Sitting at the throne of Santa Barbara Castle is a petite, short, young woman propping her head up with her elbow leaned against the arm of the chair. She has long, curly blonde hair just like all the other surfers here in the city, but a much smaller figure, as if she were a miniature version of the rest. But despite her small size, her presence looms large. Even slumped over, she boasts a a reach as wide as the throne room.
This is King Bodhi of Santa Barbara. The Lord of the Surf Clan and Protector of Extreme Sports.
And the curious but condescending look she throws my way is already putting me off balance to a certain extent.
I have never dealt with such an impressive ratio of size to intimidation from a human. From a beaver, perhaps, and maybe a dwarf when insulted about alcoholism stereotypes, but never from a fellow human being.
But King Bodhi... she strikes something within me. A sense of fearsomeness and exuding of power that I could only call nobility. Not a nobility by birth, but one of ruthless conquest.
I respect it.
“Well, well well,” the chirpy, high-pitched voice of King Bodhi begins. “So you’re the one who’s been injuring all my subjects.”
Delta and Francis, who are beside me, both look positively petrified. It might be the dozens of men surrounding the King who all have machine guns, but I like to think that they are in awe of this royal like me.
“Yes, I have dispatched with the foes who attempted to deceive and harm my friends and me,” I tell her, refusing to break eye contact, no matter how piercing her gaze may be. “I attempted to find you to contact you for assistance, and was immediately met with slurs like ‘shoobie’ and offenses such as wanton assaults on my well-being. It was not a pleasant experience, to say the least.”
She sighs. “We have discouraged our people as much as possible from using the term ‘shoobie’ to those who venture to Santa Barbara, but unfortunately the prejudices and xenophobia of our city will not be cured overnight. It may take some time. I wish to apologize for such a thing.”
“I accept your apology, and—”
“However, you were not kind of spirit or high of intelligence to have confronted my people in such an aggressive manner. Asking questions? Thinking you’re better than the locals? That’s the mark of... well, I have no other way to put it, but shoobie-ism. You’re a dirty shoobie.”
“What a dramatic reversal...”
“I have put many in the Old Government of Santa Barbara to the guillotine. I may put you three to the task as well. Your contempt of the locals is reminiscent of their contempt for anyone who they could not control. Their obsession with authority led to the oppression of the creative arts—skateboarding, graffiti, free running, improv documentary shoots, slam poetry, ska concerts—all the things that make our lifestyle here unique. Santa Barbaran Culture. They did not allow it like we wanted, and so we overthrew them and took them over. Now everything is better, and the only shoobies we get are the people who get stopped at the airport or train station.”
“I see... So we are essentially hostage tourists?”
“In a sense. But your freedom is much better here,” says King Bodhi. “The walls are open for spraypaint. The beaches are open at all hours. There is no law against filming people in public or private. Truly, there are no codified laws at all; I myself, King of Santa Barbara, dictate all final disputes.”
“The judge, jury, and prosecutor,” I mutter.
“You... you were close, but you got it wrong,” Francis also mutters. I have no idea what he is talking about.
“I must say, though,” I say, though I doubt I should. “You are a young woman, but your title is King. I wish to ask how such a thing came to pass.”
The guards and armed soldiers tense up at this and a few even move to the grips of their rifles. King Bodhi stands up and glares at me. “Queens are icky and gross,” she says. “Kings are the cool dudes. Which one would I pick in a situation like that?”
Francis unwisely chimes in. “Well, there are some gender neutral terms for ruler that—”
“Silence!” she chirps. “I should guillotine you for your insolence! Except that you’re, like, totally the best streamer in the world. Bac Nation!” Her ferocity dissipates in an instant.
Francis grows a grin from ear to ear. “Yep, that’s me. Francis Bacall, the awesome streamer who is becoming kinda rich and famous, especially after that sponsorship deal with Dollar Shave Club I’m getting soon. But it’s a secret so don’t tell anyone yet.”
King Bodhi puts a finger over her mouth. “Your secret’s safe with me. I’ll keep my word. And, since I’m quite fond of you, I won’t execute you.”
She looks at me again. “And you... Well, I would kill you for your awful pink hair, but I know that you three are quite the heroes, with what you accomplished in Paso Robles. You helped foster a revolution the likes of which California has not seen since Santa Barbara completed its takeover last year.”
“Yes. Hero is something you can describe all three of us with.”
“So then, what is it you truly wish to speak to me about, other than thanking me dearly for sparing your lives?”
“Well, I wish to request lodging, an opportunity to exchange for local currency, and leniency when it comes to our private affairs.” I poof out my bag from my inventory and take out the three bars of gold in my possession. “Will this do?”
King Bodhi’s eyes pop, but she remains standing and regal. “Y-yes, this will certainly do as far as finances go. And as far as lodging, you may stay here in the palace in our Executive Very Important Dude Suite, at no charge of course. You are our honored guests.”
“Oh, that sounds great! I would love—”
“Or, rather,” she interrupts, “You will be our honored guests if you, Eryk Solbourne, can prove your reputation correct by defeating one of my greatest challengers.”
“Defeat another surfer?” I ask. “Okay, sure.”
A few stomps later, and the ground starts shaking.
Out of a back room comes one of Santa Barbara’s greatest challengers...
A giant, bald, burly monster of a man.
He roars and punches his fists together.