Since /k/ is down and I don't know when, or if, Kirby's going to fix it, I'm transcribing Kyle's journal here. This is the first of those. Note: Anything in parenthesis should be taken to have been written as a footnote in an actual book.
In the event I never make it home, I want my reader to know that I’ve written copies of this in both English and what the locals call Common, though it’s also known as Taldan. If you find yourself trying to use my work as something of a Rosetta Stone, then ignore this foreword and any footnotes, as they will be different between the two. In both versions, I’ll make these footnotes to try to explain things that I feel you might not understand. Obviously, in the Taldan version, many of these notes will be regarding pop culture references I might make. And believe me, I make a lot of them. Here, I might explain things I’ve come across that would be second nature to any halfway educated person on Golarion, but people back home won’t understand.
Oh, and one more thing. That Lovecraft stuff everyone thinks of as crazy but awesome fiction? At least some of it is real. In my travels, I’ve encountered two of the creatures the mythos describes. I really hope that some of the worse stuff isn’t real, but I can’t discount the possibility that it is.
Just thought you ought to know. Sleep well, kiddos.
The Story Begins
Like many of my poorer choices in life, what sets the entire chain of events that led to me coming here off was a girl. I was nineteen at the time. I found this group on the net, folks who did some extreme paintball games. I mean, really extreme. They lasted four, maybe five days, involved camping, digging your own foxholes and even things like improvised paint mines and recon drones that were little more than a camera taped to a radio controlled plane.
It was part LARP, part paintball. We were assigned game personas. I was Lance Corporal John Cullen of the third space warfare division. Yeah, you read that right. We were doing some kind of space type game. My team even required us to wear armor in the style of that one movie. The one where they fight the giant bugs and have to use an entire clip of ammo just to kill a single enemy. If you haven’t seen it, it was pretty decent, but not nearly as good as the book. My armor was made from creatively put together floor mats from a 1997 jeep and some supplies gathered from various unused backpacks I had lying around. It wasn’t the best armor, but by far it wasn’t the worst looking stuff either.
The enemy was dressed in very different costume. They were playing the role of some kind of aliens. Face paint was required for them, but they also wore armor more in the style of some kind of space Roman legion. Those who put the effort into it looked pretty badass. Also, cold. It was early spring, we were in the Colorado woods, and they were wearing skirts, because that’s what a Google search for “Images of Roman Centurion Armor” produced.
In addition to the armor, I had gone all out. I bought a new tent, enough DEET bug repellant for a month in the wilderness, a two week’s supply of MREs and enough concealable knives to set off every metal detector in any airport in the world. Because bears, you guys. We were in the woods in spring, and I wasn’t going to risk being completely unarmed in case of bears. I also brought some snare wire, a collapsible shovel with a saw edge, one of those magnesium strips for fire starting and a flare gun in case I got lost. Of course, there were also the little things like the canteen and water purification tablets, but if I go on about all the little things we won’t get on with the rest of the story any time soon.
One final piece of equipment I brought with me was my violin. It had belonged to my grandfather and was handed down to me when he died. As kind of an obligation, I played it in our school’s orchestra when I was in high school, but I really didn’t get excited about playing until I saw some videos of folks playing covers of video game songs. I figured that I could do that, so I pulled it out of the closet. I never got around to actually making the videos, but I learned the songs. I figured that I might be able to impress some girl with my playing while on this trip and score, so I brought it with me. It spent the day in a locked trunk chained to a tree at my campsite, but I would do a little playing during the evening when it was too dark for paintball but too early for sleep.
I didn’t expect that playing like that would attract any girls to my camp since it turned out that my estimation of the number of girls who would attend was a ridiculous overestimate. Only seven showed up out of a hundred total players and they were all spoken for. Still, I figured it was worth doing if only to kill the monotony of the night. I did that and sat by the fire looking up at the night sky.
Space had always fascinated me. I watched all the movies and TV shows set there that I could. As a city kid, this was the clearest view of the night sky I’d had since that one blackout where I spent four hours on my parents’ roof just staring at the sky, imagining what it would be like to be out there.
Now, I said I wasn’t expecting my playing to bring any girls to my camp, so you can imagine my surprise on the third night when out of the woods stepped the most beautiful girl I had ever seen. And I’m including those airbrushed images of women from the magazines. I didn’t recognize her, so I figured she was a late arrival. Believe me, if she had been at orientation, I would have remembered her. She was a blonde bombshell standing around six feet tall with a face like an angel and the body of a pinup model. And what’s more was her costume.
Let me tell you something about me and costumes. To me, a costume is a multiplier. It enhances whoever wears it in a way that accentuates their natural features. A cute kid in a good costume is adorable. A manly man in a good costume is a badass. And the sight of a beautiful woman in a good costume will steal my breath away every time. With this girl, I almost had to struggle to breathe.
She was wearing this black scale mail and a black hooded cloak. Regrettably, she had a sensible pair of pants on. She was also wearing this gold mask that covered the right half of her face, gloves covered in strange symbols and a freaking turtle-neck under her armor. What I’m saying is that the only skin she was showing was the left half of her face, but believe me, it was enough to get my heart pounding.
What’s more is that she hadn’t skimped on her costume. The scale mail and mask were both made of actual metal and she had even gone so far as to make her ears pointed, kinda like an elf. You couldn’t see the seams on the prosthetic. I figured that even Hollywood would have trouble recreating what she had going without CGI touchups.
After staring for what must have been far too long, I invited her to have a seat and offered her an MRE and some Earl Grey tea. Yes I started drinking it because of Star Trek, so hush. I know, I also figured she was on the other team, but let’s face it, I didn’t care. I would have given her all my team’s secrets in exchange for a kiss on the cheek.
I know, I sound like someone who had never even seen a girl naked, but I had and more. Her name was Melissa and she was a high school student I was tutoring the previous spring. Don’t look at me like that, she was eighteen and it was her idea. She was trying to convince me to help her cheat on her Trig final. You know what? That’s just making it sound worse. Suffice it to say, she passed. Let’s move on and not speak of her again.
The girl sitting at my fire thanked me for the food and tea and introduced herself as Samantha. She started telling me about herself, that she was from a distant world, stranded on the far end of the galaxy trying to find her way home. As she talked, I figured she was telling me her character’s back story. It really didn’t matter what she was saying, I was enraptured just listening to her speak. After she was done, she asked me about myself. I couldn’t remember the story of the character I was playing, so I winged it. I told her about my life and added a quick “and that’s when I joined the Mobile Infantry” to the end.
A few hours of talking later, she told me that it was time she went and got some sleep. Before leaving, however, she kissed me on the cheek and asked if I was doing anything the next night. At that point, I could have been scheduled to save the life of the real life president and I would have told her I was free. She told me to come to her camp two miles to the west if I wanted to join her on her journey home. I’m sure by now that you know what I figured that meant. I did suspect that it might be a trap to capture me in the game, but it was a risk I was willing to take.
The next day went rather well. During the morning, I managed to take out four people attacking our stronghold from my hidden position underneath a bunch of debris. In the afternoon, when it was our turn to attack, I took out several defenders guarding the base’s weak side before getting taken down by a paint mine. While I was disappointed that I didn’t see Samantha during the game, it didn’t upset me to be out of the game since the mine gave me a great excuse to go hit the showers before my date that night.
The campsite showers were heated, thankfully, and I was glad to be free of all that dust, sweat and paint. I shaved as well, leaving a well groomed goatee. As usual, the aftershave burned like hell on the couple spots I’d nicked myself. Once again more or less fit for polite company, I headed back to camp.
Once I arrived, I had a quick snack and pulled my spare pair of boots out of the trunk. They were black leather military surplus and quite comfortable. Looking at them, I had an idea. I decided that since she was wearing all black when I met her, I’d dress to match. Then I thought about that line from A Knight’s Tale and almost had to go back and take another shower, this one cold. I muddled through changing by chanting a Homer Simpson mantra – “Think unsexy thoughts. Think unsexy thoughts.”
Once finished changing, I evaluated what I was wearing. Awesome black boots, heavy duty black cargo pants, tight fitting black t-shirt. I didn’t have a mirror, but I didn’t need one to know I looked good. I mean, I didn’t have the washboard abs, but I wasn’t bad looking either. I’d always had an easy time putting on muscle, so my shoulders, pecs and arms looked good, I’d just never been able to lose those last couple percentage points of body fat needed to show off the abs. Since I figured that losing that extra fat meant giving up my Dr. Pepper entirely, well let’s just say I could live without the washboard stomach.
I put a knife in each boot and hid another one under my belt, once again because I would be walking through the forest at night and I wasn’t taking any chances on bears. Then I grabbed my black duster and wide brimmed fedora. I know, you might have expected a cowboy hat with that coat, but that obviously means you don’t have the same taste in anime I do. Sure, it should have been red to match the character, but I preferred black. I also had some yellow shades to match, but since it would be dark, I stuck them in the coat pocket.
Finally, I put on my silver pendant. Made it myself by melting down old silver coins in a mold. Needed it back in high school to dress up as a video game character for a Con. If you’re surprised that I cosplay, you haven’t been paying attention.
I grabbed my spare messenger bag, the other one being covered in paint, and stocked it up with the essentials: First aid kit, bear repellant, a flashlight, a digital camera, my MP3 player and some MREs, since I thought I might be expected to bring dinner. I also left my collapsible shovel inside, since it might make a handy tool against bears. I know it sounds like I’m obsessing about the bears, but better safe than sorry, right? I also grabbed my violin in case she wanted me to play for her.
I secured my campsite and headed off in the direction she’d told me. It occurred to me that I hadn’t gotten any specific landmarks to look for or anything more than “two miles west”, but I decided to go for it anyway. Almost three hours later, it was dark and I was prepared to head back to my camp. I figured it must have been some kind of joke someone was playing on me. I was sure that somewhere nearby Samantha and her boyfriend were having a great laugh at my expense. As I turned to head home, however, I heard her voice.
“There you are,” she said to me as she stepped out of the brush. “I didn’t think you were coming.” It could have been hopeful thinking, but she sounded relieved to see me.
“Of course I came,” I said, trying to sound smooth. “I just got a little turned around in the woods is all.”
“I’m glad you made it. Come on, we have to go find Courage and get going. We have a long trip ahead of us.” Confused, I asked her who Courage was. “Our noble steed,” she replied. Oh, so she had a name for her car. I was cool with that.
We walked for half an hour or so. She led me through the woods like she could see as though it were the brightness of day. I noticed that she walked a bit funny, as though she had hurt her hip, or perhaps because one of her legs was a bit longer than the other. It slowed us down, but I was too polite to say anything. Suddenly, a rustling of nearby vegetation set me on high alert. Something big was just ahead of us. I’m sure you know what I thought it was, so I’m sure you understand why I grabbed my knife and put myself between Samantha and whatever it was.
She just laughed. “I appreciate your desire to protect me, but mine’s bigger.” She held out her hand. In it was a large painted ball. “Oops,” she said. “Wrong one.” She showed me her other hand, which held an everloving bastard sword. Where in God’s name had she been hiding that? And the ball for that matter. I mean, she was well endowed, but she certainly wasn’t stuffing her bra with that thing.
The thing that burst out of the woods wasn’t a bear. I wasn’t sure what it was. It looked like a cross between a horse, a bird and a reptile. It was bigger than most bears, hell, as large as an elephant and had giant slimy wings. If I hadn’t used the facilities before heading out this way, I would have messed my pants.
Samantha, however, calmly stood her ground, blade at the ready. She seemed to be staring down the charging monster. Suddenly, it screeched to a halt. She walked up and thumped it on the nose. “What did I tell you about charging? Next time I pull out the riding crop.” The thing shrank back. My fear addled mind perked up at the words “riding crop”.
I wanted to ask her a million questions, but all I managed to say was “Bwuh?”
“This is Courage,” she said. “He’ll give us a ride through space to find my homeworld.”
My mind raced. Only two possibilities existed in my mind. The first was that someone had slipped me some LSD, probably mixed it in with the paint in that mine. The other was that everything she had told me the previous night had been the honest truth. In one, none of this was happening. I was probably back at camp tweaking out. In the other, I had the opportunity to go into space with an amazingly beautiful girl.
“Alright,” I said. “But how are we supposed to survive out in the cold of space with no air, food or water?”
“Oh, right,” she replied. She reached into a small pouch on her belt and pulled out the same ball she had been holding earlier. “Hold this.” I stared at the ball, trying to figure out how it had been stuffed in such a tiny bag. She rummaged around the pouch for a bit before pulling out a necklace and a ring. “The necklace will deal with the cold and lack of air, while the ring will make it so you don’t have to eat or drink while we’re out there.”
I was about to protest, but then realized that I was planning to get on the back of a beast that could supposedly fly us through space. I decided that if the ring and necklace were the point where my credulity broke, I had bigger problems. It was either believe it all or believe in the acid trip theory. The acid trip theory had zero chance of leading me to getting laid, so I just shrugged and put on the jewelry. She took the ball back and stuffed it into the far too small pouch.
I did ask one question. “What’s with the ball?”
“In case of emergency.” I decided that I was probably better off not knowing. She vaulted up onto the back of the creature, into a saddle I hadn’t noticed before. She held out her hand to help me up. I took it and she yanked me up behind her.
I didn’t think too hard about the fact that she was clearly stronger than I was. Instead, the only thing that went through my mind was Hank Hill’s voice saying “the spot behind the driver is called the...er...’bitch seat.’” I’m not sure why.
“Put your feet in the stirrups and hang on. It’s a bit of a rough ride until we clear the atmosphere.”
“Hang on to what?”
“Me, silly,” she said, reaching back and booping me on the nose. No, seriously, she said “boop”. I wasn’t going to judge. She had just told me to put my arms around her. If this was a dream, I didn’t want to wake up.