Welcome to my world!
Internet. You've found Tessa's blog. I don't know what you'll find
here, but I hope it's fun.
Why did I start my
blog now? Call it a “new month's resolution”. Or maybe in
honour of Hallowe'en.
midnight and I have to be halfway awake at work tomorrow, so I'll
sign off for now. But who can tell what will happen in the dramatic
adventures of our heroine in the coming weeks?
by princess-of-china at 00:32 on Nov
by taleteller at 08:12 on Nov 1st
by princess-of-china at 08:43 on Nov
by taleteller at 12:12 on Nov 1st
So... I've had a
blog for a day, but nothing has happened worth posting about. Life at
work is boring, but I'm certainly not going to rant about work here.
This should be a place for more exciting things.
by princess-of-china at 22:19 on Nov
We went to Ben's
birthday party tonight. It was quite good fun. He's 25 today, so we
took the opportunity to give him lots of “old geezer”
As you'd expect from
a party of Ben's, there was lots of booze: he'd filled a table with
bottles of tequila, Bailey's, and some beers. (I don't drink beer, so
I can't remember what those were.) He'd got Nathan to bring a bunch
of cocktail sausages, and Ben had made a cake with obscene
decorations on, just like he always does.
And there were some
people being dodgy off in a corner. Apparently one of the couples was
already a couple when they came, in which case I don't know why they
didn't just stay home and grope each other there. Maybe they decided
to drink lots of alcohol that other people brought. The others
weren't a couple, honest, so we're told – they just decided to
take their tops off and dance together. The rest of us tried to
In between the
raucousness (as well as general drinking and drunken singing),
though, Paula and I met some interesting people. There was a girl
called Catherine or something like that who earns her living making
board games. Quite an achievement. We spent ages talking about what
you need to create a game that's really playable – not
something I'd really thought about before. I haven't played many
board games since I was a kid, but there are apparently loads of
strategy games that adults get into, and this Catherine girl had got
two of hers published. She was only about my age, though – she
couldn't have been older than 26 – so she must have got into it
early. She was interesting to chat to, anyway.
There was a guy
called Stuart who seemed just the wrong side of arrogant. He did a
couple of really quite cool things, like spinning three plates at
once on his fingers, but I think he thought he was a bit too cool,
with his slicked-back hair and leather jacket and everything. Still,
he livened up the party. He did make some rather amusing jokes about
Paula's spiky haircut... some of them I even hadn't heard before.
Oh yeah, there was
also a gorgeous guy called Michael who I got chatting to, and I got
his email address. Score!
by princess-of-china at 02:23 on Nov
by taleteller at 02:44 on Nov 4th
So... I emailed
Michael. Hey, he's good looking and we chatted a bit at the party –
I don't need any more reason to email someone, right?
(Yes, he calls
himself Michael, even though everybody in the world would abbreviate
that to Mike. So he's strange. Maybe it makes him interesting.)
And he wrote back,
and suggested meeting up. Great news, right? Well, maybe. He said
that Ben's coming over to his on Sunday to play computer games, and
that me and Paula could come over as well if we wanted. Not exactly
my ideal date. But, well, it's a chance to get to know him better, so
what the heck. Maybe Ben and Paula won't be able to come...
by princess-of-china at 15:59 on Nov
by taleteller at 17:12 on Nov 4th
by lilcutie89 at 21:26 on Nov 4th
by taleteller at 23:04 on Nov 4th
Okay, he's a geek.
Hmm. That was
So, Paula and I went
over to Michael's flat, that he emailed us the address of. It wasn't
far – Paula suggested we could cycle, but I'm glad I drove the
two of us over there. It's blimmin' cold this time of year.
We came in, and Ben
was already there, and the two guys were playing on some games
console. They were fighting each other in some Kung Fu game. He told
us to help ourselves to anything we wanted from the fridge, so we
did, and took the opportunity to look around the place.
Not a bad flat –
two rooms and a kitchen. He's got it done up nicely – deep red
and purple paint on the walls, just like every kid wants to be able
to paint their bedroom. Only a few beer cans and just one dirty plate
on the floor. A couple of shelves of books, a couple I even
recognise. Lots and lots of video games, though.
When we got talking
to the guys once they'd dragged themselves away from beating each
other senseless, Michael said he's got about ten games consoles. Says
he gets the new Nintendo and Sony ones whenever they come out. He
plonked some grey sphere with lots of wires coming out of it in front
of the TV and told us it was the newest console... I can't say I'd
have recognised it, to be honest, but whatever. It did some fancy
swirly graphics when he turned it on.
Then the four of us
started playing this game together that involved rolling around this
platform inside giant hamster balls, and firing dolphins at one
another. Or something strange like that. I didn't quite follow the
plot, but it was quite a lot of fun.
After we'd played
that for a bit, he asked us what kind of games we'd like to play...
(Yes, that's right, afterwards. Go figure.)
Paula didn't have a
clue, so I asked if there were any with a kind of fantasy setting.
Michael exchanged a glance with Ben and they both laughed. (Humph.)
Then he said there were loads, and he gestured at the posters around
the room. I guess I hadn't quite taken them in, but there were quite
a number of posters scattered around the walls of his living room. He
went through a number of them, pointing at one and saying the
character's name and what game she's from, then the next one. I did
notice that almost all of them seemed to be female... It seems the
guy seriously likes his video game character ladies. In quite a few
cases they were quite implausibly curvy as well, but there were a
number of more sensibly proportioned girls as well, which is good
news for those of us with a less voluptuous figure.
Not all the posters
were girls... there were a few dragons and airships and things. There
was one with a whole group of characters. I only noticed it because
Ben pointed at it and said, “Hey, you know that game's come out
Michael's eyes went
so wide, it was comical. “Really? Cool!”
I've got it on order.” Ben sounded rather smug about that. He's
good at sounding smug.
I hadn't even heard it was released yet.”
you're not on the internet, are you? You're a bit cut off, mate.”
That puzzled me, so
I asked Michael, “Not on the internet? But I sent you an email,
and you replied...”
He laughed and said,
“I got a friend to set me up some autoforward or something. It
goes to my mobile phone.” He waved his mobile phone around...
it looked fancy and modern, sufficiently so that he could probably
connect to the internet just from that phone if he wanted.
So then we got
talking a bit more about fantasy-themed games, and he said they exist
in every different genre I could think of. Puzzle game, fighting
story, adventure, and loads more. I perked up at the mention of
adventures, because as you all know, I quite like the odd fantasy
adventure story in book form, so I thought I'd like to see what a
game in that style would be.
Michael said, “The
problem with playing an adventure story with you guys is that
generally, they take hours and hours to play through. So you'd be
welcome to play the first hour or two today, but you'd kinda have to
come over a few more times to get through to the end. You'd be
welcome to do that too, of course, but... It's up to you.”
How do I interpret a
comment like that?? Does it mean he fancies one of us?
by princess-of-china at 20:52 on Nov
by taleteller at 20:59 on Nov 5th
by lilcutie89 at 23:12 on Nov 5th
Nothing much to say today...
Monday back at the
store's still boring. I decided to email Michael about going over to
play some of those games of his. Nothing ventured, nothing gained,
by princess-of-china at 20:01 on Nov
by bringiton at 20:38 on Nov 6th
by taleteller at 20:58 on Nov 6th
by bringiton at 22:41 on Nov 6th
by taleteller at 18:32 on Nov 7th
by bringiton at 23:05 on Nov 7th
A good night
Tonight was lots of
fun. Paula and I enjoyed trying some new cocktails at Jaunty Jerry's.
And on top of that, Michael emailed back and said it'd be great to
have us over to play games together on Saturday. Hear that? Not just
“fine”, but “great”! Heehee, he wants to meet
by taleteller at 23:14 on Nov 9th
by princess-of-china at 00:42 on Nov
I think I'd been
looking forward to this afternoon a bit too much. You know how your
imagination builds up a mental image of somewhere you're going to go
or something you're going to do, and you start picturing all these
different ways it could go, each better than the last? Well, I think
I let my imagination go a bit rampant. In my defence, the store was
deathly dull on Thursday and Friday, so I had to think of something I
was looking forward to. But still... I think I might have imagined
myself sitting next to Michael, gaily laughing and effortlessly
guiding some character around on screen while he did the same, in an
elaborate virtual dance, and our eyes meeting. Or something strange
In fact, we just
went over and Ben brought over this new Ultimate Dream game. And we
spent two or three hours playing it, and then Michael had to go out,
so we all left and I drove Paula home. It was fun and all, but
nothing particularly special.
Still, this game was
interesting. I haven't really seen anything like it before. It starts
off in a pretty stereotypical fantasy world, with some spiky-haired
bloke getting kicked out of his peasant village and wandering around
with a big sword. Pretty quickly he finds two or three girls in
different circumstances who end up travelling around with him,
principally because it's convenient to the plot, as far as I could
tell. One of them is some wussy cleric girl who's all shy and
soft-spoken, and won't attack anybody, but casts healing spells when
they get attacked by random goblins and things. Naturally, her robes
are white and she's got long flowing hair.
next one is a sorceress who was about to get in serious trouble with
the law in this little village – she seemed to be having a
serious slagging-off match with a guard in armour, and his captain
walked around the corner and was starting shouting – except
then the main bloke walked up and defused the situation. Sorceress,
check; fiery temper, check; excessively revealing mage's robes,
check; pendant inlaid with some magical gem, check; and she even had
red hair. It's like someone went out for putting all the fantasy
clichés together. I seriously hope she acquires some more
personality beyond a quick temper, and not just some family trauma to
explain it all.
So anyway, when the
main character (his name's Varyn or something like that) meets the
first girl, a second player can pick up the next control pad and
start controlling this girl as the two of them walk around. Then the
third member of the party lets a third player join in the havoc. It's
a bit hard to co-ordinate walking in the same direction, but quite
good fun working together in the combats and things.
All of a sudden, the
party started finding villages burned down to the ground, starting
with Varyn's hometown. (Oh, the angst!) Seems there's a dragon going
around terrorising the countryside. Naturally, our plucky
protagonists volunteered to rid the land of the beast. But it seems
to tame a dragon takes the power of a mysterious crystal called a
Heartstone. And so off we set, in search of the mystical stone which
will ease all the world's ills.
Except that we had
to leave the story there, because Michael had to go out, as I said.
So you may never know the fate of the brave adventurers seeking to
save their world.
by princess-of-china at 21:52 on Nov
by taleteller at 22:41 on Nov 11th
by princess-of-china at 23:02 on Nov
Looks like the
gaming sessions are going to become a regular occurrence. I emailed
Michael again on Monday (yesterday), and we went over tonight. He
said as we were heading off that we could make it a regular thing,
every Tuesday and Saturday. Paula and I were both up for it –
it's quite good fun.
Ultimate Dream did a
little fourth-wall-breaking today. Varyn and the party had a meeting
with the King of the nation of Elysia, in a big fairytale castle with
turrets and a drawbridge and everything. It's funny: the way the RPG
works makes it that you want to go around talking to everyone in the
castle before talking to the person who you're actually there to
see... and so we went traipsing around the kitchens, the dungeons,
and the soldiers' barracks before finally going into the throne room
to talk to the King who'd sent us the urgent summons. Cause that's
what every adventurer who's been summoned by the King would do,
The reason for all
that is that occasionally, there'll be items lying on tables or in
treasure chests or something, that'd be useful to the characters on
their adventure. And it seems the characters are total kleptomaniacs.
Seriously, anything that isn't bolted down, they'll happily nick,
without the slightest comment on the morality of doing so.
This was a bit
interesting, actually, because I commented on that and Paula agreed,
and Michael seemed a bit surprised. He asked us if we'd ever taken
soap or books from people we'd visited. I think I was a bit indignant
as I replied “Of course not!”
Paula, to be fair,
did point out that we'll happily pinch pens from work and things like
that, which was true. (If unhelpful when trying to take the moral
high ground.) But I wouldn't nick stuff from friends, or from shops,
both of which Michael admitted freely to doing, as if he didn't see
anything wrong with it. A bit surprising.
Aaanyway, as I was
saying before I went off on a tangent from the tangent... The game
did a nice little fourth-wall-breaking moment, when we eventually
walked in to see the King. He was all “ancient evil has awoken”
and “Varyn, you are the Chosen One of Destiny” and stuff
like that – this was all facing Varyn, mostly, occasionally
looking at Terena or Alleria (the cleric and the fire sorceress). And
then he turned to look slightly upwards, which happened to be
straight at the camera, and said “And these adventurers will
also need the help of you gods beyond our realm.”
It was quite nice,
quite subtly done. I like it when a story just fractionally breaks
the fourth wall, so you wouldn't even notice unless you were paying
attention. Don't you agree, o reader?
by princess-of-china at 23:57 on Nov
by taleteller at 00:17 on Nov 15th
by princess-of-china at 00:42 on Nov
something definitely strange going on.
Paula and I went
over to Michael's like last week. We carried on playing through
Ultimate Dream. Varyn had to go to this ancient ruined tower to
retreive a magical artifact from it, blah de blah de blah. Usual
generic fantasy fare. While the party were leaving the palace, they
got robbed by a street thief, and so we went off on a side quest to
track this guy down and get our stuff back.
(It was actually
quite important, because one of the things in the bag that was stolen
was our collection of Phoenix Feathers. You use them when one of the
characters dies in combat, and it makes them not actually die. So
obviously, any sensible party keeps a huge stock of the things,
because you really don't want to lose one of your party permanently.
(And no, the mechanics of how it works obviously aren't explained.
It's a magical feather, that you wave over a character's body in
combat. And then they rise from the dead. And the feather gets used
up. Yeah, right. I can see that potions and bombs would get used up
when you use them, but... Aaanyway.))
So we tracked the
thief to his hidden lair, fought our way through a rather large
number of bandits willing to selflessly sacrifice themselves, and
caught the guy as he was trying to escape. The party got their stuff
back, and Varyn mentioned that they were heading on to the tower to
get this gemstone. Yeah, it's a magical gemstone, off in a tower of
an abandoned ruin. Never heard that one before, have we? So this
thief looked up intently at Varyn and said he wants to come with
them, because he's been wanting to go to this tower for years because
of all the treasures strewn around it, but it's too dangerous.
So to cut a long
story short, we've got a fourth character on the party, this thief
called Maitland. Except that Alleria turned her nose up in disdain at
the prospect of letting a thief join, and said that if Varyn let
Maitland come with them, she'd stay behind. Personally, I think this
was because the battle screen and character display is obviously laid
out to show three characters on the party... but you have to overlook
these little plot conveniences.
Michael was quite
pleased – he gave his wide grin and said he likes playing thief
or rogue characters. So I took over playing Terena and passed him the
controller for Maitland. (Paula's got Varyn and she won't let go of
him. She likes being in the driving seat.)
So we went off to
this ruin, and fought our way up to the highest tower, and then down
to the lowest dungeon. Turns out Maitland's got some rather nice
sneak attack techniques and can steal items from enemies... he's
quite handy to have on the party. Terena's personality's a bit wimpy,
but her healing spells are invaluable, whereas we don't miss
Alleria's attack magic too much with Varyn's sword skills levelling
up and Maitland's new attack moves.
We wondered whether
we should save the game after we beat the dungeon boss and got the
gemstone, as it was getting a bit late, but Michael wanted to head
back and see what the King said. So we trekked back across the
wilderness to the city (there's only one city, everywhere else is
little villages) and made our way back into the palace.
We had to persuade
the King's Chancellor that we needed to talk to him. The Chancellor
is a thin, nasty man who is blatantly evil, even if Varyn and the
others can't see it. But when Varyn told him they'd spoken to the
King before, he gave a thin-lipped frown and stepped aside.
So the King went
through the script about “you've retrieved one of the mystical
Heartstones, you just need two more” (never saw that one coming
either). Then he said to Varyn, “You have been truly blessed.
The gods have guided you well.” And he looked out of the screen
again and said, “Thank you, Paula.”
Paula jumped a bit.
Michael and I just laughed – either at the concept of the world
having a god called Paula, or because Paula thought it was talking
Then the King said,
“And Michael and Tessa too. Your guidance has been invaluable.”
I swear, we all
looked round at one another as if we'd seen a ghost.
The old geezer on
the screen continued, “Won't you continue to guide this quest
to save the world of Elysia?”
decided to get into the mood of things, so she said, “Of course
She pressed the
“advance speech” button on the controller, and the game
just carried on as normal with the King briefing Varyn on the ancient
underwater temple that they need to head for next. (He addressed a
couple of lines to the rogue, Maitland – something like “your
inner nobility belies your reputation”. Naturally, Maitland
just snorted and shook his head.)
I think all of us
were a little spooked. We decided to save the game there and call it
a night. (The fact that it had gone 9pm and we were all really hungry
might have had something to do with that as well.) So we said goodbye
until Tuesday, and I drove Paula back to hers then came home to
finally eat something.
It seems a bit less
freaky now that I've written it down. I guess Ben or someone must
have entered in our names when we started the game. It's a good way
to get people immersed in the story, I guess, if only it weren't so
blimmin' clichéd all the time.
by bringiton at 23:50 on Nov 18th
by taleteller at 23:57 on Nov 18th
by bringiton at 01:03 on Nov 19th
by princess-of-china at 02:19 on Nov
by bringiton at 11:12 on Nov 19th
My mind is strange
Heh. Looks like I
was so into the game yesterday that last night, I had a strange dream
about it :)
In the dream,
Michael, Paula and I were adventuring round the land of Elysia. I
think we pretty much picked up where we left the game yesterday: the
party were leaving the royal city to go look for a wizard who can
give us some “underwater breathing” spells. Except
instead of Maitland, Michael was there, wearing Maitland's clothes
and carrying Maitland's equipment and everything. Likewise, I was in
the place of Terena, in her cleric's robes, and Paula was in Varyn's
outfit. She looked very chuffed at having this big sword to swing
around - and she actually had the strength to swing it, too.
First we went to the
chemist in the royal city to buy health potions and Phoenix Feathers
and things. Michael was the one with the cash, and after we'd paid he
commented, “Right, we've only got about 10 gold pieces left.
Guess there's no weapon upgrades for us right now.”
So we set off across
the wilderness to head for the coastal village where this water
wizard lives. And en route we got attacked by monsters, just like
always happens in the game whenever you have to cross the wilderness.
It was so scary!
They were lizardmen, a type of monster that I recognised from the
game, and I knew they weren't too tough; but seeing them running out
of the undergrowth at us, screaming and gurgling, was really a bit
disconcerting. Paula reacted fastest, and just drew her sword and
charged towards the monsters. Michael and I were a little more taken
aback, and Paula had already got in one hit by the time we got there.
One of the scariest
bits was seeing the effect of the monsters' attacks. The resolution
of the game's graphics isn't quite good enough to show wounds from
enemy attacks; but this dream didn't have such problems. The beast
put a huge scrape in Paula's shoulder, with a vicious-looking
scimitar, and she started bleeding. I'm afraid I had a bit of a
girlish reaction – I screamed.
didn't get distracted like that. His eyes just blazed in anger at the
creatures, and he rushed at them. That's one of Maitland's skills,
which Michael obviously picked up from being in Maitland's place: a
run-and-slash attack with his poisoned daggers. He was faster than
any of the lizardmen, who seemed to be mostly concentrating on Paula
Finally I got my act
together and figured Paula needed healing, since that's part of what
Terena's best at. I didn't quite know how to cast the spell, I just
knew that Terena had a <Cure2> spell and I wanted to cast it.
So I kinda pushed my hands in the direction of Paula and
concentrated, and it just came naturally... the white and blue energy
started flowing, and I said some words that I don't understand, and
the gash in her shoulder just suddenly healed up.
It only took another
attack or two by Paula and Michael to kill the things. We all just
looked around at one another and spent at least a minute catching our
breath. Then I cast <Cure2> again at Michael, to heal the worst
of his wounds. I could feel some kind of strength running out of me
as I did so – I guess that would have been me using up my magic
points. Casting that spell twice would use about a third of Terena's
MP in the game at the moment, so that would be what it is. It was
quite funny to feel it in the dream, though.
picking the dead lizardmen up and turning them over. I asked him what
on earth he was doing – it looked quite disgusting. One of the
things was literally chopped in two. But Michael just answered
matter-of-factly, “Looking for what treasure they might have.”
It had never really
hit me before, but it's true that in the game, when you kill some
monsters, you get money as well as experience points. That must mean
that the party loot the bodies of the enemies. It's quite gross –
I really hadn't realised.
Anyway, the others
cleaned up their weapons and we set off again. I don't know about
them, but I was feeling really shaken. But onwards we trekked.
I don't remember
much more before I woke up. Isn't my brain strange?
by bringiton at 11:19 on Nov 19th
by lilcutie89 at 12:43 on Nov 19th
by princess-of-china at 12:45 on Nov
by taleteller at 18:05 on Nov 19th
Another Elysian dream
This is getting
really odd. I've never been the kind of person who has dreams in the
world of any fiction I see, and I've never had a recurring dream
before. But last night, there I was, back in Elysia playing the role
I suppose it wasn't
quite a recurring dream per se, because it carried on right where the
last one had left off: the party were travelling through the
wilderness, just arriving at the village where we hoped to find some
underwater breathing spells.
We got to the
village without any more combats. Paula (still dressed in Varyn's
clothing – it looks so odd!) walked up to the first villager we
saw, standing by the village gate, and called to him straight
out, “Greetings! Do you know where the wizard Vrathia lives?”
But the villager didn't really answer the question, he just smiled at
us all and said “Welcome to Haniton!”
sideways at us, raised an eyebrow, and said, “Thank you. Do you
know where the wizard Vrathia lives?”
The bumpkin looked
blankly at us, paused a little, and said again, “Welcome to
Paula's reaction was
just... entertaining. She narrowed her eyes, walked right up in front
of the guy, and took him by the scruff of his tunic. “Look
you,” she growled, “we're looking for the wizard Vrathia.
We'd feel a lot more welcome to Haniton if you'd just tell us whether
you know where he lives or not.”
I was trying to
stifle a gasp, somewhere in between shock and laughter. The
villager's eyes darted from side to side and he whispered something
like, “Look, I'm not meant to tell you that! I'm just meant to
welcome you!” When Paula glared at him, he babbled, “It's
easy enough to find! None of us are allowed to tell you where it is,
but it's really obvious!”
At this point
Michael was looking concerned, and he called out, “Paula, let
the guy go. I'm sure we can find the place ourselves.”
She relented, and
let him go. He gasped a little. Trying to pacify things, I smiled at
him and said, “Thank you.”
He looked at me
apologetically, glanced nervously at Paula, and then said helplessly,
“Welcome to Haniton...” Then he put back on the same
fixed smile and went over to stand by the gate. He might have been
So we wandered on
round the village of Haniton, to which we'd been so emphatically
welcomed. There were a couple of kids chasing one another around the
village green... I wasn't going to try to talk to them, but Michael
said he reckoned it was worth a shot, and so he bent over to talk to
one of them and said, “Hello!”
The boy pointed at
the girl and said plaintively, “She stole my fish!”
I couldn't help
laughing at that. But Michael just smiled at the kid – the boy
can't have been older than eight – and said, “Oh dear!
What's your name?”
um...” The kid seemed to have been about to answer, but trailed
off. Valiantly soldiering on, Michael said, “Could you get
The boy seemed to be
having a sudden attack of shyness, and just looked at him for a
moment. Then he pointed at the girl (now over the far side of the
green) and repeated, “She stole my fish!” And off he ran,
chasing the girl again.
Things were getting
a bit eerie by this point. We just walked on through the village, not
stopping to talk to anyone else, looking for someplace that looked
like a wizard would live there. Haniton is a coastal settlement, and
we'd been able to see the sea as we approached; now we just made our
way straight through to the beach. Sure enough, there were two or
three houses there, and one of them looked vaguely more magical than
the other... In that it had a sign above the door with a picture of a
potion on it. There wasn't much else to distinguish between them, so
that was all we had to go on. Paula was wanting to just barge in, but
at my urging, she knocked at the door. An old man's voice cried
tremulously, “Come in!” So in we went.
The door opened
straight into one big main room. There was an open fire burning in
the far wall, giving the place a warm homely feeling. Most of the
rest of the walls were either oak panelled or covered with
floor-to-ceiling bookshelves. There was a small dining table in one
half of the room, and a few chairs and a desk in the other. Sitting
at the desk was a guy who had to be the Wizard Vrathia. He had grey
hair and an old lined face. He wasn't wearing wizard's robes, but he
was dressed in a fancy blue and green shirt of some kind to go with
his deep blue trousers. He turned his chair away from the desk to
face us, and said, “Good day to you. How can I help you?”
forward unhesitatingly and said, “Are you the wizard Vrathia?”
The old man nodded
once and said, “I am.”
Paula smiled at
Michael and me, and then continued, “We've been sent from the
King. We're on a quest to reach the Atlantean City. We understand you
could provide us with some water-breathing spells to go there?”
“Well, now, is
that true,” mused the old mage. “Old Balshazzar sent you
here, did he?”
At our blank looks
he clarified testily, “The King.”
Paula looked like
she was stifling a giggle as she agreed, “Yes, the King sent us
“And what are
you seeking in the Atlantean City?”
“We need to
retreive the Heartstone of Water. We've already obtained the
Heartstone of Earth,” she added proudly.
The wizard ruminated
for a little, while we stood there waiting. In the end he said,
“Well, Balshazzar knows what he's doing. I can make the spells
you need, yes.”
The three of us
turned to one another and grinned broadly. Then Vrathia added,
“But... I will need you to fetch me some ingredients.”
really, really should have seen that one coming.
So, off we traipsed
along the coast, to find a little bay where some rare crabs breed. We
made our way there easily enough, and had to scramble down the
clifflike rock front to get to the water. Once we were down there –
surprise, surprise! – we had to fight the crabs.
They were huge! I
mean, I guess on screen they'd be pretty much normal size, the way
things look in the in-game graphics. But when we actually had to
attack them ourselves... They were literally two feet long or more.
And they scuttled damn quickly. One of them got me on the shins –
it hurt like anything, a really nasty graze. I had to smash its shell
with my staff. Paula dispatched a couple with Varyn's huge sword, and
Michael did some nifty move that ended up in him chopping all the
legs off the last one, letting him finish it off at his leisure.
Before we left we
had a look around the rest of the bay. There were a few caves,
half-full of water... We decided to have a little fun exploring. At
the back of this cave was an old wooden box, and in there was a suit
of chain mail armour – hauberk and leggings. Pretty random. In
another remarkable coincidence, it was exactly the right size for
Varyn – or rather, for Paula. I asked her, “Do you want
to put this on now? You may as well – it'll give more
protection than those leathers you've got on at the moment.”
She agreed and
started taking off her trousers. Suddenly I realised that Michael was
just standing there watching... with a rather dirty grin on his face,
I might add. He was practically drooling. I may have been a bit
snappier than necessary when I told him, “Turn round! You can't
just watch a lady changing clothes!”
So while Paula took
off Varyn's leather vest and trousers, I divided my time between
watching her and making sure that Michael wasn't peeking. It did
strike me that this is Michael whose room is covered in posters of
female video game stars. Now that Ultimate Dream's main character
Varyn has been replaced with the rather curvier Paula, is he going to
start fantasising over her all the time? I don't like that!
Anyway, after Paula
had dressed in the chain mail (somehow she just knew how to put it
on... I wouldn't have a clue), we picked up as much of the crab
carcasses as we could carry (they were blimmin' big things,
remember), and lugged them back to Vrathia.
The wizard nodded in
approval, and said, “All right. I'll get to work on these,
making up some potions for you. You can have a walk around the
village for a bit if you want, and come back when they're done.”
this point, Michael's eyes lit up in comprehension. He nodded to
Vrathia, said “Thank you”, and dragged Paula and me
outside. “Right, I know how this kind of event goes,” he
said. “We have to find something in the village to do that'll
trigger him to finish the spells for us. Just waiting around won't do
it. Every game has something like this.”
“So we have to
go round talking to those creepy people again?” That was Paula.
so. Just let me handle it,” he said confidently. We kinda fell
into step behind him.
It's funny, the
village literally only had about six houses. They were each built of
wood, and most of them had only one room inside when we made our way
in. Michael led us into each of the houses in turn – not
bothering to knock, just like Paula earlier. Nobody seemed to mind,
though. He went round talking to the inhabitants, and then he'd go
picking stuff up off their tables or out of their wardrobes! I mean,
I knew he nicked stuff occasionally, but this was really quite
blatant. And the people didn't seem to mind... even when he'd peer
into their pots and pull out a healing potion or something. (What is
it with pots in this place? Everybody seems to have pots in or around
their house... Anyway...)
Most disturbing of
all was the way that all the people in the houses only had about one
or two things to say, and if we talked to them again, they'd just end
up repeating themselves. Like, one of them ranted about the way he
hadn't been able to catch many fish recently, due to a sea monster
eating them all. Paula asked him what he'd been doing instead, but he
just looked at her funny and said the exact same thing again. Michael
just urged us to walk away (after scanning the guy's table for
anything we could take). I realised as we were walking around that
the guy at the gate did exactly the same, too.
One guy we talked to
was telling us about his son, Mac, who'd gone fishing and got lost at
sea a few days ago. He begged us to go look for him (so I guess we
know he wasn't really lost at sea). And he gave us this whistle that
he said would always make the boy's dog come running.
When we left that
house, Michael said, “That was probably the event we needed to
trigger. Let's go back and see Vrathia.” Paula and I, unnerved
by the people who'd repeat the same things over and over, happily
Sure enough, the
wizard welcomed us in, saying, “Good timing, young adventurers.
I've just finished your potions.” He handed them over and said,
“I guess you'd better go speak to Barlin the sailor. He'll
probably let you use one of his ships.”
I wasn't quite ready to leave just yet. “Before we go, sir,”
I asked in a rush, “is there something wrong with the people of
Haniton? They all seem to only say the same things over and over
again.” I wasn't sure what the others would think of me asking
that, but Paula at least seemed just as curious about it.
just looked at us speculatively for several seconds. “You
really aren't the normal kind of visitors, are you?” he said
rhetorically, stroking his beard. We just stood there watching him,
waiting for an answer. At length he said, “The people are fine.
As for the question behind your question... You should seek out the
Wizards' Academy. The sages there are the people to answer your
concerns.” We looked at each other for a few moments, wondering
what to make of this, until Vrathia clapped his hands and said
briskly, “Now... I believe you have a sunken City to find.”
So like good little
plot-obeying bunnies, we walked along the seafront looking for a
sailor. We got as far as the edge of town, and had to turn round and
walk back the other way... But that wasn't very far, given that it
only has six buildings in it. Once we'd walked back past Vrathia's
house, it was quite obvious where the sailor had to live. The house
had a little wooden sign with a picture of a ship on it.
The sailor took
remarkably little persuasion – it seems the name of the King
works wonders in little villages like these. (Doesn't anybody ever
pretend to be on a mission from the King and then just steal a boat
or something?) Helpfully, he also answered a question that we didn't
quite ask, and told us how to find the Atlantean City.
And so in no time,
we were sailing off into the bay, looking for a sea monster and/or
the entrance to the Atlantean City...
And then I woke up.
by varynfan at 11:25 on Nov 20th
by princess-of-china at 12:02 on Nov
by bringiton at 12:34 on Nov 20th
by princess-of-china at 12:39 on Nov
by bringiton at 12:57 on Nov 20th
Not the kind of gaming evening we'd
Ha, I guess that
title sounds really intriguing and exciting. It was a bit
Paula and I went
over to Michael's like we always do on Tuesdays. After chatting a bit
we went straight to load our game from Ultimate Dream...
And the savegame
We were all totally
dismayed. We tried a few things like pulling out the memory card and
putting it back in, and so on, and none of it worked. We were all
But then we were
talking about it, and we described the place in the game we'd been
at. And then I said, “And, well, I would be really wanting to
see what happened next, except...” I trailed off, looked at
Paula and giggled slightly.
Michael got this
intent look in his eyes and said, “Except? Except what?”
I wasn't sure what
to tell him. But Paula saved me the trouble by saying, “Michael,
you have to promise not to tell anyone what we're about to tell you.”
(I don't know why she said that given I've already described it on my
blog, but whatever.)
Anyway, he just
looked at her and said, “...You haven't been having dreams
where we're going through the adventure in the place of the
characters, have you?”
It was Paula's and
my turn to be surprised. Paula spoke first, going “Yes, that's
precisely it! Both of us have! How did you know?”
And then it just hit
me and I said, “Of course, Michael has too. Haven't you?”
right,” he said. “But I just thought they were normal
dreams – well, normal isn't exactly the right word... But I
thought it was just a dream. But... Hang on. In your dreams, did we
go to a village and meet Vrathia and get sent to capture some crabs?”
that!” I exclaimed.
“You mean when
I decided to go around talking to the different villagers because he
was preparing our potions... you saw that?”
“And the way
that you just swiped stuff off their tables,” Paula added with
a giggle. “Is that the way you nick stuff from friends?”
He actually had the
decency to look a bit embarrassed at that point. “No, of course
not!” he replied, a little red-faced. Then his face acquired
his trademark rogueish grin as he continued, “That's just what
you do in RPGs. We did it in the King's palace last time we met up to
play this, remember? Walking around the kitchen and barracks and
things, picking up anything that wasn't nailed down? That's just what
you do in games.”
fair enough, I suppose,” I admitted grudgingly. Glancing at
Paula I added, “We were rather glad of your experience of the
way those places work. It was creepy seeing the townsfolk just
repeating the same words over and over.”
freaky!!” Paula interjected. (I'm pretty sure she pronounced
the double exclamation mark.) “I mean... I know that that's
what they do in the game, but...”
it was a bit disconcerting seeing them face-to-face, as it were,”
Michael said. “Still, we're on our way to the Atlantean City,
which should be quite fun.”
Paula exclaimed incredulously. “Our dreams are being... taken
over by this gameworld, and you think it's fun?”
Michael just looked
puzzled. “Well... yeah,” he replied, as if it was
obvious. “It's the same events that we'd see if we were playing
the game. We're just getting to experience them up close and
personal. I imagine that when virtual reality consoles get good
enough, people will pay lots of money to get what we're getting for
I nodded slowly. He
does have a point.
Paula asked somewhat
plaintively, “But how is it happening?”
Michael and I
exchanged glances and said pretty much simultaneously, “I have
We all sat there for
a minute or two. Eventually I said, “So... shall we play
another game for the moment, then?”
And we did.
by princess-of-china at 23:47 on Nov 20th
by varynfan at 03:45 on Nov 21st
by bringiton at 19:18 on Nov 21st
An update from Elysia, as requested
Actually, it's not
much to do with varynfan's post requesting the update... we seem to
be having these dreams most nights now, and there's not much we can
do about it!
As soon as I was
back to sleep, I was back on the boat, heading for the place where we
knew the Atlantean City was. Pretty quickly we arrived at the spot,
according to Barlin. But he begged us not to leave just yet, because
he was scared of the sea monster that had been terrorising the
fishing lanes recently.
It didn't take long
sitting there before the boat started rocking and being buffeted
around, even though the wind was quite calm. Then the boat received a
couple of fierce bumps.
We had been
wondering if we'd find a sea monster, and sure enough, out of the
water rose this huge serpent. Well, I say huge – it was much
bigger than any snake I've ever seen in real life, but it was small
enough that we had some chance of tackling it. So, naturally, that's
just what Paula did: whipped out Varyn's huge sword and took an
almighty swing at the thing. And she missed. She very nearly chopped
a significant hole in the boat!
I tried to think
what I'd make Terena do if this were a combat in the game... I
figured it'd be worth casting the <Bless> spell on Paula and
Michael, so that's what I did. Again, I don't know quite how I knew
how to do it, but it just worked. I wonder what it'll be like when
the character levels up and I learn a new spell?
thankfully, was focused entirely on attacking the three of us. If it
had tried to smash the boat itself, we'd have been doomed in no time.
As it was, we took some serious beatings, but managed to chop enough
holes in the creature that eventually it suddenly collapsed. It was a
total on/off thing, it went straight from trying to bite our arms off
to falling down dead.
swinging her sword around and going, “Hey, I think I'm getting
the hang of this.”
Michael seemed to be
appreciating the way her chest swung around with the sword a bit too
much, so I decided it was time to remind them what we'd come here
for... And so we took our water-breathing potions and dived over the
edge of the boat.
it's really hard to breathe water. Even if you know you're able to,
the body has all sorts of reflexes that kick in to make you try to
choke. I flailed about for at least a couple of minutes before I
could convince my lungs that actually, they could extract oxygen from
the water – I kept splashing back up to the surface and gasping
for breath. I think I might have nightmares about that. (If I ever
have any other dreams!)
I'd eventually just about got the hang of breathing underwater, I
looked around and saw the others just about swimming capably. Meeting
one another's eyes, we started trying to swim downwards, looking out
for anything that looked like an Atlantean City. It's not easy,
swimming straight down, actually – it's quite exhausting. Your
body keeps wanting to straighten out.
we headed downwards, the sea got darker and darker. This was a factor
I hadn't considered. It started getting really quite hard to make out
anything more than a few feet away. But we could make out some dark
shapes emerging out of the murk, which resolved into shadowy
buildings... more and more of them.
As we approached, I
was wondering how we'd know which buildings to investigate. I didn't
relish the idea of searching through endless deserted ruins for one
specific stone. Then I spotted a faint glow through the murk, which
turned out to come from the entrance to a particularly large and
imposing temple-like building. I turned to check the others were
following me, and called out to them.
Then I heard my own
voice in my ears, and remembered I was totally immersed in seawater.
Wow, it sounds really strange to hear yourself talk underwater. But
Michael and Alleria did turn towards me. I gestured towards the
light. Michael squinted, and called to Paula in turn. Everyone's
reactions were delayed by the water, and so they seemed to be moving
in slow motion as they turned towards me. But eventually we were all
together and heading for the one source of light in the murk.
closer, and found that it seemed the corridor extended deep into the
temple complex. And it was illuminated by ghostly blue light. I
couldn't tell where that was coming from; maybe the walls and floors
themselves were glowing. Anyway, this was pretty clearly the place to
go, and so into the depths we swam.
passage opened out into another temple court, but this one had two
routes out of it. The walls were made of huge chunks of stone, like
an Egyptian pyramid or something, and the pillars had stone faces
carved into them that made me think of some South American tribe or
something. Paula swam slowly past me, looked down each of the two
passages, and gestured left then right, shrugging her shoulders. None
of us knew which way to choose, so we randomly chose to go left, and
set off exploring our aquatic environment. To my surprise, pretty
quickly we ascended a sunken staircase that wasn't completely sunken:
there was some air trapped at the top of it. We emerged from the
unexpected surface splashing and spluttering. “For some reason
I'd been thinking there wouldn't be any air down here,”
commented Michael, in between hacking and spitting out water onto the
damp flagstones of the staircase.
won't interfere with our water breathing spell, will it?” Paula
coming up for air? I wouldn't think so. Vrathia said the effect would
last for a day or more,” I replied. “But even if we can
stay down here for a day if we want, I don't want to be down here any
longer than necessary. Shall we press on?”
exploring, making faster progress now that we could actually walk,
rather than having to swim. In not-particularly-surprising fashion,
we got attacked by some amphibious creatures, and had a few combats
as we made our way through this dungeon.
I kept catching
sight of Michael's face as we were fighting... He looks so focused,
on keeping us safe. His hair frames his face so well, and he's got a
great profile. Ohhh... I really, really like him. I ought to act on
Ahem, anyway. The
Atlantean City had some pretty funky puzzles. There were some
chambers that were flooded with water, and we had to pull levers to
drain them; there were others that were drained and we had to pull
levels to flood them. And sometimes the levers were only accessible
if another place was flooded... you get the idea. Fun stuff. (If not
particularly architecturally plausible... I mean, it's reasonable
that the ancients could build sections of their temples that would
channel water into or out of them if levers were pulled... but why
would they bother? The temple wasn't even underwater when it was
built. And making some sections floodable doesn't seem to achieve
much except making it a pleasing challenge to get to the far end. But
one of these puzzles, we found ourselves on a balcony along the top
of a big chamber. Far below us we saw a stone floor, and sitting on
it, a boy and a dog! “That must be Mac!” whispered Paula,
and then without waiting for a reply from us, she called out in a
resounding voice, “Hey, Mac!”
sound bounced and echoed around the chamber, and gained an immediate
response from the kid, although he didn't seem to be able to tell
where the sound was calling from. That was easily dealt with: Paula
cried out again, “Up here! We've come to rescue you!”
we can't get to him from here,” I said urgently in a low voice.
unfazed, she called again, “We don't quite know how we're going
to get to you yet. So wait a little. But we'll get there!”
spotting us, and demonstrating for the first time any sense of
comprehension or indeed sentience, the boy shouted, “Okay!”
followed the balcony around, and found another puzzle-room, where we
could only reach the next section if a pit in front of us were
flooded. Except the lever to activate that was nowhere to be seen...
until Michael spotted a lever several floors below us. We puzzled
over this for a while, until eventually Paula had an idea: “Hey,
we could get Mac to come and push the lever for us!”
“But isn't he,
you know, trapped?”
said Paula airily, “there's a ledge just below his platform
that he could jump to if he knew it was there. Come on, let's go tell
I let myself be
swept away by Paula's exuberant decisiveness. It seems Michael was
getting to know Paula a bit better, as he exchanged a helpless grin
with me and mutely followed Paula.
Her idea worked like
a charm: once we'd communicated to Mac what we needed him to do, he
was happy to help. Next there were some levers we could reach that
affected the region he and his dog were stuck in. Then there were
some rooms where Mac had to go one way and we had to call his dog
along a different path... lucky we'd been given that whistle by the
guy in Haniton, eh?
So we made our way
through the watery maze, and eventually met up with Mac and his dog.
The kid had seemed so scared and depressed when we met him; now he
seemed full of beans and blazing with energy. When we had the next
combat with a bunch of crab-people, he was terrified, and ran and hid
until it was all over. But mostly, he seemed a good kid, although not
wasn't too long after that that we arrived at the Boss Chamber. You
could tell that was what it was by the ornate passageway on the
approach, the imposing doors at the entrance, and the sparkling
magical field beside the doors... once we figured out that this patch
of sparkles was in fact a save point :) The air inside it seemed to
be charged with magical energy, but it didn't seem to do very much. I
don't know what I was hoping for... a big grey menu to appear in the
air in front of us listing the contents of some memory card? That
would be somewhat unlikely. Anyway, it seemed that saving the game
was something you only get to do when you're playing the game. When
you're living it, you have to win first time.
So we took deep
breaths, and opened the door. The room beyond was mostly flooded,
with a few platforms of stone jutting out of the pool at different
heights. No creature was immediately visible – it was only when
all of us were through the door and standing looking around warily
that the doors rumbled shut, and a huge octopus-like thing emerged
from the pool. First came a tentacle, sliding up the side of the pool
and onto the platform next to us. Then another tentacle poked into
the air and waved around, showing us some evil-looking suckers,
before landing on another platform further away. Then finally a
rounded head slowly surfaced, turned around, and faced us.
For several seconds,
nobody spoke. Then a watery gurgle emanated from the octopus
creature, which resolved itself into words: “Vvvaryn. Iiiii
ammm the Guaarrrrdiann of Waaaterr. Leeeeaavvve thhhe Waaaterrr
mister Guardian,” chirped Paula nonchalantly. “We came
here for the Heartstone of Water, and we aren't leaving till we get
onllly brinng dessstruuuctionnn upoonn youursellllf,” bubbled
that's what the last guy said. Everything's been fine so far,”
she replied cockily.
prrrepaaarre youuurselllves,” came the gurgle in response. And
suddenly a tentacle shot out of the water and wrapped around the
child, who shrieked in shock and fright.
Paula cried out. Michael leapt to follow Mac,
drawing his daggers and slashing at the tentacle in one fluid
movement. (He looked so cool and dynamic when he moved.) The
squid-thing let out a roar of pain and released the boy, who fell
into the water and splashed about, shouting “Help! I can't
jumped into the pool and swam a few strokes to where he was
floundering, put one arm around him and swam to the nearest solid
footing. Then I turned to the Guardian and gave it such a glare.
“Pick on the kid, would you?”
At that moment I
felt so much like just bashing the thing in any way I could, so I
just swung at it with my staff. I missed horribly: it was far too far
away. I could only stand there and fume.
Luckily, the others
hadn't been just idling while I rescued our charge. Paula had been
swimming to one of the platforms closer to the monster, and now she
was hacking and slashing at a tentacle that was attacking her.
initially nowhere to be seen. As I watched, he surfaced on the far
side of the Guardian, swimming with his daggers. I realised he'd been
attacking the creature underwater – a clever idea. I decided to
give it a try myself, and jumped into the slow-motion world under the
surface... except it turns out that when your movements are forced
into slow-motion by the drag of water, a staff really isn't an
effective weapon. And when I resurfaced, the tentacle had grabbed Mac
I resigned myself to
playing a support role yet again, and spent the rest of the combat
defending Mac, casting <Bless> on the others, and <Cure2>
when necessary. Paula and Michael got the job done, though.
Eventually the Guardian, defeated, fell into the pool. “Yyyouu
brrringg only doooooommm,” it warned liquidly. With that, the
octopus gurgled its last.
Suddenly, the walls
and ceiling started shaking. I looked up, started. The rumbling was
increasing, and dust and small fragments of stone started falling
from the ceiling.
“What? How did
killing that thing make this place collapse?” asked Paula
replied in an ironic tone, “It must have been a load-bearing
boss!” He continued more seriously, “Quick, we don't have
much time. Give Mac and his dog water-breathing potions, and I'll get
the Heartstone!” Without waiting for an answer he dived
smoothly into the pool towards the Guardian's corpse, where I could
see something faintly shining through the water.
hurried to extract the potions from her pack. By the time she'd
poured some down Mac's throat and got him to open his dog's mouth,
the rumbling was making conversation impossible, big chunks of stone
tile were falling past us from above, and water was streaming through
several holes in the walls and ceiling already.
and dodged a lump of masonry aimed at his head. “Got it!”
he exclaimed, waving a glowing blue orb in the rapidly disappearing
air. “Is everybody ready?” he asked urgently. We all
nodded. With a grimace he said, “Then I guess we wait until we
can swim out of here.”
take a look outside?” asked Paula, pulling at the firmly closed
doors through which we'd entered. “Hmm,” she frowned, as
they seemed stuck. She gave a big yank, and the door flew open...
with a sudden huge gush of water immediately following.
And then it was just
a long swim up from the depths, to find our sailor friend and start
sailing back to Haniton... Before we woke up.
by princess-of-china at 10:54 on Nov 21st
by varynfan at 14:19 on Nov 21st
by taleteller at 18:54 on Nov 21st
A strange interview
Back in Elysia
again. We travelled back from Haniton across the wilderness to the
Royal City. There were two more combats – one with a bunch of
strange green slimy things (they were quite easy to beat), and one
with some bandits. That was a real gulp-in-the-throat moment, as we
had to suddenly fight to the death with these figures who really
looked completely human. They were coming for us, and so I guess it
was self-defence, but still... We killed people today. That's not
something to easily take on board.
weren't easily beaten, either. There were only two of them, but one
of them gave me a huge whack with this horrible club with spikes in,
that probably broke my arm. Paula and even Michael had seemed a bit
reticent until that point, but when I screamed and clutched my
forearm, that seemed to shock them into action. I had to use <Cure2>
on myself and <Cure> on each of the others afterwards. That was
quite a strange feeling, actually, channeling magic into myself, and
feeling the agony drain away as the spell tingled and healed me.
Anyway, we made it
back to the Royal City (and why doesn't that place have a better
name?). We stocked up on potions and Phoenix Feathers at the item
shop on the outskirts, and then went straight to the Palace. We were
met by a distinctly creepy courtier, who looked like the Hunchback of
Notre Dame. Literally, he had the hunch, the stoop, the misshapen
head with uneven eyes, the works. Thankfully we didn't have to spend
long with him, but he did escort us to see the Chancellor even though
we asked to see the King.
greeted us slimily and was very inquisitive of how our quest had
gone. (His outfit is so ridiculous, with that big floppy hood and the
sticky-out shoulder pads. It looks even sillier when you see it up
close.) Paula seemed a bit too willing to divulge all the details to
him, so I butted in (perhaps a bit rudely) to request that we see the
King. The Chancellor frowned, but ushered us in to the throne room.
The King wasn't busy
(funny that), and he was delighted to see us. “Do come in,
Varyn, Terena, Maitland.” When we got up in front of his
throne, he seemed to do a double-take, and then he caught each of our
eye in turn and gave us a broad grin. I didn't quite get what he was
meaning at that point. All he said out loud was, “Goodness me,
Varyn, that new armour suits you. Your figure was completely hidden
by the outfit you were wearing at our last meeting.”
blushed as we all realised that this was the first time we'd seen the
King in the flesh, as it were, and so last time he'd seen us Varyn
was a spiky-haired, rugged teenage boy, rather than a spiky-haired
and definitely female adult.
the King continued, “how went your expedition to the Atlantean
Paula reached into
her pack and brandished the Heartstone of Water. “Successfully,
my liege!” she proclaimed proudly. “And we freed a
trapped boy and his dog as well.”
I definitely saw an
amused smile flicker across the King's face at that. “Excellent.
Then you must head for Doom Mountain to retreive the final part, the
Heartstone of Fire.”
At this point the
Chancellor interrupted. “Sire, might I suggest the adventurers
leave their two Heartstones here for safekeeping while they make the
perilous trek to Doom Mountain?”
The King looked
around sharply at that. He peered at the Chancellor with what looked
like a suspicious expression for a moment, then said, “Chancellor
Binkley, you overstep your mark. All things in good time.”
Then he turned his
attention back to us. “There is a legend which tells of a stone
gate in the face of Doom Mountain, which can only be opened by the
bearer of an opaline pendant shaped in the likeness of a wyrm. Within
the mountain there is said to be a cave of fire, and it is in the
mountain's heart where the Heartstone of Fire has lain for centuries.
You must make your way north-west, through the Kamichika Pass, to
Doom Mountain. But you should be sure to have one with you who bears
the legendary pendant.”
Are all Kings this
credulous of ancient legends?
Still, it was our
best shot, so we took his advice and thanked him. Before we left, he
proclaimed a blessing over us – something like “May you
know the inward guidance of gods from beyond our realm.” The
phrasing echoed what he'd said in the game, last time we saw him,
when he said our real names. I got the distinct impression that his
“inward guidance” turn of phrase was no accident.
Once we were safely
out of the palace, Paula and I cracked up laughing. “Binkley!
The evil Chancellor is called Binkley! Hahahahaha!”
Once we were done
with our giggles, we started brainstorming where we might find
someone with this wyrm-shaped pendant. Problem is, the only notable
pendant we've seen so far belonged to that sorceress Alleria, and she
didn't want to be on the party with Maitland. I wonder if she'll be
persuadable now that Maitland is Michael?
princess-of-china at 12:02 on Nov 22nd
take-me-to-elysia at 14:13 on Nov 22nd
by varynfan at
17:09 on Nov 22nd
at 17:56 on Nov 22nd
by taleteller at
19:02 on Nov 22nd
take-me-to-elysia at 22:48 on Nov 22nd
by taleteller at
23:37 on Nov 22nd
Reunion with a sorceress
We tracked down
Alleria to the fancy inn where she'd been staying. She acted all
snubbed when we asked her to join the party again, but Paula and I
wheedled and flattered and persuaded her to come with us. The fact
that the King had specifically mentioned her pendant and its magical
powers helped quite a bit.
I did actually get
the feeling that she'd been expecting us to come back. She looked
closely at Paula when we first turned up – of course, she's
another one who last time she saw the party, Varyn was still Varyn.
And of course, she added her usual condition that if we wanted her to
travel with us, Maitland had to stay behind.
We'd planned for
this. Michael had agreed that he'd act all hurt for a little bit and
then go away, shadow us for a while, and then rejoin the group when
we were some way out of the city. He played his role admirably, and
Paula hardly needed to do any further persuasion to get her to agree.
Alleria disappeared back into the inn to fetch her things, and before
we knew it, we were off.
We set off along the
road towards the Kamichika Pass. It was several hours' walk away, but
the dream sort of sped through most of it. (Except the combat, of
course... We had to fight some more lizardmen on one occasion.
Alleria's fire spells made quick work of them in combination with
Paula's sword.) I do remember looking around and not being able to
see Michael. It wasn't until we could see the Kamichika Gate in the
distance that Michael snuck up on us... I guess Alleria must have not
looked around, and obviously Paula and I weren't going to say
anything when we could tell that the figure closing on us from behind
was our friend. He jogged right up beside us and said, “Good
afternoon, ladies. May I join you?”
Paula smirked and
grinned at him. Alleria looked positively outraged. “What are
you doing here, Maitland?! You were meant to stay behind in the Royal
City! We can't all go to Doom Mountain together!”
relaxedly, “My dear sorceress, why would that be? Seems to me
that the more, the merrier...”
Alleria still looked
most put out. “I, I, I won't stand for this trickery! I shall
return to the Royal City at once!”
do that, milady. We need you with us. And we want you with us as
well,” I appealed.
Michael added, “If
you like, I can stay hidden. I'm a rogue, see? That's what I do. I
snuck up on you, I can sneak up on dozy guards.”
Her expression went from affront to objection, and on to bemusement.
“And the rest of you are okay with this?” she asked,
seemingly as a last resort.
Paula and I nodded.
Alleria shook her head and said, “...Very well, then, let's
travel on as a four.” She looked around at the three of us and
said, “You really aren't the normal kind of adventurers, are
The three of us just
grinned again. We had our sorceress and her opaline wyrm pendant; and
we'd proved that the three-character limit on the party wasn't an
absolute hard and fast rule.
* * *
We had one more
combat en route: as we travelled through the foothills, some bandits
sprang out of practically nowhere and attacked. Once again I had to
steel myself to fighting to the death with humans, or dreamworld
semblances thereof that were indistinguishable from real ones.
Alleria did comment to me in a low voice afterwards that she hated
the fights with humans, and always had to wrestle with herself to
cast the attack spells on them. It was a rare moment of vulnerability
from the normally confident and imperious lady.
We quickly reached
Yamakiri, the little village that had formed just below the Kamichika
Gate. The terrain was pretty mountainous and the air was bracing, but
the locals didn't seem to mind. An old guy was relaxing by a small
fountain, and there were a few buildings scattered around. We took
the opportunity to restock – by some amazing coincidence, there
happened to be an item shop and indeed a weapon shop and an armour
shop amongst the total of about eight structures in front of the
we emerged, there was a loud conversation going on in the village
square. An outlandishly-dressed man was exclaiming, “In that
case, does anyone know how to get into the temple inside the
The four of us
exchanged significant looks.
We didn't have to
say anything; he looked around, and when he spotted us coming out of
the shop, he lost all interest in the middle-aged man he'd been
talking to and strode up to us. Taking off his wide-brimmed hat and
giving us a sweeping bow, he said, “Good day, fair ladies. An
exceedingly good one, that my presence might be graced by three
ladies as beautiful and intriguing as yourselves. Do I take it that
you too are travellers, passing through this place?”
How do you reply to
someone who greets you like that? Paula – as both party leader
and the most outspoken of us all – was the first to try. “Many
thanks for your graceful – er, gracious welcome, good sir. We
are indeed merely visiting this settlement briefly. I am, um...”
She paused for a moment as she tried to decide how to introduce
herself, and seemed to settle on “Varyn, a travelling
swords...woman. These are Terena, a skilled cleric, and Alleria, a
noble sorceress.” Michael had slipped into the background.
Paula added, “And you are?”
“I am Randall,
a knight and paladin of the Elysian Court. Currently I have been
trying to help the people of Yamakiri to retrieve the platinum Staff
of Eldership, formerly used by the mayor to hold office and inspire
fealty. But it seems to have been lost in the depths of the caverns
of Doom Mountain, and the entrance is obstructed by an ancient gate,
(A likely story. How
on earth would some platinum stick get stuck inside a volcano?? But
then, I suppose our quest for a legendary Heartstone of Fire is no
So at this point, I
confess the guy's style was a bit charming, but it was slightly
starting to grate. I was thinking that we ought to just tell him no
and be on our way. But Paula piped up, “What a fortuitous
coincidence! We have in our possession the magic item needed to open
that very gate, for our objective too is within the depths of the
mountain. We can solve both our missions simultaneously.”
Simultaneously? Where'd you learn words like that, girl??)
Anyway, I just about
stopped myself from slapping my forehead with my palm. Alleria looked
similarly dischuffed. Paula just looked around at us with an innocent
Sir Randall appeared
somewhat taken aback with Paula's announcement –
understandably, I suppose. But recovering quickly, he gave us another
standing bow with a flourish, and replied, “With the greatest
of happiness would I join your expedition.”
shall we be on our way?” Paula asked us. Still a little fazed,
Alleria and I just agreed. I did catch Michael's eye as he blended in
with the small crowd that had formed to watch the flamboyant Sir
Randall; Michael nodded in the general direction of the Gate and
So it was as a
different group of four that we progressed through the forbidding
Kamichika Pass and on the final trek towards Doom Mountain. Ignoring
the descent towards forest and plains below, we followed a rocky path
that just climbed and climbed, rising steadily towards the face of
Doom Mountain itself.
...And that's where
I woke up this morning. I'm quite looking forward to seeing what
happens next time :)
And I really must
start writing these posts a little earlier and actually make it to
work on time...
by princess-of-china at 12:19 on Nov 23rd
by take-me-to-elysia at 13:08 on Nov 23rd
by varynfan at 17:09 on Nov 23rd
A world of flame and fury
narration rejoins our heroines as they approach the foreboding face
of Doom Mountain. The rocky path petering out into a rugged climb, we
pressed on. Michael had rejoined us shortly after we left Yamakiri,
and he met with disapproving looks from Sir Randall, but there wasn't
much he could do.
The rockface was
populated by a few oversized lizardy creatures, which meant –
yes, you guessed it! – more combats. Sir Randall has a fencing
sword, something like a rapier, and although it looks pretty silly,
he was actually pretty good with it. I continued to feel a bit
unnecessary during the fighting – I felt like I was strictly in
a support role, that could be played just as well by a few health
potions – but I kept trying not to let it bug me.
we stood before a vast stone gate. You could almost miss it, it was
so large and looked like it was – how do they say it? –
“hewn from the very rock itself”. But there were Ancient
Carvings™ in it, and it was basically shaped like two huge
double doors in the shape of a big arch.
eyes seemed to be glowing as she looked at it. She muttered something
that sounded like “This is of my ancestors...” as she
approached the gate, holding out a hand to touch it. We all clustered
around the centre where the two doors met, as the carvings seemed
focused around a certain point there. There was a dragon-shaped
indentation about the size of a hand right at the point where all the
Our eyes went to
Alleria, and she reached for her pendant. Sure enough, it had already
started to glow. She took the mystical relic and placed it into the
socket, where it fit perfectly, and immediately a deep rumbling
started. You could just tell that a background theme song indicating
Deep Significance would have been playing if we'd been watching this
on a screen. But any deficiency in the atmosphere caused by lack of
musical accompaniment was more than made up for by physically
standing at the base of these thirty-foot-high doors as they
shuddered apart sideways while the ground literally trembled beneath
(Looking back on it
now, I am forced to wonder where the hidden recess was in the side of
the mountain into which the doors slid? It's pretty fortunate that
the mountainside hadn't been eroded to expose the hole to the
elements. It'd suck for an ancient race to build some magical sliding
doors, and then when they get opened by the Adventurers of Destiny,
have the doors jam because they got stuck on a fallen boulder.)
Still, at the time,
the effect was quite awe-inspiring. The passage revealed was lit by
an ominous red glow coming from the walls. But what else could we do?
We walked into it.
At first, the
tunnels were formed of granite, with glowing red-and-yellow cracks
running through the walls and ceiling (thankfully not the floors).
There were a number of enemies scattered throughout the place, from
salamanders and hostile animate flames (flame elementals, Michael
called them), to goblins and imps. Many of them were utterly
invulnerable to fire-type attacks, which really vexed Alleria as
those are her strongest spells. She discovered that her <Ice>
spell, although she says it's much lower level than her <Fireball>
and <Hail of Fire>, worked particularly well against the
enemies in here. I was pretty useless through all these fights,
because my staff is pretty useless in combat. The only thing I'm good
for is healing everybody afterwards. (Yep, that's Tessa, our walking
This place had some
fun puzzles in. Although a couple of them didn't seem to work so well
from a point of view actually inside the place... And there was one
room that was clearly supposed to be a puzzle, but it was really
easy! There were these switches that lifted a section of path up out
of this pool of lava; and it was just totally trivial for Paula to
just walk straight up the middle while the other four of us just
stood on these switches to make the path stay clear. It looked like
if there were just three of you, it'd be really quite tricky and
you'd have to do lots of moving back and forth... But somehow the
ancients who created the place must have only imagined that the
adventurers visiting would be in groups of three.
When we got through
that room, we made it into a huge, roughly circular cavern, full of
acrid smoke that made us all cough. Almost all of the floor was a
huge bubbling pool of lava, which radiated heat and made your face
hurt. Looking up, we could see the night sky: we were actually within
the central crater of the volcano. There were some oversized crows
and things flying around, which made a beeline (crowline?) for us, so
we started by fighting them off. After that we could look around a
bit more. There were a load of rocks floating in the lava, somehow
not melting, forming a few chains of stepping-stones. There were a
load more rocks floating in the air above the lava, magically
hovering over the crater and tracing paths up and down and around. It
was quite a sight. We had to each leap in turn between the stones,
and climb onto the circling levitating ones when they were down low,
in order to reach the higher platforms.
part of the Fire Shrine was right at the end, as we approached what
would turn out to be the boss's room, we passed along a very narrow
granite walkway – basically just the top of a wall – with
cascading curtains of lava falling on either side. I was willing to
ignore considerations of the practicalities of how one would pump all
this lava around, because the effect of walking between these two
red-hot waterfalls of molten rock was pretty damn cool.
Then was the huge
iron studded door that led into the boss's chamber. I asked Michael
if it was worth me casting <Bless> on the party before we went
in, rather than waiting for the whatever-it-would-turn-out-to-be to
attack us. He reckoned it would almost certainly get dispelled when
we entered, but I thought it was worth a go. Unfortunately, he was
right – their golden auras disappeared as we passed through the
those doors, we entered a big circular chamber. Its walls were hung
with decorations, and interspersed with more constantly-falling
curtains of lava. The place was full of treasures, and there was an
intimidating-looking creature standing in the middle of it. The thing
looked somewhere between an ogre and a demon. It was about eight feet
tall, and almost as wide, basically humanoid but very heavy-set, clad
in dark metal armour, and with two big spiralling horns emblazoned on
am the Fire Shrine's Guardian,” the creature rumbled in a
gravelly, booming voice. “Thou wilt not claim the Heartstone of
Fire while I live.” It paused for a moment, then looked
directly at Paula and added, “Human known as Varyn. Thy actions
will bring nothing but misfortune and doom. Thou shouldst abandon
this misguided quest.”
looked at me, and she looked genuinely troubled. “...What is
it?” I asked after a few seconds.
know, Tessa, maybe we should do as he says,” she said
I was gobsmacked, and it seems Alleria and Michael hadn't been
expecting that either. Even the Fire Shrine Guardian looked
valiantly continued, “Well, both this guy and the Water Shrine
Guardian said it was a really bad idea. Even the guy in the Earth
Shrine said something like that. They all keep going on about doom,
as well. So maybe we should take their advice?”
replied uncomprehendingly, “But... the game's plot clearly has
the party obtaining the three Heartstones.”
acquired a positively mischievous grin as she looked at Michael and
said, “But we don't have to follow the game's plot, do we?”
this point Alleria chipped in. “What is this ''game'' you keep
talking about? This is no time for games!”
The three of us
started a little. I'd forgotten Alleria and Sir Randall were there.
The paladin was standing watching us expressionlessly, but Alleria
looked very confused. Paula, Michael and I exchanged helpless
glances, and unanimously decided not to even try to explain. (What
would we say? “You see, Alleria, we come from a world where
people entertain themselves by guiding your life through this kind of
adventure, and controlling where you walk and what kind of spells you
cast, and thousands of people around our world play this game?”)
Sir Randall spoke
up. “From what you told me earlier, I understand that you've
been appointed by the King of Elysia to fetch the Heartstones under
his orders. And I only seek the platinum staff of the Yamakiri, but
this creature appears to be holding that as part of its hoard as
well. So I believe our duty, as loyal citizens, is to fulfil our
hesitated. “Even if that's leading to doom and destruction?”
Solemnly Sir Randall
affirmed, “Even then.”
thoughtful for a moment longer, and then her expression totally
changed to a carefree smile. She shrugged and said, “Well then,
let's get on with it!”
will not be deterred?” rumbled the Guardian.
not,” said Paula cheerily.
yourselves!” With that, the hellish thing drew two
savage-looking blades, practically cleavers, and leapt at us.
It was fast! Paula
was just about able to draw her sword and parry in time, and even
then, the force of the thing's blow drove her backwards at least a
foot and knocked her to the ground. Sir Randall was immediately
lunging at the thing with his rapier, Michael surged off on a
sweeping run with his daggers, and I set about recasting the <Bless>
spells that we'd wasted outside the door.
Alleria, to her
credit, spotted that the beast's speed was one of the most dangerous
traits about it, and started casting her <TimeSlow> spell on
it. When the Guardian noticed this, it turned at her and roared the
most menacing roar I've ever heard. It stamped on the ground, which
shook and disrupted Sir Randall's charge, and then aimed a slicing
blow of its weapon at Alleria. Her spell took hold of the thing and
its blade slowed in midair... but that didn't quite give her time to
dodge. She tried, but the vicious blade chopped her arm off. The
thing literally chopped Alleria's arm off.
She screamed, and so
did Paula and I. Michael had the presence of mind not to slow his
attack, which is just as well because the Guardian kept on attacking,
at his reduced pace (which is to say, at about the pace most of the
other enemies we've fought had). I choked back my terror and,
shaking, cast <Cure2>.
That was really
weird to see, as well. The spell started swirling around both
Alleria, clutching her shoulder in agony, and the arm lying on the
floor... and it lifted her arm up to her and knitted it back
together. (She moved her hand away from her shoulder pretty quickly
when she realised what I was doing.) There was still a bleeding gash
there, but she flexed her fingers and bent her elbow in wonder. This
all took just a few seconds, and she threw me a quick look of
profound appreciation and relief, then went straight back to casting
attack spells at the beast.
It didn't look like
it knew how to fight five people. Paula, Michael and Sir Randall were
pressing in on it and falling back, nipping in to get in an attack
and then ducking as the Guardian's flailing blades whooshed past. But
it heard the sound of Alleria's chanting, and turned to direct its
attention back at her. For some reason the creature really seemed to
hate having spells cast on it, and so it started slashing at Alleria.
She was just about managing to dodge the evil swords while keeping up
her spellcasting, but it was touch and go. The attacks of the others
seemed to be doing serious damage – I was sure the thing
couldn't have many hit points left – but it was focusing on
Alleria. Finally, she stood up straight and defiant as she cast <Ice>
straight at its face.
The Guardian howled
in pain and anger, and viciously swung its outstretched arms
together. Alleria looked to her left and right in terror, and then
there was no time left and nowhere to dodge...
She got cut in two.
Hacked through the waist by a demon's cleaver. Her look of horror
stayed on her face as she slumped to the ground.
But the Guardian had
left itself exposed. Shock- and anger-fuelled attacks from Paula,
Michael, and Sir Randall converged on the demon-thing and dealt the
final damage needed. It lurched, swayed, and toppled to the ground,
its impact shaking the floor.
For several seconds,
the four of us left alive just looked at one another and around the
room, gasping for breath.
Then I felt tears
welling up and I cried, “Alleria–!”
Michael looked grave
for a few moments. Then he said, “Paula, do you have the
Oh my goodness, of course!” Paula was looking seriously
shocked, but she reached into the pack and brought out one of the
I hadn't actually
looked at one since we'd been in the gameworld “up close and
personal”, and peering through a haze of tears, it just looked
like any other feather. Paula was staring at the magic item similarly
and asked Michael after a second, “How do we use it?”
For the first
occasion in quite some time, Michael looked uncertain. He hesitantly
said, “I guess, just... place it on her body...?”
Paula looked like
she was hoping against hope as she stepped up to our fallen comrade,
lying gruesomely on the floor. She took the Phoenix Feather in two
hands, held them both out straight above Alleria's body, and let the
downwards, gently, seeming buffeted by the breeze, achingly slow, and
eventually landed on Alleria's chest...
And magic happened.
I can't describe
what I saw. There was gold and light and sound of rushing wind and
crackling flame. I think my hair stood on end a bit. And then I heard
a spluttering cough, and Alleria got up.
She was looking
distinctly the worse for wear, and I remembered the way that in the
game, if you use a Phoenix Feather then the recovered character comes
back with a tiny fraction of their hit points. I knew what to do
about that. “<Cure2>!”. (Yes, I actually cried out
the spell name as I cast it. I was feeling emotional, all right?)
I don't think I let
the spell finish before I ran to give Alleria a fierce embrace. She
looked at me rather strangely and didn't exactly hug me back, but I
didn't care. I was just so relieved to see her back alive. And even
then, I realised that I didn't quite know whether she was really
alive or not, whether she was just a figment of our dreams or a
character from a game or what... And I didn't really care. Just
having seen her... die... and now being able to see her and talk to
her again... It was scary.
Of course, I did
realise that from her point of view, this wasn't the first time this
had happened, and she'd not really known Terena for that long. So I
let go of her fairly quickly, and she stepped back. But looking
around I saw Paula looking just as relieved as I felt.
meanwhile, had been looking around the room. “Aha!” he
exclaimed, picking up a thick shiny rod. Then he looked at us and
said, “Didn't you ladies have a Stone of some kind you were
enthusiastically and jumped to search. She wasn't searching for long:
there was a big pedestal prominently positioned opposite the door,
with a large red gemstone displayed on it that looked, well, like a
red version of the Heartstones of Earth and Water.
we go, guys!” exclaimed Paula with gusto, and lifted the stone
high. “We made it!”
congratulations to you all,” said Sir Randall with a bow.
“Where are you bound now?”
happily, “Back to the palace!”
it seems our paths may coincide for a little longer,” he stated
solemnly. “May I accompany you back to the Royal City?”
course!” Paula and I said at the same time. Then we glanced at
one another and shared a smile. I don't quite know what was on her
mind, but I know that I rather enjoyed having Sir Randall with his
exaggerated courtesy around.
So, that was pretty
much that. We left Doom Mountain; Sir Randall delivered his platinum
staff back to the Yamakiri elder, who was overjoyed; and the five of
us started the boring trek back to Elysia's Royal City, to see what
happens now we've got all three Heartstones. Wish us luck!
by princess-of-china at 09:15 on Nov 24th
By take-me-to-elysia at 09:19 on Nov 24th
by varynfan at 09:45 on Nov 24th
by bringiton at 13:40 on Nov 24th
by taleteller at 17:56 on Nov 24th
by princess-of-china, at 18:03 on Nov 24th
by taleteller, at 18:11 on Nov 24th
A night out
Paula and I went
clubbing tonight. A new place has just opened, so we decided to check
it out. Even if, in Paula's words, “just to give you something
except Elysia to write about on your blog, right, Tessa?”
we'd been there only half an hour or so, I spotted Ben, strutting his
funky stuff on the dancefloor! I called Paula over and we went to say
hi (yelling over the music, obviously). He pointed out his mate who
he was with – a guy called Stuart, who I think we've met once
before. He had sharp taste in clothes, and danced pretty well, and
wasn't bad looking... Somehow though, something was telling me to
I figured out what
it was a bit later, when the four of us went to get a drink. Stuart
commented that Paula had looked good with the blue highlights in her
hair, and asked why she'd ditched them. Paula pointed at him in
horror and shrieked, “You're the guy who was making rude
comments about my hair at Ben's party!”
Now that I looked
for it, I could recognise him. Paula carried on, “You insulted
it then, why are you saying now that it looked good?”
The guy shrugged,
and replied with a grin, “Maybe they grew on me afterwards.”
Anyway, despite his
rudeness, he was an okay guy to be around. And we all had fun losing
ourselves in music and movement. So all in all, it was a good night.
I wonder whether the
late night will mean I get less time in Elysia tonight? I wonder
whether it waits for all of us to sleep before we all go into it in
our dreams? What would happen if one of us stayed up all night, and
the other two slept? So many things we don't understand about this
connection to the gameworld that we have :)
Anyway, I'm off to
bed... I'll update in the morning to tell you what happened in
by varynfan, at 04:19 on Nov 25th
by princess-of-china, at 07:45 on Nov 25th
The doom that was impending
Okay, okay, Paula,
varynfan, here you go! The latest update from Elysia, complete with
weird swirly hole. But I'm getting ahead of myself.
I found myself back
with Paula, Michael, Alleria and Sir Randall, on the road from
Yamakiri to the Royal City. “Did I miss anything?” I
asked – not a very sensible thing to say in retrospect, I
guess. It certainly earned me a strange look from Alleria. But Paula
giggled a bit, so it seems she understood why I said it.
The trip back was
fairly uneventful, as they often are in these games: a couple of
combats as we made our long trek north, and that was about it. (I
don't know whether it's a good or bad thing that killing bandits has
become a routine event for us and I don't think much of it...)
However, things were
plenty eventful enough in the palace.
Sir Randall took his
leave from us once we arrived at the Royal City, declaring that
although he'd love to accompany us to the palace, he had to return to
the paladins' court. We urged him to stay a little longer, but he
wouldn't be swayed. So we bade him farewell. I was sad to see him go –
having him with us has been by turns reassuring, amusing and
exciting. Reassuring because although I'm sure we could cope without
him, he is a strong fighter; amusing because his outlandish clothing
and mannerisms have grown on me; and exciting... I don't think I'm
going to go into any further detail on that one.
So we arrived at the
palace. The creepy courtier we'd seen before met us with a cackle,
and escorted us to the Chancellor as before. The Chancellor looked
positively delighted that we were back successfully. At the time I
didn't know why...
Once again, we were
able to go and see the King without any further delays. He also
looked delighted to see us. “My congratulations, Varyn,”
he said warmly. “With these three stones, we can establish
communication with the Realm of the Dragons, and prevent any more
occurrences of the kind of disaster that befell your home town.”
Paula nodded solemnly... I wonder if she, like me, had forgotten the
actual reason we had been collecting the Heartstones?
The King said
formally, “Chancellor, would you perform the ritual?”
liege,” murmured the silly man, and stepped towards us. He held
out a hand towards us, and I wondered what he wanted. When nobody
moved for a few seconds, he said irritably, “Well, hand over
the Heartstones, then. I need them to perform the ritual, you know.”
of course. Sorry,” said Paula rather
embarrassedly. She pulled the three gemstones out, each one pulsing
and shimmering with power. The greedy expression on the Chancellor's
face really should have alerted me that something was up, but I just
stood there like a lemon. I think Michael might have been looking a
bit suspicious of the Chancellor's intentions, but he didn't do
lifted the three Heartstones together in his hands, and began to
incant. It was clearly a powerful spell, as gusts of wind started
swirling around us, and beads of sweat appeared on the Chancellor's
Suddenly, the gusts
turned into a whirling disc in front of us, and we could gradually
see some kind of scene in it, like it was some kind of screen. Or
rather, a portal... a “weird swirly hole”, as Paula so
succinctly put it. The Chancellor continued incanting under his
Chancellor!” commented the King jovially. “Now, do you
have a messenger to the Dragons?”
I'm afraid that that won't be possible... your
Majesty,” cackled Binkley. And suddenly, I couldn't move. As
in, literally I was paralysed in place. I happened to have been just
turning my head to glance between Michael and Paula, and so I could
see that they'd both frozen as well.
laughed maniacally. “Muhahaha... Look at that, Kraus! The mass
paralysis spell can be cast so quickly when amplified by these
And I heard a
higher-pitch cackle from behind me, in the unmistakable tones of the
Chancellor's misshapen assistant.
I'm sure you'll be glad to hear, your Majesty, that no emissary to
the Dragons will be needed,” continued the Chancellor. “After
all, we can control them using the enchanted gold from the Goblin
Mines in the World of Darkness. As ruler of the World of Darkness,
I've already prepared enough of that gold to command twenty Dragons.
So sending an emissary would be fairly pointless.”
I confess, I was
shocked at this point. It had been blindingly obvious that the
Chancellor had been up to no good, but I certainly hadn't been
expecting him to turn out to be an evil ruler of the realm we'd been
working so hard to enter.
Chancellor... Why?” The King croaked the words with immense
Chancellor turned to him with a mocking version of the expression a
teacher uses to praise a child who's done particularly good work.
“Goodness me, your Majesty, you can move your lips! And indeed
vocal chords – even through my Heartstone-amplified paralysis
spell. I do congratulate you. But as for your question, the answer is
simple: because ruling the World of Darkness isn't enough! Knowing
that there's this entire realm just sitting here, not being ruled by
me, became intolerable. So I warped myself though to this world and
set myself up my courtesan identity. But even with my immense powers
and the finest Warpwood from the Twisted Forest, I still couldn't
create portals large enough for what I needed. That's where Paula and
her friends came in.”
He paused in his
spiel to laugh demonically, and then continued, “And now,
thanks to these Heartstones you so generously fetched for me, I've
finally been able to open this portal to the World of Darkness!”
He turned to give a mock-bow to us, while we fumed impotently. “So
Kraus, tie up his Majesty and these fools!”
Yes, Your Excellency,” snickered Kraus, and started scampering
around us to tie us up with rope. We just stood there helplessly.
When he tried to tie me up, my arms were splayed out from my sides
where they'd been when Binkley cast the spell. He scowled at me, then
focused intently and muttered, “<Motion>!” And my
arms just moved down to my side. Part of me was thinking 'Hey, that's
a pretty neat spell', while the rest of me was being tied up. Then
suddenly, we could move again, and Alleria stumbled, nearly falling
over. I looked around at the others: we were all tied around waist
and arms, and bearing expressions of fury at Binkley's betrayal.
gloated the Chancellor. “Time for you all to be thrown in the
dungeon! But since you foolishly neglected the need for a dungeon in
this palace, 'your Majesty', we'll have to take you through this nice
new portal... to the Citadel of Darkness!”
And Kraus cackled
one last time, long and loud, as he yanked on the rope and shuffled
to follow his master, pulling all of us into the swirling depths of
by ilovealleria, at 10:07 on Nov 25th
by princess-of-china, at 12:31 on Nov 25th
by taleteller, at 13:02 on Nov 25th
by bringiton, at 17:31 on Nov 25th
by taleteller, at 18:12 on Nov 25th
by bringiton, at 21:06 on Nov 25th
Thrown into the World of Darkness
I was looking
forward to going to sleep last night, but dreading it as well. We'd
just been pushed into a portal into some evil alternate dimension,
after all. What on earth would be waiting for us?
(Yes, okay, I know,
it's not actually on earth at all...)
Well, we didn't see
much of the World of Darkness at first. We stumbled into a cavernous
chamber, lit with guttering torches mounted high up the walls.
Looking up, I saw the ceiling was vaulted and impressively high.
There was a throne in the place where King Balshazzar's throne had
been, but it looked nothing like it: this one was set on a high
platform, made of black marble and adorned with skulls. I got a
seriously stereotypical “Evil Throne Room” vibe from the
Chancellor had gone through before us, and now he stood on the raised
dais and laughed a true evil villain laugh. “Welcome to my
realm, Paula, Michael, Tessa, Alleria, your Majesty. Welcome... to
the World of Darkness.” That was a good cue for another evil
laugh, and Binkley was never one to pass up an opportunity like that.
Anyway, once he'd
finished posing, he got Kraus to drag us down a stone staircase and
into a dungeon, complete with cells made from metal bars. There was
some kind of hobgoblin-like creature down there with a jangling bunch
of keys; after Kraus had separated our ropes and thrown each of us
into a separate cell, the jailer locked each gate and then went back
to sit down and pick its nose.
Before he left,
Kraus stood at the dungeon's exit and said to us, “If it'd been
up to me... I'd have killed you all.” Then the misshapen
servant cackled to himself and walked up the staircase.
I feel a bit
ashamed... when the five of us were sitting down and looking at each
other, I started feeling a bit despondent. Paula, on the other hand,
wasted no time in figuring out how we were going to get out of there.
She started off, “Right. Michael, can you reach any of your
question. It's going to be difficult. I'll try,” he said, with
a note of respect for Paula's businesslike attitude in his normally
talking!” rasped our hobgoblin captor, waving a stick at us.
ignored it as she continued, “Good. Give it a try. In the
meantime... Alleria, can you cast spells with your arms tied like
“Only the most
basic ones,” replied our sorceress doubtfully. “Why?”
obvious? You need to burn the rope that's holding you. If you hurt
yourself we'll get Tessa to heal you.”
quiet!” The jailed wandered over to Paula's cell and lashed out
through the bars with his stick. She jumped backwards, scowled at the
creature, and then said to Alleria, “Well, give it a try,
Paula clearly had
the right idea: even with its armour and the sword by its side, the
jailer couldn't possibly unlock our cells to come in to punish us,
because any one of us (except perhaps me) would have been able to
easily beat it in a fight. The monster could only shout impotently
from outside the cells.
Alleria looked at
Paula in frustration, and then concentrated. I could see her fingers
wiggling and her hands twisting slightly as she tried to cast the
spell with her motion so impeded. At least a minute passed before a
faint plume of smoke came from her hands, tied behind her back, and
not visible to the jailer. She caught my eye and I smiled
encouragingly. She returned the smile, redoubling her efforts. I was
sure I spotted her wince in pain as the rope singed and blackened
The jailer seemed
oblivious to her efforts, just glancing around suspiciously from time
to time as he stood watching us. I think it hadn't understood our
plans because it didn't speak very much English... Or whatever
language we were speaking. That's a whole other rant that I'll leave
for another time!
freed her hands. I called to her, “How about <Sleep>?”
I was well aware that this would call the jailer's attention to me;
that was part of what I wanted. It worked like a charm (as it were).
The hobgoblin came over to my cell's door to tell me to shut up;
Alleria swung her hands around from behind her to cast <Sleep>
on the creature; and it fell over, hitting its head on the bars of my
was a bit too far away from the door to Alleria's cell for her to be
able to reach. “Do you think you'll be able to burn away my
rope like you did yours?” I asked her.
hesitantly, “It'll be harder to control, but I can try...”
There followed a
distinctly painful time of standing with my back pressed to my cell
door, while Alleria tried to summon the smallest possible ball of
fire and keep it from burning me too badly while it gradually burned
a hole in my ropes.
Once that was done,
I immediately relieved the hobgoblin of the jangling bunch of keys,
and awkwardly opened my own cell door by reaching round and inserting
the key from the outside.
cried Michael appreciatively as I leapt to open the others' doors. I
beamed at him.
There was one other
prisoner in the jail besides the King and our party. He introduced
himself while I was healing Alleria's self-inflicted burns. “My
name is Lothar, of the Borgendon Dwarves,” he stated. “I
am in debt to ye for releasin' me.”
“Why were you
locked up here?” Paula asked.
the Dark Lord. Why else?” snorted the dwarf. “I insulted
a goblin when he lashed one of my brethren; the Dark Lord happened to
be visitin' the Goblin Mines that day, so the goblins drew me before
him. I swore at him, and he ordered me to be bound and brought back
We were looking at
one another. “The Dark Lord?” Paula asked.
“That, I fear,
is my Chancellor's true identity,” said the King sorrowfully.
“Or at least, the name he goes by in this world.”
We were silent for a
moment, taking in that the guy we'd known as Binkley was in fact Dark
Lord of an entire parallel world.
“Why did you
swear at the Dark Lord? You must have known that was a risky thing to
do,” said Michael after a moment.
was... a wee bit tanked up,” said the dwarf, looking a bit
embarrassed. Paula giggled.
Then she appeared to
move on, and said briskly, “Right. We've got out – well
done. Now, what how do we get back to our world? Er... I mean, back
puzzled at the correction. Michael and I grinned at it, as did the
The dwarf, however,
looked as us as if we'd all turned into baboons. “Elysia?”
He peered at us more closely, and his expression turned incredulous.
“Wait... ye're not serious, are ye? Ye've come from Elysia?”
good dwarf, I'm afraid we have,” said the King, sighing. “Your
Dark Lord has taken over Elysia as well. I was its king... now I'm
just an outdated old man.” Suddenly he looked very tired.
“Ye gods. And
I thought that place was just a fairy tale. And that bastard has
kicked ye out? Well if there's anything ye can do wi' a bunch of
enslaved dwarves, ye'll have our support. We hate that maggot.”
Lothar spat in the corner of his cell, and then rubbed his forehead.
“Man... I'd think I must have been drinking, except I know damn
well that I've not had a drop since I've been locked up in this
on your way out of it now,” said Paula with a grin. “Shall
“Ah, wait a
moment, Paula,” said Alleria hurriedly. “If we climb
those stairs, we'll be going straight back where the Dark Lord was.”
looked at her analytically for a moment, then said, “I don't
see any other exits from this dungeon. But there could be secret
passages, or something, I suppose. Anybody good at finding secret
gruffly, “It's one of the things dwarves are known for. I'll
have a look in each of these cells. Give me those keys.”
He only took about
two or three minutes to discover a way to do something to one of the
stones in the wall of the furthest cell that caused a portion of the
wall – what had looked like solid stone – to slip away,
revealing a dark tunnel. “I assume none of ye can see in the
dark?” he asked. We assured him that none of us could.
Irrationally, I felt embarrassed at the admission. Nobody had ever
expected me to be able to see in the dark before!
Lothar gave us a
rough smile and said, “Well, I can, so don't ye worry. Just
follow me closely, and we'll see where this leads.”
got through the initial pitch-black section, we quickly emerged into
stone tunnels... and the torches on the wall of the tunnels were
burning, despite the dust and cobwebs seeming to indicate that nobody
had been in this passage for years. Obviously, they must be magical.
Surprising nobody, we had to fight a few times as we made our way out
through the passages, mostly against giant overgrown spiders. Their
bite seemed to inflict some kind of poison, and I don't have a spell
to cure poison, so the guys had to use Herbs from Paula's pack to
alleviate that. However, I did find myself longing for some kind of
way to be useful in the combats... and I just found myself channeling
the magical energy into some kind of attack spell! It glowed white
and silver, and a beam of light just appeared from overhead (even
though we were in a tunnel) and kind of... consumed
I have to admit, the
looks of the others as they saw what I'd done felt really good.
We carried on,
having to flick a switch or two to open some locked doors. We had one
more combat where I got to cast my attack spell again, and realised
how draining it was – I drank one of the potions that are
normally only used by Alleria, the ones to restore magic points. I
was a little worried she might object to my using up her reserves,
but she just smiled at me as I asked for it. Pretty soon after that,
we found a tunnel with a light at the end of it. We exchanged glances
and ran towards it. And finally, we were out of the secret passages
and out into blissful light.
Except that the
relief was pretty short-lived, as we took in the kind of world we'd
found ourselves in.
sky was all clouded over. Not like the kind of clouds we're used to
living in England – these were reddish-brown, hazy clouds, in
strange shapes, and the sky behind them was a weird greenish orange.
The grass all looked kind of blighted and withered. Perhaps the
strangest bit was the trees: they weren't really trees at all,
although they were just as tall as you'd expect trees to be; but they
were bulbous and globular, coloured a sort of vomit green, and their
trunks were smooth and slimy. There was a strange smell in the air,
like an unpleasant food. Everything about the whole place was just a
bit disturbing, a little twisted, slightly off from how you'd expect
it to be. It all combined to have a distinctly unnerving effect.
Looking round, I saw
that Alleria and Paula were looking astonished and disgusted. Michael
was looking paranoid and unsettled, and the King was just looking sad
and somehow very old. Lothar the dwarf, on the other hand, was
smiling. After a minute or so he said, “Ah, it's good to be
back in the open air. Months I've been in that damn citadel. Right,
what are we going to do with the lot of ye? Where do ye need to go?”
Still looking upset,
Paula said, “I guess we need to get back to Elysia. Does anyone
have any idea how to do that?”
thoughtfully, “Well, when Binkley was gloating back in the
Royal City, he mentioned that he needed the Heartstones to open a big
portal, because some kind of Warpwood couldn't do it.”
Paula said. “Something like... Warpwood from a Twisted Forest?
Lothar, do you know where that is?”
Forest? You guys don't waste any time throwin' yerselves back into
danger's way, do ye?” The dwarf laughed shortly, and then said,
“Aye, I can point ye the way to that place.”
The King spoke up at
this point. “Noble Lothar, I don't think I can travel around
this World of Darkness with these young adventurers. Do you know of
anywhere near here where I can rest?”
Lothar looked away
thoughtfully for a moment, then said, “Aye. There's a small
group of dwarves who escaped the Goblin Mines and are livin' in the
ruined town of Hanick. They can probably shelter ye.”
which case, let us depart thence forthwith,” said the King.
Once the rest of us figured out what he meant, we agreed.
As we travelled away
from the place we'd been imprisoned, we were able to see more of it.
The Dark Citadel really did dominate the landscape for miles around,
set on top of a forbidding crag. The landscape we were travelling
through continued to be unsettling – what had seemed like grass
was rubbery and yellowed, and rather creepily, turned to continually
point towards us as we walked past. The sky was slowly changing
colour as the afternoon turned into evening, but it never looked like
a normal sky – always a bit alien and disturbing. The shape of
the hills and arrangement of the roads started feeling familar, and
we realised that the lay of the land was almost exactly like that in
Elysia around the Royal City. The Dark Citadel occupied the space
corresponding to the palace, and we were heading towards where
Haniton had been.
Except once we got
there, the difference really drove itself home: where Haniton had
been a happy, thriving fishing town, Hanick was a ruined town.
the buildings were about where they had been in Haniton, but not one
of them was intact. Most were missing one or more walls; those that
weren't were missing a roof or windows. There were even a couple of
wooden posts where Haniton's gate had been, where the “welcoming”
villager had been resting on the gate. The wind was harsh, blowing
through the empty structures and cutting to the bone.
We got attacked by a
skeleton before we'd had a chance to do more than look around the
place. I was a bit freaked out by seeing these disconnected bones and
grinning skull swinging a rusty sword at us. Michael, however, said,
“Aha, undead! Tessa, try casting <Cure> on it.”
looked at him as if he'd turned into a haddock. “On it?!
Why would I want to try to heal the thing that's” – I
dodged a swing of its blade – “trying to kill us?”
me,” he said softly. I gazed at him for a moment, still
frightened, then nodded.
Well, sure enough,
the <Cure> spell turned out to damage the creature
significantly – enough for one swing of Paula's sword to finish
it off. I raised an eyebrow at Michael and said more confidently,
“Let me guess. That's the way the stereotype in RPGs goes?”
He grinned at me.
ye gawkers,” called our dwarven guide. “The dwarves will
be hidin' themselves in the basement of one of these houses. We'd
best get searchin'.”
After looking in
almost all of the buildings (and fighting off several more
skeletons), we found a basement that looked intact. Entering the
cellar, I scanned it for dwarves or doors, but couldn't see any sign
of either. Disappointed, I told the others, but Lothar just gave a
faint smile and said, “Let me take a look.”
He found the secret
trapdoor within a minute, of course. I sheepishly followed him down
the narrow ladder, with the others behind me. The King had some
difficulty making his way down the ladder, and we had to wait for him
at the bottom. Lothar then led us confidently through a couple of
earthen tunnels before we came out a wide entrance into a large
cave... with several dwarves glaring in hostility at us, and pointing
an intimidating assortment of swords, axes and halberds in our
brothers,” said Lothar. “I'm a refugee from the Dark Lord
like ye all. These humans are warrin' to bring him down.”
That was enough to
earn the acceptance of the fugitive dwarves. We were beckoned in, and
arrangements made for the King to stay with them. The dwarves
initially came across as quite a taciturn lot, but we were soon to
discover the reason for that. Shudder.
One of them, a burly
dwarf called Barghok, asked us if we needed any supplies. Paula and
Michael jumped at the chance to resupply, and spend some of the cash
and things we'd been accumulating from the corpses of monsters we
fought. “Just go see our friend Pattor over there,” he
replied gruffly, gesturing vaguely at the other side of the cave.
I looked across
where he pointed: there were several dwarves standing around on the
far side. “Sorry, which one was that?” I asked.
The dwarf looked at
me very strangely and didn't speak. I repeated my question, “Which
dwarf was that, sorry?”
Pattor over there,” said Barghok, with a cough. I sighed, and
decided we might as well go talk to all of them anyway.
On the far wall, we
spoke to several dwarves in turn. The first one was probably Pattor,
as he said, “Would you be needin' any items?” We bought a
number of potions from him, which he just pulled out of a large
barrel behind him. The second one grinned at us and said proudly, “I
bet ye'd love to get hold of some handcrafted Dwarven armour!”
We bought a suit of heavy plate armour from him, for Paula –
conveniently, it was a perfect fit. He had some bracers and chest
plates and things that might fit the rest of us, but I didn't think
they looked like they'd be much good. The third one was selling
weapons, so we got an upgraded sword for Paula and some more daggers
The fourth one just
said, “It's hard, makin' ourselves a home from home down here.
But it's better than life in the Goblin Mines.”
Lothar mentioned those,” I replied casually. “What was it
Once again I got
greeted with a strange look and a silence. I wondered if it was a
sensitive subject, so I tried asking a slightly different question,
“I assume the goblins are on the side of the Dark Lord, then?”
The dwarf looked at
me for a few seconds, and then said, “It's hard, makin'
ourselves a home from home down here. But it's better than life in
the Goblin Mines.”
A shiver ran down my
spine as I realised what was going on. Just like in Haniton, the
everyday people here only had one line, and would just repeat it if
we kept talking to them. (Yes, call me slow if you want.) I started
feeling sorry for this dwarf: whatever the reason behind it, it must
be quite hampering to only have nineteen words you can say. But I
also realised there was no point trying to talk any further to this
I returned to the
others, who were talking to Lothar. Paula was saying, “...Showing
us the route is all very well, but will you come with us?”
don't have much place to be goin' now that I'm out of the Dark Lord's
dungeon, that's for sure,” said the stocky dwarf slowly. “But
one of ye would have to stay behind. Er...” He looked at me,
Paula, Michael and Alleria, and said, “...Two
of ye would have to stay behind here.” He looked puzzled.
Paula asked him,
“Why's that? Surely it'd be better to travel in a bigger
Now it was Lothar's
turn to look at Paula strangely. Then he caught Alleria's eye: she
was gesturing something at him with an apologetic look on her face.
Lothar seemed to be avoiding Paula's eye as he mumbled, “It's
just not a good idea to have too many of ye.”
“But wouldn't it be –“
“Give it a
rest, Paula,” interrupted Michael with a strange smile. “I
don't think we're going to be able to persuade him.” Alleria
nodded, looking relieved.
Paula just shrugged.
Then she yawned and said, “It's been a long day. Is there
anywhere you guys have that we could rest?”
Lothar regained his
normal confident expression as he replied, “Aye, that there is.
It's no' luxury, but it'll give ye a place to catch up on some
And so following
Lothar and the vocabularily-impaired Barghok, we made our way to the
sleeping caves and bedded down. I dropped off to sleep in the World
of Darkness, and woke up in my bedroom in my parents' house.
And that's about
by princess-of-china, at 11:58 on Nov 26th
by take-me-to-elysia, at 14:10 on Nov 26th
by varynfan, at 15:31 on Nov 26th
by bringiton, at 19:12 on Nov 26th
by taleteller, at 20:04 on Nov 26th
A forest of twists and warps
And going to sleep
in my parents' house, I woke up in Hanick. The dwarven pallet was
remarkably refreshing to have slept on: I felt totally rejuvenated
compared to my exhausted state when I fell asleep (both in the World
of Darkness and in my bedroom). After attempting to breakfast on
dwarven bread (they must have teeth like chainsaws!), we bid farewell
to Lothar and the King, and set off following the directions Lothar
had given us to the Twisted Forest.
The strange sights
of the World of Darkness resumed very shortly after we emerged onto
the surface, into the ruined town of Hanick. We headed for the
coastline, which was in the same place as it had been in Haniton. The
sea, however, was... different. And when I say “different”,
I mean “not there”.
the edge of town, where the beach was in Haniton, the land just
disappeared. A sudden cliff continued as far downwards as the eye
could see. Looking out over where we'd expected to see the ocean
(that we'd swum through to retrieve the Heartstone of Water), there
was just a vast emptiness. Clouds were floating through it, although
the clouds were a brownish-yellow colour, because this was the World
of Darkness, after all.
There was just one
feature in the huge, disconcerting sea of nothingness. A castle was
floating in the middle of the nothing. It wasn't on an island of
ground or anything – it was just literally the castle and
nothing else there. The castle itself seemed obviously magical: its
stones were pulsing with light and slowly changing colour, from cyan
to yellow to green and back again.
“What is that
thing?” I exclaimed. But Paula, Michael and Alleria were just
as astonished by it as I was. I guess it would have been useful
having Lothar with us, to be a guide. But not worth leaving two of us
So we trekked on,
beside the Sea of Nothing, dealing with the usual combats, although
the wandering enemies in the World of Darkness were as strange and
misshapen as the plants and everything else. Alleria acquired a new
spell, <Elements>, which creates a simultaneous hail of fire
and ice – it was quite something to see, as well as being very
effective against groups of small enemies. Before too long we saw a
forest in the distance. The forest itself was shimmering like a
mirage, even though it wasn't especially hot, as the sky was covered
in the usual World of Darkness haze. But as we drew closer, the
forest didn't stop shimmering as you'd expect. It was still wavering
back and forth before us when we were standing right in front of it.
Michael said, “Okay,
guys, we'd better be careful and stay close together. Usually if a
place indicates like this that it's got some kind of illusory nature,
that means there are paths that don't take you back where you came
from if you walk back the way you came, and things like that. Let's
just take care.”
The rest of us
soberly nodded and moved into a tighter huddle. The entire region was
shrouded in mist, making the treeline disappear into greys within a
few metres from where we were. It was eerily quiet, as well. Taking a
gulp, we stepped into the haunted place.
The Twisted Forest
lived up to its name. There were paths going through it, but they
looped and snaked their routes in every which way. There were times
when, as Michael had suspected, we retraced our steps only to find
ourselves somewhere entirely new, or back somewhere else that we'd
been ten minutes earlier. There were times when I could swear what
looked like a path shimmered and disappeared as we walked towards it.
And all the time we were being attacked by malevolent creatures from
out of the trees, each a twisted version of some kind of forest
creature: disturbing fox-things with two heads and three tails, rabid
squirrels with hugely oversized and overly pointed teeth, flocks of
green-and-orange wasplike things each as large as my fist, packs of
huge scorpions with razor-sharp pincers, and so on and so on.
We were looking for
a particular type of tree that was especially given to warping the
space around it. This, according to the Hanick dwarves, was the
source of Warpwood and the most likely way to be able to return to
Elysia. And according to RPG clichés, it was going to be at
the furthest reach of the forest, past all the puzzles, and probably
guarded by a stronger monster than most of those around.
it was no surprise that we had to jump through a bunch of hoops to
get there. We had to follow a track that was hinted at by a piece of
paper we found in a treasure chest. (Lucky nobody else had taken the
paper, isn't it? Unless some of the forest denizens take the paper
from the corpses of unsuccessful adventurers and return it to the
treasure chest...) We had to spot which tree was shimmering the most
and walk through that one, as it turned out to be illusory. We had to
trace our way through a region where any wrong step would wind us up
back at the start. We had to fight lots and lots of the ubiquitous
demented forest beasts. We had to solve puzzles involving rolling
logs around, which is quite some effort, actually.
we made it to a glade where the trees warped and wavered wildly, and
one tree grew in the centre of the glade, as if all attention was
focused on it. Michael said, “Is everybody fully healed from
After a chorus of
assent, he nodded to Paula, who grinned defiantly and said, “Let's
see what defences this tree's got.”
Boldly we stepped
forward towards the tree. And sure enough, its wavering intensified,
as did that of the glade around us. None of us were particularly
surprised when the tree uprooted itself and started moving its
branches towards us in defence. More startling was the way that the
space around us was flickering and fading to some kind of starfield.
We started fighting, and it was as it we were running around on a big
invisible plain. The only interruptions in the star-studded blackness
were one another and the tree. It was quite trippy.
So we fought.
Alleria tried a few spells of different elements, and confirmed that
fire was the most effective against this particular boss, so
continued launching fireballs into its trunk and branches. Paula and
Michael were finding ways to use their edged weapons against it. (I
guess Lothar with his axe would have been a sensible choice –
they often do that, it seems, having the first boss after a new party
member becomes available particularly susceptible to that character's
I was dividing my
time between casting <Holy>, healing people after they got hit
by the immense branches swinging around with awesome force, and
trying to dodge the big tree. It seemed to be concentrating its
attacks on me for some reason. I got hit by those huge fists of wood
three times. The first time I'm sure it broke my shoulder. I forced
myself to concentrate through the agony on casting <Cure2> on
myself, and the pain was relieved significantly. The second time it
knocked me flying across the empty space, bruising my ribs and
slamming me into the invisible ground. I didn't immediately cure
myself: Alleria was lying flat on the ground as well, crying in pain
and clutching her leg after a hit from the tree, so I decided to try
to alleviate her pain first. <Cure2> did the job quite
nicely... but it seems I was distracted by concentrating on her. I
heard Michael cry “Tessa!” and turned to look at him –
and suddenly saw a hundred tons of angry tree hurtling towards me. I
didn't have time to do anything but flinch before I felt the impact,
straight upon my head, and then nothing more.
* * *
The next thing I
knew was warmth, and a sensation of... fluttering, almost tickling. I
blinked a few times, seeing golden light swirling before my eyes.
There was some kind of tingling all over my body. I realised I was
lying supine on the ground, so I shakily stood up. I was almost
knocked right over again by Michael and Tessa both running to give me
a fierce hug. Their words were tumbling over one another. “You're
all right!” “You're alive!” “We were so
worried!” “It was such a shock!” I was still quite
stunned by what had happened, and I just let them hug me for a while.
I noticed Alleria standing close, and I felt warmed also to see the
obvious relief on her face too.
that did make my heart leap was when I spotted tears not only in
Paula's eyes, but in Michael's too... Paula cries easily, but I've
never ever Michael like that. It's rare to see him express any
emotion at all. Not quite knowing what to think, I just held tightly
onto them both, immensely relieved to be back.
My friends released
me after a bit, and I asked, “What happened with the tree?”
“It was tough
without you. Potions aren't as good as your spells. We only just
managed to take it down. Alleria did most of the work.”
Paula pointed. I
noticed that we were back in the glade, and she was indicating a
fallen tree lying at its centre, still shifting slightly as one
looked at it. I said, “Shall we go get a piece of this Warpwood
I attempted to
stride over to the fallen tree, but it was more of a wobble at first,
as I was still finding my feet, a bit shaky post-Phoenix Feather.
Still, I got there, and there was one obvious branch of the thing
that was loose – well, more of a twig compared to the size of
the vicious creature that had attacked us, but this twig was easily
as big as my staff.
I picked it up, and
gasped aloud at the energy I felt in the thing. It was practically
humming. I experimentally tried waving it and pointing it. Paula
exclaimed, “Don't do that!”
I said, slightly chastened.
“It might warp
you off to another world or something.”
Something about the
way she said that made me laugh. “You know, Paula, in many
other contexts that concern would have been completely absurd. But in
this case, that's pretty much precisely what we're hoping for, isn't
She smiled a little
shame-facedly. “I guess so. But... should we all hold hands or
something? So that if one of us gets teleported away, we all do?”
make sense,” I shrugged. I offered a hand to Michael, trying to
keep my expression casual as I did so. He looked me in the eye for
just a moment before he took it, with the faintest of smiles. Paula
took the warpwood from my other hand and exclaimed, “Wow, this
does feel like it's full of power, doesn't it?” Michael took
hold of Alleria's hand. Then Paula held the stick in the air –
er, I mean, held the warpwood aloft – and concentrated. I was
watching the stick, and I saw it suddenly stop wavering and hold
perfectly still, while everything around us suddenly shifted, warped,
turned hazy and phased out. In its place appeared... what looked like
a very similar glade in another forest. But the trees were actually
tree-coloured: the green didn't have the bluish tinge we'd got used
to, and their trunks were a refreshingly normal brown. The grass
underfoot was actually green, and looking up at the sky, it was blue!
And the clouds were white and puffy, not the strange angular patches
of fog that had so unsettled us.
Alleria seemed the
most uplifted by the change. I heard her breath catch in her throat
as she gasped. Then she exclaimed, “Elysia! We're back in
Elysia at last!”
“So how come
it worked for Paula and not for me?” I asked.
Michael caught my
eyes and said with a grin, “She's the main character,
My laugh was meant
to come out more cynical, but I think I was too happy to really pull
that off. How vexing.
Paula turned to
smile at all of us and said, “Good job, guys! Now, where to
insatiable, you know that?” I told her. More seriously, I
added, “I think we need to get out of this woodland and figure
out where we are. If it's the same place in Elysia, then I guess we
could wander back to the palace.”
Alleria looked at
me. I couldn't place her expression. She seemed to be about to say
something, change her mind, and then said lamely, “Isn't
Michael didn't seem
to have noticed her vacillation. “Good point – we're
running low on potions after that forest,” he mused. “What
do you reckon, Paula?”
“Doesn't bother me too much. Let's get moving.”
Guess what? In this
forest, we got attacked by things! This time they were ghosts. Lots
and lots of ghosts, drifting out of the trees at regular intervals
and trying to suck away our life. Thankfully, though, the ghosts were
perfectly susceptible to normal physical weapons as wielded by Paula
and Michael. Convenient, that. The normality of the trees was still a
pleasant change, even if the ghosts and fog added up to make the
place distinctly creepy.
We finally emerged
from the place, and saw the rather reassuring sight of the Western
Sea, calmly filled with water, and comforting in its presence and
reality. So we followed Alleria's suggestion of heading for Haniton,
as we'd come out on that edge of the forest. We were steadily
plodding along the fairly short journey to the familiar coastal town
when I woke up.
by bringiton, at 08:58 on Nov 27th
by princess-of-china, at 12:12 on Nov 27th
by varynfan, at 12:37 on Nov 27th
by taleteller, at 17:52 on Nov 27th
by ilovealleria, at 21:19 on Nov 27th
by taleteller, at 22:08 on Nov 27th
Haniton and what happened there
Oh boy. Things are
When Haniton first
appeared over the horizon, we could tell something was wrong, because
there was a plume of dirty black smoke rising from it. I wondered if
they were just doing some kind of controlled crop burning, or just a
bonfire or something.
When we got closer,
the dragon that we saw running amok kinda put paid to that theory.
It was a huge,
sinuous thing. It did basically look just like every stereotype
dragon on the cover of every fantasy book. And it was breathing fire
at houses. People were running away – several of them passed us
on the road, and shouted at us to run for our lives. It might have
been a sensible thing to do, but hey, we're adventurers, right?
What was a real
shock, although we should have been expecting it, was when we saw
Chancellor Binkley there, along with Kraus. We didn't initially
recognise him – he'd ditched his silly Chancellor's robe (with
its big floppy hood) for a costume much more fitting for a Dark Lord.
It was black, obviously, and studded with diamonds or something. It
had serious spiky shoulderpads and flowed down his body. He looked
basically like every Grand Vizier after he's imprisoned the King and
risen to power.
He spotted us as we
approached. I'd been hoping for an infuriated or even terrified cry
of “What are you doing here?” But instead, he just
laughed maniacally. “Ah, Paula and her friends. I've been
Paula cried angrily,
“What, you expected us to escape the jail, and not just that
but get the Warpwood too??”
course,” he said with a smug grin. And then he said something
that made me shiver. “After all, that's how the game's plot
goes, doesn't it?”
“You sent this
dragon?” I asked accusingly.
cute little thing?” He gestured fondly at the rampaging
“Cute in a
“bite your hand off and roast you” kind of way?”
“Is there any
He gave a mad laugh,
and then continued deprecatingly, “I just brought it with me
purely as insurance. How was I to know the mayor of Haniton would
reject my generous offer?”
“What did you
“offer” to them?” I spat.
Totally unfazed by
our hatred, Binkley replied, “Why, simply that they join my
empire. I offered them very generous terms – not only would I
invite them all to my Ball tomorrow at the Floating Castle in the Sea
of Nowhere, but I wouldn't burn down their town! Alas, they didn't
want to pay my modest taxes, and declared a misguided loyalty to the
former King. So I set the dragon loose. I'll stop it after it's taken
out half the town, and see if they want to renegotiate then.”
interesting. “You can control it to that level? How do you do
With a smug grin,
our nemesis replied, “Yes, I'm sure you'd like to know that,
This made Alleria
gasp for some reason. “But... you... they...”
worry, my dear,” said the Dark Lord in a tone of mock
reassurance – for what, I didn't quite know, although I have a
disturbing guess. To Paula he said, “It's all in the Wyrmstone.
You see this?” He held up his hand, containing a red orb which
was glowing malignantly, like a sinister tomato. “Holding one
of these puts you in a telepathic link with a particular dragon. One
can use this link to talk to the beasts, if one's that way inclined.
Or one can override the dragon's will and... force it into action.
Now, if you'll excuse me, I have a mayor to blackm... um, I mean,
Then he looked
straight into my eyes, and with a truly demonic smile, he added, “Oh,
by the way, Tessa – I look forward to seeing how you describe
this encounter on your blog.”
AAAHHH!! How is this
happening?! There's this crazy villain from a computer game who knows
our real names and is reading my blog!! How much else does he know
...Okay, okay, I'll
Anyway, at that
point he said, “I'm off to talk to the mayor. Enforcement
Director Kraus, could you keep our visitors entertained while I'm
Kraus looked at us
and cackled in a truly insane way. “Gladly, master!”
Kraus had also
acquired a new costume for his new role. It was grey and red, with
highlights of gold. But it couldn't hide his deformed shape, and
nothing could have hidden his deranged expression. It did, however,
effectively hide the two swords he was carrying until he'd already
charged at us and whipped them out at the last minute. Paula dodged,
but still got a nasty cut from one of the scimitars, whose blade had
blazed with flame when it hit her.
All thoughts of
following Binkley disappeared when Kraus followed up his attack with
a spell that hurled spikes from the sky. That really hurt all of us.
The others got busy attacking him while I got busy healing Paula and
the rest of us.
tough. He had an evil evil spell
that paralysed a person for a full minute – I guess it was
similar to the version that Binkley cast on us in the King's throne
room. Whenever that one came out (and thankfully it was only every
few minutes), I grabbed a magic-points potion and spent most of the
minute healing the paralysed member, because not being able to dodge
makes you seriously vulnerable. He had several other powerful spells.
He had the one sword that dealt flame damage that I've already
mentioned. And his other sword imparted cold... not just chilling,
but painful iciness that slowed down its target as well as hurting
disproportionately to the damage it dealt.
Still, with four of
us we had an advantage beyond what one's meant to have in the game.
(If we're even still following the game at this point? I have no idea
what Binkley's knowledge of our presence from outside the gameworld
will mean. He certainly sounds like he's aware of the fact that we're
in a game... does that make him free to change it? I just don't
know!!) But anyway, we managed to beat Kraus... except that we didn't
actually get to kill him: when he collapsed to the ground and we were
standing over him inexorably, he cackled nervously and cast some kind
of Smokescreen spell. By the time it cleared, he had gone.
We ran urgently into
Haniton, hoping to catch up with Binkley, or at least find out what
had happened. We only made it to the village in time for the latter:
the Dark Lord was nowhere to be seen, but the effects of his visit
were dreadfully obvious. Even besides the charred and devastated
buildings, there was the glum expression on the face of the mayor, as
he stood shambolically outside the town hall. We walked up and
hesitantly asked him what had happened.
“I gave in,”
he sighed. “I agreed our town would pledge fealty to him. What
was left of us would, anyway,” he added bitterly. “What
else could I do? I feel like a double failure... I failed our King by
not standing up for him, and I failed my people by not immediately
There wasn't much to
say to that, so we just stood in commiserative silence for a few
moments. With a glance at the rest of us, Alleria changed the subject
slightly by asking him if he knew what Binkley had been referring to
when he mentioned the Ball. The mayor answered sadly, “Yes,
we're letting ourselves be exploited straight away. He's going to
create a huge magical bridge from Haniton pier, out across the sea,
and the end will somehow warp you off to some other world of
darkness. Apparently he's got some fancy castle there, which is where
he lives, and he's holding a party to celebrate taking over Elysia,
and he's invited every Elysian to come. Of course, most people are
too busy working the fields to come, so it'll just be the aristocracy
glances. “And this is tomorrow night?”
apparently so,” said the mayor despondently.
We walked off and
huddled. “Okay, gang,” said Paula. “We need to stop
him terrorising these towns. That Wyrmstone is the key to that. And
the one place and time we know where he's going to be is tomorrow
evening. So... we go to the party, pretend we're aristocrats, and
then sneak away and steal the stone while he's entertaining visitors.
“Do I have to
dress up like a ponce?” asked Michael, making a face.
I smiled flirtily at
him and told him, “It might quite suit you, you know.” He
looked unconvinced, but didn't push the point.
Paula mused, “Where do we get some aristocratic clothes?”
And so it was that
we found ourselves trekking across the Elysian wilderness (still a
blessed relief compared to the downright strangeness of the World of
Darkness) to the Royal City, with the aim of finding some high-class
tailors. It turned out the tailors were all closed by the time we got
there (the evening was rather advanced), so we found rooms in the inn
for the night. (Funny how the Royal City only has one inn.) And
sleeping in the inn, just as we'd been working ourselves up to get
ourselves really kitted out to stun the party... we woke up in our
by princess-of-china, at 08:59 on Nov 28th
by bringiton, at 09:23 on Nov 28th
by taleteller, at 13:15 on Nov 28th
You evil, lying bastard
Ooooh... I think I
may have just snapped us out of Elysia by sheer force of anger!
...I'll get to the reason why in a bit.
When we initially
woke up back in Elysia, though, we were in an inn in the Royal City,
and feeling ready to spend. The new day dawned bright and quick, as
we hit the clothes shops and made an impact.
The dressmakers were
pretty busy, with a lot of aristocracy crawling out of the woodwork
to shop for the same event we were. Even despite that, though, it was
a load of fun, trying on different styles of absurdly over-the-top
evening dresses and fancy gowns. Alleria reluctantly joined in, after
we persuaded her that although her sorceress' robes were elegant
enough, they were far too identifiable, with Binkley having seen her
in them at least three times. She started getting into it a bit as
time went on, although she wasn't as giggly as Paula and me.
The same can't be
said for Michael, who scoffed at and pointblank refused most of the
suggestions for his costume. In the end we found one understated
black-and-silver outfit that he considered tolerable, and agreed to
purchase that, even if it may have been just to stop our pestering.
Paula and I got very
much into the spirit, suggesting to one another different designs and
fashions from the range the tailors offered, egged on by the
salesladies themselves. In the end, we got Paula a beautiful pink
shimmery princess-style outfit, with a feathered tiara, while I went
for a black and green velvet ball gown with a slightly daring
décolletage and some black shoes studded with sparkly
emeralds. The four outfits cost us a sizeable fraction of our
treasury, but it's not real money, anyway, right? (Michael sensibly
insisted we visit the other shops in the city during some of our
remaining time before the ball. Surprise, surprise! – they had
a new shipment of upgraded weapons and armour in! Amazing, that.
Nobody was quite sure where it had come from, either... but it
continued to have the miraculous perfect fit.)
before long, we were ready to return to Haniton and cross Binkley's
bridge to the World of Darkness. The day in the Royal City had
revived our spirits a bit – although I wouldn't say it had
exactly been restful, with all the jostling past minor nobles in the
dressmakers – so we were raring to go. The bandits were out in
force along the road to Haniton, which I guess makes sense, with all
the aristocracy travelling; we were glad we'd stayed in our
travelling gear for the journey, because we'd have got blood on our
nice new clothes more than once if we'd been wearing them.
I was faintly
disgusted to see that in Haniton, the houses that had been
incinerated by the Dark Lord's dragon yesterday were already rebuilt
and gaudily painted. ...Or rather, it turned out, illusions of them
had been set in place, as I discovered when I reached out to touch
one in astonishment, which quickly turned into a cynical grimace.
None of the rest of the passers-by even noticed the blackened grass
and other telltale signs, though. Their attention was caught in all
cases by the huge golden, glimmering bridge that dominated the
landscape. Leaving from the pier where we'd set off to sail to the
Atlantean City so long ago, it rose quickly and stretched out over
the sea until it went into a “weird swirly hole” (to
reuse Paula's phrase), just like the one we'd seen in the King's
throne room. Obviously Binkley had laid this one on especially for
We decided to nip
inside one of the illusory buildings to change into our glad rags.
Again I had to force Michael out when Paula was about to take her top
off. Sigh... Just as he seems to be noticing me and paying me more
attention, he pulls something like that.
We emerged in our
elegant party costumes, and Michael wasn't back yet! Haha, and blokes
complain about girls taking a long time getting changed. It was at
least two more minutes before he reappeared in his black-and-grey
evening wear. He did look very fetching – I was almost ready to
forgive him. And the poor thing also looked like he was uncomfortable
in it, fidgeting with his belt. He had apparently managed to conceal
both his daggers (plus his two spares) in the costume, which was
Climbing the magical
golden ramp towards the portal, I was starting to get really into a
party mood. Having the assorted notable personages around us, each in
their fancy ball attire, definitely helped. Plus it was quite an
evocative setting, walking out across the ocean in the twilight, on
this bright shining bridge.
We stepped through
the warp with a certain sense of foreboding, remembering last time
we'd seen one. But there was no dungeon on the other side of this
one: the bridge continued up to the entrance of what was clearly the
levitating castle of magic we'd seen before. I was a little surprised
to see that the bridge went straight to one of the highest levels –
the castle was easily eight storeys high, and we were walking up
towards a gate in what was perhaps the seventh. I guess when you've
got a castle that people need magic to get into anyway, you may as
well let your guests come right in to the upper ballroom.
It was rather spooky
looking over the edge of the golden platform and seeing that we were
indeed suspended over utter nothingness. What if Binkley decided to
suddenly banish the bridge, and let all the assembled nobles plummet
into the void?
But it seems that,
at least thus far, the Dark Lord had no such plans. We set foot
safely on the Floating Castle, and got to see the unreality of its
architecture up close. Not only were the stones constantly shifting
colour softly, but they were humming with power, and very faintly
vibrating to the touch. It was as if the entire castle was
continually being recreated by some immensely powerful spell, for a
fraction of a second each time. Or maybe that was just me making up
silly explanations for things. Anyway, it was distinctly cool. (Not
to mention the whole “levitating over the Sea of Nothing”
factor, which also has serious style points.)
Several nobles and
minor barons were gawping over the castle's outer walls in
unattractive fashion, so I hastily stopped loitering and continued in
towards the entrance hall. The décor inside was suitably
opulent, and a bit of a change from the “skulls and blood-red
cloth” motif that Binkley had had in his throne room in the
citadel. This was just like some rich and ostentatious duke's study,
with gold-edged tapestry along the side walls, gilt framing to the
portraits, and luxurious carpets in some Persianesque style.
Binkley himself was
standing in this antechamber, and shaking hands with each of the
guests as they entered. Ooops. We'd planned to mingle, and not be
especially conspicuous. This way he was pretty likely to see straight
through our disguise – we hadn't exactly got masks on or
anything. Unless he was so used to our travel garments that he didn't
recognise us all dressed up... Oh well, there was no hope for it, so
we just walked up to him. He'd changed costume again – this one
was crimson and indigo, decorated with brocade, every bit living up
to the “lavish lord” impression he was giving with the
rest of the place.
He smiled savagely
to see us. “Welcome, welcome, my good friends,” he said
in genteel tones.
Paula, to her
credit, dropped a very refined curtsey, and with her head down
replied, “Not at all, my lord. The pleasure is all ours.”
With a beatific
smile, our host and nemesis said, “It's all right, Paula, you
don't have to stand on ceremony with me.”
We all froze for a
moment. He gave a cultured laugh, and said, “Don't worry. I'm
not going to attack you here at the party.” He added with a
dangerous grin, “Better be careful after that, of course.”
asked him bluntly. “Why are you letting us in here?”
is my party, to celebrate my coronation as ruler of Elysia,” he
I said skeptically.
“Hey, can't I
enjoy throwing a party for people every now and then?” he
replied, fractionally defensively. And then, gesturing at Michael and
me, he accidentally dropped the bombshell. “After all, you two
seemed to hit it off well at the last one.”
At first I didn't
quite understand what he'd said. “...What?” I asked him,
He suddenly widened
his eyes in shock, and backpedalled. “Ahahaha, I mean... When
the two of you, um, were tied up in my throne room. Muhahaha.”
narrowed my eyes at him. “Wait... Michael and I? At your
party?” The shock was dawning on me. I glanced to my side at
Paula, whose jaw was also dropping. We exclaimed together, “...Ben?!”
The Dark Lord's eyes
were darting rapidly from side to side. After a few seconds he
shrugged and returned to his confident smile. “Ah, well, you
were going to figure it out sooner or later.”
You're inside the game?”
His smile managed to
be nervous and rogueish at the same time. “Yeah, somehow I
kinda ended up here.”
But... You kept... making out it wasn't real!”
He shiftily replied,
“Well, I couldn't just come out and say it, could I? 'Oh, by
the way, I got sucked in too, in the role of the villain'?”
I looked to my
friends, seeking backup for my astonished fury. Michael was giving
Ben a look that was approaching a glare, in his understated way.
Paula was still gaping. Alleria seemed almost embarrassed, and looked
like she was trying to avoid the whole confrontation. Understandable,
I rounded on Ben
once more. “You little piece of...!”
Tessa, calm down,” he said somewhat frantically. “This
doesn't have to be a problem. After all, we can still have fun
together here, right? Even more so with us being on different sides.
I can come up with challenges and things that are tailored to you
guys specifically. We can make this into a load of fun for all of
The lying little
“You lied to
us! You insulted us for pretending this was all real! You made out we
were making it all up, while every minute you were scheming how to
get in our way and make things harder for us?!”
that's not the way it was at –”
treacherous little git! What else were you planning to lie to us
expression was rather mixed as she pulled on my arm. “Hey,
Tessa, calm down. It's true, he's a piece of scum, but you don't have
bastard! I thought we were meant to be friends! You, you –!”
And I think it's at
about that point that I sat bolt upright in bed, with my teeth and
fists clenched, and realised I was sweating all over. It was already
almost 7am, so I just got up. I think I almost scalded myself with
the shower... trying to take the anger out in temperature of water
not the best idea.
So I'm just going to
go to work, and woe betide any customer who tries to speak to me.
And woe betide you,
Ben, when I get hold of you.
by princess-of-china, at 08:25 on Nov 29th
by taleteller, at 08:29 on Nov 29th
by bringiton, at 08:58 on Nov 29th
by princess-of-china, at 12:05 on
by taleteller, at 17:51 on Nov 29th
Calmed down a little
Okay, having a
gaming evening with Michael today was more helpful than I thought it
would be. I thought I'd just be snapping at everyone and getting mad
with the console. But it wasn't that bad.
When I went round to
collect Paula, she gave me a big hug, which was much appreciated.
Michael looked distinctly sympathetic when he opened the door to let
us in, too. I didn't know what I'd been wanting him to be like. But
sympathetic wasn't bad.
I raged briefly
about Ben to them. They were... noncommittal. I think they agreed
that he was a scumbag, they just weren't as vigorous about it as I
Anyway, at my
request, we played some fighting and shooting games. I've not played
that many of those, and I think in general I'd still prefer the RPGs,
but those were just what I needed tonight.
Ben, you said you
had some explaining to do. Get talking.
by princess-of-china, at 23:01 on
by bringiton, at 23:27 on Nov 29th
The ball on the floating castle
...Wow. That was
quite a party. I'm still mad at Ben, but I have to admit he knows how
to throw a party.
So when I got to
sleep (around midnight – yes, I did read Ben's explanations
first), suddenly we were all back in the foyer of Binkley's magical
floating castle. Paula was hanging onto my arm, Michael was beside
me, and Binkley was standing in front of us. I could recognise
Binkley's expressions as Ben's, now that I knew to look for them.
It was quite weird,
with a day's worth of emotions and conversation having suddenly
passed in between one in-game instant and the next. My throat was
even feeling a bit hoarse from how I'd been shouting last night. I
didn't say anything more... I'm not sure what I would have said. I
wasn't feeling as enraged as I had been earlier, but still not
exactly happy. So I just turned on my heel and strode off through the
Paula and Michael
hurried to keep up. Ben called from behind us, somewhat plaintively,
“Enjoy the party, my friends!” Then he was back into his
role greeting the guests.
We walked into the
main hall, and the party was in full swing. A small group was playing
classical music quietly on a slight stage at one side. There was a
big shiny ballroom floor. There were several tables around the edges
with fruit and meat and things, prepared in ways that looked both
mediæval, and also deeply appetising. And there were already
the beginnings of a throng of fancily dressed upper classes there. It
was like that moment near the start of a party where people are
standing around, nibbling at the food, faintly enjoying themselves
but waiting for things to get going.
The four of us
wandered over to a corner where we could talk quietly out of earshot,
on the pretence of looking around the hall. (I quite wanted to look
around the hall as well.) Paula murmured, “Right. Do you reckon
this might be a reasonable time to go do our sneaking mission, before
too many people come in, and while Binkley's still at the door?”
thoughtful. “I don't know. It might be better to wait until the
party's in full swing, and there's more noise coming from the party
to cover whatever noise we might make.”
Michael gave a rare
smile and said, “Well, it means we get to enjoy the festivities
for a bit.”
So we did.
We tried mingling
and chatting, but the nobles weren't much for conversation. Like,
each of them had just one line, in that disturbing fashion. (We
really must find out what's going on with all those. Vrathia was no
help at all.) But the food was good.
About half an hour
after we entered, the musicians struck up playing a much louder and
jauntier piece, and the assembled snobs took this as their cue to
move to the dance-floor. I just stood there and watched them for at
least ten minutes, two or three dances' worth. They were impressive,
very ballroom style. I wouldn't know whether it was a waltz or a
quickstep or what, but they did it very well. A couple of the
youngest and oldest ones were a bit incompetent, and tripped over one
another and things, but everyone else seemed to know the dances with
an awe-inspiring detail and level of choreography. After I'd watched
a couple of dances I started recognising two or three of the most
basic moves. But I didn't think I'd be able to dance them myself, so
it was still very impressive to watch.
They mostly changed
partners after each dance, as well. This meant that after the third
dance, a couple of flamboyantly-dressed youngish courtiers approached
Paula and me as we were standing by the side, and asked us if we'd
dance. Wide-eyed, we looked at one another... this style of dancing
wasn't exactly what we practiced at our nights out clubbing. But
Paula shrugged and accepted with a grin. Watching the young man take
her hand and lead her away, I decided it was worth a try, and so I
smiled at the remaining guy standing before me and offered my hand.
led me up to the dancefloor as the musicians started a new tune. And
it was strange: it was almost as if something took over, except it
wasn't quite like that... I was in full control the whole time, I
just turned out to know how to waltz. It was one of the more
dreamlike moments of this weird second-life-in-dreams that I'm
getting used to. I suppose it's just like discovering I know how to
cast spells, which is really saying that I've picked up Terena's
knowledge of how to cast spells: it seems Terena knew ballroom
dancing as well.
So that was quite
fun. We kinda got swept away from one another as we whirled deftly
around the room. I did spot Michael and Alleria avoiding joining
in... I guess Maitland's from a gang of thieves in a seedy suburb, so
not exactly the place to pick up a Viennese Waltz. (Although wouldn't
Terena have been in some kind of convent or abbey? And wouldn't Varyn
have grown up in a small peasant village? Neither of those exactly
lends itself to just happening to learn the finer delicacies of the
American Tango. Ehh, I guess I shouldn't question too much.)
Anyway, after the
guy let go of me with a gracious bow at the end of the dance, I
thanked him and stood there for a few moments to catch my breath. And
then who should come up to me but Sir Randall! He was dressed in a
different costume from when we adventured into the Fire Shrine
together, but it was just as exuberant. Thing is, it was no more or
less excessive than the rest of the outfits around, and so I hadn't
spotted him in the sea of colourfully dressed aristocrats.
What a marvel and a delight to see you here!” He swept his hat
from his head and in front of himself as he bowed almost to the
ground. “After we parted ways in the Royal City and I then
heard no more of you, I had feared my encounter with you to have been
but a fleeting dream, a wishful imagining. How goes the quest?”
I couldn't help
smiling at his typical overly-flowery speech: it was silly, but in an
entertaining way, and a girl's not exactly going to be offended at
somebody being so lavishly grateful to see her again. So I gave him a
curtsey in my wonderful black and green velvet dress (I must see if I
can find anything like it in the real world, because it's wonderful),
and then replied, “Very well, thank you.” (In retrospect
I guess it's not going so well, what with having all our amassed
magical orbs stolen by a Dark Lord and having to escape from jail and
so on. But hey.) I added, “How goes the paladinning and soldier
of fortuneing? Um, I mean, soldiering of fortune?”
He gave me a
sparkling smile of amusement, before his face sobered as he answered,
“The paladins of the Elysian Court were greatly distressed to
hear of our King's sudden illness. However, the Chancellor has been
most noble in his donations towards relations with the governors of
the World of Darkness.”
“Illness? Donations? So that's how he's claiming it went, is
addressed me an uncomprehending look. In low, furtive tones, I
explained to him something of what had been really going on. At first
he was shocked, then thoughtful, then serious. When I finished he
responded, “'Tis greatly distressing to hear of this betrayal
and perfidy. When I return to the Court, I shall rally the paladins
to your cause.”
Looking around, he
added, “But for the moment, milady, if I would not be too bold
for asking... might I have the pleasure of the next dance?”
With a smile I
answered, “The pleasure would be all mine, Sir Randall.”
He took my hand and
drew me close to himself as the music started. Wow... he's a good
dancer. He guided us strongly and confidently around the floor,
leading me into elegant spins under his arm and then pulling me close
again. We glided across the hall and back again, tracing patterns on
the floor as I felt his warmth against me.
When the music
finished and he bowed to me as I curtseyed, I found myself slightly
flushed. He seemed to notice, because he asked with a knowing smile,
“May I perhaps escort you to the drinks table, Lady Tessa?”
So we drank
together, and danced together. It was fun. At one point I spotted
Paula and Michael slipping through a side door – I guess they
were going off on their scouting mission. (Well, stealing mission.)
At one point I asked Sir Randall, “Aren't you supposed to
change partners after each dance?”
He made a mock-sad
face. “There is such a custom among some of the aristocracy, it
is true. And of course, if you wish, I will leave you. But I feared
you might not know many more of the revellers here.” He had a
point. “Besides which, your presence is so charming, and I
would far rather be at your side than with anyone else.” It was
probably exaggerated, but it was nice. So I let him continue to lead
me in magnificent dances and make my heart beat faster.
The next dance
featured lots of spinning. In evil fashion, the ladies spin around
lots while the men just hold their hands above the lady. So
afterwards, I was rather dizzy but Sir Randall wasn't. How sexist.
Anyway, I was rather craving a sit down, and he asked me if the music
was a bit loud, which I had been thinking myself. So the two of us
went looking through the nearest side door to see if there was a room
to relax in away from the music.
The corridor was
sumptuously decorated, but the rooms that we looked into were
kitchens and storerooms and such. Sir Randall suggested we might find
more comfortable places to rest on an upper floor, so we climbed a
staircase, me offering him a hand. When we got to the top of the
stairs I was wondering whether to remove my hand or leave it in his,
but he solved my quandary by offering me his arm like a gentleman. I
took it with a smile.
The rooms on this
upper floor were far more luxurious. I'm sure some of the floating
castle must be full of puzzles and enemies, but this bit was just
Victorian-looking expansive rooms – drawing rooms and bedrooms,
mostly. The second one we looked in had a piano. I gave a little
squeal of delight and ran over to it, sat down on the wooden chair
that was in front of it, and gently laid my hands on the keys. I
haven't played the piano for five or six years, since I left school,
and so I was more than a bit rusty. But I was able to recall a couple
of my favourite pieces of music, and closed my eyes and immersed
myself in music for a bit.
When I resurfaced,
Sir Randall gave me a standing ovation. (Although he was standing
beside me anyway, so I don't know if the “standing” bit
counts for much.) I felt myself blush as he knelt before me and said,
“That was magnificent.”
“Not at all,”
I protested, turning to face him. “I'm out of practice and was
never very good.”
shows when you play the piano. And your face was more beautiful than
ever.” He knelt to kiss my hand, and I smiled. I was going all
He didn't release my
hand when he'd kissed it, but then kissed my wrist, and on up my arm,
brushing black strands of my hair out of the way, all the way to the
velveted shoulder of my ball gown. “Lady Tessa, you are truly
beautiful,” he said softly, his face very close to mine. I was
feeling hot flushes rise up my neck and cheeks, and when he leaned
towards me, I willingly closed my eyes and submitted to his kiss. His
lips on mine were soft and gentle. When he pulled away after a few
moments, he took my hand and drew me to my feet. I noticed that he
must have closed the door when he followed me into the room.
We stood and
embraced for a while. I'm not sure what thoughts were running through
my head. I do recall feeling a bit heady on the atmosphere and the
emotions. But I know that I initiated the next kiss, wrapping my arms
around his neck and pulling himself to me.
gladly, and then left my lips to plant soft, tantalising kisses on my
neck, eliciting a tiny cry from me. His hands were stroking up and
down my back through the velvet of my dress. As they strayed to my
backside I yelped a little, but didn't resist. His embrace was warm
and comforting, and his touch was exciting and tantalising.
The caress of his
lips moved down the front of my neck, along my clavicle, and further,
into the plunging décolletage of my ball gown. I idly wondered
whether to stop him. But his butterfly kisses were delighting my
senses, and I rationalised to myself that this was all unreal anyway.
Even Sir Randall himself didn't exist in the real world. My dream
His hands were
squeezing my rear as his lips were teasing my front. He traced a
gentle curve with his kisses around the tops of my breasts and down
my cleavage. I think I was running my fingers through his hair. He
slowly nudged the fabric of my dress down by a millimetre, then a
millimetre further, all the while twisting and twirling with his
tongue. I'm not sure I'd known the sides of my breasts were that
sensitive. Maybe it was the heat of the moment.
It was quite
arousing when he carefully took my dress's neckline in his teeth and
pulled it down below my breast. Then he moved a hand up to my chest,
and oh-so-gently stroked a feather-light fingertip from my side,
around the breast's perimeter, adding occasional feather-touches of
his other fingertips, until his whole hand was hovering an inch from
my naked boob and I was holding my breath in anticipation. He was
looking up into my eyes, searching, inquiring, asking permission.
I wanted him to
continue. Did I want him to continue? I didn't know the guy that
well. He didn't really even exist. But his touch was so exciting and
gentle, and he was checking with me each time he wanted to go
further. (Which I was letting him do each time. I'm not like this
with guys I've just met in clubs. But Sir Randall was... different,
somehow.) I wanted him to continue if I could trust him. Could I
trust him? I decided I could.
I smiled in
acquiescence and desire. He smiled in victory and stroked my skin
with each of his fingers, in a tiny circle, with his palm still
hovering just above my nipple. He was deliberately tantalising me,
and my anticipation was building. I wondered if my firming nipple
would graze his palm, and tried to arch my back to touch his hand.
But he murmured teasingly, “Ah-ah, not just yet...” His
fingertips brushed the sides of my breast, and then he suddenly
grasped me with his whole hand, and I gasped in pleasure. His other
hand returned to squeezing my rump while he kneaded my boob and
kissed my neck. Hungrily my lips reached for his, and our tongues
intertwined as he massaged my chest.
Then his head
dropped to my dress's stretched neckline once more, and his tongue
traced sensitising curves down my breasts. He repeated his feat of
uncovering a breast with his teeth, and this time he ran his tongue
around it, along the crease at its base, and up, in a slow spiral
converging on my awaiting nipple. All the while his hand was
squeezing and stroking my other breast and providing a background of
erotic sensations as I anticipated the touch of his mouth.
he flicked my nipple with his tongue, once, twice. I cried out again
and tried once more to curve my back to move my chest closer to his
mouth. This time he complied with my unspoken request and sucked my
nipple into his mouth. He tugged and sucked at it, and all the while
meeting my eyes, judging the effect his ministrations were having on
me. As his tongue swirled around my nipple, an unbidden “Ohhh...”
escaped my lips, and I pressed his head to my chest once more.
I gradually became
conscious that as he sucked my naked breasts and squeezed my rear
through the velvet, his other hand was stroking at my bare ankles,
where my dress ended. In my senses' heightened state, the caress of
his fingertips on my leg was extremely nice. Not surprisingly, he
started stroking upwards, letting his arm lift my dress as his
fingers continued their maddening ascent. He was flitting between the
inside of one thigh and the other, each set of sensations making me
want him to continue where he was until he flicked back. Then he
started planting quick kisses on each of my nipples in turn. I got
lost in those feelings for a bit, and the next time I noticed his
hands was when his finger was stroking the very top of my inner
thighs, just millimetres from my underwear.
Suddenly he was
pushing me to sit down on the chair again – I didn't much
object to that, as my legs had gone decidedly weak at the knees. He
shifted himself to be kneeling between my legs, and lifted my dress
so that his head had free access to kiss the thighs he'd just been
gingerly stroking. His hand was stroking my breasts and playing with
my nipples, while the same butterfly kisses that had worked his magic
on my neck were now rolling along my upper thighs and around the
edges of my knickers. (I never thought I'd be describing on my blog
the underwear that RPG characters wear, but in this case, it was a
silky dark green thong to go with the dress.)
The pressure of his
head gradually forced my legs wider apart, as he traced intimate
kisses around my centre, still skirting around anywhere covered by my
underwear. I could feel his breath through the silk, further arousing
me. Then suddenly his teeth were at the upper hem of my knickers, and
gently, carefully, he started tugging them down. I gasped, this time
in realising what he was after, but I compliantly lifted myself
slightly off the stool so that he could tug my underwear down over my
hips. As he was pulling the thong down and over one foot, the sudden
feeling of the fresh air on my most sensitive parts caught me
aback... but it was nothing compared to suddenly being able to feel
Sir Randall's breath on them.
His voice was thick
as he said, “You are truly beautiful and a delight to the
senses, Lady Tessa.” I didn't know quite how to respond to
that, but thankfully I wasn't really feeling in much of a condition
to speak anything coherent anyway.
He recommenced his
gentle kisses, taking care at first not to even brush anywhere
particularly sensitive. It was still immensely erotic. I could feel
his warmth against my skin, and I'm sure he could feel mine. But he
wasn't recoiling in disgust, but making sounds of satisfaction and
pleasure, as the soft touches of his lips and tongue tantalised me
further and further. His tongue traced the crease at the top of one
leg, then the other, skipping maddeningly over the vital region in
between. And then I felt kisses working inwards, alternating from the
soft skin on one side to the other, and then back to the first but a
bit closer, closer, closer still...
And then he kissed
me directly on my lower lips, and I went wild.
Thankfully, so did
he. Detecting my abandon, he started kissing and licking and sucking
me all over the most sensitive regions, frantically, and I couldn't
tell apart the details of which and where. I just knew that it felt
wonderfully, amazingly good, and I took hold of his head in my hands
and pulled him urgently towards me, closer in to the place to which
he was giving such delicious attention. I leaned back in the seat and
abandoned myself to the intense sensations washing over me, of this
delightful knight bringing me so much pleasure.
Slowly but surely I
felt a tightness building in me, and I found myself murmuring, “Oh,
yes... don't stop... oh, yes...” He heard me and redoubled his
ministrations, kissing and sucking and nibbling, and not objecting to
my fingers tensing and clutching at his hair in a way that must have
been painful. And then I was catapulted up into the stratosphere,
flying and writhing and exploding and crying and laughing.
When I drifted back
down, I found myself being held in a fierce embrace by Sir Randall,
with intense sensations still periodically fluttering and pulsing
through me. I wasn't feeling up to standing just yet, but I took hold
of him and smiled weakly at him and said “That... was
He gave me such a
beam of confidence and charm that it made my heart skip a beat, and
replied, “No, you were wonderful, Lady Tessa. It was my delight
and privilege to see you in the throes of such passion.”
He put his arms
around me and half-lifted me to stand from the chair. Then he
unhurriedly started removing his ruffled top. My head was still all
full of euphoria, but I was just about conscious enough to give a
the sake of holding you closer, my dear,” he explained without
interrupting his strip. Even at the time I thought that unlikely, but
I considered and decided I didn't much mind. After all, he'd just
brought me such wonderful feelings. And I was rather aroused by the
thought of seeing him naked. So I gave him an encouraging grin, and
looked around the room. There was no bed, but there was a gigantic
chaise-longue. I removed my dress – it was a fairly pointless
garment given it was rolled down below my breasts and had just been
proven to be no obstruction to my crotch either – and, nude,
went to lie down on the big sofa-like thing, and watch the pleasing
sight of Sir Randall removing his clothes.
He joined me, and to
his credit, did just lie down beside me, squeezing in to the gap
between me and the cushioned back and just relaxing and holding me.
It was warm and reassuring, feeling his bare chest pressed against my
back, and being held in his arms. However, his erection had been a
particularly pleasing part of what he'd revealed, and was now making
itself pretty prominent, pressing into my behind as we lay there
together. I reached down between my legs to touch it... I had had no
idea what it was going to feel like, but it was warm and hard and
fleshy and very, very exciting.
I kind of wiggled
against him encouragingly, and Sir Randall replied in a mock-warning
tone, “My dear wonderful Lady Tessa, if you keep that up I may
not be able to control myself.”
I pondered his
implication. Did I want to lose my virginity to him? Would it hurt?
Would it be safe, here inside an RPG? I certainly wouldn't have
unprotected sex in real life. But Sir Randall didn't even exist
outside of this fantasy world... In the end, it was the very fact
that he warned me that convinced me to go ahead. He was chivalrous
even in this situation: he was a good guy.
So I giggled
slightly, and kept wiggling my backside against the hardness that had
excited me so much. He groaned a bit, and reached around with his
hand to squeeze one of my breasts. That was nice too. He started some
kind of thrusting that felt good, so we pushed back and forth against
each other for a bit while he massaged my boob and nibbled on my ear.
Then he said to me
once more, “Are you sure this is all right, Lady Tessa?”
In my best
reassuring and alluring tone I told him, “Very much. I want
That was all he
needed. He shuffled himself about a bit on the chaise-longue, reached
down with his free hand to position himself, and thrust straight into
I cried out –
more in surprise than either pain or pleasure. He withdrew almost
entirely, and then drove himself into my depths once again. “Oh...
oh my goodness,” I breathed. This was very different to how it
had felt playing with my dildos myself. (Yeah, never thought I'd
mention them on my blog either...) He was warm and textured and alive
and moving in and out of me, and slightly driving me wild. It did
hurt, a bit, but it felt extremely sexy as well.
He got into a rhythm
pretty quickly, his hand on my breast doing double duty by both
holding me in place relative to him, and also letting him play with
my nipple. Mostly I just let myself get swept away by the intense
sensations of him moving within me; but I did try to help matters by
wiggling and moving at what seemed to be the right times.
Soon I was rewarded
by his breath getting more ragged, his thrusts and squeezes getting
faster. “Oh, Tessa,” he gasped. “Oh, Tessa... OH!”
He seemed to reach his peak, and I felt him convulse inside me as he
pulsed in orgasm.
Then he lay back on
the sofa and pulled both arms around me to hold me tight. I turned my
head to kiss him passionately. But it was a bit of an awkward angle
to hold for long, so I let him end the kiss, kissed his lips, and
returned to just lying in his embrace and holding onto his arms with
my own. I could still feel him inside me, which still felt very nice,
and so I was very content.
I don't know quite
how long we lay there. I don't think I fell to sleep, but we
certainly did rest, naked, still joined, for at least ten minutes.
Eventually, though, he stirred, and I could tell he was trying to get
up, so I lifted myself to let him out.
He moved to stand in
front of me, and performed his characteristic sweeping bow. I had to
cover my giggle because it did look a bit incongruous with him doing
that in the nude. He met me with a smile full of affection and said,
“Dear Lady Tessa, you have brought me indescribable pleasure
this night. I would love dearly to spend the rest of the evening
unclad with you, but should we return to your compatriots?”
Michael!” I exclaimed. “And Alleria. They were going to
explore the castle and steal a stone that Binkley's using to control
“I am sure
they can manage that without you,” he declared with a grin.
“But what will they do upon the completion of their theft?”
I realised I didn't
actually know. “Quite possibly they'll make a break for it and
run across the magical bridge,” I mused.
case, we should return to the ballroom and attend their
reappearance,” replied Sir Randall.
In which case, um...” I blushed as I pointed by his feet.
“Could you pass me my underwear?”
I swear the smile he
gave me as he did was positively dirty.
* * *
Back in the
ballroom, we danced some more. I revelled in being pressed close
against Sir Randall as he led us gracefully twirling across the
floor. He gave me those kind of special glances that I suppose you
give people who you've just made love to. (Not that I'd know.) It was
too tiring to dance for more than two dances in a row, so I made
frequent visits to the drinks table. It really was an excellent
I didn't see any
sign of Paula, Michael or Alleria until in the middle of a waltz,
they suddenly appeared at the top of the grand staircase and hurtled
down it, with some orcs in armour and hot pursuit. (They were the
first nonhumans I'd seen on this entire visit to the gameworld.
Interesting that Binkley uses orcs as his guards.) Guests started
screaming at seeing these armed orcs waving vicious-looking swords
I grabbed my pack,
held on to Sir Randall's hand and ran towards the exit, where the
others were headed. Falling into step beside Paula, I asked her,
she said with a happy smile. “But we need... to get out of
here... right now.”
The five of us ran
through the door, greeted by the cool night air, the disquieting
mauve night sky of the World of Darkness, and the golden magical
bridge over the empty nothingness below. “Uh-oh,” I said.
“If Binkley summoned this bridge, can he make it disappear?”
guess so,” said Paula, running even faster onto the platform in
question. “In which case we need to make it to the end before
thieves!” cried a booming voice from behind us, which I'm sure
must have been magically amplified. We kept running. A bolt of
lightning shot through the air just above our heads. We ran faster.
“Stop, or I'll
banish the bridge!” Ben shouted. I turned my head just for a
moment, and caught his eye. He was grinning confidently at us, and I
could swear I saw him wink at me.
“Run for it,
everybody!” exhorted Paula. Michael was almost at the portal
already, and Sir Randall and Paula keeping up quite well, but Alleria
and I were trailing slightly. I tried to sprint as fast as I could.
Behind me I heard
Ben boom, “Five!” I grabbed Alleria's hand and urged my
legs to run faster. “Four!” I looked at the portal ahead.
There was no way we were going to make it! “Three!”
Michael passed through the black swirls into Elysia. “Two!”
Paula glanced round at us in concern and then followed him. “One!”
Sir Randall disappeared into its depths as I glanced sidelong at
Alleria in horror.
cried Ben, and the bridge flickered. The portal was just a couple of
We leapt, and the
bridge disappeared underneath us.
There was one of
those split-seconds that lasts an eternity. We hung in mid-air, with
the castle behind us, the black swirls in front of us, and an endless
nothing spread out below us.
And then somehow,
impossibly, we made it into the portal.
course, this wasn't much better, because the bridge had disappeared
on this side as well. We were high over the sea, and plummeting
towards it fast. I just about had time to look around in my freefall
and spot the others slightly further ahead, also falling towards the
all hit it with a big splash.
takes a long time for water to absorb all your downwards momentum,
before you can actually start swimming upwards again. We were gasping
for air when we surfaced. Splashing around and managing to stay
afloat, I looked around for each of the others. Michael was there.
Alleria appeared. Paula was there. Sir Randall?
Randall was nowhere to be seen.
just starting to panic, and then with strong strokes, he emerged from
the water. He smiled at me and Paula and said, “I'd forgotten
what an eventful life you adventurers lead.”
grinned, and started the long swim back to shore.
made it onto Haniton beach, Alleria created a <Fireball> for us
to huddle up around and dry off a bit. And then we made our way to
the Haniton inn. It was pretty late at night, but the innkeeper was
happy to put us up. And so we went our separate ways to go to sleep
in rooms in the inn. And it was as I fell asleep that I woke up.
by princess-of-china, at 12:33 on
by take-me-to-elysia, at 13:01 on
by bringiton, at 13:25 on Nov 30th
by taleteller, at 18:15 on Nov 30th
Two very interesting conversations
When we were back in
Elysia, we found ourselves waking up in the inn in Haniton.
Thankfully I'd remembered to grab my pack when we suddenly fled the
party, so I didn't have to wear the ball gown again today... as Paula
pointed out, it was very sexy, but not exactly travelling wear. I
went down for breakfast, and found the others there already.
Tessa. Welcome back. I guess you needed a lot of sleep?” Paula
Michael looked confused, as did Alleria. Sir Randall raised an
eyebrow and grinned, without meeting my eyes.
Of course, Paula was the
only one who'd read my blog post about last night. “Um, it's
nothing,” I said hastily, with a glare at Paula. “So what
are we going to do next?”
we've got this Wyrmstone. We could try seeing if we can talk to a
dragon with it,” suggested Alleria.
And so it was that after
breakfast, we found ourselves sat on the grass outside Haniton,
pulling out the malevolently glowing stone from Paula's pack, where
presumably she'd stowed it last night.
want to go first?” she asked me. I pondered – I think I'd
been assuming Paula would.
Alleria seemed to think
the same, and asked, “Shouldn't you do that, Paula?”
me?” she asked casually.
Alleria didn't seem to
have a very good answer. “Because you... you're...”
Michael came in with a
laugh, “You mean the way she's the main character and
everything? Yeah, I guess you have a point there.” Alleria
seemed to be a bit uncomfortable with Michael putting it so plainly,
but she didn't contradict him.
Paula just shrugged and
said, “I guess...”
She took the stone in
hand and concentrated. The rest of us sat there and watched her. And
watched, and watched.
After a minute or so I
said, “Um, Paula, are you getting anything?” There was no
response, so I guessed she must be seeing something. I said to the
others, “I guess we wait another five or ten minutes, and then
try shaking her out of it?”
So we sat staring at
Paula and feeling somewhat foolish. Her facial expression was
changing a little – now surprise, now concern, now frowning –
but nothing else happened for several minutes, until eventually she
blinked her eyes hard a few times, swayed slightly, and said, “Whoa.”
We showered her with
questions about what she'd seen. She laughed and said “Calm
down, calm down! I'll tell you all about it.
When I concentrated, I could see the world through the eyes of some
dragon. It seemed to be hunting in a forest – I think it was
the Twisted Forest where we got the warpwood. It could tell straight
away when I arrived in its head. It seemed all gloomy and said to me,
“What do you want now, tyrant?” So I tried to reassure it
that we weren't Ben and we weren't going to force it to do anything
it didn't want to. It was like, “But you have invoked the
Wyrmstone.” And I was telling it that we didn't know how
it worked, and we didn't want to order it around, and it didn't seem
to understand. It said, “Do you want me to go to attack the
tyrant's castle?” and I said that might be a reasonable idea
but wasn't necessarily what we wanted it to do and we'd have to
discuss things and it didn't quite seem to get it, and in the end it
said, “Are you opposed to the tyrant?” and I was like
yes, he's our enemy, and the dragon said “Then you will want me
to attack the tyrant's castle” and flew off towards Ben's
floating castle. Is that what I should have done, or should I try to
talk to it again to tell it not to?”
We blinked a few times
ourselves, catching our breath after a Paula explanation.
Then Michael said with a
smile, “No, I think that's fine.”
en route to the castle now?” I asked.
Paula shrugged and said
“I guess so.”
guess we have a little time...”
which we can go shopping,” Michael interrupted. It's quite
funny, the way he's the most emphatic about going shopping. But he's
right that it's good to keep our supplies stocked, and I guess they
must have used up quite some potions in the floating castle without
me around to cast <Cure2>.
So we visited the Haniton
weapon, armour and item shops. The town was showing its devastation
now, very different to when Ben's illusions had been in force last
night. Amazingly (spot the irony), the weapon and armour shops had
just had new deliveries of top-class dwarven-forged supplies, for
which they were naturally charging a hefty bill. But it seems the
others had found some storerooms to loot in the castle last night, so
we could afford to kit us all out.
After that, Paula got the
Wyrmstone out again and disappeared into her trance. This time she
was able to give us some kind of running commentary, though: after a
minute or so she suddenly said, “The dragon says it's already
killed twenty of the Dark Lord's orcish soldiers.” We nodded
soberly: having seen the thing in action just a few days ago in this
very town, we had no doubt it could beat several times that many.
it's approaching the Floating Castle,” she added. We continued
to wait. Suddenly her face acquired a look of concern as she said,
“Oh no! The Dark Lord's got more dragons!”
I winced: that wasn't
good news. Michael and Sir Randall seemed similarly dismayed.
Alleria, however, was incredulous. “What? No, it can't be!”
I tried to ask her,
“Why's that, Alleria? I mean, presumably he can get more of
these Wyrmstones if he got this one...”
But she replied
anguishedly, “But it's too soon! That's not meant to be for
another two days!”
days? What?” I was really confused now.
Alleria suddenly seemed
to realise what she'd been saying, and tried to back up. “Um...
nothing. I must have been getting confused.”
But at this point my eyes
had narrowed, as had Michael's. “Alleria...?” I said
slowly. “Do you know more about what's going on than you've
been telling us?”
No! I'm completely loyal to you and to the King!” she cried
defensively. A bit too defensively.
about we put it another way,” said Michael. “You know
that I am not, in fact, Maitland the thief, but Michael, a guy who
has his skills but not really his personality. Likewise Tessa isn't
Terena the cleric but finds herself playing that role. And Paula most
definitely isn't Varyn, the sword-swinging boy who first met you.”
uncomfortable, but nodded.
the other hand, are still Alleria, right? I mean, you're not someone
from our world who's found herself playing someone else's role, are
no, that's right, I'm not,” she said, not looking at us.
what's going on? Do you have any idea how come we were just watching
your story one minute and the next found ourselves in here?”
She sighed. “No,
I'm afraid I don't,” she said. “I did notice the change
when you came to take me to the Fire Shrine, though. I was totally
surprised, I'm afraid – I really had no idea what had happened,
and I still don't.”
Paula was back with us at
this point, and said, “We believe you.” Michael looked
sharply at her – I'm not sure Michael in fact did believe our
sorceress – but Paula continued, “What I want to know is,
how can you tell when we do things that are different to the way the
Alleria looked a little
shocked, but just said, “I... I'm not sure what you mean.”
she's got a good point, Alleria,” I said suspiciously. “For
example, why were you so insistent that only three of us could travel
around together? That when we decided to be four, you were so
fact, you said that we were “not the usual kind of
adventurers”, as I recall,” Michael added. “What is
the “normal kind of adventurers”?”
Alleria sighed, and
smiled in defeat. “All right, I'll explain what I know. No
group has ever asked anything like this before!”
you go again. What other groups have there been?”
try to put this into words,” she said, still with the faintly
amazed smile. She paused to collect her thoughts.
world... goes in cycles, I suppose you could say. Everybody here has
been living the same events over and over. That's just what happens.
Time passed normally when I was growing up, and studying at the
Wizards' Academy, and then I met your group for the first time. Or
perhaps I should say, Varyn's group. And we went adventuring around
the Earth Shrine and the Water Shrine and the Fire Shrine and the
World of Darkness, and we fought monsters and enemies, and climactic
events happened. And then Varyn and
Terena and I fought the final enemy, and won the final combat. And
then, suddenly... I was back on the road, the day before it all
the next day I met Varyn again, and I didn't know what was happening,
but I acted the same way. And we went through the same adventures,
but some things happened slightly differently. I wasn't with that
second group all the way through, because they left me behind when
Lothar joined the group. So I passed the time at the dwarven enclave
in Hanick for a few days, and then I found myself back on the road,
and it was the day before it all started again.
lived through this adventure hundreds of times now. Thousands. And
every time it goes slightly differently, and they'll buy different
items or explore things in a different order, and I'm with the group
for a different portion of the time... but it's the same events
this time was going like any other. Varyn arrived, we adventured a
little, I got left behind when you met Maitland, and then brought
back to open the Fire Shrine. Except when the group came to take me
to the Fire Shrine, it wasn't Varyn and Maitland and Terena, but you
three. And you did things differently. You travel in a group of more
than three! You don't say the things that the group always says!
That's another thing... Until you came along, everyone was saying the
precise same words every time anything
happened around Varyn. We could talk however we wanted when Varyn
wasn't around, but with him there, there's just a...” She
searched for a word. “Like an urge, a compulsion, to say
specific things. You guys don't have that, do you?”
the way you're describing, no,” I replied, thoughtfully. “So
that's what's happening when people say the same thing when we keep
talking to them?”
she said. With a rueful smile, she said, “Normally nobody's
surprised by it! But you guys seemed so freaked out! I heard you
talking about the villager at the gate of Haniton... What did you do
to him, exactly?!”
Michael and I laughed
while Paula looked a bit shame-faced. “Um, I was just trying to
get him to tell us the way to Vrathia's,” she mumbled. “It
seemed a reasonable question! I didn't get why he was avoiding it, so
threatened to rough him up a little,” said Michael, laughing.
Paula nodded. Then she
added, “But he was able to say other things, when he was, um,
under duress. So those dwarves and aristocrats and everyone else who
only has one line. That doesn't mean that's the only words they know,
course not,” replied Alleria. “It's just that that's all
they're allowed to say when you're around.”
earth am I – is Varyn – so special?!” exclaimed
you're the main character, my dear,” Michael grinned. Then he
looked curiously at Alleria and said, “Right?”
She shrugged helplessly.
“Well, something like that. That's we've all come to assume.
Everybody has to be at their places when Varyn's group might be
likely to visit. Nobody really knows why, except perhaps the wizards
at the Academy.”
Wizards' Academy, eh? Sounds like we should talk to these guys,”
Paula said decisively. “We haven't heard yet where that is.”
ah, be there before too long,” Alleria said, blushing a little.
Michael narrowed his eyes
at her. “That's another point. You must know what's going to
happen, right? If you've lived through it thousands of times.”
yes...” She seemed a bit uncomfortable again. “Lots of us
do. But we certainly couldn't tell you. Even without the compulsion
on what we can say, it would just feel... wrong. I mean, don't you
have that? That it'd feel wrong to tell someone their future?”
Paula mused, “Yeah,
I can understand that a bit, I think.”
although I wouldn't tell you what's going to happen...” The
sorceress was choosing her words carefully. “It seems with you
guys I sometimes have to, ah, steer things a little.”
mean, to make us follow the plot the way it's meant to go?”
Michael looked unimpressed.
Alleria said plaintively,
“Well, because otherwise you don't say the things you're meant
to say! Like when we were in the Dark Lord's dungeon, you were going
to go back up the stairs! Varyn always says at that point “I
wonder if there's some other way out?”, but you weren't going
to look for it. What would have happened if we'd gone back up to the
Dark Lord's throne room?”
story would have been different,” said Michael with a strange
look on his face. “Is that a bad thing?”
Alleria looked distinctly
unhappy. “It's... not how it's meant to go,” she said at
last. “There are lots of variations that can happen in the
adventure – I've lived all of them many times over. That's...
not one of them. The Dark Lord would have... well, I suppose he's
from your world too, now, isn't he? He could probably cope, then.
Most of us... aren't very good at improvising, at coping with things
that are different to the way they always are.”
of which, you said it was too soon for him to acquire some more
dragons,” I said. “How has he done that in the first
place? I thought he only had the one Wyrmstone.”
shouldn't tell you,” she said, sounding actually apologetic.
“But he's diverging from the way things normally go. I guess a
couple of days ago, he must have pre-emptively set about doing what
he'd normally just be starting to do today. You find out what that is
a bit later.”
where should we go now?” asked Paula directly.
Alleria smiled. “This
is one point where lots of groups go wandering around wondering that.
If you make your way to the King in Hanick, he'll give you advice. Or
if you return to Kamichika, then Sir Randall is there...” She
trailed off, looking at Sir Randall, who was sitting in the circle
beside me. “Ah, normally, that is,” she finished lamely.
is quite a long way to just get some advice. Couldn't you tell it to
us yourself, since you know it?” Paula's directness is
wonderfully refreshing sometimes.
Our sorceress looked
taken aback. She looked plaintively at Sir Randall, who just shrugged
and gestured to her. In the end she sighed and said in baffled tones,
“You guys are... good at this whole “put Alleria on the
spot” thing, you know?”
I laughed. She smiled and
said, “Well, basically the King would just ask you what your
problem is. You'd tell him that you need to get into the Floating
Castle, but it's defended by dragons. He'd tell you to go to the
the Wizards' Academy is where we'll go,” said Paula with a
though,” Alleria said with a frown. “Where did your
dragon say the Castle was?”
Where it always has been, I assume – over the Sea of Nothing.
where I'd think it would be, but... Perhaps you'd better check.”
She seemed a little troubled.
Paula and I exchanged a
look, and she returned her concentration to the Wyrmstone.
I leaned sideways and
rested my head on Sir Randall's shoulder, and he put his arm round
me. Suddenly I noticed Michael wearing a real glare. I think it was
aimed at Sir Randall, but I couldn't see his reaction. I wondered if
Michael was jealous.
The idea made me think.
What did last night's events between me and Sir Randall mean? Was I
still pursuing Michael in the real world? What about in the
gameworld? These weren't easy questions to answer.
I pondered. I do fancy
Michael, that's very clear. I do also fancy Sir Randall. I really
like Michael's personality, his attentiveness, his sense of humour,
his intellect... What about Sir Randall's personality? Certainly his
overdone chivalry and flattery is a lot of fun. How do I feel about
him? (And how is it sensible to feel about him, given he's just a
character from a game?! Goodness me, I was so disparaging of
Michael's posters and the way he fancies fictional video game
characters... I bet he hasn't had sex with one!!)
I was saved from my
circling train of thoughts by Paula returning from communing with her
dragon. She looked distinctly perplexed. “The dragon didn't
seem to know where the Floating Castle was. But it said it wasn't
over any kind of sea. It was in Elysia, though, not the World of
Floating Castle – in Elysia?” I exclaimed. “It
can't be! ...Can it?”
it's obviously only levitating by magic,” mused Michael. “And
presumably that magic is controlled from within the castle. So I'd
guess that if magic can hold the thing up, magic can move it around.”
into Elysia, from the World of Darkness? The dragon must have been
on, I'll ask it,” said Paula, and concentrated. She was getting
better at that, and pretty quickly returned saying, “No, the
dragon says that after it fought the orcs, it got to the Sea of
Nothing, and there was no castle there, but there was a huge portal,
so it flew through that and into Elysia. The castle's now on its way
Yamakiri? What's Ben going to do there?” Michael asked nobody
know, but I think we might want to be there to find out,” I
let's go,” said Alleria. I wonder if that was what she'd been
wanting us to say?
Anyway, we travelled
towards Kamichika Pass and the village of Yamakiri. We had to fight
some monsters en route, to nobody's surprise. The lizardmen have
definitely got a lot tougher since we first fought some, but so have
we. With my <Holy>, Alleria's <Elements> and another new
spell, <Inferno>, Michael's growing speed, and Sir Randall's
and Paula's upgraded weaponry, we're quite a force to be reckoned
with. Michael tells me that the possessions of these higher-level
lizardmen are worth a lot more in barter in shops, so we're getting
richer from the combats, too. Except the items and weapons we're
needing to buy are getting more expensive, so in the end it all
Anyway (do I say anyway
too much?), we made it to Yamakiri without much incident. But it was
very scary... even before we could make out Yamakiri itself in the
mountain range on the horizon, we could see the Floating Castle above
the mountains, hovering over where we knew the pass was. It looked so
out-of-place, here in Elysia. Also intimidating and visible from when
we were still a long way away were the two dragons flying round and
round the spires of the castle.
We approached with a deep
sense of foreboding. There was another dragon clearly visible on the
ground outside the mayor's house. As we climbed the final metres of
the path, we could see the mayor himself was outside, and trembling
before Ben, who was standing there in full Dark Lord regalia, with
Kraus cackling beside him.
sire,” he was saying as we drew near. “The taxes you
demand would cripple us. We are a poor people and could not afford
the food to stay alive if we had to pay such a levy.”
sure you could find a way, good mayor,” said Ben evilly. “After
all, I wouldn't want to have to let my dragons teach your people a
lesson the way they did the people of Haniton.”
cried a miner who was standing nearby, swinging his pickaxe defiantly
at the tyrant. “We'll fight you off before we give you a single
Kraus snickered, and
clutched at the Wyrmstone in his hand. The dragon suddenly lumbered
towards the hapless villager. The man tried to run, but the dragon
caught up to him in a moment.
me!” cried the miner, suddenly looking terrified and not at all
defiant. “Anybody!” he howled, but his eyes were looking
straight at Paula and me, watching in horror from concealment behind
Then the dragon ate him.
Just like that. Its head rushed forward, snapped the man out of the
air, and crunched, and he was gone.
shouted the mayor, but it was too late. Kraus cackled dementedly as
the dragon swallowed.
The elder slumped,
defeated. “As you demand, sire,” he said with a deep
sigh. “We shall find your taxes... somehow.”
excellent,” Ben said oilily. “I can tell the people of
Yamakiri will fit in well to my new world order. Oh, by the way,
hello, Paula and friends,” he said off-handedly, turning to
face us. Whoops. We emerged from our hiding places behind nearby
buildings and faced him defiantly.
can't just go around extorting the citizens of Elysia like this!”
said Paula, heroically.
dear, I think you'll find I can. In fact, as the ruler of Elysia now,
I can do whatever I want,” Ben smirked.
loyal to the true King!” Paula shot back. (She was really
getting into this. She'd be a great actress.)
Balshazzar's time has passed, little hero. I am the ruler now.”
just bullying people around with your dragons!”
called power, my dear, and it's how the world works,” said the
Dark Lord. (Or Ben in the role of the Dark Lord. It's hard to tell
them apart...) “Now, Kraus, would you like to teach these
meddlers a lesson?”
With pleasure, master!” And Kraus stepped towards us, leering,
while Ben gave us a gloating wave and walked away.
sure I heard Michael say, as he and Paula were drawing their weapons,
“Oh no, he's one of those
bosses.” I shall have to ask him what he meant.
Anyway, we fought Kraus.
Again. He'd acquired some new spells since last time, and he was bad
enough then. This time he had a horrendous <Grinder> spell that
shaved its target to within an inch of life, no matter how healthy
they were before that. And he still had <Hourglass>, that
blasted one-minute paralysis spell, too. But thankfully both of those
were less effective against five enemies than they would have been
against three. He did have mass-attack spells too, and they were a
lot more powerful than last time we fought him. And I'm sure his
flame sword and ice sword were dealing more damage than last time.
Obviously he's been working out.
But for all of that, we
were tougher too, and there were five of us. So between lots of
<Bless> and <Cure2>, lots of teaming up in attack between
Paula and Sir Randall or between Michael and Sir Randall, and lots of
persistence, we beat him in the end.
At least, I think we did.
He was looking pretty beaten and on the ropes when he waved an arm in
summoning, and suddenly a huge dragon flew down and raged at us. He
cast his <Smokescreen> thing again, and we decided there was no
point trying to take on this dragon when Kraus himself had
disappeared, so we legged it.
The mayor of Yamakiri was
pathetically grateful for our defiance, but he said it wouldn't
change what he had to do. “If we don't pay, the Dark Lord will
return and raze Yamakiri to the ground,” he moaned. So with
determination, we set off to travel to the Wizards' Academy.
En route, however, the
second very interesting conversation happened. (You know, that I
mentioned back in my post title about a year ago?) Michael dropped
back slightly and motioned to me to do the same. “Um, Tessa,”
he said hesitantly, in a quiet voice so as not to be heard by the
other three. “I was wondering if you'd like to come over to
mine, tonight? That is... Friday night in the real world, when we
wake up from all this.”
I laughed. “It
feels really weird to be planning this when we're in the gameworld,
He smiled back at me. “I
know, but I thought it was simpler than emailing you...”
just funny. But um, yes, I think Paula and I are both free tonight.”
want...” His normal laconic reticence was particularly
noticeable as he paused. “You could come without Paula?”
My reactions couldn't
have been more different inside from out. Inside, I turned a double
flip-somersault for joy. Outside, I think my face may have been
stonily expressionless as I said, “Sure.” (At least I
didn't panic and say something stupid like “no, no, it'd be
great to have her along”. You know I love you, Paula babe, but
when the guy I've fancied majorly for weeks invites me to come over
to his alone, I don't want to lose that opportunity by some crazy
Michael must have a
better instinct for when we're going to leave Elysia than I do. It
was less than five minutes' travel after he invited me over that I
by princess-of-china, at 12:41 on
by taleteller, at 18:06 on Dec 1st
by bringiton, at 18:20 on Dec 1st
by taleteller, at 18:52 on Dec 1st
by princess-of-china, at 20:37 on
I went over to
Michael's tonight. On my own.
Things started off
pretty much like they've been when Paula and I went over for games.
He welcomed me in (but without a hug or kiss or anything), offered me
a drink (but asked me what I wanted rather than knowing I'd have a
lemonade like I always do when I'm driving), and invited me to play a
thought, “Hey, it's a reasonable way to start off any kind of
evening, and it is a lot of fun.” So we spent a happy half-hour
beating one another up with a variety of martial arts moves, and then
another happy hour racing one another in assorted implausible
high-speed vehicles. It was lots of fun – there's a great
rivalry in overtaking someone just before the finish line, or zapping
them with a lightning ray just before they're about to do a jump.
(No, this wasn't the most realistic driving simulation I've ever
played. But it was a lot more fun.) Somehow the competitive smiles as
we jostled for position were building a relaxed intimacy, a
closeness, and my heart was beating fast from more than just the
thrill of the game.
After we finished
one particularly close race and we both dropped the controller and
gasped for breath, I thought this might be a reasonable time to drive
things beyond just competitive smiles. So after we'd exchanged a
couple of laughing comments about the track, I asked in what I hoped
was a casual tone of voice, “So was there any reason in
particular for inviting me over tonight?”
“Heh. That was
quite funny, inviting you during our shared dream to come over in
real life,” he said with a smile. Which wasn't answering the
question, but I decided not to push it.
So I laughed with
him. “Definitely. Crazy stuff. The whole “dreaming into
Elysia” thing is pretty crazy itself, though, isn't it?”
he said with a slight frown. “I still want to find out how that
happened. I'm hoping the Academy will be able to give us some
pretty cool, though, isn't it?”
enjoying it now?” He seemed surprised.
I smiled happily. “It's an exciting story – I'd want to
play it even if it was still just an RPG. But now, wow, we're really
immersed. We can see the Sea of Nothing, feel the heat from the
dragons, hear the music at the ball...” I trailed off,
realising that wasn't exactly an experience I wanted to be
remembering when I was here with Michael sitting only a metre away
had picked up on it. “Mmm, that reminds me. You seemed to be
having a good time with Randall at that ball. We had to cope without
you when we were working our way through the castle's guards and
I'm sure I blushed a little. But it was just as much embarrassment
from not making it for the adventure part. “Sorry about that.”
He regarded me
speculatively for a moment. “Do you have a thing for him?”
I'm sure I blushed
more. But I answered, “Not really. He's just... charming.”
It was my turn to
give him a speculative look. “Why do you ask?”
He smiled slightly, but looked away. ”No reason.”
This was fun, so I
pursued him. “Go on, why?”
He hesitated a
moment longer, then turned to look me in the eye, with a faint smile.
“Ah, well. Since you insist. It's the same answer as to your
question from earlier about why I asked you over: it's just because I
was thinking of asking you out.”
Inside, my heart did
a triple somersault. Outside, I just nodded casually and said,
“Sounds like a good reason.” But I couldn't help a warm
smile from showing through.
He gazed at me with
the relaxed warmth we'd felt playing games together. “What do
you think you'd answer if I did?”
“I think you'd
better do it and find out.”
He rolled his eyes
and grinned. “Fine. Ahem. Tessa, could I take you out for a
For a moment, I
considered teasing him a little longer. But this somehow felt like a
significant time, so I smiled happily at him and said, “I'd
love that. When did you have in mind?”
quite hungry at the moment. How about now?”
That threw me for a
loop. My eyes widened. “Now?!”
“Is there a
problem with that?”
Well, I'd been hoping for weeks to get to go out with him, or
something. So... “I guess not. Let's go.”
So we did. Right
there and then, we just left his games console and drove out to a
restaurant. Nothing like a little spontaneity to spice things up,
We went to a Chinese
place quite close to his. Not a cheap takeaway, though, a nice
Chinese with a good atmosphere and nice tablecloths and quiet music
in the background and things. We ordered a table for two. And we sat
together and ate and chatted.
It was so good,
getting to just sit and chat with Michael. I've known him for about a
month now, and spent a lot of time around him thanks to this bizarre
immersion in Elysia that we share. I've seen him fight, and think,
and worry, and laugh. But I haven't spent much time talking with him,
and even less on our own.
So we chatted, about
many things. He told me that when I was killed by the warpwood tree,
he cried and went mad. I told him how I'd always thought he was good
looking, but had come to find his personality immensely attractive as
well. (Just like the stereotype, he didn't know how to react to that.
He said so. I laughed and told him he didn't have to.)
And then we drove
back to his, and said goodnight...
And then we kissed.
Oh, wow, did we kiss. At first it was so soft and gentle, but not
like a peck, more like a tentative contact with something you think
might give you an electric shock. And in a way, it did. He kissed me
again, more firmly, and then we kissed downright passionately,
tongues tearing at one another.
When we came up for
air, we just gave each other these huge smiles, full of meaning, none
of which needed putting into words. All he said was, “...I
guess I'll say goodnight, and then see you in a couple of hours back
in the game.”
I laughed again. (I
did that a lot tonight.) I nodded and said warmly, “Yep, I
Then I gave him one
more quick kiss, and said “Goodnight!”, and drove away.
And I am completely
floating on air.
by bringiton, at 23:59 on Dec 1st
by princess-of-china, at 00:19 on
by varynfan, at 02:36 on Dec 2nd
The Wizards' Academy
Michael said when we were back in Elysia, en route to the Wizards'
Academy. “You told us before about the life that you live now,
cycling endlessly through the same story.”
replied the sorceress guardedly.
“Do you like
She certainly hadn't been expecting that. Nor had I.
nodded soberly. “Yeah, I'd been wondering that as well. Do you
mind being forced to live through the same events, over and over?
Knowing that you're going to go through the same thing, or a
variation on it, in another few days' time?”
Alleria drew a deep
breath, and gradually let it out, looking thoughtful.
try not to think about it,” she answered, slowly. “Because
it's not so bad for me? You know, I get to be part of the group that
goes around saving the world. I get to go to the party on the
Floating Castle, and see the wonder and strangeness of the World of
Darkness. I even used to be able to think I was making a difference.
But not everybody gets that.”
extras? Like the dwarves and villagers?” I asked.
“It's not even
so bad for them. They have to get into position whenever Varyn's
group might be passing, but otherwise they can just get on with their
lives. No, what bothers me is...” She looked genuinely troubled
as she continued, “The people who get attacked or killed. Like
that villager Jarak from Yamakiri.” Her face was a mask of
anguish. “How many times have I seen him eaten by that dragon?
Five hundred? A thousand? And that's just the times I've been there.
His life must be utter hell. He gets resurrected, but knows that he's
got about five days before a Dark Lord descends with a dragon, and
he'll be forced to defy him, and he's going to die again. Over and
over and over again.”
all looking a bit sickened by the thought. But she continued
relentlessly. “All the people of Haniton, living in their
houses, knowing that in three days' time they're going to have to
watch them be burned to the ground and have to live in poverty from
then on. The bandits who we fight... I've come to recognise their
faces. They all look the same superficially, but they're not –
each one is a different guy: one has a moustache, one has lighter
hair, there's one with a limp, one with a pendant. We see the same
bandits – the same people –
every time round, and every time they die. I mean, I know they chose
a life of crime, but they could at least expect to only have to face
the death penalty once! Not to live a nightmare where you get
decapitated by a sword, then raised to life, to get killed by a
<Fire2> spell, to get raised to life to get killed by a
bludgeon from a staff? That's got to be truly hellish. And you can
see it in their eyes. There's a haunted look, even as they're dying.”
she concluded grimly, “I don't exactly mind it, but it's
impossible to enjoy it so much knowing that so many of the people I
interact with are experiencing things like that.”
I was reeling. I had
idly wondered, slightly, about what it was like to live in the cycle
of this video game plot. Alleria had lived it, a thousand times over.
There was only one
question that could be asked after that. “Can anyone stop it?”
She grimaced. Her
face was truly sad as she replied, “I have no idea.”
Our journey was
rather sombre after that.
poignant was the encounter we had with three bandits, as we trod the
route to the Academy following Alleria's directions. When they leapt
out of the foothills and attacked us, we winced in memory of what
Alleria had said. Paula went as far as to say to them, “Look,
guys! Please! We have no quarrel with you. We're plenty strong enough
to kill you, and you must know that, right? But if you just leave us
alone, you can go on living!”
They responded by
simply attacking more viciously... but I'm sure I saw a hopeless
anguish in the guy's expression as he swung his dagger at me. We
tried to wound them enough to disable them without killing them, but
somehow the fighting skills we'd inherited from Varyn, Terena and
friends didn't include striking with the flat of the blade, or
pulling the blow. Only by fighting to kill could we defend ourselves
at all. So it was with extremely heavy hearts that we dispatched
them. We exchanged looks as we were cleaning up – no words were
necessary. Thankfully the other combat we had en route was with some
decidedly non-human blobs of corrosive slime. Even there, I fear
Paula may have been wondering whether her occasional animal rights
morals should extend to slime globs.
We were very glad to
arrive at the Wizards' Academy.
It was an awesome
place. Set on a cliff over a stormy sea, approached along a rocky
mountain path, they seemed not to be especially tolerant to visitors.
However, when we made our way into the door of the main building that
we first reached, the young mage girl behind the desk had a perfectly
welcoming tone as she said, “Hello, can I help you?”
Paula stepped up and
said, “Um, we'd like to see a...” She paused, unsure how
Alleria smiled, and
walked up to the desk where Paula was hesitating. “Is Professor
Archimeld still in the Thaumaturgics faculty?”
“Um... Yes, he
is.” The girl, presumably an undergraduate student, had widened
her eyes in surprise when Alleria approached, but answered readily
enough. She smiled wryly as she added, “Not much chance of
moving him in the next two decades.”
know the way. Thanks.” She marched confidently on, leaving
Paula, Michael, Sir Randall and me to scramble to follow her across
the spacious foyer, out an open doorway at the other end, and into a
surprising courtyard of cobbled paths and green grass. Turning to us,
she said with a slightly naughty smile, “Normally you're meant
to flounder your way through the conversation there, but I thought
I'd just speed things up a bit.”
Michael looked at me
in amazement and murmured, “And she's an NPC?!” I just
nodded... the sorceress must be picking up some defiance of the
conventional script from being around us outsiders.
followed her along paths, through passageways, and through a sudden
doorway on the right into an expansive hall. There were blackboards
in several places on the walls, covered in arcane scribblings. There
were oak coffee tables, with books on them that would definitely be
best described as grimoires. There
were three or four corridors extending from the space, and it was
along one of these that Alleria led us with a confident stride.
She knocked at the
third of a series of unassuming wooden doors on the left. A coughing
was heard from within, and after a few moments, a cantankerous voice
called out, “Yes?”
Alleria pushed at
the door, and beckoned us to follow. We obediently entered a study,
that turned out to be completely stuffed with books, in completely
stereotypical fashion. There was a fat old wizard sitting in an
armchair, with a tome open in front of him and eight more piled
haphazardly on his desk. Somewhat less predictably, he was staring
wide-eyed at us.
party? Aren't you meant to be seeing Professor Middicule? And I was
sure you're not meant to get here for another day or two!”
Professor, that's the way things normally go. But this group is a bit
different.” Alleria spoke familarly to the old academic –
I assume she knew him from her student days.
“But why have
you brought them to me, young lady?” he demanded of Alleria.
“It's Middicule they need to see, to get their vertical
teleport spell, isn't it? That'll get them into the Floating Castle
just fine, won't it?”
Professor, but this group need to ask about more than that, about
things that might be more your area of expertise.”
He gave Alleria a
suspicious look. “But... aren't you meant to be one of their
inflexible companions, my dear?”
“Less of the
“inflexible”, thank you,” she said in
mock-affronted tone, impressing me again. “Like I told you,
this group is different. Just look at them.”
old wizard peered through his glasses at us. At length he pointed
an accusing finger at Paula and said, “Hmm...
You, young lady, look altogether too female to be wearing Varyn's
She looked from side
to side and said, “Um... sorry?”
Archimeld's beady eyes looked at us again. “So what are you
we came to ask you, sir,” replied Paula earnestly. “We
were just playing a game, in our world, which is very different to
here, and I guess you'd say we were watching Varyn and the party and
controlling their actions. But then one time King Balshazzar looked
out of the screen at us and said our real names, and we were
surprised because we hadn't told the game our real names, and then
when we went to sleep in our world we woke up here. And we gave the
game back to one of our friends and he played it and ended up
replacing Chancellor Binkley. So we need to find out how to get back
to our world. Except Alleria told us about the way people keep on
dying over and over again, and actually we need to find our how to
stop this whole time looping thing.”
eyebrows had risen significantly. “Well now. Visitors from
another world? Goodness, Richtonsin will be pleased.”
Professor?” asked Alleria in slight confusion.
always been a believer in the Many-Worlds Hypothesis. He's convinced
that there are a multitude of universes, each different. This has
been borne out to a certain extent by some experiments that have
revealed glimpses of what look like other worlds, through our scrying
glasses and suchlike. But the research has become rather harder to
perpetuate since the chronocycling – for example, any
experiment that lasts longer than a week would be right out.
“If you want
to return to your world, I suggest you ask Richtonsin. He may be able
to suggest some rituals that might have a non-zero chance of
actually wanted to end the... chronocycling, Professor,” I
said. “Is there any way you can suggest to do that?”
That's a subject many of us in the Thaumaturgics Faculty would be
interested in, if you have any insights,” replied Archimeld
testily. “But we're currently without much of a clue.”
Alleria frowned. “Oh
well. Thank you very much for your time, Professor,” she said.
We left his room,
and wondered where to find the mysterious Richtonsin. Alleria, for
the first time since arriving at this place, looked lost. “I've
never had to go to his office,” she explained uncertainly, “so
I don't know where it is. I guess we'll have to look at the map...
Although this faculty is a notorious maze – well, just like all
the others are.”
Lacking any better suggestions, we returned to the chaotic hall where
we'd entered the faculty... We spotted a noticeboard on the far side,
and on it, half-hidden underneath a piece of paper instructing
students to please not test their incendiary thaumaturgical
experiments indoors, was a scribbled, semi-legible list of current
staff and their offices.
Peering at the paper, I said,
“I'm not sure which is odder – that I can
read the names of the professors, orthat I can't read the
names of the rooms.”
Alleria glanced at the
list. “Makes sense: the names are written in Standard but the
rooms are in Old Script.”
Michael took a look, and
said, “Interesting. It looks like English to me, not
“Standard”.” He tapped his lip for a moment, and
then asked, “Alleria, how many languages do your people have?”
replied promptly. “There's Standard, Eastern and Old Script.
Most of the books in the Wizards' Academy are in Old Script. That's
what that room number is written in – Richtonsin's in room
zogroth-four. But Standard is used for most common interactions these
days. All of Varyn's group speak Standard. Although, now that I come
to think about it, when the chronocycling started, we spoke to people
in Eastern...” She frowned, looking disconcerted. “In
fact, I think both Standard and Eastern have only become common since
the chronocycling's been happening. At first it was Eastern, I'm
sure. But now everyone uses Standard, and pretty much nobody uses
all looked at each other for a moment, trying to make sense of this.
Then Alleria shrugged and said, “Anyway, we've found out where
Professor Richtonsin's room is... Oh
dear. Room zogroth-four means we'll have to climb the Impossible
Tower. Come on.”
we followed her to a different staircase, which we climbed for just a
single flight of stairs; then doggedly along a corridor, round a left
turn, through a door to the right, and into a raised courtyard, from
which we could see an... edifice of some kind, that was something
like a tower. The Impossible Tower seemed to amply deserve the name.
Its shape wiggled, bent, and seemed to distort as you looked at it...
it was always firm (if crazy) in shape when you just stand and stare,
but walking towards it it seemed to shift to the side, or bend, or
skew and slant. Definitely a place where normal laws of physics need
Alleria was amused
at our reaction. “Cool, isn't it?” she grinned. She was
really enjoying herself. Then she strode away towards the implausible
steeple, and we had to hurry to keep up. I was sure I saw someone
walk past a window in the thing who was walking vertically –
like, on the walls, from the floor towards the ceiling. But our
sorceress didn't seem bothered – she just marched up to the
door and pushed it open. It opened slowly, reluctantly, to show a dim
stairwell, going up. She climbed, so we nerved ourselves and so did
That was definitely
one of the stranger places I've been in all of the gameworld,
including the World of Darkness. You'd put your foot to climb a step,
and find your foot falling further than you expected, like when you
get to the top of the stairs in the dark. Except further, and
suddenly your whole body would swing to follow your foot and you'd
find yourself standing on what had been a wall. There were regions
where perspective inverted itself, and the others, climbing away from
me, looked larger the further they were away. There were times when
the stairs just continued straight, but somehow managed to be bending
away in two paths to the left and the right, while still staying
straight. We had to take care to stay on the side that Alleria had
The door we took to
leave that insane staircase was pretty freaky as well. It was in the
front of one particularly large step. Peering at the arcane symbol
inscribed on its front, Alleria said, “Through here,” and
pushed at this short wall with a sideways door in it: the door opened
along its hinges, and swung up and away from us (onto the inside of
the next step). Then she somehow twisted herself, almost lying down
on the stairs, and pushed herself through the narrow door that was at
right angles to us. I just looked at Michael, then at Paula and Sir
Randall, who all looked equally intimidated. Michael hesitantly
stepped towards it. I held onto his hand.
I've no idea how,
but we made it through that door, and into the corridor beyond, which
looked like a perfectly normal oak panelled corridor. We walked up to
the door labelled with a number 4 on it, and knocked.
door was pulled swiftly open, and a deep, sonorous voice said,
“Welcome! Do come in!”
Richtonsin! Wow, it's been a while,” said Alleria fondly. We
made our way into the study, which was much like the previous
professor's study, but the man himself was rather different. Tall,
broad-shouldered, and portly, he looked a bit like an opera singer
and had the voice to match. He was gazing at Alleria, and snapped his
fingers in astonishment.
Teleatha, isn't it? Alleria Teleatha?”
She gave the
academic a smile. “I'm impressed you remember me, sir. Yes, I'm
here with the latest version of Varyn's group. They're a bit...
different from previous iterations.”
Archimeld informed me,” said the wizard. “So you four are
the ones apparently from another world?” he asked, looking at
“Us and our
friend Ben, who's in the role of Chancellor Binkley at the moment,
sir,” I replied.
fascinating! Tell me, do you have a huge comet hovering in the sky in
I was a bit taken aback. “Not unless you mean the moon, no.”
“Hmm, I see. A
large mountain in the shape of a pair of spectacles?”
I looked at the
others, who looked blankly back at me. “I haven't heard of such
a place, and I'm pretty sure our people have explored all the
mountain ranges in our world. So I don't think so.”
well.” Richtonsin stroked his beard. “Those are a couple
of the worlds we've seen the best, in the occasional fragmentary
glimpses we get in our scrying glasses,” he explained. “No
matter. So, I understand you want to return to your world?”
I said. I was about to continue “That's only part of it,”
but he didn't give me the chance.
“So there's a
reasonable chance that you may end up back in your world at the next
chronocycling. Of course, you're the ones who'll bring that about,
with your assault on the Black Citadel.”
complete the game?” Michael mused. “I suppose it would
“Do you have
any idea why we're in here, sir?” I asked him.
“Well. As it
happens, there was a huge magical surge just before the last
chronocycle, from the Dark Citadel,” said the wizard. “We
suspect that the one known as Kraus may have cast some vast spell,
beyond anything cast since the time of the Ancients. The
thaumaturgical energy readings were off most of our scales. It may
have been enough to bridge the gap between worlds. This does seem an
interesting coincidence, given that you turned up the very next
cycle. Varyn's instantly recognisable to anyone in the world, so to
see someone else in his clothes was a bit unexpected.”
summoned us here?” I hadn't been expecting that. “Why
would he do that?”
Maybe he was trying to extend the dominion over more worlds, now that
it's become clear this one is cycling endlessly?”
seem like the kind of guy you can persuade out of something.”
Paula's statement was undeniable. “But sir,” Paula
continued, “we've got something more important we want to do.
We want to stop the chronocycling from happening any more.”
Alleria looked at
Paula in pained appreciation.
“Do you, now.
Well, I'm sure Archimeld told you that a lot of wizards here would
like that. But we've been researching the phenomenon since it began,
and not made much progress, despite it having been almost three
years. What do you think you could contribute in three days?”
He wasn't being sarcastic or dismissive, just frank. It was a
you know why it happens?” I asked, the glimmerings of an idea
taking shape in my mind.
“Not a clue.
It's obviously tied to Varyn's group saving the world, with the
compulsions everyone feels to act the same way around the group that
they did first time through. We've got many hypotheses, but not
really anything to base them on.”
Professor, the thing is, in our world, Varyn's story is being told,
over and over again,” I said slowly. “Thousands of people
have watched the story, and guided bits of it, in some parts where
they have some degree of control. We were just a group of friends,
watching that story together.” I gestured to Michael and Paula,
remembering sitting down in Michael's lounge to play Ultimate Dream,
what felt like a lifetime ago.
said Richtonsin eventually. “And you think that the constant
repetition of the story across your world is forcing the
I shrugged. “In
the end I suppose it's just another theory.”
“But it is one
that's borne out by certain things in this world,” Michael said
suddenly, to my surprise.
“What are you
thinking of?” I asked.
“Well, the way
that the Water Shrine was set up more to provide effective puzzles
for Varyn's party when they visit than for any kind of normal
shrine-like purposes, like worship or suchlike,” he said. “The
way that the kid somehow ended up alive and stuck in that dungeon.
The way that the Yamakiri staff of leadership got stuck in the
treasure room of the Fire Guardian. The way that the tunnels inside
the volcano just happened to lead through to that Guardian's room, if
you're able to jump the length a human can, and pull a few switches.
The way the doors weren't locked unless there was a key or switch
accessible that would unlock them, for goodness' sake! Whole areas of
your world are designed not for your people but for the people in our
world, playing games.”
stated his conclusion as a challenge, almost an accusation, directed
at Richtonsin. The wizard mused for a while. “We have seen the
regions you refer to, through our scrying glasses,” he said.
“We have spent a lot of time considering the possible reasons
they could be formed in that way. No definite conclusion has been
reached, but when you put it as you did, your position does seem...
the natural explanation.”
“So hang on,
are you saying the whole of Elysia and the World of Darkness were
made up by people in our world?” said Paula incredulously.
answered with a shrug, “Not necessarily, but at least some of
it does seem to have been undeniably shaped to the needs of an RPG.”
The Professor asked,
“This story is constantly being retold across your world, you
say? How does it keep from being told differently each time?”
We boggled briefly
at one another. How do you describe video game consoles to a wizard?
I decided to have a go. “There are these machines we have in
our world, that are quite widespread – a lot of people can buy
them. And there are stories... in the form of games... that you can
also go out and buy. These games are, um, nothing but a huge amount
of information. Data. And these machines know how to take that
information and show it in the form of a story. People in our world
who play these games can control how a few of the characters move
around and fight. Because each copy of the game about your world is
identical, everyone who buys that game will see the same story, but
they'll get to control Varyn's choices differently. ...Did that make
information has no physical reality,” the wizard pointed out
astutely. “Is this data inscribed on scrolls?”
more advanced idea, but a similar basic concept, I suppose,” I
said, marvelling. “It happens to be in the form of a disc, but
that's fairly incidental. The instructions on the disc tell the
machine how to show the story, where to let the player have control,
what will happen when the player takes certain actions, and so on.”
“I see. And I
assume these discs are in some arcane language, incomprehensible by
“So there are
a multitude of copies of this disc, each one of which lets a person
in your world control one cycle through our chronocycling,”
seems likely to be the case, sir,” Michael affirmed.
case, one would have to eliminate all of those discs to cause the
chronocycling to cease.”
impossible,” I said, looking at Michael and Paula for
confirmation. “Track down all copies of the game in warehouses
and game shops around the world? And the manufacturers could just
make more. No, that won't work. But...” I slowed down as I
reasoned this out in my head. “In our world, all that's
happening is the console is moving lots of bits around. For it to
correspond to something real out here in this world... There's got to
be magic involved in our world, at some level.”
Michael said. “I wonder if it's the console or the game? That
is, are the other games also affected by this magical
“Not the exact
same link, certainly, because this world doesn't have any monkeys
rolling around in giant hamster balls in it, that I've seen! No,
there's got to be something specific that means when the console
reads the Ultimate Dream game in particular, it stops being just a
machine to shuffle bits around, and makes the link to this world, and
creates another chronocycle. But it's not just any one copy of
UltiDri – it's all of them ever printed. Which to me sounds
like it's specific to the data, the information that makes up the
“Would you be
able to bring me a copy of this information?” asked Professor
I exchanged looks with Paula and Michael. “I... don't know. We
haven't tried to bring anything in from our world, have we?”
tried it earlier,” said Paula brightly, to my astonishment. “A
few days ago, I thought I'd like to see if I could bring some
chocolate in from our world. So I held it very close to me as I was
going to sleep, and thought with all my might, “Chocolate! Hold
on to the chocolate!” And when I woke up in Elysia, I had a
chocolate bar with me. It was still in its plastic wrapper and
everything. When I woke up the next morning, it was gone.”
I didn't know
whether to slap my face with my palm or to hug Paula in delight. I
settled for saying, “...Why didn't you tell us at the time?”
She looked rather
bashful as she replied, “I got hungry, so I ate it for
breakfast. I threw the wrapper into the lava in the Fire Shrine.”
it seems like we might be able to bring the disc in here,” I
answered the wizard, who appeared rather amused by our exchange.
“Why? What can you do with it?”
“Well, we can
analyse it, see if there are any traces of magic on it, see if we can
track down the enchantment that's letting people from your world
force ours to re-enact the same events over and over like this.
Ultimately, we'd like to uncover that enchantment and dispel it
once and for all. With your help, for the first time, we might be
making some progress on getting Elysia free from this endless
cycling.” He beamed at us.
case...” I looked at him. “It might be a somewhat cheeky
request, but is there anywhere we could stay the night here? Going to
sleep for the night seems to be one of the things that triggers us
going back to our world. We might be able to get hold of that disc
straight away and have it in your hands in the morning.”
don't have anything much in the way of guest rooms here, but there
may be some space in the dormitories. I'll contact the mage on
reception and get her to find you somewhere. Be sure to let me know
as soon as you have anything! I'll get the thaumaturgical
spectrometer warming up so that it's ready in the morning.” He
opened his door and gestured to us. We filed out, and he locked it
behind us and then set off at a brisk jog towards the door at the far
end of the corridor.
I felt a sudden
queasiness as I recalled the physics-defying climb beyond that door.
Richtonsin, however, was beaming at us as he stood outside the door
(and thus at ninety degrees to the angle we were standing at). So I
tried not to think about anything much while I stepped through. There
was a sickening lurch and I wobbled, but found myself standing just
about stably on the stairs.
Paula, Alleria, Sir
Randall and Michael followed. However, Michael and Sir Randall must
have done something different, because they came out standing on the
sides of the steps, not the tops!
laughed and said, “Whoops. Looks like it's an uphill climb for
you boys. I love this tower – I get to go downstairs on the way
to my office and on the way back!”
accusingly at Alleria, who gave an apologetic smile and said, “Sorry!
Some people find it easy, but I could never do that bit...”
we made it “down” the Impossible Tower to the reception,
where the friendly girl from before spent quite a while shuffling
around lots of bits of paper before allocating a room to each of us.
Richtonsin smiled at her and said, “Here's a good challenge for
you, my dear. Can you invoke <GuideLight> to lead each of these
to the room they've been given?
The girl gulped, and
just said, “I can try...” She concentrated, and stretched
out her fingertips towards each of us in turn, incanting under her
breath, as one after another, five balls of light appeared,
levitating at around waist height and bobbing up and down gently in
the air. She looked quite exhausted by the end of it, but the
professor smiled approvingly at her and said, “Well done.
You're making definite progress. Keep that study up!”
She gave him a
somewhat dreamy smile, and I'm sure she was blushing as she mumbled,
“Thank you very much, sir.” Each to their own, I suppose.
you might be able to guess, we each followed a different one of the
floating lights, which led us off to different places around the
Academy. Before Michael's and my paths separated, he murmured to me
in a low voice, “It's Saturday back in our world, isn't it? Do
you want to come over to mine again this afternoon?”
at him happily, and said, “I'd love to.” A whole lot
better than tidying my parents' house, which is all I had lined up
for today in the real world.
touched my fingertips with his for a moment, smiled, and then went to
follow the lead of his own guiding light.
reception mage's spellcasting did seem impressive to me, because the
will-o'-the-wisp led me right to the door of the room they'd given
me. It was a pretty basic room, but it had a bed that was a definite
step up from those in the Haniton inn. And so we went to sleep in the
Wizards' Academy, and woke up back in England. And I suppose now I've
spent ages on the computer already, I'll help my family tidy up
briefly, and then head over to Michael's. Yay!
by bringiton, at 11:26 on Dec 2nd
by taleteller, at 11:31 on Dec 2nd
by bringiton, at 11:33 on Dec 2nd
by princess-of-china, at 13:04 on
by ilovealleria, at 15:19 on Dec 2nd
A wonderful day
Wow. That was the
best Saturday I've had for ages.
I drove over to
Michael's after lunch, and he gave me a warm hug as he welcomed me
in. We stood looking into one another's eyes for what must have been
at least a minute, his hands around my waist and mine on his. Then
wordlessly, he leaned in to kiss me. Wow, even when it's so gentle,
it's so intense!
We went into the
flat. “It's funny... It was only last night that I was over
here,” I said.
He smiled and raised
his eyebrows. “True. It feels like quite a long time ago, with
having spent the night discussing magical metaphysics in an
impossible tower.” He has a great way with words.
We spent a very
enjoyable afternoon chatting, playing games, and hugging and kissing
on the sofa. Mmmmm. He started stroking my belly and sides where my
T-shirt had ridden up, and I made some kind of pleased or encouraging
sound. He reached up to stroke my side inside my T-shirt, which was
even nicer, and started my pulse racing a bit.
Then, with his hand
up at the side of my stomach... he tickled me! The sneaky so-and-so.
I shrieked and jumped backwards, giving him an “Ooh, I'm going
to get you” smile. We chased one another round the sofa for a
bit, and I tackled him to his (carpeted) floor. I sat down on him to
hold him in place (I'm not very heavy, but neither is he), and
tickled his sides mercilessly while he writhed and laughed
helplessly. That was lots of fun, until he reached up my T-shirt and
tickled me some more.
I fell back to the
sofa, and he dived after me, and reached for my sides again. I moved
to hold him away and he said, “No, I won't tickle this time.”
I was suspicious, but I didn't block him. He reached to touch my
sides, but didn't tickle this time, just stroked very gently. I went
“Mmmm” and smiled and closed my eyes. He reached higher,
keeping the touch of his fingers on my skin very light and sensual,
until he was stroking the underneath of my breasts in my bra. He
paused, and said, “Is this too fast?”
I was breathing
quite fast, so I took a moment to catch my breath, before trying to
figure out what to answer. In the end I said, “No... it's not
like we're teenagers.”
(Am I just easy? I
don't like to think so, and the only guys I've let get anywhere are
the two who I've had big crushes on... but I still worry
So he smiled in a
faintly predatorial way – just enough to make me shiver –
and continued stroking his fingertips across whatever bare skin they
could find. When he had softly traced ten paths upwards across my
chest, he lifted to pull my T-shirt over my head. I figured that was
fair game given what I'd already permitted, so I tried not to blush
too much as he revealed my bra to his eyes. When dressing this
morning I'd idly considered the possibility Michael might see my
underwear today, so I'd chosen one of my sexier bras, a pink one with
slightly lacy edges that's quite flattering.
He took a deep
breath and smiled in approval. “Wow, Tessa, you're stunning,”
he said. I don't think of my chest as particularly stunning or large
by comparison with the models and people, so I wasn't especially
convinced, but I liked the effect the sight seemed to have on him.
I reached out to
grab hold of his T-shirt. “Turnabout's fair play,” I said
with a wicked grin, as I tried to yank it off his torso in one swift
The effect was
slightly hampered by his head, and he said, “Owowow, hang on,”
and moved his arms to make it easier for me. Bah.
Still, once we were
both T-shirt-less our eyes met, travelled up and down the sight of
each other, and met again. The electricity in the air was tangible as
we moved together to embrace, caressing one another's naked backs and
resting in each other's arms.
gorgeous,” I told him honestly.
“I fancy you
so much, Tessa,” he replied. That's one way to give my spirits
and morale a serious boost.
Then he said,
“Can I ask you
I said with a smile. I pulled back a little so that I could look at
his face. “What is it?”
His eyes were lowered for a moment or two, then he raised his eyes to
look straight into mine and said, “Have you ever... had sex?”
remembering the Floating Castle. “Er... Yes, I have.”
wasn't the answer he was hoping for. He seemed to get a little
flustered. “Yeah. Fair enough. Sorry for asking that. Of course
you would have, I mean, I guess it's like you said... it's not like
we're teenagers any more...”
I thought, What am I
doing? What am I saying? That was off in a dream world, with a guy
who doesn't exist. It's nothing like what he's asking about.
And so overtaken
with some unidentified emotion, I pulled him close to me, gave him a
brief but firm kiss on the lips, and said, “...I was just
trying to sound mature. The truth is, I haven't. I've never even
really got close.”
He looked up into my
eyes, his expression full of uncertainty. “Really?”
said, “Because I... I haven't.” His voice, usually so
confident and matter-of-fact, seemed to waver when talking about
emotional subjects. “So... I think we shouldn't rush into
anything. Let's just... take things relatively slow and have fun?”
first reaction was amused incredulity. “This from the guy who
just took off my T-shirt?”
laughed with embarrassment. “I guess this is partly me asking
if it's okay to stop there for the moment.”
thing. He seemed to feel like that was going to be a disappointment
to me. While I love the feeling his fingers can give me just running
along neutral areas like my back, and love to imagine what they might
be able to make me feel in other places... that's not the reason I'm
going out with him at all. So I'm not going to object to him saying
he sees our relationship as having a long enough future that we can
approach that gradually.
absolutely fine,” I said in my best reassuring tone. “Slow
and fun sounds good to me.” I ran my fingertips gently up and
down his back, once, just long enough for him to lift his head
slightly in pleasure... and then tickled him on both sides.
this relationship is going to be a lot of fun!
played more video games a bit in the early evening, sitting around
with him topless and me semi-topless. That was definitely exciting,
and I know the way my heart beat so fast certainly wasn't just due to
the games. We sent out for takeaway pizza, with me expressing
disappointment when he had to put his T-shirt back on to go get the
food from the delivery boy. And we chatted a lot more. We told each
other secrets (that I won't reproduce here).
I told him I ought
to not stay too late, because my parents will be taking me to church
tomorrow morning. (One of these days I ought to decide what I think
about all that stuff.) So at around ten, I retrieved my discarded
garment, gave my boyfriend a big kiss, and drove home.
My back and sides
are still tingling from the touch of his fingers, though.
by bringiton, at 23:08 on Dec 2nd
Aaaargh, my life is falling apart!
How can a situation that seemed so rosy and straightforward when I
went to sleep have become so complicated and screwed up by the time I
I'll tell you the story...
up in our rooms in the Wizards' Academy. The <GuideLight>
sprites hadn't stayed around to greet us when we got up. I found Sir
Randall wandering around the courtyards looking lost, and we spotted
Michael a minute later. Between us we managed to return to the
reception area, where Paula and Alleria were chatting to Richtonsin.
him that we wouldn't be able to get the game disc until the next time
we leave and return. He was disappointed, but said, “Ah, well,
I suppose there's nothing that can be done about that. Please do
bring it to us here as soon as you can. Now, I assume you'll be
resuming your quest?”
looked at one another. “I guess so,” Paula said.
which case, you'll need to go see Professor Middicule about the
teleportation spell that you need to get into that Floating Castle.
I'll show you the way to his office. <GuideLight>.”
offhand gesture, he effortlessly summoned one of the floating guides
we'd seen the night before. We thanked Richtonsin effusively for his
help, and followed the leading of the glowing ball through to another
region of the Academy. It was quite close to where Alleria had led us
before, and we passed through the same chaotic foyer, but took a
different passage out of it, and down two flights of a staircase
(thankfully this one obeyed the laws of physics) to a door.
last time, we let Alleria take the lead. She knocked smartly.
“Enter,” replied a crotchety, old voice from within. The
office was rather tidier than others we'd seen, but was characterised
by the same collections of tomes and paper. “What do you want?”
said the wizened figure behind the desk bluntly, not looking up from
the tome he was holding.
same thing Varyn's group always wants, sir,” Alleria said.
“Except this lot are able to just come out and say that.”
spell to get you into the Castle? Well, you'll have to fetch me a few
books so that I can look it up.”
sure that's not necessary, sir,” replied the young sorceress
with a smile. “We know you've looked it up hundreds of times
first time, the wizard actually looked at us. His face, one of those
that looks like it's not used to any expression but a frown, gave
Alleria a suspicious look. “Young lady, you seem to be
deviating rather from the script.”
sir,” she replied patiently. “This group have more...
free will than normal. So we can skip some of the formalities. We've
already spoken to Professor Archimeld and Professor Richtonsin, and
you know the script doesn't involve visiting either of those.”
you still require the same spell?” asked the ancient wizard
do you mean, sir?” asked Alleria respectfully.
if you're actually able to break with tradition, you might be
interested in some refinements I've been able to make to it.”
The old man cracked a smile, quite a scary sight itself. “The
version I usually give you is the first one I concocted, which drops
you on the lowest level of the Castle's dungeons. But in the time
since the chronocycling started, I've enhanced it with more control.
There's a version that I think should get you onto the Castle's
the rooftop? Is there a way into the throne room from the rooftop?”
shrugged. “Not to my knowledge. I thought it might be of
interest to you anyway. If you just want to get to the throne room,
then there's one that will put you on that floor, although I can't
guarantee where on the floor it'll put you.”
nodded, impressed. “So we can skip the four floors of dungeons
and two floors of palace? Sounds good! I never knew you had anything
professor laughed, a hoarse, scraping sound. “At first I
thought I'd be able to help out Varyn's group some more, by getting
on with the research before they got here. But then that blasted
script compulsion put paid to that plan. Since then it was just a
matter of academic interest. I have been researching other things as
well, but that's the one that'll be of relevance to you.” He
slowly, creakily lifted himself from his chair, and tottered to a
tall cupboard. Rummaging within it for a little, he produced a staff,
and incanted over it for several seconds. Then he handed it to Paula.
“There you go. Point that at the Castle when you're directly
beneath it and you'll teleport to the floor of the throne room.”
you very much, sir! Is there anything we can do to repay you?”
looked askance at her – we didn't particularly want to be going
on quests for bunion cream or suchlike – but the professor
replied, “Not at all! Just get good use out of my spell. An
academic loves to see their research turn out to have practical use.”
you very much.” Paula bowed and left. The rest of us followed.
* * *
our farewells to the receptionist girl, and set off for the long trek
back to the rest of Elysia. It was Michael who thought to ask the
question that should have been bothering all of us.
if the Dark Lord is flying this castle around, how do we know where
looked troubled. “Ah. Yes. That's interesting. That could be a
do you mean? How do the group normally do it?” I asked.
the problem,” she said wryly. “I don't actually know.
There are three or four places where the group usually find the
Castle, but it varies each time. Sometimes it's at Haniton, sometimes
the Royal City, sometimes Yamakiri; or sometimes it's in the World of
Darkness – at Hanick, the Goblin Mines, or the Witch's Swamp.
But I can never tell how Varyn knows where to go. We always just
wander in what ends up being the correct direction.”
if that always works, that sounds good,” said Paula brightly.
if the reason it always works is because the player can see the
Floating Castle from the map screen,” Michael pointed out.
vexedly, “Oh, I see. That could be problematic, couldn't it?”
“map screen” is some... view of what's going on, where
the person from your world who's controlling things can see the whole
map of Elysia?” asked Alleria, puzzling it out as she went.
nodded. “Impressive. Yes, that's precisely what it is. We get a
view that's zoomed out, so we can see miles and miles around. I guess
the Floating Castle is visible on that map.”
if we can't use such a screen, then the only way we can find it is
going to be...”
around looking for it,” said Michael sourly. “I think so.
Hmph. Normally by this point in a game, the party have obtained some
implausible vehicle to travel around the map in.”
gave us a wry smile, and said, “Almost, but not quite yet.”
We laughed: of course, she knows the way this is going to go.
put a slight spring in our step as we plodded on along the road
towards the Royal City.... for a bit. We wandered up to the City, but
not seeing any particularly conspicuous flying fortresses in the air
above it, we walked on. The next turning we got was the one down
towards Yamakiri, and we trudged that way until we could see the
village, with another distinct absence of levitating battlements in
its airspace. It was another long walk back.
we were all getting fed up (and the day was definitely wearing on) by
the time we approached Haniton, and finally, the Floating Castle
appeared out of the haze, hanging ominously over the poor beleaguered
town, with two dragons circling it while a third menaced the
citizens. “Right,” I said grimly for all of us, “Let's
get in there and put a stop to this reign of terror.”
in there was a little more easily said than done. The dragon on the
ground was busy, but one of the pair that was orbiting the Castle
flew down towards us, roaring. We broke into a run. There followed a
scary time of running and dodging, scattering round the houses and
hiding behind corners from bursts of flame from the beast's maw,
until eventually we all gathered finally in the village square. I was
the last to arrive, the dragon chasing hard on my tail, and I
stretched out my hand to Paula's as she looked behind me in terror
and lifted the staff high. Everything seemed to go in slow motion:
the dragon's jet of fire rushed towards us, the magic flowed around
the group, Paula and the others flickered for a moment, and then I
grabbed hold of her hand and the heat surrounded me for just a
fraction of a second and then I was nowhere, we were tingling, we
were out of phase with the world, and then we were suddenly in a
fancy-looking room a few inches off the ground and we fell with a
bump and then we were still.
several seconds we just caught our breath. Paula was the first to
speak. “Cutting that a bit close, weren't you, Tessa?”
she said with a grin. I just sat there gasping for a bit longer and
room had an open doorway at its far end, where a staircase led
downwards. Presumably it was in fact the stairs up from the previous
level, that we would have had to fight our way through if we'd been
following the game. Otherwise it looked just like the rooms had done
the last time Sir Randall and I had been at the castle (ahem).
leaving through the other doorway, we were immediately attacked by a
pair of orc guards. From then on it was straight back into the same
kind of action we'd seen in the shrines and suchlike. Puzzles and
switches and moveable statues galore.
during one of the last of these puzzles that my life started falling
apart. There were three statues that needed pushing around into
certain significant spaces in the room, and once all of them were
positioned, they'd then come to life to attack us. The first time we
got caught unawares, and Paula got really badly wounded and knocked
unconscious. We grabbed her and ran out of the room, away from these
hostile stone lifeforms, which thankfully wouldn't leave their room.
When we'd healed up and went back in, they were back in the places
where they'd started.
split into three groups, one taking care of each gargoyle. Paula and
Alleria between them started shoving one off to the far side of the
room, Michael took the one in the centre, and Sir Randall and I
turned our attention to the third one on the other side. As we
pushed, Sir Randall commented casually, “I still recollect the
last time we were in this castle together with rapture.”
memory brought a flush to my cheeks and a smile to my face. “Me
too,” I said. “How could I forget?”
he continued as we moved around to push the statue from a different
angle for the final few inches, “since then we have had
regrettably little time alone together.”
feeble efforts to move the thing weren't helping at all, so I just
gave up and stood back to get out of his way. “Your point is
true,” I said thoughtfully. “But already we find
ourselves approaching the Dark Lord's throne room, planning his
downfall. After that I may be snatched away from Elysia forever.”
then, perhaps we could meet not in Elysia?”
do you mean?”
example, how about a rendezvous at a restaurant in London?”
I was somewhat confused. “How do you plan to get there?”
the same way you would, my lady,” he said. “When I wake
up from this living dream, jump on the Underground and get a tube to
was the first shock. “Wh- wh- wh- what?” I tried to get
my words coherent. “Y- you're not an NPC? You're from London?”
assuredly as you are, my dear,” he said with a bow.
when?” I said, trembling.
we first met in the village of Yamakiri, when I accompanied you on
your quest through the Fire Shrine,” came the unruffled reply.
really shaking as I repeated in horror, “You mean, you were
already a guy from the real world, when we... that night, when we...”
you what?” asked Michael coolly from behind me.
I literally screamed and jumped to face him. He was watching us with
an unreadable expression, but I could certainly tell he wasn't happy.
But he added, in a casual tone lined with ice, “No, don't let
me interrupt. I'm interested to hear precisely what you did get up to
so ashamed. I covered my face in my hands – I couldn't face
you, in fact, do the things you told me just yesterday that you'd
never done?” he continued implacably.
couldn't answer. I just stood there crying.
much of what you told me yesterday was, in fact, a lie?” he
asked, still in this icily casual tone that was worse than if he'd
looked at him from tear-filled eyes. “It – it wasn't...”
I didn't know how to finish. I hadn't meant it as a lie. It wasn't
meant to be one. It didn't feel like one at the time. But how could I
say any of that? I had told Michael that I hadn't slept with anyone,
when a couple of days earlier I had slept with Sir Randall.
whoever Sir Randall turned out to be in the real world.
was just looking at me, with his face expressionless except for his
eyes, his beautiful eyes so cold, so hurt, so betrayed.
then the statue came to life behind us. All three of us, startled,
looked over to Paula and Alleria, to see that they'd just finished
moving their statue into its required spot. And suddenly we couldn't
focus on my crisis with these two blokes, because we were being
attacked and had to defend ourselves.
way it was good, to have a distraction, any distraction, from the
tension and the pain. But even as I cast <Cure2> and <Holy>,
I still had that cold feeling around my heart, reminding me that I'd
still have to face up to the fact I'd lied to Michael.
almost glad when, after we finished that combat and had entered
another corridor, I woke up in my bed.
by varynfan, at 13:47 on Dec 3rd
by princess-of-china, at 14:25 on
Visit from a friend
My parents dragged
me off to church as they do most Sundays. (I just about managed to
get last night's events posted here before we had to leave!) I still
can't decide what I think about all that stuff, but the little sermon
on “faithfulness and truthfulness” cut right to my heart.
What with all the
events of yesterday and last night, I'd forgotten that Ben was coming
over today. He knocked on my door around 7pm, and Lisa let him in.
With things being so bad with Michael and Sir Randall, I was glad to
see a sympathetic face.
He seemed a bit
diffident at first. “Hiya,” he said, a little awkwardly.
I just smiled at
him. “Hi. Come in.”
The house was full
of activity with my parents and Lisa buzzing around doing things, so
we escaped up to my room. I offered him my chair to sit on. “Did
you bring the game?” I asked him, and he brandished a DVD case
with a grin.
I said, taking it and peering at the cover. Varyn, Alleria and
Binkley were striking poses in the picture, surrounded by dragonfire.
“It's quite a while since I've actually looked at the game...”
Ben smiled in
understanding. “Yeah. We've kinda gone beyond that stage now.
It's got into our heads,” he said with relish. I chuckled a
We sat in silence
for a few minutes. Then he said, “Um, I read on your blog about
what happened with Randall and Michael.”
I rolled my eyes and
flopped onto my bed. “Yeah... everything's gone wrong,” I
“I'm not sure
I'd go that far,” he said. I gave him a questioning look, and
he added, “Well, it seems to me like all you need to do is
decide which one of them you like the most.”
were never meant to be even comparable to each other! Michael was
always in real life, and Sir Randall was always inside the game...”
that they both turn out to be both, right?” I nodded in
depression. “Well, that's no problem,” he said
pragmatically. “They may not have started out comparable, but
they've got that way now. So just decide: which of them do you want
to carry things on with?”
an unconvinced sound and rolled onto my back, staring at the ceiling.
Ben continued doggedly, “I mean, if you want Randall the most,
then it sounds like he's still very much into you. So I'm sure he'd
be delighted to see you in the real world again.”
yeah, you don't know who he is. After I played the game and got
sucked in, I lent it to my friend Stuart.” I looked blankly at
him. Ben frowned and said, “I'm sure you've met him a couple of
times. He was at my birthday party where you met Michael, and he was
at that club.”
“Oh... I see.”
Somehow the discovery of quite who Sir Randall was in the real world
didn't have much impact to me. It was the fact he existed out here at
all that was the problem.
you want to keep things going with Michael, then you just need to
talk to him. Be honest and ask him to forgive you.”
Somehow I didn't think it would be that easy.
Ben's voice took on
a different tone as he said, “By the way... speaking of asking
forgiveness...” He made a supplicatory face at me.
I sat up and smiled
ruefully at him. “Yeah, yeah, okay. I forgive you.”
“I only ever
meant to arrange things so that you guys could enjoy yourselves. I
shouldn't have deceived you as part of that, though. I'm sorry.”
He walked over and offered his hand. “Friends?”
I shook it warmly.
That was about it;
he had to go pretty soon after that, so he drove off, and left me to
do some serious soul-searching before bed.
Now I get to see
whether I can take this game into Elysia with me. So I'll be heading
to bed shortly, probably feeling rather silly while I clutch a video
game, and hopefully be back in the Floating Castle, with the first
DVD ever to enter its walls.
by varynfan, at 22:50 on Dec 3rd
by princess-of-china, at 23:02 on Dec 3rd
Confrontation on the Castle
Well, I did indeed
feel rather silly holding a video game as if it were a teddy-bear,
willing myself to hold on to it as whatever magical transportation
has become the norm in our nightly patterns took place. But I was
rewarded when I found myself back in a corridor at the top of the
Floating Castle, holding my staff in one hand and a brightly-coloured
DVD case in the other.
Paula looked at me
immediately, and exclaimed, “Yay, it worked!”
Michael and Sir
Randall – Stuart, I guess I should start calling him –
wah, that just doesn't fit with the fanciable things about him, him
having a normal name from our world – anyway... Michael and Sir
Randall just smiled on seeing the familiar game. Alleria, on the
other hand, had never seen anything like it. “Where did that
come from?” she asked in astonishment.
brought it from our world,” I said.
“You guys just
returned to your world? But I've been with you the whole time. Hang
on... is this the same thing that causes you all to suddenly change
mood or expression in the middle of the day?”
I suppose so,” I smiled. “We wake up in our world, have a
full day there, and then go to sleep and end up here. Then at some
point while we're here – sometimes when we go to sleep,
sometimes not – we'll find ourselves back in our world, waking
up at the start of a new day.”
Our conversation was
interrupted by some kind of shadow elemental that slithered up the
corridor and tried to attack us. Those things are evil – they
seem to be basically two-dimensional. Luckily physical weapons still
seem able to damage them. We've seen them a few times in the castle.
Once we'd dealt with
the threat, we stowed the precious DVD in Paula's pack, and ventured
on. We ended up in a huge room, that looked quite familiar. With a
sudden shock I realised that it was where the ball had been –
and I could see the door that led to the foyer through which we'd
entered last time, and the door that led to the staircase that Sir
Randall and I had taken... However, this time it was not so
welcoming. Rather than being full of aristocrats and music, it was
full of orcs and shadows, that all rushed at us. Alleria's <Elements>
spell was pretty handy there, but that was still a long and draining
fight. However, it did seem that when I was healing people
afterwards, I had an instinct leading me to a new spell... it seemed
to completely restore someone's health, and so I called it
With the monsters
dead and the party healed, our attention turned to a huge pair of
double doors at the far end of the ballroom. There were four gigantic
stone statues in front of it, ten or fifteen foot tall, two on each
side. “Looks like we'll have to go through those to get past
here,” commented Paula. “Shall we get on with it?”
statues rumbled to life as soon as anyone stepped in between them.
We'd been expecting this, which is why the one to step in between
them was Michael, our fastest mover. There followed another pretty
epic combat against these stone giants. Once we'd beaten them,
we were finally able to make our way through the big double doors...
Into the Dark Lord's
(Wait, his throne
room was in the Dark Citadel. Okay, this must be his throne away from
Ben was sitting on a
huge, shimmering throne, dressed in his full Dark Lord regalia. Kraus
was standing beside him, and they both laughed as we walked in.
Welcome, Paula, Tessa, and friends. You've made a long trek to find
me, I can tell. Did you enjoy my Floating Castle?”
smashing our way through the feeble so-called guardians you put in
our way, yes,” said Paula fiercely. Somehow I could tell,
though, that she wasn't angry with Ben; she was just playing the part
of Varyn being angry with Binkley.
excellent,” said Ben suavely. “And what can I do for
“You know our
demands, Chancellor,” she cried. “Stop terrorising Elysia
with your dragons! And return King Balshazzar to his rightful place.”
me,” Ben said in mock protest. “Do you not think my reign
will be beneficial for the people of Elysia? They need a strong
ruler, one with power, and the courage to defend his convictions. Not
that weakling Balshazzar.”
of this,” said Paula defiantly, drawing her sword and pointing
it at Ben. “If you won't do as we ask, we challenge you!”
death?” he asked with a raised eyebrow.
grimly, “If that's what it takes.”
you'll force the ruler to do what you want by threatening violence.
How very democratic and noble of you.” Ben was clearly enjoying
this a bit too much. “Kraus, it seems the meddlers didn't learn
your last lesson. You obviously need more practice as a teacher.
Would you like another try?”
master!” exclaimed the hunchback, looking at us with hatred.
case, I'm going up to look at the stars. The sight is enhanced so
well by the smell of dragonfire.” And with a wink, he
disappeared up a staircase at the back of the room.
had to fight Kraus... again. He was
even tougher than last time. His <Grinder> and <Hourglass>
spells were just as frustrating as before, and he'd got an upgraded
version called <MassGrinder>, which shaved everyone
to within an inch of their life. When he cast that, mindful of Ben's
advice after I fought the tree, I cast <FullCure> on myself
first. Paula and Michael reached for health potions, but the next
thing Kraus did was lunge at Sir Randall with his flame sword. It's
been some time since somebody's been killed before my eyes, and it's
always going to be a shock. Thankfully we had plenty of Phoenix
Feathers, and Michael used one of them while I healed Alleria and she
and Paula piled in the damage to our adversary.
We coped in a
similar fashion on the one other occasion he cast that <MassGrinder>
spell. I got through three potions of magic points during that fight.
But we beat him.
As usual, he cast
his <Smokescreen> to slip away at the end of the battle. He
appeared at the far side of the room, and croaking and stumbling,
made his way down a staircase, still cackling madly. We considered
giving chase, but Ben was our main objective, so up that staircase we
It opened out onto a
roof balcony, with turrets and battlements all around. The twilight
air was fresh and cool, and the sky was a beautiful deep purple,
strewn with stars, twinkling in the smoke. Ah, yes, the effect was a
little spoiled by the way the air was full of acrid smoke, and
pierced by occasional screams, as the people of Haniton tried in vain
to defend against the dragon rampaging below.
isn't it?” said Ben, who was relaxing against a battlement.
twisted, you know that?” I told him.
He grinned. “Still,
I hope you've enjoyed what I've been able to prepare for you. I fear
that after this encounter, you'll be denied any further expressions
of my creative genius.”
killing you isn't the end of the game?” said Paula in surprise.
I wasn't that surprised – I'd kinda picked up from things a
couple of people had said that there was more after this point.
“Alas, no, the
world doesn't quite revolve around me to that extent,” Ben
mock-lamented. “But if it did, you wouldn't be able to get any
use out of that DVD I brought to Tessa last night, would you?”
I chuckled. “True.
Yes, we must make a point of going to the Academy after this. Thanks
for bringing that over.”
He smiled, and for a
moment was just the friend I'd seen last night. “Did you get it
into Elysia okay?”
“We sure did,”
I laughed. Then my thoughts clouded, and I said with concern, “Ben,
will it be all right to kill you in this world?”
“I reckon it
should be fine,” he said airily. “After all, you've been
killed once or twice, haven't you?”
there were Phoenix Feathers involved there,” I said doubtfully.
about it. This is a different world. I reckon I'll just wake up back
in London and that'll be me done with involvement in your adventure.”
He added with a grin, “Or maybe I'll come back in someone
else's role? Balshazzar might be fun.”
sure?” asked Paula anxiously.
what I'm here for,” he replied with confidence. “And it's
what you came here for as well, isn't it? What are you going to do if
you return without having beaten me?”
persuade you to abdicate and let King Balshazzar reclaim his rightful
place?” You could tell from Paula's face that she felt a bit
foolish even suggesting it.
“Persuade the Dark Lord to give up his reign? A noble goal, my
dear, but one that's sadly doomed. Now, I think we could do with, as
Elvis once said, a little less conversation, and a little more
And with that, we
were suddenly assaulted by a scarily fast Dark Lord wielding a
scythe, that he seemed to have summoned from pure energy.
He was a very
different opponent to Kraus. Where Kraus tried to keep us busy and
locked down, Ben just conjured force shields out of the air and
summoned evil flying shadow monsters to attack us. It was the first
time we've fought against anyone else from our world. Hopefully the
last as well, because he probably based his combat style on what
Binkley knew, but I'd bet that the variety of subtle or dirty little
tricks – going as far as tripping us up with his scythe –
were Ben's own invention.
I think the first enemy we've fought who had a way to completely
neutralise certain attacks, which was those force shields I
mentioned. They only lasted for a second or less, and were only about
a metre in diameter, but they were completely impervious for the
duration of their brief existence. We quickly figured out there was
no point attacking him if he could see it coming more than a second
or two away, as he'd just conjure a force shield to absorb the entire
impact. So we had to work as a team, one distracting him while two
others approached from rear left and rear right, hoping to get a hit
in. And that of course put them within range of his energy scythe. I
had the misfortune to be on the receiving end of one strike from
that: it hurt a lot.
And whenever we'd
give him a few seconds' respite, he'd summon another one of those
blasted shadow imp things... just little bundles of teeth and claws
with wings, really, and slightly insubstantial, but their hits still
packed a definite sting as well. It took me some time to learn how to
swat one of them out of the air with my staff.
Most of Alleria's
and my spells were blocked by those shields as well, but Alleria's
<Elements> was able to hit him from more sides at once than he
could block, so she spent most of her time casting that (and dodging
sweeps of Ben's scythe).
connected a bit too well with Sir Randall at one point. He emitted a
scream and fell to the ground. I leapt to try to <FullCure>
him, but somehow I could tell there wouldn't be any point. “You
– you killed him...!” I exclaimed.
but that's what this is about...” shouted Ben, throwing up a
force shield to defend against Paula's strike.
I grabbed a Phoenix
Feather and used it on Sir Randall, quickly followed by a <FullCure>.
As he was healing, Sir Randall called out, “I'll get you for
Ben actually laughed
and said, “You're welcome to try, Stuart!”
I was surprised by
the tone both of them used – it was playful, as if this were
nothing but a game between young boys. Maybe I did need to lighten up
inevitably, the battle swung in our favour. We were five against one,
if you didn't count the little shadow elementals that he kept
summoning and we kept dispatching. Three of us would charge at him
from different directions: he'd block two of us but get hit by the
third. He did stop at one point to drink a potion from under his
robes, just like our health potions, which seemed to refresh and
invigorate him for a while.
But eventually, he
seemed to be on his last legs. It was a bit disturbing seeing our
friend wounded and exhausted, and not trying to help him; I did have
to remind myself that this was just the roles we were playing in the
gameworld, and we'd be able to laugh together about it afterwards. We
didn't have much choice, though – he was attacking us just as
Michael was wounded
as well, and I was going to heal him, but he told me, “I've got
health potions! Focus on finishing him off!”
So I turned to face
Ben, and cast <Holy>. He was too busy fending off twin strikes
from Paula and Sir Randall, and so my spell caught him in the back
and knocked him to the ground.
We all rushed to
stand around him. Blood was seeping from a corner of his mouth, but
he was smiling. “Nice work... guys,” he said raggedly.
“I'll see you back... in the real world. Have fun with... the
And there before us,
We stood staring for
a minute or so, catching our breath. (I had a strange instinct to
reach for a Phoenix Feather.) Then we heard a cry from behind us:
“What have you done to the master?!” Kraus was standing
there at the top of the stairs.
Paula said to him in
challenge, “His reign of terror is over. Surrender now, or face
the same fate!”
you? Never!” cried Kraus maniacally, striding to the
battlements. He seems to have lost what little grip on sanity he ever
had. Then he gave a demented grin. “Why would I do that, when
you've just done me such a favour?”
I remember very
clearly thinking, “Uh-oh.”
that fool in the way, now I can finally start to bring humanity the
destruction it deserves!” And he held a Wyrmstone high, and
suddenly rising up behind him like a helicopter appeared one of the
dragons that had been causing such devastation below.
“Run for it! Get inside the castle!”
We legged it towards
the stairs as Kraus jumped over the battlements and onto the back of
the dragon. The deranged hunchback cried, “Now all the
Wyrmstones are mine alone, and the days of humanity are numbered!
A burst of
dragonfire rushed into the top of the staircase as we hurled
ourselves down it. None of us got hit by anything worse than a rush
of hot air, but we were somewhat shaken.
hide,” came Kraus' voice echoing behind us, “but you are
powerless to stop the end of the world that my dragons will
instigate! Bwahahahahaa! Now, my beauties, fly me to my Citadel!”
“Is he talking
to us?” asked Paula in confusion.
Alleria laughed, and
said, “No, that was to his dragons. Um... what is it?”
That last was
addressed to Michael, who was standing with his gaze levelled at
Alleria. He smiled without taking his eyes off her and replied,
“Nothing... I was just thinking we seem to have found ourselves
inside a Floating Castle without a master. And you commented earlier
that we were about to obtain a vehicle.”
The sight of Alleria
trying to look innocent was rather amusing. She's not very good at
it. Looking rather self-consciously away from Michael, she said,
“Um... what could you mean?”
He giggled a little
as he said, “I was just thinking we could probably save some
time if you could be persuaded to show us the way to the engine room,
or wherever this thing is navigated from.”
She tried to
maintain the façade a little longer, and then gave up. Sighing
vexedly at us, she said, “Okay, okay. It's down on the third
level of the dungeons. Behind a door that you'd have found if you'd
come up through the levels in the normal fashion. You would have
discovered it was locked and you didn't have a key to it. You'll, um,
have to go back up and get the key from... his body at some point.”
The thought of
looting the fallen body of someone who was a friend of ours from the
real world was a somewhat disturbing one. Even the normally
unflappable Michael seemed to shudder briefly, although he was the
one who then asked, “Has Kraus gone?”
flown off on a dragon to his Citadel,” replied Alleria.
soberly, said, “I'll be back soon,” and disappeared up
the stairs. He reappeared a minute or two later with a big solid
metal key, and probably assorted other things liberated from the Dark
reluctant guidance, we made our way straight to the navigation room.
Behind the steely metal door which clanged satisfyingly as it swung
open, there was a fascinating control room. Levers and Steam
Age-style piping filled it, and there were analogue gauges scattered
across a panel. In front of the panel was sitting a goblin... at
least, I think that's what he was. But he had on a pair of goggles, a
big metal hat, and what looked like flight overalls, with tools
poking out of pockets all over the place.
He looked up when we
entered and exclaimed, “Agh! Don't hurt me!”
“Why would we
hurt you?” asked Paula gently.
He looked at us and
sighed. “No, no, that's not what you're meant to say. Are you
new? You're meant to say, “We're not going to hurt you. We're
your new masters now.” Do you want to go out and try again?”
and I giggled. Even Alleria seemed to be trying to hold back a
chuckle. Then she said, “Don't worry, Scroogle. This group are
new, yes, but they're doing things differently. You're not the first
one to be confused by their unconventional
approach.” She threw us a smile at that point. “But
just go with the flow. Um... I guess I should introduce you all. This
is Scroogle, the engineer and navigator of the Floating Castle. He
keeps the place running and sends it where you want it to go.
Scroogle, this is Tessa, Paula, and Michael. You've met Sir Randall,
previous visits to the Kamichika area, yes,” said the engineer.
“You don't normally come around with Varyn's group, though, do
you?” He peered at Sir Randall suspiciously and added, “You
“Yes, I'm a
guest as well, from the same world as these guys,” he admitted
I was a little
irritated at his admitting that in such an unconcerned way, when that
revelation had caused me such stress not too long ago. Alleria gasped
and said, “Oh, I'm sorry, I didn't realise...”
astonished – she gaped at him and exclaimed, “Are you?!”
Michael just nodded
thoughtfully and murmured, “I did wonder...” (Did he now.
It'd have been nice if he'd let the rest of us know he'd been
do you all want to go?” interrupted Scroogle testily, rather
ruining the effect by looking at Alleria and adding in a concerned
tone, “It is okay to skip the rest of the script, then, isn't
She giggled and
replied, “Yes, this lot don't worry about scripts too much.”
I'm sure she gave us another wry look at that point.
it be?” pressed the goblin.
do you normally go at this point?” Paula asked.
Scroogle laughed, a
strange barking sound. “Depends which of the side quests the
group want to go and do. There's a superpowered weapon for Varyn.
There's someone who can turbo-charge all of your magic power. There's
a couple in two different towns whose love letters you can go
delivering back and forth – that one's popular, for some
reason. There's a crazy mission back and forth between Elysia and the
World of Darkness that ends up just giving you one
not-particularly-magical stone. You could go and free the dwarves
from their captivity in the Goblin Mines. Or you could press on
towards the Dark Citadel and overthrowing Kraus. Your choice.”
He folded his arms and watched us expectantly.
Paula's voice was
curiously hesitant, almost childlike, as she said, “Could we
just see what things look like when this castle's flying around?”
She looked worried
that the engineer would think she was frivolous for asking, but he
just smiled knowingly and said, “Yes, of course. A lot of times
the group will start off by flying it nowhere in particular. I should
have offered you that as an option, I suppose. Come over here.”
He beckoned us over
to what turned out to be a screen inset into a kind of console desk.
It had some kind of coloured picture, which we quickly figured out
was a map of Elysia. A little icon of a castle was floating by the
town of Haniton.
I noticed on peering
closer that the little representation of Haniton itself was blackened
and smoking. It was depressing to realise that Binkley's oppressive
regime had caused that; heartening to think that we'd put a stop to
it; and sobering to think that Kraus would now be starting to go
round causing even worse havoc until we stop him. Except then, of
course, it'll just all start again... What we need to stop isn't
Kraus, but this chronocycling.
I asked, pointing at a little sparkling patch on the map, over the
Sea of Nothing.
The goblin smiled at
me in a curiously gratified way. “It's nice to hear someone ask
that! I always thought I must be just dumb, because the group always
seem to know what it is instinctively. It represents the portal back
into the World of Darkness, but look at it – is it that
obvious?” His voice had become almost plaintive by this point.
archly, “I wouldn't worry about that too much. It's probably in
“In the what?”
asked Scroogle in confusion.
Paula decided this
conversation was worth avoiding, and interrupted, “Why don't
you just fly us to the Royal City for now?”
The engineer set about manipulating controls, and pulled on his
goggles to incant a brief spell. There was a brief lurch, and then
everything was back to normal.
now?” asked Paula.
Nothing now. We're on our way, but it'll take a few minutes to fly
all the way up there.”
The engineer looked
at her as if she was an idiot. “Yes, we're flying.” He
gestured to the panel, and we could see the castle icon on the
magical screen was slowly moving north.
Then he stared
speculatively into space for a moment, and then said, “Actually,
here. I'll show you something I don't show all the groups.” He
manipulated a control or two, and suddenly a patch of wall just...
vanished! Gusts of unexpectedly cold air blew around us, and an
astonishing view could be seen through the sudden window: trees and
fields were rushing towards us as the castle flew.
Scroogle grinned at her, then said, “But
that's not all. Watch this.” He did something else to the
console, and suddenly
the same window wasn't showing the view from ahead, but the view
behind. The trees and fields were rushing away from us rather than
towards us, and I could see a rapidly retreating patch of brown that
was the village we'd just left.
“I can point it
sideways too if you want,” said the goblin, in an odd tone. I
think, for all his gruff exterior, he was wanting us to be impressed
with the magic he wielded.
So I put on an
enthusiastic tone and said, “Ooh, yes! Can I see that?”
He smiled widely for a
moment, and then seemed to remember his normal exterior, and said
gruffly, “Coming right up.” And sure enough, we got a
sideways view of the landscape, first one way then the other.
The Floating Castle moves
really quite fast. (Well, I suppose that since magic is all that's
keeping it up anyway, it ought to.) So almost before we knew it, we
were approaching the Royal City. Scroogle slowed us down and swtched
the window back to pointing forwards.
I said. “There
are farmers in these fields, but they're all running away
from us as we approach.
They look terrified!”
of course,” said Scroogle without looking up. “Wouldn't
you be? Remember that as far as they know, the Castle is still
controlled by a bloodthirsty tyrant.”
yeah,” I said, feeling a bit silly.
we should reassure them!” declared Paula. “Go out and
tell them that the oppressor Binkley is dead, and his Floating Castle
is in safe hands now!”
replied dryly, “Well, I'm sure they'd be reassured to know that
the dragons are now controlled by somebody who aims to destroy
humanity rather than enslave it.”
rather took the wind out of Paula's sails, but she added, “Well,
we should at least tell the people of the Royal City.”
Michael said. “Just don't expect them to be overjoyed when we
tell them the full story.”
as it turned out, we didn't have much chance to find out how
overjoyed they were. We had just moored the Castle outside the city
and set off through the gates when suddenly I woke up back in my
...Funny how your
mood can change so suddenly, isn't it? I was quite happy when I came
into work, after the events of last night...
Then I received a
It was a number I
didn't recognise, and that wasn't in my mobile's memory. A strange
voice asked for me.
speaking. Who is this?”
“Ah... This is
William Clarke. I'm Ben's father. You're a friend of Ben's, right?”
right,” I said with caution, because I thought something in his
tone indicated there was something wrong.
I had no idea.
“Ah. Good. I,
ah... I'm afraid I have to tell you, ah...” He paused, and then
said, “...Ben died overnight.”
seem to have suffered,” continued his father with a sigh.
“Which is something, at least. As far as the coroner can tell,
he was dreaming when he had a sudden heart attack. He died with a
smile on his face.”
I stopped cold in
shock, remembering last night's events in Elysia. Ben's dad continued
obliviously, “But it's still so unexpected, so absurd, so...”
He trailed off... I think he didn't want to let his voice show how
much he was affected. As if anyone could look down on him for crying
at having his son taken from him!
course, I was being overwhelmed with thoughts of what had happened on
the Floating Castle. What we'd done
on the Floating Castle. How could I tell this guy that actually it
was me and a couple of our friends who'd killed Ben?!
the funeral tomorrow,” he continued after a few moments. “We're
trying to contact his friends and the people he socialised with. He
happened to have your number on a piece of paper in his room. I'm
sorry to ask you this, but, ah, would you be willing to contact any
of them that you could and let them know?”
Numbly I said,
“...Sure, I guess I can do that.”
He thanked me, told
me the time and place, and said goodbye awkwardly. Not that I would
have done any better.
I went and asked my
floor manager for tomorrow off. She said it'd have to come out of my
annual leave, since he wasn't family, but that was fine. She was
sympathetic, which I guess was nice. I think I must have been visibly
showing the shock.
Then I had the
unenviable task of phoning round those of Ben's friends whose numbers
I had, to let them know. Some people thought I was joking at first,
which just made it more painful. Almost everyone was shocked, which I
guess isn't surprising. It's not like he was elderly and expecting to
go one of these months; nobody could have expected it... Except for
the four of us who were in Elysia with him last night.
Paula was at least
sober about it, knowing that this isn't the kind of thing I'd joke
about. She also made the connection to our castletop battle. “Oh
my God, Tessa,” she gasped, “that was us!”
I agreed miserably. “We killed him. We killed him!”
“Of course, he
did tell us to,” she added after a pause. “He thought
he'd be waking up as normal.”
should have tried harder to talk him out of it, then... or
something...” I retaliated, tears coming to my eyes. “Look,
I... need to call the others, to tell them. So I ought to go.”
like me to do that, babe?” Paula asked in a concerned tone.
“You sound distraught.”
you?” I was pathetically grateful. “...Thanks, I
appreciate it. You've probably got more people's numbers than I have,
Shall I leave you to call Michael?”
I sighed. “Things
aren't so great between us at the moment...”
“What do you
mean, still? I screwed him around. Pretty much literally, in fact.
He's entitled to think I'm awful.”
just going to let him walk away?” Paula exclaimed.
I winced and said,
“Look, Paula... not now. I've had enough stress for one day.”
I think she was
going to say something else, but she seemed to think better of it,
paused for a moment, and then just said, “...Okay. I'll call
him and then anyone else who might want to come to the funeral. You
take it easy.”
I said again, as a rush of relieved tiredness came over me. “You're
a good friend.”
“Take care for
now, and I'll see you tonight,” she said, and hung up.
I groaned as I
realised she was right. There'll be no rest tonight, no matter how
tired I'm feeling – just more warts-and-all adventuring and
all-too-real terrorising of innocents.
Somehow I made it
through the rest of the day. I don't know what to think or feel... I
just feel numb.
by lilcutie89, at 22:21 on Dec 4th
by taleteller, at 23:40 on Dec 4th
by princess-of-china, at 00:12 on Dec 5th
Oh, for a night of rest
If we were plugging
in a games console and loading up Ultimate Dream, we could choose not
to. But with it taking over our dreams by force, we don't get a
choice about anything.
So we were back in
Elysia. And things happened, in the implacable, unstoppable way they
do. But I'm not up to typing them up right now.
Alleria visited the
dragons and got them on our side. But we were all just so shocked.
I'd like to be able to sleep and actually just rest, rather than be
off saving the world when a friend has just died.
Now I have to go to
by varynfan, at 09:12 on Dec 5th
by ilovealleria, at 09:27 on Dec 5th
by princess-of-china, at 09:45 on Dec 5th
by varynfan, at 13:03 on Dec 5th
by take-me-to-elysia, at 14:20 on Dec 5th
Funeral for a friend
Ben's funeral was
I turned up, wearing
sombre black and a sombre expression. Michael was already there,
along with a few other people I vaguely recognised from Ben's
parties. I wanted to talk to him, but had no idea what I'd say; but
he spotted me and didn't seem to have any inclination to come and
talk. Saddening, but not surprising.
Looking at the other people our age who were
there, I shuddered as I suddenly spotted Sir Randall, and realised
that outside the context of the game I could indeed recognise him as
Stuart, the guy I'd met a couple of times, last month, a lifetime ago. I
avoided meeting his eyes.
Paula arrived just
before the service was due to start. So, early by her standards. As
the vicar started to read the liturgy, she sidled up to me, and we
gave each other a hug, holding tight as the terrible reality of what
we'd done was rubbed in.
knew Benjamin,” the minister intoned, “will have known
him as a lively young man; intelligent, sociable and quick-witted.”
(A euphemism for “he was famous for being sarcastic and holding
great parties”, I thought.) The priest continued, “In
this life we may never know why such a promising life was cut so
Believe me, I really
wish that was the case. I really wish I had no idea why he's dead.
Far better that than to know that I killed him.
He continued with
the liturgy, and then the vicar signalled for the coffin to be
lowered into the grave. Paula and I clung to each other, exchanging
looks of sickened remorse.
Afterwards, we exchanged condolences with Ben's
family, and then we Elysians drifted into a group. Paula looked at
me, Michael and Stuart,
and then back at the grave. With a troubled face she said, “Well,
I guess this makes it really clear: we've really got to stop the
Michael and Stuart
nodded soberly, but my reaction surprised me. I found myself
conflicted inside. Paula must have seen it in my face, as she asked
in concern, “Tessa... you do want to stop the chronocycling,
had a little difficulty putting it into words. “Clearly it's
got potential to turn out horribly wrong. That's why we're here
today, after all. But... it's... It's like Michael said, when we
first got into Elysia. We're in a big adventure now! And people would
pay loads to get into a virtual reality world this good!
how you feel when you're swinging Varyn's sword around. Or when we're
casting spells. Or when we visit the crazy magical places in Elysia,
or even in the World of Darkness. It's exciting, right?”
Michael was looking
at me with a serious expression. “Do you really feel like it's
just a game, Tessa?”
I sighed. “No,
of course not. It's not just a game, but for all its dangers, don't
you guys feel exhilarated?”
giggled as she asked, “What happened to you, Tessababes? I
thought you felt like you were just a walking medikit?”
when I was doing nothing but boring healing all the time, it was
still more interesting than working in a department store all day.
But yeah... I guess since I got an attack spell, I've been able to be
more part of the group in combat. And all the drama of being part of
this big adventure... Come on, don't you find it thrilling?”
Michael looked at me
coldly. “Tessa... Were you there when Alleria talked about what
the chronocycling looks like from her perspective? The people who
suffer each time through, knowing that they're going to have it all
happen again in a few days' time? The one who –”
I said in defeat. I think I was silenced as much by his icy tone, and
the fact that it was him saying it, as the content. I can't blame him
for being angry with me, I know that. But it still hurts.
As I thought about
it more, though, the terrifying aspects of Elysia did keep rattling
around my head. “Yeah,” I found myself saying, “that
is pretty horrible.”
with us, against the chronocycling?” Paula asked.
I remembered Jarak,
the villager who got eaten by the dragon every time through... And
the bandits, and the haunted look in their eyes. And then I looked
once more at Ben's coffin. I shuddered, and said, “Yes,
Michael looked at me
for a few seconds, and then said simply, “Good.”
There wasn't much
more to say after that. We just had to wait for tonight, and hope
that the wizards in the Academy will be able to do something with the
anachronous DVD we brought them. If not, I don't know what we'll do.
Investigations in a magical laboratory, and
learning in the Wizards' Academy
Back in Elysia, it
didn't take the Castle long to reach the Academy. Scroogle moored it
outside the gates, and we teleported down to ground level. As we
walked up the path to the gates, I looked up at the Floating Castle,
and mused how incongruous it was to be travelling around in a vehicle
about the same size as the academy which we were visiting!
We made our way back
up the perception-defying Impossible Tower, through the bizarre
sideways door, and to the door of Professor Richtonsin's office in
room zogroth-four. Alleria rapped smartly on the door, and we were
greeted with a deep, musical voice calling, “Come in!”
my friends from another world,” said Richtonsin warmly as we
walked into his office. “I've been talking to people a lot
since your last visit, trying to figure out what kind of magic might
have brought you here and how to stop it.”
said Michael. “Any conclusions?”
Richtonsin looked a little embarrassed. “Plenty of
hypotheses... but no real conclusions without this disc of yours.”
“Oh, yes, the
game disc! I'd forgotten.” I rummaged in the pack, and brought
out the DVD case and handed it to him.
Richtonsin took it
gingerly, with a kind of awe. He just looked at it and turned it
over, studying first the colourful, dramatic poses of Varyn, Alleria
and Binkley, then the lettering of the title, then the screenshots
and cheesy blurb on the back. At length he looked at the front again,
and then told Alleria wryly, “You've come out quite well, my
dear – they've got quite a flattering picture of you on here.”
Alleria gasped and
peered at the image quickly. “It's... me...” I realised
that in a world without cameras, the only times an Elysian would see
herself would be in a mirror or pool of water. She stared for several
seconds before saying, “Does this mean that in your world,
Paula giggled and
said cheerily, “Yeah, I suppose so. Michael's got a poster of
you in his room – that's like a big picture that people have of
people they like or find attr–”
Michael interrupted with a cough, “do you think you'll be able
to find out anything from this disc, Professor?” He took the
case from Alleria and opened it, exposing the shiny DVD.
The big wizard
shrugged expansively. “We'll just have to do what we can. I
think the first thing to do is to take it down to one of the
Faculty's labs, and see if we can identify the enchantment that's
connecting these discs to our world.” Rubbing his chin, he
added, “The problem is that it's far harder to track down the
magic that's created things – it's much easier if the
enchantment is still on it. But they've been having a few ideas over
the past couple of days, so we'll see what we can do. I've made
arrangements to take it down to one of the Faculty's labs. Shall we
And with that, he
stood up and set off at a brisk pace. So we braved the
incomprehensible architecture of the Impossible Tower once more, and
then followed Richtonsin through a couple of serene and beautiful
courtyards. Turning into a side passage, we took a narrow stairway
down underground, and then from a low stone passage, we entered a
weird room that looked like it was once a dungeon. There were shelves
all around the walls, untidily heaped with books, jars, and strange
unidentifiable items. The same things were scattered across three or
four tables, fighting for space with sheets of paper covered with
incomprehensible scribblings. Purple smoke was hanging in the air
around the door, making us cough as we followed Richtonsin through to
the back of the room, where a wizard was flipping impatiently through
looked up as we approached, showing us an amazing moustache and a
crazy mass of disorderly white hair, and said, “Ah, Rallian!
How are you, what? Who are these – your latest experimental
Richtonsin smiled wryly. “You joke, Rogan, but that's not as
far off as you might think. This is Paula, Tessa, Michael and Stuart,
the visitors from another world that I told you about. Everyone, this
is Professor Yarmolant, the Thaumaturgics Faculty's foremost
attention back to the wild-haired Yarmolant, he continued, “Now,
this is the disc that transported this lot to our world in the first
place. I was thinking we could start with a normal thaumaturgical
profile, because apparently there isn't any magic in their world, so
there shouldn't be too much contamination.”
The lab wizard
grinned with relish. “I'll get right onto it. This can wait,”
he said, gesturing at the book he'd been looking at when we arrived.
Then he suddenly cried, “Murlington!”
came the reply, from the lab's third inhabitant, a gangly youth over
the far side of the room, wearing a brown smock.
“We've got an
important item to investigate. Come with me!” And with that,
the two of them traipsed out of the door and off who knows where.
Richtonsin looked at
us and said, “Right. It might be best if you lot stay in the
Academy's grounds for a while, as we might need to ask you things
once Professor Yarmolant gets back. So in the meantime... are you
Paula and I looked
at each other, and realised we definitely were.
* * *
After brunch in the
Academy's cafeteria (and that was another strange place), we sat and
talked with Richtonsin for a bit while Yarmolant and his assistant
investigated the Ultimate Dream DVD. Apparently it wasn't quite what
they were expecting, so it took them some time to reach any
some interesting ideas. His theory is that in our world, when some
bloke in a games company is designing a fictional universe, he'll see
genuine other worlds in his dreams. Those worlds will start off
untainted by the needs of RPGs to have dungeons, puzzles and so on,
as long as they're only seen by a few people. But when the games are
mass-duplicated, the accumulated mass of storytelling, reinforced
over and over in exactly the same way, transforms the world to match
the game. So he reckons the Shrines of Earth, Water and Fire used to
be actual shrines, temples to old gods of this world, and that was
how the game developers saw it in their dreams; but obviously when
those developers were writing a game in this world that they thought
they'd dreamed up, they needed to create puzzles and things
somewhere. And it was only as the game was seen by thousands upon
thousands of people in our world that the Shrines in Elysia got
transformed from places of worship into puzzle dungeons.
point about this theory,” Richtonsin added, “is that
presumably from what you say, the storytelling ends when you defeat
so,” I said hesitantly, looking to the others for confirmation.
Michael nodded and
said, “That seems likely, sir, yes. Or a little while
afterwards, to allow for a short ending sequence.”
“Good. In that
case, the people of our world should be able to resume their normal
lives if we do manage to break the chronocycling,” Richtonsin
said approvingly. “Of course, that all depends on what
Yarmolant's investigations come up with...”
We had to wait for
several hours while the strange wizards performed who-knows-what
rites on the DVD – certainly things that a DVD must never have
been subjected to before. The afternoon was well underway when they
emerged and found us sitting in the Academy common room.
How did it go?” asked Richtonsin tensely.
wizard replied, “Well, it wasn't easy. There's not much special
about this silver disc – the basic chronocycling enchantment
seems tied to the data on here, but only very remotely, as if it were
just one of thousands that carry the enchantment between them.”
Michael and I exchanged looks, musing that that was pretty much the
“But... can we
stop it?” Richtonsin asked with bated breath.
“I reckon so,”
said Yarmolant cockily. “The inherent thaumic trace on this
thing resonated with the whole of Elysia, so I think it's likely
we've got ourselves the enchantment in question. Now, breaking it's a
bit of a challenge, but we've come up with an idea or two.” He
paused for a moment. “It seems that the two enchantments –
the chronocycling and the effect that's brought you people here –
are closely related. It doesn't look like we'd be able to break the
one without breaking the other, and sending you back to your world.”
said Paula. “One of our friends got killed here. We want to go
back. But did you find anything out about why we got brought here in
the first place?”
“Not really, I'm afraid. All we can tell is that shortly before
the end of the last cycle, Kraus cast some immense spell, channeling
all the magical power in a truly vast region. We don't have much
contact with the World of Darkness, but it seems they felt it too.
But as for why he did it... no idea there, I'm afraid.”
soberly, “Kraus's power is intimidating. It's a bit worrying
that such a deranged man is probably the most magically powerful
being in either of our worlds.”
I exchanged a glance
with Paula and Michael, and gulped.
Paula said after a sobering pause, “that means it's Kraus's
fault that Ben...”
suppose. He's got a lot to answer for,” I said grimly. Of
course I still feel responsible, but Kraus does have to shoulder some
of the blame. When we face him, I plan to extract from him an
explanation of why he called us here – what on earth he was up
to – before we finish him off.
this enchantment,” I asked. “Is it something you can do
young lady, aren't you?” said Yarmolant with a cackle. I just
kept looking at him. “...Yes, we can give it a go. All right...
You four are the visitors from the other world, right?” We
be casting the main spell, but I'll need all of you four to cast
<Channel>, and hold it until I give the cue...
What is it?”
We were all staring
at him. Paula spoke first. “Um, Professor, we can't cast any
Nonsense, my dear! It's just a simple channelling incantation, the
kind of thing you learn in your first or second year.”
I added in what I hoped was a patient tone, “none of us have
studied at a Wizards' Academy. There's no magic in our world.”
Yarmolant stared at
us, his moustache quivering in shock. “But... it needs someone
from your world to cast <Channel> so that we're using magical
energies from both worlds.”
Paula and Michael
both turned to look at me. I said nervously, “What is it?”
the only spellcaster out of us,” Michael said. “Alleria's
from this world, and none of the rest of us have magic.”
“But I'm not a
spellcaster!” I cried. “I'm just a normal girl who's
slipped into the role of Terena the cleric! I don't know how to cast
her spells, I just somehow manage to do it anyway!”
“If you are
the one of your friends who finds herself with magical powers in our
world, then you must be the one to help me, my dear,” said
Yarmolant, in a gentle tone but with a steely expression.
Tessa... I mean, you may not know what you're doing, but you're still
actually using magic, which is more than we can say,” said
I looked at them
helplessly. After a moment I said, “...Okay, but you're going
to have to explain it all to me very slowly...”
So Richtonsin took
me off to another room and gave me a lesson in magic. It was very
weird. He confessed that they're not that familiar with cleric
spells, as priests and priestesses tend to have their own magical
tutelage in their cloisters. But “white magic”, as they
call it, apparently follows the same basic principles as the magic
they study in the Academy (which I noticed they didn't call “black
magic”). From my fantasy reading, it seems about 50/50 split
between whether healers get their power from their gods or from the
same source as other magic users, so I couldn't say much to that
And so, for the
first time, I learned how my magic works. I learned the mental focus,
the art of consciously directing your mind, drawing on the latent
energy around and shaping it into a spell. A lot of it I recognised,
from watching what I did when using Terena's skills; but now I
learned to put it all together.
It was quite
exhausting. At first I did wonder why I needed to bother training
like this, when I'd inherited Terena's spells automatically. But the
comparison occurred to me of Paula and Varyn's swordskill. If Paula
were to try to take up swordfighting, it'd take her a lot more than a
couple of hours to learn the fluidity, speed and precision that she's
picked up from Varyn, not to mention the sheer strength and stamina.
didn't grumble too much when after two hours, I was first able to
cast a spell that Terena doesn't know: a weak and hesitant floating
ball of light, but still a spell that I'd learned,
not just got given for free.
We took a break at
that point, and went to get something to drink and meet up with the
others. Paula, Sir Randall and even Michael were asking me eagerly
how it had gone and what it was like. I think I wasn't very coherent.
Alleria was very encouraging, saying she'd taken much longer to
successfully cast her first controlled spell.
Then it was back
into training. It's the hardest I've worked since school! But I
learned about the <Channel> spell: it basically lets you direct
magical energy towards another caster, so that they've got more power
for their spell. Richtonsin wasn't sure why Yarmolant thought my
<Channel> would be so important: for all his support of what he
called his Many-Worlds Hypothesis, he didn't think the world where
the energy originated should make much of a difference. He asked me
what I thought – as if I'd have a clue! But I think he quite
enjoyed teaching me – I guess I'm going to be a bit different
to your typical brainy apprentice sorceress...
After about a third
hour (which is at least two more hours than I've tried to spend
learning anything for years), I succeeded in casting <Channel>.
So Richtonsin said, at least. I couldn't really tell whether it had
worked or not. He got me to try it a few more times, then when he was
satisfied, brought me back down from the classroom to meet up with
delighted to hear I'd managed, and the others were congratulatory
too. He was also itching to get started, but before Richtonsin would
let him, he insited that I drink a magic points potion, so I'd be
fully topped up for the big spell. It was an amusing intrusion of the
RPG mechanics into the very realistic world of the Wizards' Academy.
Anyway, as soon as
I'd glugged the potion, we set off for a special room in the Academy
where they cast all their particularly big and notable spells. It was
a grand hall, octagonal in shape, with stained-glass windows high up
the walls and wooden panelling on the rest of them. There was a
raised dais in the centre, which is where Yarmolant led us. It was a
very dramatic place – overly so, in fact, so that it looked
like a place you wouldn't get in a real Academy, but would be vital
in any movie or game. I can't believe the game designers didn't make
use of it, as it would be perfect for some of the melodramatic scenes
Anyway, we laid the
Ultimate Dream DVD in the centre of the dais, and Richtonsin and
Yarmolant stood at two points of a triangle centred on it. At their
urging, I reluctantly took the third spot. Michael and the others
stood a little way back, watching tensely. The two academics drew a
couple of deep breaths, and then Yarmolant gave Richtonsin a terse
declared Richtonsin in a deep voice. I'd heard him do it a few times
in the past few hours, but this time he sounded more serious: this
was clearly for real, in a way that our earlier training emphatically
wasn't. A breeze started gusting around us, and the air became a
little more charged.
He kept his look of
concentration, but said out of the corner of his mouth, “Now
you, Tessa. You did a fine job earlier. Remember to keep channelling
till we're done!”
So I gulped, took a
deep breath, and cried, “<Channel>!”
gusts amplified into a strong wind whipping around us, as if we were
standing in the middle of a storm. And with it the wind brought
faint, tantalising scents of home... even trivial things like car
exhausts and fast food, but they still evoked our world quite
powerfully. The air felt like it was full of static electricity.
approvingly, with his wild white hair flapping everywhere in the
wind. Then he looked sternly at the DVD, lying inertly between us,
and said, “<Revelation>!”
The game leapt up
into the air, and started spinning slowly at head height. We stood
there for a few moments, spellcasting, and then a ghostly purple
smoke started seeping out of the DVD case. Before our astonished
eyes, it formed itself into the shape of a chain, the individual
links wavering as the smoke blew in the wind, but the shape clearly
visible. Separately, seemingly independently, there was a faint red
glow all around.
“Ah... is that
so,” said Yarmolant slowly. “My earlier investigations
suggested this could be the case, but having the channelling from
your world makes it much clearer. Yes...”
I'd barely been able
to hear him over the wind as he murmured. Now he raised his voice and
said, “All right, we'll give this a try! If this works, we'll
break the spell tying you here once and for all! Keep that
concentration focused... and now... <CounterSpell>!”
A bolt of lightning
cracked from his fingers into the hovering game, and there was a
The sudden bolt had
been so bright that it took my eyes a few seconds to recover. But
floating before us, defiantly encircling the DVD, was the smoky
purple chain, and the air was full of an acrid smell of charcoal.
“Yes, I was
afraid of that,” said Yarmolant, disappointment evident on his
face. “All right, Tessa, Rallian, you can stop now.”
concentration drop, I breathed out, exhausted. Richtonsin did the
same, and the levitating Ultimate Dream case suddenly dropped to the
ground, the malignant purple chain disappearing as the plastic
clattered on the floor.
does that mean, Professor?” asked Paula anxiously, as the
charcoal odour dissipated.
addressing Yarmolant, but it was Richtonsin who replied. “It
means that the person who cast the spell summoning you here applied a
SoulBind to it,” he said, his deep voice sounding troubled.
“Kraus didn't want that spell dispersing by a simple
<CounterSpell>, so he tied its continued existence to his.”
we've got to kill Kraus to get free of this place,” Michael
said. It was more of a statement than a question.
“But it's not
all bad news,” Yarmolant chipped in, twirling his moustache.
“Besides the purple chains of the enchantment that's brought
you here, did you notice that faint red spelltrace?”
I had a sudden
moment of insight. “Oh! It was faint, but it was as if it was
diffused across a huge region... Was that the chronocycling itself?”
“Well done, my
dear,” said Richtonsin approvingly. “Yes, that was there,
and that effect was almost entirely banished by the <CounterSpell>.”
“Which is very
different from how it went before,” Yarmolant added. “We
tried a <CounterSpell> on the disc earlier, you know, but the
spelltrace was very tenacious. It wouldn't be banished by just that.
But having had the energy from your world channelled seems to have
enabled the <CounterSpell> to have far greater effect. I
suspect it's only Kraus's SoulBind that's keeping either of those
enchantments intact now.”
“So when we
kill Kraus this time, that'll free us all from the chronocycling?”
asked Alleria, with a curiously determined note in her voice.
“I think so,
yes,” said the old wizard as he cracked a grin.
None of the rest of
us were smiling, though. Michael looked very serious as he said,
“Then our course is set.”
we'll be rejoining the... plot of the game... for the final stretch,”
said Alleria grimly. I looked appraisingly at her, realising again
how far she's come.
party do always end with an assault on Kraus in his Dark Citadel,
don't they?” mused Richtonsin. Then he cheerfully added, “Why
don't you stay the night here first, though? I'm sure you could do
with some supplies, and a good meal. Tackle the Dark Lord well
“Good point –
we definitely do need to stock up on potions,” Michael said.
“Do you have a shop somewhere on campus I could visit?”
magical capital of Elysia,” Richtonsin said in mock-offence.
“We most certainly do have such a shop. The shopkeeper is
utterly fanatical about keeping it stocked and open all hours of the
day or night. Especially when Varyn's group are at the Academy, for
Michael grinned, and
then said, “Could you show me the way?”
said Richtonsin by way of reply. The familiar floating ball appeared
in front of Michael, and drifted to the door before pausing to wait
“Well, I'll go
and stock us up,” said Michael. “Shall I see the rest of
you back at the canteen?”
Paula nodded. I,
however, had been overcome by the sight of Michael's profile, and on
the spur of the moment I said, “I'll go with him. I'll catch
you guys up later.”
Michael looked at me
in surprise, then quickly reacquired his usual unreadable expression
and turned to go after the glowing guide. Paula caught my eye, nodded
in understanding, and shepherded the others off with the Professors
towards the food hall, while Michael and I followed the <GuideLight>
to the Academy's magic shop.
He walked on ahead
of me in silence for a little. Realising I'd have to be the one to
speak, I said, “Michael, can't we talk about things?”
He stopped and
sighed. “What's to talk about?” he said simply. “You
lied to me.”
“I... I know I
did. But it was wrong, and I'm sorry! And it's not going to happen
He looked up and met
my gaze. The juxtaposition between his lovely eyes and the regretful
expression on his face was painful. “How do I know I can trust
you?” He paused for a second, and then turned and walked on,
following the GuideLight. It was a lonely walk back to see the
So, finally, we all
went to bed in rooms provided by the Academy once more. The events of
the day (night?) spent a long time churning around in my head before
I eventually got to sleep, and woke up back in my house again.
by princess-of-china, at 12:09 on Dec 6th
Dragons, dungeons and dread
Well, we woke up in
the Academy, and gathered back at the canteen for breakfast and a
council of war. Alleria took the lead. “Kraus's citadel is very
strongly defended. There are dragons circling it and an army of orcs
and undead. But we have one massive advantage: I've infiltrated it
hundreds of times before. Normally at this point the group would be
agonising to figure out how to get in, but since we've skipped so
much of the... conventional plot, I suggest we just skip to the plan
we always use eventually. Does that sound all right?”
replied Paula with a grin.
with a warm smile in return, before continuing, “Okay. So the
way it normally goes is, we fly in there on dragons, who obey my
summons. First, Varyn – er, Paula – uses Wyrmstones to
guide some riderless dragons in combat with other dragons. Then we
each mount a dragon and have to fly in, defending ourselves against
even more dragons. Finally, we enter the Citadel itself, fight our
way through lots of troops and levels, and confront Kraus in his
Michael mused. “And there's no way to skip any of that?”
The sorceress gave
him a knowing smile. “Well, if you'd done one of the more
laborious side quests, you'd find out about a back route...”
“Come on, tell
us, Alleria, pleeeease!” wheedled Paula.
helplessly and said, “I was going to! I don't see any reason to
go and risk my life in front of a wing of dragons for a thousandth
time when we know the back way. We just have to fight through a
ghost-filled dungeon, instead of two hours of terrifying dragon
combat.” She paused, and then added, “It's quite a well
hidden secret... only about one in ten players find it. ”
Paula looked at her
and said, “You're getting used to the idea that... your actions
have been being controlled, then?”
distressing,” the Elysian admitted. “But it... It makes
sense. There have been many things that have seemed odd... and I've
just seemed to go along with them. And some of the things I've
done...” She laughed wryly. “Wouldn't we all like some
excuse for some of the times we've done really silly things? An
excuse like 'my life was being controlled by somebody else at the
We couldn't say much
in response to that. So Paula said instead, “Hang on, doesn't
that mean that all that getting the dragons on our side was
unnecessary, if we're going in the back way? Why did we bother?”
“Not at all!
The dragons distract the guards for us while we go in.” Alleria
wagged a finger at Paula in mock sternness. “And watch how you
talk about them! They're still my kin, you know. My family... Not
much of a family, to be fair, but they're all I've got. So don't go
insulting them!” She sounded quite fierce. If it hadn't been
for the smile dancing in her eyes, I might have thought she was
“So is there
anything else we need to do to prepare?” asked Michael, in a
us up on potions? Then no, that's it. I mean, there are side quests
to get other items that'll help, but they're completely optional. We
can move on the Citadel any time.”
Looking at the
others, I asked, “Are we all in agreement, then?”
Michael, Paula, and Sir Randall nodded in turn.
* * *
Scroogle raised his
eyebrows when we came back and told him we wanted to go to the Dark
Citadel. “Somehow I'd thought you were the kind of group who'd
want to do all the optional quests before you go to the Citadel,”
he said, without further explanation. But he was happy to obey, and
soon the Floating Castle was speeding across the landscape towards
the rift between the worlds, under the goblin's able control.
I got him to turn on
the window panel as we approached it. We were flying across the sea,
that we'd dived under to find the Heartstone of Water, so many nights
ago. There was a big, shimmering portal hanging in the air, its edges
a deep red tinged with black sparks, with the empty sky visible
through it. And then we were through, into the World of Darkness, and
instead of water below us there was just nothingness.
Then Alleria took
the Wyrmstone (apparently it's okay for her to use them now that her
relationship to the dragons has been proved) and concentrated for a
while, before telling us, “The Conflagration agrees to the
plan, and they're en route to the Citadel: they'll begin the decoy
attack when we're ready to move.”
And very soon, the
Dark Citadel loomed over the horizon in one direction, and many huge
winged creatures in the other. As they got closer as we approached
our common goal, we could see their wings flapping majestically.
There were precisely twelve of them (how did Paula manage to count
them so accurately when we saw them before?).
Soon, we drew to a
halt above the acid lake near the Citadel, that corresponded to a
more normal lake in Elysia. We could make out several dragon shapes
circling the Citadel, silhouetted in the twilight. “Kraus's
dragons are obviously on patrol,” said Alleria. “There'll
be no sneaking up on them in the Castle, but that's fine...”
She took the
Wyrmstone once more, paused for a few moments, and then said to
Scroogle, “Could you open a portal to the outside, Scroogle?”
The goblin nodded curtly, fiddled with the controls, and a chunk of
the wall opened, just like last time. As the wind suddenly blew
around us, we saw the strange sky of the World of Darkness, and the
eerie landscape stretching off towards the horizon... I looked for
the Dark Citadel, but quickly realised it must be behind us.
right up to the edge of the stone floor, standing in the window, the
wind whipping her hair and robes around her. She raised her hands,
and all of a sudden, a vast dragon rose up into view behind her.
She turned to us
and, with a confident smile, said, “Looks like our lift is
* * *
dragon isn't exactly the subtlest mode of transport either, so we
flew away from the Citadel for a
bit, before tracing a wide circle and approaching it from the north.
There were a number of dirty hovels and outbuildings scattered around
the approach, but we stopped well short of them, on a track heading
into the icy mountains.
said Alleria as we dismounted the dragon, which took to the air the
moment we were on the ground. “This is where I cast the spell
that we'd have learned if you'd finished that quest. Gather round.”
We huddled close around her, and then the sorceress proclaimed,
said Michael, looking at his hands as all of us faded from view. In
just a second or two, I couldn't tell where he or anyone else was
looking. We'd all literally disappeared.
came Alleria's disembodied voice, “we need to get through the
village to the Citadel's back entrance. This spell won't work on the
ghosts in the dungeon, but it'll get us past the orcs in these
are we going exactly?” I asked, feeling a little foolish as I
addressed the empty air.
the Citadel,” came the instruction. I obediently looked at the
black tower, dominating the skyline. “Just at its base, on the
right-hand side, there's a craggy outcropping. See it? That's where
the tunnel from the dungeons comes out. I'll see you all just inside
the tunnel entrance.”
And so we marched
straight through the heart of an orcish settlement, past all sorts of
orcs: soldiers and guards, cooks and servants. The smell was
revolting, and I'm sure one of them spat straight at me as we slowly
walked past... but I assume it was a coincidence, because we weren't
I found the tunnel Alleria's voice had mentioned, and waited there nervously, with no idea where the others were. Then suddenly a voice cried, “<CounterSpell>!” And Alleria appeared, as did Michael, Paula, Sir Randall, and indeed me. It was rather comforting to be able to see my arms and legs again.
We made our way up the tunnel, and fought our way through the dungeon, which was indeed infested with ghosts. What was quite interesting was the way that Paula had to periodically watch and guide the dragon combat that was going on outside: we'd occasionally stop while she went into her trance (and the rest of us healed up). We had just got out of the dungeon into the Dark Citadel proper when we woke up.
The most significant
part of the night's events, though, was actually completely unrelated
to the Dark Citadel. As we made our way up the stairs towards Kraus's
inner sanctum, Michael tapped me on the shoulder and said, “Um...
I stopped and turned
to face him, as the others went on ahead. He was looking at me with
an unreadable expression. Well, it was better than him avoiding me or
being coldly critical. I smiled and said, “Yes, what is it?”
Not meeting my eyes,
he said, “I...” He paused. I've never seen him so
hesitant. “I'm... getting an internet connection put in
tomorrow. Today. So... I wondered if I could have the address of your
My heart was in my
mouth. I've written so much about him on here! And about Sir
Randall... I gulped. “Um...”
“If you don't
want to, that's fine... I guess...” he said, a trace of cold
reserve back in his voice.
I frantically tried
to remember what I'd put on here, and how incriminating it was. I
couldn't remember the details, but I knew it would be pretty bad.
What would he do if I said “no”? It hit me that even if I
didn't tell him, he could easily search the Net and find it for
All sorts of
increasingly implausible possibilities ran through my head: I could
filter all the posts to “everyone but him”. I could
delete the whole blog and send future updates by email. I could do
any number of fiddly or frustrating things. But if I want my blog to
stay in the form it's in, none of them are really plausible.
I sighed, and
thought to myself, what's the worst that could happen? I'm already
not exactly in his good books. At the worst, it'll just confirm all
his worst imaginings about me, that he already suspects.
So with trepidation,
I said all right, and told him the address.
I made him promise
to tell me what he thinks, and so now all I can do is wait... wait to
by princess-of-china, at 09:30 on Dec 7th
by taleteller at 09:45 on Dec 7th
by varynfan, at 13:19 on Dec 7th
by taleteller, at 13:48 on Dec 7th
by princess-of-china, at 18:42 on Dec 7th
by taleteller, at 19:04 on Dec 7th
by princess-of-china, at 19:51 on Dec 7th
by MichaelQ, at 22:28 on Dec 7th
by taleteller, at 22:36 on Dec 7th
by MichaelQ, at 23:41 on Dec 7th
by taleteller, at 23:59 on Dec 7th
by princess-of-china, at 00:24 on Dec 8th
by lilcutie89, at 01:12 on Dec 8th
The final battle
Wow. Just when I
thought I knew what to expect from Elysia, it takes us totally by
surprise... But I suppose I should have realised, really...
Anyway, I'm getting
ahead of myself!
Well, things are far
far better in my love life since my last post :) But there's no point
me going into details, since those of you who read comments will have
seen it all for yourselves! Suffice to say that I'm really looking
forward to the weekend tomorrow, when Michael and I get to meet up
and have fun together in the real world. Although that might be a bit
complicated by... Hang on, I'm getting there :)
So I went to sleep
in my bed, and woke up standing in a corridor in the Dark Citadel. I
caught Michael's eye, and the warm smile he gave me made me just melt
where I stood.
I was rather less
comforted when Sir Randall looked around and then walked purposefully
over to Michael and me. I stood my ground, determined to tell him
that there couldn't be anything more between us.
He drew up in front
of us, gave us both a flourishing bow, and said, “I read the
thread. Congratulations. It looks like the best man won.”
My jaw dropped, and
I exchanged an astonished look with Michael. He slowly shook Sir
Randall's proffered hand, and replied, “Uh... thanks.”
continued, “I shall forthwith halt my advances, no matter how
ravishing Lady Tessa appears: it would be only proper.”
His turn of phrase
made me smile, as it so often does. I looked at him quizzically and
said, “I've been wondering this for ages. You're from our
“Then how come
you talk like that? I mean, do you talk like that to people in our
world, in London?”
With a disarming
grin he gestured at our surroundings. “Not at all, milady. But
when in Rome...”
Somehow I could tell
that that was about all the explanation I was going to get. Paula and
Alleria had been watching with amused looks, and I smiled in return,
before saying, “Shall we get moving?”
We had one final
level of the Dark Citadel to fight our way through: lots of fiercely
strong orcs, demons and shadowbeasts. They were tough enough that I
had to use three potions of MP to keep healing the others, even with
our unfair party size of 5, when I assume the dungeon was designed
for a party of 3.
We actually found
the door to Kraus's inner sanctum fairly quickly, but it had four
sockets, each of which needed filling with a black skull carved from
gemstone. And of course, those were scattered around the rest of the
floor, naturally. There were a bunch of evil traps and so on, and
when we plugged them in, a big boss-before-the-boss appeared who was
really frustrating to beat.
But eventually he
fell to the floor, and we were ready to enter Kraus's inner sanctum.
Standing in front of the imposing black-and-golden door, I shivered,
but firmly took one of the solid bronze handles while Paula took the
other. We caught each other's eyes, then resolutely pushed the door
guests from another world,” came a confident and grimly
familiar voice, from the far end of the throne room beyond.
The five of us
marched up to Kraus, and stood before the throne glaring at him.
Paula declared, “This is the end of the road, Kraus!”
He looked at us
contemptuously and said, “Still ignoring the script, I see.
There's only meant to be three of you here!”
“But before we kill you, there's something I want to know.”
I did a doubletake
at that, and whispered to her, “Isn't it meant to be bad guys
who say that?”
She looked puzzled
for a moment, then grinned briefly at me before resuming. “It
was you that brought us here, wasn't it? From our world? I just want
to know... Why? What purpose did it serve, summoning us here?”
I halfway expected
Kraus to laugh and refuse to answer. There was certainly no reason
for him to tell us. But of course, he's very much the traditional Bad
Guy, and so he was very happy to expound at length before we fought.
His expression was
truly chilling as he looked at each of us in turn and said, “Why,
my dear, simply because that way I could cause more suffering!”
I gasped at his
sheer callous evil, as he continued, “After I took over from
Binkley I've been able to cause a delicious amount of pain to the
inhabitants of both Elysia and the World of Darkness. Humans, orcs,
goblins, dragons, all are agonised under my rule. I was content with
that, at first. Even when the time cycling started, I realised that
they were all aware of the cycle, and aware of the suffering they'd
experience when I came to power each time round... and the
anticipation of pain is almost as fulfilling as the pain itself.
after some cycles, I realised that there were beings from another
world, guiding the actions of Varyn's group. Entities outside my
realm – entities on which I couldn't inflict pain!” His
eyes bulged as he continued dementedly, “This was intolerable!
This simply could not be allowed! And so I began turning my efforts
towards a summoning spell greater than any in our history... a spell
to invoke not demons from the underworld, or elementals of raw power
from the planet, but the creatures from another world who were
deriving pleasure” – he spat the word –
“from my actions. A spell to summon... you.”
“I hadn't been
expecting you to arrive in the bodies of Varyn's group. But that was
even better – I got to torment you while following the script.
Having your friend Ben in Binkley's place was the best of all... he
enjoyed himself a bit too much, but then his death made up for it.”
Suddenly he acquired
an almost childlike curiosity, in his twisted fashion. “By the
way, I assume Ben had family in your world? Did they mourn him?”
Paula exclaimed in
fury, “Of course they did, you maniac!”
good,” he replied sweetly.
our friend, you bastard!” That was me. “And now it's time
to pay. You can't be allowed to keep torturing this world's people.
Will you yield?”
you, Tessa?” He gave me an infuriating laugh. “No, no,
that's not what's going to happen. I'm going to kill you all. You do
know it takes most groups about ten reloads to beat me? And we all
know you don't have that luxury.”
I trembled a little. We've seen now that if you
die in this world, you're really dead... I had a bit of an urge to
run, but I quelled it, knowing this was what we'd come here for.
“But we have the advantage that there are
five of us,” Paula said defiantly.
Kraus frowned at
her. “Yes, about that detail...” Suddenly he cried,
“<MassHourglass>!”, and all five of us froze. Then
he added, “<Binding>! <Binding>!” As we stood
there helplessly, ropes appeared out of mid-air, binding Sir Randall
and Michael hand and foot.
better. This battle is to be fought with three of you, no more! Stop
trying to deviate from the script!”
Alleria, Paula and I could move again, just in time for Kraus to hit
us hard with one of his swords. I shot a helpless look at Michael,
who was wobbling as he struggled against the ropes, and then I turned
my full attention to the insane hunchback attacking us.
was horrifically strong. He had all his spells from before –
<Hourglass>, <Grinder>, and that evil <MassGrinder>
that shaved everyone to within an inch of death and I had to
<FullCure> everyone. And then he whipped out an even more
upgraded version, <UltraGrinder>. At first I couldn't tell the
difference, but then I just thought about casting a healing
spell and realised how exhausted I was: he'd drained not just our
health but our magic points as well!
So I first drank a
health potion so that I wouldn't immediately die if he attacked me,
then a magic points potion, and finally started healing the others
(who'd been drinking potions themselves).
His two swords –
the flaming one and the freezing one – were powered up as well.
I think the slowdown from the ice sword was approaching the effect of
his <HourGlass>, and the burning one left a magical flaming
aura around us, that kept hurting for several seconds after he hit.
But for all that, he
didn't seem impossibly hard... just, like, final-boss level. You'd
expect us to have really no chance at all against the most powerful
magical being in any of our worlds, but we could deal him damage.
The problem was,
though, that Paula and I really aren't accomplished RPG players. So
even with Alleria (who's obviously had more experience at this than
any of us), we weren't that practiced at combat.
At one point he
had... killed... both Paula and Alleria (I swear, I'll never get used
to seeing my friends killed before my eyes), and I was the only one
left alive. For a moment I stood there, face to face with this
utterly sadistic homicidal mage. Then I jumped to cast <Raise>
on Paula. I dodged one spell from Kraus, then <Raise>d Alleria,
caught a potion from Paula, just in time to get hit in the shoulder
by Kraus's ice sword...
turned it around was when we did some moves that seemed perfectly
natural to us, but were obviously outside the repertoire of the game.
Occasionally he'd cry, “Stop that! Play... by... the... rules,
damn you!” But simple things like all three attacking at once –
he was completely dumbfounded (and frustrated) by that, and so slowly
we whittled his hit points down.
And so eventually,
we were at the point where he was clearly on his last legs. He was
still hitting as hard as always, somehow, but he was visibly wounded
and tottering. We were getting through our potion supply, but staying
After Paula hit
Kraus with a blow that left him struggling to get up, she cried
dramatically, “Give up, Kraus! It's over!”
never yielded, and I... will never yield!” he croaked.
you completely sure?” I asked him.
to stop the time cycling, aren't you? Then I'll... die for good
Thoughts of the
confrontation with Ben had been running through my mind, and I added,
“Please, if you're someone from our world, tell us. Killing one
of our friends is bad enough. We could figure out some other way.”
“Oh, so you'd
happily kill an Elysian, but not someone from your own world, eh?”
he sneered, climbing to his feet.
Paula looked at me
in anguish. “That's... a good point...” she said slowly.
“Tessa, what are we doing? Can we really just kill this guy? I
mean, yes, he's evil, but shouldn't we try to get him arrested, or
something like –”
Her attack of
conscience was interrupted brutally, as Kraus swung his sword...
And lopped off her
I cried. I glared furiously at Kraus as he cackled uglily, and then I
got myself under control and said, “<Raise>!”
Paula stepped out of
the glowing golden light once more, and caught the health potion that
Alleria threw her. She drained it in a moment, and then turned to
Kraus, her eyes narrowing.
And suddenly it was
as if everything was in slow motion. Paula lifted her weapon high and
took a single step towards him. Kraus raised his hands to vainly try
to protect himself, his face twisted in rage and fear, as Paula swung
her sword towards him, and dealt the final blow.
he said feebly, and collapsed to the ground.
A cry behind me made
me turn around: Michael and Sir Randall were running towards us,
their mystical bonds vanished. Michael gave me a fierce embrace,
which I returned every bit as vehemently.
The five of us stood
for a moment watching Kraus's body, when to our surprise a glittering
dust rose from it, glowing purple. Then Paula sniffed. “Hey,
what's that smell?”
It took me a moment
to recognise it, and then I exclaimed, “It's charcoal... like
back in the Wizards' Academy, when we tried to break the spell
holding us here!”
slowly and said, “The SoulBind that stopped us dispelling both
that and the chronocycling. They were both bound to Kraus's life.”
And suddenly gusts
of wind were whipping around us. They started faint, but grew rapidly
in intensity as Paula said, “That must mean we're finally
free... We're about to leave Elysia for the last time!”
I turned to Alleria,
and said in shock, “We might never see you again...” I
thought about how the sorceress has grown since we've known her.
exclaimed Paula in sorrow, the magical winds blowing fiercely around
us. She looked at us, and I was touched to see tears in her eyes.
all,” she said, her voice catching. Slightly unexpectedly, she
reached out and pulled me into an embrace. I hugged her back, as we
were about to separate for the last time.
The winds rose to
gale force, and then suddenly I was back in my bedroom, in my
pyjamas, standing up...
...And I was still
jaw dropped. So did hers.
She looked around in
astonishment, her eyes wide as she took in my bed, desk, computer,
and the urban view through my window.
At length she said,
“...This is your world, isn't it, Tessa? I've been transported
the same way you brought the game disc in from your world, haven't
“Er. Um. That
does seem to have happened, yes.” I took a deep breath. “Um,
I'm really sorry! It didn't even cross my mind that this could
happen! I – ”
interrupted, “Don't worry about it, Tessa. I know you didn't do
might never be able to get you back!”
She seemed to be searching for words. “Since getting to know
you guys, the future I had planned for me in Elysia has somehow
started seeming less attractive. I wouldn't have thought to ask you
to bring me back, but... I think this could be fun.” And she
gave me such a smile – confident and excited – that I was
I looked at my
bedside clock, and jumped. “Er, right, I'm going to have to go
off to work fairly soon. Um... I suppose I ought to show you
I gave her a tour of
the house. My parents were both already out at work, thankfully –
that'll be an interesting conversation to have. But we bumped into
Lisa on the landing. My little sister took one look at the sorceress
(still wearing her Elysian robes) and said, “...You must be
She's a bright kid.
So the three of us
had breakfast while I tried to explain a bit of what had happened,
before I gave up and told Lisa to just read it on my blog. And then
an idea suddenly occurred to me. I gestured to a few of the books on
the kitchen shelves, and asked Alleria, “You can read our text,
“Of course I
can read it! I did graduate from the Wizards' Academy with a top
grade, you know!”
I was too pleased
with my idea to get irritated with her. “All right. Let me show
you a wonderful device that you don't have in your world. We call it
explained the basic concepts of computers and the Internet to her –
and she picked it up very quickly – I pointed her to my blog,
and hurried off to work. My bosses seemed happy to see me in a bit
earlier than I have been recently, although I bet they wouldn't be
pleased to know I've just spent the last hour typing this all up for
you, my faithful readers.
So, um, yeah. Our
adventures in Elysia may be over, but things aren't exactly setting
down to normal just yet!
by princess-of-china, at 11:42 on Dec 8th
by taleteller, at 13:28 on Dec 8th
by ASorceress, at 18:00 on Dec 8th