Author’s Note: This was written live on stream, with the tone being determined by the numbers under minesweeper tiles. The audience could bid tokens earned in stream to reveal random tiles. A mine hit results in the death of all characters, unless they are temporarily saved by a lump sum of tokens. If characters make it to the end of the stream, they survive to be seen another day. Join us at twitch.tv/blainearcade if you wish to participate.
1-peace 2-alert 3-escalation 4-action 5-tragedy 6-world-changing
The minefield has been moved. It now connects the Trap to a new world, a new game. There is no destruction this time, nothing forcing them to flee. Only the brave, curious, and strange will take the journey. Who will step through the fog and face the myriad dangers of the field?
Three enter: Greg the janitor in a wedding gown, Cybil the spoiled teen were-bastard, and Glyphlight the polite shadow butler.
It was a calm day in the Minefield when the latest adventurers entered, found each other, and made a pact to journey across together. There was Greg, a slightly more than middle-aged man with a gray mustache, tired eyes, a tendency to hum old sitcom themes, and, most peculiarly, even in a place like the Minefield, a wedding gown as his only clothing.
“That gown sure highlights the elegance of your copious arm hair,” his new companion Cybil said. She was a smirking teen with colorful clothes of her own. Her jeans bore strange scratch marks at angles that weren’t quite fashionable. Third, always bring up the rear it seemed, was Glyphlight. He was not a man, simply the shadow of one. He carried a black towel with him over one arm; everything about him was silky smooth, even the voice he used to insist he was an excellent butler and the other two should make use of his services.
“So, let’s do a ring around story thing,” Cybil suggested aggressively. “Let’s each of say why we’re out here instead of back there. I’ll go first. I’m a were-bastard.” Her voice dropped into a growl with the word bastard.
“What exactly is that, if you don’t mind my asking?” Glyphlight inquired.
“When people annoy me I turn into a bastard,” she squeaked. “A big bastard.”
“That still doesn’t give us much,” Greg mumbled, scratching the hair under his hat. There was no sun, but somehow it was quite hot. The grass around them yellowed as they progressed.
“You’ll see what I mean if you keep saying things like that,” Cybil warned. “Now you old man. Why are you wearing the happiest day of some woman’s life? That seems like a story.”
Greg shed a tear. Glyphlight’s arm curled into view and handed him a handkerchief’s shadow. Greg took it and wiped his sadness away. His callused hands ran across the lace of the dress. He explained that it was his wife’s. She passed away nearly five years ago, crushed to death by one of the tyrannical boulders of their home world.
The buildings back in their world had to have thick walls of stone to keep the boulders out, but the cemeteries were difficult to protect. Any erected headstones would eventually be knocked down and broken. Greg had nowhere to mourn her loss, so instead he wore her dress, even at work, even while sleeping, only washing it occasionally. It had to be let out a few times, but with one hand across the lace he could remember her. He could tell the story and still feel her hand holding his.
“That just leaves you,” Cybil said, suppressing a sniffle of her own. She pointed at Glyphlight. The butler folded reflexively, into something resembling a bow.
“Oh don’t worry about me,” he chuckled. His teeth were as black as the rest of him, but they both sensed the glint of a mischievous smile. “Kind of you to ask, but I don’t have a story. I merely help those who do, handling the little things.” The heat got worse, so the conversation wilted and died. The trio trudged through the dry prickly grass for more than an hour without a word.
Eventually they were forced to address it. Greg was sweating through his gown. Cybil was practically panting. Glyphlight seemed unfazed. This was strange to the others, who assumed that intense light and heat would naturally reduce a shadow to a sliver or nothing at all.
“Something… out here… is doing this,” Cybil said between breaths. “Do you guys see anything?”
“The ground’s hot too,” Greg offered. “I can feel it through my boots. There’s no sun here, so maybe it’s something underground.”
“Let me help you,” Glyphlight offered. He folded and slithered under both of them, protecting the soles of their shoes. “I’ll stay down here as a shield. Do continue. I wouldn’t want you two drying out like earthworms.” Cybil and Greg kept their eyes down so they could avoid stepping off the shadow.
The plan worked for a little while, but soon the heat became so intense that they couldn’t think straight. Their lips started to crack. Cybil announced that if it got much worse her bastard side would definitely come out to play. At that point there was no grass left on the ground; it had turned into small yellowish hills covered in cracks of their own.
The degradation of the terrain reflected their own. Soon great jutting spires of rock created an obstacle course for them, made all the more difficult by Glyphlight’s shadowy body not handling inclines well. The cracks turned into cave entrances, and they were eventually forced into one in the hopes it would be cooler in the shade.
It did them no good, even as they turned a corner and lost all of the outside light. Greg pulled out a lighter to illuminate the path ahead, and the others silently agreed not to ask where he had stored the item on his pocket-less dress. The tunnel zigged and zagged, slowing their forward progress.
“I think this is it,” Greg croaked as he dropped to his knees. Cybil took the lighter from him so he could stabilize himself. “I think this is heat stroke. Hooh… Help me Winnifred. Hold my hand again. Pull me up to wherever you are.”
The lighter rose, not because Cybil lifted it, but because her body grew. The heat was too much, too much like a pressure cooker inside the tunnel. Her clothes tightened and stretched. She grew arm hair of her own that more than rivaled Greg’s. It more than rivaled his mustache as well. Her voice dropped as she growled.
When Greg found the strength to lift his head he saw the teenage girl was gone, utterly replaced by a wall of a man with cruel crooked teeth. The bastard. She wasn’t lying. His boiling brain managed to wonder how someone became a were-bastard in the first place. Bitten by a bastard? Scolded by one? Related to one? The bastard picked up Greg and hoisted him over one shoulder, like some mountain man stealing a bride.
If they were going to get cooked, Cybil would make sure she was one tough bastard, too tough to chew. She ran them deeper and deeper, Glyphlight barely able to keep up. They had to find the source at some point.
The bastard ran at the speed of hate itself through the crust of the Minefield. Glyphlight shouted something, but Cybil couldn’t hear through the grunting and growling of the bastard’s heaving chest.
“I’m not stopping until somebody or something is dead,” the bastard roared. “Not stopping! You want to call me a bastard? Fine! That’s what I am. My mother slept around. So did hers. None of us care. It’s the power of the bastards!”
They reached the subject of Glyphlight’s warning, careening off a sudden dark cliff and landing in a pool of cool water. Greg’s dress flew up over his eyes. He was too weak to swim, but the bastard put him under one arm and swam them both to shore.
Greg wasn’t sure what was happening. He wasn’t breathing, that much he knew. Something other than water was in his throat. He tried to cough, but it was too weak to force it out. Luckily it left on its own, taking all the water he’d swallowed with it. When he opened his eyes he saw it was Glyphlight’s shadowy arm snaking out of his throat. The butler was helping; his version of resuscitation it seemed.
When they were all back on their feet they saw several machines floating above them, anchored to the cavern floor by thick chains: the mines of the Minefield. It was still hot, but the temperature was much lower beneath them.
“What in Uncle Sammy’s star-striped fuck-bunker are those things?” the bastard asked. Apparently he was sticking around for a little while.
“Machines of chaos would be my guess,” the bulter theorized. “I’ve seen similar things in the darkness I was tailored from. One of them being on the fritz could account for all that dreadful heat.”
“So what do we do now?” Greg asked, his voice returning to him. There were mines as far as the eye could see.
“We find the broken one and break it more,” the bastard declared, punching into Cybil’s palm. “Forward!” The bastard stormed deeper into the chains, and the others had little choice but to follow. They did have a clue before too long: the sound of something sparking like a fallen transformer. They followed that and the eventual flashes of light that accompanied it.
They found one of the mines flagging lower than the rest and floating at an angle like a goldfish with a blown swimbladder. Its side was ripped open, but the innards weren’t easy to see through the warbling of the super-heated air and the constant sparks of varying colors.
“There’s your problem right there,” the bastard declared. “That shit’s fucked up.” The others nodded in agreement. The question was what to do about it. They didn’t see any way to surface and reach the end of the Minefield while it still issued all that heat. They had to stop it somehow.
“Oh,” Glyphlight said, “I appear to have stepped in a footprint.” The shadow hopped to the side so they could all examine the impression. The print was small and appeared to belong to some kind of dog. It wasn’t alone; it was part of a procession of prints leading all the way past the bobbing mine and over to a small nook in the rock wall. Glyphlight bent over to examine the creature hiding under it.
“There’s a domestic hound under here,” the shadow butler stated. He snapped his fingers, drawing the creature out from under the rock. Out waddled a dachshund. It made no threatening sounds or gestures, but they backed up several steps anyway. There was something off about this creature.
It was strange, to be sure. Its fur coat was short and silky with an ordinary brown color, though it did sport yellowish jaguar-like spots across its body. It also had a pair of wings, dusty and gray like an owl’s, emerging from the middle of its body. It had eyes to match, giant and round, pupils fixed in place. These things weren’t what unsettled the trio. They’d seen magics and technologies mix and match animal parts before. There was just something about the way it stared, as if it barely recognized them as living things.
“I know dogs,” Greg said, rubbing his mustache. “Winnifred and I used to keep pugs. This thing… It’s not a dog. If it was I’d be petting it rather than my own whiskers.” The bastard sensed it as well, but was far less afraid. Cybil’s hand reached out to pet it, but the dachshund wandered forward, through them, and went to sit under the broken mine. It barked once, but the sound echoed across the cave with an impossible volume, somewhere between whale mourning and dragon roaring.
“This creautre is responsible for the damage to the mine,” Glyphlight said.
“No, that little thing?” the bastard commented. “I know it’s weird, but… ehh whatever. How do we get it to finish the job then?”
“Should we try to guess its name?” Greg suggested. He turned towards it. “Fido! Sparky! Sausage! Applewood! Mustard!”
“Nobody names a dog Mustard,” the bastard said. “He looks more like a Donovan to me. Hey Donovan!” The dachshund did not look away from the mine’s wound.
“I don’t believe we can know its name. Its nature is beyond us, this beast. I don’t think it comes from our world or the Minefield’s,” Glyphlight said. He carefully walked over to the dachshund and positioned himself behind it. He unfolded his black silky towel and put it over both hands. He intended to grab it by the sides, behind the wings, but didn’t dare actually touch its hide.
Carefully, the shadow bent over and picked up the dachshund. The creature did not protest. He lifted it towards the mine. It looked like Glyphlight might have to ride on the bastard’s meaty shoulders to get the animal close enough, but the dachshund flew out of his hands on its own, as if magnetized. It burrowed into the mine, ignoring the heat and sparks.
The dachshund made more of those horrible sounds as it shredded the mine’s interior. The device’s guts poured out, still sparking as they went. Glyphlight anticipated an explosion and backed up, but the mine simply collapse in an instant, like a balloon where the helium had spontaneously transmuted to lead.
They felt a wave of cool air now that the device was well and truly destroyed. The dachshund waddled out as if nothing had happened. There wasn’t a singe mark anywhere on it. Glyphlight walked over and picked up the placid beast again. He wrapped the towel around its waist and put the dog under his arm.
“Well, shall we be going?” the butler asked the others.
“We’re taking it with us?” Greg asked.
“There may be other problems it can fix,” Glyphlight suggested. “What do you think bastard?” They both turned to him, but he was gone. Cybil stood in his place, smirking. Apparently the dachshund’s assault on the machine had sated the bastard’s blood-lust for the time being.
From then on they let Glyphlight lead, as they wanted to keep their distance from the strange squat hound. The cavern continued for miles, but eventually sloped up and opened onto the surface. They exited and found grass under their feet once more.
They still had two days of travel ahead of them, but Glyphlight had no muscles to tire out, so he was able to keep the dachshund held aloft the entire time. The animal barely ever turned its head, barely ever made a sound, and didn’t even urinate on anything. They all agreed that was the most suspicious thing about it.
Eventually they came to the fog wall separating the Minefield from the Trap. They walked right up to the kiosk, where travelers were brought through. That day it was manned by a giant talking squid calling itself Duid. It grimaced at the humans, but gave them the immigration speech anyway.
“Welcome travelers. You’re very brave. Unfortunately, the Trap requires two prisoners to every free soul. You’ll be comfy in our cages, trust me. The one who walks free faces far greater danger. Now who will it be?”
They didn’t have a chance to answer. A growl rumbled deep inside the dachshund. It shook the ground. It rattled the mines. The beast spread its wings, easily breaking free of Glyphlight’s grasp. It bared its teeth, all of them at once, and they looked far larger than anything that should’ve fit in that tiny slipper of a mouth.
It flew into the kiosk and started destroying it with the same determination it used on the mine. The squid barely had time to scramble backward and into the Trap. The dachshund wasn’t satisfied with that though. It attacked the fog itself, ripping it as if it were curtains. Back and forth it flew with incredible speed. Shredding, rending, ending…
The trio dove for their future, slipping past the shredded fog and into the Trap. The kiosk was destroyed, the official intake method ruined. The Trap made the decision itself, marking the first to pass through as free.
Cybil the were-bastard unwittingly became a citizen of the Trap, while the other two were shunted off to the side, put it in a tower of cages. Hundreds stared at the ruined fog and the broken kiosk. Now anyone that could get past the otherworldly fury of the owl dachshund would be able to enter. They had no say in the matter. The beast sat down on its haunches and looked across the Minefield. It wagged its tail and waited.
Minefield traversed! Cybil will join in the stories ahead. Four more must be recruited before the rebels of the Trap can make their move.