In the Elvish tradition of magic, attempting control breeds chaos. Less control brings more order. Do not fight what is, but go with the flow, acting without premeditation as the moment arises.
This is how it must be. Because outside of the moment, you do not exist. Your memories are not real, you do not exist in the past. Your anxieties are not real, you do not exist in the future.
Time is not real, but everything arises together, and connects with ease, if you let it. The bee and the flower are not separate, but part of a whole. Your arrow is already part of some poor bastard’s back. Just let it happen.
Elves are a pain in the ass.
- Excerpt from “The Path of The Longstrider”
4 Hours Later (Lighthome Time) - Copycat - Big Branch In A Big Fucking Tree
Panting, we duck behind a large knot of thick wood. A few arrows hammer the other side of the stumpy protrusion, then it’s quiet except for our harsh breathing.
Cyan pulls an arrow out of his thigh. Tosses it aside. “That’s it for running. Wasn’t working anyway.”
“How many elves are after us?” I ask.
“Well, we’re still alive, so probably one.” says Presto.
“Just one? The fuck?”
Presto grins. “Yeah, they’re feisty.”
“What’s his deal?” I ask.
Presto shrugs. “I don’t even know our deal.”
“Right, your memory loss.” I rub my face. “What’s the last thing you remember?”
“Uhh… “ Presto looks at Cy. “Tuesday?”
Cy nods. “Yeah, Tuesday.”
“Okay.” I think. “That’s not helpful. Do you remember me?”
“Crap. Okay, we’re buddies, we’re looking for a god named Tiger, he can stop the apocalypse but doesn’t know he can, he’s probably not on Lowgarden, so we tried to go to Darkhome, but ended up here.”
“Yeah, that doesn’t sound like me.” says Presto. “I don’t think the apocalypse can be stopped. I wouldn’t agree to try.”
“You didn’t, but you came with us anyway.”
Presto sighs. “That sounds like me. Shit.”
Cy grunts as he bandages his leg. “We’re on a quest. Cool. And we don’t know this homicidal elf?”
“I don’t.” I say. “He could be a bounty hunter. Or a wandering monster. Or a dick.”
“They’re not mutually exclusive. I guess it doesn’t matter.” Cy peeks around the stump, nearly catches an arrow. “I can’t even see him. Can you still call the lightning, old man?”
“Yeesh. I haven’t tried that in a long time. I’d probably fry us. We’re armed, let’s just rush him.” Presto unsheathes his stick. “Huh. Thought this would be a sword.”
“I’m not rushing anybody.” Cy points to his leg. “Either of you know the magic missile spell?”
“We talked about learning it.” I say. “But no, we never got around to it.”
“What about a crossbow? Got one in the bag?”
“Again, we talked about it. But no.” I smile sheepishly. “Would you like a beer?”
Cy nods. “May as well. No point in dying sober.”
There’s clinking as Presto pulls out a few beer
“I was joking.” says Cy.
Presto pops open a bottle. “Good joke.”
“If this jerk kills us, we’re going to teleport to another realm.” I ponder. “Why don’t we just teleport now? Skip the memory loss and the arrow to the chest? We don’t want to be here anyway.”
“Interesting idea. Anybody know a teleportation spell?” asks Cyan. “I can’t remember the last one.”
Presto drinks, shrugs. “If you guys crawl in the bag of holding, I could probably get us to Gianthome.”
“Fuck Gianthome and fuck your bag of holding. I’m never getting in it again.” says Cy. “Next idea.”
“I know a spell to get to Darkhome, but we fucked it up pretty bad last time.” I rub my face. “Maybe we didn’t deflate our egos properly.”
“I probably didn’t.” Presto drinks, smokes. “My coping strategies are all over the place.”
Cy shakes his head. “Looks like we’re gonna have a hard reset. Unless we can find that guy.” He peeks around the stump, ducks another arrow.
I groan. “I don’t want a hard reset! I don’t have my memories back from my last one! Wait! Have you guys updated your Sacred Texts?”
Cy shrugs. “Dunno.”
“Should we update them now?” I don’t want to forget these guys.
Two more arrows thunder into our shelter, spraying us with wood chips.
“I’m not sure this is the best time for journaling.” says Presto.
“Why not?” asks Cy. “Would it interfere with your drinking?”
Presto shrugs. “I guess I have two hands.” He pulls a thick book and a raven quill from his bag.
“Let’s see what I’ve been up to:
If you’ve lost your memories, you’re an idiot.
Also, you believe that good relationships make a good life.
“Aww…” I grin. “Samesies.”
“Nice.” says Presto. “But, the next line is:
The apocalypse cannot be stopped.
“A minor quibble.” I wave it away. “Anything else?”
If nothing matters, then neither does that.
“That’s deep.” I say. “What does it mean?”
“Can't remember. But I like it.”
“Cool. Jot down that we’re besties.”
As we seal our bromance in ink, Cy is talking with a butterfly.
“Are you sure?” ask Cy. “You’re taking a big risk.”
This butterfly talk looks serious. “What’s up?”
“I asked Gottfried to scout the elf’s position, but he wants to confront him. Thinks we can talk this out.”
“Yeesh.” I'm sceptical. “Okay...”
Cy shakes his head. “Dammit, he’s right. We should try a non-violent solution. You were always the best of us, Gottfried. Good luck.”
Gottfried flutters over the stump, is immediately pegged with an arrow. Two disembodied wings float down to Cy’s lap.
“You fucking bastard!” A ball of white hot fire forms in Cy’s hand. “Let’s see you shoot this!”
Cy lofts the fireball down branch. It’s clipped by an arrow and explodes next to us, setting our shelter ablaze.
“Fuck, he did shoot it.” grumbles Cy.
“Alright, fuck this.” Presto reaches into his bag, pulls out a fierce skeleton with rusty armaments. “Get him, Duke!”
Duke charges down branch. Makes it two steps before he’s hit with half a dozen arrows. Splinters, collapses into a pile of bones.
“Dang it. This elf has an answer to everything.” says Presto. “And it’s always the same answer.”
Our burning shelter is getting very hot. I scooch away from it, then back, when an arrow buzzes my head. Dang.
“Elvish magic is interesting.” Presto is leaning from the flames as he scribbles sloppy runes across his wooden sword. “They believe there’s no such thing as time. It’s just a shared delusion.
“So we shouldn’t let anger at the past, or fears of the future, affect our decisions. Because we only live in this one moment. The past and the future don’t exist, so it’s pointless to let those emotions drag us around.
“I generally don’t agree with that worldview, but I occasionally find it a comfort when I’m about to do something stupid.”
He pops around the burning barricade and charges up the tree screaming.
“Dang it.” Cy passes me the bag of holding. “Get Duke back in the bag.”
He rips a chunk of burning wood off our shelter, and steps out to half-ass shield Duke’s remains.
I scoot over and reach for Duke’s skull.
“Don’t touch me!” snaps the skull.
“Uh, I gotta put you in the bag.”
“Don’t touch me!”
I look at Cy. “What do I do?”
Cy shrugs, winces as an arrow slams into his shield, spraying him with hot embers. “Something fast.”
I look at Duke. “Uh… can I push you in the bag with my boot?”
“...okay.” says Duke.
“Great.” I lay the bag down, and start kicking in bones.
Presto is still screaming. He’s zipping around in flashes of speed, dodging arrows, or slapping them away with his rune sword. I’m guessing he still doesn’t know where the elf is, as his charge does not appear to have a destination.
“That’s a long battle cry. Is he running in circles?”
“Probably. I expect the yelling is for our benefit. When it gets closer, we’d better be moving.”
“Fair enough.” I boot a tibia into the bag. Kick the smaller bones into a pile. Damn it, Duke. You really fell apart.
A steady stream of arrows begin thundering into Cy’s makeshift shield. I guess the elf has given up on hitting Presto. Chunks of burning wood fly off, rapidly eroding our protection.
“We’re out of time.” grunts Cy.
“Sorry, just working on fingers.”
Cyan looks down at me scraping bone shards with my boot. Sighs. “Sorry dad.”
He heaves our makeshift shield forward and breathes out a huge fog of purple gas. Then he kneels down to help me gather Duke. He holds the bag so I can kick with both feet.
Presto sputters through the poison cloud, coughing and gagging. “Really dude?”
“We needed some cover. Help with Duke.”
Presto quickly flicks a dozen bones into the bag with his sword. The gnome has fast hands. I’m guessing this isn’t his first disastrous retreat. “You realize that elf is moving forward now. Once this clears he’s gonna be all over us.”
We finally have Duke in the bag. Cy grins. “Don’t worry, he’s not going to catch us.”
Cy grabs Presto with one hand, me with the other, and jumps off the side of the branch.