King Richardson despairs... (picture courtesy of BWSmith)
Clippety-Clop, Clippety-Clop, "Whoooaaahh." No, no…This is not going to be a story about coconuts and sparrows for those who know what I’m talking about. Although I may include a few French Quarter taunts, and maybe a witch.
King Richardson despaired as he watched his people suffer through one of the darkest seasons of his reign. While the other Southern Kingdoms flourished, his was under siege and woefully unable to win in battle. His loyal advisors, led by Lord Marty of Hurney and Sir John the Fox, had failed to obtain an as-yet qualified Attack General or properly train the young Panther troops. Sir John and most of his staff were banished from the kingdom for their failures; but Lord Marty was allowed to stay, on the condition that he take personal responsibility for the King’s own misjudgments.
Furthermore, the 31 other kings in his alliance had appointed King Richardson to the unenviable post of Chief Protector of the Natural Fertilizer Lords (NFL). A viable Corporate Bullshit Accord (CBA) must be reached to ensure that the Kings and Lords maintain their dominion, and that the knights and soldiers be compensated as befitting the danger of their endeavors. Otherwise, the King knew, it was conceivable, maybe inevitable, that the serfs, peasants, and petty landowners would revolt; thereby endangering the ongoing prosperity of both the tremendously wealthy NFL royalty and their (also wealthy) armies.
Oh, what a Pickle to be in. King Richardson had no choice but to "stay the course" in the CBA wars, which by this point were approaching a stalemate. In fact, he had become the face of the fly in the ointment. "NO," yelled the King. "I refuse to endure another year like this one." Lord Marty entered upon hearing his King’s outburst. "Sit your medieval arse down, Marty. We’re going to fix this. Do you know that those filthy French bastards in Orleans actually threw shit on me, and called me a son of a Buc? I don’t care if it costs a King’s ransom (heh, heh), the coffers are full. So get me some new senior advisors who can by God get us out of this mess. And while you’re at it, get some better knights and soldiers. I don’t care if you steal them from other kings, or find the best young fighters in the land. I’m declaring a Quest; the Quest for the Holy Lombardi Grail."
A forlorn Lord Marty wandered into the courtyard of Beatles-On-Acid (BOA) Castle, sat down on the fabulous Panther emblem centered in the home field of battle, face-to-palm. He said to no one, "What am I supposed to do? We have many mighty knights and soldiers; Sir Beast, Sir Ryan, and Sir Gross all be honored fighters. Our ground assault team is among the best in all 32 kingdoms, as be our 2nd line defenders. So many talented young soldiers desperately need training in aerial assault, though, and we’ve no proven General for the attack squadron."
Through the suddenly present mist, he hears a voice. "Marty, I’m here to help you."
Startled, Marty asks, "Who the fudge be there?" (Only he didn’t say fudge)
The voice replies, "I go by many names. Some call me a Wizard."
Marty: "I’ve heard there was a wizard about. Might your name be Merlin Olsen?"
Voice: "Aw hell no, my name’s Bill. I’ve also been known as Hoody, and some call me the Cheat."
Marty: "Get thee from me. I will not seek success at the expense of my very soul. That is, unless you’re willing to give up a few picks in the upcoming NFL Soldier Selection extravaganza??"
Bill: "Bwahahahaha. You must be out of your fudgin’ mind?"(Only he didn’t say fudgin’) "I collect picks, and only use them when my magic, or cheating, fails." Bill then let out a blood-curdling scream, and with a flash, Hoody Bill was gone. In his place stood yet another misty figure, wearing a fedora, glasses, and a trenchcoat; and immediately Lord Marty felt a sense of calm.
"They call me Vince," the figure said, "and I am here to help you in your Quest."
Marty: "What must I do?"
Vince: "The first thing you do is forget about ‘advisors’. Your young Panther squadron needs training. They need teaching. Find men who have fought valiantly as knights and soldiers, and hire them to be Coaches."
Marty: "That be wise counsel, indeed, Vince. You have my thanks. But even were I to find such Coaches, and even were they to masterfully teach our young Panthers, how do we obtain this Grail that my King so cherishes."
Vince: "That, my friend, is no small task. The Grail is presently housed in the frozen tundra of the Bay of Green, a severe environment, yet one I remember with a great fondness. Every winter, after the autumn battles, the most successful kingdoms compete in the Great Tournament. In the end, the final two mighty teams meet on the Chosen Field of Champions, and the Grail is brought to this place for the Super Bowl. I’ve no idea why they would name such a vicious battle after what sounds like a vessel from which one might partake of stew, but that is the traditional name."
Marty: "Ah, I recall my second year as Chief Advisor to the King, when we seemingly by miracle achieved many victories and did battle in Super Bowl XXXVIII in the Land of Houston. The fighting was most fierce, and our soldiers fought valiantly, despite being 7 point underdogs. But alas, with the battle nearing its end and neither side having gained advantage, Sir John the Great did royally fudge up by violating the rules of battle, leaving those cheating bastards from New England in perfect attack position. We were thus deprived of the victory. In the years hence, we have twice more carried our Panther banner before us to the Great Tournament, only to be savagely thrashed with many killed and wounded."
Vince: "Take solace good sir, for your armies shall soon again enjoy success. I have foreseen it. Your Great King will be honored throughout his kingdom and others."
Marty: "Either my eyes deceive me, or you are fading. Be you a phantom of some sort, no longer of this world."
Vince: "Aye, ‘tis true I am no longer among the living, unless you count Broadway."
Marty: "S’blood, how came you to cross over to this place."
Vince: "T’was easy. I had some of my former soldiers create a seal here and a seal there, and I just ran to daylight. But this journey is nearing its end. Look for me to return on the 4th day in the month of March. We will have much more to discuss."
And with that, Vince was gone. Lord Marty took the most excellent advice and did scour the lands for the best Coaches in all the kingdoms. And he did very, very well; assembling a talented group of great teachers and former soldiers Headed by Sir Ron of Rivera, from the land of Year-Round 70 Degrees.
And so ends Chapter One. I am hopeful that you enjoyed it, and would very much enjoy seeing what you creative types can come up with in terms of additions and especially illustrations.