Alexandria, Part 2
In which an entire town is addicted to Magic: The
While Vivi is standing there pondering the sudden introduction
of shotacon bondage into the storyline, a gangly man saunters by.
Ooh, someone we haven't talked to! Vivi rushes up to him and asks,
"Are you Skeleton Jack?" Jack's a little surprised that Vivi knew
his name, but apparently he didn't see the part in the script where
a bunch of people told Vivi that he should talk to a mysterious
man called Skeleton Jack. He's a cheerful, easygoing, potted-to-the-gills
sort of fellow, though, so he takes wee cute underaged Vivi to the
tavern for a drink and a chat.
Jack's chat-up line isn't likely to draw lads in any time soon,
though. It consists of a long-winded blather about a card game.
4x4 board, cards here, arrows there, the cards fight, winner takes
this, loser gets that, really big and important, collectors' ranks,
gotta get strong. The cards have names like "fang" and "oomsqueezy,"
which I later learn are critters.
Oh, it's Magic: The Gathering!
So you've got your critter cards, and you lay them down, and they
fight, and the higher card gets the winner. Instead of, say, killing
it and sending it to the card pile to be rooted through later. And
just like in the glory days of M:TG, the entire freakin' town is
wild about it. That's why there are cards scattered all over the
place. (Most of them are the equivalent of Sams and Tims.) That's
why there are drinks littered everywhere. That's why people are
too preoccupied to keep hold of their money. The entire town of
Alexandria has become a M:TG tournament.
Skeleton Jack ends with a creepy little nudge-and-a-wink insinuation
that if Vivi gets good enough at cards, Jack will tell him his "other
Ratsnickle's looking better and better, and the rest of the town
seems tapped out for plot possibilities, anyway. Vivi waddles back
to Ratsnickle and signs himself into servitude.
Ratsnickle tells Vivi to stand guard while he steals the signmaker's
ladder, then the two of them bounce off through the streets to the
bell tower. Climbing the tower is dangerous, Ratsnickle advises,
so Vivi can go first.
Viv's game, since he already climbed the damn thing a while back
when he was looking for the plot. Dangerous, his low-slung stripey
fanny. But this time, as he's starting to climb, a bobble-headed,
winged teddy bear/cat falls on his head.
The anatomical nightmare apologizes, then chirps and bibbles at
him for a while. He's a moogle. Mmkay. If you come to him, he'll
write you up in his diary. Mmkay. And there's this thing called
the Mognet, which allows moogles to talk to each other. It's been
shaky for a while, though, so will Vivi help? ...Mmkaaaay... Great!
Here's a letter to some other moogle!
Mmkay. And, um... how do you know that I'm going to be seeing this
moogle on my travels?
The moogle is unconcerned. He's read the script. He knows that every
person, place, and thing mentioned in the entire game is absolutely
essential to the game's completion, and therefore I will
see this other moogle at some point. In fact, he spends his evenings
making up new things to mention just to watch the game designers
scurry about frantically trying to work them in. He's a sadistic
little bastard, this moogle, but what would you do in a world where
the only nookie you got was from furry fans?
At night, he stares at the wall and drinks. Absinthe. The bitterness
on his tongue matches the bitterness in his heart. The sour, ironic
fitness of it all amuses him blackly. Sometimes he writes poetry
But right now, he just stands there, fluttering. Vivi asks to be
written up, and he goes into a quintuple-somersault routine. The
bile from last night's drinking rises to the back of his throat,
but he flops down the book nevertheless. The game must go on.
When he's done, a tiger-striped moogle with a sack on his back wanders
by. His name is Stiltzkin, and he's tired of the empty, aimless
life of a moogle. He's going to see the world.
And then, like an autumn leaf blown in the window and out the door,
At this point, Vivi is willing to accept damn near anything that
happens. It can't get stranger.
Ratsnickle hauls the ladder up the tower (before Vivi--he's paid
his dues by having a moogle dropped on his head). The two of them
bound across the rooftops, wobbling over boards laid between houses
and digging money out of birds' nests. (Birds in Alexandria are
so poor that they lay copper eggs.) Then Ratsnickle lays the ladder
over the last gap--between a house and the palace--and the two wee
intrepid adventurers climb over the castle wall and down behind
the rows of nobles. They have a great view of the stage, despite
the fact that they're two feet tall and the nobles are packed in
eight rows thick.
they're just in time, because the show is about to begin!
On to the next