The doctors couldn’t figure out what wrong with Scottie, but he was put in a hospital with a rapidly worsening condition.
Len and I decided to skip gaming night and visit our sick friend, instead. After some deliberation, we agreed to get Toddy, as well. We were ready to break the trailer door down, but found it already open.
Toddy sat at the kitchen table staring at the Sir Drexler module. He didn’t look up at our entrance but, before we could say anything about Scottie, said, “Sir Drexler is riding down upon the two of you.”
Len stormed into the kitchen and pointed a finger over the table into Toddy’s face.
“Cut the shit, Toddy,” Len said. “Scottie’s really sick.”
Toddy cracked his knuckles like a villain from some bad martial arts film. “I’m the Labyrinth Guide. I tell you what’s happening, not the other way around.”
Len made a fist. For a moment, it seemed he might actually hit him. He didn’t, though. Everyone always eventually backed down from Toddy. He was skinny and not overly tall but he emitted an electric aura of intimidation.
He just felt crazy.
“Sir Drexler lets out a soul-piercing battle cry,” Toddy said. “I suggest you prepare to defend yourselves.”
Len looked at me sternly. “You know what, man? Let’s kick Drexler’s ass.”
I tried to look brave as I could, but wasn’t feeling it. Something wasn’t right about the stolen module, and something definitely wasn’t right about Toddy.
We took our seats. Len announced that he was using his boots of invisibility. Just like the previous gaming session, the scene we were playing out started to coalesce in my mind, as if some part of me was actually, physically there.
Sir Drexler smiled at Len’s disappearance and, without missing a beat, chanted the words to evoke two Hoary Hounds capable of tracking by scent.
Len slapped his thigh. “This is bullshit, man.”
Toddy giggled in sadistic glee. “Not if you’re Sir Drexler.”
Len kicked my foot under the table. “Go to the cliff elves and get help. I’ll keep him occupied.”
Toddy cackled wildly. “You think so, huh?”
I wanted to be loyal and heroic, but Len was right. Sir Drexler was no ordinary non-player character. It would take something unexpected and creative to stop him.
I mounted my horse and rode while Len fled into the misty woods. The Hoary Hounds chased him through the trees and into a waterfall at the end of a ravine.
Len looked behind the waterfall for a secret passage. That’s how role playing games are supposed to work. The characters might get into a tight situation, but the Labyrinth Guide is always supposed to offer a solution. But Toddy wasn’t playing by the old rules, anymore, and Len was simply stuck.
Len waded into the water pool and drew his sword. “Alright, Toddy,” he said. “Let’s get this over with.”
Toddy glared angrily.
“Not Toddy,” he said. “Sir Drexler.”
With the hounds baying at the waterside, Sir Drexler pulled back his spear. The weapon turned to pure, blue flame, and he launched it at Len. The fiery bolt instantly froze the water, encasing Len’s character up to his neck.
Len punched the kitchen table and sent dice bouncing around like Mexican jumping beans. “Come on, Toddy. This is ridiculous.”
Toddy ignored him.
“Sir Drexler’s deadly spear returns to his hand. He laughs at you and utters two simple words.”
Toddy smiled a smile so cold and malicious that it reminded me of one of a photo I’d seen of the serial killer, Ted Bundy.
Len jumped up to his feet and knocked his chair back onto the floor. “You’re an asshole, Toddy.”
“I second that motion,” I said.
Len and I left as the hounds descended on Len’s character. Even after we were outside on the porch I could still hear him in there, by himself, describing the horrific scene.
I hurried down to my bike. I wanted to get away before the brutal slaughter took life in my mind the way the rest of the game had been.
After we were far from Toddy’s trailer, I told Len how I could see the Lords and Lairs world unfolding in my head.
To my relief, he said that he could, too. After I thought about it for a few minutes, I didn’t understand why I’d found it to relieving and went back to feeling that slow dread creeping upon me.
We rode slowly and I told him what had happened at the game store. Something was very wrong, and we both knew it, but there was no one to tell.
It was sort of ironic that the one time we wanted to rat out our friend, we had no one to rat to. Anyone we told would just think we were on drugs or something.
We parted ways at Lily Road. I got home to find my father waiting for me at the kitchen table with an expression so grim that I was afraid he’d found my nudie magazines. He motioned for me to sit across from him, and I did.
“Son,” my father said, “Scottie has slipped into a coma.” He always had very direct way of approaching the hardest subjects. Stern, but not cruel.
I sat in stunned silence, not knowing what to think or say.
The phone rang and my mother came into the room to hand it to me. She and my father patted my shoulder solemnly and went to the living room with their arms around each other.
I put the phone to my ear. It was Len. Before I could say anything, he uttered five, frightened words.
“I don’t feel so good.”
Part 6 is HERE.
Copyright 2020 Jeff Suwak