The Adventures of Princess Lau

by Martin P Kerrigan

About The Book

Princess Lau is the only Chinese princess living in a castle on the Northern Beaches of Sydney, Australia.

A kind, sweet, determined and somewhat opinionated young princess, she lives a happy life with her parents. Her dad, who rules the world, or so he says, and her mom, who rules the castle and goes shopping.

One evening, on her way to learn wing chun kung fu, Princess Lau is enveloped by white, blazing, freezing light. When next she opens her eyes, she is in a new world. A world of dragons, gods, a Dark Lord and a massive Army of Darkness. A beautiful and strange world that has called her to fulfil an ancient prophecy and undertake a sacred quest.

In this world she meets an eight inch tall, arrogant and naughty dragon, named Robert, an incredibly handsome, though dumb as a box of rocks god, named Bread and a great white shark named Norman, who does not play golf.

With her odd companions, she embarks on her sacred quest to save Holoworld from the evil Dark Lord.

A story of love, romance, comedy, fantasy and weirdness, The Adventures of Princess Lau is unique. Try it. You will be surprised.

I was.

Get Up To Speed

In this first scene, Princess Lau and her companions meet the greatest human being who has ever lived – Chick Norris. Yes, Chick. And she is told of her sacred quest to save Holoworld.

The Hook

Scene 1

They were in a vast meeting room that seemed to be made of white marble with gold gilding. Massive tinted windows opened one wall to a vista of the beautiful city of Chicktropolis lolling beside a wide, blue harbour. Skyscrapers scraped the sky in the near distance. In the far distance, the urban sprawl continued to some low slung, blue-tinted mountains. It was a picture of opulence and peace. Flags fluttered against walls which impressed Princess Lau as she sensibly noted that there was no breeze inside the room and wondered how they did that. CCTV footage played on the monitors which filled the walls where the flags weren’t. It seemed that every square inch of the unknown city, Chicktropolis, was monitored 24/7. In the centre of the vast floor there was an enormous, round table of rich mahogany covered in plans, graphs, laptop computers and some amazing, luxurious foods from faraway places on beautiful Doulton china. Crystal decanters held exotic wines and liqueurs. Professional, suited wait-staff bustled inconspicuously about moving, removing and placing as required. It looked like a Lehmann Brothers morning tea, but not as sumptuous. Discussion pods were involved in earnest discussion around the table top beeping and tweeting amongst themselves. This allowed the occupants of the chairs to involve themselves in more important pursuits such as eating, talking, drinking and flirting. There were bureaucrats, autocrats, femocrats, democrats, lobbyists and supermodels.

At the head of the round table sat a craggy, blonde-haired man with a jaw you could break an anvil on, and a steely, thousand light year gaze, blue eyes and a face as ruggedly handsome as a mountain bluff. His jaw was enclosed by a five day growth of titanium beard. His arms were defined cords of muscle. His jeaned legs, which she could see as he had his polished cowboy boots upon the table, looked as though they could roundhouse kick the devil. He was eating some shrimp and rice – with one chopstick. Princess Lau squinted slightly to get a better view of the man. Only one man in all the universes could possibly sit at the head of a round table and eat shrimp with one chopstick. Princess Lau felt a frisson of excitement friss through her body. She knew of his legend. He had counted to infinity. Twice. When he watched a pot, the water boiled faster. He was able to divide by zero.

“Oh my God! Oh my God! Oh my God!” she repeated to herself with awe.

The man raised his head beneath his battered cowboy hat and Princess Lau felt his gaze instantly know everything about her. His eyes were like x-rays that knew and understood her soul. Wrenching her eyes from him, Princess Lau glanced around the table at all the people who were now looking at them with various mixtures of shock, vacancy, indifference and disgust. She noticed an Asian chef eyeing Norman’s dorsal fin with some interest. Not good. She waved her hand weakly.

“Uh, hi.”

Alexandra, tall and slender and slightly underweight, stood and approached Princess Lau dragging a vacuum cleaner behind her. She handed the nozzle to Princess Lau. “I believe this is yours, Asian chick.”

“Thanks. I guess.”

Alexandra turned to Bread and smiled seductively. Very seductively. “Hello Bread. Nice to see you again.”

“Hello Alexandra.” Bread was non-committal as to whether it was nice to see her again. Princess Lau noted it for later. Bread turned to her and whispered, “She is very attractive, but she has more issues than a TV guide.”

Princess Lau took the nozzle and waved it towards the seated omnicrats. Her left hand fingered the power switch. She was considering turning it on. Eight burly, dark suited men with sunglasses and earpieces detached themselves from the walls and lunged, yelling at Princess Lau, “Move away from the nozzle!!! Move away from the nozzle!!! Now!!! Move away from the nozzle!!!”

Four of the special agents surrounded the blonde-haired man at the head of the round table in a close scrum, quite willing to give their lives to protect him. Like a tiger seizing its prey, the blonde man exploded in a tornado of roundhouse kicks. One! Two! Three! Four! The burly, dark-suited men lay unconscious on the lush carpet. Each one with the imprint of a cowboy boot heel on his jaw. The blonde haired man continued the final roundhouse kick and settled back into his chair, a cyclone subsiding. Serenely watching with those laser blue eyes as the rest of the agents surrounded Princess Lau and her friends.

“Move away from the nozzle!!!”

The agents were well trained and ruthless. But they underestimated the slender princess before them. And her friends. The agents advanced relentlessly on Princess Lau, who was still holding the vacuum nozzle poised before her, smiling happily. She was being funny. Why wasn’t anybody laughing?

Bread stepped in front of her, while Norman flanked her to the right. Agent Amethyst lunged forward to be met by a straight, vertical-fist punch from Bread and dropped to the carpet unconscious. Bread moved swift as a tiger. Agent Indigo threw a piercing strike towards Bread’s eyes. The god parried the strike, kicked him in the knee and groin in one motion and he fell, curling up into a ball, clutching his groin. Behind Bread, Princess Lau smiled to herself. A kick to the groin is always satisfying. Agent Turquoise rushed Bread and was met by a short, sharp elbow strike to the nose which made him sit on the carpet and cry.

Burley Agent Aquamarine had circled to the right and was met by an annoyed great white shark which gave the answer to the question, “What do you get if you cross a great white shark with a berley bodyguard?”

A great white shark.

Norman swung like a lorry to face the assembled table and burped. “Nobody hurts my friend.”

The blonde man sitting at the head of the round table waved a hand in dismissal and the agents who were now detaching themselves from the walls stopped and melted back behind the curtains.

Princess Lau watched the commotion with some wonder and an open mouth. Violence was so seldom the answer, but apparently the agents had asked the right question. The flash of Robert’s digital camera surprised her again. Princess Lau turned her head to look at the grinning dragon and sighed. “Sigh. Another great photo of me looking vacant.”

Robert inspected the camera screen and nodded, satisfied. Princess Lau raised the nozzle to her head and switched on the power. Immediately the vacuum sucked the dragon against it with a squishy sound. Unfortunately it also caught some of her long hair so her head was pressed against Robert who was stuck to the nozzle. Princess Lau struggled for a moment and stumbled around reaching for the off switch. Robert squirmed and struggled against her struggle. She tripped over the vacuum cleaner and fell to the floor. Princess Lau, Robert and the vacuum cleaner wrestled on the floor a moment before she finally stabbed the OFF switch successfully and subdued the vacuum cleaner.

Shaking the hair from her nose and the dragon from her ear, she stood and tried to recover her dignity. Robert stood on her shoulder and shook himself. “Thanks for that. I needed a good vacuuming.” he said sarcastically.

“You started it by taking another crappy photo of me.” Objected Princess Lau.

“Not my fault you look like a vacant lot.” taunted the dragon. “Or you look vacant a lot. Works both ways really.”

Princess Lau stuck her tongue out at Robert.

“Enough!” The blonde-haired man at the head of the round table spoke softly but with an exclamation mark. He looked directly at Princess Lau. “You have a carpet burn on your forehead.”

“Oh my God! Oh my God! Oh my God! You are Chuck Norris! Take me now!”

The blonde man’s face darkened for a moment but then he decided to let her live. When he replied his voice was heavy with the weight of oft repetition. “His name is Chick. Chick Norris. It is a long story.”

Bread stepped slightly closer to Princess Lau protectively. “Your father left you when you were a child. Called you Chick so you would grow up tough and bitter. You found your Dad. Punched on together. Reconciled. Chick Norris. The toughest, most roundhouse man in this or any other universe.”

Chick suddenly broke into a grin and it was as though the sun had freshly risen. He said thoughtfully, “Maybe it’s not such a long story.” He spoke to Bread. “Good kung fu, god. Wing Chun, he believes. Chick saw Brian Lee do some of that. Though he wasn’t as good as you.”

Bread inclined his head.

Chick Norris pushed a small wrapped parcel across the table towards the god. “Chick likes you god. Have a pair of Chick Norris pajamas. They were meant for Superman but Chick will send him another pair.”

Bread bowed deeply. Chick Norris pajamas! Like awesome! He would wear them with pride.

Chick nodded to Robert. “Dragon.”

Robert nodded back. “Chick.”

Nothing more needed to be said.

Chick touched a sensor at the edge of the table and the table slowly grew in circumference to make room for Princess Lau and her friends. Unfortunately, the programmer was buzzing on Red Ball when he created the program to expand the table and he hadn’t allowed for the guests’ chairs. Slowly, but inexorably, every seated guest was pushed backwards until his or her chair fell over and they lay on their backs under the table with their legs in the air. Only the supermodels were comfortable.

Except for Chick. The table bent around him. Somewhat like time and space.

“Please. Be seated.”

Chick gestured to the new spaces around him as the serving staff placed chairs for them and surreptitiously pushed the fallen guests under the table with their feet. Princess Lau seated herself two chairs away from Chick because she didn’t trust herself if she sat beside him. No woman could. Robert sat cross-legged on the table next to Chick. Bread sat beside Princess Lau. Norman hovered behind her just like an SUV wouldn’t. His interactions with humans had been limited to meals before meeting Princess Lau. He found himself quite curious to observe them in their natural habitat.

Princess Lau moved her chair slightly sideways to make room for Norman. She spoke directly to Chick.

“Uh, Mr Norris, this is Norman. My friend.”

She blushed furiously and was only vaguely surprised when the flash of Robert’s camera blinded her momentarily.

Chick looked at the shark. “Oh. Chick thought you had brought him lunch.”

From beneath the table came a loud, uproarious wave of laughter. His lackeys found Chick very funny. When he wanted to be.

Chick made a cutting motion with his hand. Although those under the table could not see his hand, the laughter stopped on a dime. “It is okay. He has already eaten.” Chick leaned forward and placed both mighty fists on the table towards Robert. “Chick extends to you all the fists of friendship.”

Robert, Bread, Princess Lau and Norman punched his fists. It was like punching Mt. Everest. Except higher.

“Chick has brought you here Princess Lau because it has been prophesied that Chick would bring you here in a time of great danger. That time has come. Would you like some champagne?”

Princess Lau declined. “No. Thank you. Alcohol makes me break out in a rash. Cold water would be nice but.”

Chick smiled and the sun came out from behind a cloud bathing him in golden light. “How feminine.” He turned off the smile and the world seemed somehow a lonelier place. “Nevertheless, there is a great need in the land for a mighty warrior princess. The forces of the Dark Lord gather. Chick would roundhouse kick them himself but he has other duties fighting the alien invasion.”

“Alien invasion?!” exclaimed Princess Lau.

“It is no problem.” Chick reassured her. “These aliens have eight chins each. It is like roundhouse kicking fish in a barrel.”

“You can roundhouse kick fish in a barrel? Like wow!”

“But there is another problem.” Robert noted.

Chick looked seriously at Robert. “Yes, dragon, there is. As you know, humans and dragons have been at peace for a long time now. Respect.” Chick and Robert touched fists. Princess Lau rolled her eyes at the male wankiness of it all. “The dragons keep to the wild places they love and the humans stay away. The dragons feed as required and we all live happily ever after. But there is a problem.”

Robert nodded. “The cows.”

Chick nodded. “The cows.”

Princess Lau blinked. Of course. The cows.

. < The point        > Princess Lau’s direction of travel

Chick turned to face Princess Lau. “Our cows are disappearing, vanishing in the night just like rocks don’t. As part of the peace with the dragons, they take some of our cows for food and for milk with their breakfast cereal. Breakfast to a dragon is a big thing, full of ritual and cornflakes, bacon and eggs, porridge and pancakes and flame. And milk. Warm milk. We have millions of cows. There are places in this land where the cows graze from horizon to horizon in bovine bliss. This arrangement with the dragons is good for everybody.”

“Except for the cows.” pointed out Princess Lau. She was an Ox in the Chinese horoscope and she had a special affinity for cows, especially Jersey cows which were the beautiful supermodels of the cow world. Unlike supermodels, they served a useful purpose. And if there is one thing a Chinese Ox respects, it is a useful purpose. Milk. Food. Cuteness. Big brown eyes. How could anybody not love a Jersey cow?

“Actually it is good for the cows as well.” Bread touched her softly on the arm. “We have many more cows than we need, so the vast majority of cows live full and happy, if somewhat dull, lives and die of old age surrounded by their own kind.”

Princess Lau remained obstinate. “If one cow dies before her time, then all cows are diminished. Cows are very intelligent animals. Did you know that a cow can speak as soon as it is born?”

Robert was not impressed. “Big deal. They have a language that consists of one word. Moo. Woopy do.”

Chick grinned and the world seemed somehow warmer. In the background a scientist made a note: the world is somehow warmer. This could be a go-er.

“Sorry Princess, but Chick did not literally fight his way to the top of the food chain to be a vegetarian. That’s life. Build a bridge. Get over it. And let’s face it, if God didn’t want us to eat cows, why did he make them out of meat? The fact is the cows are disappearing. Rapidly. We monitor their numbers daily. Each day there are fewer cows.”

“Do you monitor them at night?” asked Princess Lau.

“Now there’s a thought.” agreed Chick. He clicked at a nearby server. “Make a note to start monitoring the cows at night.”

Princess Lau theatrically placed her head on the table. “Sigh.” Without a practical female Ox to guide them, how did men survive?

“Are you okay?” asked Chick.

“I have a slight headache.”

“Probably from his Chickness.”

“Probably.” She lifted her head and smiled at Robert. “The cows. We are to find your cows. Cool. I love cows. Especially Jersey cows. Have I said that?”

Robert grinned at her. She really was a sweet princess. And very photogenic.

Chick replied. “Not quite. We know where the cows are, although Intelligence cannot find them exactly. Or at all, actually. They are across the Mountains of Bigness in the Dark Lands of the Dark Lord. We just don’t know how they get there. Or why. Or exactly just where they are in Dark Lands. It’s not like the cows just suddenly decided to up and migrate, right through Dragonlore, through mountains and cold and dark, to Dark Lands for something to do. Our farmers do not understand. They are good to their cows.

“This is your crucial task. The fate of all Holoworld depends upon your success.

“The way is long. The journey full of danger and excitement. The enemies are strong and dark with bad teeth. Intelligence reports that four out of five of the Dark Lord’s army suffers from bad teeth.”

“What?” interrupted Princess Lau, “The other one likes it?”

Chick ignored her and continued. He was not used to being interrupted.

“This is the quality of intelligence Intelligence has been providing lately. He is not happy. You are accompanied by a dragon, a god and a great white shark. Chick cannot go with you as he has his own, more monumental, tasks.

“Will you, Princess Lau, accept this great responsibility, fulfill the ancient prophecy and recover our cows?”

Princess Lau felt the immense weight of the task settle on her slight, but toned, shoulders. She was a regal Ox! To be precise, a regal Ox Inside the Gate! She was made to carry immense burdens. And this was a task worthy of her attention.

Princess Lau would lead the cows to freedom!

“Alright.” she said and focused her gaze on Chick as she pronounced in capital letters. “I WILL LEAD YOUR COWS TO FREEDOM!” She shouted the final word for emphasis and gestured to her friends. “With the help of Robert and Bread and Norman.”

Her eyes were set on distant lands, and cows. Her little chin jutted forward with determination – a look that made Bread want to hug her.

It was a look that made Chick want to fight her.

Chick extended his fist to Princess Lau. “From your clothes sense, and the patch on your shirt that says ‘Wing Chun Kung Fu”, Chick can see that you learn kung fu. Come. Spar with Chick.”

Princess Lau rested her hand on Chick’s fist and stood with him. “I am not very good.” she said. “I am only Level 2 and I failed the grading the first time because I kicked an instructor in the groin. It was actually the very first kick I made. I remember clearly, because the last thing he said to me before we sparred was ‘Don’t kick me in the nuts.’”

“Chick’s groin is impervious to pain.” He inched one leg forward and raised his arms to his guard.

Princess Lau faced him with her feet together. She pulled her fists to her hips keeping her heels together, then opened her feet in a v, then pivoted again on the balls of her feet until her heels were slightly wider than her toes, creating a v pointed at Chick. She settled until her weight was evenly distributed across the soles of both feet, straightened her spine and jutted her little chin slightly forward. The classic wing chun stance.

Robert rolled about on the table laughing. “Just hold on a moment while I measure out my stance.” He mimicked Princess Lau making her stance and then fell forward onto his face laughing hysterically while beating the table.

Bread smiled sweetly. Such a cute Princess – all concentration and jutting chin.

Princess Lau looked at Robert sternly. “You are not helping my confidence.”

Robert stopped laughing and said, “You do not have any confidence. Don’t you realize you are about to spar with Chick Norris? Nobody has ever beaten Chick. At anything. Ever.”

Princess Lau still stood in her pigeon-toed stance with her arms held back against her sides, her little fists clenched. “What about Bruce Lee? He beat him in Enter The Dragon.”

“Brian Lee.” corrected Robert. “And actually he didn’t. They filmed the scene over and over and each time Chick won. There is a classic bit where Chick rips some of Brian’s chin beard off and then blows it onto the ground.”

“Yes!” exclaimed Bread. “And the bit where Brian grabs some of Chick’s chest hair and Chick spins him around until he flies off into the corner. Way cool.”

“Bruce Lee won!” insisted Princess Lau.

“Brian Lee.” corrected Robert again, “Lost. Eventually they had to film them separately and let Chick defeat himself and then CGI Brian into the scene so it looked like he won. There was a little explanation at the very end of the credits. Brian insisted on it.”

“I never saw the end of the credits.” admitted Princess Lau. She turned back to Chick and raised her arms into her centerline guard. “Prepare for your first defeat.”

Chick smiled wryly and in the background birds began to sing. He spun a roundhouse kick past her nose and then stood looking at her impassively, just like a volcano doesn’t.

Princess Lau hadn’t moved. “I wasn’t ready. Fight with honour.”

“Will your enemies fight with honour?”

Princess Lau jutted her little jaw a bit further. “It doesn’t matter what my enemies do. It matters what I do.”

Chick pondered this for a moment. “The answer of a warrior! He is pleased. Are you ready now?”

Princess Lau nodded and as she finished nodding Chick’s roundhouse kick flashed past her nose again. This time she did move, raising her leg to her centre, but it was way too late and by that time Chick was sitting at his chair with his feet up, punching fists with Robert.

A warm round of applause erupted from beneath the table.

Princess Lau was still standing with her arms in guard. “I’m not very good with kicks.” she explained. “How about a punch? My dai sau defense is good.”

Chick stood and smiled at her. A vast cloud of multi-hued butterflies swarmed through the air between them in a floral cloud and disappeared passing Bread. “Where did they come from?” asked Princess Lau, amazed.

The Chick roundhouse punch is every bit as devastating as the Chick roundhouse kick. It whipped past her nose and then was swiftly followed by a roundhouse backhand strike, brushing aside her dai sau defence as though swatting a fly. Before she had recovered Chick was sitting down again opening a cold beer.

“Grrrrr.” growled Princess Lau. She looked like an angry Chihuahua. “Stand up! See if you can stop my strikes.

Chick stood with the grace of a tiger and, placing one hand behind his back, raised his other hand, palm up, gesturing for her to begin. Princess Lau threw a machine gun string of straight, continuous punches towards Chick’s nose. Wing chun continuous punches are a lethal attack.

The Chick’s one handed flicks were amused as Chick flicked the chick’s punches aside with deft roundhouse movements of his hand. It reminded Bread of a chick-flick he had once endured while dating a rock starlet. Chick cut down trapping both her arms with one arm and pulled her against his chest, her lips close to his. Princess Lau felt the full force of the Chick and closed her eyes in submission.

Chick flicked her away.

She opened her eyes. “That wasn’t very nice.”

“Chick is merciful. Try again.” He gestured with his hand for her to approach.

Princess Lau bridged the gap with a low heel kick to Chick’s knee, continued the forward movement and parried Chick’s guarding hand to punch his leonine face. Unfortunately for her, it is not possible to parry a Chick guarding hand and Princess Lau bounced off and stumbled against a chair. Chick quickly checked himself in a wall mirror. He wasn’t in any way vain. Just really, really good looking. Beautiful things gave Chick pleasure.

Bread lowered his head into his hands, laughing quietly. This was going about as he expected.

Princess Lau bounced off the wall and stepped towards Chick. “What is that?” she asked pointing to his left. Chick smiled knowingly and angels began to hallelujah, but he turned his head nevertheless. Seizing the moment, Princess Lau kicked him in the groin with a snap kick that would have felled the nuts from a coconut tree.

Immediately she fell to the floor clutching her foot in pain. There was a white flash as Robert caught the moment.

“Not fair.” exclaimed Princess Lau. “You are wearing a protector!”

“No.” replied Chick, “He is not.”

Princess Lau rubbed her foot. “Like wow!” She stood up gingerly and limped forward to punch Chick’s mighty fist. “Respect.”

Scene 2 – Robert the dragon takes Princess Lau to the Forest of Doom

Robert poked Princess Lau with a claw. “Wake up, sleepy head.”

Princess Lau wandered into wakefulness. “Hmm. What? Where are we? I was dreaming about my mother. She was sad.” She turned to look at Robert. “Is it because of me?”

Robert was serious. “No. She is not sad. She is out shopping. Your time here will not disturb the flow of their time.”

”I don’t want her to be sad.”

Robert lifted the corners of her mouth with his claws. “Turn that frown upside down. Think how happy they will be to see you again. After we have saved the cows.”

Princess Lau smiled sadly at Robert. “Yes. They will. I still miss them but. You and Bread and Norman are wonderful friends, but they are family.” She looked out the windows of the cloud and saw Norman watching her with concern. Beyond Norman she saw that they were in a forest of amazing, beautiful trees. Even at night she could see the wondrous perfection of the forest. The trees were rich, huge and well spaced. Small forest animals darted and gamboled between them. Flowers and long grass filled every space between the tree trunks. “Wow.” said Princess Lau. “This place is lush!”

“It is the Forest of Doom. The most beautiful place on all Holoworld.” Replied Bread.

“So why is it called the Forest of Doom?”

“Hopefully you will not find out.”

Princess Lau forgot her own worries and got out of the cloud. Worry was a waste of time and energy. Now was the only time she could act. In spite of what some thought, it wasn’t that her attention span was short. It was that her attention was now. Bread pushed her seat forward and awkwardly exited after her.

“Four doors are better.” Princess Lau pointed out to him.

In a moment he had untied Norman, who stretched and looked around with interest. Norman spoke to Robert. “We will be here a while?”

“All night. We will leave before dawn.” Replied Robert.

“I am going to feed. I will see you later.” He bowed to Princess Lau. “Call if you need me.”

With two mighty swooshes of his tail, Norman disappeared into the forest. The small forest animals were in for a surprise tonight!

Bread prepared a camp and set out the sleeping bags Chick had provided with forethought for them. Bread grinned to himself as he worked. Chick didn’t miss much. Chick had provided a small, easy to assemble tent for Princess Lau as well. Bread assembled it easily. Bread looked across to the Ferraro which held his carry bag. He looked forward to wearing his Chick pajamas tonight. That would be cool.

Robert sat on the bonnet of the cloud and took his bearing. The way was rough from here. Beautiful but rough. “Princess Lau.” He called her softly and she wandered over to stand beside him, saying.

“This place is so beautiful. It smells like a Chanel store. And some of the trees are faintly underlit. It is like a magic garden. Except bigger and lovelier.”

“Yes. It is quite nice. We have far to go. We must travel through the Forest of Doom, cross the River of Quite Long Lasting Fire, climb the Mountains of Bigness and finally descend into the vast caverns of Dragonlore.”

Princess Lau looked at Robert grinning. “Like, who named all these places? Stephen King? Could they be any more melodramatic? Forest of Doom. River of Quite Long Lasting Fire! Mountains of Bigness. Sheesh! And it sounds like a long way to walk.”

Robert nodded wisely. “Indeed. It is a long way to walk.”

“Not happy, Jan.”

“Or we can take the tube.”

“What tube? Where?”

Robert pointed into the kaleidoscopic, sylvan heart of the Forest of Doom. “About two kilometres that way. The tube will take us to Dragonlore Station and then it’s just a short stroll to the caverns.”

Princess Lau laughed and stroked him under the chin. “You are a naughty dragon!”

Bread had prepared their little campsite and wandered across to Robert and Princess Lau. Spoke to Robert. “So, I guess we will take the tube from here.”

Princess Lau punched him on the arm.

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Bread playfully punched her softly on the arm. Princess Lau blushed. Bread turned away and said, “I will make us a fire.” He disappeared into the forest and came back a few minutes later with arms full of sticks and dry branches. He piled them into a neat pile, placed some fine tinder at the edge, crouched down beside them and began to rub two sticks together.

Princess Lau looked at Robert with a lopsided grin.

Robert rolled his eyes and looked at Princess Lau with a look that said “He’s an idiot.” Hopped onto her shoulder and they wandered across to watch Bread.

Bread rubbed the sticks harder and faster. Friction creating a mild warmth on them. Ten minutes later he was still rubbing the sticks, showing no frustration at all and no sign of starting a fire. Princess Lau was giggling on the inside. He was so cute and determined. Reminded her of someone she knew. Princess Lau felt that if she laughed any more on the inside she would explode.

“Bread.” She said affectionately, “We have a dragon.”

Bread looked at her and the light dawned in his startling blue eyes. He slapped his forehead. “Of course! How dumb of me!” He plucked Robert from her shoulder, held him by the legs and began to rub him vigorously against one of the sticks. Princess Lau laughed out loud until she cried. Robert struggled indignantly to free himself and jumped away from the god.

“You idiot! That is not what she meant! Dragon! Fire! God! Stupid!”

Bread looked down on the irritated little dragon. “Well. Pardon me for breathing. I don’t need you anyway. I remembered I have a lighter.” Bread pulled his lighter from his carry bag and lit the fire without further incident. He then clicked his lighter above his head a few times in case the universe played a song he liked. It didn’t. The god turned and glared at Robert. “I am going to put on my Chick pajamas. I do not want to disturbed.”

“Too late for that.” Shot back Robert.

Princess Lau was still crouched down, holding her stomach and laughing and wiping tears from her eyes. “That was the funniest thing I have ever seen! Golly gosh whoopee! Hahahahahaha”

Robert brushed himself down but he also was laughing. “Gods are always full of paradox. They do not invent the paradox. Although it is their creation. It is what makes them interesting and unreliable. It was pretty funny, though.” He flew up to his preferred place on her shoulder. “Time to rest, Princess Lau. That one is your tent. The idiot and I will sleep outside. We will leave before dawn so we may arrive at Dragonlore in time for breakfast.”

At that moment Bread returned from the edge of the forest. He was wearing his Chick pajamas. Finest silk, long and pale, covered with hundreds of small video clips of Chick roundhouse kicking various enemies and miscreants. Bread looked very pleased with himself as he displayed them to Princess Lau and Robert. He pointed to a scrawl across the shirt pocket. “Chick even signed them! ‘To Superman. Love Chick.’ It is an order, not a declaration. This is a most excellent gift. How cool do I look?”

Princess Lau tried not to laugh. “You look very macho.”

Robert nodded seriously. They were Chick pajamas. Nothing more needed to be said.

The flare of a match at night is unmistakable.

Bread swung around into a low crouch. “Somebody just switched on a torch.”

Princess Lau looked at him questioningly? A glowing cigarette bounced through the dark night and the horrible sound of bagpipes caterwauled amongst the trees. A sound of crunching of leaves and cursing of breath threaded the bagpipes. A heavy Scottish accent said, “Bugger off, bunny or I’ll kick ye up the bum!”

Robert whispered in her ear. “Beware! Impending Doom.”

Indeed, Doom was appending their names to a list. A big, fat bear of a man dressed in a crumpled business suit, creased white shirt with sweat stains under the arms, loose tie, carrying a set of bagpipes, a clipboard and smoking an un-ashed cigarette. He looked like a homeless accountant. Speaking in an almost indecipherable Scottish accent.

“Doom wants to know what ye be doing in my forest, lassie? And you too, dragon? And nae gie me none of that ‘I’m jes goin’ t’ the tube station.’ crap. Ye know the rules, dragon. There is a price to be paid. And who is the nancy boy in the silk pajamas? Have ye got the money to pay ye camping fees? I’m barely making a livin’ out of this, ye know. Scrapin’ out barely eno’ to buy me tobacco. Aye, we were so poor when I was a child that when my family went on holidays, we went to a different pub.” He gave a deep and phlegmy cough to emphasise his point. Whatever it was.

Doom switched his attention to Bread. “Sometimes I dream about being carried away by a giant squirrel. Do you think that makes me a nut?”

Bread did not know the answer to that question but he handed Doom some crisp bank notes.

“I nae ha’e any change, laddie. We’ll call it e’en then, eh?” Doom pocketed the notes quickly with a huge paw and then asked a question of Princess Lau. “Ye know ye ha’e a carpet burn on ye forehead, lassie? People say I am fat. Wa’d’y’ think, missy?”

“Define fat.” Replied Princess Lau.

(        .        ) Replied Doom.

(                 )

“You’re fat.” Answered Princess Lau.

“Aye, lassie. Puppies are cute. Especially as steering wheel covers.”

Doom belched, stubbed out his cigarette with his boot, placed his bagpipes on the ground and pulled a cake box from the bellows. Which only partially explained the horrible sound coming from the instrument. As he opened the cake box, a life size, drum kit made of cake, unfolded. Doom plucked two drumsticks from a passing chicken amidst much squawking and protest. “Off with ye, birdie! Or I’ll take ye wings too and then you’ll be stuffed!” He booted the chicken out into the night. “Dirty birds. If it nae for brekky and bacon ‘n’ googies… Lissen to this.”

The universe began to sing. With perfect rhythm, Doom began to play the drum solo from “In The Air Tonight” by Phil Collins, with magnificent gusto and very good presto. Within the first ten bars the cake drum kit was smashed to pieces. Icing and cake splattered about the campsite, Robert opened an umbrella to protect himself and Princess Lau. Bread was flicking his lighter above his head and dodging flying cake athletically. He loved this song!

Doom played with frightening intensity and strict timing. Singing with no tune at all. In Scottish. Like some psychotic, brave-hearted drummer. Finally, he kicked the remains of the drum cake with his boots and tossed the drum sticks into the bushes. There was a pleased squawk from the disabled chicken. “Squawk!” Doom turned his back on his stunned audience and bared his bum at them. “Ye can take my band, but ye’ll ne’r take my flatulence!”

Doom pulled up his trousers, picked up his bagpipes and played a mournful tune. “Ye had be’er be gone when I ge’ back. Doom takes no prisoners.” He lifted his left leg slightly and let out a resounding fart. “Aye, the bagpipes are singing well tonight.” He shook his leg and warned them. “Nae be here tomorrow night or I won’t just be beating a drum.”

In a few moments Doom had staggered off, mumbling and cursing, into the forest, but his smell still lingered.

Princess Lau wrinkled her nose and stared at Robert. “That was Doom? He owns the forest? Like, no wonder you didn’t want to meet him.”

Robert nodded and wiped some cake from his forehead. “He’s the sort of person who, if he had a flying saucer, would make crop circles on other people’s planets.”

Princess Lau wiped some cake from her cheek and tasted it. “Not bad. Time for sleep.” She leaned across and kissed Robert on the top of his head.

“No kissing.” Said Robert.

“I know. Dragons don’t kiss people blah blah.”

Bread opened his arms, closed his eyes and puckered his lips. Princess Lau stood awkwardly for a moment and then carefully shook his hand at arm length. “Good night Bread.”

She turned and walked quickly into her tent. Inside the tent, she quickly undressed and changed into the fresh undies that the supermodels had snuck into Chick’s tent for her. Slipped on a t shirt and hung her gorgeous ebony outfit outside the tent flap to air. Went back and snuggled into her downy sleeping bag. In a few minutes Princess Lau was asleep. Smiling. Bread had learned something else about her. Princess Lau never kissed on the first date.

Bread saw her place her outfit outside the tent. Realized what that meant. He sighed wistfully and fell straight backwards with his arms outstretched and lay there making a grass angel.

Robert laughed.

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Captain HookThe Adventures of Princess Lau