|As the tremors of the hyperlink dissipated, Conan found himself on
a great open plain. Gone were the marvelous pyramid and the lush, verdant
valley. In their place, dry prairie grasses waved in the chill wind. FirstSearch
flared his nostrils and turned his ears in all directions before lowering
his head to sample the vegetation. Another horse whinnied and Conan saw
the Lip Paint Warrior had come through the link with him. The sun, though
low in the southern sky, still sparkled off her red sequins. The two horses
"A little different isn't it?" she said, turning her face from the wind.
"Down there is the real Mankato."
Below them was an ordinary town at the intersection of two rivers and
surrounded by harvested corn fields and brown prairie. The few trees in
the town wore the yellows and golds of autumn. The two companions turned
their horses and started down the road.
Colorful billboards trumpeted Mankato's Civic Center and parks. There
was information on bus routes and an explanation of the city flag, all
arranged with friendly drawings.
"This is the frontier of the 3d kingdom," the Lip Paint Warrior announced.
"You can tell by the increase in information value and corresponding decrease
in entertainment value."
Her grin was infectious and Conan smiled in spite of himself.
Just then, a freckle-faced girl with brown braids and a long gingham
dress appeared. "I know a place that is much more fun," she called, "Come
with me!" Then she disappeared into the golden glow of a hyperlink.
"Laura, wait!" the Lip Paint Warrior cried. She turned to Conan with
a mischievous gleam in her eye. "There are many ways through the Third
Kingdom," she said. "Come!" Before he could say anything, she had followed
the girl through the link.
With a muttered oath, Conan followed. He emerged from the link to find
more prairie, but also walnut trees in a grove and plum trees by the creek.
A house had been built into the bank of the creek and covered with sod.
"I've always loved this place," the Lip Paint Warrior confessed with
a wan smile as they watched pigtailed girls running along the creek bank.
Conan said nothing, but remembered with affection the wise woman with the
silver hair who had long ago taught him about the literature of children.
But there was no time to visit. They rode northeast and soon heard the
unmistakable yodel of a loon. They followed the sound to the high bluffs
above a wide river, where a domed building with a gilded statue of four
horses pulling a chariot identified a seat of government. There they found
many sites with much valuable information, all freely accessible. There
were decisions of the high courts of the province, offices of government,
forms for taxes, enactments of the legislative body. Conan felt an elation
he had not felt since his long journey began. At last he had truly found
the third kingdom. All that remained was to find the temple of knowledge
and return its AACR2, then his quest would be complete.
This happy reverie was brutally interrupted, however, at the next site.
There, pictured in the raiments of the Provincial Governor, was an enormous
man with bulging muscles and a shaved head. His square jaw was set in the
middle with an incongruous dimple, a moustache drooped slightly over an
"The gods mock us!" Conan cried in despair.
The Lip Paint Warrior rushed to his side. "What's wrong?"
"We have come full circle and returned to the lands of parody. That
is no noble of the realm," he said, pointing to the picture. "That is the
famous gladiator who fights under the name 'The Body.'"
The Lip Paint Warrior gave a musical laugh. "Yes, that is true," she
said. "He is also governor of this province."
© 1999, by Hadley V. Baxendale