The Punchline

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TiberiusAudley

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02-12-2011

His body lay hunched against the wall. As his eyes opened to behold unfamiliar territory, his body lurched to sit upright. The sudden movement forced the bells on his hat to jingle. He first looked down to confirm his motley clothing. Indeed, he was still dressed as much the fool as ever.

Despite the stingy display of lighting, a red-lettered note was highlighted upon the opposite wall. He read:

"If you wish to escape, deliver the punchline and have the last laugh."

What the...? Is that blood? He sprang to his feet, shocked by the message. The decorative bells adorning his clothes wallowed to and fro, sounding as he shook his head in denial. Alaire felt his heart pound with each toll of the bells. He froze, eyes affixed on the message in shock.

Where am I? What did I do last night? Alaire frantically tried to remember.

His efforts were to no avail. There was no recollection of anything after his daily jesting from his last waking day. He knew but two things: it was now; he was here. He was shoved off into a cramped room with a bloody message prepared for him on the wall.

Stay calm, Alaire. Find out where you are, then worry about getting out of here.

Fortunately, his holding chamber was barren, with little in the way of accesories. The jester stepped cautiously toward the opposite end of the room, wanting to investigate the message further. Even knowing whether the writing was fresh or dried would give him some clue beyond what he knew.

He brushed his fingers across the word "laugh" and held them to his nose. It took little effort for his Cyranic nostrils to inhale the scent.

It smells like... He licked his fingers. It is! What a jokester. This message is written in cranberries. He let out a soft chuckle as his racing heart settled back into its rhythm with a rimshot.

Still, I need to find out how to get out of here. And I'm sure the person who wrote this message will help with that.

He shambled to the room's only exit, hoping to gather information about both his location and his captor. Or at the very least, the joke that so desperately needed a punchline.

As he stepped into the entryway, a shock jolted up from his leg.

SPROING! "Muahahahaha!"

"Ow!" My foot! Alaire quickly silenced himself as he jumped backwards, startled. His hat and shoes tolled his story as he landed. Oh, it's just a children's toy. Silly jack in the box.

Alaire kicked the toy into the air with the curl of his shoes, juggling it for one, two, three kicks. As he tried to catch the toy for kick number four, it split in half upon his foot, falling to the floor. Ah well, that was a good exercise in entertainment. I need to keep my spirits up if I plan to get out of here. He attempted to justify his non-sequitur action, but the truth was that he was still just a kid at heart. And to a kid, toys were meant for play.

As he reached the entryway once more, he could hear a voice coming from nearby. Edging his way against the wall, he peeked around to try to discern the source of the voice. He found himself looking down a short hallway with a few other rooms, one of which had a similar dim light emanating from within.

He crouched, walking with his hands over the bells on his shoes as he stealthily approached the speaking stranger. He barely peeked around the separate room's entryway, allowing his eyes to absorb as much information as possible.

"The punchline?" a feminine voice questioned. "Surely there must be a mistake. I am but the assistant to a magician! I know no jokes."

Alaire leaned toward the door, contemplating entering to address the speaker.

"Besides, that red paint is just gaudy. What on earth is this about?!"

Alaire took a step around the corner, silently slinking into the entryway.

SPROING! "Muahahahaha!"

"What the- WHO'S THERE?!" The woman shouted as Alaire trigged yet another of the cleverly placed Jacks in the Box. Both leaped back in fear.

"Sorry, I did not mean to startle you, Miss," Alaire assured.

"Who are you? Why am I here?!"

"I cannot answer the why, but I am Alaire, The Court Fool of Demacia. I woke up in a room just down the hall identical to this one. May I ask who you are?"

"N-Nemi. My name is Nemi. I'm not really sure how I ended up here," the lady explained, "But I am the assistant to a stage magician in Piltover. The last thing I remember is leaving his show last night. Then I woke up here."

Alaire scanned the woman's figure, noting the multi-colored handkerchief tied around her wrist, and tucked away into her sleeve. Although modest, her white gown accentuated her body. He could tell from her posture she was used to the attention.

"I heard you talking about the punchline. Do you have any idea what the message on the wall means?" Alaire pressed further.

"I..." she paused, still shaky from Alaire's surprise. "I suppose we're here to tell some sort of joke."

"Now if only we can find out where 'here' is, and if there are any others that were brought along for the ride. It won't do us any good to stay in here."

Nemi nodded and stepped close to Alaire. She stared at the ground, seeming almost subdued. The damsel in distress made it quite difficult for Alaire to attempt humor. The two left the room and ventured down the hallway, hoping to find some sense of direction in their asylum.

Upon reaching the end of the hall, they found themselves in a perfectly square room with a checkered tile floor, alternating black and white tiles. The sharp contrasting squares dizzied the pair, bewildering their focus as their eyes attempted to adjust to the new decor.

Stumbling to the center of the room, Alaire shifted his weight to steady himself as he focused on the hallway ahead. The colors blended together, melding into a neutral gray and his daze faded away. As he prepared to continue onward, he was interrupted.

"It appears we have visitors," a voice observed from one of the room's side exits.

Alaire turned to his right to face the source of the voice as Nemi drew to his side. Both locked their eyes upon the obscured figures emerging from the corridor. A bowler derby highlighted the noggin of the rounded, taller figure from which the voice seemed to have come. His arms were clearly in front of him, and a second, smaller figure appeared to rest upon the arm of the other.

As they stepped into the light, the wooden composure of the smaller figure became clear. Lines highlighted his jaw, and the taller man's arm clearly lifted his shirt.

"We have been waiting for someone to show up," the man's voice came, as both his lips and the dummy's moved as one.

"Oh, you're a ventriloquist, are you?" Alaire inquired, noting the united speech.

"Indeed," the man spoke, as both his lips and the dummy's continued to synch. "And you appear to be a jester."

Alaire twirled his bauble in confirmation, then snidely remarked, "You're not a very good ventriloquist. Your lips are moving."

The dummy's head snapped to attention, staring at Alaire with such vigor that even the Jester's smirk curled downward. The man's lips stayed frozen as the dummy's began to move. A deep, emotionless voice came from the dummy's mouth, "They don't understand us, do they Robyn?"

As the dummy finished speaking, his head turned to the man holding him, and both lips began to move again, "No, Boss, it appears they do not."

Nemi withdrew into Alaire's shadow, finding the new magical pair even more disturbing than her first companion.

Alaire observed with a chuckle, "Oh, it appears the dummy is the actual ventriloquist. Funny world we live in." He turned to Nemi with a smile, hoping to ensure her that everything was okay.

The doll's head nodded to affirm the fool's observation, as Robyn moved the dummy's hand to scratch through his thinning hair. The dummy responded with his hollow voice, "You catch on quickly."

Alaire added, "It doesn't really change that you're still a bad ventriloquist. Every time your bigger dummy talks, your lips move."

The dummy furrowed his brow at Alaire's comment. Although it was the extent of emotion the wooden doll could display, Alaire could tell the dummy was stewing over his remark. The dummy's gaze moved toward the corner of the room to avoid eye contact with the Jester.

"I am Alaire, Court Fool of Demacia," the jester announced, hoping the doll would better understand his wisecrack's intentions.

"We are the Ventriloquist Duo, the Spectacular Steler and Robyn," the dummy responded in his monotone manner. It wasn't clear whether he was still upset over Alaire's comment or if that was just his way of speaking.

Alaire, Steler, and Robyn all turned to Nemi. She curtsied to the mannequin, and shyly added, "Nemi. I'm a Stage Magician's Assistant. I want to get out of here."

Steler quickly chimed in, "I doubt that will be happening any time soon...if at all."

"Why's that?" Alaire questioned curiously. Something about the lack of intonation in the dummy's voice sent shivers down Alaire's happy-go-lucky spine. A comment that grave shouldn't be spoken by someone without emotion.

"Do you not know who brought us here?" Steler persisted.

The two stared at each other ignorantly, then looked back to Steler for the answer. He paused for a moment, as his wooden eyes switched from one side of the room to the other, back once more, then finally looked at the two fellow inmates.

"Shaco."

"SHACO!? The enigmatic 'Demon Jester'?!" Alaire exclaimed.

"Keep your voice down," Robyn's voice encouraged as his lips were permissed to move again by his wooden master.

"But yes. That Shaco," Steler affirmed.

"So what's this whole punchline thing then?" Nemi braved the truth, stepping out from Alaire's shadow.

"You really don't know? Man... talk about lost! You really need to learn your urban legends, lady!" Robyn suggested, then looked down to his controller for explanation.

"The punchline to his killing joke," Steler began.

"Which is?" she tapped her foot impatiently.

Alaire quietly mumbled, "Death."

"It's what?" she asked again, unsure if she'd heard correctly. Her tapping switched to a jittery shudder.

Steler, Robyn and Alaire answered in unison, "The punchline is death."


  • part 2

The group exchanged uneasy glances as the word death rolled off their lips, landing upon their ears. As it sank in that escape may not be an option, optimism became fear within their hearts.

Silence polluted the air. With death as a potential threat, words seemed to be a wasted effort. Steler and Robyn stepped further into the room. Robyn propped himself against the checkered wall without so much as a breath. Alaire paced about the room, lost in thought. Every third step, the fool hopped into the air, clapping his feet together compulsively. The tolling of his decorative bells did not help to remove death from the minds of the party.

Alaire stopped in his tracks, then jumped into the center tile of the room, landing on one foot with his hands clapped above him. His idea broke the silence, "Maybe we just need to find a stage."

Confused looks replaced the tacit horror the group had worn. Steler demanded, "Explain yourself."

"Well, as bad of a ventriloquist you are, you'd die up there pretty easily!" Alaire teased.

Alaire felt a sharp blow in his ribs, forcing a cough. He looked down to find Nemi's elbow lodged firmly in his side. He slowly looked up, feeling the glare of her disapproval weighing his gaze down. Sure enough, she stared at him, shaking her head to ostracize the jester's inappropriate comment.

"Sorry, sorry," he apologized, "but on a more serious note: the message didn't say whose death. Maybe...we're here to kill Shaco?"

The dummy scoffed, "Kill? Shaco? You really are a fool, aren't you?"

Despite the irony, Steler's hollow voice stripped his statement of any humor that could've been taken from it. Although he appreciated the doll's wit, Alaire could not get past the pessimism that came with it.

"Listen here, Dummy," Alaire paused for emphasis. "I am the best Jester around, and whether human or 'demon' as the legends say, I'll not let this situation fester. I will defeat that enigmatic Shaco this day. I shall be true my Demacian pride, and not let his evil actions slide."

The mannequin's visage showed no manner of impressment from the dummy's interwoven rhymes. His fleshy minion spoke, "Your ego will likely be the death of us."

Alaire quickly responded, "Whether the last laugh is for me or death, I'll fight Shaco until my final breath. If I have to turn a hundred flips, add in witty quips, dodge his poignard tips, all through this my fervor shall not dip. And for godssake, QUIT MOVING YOUR ****ED LIPS!"

The ventriloquist became frustrated with Alaire's deriding jabs, "My ventriloquism may be rather lacking, but your nose is a bit big!"

Alaire crossed his eyes, admiring the monument of his pride as he glared at the doll. "Big and just by a bit? Come, at least exercise some manner of wit. If you're going to insult me, make it funny. You don't have to act like some kind of dummy. How many methods, numerous ways, the insults could go on for days!"

Alaire prepared to continue his rant as another sharp blow landed square on his ribs.

Nemi spoke, "I don't want to die here."

Alaire quickly shed his pride, "Right, right. We must focus now." His eyes glanced about the room as he thought, then turned to Steler. "Did you check to see if there were any others in your hall?"

Steler shook his head. "There were not. I was left on the ground in one room, and Robyn in the other. I didn't wake up until he found me."

Alaire turned to look at the hallway opposite from where he'd entered. "I guess we should check that one, then. But first, I have a question for you Steler."

Alaire's head pivoted toward Steler without his neck budging.

"Shoot."

"What was the last thing you remember before waking up here?"

The dummy pondered for a moment, then recollected, "We were on our way home from a street performance in Zaun. It was one of the biggest shows we'd had since the experiment that caused our bodies to be swapped," he caught himself on his tangent and returned to the topic at hand. "The last thing I remember is stopping for a lizard burger to feed Robyn. After that, it's all pretty much a blank."

"Pretty much?" Alaire pressed.

"I remember laughter. I don't know whose it was. It could've been mine. Maybe Robyn said something funny."

Robyn spoke, "I don't recall telling any jokes after dinner! That lizard burger upset my stomach!"

Alaire nodded. "Thanks for filling us in. It seems like all of us ended up here shortly after an entertaining performance."

Alaire went on to share his and Nemi's situations with Steler. He then pointed forward to the hallway ahead. "Onward! March, march, march, march!"

The group ventured into the hallway together. Nemi silently strode in Alaire's shadow as Steler and Robyn brought up the rear. A disturbingly sulfuric smell lingered in the air of the hallway.

There were three rooms emanating light. Alaire quietly pointed to the nearest doorway, gesturing that the smell was coming from inside there.

"Let's investigate this one first. We'll worry about the two at the end of the hall afterward," he whispered to his companions.

As soon as he finished his sentence, a pop sounded from inside the room. He deftly danced to the wall near the entrance, peeking in to satisfy his curiosity. Another, louder pop sounded as a flash of light shone from within the room. A quiet yelp followed by frantic skittering tickled Alaire's ears. He hastily jumped into the room to investigate.

"Dance, Clown!" a sadistic voice commanded from the corner of the room.

Alaire's eyes were drawn to a hand-puppet that soared across to the opposite corner of the chamber, a lit fuse burning down over the course of its air time. As the puppet made impact to the ground, it exploded. Another yelp sounded, from just above the the epicenter of the explosion.

A small creature with six arms suspended itself across the corner of the room using a thick, greenish web. Although horrified by the sight of the explosive puppets, Alaire stifled a chuckle at the scene.

The voice of the bomber called to Alaire. "You there, what are you doing here?! Are you here to interrupt my play time?!"

A puppet soared through the air toward Alaire. Without a moment's hesitation, he spun his bauble ahead of him, deflecting it toward the remaining empty corner of the room. As the fuse burned down, the puppet spun in place, quietly sizzling. The fuse grew shorter, and shorter, until it was no longer visible, until it was silent.

"What the? A dud?" the figure shuffled over to his failed bomb. As the bomber stopped above its grotesque grenade, it detonated. The figure leapt nearly to the ceiling, dashing back to its corner to nurse his wound.

Alaire could contain his laughter no longer. He cackled at the irony before him. His joyous sounds invited his two followers in behind him, and they stood in the doorway confused.

The bomber hopped on a single toward the center of the room, then spoke to the group, "Who are you? Stop interfering with my fun!" Although the mouth of the speaker was obscured by a mask, the voice was obviously male.

Alaire spoke through his laughter, "I did nothing to attempt to stop you, Sir. The idea of hand puppets being thrown as grenades at a spider just amused me."

A voice shot from the web, "I am no spider! I am Itsy the Yordle Clown!"

Alaire fell flat on his back, rolling onto his sides as he continued to erupt in laughter. The clown and bomber stared at him in confusion.

"I'm sorry," he snorted, "this is just too funny."

As he inhaled to continue his episode of laughter, a sharp blow was dealt to his left side. "Ow, Nemi! Stop that!" he snickered in reflex."

"That wasn't me," she uttered, as his eyes looked up to find her more than a few steps out of reach.

"You may want to move, Alaire," the emotionless voice of Steler urged.

"Why, what's wrong?" Alaire stopped his laughter to look at his side as a marionette danced beside him. The marionette's leg was buried into his ribs.

The familiar sizzling of a fuse sounded from near the marionette. Alaire lifted himself off the ground with his hands and began to scuttle away as he noticed the strings that gave the puppet life were ticking down with a countdown to the figurine's finale.

Robyn stepped forward, kicking the puppet directly at its master. Robyn's voice sounded, brimming with sarcasm, "So, it looks like Shaco has also captured a very special Puppeteer and Clown for our show. Care to introduce yourself, Puppeteer?"

The masked figure caught his puppet, extinguishing the fuses as he turned to the ventriloquist pair. "If you do not know of Ashoc the Magnificent, you must live under a rock!"

Alaire joked, "You look like you live in a rock, fellow."

Ashoc held up another hand puppet, his hand poised to light another fuse.

"Whoa, whoa, calm down! I'm just joking. It is my job, after all. I am Alaire, Court Fool of Demacia!"

Nemi, Steler, and Robyn continued the chain of introductions, while pandering to the bomber's ego to avoid setting him off.

Alaire turned to the clown, "And you said you were the Itsy Bitsy Spider?"

The squeaky voice responded, "No! I am Itsy, the Yordle Clown! Although, my gimmick is that I'm spider-themed. My show doesn't really go over well in Bandle City. All of my brethren seem scared of me."

Alaire cleared his throat and changed the subject back to Ashoc, "So, do you know why we're here?"

The sinister, muffled voice responded, "I'm here to have fun. Isn't that what our Captor wants?" The inflection in his voice answered Alaire's question with perfect clarity.

Alaire tested Ashoc, "So who are you going to tell the joke?"

"Anyone who gets in my way."

"If none of us get in your way, would you attempt to deliver the punchline to Shaco himself?"

Ashoc cryptically responded, "A most intriguing notion, Fool."


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TiberiusAudley

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Adjudicator

02-12-2011

Reserved #1.


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TiberiusAudley

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Adjudicator

02-12-2011

Reserved #2.


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TiberiusAudley

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Adjudicator

02-12-2011

Reserved #3.


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TiberiusAudley

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02-12-2011

Reserved #4. (Yes, I am expecting this story to require this many posts by the time it is completed. It's going to be rather long.)


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TiberiusAudley

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02-12-2011

Reserved #5. Just a couple more... to be safe.


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TiberiusAudley

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02-12-2011

Reserved #6. (What is the character limit per post anyway?)


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TiberiusAudley

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02-12-2011

Reserved #7. Hopefully the story doesn't disappoint!


Anyway, the series will be ongoing, with a new addition at least every week, but perhaps sometimes more often than that. Hope you all enjoy.

Oh, and be wary of edits -- I'll be constantly revising previous chapters to improve the quality of writing (without affecting the story). When I edit in new story chapters, I'll be sure to add a new post to let people know.


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NecroMage

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Senior Member

02-12-2011

I'm not against this. This post reserved for my snarky commentary and critiquing.

Episode 1: I am getting a major "Shaco meets Saw" vibe. Do not know if want. But it's not poorly written so hey, it works for me so far.


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The Punchline

Senior Member

02-13-2011

what the **** do you want scrub?!?!?


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