A tale where YOU choose what happens next! Or at least vote for it.
Is this the end of Ben Finn?
Desperate, you start throwing objects at the demon in an effort to drive it back. A miniature, plastic hero from the boardgame, the heavy rulebook, your pouch of gold coins… they all bounce off the sinuous darkness that makes up its body. Then, digging around your pockets, you hit upon an idea. The kind of really dumb idea only the most hopeless situations can give birth to, and even then only from a mind such as yours.
‘Wait,’ you say, in your best used-cart-salesman voice. ‘Let’s make a deal.’
The demon stops. ‘You have nothing I want except your life.’
‘Ah, but what if I told you I knew where to find what you’re looking for? It’s, um…’ You have no choice but take a wild stab in the dark. ‘It’s the wizard Garth’s notes on the Spire. Right?’
The black hole face considers you with newfound respect. It really is a very expressive black hole. You continue, sensing you’re on the right track. ‘I know exactly where he hid them. You’ll never find them without me.’
‘You will tell me. Now.’
‘Hang on a moment. Here’s the deal part. I don’t know what it’s like in your demon dimension, but down here we’re partial to a wager or two. So here’s what I propose.’ You hold out your hand, showing the two dice resting in your palm. ‘I throw these dice, and if I can roll a double six, you agree to leave this plane and never return.’
‘And if you fail?’
‘Then I tell you where Garth’s secret papers are and, what the heck, I’ll even swear my undying allegiance to this corrupt boss of yours.’
‘That’s the fella. So what do you say?’
The black hole looks at your hand, then back at you. ‘I agree.’
‘Okay, here goes,’ you say. You shake the dice in your fist and blow on to them, whispering: ‘Don’t let me down, boys.’
You toss the dice at the demon’s feet, not knowing exactly what to expect, but hoping that this is the reason Theresa made sure you brought them with you. You watch them spin through the air, the tension slowing down time so that you can almost see each number in turn as the sides rotate. They land on the ground with a dull thud. You stare at the numbers. You will the dice to turn one more time, but they remain resolutely still. There first one shows a 4. The second one shows a 2. Not even close.
‘Right,’ you say. ‘That’s that.’
The demon is less philosophical. ‘You have failed. Your numbered cubes are worthless. You will tell me now.’
‘Hey, who you calling worthless?’ asks a voice below. It’s coming from number 4. ‘You ever heard such cheek?’
‘Never,’ replies number 2.
The black hole is nonplussed. ‘What is this?’
‘Nice job getting the portal up, Ben,’ number 2 hollers at you.
‘Shame you forgot to switch it on,’ adds 4. ‘Here, let me do it.’
Four beams of light, one from each dot on its side, shoot out of the dice and hit the four edges of the portal. Suddenly the doorway becomes energised and you can see what’s on the other side: a swirl of red and black shapes with claws and teeth. Not the nicest dimension it would seem. The demon turns to look and is caught in a gravitational field from the land beyond. It tries to cling on to the library with every tendril, but is pulled back relentlessly.
‘You cannot stop what is to come. The Corruptor will find a way. This world you hold so dear, with its people, its life, its stories, it will be no more.’ With that, the demon is sucked into the swirl and the portal closes, folding back on itself until it’s nothing but an ornamental egg once again.
‘Wow, nice shooting,’ you say, picking up the dice.
‘I could have done two of them,’ says 2. ‘Four is such a show off.’
‘I guess it’s all over then,’ you say. ‘What am I supposed to do with you two? Do you normally work in a casino or something?’
‘Actually, this is where we belong,’ says 4. ‘We were one of Master Garth’s experiments. Nice to be home really.’
‘I wonder who’s winning the chest/garden gnome war these days,’ pipes up 2.
‘You know, I’m kind of curious myself. Let’s have a look, shall we?’ You walk out of the library, only partially wondering who will stand up to the Corruptor, whoever he is, if he does find a way into Albion one day. Bah. Someone else can worry about that.