There By Candlelight May Writing Challenge

Since it seems to be the thing to do, I figure I’ll go ahead and post my own writing challenge. May’s challenge:

The Long Pun.

I don’t mean a pun that takes up half a page in length by itself (such as somehow managing to make ‘antidisestablishmentarianism’ a pun), nor do I mean any sort of Piers Anthony dispoable two line type thing. I mean a pun where the author begins establishing the pun early on, but continues the narrative with no indication of the groan-inducing atrocity about to be unleashed on his unsuspecting reader.

The undisputed (as far as I know) master of this was Roger Zelazny who, in Lord of Light, spent something like half a chapter setting up a truly terrible pun and no one saw it comming. He did shorter, easier ones also, such as the one in the Merlin Chronicles with the two demons racing across the twisted hellish landscape raised a ruckus that had the hero out of bed to check it out only to end up dismissing it as trivial  (yep, it was just one damned thing after another).

So here is my challenge: In 400 words or more, create a story that stands on it’s own merits, and then deliver a real stinker of a pun at the very end that ties in to the story itself.  I’ll start us off.

——

The people of Southern Redrocks were blessed, or cursed, depending on how you looked at these things, with a monster. Now, it was the custom at the time that every respectable town would have a hero, or a princess, or a monster somewhere in their background to entice travelers to spend a few coins at the inn buying drinks for the locals who would, when sufficiently lubricated thusly, ‘remember’ the events “As if it were yesterday m’lord.” But everyone agreed that it was in the best taste that these heroes or princesses or monsters be gone before such revenue generating began. Thus, the town of Southern Redrocks had a problem, for thier monster was very  much alive.

If the people of the town had been just a tiny bit smarter about the entire thing, they could have made a fortune selling tickets to see the monster, for it was quite safe and no one in the region had actually SEEN a real monster in decades by this point (all those heroes having driven off or slain them all at the behest of all those princesses). All the monster did was sit in it’s cave and bang two rocks together while humming tunelessly to itself.  It was so sad, to be honest, that the townspeople began feeding the poor thing just so it wouldn’t starve to death.

Word got out, as word does about these sorts of things, and eventually a young scribe who was working on his thesis at the University of Whitefall heard about the monster and decided that a little field research was just exactly what his thesis needed to give it a little extra ‘pop’. And so he applied for, and recieved, funding for a field trip to Southern Redrocks, and after a long and arduous journey made longer and more arduous by the fact that his initial guide had thought he said Northern Redrocks, the scribe eventually arrived at the town and promptly took up residence in the single inn the village boasted. There, he asked everyone he could for as much information as they could provide about the monster, and what they told him baffled him.

The scribe, you see, was a very serious and studious young man, and he had many strange ideas about ‘natural orders’ and ‘evolution of species’ and other patently absurd concepts which tended to get him mocked mercilessly by his peers. But he was quite convinced that, politicians not withsanding, every creature in the world had to have some useful survival trait that allowed it to evolve into it’s current form. And from what the townsfolk told him, this monster did not. Banging two rocks together and humming tunelessly were NOT survival traits as far as the young scribe was concerned. He was heard on more than one occasion to complain to whoever was closest to him at the moment that it just ‘didn’t make sense!’

So, the young scribe travelled to the cave to watch the monster first hand. He spent weeks observing it, just waiting for it to do something other than tunelessly humming and rock-banging. He decided to test it, and so he put some food in a glass jar with one of those new-fangled screw top lids, but the monster merely hit the jar with it’s two rocks and fished out the tasty treat. So he tried again, only this time he put the food in a metal canister with the same type of top, and when the monster hit the contanier with the rocks, it did not break. After a time, the monster lost interest and went back to banging it’s rocks togehter and humming tunelessly. Determined to force the creature to display some hint of useful skills, the scribe forbade the townsfolk from feeding the monster. As the scribe had, by this point, spent several weeks at the cave without washing or changing his clothes, the townspeople rather thought he looked more like a monster than the monster did, and were afraid of him. So they stayed away.

But even hunger did not drive the monster to do anything useful. Occasionally it would hit the metal canister with the rocks again, but the canister still refused to shatter, as metal canisters are wont to do. Gradually, the creature got weaker and weaker, it’s rock banging growing more and more listless and lethargic, and there were long periods where it simply forgot to hum tunelessly. Starvation was clearly setting in, and the scribe was growing frantic.

Then, one day, one of the scribe’s professors from the University arrived to see how he was doing. The scribe was supposed to have reported back weeks ago by this point, and the school was getting worried. When the scribe told his professor the situation, the professor nodded thoughtfully, stroking the long white beard that all was all the rage in academic circles that decade.

“I think I have a solution,” the professor finally announced. “Yes. Fetch me a long stick, as long as you are tall, and sharpen one end of it like a spear.”

The scribe was willing to do anything by this point, and assumed that the professor intended to attack the monster to see if it would at least fight back, proving it had SOME rudiments of self preservation and worth. And in this, the scribe was partly correct.

The professor took the spear once the scribe handed it to him, and he approached the beast cautiously. He began jabbing at the legs of the monster, pricking it again and again with the sharp tip of the wood. Each time, the monster groaned and growled, and slide slightly further away from the professor until the professor had it against a wall with no where to slide to. The next time he poked the monster, it stood up and growled again.

Then, it did an astonishing thing. Circling  around the professor, the monster calmly walked to the dented metal container and unscrewed the top. It poured the food out, inspected it carefuly to see if it was too gamey to eat, then shrugged and wolfed it down. Then the monster nodded respectully to the professor and said “Thanks a heap ol chap. I was getting peckish.”

Before the scribe’s startled eyes, the monster sat back down and began banging it’s rocks together, humming tunelessly. The scribe looked at the professor in astonishment, but the professor merely shrugged. “That makes sense,” he decalared.

“It does?” the wild-eyed young scribe blurted, “How do you figure?”

“Well, yeah” said the professor with another casual shrug, “It stands to reason…”

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