A calm, late-night tea room in Towerne is the host to a brutal murder. A die is cast from within the scope of the gameboard by a player far, far away, probably another dimension.
“Nat 20, the overlord draws his epic blade through the knight and-“
“NOOOOOOOOOO!” Shorts Minion screams at the top of his lungs, a fatalistic screech of desolated nothingness cast out upon the fictitious hellscape that is the managraphic game board.
Narrator Minion glances from the side of his dungeon lord’s screen with the kind of look one reserves for acts of only the greatest lack in social awareness, as if someone had just torn off all their clothes and had begun howling in a public space.
“What is it now?” Raid Minion, comfy in his corner of the table, snips.
“I can’t be dead! Please!” Shorts Minion whines with a cry. “Not Harmony-Chan!” he adds with a worrisome level of endearment attached to the name.
“Shut up and let everyone else take their turns, ya’ ding dong!” Scout Minion shouts back, causing Music Minion’s antennae to lower even more in distaste.
“Shut up, Scout. You joined us only three sessions ago. I had Harmony since the start of the year!“
“So? If you don’t stop shouting all of us are going to d-“
“Turn end,” Narrator Minion states dryly, his hand making several remarkably-skilled die-turning movements as he casts multiple calculations for how his party’s situation will turn out.
There’s a collective sigh from the others as Shorts Minion falls over and begins weeping that his player character, based with no-uncertain detail on The Royal Knight’s own Knight Harmony, has been killed by an enemy party.
The managraphic board in the center of the table shifts mystically, showing other players, the landscape, as well as personalized illusions that track the eye movement of singular players to denote things like player stats, inventory, and more.
People input their primary commands, available from their illusory consoles, in for the next turn before rolling their dice; all secondary actions have to wait until the acting dungeon lord gets enough mid-turn information to give his players the chance of an educated decision.
Everyone but Shorts Minion wait with grim anticipation as the turn-gap timer, displayed prominently in the board’s center, ticks down to its last ten seconds. Nervous time passes, and suddenly the board’s display shifts. The game’s arcane projections change to display a massacre, with Narrator Minion reading out the most notable events.
“Overlord DeathKillExplosion gets a 29 with riftbuff on an attack to Knight Loser Bitch. Incap,” he reports, glancing down to the projection of an incredibly edgy-looking overlord standing victorious over a cartoonishly goofy, emaciated knightess.
“Fuck,” Scout Minion snips with a defeated sigh.
“With their Red Mage’s assassin buff that attaches ‘comatose’ as well.”
“Fuuuuuck,” Scout Minion sighs out.
Narrator Minion looks over to Raid Minion. “Block was successful. You and Chastity have a chance to get out of this, but he’d have to do instant coalescence inside the turn to escape.”
“I use my potion of fortitude,” Raid Minion says, winning an accepting nod from the dungeon lord.
Raid Minion and Narrator Minion both look over to Music Minion – It’s her first game.
Her little antennae, tipped in a way evocative of music notes, stay down in nerve-wracked dejection. “I uh… uh. Cast teleport.”
“Coalescence,” Raid Minion corrects.
“R-right,” she says, clearing her throat while her little black hand frantically pieces through her menus.
“Twenty seconds,” Narrator Minion states dryly.
“Well?” Scout Minion asks.
“Wha-… oh! I cast instant coalescence,” Music Minion claims.
Narrator Minion shakes his head with a worried look.
“You frickin’ idiot!” Shorts Minion wheezes from under the table.
Raid Minion looks to Music Minion with a tempered air. “Use your quick cast periapt.”
“My… my wha-“
“Ten seconds,” Narrator Minion coughs out.
“It’s in your items, use it,” Raid Minion commands coolly.
She nods as her glowing gaze scans around her menus. She fumbles her free hand to take up the dice. “Do I have to… roll?”
“No, just declare it to the lord from your menu.”
She inhales sharply. “I cast instant coalescence!“
Raid Minion fires an immediate, brutalizing look at Narrator Minion, who is still as a mountain as the turn ends. He clears his throat.
“That technically isn’t a spell you ha-“
“Don’t you pull that on her. It’s damn-clear what she meant!” Raid Minion snaps, his face giving a rare, actually angry look from the usual, submerged dissatisfaction that he usually displays.
“What do you mean?” Music Minion asks with a horrified tone as Scout Minion groans in frustration.
Narrator Minion clears his throat once more with a winsome tone, even though the news is bad. “There is no spell called ‘instant’ coalescence, dear. You modify a spell with a periapt, making it instant-cast, and then you cast the spell normally. You don’t add ‘instant’ to the name of the spell.”
“That’s utter drakeshit,” Raid Minion hisses, reaching over to his side of the table and popping a new toothpick into his mouth. “You killed us with your bureaucrati-“
“That, and she didn’t actually use the periapt.”
“Y-yes I did!” Music Minion rebuts.
“You selected to use it from your menu, which uses it in the next turn. Mid-turn actions have to be made through the dungeon lord. You needed to say to me that you’re using it.”
“That’s…” she says, her antennae lowering again deflatedly. “So I messed up again, huh…” She looks away, quite beside herself.
Raid and Scout Minion both cast judgemental glances to Narrator Minion, who throws up his hands.
“Well if you don’t want to play the game properly then you can count me out. A year and a half of sessions but only now is it clear that I’m the only one here that cares about playing by the rules.”
“That is not fair,” Scout Minion says, standing up with him, her gait almost threatening.
He waves her off dismissively. “Whatever you say. Maybe you all can find another dungeon lord, but I can’t handle another day of this.”
“She’ll learn, asshole!” Scout Minion snaps.
“I wasn’t talking about her,” Narrator Minion says with a wry look over his shoulder before walking out.
Scout Minion flinches back. “Wh-…wh-… now just what the FUCK is that supposed to mean?!” As is her usual, she begins shouting, and then follows after him to engage in the second round of their argument.
Raid Minion is left, toothpick in mouth, cup of tea cold, with a still-weeping Shorts Minion and a pitiful-looking Music Minion as his only companions. The game board updates to display the party. Everyone but him has been utterly slaughtered, but from the directed attacks of the majority of the enemy party, he has less than ten percent of his hit points remaining.
He sighs, gives Music Minion a gentle pat, and looks aside out to the garden at night. “I think we need a new DL,” he says with a bitter, weary professionalism.
Somewhere far, far away, a group of millennia-old knights share a quaint moment of humor at the board game in front of them.
“It’s like they just gave up!” Knight Harmony says with a scoff, her official clothing dressed down to her white shirt, only half buttoned and wantonly casual.
Knight Justice, still dressed formally in his weekend morning-wear despite it being the afternoon, snaps out his pocket watch to check the time. “We beat them in hardly ten minutes. Maybe they had an emergency?” he asks – of course he would immediately wonder if the people were okay, the other knights might think.
Order, at her own corner of the table and wearing one of her conventional sundresses, takes a moment to take a sip of her coffee, covertly spiced up with a shot of Stormshank Single Malt before speaking. “I’d assume they just gave up, there was no way they were going to get out of that one. What I want to know is just who would make characters based on us.”
Harmony scans over the identity screen of the Knight Harmony character, slain before the might of her melee-rush build: unlike Order’s fake, it’s a reasonably faithful recreation, body measurements and all – it makes her feel incredible to know she has fans she’s never met. “Maybe someone who knows us? I bet some Ragnivanian boys would love a hot-blooded game like thi-“
“No way in hell,” Order says.
“They’re like, a two-hundredth your age, Mae,” Justice adds.
Finally, the Dungeon Lord looks around the side of his screen – Knight Longevity, as adorable as always in his children’s medium-sized weekend clothes. “You’re not fooling anyone with looking like that,” he starts with a scoff. “Those boys won’t care how big they are once they know you could be their great great great great great-“
She scoffs back with a haughty pretension. Knight Harmony leans forward in a way to accentuate her curves in a way that Justice finds distasteful, Longevity finds intimidating, and Order: immaculately insulting. “Those young men don’t have a thread of sense in them. I think, despite the age difference, these have won my case over more than a few ti-“
“You’re a literal pedophile,” Longevity adds with a judgemental smile.
“That’s enough out of you!” Harmony snaps, sending a sharp kick under the table, which forces both her breasts, falsified in size through mutamancy, to bounce up from the motion. The painful irony is lost on all but Order, who just shakes her head at her two compatriots.
Longevity laughs in irritation before kicking back, but his little child-sized legs are too small to reach. “That’s just the facts, grandma harlot.”
Ensuing is a kicking match between Harmony and Longevity, both respected mutamancers like the majority of the knights, though only one “went off the aesthetic deep end” as mages say, and altered their appearance to insulting degrees for something as lowly as sex appeal.
Order gives a slow sigh, and Justice joins in with a woeful nod.
“You guys,” Justice starts with a pause. “Can’t we just get back to the game? I’d like to wrap this up before evening worship.”
There’s a moment of obvious disapproval at Justice’s request. Harmony sighs, Longevity hums in clear distaste, and while Order makes no sound nor expression, her eyes shift a greenish hue.
“Aen, you were there,” Longevity says with a sigh. “All of us were.”
Justice shrugs with a faint smile. “Okay, but that doesn’t me-“
“It’s weird, dude,” Harmony says. “Rayda’s not a god. He’s dead and gone – we have to move on.”
Justice laughs. “Okay, I get that, but as knights we need to maintain contact with our communities and guide them towards a broader perspective. You should see what goes on in the chapel in Ragnivan. They invite me to come up and speak every time I visit and I tell them about Traehern.”
“And they listen?” Longevity asks with a squint.
Knight Justice clears his throat and gives a mild shrug. “Well… some of them. Clearly it’s a bit of a hot topic to claim that, well: ‘I saw him die’ and all that, so I’ve been booed off from the pulpit a… few times, but a lot of them are starting to get the picture. I’ve had a lot of people ask me for more information after the service is done.”
There’s a set of surprised, even impressed glances shared among the three other knights.
“That’s kind of a surprise,” Harmony says, taking a sip of her glass of wine – a beverage of choice that, just like the way she handles every other facet of her life, she does not leave up to the discretion of The Knight’s code now that Rayda is, for quite certain, almost-definitely completely dead. “I would have thought LMH would be chasing you down for ‘challenging the narrative’ or something.”
Justice glances aside awkwardly. “They uh… did.”
All three snap their gazes to him.
“Did they try to arrest you?!” Longevity peeps, almost tripping from his seat.
Justice sighs. “No, we just had a long talk. They were quite firm with their wording that they believed I was of poor mental health due to my ‘revisionist worldviews’.”
There’s a simultaneous utterance of disgust. Even Order lets out a slight *tsk* in irritation.
Harmony shakes her head. “Those idiots are going to make him a god no matter what we do.”
Justice nods. “So you see, I have to attend. I have to fight the current. It was our failure to act that let it get this bad, and that has to stop. If The United Republic front succeeds and actually merges the kingdoms, they’re going to use religion as a spearhead for it.”
Order hums. “The United Republic is an umbrella to The Church, right?”
Longevity nods. “I think everyone with their head out of the dirt knows that by this point.”
“So what I’ve heard is right. They’re figureheading Rayda’s death and trying to overturn national authority by instating a theocracy.”
Harmony rolls her eyes sassily over in Order’s direction. “I mean, if you want to append to the conspiracy theorists, sure,” she says, sliding a sly glance to Longevity, who shrugs with an insulted look.
“Uh, yeah, Mae. It’s a completely true conspiracy. Greed’s bankrolling the church to take charge of the kingdoms – it’s the only way he can get past Whihelmish, because that’s the only kind of people we have here that are that easily tricked. It’s taken him centuries to do this, and now we’re being questioned by ‘secondary’ parties more than ever. I don’t doubt that they’ll start hunting us down before long!”
Harmony laughs before taking on a lascivious twinge. “Oh no, what are those big strong officers going to do to little ol’ m-“
“I’m serious!” Longevity snips.
“That’s complete rubbish, you paranoid boy,” she slips another sip of wine before continuing. “The knights will last as long as Chaos lets us.”
The exceptionally young-looking Longevity arches forward in challenge. “So if I’m so wacky then just what is the reason all these churches are popping up?”
She shrugs with a casual, sage ease. “People need something to believe in. We believed in him while he was alive, and they choose to believe in him while he’s dead. I don’t think it’s that complicated. We should just do our job protecting them and let them enjoy their lives.”
“Just like you’ve been, I have no doubt,” Longevity adds with a forward gaze.
Her eyes meet his, and they enter an awkward, judgemental, and yet weirdly urged staring-contest.
“Just kiss already,” Order says with a tone of subtle, almost undetectable wryness.
The three others sputter back at her dry-slight, inserted at a moment of such perfect timing that it feels almost staged.
“Wh- shut up, Ran!” Harmony snaps, her cheeks flushing
“That’s messed up, Chief,” Justice adds wearily.
Longevity clears his throat from the tea he almost choked on. “Y-yeah, Ran. Shut up. That’s… that’s gross.”
Order glances aside. “Yeah, alright,” she says, adding a rare hint of flavor into her tone.
Longevity and Harmony share another awkward, legitimately flustered glance before Longevity averts his gaze back down to the dungeon lord’s divider screen.
“Right, let’s just… lets just loot these guys and get back to town.”
“Good idea,” Harmony says flatly, winning a smirk from Order.
“Thanks guys,” Justice says himself, looking down to the board with his team, though keeping a sharper eye on the thin, social tells of the others this time as they play.
Now, in an entirely different, much spookier tower, and with a new set of beverages at the ready, Raid Minion takes his seat.
“I don’t know about this,” Music Minion bleats, coddling the small cup of tea over her lap with a slant gaze down.
Sitting ready at the black obsidian table, he gives her a short, gentle nudge. “Hey, this is going to go great,” he grunts reassuringly.
“I… I’ve never played a game with him, though. All I’ve ever done is play music!” she says.
Scout Minion rounds up to the summit of Night Tower to meet the two. It’s just them three overlooking the great moonlit forests and haunted hills surrounding the void-stone tower, resplendent and untouchable in the gentle whir of the night trees.
“So they both quit?” she asks, taking her own seat with hot coco in hand while looking over her new character sheet, ready to be marked with the vision of her next horrible cartoon caricature of a royal knight.
“Did you find a DL that isn’t a complete prude?” she asks, her slanted, glowing gaze contrasting brilliantly against the full moon behind her.
Raid Minion nods. “I put in a special request. I know he can make time so long as you phrase it right.”
Scout Minion squints in confusion, looks over to Music Minion for a moment to note the look of apprehension on her face, and then she looks back to Raid Minion. “You didn’t really just waste Poppi’s time by requesting h-“
“Ah!” spills out an exquisitely cultured, exceptionally fearsome voice. “I suppose this is where the ritual will be held?” it adds.
The group swings around to look at the opposite edge of the tower where the stairs are at. They see a pair of long, symmetrically-perfect antennae ascending up from over the ledge.
High Overlord Chaos, having silently scaled the tower walls with his large insulated fluid container, along with an exceptionally foppish-looking tea cup, a porcelain piece with a storm of flowers flowing across the rim and downward along the side.
Music Minion’s eyes widen nervously as Scout Minion flinches back in surprise. “You climbed up the tower one handed?” she asks with a look bordering perfectly between shock and awe.
Chaos raises completely over the side of the tower, bringing with him in his other arm the lithe though simultaneously stubby body of the meekly waving Board Games Minion.
“Hello!” he greets the moment Chaos pulls him over the ledge and places him down on the cool brick of Night Tower “I hear you folks want to play some Desolation Scope!” he says with an almost presenter-like tone: positive and proud.
Scout Minion’s eyes slant curiously. “So like, you do know what this game is, then.”
Board Games Minion gives a lively, well-natured scoff. “I should say so! Has anyone called Dungeon Lord yet?”
The three sitting minions watch as The Merciless Desolator takes a seat in front of one of the character sheets. “Why, if I am not mistaken, I believe that we’ve planned it specifically for you,” he says with a rigid grin, inspiring to his minionry, and heart-droppingly panic-inducing to his enemies.
The stubby minion claps his hands giddily as he practically frolics his way to the Dungeon Lord’s seat, already decked out with applicable rulebooks, references, and more. “Oh, goodie! It was always my favorite role to play!”
Scout Minion draws back as if impressed, while also making it clear that she at least slightly disapproves of his overt enthusiasm over a nerds game, one she is still embarrassed to admit that she is enjoying it more and more as she plays. “Well, I guess it’s good that you know how to play, then.”
“Is this four?” he asks, his short, dense antennae flicking gingerly to attention.
“Four?” Scout Minion asks.
“It is,” Raid Minion educates, whipping his tooth pick up and down his mouth as he quickly draws up a respectable-looking dragon-kin reminiscent of Knight Law.
“What is?” Scout asks, taking a cursory glance down at her even more hilarious limp-armed, petite monstrosity as a tributing insult to Order.
“The game version,” Board Games Minion says as he nods over the shiny rule book. “Never played this one. It was in development when I…” he gives a short, weirdly compassionate glance towards a grinning Overlord Chaos, who is reading a rule book he brought along with him with ludicrous speed. “Well, when I was brought along on this adventure with you all.”
Raid Minion nods tersely with a short, supportive glance from Music Minion. Unlike Scout Minion, the two of them were old enough to know they lived another life before Chaos took them, one a brazen mercenary leader, and the other a fine arts junior in college – and here they are, all playing a fantasy role playing game with him.
“Time changes things,” Raid Minion says with a concealed smirk. “That’s not a problem that it’s four, is it?”
Board Games Minion shakes his head. “Not at all. I’m excited to see what they put into it. Does everyone have your characters ready to go?”
Scout Minion smiles crassly. “Not so fast, buck-o. This is Poppi’s first game. He’s got to read the rules. You know reading the starter guide took me like an hour, and then making my first characters took about that long, so I’d get comfy if I were you, mister professional Dungeon Lo-“
Chaos abruptly shuts the whole Desolation Scope Version 4 Official Rule Book. “Ready. Curious literature, that is,” he says as he places the massive six hundred and seventy-eight page tome aside. “I want to be Bard. He seems like a fine fellow that appreciates the most important things in life.”
“Wh-… you’re done?” Scout Minion asks.
Chaos nods. “I certainly am. I’m excited to try out Mister Bard’s rank ten spells,” he says, taking up his pencil and drawing a perfect, to-scale illustration of the example bard character next to a stupefied Scout Minion. From start to finish, the masterful reproduction takes only ten seconds, and then only two seconds more for him to fill out the initial stats for his character: “Bard” the Human Bard.
Board Game Minion uses his enhanced glowing vision to peer in on Chaos’ sheet, where his expression sours a bit with concern. “You know, sir, you don’t choose a character, you’re intended to make one.”
Chaos squints at Board Games Minion with quiz on his face, then he refers back to the book, a process apparently taking him only a few seconds of staring through the actual cover of the book. “Ahh, I’m afraid you’re quite right. My bad. Can I just alter it a little?”
Board Games Minion shrugs. “I mean, technically you can be whoever you want so long as the race is in the game.”
The Overlord’s eyes light up with apocalypstic excitement. “So… so that means-“
“Yes, sir, etheriae would wor-“
Board Game Minion can’t get his words out before Chaos goes onto correcting his character. In a rapid bout of laser-accurate shading, the bard’s body is suddenly lead-black with glorious white eyes and a pair of intimidating antennae. “Now I’m ready!” he returns with a triumphant ring, as if the head of a dragon just fell decapitated behind him, as instantly and critically beheading large foes is something he’s apt to do.
The stubby, friendly Board Game Minion gives a nod of affirmation as then looks to the rest. “So, when you had been playing last, what were you all up t-“
“We were killing a rust drake and this crew of bumbling retards came up and smashed our brains out,” Scout Minion notes with a snip.
Raid Minion’s toothpick flicks down in his mouth. “What she means to say is that we got PK’d by an enemy group. They were playing ether faction.”
Chaos tilts his head to the side quizzically. “Ahh, so you mean to say we have to be of the same faction as well? My character is etheriae.”
Scout gives a big chuckle as she turns to the Void Emperor. “Technically you can be whatever you want. We’ve been playing Knights just because it’s fun to make fun of those losers.”
“And the armor’s rather… cool,” Raid Minion notes with an awkward glance aside.
Chaos shrugs. “Then I shall be the very first.”
“The first what?” Scout asks.
He clenches his fist as if there were a skull in it. “Ether-knight!” he resounds. He gets right to work with the eraser and corrects his character’s appearance.
Everyone leans and stretches to get a better look at the densely armored, etheriae, wearing a flippant set of bard’s clothes over the plating. Of course it wouldn’t be a proper bard without a silly hat, so Chaos made good and sure to have both the antennae, full-plate helmet, and frilly feathered hat all visible on the splash sheet.
“Goodness,” Music Minion says, glancing down to her own, cute knight girl and immediately feeling artistically lacking.
“That’s eh… I mean I guess it’s alright,” Scout says, showing her own, horrible drawing of Order, with crooked arms, a leg that’s facing the wrong way, and a dull, cross-eyed expression with bad smell accent marks waving out from her.
Chaos nods. “I love all of your characters.”
Scout chuckles again. “You should have seen Shorts Minion’s character. He was really into it.”
The Overlord grins. “Raidling told me. That one has some interesting tastes, not that it displeases me,”he says with a frank tone.
Raid Minion and Scout share a covert, sharp glance. Of course Chaos, who is socially quite the pure heart, would never speak poorly of one of his underlings.
“Now, shall we begin?” Chaos adds, glancing over a few pages of one of the more advanced playing guides every few seconds.
Board Game Minion, giddy with excitement, practically bounces in his plush chair. He takes a moment to light some candles, and turns on some fitting music for adventuring knights meeting in a tavern.
“Alright! You meet in a tavern. Knigh-“
“Knights wouldn’t meet in a tavern,” Raid Minion notes tersely.
“Yeah,” Scout chimes in. “They’d hang out in a garbage dump or something.”
“Ahh, but what if it were a Reinish tavern?” Chaos asks with a slight point.
None of the minions remember much about that time: when Reinen was anything more than a far-North ruin of the greatest kingdom mankind had ever known.
“Did… did knights drink there?” Scout asks with a wince.
Chaos nods graciously. “When the situation called for such a social decadence. The Knights of yore were an entirely different entity to the sloven, rotting carrion that it is today.”
“I never knew,” Scout says with a hum. “Color me surprised that they were even slightly cool.”
“Alcohol is not ‘cool’.” Chaos says plainly. “Tea is the far greater enjoyment.”
Everyone nods, but no one save Music Minion agrees.
“Anyway,” Board Games Minion retracks. “Blorder the Flat-Chested is drinking her usual pint of…” he stops a moment as he reads the managraphic mock-up of Scout Minion’s character sheet. “Shit?”
“Yup,” Scout says plainly, her arms crossed and her expression glowing with pride.
Board Games Minion fires off a good-natured, though awkward grin. “Okay, shit, when Arg’Vahad steps up with his two companions, Myrva the Musical and… Overlord Bard Knight of Rayda… Chaos?“
“That’s right,” Chaos affirms.
The Dungeon Lord clears his throat. “Gotcha – when they come walking up… you guys can talk to each other now if you want.”
Scout Minion smiles before taking on an insulting mockery of Order’s generally monotone, professional tone. “Whoa, hey guys. Ugh, fucking depression, right? Haha.“
Music Minion squints, Raid Minion sighs with a shake of his head, and Chaos just smiles encouragingly.
“Why hello, Blorder!” Chaos says in character. “Are you prepared to go weakly follow the will of our king, and be unfitting role models for the next generation of our chivalric order?”
“You bet!” She says before looking to the DL. “I take a huge sip of my shit juice.”
Board Games Minion smiles awkwardly. “Ahh… well… roll for… resolution?” he commands.
Scout throws her twenty sided die, and the result is displayed on the top of the die as behind the Dungeon Lord’s screen.
“Two. Added with your four, that’s a fail. You toss up all over the bar, and the bar keep charges you a mess-fee for your irresponsible drinking of… refuse.”
“Nice,” Scout Minion says with a grin, entirely tickled with the outcome of her exceptionally off-key role playing decisions.
Raid Minion clears his throat to speak in character. “So, comrade knights, what say you we go out and hunt the dragon-half menace from our lands?”
“What’s wrong with kin, again?” Scout Minion asks. “Why can’t we kill like, trenchlings or something?”
Raid Minion sighs. “Because Trench Sorts wouldn’t come this far north…wait, are we in Rainen?”
Everyone looks to Board Games Minion, who coughs. “Uh, that’s right, I didn’t mention that, did I? You’re in Ragnivan. Modern day.”
“Except we’re still hunting down dragon-halfs and shit,” she notes with a critical snip, winning a stifled sigh from Raid Minion.
“We have to fight something, and I think it’s okay because I’m playing as a dragon-kin.”
“Okay, but just cuz you’re ‘playing’ as that race doesn’t mean I think it’s okay that we kill my own kind. That’s messed up.”
“Why is this such a deal for you?” Raid Minion asks, taking a slant sip of his tea – he would have spiced it with some spirit, but he’s long since learned Chaos’ eyes are keen enough to detect even the molecular structure of beverages – he’s a tough master to keep secrets from.
Chaos squints a perceptive eye. “Our beloved scout here was brought into our fold as a hatchling.”
Raid Minion almost spits out his tea. “Wh- really? You’re a scale?!“
She nods with an incendiary glance. “Eyup. Bet you feel pretty fucking stupid now, huh?”
“But you… you don’t-“
“Act like one?” she asks with a leading tone.
He looks aside pridefully. “Nevermind it. Sorry.”
“Well at least you apologized.” She turns to Board Games Minion. “I get up from the chair… but I trip!“
Board Games Minion stares at her dumbfoundedly for a moment, before opening his jaws to speak. “Uh… okay. Roll for… dexterity.”
She rolls. It’s a nineteen.
“You pick yourself up just in time in your stumble, gracefully sliding up to your full stature of… four feet four inches.“
“Big talk to act like you don’t do the same thing,” Raid Minion hisses with a deep tone, “Order’s nowhere near that short.”
Scout shrugs. “To me she is.”
“Still taller than you,” he adds.
Scout purses her jaws together awkwardly. “We- yeah, whatever, shut up.”
Chaos chuckles whole-heartedly – he just loves to see them banter. “Now, my friends. Why don’t we make haste from this lively place, and work in the arts of combat,” he says with a theaterine tone.
Raid Minion gives a curt, approving nod. “I could not agree more, my musical friend. Let’s be off to Trench.”
Scout chuckles. “Huh, if we’re lucky we might get slaughtered by those asshats again,” she notes sourly.
Board Games Minion hums, his lively expression immediately darkening with contemplation. “So… you were actually West of Ragnivan and near Trench when you encountered them?”
She nods along with Raid Minion, and this really starts the Dungeon Lord to humming.
“And… how long ago was this?“
“We just died like twenty minutes ago,” Scout reports. “We wanted to get restarted right away because it was our first actual fight of the session.”
“Ahh… so we could still catch them.”
“What…” Raid Minion’s glowing eyes alight with violent excitement. “Now just what are you implying?” he asks, calming his immediate bloodlust just enough to speak.
“It’s… it’s a stretch, but if they’re still heading back to town, we might be able to… erm, abuse a game system and win the fight… which is fortunate, because one of the best ways is to have two bards and a fighter in your party.” He hums. “I wonder if they patched it out in this version…” at that he takes up a nearby systems book on the game and begins flipping through the pages. “Nope! Looks like ‘Will of the Army’ is still a selectable trait for fighter, and so long as they don’t have a Mage Hunter in their party, they won’t be able to dispel it. I suppose I didn’t really mention it because we hadn’t gotten that far into play testing yet, and it’s not like we had many fans to find it then, either.”
Scout Minion squints with intrigue. “You seem really into this game for someone who hasn’t played in so long.”
Board Games Minion gets a knowing smile that holds more than it tells. “I mean, I was the creative director at Mystine when Version Three was released.”
There’s a jolt among the three minions playing the game, and a grin from The Overlord.
“D-did you know?” Scout asks Chaos with an indignant tone.
He shrugs. “I just thought of him. He said he’d love to, so I assumed he would be the right choice.”
Board Games Minion gets the sort of glint in his glowing eyes that marks the spirit of someone who marks the fun of a game with friends among the greatest pleasures to be had in the world – a perfect sort of moment that can never be stolen.
“That’s right, but we don’t have much time. Let’s get right to it, and we may catch them yet!” he exclaims, sitting back into his Dungeon Lord’s chair and admiring the plushness of the seat once more before very subtly offering some in-game hints as to how the exploit works.
Over the few minutes it takes them to achieve one level after another of Chaos and Music Minion’s buff music skills, Raid Minion’s expression grows more and more bland with distaste. He’d concede that slaughtering those who killed them in a divine act of vengeance is preferable to all else, but this way breaks into his immersion a bit, let alone the knowledge that the players could be there wouldn’t realistically be known by their new characters.
He shrugs, and just enjoys the show as he watches the party’s level stats on the managraph screen.
“Alright, that should be it,” Justice says.
Harmony scoffs. “For someone raring to leave, you sure took your time.”
He smiles meekly. “I didn’t want to leave anything valuable behind, so I had to decide what I wanted to leave.”
“Do you think this was worth it? We probably could have made the trip and back by this point if you hadn’t taken so long,” Order asks plainly and professionally.
Justice shrugs. “And risk someone else getting these rust scales? I don’t think that’s a good idea. If I’m not mistaken all three of us need the scales for our next gear set, right?” Justice says, taking a cursory glance over to yet another game book containing all the equipment within the Desolation Scope universe.
The two females give a curt glance associated with nods.
“You’ve been playing this for like, a month, Aen, and you’re a nerd already,” Harmony notes. “What gives?”
He shrugs once more. “Anything we do requires our best effort. Even though Rayda’s… probably dead, that’s how he would have it, I think. After all, ‘There is no excuse to he that remembers the ghosts of his ancestors’.”
Harmony blurts a sigh as Order gives a hum.
“Oi’an?” the white-haired knightess asks.
“That’s right. It’s amazing how poetry is one of the few things that never gets old.”
“I don’t understand how you could possibly enjoy the stuff,” Harmony says, taking a sip of her wine. “It’s a bunch of pseudo-intellectual rubbish in my opinion.”
The irony is not lost on Justice and Order that Oi’an the Genius was also the originator of the first manuscript on brewing alcoholic drinks to be known in the Omniverse, which is, as they know, something Harmony is quite privy to.
“If you say so,” Justice adds as Order just smirks to herself.
“Whatever,” Harmony snips dismissively, her light blue eyes looking down to the gameworld managraph, “let’s just finish this up and get Aen to his little cult thing. I have an event after this anyway.”
No one voices disagreement, so they all look back down.
“We make travel to Ragnivan,” Order says, the natural choice for the leader in both within the game and amongst the group.
Longevity, dozing in and out of consciousness for the past two minutes, looses a wide-mouthed yawn. “Right. Okay.” He takes a quick sip of his coffee.
“Careful, that’ll stunt your growth,” Harmony slips in teasingly.
“Your party’s travel time to the capitol will be seven minutes, assuming there’s nothing else that happens in betwee-“
The managraphic projection behind the Dungeon Lord’s screen gives a distinctly magical pinging sound. “Now what’s this?” he mumbles to himself, his child-like eyes scrolling over the alert text. His expression immediately droops, like a trapped soul, looking at an oncoming tidalwave. “Incoming party!”
“Combined level?” Justice asks, leaning forward at the ready with dice and pencil in hand.
“Shouldn’t be bad,” the three of them inject with varying degrees of confidence.
Longevity needs to take a short breath for the rest: “-hundred.“
Order twitches, Justice gasps, and Harmony unwittingly tilts her wine glass into her lap.
“Ah, shit!” she snaps, reaching over for her cloth napkin to dab it between her thighs.
“How? An army? Like a system player?” Order asks.
“Could be a whole guild!” Justice adds himself, envisioning a full mercantile hall table with hundreds of different craftsmen laughing over the sounds of their pencils and rolling dice.
Longevity’s gaze sweeps over the stats. “It’s… it’s just four players.“
“What in the world… do you know anything else?” Order asks.
“That’s all your antennae sense will get you off hand,” Longevity reminds with a smirk.
She rolls. “Perception.“
He nods and responds as he watches her movement result displayed from behind his screen. “Combined 23. A group of… these guys look famili- g-get ready to fight!“
The large, complex managraph maintaining the game’s projection, as well as its connection to the game system’s “holder” at Mystine headquarters in Kanvane, gives a new decisive ping – combat engagement.
“Knight… Blorder the Flat-Chested strikes Overlord DeathKillExplosion.” He looks over to Order amidst a raucous snort from Harmony.
Order, her expression completely untouched by what could only be the sort of insult a minion would slight at her, rolls her dice.
Her black-white die rolls its last side of the day: It’s a twenty.
“Nice!” Justice says, giving a quick nod to Order before looking back to the managraph.
Longevity’s shocked expression, abated by a flare of hope, dies back into horror just as quickly as he finishes reading the outcome.
“With… four hundred and eighty eight buffs of heart, Knight Blorder the Flat-Chested executes for… Rayda be...”
He doesn’t even need to say it. The managraph updates the board for the next turn to display a slaughtered overlord spread clean across the dirt like a smear of crimson butter.
Everyone emotes their woe in one way or another: the word “overkill” in bright, “fuck you” style text is elevated over the space between where the knight attacked, and where the overlord was just a second ago. Order’s character has been slaughtered in a half-turn initiating strike.
Next they see three other players on the rim of their projection, with speed vectors annotating that all three of them will be on the group in the next turn.
“Wh-what do we do?!” Harmony asks in horror as the turn timer rolls down with twenty seconds left.
“Make your moves!” Longevity suggests quickly.
Justice wastes no time in looking to Harmony. “Give me your quick cast periapt!”
Instantly the pressure’s all on her. She fumbles mindlessly for a second as she struggles through the menus that seemed so easy to navigate just a minute ago.
Ten seconds on the timer, the trade completed between the two of knights, Justice uses the item and clears his breath.
“I cast uh… the uh…”
“Coalescence!” Longevity shouts, his hand shaking up in nerve-wracked knives.
“I cast coalescence… oh! to Overlord Spa-“
The timer clicks down past zero, ending the turn.
“-ce,” Justice says with a wince.
The group all gives a collective sigh: even if Longevity accepted the command, the turn timer of the game system is never wrong.
The projection updates, and all they see is the tangled mess of bodies in front of them. Their other fighter, looking to be some loose parody of Knight Law, has slammed his mace into Harmony’s sexy overlordess, and the crude mockery of Order has cut across Justice’s “Chaotic Good” overlord, both in critical, unblockable overkills.
As if it even needed saying, the game reports that the entire party has been wiped out. Their last sight is that of two more players, one a meek, young looking bard lass, and the other a tall, hilariously armored and dressed etheriae bard masked as a knight, enter the area with their lyres.
“Well…” Justice clears his throat. “I guess they got us back, huh?”
Longevity throws all of his stat sheets up into the air bitterly as most of the stats records self-erase in preparation for the next session. “Sunuvabitch!” he spits. “I cannot believe that happened! It’s like they had a goddamn game designer on their team!”
Justice shrugs. “I mean, if the stakes weren’t this high it wouldn’t be as fun, right?” He looks around for any sort of approval to the statement.
Harmony’s arms are crossed with the coldest resting bitch face imaginable, Longevity is practically wavering back and forth in seething fury, and Order, bless her heart, just takes a slow, savoring sip of her spiked coffee.
“So, this time next week?” she asks gently.
Everyone sighs, but no one disagrees.
It’s one of those games that’s most fun with people you enjoy being around, after all. They did enjoy themselves, despite this one session ending badly.
Somewhere, far away in another dimension, two bard players share a big, excited hug – they both had a good time playing something so new and different together.
One playing as a crude caricature of Order gives a solid, undeniably powerful dab on the corpse of the overlord players much to the chagrin of the speedily-looting dragon-kin character.
Finally, the party’s Dungeon Lord, thrilled more than anything else to play in the world he’s made once again, gives a cathartic, floral sigh of satisfaction.