The stale air thickened with the rancour of week old manure. Farm boys might get used to the stench on any ordinary farm, but my days as a slave to McCloud Unicorn ranch proved the contrary.
It wasn't the old barn shedding wooden planks like they were fur that upset me the most, nor the constant mew-growling that trumpeted out of the thing-that-might-be-a-cat-if-it-looked-less-like-a-gremlin. It was the near constant dread that I would amount to nothing in such a miserable isolated place with nary even a Kwik Mart for miles upon miles around that haunted me more poignantly than any other mere annoyance on that forsaken plot of dread.
It was upon the very dawn in which I resolved to take my life rather than be a slave to inconvenience a moment longer, that I observed a peculiar glistening against the horizon. This wasn't the kind of glisten that was common here, the kind that heralded the shitting forth of rainbows that the unicorns were so apt at scattering in blinding arrays, coating the sky with color. This shimmer in the distance was focused yet powerful, and I could feel the warmth even though it yet remained a lifetime's distance away.
Then a voice spoke to me, sweeter than the dance of wind against an endless field of sunflowers. Airy and elegant, it formed the words as though a dozen echoes were joining into one.
"I am Victory, God of virtual conquest."
If I felt I had my wits about me I might have had a mind to shout and flee. Somehow though the increasing radiance comforted me, assured me that everything was as it should be. I stood, observed and listened as the glimmer beamed outward in all directions, enveloping me in light and then dissipating into the form of a woman that towered like a mother to her newborn. Her dress fit her form from hip to knee and tapered outward to catch the wind in its folds. Her hair of shoulder length was dimpled by a flower that seemed so cheery as to smile at me.
"I have come to free you of your bonds, on the condition that you accept but one quest. One that you must carry out until your end."
The winds roared now and encircled us, taking with them many petals and leaves.
"What reason have I to trust you?" I shouted, even though I knew I'd follow her into oblivion. Her smile alone was an invitation of trust.
"Where I lead you can be no worse than where you currently stand, mortal." The words spilled from her lips like honey sweetened tea from a kettle and I drank every syllable. She could be foretelling my demise and I would have accepted far worse. More debris gathered in the grip of the vortex surrounding us and made it so I could not see past the whirling maze.
She continued, "For the good of your kind I task thee with this: A great evil has been awakened. One that threatens to devour the whole of your kind if nothing be done to stop it. The evil of Boredom. You must use the power of virtual entertainment to rouse the spirits and imaginations of those your creations will touch. You cannot however do this alone. There are those you must seek to aid you on your journey."
The divine God of Virtual Conquest handed me a scroll, upon which was written a single name and an X upon a map where I imagine this individual would be found.
"Begin with Gabriel the Compiler, for he shall be as fire to your sword" she beckoned, then began to dissolve into a fine shimmering mist. She left me with these parting words:
"You will have need for many allies. Choose them wisely. The course of your actions will heavily determine the fate of your world."
Then she was gone.
The vortex vanished as well. To my surprise I found myself in a foreign land, far from what once I called home. I was left with a combination of excitement and confusion. Why me? I unraveled the scroll and curiously discovered a mark that showed where I stood. I noted as well where I should be going and plotted a course to the great land of heroes known as Oregonia.
"Royt up thot woy!"
The plump, two-foot tall wood elf I had just befriended pointed up to a monstrous cliffside as he directed me. At the edge of the cliff I could make out what seemed to be a trail of faint chimney smoke. The elf wore a thin red beard and smelled of horseradish. His extended index finger looked like the rounded end of a baby carrot.
"Be karrrrful though! Thar be creatures up that woy! Protectin' the mastarrr they be!"
I couldn't begin to fathom why he sounded like a cockney pirate. I supposed he'd just been well traveled. I also wasn't quite sure of what creatures he spoke but figured I'd find out soon enough. I thanked him and began searching along the base of the cliffside for a way to begin the ascent.
The massive rock walls were an odd colorful swirl of red and orange. The surface felt unnaturally smooth. Even from a distance I could tell there was something not of this world about them. When I ran my hand against the surface I almost certainly felt a shudder. I waited. The shudder became a shake that grew in intensity. A low rumble accompanied the movement, growing louder. Something was approaching.
In an instant I felt myself hurled skyward. I shouted in fright as I watched the horizon twirl past my view once and again. For a moment I felt weightlessness and I could see that I was level with the topside of the cliff and noted a house perched there. I could see tree canopies dotting the landscape for miles. I could see the sun setting. I thought it would be the last one I ever beheld. I began to plummet and at that precise point in time attempted to calculate how great my chances of surviving a fall from such a fearful height would be. The air rushed around and against my body. My velocity reversed and a great force propelled me skyward again. The sudden shift was nauseating but I had little time to contemplate as I saw the clifftop house again directly below me. Again I descended now watching the roof draw nearer while the nausea became almost unbearable. As the distance between myself and the rooftop closed, just before I came face to shingle with certain death, somehow squeezing through what must have been an echoing alarm of screams for miles around, I thought I heard a dozen layered airy voices giggle as though amused. Then all went black.
I awoke and found myself lying oddly positioned in a peculiar hammock tied between two large rusted pipes that jutted from the floor, itself fashioned from crudely layered planks of wood. This room was filled with baubles and detritus, though of what in particular I couldn't make out as the lighting was so poor. I heard bubbling and whirring in an adjacent room. I slowly motioned to stand. To my surprise, I was unharmed. As each foot pressed down upon the floor boards, they rose and settled under my weight. I resolved to exercise caution and slowly made my way out to the next room. There amidst the blue glow of various concoctions held in glass vials and vessels of various sizes stood a man with a grizzled beard and furrowed brow, intent upon his work. He wore thick brown gloves and a long overcoat, splattered and stained in a gamut of hues from what could have been a lifetime's worth of travails. I waited for a polite opportunity to interrupt, then called out to him.
He replied with a wide grin, "You're awake! We've been expecting you, warrior."
"We've?" I queried.
"Why I and the lovely Lady Victory o'course!" He roared.
"Yes, delightful one, that Victory. You'll pardon me my inattentiveness I hope but, why is it that I'm not dead?"
He approached and offered his hand.
"Gabriel. They call me The Compiler. I can compile anything! Hats, toast, the weather. I'll compile your mother, given the chance! I compiled you here."
I accepted his hand and he shook firm, if not a bit wildly.
"Wayne. They call me Shitboy, but I'd prefer to forget about that actually."
Gabriel studied me a moment.
"Then I'll just have to compile you a new title! From this dawn onward you shall be known as The Conjuror. Such is the wish of our Lady Victory."
Gabriel revealed many truths that day. He told me why I had been chosen. He explained that as Conjuror I would need an imagination untainted by the evils of the outside world. My role was merely to imagine what powers and beings and things eternal to wield that might help us in the fight against Boredom and he would compile them into use. It was then that our endless struggle to entertain had begun.
In the days that followed, other adventurers arrived guided by the light of Victory. Soon we would have an army fit to fill a thousand worlds with endless gaming. There was however yet one thing to do before we could confront the evils of Boredom. Victory decreed we should have a name that represented all we fought for. A name that would exemplify the very essence of virtual conquest and honor our Lady and the powers she bestows to win the fight. I thought of the day when we proud few would stand war torn yet boldly above the lifeless husk that once was Boredom. I thought of how all at once we would throw our arms into the sky and shout, "We did it!" It was then that Victory appeared unto us all, a final blessing as we marched each unto his workstation to begin the bitter brawl that lay before us. That day of conquest would come soon enough.