Once upon a time, there was a rich _ whose everyday name (which, if written out in full would take a book in itself) was Jack. He lived far away from the capital of the kingdom in a large hillside manor, for he was known in the cities for being quite aloof, and not respectable in the slightest. He shared his manor with his ancient and slightly mad aunt, who was haunted by a very eventful and not remotely legal youth, and was wanted by the king for just about every possible crime on the sheet (the globe having not been invented yet). Jack used this to his gain, and offered his aunt safe haven, so long as she agreed to do the cleaning, and cooking, and repairing of the grounds, and the training of Jack’s myriad tiny dogs with barks higher in pitch than bat-squeaks.
It was to this life that Jack was returning after a day of browsing the wares of a prestigious merchant caravan that was renowned for their anomalistic trinkets from distant lands. It was with a satchelful of such trinkets that Jack trotted home, somewhat wary, for he had heard tell at the market of a dragon sighting not far from there. For several yards, perhaps, he trotted, until he was red and weary, for he was extremely overweight. From then on he walked, ever keeping watch of the sky thereabouts. But with his eyes glued so stickily to the sky, he failed to notice the small, mud-caked foot protruding from a cluster of bushes lining the road. Presently, he was flung into the ground, and cold mud sifted between his teeth like gritty pudding. And before he could even cry out, or gasp, or throw his hands around his head (all of which were Jack’s natural defense mechanism), they were upon him; a band of dirty, emaciated, orphaned, and quite threadbare urchins. Jack only saw that they were dirty. And this he noticed only because they were prodding and poking, shoving and slapping, and all around contaminating him with their despicable filth. In the midst of their wild dance, they began to sing:
We’ve caught a rich rat
Who looks so awfully round!
How does he move about, with a belly like that?
One of the urchins turned Jacks pockets inside out, then disappointedly sang:
Well, some rich rat this is, he hasn’t a pound!
Another of the vicious things stepped forward and added:
Not a pound as in coins, my fellow riff-raff
But oh! So many pounds when it comes to this mound!
And with that, he slapped Jack in his sizable paunch. A chorus of laughter followed.
“Eh, what do you want?” he squeaked.
“Everything you got!” they laughed in response.
One of the nasty little creatures got a hold of Jack’s satchel and flung it on the ground. Out of it spilled a cluster of beans, almost emerald in color, and enshrouded with faintly shimmering, pale green nimbi.
“What are these?” they jeered quite haughtily. “Is this all you rich folk can afford to eat these days?”
Another of the vermin began to stomp the beans into the soil, and all at once, the children were all stamping and shouting as they drove them into the earth. The song rang out:
You mischievous kiddies
You stop what you’re at!
Let our friend have his beans
‘Tis fitting food for a rat!
Down, down, into the ground
Deeper than deep, ’till there’s nothing but black!
Stomp and stamp and pound and pound!
He can eat filthy beans, and that’ll be that
Then he’ll know what it’s like to eek food from the ground!
As if on a queue to the last note, the beans burst into flames and began to burn tracts into the earth; tracts that grew ever larger as the beans ate into the soil. Soon, a large, black abyss glared up at them from its depths. Then they both heard and felt a rumbling drone coming from the heart of the darkness, and the urchins scattered like chaff in the wind, leaving a horror-struck Jack in the dust.
And out of the hole climbed an army of little men- waist level to most. They swarmed over the countryside, trampling Jack to death beneath their thousands of tiny feet. Like locusts before verdancy, the cave dwarves stripped the surrounding lands of all crops and vegetables, for they were stout vegans, and were always on the hunt for sustenance in their subterranean tunnels. By nightfall, the fields and vineyards were utterly desolate, and the land was plunged into a famine of unthinkable proportions. And in such a state it lingered for decades, waiting for some yet unsung hero to light the way…