…this was probably a bad idea.
These were the thoughts of our stalwart hero, me, as I stared directly into a pit of razor-sharp, pointed icicle stalagmites (stalagmicicles, if you will). I was suspended upside down on a thin cord of rope, whose two ends were attached to opposing walls of a very tall, icy chamber. I could tell you immediately and promptly whether or not I made it across the deadly pit to the ledge that was sticking out of one side. In fact, if you stop munching on narrative tension long enough to take a refreshing sip of common sense, you can probably deduce the answer right now. But it would probably be more satisfying if I put off that impending tension for a bit while I dodder off back to how this all began, right? Shut up, it so would. So let’s go back in time a bit…
And so there I was; in a cold cavern whose blue walls glittered and glowed from shafts of light from above, as I slid along an icy surface towards a gigantic hole in the floor and the footsteps of a gigantic figure followed somewhere not far behind. As I jumped into the pit, I noticed that there seemed to be a large amount of razor-sharp, pointed icicle stalagmites (there was probably a more concise way to put that) at the bottom and…hang on. I think I might have to go just a bit further back than this. Let’s try again.
As I looked through the dense clouds surrounding me, cold biting through my clothing, I saw it. Up ahead of me and Scrappy rose what appeared to be a giant spire of ice and…okay, this isn’t much better, is it? Further back.
I was passing by a pool, and normally I would be wondering why a medical institution would bother having an indoor pool, but my attention was more occupied with what I was trying to pretend didn’t sound like breathing. Then I…no wait, what?! This is too far back. Uh…
“I remember it like it was yesterday…yesterday…yesterday…” said a man whose skull appeared to be partially melted and oh no I am NOT listening to this flashback a third time less far back less far back!
…this was probably a bad idea.
These were the thoughts of our stalwart hero, me, as I stared directly into a word processor filled with the results of improper use of the narrative device In Medias Res. I was suspended perfectly upright within several paragraphs of writing I shouldn’t have committed to and an extended metaphor that was going nowhere. So I decided to drop the first paragraph parallels, pretend the last 400 or so words hadn’t happened and start at the best approximation of the beginning I could muster: where I left off last time.
After reading the grim note left for me in a pile of ash, I left the cave and reconvened with Scrappy at the entrance. He looked excited to see me and yipped at my arrival as I gave him a pat and unstrapped my travel pack from him. I suppose it had been over a day since he’d seen me, from his perspective. Luckily, a little known fact about Wyverns is that they can subsist on a single meal of food and drink for up to months as long as it’s hearty and supplemented with a small amount of blood from their natural prey, Harpies. Then again, I suppose there are a lot of little known facts about Wyverns. The fact that they exist, to pick a random example.
I pulled my laptop from my pack and started typing out a transcript of my travels as I typically tend to. As I was posting the account to my blog, my stomach pointedly reminded me that subsisting on a single meal for a month is something that humans had bit more trouble with. Luckily, I was sure I had thought ahead and packed a plentiful bounty of rations.
I retrieved the map and was reminded that sometimes optimism isn’t the best policy as I stared at a block of ramen and half a bottle of unfinished Powerade. I didn’t even think I owned Powerade. If Gatorade is mediocre flavored water than Powerade is an artificially flavored imitation of mediocre flavored water. Like a quadruple amputee admiring the serenity and grace of a man in a wheelchair. Ah well, desperate times call for desperate measures and all that. So I downed the tepid water-esque liquid substance and grabbed the block of ramen. At least this would be tasty…if I had thought to bring any water.
As I crunched on my noodle block I unrolled the map I had received from Wolwurren’s occult hospital. It seemed that the nearest deposit of the insidiarum consilium, the plant that could cure my case of Chrono Cough, was somewhere up in the northern reaches of Canada. While I still had the presence of mind to do so, I snapped a picture of the map with my smart phone in case I needed a second copy. My time was limited at this point, considering the note I received implied that whoever burned down the first patch of the plant was racing me to the next one. My nimrod of a nemesis, Dr. Acidmeltskull, would be the obvious candidate. But it really hadn’t seemed like he’d known about my illness in our last encounter. Not to mention his style wasn’t this…legitimately deadly. He wouldn’t be able to resist bragging and overcomplicating things in typical super-villain style. Really, he’d be almost endearing were it not for the whole murderous intent thing.
So as I mounted Scrappy and headed off in the direction of the frozen north, I couldn’t help but wonder. If the nefarious Doctor wasn’t my competitor for the cure, then who could it be? I’d certainly had a number of crazy adventures over the years that may or may not have been left open to bite me in the ass later as per typical narrative structure. But most of the enemies I’d fought were monsters or other similarly guilt-free targets, like robots and such. Though I’ve never fought any Nazis, and honestly that’s always been a point on my bucket list. Of course at this point fighting some of them would probably require time travel, but…well I’m getting a little of course pondering here.
The point is that most of my foes were dead and buried, six feet under, pushing up flowers of various varieties or taking a pleasant siesta with underwater dwelling creatures. They’re dead, is what I’m saying. So either the Doctor was actually behind all this, I was forgetting an old enemy, or this was someone new entirely. No matter who was pulling the strings here, I suspected I would find out soon. At least I hoped so, because if they just stayed ahead of me and burned everything to the ground I would be proper screwed.
My thoughts were interrupted by a chill wind, my relevant musings having coincidentally ended exactly as I arrived. As I looked through the dense clouds surrounding me, cold biting through my clothing, I saw it. Up ahead of me and Scrappy rose what appeared to be a giant spire of ice and snow, too unnatural to be there by coincidence. It almost looked like some sort of palace of ice, which might seem impractical and unlikely to someone who doesn’t spend almost all of their time playing video games. Fortunately, I didn’t have any such hang-ups as those boring, rational human beings would and knew instantly that this must be where the plant was held.
I landed Scrappy at an outcropping near a gap in the icy walls which looked like the front entrance to the structure. I told him to stay put and rooted through my pack for relevant supplies. I hadn’t brought much in terms of adventuring gear to my initial trip to the hospital, because time had been short and why would I? Still, I did pack my concealed laser pistol which had aided me not too far back, which I kept with me as a last resort. I also pulled from my pack two sophisticated grapple guns/zip lines, and if you have to ask why I kept unnecessary grappling guns with me you don’t know me very well at all.
The gigantic door-shaped opening to the ice palace loomed in front of me as I crept cautiously forward. Not only could my plant pillager have planned to place a painfully perilous problem in my path up ahead, but this place didn’t exactly look welcoming to begin with. On the other side of the door I emerged into an enormous hallway, so long I couldn’t see the end of it from my position. The passage was relatively unadorned, despite being what seemed like a dozen stories tall, and apart from the occasional humongous windows cut out of the sheer walls of ice on either side of me there wasn’t much else to see.
This changed as I finally appeared to reach the end of the passageway. In the faint distance I began to see the shape of a positively gigantic throne, probably hundreds of feet tall, rising from out of an icy fog shrouding the end of the hall. And as I approached closer, becoming faintly visible on that throne appeared to be some kind of…
“WHO DARES TO ENTER THE LAIR OF THE CANADIAN FROST GIANTS?!?!”
…gigantic figure, which having just shouted at me was now thundering towards me. It’s footsteps shook the ground almost enough to throw me off balance where I stood, and were louder than I was after losing a bout of Super Smash Bros. Brawl. I looked behind me and realized that the distance to the windows was at least, say, 80 feet up and the entrance was an immeasurable distance behind me. Deciding to take my chances, I gulped and shouted forth nervously: “Um…HI!”
“HI?!?!” boomed the crashing colossus as it slowed its approach towards me. “IS THAT ALL YOU HAVE TO SAY IN THE PRSENCE OF THE MIGHTY KING OF THE CANADIAN FROST GIANTS?!?!”
“Uh…is there a distinction that makes you the Canadian Frost Giants?” I inquired for lack of anything better to open with.
The giant slowed to a halt in front of me. Its feet were definitely big enough to crush me, the first fact I noticed for absolutely no reason in particular. The second was that the thing was something like 50 feet tall, and appeared to be made entirely of dark grey stone marbled with shimmering ice. The third fact about it was the answer to my question, which became immediately apparent when the giant humanoid kneeled down to bring its massive skull level with me, leaving me face to face with an ice giant…with the colossal head of a moose.
Its head was mostly stone, but the top of it was adorned with equally huge horns made of pure ice. Sharp ice, I couldn’t help but notice as I looked upon the crystalline structure stabbing up towards the distant ceiling. Another sharp structure of ice was its beard, which grazed the ground close enough to where I was standing to make me more nervous than I already was. It had a shimmering crown of translucent blue and white upon its head, and its eyes were icy orbs of golden glass, gazing directly at me with piercing intensity.
As I looked upon the frost giant it sneered at me, its great granite lips parting to reveal individual teeth about the size of my entire body. As it did this its nostrils, which were about the size a typical doorway to begin with, flared even larger and a wave of breath snorted out towards me. Said breath was so warm it melted some of the snow beneath my feet, but the heat wasn’t near as bad as the smell. It smelled like a surge of damp, rotting meat that had been graced with the slightest lingering hint of maple syrup.
I cleared my throat, eyes wide. “…ah” I said meekly. “I suppose that explains that question.”
“PUNY LITTLE MAMMAL!!” boomed the massive moose man, “WHY HAVE YOU THE GALL TO WALTZ RIGHT INTO THE SACRED HALL OF MY MAJESTIC ICE PALACE?!?!”
“Eheh, uh, I t-take it you don’t like visitors much…?” I responded with an anxious smile.
The towering titan responded to this by simply flaring his nostrils again and narrowing its eyes.
“Ah, sorry!” I said, waving my hands. “S-sorry, I uh…”, I stopped and cleared my throat again, continuing more resolutely. “I’m here for the insidiarum consilium.”
“BAH, WHAT TONGUE IS THIS?!” exclaimed the enormous elk-alike indignantly, tilting his nose slightly upward and sneering again. “I DON’T KNOW ABOUT YOU, PUNY MAMMAL, BUT WE FROST GIANTS ONLY SPEAK GOOD OLD FASHIONED ENGLISH, YOU HEAR ME?!?!”
“Oh!” I responded. “Uh…well I’m here looking for a rare plant!”
“A PLANT?” scoffed the dramatic deer. “GRAH, I’LL NEVER UNDERSTAND YOU WEAK LITTLE CREATURES AFFECTION FOR ANY FOOD THAT ISN’T RIPPED FROM LIVING FLESH!!”
“But you…” I said, “You’re a moose first of all, and…do you…even need to eat in the first place? I mean, you appear to be made of stone…and…ice…” I faltered a bit under his irritated glare.
“AND TELL ME, FEEBLE CREATURE, WHY SHOULD I CARE AT ALL ABOUT WHAT YOU WANT?!?!” the immense ice-horn inquired.
“Er…perhaps my stunning amount of natural charisma…?” I postulated hopefully.
The great giant stared at me with a furrowed brow and a frown for a moment, but then he snorted and started to stand with the hint of smirk on his face.
“I CANNOT TELL IF IT BE YOUR FOOLHARDY BRAVERY OR YOUR IMMENSE STUPIDITY, BUT YOU AMUSE ME ENOUGH TO ALLOW YOU TO LIVE A BIT LONGER.” As he said this, the cold colossus turned and started slowly back towards his throne, motioning with his hand for me to follow. Even with his leisurely pace, I had to jog to keep up with him.
“…so” I said between pants as I jogged alongside him, “I don’t mean to…impose or anything but…like I said I’m looking…for a rare plant…”
We soon reached the back of the room, which I noticed had (comparatively) smaller passages protruding from either side. I stopped to catch my breath as the King of the Canadian Frost Giants turned and sat on his throne. He rested his massive mug on his humongous hand and looked down upon me with a cold, regal expression, one eyebrow slightly raised from its usual furrowed state. I finished gulping air and spoke up again.
“Right, so, I need this rare plant to cure an equally rare disease, which may kill me if I don’t cure it soon enough. I was given a map that claimed some of the plant might be here…?”
“HMPH” snorted the regal rock. “WE GREAT FROST GIANTS DO NOT BOTHER WITH FLIMSY VEGETATION. SO I SUPPOSE THE ONLY PLACE YOUR PLANT MIGHT LIE IS IN OUR ANCIENT TREASURE ROOM, WHERE WE HAVE KEPT THE SPOILS OF MANY ENEMIES LONG PAST.”
I perked up at this. “So you’re saying you might have the plant I need?!” I asked.
“PERHAPS,” mused the monolith moose monarch, “BUT I AM STILL NOT SURE THAT-“
“SIRE!” came another booming voice from down one of the side passages. “OUR SCOUTS HAVE SPOTTED AN ONCOMING VESSEL!” As this was said, a smaller moose-headed frost giant (so only about 40 feet or so) stomped into the frame of the doorway.
“WHAT?!?!” exclaimed the king.
“YES SIRE, IT APPEARS TO BE SOME SORT OF ODDLY SHAPED ZEPPLIN!” said the new frost giant. “IT APPEARS TO BE ARMED. AND IT’S HEADING STRAIGHT FOR THE ICE PALACE!”
The king turned his attention back to me, his face full of rage. Oh no. “SO!!! YOU WOULD DISTRACT US WITH INNOCENT CLAIMS WHILE YOUR ALLIES PREPARE TO STRIKE!!!”
“What?! No!” I said frantically. “I have no idea who or what that is! I only wanted to come here to look for-“
“THE CONTENTS OF OUR TREASURE ROOM!!!” interrupted the enraged elkman.
“No but I didn’t…” I stammered, “I mean I never intended to…I-I’m not related to…there’s…no way you’re going to listen to a word I say at this point, is there?”
The furious frost giant revealed rows of stone teeth in a cruelly satisfied smile. “ABSOLUTELY NOT”, he said.
“…fair enough”, I said. At this I drew and fired one of my grappling hooks in a single motion, and it lodged itself by the frame of the side doorway the second giant had emerged from. The king saw this and reacted about how you’d expect, crying out and lifting an imposing fist above my head. But by the time it descended I was already well away, reeling in towards the door. I released the grappling hook midway through my approach and slid straight through the legs of the king’s bewildered companion, into the hallway beyond.
I was home free!...not counting the two gigantic Canadian frost giants quickly turning to give chase. “STOP HIM!” shouted the king with a cry that shook the frozen citadel. “AFTER THE MORTAL! CRUSH HIM! STOMP HIM! THROW HIM IN THE PIT TO ROT!”
I was getting the slightest vibe that sticking around to shoot the breeze with them was inadvisable, but I couldn’t outrun these behemoths on foot. Thinking quickly, I grappled to one of the hallway walls and retracted the grapple midway, only to fire my second grapple diagonally across to the other wall. I slid down the hallway, skating slightly serpentine as the terrible titans trudged tremendously behind. I saw another side passage up ahead and thinking that anything would be better than continuing my efforts to outrun creatures ten times as tall as me, I swung into it as I approached.
The room I entered next was also largely unadorned and also largely large. In the center of the room lay a massive pit that didn’t bode too well. However the opposite side of the room had another doorway, which seemed promising. But as I slid towards it, it transformed into a doorway with another frost giant standing in it, which was far less promising.
“ACH, WHAT’S THIS HERE?!” cried the new giant. “ANOTHER ONE FOR THE PIT?!?!”
“BLOCK THE ENTRANCE SO HE CAN’T ESCAPE!!” came the cry of the king from the hall I’d just exited. “MAKE SURE HE DOESN’T SLIDE BETWEEN YOUR LEGS!!!”
This was not a good sign, and sure enough the newest addition to my friendly neighborhood frost giants hunkered down and very efficiently plugged my avenue of escape. Shit. The footsteps of my original duo of pursuers grew ever closer, and I didn’t have many options on where to go from here. I have to admit though, crazy as it was, I could think of one option left…
And so there I was; in a cold cavern whose blue walls glittered and glowed from shafts of light from above, as I slid along an icy surface towards a gigantic hole in the floor and the footsteps of a gigantic figure followed somewhere not far behind. As I jumped into the pit, I noticed that there seemed to be a large amount of razor-sharp, pointed icicle stalagmites (there was probably a more concise way to put that) at the bottom and that this was probably going to be a pressing, or perhaps more accurately, pointed issue in the near future.
Luckily I wasn’t so foolish as to try this completely unprepared. As I hurtled into the cylindrical pit I extended a grapple gun at the end of both hands and fired them at the opposing walls. They stuck, and I halted my descent midway down the shaft with a jerk. I was now hanging halfway up the pit suspended by my two ropes, and pondering how to proceed as I noticed a notably non-spiked ledge near the bottom of the shaft.
“DID HE JUST JUMP IN THE PIT?!?!” came the indignant shout of the king from up above.
“YEAH, FUNNY THING, I JUST SAW HIM DO IT MYSELF!” shouted back the third frost giant as booming footsteps converged somewhere in the room overhead. “MAYBE HE WAS SUICIDAL OR SOMETHING?!”
“HEH, I SUPPOSE HE WOULD BE, TRAPPED BETWEEN US!” said the second frost giant, which was met with colossal chuckles from him and his lower level ally.
This camaraderie was quickly quenched by the king clearing his throat disapprovingly. “…CHECK THE PIT” he said flatly.
Crap crap crap crap, I thought productively as the footsteps approached the opening and I looked up to see three terrifying stone moose heads looking straight back over the lip of the pit. The king’s expression was, to put it lightly, not kind.
“Uh…I don’t suppose there’s any increased chance of us talking this out…?” I inquired hopelessly.
“NO” replied the king simply as his hand reached back to pick a hunk of rocks and ice off the ground, which he then pulled back and hurled directly at me.
With few other options, I released my grapple lines and tried to secure myself in the same fashion further down where I wasn’t guaranteed to die a quick death of boulder-to-the-face disease. The lines managed to stick, but as more debris fell I lost my grip on one of the guns attempting to dodge out of the way. I then lost my grip on the other gun trying to reclaim the first, flipping midair and falling…
…only to latch onto both grapple guns with my feet on the way down.
…this was probably a bad idea.
These were the thoughts of our stalwart hero, me, as I stared directly into a pit of razor-sharp, pointed icicle stalagmites (stalagmicicles, if you will). I was suspended upside down on a thin cord of rope, whose two ends were attached to opposing walls of a very tall, icy chamber. I had previously thought that my fear of heights had been conquered once I had successfully learned to ride a Wyvern, but I was beginning to doubt that assessment. Then again, perhaps my current fear wasn’t so much for heights as razor-sharp, pointed icicle stalagmites.
But as I was thinking this, I heard the king up above snort and pull away from the pit to grab another handful of deadly debris. And though the dreaded stalagmicicles below me were currently the highest on my list of fears, a boulder to the face was definitely a strong, up-and-coming contender. So I took a deep breath, nudged the trigger of my grapple gun with my left foot…and pulled in one of the ropes.
I could say that anyone who hasn’t swung at high speeds upside down above a pit of deadly icicles onto a tiny ledge while holding onto a thin cord with one foot hasn’t really lived. But although the adrenaline rush was indeed quite impressive, I’d argue that this statement probably wouldn’t apply since anyone else who did this probably didn’t continue to live afterwards. Either from the numerous prominent and entirely probable sources of death or the several subsequent heart attacks likely to occur afterwards.
However, against all odds of probability I managed to swing onto the ledge and slide through an opening it housed, my retracting grappling hooks sliding after me as I hit the ground harder than I can really recommend. As I groggily picked myself up off the ground I found myself in a hallway adjacent to the pit of death I had so narrowly just avoided. I could hear voices echoing from the top of the pit.
“WHERE DID HE GO?!?!” came the indignant shout of the king.
“I DUNNO, SIRE, HE JUST SWUNG DOWN SO FAST I COULDN’T SEE WHERE HE WENT!” replied one of the minions.
“HE PROBABLY ESCAPED THROUGH THE SERVICE SHAFT!!” yelled the king. “QUICK, GATHER ANYONE ELSE YOU CAN AND START A SEARCH OF THE PALACE!! I DON’T WANT HIM GETTING OUT OF HERE ALIVE!!” At this, three sets of giant footsteps dispersed from the room above until they could be heard no longer. That I felt relatively safe at the moment probably only spoke to how dire my situation had been just before. I could have died. I could have been mortally wounded. And when I passed, I would do so in the knowledge that it was in a frozen wasteland miles away from civilization, with no one ever knowing what grisly fate had befallen me.
Smiling, I pumped my fist in the air and whispered to myself: “Nailed it!”
The hallway I had emerged in had two directions I could head for. On one end was a staircase that went up and on the other end one that went down. Considering that I had just escaped a trio of monolithic murder mooses (moosii?) upstairs, and that treasure vaults were rarely located on the ground floor, I decided to descend. I could describe my travels through the various lower corridors in detail, but let me just give an abridged rundown of the fantastic sights I saw to save time: Ice ice ice ice, turn, ice ice turn, ice ice turn, ice ice ice oh look the vault. The Canadian frost giants certainly weren’t going to win any prizes for interior decorating.
The mighty vaults of the Canadian frost giants, however, were another story. The twin doors to them were absolutely massive slabs of granite, intricately carved and embroidered with gold and ice. Their subtle swirling sigils and interesting iconography would flawlessly flow towards an inevitable center, where a magnificent, massive lock of pure gold laid waiting for me. They were certainly intimidating, but somehow I knew I could surpass them. This was probably due to the fact that they were already open.
Keeping cautious, I carefully crept into the cold crypt of countless treasures. I won’t bother with descriptions, since in my experience most ancient treasure vaults look pretty similar. Refer to my last foray into a treasure chamber if you want. I knew that if the door was already open, my competition was probably already there. He could be lurking in any corner, waiting to ambush me when I least expec-
“Bah, it’s going to take forever to build another battle zeppelin!” came a familiar voice from on the other side of a large mound of gold. Some of the aforesaid gold shifted as I heard him moving on the other side, at which point I took cover behind a large treasure chest. “At the very least several hours! Yet another grievous offense I must add to the list from my accursed nemesis, that wretched Video Game Blogger!!”
It was, of course, Dr. Acidmeltskull, who appeared to be talking to no one but himself. Loudly. In an empty room. A true super-villain, this one. Or idiot, they’re remarkably similar when you stop to think about it. “However,” my nemesis continued, “I have him truly trapped this time! I’ll make him pay for his irritating indiscretions! He must be here for the treasure in this room, so I shall ambush him promptly and with an excessive degree of deadliness, oh-ho yes!! Now…how do I do that…?”
As the devious doctor was distracted with his musings, I opted to sneak by him to search the room for the plant. After circling about a quarter of the room silently I managed to get a vantage point atop a gold mound when I saw it! A patch of the insidiarum consilium was on the other side of the room, unfortunately to reach it would mean passing by the doctor. Well, no problem, I would just slowly and carefully circle around the room and…
…notice a familiar strange sensation in my chest.
Shit, I thought as the sensation started to rise. I’d really prefer to not jump forward in time now. I had no idea what might be waiting for me on the other end of the hiccup. The doctor could have set an ambush, the frost giants might be closer nearby, or that massive door might be closed, locking me inside. I tried my best to hold things in, until I finally couldn’t take it anymore, and frantically grabbed my mouth and throat.
The upside to this was that it appeared to force that dreadful sensation back for an unknown period of time. The downside was that the sudden movement caused a small landslide of coins and a bouncing golden goblet that made too much noise for even the doctor to ignore. Sure enough, his head snapped in my direction. “Aha!” he cried, pointing his finger at me. “You have arrived, just as I have expected, anticipated, and fully prepared for!! Allying with these fearsome frost giants was a clever, underhanded trick of you to pull!! But not even they were a match for Dr. Acidmeltskull’s mighty zeppelin of supreme power!!!”
“…oh really?” I said, raising an eyebrow. “And how did that work out for your “mighty zeppelin of supreme power”…?”
“Fine!!” shouted back the doctor at an unnecessarily high volume. “Everything about it is absolutely fine, in every way possible!! It is in peak condition, thank you very much!!!” The doctor stopped and composed himself for a moment. “Besides, regardless of what the state of my mighty zeppelin may or may not be at this moment, and that state is fine, by the way, the success of this venture should be entirely apparent given that I made it here to defeat you, even in spite of those wretched frost giants you hid behind!!”
“I’m not even on the same side as these frost giants!” I said, exasperated. “They tried to kill me too, and yet I made it here without some gigantic ineffectual zeppelin helping me out! So who’s the more competent one now?!”
“That would probably be the one who made it here without alerting them at all” came a new voice from the doorway.
I quickly turned my head at the new intruder, standing at the entrance to the vault. He was wearing all back, his body and face concealed by a stereotypical hooded black robe that just screamed ‘mysterious villain’. He stood with his hands behind his back and spoke with a heavily distorted voice that conveniently kept me from making heads or tails of who could be speaking. He was likely using something to conceal his voice as well as his body, and he was very likely the real person trying to kill me.
I couldn’t help but notice in the silence that the familiar sensation was building yet again. I did my best to keep it in.
“Admirable that you got here before me, but I’d expect that from you” came the strangers distorted tones as he appeared to be looking directly at me.
“You’d be the one who burnt down the last patch?” I said, trying to keep both the stranger and the confused Dr. Acidmeltskull in view.
“Quite” intoned the stranger.
“I’ll get straight to the point then” I replied. “Why?”
“Oh come now, do you really think you’ll get an explanation so easily?” the stranger responded.
“…would kinda prefer it that way, yeah” I said. “Do you have anything to gain from hiding that from me?”
“Dramatic tension of course,” the stranger replied, “and a proper sense of narrative. We both know this is simply how these things go, don’t we?”
“If you’re so keen on dramatic tension, then why did you try to kill me outright before I knew anything?” I countered.
“Please” replied the stranger, raising one hand and tilting his head slightly. “Any proper adversary wouldn’t simply let their enemies live. And I assure you, good “Video Game Blogger”, as you so prestigiously call yourself, a proper adversary is exactly what I intend to be. Surely you can appreciate that compared to this” he motioned at the doctor “pathetic incompetent, right?”
The doctor gaped. “I do not think you realize who you are talking to, you foolish fool of foolhardy tendencies!!!” he shouted indignantly. “You stand in the presence of the illustrious and nefarious mastermind, Doctor Acidmelt-“
“Anyway” said the stranger calmly, completely ignoring the doctor, who glared but seemed too curious to interrupt again. “Though you’ve proven yourself so far, I sincerely doubt you can keep it up. In the unlikely event that you survive this encounter I assure you I’ll figure out where the next patch of your precious insidiarum consilium is before you do.”
“…figure out?” I said, a smile creeping on the corners of my mouth as I realized the implication. “You mean you don’t know already?” I pulled the map of the plant locations out of my pocket and gestured with it. “You’re saying you don’t have one of these handy little things?”
“Tch” said the stranger, his tone of distaste making it through his distorted voice. “So you merely could read a piece of paper. Disappointing. I’d argue that’s cheating.”
“And I’d argue that if you were so clever, you’d have known I’d had this in the first place” I countered. “But don’t worry, we can share.” With this I tossed the map in his direction, then quickly drew and fired my holdout laser pistol at it in one continuous motion. It was incinerated instantly, its ashes floating to the floor. “Whoops” I said, smiling at the stranger, “clumsy me.”
“You…” said the stranger in low tones, still soft spoken but not hiding his frustration. “You want to know about me? All you need to know is this. I have reason to despise you, to loathe you more than you can understand. Eventually, I want you dead. And the reason a proper adversary doesn’t hold back? Simple.” At this, he pulled some type of complicated pistol from his robes and pointed it away from both me and the doctor. “Because if you die too early he’ll know you just weren’t worth the effort to begin with.”
Seeing his intent, I frantically pulled a grapple gun out with my unoccupied hand and fired it at the patch of insidiarum consilium. It ripped off a tuft of the plant and I reeled it in just before a bolt of glowing energy from the stranger’s gun hit the patch, causing a large explosion that obliterated it instantly.
“HEY, WHAT WAS THAT?!?!” faintly cried a colossal voice up above.
“Quick, I’ll admit” said the stranger, paying no mind to the doctor, who upon hearing the cry upstairs was frantically assembling what looked like an improvised flying machine out of miscellaneous objects around the room and his pockets. “But what exactly was your long term plan?” At this, he leveled his gun at me.
Pressing down on my chest to keep things in just a bit longer, I looked at him and grinned. “I don’t need one” I said. “I’ll just make the long term the short term.”
And with that I released my grip and opened my mouth wide, only catching a brief glimpse of light at the end of the strangers pistol before-
-I hiccupped, sending me forward in time yet again. As I reoriented myself after the skip, I slowly took in my surroundings. The treasure room was less organized than before, with lots of piles of gold shifted around. Judging from the gigantic footprints that had left vague impressions amongst the treasure piles, I guessed the room had been searched by the frost giants. I looked behind me, and noticed a gigantic hole in the wall. This I surmised would be where I would be, had I stuck around. I picked the tuft of insidiarum consilium off of my grapple gun and snarfed it down before anything else tried to murder me. Next, I checked my phone for the time.
Damn. I had lost about a month. This was bad. But I was alive. This was good. But I had discovered a new enemy who genuinely wanted to kill me…and was actually capable of doing so. This was bad. But I managed to get enough of the plant to sustain me for some time longer. This was good. But I still had no idea who that enemy was or what his motivations were. This was bad. But I had managed to end my encounter with a one-liner that was totally badass.
I smiled yet again. I’d take what I could get.
My trip back out of the palace of Canadian frost giants contained significantly less imminent death than the trip in. I suppose the giants weren’t going to be patrolling in search of me a month after I’d disappeared. I grappled out the first window I could find and took the long way around the outside of the palace to where I’d began. Scrappy yapped excitedly at my return and I pet him wearily. He didn’t need food often, but time wasn’t moving as slowly for me as I’d hoped. On the upside, I had a little more time than I previously thought now that I knew I had a map on my phone and my mysterious antagonist didn’t.
And of course, when I could find extra time there was only one thing to do…I pulled my laptop from my pack, snuggled up against Scrappy to warm myself against the cold, and started to type up a blog post.