For those who do not know of the UCPO Spoon of Glory, here is the story of its significance. Are you sitting comfortably? Then we shall begin.
Chapter 1: The rise of evil
When the world was young, it was populated by all manner of plastic cutlery. These unprepossessing knives, forks and spoons went about their business humbly, and in harmony with all other creatures. On the twenty-eighth day of the second month of the year of our lord two thousand and nine, that was to change forever.
The true and brave race of music makers, the UCPOites, also walked the earth in harmony with their fellow creatures, and with each other. Until the aforementioned night, when one particular UCPOite, Daniel of Wagnerian Hall fame, ruthlessly waylaid two innocent members of the plastic cutlery population and employed them in a fierce battle with his rival, the great and fair maiden: Sarah the Mighty Kendall. In her defence, the Mighty Kendall was obliged to similarly employ plastic artillery, and the ensuing skirmish was long and bitter.
Daniel, when it became apparent that he could not win this battle, called upon his evil wizardry to obtain unfair advantage. By way of a diabolical spell involving whistling the third Rachmaninov piano concerto, and attaching a dread piece of Powerful Plastic Material, he invested one spoon with the power to give whomever possesses it the strength of 100 UCPOites. By way of this unfair advantage, Daniel of Wagnerian Hall fame defeated the fair Mighty Kendall on that night.
Lo (and indeed woe), the UCPOites mourned this state of affairs, but, despite some brave souls attempting to possess such a powerful weapon for themselves, and temporarily succeeding, the evil Daniel marched triumphant from the battlefield with the Spoon of Glory in pocket. He claimed a far corner of the world for himself, and built a giant palace from gleaming brass, with a wide, round opening at one end to enable him to hear doings of the world.
The other peace-loving knives, forks and spoons were now under the thrall of the Spoon of Glory, and their daily lives became ones of drudgery and servitude. They dreamed of a time when the Spoon of Glory might be overthrown, and plotted secret plans to rise against their oppressor. Likewise, the other UCPOites desperately attempted to prise the Spoon of Glory from Daniel's clutches, knowing that the only way to destroy its fearsome power was to melt it down in the righteous fire of the great and wise deity, Robert of Nimmo, and that their true leader, and the deserving recipient of their love, was the Mighty Kendall.
From afar, sitting alone in his gleaming brass palace, Daniel was infuriated by the adoration that the Mighty Kendall excited from her followers, and vowed to find a way of deflating her (perceived) ego and of winning over the people. It came to him before very long: he would invite the UCPOites to his palace, enticing them with rivers of wine, and mountains of cheese. And many people came. The wine and cheese were the tastiest and most divine possible, but thanks to the Spoon of Glory, they bore an enchantment that turned those who consumed them into helpless minions, eager to do Daniel's evil bidding. In this way, Daniel amassed his own following, who learnt to dislike the Mighty Kendall, and to go forth through the world, causing havoc by converting more and more true Mighty Kendall followers into puppets like themselves.
Meanwhile, from her fair corner of the world, the Mighty Kendall watched sadly as Daniel gradually converted the UCPOites and made them love him. She knew that at heart Daniel wasn't truly bad; if only she could find a way to dispossess him of the Spoon of Glory and destroy it, the world would be to rights once again. So she sought an audience with the great and powerful Robert of Nimmo, and together they devised a way to gather an army sufficient to overthrow Daniel, and set free his minions. Their plan was epic, calling on the positive strengths of the UCPOites.
Chapter 2: Meeting evil head on
After weeks of intense activity and discussions, they were ready to implement this plan, on a morning that dawned bright and clear. The massive gates of the UCPO capital city swung slowly open on creaky hinges, and out poured an impossibly huge army. Row upon row of UCPOites appeared, all brandishing flutes that glinted in the sun. The other UCPOites could not believe how many there were, or understand from whence they came. They each carried an arsenal of plastic cutlery, also eager to contribute to Daniel's downfall. Behind the ranks of flute players were the UCPOites with specialist skills that would be put to use at different points of the conflict. The army also carried enough of the traditional UCPOite fuels of curry and beer to last them for a long journey.
For a day and a night they marched across the land towards Daniel's palace. The following morning, they received news that Daniel was anticipating their arrival: an advance party had discovered an opposing army in their path. So the UCPOites moved to the mouth of a wide valley, and prepared for battle.
The sea of flute players formed curved ranks, donned their armour, and waited fearfully for the appearance of the enemy.
They knew not what weapons would be employed against them or how they would fare. They were not to be kept waiting for long.
The other army appeared on the opposite side of the valley, and a hush descended. The UCPOites tried to see what horrors awaited them, but the distance was too great. Tentatively, they shuffled down a little way into the valley. Daniel's army did the same. The UCPOites shuffled again. Daniel's army shuffled again. At this distance, the UCPOites could see that the only weapons that the other army held were bows (of the kind that shoot arrows, rather than the kind used for playing stringed instruments), but there didn't seem to be any arrows. They carried bags, though, and as the UCPOites watched, they reached into their bags and each took something out and fitted it to their bow. One of the UCPOites giggled - at this range, without arrows, they were perfectly safe. The giggle spread until the whole army was laughing loudly. The other army resolutely raised their bows to fire, and the laughter continued until the first plastic knives and forks whizzed at great speed straight at the first ranks of UCPOites. There was shocked silence. How on earth had they travelled that far? They had no time to ponder this, as more sharpened plastic rained down on them. The armour was mostly effective, but there were some alarming injuries. The UCPO archers drew their bows, and fired their own cutlery back across the valley. It landed harmlessly less than halfway across. What they discovered, though, was that firing their own cutlery at the incoming missiles was surprisingly easy and very effective at stopping their trajectories. They could also reuse the incoming ammunition. So both sides continued in this manner until Daniel's army ran out of cutlery.
Silence fell again, as the UCPOites wondered what would happen next. The other army put their bows away and advanced decidedly down the hill. The UCPOites ran purposefully to meet them. As they got closer, they saw that their enemies appeared to be skipping gleefully. The UCPOites kept running uncertainly, but began to really falter when they saw that not only were the opposing army grinning widely, they also looked exactly like Daniel himself. Without time to even contemplate the full horror of such a diabolical cloning programme, they stopped running and began to back away slowly. Terror set in when the thousands of skipping Daniels opened their arms wide, and the UCPOites, screaming as one, retreated en masse. They couldn't all retreat fast enough, however, and hundreds of unfortunates were smothered by stifling hugs, the like of which have not been seen. The hug victims magically turned into Daniel clones themselves, and turned on their fellow UCPOites in a truly unnerving fashion.
Those flute-playing UCPOites lucky enough to have escaped re-formed their ranks, and drove a column through the oncoming army, dividing halfway through to form two additional columns out to the sides. This split the enemy in four, and the flute players enclosed the Daniels in four impenetrable circles. They ruthlessly raised their flutes to their lips, as one would aim a rifle, and began to play. The effect on the grinning, hugging Daniels was immediate. They all clapped their hands over their ears, and writhed in agony. A hideous and unpleasant-smelling green smoke appeared, hovering above the defeated army, as they shrank to the ground, screaming 'melting, melting!' before evaporating completely.
The UCPOites cheered in response, but did not hug each other. For they had had quite enough hugging that day. They held a small but moving burial service for the brave cutlery that had died for the cause, and for their fallen, hugged friends, and vowed to continue the fight until they could fight no longer.
After such a decisive win, the UCPOites celebrated in style that night, with much beer, wine, unhealthy snack foods, and at least one broken door. The next morning, after their hangovers had worn off, they packed up camp and continued on their way to the unholy Daniel's palace.
Chapter 3: Confronting evil in its lair
They covered a reasonable amount of ground that day, and set up camp again on the edge of a forest within half a day's march of their destination. It was a subdued group that sat around their campfires that night. They had naturally divided into their subject groups: there were the mathematicians, the compscis, the linguists (and armchair linguists), and on the outskirts of the camp, a small group of arts types, and an even smaller group of fierce and loyal boaties.
They were about to call it a night when a sweet and melodious sound filled the air. It was a hunting horn. The gladdened UCPOites turned towards the forest (for that was from whence the joyful music emanated) and saw a handsome fellow wearing a jolly hat scampering towards the mathematicians. They had heard their parents talk of Pedro Bombadil, but they had never been lucky enough to actually see him. Breathlessly they watched Pedro dance around the fire, singing a merry song that lifted their spirits and filled them with hope. When his song was finished, he gave a small bow, a cheeky wink, and scampered back into the forest as quickly as he had appeared from it, and while the UCPOites were very glad he had visited them, they felt his absence keenly the moment he was out of sight.
The UCPOites felt sure that this was a good omen, and took to their beds with light hearts and faint smiles. This mood prevailed the following morning as well, and the army set off with the sole purpose of divesting Daniel of his evil Spoon of Glory. On the way, they met small outposts of the enemy, but were able to reduce them to green smoke by playing a mass rendition of the second flute solo from the first movement of Dvorak 9.
Finally they could see the shiny brass of Daniel's abode and realised that they were nearing the end of their quest. The gates to the palace were built across a natural narrowing of rocky cliffs, and they marched up to them, ready for almost anything. Facing them was a considerable company of grinning clone-minions. The UCPOites formed a large arc and played the opening solo to Bolero. Nothing happened. The grinning minions grinned more widely and began to advance. The UCPOites were a little worried, but sent forward their crack team of soloists, who played the Peter and the Wolf solo at high speed, and at fff. The first few rows of the advancing clones swayed and toppled over, but the ones behind climbed over and continued to advance, stifling their first victims in giant hugs and hence multiplying their number. The UCPOites panicked in the face of these new and more resistant clones, and had no choice but to produce one of their secret weapons. One brave soul near the front of the army, Philosophicus Howitzer, carefully drew out from its case something small and black. The other UCPOites drew away in fear. And Philosophicus played his piccolo. At this kind of range, the results were catastrophic. The clones exploded loudly all over the place, leaving burn marks on the ground where each had stood. The UCPOites rejoiced, and turned their attention to the next challenge: how to get through the gates.
It wasn't long before UCPO's highly trained climbers, Simpatico and Stanleyknife, set about scaling the impossibly high gates. They did so in record time, to the sound of UCPO's cheers, and discovered nothing but burn marks on the other side, so made short work of unlocking and pushing open the gates to admit the many UCPOites who had made it this far.
They proceeded cautiously towards the gleaming palace with its odd wide, asymmetrical 'ear'. Piccolo at the ready, Philosophicus made sure that any stray clones were exploded almost as soon as they were spotted. They became aware that there was some kind of huge, hulking figure in front of the palace. As they approached, they could see it was sort of like a dragon, black with beautiful green hair under a purple crocheted cap. It had a long spiny tail. It regarded them placidly as they walked up to the palace, where they stopped. The creature continued to regard them, and so they attempted to walk past. They were met with a jet of water so plentiful and powerful that they were driven back a few hundred feet, and then met with a hysterical giggle. Having picked themselves up from the ground, the UCPOites looked closely at the dragon, who wore the same placid look, then looked around them in search of another source of the water and the giggle. They saw nothing.
The brave and strong boaties among the UCPOites formed a column, protected by tall shields. Slowly but surely they advanced again on the palace, keeping a close eye on the dragon. It wasn't until they were about twenty feet away that the dragon opened its mouth and belched out the same large volume of water. The boaties were helplessly swept back to join their friends and the same hysterical giggle followed them, this time clearly emanating from the dragon.
'That was so funny!' she chortled. 'Guten tag, ich bin Ameliata Wargrog.'
'May we get past please?' someone said. 'We have important business in the palace.'
'Of course not,' said Ameliata. 'I wouldn't be doing a very good job of guarding it if I let you past, would I?'
All she received in response was silence.
'But because I'm nice, I'll set you a riddle, and if you can solve it, I will allow you to pass unhindered.'
The UCPOites knew that they stood no chance of defeating Ameliata using force, and suspected some kind of trick, but essentially had nothing to lose from trying. That supreme council of UCPOites, the committee, conferred briefly, and decided to attempt the challenge.
The riddle was given as follows: 'Ein sehr großes Gewässer, das plötzlich sehr klein geworden ist, was ist das?' Many UCPOites simply stared blankly in response, but those who understood German thought quickly. Almost immediately, however, a voice called out boldly, 'Oh come on, that's easy!'
All eyes turned towards the speaker: a young UCPOite named Nikolaus, whose glorious red hair was much admired. 'The answer is "Ein Märchen"!'
A grunt of abject frustration escaped Ameliata. 'It is not easy! It took me at least five minutes to come up with that.'
She began to fire giant elastic bands at the army by levering them off the spines of her tail. The UCPO shields went up immediately, but the committee chair shouted, 'Are you going to keep your word and let us pass?'
Ameliata shouted back, 'Yes, but I'm not going to make it easy for you, am I?'
Amid cries of pain, the UCPOites scurried past, some of them brave enough to attempt to fire some of the elastic bands back at her. This enraged her more, and so was universally declared to be a Bad Plan.
Once everyone was inside, the UCPOites set to work. They were met by UCPO's brilliant spy-in-residence, Lizzie Loophole, who imparted some excellent intelligence to the invading army about the exact whereabouts of each of their targets. Once each team had set about their business, a large group made its way towards Daniel's private rooms to confront him.
At the heavy door to Daniel's rooms, Lizzie Loophole calmly underwent the triple security measures of voice recognition, fingerprinting and retina scan in order to admit the UCPOites. They soon overpowered the guards and found Daniel, sitting quite regally in a large chair, wearing white tie, and a surprised but unfazed look on his face. They could see the Spoon of Glory poking out of his breast pocket.
'Oh, so you've found me.'
'Yes, Daniel. Hand over the Spoon of Glory and we'll leave quietly,' said the chair.
Daniel smiled. 'Why would I want to do that?'
'Because your megalomania is ridiculous and it's time to wake up to yourself. Do you really think that your followers care about you at all? They are under a horrible spell. They should have the chance to make up their own minds.' As the chair spoke, a monkey wearing a diamond collar walked in with a gin and tonic on a silver tray.
'You are wrong,' said Daniel, 'and I shall not give up the Spoon for anyone.'
'Nor shall I,' said a voice from behind them. The UCPOites turned quickly to see another Daniel dressed in white tie, also with a Spoon of Glory in his breast pocket.
'Nor I,' said another identical Daniel lounging against the door frame.
Daniel accepted the drink and took a sip, regarding the UCPOites lazily over the rim of his glass. 'So what exactly are you going to do about it?'
At this point, the monkey butler was leaving the room, and a quick-thinking UCPOite seized it. The monkey butler proved to be quite strong, but was easily held with the help of someone else. Daniel stood up with open-mouthed indignation and said, 'Not the monkey butler! Have you any idea how long it took me to get one?'
'Then give us the spoon,' said the chair.
'How do you know which one is the real Spoon?' said the Daniel behind them.
Philosophicus muttered to himself, 'This will sort them out,' and let forth a piercing piccolo solo. The Daniels on the chair and at the back of the room promptly exploded, leaving the one in the doorway.
'Clever,' said the real Daniel. He spun around and walked away down the corridor.
Philosophicus and his team of piccolo specialists ran out of the room, quickly surrounding Daniel before he could escape through another doorway. Daniel reached out to administer the hug of death to the nearest UCPOite, but before he could do so, the ten piccolo players produced a high-pitched cluster chord of intense unpleasantness. Daniel blinked and swayed. After another ten seconds of this torture, he finally collapsed unconscious to the floor. Philosophicus proudly plucked the spoon from his pocket, and led the UCPOites back to the front of the palace. Once each team had been accounted for, they left with as much haste as possible, fending off a few more elastic bands, and exploding a few more clones on the way. Once outside the gates, they allowed themselves to celebrate, before making the journey back to UCPO capital city, where they were met with great praise and joy.
It was a subdued Daniel who regained consciousness a short while later. While he no longer had the spoon, or his monkey butler, his minions were still out there and multiplying, which made him smile gently. He went to make another gin and tonic and a snack to console himself with, but couldn't find any gin. So he decided on port and cheese instead. He could find neither. This is because a team of a hundred UCPOites had taken his entire collection of port, wine and Hendricks gin, and the anti-cheese squad of Calamidee and Rossiter Memsec, in their sealed suits, had gingerly removed his supply of cheese. Daniel howled in anguish. With increasing desperation, he turned to Bruckner, who could always make things better, but found that all his recordings had been confiscated. Another, more disconsolate howl. Looking feverishly for something comforting, he turned to the nearest computer, but found that his internet access had been disconnected and wireless capability had been blocked by the UCPO compscis. This was too much. He sank to his knees and cried.
Chapter 4: The fall of evil
Back in UCPO capital city, the Mighty Kendall was most pleased with the actions of her loyal UCPOites, and pondered what to now do with the spoon. She began by examining it, and found that it bore the following inscription:
One Spoon to rule them all
One Spoon to stir them
One Spoon to overthrow
and in the dark inter them.
Her sweet and pure nature was sickened at the existence of such evil. Her conclusion was simple: the spoon had to be destroyed. And she herself would leave the shores of her beloved land and trust the UCPOites to create their own destiny. She sent a message to Robert of Nimmo to let him know that the spoon would be beginning its journey to his hallowed halls the following day, and gathered the UCPOites to announce the plan.
'The Spoon of Glory must be destroyed in order to bring Daniel to his senses, and to remove the temptation for others to follow his example. To achieve this, I have selected two people to lead the long journey north to the abode of the great Robert of Nimmo, whose fire will rid our world of the spoon and its evil influence. A small group of UCPOites will accompany them for defensive purposes.' There was a murmur from the gathering.
'The people I have selected are Nikolaus the Brave, and Sam Baylissimo: they are people we can rely on, and who will require our support.'
Nikolaus looked around him quickly, but met nothing but the admiring glances of his fellow UCPOites.
'What? Me?!' He looked up with increasing panic at the Mighty Kendall. 'Why me?'
'Because you have proven your bravery and I have entrusted this important mission to you,' she said.
'But I don't want to go,' said Nikolaus. 'It's a crazy idea. I'm no hero.'
The Mighty Kendall smiled. 'Be that as it may, go you will.' She looked around her. 'Who here trusts Nikolaus to represent UCPO on this journey?'
Predictably, a large cheer rent the air. Nikolaus shoved his hands in his pockets and said, 'Yeah, great. Thanks everyone.'
'Are you willing to accept this responsibility, Sam?' asked the Mighty Kendall.
'Sure. Why not?'
'Then it is agreed. You will set off tomorrow.'
To be continued . . .
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