It has been two whole weeks since last I sat with my brothers-with-arms to play of the Game of Dragons Trapped Inside of Dungeons. Last weekend we were scheduled to play, but after our afternoon of adventure, erranding and the maiming of enemies Donnie did feel queasy and called off the nightly romp. Great sadness filled my heart at this, but Hazel soothed me with kind words that only a loving lifemate can deliver, and also with raw strips of pork-flesh known as the bacon such as only a lover who knows your tastes most intimate can provide. And also did we watch of the televisual programs that evening, as do many members of this Mobile Home Parking Lot. We watched the comickal and brave Dr. Who-Is-His-Name-And-Not-An-Opportunity-For-Mocking-The-Human-Language-Although-One-Might-Do-So-But-Only-During-the-Commercial-Breaks-in-the-Programming defeat tiny ferocious metallo-humanoids known as Daleks. These Daleks were wise and ferocious. With allies like them I should conquer all I could set my perfect eyes upon, it is true. I made a mental note to seek these creatures when my strength, power and wherewithal return.
Tonight we sat to play again this Game of Roles-Played. I feared more strife would erupt and cut short our mirth as it did last week when the subject of parentage and race and inferiority emerged from the surface of our play like an especially vicious whale or polar bear, tearing into all around without regard for its own safety.
But strangely, all was calm. All was "copacetic," as it is said. Or perhaps it is said "kaopectate"? I have little memory for human gruntcabulary, but am certain there is some group of phonemes approximating "as well as one might expect" in an efficient, single-referrer package. The issues that had boiled forth and chewed and clawed and swiped at the hearts of my fellow adventuring mobile-homos was nowhere to be seen.
Ahh, the miraculous power of human denial. Is there anything stronger?
And so we begin.
It is my greatest pleasure and honor to have this opportunity to relate to you the continuing story of my band of brothers and our heroic war upon the orcs of Agrathor, as played out in our game of Dungeons Full Of Dragons.
To recap quickly the personae dramatis involved:
Where once I was the Giant Squid, former President of these Estados Unificados and scourge of the internets and their churned informational waters, in terms Dungeonish-&-Endragonated, I have become Timmy Wu, mace-wielding, bipedal, mammalian, fur-bearing Priest of the Deep Ones Below.
Joining me on my quest were:
The Teller of our Tale and Shaper of our Fate was, as ever, my neighbor and co-worker Donny MacPherson, though in terms of the Roling Game he is referred to by his honorific of the Games Masterful, or Gee Em.
GeeEm: So, yeah. Last time you climbed down a level in this Orcish fort and freed all the human women who had been enslaved by the orcs to act as cooks. You left them all in the makeshift kitchen, and told them to wait there until you made sure the rest of the dungeon was safe.
GeeEm: You also realized that this was only one fortification of many. An outpost of a larger organization, and you all resolved to topple this one outpost and hold it against the orcs, and then to maybe work your way up to toppling more outposts. Is that right?
SlayMaster: Yeah, that's it.
Gandalf: Fuck yeah.
Orluin O'Duighnasse: Yes. That is correct.
TimmyWu: AYE MY GOOD SIR. WE SHALL TOPPLE THEIR EMPIRE AND FORGE A NEW KINGDOM ON THEIR BONES.
GeeEm: Okay, so you head back to the junction of the hallways. And to remind you:Hallway One echoes with yelling, orcish voices distantly; Hallway Two was the kitchens, which you dealt with; Hallway Three is totally dark, can't see or hear a thing; and the Fourth echoes loudly with roars and clashing steel and chains rattling about.
GeeEm: What do you do?
SlayMaster: What do you guys think are down these passages? I think the one with the yelling is probably where the bulk of their force is, although most of the orcs are probably still topside.
Gandalf: The roaring has got to be a dragon or like twenty minotaurs or something, so they totally are guarding the treasure.
TimmyWu: AND THE BLACKNESS? WHAT HORROR LURKS WITHIN? SHARKS PERHAPS, QUICK AS EELS, WITH RAZOR-BLADE FROWNS AND BLOOD ON THEIR BREATH? PHLEGMATIC, INDEED. MELVILLE WAS A BEARDED FOOL.
Orluin O'Duighnasse: My elven parentage allows me to see slightly in the dark, and my training and profession allow me to walk silently and to notice likely traps. I think I should scout the darkness while you, my dear companions, wait here.
SlayMaster: Sounds good. I'll keep watch on the yelling hallway.
Gandalf: Yeah man, this is exactly why we bring thieves and elves along. Do your Legolas-stuff, homeboy.
TimmyWu: I SHALL PRAY TO MY DEEP GODS WHO SLEEP BELOW THE WORLD AND WALK BEYOND THE SHADOWS TO BLESS THIS BRAVE ELF. I HAVE A BLESSING SPELL, IT SAYS SO HERE UPON MY CHARACTERIZATION SHEET. OR IS THIS ONLY USED FOR POST-SNEEZE RECOVERY OF SOULS THAT HAVE NEARLY BEEN EJECTED INTO THE WORLD, LEAVING THEIR HUMAN HOST RIPE FOR POSSESSION?
GeeEm: Uh, what? It's—it's a combat spell. It makes him strike harder and more accurately.
TimmyWu: PERHAPS I SHALL CAST IT LATER THEN.
Gandalf: Fuck it. I am a sneaky wizard. I want to carefully walk down the roaring hallway and see what's down there. I'm casting silence on myself while I do this.
SlayMaster: Y'know, everytime we split up we all end up dying. This is a—
TimmyWu: AND I SHALL WALK UPRIGHT ON MY TWO EXTREMITIES. NO WOBBLE WILL BE PRESENT IN MY AMBULATIONS, AS I AM A NATURAL-BORN HUMAN APE AND HAVE NOT BEEN CONSUMING INTOXICANTS LIKE GANDALF THE IMBIBER. I WISH TO EXAMINE THE THIRD REMAINING HALLWAY—THE ONE THAT ECHOES WITH THE VOICES OF MANY. I WISH TO TRAVEL SLOWLY SO THAT THE WARMTH OF MY PRESENCE DOESN'T STIR THE CURRENTS AND GIVE AWAY MY CREEPING AND BIPEDAL FORM.
GeeEm: So you all split up?
TimmyWu: ORLUIN, MY ELVEN BROTHER, DID YOU NOT SAY IT WAS A BAD SIGN WHEN DONNY THE GAMES' MASTER DOES CURL OF HIS LIPS LIKE A SELF-SATISFIED STING RAY?
Orluin O'Duighnasse: Yes, Mr. Squid. It's a very bad sign when the GM smiles.
TimmyWu: WOULD THIS BE A GOOD TIME TO ROLL OF THE TWENTIES?
Gandalf: If you got the game boy, better bring it. Roll some big ones for us.
SlayMaster: You always want to roll twenties, Squidy. Except maybe on opposite day.
TimmyWu: AHH, I REMEMBER WHEN SANG HAD OPPOSITE DAY BACK IN MY LAB OF OLD, HIGH ATOP THE SKY IN DETROIT. I WORKED ROB'S JANITOLOGICAL JOB FOR AN AFTERNOON WHILE WE INJECTED HIM INTO MY PRESSURIZED TANK WITH AN AIRHOSE AND TRIED TO FORCE HIM TO EAT OF THE DOG FLESH. AHH, WHAT MIRTH. SUCH CAPERS! HOW I DO MISS THOSE GOOD TIMES.
SlayMaster: . . .
Gandalf: . . .
Orluin O'Duighnasse: . . .
GeeEm: Um, yeah, so let's, uh, ignore all of that and get back to the game.
GeeEm: Orluin, you creep silently down the darkened hallway. With your superior elven vision you see many traps spaced irregularly around the floor. These range from crude caltrops to bear traps to tripwires. On the walls are weird black crystals that seem to actually radiate darkness from them like anti-light or something. After about twenty feet there is a pit with a narrow beam across it. Past that the hallway makes a ninety-degree turn to the left.
Dear Readers, a note regarding dice: for every step Orluin took down this mineshaft of doom was accompanied by the rolling of the dice, which are injection molded plasticine models of complex euclidian solids—such as tetrahedra, dodecahedrons and icosahedrons—inscribed upon each face with a unique, ordinal arabic numeral. When "thrown" or "rolled" (which is really more of an agitating followed by dropping), these "dice" clatter upon the wooden surface of the disused high-tension electrical wire spool like arythmic castanets, or the reanimated teeth of British soldiers tapping their morse tattoo and treasonously revealing Anglo secrets to the cackling, flame-haired delight of old George Washingtonia himself. As noted above, with each step Orluin was obliged to agitate-and-drop the dice, and every step and dice-agitation was met with extraordinarily high numbers. Never less than fifteen was rolled. Fortune and fate smiled upon my comrade, and they blessed his dicing. I shall not mention the dice again, but be aware that a certain background radiation of dicing is always exploding around us during this Games of Roles-not-Rolls.
Orluin O'Duighnasse: I'm going to wait here, at the edge of this foul pit and listen for what befalls my companions.
GeeEm: Got it. Gandalf, you sneak silently down the roaring hallway. It extends for a great distance down. It winds a lot and begins to look very, very rough hewn. Like it was chewed and clawed instead of carved by miners. You get quite far until you reach a corner and see shadows being cast on the floor in front of you from something around that corner.
Gandalf: Are they getting closer or farther?
GeeEm: A bit farther, but not much. There is something odd about them, too, they're humanoid sized and bipeds but they don't seem to be walking so much as floating.
Orluin O'Duighnasse: Floating?
TimmyWu: SO THEY ARE BUOYANT HUMANOIDS, ADRIFT ON THE CURRENTS?
Gandalf: Oh shit. This is bad guys. I know what—
TimmyWu: AND WHAT IS DOWN MY HALLWAY? IT IS ASSUREDLY MY TURN FOR SOLO ADVENTURES!
GeeEm: You walk on your two feet a short ways down the hall, all the while being sure to maintain your body temperature at a steady 98.6 degrees—
TimmyWu: SUCH WARMTH!
GeeEm: —and occasionally lactate or giving birth to live young.
TimmyWu: EXCELLENT. AND UPON REACHING THE END OF THE HALL?
GeeEm: You reach a large wooden door. The sounds of many, many orcs crash from behind the door. It sounds like they are drunk and rough-housing.
TimmyWu: THIS WILL BE HUMOROUS INDEED.
SlayMaster: I've got a bad feeling about this. I'm going to duck into the darkened hallway as far as I can, avoiding any traps that Orluin didn't dismantle.
TimmyWu: THIS IS A HUMAN RITUAL THAT IS QUITE HUMOROUS, AS IT IS INCONVENIENCING WITHOUT CAUSING ANY LASTING HARM. I WISH TO KNOCK LOUDLY UPON THIS ORCISH DOOR AND YELL "DELIVERY!" AND THEN WITH ALL SWIFTNESS RUN BACK TO THE DARKENED HALLWAY.
Orluin O'Duighnasse: What did? Did he? We are screwed.
Gandalf: I have an idea! As he is doing this I want to turn the corner and throw my one fireball at the floating humanoid—which is totally a Mind Flayer—and then sprint my ass up into the shadows.
SlayMaster: There are Mind Flayers here?
Orluin O'Duighnasse: Illithid? Here?
TimmyWu: WHAT ARE THESE "MIND FLARES"? YOUR COLORATION HAS BECOME PALE, INDICATING AN EMOTIONAL RESPONSE OF FEAR. OR EXSANGUINATION. ARE YOU BLEEDING STEADILY FROM A PERFORATED ARTERY?
GeeEm: The Illithid, aka Mind Flayers, are a subterranean race of slavemasters, Mr. Squid. They mentally control other humanoids to do their dirty work. They have two large eyes on either side of their heads, like a—well, uhm—like a squid. And instead of a mouth they have a thick mass of tentacles surrounding a razor-sharp beak.
TimmyWu: THEY SOUND DEVILISHLY HANDSOME. IN THE NEXT GAME I SHALL PLAY ONE OF THESE GODS-AMONGST-MEN.
SlayMaster: But they eat brains—
TimmyWu: SWEETBREADS, THEY ARE CALLED.
SlayMaster:—and are tough as hell because they always have a ton of mind-controlled minions about.
Gandalf: Dude, the clawed rock? The roars? It's gotta be Umber Hulks. Which, Mr. Squid, are giant men with beetles for heads. They eat rock and can tear through armor like it was linen.
TimmyWu: AH, LINEN. YES, I KNOW IT WELL.
GeeEm: So Timmy Wu ghost-knocks the door and runs off to the darkness where SlayMaster and Orluin are hiding in fear.
Orluin O'Duighnasse: I did not hide here. I was waiting to see what they would do before I went deeper into this dark cave.
GeeEm: Whatever. And Gandalf just fireballed the Mind Flayer that was supervising the fifteen Umber Hulks who were digging a new mine shaft.
SlayMaster: We are so goddamn fucked.
GeeEm: Gandalf sprints up the hallway, and you can hear the Hulks following distantly. You manage to get to the darkness before they see you, though as you dive into it the sounds of orcs coming from before you—through that door—grows impossibly loud.
Gandalf: I cast a silence spell on us, in the darkness.
Orluin O'Duighnasse: I hide in the shadows.
TimmyWu: I RELEASE A CLOUD OF OBSCURING INK, THEN SETTLE TO SILENTLY PRAY TO MY GODS BELOW, THAT THEY MAY SAVE THEIR HUMBLE SERVANT AGAIN SO THAT HE MAY CONTINUE HIS DARK WORK.
SlayMaster: I'll pray to the Deep Ones, too. And I'll ink myself, probably.
GeeEm: This is what happens: the orcs come charging down the mine shaft, to the intersection, alerted by Timmy Wu's knocking and yelling. Meanwhile, the Umber Hulks have been freed of the control of the lone Illithid and are enraged and charging up their tunnel to the intersection. Also, all of you are hiding just within the shadows of the darkened hallway of the intersection, silent and praying and, um, Timmy is wetting himself, I guess. Before you the orcish garrison runs right into the enraged Hulks. The Hulks begin tearing into them and the orcs fight back. Claw meats flesh, and flesh gives way. An axe finds purchase in the chitinous skull of an Umber Hulk. Arrows are nocked and loosed. Beetle jaws larger than your legs snap together, neatly shearing an orcish helmet and the head inside in half. The battle is over within minutes. All of the Hulks lay dead and bloodied and crushed at the intersection, while only three orcs remain alive. These orcs are all badly injured and crying in pain. One has an Umber Hulk's claw stabbed through his thigh. Another lost his leg.
SlayMaster: To kill them now would be slaughter, but also mercy. I heft my axe and make quick work of them.
GeeEm: Congratulations, you have cleared three of the hallways. There is but the one left.
Gandalf: I want to check all the bodies for loot. Every fucking corpse.
TimmyWu: I OFFER THESE SPILLED SOULS TO MY GODS, AND THEN WISH TO SEARCH THE GARRISON CHAMBERS FOR THE APTLY NAMED "FAT LOOT."
SlayMaster: I'll search the garrison too.
Orluin O'Duighnasse: I'll keep hiding in the shadows and disarming traps, but, uhm, guys, I need to go to sleep. I have an early shift tomorrow.
And with those words, our adventure paused again like an hourglass tipped sideways, like molasses plunged into liquid nitrogen, like a bookmark set into Timmy Wu's brief life.
I went to sleep that night in my humble shed of tin aside Hazel's inaptly named "mobile home", and dreamt of beautiful bipedal children with optically perfect eyes and a mouth of writhing pink tentacles suckling at Hazel's breast.
Until next time, Dear Readers,
The Giant Squid who is sometimes known as Timmy Wu
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