Truth. Justice. Minesweeper.

Wednesday, July 14, 2004

The next day, Greyghost and Perseid and I conferred on the castle parapet.

"I've spoken to King Perethur, and he believes Baron Spinbryony to be a threat to the kingdom. He's rumored to have recruited some kind of giant to fight on his side. Spinbryony is putting pressure on the king to name him his heir and have him marry the princess."

"I did a flyover at Quatrefoil," Perseid said. "Baron Spinnyboots or whatever you call him has a decent-sized army, but it's not as big as the King's army. I guess the giant is supposed to even things out. And there's also supposed to be a dragon."

"I think we can safely leave the army to the King. We need to find out more about this giant, and the dragon if there is one."

"I have some findings I'd like to share," I said. They looked at me, startled. "Where'd you guys sleep last night?"

"I had a little room at the top of that tower," Perseid said, pointing. "It was neat. Breezy."

"Good," I said. "I had an empty stall in the stable. Because they think I'm a servant."

"Are these the findings you want to share?"

"No, I just thought I'd mention it. Here's my list. This isn't Earth, but the king wears royal purple, the people speak English, and pretty modern English, and Quatrefoil is a French word. Means four-something, right? The local religion is some kind of sun-god-pantheon thing, but the church is laid out in the shape of a cross. You know what they grow around here? Wheat. That's it. You know what the blacksmith in the village makes? Swords and armor. That's it. They've got decimalized currency and the coins don't have nicknames; they're just silvers and golds."

"What are you getting at?"

"Have you noticed that the terrain around here is laid out in hexagons? There's a hexagon of forest next to a hexagon of farmland and a hexagon of hills in the corner they make between them."

"No, I hadn't noticed. Mm."

"Yeah, what is that?" Perseid said. "You were all mysterious about it when I showed you."

"In high school, my friend Kevin was really into fantasy novels and role-playing games and stuff. He got the rest of us into it for a while too. And in Dungeons and Dragons, you draw maps on hex paper. It's like graph paper only with hexagons instead of squares. And people tend to draw the maps to fit the lines of the paper."

"Why do they do that? What's wrong with regular graph paper? Or just regular paper?"

"Who the hell knows? Anyway, that--" I pointed out over the castle wall at everything "--is a Dungeons and Dragons map."

"And how does that fit in with the rest of the details you cited?"

"If you're designing a medieval world, it's all shit that you fill in if you don't actually know anything about history."

"Mm. I see."

"So what do you think it all means?" Perseid asked.

"Basically it means that this place isn't real."

They regarded me solemnly, and Perseid slowly reached out one leg and kicked the castle wall. It sounded pretty solid.

"Yeah, yeah, I know," I said. "I don't get it either. Look around for yourself, though. Someone made this place up, and they did a half-assed job at it."

"Assume you're right. Where does that leave us?"

"Well," I said, "I say it means we don't waste any more time here. We find a way home. If Redburn's here, we leave him to it. If not, we look for him in Empire City."

"But these people need help," Perseid said. "Baron Bottlespin is going to take over the whole place."

"They're imaginary people," I said. "You've got real people back home to help. This whole place is irrelevant."

"We can't assume that," Greyghost said. "If they need help, they'll get it. No matter how real they are."

"You're crazy," I told him.

"No, he's right," Perseid said. "What you said about... what kind of place this is... it's interesting, but it doesn't really change anything. We have to take it at face value." Greyghost nodded approvingly.

One of my rules is this: when people are looking at you like you're the one who doesn't understand, it's time to stop explaining. "Okay," I said. "As long as you know what's going on. What's the plan?"

"I'm glad you asked," Greyghost said.
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