Thursday, August 17, 2006

Chapter 30 and a half, or Come Hell or High Water

Melyngoch was the first to push through the thick blanket of snow that had avalanched upon the FOB. She wriggled out of the tunnel and stepped out into the biting wind, gritting her teeth. Whistling, she looked out over the ruined valley's white landscape.

"A fire, I think, is in order," said Tolkien Boy in a strained voice as he struggled from the snow tunnel he, Melyngoch, and Petra had been digging for the past hour. "Petra and I could use some warmth on our hands before the fingers fall off, and I'm sure that the seven down below have burned whatever energy was left in that pan of brownies."

"Six down below," corrected Petra as she, too, slithered from the tunnel. "Don't forget that Jeph met his untimely demise two days ago."

"Untimely?" muttered Tolkien Boy under his breath, but Melyngoch and Petra were already both searching for firewood and so, shrugging, he went to join them.

When at last they had a merry fire blazing in the clearing, Melyngoch leaned over the tunnel and bellowed for the other Fobs to join them. editorgirl (sic) came out first, blinking in the snowy sunlight and clutching an empty brownie pan.

Th. was close behind, a ragged look on his face. "They're drawing lots down there to see who gets to carry Jeph through the tunnel," he said. "I tried to convince them that he'd be easier to carry in pieces, but I was voted down four to two. They've got your name in the drawing, editorgirl--just thought you might like to know."

"If you think for one second I'm dragging that carcass up that tunnel," started editorgirl, but she was quickly drowned out by Edgy's grunts as he came backwards out of the tunnel, dragging Jeph's body by the feet. The Marchioness made up the rear of the strange procession, grimacing as she pushed Jeph's shoulders through the narrow opening. "It's a bit like giving birth, isn't it?" she asked cheerfully.

"I hope not," said Melyngoch feelingly. "Bloodsucking babies are scary enough. Bloodsucking babies that look like Jeph are justifiable infanticide."

The Marchioness was followed by Queen Zippergut, who was followed after a short pause by Master Fob, who was still licking brownie crumbs off of his face.

"How does it feel to be reborn, brother?" quipped Edgy as Master Fob sat down wearily by the fire.

"A bit like it did the first time," said Master Fob. "At least, as far as I remember."

"Justifiable infanticide," murmured Th., just loudly enough for the Fob to hear.

"What do we do now?" asked the Marchioness, throwing a stick in the fire.

"Well, first we figure out where we are," said Master Fob.

The rest of the Fob turned to Petra. Sighing, she said, "The angle of the sun and the fact that these trees are Asian furred poplars indicates that we are still somewhere in the mountainous regions of Tibet. Interestingly, the Asian furred poplar is also commonly called the 'toupee tree' among botanists in England and the United States, mostly through a corruption in translation of the Tibetan word toupeetan, which means a clever ruse."

"I a-rused your mom," said Tolkien Boy, yawning. "Cleverly."

"I don't see how you can be so cavalier about 'your mom' jokes, considering all that's happened," said editorgirl.

"I leered at your mom's calves," said Melyngoch quickly. "We can't back away from our calling, editorgirl, no matter how dire the consequences. We need to carry the banner forward."

"I was forward with your mom's banner," said the Marchioness wearily.

"That's the spirit," said Melyngoch, glancing uneasily at Jeph's frozen, lifeless body.

"Well," said Master Fob, "now that we know where we are, we need to figure out some way to get home."

"We could make a raft of Jeph's body," volunteered Queen Zippergut. "I learned how to make corpse rafts during my last stint as a Relief Society president."

"One body isn't going to be enough for all of us to ride on," pointed out Petra.

"We'll have to kill someone else," said Th. wistfully. With a more alert tone, he then said, "I vote Master Fob."

"Maybe we can just alert someone to rescue us," said Edgy.

"But how would we explain the fact that one of us is dead?" asked editorgirl.

"We could act play it up as an accident," mused Queen Zippergut.

"Or pretend to be surprised," enthused Edgy. "They'll say, 'Hey, that guy is dead!' and we'll say, 'What?? No wonder he's been so quiet!'"

"Sure, no one's ever tried that before." The Marchioness rolled her eyes. "Maybe we could pretend we just found him like that."

"And the fact that he's wearing the official FOB T-shirt, now available for only $12.99 in select stores, won't make anyone suspicious?" asked Master Fob.

The Fob were interrupted in their discussion by the sudden arrival of a hunched gypsy woman, who stared at them huddled around their fire with her one good eye.

"Begging your pardons," she said, "but would you spare room 'round your fire for an old gypsy woman?"

"No," said the Fob as one, leaving Edgy to add, "Sorry, but we've had no luck at all with one-eyed gypsy women. They usually give us more problems than we need."

"Love you, ducky, I'm no stranger to problems," cackled the old woman. "But these ancient ears couldn't help but overhear that you're trying to cover up the suspcicious death of one of your members."

Petra snorted. The rest of the Fob looked at her, shrugged, and looked away.

"Well, it seems to me," continued the old woman, "that the easiest thing to do is to say he perished of the bitter cold here in the Tibetan mountains while the eight of you were vacationing."

"That's...plausible," admitted editorgirl hesitantly.

"It's brilliant!" cried Master Fob. "Any idea how we can get off this mountain?"

"Well, unless I'm mistaken," said the old crone as she turned to hobble away, "at least six of you have cell phones that get excellent service high in the mountains."

The old woman smiled to herself as she heard the heavy sound of six hands simultaneously smacking six foreheads.


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