Chapter 2: Bard From Showbiz
Rider's Log, I'd just met with the king of Far Far Away and began my latest quest: Of all things, I'm to rescue a dragon that was captured by the infamous "Goon Squad" and their leader, Bunny Foofu. I still haven't figured out why I keep running into such a lovely creature fierce warrior as her, but, there has to be a reason for it. Perhaps, I'll find out one day. This very quest should finally provide the answers I seek for that particular line of questions...Maybe even raise new ones. We had just arrived at the end of the Pinocchio River with...Well, Pinocchio. I remembered Doris wanted to give me something on my next trip out of town, so I obliged to take him to his job at the Happy Apple. When we got there, there was an unexpected surprise. It's almost poetic how people bring each other together.
Our heroes had just arrived in the parking lot of the Happy Apple. Entering the establishment, they approached the counter as Pinocchio heads behind it to clock in. On stage was another living puppet with a bard-like outfit singing and playing the lute. Doris noticed them and walked over.
"Hey, look who's here!" Doris said with enthusiasm, "Long time, no see, Rider. So, what brings you here with such high-quality company?"
"Doris, you're as lovely as I remember" Rider replied in a tone of familiarity, "You said you had something for me the next time I left on a quest"
"Say again...? Oh, the thing!" Doris remembered, "Sit tight, I'll be right back with it. In the meantime, Mabel, why don't you get these boys a little something? On the house"
"What'll ya have, boys?"
"Well, clearly, an eyeball-tini's out of the question around here, so, just whip me up what you can suitable for ogres...If you please"
"Root Beer Float...Make it a double...EXTRA SPRINKLES!" Donkey sobbed.
"...You guys still serve grog?"
"Only the non-alcoholic stuff"
"You know me too well, Mabel" Rider responded turning his attention to the puppet on the stage. "So, what's the story this guy? Pinocchio said he wasn't very good, but, he sounds great. Is it the hat?"
"Give it a second" Mabel answered as she left.
"The dwarves of yore...made mighty spells...While hammers fell...Like ringing bells...In places deep...Where dark things sleep...In hallow halls beneath the fe-"
"AAAAAAAAAAAAAGH! I CAN'T TAKE IT ANYMORE!" one of the villagers screamed, "YOUR SONGS ARE TOO DEPRESSING!"
"THIS IS NOT THE KIND OF MUSIC MY KIDS COME HERE TO LISTEN TO!" Another villager added, throwing a pie at the poor wooden teen, forcing him to block with the back of his lute.
"SING THREE BLIND MICE!" yet another shouted throwing an apple.
"RAIN, RAIN, GO AWAY!"
"POLLY WOLLY DOODLE!"
The jeers and list of songs they wanted to hear grew louder as the crowd began pelting the puppet with a series of foods.
"INGRATES!" the puppet shouted moving his lute away, "Why do you all insist on this nonsense!? It's the same thing day in and day out! You listen to my stories, but when I pour my heart out to you all in song, you hammer corks to keep it in! Clearly, this is a place where artistic integrity comes to die and be reanimated as a lifeless husk of what it once was!"
"What'd you expect, stupid?" The first villager chuckled, "YOUR PERFORMING AT A FAMILY EATING ESTABLISHMENT!"
"Uh...So, Rider" Shrek started, clearly wishing not to watch the spectacle any longer, "How do you know the Stepsisters so well?"
"Hold that thought" standing up to make his way to the stage, "Mabel, there's another guest on his way!"
"Typical" Mabel scoffed, "His heart's as big as his name"
Rider waded through the tables of angry villagers just as Pinocchio arrived onstage. The crowd shouts out his name.
"Run along, junior, I'll take it from here" Pinocchio assured his mahogany brethren. "Howdy-ho, folks! Sorry I'm late, had to catch unicorn going this way" His nose grew from this, making the crowd laugh. He continued as his coworker stormed off the stage.
The messy minstrel noticed Rider as he descended the bottom step.
"And, what do YOU want?" the disgruntled employee groaned, "You missed today's round of 'Humiliate the Marionette', but, you can get the home version for thirty tickets!"
"I just wanted to tell you that you sounded great up there"
"Don't patronize me, sir, I'm not falling for that agai...Wait a tick" the puppet said, realizing who he was talking to, "...You're Jack Rider! You're currently the greatest known young adventurer this side of Far Far Away!"
"And some parts of Werner" Rider added.
The two returned to the trio as Mabel came back with their orders.
"Hey, Mogano, the usual?" Mabel asked.
"Leave the bottle" Mogano grunted, "So, you truly enjoyed my performance, Mr. Rider?"
"I'm as serious as a kitten who lost its mittens" Rider replied, "Believe it or not, I used to work here myself"
"Back when it was the POISON Apple, no doubt" Shrek commented before taking a swig of his drink.
"Right" Rider continued, "In my rookie days as an adventurer, which I started being after I escaped the hunt issued by Lord Farquaad, I came here seeking room and board. Little did I know at the time, it was a tavern for villains. Now, I know what you're thinking, a would-be hero working for the bad guys while he was saving up to find a place of his own? Luckily, Doris was a kind enough person to help a guy like me out. Mabel, not so much. This was where I met a real nice girl I thought would be my true love...It turns out she was a witch. On the night I was to go on a date with her, a hang of seven or twelve cheap, thirsty dwarves attacked and tried to get to the barrels of ale sitting in the back. I spent that night fighting them off. Thankfully, she was the understanding type...Her mother, however...That's another story"
"...I see" Shrek said with a pause, "Well, at least you weren't locked in a tower, right?" he chuckled.
Puss sat there, making the connection to what Shrek just said while Donkey looked like he'd calmed down.
"That reminds me" Rider responded, "Donkey, are you going to be alright now?"
"Yeah, I think I got it all out of my system" Donkey said before bursting into tears again.
"Is something eating at him?" Mogano asked.
"I don't suppose you know of the Donkey who married a Dragon, by any chance" Rider answered.
"Oh, he's THAT donkey!" Mogano said in amazement, "I should have guessed, seeing the famous Shrek among you. Living proof that you don't have to change your underwear to change the world...I...Was on one of the tours past his house"
"I suppose you have also heard of me" Puss added, "You must have heard one or two stories of my great exploits"
"Any particular reason, sir?" Mogano asked before realizing Puss' appearance, "Oh, great, one of these types. I'm sorry, I mostly chronicle the adventures of people I've gone on quests with. Urban legends are more of a leisure hobby. Commendable Puss In Boots costume, though"
"COSTUME!?" Puss shouts jumping onto the counter ready to reach for his sword, Shrek holding him back, "I SHOULD SLICE YOU INTO SAWDUST!"
"Yes, well, maybe you know the name 'Bunny Foofu', per chance?" Rider asked trying to defuse the situation.
"Ah, HER I know" Mogano replied, "I was the bard for her latest adventure"
"WHAT!?" Donkey shouted tackling Mogano, "Aw, you better start TALKIN', puppet-boy! WHERE DID YOU TAKE HER!? WHO SENT YOU!?"
"NOW SEE HERE!" Mogano shouted, turning his arm into a cannon, brandishing it at his four-legged attacker, now frightened.
"Hey, Moggy, I warned you about that temper!" Doris said, returning with a map and some golden trinket, "You can't go shooting people around here because they don't like you, not since the new king came around! I'm sorry to say this, but, if you can't keep that head of yours cool, I'm gonna have to ask you to leave"
"That's okay" Rider said, finishing his grog, "He can come with us. What do you say, Moggy?"
Mogano returned his arm to normal taking in Rider's offer. He then stands up clearing his throat.
"Good people of the Pinocchio River area!" Mogano started, Shrek sporting an "Oh, here we go again!" expression on his face, "Though you reject my musical side, I have, for the longest time, enjoyed my time here entertaining you with tales of heroes and their exploits for the betterment of our world. And, now, I leave to forge my OWN tales! In spite of our dodgy relationship with one-another, I shall miss you all!"
The villagers appeared to have been ignoring Mogano and his speech.
"So, is that a yes?" Rider asked.
"Mr. Rider" Mogano answered with a sigh and a tip of the hat, "I would be honored to be your bard"
"CONGRATULATIONS!" the Magic Mirror said, popping out from behind one of the props on the stage and flying toward our heroes as music began to play, "The wooden minstral, Mogano has joined your party!"
"Wait, wait, wait, stop the music!" Shrek said, doing just that, "What are YOU up to!?"
"Oh, hi, Shrek" The Mirror said with glee, "It's rerun season, so, I'm taking up some side-work as a Quest Host!"
"You don't know the new layout of adventuring, do you? A Quest Host is someone who follows an adventurer and his/her group or 'Party', if you will giving details on events, items and people joining. Also, they're honor-bound to follow one party at a time once they find one"
"And now, we're stuck with him" Shrek replied rubbing his temples, "Alright, tell us about the puppet"
The Mirror floated up in between Rider and Shrek, displaying a drawn picture of Mogano playing his lute as the music starts back up.
"Mogano (Affectionately known as 'Moggy') is not your average wooden puppet, he's the bard to end all bards! His main weapon, the Arm Cannon can clear the board of weaker opponents in a snap, no strings attached!"
"A-ha-ha, 'No strings attached', funny"
"Okay, now it's YOUR turn" Shrek said, drawing attention to Doris who hands Rider the map and trinket.
"A cute dryad came here looking for you" Doris said, "Said Mother Nature's got a job for you. She also said 'It shall succeed, it must fail, all the same, good will prevail'. She wouldn't tell me what the heck that meant, but, I'm sure it'll come into play at some point in your journey"
"New location unlocked!"
"Quest Hosts are required to say stuff like that. It's an immersion kind of thing"
"Sounds like it'll come in handy later on" Ridder commented, putting the trinket in his pocket and opening the map, "Now let's see...Well, hot cross buns, the forest she wants to meet at is on the route I planned to take...Freaky, but, it makes sense. Let's roll!"
Our heroes left with their new friend, ready to face the challenges ahead.
"Go get 'em, boys!"
"Don't talk to anybody I wouldn't!"
"Good luck saving Dragon!"
The Stepsisters look at Pinocchio with a "Say what?" look on their faces. As our heroes make their way through the town, Mogano, at Rider's side in the passenger's seat, is heard singing.
"But, still, the sunken stars appear...In dark and windless Mirrormere...There lies his crown in water deep...Till Durin wakes again...From...Sleeeeeeeeeeep." Mogano finished with a sigh, "That's the first time since I took up working in that cesspool of noise I got to finish one of my songs"
"Hey, think nothing of it" Rider replied looking at the map, "Frankly, you would've fared better in their Poison days. Now then, our first leg of the journey is through Drury Lane and we take the exit from Yunita Pal Avenue"
"What a beautiful metaphor!" Donkey said happily, poking he head out of the curtain.
"Well, you seem to be feeling better" Rider noticed, folding the map.
"The Quest Host concept lifted his spirits a little" Shrek responded, moving the curtain to poke his head in, "Also, beaded curtains! Who owned this deathtrap last, the Beatles?"
"Actually, F.Y.I, it was a gift from Wrong Direction" Rider answered with a hint of offence in his voice, "It belonged to Judas Priest. And, this baby's been in my corner since the Rattle Caper"
"Ah, yes, one of your more infamous outings where you had to get a magical rattle from the famed collector, Tweedledee"
"God, that was a mess. I offered a nice, new one to replace it, his flaky brother 'spoiled' it by touching it before him, they decided to have a fight over the matter, the monstrous crow I was to use it on showed up, it was a whole thing"
"Ey, do you not know how to properly store seafood!? Where is the ice for the icebox!?"
"I don't stress about that until the first town. It'll keep until then"
"I'm sure the 'real' Puss In Boots wouldn't mind such inconveniences"
"...Perhaps I have grown a little complacent during peacetime"
Hours out of town, Rider noticed a silvery glint upon the road. Pulling on the reigns, he stops the carriage, waking the others up. In front of them was a maiden with hands that looked like they were made of silver.
"Brave travelers" the maiden started, "I am in woe for the path to my home is riddled with a band of ruffians who-" Before she could continue, a man swings down from a vine, screaming some sort of heroic call.
"Aw, not THIS guy again!" Shrek groaned, exiting the carriage.
"HAHA!" the man chuckled, "Robin Hood has rescued yet another damsel in distress!" he then proceeds to kiss the maiden's arm.
"Are you the leader of the guys she was trying to warn us about?" Rider asked approaching the tree.
"He is, good sir!" the maiden replied.
"Oh, more monsters!" Robin proclaimed in a fearless tone, "Afraid to face me without that fiery redhead you kidnapped LAST time, are you!? OH MERRY, ME-" A tiny cannonball struck Robin off the tree and knocked him unconscious.
All eyes turned to Mogano.
"Sorry" Mogano said, "My time at the Happy Apple seems to have given me a sixth sense, detecting jaunty musical numbers, and, presently, I can't stand to hear one!"
"Why, I outta..." a hefty voice rang out.
Suddenly, a rather jazzy drum section. A gang of similarly-dressed men emerge from the trees, angrily snapping their fingers to the rhythm.
"I'll take the big guy" Shrek proclaimed, "Sort the rest out among yourselves!"
As the two factions clashed, a horn section started playing. Mogano begins blasting his Arm Cannon at advancing groups, Puss holding his own against six others, you get the idea.
"JUMP BACK, DADDY!" The band shouted before continuing the music.
The fight waged on for two hours until Rider noticed the sunset.
"Stop me if you boys have heard THIS one before" Rider claimed smugly, "By day, one way..." Wait for it... "By night, another!"
The gang froze in their tracks.
"...WHAT THE WHAT!?" Donkey asked, breaking the silence.
"Now then" Rider started, looking at the guy he was fighting, cracking his knuckles, "What did you say your name was?"
"...Mommy?" poor guy squeaked, soaking his pants.
"Funny" Rider replied, turning his body to his victim, "That was the name of the last couple of guys who pissed me off." He then let out a loud roar which slowly turned into a howl.
Everyone went silent until...
"Do YOU wan to say it or should I?"
"...This is the part where you run away"
The gang fled with their unconscious leader in tow. Donkey topples over onto Puss who meows in agony.
"My word" Mogano finally said, "You really ARE full of surprises, aren't you, Mr. Rider?"
"Just Rider will do" Rider answered, "To rehash an old joke, MR. Rider was my father"
"I thank you a thousand times over, brave warriors" the maiden said, "Now, would someone please get me down?"
"Hand on, miss!" Rider called out, "Luckily for you, I'm a much better climber in this form!" He climbed up to pick up the maiden and jump down.
"Thank you again" The maiden said with a curtsy, "If I may, I invite you all to my home for the eve, for come the morn, I wish to send you on another task"
"We'd be obliged to, m'lady" Rider responded with a bow, "We just need a spot to park our ride"
"This is going to be a loooong rescue mission" Shrek claimed, picking Donkey up, putting him over his shoulders.
Like I said, it's almost poetic how people bring each other together.
Our story continues in Chapter 3: A visit to Uncle Luggs.