"Where'd the Level 10 go?" asked Righty.
In his reed chair, Stanley stopped his strumming and glanced up.
"Hm? Oh, Ansom!" His former-Chief, former-enemy had flown off a while ago, and Stanley hadn't spared him another thought. He'd been solely occupied most of the day by trying to learn the stupid little guitar with the stupider name. "He went to Jetstone."
"Jetstone!" said the big mask, sounding alarmed.
Stanley tried fingering an E minor. That was a tough one to remember. He strummed again, and nodded. "Yeah. It's for Hamster's diplomatic thing."
"Don't you trust Jetstone, Kahuna," said the tiki tumbler on his desk. It was currently half full of something with banana liqueur and blackberry brandy in it, but the ice had mostly melted. Beads of sweat glistened on its angry face. "They want me back."
"Pff," scoffed Stanley. "Of course they do. Too bad."
Jed was silent, and Stanley went back to trying to master the transition from G to D.
"What about the Chief Warlord?" said the tumbler after a while.
G... 1, 2, 3... D. Strum. D... 1, 2, 3... G. Strum. It was getting easier. "Yeah. Hamster said he's working on something."
"That's a lot of muscle not here right now," said Righty.
"What if there's a battle?"
Instead of answering, Stanley set down the "ukulele" (ugh) and picked up the Arkenhammer. Casually, he held it out parallel to the desktop and blasted Righty in the ear with a bolt of Shockmancy. The gigantic stone head did not crack or even chip, but there was a nice big blossom of scorch left on it. The air in his office took on that tangy post-blast odor.
Stanley put the 'hammer back down, picked up the uke, and strummed a perfect Em. "Then I do a lot of that," he said with a nod.
"Kahuna," said the tumbler, "finish your rum runner. You're not mellow."
Stanley, who was moving on and trying to figure out a B minor, scowled at the glass on his desk."I'm mellow!" he snapped. "You're the one that's paranoid about some battle that's not gonna happen." If Jed had one hangup, it was about city defense. Stanley was sick of the topic. "Just calm down, okay? Hamster's at the wheel. If we need him, then I order him back here. Meanwhile, I have two casters, five warlords, a couple dozen dwagons, two Arkentools, and you, to defend a Level 4 city. What more do you want?"
Stanley didn't expect (or want) an answer to his question. He strummed again.
"Some knights," said Lefty. "Better if we had some knights."
"Ilost 'em, okay?" snapped Stanley. As part of his attempting to achieve "mellowness," he'd been trying not to think about the treachery of the K.I.S.S. Jed knew it was a sort subject, too. "Are you trying to tick me off today?"
"You got money. Buy some more," said the mask.
Stanley put the uke on the desk again and said in a loud voice, aimed at the ceiling fan, "Great idea! I never thought of that before! Here, I'll just offer some Shmuckers to the next tribe of Gobwins or Hobgobwins that I see oh wait there aren't any!"
Hamster had told him that not only did Charlie steal his Knights, but he was pretty sure that Charlescomm was combing the wilderness and keeping all the Gobwins and Hobgobwins away, just so Stanley couldn't establish a relationship with any new tribes. That guy never played fair.
Stanley wrinkled his nose. "No, I'm not hiring Marbits. They smell."
"You got no gobwins or hobgobwins," said Lefty. "No reason you can't get elves now."
Stanley stared at the ceiling fan, watching it slowly revolve, as he tried to come up with something to say to what might just be the stupidest suggestion he'd ever heard.
"Jed... do I look like an elf kind of guy to you?"
"There's all kinds of elves, Kahuna," said one of the heads by the carpet.
"Not my kind," said Stanley. "There are no kinds of elves I'd even want."
"Yes. All kinds."
"Look," said the Overlord, with cool contempt, "the Knights were perfect for me. Hobgobwins are mean and ugly. They wore black and white war paint, just like mine. They fought dirty, flew hard, and rocked out, just like me! They were baaaad. There was nothing in the whole world like them. Definitely not any elves!"
"Yeah, all kinds," said the tumbler on his desk. "Go get you some Juggle Elves, Kahuna."
Stanley stared at the glass. He'd never heard of the Juggle Elves, but he was picturing elves that wore jester costumes and juggled, like fools at court. "What are they, like clowns or something?""Yeah," said the glass. "They're something."
^ it's sic