Hey! I just wrote this little story for the devs and players of our favorite game, as a way of explaining game mechanics in literary terms.
“Any news from the provinces?” Elena asked. She set her two swords down and rubbed a hand across her bare midriff.
“Shaguadin is being resistant again, but we expected that,” Richard replied. "Luckily some of the refugees we pulled from the ruins in Skyfheim are offering to support Bane’s troops. And that new girl, Lianna - that elf who ambushed Boldtusk. She and her brother, Elk-something, are proving beneficial. We’ll need them in Morgovia."
Elena and Richard paused to study the battlemap before them. The stronghold lay nestled in the crags of the Corelian peaks, but the peninsula under siege spread out in provinces and wild lands.
“Lady Elena!” A young soldier dashed in clutching a scroll. He looked out of breath and barely old enough to hold a sword.
“Report from Isgilham. The rock trolls are revolting.”
“You can say that again,” Richard commented with a wry grin.
“The rock trolls are rev–” the young soldier paused, realizing he’d fallen for such a simple joke as Richard clapped him on the shoulder.
“Have you fought in a battle yet, son?” he asked.
“N-no sir, but when I’m ready…”
“You’ll do us proud, we have no doubt.” Elena took his other arm and the young swordsman blanched at the easy familiarity with which these two famous warriors regarded him.
“Do you want to see why we’re not worried about the rock trolls - what was your name, son?” Richard asked. He hefted his beer-keg sized Warhammer with ease as they strode from the Stronghold.
“Alban. Follow me.” The three went quickly from the castle to an adjacent, square tower.
“Out there, on the precipice, the watchtower is our window to the battle,” Elena explained, “but here is where the real magic happens.” They entered the tower and climbed a stone staircase, coming out onto a balcony overlooking a floor seemingly made of glass. An older man and a young woman stood to one side on the floor, watching as shapes moved about on - or in - the glass surface.
“Melendor,” Elena called out, “would you and your Apprentice Xorana explain to our young friend what we’re looking at?”
“Glady, milady.” The white-haired wizard strode out onto the floor, where colored shapes shifted under his feet.
“The source of our magic,” he explained in a projected voice, “is ley-lines. Lines of force within the earth. Have you ever seen ripples in a pond when you throw a stone in?”
“Um, yes?” Alban stammered.
“This is not dissimilar. See here, this line.” He strode to a point where blue and red shapes under the glass shifted gently against each other. “The force points, nodes, in this line, are out of harmony. We move the nodes -” Melendor gestured with his hand and a red and blue node slid over each other, changing places. “- now the red nodes are in alignment. Now their Mana is in harmony.” The three red nodes under the floor glowed and zoomed ahead, letting other nodes take their place. "What just happened, you see, is part of how we win this war. Xorana, would you show him?"
The young woman at his elbow walked to a wall that was cloaked in shadow. She spread her arms wide and the wall brightened, showing a scene Alban knew well - the training fields.
"Our magic connects the nodes of the outer provinces with the troops here. Legion of soldiers, like yourself, ready to do battle. But so far away! When the nodes are in harmony, the gems - you wear one, yes? - teleport you to the battlefield. Guardroom to field of war in one heartbeat."
Alban paused and fished out the palm-sized stone that hung around his neck. It looked blue until it warmed to his hand, shifting to a bright red.
“Oh, Kilile,” Elena observed. “You’ll like her.”
"I - " Alban stammered, looking for the right words. “She’s tiny!!”
“So is Lianna. So is Sharan. And Needler. Size is irrelevant in magic, son. It’s how they command it. See, each of the heroes in this war, command the gems and the troops. The soldiers in the field, Bane, Kilile, Boldtusk, even Fletcher, move across the field of war. We see the nodes, the ley lines where they battle, and when the nodes are in harmony, send them troops against the enemy.”
“So…” Alban paused, his mind reeling, “who’s doing the fighting then? Kilile, Marjana, the heroes? The battle troops? You, with your nodes and stones?”
“All of it. We work together. Magic is about harmony, flow. Connections.”
“And the elements,” Xorana commented.
“When you were a kid, did you play Rock, Paper, Scissors?”
“Sure, everyone did.”
“That’s the earliest magical tool we learn. Fire to Ice to Earth. It’s a way of remembering the cycle. Which is above or below the other.”
“And crosswise to that,” Richard said at Alban’s elbow, “Death follows Life. One cannot have one without the other. Those are the other two players in our battle.”
“It’s a Battle of Five Armies then?” Alban said. He was sure he’d heard that phrase somewhere before.
“Well…forces, rather,” Elena explained.
"So you see, the very stones and forces of the earth work with us, Alban. Rock trolls? Difficult, but not impossible. We’re in safe hands."
As they watched Melenor and Xorana manipulate the nodes under the glass floor, a sudden crash outside made the walls shake.
“God’s teeth!” the old wizard shouted, “do we have to have your festering mines so close to my tower? I’m only trying to win a war here, you know!”
“Relax, old man, your tower won’t collapse.”
“You keep saying that,” Melendor countered, “but those contraptions are at work day and night… Surely you’ve scooped enough earth out of these mountains we’re sitting on an eggshell. I keep waiting for this whole tower to fall into the bowels of Gaia herself.”
“I’ve been wondering that, too,” Xorana said. “Where does all the earth come from? I’ve seen tons, literally, come up…”
“Such pessimists,” Richard laughed, “How do we get the troops to battle? Teleport! How do we get the stone from the earth?”
“Well done. Deep beneath the surface, wyrms move tons of earth about. What you see coming up here was mined in Dulgar. Or under Rathwood. We just draw it up, here. Don’t fret, wizard, your tower is fine.”
“Speaking of wyrms,” Elena said with a hand on Richard’s arm, “aren’t we about due for…”
"You could be right, at that. Come on, Alban, this is becoming quite a lesson for you."
The three left the wizard and his apprentice to their glass floor, and dashed across to the watchtower. A figure high on a parapet waved down as they approached.
“Ahoy!” he called out. “The old troublemaker’s right on time.”
“Stone dragon. Big one! One of the outposts reported it just passed Shriker Islands.”
“We’re on it.” Richard turned to the young soldier. “This might be a little much, my friend. The Dark One summons dragons, collossus, all those, and of course sends them our way. Elena and I will take this one. One day you’ll be sword to talon with one, mark my words.”
“I - yes sir!” Alban saluted hastily and jogged away to find Kilile, his battle heroine. Surely she’d know he was ready to fight.
“Oh, before you go, take this.” Elena gave Alban a gold coin with a goblet on one side and a hero’s name on the other. "Collect enough of those, enough trophies, we’ll promote you to the rank of hero. Congratulations, you’re on your way."
Alban watched as the two veterans entered the watchtower, then turned to jog back to the barracks. He was going to be a hero!