Dragon’s Wrath

“We’re the first ones here!” The paladin in black armor lifted his visor to peer out across the wide open meadow. The golden sun hanging in the clear, blue sky sparkled on the giant dragon’s emerald hide. “It’s huuuuuuge. That thing wouldn’t fit in a football stadium.”

“It’s worth your own server. I’d be disappointed if it was any smaller,” Buck replied. He turned to the giant, pale, red-headed woman next to him. “Go get it before someone else tags ‘im.” She nodded and walked forward. They stood at the entrance to the meadow: a rocky ledge that extended from a narrow mountain tunnel. The dragon slept several miles away. The woman stepped to the edge, but Buck stopped her. “You gotta log in, Flutter. It won’t count otherwise.” She waved a dismissive hand at him.

“When I get there,” Flutter replied. Two sets of long, transparent insect wings grew out of her back then she leaped into the air. She flew straight toward the sleeping dragon.

“I’m Buck, by the way,” he said to the paladin. “I never got your name.” The mustached paladin turned and smiled at Buck.

“I’m Fern. You Unique?” Fern asked. “I’m #52.”

“#45,” Buck nodded. The ground shook and a deafening roar filled the meadow. They turned to see the very awake dragon roaring at an armored Flutter. She wore blood red plate armor and carried two shields. One in each hand and both of them half her considerable size. The dragon’s tail whipped forward to swat her away, but it bounced harmlessly off her left shield. She did not move an inch.

The dragon tried again to knock her away with its tail, but again Flutter stood her ground. The beast grew angry and roared at the sky. Black ash erupted from its mouth and filled the sky. It blocked out the sun and covered the meadow in darkness. The sound of footsteps behind Buck drew his and Fern’s attention. They turned and saw two women and a kid walking toward them with a large group behind them.

“You guys next?” The blonde knight asked. She wore silver chainmail armor and the paladin next to her wore thick, golden plate armor. The boy wore an elegant white and gold robe. Buck shook his head.

“There’s no ‘next’, he’s done for.”

“IS THAT FLUTTER!??” The female paladin yelled. She stepped to the edge while Buck answered the blonde’s question and saw the lone armored figure. Her armor glowed red in the darkness of the falling soot. Flutter stood still while the dragon tried everything it could to knock her away. Buck’s chest puffed out with pride and he nodded.

“That’s so cool! Totally unfair but so cool!”

“Raid disbanded,” the blonde yelled to the group behind her. “We’re not getting a shot.” A chorus of mumbles and murmurs ran through the crowd, but they turned to head back through the tunnel.

“I wanna watch!” the female paladin said. The blonde nodded.

“I know, me too.”

“Who’s Flutter?” the boy asked.

“She’s a fortress paladin that’s strong enough to solo a 20 person raid,” The blonde replied. The other three were watching the dragon assault Flutter.

“Whooaa. Can you do that, Rook?” The boy asked the female paladin. She shook her head, her dark dreadlocks wiggled on her head.

“She’s a Unique. Calavera,” she replied without taking her eyes off the action. The dragon’s swings were becoming slower, he appeared to be getting tired.

“Why’s she just standing there?” The boy asked. He approached the ledge to watch with the adults.

“Fortress paladins have a skill that lets them store up damage and dish it back out. Flutter can take a LOT of damage. Watch, I think shes’ going to use it. The dragon’s too tired already.”

In the center of the meadow, the dragon gave one final swipe with its claws then stopped. It supported itself with its front legs in order to rest a bit. The red glow on Flutter’s armor began to glow brighter.   She brought both shields in front of her and fit them together like two halves of a whole. Her glow flowed through her arms into the shield wall. A wide beam of red light fired from the towering shield and hit the dragon right in its face. The energy continued to flow until the glow left Flutter’s body entirely. Then the, now headless, dragon fell on its side.

Heart’s Desire

“Junior! Wake up!” His mom’s voice penetrated the closed door. Junior was already awake; he heard her call the first time. This was the second call, but he always waited for the third one. He loved to make his mom come in and wake him up. Junior stared at the video game console on the carpet.

“I don’t wanna go to school,” he mumbled. The chubby child rolled over on his back, shut his eyes and puffed his cheeks. He was only 9 but he learned that he could sometimes get what he wanted by shutting his eyes and holding his breath.  “I wanna go somewhere and play video games all day and never come back!” He held his breath while he made his wish. Junior heard the click of a doorknob. He sighed and opened his eyes. He heard another click the moment he realized he wasn’t in his bed anymore.

The boy watched an iron bar click into place in front of him, then he looked around. He watched white particles coalescing into long bars. The bars darkened to resemble iron and then they slotted together to build a cage around him. The boy was so entranced that he did not try to get out before it was finished. Instead, he looked around at the rest of the room.

His cage was being built in the center of what appeared to a castle’s common room. Black stone floors reflected the orange light from the fireplace. Elegant tapestries decorated the purple crystalline walls.

“Welcome to the AlterNet, Unique #27 -El Corazón,” an unseen female voice said. Junior thought it sounded like the cage speaking to him. “You do not have a registered AlterNet character, please leave this Earth. Would you like to create an AlterNet character” The voice asked.

“YES!” Junior yelled. The situation did not unnerve him at all, he was used to getting what he wanted.

“Violet Server rules require the presence of a guild officer. Please standby.” Junior saw a light come in the distance. A faint glow appeared in the crystalline wall. After several moments another, larger glow. Then an interval later, an even brighter larger glow. The boy realized he was watching the lights come on through the walls as someone came closer to his room. Finally, the next room lit up. Junior saw a faint silhouette through the wall, but could not make out any details.

The shadow walked to the entrance, then turned into the room. A young woman with shoulder-length blond hair stepped into the light. She wore plaid pajama pants and a long pink shirt with a ’32’ on it in white numbers. She saw the young boy and gave him a comforting smile.

“Hola, Estrellita,” She said. She walked to the cage and placed a flat palm on the top of it. The iron bars disintegrated into white powder, then disappeared. “I’m Grace,” she said. “You want to make a character, huh?”  Junior nodded.

“We can do that, but not right now. My guild has some very important rules about different Earths. You’ll learn them all at some point, but the important one now is we don’t accept underage members without parent’s permission.” Grace placed a hand on Junior’s shoulder. “But I’m awake already,” she giggled and gave him an over-exaggerated shrug. “If you want to hop home and get your parents I’ll wait here.” Junior nodded and closed his eyes. He clenched his fists and puffed his cheeks, but didn’t go anywhere. After a few moments, he opened his eyes to see Grace.

“I don’t know how,” he said. The woman nodded.

“It’s okay. New Estrellas get lost all the time,” Grace said. She touched his shoulder again and applied pressure to guide him toward the room’s exit. “We don’t have any celestials in the guild, but I’m sure we can find you a ride tomorrow.” Junior did not want to wait until ‘tomorrow’.  He wanted to make his character now. He clenched his eyes shut, held his breath and stood his ground.

“#27-El Corazón requires inhibitor to interface with nanos. Estimated build time: 27 hours.” The disembodied voice said. A swarm of white nanos gathered around Junior’s wrist. They orbited his plump wrist like rings around a planet.

“What?” Grace asked. “Violet, identify Uniques in the common room.”

“Grace. #32-El Músico, Awakened. Unknown. #27-El Corazón, Slumbering,” the mystery voice said.

“Holy hell, kid,” Grace stared the boy with wide eyes. “You’re something else,” she shook her head. “I don’t know how you got here, but we can’t get you home without making your character. Might as well do that tonight.” Junior nodded.

“Might as well,” he agreed with a confident smile. He knew he’d get what he wanted.

Chomping Games

“She’s way O.P.,” Rook complained. She walked into the common room with Thumper and Grace; the rest of the 20-person raid broke up to do other things. “Ms. Sharp should make the nanos lock her out or something.” She tapped her golden breastplate to dismiss it, then plopped on one of the brown leather recliners. Her armor disintegrated into white powder that disappeared before she landed.

“Telling Flutter ‘No’ about something seems like a really bad idea,” Grace said. The Knight dismissed her own chainmail armor as she sat on a large sofa made from the same brown leather. “We did just watch her solo a 20-person raid.”

“Yeaaah,” Rook smiled broadly. “I’m the same spec as her, I’m gonna be that strong some day.” Rook shuffled in the chair. She grimaced as she struggled to get comfortable. After a moment she stood and looked at the other brown leather chair. “Is that one as lumpy as this one?” Grace shook her head, then brushed a blond bang out of her eyes; it settled there after the short movement.

“No, that one’s way more comfortable. No one likes that one,” Grace pointed at the uncomfortable seat.

“Heeey. That’s-” Thumper whined with hurt feelings, but Grace interrupted the boy.

“Hey! Where’s Chomper?” She asked.

“Who’s Chomper?” Rook asked. When the tall woman turned her attention to Grace the brown leather chair gave a slight quiver.

“He’s that-” Thumper turned to point at something by Rook, but Grace grabbed the nine-year-old’s hand.

“It’s okay, Thumper, we’ll find him. Don’t worry,” Grace pulled the boy close for a tight hug. She took the opportunity to whisper in his ear. “Rook’s new, remember? She hasn’t found Chomper yet.” The boy nodded and grinned. Then, he turned to face rook.

“Where’s Chomper?” he repeated. Again the chair trembled with excitement. “Please help me find him! Chomper’s the best pet in the whole world!” Rook’s bright yellow eyes rolled upward, but she shrugged.

“Okay, what am I looking for? Cat? Dog? Bird? Unicorn?” She began searching the room looking for any movement.

“He’s uhhh, kind of hard to describe,” Grace said. “He can change shape, but he’s easy to find. He likes playing games, so you have to walk around like you want to play a game. Say, ‘Where’s Chomper?’ and you’ll see him kind wiggle like he’s excited to play.” The brown leather chair jumped slightly behind Rook. She did not notice.  “Let’s each take part of the room, why don’t you start over there?” Grace pointed to the furthest corner in the room.

“‘Kay,” Rook nodded and walked to the dim corner. “Where’s Chomper?” she asked a bookshelf. Then she turned to a potted plant. “Where’s Chomper?” she asked. Grace and Thumper each giggled to themselves in their own corner. Rook was so distracted by her question that she did not notice Grace and Thumper were not asking for Chomper. They timed their pace to reach the center of the room at the same time as Rook.

“Any luck?” Grace asked. She looked eyes with Rook to keep her distracted. Rook shook her head, then she looked down at Thumper.

“Sorry kid, I’m done looking for now. Maybe I’ll help you later if he hasn’t shown up yet. I asked everything over there…,” she gestured at the far corner. “…’where’s Chomper?’ but nothing moved. She let herself fall on the lumpy recliner. The moment she touched it jagged ivory teeth sprouted out on each side of her and clamped shut to trap her.

“YOU FOUND CHOMPER!” Grace and Thumper shouted together. The recliner spit the woman out and rushed to Thumper. By the time the mimic reached him, it changed from a leather recliner to a small silver and gold treasure chest. The box bounced around Thumper while he petted it.