There was nothing special about this hex. It was a sandy, featureless plain, just like the surrounding hexes. But these were the coordinates the squad had been given so here they were, floating high above nothing.
"Bahss! Bahss!", the little golem called exitedly as he stumbled into the office. "Dah `chons! Dey're hear!" "Well then, let's go meet them, Henna!", replied Charlie.
The squad drifted towards the center of the hex. In the next instant, the air was no longer empty, something had appeared. It was a thing of exquisite beauty, a generous expanse of lush gardens surrounding a gleaming marble palace hovering as light as a cloud. Past the edge, it had its own climate. Birds sang, fountains gurgled, breezes rustled. Those archons who possessed the power of True Sight could see right through it, see the subtle weaving of Thinkamancy, Stuffamancy and Foolamancy that created a tangible experience from what Charlie liked to call "the stuff of dreams". This was Charlie's home away from home, the place he used to meet with those Archons not privileged to know where his base was.
The Archons landed in the blue tiled courtyard behind the palace. There was a pool there. A figure swam lazily towards the near end and came slowly up the steps. He shook water off his thick shoulder length black hair. It cascaded down his broad shoulders and deep chest, dripped down his lean flanks past his tight white thong and finally ran off his smoothly muscled legs. He turned deep blue eyes on the assembled Archons and smiled.
"Welcome to Phantasm Island" he purred. "I am your host, Charlie."
The diminutive golem led the archons into a grove of trees and from there into a grotto lit by standing torches. A feast was laid out on a long picnic table. Charlie soon joined them, now dressed in a light tropical suit. He invited them to help themselves.
"So", Charlie said. "Squad 23 North. You've been doing some good work for me. Ellie Mae-- brilliant idea, capturing Doge Artie to make sure his Side lost the battle, then ransoming him back to his people after the contract with the other Side expired. Rhoda-- took a big fee to break the siege of Defarray, then used part of it to bribe the raiders to leave. I couldn't have done better myself!" He continued for the next two hours, commenting on various actions and complimenting individual Archons.
Lunch ended. Golems scurried to clear the dishes. Charlie stood up. "This has been very pleasant", he said. "There is nothing i enjoy more than spending time with my Archons-- other than counting shmuckers, of course. But now, there is a small matter to attend to. " He paused. "As you know, business has been slow lately. Adjustments must be made. This is a 12 member squad. It is necessary to reduce it to 9."
The Archons looked around anxiously, then back to Charlie. He smiled reassuringly. "This will not be done arbitrarily. Your own opinions will be taken into account. Right now, i want you each, one at a time, to go over to that writing desk on the other side of the grotto. Write down the names of the 8 of your comrades you'd most like to continue working with, and put the list into the Hat."
One by one, they followed his instructions. Some did it quicky, others seemed to struggle with indecision. But eventually they were all back in their seats. A golem took away the Hat. "I will go and tabulate the votes now", said Charlie. "I will be back soon with the results." He stood up, bowed, and left.
Two golems brought in a red velvet couch. They set it down carefully. Charlie came in, holding a large woven basket. He sat at one end of the couch. He looked at the Archons. "Mindy, come here. Sit beside me. That's right. Mindy, i would be honored if you would accept this from me." He reached into the basket and pulled out a dark red rose, which he presented to Mindy. As she took it, he kissed her. Then he called, in turn, Sabrina, Rhoda, 99, Ellie Mae, Gidget, Pinky, Pepper, and Lillian.
Charlie looked at the 9 Archons seated on the couch with him, holding their roses. "The 9 of you will continue to serve me. I know we will all be happy together."
He looked at the other 3. "But as for the rest of you..."
As the 3 dissolved, one could be heard saying, tearfully, "i wish i could have gone on, but i've really enjoyed the time i had and i have no regrets. I wish the 9 survivors all the best. Goodbye, i love you all!"
Read, like there won't be a movie
Game, like the die rolls don't matter
Filk, like everyone is tone deaf anyway
10 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2
. . . . . . Dr Pepper
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . .. . .4