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       The Gamers: Dorkness Rising (The Novel), p.1

           Diana Brown
 
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The Gamers: Dorkness Rising (The Novel)


  The Gamers:

  Dorkness Rising

  (The Novel)

  Diana Brown

  Adapted from the screenplay by

  Matt Vancil

  The Gamers: Dorkness Rising is the creation of Dead Gentlemen Productions, and is distributed by Zombie Orpheus Entertainment under a Creative Commons license (Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported). The Gamers: Dorkness Rising (The Novel) inherits and is distributed under these terms.

  Nodwick appears in The Gamers: Dorkness Rising courtesy of Aaron Williams and Do Gooder Press

  Contents

  Chapter 1: Dungeon Crawling

  Chapter 2: The Gamers

  Chapter 3: Alone In The Dark

  Chapter 4: Aarrrbuck’s

  Chapter 5: A Matter Of Characters

  Chapter 6: The Adventure Begins

  Chapter 7: Meditating At The Temple Of The Moon

  Chapter 8: Mudhollow Inne

  Chapter 9: The Road To Westhaven

  Chapter 10: Evolving Naturally

  Chapter 11: The ‘Real’ World?

  Chapter 12: Another Friday Night

  Chapter 13: A Scruffy-Looking Peasant

  Chapter 14: Westhaven

  Chapter 15: Mort Kemnon’s Secret Cave HQ

  Chapter 16: The Final Battle

  Chapter 17: The Not-So-Grand Hierophant

  Chapter 18: Return To Whitetower

  Chapter 19: Her Heart’s True Wish

  Chapter 20: After-Game Special

  Chapter 21: The Morning After

  Chapter 22: New Adventures

  Acknowledgements

  Author’s Note

  Chapter 1: Dungeon Crawling

  The three men cautiously stalked the dark hallway, torchlight flickering against the dingy stone walls. The eerie silence was broken only by the intermittent clanking of the warrior’s armor and the occasional creaking of ropes as their henchman shifted the bulky chest he balanced on his back and shoulders. Three and a half men, I suppose, thought Rennard – who was, after all, the only one of the group in the habit of thinking. Henchmen are men too. Probably. After a fashion…

  Rennard’s iron discipline brought his mind swiftly back to the task at hand. He continued to weave his way warily down the hallway, snaking from side to side as he examined the walls and floor for signs of traps. He paused occasionally, listening for the evil minions who must surely lurk nearby. These corridors marked the entrance to the lair of a necromancer – traps and minions were, after all, inevitable.

  Rennard found the end of the corridor blocked by a simple wooden door. Simple? Rennard thought. Nothing thus far has been simple – this has to be a trap. Turk lumbered to his side, reaching a gauntleted hand past Rennard to seize the doorknob.

  Ah-ha!

  Rennard seized Turk’s hand preventing his fingertips from touching the door – just in time, undoubtedly, to prevent the brainless oaf from raining the necromancer’s devious punishment upon them all.

  Turk turned a questioning face to Rennard, and the rogue responded by pointing to a small plaque on the door. The wooden tablet was decorated with some sort of mystic scribble, nearly invisible in the dim torchlight. Turk nodded in understanding, and smiled his thanks to Rennard for preventing what must certainly have been disaster. The two stepped back, making room for the priest to do his work.

  Fastidian stepped forward, one hand wrapped around the symbol of his goddess - a medallion the size of his palm, crafted in the image of a sunburst. He briefly examined the runes before him, then let the medallion fall against his saffron robes as he used both hands to invoke the Light That Evildoers Fear. When the blinding flash receded, the cursed runes had vanished.

  So much for my night vision, Rennard thought as he stepped up to the door. It was a simple lock – he could have picked it with his eyes closed. Good thing, he mused, as his vision slowly re-adapted to the darkness.

  The door creaked slowly open and the men stepped forward into a scene of carnage. Corpses lay strewn about the floor, decaying flesh drawn tight across clearly-visible skeletons. As Turk leaned forward to examine one of the carcasses, the bodies began to stir. These were no corpses! They were ghouls - wretched undead creatures that lurked in places mired in the stench of death, ready to devour the unwary.

  Turk, Rennard, and Fastidian were always wary.

  The fighter and the rogue engaged the most aggressive of the vile creatures, killing some and keeping the rest away from the priest long enough for him to wrap himself in the power of his goddess. Holding forth the Sunburst of Therin confidently, Fastidian joined his will to the will of the goddess, channeling it into a single forceful command.

  “Turn!”

  The force of the command burst outward from the holy symbol of Therin, haloing it in the unsullied Light of the goddess. The glow expanded in a moment of benevolent detonation, filling the room with Light. The remaining abominations were scattered to dust, ending their unnatural afterlife.

  We must be getting close to the villain’s lair, thought Rennard. He cast a quick glance over the party, confirming that none had been bitten by the ghouls. The last thing he needed was someone who was supposed to be at his back suddenly turning undead in the middle of a fight. Seeing that everyone was intact, he turned his attention to the room itself. At first glance, it appeared to be a dead end, but closer examination revealed a recently patched section of wall. Light shone through a gap at the top of the bricks.

  Someone doesn’t want us going that way – it must be the direct path to our destination.

  “Nodwick,” Rennard intoned. “Stay ‘ere until we ray-turn.” When Rennard spoke, it was obvious that he was French.

  “Aye, my lord,” the henchman replied. Personally, Nodwick thought his master was a bit of an arrogant twit – but that sort of thing wasn’t really a henchman’s place to point out. As for the outrageous accent – well, it came and went, so it wasn’t like he had to put up with it all the time….

  Fastidian had noticed the wall as well. As if on cue, Rennard and Fastidian bowed to Turk, sweeping their left arms toward the mismatched section of stone as if to say “after you.” Turk bowed acknowledgement and charged forward, absorbing some of the shock on his shield, and shattering the hastily-constructed barrier. He kicked the last of the bricks out of the bottom of the door frame and was immediately attacked by two more undead guardians.

  He dispatched them before his fellows could make their way through the doorway to join him.

  The party strode forward through the short passage and into the room at its far end. They found the area dank, and festooned with spider webs. A chest, draped with a strip of fabric supporting a sealed urn, sat in a random-seeming location on the floor. To the right of it, a hooded figure huddled on an elaborate throne set against the far wall, dimly lit by a series of candles.

  “Mort Kemnon!”

  Turk’s words were an announcement, an accusation, and a warning, all rolled into a single commanding bellow. The warrior’s presence attack had no effect - the weasely necromancer was, after all, a personal servant of the god of death. Kemnon drew himself erect, flinging his gray cowl back to reveal the dark, squiggling tattoos of the death god on either side of his hairless pate.

  “Uninvited guests,” he intoned with an overconfident smirk, as the party lined up before the throne to confront him.

  Rennard pointed a dagger at Kemnon and declared (without the outrageous accent, Nodwick would have noted) “Your reign of terror ends here!”

  Fastidian raised his medallion before him, gathering the power of the goddess around him and focusing his will on Kemnon.

  “By the L
ight of Therin, you shall fall!” he declared confidently, as the sunburst began to glow.

  Mort Kemnon accepted Fastidian’s challenge, rising unhurriedly to his feet as purple-black magical energy wreathed his hands. “What good is the light of your goddess?” he asked. “She cannot help you here.”

  Fastidian blinked his surprise as the Light from the sunburst sputtered and died. He pulled the amulet back toward him and looked down at it in dismay. Rennard looked down over his shoulder, staring in shock at the darkened holy symbol.

  Fastidian felt it then - the Absence of Light. The power of the goddess was gone from him.

  “No!” he cried in horror. “We’re……”

  “Doomed.” Kemnon finished the sentence for him, as shrieking ghouls poured into the antechamber from a door behind the random chest. More ghouls flowed through the doorway by which the party had entered, and one of them cut Fastidian down from behind.

  “Fastidian!” cried Turk, lunging toward his friend as the priest collapsed into a pool of his own blood. The warrior hadn’t long to mourn, as voracious ghouls closed in and bashed him in the helmet. Turk fell to the damp floor, leaving Rennard standing alone against the necromancer.

  The rogue stood in a small open space, surrounded by ravenous ghouls. “This does not end ‘ere!” Rennard avowed, his accent as outrageous as ever as he glared at the vile wizard. The rogue leapt forward, evading minions until he was face to face with his foe.

  “It does… for you,” Mort Kemnon declared with finality.

  He calmly wrapped the rogue in a sheath of magic, then ….blew Rennard a kiss?

  Huh? thought Rennard. He had just enough time to realize that the gesture was the somatic component of a spell, before he was blown backward into a cluster of undead and beaten lifeless. The last sound he heard was Mort Kemnon laughing maniacally in triumph.

  Chapter 2: The Gamers

  The four young men huddled around a small table stacked high with gaming books, dice, miniatures, and soda cans. One man sat separated from the others by a cardboard screen, his dice and papers concealed from their view.

  Behind him, crossed swords hung on the wall. A stack of empty pizza boxes was skewered against the wall on his right, the ornate hilt of a sword rising from the edifice. Propped atop the Tower of Pizza, next to more empty soda cans, was a fake skull topped with a wide-brimmed pimp hat banded in white.

  The paneled walls were decorated with placards from gaming companies, maps of fantasy worlds, and assorted fantasy gaming pictures and posters.

  “CRAAAAAAAAAAAAAAP!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!” Cass howled. Leo threw his hands up in defeat and let them fall, clasping them together on the top of his head as he leaned back in his chair. Gary flipped his character sheet to the floor in disgust and the room was momentarily silent.

  Cass leveled an accusatory glare at Gary.

  “Was there a reason you didn’t turn those ghouls? Since that would help us… not die.”

  “I don’t know…” Gary began.

  “Hey, guys,” Lodge said at the same moment from behind his Game Master’s screen. Leo’s sarcastic interjection cut them both off.

  “Way to detect the trap, Cass. The Grey Mouser would be proud.”

  “That was an AAAAMMM-bush,” Cass retorted, enunciating the word in as insulting a manner as possible. “Not a trap. Even you should know the difference. Oh, by the way – way to defend the cleric there, Conan. He lived all of… what, six seconds? Real smart, giving them that clear path to the healer.”

  “Look, Guys…” Lodge tried again to intervene, but was drowned out by Leo’s impassioned response to Cass’s accusation. Lodge rested his forehead briefly in his right hand as Leo leaned in to growl at Cass.

  “I didn’t see you helping. I fact, I saw you dying like a whiny. Little. PEASANT.”

  “Maybe I was dying because our battle turtle wasn’t doing his job!”

  “How am I supposed to kill everything in the room when I get flanked? You” Leo emphasized, pointing at Cass, “are supposed to keep people off my ass! And you” turning his pointing finger to Gary “are supposed to keep healing me!”

  “Which brings me to my lack of powers!” Gary exclaimed, bouncing a wad of paper off the left side of Leo’s forehead, “which I didn’t have after I lost them!” Gary turned to face Lodge. “Did I mention losing my powers?”

  “Guys!!!” Lodge shouted, finally catching their attention. The gamers stopped yelling at one another long enough to regain their solidarity. The change was visible – and instantaneous.

  Lodge had added an element of the unexpected, in the hope that his hack-and-slash buddies might finally realize the value of understanding and engaging with the game world. For a split second, as he saw their faces begin to change, he thought they might finally have made the connection. Leo’s next words reassured him – that rather than learning anything, his gamers were going to fall back on the oldest answer in gaming: blame the game master. All three turned accusatory eyes on Lodge.

  “And if he hadn’t cut you off, we totally would have had him.”

  “Yeah,” agreed Gary. “I didn’t even know it was possible, cutting off a cleric from his God.”

  “It’s not,” Cass confirmed. “Not in the core rules it isn’t.”

  “It fits the story,” Lodge countered.

  “It doesn’t fit the rules!” Cass objected.

  “Story trumps rules!” My God, thought Lodge, what will it take for these mindless little trolls to realize that there is more to gaming than just killing stuff? That the whole point of gaming is …the heart of civilization and cultures going back to time immemorial – the art of people coming together to craft a story!

  “Again with this argument,” Cass sighed. When would Lodge figure out that he couldn’t just mess with the rules, the structure, the fabric of the gaming universe to satisfy his ridiculous whims to paint rainbows and turn everything into some kind of bedtime story?

  Cass and Lodge glowered at one another across the table. A store employee rushed into the room, momentarily diverting their attention as he whispered to Leo, “Boss, we’re down to our last copy of Pizzajitsu!”

  “And of course,” moaned Leo, venting his frustration on the store monkey, “I can’t expect you to know where we keep our product, seeing as how you work for me.”

  Leo rose to show the monkey the extra stock – which would be in the same place it had been stored for years, since before the idiot had started working for him. He paused in the doorway long enough to address his fellow gamers.

  “Argue on.” Leo left the room, store monkey trailing behind him.

  “What would you rather have,” Lodge stated, more than inquired, in what he assumed was a very reasonable tone of voice. “An original fantasy world with its own mysteries and pitfalls, or just another cookie cutter setting with no real surprises?”

  Cass was not willing to cede any ground.

  “You should have told us that in your world a cleric could be cut off from his god” he insisted.

  “Why should I have told you that?” Lodge asked, genuinely confounded by the idea.

  Cass turned to Gary.

  “Gary, would you have played a cleric if you knew Lodge was just gonna shut him down?”

  “Hell, no!” Gary confirmed.

  “That’s player knowledge, not character knowledge. You’d know, but your character wouldn’t.” Lodge tried to sound patient. These guys just couldn’t separate themselves from their characters – and yet, they couldn’t get inside their characters enough to understand the importance – the reality of their world.

  “That is so cheap!” Cass scowled. “Cheap, cheap, cheap!”

  “Talk a lot, pick a little more,” Gary muttered quickly. Who knew Gary watched musicals? Lodge thought, genuinely astonished, as Cass continued his argument.

  “It is not cool to let a character advance that far and pull something that huge on him.”

  “It was supposed to be a nasty
surprise,” Lodge explained. “Something you weren’t expecting.” Couldn’t they see that Lodge had given them an opportunity to stretch themselves, to do something new and more interesting than just killing everything they met?

  “And because it was so unexpected, the party died. This is what happens when you mess with the rules. What were you thinking?” Couldn’t he understand that when you start changing the basic rules of the universe, it makes it impossible for people to predict what was going to happen?

  “Maybe,” growled Lodge, at the end of his tether, “that it would force you to ROLE PLAY!!!”

  “What do you think we were doing?” Cass shouted back, just as Leo walked through the door behind him.

  “Hey guys, come on…..” Leo injected, a little stunned by the intensity of the hostility in the room. “Same time next week?”

  “I’m good,” Gary answered, glad to see the conversation turn back to something interesting.

  “The new expansion for Samurai Baseball comes out on Friday,” Leo informed everyone with an eager grin. “Looks very cool – you strike out, you commit seppuku!”

  “No,” Cass said quietly. “No, we’re playing this one again.”

  “The same campaign?” Leo asked in disbelief.

  “We’ve played it twice already!” Gary protested.

  “You guys want to do my campaign again?” Lodge asked hopefully. For a moment, his hopes rose again. Maybe they had figured out they were missing something, and just needed another run at it to work it out.

  Gary and Leo responded, simultaneously, in the negative.

  “I have a reputation,” Cass overrode them. “There is not a game on these shelves that can beat me. So what kind of gamer would I be if I let some unpublished mod get the best of us?”

  “Thanks, Cass,” Lodge sighed dejectedly. “That’s….uh, that’s real thoughtful.”

  Chapter 3: Alone In The Dark

  Lodge dropped his keys into a pewter goblet on the mantel as he closed the front door.

  “Hey Guen,” he greeted the black cat who sat comfortably on the table. Lodge turned toward his study, stepping over his roommate who lay in the hallway surrounded by empty beer bottles, the broad stripes on his shirt somehow aligned with the direction of light and shadow from the doorways that lined the passage.

  “Hey Mitch” he mumbled. Mitch emitted a muffled “hey” without moving or visibly taking a breath.

 
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