“Oi, lollygagger! What do you call this dump?”
“Er… Trestlebridge, sir. On account of the big bridge and all.”
Sype squinted at the rickety span and spat into the dirt, which greedily absorbed the moisture and begged for more. “Trestlebridge, eh? Had me a bad case of trestlebridges a while back, took six different kind of salves to get rid of it.”
The dour Lore-master trudged through the town, hoping against hope that this land would be different. That, unlike all of the other places with their petty problems and general laziness, the famed North Downs would be a place of true adventure, of honest…
“Wahhhh! A nasty goblin poisoned my lunchbox! Go kill him, complete and total stranger!”
* * * * *
A week later, and Sype dearly wished he’d never heard of the North Downs. To tell the truth, he was starting to be convinced that he was in the suburbs of hell and being punished with menial chores that all the fat soccer moms and beer-swilling dads couldn’t be bothered with.
Sype drove the butt of his staff through a raven’s beak with a solid crunch. “Kill these birds, he says. Wakes him up too early, he says.”
Movement out of the corner of his eye prompted him to spin and fling a fistful of embers at a passing lynx. The cat howled as the smell of burnt hair wafted over the land. “Go slaughter sixteen of these cats and haul their carcasses back here so I can make a coat from their ragged fur and be the BELLE of the BALL. Bah!”
He paused and wiped away a forehead of sweat with the back of his hand. The Committee told him that his services were desperately needed in the region, but as far as he could tell, the real problem was the severe lack of motivation for everyone to waddle out of town and get on with their lives.
“It’s almost like…” Sype began to talk to himself out loud, then shook his head. It was a silly thought, anyway, but it kept coming to him. His life started to remind him of a story he once read, where a naive dwarf spent his whole life in a village where everyone else was an actor, and an invisible audience watched him go about the business of living without realizing that all of his trappings — even his relationships — was a sham.
No… the Committee wouldn’t do that to him, would they?
He whirled around, half-expecting to see faces peeking out behind a rock and laughing at his pointless endeavors.
Another lynx moseyed on by, stoically ignoring the smoldering remains of his third cousin. Sype stared at the cat, and then a light went on over his head.
He threw a lasso and caught the cat, who put up far less of a fight than expected. Almost as if it knew what was coming.
* * * * *
“You got my pelts?” the woman wheezed, as she struggled to her feet. “All sixteen?”
Sype doffed his hat. “Yes ma’am. They’re in excellent condition, too. I took the liberty of dropping them off at your home.”
With that, he sauntered out of town at a steady pace — fast enough to get out before trouble began, but not too quickly as to miss the screams of the owner of sixteen angry wildcats nesting in her foyer.
NEXT TIME ON THE ADVENTURES OF SYPE: Sype forms the first U.N. of Middle-earth — and does anyone think to thank him? No, of course not.