“Hey boss, are you… still mad at me?”
“Cut the addiction. It’s ruining you.”
“I’m sorry about what happened, I really am. Just, please tell me you can forgive me?”
“I know you’re sorry. Just try to sober up or I will have to let you go, and you know I don’t want to do that.”
“I can only try Al, but no promises.”
“Breakfast time!” a soft voice rings out to a quiet little home.
The voice belongs to Piper Plyx, a young pixie in a pink dress.
“I made pancakes this time... I think? I’m still trying to figure out what these ingredients even are.” She places the plate before another person at the dinner table.
“Huh,” remarks the only other person seated at the table. “It definitely looks more like food than yesterday’s dinner.”
This person is Ravasz Zhin, an anthropomorphic cobra dressed in worn apparel.
“Come on Ravasz, give me a break,” Piper replies, “I’m doing the best with what I have. It’s not easy.”
Ravasz looks displeased. “Maybe you should try a bit harder. It still looks like plastic.” Piper scowls at her.
“Better than anything you’ll ever make!” a scratchy voice from across the room shouts.
The voice is Edan Fahrzick, a formally dressed skeleton sitting on the couch behind Ravasz.
“Shut up Edan, stay out of this,” Ravasz replies, “Just be happy you don’t have to eat it, you bony bastard.”
“If I were happy I wouldn’t be here,” Edan responds.
“Well, it’s either eat this or go hungry until lunch,” says Piper.
“I don’t know which I’d prefer,” Ravasz snarkily replies.
Before things can escalate any further, another person enters the kitchen. This person is Texivald Ardiggan, an avian wearing plague doctor’s attire, including a mask he refuses to remove. He takes one of the plates and turns back to the room he came from before being stopped by Piper.
“Honey, just once can you eat with us? And take off that mask for once, you’ve been wearing it this whole time.” She gently puts her hand on Tex’s cheek, but he lowers it and shakes his head before continuing back out of the room.
“Nice one,” Ravasz comments, “He almost cared about you that time.”
“He’s been having a rough time,” Piper replies, “I’m sure he’ll take that mask off soon.”
“Don’t get your hopes up,” Ravasz quietly responds.
“Ugh… Why did we even. Why did we even?” Piper starts pacing around the room. “Everything was fine, just some minor setbacks, and now I’m stuck here with a bunch of rude people and the only person I know can’t even talk. Everything is just going perfectly.”
“Welcome to my world, we both know what it’s like to lose everything you love in mere seconds,” Ravasz angrily replies, her words slowly beginning to break.
“Meh,” Edan chimes in, “I only came here because my life was getting torn apart by taxes.”
“You and I both know that’s not true,” a mysterious voice booms.
Allister Trance, a large, red, anthropomorphic dragon enters the kitchen. He rubs his eyes with his prosthetic arm as he enters the room.
“Ah, good morning Al,” Edan responds.
“You came here because you had nobody left,” Allister interrupts, “You’re pathetic, Edan, and you know it.” Edan looks down in shame.
Piper sits up, “Are you going to eat something, big guy?” she asks.
“I’m not hungry,” he replies. Piper loudly groans before storming out of the room to find Tex.
“What’s up with her?” He asks.
“I think she’s mad she forgot how to cook,” replies Ravasz, snickering to herself.
“Again, it’s more than you’ll ever do,” Edan retaliates.
“I can’t believe you two are still like this,” Allister states, “We’re dropped into a world of absolute chaos and you’re already at each other’s throats.”
“Figuratively,” Edan corrects.
“Shut up Edan," Allister commands, “You’re one of the problems. How are any of us going to survive if all you two do is fight?”
“And you’re helping in this situation, how?” Ravasz questions.
“I don't know!” Allister booms, “No matter what I do or say you two just keep attacking both me and each other. We saved you Ravasz, and yet all you can do is poke fun at our expenses. I just want things to be better here, but now I’m beginning to see that my vision was too good to be true. If you need me, I’ll be regretting everything outside.”
Allister storms outside. “So what’s his deal?” Ravasz asks, “Why are you just taking everything he throws at you? Is there some big secret you’re hiding from me?”
“I ain’t telling you anything you don’t need to know,” Edan replies.
“What? Are you too scared? Just spit it out, coward,” Ravasz demands.
“I’ll tell you if you tell me why you’re here. You’ve been just as quiet as I have,” Edan replies.
They both fall silent.
“That’s what I thought.”
• • •
Outside the house, Allister stomps his way to the back of the house.
“Good morning, Allister.” a friendly robotic voice greets him. The voice is Otto, a large, blue automaton standing guard in front of the house. “How are you this morning?”
“Be quiet, Otto.” Allister continues on his way.
“Alright then,” Otto replies, returning to his position as quickly as he left it.
Allister has a seat behind the house, in the shadow of the ruins around him. The morning sun shines upon broken buildings and abandoned houses. A feeling of melancholy cloaks the surrounding land.
“Ashley…” Allister mutters to himself. “What wouldn’t I do to have been there for you?”
Staring at the pale blue sky, Allister’s eyes begin to close. The sound of sweet silence is only masked by the gentle wind and the sound of Otto’s distant motors.
“Huh?” Allister gets up to look around. “Otto was that you?”
“Negative,” Otto replies in the distance.
“Hmph. Must be imagining things.” Allister leans back and closes his eyes once more.
“Al…” The mysterious voice calls out once more, more clearly this time.
“What?” Allister awakes again. “Somebody out there? Show yourself!”
“Hello?” He calls out again.
“Hello!” Otto replies cheerily.
“Not you, Otto,” Alllister calls back.
“Oh okay,” Otto replies.
“Ugh… I’m getting old aren’t I…” Allister ponders as he lies back down one last time.
“Allister,” The voice calls out again, more clear than ever.
“That's it! Who-” Allister stops. He opens his eyes again only to awaken in a void. A deep, purple mist swirls around his feet as he tries to understand the situation he’s in.
“I knew it. I’m crazy.” Allister says to himself, scratching his head in confusion.
Suddenly, a bright light descends in front of him.
“Allister Trance,” The light calls out to him in a robotic, feminine voice.
“What the hell are you?” Allister asks in an intimidating voice.
The light grows brighter, blinding Allister with its glow. When Allister regains his vision, he sees a tall, female figure made out of rose-colored metal. She looks down upon him.
“That is your name, is it not?” She asks.
“Answer my question first,” Allister demands.
“Of course, where are my manners?” The figure politely responds. “My name is Io, and the Otherworld is my child. I’ve called upon you because I need your help. My world is in danger, and I need you to fix it.”
“And I should help you, why?” Allister questions.
“Should you survive I will give you anything you desire.”
“And why should I trust you?” Allister asks.
“I mean, you don’t have to, but do you have any other choice?”
Allister sighs. “Alright, fine. What do I need to do?”
“Gather your team and head north. You’ll find a town where one awaits your arrival with a gift.”
“My team? But we can’t do anything together! Every time I try to get them to do something they insult me!”
“Maybe you can fix that in battle.”
“Battle? What do you-”
• • •
“Al… Al! Wake up!”
Piper desperately tries to wake the sleeping dragon to no avail.
“Huh… What? Oh, hey Piper.”
“Did you have a nice nap?” She asks.
“Ugh… I had the weirdest dream, there was this lady, and she-”
“That sounds pretty neat,” Piper interrupts. “Why don’t you tell me all about it after we get rid of the giant flaming turtle?”
“Alright, I guess I- the WHAT?”
Allister immediately gets up and approaches the front of the house.
Edan, Otto and Tex are standing in front of the house, confronting a massive tortoise. Its skin is jagged, and appears to be made of obsidian, and it has a volcano shaped shell. Magma flows between its scales as it angrily flares up, with Edan struggling to avoid getting crushed in its jaws.
“Boss! Glad you could make it!” Edan sarcastically yells to Allister. “Somehow, this thing is a bigger hothead than me!”
Otto punches the beast in its temple, releasing Edan from its grip. The monster retaliates by spewing fire at Otto. Piper flies above the creature and waves her hands, causing vines to erupt from the ground that wrap around the monster's neck, pinning it to the ground.
“What the hell is happening?!” Allister yells.
“Come see for yourself, Al!” Edan yells back.
As the monster struggles to get up, its shell begins to flare up and glow a bright orange. Everyone retreats, fearing what might happen next. Suddenly, a powerful pillar of fire erupts from the monster’s back, raining fire down upon the area around it. Everyone manages to avoid the danger except Otto, whose metallic shell is pierced by the flames.
“Otto, fall back now! This thing is too dangerous to fight up close. Piper and Ravasz, you have to-” Allister pauses. “Wait, where’s Ravasz?”
“Hell if I know,” Edan replies.
“Ugh… This is exactly what I meant…” Allister mutters to himself.
Suddenly, the monster sprints toward Allister, spraying lava from its back the whole time. It pins Allister to the house with its jaws, while charging up to breathe fire.
“Otto! Get this thing off me, quick!” Allister yells.
Otto obliges, grabbing one of the beast’s hind legs and pulling while the rest of the group grabs the other. The beast’s grip loosens, but not quickly enough to save Allister from a blast of fire from the beast’s mouth. He roars in pain as the flames singe his flesh.
“Allister!” Piper yells. She summons multiple massive vines to pull the monster away from Allister while it snorts and snarls angrily. It fiercely resists the pull as Allister attempts to put out his wounded skin. After a lot of struggling, the monster chomps and burns the vines and charges full speed back at Allister. The force of the impact destroys the wall of the house, and wood falls on both of them.
“NO!” Piper screams. She tries to move the wood in an attempt to search for the monster. Suddenly the monstrous tortoise emerges from the wreckage with broken scales and molten blood seeping out from beneath its obsidian armor. Allister rides on its back, attempting to overpower the beast with both his arms around its neck. Allister scrambles his arms around the creature's head as the others attempt to wound the beast even more. Finally, with one swift, yet powerful movement Allister is able to snap the monster’s neck, and it falls lifelessly into the ruins of the house. Allister gets up and reunites with the group, burned, bleeding, and mortally wounded as Tex immediately gets to tending to him.
“That… was… horrifying,” Edan remarks.
“It’s over now and that’s all that matters.” Allister replies.
Before things can calm down, however, the wreckage begins to shake, and something reaches out from the collapsed wood.
“What in the actual hell was all that?!” Ravasz angrily shouts as she climbs out of the pile.
“Ah, there she is,” Edan states, moving his hand in a dismissive manner.
“I’m just happy everyone is alive and well,” Allister says.
“I swear I have like 300 splinters now,” Ravasz replies.
“And another thing,” Allister adds, “Piper, that was a tortoise. Turtles have flippers.”
“Ohhh, okay!” Piper replies.
“Well what do we do now? The house is destroyed!” Edan states, pointing at the wreckage of the house.
“...North. We have to go north.” Allister commands.
“I’m sorry?” Edan asks, “And where did you pull that conclusion from, smart guy?”
“I had a dream. A woman calling herself Io spoke about her world, this world, being in grave danger, and that we have to go north to stop it,” Allister responds.
Edan bursts out laughing. “So lemme get this straight. You had a weird fever dream about some princess or whatever and you’re just gonna blindly follow her commands?”
“If you want to live in a broken house with a massive corpse for a roommate, be my guest,” Allister suggests, “I’m following my gut.”
“Alright, fine I guess, but how will we figure out which way is north, Einstein?”
“That way,” Otto says, pointing towards the distance.
“Then it’s settled. North it is.”
• • •
“Thay be much stronger than thay keek, ey laddie?”
From atop the ruins of the surrounding village, a rotund, bearded man and a dark, slender figure watch the group head on their way.
“Twas just a Torkaton, no need to overestimate them now.”
“A'd aye keep an yak oot. Thay kin sook at bein' mukkers bit they're muckle better in combat!”
“If they become a problem, you know how to deal with them, correct?”
“Aye! if thay step yin foot oan mah ben ah will bury thaim alive till thair skulls freeze ower!”
The dark figure turns to the man, confused.
“Nothing. Just make sure they perish.”
“Heheheh, o' coorse…”