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Chapter Forty-Six: And Then I Killed it in Glorious Battle!

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"Hello," said the wooly mammoth. "I am a wooly mammoth. What are you?"

"I am a great king of Mirrglbury," replied the great king of Mirrglbury.

"What's that?" asked the wooly mammoth.

"Me," said the great king of Mirrglbury.

"Oh," said the wooly mammoth.

There then followed an awkward pause. The wooly mammoth coughed. The great king of Mirrglbury looked at the ground and kind of scuffed his foot around in the dirt.

"So..." said the wooly mammoth.

"So..." said the great king of Mirrglbury.

"So, what's your name?" asked the wooly mammoth after another awkward and uncomfortably silent moment had passed.

"My name is Jorkulhaup Bortvelding," said the great king of Mirrglbury.

"Jorkulhaup?" asked the wooly mammoth in surprise. "Isn't that the Icelandic word for a glacial outburst flood?"

"No," said the great king of Mirrglbury, "that's 'jokulhaup'. My name's pronounced the same way, but it's spelled with an 'r' in between the 'o' and the 'k' instead. There's no 'r' in the Icelandic word for a glacial outburst flood. That's spelled J-O-K-U-L-H-A-U-P. But you were close. Everybody makes that mistake." The great king of Mirrglbury paused to cough and clear his throat (politely behind his hand) and then said, "So, uh, what's your name?"

"Wooly Mammoth," said the wooly mammoth.

"Oh," said the great king of Mirrglbury.

"My parents were extremely literal individuals," the wooly mammoth explained, clearly a little bit regretful of that fact and its results insofar as his name had been concerned with it.

"Well," said the great king of Mirrglbury sympathetically, "I bet no one ever has much trouble in remembering your name. I know that I'll be able to remember it just fine, and I never remember anyone's name at all. So that's okay."

"Yeah, I guess so," said the wooly mammoth, but he still sounded a little bit resentful and forlorn about his name and his literalist parents. It had been kind of hard to grow up with a bunch of people who took everything at its face value. Wooly Mammoth's brother and sister had both been extremely literal individuals as well. None of them had ever once been able to appreciate a single one of his jokes. Thinking of this, the wooly mammoth had a wonderful idea. "Hey," he said, "do you want to hear a joke?"

"Okay," said the great king of Mirrglbury.

"Okay," said the wooly mammoth, getting excited. "Here it is. So this one geologist walks into a bar, right?"

"Yeah, 'ouch'," said the great king of Mirrglbury with a roll of his eyes. "I've heard that one already."

"No, no, no," said the wooly mammoth in a rather dismayed tone. "I don't mean literally! I mean, you know, a bar - a drinking establishment, you know? Sometimes they have food, and sometimes they have music, too."

"Oh," said the great king of Mirrglbury. "You mean like a wand, right?"

"Yeah," said the wooly mammoth, nodding. "A wand. Well, anyhow, this one geologist walks into this wand, and there's another geologist in there having a drink. And this other geologist, the one having the drink, well, he has this rock sample with him. And the the first geologist sees it and he goes over to the second geologist, and he says, 'That rock sample's nice.' Okay?"

"Yeah..." said the great king of Mirrglbury.

The wooly mammoth was getting really very excited now, because he was approaching the punchline of his joke. "Okay, so then the second geologist looks up from his drink and he says, 'No, it's slate.' Ha ha! Get it? It's nice? It's 'gneiss'? Slate? Ha ha ha!"

The great king of Mirrglbury frowned for a moment, then said, "No, I don't - oh, wait. Oh, wait, now I get it. Ha ha! Yeah, yeah, that's pretty funny. Geologists do have the best puns, don't they?"

"Yep, they sure do," the wooly mammoth replied, nodding in agreement. He was very pleased that the great king of Mirrglbury had understood and appreciated his joke.

"That was a pretty good joke," said the great king of Mirrglbury.

"Yeah, I'm glad you liked it," said the wooly mammoth. "I could never tell any jokes to my family, because they were all extreme literalists and none of them ever thought that any of my jokes was funny because they all took them extremely literally. Like, I'd be like, 'This horse walks into a wand,' and then before I could even finish the joke they'd all be interrupting me and they'd be all like, 'That's stupid. That doesn't make any sense. Horses don't go to wands.' And then I could never finish my jokes. So seriously, man, thanks. It really means a lot to me."

"Sure," said the great king of Mirrglbury. "No problem. Glad I could help you out."

"Yeah, me too," said the wooly mammoth. Then there was another long and uncomfortable pause, this one longer and more uncomfortable than the first had been. Finally the wooly mammoth kind of looked around and then he turned to the great king of Mirrglbury and said, "So, um..."

"Yeah..." said the great king of Mirrglbury.

The wooly mammoth coughed again, and then said, "So, uh, what brings you to the Arctic glacial steppe on a, on a day like this?"

"Well..." The great king of Mirrglbury scratched his neck nervously, then sighed and said, "Um, well, I'm kind of supposed to kill you in glorious battle. Um... yeah..."

The wooly mammoth stared at him. "No kidding? That's really why you're here? You're not just lost or anything?"

"Nope," said the great king of Mirrglbury, a little regretfully, with a sort of shrug. "I kind of wish that I was, because you seem like a pretty cool guy... for a wooly mammoth, I mean."

"Thanks, I guess," said the wooly mammoth, looking at the ground.

"I really wish I didn't have to, man, I really do," said the great king of Mirrglbury with a pleading look in his eyes. "Because I don't really want to kill you."

The wooly mammoth looked up. "Then why do you have to?"

"Because if I don't then I'll never go down in history remembered as a great king of Mirrglbury, and then I lied to you about what I am, and I really don't like to lie."

"Oh," said the wooly mammoth. They were both silent for a moment. Then the wooly mammoth said, "I guess I see your point. Yeah, I guess you do have to. But you do know that if you try to kill me, then I'll have to fight back, right?"

"Yeah, I know."

"And I'm not going to be careful. I mean, it'll be a case of kill or be killed, you know? I really don't want to have to kill you, but I may not be able to help it, you know?"

"Yeah, yeah, I know," said the great king of Mirrglbury.

"But, you know, it's nothing personal, man. You're a really cool guy."

"Yeah, thanks. You too."

"Thanks, man."

There was another long silence.

"So, um... I guess we should get started, huh?" But the great king of Mirrglbury didn't look too eager to get started as he said this.

"Yeah, I guess so," said the wooly mammoth, but he didn't look very enthusiastic himself.

A long, long, very awkward silence. The two looked up and met each the other's eyes. Both seemed to be saying, Please think of a way for us to get out of doing this.

Then the great king of Mirrglbury sighed and drew his sword. "Well, I suppose we can't put it off, forever, huh? So, um... You know, man, like I said, really it's nothing personal. I like you. I'm very sorry that I have to kill you."

"Yeah, me too," said the wooly mammoth. "I'm sorry that I have to kill you, too."

"It was nice to meet you."

"Yeah, you too."

Silence.

And then, at last, at long, long, last, the glorious half-hearted battle began.
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