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Happy Made-Up Internet Holiday!

Happy Made-Up Internet Holiday! published on

(What, is it the Feast of Boris again yet?)

In honor of International Pixel-Stained Technopeasant Day, I give you a thingie. It’s presumably not publishable-quality, seeing as no one’s published me yet, but I’m posting it anyway because I think I’m done with it for a while, and it’s distracting me from working on other things.

It’s the prologue to The Nebulous Video Game In My Head, “The Ashdocks”, which is kind of a puzzle-RPG – the plot involves boats, ghosts, swamps, fairies, and people being political, and the gameplay involves a few standard turn-based battles, and a lot of puzzles where you manipulate plants and fungi in various ways to affect the environment, hurt people, heal them, and create new items. You get a limited number of certain types of seeds/roots/etc per stage, and can buy more of others, and all that good video-game-economics stuff.

Because this isn’t Harvest Moon, you can also manipulate the passage of time to get the plants to grow immediately, though there are sometimes side-effects to doing that – grow too many explosive mushrooms in a certain place in such-and-such a space of real-time, and you wear out your soil so that it’s only fit for growing zombies for a while. Which you may or may not want, depending on who you’ve killed recently and what level you are.

(Except that I don’t know how this system works yet, hence the word “nebulous.” This is why I’m never actually going to be a video game designer. The “game” part kind of stumps me.)

If this hasn’t all scared you away, the script is behind the cut.

The “>”‘s in the script sort of vaguely represent a place where the scene changes in some way that the player doesn’t control.

The “>>”‘s indicate a place where the player makes a decision to speak to a particular character, thus ruling out speaking to any of the others, for the moment. There are several people there to talk to, who all say pretty close to the same things in the same order, but with a personal slant, which gets stronger towards the end of the scene. They each pick up where the other left off – or, they do in a logical sense, since they can’t always hear one another.

(So, basically: If Medokan tells you about the fire, and you go over to Ashgao right after, he won’t tell you about the fire a second time, but will move on to the next set of responses. Each set is marked with square brackets (“[]”), to make it a little clearer.)

The idea is that the player can spend the whole prologue talking to one character, or can walk around and talk to all of them, and still get the same information. When the prologue ends, one of four different “paths” opens up depending on which character the player seemed to select as the most important in the prologue. That’s when the information the player gets about the situation starts to get really slanted.

I haven’t decided yet whether I want to force people to replay four different times to get all four versions of the story; I plan on making them different enough to amuse me, but that only goes so far. I feel like it’d be less obnoxious to have some kind of stopping point where the game asks the player if they want to go back and start over as someone else for a while, if I could make it fit plot-wise.

…Yes, this is probably kind of over-ambitious of me. But I think the scenarios will at least all have similar plant puzzles.

The Ashdocks

> *A gloved hand holds a dark lantern unsteadily, and abruptly shutters it. The screen goes black.*

> *There is a sound of pipes. The screen slowly lightens to gray, then white. It is fog; it begins to clear away a little. The music continues – it would be cheerful, were it not very clumsy and tentative. It keeps trailing off, and never overpowers the sound of roaring wind in the background. What appear to be five dark figures stand in the fog. One, downstage center, wanders a little, vaguely, whenever the music stops. Another, upstage right, is sitting, and seems to be nodding off. The one downstage right, also seated, is clearly the player. One center-stage seems to be hunched disconsolately on the ground, and is perfectly still, as is one standing straight up, back to the others, upstage far left.*

> *The last of the fog retreats to the edges of the screen. Four figures are on what appears to be a jagged piece of land jutting just above the clouds; it is sparsely covered in twisted, dry-looking shrubs and grasses with exposed or dangling roots. What appeared to be a person in the center of the screen was only a shadow cast downward by a hunk of stone. As the light is diffuse and comes from all directions at once, nothing else here casts much of a shadow to speak of – the shadow appears to be impossible. The upstage-left figure is revealed to be standing on a ledge above the others; there is no obvious way up to her. The greenery and fog both seem a little thicker up there.*

*Ashgao Enash, who has dark brown skin and short black hair, is the wandering figure downstage-center. He looks earnest, worried, and sleepy; he gives the superficial impression of being very honest and possibly not very intelligent. He is nineteen years old. His older sister, Medokan Enash, is the figure seated on a hunk of stone upstage right. Her face is thinner and more intelligent. Her hair tumbles halfway down her back, and she is hunched inwards a little, stiffly, as though exhausted or grieving, though her expression is distant and severe. She is twenty-four years old. Both Medokan and Ashgao are dressed in ornate brocade trousers and tunics, as though they had been attending a party or ceremony; they are obviously wealthy. Both wear sheaths, but neither has a sword.*

*The downstage left figure, Ira, is a thin, pale young man with blond hair and bright blue eyes and an intense, slightly angry expression. As the fog clears, he lowers his pipes and looks at them perplexedly. He is dressed in expensive servants’ clothes, and has at his feet a bow with a broken string, an empty quiver, and an empty sheath. He is eighteen years old. The woman on the cliff above’s back is turned to the three, though we see her profile – she looks very much like Ira. She looks tired and stubborn, and seems to be watching something far away, though there is nothing but fog beyond the cliff. She appears to be older than the others, possibly in her mid-thirties. She wears loose slacks and a sleeveless shirt, and gives no impression of wealth.*

*None of the four is looking at any of the others. They seem, initially, unaware that they are not alone.*

> *Ira notices Ashgao standing close to the edge. He drops his pipes on the ground and runs over, touches Ashgao’s shoulder. Ashgao looks at him in surprise.*

ASHGAO: Ira…

IRA: Not so close to the edge, my prince!

*Ashgao looks at it surprisedly, steps backwards.*

ASHGAO: Oh!

ASHGAO: Hm.

IRA: Don’t “hm!” You need to pay attention, you might have – …

*Medokan, roused from her grim self-absorption, looks up and snaps at Ira. Ira sneers back at her, his hand still on Ashgao’s shoulder. Ashgao shades his eyes to peer off into the distance, frowning.*

MEDOKAN: Don’t speak so to your prince, you insolent little swamp-creature.

IRA: I was merely showing *concern*, my lady –

MEDOKAN: Do I look like I want to hear your nasal little voice right now, pixie? Do I look –

ASHGAO: …Medokan, honestly, it’s fine…

*Medokan and Ira both look at him for a moment. The mist thickens slightly, and their expressions all slacken. Medokan slumps again, Ira and Ashgao both lower their hands. Ira leads Ashgao to sit down beside him, and picks up his pipes off the ground, polishing them distractedly. The perspective of the screen shifts a little and the sound of wind drops significantly, making it clear that it is time for the player to do something.*

> *When the player moves the cursor, it is the shadow of the central stone that moves – it seems to stand and shake itself out (downwards; ie, it is cast from a non-existent light source somewhere upstage), taking on a vaguely human form. Medokan, the only one not presently facing the wrong direction, looks up a little and watches it blankly, unamazed; when it walks in front of Ashgao and Ira, they will both also follow it with their eyes, equally disinterested. The shadow can now stand in front of either Medokan, Ashgao, or Ira and press a button to elicit the first block of choice-dialog.*

[

>> MEDOKAN: I am Medokan Enash, the Crown Princess of Esgar – the country of the Ashdocks. My brother, who sits over there, is the prince, Ashgao Enash. He is better-liked than I am. I sympathize. I love him better than I love myself.

MEDOKAN: …I have never been able to protect him…

>> IRA: I’m Ira. I serve Prince Ashgao of Esgar – or, “the Ashdocks,” as most call the place. Ashgao’s sister Medokan is, technically, the heir to the kingdom. She’s, ehhh, she’s sitting over there, somewhere. Don’t talk to her, she’s unpleasant.

IRA: …even were Ashgao not a prince, even if he had no money or friends, I would serve him. I never deserved what he did for me…

>> ASHGAO: – ?

ASHGAO: I’m Ashgao, Prince of the Ashdocks… well, I think the Ashdocks are pretty far from here. You may not know about them. The lady sitting over there is my older sister, Medokan, who will be Queen. Beside me is my friend Ira –

*Ira and Medokan glare at him. Ashgao grins.*

ASHGAO: – and I’ll bet they’re both glaring at me right now, because I’m supposed to call him my wizard, if I have to mention he’s there at all.

ASHGAO: …I wish I weren’t so much trouble to them…

]

[

>> MEDOKAN: I am a widow. Except I think maybe we are all dead now. Can a dead woman yet be a widow? But my husband is not here… we are not – yet – reunited…

>> IRA: Even if we are both dead, I will serve the Prince… Being a wizard, you’d honestly think I should be able to *tell* whether we’re dead – I mean, I think it should be a pretty high priority!

>> ASHGAO: I worry we might all be dead… but where are Ira’s mother and Medokan’s husband? What *good* is an afterlife, if our lost are still lost?

]

[

>> MEDOKAN: I know that something happened to us, but I cannot think what. I do remember my husband’s death, though, very clearly… Merhureon was on his ship, already docked, almost returned to me – I would have seen him in just a few hours… He kept flammable things in his cabin, some kind of experiment. Someone tossed a lit match in while he slept. The ship went down in the harbor. I saw the flames from a distance, from high above, first; they didn’t look dangerous…

MEDOKAN: Merhureon! Please don’t sleep!

*Her head sags.*

>> IRA: I can’t remember why we might be dead. I know there’s some good reason, I mean, you do need a pretty good reason to be dead…

IRA: I remember the night Duke Merhureon’s boat went down – that’s the Princess’s husband, the Duke. It was already docked and in the harbor, she was on her way to meet him and all. But he had something in his cabin he’d been messing with, some experiment, and he fell asleep and let it catch fire. He didn’t make it out.

IRA: She cried. Never thought to see her cry…

*He puts down his pipes, lowers his head.*

>> ASHGAO: I can’t really remember how we might have died – I know something happened, but what it was… It’s strange, because I remember the night – oh, god, it’s indecent to talk about it – I remember the night Merhureon died so well. He was Medokan’s husband, the Duke…

ASHGAO: He’d just gotten back from a sea journey, his boat was still in the dock, he was in his cabin. He’d been experimenting with something in there to pass the time. He was sleeping for a while, while he waited for Medokan to arrive, and somehow – there can be all sorts of things to happen on a boat just docked – somehow it ignited… the ship went down, right there in the dock.

ASHGAO: Oh, god, Medokan, please don’t cry…

*His head droops.*

]

[

>> MEDOKAN: My world died that night. Since then there has been only the world of the dead, for me.

>> IRA: Everything seemed to go rotten, after that fire. I’m not *surprised* we might all be dead.

>> ASHGAO: Since Merhureon’s ship went down… nothing’s been right. It seems almost normal to be in a place like this.

]

[

>> MEDOKAN: We’re dead. I remember something huge, coming down from the night sky –

>> IRA: …I suppose we’re dead. There was – the palace burning –

>> ASHGAO: Assuming we are dead – I remember falling from a great height –

(Alternately, as appropriate:)

MEDOKAN: No, I remember something huge coming down from the night *sky* –

IRA: No, it was that the palace burned!

ASHGAO: No, I thought we fell! From very, very high up, somehow…!

]

> *All three look at each other, a little more alert.*

ASHGAO: …Shall we take a vote on it?

MEDOKAN: Oh, for god’s sake, Gao…

IRA: Are we voting whether we’re dead, or what we died of?

ASHGAO: Whether we’re dead. *I* don’t think we are.

IRA: …my prince. I’m not *sure*. Ohhh, damnit, I’m supposed to be your wizard, and I can’t even tell if I’m *dead* –

ASHGAO: – I’m not sure I understand what one has to do with the other, Ira –

MEDOKAN: And I think we’re dead. Your vote is tied, Gao. Let’s ask that woman up there, shall we?

*They look up at the woman. She doesn’t move.*

ASHGAO: Hello? Miss?

*She doesn’t move.*

ASHGAO: Miss? Would you care to…

IRA: Are you dead, ma’am?

MEDOKAN: …She looks like…

IRA: …

ASHGAO: She looks like Ira…

*The fog thickens again. Again, all three droop like puppets with their strings cut, facing slightly away from one another. The woman still does not move. When it clears a little, after a second, the shadow’s shape has changed, to resemble whomever the player has had it talking to the most. If it has spoken to everyone equally, or very close, then it looks like the woman.*

[

>> MEDOKAN: What are you, that pesters me? I have heard of a lonely shadow that foretells a person’s death… if this were some in-between place, and our fates not yet sealed…

(If it is her shadow:)

MEDOKAN: Well. It’s good that you seem to be my death, and my brother might yet live.

(If it is Ashgao’s shadow:)

*She becomes agitated.*

MEDOKAN: Oh, god, no – let me die and my brother live, let me, let me – be for me, shadow –

*It becomes her shadow.*

MEDOKAN: – good. good…

*She slumps again.*

(If it is Ira’s or the woman’s:)

MEDOKAN: Then I am glad that you are not my brother’s shadow…

>> IRA: If this is the place halfway between life and death – which I’ve heard of but, not being much of a wizard, never seen myself – if then you must be a fetch, the shadow-thing that foretells death –

(If it is his shadow:)

IRA: – then I will die, if it means you don’t take Ashgao.

(If it his Ashgao’s shadow:)

*He stands up and yells down at the shadow.*

IRA: – *then let me die in his place! You must not take Ashgao!*

*It becomes his shadow. Staring down at it with fists clenched, he cries a little.*

IRA: – thank you, shadow… thank you for my death…

*He sits again, slowly, and again slumps over.*

(If it is Medokan’s or the woman’s:)

IRA: …just as long as you do not take Ashgao…

>> ASHGAO: I don’t know much about these things, my lord Shadow – should I call you that? You can’t talk – but are we not *yet* dead? Does only one of us need die?

ASHGAO: Then I wish you would take me, my lord. I have been lucky and happy, and I have no real responsibilities to return to – I’m not much of a prince, you know. Give my time to my sister and Ira, and the beautiful lady with Ira’s face… though I wish I knew her name…

*If it was not his shadow, it becomes so. If it was, it briefly imitates his pose.*

ASHGAO: Thank you, my lord Shadow.

]

> * The woman turns to face the player, and it is revealed that she holds a scimitar in her left hand. If the shadow is Medokan’s, Ira’s, or Ashgao’s, they and the shadow walk to meet each other, attaching at the feet (though the shadow can lose its person by going too quickly or moving over a stone, showing that the player is still controlling the shadow, not the person). If it is the woman’s, the shadow dissolves and appears before her, and she steps up to its feet. It has no sword. All non-doomed remain still.*

[

>> MEDOKAN: How will you kill me?

MEDOKAN: I have lost my sword. But the woman, who looks like Ira-the-swamp-pixie-thing – she still has hers. Is she Death?

MEDOKAN: That boy was to be my death all along. Of course. I warned Gao about him…

>> IRA: Well. Shall we begin?

IRA: My sword and arrows are gone, but that woman’s still got her sword, so I guess it’s her job.

IRA: I wonder if she’s related to me somehow? Does Death have relations? Or maybe she sort of *is* me, metaphysically or something, and all along I’ve been my own death. The Princess will like that!

>> ASHGAO: Now, having said that, my lord Shadow, how do I go about dying?

ASHGAO: Oh – the lady has a sword, though our weapons are all gone. Is she Death, then?

ASHGAO: She holds the sword so differently from the way Ira does. I wonder how many she’s killed, and what for…

>> SAFURE: I’m Safure. I’m armed.

SAFURE: That’s all I know. I *believe* I once swore I would face my death with a sword in my hand. I would appear to be keeping my vow. That’s nice of me!

SAFURE: Now, *how* to *die*…

]

I hope you found that a nice, macabre way to start your Monday!