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The Wedding at Hemlock Hills
The short elder dwarf and the tall, skinny human walked towards an awning on the far side of the town square. The awning had a picture of a simple bed over the words ‘Hemlock Hills Hotel’, and although the inference seemed rather gruesome, this was the one recommended by the wedding planner - so it would have to do. As they got closer to the building, Sedlow – the dwarf – saw another dwarf, a grandmother perhaps, with a large flowered cloth bag that matched her dress and her straw hat. A haggardly griffin was approaching her with head bowed.
“Good morning,” said the creature politely, bowing slightly towards her. “I wonder if you might have a…”
“I hope you aren’t going to ask me for something,” she shouted towards him grabbing a bowie knife from inside her bag. “Because if you did, I’d have to slit your throat and slice you into tiny pieces and feed what’s left to the crows!” She held up the nine-inch blade so that the sunlight reflected off its metal.
The simple griffin hurried away and the grandmother glared at him as he went.
“Okay, welcome to Oxyania, I suppose,” whispered the human to his friend.
The dwarf seemed to be ready to say something to the knife wielder but the human thought better of it, nudging his friend forward towards the hotel. The doorman had seen what just happened and motioned for them to quickly come inside.
The interior of the hotel was comfy but not overdone. In back of the hotel’s desk stood a gnome whose job as desk-clerk was never easy. He was standing on a soapbox that did give him a slight edge of authority – or so he hoped. “Welcome to Hemlock Hills. How many people are in your party?” asked the desk clerk.
“Well that’s hard to say,” started the dwarf.
“Hard to say?” asked the desk-clerk, knowing that by all accounts this question was perfectly logical under these circumstances.
“As I’m sure you’ll understand,” began the dwarf, “numbers aren’t my strongpoint.”
“Go ahead and try a guess for the gnome,” directed the human beside him. “He can’t wait all day for us to sign-in.”
“Okay, okay. Well maybe 4000.”
“What!” shouted the gnome with terror – his red pointed hat almost falling off.
The human nudged the dwarf gently. “That can’t be right, Sedlow. There are only 1500 creatures in the entire kingdom.”
The dwarf relented a little, giving an embarrassed chuckle. “You’re right my friend, of course. Let’s see, there are me and you and the bride and groom…” (the desk-clerk was counting along with him) “…and 567 bottles of wine, 62 bottles of ale...”
“Wait!” signaled the gnome, flailing his arms about. “We don’t count beverages – we are only concerned with living, breathing creatures.”
The dwarf stroked his beard before stating: “Well using your criteria, perhaps 27.”
The desk clerk exhaled heavily, visibly relieved.
The dwarf turned to his human friend, shrugging his shoulders. “Perhaps 4000 was a little high.”
“Perhaps!” said the desk clerk with a look that would have been an ‘hmmmph!’ if it were audible.
The gnome made a mark on the book in front of him. “And how long will your party be staying with us?” he asked the dwarf.
“There you go with the numbers again. How am I supposed to know? I’m not psychic, I’m psychotic. People are always getting that confused.”
“You’re scaring the gnome, Sedlow…” whispered the human to his friend, motioning for him to go ahead.
“Somewhere between two days and thirty-six years…”
The desk clerk sneered: “May I put you down for two nights then?” He looked over at the human who was frantically nodding yes. “All right then, 27 guests for 2 nights.”
The dwarf straightened up a bit as though trying to defend himself. “He DID ask how many were in our party – and you can’t have a party without counting the wine and ale…”
“Good point!” said the human. “Good point indeed!”
In spite of the logic of his response the gnome behind the hotel desk did not appear to be impressed. “You said ‘bride and groom’, sir. Will they be wanting the ‘Fantasy suite’?”
“Don’t you think a fantasy suite would be a little over the top in this genre?” asked the dwarf.
The human thought about the statement for a moment, but decided to proceed as if nothing had been said. “Sure, why not. Put us down for the Fantasy suite for the bride and groom…as long as it’s fireproof, of course.”
“I beg your pardon, sir!” shouted the desk clerk. He began to clean out his enormous right ear with a handkerchief. “My hearing is failing me, given my age of 600 years, but what I heard was the suite needs to be fireproof!” The gnome just stood there glaring at the pair.
“He meant briar-proof off course,” answered the dwarf, thinking quickly. “There aren’t any thorny patches in the room I presume.”
“Of course not, sir. Of course not!” The desk clerk ran his hands down his ankle-length gown as if smoothing out the wrinkles literally and figuratively. “Now if you’ll just sign here, I’ll get your keys.”
The dwarf put several gold nuggets on the counter and the human signed the guestbook.
“Okay Mister…Mister Torch?” the gnomes eyes grew wide.
“We’ll be at the bar,” said the human, grabbing the keys.
The bar was dank and there were varied creatures scattered about in the booths in the back in the dark. Sedlow and Crumpquat, the human, sat on barstools, trying to concentrate on the alcohol in their glasses.
An orc happened to be sitting next to the pair and decided to stir up a bit of conversation. “Hi! My name is Stoggle! What are your guy’s names?” Without taking a breath he launched into a tirade about his favorite subject. “You know what I like?” asked the orc. “I like pork. I like pork chops, and pork steaks, country ham, ham with white gravy, sausage, and bacon! – oh, don’t get me started on bacon!” He looked over at his captive audience – the human and the dwarf – before proceeding on after drawing a quick breath. “Bacon! Oh my! Canadian bacon, WITH ostrich eggs and rye bread toast, Oh my!”
At this point a five foot high ham and cheese sandwich walked through the door and stood in front of the bar. He began pounding on the counter with tiny little arms to get the barkeep’s attention.
A lumbering man of moderate height came to see what the sandwich wanted.
“Bartender! Bartender! Give me a beer!”
“I can’t do it,” he told the ham and cheese dryly.
“Why not?” the sandwich asked.
“We don’t serve food in here,” the barkeep answered, throwing a towel over his shoulder and walking away.
At this point the ham and cheese sandwich noticed that the orc on the opposite side of Sedlow and Crumpquat was practically drooling, and decided to leave quickly.
The human picked his orange-colored liquor-filled glass up off the bar and motioned for the dwarf to do the same. “Here’s to the marriage of my daughter and your son.”
“Here here!” replied the dwarf, happily raising his glass. “And to our first grandchild together: Lana May. The cutest baby this side of the Azquark Mountains!”
“Here’s to the little spitfire!” agreed the human.
They both drank deeply, looking forward to the upcoming nuptials.
The pork-loving orc raised his huge mug, toasting love. “I’m a big believer in marriage you know – having been married four times myself!” The orc exploded with laughter, obviously fully capable of entertaining himself. “I crack myself up!” he bellowed while ordering another mug of a steaming liquid.
The bartender was back, listening to the reveler’s conversation. He sneered a bit before saying, “My wife and I have had five good years together…”
“That’s nice,” said Crumpquat. “Is that how long you’ve been married then?”
“No, no. We’ve been married for twenty years, and in all that time, we’ve had five good years, maybe.” The bartender and orc high-fived each other as they laughed together.
“I think it’s time to check on the others,” said the dwarf to the human, nodding towards the door.
“They’re probably here already. I’m right behind you,” and they quickly exited the bar.
The small lobby of the tiny hotel was filled with wedding guests of all form and family ties. Dwarves, elves, hobbits, smelfs, humans, orcs, wizards, fairies, and all mixture of half-lings spilled out into the street – all waiting for the festivities to begin. As promised there were wagons full of malted and fermented beverages parked outside.
Crumpquat and Sedlow went through the mob telling everyone they recognized that their rooms were on the second floor and handing out keys.
Suddenly an androgynous fairy began to buzz about the room, zooming over the creature’s heads, demanding their attention. He carried a clipboard.
“If I may be so bold!” it shouted to those below him. “If I may be so bold!”
The family members below fell silent, as requested.
“Greetings all! You may call me Thalia, I am the wedding planner. We have six hours before the nuptials – which will go off at 8 PM sharp! - and Oxyania has many opportunities for you to explore the local attractions. There is an aquarium nearby,” he said while looking down upon the crowd to see who might need directions. The merpeople looked bored with the idea, but the orcs appeared to be interested, so they all staggered out in the direction Thalia was pointing.
“There is a full-sized model of the Titanic nearby,” said the planner. This idea interested the merpeople, as many of them had always wanted to see the submerged ship, but were usually too busy to actually travel and see the real thing. The fairy pointed in a different direction, and the merpeople walked away.
“Putt-Putt golf, anyone?” asked the master of tourism. The humans went crazy, running outside willy-nilly. “Just look for the giant gorilla climbing the Eifel tower!” Thalia shouted after them.
Thalia looked at the dwarfs who comprised the largest part of crowd remaining. “The bellhops are taking the barrels and bottles of assorted beverages around back – to the tables.” On the street outside flying monkeys in little suits and hats grabbed containers and flew around the side of the building. The dwarfs cheered and hurried around the side of the building.
Sedlow and Crumpquat went over to the only guests left inside – the bride and groom who were pushing a baby carriage. The proud grampas leaned over the carriage. “Isn’t she adorable when she’s sleeping?” asked Sedlow.
“She’s the most beautiful baby in the world,” Crumpquat quietly agreed.
A human chef from South Carolina happened to be walking past and went over to the carriage. “Let me see the baby,” she insisted. The grampas made a roadblock with their bodies but the large woman powered past them. “Let me see the widdle, biddy baby!” she insisted. She bent over the carriage and began screaming wildly in horror. The baby – half dwarf and half dragon - was shocked into alertness and darted out of her carriage, flying about the room spewing out fire. Her tiny face was bearded with green scales around soft blue eyes. She had wings and talons, and wore a pretty pink tutu. The drapes were on fire before mom and dad could catch the toddler. Buckets of water were being thrown everywhere, which squelched the blazes rather quickly really.
As the smoke was clearing the human father of the bride approached the desk clerk and placed a small pile of gold nuggets in front of him. “It skips a generation, you know…”
The gnome gave him first a look of angst, which quickly subsided into a shrug and a nod. The nuggets were appreciated and would more than pay for the damage.
Fortunately the nuptials themselves went off without a hitch – except for hitching the couple together, as they became Mr. and Mrs. Torch.
After the reception was over and much food was eaten (cooked, raw, and still moving) everyone went upstairs to sleep except for the groomsmen and Sedlow and Cumpquat. They were all looking out a back window towards the path that led to the fantasy suite, at the top of a lovely hill filled with violets and fireflies.
“I hear the bridal suite has a heart-shaped hot-tub,” said a groomsman in passing.
Suddenly all the males that were still awake grabbed a bottle of their favorite liquor, ripped off their tuxedoes, and went charging up the hill. There were screams of surprise from the just married couple, while the naked males canon-balled into the warm water. The groom looked at his bride, then looked at the guys, then kissed his bride on the forehead and jumped into the hot tub as well. The bride realized that she had married the entire family and went off to get some cheese and crackers for the revelers.
At some point just before dawn the hot tub water cooled down, which was when the half-human, half-dragon bride took a deep breath and reignited the blaze below the huge tub - to the thanks of all the men within – especially her groom.
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