He raises a surprisingly muscular beetle leg in a pose not unlike that of the Karate Kid, unleashes a banzai yell that is purest Bruce Lee, and spins a vicious kick into the first swooping winged creature.
Welcome to the inaugural outing for a new feature idea. Whether it continues, remains to be seen, but, we’ve started so let us commence. Untold: Adventures Await is something that sits somewhere between board game and role-playing game. Players build stories via the tumble of story cubes, the fall of cards, and the firings of their imaginations. The tales follow a designated route with every play, stopping at such destinations as; The Plot Thickens, An Heroic Undertaking, and The Final Showdown. However, what takes place at these points is open to wild and fantastic imaginings.
Players interpret the images on the rolled story cube dice to form the threads of a tale. What follows here is the results of a first solo play through to a point where a handful of actions remained to wrap up the opening episode (it was already a sizeable read so I ended the write early), the gathering of rough notes during play, and how the story of a self-employed plumber and his best friend went a little, off the beaten track…
A Dangerous Dilemma.
The burnt orange Autumnal evening slowly seeps into the Cornish landscape as Stanley Halfyard sits at the wheel of his little van, puttering along the winding, high hedged country lane that will guide him home. Another day up to his elbows in blocked drains and dripping taps done, the glamorous life of a self-employed plumber.
At least it puts beans on my toast, he mused silently.
Alongside him Tony, a six-foot tall imaginary beetle, and best friend of Stanley, nods enthusiastically in agreement with the drifting thought of beans on toast.
As they round yet another sharp bend along the route that is more track than road, a different orange glow illuminates the sky above the hedgerows, an altogether fiercer shade. The little van suddenly judders to a halt, throwing its passengers forward. Stanley stares in alarm at the sight before him. A little cottage burns strong, throwing plumes of dark smoke and vivid flames against the darkening sky. But there’s something else. Slowly Stanley’s jaw drops at the sight.
Shapes move fast, silhouetted against the blaze, people, obviously the inhabitants of the cottage who have run from the fire in terror, and been met with something ever more terrifying. Two big creatures with huge dark wings, swoop and claw at them from above. The creatures appear to be toying with the family, as a cat torments a mouse.
As he stares unable to move, a sheep lurches from the hedgerow, and across the lane before him, its back ablaze. It lets out anguished calls and vanishes into the opposite hedgerow.
Stanley looks over at Tony. The man-sized beetle nods its man-sized beetle head towards the accelerator beneath Stanley’s right foot. Despite harbouring a face full of insect features that make emotion and desire hard to fathom, Stanley can sense an urgency about his beetle buddy. A sudden flash of light rips through the now dark night sky, blinding the pair for a second as it illuminates the countryside in dazzling white. Stanley waits for thunder that never comes, he didn’t really think it would.
Above, the clouds ruffle and part to reveal a huge craft. Appearing like an upside-down castle, with turrets hanging towards earth and a flat top, it drifts lower towards the burning building and commotion of the dance between fearful humans and winged scary things.
A strange appendage appears from the craft, protruding lower than the rest of the ship. It has the shape of a modern torch but much, much larger, and then, without warning, the fleeing humans below begin to be sucked from the earth into the end of the torch-like thing above.
Like a vacuum cleaner on a high-powered rebellion against humankind, the people begin to leave the ground. Whooosh, a woman is gone. Whooosh, a scream, and a man is gone.
Just two children now remain on the earth, running from the stalking flying beasts, against the heat of their burning home.
In desperation, Stanley leaps from his van, and screams at the top of his lungs, “CHILDREN! THIS WAY!”
The whole horrific scene seems to suddenly stop. The children stare in the direction of the voice, the creatures stare in the direction of the voice. Whooosh. The young girl is gone, up into the vacuum torch thing in the blink of an eye. The other child however, a young boy, has taken advantage of the sudden reprieve from the swooping creatures, and Stanley sees a small barn door closing shut, pulled by a small human hand.
Angered at the interruption, the winged things rip through the air before them, all snarling teeth, head on for the little van and the panicked looking Stanley.
“Help me Tony!” yells Stanley, frozen to the ground in fear, awaiting the imminent pain of claw on flesh.
Tony, cool as you like, sidles from the van and stands in front of Stanley. He raises a surprisingly muscular beetle leg in a pose not unlike that of the Karate Kid, unleashes a banzai yell that is purest Bruce Lee, and spins a vicious kick into the first swooping winged creature. The beast is sent spinning through the air and is lost in the dense woodland beyond. As the second creature dives to attack, Tony, spins again and sends it careering headlong into the van. The impact crumples the front of the vehicle like cardboard and the thing lies unconscious on the cold country lane.
Seeing the stunned beast, the destroyed front end of the works van, and an opportunity, Stanley dives for some cover behind the good half of his vehicle.
“Tony,” he hisses, “get down.” The man-sized beetle drops onto its six wiry legs and scuttles rapidly into place beside Stanley. The pair stay low and quiet, hoping the huge upside-down castle ship that still hangs in the sky vacuuming everything up, might lose them and depart
The sound of splintering wood tells another story. Stanley slowly sneaks a peek over the metallic mess that used to be a van bonnet and his mouth drops open for the second time that evening. The vacuum is ripping away the old barn. Piece by piece the planks and nails of the young boy’s temporary sanctuary spin wildly into the air towards the huge hovering craft…and are gone.
The Plot Thickens.
The winged creatures are in fact of this earth. Although appearing like some crazed alien terror beast from the planet ‘Death on a clawed stick’, they are animals of our own third planet from the sun. For centuries they have hidden beyond the visible spectrum. Out of sight, waiting patiently, and feeding. Some missing people are destined to remain missing, but a beast has to eat.
However, they are in tune with a species from the stars. A species far more intelligent than the creatures, a species that can manipulate and use the winged things for their own intentions. This species from a distant galaxy has been living on Earth for some time, far below the waves, unseen, awaiting their moment to strike.
The aliens beneath the sea want to take control of the planet, they want to use the Earth for experimental purposes, and they want to use the human race as pets.
An Heroic Undertaking.
Having ran from the threat through the trees, Stanley and Tony have arrived at a disused tin mine in the hills of the Cornish countryside. The craft that vacuumed the people from the earth moves with a hum through the dark sky overhead, hunting the pair.
“Tony,” says Stanley in hushed tones, “how the jiminy crickets did you hit those creatures? I know we’ve been friends a long time, but, I always feared you were somehow, how can I put this…imaginary.”
Tony looks across to his friend, and fills Stanley’s mind with the answer, “I am one of them, Stanley…and I am real.”
Stanley allows a small smile to crack his lips, “I knew it,” he replies.
“Could we have saved the boy?”
Tony looks away again, no expression visible on his beetle features, but Stanley knew the answer.
“Do you have any idea what, in the name of sweet peanuts, is happening!” asked Stanley with unhidden urgency and hope.
Once again his mind filled with Tony’s words, “Another race is here…they have been here a long time…they want humanity as a plaything…as pets…and something worse…much worse.”
“Can we stop them?” asks Stanley.
“We can…but we must forget about the threat in the sky and dive beneath the waves…The key to survival lies down there.”
“I’m glad you’re here Tony, “ says Stanley, but before he could smile again, the huge craft appears high above the broken green tinged walls of the tin mine.
The protruding vacuum dips lower in the sky as the ship closes in on the pair. Tony scuttles fast to the overgrown green of the mine’s walls, and begins to climb rapidly towards the threat.
“WAIT!” yells Stanley, aghast at his companion’s actions, but Tony lets the words pass by. He nears the top of the high, crumbling wall, and leaps towards the vacuum, spinning through the air all six beetle legs flailing wildly. He connects with a solid metallic clang and sends the vacuum teetering to the side, buckled slightly under the weight of the attack. In a beautiful fluid motion, the huge beetle spins on the vacuum like a ballerina in full flight, and delivers a second hit, metal sounds through the air, and the vacuum bends across the middle and breaks away.
Tony leaps for the safety of the wall once more, but as he releases from the falling ship piece it catches his trailing legs and sends him hurtling through the air in an uncontrolled spiral. With a crunch his body connects with the stone, and he plummets towards the ground. The metallic vacuum lands first, mere feet from the cowering frame of Stanley, it sends a shockwave through the soil upon impact that rocks Stanley, but the second impact, as Tony hits earth, sends Stanley reeling. The beetle lies motionless upon the cold ground.
Stanley rushes to his friend’s side, he reaches and begins to drag the motionless body towards the space in the wall that leads once again into the Cornish night. The rain begins to fall. Breathless, Stanley gets his beetle friend to the opening, and then with an almighty heave, pulls him through into the open countryside. As they reach the open air, Stanley loses his footing on the wet grass, lands on his behind and begins to slide fast down the hillside puling Tony behind him.
In an attempt to control the slide, Stanley digs his heels into the muddy earth, but this only flips him around and leaves him now moving headlong towards the bottom of the steep hill, and a hellish plummet into the rolling black ocean below. Mud spatters Stanley’s face, and the rough ground rips at his outstretched palms, Tony is now free and sliding unconscious under his own weight. The end nears, the sounds of the ocean fill the air, above the pair the craft hovers again into view, closer still, and then the ground is gone, freefall, faster, faster, and then water. Cold, icy water engulfs them as they plunge deep beneath the tide into the deep, deep blackness.
The Truth Revealed.
The World Powers are in collusion with the aliens in their bid to take the human race as pets. It is an effort at population control, and a bright future for those in power. However, rather than pets, the plan is to transport a vast majority of Earth’s population to incarceration on the alien home planet. In return the aliens get access to a percentage of Earth’s natural resources, that their own planet and people are in desperate need for. The alien presence is so vast, that the time scale for completion of the mission is a mere five weeks.
The Final Showdown.
Stanley opens his eyes. Every inch of his body screams out in pain as he pushes up from his position, prone on the ground. Gradual focus reveals lights, bright vivid lights in many colours, and a shimmering clear wall in front of him. Shapes move outside the shimmer, strange beings, small in stature with narrow pinched faces that look quite humanoid in nature, but with small horns protruding from the sides of the cranium. They are decked out in bold orange and green loose fitting outfits. There is no sign of Tony.
Noticing the movement, the beings stop and match Stanley’s staring eyes. Then chatter, quick and sharp in a language unrecognisable to the plumber. Fear grips tight at Stanley’s chest, but his voice bursts free, “Where’s Tony! What have you done with my friend!”
The odd beings stop chattering and look at one another. Then suddenly one pulls a device from its clothing and begins to talk into it frantically.
One creature approaches Stanley, “Thank you earth beast, we thought we had seen two of you down there. This Tony has interesting powers yes? The ability to not be seen? Far from a typical earth beast.”
Stanley slumps back to the floor as the realisation grows that he has put his friend in immediate danger.
Time passes, Stanley has no idea exactly how much has gone by. He stands painfully, then, without warning, he charges headlong at the shimmering wall. He crashes into what feels like solid brick fused with electricity, the sharp pulsating hit of electric dances through his every fibre and he lets out an anguished cry before dropping to the floor in dismal defeat.
“Let’s not do that again eh, Stanley?” A familiar voice fills his mind. Stanley snaps back into the room, all pain forgotten, just in time to see Tony appear from the empty space in front of him, as if the beetle had stepped from behind an unseen curtain.
“Tony…you’ve been here all along?”
“All along,” came the reply, “now…shall we hatch a plan and get our legs out of here?”
Having sat in quiet, soundless conversation for some time, Stanley and Tony’s hatchling of a plan began to form. It wasn’t great to be honest, and seemed to have been largely based upon Stanley’s experience of watching movies. It was decided that whenever the weird little creatures returned, one of two things would happen. If it was to move Stanley elsewhere, Tony would follow unseen, and then a better plan of escape would be formed after they’d had a little longer to come up with something half decent, however, if the beings returned to get involved with Stanley in his electrified cell, Tony would go all ninja beetle on them, and then the pair would hatch a better plan given some extra thinking time post scrap.
When the beings return a short time later, Stanley is alone in his cell. The shimmering wall vanishes and two of the creatures step into the space before him. Without hesitation one of them thrusts small human-like hands forward and a powerful force launches Stanley backwards, sending him crashing against a wall of lights before dropping to the floor.
He winces, doubled over trying to catch his breath, as he rises against his will and is slammed again into the wall by the strange hand movements of the creature. He again gasps for breath, but another sound catches his ear, a snapping sound. Stanley looks up to see Tony dropping the lifeless body of one of the beings to the floor, it’s head bent at a very unnatural angle. The second creature turns and begins to bring hands up towards the giant man-sized beetle now standing before him, but before it can react, Tony delivers a kick from his lower beetle leg that sends the creature sliding across the floor on its back, the beetle then leaps into the air and lands with a sickening crunch upon the being’s head.
Tony drags Stanley to his feet and towards the now open entrance to the cell. They pull through the space, Tony first, out into the brightly lit corridor, then Stanley, but, just as Stanley is clearing the entrance and tasting some hint of freedom, the shimmering wall returns. He falls backwards in fright to the floor of the corridor taking Tony crashing down with him.
A sharp, nauseating pain pulsates through Stanley’s right arm, and, as he raises it to take in the damage, he notices a perfect severed and seared stump where his hand used to be.
“Oh…” he says, and passes out cold.
To be continued…
I hope you enjoyed the opening shots in this little tale, hope you can overlook the amateur writing style and thrown together feel, and hope you will return for the next chapter in the adventures of Stanley and Tony.
This is a little look at where the tumble of story cubes in Untold: Adventures Await can take us, and so far, it’s been an interesting solo experience.
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