Thursday, 2 March 2017
In the Realms, knights dare the crypts of the fallen dwarf kings of Dellzoom, seeking glory and treasure. Rogues prowl the dark alleyways of teeming cities such as Rarelyspring and Baldur’s Fence. Clerics in the serve of gods wield mace and spell, questing against the terrifying powers that threaten the land. Wizards plunder the ruins of the fallen Netherese empire, delving into secrets too dark for the light of day. Dragons, giants, demons and unimaginable abominations lurk in dungeons, caverns, ruined cities and the vast wild places of the world.
The Fellowship were haunched outside a kobold cave, broad swords in their hands. There was Plappy, the dual sword wielding dark elf with a goblin slave, Port, the Welsh school child druid, Merla Greenbottle, the halfling rogue with a mysterious past, Sile Cobaltcrusher, the human warrior, and cheeky gnomish bard, Asquith Luwin. The five of them were debating whether or not to set up camp- the orange suns were drooping behind the imposing Gauntylgrim hills- when Plappy dropped quite the bombshell.
“Guys, I’m just saying, I need to consume flesh every night otherwise I’ll die.” She said, as if it was the type of thing one regularly brings up in conversations.
“According to the brief, we’re an accustomed fellowship who have been working as sellswords for the underworld of Rarelyspring for years.” Asquith pointed out. “So, we already knew that.”
“I’ve got,” the rustle of paper, “five rations left over.” Merla suggested.
“Got to be living flesh, or at least recently dead.” Plappy said. “Sorry, guys. It seemed like a good flaw when I was writing it.”
“How about your goblin slave?” Port said. “We could kill him.”
“You’re meant to be a druid.” God said, the heavens shaking. “You should be protecting all forms of life. Sile, being the warrior, should be suggesting this.”
“My flaw is that I’m a pacifist.” Sile said.
“A pacifist warrior? I give up.” God sighed, and disappeared again.
“I’ll kill the goblin.” Plappy sighed. The scrabble of a twenty sided dice. “Is it Dexterity or Strength modifier?”
“How do you want to kill me?” The goblin asked, God speaking through the scaly mouthpiece.
“I want to push Stabby, my short sword, through your neck. If that’s alright.”
“That’s a Melee attack, so Strength.”
She did a quick bit of mental arithmetic. “What’s your Armour Class?”
“That’s a hit.” Another roll. “Hit points?”
“Five after Asquith cut my arm off.”
“He was annoying!” Asquith protested.
“Well, you’re dead now. I’ll just feast on your flesh and then,” Plappy did just that, coating her face in a crimson smear, and then drawing a small white handkerchief to clean up, “on with the adventure.”
“Can I set fire to that bush over there?” Port asked.
“Why?” God asked, now speaking from the heavens.
“Because there might be animals in there and I don’t like animals.”
“You’re a druid. You’re meant to protect all life.” God replied.
Port shrugged. “Can I do it anyway?”
God sighed. “Fireball’s a cantrip so sure.”
Port threw his hands out and released a ball of fire. The trees exploded into an orange blaze. This alerted the small camp of guard Kobolds and Mindflayers to their presence. Fifteen Kobolds ran out, their scaly skin spiked with horns, their eyes large bulbous, their tails interchangeable with their scabbards. They all carried spears. Behind them were three Mindflayers, Lovecraftian masters of Psionics, their faces covered in beards of flailing tentacles. They weren’t very angry; they were bloody furious.
“For God’s sake, Chris!” Steven cried then cursed. Out of character. Again. Why couldn’t he ever remember these things?
“Let’s have a quick break there.” God said from above. The Half Remembered Realms dissipated and was instead replaced by M9. M9 was located in the main block of Gilliam High School in the North West of England, a land of exciting and intriguing misadventures such as the annual Blackpool in Bloom competition and the ever psychologically arresting drama that was popping to Sainsbury’s. Chavs dare the tanning booths of badly photoshopped models. Muggers prowl the Primarks in search of victims to follow down dark alleys. Traffic wardens in the serve of bureaucrats wield tickets and law, questing against the terrifying powers that park outside Burger King for too long. Drag queens, tall people, benefit scroungers and unimaginable abominations (visitors from Fleetwood) lurk in hospitals, cafes, tram shelters and the vast wild shopping centres of the town.
The Gang were sat around a game board in M9, a Geography classroom that Mr Coin had commandeered to run his Dungeons and Dragons club from. There was Freya, the Time Controlling superhero Tempus, Chris, who could turn into Captain Jaffa Cake but thought an exciting DnD character would be a Welsh schoolchild with a hatred of animals, Sophie, the Physics loving Lucky Cat, Ali, the CW copyright violating Flish, and overly tall Summoner, Steven. They were playing Dungeons and Dragons and, at least two out of the five of them, were absolutely loving it.
Children of the atom, students of Computer Science, nerds misunderstood and stereotyped by the teachers and students they have sworn to protect, these are the geekiest heroes of all! The Gang!
“So, anyone want a drink?” Mr Coin asked. His Dungeons and Dragons club, which they were having to attend because Miss Francis had been suspicious of their superheroic activities (see the Winter Highlighter), was held every week on a Wednesday. This was only their second week; the plan was to do three weeks and then say they’d all been struck down by severe flu that was triggered by the mention of fantasy role playing games. This was Chris, Freya and Ali’s plan, but Steven and Sophie were having to go with it, much to their dissatisfaction. “I’ll see if the Upper School is still open; there might be biscuits!”
“What drinks are there?” Freya ventured, knowing that now she’d asked that question, she was going to have to ask for a drink no matter what.
“Tea, coffee, Radnor Fizz. I might even be able to get some orange juice if you want to go wild.”
“I could do with something a bit stronger to get me through this.” Ali muttered.
Mr Coin somehow heard this and replied, “Me and you both, Miss Grant. What with the way Chris is playing.”
They all laughed and asked for their drinks; Ali and Steven on Radnor Fizz, Sophie on an orange juice she probably wouldn’t drink for fear of spilling it, Freya going with tea and Chris pulling an orange Sainsbury’s bag from his rucksack and revealing he’d brought a bottle of water inside it.
Once Mr Coin was gone, they relaxed a little. He was definitely the grooviest obscure fact knowing, probably drug addicted, Physicist in the school- “Mr Andrews is groovier but not as likely to be a druggy,” Sophie pointed out- but he could be a little overbearing, especially when engaging his passion; Dungeons and Dragons.
“So?” Sophie said. “What does everyone think?”
“I think I could be at home making a revision guide right now.” Chris replied.
“Oh, don’t be such a spoil sport.” Steven shook his head. “If we find the sunsword, we can slay Strahd once and for all and finally the people of Baldur’s Fence will be free of tyranny. They’ll love us!”
“But the examiners won’t when we don’t know what carbon capture is.” Freya pointed out.
“Do we even need to know what carbon capture is?” Steven asked.
“He’s only asking that because he doesn’t know what it is.” Sophie said.
“No I’m not.” Steven paused then added, “What is it?”
“It’s when they pump carbon dioxide underneath fields instead of into the atmosphere.” Ali said. “I know that because I’ve been revising.”
“I’ve been revising!” Steven protested. “Just… not necessarily the right bit.”
“What?” Chris frowned.
Sophie laughed. “He revised Unit 2 instead of Unit 1.”
“What, seriously?” Ali grinned.
“It’s an easy mistake to make!” Steven cried. “And, anyway, we’ve got a Unit 2 exam soon enough so I’m just ahead.”
“You’re such an idiot.” Sophie added, shaking her head.
“I’m not an idiot! I have a +2 intelligence modifier.”
“And I have a +2 strength modifier but I couldn’t pick up a car!” Chris argued. “Well, not unless I’ve eaten a Jaffa Cake.”
Elsewhere, Mr Coin was working his way down M-Block corridor. He rubbed his hands together malevolently in that way that only evil villains could. He had concocted a rather complex plan on how he could capture the five heroes, involving an electric violin, endless repeats of QI and the zeroth law of thermodynamics but in the end it hadn’t been necessary. Miss Francis had saved him all the time in the world. His ginger facial hair curled in smug satisfaction.
On the day of the explosion, he’d been teaching a class of Year Seven students. The idea repulsed him, how dare they be so young, but he’d got on with it. He’d been in the process of explaining Everett’s multiple world interpretation- it was meant to be a Biology lesson but he didn’t want to be accused of boring the students to death- when the radioactive explosion had launched him across the room, smashing him into the far wall. When he woke up in the hospital bed, he felt fine. The doctors analysed him, said there was no apparent damage except for a broken nose. It was when he’d got home that he realised what powers he’d gained. That night, as he’d sat there in his basement, fragmented until he barely even remained, the voice speaking to him, grinding into his mind. The Camel God, whispering his instructions. He wanted to return and who was Mr Coin to refuse a deity his demand?
He needed a way to communicate with the Camel God now, to tell him the trap was sprung. If he had time, he’d create a portal, a small one, just to share the message. It was the only way they could talk inconspicuously, unless he wanted to tear a hole in the fabric of reality. He’d have to invent something for it, some easier method of communication.
“Hey, Jon!” Cried a voice from up the corridor, with it gave the pad of hearty footsteps as the speaker approached.
Mr Coin stopped and wished the explosion had given him the power to incinerate people with nothing more than a thought. Realising wishing would get him nowhere, Coin turned and smiled. It was Mr King, the school’s Principal. “Ah, Marcus. How can I help you?”
“I was just wondering if you wouldn’t mind signing a card for Mr Andrews?” Mr King smiled. “It’s approaching four months since the explosion.”
“Yes, yes of course.” Mr Coin sighed. “Is he showing any signs of waking up?”
Mr King shook his head. “I’m afraid not. I was speaking to the nurses at the weekend. They’re thinking of moving him to a different facility, clear up the wards. The good news is that he isn’t on a ventilator, just in a coma. If it was anymore than that, well, they’d have to consider switching it off.”
“He’ll pull through, Marcus.” Mr Coin said, scrawling his best wishes onto the card. “He’s a stubborn old sod, is our Mr Andrews. He’ll be just fine.”
“I hope so.” Mr King said. “I’m going to do an assembly on it next Monday, which you’re more than welcome to attend if you’d like.”
“I’ll try to make it.” Mr Coin smiled, but he knew he wouldn’t be able to. By then, the Camel God would have risen and the world, as they knew it, would be over. As he walked off, Coin chuckled to himself. The Camel God had told him how to construct his instrument, the Doorway Aligner, via secret whisperings in the dead of night. He would collect it from its hiding place in the new Science Block and then he would begin his conquest of the multiverse. The Convergence could begin.
“What’s taking Mr Coin so long?” Steven frowned.
“I’m not complaining.” Ali said. “If we have to do any more RPGing tonight, I think I might roll attack on myself.”
“Are you really not enjoying it?” Sophie asked. “I love it.”
“It’s just not my kind of thing.” Ali shrugged. “How about you two? Freya? Chris?”
“I’m indifferent.” Chris said.
“No, you’re very different, Christopher.” Steven grinned.
“It’s alright,” Freya said, “but I wish I could be at home revising. We’ve got so many exams and I want to be prepared.”
“Come on, Frey!” Sophie replied. “You’re like the cleverest person in the room, no offence you lot, in the school even! A couple hours hanging around with your friends isn’t going to make a difference.”
Freya laughed, a really cynical laugh. “I’m really not that clever.”
“She says, having never got anything lower than a Grade Nine.” Steven exaggerated his point, but only just.
Freya scowled at him then sighed. “If Mr Coin isn’t back in half an hour, I’m going. I’ve got Biology to revise for tonight and if I don’t keep to my schedule, I’ll get behind.”
“You think you’re behind?” Ali said. “Steven’s revising Chemistry for the Biology exam.”
“Oh shut up!” Steven cried. “It was an easy mistake to make!”
At that point, the door exploded open and Mr Coin ran in. He was wearing a trailing cape of shimmering purple and had blue and red goggles, not unlike the ones that Sophie wore as part of her Lucky Cat costume, over his eyes. In his hands, he had what could only be described as a gatling gun, but with each barrel containing a glowing crystal. There were electrodes on wires trailing off the handle of the gun and connecting to his forehead.
“Praise the Humped One.” He whispered and squeezed down on the trigger.
The heroes leapt up, Ali smashing the table out of the way with the force she gained from her increased speed. Steven summoned a shield and Sophie changed the probability of the blast hitting them. “Freya! Freeze him!” She cried.
Freya raised her hands, concentrating as much as she could, summoning the powers she’d gained from that explosion. The powers were difficult to control; she had to grab hold of the reality around them, command an entire dimension. She reached, between the planes of existence, trying as hard as she could, allowing the energy to flow through her, but it didn’t work.
Time did not stop. A bright flash of energy flowed from Coin’s Doorway Aligner. The world around them seemed to warp, seemed to bubble, then there was a bang and they were gone…