|FirstSearch picked his way through an area of thick ferns covering
the floor of the dense forest, while Conan and Reynard searched for any
sign of useful information.
"Step right up," called a voice from no where, "This site takes celebrity
watching right down to the pavement. You won't believe your eyes."
Conan pulled the horse up sharply, but saw no one. Reynard sniffed the
air and raised a puzzled eyebrow.
"You there, on the white horse," the voice assailed them, "this is the
only place you can see the actual carriage entrances to the castles, manors
and fiefs of the rich and famous."
This time Conan saw the source-a large grey boulder.
"Look at this one, for example," the rock said, "it is reputed to be
the path to the castle of William the Conqueror."
An image appeared on the flat surface of the rock. It showed a broad
path of gray stone blocked by a simple, black, wheeled gate, beyond which
a small grey guardhouse was visible.
"But it is just a path," Reynard said, "elegant in its simplicity perhaps,
but why would I want to look at a path?"
"No offense to the value of your site," Conan interrupted, "but can
you tell us the way to the Third Kingdom?"
"Kingdom? Of course. Everyone knows the Kingdom. It's just down there."
Following the rock's directions, they found another pagemaster in a
yellow booth topped by flagpoles from which a multitude of banners waved.
"Come see the Magical Kingdom," he shouted. "Ride the Carousel of Progress,
meet Captain EO, see the Main Street Electrical Parade. It is only through
our magic that these things are possible, for in the world outside the
Web, they exist no more."
Reynard had climbed from the saddlebag to sit in front of the pommel.
Now he looked at Conan's disappointed expression. "This is not the place,
is it?" he asked. Conan shook his head and started to ride off.
"Aren't you at least interested in the people mover?" the man called
after them, "Wait! I can get you extra "E" tickets!"
But Conan rode on until a familiar blue sign gave him hope. It was the
runic symbol of the reader. When they drew near, however, he saw that there
were no links leading from it.
The pagemaster was, nevertheless, very cheerful. "How many information
warriors does it take to slay a lightbulb?" he greeted them in a voice
with a sharp, nasal twang. Before they could speak, he answered his own
question. "None. Any one of them can capture the lightbulb, but it is the
patron who must ultimately slay it himself."
"Very amusing," Conan said, trying to smile despite the great age of
the joke, "but we seek directions or a link to the Third Kingdom."
"All my links are down at the moment, I fear," said the pagemaster,
chagrined, "but a group of women with large hair passed by this morning.
They spoke of going to see the King. It was just down there." He gave Conan
"What is a lightbulb?" Reynard asked, as they rode away. But Conan did
not answer, for already they could see the crowds waiting to see the King.
Conan left FirstSearch tethered to a tree and he and Reynard joined the
throng. They were ushered into a large, dark room. A light came on in front
and a figure appeared on a stage. He was larger than life, with a full
head of wavy, black hair and bushy sideburns. He wore a tight-fitting,
white suit with a high collar. At his appearance, the crowd went wild.
When he spoke into a silver ball on a stick, his voice seemed to boom from
all corners of the room.
"Thank yuh," he said in a deep, rich voice. "Thank uh vurry much."
© 1998, by Hadley V. Baxendale