Chapter 4 - Ronisgald McDonald
About half an hour later, I found myself feeling less appreciative as I tenatively stepped out of Jeane’s home. Jeane had pieced together an outfit from her husband’s old clothing with the skill of a master seamstress. Any of the articles she used to sew my new clothes would’ve seemed odd on their own, but together they formed an ensemble that was truly ludicrous.
One of my leather pants legs was cut off at the knee, both of my sleeves were nothing but tatters where they reached my elbows, and my shirt was an almost non-existent assemblage of old belts and metal rings. I had a leather greave strapped to my right leg (the one with the full pant leg), and a pair of shoulder plates, with what appeared to be a badly faded emblem of some sports team. Glint was strapped to my waist, obscured by the much larger sheath of a broadsword that had seen better days. Worse than anything, my hair had been tinted blue and spiked, the ponytail left in one long braid secured at the tip with a badge bearing the logo of the Homestead Heroes, a slamm team based in the vuestan part of Ircandesta.
I had never felt so ridiculous in my life, yet as I walked through the street with Terry and Traysia (The former smirking and the latter giggling), people greeted us without alarm. I was still a little surprised that Jeane had trusted us to look after her daughter so readily, but reasoned that if she and Terry knew each other well, he’d probably looked after the little girl before. In fact, the way Terry was acting, I was pretty sure he had a crush on the woman. Her daughter was certainly fond of him.”
“You there, traveler!” one of the townsfolk called out, “Did you vanquish the demon?”
I glared at him until Traysia nudged me. “Yes, I … dealt with him.”
“Thank the Creator!” The man cupped his hands to his mouth and shouted, “It’s okay! The demon’s gone!”
In a matter of minutes, I found myself surrounded with signs of normal life. It was strange to see a street go from desolate to bustling in a matter of seconds.
The man turned back to me, asking, “I didn’t get your name.”
“Ji-” I stopped as it occurred to me that Arc might have mentioned my name. “Er, Jin. Just Jin.”
The man shrugged and held out his hand. “Well, Jin, we’re always glad to welcome travelers, especially those who show such an eager willingness to help!”
I shook his hand. “Nice to be here.”
“There’s an evil witch in the tower.”
It was such a strange phrase to hear in what should’ve been a standard introductory conversation that it took a few moments for me to fully process it. Even when my mind finally grasped the phrase, I was certain I’d heard it wrong.
“I beg your pardon?” I asked.
“There’s a witch in the tower.” The man repeated, still beaming and shaking my head. “Say, you looking for anything today? Anti-spell amulets, enchanted weapons, a map to the tower, perchance? I mean, you are an adventurer, right?”
“I’m not sure I like where this conversation is going, sir.” Terry said.
Addressing the man who had greeted me, I said, “I am looking for some supplies; we were robbed of most of ours on the road here.”
The man held up his hands, saying, “Say no more. I’ll lead you to the perfect place.”
Traysia and Terry still at my side, I followed the man. Leaning close to Traysia, I asked, “What’s all this witch stuff about?”
“I dunno. No one tells me anything.” She pouted.
I patted her on the shoulder. “Don’t worry about it. Terry?”
“No idea, sir. I mean, one out of every ten people has a magical talent of some sort. If we’re being loose with the term ‘witch’, this city alone must have hundreds, if not thousands.”
When we reached the front door of a large general store, the man said, “Happy witch hunting!”
“Thanks.” I said, unable to keep the discomfort out of my tone, though thankfully the man didn’t seem to notice.
We entered the store as he walked away. Immediately, my nose was assaulted with the pungent aroma of mixed herbs. I quickly covered my mouth and coughed out the mouthful of spice my lungs had mistaken for oxygen.
A thin old man whose face strongly resembled a walnut in terms of texture and color turned to greet us. “Ah, an intrepid pair of adventurers, yes?”
I opened my mouth to respond, but he was already talking again. “You’re in luck, my friends! I’ve got everything you’ll be looking for: anti-hex powders, disenchantment scr-”
“Have you got some dry rations and some water?” I interrupted, leaning against the counter.
He batted my arm off, saying, “Of course. Will there be anything else? Witchbane? Silver bullets? Insta-light torches with pitchfork attachments”
“No, thank you.” I paused, a thought entering my mind. “On second thought, perhaps you can help me. I’m looking for a man named Ronisgald McDonald.”
Terry, Traysia, and the walnut-man looked at me as though I had just started spouting poetry.
“Beg your pardon?” The old man asked.
“A friend sent me here to find Ronisgald McDonald.”
I pointed to the One doll clutched in Traysia’s arms.
“The doll,” the shopkeeper said slowly, “told you to come find Ronisgald McDonald.”
I started to explain the connection between One and the doll, but stopped when I realized that it would probably just confuse the man more. Instead, I simply nodded and hoped I looked serious enough to add credulence to my story. It would’ve worked better had Traysia not been giggling.
Obviously trying hard not to smile, the old man said, “Well, I believe there’s a restaurant he’s known to hang around up the street. You’ll likey find him there. Just look for the golden arches.”
“Right, my contact mentioned the arches.” I said, nodding. “Okay then, I’ll check it when we’re done.”
The old man brought me the supplies I had requested. With every item he found, however, he’d try and sell us on something we didn’t want. It didn’t take long to spot a distinct ‘anti-witch’ motif in the items he suggested. After paying and as I was beginning to load the rations into my pack, he asked, “Anything else? I’ve got-”
I quickly interrupted, “That’ll be all, thanks.”
“Okay. Well, if you’re absolutely certain you are fully prepared, I wish you luck, friend.” Shaking his head, the shopkeeper returned to his duties.
As we left the store, Terry said, “Sir, I don’t mean to upset you, but I don’t believe our man’s in the restaurant.”
“Why not?” I asked him curiously.
“It’s not … I mean, what do you know about this guy?”
Traysia’s giggle stopped me from replying. “He’s a clown.” She said with a grin.
“He’s disguised as a clown?” I repeated, surprised. “I mean, you’ve seen him before? Can you give me a description?”
“Mmm … red curly hair, white face paint with a big red smile, and a yellow clown suit with big ol’ red shoes.”
“Excellent! Maybe this won’t take so long after all.” Patting Traysia on the head, I said, “Can you take us to him?”
“Yay!” The little fional girl took our hands.
“Sir,” Terry said, “Are you sure it’s safe to bring her along?”
“I don’t see why not.” I said. “I mean, if there’s trouble, we’ve got you, me, and One to keep her safe. Hard to ask for more security than that.”
Traysia was pulling at us with all her strength, a frown on her face at how slow we grown ups were moving. Chuckling, I allowed myself to be pulled along, Terry following suite a moment later.
It didn’t take long for me to spot the golden arches of which One spoke, there were two arches, to be precise, mounted on top of a tall metal pole above what appeared to be a restaurant. As we grew nearer the building, the smell of fast-food wafted through the air, making my empty stomach growl.
As we entered the store, I saw him; Ronisgald McDonald. He was behind the counter, a joyful smile on his face and looking every bit the clown that Traysia described.
As we approached, he asked happily, “Can I take your order?”
“One McNugget Happy Meal!” Traysia said, standing on her tiptoes to see over the counter.
Giving me a shrug, Terry said, “I’ll have a chicken sandwich combo.”
“I’ll have a quarter-pounder cheeseburger combo with no onions.” I told him, feeling it wise to maintain some cover.
The clown tapped the register console in an oddly stiff manner for a few moments before asking, “Would you like anything else today?”
“I would, actually.” I leaned closer, and said in a quiet voice, “I’m here from the Elsewhere Incorporate. I understand that something bad is going down, and I’m guessing it has something to do with this witch I keep hearing about. I’m waiting for more instructions, but if there’s something you need me to do, just say the word.”
“One McNugget Happy Meal, a chicken sandwich combo and a quarter-pounder combo without onions.” The clown said as though I hadn’t spoken. “Can I interest you in a hot apple pie for dessert?”
I was taken aback until I realized he must be speaking some kind of code. “Uh, sure. I would like a hot apple pie … for dessert.”
“Your total is fourteen shards and twenty-three flicks, sir.”
I handed him the money. After a few moments, a tray appeared in the matter-replicator behind the clown. He handed it to me and said, “Have a nice day!”
Giving the clown a strange look, I led the others to a nearby booth. Traysia set the One doll on the table as I divvied out the food.
“Thank you, Mister Sakamota.”
Traysia said before digging through the box her meal came in and pulling out some kind of toy, a small puzzle box that came apart in six strangely shaped pieces.
I didn’t really notice, as my mind was on the strange exchange between Ronisgald McDonald and myself. “Well, that was … weird. Still, I think I found what I was looking for.”
“You did?” Terry asked, sounding surprised.
I held up the little red box. “Right here.”
Terry and Traysia exchanged glances. Traysia erupted into giggles.
“Am I missing something?” I asked Terry, my brow furrowing.
“You say a Dreamer asked you to find him,” Terry said, “and I believe you, sir. I suppose it’s no stranger than anything else the Elsewhere’s supposedly done ... or us, for that matter. How much do I owe you, anyway?”
“It’s on me.” I handed him his food and returned my attention to the apple pie box.
“Okay …” I said, picking it up, “Let’s have a look.” I opened the box and let it slide out onto the paper-lined tray.
It was a small apple pie, encased in a pastry crust. After a few moments, I broke it open and looked inside. It was filled, not surprisingly, with hot apple and caramel filling.
Traysia started giggling again. Terry was looking at me as though waiting to see what I would do next.
I sat back and scratched my head. “I don’t get it.”
Traysia, who already devoured her fries and was moving on to her nuggets, asked, “Did your doll lie to you? I spank my dollies when they misbehave.”
“The doll’s the repository of an extra-dimensional being that can alter reality at a whim. Spanking him is probably not a good idea.”
At that moment, the doll twitched. After a few moments, it blinked a few times before leaping to its feet.
“Speak of the Dreamer.” Terry said, a relieved grin on his face.
“I’m glad you’re here.” I said as Plush One clambered onto the table, “I just spoke with-”
“Food!” Plush One leapt across the table and tackled my hamburger. In the ensuing struggle, he managed to tear the paper wrapping apart and knock the top bun off the patty.
He stared at the cheese-covered patty for a few moments. “There are no onions on this.”
“Well, I don’t like onions.” I told him.
“You mean you can’t handle the onions!”
One was acting even stranger than usual, prompting me to ask, “One, what’s going on here?”
“Order me lunch!” He demanded.
I crossed my arms and gave the doll a stern look. “Now look; I came here on very short notice because you told me you needed my help. We’re here; Ronisgald Mcdonald is right over there. What is it you need me to-”
Plush One fell to his knees, pressing the back of his right hand against its forehead. “Food! Please, Jimmy, I need nourishment before I waste away!”
“Ugh. Fine!” Rolling my eyes, I picked Plush One up and approached the counter. As the clown perked up again, I asked, “Could you make me a-”
Plush One tugged at the sleeve of my patchwork shirt. “Get me two double cheeseburgers!”
“Two double cheeseburgers.” I told the clown.
Plush One tugged at my sleeve again. “Value meal.”
“Er, I’d like the value meal.”
“With extra onions.”
“Extra onions.” I added, feeling me cheeks start to go red.
“And an apple pie.”
“And an apple pie, please.”
Something was wrong. The clown was beginning to emit smoke from under his collar.
“And not too much salt on the-”
I grabbed the One doll and set it on the counter, just as a tired-looking man in a purple uniform came from the back room. He took one look at the smoking clown and threw up his hands, “Oh, great. It’s broken. Again. There’s a shocker.”
“Ah, a minimum-wage monkey!”
The man’s expression grew dark. “Excuse me sir?” He didn’t sound too happy, though I could hardly blame him.
I pointed to the doll. “He said it.”
He fixed the doll with a glare, then looked back at me. “Do you think I’m a complete-”
The One doll began to jump up and down, waving its hands in the air. “Hey, hey, hey! I’m the one making an order, ME! Pay attention to me!”
“What is this, some sort of trick?” The worker asked, eyeing the doll skeptically.
The worker looked wide-eyed at the doll as it leapt onto his uniform and grasped him by the collar. “You’re gonna get back there and synthesize me a bleeping double cheeseburger value meal, with extra bleeping onions, an extra bleeping burger, and a bleeping apple pie to go! And don’t over-salt the bleeping fries! Got it?”
The man looked at me, terrified. I advised, “He’s a Dreamer, so you’d better do what he says.”
The man ran off the moment the doll leapt from his shirt. The doll crossed its arms and tapped its plush foot impatiently.
About thirty seconds later, he set a tray beside the doll. “H-here, take it! N-no charge!”
“I SAID ‘TO GO’, MONKEY!” Plush One screamed, his hands now glowing.
With a shriek, the man tossed everything in a bag, threw it at the doll, and ran out of the restaurant shrieking.
“HEY!” One shouted back, “HAVE A NICE DAY? Ugh. No manners at all these days.”
He tapped the side of his bag, which promptly vanished. Turning to me, he flashed me a wide smile. “The Elsewhere thanks you for your assistance.”
The doll fell to the counter, once again lifeless.
I stood there for a few moments, stunned. I could hear Traysia giggling and Terry chuckling behind me. Grabbing a to-go bag from behind the counter, I returned to the table and put my food in it hurriedly. “I think we’d better get this to go.”