Yes, the title is ironic.
I posted part one of this story last week, and you can read it here. Now, finally, here is the second part, for your reading pleasure. To recap: At the end of last week’s episode, Jane and Jim had been bonked on the back of the head by the King of the City of Paper, and were about to slip back into consciousness…
The Apple Pip Trip (Cont.)
“Urg!” Jane attempted to open her eyes. She was aware that she could barely move her limbs – as if they were restricted. As the light slowly returned to her world, she began to see shapes moving around. “Whe- where am I?” One of the shapes stated talking to her, and she realised it was King Caligraphy.
“Ah! You’re awake. Good. I’m sorry to tell you this, but I’m afraid you’re tied to a rock, as is your mousey companion.” Jane managed to turn her head just enough to see Jim struggling against the chains that bound him to his rock. “You see, while we managed to make enough goblets, the princesses were a little hard to come by. But you’ll certainly do in a pinch, you’re pretty enough to pass!” Jane was less than amused, dear reader.
“You scoundrel! I shan’t let you get away with this!” she cried.
“I’m afraid I already have, my dear,” said King Calligraphy, and with that he picked up a stick and banged the huge gong beside him. “Donovan! Dinner’s ready!” The last thing Jane saw was the King’s portly paper frame running off down the mountain. ‘Well’ thought Jane, ‘This is a rum to do indeed’.
“It is that,” said Jim, who was reading her mind again. “What shall we do?”
Just then the air was broken by a huge screech. It could only have been Donovan, coming in to feed. Jane surveyed her surroundings. She was tied to a rock on the lip of a vast, angry looking volcano. Not only was it hot, but the smell of sulphur filled her nostrils, and it was not pleasant. Suddenly, a vast wind seemed to come from above, like a seagull preparing to land.
“Brace yourself!” Yelled Jim. And then the feared paper dragon Donovan was upon them. His face was a nightmare’s nightmare, a twisted visage of scale and bone, with golden eyes that seemed to be made of pure fire. His paper scales were pearlescent, and seemed to drift through the rainbow as he moved. He drew his wings into his body and stood proudly upright.
“Sssssooo,” he hissed. “You have brought my silver gobletssss.” His reptilian head turned to look at Jane, and she felt those terrible fire eyes burn into the back of her head. “And you must be the princessssss. My, you’re quite the beauty. With your flame red hair, we will be quite the power couple, yesss? And who is this?” He flicked his head at Jim.
“Ah, that’s Jim. And I’m Jane. Listen, I don’t mean to interrupt, but, um, aren’t you a little small to be a dragon?” Donovan returned his gaze to Jane.
“What do you mean, a little ssssmall?”
“Well, it’s just that, well, I’ve already been shrunk to the size of a mouse. And you only just about come up to my knees.”
“I just thought you’d be a bit more, um, imposing I suppose,” said Jane, dismissively.
“Ssssssize isssn’t important, all the princessssssessss know that.” Donovan suddenly looked a little unsure of himself.
“I’m sure you’re right,” said Jane, trying to stifle a laugh. “So what now?” Donovan regained his composure, and ruffled his paper wings.
“Now my master the King has told me that you must answer my riddle. If you can ssssolve it, then you will be freed, but the moussse will be burned to death.”
“Wait, the King is your master? And what if I fail?”
“Then you will become my princesssss bride. And the mouse will be burnt to death. In any event the King can keep the goblets, I have no use for them. Here is the riddle: My first is in fish, but not in the sea. My second – “
“Wait a minute. What if I refuse to answer?”
“What if I refuse to answer your riddle?”
“Then both you and the mousse will be inssssssinerated.” Jane thought for a second.
“Ok, I’ll pick that one.”
“Yes, I’ve made up my mind, I’m rubbish at riddles. Burn us to death.” Donovan looked shocked. He had never come across such a bold princess before.
“You’d rather be fried alive?”
“Burnt to death, yes,” nodded Jane.
“I’ll do it princesssss.”
“Go on then.”
“I’m sure you will. Off you go then.” Jane closed her eyes, and awaited the hot hot heat.
“What right now?”
“No time like the present.” Jim cast a look at Jane.
“What are you doing?” He hissed at her. ‘Just play along’ she thought to herself. Jim seemed to get the message, and he quickly joined in with her.
“Actually, I’ve thought about it, and I think I’d quite like to be burned alive too. Turn me to ashes so that I may join the great pyre in the sky. Donovan looked confused.
“You two are crassssy. You really want me to fry you?”
“Yes please!” said Jim and Jane together.
“Very well,” said Donovan, and with that, the tiny dragon tensed his face. A glow seemed to build from within him. His paper body grew hotter and hotter, and as he opened his maw, Jane fancied that she could see a fire about to burst forth from within his belly. Unfortunately, Donovan didn’t actually manage to get that far, as he suddenly burnt into flames. As it turns out, gentle reader, it turns out that making dragons from something as flammable as paper is really not a great idea. Donovan went up like a brandy-covered Christmas pudding and was soon little more than tiny bits of burnt paper, floating on the breeze.
“Well, so much for him!” Laughed Jane. “Although I’m not surprised to be honest. He seemed like a bit of a hot head. Now how are we going to get out of these chains?” Jim looked at her for a second.
“You do realise these are paper chains?”
“So they are,” said Jane brightly, as she ripped herself free from the rock. She helped Jim down, and they began to descend the volcano back to the village below.
The doors of the Palace flew open, and Jim and Jane strode into the throne room. Behind them, two sodden penguins lay in a soggy heap. King Calligraphy sat up on his throne with a start.
“You’re back! I mean, thank goodness you’re back!” Jane wagged her finger at this plump regent, with his paper crown and poorly drawn face.
“Oh don’t play games with us your highness. We know what you were you up to. Donovan was just your pawn. You must have intended to keep those cups for yourself, but you needed an excuse to get your people to make them for you.” Jane pointed at the constitution etched in beautiful writing behind the throne. “You’ve even betrayed your own constitution!” King Caligraphy looked confused.
“Which bit? The line about outlawing swimming pools?” Jane shook her head.
“No, the line about not enslaving your own people with a paper dragon, just so that you can feed your addiction to silverware.”
“Where does it say that?”
“Right there, line 9.” Jane pointed.
“So it does.” King Crimson looked forlorn. “I suppose I have no choice then.” He clapped his hands twice, and a door opened in a dark recess of the throne room. A squadron of matchstick men strode into the room.
“Men, I have betrayed the constitution. I am so sorry.” He nodded at the matchstick men’s General, who promptly flicked his own head so that it set alight. His second-in-command bent his head into the General’s flame so that his head too set on fire. He then passed the flame onto the next soldier in line, until the whole squadron was burning brightly. They then surrounded King Caligraphy in a tight circle. “In my defence, I just really like silver goblets,” cried the king. And with that, the matches bowed towards the centre of the circle, setting the paper king alight. His screams echoed throughout the throne room, until there was nothing but silence and ash.
“Well”, said Jim. ”That was disturbing.”
“Ah, he can’t complain,” said Jane. “After all, the writing was on the wall.” Suddenly, a side door burst open. It was Rabbit!
“I’m late, I’m late, I’m – Oh hello!” Jane was relieved to see her little friend.
“It’s lovely to see you again! But what exactly are you late for?”
“Why, only the party to end all parties! It’s gonna be outasight! You can come along if you dare, but you must be quick, we’re already late!” Rabbit ran off through a door on the other side of the room. Jane thought for a second. ‘Do I want to go to a party?’ she thought. ‘Its already terribly late, and my dress is a little crispy’.
“Of course you do!” replied Jim, reading her mind. He grabbed her hand, oh wonderful reader, and dragged her after Rabbit.
Darkness enveloped them as they ran through the door. Jane fancied she was falling again.
“Goodness me! Down is up, and up is down! I daren’t think about what’s happened to left and right at this point.” Jane decided it was probably better not to think about it too much, and contented herself with falling as gracefully as she could manage.
She must have passed out at some point, as the next thing she remembered was plopping down onto a gigantic chair. And when I say gigantic, reader, I mean that it must have been at least the size of a small semi-detached house just outside of Cheam. Miles above her, she could just about see the edge of a large plateau, which seemed to be covered with a table cloth. On the seat in front of her was a small brown cake, with ‘Eat Me’ etched onto its surface in icing. ‘Well, I suppose I might as well’ thought Jane, and she took a large bit of the cake, which it turned out, was largely made of hash, and not chocolate as she’d imagined. It made her feel pleasantly woozy, and had the side-effect of making the table and chair shrink around her. No wait, she was growing. ‘With all this shrinking and growing, I’m not quite sure where I stand at all!’ thought Jane. A huge, yet strangely familiar voice seemed to answer her thought.
“Ah, the answer to that one is simple; you’re standing at my dinner table.” Now an appropriate size for the chair, tried to spot the owner of the voice. “Or to be more accurate, you’re standing on a chair at my dinner table.” Jane suddenly recognised the voice.
“Rover!” she cried, for it was he who spoke. “Oh, er sorry about standing on the chair.” She got down and seated herself properly.
“Don’t worry about it. And welcome to my Dog’s Dinner!” Jane looked at the table before her. It was absolute carnage. Dogs of every shape and size were eating cake and fruits from huge golden dog food bowls. Rabbit and Jim were there too, greedily scoffing strangely shaped fruits. And at the head of this crazy scene, was Rover, her beloved bulldog, presiding over all with a big grin on his face. Or at least an attempt at a grin. He still hadn’t quite nailed it yet.
“What a wonderful spread Rover! How did you manage this?”
“Ah, well please allow me to introduce myself; I’m a dog of wealth and taste. I’ve been around for a long, long year, and stole many a man’s soul and faith. You may know me as Rover, but others know my other names – suffice it to say, Rover will do for now. These are my friends – Joe Cocker Spaniel, Johan Sebastian Bark, Andy Warhowl, and of course, those loveable mop tops, The Beagles. They have all dealt with me so they can sit at this table, and eat for all of time.” Jane looked slightly doubtful.
“So you’re telling me that these showbiz dogs have sold you their souls in exchange for infinite amounts of Bonio?” Rover laughed.
“I Shih Tzu not. But come now, eat!” Jane looked at the food on her plate. It did look ridiculously appetising - a mountain of ice cream in all kinds of exotic flavours, slices of pizza dripping in toppings, and a salad that actually looked quite tasty, which was a miracle in itself. But something didn’t quite seem right.
“If it’s all the same to you Rover, I’m not that hungry. And it’s getting rather late. Don’t you think we should be heading home?”
“Nonsense, look, your friends Jim and Rabbit are tucking in. Maybe some music might help. Beagles! Play one of your hits!” The Beagles reluctantly stopped eating and walked over to the small stage nearby, where they attempted a rendition of ‘Hey Bulldog’. It was rubbish obviously. They were dogs. Jane covered her ears to try and drown out the howling cacophony.
“They’re terrible!” She cried.
“You think they’re bad, you should have heard The Labradoors.” Laughed Rover.
“Hey!” yelled Jim. “I used to play with them, they were great!”
“You’re joking aren’t you?” Chipped in Rabbit. “Talk about pretentious lyrics!”
“Pretentious?” Spluttered Jim. “What’s pretentious about ‘The sheets were hot dead prisms, we looked for cheese, but all we found were prisons’?” Rabbit just gave him A LOOK. Jane realised something had to be done.
“Look, Rover, I can see you’ve made yourself really quite comfortable here, but I’m afraid it’s time to go, my Pedigree Chum.” Rover looked at her and laughed. It was really quite eerie.
“Silly girl! What makes you think you can drag me from my kingdom, and return me to the human world? There I am nothing more than a child’s plaything, a furry slave. Here, they call me Lucy Fur, and I am a King! A King!”
“Well maybe this will help,” said Jane and she pulled a long leather strap from her coat pocket.
“What? No… that’s impossible!” Spluttered Rover.
“I’m afraid not,” said Jane brandishing the leash. “Come on Rover. Walkies!”
Almost against his will, Rover bounded over to Jane, and she clipped the leash onto his collar.
“Well thanks everyone for having us, but I’m afraid we really must be going now. It was lovely meeting you all.” The showbiz dogs and Rabbit and Jim all waved cheerily, as Jane walked Rover over to the big red door in the corner of the room.
“You realise that door doesn’t take us back to the human world, don’t you?” Said Rover.
“Well, if nothing else,” said Jane, “I’m sure that whatever lies on the other side will be just as exciting.” And she put her hand on the door – and pushed!
And so gentle reader, this is where we leave Jane for now – pushing on through to the other side. She’s certainly had an adventure, hasn’t she. But is this really… the end?