November 25, 1999
He gave up and cracked his knuckles loudly in the stillness, wandering over to the narrow window that looked over the surrounding wilderness. No pools of light from lanterns betrayed the approach of eager warriors, no speck of magelight, nothing. Where was everyone? Glumly he looked up at the night sky and stared at the shooting star that was plainly visible in the firmanent.
"Hang about," he exclaimed, "That's been there for ages. Not moved! And those stars are still mid-twinkle!" He grinned quickly to himself in sudden delight. This could only mean one thing - a crash! And a crash meant he was free to do what he wanted!
"OK everyone - take 5," came the VOICE from above, confirming the Gargoyle's suspicions. A hurriedly scribbled note fluttered in the wake of his leaving and within seconds he was out of the front gates and airborne.
Soaring through the air he turned his nose towards the nearest clantown and flapped for all he was worth. A few minutes later he reached it - vast towering minarets and crenellations, a total mismatch of styles - and landed in the main square. He rushed towards the portal and dove in, grinning toothily.
"Visitors only, hah!" he thought to himself as he ploughed through the astral mists. "No Visitors around so I can get away with it." He glanced down ruefully at his paunch, somewhat distended by the steady diet of careless adventurers - too much protein and not enough flight. Not good for the image or the flying but it tasted nice at the time. Still, waste not want not as his mother always said.
The other portal was reasonably busy when he arrived refreshed by his restful journey. Several Visitors were stood around like carved statues, frozen in time and in their actions. Most were clustered around one of their number who was lying in a crumpled heap on the floor, apparantly dead. Nearby lay a Guardian, badly gashed and laying in a spreading pool of blood.
"Hey - see you got one of them," he called out.
"Yeah," replied the Guardian ruefully. "They forgot I can cast spells and were ignoring the bashes and trips - idiots. Pity they had that big warrior with them. I'm trying to bleed on them at the moment - can you shift me over a little to the left please?" The Gargoyle shrugged and did as he was requested, then he paused to watch the trickle of blood make it's way across the flagstones to the dead Visitor. A frown creased the Gargoyles' head as he thought a moment.
He wandered to the street leading from the Portal room and stared down it for a moment. Grinning he strode across to a Visitor, ripped a large scrap from his icy white cloak and wadded it into a pad. Dabbing the pad into the pool of blood he carefully daubed the hands of all the Visitors, turning them bright red. The Guardian made inquiring motions - or as much as his lifeless status allowed.
"Heh - there's a couple of Visitors approaching who tend to love their Visitor Killing priviledges in Horneg's. When things get going again they'll see this lot with Blood on their hands..." He threw the rag into the shimmering portal and waved cheerfully at the Guardian who was now grinning widely (or as widely as death allowed nowadays). With a leap and a bound he flapped his way into the air once more.
The local plains and farmlands soon were left far behind and the familiar stench of marshland assailed the Gargoyle's nostrils. A hulking city balancing precariously in the midst of the unstable ground, soon came into view as the Gargoyle neared his destination. Landing heavily in a muddy street he quickly made his way into a dark and noisy smithy.
"Genkaya! How's it going!" he called loudly. There was no reply at all - a quick search of the crowded smithy showed there to be no sign at all of his Blacksmith friend. Frowning, the Gargoyle set off around the town searching - he couldn't have been killed as there wasn't even any blood splattered around. A quick look in the Lizard's eating house showed a lot of Lizards but none the size of his quarry.
Wandering down the streets into the human half of Lyranoth he paused outside an inn. Well - a quick drink may make the search go faster, he reasoned and entered. He wasn't quite prepared for the sight of Genkaya laid snoring on a bench, dead to the world - a quick prod from a stony talon evoked no response. Shaking his head ruefully the Gargoyle wandered over to the bar where Vinlos was serving the ale out to a pair of frightened travellers.
"Ho there, barkeep," announced the Gargoyle in time honored fashion. "A flagon of your finest mead if you please." The barkeep nodded and went for the beverages.
"You'd best take care - I have seen true horror," announced one of the patrons, visibly trembling. "A world have I seen full of terror - known as RL."
"I don't need to see it," he muttered, "I can see what comes from there," replied the Gargoyle darkly. "That's quite enough for me."
"True enough," replied Vinlos bearing a full flagon. "Those Visitors are a menace - see what they did to poor Genkaya there?"
"They did this?" asked the Gargoyle, drinking deep. "What could they do to him? They kill him regularly enough so he'd be used to that..."
"They said he looked like Jar-Jar Binks," interrupted Vinlos, "He crawled into a bottle and hasn't come out yet." The Gargoyle looked at his nearly full flagon and then at Genkaya with sympathy in his eyes.
"Leave him this - he'll need it," he said, pushing the flagon across the bar. Turning, he strode out of the bar and launched himself into the air. "A decent blacksmith," he mused to himself, setting off without any particular destination in mind. Casting his eyes around he soon saw a large area of churned up earth with scattered scorch marks and uprooted trees. In the middle of this was a pair of resting dragons, apparantly chatting amiably. The Gargoyle turned towards the pair and soon landed by them.
"...so I said he could keep it - I did! - and then I told him his scales were the wrong shade of green anyway.." said the Golden Dragon.
"You didn't... you did? How did he take it?" asked the Blue.
"Well - he went and got the color chart and showed me his age and the color recommended. I just looked at the tin and told him he'd picked the wrong one up. Well, talk about blush - I swear a Green shouldn't blush. Does all sorts of things to your complexion. Sorry - can I help you?" asked the Gold to the Gargoyle. The Gargoyle smirked - he knew that all dragons were the same shade of gray and that the Visitors only saw them after a paint job. But the amount of care they took over the painting was fastidious in the extreme.
"Er - yes. Can you recommend a good blacksmith?" he asked, holding up his talons for inspection. The Blue peered closely and shuddered slightly.
"Nasty nick you have there. I always use Xythe myself - does a nice job and touches up the paint work afterwards. A real craftsman. Of course, being short he can get into all the nooks and crannies."
"Hey - thanks. Riverton, right?" The Gold nodded. "Right - er, how come you guys are alone out here?" asked the Gargoyle.
"Are we?" asked the Gold peering round myopically. "I definitely got summoned by someone and we started a fight and..." The Gold scrabbled around in a large bank of loose earth and drew out a stiff Visitor. "Aha - thought we may have buried him in the ruckus. Got to be energetic to give a good show, you know." So saying he carefully placed the Visitor next to a snapped tree and turned back to the Blue. "Oh - and you know who I saw the other day trying out pink coloration - really daring but terribly illegal...." the Gold said to the Blue, resuming his chat. The Gargoyle waved happily and set back off on his travels.
"North east or so," he muttered to himself, catching a few thermals and rising to a decent cruising altitude. The minutes, like the Gargoyle, flew on steadily.
Riverton was normally a bustling little city with the accent on the little. As with everywhere else, however, the Visitors were frozen in time and the locals happily ignored them as they went around their business. As with Lyranoth it took a little searching to find the blacksmith and the result was, once again, a nearby pub. Nodding cheerfully to the Barkeep who was sharpening his shuriken behind the bar, the Gargoyle strode into the back room where a group of locals were gathered round a pair of Dwarves who were engrossed in staring at a board covered with small black and white stones. He put his drink down and turned to a humanoid figure next to him who was sipping at a creme-de- menthe in a delicate glass.
"Er - this must be pretty intense battle. Who's winning?" he asked of the figure who looked rather familiar for some reason.
"Oh, no-one is too certain about that, dearie," replied the figure with a moue, and the Gargoyle realised it was the Solar with his lights fully turned off. "You see, they've been at this game for so long they're trying to remember who's go it is next. There's big money riding on that aspect of it. .." The Solar took another little sip, rather daintily.
"Really? Why doesn't one of them just make a move? Oh - and where's your lights?"
"These little darlings like the dark and I tend to oblige them when we're between Visitors - all that mining, I expect. Doesn't do to upset the neighbours, you know? As to them moving it wouldn't do to be wrong, now, would it? It's an honor thing." The Solar sighed heavily. "A good job they live for ages, really. The game started when they were 16 or so and the bar tab is apparantly more than Riverton produces in a decade. Got to admire them, haven't you?" The Gargoyle shrugged and picked his drink up.
"Anyway - I need some work doing and I was told I had to see Xythe." He replaced his mug. "Is he around?" he asked.
"You've just put your mug on his head, lover," giggled the Solar. The Gargoyle snatched his mug back and started to apologise but was silenced by a deep glower from the Dwarf.
"I think he's too interested in the game, dearie," said the Solar between short bouts of giggles. "I'd try in Medievia city itself - House of the Singing Hammer, probably your closest bet." He smiled at the Gargoyle and allowed a slight glint to 'ting' from his teeth. Grumbling to himself the Gargoyle stalked out, downed his drink and sped off again.
The Gargoyle began pumping his wings harder and harder, knowing that the time remaining was likely to be short. The City of Medievia was not a place he visited often, even on his days off - mostly because of the attitude of the new Visitors that paraded through the streets regularly. Alighting on one of the fabled glittering spires and perching carefully (the spires were merely papier mache with glittery paint, but it didn't do to let on...) he searched the streets for the sign he wanted. A sign with a large hammer beating an anvil suggested the building he wanted and he glided down easily in the warm air currents.
Alighting carefully on the cobbles - avoiding the frozen Visitors - he looked through the open door to see a heavily muscled man bearing bedsheets. "Er - you the Blacksmith?" he called.
"Aye lad. Bit busy at the moment, though - one of the Boys has come up with a little plan," replied the man. "Give me a hand and I can try and fit you in. .."
"Fine by me - what do I have to do?" said the Gargoyle, taking a few sticks of charcoal as directed. Soon the entirity of the local population (and one Gargoyle) were industriously engaged in a flurry of activity.
Some time later the Gargoyle was flying back from the clantown near his home, grinning insanely (the spiked teeth helped this effect nicely). The nick on his talon was just deep enough for his purposes and there was going to be more than one Visitor with a nasty surprise when things got going again.
"Places everyone please, five minutes to showtime," came the voice from above. Laughter trailed after the gargoyle as he landed in the keep and scurried to his normal place in the corridors.
Ozymandias looked across at Vryce from their balcony on Mount Vryce overlooking the entirity of the lands of Medievia.
"Big crash there, but it seems to be sorted now," he opined, wiping the sweat from his brow.
"Indeed," was the reply, but the reply was guarded in tone. Ozymandias followed the direction of Vryce's stare and sighed.
"There does appears to have been some form of data corruption, though," he sighed. "I'll look into it now." Vryce's eyes glittered as he thought deeply.
"No - I think the matter will rectify itself," he said quietly.
"As you say."
The streets of Medievia City were busier than during the crash as Visitors hastened to discard themselves of the banners and clothing they were suddenly holding and wearing. The reason for their haste? The banners and clothes bore legends scrawled in charcoal with statements of "More pay, less death," "Freeze me for I have sworn," and, in the main part, a simple "Kick me!".
The Gargoyle waited patiently in his stony corridor, hoping that some visitors would come his way soon. His extensive flying had, however, drained him and he soon drifted off to sleep. He never saw the thief who backstabbed him, sending him straight into the hellish darkness of death. He never even managed to use the specially nicked talon.
Yet he died (once again) happily.