This interactive story was written in The Forest on November 28, 1995. VERY minor editing, and a completely spurious title were added later. Dollars can be exchanged for quarters at the machine in the corner...
Thadeus stared down at Tomar, he no longer looked like the regal wizard he had been. His face was ashen, his white, silver cloak was no longer clean or whole for that matter. A lone tear ran down Thad's cheek and as it fell upon the old man's face, he spoke.
"Thadeus", came a hoarse voice, "It is time...forgive me", and his face looked pained, and he was no longer a wizard. As Thadeus laid the old man down, he could feel the emotions rise within him... Anger... Fear... Love... Hate... And the wizard's words, echoed from the time Thad had met him several years ago... and repeated as he had tutored him in all but magic.
"You have the magic in your blood, though it is sparse, save it, we may need it. For if ever I am to fail, it is to you and another that I ask much."
Thad watched as the sun rose on the horizon, the ever increasing light of day preceding it as it finally made its presence known. And he to rose, the words of the only spell Tomar had ever taught him, slowly rolled from his lips. The incantation was long, and the cresting sun became whole, as he recited the spell of necromancy. And slowly an apparition appeared before him, a soul ripped from heaven, its screams heard only by the one who conjured it.
"You cannot hold me here against my will mortal", the words echoed all around Thadeus. "What makes you believe I would forsake my life here for one in hell", came the voice, but not as a question that Thad should answer, but he did.
"Tomar is no more", and Berren, the last mortal to defeat an immortal stood whole, in front of him.
In the lore of the immortals twas told the story of the one of sore color, the bruised, the Grey. Twas told he was taken with seven mortal sins. Never before had the immortals been taken with the vanity of the mortals, but alas, the Grey had fallen. And taking mortal form he rode the lands, stealing the essence of those the Grey met. For the Grey was genderless, an hermaphrodite, a mule. And in stealing the essence of those with whom it supped, by whose hospitality it lay at night, warm and safe, he made them husks of their original form and enslaved them to his bidding.
Twas also told of its discovery by Berren and the hunt and battle that ensued. For Berren, using the flame of the light of the everglass threw down the Grey from on high. But, twas suspected but unconfirmed, the Grey has hidden his offspring in the hills, his vile mockery of the human form, a malignant living miscarriage of the people of earth.
During the Reign of Berren it grew in its festering filth and with the passing of Berren released itself unto the world, scorching the land and poisoning all that was good. Twas the Silver Wizard Tomar who kept the offspring of the false mule at bay. Never tiring, always on the coat tails of the offspring of the Grey, whose name remains unspoken. But not even wizards last forever and the Silver taught the Bronze, changing him, unknowingly and ever so slowly to the gold as the alchemist reshapes the ore. Twas the unknowing gold who was now left to defeat the unnamed. Twas Thadeus, unsure of self, hidden gold and true of heart who summoned Berren now and requested aid in how to beat the miscarriage of the Grey.
"Berren, I bring you not for folly, and I will not keep you, but I am not ready and request thy knowledge the unnamed one, for tis said he is great, and I am just, well, Thadeus, Wizard's apprentice."
Thadeus mused for a moment on the happenings of the past few minutes as the being he had conjured slowly faded from sight. At first it seemed as though the form would solidify and remain... but it wavered, like the shimmering mirage seen far in the distant desert on a blistering day. It finally faded from view altogether, but before completely vaporizing held out one ethereal hand, palm downwards, and allowed a golden object to fall to the ground.
Thadeus rubbed at his eyes and squinted... but there was nothing remaining except for thin air... and the gleam of a bright coin lying in the blades of grass. He stepped forward and knelt down... reaching out gingerly with a fingertip to touch the gleaming object. It was hot and smooth and, as he picked it up, it burned into his hand. He almost dropped it, but managed to keep a tight grip and, as he did so, saw his surroundings begin to waver and fade... much like the soul he had called down with his incantation.
He became overcome with dizziness and the clouds high in the blue sky began to spin sickeningly, churning his stomach and making his head ache unbearably. He closed his eyes as everything within his vision began to swim and when he opened them again, found himself standing before a tiny house. To tell the truth, Thadeus was unsure whether the house was tiny or whether he had suddenly grown. He had no idea where he might be and had lost all sense of time. He could have sworn that the sun was brightly shining no more than a second ago... but here was a crescent moon dimly glowing in a darkened sky...
Thadeus looked again and blinked to make sure. He broke out into a cold sweat as he realized that he wasn't looking at a sky which contained one crescent moon... but a sky which contained two... Mirror images of each other, one on each side of the horizon where the dusky sky met a very strange and jagged landscape.
His startled eyes returned again to the tiny house nestled by the toes of his soft green leather boots... and he saw a light appear at one of the small windows... a flickering light, like that of a minuscule candle...and he watched it wave back and forth before the tiny panes of glass... Almost as though it were giving him some sort of signal.
The Grey's son looked around his chambers, with a satisfied grin as his plan began to unfold around him. Everything was going perfectly, just as the sun's rays slipped through the cracks of the entrance to Gray's chambers.
Mika stared out into the sunrise, from behind a small rock. Using his superfine vision searched the land for miles, scanning for the 'one' they were watching. He finally sited the old wooden cabin and spotted Thadeus inside, clutching a chair. Mika turned around and sprinted as fast as his two inch legs could carry him back to his masters lair. He bursted in the door and leaped onto Gray's shoulders, whispering soft words into his ear. The large smile played on Gray's lips as Mika finished his statement. Gray stood in front of his grand throne and spoke to his people.
"My friends. We are the immortals! My father, the Grey was killed, a great despair has come over all the immortals. Life seems to be over without a leader. Gray's twisted friends began to crowd around and look up at their lord as he spoke.
"But now! Now we have a chance. A chance at revenge. A chance to take back our land. We are the strong ones my friends, not the petty wizards who roam our land. It is a disgrace to see such a sight. But now is our moment to shine." His lips spread open, revealing yellow, rotted, broken teeth within. "Our chance has arrived. Our moment in the sun! The apprentice wizard has arrived in my 'playground' and now is where the fun starts, my companions! If we take the apprentice wizard Thadeus, our land will be returned to us. And I will rule in the footsteps of my grand father!!!!!!
The crowd began to cheer and clap as Gray threw up his arms in glory. Then fell silent as he spoke once more.
"I have Thadeus right where I want him. Now we are playing on my terms, in my land. And I think I will play with him a little before I decide to kill him. And now, I lead you to victory! The immortals will rule once again!!!!!!!"
Gray fell to the floor with exhaustion as the crowd rejoiced loud enough to shatter mirrors.
Thadeus looked down at the old dusty man with a smile. The old man looked into Thadeus' eyes searching for something he wasn't sure of.
"I am telling you young fool! Do not venture out there! Evil awaits you, and this land is like nothing you have seen before! I am begging you!!!"
Thadeus laughed at the old man condescendingly. "HAHA old fellow, you do not know what you are talking about. You are old, you're time has come! I am in a new and curious land, I must explore. And nothing will stop me. I suggest you stay out of my way old one. Words have no meaning to you anymore."
The old man's eyes turned a shade of fluorescent yellow as he stared strangely at Thadeus. "Words only mean what I want them to mean. Nothing more, nothing less. Your choice to stray from my advice will bring you into the clutches of pure evil. Once you are confronted, not even the strongest of wills can withstand the power of The Grey. And I hope you die, if you do not overcome your vanity and selfishness. You might as well give up now, for evil cannot be defeated unless you conquer the evil in yourself first."
The old, tired man tucked himself into his bed and put his glowing eyes to rest. Thadeus stared in awe at the old man, he obviously underestimated. The old one knew more about Thadeus than HE did. Thadeus managed to get his thoughts together, approaching the outside, mirrored world. This time with much more caution than he ever expected. Thadeus stepped out into the sunlight and approached his new world.
Meanwhile, the son of the great Grey basked in the applause of his audience. He felt a ceremony coming on, one which would seal in the greatness of this day. Mutant creatures marched joyously on top of the turrets of the castle. Some had half-hooves, some had humped backs. Some only had one eye. Some only had several teeth. All of them were caught up in what would surely go down in history as the beginning of the era of Gray's mutants. Those with lips blew on rams horns at incredible decibel levels. The whole kingdom echoed with victory.
Grey's son motioned to his servants to draw open the purple curtain at the back of the balcony. He would show his kingdom the greatest secret of all. A golden secret which was forged at great cost and time to his forefathers. Mika's people had been forced to dive underwater to create this beautiful masterpiece. They were forced to collect the golden dust which floated there, piece by piece. The tiny people would carry this dust to the surface, where Gray's people would gather and forge it into one beautiful, golden, brilliant, magical coin. This coin was the most valuable thing in the kingdom, for it held all together.
The son of Grey stood aside to reveal its glory; then as he looked in with pride, his face dropped. The coin was gone! What had moments before been pride and power had become rage. Sheer and pure. As he looked to the sky for some sort of divination, some apology, he saw something he would have never expected. It was the mortal Thadeus, squeezing the wonderful coin in his palm, flying about the sunlit sky like a colorful, joyful balloon.
The Gray, with the speed of thought, shot straight up in the air, and his loyal minions followed two heartbeats behind. Thadeus muttered a bad word and thought as quick as he could, which, unfortunately for him, was just not fast enough. Gray slammed into him from underneath and ripped the coin away.
"Insignificant MORTAL!!!" howled Gray, holding up the coin, "How dare you think you could---" and as usually happens when an all-powerful being has loyal, mindless minions, they proceeded to ruin everything. One by one they bumped into him from behind, hundreds of them, slamming into each other in an endless Keystone Cops routine. The coin, of course, was thrown free of Gray's grasp, and landed flat in Thadeus's palm as he sped in the easiest direction... straight down.
And the skies reverberated with the Gray's insane screaming... ...and Thadeus was left with the task of discovering exactly what was so important about this coin. He peered at it, took a small stone to it, trying to find hidden compartments, rubbed it, spit on it, bounced it on his bed, nothing happened. Then he said to himself, "Maybe if I THINK about it, there'll be a use for it..."
...and Thadeus concentrated...
...and out of the darkness appeared the biggest slot machine he'd ever seen...
Gray struts back and forth in his ancient hall, contemplating this hero-type, Thadeus. "A mortal... a bloody mortal." One of the mutants peeks around the grand entryway into the dark hall, scared beady eyes scanning the room.
"Come in, slave."
The goblin-like creature waddles into the room hesitantly, and looks down as he mumbles "You have men sir, magic men. They are waiting for you. They said you called for them."
Gray turns sharply on the shrimpy creature and cocks his eyes. "Jerred. That man, I will never get." He waves to the door, it opens full span. "You may go now, slave, tell them I will see to them when I am ready." The small creature scurries out of the room like a rat for cheese, leaving the hall as pleasantly hollow and empty as could be heard to Gray's ears. The mages.
"THADEUS, YOU SHALL SOON MEET YOUR END!" He laughs heartily as he attends to the ceremony.
Thadeus looked puzzledly at the machine that just appeared before him, not quite sure how to react. It was a simple machine, three slots and the common lever, with a hole at the bottom to gain your winnings, but one can never be too sure when it simply falls from the sky and lands in front of you. He tilted his head, shrugged, and pulled the lever.
"AAHHHH!!!!!" Thadeus screamed back at the machine. "GET ME OUT OF HERE!!!!" a sound came from the winning hole. He leaned over and looked into the hole, and saw two, shiny eyes, looking at him expectantly. He cautiously put his hand in, and felt an odd feeling. Suddenly, the machine's slot was biting his hand off!
"AHH!" He saw the slot's eyes open, and watched in wonder, unaware that slots had eyes. Slowly the machine coalesced into a short, hairy figure, giggling on the ground.
"AH! What the hell are you?"
The figure continued to giggle, then sat up, looked him in the eyes with his scarlet glowing own, and said "WELL I AM THE BLOODY GENIE OF THE COIN! WHO DID YOU THINK IT WAS, MOTHER GOOSE?"
"Wait a minute..." asked Thadeus, "Don't I have to rub something?"
"You did," replied the furry genie.
"No I didn't!"
"Yes you did!"
"Well, then... what?"
"What did I rub?"
"What did you what?"
"RUB!!! What did I rub?"
"Oh, RUB! Right, that's how I got here!"
"But I didn't rub anything!"
"Yes you did!"
"No I didn't!!"
"I hate to break this up... but..." and Gray interrupted by throwing a tree at the genie, who dissolved with a scream:
"I don't get PAID for thiiiiiiiissssssss....."
Thadeus stared at the Gray, and the Gray stared back. "So..." began Thadeus,
"How 'bout those Mets--"
"Where did you GET THAT SLOT MACHINE?????"
"What, that? Oh, that's not mine."
"Nope, nope, definitely not." Thadeus glanced at it to make sure.
"Nope. Not mine."
"Well, that is the Universal Slot Machine, and I happen to know that it can only be summoned by someone HOLDING the Universal Coin! So WHERE is my coin???"
"I'm sure I don't know..."
"You didn't put it in the machine?"
"Me? Of COURSE I didn't!!! Never in a thousand years would I have--"
And the coin popped out of the machine to land at Thadeus's feet.
"Well," he stammered, "Maybe once..."
And the Gray growled, and picked up another tree...
And you'll have to use your imagination to see what happened next,
'cause this is all we wrote...