The Glass Rock
Dannick stared bitterly at the hole he was digging. He hated digging holes, which meant, unfortunately, that he hated his career; he was a hole-digger. Dannick sat on the ground and let the shovel he'd been using fall to the dirt. He ran his dirty fingers through slightly less dirty hair. This was not what he wanted to do with his life.
He wanted to be a knight. Knights got all the special treatment; they rode horses, wore armor, competed in jousts, and (he suspected) got married. He had never actually been to a wedding, but he'd heard they were nice. Dannick also had a vague sort of understanding that there was some kind of danger involved in knighthood, but that was not very clear. What was clear was that his prospects for - what was the word? - matrimony - were very limited in his current occupation. He didn't even know what the holes were for. He'd asked that question to one of the officials from the castle, once. He still remembered the answer. "Holes!" it had been. "Got to have holes! Without holes, where do we put all the extra dirt? Think, man!"
"What extra dirt?" he had asked.
"What extra dirt?" the official had cried. "Why, you are blind! Can't you even see the huge pile of it behind you?" He'd thrust a finger at the dirt Dannick had dug up to make the holes. "Don't lie to me! I see it getting bigger every day! More holes, that's what's needed, more and bigger! Now get to work, quickly, before there gets to be even more dirt on that pile!" That had been ten years ago, but the memory was still clear in his mind. Dannick had long since stopped worrying about the problem of where to put the extra dirt.
He turned to look at Elver, working beside him, and his expression turned from bitter to sour. The man was a brute. He had one bushy black eyebrow that stretched across both of his eyes, which were less than half open more than half of the time. Squinting seemed to be his normal way of looking at the world. Surely he had no problems being a hole-digger. In Dannick's opinion, there were three things Elver had in common with a dead rat: level of intelligence, degree of attractiveness, and likelihood of carrying disease. He often fantasized about hitting the man's head with a shovel. Would he even feel it?
He tried to put friendliness into his voice. "Elver! About time for a rest, now, what say?"
Elver gave a grunt. "Nar," he boomed, and continued digging.
That did nothing for Dannick's sourness. He had come to understand that "nar" meant "no" and "yar" meant "yes." If any of the other sounds Elver made had any connection to spoken language, Dannick had not yet discovered it. He went back to staring at the hole he was digging. Yes, a shovel blow to the back of the head might knock him unconscious for a satisfactory length of time...
Suddenly Elver gasped and fell to the ground, clutching wildly at the air and shouting loudly. Dannick stared for a moment before getting up and sauntering over to see what the matter was. He really should just leave the man there, but if there really was a problem - well, he would just go and see about it.
"Something wrong?" he asked with deliberate cheerfulness.
"Dying!" his partner wheezed. "Help! Help! Dying!" It was the longest understandable string of speech the man had ever uttered. He gurgled and coughed, then resumed writhing. He seemed to be clutching at his chest.
There was only one thing to do, much as he hated doing it. As he ran all the way back to the hut they shared, he cursed himself over and over for it. Let the man die! He hated him! He was an ogre! Why should he care if Elver died? He surely should not be doing this to help him. But try as he might, he could not make himself turn his back on Elver. He would save him.
Reaching under the pile of rags that he called a bed, he found what he wanted. It was a bright, clear lump that glistened faintly when held in the sunlight. The Glass Rock. He'd bought it at the market long ago. The man had assured him it would grant any wish he desired, and it was his for only one silver coin. His entire life's savings, but he'd bought it. Any wish! He'd never used it yet, waiting for just the right opportunity, but it was here now.
He turned the object over and over in his hands. In his mind, the words "glass" and "rock" belonged to two distinctly separate and mutually exclusive classes of material, but that's what the salesman had called it. Well, he would use it.
And if the salesman, who had found it lying in the mud and polished it to make a profit on some naive simpleton, had learned that the rock actually did grant wishes, he would have been very surprised indeed.
Dannick held the Glass Rock high. "Grant me one wish!" he shouted. "Save Elver's life! That is what I ask!"
Existence swirled and then faded into blackness.
When he awoke, he was in the middle of a grassy plain lying on his back. He quickly got up and looked around. The main thing he noticed was the fifty-foot-tall black dragon staring at him maliciously.
What he said was, approximately, "AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHH!!!"
When he'd finished, the dragon spoke. "Mortal!" it said, its impossibly deep voice reverberating with power. "Ye have made a wish! It shall be granted, if ye should pass through the Three Challenges and open the Three Locks! Each Lock will open only with the permission of the Guardian of the Lock. Fare ye well, mortal!" It began to fade away.
"Wait!" Dannick shouted. He was still a little frightened, but...
It faded back into existence. "Yes?" it said, sounding faintly annoyed.
"What are the Challenges?"
It stared at him. "The Challenge, mortal, is to persuade the Guardian of the Lock to Open the Lock for thee!"
"I thought there were three Challenges?"
"Yea, so it is, mortal. Three Challenges, and ye must-"
"How does convincing one Guardian to open a Lock constitute three Challenges?"
"Three Guardians, mortal! Dost thou not listen? Three Guardians, three Challenges, three Locks!"
"You didn't really say-"
"ENOUGH!" the creature roared. "No more of my time will I waste on thy blabbering! Thou speakest of that which matters not! Overcome the Challenges and have thy wish granted! Go in peace!" It disappeared with a flash of light.
"Wonderful," Dannick muttered. "Now what?"
The air shimmered, and a golden-haired woman appeared before him. "So you're the idiot," she muttered.
"Who - me?"
"You're the only idiot here, aren't you, idiot?"
"Listen. This is the first Guardian. Persuade him to open the first Lock, and continue. His name is..." She fixed him with an icy stare. "The Very Small Elephant!"
"And convincing him is the Challenge?"
"IDIOT!" She snapped her fingers and was gone.
Before Dannick could even voice a complaint, something appeared with a flash on the grass before him. He got on his hands and knees to look at it closely, and the only way he could think to describe it was as... a very small elephant.
It raised its trunk at him. "You want the Lock opened?" it asked. Dannick nodded, and it snorted. "No!"
Well, this was a predicament.
"This wish is for a noble purpose! Nothing selfish! A high cause! Please open the lock!"
"What do I have to do to convince you?"
The tiny elephant snorted again. "Under no circumstances whatsoever will I open the Lock. It is ridiculous to ask."
"Then what's the point?!"
"I get an ego boost." The Very Small Elephant stood as tall as it could, which amounted to about an inch.
Dannick thought a moment longer, then picked up the tiny animal. "What if I crush you in my hand?"
"What if I throw you twenty feet in the air and see if you land on your head?" the elephant growled. "How about if I kick you in the leg and see how you like walking after that? Maybe you can put me down right now while your nose is still all in one piece!"
He set the animal down hastily. Dannick didn't think the threats could be carried out, but it sounded so sure of itself...
Minutes, then hours, went by, and at last the Very Small Elephant trumpeted loudly. "Very well," it announced. "I grow weary of your stupidity. If you can guess my name, I will open the lock."
"Isn't it just the Very Small Elephant?"
There was a long silence, then a small, sullen, "No," from the elephant.
"That's it, isn't it?"
"You have to open the Lock now!"
"No, I don't! But," it went on in tones both annoyed and grave, "I will open it anyway. Because I am nice."
"You said I was stupid!"
"You are." There was a loud clicking sound, and the Very Small Elephant disappeared.
An old man in dark robes took his place. "Lucky," he said. "Anyway. You passed the first Challenge. Now meet the second Guardian: the Spiteful Brick!" And he vanished as quickly as he had come.
A brick appeared.
Dannick picked it up. "The Spiteful Brick?"
"Oh!" it shouted, and he dropped it, startled. "Oh, so that's what it is, is it? Spiteful brick? Right away, you make me the enemy! Instantly, I'm the antagonist, is that how it goes? Always the brick's fault!"
"I'm sorry - I didn't mean to-"
"Oh, go ahead, apologize. As if you meant it. Didn't you just call me spiteful? Didn't you drop me onto the hard cold earth? You've probably never said a nice thing to a brick in your life before, have you? Admit it!"
Dannick admitted this was so.
"I knew it! Horrible person, awful creature! High and mighty! Mr. Better-Than-Thou-Because-Thou-Art-Made-Of-Solidified-Mud! You bipeds make me sick."
"It's not true! I... I like you."
"Nobody likes me."
"I do. You're a nice brick."
A pause. "You don't mean that."
"I really do. I didn't mean to drop you. You're a great brick! Really, truly, an above average brick."
A longer pause. "Really?"
"Nobody... nobody's ever told me that before."
"It's true. Look at you! You're the Guardian of the Second Lock of the Glass Rock! Now how many bricks can say that?"
It sniffed. "Well... not many..." A touch of pride entered its voice. "I am sturdy."
"Well..." The longest pause yet. Then a click. "You've made a mean old brick happy," it said softly, and disappeared.
Dannick rolled his eyes. He wasn't going to be able to take much more of this. They called him the idiot? The whole place was insane!
A third figure appeared, hooded, cloaked in black. "The third Guardian is next," it rasped. "Most perilous of them all! His name is written on this scroll! And I will announce him now." The figure reached for a scroll and unrolled it, staring at its contents for some time. Then it rolled the scroll back up and regarded Dannick critically.
"The third Guardian is not here. We will find someone else." It disappeared.
Moments later, an old man flashed into existence. "I am the third Guardian," he announced.
"Aren't you the same man that announced the second Guardian?"
"SILENCE!" he thundered. "How dare you speak so to a Guardian?"
"But aren't you?"
"Well." He fixed Dannick with a critical eye. "Maybe. I will not tell you for sure. But I am your third Guardian. Convince me!"
"I'm not going to tell you, boy! You must figure it out! I will tell you nothing!"
Dannick puzzled that over. "How can I figure it out if you won't tell me anything?"
The old man blinked.
"Oh very well," the old man snapped, "but do not tell the dragon about this." He waved his hand, producing a loud click, then disappeared.
All three Locks opened! All three Challenges met! All three Guardians faced! Dannick swelled with pride. He'd done it! He'd gotten his wish!
The earth shook and existence swirled and faded to black.
When he awoke again, he was still in the hut. He got up and ran outside - and there was Elver, working away steadily with his shovel.
"Elver! You're alive!"
"You can't believe what this means to me! I'm so glad I succeeded!"
Elver grunted and kept shoveling.
"Aren't you going to thank me?"
Dannick stared incredulously a moment longer, then went over to his own hole and stared sourly at his shovel. It would be perfect for hitting Elver, and the sound of the thump would be wonderful...
|19 Feb 2003|| Silverphoenix|
Omg...I have no idea why this has no comments yet, but i thought it was a great little story. Good balance of irony and humor. Hope you write more like this... Brian Buckley
replies: "Someone shares my twisted sense of humor! Heh heh..."
|20 Mar 2003|| Chasyn M Naskra|
*eyes shovel and considers hitting Elver herself* Heh! That was good. I suspected at the begining that Dannick would somehow be awarded knighthood, but obviously I was wrong! (which, in this case, is a good thing!)This was well written, and I engoyed it!! ^_^ Keep up the good work! *goes off to read the rest of the library* Brian Buckley
replies: "Well written, and you enjoyed it - that's about the most I can ask for, right?"
|23 Jul 2003|| S. Larson|
much good, much good... very funny. annoying people with stupidity ALWAYS works, i can tell you that! ^_^
now... let me go into a corner and turn green with envy for a bit, because i wanna write that good!, and then i'll be back to comment more! ... not Necessarily on the same story, but yeah, you get the picture.
*S.* Brian Buckley
replies: "Oh heck yeah, stupidity is fun. I mean, there's a time and a place for intelligence, but sometimes you just have to let go."
|17 Feb 2004|| Nelli J. Vanderburg|
I've read this story at least 3 times before so I don't know why on earth I haven't commented on it yet. I don't know if you like Monty Python, but this is something I can see them acting out. I love them, so it's a compliment. I love the guardians, especially the Very Small Elephant and the Spiteful Brick. This is one of the funniest things I've ever read. Keep it up! Brian Buckley
replies: "Thanks a lot! I personally consider Monty Python and the Holy Grail the funniest movie ever made, so I think we're on the same wavelength here."
|27 Sep 2004|| Misti Hope Wudtke|
'S funny, but I could have sworn I read a response to another commenter who asked if you considered getting published, and, call me crazy, but I was sure I saw a response on your part something along the lines of *not good enough*. 'S just really silly, for me to think that I saw something like that. Nobody who writes this well can be this poor a judge of what's good enough to get published.
I thinks it's *modesty*; that's what it is. Now run along and get yourself published.
|11 Jul 2010|| Heather M Alley Sellers|
I loved this the first time I read it and I still love it, and you’re right, everyone needs some humor somtimes