“Stop!” cried Henry V. “I’ve changed my mind again! Take them all, truss them to stakes and burn them. Make sure you stake them out in a circle. They’re Druids, they should like that much about it anyway, haw haw, I do care about my image!
“Nooooo,” screamed GreenDruid. “You promised to let us go!”
“I did nothing of the sort,” said the petulant king. “I granted your wish, but now I’m un-granting it. I am a king, I can do anything I like. Burn them!”
The king turned on his heel and went inside the tavern. The friends were roughly seized and hastily tied to stakes that were buried firmly in the ground. Men from the tavern gathered wood and oil, and soon there was a huge pile of highly combustible material gathered round the hapless victims’ feet.
“Alferian, you’re a Druid, can’t you do something?” asked Azrienoch.
“Unfortunately, the battery’s gone dead in my wand. Looks like it’s going to be a hot time in the old town tonight, my friend,” replied Alferian.
“Sir, sir, couldn’t you just please remove my shoes first?” asked Beith, trying in vain to catch the attention of one of the men who was throwing more oil onto the wood. “Really sir, there’s no sense in ruining good shoes.”
“Couldn’t you just wait a minute?” said Kat Lady. “I really, really have to go to the litterbox. I’ll come right back, I swear it!”
“If you’ll all just let us go, I’ll give each one of you a free weekend stay at The Wayward Druid Bed & Breakfast … and a guest for each one of you, too, of course! You’ve heard my jingle on the radio, perhaps?” said Lorraine, but the men just laughed at this and seemed even more eager to get on with the task at hand.
Just then a man bearing a torch ran up and thrust the flaming brand into the oil-soaked wood. Flames roared up around the struggling victims.
“burning sticks,” said Carragh.
“I really don’t like this at all,” squeaked GreenDruid.
“Bloody British,” said Daigh Cahan.
“I can’t reach my pumpkin medallion!” said Selene.
“I should have known better than to go pub-crawling,” said Mike.
“Stop, I’m getting dizzy,” said Anonymoose, who had been tied to a rotisserie instead of a stake.
“I told you all that it looked like a rough place,” said Dryadia.
Through the smoke, Crow saw the band of executioners go back inside the tavern, confident that the spreading flames would finish the work that they had begun. Evidently, burning Druids at the stake was thirsty work and they preferred drinking to standing about and watching.
Then, just as things were starting to get really uncomfortable for the adventurers and all hope had been abandoned, Crow saw movement from the corner of his eye, and turning his head in that direction, he saw a man leap through the flames and into the center of the ring. From the man’s clothes, Crow recognized him as the same one that Dryadia had been talking to at the bar, but inside the dark tavern, the old reporter hadn’t recognized him.
Now, standing inside the ring of fire, the man bowed politely and said, “Konnichi Wa to All.” He then drew his katana and, with a glittering sweep, the bonds that tied them all to their stakes and to the rotisserie were cut. The adventurers were free!
“big bilious bags of burning leaves!” said Carragh.
“Ki No Ronin, I don’t know how you got here, but thanks,” said Lorraine. “I’d like to invite you and a guest to spend a weekend at The Wayward Druid Bed & Breakfast, at slightly reduced rates.”
“Do Itashi Mashite. Domo arigato gozaimasu.” said the bardic samurai, winking at Lorraine as he sheathed his katana.
Switching deftly to English, he said, “Please to follow me.”
Leaping through the flames, the adventurers raced after Ki No Ronin, who headed into the jungle.
“Ki No Ronin, what are you doing here?” asked Selene.
“I am a purveyor of sacred eucalyptus leaves to this island,” said the bard. "Eucalyptus leaves are absolutely essential for conducting rituals for crossing the veil, unless of course you happen to have a sailing ship that departs from a cemetery dock. I am taking you now to a place where we might conduct a Sacred Eucalyptus Leaves Ritual, and thus get back to your own side of the veil.”
“Thank you, Ki No Ronin,” said Mike.
“Do Itashi Mashite,” replied Ki No Ronin again.
“Toire wa doko desu ka?” asked Kat Lady, who had pulled a Japanese phrase book out from under her 007 collar.
“Just go behind a bush,” said the samurai, electing to answer in English this time.
After a long march, the party came to a rock face. There was nowhere to turn.
“Ki No Ronin, you’ve led us to a dead end!” cried Selene.
“Do not fear!” cried the bard. “Sacred eucalyptus leaves are not the only kind of leaves I carry!”
From a bag he wore at his waist, Ki No Ronin removed a handful of small leaves and sprinkled them on the ground in front of the rock face. “Open sesame!” he cried, and instantly a doorway formed in the rock, with rough-hewn steps leading down into the earth. The friends rushed inside. Ki No Ronin sprinkled another handful of leaves and intoned, “Close sesame.” Instantly the doorway closed, and the group was plunged into darkness.
Crow wondered what would happen next …