|Description||The tubular covering on the end of a shoe lace.|
Long, long ago, in a land far, far away, the residents grew tired of tying knots in the end of their rope shoelaces to keep them from fraying. Instead, they decided to crimp them inside special tubules made of metal, resin, or plastic. Thus was born the aglet, and when it arrived in Godville, heroines everywhere heralded it as a mystical artifact of supreme worth.
There is no exaggeration in saying that the advent of the aglet sent ripples through heroic society. Prior to its arrival, all heroic footwear was held on by hook-and-loop fasteners because the equipment merchants and armorers got tired of solving Gordian knots. Said armorers and merchants had run a diligent and charitable campaign to ensure every hero and heroine knew how to tie shoelaces prior to releasing a trial pair of combat boots, sometime around 35 b.g.e. To their great surprise, the potential customers had no difficulty in learning the skill, so the titans of enterprise took another unprecedented step by including a service agreement and several customization options with the boots.
The combat boots laced up to mid-shin, and came in tan, black, and orange, with a choice of standard, premium, or motto sole, and lacing options of twine or leather thong. Though the other options tempted many heroes and heroines, very few were willing to pay two extra gold coins for the leather lace upgrade. Predictably, this led to laces fraying at the ends and being tied into knots.
The thing about knots at the end of laces is that they will often interfere with the smooth tying and untying of other knots.
The problem seemed innocuous at the start. A heroine came back to the shop for help with her combat boots after a particularly fraught quest to adopt a stray thought. At one point, she'd had to retreat through the Blood-curdling Stream, the laces had become sodden, and when she went to untie them, they seized up when asked to pass the knotted ends. Only on the one boot, though, so she was walking around with one boot loose and causing blisters, and the other boot tight and still soaked because she had been too alarmed to try to take it off.
Honoring the service agreement, the armorer delicately sliced through the laces, dried the boots, and offered the heroine free replacement rope laces, or an upgrade to leather laces for a single gold coin for the pair. The heroine, already thinking about the two-for-one happy hour at The Glass Cannon, declined the upgrade.
That first heroine was not the only one to encounter this problem. Heroes and heroines began coming in with tangled and seized laces, first in ones and twos, later in baker's dozens. Always, the knots were stuck at the ends of the laces that were tied up to check fraying. And the champions that tended to travel further for their quests? They started tying additional granny knots below the seizes in order to tighten the boots back up.
But the problem was not yet in spate. Just as the merchants were beginning to notice that they were losing more money replacing rope laces than they ever would have made on the lace upgrades, heroes and heroines started returning from their epic quests.
Out in the field, a hero must do for himself and a heroine can rely on nobody else. Those on the most epic quests could not afford to drag their sorry tails all the way back to Godville just because their little shoelaces got tangled. No! That would not be the heroic way. The epic heroic answer to a seized shoelace was to haul it tight and tie a second knot to keep it there!
Inevitably, as the laces dried out, they began to snap under the strain. Or the eyelets in the combat boots stretched and tore out. This forced the heroes and heroines to find alternate ways of binding their combat boots to remain shod, and these solutions always seemed to involve more knots. Broken lace? Tie the ends together. One side of the boot flopping? Lash another loop of lace around it and anchor with a half-hitch to the opposite placket. Sock slipping down? Bind it to your ankle with the extra lace cord!.
Inevitably, the whole mess melded together into a single, cancreous mass. A Gordian knot.
The first merchant to see one of these formations locking a hero into his combat boot called his assistant out to see. The assistant called for the armorer to come help. The armorer called for the locksmith, because it seemed more in that bailiwick. The locksmith called for the city guard, because this had to be some sort of cruel and unusual punishment deliberately inflicted. The city guard called the fireman, because the knot did not respond to fire, water, or blade. The fireman finally freed the hero by slicing the boots from calf to heel.
The hero sued for a new pair of boots.
This happened enough times that a secret council of merchants and armorers met in the dead of night, desperate to make it stop. Their resolution? Replace everything with hook-and-loop fastenings. Combat boots got eight whole straps each. Happy feet got hook-and-loop straight around the ankle. Clod-hoppers? Call them t-strapped-hook-and-loop-hoppers. All of the zippers were retrofitted. All of the laces hung out to dry. All of the buckles caved to the reign of the hook-and-loop closures.
And heroines and heroes everywhere began to die in droves.
It's very difficult to make an adjustment to equipment unnoticed when each small change gets heralded by one or more "SHRIIIP!" noises. Monsters began to hone in on the sound, knowing that in that bush or behind that boulder was a hero or heroine with his or her pants down. But no matter the pleas and threats heroic customers made to their couturiers in pursuit of something silent, the words fell on deaf ears and hardened hearts. The armorers had learned their lesson never to offer a service agreement. The merchants had learned never to offer the kindness of selection. They knew that it would all get tangled if they did.
Over the days, months, and years, the martyrdom achievement filled and the survival pantheon emptied. The "Resurrect" button fatigued its spring and Death wore its tarsals to nubbins. All was despair.
Then, one day, that first heroine who limped back to town in her combat boots encountered the Trader With The Glass Counter.
Nobody knows who this Trader was, or where he came from. Some say that he was an angel sent by a benevolent deity to succor the heroes and heroines in their suffering. Others say he was a benighted foreign devil, sent to prevent mass exodus of Godville by an unhappy heroic populace that would overrun his own country. All anyone knows for sure is that he had the Glass Counter, and he has never been seen in Unspecifiedistan again.
"Wellllcome! Wellllcome, dahllling!" enthused the Trader With The Glass Counter as the heroine shuffled into his tent in her hook-and-looped oh wellingtons and a full lootsack. "Resssst your wearrry selllf amonnng the finnnest wares from arrround the worllld."
The heroine did seat herself on the barstool positioned helpfully in front of the Trader's Counter, and began drawing forth her goods to sell. When she'd sold off about 48 of her artifacts, she began falling into that most heroic pattern of staring at the counter, in preparation for the buying phase. Only, it was a Glass Counter. There was nothing to stare at, so instead she ended up staring through. And she caught her breath.
"What," she asked in a whisper, "are those?"
The Trader With The Glass Counter paused. "Ehr... what are what?"
"Those. Those!" she said more urgently. "On the ends of your laces!"
And the Trader With The Glass Counter looked down at his boots. They were magnificent boots, with embossed scrollwork in leafed gold around scarlet insets of buttersoft kid suede, and they laced all the way up his shins in an intricate reversed double-back pattern. The laces were the second-least impressive thing about them, only surpassed in insignificance by the "Aglets, dahling. Those are aglets. You know, so the laces go through the eyelets and don't fray?"
The heroine stared with a slack jaw for a moment, then looked the Trader straight in the eyes. She grabbed the combat boots she had never quite been able to part with from her pack and set them on the glass counter. "Do you have more? Could you put some on these?"
"Ehr..." The Trader With The Glass Counter picked up and looked at a combat boot to give himself time to think. "Ehr... yes. I can do that, yes. It will cost one--"
Knowing an excellent offer when he saw one, the Trader With The Glass Counter closed his shop-tent for two hours to teach the heroine the arts of crafting aglets both temporary and permanent. The heroine trimmed and curled and crimped and cellotaped until her fingers ached, but came away satisfied that she now had the most silent footwear of all of her peers.
When she finished her quest and strutted back into Godville, the whispers started. There was a heroine wearing combat boots. And they weren't stuck on! There was something special about them, something on the laces. What were those? What were they? They fixed everything!
The heroine built a small altar at the side of her temple's sanctuary, and on it she placed the tools and supplies she gathered for making aglets. Other heroes and heroines gradually filtered in, some in curiosity, some in reverence, some in dire need, and she taught them all. She taught them all, and a marvelous thing happened: heroes and heroines stopped dying!
Well, dying as frequently, that is.
They also stopped buying foot equipment from armorers and merchants. Profit margins dropped to nothing in a single week. The secret council of armorers and merchants held another emergency meeting. Their resolution this time? They had to start offering laces again. But! BUT! The heroes had to provide their own aglets, and there would be no service agreement or warranty of any kind!
In this way, the aglet became an item of supreme worth held in high esteem by heroes and heroines across Godville.
And that heroine? The one who brought aglets home? Her deity had made the dubious decision of naming her "Mama." So that is why, in Godville, it is not an insult to say, "Your Mama wears combat boots!"
Aglets are mostly used in Godville to finish off shoe laces. Occasionally, you will find them on corset laces, the ends of fishing hooks, or roadside shrines, but these uses are rare. Merchants buy aglets because their spouses and offspring use the darned things.
If using a spare shoelace to start a campfire, always remove the aglets first. They're more valuable than the lace, anyway.
- When selling an aglet, try to find a hero-trader. They hold them in high regard and will probably pay a better price.
- Do not try to sell an aglet that has been used as fishing bait. These artifacts have an unusual propensity for growing slime.
- Pet toothmarks are to be expected, and don't let the merchant tell you otherwise. Pets love chewing on footwear above all.
- Don't you dare say "Velcro." That's a trademarked term. We'll get slapped with a copyright and trademark dilution suit, and no Flawyer or Barbeerian will be able to save us.
- "Blend seamlessly with tangerine fields and marmalade skies!" --Brochure for combat boots, 30 b.g.e.
- It was one heck of a case of trench-foot in the making.
- Far, far, far afield, that is.
- Ah-ah! Don't try it! See footnote #1.
- I said "no!" See footnote #1.
- Seriously? Wash your mouth out with soap.
- Sometimes literally.
- This approximation of his accent ends here. You get the idea.