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Iron Quill (Absent Friends): 12 Step Program


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Metallic fire sizzled down Clancy’s throat as he slammed back another shot, slapping the clay shot glass down on the table with a flourish. “Thass 11.” He explained to his companion sitting across from him. For the past half hour, the two Gremlins had been sitting in what passed for a bar in one of the smaller Gremlin outposts, the quiet gremlin feeding Clancy shot after shot, timing them out. Clancy had boasted rather loudly the day previous that he had more guts than any of the Tri Chi folk mucking about in the swamp, and this morning one of them met with Clancy to accept that challenge.


“Yes it is.” The quiet gremlin spoke, examining Clancy with inscrutable eyes from a nearly covered face. The gremlin gently picked up the shot glass and tipped a bit more spring water clear liquid into it. “Remember the bet: you drink 12 shots, I acknowledge your skills. You don’t, and I hang your carcass outside this bar as a message.” The gremlin held out the shot glass on his open palm.


“Yous gonna hafta speak up cause all I’m hearin is ‘blahblah I wear nightgowns on mah face’. Gimme that drink.” Clancy snapped, reaching out to grab the cup. Clancy blinked, and the cup seemed to vanish from the gremlin’s hand. Several seconds later, his head finally registered the barstool that had tagged him. “Hey… whuzz wit the hittin? We agreed drinkin!” The gremlin placed the barstool in his hand on the floor, standing on top of it. He held out his hand once more, showing the cup.


“We agreed that you would show if you were better than the Tri Chi. Twelve shots is what we have before we even start fighting. Now… Finish your drink.” The gremlin stated, staring at Clancy. Clancy pushed himself to a standing position, the room swimming around to avoid touching him. Mumbling under his breath, Clancy grabbed for his old banjo propped up against one wall. The rust kept it fairly out of tune, but it still hurt when you hit someone hard enough.


Clancy lunged forward, bringing around the banjo with a hard swing. Had the gremlin’s legs behaved properly and stayed where they should have been, Clancy was fairly certain the gremlin would have been walking out on crutches. But they vanished along with the cup, sending Clancy flying as he finally registered a knee to his chin. “You will learn something today. You think all it takes to be a Tri Chi is to drink a lot? There’s much more. I will be your tutor Clancy. You will learn. Now… FINISH your DRINK.” Clancy used the banjo to get himself back to his feet, vaguely noticing the dull throbbing pain that would be screaming at him tomorrow.


“Well ifn ya stop dancin around like a flippin squirrel, I can take that drink, ya stupid cheater!” Clancy tried to explain to the 3 people in front of him. Clancy shook his head to try and focus a bit, but finally shouted “Thazz it! Ifn I can’t hit one o ya, I’ll jus hit all o ya!” With a yell Clancy lunged forward, swinging his banjo in wide arcs in an attempt to catch at least one of the gremlins. But with each swing, the gremlin simply wasn’t where he should have been, and Clancy ended up collecting a bruise. Pure bubbling rage was controlling Clancy, the gremlin demanding that Clancy ‘finish the drink’ agitating Clancy beyond measure.


“You know what your problem is?” The Gremlin asked as he slid back to avoid a hammer like swing from Clancy. “You think too much.”


“HAW! Firs time I heard that!” Clancy shouted.


“It’s true though.” The gremlin replied. “Your problem is you’re trying to think about what to do. Think about a boar for a second.” The gremlin back flipped onto a table as he continued to avoid swings from Clancy, keeping the shot glass within Clancy’s sights at all times. “When is a boar most dangerous? When it’s hungry. When a boar is full, it’s docile. Predictable. Controllable. Your mind is so full of thoughts that I can tell you what you’re going to do. A master of Tri Chi is like a hungry boar. Wild. Unpredictable. Hungry.”


“Wha chu babbling bout?” Clancy barked, managing to keep his balance as he leapt up onto the table, swinging the banjo down with a holler. The gremlin slid off, spiraling down into a crouch, still holding the shot glass at a tantalysing distance.


“You must empty your thoughts. Don’t think, simply do. Only then will you be able to match skills with the Tri Chi.” The gremlin held the drink up, and Clancy was certain he could see a smile under that mask.


The windows to the bar burst open, and 4 gremlins that called themselves ‘Shinobi’ burst in, each one about as soused as Clancy was at the moment. Clancy looked around with a bob, a mixture of anger and disgust smearing on his face. “Now see this is what I’s talkin bout. Cheaty lil chimps with nightgown faces!” Clancy leapt at the closest shinobi, hearing a satisfying crack as he landed a headbutt. Clancy slammed home his banjo in the shinobi’s knee, dropping him to the ground as the others rushed in. The closest one launched a flurry of fists, most of which landed squarely on Clancy’s ribs. Clancy tried to block with the body of the banjo, but the shinobi had an uncanny knack of hitting him precisely where his hands weren’t. In a furious yell, Clancy dropped the banjo and leapt on the shinobi, pummeling him with bare hands, and finally grabbing both the gremlins ears and yanking them up for a headbutt.


Clancy rose slowly, drops of blood getting into his eyes as he stared the two remaining shinobi down. The quiet gremlin had taken a perch on the counter, and seemed to have his eyes closed, the shot glass sitting in an open palm. Clancy took a couple of breaths, the flashes of pain finally winning their battle against the dulling of the alcohol. The two shinobi were bobbing and weaving around Clancy, apparently waiting on some action from him. These horse-scoopers gon KILL me! Clancy thought to himself. Well, if ‘m going down, might as well make sure I leave a big mark.


The next few minutes were a muddled mess for Clancy. He knew there was at least one solid punch to the teeth, the shinobi landed several punches, he had broken a barstool over one of them, a chicken was watching the fight through the window, and Clancy had full on kicked one of them in the nethers. Next thing he knew, he was in front of the quiet gremlin, and the gremlin was handing him the last drink. Clancy snatched it from the gremlins hands, expecting an attack but receiving none. “Why you handing me this drink ifn I was sposed to take it from ya?” Clancy asked. The gremlin slid off the counter.


“I DIDN’T do it. You did. You passed my test. I might even say you have a knack for learning these sorts of things.” The gremlin replied. At Clancy’s response of a thoroughly confused dumbstruck face, the gremlin chuckled and added, “You learned something. You learned the concept of nothingness. That final fight, you truly weren’t thinking about anything. This gift, one that each gremlin has inherently, is our most powerful weapon. It’s like a storm. Storm’s don’t think about what they do, they just do. I find this to be a unique talent that more gremlins could tap into. The point is, you were able to operate in the lack of. I acknowledge your talent.” The gremlin bowed deeply, causing Clancy to chuckle.


“You gots some backwards ways o talking, you know that?” Clancy finally managed, snagging a seat and wincing as he sat down. The gremlin smiled as he took a seat across from him, producing a small bottle and a cup.


“See, most around here think that. But I’ve had a chance to expand my way of thinking. I wasn’t stunted by the humans threatening me from all sides. I adapted and learned. Something you could achieve too, given the right push.” The gremlin commented, tugging his mask down ofr a moment to take a swig of his drink.


“Yah?... tha sounds exhaustin.” Clancy declared as he blinked slowly at the gremlin. Clancy could feel he was about ready to crash, but this gremlin was talking around something, and curiousity was creeping up on Clancy.


“Oh it probably will be.” The gremlin replied, giving Clancy a bare smile. “But, you will gain skills beyond compare. You will gain strength power. You will gain a brotherhood with extreme loyalty.” Clancy leaned forward, staring the gremlin down intently.


“Whats about booze?” Clancy asked, managing the most intent gaze he could. The gremlin looked back at him with an equally intent gaze, leaned leaned in close and whispered,


“More than you could drink in two lifetimes.” Clancy’s eyes widened as he thought, pondering deeply. He finally held up the shot glass to the gremlin, a solemn look on his face. “Yah… alright I suppose I’ll join your little group”. The last shot sizzled like a branding iron as it went down, the gremlin’s eyes flaring with excitement.


1565 words

Theme (The importance of Drunken Gremlin Kung Fu)

The Academic ( the guy teaching Kung Fu)




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