Thursday, April 30, 2009

The Infallible Remnant

AUTHOR'S NOTE: The David in this story is a different David.

Tiffany, seeing something out of the corner of her eye, turned sharply.

"Look!" she hissed, whispering to her boon-companion David. "That glow - from within the ruins!"

David looked, lowering his sword to the surface of the trail. "That blue-green glow, showing up clearly against the night sky?" he asked.

"Yes," Tiffany agreed.

"The one coming from the ruins at the center of an area that - as we've discovered from our experiences of the last few hours - is filled with hideously deformed monsters?" David further asked.

"Yep!" Tiffany agreed again.

"The sort of glow that characteristically indicates relics from the Far Past, characteristically possessing terrible destructive power, immense quantities of ancient knowledge, and/or the unpleasant tendency to warp and pervert any living thing that comes near them?"

"Yeah!" Tiffany agreed enthusiastically. "And that glow's really bright, especially for so far away - I think it could be a really big one!"

"Tiffany, I think you should know this," David said. "It is one of my great ambitions in life to die, one, at a ripe old age, surrounded by my hundred mistresses and my immense piles of gold and jewels; and two, not a hideous, shambling abominations. I really feel that my pursuit of that second goal could be seriously compromised by going anywhere near the source of that glow."

"Aww, come on," Tiffany implored. "We don't know that the monsters were turned into monsters by this relic."

"Perhaps they're just here to bask in the glow!" David suggested.

"Sure!" Tiffany said. "Plus - even if we were mutated - who's to say it's all bad! I for one could do with an extra arm or two!"

"What about the whole 'turned into mindless, moaning brutes' aspect of the transformation?" David asked. "Because that could really be a bit of a problem."

"Eh, you're exaggerating," Tiffany said. "You don't know that the animals that got turned into monsters got dumber when they transformed. For all you know, they're twice as smart now - except that you can't tell, because they started really, really dumb!"

David gave her a look.

Tiffany matched it.

Then, with a sigh, David relented. "All right," he said. "We'll go towards the glow, and see what kinds of ancient, priceless treasures we can recover. But I'm telling you - the moment we start forgetting our times tables, or tentacles start sprouting from our foreheads, we turn right around and run as fast as we can out of here. Do you hear me?"

"All right, all right," Tiffany said. "Though I really do think that I could do with a tentacle or two. Maybe one on the shoulders, to scratch that one spot on my back..."


The travellers made to the centre of the ruins. En route, a number of monsters tragically lost their lives to sword- and arrow-related injuries. Services will be scheduled for next Tuesday.


"There it is!" Tiffany exclaimed, pointing. "The source of the glow - I can hardly see it, it's so bright!"

"No kidding!" David agreed, squinting. "But still no tentacles, so I'm with you. Let's crack this thing open."

Then - as they approached - the glow abruptly dimmed. A tall pedestal was revealed, runes flickering across its surface.

"Shiny!" Tiffany cried.

David grimaced. "Look, just - let's see if we can use the Standard Lexicon on this thing," he said, pulling an old, battered book from his pack as he strode up to the relic. He began to mutter to himself as he worked, Tiffany peering over his shoulder and occasionally pointing. "All right. Entrance symbol - okay, here it is, top-left, third form." He pressed it; it flashed, and new runes appeared. "Now it's giving - ah - that's a password request, yeah - give it the standard. One-rune, two-rune, three-rune, four-rune - and okay, it's gone, we're at the main interface. Man, this thing's a mess."

"Call identify," Tiffany suggested.

"Right," David agreed. "Okay, looking... first form's not there... second form... third form.."

"What about that squiggly one over in the bottom-center?" Tiffany suggested.

David looked. "Oh - yeah, that is the second form, isn't it? Okay, here we go. It's a... um. There's pages of info that it's spilling out now - there's the projection mode - yeesh!"

The runes leapt off the surface of the artifact, floating in the air in a square a meter to each side.

"Ah," David said. "Don't think we want to try to translate that - we'll be here for weeks."

"Get the title?" Tiffany suggested.

"Where?" David asked. "I don't see anything that looks like one -"

"There," Tiffany said. "Over on the right, those five really big runes."

"You don't think they're 'cancel' or something like that?" David asked.

"Can't hurt to translate them," Tiffany said.

This took some time, as the runes in question were not in the quick-reference section. Several monsters interrupted the work. This ended poorly, for the monsters.

"Okay," David said, looking up from the Lexicon. "That's the last of the four characters, 'tracking.' So - it's a "[meaningless character] Automated Remnant Tracking Remnant."

"Why would the people who built this even have needed one of those, anyway?" Tiffany asked.

David shrugged. "Maybe just to keep track of things, generally?" he suggested. "To make sure people didn't steal their stuff?"

"I guess it doesn't matter," Tiffany said. "But - think about what we've just found! A relic that finds other relics? We're rich! We're beyond rich! We are made for life!"

"Let's see if it works, first," David suggested. "We need to get the right command, 'find nearest' maybe -"

"Already on it," Tiffany said, looking through the runes. "Here. I pulled it up, and yeah, here's an object - some kind of listing. We can look up type, location, status -"

"Get the location!" David suggested. "We could recover it while we're here, if we're nearby -"

Tiffany's face fell. She pointed. David looked.

"Yeah, I can recognize that without consulting the Lexicon," David agreed. "Error messages."

"Well, we'll lug it back to the Fastness anyway," Tiffany said disappointedly. "See if it works. But - frack it!"

David shook his head sadly.

"Even the ancients wrote buggy code," he said conciliatorily.

"Pretty sure that's all they wrote," Tiffany shot back.

But when they took it back to the Fastness, it turned out it worked after all! Hooray! Now David and Tiffany just had to fight off the thousands of people envious of their new acquisition and quite ready to commit murder for it.


Based on a true story*.


EDIT: It should be noted that the David featured in this story is David II, Marquis of Atrithau, and not the David who posts on this blog. Just to clarify.


David said...

No, it really is me. But secret identities are cool.

Cavalcadeofcats said...

I was actually saying that it wasn't the David that usually comments you. It's also not you, as a bonus. (Or am I just saying that to preserve your secret identity? Mysterious!)

Cavalcadeofcats said...

*that usually comments here