Arty, the honorary knight, Fumbelweed the imbalanced wizard, and Percy the talking horse walked into a bar.
‘Ow,’ they said simultaneously. ‘What is that?’ Percy looked down at his injured forward shins. An iron bar lay in their path, partially covered in Sand. ‘Ah,’ said the horse (Fumbleweed had made no comment about the talking horse. Arty was reluctant to ask him about this as he wanted to avoid conversation with a man he considered a door in a third-story abandoned building- highly unhinged). ‘This must be the start of the pantomime desert.’ The vast sandy landscape before them was a dead giveaway.
‘Great!’ Arty said, his shins were in better condition due to his ill-fitting armour, ‘now where is that bloody bird?’
‘Err, excuse me,’ came a voice just beyond a collection of smaller plants that Arty had never seen before. ‘That’s not what I would call politically correct.’ There was a clomp, clomp, as a camel emerged with reigns and saddle attached. Arty tried to look beyond the animal for the owner, but none materialised. ‘You see,’ the camel spoke, and all three companions jumped slightly, ‘we don’t refer to women as ‘birds’ anymore; it’s a rather outdated term.’
‘Well,’ Arty began to gather his thoughts after a few moments of stunned silence. ‘We are actually chasing a bird. It stole my sack of jewels.’
‘Look, I don’t need to know the sordid details. But I am going to compliment you on using a neutral pronoun; however, admonish you for using it to objectify the young lady.’
‘I’ve never met a politically correct camel before,’ Percy muttered.
‘Well, a talking horse,’ the Camel replied, ‘what a sight indeed! But I currently identify as a Dromedary.’
‘What’s your name?’ Arty asked, stalling for time and trying not to stare at the animal’s humps.
‘Derrick.’ The Camel stood taller, perhaps with pride.
‘Ok, Derrick. We really are chasing a bird. As in, wings, flying, took some valuable things, need to get them back. The whole deal.’
‘Ah,’ Derrick lowered its head, ‘my mistake. You’re probably after Rojer. He flew through here not long ago.’
‘Was he carrying a sack of some kind?’
‘He was, nothing unusual there. He’s often taking something that isn’t his,’ Derrick said indignantly.
‘Enough of this, you fluid humped creature,’ Fumbleweed interjected, his cloak flapping as his arms gesticulated beneath. ‘Do you know where this avian kleptomaniac resides?’
‘You are a rude man, err, person,’ Derrick replied.
‘Derrick,’ Arty held out his hands in the least aggressive way he could manage. ‘Could you please help us retrieve our things? I’m not exaggerating when I say that my life depends on it.’
‘Certainly. I am always happy to respond to a pleasant and respectful request that’s not ingrained in ignorance,’ Derrick seemed to frown at the wizard. ‘Unfortunately, you may not like what I tell you. You see, Rojer is, what you might call, a bit of a prick. He is unlikely to have kept the things he took and is likely to have scattered them all about.’ The three of them groaned.
‘If that’s the case,’ Percy muttered, ‘they would get picked up; those gems are valuable. They don’t stay out in the open. Their power is to draw beings toward them. Even unthinking animals can’t help but pick them up.’
‘Great,’ Arty bowed his head. ‘Can you at least point us to where we might start looking?’
‘Certainly. There is a city, Rearwards, not far from here. It is rather odd. However, if what you had was valuable, it almost certainly would have wound up there.’
The group moved on, feeling somewhat deflated.
‘This task is getting worse by the minute,’ Percy grumbled. ‘I’ve heard of this place. It’s all screwed up. Be ready for anything.’