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Quest for Glory: A Holiday Tale - Chapter 2

It has become somewhat of a tradition at GameZone that each year we publish a fictional piece with a Christmas holiday theme. Rather than draw upon an established IP this year, the GameZone tandom of Michael Lafferty and Matt Eberle - with a very solid artistic assist from Rashad Baiyasi - came up with something on the original side. Thus, we present this tale in two parts. Chapter One can be found here.

Quest for Glory: A Holiday Tale

Chapter Two

“What the heck is this?” Race asked, his voice echoing. 

“What is what?” Randy replied.

“This darkness,” Race said, a hint of annoyance in his voice. “It’s so black, I can see a thing!”

“Oh – that!” Randy answered. “Hear that hint of music?”

“Yes.”

“It’s a loading area. We are waiting for the next area to load.”

“What do you mean ‘load’?” Race asked.

“Well, some developers, rather than use seamless zones …”

“Stop! I’m merely stating that this is real life …”

“Is it?”

Race looked confused, but Randy could hardly see that expression because of the inky blackness that wrapped around them both.

Randy finally broke the silence. “Ah, here we go – the other side.”

Race looked around. The two of them were standing on a plain of snow and ice. The sky was a very pale blue, fading into white in places. Heavy gray clouds filled half the horizon. The wind kissed his face in a frigid caress. Snow drifted across the landscape like gossamer snakes. In the distance a mint green slash could be seen, hinting at a verdant valley. Behind them, beneath the dark clouds, mountains rose.

“Ok, where do we go now?” Race asked his friend.

“Why do you think I know?” Randy shot back.

“Well, I was kind of hoping ...” Race trailed off. He shivered in the cold and rubbed his hands together.

“Why don’t we just hit up Allakhazam and see if someone else has done this quest before?” Randy muttered. The floating idea rolled his eyes.

Race looked confused again. “What’s an Allakhazam?”

Randy groaned. His eyes practically disappeared as he squeezed them closed. “Look, we need to get moving. Those clouds are getting closer and they don’t look friendly. Let’s head down into that valley.”

“Good idea,” Race shivered.

The race across the plains proved to be far more taxing than Race wanted to admit. Randy, on the other hand, seemed to float along nonchalantly – which drew a few sharp glances from Race along the way. But soon, in the struggle to maintain focus on the task at hand, all Race saw was the approaching valley.

A splatter hit him … then another …

The Y-axis Oscillating Yowler Object, or Yo-Yo, was in his hand, his body in a crouched position, ready to attack whatever was assaulting him.

Randy stopped.

“What are you doing?” he simply asked.

“Something just hit me,” Race replied, eyes glancing around. Then, he flinched a bit, “… and it just hit me again.” He raised his voice. “Whoever is doing that, show yourself so we can settle this …”

“It’s rain,” Randy sighed. “Precipitation from the sky; there is no enemy.”

“What do you mean ‘no enemy.’ Surely someone must be doing this.”

“It’s nature … you know, real-world stuff.”

“That’s just crazy!” Race exclaimed. “You mean to tell me that in the real world people are assaulted with this ‘rain’ all the time.”

“Yes.”

“And what can they do to stop it?”

“Very little,” Randy said. “They can duck indoors, or use an umbrella or …”

“Well, whoever programmed this should have his or her head examined.”

Randy gave the approximation of a shrug. “Well, some might claim it is an act of God, but I don’t think we need to indulge in a discussion of the Divine right now.”

“Why not?” Race countered. “It’s Christmas.”

Randy looked a bit shocked. “That was a surprisingly lucid observation.”

“I have my moments.”

“As few and as far between as those may be,” Randy muttered, then his thought was interrupted …

“Ooh, more of the white stuff that is on the ground seems to be starting to come down from the sky,” Race said, his voice full of wonder.

“Then we are in trouble and better get moving. I knew it was too cold for the rain to be anything more than a formality of more inclement weather to follow.”

“Geesh, why do you have to talk so fancy? Why can’t use you use everyday words.”

“Not the way I was designed.”

Race affected a more superior posture, gesturing at the floating mass that was Randy. “You call that a design?”

Randy scowled, then decided to change subjects. “Look, we can stand here, watching you get wet and very cold, and maybe turn into a whatever-you-are icicle, or we can keep moving. We have several more zones to transverse before we get anywhere near the North Pole.”

Race shrugged, exhaled, watched his breath crystallize on the air for a moment, and then continued toward the valley.

Twenty minutes later Race was staggering along. His hands and feet had gone from cold to pain, then from pain to complete numbness. He wasn’t sure this was a good thing. “See any buildings or anything?”

Randy bobbed higher. He looked out through the trees. “I don’t see any smoke or lights, but there are some buildings down in the valley.”

“Okay,” Race wheezed. “Let’s head that way.”

Randy ducked behind a tree. Powdered snow streamed past – wreckage of a huge snowball. One of the giant, furry, man-shaped things they’d run into stomped it’s feet. The yeti – Randy thought it was a yeti – scooped up another double handful of snow. It slammed the show together and created another rough snowball.

Race whipped his Yo-Yo out, swatting another snowball aside. He lunged into a limping charge. His yo-yo wrapped around a tree’s obliging branch. The charge allowed his yo-yo to propel him up into the branches. “Randy?” he called. “I think we made them mad!”

“You don’t say!” his friend shouted back. “Could it be they’re upset you just walked into their home?”

Race rolled his eyes and stuck out his tongue instead of replying.

One of the smaller yeti stomped angrily around the stand of trees. Those two ugly things had invaded his family’s home. Now they were hiding behind plants instead of running away! He wasn’t going to stand for this. The young yeti growled. In time his growl would become a full-fledged roar – some time years from now. He snarled and stomped his massive feet. Clenched fists slammed into the ground as he displayed his rage.

Crack!

The young yeti blinked twice. That didn’t sound like a tree snapping. In fact, that sounded like ice cracking. When the snow under his feet shifted several inches the yeti’s growl turned into a fearful yip. All the snow within several yards of his position was sliding down the hillside. He shifted his weight carefully and took a single step towards firm ground.

Crack!

The yeti fell to his knees as the snow and ice lurched downhill.

Randy looked left in surprise. One of the yetis had stopped growling. Instead it was howling. The guttural voice jumped several octaves. “What’s it afraid of?” he muttered to himself. Risking a snowball to the “face,” Randy leaned around the tree to get a better look.

One of the smaller yetis had apparently snuck around to come at them from the side. Now it was riding the beginnings of an avalanche down the hillside. The hillside was dissolving rapidly. The upper crust of hardened snow shattered with grinding pops as the ice beneath shattered. The larger, older yetis were standing at the edge of the tree line. They were shaking their fists and bouncing from one foot to another. A single yeti pushed forward, extending a single hand toward the little yeti that was scrambling helplessly at the snow and ice. The rest of the yetis held it back.

“Oh, that’s not good,” Randy said. “That little one’s about to get …“ he started as he looked over at where Race had been hiding. Randy’s thought slid to a stop as he realized his partner wasn’t there.

The cold wind scraped across Race’s face. He was hurtling downward. Gravity’s grip was pulling him towards the ground. Race knew how stupid this was. He couldn’t feel his hands, which meant he didn’t know if he even had a grip on his Yo-yo’s control ring. His heart plunged down into stomach when his fall became a soaring curve. The hand gripping the control ring snapped up past his head. Race leaned as far over as he could. He stretched his free hand down.

There was an instant where his eyes met those of the young yeti. It didn’t last very long – a heartbeat, or maybe a lifetime. Then his hand caught the yeti’s flailing fingers.

The creature was much heavier than Race first thought, and the fingers almost pulled apart. Race lunged, forward, snaring a more substantial grip on the yeti’s hand. The grip tightened. Race could see reassurance and hope in the eyes of the larger creature. He pulled his eyes away and looked up. There was a sea of white washing over them, but Race caught a glimpse of something darker. A tree, perhaps? His Yo-Yo snapped out, caught on something. There was not time to test the line. Race pulled in on the line and both the video-game wannabe hero and yeti sailed out of the crushing wave of snow. They were airborne for a short while, then the line released and Race and the yeti tumbled into the snow safely away from the avalanche.

He lay there, face down, enough of an indentation to breathe, taking inventory. Fingers? Something wiggled far away – they seemed to be working. Legs and feet? Again, another distant response. The checklist was far from over when Race felt two large hands lift him up gently. He was turned over and was eye-to-eyeball with the yeti. Race pulled his head back, trying to fit in the whole yeti head into his vision, and not just the nose and eyes. The yeti also leaned back, assured that this small biped was not dead. Race could see several other yeti behind the smaller one. These were big – very big. But there was no hostility in the faces; instead, there was kindness and something almost akin to gratitude. At least Race hoped it was gratitude. Either that, or the big yetis were eyeing the main course at the coming night’s dinner.

One, with darker fur shot through with gray, leaned in a bit closer. “You saved my child and for that, we are grateful.”

Race had heard about English accents before, had even seen them on the television, even Lara Croft had one, but this was the first time he had heard one in person.

“We were about to partake of our afternoon tea and warm, fresh-from-the-oven scones when we heard the commotion. Imagine, good sir, our amazement, and our concern, when we saw young Rupert riding down the avalanche, and then you swinging in to the rescue. It was quite remarkable, to be certain. We should like to show our appreciation by aiding you and your companion’s cause.” The big yeti leaned in. “No disrespect, sir, but your friend is a little odd looking.” It leaned back. “It is our understanding that you seek the one known as the Father of Christmas. Well, jolly good news. You are quite close to his location. Should you take the pass to the east of our present location, you will find yourself in a valley. At the far end you will see a small community of buildings. You should be able to find him there.”

Race pulled himself free from Rupert’s embrace and stood up. “Thanks,” he said, the added, “saving someone is all in day’s work.” He immediately regretted that phrase. It was so cliché. He glanced at Randy. “We need to get moving. We’ve rested long enough.” That, he thought, sounded more heroic.

They followed the directions. It took them the rest of the day and into the next before they were looking at the buildings the older yeti mentioned. The approached with caution, looking for any movement. It all seemed quiet. They got up next to a building, and were peering in the window when they heard a solid thunk from inside the window.

“That’s close enough, boys,” an old and wizened voice said. “Any sudden moves and you will find yourselves in more trouble than you really wish to handle.”

Race and Randy traded a nervous glance. “We’re not here looking for trouble,” Randy said quietly.

“What was that?” the voice from inside called back. “Don’t mumble!”

“We’re not here for trouble!” Race shouted. 

 “Well, why are you here then?”

“We’re looking for Santa,” Race yelled. “Or Father Christmas, or whatever he’s called.”

There was a short pause.  “Well, why didn’t you just say so.  Come on inside,” the old voice wavered. “The door’s over to your right.”

Very slowly the duo made their way to the door, each pondering what lay in store for them next. As they entered, they saw a portly man, long white hair and thick, heavy snow-white beard, using a spatula to take cookies from a pan that seemingly had been pulled from the nearby oven.

“Careful of these ones,” he said, “they are fresh, but those – “ he indicated another plate heaped with an assortment of cookies – “are very fresh and cool. Help yourselves.”

Race, feeling a few hunger pains helped himself to several, while Randy thought about reaching for one with his mouth, realized that would be rude and besides, he didn’t have a stomach so he wasn’t hungry and abstained.

The elderly appearing man removed his oven mitts and looked over Randy and then settled his eyes on Race. “So, Race,” he said, “what can I do for you?”

“You know who I am?!?” Race said, somewhat incredulously while spraying cookie crumbs into the air. 

“Of course, I know who you are,” the man said. “Santa knows everyone.”

“You’re Santa!” Race almost yelled, spewing more than crumbs this time.

“That would be me,” Santa smiled in reply.

Because Race was moderately choking, Randy carried the conversation forward. “We’ve come an awful long way, sir …”

“Now, now, Randy, no need to call me ‘sir’.” He cast a side-glance at Race. “You going to be Ok, son?” Then he addressed them both. “And yes, I know why you are here. You came to ask for an adventure to star in.” Santa noticed Race’s face had changed hues, so stepped behind the hero and kept the conversation flowing while administering the Heimlich. “It seems to me you were both so busy coming to me to ask for an adventure that you didn’t see you were having one at the time. And a good adventure it was, too. Wouldn’t surprise me at all if someone didn’t write about it.”

Race’s face was returning to its normal color. Finally he managed to offer, with a strained voice, “thanks.” Then “but what about starring in a video game.”

Santa laughed, his tummy shaking like a famed licensed and trademarked product, “Son, you should really pay more attention to the industry. Just because you get to be in a game doesn’t mean it would be good and people would play it. No, it’s better to bid your time, wait for the right concept to come along and then, with developer skill, star in a fresh IP that is good, and a success.”

“He has a point,” Randy said to Race. “I mean, look at me – do I look like a fleshed-out idea to you?”

Race pondered it all for a bit, then finally said: “So what do we do now? I really don’t want to go back to Potentia …”

“Do you want another grand adventure?” Santa asked.

Race’s face lit up. “Absolutely!”

There was a twinkle in Santa’s eyes as he said, “then go see Melvin in the workshop. I’m sure he has just the thing for you!”

“Awesome,” Race said, heading for the door. 

“Why am I suddenly glad I don’t have arms, hands, legs or a body?” Randy murmured, then trailed after Race.

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