That being said, another hilarious Caitlin story was much needed.
It was a dark night. It would have been a stormy night, too, except that the cold front had stalled over the Scrumdiddly Mountains north of the encampment instead of moving over the valley as the weather-forecasters had predicted. So instead the weather was a cool 60 degrees, and the stars glimmered brightly in the sky, like little glimmery things that glimmer.
The minion army of Vladimir the Marauder was taking full advantage of the crisp night air and the lack of storms. They had been at that encampment for the past month waiting for orders to invade Princess Caitlin’s kingdom, but so far no such orders had come. There had been some sort of foul-up in the chain of command, some plan that had gone astray, or so went the rumors. The minions didn’t know for sure, and wouldn’t have asked; minions weren’t supposed to ask about those things anyway. Instead, they found other ways to occupy their time. Even now, after the sun had gone down, groups of minions were going about the camp engaged in various activities, many of which Princess Caitlin could see from her hiding place in the bushes outside the camp.
One group of minions was clustered about a man who appeared to be a minion drill instructor, and was in the middle of giving a lesson on the proper way of attacking a single enemy soldier. “Now, you blithering excuse for redshirts, when you see an enemy soldier, and he is alone, WHAT DO YOU DO?”
The drill instructor flew into a rage. “NO! That is NOT what you do! Drop down and give me twenty, minion! The rest of you, when you see an enemy soldier, and he is alone, WHAT DO YOU DO?“
“Sir! We rush him all at once and form a pile!”
“NO! That is NOT what you do! It sounds like a good idea, but then the hero will simply crawl out from the pile while you idiots are busily fighting each other, while I KNOW you will do because none of you have the sense to use the one brain cell God in his infinite wisdom granted you! Drop down and give me forty, minion! And you, you just finished that twenty? You just keep on going until you hit forty, soldier! I am in a bad mood tonight, gentlemen, and I will not be happy again until you give me the correct answer! And when I’m not happy, NONE OF YOU ARE HAPPY! Now, when you see an enemy soldier, and he is alone, WHAT DO YOU DO?”
“Sir! We form squads of four to five minions each! Squad one engages the enemy soldier with their swords, knives, and/or clubs in an attempt to distract him, while squad two falls back to a safe firing distance and shoots arrows at the soldier whenever an opportunity presents itself! Sir!”
“GOOD ANSWER! I hope the rest of you wrote that down, because you will be practicing that maneuver from now until the sun rises tomorrow! Do you understand me?”
“Sir yes sir!”
“I SAID DO YOU UNDERSTAND ME?”
“SIR YES SIR!”
“GOOD! GET MOVING!”
The minions gathered into a line and departed in brisk formation, with one of the minions at the back calling out the cadence and the other minions repeating the lyric in unison.
“I don’t know but I heard today,”
“I DON’T KNOW BUT I HEARD TODAY!”
“Caitlin’s socks have gone away!”
“CAITLIN’S SOCKS HAVE GONE AWAY!”
“I don’t know but I heard tell,”
“I DON’T KNOW BUT I HEARD TELL!”
“Caitlin’s socks have gone to-”
“Hello,” came a voice from behind Caitlin’s shoulder. She spun round, sword in hand. A group of minions stood there behind her, swords raised, arrows leveled at her heart. She wondered if they had been listening to the drill instructor, and whether they would attack her one by one, all at once, or in two squads. Considering that their captain had taken the trouble to alert her to their presence rather than simply stabbing her in the back, she doubted that they would take the rational two-squad approach.
“Hi there,” she said, two hands gripping the hilt of her sword. “I’m looking for my socks. I gather you people know where they are?”
The minion captain was not in the mood for banter. “You’re Princess Caitlin, right?”
“No. I’m a purple-bellied eight-legged sea slug.”
“Ahhhh…” said the captain, who clearly had not passed his high school language exams and thus did not know irony when he heard it. Bewildered, he fell back on language he did understand. “My orders are to take you alive! So, throw down your sword and surrender, or else!”
“Or else what?” Caitlin asked. The captain hesitated; his orders were very specific that Caitlin was to be captured alive, but if she resisted, how was he supposed to punish her? Then a happy thought occurred to him. “Or else I’ll knock you on the head!”
“Oh, I see. Well, then, I suppose I’d better just surrender and-oh! Ack! Alas!” She gurgled in her throat and staggered about dramatically, clutching her stomach and twisting her face into expressions of pain and shock. “I’m…I’m dying!” she wailed. “Oh the pain! The a-go-neeee! Oh cruel, cruel world! Fading…pain too much…everything’s going black…alas…oh dear…” Caitlin flung her hand against her face, swooned to the ground and then opened her eyes for the last time and made a feeble motion towards the aghast minion captain. “Tell…my mother…I…loved..her….”
She made one final gurgle and closed her eyes for good, apparently. The minion captain was completely confounded. His orders, as has been said, were to take Princess Caitlin alive if he found her. They had been perfectly specific, almost repetitively so, on that point. “Take that one alive”. But now she had unaccountably died on him. What was he supposed to do? Was she really dead? Should he check? A sudden doubt entered his mind; maybe she wasn’t really Princess Caitlin after all. Rumor held that the princess was either a very good swordswoman or had a really competent bodyguard, since she had dispatched Sir Charles, one of the fiercest assassins in Vladimir’s army, without much trouble. If she had just keeled over and died on him, apparently out of sheer fright, maybe she wasn’t really who he’d thought she was.
Hesitantly he stepped towards her and prodded her with his boot. “Erm…miss? Can you hear me?”
A very sharp knife suddenly hurtled through the air, followed by six more. They weren’t aimed at the minion captain, though, but at the soldiers accompanying him, all of whom were neatly dispatched before they realized what was happening. The minion captain turned to see who or what had taken down his troops, but all at once Caitlin’s sword was aimed right at his heart. “You’re not dead!” he gasped accusingly.
“Brilliant observation. I am, in fact, alive. Now, will you kindly take me to see Lord Vladimir? I have some questions I’d rather like to ask him, particularly about my socks.”