New Day, New Players
(The Real World)
Back at the table, almost everyone had wide-eyed looks of utter horror plastered on their faces; while everyone else, including the Council of Game Masters appeared perfectly calm. "Surprise, girls" Lynn Sr. said jokingly in his normal voice, "betcha didn't think we'd be able to pull of surprise twists in this game, huh?" While still bearing the looks of shock on their faces, the Loud Sisters simply nodded their heads in unison.
When they finally returned to their senses, seconds later; they started chattering wildly with questions. "One at a time, ladies; one at a time" Albert urged with a light chuckle, "now...who'd like to ask a question first?" Straightaway, Lori chose to answer the call; using her Seniority Rule as her claim to do so.
Without hesitation; she then asked who the hooded woman was, how she and Fastred knew each other, why did she take the Scrying Gem from him and most importantly, why did she kill him. "Very excellent questions, young She-Elf" Mrs. Johnson giggled in her Agathe voice, "unfortunately...answering all of them would simply spoil the rest of the game's story for us all." While the girls felt a little disappointed by this response; truthfully, they all knew the teacher spoke the truth.
Then, their mother chimed in and proclaimed that at least one of their questions would be answered. "See...like Fastred said, the hooded woman was the same stranger who first gave him the gem all those years ago" she explained, "however, since the Count had failed to dispose of you; she decided to...take back what was hers." This explanation, regardless of however grim it sounded, was just enough to satisfy Lori's curiosity.
Once this was dealt with, all players sat back in their seats and the game continued on. "With Fastred defeated and imprisoned, the townspeople of Maravillosa are now free of his corrupt authority" Pop-Pop said in his Karuk voice, "it is here that they decide to celebrate their newfound liberation and they ask your party if you wish to join them."
While they didn't like the idea of skipping out on a party, Lori and her younger sisters politely denied the offer; stressing that they had a quest to complete. It was here that they were approached by Luan's character, Mituna; who expressed an eagerness to explore the wider world. "I turn to Mituna and say 'but you're a wandering bard, are you not'" Lola inquired, "'don't you already travel far and wide with your comrades?'"
As if sensing this; Benny, while in character as Caden, said that her assumption was on the nose. That being said, he felt that Mituna could hone in her skills a lot better while traveling with a new group; as well as gain many more new experiences. "'Rest assured, this is not farewell'" Sam said in her Lyra voice, "'Mituna knows how to find us again, when the time comes.'"
In that moment, Luan suddenly found herself weeping softly; much to her own surprise. Of course, many of the other players knew the reason behind her tears; all except for the other Loud Sisters. "Please, Sister; try to show just a little bit of decorum" Lisa murmured with a light groan, "it's not as though Benny and the others will actually be leaving us."
After taking a moment to wipe her tears away, Luan claimed that she simply got caught up in the moment and her emotions got the better of her. "This kind of thing happened to me a few times in school" she confessed, "remember Drama Club tryouts, Benny?" The young teen in question nodded slightly in response, all while smiling warmly at Luan and taking his hand in hers.
After this, it was almost time for Lori's group to depart from Maravillosa and for the game to end for the evening. But before either of those things came about, Sam quickly called for everyone's attention; proclaiming she had something important to say. Next, she turned towards Luna's direction; causing the young rocker to suddenly break out in a nervous sweat.
"Oh, man...Oh, man; is she going to say what I think she is" she thought to herself, "if it is, I'm probably gonna have a heart attack!" While Luna did her best to keep herself calm, the Council asked Sam what she planned on doing (after Lynn and Rita managed to suppress their giggling, of course.) "Before Ventris' group departs, I call for their and the townspeople's attention" Sam explained, "I then make my way towards Yoko...and give her an alluring look; all while reaching my hand into my pocket."
Poor Luna; if her mind and heart weren't racing a hundred miles per minute before, they certainly were now. As she sat there, watching her girlfriend's every move; in the back of Luna's mind, her sanity was practically screaming for her to keep calm. Then, she watched as Sam pulled her hand from her pocket to reveal...nothing.
"What the...there's nothing in your hand, Samurai" the young rocker cried in mild outrage, "what gives, I thought you were gonna...I dunno, pop the question or something!" No sooner had she said this; all around her, Luna heard nearly everyone at the table laughing heartily (with her sisters being the only exceptions.) Then, Sam leaned over and gave Luna a reassuring kiss on the cheek; apologizing for her earlier behavior.
"Sorry for spooking you, Lunes; truth is...I am popping the question" she said bluntly, "but it's only in the game, understand?" With these simple words, a mildly cold sense of reality soon washed over Luna and she could feel her cheeks blazing with the red blush of shame. Upon seeing her sweetheart looking so distressed, Sam took immediate action and kissed her cheek for a second time.
"Don't you fret, luv" she said sweetly in Luna's famous British accent, "even though this proposal's just pretend, I'm still open for a real one...maybe sometime after High School?" Whether it was from Sam's "request" or her attempt at trying to sound like a Brit, Luna suddenly found herself bursting with giggles. When the two ladies had finally calmed down, the game swiftly resumed.
"Okay...like I was saying" Sam began, "I reach into my pocket and I bring out the ring I had purchased from the market...back before all the business with Fastred happened." Against their better judgment, the other Loud Sisters soon found themselves quaking in their seats with excitement; even Lynn (someone who claimed to not be fond of "the mushy stuff") also felt a little anxious about what would happen next. Then, the whole table watched as Sam got herself into character and delivered a speech worthy of the Oscars.
"'Yoko Spring-Stepper, you have been the first human friend and confidant I've made since I've crossed paths with the caravan'" she said stoically, "'these past four years we've all shared together have been some of my fondest of memories, especially those between the two of us.'" For almost two minutes, the table watched in awe as Sam poured her very heart out to Luna while in character. At one point, things became so moving that Lynn Sr. practically burst into tears (along with several other players.)
Meanwhile, Luna sat gazing her GF in stunned silence; her cheeks glowing with a soft red blush of admiration. Finally, Sam came down to the main point of her monologue and proceeded to take a knee on the floor. "'Yoko, my angelic songbird; I love thee more than words can ever hope to describe'" she said passionately, "'which is why I am here before you, intent on asking you but one simple question."
As she watched Sam mime a sort of "ring box opening" gesture, poor Luna's heart felt ready to burst with glee. Then, her ears suddenly rang with the heavenly sound of "will you marry me?" As a result, steam suddenly shot out of Luna's ears while her face looked so red that it almost resembled a strawberry. Naturally, the other players found this to be quite hilarious; many of whom wasted no time in taking pictures of Luna's expression.
"Oh, dear...somehow, I knew this would happen" Mrs. Johnson said in her Agathe voice, "Master Bojan, bring us a flagon of water so that we may...cool down Miss Spring-Stepper, if you please." In a flash, Flip suddenly zipped over to the game table with a bottle of water in hand. Sam made an attempt to collect it from him...but he quickly pulled it away, giving her a sort of "not so fast" hand gesture with his free hand.
"Uh...Hold for one moment, milady" Flip murmured while poorly attempting at Olde English, "before I can, uh...bestow this canteen unto thee, I most first be properly compensated." As if expecting that the shyster would say this; Sam reached into her pocket, collected her wallet and gave a five dollar bill in exchange for the water. Once the exchange was made, she then unscrewed the cap and lightly doused Luna's face with water.
Surprisingly, not only did this manage to successfully reawaken the dazed rocker but everyone laughed when they saw the water turn into steam; after it landed on her cheeks. "HUH...WHAT...What's going on here" Luna murmured in shock, "why is my face all wet all of the sudden, did Luan douse me with her squirting flower again?" After having a bit of a giggle at her expense (much to the girl's chagrin,) the other players brought Luna back up to speed.
Of course, her face came close to blazing red again; once they'd reached the point where her mind froze up. "So, Madame Spring-Stepper; what say you" Benny asked in his character voice, "do you accept Lyra's marriage proposal?" It took all of the self-control, inner strength and willpower Luna had to keep herself from fainting; after a while.
When she finally came back to her senses (after giving herself a quick slap to the face, seconds later) she was finally ready to give her answer. "'Lyra, my dearest friend and comrade; nothing would make me happier than having you by my side forever'" Luna proclaimed passionately, "'with all my heart and soul, I say yes!'" This response created quite a reaction from around the table; many of the other players cheered loudly, the Loud Sisters were squealing madly with glee and while they knew for a fact that this was only pretend, Lynn Sr. and Rita couldn't help but tear up at the scene.
In time, Luna and Sam shared a loving embrace together (as well as sneak in a quick kiss between them) and the latter girl performed the miming gesture of slipping a ring onto Luna's finger. Once that was done, several players started acting out as the Maravillosa townspeople cheering loudly; some of whom were saying things like "let us prepare the wedding plans."
Upon hearing all this, Lori suddenly remembered the quest regretfully brought this up with the rest of her group. "The She-Elf is correct, Adventurers" Principal Huggins said in his Fastred voice, "you must find your way to the Bloodstone Keep before the unknown plague ravages anymore of the land." The girls all nodded to one another silently, collected their gear and prepped themselves for departure.
Before leaving, it was revealed by the Council that the townspeople of Maravillosa wished to repay them for their heroics. "Before leaving; they give you enough food and water that would last for many weeks" Albert explained in his Karuk voice, "and Caden gives you something as well, a horn." After saying this, he reaches below the table and collects what looked like a small Viking horn.
At first, Lori felt that the item would be of no use to her; proclaiming that Luna was the one with the most musical skill in the family. The Council took her words to heart and the Loud Parents retorted in saying that the horn wasn't what it seemed. "Upon seeing the horn, Mituna recognizes it immediately as one of Lyra's enchanted items" Rita explained in her Eliana voice, "something that she calls the 'Horn of Summoning.'"
From here; Lynn Sr. stepped in and said that Caden promises that when someone blows on the horn, help will come. "No matter where you might be in the world; simply focus on whom you wish to summon, put the horn to your lips and blow" he stated, "so...keep it safe." While a part of her felt somewhat skeptic on this idea, Lori still thanked Benny/Caden for the gift and placed the horn in front of her on the table.
Then, once that was settled; the time finally came for the adventuring party to leave Maravillosa. At that same time, Mrs. Bernardo entered the room and sounded off her own horn; much to everyone's annoyance. "The time is now 8:50 in the PM" she proclaimed, "repeating, the time is now 8:50 in the PM!"
After taking a moment to clear the ringing out of their ears, many of the Loud Sisters glared at Mrs. Bernardo and proclaimed that they'd already heard her the first time. Meanwhile, the rest of the table took this as a sign that it was almost time to call it a night get ready for bed. "What the...we're packin' up already" Lana exclaimed, "but we just left the city, I wanna know what happens next!"
Not long after this; Lola, Lily and even Lucy (much to her own shock) also expressed their desire to continue the game. Then, Luan suddenly expressed her own desires to keep playing; saying that she had yet to use her character to her full potential. "I'm kinda bummed we're ending things so soon too, dudes" Luna murmured, "I mean...things were just starting to get really good."
No sooner had she said this, the pixie cut rocker/bard turned slightly towards Sam and gave her a most loving grin. This in turn caused her to smile as well before she decided to hold her GF's hand tightly in hers. Naturally, everyone at the table thought this was rather sweet; especially the Game Masters Council.
But at the same time, they also knew that the time had come to call it a night and get a good night's rest. "Trust us, girls; you'll need to be fully rested for tomorrow's session" Albert/Pop-Pop said with a chuckle, "because from here on out, the game's gonna get really interesting!" While everyone knew that the old man made a valid point, his claim about the next part of the game drove their collective curiosity levels through the roof; especially the Loud Sisters.
Of course...the very instant she realized what was happening, Lori suddenly gave her face a hard slap; bringing her mind back to reality. "Don't even think about it, Loud" she told herself sternly, "it may be too late for the others...but you are not going to let yourself fall victim to the nerdiness!" The instant this thought came into mind, she took a glance over at her younger sisters and frowned slightly.
While the twins were practically bouncing with glee about what will come next with the game, Lily happily raced out of the game room and into the hall on all fours; all while yowling like her wolf pup character. Meanwhile, Lucy left the table and was about to head off to her room...but not before presenting a request to the Council. "With your permission, Game Masters; might I take one of these manuals with me to my chambers" she asked while using Olde English, "I'm curious to know more about my character...and possibly others we may encounter."
The Game Masters all looked to one another in silence, smiled softly and happily granted the wee Goth girl's request. "However...we only ask that you handle these tomes with great care" Rita said stoically in her normal voice, "for we will need them for the rest of your quest." Lucy gave a soft smile, bowed in thanks to the Council, took one of manuals from the table and left the room.
As she watched her sister walk past her, reading through the pages of the book; a look of mild dread soon formed on Lori's face. "Not you too, Lucy" she groaned mentally, "of all people, I literally never thought she would get suckered into all of this crud!" With this and other similar thoughts whizzing through her mind, Lori braved a glance at everyone else around her; only to discover that things were "even worse" than she thought.
She saw Carol and Fiona complimenting each other's bodices, she spotted Luan swooning over Benny's "Bardic abilities" (as the game called them) and she could've sworn she saw Mr. Grouse looking at himself in a mirror. "Huh...ya know, these robes look pretty good on me" he chuckled, "I should send one of those uh...selfies of this look to my grandkids, think they'd like it?" Without hesitation, Lynn Sr. and Pop-Pop happily sounded off in agreement; proclaiming that he would surely look like a real wizard in his grandchildren's eyes.
Needless to say, all of this was driving Lori absolutely mad with confusion and she desperately fled the room as quickly as she could.
When she finally got back into her suite, seconds later; Lori locked herself in the bathroom and glared at her reflection in the mirror; all while panting madly. After seeing the mad look in her eyes, she quickly splashed a cup of water in her face; mildly calming herself down. "Don't give in, Loud...you hear me, it's almost over" Lori thought to herself, "you can still get through the rest of this game without losing your sanity!"
After taking a moment to calm her nerves with a glass of water, Lori soon noticed that she was still wearing her costume. With a startled yelp; she pulled off her elf ears, tossed her staff to the side and desperately tried to remove her robes off of her. But much to her surprise; during this whole process, Lori took the greatest of care to not damage any of the items in question.
"What are you doing...why should you even care if this stuff tears, breaks or gets damaged" she asked her reflection, "none of this stuff matters to you, right?" Just as Lori was about to answer her own question, her mind suddenly looked back on everything that's happened up until now.
From Day One, when they first discovered her family's secret meeting place; she and the rest of her sisters were stunned. Never once did they ever know that their school friends, work friends, lovers or even members of their own family were into this sort of stuff. "Well...you've already known that Lincoln is into nerd stuff for years" Lori murmured, "but Mom, Dad...even Boo-Boo Bear; that is unheard of!"
While these thoughts and many more ran through the eldest Loud Sibling's mind, she was suddenly struck by a grim sense of realization. Up until now, she had expressed nothing short of contempt and utter distaste towards the game of D&D. But after playing it for the past weekend and a half, there were parts of it that she actually found rather...appealing.
Lori liked the costumes, she enjoyed the seeing how passionate some of the other players were about the campaign thus far. But most of all, she enjoyed the fact that her boyfriend indulged in the game. "I never knew Boo-Boo Bear was ever into nerd stuff...or Ronnie Anne for that matter" she whispered to herself, "then again, Ronnie Anne did say she started trying out new stuff after her family got her interested in those...novella things."
In that moment, poor Lori found herself in the middle of a crossroads; should she continue to resist the geekiness of the game or finally surrender to it? Unfortunately, she had little time to come to a decision due to a sudden pounding at the bathroom door from outside. Despite however irritated this made her feel, Lori still kept her cool and politely asked who was knocking.
Not long after that, she could hear sounds of whimpering from outside; the sort of sound Lily would make when she seemed desperate for a potty break. At first, Lori presumed that it was the sister in question and she quickly opened up the door to help her in. But much to both her surprise and relief, she saw that it was actually Leni standing outside.
"Sorry for the loud knocking, Lori...but are you done yet" she whined while clutching at her belly slightly, "I drank wa-a-a-ay too much of that Fairy Ale stuff during the game and I've gotta go!" Without saying another word, Lori stepped out of the bathroom and took a seat on one of the beds; allowing Leni to rush in and...relieve herself. Of course, during the time she waited; her mind still raced with conflicting thoughts.
"Get a grip, Lori...remember what Dad said on Day One of this whole mess" she murmured, "don't let this game effect your life poorly inside or outside of 'Castle Greyhawk.'" No sooner had she said all of this, the eldest Loud Sibling remembered something else her father talked about on the first day of their game; either stick with it or get punished for sneaking out of the house. Suddenly the sounds of rushing water could be heard, followed by a heavy sigh of relief.
After a few more seconds of waiting, Leni finally stepped out of the bathroom; allowing Lori the chance to head in and use the shower. For the next few minutes or so, all was calm; which gave Lori the first real sensation of normalcy she'd felt in days. Then, at that moment; her mind suddenly went into her "happy place."
Just as everyone else in the world did, Lori went to her own "Happy Place" whenever things got "too nuts" for her on the outside. Here, she found herself in a more familiar scenario; on a rowboat out on Lake Michigan wearing a beautiful formal dress. At the bow of the boat was Bobby, dressed in his adorable "Pizza Tux" and looking at her with a most alluring gaze.
Naturally, this all filled Lori with great feelings of ecstasy and she hoped to never awaken from this dream. "Oh, Boo-Boo Bear" she sighed heavily, "this is so romantic, let me hear you whisper sweet nothings into my ears." As Lori craned her head slightly, waiting patiently to hear the sweet sound of her lover's voice; what she heard next took the poor girl completely off-guard.
Almost seconds later, Lori did hear Bobby whispering into her ears...but it sounded incredibly odd. The first thing she heard was "le uivelin," which was then followed by "guren min gaim lin." For a few seconds, Lori found herself blinking in confusion and clearing out her ears; thinking she may have misheard something.
When she turned back to Bobby and asked him to whisper something sweet again; what she heard, instead was "nin lithiach." Then, she suddenly heard Leni call out to her; saying something about putting her costume items in the closet for safety. "Uh...Thanks, I guess" Lori murmured uneasily, "although, I'm not sure if we should be worrying that much about keeping our costumes that safe and whatnot."
Her curiosity piqued, Leni scratched her head slightly and questioned her sister on the meaning behind her words. In response, Lori proclaimed that she was anxious to get to the end of the game and returned to what actually "mattered most" to her; namely chatting with Bobby, shopping and...anything else "normal people" did. "I dunno, Lori; I've actually been having fun here" Leni confessed, "I mean...I haven't really played yet but everybody else has certainly been making it fun."
No sooner had she said all of this, a mildly loud cacophony was heard inside of the bathroom. At first, Leni believed that this all meant Lori might've slipped in the shower; hurting herself as a result. But when she asked her if she was okay, the only response she got was "ARE YOU SERIOUS?!"
"Uh...Yeah, Lori; of course I'm serious" murmured Leni confusedly, "you know I always get worried when one of you guys has an accident." Not long after this, the bathroom door suddenly exploded open; causing all the steam inside to flood out into the bedroom. When it all finally cleared away, Lori was standing in the doorway; holding a towel around her slim form.
"OMGOSH, LORI! Did you lose your bathrobe in there" Leni cried in alarm, "hold on, I'll go find it before someone sees you like this." Just as she was about to head into the bathroom, they innocently naïve blonde suddenly felt a hand grab hold of her from behind. She looked over her shoulder and saw a rather odd look in Lori's eyes, one that seemed to be a mix of shocked and angry at the same time.
"Leni...you know I love you, right" she murmured softly, "and you know I literally do my absolute best to understand your logic at times, right?" While still feeling worried about the look Lori was giving, Leni answered her in the best way she could; with a simple nod of the head. "Okay, I'm glad you're following me so far" Lori murmured with a smile, "so, kindly answer one thing for me...ARE YOU OUT OF YOUR MIND?!"
Feeling shocked by this outburst, poor Leni suddenly stumbled backwards and fell onto her bed; all while whimpering slightly. At the same time, she could only stare up at her older sister in confusion; wondering what she might've said that had upset her. "All I said was I've been having fun here with everybody" Leni said timidly, "is that wrong or something?"
Before answering, Lori suddenly found herself at a crossroads; sure, her sister did speak her mind truthfully. But then, she still couldn't understand how another one of her siblings could be enjoying all this "geeky stuff." When she brought this up openly with Leni; she, once again appeared confused by her words.
"Think about it, Sis" Lori groaned impatiently, "people like you and me, we don't belong here; this...role-playing stuff is meant for nerds like Lincoln and his friends, not our parents and classmates!" After taking a moment to think (which many might believe would seem "unheard of" for her,) Leni almost believed there was some truth behind her sister's words. But then, she thought back to when the campaign first started and everything the Council said about the game.
She remembered her dad referencing all of the actors, musicians and other famous people in the world that played D&D all over the world. With this in mind, Leni wondered how the game could still be something purely made for "nerds." "But don't you remember what Sam told Luna at the start of all this, Lori" she inquired, "coming here and playing together allows everyone to express themselves in ways they never could back home."
Upon being reminded of this, Lori's mind suddenly thought back to when Bobby played alongside her. He was charming, chivalrous, confident and the way his voice sounded when he spoke Elvish made her heart go all a-flutter. Of course, Lori had seen Bobby behave this way before; whenever they went on their dates together.
But while dressed as his character, Alexi; he seemed to have taken his charms to a higher level. "Okay, Sam may have a point about that" Lori murmured, "but I'm just...I dunno, afraid of what will happen later on." At first, Leni mistakenly presumed her sister was referring to her character's fate within the game and did her best to help give her confidence/support.
But while she appreciated the sentiment, Lori revealed that it wasn't that she was afraid of. Instead, she confessed that she was more worried about what might happen to her by the end of the game. "I know...I know it's stupid but hear me out" Lori insisted calmly, "what if by the end of the game's campaign, I end up becoming more like the others and lose everything that makes me who I am; my passion for golfing, my social status and my relationships?!"
After that, all was silent between the two teens for what felt like ages; save for the slight dripping of the bathtub faucet. During this silence, Lori's mind echoed faintly with her earlier worlds; which seemed to be playing over and over on repeat. After a while, she started to slowly realize how silly her convictions were...but she couldn't bring herself to say these thoughts openly to her own siblings; much less Leni.
"I just...I just want to go back to my own life again" Lori murmured sadly, "I just want things to feel normal again." After that, she pushed herself up off the bed and retreated back into the bathroom; eager to get back to her shower. Once the door had closed shut again, Leni fell back onto the bed and rested her head on one of the pillows.
As the room fell silent again for the third time that night, the young blonde teen found herself asking one short but simple question; "what exactly is normal anyway?"
The following morning, everyone came back to the table for some breakfast and last minute prepping for the next part of their campaign. Of course, before they came down Lynn Sr. eagerly informed his daughters that the next leg of the quest was going to be "huge." "For starters...Two more of you will finally get your chance to play" he said giddily, "isn't that awesome?"
Despite however much hearing their dad say "awesome" in such a perky way made them cringe, half of the Loud Sisters suddenly started murmuring excitedly. When they asked who would get their chance to shine, their father specifically pointed to two of them; Leni and Lynn Jr. "SWEET! I'll finally get a chance to do something" cheered the young jock, "and...if it's alright with the Council, I made a few changes to my costume."
Feeling both concerned yet curious at the same time, the Game Masters collectively asked to see what Lynn had done. When she brought out her Loxodon mask, everyone gasped at the sight of the tusks. Not only did they have golden jewelry bands wrapped around them but the tips also appeared to be slightly pointed.
"Junior...did you sharpen the tusks on your mask" Rita asked firmly, "we know you want to look 'cool...' but this is a safe game environment here." Thinking quickly, Lynn saved herself by proclaiming that she did change the tusks on her mask...but she didn't sharpen them. "See...what I did was take a pair of those Viking drinking horn things from one of the supply closets upstairs" she explained, "then, I painted them white and placed them over the tusks on my mask."
To see if she was telling the truth, Lisa approached her elder sister and studied her mask intently. After a while, she could see clear signs of paint on the tusks; which proved that Lynn words were true. "That's a very clever idea, Junior" Lynn Sr. said with pride, "however...I only hope that paint you used is washable."
After everyone had a good laugh at this small joke, the Council moved on to the second half of their big news. "For today's session, we not only have a special guest coming in to join us" Lynn Sr. said giddily, "BUT...we'll be having a whole crew of people playing in this session." This bit of news filled the Loud Sisters with a great sense of curiosity and concern, to say the least.
In terms of the latter, they wondered if the game table would have enough room to fit this new group coming in. "Don't you worry about that, girls" Albert/Pop-Pop assured, "you've already seen them here with us before and we still had loads of space to spare for 'em." While this reveal did help put her fears at ease, Lori still wondered who the mystery guest and the new group of players would be.
"Maybe Boo-Boo Bear will be coming back to play again" she whispered, "wait...no; from the sound of it, this new player seems more special to someone like Dad." With this idea shot, Lori went on to think up any other possible candidates for new players that would be joining in. But then, her train of thought was suddenly disrupted by the sounds of parade fanfare.
Almost immediately, her first assumption was that Lynn was playing some music on her phone, perhaps to psyche herself up for her upcoming role. But much to Lori's surprise, she appeared to be just as bothered by the noise and demanded to know who was causing it. "Sounds like our other players have just arrived" Rita chuckled, "Lincoln, sweetie; could you see them in please?"
The Loud Sisters watched as their brother leapt out of his seat and hurried towards the door, all while giggling like a mad man. He had barely opened the door a crack when he was suddenly swept off the ground by the likes of Becky, Whitney and Dana; who all proceeded to give him the mother of all bear hugs. Not long after this, some of Lincoln's own peers soon entered the room; all while chanting a most unique song.
We're Gal Pals.
And, yes, we shall.
Conquer the world one day!
We're no sweet bunnies.
We're smart and funny.
And we demand equal pay!
We'll shout "Gal Pals."
Right into your ear canal.
And bang it on a drum!
We're sweet and nice.
But take our advice.
Cross us and you'll be chum!
After the chant had concluded, everyone at the table (with the exception of the Loud Sisters) clapped heartily with joy. Now, Lori and the others already knew that the Gal Pals was the name of Lincoln's female friend group. But even now, it still weirded some of them out to see their own friends act so childishly around him.
Still, they were already in hot enough water for insulting everyone's love of their game. Thus, they decided to keep this little pet peeve under their hats for a while; at least until they were back out into the "real world." Meanwhile, Lincoln giggled happily as three of his four legal guardians continued playfully nuzzling their faces into his dwarf beard.
"Aw, pal; I'm so excited for today's session" Whitney cheered heartily, "it's just a shame you won't be part of it." The other two ladies expressed equal regret in not being able to see him take part in their fun. But after giving each of them a tender kiss on the cheek, Lincoln proclaimed he'd be cheering for them on the sidelines (so to speak.)
"Okay, you guys; that's enough of the touchy-feely stuff, okay" grumbled Lynn Jr., "is that everyone?" Without another word, the Council shook their heads and they gestured towards the rest of the Gal Pals crew...with the exception of Carol; whom Mrs. Johnson proclaimed wouldn't have a part to play until later. "For now, it'll be Lincoln's friends joining us today" Lynn Sr. stated, "along with our other special guest; member of the Royal Woods Mini Van Society, my former bandmate and the best darn pal a guy can have...KOTARO!"
After this proclamation, Mrs. Bernardo suddenly sounded off some fanfare on her trumpet; causing many people to plug up their ears. Afterwards, the doors burst open one final time to reveal Kotaro; who appeared to be dressed purple-bordered toga Praetexta, Roman-style sandals, a laurel crown and had a sort of pencil-thin mustache drawn on his top lip. Straightaway, everyone agreed that he looked like a man straight out of ancient Rome but they wondered if this was part of his character.
"Good day to you all...peasants" Kotaro said in a rather hoity-toity voice, "you may address us as High Emperor Gunari, sovereign ruler of Cicero." That did it; with that brief but dignified intro, everyone knew that this was only an act Kotaro was putting on. Still, they wondered who this Gunari guy was and what purpose he would serve the game.
"All your questions will be answered and all secrets will be revealed very soon, children" Mrs. Johnson assured, "but for now...let us sit down for a nice meal before we play." Not needing to be told twice, everyone took their seats at the table and started eating away at their breakfasts. While this was all going on, the Loud Sisters took a moment to observe each of the Gal Pals' costumes.
Becky sported a pair of slightly pointed ears, a pair of hairy feet, had a tin shield over her right arm, was dressed in small amounts of body armor and appeared to be squatting herself slightly; as if trying to appear shorter than everyone. Dana seemed to be dressed as a Tabaxi character, much like Lana and Lola. But unlike the twins, she appeared to be dressed in a full suit of knight armor and carried a shield and sword that looked half her height.
Cristina, Lincoln's former schoolyard crush, was dressed in clothes that almost make her look like a mini Buddhist. But as the Loud Sisters would soon find out, this was the only part of her costume that seemed relatively normal. Meanwhile; her skin, hands, hair and even her ears were drastically altered.
Every part of the girl seemed to be a shade of either a light bluish-green or a dark blue. She had fins for ears, webbed hands, crests on her forearms, green eyes and it looked as though she had a tail on her behind. When Cristina finally noticed that the Sisters were all staring at her, she simply smiled and greeted them in a most unusual language.
"What the heck is she even saying" Lola whispered, "must be another one of this game's weirdo languages." The others murmured softly in agreement and moved on to another one of the Gal Pals, Kat. After taking a look behind her, the Loud Sisters saw that she was wearing the back half of a horse costume.
At first, Leni thought that she must've forgotten to dress herself all the way through but Kat quickly eased her worries. "See, I'm a Centaur Fighter/Warlock" she stated, "which means I can kick but with my weapons and some magical skills!" Lucy felt intrigued by the young lady's description and started to wonder if her character was a capable fighter as well.
Meanwhile, Lori seemed slightly drawn towards Carol Pingrey's costume; which seemed to look near identical to hers. "Um...I literally don't want to sound rude here, everybody" she murmured as respectfully as she could, "but Carol, why are you copying my look?" At first, the young teen felt confused by this question...until she remembered what Lori came dressed as.
After having a bit of a laugh, Carol explained that while her character was a sorceress; both they and mages were commonplace in the world of Dungeons & Dragons. "Truth is, I picked a Sorceress class because I loved the robes they wear" she stated, "I mean, just look at the stitch-work!" At first, Lori didn't quite seem to believe her former rival...but after taking a moment to look herself over; she fully understood her reasoning.
Overtime, the Loud Sisters seemed to approve of the character/costume choices the Gal Pals had made. However, there were a few of them that left them feeling rather confused. "What's up with Phoebe's makeup job, guys" Lynn asked bluntly, "you look as white as a ghost and your eyes are...completely blank!"
Rather than be offended by her friend's words, Phoebe simply rolled her eyes and thanked her for the "compliment." "It's all part of my look, Lynn" Phoebe said matter-of-factly, "see, I'm what the game calls a Changeling." From here, she explained that her character has no natural look of her own.
As the name implied, Phoebe was a Changeling; which is a sort of shapeshifting creature that could take on the form of whatever or whoever they want. "I figure...since I've done my fair share of disguise work for the school paper, I should play a character that matches those kinds of skills" she stated, "plus, to help me really get into my role; I've even practiced assuming other people's looks and voices." Before anyone had the chance to stop her, Phoebe suddenly dove into a pile of costumes nearby; much to the chagrin of Fiona and her team.
When the young shutterbug finally resurfaced, seconds later; everyone saw that she had changed her look to that of Margo's. If that didn't seem strange enough; the next moment she spoke, Phoebe even sounded like her...just a little bit. "Whoa, Feebs...I am seriously impressed" Lynn chuckled, "I never knew you had it in you."
With a coy smile on her face, Phoebe smiled back at her friend and proclaimed that there were plenty of other things she didn't know about her. But unfortunately, there was little time to waste on that matter; they had a game to start soon. "What about the rest of you guys" inquired Lori, "like...what the heck is your sister literally dressed as, Becky?"
As all eyes gazed over at the young lady in question, some of the Loud Sisters did everything they could to keep themselves from laughing. Young Paige appeared to be dressed in clothes that were half her size, large brown boots, a cloak that looked like a huge tree leaf, green arm bands and had ears that looked even pointier than Lori's. "I'm happy you asked that, Madame Elf" Becky said in a dignified tone, "this here is Lady Zita Fizzlebang, a roguish Forest Gnome from Eberron."
The minute they heard that Paige was playing as a gnome, the very first thing that popped into the Loud Sisters' heads was the image of her dressed as a classic Garden Gnome. Of course, this did not please the long lady in the slightest and she was prepared to let them know that. "You dare to mock my people, knaves" Paige said dramatically, "mayhaps I should use one of you as my newest archery target."
Taking this as a challenge, Lynn got right up into the girl's face and gave a loud snort through her trunk; hoping to intimidate her. But before things got anymore hostile between the two ladies, another of the Gal Pals took immediate action. Thinking quickly, Whitney approached the duo and drove her plastic longsword between them; causing both Paige and Lynn to yelp in alarm.
"Stay your hands, both of you" she said firmly, "remember the Council's law, Loxodon; should you let your hostilities get the better of you here...there will be grave consequences!" In that moment, Lynn couldn't decide which felt like the freakiest part; what Whitney said or the way she said it all. Either way, she dared not to question the teen and reluctantly backed away from Paige.
At the same time, Lori used this opportunity to properly look over her friend's whole outfit. At first glance, she believed that Whitney was dressed as your typical female knight in shining armor (as opposed to the usual male version.) But when Lori asked her what her character was, Whitney addressed herself as an "Aasimar Paladin."
"OH! SHAME ON YOU, WHITNEY" Leni cried out in shock, "you shouldn't use such language here, there are little ones playing." No one seemed to understand the teen's reasoning, at first; many of whom openly proclaimed that no one said any kind of "naughty language." "But Whitney did, I just heard her" Leni proclaimed, "she called herself an Aasimar!"
After taking a moment to think, the Council of Game Masters finally understood what she meant and burst out into a light fit of laughter. When they managed to calm themselves down, seconds later; Albert was the first to help put his granddaughter's fears to rest. "No, Leni-Peni; Whitney wasn't swearing" he assured, "Aasimar is the name of her character's race."
Not long after this; Lana brought out the Monster Manual, found the page featuring the creature in question and showed it to her sister. "According to this, Aasimar were humans that have been 'planetouched by Celestials...' question, what are Celestials and what exactly does 'planetouched mean?" The Council nodded to one another slightly, thinking that this was a very valid question to ask and offered up the best answer they could think of.
"To start with, honey; Celestials is...the game's term used to describe heavenly beings" Rita explained, "think of some of them as something like...angels." Surprisingly, the little ones seemed to understand this explanation pretty well; even little Lily. From there, the Council added that Aasimar were humans that were descendent from Celestials long ago and that they were beings of pure goodness.
"That sounds so cool" Lola squealed with glee, "why couldn't I have chosen that instead of going with the Cat People option?" As an immediate response to this; Lana claimed that if that were to happen, the two of them couldn't be twins in the game. "To be honest, this wasn't even my first idea" Whitney confessed, "at the start of the campaign, I wanted to be Leonin."
As expected, this reveal left the Loud Sisters feeling quite confused with Lana openly asking what a Leonin was. In response, Whitney said that the Leonin race was "a bit like the Tabaxi characters...but bigger." "See, Tabaxi slightly resemble smaller and more agile species of felines" she explained, "whereas Leonins, as the name implies, look like huge bipedal lions!"
As she sat in her chair listening to all of this, Lynn suddenly found herself having what was known as an "existential crisis" of sorts. When she first got roped into playing this game, she thought that the Loxodon were the most epic sounding critters around. But after hearing about these Leonin creatures, she started to have second thoughts.
"That's cool and all, Whit...but I think we've got enough felines in this game already" Becky stated, "or have you forgotten that Dana wanted to be a Tabaxi herself?" While her friend's words had a small ring of truth behind them, Whitney was quick to point out that there were only three Tabaxi characters in the campaign. Therefore, they weren't as though the whole roster of players was swarming with felines.
For almost two minutes, Dana sat in her chair; eating her breakfast and listening to her two friends' debate. Then, after taking a moment to sip down some orange juice; she raised her hand and called for everyone's attention. "Yes, young lady; do you need something" questioned Lynn Sr., "is there too much salsa on the eggs?"
Without hesitation, Dana shook her head and proclaimed that the eggs tasted heavenly; which filled Mr. Loud with a great sense of relief. "No, I just have a request is all" she stated, "I know it's a tad last minute...but I think I'd like to change my character a little real quick." Before anyone had the chance to question her, Dana explained that her friends both raised a good point; there were one too many Tabaxis in their campaign.
"I think I wanna go with the critter Whitney considered but decided against it at the last minute" she stated, "I'd like to be a Leonin." At first, no one had spoken a single word after this; there wasn't even the smallest sound of food being eaten. This all made Dana feel like she had said something wrong and that she had inadvertently made everyone angry.
Finally, after what felt like ages of silence; the Council all smiled in unison and granted the young lady's request. "Of course, we may hold the authority on who does what within the game" Albert stated, "but in terms of character costume changes...that responsibility falls on our team of makeup artists and costumers." With that said, all eyes fell on the four teens who were given these titles; Fiona, Jackie, Miguel and Mandee.
At first, the four teens were staring at their friends with looks of pure annoyance on their faces; as if telling her they hated last minute changes. But then; they huddled up, talked amongst themselves for a bit and then, they turned their attention back to Dana. "We talked it over and while this is rather last minute...because you're our BGFF, we'll help you out" Miguel stated, "consider yourself lucky that we work well under pressure."
Dana squealed loudly with glee, hugged each of her friends tight and zipped over to the changing room; eager to get into her new look. "This could take a while, everyone" Lynn Sr. chuckled sheepishly, "how about we share a bit more about some of our newest players' characters while we finish breakfast?" Without a second thought or the slightest pause, everyone held up their glasses and responded to this with a series of hearty cheers; even the Loud Sisters (much to their shock.)
Fifty minutes later, everyone's bellies had been filled up and all the dishware had been cleared off the game table. Of course, during the meal; the Loud Sisters got the chance to learn about the species of some of the Gal Pals' characters. Only Carol and Haiku seemed to be out of the loop but the Game Masters claimed the two of them would be appearing at a later date.
Meanwhile, the rest of the crew's roster proved to be rather impressive; in terms of both races/species and classes. There was Kat's Centaur Warlock/Fighter, Cici's Orc Barbarian, Girl Jordan's character(which was something called a Shifter) and even Stella had a cool sounding mercenary. "I gotta say, some of your characters are pretty cool, ladies" praised Lana, "I've just got one question...why are so many of you barbarians?"
Without missing a beat, the Gals who all had such characters smiled down at the wee grease monkey and said "who doesn't wanna be a babe who can kick butt?" "I dunno, ladies; barbarians are pretty tough cookies" Luna's bandmate, George said while tuning his lute; "and some of you...are kind of dainty." The instant these words passed the boy's lips, he suddenly felt something whiz through his hair; almost causing him to break a chord.
With a slight yelp, he looked to the side and saw what looked like a throwing knife wedged into a post. Thankfully, it was only a rubber one; after Chunk took a moment to observe it closely. But the force of the throw was just enough to have it pierce deeply into the wood.
After he managed to swallow a nervous lump in his throat, George nervously looked towards the table and saw Stella looking at him with a very fierce glare. "Could you repeat that, dude" she murmured softly, "just who exactly are you calling 'dainty?'" Not long after this, all the Gal Pals dressed as barbarian warriors drew out their weapons; also giving the teen rocker fierce glances.
Meanwhile, the Loud Sisters looked upon this spectacle with looks of utter confusion on each of their faces; wondering what got them acting so "screwy?" "It must be this game, my Sisters" Lisa muttered, "it warps the mind anyone who plays, making them lose all sense of reality." These words did not go unheard by the other players, unfortunately for the young genius.
But strange as it may seem, some of them seemed to actually agree with her; even the adults. "It's all part of the game's 'spell,' as it were" Principal Huggins stated, "not only does it help teach players lessons on compromise, planning and teamwork...but they also feel a bit of 'leveling up' themselves." Now, Lisa had prided herself on her scientific knowledge and IQ quotient for years; despite her age.
Yet something in the principal's words sounded so odd and so illogical to her, it seemed as though he was speaking some extraterrestrial language. As if sensing this, Lincoln chimed in and decided to offer a "simple" way of explaining the game's "spell." "Think back to how Bobby behaved while in character in front of Lori, long ago" he stated, "now, we all know how much he loves her...but has anyone here seen or heard him speak with such passion before?"
Much to the surprise of Lincoln's sisters, not only did his point seem to click with them; it even made the likes of Lola, Leni and Luna swoon. "That's the beauty of this game, girls" Rita stated, "while it can warp some people's views on reality like Lisa says, it can also bring out new aspects of a person's personality." After this, her father chimed in and confessed that his time acting as Game Master Karuk has helped him discover new ways of "wooing" Myrtle up at the home.
"Truth is...if you play your cards right, ladies; this could happen to you as well" Mrs. Johnson said slyly, "that is, if you still want to play." While the Game Masters words only managed to...slightly bring out their collective curiosities, a part of the Loud Sisters still insisted on not letting them get sucked in any further. On the other hand, despite however insistent that part of them was; the Loud Sisters still remembered their deal with their parents.
With this in mind, some of them begrudgingly agreed to continue while the rest were practically bouncing with glee. "Just so we're clear...I'm finally getting a chance to play this time, right" inquired Lynn, "'cause if I have to wait any longer, I'm out." The Game Masters all chuckled softly at her and assured the young jock that all will be revealed soon.
"For now, let us make ready for the next session" Lynn Sr. decreed, "but first...where is our missing player?" No sooner had he said this, the doors to the game room chamber suddenly burst open; revealing the costume and makeup teams on the other side. Before anyone had a chance to speak up, Miguel smiled at everyone and declared "and lo...it is done!"
As he and the girls moved aside, everyone could see a young figure standing behind them. Of course, they knew full well already that it was Dana...but she looked like a whole new woman. She was still dressed in her Paladin armor from earlier but instead of looking like a Tabaxi, her face now resembled a female lioness.
She had small, roundish ears; her face was lightly colored with white makeup, she had a slip-on cat nose over hers and her top lip and she had a long tail swinging around behind her slightly. But perhaps, her most noticeable features were her slip-on lion nails and a pair of contacts she had on; giving her eyes a sort of feline look. "O...M...GOSH, Dee; you look incredible" Leni cried with delight, "and Fiona, I love what you did with her makeup; it really makes her cheekbones pop!"
Feeling intrigued by her friend's comments, Dana asked for someone to hand her a mirror; be it big or small. When someone finally gave her one, she was so overwhelmed by amazement that she almost cried. "Careful, Dee; if you start crying, your makeup will run" Mandee urged kindly, "and nobody here wants to sit for another half hour of touch ups, right?"
With these words, Dana managed to get a grip on her emotions but still thanked her friends for their good work in the best way she knew; by hugging them. Afterwards, she took her seat back with the other Gal Pals and was finally ready to play. "Very well, then; let us continue where we last left off...shall we" Lynn Sr. asked while putting on his "game master face," "you have all left the city of Maravillosa behind you and have traveled on for almost three days."
After this, the Council revealed that on their third day of traveling; Lori and her party would be making camp in a forest grove. "Finally, a moment to rest for once" Lola groaned, "I know this is only in the game...but after everything that Count guy did to us, we need a break." While her other sisters seemed to be in full agreement, Lucy didn't appear very eager for a rest; even a short one.
"You are wise to be cautious, young Kenku" Mrs. Johnson said in her Agathe voice, "but for the moment, a good rest will do you a world of good." After taking a moment to think things over; Lucy, against her better judgment, finally decided to join her sisters in making camp. But as she looked over in the Game Masters' direction, she noticed that her parents were digging out some armored soldier figurines.
This could only mean that her party might be facing an ambush; she didn't know when, she didn't know how it would happen or how man soldiers would be sent out. All Lucy knew was that at this point at the game, things weren't going to feel so easy.
(First AN: A bit of a filler chapter before the madness of the quest resumes; thought it would be necessary, after everything Count Fastred put our heroes through the last time. What sort of adventure awaits Lori and her sisters next, what role do the Gal Pals have in it and what does Lynn Sr. have up his sleeves, now that Kotaro has joined the game?
Find out the answers to these questions and more as the adventure continues)
(Second AN: As of now, this fanfic is officially part of my Gal Pals universe of Loud House stories. We saw a hint of these characters taking up interest in D&D within my Day in the Life of the Gal Pals anthology *specifically in the oneshot entitled Sneak Peek.* Now, we'll get to see our favorite ladies in action; let's just hope they'll have better luck playing than the Loud Sisters)
(Third AN: Speaking of the Gal Pals, the chant featured in this is actually something from the Spongebob episode; Cabin in the Kelp. I used it in an earlier piece of mine; specifically "Great Lakes Getaway – Part Two in my Day in the Life anthology. Regardless, I do not own the chant; it is the property of the Spongebob creative team)
(Fourth AN: I hope you all like the class and race/species choices I picked out for each of the Gal Pals. I wanted to have each role mesh their personalities/characters in the best way possible; particularly Phoebe's Changeling character and Paige's Halfling character)
(Final AN: We're getting there, everybody; slowly but surely, the Loud Sisters are giving in to the geeky side. The question remains, however...will those among the Sisters who continue to resist be able to complete the campaign without losing their collective sanity?)