Truth. Justice. Minesweeper.

Friday, July 30, 2004

"You're one of the strangers that Her Highness recruited from the other world," the wizard said to me.

"Yes. Although I'm not sure she got the right people, if she was looking for warriors and champions and stuff."

He smiled. "She must have gotten the right people, or her charm wouldn't have worked. I crafted it to return her here only if she was in danger or accompanied by heroes of sufficient puissance for our needs."

"Oh, so that's how she did that poof-you're-gone thing. I was wondering."

He nodded. "I've been wanting to talk to you, actually."

"Me? Why?"

"Extradimensional worlds are something of a hobby of mine," he said. "I'd like to know a little more about yours, and I don't think I can learn anything from your companions."

"Are you implying that I'm a blabbermouth?"

"No, no. I just have the idea that your perspective will be more enlightening."

"Fair enough," I said. "I wouldn't mind learning a couple of things from you too."

"Such as?"

"This Baron Spinbryony. Is he really that dangerous? I mean, he's just an ambitious aristocrat. Why bother sending away to another dimension for specialists?"

"That's a very astute question," he answered.

"And I think I know the answer," I continued. "We're really here to fight the Dark Lord, right?"

He turned white and leaned on the table. "The... what?"

"You know. The Dark Lord. Evil sorcerer, unimaginably old, lives in a land east of here where he's currently building up armies and preparing to take over the world."

"How... how did you know? Only the most learned of scholars knows of the Unpronounceable Prophecies that tell of the return of the Dark Lord."

"Please," I said. "Give us some credit. But that's really why you had the princess bring us here, right? The Baron is just a warm-up act. Or maybe he's a secret minion of the Dark Lord. That's probably it."

Gluteus was almost gasping for breath now. "You... the lore..."

"We have our own lore," I said. "Maybe you can tell me this, then. Why do so many things in this world resemble things in my world?"

"Coincidence," he said, collecting himself. "There are an infinite number of worlds, and anything imaginable can be found in them, as well as any combination of the imaginable things. I've personally visited a world of intelligent clouds, a world encased in a sphere of tin, a world in which the Ing Empire won the Dlothran Wars, a world with no shrimp, a world with nothing but shrimp..."

Perseid showed up. "Ah," I said. "Perseid, this is the court wizard. His name is Gluteus Maximus. This is Perseid." He bowed and she did something that was sort of like a bow but not really.

"What were you two talking about?" she asked.

"Really not important. You've been spending a bit of time with the castle garrison, right?" I asked her.

"A little. Why?"

"I'll bet you fifty bucks the best fighter of all of 'em is named Snogard."

"Of course," said Gluteus. "The marshal. Sir Snogard. You must have heard of him."

"Nope," I said. "Just an educated guess."

Perseid asked me later what that had been all about. "Fits in with my whole theory," I said. "Every crap-ass high-school gaming group across the country has some spaz naming his characters Gluteus Maximus the wizard and Snogard the fighter. Without exception."

"Why Snogard?"

"It's 'dragons' spelled backwards. And they always think it's original."

I didn't tell her about the Dark Lord. There's the barest chance I can get the three of us out of here before they spring that little surprise. Greyghost and Perseid would probably feel obliged to fight him, and on the whole I'd rather not see that movie.

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