Threadbare: Magic Tea Party

Chapter 2

If he’d been capable of reading, they would have let him know that he had a choice to make.

NEW SPECIES JOB UNLOCKED – BEAR DO YOU WISH TO ACCEPT THE BEAR JOB AT THIS TIME? Y/N?

Just in case readers forgot what the prompt said between chapters, I guess.

Everything spun, and then WHUMP, the teddy bear landed on the bed. He sat up, shaking his head—

—and found himself in a pile of stuffed animals. Frozen, stiff, they stared at him with mute eyes.

The teddy bear trembled as he poked at them with his paw pads. They didn’t move. They looked just like the skunk had after he’d killed it, with the, the same unnatural stillness.

Ha. This is an interesting misunderstanding. It’s a fun exploration of the idea of a teddy bear golem, though. Threadbare isn’t just having the protagonist be a teddy bear and then giving him otherwise perfectly ordinary LitRPG adventures, it’s telling a story that would only work for a teddy bear (or similar toy golem, anyway). I’m kind of killing it by drawing so much attention to it, but if you wanted to experience the book yourself, you should be reading it on Royal Road.

And the teddy bear’s young mind jumped to exactly the wrong conclusion.

…yes, Threadbare, you’ve been more than heavy enough with your implications, pretty much any reader can suss out that-

I am among the dead. She means to kill me!

Goddammit, Threadbare.

“Here we go!” Celia opened up the closet door, ignoring the tumbling mass of clothes and toys that surged out, and rummaged through them until she pulled out a small wooden table, and a set of well-gnawed wooden cups and saucers. “Let’s see… yeah, there should work.” She booted a broken wagon out of the way, shoved a pile of blocks to the side, and put the table on the floor, stacking the cups and saucers on top of it. From the piles she pulled out four little chairs, and spaced them evenly around. “Okay. Come on down and… huh?”

The bear wasn’t on the bed any more.

I’m not going to copy/paste the entirety of Threadbare’s attempted escape because I’m worried about hitting Kindle’s anti-piracy highlight limits, but I want to, because it is adorable. I’m getting Pixar-y vibes from it, and while that is partly helped along by the fact that this whole concept has a fair amount in common with Toy Story, it still says something that Threadbare is getting at least in the ballpark of the right vibe. That doesn’t sound like high praise, but Pixar is the kind of studio where even standing in their shadow is an accomplishment.

And its waist was narrow, with two sturdy, wide-footed legs supporting the ten-foot-tall armored statue.

It moved, as Threadbare watched, turned its visor to face him with a grinding of metal on metal. “Intruder!” The armor golem boomed. Unfortunately, for all its size, it was a lesser golem. Which meant that it had no mind, only the orders it had been given.

So is it ordered to specifically kill unfamiliar golems, or anything that gets in the house unaccompanied by a whitelisted family member, even if it’s (like Threadbare) less than two feet tall? Does this thing go berserk every time a pigeon gets in?

One leg of the massive golem flexed as it shifted its weight, and cables hummed taut as it stepped down from the pedestal.

And crushed the wood underneath to splinters. I mean, maybe the floor is made of solid stone, it was never described explicitly, but that’s not the vibe I got from the rest of the description. Here, let me post that for reference:

A large fireplace filled one wall, with pots full of herbs drying on the mantle. Overstuffed but worn leather chairs provided seats around it, and a table off to one side was set with candlesticks and cloth doilies. Solid oaken chairs with feet on the bottom lined it, two per side. One wall was lined with tapestries and crocheted hangers, showing cats, flowers, and other simple objects. A closed door led out to the yard, a few high glass windows let in light, and two doors went deeper into the house.

Seems like the kind of place that’d have a wooden floor, right? Maybe even carpeted. This ten foot metal golem is either close to hollow, made of post-space age hyper lightweight metals, or guarding a nigh-indestructible house.

“Flee or face my wrath intruder!”

 

Threadbare sure as hell knew danger when he saw it. He turned and fled.

 

He waddled away at top speed as the hostile golem chased him around the room, arms lashing out with clumsy swipes.

I’ve cut out some intervening description here, but none of it interrupts the sequence you see here: The armor golem demands Threadbare flee or face his wrath, Threadbare flees, and the armor golem gets all wrath-y anyway. This is not a well programmed minion.

Context: Threadbare’s new friend the little girl whose name I’ve already forgotten is trying to get the armor golem, named Emmett, to stand down.

The scroll flared, and golden letters materialized around Emmett, cycling in spiraling patterns… that shattered. “You resisted it? Oh come on!”

I didn’t mention earlier, but the old guy who animated Threadbare had a nasty habit of narrating his actions to an empty room. I didn’t mention it because giving a fellow who already had a bit of a “mad tinker” vibe a habit of talking to himself isn’t too clumsy a way of introducing some exposition on world mechanics. Now his daughter is doing the same thing. She actually does it twice, but I skipped the bit where her first scroll failed. It’d be one thing if we’d had a third human character who did not do this introduced by now, at which point this could be reasonably chalked up as a family tic, but with both human characters with full vocabularies having the same tic, it’s coming off like a part of the style – a bad part. It’s also a pretty similar flaw as what I noted earlier, where a funny misunderstanding was plenty well implied by the narration, and then the joke got spoiled because the narration felt the need to make it completely explicit.

Context: Celia has failed to magically compel Threadbare to join her tea party, because Threadbare is ignoring the “join party” prompt, because he cannot read. Oh, also, she sorted Emmett out eventually, because, y’know, obviously that scene was not going to end with her or Threadbare squished to paste.

“Seriously?” Celia shrieked. “I don’t suck that bad. I’m a level 5 animator, for foop’s sake. Okay, okay, fine. I have more scrolls, bear! And I’m not afraid to use’em!”

How much do these scrolls cost?

You have unlocked the Scents and Sensibility Skill!

Some people dislike puns. In fact, some people dislike puns so much that they feel compelled to punch people who make them, like the final entry from this Cracked article from back when Cracked articles were good. Well, come the fuck at me, bro, because I will fight anyone who does not appreciate that Scents and Sensibility gag.

Threadbare studied Celia’s face, bringing the teacup up to his muzzle every now and then. He didn’t know exactly why he was doing it, but the toys Celia had woken up were doing it, and she seemed happier with that.

Of course the rest of them were doing it in unison, but she didn’t mind if he was a little out of synch.

One thing Threadbare consistently gets right is the ability to communicate sight gags through text. I can really clearly visualize Threadbare looking around at the other stuffed animals (non-golems temporarily, non-sapiently animated by Celia’s magic), seeing them sip, and giving it a go himself, and it’s the cutest thing, even though none of the exact motions are in the text. Blocking the scene out blow-by-blow would take some of the momentum out of the gag, but I’m not entirely sure how Threadbare is managing to get my imagination to do so much of the legwork. I mean, with that paragraph I just quoted up there, obviously, but I can’t tell what about that paragraph is making that work such that I could replicate it for a completely different sort of sight gag.

The little girl put him back down in his chair. “Why no, mister bear, I shan’t have any more tea. But thankyew, thankyew, my dear chap.”

Is Celia putting on a pretend posh accent? I had assumed British accents all around because 1) fantasy and 2) Paddington Bear, but should I be imagining them as American accents instead? Is Celia applying Paddington Bear tropes to Threadbare (or, employing less free association, Winnie the Pooh tropes)? Have I been accidentally meta the entire time?

“C’mon silly old bear,” Celia grabbed his arm,

Looks like yes, except with a British story book about an actual stuffed bear. I’m sticking with Paddington Bear as the foundation for all teddy bear stories. You can’t stop me.

Celia takes Threadbare down to the kitchen for a bath, and heads down to the basement to get some soap.

She was back in a few minutes with a jar of powder. “Wow the rats are getting bad. Droppings all over the place down there.”

Would it help if I killed ten of them?

“There we go! Just gotta hang you up to dry.” Celia bounded up, tucked the comb into her frizzy hair, and pulled a line from one of the cupboards, stringing it between the nearest hooks so that it stretched across the room. “Oh, gotta let some breeze in so you don’t get musty!”

STOP. NARRATING.

Pulsivar the cat strolled in over the windowsill, and sat his haunches down on the counter, staring up at the little golem. Threadbare stared back. Then the golem began jerking frantically, trying to get itself free of the washing line.

Unfortunately, Pulsivar hadn’t accounted for one very important thing. The hooks holding Threadbare’s washing line up weren’t meant to bear twenty-five pounds of pissed-off feline. The rightmost one ripped out of the wall, the line swung, with Threadbare pinned to it and Pulsivar swinging below him like a fuzzy pendulum—

—and both of them went sailing through the still-open basement door. Celia had forgotten to close the damned thing.

Threadbare found himself irritated by the cat’s anger. He was stronger now, tougher, and this creature had fled from him before. Alien instincts flooded him, and he hauled himself up to his full height, putting his arms out wide. He tried to growl, but the lack of a mouth made it impossible.

It’s time for a rumble! Tell that job-stealing fleabag to go back to Cyprus, Threadbare!

And in the shadows where the light didn’t reach, red eyes blinked open.

Specifically, twenty red eyes. Looks like we are having a different sort of rumble from the kind initially promised.

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