Article Nonsense (Arty to his friends, if he had any) was a simple man. A man who believed in a direct truth in every exchange. It was, therefore, a significant effort for Arty to not say a word when he noticed that the hair in the King’s nose looked all the world like a thick forest. He wondered why no one had told him that before. Surely, when you sit your jewel-encrusted opulent backside atop a vast gem encased throne ten metres above the ground, your guests might notice something like that.
Arty also wondered about thick forests and all of the nasty things that dwell in them because the King had just finished explaining his task.
To fetch ten jewels in ten different kingdoms. This implied vast travels across hefty mountain ranges, dealing with bandits, monsters, and whatever dwelled within forests that looked like majestic nose-hair.
Neither the jewels nor the kingdoms Arty had heard of. He had spent his entire life getting to know this one. In reality, he barely knew territory beyond the tiny valley in which his dried mud farm sat. Now there were ten more that would take a lifetime to explore. He felt that he was just getting the hang of things. This seasons peat harvest was looking good. Now the world seemed to grow immeasurably in the last sentence; it was almost too much to bear.
‘What if I refuse?’ Arty’s voice cracked a little, his nervous nature irradiated from every orifice.
‘What?’ Bellowed the King from the dizzying height of his jewel-encrusted throne, his cloak swishing and clinking with the rubies and gems stitched to it.
‘I said,’ Arty replied with a squeak, ‘what if I refuse?’
The King chuckled for a moment which seemed to relax some tension from the entourage at the base of the throne. One of the knights even moved, which answered Arty’s internal question of whether they were real or mere statues. The beams of sunlight streaming in from the high windows reflected off the armour and stabbed directly into Arty’s face, making him twitch with further irritation.
‘Well,’ said the King, ‘if the job is too big for you, you can visit Garry and his puppy,’ The King proclaimed with a smile that hinted at an inside joke.
‘Ok, that doesn’t sound so bad,’ Arty replied suspiciously; maybe he could get out of this after all.
‘Oh, you don’t know, do you? Garry is our torturer, and his puppy is what he calls his pet Hydra’.
The sweat was now beading down Arty’s neck; his lips trembled.
‘What’s a hydra?’
‘Wh-?’ The King was shocked into silence. ‘You don’t know what a Hydra is? Do you know what a griffin or a dragon is?’ Arty shook his head. ‘A Titan? A snake? No?’ The King pinched the bridge of his nose. ‘A horse? Surely you know what a horse is, you bumpkin.’
‘A horse, yes, bumpkin no,’ Arty’s stress had plateaued, but he took little comfort.
‘Ok, imagine a horse that wears armour, has about seven heads and all of them want to eat you.’
‘Ah. I think I get the picture.’
‘What say you?’ Bellowed the King after a brief pause.
Arty swallowed and could only squeak a response.
‘What were the names of those kingdoms again?’