Chapter Two: Orientation is Such Sweet Sorrow

Posted by | February 25, 2007

The screen flickered and refocused on vision of verdant green fields, trees, and golden bordered buildings with a vaguely Arabian curvature. The view pulled forward as if it were a small child being dragged forward by the line of a kite and the voice dropped somewhat into a liquid baritone—reminding her somewhat of a movie preview announcer—as it began to narrate an eloquent and looping speech.

“For nearly seven thousand years the high elves cultivated a shining, magical kingdom hidden deep within the forests of Northern Lordaeron—”

“What’s Lordaeron?”

“—but five years ago the undead Scourge invaded Quel’Thalas and drove the elves to the brink of extinction. Lead by the evil Death Knight Arthas—”

“Ooh, scary…” she said, snickering. “Death Knight, how goth. Vlah, I’ll bet he does not drink wine.”

As if considering her flippancy, the voice paused for just a moment before going on. “…the Scourge destroyed the mystical Sunwell, thereby severing the elves from the source of their arcane power. Though the scars of that conflict are evident, the remaining elves have banded together and retaken much of their homeland. Calling themselves Blood Elves these grim survivors are comm—”

“Wait. Wait, wait, wait… Blood Elves! What kind of a ponce name is that?”

The narration screeched to a halt as did the video playback of sweeping fields of grass, tall trees, and golden flanged buildings, the sound produced likened itself readily to that of a needle scraping across a record.

“Are you going to listen or not?” the game demanded. “I have this whole spiel to go through and I cannot get along with you interrupting me every other sentence. Really, you are a burden.”

“Hey, I’m not the one talking about Blood Elves.”

“I’m not the one playing one in a video game. Really, can I catch a break here?”

She snickered. “Blood Elves, fo sho.”

The game sighed, a deep, reverberating sigh that one sighs out of the depths of one’s soul—or at least whatever video games have instead of a soul, a murky and reverent place made up of pixels, bits, and bytes. It paused for so long, pondering, that the girl started to hit random keys, trying to wake it up.

“Hey. I’m sorry,” she said, “I didn’t mean to insult you. It’s all. It’s just kinda cheesy and melodramatic don’t you think?”

“Alright.” The game clapped its hands together, or made as if it were doing so. “What if instead I ‘modified’ the story somewhat so that I can put it into your language, the vulgar argot as it were. Capice?”

“Er, what?”

The scenes that she had been watching rewound themselves with a sudden sucking sound. Golden limned buildings, verdant trees, green fields all wooshed back the way they had come in rapid motion and, when it reached the beginning, the sweeping vision began to play itself out again.

“For decades the denizens of the local mall had developed themselves a singularly magnificent clique, ruling over much of the stores and pagodas that stood there. But, several months ago the unruly—”

She laughed and interjected, “Trendies.”

“—Trendies, so-called the Scourge, invaded the mall and brought that heavenly dream to an end. Lead by the evil Trend Setter Arthas the Scourge—”

“Built a Hot Topic.”

“Okay… The Scourge opened a Hot Topic in the mall, thereby upsetting the precious balance of Trendies to mall rats.”

The voice paused there as if waiting for her to make another snarky comment. Instead she waved at the screen in a fashion that seemed to say, “Go on. Go on.”

“And though this war is now long over, the Hot Topic remains. The lingering survivors of the original cliques have rebuilt and have reclaimed much of their homeland. In an attempt to make themselves feel better, they have begun buying too much junk from the mall, even from Hot Topic. In the end, your people still have further threats to face, not least among them their addiction to product, which threatens to turn them also into Trendies.”

She applauded, “Bravo! That’s so much funnier than the story in the manual.”

“Why thank you, that’s the first nice thing— Hold on a sec. You read the manual? You already know the story!”

Of course, the story in the manual was convoluted, stuffy, boring, and really didn’t have the lively nature of a video game narrating to her, so she hadn’t really thought much on it. “Yes. Prince Arthas basically rode into their magical city, knocked over their precious Sunwell, wham-bam-no-thankyou-ma’am, and then ran off into the sunset. Leaving the blood elves to weep and pine over their loss. Unsurprisingly they went emo, got addicted to tapping the vein, and here we are.”

She beamed cheerfully as the game glowered as best it could, which rendered more in a crinkling about the edges of the screen.

“Then why did you let me go on like that? It was downright embarrassing trying to put that in language you could understand.”

“You did a delightful job at it too, but I’m not a mall rat.”

“Could have fooled me. Tacky wardrobe, band posters on your wall, all you’re missing is a lava lamp from Spencer’s.”

“Wouldn’t touch the place with a ten-foot-pole.”

“You got me at the pre-release party!” the game exulted triumphantly. “That I know was at the mall.”

“It was closed.”

The video game narrowed its eyes as much as a game could do such a thing without contorting several laws of physics that don’t exist yet.

“Fine,” it said. “You win. Shall we get on?”

During their discussion the tour-on-rails had stopped somewhere high above a square filled with traipsing blood elves and stomping arcano-mechanical golems. She could almost see her face staring back up from far below in the reflection of a fountain when the ride kicked back in again.

Woosh! It fast-forwarded, blurring green, gold, and blue of sky together into a bending streak that reminded her of grass stains on a pair of faded Levi’s and almost as abruptly she came out of it. The view resolved into a large green field, with an alabaster building haloed with yellow. Nearby, several expectant faces with glowing eyes gazed at her as if expecting her to say something.

“Death to the Trendies!” she shouted, brandishing her sword high.

“WTF?” asked someone to her right.

Somewhere, very far away from all of this, a sigh echoed through the sky. The kind of sigh that says, “I can see where this is going, and I can’t say that I like it. Not at all. Not at all.”

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NEXT >> Chapter Three: Helvetica Receives Her First Quest


The author Helvetica writes the Helvetica Venture and Hellvetica Chronicles for Vox Ex Machina and proudly supports the works of Kyt Dotson, whose writing includes Mill Avenue Vexations (a gothic webserial featuring cab driver Vex Harrow), Black Hat Magick, and Helljammer and invites you to check out the novel, The Specter in the Spectacles by Kyt Dotson.


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