The Hunting Party, Part 2: The Lines are Drawn
"Look at that bullshit," Poot said as we pulled into the Lifetime Loser Lounge parking lot. I followed his gaze and found Neverwas leading a revival out front. He was standing in the center of a dozen or so teenagers who were pressing in close and nodding their heads to his pronouncements on the 'right' way to play Dungeons and Dragons and Magic the Gathering. They were so enthusiastic in their adoration for him that I almost felt bad as Poot announced, "You know this means we have to take that fucker down a notch."
"Let us go do God's work then," the Master Planner replied as he crossed himself. They joined the crowd and soon began to work their magic, turning the mood of the congregation against Neverwas with each passing moment. Normally I would have joined in the fun but a phone call from one of my bosses had me sitting on the bench out front and putting out fires on my day off. I was too involved in the minor emergencies to notice that Short Stack had joined me on the bench. She was a sweet girl who could be so quiet that you'd forget she was there. As I hung up the phone she cleared her throat and said, "What's going on over there?"
Neverwas is doing his messiah shtick again.
"What a prick," she said with a giggle. I smiled as she scooted closer to me and whispered, "So when are you going to ask me out."
I'm not, darling, I whispered back, you're too young.
"You know you're going to keep telling me no and I'm going to start throwing myself at someone else." I slid my arm about her shoulders and listened to the revival turn sour as the Master Planner started swinging his metaphorical cock about the crowd bruising egos as he went; while Poot began loudly performing excommunications on all the faithful. "Why is it that you guys are always at the center of these sort of things?"
We're the favored of God. Spit from the heavens fully formed and filled with bellies fed on the tears of a thousand lamenting women and the broken dreams of fools.
We sat there on the bench in silence for a bit while she snuggled into my shoulder. Her hair smelled like Autumn and for a brief moment I actually wished that I had asked her out; but it was just a moment that passed like all the temptations in life. "I've got to go to work," she sighed. "How late will you guys be playing tonight?"
No telling. We're coming into this game with evil intent and hate in our hearts.
That brought a smile out, "Do you mind if I come by after work and watch?"
If you'd like to. She kissed me on the cheek. You shouldn't have done that, I whispered.
"I know," she cooed in my ear and left me behind.
"You know," Poot boomed, "if I didn't know better I'd swear that girl wants you."
"It's easy to be fooled," the Master Planner replied, "but rest assured that Charlie will soon break her of that."
You guys done with Neverwas so soon?
"We were done five minutes ago," Poot said as he leapt onto the bench and laid his head against my shoulder, batting his eyes at me. "But you were too busy fooling with Short Stack to notice. Tell me."
"Am I as pretty as your French girls?"
Get the fuck off me.
"Neverwas is inside with everyone else and he's bitching about you wasting his precious time with some sandy-blonde whore," Poot said.
Did he call her a whore?
"Not directly," the Master Planner replied, "you know he's too afraid of what will happen to him if he calls her that directly. Instead he's doing his veiled thing where he implies his insults so that we don't have a clear-cut reason to throw him down a flight of stairs."
Let's go break this dumb fuck.
We walked inside, down the hallway, and into the last room. Little Boy and Step were in a quiet conversation with their heads together while Icarus had busied himself with a marker. "It's about time you made it in," Neverwas loudly proclaimed, "I was about to cancel the game entirely on your account."
Don't put yourself out. What's the set up?
"Straight to the point then," Neverwas said as he pulled the bill of his DuPont ball cap over his eyes. "Good to see you all being serious for once. Pass your character sheets up and I'll make sure everyone has complied with the character generation rules."
We passed up our sheets and he began looking over them. "Nice," he said, "it looks like everyone is going to be stretching their limbs and trying something new." Then he got to my character sheet, "Charlie, you're going to be playing a paladin?"
That's the plan.
"I don't think so. Make something else."
The whole table looked up at him and exploded in a cacophony of protests while Neverwas stood there smiling at me from across the way, waiting for me to rise to the bait. When at last everyone else quieted down I said, Just why the fuck can't I play a paladin?
"Because you're not capable of playing Lawful let alone playing Good. Pick something else."
It was a challenge and I always rise to the challenge. Fine, I said, I'll play a fighter. My name is James Roberts but you'll remember me as Jim.
"Fuck," Icarus whispered, "this is going bad quick."
The Master Planner looked from Neverwas to me and announced, "My wizard's name is Bobby Jim Lively and I'm his cousin, twice removed but loved like a brother."
"My bard is Jimmy Bob Roberts and I'm the brother he loves like a fourth cousin," Poot said.
"I'm Jim Bob Lively," Little Boy said, "first cousin and I grew up next door to Jim. We've been close all our lives."
"I'm Bob Jim Lively, " Step declared, "my mother and Jim's father fooled around and I'm his bastard brother. He treats me like I'm legit though, so we're tight."
"Fuck me," Icarus whispered, "we're all going to die." Then he looked Neverwas in the eye and said, "I guess that makes me Jim-Jim Roberts the Destroyer."
Neverwas' jaw slacked and he stared about the table going from face to face, but avoiding mine. "You guys really want to go down this road? This game's serious!"
We're dead serious, I said. So kick us off.
"Fine," he said with a huff, "if you guys want to make this a joke th-"
There are no jokes left in us, I interrupted.
Neverwas started chewing on his beard and I could see the wheels turning in his head. He knew that a line had been crossed and that I had just taken the first step towards something. He just didn't know what I was getting ready to do, but Icarus did. I could see that he wanted to ask why hearing the name Jim come from my lips had gotten Icraus' attitude to change. It played across his face; the doubt and worry that what would come next would be too much for him to handle. Then a decision was reached and he said, "You all have been traveling for days heading to the city when a thick mist came up on you in the night. The cloying mist clung to you and made your clothing stick to your bodies and your hair matted down. For what seemed like innumerable days you wandered until at last you found a road and made your way clear. The world that greets you on the other side is like a nightmare given life. The trees are bent and gnarled; the buildings look like something out of an old Transylvanian horror flick; and off over a low rise sits a castle of Gothic proportions.
"You can see some peasants meandering about in the center of town though it's hard to tell what's happening from your vantage point. A large raven sits on the high branch of a dead elm ahead, and somewhere in the distance you can hear the mournful howl of a wolf." He looked at me then and said, "What do you guys do?"
Feel like you're missing something?
Part 2: The Lines are Drawn