Hexwood filk: Mordion considers various senses of humour, including his own.
All of my regular Harry Potter stories are on hold at the moment, as I have spent most of the year attempting to move house because our landlady wants to sell the one I'm currently living in, resulting in a long and ridiculous saga involving a collapsing ceiling and a house with so many holes in the interior walls that it looked as if it had been savaged by giant beavers. As I was packing books I was reminded of my passion for Diana Wynne Jones's 1993 novel Hexwood. I looked it up and discovered that there were remarkably few Hexwood fanfics out there, so even though I don't have much time or effort to spend on writing new stories at present, I decided to upload a set of four Hexwood filks which I wrote about twenty years ago. This one, Killing Joke, is possibly the least ose of the four, on the traditional fannish scale of ose, morose and more morose.
For those of you who are reading this because I'm on your favorites list as a writer, rather than because you are fen of Hexwood, if you haven't read it you really should – even though it's so complicated that the first couple of readings will make you feel as if your eyeballs have been pulled out on stalks and then plaited. For those who just want to understand the filk without having read the book, I've included a summary of the background to the story at the bottom of this page. I don't want to describe the plot in too much detail because, you know, spoilers, and the story proceeds through a series of unexpected reverses. Even explaining the basic background, as I do below, is a bit of a spoiler, because you have to get three quarters of the way through the book to have even a rough idea of what's going on.
Disclaimer: this is a not-for-profit tribute to the work of the late Diana Wynne Jones.
/۷۷۷(Θ ˆ Θ)۷۷۷\
Tune: traditional, The Rambling Sailor
When I was a slave I longed to laugh though I knew what followed after;
Though I was bred for sorrow still my heart was made for laughter.
Though they trapped my mind with sickness vile –
With dizzy cold and the taste of bile –
So great I could not even smile
Yet I still found my masters amusing.
Orm Pender thought it was a joke to take his rival's descendants;
To warp our souls in childhood and use us as his Servants.
He felt it very sweet to breed
For the strength and skill in his rival's seed,
Then break our wills to suit his need
And he found our pain amusing.
Though I have found it hard to see this joke had much to recommend it,
I suppose it could be funny if your sense of humour tended
To irony and "Pride before a fall",
For in me he made so strong a tool
That I have had his life and rule
And I guess it's true that is quite amusing.
Orm sent the old machine to Earth and thought he had it confined,
But the Bannus knew a joke or two and he would not care for the punch-line.
It tricked us all into its field:
Though it scorned the magics I could wield
Through me Orm Pender's fate was sealed
By a cyborg with a sense of humour.
The Bannus thought it a good game to take the game it was asked for
And put us through a parody of the high tales of King Arthur,
With a sword-inna-stone and a Grail/Bannus Quest
But the rex futuris is no jest;
The Land called him from his long rest
And it did not seem to me to be joking.
Now the Bannus thought it set us up for no cause but to "get" Orm Pender.
It despised all hint of magic: but the Wood had its own agenda.
It drew us in, my masters and me,
To enact an ancient Mystery
And serve the cause of magery
And I think the joke is on the Bannus.
My masters saw me as a thing, with no use but what served their glory,
But from birth to grave my every move is bound into the ancient story.
Though I've paid in pain and suffering,
Though I have cried for laughing
And I've nearly died of laughing,
That really is the best damn joke
/۷۷۷(Θ ˆ Θ)۷۷۷\
The gist of the background to Hexwood is that a network of inhabited worlds, including Earth, is ruled from a central Homeworld by a committee of five Reigners who are chosen every ten years by a self-aware super-computer called a Bannus, which tests candidates by putting them through Virtual Reality simulations. Some time in the Dark Ages (1,000 years ago on Homeworld, but must be at least 1,500 years by Earth time), a group of Reigners seized permanent power and a supply of a life-extending drug, banished the Bannus to Earth to be mothballed there, along with some of their political rivals, and became immortal dictators.
Out of an ancient spite Reigner One, Orm Pender, amused himself by taking the descendents of his most hated predecessor, breeding them for physical and magical prowess and then breaking their minds in childhood through brainwashing and torture, turning them into slave-assassins; Reigners' Servants dressed in red who kill anyone who challenges the dictatorship. But the Bannus isn't as mothballed as they think and it spends its time plotting the Reigners' downfall, eventually drawing them, their latest tormented Servant and several other people from Homeworld into an elaborate trap. Meanwhile, unbeknownst to the Bannus the spirit of the Wild Wood of Britain has its own agenda and its own uses for the people drawn into the Bannus's net.
The main protagonists other than the Bannus are Mordion, the current Reigners' Servant, and a dark, fierce girl who befriends him. A situation is created in which it's initially unclear exactly who is whom, and which parts of the landscape are real and which are simulations generated by the Bannus and in which those different parts are marching along separate timelines out of sequence with each other, in the same way that the scenes which string together to make a film may have been shot out of chronological order relative to the real-time lives of the actors, and sometimes have to be shot several times to get it right. It is possible for a character to be living in a vast wood which seems to be somewhere around the 13thC, and then walk out of it to shop in a 20thC high street. And to cap it all several of the characters are in telepathic communion with each other but not necessarily all in the same time frame – the communicators may be temporally displaced and be talking to each other centuries into each other's past or future.
Mordion is one of my all-time favourite fictional characters – mainly because no amount of suffering or intensive conditioning has been able to prevent the casual, bouncy, flirtatious young jester he is at heart from bubbling up irrepressibly around the edges.