“Baker Blinker. Come here. Quick!”
“Just because I have the ring doesn’t mean I necessarily have to go back to Collagesity and be queen. Does it?”
“Well, it looks like this is it, Grassy.”
“Grass, please.” Grassy would never get over that he’s a child-like Mmmmmm through and through and will never “progress” to the current state of his cousin Opp — True Opp or Tropp, that is. He’ll never be X-ed out in other words. The shortened name of Grass would never stick. “Yes, I will miss you my old friend.”
“And you my friend. But I’ll return for the weed if nothing else. You certainly haven’t seen the last of me, ha ha.”
“Yes: ha ha. Ha ha ha.”
“Ha ha ha ha ha!”
15 minutes later:
“Would you like to see the painting, Grassy? Er, Grass. Grassy… Grass… can’t remember.”
“Whatever,” Grassy Noll submitted, having given up on correcting her about his name, at least for tonight. “Oh, sure. I totally forgot that’s why you can leave now.”
“Plus the payoff to that loathsome Philip Strevor. And the payoff for, well, everyone that lives here in the swamp village, but most importantly perhaps, Roger Pine Ridge, the great variant. And *you* can leave too, of course.”
“No, my place is here. Waiting for your intermittent returns.”
“Fine, fine. I thank you for your service. I hope the new apartment is to your liking.”
30 minutes later:
“So there it is Grassy. A beaut, isn’t it? And it’s all because of that ring Ellen gave me — the power. Catvas here likes it too.”
“I do!” meows the winged feline from her perch just behind.
Grassy moved closer to study the painting more carefully. “Lovely indeed.” He put a finger to his lip here. “But I think I see one detail you missed. We better go check it out.”
“Now?” Bill almost shouted. “But there’s *people* over there. Lots of people. You know I can’t stand people.”
“Most of them are just bots — no one really inside, you see. But let’s go beneath the Mermaid Tavern for a beer beforehand to loosen up your nerves. I’ll buy.”
“You talked me into it!”
“See, Bill? Just one of those silly bots down here. Usually there are a number standing around like zombies.” Grassy’s eyes glaze over here. “And only a handful more right now at the temple according to my inworld map. Perfect time to go. Fate, we could call it.”
“All right. I’ve drunk almost my entire chug-a-mug. One more gulp and I’ll be ready.”
“No, we’ve checked around the whole structure — like the back of my hand now, Grassy — and I can’t see anything I really missed of importance.”
“Look again,” the green Mmmmmm requested. He indicates toward the epicenter of the temple.
“The dancer?” They then jointly stare at the child going ’round the world.
“And that’s it, Sidechick! We’re done with ‘Collagesity 2018 Early’.” They were standing beside Nascera’s Meadowbrook ice cream truck where it all began.
“Just like that? It was sort of an abrupt ending.”
“Bill can paint,” Magus Ellen counters. “Annie can paint. We will assume Mabel can too because of those paint splattered jeans Axis gave her. The great 3-n-1. It’s complete.”
“What *about* Axis? You said time and
beach space were altered because he got Baker Bloch to discover Magellan’s broken teleporter one day too early.”
“If you haven’t guessed, Sidechick my friend, my understudy, Magellan is me. I broke the teleporter. But on purpose. It was the only way we could get Opp to come here in the first place and fill the center up with his blueness. Otherwise — all for naught.”
“I’m not understanding. What about, for example, the golden orb?”
“There’s a black and white opening beyond Braynard’s Place that doesn’t concern us. This would be New Eden. Does it stay coupled with New Island through the castle or does it begin to move independently? This depends on a number of factors, including what happens in the haunted Artist Point colony. But it’s a story for another day, as they say.”
Sidechick Corea tries process all this information, then: “What now for us?”
Ellen smiles mischievously. “I have a surprise for you. Still holding his own ice cream cone in his right hand, he expertly whips out another from his left pocket and hands it to his faithful assistant. “You’ve earned this.”
Now let’s leave the 8×8 behind and walk up the road to see that bridge you’ve been talking about forever.”
END OF “COLLAGESITY 2018 EARLY”!
“There,” coos Magus Ellen after eliminating all unnecessary pieces and placing the remaining pieces in their proper place. “That wasn’t too bad. Now let’s have Bill herself make the next move. It took 10 more moves in ‘Through the Looking Glass’ for Alice to become Queen, but for Bill to seal the deal and permanently acquire the moth ring and its priceless power, it may only take one. Pawn to Queen 04, a repeat of Bill’s opening move.”
“Will she *want* to do it again?” offers his trusted assistant sitting across the board from him. “She’s already done it in the first place. Many people do not wish to repeat things they’ve accomplished and worked hard at in the past, or have an established pride in, sire.”
“You are right, Sidechick. We just better make it for her and go forward. Now you’ll notice, Stickler for Detail (ha ha), that Alice has already met the Black Queen beside her at White Queen 03, and who has moved on to her own color’s Rook 04. This leaves Alice free to leap ahead. So… here we go!”
Magus Ellen then effects the game’s first and also final move.
Right off the bat, Bill knew Ellen wouldn’t be a love interest, at least from her end, and that she had over-prepared for the occasion. Got herself worked into a tizzy for basically nothing. Good ol’ Grassy, she thinks. If it wasn’t for him…
“Umm, delicious. What do you think Bill?”
“I agree it’s pretty good ice cream, Ellen. Pistachio, yum.” A cold-stimulus headache suddenly kicked in. “But, oww, should we be really eating our desert before the main course?” She rubbed her forehead with her free hand.
“Ice cream is the only decent thing on the menu here, dearest. I have other plans for the evening if you don’t mind the surprise. My assistant has rented a house in the southeast corner of the Moth Village. I think it will be to your liking. Sidechick can teleport us over in turn. The tuna should be grilling by now.” He downs another gob of the sweet cream.
The night was finally looking up for Bill. If this was all they had here, anpan (Japanese sweet roll), milk and Singha beer were only going to go so far.
“Better, huh? Ahh, smell the aroma. Nothing like grilled tuna. Sidechick is a 5 star chef, believe me. Finish up your ice cream and we’ll have a grand old time of it.”
Bill again wondered about motive. The game challenge seemed ages ago, months and months, but it was only 2 weeks back. Did Ellen want to forfeit now? Or maybe switch over to a different game? What was that one more complicated than chess the Oriental people liked? Gong, she though incorrectly. The one where black plays first. Maybe this is some kind of hybrid game; maybe that’s why the moves don’t seem to make much sense. She had to ask.
“Ellen,” she starts more seriously, setting the ice cream to one side. “I’m wondering about your moves.”
“As am I.” He stares at her kindly but intently. She sensed no malice in him at all.
“I mean, they are pretty lame.” She laughed to diffuse the seriousness of the statement.
“Notice what I have done, though? Can you see?”
“Umm, no. They’re just pretty bad moves overall. I’m not really even trying on my end because of it.”
“As you shouldn’t. No need to try.”
“Hmm. Care to explain?” She smiled slightly.
“I moved a pawn. Then I moved a knight. Then a bishop. Then the king and rook at one time in a castle. Then, lastly, the queen. The game is basically finished — no more pieces. We are here to celebrate. *You* are the queen.”
Uh oh, Bill (Wheeler) thought. Here we go. Here’s the *real* motive.
“I have something for you.” Ellen pulls a small box out of his robe and presents it to Bill, who hesitantly takes it and then hides it in her hand, staring forward, face somewhat flushed. “Go ahead and open it, dear,” Ellen encouraged. “You’ll *like* it.”
Marriage proposal?? — could it be *possible* that Ellen… Bill quickly snapped open the box just to end this line of speculation. A ring indeed, but it didn’t seem like an engagement ring. The gem was ambiguous, if it was a gem atall. Maybe, um, agate? Jasper? She found herself compelled to put it on nonetheless, then cautiously held the hand forward. “Care to explain?” she asked again as seriously as possible. No smiling this time.
At the center of the Inner Delta of Heterocera sits the impressive Moth Temple of Iris. The first telehub on that continent (and still an incredibly busy place today!) the Temple… is a delicate but towering wooden structure designed by Xenon Linden. Almost all of the sims in Heterocera are named after species of moths; the continent itself is named for the sub-species of insect by which moths are categorized. You can find these lovely little creatures all over the Moth Temple, including fluttering around the lamps that line the boardwalk surrounding it at dusk.
“Maybe we should break it off for the day, Grassy. I’ve got to start getting ready for my big date.”
“Okay. But I believe we’ve got Roger’s ‘Time’ pretty well down, don’t you think?”
“It’s pretty good,” Bill admitted, still going over their mistakes and miscues in her head. She wants to get it perfect before playing it to him: the *creator*, after all. She’s meeting the mysterious Ellen for this date, but she also keeps thinking of Roger, what he’s doing at any one moment. And then there’s also Philip to consider. The Boss, haha. I can take care of those sharp, chisled angles, she thinks. Smooth ’em down, like the de Milo I am.
So all in all it was another great 3-n-1 riddle to tackle for me the author, pheh. But I’m loving it.
Do you see it yet, Grassy?”
The green Mmmmmm keeps rummaging around the antique trunk while talking. “No soap in here, it appears. Nothing but these old, dusty lanterns.”
“Pheh, Grassy. That’s all I’ve got to say. Pheh,” she repeats. “I’ll just use the Ivory. But I *hate* when it gets in my eyes.”
“This full facial chessboard tattoo is a little extreme, don’t you think Bill?”
“Yeah, I guess so. Take it off.”
“Don’t panic, Bill,” Grassy soothed. “We’ll sort out your hair.”
“There. That’s better don’t you think dear?”
“I’m loving it. I’m *feeling* it. Where’s that man!”