Fus Roh Dah

I was walking home from working my dead end job on a warm spring evening when I happened upon an ancient and crumbling brick wall.  My first impression was that this wall must have been from ages past, when states warred with one another and men such as Jackson and Longstreet walked upon the Earth, but upon closer inspection I discovered something peculiar: words drawn in an ancient and mysterious language.  Being a student of the Classics, I was rather surprised that I had never seen this peculiar script in any of my researches.  Suffice it to say, it was old, very old.  It looked something like this:

I bent closer and traced my finger over the depressions that formed the characters, and found myself subconsciously humming a nameless, though catchy tune.

“Da da dum, da da dum, da da dum dum da dum.”  I sang quietly too myself, and then I paused, and stood erect.  Something was wrong.  The late spring in northern Alabama is a particularly noisy time of year.  All sorts of wretched insects, from the thrice damned Grasshopper to the vengeful Cicada, commence their endless mating calls once darkness descends across the land.  Dogs  howl, begging release from the oppressive seasonal heat that permeates every hour.  Fire flies and love  bugs join in a dance, adding their peculiar luminescence or unparalleled ability to fly in one’s eyes or nostrils to the annoying music of their fellow beasts.  Late spring is a busy time, and yet, as I attempted to read the ancient runes, and as I hummed a nameless tune of a bygone era, the noises gradually decreased and the bugs seemed to vacate the area, until the world was as silent as death.

I looked around, and there was not a firefly in sight.  I opened my eyes wide, a clear invitation, and yet no love bugs struck them.  I turned back to the letters on the wall, and saw that they were now glowing an icy blue, like Gatorade frost’s glacier freeze.

“How very odd,” I muttered under my breath in an effort to conceal the sudden terror that had gripped my heart.  I wanted to run, to hide, but my idiotic curiosity, the kind of curiosity that urges you to press the button because, hell, what’s the worst that could happen, kept me in place, watching.

A great wind picked up, blowing my hair into a maelstrom, and scattering debris from here to the theater building.  I could hear an ancient chanting swirl about me, as if a horde of vikings were rowing a mighty dragon ship to the lush and fertile fields of England, and it wasn’t going to be a pleasant visit, at least not for the English.  They didn’t just need a cup of sugar, as it were; they needed all of it.  Electric lines of glacier freeze energy were pulsating from the words, surrounding my body in a shimmering light.  I was getting tunnel vision, fixated on the words of power.

“So this is how I die,” I mused as I was hoisted into the air by some unknown force, “consumed by mystic words written upon a crumbling brick wall.”  I didn’t find this surprising.  I have always been an avid reader, a book worm, or as the Germans put it, a leseratte, and I secretly knew that it would one day prove to be my undoing.  I must have been three or four feet in the air at that point, and the maelstrom seemed to be at it’s height.  The vikings were positively screaming now, and the words glowed brighter than 1,000 suns.  How fortunate I was, gentle reader, that my eyes were not burned from their sockets.  Perhaps my glasses had some sort of diffusing effect.

The vikings reached a crescendo, and it was over.  I was dropped unceremoniously to the concrete bellow, receiving a nasty bruise on my bottom.  I rose slowly to my feet and, after dusting myself off, glanced one more at the eldritch masonry and its insidious runes, only to discover that they had faded with the storm, and were now barely even visible.  I once again traced their outlines, feeling a slight depression in the cool brick, but nothing happened.  I looked at my hands, and then my feet.  I didn’t feel any different, so what had just happened?  Perhaps there is some undying wizard, a lich of some sort, that travels around the country, trolling innocent bystanders into thinking that they had stumbled upon some sort of power granting magic, but it was in fact only an impressive light show.  It sounds like something I would do if I were a mighty warlock.  Oh well.  I turned around to head home.  And then I saw them, my enemies.

I don’t know why these guys decided to be my enemies.  Perhaps they were jealous of my Gi (see The Sensei), or perhaps they were just looking for trouble, and thought they had found it.  Either way, they loved to harass me at every opportunity, though their machinations were normally thwarted by a last minute sally from yours truly.  The most peculiar thing about them was that they were all British, and had the accent of the inner city London projects.  What they were doing in Alabama only God knows, but I’m sure he finds it hilarious.

“What’s this, then?” taunted Ringo, the ring leader of their little band, “looks like we found ourselves a nerd!”

“That is quite rude,” I rebuked him, “and I expect to hear an apology forthwith.”  They all laughed, like hyenas, lending a certain Serengeti quality to the already bizarre evening.

“Yeah sure, we’ll apologize,” he laughed.  He suddenly ran up and grabbed my shirt.  “With our fists.  We heard you playing that Skyrim music earlier, nerd, and you know we hate Skyrim.”

“Yeah!” said Ding-Dong, the fat kid in the group, “We hate that game. We found the open ended world to meander a bit too much, and the main plot line too slow for any sort of large time investment.”

“Yeah!” said Chirp, the small, mousy member of the gang, “fuck that game, yo!”

“And now,” said Ringo, as his mates closed in, “We’s gonna teach you a lesson”  He cocked his fist and let fly, and time seemed to slow down.  It was almost comical how slow his fist was traveling.  Was this the wall’s doing?  I began to laugh, but suddenly, as if by magic, I heard an old man speaking.

“In their tongue, he is called Dovakin, dragon born.”  And then I knew what to do.

Pictured: A fellow Dragon born

“Fus Roh Dah!”I shouted at Ringo, and I was gifted a glimpse of a scared look flashing across his face, before he blown away from with the force of a cannon.  His body tumbled through the sky, dozens of feet in the air, before crashing into one of the many aged trees that shade the quad of the University.  I heard several loud cracks, and dared to hope that one might have been his femur.

“Lawl!” I laughed.  His friends were staring at me completely dumbstruck.  Such is often the case when one uses an amazing magical power to vex one’s enemies, I’ve found.  I smirked.

“Chirp,” I said, cordially “would you mind standing closer to young ding-dong there?  No, a little closer, please.  A little more, OK, good, and FUS ROH DAH!”  They too went spiraling into the night’s dark embrace, and left me standing wholly alone.  Was it true?  Am I… dragon born?  The evidence was resoundingly in favor of yes, but I wasn’t certain.  I have human parents after all, well, at least I think they are humans.  I suppose they could be dragons in very good disguises.  I have heard tales that dragons can take human form as it suites them, so perhaps that is the case.  I have also heard that dragons tend to have hoards of gold, in which case I would be very cross with my parents that I had to take out student loans…

Curse your reptilian avarice! Curse it!

As it was, I doubted I would ever be certain.  Confronting one’s parents about whether or not they are dragons is often a great way to get sent to a therapist.  Perhaps I should just be happy with my new found super power and call it a day, or night, rather.  And what a night it was!  It was neither too warm, nor too cool, and slightly foggy.  The fog closed in around me like a particularly damp and ethereal blanket, and I found it comforting.  There is something about the way fog clouds your vision that makes the world seem full of… possibilities.  As if something unknown may be around the next well trod bend.  The insects and other animals recommenced their mating calls, drowning out the agonized screams of my enemies almost completely.  I took a round about route home anyway, thus avoiding the tree in which my enemies lay and likewise avoiding any sort of legal punishment contained therein.  My throat was feeling somewhat scratchy.  I suppose it was from the magic, but it was practically begging for a cup of mint tea, and so I made one, and then I slept the sleep of a dragon born.

Cheating is Winning, and Winning is Awesome

“I couldn’t let you win, because you cheated.” The dark man said to us, glaring through his goatee at our team of 8.  If memory serves, I believe we were going by the pseudonym “blood, bath and beyond” that night.  I slammed my hands on the table and jumped out of my seat, barely keeping my balance.  I had drunk much beer that night, and stability had long ago fled my intoxicated form.

“How dare you, sir?  How dare you?” I slurred, pointing a finger at him with one hand and grabbing the table with the other, lest I fall over.  My german friend Alex slammed his hands on the table and jumped out of his seat just as drunkenly.

“Yeah, how dare you?  We aren’t cheaters!  We came to the pub tonight to play an honorable game of trivia, and by Jove that’s what we did!”  He shouted.  I have often thought that the easiest way to combat someone calling you a liar is to get angry.  It could very well be your natural response to someone calling you out, even if you weren’t lying.  Too bad we were lying.  Lying our hearts out.

Don’t get me wrong, we didn’t go to trivia night at the pub with the intention of cheating, it just sort of happened.  Like in one of those teen horror movies when the popular kids play a trick on the nerd, and the nerd ends up dying and haunting them forever, which incidentally is seldom long.  We had intended to just guess on the ones we didn’t know, but after 3 or 4 in a row, it begins to get a bit discouraging, and the alluring call of our smart-phones grows incessantly louder, so much so that we are no longer able to resist their sirens call.

This isn’t our pub, but it’s as good as you’re gonna get this close to graduation

“Charles,” my friend Ashlee inevitably asks me, “you look like you need to use the rest room right now.”

“What?” I respond, confused and alarmed.  How did she know that I needed to pee?  “No I don… oh!  Yes, yes I do.  If you would excuse me…”  Using your smartphone is illegal in the pub during trivia time, and if anyone sees you doing it, they’ll report you to the Quizmaster, curse his name, and he will confiscate your answer sheet.  It is therefore necessary to stagger to the restroom if you want to cheat, far away from the prying eyes of the other teams.  The stalls provides the optimal protection, but sometimes they are occupied and/or stinky. The urinals work in a pinch, because most people just stare straight ahead while they do their business, and sometimes hiding in plain sight is the best option.  Of course, if someone does look over at you while you are at the urinal, all you must do is begin making zoo noises, and they will most likely leave you be.  If they don’t, then I only have this to say to you, my friend: run.  Simple, really.

We had sent seven or eight such expeditions to the lavatories that night, and had learned some rather impressive facts.  Ketchup, for instance, was sold as medicine in the 1830’s, and there are four cars and eleven light posts on the back of a $10 dollar bill.  Normally, when we cheat at trivia, we answer one or two questions that we know are correct incorrectly, so as to appear that we weren’t cheating.  We eventually learned, however, that we were probably going to get wrong some of the ones that we thought were right, and so the practice had fallen out of style.

The trivia quiz has two parts: useless factoids and name that tune.  It’s a lot harder to cheat on the song section, because there aren’t any speakers in the bathrooms, so we generally try to cheat as much as possible on the first part.  The songs that night were especially obtuse: TV themes from the 70’s and 80’s.  Fortunately, I had invited Richard, my boss, an honorable man and by no means a cheater, to join us that night and it turned out that he was amazingly gifted in the 70’s and 80’s TV show theme song department.  I don’t think he knew that we were cheating, though he was probably somewhat worried that we would cackle evilly every time one of us had to use the restroom.

After the songs were done, we made some last minute corrections and handed the answer sheet to Alex, who took it up front.  He returned with a big smile on his face, and plopped down into his chair with an air of satisfaction.

“Well?” I asked conspiratorially, “Is it done?”

“Yes,” he replied calmly, taking a sip of his beer, “It is done.  The quizmaster, may his hair be chewed off by a thousand camels, was dubious.  He asked me if we had cheated.”

“And?  What did you say?”  Ashlee asked angrily.

“Of course not, oh noble one!” Alex replied smugly, bowing to Ashlee as if she were the wretched quizmaster himself.

“And he suspects nothing?” I asked frantically, grabbing Alex’s shoulder and turning him to face me.

“Nothing at all.” Alex replied, shrugging off my hand

“You did well this day, Alex.” Ashlee commended.  She made a motion with her hands and we all leaned in.  All except my boss, who was furrowing his brow in confusion.  “It is finally our turn, my friends. This time, we will have the highest score!  This time, we will be the victors!  This time, the prize will be ours!”  Ashlee said the last line at an almost shriek, and we all raised our hands in the air and cheered.

“What is the prize?”  Richard asked.

“A $20 gift card!”  I responded, and we cheered some more.

“So that will pay for what, four beers?”

“Yes!  But there’s more!  If you win, you get the honor of sitting at the king’s table next monday!”

“Oh.  That’s nice”

When the time came around for the Quizmaster, curse him, we were positively giddy.  The incumbents were sitting at the king’s table, and from my vantage point I could clearly see the fear in their hearts.  It was manifest in every halfhearted laugh they dared to hazard, and in every movement that they made.  If there was room in my heart for pity, I would have felt sorry for them, but the world of pub night trivia is a cruel place my friends, and I felt nothing but the icy blackness of schadenfreude.  The quizmaster picked up the microphone, and he drew my attention away from the kings table before I could eat my fill of their misery.

“Tonight’s winners” he said, silencing the crowd with a wave of his hand, much like a Roman emperor of old quieting the mob in the arena, “With 36 points…” He paused here, and I looked at Ashley puzzled.  We had gotten 38 points, not 36.  Maybe there had been some sort of error, maybe there had…

“The Schemin’ Geezers!”  The king’s table erupted in an explosion of joy.

“How…?” I asked numbly, sinking into a black despair, “How can this be?”  The rest of the table was equally as distraught as me, all but Richard who clapped for the geezers.

“Good for them!” he said, and I think he meant it too, and we hated him for it.  We ordered more beer as the quizmaster went to congratulate the “winning” team.  He happened to walk by our table at one point, and i grabbed his sleeve and dragged him over to us.

“We had more points,” I aid threateningly, fumbling around on the table for a knife or something, though none seemed to be in reach, “why didn’t we win?”

And so we come back to where we started.  After alex and I had shouted at him so vehemently, the Quizmaster, may his house be struck by a falling satellite, seemed unsure of him self.  Perhaps he had judged us wrongly?

“Ok, you’re good liars, I admit, but I know that you cheated.  Look here, how did you know what the boiling point of liquid nitrogen?”

“I’m a chemistry major.” Alex said, and he was.  As it turned out, he actually did know the boiling point of liquid nitrogen offhand.  We didn’t have to cheat on that one.

“Well, how did you know which roman emperor wanted to put his horse in the senate.” He asked.  I raised my hand.

“How did you know which Shakespeare play had MacDuff in it?”

“Scottish name, scottish play,” Ashlee said, “We figured it had to be MacBeth.”  We didn’t have to look that one up, either.

“Classics major.” I responded truthfully, restraining a laugh.  Incredible, I thought.  He was asking us to explain only the answers that we didn’t cheat on!  He was beginning to look a little nervous now, and I could tell that he was worried that he very well may have slighted us from our victory.

“Ok, fine.  I’ll give you those, but there’s no way you knew the three large cats that can roar!  No body got that one right.”  Uh oh.  I was hoping he wouldn’t bring this one up.  It’s not that we cheated, far from it!  I knew all three.  It was that the way that I knew all three was kind of embarrassing, and I wasn’t looking forward to having to explain it.

“Oh, charles got all those!” Ashlee said, smiling as she happily pointed me out, damn her.  “He can tell you how he knew that one.”  Everyone turned at looked at me.

“Well,” I began, pulling at my collar nervously, “Lions are obvious.  I mean, who hasn’t seen the MGM logo, right?”  Everyone nodded, except for the Quizmaster, who rolled his eyes.

“Well yess, everyone got lions!  How’d you know the other two?”

“What is this, slumdog millionaire?” I asked angrily.

“Charles,” said Ashlee, somewhat annoyed, “Just tell him how you knew about the other two.”  Great.

“Ok, fine.  Well, I knew about Jaguars because of Age of Empires II: The Conquerors.”

“What’s that?” quizzed the Quizmaster.

“An old video game.  You could play as the aztecs, and they had a unit called jaguar warriors.  They were essentially guys with clubs who wore jaguar skins, but when you clicked on them, they roared, like jaguars I suppose”

“And the other?” he asked.  Here goes nothing.

“I knew that Panthers roared because in R.A. Salvatore’s beloved Drizzt fantasy novels, the main character, who is a magical dark elf, also called a drow, has a magical stone figurine of a panther.  The panther’s name is Guenhwyvar, and hen Drizzt lays down the figurine and calls her name, the panther magically materializes.  It occasionally roars, and I therefore assumed that the forgotten realms wouldn’t lead me wrong, and that Guenhwyvar roaring was an accurate representation of the average panther.”

Pictured: Guenhwyvar and Drizzt

Silence.  Dead, ugly, awkward silence.  My friends stared at me as though they had just discovered a new and disturbingly nerdy facet of my personalty that had hitherto been unknown.  I could tell they weren’t very happy with the discovery, much like how an archaeologist would feel upon finding an ancient Egyptian tomb, only to discover that it had been raided decades ago and was empty.  Not knowing what to do, I soldiered on.

“For you see, quizmaster, Guenhwyvar is no ordinary panther at all, but is in fact a creature from the spirit realms.  She lives in the Astral plane, and Drizzt’s summons merely create a portal through which she can travel into the mortal realm”

“Yes, I see…”

“No one is quite sure whether or not she can die.” I continued, raising my voice.  “She certainly can be injured, though.  On several occasion Drizzt and his companions had to send her back to her astral home, fearing that she may die there from her wounds, but she always returns completely regenerated.”

“Very good, but…”


“Yes, yes, very good.”  The quizmaster growled, cupping a hand over my mouth, thereby silencing me.   “It seems I was wrong.”  He looked around at us, telling us in no uncertain terms that was absolutely positive that he hadn’t been wrong, but that proving that we were dirty, filthy liars was too far above his pay grade.  “I can’t let you guys be the winners, because I already gave it to the other team, but I can give you a few coupons for free drinks and deserts.  Will that work?”

“Yes!” We shouted in unison, a bit too quickly.  An honestly cheated team, I realized far too late, would have rejected his pitiful coupons and demanded its divine right to sit at the king’s table.  A wry half smile crossed his face as he gave us the coupons.  We didn’t care if he had learned the truth of it, drunk as we were on alcohol and victory.  It was decided that I should hold on to the coupons, since I was the most regular attendant of trivia night at the pub, but when i got home, and the rush of winning began to wear off, I felt sick to my stomach.  We had cheated and lied to a person’s face, and for what?  Some coupons?  I had always prided myself on being honest when it counts, and now I had tarnished my reputation, or at least what little reputation I had left.  Disgusted, I threw the coupons into the trash can, and convinced myself that I had now cleansed myself of all the negative karma accrued during the night, and went to sleep, not regretting trashing the coupons one bit.  Well, at least not until next Monday, when I had an unquenchable thirst for Jamaican Cheesecake and I reached into my wallet to find it devoid of both coupons and money.

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