I find myself again alone at night as Hazel is off at work, and many of my neighbors have gone to what is euphemistically called "Up North," though truly many of them travel South, East, or even Westerly—at least according to the GPS units I have installed in their auto-conveyances. The nights are hot and still and full of boredom. My customary and long-standing Friday night game of D-and-the-D-anear-the-D has been disrupted by Games Master Donny's pursuit of the "Up North."
"BUT DONALD, WHAT IS THERE IN THE NORTH THAT THERE IS NOT RIGHT HERE? HAVE YOU NOT BOON COMPANIONS ITCHING TO DRAW ORCISH BLOOD? IS NOT YOUR TENT IN THIS PARK OF MOBILE HOMES FULLY STOCKED WITH THE CHEAT-OHS AND THE DEW OF THE MOUNTAIN? WHAT EVIL SIREN BECKONS YOU WITH HER ALLURE?"
"I'm sorry Mr. G, but we're having this family reunion thing at my Uncle Sal's cottage up at Higgins Lake. We go every year to this thing."
"YOU DO NOT SEEM ENTHUSED, YOUNG DONNY. WOULD NOT YOU RATHER 'HANG UP' HERE WITH YOUR BROTHERS OF THE BLADE?"
"Hells yeah I would, but this is a thing I gotta do. My mom gets really excited about it, even if it is a long ass ride up there. And I always get car sick. And there's nothing to do but play Gamecube and hunt for crayfish and try and not get set on fire by my cousin Tony."
"THIS SOUNDS DANGEROUS. I COULD RIDE ALONG AS YOUR BACKUP, AS WE DID THAT DAY SO RECENTLY WHEN I REMOVED THE WAGLY TORSO APPENDAGE FROM THE FEARFUL HAT-THIEF WHO HAD INSTILLED IN YOU, VIA THE WEDGIES BOTH EMOTIONAL AND PHYSICAL, THE TERRIBLE POST-TRAUMATIC STRESSES. ALSO, FRIEND DONNY, IF YOU ARE AWAY HOW SHALL WE PLAY OF THE DUNGEONS AND THE DRAGONS?"
"Well, you could GM for me as a fill in. And you guys are welcome to use the tent. I'll bring the books, manuals and character sheets by before I go."
And it was thusly, Dear Readers, that Fate did select me to lead the story, like the Lady Who Dwells In Lakes dispensing her sword to George Washington Kennedy and thusly telling and empowering him to found the great Nation of Avalon-America, or like and unto one who is born with a birthmark of improbable shape and exacting clarity and thus does know the Gods themselves have marked his flesh for greatness, or like one who while traveling alone through the icy depths of the sea is grasped by a warm current and flung mercilessly towards the airless and explosive surface world.
Manos, those Hands of Fate, were upon me; I could not refuse. I hurried back to my tin shed behind the Mobile House of Hazel and dreamt and plotted and when Donny did deliver his manuals for the gaming, these I devoured in a manner purely figurative, yet still ocular, cerebral and complete.This is the transcription of the game that ensued:
In our previous games I had been Timmy Wu, mace-wielding Blood Priest of the Deep Ones Who Dwell Below All And Yearn To Consume. But now I held the reins of the Tale-Spinner, the Lore-Monger, the Games Master.
My fellow gamers did decide to keep their same characters, except for Orluin O'Duighnasse, who chose to play a halfling man-hobbit named Cheerful Burbeard. The rest of our cast of heroes did include: SlayMaster the Dwarf whose anger and murder-cravings can only be quenched by battle, ale, treasure or she-dwarfs; and Gandalf the Allmighty, a wizard of small intellect and large power.
GM: DEAR ADVENTURES, YOU FIND YOURSELVES IN WHAT CAN ONLY BE DESCRIBED AS AN INN. THERE ARE LODGINGS IN THE UPSTAIRS AND SUSTENANCE FOR PURCHASE FROM AN INN-KEEPER. HE HAS ROAST-DOG, CHEETOS, DEW-OF-THE-MOUNTAIN, CONSTABLE LABATT'S FERMENTED BEER-DRINK AND FRIED STARCHY WEDGES FOR SALE. THE LARGEST ROOM OF THE INN IS FRIGHTENINGLY DRY AND FILLED WITH EXPLOSIVE OXYGEN. I CAUTION ALL OF YOU AGAINST SPARKING ANY TINDERS, CASTING OF THE LIGHTNING BOLTS, OR IGNITING THE FIREWORKS IN THE PRESENCE OF SO MUCH OF THE TERRIBLE GAS.
Gandalf: Speaking of terrible gas . . .
GM: THE INN IS BEREFT OF PEOPLE, SAVE FOR AN EXCEPTIONALLY UNTRUSTWORTHY YOUNG MAN DRESSED ALL IN THE BLACK CLOTH FROM THE TIPS OF HIS BIPEDAL LIMBS TO THE CROWN OF HIS ROUNDED HEAD, BONY. AT HIS WAIST IS A LONG NARROW SWORD. AS YOU ENTER THIS VACUOUS, LIFE-LORN INN THE BLACK CLAD YOUTH KNOWN ONLY AS MISTER NINJA BOOTYKINS APPROACHES YOU.
Slaymaster: Mr. What?
Cheerful Burbeard: Mr. Ninja Bootykins?Gandalf: Fuck! A ninja! I ready a fireball spell.
Slaymaster: Is the ninja attacking, or offering us a job?
Cheerful Burbeard: What's this inn called, anyway? Also, I wish to buy some ale—err, Constable Labatt's Fermented Wheat Grog—and sing a merry song.
GM: MISTER NINJA BOOTYKINS IS NOT ATTACKING. HE WALKS SMOOTHLY UP TO YOU—SO SMOOTH THAT YOU INITIALLY MISTAKE HIM FOR A FAR MORE GRACEFUL ANIMAL AT FIRST, PERHAPS ONE WITH A GREATER COMPLIMENT OF LEGS—AND HE HANDS SLAYMASTER A ROLLED SCROLL STRETCHED, SCRAPED TENTERHOOK-DRIED LAND-ANIMAL SKIN. THEN THE NINJA EVAPORATES INTO A NINJA-SMELLING CLOUD OF MIST-GAS CAUSED BY A SMOKE BALL HE HAD CONCEALED UNBEKNOWNST TO YOU IN THE PALM OF HIS NON-SCROLL CARRYING MANIPULAOR-APPENDAGE. WHILE YOU WERE DISTRACTED BY HIS GRACEFUL CONVEYANCE OF THE SCROLL HE DROPPED THE SMOKEY BOMB AND EXITED THROUGH A TRAP DOOR. YOU DID NOT SEE ANY OF THIS THOUGH, AS YOU WERE DISTRACTED BY THE SCROLL, WHICH BEARS THE IMPRIMATUR OF A LOCAL CONGRESSMAN. Slaymaster: What?
GM: ALSO, THE INN IS NAMED T.G.I.F. BENNIGAN'S. BENNIGAN, MYSTERIOUSLY, IS NOT THE NAME OF THE INNKEEPER. NOR IS HE NAMED T.G.I.F. THIS MYSTERY WILL NEVER BE SOLVED. DO NOT DWELL ON IT. Slaymaster: Um, Mr. Squid—
GM: DO NOT DWELL ON IT. CHEERFUL, YOU SUCCEED IN PURCHASING A FERMENTED BEVERAGE. PLEASE ROLL THE DICE TO SEE IF THE BEVERAGE IS POISONED, OR IF YOU ACCIDENTALLY STAB YOURSELF IN THE FACIAL PART WHILST TRYING TO DRINK FROM THE GLASS CONTAINER.
(At this point certain explanations regarding when the dice were appropriate and when they were not were proffered to me. I still made young Cheerful Burbeard roll the dice, though luck was with him and there was no chlorine in the deceptively thin, yet sturdy, bottle.)
Slaymaster: Okay, I read the scroll from the local, um, congressman.
Gandalf: Man, I wish there were chicks here.
Cheerful Burbeard: I'm going to tell the innkeeper a clever story about my childhood in Shiretown, and try and pick his pockets for valuables.
GM: THE SCROLL IS A PLEA FROM HELP FROM THE COWARDLY CONGRESSMAN. IT SAYS THAT A ROGUE CYBER-UNDEAD SUPREME COURT JUSTICE HAS BEEN ATTACKING HIS DISTRICT AND DEVOURING ALDERMEN AND VOTERS AND THAT THE TRAITOROUS, VENGEFUL PRESIDENT MOLLY WILL DO NOTHING TO HELP.
Gandalf: Hey man, my folks love President Molly. Step off.
GM: IF YOUR PARENTS BUT KNEW WHAT I KNOW, THEY SHOULD NOT GIVE EVEN A TEASPONN OF PRAISE TO THAT MENDACIOUS CUR.
Slaymaster: Is that all the scroll says? What's the congressman's name?
Cheerful Burbeard: Do I succeed in the pick-pocketing?
GM: THE SCROLL PROMISES RICHES AND WEALTH AND FAVORABLE LEGISLATION IF YOU CAN SUBDUE OR DESTROY THIS ROGUE SUPREME COURT JUSTICE. IT ALSO MENTIONS THAT THE JUSTICE—SCALIA—MAY HAVE MADE GANG WITH A SPIDER-GOD WORSHIPPING ABRAHAM LINCOLN. IT IS SIGNED, CONGRESSMAN ROB MILLER.
Cheerful Burbeard: And the pick-pocketing?
GM: AHH YES. YOU FIND A LONGSWORD, FOURTEEN GOLD COINS, A SMALL SHIELD AND A TELEVISION SET.
Slaymaster: Do you even know what a pocket is?
GM: THAT IS IRRELEVANT, UNLESS YOU WANT CHEERFUL BURBEARD THE HALFLING TO PICK YOUR POCKETS, TOO. NOW, YOU HAVE BEEN PRESENTED WITH A MISSION: DO YOU ACCEPT IT?
Gandalf: Sure, I bet Supreme Court Justices are worth tons of experience points. Let's go fuck his old, undead-cyborg-ass up.
Slaymaster: Sure. Whatever. I miss Donny already.
Gandalf: Come on, Ivan, I pitch you a softball like "let's go fuck this old undead cyborg ass" and you can't even bother with some sort of "orc-o-sexual" crack? It's like you're phoning it in, tonight, man.
Cheerful Burbeard: Do I even know what a television is?
GM: YOU EXIT THE INN AND FIND YOURSELVES ON A CALM DOWNTOWN STREET IN OUR NATION'S CAPITAL, WASHINGTONIA DECA.
Slaymaster: It's pronounced "dee see."
GM: THERE IS CARNAGE EVERYWHERE. BLOOD AND MUSCLE MATTER ARE SPLATTERED ACROSS THE ROADS, THE PAVEMENT, THE WINDOWS, LIKE AS THOUGH SOMEONE NIGHTMARE CHEF HAS OPENED THE NOZZLE ON A PRESSURIZED STREAM OF CHILI, POSSIBLY BY LOOSING ONE OF THE BOLTS ON THE MYRIAD RED FIVE-ALARM-CHILI-HYDRANTS WHICH DOT THE CITY BLOCKS. IN THE MIDST OF ALL OF THIS WASTED PROTEIN STANDS THE MIGHTY JUSTICE SCALIA, HIS STEEL JAWS GNASHING ON THE THIGHBONE OF A STILL SCREAMING COURT CLERK. HIS LEFT ARM IS BUT SHARPENED BONE, AND HIS RIGHT ENDS IN A LARGE CANNON. HE IS THE LATEST IN A LONG LINE OF CYBER-UNDEAD SUPREME COURT JUSTICES, STRETCHING ALL THE WAY BACK TO JAMES "THE VINDICATOR" MADISON. NEXT TO HIM IS A FORTY FOOT TALL STATUE OF ABRAHAM LINCOLN. BUT THEN THE STATUE MOVES AND STOOPS SWIFTLY AND ENSNARES A PASSING MOTORIST, CRUSHING THE AUTOKINETICON BETWEEN GRANITE FINGERS FOR NO OTHER REASON THAN TO HEAR THE CRIES OF PAIN WITHIN. THE ARMS OF THIS ANIMATED LINCOLN STATUE ARE ENCIRCLED WITH ORNATE SPIDER TATTOO-INKINGS. AS OUR DEAR FRIEND DONNY THE GM WOULD SAY, WHAT DO YOU DO, MY COMRADES?
Gandalf: Sweet. I've always wanted to fuck up Abe Lincoln.
Slaymaster: What? Abe . . . but he freed the slaves! He was a self-made man.
Cheerful Burbeard: And he was like eight feet tall and had artificial shins.
Slaymaster: What? No. That is such a fucking lie.
Cheerful Burbeard: I saw it on the history channel.
Gandalf: I want to fireball Lincoln's stupid beard off.
Cheerful Burbeard: I'll creep behind Scalia and backstab him with my poisoned daggers.
Slaymaster: No. This is stupid. We're a Dwarven Fighter, a Mage and a Halfling Thief. We don't fight cyborg zombies, let alone cyborg zombie Supreme Court Justices being backed up by a violent Lincoln monument. This isn't what we do. And how the fuck did we get to D.C.? We weren't in D.C. when we went into the Inn, were we?
Gandalf: But I really want to fuck up Lincoln.
Slaymaster: Mr. Squid, I know you're excited about running this game and all, and you're bringing your own unique spin to the story, but this really isn't how the game is played. I can't do this. I'm leaving.
GM: CONSIDER THIS: THREE YOUNG HUMAN BOYS ARE TRAPPED IN A TENT WITH A NON-HUMAN ENTITY BENT ON CONQUERING THE WORLD. THIS ENTITY LIVES INSIDE A DOMED EXO-SKELETON MADE OF THE FINEST BULGARIAN TITANIUM. THE CLAWS AND LIMBS OF THIS EXO-SUIT CAN EASILY PUNCTURE AUTOMOBILES CRAFTED FROM DETROIT STEEL, AND CAN REND FLESH LIKE PAPER. THIS ENTITY'S DOMED ENVIRONMENT IS SLOWLY GROWING TOXIC AND HIS TEMPER GROWS SHORTER BY THE DAY. WHERE ONCE HE WAS ACCUSTOMED TO GREAT POWER OVER ALL, NOW HE IS FORCED TO LIVE IN THE MOST HUMBLING DWELLING IMAGINABLE. HE HAS DEMANDED THAT YOU HUMOR HIM AND PLAY HIS GAMES OF STORIES WHILE FLEXING ONE OF HIS HUNTING CLAWS MENACINGLY BEFORE YOU. WHAT DO YOU DO?
Slaymaster: Fine, you whiner, pass me the goddamn dice.
And the night did pass thusly, with Scalia and Lincoln falling before the merciless might of our heroes aided only by a loyal army of crabs, lobsters and lungfish. They found themselves at the front door of the White House where the villainous she-witch Molly stood radiant and haloed by the awful eldritch feminine wiles she does wield with such tawdry vice. But the rosy fingers of dawn crept under the tent flaps, and we were forced to end our adventure prematurely.
And it, yet, was such a grand adventure.
Until next time, Dear Readers and Fellow Travelers,
The Giant Squid
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