There’s a powerful spell employed by the leaders of my old world called the Dichotomy. It goes something like this:
- Pick two unfortunate phenomena.
- Make an Either/Or statement as if the two phenomena are mutually exclusive.
Famous examples include:
“Either the One Percent are greedy bastards with way too much money Or funneling money to the poor has no net effect on poverty.”
“Either America spends too much money on healthcare Or due to lack of proper healthcare, thousands of babies die every year of easily preventable causes.”
“Either systemic racism throws an unfair number of minorities in prison Or minorities commit more crime than the average citizen.”
The Principle of Dichotomy is:
Although bad things happen, two bad things cannot happen at once.
By this Principle, the Dichotomy spell forces reality to pick a side, reducing the number of tragedies in the world by one.
Earlier tonight, I laid out five mutually exclusive ways I might break out of jail.
Unfortunately, the Principle of Dichotomy doesn’t hold in this world.
(A) Plun rallies a rag-tag but loveable rescue squad to break me out of jail.
I tiptoe down hall after hall, looking for the way out of the inner cloister.
There’s a commotion in the front courtyard.
Are they onto me?
The clash of steel. Spells being cast. Someone’s fighting.
My curiosity takes over and I sneak towards the noise.
Four hooded figures stand in the center of the courtyard, surrounded by twenty-odd priests and initiates in various states of undress. The fight is going about as well for the four as one can expect against a team of healbots.
“We need to retreat! Rogue, cast smoke bomb!”
It’s Plun’s voice!
“I can’t, I’m silenced!”
I identify two of the other intruders as Tess and Vant, but the last – a hooded shadow the size of a five-year-old – I don’t recognize.
The voice of a young girl emanates from the cloak, casting powerful Dark magic.
Soon, the clergy knock out Plun, Tess, and Vant, leaving only the child shadow, who makes a valiant effort. From her miniature staff she casts a continuous torrent of Shadow Bolts.
Footsteps ring in the corridor behind me.
(B) Demons invade Beltine and I’m freed in the ensuing chaos.
“Finally, your majesssty, after yearsss of ssstudy, I have completed the teleportasssion devissse.”
Evil laughter emanates from behind the obsidian throne.
“If I may, perhapsss we might tessst it out firssst on a sssmaller target.”
After a pause, the man behind the throne speaks, “Leave no survivors.”
“Exsssellent point, your majesssty, we mussst maintain the sssecresssy of the teleportasssion devissse and keep the element of sssurprissse. I know exsssactly the beassst to sssend.”
Three servants walk into the throne room, dragging chains as thick as my arms. Wrapped in those chains is an enormous snake, twice the length and size of the largest natural anaconda. Its night black skin is patterned with red-gold stripes.
A clawed hand extends from behind the throne: you are dismissed.
(C) I’m hauled in front of an impartial jury of holy folk and convince them to set me free with an impassioned speech.
The five of us – Plun, Tess, Vant, the hooded child, and I – kneel in chains.
“Sorry for dragging you into this, Plun.”
“What are friends for, Murph?” He manages a pained smile. “We heard about what you did, pervert.”
Father Penitence walks down the aisle towards us.
To Plun, Tess, and Vant: “You break into the consecrated heart of the Goddess and attack her faithful.”
To the hooded child: “You dare to wield the foulest of magic in this holy place.”
To me: “And you, you defile -”
For once, words seem to escape Father Penitence.
“Have you anything to say for yourselves?”
That’s my cue! I rise to my feet:
“Respected Elders, let me mmphgg”
Father Penitence smacks me back to my knees and gags me with a length of cloth, in blatant violation of due process.
“For such crimes, there is only one punishment. I sentence you to purification by holy fire!”
I hang my head. The others’ faces are ashen.
Only one road leads to the Valley of the Dead, Murphy.
Is this what the silent monk meant?
(D) Hide a shard of my chamber pot and use it to escape.
I’m shaken out of my contemplation of mortality by screams.
A mesmerizing shadow darts into the chapel. It takes down an Initiate in one bite, crushing the boy’s spine.
“Where’d it come from?!”
Clergymen rush in to surround the beast, casting spells and auras I don’t recognize.
The five of us, bound and gagged, struggle pointlessly. The hooded girl is the only one who can speak. The Fathers must have been unable to take off her cloak to gag her.
Her voice is shrill and baby-like, “Please, let me out! I can help you! I can kill it!”
One of the Initiates glances away from the fight momentarily. This proves to be a fatal mistake; the demon snake pounces on him.
“Please untie me!”
The battling clergy ignore her cries. One or two more Initiates are picked off, but on the whole the team of healbots forms a solid defense against their venomous enemy. Because the snake is a living creature, however, holy spells deal no damage. It’s a stalemate.
Something cold touches my hand. I twist around to see the silent monk right behind me.
He slips a sharp something into my hand and walks away. I already know what it is. I furiously saw at my bindings with the chamber pot shard. After an eternity, the rope finally come off.
Plun and the others shuffle towards me, eager to be freed.
“Wait here. There’s something I have to try.”
I pick up a still-lighted chime from a fallen Initiate.
I check my stats:
(S) (for Shawshank) Dig for twenty years.
In the magic mirror, a massive ball of purple envelops the battle, vaporizing several of the clergymen and the snake demon on contact.
The throne room falls into dead silence.
One man drops to his knees.
“Your majesssty, pleassse! It wasss a missstake! Give me another chanssse!”
The clawed hand makes an ominous sign, which a courtier interprets:
“For your failure, you are hereby sentenced to twenty years of hard labor in his Majesty’s mines.”