Cutscene

In one of the Warf building’s labs, Chris Fallor poured a bowl of hot wax carefully into cold water, then set the container aside to watch.  He picked up a notebook and began furiously recording the motions and shapes.  The door opened slowly, as if the person entering didn’t see any reason to be here at all.  Fallor didn’t bother looking up as Nick entered.

“See anything important?” he asked, an odd, half-sarcastic tone in his voice.

“It depends on what you think is important,” Fallor replied, continuing to sketch.

Nick beckoned to Fallor.  “Come on, there’s something you should see.”

“That depends on what it is.  I might have already seen it.”

During the few months since the school was transported, a shift had occurred.  Most people wanted to learn about magic, but didn’t grasp it easily.  The already-powerful Dungeons & Dragons club had grown even more powerful in that time.  Most of the members were fascinated with magic to begin with, and with the benefit of experience through many fantasy games, were easily able to deduce the basic rules.  As a result, the school was teaching entirely different classes now.  Those who were skilled at magic taught those who were not.

Fallor, for his part, was the only one on campus who was able to grasp divination.

“Well, I just came back from the building overlooking the forest.”

Fallor blinked a few times.  “There is no building overlooking the forest.”

“There is now.”

#~#~#~#

Nobody much liked spending too much time outside at once if it could be avoided, which it very often couldn’t.  It wasn’t dangerous or anything, but on campus, it could cause quite a headache.  The shimmering in the air wasn’t so bad.  In fact, it could be quite pleasant to watch.  It was the illusions that were the problem.  Mirages of various environments would shift in and out, superimposed over the actual terrain, making it hard to tell where you were going to step next and causing a bit of a headache.  Worse, they were often things that were familiar to those wandering around, and fond memories didn’t do anyone much good around here.

They were willing to put up with it, though, in situations such as this.  The members of the D&D club had already begun to gather in front of the mysterious new building.  James Massey, a wiry guy with an afro, was the first on the scene, and he hadn’t moved since; he was too curious to leave, but too concerned about what could be inside to enter.

“I came as soon as I heard,” Ezekiel Moon said, approaching at a casual pace.  Like Lee and Thomas, Zeke had been the image of a typical gamer when they arrived.  Since then, though, they had all changed.  The hardships of the last few months had helped them to lose some weight, though there had been periods when it took a toll on their health.  Zeke had been working on a spell to correct vision, but the success was limited, so for now they still required their glasses.

“What’s up with your hand?” Tom asked, pointing.

Zeke looked down at his right hand.  It seemed to be covered in red fur, a fact which he had apparently not noticed.  “I suppose something went wrong with the spell I was working on,” he said, holding it up in front of him.  “I’ll have to look into this later.”  He put the hand in his pocket and returned his attention to the building.  “Right now, though, what about this?”

“Ah, Nick went to go get Fallor,” James explained.  “We figure he can help us out here.”

“You mean he’s going to use a divination spell to tell us what’s inside?”

“I mean we’re sending him in first.”

Zeke stifled a chuckle at this.  “They should be back any minute,” Tom added, turning to look in the direction of the Warf building.  “In fact – I think that’s them now.”

Nick waved to the group as they arrived.  “Anything happen?” he asked, glancing at the building.

James shook his head.  “Not yet.  If there’s anything in there, it’s not coming out.”

“Right.  In that case, Chris, this is your job,” Nick said, turning to Fallor, who nodded and began to focus.  After a few moments, he walked toward the doors.

This building was made of gray stone, rather than the brick most buildings on campus were built from.  The enormous door was solid wood.  It opened surprisingly easily, and he stepped inside.

Inside was a long corridor with stairs at the end.  Both sides were lined with doors.  As he walked further into the building, he realized that the layout was extremely familiar.  He opened a door, and inside was a room furnished almost exactly as he had expected.

After taking a little more time to examine the place in detail, Fallor walked out of the building.  “Hey, it’s all clear,” he called to the club.

The building seemed to be an apartment complex, though it had a certain architectural style that was reminiscent of a barracks.  The question of how it had appeared was becoming less urgent, though no less important; what they cared about now was that space would be much less a problem in the immediate future.  It extended ten stories up, and had modern conveniences – elevators, electric lights, even kitchen appliances.  It was completely vacant, and showed no signs of damage, so apparently it hadn’t arrived in the same way they had.

Soon, each club member laid claim to a room.  Nick made his choice first, a room just inside the door.  Tom chose the room across the hall from that.  The rest took rooms on every floor.  Zeke picked one on the very top floor.  James took up residence somewhere in the middle.  Alexander selected a room at the back of the first floor.

Lee and Fallor had both chosen the same room, in the middle of the second floor, more or less at random – and neither was quite willing to share it with the other.  Nor, for that matter, were they willing to rethink the choice.

“Just forget it, Fallor,” Lee said.  “I’m staying here.  You’re not.  End of story.”

Fallor shook his head.  “I think you might want to reconsider.  After all, it’s a…”

“Look,” Lee interrupted, “if you want the room that badly, then there’s only one way to settle this.”  He pulled his cards out of his pocket, showed them to Fallor, and put them back.  “We’ll fight on the roof.  Whoever wins gets to keep the room.  Whoever loses sleeps up there.”

Fallor thought about it for a moment.  It wasn’t a very sensible thing to do.  He could take any other room and not risk sleeping on the roof.  And Magic cards resulted in the strongest sympathetic magic they knew of, hampered only by the need for a specific card for each spell – and Lee was positively bristling with potent spells.  Fallor could actually get hurt if they got carried away.  There wasn’t even time to use divination magic to simulate the battle beforehand, to see if it was even worth the risk.

On the other hand, he obviously wasn’t going to back down.

“You’re on,” he said.

#~#~#~#

On the roof, both stood ready.  The rest of the club members waited next to the roof access.  A few of them began casting spells to prevent harm – a wall spell to keep someone from falling, a suppression spell to halt any magic that would injure the bystanders.

At Nick’s signal, Lee took the initiative.  He pulled a card out of his pocket and before Fallor could react, he had conjured a scythe.  He swung it in a wide arc – the scythe lacked the reach to catch Fallor with the cutting edge, but it did graze him.  Fallor’s eyes widened.

“Geez, man!  You could really hurt me with that thing!” he protested.

Lee shrugged.  “I’m not gonna kill you, don’t worry.  I just wanted something to beat you with.”  This did little to assure Fallor, but he didn’t have time to argue – Lee had already produced a lightning spell.  With cards to replace somatic components and serve as the focus for the spells, Lee’s attacks were markedly faster than Fallor’s.  It was all he could do to keep dodging.

Finally, there was a break in Lee’s offense, which Fallor used.  He moved to keep as much distance between them as possible as he chanted the invocation.  A dark miasma began to issue forth.  Lee tried to rush in for an attack, but he could feel himself weakening.  He jammed the end of his scythe into the ground to keep himself from falling.

“There, now just wait a moment while I get my next spell ready,” Fallor said, focusing all the mana he could.

As he did so, Lee fumbled with something in his pocket.  “I don’t think so,” he said, producing another card.  A burst of flame pierced the miasma and enveloped Fallor, bringing him to his knees.

“It’s done,” Lee said, standing over his fallen opponent, one hand still holding his scythe and the other resting in his pocket.  “The room is mine, and you’re staying up here from now on.”  With that said, he turned to signal to the others that it was over.

“Like hell it is,” Fallor cried, lunging to attack while Lee’s back was turned.  Lee drew his free hand out of his pocket, and in it was a card.  He held it between them, there was a flash of light, and then Fallor was gone.  Lee dropped the card – Path to Exile.

Everyone stood there for a while trying to figure out exactly what had just happened.  It had just been decided that Lee had won, and that they might actually be better off without Fallor aside from the fact that they now lacked a diviner, when there was a second flash of light.  Fallor was back as suddenly as he had gone, looking quite thoroughly defeated now.  Nick approached him cautiously.  “What happened?” he asked.  “Just now… how… where were you?”

Fallor shook his head, then slowly looked up at Nick.  After a moment’s pause, he answered, “The Blind Eternities.”

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