Pushing open the swinging doors – hinges wailing mournfully – Sir G33k of Leet entered the tavern. At first glance, the place looked like it could have been pulled out of any classic, spaghetti western; cliche veritably oozed from every card game, stubbly face, and poncho in the room. A closer look, however, revealed to him many things – some not so ordinary, others downright otherworldly.
First, the giant clock on the wall had what appeared to be an infinite number of hands, tick-tocking away in relative harmony. An aberration in most rooms, Sir G33k knew, but not in this place; standing, as it was, at a well-traveled crossroads in the multiverse. Each hand spoke to a very real need to track time in parallel worlds.
The second thing he noticed were the shining, steel teeth of the man standing behind the bar, smiling. Not so unusual, he supposed, but for the strange light behind the man’s otherwise blank stare. A robot, then. Who else in their right mind would choose to work at a place frequented by criminals, bounty hunters, and other un-desirables?
What does that make you? Sir G33k thought to himself, chuckling deep inside his throat.
The final thing he noticed were the people themselves; or more specifically, their weaponry. Nothing so simple as a six-shooter or buck-knife, here. A quick inventory of the room revealed various lazer pistols, an energy staff, a book of magic, and even a lightsaber – did people still carry those? Each weapon represented a threat he had no time – nor desire – to face, as Sir G33k had come here for a very specific purpose.
He had to identify his audience.
Sitting at a table in the corner – where he could watch everything, and everyone – he called to the robot barkeep for an ale. He hated the idea of waiting in this place, but knew that his audience would be travelling the multiverse – much as he – and had to pass through the tavern eventually. And so, his ale delivered in a timely fashion by the robot barkeep, Sir G33k contented himself to wait at this crossroads of existence.
It wasn’t long before one of the other patrons, a balding caravan guard, sauntered over and plunked himself down at Sir G33k’s table. What followed was a friendly enough conversation; Where you coming from? Where you headed? Damn robots keep stealing our jobs. Followed by the inevitable complaints regarding the tavern’s food, booze, and available women. While it all left the familiar taste of tradition in his mouth, Sir G33k did not let his guard down. One of the many harsh lessons he had learned during his formative years on the road, was that for every over-friendly caravan guard, there were usually four assholes waiting to knock you on the head and steal your boots.
Enter the assholes.
Feeling a shift behind him, Sir G33k rolled forward out of the chair, shouting defensive magics into existence at his back. Heat and light exploded into the space he had only just occupied, incinerating the chair, table, and caravan guard all at once. A soundless boom followed, throwing dust and debris to every corner of the tavern. Looking back, Sir G33k came face-to-face with his assailants, stepping through the portal he’d felt open behind him. Four in all, they lowered their hoods one by one, and a more motley assortment of creatures he’d never beheld.
The first to speak, a fox-faced thing with long, spindly fingers, stepped forward as the apparent leader of the gang.
“Figgered ye’d come by here, ‘ventually. Folk like us – those as travel the ‘verse – we all come here at some point or n’other, dun we?” His cowboy dialect notwithstanding, the casual way the fox creature held his broadsword, crackling with unknown magics, told Sir G33k he was more than familiar with its use.
“I want no trouble, friends,” Sir G33k replied calmly, “I simply wish to await my audience.”
Fox-face grinned broadly, “Way I see it, we watchin’ you right now! Dun that make us yer audience?” Simple logic from a not-so-simple creature. Still, it was pointless for Sir G33k to refute, and so he remained silent, turning his attention instead to the others of the gang.
One particularly brutish looking creature wore a hodgepodge of metal armour, from head to toe. In its hands was the single, largest hammer Sir G33k had ever seen. Another was female, he guessed, as she bore the unmistakable marks of femininity; soft curves, lustrous tresses, and a singularly insane look in her eyes that spoke to everything and nothing, all at once. She bore no weapon, but the flaring of magics at her fingertips were an overt threat. The final member of the gang was difficult enough to look at, let alone identify. A smokey veil hung about it, and the form beyond seemed to shift in size and shape at will. A changeling, perhaps, with all manner of weapons at its disposal. A formidable gang indeed, even at the best of times – which this was not.
“I have no quarrel with you, friends,” Sir G33k said, his voice flat and unimpressed, “please leave me in peace.” It had all the makings of a request, but there was no mistaking the command for what it was. Not about to be cowed by a single person, the gang spread out around him, weapons readied, magic flickering to life.
Several things happened at once, then. First and foremost, the door to the tavern opened, and in walked…you! Sir G33k’s audience; perfect timing.
As eyes shift to watch you enter, Sir G33k shouts you a warning, and unleashes a torrent of molten death at the four strange creatures arrayed around him. Unsure what you’re walking into, you…