Make your own free website on Tripod.com
Cuddly Clan
Home | Picture Gallery | Stories Section | News & Gossip | Spells & Potions | Guest Book | Happy corner | Contact Us








Quest for the Zodiac Stones

They all stood outside the heavy iron-wrought gates and looked at the eerie mansion in the distance. Johnny gulped and suggested about seventy-six reasons why a pretty gal like Lara shouldnt enter such a creepy place, but he didnt mention the real reason, that is, that he was scared out of his wits. (Then again, he didnt have any wits to be scared out of.)

Lara had been unwinding rope from her survival pack while Johnny babbled on. Look, pal, if you dont want to go in, just say so, she interrupted him as she swung the rope. I said I was going to investigate this and I WILL investigate this. You can be our lookout while Garfield and I go in. You know, just in case another creature comes along. She had climbed to the top of the gate by then, with Garfield comfortably crouching under one arm. Garfield wouldnt have normally gone, but he smelt food from the house and he detected a thunderstorm coming.

Yeahrightyou go in, I stay as a lookout in case another creatureANOTHER CREATURE?! LARA WAIT UP!

Changed your mind? she called from the path to the house.

Johnny desperately tried to climb up the rope but he kept slipping and falling back into the brick red mud that was all around the garden and mansion, since it was really windy. He finally made it to the top but just then the storm started and he was hit by lightening. He fell off the gate to the other side with a croak.

Well, said Lara, at least your hair is in its usual style again. Johnnys hair was now standing straight in all directions but its not like Lara would really notice the difference in hairstyle.

Garfield sniggered.

The storm now REALLY started. The wind howled and roared and seemed to be trying to rip the trees out by their roots, it rained torrents, and the noise was awful. To be truthful, this was just when Hagar had tried to open that time portal, and instead created the most disastrous storm in Greensfield for centuries. Laras hair whipped her face as she dragged the semi-conscious Johnny Bravo to the mansion. The trio stepped into complete darkness and slammed the tall oak doors behind them. Lara pulled out a torch and Garfield pompously walked over the dripping and electrocuted Johnny. They gasped.

By the dim light of Laras flashlight they could see that they were in an immense entrance hallway. The ceiling was far above them, so high that you felt as if you were looking for the sky. [Im thinking in between Shrek and Beauty and the Beast castle-wise, only much bigger.] They could vaguely see artwork on the ceiling, but it wasnt clear since it was so dark. There was a gigantic crystal chandelier meant to be lit by candles in the middle of the ceiling. Lara immediately knew it to be antique and worth thousands of dollars. There was also an enormous grandfather clock far off. Several suits of armor lined the walls, and there was a huge stone staircase at the far end of the entrance hall. There was a lot of priceless sculpture and artwork everywhere.

Mansion? said Lara, the first one to find her voice. This is a castle belonging to fourteenth century England or Scotland! The suits of armor are distinctly English, but the style of the building is like Inverness in Scotland, but this artwork is of French and Italian style of the Renaissance! I dont understand, everythings of a different time period...

Hmmsuppose we look for the kitchen? suggested Garfield. Johnny was sitting and muttering to himself.

Hey, snap out of it! said Lara, annoyed. She and Garfield bent closer to hear what Johnny was saying.

There are no little green men, there are no little green men, there are no little green men, there are no little green men, there are no little green men, there are no little green men, there are no little green men, there are no little green men, there are no little green men, there are no little green men, there are

WHAT little green men? asked Lara sarcastically.

Martians, replied Johnny. Suzy told me about them. Theyll come in their flying saucers with silver laser guns and theyll freeze us all and take over the world

Good lord, muttered Lara. I am out on an investigation with a lazy cat and a big dumb softie. Alright, IM in charge here, and we are going to look through all the rooms in this place even if it takes till next Christmas! With Garfield under one arm and Johnnys head under the other, she began the long journey to the staircase. It was about a fifteen-minute walk from the doors to the stairs. As they passed the suits of armor all of them failed to notice one of the helmets slightly turn, with pair of menacing red eyes glaring at them.

            When they FINALLY reached the staircase they realized there were about two hundred steps to the first floor. Well, they somehow managed to make it to the first floor in half an hour, and then realized they were in another hallway, not as large, but with more pieces of sculpture and china. The left side lead to the east wing (as Lara found out from her watch/compass) and the right side lead to the west wing. They decided to turn left and enter the first door. That door lead to a portrait room.

            Lara expertly surveyed the dusty room with rich velvet carpet. She examined the first portrait.

Hmm. This is in the same style as Rembrandt and the clothing is from the seventeenth century all right. I wonder who it is.

ButbutThats Jon! said Garfield.

            Sure enough, it was. A geek wearing a ruff with a big nerdy smile plastered on his face looked at them. It was exactly like Garfields owner, right down to the horrible hairdo.

Lara and Garfield then realized Johnny wasnt there with them. They turned, and heard a noise. Lara immediately reached for her guns and turned towards another door at the end of the portrait room.

Psst! said Johnny, sticking his head out of the door. Come look! This is HEAVEN!

They came and looked through the door. Garfields eyes popped open and Lara looked even more sarcastic.

            The room was full of girls in various outfits; one was in a flimsy Jasmine-type dress, another was in a revealing crinoline, another in a semi-transparent designer dress, another was wearing a bathing suit, etc. They gave inviting looks to Johnny. Of course this would be Johnnys idea of heaven.

Come on, you, said Lara, dragging Johnny by the ear. Well look at another room.

They turned around and opened the door from the portrait room to the hallway; but the hallway had become a huge outdoor bazaar of some sort stretching out before them. It wasnt night anymore but noon, and it was very hot. The sun glared above them, and there wasnt a cloud in the sky. (Picture the bazaar in Aladdin).

What happened? said Lara incredulously. It was as if they had just stepped into another world and time instead of back into the dingy hall of the castle/mansion. She didnt have time to wonder because Johnny and Garfield were already gone bargain hunting in the large bazaar. She squinted and tried seeing them and then decided that it would be best to wear clothes like everyone else first.

            Ten minutes later Lara reappeared in a full-length robe and matching headgear to protect herself from the sun and to prevent the other people busy at the stalls from noticing her. She began looking for her very helpful companions.

            She found Garfield at the fish stalls. He was trying to explain how precious his collar was, and how many fish it was worth to a fleshy-faced fish-seller who looked very mean and skeptical.

Come on, fat cat, she said, picking up the orange furry lump. Hes mine. Ive been looking for him, she explained smoothly to the man, and walked off.

For your information I am not your cat, snapped Garfield. And I did lose some weight

Where did Johnny go? said Lara impatiently.

How should I know? He probably headed back to those girls, and I bet well hear loads of stories about how all those girls fell for him, and how he refused them, and all that rubbish

At that moment, Lara was tapped on the shoulder. She whipped around, and saw Johnny looking very secretive, holding a moldy brown bag carefully in his arms.

Where have you been? And what is THAT?

SSHHH! Its very important. Come on, lets get out of here and Ill tell you. He dragged her by the arm to a side alley and they accidentally ran into a door. They suddenly found themselves back at the hallway at the top of the stairs of the castle/mansion.

This is incredibly weird. OK this time lets try the left part of the hall, that is, the left wing, said Lara.

            They walked onwards, and this hall was full of mirrors. Mirrors hung from every wall, with every type of frame imaginable. Some were too dusty to look at. Some were broken. They all had a REALLY bad feeling about this.

Johnny was terribly excited about his dirty package but his friends wouldnt let him say anything. As they neared the end of the hall they saw oak panel doors. Lara tried opening them but they were too stiff, and she began working at them with more equipment from her survival pack. Johnny needed to check his hair and so he stared into a mirror that was still unbroken. The mirror cracked into about eighty-three thousand pieces as he looked at it. Garfield and Lara snickered.

You know, they say that mirrors shatter when an ugly person looks into them, said Garfield.

Ugly? Me? No way, Im too pretty. Im the future Cassius Clay. Im the dreamboat of all womankind

SHUT UP! said Lara and Garfield at the same time.

Oh no I wont. Now is the time for you to see my surprise. Wait, first I need to make sure that no one is spying on us. After making an idiot of himself by looking at every corner of the dark hallway, he importantly brought out his package. Now dont get too excited, said Johnny as he unwrapped it. Lara and Garfield tried to look interested. For all the money in my piggy bank, I got A MAGIC LAMP!

Lara and Garfield face-faulted.

A battered old brass lamp? said Lara.

Not just any lamp! When I rub it, a Genie is going to appear and grant me any wish I want! said Johnny proudly. I know yall are jealous of this bargain, but this type of work requires a manly man!

He began rubbing the lamp vigorously. Lara and Garfield exchanged glances and bigsweated.

Rub number one, rub number two, rub number three

>>> NEARLY HALF AN HOUR LATER>>>

rub number 934, rub number 935, rub number 936

Lara had already gone back to unscrewing the door hinges. Garfield was asleep.

<<<CRASH>>>

Hagar suddenly appeared in a cloud of dust, and landed on Johnny.

Are you the genie of this lamp? My first wish is to be absolutely irresistible to women. My second wish is to live on a desert island with lots of girls, all the girls from the portrait room too, with sun every day and a lifetime supply of Clorox Hair Bleach and Super-glue Hair Gel and

Shut up, idiot, Im NOT a genie, and Im not granting any wishes without being paid in advance.

But the guy who sold me the lamp

>>WHAP<<

Excuse me, said Lara as she tied up Johnny in her camping gear. Im glad to see you again. You told us to come here, and Ive been trying to get in here, but these doors are awfully stiff

Child, you need a password to open this door. Step aside. Hagar moved her hand dramatically, accidentally shoving Garfield, waking him up. ALCATRAZ DIABLO!

The doors swung open silently. Hagar crowed with pleasure.

There it is, she said. The mirror of truth. Well be able to find out how to vanquish these ghosts and find out what happened to my brother.

    

"I'm not going in there," said Johnny quite determined. "And I mean it this time," he continued on.

Lara glanced and then said, "Fine, we can't force you anyway. Just be on guard." After she said that Hagar, Garfield, and herself headed into the mirror room. The enormous door slammed shut behind them and Johnny started feeling sorry that he didn't enter with them. Johnny managed to untie himself from Lara's gear and then sat on the red carpet that spread out all over the hall. He leaned his back against the oak door that was now shut, and immediately fell asleep.

Meanwhile in the mirror room, Hagar was trying to perform a spell to make the mirror portray a vision revealing the mystery of her brother's disappearance, as well as the way to get rid of the ghouls. Lara and Garfield were simply staring since there was nothing they could do. The mirror was carved with faces of gargoyles on one side and faces of angels on the other side .It stood nearly 6 meter high and was about 5 meter wide. After almost an hour of spells the mirror started rumbling.

"Stand back!" said Hagar. Within a second the entire surface of the mirror started turning red. Hagar stepped closer to the mirror. Lara did the same, while Garfield shivered at the back and tried to scratch the door open.

As Hagar and Lara stared at the mirror, their reflection started to change; as a matter of fact the reflection that was staring back at them wasn't theirs. It was smiling at them. Lara gasped and jumped a step back while Hagar was saying a spell and throwing a weird potion at the mirror. At that instant a bright flame burned up from the mirror and an image began to form again. Lara, Hagar, and the hysterical Garfield gazed at the mirror. It showed a picture of a faceless man being tied up in a golden cage. And surrounding this golden cage were 12 colored zodiac stones assembled together in a circle. Then a picture of the Notre Dame church pops up, and then a kind of building with Batman costumes in a glass showcase, then an ancient styled British house, and finally a hell pit. After the pictures are revealed the magic mirror began to crack up and explode. Several dead corpse burst out of the mirror grabbed Hagar and they all disappeared.

In shock, Lara and Garfield rushed toward the oak door and tried to push it open, but it won't budge. "Something seem to be putting on weight from the other side. Quickly run back a few steps and then run forward it to push it open," said Lara. Lara and Garfield ran back several feet, and they charged toward the door and push it open. "Wow, I thought we never will get out of there. Hey where is that Johnny?" asked Lara. "Right here," replied a soft moaning voice from behind the oak door. Lara pulled it open and poor Johnny was compressed behind it. Lara and Garfield tried hard not to laugh, and with a giggling tone Lara said, "So, ahem, Mr. Bravo what were you doing behind the door? Finding some girls?" Johnny in disapproval said, "No, duh! I was just sleeping peacefully leaning my back against the door when all off a sudden a force from inside the room just flung the door open and smashed me on the wall."

"Hey, you can't blame us for what happened you know. You were the one putting weight on the door and we couldnt open it. Anyway we have a problem now. Hagar was captured somehow from some dead demons that came out of the mirror, and she is the only person that know the secrets and everything that is going on around here. Now its up to us three to find where she and her brother is, and the way to get rid of the ghosts." Johnny looked stupidly at her and said, "Hello, what are you saying. Where are we supposed to start looking? In a posh restaurant with pretty chicks I hope."

"I have a clue of where we might start. You see before the mirror cracked up, and before the demons captured Hagar, it was showing us an image of some kind that I think is a clue. In the image that was revealed by the mirror, a faceless man whom I assume is Hagar's brother being held prisoner in a cage. And surrounding the cage is 12 zodiac stone. Then the mirror also showed a picture of Notre Dame and a building with Batman costumes, and so on. So if my theory is correct we have to find the 12 stone that might be hidden in Notre Dame, Batman building, a British house belonging to someone in the past, or the hell pit. And then we must combine the 12 stone together to get rid of the ghosts and free Hagar's brother."

"Yeah, yeah that is a story, and how may I ask are we suppose to go to all those places to retrieve the 12 stones of zody or whatever you call it?" questioned Johnny. "Well, in order to get the stone we have to travel to several different countries in different era. Notre Dame in France, an ancient British house in Britain of course, Batman lair in the U.S, and the hell pit in I have no idea where. But I'm sure there must be a time portal in this mansion somewhere because all those paintings that we saw earlier were from different era which means the mansion owner if he or she exist was a time traveler, thats how they had a collection of various paintings. Now lets go and search for the time machine in this mansion. We have to split up, and whoever find anything press on this radar and the other two will go to you." Lara then handed Garfield and Johnny a mini-radar which Johnny started playing and fiddling with it for half an hour.

With no choice, the three of them split up and headed in different direction in search for the time machine.

During their search Johnny had pressed the radar many times so every time the other two got a signal from him they thought that it was a false alarm. Lara decided that she would search the top floor and Garfield would search the bottom one, while Johnny would just play with the radar and once in a while he would also scare Lara and Garfield to death by jumping out of dark spots.

After a long search Lara found a door in the west wing of the second floor, the fact is that unlike the other doors this one was wide open and had a shining light at the entrance. She entered the room and the door closed immediately and Lara started getting weird visions that were alike to the ones coming from the mirror. The mirror showed her the same four places the mirror did but it also included eight more, in each place her visions fixed a certain sign. After all her visions the door opened and a slight wind sent her out, according to Lara the twelve places were where they were supposed to look and the signs represented the zodiac signs.

This is what she saw:

* In Notre Dame, France, everyone was scared of a mythical animal that was half horse and half man, this story was shown on a secret wall in the Cathedral <Sagittarius>

* In ancient Britain she saw a vase on which there was a lady carrying a jug of water <Virgo>

* In Batmans lair except Batman and Robin there were also two little twins which were superheroes as well <Gemini>

* In hell she saw Dante and some GIANT creatures that resembled scorpions <Scorpio>

- On the tower of Pisa, in the 16th century, there was a weird machine that was measuring the weight of a pizza and pasta <Libra>

- In Greece she saw a philosopher known as Aristotle eating shell fish and well one of them was a crab <Cancer>

- In a little deserted island close to Thailand known as Maiton she saw an animal which was half goat and half fish <Capricorn>

* In a castle that dated back to the 12th century she saw a sign that looked like Aquarius

- In Spain, obviously, she found the sign of the bull <Taurus>

- In Africa she spied a lion that would always sleep in the same place <Leo>

- In the Maldives she saw colonies of fish that were protecting a certain coral bar <Pisces>

* In Mongolia she recognized the Aries sign

She also saw Hagars brother in the cage and immediately after that she saw a stone but this stone didnt seem like an ordinary stone, she saw all of Greensfields past but didnt understand what it had to do with everything else.

It all made sense to her now, she knew exactly where to find each sign but the problems were that she didnt know where to find Hagars brother or Hagar and didnt understand why they she had a vision of the villages past. Meanwhile Garfield had searched everything except the kitchen so he decided to go there. As soon as he entered he ran to the fridge but to his surprise it was empty, Johnny then started looking for food and accidentally hit a lever. The fridge started moving and a secret room opened, Garfield looked in and started smiling, they had found the time machine. Garfield beeped Lara and as soon as she got there she explained what she saw and everybody decided that it was better that they started their journey as soon as possible. Johnny wasnt listening as usual and well this time Garfield and Lara didnt explain anything, they just pulled him into the secret room. Lara started analyzing the machine carefully but she didnt understand much, after all someone had been using it for hundreds and hundreds of years. She understood where the machine was headed but she didnt understand how to change destination, Garfield said: Why dont we just start with this place, after all you didnt see much here! Lara then explained that the machine was going to the hell pit and that she saw GIANT scorpions, Garfield tried to act brave but as much as he tried his fear could be seen, after all, when you hide behind Johnny you are really desperate. When Johnny finally understood what was going to happen it was too late because they had already seated him on one of the comfortable chairs and Lara had tied him up with some of her equipment. Garfield even though he knew he would hate himself after that pressed the green button which marked go under it, the problem was that there was no button with the writing Stop or Go home.

They started turning round in circles but it was much worse than any merry-go-round, they spun for about fifteen minutes. After that they heard and felt a big bump. It was their landing in hell. The trio looked out the window and they could see different sizes of flames but the worst thing the saw where some devils. Johnny thought it was a sort of masquerade party and ran out, as soon as the devils saw him they captured him and started discussing his faith. HELLLlLLLLLLLLLLLLLPPPPP!!! screamed Johnny. Lara and Garfield saw Dante and Virgil and started following them, they explained that the devils had caught Johnny and that (even thought they knew they would regret it) had to free him. In the meantime the devils had already decided his fair, they were to throw him in the pit full of snoiprocs which was what the called scorpions, Johnny thought that it was a pit of girls so he stopped screaming and agreed.

They had reached the pit and Johnny noticed that the snoiprocs were scorpions and so the screamed again. Virgil distracted some devils while Lara distracted the remaining ones, Dante and Garfield released Johnny and then all five of them hid from the devils. Lara started asking information on the zodiac sign and Virgil explained that there was a door in the pit that had writing on it. The writing was more of a warning: He who enters will not leave alive, he said that even the devils were scared to enter it but Lara had already decided that they had to go in there. Johnny was afraid of that and decided to continue his journey with Virgil and Dante but when Virgil explained that they were going on a tour of Hell he decided that maybe it was much safer to go with Lara and Garfield although he doubted it. In the meantime Lara and Garfield decided to play a trick on Johnny and they asked the two poets help. I think its too late for you to join them Johnny because as you can see they have already left say Virgil, Johnny looked around and said Yeah, youre right, they left LEFT?!?!? Where are they? He started looking for them but he was too scared to use his voice because he didnt want to be captured by the devils again.

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

            Lara and Garfield looked at each other, then faced the double doors again. It was clearly written in Latin, He who enters will not leave alive. Garfield gulped; he wouldnt have normally joined in with such dangerous quests, but Hell was ruining his fur. Lara reached for the doorknob; the moment her fingers brushed against it they swung open, and a powerful gust of wind forced them inside. They landed in a small cave, the size of a small room, but with a very high ceiling. It was unbearably hot; the stone that made up the walls of the caves were vividly red; so deep in color that it made you feel dizzy.

            They had landed on hot red sand; the air was horribly dry. The sand burned their skin (or in Garfields case, fur) and Lara jumped up, her combat boots protecting her from the unbearable heat. The air was so hot and dry that it was hard to breathe; Laras throat and nose became parched and felt scorched by breathing such heat. She coughed; her vision was blurred. Her eyes watered. She felt hot fur in her arms; Garfield felt as bad as she did. She took a step forward, and the searing sand surrounded her ankles as her feet sank softly into the sand. Moving quickly, she took another two steps forward; anything to get away from this agonizing heat.

            The sand suddenly gave away, and Lara and Garfield found themselves falling thousands of kilometers downwards. Down, down, down they went, surrounded by the scorching sand. It got into her eyes and stung her badly; it burned; her skin seemed to be getting blisters everywhere. Fleetingly Lara wondered whether there was more scalding sand at the bottom, or whether they were going to find themselves in a pool of hot lava.

            After about ten minutes of falling, faster and faster, (believe me people, falling with no end, going faster and faster, is the most horrible thing), just when Lara thought she was going to pass out, they suddenly hit ground. Hard, hard, stone; Laras head was throbbing painfully and she tried to check if any bones were broken, but she couldnt move; all that suffocating sand was piling on top of her, burying her alive

            Then, quite suddenly, Lara and Garfield were scooped out of the sand and placed on a rocky ledge above. They both rubbed at their stinging eyes full of sand; Lara stood up and tried to shake it out of her clothes, and Garfield shook the sand out of his fur with the same movement dogs make just after a bath. In front of them, they saw their rescuer: a little man floating in the air, with a little bow tie *, looking ridiculously stern and important. As Lara coughed and Garfield sneezed like only a cat can sneeze (Stef, Im sure youve heard this) he spoke.

Three questions for you to answer: first, did you understand what was written on the door?

Of course we did, said Lara, dusting her pants. Im fluent in Latin and anyway Dante and Virgil told us.

Second question: what are you looking for?

The Zodiac stones. Her boots were annoyingly filled with sand.

The little man who floated in space looked more serious. Now, he said carefully and slowly, why would you want to find the Zodiac stones?

To find Hagars brother and find out what is wrong with Greensfield, naturally, said Lara as she tried emptying her pockets full of sand.

The little mans eyes bulged open, till Lara and Garfield were afraid that his eyes would fall out of his head. Well, he said, shaking his head in disbelief. Well, well, well,

Well what? said Lara, annoyed.

This is the first time since the earth was created that anyone has come here with a good, unselfish purpose, replied the little man, as if he could hardly believe it himself. Alright, since you came here for a good cause, I wont wake up the dragon, he said, as if he was doing a really big favor.

What dragon? said Lara and Garfield at the same time.

That dragon, answered the little man, pointing off the ledge they were on.

            Lara and Garfield looked, and gasped. A few kilometers below them, larger than life, was an immense, horrible dragon, with rotting, red scaly skin (it was probably ready to shed its skin like a snake, as Lara explained later). It was asleep, and two curling tendrils of smokes wafted out of its nostrils. Its claws were immense and very sharp looking, and covered with dried blood. Around it were scorched skeletons of other Zodiac stone hunters; the skeletons looked tiny and frail against the colossal, bloated face of the dragon. Some skeletons had been chewed up. There were bloodstains and leftover flesh stuck against the rocky walls (obviously the dragon spat out leftovers or humans that didnt taste good), and insects cockroaches, maggots, flies; you name it were all thriving on it. You could see masses of gigantic insects sticking against the rock, all huddled together. Lara shuddered as she looked at them crawl over each other and make sickly squeaky noises. The cockroaches were about twice Laras height. They could have eaten up Garfield.

            Lara and Garfield both looked tremendously sick. Garfields fur didnt look too good, and Laras face had become slightly pale.

So just tell me, she asked the little man bobbing up and down in the air, with his polka dotted yellow bow tie in place under his fat chin, where is the first of the Zodiac stones?

Hmm. Good question. The dragon shifts his position every thousand years or so of course I have to move him when he snores, it gets in the way of my thinking processes well, I last saw the Zodiac stone on his left claw. He was wearing it as a ring, you understand. Hes very vain. As you see now, he is sleeping on his left arm, so that should present some difficulties, but since you have a cat with you, Im sure theres not much of a problem

Garfield looked like he was going to throw up and have hysterics at the same time.

if you have a cat with you, then the dragon will probably not wake up. Thats a great advantage. Of course, you have to take the cat with you.
And how do I move the dragons claw? said Lara, clutching Garfield very tightly so that he wouldnt run away.

Well, my dear, I believe the insects can do that, said the little man thoughtfully. But since youre of a special family, and since youre here for a good cause, I might as well give you this.

He pulled out something from the air. It was a flute.

How can a flute started Lara, puzzled.

But the little man had vanished.

Oh, great, groaned Lara. Now what do we do?

It didnt help that Garfield had fainted.

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Well, my friend, do make up your mind, said Dante impatiently. We have to make a tour of Hell and make sure everything is in order, you see.

Johnny was in a big dilemma. On the one hand, if he stayed back, to escape the scorpions, then hed be left alone in the dark, the thing he was most afraid of. On the other hand, if he went with Dante and Virgil, hed be safer since they knew their way around, but theyd be passing the scorpions, and, who knew, even worse creatures. He decided to escape his biggest fear the dark and risk the danger of scorpions and other hellish creatures.

Well, alright, Ill go with you, said Johnny uncertainly.

Brilliant! said Dante. He grabbed one of Johnnys arms and Virgil grabbed the other, and they began the tour of Hell.

First the torture chambers, began Virgil. They headed towards a door studded with crushed glass and sharp nails. They could vaguely hear cries of agony within.

Here are the preliminary torture stages theyre for minor sinners, said Dante gleefully, rubbing his hands. They entered the first chamber. Johnny looked on in horror. There, on a table, lay an exact duplicate of Johnny. His arms and legs were being stretched in two different directions, his hair had been burnt and now there was green stubble on his head. Several beautiful girls were driving bamboo under his fingernails, and laughing evilly as they heard him scream in torment.

The real Johnny fainted.

Oh, dear, I think this was too much for him, said Virgil sympathetically.

Virgie, old friend, were living in HELL? Whats your point exactly, acting sympathetic and kind?
But hes not a sinner!

Grrryou always have an excuse. Shall we take him to see the OTHER magnificent sights of Hell?

Yes, Dante, but I think something milder would do. After all, if he faints in the first stage of Bodily Torture

Youre always ruining my and the Pinkies fun, grumbled Dante, who was now a vicious old man. Saythats it! Virge, old pal, lets take him to the Pinkies!

Uh, Dante, hes blond

Exactly my point! Lets go! He grabbed Johnnys unconscious form and zoomed to another corner of Hell. Virgil only shook his head and followed. He decided to give up interfering. After all, it WAS Hell.

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Rightful Propertie of the Piede Pieper of Hamelin, he who hath taken all the Children syne of Rosie Cheeks, He the Wearer of fifty siller bells and nine, the Rider of the Milk-White Steed of Fair Elfland. This Flute no Man shall touch but those of Thomas of Ercildowne ere True Thomas, Lara read out curiously.

It was the inscription scratched out (in tiny, miniature cursive handwriting) on the flute the little man had given her. She frowned. Thomas of Ercildowne was a legendary ancestor of mine, she told the petrified Garfield. But we never supposed he really existed. You know, like King Arthur. And he came from the twelfth century, which was when Old English was the common language. And the Pied Piper of HamelinOh, I know, Garfield! We play the flute and that makes those insects move around and lift the dragons claw! And since youre a cat, the dragon wont wake up! Brilliant! Its all easier than I thought.

Uh, Laradid you happen to notice the SIZE of those insects? said Garfield, finally finding his voice.

Be quiet, Garfield, only I can play this flute because Im True Thomas descendant, and I did have a few flute lessons. Well, a few years ago.
How MANY years? said Garfield suspiciously.

Okay, when I was seven. Now please let me concentrate. Lara blew one sharp, long note as a sort of test/practice. She started coughing. Wow, this flute is just caked with dust
Uh, Lara?

Just wait, Garfield, let me get this dust out of the holes

Lara! said Garfield, panicking. He frantically ran onto her and clutched her head, blocking her vision.

What is it! said Lara in frustration, as she tried, unsuccessfully, to get Garfield off her head.

THEYRE COMING OUR WAY! screamed Garfield.

WHAT is coming our way! Garfield, get off my head With a Herculean effort, she pulled him off her head.

YEEEEEEEEAAAAAAAAAAAAARRRRRRRRRRRRRRGGGGGGGGGGHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!! screamed the two of them at once.

The giant cockroaches, flies, spiders, earthworms, maggots were all rushing at them on their little rocky ledge above the dragons disgusting head. The note Lara blew had called them to her.

The cockroaches reached them first, being the fastest to fly. With extraordinary presence of mind, Lara jumped onto its huge back, her legs brushing two of its six hairy legs. She had placed Garfield under one of the shiny dark wings of the cockroach, and tried her very best not to notice the appearance of the part she was sitting on, that is, under the wing. The cockroach immediately changed the direction it was flying and swooped downwards towards the dragon, followed by the colossal flies. Lara didnt want to look at their huge red eyes, each larger than her own head, and the horrible wings, not to mention its tongue-sucker-thingy.

The whole army of insects veered down, towards the dragons mouth.

MAKE THEM STOP, MAKE THEM STOP! yelled Garfield.

HOW? yelled Lara, clutching the flute in her hand.
THE FLUTE, OF COURSE! YEEAOOOWWW!

WHAT DO I PLAY, DAMMIT!

ANYTHING TO STOP THEM!

They were now nearing the dragons enormous mouth and very sharp teeth; it opened its mouth slightly and breathed out a foul smell of rotting flesh that made both of them feel like throwing up.

Lara put the flute to her mouth and played the first tune that came into her head, which happened to be George Frederick Handels Messiah.

The insects stopped flying to the dragons mouth, and swooped upwards, nearly making Lara and Garfield fall of their cockroach. They were now heading for the ceiling.

MAKE THEM STOP, MAKE THEM STOP! yelled Garfield again.

WILL YOU STOP TELLING ME WHAT TO DO?! she yelled back. She saw that it wasnt working, so she tried Beethovens 9th Symphony. The insects swooped down again; the first who reached the bottom started grabbing the dragons tail and lifting it.

HHHHHEEEEEEEEELLLLLLLLPPPPPPPPP!!!!!!!!!! screamed Garfield in desperation.

Lara tried Beethovens 8th symphony, and then his third, and so on. They kept suddenly shooting upwards and suddenly falling downwards. When she had exhausted Beethoven she tried Johann Sebastien Bach. When she finished with him, she tried Chopin, Mozart, Wagner, more Handel she just kept going, and all the while Garfield looked greener and greener. She even tried little known composers like Fallersleben, Haydn, Gross, Bortnianskij, and Tersteegen all that she could remember from her music lessons.

TRY POP MUSIC! shrieked Garfield.

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Well, now, how are my little Pinkies? said Dante benevolently, like a father. He fondly looked down at a small sea of wicked little faces. A little behind him, Virgil was earnestly trying to convince Johnny to wear a pink hairnet, the only form of protection he could find at such a short notice. Johnny, of course, indignantly refused. But Virgil, knowing the evil nature of the elves, forced it on with some thousand-year-old rice paste hair-glue.

            The Pinkies were evil little elves. They were only about a meter tall, and their skin was perfectly Barbie-doll pink; their hair was blue in color and their ears were pointed. Their eyes were long, narrow, and sly, their voices sharp and high-pitched, and their fingers were long and brittle looking, always up to mischief. They were always meddling and causing trouble; but they were clever, and made such good excuses to Dante, that he always spoilt them and let them run loose in Hell, wreaking havoc and generally ruining morning torture schedules. They all thought the same thing at the same time, and consequently they all spoke at once. They also sacrificed blond people for their own amusement, but they always told Dante that it was for their religion or their queen or it was their monthly Pinkie festival, and so he allowed them to torture vain blondes. Besides, he secretly enjoyed the dreadful customs the Pinkies followed. They now started all talking at once.

Weve said one, taller than the rest, and he was evidently considered leader.

Decided interrupted a plump Pinkie next to him.

To clone piped a tiny Pinkie.

Ourselves! squeaked a slightly older one.

Bravo! said Dante, clapping his hands.

But

We changed

A gene

And so

Now we are

GREENIES! shouted all fifteen Pinkies together. They parted to reveal, sure enough, fifteen little green creatures the same shape as themselves.

NNNNNNNNNNNOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOooooooooooooo.!!!!!!!!!!! Johnny yelled, with his high squeaky, girly voice. He squeezed his eyes shut and started tearing out his hair and the hairnet  (UH OH!) and muttering, There are no little green men, there are no little green men, there are no little green men, there are no little green men, there are no little green men, there are no little green men, there are no little green men, there are no little green men, there are no little green men, there are no little green men, there are no little green men, there are no little green men, there are no little green men, there are no little green men, there are no little green men, there are no little green men, there are no little green men, there are no little green men, there are no little green men, there are no little green men, there are no little green men, there are no little green men, there are no little green men, there are no little green men

            The Greenies and Pinkies smiled cruel smiles at each other as they realized there was a blond available. The leader of the Pinkies started speaking, his sharp little fingers twitching evilly.

We

Need a blond

For the Greenies

WELCOME FESTIVAL! yelled all the little Pinkies and Greenies together.

Now, isnt that creative, Virgil, my friend, said Dante very loudly, to cover up the desperate yells Johnny gave as he was carried away by the little army of thirty elves. What clever little children they are. He spoke with pride as they watched Johnny being tied to a stick.

Virgil gave a sigh of resignation. If anyone causes any trouble, he told Dante, remember that this is absolutely not my responsibility. He began walking away.

My dear friend, how can you go away! This is likely to become a very enjoyable festival, said Dante, rubbing his hands in relish.

Well

Oh come on, you know you want to see this, friend Virgil.

Oh, alright.

The poets went arm in arm to watch Bravo torture. (Youll see it broadcasted daily on PAIN TV.) What a peaceful pair of saintly friends.

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Unknown to Lara, who had been frantically playing every piece of classical music she could remember, Garfield had been puking his digestive system out. The sudden drops and lifts on the giant cockroach made him sick, and anyway he was desperately scared of heights. He looked very green in color, and his fur drooped. His tail, however, was all bristles, in anticipation of the next sudden flight as Lara changed the tune.

            Lara finally started playing Tchaikovskys pieces. She started playing The Nutcracker, and the insects all swooped downwards towards the dragons left arm. They started pulling it out from under him.

Yes! It was working! She kept on playing and the insects finally managed to bring out the upper half of the dragons arm from under his body. You couldnt see his arm anymore; it was all a mass of swarming insects. Thinking it was now safe enough; Lara jumped off the cockroachs back with a very weak Garfield tucked under her arm. The cockroach scuttled off to work with the other insects, and Lara watched amid a lot of burnt bones, a safe distance away from the dragon. She looked at the moldy flute in her other hand.

Strange, she said to Garfield, who was hardly listening.

She didnt complete her sentence, because at that moment, the dragon, who was irritated in its sleep by the insects, gave a loud, terrifying noise that shook the whole cave, bringing down stalactites from the distant ceiling. He grunted and scorched the ceiling with a fiery blow. He then started twisting and turning over, so he could lie on his back with his arms in the air, like a dog. He crushed and killed all the insects sticking to his left arm by first shaking them off then rolling on them. Lara closed her eyes, not wanting to see this disgusting sight.

Crunch. Squelch. Squish.

Lara opened one eye to see a fly move one wing desperately; it then slowed down, gave up, and died. She saw a cockroach leg about her height lying around without the body. After waiting for the dragon to stop moving, she screwed up her courage and dragged the limp Garfield towards the dragon. She began climbing onto its chest, over the partially slimy, partially scaly, peeling, dead skin that had already started shedding. She began walking to its left arm, then climbed up its arm, resolutely disregarding the dried blood and bits of flesh stuck to the very sharp claws. At last, she reached the little claw (finger) of the dragon, and saw a gold ring tightly wedged onto it. The stone in the ring was a dull gray, but Lara know immediately that it was one of those rings that swung open to show a hidden compartment. She mustered all her strength to open it.

            Suddenly a deep, wonderful red light filled the cave, blinding her for a moment. She tried looking, and indistinctly saw a blood-red stone, like a ruby, with the sign of Scorpio beautifully carved onto it. It was so pure and lovely, especially in comparison to the filthy dragon, that Lara forgot herself and just stared at it, as if in a trance. It was large, much larger than she had expected, and she realized that she would have to put it in her bag rather than in her pocket if she was going to take it. Pinching herself to make sure she wasnt dreaming this wonder, she broke out of her reverie and the mesmerizing power the radiant gem had. She stretched both her hands for it, and the moment her hands held the Scorpio stone the light became brighter than ever and completely engulfed her and Garfield. She realized that this stone was taking them to the location of the next stone. Their bodies dissolved away to reappear in another place and time, to claim yet another brilliant jewel.