How The Tradition Of Marriage Began.

Way way back in the Bronze Age there was a bunch of people who lived on this island called Hamrock. One of them was Carmen. Carmen was a sad little girl. She spent every day moping around her house and sighing as loud as she could.

Carmen didn’t know it, but her house was haunted by a ghost called Byron. Byron had been haunting the house for almost a hundred years but had never seen anyone as sad as little Carmen. Byron didn’t usually give a crap what the people in the house were like, as a ghost you tend not to care about those chumps stuck in bodies, but Carmen was so sad that Byron just couldn’t ignore it. Finally, as she was staring wistfully out her window one dismal day, Byron materialized behind her.

“What is UP with the sadness, Carmen?” he said. “I mean, geez!”

“Sorry Mr. Ghost,” said the little girl. “It’s just that I never seem to feel like I belong anywhere.”

“Oh,” said Byron. “I guess that’s understandable. Maybe I’ll try to help you out.”

“But how?”

Byron pondered for a moment, then said “Oh, I’ve got it! Wait here a minute!”

With that, Byron vanished leaving Carmen to stare, confused, at the place where he had been. She waited for a minute, then just as she was about to turn back to her window, there was a flash and Byron reappeared, now holding something shiny.

“Here!” he said. “Magic Sword!”

And that is how Carmen came into possession of some Magic Sword that a ghost had found in the Realm of Immaterial Souls. It is almost a scientific fact that you can’t be sad when you possess a Magic Sword, so Carmen grew up to be a relatively happy young woman. She was also the island’s only line of defense when the Albino Time-Travellers came and tried to conquer them all.

The leader of the Albinos was the devious General Dr. Almordo. He was so pale that light hitting his skin caused distortions in the Space-Time Continuum. Having grown tired of the overuse of Autotune in the popular music of his own time, he had gathered an army and gone back in time intent on conquering the world. They arrived in the Bronze Age on the island of Hamrock.

Almordo’s Albino Army used their high-tech future weapons (shotguns) and their high-tech future vehicles (pickup trucks) and their high-tech future strategies (shooting shotguns from pickup trucks) but the islanders had Carmen and her Magic Sword and the Albinos just could not beat her. He sword deflected bullets and cleaved engine blocks in twain. Carmen basically kicked the collective Albino Ass every time they tried to invade. It went on like this for four years.

One day, in the aftermath of a battle, Carmen was laughing to herself as the wounded pale forces retreated. Just then a carrier pigeon landed on her shoulder with a message from the Duke of Hamrock. The message read “Yeah, so… those albinos just won’t leave us alone, man. You’d think they’d try to pick on some other place, but they don’t. I mean, seriously, they don’t learn their lesson. Maybe we should, like, find out where they live and make them go away and stuff.”

Even though Carmen thought the Duke was an idiot, she had to admit he had a point. The idea of military reconnaissance was still in its infancy at this point, you understand. For four years they had just been letting the time-travellers retreat to their base, which was apparently on the island, and after a week or so they would try again. And so, for the first time, Carmen decided to follow the Albino’s tracks and see just where they went when they weren’t invading.

The tracks led Carmen over a bridge and onto Hamrock’s neighboring island Flopshton. Flopshton and Hamrock were never that close, except geographically, so the fact that Flopshton had been conquered without anyone from Hamrock noticing wasn’t that much of a surprise. Flopshton was always kind of aloof and high-brow, so Hamrock just let them be. After their first defeat at the hands of Carmen, the Albinos had fled to Flopshton and found the local eggheads completely unprepared for pickup trucks and shotguns. Over the four years since, the enslaved Flopshtonites had built a big fortress for their pale occupiers. It was a pretty nice fortress, though sometimes drafty.

The sun was setting and using the cover of darkness Carmen made her way to the ramshackle huts that surrounded the fortress. As she got closer, she heard the sounds of a scuffle and furtively crept closer to investigate. She found a trio of Albino soldiers beating up a Flopshton man.

“Take this, ye bloody shite mangler,” one of the Albinos shouted as he pushed the man into the mud. “Swine like you belongs in the dirt!”

Though reluctant to get into too much trouble while in enemy territory, Carmen knew she couldn’t leave the man to take the beating. She drew her Magic Sword and jumped into the midst of the fight. The Albinos recognized the woman who had given them four years of defeat and immediately fled. Carmen helped the Flopshtonite to his feet.

“What’s going on?” he asked as he rubbed his head and wiped mud from his eyes. As he steadied himself he noticed the sword Carmen held. “My God, you’re the woman with the sword!”

“I’m a woman with a sword, yes,” replied Carmen. Grabbing the man by the arm, she led him to a nearby alley in case any reinforcements were on their way.

“No,” he said. “You’re the woman with the sword. Every time these pale monsters come back from a battle they curse you. They talk about the woman with the sword who can’t be beat! That’s you, isn’t it?”

Carmen smirked. The idea that the Albinos had been talking about her like she was a terrible monster amused her. “That’s me,” she said. “Listen, do you know a place we could hide?”

“Oh! Oh right! Of course! Follow me.”

He led her though the maze of run-down shacks and rubble-strewn streets until he came to his own dwelling. The door swung on its one remaining hinge and admitted the two, along with a gust of cold air. Closing the door behind him, the man went to the fireplace and lit a match. “Could I get you some tea?”

“Sure,” she said as she peered through the tattered remains of the curtains and decided the streets were clear. After a while, she said “why were those guys beating on you?”

“Well, they hardly need an excuse to pick on the people of Flopshton, to be honest.” He handed her a cup of tea and sipped from his own. “But I suppose I am a special case. I was Flopshton’s top alchemist before the Albinos came. Name’s Derek, by the way.”

“I’m Carmen.”

“Lovely to meet you. So anyway, for the last four years I’ve been trying to perform this magic ritual that would banish the Flopshton’s Albino oppressors from this very planet, but I’ve not been successful quite yet.”

“You could do that? You could banish them?”

“Well, it is a complicated ritual but yes, in theory I certainly could. The thing is, I always begin the ritual when the army rides out to attack Hamrock, but they always come back into town before I finish and they beat me to a pulp. It happens every time. I suppose that means you’re doing your job quite well, if nothing else.”

“If they catch you trying to perform this ritual every time, why haven’t they, you know, killed you or at least locked you up?”

“I guess it just hasn’t occurred to them yet. And, just in case, of course, I’d appreciate it if you didn’t give them the idea.”

“Heh. Don’t worry about that. I don’t spend a lot of time talking to them.”

“No, I’d suppose you wouldn’t. I suppose you’ve come here to Flopshton to try to get rid of the Albinos yourself? I think it might be best for both of us if we joined forces.”

“What do you suggest?”

Derek laid out his plan and before sunrise Carmen had crept back to Hamrock to set things into motion.

Four days later Carmen was awakened by the sound of the invasion alarm. The Boss Albino, Almordo, was once again leading a pickup convoy to Hamrock with shotguns loaded. Carmen, with years of experience behind her, was quickly dressed and standing, sword drawn, on the peak of Hamrock Cliff. As was routine, Almordo pulled to a stop beneath her, took out his megaphone and began to speak.

“Champion of Hamrock! I am General Dr. Almordo, Warrior Poet of the Time-Travelling Albinos! Though you have routed us many times before, today you shall fall!”

It was pretty typical of Almordo’s pre-fight announcements. Carmen cupped a hand to her mouth and yelled “What?”

Almordo, who had expected her to say something like “Come then, and try your best!” or “You again? Alright, let’s do this!” had already started putting away his megaphone. He hesitated, looked up at his foe, sighed and picked up the megaphone again.

“I said, I am Almordo of the Albinos! We’re going to kill you today!”

“What? Speak up!”

Almordo swore under his breath. “Come on! You know what I’m saying! I’ve said this to you hundreds of times! I am Almordo! You are going to die!”

“I can’t hear you!”

Almordo sputtered and tossed down the megaphone in disgust. He turned to his men. “She’s… she’s just messing with us. Charge. Just charge. CHARGE!” and the pale soldiers started their pickup trucks and advanced. For four years this had been the point when Carmen had leapt into battle and started chopping up trucks. Today, the drivers noticed that they she had apparently disappeared. Apart from Almordo, the Albinos felt confused.

“Where is she?” one asked.

“Y’arr. Why isn’t me truck been handily rent asunder?” asked another.

Only at Almordo’s constant urging did the Albino horde continued their drive into Hamrock. Soon they were within sight of the Duke’s palace, which they had not seen in their four years of attempted conquests.

“What the heck is going on?” asked one. “Is she sick today, maybe?”

“I thought she would have beat us by now,” said another. “I was planning on organizing my vests today.”

Almordo shouted the order for his men to draw their shotguns and his men obeyed. They took aim at the palace, intending to shoot it. Then, like a blur, Carmen jumped from some nearby bushes and dashed into their midst. Swinging the Magic Sword she severed shotguns and flattened tires before disappearing into another, somewhat less nearby bush. While Almordo stomped his feet and shook his fist in her general direction, the Albino Army secretly breathed a sigh of relief at things having returned to normal. They began their retreat back to Flopshton.

“Gee,” said one, “I wish she had beat us earlier. We’d be home by now.”

“Verily,” said another, “this is less convenient than our previous defeats. Twill take hours to push these trucks to our abode.”

“Shut up!” yelled Almordo. “If you morons had killed her you wouldn’t have anything to complain about!”

While the pale losers slogged across Hamrock, the victor was already crossing the bridge and approaching their fortress. There she found Derek hard at work doing alchemy. He smiled when he saw her.

“You’ve done it, Carmen! I’ve almost completed the ritual. I have weakened subspace enough that it has become pliant and malleable. Once the Albinos are back inside, I need only pour this potion on the door.”

“Excellent! They’ll be a couple hours, so we can have tea again while we wait.”

After tea was had the duo returned to the fortress just as the beaten army was reaching home. Derek and Carmen watched as they filed inside with their shoulder hunched and heads hanging low. As soon as they were all in Derek ran up to the door and readied his potion. But then the door opened and Almordo stepped out.

“I’ll just be a second,” he was saying. “I just forgot my lighter in the truck. Wait a moment, what have we here? What are you doing?”

With speed unrivalled by any who can’t warp time and space, Almordo drew a shotgun. The alchemist panicked and his legs went weak. He’d been beaten regularly for years, but had never had a gun pointed at him. He began to go faint.

Then Carmen jumped between them and kicked the Boss Albino in the face. He flew backward and landed on his butt just inside the door.

“Derek!” Carmen shouted. “The potion!”

Regaining his senses momentarily Derek tossed the vial and it shattered at the foot of the fortress, just in front of Almordo, who looked at it, dumbstruck. Subspace glowed like a green full moon and there was a distinct crinkling noise. Almordo shouted “I’ll get you for this!” but he knew that he probably never would. The fortress faded away, banished from the very planet taking the Time-Travelling Albinos with it.

And that was how the Albino colony in the moon was founded.

Carmen and Derek saw how useful working together had been and decided they would live together in a house near the bridge between Hamrock and Flopshton so that they would be able to aid each other any time a new threat to their homes should arise. This paid off three years later when Doramus, the Bear Emperor tried to attack them, but the couple was able to teach him to read so that he felt less angry at the world and retired. But they also realized that problems that were less militaristic were also solved more easily when working together. When Carmen lost her gloves one time, Derek used alchemy to make a new pair out of some mittens. When Derek entered a whittling contest, Carmen let him use the Magic Sword and he won second prize. Also she helped him get over some body image issues he had that didn’t come up earlier because they were not important to the plot, but now I am mentioning because it shows how good they were for each other. Other people saw how well their teamwork was doing and they were like “Yeah, I could go for some of that” and that is how the tradition of marriage began although to this day Orthodox Albinos still see the rite as an unholy abomination. You’ll notice there was no elaborate wedding involved, and indeed that ceremony would not become involved until much later when a diseased wizard needed a way to sell a lot of flowers really quickly. But that is a matter for another day.

Patrick D Ryall, the D is for Exclamation

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