”

Piping stifled the ranting and raving blobbit.

“So, what do you want me to do?” said Slimer, sullenly.

“Didn’t you hear me?” roared Tom, “I hope they have to shave your…”

Piping and Mary stifled the enraged Blobbit.

“For starters,” said Piping, who was seated on Tom’s stomach, “You can hand over all the matches and start running. I’ll give you a ten second head start before I let Tom loose.”

“But how are you going to get to Flivenbell without me? Do you know the way? Who’s going to carry Hoho across the miles and miles to the house of Sellrond Half-Selfish?”

“Piping,” said Mary.

“Mary,” said Piping.

“I can see where this is going,” muttered Hoho.

“Ten,” said Piping.

“No, no, wait!” shouted Slimer.

“Nine.”

“You don’t understand, see, it was like this…”

“Eight.”

“Count faster!” shouted Tom.

Slimer finally got the hint and ran off. The blobbits did not see him again for a long while.
As it turned out, Hoho walked almost all the way to Flivenbell. But since he was in no condition to, the others carried all the baggage.

“I wish we had a pony,” said Piping. “I’d call it Bill, and I’d love it, and hug it, and feed it and clean up after it…”

“Clam up,” said Mary Christmas. “If I had a nickel for every time you’ve said that, I’d be richer than the king of Flounder!”

“But,” said Hoho, “There is no king in Flounder. The King Thornbush went out to face a Paisley Rider and he never came back. And his infant son he left in Flivenbell to be taught by the Lord Sellrond. But that was many years ago. The son may be dead now.”

“All right then, I’d be richer that the Sewer of Flounder. Happy now?” asked Mary.

Hoho sighed. “Not much. I wish I wasn’t so cold. I can’t feel my fingers. Hey, shouldn’t we be traveling wearily on?”

“Oh, we don’t have to. We all took some nice naps while you were out,” said Piping.
They were now traveling in a pass. On one side there was an insurmountable cliff, and on the other was a sloping hill with many bushes and trees. Their footsteps were echoed in a most eerie manner. All of a sudden, Hoho realized that he heard hoof beats.

“There is a rider behind us!” he hissed.

Tom took control of the situation.

“Hide!” he yelled.

The blobbits rushed up the hill and hid behind a large bush, which afforded them a view of the road. The hoof beats got louder and louder. Then to his horror, Hoho’s quick ears picked up the sound of little bells.

“Even worse!” he hissed. “It’s a Self! Now be quiet everybody, or he’ll hear us!”

The blobbits waited breathlessly for the Self to appear. All of a sudden, the Self came into sight. To their shock, it was a very beautiful woman with black hair, riding on a pure white horse with brightly colored ribbons braided into its mane and tail. She would have passed them too, except at that very moment Mary Christmas’s hay fever chose that moment to show itself. He sneezed rather loudly.

The Self reined in her horse, removed her headphones and looked up at the bush. She looked very puzzled. Then she started climbing the hill.

“Don’t shoot!” yelled Piping, jumping up.

“AAAGGHH!!” said the Self.

But then she saw that it was just a bunch of Blobbits, and she soon stopped jumping up and down.

“Who art thou?” she demanded.

Tom introduced everybody.

“But who are you?” said Tom.

She smiled. “I am Awning, daughter of Sellrond. A few days ago, my beloved returned to Flivenbell bearing the news of four blobbits, one of whom was carrying something very important. My father sent such riders as are powerful enough to resist the Paisley Riders to seek thee.”

Piping spoke up. “It seems strange that Sellrond would send out his daughter on such a dangerous mission.”

“Well,” said Awning, “He did not exactly send me out. I snuck out my bedroom window three nights ago.”

“Oh,” said Piping.

Hoho suddenly felt very weak. Tom caught him as he swooned. Awning looked concernedly at Hoho. Tom quickly explained about Weatherornot and the water balloon. He showed the Self maiden the pieces of the implement. Awning shuddered as she took the balloon.

“There are evil things written on this weapon, though mortal eyes cannot see them unless it is inflated. Handle it as little as you may! No one knows where this kind of thing has been. There are many places in Flivenbell where thou mayest dispose of such trash.”

Then she offered to take them to Flivenbell. The blobbits thanked her profusely. She placed Hoho in front of her on the horse, and they started on their way.

The blobbits asked the woman many things about Flivenbell, the Lord Sellrond, and other Selves. In return, she asked questions about their journey. She seemed troubled at the news of Screendor and his company, but she would not say anything except for giving ominous hints.

“I suppose thou knowest something of what to expect, then,” she said gravely. And that was all they could get out of her for some while. She seemed to be deep in thought for many miles.

Then they were approaching the end of the pass. Hoho from his vantage point could see a ford some miles ahead.

“That is the Harrison Ford,” said Awning, breaking her long silence. “After that, there is a steep drop-off and then Flivenbell. My father long ago diverted the river away from its original course, and made the Valley. My home used to be under a lake, many years before my birth.”
They rode out of the pass. But the welcome reprise from the echoing hoof beats did not come. Instead, they grew louder.

“Riders! The Paisley Riders!” shouted Tom. “Ride, Awning! I doubt that they would want us, Hoho’s the one they’re after! Ride, now!”

Hoho looked back for one instant. And in that instant, five Paisley Riders emerged from the pass. They stopped in single file, and the foremost gave a loud howl. Awning wasted no more time, but rode off towards the ford.

“No, wait!” shrieked Mary and Piping, who had serious doubts about the sanity of Tomfool.
Hoho felt the wind in his face. It curled and crept cold fingers into his threadbare clothes and chilled him. His arm felt like ice.

The riders were racing furiously slightly behind them. Then Hoho saw to his horror that four more riders were trying to cut them off from the ford. The Selfish horse made one more tremendous effort, and Hoho saw that the other four Riders being passed. Then he felt water around the horse’s legs. They were across the ford.

Awning stopped the horse on a small rise on the one side of the river. Nine Paisley Riders were gathered on the opposite side.

“Give up the Blobbit, She-Self!” they cried in deadly voices.

“What wilt thou give me for him?” Awning yelled.

The Riders stopped short and whispered amongst themselves for a moment.

“Uh, we’ve got three dollars and fifteen, no, seventeen! Yes, three dollars and seventeen cents!” one shouted.

“Plus I’ll throw in a years subscription to ‘Sports Illustrated’!” said another.

“And a pearl handled jack knife!” shouted another.

“I do not think so,” snorted the Self.

“Do you take checks?” said the first.

“Or Visa or MasterCard?” said the second.

“Checks do have a seven day hold, and my father only taketh Discover cards!” shouted Awning.

“Wanna play bubblegum?” said another rider.

“Eenie Meenie Miny Moe?” suggested yet another.

“I am too old for such kiddie stuff!” shouted Awning.

The first Paisley Rider sighed. “I suppose we’ll have to do this the hard way.” He leapt off of his horse and tested the water with his toe. He shuddered and leaped backwards.

The Riders seemed at a loss. They whispered amongst themselves and two of them went off. They returned a little while later with some long boards. They proceeded to tie them together with their bootlaces and made a bridge.

“Ha! You should have taken the money!” shouted the first.

“Ha! And the jack knife!” said the second.

“Ha! And the subscription to ‘Sports Illustrated’!” said the third.

They placed it across the river and started walking their horses across it.

“You should have played bubblegum with us!” said a fourth.

“And Eenie Meenie Miny Moe!” said a fifth.

Awning leapt off of her horse, and taking a small saw out of a bag started to saw at the plank bridge rapidly.

“Don’t try to resist us!” shouted the first. “We are more powerful than thee, and that saw couldn’t saw through a toothpick!”

The Riders were about five feet from the bank when Awning finished sawing the boards. As a result of the Self-maiden’s ingenuity, the Riders and their horses were plunged into the ice-cold waters and were swept off in the current.

Just then, the other blobbits came up to the bank, and were yelling something about that there was no bridge.

Hoho shivered violently. His arm and feet felt like ice, but the rest of him felt very hot. He felt himself falling.

!!pagebreak!!

The Funniship of the Ring – Book 3
’In Which Hoho Delights More Than One Sense In A Culinary Way’

Hoho opened his eyes. At first, he thought he had overslept breakfast, and that his eggs would be ice cold, but then he noticed that the ceiling had skylights. Then he looked closer and he noticed that they weren’t skylights at all, but two square holes.

“Where am I, and why are there holes in the ceiling?” he said.

“You are in the house of Sellrond, and as all the guest rooms were full, he had to put you in the room that’s being remodeled. It’s got a nice view of the stars though, eh? And running water, too, though doubtless you’ll find that out soon enough.”

Hoho sat up in bed and looked at the speaker. It was none other than the Blizzard, Handoff.

Hoho groaned and lay down once more, suddenly feeling nauseous.

“Why are you here?” he demanded rather rudely.

“Why am I here?” said Handoff incredulously, “Why, I was waiting for you, of course, you silly goose! After all, this Ring business might prove to be the biggest business I’ve ever been involved in.”

“Ring?” said Hoho, very puzzled, “You mean that old thing that Uncle Dumbo found under the Messy Mountains? It’s the only reason that you’re here?”

Handoff’s face paled and his bright and cheery smile disappeared.

“You do have it, don’t you, Hoho? I mean, you’re not trying to give me a heart attack? Please oh please oh please tell me you brought it with you from the Mire!”

Hoho held his head. “I, I don’t know, I think I might have left it in my other pants.”

“You think!?” shrieked the blizzard, grabbing the blobbits shoulders and shaking vigorously, “The Ring is only the single most important piece of weaponry against Moron this age or any age has ever seen and YOU THINK IT’S IN YOUR OTHER PANTS?!?”

A Self came in the door and frowned at the blizzard.

“I have come bearing a message from the Lord Sellrond,” he said.

“Well, let’s have it,” said Handoff.

The Self continued. “He hath sent me to invite Mr. Flaggins to a great feast when he is well. But he finished his message with a message for the Blizzard: Beware! Thy jabbering does not bode well with his Lordship. Speak softly, and be careful with that big stick that thou carries always.”

With that, the Self departed, though not without a dirty look at the blizzard.

Handoff let go of Hoho’s shoulders and stared at the Blobbit.

“You really don’t have it?” he said without much hope.

Hoho shook his head glumly. The Blizzard sighed and left the room.

Hoho smiled. He reached into his pocket and pulled an iron chain out, on which dangled a small band of gold. He hung it around his neck and promptly fell out of the bed. He struggled to his feet just as Tom rushed into the room. He ran into his master with a grunt.

“Oh, I’m so sorry, Mr. Hoho, I didn’t mean to do that!” he cried, helping Hoho up.

“It’s no problem, Tom,” said Hoho.

“Have you been invited to the great feast yet?” queried Tom.

Hoho seemed to remember something about that.

Tom told Hoho that it was about to commence and that they were only awaiting the arrival of the guest of honor.

“Really? Well, they didn’t have to wait for me!” said Hoho.

“Well, uh, not exactly Mr. Hoho, uh, Mr. Piping, well…”

“No, Tom, don’t tell me! Piping arranged it, huh? Well, don’t say anymore and I’ll pretend I’m surprised, eh?”

“Have it your own way, Mr. Hoho,” murmured Tom.

He escorted Hoho down many of the great halls.

“Tom,” said Hoho, “I appreciate this tour, but couldn’t we go to the dining room now? I’m getting rather hungry.”

“Uh, just a minute, Mr. Hoho, I think it’s just through this door, no, it’s just another bedroom. I wonder…”

As he walked through the door he ran into a man.

“Oh, I’m so sorry Mr., YOU!?” said Tom.

“Excuse me, you clumsy Blobbit,” said the man. It was Slimer.

Hoho spluttered. “How did you get here?”

“I walked,” Slimer said.

“Well,” said Tom, “You’d better start walking again, and pretty darn fast too, or else I’ll pull your nose until your knees start to…”

Hoho managed to stifle the angry Blobbit.

“Where are you going, Slimer?” said Hoho stiffly.

Slimer frowned. “I’m trying to find Dining Room #7. Even after living here all my life, I still can’t find what I’m looking for.”

The man and the two blobbits wandered around for fifteen minutes or so, when finally they stumbled on the room they were looking for. There were many Selves seated around a very long table. They all looked bored. Then they caught sight of Hoho and his companions and started clapping and cheering.

“We thought that thou was dead!” said one of the Selves.

“I almost am,” said Hoho. “Where do I sit?”

A Self seated the blobbits. Hoho found himself seated between a Self and a Daft.

“Well?” he said. “Where are my presents?”

“Huh?” said the Self.

Hoho looked at the head of the table and to his surprise saw Piping in the largest, shiniest chair he had ever seen. He was eating caviar and lobster and talking up a storm.

“Hey, Mr. Hoho, you aren’t too bad an actor!” said Tom.

Hoho buried his head in his hands and tried to keep from leaping at Piping and/or Tom.
After he composed himself, and his appetite returned, he looked around at the people at the table. He looked in awe at the Lord Sellrond, of whom so many tales were told. Next to him on his left was Handoff, who was talking loudly with his elbows on the table. Across from Hoho was a man talking to a Self. Apparently the man didn’t notice that the Self was sleeping.
On the man’s right was the lady Awning. Seated across the table and two or three seats away from her was Slimer. Awning wrinkled her nose at him and smiled. Slimer winked and wiggled his ears at her. Hoho turned away from this disgusting display of affection and buried his sorrows in his mashed potatoes. He was trying to decide whether it looked more like a rabbit than a weasel, when the Daft on his left elbowed him in the stomach.

“You took all the mashed potatoes, you greedy pig!” he hissed.

Hoho, with a mighty ‘oof’ fell face first into his mashed potatoes.

Hoho wiped his face off and turned to the Daft. He thought he looked familiar.

“Hey,” he said. “Aren’t you Gl—inthedark? My Uncle Dumbo had an old picture album that he used to show me.”

“Yes, you gluttonous hog, I am Gl—inthedark,” said the Daft. “Now are you going to share the mashed potatoes or am I going to have to get nasty?”

Just then, Sellrond stood up and rang a tinkly little bell. Immediately all were silent.

“The feast is now over,” he said.

There were scattered groans.

“There will be a great council tomorrow. All are invited; provided they are not spies and emissaries of Moron.” Sellrond finished his speech and he and his daughter left the dining room. All followed.

After many false starts, they all found themselves in a great room, with a huge fire at one end. The Selves positioned themselves at the far end of the room, away from the fire save for a few who dared the heat to try and roast some marshmallows and hot dogs. Hoho found himself yawning. He looked at the Lord Sellrond’s seat where he was sitting next to his daughter.

To Hoho’s surprise, Slimer was standing behind her. He suddenly said something to Awning and she jumped three feet in the air. She and Slimer started talking to each other rather rapidly and loudly and waving their arms. Hoho wanted to stay up and watch their odd behavior, but he couldn’t keep his eyes open. He wandered off without telling anybody, and somehow found his room after only about an hour. He flopped down on the bed and immediately fell into some much needed sleep.

!!pagebreak!!

The Funniship of the Ring – Book 4
’In Which The Choice Of The Members Pleases Sellrond’

Hoho awoke to shouting. He wondered where he was. Then he noticed the holes in the ceiling.
The shouting grew louder.

“Hoi, Butterfinger! Hast thou found the Half-wit yet?” said a voice.

“Nay,” said a second voice, which Hoho supposed to belong to Butterfinger. “I cannot find a thing in this place! Why Sellrond does not get a maker of maps in here I do not know.”

The first Self lowered his voice. “Dost thou knowest what I heard?”

“No, what?” said Butterfinger eagerly.

“What art thou doing?” a third voice loudly broke in. “Loitering around, I expect. The Lord Sellrond shan’t be pleased if news gets to him of thy gossiping ways.”

“Why thou little…” said the first voice.

“Threaten me not, thou scoundrel!” said the third voice.

There were some sounds of scuffling and shouting and muffled curses. Hoho decided it would be a good time to get up.

He opened the door to see three Selves rolling around on the floor fighting. The scuffle was soon broken up when Hoho beat them with a chair and yelled for them to stop.

“Didst thou have to hit me in mine eye?” said Butterfinger.

“What is this all about?” said Hoho.

“No one couldst find you last night. All supposed that you had wandered off and either were desperately lost or found by the Paisley Riders. The Lord Sellrond sent all who know the ways of this house-“

“Precious little are there,” muttered the Self belonging to the first voice.

“Hush thee, Dustrag! Thou knowest very well that there are none!” cried Butterfinger.

“Anyway, it is time for the great council to begin. Alas, thou hast no time for breakfast! So I have brought thee an oatmeal sandwich.”

Hoho looked at the sloppy thing that Butterfinger offered him. He recoiled in disgust.

“Uh, no thanks. I’m not hungry.” he said.

Hoho and the three Selves wandered around trying to find the council room. Finally, after about two hours, they arrived.

All gathered stood up and cheered.

“Once again, beyond all hope, thou hast returned to us!” cried a Self.

“We thought that thou was dead, Hoho,” said Sellrond, who looked rather perturbed.

“I almost am,” said Hoho, who was feeling rather faint. “Where’s that oatmeal sandwich?”

“No time for eating!” cried Handoff. “We have better things to discuss.”

“I noticed that you finished your Egg McMuffin before you said that, Handoff,” sneered Tomfool.

Sellrond looked sharply at Handoff. “No one brings McDonald’s food in this house, Handoff the Gloomy.”

Tomfool snickered.

“And thou,” said Sellrond turning to him, “Are not even supposed to be here! This is a private council. We are going to be discussing important things, beyond the reach of thy puny thought. Be gone ere I lose my temper with thee! Butterfinger!”

“Yes?” said the Self.

“Take care of this blobbit, understand?” he said looking hard at Butterfinger.

Tomfool was ushered off the porch.

Hoho, meanwhile was looking around at the people gathered. There was the man he had seen earlier at the feast. He was talking to a sleeping Self. A group of Selves were gathered whispering and giggling off in a corner. Hoho noticed one of them was in a wheelchair. Slimer was sulking in a corner, dressed in dirty, patched clothes. Seated next to Gl—inthedark was a younger version of the Daft.

The Daft felt the blobbit’s gaze upon him and returned it. Anger and hate burned in his blood red eyes. “What’re you staring at?” snarled Gl—inthedark.

Hoho was saved when Sellrond stood up. All grew silent, save for loud music blaring from inside the house.

“I am certain all gathered know why we are gathered here,” he said looking around.

“Um,” said Hoho uncertainly, “I actually have no idea why we are here.”

“I am sure that it shall be explained to thee by those who know,” said Sellrond.

“Like who?” said Handoff.

“From the likes of thyself,” explained the Self.

“Uh,” said the blizzard, racking his memory.

Sellrond groaned. “Tell me not that I am the only person here who knoweth what is going on!”

“Apparently you are!” cried Handoff. “Isn’t that funny? Har har har!” Sellrond’s face twitched. He took a deep breath.

“It will be explained in due time. You cannot finish a puzzle without finding all the pieces.

“I like puzzles!” broke in Handoff. “Do you mean those little plastic sliding puzzles, or those cardboard ones that…”

“Maybe he means something in the history of puzzles,” said Gl—inthedark. “Beginning in the year 1280…”

Sellrond continued in a somewhat louder voice.

“Some of thee are pieces of the puzzle that concerns us now. All pieces have a story.”

“I told you!” cried Glointhedark.

Sellrond began shouting louder.

“No doubt some of thee have stories which will help us complete the puzzle. I turn first to thee, Boring. Why are you here?” He turned to the man who somehow caused everyone within earshot to fall asleep. The man stood up.

“I am Boring, son of Dinosaur, Sewer of Flounder,” the man said. “The reason I am here is about a year ago a message came to my brother in a dream after he ate chocolate before bed. Since chocolate is his favorite before bed snack, he had this dream often. It also came once to me, since he asked me to try it once, but the one time I tried it I felt sick in the morning so I didn’t do it again. I’ve tried to get him to try my favorite before bed snack, but he says he’s allergic to sardines, which is silly, because once at my father’s 65th birthday party I saw him eat seventeen…”

“But,” interrupted Sellrond, “What was thy dream?”

“My dream was this,” said Boring. He stood up tall, and in a deep voice said:
“I dreamed that it was dark. But in the west a pale light lingered, and a voice, far away yet clear spake strange words.”

“Spoke,” interrupted Hoho.

.
“Huh?” said Boring.

“Spaken,” said Handoff.

“What?” said Boring.

“Spukien,” said Butterfinger.

“Pardon me?” said Boring.

“Spaketh,” said Tom.

“I thought I commanded thee to get him out of here!” roared Sellrond.

Boring, heedless of the Self continued in a sing-song voice.

‘”One dark night in the middle of the day,
two dead boys went out to play.
Back to back they faced each other,
drew their swords and shot each other.
Two deaf policemen heard the noise,
came and shot the two dead boys.
If you think my tale is tall,
just ask the blind man,
for he saw it all.’

Then a gopher in a tuxedo with a vegetable platter in his fin asked me if I had any shrimp sauce for his French fries, and I gave him this really old sock and told him to beat it if he didn’t want to get a schnauzer right in the kisser, and he gave me a look that said ‘eat me’ so I did and I got a wart on my left heel and I woke up and there was this.” He bent over and removed his shoe and sock and there, just as he said, was a wart on his left heel.

“I heard that you were really good with natural remedies, so my father and I were wondering if you had any really good wart cream? Because after all, it wouldn’t do to be the heir to the Sewer and have warts, would it? And I couldn’t go to any doctor in Flounder, because they are all really big blabbermouths and faint at the sight of blood, and…”

Sellrond held up his hand. “Yes, yes, I have wart cream, I’ll give it to you when this council is over.” He sighed and gritted his teeth.

“I have a story!” cried Handoff. Tom got up and left.

And before anybody could stop the blizzard, he commenced, saying…

“It was dark. I was going up to Ithinc, because Radicalhat had said that Sillyman had sent him to tell me that he had sent him to find me to tell me to tell him that he was on his way to Ithinc. So I told him to send some bears and send some eagles and send some barracuda and send some kitties and then I sent myself. As I walked up the long stair, I felt really queasy so I barfed right then and there and Sillyman got really angry and asked what took me so long because he had sent Radicalhat to tell me to tell him to tell himself that I had told him to tell him that I had told him that I was sending myself, and then he sent forth a message that sounded that he had rehearsed in front of a mirror for days, which I wouldn’t be surprised at, the big ham, and then he said that it might sound better with music so he pulled out his guitar and started singing the blues.

The Elder days are gone,
the Middle days are ending,
the Younger days are beginning,
the days which we must rule.
Yeah, I’ve got the blues,
the power hungry blues.
We all must stand together,
to accomplish this plan of mine,
but to start with I need news of the Ring,
which is ever on my mind.

And then he sent forth a guitar solo which as well as I can remember went something like a, a, c, e, d, b flat, f sharp, f, a, b, no, the second ‘a’ was a chord…”

“Enough!” roared Sellrond.

“I laughed in his face,” continued Handoff, “And he locked me up on the top of the tower and left me to myself. It was dark, and stormy. The wind went ‘whoosh! whoosh!’ and the rain went ‘pitter patter, pitter patter’ and the thunder went ‘BOOM! BOOM!’ and the moths went ‘flutter flutter flutter’ and then they went ‘splat, splat’ ’cause I don’t like moths and then I went ‘think think’ ’cause I wanted to get off ’cause it was dark and I don’t like the dark and then I went ‘thunk’ ’cause I was pacing the tower and I guess I paced too far and I fell off.”

“Did you happen to hit your head very hard when you fell off, Handoff?” asked Hoho.

“Huh?” said the blizzard. “Then I made my way to the lands of the Horsy People and stole, er, borrowed a horse and then I made my way back here. I galloped and galloped and galloped and galloped and trotted and trotted and cantered and cantered and cantered and then I walked and walked and walked ’cause my horse (Bumblefax) didn’t like me and then I made my way here, ok?”

Sellrond gnashed his teeth, and his eyes were all wide and terrible. He turned to the Self in the wheelchair.

“What have you to say, Legless?” he croaked.

The Self looked puzzled. “Would you repeat the question?” he said.

Sellrond half rose out of his chair and leaned towards him. “What,” he said slowly, “Do you have to say, Legless?”

The Self wheeled himself to the middle of the porch.

“I fear the news I carry is not very good. The creature Solemn, which was brought to us to keep by Slimer here, and instructed by Handoff here to keep safe, and counseled by Sellrond here to keep safe in a doggoned dingbatted deep dark dank ding-donged dungeon, doomed for eternity, who has the fate of the free world on his shoulders…”

“Are you trying to make a point or do you just like words beginning with ‘D’?” asked Butterfinger.

“Uh,” said Legless, “Well, anyway he escaped.”

“WHAT?” shouted Slimer, jumping out of his corner and grabbing the Self around the neck. “How could you? Do you know how long I spent looking for that miserable creature? Two whole days! Two whole days wasted! I don’t deserve this!”

“What’s his problem?” asked Boring.

Sellrond sighed. “His problem is that I mistakenly told him his true heritage.”

“How could that create a problem?” asked Hoho.

“So I thought also. But alas, his pride is great, and the greatness of his heritage proved too great a strain. He succumbed to snobbishness.” said Sellrond sadly. “He was given into my care when he was just a wee lad. I raised him like a son, and this is how he treats me. It’s always ‘This food isn’t fit for my consumption.’ ‘These clothes aren’t good enough for me.’ It maketh me sick.”

“But,” said Legless, “What title does he bear that is worthy of such behavior?”

“I’m the king of Flounder!” shouted Slimer. “And since I don’t deserve such a stupid name as Slimer, I take now my true name, Arrogant son of Thornbush!”

“Oh boy,” said Dustrag, “Here we go again.”

“Yes!” ranted Arrogant, “I it was who trailed Solemn even to the very gates of Mortar! I who caught him and drove him all the way to the Wood Selves kingdom in Smirkwood!”

He raved up and down the porch, detailing everything he had ever done, embellishing it to the point of nausea.

Sellrond’s eyes were no longer wild and terrible. Instead they were glazed, and Hoho knew he was thinking of a better place, a place where there was no Arrogant son of Thornbush. Hoho knew this because he was thinking of the same thing himself. He wondered how he could bring this sort of thing about.

Arrogant noticed how everyone was ignoring him, and stopped speaking. He sat down in a huff.

“Fine,” he said. “If you guys don’t want to better yourselves, listen to inferior counsels. See if I care when you come running to me when your foolish plans crumble to dust.” He raised his nose in the air and in all appearances appeared to be ignoring everyone.

Sellrond shook himself out of his reverie and turned to the Dafts.

“And what tale hast thou to tell?” he enquired.

Gl—inthedark looked at the Daft at his side. The other daft looked back.

“Well, Wimpy, tell him.” said Gl—inthedark.

Wimpy looked puzzled. “I thought you knew,” he whispered.

“No, I don’t know. You knew.”

“I do not!”

“Are you calling me a liar?”

“All right now! Calm thyselves!” cried Sellrond. But for the moment his cries were unheeded. People were shouting. Selves were arguing. The council was in turmoil. Then someone threw a chair. It hit Boring right in the head. He pulled out his sword and things might have gotten nasty if Hoho hadn’t jumped up just then.

“I’ll do it!” he screeched. “I’ll do whatever we’ve come here to discuss! I don’t know what it is, but it can’t be as bad as what I’ve gone through already today.”

The council was suddenly silent. Everyone stared at him in awe.

“Do I hear you correctly, Hoho Flaggins?” said Sellrond seriously.

Hoho nodded.

“You will do this alone, if need be?”

Hoho nodded again, slower this time.

“You shall all be witnesses to this,” said the Self, looking at the council. “Hoho, I admire your courage. I must admit, I never thought I would see any so brave and yet so foolish. Even I dare not even think of starting what thou hast sworn to finish.”

Hoho wondered what he had gotten himself into. He soon found out.

“Now,” said Sellrond speaking to the council. “I cannot think of sending Hoho on such a dangerous mission alone. One does not simply walk into Mortar.”

“WHAT?” yelped Hoho. “MORTAR? WHAT’S THIS ABOUT MORTAR? Surely you don’t expect me to go to Mortar! I’m just a little Blobbit! What business would a little old blobbit have in such a place?”

“Have you not been listening, Hoho?” said Sellrond.

“Well,” admitted Hoho, “Maybe not exactly to every single word that’s been said, but…”

“Well then,” said Sellrond, “You must have missed something vital. But now I need to pick companions for thy journey. Now, let’s see, who would be an asset to thee?”

He mulled over who he would rather have out of his sight for a while.

“The company of Hoho shall be a nice square number. But it shall not be one, neither shall it be four, nor sixteen, nor twenty-five, nor even thirty-six. The number of the companions shall be nine.”

“What a coincidence!” said Handoff. “Nine companions, just as there are Nine Paisley Riders! That way, if they were ever to meet, the Companions won’t be outnumbered! How clever!”

“Yes,” said Sellrond. “And I am sure your wisdom in guessing my reason will come in very handy for them. For there shall be times when wisdom shall be needed: to choose from dark, darker, and darkest, and to help in hopeless situations. Thank thee for volunteering, Handoff the Gloomy.”

“What?” said Handoff. “Did I miss something here?”

Wimpy snickered. Sellrond turned to him.

“And I am sure that thy sense of humor shall also come in handy. There will not be much to laugh about, for thy journey shall be one of sorrow fraught with terror.”

Hoho felt like he was going to cry. Boring handed him a handkerchief.

“And thy sympathy for the Blobbit will be much appreciated when he loses all he has worked for, and all that he loves. And when the night comes, and your loss is most felt, that is when comfort, however comforting, shall be useless. And anyway, Flounder is right on the way to Mortar. So you shall be the fourth member of these companions. And since you are going to Flounder, why not take its next king, Arrogant son of Thornbush? Yes, now there are only four places to fill.”

Sellrond was having the time of his life. He felt like kicking himself, however, when he thought that he could have picked a lovely (and larger) prime number, like eleven, instead of constricting himself to just nine people that he hated.

“And, Boring, you say that the doctors in Flounder are very good?”

“Well,” said Boring, “No, actually I said that…”

“And Legless, I am certain that the doctors of Flounder can heal thee. Now only three spaces left. I might find some members of my household that I hate, er, can send.”

All of a sudden, three blobbits burst from the bushes, with drawn swords. They surrounded Sellrond.

“We’ve got to leave here, Hoho!” cried Tomfool. “Do you know what Piping found? Tell ’em, Pipe!”

“I was lost,” said Piping, “And I wandered into the kitchen by mistake, and do you know, that what we thought was roast beef last night? It was in fact…”

“Ahhh!” said Sellrond, clapping his hand over the blobbits mouth. “And now we have the full nine companions! And you shall be, the Funniship,” he spat, “Of the Ring!”

The nine unwilling companions looked at each other with apprehension. Each wondered how they would react to something dangerous. Hoho thought he could guess.

“Thou shalt start out early tomorrow morning. You cannot have too early a start,” said Sellrond. “And to avoid suspicion, thou shalt go disguised as a traveling circus. Hmm, now let’s see, ok, you’re a freak, you’re a freak, you three are freaks, oh, what the heck! You can all be freaks for all I care! I shall send messages such as I can, to those that I know in the world. Maybe, if thou art good. Now off to bed with thee! It’s early to bed, early to rise for you.”

And with that, the council was dismissed. Somehow, Hoho felt cheated.

For some reason, the nine companions could not sleep, if only because of the wild partying going on in deeper parts of the house. Handoff wondered why he wasn’t invited, as he drifted off to some nightmarish dream.

!!pagebreak!!

The Funniship of the Ring – Book 5
’In Which Handoff’s True Leadership Skills Are Revealed’

Hoho awoke to someone poking him. He opened his eyes to see a dark form bent over him.

“AAAHHH!” he screamed.

“It’s alright, Mr. Hoho,” said the figure, quickly withdrawing his hand from Hoho’s pocket. “It’s only Tom.”

“AAAHHH!” Hoho shouted again.

“You’d better be quiet, Mr. Hoho, you might wake Sellrond. It’s time to go. Everyone else’s already up and had breakfast. We did leave you that oatmeal sandwich, though.”

Hoho looked at the sloppy thing with disgust. He ate it with something less that relish, and much gagging. Tom was already packing his baggage.

“It’s mighty cold out, Mr. Hoho. I’d wear a sweater if I were you,” he said.

Hoho sighed and got dressed. He and Tom went out seeking the back door. They found it after only about forty-three minutes. Dawn was breaking in the eastern sky when they finally came to where the rest of the nine were waiting.

“So much for our early start,” sighed Legless, looking at the sun rising over the tops of the mountains.

“Yes,” said Arrogant, refusing to look at them. “I am much better at keeping my promises than they.”

Just then Awning came out onto the porch and plunked down her baggage.

“I am coming too!” she announced.

Sellrond came out to the porch.

“Well, Awning! Thou art trying to sneak out again, hmm? It’s back to thy room for thee!”

“Aww, Daddeeee!” she wailed.

Sellrond ushered her back inside, and just then Dumbo came out on the porch.

“Uncle Dumbo!” cried Hoho.

He looked at Hoho with pity.

“I heard about the council yesterday. I’m sorry I took so long to break out of my cell, I would have warned you. Heh heh, that Sellrond’s a character. But I’m afraid that’s just your luck. Come inside a moment, I have something for you.”

He led Hoho into a small room just inside the back door. He rummaged around under the broken down bed, and pulled out a small box.

“Here are some, uh, interesting things,” he said pulling a small sword out of the box. “This is Thing. It makes this really cool ultrasonic high-pitched sound whenever there are Corcs around.”

Hoho took it and swished it around in the air.

“And also there is this!” he pulled out a shirt of mail, unlike anything Hoho had ever seen before.

“I’ve never seen anything quite like it, Uncle Dumbo. Is that, uh, mold?”

“Yup,” said Dumbo proudly. “It was lying around in a cave for hundreds of years before I found it, and sitting for years in an old cardboard box under a leaky roof hasn’t helped it any. But here! Try it on!” He held it towards Hoho.

“I don’t know if I want to,” said Hoho shrinking away. “Are those spikes on the inside?”
“Oh, you hardly notice those,” said Dumbo. “It’s really quite comfortable, once you get used to them.”

“If you’re some sort of armadillo,” thought Hoho.

He took it gingerly. It looked like the most uncomfortable thing he had ever seen.

“Put it on under your shirt,” said Dumbo, “It’ll look better that way.”

“I don’t know if I have the stomach for that,” said Hoho.

“Oh, please, just for me?”

“Oh,” Hoho broke down, “Ok, just for you.”

He put it on.

“Well? How is it?” inquired Dumbo.

“It itches,” said Hoho. “And it’s poking me in the back.” He twisted around trying to arrange it so it didn’t tickle him so. “It must weigh a hundred pounds!”

“Sixty-four and a half,” said Dumbo.

“Wonderful,” grumbled Hoho.

“Hoho my lad, somehow I think that you don’t really mean that,” said Dumbo. “Well, I’ve got to go nail Sellrond’s door shut. Have fun!”

The two blobbits hugged before Hoho went back out to the porch. It was empty.

“Saaay,” said Hoho, “Where is everybody?”

He noticed a note on a lawn chair. It read:

Hoho,
Since you took far too long we started without you. I’m sure that you can find us though, if you look hard enough. See ya.
Handoff

“Just my luck,” grumbled Hoho, picking up his pack and starting off in the direction he thought that they had gone. Half an hour later, just as the ground started sloping upwards out of the bowl, he heard some arguing. As he came up to the top of the ridge, he saw the Funniship standing around a spring, debating some important scheme.

“I tell you, it won’t work!” cried Wimpy. “Nothing ever gets past Selves!”

“Listen, Daft, I’ve been around Selves more often than you have, and I am absolutely certain that it will work! Aren’t I right, Legless?” The blizzard turned quickly towards him.

The Self held up his hands. “Hey, man, don’t look at me! I’m staying neutral in this.”

“Count on a Self to be of no help,” sneered Handoff. “If none of you will assist me, then I will do this alone!”

“Not alone!” said Tom. “You can count on me to help you.”

Hoho, incorrectly supposing that they were planning to go looking for him, stepped out from behind a bush.

“AAAHHH!” shouted everyone.

“Ah, now it’ll work!” said Handoff cheerily, climbing down out of a small maple tree.

“Hoho, you know how to divert water, don’t you? We want to play a little trick on Sellrond and move this little spring and just dampen the bottom of Flivenbell, don’t you know?”

“Sure I know how to divert water. But why would you want to dampen Flivenbell? Why not just flood the place?” queried Hoho.

“Now you’re talking!” said Handoff.

“And this little wimpy spring wouldn’t wet a washcloth. We’ve got to find something a little bit bigger,” mulled Hoho.

“The river!” cried Piping. “Remember Awning said that her father diverted the river long ago? Why don’t we divert it back!”

“Yeees,” said Arrogant, “And that’ll pay him back for the indignities he’s put me through.”

The Funniship walked around the northern edge of the bowl until they came to the river. They walked up it about twenty miles until they came to a huge wall. It was nightfall, and the guards had not noticed them yet.

“This is it,” hissed Handoff. “This is what we came all this way for. Now, Hoho, do your work.”
Hoho crept stealthily to the wall. He searched with his nimble blobbit fingers for some sort of crack, or loose brick. His hand found a small round object. He bent closer to look. He smiled. It was an ordinary cork, like those found on bottles. He noticed in the moonlight that there were many in the wall. He pulled it out, and a stream of water spouted out of the ensuing hole. Hoho quickly pulled out several more, and crept back to the rest.

“It’s done,” he whispered, “Now let’s get out of here!”

The Funniship traveled rapidly back down the course of the river, and then branched off south, towards Mortar. Dawn broke in the sky. The mountains far ahead of them glowed purple in the growing light, as the dark blue of night gave way to the pinks and golds of sunrise. For twelve days the companions journeyed, twelve nights they camped out under the myriads of twinkling stars. The thirteenth day arrived, and the funniship stopped to take their afternoon meal. Boring helped Hoho with the basket.

“Why are you being so nice to me?” demanded Hoho. “You just want the Ring! I see your mind! You’ll go to Moron and sell us all! Curse you and all men to death and darkness!”

“Of course not!” said Boring. “That’s silly. I just didn’t want you to drop the basket. You carry the food of us all, little one.”

“How did the Selves pack so much into one basket, anyhow?” asked Mary.

“Oh, that’s easy,” said Hoho. “Papayas can be held in the smallest of things.”

Tom threw himself on the ground.

“I don’t want to travel no more,” he wailed. “I never did want to come in the first place, and since we started it’s been boring, boring, boring!”

“What?” said Boring.

“Nothing but beautiful days, and peaceful nights, and delicious meals,” continued Tom. “I’d almost welcome some of that there adventure that Sellrond talked about.”

“He wasn’t talking about adventure, Tom,” said Hoho. “He was talking about pain, and torture, and sorrow, and stuff like that.”

Tom looked puzzled. “Then what am I complaining about?” he wondered.

Hoho shrugged and took a bite of his lunch.

He noticed that Handoff and Arrogant were arguing a little ways off. He listened to the heated debate, and found that it was about their journey.

“What do you think now, Arrogant? I think it’s pretty clear which way we should go,” said Handoff.

“I don’t want to go your way!” said Arrogant. “I want to go over the mountains. Your way gives me the creeps.”

The two noticed that Hoho was eavesdropping and moved farther away from camp. There was a shriek and Handoff disappeared. Hoho rushed over to see him at the bottom of a small cliff, looking angrily up.

“Don’t just stand there!” he roared, “Help me up!”

He was helped up. Then the companions journeyed on. Hoho noticed that they were continuing in a different direction. He wondered for a little while, but then deduced that Handoff knew what he was doing. Twelve days later, they came upon a small mountain. They climbed up it. After many, many, long arduous days, with Handoff talking on and on about how well their journey was going so far, thanks to his great leadership, they rounded the top of the mountain. Then his voice trailed off.

“Let’s go down the other side. I, uh, think that would be best,” he said.

He tried to usher everyone back down the hill, but they crowded up to the summit.

“Hey,” said Hoho, “Isn’t that…”

“Now now, little blobbit,” said Handoff nervously, “Let’s get on and…”

“It’s Flivenbell!” chorused the Funniship.

“Handoff,” snarled Wimpy menacingly.

“You mean that we went all this way and it turned out to be all the way back?” said Tom in disbelief.

Arrogant rolled his eyes and ran down the hill shouting “I don’t deserve this!”

“Arrogant!” shouted Legless, “Don’t ever run down a mountain! Even a small one!”

“Yeah, like he would know,” muttered Mary.

But the man was too far away to hear. Even as he reached the last slope, he caught his foot on a loose slab of stone and tumbled to the bottom. He lay there motionless.

The funniship rushed down as fast as they dared. As they neared the bottom, Arrogant sat up and rubbed his head. But even as they neared him Wimpy dislodged a loose stone and it hit the man in the head. He was out colder than a penguin before they could reach him.

!!pagebreak!!

The Funniship of the Ring – Book 6
’In Which Tom Suddenly Becomes Rich’

Arrogant woke up the next morning with a headache that could have cracked walnuts, and he made sure that everybody knew about it.

“Ouch,” he said for the fiftieth time.

“Shaddap,” said Handoff. “We’ve got to get moving if we expect to get anywhere before winter sets in.”

The funniship journeyed on. For sixteen days they journeyed south towards Mortar. They came to mountains. Handoff pointed grandly.

“That,” he said, “Is Carebus! Zoot Soot! Zubbly Bubbly! The great mountains under which is the underground amusement park of AmorŽ Land! We must go over, since Arrogant is wimpy and unadventurous, and DOESN’T want to have ANY fun.”

“Why are you such a wimp?” said Wimpy to Arrogant.

The man whacked the daft on the head and they journeyed on. The funniship traveled up Carebus, the largest and most formidible mountain in the entire range. It was snowy and about three miles up Hoho found himself suddenly bogged down by ice balls between his toes. He toppled, swayed, and rolled down the hill, taking out Arrogant, Boring, and Piping on his way down. The rest stood yelling “Why couldn’t you have taken Handoff?”

Arrogant grabbed the clumsy blobbit and stood him up. Hoho wiped the snow from his eyes to see that he no longer was wearing the ring.

“Help,” said Boring. Hoho looked at him. He was trapped under the great chain, which the Selves had substituted for the titanium one that Hoho had used before, claiming that it was “too thin to be any good, heh heh”. They managed to free the man.

“”Tis a strange fate,” said Boring rubbing his arm, “To have such a great chain for such a little thing, such a little thing…” his voice trailed off as he looked at the chain. He shook his head.

“ARE YOU COMING ANYTIME SOON, OR AM I GOING TO HAVE TO COME AFTER YOU??” bellowed Handoff from a long way up.

That evening, they were traveling on a dangerously narrow ledge, which was deep with snow. Fortunately, it had a crust so all but Legless could travel quite easily. The Self was up to his neck in snow, plowing far behind.

“You could wait, you know,” he grumbled.

”Then we couldn’t get going again!” said Handoff. The wind was blowing strongly, and it began to snow.

”We’re all gonna die!” shouted Arrogant. “Handoff, we must turn back!”

”What?” said the blizzard.

”We’ve gotta go back!” shouted Hoho.

”What?”

”We’ve got to turn around!” screeched Wimpy.

”Huh?”

”We have to…” began Legless. Then he listened for a moment. “There’s a foul voice on the air!”

”It is Sillyman!” bellowed Handoff.

”Oh sure, you hear the Self, but do you notice me? Noooo…” muttered Arrogant.

But indeed, many miles away, atop the great tower of Ithinc, Sillyman was standing, singing. Without knowing it, the funniship had come to the pass of Carebus just at the time when Sillyman gave an impromptu performance for his minions. The sound was horrible. It wound its way between the mountains and soaked into the ears of the companions like spoiled milk. (Huh? says the co-Author)

”Fa lala lala lala! Fa lala lala lala!” he shouted grandly.

”Sillyman!” wailed Handoff. “Pleeeeze shut up! You’re making everyone sick…” He shouted so loudly that lightning struck the cliff overhead, causing an avalanche that swept the funniship to the bottom of the mountain again.

Handoff unburied himself and glared at Arrogant.

”The creeps, huh? Well, I’d rather have the creeps instead of hypothermia which I think I have contracted from your STUPID DOGGONED WAY!!”

”Well, erm…” said Arrogant, “What say we go your way, eh?”

Handoff just snarled. They unearthed the rest of the funniship and continued on.

The next day they were camped on a small hill in the middle of a forest. As Hoho was eating his dinner and listening to the others complaining about it, he noticed that Handoff and Arrogant were standing apart some ways off. He could see Arrogant’s head bandage gleaming in the almost pitch darkness. He crept towards them with all the silence of a blobbit trying to sneak up on something. To his surprise they were continuing the debate that he had heard them talk about weeks ago.

“I tell you, Handoff, I’m not going your way! It gives me the creeps. Come to think about it, you give me the creeps too!” said Arrogant.

“I’ve climbed enough mountains for one summer,” growled Handoff. “We have to get past the Messy Mountains somehow. Going over the mountains is too dangerous. Why not go under instead?”

“Because it’s creepy!”

Hoho gave a gasp of horror. Arrogant whirled around and drew his sword, hitting Handoff in the nose. The blizzard gave a muffled shout and fell over. Arrogant went around beating the bushes with his sword. Hoho snuck back to camp.

A few seconds later, Arrogant came into camp with Handoff leaning on his arm clutching his bloody nose.

“Spies!” shouted Arrogant. “We’re being followed!”

“And they dared to attack us?” gasped Boring, looking at Handoff.

“Yed!” said the blizzard. “We bust ged boving bevore we ged attaged agaid!”

“But it’s dinnertime!” said Tom holding up his half finished banana.

“Well,” said Arrogant, “I suppose we could wait until we finish dinner.”

Hoho kept silent. He decided not to disappoint his companions by telling them that they were safe. While they were nervously finishing dinner, Piping kept them all amused by asking stupid questions.

“Does it hurt, Handoff?” he said.

The funniship roared with laughter. Except poor high-strung sensitive Wimpy.

“Shh!” he whispered urgently. “The spies will hear us!”

“Oh, you don’t take that seriously, do you?” said Legless. “Knowing Handoff, it was probably just a moth, and he hit himself in the face trying to swat it.”

“I hade boths,” growled Handoff.

“Say, Arrogant,” said Hoho, “I don’t remember you having a sword. Where’d you get it?”

“He probably stole it,” said Tomfool.

“It was mine anyway!” shouted Arrogant. “Sellrond should have given it to me a long time ago.”

He stood up and drew it out from its sheath.

“I didn’t mean it!” yelped Tom.

Arrogant gave him a funny look and showed Hoho the sword. Hoho noted that it shone in the moon, with funny marks on the blade and hilt.

“One of the Selfish sword smiths dropped it and scratched it all up.” growled Arrogant. “That’s why it was so cheap. And it’s even got a name,” he continued. “It used to be Doorsil. But I renamed it Andy.”

“Andy?” said Hoho.

“Yeah, sure, a disguise, don’t you know,” said Arrogant looking around slyly. “It’s a very important sword. It cut the ring from the hand of Moron.” He twiddled his eyebrows conspiratorially.

“Uh huh,” said Hoho.

“Yup,” said Legless stretching his arms, “There are definitely no spies around. And I for one am going to get a good nights’…”

His comment was cut short, however, when on the wind came a blood chilling howl.

“EEK!” shouted Wimpy.

“Throwruggs!” said Handoff. “See, Arrogand? We bust go uder de boundans! We bust go dru Abore Lad!”

Amore Land! That fell name fell on the empty ears of darkness like bread and butter on a white carpet.

“Goody!” shouted Legless. “The play land of the Dafts!”

“Nononono!” said Wimpy. “I’d rather be eaten by a pneumatic drill!”

“Huh?” said Mary.

“Well,” said Hoho, “Whether we go there or not, I think we’d better go somewhere now because I think I just saw eyes!”

“AAAHHH!” shouted the funniship, jumping up and running off towards the mountains.

“Wait for me!” shouted Legless, pushing his wheelchair to the limit. He turned around and saw a great big Throwrug about to take a bite of him.

“EEK!” he shrieked, and with a powerful thrust of his arms he sped ahead of the funniship, leaving a trail of fire. The Throwrugs were confounded by this new development, and they stopped chasing the funniship and instead turned around and sped off in the other direction.
After about five minutes, the funniship noticed that they weren’t being followed anymore, and they stopped momentarily to rest.

“Well,” said Wimpy, “It’s a good thing you had me with you.”

“Excuse me?” said Legless, “What do you mean?”

“I mean,” said Wimpy, slowly so that Legless could understand, “I mean obviously once those Throwrugs caught sight of me they turned and ran away.”

“I can understand that,” said Legless. “If I caught sight of your ugly face I’d run away too.”

“Why you…” snarled Wimpy.

“Loog!” cried Handoff, lifting his staff and pointing ahead of them, whacking Wimpy on the head as he did so. “Up yodder is the eddrance to Abore Lad! Yub, just ub de stebs, aroud de lagge, ad den trough de door ad we’re dere.”

He ushered everybody up the million or so stairs, and there in front of them was a huge slimy looking lake.

“Wonderful,” said Boring.

Tom turned to Hoho and his face was green.

“I think I’m going to be sick,” he said.

Handoff was already picking his way around the smelly water.

“Cobe od!” he said. “Led’s go areddy!”

The funniship followed, holding their noses. Hoho accidentally slipped on a rock and actually wet his foot in the algae encrusted slime. He shuddered. Asides from being really gross, there was something about the pond that made him want to gag.

As the funniship came to a wider space before a large flat space in the wall, they saw Handoff standing before it, thinking.

“Well?” said Legless eagerly, “What are we waiting for? Let’s go in!”

He went up to the wall and pushed with all his might.

“Legless,” said Handoff.

“What?” said Legless impatiently.

“The door is over there,” said Handoff pointing to his left. “And another thing, it’s a pull door, not a push door.”

“Well how was I supposed to know?” said the slightly perturbed Self. “There weren’t any signs!”

The funniship looked up to see a burned out neon sign above where Handoff had pointed.
Legless looked up and growled. He wheeled himself away from the wall and sulked.

“Hey,” said Piping, “Your nose is better. You’re not talking funny anymore”

“What are we waiting for, Handoff?” said Arrogant.

“Until I remember the password,” said the blizzard.

“How long will that take?” asked Mary.

Legless put his hand on the blobbit’s shoulder.

“A loooooong time, Piping,” he said.

“I’m Mary,” said Mary.

“Oh,” said the Self.

Handoff shot them a dirty look and resumed thinking.

“Now,” he mumbled, “It seems to me that the password was something really simple, and easy, which was one of the reasons why Amore Land went out of business.”

Piping, meanwhile, was wandering around on what little dry space there was. All of a sudden, in the light of the moon, he saw a piece of paper halfway in the water. He picked it up and looked at it listlessly. It was a guide to the mazes of Amore Land.

“Hey Handoff, would this be of any help?” he called.

“Be quiet, you silly blobbit, can’t you see I’m thinking?” he said angrily.

Piping shrugged and went on reading.

“Open sesame!” said Handoff.

“Hey,” said Piping, “Did you know that Amore Land had the first ever underground roller coaster?”

“Ding dong!” cried Handoff.

“And a popcorn machine!” squealed Piping.

“Popcorn?” said Legless eagerly.

“Popcorn?” said Handoff, “Let me see that!”

He snatched the pamphlet from Piping’s hand and started reading.

“Ah!” he said, “Here I have it! The password is in Selvish. It’s ‘melon’.”

“Melon?” said Legless, “Let me see that.”

He looked at where the blizzard was pointing.

“No, that’s pronounced ‘mellon’,” he said.

“Are you contradicting me?” said Handoff. “Listen, Self, I’ve been around Selves longer than you. I think I’d know Selvish.”

“Hellooo?” said Legless, “Do you see my pointy ears? What do you think I am, a Vulcan? Plus I’ve heard your Selvish. It’s pronounced ‘mellon’.”

“Well, we’ll see, won’t we?” sneered Handoff.

He turned to the wall, lifted his staff up in the air, and in a commanding voice cried,
“Melon!”

A round object hurtled out of the sky and landed at Boring’s feet. Which was bad for Piping, because he was standing right in front of Boring.

“Ouch,” said Piping.

Boring and Arrogant looked at the now smashed object.

“It’s a cantaloupe,” said Arrogant disbelievingly.

The funniship looked at Handoff accusingly.

“It’s not even a very good cantaloupe,” said Boring, “Why, in Flounder…”

“You aren’t eating it are you?” cried Wimpy.

“Yeah, save some for us!” cried Tom.

“No, I meant…”

“Let’s try this again,” said Handoff. “Melon!”

A larger object hurtled out of the sky.

“Watermelon,” groaned Wimpy, rubbing his head.

“Melon melon melon!” shouted Handoff, “Melon melon melon melon!”

The funniship now took up their time with better things to do, such as dodging honeydews. Finally Handoff paused for a moment. He stood deep in thought for a while. The funniship amused themselves by trying to catch their breaths.

“Lemon?” said Handoff.

A whole bushel of lemons came pattering down the wall.

“Handoff,” wailed Legless, “Just say ‘mellon’ and be done with it!”
“Oh, fine, but it won’t work,” said the blizzard. He turned to the wall and limply held his staff up.

“Mellon,” he said half-heartedly.

The sign above the door sparked and came on, bathing its surroundings with pink and orange, which didn’t help the appearance of the lake any, and calliope music began to play. The door creaked and started to open.

“Melon melon!” cried Handoff.

The door was now fully open.

“See?” said Handoff, “It was ‘melon’ after all!”

A last cantaloupe hurtled down the wall and hit Handoff on the head. He fell to the ground, out cold.

“At last,” said Hoho.

But his relief for the moment was cut short, for something grabbed him by the ankle and started dragging him towards the lake.

“AAAHHH!” he shouted.

The funniship gasped, for out of the lake now rose a hideous apparition that resembled a giant octopus. They busied themselves trying to be the first inside the doors. Finally, Boring picked up a huge rock and hurled it with all his might towards the octopus. It splashed harmlessly in the water twenty feet from it. But Hoho’s attacker started swinging the blobbit around and around, and finally it threw him inside the doors and the funniship rushed inside as fast as they could. They grabbed the body of Handoff and dragged him inside. Then the giant arms swung the doors shut, and there was a sound of rumbling and all light was cut off. There was a silence for a while, until Wimpy finally spoke.

“AAHHH!” he shouted.

That, of course woke Handoff up, and he sat up dizzily.

“Where am I?” he wondered.

The funniship explained as best as they could over the noise of Wimpy. But soon his ear splitting shrieks reached a pitch that they could not hear, and explaining grew easier.

“But,” said Tom, “Where’s Hoho?”

The funniship looked around at the deep dark. Then they heard a really spooky moan.

“AAHHH!” they all shouted.

Then there was a sound of something stumbling around. It wandered for a little while, and then there was a sound of a crash. Lights came on. Music started to play. A display flashed. And in the sudden lights, they beheld what a moment ago had held them all in a grip of raw terror.

“Hoho!” cried Piping.

“You found the popcorn machine!” cried Mary Christmas.

And indeed, the thing that Hoho had crashed into seemed to be a popcorn popping device of some sort.

But they also beheld in the dim light a gate, beyond which seemed to be giant figures out of some child’s nightmare.

“Creepy,” muttered Arrogant.

“Well,” said Handoff, “It is as I feared. To get beyond the gate we must pay, and pay dearly. I fear here we must part with our money, which has been such a comfort to us on our journey.”

He went up to the gate, and put all his money in a small slot. The gate opened just enough to let him through, and then it clanged shut. He stood there impatiently waiting for them to do likewise.

The others followed suit, until only Arrogant and Tom were behind. Arrogant crossed his arms stubbornly.

“It is not to my liking,” he said, “That the heir of Mistletoe should fork over all his money to this thing.”

“Well, you have no choice,” said Handoff. “It’s either that, or remain behind alone in the dark. I wouldn’t want to leave you there. Much.”

Arrogant sulked for a moment. But then he walked up to the gate and crossed over.

“Well,” he said putting his now thin wallet back, “I expect you to pay me back, if we live through this.”

Now only Tom stood on the other side. He contemplated the gate for a moment. Then he walked up to it. But instead of handing over all his money, he simply opened the gate and walked through.

“Well, what are we waiting for?” he asked. “Let’s go!”

The funniship looked very hard at Handoff, who looked less than comfortable.

“Uh,” he said, “Sure, uh-huh, yeah.”

The funniship walked on, guided by giant glowing arrows. Soon they came to their first obstacle.

“I can’t see anything,” whined Legless.

“Does anyone have a flashlight?” asked Wimpy, quaveringly.

“Why don’t we just turn on the lights?” asked Hoho, reaching over and flipping a switch on the wall. Immediately lights came on, plain ordinary lights which seemed to come from very high up. It grew as bright as day.

“My eyes!” cried Boring.

The rest of the funniship gasped. For there in front of them, though up above the rafters seemed a mile up, stood a small house. A sign over the door read ‘Handy Harry’s House of Frighteningly Obtuse Obstacles’.

“We must go through this,” said Handoff grimly. “We have no other choice.”

“Hmm,” said Legless. “Would this be dark, darker, or darkest?”

The funniship reluctantly entered into the revolving door. Directly in front of them stood another door. They looked to Handoff for some wise advice.

“Well, Hoho,” he said, “Open it!”

“Uh-uh!” said Hoho.

“Tom, you open it then!”

“Noooooo,” said Tom.

“Fools,” the blizzard hissed, “All of you, fools!”

“I’ll open it!” said Legless cheerfully. He wheeled himself to the door and opened it. A chill breath of air met them, and pitch darkness was all they could see.

“Cool,” said the Self. He wheeled himself in.

“Legless!” cried Handoff.

But Legless did not hear him, for as he went in, a terrible stench met his nostrils, and he gasped. He was momentarily blinded by the pitch darkness. He felt time stand still. He slowly wheeled himself forward, heedless of anything except the hideously animal-like howls coming from somewhere close at hand. He quickened his pace slightly.

When he came to the other side of the house, and his wits caught up with him, the funniship were waiting for him with paler faces than was normal.

“What’s the matter?” said the Self. “You looked like you saw a ghost!”

“N-n-not a ghost,” said Tom, “We think we saw the Pillsbury Doughboy dodge behind one of the roller coasters.”

“Nonsense,” said Legless, “We’ve had a rough day. I think we need some shuteye.”

The funniship eagerly agreed to this, and immediately set out for a place to sleep. They settled for a small corner away from any rides, and started a small campfire. The last thing Hoho remembered before falling asleep from sheer exhaustion was the sight of Legless cheerfully roasting marshmallows. It occurred to Hoho that while he was in Flivenbell he had forgotten to ask Uncle Dumbo why he had let the blizzard Handoff into the blobbit’s hole so many years ago. He sighed. There wasn’t much to do except hope that he got back alive.

He fell asleep and dreamt of green pencils drawing on a purple canvas the story of his life. It was not a pretty picture. (The canvas, not his life.)

!!pagebreak!!

The Funniship of the Ring – Book 7
’In Which Wimpy Develops An Unnatural Fear Of Blobbits

Hoho awoke to the smell of burnt hair. He opened his eyes and sat up. The funniship was gathered around the fire laughing and chatting. Legless sat away from them with a hat pulled way down and a scarf wrapped way up so that only his nose showed. Handoff was blowing bubbles with a pipe. There was a huge mass of bubbles above his head. Suddenly they all popped and Handoff was suddenly very wet.

“Spies!” shouted Arrogant.

“They’re attacking the leader of our company!” shouted Tom.

“No they aren’t,” said Arrogant.

“Yes they are!” blubbered Handoff.

“That’s not what I was led to understand,” said Arrogant folding his arms stubbornly and sticking his nose in the air.

They could get no word out of him for some while. Finally Handoff decided to start the journey for the day.

“Let’s go,” he said.

But before the sentence was fully out of his mouth Arrogant leaped up and shouted.

“I have decided that we should get started!” he yelled. “Follow me!”

He jumped up and stalked off.

“Arrogant,” said Handoff, “We are not going that way.”

“We are if we’re leaving,” said Arrogant, as if he thought the blizzard was stupid, which he did. “All who want to leave, follow me.”

Mary, Piping, Tom, Hoho, Wimpy, Legless, and Boring jumped up and would have followed him if Handoff hadn’t suddenly pulled out a rope and lassoed them.

“We are leaving!” he said. “But not that way. We are going through Amore Land. And anyway, we’re more than halfway through. I think. Piping, do you have that guide still?”

“No,” said Piping with a cheerful demeanor. “I ate it.”

“Eew, why?” said Hoho.

“For just such an occasion,” he said, standing up to his full three-and-a-half-feet-short-of-a-basketball-player height. He laughed wildly. “Now you have to go my way, for I memorized it, and now I am the only one who knows where to go!”

“Well,” said Handoff, “Actually, that isn’t quite true. I came in here once, and I can still remember the vague outline.”

“I too passed the doors of AmorŽ Land,” said Arrogant. “I do not wish to go through it again. It gives me the creeps.”

The funniship started off, though reluctantly, Handoff’s way. Before they had gone fifteen feet, they came across a tunnel.

“Hmm,” said Handoff, “I don’t remember this being here.”

The funniship peered down the dark passage.

“Do we go through?” asked Boring.

“It seems we must,” said Wimpy.

“There’s a light at the end of the tunnel!” cried Legless.

“And it’s coming closer,” said Mary.

“It’s probably nothing,” said Handoff.

When Hoho came to, he found himself upside down against a wall. He got up and noticed the rest of the funniship scattered here and there like random leaves after a windstorm. He stumbled over to the nearest form and gently shook it. It was Arrogant.

“Y’know,” he croaked, “I could really use some asprin right now.”

As Hoho went around reviving his companions, that statement seemed to be the common thread of their mumblings more often now than at any previous time during their journey.
Now the funniship, bruised but not seriously hurt, gathered around their leader and started making threats. Just as things started to get nasty, Wimpy noticed a door.

He wandered over and went inside. It seemed to be an office, with all sorts of controls and buttons and things. It looked like it had been looted. The desk was overturned in a corner, papers were scattered on the floor, the rug was torn to shreds, and there was at least an inch of dust covering everything.

“What’cha doing?” said a voice.

Wimpy gave a little shriek and whirled around. There were Piping and Mary, looking at him with suspicion.

“I’m looking around,” he said beating his chest, trying to get his heart started again.

“I see,” said Piping, walking in and moving a shred of rug with his foot. “And what exactly were you looking at?”

“Well, this stuff,” said Wimpy.

The two blobbits walked up to Wimpy.

“Listen, Daft,” hissed Mary, “Don’t start getting any funny ideas now. We wouldn’t want you to leave us, would we Piping?”

“No,” said Piping solemnly shaking his head.

“You see, Wimp,” said Mary, putting his arm around the Daft’s shoulders, “There’s been talk of a split. We don’t want that. It would leave our good cousin Hoho with less protection than he deserves. So see here, if there was a division, you’d like to go with Hoho, wouldn’t you? I mean, you don’t want Hoho to get eaten, or captured by Corcs, or anything, would you?”

“No,” said Wimpy reluctantly.

“Of course not,” said Mary. “And that’s what we’re hoping for, isn’t it Piping?”

“Yup,” said Piping solemnly.

“I’m glad you chose willingly,” continued the blobbit, “I wouldn’t like to have to, shall I say, persuade you. I am a very persuasive person, aren’t I Piping?”

“Yup,” said Piping rubbing his arm.

Mary smiled at the Daft. “I’m glad we understand each other.”

The three walked out of the office. Mary whispered in Wimpy’s ear.

“Let’s keep this conversation our little secret, shall we?”

The rest of the funniship was done with Handoff, and they looked up as they approached.
“Where have you been?” growled Arrogant.

“In sort of a control room thingie,” said Wimpy.

“Control room?” said Handoff, “Take me there.”

The funniship filed in slowly. The blizzard surveyed the mess. He went over to the desk and started going through the drawers. Out of the third one he pulled out a thick book. He righted the desk and set the book on it and started to read it.

“You aren’t reading that now, are you?” asked Hoho.

“It seems to be an account book of some kind,” said Handoff ignoring him. “Well! It seems that they only made a small profit for the first three months! That is very bad for business.”

He flipped through, making snide comments every once in a while.

“Here’s the last page. I can barely make anything out. ‘They have taken the..’ then there’s a scrawl, it looks like ‘slide.’ I fear the end was cruel and nasty. ‘Listen! We cannot have any fun, we cannot have any fun. A shadow moves in the dark. Look! there it is again! The thing in the water took the pizza delivery guy’. Another scrawl, it looks like ‘horrible, lamentable, starve, and suffer’. Poor little Dafts! Flooey tripped on his own shoelace and fell down and I can’t read the last word. Fiddlers, fiddlers on the roof. I wonder what that means. There’s one last trailed off scrawl. We are bored…”

He paused reflectively.

“What do you think happened to the Dafts?” queried Hoho.

“Well, that’s easy to surmize. Apparently, AmorŽ Land attracted very few visitors. That is also very bad for business. So I think the Dafts excavated too deeply into the caverns deep underneath the floor to find new attractions, and awoke something that should have been left to nap. Then they very foolishly shut themselves into this room here. I think probably they all died of boredom.”

Piping, meanwhile was looking around the room. He felt curiously intrigued by the heat vent close to the floor. He sidled over to it and nudged it with his toe. The cover fell off. He bent over and looked into it. A long shaft met his gaze, lighted from some crack in the joints. Compelled by something he did not understand, he stuck his face into the hole and yodeled at the top of his lungs.

Echoes magnified throughout the heating system bounced around the entire maze of caverns. The funniship looked up in fear and astonishment. They saw Piping kneeling by the heat vent with a sheepish look on his face.

“Fool of a Take!” shouted Handoff. “You will bring doom upon us! Doom! Doom! Doom!”

But even as he lunged at the defenseless blobbit, a noise was heard. Not more echoes of yodeling, a new sound. It came from high up, a hideous scraping noise. All the lights suddenly went out.

“EEK!” shouted Wimpy.

“Cool!” yelled Legless.

“Fiddlers!” shouted Handoff, “Run for your lives!”

The funniship now noticed a small door marked with a glowing exit sign. They squeezed through and ran down the long hallway. All of a sudden, Corcs poured Stooge-style out of a small doorway and started fighting with them. The funniship were outnumbered by about eighty million to nine when a rather large Corc jumped out of the doorway. As he went for the blizzard, he happened to brush up against Hoho. Hoho was thrown against the far wall, and he was left gasping for air.

Arrogant, moved by an extremely rare display of unselfishness, picked up the blobbit and strapped him to his back.

“Whew!” he said. “This blobbit must be sixty-four-and-a-half pounds overweight!”

The funniship was in a bad position. Tom was once again forced to take control of the situation.

“Look!” he cried, pointing off to the direction they had just come from.

They Corcs looked back.

“We don’t see anything,” they said. When they turned back around, they were alone in the hall.

It started getting very warm. At the end of the hallway there was a bend. As the funniship rounded the bend, a terrible sight met their eyes. A wide room with carved pillars, far as the eye could see. At the far end, they could see daylight streaming through a doorway.
Unfortunately, twenty feet from the door, there was a wide and deep fissure that went from wall to wall, blocking them off from escape. Fortunately, someone had built a bridge across the crack. A narrow bridge to be sure, but a bridge nonetheless. Paved roads stretched from dozens of doors in the walls, all connecting to the bridge.

“Now for it!” cried the blizzard.

As they came out from their place of seclusion, a hurtling missile flew through the air and landed right in front of Handoff.

“Someone is throwing water balloons!” roared Arrogant.

The funniship looked to their left, from whence the object had been thrown, and to their horror they saw not one, not two, but at least three thousand Corcs streaming out of a large door.

The funniship rushed and made it to the bridge. They were almost over it when the screams of the Corcs turned from glee into fear. They turned to see what made them change their tune.

Two large Dinner Rolls came out of the door, bearing a red carpet. They spread it on the ground. Then Corcs and Rolls alike shrank from the door as a dark shadow issued out of it, in what looked to be a snappy red sports car. It raced towards the bridge.

The funniship quickly ran across the bridge, but Handoff stayed in the middle.

“It is as I feared,” he said. “A dangerous foe beyond mortal thought. And my shoe is caught in a crack!”

He struggled wildly with his shoe, as the shadow raced closer and closer.

“What is it, Handoff?” cried Arrogant.

Handoff gave one more desperate yank on the shoe, and then stood up to meet his doom.

“It is a Roadhog,” he said grimly.

The Roadhog rushed up to the bridge, and pulled rather rapidly up until he was three feet away from the blizzard. It flashed its lights, and honked its horn.

“You cannot pass!” cried Handoff. “Do you see the two solid yellow lines on the pavement? You cannot pass!”

The Roadhog, fed up with this childish nonsense, got out of the car and he and the blizzard started shouting at each other. Then, the Roadhog shoved the blizzard. Handoff toppled, swayed, and plummeted into the depths shrieking “Fly, fools, fly like little birds! Cheep cheep cheep…” and he was gone.

Then the Roadhog looked at the remaining funniship. It stomped back to the car. But instead of getting in and driving off, it reached under the seat and pulled out a tire iron. He started towards them, but they were already out the door and away.

Outside, the funniship soon caught their breaths.

“I can’t believe it,” murmured Tomfool.

“Can’t believe what?” whooped Legless.

“Handoff was carrying our food!”

“Handoff!” screamed Hoho, trying to run back in but not succeeding because he was tied to Arrogant’s back.

The funniship screamed in agony, some throwing themselves on the ground and weeping bitterly, others standing grim and silent, shaking their fists towards the caverns behind them.

“Someday, Handoff,” growled Arrogant. “Just you wait!”

Then he turned, and it seemed to Piping that he looked almost like he was the younger brothers’ cousins’ best friends’ nephews’ uncle twice removed on his mothers’ side of a king as he squinted into the light.

“We must go to The Loth L—ri Inn, for Sellrond had made reservations,” he said with a trace of fear in his voice.

Hoho felt weak for no reason at all, and he saw Legless’s face twist up.

“Do not name that place!” said Legless, his voice dark, harsh as stone.

It was with these thoughts that Hoho fell asleep. (Although with some difficulty, because Arrogant was sleeping on his back.)

!!pagebreak!!

The Funniship of the Ring – Book 8
’In Which Piping Finds His True Calling’

Hoho woke up the next morning stiff and sore. Not from their long arduous journey from the gates of AmorŽ Land the night previous, but from the shirt of mail that his Uncle Dumbo had given him (and Arrogant sleeping on him). Hoho thought he knew why Dumbo had gotten rid of it.

Hoho whimpered until Arrogant finally whirled around to grab him. But, of course, the man couldn’t see him, because the blobbit was still strapped to his back.

“WHERE IS HE?” he roared. (Arrogant had a poor memory sometimes.)

After maybe half an hour, Legless finally quit laughing enough to tell Arrogant where Hoho was.

When Hoho had told Arrogant why he was whining, Arrogant just laughed.

“We’ll see why the poor little baby is whimpering!” he said, ripping off Hoho’s favorite t-shirt.

Wimpy gasped. Legless covered his mouth.

“So that explains it,” he murmured.

“A Worthless coat. You’ve been wearing this since Flivenbell?” asked Boring incredulously.

Mary, Piping, and Tom looked at him in awe.

Arrogant spoke up. “Woah, man! My advice to you, Hoho, is to chuck that coat into the nearest lake.” He looked around at the company. “Since every one is up, shall we get going?”

There was much grumbling among the companions.

“You’re a hard man, Arrogant,” said Tom.

Arrogant smiled.

“I know,” he said.

“You’re a cruel man,” said the blobbit.

“I know,” smiled the man, examining his fingernails.

“You’re a heartless man.”

“Mmhmm,” said Arrogant, admiring himself in the mirror he used to apply his makeup, with a dreamy look in his eyes.

“You’re a merciless man.”

“Aren’t I though?” sighed the man, hugging himself. “Tell me more!”

“You’re an ugly man,” chimed in Piping.

“An obtuse man,” said Mary.

“With a mind like a mousetrap,” said Wimpy.

“All the leadership qualities of an angel food cake,” said Legless.

“The resourcefulness of a grasshopper,” said Hoho. “With a mind like a mousetrap,” repeated Wimpy.

“The courage of a bowl of grape Jell-o,” said Boring.

“And the figure of a string bean,” finished Tom.

“Ah,” sighed Arrogant, “I’m glad you see how great a king I will be, someday soon.”

He danced around humming for a moment. Then he suddenly remembered where they were going.

“Off to the Loth L—ri Inn!” he cried, stomping off into the underbrush. Almost immediately, they heard a scream that was suddenly cut off. The funniship charged after Arrogant to see what was the matter. Almost immediately, seven screams sounded that were suddenly cut off, for a terrible sight met their eyes.

“Tell me not that that is…” croaked Hoho.

“It is,” said Arrogant grimly. “It is the Loth L—ri Inn.”

The funniship gasped in horror.

“We make for AmorŽ Land,” said Boring.

Then Piping said something that made them all think going to the Inn would be the best plan.

“A bug!” he shrieked, jumping three feet into the air.

The funniship ran as fast as they could towards the building. It was not long, however, until Legless noticed something.

“Corcs!” he shouted.

And indeed, the funniship looked around to see the woods filled with moving shapes.

“They’re trying to claim our reservations!” hollered Arrogant.

The funniship ran faster. The door drew nearer, and Hoho felt impending danger closing on him like a door that needed oiling. Finally, they rushed inside and slammed the door.

“Whew,” said Mary, “That was too close.”

The funniship looked around at the room they were in. It had a red plush carpet that went well with the pale blue wallpaper. At the far end of the room, there was a single door. A desk stood in the middle of the room. Arrogant walked confidently up to it and rang a little bell that stood there.

After several moments, a trap door suddenly appeared and two Selves rappelled out. They were both very tall, and they stared down at the company gravely.

“May we help you?” said one of them, the woman.

“Uh, yeah, Handoff the Gloomy called and made us reservations,” said Arrogant, rubbing his head from the nasty crack he had gotten on the ceiling when the trap door opened.

The man consulted a small book. Then he gazed at the company gravely.

“Eight there are gathered here, but nine were set out from Flivenbell. So say the messages. Where now is Handoff, for the check he gave me bounced, and I would much desire to meet him in a dark alley somewhere.” He pushed up his sleeves and glared at each of the company, as if they might be the blizzard in disguise.

He stomped up to Hoho and hoisted him up by the collar.

“Are you Handoff?” he growled.

“N-n-no!” stammered Hoho.

Now the woman, who had been gazing at each of the funniship in turn placed a hand on the shoulder of the man.

“Nay, Celebrate,” she said in a deep voice, “Handoff is not here. He has fallen into shadow.”

“Is this true?” demanded Celebrate.

The funniship nodded. The man and the woman looked at each other.

“YEEHAW!” they shouted, dancing around the room vigorously.

“Please put me down,” said Hoho very politely.

“When did this joyous event happen?” cried Celebrate, setting the blobbit down rather carelessly.

“Yesterday evening,” said Wimpy capering around.

“I saw him fall,” said Arrogant, doing a little jig himself. Then he related the events that led up to the fall of Handoff.

“This is indeed a glad day!” said Celebrate. “And in return for this wonderful news, we will let you stay for half price!”

“Wait,” said the woman, “Consider what you are doing!”

“You are right, Gladreel, my dear. I shall give you each a coupon for one eleventh off a month’s stay.”

He dealt out the slips of paper gravely as soon as Gladreel wrote them up.

“These are good for next week only,” he said.

“But, we are on a long journey that may take months,” said Arrogant. “We don’t even intend to be in this region next week.”

“Well,” Celebrate shrugged, “If you don’t want them…” and he proceeded to take them back.

“But I wanna keep mine,” said Wimpy.

Mary bent close to the Daft’s ear.

“You aren’t thinking of deserting are you, Daft?” he whispered. “I told you I don’t want you to do that.” He looked at the Daft mournfully, yet pinching his arm as he did so.

“Ow!” said Wimpy. “No no, never mind, I don’t need it!”

Arrogant looked at him strangely, then relieved Piping of a small but valuable clock that had been sitting on the desk a moment before.

“It’s time for lunch,” said Gladreel looking at her watch. “For you are weary and hungry with much toil. Tonight, you will eat in peace.”

Then she looked straight at Hoho. He could feel her gaze pierce his daydreams.

“Welcome, Hoho Flaggins of the Mire,” her voice said, though her lips did not move. “One who has seen the NOSE!!”

“AAAGGHH!” shouted Hoho jumping up and down.

“I didn’t know you had such an aversion to food, Mr. Hoho,” said Tom, looking at him puzzled.

“No Tom, she, oh, never mind,” said Hoho. “You’d never believe me anyway.”

“My, what lovely silverware,” said Piping, slipping a rather large silver serving spoon into his pack.

“My, what a lovely looking lunch,” said Mary, sneaking a rather large silver serving spoon out of Piping’s pack and back onto the table.

They sat down to the table.

“Ok,” said Gladreel, “On the count of five everyone grab as much food as they can before it’s all gone. Everyone ready? One…”

“No,” cried Wimpy, “I haven’t even got my napkin on yet!”

“Two…”

“Give him a moment, for pity’s sake!” cried Boring.

“Three…”

“Yeah,” snickered Legless, “He’s so slow that a snail ran him down yesterday!”

“You promised you wouldn’t tell!” shouted Wimpy, standing up.

“Eat potatoes, shorty,” snarled the Self, throwing a handful of the same.

The Daft stared incredulously at his soiled shirt. Then with a roar he picked up a large bowl of potato salad and heaved it with all his might at Legless. He missed by a mile and it fell plop! onto the head of Arrogant. Piping took this opportunity to slip half a dozen forks into his pack.
Arrogant lifted the bowl off of his head and Hoho could see his eyes burning. The man set the bowl down and stood up, grabbed the edge of the table and heaved it over.

“Four,” croaked Gladreel.

“Do we have to wait for you to finish counting, or can we eat now?” queried Tom, wriggling out from under the table and brushing powdered sugar off of his shirt.

Gladreel and Celebrate stared at the mess and nodded wordlessly.

“Hey, powdered sugar,” said Mary, “That must mean doughnuts!”

“Ooh!” squealed Boring, lifting the edge of the table and peering earnestly underneath.

“No doughnuts, but a whole lot of angelfood cake!” said Piping wiggling up.

“Goody, ow!” cried Boring, diving under the table and forgetting that he was holding it up.

“This is really disgusting,” said Hoho, trying to wipe some mayonnaise off of his shirt.

“You’re not kidding,” said Arrogant, looking at his reflection in a highly polished plate. “Do you know what this is going to do to my hair?”

“You never looked better,” chortled Legless, who alone of the funniship escaped messiness. “I think mustard is your condiment!” He giggled wildly.

“Umm,” said Piping, “These pickles are simply yummy! You simply must give Tom the recipe!”

Tom had been forced to do all the cooking on the trip.

“Maybe it’s the nice crispy bacon wrapped around it,” suggested Hoho.

“Mmmm, nice crispy bacon!” said Mary, Piping and Tom.

“Lunch is over,” said Celebrate in a high quavery voice.

“Aw,” said Mary, “It isn’t even 1 o’clock yet!”

“We noticed,” said Gladreel in an equally high quavery voice.

“What do you do for fun around here?” said Tom. “Do you have a pool anywhere?”

“A pool!” squealed the rest of the blobbits dashing away.

“No,” said Celebrate.

“Hey Arrogant, bring a beachball!” shouted Piping.

“What did you find?” asked Wimpy, going to investigate. He came running back.

“That’s so cool!” he cried. “I’ve never seen such a neat looking pool before! I wish I’d packed my rubber duckies.”

“Duckies?” said Legless.

“Rub-a-dub-dub, four blobbits in a tub,” came four voices.

“But we don’t have a pool,” said Gladreel with a worried look on her face.

“Oh dear,” said Celebrate, “I hope they haven’t found my man eating octopus pond!”

“ARROGANT! IT’S GOT HOHO! HELP HELP, NOW IT’S GOT ME! AAAUUUGHHH!!!” came a scream. And soon after it came a wet blobbit. It was Mary.

“It’s got Hoho and Piping!” he gasped.

“There’s only one thing to do,” said Arrogant. “Run!”

He turned to do likewise, but Wimpy stuck his foot out and tripped him.

“You wouldn’t be deserting, would you? I wouldn’t like that,” hissed the daft.

“Huh?” said Arrogant looking at him strangely.

“Uh,” said Wimpy, “Just something Mary said.”

“Are you going to help Hoho and Piping or am I going to have to?” shrieked Mary stomping his foot.

“You can if you want,” said Legless.

“Why you…” snarled the blobbit. He spluttered for a moment and ran off.

Half a moment later, Tom walked into the room with a blobbit under each arm, one slung over his shoulders and a grim look on his face.

“Do I have to do everything on this stupid trip?” he growled.

“It would appear so,” coughed Hoho, removing a strand of seaweed from behind his ear.

“My octopus!” wailed Celebrate, running to investigate.

“Leave,” said Gladreel, “Leave this place now!”

“Are you kidding?” laughed Piping jumping on the overturned table, “We only just got here!”

“We’ll pay you to leave!” said Celebrate, coming back at that moment.

“What are you saying?” hissed Gladreel.

“Ok, then, I’ll give each of you a coupon for a twelfth off a fortnights’ stay in our presidential suite!”

“That sounds reasonable,” said Piping slipping a little stone gnome into his pack.

“Not so reasonable to me,” said Mary, slipping a little stone gnome and six silver forks out of Pipings’ pack.

Wimpy looked at the little stone gnome closely.

“Why wouldn’t it sound reasonable?” queried Piping, slipping a large crystal punch bowl into his pack.

“What’s a president?” asked Hoho.

“It’s a large dent in a presi,” said Mary slipping a large crystal punch bowl out of Piping’s pack.

“Well then, what’s a presi?” said Tom.

“It’s a small christmas present,” said Mary quickly frisking Piping and removing from his person two large heavy silver candlesticks.

“It’s time to sleep,” said Celebrate quickly pulling some dark curtains over the windows.

“Already? Aww…” chorused the blobbits.

Late that night, after the noisy pillow fight, Hoho still wasn’t asleep. He giggled thinking about the great shot he had got at Arrogant. He sat up suddenly, hearing someone noisily clumping down some stairs. He saw a figure dressed in white flowing robes. His screech was cut short when a hand was clamped firmly over his mouth.

“Come with me,” a deep voice said.

Hoho went with the person, around the beds, through the door, up the stairs, through the river under the mountains, over the ocean, to Grandmothers’ house, and finally to a big pool of water.

“Will you look into the mirror?” asked the person.

“Will I look into the mirror?” repeated Hoho.

“Yes, will you look into the mirror?”

“Why would I look into the mirror?” asked Hoho.

“Because I told you to,” said the person, slightly agitated.

“Because you told me to?” asked Hoho.

“LOOK INTO THE MIRROR YOU MISERABLE BLOBBIT BEFORE I GET ANGRY!!!!!!” screamed the person, who Hoho now identified as Gladreel.

“Before you get angry?” asked Hoho.

” Will——you——look——in——to——the——mirror?” said Gladreel, slowly pronouncing each word, more for her benefit than Hoho’s.

Hoho looked around. “What will I see?” he asked.

Gladreel smiled. “Some things that were, some things that are, and some things, that have not yet come to pass,” she said.

“No,” Hoho said, “I meant what does the mirror look like? Is there a pretty ring of rocks or flowers around it so people can see it easily? You know, like a party of teenage girls come over and, ‘giggle giggle giggle, Oh, look there’s a pretty ring of flowers around that mirror of Gladreels’ giggle giggle giggle, Let’s look into it!’ giggle giggle giggle.’ And they go over and-“

“WILL YOU LOOK INTO THE MIRROR?” screamed Gladreel.

“Oh,” said Hoho, “That’s not a mirror, that’s a pool of water. Y’know, like some people have with goldfish and maybe some fake plants, and some snails-“

Gladreel grabbed Hoho by his collar and dangled him over the pool of water.

“Looklooklooklooklooklooklooklooklook,” she insisted.

Hoho looked in to the water. He at first saw his handsome (in his own opinion) reflection.
Then it suddenly disappeared. Hoho was about to cry out in rage when he saw the faces of each of (or so he thought) his company, with pink frosting all over their face. The last person the mirror showed was Wimpy, who was crying. Hoho noticed that Wimpy didn’t have any frosting on his face.

Than it faded into times long gone. Hoho was forced to watch the rise and fall of the Roman empire. Hoho was never so bored in his life. Except maybe, at the Mire’s annual Ice Cube Festival, which, of course, appeared next. Hoho saw, with horror, that it showed him break dancing in a giant ice cube costume during the Ice Cube Almost 6 Quarters Of A Century Parade.

“How did you get my uncle Dumbo’s home video that he promised that he’d never show anybody but of course he did?” screamed Hoho.

Gladreel only laughed and adjusted the lenses on her movie camera.

“You never know what kind of stupid, embarrassing, good stuff the mirror will show,” she said.

Then Hoho saw a great, big, giant nose. Sniffing, sniffing, eternally sniffing. Hoho felt himself drawn to the nose (when it inhaled, anyway). Then all of a sudden, the nose sneezed. Hoho was thrown backwards about thirty feet. Hoho coughed and sat up. He rubbed the back of his head and looked at Gladreel.

“I know what it was you last saw,” she said. “For I was looking over your shoulder.”

“What does it mean?” Hoho asked.

“Mean? It could mean that Moron is looking for you and is using all his servants to track you down,” said Gladreel.

Hoho gasped.

“Or,” said Gladreel, “It could mean that you are going to get a cold!”

Hoho’s eyes widened and a bit of drool escaped his mouth.

“Eew!” said Gladreel. “Can you possibly be more gross?”

“Sure!” said Hoho brightly, sticking his finger in his nose and making noises that a yak would have envied.

Arrogant came running up.

“I think a yak ate Hoho!” he cried.

“Dibs on the Ring!” cried Tom jumping out from behind a bush and tripping over Mary and Piping who were huddled close by.

“Double dibs!” shouted Boring, swinging on a vine and knocking over a torch onto a small tent.

“AIIEEE!” screamed Wimpy running out of the small tent and into a rock, knocking himself out.

“Hee hee!” said Legless taking gleeful notice of the whole mess.

Celebrate noticed that Legless’s wheelchair was on an incline, and the Self was soon very quickly on his way towards the pool.

While on his somewhat rapid, rushing way to the pool, Legless knocked over several more torches starting a huge forest fire. Gladreel just stood there slapping her head. Hoho tried to stay and watch the fun, but he could barely keep his eyes open so he wandered back to bed to sleep, and slept deeply and dreamlessly.

!!pagebreak!!

The Funniship of the Ring. Book 9.
’In Which All Is Discovered And They Leave The Country’

Hoho awoke the next morning to Piping cutting the ropes that bound them.

“What happened?” he queried.

“Gladreel tied us all up and set us afloat in this swan boat with no oars,” the little blobbit said with Bright Enthusiasm. “I guess she doesn’t know good company when she gets it. Anyway, I swiped her pocketknife and I’ll get you out in a jiffy.”

After he was untied, Hoho wandered over to where Legless and Wimpy were playing some sort of game.

“Help help!” cried Wimpy.

Legless chuckled. “Don’t pay any attention to him. He loves this game!”

“Don’t listen to him, he’s a maniac!” screamed Wimpy. “Get him away from me!” he screamed, wildly flailing his arms and whacking Mary overboard. Mary grabbed onto the side of the boat, and with much difficulty climbed back in.

“AAAIIIIEEEEE!!!!” screamed Wimpy as Legless smiled at him.

Hoho looked at them strangely and walked away.

“Avast, ye landlubbers!” cried Boring leaping about with Reckless Abandon. “Trim the mains’l, hoist the port jib and away we goooooo!” He ran around the boat several times waving his arms and leaping high in the air before tripping on a coil of rope and sprawling face down on the deck.

“Ouch,” he said decidedly un-nautically.

Hoho shook his head and wandered off to where Arrogant was sitting glumly.

“I can’t believe this,” the man said shaking his head. “I can’t believe that I, Arrogant son of Thornbush, the next king of Flounder, am stuck on a stupid little swan boat. Think of it! Me on a dinghy little swan dinky, I mean swan dinghky, I mean, well, no, I mean I could stand it if it were an eagle, or at least a hawk. But a swan!” he shuddered disgustedly and threw another small stone into the stream.

He sighed bitterly and reached around suddenly for another rock, and whacked Mary overboard. Mary spluttered and grabbed onto a rope dangling over the side, and with considerable difficulty climbed back in.

Hoho wandered over to where Tom was in the stern.

“What’re you doing, Tom?” he queried quizzically.

“Quaffing,” said Tom, “For the quacking has made me quite batty, considering the questionable status quo. And a quid pro quo to the Qatarians.”

“Huh?” said Hoho.

“I thought we were, oh, never mind.”

Hoho looked over at the still smoldering remains of the forest. Suddenly he saw a piece of paper on one of the trees.

“Arrogant!” he cried, “Pull the boat over!”

When Hoho read the piece of paper, he gasped. Arrogant snatched it away from him.

“WANTED DEAD OR ALIVE REWARD!!!!!!!!!” he screamed.

“Huh?” said Boring. (And the co-Author)

“I’ve always wanted my picture on a reward poster,” murmered Piping dreamily.
Soon everybody was in a panic. So, once again, you guessed it, Tom was forced to take control of the situation.

“Run!” he cried.

“I don’t know if you noticed,” said Legless, “But we are in a BOAT!!!”

“A boat?” shouted Tom. “But I get sick in boats!” He leaped off the boat onto the shore and started running.

Camping that night by the poster, Hoho suddenly wondered where Gladreel had got their pictures.

‘Hey, Arrogant!” he cried. “Arrogant? ARROGANT!!!!!” he screamed.

“Be quiet!” bellowed Wimpy. “Everybody’s trying to sleep!”

“Be quiet yourself!!” yelled Arrogant.

“Hoho started it!” cried Wimpy.

“I didn’t hear Hoho, I only heard you!” shrieked Legless.

“Tell the Self he snores!” howled Wimpy.

“Tell the Daft I don’t!” wailed the Self.

“Both of you be quiet and go to sleep!” came an irate voice.

“You first!” hollered Wimpy and Legless.

“I didn’t say anything!” screamed Arrogant.

“Yes you did!” said Wimpy.

“No, it was you,” said a voice that sounded like Legless’s.

“It was NOT me!” said the Daft angrily.

“I never said it was, it was Arrogant!” said Legless.

“It wasn’t me, it was Wimpy!” said Arrogant exasperatedly.

“No, it was me,” said a voice that sounded like Arrogant.

“Don’t contradict!” shouted Legless.

“I wasn’t!” hollered Arrogant. “Now if certain peoples would shut up, we could all get to sleep before the sun comes up!”

“Then dawn take you all, and be up with you!” said a voice.

And immediately, dawn came and Hoho rubbed his sleepless eyes.

Arrogant cried in his sleeping bag until they threatend to roll him up in it and throw him in the river. Even so, he sniffed until he got the bright idea to have a questioning to see who deprived him of his beauty sleep.

He lined up the Funniship shortest to tallest, and starting at the tallest (Boring) he glared at each of them in turn.

“Ok,” he growled. “Now we’re gonna make this fast. What I want to know is why did someone want to deprive me of my beauty sleep? If I’m any less beautiful at the end of my life than I should be, someone’s gonna get it hot!”

“I don’t think you’re gonna have to worry about that too much,” retorted Legless.

Arrogant snarled at him and moved on to Wimpy.

“Well?” he said. “What do you have to say? I think I would be right in assuming that you started this.”

At the short end of the line, Mary and Piping burst out giggling.

“I’m telling you, Hoho started it!” hollered Wimpy.

“Although he could be lying,” came a voice like Legless’s.

“I am not lying!” screamed Wimpy.

“I never said you were,” shouted Legless.

“Yes you did!” screeched the Daft.

“Let’s not start this again!” bellowed Arrogant.

“You started this!” wailed the Daft and the Self.

“Did not!” said the Man angrily.

Hoho, fed up with this childish nonsense, clambered back onto the boat and started off.

“Hey!” cried Tom pointing. “Hoho’s starting off without us!”

“No, Hoho, No!” shouted everyone. They started running towards the boat and jumped on. Except Tom. He had tripped on something and was now running along shore trying to keep up with the boat.

“Tom, run Tom!” shouted Hoho.

“Go!” Tom screamed. He jumped onto the boat and just made it.

“Oof!” said Hoho, who Tom had landed on.

After about a minute, they came to where the fire hadn’t burned the forest, and there was a mountain on either side on the banks, and one rather tall one in the middle of the stream.

“Ok,” said Arrogant cheerfully, “Let’s land here.”

Hoho looked back up the stream forty feet or so to where they had just been and shook his head.

“Let us linger for a time,” said Legless. “For the eastern shore does not worry me.”

Piping almost said that they were on the western shore, but he decided not to remind Legless of his terrible sense of direction.

“Ok, said Arrogant, “I’ll go home and the rest of you can go to Mortar.”

“Where are Boring and Hoho?” said Mary. “I think they can go to Mortar and the rest of us can go home.”

The rest of the Funniship agreed to this readily.

Boring, however, had gone up the hill to seek solace. He wandered up a long unused trail, and soon came to a small clearing in the trees with a large flat boulder in the center. He had an impression that someone unfriendly was behind him. He whirled around but he saw only Hoho’s smiling face.

“None of us should wander alone,” he said while giving Boring some logs to hold. “Least of all me, er, you. I know what troubles you,” he continued, “But there are other ways, other paths that we might take.”

“I know what you might say and it would seem like wisdom but for the warning in my heart,” shot back Boring. Hoho sulked for a couple of seconds but soon recovered.

“Warning against what?” he queried.

“Warning against delay. Against pain. And against tongue piercing!” Boring sighed.

“What?” said Hoho (and the co-Author) thoroughly confused. “Tongue piercing? What are you talking about?”

“I’m talking about my family problems. What did you think I was talking about?”

“Well, the Ring of course!” said Hoho. “That is the reason we’re on this quest. Y’know,” he sidled up to Boring who was seated on the rock and put his arm around his shoulders, “I’ve had a lot of time to think on this trip. I’ve thought about me, I’ve thought about the Ring, then I thought about me again, but then I thought about you.”

“Uh, ok,” said Boring leaping up, “I gotta go.”

“No no, you dolt!” shouted the blobbit. “What I was trying to say was, you poor unfortunate soul, you’ve never even seen the Ring. Wouldn’t you like to now?”

“No,” said the man nervously.

“As you wish, I care not,” said Hoho. “But it’s a great and powerful Ring, It’ll give you cool powers, and make you invisible! It gives the power of conquest, and vanquishment! You can be a king rich and powerful beyond your wildest imaginations!”

Hoho jumped up and strode up and down, speaking ever more loudly. Almost he seemed to have forgotten lunch, while his talk dwelt on walls and weapons, and the mustering of men; and he drew plans for great alliances and glorious victories to be; and he cast down Mortar, and set Boring up as a mighty king, benevolent and wise, giving many great feasts. Suddenly he stopped and waved his arms.

“And you would throw it all away?” he shouted.

“Yes, yes!” shouted Boring.

“Then you won’t take the Ring?” said the blobbit in dismay.

“No no no!” said the man rushing round to the other side of the boulder.

“Why are you so unfriendly?” asked Hoho. “Can’t I even lend you the Ring?”

“No!” the man shouted. “Help help help!!”

“You may be twice my height,” growled the blobbit, “But I am twice the man you are! And you are no match for me, Man!” And he leaped over the stone, and his handsome (in his own opinion, anyway) face was contorted in rage. Boring rushed to the other side and stood panting.

“Help, help!” he screamed at the top of his lungs.

“Fool! Obstinant fool!” shouted Hoho. “To throw away such a thing as Moron’s great Ring! You’re hopeless!” And with a final snarl, he pulled a huge iron chain from around his neck, and with some effort wrenched from it a small band of gold, slipped it on and disappeared.

Boring ran around shrieking until he tripped on a log. He rolled over and over and over and over and over until he was stopped by a lake. He swam back and sat down.

“Hoho?” he spluttered, “Hoho? I’m sorry, I do not know what came over me, but it has passed! Hoho? HOHO!?”

But Hoho had put his earplugs in and was seated on a tower of some sort. He saw a cloud shaped like a hand groping its way toward him. Hoho’s mind was in a turmoil between ‘Take off the Ring!’ and ‘Run run run run!’. When the cloud-hand was 2 inches away he blew on it and it disappeared.

Then Hoho looked down and saw the river stretching like a rubber hose that needed to be rolled up. Hoho knew in his heart what he must do, but he was afraid to do it. He wondered what Handoff would have said. Then he remembered. The blizzard probably would have said something like, ‘You wimp! Don’t choose a blobbit to do a man’s job! And pass the pretzels!’.
Hoho decided to sleep on it. He stumbled sleepily down the hill and crawled under a log for a much needed nap.

So ends the Funniship of the Ring. In The Two Cowards, we will continue with what paths the Funniship chose, and where they went, and what clothes they wore, and if their hairstyles were in style, etc. etc. etc. and so on, and so forth.

You can read Oddwen’s sequel, “The Two Cowards”, here.