“Hey, Granny. I heard you didn’t make it?” Nikko asked with furrowed brow.
Grandma laughed, “You did, of course! That's not surprising. You were always the most clever out of all your little friends.”
I stole a glance from Lorelai; just long enough to mouth the words, What The Fuck…
Nikko took a solemn seat across from her, “Fucking Greg didn’t make it either,” he started.
“Sorry dear,” she said, her face showing that she meant it, “Maybe if you find a special pair of… Oh. What are those shoes you two loved when you were kids?”
“Jordan’s,” Nikko said, looking up.
“Yes, Jordan’s. Maybe if you find a special pair of Jordan’s you will be able to click them together and see him again,” Grandma said, clicking her fingers together excitedly as she spoke.
Nikko looked up at her expectantly, then to my Thigh Master and me, and back at Grandma again. They both erupted in laughter.
Blanching, I gave one last unbelieving look to Lorelai before I threw out my hands and asked, “What the fuck is going on here?”
The two old friends took their time transitioning from laughter to normal speaking. After a few ooh's, ahh’s, and four wiped cheeks, my Grandma finally answered my question. “When you live in one place for so long you get to know the people around you. Nikko has lived in this neighborhood almost as long as I have,” she said.
Nikko added, “Yea, I had no clue you two were related. If I had known he was your Grandson, I wouldn’t have given him such a hard time!” He smacked me on the back.
“Okay. Okay. I am glad you guys got the chance to see each other again, but this has to stop. We only have so long with you, Grandma, and we need some advice.”
Grandma gave a knowing smile to Nikko before turning to me, and then the group as a whole, “You guys already know what you need to do. Grow stronger and find a way to Ragnarok!”
With that, my loving Grandma and all of her accompanying dust disappeared, replaced by rainbow letters. Her parting words echoed throughout the parlor and lingered like a ghost as I read the new notification.
“Nikkoooooo. Be nicer to Pommy, will you dear?” she said.
Quest Updated! (New for party members) A beloved neighborhood Grandma came into contact with the deadly Scroungers and like many before her, didn't live to tell the tale. She did live long enough for one thing though - to task you with bringing justice to her name and defending her honor! Your party is gathered and named. Will the Tattoo Parlor Gang be the ones to end Ragnaros’ reign and lay to rest those who have fallen by his hand?
Quest Type - Chain
Current Objective - Slay the remaining members of the Pizza Place Gang.
“There it is!” I whispered, pointing to the front of a hardware store. Unlike the fancier establishments in the neighborhood, this store didn’t have any neon lights. Only a sad, possibly spray painted, sign separated it from the other plain brick buildings.
“Okay,” Nikko whispered, “Milton, you go in first.”
“I thought you were going to be nicer to him?” Lorelai interjected, but I already grasped the copper doorknob in my hand, ready to knock down anything that came after me. I twisted my grip and entered.
Nikko’s whispers trailed in after me, “What? He is our tank.”
I walked slowly, hyper-aware that the light from outside didn’t reach inside.
Well, I thought, if something was going to bite my leg and try to suffocate me, it would have already done so.
I flicked the switch on my regular flashlight and quietly swept it across the square room. My light uncovered various items in this order: jumper cables, flat tire repair kits, some wrenches, a pretty face, and more wrenches.
The words, “Agility Check Passed” flew across my vision like they were towed behind a plane. They sparkled and popped as they went, like the sky on July 4th.
“Paahhhhh!” I said as my stomach repelled a charge from the Scrounger with a pretty face. She flew back through the gap in shelving and smashed against the brick wall with the sound of two wet rocks hitting each other. A trail of blood began at her cranial impact and followed her to the ground as she slid onto her rear, completely dazed.
That’s how that works, I thought as my Katana finished her off before I could count to four. I wanted to test the truth behind my Knock Down skill description, but I wanted to find Ragnarok more. The electric sizzle of Lorelei's fist powering up marked another soon to be dead Scrounger hiding in the darkness. I heard a cracking sound, a thump, then Nikko announced that everything was all clear.
“Grab everything you can and bring it to me, quickly,” I said, throwing my backpack over my shoulder and then to the ground. I watched as the entire contents of a hardware store disappeared. For some reason, I paid particular attention to every item as it was swallowed up by my bag. When everything was inside, I put it back on and tossed Nikko my flashlight so he could consult the map for our next location. I had the satisfying feeling that I had a handle on everything inside my bag. I KNEW everything that was in there, even down to the smallest nut and bolt. Well, I knew the names of the things I knew before, which admittedly wasn’t much, but I had a good grasp of the potential of the items contained within. That was all that mattered.
The flashlight turned on him just as I did, “What is it, buddy?” I asked. He was pointing his barred teeth at the store entrance and didn’t reply a first.
He borked again.
“Whoa whoa whoa! I said, shooting my hands out and deftly sliding over to him on my knees.
“What’s going on, Goldrin?” Lorelai inquired, panic bubbling in her words.
Even Nikko joined in to try and comfort my companion, but it was too late. Goldrin’s greying fur began to vibrate under my hands. His usual nonchalant expression turning aggressive.
Uh-oh, I thought as I stood up and motioned for my party to back away. “Give him some space unless you want a mouthful of dry dog hair,” I warned.
Goldrin’s growl finally grew enough to be verbal; then he shed his skin and the accompanying fur all at once with a demonic shake. More barks. More growls. More concerned glances from my party. Then he stepped through the storefront like it was a stuck doggy door. Bricks crumbled and fell over his skinless body on his wake, allowing the moonlight to shine through red dust and illuminate the empty shelves of the hardware store behind me.
“Let’s go,” I said. My Katana whirled an arc in my hands and seemed to pull me toward my companion. I stepped through the rubble and entered the street. Steel chains clinked a deadly melody against the asphalt. I inspected the creature that carried them.
Avalanche- Level 12
Max Health Points - 892
Ability One - Lieutenants Shout
Lorelai and Nikko stepped through the rubble and took a spot beside me with a gagging noise and a curse, respectively.
“Lorelai?” I prompted. She threw up, the sight of Avalanche’s overexposed muscle fibers too much to bear. Goldrin growled his way to his final size and leaped. “Can you magically jump away from something, instead of jumping to an enemy?” I asked her.
“I don’t know,” she said, eying the puddle of cheese at her feet and probably wondering how carrots got inside.
“Then stay back and protect Nikko,” I said, a split second before my Katana whirled and carried me into Avalanche’s range of attack. I hoped that Goldrin would be able to keep the creature distracted long enough that it wouldn’t be able to whip me with its bouquet of spiked balls. If he couldn’t, then I would be able to survive one attack with my Matrix ability and possibly another with Nikko’s help, but no more.
“For the Horde!” I yelled as I hustled to join my companion in battle, Katana poised above my right shoulder. Admittedly, it wasn’t the best war cry, but at least I had one that I was familiar with enough to use in the heat of the moment.
Goldrin had his massive jaws locked on Avalanche’s larynx, clamping it closed and distracting the taller beast’s hands. They dropped the chains they were holding and allowed me free reign of his tree-sized legs. I slashed at the dark leather pants with growing precision. As the thick leather finally gave way to raw muscle fiber, one of Avalanche’s hands came down to investigate the source of his pain. His fingers prodded around carefully at first, then violently when they landed on my head. I fell to the side from one swift kick. My Katana skittered across the road. I got up and grabbed it, then yelled to Nikko, “HEAL GOLDRIN!”
My command couldn’t have come sooner. Avalanche changed his strategy of trying to break the dog’s jaw lock and instead opted to beat Goldrin to death were he was. His massive hands pounded my companion’s back one by one, like a gorilla with an extra broad chest.
“Aaah,” I whispered as I charged the tall monster again. I sucked in my stomach slightly and activated my Knock Down ability on the nearest leg. The leg swung backward, resulting in a somewhat off balance monster and nothing more. Unfortunately, what goes up must come down, or so they say. I learned that this expression also made sense for things that swing from left to right, like Avalanche’s leg.
I sailed through the air before hitting the road and tumbling like I was thrown from a car without a seatbelt. A notification told me I took around 60 damage from each impact; the swinging leg and the immovable pavement. I used all of my adrenaline to stand but was eventually brought back to the ground by a compressing pain in my chest. Each breath got shorter and shorter.
Grasping at my lungs, I rolled to my back, just in time to see the moonlight blotted out. I raised my Katana and activated Matrix, successfully parrying every spiked ball that came my way.
Before I could suffocate in my own blood, I yelled, “LOR! Attack! Now!” I was conscious long enough to see an orange light jump towards my foe, then a red one crackled to life and slammed into Avalanche’s shoulder. A meaty arm fell to the pavement.
My last thought was of Goldrin.