Sunday, April 13, 2014

The StoryMaker (Part 2: Result)

All noise in the tavern stilled as the stranger walked in. They know she meant trouble just by looking at her. The way she walked, her every step a cautious one. The swords she intentionally failed to hide beneath her cloak. But most importantly, the scares that marred her otherwise adorable raccoon face. People just don't get scars. At least, they didn't.

“Gimme something strong,” she muttered to the barkeep, a jittery, anthropomorphic ale keg the locals called Tappy.

Tappy rolled back and forth nervously. “Ma'am, it might be best if you just moved on. This is a quiet town, and we don't want any trouble.”

“Nobody wants trouble,” the raccoon replied. “Or if they do, they go looking for it. That's not why I'm here. I'm here because trouble is looking for you.”

“Ridges?” a mantis in the corner asked. His mother (they recently had another child, so the father is back home regrowing his head,) tried to shush him. They didn't talk about Ridges here. But of course, by then, it was too late.

Somehow, the bar managed to get even quieter. Only the sound of a chirping cricket could be heard, at least until slapped Christopher Cricket and told him to knock it off. “That's right,” the raccoon said. “A pack of 'em was spotted a few miles yonder. So the way I figure it, you folks have three options. Run, get rubbed out, or fight back.”

She sighed at the shudder that ran through the crowd. A mouse fainted. In the land of Toontasia, people knew about conflict. They knew about rampaging goblins, vile wizard conquerors, and the occasional dragon. But they didn't know about death. They didn't even have a word for it, not until the “Ridges” arrived. Supposedly invaders from another dimension, even the sight of one could drive a Toontasian mad. They didn't look that unusual; just monkeys without tails and fur. But that familiar made them even stranger. Their bodies bulged in odd directions, and Toontasian scholars believed that they existed in a dimension beyond their comprehension, a mysterious “third” one they dubbed Dimension Z. Even more horrifying were their bodies. They were covered in bumps, marred with random hairs, wrinkles, and unnatural textures, earning them their name.

Even worse, they brought death. Ever since their arrival at Uncanny Valley, they expanded without hesitation, forming strange cities and bringing devastating weapons upon anything that tried to stop them. And they cared nothing about the suffering of those in their way. In fact, they found it amusing. Every time their weapons caused a Toontasian to shatter into a thousand pieces or reduced one to a pile of ash with two sad eyes, the Ridges only laughed. Especially their children.

Rubellia the Raccoon Ranger knew how this would go. The crowd had been numbed into shock for now, but she had only seconds before it would turn to panic. Steam would shoot out of people's ears, eyes would bug out of their sockets, a few people would just run around in circles shouting “Woo woo woo woo woo!”

“I know what you're thinking,” she started. “But this doesn't have to be another Ratburg or Animate Furniture Junction. We all heard the tales about Happy Bunny Lane. We all learned a harsh lesson at Happy Bunny Lane. But we are ready now. The Ridges are powerful, but they are not invincible.”

“But what can we do?” Tappy asked as he poured Rubellia another drink from his head.

“We have abilities the Ridges can't fathom, can't prepare for. They barely understand what an anvil is, let alone are prepared to be bombarded with them using catapults. To a Ridge, armed is armed. Wait for them to let their guard down, and you can just pull a mallet out of the nowherespace and give them a good whack. And their knowledge of explosives is sorely lacking. One enormous pile of TNT or a few black bombs with sizzling wicks will throw them into a panic.”

“But can't they destroy us with their weapons before we even get in range?” the mantis mother asked.

“Not anymore,” Rubellia assured them. “Because I learned a technique to sneak up on any Ridge, at any time. Best of all, anyone can do it, from the smallest ant to elephant wearing pot and pan armor.” To demonstrate, Rubellia just turned to her side.

“I don't get it,” Tappy commented.

“Neither did I, at first,” Rubellia said. “It's a flaw in their eyes. Just by walking at them sideways, we become practically invisible. Not completely, mind you, but more than enough for our purposes. To them, we look like nothing but thin black lines, and nobody's going to see that coming.”

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