From outside they could hear the raindrops splash gainst the thin walls o’ their wood-&-brick cave. Though the window was shut snugly, the blinds were wide open, revealing the deep blue already swarming the sky that late afternoon.
We find ourselves lost in the middle o’ Wasabi Woods, thick with thickets as black as oil in the shadows, but as white as sleet under the rays o’ the waxing-gibbous moon, & as gray as iron ’hind the forest-filling fog.
On our left trudges a skeletal dark sage, the tail o’ his dark gray robe scraping gainst the pebbles & dirt still slick from afternoon rain…
But every bone o’ Edgar’s body was hidden from the world; hidden by the skirt o’ his robe, spreading out in all directions like tentacles; hidden by loose sleeves; hidden by the hood swallowing his face, leaving just a black hole holding 2 beady red glowing eyes.
To our right walks a treasure hunter disguised as an ordinary citizen in plain sweats & a black T-shirt holding an obscure trapezoid insignia surrounded by the words, “PHAT LOOT…”
“I like that ‘treasure hunter’ semantic nonsense,” says Autumn.
While Edgar’s eyes were fixed on the ground, Autumn’s bounced on every bough, her glasses that glistened under the moonlight acting as threat detectors.
Finally, in front is the cutest mechanic in the world with a pine-green jacket covered in stitched patches, its many pockets stuffed with many tools…
Though we are all so different, we all 3 share the discomfort o’ the silence swarming Wasabi Woods—me ’cause I’m used to listening to music or chatter @ all times, Edgar ’cause it reminds him o’ being ’lone, & Autumn ’cause it’s suspicious.
It turns out that Autumn is the one who’s correct: 1st she hears bushes rustle & turns just in time to see a screwy-eyed pastel shroom charge @ us. Since Autumn sees it 1st, she makes the 1st move. ¿What do you do, Autumn?
“¿Jump out o’ the way?” Autumn says as she leans on her shoulder, the other arm stretched o’er the table, drumming its fingers.
Let’s see if it works. Dawn pulls a big purple ball out from under their rickety metal table & shakes it so hard, her chair scrapes & squeaks up & down gainst the floor.
“My sources say no.” You’ll have to spin to see how much damage you take.
Dawn slides out a cardboard circle comprising multiple multicolored slices with a flimsy thin plastic arrow buttoned into the middle. Autumn flicks her index @ it, only to mostly hit the cardboard, causing the arrow to bounce just a centimeter forward. She tries 2 mo’ times ’fore it finally spins all round.
The strange shroom smacks you right in the chest with his bulbous head, delivering 6 damage. Dawn jabs a few buttons on 1 o’ her 3 calculators. Earlier, Autumn had noted that she could handle such stats mo’ conveniently through 1 o’ their laptops, only to be rebuked, “Don’t tamper with my childhood nostalgia.” Now you have to roll to see if you’ve become confused or not.
“This epic battle is becoming mo’ & mo’ like a bunch o’ rich people playing slots,” Autumn says as she takes the die. “¿Hadn’t we just gone to that 1 casino not that long ago?”
She rolls. The side holding a red circle is face-up.
Uh O: Looks like you’ve become confused.
The 3 continue to take turns shaking Mystic 3-Spheres,—or MCIR, as Dawn called it—rolling color-coded dice, & flicking spinners.
I raise my bat to smack the shroom, only for Autumn in her confusion to grasp it & try taking it ’way.
“I doubt that was due to confusion,” says Autumn.
But Edgar uses ACNF to heal Autumn o’ her confusion; & after the shroom tackles me to the ground, Autumn rams it with her shoulder. Having taken so much damage, the shroom shrivels & sinks back into the earth.
We must be nearing the entrance to Donut Dungeon. Edgar, ¿where are we on the map?
“Um…” Edgar leans farther o’er the table & looks down @ the spot on the wide sheet o’ graph paper where a top hat, doggie, & long car token sat. “¡O! Yeah, I think we’re on the square.”
OK. Now, the ol’ man in the cave told us we had to set 1 o’ the trees on fire.
Edgar frowns. Don’t worry: it’ll grow back when we leave the screen. Edgar’s expression brightens.
The true problem is that you only know the soothing, cool defense o’ dark magic, when we need blindingly offensive light magic to set any trees afire.
“So then, we’ll either have to go home or find a treasure chest with an ax in it to cut it down,” says Autumn.
¡Or we could call ’nother adventurer to join our quest! Dawn pulls a cell phone out her jacket pocket & dials.
“If you say so. It’s your game; you make up the rules,” Autumn says just before dragging her mug o’ coffee to her mouth.
A tinny voice emits from Dawn’s cell’s speaker phone: “Good afternoon, Madame Summers. I must say, I didn’t expect you to call me o’ anyone. I hope nothing dreadful has happened.”
So speaks the light sage, much older, but much wiser, garbed in white robe, pink slippers, & an orange avian mask…
Heloise laughs. “O, you are being too kind, moussie.”
Heloise, we need your help burning down the tree hiding the entrance to the Donut Dungeons. Only your light magic can set 1 aflame.
“O, I’d love to help; but I’m shamed to admit I don’t know where your fine apartment is located…”
That’s all right: you just need to cast “FIRE.”
“Well, OK… If you say so.”
Heloise casts “FIRE” on the tree ’head o’ her. The formerly stagnant branches & leaves billow as smoke rises from roots. An orange glow grows from the darkness under the tree’s feet, its thousand white-tipped fingers clawing upward in climb, till the flame reaches its apex @ the top o’ the tree, only to fade back to smoke just after, leaving only blackened crumbs & bones o’ the tree ’hind.
Unfortunately, there was no dungeon entrance inside; just flat dirt & the aforementioned crumbs.
“O, that’s too bad,” says Heloise.
You’ll have to try ’nother. It must be 1 o’ them.
“Well, OK… I sure hope I don’t o’erexert myself, though.”
Don’t worry: it’s only a 1st level spell, so you still have a dozen spells today.
“Well, that’s good.”
“I hope we can skip your spell’s extravagant animation this time,” Autumn says with her head leaning on her upraised hand.
O, all right. She used “FIRE” on ’nother tree, swallowing it in smoke once mo’.
When it cleared this time, a square hole holding a set o’ stone stairs were revealed in its place.
Shivering, Autumn zips her jacket up mo’ tightly. Dawn proceeds to juggle a die for no reason that Autumn could discern, other than her usual guess: that Dawn’s body was incapable o’ not moving for long durations.
The joints in Edgar’s feet creak as he walks back to the table with bowls o’ spaghetti doused in rooster sauce & mugs o’ chocolate coffee.
The darkness o’ the naked night pales to the pure obscurity that grows as we descend into the gullet o’ the Donut Dungeons. Our steps are clumsy, & each o’ us almost slips on spiderwebs & bones. The scent o’ wet greenery & spacious smoke is swallowed not just by that o’ rotten meat & packed warmth, but also by an alien odor o’ an incomprehensible oil.
Before I can turn on my flashlight, I discover the reason: a sudden sting on my arm, followed by rapid sounds o’ unwinding springs betray the presence o’ toxic arachnids. I feel the skin where I was bit swell & boil; a thick metal liquid scrapes through by veins, churning my chest & stomach. I grasp the closest wall to keep from collapsing. Sweat dribbles down every path o’ my skin, shaking every nerve both burnt & frozen. Like a self-perpetuating bank run, heat rushes to my forehead & everything & the faucet handle crowd up my throat, causing me to retch it onto the ground in 1 burst.
Autumn turns to Edgar. “I hear a hint that she wants you to cure her.”
Edgar turns to Dawn. “OK. I want to heal you, I guess.”
Edgar uses “ANTD” on me, curing me o’ my poison.
“Fangs that can poison look useful,” says Autumn. “¿Can I steal 1?”
Let’s see what the Mystic 3-Sphere says…
Dawn shakes it & pauses. The edges o’ her mouth slowly curl upward.
Autumn rushes @ the spider as it faces me & yanks 1 o’ its venomous fangs off in 1 motion. The spider throws its head back with a shrill scream; ne’ertheless, it remains on its crooked legs, drumming them back & forth in strafing wait for Heloise’s move.
“O, I truly don’t know what to do in situations like these,” Heloise crinkly voice says through Dawn’s phone. “I s’pose since I’m a light sage & all that I should use some magic gainst it… ¿Would “ICE” suffice?”
Heloise casts “ICE” on the spider, causing its almost-black green to light up with clear blue & its rapid pacing to slow to a stop. Rather than screeching, in this case it stayed silent.
Finally, the spider shatters into many pieces.
It leaves 60 gold.
“Toxic arachnids subscribe to the Austrian school o’ economics, I see,” Autumn says just before raising a forkful o’ spaghetti into her mouth.
We continue to wander in the darkness with only a single beam o’ light as our guide. Other than a yellowing bone or black stain, we see nothing notable—that is, till my beam lands on a door handle. I stop & pull on it, only for it to stick to its hinges. However, after a few yanks, it rips free.
Inside is far better lit, its otherwise-barren walls adorned by a row o’ candles lining all round & a white poster o’ sorts. A quick survey shows no foes. ’Stead, the main attraction is a grid o’ red buttons on the floor.
I slowly step through the threshold & wait a minute, but no trap happens.
“¿Do we enter now?” asks Autumn.
It should be safe.
“Great. I head straight for the door @ the end o’ the room & pull on the handle,” says Autumn.
It doesn’t budge.
“Thought so. I wanted to check just to be sure. You ne’er know ’bout meta puzzles like that.”
“¿May I check the poster?” asks Heloise.
“I believe my eyesight isn’t as good as it used to be--’specially in this dimness. ¿Could you tell me what it says, moussie?”
The front says, “Door is open during green square.”
“¿Is that s’posed to be a clever riddle or just a bad translation?” asks Autumn.
“¿What does the other side say?” asks Heloise.
“Yo, Mr. White, turn all the fucking squares green to open the door, bitch.”
“Mmm…” says Autumn.
It’s the fan translation.
“’Course.” Autumn sits up from the arms she was leaning on. “¿Can I see what this grid looks like?”
Dawn pulls a pocket device out from under the table. On its gray liquid-crystal screen is a grid o’ 4-by-4 empty squares.
Autumn stops & stares penetratingly into the grid, hoping to intimidate it into solving itself.
Autumn presses a button, causing it & all o’ its surrounding blocks to turn green as well.
She presses the button ’gain, flipping colors back to how they were before. She stares closely @ the buttons & rubs her chin in thought. She thinks she can hide her smile with her hand. Edgar edges closer—so close their heads almost touch. So much sexy chemistry o’erpowers us so that we almost lose HP.
“Dawn distracts Autumn so that she is unable to solve the puzzle. We remain in the dungeon forever, the bones o’ our starved carcasses joining the rest.”
That’s good. Maybe you can be Dungeon Dominator next time.
“I think I might have this…”
She strides o’er & steps on the bottom-left corner button, lighting up the 3 buttons round the corner. Then she steps on the button to the upper right o’ it, creating a strange pattern o’ green & red buttons mixed together. She presses the same button back & forth a few times ’fore settling with it on. She presses the button ’bove, & then the 1 to that 1’s upper-left. However, then she presses those 2 back & then hits the rightmost green button ’stead. She then presses the button ’bove that, followed by a short pause, & then the upper-left-most button & a middle red button, leaving the whole left half green & a C pattern o’ reds on the right. ¿Is she close?
She presses the top-middle button on the far-right. Now her eyes widen. She presses the button just below it—¡& they’re all green!
Minutes pass as Autumn presses block after block, all narrated in detail by Dawn.
O, she looks close… Now her eyes are widening like hungry mouths. She presses a button--¡& they’re all green!
The room rumbles with the sound o’ scraping stone. We look to the side o’ its origin to see the door ’cross the room rising, revealing a dark hole.
¿Dare we enter?
The room’s sucked o’ all sound but the shifting o’ cloth gainst the table & chairs & the ongoing tapping o’ the rain gainst the walls & windows.
Finally, Autumn says, “I would say yes, ’less there’s an alternative passage you failed to spot.”
Autumn takes the 1st brave step into the darkness. Dawn, Edgar, & Heloise follow close ’hind. But despite my flashlight & Heloise’s crystal cube being on, we still see nothing but emptiness. Our light only transforms flat black into flat gray.
No sound remains. E’en our feet make no steps, as if we’re walking on air.
& then a bell tolls.
We turn to see 2 other adventurers walking ’hind us. I can tell by their slow gait & wide eyes that they mean no harm.
Autumn & Edgar turn ’way from the window they were boredly staring out toward the door to see Dawn entering ’gain, followed by 2 in dripping raincoats, matching in every way ’cept their colors.
On the left in a hot pink head band & purple raincoat is a dark feline ninja with yellow eyes as bright as twin moons in space…
On Felix’s right with eye-covering bangs & a cyan raincoat is a cleric…
“I do hope that we are not intruding on your recreational activity,” Violet says as she brushes back a bang. She glances @ Autumn to see her circle her index round her ear ’hind Dawn.
Nonsense. There’s strength in #s, & we’ll need that added strength the deeper we go into the Donut Dungeons.
O, I’m so rude. I’ll have to give you… wristbands to cement your entrance into our party.
Dawn rises & goes out. Violet & Felix shift their arms round in silence while Autumn & Edgar stare @ the table.
Half a minute later, they hear thumping ’hind them.
Autumn looks back to see Dawn lugging in 2 metal folding chairs.
“We could’ve helped you carry 1,” says Autumn.
“O, it’s all right.”
Dawn sets 1 gainst a wall & then unfolds 1 next to the table. Autumn hangs just ’bove her chair, ready to jump to catch a chair if it falls.
Dawn, however, manages to unfold them without breaking anything, nor do they collapse as Felix & Violet sit on them.
“¿Are you colleagues currently in the midst of a board game?” asks Violet.
Dawn leans toward her. We’re exploring the Donut Dungeons in search o’ Helios’s treasure.
“It’s a board game, just 1 wherein Dawn makes up the rules as she goes, & therefore makes no sense,” says Autumn.
Dawn crosses her arms. That’s not true; if it were, I could just say the floor crumbles under you & causes you to fall into a secret lava pit & have the skin melt off you in a truly gross way.
Autumn shakes her head. “We’re talking ’bout me, though, so that’d be a terrible way to get back @ me. That’s the ending I’d devise if I were ‘Dungeon Dominator,’ or whatever you call yourself. Quite the opposite: you’d create a rule that says I can ne’er end this game.”
& we’re talking ’bout me here, so it’d be wrong to assume my goal is to make people lose. Quite the opposite, as you can see by my personally-edited version o’ Charlotte’s Web where Charlotte lives @ the end.
“¿What are the tasks in which we are expected to perform?” asks Violet.
“Sit & listen to Dawn blabber for minutes,” says Autumn.
Dawn nods vigorously.
Violet nods professionally. “That sounds consummately acceptable.”
Spin the Spinner o’ Fortune & then roll the Die o’… um… Fortune.
“We already have evidence o’ Madame Summers’s arbitrary management,” says Autumn: “she ne’er used those terms any time before—almost as if she just created them spontaneously.”
Dawn turns a smirk onto Autumn. “You may be Dungeon Dominator next time.”
Autumn crosses her arms & leans back. “¿Why spoil your fun when I’d have mo’ fun on the other side spoiling your fun?”
Violet clears her throat. “I believe I have performed your objectives as you have specified.”
Ah, I see you’ve gotten chicken red. That means we exit the darkness to find ourselves in a subterranean farm.
“Now she’s intentionally being as contrived as possible to stymie me,” says Autumn; “however, this merely gives me mo’ opportunities to mock her.”
The floor crumbles under Autumn, causing her to fall into a secret lava pit. However, a balloon’s floating under her, & it leads her back up to the subterranean farm.
“Satan just so happened to be partying that day,” says Autumn. “Perhaps ’twas election day in the heavens—you should ask Heloise ’bout that.”
¡O! I forgot ’bout Heloise. ¿You still there? Sorry ’bout that. I’m not sure if I’m taking too much o’ your time or anything. O. Well, that’s good. ’Course we would. Uh huh. Autumn was just telling me ’bout how much she loves that religion you made.
Dawn smiles wryly @ Autumn. Autumn turns her eyes ’way & takes a drink o’ her coffee, pretending to ignore.
“We are not expected to commit deleterious actions towards these pullī, ¿are we?” asks Violet.
Nope. In fact, they’re invincible, & if you try attacking them, a whole swarm o’ them will rush in & peck you down to the bones.
“I hope this farm doesn’t involve agriculture,” says Autumn. “It’d be quite hard to grow in a leaky dungeon.”
They plant sea weed in the stagnant green wells, as well as the moss that grows on stones under the sun & rain from the grilled roof.
“¿Why would anyone buy that?” asks Autumn.
People don’t. Not everything’s ’bout ₧, Madame Moneybags. They grow it for fun, like Chia Pets.
“Presumably they feed off it, considering how successful they’ll surely be.”
They make money off the people pecked to death by the aforementioned chickens, Sister Smarty Sweats.
“I do believe it would be sensible for us to depart this caliginous subterranean location with the utmost haste in which we are capable,” says Violet. “I harbor ill omens from it.”
It’s funny you say that, ’cause just as you say that, a chainmail farmer comes out o’ his crenelated barn with a pitchfork in 1 hand & a torch in the other.
Dawn cups her hands o’er her mouth. “¿Be ye the occult monsters that be attacking me livestock, yo?” he says in a slow, raspy, muffled voice.
“¿Is it still dark or does he have vision impairments?” asks Autumn.
Edgar shrinks back when he sees the farmer turn a jouster’s-beak-helmed face directly to him… His stony glare bores into Edgar in deep silence, save for the drip, drip, drip o’ the rain’s remnants down the grill.
Autumn whispers in Edgar’s ear.
“Um… not the ones that b… that were attacking your lifestock, Sir,” says Edgar.
The chainmail farmer replies, “& how do ye be planning on backing that claim with evidence, baka.”
Edgar fidgets, only to be calmed by Autumn’s sexy, warm voice in his ear drum ’gain. Felix & Violet try hiding their amusement with their palms, & fail.
“Um, ¿how…? You can’t prove a negative, Sir,” says Edgar.
& the chainmail farmer says, “¿But can ye prove that ye can’t prove a negative?”
Autumn bends her head downward, pinching the bridge o’ her nose.
“Apparently we’re dealing with a postmodernist chainmail farmer,” says Autumn.
“¿Can’t Heloise just set this guy on fire?” asks Autumn.
Violet turns to Dawn. “Surely there is a way to settle this dispute diplomatically. We truly do not have contrary aims at all. Indeed, as heroes, I am sure we would desire to eliminate the occult monsters devouring his lifestock.”
Autumn shows her disdain for Violet by yawning.
“Sorry. I didn’t sleep well last night,” says Autumn, as if she ever slept well @ night. ’Pon finishing her coffee, she says…
“No, please: go on,” says Autumn as she makes goofy gestures with her hand. “I must praise you for your mind-reading abilities, by the way.”
She yawns ’gain, bored by us mere mortals. She turns to Violet so she can rudely gossip ’bout our sexy Dungeon Dominator as if she’s not there.
“See. She can just tell from my habit o’ deep love for my own amazing self exactly what every cue means.”
While Autumn was bickering @ Violet, Edgar told the chainmail farmer that the feather on his helmet looked fetching. His heart so warmed by this rare compliment, the farmer lets us pass.
“My favorite games are those in which I don’t have to actually do anything,” says Autumn.
“Also, I’d add that your specification o’ who’s saying what is redundant in the realm o’ sound, where we can clearly tell each other by our voices, b—” Autumn add—
An awkward pause passes ’tween Dawn & Autumn as Autumn drums her fingers on the table with a serious face.
“Dawn has trouble narrating her story ’cause she’s too busy snorting in laughter. Should’ve practiced your lines better, Madame Summers,” Autumn says as she waves a finger left & right.
Hey, I’m the Dungeon Dominator—& ¡I didn’t snort!
“Autumn & Edgar exchange awkward glances, unsure if either o’ us have the heart to correct Dawn.”
¡Traitor! Dawn stands, leaning o’er the table with a finger aimed @ Edgar.
’Nother pause. Dawn slowly slides back into her chair. Autumn takes ’nother sip o’ her coffee.
“Autumn goes to use the restroom,” Autumn says as she rises from her chair.
Autumn needs to hold it ’cause warriors don’t pee.
“Nope. I think Autumn just so happens to find an outhouse on the subterranean farm & goes in to use it.” Autumn’s voice trails as she goes upstairs.
Let’s sneak hit points from her while she isn’t looking.
“Forgive me for arguing, Madame Summers, but I do not think that makes any sense,” says Violet.
A croc bites her.
In the toilet. That’s what happens when you use bathrooms o’ postmodernist chainmail farmers you don’t know.
Also the farmer ne’er replaced the emptied TP roll.
“¿Did you find a mountain o’ gold while I was gone?” Autumn asks as she returns to her seat, causing it to scrape gainst the wooden floor in wobble.
No, but you got bit in the ass by a croc.
“Mmm. Sounds like that would’ve hurt. Good thing I missed it then.” Autumn takes ’nother sip o’ her coffee.
Anyway, it’s your turn to spin & roll
“¿What ’bout Felix?”
She went while you were gone.
Autumn snaps the arrow. She misses & hits the board ’gain. She aims mo’ horizontally, & this time it spins. It spins… Let’s see where it lands…
The golden zebra.
“I think that’s yellow.”
The golden zebra.
“OK, what arbitrarily event will this cause?”
Dawn stops, staring down @ her fingers dribbling on the table.
“You should’ve delineated each event idea beforehand so you can just call 1 when needed. This runtime event-creation algorithm is immensely inefficient,” Autumn says just ’fore taking a drink.
“¡Ooo!” says Violet, almost jumping out her chair. “I believe she is referring to an outline.”
That makes no sense. You can’t just specify what happens whenever a certain roll & spin combo happens. ¿What if they happen multiple times—many times, e’en? ¿Will the same thing keep happening?
“¿Then how do you decide what each combo does?” asks Autumn.
That’s confidential info. You might cheat if you knew. Might try getting the golden zebra every time.
Autumn turns to Violet. “That means she just makes it up with no relevance to what combo we get, making both the roll & spin nugatory.”
Violet nods. “I believe her operation is an attempt at spontaneous literature. Quite a few famous writers prefer this method, including Jack Kerouac, Haruki Murakami, and Hunter S. Thompson.”
See, they have rationales for what I prefer, too.
Anyway, we climb up some stairs to a passage that leads outside onto a crenelated walkway. Dark clouds hover o’er dark clouds, congregated into a void o’ black @ the apex, the clouds gliding in varying directions. Our ears fill with pops from the thunder, its white swords o’ lightning slashing through the dark sky, while rain beats down on us, our feet splashing into puddles.
But our trek forward is distracted by the sound o’ footsteps ’hind us.
“I must elucidate in regards to what an impressive effect that is,” says Violet.
“You invited someone else, I presume,” says Autumn.
Not me. This time real life writes spontaneously.
“¡Aha! There you are.”
Dawn turns in her chair toward the entrance.
Clad in a fetching black cloak & black top hat emblazoned with a gilded $ sign…
“That’s right, I knew I’d find you goofing round like goofs,” Lance says as he stands in the doorway, hands resting on the door frame.
Violet leans back in surprise. “I did not realize you held fraternal feelings among you all.”
“¿’Scuse me?” Ha, ha. Lance gives Violet a look o’ horror. Now he turns to me, blaming me e’en though I had nothing to do with the comment.
“¿Does trespassing no longer count as a violation o’ property rights?” asks Autumn.
Lance throws a finger into the air & winces @ Autumn. He glances @ me ’fore staring back @ Autumn.
“For your information, I came here ’cause an heirloom o’ mine was stolen & I knew you were the culprit.”
Lance came ’cause he wanted to join our adventure, ’course.
Lance aims a suspicious glance @ Dawn. “¿What are you talking ’bout?”
“You wouldn’t like it,” says Autumn; “your success & failure isn’t based on a meritorious market, but a totalitarian socialist regime helmed by Dawn.”
Don’t listen to her: she’s just bitter ’cause she’s not the 1 in power.
“Reliving your totalitarian fantasies, ¿eh?” says Lance.
But if you want, Lance, I do have a proletarian-approved game we can play after this. Dawn raises a box that says, “Marxist D&D” in big letters, & below that in tinier letters, “Created by China Miéville.”
“I think we’ll all pass, thank you,” says Autumn.
¿Anyway, what class do you want to be, Lance?
“Bourgeois,” says Autumn.
Lance crosses his arms. “I don’t subscribe to class conceptions. I believe in only individuals, unlike socialists like you.”
“Strawman,” says Autumn.
Then you can be the tin man & Edgar the lion.
Dawn turns back to Lance. Sorry, Lance, but we all gotta be part o’ a class.
“Told you she was a socialist totalitarian.”
Communists don’t believe in classes. That’s why their RPGs are so boring. That & the lack o’ loot. I’m the opposite: I insist on it.
Autumn nods. “As I said: a socialist totalitarian.”
You can be a geomancer. They take nature & shape it into stuff. That sounds like something Ayn Rand would write ’bout.
“Hmmph, there’s mo’ to capitalism than Ayn Rand,” says Lance.
“I’m pretty sure Karl Marx wrote ’bout that, too, if that makes you feel better,” Autumn says as she fiddles with the spinner.
“You would know,” says Lance.
Your sexy talk can happen later. Take a seat.
“See: already she’s making demands o’ you,” says Autumn, trying & failing to hide her embarrassment. See, even Violet can’t hide her knowledge ’hind those cute fingers o’ hers.
Anyway, despite Autumn’s self-sabotaging attempts to scare him ’way—
“As opposed to your attempt to woo everyone under their jackets, which feels just like home to them,” says Autumn.
Exactly. As I was saying before being rudely interrupted, Lance joins our party & we continue down the crenelated terrace, shivering in our coats & cloaks under the icy storms.
“¿What are we s’posed to be doing?” asks Lance.
“Sit & listen to Dawn read us her rough drafts ’bout us while pretending it’s a board game,” Autumn says with her head leaning on her upraised hand.
Autumn slips & falls, skinning her knee on the concrete, costing her 20 HP.
“I’m liking this story already,” says Lance.
“I steal 1 o’ Dawn’s potions & drink it all e’en though ’twas a trifle lost just to spite her,” says Autumn.
That’s OK: before we started, I did some obscure glitch wherein I tried painting an invisible monster, causing my inventory to fill with 255 potions.
“I hope you don’t keep that in your rough draft,” says Autumn; “I doubt the editors will go for jokes only you understand.”
Anyway, it’s Lance’s turn to spin & roll to decide our next destiny.
“I’m not one to let devices o’ luck decide what I should do,” says Lance.
“Don’t worry: they don’t; Dawn does,” says Autumn.
Lance rolls the die carefully, trying to aim for a particular color. He gets red.
“Bad omen: that’s the color o’ commies,” says Autumn.
Lance rolls his eyes—the wise response to Autumn. Then he flicks the arrow… ¡It lands on sheep! ¡It lands on sheep!
“¿What’s that mean?” asks Lance.
It obviously means that bloodthirsty sheep… a whole colony o’ them runs toward us. ¡So frightened is Autumn by this sight that she begins rubbing her eye!
“If Heloise is still with us, she should be able to roast them,” says Autumn.
I’m ’fraid she’s out o’ LVL 1 spell charges. ¿Isn’t that right, Heloise?
“Mmm hmm. That’s just right,” Heloise voice crackles from the phone.
Autumn turns to Dawn. “¿Don’t you have a bat?”
I held my arms o’er my shoulder as a Woolra—that’s what this particular sheep species is called—charges @ me with its bugle-shaped horns.
Now, let’s see if I hit it.
“I’m impressed by your ability to shake that crystal ball o’ yours while holding your bat back,” says Autumn.
Dawn pauses as she stares @ the Mystic 3-Sphere.
¡It’s a critical hit! The… the Woolra is knocked right o’er the… the crenelated fence. Whatever it’s noun is.
Autumn looks @ Violet. “¿Did she truly get that or is she lying to make herself win?”
Violet stiffens. “Oh, I would not be privy to that knowledge, for I was not looking over Madame Summers’s shoulder.”
Well, you can have your turn to try something next.
Autumn stares @ the Mystic 3-Sphere I hold out to her, hesitant to play with its impeccable power.
“All right,” says Autumn: “I’ll try stealing its wool.”
Autumn shakes the Mystic 3-Sphere & peers into it with such enthusiasm unseen in e’en the feaster o’ the heartiest meal. & yet look @ how she shakes her head so modestly.
“Whoops: sucked a dick. Couldn’t steal,” says Autumn.
¿Are you just doing the opposite o’ me just to spite me?
Autumn looks up @ Dawn. “¿Are you admitting that you lied ’bout this thing granting you your victory?”
No. I meant, the opposite o’ what you accused me o’ doing.
“See for yourself,” Autumn says as she flips the Sphere toward Dawn.
While Autumn does this, 2, uh… Woolruses ram into us, costing us a gazillion HP o’ damage.
“Good thing we have so much health,” says Autumn.
However, due to variable limits, that # wraps round & round till it lands on minus 256, healing us that much.
“Some writers accidentally write unbelievable nonsense to serve some plot end & try to ’splain it ’way with e’en mo’ nonsense; you’re the only I’ve ever seen to intentionally create unbelievable nonsense just for the sake o’ creating e’en mo’ unbelievable nonsense to ’splain it,” says Autumn.
“This is boring,” says Lance. “I call the police on these cretins for accosting us.”
Lance must ask the great RNG to determine if his calls comes through.
“If I must,” Lance says with a heavy breath as he takes the Mystic 3-Sphere into his gloved hands.
He shakes the great Sphere vigorously. ¿What does it say? Autumn leans o’er Lance’s shoulder to see, but Lance yanks it ’way with a dirty look aimed in Autumn’s direction.
“Yeah. They came,” says Lance.
“Lemme see,” says Autumn. “I’m doubtful that our police would come if they had a chance not to.”
Turning to Autumn, Lance says, “I’m sure you have much experience calling the police.”
While Autumn & Lance are distracted by their sexy argument, I peek o’er Lance’s shoulder & see that, indeed, his attack has returned true. Thus the police ride in on their white Pegasuses—
“¡Oh! Madame Summers,—I mean, Dungeon Dominion—I believe the accurate plural form should be ‘Pegasi.’”
Thus the police ride in on their white Pegasi & trample o’er the sheep while white, red, purple, & pink lights flash gainst the stars & a throbbing buzz strums.
The… uh… Woolras all fade to nothing, leaving ’hind 240 gold.
“Well, it’s good to see these sheep were wise with their monetary preferences,” says Lance with an eyes-closed nod & a sturdy quarter-smile.
Autumn looks ’way to stifle the in-joke surely coming to her head as we continue down the stone-paved road outside, where the storm still—& we run into a cluster o’ frowning jellybean monsters called “Biafras.”
“I kick it,” Autumn says with her face leaning on her upraised hand.
A Biafra is knocked back, costing it 33 HP.
I swing my bat back, ready to swing @ the same Biafra that Autumn had hit.
“¡I’ll throw my golden ingot @ it!” says Lance.
I swing my bat forward, smacking the Biafra & causing it to perish.
“Since the monster’s dead, that means Lance’s ingot misses & hits the floor harmlessly,” says Autumn.
“You’re not the Dungeon Dominator,” Lance says as he points @ Autumn.
’Fraid she’s right, though: automatic target-changing after a targeted enemy’s already been defeated doesn’t come ’long till the 3rd quest.
“I pop Lance’s balloons only for Dawn’s inane in-jokes to inflate me,” mutters Autumn.
The remaining Biafra bites Lance, costing him 42 HP.
“¡Hey! ¿Why do I lose mo’?” asks Lance.
Lance crosses his arms & extends his lower lip.
“This is what happens when you put randomness in charge o’ what should be controlled by human rationality.”
Autumn looks down in contemplation as she plans her next turn.
“I was just thinking that I ne’er thought I’d agree with him on 1 thing,” says Autumn.
Edgar, ¿what shall you do?
“O, I dunno… I guess I’ll heal everyone.”
Edgar uses CURE on everyone, curing us all o’ 72 HP.
Heloise, ¿what shall you do?
Huh, that’s odd: she didn’t hang up, but I can’t hear her respond. I can only hear some weird whooshing sounds. ¿You think she fell sleep?
“Not in this exciting venture,” says Autumn.
Felix, ¿what shall you do?
Felix jerks back, startled by such sudden attention. She has tried so hard to hide that special power she harbors from us; but we have noticed this whole time.
She kneads her hands together & looks down @ the table, still pretending that this immense power she holds does not exist.
“Um, I dunno… ¿What am I s’posed to do?”
Store up more o’ that immense power. We may need it later.
“Um… OK. I… I hope that’s the right thing.”
Violet, ¿what shall you do?
“Oh… I do not possess the precise comprehension regarding which actions I can and cannot perform… ¿What class did you say I represent again?”
“Oh. ¿Does that mean I am in the operation of theological matters?”
It means you do bookish stuff.
“If that is the manner in which I should function, I suppose I shall endeavor to commit to researching this fantastical organism.”
Autumn, your turn ’g—
“Kick it ’gain.”
“You didn’t roll that die last time,” says Autumn.
The decision-making algorithm is complicated, indeed.
“Arbitrary is, indeed, complicated.”
I smack it with my cracked bat & do 55 damage.
“No roll for you, ’course,” says Autumn. “Well, a’least Lance waited to ensure the enemy’s still there before throwing his nugget.”
Lance has to use this turn to go & pick it u—¡ha, ha, ha! Both Autumn & Lance frown sourly @ this outcome.
Edgar: ¿what shall you do?
“O, I dunno… I guess I already healed…”
“Throw 1 o’ your bones @ it,” says Autumn.
“I won’t lose it, ¿will I?” Edgar asks as he looks fearfully @ Dawn.
No, but you will have to take ’nother turn to retrieve it.
“Well, OK. I’ll throw it @ it.”
Edgar does 22 damage.
“You didn’t use a die last time you counter damage, either,” says Autumn.
& now I do.
Anyway, Felix continues to charge her super mambo jumbo macho nacho laser beam technique. Autumn rubs her forehead in careful preparation for her next turn.
“QUEST O’ EXCITEMENT,” Autumn says in rising, but still stilted, voice.
Violet has figured out how much HP the monster has. ¿How much, Violet?
Violet appears uncertain. Studying MonsterHPology takes deep concentration.
Autumn puts hands round her mouth & whispered, “Say 0. Turns out the enemy was dead this whole time & we didn’t know ’cause o’ yet ’nother glitch in Dawn’s untested game.”
Don’t listen to her, Violet. It’s your decision.
“Oh… I suppose this creature possesses… twenty-two… uh…”
“I kick the stupid thing”—Autumn rises & points toward Dawn—“& fuck you, I hit it.”
Autumn does 21 dam—
Anyway, I swing my cracked bat & get a critical hit.
“’Course you do,” says Autumn.
I do 124 damage.
“’Course you do.”
We get 322 gold.
“& Autumn steals all o’ it & doesn’t let Dawn touch a grain o’ it.”
“Hey, some o’ that’s mine,” says Lance.
“You didn’t hit any o’ them,” says Autumn, her arms rising.
“I dispatched the… whatever those sheep were called all by myself,” says Lance with his arms crossed.
“Well, you can keep that money,” says Autumn. “Just so long as Dawn doesn’t get any.”
Just then a cloud appears ’bove my head & rains 9,999 gold down into my hands.
“¿What?” shouts Lance.
“Forgive me for my interruption of your narration, Madame Summers, ¿but is it not veritable that we shall be discovering a whole trove of treasure at this quest’s conclusion that will surely render these relative morsels almost nugatory?” says Violet.
“That cloud can’t just make gold out o’ nowhere,” Lance says with his arms raised. “What’s to prevent the market o’ gold from being drowned & inflation from rising.”
“Told you she was a socialist totalitarian—just like those looters in the Central Bank,” says Autumn.
We continue down the stone-paved r—& then ’nother monster appears.
Everyone else but Edgar & Felix raise their arms & moan out loud.
Autumn & Edgar gaze out @ the rain still rattling gainst the window, noticing its population growing. Meanwhile, Lance fiddles with his phone & Violet reads.
Autumn, ¿what will you do?
“¿Huh?” Autumn jerks her head up & turned to Dawn. She blocks her mouth with a palm to stop a yawn, only for her mouth to reject her wishes.
Autumn appears drowsy. Next turn she will probably fall asleep.
“Sorry. It’s the lack o’ coffee, truly.”
¿What will you do?
“Same as before: kick it.”
Autumn does 33 damage to the Frisky Telemarketer. The Frisky Telemarketer is fired from existence. We get 302 gold. Huh, ¿isn’t that exciting?
Dawn turns her head ’long everyone. Lance continues to fiddle with phone while Violet & Edgar jerk their heads in Dawn’s direction.
Autumn nods slowly, her eyelids limp. “Uh huh. Sure.”
That’s OK, ’cause we’ve reached the end o’ the terrace, reached the golden door so humongous you could fit an R. rex through it, the door o’ no return, the very, truly, definitely, surely final dungeon.
¿Dare we enter?
“¿Why wouldn’t we?” asks Autumn.
It’s dangerous on the other side.
“If we feared danger, I’m sure our players wouldn’t have gone on the adventure in the 1st place,” says Autumn.
Autumn pushes her way to the lead, grasps the handles, & pulls the doors open. Inside is a dim room lit by just a few torches attached to the limestone walls. But we can see that her eyes aren’t focused on them, but on the river o’ golden doubloons filling the room, sprinkled with ivory diamonds, black pearls, rubies as deep red as blood & emeralds as deep green as jungle leaves, as well as the lost play, Cardenio, the complete works o’ Sappho, & the lost tapes o’ Doctor Who.
“Autumn rushes forward, followed by Edgar—¿right?”—Autumn nudges Edgar & he smirks & nods—“& we both starts scooping that shit into our pockets.”
What Autumn doesn’t realize—
“Somehow I expected that…”
—is that there is a plump red dragon sleeping on it. Autumn & Edgar’s constantly clacking o’ coin gainst coin stirs the dragon’s ears, causing its eyes to slowly peel open.
“& we turn & run,” says Autumn.
You can’t run ’way.
“¿Why?” asks Autumn.
You can’t run from the final boss.
You just can’t.
“Bullshit. You can’t build a world like that. Make up a reason,” says Autumn.
“I am afraid she elucidates with consummate precision: characters not performing actions for which they would be expected to perform given the context solely for the sake of maintaining a desired plot is colloquially christened an ‘idiot plot.’ See here:” Violet raises her phone & shows everyone a Wikipedia page with the bolded title, “Idiot Plot.”
Uh, OK… Let’s see… Uh…
Well, the dragon shuts the door ’hind you.
“Hey, I ne’er e’en went inside yet,” says Lance, looking up from his phone.
Violet nods ’gain.
“Sir Chamsby’s assertion is accurate: you have as yet not described anyone but Autumn & Edgar as crossing the threshold; thus, if the door has, indeed, become closed & locked, then we are equally locked out as Autumn & Edgar are locked inside.”
Sucks for you 2.
“Well, fuck you guys: a’least we’re the only ones who can get the treasure,” says Autumn.
“Hmmph. That’s what you get for trying to rob a dragon,” says Lance.
The dragon rises to its feet & turns its snaky neck toward Autumn, its lead-cool eyes aimed directly @ her. It leans its head back while its cheeks puff up.
“& I dive to the side, pushing Edgar with me.”
The dragon spews fire, missing Autumn’s shoulder by a centimeter.
Meanwhile, the rest o’ us pound on the door & yank on the handle, neither to any avail. ¿What shall we do?
Lance smirks. “Leave her inside.”
“Since these doors evidently were propelled without physical interaction on the part of anyone else, my assumption is that there is a technological mechanism that operates this door, and that the answer to your query lies in it,” says Violet.
A voice crackles from Dawn’s phone.
“Sorry.” The phone crackles even mo’ from the sound o’ wooshing air. “Did I miss anything? I’m ’fraid I fell asleep.”
We’re trying to figure out how to open this door to the dragon. Autumn & Edgar are inside, ’bout to be toastered.
Autumn stops, staring down in deep concentration.
“I stab the dragon in the belly with the… that spider fang. Whatever it’s called.”
Autumn turns to Dawn. “You know: the spider fang I stole. From that spider that poisoned you. Clearly there’s no better time than the final fight to use such rare items.”
You know that means you have to shake the 3-Sphere.
“Right. Let’s see if I trip & stab myself with it,” Autumn declares as she shakes the Sphere.
She stops & peers into it.
“Nope. Got him.”
Autumn pierces the dragon with the spider fang, embedding it into its belly—so she can’t use it anymo’—& inflicting it with poison.
The dragon pulls its head back &—
“I pull Edgar & myself ’way ’gain.”
—the dragon shoots fire, catching just the tips o’ Autumn’s, ponytail on fire, costing her 8 HP.
“¿Does CURE heal that?” asks Edgar.
No. You need ABRN.
“OK. ¿Can I cast that?”
Edgar casts ABRN on Autumn, quenching her hair’s fire.
“I surmise we ought to hasten our energies toward finding a door-opening mechanism,” says Violet.
¿Shall we do that, everyone?
“We should wait till they get devoured & the dragon falls back ’sleep & then sneak in afterward,” says Lance.
The voice crackles from Dawn’s phone: “¿Can I use my FIRE ’gain yet?”
Nope. We forgot to heal. Thankfully, I brought some chocolate syrup you can eat, Heloise.
“O, thank you,” says Heloise. “I s’pose I’ll use—”
“Wait,” says Autumn.
Autumn appears to be thinking ’gain.
“I stand in front o’ the door.
“Dawn’s smile hints that I’m warming to the solution.”
The dragon throws its head back yet ’gain & breathes fire.
“I dive to the side @ the last second.”
The door is also hit, causing it to melt into golden lava. We all back up, careful not to let the spreading molten puddle reach us.
Unluckily, as Autumn dives, she lands into the molten puddle, scorching her with a loss o’ 122 HP. Autumn is slain.
Autumn turns to Edgar. “Avenge me.”
“I use a bottle o’ Citric Soda on Autumn,” says Edgar.
Autumn is revived with 32 HP.
“O. Ne’ermind.” Autumn scoffs. “That was an anticlimactic death.”
“¿Shall I use my FIRE on the dragon now?” asks Heloise.
Heloise casts FIRE on the dragon, roasting its flesh o’ 288 HP.
“I call my guards to come beat the dragon up,” says Lance.
Lance summons CYLA.
Meanwhile, I spend my turn building a bomb.
“I suppose I ought to research this dragon for any weaknesses it may possess,” says Violet.
Autumn, ¿what will you do?
She’s thinking ’gain.
“I try stealing the… the spider fang from the dragon’s stomach,” says Autumn.
“Yeah, yeah: I know…
Autumn couldn’t steal anything.
Edgar, ¿what shall you do?
“I’ll just CURE Autumn.”
Lance casts CYLA. A golden helicopter flies in. Its door opens, followed by a swarm o’ guards in golden tuxedoes & red-&-white drama masks, all hopping down while smashing down their fists on the dragon. All do a total o’ 344 HP.
“I s’pose I’ll use FIRE ’gain, if you don’t mind.”
Heloise scorches the dragon’s hide ’gain for 221 HP.
Violet, ¿did you figure out any weaknesses?
“Um… Well, it has not eluded my attention that our mythological reptilian nemesis is assuredly profoundly impaired by conflagration… but since it is a reptile, which practices ectothermy, it should in truth be even more vulnerable to permafrost.”
Well, I’ve finished my bomb, so I throw it @ the dragon. It explodes in the dragon’s face, doing 123 HP o’ damage.
The dragon collapses onto the ground, eyes closed.
Autumn opens her mouth, only to close it ’gain.
We all stand in wait.
¿You’re not going to rush for the treasure, Autumn?
“I know better.”
The ground rumbles ’neath our feet.
“I knew it. All right, now I’ll rush to grab as much gold as I can.”
“Hey, I want some,” says Lance.
“Then come grab some,” says Autumn.
Pebbles crackle down from the stone walls, scattering onto the ground.
“Better hurry,” says Autumn.
Autumn & Lance are blown back gainst the wall by a hefty gust, scattering coins with the pebbles.
“Not all o’ them, ¿right?” says Autumn.
The dragon’s corpse glows yellow.
That glow rises from the corpse, forming into the shape o’ the dragon.
Then it grows, spreading its angel wings out, busting the stone walls clear out, causing them to fall o’er completely, leaving nothing but raging gray clouds & showers to surround us. The air pounds with the sound o’ a sharp sword scraping stone, followed by the searing sight o’ lightning slicing the sky.
The angel dragon throws its head back & emits a piercing cry like a whirring computer. Then it faces us & blasts a white beam, spreading it ’long all o’ us for round 300 HP o’ damage to all. We all fall, slain.
All throw their arms out & shout in unison, “¿What?”
“¡Come on!” says Autumn. “Don’t tell me we have to do that all o’er ’gain, ¿do we? Not that tedious bullshit with the farmer knight.”
O, but the party hasn’t fallen yet. You forget 1 o’ our members’ ability she’s been powering up for a long time.
Everyone stares @ Dawn in confusion.
Felix uses LIF3 to rise from the dead.
¿What shall you do now, Felix?
“O… I dunno…” says Felix, looking blankly down @ the table. “I guess I’ll use a… that soda stuff on someone.”
“O… I dunno…” says Felix as she glances uncertainly ’long everyone.
“Pick Edgar,” says Autumn.
“O… OK,” says Felix.
¿You sure you want to pick Edgar?
“Uh, well… I figure Autumn knows mo’ ’bout how to play than I do, since I know nothing ’bout it…”
“It’s not o’ huge importance, since none o’ this is real, ’course,” says Autumn; “I just picked Edgar since he can heal, so it’d be most efficient. Remember, the angel dragon will probably have ’nother turn soon.”
Felix nods. “Uh huh.”
Felix uses a Citric Soda on Edgar, bringing him back to life.
“& then I should use a Citric Soda on—”
The angel dragon scratches Felix for 56 HP o’ damage. She falls.
“Somebody’s bitter ’bout our boredom from before,” says Autumn.
Final victory’s no fun if you don’t work for it. Edgar, what will you do?
“O. Well, I s’pose I’ll use a Citric Soda on A—”
“Not on me,” says Autumn.
Edgar turns to Autumn with confusion.
“It’s simply strategy: I’m far from the most capable player. You should actually start by healing yourself: the dragon will surely attack someone next turn. We’ve already seen that it can kill a recently-revived player in 1 turn, making any revival a waste. However, if you heal yourself, you’ll be able to take a few mo’ scratches, giving you a few mo’ turns.”
Remember that the angel dragon can miss.
“Not worth the chance,” says Autumn.
Edgar laughs. “If you say so… OK, I use CURE on myself.”
The angel dragon scratches Edgar, only to miss.
After rolling her eyes, Autumn ponders mo’…
“I think you should revive Heloise,” says Autumn: “her magic spells do the most damage—per turn, a’least.”
Edgar uses a Citric Soda on Heloise.
The angel dragon scratches Edgar, doing 26 HP o’ damage.
“¿Should I CURE Heloise?” asks Edgar.
“Yes,” says Autumn. “Hey, Dawn, ¿does Heloise have any ice spells?”
Uh huh. Lightning, too.
“¿Can you ask her to use whatever her strongest ice spell is on her turn?”
Heloise, ¿did you hear Autumn?
“Mmm hmm, moussie. I’m all right with it if everyone else is.”
Heloise uses ICE on the angel dragon, doing 321 HP o’ damage. It becomes frozen & can’t move.
Edgar turns to Autumn. “¿Who should I revive now?”
Autumn twists her mouth in thought.
Dawn laughs. Everyone gapes @ Autumn in confusion.
“¿You sure?” says Edgar.
Autumn nods. “His summons do the 2nd most damage per turn”—she adds in a murmur, “they’re so cheap.”
Edgar faces Dawn with a shrug.
Edgar uses a Citric Soda on Lance.
“Well, then, I s’pose I’ll use—”
O, it’s Heloise’s turn.
Heloise, ¿will you use the same spell as before?
OK, now Lance.
“I s’pose I’ll use the same… ‘summon’ as before.”
Lance summons CYLA.
The angel dragon is still frozen.
“Heal Lance,” says Autumn to Edgar.
Edgar uses CURE on Lance.
Heloise uses ICE on the angel dragon.
Lance casts CYLA. A golden helicopter flies in. The door opens & out—
“¿Do we truly need to go o’er the spell description ’gain?” says Autumn. “They’re truly tedious.”
Sorry, Autumn: rules are rules.
Anyway, the henchmen in golden tuxedoes & red-&-white drama masks pour out, slamming their fists into the angel dragon. It does 299 HP o’ damage.
The angel dragon breaks through its icy cage. It spits a hyperbeam @ Edgar, doing 523 HP.
“God damn…” says Autumn.
Edgar is slain.
¿What shall you do, Heloise?
“O, ¿do you want me to heal Edgar?”
Autumn says, “You can’t: you’re a…”
We do have spaghetti, but those only heal 50 HP.
“No, Heloise should use the same spell she’s been using,” says Autumn. “It may get frozen ’gain.”
Heloise uses ICE on the angel dragon for 311 HP.
Lance looks down @ the table in concentration, glancing in Autumn’s direction every so oft.
“I’ll do the summon thing ’gain, I guess.”
Lance summons CYLA.
The angel dragon scratches Lance for 62 HP o’ damage.
“If Autumn wants me to, I’ll do the same.”
Heloise uses ICE on the angel dragon, doing 333 HP o’ damage.
The angel dragon emits sounds o’ shattering glass. It begins flashing rainbow colors, which gradually dim, till the angel fades completely.
Dawn threw her arms out.
“¡Congratulations!” exclaimed Dawn. “¡We won!”
Autumn leaned back with her arms crossed. “¿What do we win?”
“You win all o’ the dragon’s treasure—split evenly, ’course.”
“No, I meant in real life.”
“You get a deep sense o’ accomplishment,” said Dawn.
Violet looked out the window & saw that the sky had already blackened.
She stood & held a hand out for Dawn.
“Well, I found that activity of yours positively enjoyable and offer my utmost gratitude for your hospitality.”
“No problem,” Dawn said as she shook Violet’s hand.
“I do believe it necessary for us to hasten home whilst the buses still operate.”
Violet walked toward the door, pulling the blue hood back o’er her head. Just before going out, she said, “Do not hesitate to invite us for further of these recreational endeavors.”
Felix followed, waving & spurting a curt, quiet, “Bye,” ’fore leaving.
“I s’pose I should go, too,” said Lance, looking everywhere but Autumn, Dawn, & Edgar’s faces.
He stood & walked out.
“If that is the end, then I must thank you for your game, moussie,” said Heloise; “’twas very inventive.”
“Thank you for playing,” said Dawn.
The call beeped off, & then the room was left in quiet. Though impossible to see through the opaque darkness, Autumn could tell ’twas raining from the drops still dribbling gainst the window.
“Admit it: you had fun,” said Dawn.
Autumn looked up @ Dawn, eyes still glazed.
“Sorry: my class doesn’t know that spell.”
“You sure knew how to strategize like a pro, though,” Dawn said as she rose from her seat. “¿You fight a lot o’ monsters in your heists? ¿Are those the extra succulent stories you’ve been saving from me for better days?”
“If I were capable o’ making that much gold by beating up violent sheep, I doubt we’d be living in an apartment where the hot water doesn’t work or the power goes out when too many devices are on.”
“Only in the kitchen,” said Dawn.
“Hey, you ne’er know when rare skills come in handy: I’d oft try that kind o’ thinking when running the Rock Lobster.” Dawn laughed. “Maybe you should run a restaurant. Edgar could be your chef & I can come up with all o’ the crazy attractions.” Dawn gasped & then grabbed Autumn’s shoulder. “It could be like those Chuck E. Cheese places & I could set up arcades.”
“I’m sure people with far mo’ understanding o’ restaurants have filled that demand already,” said Autumn. “That’s what’s truly in-demand: demand. If I were truly to be productive, I’d give people that.”
“¿You’d give people desires? That sounds deep.”
Autumn shook her head. “The opposite: money to buy their infinite desires.”
“O.” Dawn laughed. “Yeah, I guess that would be in-demand. Wouldn’t make a lot o’ money giving it, though.”
“Well, you know what they say: don’t measure the game by the ₧, but by the experience.”
“’They’ sound like chapters from a self-help book.”
“I’ll add writing that book to my list o’ things I’ll ne’er get round to doing,” Dawn said as she grabbed Lance’s chair.
Autumn’s frown deepened as she stared @ the half-drawn maps & calculators still with #s on them on the table & the cold dregs o’ coffee in her mug.