image

Readers of The Escapist will undoubtedly be familiar with the irascible videogame critic Yahztee, the voice behind Zero Punctuation. They may also know that in addition to criticizing videogames, he also makes them. They may also know he wears a sweet hat.

But how many know one of his life-long ambitions was to become a published novelist? And how many know that this dream is about to come true?

This summer, Yahtzee’s first novel, Mogworld, hits bookstores everywhere, and we’re willing to bet fans of Zero Punctuation will be dying to get their hands on it. We’re so confident of that, in fact, that we persuaded Yahtzee’s publisher, Dark Horse, to let us give you the first glimpse of the new novel right here at The Escapist.

The following is an excerpt from Chapter Two, Part Two of Mogworld, a comedic fantasy novel with a twist. Mogworld is the story of Jim, who, sixty years after dying in a magic-school mishap, is wrenched back to life by a renegade necromancer. All Jim wants is to die properly, once and for all.

While we at The Escapist don’t yet know how Jim’s story will end, we do know that after reading this excerpt, we are dying to read more.

Big thanks to Dark Horse for the excerpt. And if you like what you read, be sure to pre-order the full book. It will be available August 31st 2010, and can be pre-ordered through Barnes & Noble, Borders Books and Amazon.

– Editors

CHAPTER TWO, PART TWO

image

     “Slippery John said he’d meet us at the inn,” said Meryl, when we arrived at Cronenburg later that day.

     “Any particular inn?” I asked.

     “Slippery John just said ‘the inn’.”

     I put my hands on my hips and took in the endless racks of shingles that lined what a flamboyant signpost identified as the Street of Inns. “Slippery John is a fatheaded, useless berk.”

     “Oh, come on. He’s not useless.”

     The day was wearing thin and the sun was making exaggerated yawns and meaningful looks at the horizon. We’d been trudging through the plains for a few hours before Cronenburg appeared, and it didn’t take long to be underwhelmed by the place. It had once been a tiny hamlet, the kind of town where yokels in big hats leaned against barrels in the middle of the street, chewing straws and making filthy cross-eyed looks at anyone who wasn’t the product of rampant inbreeding, but (as Slippery John had told Meryl, who had in turn told me) the Adventure Trail had turned it into a popular traveler’s rest for wandering mercenaries.

     We’d passed a lot of those on the way. Barbarians, dwarves, battle mages, elves, healers – the road was permanently serving as an unusually large catwalk for absurd battlewear.

     Syndrome sufferers were commonplace and easily spotted; they were the really attractive people who jogged robotically along the road, awkwardly swung weaponry at the endless wandering monsters that adventurers attract, or just stood perfectly still in fixed heroic poses in the middle of the highway to the immense frustration of their non-afflicted friends and peers. I’d never seen so many of them packed so densely in one place.

     “Well, no need to start fretting,” said Meryl. “We’ll just have to check all the inns in turn. You want to take that side of the road and I’ll take this one?”

     “How about you take both sides of the road, and I’ll go do something else.”

     “Ah. Gotcha.” She tapped her nose. “Reconnaissance.”

     “No.” I tapped the place where my nose used to be. “Shopping. I want to find a new robe that isn’t about to rot off with water damage.”

     “Fair enough.”

     She began poking her head into the inns and I kept walking to the town center. This didn’t take long. Cronenburg only had three streets, which formed a Y around what I would have called a village square had it not been perfectly circular. The Street of Inns was the southerly branch of the Y, and the two arms were the Street of Magic and the Street of Combat. Every single building in Cronenburg appeared to belong to a business of some kind.

     The streets were absolutely packed with human traffic, everyone shoving their way through the crowds in hasty pursuit of their individual shopping needs. After being swept relentlessly around the town center for a few laps I made a burst of effort and stumbled out into the comparatively sedate central plaza. I stood on a bench to get a clearer look around.

     There evidently had been a bit too much surplus in the town planning committee’s annual budget, and the very air seemed to sparkle with the setting sunlight reflecting off brand new shop frontage and polished cobblestones. The centerpiece of the town was a huge, silvery ornamental fountain depicting a wild-haired barbarian with one furry boot planted on a defeated gnoll. Crystal-clear water ran from its stab wounds. And just to underline the message, a six-foot long plaque at the bottom read “CRONENBURG WELCOMES ADVENTURERS” in big serifed letters.

image

     They’d certainly taken the message. Adventurers were everywhere. Loitering in the plaza chatting about nonsense, emerging from the shops wearing tacky multicolored armor fresh out of the wrapping. You could tell who had only just arrived, because their outfits were filthy with blood and gnoll guts.

     The gore-spattered new arrivals were all queuing up outside a building at the very point where the two northern branches of the Y intersected, a prime position where I’d expect to find a town hall. It was an unadorned building of well-polished black glass that seemed almost embarrassed by the elaborate façades that rubbed its shoulders. The adventurers in the queue were clutching armfuls of dented gnoll equipment and clumps of foul-smelling offal. They would file into the main entrance and emerge moments later, relieved of their gnoll garbage and holding clinking bags of coins.

     I shrugged. I was new to the land, and there were no doubt a lot of weird local customs I was unaware of. Maybe gnoll offal was the primary ingredient of some popular local delicacy. I took a deep breath, shouldered my way back into the throng and, after a few more trips around the circle, managed to get onto the Street of Magic.

     I quickly found the kind of shop I was after: a pleasant little tailor’s with garish star-patterned fabrics prominently featured in the window. Just outside the door stood an oily teenager in a smart, professional robe. His fixed smile looked like it was becoming painful.

     “Drelmere and sons, fine outfitters for the discerning magician!” he was shouting, his voice barely carrying over the hubbub. “Robes! Pointy hats! Beard grooming supplies! Yes, you sir, how can OH GOD HURRAAARRGLAB.”

     I waited patiently for him to finish decorating the pavement with his stomach contents. “Sorry,” he said, bent double and gulping. Impressively, he immediately continued his sales pitch from that position. “Looking for a new robe?”

     “Yes, this one’s starting to whiff a bit.”

     “Yes, I … gathered that, sir.” He took a few deep, groaning breaths into a star-patterned hanky and seemed to gather himself. “What sort of price range were you OH GOD YOUR EYES HURRAAARRGLAB.”

     I tapped my now bile-sodden foot. “Shall I come back later?”

     “No!” he said very quickly, straightening up. “No, it’s fine. We have a lovely selection of robes for a discerning … person, from as little as 49 talans.”

     “What’s a talan?”

     He chuckled condescendingly. It would probably have been more effective without the sick all down his front. “The currency of Lolede, sir.” When I didn’t reply for a moment he added, “You need them to buy things.”

     I resisted the urge to put on a show of searching my pockets, because I was afraid of what was currently living in them. “Excuse me a moment,” I said. “I left my wallet in my carriage.”

     I drifted back towards the village square, considering options. I didn’t even know what a talan looked like. Most of the rural communities in Garethy got by on the barter system, and the closest thing to currency there was the turnip. And then, of course, as part of Dreadgrave’s horde I’d gotten used to the “give us all your worldly goods or we’ll set fire to you” system of economics.

image

     Slippery John would probably have some money, I thought. If he was reluctant to part with it I could always stand within smelling range until he changed his mind.

     “Name,” said a voice.

     I turned. An elven hunter was staring at a point just to the side of my head with the unmoving intensity of an obvious Syndrome victim. Absolutely nothing about his manner indicated that he was addressing me, so I attempted to walk away before we caught something horrible from each other.

     He wasn’t to be dissuaded. He burst momentarily into a dramatic sprint until he’d closed the four yards between us and pressed his nose against my forehead. “Name,” he said again.

     “Jim,” I admitted. I’d made the mistake of getting backed into the fountain, and now there was no path of escape. “How do you do?”

     “Job.”

     His voice had no emotion or intelligence behind it. It was less like communication and more like expressionless throat noise that coincidentally formed words, like a dog saying “roof.” “Freelance,” I said eventually. “If I could just get out of your way, I’m a little bit freaked out …”

     “Quests?” An ever-so-slight upturning of pitch towards the end of the statement led me to conclude that it was a question.

     My gaze immediately swung over to a nearby sign that I’d noticed earlier and been somewhat baffled by. It read, “NON-ADVENTURERS WITHOUT QUESTS ARE ADVISED TO NOT STAND IN ONE PLACE FOR LONG PERIODS.”

     Now that I knew what to look for, I saw them dotted throughout the crowd. Questgivers. Armored knights in the pay of lords and barons stood around the areas of highest traffic, soliciting cheap muscle for dirty jobs, shoulder to shoulder with farm workers looking for someone to shoo the gnolls off the pumpkin patches. I’d stumbled into some kind of quest exchange.

     My first thought was to shrug him off and leave, which was backed up by my second, third and fourth thought. But it was my fifth thought that somehow got control of my voice.

     “Yes, I have a quest for you,” I said, placing two fingertips on his sternum and gently pushing him out of my personal space. “Lend me fifty talans.”

     Our gaze met for a few seconds, or rather, I looked into his eyes and he focused vaguely on something behind my head. Then he produced an understated but roomy purse from his britches, shook out five freshly-minted coins, and thrust them forwards.

     “Your quest is complete,” I announced, jingling them in my palm. “Well done. You are truly a hero.”

     The tiniest glimmer of understanding flashed momentarily in the center of his dead eyes, then he turned a smooth 180 degrees and jogged off into the crowd, swinging his hips.

     Fifteen minutes later I emerged from the tailor in an inexpensive but hard-wearing outdoor robe intended for long-distance trekking and battle magic. My old robe had already been peeled off, wadded up into a foul-smelling blob and dropped down the deepest storm drain the tailor’s assistant could find. With my own personal quest completed, I headed back towards the Street of Inns.

     Something was going on in the town square. The elf I’d “hired” for my “quest” was being interrogated by a small throng of adventurers. I wondered if I should be concerned until the elf saw me and removed all doubt by pointing a stiff, accusing finger in my direction.

     The head of the little group, a blonde dwarf, bore down on me with anger bristling to the ends of his absurd mustache.

image

     “Are you the one who OH GOD YOUR EYES HURRAAARRGLAB.” He picked some half-digested morsels out of his beard and tried again. “Are you the one who gave Erick the ‘lend fifty talans’ quest?”

     “Er … I have a condition,” I tried.

     The dwarf’s eyes narrowed. “You didn’t sign his quest log.” He snatched a little black book from Erick’s unresisting hands and pushed the latest page under my nose. It read, in an impossibly neat hand, Quest 127815, Undead Minion, Cronenburg: Lend me fifty talans.

     “You … what?” I stammered.

     “You didn’t sign it off, genius! How’s he going to register it at the Guild if it’s not verified?”

     The rest of the page was filled with a small grid of little boxes to fill in. One for a signature, one underneath that was headed points awarded, and another reading performance: adequate / good / outstanding. A pen was pressed into my hand and I decided that rolling with it was the safest option.

     “Right,” said the dwarf, when I’d finished writing. “Pink copy’s yours.” He made to give me the receipt, then something fired in his head and he snatched it back. “Holy iron, did you just give him 100 points for that?”

     “Er, yeah.” I’d flipped back over a couple of pages and it seemed like an average amount. “I was impressed by the speedy service.”

     Now my receipt was being passed around the gathering crowd of adventurers and creating excited murmurs in its wake. I could feel the hot breath of incoming disaster on my neck. “I wanna do this quest too,” announced the dwarf, digging out his own dog-eared quest journal and wallet. “Fifty talans, right?”

     “Here’s my 50 talans!” came a female voice, probably belonging to the slender fist that hung overhead, spilling coins.

     “I do money quest,” droned a Syndrome-afflicted mage.

     Somehow I’d gotten backed up against the fountain again. I displayed my rotten palms in futile protection from the coins being thrown in my face. “Whoa!” I yelled over the developing hubbub. “I don’t need any more! I needed fifty talans and he was convenient! It was a one time thing!”

     The many fists that clutched money and quest logs went away sadly. Then the fists rematerialized clutching swords and battle-axes.

     “Well okay then,” I said. “Can I get that pen back?”

     “Where the hell have you been?” said Meryl, when I caught up with her in the Street of Inns at about three in the morning. “Where did you get that huge bag of money?”

     I dumped it on the pavement, sick of hefting the weight around. “Is there a word for the exact opposite of a mugging?”

     “You’ve got a coin in your nose hole.” She pulled it out helpfully and inspected it. “What happened, exactly?”

     I told her.

     “So wait, they all gave you fifty talans each just so you’d sign a piece of paper and write down ‘100 points’?”

     “Exactly.”

     “How does that even work?”

     I held my hands out. “I don’t know! They wouldn’t stop giving me money! And I was actually holding out hope that this continent would be slightly less insane than the last one. This isn’t very encouraging.”

     She raised an eyebrow. “Yeah, you look devastated. That’s a nice new hat, by the way. Gold leaf?”

     “No, Elfweave. Looks like gold leaf, about three times the price.” I adjusted the brim. “Give me a break, I’ve been rotting on a beach for weeks, I’m cheering myself up. Invested in a couple of new mage spells, too.”

image

     “Oh really? Such as?”

     She promptly vanished in a burst of glittery particles. In her place sat a stunned little black-and-white bunny rabbit, twitching its nose in adorable wonder for a few seconds before the transformation reversed. There was a brief surreal in-between moment when the rabbit momentarily had breasts and a head four times too large, then there was the crack of a universe falling back into line and Meryl returned.

     “The rabbit spell,” she said, bored. “Yeah, it was a funny prank the first ten or twelve times I fell for it at Dreadgrave’s.”

     “It is not a prank. It’s a combat control strategy that also happens to be incredibly hilarious.”

     “Thaddeus is here,” she announced, pointing to the nearest inn, The Good Innvestment, whose shingle was optimistically decorated with the image of an innkeeper waist-deep in coins. “Slippery John went scouting ahead, said he’d be back by sunrise.”

     “Did he take Drylda?” I asked as we entered the Good Innvestment.

     “Yeah, why?”

     “I’m thinking that the only thing that’s going to get scouted is the inside of her bodice.”

     “Why don’t you like Slippery John? You seem to spend your whole unlife following him around.”

     “He set us on fire.”

     “Oh, that was just adventurer stuff. You wouldn’t understand. You shouldn’t take it so seriously.”

     Another thing that was difficult to take seriously was the interior of the Good Innvestment. The designers obviously knew what adventurers expected from a wayside inn – scowling battle-scarred innkeeper in eyepatch and apron, unvarnished tables, smoky torchlight and ale served in the biggest flagons your restaurant supplier could find – and they were trying so hard to be that kind of place you could practically hear the walls straining with the effort. The tables had had their varnish sanded off, then scratches and imperfections had been carefully added with a chisel. The flaming torches were normal magic-powered lights with fluttering bits of orange cloth attached. The barman had the eyepatch and apron, but he was thin and permanently beaming, and his battle scars were drawn on with eyebrow pencil.

     “How much, exactly, has the priest lightened up?” I asked, as we dodged the innkeeper’s attempts to wish us a nice day.

     “Thaddeus? It’s like talking to a different man. I really think you’ll be amazed.”

     I’d seen him now, his lanky, gray-skinned form easy to spot among the rippling bronzed musculature of the other clientele. He was sitting by himself at one of the unvarnished tables, arms folded, intently watching a nearby table of dwarves and narrowing his eyes every time any of them started to raise a glass to their lips.

     “Hey, Thaddeus,” said Meryl. “Look who I found.”

     Thaddeus sneered so hard that his nose became sandwiched between the two halves of his upper lip. “My soul weeps blood to know that your putrescence blights this realm still, suckler of evil’s horny nipple.”

     I glared at him, then at Meryl, who shrugged. “Well, Slippery John really seemed to be getting through to him,
anyway.”

     I sat down and buried my face in my elbows. “Will you please stop going on about Slippery John?”

     “What have you got against him? He’s trying to get along with you, you know.”

     “Leaving aside-“

image

     “-Leaving aside the burning thing-”

     “Also the fact that he’s an adventurer, and therefore a self-obsessed money-grubbing moron in severe denial about the fact that he’s not the handsome prince in his own personal fairy story?”

     A smug little gleam flashed in the glow of Meryl’s eyes. “I know what this is about. You hate adventurers because you were originally killed by them.”

     “No I wasn’t. I was killed by students. The adventurers just didn’t help. And anyway, I’ve been killed by lots of things. Jumping off towers, tools in the skull, falling buildings …”

     “Yeah, but the first time’s special. You never forget it.” She cupped her chin in her hands and her gaze went somewhere else. “I remember mine. I was a burgeoning flower of womanhood. He was the weird kid who kept playing with his switchblade. We were both so nervous, but we figured it out together.” She sighed. “I think they hanged him for it.”

     “Anyway,” I said, changing the subject as fast as possible, “why shouldn’t I hate adventurers? I think we’re both entitled to at this point.”

     “Are you kidding? They dedicate their lives to helping people. They’re heroes.”

     I rolled my eyes. “You have this thing about seeing things in black and white, don’t you? Good and evil. Heroes and villains. Probably comes from that Binny upbringing. Life’s more complex than that. There are no heroes or villains. There’s just people who want money and people who want a bit more money.”

     “What about you?”

     “What about me?”

     “Wouldn’t you say you’re on a heroic quest?”

     I looked at her, eyebrow raised. “I wouldn’t call getting myself killed a particularly heroic goal.”

     “It’s still a quest. And you’ve already had epic battles and stuff.”

     “Having a quest doesn’t mean anything. Everyone’s on a quest. I want to die. You’ve got your Borrigarde thing. And Thaddeus hasn’t alienated everyone in the world yet.”

     “Your prattle will impress not the agents of the Almighty, creature of the deeps.”

     I sat up. “Actually, Barry’s the one who’s apparently got the backing of the Gods. And he’s a lot more passionate about things than we are. Maybe he’s the real hero.”

     Meryl blinked a few times. “Are you serious?”

     “Of course not. You started an absolutely retarded conversation and I’m making fun of you. Do try to keep up.”

     The debate ended when someone ran down the street outside, loudly ringing a handbell, and every adventurer in the room immediately bolted for the door. Within seconds the three of us and the innkeeper were the only people left in the inn. All was silent but for the sound of abandoned chairs and barstools gently rocking on their back legs for a moment before falling over with a clatter.

     “What was that all about?” wondered Meryl aloud.

     “Gnolls are attacking,” said the innkeeper, as nonchalantly as one would announce that the buns were being delivered.

     It was my chair’s turn to fall as I leapt to my feet in alarm. “Gnolls?”

     “Mm, yes,” the innkeeper nodded. “Whole tribe of the things live just outside town. This happens every few nights. Good thing all these stalwart adventurers are around, hmm?” He winked. The eyepatch spoiled the effect somewhat.

     “Let’s get out of here,” I suggested.

     “Scared of gnolls, are we, champ?”

     “They’re gnolls!” was the best argument I could come up with. This was the second time I’d been asked to justify being afraid of gnolls, and I still couldn’t fathom why. It was like being asked to explain why old people should wear clothing.

image

     “Maybe you should watch tonight’s battle,” suggested the innkeeper. “You can get a good view from the window.”

     I crossed over and peered around the shutter, preparing to slam it closed at the first sign of tusks. A crowd of around forty adventurers were gathered around the tasteless fountain, near a couple of opportunistic refreshment stands and some spectators with less sense of self-preservation than I.

     An overweight man with a preposterously huge mustache and a massive, jewel-encrusted mayor’s medallion strode confidently into the center of the plaza. He stepped onto a wooden platform and addressed the crowd. “O noble warriors of fortune,” he boomed, his grand country accent clearly audible even from this distance. “The vile Hairybum tribe are on their way to do all manner o’ indescribably awful things to our village. We beseech you …”

     “Skip the intro.” A dwarf pushed his way to the front of the crowd. It was the blonde fellow who had accosted me earlier. “We’ve all heard it a million times. What’s the reward?”

     The mustache wobbled back and forth in irritation for a moment. “Twenty points for every dead gnoll. The usual arrangement. Hang onto yer receipts and hand ’em in at the town hall to get your logs signed … what’s the matter? Why all the consternation, sirs?”

     “There was this beggar earlier on,” continued the dwarf over the displeased muttering of his fellows. “Handing out hundred-point rewards for lowest-level quests. There hasn’t been some kind of boost in the town budget, has there?”

     “Of course not! That individual was most certainly not sanctioned by the town Quest Committee! We cannot afford to hand points out like that!”

     “Come off it, Dubbly,” said the dwarf. He gestured suggestively at the mayor’s glittering accoutrements, then the fountain, then the gaudy shop fronts that were lit up with multicolored glowing signs and advertising boards now that night had fallen. “You’ve been raking it in with both hands since the Trail started. Now I’m thinking our patronage has got to be worth a bit more to you than twenty points a gnoll.”

     This provoked a chorus of “yeah”s and “preach on”s from the assembly.

     At that point a chorus of roars like the angry moos of a herd of demon cows echoed through the town. From the other end of the Street of Inns I saw a stormcloud of activity rise up, moonlight reflecting off many crudely-fashioned axes and hand blades.

     The gnolls were charging towards the village square, an army of snarling monsters in unmatching piecemeal armor. Like the one we’d encountered earlier, these were a formidable bunch: hardened desert scavengers, black of fur and a good foot taller than Garethy’s forest gnolls. The leader of this pack could probably have crushed a Garethy gnoll to death between his pectoral muscles.

     “Now wait one minute!” bellowed the mayor. “We ain’t quite ready yet!”

     The gnoll charge slowed and stopped, lowering their weapons and scaling back their war cries into mildly perturbed grumbling.

     “You’ve got to understand,” said the mayor, turning back to the adventurers. “Guild tax is climbin’ up again. We’ve already moseyed our way through most of the town plannin’ budget for the year.”

     “So how do you explain that beggar?”

     “I ain’t got no explanation for that, sirs, I told you, that fella musta been some kinda independent operator. Now, are all these gnolls gonna have to kill themselves or are you gonna be adventurers tonight?”

image

     His passionate appeal utterly failed to do the trick. Many of the adventurers were already drifting away, along with most of the bored spectators.

     “Now hold on!” yelled Mayor Dubbly as more and more of his audience deserted him. “I could be persuaded to go up to twenty-three points a head?”

     “It’s too late for that now,” said the dwarf spokesman, following his colleagues. “You waste our time, we lose the spark.”

     All Dubbly and the gnoll horde could do was stand, open-mouthed and crestfallen, impotently watching the stars of the evening’s entertainment wander off into the night.

     “Gruffug khakhaf gafflekaff?” rumbled the head gnoll, having difficulty pushing his words through the hideous forest of pointy teeth that filled his mouth.

     “Yes, I suppose you can still have your free meal coupons,” sighed Dubbly. “Collect ’em from the town hall.”

     “Groff.”

     Excitement rejuvenated, the gnolls dispersed. I suddenly noticed that I’d unconsciously ducked when they’d arrived, and was now watching the street with my non-existent nose hooked over the windowsill. I stood, attempting to gather my dignity.

     “What was that all about?” asked Meryl, as we rejoined the priest. Several adventurers had already returned to the bar to resume drinking.

     “I dunno,” I said, “but I have a horrible feeling that it was my fault. We should probably get out of here and back on the road. We can meet Slippery John on his way back.”

     “What, right now?” She clicked her tongue. “Look, I know a lot of people have been trying to destroy you lately but that’s no reason to be paranoid.”

     As if to punctuate her sentence, the entrance door suddenly broke off its hinges and flew horizontally across the room, erupting into bits against the body of a poorly-placed rogue. Two of the invading gnolls entered, squeezing themselves uncomfortably through the human-sized doorway like hairy, murderous toothpaste.

     “What the hell, guys?!” shouted the innkeeper, furious. “You know you’re not supposed to damage property! This was covered at the meeting!”

     “Gruffuk,” went one of the gnolls apologetically. He was the slimmer of the two, which meant he could probably only bench-press two or three horses at once. “Groffty grukkuffug,” he added, pointing a filthy black claw directly at me.

     “Oh, balls,” I retorted, not the slightest bit surprised.

     The only way out was through the advancing wall of fur and muscle that was now dividing the bar and reception area. Choices and consequences raced through my head. Every single one of them ended with at least one part of me getting chewed on. A particularly large dollop of foamy spittle landed next to my foot and my brain desperately accelerated.

     “New quest!” I heard myself yell. “Save me from gnolls! Big rewards!”

     “Ugh,” muttered Thaddeus, still calmly sitting. “At least accept fate with a little dignity, child of damnation.”

     It had done the trick, though. The monsters froze. At some point between my utterance of the words “big” and “rewards,” every adventurer in the bar had finished their drinks, stood up and begun fondling their weapon hilts.

     There passed a significant moment of stillness. Nobody in the room wanted to be the first to make a rash movement that could snowball into large amounts of property damage.

     “Gruk,” went the slimmer gnoll, no doubt also the more erudite of the pair. “Graffogok koggogok roffgroff.”

image

     

     “What was that?” I hissed.

     Meryl’s mouth materialized next to my ear. “I think he said, ‘new quest, help us capture undead, even bigger rewards.'”

     “You speak gnoll?”

     “No, but the gist was pretty obvious.” She gestured to the adventurers, who had all turned from the gnolls to us like heavily-armed weathervanes. “What now? Offer even more rewards than that?”

     I sighed. “We’ll be back and forth all bloody night. No, I think I’m just going to go with the flow.” I folded my arms and bowed my head as a shiny new elven mace slammed across the back of my skull.

     It was the first time I’d been killed since my dalliance with the Deleter realm, and as my spirit was pushed out into the dead world I realized that I hadn’t escaped from that bizarre place unscathed. Something had changed.

     I could still see the washed-out physical world around me. I saw my body, along with Meryl’s and Thaddeus’s, being slung over a gnoll’s bulging shoulder. I could see my companions’ souls being cast out to join me in the dead world.

     But everything else was different. My mind felt sluggish and dull. My astral form was slanted at a strange angle, and one of my arms was hanging uselessly.

     “J-m?” said Meryl’s ghost, concerned. “W-a-‘s -h- m-t-e-? Y-u-e f-i-k-r-n- i- a-d -u- …”

     The dead world was flickering in and out like a broken light. It was like two worlds were trying to occupy the same space. One was the standard ghostly dead realm, and the other …

     Physically it was the exact same place, but everything was formed from glowing lines against a black void, like thin brushstrokes on black velvet. The terrain beneath my feet was a network of green triangles, as were the walls and fittings of the Cronenburg buildings. My vacated body was a body-shaped yellow cage, while the gnolls and adventurers tormenting it were a vibrant red.

     The souls of Meryl and the priest were white. No, I realized – they were gray. They only looked white because of the millions of tiny Deleters that swarmed over their astral forms like ants.

     I looked down at my hands. They were all over me, too, scurrying all over my ghostly flesh with skinny white arms and legs. Like the other Deleters, they were white humanoids with blank white heads, wings and robes, but these were the size of cockroaches, and scrabbled insanely about with none of the emotionless deliberation of their larger fellows. They were all over my limbs, my torso, even my face, teasing my eyelids and climbing down my nose hole. I opened my mouth to scream, and felt hundreds more of them pouring out of my throat …

XxSuperSimonxX signed in at 9:44AM
XxSuperSimonxX: whats cooking cool cats
XxSuperSimonxX: its cool that im working from home 2day right
sunderwonder: yes
sunderwonder: please work from home as often as you like
XxSuperSimonxX: sweet
XxSuperSimonxX: what are we on top of today
doublebill: populatoin numbers thing again
XxSuperSimonxX: I took care of that already
XxSuperSimonxX: do keep up son
sunderwonder: yes I remember you saying
sunderwonder: but there are still three resurrected npcs unaccounted for

image

XxSuperSimonxX: pff
XxSuperSimonxX: just three wont matter
doublebill: they kind of will actually
sunderwonder: anything that doesn't belong in the world can corrupt the build
XxSuperSimonxX: okay fine
XxSuperSimonxX: ill get barry onto it
sunderwonder: barry who
XxSuperSimonxX: hes the npc I put on top of the yawnbore job
XxSuperSimonxX: ive been talking to him a bit
XxSuperSimonxX: its amazzing how intelligent the npcs are. I think we should all be very proud of what weve done on this project
doublebill: you only just joined
XxSuperSimonxX: anyway gotta run
XxSuperSimonxX: got important work to get on top of, cant sit around chatting like you two slackers
XxSuperSimonxX signed out at 9:58AM
doublebill: do you think hes actually going to do any work
sunderwonder: god I hope not
sunderwonder: that's the only reason I suggested it
sunderwonder: with any luck hes wanking himself raw as we speak

***

Mogworld is the first novel by Yahtzee Croshaw. It will be available August 31st 2010, and can be pre-ordered through Barnes & Noble, Borders Books and Amazon.

You may also like