(This is the final and shortest chapter of a fantasy series starting here. Homer saved the world by winning a board-game against a drawven robot. In the process, Homer’s game-piece was killed, and he can no longer play table-war, but Aria won the Mountain Swallower’s rocky brain.)
After the Mountain Swallower encephalectomized them-self, Queen Aria considered putting the brain in a glass box to commemorate Homer’s victory over the dwarfs.
However, the behavior of the remaining dwarfs—even those a continent away—immediately changed after their leader’s death. Their voices were still gravely and they still smelled of carrion, but without the Mountain Swallower commanding them, the dwarfs defaulted to almost gnome-like behavior. They walked aimlessly, and could respond to questions, but had nothing interesting to say. They could be bossed around a little, but without gnomish intelligence, all they could do reliably was carry things, and not even heavy things.
With dwarfs demure, Aria decided displaying the Mountain Swallower’s brain would be poor taste. She had to keep taste in mind, now, being queen. She asked gnomes what they’d recommend doing to the brain, but of course, the gnomes didn’t care. “What happened to the rest of the Mountain Swallower’s body?” she asked. “Did you eat it?”
“Goodness no. We threw it into lava.”
“Seems fitting to me,” said Aria. “Would that be appropriate, Jameson?”
Sir Jameson saluted. “I could burn the brain now, in your royal magma pit.”
“Nah. That’d look conceited in history books.” Aria stood from her throne. “Solemn and dignified-like is the way. In the wild wastes.”
“In the wastes?” Jameson moved as if to press Aria back into her seat. “Queen Anthrapas died in the wastes! It’s simply too dangerous.”
“Shove it. I’m not a nonagenarian, or a spindly elf-queen.” Aria gestured for Jameson to follow, and he had to jog to keep up. “A human queen’s gotta do politics in person. And I traveled through the wastes when I was just a kid!”
Homer lived not far away, just on the other side of the border. Jameson hadn’t even realized they’d entered the wastes. “Wasn’t there a wall where we had to present our brass?”
“The centaurs took it down,” said Aria. “I think it was a metaphor anyway.”
She knocked on Homer’s door and heard him finding the right hallway to greet her. Homer’s house was a little unconventional in layout, but he’d designed it himself, and the sphinx had helped him build it. “Arra!”
“Hey, Homer!” Homer and Aria hugged. Sir Jameson waited until they released each other. “In the mood for a funeral? You’ve never seen one before, have you?” Homer shrugged; he still didn’t understand some spoken language. “Is there a gnomish lava-pit around here?”
Homer led Aria and Jameson over a hill to an openly bubbling pit of molten rock.
“Care to do the honors?” Aria gave Homer the Mountain Swallower’s brain. “You won it for me, so it’s only right.”
Homer tossed the brain in the lava. It sank slowly, and when it was totally submerged, a bubble popped where it had been.
“Hey, look! Aria—I mean, your majesty!” Jameson pointed to the sky. “Isn’t that your dragon? Is it escaping?”
“Scales!” Aria waved both arms. “I forgot, I arranged for the royal beast-master to release him today. His game-piece is dead, so there’s no reason to keep him. A lot of game-pieces died in the match against the Mountain Swallower, and I’ve made sure the corresponding beasties were released.” Scales disappeared behind some snowy mountains. “I wish I’d seen him take off, but I don’t think he needs my support anymore.”
“Pity, I’d have liked to try riding him,” said Jameson. “Maybe he’ll come back someday?”
Aria smiled. Years ago she, too, had left the human capital when her game-piece died, but sure enough, she’d come right back. Maybe the dragon would come back, too, better for its time away from the table.
(Like I said, this probably isn’t the final version of this story. I’ll eventually come back and change stuff. Until then, I’m still happy enough to host it online. There’s a nice story here about board-games which determine the fate of fantasy nations, and that’s pretty neat. I like how, since living creatures change their environment in this story, it sort of seems like Aria’s presence caused Homer to appear. Aria feels stuck, and a labyrinth represents an inescapable problem. An ax symbolizing primordial war lets Homer escape his labyrinth, and, at the end of the story Homer and Aria end war’s lingering effect on mankind.
To totally read meaning into this retroactively (and be conscious of that meaning when I change stuff) the wild wastes represent man’s thoughts in the same way dwarfs and gnomes are expressions of the earth, or like the movie Forbidden Planet in which sci-fi protagonists are attacked by monsters of the id. Homer bridges the gap between animals and man, and through him man’s animal nature is resolved. The seafolk are mysterious forces pulling the strings, like wisdom which quiets the mind.
Sorry for the shorter section and commentary this week. I’m devoting more of my time to graduate school and video-editing. I’ll still post on this website, but I’m not sure how often.
My YouTube channel, Thinkster, is lots of fun. I mostly talk about anime. If Kaiji: The Ultimate Survivor sounds a little extreme to you, I made one about One Punch Man’s surprising depth. I even have a vr-ready 360 video of a bird landing on your head!)