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Renegade the Unicorn

Cerebus the Aardvark (reboot)

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A reboot of one of my early literatures, which I unofficially abandoned due to lack of focus (and in all honesty, clashing of creative visions with my usual co-writer Greyknight, and ambitious plans that weren't well-thought out in hindsight). So, I'm starting fresh and bringing ol' Cerebus back to his roots (both in this lit and his source material): an episodic parody of Conan the Barbarian, with heavy doses of lampshading and parodying the tropes of such stories. The first episode, "Tower of the Necromancers!" is being written (for realsies this time)!

Edited by Shinji Ikari
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Glad to see this getting a revival. I was bummed that the original stopped at just a one-shot and would enjoy seeing what you'll do different this time.

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CEREBUS THE AARDVARK IN…

 

“TOWER OF THE NECROMANCERS!”


 

"Know, O princes of the earth, that in the thousands of years before the earth froze over with great sheets of ice and humanity spread across the four corners, there lay an Age undreamed of; wherein great kingdoms and empires were spread across the known lands of Estarcion, and great journeys were undertaken for glory and fortune. From this brutal age of savagery, hither came Cerebus, mightiest warrior in the land. Though uncouth and uncivilized, the earth-pig born, with his sword raised high and swearing in the name of the god Tarim, carved out a legacy of riches and fame, told in only the most-well remembered of legends. It is he for whom this age was named, and it is his tales that shall be recounted in this tome."

 

-Anonymous, 'Codex of the Aardvarkian Age'


 

-----------------------------------------------------------------


 

The first rays of the rising sun broke over the city of Ulfham as the morning bells awoke the populace. As the men and women of the city awoke from slumber and went about their waking ritual routines, the usual quiet stirrings were broken by the sounds of what sounded like horses’ hooves clattering against the cobblestone streets. This was not unusual in Ulfham, or any city in the kingdoms of Estarcion for that matter...that was, however, except for the rather unusual rider of said steed. It appeared to be a small creature, of about three feet and with grey fur, clad in various medallions, a sword that seemed to be too large for something of its size, and a horned helmet not too dissimilar of the Asgardian tribes to the far north. He was an aardvark, and while they were not uncommon in these lands, it was certainly unusual to see one riding a horse, much less dressed in typical barbarian garb. With a gruff “Whoa!”, the earth-pig stopped his horse in front of one of the city’s many taverns, The Bleeding Boar, got down, and dramatically kicked down the door.


 

This certainly surprised the early-morning drunkards who had permanent room and board within the establishment; they had just risen out of bed and entered the bar proper for their morning meal: alcohol, and usually whatever food the barmaid, a halfling woman named Baxterras, could prepare in a hurry. Cerebus sat at the bar, and grunted a simple, “Mead.” His voice was gruff, with an uncanny resemblance to George C. Scott. Not that anyone on Estarcion, not even Cerebus himself, would know who that was. Baxterras, a redhead dressed in a lowcut tunic that appeared to show off her ample cleavage, retrieved the drink, slamming down the wooden mug in front of a bored-looking Cerebus. He took it, and made soft, pig-like grunts as he drank down the sweet-tasting alcohol. Tossing the mug onto the floor where it shattered into pieces, Cerebus grunted a single word: “More.” Baxterras obeyed, getting him a refill. He downed it, and demanded another. And another, and another. This certainly surprised the other patrons, who marveled at the aardvark’s tolerance; he was now drinking mead by the bucket, and showed no signs of stopping. Baxterras, exasperated, immediately silenced him.


 

“I think you’ve had enough, stranger.” she stated calmly, though her voice gave off an air of irritance.



 

“CEREBUS WILL TELL YOU WHEN HE’S HAD ENOUGH!” the aardvark shouted, with the response from Baxterras not what he had expected. She stabbed the bar with a long silver dagger carved with the names of her ancestors in the Halfling tongue. Cerebus’ eyes widened.



 

“Do not test me, earth-pig.” she growled, her eyes practically filled with flame. “I am a former assassin for the city’s military, and I will not be trifled with. Are we understood?” Cerebus, after several moments, nodded. He knew when to bite his tongue. “Now,” she continued. “Tell me about yourself, if you’d like.”



 

“Cerebus is a mercenary.” the aardvark answered simply. “He goes where he pleases, only fueled by gold and booze.”



 

“No women?” Baxterras inquired, her tone one of mixed curiosity and seduction.



 

“Are we speaking of romance or more carnal pleasures?” Cerebus fired back, his wit matching hers. “Because those are two entirely different things when it comes to females.”



 

Baxterras pondered this for several minutes, and realized that Cerebus had a point. Sex and romance, if were one to believe the general notion, went hand in hand. But that was completely false, and the two were, for all intents and purposes, as far from one and the same as humanly possible. You could be married and not have sex; you could also not be married and having lots of sex. In fact, this latter option was what the halfling tavern owner preferred: what use would she have for tying herself down to some man she might not love in the foreseeable future rather than dedicating herself to her tavern? No use, that’s what. Though she considered herself a free, sexually-liberated woman (by her own standards, anyway), she had no problem if someone considered sex and marriage to be intertwined. “Which do you wish to discuss first? Your views on women in romance, or your views on women in sex?” she finally asked the barbarian.



 

“Cerebus is far from a romantic type.” he answered bluntly, not even having to think of a response. “As for sex, well...let’s just say that Cerebus can generally do without it, but he does not deny he has urges, and will indulge them whenever he can.” This immediately piqued Baxterras’ interest, and with a playful smirk, she leaned over the bar’s counter, looking at Cerebus much more directly. The aardvark blinked once, twice, thrice. He knew the look in her eyes anywhere. Bedroom eyes, as the informal expression went. Or to put it in a more vulgar fashion, fuck me eyes.



 

“Well, then…” Baxterras replied, pulling down her tunic so that her breasts were a bit more exposed. “How’s about you and I fuck?”



 

“...No.” Cerebus answered. “At least, not yet.” Baxterras frowned, her hazel-green eyes piercing the earth-pig like sharp daggers, an apt comparison considering what had occurred earlier. “Do not get Cerebus wrong, you are very attractive, miss…”



 

“Baxterras. Baxterras Dragmire.”



 

“Yes, miss...Baxterras. Cerebus finds you attractive, he does. But Cerebus is not here to fuck your brains out. He is here for work.” The halfling immediately softened her gaze, her lips contorting into a far more neutral expression.



 

“How’s about this, barbarian? I will tell you of our local troubles, and once your task is completed, you will give me the time of my life in the bedroom?” Baxterras offered.



 

“That is fair.” Cerebus agreed as Baxterras got him another mug of mead, this time without the aardvark barking for it has he had done when he first entered the tavern. “Thank you.”



 

“You are quite welcome.” Baxterras replied. “You’re going to need a drink for this one, as this will be a bit of a long story.”



 

Cerebus raised a brow. “A long story, hmm? Cerebus is no stranger to those.”



 

Baxterras nodded, and explained thusly.


 

--------------------------------------------------------


 

“In time immemorial, in the mountains surrounding the area that would become our fair city of Ulfham, there arose a kingdom of dwarves, one of the first recorded in Estarcion’s history. These dwarves, seeking to carve out a name for themselves, founded the fortress of Diamondbright, named for their optimism and goals to be a bright beacon of the mountains. They declared it their capital, and the most charismatic, capable, and fearless of these dwarves was made their king; he took a wife sometime later, and she became his king-consort. From Diamondbright sprung forth hillocks and mountain homes, and within several decades of rapid expansion and trade with surrounding dwarven civilizations, the dwarves had carved themselves out a decently-sized territory. However, all was not well with the king. He had become obsessed with his own mortality, the reasons for which could have been many. He and his wife might have been infertile, or mayhaps they had grown steadily more power hungry, and both of them wanted to hold onto that power for as long as possible, maybe even for eternity.



 

Whatever the reasons may have been, the king and his wife began dabbling in the vilest of the dark arts, and eventually succeeded in summoning their religion’s god of death. She imparted the secrets of life and death unto them both, and they both gave up their souls in exchange for immortality. Writing their newfound knowledge into a grimoire that some refer to as the Dwarvish Book of Death, the couple then promptly went on a killing spree, slaughtering everyone in Diamondbright only to revive them as zombies. Now with an undead army at their backs, the necromancers rejected their own names, they no longer needed them. Instead, they took the names of Urist the Death-Emperor (for the former king) and Sankis the Goddess of Destruction (for the ex-consort). Urist and Sankis promptly engaged in a war on their own kingdom, conquering their former subjects with ease and turning any survivors into slaves. Returning to their former capital with the fate of their now-enslaved kingdom in their hands, Urist and Sankis sent out an order, one that every being under their iron fists, human and undead alike, would have to follow: construct a mighty tower of obsidian, thirteen thousand feet tall, from which they would reside.



 

With the entire kingdom acting as one large factory for this seemingly-impossible project, the tower was completed within 1,050 years. In that time, both Urist and Sankis had taken on a number of apprentices, who had taken on apprentices, and so on. Taking the accumulated numbers of unholy tomes, treasure stockpiles, and undead servants, the necromancers shut themselves away in the tower, where they have remained for as long as anyone alive can remember.



 

The kingdom, with no leaders to guide them, fell into savagery, dividing themselves into tribes of barbarians. The remaining packs of zombies still roam the mountain range, feasting upon whomever they come across. The other dwarven civilizations of the area have long since fallen due to factors such as these. The Ulfham Mountains are, for lack of a better term, a physical hell. Those who have ventured there have never returned.”


 

------------------------------------------------------------------------------


 

Cerebus sat silently throughout Baxterras’ story, his only action being taking large swigs of his mead. Once she had finished, he knew immediately what she wanted him to do. “So,” the aardvark finally spoke. “You want Cerebus to venture into these so-called forbidden mountains, venture into this tower, and kill the necromancers?”



 

“Yes.” Baxterras replied. “Things will not instantly be better, but you will have rid us of a blight that has plagued us for years.”



 

Cerebus immediately followed this up with, “How much will Cerebus be paid?”



 

“Sadly, I cannot say, as I will not be paying you.” Baxterras said. “That will be the mayor’s job.”

 

“...That doesn’t answer Cerebus’ question.” the aardvark snarked dryly. “How much will he be payed?”



 

“Oh, I’m sure that he’ll pay you quite a hefty sum.” Baxterras said with a grin. “Especially once I inform him of your task.”



 

Cerebus returned the grin. “See to it that Cerebus is paid well. For now, he must gather supplies for the journey ahead.” The aardvark turned to leave before Baxterras stopped him. “Hmm?”



 

He wasn’t able to finish his thought, whatever that might have been. Baxterras had pulled the aardvark into a passionate kiss, their tongues dancing in a sloppy, wet embrace. This had certainly caught Cerebus off-guard, but he did not try and resist. He rather liked the halfling woman, and he had promised to ravish her after he returned from the tower. Why not allow her this small taste of what was to come? Finally, she pulled away from him, a long trail of saliva between their mouths. “Best of luck to you, O brave Cerebus.” she said.


 

“Cerebus will need Tarim to give him luck if he is to survive this.” the aardvark said, exiting the tavern.

 

----------------------------------------------------


 

Several hours had passed since Cerebus had left the city limits of Ulfham. In the distance he could see the mountains, and very faintly, the Tower of the Necromancers. It was a tall-impossibly tall, the aardvark noted-stygian spire that seemed to go on forever, situated in the center of a heavily armored fortress, which itself was shaped in a nonagonal fashion. From looking at its design, it was easy for Cerebus to assume that Baxterras was lying when she said it only took 1,050 years for Urist and Sankis to build it. Then again, he thought, these are practioners of the dark arts. If Cerebus didn’t know any better, he’d think that they might have built a city itself inside a tower that large! Something that wasn’t that hard of a stretch now that he thought about it. Cerebus’ brain immediately thought of Baxterras’ final words to him before he had started his trek, a rather straightforward, if slightly ominous, warning:

“Whatever you do, Cerebus, do not read any of the books that the necromancers have stored within the tower. They contain the secrets of life and death, things no mortal is meant to know. If you choose to ignore my advice and give into temptation, then you will instantly become immortal upon reading them...but at a price. You will be driven mad, and overcome by your deepest, darkest traits, seeking nothing but power and the elimination of non-immortal beings.”


 

Cerebus scoffed as Baxterras’ voice continued to echo in his head. He wouldn’t ignore her, but not for the sake of not succumbing to necromancy. As much as he would have liked to be immortal, the godlike abilities to resurrect the dead and kill whomever displeased him, Cerebus was distrustful of magic to a degree. Why shouldn’t he have been? Magic was, as a rule, drawing on the eldritch forces that lurked beneath the earthly plane of existence, and therefore had an inherently dark and dangerous nature, no matter what “good” intentions and motivations one had behind using it. Magic in Estarcion was never to be trusted as far as Cerebus was concerned. This, he knew, what was partly drove him to complete his task. He wouldn’t let these necromancers live; not out of the “goodness of his heart” (Cerebus was not one who had a so-called “moral compass”; when one was a traveling mercenary barbarian, one didn’t need civilization’s stupid rules), but because these creatures were warlocks. And Tarim did not trust warlocks, as Cerebus knew very well.


 

It was only a little while later before Cerebus reached the foot of the mountain range, and as his steed slowly began clip-clopping along the pathway upwards towards the Tower, all seemed well, at least for a time. The silence was immediately broken by the sounds of movement from nearby, Cerebus drawing his sword. A figure shambled from a bend, its skin grey and lifeless. It wore rather simple chainmail armor and wielded an iron sword. The thing’s eyes were heavily sunken in, and the skin stretched over its emaciated frame. The zombie, who had once been a mighty warrior that had served Urist and Sankis in life and again in death, charged forward, striking the forelegs of Cerebus’ steed and knocking the aardvark backwards onto the ground. As the horse lay bleeding heavily onto the ground, its last breaths drawing ever closer, Cerebus blocked the zombie’s next strike before lopping off the hand that held his cadaverous opponent’s weapon. Incensed at the loss of its’ arm, the zombie warrior lurched at Cerebus, it’s other hand making a grabbing motion and its mouth open, giving clear indication of what it was intending. Immediately, Cerebus leaped at the corpse before severing the remaining arm and slashing at the neck, the zombie’s head flying off and landing on the ground. His opponent defeated, Cerebus turned to look at the horse, a lake of scarlet liquid spreading onto the ground. It would be no use in trying to heal its wounds; from the heavy amount of blood it had lost, several veins and very likely arteries had been sliced open. “Such a pity.” the aardvark muttered disappointed. “Cerebus will simply have to walk back to Ulfham. The undead will have devoured the beast of burden by then.”


 

He had not walked more than several miles when yet another figure, or rather five, had appeared. Unlike the zombie from before, these creatures were of living flesh, their skin a deep shade of brass from exposure to the sun. They were diminutive, around a foot taller than Cerebus, and were clothed in nothing but furs. All of them had long, luxurious beards that were the color of autumn leaves and wielded crude swords and axes. It does not take a scholar to figure out that these are dwarves, Cerebus observed. In fact, these must be the same primitive dwarves that the halfling wench was referring to!


 

“Brothers, do you see what I see?” the lead dwarf asked in a broken Dwarven dialect that Cerebus did not recognize.


 

“An earth-pig dressed as the Ancient Ones were?” the second dwarf replied.


 

“Exactly!” the third one piped up.


 

“Hmmm…what shall we do with it?” the fourth and fifth dwarves pondered. For a time, the dwarves stood there and pondered. Cerebus stared at them flatly, truly wondering if these dwarves were the “feared tribals” Baxterras had described them as. It did not matter. He had to strike now when they weren’t suspecting it. With a loud cry of “TARIM!”, Cerebus drove his sword into the leader’s back, the blade sticking out of the dwarf’s stomach, its silver coloration caked in blood. With a grunt, Cerebus pulled his blade from the corpse, and charged at the rest of the dwarves, who were caught off-guard from what had just occurred. His blade clashing with those of his primitive foes, Cerebus was able to break their weapons with ease. Now only armed with their bare fists, the dwarves still found themselves outmatched, the aardvark chopping off their limbs. Now bleeding just as Cerebus’ horse did, the dwarves were not giving up just yet, intending to bite Cerebus. Unfortunately, they did not get the chance to; the barbarian had beheaded them, each in quick succession. Cerebus trudged on, his goal to the Tower stronger than ever.


 

Several hours (and many hordes of zombies and barbarian dwarves) later, Cerebus stood at the entrance to the tower. From his perspective, it was even more gargantuan than from afar, it’s godlike heights far more apparent up-close. The notagonal fortress that acted as its’ base was plated with silver and black, the square doors bearing an inscription:




 

I am the way into the city of woe.

 

I am the way to a forsaken people.

 

I am the way into eternal sorrow.

 

Sacred Justice moved my architect.

 

I was raised here by divine omnipotence,

 

Primordial love and ultimate intellect.

 

Only those elements Time cannot wear

 

Were made before me, and beyond Time I stand.

 

Abandon all hope, ye who enter here.



 

Cerebus, far from an intellectual sort, did not understand what this poem, if one could call it that, meant. Well, except for that last line. It was, through decades, if not centuries of permutation, transformed into a generic warning for whomever read it to turn back now and never return.




 

Then again, none in Estarcion knew who Dante Alighieri was, nor why that warning was created in the first place. Especially not Cerebus. Anyways, where was I?




 

Ah, yes, the tower. It appeared to be unguarded, so Cerebus would have an easy time getting in...if not for his height and the massive scale of the doors, which were beyond too large for them to easily be pushed. Furthermore, the sheer size of the tower couldn’t provide the alternative of getting in through one of the windows. “So,” Cerebus muttered irritably. “How in the ever-loving fuck is Cerebus going to get in?” With no other choice, the little aardvark sat in front of the tower’s doors, and thought.


 

And thought.


 

And thought.


 

And thought.


 

Enough time had passed so that day had transitioned into night, and Cerebus had made a small fire by then. Roasting small rodents over it, the earth-pig did not notice that a small pack of zombies was drawing near, the glow of the fire having attracted them. Their growing shadows making their presence known to him, Cerebus immediately sprang forward, his sword drawn. As he was about to start cutting down the cadavers, the wheels in his brain began to turn once more, and he came up with an idea, one that would solve the problem of getting into the tower and killing the zombies. Pressing himself against the doors, Cerebus waited for the zombies come towards him. As they did, the corpses shambled straight into the fire, setting themselves alight; which was exactly what Cerebus was counting on. As they continued making their way towards their “prey”, Cerebus jumped out of their path, causing the zombies to slam themselves onto the doors, setting them on fire. The aardvark watched all of this play out before him, the smoldering corpses eventually burning to a crisp. Better yet, the doorway was now open, allowing him entry.


 

The hallway that led into the rest of the tower was bare, the only lights being those of the torches on the walls. Carvings of the tower’s long and storied history adorned them, gruesome caricatures of zombies and dwarven slaves carrying bricks of obsidian, which Cerebus noted was eerily similar to the Semites who were bound to their masters in Stygia, they who worshiped The God of Many Names; Elohim, El Shaddai, YHWH...the GREAT I AM. Cerebus’ stream-of-consciousness ponderings on the names of a God who was intangible, omnipotent, and all-seeing (as all gods were; Cerebus’ own deity of worship, Tarim, was one such example) was interrupted by a spider, about the size of a grizzly bear, dropping from the ceiling. It was covered in brown fur, its eight black orbs staring hungrily at the aardvark, the mandibles snapping open and shut once, twice, thrice.



 

Drawing his sword, Cerebus leapt at the spider, who responded to the aardvark’s attempts to attack by shooting a stream of silken webbing at him. Fortunately for Cerebus, the webs barely missed him, and he landed on the arachnid’s back, his blade raised. With a loud swish, the sword cleaved the spider’s head in two, pools of blood and brain matter spilling onto the floor. The spider fell, its body causing the ground to vibrate slightly from how large it was. And if that wasn’t enough, Cerebus began chopping off the creature’s legs despite it already being slain. The aardvark surmised since that he was in a necromancer’s tower, anything that could be killed could easily be revived. It was better safe than sorry than to make sure the dead creatures stayed dead. After chopping off its legs, Cerebus began cleaving at the spider’s body until it was naught more than a mass of fur-covered flesh, blood, and organs. Himself and his sword covered in spider blood, Cerebus continued to walk until he came to the foot of an incredibly long and winding staircase. It seemed that it went all the way to the top, interconnected with the rest of the tower by an untold number of bridges apparently made of the same stone as the stairs. Realizing that he was in for a very long (and given his size, likely painful and exhausting) trek, Cerebus heaved his sword onto his back once more and began walking.


 

After what seemed like days (and, in fairness, it probably had been days since Cerebus entered the tower), the aardvark eventually arrived at one of the bridges and tiredly began to cross it. Standing at the entraceway to an unknown room, Cerebus drew his sword as though he were about to fight someone or something. Before he could proclaim his challenge, the aardvark’s body gave in and he collapsed onto the floor from exhaustion. The sword flung out of his hand, loudly clattering as it did so. From out of the doorway, a feminine shadow creeped over the aardvark’s prone form and dragged him inside.


 

Cerebus woke up sometime later to find several things. Namely, that he was lying on a soft bed, his sword, helmet, and medallions were gone, and that a mysterious young woman was cleaning the spider blood from his fur with warm water, giving off a terrible stench that caused the aardvark to nearly vomit. The woman in question appeared to be in her late teens, with incredibly pale skin and icy blue eyes. Her hair was long and the color of the darkest midnight, with red tips at the ends of each lock. She was dressed in a low- cut revealing black cloak, her massive breasts seemingly able to not burst out from the seams. Though Cerebus could not see it, she wore fishnet stockings and high-heeled shoes underneath the cloak. The woman gave a small smile, her teeth seemingly perfect and white as pearls. However, Cerebus noticed something unusual: fangs. The aardvark immediately realized that this woman was not only a witch, but a vampiric witch. “Ah, I see you’re awake.” she said. “Are you feeling better?”



 

“Do not try and dissuade Cerebus, witch.” the aardvark growled, slapping the cloth the woman was using to clean his fur out of her hand, much to her annoyance. “He knows exactly what you are trying to do.”



 

“Let me guess, you think that I am either trying to seduce you, hoping to turn you into a vampire, attempting to kill you and transform you into an undead servant, or some combination of all three.” she said dryly.



 

“How did you guess?” Cerebus asked in an equally dry tone.


 

“Friend, I am 1,700 years old. I have seen many things, and I know exactly what you are. I used to be an adventurer myself.” the woman said. “Let me guess: you’ve come here in attempt to slay each and every necromancer in this tower?”


 

“Exactly.” replied Cerebus. “It seems you have experienced this before.”


 

“Not experienced myself, but I have seen it time and time again.” the woman explained. “Those who come here tend to get themselves killed or fall victim to the promise of immortality that necromancy entails.”


 

“Were you one of those sorts?” Cerebus asked.


 

“No, and I don’t wish I was. I came to this place many centuries ago because I felt I was an outcast. You see, aardvark, I was transformed into a vampire when I was only 17 in mortal years. As such, I was nearly killed many a time by opportunistic hunters, so I was forced to travel across Estarcion. Not only that, but I was born a witch.”



 

Cerebus let this information sink into his head, his mood turning from one of murderous rage to horror and sympathy. He knew what was like to be an outcast, being the sole aardvark in a world of humans. It was no wonder to him, then, that this woman would come here to the Tower of Necromancers, especially if she sought to hone the magic she was born with. “Power has a price, you know. Magic is inherently dangerous for that very reason. So, then, what was your penance for learning necromancy?”



 

“Complete immortality.” she answered. “I cannot die. I am unable to die. Believe me, aardvark. I have tried every method you could name, and I come out no worse for wear. The fairy-stories you have been told in your youth are lies. There is no ‘fun’ nor benefits to immortality. I have outlived everyone I care about...these damned necromancers are both my blessings and my curses...though I brought this on myself, I will admit, it is their fault I am like this nonetheless. Leave now, aardvark. Leave and never come back.” These last few sentences were punctuated by her voice breaking and tears beginning to stream down her face. Cerebus watched as she cried softly, at a loss for words. This was no longer about the money to him, he decided. This was about helping this woman escape the life, or un-life in her case, she felt she was bound to. Getting up from the bed in spite of his aching body and terrible smell, Cerebus walked over to her and pulled the vampiress into a tight embrace. This certainly caught her off-guard, but she hugged him back nonetheless.



 

After what seemed like forever, Cerebus let go of the girl, a small smile crossing his face. “What is your name?” he asked.




 

“Ebony Dark’ness Dementia Raven Way.” she responded, her voice a low whisper. Cerebus looked at her quizzically, as if he had just heard the stupidest name ever.



 

“Is...is that your real name?” the aardvark asked.



 

“No.” she answered. “It is not.”



 

“Then what is it?” Cerebus asked again.



 

“I don’t know.” Ebony replied after some thought. “I’ve been alive for so long, I can’t remember the name I was born with.”



 

“No matter, then.” Cerebus said. “Cerebus, he of Sand Hills Creek and an earth-pig born, shall vanquish every single one of these sorcerers in your name.” Now, it was Ebony’s turn to look at him funny.



 

“You’re joking.” she stated bluntly. “Did you not hear what I was saying before? About how every adventurer before you as died or succumbed to temptation?”


 

“Cerebus does not care. He will either kill every single one of these bastards for your honor, or he will die trying.” the aardvark declared. Ebony let out a sigh, realizing that no matter what, she couldn’t get through to him.


 

“All right then...though I cannot convince you to back down, Cerebus, I only ask that I be allowed to help you. You cannot take all these necromancers on yourself, and I have wanted to enact revenge on them for years.”


 

“That is only fair, Cerebus supposes.” the aardvark replied. “When will his body stop aching?”


 

“At this rate, a few days.” Ebony replied. “Now lay back down, Cerebus.”


 

Several more days passed, and it was not long before Cerebus and Ebony not only got to know each other on a more personal level, but on an intimate level as well. When they had first made love, Ebony had learned firsthand that the saying “big things come in small packages” applied incredibly well to Cerebus, his eight-inch girth extraordinarily impressive for such a creature of his size. He had pleasured her in ways that Ebony had not experienced in quite a while, and he had learned something about her as well: that she was what others called a ‘screamer’. This pleased the aardvark greatly to know that he not only had someone to call a friend, but an amazing partner in the bedroom as well. It was during the afterglow of one of their lovemaking sessions, Cerebus lying in the bed and Ebony kissing his neck, snuggled underneath the sheets with her arms wrapped around his waist, that Cerebus made a very interesting inquiry.


 

“What is our game plan, Ebony?”


 

“Hmm?” the witch replied, stopping her gentle kisses for just a moment to look at her small furry grey lover with a look of confusion.


 

“Cerebus said, ‘What is our game plan?’” the aardvark repeated, his irritation at not being listened to the first time evident.


 

“For…?”


 

“You know exactly what for. Don’t play stupid. Cerebus has no sympathy for those who play stupid.”


 

Ebony realized that he had a point. They had no sort of plan to speak of when it came to killing the many, many necromancers that inhabited the tower, especially not Urist and Sankis. She thanked the gods that the inhabitants had given up on socializing with one another long ago; otherwise she would have been exiled from the tower and Cerebus would have likely been (un)dead by now. This thought also gave her another idea. Since the necromancers never ventured outside their quarters, too consumed with pushing the boundaries of life and death, this made it far easier for them to be killed without them noticing. She brought this point up to Cerebus, who nodded with a grin.




 

“And the tomes? What of the accursed tomes?”




 

“We burn them.”



 

Cerebus’ grin only grew wider at hearing that. “Good. We’ll map out the tower’s layout, and when that is done, we begin the elimination of these dark blights from the face of Estarcion.”


 

“But for now,” Ebony purred. “We make love.”


 

And make love they did.


 

-----------------------------------------------------


 

Several more days had passed, and Ebony had crafted an intricately-detailed map of the tower, listing the location of each and every room in it, the locations of the various tomes, and more importantly, the throne rooms of Urist and Sankis. “By Clovis’ beard…” Cerebus muttered, astonished at the tower’s sheer size. “Cerebus’ predictions were correct. An entire city could easily fit into this tower!”


 

“Several cities, actually.” Ebony replied. “This tower has quite a lot of space.”



 

“By Clovis’ sweaty, wart-covered, hairy ballsack…” the aardvark muttered, his eyes now the size of dinner plates. “How in Tarim’s name are we going to clear this tower without taking ages?”



 

Ebony rolled her eyes. “Helloooo? Vampire? Power of flight?”



 

Cerebus’ look instantly went from one of surprise at the tower’s size, to flat unamusement at Ebony’s sarcasm. “Cerebus isn’t stupid, you know.”



 

“I know.” Ebony replied, a big shit-eating grin on her face as she reached over and playfully booped Cerebus’ snout. “Boop!”



 

The aardvark narrowed his eyes, drawing his sword slowly. “Not funny. Now, shall we slaughter every one of these undead fucks? ...Present company excluded, of course.”



 

Ebony snorted at his comment. “Of course. Hop on.” She turned his back to him, playfully wiggling her butt in a mock-saddle gesture. Cerebus hopped onto her back, his small legs wrapped around her waist and his hands gripping her breasts. Ebony took notice of this, and let out a soft moan. Cerebus rolled his own eyes now, and muttered, “Just fly, woman.”



 

“What’s the magic woooord?” Ebony replied.



 

“Please.”



 

“Good boy.” Ebony said before flying off. Drawing his sword, Cerebus let out a mighty battle cry of ‘TARIM!’, and before long, they were slaughtering the hordes of zombies that roamed the tower, the aardvark’s blade slicing through mountains of grey, decayed flesh. Using the map Ebony had sketched out, the two were able to find the various necromancers and eliminate them with relative ease. Even more days seemed to pass just like hours, and eventually almost every single necromancer aside from three were dead. Those three were Ebony (the obvious exception), Urist, and Sankis. Cerebus and his female companion were ready. Flying to the topmost level of the tower, the aardvark was greeted by a horrifying sight.



 

The top level of the tower, which served as the throne room for the former dwarven king and his wife, was a foul, decrepit place; it was dismal, lit only by a few candles. Urist’s and Sankis’ thrones were made of a glowing blue metal, one that Cerebus had only heard of in legends: adamantine. It was rumored that the metal, an extremely rare occurrence, was located deep beneath the earth and acted as a boundary between the earth and the infernal pits of hell. If one were foolish or ambitious enough to dig for it, they would risk opening an entrance to the underworld and by extension, being devoured alive by hordes of invading demons. It was an accomplishment then, the aardvark noted, that the metal itself stayed legendary. Otherwise, hell would have invaded Estarcion long ago. In any case, what unsettled Cerebus the most was what was sitting on the thrones: Urist and Sankis themselves, but not quite. They were reduced to living skeletons, dressed in flowing yet tattered and filthy robes. In front of them were a pair of silver cauldrons, engraved with the language of the gods and filled with strange green bubbling liquids. If Cerebus looked closely, he could see the twisted, screaming faces of whatever spirits the two liches were trying to summon. For that was what they were. This was their price for dabbling in such forbidden arts: stripped of flesh and blood and transformed into animate bone, the image of the god they made the deal with in the first place. Both Cerebus and Ebony jumped back in fright as the two creatures stared at the duo, the eyeholes piercing them with a sort of terrible, endless black void. “Ah, greetings.” Urist greeted, his voice cold, hollow, and with a false reassuring tone. “You must be another one of those adventurers.”



 

“Yes.” Cerebus said dryly. “I have been sent by the people of Ulfham to vanquish this tower of your vile magics.”



 

“Oh, you wouldn’t be the first.” Sankis said dismissively, as if she and her husband had heard this before. Which they had. “It’s a wonder you’ve managed to make it this far. Very few do.”



 

“Oh, Cerebus bets he is.” the aardvark muttered sarcastically. “Judging by the abundance of bones you two have lying around.”



 

“Oh, yes, those.” Urist muttered. “I knew we should’ve cleaned this place up sooner or later.”



 

“Husband!” scolded Sankis. “You are getting distracted! This aardvark and this traitor,” she then pointed a finger bone at Ebony. “Are trying to kill us.”



 

Ebony glared at her in response. “Me? A traitor? You’re shitting me, right? It’s because of you I can’t die. It’s because of you that I’m immortal. IT’S BECAUSE OF YOU THAT I’M CURSED!”


 

Sankis stared at Ebony, rather confused. “Cursed? Why, child, you should be thrilled that you are completely immune to death of any form! All of us have been blessed with gifts from the gods!”


 

“Everyone is dead.” Ebony replied flatly.



 

“Hmmm?” Sankis replied.


 

“Everyone. Is. Dead.” Ebony repeated slowly. “All the other necromancers aside from me and you two are dead. ...Well, you two are about to be added to that list. Any last words?”



 

Most necromancers, at this point, would have been filled with rage, hatred. All their hard work destroyed by the hands of a small bipedal grey aardvark and a traitorous vampire. Urist and Sankis, however, were not most necromancers. They had long since been disconnected from human emotions, perhaps they had been even before they had become necromancers, so the reaction was a resounding ‘eh’ from the both of them. “Oh well.” Urist said. “I was honestly hoping to stall off killing you with our conversation, aardvark, but I have no choice but to fight you.”



 

Cerebus immediately did a double take. “Wait...let Cerebus get this straight: you were trying to stall him?”



 

“Of course.” Urist said. “My wife and I used to be the typical ‘eeeeevil’ necromancers, but after a few hundred years, that act tends to become very stale. So, we decided to take a more, shall we say, relaxed approach to life.”



 

“Yes,” Sankis said as she casually began to create several skeleton warriors. “Believe us, killing you would be beyond too easy. Where is the fun in that? In all honesty, having a chat with you would have been pleasant; we haven’t had company in so long. Well...living company, anyway.”



 

“It’s not too late, aardvark.” Urist offered a cup of tea to Cerebus. “Let’s sit, drink some tea, have a chat.” Cerebus promptly threw his sword at said cup, shattering it and spilling tea onto the floor. “...I liked that cup, aardvark. I really did.” the skeletal dwarf muttered, beginning to conjure up bone warriors just as his wife was. Poised for battle, the skeleton warriors stood in front of Urist and Sankis, and awaited orders. “ATTACK!” the dwarven king ordered, and the skeletons charged forward. Cerebus, without a sword, could only dodge the attacks coming towards him, while Ebony fired at the skeleton warriors, causing them to fall apart. Unfortunately, they kept on reassembling themselves.


 

“By Clovis’ untrimmed ass hairs!” Cerebus muttered. “How do they keep reassembling themselves?”



 

As Ebony kept fighting off the skeletons, she immediately got an idea. “QUICK, CEREBUS, THE SLABS!”



 

“The what?!” Cerebus shouted over the commotion as he surged through the undead army in order to retrieve his sword.



 

“THE SLABS!” Ebony repeated. “Those are the sources of Urist and Sankis’ powers! If you can destroy them, then they’ll die!”



 

Cerebus managed to find his sword, though he came snout to foot with Urist, who grinned madly. “Hello, little aardvark. Goodbye.” the necromancer said, raising his arms as he began to fire two large blasts of green flame. Without hesitating, Cerebus grabbed his sword and held it up to shield himself. The flames bounced off the blade, rebounding at Urist and covering his skull-face in ash. Sankis, in a rage, came roaring at the aardvark, but Cerebus struck her with the sword, knocking her back. He began scouring the bookshelves, dodging blasts from the two necromancers all the while. Eventually, he came across two slabs made of a smooth, unearthly rock, and carved with the language of the gods. He could hear faint voices tempting him to read them, to gain the secrets of life and death. ...But Cerebus refused. Muttering prayers to Tarim, he thrust his sword into the slabs, shattering them and causing Urist and Sankis to explode in a shiny blue light. Cerebus could faintly hear them whisper, ‘Thank you. You have freed us from our curses.’



 

When all was said and done, Ebony and Cerebus walked out of the throne room, which was now covered in dust piles that were once skeletons. Hopping onto Ebony’s back once more, Cerebus went through each of the tower’s rooms one final time to burn all the books within, so that no one could fall prey to their secrets. By the time Cerebus and Ebony exited the tower, the sun was already setting. Ebony was glad for this, despite the fact that sunlight couldn’t kill her anyway. Cerebus looked at her with a sigh. “What’s the matter?” Ebony asked, concerned about her friend and lover.


 

“Though we have killed all the necromancers in this tower, and destroyed their books of life and death, Cerebus knows that sooner or later, more adventurers will venture inside despite nothing of value being within.”



 

Ebony thought about this for several minutes, and she realized Cerebus had a point. Though there was nothing in the Tower of the Necromancers now, its legends and reputation would still persist for a good while. That would mean, then, adventurers would still venture there only to be sorely disappointed. “What should we do about it, then?”



 

Cerebus then noticed the warning sign on the tower’s door as he got an idea. “We create a new warning. Something that is straightforward and to the point.”



 

They did, and this is what it read:



 

“This place is a message... and part of a system of messages... pay attention to it!

 

Sending this message was important to us. We considered ourselves to be a powerful culture.

 

This place is not a place of honor... no highly esteemed deed is commemorated here... nothing valued is here.

 

What is here is dangerous and repulsive to us. This message is a warning about danger.

 

The danger is in a particular location... it increases toward a center... the center of danger is here... of a particular size and shape, and below us.

 

The danger is still present, in your time, as it was in ours.

 

The danger is to the body, and it can kill.”



 

When that was finished, Ebony kissed Cerebus again, and was about to fly off, before the aardvark stopped her. “Wait. Come with Cerebus. Be his traveling companion.”



 

“I’m sorry, Cerebus…” she replied. “But I can’t.” She noted that he was about to cry, his eyes welling with tears.


 

“Please...you can’t leave Cerebus, Ebony! YOU’VE BEEN HIS ONLY FRIEND IN YEARS!” the aardvark said, breaking down at her feet, sobbing.



 

“Cerebus, you must understand something: I am not welcome in human society, moreso than you are. If I came with you, I would be hunted constantly. Not to mention you yourself would be targeted by the hunters. They take ‘guilt by association’ incredibly seriously.” Ebony replied simply. “So, I have to leave you, for your own safety.”



 

“But where will you go?” Cerebus asked, drying his tears. “You can’t stay anywhere for long, you know. And the hunters...they can’t kill you, as you said yourself.”



 

“You’re right on both accounts.” Ebony said. “Which is why I am going to found my own society. One where everyone can be free from prejudice.”



 

“What you speak of is impossible. A pipe dream.”



 

“Nothing is impossible, Cerebus, as long as you work for it.” Ebony said, before whispering three words that sent Cerebus into shock. “I love you.” With that, she kissed his cheek and left, flying until she was naught more than a speck on the horizon. He kept staring at the sky for a while, until the sun had long since set, in the hope that Ebony would return. When that did not happen, he began his long trek back to Ulfham, where a grand feast and a lustful Baxterras were waiting for him. Cerebus noted that the food did not taste as good or the sex with Baxterras was not as pleasurable without Ebony there with him. He remedied this by getting incredibly hammered. And yet even that didn’t feel as good.



 

The next morning, as the sun rose over the horizon, Cerebus drunkenly got onto his new horse, and wandered far and away from the city-state of Ulfham, onwards to his next adventure.

Spoiler

NOTES/TRIVIA:

First appearances: Cerebus, Ebony

-This episode is a partial remake of the original Cerebus lit's pilot, "City of the Dead".

-Does the name "Ebony" seem familiar? It should: she is another incarnation of the character from "Power Rangers: Multiverse Force", who is in turn based on the protagonist of the infamous fanfic "My Immortal".

-Cerebus has two catchphrases that first appear in this episode: "Tarim!" and "By Clovis' [X]!".

-There are several references to the video game "Dwarf Fortress", one of my favorites: Urist is the generic name for dwarves used by the fandom, and "Sankis" comes from the Let's Play "Boatmurdered". Adamantine, the depiction of necromancy, the divine language, and the description of hell also come from the game.

-The design of the Tower of the Necromancers was inspired by Barad-dur, Sauron's lair from "Lord of the Rings".

-The famous inscription on the gates of Hell from "Dante's Inferno" is used here as the initial warning on the door of the Tower. This isn't the first time I've reference Dante's famous poem (see "The Laughter of Thirsting Gods: Part I" from PR: MVF).

-The second warning is taken from this article.

 

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I will be writing the next episode once I am able to get around to it. Just don't expect me to be as coarse and as gore-filled as Renegade was. Don't worry, it will still be good, though! It will be called, "A Fistful of Gold Pieces", and it will be a parody of "A Fistful of Dollars!" I hope that whets your appetites for now! :D Enough said! ;)

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Here's my first episode! I hope you're ready for it! /

If one wishes to be a tyrant in the vast, untamed world, than heed this warning well. Don't tangle with the likes of the Earth-pig born, or the safety of your life cannot be guaranteed over the long term.”

~The Green Hood, date and original source unknown.

A Fistful of Gold Pieces”

In a dusty, dry desert, long forsaken by water and common decency, the only things that find their home here, are the likes of snakes, vultures, and the occasional tumbleweed. And yet, even in this vast, unforgiving terrain, there are people who have tried to make their home, and their living, out in the blistering heat. And yet, as often happens in Acheron, whenever usually decent folk try to make an honest living in a frontier town, there come vicious, ruthless archers who come fast on horse-back, to scare the townsfolk into doing their evil bidding. This particular town, being mentioned, has become so destitute and forlorn, any knowledge of its original name has faded, even from the memory of the elders. It is now known simply as Daltonville, so named because of a ruthless band of brothers, who have usurped the town, and are using the townspeople to run their arduous gold-digging operations in the hot sun. To make matters worse, the Dalton brothers are with-holding, even the basic necessities from these towns-people. Water, food, shade, good health, even a discreet spot to relieve themselves; none of these can be had without working for the Daltons. And there is no relief to be found in the town. The town is run right down the middle, on two opposite sides, by two dueling Daltons. By name, they go by Dastardly, and Dirty Dalton. Even though Dalton brothers are notorious for dueling against each other, neither one will refuse to give up their claim to the town, or risk their own lives to put an end to the other. So all the towns-people can do, is endure, until the day that a brave warrior will come along, and rid the town from the plague of Daltons, that have been ravaging their land...

Walking through the dusty sand and the sweltering winds, is the Earth-pig born, Cerebus. Walking and drinking, trying to forget and numb the pain of the memory of Ebony, without much success. Never one to think about saving some supplies for the future, he has already run out of booze and food. Cerebus says: “By Terim, how did Cerebus ever find himself here? Cerebus must find a near-by town, or else Cerebus will surely shrivel up from thirst.”

Than Cerebus looks around, and sees a row of wooden houses and buildings, shimmering off in the near-by distance! It would almost certainly be mistaken for a mirage if going on by sight alone, but the sounds of hooting and hollering from this town, make it clear to Cerebus, that the town is indeed real! Cerebus says: “It seems that Terim is smiling on Cerebus! Cerebus shall slake my thirst in this strange, small town, until Cerebus can figure out where Cerebus is going next.”

Cerebus starts walking forward, until a mysterious voice says: “Stop!”

Cerebus turns around, and quickly unsheathes his sword, and looks at a mysterious stranger, taller than he his, wearing a mysterious green robe all around his body, but not posing any immediate threat. Still, never one to take any strange, new occurrence lightly, Cerebus stands his ground with caution. Cerebus shouts: “Who are you stranger?! Reveal yourself!”

The stranger's voice is clearly male, but beyond that, Cerebus can determine nothing about him. The stranger says: “My real name is not important to you now. You may simply refer to me as the Green Hood. The fact of the matter is, I have been documenting things as they are happening in this time, because these events are too important, to be lost to the mists of time.”

Cerebus asks: “What the HELL are you TALKING about?!”

The Green Hood says: “Your language is MOST offensive to me, as is your monochromatic view of the world. You may find that as you continue your journeys, things are not always as simple as they appear to be. You will find complex people, fight evil villains, and travel across many strange, different lands.”

Cerebus asks: “Why do you think that you KNOW what Cerebus will do or not do?!”

The Green Hood says: “Because there is a belief by many, that YOU are the Earth-pig born, who will fulfill the sacred prophecy, and usher in a golden age of peace and prosperity, the likes of which will not be seen again for another 14,000 years.”

Cerebus is intrigued, and says: “A sacred prophecy, huh? That sounds like something Cerebus can get behind! What does Cerebus have to do in order to fulfill this prophecy?”

The Green Hood says: “I'm afraid I cannot guide you through these adventures. I'm afraid this is a path you must carve out on your own. You will surely make mistakes, you will make unlikely companions, unwanted adversaries, and not everyone will like you; some of it warranted, some of it not. But if you truly wish to fulfill this prophecy, and become MORE, than just an Earth-pig born; if you truly ARE the one, who will fulfill the sacred prophecy, you will know it yourself, when you find the ability to fight for something more, than just yourself.”

Cerebus asks: “Something more than just myself? What does THAT even look like?!”

The Green Hood says: “That question is not mine to answer. It is something you must find out for yourself. But I can point you to the start of your long journey. If you truly want to start finding answers about yourself, than go to the nearby town, there are people waiting there for someone like you to help them! There will be gold, there will be liquor, and there will be someone who will prove to be very valuable to Cerebus on his journey!”

Cerebus excitingly asks: “Who will Cerebus meet in this town?!”

The Green Hood simply says: “You will know, soon enough.”

And the Green Hood begins to walk away. Cerebus asks: “Wait! Where are you going?!”

The Green Hood replies: “I go wherever I am needed, and I am no longer needed to send help to the town. It is already on its way. But I am certain that one day, we will meet again. And maybe, someday, you may be able to find out who I TRULY am, when you are ready to accept the possibility of being a complex creature. Until that day comes, I bid you farewell...”

And the Green Hood suddenly vanishes, as if he disappeared RIGHT with the blowing wind! Cerebus says: “There is something very strange about this Green Hood that Cerebus can't put his sword on. But prophecy or none, this town will be a good place for Cerebus, to get his fill of gold and beer! Time to find this person, that the Green Hood has spoken of...”

Cerebus walks onto the main drag of what has been labeled as Daltonville. Despite, the earlier hooting and hollering, that Cerebus has heard earlier, everything is now eerily quiet in this small town. All Cerebus can see, as he's walking, looking for a place to get his fill, are nervous-looking people, either quickly running inside and locking their doors, or taking quick glances through the shadows of the drapes in their open air windows. Cerebus suddenly smells something funny, and he looks around, and he sees a very crudely drawn sign that points to a place in the ground, where a big hole has been dug, that is CLEARLY not for anyone to go down, because the sign as written, says: “Shitting Spot: 5 Gold pieces, DON'T be chintzy!”

And sure enough, Cerebus gazes in bewilderment as an elderly, old man, quickly runs toward the hole, puts five gold pieces into the big, glass jar, than quickly removes his trousers, and does his, 'business', in a way that even CEREBUS finds repulsive! Cerebus says to himself: “Forget saving the PEOPLE! These people need to learn a little something called common decency!”

Eventually, Cerebus finds what he's looking for. A place, with big red letters, called “Dastardly Dalton's Smiling Saloon.” And in smaller, red letters, reads: “Drink and gawk at your OWN risk!”

Cerebus shrugs says: “Cerebus doesn't know what this 'gawk' means, but as long as Cerebus can drink, than that's for Cerebus!”

Cerebus walks into the saloon, and all matter of uncouth, barbaric low-lifes are hanging out in the saloon, while a seemingly Western tune version of the “Tatooine Cantina Band Music” plays in the back-ground. A Black-haired man, wearing a brown, cowboy-like hat, with a black mustache, beady eyes, and wearing clothes that are both fancy and seemingly DRIPPING with snake-skin oil, jostles the drink-mixer of the saloon awake, and in a Southern-type drawl, he says: “Get a look at this, Dry Dalton, we've got a live one here!”

And in a dry-type voice, the pale, bald-headed man wearing a monocle and fancy clothes, Dry Dalton replies: “A live one? We haven't had one of those in a while, Dastardly! Maybe we should treat him to a drink and a show!”

Dastardly Dalton chuckles, and says: “I'll get the saucy ringer out! She ALWAYS knocks them off their feet!”

Dry Dalton says: “You sure do like to make MONKEYS out of these rubes!”

Dastardly Dalton says: “Why not? Business is business! And it's always business!”

And Dastardly Dalton rushes off into the back room. Cerebus makes his way to the counter, and unable to see anything above the counter due to his short height, he gets up on a high chair, in order to see his drink selections properly. Cerebus asks: “May Cerebus ask what you and that tall man were talking about?”

Dry Dalton says: “Merely talking about our best business move for ourselves today! What would you like on this hot day?!”

Cerebus sharply says: “Something STRONG; and something wet!”

Dry Dalton eagerly says: “OOH! Straight AND to the point! We like that in a customer! I'll get you the Dry Dalton Deluxe!”

Cerebus asks: “Just out of curiosity; how much IS this Dry Dalton Deluxe?!”

Dry Dalton says: “Normally, we charge ten gold pieces. Five for the drink, and five for the show! But for you, our SPECIAL guest, the drink is on the house, and the show...well, we'll let YOU decide how much you want to give...HER!!!!”

And Dry Dalton passes the potent mixture to Cerebus! Now, normally, the mixture of moth-balls, dragon sauce, horse-radish, ghost peppers, and Tequila Sunrise would be powerful enough to knock out a raging BULL!!!! But Cerebus, having had a LONG history of drinking such strong mixes in his life; his fur merely stands on end, on the back of his tail! Than Cerebus turns around in his chair, and looks on, as the show begins to start!

And a pair of shapely legs steps out, as a blonde-haired woman, wearing nothing more than a gold coin-plated bra and bikini, steps out to soft drum music. Dastardly Dalton says: “For your discerning entertainment pleasure this afternoon; our top draw in this town; ladies, gentlemen, and aardvark, the one and only, Red Sophia!”

In a sultry, sweet voice, Red Sophia starts singing her rendition of “Why Don't You Do Right?”; with her own suitable lyrics of course. Red Sophia sings: “You had plenty of money, when you were 22. You let other women make a fool of you. Why don't you do right like some other men do? Get out of here, get me some money to. You're sitting down wondering what it's all about. If you got no money, they will put you out. Why don't you do right like some other men do? Get out of here, get me some money to. If you had prepared years ago, you wouldn't be wandering from door to door. Why don't you do right like some other men do? Get out of here, get me some money to.”

Than she approaches close to Cerebus, and teasingly touches him, as if she's singing DIRECTLY to him! Red Sophia sings: “Get out of here, get me some money to. Why don't you do right like some other men, do?” / And the sultry song ends as everyone in the saloon, out of fear or not, applauds loudly!

Cerebus suddenly perks up as Red Sophia goes to her dressing room, and Cerebus asks: “Who is that woman's name?”

Dry Dalton says: “Her name is Red Sophia. Where she comes from, we have no Earthly idea, nor do we much care! All we care about is whether or not she can knock them off their feet! And she NEVER disappoints! I've got a feeling, she wants a guy like YOU; to help her 'out', so to speak!”

Cerebus, drunk both off booze and with lust, eagerly says: “Cerebus MUST get to know this Red Sophia BETTER! She MUST be the one Cerebus was meant to know!”

Cerebus heads up to Red Sophia's dressing room, which at least has a swinging, wooden door unlike the rest of the poor town. Cerebus knocks on it, and Cerebus asks: “Woman, acquaintance would like to meet your Cerebus! I mean, meet acquaintance like would to Cerebus your! I mean, Cerebus your acquaintance like would to meet your!”

Red Sophia, still dressed in her show-gear, opens the door, and she simply says: “For future reference, when you're trying to introduce yourself to a woman, especially one of my exceptional status, it might be a good idea to do it, when you're NOT completely drunk like a skunk!”

Cerebus shakes his head, and regains some of his composure! Cerebus says: “You must forgive Cerebus, if that is actually possible! Cerebus doesn't get much practice having to actually 'talk' with people, as it were.”

Red Sophia eyes Cerebus, as if 'sizing him up.' And while she inwardly LIKES what she seems, she acts as though she is potentially disinterested, mainly saying: “You're not wearing any pants!”

Cerebus says: “Cerebus has never needed them, being an Earth-pig born. They just act as a liability in combat, and they DON'T allow Cerebus to breathe where Cerebus really NEEDS it!”

Red Sophia says: “You're a warrior, aren't you? You must be, otherwise, you wouldn't be carrying that insanely huge sword around!”

Cerebus says: “Cerebus is the finest warrior you will ever meet in all of Estarcion, or Acheron for that matter! Terim has been good to Cerebus in that regard!”

Red Sophia says: “And judging by your 'immense package', I would say that puberty has been EXCEPTIONALLY kind to you!”

Cerebus says: “Cerebus just works with whatever Cerebus was given!”

Red Sophia says: “So, what are you here for; business, or pleasure?”

Cerebus says: “If you're so inclined, both!”

Red Sophia scoffs, and she says: “Oh, you're another one of THOSE types of warriors, who think that they can just 'have their way' with any woman alive, just because of their fighting skills, or because of their package! But there's something you need to know about me, I can be QUITE capable with a sword if I am needed to! For instance, I will NEVER give sex to ANY man, unless they are able to defeat that man in fair combat!”

Cerebus merely responds: “That is the single stupidest thing that Cerebus has ever heard! And furthermore, if you're so good with a sword, why are you working for THESE bozo's?!”

Red Sophia gets close to him, and whispers quietly: “Keep it on the down-low, but I'm not exactly 'working' for these creeps because I enjoy it! I'm not sure if you've noticed, but this entire town is being exploited by a bunch of creeps! They're forcing these towns-people to pay for EVERYTHING! Even that, 'Pooping Pit'!”

Cerebus says: “It's called a 'Shitting Spot', and that's PRECISELY what people seem to do when they need to relieve themselves! The question is, why PAY to do what is absolutely necessary?”

Red Sophia says: “These Dalton Brothers may be creeps, but they're NOT unskilled! They are EXPERT archers! Riding on horse-back, they are able to hit a target from 400 feet away, and hit something as small as a garbanzo bean on a wooden fence!”

Cerebus merely shrugs his shoulders, and he says: “Cerebus has fought much worse, AND far more competent! Cerebus will take care of these creeps! What exactly will Cerebus have to do?”

Red Sophia looks at Cerebus strangely and asks: “First, answer me one question. Do you ALWAYS refer to yourself in the third-person?!”

Cerebus says: “Cerebus does not know who this 'third-person' is, Cerebus merely talks the way that Cerebus has always talked!”

Red Sophia still looks at Cerebus weirdly, but decides to drop it, and she just says: “I guess we could STILL make something work!”

Cerebus says: “So, did you happen to have anything in mind?”

Red Sophia says: “The double-agent play. You pretend to want to work for Dirty Dalton, the brother of Dastardly Dalton. But in reality, you're really working for me!”

Cerebus asks: “How does Cerebus KNOW that Cerebus can trust you?!”

And before Cerebus can even blink, Red Sophia draws out her sword, and stops INCHES from his left ear! Red Sophia says: “If I wanted to cut off PART of your left ear, I could do it BEFORE you even had a chance to BLINK! The only reason I don't do so, is because I personally despise having to shed blood needlessly! Violence isn't always the answer!”

Cerebus says: “You're faster than Cerebus initially gave you credit for, but Cerebus has never ran into a situation that didn't end up requiring Cerebus to fight!”

Red Sophia thinks about it, and she says: “All right, how about a little incentive? You take care of these Dalton brothers; not just for my sake, but this whole town. And, depending on your, 'performance,' I will personally accompany you as your, 'morality pet' wherever you may go.”

Cerebus says: “The journey that Cerebus travels on, does not know where it will ultimately lead. It is NOT for the faint of heart!”

Red Sophia says: “I can take care of myself, and anybody else we may end up picking up! I'm NOT just another pretty face, you know!”

Cerebus says: “So, you're saying you won't LEAVE Cerebus, once this adventure has begun?”

Red Sophia says: “I'm not scared, I'm not incompetent, and I'm not a cynic! I will NEVER abandon you on your journey! You can COUNT on that!”

Cerebus says: “That remains to be seen. Actions speak louder than words.”

Red Sophia says: “So, does that mean you won't cause excessive HARM to the Dalton brothers?”

Cerebus seriously looks at her, as if TRYING to wonder for just WHAT purpose Red Sophia would ASK such a question! But seeing as how Cerebus is a...pretty POOR judge on just why a woman would ask him a question of ANY nature; Cerebus merely says: “Cerebus makes it a point to never make a promise that Cerebus can't keep. Just know this; Cerebus isn't noble, and Cerebus isn't nice!”

Red Sophia asks: “So, what separates YOU from the Dalton brothers?”

Cerebus says: “One important difference; Cerebus NEVER lies about Cerebus' true intentions! And you would do best to remember that difference well!”

And Cerebus leaves to enact his plan; and Red Sophia can't help but be slightly impressed by Cerebus' sincere, if blunt, honesty! Cerebus heads across the street, to a building that reads in grimy, brown, dusty letters: “Dirty Dalton's Gambling Hall”. And in smaller, brown letters, reads: “Try your luck, if you DARE!”

Cerebus groans, and says to himself: “Cerebus cannot BELIEVE the audacity of these people!”

As soon as Cerebus walks into the Gambling Hall, he immediately notices the change in the very AIR he is smelly! While nowhere NEAR as smelly as the “Shitting Spot”, or as slimy as the Saloon, the air seems to be FILLED with dirt and dust, either over the dumb, or the desperate, who are trying their luck to win at the RIGGED games of chance! Looking around, Cerebus sees a roulette table, a game of Craps, Poker, and a shell game that uses ACTUAL living turtles! The dirt and dust, seems to becoming from one man! A tall, burly, brown shaggy-haired man, that seems to have NEVER taken a BATH in his entire life! Cerebus, dead-pan, asks himself: “Gee, I wonder if THAT is Dirty Dalton?!”

As if seeking to answer his question, a small, dwarfish, little man with brown hair and a brown hat, runs up to the tall man, and asks: “Who is that man, Dirty Dalton?! I have never seen him before?!”

And Dirty Dalton's intelligence, or rather, severe LACK thereof, comes on display immediately! Dirty says: “Gee, I don't know, Dinky Dalton. Perhaps we ought to run some games of CHANCE against him! Deadpan Dalton, set up a game of cards against this...creature thingy!”

Cerebus angrily mutters: “Cerebus is NOT a creature thingy! Cerebus is an AARDVARK!”

A tall, thin, Goth-looking, black-haired man, wearing lots of black eye-liner, wearing black clothes, but his skin as pale and plain looking as snow, unenthusiastically says: “Hey. I'm Deadpan Dalton. So named because over the course of my entire, uneventful life, I've never cracked a smile or uttered a single joke, or said anything remotely funny. So come with me, we're going to see how lucky you are at playing cards if you're up for it.”

Cerebus sarcastically says: “GEE, you're Mr. Sunshine, aren't you?!”

Not picking up the sarcasm, Deadpan Dalton says: “I'm allergic to sunshine, I break out in hives, which is why Dirty and Dinky never let me out of this saloon. Anyways, we're going to be playing Full House. I'm sure you've heard of it. We each get a set of cards, and whoever has the higher scoring set of cards will win the house pot of 5,000 gold pieces, or a Fistful of Gold Pieces. That would make for a nice title for a chapter of your biography, wouldn't it?”

Cerebus doesn't understand Deadpan's way of talking, and Cerebus merely says: “For the life of Cerebus, you do not make yourself very clear to understand.”

Deadpan Dalton says: “I'm not supposed to. Anyways, here are YOUR four cards, and I'll pick MY four cards!”

Deadpan ruffles through the cards, while Cerebus DISCREETLY notices that every FOURTH card that Deadpan picks out until he picks out four, is discreetly marked with a TINY red mark, that would almost certainly be MISSED to the untrained eye! Deadpan picks out his cards, and even though he still HAS a good hand, he unenthusiastically says: “Wow. I've got a rare royal flush with a Jack of Diamonds, Ace of Spades, King of Clubs, and a Queen of Hearts. What do YOU have stranger?”

But Cerebus has FINALLY lost his patience (or what little he HAD to begin with, and STABS his sword through Deadpan's heart, and sharply says: “I got two pairs of three's!”

Deadpan weakly says: “Beats me.”

And Deadpan drops over...well, DEAD! Dinky suddenly rushes and says: “Deadpan! What did you DO to him, you...rapscallion?!”

Cerebus scoff and says: “Rapscallion?! Look who's talking! How do you expect ANYONE to win against the house, when the house itself CLEARLY plays with a RIGGED deck?!”

Dinky simply sputters and says: “WHAT?! How did YOU know that this house used a loaded deck to swindle customers out of their money?!”

All the paying customers shout: “WHAT?!!!”

Cerebus smiles and says: “Simple. First off, Cerebus NOTICED the red marks that Deadpan pulled out on every single card he used to try to beat Cerebus, forgetting that a SHARP sword BEATS a Royal Flush every single time! Second, you just told EVERYONE in the gambling hall HERE, you MORON!”

Dinky looks nervous, and shouts: “Dirty! Call the brothers! There's a dangerous BARBARIAN here! You've got to GET--!!”

But Dinky NEVER gets to finish his thought, because Cerebus quickly SWIPES Dinky's head clear off his shoulders! Cerebus says: “Now you can be called DECAPITATED Dalton!”

Than, four identical looking Dalton brothers suddenly swoop down, hidden in the rafters of the roof of the gambling hall! In unison, from left to right, they say: “We're the Dalton Brother quadruplets! Damon, Darren, Derrick, and Dillon! We're the best archers in ALL of Acheron! And YOU better run for your life!”

Cerebus merely says: “You don't scare Cerebus. You don't know that Cerebus NEVER runs away from ANYONE! The Dalton quadruplets say: “How INTERESTING! Well, you have until the count of FIVE to change your mind, and surrender ALL your gold pieces to us, to make up for killing two of our comrades!”

Cerebus quickly looks around, and sees a GIANT chandelier with candles, hanging OVER the four Dalton Brothers! The Dalton quadruplets say: “One, two, three, four--!!”

Cerebus shouts: “Five!

And Cerebus THROWS his sword in an arcing motion, that manages to CUT the rope holding the chandelier up, which falls ONTO the Dalton Brother quadruplets, CRUSHING them BELOW the wooden floor! The lit candles IGNITE the place on fire, and Cerebus says: “What are you waiting for?! Get out of here NOW!!!!”

The remaining spectators waste NO time in complying with Cerebus' orders, except for Dirty Dalton, who's too busy SCRAMBLING for the gold pieces scattered around the building, instead of trying to escape with his life, and his clothes ignite on fire! And he simply runs around, SCREAMING like an idiot, making the fire on him WORSE, until the fire COMPLETELY consumes him, and he's reduced to a burnt HUSK of a man! Cerebus says: “Eh, he was too dumb to live anyways!”

Cerebus and the other spectators rush out of the burning building, and they watch in fascination as it BURNS to the ground! Dastardly and Dry Dalton come out of their saloon, with their hands CLENCHED in rage, and Dastardly asks: “What, have, you, DONE?!!!”

Cerebus says: “Cerebus merely did you a favor, and RID you of your rival Dalton Brothers! That IS what your loyal employee, Red Sophia, TOLD Cerebus to do!”

Dastardly angrily says: “I merely wanted you to TRICK them into running out of town, so WE could have the ENTIRE business ALL to ourselves! How are we supposed to do that if HALF of it has burnt to the ground?! What gives you the RIGHT to do that to us?!”

Cerebus says: “First off, your businesses are dishonest and crooked! You look for every single conceivable way you can to make a few gold pieces off these people, and you take it! Secondly, you're both hypocrites and liars! BOTH of you! Did you think that just because Cerebus was some sort of stranger, that Cerebus wouldn't immediately see through your crooked game?! You never had any ACTUAL animosity towards your other brothers, you just PRETENDED to, so that these towns-people wouldn't see THROUGH your little ruse of trying to control both sides of the town, and make these people THINK that they didn't have any power AGAINST you OR your brothers!”

Dry Dalton smirks, and says: “No POWER, huh?! We'll SEE about THAT!!!! Dangerous Dalton, come hither! And bring that HOSTAGE!!!!”

The sounds of a woman SCREAMING are heard, and Cerebus and the rest of the towns-people hear the sounds of some HEAVY footsteps THUDDING into the ground, until the sight of a muscular, brawny, red-haired man, looking to be about 6 feet, eleven inches comes into view, holding Red Sophia HOSTAGE!!!! Dastardly turns around and gleefully says: “You see what kind of power I wield?! This is DANGEROUS Dalton! The biggest, meanest, nastiest, and most POWERFUL of the Dalton Brothers! That's why the other Dalton brothers never DARED to make a move against me! And I also use him as an insurance policy, so if anyone even THINKS about not paying up for something, ESPECIALLY the Shitting Spot, there will be HELL to pay for them!”

Red Sophia struggles, and she angrily shouts: “Let me go, you muscular CREEP!!!!”

Dastardly Dalton gets a WICKED smile, and he says: “Oh, I'm afraid I can't DO that, you FILTHY little SLUT!!!! This CREEPY low-life needs to be taught a LESSON in what HAPPENS when you CROSS the Dalton brothers! I'm going to DEFILE you and PERSONALLY work your body ALL over ANYWAY I want TO, doing every single NASTY thing I can THINK of, and if Cerebus tries to STOP me, I'll have Dangerous Dalton BREAK that pretty little NECK of yours, and I'll defile your dead CORPSE anyways! What do you say to THAT, you filthy WHORE?!!!”

But Red Sophia indicates just WHY she is named Red Sophia, as she gets a CRAZED, blood-red look in her eyes, and she defiantly says: “Red Sophia is NO WHORE!!!!”

And she KICKS Dangerous Dalton in the balls, than takes out her SWORD, and IMMEDIATELY starts SLASHING Dastardly Dalton, once, twice, thrice, four, five, six, seven, eight...she cuts Dangerous Dalton SO many times, that Cerebus loses COUNT altogether! And Red Sophia doesn't STOP until Dangerous Dalton is COMPLETELY cut to RIBBONS!!!! Even Cerebus is impressed by Red Sophia's ruthlessness, and he says: “WOAH! Cerebus CLEARLY underestimated you!”

Dry Dalton starts shaking nervously, and he says: “But that sword was for SHOW!!!! You're not supposed to...!”

Red Sophia angrily seethes, SPITS on the cut corpse of Dangerous Dalton, and finishes: “Be able to CUT anyone to pieces?! You despicable pieces of FILTH TRASH, Red Sophia---DAMMIT!!!! Now I'M starting to talk in the third-person just like Cerebus! Anyways, I was NEVER just your PRETTY little employer, keeping tabs on your competition, and working the customers over! I was aware of your little game, I just never realized just how LOW you were willing to stoop to keep your pathetic little positions over this town! I had a REAL sword, and I swiped out your SHOW sword AGES ago! I could have cut you up anytime I wanted to, and the only reason I didn't, was because I thought you might actually have a little DECENCY!!!! But you've shown your true colors to me! And NOW you must face the WRATH of the she-warrior, Red Sophia!!!!”

Dastardly Dalton quickly says: “Dry Dalton; protect your family legacy and ME!!!!”

Dry Dalton scoffs and says: “Screw the family LEGACY! I want to LIVE!!!!”

And Dry Dalton tries to QUICKLY run away, only for Cerebus to throw his sword forward VERTICALLY, cutting his body in two, separating his TOP half from his lower half, and he bleeds to death and loses consciousness! Dastardly Dalton says: “What kind of FREAKS are you?! You think you can just WALK in here and take away EVERYTHING the Dalton Brothers have worked for?! We MADE this town! We OWN it! This town would be NOTHING without us!”

Cerebus says: “It would be a lot NICER, that's for sure! Now, here's a sadistic question for YOU; since you seem to like them so much! How would you like Cerebus to KILL you?!”

Red Sophia gets a sly look, and she says: “Oh, death would be MUCH too good for a sniveling little COWARD, like Dastardly Dalton! After all, if you KILL him, he learns NOTHING! Why don't we show him what HAPPENS to someone who TRIES to cross Red Sophia?!”

Cerebus asks: “What did you have in mind?!”

Red Sophia says: “I have something VERY fitting in mind for a piece of SHIT like Dastardly Dalton! Put HIM in the Shitting Spot!!!!”

Dastardly Dalton desperately says: “Not the Shitting Spot! NOT the SHITTING SPOT!!!! ANYTHING but the SHITTING SPOT!!!!”

But Cerebus and Red Sophia pay him no heed, and throw him RIGHT down into the Shitting Spot, which is filled with the most disgusting sorts of human AND animal excrement that one can imagine! Cerebus smiles, as he looks to the towns-people and he says: “Citizens of Daltonville, you're now free to do your 'business' wherever you may please. But first, why don't you exact some poetic justice on Dastardly Dalton, by BURYING him in something that he tried to profit from?!”

Dastardly Dalton screams: “Don't DO what I THINK you're going to DO!!!! PLEASE let me OUT! I'll give you ANYTHING!!!!”

Cerebus merely says: “If you TRULY had anything that Cerebus wanted, Cerebus has already TAKEN it from you! And now, I'm taking your DIGNITY and life with it! Citizens, if you will!!!!”

Than everyone in the whole town gathers, removes their trousers or dresses, and squats really hard, as Dastardly shouts: “No, NO, NO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!” (PLOP!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!)

And the sound of Dastardly's screams die off, as he is BURIED in a pile of human excrement! The old geezer, that Cerebus saw earlier, walks up to Cerebus and says: “On behalf of the people in this town, we would like to thank you for ridding us of the menace of the Dalton Brothers! Those men were EVIL fiends, trying to run our lives! But you two, took it upon yourselves to take down these Dalton Brothers, and save us from salvation! How can we ever repay you?”

Red Sophia says: “First, do one thing. Can you do SOMETHING about that 'Pooping Pit? Maybe build an enclosed building around it, so that people can do their business in PRIVACY?!”

The old geezer says: “Yes, Red Sophia!”

Cerebus says: “Secondly, we need some money, food, and liquor before we head out on our way. Not all of your money, just 5,000 gold pieces will do.”

The old geezer says: “We can give you a three week supply of food and liquor. And 5,000 gold pieces is a small price to pay to have our lives back!”

The people give the gold pieces to Cerebus, and the supply of food and liquor to Red Sophia! Cerebus turns to Red Sophia, and he says: “So, where should Cerebus and Cerebus' morality pet go next?”

Red Sophia says: “Hold up! I said I would join you based on your performance today! I wanted you to do it WITHOUT causing unnecessary violence and blood-shed! I did NOT say to go nuts!”

Cerebus says: “Would you PREFER that Cerebus had done NOTHING, and you had gone ON with your life, ignoring the SLIMY advances of Dastardly Dalton until he had gotten you ALL alone, with NOTHING to defend yourself?! You weren't exactly merciful with Dangerous Dalton when you cut him to pieces YOURSELF, you know!”

Red Sophia, despite not WANTING to admit that she DID go nuts herself, just merely says: “The fact that I USED violence MYSELF, to keep myself safe today, doesn't make YOU right!”

Cerebus says: “Of course not! Being RIGHT, would make Cerebus right! See how that works?! Besides, I thought you were only interested in having sex with a man that you had beaten in fair combat! But, you didn't beat ME in fair combat, now, did you?!”

Red Sophia gets a sly smile, and she says: “Of course, I never said the sex HAD to BE with the man that I beat in fair combat, did I? I mean, I DID technically beat Dangerous Dalton in combat, didn't I?! And, before you say I should have sex with him, I completely cut him up to ribbons, so...I obviously can't have sex with HIM now, can I?!”

Cerebus says: “Are you saying, that you're going to utilize a LOOPHOLE to have sex with Cerebus?!”

Red Sophia smiles, and she says: “I won't tell anyone if YOU won't! Why don't we head out? We can find a traveling caravan somewhere, and see where our adventures take us from there?!”

As Cerebus and Red Sophia walk out of Daltonville, Cerebus smiles lovingly, and he says: “Red Sophia, Cerebus has the feeling that this is the beginning of a BEAUTIFUL friendship...!” /

Episode Notes: First appearance of a being known as The Green Hood. He will appear periodically throughout Cerebus' adventures in season one, often to kick-start his adventure at wherever Cerebus will be needed. First appearance of canon character, Red Sophia, who, despite having the same name as her canon namesake, is actually a hybrid characterization of BOTH Red Sophia and Jaka, two of Cerebus' canon love interests! Featured music in this episode: A Western version of the “Tatoonie Band Cantina Music,” and “Why Don't You Do Right?”; sung by Red Sophia.

Personal Notes: There were some tropes that I wanted to introduce into this episode of “Cerebus,” which will surely make their appearance again in other episodes. One overall trope that will appear throughout the story arc of “Cerebus”, is the “Sliding Scale of Optimism Versus Cynicism.” The other, is “Jerkass Has a Point.” While Cerebus is not exactly the best character in his OWN story, the reason why HE'S the central protagonist of his own story, is that unlike the villains he fights, he is HONEST about his own character faults! Another trope I used was “Rule of Cool.” That's why a Western version of the “Tatoonie Band Cantina Music,” and “Why Don't You Do Right?”, based on the Amy Irving version appearing in “Who Framed Roger Rabbit?”, appear in this episode, despite this episode taking place 14,000 years before EITHER of those pieces of music even came into existence! Finally, the main trope of this episode was a “Fistful of Rehashes.” This episode was loosely based on the Spaghetti Western movie, “A Fistful of Dollars”, which is why the episode is titled “A Fistful of Gold Pieces.” There are other tropes that appear in this story as well, but I will save them for when it comes time to discuss them on the Tropes utilized in “Cerebus” topic thread discussion. I know this episode is a little short compared to Renegade's first episode; just consider this episode as getting my feet wet, and as a warm-up for later episodes that I write for “Cerebus!” / Enough said, true believers!

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CEREBUS THE AARDVARK IN…


 

“THE MANY FACES OF KHEM!”


 

Sometime after freeing the inhabitants of the town formerly known as Daltonville, Cerebus has taken the former dancer and sex slave known as Red Sophia as a traveling partner. Their gold long since spent, the two have joined a trade caravan hailing from one of the larger Acheronian city-states, intending to travel to Qin in order to sell luxury goods for a hefty cut of the profits. However, this expedition to the far east of Estarcion will lead the duo into an adventure that will bring to light an aspect of the earth-pig born that neither he nor Sophia expected to confront...


 

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It had been several weeks since Cerebus and Sophia had joined the caravan from Firenze, and they had gotten used to a more “civilized” lifestyle; one of clean beds, freshly-cooked food, and all the alcohol that they could drink and not have to pay for. And yet, things had grown stale and boring, especially for Cerebus. The aardvark did not consider himself civilized in any sense of the word, though as he had noted during his adventure in Daltonville, that applied to him and only him; those who lived in civilization deserved basic necessities (he oh-so-fondly recalled the “Shitting Spot” the now-dead Dalton brothers had set up, for one) and there would be those who would take advantage of them. This observation caused Cerebus’ mind to wander to another point: this “Green Hood” and the supposedly Sacred Prophecy that he was destined to fulfill. The aardvark, though motivated by this prophecy (along with booze and women), honestly doubted that he himself could usher in a new age for the lands of Estarcion; one where there was peace and prosperity? This was impossible in his eyes, especially as he had seen firsthand many a time where rulers grew hungry with power. He was only mortal, and just as susceptible to corruption.


 

His thoughts were interrupted by Sophia opening his door. She was dressed her usual attire of a chainmail bikini, her breasts trying desperately to breath against the silvery metal. Suffice to say, they weren’t succeeding if the chafing and slight swelling were anything to go by. She stared at Cerebus, her ocean blue eyes staring lustfully at him. The two had been lovers since they’d left Daltonville, though the sex they had was not up to Sophia’s standards (or at the very least, up to this point). In contrast to her reputation as a fierce warrior, she was almost pacifistic, preferring her words rather than her sword. Well, at least until she was pushed to her limits. And though she had, according to rumors, taken a vow of chastity so that she would not sleep with a man unless he had bested her in fair combat, she had made an exception with Cerebus. How, one might have asked? It was simple, really: exploiting the wording of her vow so that she could claim Cerebus had indeed bested her in fair combat. And so far, it was succeeding...somewhat, which brings us back to the original point: the love they made had been inadequate, at least from Sophia’s perspective. But why? Mainly because it often involved fighting and bloodshed to get to the point of lovemaking. And with Sophia’s constant horniness and near-pacifistic nature, this made things very difficult. This was why she had been grateful to join the caravan; with how well-defended it was, she and Cerebus did not need to worry about battle to fornicate. Her thoughts were interrupted, just like Cerebus’ were, by the aardvark’s piercing stare. “Yes, Sophia?” he grunted. “What is it you need?”


 

“Oh, nothing.” she purred, slowly slipping off her top.


 

Cerebus continued staring at her, not fazed at all. “...Slipping off your top does not equal ‘nothing’. It’s obvious you wish to fuck.”


 

“So what if I do?” Sophia retorted, rubbing her massive mammaries in both an attempt to seduce Cerebus and soothe the slight pain her chestbags were feeling. “Don’t you like me? I’m your giiiirl…” The aardvark slowly blinked, still not reacting to Sophia’s advances.


 

“You are not Cerebus’ ‘girl’. He does not feel that way towards you.” he answered with brutal honesty. “And moreover, Cerebus is not feeling aroused at all right now. If you ask him later, then maybe he will consider making love.”


 

Sophia was fuming now, she stared at Cerebus with an angry pout, crossing her arms over her breasts. “And pray tell, why do you feel like not making love?”


 

And so, Cerebus tried to explain about the ‘Sacred Prophecy’, which only confused Sophia the more he got into it and his concerns about the implications of such. Seeing this confusion made Cerebus grow more and more irritated, until he finally gave up out of frustration. “Cerebus swears, talking to you is like speaking to a wall at times!”


 

Immediately, Sophia burst into tears, running out of the room. Cerebus stared at the spot where she had been, immediately feeling guilty. Sophia, wait!” he called, running after her as fast as his short little legs could carry him. She turned to him with a glare. “Listen,” the aardvark began. “Cerebus did not mean what he just said. It’s just...he is dealing with a lot right now.”

 

“I understand.” she replied. “I’ll take some of the blame for not really getting this whole Sacred Prophecy thing.”



 

“It’s alright. Prophecies are a complicated thing.” Cerebus replied. They stood in silence for a time, not saying a word until the aardvark broke the silence. “Sooo…”



 

“Sooo…” Sophia replied, idly twirling her hair.



 

“You were offering to make love to Cerebus?” the aardvark suggested.




 

Sophia gave him a large, shit-eating grin, her eyes lidding. “Why, yes. Yes I was. I’m assuming you want to take me up on that?”



 

Cerebus grinned back at her, his bulge springing forth. “Indeed, Cerebus does.” Sophia walked over to his bed, laying down and spreading her legs as she removed the bottom of her outfit. Cerebus crawled onto the bed, getting on top of Sophia and parting her lips with his length, kissing her breasts as he did so. She gasped, letting out a long lewd moan. With a smirk, Cerebus began to thrust into her, giving off his own moans. Eventually, they both climaxed, the aardvark laying on top of the woman and panting.



 

“That was fantastic.” Sophia complimented, stroking Cerebus’ fur.



 

“Thank you.” Cerebus said, licking at Sophia’s nipples idly. “Cerebus hopes he satisfied you enough.”



 

“Oh, you most certainly did.” Sophia replied with a purr. They stayed like that for a while, neither one saying anything. This gave way to slumber, and both lovers fell into a deep sleep.



 

Cerebus was immediately jolted awake from a pleasant dream of alcohol, food, and women, falling off of Sophia with a yelp, followed by an, “OW!”.  This caused Sophia to awaken in turn, and she looked around groggily.



 

“What’s going on?” she asked, rubbing the sleep out of her eyes.



 

“Cerebus does not know, but we’re going to find out.” the aardvark replied, grabbing his sword and dashing out of the room. Following his example, Sophia grabbed her own sword and the two were eventually able to track down the caravan’s leader, a man named Turron. He was a portly, burly man, balding and with a long, scraggly black beard. He was dressed in fine robes, made from the highest quality silk, tailored in the seafaring city of Veneto. He was currently panicking, trying to defend the cargo the caravan was carrying.



 

“Captain, what’s the matter?” Sophia asked. “Who’s attacking us?”



 

“Borealan marauders.” Turron answered. “I wanted to take an alternate route instead of going through Kievan, paying a ferry fee, and going through the lands on the outskirts of Anatolia to Qin.”


 

“So you CHOSE THE LONGER AND MORE DANGEROUS ROUTE?!” Sophia shouted. “DO YOU REALIZE YOU’LL GET US ALL KILLED!?”



 

At this, Turon broke down sobbing, much to Cerebus’ contempt. Here before him was a pitiful, sad sack of shit for a man, who was willing to risk lives in order to get to his destination, and therefore his money, faster. “The Borealans are warmongering hordes, constantly fighting each other and trying to conquer each others’ territory. There is good reason they are feared as ‘the hordes of the East’, Turron. And you did not heed those warnings. You are sad, pathetic, and you sicken Cerebus with your cowardice.” the aardvark said. “He has a good mind to take Sophia and leave you for death.”


 

“Please…” Turon begged. “Just get rid of the Borealans, I will do whatever you ask!”



 

“Whatever Cerebus asks, hmmm?”



 

“Anything at all!”



 

“You will take us back to Firenze. Do what you must, but know this: never venture through Boreala again.” the aardvark growled, before launching himself out of the caravan, sword gripped tightly, onto the grassy steppes. Before him stood a band of ten or so Borealans, all on dirty white horses and clad in heavy armor. Sophia was not far behind, her sword positioned for battle. The leader of this particular band, a man named Klog, yelled something to his warriors that Cerebus could understand. The only Borealan dialect Cerebus knew was a very ancient one, and he surmised that this man likely did not speak it; and even then, he probably wouldn’t have listened. However, Sophia knew Borealan (though not fluently), and what Klog had said immediately enraged her:



 

“MEN! We are going to slaughter this caravan, take their belongings, and capture this animal, as well as this woman! The animal will become our pet, and the woman will become our whore!” Sophia’s eyes began glowing red, and Cerebus knew very well what that meant: things were about to get very ugly, very fast. The next several minutes consisted of Cerebus and Sophia unleashing a bloodbath upon the Borealans and their horses. When the dust cleared, Cerebus and Sophia were the only ones left, the caravan having abandoned them; it was now not far into the distance, which frustrated Cerebus.



 

“Great, they’ve left us behind.” the aardvark complained. “We have no way to return to Firenze, and we will very likely die if we do not find food and water.”



 

Sophia nodded. “We’ll also need to find shelter. There’s no way we’ll survive out here in the open without succumbing to the elements.”



 

Cerebus realized something else: they were practically stuck here in Boreala, since it was landlocked with Anatolia to the east, the Borderlands to the south, the Rus Frontier to the north, and Qin to the west. He and Sophia were basically screwed over. The aardvark began pacing fervently, cursing Tarim under his breath. They had to find a way out of this. They needed a way out of this. Cerebus felt a light go off in his head, and he suddenly had an idea. It would be a risky one, but it might get them out of this, Cerebus reasoned. “The border.”



 

This surprised Sophia, who responded with a “Hmmm?”



 

“The border.” Cerebus repeated, his tone straightforward and blunt. “We venture to the border and cross the mountains into Qin. Once we get there...we’ll get to that bridge when it comes.” Sophia stared at the aardvark blankly, trying to process this information. The border between Boreala and Qin was a treacherous one, most prominently due to how mountainous it was. However, she also knew that Cerebus might have had a point to this idea; after all, there was no other way out of Boreala from where they were standing, so it was better to take the first opportunity they had to escape than to remain stranded. Still gripping her sword, Sophia gave a small nod. “Let’s go.” And off they went.



 

The two wandered for a time, living off of small animals and drinking from rivers when they could get it, with Cerebus slaughtering through many bands of Borealans. This eventually gave him a reputation among the tribes as ‘the Bloodbringer’, a title that would stick with the aardvark till he died.

 

But that is a story for another day.



 

Eventually, the two reached the base of the Khitan Mountains, the range that separated savage Boreala from civilized Qin. The mountains themselves were large gray obelisks interconnected by a winding valley of passes, its only inhabitants being tribes of beast people; what differentiated these creatures from Cerebus, as he pointed out to Sophia as they walked along the path, was that while Cerebus was a full-fledged aardvark, beast people merely had the heads and tails of animals, but entirely human bodies. Sophia was paying attention, but she was also thinking about how that it would take quite a few more days to reach Qin through the pass on foot. She decided that time would pass quickly soon enough, and that they’d be in one of the Qinese cities in no time flat. Cerebus soon fell silent, the aardvark not moving. Sophia turned to look at him, and saw his snout was moving up and down very quickly, as if he were smelling something.



 

“Uhhh, Cerebus? What are you doing?” she questioned, raising an eyebrow.



 

“Shush!” the aardvark replied. “Cerebus is smelling magic near here.” Sophia’s expression turned from confusion to a look of ‘you’ve got to be kidding’.



 

“Really. You can smell magic.” she deadpanned.



 

“Of course.” Cerebus said. “It’s an art that has taken Cerebus years to master.”



 

“All right then, Mr. Magic Smeller.” Sophia replied. “Where’s this magic coming from?” Cerebus kept sniffing the air, walking over to a nearby cave. “Oh.” Sophia muttered.



 

“The magic is coming from there.” Cerebus explained. “And...by Tarim, is that what Cerebus thinks it is?” he asked himself, taking a longer and deeper sniff. “Yes, he knows it is! The Eye of Terim!”



 

“...OK, I’m confused. Isn’t Terim the deity you worship?” Sophia asked, puzzled.



 

“Sort of.” Cerebus said. “Cerebus’ religion is...complicated, and not for the faint of heart. Now come on, he’ll try and sum it up as best as he can.”

---------------------------------



 

“In the times before time, there were two great beings: the Male Light and the Female Void. Tarim was the light and Terim was the void. The Light was the perfect individual, a unique and creative sort who made all that he touched excellent in every way. The Void was imperfect, having no imagination and sucking away everything the light made to feel validated.”



 

“...That’s pretty misogynistic if you ask me.” Sophia replied. “The Light is the creative and dominant male, while the Void is the uncreative and submissive female? Your religion is based on that?”



 

“It gets worse.” Cerebus said. “Far worse.”



 

Oh, this oughta be good.”



 

“The Light, wishing to show his dominance over the Void, decided to rape her; for that was all she was him: something that he, the superior male, needed to dominate. However, his rape of the Void ended up shattering her. And slowly, the Light realized what he had done. Out of grief, he took her shards and created the Universe. And from his blood, Tarim created humanity, and from Terim’s dust, he created feminity.”



 

Sophia was horrified; not only was Cerebus’ religion misogynistic, but its creation myth was a direct result of a cosmic rape. And to add insult to injury, it insisted on referring to men and women as if they were two different beasts. Cerebus, for his part, was visibly uncomfortable. He had grown up in a fundamentalist Tarimite community, the women having been basically raised to act as domestic slaves to the men of the town. So it was no wonder he seemed to view the two deities as equals; granted, he disrespected women, but it was mild compared to what Tarim’s religion insisted be done. Not to mention that it despised homosexuality, to the point where the people of Sand Hills Creek would burn them at the stake. “So...what does the Eye have to do with all this?”

 

“It is said that the Eye is one of the few pieces of Terim that managed to survive her rape and shattering intact. Tarim hid it in this cave so that she may be remembered.”



 

“The morality of gods are weird...your god, for example, is a rapist who regretted his decision when it was far too late, and yet his religion encourages the submission of women?” Sophia asked.



 

“The forces of the cosmos are indeed strange and alien.” Cerebus remarked. “It’s best if you don’t dwell on it.” As they continued walking, they began noticing strange, grotesque murals painted onto the cavern walls. One was of a tower (it reminded Cerebus of the Tower of the Necromancers, in fact) with what appeared to be several beams connected to it. Standing at the end of each were several animals: a turtle, a bear, an eagle, a wolf, a bat, a lion, a rat, and a fish. On another wall was a similar picture, only the animals were dead (and in gruesome detail as well), and the tower was collapsing. This filled both Cerebus and Sophia with dread, and they honestly considered running and never looking back. However, they had come this far to see if the Eye of Terim was real, and the promise of a mysterious artifact was too tempting. Besides, thought Cerebus, who knew how much it was worth? And so, they continued on. The images began to grow more and more disturbing as they did, though. There was not only a demonic thing that sat on a throne, dressed in a red cloak and backed by a stormy sky, but massive faces carved into a part of the cave, all male and one demonic, nine in all. Another one showed what appeared to be a crystal ball being formed from liquid screaming faces, surrounded by a group of snake-like humanoids. There seemed to be no rhyme nor reason to these images, as if it was all fueled by some sort of chaos.



 

Before long, Cerebus and Sophia came to a clearing in the exact center of the cave and came face to face with a nightmare-inducing sight. Several of the snake people were slumped against a nearby wall, their bodies bloody and heavily mutilated, their blood used to paint the sinister grinning face to an old man with one massive sharp tooth and swirling red eyes. Hung onto the wall were what appeared to be several wheels, with the bodies of men, women, and children all impaled on them, their eyes gouged out and their bodies positioned in a mocking crucifixion. On a raised platform was the Eye, a pinkish-red crystal ball coated in blood. Through his profuse vomiting at this disgusting ritual, Cerebus could sense something alive within the Eye of Terim. A sort of demon. Suddenly, it all made sense. The Eye of Terim was not, in fact, a part of Terim at all, but instead an object of worship by some devil-cult. Cerebus decided it had to be destroyed, otherwise, who knew who would get their hands on it? As he approached it, sword gripped tightly in his palm, a voice broke through the silence in the cave. “Greetings, travelers, have you come seeking guidance?” Sophia and Cerebus looked towards the direction of the voice to see what appeared to be a man, dressed in flowing black robes. His head, though, was that of a king cobra and his eyes were as red as those of the dark god he worshiped. Those who knew him feared him immensely. He had many names, among them the Red Cobra and the King’s Blade. He, however, preferred to be known as Set the Wrathful. “Ah, I see you are admiring my peoples’ contribution to our faith.”



 

“Contri-contribution to your faith?!” Sophia spat. “What you’ve done is sacrifice people to some dark god!”



 

“Dark god?” Set laughed, sadistic glee in his voice at the memory of all his fellow snake men and snake women sacrificing themselves in the name of the Crimson King. “My dear, the Crimson King will one day bring back the multiverse to its proper, primordial state of Discordia!”



 

“M-multiverse?” Cerebus repeated. “You lie, there are no other worlds than this.” Set glared at him, his eyes narrowing and his next words laced with a dangerous hiss.


 

“A liar? My dear earth-pig, I do not lie. Tell me, what isssss your name?”



 

“My name is Cerebus the Aardvark, snake man. I am a conqueror of many, and have braved things that would kill or terrify any man.” the aardvark replied, drawing his sword.



 

“Well, then, Cerebus…” Set hissed. “Prepare to be sacrificed to the succubus Khem!” Immediately, the Eye of Terim began glowing intensely as a shape began to emerge from it. The thing resembled a shapely woman, but it had nine heads, all resembling the ones from the cave carving. Instead of arms and legs, the “succubus” had a mass of writhing tentacles, all coated with a poisonous aphrodisiac. Cerebus immediately sprang towards Khem, as Sophia handled Set. Before Cerebus could strike her, however, Khem wrapped her tentacles around him and pulled the aardvark into a kiss, or at least that’s what it looked like. In fact, she was trying to suck out his soul to feast on it. Nothing was happening, though. Cerebus struggled to get free all the while. After several minutes, Khem pulled back in shock.


 

“You...you have no soul.” she whispered, her voice a haunting mixture of male and female voices, all in various pitches, accents, and tones. “WHY DO YOU HAVE NO SOUL?!”



 

“What...urgh...are you speaking of, demon?” Cerebus grunted, still trying to get free.



 

“You literally do not have a soul.” Khem repeated. “I cannot feel one.” This sent Cerebus into a state of shock, which annoyed Khem to such a degree that she began to throttle him. Instantaneously, Sophia slashed at the demon’s tentacles, severing them and causing gallons of pulsating pinkish blood to flow out in almost-literal waves. Snapped out of his stupor, Cerebus began cutting off Khem’s heads one by one only adding to the flood of life fluid. Finally, he slice Khem’s torso in two, and the entire cave was now filled with an ocean of eldritch blood. Wading through it, Cerebus retrieved the Eye of Terim, shattering it into many pieces. Set was currently lost, presumably drowned in the blood. Sophia and Cerebus quickly escaped, riding the waves like surfers.



 

---------------

 

It had been several days since the duo had left the cave, and Cerebus had not spoken since that time. Clearly, Khem’s revelation that he literally had no soul had left a mark on him, and this worried Sophia greatly. “Cerebus?” he finally asked. “You OK?”



 

“Aye, Sophia.” the aardvark replied, saying his first words in days. “Cerebus is fine. It’s just...he literally has no soul.”



 

“So?” Sophia replied. “Does that mean anything?”



 

“Of course it does.” Cerebus said. “Cerebus was always taught that the soul was connected to everything about oneself. Personality...feelings...everything.”



 

“Oh, that’s bullshit.” Sophia said. “Your soul isn’t connected to your personality, your feelings, or anything like that. At least, that’s what I think.”



 

“You do?”



 

“Of course. So what if you don’t have a soul? That doesn’t mean you aren’t a great guy.” Cerebus tried not to blush, but immediately did so when Sophia kissed him. “You’re an asshole, Cerebus, but you know to stand up for the little guy...no offense.”



 

“N-none taken.” Cerebus replied, ignoring the unintentional backhandedness of her compliment. Sophia giggled and picked the aardvark up onto her shoulders. Eventually, they came to the border between Boreala and Qin, went through customs and paid the fee, and eventually came to a port city. The view was breathtaking, the magnificence of Oriental architecture for all to see. Eventually, the two came across a steamship, manufactured by the Empire’s largest corporation, Future Enterprises.

 

“Hello!” Sophia greeted. “Is this ship going anywhere?” she asked out of curiosity.



 

“Why, yes!” a sailor replied. “We’re going on an expedition!”


 

This piqued Cerebus’ interest. “An expedition? Where to?”



 

“Why, to the farthest reaches of the world of course!” the sailor replied. “We’re trying to see how far you can go via steam!”


 

“Well, sign us up!” Cerebus said. “How much?”



 

“400 gold pieces.” the sailor replied, Sophia paying the fee and getting onto the boat. And so, they were off, exploring whatever lay beyond Estarcion.

 

Spoiler

NOTES/TRIVIA:

-This episode is a loose adaptation of Cerebus issue #2 ("Captive in Boreala", published February 1st, 1978)

-We find out a bit more about Cerebus' unusual nature: not only can he literally sniff out magic (though this will only come up if the plot needs it), he literally has no soul. Which opens up a bigger question that will be explored later on: just what are the nature of aardvarks in Estarcion?

-This episode does some more worldbuilding for Cerebus:

Some more countries are established: Anatolia (Turkey), the Borderlands (the Balkans), Kievan (Ukraine), the Rus Frontier (Russia), Qin (China and Japan), and Boreala (Kazakhstan).

Beast men are shown to exist.

We find out that Terim is a feminine deity in Cerebus' religion.

Speaking of, Cerebus' religion is a potshot at Dave Sim's infamously misogynistic beliefs and especially how they tie into his perception of religion.

Most importantly, though, is that this episode fully cements this literature into the Reneverse: the Dark Tower, Guardians, and Crimson King all make appearances.

First appearances: Set the Wrathful (semi-recurring antagonist)

 

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After narrowly escaping a horde of evil barbarians, Cerebus and Red Sophia had to make their way through the mountains of Qin on foot. On their journeys, they came across an evil cult, dedicated to the worship of the evil serpent-man, Set! If that wasn't bad enough, they learned about the greater-scope threat of the Crimson King, while Cerebus was SHOCKED to find out, that he was in fact, WITHOUT a soul! The two of them narrowly beat Set, but while they won the battle, their encounters with Set are SURELY far from over, yet! Cerebus and Red Sophia, have now boarded onto a ship. It's heading for the island of Melvinborne, where they are sure to encounter another person, with whom they were have a tenuous, but necessary relationship with, over the course of their many adventures...

The Long, Long, Long, LONG Walk! (Part I)”

It has been many days, since the ship that Cerebus and Red Sophia boarded, departed from Qin, en route to it's ultimate destination in Melvinborne. The island, long regarded as an ancient symbol of knowledge and purity, in times long forgotten by men, let alone Cerebus and Red Sophia, has since fallen into being a hollow shell of its former self. The royal families, having subjected themselves to decades of in-breeding and fighting amongst each other, have long since SQUANDERED most of the island's valuable treasure and knowledge, and it's status of protecting itself, has become all but neglected, as nobody has even BOTHERED to make a raid on Melvinborne, since there are no treasures worth left STEALING! Well...almost none. But the one, great, treasure horde left on Melvinborne, is guarded by something SO big, menacing, and fierce, that there are no warriors who will DARE to fight it! And those that try, NEVER come back alive to tell the tale! But Cerebus and Red Sophia, having already dedicated themselves to seeking out the evils of the world, and trying to vanquish them, know nothing about this menacing threat! And even if they HAD, they would probably still venture forth, certain that what they are doing, is indeed the right thing to do.

Cerebus and Red Sophia are both listless and bored. There are only SO many times that they can play checkers, chess, and cards against each other, before they figure out each others inner strategies, and predict which moves the other will make before they make them. Red Sophia has tried on SEVERAL separate occasions to strike up a conversation with Cerebus. But since Cerebus has never SEEMED to be in the mood, Red Sophia quickly dropped any attempt to talk to Cerebus. So imagine Red Sophia's surprise, when out of the blue, Cerebus asks her: “Red Sophia, why do you think Cerebus has no soul?”

The question obviously catches Red Sophia off guard, for she has HONESTLY never had to deal with a question of such a nature before; but she still does her best to try to reply to it. Red Sophia says: “Honestly, I can't say for certain why you don't. As far as I know, all NORMAL people have a soul. I'm pretty sure that many ANIMALS have souls, so it seems highly improbable to ME, that you would've been born without a soul.”

Cerebus asks: “First off, why did you say; 'Normal' people?”

Red Sophia says: “You certainly didn't think I was trying to refer to you, did you?! I was more referring to Set, that serpent-man who tried to kill us, or that MONSTER of a man, Dastardly Dalton?! As far as I'm concerned, INSANE people like Set don't have a soul! Evil, tyrannical men like Dastardly Dalton don't have a soul!”

Cerebus says: “You make a good point. And Cerebus has the feeling that we'll probably meet many more unpleasant people and creatures like those, who have given up their souls for some various reason or another. All Cerebus knows about this whole 'soul' business, is that it has Cerebus thinking about matters, Cerebus has never thought about before.”

Red Sophia asks: “Well, what sort of things have you been thinking about?”

Cerebus sighs, and says: “It's not pleasant. For example; what would...happen to Cerebus, if Cerebus hypothetically got killed somehow? Would Cerebus be able to meet you again, somehow, if there is INDEED some sort of afterlife? Cerebus hates to say it, but this is something that weighs on Cerebus' mind, and Cerebus doesn't know how this has happened!”

Red Sophia says: “Well, maybe it has something to do with your past. Did anything happen to you when you were young, that would have caused you to lose your soul?”

Cerebus says: “Cerebus is probably NOT the best guy you should ask for, in trying to remember something. Cerebus does remember a little, about being young. Cerebus remembers having a mom and dad, growing up in the north-lands, where it was cold in the winter time, but pleasant during the summer. But beyond that, Cerebus can remember nothing.”

Red Sophia is a little disappointed, but she perks up with an idea, and she says: “Maybe your difficulty in remembering your past, may have some connection as to why you currently don't have a soul right now!”

Cerebus says: “That is indeed possible. We should keep a look-out for possible clues about this occurrence. The slightest detail may be important to us!”

Red Sophia chuckles gleefully, and Cerebus asks: “Now, what's so funny?!”

Red Sophia says: “Well, it's just that I thought I had you all figured out, but here, you actually go and surprise me! I honestly thought you could only talk about yourself as 'Cerebus', when referring to yourself, or refer to other people as 'You.' But here you are, talking about 'We', and 'Us', like we're not completely separate items!”

Cerebus says: “Well, you can consider it a professional courtesy. After all, if we're going to be traveling together for a prolonged period of time, it would be helpful to both of us to be professional towards each other. Also, you're much more skilled than Cerebus thought you were!”

Red Sophia asks: “In what way and/or ways?”

Cerebus says: “For starters, Cerebus has never meant anyone who was able to make Cerebus, start to talk about more than just Cerebus' own self. Or if Cerebus has, Cerebus doesn't remember. But in any case, perhaps you're starting to rub off on Cerebus with your way of talking; which is probably one of the highest compliments Cerebus can possibly give to somebody. You should consider yourself lucky!”

Red Sophia says: “An unusual compliment, but I'll take it in any case!”

Cerebus says: “Thank you. In any case, Cerebus is certain we will find out the answer to this mystery. Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but someday.”

Red Sophia says: “It probably won't be easy. But then again, the truly great rewards in life, almost never ARE easy to get to begin with! It will just make it that much sweeter for you, once you do find out about it...hopefully!”

Cerebus says: “That's very true! Hey, boat-driver! When is this dinghy going to get to our destination of Melvinborne?!”

The scruffy, old man, looking weathered, but still more than capable of navigating his way through the ocean says: “Call me Ishmael! And I'm the captain of this here vessel, and don't you forget it! The oceans can't be crossed in a day! We won't get to Melvinborne until...oh, wait! We're here!”

And sure enough, Cerebus and Red Sophia gaze up at a wooden sign, heralding an entrance to the island. Although the letters are green and faded, it still has legible writing that says: “Welcome to Melvinborne. Population:40,000; 20,000; 10,000; 8,766.”

Red Sophia says: “Something tells me this island has seen FAR many better days!”

Ishmael says: “Aye, lassie. That much is true! The population of this island just hasn't been the same ever since the great...calamity hit it, many moons ago.”

Cerebus says: “And just what exactly IS this great calamity, that you oh-so-CONVENIENTLY forgot to mention to us until just now?!”

Ishmael says: “I thought you were creatures of adventure! If I told you about it before, would you have been as WILLING to climb onto my vessel TO go to Melvinborne?!”

Cerebus groans with frustration, and he says: “Cerebus hates it when the straw-man has a point!”

Ishmael says: “In any case, you're sure to find out more about it on the island. In any case, I won't be heading out of here again until I can sufficiently restock on necessary supplies for my hard-working, rowing crew, and that could take DAYS with the state this island is in, so you might as well take a look around to find out what the trouble is. I'll give you my word that Captain Ishmael won't leave without you, barring some unfortunate incident happening to me! You can count on that!”

Red Sophia and Cerebus step onto the dock, and onto dry land, and Red Sophia says: “Nothing but some unfortunate incident will cause him to leave us. That's oddly comforting!”

Cerebus says: “Cerebus WISHES that Cerebus could be as optimistic as YOU are!”

Than suddenly, without any warning, time for EVERYONE except Cerebus and Red Sophia seems to stop, and the sky suddenly gets all GRAY and misty! Red Sophia asks: “Cerebus, I won't pretend to try to be as genre-savvy as you are. But people suddenly freezing in time and the weather inexplicably changing; that's a BAD sign, right?!”

Cerebus draws out his sword, and he says: “Well, if it IS a bad sign, we're going to be READY for it!”

A mysterious voice says: “You can put away your weapon. You have no need for it now.”

Cerebus says: “Wait a minute! Cerebus KNOWS this voice!”

And sure enough, The Green Hood steps out of the mists, and into view where Cerebus and Red Sophia can see him! Red Sophia says: “So, THIS is The Green Hood that you told me about! Definitely seems awfully strange that HE should be here, of all times!”

The Green Hood says: “I assure you, both of you meeting me here was NO coincidence! The powers that be have drawn you here because the two of you, along with someone who is already here, are the only ones with the abilities, that will enable you to deal with the threat that is currently plaguing the island of Melvinborne.”

Cerebus says: “You seem to know an AWFUL lot more than you're letting on to me! You knew about the trouble in Daltonville, you knew how I would meet Red Sophia, and now you seem to know about this trouble going on in Melvinborne! Explain yourself!”

The Green Hood says: “I'm afraid I cannot explain myself to you right now. You would not believe me. And furthermore, the answer may be a bit more complicated, than you are willing to accept!”

Red Sophia asks: “Are you some kind of magical being?”

The Green Hood nods, and he says: “In a way, I am. I apologize for temporarily stopping the flow of time for all but the three of us here, but there are certain things that I have to tell the two of you, and ONLY the two of you, at this particular time!”

Cerebus asks: “But why go to all this trouble? Most people are SMART! They can handle it!”

The Green Hood says: “Correction. A NORMAL person can be smart! But generally speaking, most people can be dumb, panicky, dangerous animals. And deep down, both of you KNOW it! For the next 13,000 years, everybody will KNOW, that Earth is the center of the universe! For the next 13,500 years, everybody will KNOW, that the Earth is flat! And just 15 minutes ago, Cerebus, YOU knew that the only beings on Earth that wielded magic abilities, were EVIL and only wanted to do you harm! Imagine what the two of you will KNOW...tomorrow!”

Cerebus says: “So, you're magical, but good. Unexpected, but Cerebus can accept that. But, if you have magic, can't YOU help us deal with the threat that's plaguing this island?”

The Green Hood sighs, and says: “If only I could. I'm afraid that as of right now, you're still not fully ready to accept the truth about who I truly am. And until you are, I'm afraid all I can do is point you in the right direction, to do what you is you need to do. Besides, it will take an awful lot of magic skills to help you out in this journey. Magic, by the way, that I haven't gotten the ability to master yet. But, I do KNOW someone who CAN help you in this journey!”

Red Sophia asks: “Is he someone like you?”

The Green Hood says: “Unfortunately, no. He's a little arrogant, a hot-head, and a bit of a loud-mouth, when it comes to his ability to talk! But, seeing as how magical users are in rather short supply on this island, he's the only one who will be able to help protect you on your quest.”

Cerebus says: “Can you at LEAST tell us who we're supposed to be meeting?”

The Green Hood says: “Trust me, you will know him when you see him. You'll probably know him when you HEAR him! He's kind of hard to hear! But before I take my leave, there are a few more things I have to tell you.”

Red Sophia asks: “Well, what are they?”

The Green Hood says: “First off, don't think that you've seen the LAST of that evil serpent-man, Set! He is STILL alive, and you are both certain to face off against him in your adventures to come!”

Cerebus says: “Cerebus HATES it when a villain REFUSES to get the point!”

The Green Hood says: “Secondly, Cerebus, the fact that you DON'T have a soul right now, is a surprise, even to me! Unfortunately, even I don't currently know the answer to your dilemma, and I can't see whether or not you find out the answer. It seems that your magic-sniffing ability, is canceling out some of my foresight abilities. But deep down, I have a feeling you will find out the answer someday. Whether you will appreciate the answer or not, that is another matter entirely!”

Red Sophia says: “Anything else we need to know?”

The Green Hood says: “Just one last thing. Believe it or not, Cerebus, you will find MANY opportunities, to bring about the age of peace and prosperity that I have mentioned. But be WARNED! Most of the opportunities you face are elaborate traps, designed to ensnare you, by people with false intentions and lying faces!”

Cerebus says: “So how is Cerebus supposed to know which opportunities are genuine, and which opportunities are just some clever trap designed to ensnare us?”

The Green Hood says: “Well, you may not have a soul. But you'll know the answer for yourself, when you learn to look inside your heart. I must take my leave now, but I am certain we will meet again.”

The Green Hood begins to walk away, and Red Sophia shouts: “WAIT! Who ARE you?!”

But The Green Hood disappears into the mists, and the misty fog quickly vanishes, as time begins to flow again normally, for everyone else on Melvinborne, unaware that time had EVER frozen for them! Cerebus says: “See what Cerebus meant about The Green Hood?”

Red Sophia says: “Indeed. The Green Hood seems to come and go so quickly! In any case, it seems like our journey to fulfill this sacred prophecy isn't going to be as easy as we thought.”

Cerebus says: “For the record, Cerebus never thought the journey WOULD be easy! But that doesn't matter to Cerebus! We must press on! Let's go to the local tavern, and see what we can turn up!”

Red Sophia looks at Cerebus like she can see RIGHT through him, and she says: “Cerebus, you're just looking for an excuse to get super-drunk and get in a fight with someone who crosses you!”

Cerebus sharply retorts: “So what if Cerebus does?! Cerebus NEEDS an outlet, for being unable to fight for the past seven days or so!”

Cerebus and Red Sophia head to the local tavern, located close to the wharf on the bay. As soon as they enter the swinging doors, all the sailors and local people turn their heads at the unusual sight of an Earth-pig born, and the voluptuous Red Sophia entering the tavern together! But not wanting to arouse any anger from either of them, they quickly turn back to doing whatever they were doing before. Cerebus heads to the bar counter, and is AGAIN frustrated at being unable to see the choices above the counter, being so short! Cerebus says: “You know, these bars REALLY need to put their selections BELOW the counter, where Cerebus can actually SEE them!”

Red Sophia sarcastically says: “Well, why don't you actually DO something about it; like forming some kind of committee?”

Cerebus sharply replies: “Cerebus is NOT a committee!”

Red Sophia grouchily says: “So SUE me! I was just trying to lighten up the MOOD around here!”

Cerebus gets up on the bar stool, and peers at the choices! Cerebus says: “Decisions, decisions. Bar-tender, what would YOU recommend?!”

The local bar-tender turns around, looking and SOUNDING a lot like W.C. Fields, (Not that Cerebus or Red Sophia would have ANY idea who that is), he says: “Well, that all depends on what you're in the mood for. Would you like a whiskey drink, or a vodka drink, or a lager drink, or a cider drink?”

Cerebus says: “Whichever is the sweetest.”

The bar-tender says: “Than you want yourself a cider drink! Two shillings, please. We don't TAKE any wooden coins, if you know what I mean!”

Cerebus tosses him a pure, gold coin, as the bar-tender slides the drink effortlessly down to Cerebus, and Cerebus says: “Keep the change! Here's to good health, and for ALWAYS satisfying the thirst of Cerebus!”

And as Cerebus starts drinking his sweet cider, who should walk through the swinging doors except a tall, blonde-haired, blue-eyed man, wearing a purple, pointed hat, and a purple-flowing, cape, and with a curved sword in his holster! This strange man, not paying attention, he heads right towards the bar, and steps right on Cerebus' right foot! Even though Cerebus has trained himself to make himself immune to lesser types of pain, Cerebus is CLEARLY not enjoying it! The man, speaks with a southern drawl, reminiscent of Mel Blanc's performance as Foghorn Leghorn (not that anybody in THIS time would know what that is!) But in any case, the man says: “I say, I say bar-tender, give me a sweet one, and keep it coming while I get down to business here! Business, that is!”

Red Sophia, noticing that the stranger, is standing on Cerebus' right foot, tries to draw his attention to it, and Red Sophia asks: “Excuse me, sir; did you notice that you are inconveniencing my traveling partner?! And furthermore, who are you?!”

The stranger, completely IGNORES the first part of Red Sophia's question, but eagerly answers the second part of the question! The stranger says: “I say, I say I'm feared in battle! I'm an outcast from my race! My sword is black! Rune-carved, that is!”

And the stranger briefly unsheathes his sword, showing a very fancy, black-colored, rune-carved sword! Cerebus is CLEARLY already annoyed by this point, and irritated, he says: “Cerebus would LIKE you to REMOVE some of your WEIGHT from HIS foot!”

Instead of acting all polite and civil about it, the stranger takes OFFENSE at the comment, and irritated, removes his pointed hat, and says: “Mind your manners, SON! I've got a tall, pointy HAT! You can argue with me, but you can't argue with status!”

Even the normally patient Red Sophia gets irritated by this point, and she angrily says: “You get YOUR foot off of Cerebus' foot RIGHT now or I'll RIP your freaking SPINE out!!!!”

The stranger finally does so, and he says: “No need, I say, no need to SHOUT, my dear lady! I would DO ANYTHING for a RAVISHING beauty such as yourself! Beauty, that is! What is, I say, what IS your name, anyway, if you HAVE one, that is?!”

Red Sophia regains her composure, calms down, breathes, and says: “I am Red Sophia! The finest female warrior to ever wander the lands of Acheron and Qin!”

The stranger says: “My name is Elrod, the Sorcerer that is! Does your pet, I say, does your PET have a NAME?!”

And Cerebus SLAPS Elrond across the face, and Cerebus says: “THAT was for STANDING on one of Cerebus' FEET!” And Cerebus SLAPS Elrod across the face again, and Cerebus says: “And THAT was for having the NERVE to call Cerebus a PET!!!! Cerebus serves NO ONE except for Cerebus!”

Elrod rubs his face, and he says: “If I wasn't, I say, if I wasn't SO civil, I would have the nerve to SLAP you right back, sir! But as your luck, I say, as your luck would have it, I might be in need of the services of some fine warriors! Warriors like YOU two, that is!”

Red Sophia whispers to Cerebus, and she says: When The Green Hood said this man would be a loud-mouth, he sure wasn't kidding!”

Cerebus says: “Cerebus wonders if Cerebus can RIP his vocal chords out?”

Red Sophia says: “Wait until AFTER he tells us what he's looking for! Sorry, Elrod! We're listening! What exactly do you need?”

Elrod says: “There's a treasure, I say, there's a treasure located on the far side of the island of Melvinborne! It's filled, I say it's filled with riches beyond your wildest imagination! Riches, that is! But there's a catch, I say there's a catch to getting this treasure! It's guarded, I say it's guarded by a fierce fire-breathing dragon! Calls itself Sludge, the dragon, that is! And it's kind of a long walk to get there, and there are sure to be unpleasant things, such as a bunch of trolls, goblins, forest elves, and maybe some unpleasant surprises! But I'll split, I say, I'll split the treasure evenly with however many warriors partner up with me! Partners, that is!”

And upon hearing Elrod's announcement, nearly ALL of the bar patrons FLEE outside of the bar, not wanting any part of Elrod's scheme! Well, all except twelve well-weathered dwarves!

The head dwarf steps up, and with a voice sounding like Hans Conried (not that anybody in this time would know who that is), says: “Well, we're adventurous. We'll help you. I'm Thorin Oakonried. These are my fellow dwarves; Feely, Keely, Oyn, Gloyn, Oree, Doree, Noree, Beefur, Bowfur, Bombar, and Marty Balin. But, seeing as how this sounds like a treacherous undertaking, we won't bother wasting your time getting acquainted with most of them! I DOUBT most of them will get any major SPEAKING lines during this entire endeavor!”

The really fat dwarf, introduced as Bombar, says: “Just for the reference, I'm Bombar, and this is MY one major line this adventure!”

Cerebus raises his eyebrow, and he says: “Okay.”

Elrod says: “So, counting me, there are 15 warriors all together. Not exactly crazy about a 15 way split. But who knows? There's plenty of danger between here and the Isolated Peak. There's a chance that maybe not all of you will survive anyways!”

The elderly dwarf, introduced as Marty Balin, says: Don't worry about us. We can handle ourselves rather well! I have a special ability! I can sing!”

Red Sophia says: “Ooh, I like singing! I try asking Cerebus to give it a shot, but he's not much for blessing the world with his sultry voice!”

Cerebus glances at Red Sophia, and asks: “Excuse Cerebus, but are you being sarcastic or serious? Because honestly, Cerebus can almost NEVER tell with you!”

Red Sophia says: “Oh, I'd say I'm being about 70% sarcastic, 30% serious!”

Marty Balin says: “Anyways, I'll sing us a song all about believing in ourselves, as we make our way across the treacherous landscape!”

And as the fifteen warriors begin their journey across the island of Melvinborne, Marty Balin begins his song. Marty Balin sings: “If only you believe like I believe, baby, (If only you believe like I believe); we'd get by. If only you believe in miracles, (If only you believed in miracles, so would I). If only you believe like I believe, baby, (If only you believe like I believe); we'd get by. If only you believe in miracles, (If only you believed in miracles, so would I). I might have to move heaven and earth to prove it to you, baby, (baby). So we're making love, you feel the power and I feel the power.

And there's really nothing we can't do, (you know we could, you know we could) if we wanted to. (You know we could, you know we could). We could exist on the stars, it was so easy. All we got to do is get a little faith in you. Woah, I've been so many places I've seen some things, (yes, I have). I know that love is the answer, (yes it is). Keeps holding this world together (oh, yeah). Ain't nothing better? Ain't nothing better? (Nothing's better!) And all the answers to our prayers, Hell, it's the same everywhere. (Just the same now). Nothing ever breaks up the heart, (love's a game, now). Only your tears give you away. (Ain't it a shame now). When you're right where I found you; (oh, baby) with my arms around you. (Oh, baby). Baby, baby. Love is a magic word, if you ever find inner life. But from that very first look in your eyes, I see you and I have but one heart. Only our bodies were apart, (it's making me crazy). That was so easy, so easy. I had a taste of the real world, (just a drop of it), when I went down on you, girl, oh! If only you believe like I believe, baby! (If only you believe like I believe), we'd get by. If only you believe in miracles. (If only you believed in miracles, so would I). If only you believe like I believe, baby. (If only you believe like I believe), we'd get by. If only you believe in miracles; (if only you believed in miracles, so would I). I can hear windmills and rainbows whenever you talkin' to me. (Never say never). I feel like swirling and dancing whenever you walk in with me; (whenever, whenever you walk with me). You ripple like the river when I touch you; (let me touch you). Then I pluck your body like a string, (show you what I mean). Then I start dancing inside you; (oh, baby, a love song). Oh, baby, in a love song, aw, baby; (love song), aw, baby (love song); aw, baby, (love song). Oh yeah, yeah, alright. Baby, we're sure doin' it tonight; (baby we're sure doing it). Every time you come by, let me try; (come on by). Pretty please, with sugar on it, that's how I like it, ugh. I can't even believe it with you. It's like having every dream I ever wanted! (Dream of a lifetime) come true. I picked up your vibes, you know (I'm having a fine time). It opened my mind but I'm still dreaming. Yeah (yeah, eh, eh, oh). And you're right where I found you, with my arms around you! (Oh, baby)! If only you believe like I believe, baby, (if only you believe, like I believe); we'd get by. If only you believe in miracles. (If only you believed in miracles, so would I). If only you believe like I believe, baby! (If only you believe like I believe); we'd get by. If only you believe in miracles, (if only you believed in miracles, so would I). So would I. So would I. If only you believe like I believe, baby! (If only you believe like I believe); we'd get by. If only you believe in miracles. (If only you believed in miracles, so would I). If only you believe like I believe, baby! (If only you believe like I believe); we'd get by. If only you believe in miracles, (if only you believed in miracles, so would I).” / And the epic song ends!

With the song ended, Cerebus is simply ASTOUNDED by how much time has already passed, and he says: “That, was a rather long, long, LONG, song!”

Marty Balin says: “Well, why not? In order to get to the Isolated Peak, we have to go on the long, long, long, LONG Walk! That could make for a good title for your biography someday!”

Cerebus says: “If Cerebus EVER gets around to writing it, that is!”

Thorin says: “It's getting late! Perhaps we should have time for dinner!”

Elrod says: “True adventurers, I say, true adventurers don't eat! They walk! They march, they press on! Adventuring, that is!”

Red Sophia says: “Maybe YOU do, but SOME of us; I.E., ME, has to do this adventuring wearing these VERY beautiful, but rather, uncomfortable fashion choices called shoes!”

Cerebus suggests: “Well then, why don't you FIND yourself some shoes that are ACTUALLY comfortable enough for you to WEAR on such long journeys such as these?!”

Red Sophia says: “I WOULD, if SOMEONE would ever BOTHER to MAKE shoes that a female adventurer like ME could actually WEAR on LONG adventures such as THESE!”

Elrod says: “Don't bother, I say, don't bother complaining about your shoes! We have far MORE important things to be concerned about! We're in the middle, I say, we're in the middle of TROLL country! And I don't mean those TINY trolls with the long hair, and often glittering bodies, either!”

Red Sophia says: “EW!!!! Trolls?! As in, actual, possibly, man-eating trolls out here?!”

Elrod says: “Well, this is, I say, this IS Melvinborne we're talking about!”

Red Sophia says: “GROSS! I HATE trolls! And these are just REGULAR sized trolls, not trolls the size of MOUNTAINS!”

Cerebus says: “Cerebus does not KNOW where one would FIND trolls of such enormous size!”

Elrod says: “Red Sophia, I say, Red Sophia was probably trying to make a joke! Sarcastic, that is!”

Red Sophia says: “See?! Elrod understands my sarcasm!”

Cerebus says: “Statistically speaking, Cerebus supposes SOMEBODY would have to!”

Red Sophia says: “You can be pretty strange, you know that? You don't understand sarcasm when it comes from OTHER people, yet you seem perfectly capable of saying sarcasm yourself all the time!”

Cerebus eyes actually widen, as he REALIZES Red Sophia might actually HAVE a point! Cerebus says: “Cerebus is sorry, for not realizing the sarcasm that comes out of his own mouth. You see, most aardvarks that Cerebus knows of, are not BORN to understand the subtle nuances of sarcasm! And that is NOT sarcasm!”

Red Sophia says: “Seeing as how I've never MET any other aardvarks like you, I guess I'll just have to take your word for it!”

Marty Balin says: “Guys, focus! Most of us dwarves really ARE hungry! Especially Bombar!”

Cerebus sarcastically says: “Oh, really! You think we'll just bump into a convenient inn or tavern somewhere out here?! It could happen any second!”

Elrod asks: “Do you really, I say, do you really think so?!”

Cerebus says: “Cerebus wasn't talking to you! Quite frankly, Cerebus doesn't even want to HEAR you talk for THAT matter!”

Elrod says: “You wish, I say, you WISH you could talk as well as I could!”

Red Sophia says: “If THAT is YOUR definition of speaking WELL, I'd hate to see what speaking BADLY sounds like!”

Thorin says: “Well, SOMEBODY needs to do something!”

Cerebus groans, and says: “FINE!!!! Cerebus will look around, and see if he can find some FREAKING food, to stuff in the babies' mouths! HAPPY now?!”

Red Sophia genuinely says: “Thank you, precious!”

Cerebus sarcastically says: “You're welcome, cupcake!”

Cerebus sniffs around the forested area, and he smells SOMEONE, or SOMETHING, roasting mutton over a fire! Moving with a stealthy silence, reserved for such opportunities when Cerebus doesn't know what he's up against, he carefully inches through the dense brush, to get a closer look! Upon the closer inspection, he sees three big, and VERY ugly trolls! Quietly, Cerebus says to himself: “There are ACTUAL trolls out here?! And they're almost as BIG as Red Sophia THINKS they are?! Cerebus HATES it when other people are RIGHT about something!”

One of the trolls says: “Mutton, mutton, it's ALWAYS mutton! None of YOU blokes can ever MANAGE to catch anything else!”

Another troll says: “Hey, shut up! It's hard enough to keep myself fed, let alone, YOU three! If you weren't constantly EATING all the time, I wouldn't have to FEED you all the time!”

The third troll says: “Like COOKING really accounts for anything! I'm the one that actually DOES all the hunting, which is NOT as easy as it sounds, ESEPCIALLY since we have to do it at NIGHT!”

Cerebus groans, and he says quietly to himself: “Cerebus can not BELIEVE trolls actually ACT like THIS to themselves! Cerebus ought to cut them up RIGHT now, and put them out of their misery!”

Cerebus charges forward and shouts: “Die, trolls! DIE!!!!”

But apparently, these trolls weren't as DENSE or as slow as they looked, even though they don't react WELL to anything that is NEW to them, let alone aardvarks of an earth-pig born! One of the trolls SWUNG his fist forward, and actually KNOCKED Cerebus backwards into a tree! The head troll says: “Well, what do you think we got here?!”

The second troll says: “It smells like a SPY!”

The third troll says: “More like an ASSASSIN!”

The head troll says: “Let's cook it!”

The second troll says: “Let's eat it!”

The third troll says: “Let's roast it!”

Thorin says: “You'll do no such thing! Dwarves, attack!!!!!”

And they come out of the trees to ambush the trolls! Unfortunately, the skin of the trolls was SO dense, and SO thick, that even though the dwarves were successfully cutting INTO the TROLLS, the dwarves weren't CAUSING the trolls to feel any pain! The head troll says: “We should SPRAY for pests!”

And with three swipes for every three dwarves, the trolls EASILY batter the dwarves into the trees, than cackle evilly, as they lunge forward for the kill! Elrod finally says: “Don't you eat, I say don't you EAT my friends of MINE, good trolls!”

The second trolls says: “Oh, and what will YOU do if we REFUSE?!”

Elrod pulls out a blue ocarina, and he says: “Then I have no choice, I say I have no choice, but to let the SUN shine in!”

And Elrod plays the ocarina; right, down, up, right, down, up; with the notes echoing throughout the forest, and the moon QUICKLY zooms below the horizon, and the SUN rises up over the east, and the trolls say: “The SUN!!!!”

The third troll says: “It's causing us TO--!”

But he NEVER gets to finish his thought, as the trolls harden up, and turn into stone! Cerebus gets up, and he bitterly says: “THANK you for the SAVE! But Cerebus COULD'VE handled those trolls by himself!”

Elrod says: “I say, you could have, I say, you could have FOOLED me!”

Red Sophia says: “What the HELL happened to the NIGHT?! I close my eyes for FIVE minutes to get a little BEAUTY sleep, and the next thing I know, there's a ROOSTER crowing, and the bright sun SHINING in my face!”

Elrod says: “That's the power, I say, that's the power of the Sun's Song for you! It's a mighty powerful, I say, it's a mighty powerful magic, that occurs when I play the ocarina! No matter how dark or how long the night is, I can always make the sun SHINE again, whenever I play that song!”

Thorin says: “That's cool! When do we get our own, little magical, ocarina sun summoning things?

Elrod says: “When you grow, I say, when you grow up! Ocarina's like THESE aren't easy to come by! They're a gift, I say, they're a GIFT from the fair folk! Elves, that is! And you have to know, I say you have to KNOW basic magic abilities in order to use one of these! After all, with great power, I say, with great power comes GREAT responsibility! Anyways, we should keep, I say, we should keep moving along. There's an elven, I say, there's an elven town just down the trail! We can REST there, and have one of these elves read the runes on the map I have! There are instructions, I say, there are instructions on here that tell of a secret way to get into the Isolated Peak! The trouble is, these are elven runes, and can only be read by elves! Furthermore, there are bound to be some secret runes, that are only visible on a certain night!”

Marty Balin says: “So how WILL we find out what we need to know, in order to get into the Isolated Peak, might I ask?!”

Cerebus says: “We'll just have to keep pushing forward, and find out when we get there! We will cross that bridge when we come to it!”

Red Sophia says: “Really? I don't see any bridges!”

Cerebus says: “That time, Cerebus was using a metaphor!” /

As the group continues on their journey, Marty Balin keeps the mood upbeat by singing another one of his many written songs! This time, he sings: “With Your Love!” / Marty Balin sings: “Don't know what's happened to me since I met you. Feel like I'm fallen in love since I met you. I've got to know what you're doin', doin' to me with your love. With your love. What you're doin', doin' to me with your love. With your love! What you're doin', doin' to me with your love. With your love! What you're doin' babe, it feels so good, whatever it is! Knew from the start it had to be you. You got my heart, I don't know what I'm gonna do; with your love. Heaven sent the sign, then sent you. I'm goin' out of my mind since I let you. I've got to know, what you're doin', doin' to me with your love. With your love! What you're doin', doin' to me with your love. With your love! What you're doin', doin' to me with your love. With your love! What you're doin' babe, it feels so good, whatever it is! Whatever it is and whatever it's called, I know that it's you, I can't help getting involved with your love. Baby, sweet baby, take it away! With your love, with your love! With your love, whatever you did to me, well, you sure did it good! My heart's filled with lovin' and I knew that it would, with your love! Don't know what's happened to me since I met you. I feel like I'm fallen in love since I met you. I've got to know, what you're doin', doin' to me with your love. With your love! What you're doin', doin' to me with your love. With your love! What you're doin', doin' to me with your love. With your love! What you're doin' babe, it feels so good whatever it is! Knew from the start it had to be you. You got my heart, I don't know what I'm gonna do, with your love! Baby, sweet baby!” / And the epic song ends as the group reaches the Elven town! /

When the group reaches the Elven town, a tall, EXCEPTIONALLY beautiful, Blonde-haired elf, walks up to them, and says: “Hi, there! Welcome to Riverdale! No relation to any other pre-existing towns by the same name, I might add!”

Red Sophia looks puzzled, and says: “Orlando BLOOM?!!! You're not even supposed to be IN this adventure that is going on right now!”

Orlando Bloom says: “Well, not really. I'm just here so the fan-girls will have something to look at, as well as to give THIS adventure a much-needed boost, in terms of popularity!”

Cerebus says to himself: “And just when Cerebus thought this adventure COULDN'T get any weirder, it throws in some obligatory EYE candy!”

Orlando Bloom says: “So, you're looking for some help? I assume that's why you're here, because otherwise, you probably wouldn't BE here, would you?!”

Elrod says: “As a matter, I say, as a matter of fact we are! We need help, I say, we need help reading the directions of these runes, in order to get to the Isolated Peak! Directions to get us to the Isolated Peak, that is!”

Orlando Bloom says: “Well, in addition to having won twenty awards AND being able to punch out a certain nameless, NO TALENT singer out, I am ALSO incredibly smart! I won't bore you by making you stay fourteen days, or listening to some tales that have little to no real relevance to this story. So instead; you'll just have to wait for tonight, in order to find out what the runes say. In the meantime, you can grab a bite to eat, and feel free to drink what you want!”

Cerebus asks: “Just one question; how MUCH does it cost to HAVE a drink in an Elvish town?”

Orlando Bloom says: “Hasn't anyone told you? Drinking in an Elvish town is FREE! We have little to no use for money among OUR folks!”

Cerebus cracks a RARE smile, as he says: “Cerebus could grow to LIKE this place!” /

It is now the night, and the group has gathered together with Orlando Bloom, to properly examine the map that they have. Cerebus, not WEARING anything, is COLD and shivering!

Orlando Bloom notices this, and he asks: “Are YOU cold?!”

Cerebus stubbornly says: “C-C-C-Cerebus is...f-f-f-fine, like this!”

Orlando Bloom says: “I don't want you to freeze to death! Here, at least take this black vest, and STYLISH ring necklace! It's all the rage with GIRLS where I come from!”

And Cerebus reluctantly puts these items on. And although Cerebus would NEVER admit it to Orlando Bloom's face, Cerebus DID inwardly like the coolness the black vest and the ring necklace gave him. So MUCH so, the black vest and ring necklace ended up becoming an establishing character identification for Cerebus, LONG after the end of this adventure, and for many adventures to come!

Orlando Bloom says: “Now then, it's time to get a look at the map.”

Orlando Bloom gazes at it, and he says: “It seems that you were DESTINED to come here, at this PRECISE date! These are MOON runes, and they can only be READ on a SPECIFIC moon night, at a specific TIME, on a SPECIFIC date! It says: 'Wait by the pumice stone where the titmouse knocks, and the setting sun, with the last light of Dwurwin's Day, will shine onto the key-hole'.”

Thorin says: “Dwurwin; he was the father OF my father! One of the most important men in the race of dwarves! I am his heir! Dwurwin's Day, is the first day of OUR new Year! The last moon of fall, on the edge of winter. If we continue at the pace we're currently going, we'll make it there with time to spare!”

Orlando Bloom says: “Than I shall delay you no longer. The way forward is still quite a long ways to get there, filled with dangers that you will have to face. But you need not fear; you may take whatever food and weapons you need to successfully complete your journey! Our contents will help you along your way, to hopefully successfully completing your journey!”

Red Sophia asks: “Now why can't YOU come along to help us with our journey?!”

Orlando Bloom says: “Simple! These elven folk can only pay ME enough for this short, little exposition to YOU guys! I don't come CHEAP, you know!”

Cerebus says: “Cerebus will NEVER understand the humor of SOME people!” /

In the morning, Cerebus and the adventurous group of dwarves and other associates, set off on their journey once again. Not surprisingly, Marty Balin once again entertained everyone else, while singing another popular song of his. This time, he sang “Count On Me”. / Marty Balin sings: “Precious love, I'll give it to you. Blue as the sky and deep in the eyes of a love so true. Beautiful face, you make me feel, light on the stairs and lost in the air of a love so real, You can count on me! Count on my love! Count on me! Count on my love to see you through. Emerald eyes and China perfume, caught on the wheel and lost, in the feel of a love so soon. Ruby lips, you make my song. Into the night and saved by the light of a love so strong! You can count on me! Count on my love! Count on me! Count on my love to see you through. Woo, hoo, hoo, hoo! You can count on me, girl! (Count on me)! You can count on my love! Precious love, I'll give it to you. Blue as the sky and deep in the eyes of a love so true. Beautiful face, you make me feel light on the stairs and lost, in the air of a love so real! You can count on me! Count on my love! Count on me! Count on my love!” / And the epic song ends, as the group finds themselves, walking along a treacherous mountain path, trying to find a safe passage to the Isolated Peak!

Normally, such an endeavor would be an undertaking unto itself, but not only was it now night-time, it was RAINING, and the storm CLEARLY had no intentions of letting up! Red Sophia says: “This is SOME weather we're having! Do you THINK they could INVENT something that could BLOCK some of this BLASTED rain so that it doesn't get onto my hair and FACE?!”

Elrod says: “Don't talk nonsense, I say, don't talk nonsense girl! Such a, I say, such an unnecessary device would NEVER catch on!”

Cerebus asks: “Do you HAVE to repeat EVERY blasted thing that you SAY?!”

Elrod says: “I do not, I say, I do NOT repeat every thing I say! The way I talk, I say the way I talk is very DIFFERENT! I do not rehash, re-state, and reiterate the SAME thing! Over and over again! I am CLEAR, concise, and to the point! I am--!”

But Red Sophia has FINALLY had enough, and she pulls out her sword, and probably would've cut Elrod's HEAD clean OFF if Cerebus hadn't managed to block her sword with his OWN sword, and even THEN, he still struggles to hold Red Sophia back, as Red Sophia screams: “"FOR ONCE IN YOUR LIFE, PRINCE OF MELVINBONE, SHUT! UP!

Elrod shockingly says: “Shut up?! Why, certainly! You don't think I'm the type of person who would keep on blabbing and never shut up, do you?! Why, I know plenty of people who keep on blabbing and never shut up! Some people just never know when to stop blabbing and shut up! But when I'm told to shut up, I shut--!”

Cerebus yells: “SHUT UP, SHUTTING UP!!!!”

And Cerebus SLAPS Elrod SO hard, Elrod falls down unconscious! Cerebus says: “WHOOPS!!!! Cerebus CLEARLY doesn't know his own strength!”

Thorin sarcastically says: “Nice JOB, Cerebus! You just knocked out our OWN wizard!”

Red Sophia says: “Forget HIM, we don't NEED him!”

Cerebus says: “Although we probably STILL should look for SOME kind of shelter!”

Feely says: “We found one!”

Keely says: “There's a little cave here! It's a perfect shelter from the storm!”

The dwarves immediately go for it. Red Sophia grabs Elrod, and carries him over her back, but Cerebus doesn't go forward. Red Sophia asks: “Well, do you want to STAY out here in the rain?!”

Cerebus is CLEARLY not happy like all the dwarves, and he says: “Cerebus doesn't LIKE the smell that's coming out of the cave! The smell doesn't SMELL right!”

Red Sophia says: “Well, I don't exactly think it's the most IDEAL solution EITHER, but our choices are, either we die a CERTAIN death of Pneumonia from being caught in the rain, or we take turns keeping watch during the night, to make SURE that nothing unpleasant tries to attack us!”

Cerebus says: “For once, Cerebus CLEARLY sees your point! In that case, Cerebus will take the first watch, since YOU probably still need to recover from that Sun Song spell that Elrod used earlier!”

Red Sophia says: “You know, I have a feeling that the amount of trouble that Elrod is going to give us is FAR from over yet!”

Cerebus says: “Cerebus is certain that you will undoubtedly be proven right!” /

In the cave, it SEEMS safe enough! The dwarves take out their wet clothes and go immediately to sleep! Red Sophia ducks behind a rock to remove her wet clothes, and borrows Elrod's relatively dry robe to go to sleep in! Even though Cerebus doesn't SEE, hear, or SMELL any real danger, Cerebus also doesn't see any reason to let his guard down! So he just sits, and waits, for anything out of the ordinary to happen. But the seconds passed on like minutes, and the minutes passed on like hours! Cerebus of course, tried to keep himself amused by making shapes out of shadows on the cave wall, but that only worked for so long! Cerebus yawned, and he said: “Can't...fall asleep. But...don't, want to wake, Red Sophia!”

Cerebus' eyelids were heavy. In the battle between Cerebus' stubborn nature and his natural need to sleep, the natural need to sleep claimed Cerebus, as he unintentionally succumbed to his basic needs. But Cerebus couldn't find peace in his fitful dreams, as he had a vision that the back of the cave was being broken OPEN! And the hole was expanding, opening wider and bigger! And when Cerebus managed to wake himself back up, he was VISIBLY horrified, to find that his dream had COME true! A crack HAD opened in the back of the cave, and great, ugly looking goblins came out of them, that made the trolls look down-right pleasant looking by comparison! There were fifty goblins in all, so they were horribly out-numbered REGARDLESS of the state the dwarves were currently in, but Cerebus decided to yell: “TROUBLE!!!!”, in any case!

Turns out, the one person who DID wake up with a start, even though it was the LAST person Cerebus WANTED awake, it turned out to ALSO be the EXACT person who COULD deal with the threat at hand! And Elrod says: “Intrude on OUR sleeping time, will you?! Well, I've got, I say, I've got the solution for THIS intrusion!”

And Elrod pulls out his blue ocarina, and plays another song; A, right, left, A, right, left, right, down, playing the “Goron Lullaby”, and sure enough, all the Goblins fall ASLEEP, and Cerebus does to, but he falls RIGHT down BACKWARDS, falling feet, and even YARDS into the dark cave! How Cerebus managed to survive such a great fall, even HE is not sure how that happened! All that Cerebus knew, is that when he awoke again, he was in a PLACE that was unfamiliar to him, which is almost NEVER a good place to be, let alone, when you're actually SOBER! He felt along the ground, trying to get his bearings; when all at once, Cerebus came along something that was at once, golden, and yet, very small. It was an EARRING! Cerebus could have hardly guessed it at the time, but without really thinking about it, he picked up the earring, and placed it in his vest pocket, not knowing that it may end proving to be very important in the adventures to come! In any case, Cerebus wasn't sure why he was all alone, or why he hadn't been caught by goblins, or why his fellow adventurers hadn't found him yet! In any case, all Cerebus knew, was that he had to find some way out of the cave. And the only way to do that, was by going forward! So using his well-trained eyes, and the faint light reflections off his sword, Cerebus braved his ways through the depths of the cavern! /

In a weird sense, Cerebus' short stature actually helped him OUT for a change! Even the cave wasn't at ALL spacious or roomy, it was certainly easier for Cerebus to make his way through it. After all, he WAS an Earth-pig born, and had spent much of his youth (what he could remember of it), tunneling through the ground, and learning how to tell which direction he was going, even when he was underground. Still, Cerebus wished to find his way out of the cave as soon as possible! Not only to rejoin with his fellow adventurers, but to let them know that HE was all right! Besides, there was no telling just WHO...or rather, just WHAT, might be lurking down there! As it turns out, there WAS something lurking in the cave, all right! In the cave, there was this vast, underground lake. The water was cold, and icy to the touch! In the dark water, lived an old, frog-like creature, who simply called himself, Brother Gollum. While he certainly wouldn't have known it, he sounded just like an actor called Brother Theodore. Brother Gollum was dark...almost as dark as the darkness itself, except for the two, big, bright eyes that shone from his face. Rowing about on a little boat, he somehow never made a ripple in the lake. When Brother Gollum saw Cerebus, even Cerebus was surprised by the speed and ease at which Brother Gollum managed to get close to him!

In a low, guttural voice, Brother Gollum says: “Bless us and splash us, my precious! It's a choice feast for us, Gollum!” And when he said Gollum, he made an other-worldly sound in the back of his throat, which is how he got part of his name, even if he always referred to himself as “My precious.”

Cerebus quickly draws out his sword, and asks: “Who, or rather, WHAT, are you?!”

Brother Gollum asks, half to himself, and half to Cerebus: “What is he, my precious?”

Cerebus suddenly gets a HORRIBLE pit feeling in the gut of his stomach, as Cerebus, had NEVER before mastered the art of ever REALLY being able to NOT talk about himself in the third person, and even THEN, it SOMEHOW only seemed to happen when Cerebus wasn't actively THINKING about it! And Cerebus, trying to think about the matter right now, certainly didn't HELP matters! Still, Cerebus managed to surprise himself somehow, and answered: “An aardvark, who doesn't NEED to answer to the likes of YOU! All this aardvark needs to know, is how to find the dwarves, a loud-mouth wizard, and a VERY hot, and VERY potential girlfriend!”

Brother Gollum asks: “What's he got in his hands?”

Cerebus says: “A sword! The likes of which can EASILY cut you up!”

Brother Gollum assesses the situation, and takes on the air of politeness. Brother Gollum says: “Perhaps, we can sit here, chat with it a bit, my precious. Do you like riddles? Ask us a question!”

Cerebus bluntly says: “Cerebus doesn't like riddles.”

Brother Gollum says: “Well, if you don't like riddles, we can always do knock knock jokes...”.

Cerebus shouts: “THAT'S EVEN WORSE!”

Brother Gollum says: “Riddles it is, then.”

Cerebus, while never BIG on playing games, unless it was to pass the time when traveling from one place to another. Still, Cerebus could NOT really assess whether Brother Gollum was a danger or not. At any rate, Brother Gollum certainly didn't FEEL like he was worth the time and effort to kill! Besides, Cerebus thought to himsef (and as it turns out, rightfully so), that Brother Gollum might know of a way out of the cave. So Cerebus decided to play along with this rather inane game, to play for time! Cerebus asks: “What has four legs at dawn, two legs in the afternoon, and three legs in the evening?”

Brother Gollum racked his brains! It had been a LONG time since he HAD any meaningful conversations with anyone other than himself, and he had almost LONG forgotten the things that others had SAID to him! But somehow, looking at Cerebus, the answer was obvious! Brother Gollum says: “Man! Man, is it! My turn! You cannot see it, you cannot hear it, you cannot taste it, and you cannot touch it, yet it is ALWAYS around you!”

Even though Cerebus was certainly not the BEST type to answer rather puzzling, and rather confusing questions like this! But Cerebus proved that he wasn't at a lack for wits, and he answers: “Wind, the answer is wind, of course! Try THIS one on for size! It's a box without hinges, key, or a lid. Yet golden treasure inside is hid!”

Brother Gollum had to REALLY rack his brains on this, as Cerebus asked this question in such a way, it caught Brother Gollum off guard! Cerebus asks: “Are you going to answer, or are you just going to stand there hissing like a pot all day?!”

Brother Gollum says: “Give us a chance!” Than he gets an epiphany and says: “Eggs! Eggs, is it! My turn! This thing, all things devours! Birds, beasts, trees, flowers! Gnaws iron, bites steel; grinds hard stone into meal! Slays kings, ruins towns, and beats the high mountain down!”

Now, Cerebus had heard of, and fought against many things before and after this; and despite all his worldly knowledge, there didn't seem to be a SINGULAR thing that could do all the things that Brother Gollum had just described! Cerebus would NEVER, EVER say he was ever afraid of anything! But at the moment, he was certainly worried! And worrying, is NEVER good for thinking! Cerebus had a feeling that the answer was something else entirely, but the word just wasn't coming to him! Brother Gollum was SURE he was going to win, until Cerebus recovered his wits and answered: “Time! The answer is time!”

By now, Brother Gollum was getting REALLY annoyed! He didn't LIKE his potential FOOD being as smart as HE was! Brother Gollum says: “Asks us! Ask us just one more question!”

But the truth of the matter was, that Cerebus had run out of clever riddles, just as much as Brother Gollum had! And without even really thinking about it, he questions aloud: “What is in my pocket?”

Brother Gollum hisses and says: “No fair! It isn't fair, my precious, to ask us what it has got in it's pockets! Give us another riddle!”

Cerebus, remembering Brother Gollum's EXACT Words, says: “No; you said to ask you a QUESTION! That's the question that I'm asking!”

Brother Gollum says: “Three guesses, then!”

Cerebus groans, and says: “Fine! Guess away!”

Brother Gollum says: “Hands!”

But Cerebus consciously made SURE his hands weren't IN his pockets, and he says: “Wrong!”

Brother Gollum answers: “Knife!”

But Cerebus never CARRIED his sword or a knife in his pocket, always keeping it in a holster. Cerebus replies: “Wrong! Guess again!”

Brother Gollum finally replies: “String, or NOTHING!”

Cerebus says: “Two guesses! BOTH of them, wrong!”

Cerebus certainly felt that while he might have technically WON the riddle game, that Brother Gollum might not HONOR such a win, especially since by all accounts, Cerebus didn't ask a TRUE riddle for his last question! But Cerebus felt like he had the high ground in any case, so Cerebus says: “You lost, so YOU show the exit to this place!”

Brother Gollum asks: “Did we EVER say it would?! We will SHOW the NASTY little aardvark out! But you will TELL us, what it has in it's pockets?!”

Cerebus says: “Never you mind! A promise is a promise!”

Brother Gollum says: “Impatient, is it?! My precious! But BE patient! We must go get something IMPORTANT, first, to help US!”

And Brother Gollum quickly skirted to its lone island in the middle of the lake. Cerebus had no way of knowing what Brother Gollum was up to, even though he was talking to himself, hatching a SINISTER scheme to himself! Brother Gollum says: “My birthday present! We WANTS it! We must POSSESS it!”

Cerebus only had a little while to wait, until he heard a HORRIBLE screech! Brother Gollum screams: “Where is it?! Where is IT?! LOST it IS, my PRECIOUS, LOST!!!! Curse us and crush us, my precious is LOST!!!!”

Cerebus shouts: “What have you LOST?!”

Brother Gollum shrieks: “It must not ask us! Not it's business! No, Gollum! It's lost, Gollum!”

Cerebus shouts: “You're not the only one lost! And besides, you LOST the game, and promised!”

Than Brother Gollum hisses sharply, and asks: “What has it got in its pockets? Tell us, first!”

Cerebus says: “Answers were to be guessed, not GIVEN!”

Brother Gollum says: “But it wasn't a FAIR question! Not a riddle!”

Cerebus immediately begins to suspect (and rightfully so), that Brother Gollum had already suspected that the item that was lost, WAS in fact, the item that Cerebus had taken! Not waiting to see what Brother Gollum had in mind for him, Cerebus decided it was better to make a run for it, than risk the unknown terrors of what Brother Gollum might unleash upon him! Somehow, without even REALIZING it, Cerebus SOMEHOW found himself putting the earring on his LEFT ear! Cerebus found himself backed into a corner, almost SURE that Brother Gollum would find him! But to his utter amazement, Brother Gollum ran RIGHT past him, taking no notice of him! Cerebus wasn't SURE how it happened at first! All Cerebus knew was that if he followed Brother Gollum, he might show Cerebus the exit, without even MEANING to! Brother Gollum cries: “Curse it! Curse the Cerebus! It's gone! My precious! He found my birthday present!”

Cerebus THEN made the conncetion, that the earring he was wearing, was for MORE than just good looks! Brother Gollum cries: “My birthday present! Curse it! How did we lose it?! The young goblin we twisted! That's it! Curse it! It's slipped from us! It's GONE, Gollum!”

And Brother Gollum was crying, and emitting a horrible sound. And Cerebus, who had NEVER found himself ever pitying any matter of villain before, somehow couldn't help but somehow feel sorry for this wretched creature; all alone, with no being he could call his friend! And Brother Gollum seemed to begin to ARGUE with himself! Brother Gollum says: “It doesn't know what the present can do, does it? And it can't go far! It's lost itself, the nosy thing!”

Brother Gollum says: “But it knew a way IN! It might know a way out! It's off to the back-door!”

“The Goblins would catch it then!”

“But if it has the present, our precious present, the goblins will get it! We will never be safe again!”

“Then stop talking, and make haste! We must go quick and see! Not far now, make haste!”

Cerebus immediately begins heading after Brother Gollum, but taking care NOT to let Brother Gollum hear him, smell him, OR touch him! Cerebus realized the earring was making him invisible! Cerebus had HEARD of such rumors, such as the ancient Atlanteans mastering such magical technology, of making oneself invisible, but never thought he would actually come ACROSS such an earring! Brother Gollum, thinking he was chasing down Cerebus, was instead leading Cerebus to an exit to the cave system! And a good thing for Cerebus, to; because they wound up taking 19 turns, some to the left, and some to the right, that if Brother Gollum hadn't led the way; Cerebus could have been lost in the cave system forever, or until he starved to death! At long last, Brother Gollum stopped before a low opening to the left of them, and Brother Gollum says: “This is the way to the back-door, yes. Here's the passage!”

But Brother Gollum shrank back, and he says: “But we dare not go in! We must not! Goblins down there! We smell them! What shall we do? Curse them and crush them! We must wait and see!”

This put Cerebus in quite an unusual predicament. He could SEE the way out, but Brother Gollum was blocking his path! Cerebus quickly guessed (and rightfully so), that even if Brother Gollum wasn't able to SEE him, his senses of smelling and hearing had become INCREDIBLY heightened, having lived in the dark for so long! Cerebus knew that logically, there WAS an easy solution to get out! All he had to do, was to RAISE his sword over the FOUL creature's head! Just GOUGE it's eye out, and put it OUT of it's misery! And with the SWORD over his head, Cerebus suddenly found himself, unable to commit the deed he had DONE so easily before, and would do easily many times after. But, there was something about being invisible, that made it seem less FAIR of a deed. Not as moral of a choice. After all, Cerebus had a sword, Brother Gollum had none. And Cerebus was invisible. Brother Gollum was foul, to be sure, but Brother Gollum had not actually THREATENED to kill Cerebus! It seemed that for the first time in Cerebus' life, he had come to experience the emotion that human's called 'pity'. An emotion that came from DEEP within Cerebus' heart, which GREATLY surprised Cerebus to know that he could actually HAVE a heart, even DESPITE not having a soul of his own! Instead, Cerebus just inched backwards, and with a GREAT running leap, jumped CLEAR over Brother Gollum, MISSING the top of the cave ONLY by mere inches! Brother Gollum HEARD something going over his head, and TRIED grabbing it, but to no avail! Cerebus had EVADED Brother Gollum, and was speeding down the exit towards freedom! The last thing Cerebus ever heard Brother Gollum say during this adventure, would eat at his very psyche for many years to come!

Brother Gollum says: “THIEF!!!!! Cerebus!!!! We HATES it! We HATES IT FOREVER!!!!”

Cerebus continued down the exit, not daring to look back to see if Brother Gollum or goblins were trying to come down the tunnel! Thankfully, Cerebus made his way to freedom, and fresh air! Cerebus avoided the goblins, and escaped! But he soon realized that he was on the OTHER side of the mountain! Cerebus didn't know just where his fellow adventurers were, but decided to press on, anyways, in case they weren't too far ahead or behind. But, he reasoned that because he had an earring that made him invisible, he COULD go back and look for his fellow adventurers. But at that moment, he heard voices! They weren't the voices of goblins, they were the voices of people! In fact, they were the voices of his fellow adventurers! Predictably, he heard ELROD talking first, so Cerebus decided he would give HIM a good little surprise HE would remember for the rest of his life! Elrod says: “We can't, I say, we can't possibly go on WITHOUT knowing where Cerebus is about! It took us, I say it took us an awful lot of man, woman, and dwarf power to over-power those goblins! Mostly dwarf power, that is! And despite, I say, despite his rather open hostilities towards me, I had hoped he would consider, I say, I hoped he would consider me a friend of his! I feel responsible for him! Responsible, that is!”

Thorin says: “Well, if you feel SO responsible then, why don't YOU go back and look for him?!”

Elrod says: “Because, I say, because I brought him along, and I NEVER bring things that aren't of any use! Use to me, that is! Either you HELP me look for him, or I'll just leave you, and you can fend for yourselves, if you possibly can! IF we can find him again, you will thank me before this is all over!”

Doree says: “Well, weren't YOU the one who saw him last?! Why can't YOU find our resident burglar who is missing in action?!”

Cerebus takes off the earring, and steps out of the trees, and says: “Cerebus prefers the term, 'Expert Treasure Hunter!' All the really good ones call themselves that, or so Cerebus has heard!”

And this caused everyone to jump! Everyone was puzzled, but they were certainly pleased to see, that Cerebus was all right; no worse for the wear! Red Sophia gives Cerebus a GREAT, big hug, and she says: “Cerebus! I'm so GLAD to see that you're all right! How can I ever REPAY you for returning to us back in one piece?!”

Cerebus uncomfortably says: “Stop trying to BREAK Cerebus into TWO pieces?!”

Red Sophia lets go, and she says: “Sorry! I get a little carried away from time to time! My true strength sometimes slips my mind. It won't happen again!”

Cerebus says: “That's comforting to know!”

Marty Balin says: “How did you ever get OUT of that dreadful place?!” /

So Cerebus, managed to relay in exposition everything (with the exception of the earring, which he decided to keep as personal usage as his OWN secret weapon), and detailed Brother Gollum, the Riddle Games, and being able to escape through the tunnel. Cerebus concludes: “And that's how it happened! Cerebus didn't see any Goblins guarding the exit, so Cerebus just made his way through the cave, and here Cerebus is!”

Elrod says: “I told you, I say, I told you Cerebus was useful to us! Useful, that is!”

And Elrod looked RATHER strangely at Cerebus, and Cerebus couldn't help but wonder if Elrod had guessed at the part of Cerebus' story that he had left out. Elrod says: “In any case, the path, I say the path we took ended up saving us a lot of time, difficult as it was! But I'm afraid, I say, I'm afraid we can't afford to rest for long! The surviving, I say, the surviving goblins will be on us before too long!”

Thorin looks at Cerebus and Red Sophia, and Thorin says: “It's true. Goblins are easily startled, but they'll soon be back, and in GREATER numbers! We'll have to cover a lot of ground, if we hope to evade THEIR clutches!” /

They made their way down the mountain, and to the middle of a pass filled with trees. There was a wild mountain stream passing through the area, and a few wild black-berries. But otherwise, not much to eat and drink other than the rationed provisions that they had. And they didn't DARE want to stop if they didn't have to anyways, to have a proper meal! But eventually, it got SO dark in the forest and in the night, that even Cerebus couldn't see where he was going! Cerebus shouts: “Hey, Mr. Wizard! Why don't you use your special MAGIC tricks or something, and turn your sword into a magic torch?!”

Elrod seriously says: “That's NOT how magic works! You can't, I say, you can't turn something into something that isn't like it! A torch, I say, a torch is NOTHING like a black sword! Rune-carved, that is!”

Red Sophia groans, and she says: “You already SAID that!”

Elrod says: “Well, excuse ME Princess; but I honestly, but I HONESTLY thought you forgotten! None of you folks ever seem to pay ATTENTION to me when I'm talking to you! Honestly, I say, it honestly feels like TALKING to an eggplant! You guys, that is!”

Thorin says: “Well, maybe if you actually SAID something that was WORTH hearing once in a while, we might bother to LISTEN to it!”

Than EVERYONE hears a HORRIBLE howling, and even though they don't NEED his exposition, Elrod inevitably shouts: “Coyotes!”

And far away from the mountain they just left, Red Sophia sees something AWFUL!!!! Red Sophia says: “Even worse! A massive, ugly, goblin horde! They must have followed us!”

Cerebus says: “WELL?! Anything in your bag of magic tricks that could get us out of THIS tight spot, since you're SO smart and all?!”

Elrod says: “Firstly, I say, firstly, I don't appreciate your obvious SARCASM to me! Second, it's very obvious to me that you don't appreciate me and everything I've done for you to get you THIS far!”

Cerebus asks: “Like WHAT?!

Red Sophia shouts: “IGNORE HIM!!!!”

Elrod says: “Noted! Anyways, I'm not; I say, I am NOT getting you out of this mess until you say the MAGIC words!”

Cerebus says: “It would HELP if Cerebus knew what the magic words WERE!”

Elrod says: “Simply say; 'Wizards rule, and warriors drool'.”

Cerebus loudly shouts: “You have GOT to be--!!”

Red Sophia screams: “JUST DO IT!!!! The goblins are putting FIRE on their ARROWS!!!!”

Cerebus annoyed, says: “FINE!!!! Wizards rule, and warriors drool! There, you HAPPY?!”

Elrod says: “Music to my ears!”

And Elrod pulls out his blue ocarina again, and plays another familiar tune! This time, he plays; down, left, up, down, left, up; the “Song of Soaring!” And just like that, giant OWLS appear out of the sky, and pick the WHOLE group up, and fly them away from what COULD have been a curb-stomp battle! Cerebus asks: “Where are these owls TAKING us?!”

Elrod says: “You will KNOW soon enough!”

And as it turns out, the owls drop the group off on top of a rock out-cropping, near a group of very dark, and very dank trees! Upon being released, Elrod turns to the owls, and says: “Thank you, Kaepora, servant of Garudia. You serve the eagle guardian well, and we hope you may be able to help us again!”

Kaepora replies: “Hoot! We have taken you far! You've successfully traveled a lot farther than most others have in their quest to defeat the great evil that plagues this land! Unfortunately, this is as far as we can take you! Most men still live in fear of us, and do not respect us! Not yet, at any rate. We cannot go outside of our own range at this time. However, if you SHOULD need our help again, call ONLY when the time is right! You will know when that is! I, and the rest of my owl brethren, wish you the best of luck, on your continuing journey! Hoot!”

And just like that, Kaepora, and the rest of the owls, take off! Cerebus asks: “Wait! Just where are they going now?!”

Elrod says: “Back to their, I say, back to their nests, I suppose! After all, most of them have families, including three hungry beaks to fill!”

Cerebus angrily shouts: “That's NOT what Cerebus meant, and you know it! The question Cerebus was asking you was, WHY THE HELL DIDN'T YOU GET THOSE OWLS TO GIVE US A RIDE IN THE FIRST PLACE?!!! Because, HONESTLY, WHAT THE ACTUAL HELL, HERO?!!!”

Elrod says: “Now, I thought you LIKED these types of adventures! And as I've already told you, that's NOT how magic works! The owls, I say the owls can only pick you up and take you to a place that they have actually seen! They've never BEEN to the city, so of COURSE they couldn't have given us a ride to start off with! Besides, I thought we were bonding!”

Cerebus angrily says: “Cerebus would rather BOND with a rabid HONEY BADGER before bonding with YOU!!!! You are the LOUDEST, RUDEST, most ANNOYING WIZARD, it has EVER been Cerebus' BIGGEST displeasure, to EVER meet, within Cerebus' own LIFE! Bar-none!!!!”

Elrod asks: “Just WHAT are you trying to SAY to me exactly?!”

But this oblivious comment causes Cerebus to LOSE it, and he screams: “CEREBUS DOESN'T LIKE YOU!!!! Don't you GET IT?!!! Nobody LIKES YOU!!!! You're annoying, and LOUD, and you TALK to much! CEREBUS has NEVER BEEN a PET, Cerebus is an AARDVARK!!!! Red Sophia's name is NOT 'Princess', that's NOT how you play checkers, and protein doesn't COME from bananas! It comes from NUTS!!!! Which you don't need to EAT more of, because you ARE nuts! You're chock FULL of NUTS!!!! You're SO NUTS, you drive CEREBUS NUTS!!!! EVERYBODY thinks you're a NUISANCE, and we all want you to JUST GO HOME!!!!”

And this leaves Elrod STUNNED in shock in silence, causing Cerebus to yell: “WELL?!!!”

Elrod than defiantly says: “You know, I have had just about ENOUGH out of you as well! You know what?! Try and find your OWN way through the Lost Woods of the Murky Forest! You'll be lost within a DAY trying to go off the PATH!!!! And DON'T let me catch ANY of you RUNNING back to me to BEG for help, because you WON'T get!!!!”

Cerebus says: “Cerebus needs YOUR help like he NEEDS a DISEASE!!!! And I hope you TRIP on your CAPE walking back home!”

Elrod says: “I don't NEED to walk! I can WARP myself back to my OWN home!”

And Elrod pulls out his blue ocarina and plays; down, left, down, left, up, right; “The Prelude of Light”, and he disappears into the sunlight, and warps away! Marty Balin says: “Cerebus, you just chased off our OWN wizard! How are WE going to get SAFELY to the Isolated Peak NOW?!!!

Cerebus sharply says: “GET serious; we're FAR better off without him! Besides, we have the map, and Cerebus is MORE than enough for a match for ANY creep that tries to fight us! Just let ANYBODY try to stop us NOW!”

And the group looked onward into the ever-pressing darkness of the Lost Woods of the Murky Forest, little guessing at the TRUE terrors that lay await inside of them!

To Be Continued...

Episode Notes: First canon appearance of Elrod the Sorceror. Cerebus gains his trademark black vest and ring necklace in this episode. Special Guest appearance by Marty Balin, and Orlando Bloom, both as themselves! This episode (and the one that follows it), is a whole plot point reference to "The Hobbit"; more specifically the 1977 animated movie version of it, with some elements from "The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time," and "The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask" thrown in. First time (and it may not be the last), that Cerebus didn't automatically kill an opponent, which may or may not come into play at a later date.

Personal Notes: I actually wanted to try to fit this whole story onto one post. But when I saw that the story was already 19 pages LONG, and I had ONLY gotten this story to the point where Elrod (substituting for Gandalf in this story), temporarily LEAVES the story, I decided that unlike the live-action movie version of "The Hobbit", splitting this story up into chunks would be a GOOD thing; but unlike the live-action movie version of "The Hobbit", I'll only split the movie up into two chunks instead of three, and you don't have to WAIT a full year for the next installment! I'll try to get the next part up as soon as possible! Enough said, for now!

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The Long, Long, Long, LONG Walk! (Part II)”

The Green Hood narrates, and says: “Previously, on Cerebus the Aardvark, Cerebus and Red Sophia arrived on the island of Melvinbone, where I appeared to tell them that their services were needed on this island, and they would need to meet and accept help from the sorcerer named Elrod! Elrod...did NOT make the best first impression on Cerebus and Red Sophia, to say the least! But Cerebus and Red Sophia were willing to put their differences aside, in order to join Elrod on a quest, to vanquish the fierce dragon named Sludge, and lay their hands on a great treasure located in the Isolated Peak! Joining forces with twelve rugged dwarves, the adventurous group fought against trolls, goblins, coyotes, and Cerebus even encountered the lair of Brother Gollum, where he found a magical earring that could turn him invisible at will! But by the time the group got to the Lost Woods of the Murky Forest, Cerebus had FINALLY had enough of Elrod's constant talking, and Cerebus royally told Elrod off! Needless to say, Elrod was rather defiant and indignant about the whole matter, and Elrod decided to leave the group to their own devices, and fend for themselves within the dark forest. The now 14 adventurers are gazing into the depths, of the Lost Woods of the Murky Forest, unaware of the TRUE terrors lurking within!” (Dedicated to the REAL Marty Balin). /

Red Sophia says: “Well, this is a particular pickle we've gotten ourselves into. Our wizard is GONE, we're about to march head-on into a forest that NONE of us know anything about, and to top it all off, NONE of us KNOW any magic!”

Cerebus says: “We don't NEED magic to handle one little walk! Besides, Cerebus is FAR tougher than ANYTHING this world can throw at him! Whatever danger there may be, Cerebus can HANDLE it! Besides, we've also got TWELVE other dwarfish bruisers to back us up!”

Keely says: “Not to contradict you, but including me, I only count eleven!”

Doree says: “That's right! Where's Marty Balin?!”

Beefur says: “I think he went into the forest to take a pee!”

Cerebus says: “Cerebus once heard someone say, that women pee. Men--”.

Red Sophia says: “Don't even GO there, Cerebus! Most women in this world, don't actually BELIEVE in being oppressively domineering over men!”

Cerebus says: “Cerebus wasn't trying to mean anything by that comment. As far as Cerebus is concerned, it's a pretty STUPID comment anyways, and he certainly didn't come up with it originally. And whoever DID, must have had some SERIOUS issues with women!”

Red Sophia says: “But you don't have any issues, do you?”

Cerebus asks: “Is that a trick question? You know Cerebus has a hard time when it comes to answering such questions in a manner that doesn't come out right! For some reason, the comment always sounds FINE within Cerebus' mind, but whenever it comes out, it always sounds WRONG for ANY woman who hears Cerebus speak! And if Cerebus is being honest with everyone else, it's probably Cerebus' own fault! There should REALLY be some sort of place that teaches people, and aardvarks, how to actually talk TO other people and aardvarks!”

Red Sophia says: “Well, if either one of us ever LIVES long enough to get too OLD or too TIRED of doing this, we can always consider establishing such an institution dedicated to such a practice!”

Gloyn says: “Come on, focus! What are we going to do about Marty Balin?”

Cerebus asks: “What do you mean, what are we going to do about Marty Balin, he's a dwarfish man! He can HANDLE it!”

And just at that moment, everyone else hears an UNGODLY animal screech, and a bunch of birds suddenly fly out of the trees! Cerebus says: “Those better have NOT been pigeons! Cerebus HATES pigeons!, and to explain why would be a long, boring story, but take Cerebus' WORD for it!”

Thorin Oakonried says: “I know of only one thing that can make such an ungodly animal cry. The sound of a giant, killer, man-eating spider!”

Red Sophia asks: “A GIANT, killer, man-eating spider?!”

Bowfur says: “Well, this IS Melvinborne!”

Red Sophia says: “I HATE Giant, killer, man-eating spiders! Normal spiders are bad enough, but giant, killer ones are something else all together!”

Feely says: “I think Marty Balin may be in trouble! We better go in after him!”

And the adventurers rush into the forest, looking for the missing Marty Balin! Oyn says: “We better stay on the trail! No telling what sort of black magic or crafty traps may be lurking in the woods!”

Noree says: “Over here!”

And everyone else rushes over, only to see the body of one very BADLY poisoned, dead, and very MANGLED body of Marty Balin laying next to a tree, with a STILL smoking joint of Marijauna in his deceased hand. Thorin says: “WOAH! Now that's what I call, having a BAD day!”

Bombar says: “I guess that means I get more lines than! At least Marty Balin DIED doing what he loved; getting stoned!”

Red Sophia says: “That's NOT what he loved! Marty Balin loved singing! He loved it more than anything in the world! Why did HE have to be the first dwarf to die on this journey?! He was the ONLY one among you dwarfs, who was even moderately COOL!”

A creepy, but soothing, female voice says: “Your question is mine to answer.”

And through the woods, the strange figure of what appears to be a female skeleton corpse, albeit, still lovely, and strangely beautiful in her own way, appears into view. Cerebus asks: “Who are you?”

The woman replies: “Where I come from, I was known as a woman named Emily. But here, I represent the Angel of Death.”

Red Sophia says: “The Angel of Death? But that would mean that Marty Balin would HAVE to be--!”

Emily finishes: “Gone? Yes, it's sad, but true. I have come to take his soul into the afterlife, where his soul shall be evaluated for all the deeds he has accomplished, good and/or bad, and he will be judged to see what kind of life he shall be reincarnated into next.”

Cerebus asks: “Do you do this for ALL humans?”

Emily says: “All intelligent life is up for me to collect. It's a very busy job, but somebody has to do it. I liked Marty Balin's music just as much as you did, Red Sophia, but I cannot change the hands of fate, for what was a mortal man.”

Red Sophia asks: “How do you know my name?”

Emily says: “It is my duty to know the names of any that I might meet one day, including YOU, Cerebus! You're a very interesting case, to say the least! Despite not having a soul, my superior in the heavenly bureaucracy STILL wants me to keep tabs on you! It might be important someday!”

Cerebus asks: “And who IS your heavenly superior?”

Emily says: “That is strictly on a need-to-know basis, and you DON'T need to know right now. But you might find it out someday if you're lucky!”

Cerebus sarcastically says: “That's just great!”

Emily says: “Ignoring your obvious sarcasm, I must take Marty Balin away now. But don't you worry, you won't be alone for long. I have it on VERY good authority that someone is coming back to help you on the rest of your journey!”

Cerebus says: “It better not be Elrod!”

Emily says: “Nope! Somebody even better!”

Cerebus says: “Well, that only narrows it down to...just about EVERYONE ELSE good in this world!”

Bombar says: “Hey! Can we loot Marty Balin's dead body before you take him away?!”

Cerebus looks at him disgustedly, and Cerebus says: “You DISGUST Cerebus!”

Emily says: “But as a parting gift, I'll let you magically hear one of Marty Balin's tunes that he sang, before he passed away! I hope you enjoy it! I think you will!”

And everyone is AMAZED in bewilderment, as they hear Marty Balin's disembodied voice sing to them, as they reminisce over Marty Balin's time with them, as Marty Balin sings a song called, “Runaway”.

Marty Balin: “You don't know how much I love you. But I love you like the sun. I'd like to put my arms around you, And we could run, run, run, runaway. Let's run, run, run, runaway. Let's run, run, run, runaway. If you knew how much I miss you, oh; I miss you more each day. I'd really like to come and see you, and we could run, run, run, runaway. Run, run, run, runaway. Let's run, run, run, runaway. Sun is comin' and it's getting warmer, tell me spring is just around the corner. I'm sitting, watchin' all of the flowers. Birds are singin', getting louder and louder. And here I am missin' you, here I go, I'm lovin' you. Run, run, run, run, runnin'. Here I go, I'm wantin' you. Run, run, run, run, runnin'. Here I go, I'm needing you. Run, run, run, run, runnin'. Here I go, I'm loving you. Run, run, run, run, runnin'. Run, run, run, run, runaway. And if you knew how much I need you, oh; and I need you like the air. If someone should take you from me. I would run, run, run, runaway. I'd run, run, run, runaway. Let's run, run, run, runaway. Sun is comin' and it's getting warmer, tell me spring is just around the corner. I'm sitting watchin' all of the flowers. Birds are singin', getting louder and louder. And here I am missin' you, here I go, I'm lovin' you. Run, run, run, run, runnin'. Here I go, I'm wantin' you. Run, run, run, run, runnin'. Here I go, I'm needing you. Run, run, run, run, runnin'. Here I go, I'm loving you. Run, run, run, run, runnin'. Run, run, run, run, runaway. Oh, now you don't know how much I love you. But I love you like the sun. I'd like to put my arms around you. We could run, run, run, runaway. Come on, baby, let's run, run, run, runaway. Come on, baby, let's run, run, run, runaway. You don't know how much I want to run, run, run, runaway. You don't know how much I need to run, run, run, runaway. You don't know how much I love to run, run, run, runaway. You don't know how much I'd love to run, run, run, runaway. Really like to come and see you run, run, run, runaway.” /

When the song ends, Emily has disappeared with Marty Balin's body! Bombar says: “So, I'm guessing that's a 'No', on looting Marty Balin's dead body?”

Red Sophia says: “For goodness sakes, no!”

Keely says: “So, what do we do now?”

Thorin says: “For the moment, we shouldn't do anything! After all, it's bad luck to do any journeying with thirteen travelers at any one time. Unless ONE of you feels brave enough to sacrifice their lives, trying to kill off the Giant, Man-eating spiders that killed off Marty Balin.”

Beefur says: “Can we send Bombar?! He'd make the biggest meal for the spiders if he fails!”

Bombar says: “I'm RIGHT here; I can HEAR every single word you are saying!”

Bowfur says: “You wouldn't HAVE to worry about that if you stopped having second breakfast, every ONCE in a while!”

Cerebus says: “Calm down, you guys! It's getting late, anyways! We're not gonna get very far on the trail in the dark in any case, so why don't we stop for the night? Red Sophia and Cerebus will take turns keeping watch, and drive off anything that tries to attack us!”

Red Sophia says: “You're NOT going to try to do all the watching by YOURSELF again, are you?!”

Cerebus says: “Of course not! Cerebus is not foolish enough to repeat the same mistake twice! If Cerebus starts to get tired, Cerebus will wake you up for your turn. You have Cerebus' word!”

Red Sophia says: “Well, you DO have a pretty good track record of keeping your word.”

Doree says: “It's settled, then. We'll eat some of our provisions that DON'T require a campfire, so as not to draw attention to ourselves OR accidentally start a fire in this forest, than we'll settle down for the night. And hopefully, our replacement warrior will join us, by then. I just wonder who it could be?” /

Meanwhile, in a valley pass that Cerebus and his friends were airlifted out of not too long ago, the Goblin leader is BEWILDERED by the fact that his goblin and wolf army is getting SHOT by arrows right and left! The goblin leader screams: “Would it be TOO much to ask for SOMEBODY to actually HIT that ONE guy?!”

Than the warrior steps into view, and with a familiar voice says: “Didn't anyone ever tell you the secret to MY success? True beauty is NEVER tarnished!”

And the warrior is revealed to be Orlando Bloom! Orlando says: “Surprised by my sudden appearance? You shouldn't be! In any case, your forces are keeping me from joining my friends. The Green Hood told me that I would be needed to help them after all, so I've got to catch up to them! So, we can do this two ways, easy, or hard!”

And another arrow flies HARMLESSLY past him, MISSING by several YARDS!!!! Orlando Bloom sighs, and says: “Why do these jerks ALWAYS got to do it the HARD way? Even so, this might take a while. Hold on tight, you warriors! I'll be there as soon as I can!” /

Meanwhile, in the Murky Forest, it is the dark of night. The food has long been consumed, and everyone except Cerebus is asleep. At that moment, a mysterious voice that Cerebus recognizes, talks to him again! The voice says: “Cerebus, why in the WORLD did you tell Elrod to just go home?!”

Cerebus says: “Green Hood?! What is it YOUR business who Cerebus chooses to travel with?!”

The Green Hood visibly appears to him, and he says: “Well, for starters, despite the fact that Elrod has helped you out THREE times in getting YOU and your friends out of trouble, you DELIBERATELY sent him away, all just because YOU decided that you couldn't stand another MINUTE of his talking!”

Cerebus says: “You WEREN'T with us! You have NO idea how annoying he was!”

The Green Hood says: “Technically speaking, I DID warn you AND Red Sophia that he might be a little bit TRYING!”

Cerebus says: “Try, a LOT trying! Good riddance! He was an irritant, anyways!”

The Green Hood says: “An irritant who selflessly saved your life THREE times, and NEVER got a word of 'Thanks', for it!”

Cerebus says: “So is it Cerebus' fault that he was annoying to us?!”

The Green Hood says: “That's NOT what I was implying! What I'm saying is, would it have KILLED you to be a LITTLE bit patient with Elrod?”

Cerebus says: “Possibly! Cerebus doesn't do, 'Patient'!”

The Green Hood says: “Come on! Red Sophia might find it to be nice!”

Cerebus says: “Cerebus doesn't do, 'Nice', either!”

The Green Hood says: “I can see you're once again going to be difficult about this. Look, if Elrod WANTED to, he could have CHOSEN not to cast that floating spell on you, while you fell DOWN for hundreds of yards and feet down that deep chasm into Brother Gollum's lair! That's right, if it wasn't for Elrod, YOU wouldn't even be ALIVE right now!”

Cerebus says: “So it's Elrod who kept Cerebus from biting it back in the cave? Why didn't he TELL Cerebus about it sooner?!”

The Green Hood says: “Maybe because Elrod THOUGHT it would be OBVIOUS? In any case, you're in real trouble right now WITHOUT Elrod!”

Cerebus asks: “How do YOU figure?”

The Green Hood says: “Well, for starters, mere MINUTES after you sent Elrod away, Marty Balin got STABBED, POISONED, and KILLED by the Giant, Man-Eating Spiders!”

Cerebus protests, and says: “Marty Balin, was like, over EIGHTY years OLD!!!! He was probably going to die soon, anyways!”

The Green Hood says: “That doesn't change the fact that he died on YOUR watch, after you RECKLESSLY claimed that, and I quote: 'Cerebus can HANDLE this'!”

Cerebus says: “Marty Balin's death was unpreventable, regardless of HOW he died!”

The Green Hood says: “Don't you think you owe Elrod a LITTLE apology? Even if you don't, I'll tell you what IS preventable, the deaths of ANY other members of your party!”

Cerebus says: “No, Cerebus DOESN'T owe Elrod an apology; he can rot in HADES for all Cerebus cares! Besides, everyone else's deaths are TOTALLY preventable! Cerebus CAN handle it!”

The Green Hood asks: “Oh, really? Well, how can you 'Handle it', if you're asleep?!”

Cerebus looks puzzled, and asks: “What are you TALKING about?! Cerebus is NOT asleep!”

The Green Hood says: “How do you know that for sure unless you OPEN your EYES?!”

Cerebus sighs, and says: “Okay, Cerebus will open them up AGAIN, but just to PROVE to you--.” /

Cerebus opens his eyes for real, and SCREAMS when he sees a bunch of silk trails leading up into the trees and Cerebus finishes: “That Cerebus fell asleep AGAIN!!!! Red Sophia could KILL Cerebus if Cerebus doesn't save her fast! But Cerebus doesn't have time to climb ALL those trees! There's got to be a more EFFECTIVE way! Maybe Cerebus could...no! NO!!!! Cerebus WILL not STOOP to calling for Elrod! Cerebus CAN handle this! Just got to walk! Got to think! Got to walk around and think at the same time! Got to think! Got to have a plan!”

Than a lit candle (because light bulbs haven't been INVENTED yet), symbolically appears over Cerebus' head, and Cerebus says: “Cerebus has it! The spiders WON'T eat everyone else, if they're too busy trying to eat an INVISIBLE aardvark!”

And Cerebus puts on the magical earring, turning everything EXCEPT his sword invisible, and he shouts: “Hey, MORONS!!!! You forgot something! You're messing with Cerebus' FRIENDS, and Cerebus WON'T allow that! EAT Cerebus! EAT CEREBUS!!!!” And ALL the spiders jump out of the trees, and Cerebus is facing TWELVE of the creepiest arachnids to ever walk the island of Melvinborne!

Cerebus sarcastically snarks: “Yippee. There's a good DOZEN of them! Not exactly the fight Cerebus envisioned, but there's no rethinking Cerebus' strategy, now. Cerebus just has to keep slashing until these creeps drop down dead! Red Sophia's, and by extension, the dwarfs' lives, depend on it!” /

However, currently unknown to Cerebus, Red Sophia is actually STILL fine! She had woken up, and realized she needed to relieve herself. Seeing that Cerebus was still awake at the moment she left, she chose a discreet place to do her business. But upon coming back, she can see nothing EXCEPT the twelve spiders chasing after SOMETHING that she can't see (which is Cerebus, invisible), but she DOES see the silk trails leading up into the trees! Red Sophia says: “Oh, come on! Can't a lady take a LITTLE time to herself without everything falling into pieces?! And where is Cerebus for all of this?! Well, he might be up there, so it looks like its MY turn to save Cerebus for a change! I just hope he APPRECIATES it, or I am going to be SO mad at him when I see him next...probably!”

Using her sword to help her climb, Red Sophia makes her way up one of the trees, and comes upon the still conscious body of Thorin, mostly wrapped up in a silk cocoon. Red Sophia carefully cuts him free, and once loose, he wearily says: “Thank goodness YOU'RE still all right! Those spiders ambushed us! They were too strong and quick! We're lucky you came when you did!”

Red Sophia asks: “Is Cerebus here?”

Thorin answers: “Not that I've seen. Is he in trouble?”

Red Sophia sternly says: “Either he IS in trouble, or he's GOING to be! Are the other dwarfs up here as well?”

Thorin says: “I think so.” And he looks around at the trees, and he counts the silk cocoons of ten other dwarfs. Thorin says: “One, two, three, four...seven, eight, nine, ten. Yep! That's all of us, except for Cerebus, accounted for!”

Red Sophia rolls her eyes, and groans, saying: “Well I SURE hope he's having as MISERABLE of a time as WE are, right now! Well, guess we might as well get started on freeing the others! No telling when and/or if those creepy crawlies might come back!”

And Red Sophia jumps across to another tree, and uses her sword to keep herself from slipping! Red Sophia says: “Well, don't just STAND there! You choose a tree and help me cut the rest loose!”

Throin says: “Not to burst your bubble, but I'm a dwarf!”

Red Sophia says: “So?”

Thorin says: “Hello! We normally LIVE in caves and mines! We're TERRIBLE at jumping! And besides, none of us KNOW how to climb up any trees!”

Red Sophia says: “And I don't exactly have time to teach you! This mission is going all to POT ever since Cerebus sent Elrod away! That reward in the Isolated Peak sure better be WORTH it!” /

Cerebus himself is quite busy, dealing with the Giant Man-eating spiders! Because even though they can't SEE him, they can STILL hear and smell him, and they use THOSE senses to compensate and try to ATTACK him! Thankfully Cerebus stays WELL out of harm's way, and keeps slashing away at the Giant Man-eating spiders, who ooze PURPLE blood whenever Cerebus manages to successfully kill one! It takes a while, but Cerebus FINALLY manages to kill every last one! Upon doing so, he removes the earring, and puts it back in his shirt pocket. Cerebus says: “Cerebus hated to have to kill them all, but they HAD to be taught a lesson! Now, to go rescue my friends! Cerebus just hopes that Red Sophia doesn't chew out Cerebus TOO much for SOMEHOW falling asleep!” /

But while Cerebus was busy fighting, Red Sophia has managed to free every last dwarf, and they are all back on solid ground! Keely says: “Well, that was about as much fun as grabbing a bull by the horns! Don't know WHY anyone suggests you grab them THAT way, though!”

Bombar says: “So, thank you for not leaving us to rot and die up there!”

Red Sophia says: “Don't thank me just yet! We've got to get out of here before those giant creeps come back! They're not going to be happy if they come back here and find that I've managed to free the lot of you! Besides, none of you are currently in any condition to help me do any fighting!”

Noree asks: “But what about Cerebus?”

Red Sophia says: “We don't exactly have time to leave a forwarding address! Besides, Cerebus can track us with his sense of smell! We just have to keep pressing on, and hope that Cerebus will catch up to us! Cerebus wouldn't want to find us dead or killed, would he?”

Oyn says: “Probably not you. I don't know about the rest of us.”

Red Sophia says: “Trust me. Cerebus REALLY doesn't like it when somebody good dies on his watch! He's going to be trying extra hard to make sure that the rest of us are kept safe! So, dust yourselves off, and let's get on our way! I've had enough inconveniences for one day!”

And they all run off forward on the trail. Mere seconds later, Cerebus runs onto the scene, and he shouts: “Dwarfs! Red Sophia! Are you all still okay?!”

But they're already too far away to hear Cerebus shouting! Cerebus says: “Oh, Terim! They must STILL be up in the trees! Well, guess I better start climbing in order to save them!”

So Cerebus climbs up one of the trees (not easy, since he's so short, and his arms can BARELY reach all the way around the tree), but he makes his way up it, only to find that there's nothing there except for a bunch of cut, silk cocoons. Cerebus says: “What a trip THIS is turning out to be! Cerebus works his BUTT off to kill the spiders, in order to save these guys, and what thanks does Cerebus get? Cerebus comes up here to find that somebody else has already cut these guys loose! Now Cerebus doesn't have a CLUE as to where they are! Maybe Cerebus could...STOP thinking that! Cerebus will NOT call on Elrod for help! Cerebus CAN handle this! But how?! Cerebus can't see them, Cerebus can't hear them, Cerebus can't touch them, and Cerebus certainly can't taste them!”

Than once again, a lit candle appears over Cerebus' head! And Cerebus looks up, and asks: “Is that REALLY the brightest Cerebus' ideas can get?! Anyways, Cerebus can certainly SMELL them! Just got to pick up their scent!”

And Cerebus closes his eyes, and begins sniffing! Sure enough, he picks up the scent of ALL his friends, currently heading through the forest on the trail! Cerebus says: “They're all still alive! Red Sophia freed them! Cerebus should have known that the spiders wouldn't have been tough enough to capture her! Just hold on tight, Cerebus is coming!”

He hops down from the tree, and Cerebus says: “Wait a minute!”

Cerebus once again starts smelling the scents in the forest. Cerebus says: “There's something ELSE living in the forest as well! Wood elves! And they are NOT happy that their pet spiders have been killed! They've set out a food trap! Bombar, don't you DARE touch any free food! Cerebus better turn invisible again, there's no telling where those Wood Elves might be hiding! But they can't capture Cerebus, if they can't see him!”

So Cerebus puts on his earring, and begins chasing after his friends! /

As Red Sophia and the dwarfs are heading down the path, Bombar's stomach begins growling, and he cries: “I'm SO hungry!”

Gloyn says: “STOP SAYING THAT!!!!”

A few seconds pass without anything happening, and Oree says: “You're THINKING it, aren't you?”

Bombar says: “I can't control my stomach, you KNOW that!”

Red Sophia says: “Well, unless we get out of this forest, or run across a convenient market soon, you'll just have to live OFF your fat!”

Bombar's eyes open up wide, and he says: “We don't HAVE to wait! Look right there! It's wonderful, glorious, FOOD!!!!”

Noree says: “It's just a bunch of dried meat. Just leave it alone, we don't know where it's been!”

Bombar says: “Come on! You're going to say 'No' to free food? Besides, it will give us the strength to carry on in our journey!”

Thorin says: “Don't touch it! It doesn't smell right!”

Bombar says: “What are you talking about? I don't smell any poison! I've got to sink my teeth into this dried meat!”

Red Sophia and everyone else rushes forward, and Beefur says: “Bombar, DON'T!!!!”

But the MOMENT Bombar touches the dried meat, a giant rope net trap springs up UNDER them, and hoists them all up into the sky! Red Sophia sarcastically says: “Nice, Bombar! Really nice! No, really. I MEAN it! It's great! Great, that you're ALWAYS thinking with your stomach!”

Bombar says: “Would you give it a REST already?! We can't ALL be Little Miss Perfect!”

Bowfur says: “Everybody just shut up and just use your swords to cut us out of here!”

And everyone begins doing so, and Bowfur says: “Wait! Maybe, take it--!”

But they all instantly fall down out of the cut trap, and Bowfur finishes: “Slowly!”

They all get up, and find themselves SURROUNDED on all sides by Wood Elves! Red Sophia gulps nervously, and she says: “Guys, I THINK we're in trouble!” (Gilligan Cut!) The Wood Elves are dragging Red Sophia and the dwarfs down into their underground lair, and Thorin says: “We're in trouble!”

Red Sophia screams: “If you DON'T put ME down, IMMEDIATELY, I'm going to get very, VERY rough with you!” /

In the center of the Grand Cave, decorated with treasures of silver and gold, which the wood elves have decorated with silver and gold ornaments they had won from vanquished foes in many battles past, a young, cute, but bratty, kid-like elf sits on his wooden throne, holding the figure of a red-clothed man, standing in front of a miniature tower. In a creepy voice, the young elf says: “I will rule the world!”

In his normal voice, the kid elf says: “Oh, no you won't! I will rule the world!”

And the kid elf tosses BOTH the toy and the miniature tower into his fire-place, and laughs gleefully! The wood elves, holding the dwarfs and Red Sophia prisoner, bring them to the kid. One of the tall, Wood Elves says: “My young king, we have the dwarfs, and the girl, but no sign of the mysterious creature that was traveling with them.”

The young king says: “That is fine. I'm sure that gray...pig-thingy will show up soon enough. In the mean-time, get me some new toys! I'm bored playing make-believe that I'm someone called the Crimson King, trying to control a tower that isn't even a tower!”

Red Sophia says: “If I could only grab my sword...let me GO!!!!”

The young king, looks at Red Sophia, and he is instantly smitten! The young king says: “Ooh! Contact Elrod! Tell him he can HAVE the elves! But I WANT the girl!”

The tall Wood Elf says: “But Elrod specifically ORDERED them ALL to be fed and returned!”

The young king slaps his servant on the hand, and he says: “I do not take orders from Elrod, I am doing him a favor! Tell him if he WANTS the dwarfs so badly, than I GET to keep the girl!”

Red Sophia says: “In your DREAMS, Tiny Tim!”

The young king says: “Prepare the engagement ceremony! In ten years, when I come of age, I will make HER one of MY WIVES!”

Red Sophia horrifyingly says: “One of your WIVES?!”

The dwarfs don't WANT her to be married against her will, so they decide to come to her defense! Feely says: “Excuse me sir, but, you wouldn't WANT to marry Red Sophia! She's...well, she's VERY difficult!”

Gloyn says: “And...she's NOT very tight!”

Oree says: “And her COOKING is ATROCIOUS!”

Doree says: “And, she spends MONEY like a DRUNKEN sailor!”

Bombar says: “And when she doesn't get her way...”

Red Sophia loudly says: “YOU'RE NOT HELPING, GUYS!”

The young king says: “The engagement ceremony will take place, promptly at dawn!”

Bowfur says: “What?!”

And the Wood Elves begin dragging the dwarfs to underground cells, and Red Sophia to the young king's private quarters! Red Sophia shouts: “If you think I'm gonna marry that pint-sized TWERP, I'm not!”

The young king laughs: “Pint-sized twerp! That's funny! So funny!” Than he stops and thinks out loud: “Wait a minute! What IS a twerp?” /

Cerebus comes upon the scene with the cut rope trap, and the dried meat, but no sign of his friends. Cerebus groans in frustration, and he says: “Bombar, you just HAD to take the food, didn't you?! Look's like it's all up to Cerebus to save the day, AGAIN! Cerebus just hopes that they're all being treated well!” /

While the dwarfs have all been locked up, the Wood Elves at LEAST have the decency to give them a good meal and some water, to make their conditions slightly better, while Red Sophia gets outfitted with a FULL, golden battle armor, made for an Elf Queen! Red Sophia turns to the female Wood Elves who helped dress her, and Red Sophia says: “You don't understand! I don't care HOW important he is, HOW powerful he is, HOW RICH he is...but, just out of curiosity, HOW rich is he?!”

A tall, wood elf comes in, holding a little, wooden bird house. And he says: “Begging your pardon my future Queen, but our young king wanted me to give this engagement present to you. It is a titmouse, all the way from the Isolated Peak. It will keep you company whenever we have to go away on a hunting trip, or a war campaign. Have a pleasant, rest of your evening! Girls, leave her be! The king wants her to be well rested, for the ceremony tomorrow!”

And everyone except Red Sophia leaves the room, and they lock her up in the room. Red Sophia turns to the blue titmouse, and she says: “Poor little guy, I know what it's like to be held up against your will. Well, don't you worry, we happen to be going to the Isolated Peak ourselves! We'll get you back there, somehow. Cerebus will probably be a while, trying to fight off the Wood Elves guarding this place. I'll just have to see if I can't find something that can get us out of here, and get our weapons back!” /

Cerebus comes upon the entrance to the Wood-Elves underground cavern. Thankfully, the only ones guarding it are two very sleepy Wood-Elves. Cerebus says to himself: “For a race of creatures that consider themselves to be fierce rivals to the Orks, they sure don't take brilliant precautions. It's a good thing Cerebus is invisible, because otherwise, those jerks would surely hear and see Cerebus coming! Of course, normally, Cerebus would just kill them, but Cerebus can't afford to draw attention to himself right now. Cerebus will just have to play this one by ear, and hope that Cerebus can find the others easily enough. Still, Cerebus wonders when that replacement warrior is going to get here?” /

Orlando Bloom rushes to the edge of the Murky Forest, hoping to find Cerebus and the dwarfs, but only finds a message on a stick, magically posted by Elrod, waiting for him. Orlando Bloom says: “What's this? 'To Whom It May Concern, the trail into this forest is filled with Giant Man-Eating spiders, Wood-Elves, and a treacherous river. It's really not safe to go this way to the Isolated Peak. My advice to you is, go find yourself another way. Sincerely, Elrod.' Well, Elrod, I don't know WHO you are, or what your intentions are, but I do know that Cerebus and his friends are somewhere in there! Besides, how big can spiders GET anyways?!”

And as if to answer his question, twelve spiders jump out of the trees, prepared to take down Orlando Bloom! Even Orlando Bloom is taken aback a bit and says: “CRIPES! These things look MUCH bigger than what that Hobbit said they would be! Well, if I can face down a horde of pirates THREE times, dealing with twelves spiders shouldn't be THAT hard! I just HATE all these delays getting in my way of helping Cerebus and his friends!” /

Cerebus continues sneaking down the hallway, taking care to occasionally pause and stay still, anytime a Wood Elf happens to pass down a passage way. Eventually, Cerebus makes his way to the young King's royal chamber. The Young King says: “Why isn't morning here yet?!”

One of his advisers say: “My Young King, we've told you a hundred times that we're not THOSE kinds of magic users! Just give it time!”

The Young King says: “I want the day NOW!!!! What's the matter with you fools anyways?!”

The adviser says: “Ever since that mysterious event happened five days ago, when the night suddenly zoomed into morning, we've been studying day and night, trying to find a way to duplicate that kind of power, but we don't have a magic ocarina or know the exact notes to play to perform that trick! Every one of our non-essential warrior elves have been doing research from dawn to dusk!”

The Young King says: “Make them work nights!”

The adviser groans, and says: “Hey, I've got a fun, NEW game we can play! It's called, drinking under the table!”

The Young King says: “You're not even trying to sound excited about it! You're upset with me!”

The adviser says: “Well, I can't push those Wood-elves any harder! All together, they've read up to 19,000 words an hour relating to magical research! 760,000 words, they've read so far!”

The Young King says: “You promised! You promised I would have that power the very FIRST day!”

Cerebus thinks to himself: “Perhaps it would be a good idea for this Young King to drink himself under the table. Normally, Cerebus is against underage drinking. But in this case, Cerebus will make a necessary exception!”

And with great stealth, while the Young King and his adviser are talking, Cerebus sneaks over to the King's glass of normal grape juice, and switches it out for powerful Elderberry Wine. The Young King says: “You're going to be VERY unpopular around here, if you DON'T deliver soon!”

The adviser says: “You know it just breaks my heart! I mean, I HATE to see you unhappy!”

The Young King says: “You're a rotten, MEAN, adviser! You NEVER get me ANYTHING I want! And I refuse to have education lessons until I learn this magic!”

The adviser says: “My Young King, sweetheart, angel, continuing to talk about this is completely counterproductive! So, why don't you take a drink to relax yourself? We really need you to be rested for your OWN engagement ceremony to, you know!”

The Young King groans, and says: “Fine! I WAS getting thirsty, from all that talking!”

And the Young King downs his entire glass at once, than passes out like a light! The adviser says: “Wow! That was fast! Usually it takes him FOUR glasses before he's had enough of berating me!”

And as soon as the Advisor leaves, the Invisible Cerebus takes the ring of keys from the Young King's pocket, and heads into the cave system to find his friends. The first door he comes upon, is Red Sophia's temporary bedroom. Cerebus opens the door, and quickly removes his earring! Red Sophia says: “Cerebus?!”

Cerebus whispers and says: “Not so loud! There may be Wood-Elves about who can hear you!”

Red Sophia whispers and says: “Sorry! I was trying to look for something to get myself and this blue titmouse out of here! He has to be returned to his home on the Isolated Peak!”

Cerebus asks: “Isn't that a bit of a contrived coincidence? Doesn't a titmouse need to knock on a pumice stone when the last light of Dwurwin's Day will shine onto the key-hole ON Isolated Peak?!”

Red Sophia says: “I honestly don't know. But since we HA VE to go to the Isolated Peak anyways, we might as well take him with us! So, how are we going to get out of here? And more importantly, how DID you sneak past all those Wood-Elves and get all the keys?!”

Cerebus says: “It's a long story, but Cerebus will explain later. But it's a little risky for you to sneak out right now. We need a way to sneak everybody out of here, without arousing suspicion! Got any ideas?”

Red Sophia: “I have one, but you're NOT going to like it! That little...CREEP, wants to get MARRIED to me, and he wants to have the engagement ceremony done TOMORROW; so WE all need to leave here TONIGHT! And the quickest way to do that...”

Cerebus interrupts and says: “For the LAST time, Cerebus is NOT going to call ELROD!!!! Cerebus can HANDLE it!”

Red Sophia groans and says: “Fine! There's another way! I overheard some of the Wood-elves talking earlier. They said that tonight is the night they send all their empty wine barrels down to Pond Town, the human city on the edge of the Isolated Peak, that's where the wine barrels will be refilled, and then sent back here. What if we store all of ourselves inside the empty barrels?”

Cerebus asks: “Now WHY didn't you suggest THAT idea in the first place?! That's a MUCH better idea! 'Call Elrod', Cerebus' foot! Hades would have to freeze over FIRST before THAT happens!”

Red Sophia says: “Don't tempt fate, Cerebus. Fate ALWAYS has a tendency to keep the deck stacked in it's favor!”

Cerebus says: “Oh, Cerebus can HANDLE anything 'Fate' decides to dish out!”

Red Sophia says: “We shall see. Do you have the keys for the Dwarfs' cells as well?”

Cerebus jingles the key chain, and he says: “Cerebus has all the keys WE could ever need!”

Red Sophia says: “Than let's go, but do it quietly. There might be more Wood-elves around!”

Cerebus says: “You just worry about your little titmouse, and Cerebus will worry about the Wood-elves, all right?”

Red Sophia says: “Very well, then. Shall we get on with it?”

Cerebus politely asks: “Lady first?”

Red Sophia flatly asks: “Seriously?”

Cerebus groans, and he says: “Figures! Cerebus can NEVER seem to read the opposite gender RIGHT! Cerebus REALLY needs some Gender Help Lessons in his life; or something!”

And Cerebus and Red Sophia look around, and they see that the coast is clear, and they sneak down to where all the dwarf's are being held. They open the door to all the cells, and the dwarfs are all pleasantly surprised to see Cerebus with Red Sophia! Thorin Oakonried says: “Cerebus, you're here!”

Cerebus quietly says: “Keep it down! We're going to get you all out of here!”

And they begin unlocking all the cells, and Oree says: “I thought you got eaten by those nasty, Giant, Man-eating spiders!”

Cerebus says: “Cerebus would NEVER fall victim to some lousy arachnids, no matter HOW big they might be!”

Noree asks: “Are we going out the way we came in?”

Red Sophia says: “It's too risky with all the Wood-elves around, but we have another way out of here, but we have to leave now!”

Bowfur says: “Suits me, just fine! The sooner we're out of here, the better!”

They all make their way down to the wine cellars, where the river leaves the safety of the woods and the caves, and begins its journey to Pond Town. Oyn asks: “THIS is Cerebus' plan?!”

Red Sophia says: “For the record, I would've suggested calling Elrod, but Cerebus gave that a big, firm 'No'!”

Cerebus says: “Oh, would you give it a rest already?! This is a great plan! One that doesn't involve stupid magic, or talking, for THAT matter!”

Bombar asks: “Have you even considered what kinds of hazards might await us DOWN this river?!”

Cerebus says: “Don't know, don't care! Cerebus is NOT letting Red Sophia get engaged to some tyrant who has delusions of grandeur!”

Red Sophia says: “And I'm not sure whether to feel delighted, or disappointed, to know that what you just said is honestly the nicest thing you HAVE said to me all night!”

Cerebus says: “Let's split the difference, and you can thank Cerebus AFTER we safely arrive to Pond Town!”

Keely says: “IF we safely arrive to Pond Town!”

Cerebus says: “Of course we will, if you would just ACT like it, for once! Now what we got to do first, is quietly knock out the...” (KONG!!!!)

And everyone is surprised to see, that Red Sophia has already knocked together, the two heads of the Wood-elves who were in the wine cellars. Cerebus says: “Like Cerebus said; ACT before Cerebus finishes saying what Cerebus was TRYING to say!”

Red Sophia says: “Oh, don't act like you DON'T like it when I help you get out of a situation you don't like! Into the empty barrels, dwarfs!”

Feely says: “But, there isn't even any STRAW to cushion us! We're going to get knocked around!”

Cerebus says: “We don't exactly have time to go to a farm and get some straw, do we?! Just get in, before we're discovered!”

Everyone except Cerebus gets in an empty barrel, and Doree says: “I am SO going to regret doing this come tomorrow!”

Cerebus says: “Everyone, Cerebus is going to push you in on the count of three. One...”

But he just immediately pushes everyone in, and Gloyn asks: “What happened to three?!”

Cerebus says: “You would have tensed up on three! This way, Cerebus got you in when you were relaxed and calm! Now, Cerebus has just got to get in, to!”

Cerebus throws an empty wine barrel into the river, and he jumps in after it! He safely gets in, and all fourteen travelers find themselves whisked down the winding river, but its faster, and filled with more rocks than ANY of them anticipated! Feely says: “I'm getting SEASICK in here, which is really something, when we're in a river!”

Red Sophia says: “I will NEVER complain about riding in a boat again!”

Cerebus says: “Will everyone PLEASE remain calm?! Cerebus is SURE the worst of this will be completely behind...”

Thorin solemnly says: “Oh, no!”

Cerebus' mood quickly sours, and he says: “Don't tell Cerebus; we are ALL about to go over a HUGE waterfall?”

Thorin says: “Yep!”

Cerebus asks: “Sharp rocks at the bottom?”

Thorin sighs and says: “Most likely.”

Cerebus sighs, and seriously says: “Bring it on.”

And the barrels all go down the waterfall, and Keely says: “THIS IS GOING TO SUCK!!!!” /

Sometime passes, and all thirteen barrels wash up on the shores of Pond Town, and everyone gets out of the barrels, and begins coughing up swallowed river water, and taking in big breaths of air! Bombar says: “WOW! What a ride!”

Beefur says: “Yeah! I wouldn't mind doing it again! Now that I know you can LIVE through it!”

A handsome voice says: “Well, it's about TIME you all got here!”

Cerebus asks: “What is this, a celebrity convention?!”

And everyone looks at the dashing, and VERY handsome Orlando Bloom! Orlando Bloom says: “Sorry it took me so long to catch up to you, but I had to fight my way through all those goblins, and those giant, man-eating spiders!”

Red Sophia says: “You make that sound SO easy!”

Orlando says: “It's a gift!”

Doree asks: “What about those Wood-elves? How did you handle them?”

Orlando says: “Simple. I just promised each and every one of them a personally signed autograph from me, if they granted me safe passage to Pond Town.”

Cerebus says: “Well, Cerebus supposes that being a celebrity DOES have some perks!”

Oree says: “Speaking of celebrity autographs, can I have yours?!”

Orlando says: “You can, but it will cost five gold pieces just like everyone else. Paper isn't FREE, you know!”

Cerebus says: “We can worry about paper, later! For now, let's just get some supplies and finish our journey to the Isolated Peak.”

Orlando says: “Already took care of the supplies! I figured you would all be here soon enough, so I took care of everything for you! I even got some MUSIC for us to listen to!”

Oyn asks: “You sing?”

Orlando says: “Professionally? I wish! But I do have something better! THIS!!!!”

And he pulls out an MP3 Player! Gloyn asks: “What is that?! Is it magic?!”

Orlando says: “No! It's technology! It's like a tiny little computer, that can store thousands of songs within its data banks, using electricity and gigabytes!”

Bowfur says: “So it's magic?”

Orlando says: “NO! It's TECHNOLOGY! Scientists at Apple Computers spent hundreds of man and woman hours working to develop this, using micro-circuit technology, and nano-chips, in order to digitally and electronically save music that can be transferred from compact discs!”

Bowfur again says: “So it's MAGIC!!!!”

Orlando says: “NO!!!! It's--!” And he gives up, and he says: “Sure! Let's go with that!”

Bombar says: “Of course! Magic makes PERFECT sense! Computers sound like some sort of wizard's creation!”

Orlando rolls his eyes and says: “Last time I try to bring radio to the Romans, or dwarfs, as the case might be!”

Red Sophia says: “Don't worry, you're not the only person around here who has had their ideas ignored. Believe me, I know just how you feel!”

Cerebus says: “Excuse Cerebus! Cerebus is standing RIGHT here! Cerebus can see you looking EXCESSIVELY at Orlando! Cerebus knocks Orlando down THREE respect points!”

Orlando says: “Don't take it personally. Even most GUYS want me! Except for Justin Bieber! I didn't like the way he looked, OR his stupid music, so I PUNCHED him in his face! True story!”

Cerebus says: “Cerebus isn't even going to pretend that he knows what you're talking about, but he sounds like a pretty awful guy! In that case, Cerebus bumps you back up four respect points on Cerebus' Respect-o-meter! You're currently at a seven, out of ten!”

Orlando says: “Give it a while, it will be up to a ten at no time! Now, let's make the final push to the Isolated Peak, while we listen to music made possible through technology...I mean, 'Magic'!”

As they walk, Orlando plays a tune from his MP3 player, and it is a familiar song by Jefferson Starship (not that anybody BESIDES Orlando would know who THOSE people were)! / Mickey Thomas sings: “You know, it's been a long, long road, since I packed up and left on my own. And I carry a heavy load, just trying get back to her heart! (Guitar solo) I sure ain't got no home, I seem to find love where I ramble, and when it's time to go; I hear that voice again. Sayin' find your way back, find your way back to her heart. Find your way back, find your way back to her heart. Leave a message with the rain, you can find me where the wind blows. Snow across the plain, and the frost upon the heart. (You got no place to be, still you wonder where you're going). And why I had to leave, I hear a voice, and it says to me; find your way back. Find your way back to her heart! Find your way back, find your way back to her heart! To her heart! Oh, come on! (Guitar solo) I know it's too late now; but I wish I could go back in time and start all over somehow, and get it right from the start! And find your way back! Find your way back to her heart! Find your way back, find your way back to her heart! Find your way back; (find your way back), find your way back! Find your way back; (find your way back), find your way back! Find your way back; (find your way back), find your way back! Find your way back; (find your way back), find your way back!” (Echoes on the last “Back”, and it continues until the song ends, when Cerebus, Red Sophia, and his fellow warriors, find themselves at the secret entrance to the Isolated Peak!)

Bombar says: “It was sure nice getting to listen to music being played out of that...magic thingy.”

Orlando says: “It is NOT a magic 'thingy', it's--!” Then he remembers how his EARLIER attempts to explain technology failed, and he says: “I mean, yeah. It's a 'Magic thingy'.”

Cerebus says: “Why do you do that 'flexing' thing with your fingers before and after you say certain words? Is that a form of sarcasm?”

Orlando says: “As a matter of fact, it is.”

Cerebus says: “YES! Cerebus is LEARNING!”

Thorin says: “I like learning to. Like learning where exactly we're SUPPOSED to put the key into the secret doorway!”

Red Sophia says: “Well, the instructions were, that we were supposed to let the titmouse--.”

And Bombar snickers uncontrollably! Red Sophia says: “Like I said, with the help of this bird--.”

Bombar asks: “Which bird?!”

Red Sophia says: “The titmouse--!”

And Bombar snickers uncontrollably again! Finally, Red Sophia asks: “What is SO funny?!”

Bombar says: “You said, 'Titmouse'!”

Red Sophia seriously says: “That's the actual NAME of this particular bird!”

Cerebus asks: “Seriously? It doesn't even LOOK like a mouse! Who came up with such a SLOPPY name like THAT?!”

Orlando says: “I'm not sure, but I'm PRETTY sure it was an ancestor of Justin Bieber!”

Bowfur says: “Makes perfect sense to me!”

Red Sophia says: “Anyways, if Bombar can stop GIGGLING like an immature three year old, once I release this bird, it's supposed to knock on the pumice stone three times, on Dwurwin's Day, during the last rays of light, just before night!”

Keely says: “And our timing couldn't be better! It's almost twilight now!”

And everyone looks behind them, and they see the sun starting to set! Beefur says: “It's time! Release the bird!”

And Red Sophia opens the cage she has been keeping the titmouse in, and sure enough, the titmouse flies to a Pumice Stone knocks three times, and the last rays of daylight REVEALS the hidden keyhole! Thorin says: “There's the keyhole! Now let's see if this key will work!”

Thorin puts it in, and turns it to the right. Sure enough, the secret doorway opens, revealing a hidden path inside the cave! Doree asks: “Well, are we waiting for a hand-written invitation, or should we just charge inside?!”

Noree says: “Not all at once! This is a fire-breathing dragon we're talking about! We can't just go in there with our banners raised high, and hope for some dumb luck to help things turn out OUR way! We've got to come up with some sort of plan, first!”

Cerebus sarcastically says: “Yeah, good luck having THAT happen anytime soon!”

Red Sophia gets a smirk, and she says: “We actually won't NEED luck! We have YOU!!!!”

Cerebus gets startled, and he says: “Cerebus?! What about, Cerebus?!”

Red Sophia says: “Don't act so modest! After all, aren't you the one who's been saying ever since you sent Elrod away that you can 'Handle this'? What is one dragon to an aardvark who's successfully slayed a dozen spiders, and gotten us all safely out of a wood-elves dungeon?! Surely you can burgle at least SOMETHING from this dragon's lair, unless you're ready to ADMIT that this is too much for you and simply CALL Elrod for help!”

But this presses Cerebus' BERSERK Button, and he says: “Cerebus has NEVER backed down from a challenge before; Cerebus does NOT 'Apologize' or say he's wrong, and Cerebus is NOT about to start NOW!!!! I'll show you once and for all, Cerebus can HANDLE it!”

Red Sophia says: “All right then, Cerebus, prove it!”

Cerebus says: “Fine! I will!”

And Cerebus goes into the secret passageway. But as soon as he is out of earshot of Red Sophia and the others, Cerebus starts to sweat (from the heat that the dragon is emitting), and Cerebus says to himself: “Cerebus and his stupid, big, fat mouth! Cerebus has REALLY put his foot in it this time! Why does Cerebus have to be so STUBBORN all the time?! Well, there's no backing out of this now! Red Sophia would NEVER let Cerebus hear the END of it! Cerebus better put on his earring, and hope that it will be enough to hide Cerebus from the dragon!”

So Cerebus puts on his Magic Earring again, and presses on into the main chamber where the great, big, red dragon Sludge, currently resides! To Cerebus' utter amazement, Sludge is currently asleep, and resting along ALL the great, golden treasure that belongs to the Dwarfs! Before Cerebus decides to pick a piece of the treasure to loot, he decides to first look carefully at Sludge, to see if he can spot ANY flaws within Sludge's large, scaled body. It takes Cerebus awhile, but he DOES spot one TINY, exposed spot of weak flesh, within Sludge's body! Satisfied, knowing that Sludge COULD be brought down, Cerebus proceeds to pick up the fanciest, shiniest, and most SPLENDID looking diamond encrusted chalice, within the treasure pile! But this action awakens and STIRS the dragon, and Sludge, begins to speak with a voice sounding just like Richard Boone (not that Cerebus would know who that is), Sludge says: “Who is there?! Who dares disturb my slumber?! Strange, unknown creature, show yourself! I may not see you, but I smell and hear your presence! Identify yourself at once, before Iose my temper!”

Thankfully, Cerebus was well-aware on what to do in presence of an awakened dragon, and that the best move to make, was to flatter the dragon, and play on his sense of curiosity, to stall for time, and hopefully clue his friends, to ambush the dragon, before he could escape the lair of the dwarfs! Cerebus says: “The creature in this room, has been called many things. The names he is known by, include the attacker of trolls, the climber of mountains, the master of riddles, the escape artist from goblins, the freer of Dwarfs, and the Rider of Rivers!”

Sludge says: “So you have many names, yet this still does not tell me what you are!”

Cerebus says: “The creature in this room, comes from over the hill and FAR away, from another land FAR from Melvinborne. From a place that has long been forgotten by his own memory. He is one without a soul, yet is still a hero for hire, loyal to anyone willing to tolerate him!”

Sludge says: “So, you fancy yourself a hero! Surely you must realize that you have no HOPE against the likes of me! I am fiercer than ANYTHING you have EVER faced before!”

Cerebus says: “This creature will make no arguments with you there! The stories about you are all true! They don't even BEGIN to do you justice! Your treasure is WELL-earned, and your armor is certainly as impressive as all accounts say they are!”

Sludge says: “Naturally. My armor is as flawless as they come!”

Cerebus says: “But surely, one as strong and as powerful as you are, must have taken into account, that even the most mighty of dragons, must have at least ONE flaw within his incredible, armored body!”

Sludge says: “I have no such flaw! Now, identify who you TRULY are, or I'll ROAST you where you stand, impudent worm!!!!”

Cerebus says: “Where this creature is, you will NEVER find him, nor will you ever learn what he looks like! However, this creature WILL say that your time in the Isolated Peak is nearing its end, for the dwarfs will begin their...ATTACK!!!!”

And Cerebus yells as loud as he can, and just as Cerebus anticipated, the dwarfs leap out from hiding places out of the cave, and begin throwing every single thing they CAN at Sludge! Spears, javelins, hurled stones, daggers, arrows from bows, axes, whips, even hammers, and while all this is ANNOYING Sludge, they're NOT hitting him where it counts, and so he just breathes fire, hoping to HIT one of his attackers, but they all dodge out of the way! Strangely enough, the fire weirdly enough blows AROUND Orlando, as if the fire had a mind of it's own! Orlando says: “Seriously?! Even fire from a DRAGON can't hit me?! Either I have the best luck in the world, or I fight against the WORST attack enemies in HISTORY!”

Cerebus decides to go somewhere discreetly, and takes his earring off! He runs to Red Sophia, and she asks: “Cerebus, what have you been DOING?! We're getting nowhere FAST with this thing!”

Cerebus says: “Cerebus told you, Cerebus can HANDLE it!”

Red Sophia says: “How are you going to handle this?! We've thrown EVERYTHING except the kitchen SINK at this monster, and nothing is slowing him down! How could you POSSIBLY handle this?!”

Cerebus says: “Well, throwing your sword always works!”

Red Sophia says: “THAT'S your plan?!”

Cerebus grabs Red Sophia's sword, and he says: “Maybe you didn't HEAR Cerebus! Cerebus SAID; Throwing...YOUR...SWORD...ALWAYS...WORKS!!!!”

And Cerebus THROWS Red Sophia's sword at the EXACT spot where Sludge DOESN'T have, thick, scaled armor skin, and Sludge lets out a TERRIBLE shriek! He lunges toward Cerebus in a last ditch attack, but Cerebus jumps SAFELY to the side, and the dying Sludge PLUNGES down, deep into the mountain, knocking Red Sophia's sword lose so she can retrieve it, and his dying body falls down with a loud THUD, as Sludge hits the bottom of the cave, and dies his last dying breath! Red Sophia says: “I...HATE it when YOU'RE right!”

And in a meaningful echo, Cerebus says: “Oh, don't act like you DON'T like it when I help you get out of a situation you don't like! Besides, we slayed the dragon! And with minimal damage! We only lost one dwarf and ONE annoying wizard on the way here!”

A familiar, Southern voice says: “And who SAYS that you LOST me?!”

And Elrod suddenly appears, having WARPED to inside the cave! Red Sophia says: “Well, if it isn't the Calvary! Late, as usual!”

Elrod says: “Honestly, Cerebus, what is WRONG with you?! You didn't call, you didn't write, you never even ASKED for my help!”

Cerebus says: “Because Cerebus didn't want it, and furthermore, didn't NEED it! Cerebus was able to HANDLE this, no thanks to you!”

Elrod says: “Maybe, but you know it WOULD have been so much easier WITH me!”

Cerebus says: “Maybe so, but let's be honest with ourselves. Do YOU even listen to YOURSELF talk for a NANO-SECOND?!!!”

Elrod retorts: “Do you?”

Cerebus asks: “How is Cerebus supposed to do that, anyways? With one of YOUR magic tricks?!”

Elrod says: “Just because you were right about being able to HANDLE this entire situation, does not mean you are ALWAYS right about everything!”

Cerebus says: “Of course it doesn't make Cerebus right! But being RIGHT, would make Cerebus right! See how that works?”

Red Sophia says: “In any case, we did what we came here to do!”

Orlando picks up his share of the treasure, and he says: “Which means that it is time for me to get back to where I belong, to! See you in 14,000 years! Or when a BIG action trilogy comes along, whichever comes first!”

And Orlando pushes some buttons on a special watch, and Orlando disappears from the cave! Thorin asks: “Was that...?”

Elrod says: “Magic! It's definitely some of the best magic I'VE ever seen!”

Red Sophia rolls her eyes and says: “Right! I SWEAR, there are some things you men will NEVER understand or get, at least, not in THESE backwards times!”

Cerebus says: “Why are YOU complaining?! We got what we came for! Thanks for giving us a share of this wonderful treasure!”

Thorin hands over a share of the treasure to Cerebus and Red Sophia, and he says: “You're welcome! And if you EVER come back to Melvinborne again, be sure to look us up! You are always welcome among us dwarfs!”

Red Sophia says: “We'll be sure to keep that in mind!”

Elrod says: “I say...I say, what about ME?!!!”

Cerebus yells: “You'll get NOTHING and LIKE it!”

Bombar says: “Tell it like it is, Cerebus!”

Elrod says: “So it's going to be like THAT, is it?! In that case, I'll just DENY you the pleasure of being able to help YOURSELVES back to your boat ride!”

Cerebus' eyes widen in horror, and in futility, he says: “But Cerebus--!” /

But Cerebus NEVER gets to finish his thought, as Cerebus and Red Sophia find themselves right BACK on the dock of the bay where they started at, THANKFULLY still with their share of the treasure, and with Ishmael still waiting for them! Ishmael says: “There you are! It's about time you got back! I'm about to shove out to sea again! I'll give you a ride to your next destination!”

Cerebus says: “Fine with Cerebus! Cerebus was getting SICK of this place anyways!”

And Cerebus and Red Sophia load the boat with their treasure! As the boat departs from Melvinborne, Red Sophia whispers to Cerebus, and she asks: “Cerebus, there's just one thing that's kind of bugging me. How WERE you able to sneak past the Wood-elves and Sludge anyways?”

Cerebus whispers: “Keep it to yourself, but in the lair of Brother Gollum, Cerebus found a Magic Earring that can make Cerebus invisible. But don't worry, Cerebus WON'T use it to violate your privacy, Cerebus has more dignity and honor than that! Cerebus probably won't even use it unless he needs it for an emergency! Still, Cerebus shall hang onto this for now. It might come in handy some day.”

Red Sophia says: “I'm sure it will, Cerebus. I'm sure it will!” /

The End! (For Now!) /

Episode Notes: Featured songs in this episode, “Runaway”; and “Find Your Way Back”. A running gag in this episode is that Cerebus keeps saying that “Cerebus can handle it!” Orlando Bloom once again guest stars in this episode as himself. Due to “Real Life Writes the Plot”, it is revealed that Marty Balin was killed off-screen by the giant spiders between the previous part of this episode and this episode, making him the only dwarf from the book to be “Killed by the Adaptation”. Interestingly enough, all the other dwarfs, even the ones who got killed in the book, are “Spared by the Adaptation”. First appearance of Emily, who functions as the Angel of Death in this re-boot of “Cerebus”.

Personal Notes: I'm sorry it took me such a LONG time to finally finish and write the second part of this story, but I was kind of stuck about how to proceed with this story, regarding the absence of Marty Balin, who, in real life, died right after I finished the first part of this story. Thankfully, it occurred to me, that I already HAD a “Chekov's Gunman”, in the form of Orlando Bloom, so I ended up JUSTIFIED his presence in the past MORE, instead of just making him a one-off joke! Interestingly enough, Orlando Bloom surprisingly plays the trope of “True Beauty is NEVER Tarnished” completely straight, even when logic dictates that it shouldn't be at ALL possible for him to do so! We'll just chalk that one up to “Rule of Funny”, or maybe another case of “Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane.” In any case, I will work really hard in the future, to make sure that you don't have to WAIT almost a whole year between episode stories that I write in a row for “Cerebus”. Enough said, true believers!

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