DAY FIFTY-FIVE (later)
Planning—and subsequently executing—a company picnic is significantly harder than I initially expected.
Here’s my whole freaking Saturday basically wasted, and I’m no closer to having that punch made than I was this morning; just getting the boxes of streamers, tablecloths, and party hats out of their crates and over to the strategically important fountain from Jimbo and Princess Leafy’s room has been a pain, and blowing up thirty-six thousand toxic-slime-mold-based balloons so that I can properly spell out “Welcome, One and All, Friends & Monsters, to the 19X,j78th Annual Celebration of the Azathrax, Hastur, Hastur, Stonebook, Fronkuhnshteen, Devil-Guy, Hastur, and He Who Shall Not Be Named But Who Is Nevertheless a Founding Partner of This Very Large Multidimensional and Exceptionally Evil Corporation Company Picnic: Monsters That Will Kill You, since—872,931 GQM, Let’s Have a BLAST!” on the big banner in the company-appropriate colors has left me dangerously light-headed.
Luckily, it looks like I ordered streamers, tablecloths, party hats, balloons, and a number of other sundry food—and food-prep-items (including paper plates, paper cups, and [apparently] paper forks) from Jimbo’s toxic-mold-related business . . . and that I put the charges on Stonnehyldd the “Smokin’-Hot” Stone Golem’s company credit card.
So that’s good.
Also, there seem to be a lot more homunculi on this level of the dungeon than I remember there being. If I had to guess, I would wager that someone—probably one of my idiot nephews—has gotten a hold of that spellbook that I stole from that one wizard I killed way back in Part 2 and has started experimenting with the poorly annotated homunculus-creation notes in the back.
Either that or I’m significantly more light-headed than I think I am, and am now hallucinating quite vividly.
Regardless, it’s annoying. Back to work, I suppose.
DAY FIFTY-FIVE (very late)/DAY FIFTY-SIX (very, VERY early)
Hallucinatory or not, I was able to convince the otherwise-rampaging homunculi to stop wrecking crap and to help me out by screaming at them that I was all-powerful Xontor, the Lord of Endlessly Devouring Chaos, come to destroy them all, and swinging a garbage sack full of uncooked hotdogs at them as I chased them around the dungeon.
They really seemed to respond to that.
After that brief ugliness, we got down to parlay. In exchange for their lives and some of the tequila that they found in the attic, I have agreed to allow the homunculi to help me make enough punch for thirteen hundred monsters and their families; they’ve set to the task of smooshing grapes, throwing them into 10-gallon coolers full of ice and swamp-water, and mixing in packets of artificial sweeteners with genuinely admirable gusto and no small amount of charming, choreographed dance moves.
Those little guys can really shake their groove-things.
I’m impressed, is all I’m saying.
Also, they made me their king and gave me a very fancy paper plate headdress that smells a lot like the fumes of the rubber cement that I was using to make the “pin-the-crit-on-the-adventurer” boards that we’ll have available for the kiddie-monsters, and also kind of like the indelible paint markers I was using to make the very festive nametags.
Neil the giant acid-spitting giant spider is also here, since he is my assistant and I am allowed to tell him to do whatever I want him to, and he has been giving me very strange looks, which I don’t appreciate very much. Anyway, I’m currently pretty sure that the homunculi are real, is my point, and that they’ve been a great help to me. If Neil isn’t careful, in fact, I’m probably going to give them his job.
He’s not the only one who can bake and decorate 2,000 cupcakes on short notice, after all.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to finish blowing up this bouncy castle. Still feeling slightly light-headed; might try having some more of this suspiciously rubber-cement-flavored tequila to counteract it.
Well, it looked like it was going to be a disaster. Everything that could have gone wrong did go wrong. There was no one in my corner but me, and Stonnehyldd’s credit card, and Neil, because I ordered him to be there, and dozens upon dozens of almost-certainly-not-hallucinatory (no matter what stupid Neil says) homunculi who worship me as their paper-hatted god-king.
I was—truly—up against impossible odds.
And as deeply hungover as any creature has ever been.
But somehow, against all the naysayers and my own better judgment and what I take to be actually quite a bit of rubber-cement-fume poisoning and stupid Neil’s stupid complaining, I pulled it off.
The company picnic was a roaring, smashing success.
And by “success,” I mean “fire.”
And by “fire,” I mean “horrifying series of mega-scale explosions, with several subsequent crater-causing detonations, plus attendant fires.”
And by all that, I mean that once everyone got there, the dungeon was burned to the ground for the insurance money.
This year’s picnic theme of “Let’s Have a BLAST!” was ironic in only the cruelest way possible, is what I’m getting at.
Everyone at the company picnic was incinerated—except for me, my immediate friends, and all of the other major named NPCs, of course, surprising no one—and the Exceptionally Evil Corporation has shut the place down forever.
It was Kevin the Chuul who was behind it, apparently . . . he was working for one of the partners at the Company who “wishes to remain nameless, mwah hah ha!”—with Wallyworkle Tinklehammer as their explosives-expert—all along.
I should have suspected.
As I look back now, in retrospect, I suppose that it WAS a little suspicious that somebody (probably Hastur, if I had to guess randomly) got the pavilions ready without me doing anything about them. I probably should have noted more thoroughly, also, that those aforementioned “pavilions” were just giant tents full of barrels of something that smelled like nitroglycerine . . . of course, at the time, I innocently assumed they were for the end-of-the-night fireworks show.
Hmm. Looking back, too, it DID seem a little weird that someone (again, probably Hastur) had them set up right next to the BBQ pit.
And it was possibly TECHNICALLY suspicious to string all those fuses to them, running back to the now-revealed-as-fake cult-headquarters in the woods, where someone in the company (once again, I’m going to go with “probably Hastur” on this one) had been planning this all along.
Well, hindsight is 20/20.
I barely even blame myself for not noticing that somebody (definitely Wallyworkle, in this particular instance) went back and replanted all of the limpet mines that my prankster dwarf/pirate nemesis buried all over the kickball field. That was a REALLY hard thing to notice.
ALSO: do not ask me about the exact logistics of “burning down” an entire dungeon, because I have no idea. It’s apparently possible, though.
The point is, there was a fire. A big one. Among the casualties are a bunch of people I didn’t know . . . and much more importantly, all of my stuff, the opera and everything it represents, and—of course—all of my hopes and dreams.
My idiot nephews, just so you know, survived only because they were hiding in the secret passage underneath the strategically important fountain when the explosions went off. They were smoking cigarettes and looking at girly magazines, as it turns out. I survived only because I was down there, too, yelling at them to get back to work giving away hot dogs.
Neil was there as well, shouting something about his stupid suspicions about a fire that I was not paying attention to because I was—admittedly—pretty hung over.
Everyone else I know survived due to a combination of luck, not being invited to the company picnic, immunity to fire, previous knowledge of what was going to happen, and/or a set of poorly explained and overly contrived circumstances that I don’t want to get into right now.
ALSO: everyone I know is now homeless and out of a job.
That, unfortunately, does not include me—I’m just homeless. Due to a typo on my application, I still work for Dark Lord Torkleheim . . . even though he, himself, is out of a job.
This has not been the best company picnic ever.
According to Kevin the Chuul, though—who I bumped into just a moment ago as he was heading out the door to his new gig as head of a new dungeon that he just got promoted to run—this also isn’t the WORST company picnic ever.
Apparently, I’m supposed to buck up. And to look on the bright side. And to smile when life gives me lemons and such . . . according to him, at least.
I find that less than encouraging—again, surprising no one.
Then he said something about how he probably wouldn’t have been able to get away with it, if only there had been some meddling kids . . . and then I guess I took a swing at him, but his Armor Class is way higher than I was hoping, and then he zapped me with his paralyzing tentacles and scuttled away laughing and going “woop-woop-woop.”
Today has kind of sucked.
DAY FIFTY-SIX (much later; FINALE)
Tearful goodbyes. I hate them.
Loathe them, actually. Despise and detest and dread them, in point of fact. I find them quite grueling and oppose them on general principle, as do all good goblins.
And in my defense, I did try to get out of them by hiding in the secret passage underneath the strategically important fountain room . . . but since that’s the only part of the building still standing, and it’s now on the surface of what used to be the dungeon, sitting crooked in the still-smoldering wreckage of what’s left of the Ridiculously Toxic Posie Coffee-House & Local-Art Co-Op, right where it jams sideways into the remnants of the now-upside-down Level 68+1 Club, I wasn’t hard to find.
I wept like a child when Princess Leafy hugged me and told me to be good.
Her first words.
It seems, then, that she and Jimbo are off, bound to seek their fortune in the wide world as wandering toxic-mold-related acquisitions and development coordinators, which doesn’t sound promising . . . but to tell the truth, it sure as hell sounds better than my next gig.
The Dark Lord has decided, after the events of this weekend and few swigs of what looks suspiciously like my bottle of rubber cement, to pursue a career in freelance villainy, with me at his side—and has hired on my three idiot nephews to be part of his evil cadre. We’re going to be sailing the seven seas, pillaging as we see fit and carving our name upon the history of the waves in blood and booty—according to him—just as soon as we find a boat.
So it looks like I’m now part of a four-goblin, one-Dark-Lord, no-actual-ship pirate crew.
Which is going to be just awful, I have no doubt.
I tried, DESPERATELY, to get Jimbo and Princess Leafirellha a job with us—and maybe some of my other friends, too—but Torkleheim turned me down flat. Because he’s a jerk.
Everyone is headed out now.
General VanO’Shaughnessy says that he’s going to try to link back up with his old group of traveling Tragedians; last time he left them to run a long con, according to him, they were on their way to perform something called “The Murder of Gonzago” at Castle Elsinore. Barring that, he says he has an “in” with a pop-and-locking break dance team that does antidrug message skits at some junior highs around the area.
I wish him the best. Maybe I’ll see him again someday.
Mr. Bliss has a bunch of other dungeon rental properties to look after, of course, but he says he’ll try to keep in touch. He promised to give his wife a copy of the play, and to tell her and her transdimensional book club about my Kickstarter project. He also said he would look into any job openings with his pantheon, but I think he was kidding.
I’ll miss that guy, even if he DOES use his superpowers to cheat at cards.
Kyle the evil pseudodragon is headed back to his actual job, which is apparently working the drive-up window at a local dry cleaners. I keep forgetting that I wasn’t actually able to hire him, and that he just kind of hangs out with us because he likes us.
I’ll miss him most of all, I think.
Wallyworkle Tinklehammer is now the executive assistant to Kevin the Chuul. The only reason that I didn’t strangle him to death with my bare hands for ruining my life is that he happened to be toting a gun larger than my torso at the time he told all of us . . . and he had Chris the Maintenance-Yeti with him, which would have gone poorly, since I think Chris hates me now for going on a date with Abliguritia, plus he’s several size categories larger than me and my Strength score is like the square root of his.
He’s working at the new dungeon, too.
Dead-Neck McGee the stupid cleric ghost and Neil the giant tie-wearing giant acid-spitting spider are taking off together to go open a theme bar in some evil city or another.
I hope to never drink there.
And, I guess, Stonnehyldd the “Smokin’-Hot” Stone Golem has decided to finally pursue her true passion—directing—and is headed back to grad school. She gave me a big hug and thanked me for letting her remember her dream and told me to always be myself, which admittedly didn’t elicit the same weeping hysterics that Princess Leafy’s hug got out of me. Why my idiot friends think Stonnehyldd is so attractive, I’ll never know. She’s WAY too tall, and that skimpy outfit looks ridiculous on her.
Anyway: speaking of attractive, Abliguritia is moving back home to live with her parents in the Dwarf-Filled Mountains of Most Exceptional Mysteriousness. She gave me a mix tape, which nearly brought tears to my eyes, and then she smooched me right on the cheek IN FRONT OF EVERYBODY, which would have been the best moment of my life except that I’ll never see her again, or give her the beautiful life and rosy-cheeked gobbo-dwarf children she so deserves.
She rode off into the sunset on her Harley, leaving me with only heartache and a desire to find something to play this mix tape on.
Now I’m sitting here on a smoking chunk of my old home, watching the last of my life in the dungeon burning down into low cinders as the sun finally sets, listening to my three idiot nephews and Captain Dark Lord Torkelheim practice singing sea chanteys and passing a bottle of rubber cement around.
And I’m still hung over.
Worst day ever.
This entry concludes Season One: Dank Dungeon Days of Oh, I’m Going to Get Killed Any Minute Now: The Ongoing Diary of Thppgrg, Goblin Minion by Clinton J. Boomer.
Stay tuned here for Season Two: Wandering Monsters & Random Encounters, coming soon, only to KoboldQuarterly.com!