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> Finn: Be the TEENAGE HERO. Commence HEROIC battle

Previously, on GoldStruck!

This remains a collaboration with Dither.

> Finn: Commence HEROIC battle.

No way. That’s a GRIFFIN up there. You love the GRIFFIN almost as much as you love MEDIEVAL WEAPONRY.

The poor thing wails in pain and anger as it continues its wheeling descent, finally landing in front of you. Libertina’s enclosure is behind you, but fortunately, the DRAGON sleeps on.

It’s a good thing that UNCLE stuffs tranqs into the cows before freezing them. Even though they take forever to kick in, they do last a good long time.

> Remove thorn from paw thereby soothing savage beast.

That sounds absolutely ridiculous. For one thing, a bullet in the wing is nothing like a thorn in the paw. For another, you’re fairly certain that MUSIC is what you need to soothe a savage beast.

> Use WHITE MAGIC to heal GRIFFIN.

Healing is not one of those things you can just do. Even though MAGIC is a DE FACTO thing that is indisputably REAL, you can’t just use it.

It’s also not very effective in treating bullet wounds. You use SILVER ROUNDS because of being AWESOME and also there are massive amounts of SILVER in your cave-crazy neighbourhood. If there is anything that can resist MAGIC, be it benign or internecine, it is SILVER.

> Make like Dr Doolittle and talk to the GRIFFIN.

Today must be your best day for stupid ideas.

>

Holding up both hands to show that you have no weapons, you try to do what GRIFFINS do instead of smiling. Your face is the wrong shape for it, but the GRIFFIN appears to get the GIST.

It whines dramatically and limps over to you, favouring a leg that you are pretty sure is definitely not hurt.

GRIFFINS  are better than puppies, you tell yourself as you see to its wound.

> Remove bullet.

Apparently, you don’t need to do that. As stupid a blind shot as it was, it was also a clean one.

All you need to do is clean up the wound and bandage it.

> Do that.

You do that.

The GRIFFIN nuzzles you all the while. Your TEENAGE ANGST METRE drops to lethally low levels of WELTSCHMOROSITY due to the sheer monster cuteness.

There are no bandages to be had, but HEROES are suppose to be resourceful. Ignoring the nipple-blistering cold, you tear strips from your shirt.

When you finish, you climb onto the GRIFFIN’S back and urge it to walk home. Your chores are finally completed.

> Rejoice.

An HEROIC fanfare plays obligingly in your head. You hope it isn’t a hallucination due to the toe-amputating cold.

1

> Laney: Use computer.

Previously, on GoldStruck!

This remains a collaboration with Dither.

> Laney: Use computer.

Now that you’re (relatively) safe in the STUDY, you retreat directly to the computer. Curling up in the monstrous blue chair, you push thoughts of your SISTER to the back of your mind. She can take care of herself. She has her SWITCH.

Even though the lights are out, the computer screen is still lit, awaiting interaction. This is because it is a LAPTOP and therefore relies on a battery to continue stalwartly on even during the frequent blackouts in your house.

Before Nick rearranged the orchard, trees blocked nearly every window, contributing to the DARK of the blackouts. Unfortunately, his efforts mean nothing now that the sun is down.

> Laney: Scandalise Nick.

You pull up the Chattervine client window and start typing. A few minutes later, you begin to suspect something is wrong. Nick is chatty and tends to either babble or answer you before you’ve even finished your questions. But he hasn’t even replied.

You conclude that he is away from his computer. Scowling, you type a scathing remark about netiquette, and then move to switch off the LAPTOP in order to conserve battery life.

Then you notice that someone else is online.

> Laney: Scandalise this friend in hopes that the status message does not lie.

CHATTERLOG

Continue reading

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> Laney: Check it out

Previously, on GoldStruck!

This remains a collaboration with Dither.

> Laney: Check it out.

The glowing eyes don’t appear to be an immediately threatening colour, such as RED or YELLOW. Instead, they are a soft, bluish shade of white, like the night light that you certainly never needed. They blink in and out.

Still following the wall, you approach the eyes warily. They continue to blink, at a sedate frequency. Just watching you.

Then a second whiteness spreads gleaming through the dark. Sharp, elongated triangles.

You know exactly what those are.

> Laney: Dodge teeth.

The teeth are not attacking you. Yet. They seem to float disembodied in the DARK, grinning like a well-known feline in a very old book.

> Laney: Retreat into STUDY.

As you scoot back in the direction of the STUDY door, the teeth disappear, presumably covered by atramentous lips. The eyes narrow.

You stand up to open the door, careful to keep your back against the wall and your eyes fixed on the light in the DARK.

The teeth reappear as their owner pounces. You duck into the STUDY and slam the door, ears ringing with the sound of the creature’s hissing cry.

It slams against the door, rattling it so hard that you leap away from it.

> Finn: Ride the DRAGON.

You do that. Although you would have preferred to be sitting up while riding, you have to admit that this position affords you the best grip. Libertina is not a graceful creature. She is an awkward galumphing beast.

By the time she leaps over the fence of her enclosure and skids to a stop, your teeth are vibrating and you’re pretty sure that your kidneys rattled their way up to nestle in your armpits.

> Finn: Climb down.

While Libertina pants like a dog tired of a game of fetch, you climb up, carefully angling yourself so that you remain in between her eyes, safe in her blind spot. She lolls her head about, making this far more difficult than it needs to be.

You contemplate giving her a kick, but COMMON SENSE prevents you doing so.

Once you climb up on top of her head, it is a simple matter of descending along the ridged scales on her back. Halfway down, she curls up on the snow and you hop off her back.

> Finn: Retreat.

Not yet. You have to take care of the broken fence.

> Finn: Mend enclosure.

Some of the wood is gone, sitting in Libertina’s fat belly along with her cow. Fortunately, there is a SUPPLY SHED nearby for just such eventualities.

You repair the fence, all the while waiting for her to turn round and ruin the entire operation. But she appears to have fallen fast asleep.

You do not believe your luck. And so you prepare for something really awful to happen.

>

It does not keep you waiting long. No sooner have you completed the necessary repairs, than you hear a keening cry.

You glare at Libertina and draw your GUN. Never mind its effectiveness, it’s all you have and you’re beginning to feel a bit DISINCLINED towards the DRAGON.

But Libertina is still fast asleep. You take aim anyway, just for practise. Then you realise that the sound came from overhead.

> Finn: Look up, then despair.

Heroes never despair. Nevertheless, you look up.

Heroes never despair. But sometimes they get a little anxious.

Overhead, you can see a GRIFFIN wheeling through the air. Its wing is bright with blood, obviously affecting its ability to steer.

You recall your blind panicked shots while faced with Libertina’s wrath and snow in your eyes.

> Oops.

Oops indeed.

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> Laney: Solve SWITCH puzzle

Previously, on GoldStruck!

This is a collaboration with Dither.

> Solve SWITCH puzzle.

There’s a reason that you tend to play TERRIBLE JRPGS. You are not very good with puzzles. Games like MYST mock you like school bullies.

You continue to mess with the SWITCHES for a few more seconds, but to no avail. Then you see something out of the corner of your eye.

> Move to look more closely.

It appears to be some kind of cheesy TIMER. It appears to be COUNTING DOWN to something. You have no idea what it could mean, though.

This seems like a great time to take a break and return to the house to have another scandal at your friend.

> Get back to the house.

Okay, you do that.

> Really? It’s that easy?

Maybe not. You keep out of the shadows, and although you are certain that you hear heavy mouth-breathing, you make it to the house in one piece.

>

It’s DARK. The lights have gone out again.

Something growls, then something else attacks from the other direction!

> Fight off threat!

Claws rake at you, tearing skin and HIT POINTS. You draw your KNIFE and strike out at the THING that attacked you. You hear an unearthly squeal as cold sticky ELDRITCH BLOOD sprays over you. You swing again, but the THING has already retreated.

> Get to the STUDY.

You feel your way to the wall, then follow along it until you reach a door.

A slimey tentacle wraps around your ankle. Before it can give a mighty tug, you slice at the tentacle and remove it. More BLOOD and squealing.

But then something different happens. You see a pair of glowing eyes in the DARK. None of the ELDRITCH HORRORS have ever shown an aspect of light before.

> Check it out.

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> Finn: Put that DRAGON in its place

Previously, on GoldStruck!

This remains a collaboration with Dither.

> Put that DRAGON in its place.

That is exactly what you will do. When you can stop running.

Snow is worse than water for slowing a guy down. At least you can swim in water. Without your feeding gear, you are VULNERABLE, but you are also able to make full use of your SPEED without taking a hit to your STAMINA. However, there isn’t a lot of inherent COMBAT ADVANTAGE in either without also dealing DAMAGE.

Libertina is right behind you, so close that you can feel her breath disturbing your GREAT HAIR. You spin round, sliding in the snow in a careful crouch, and bring your GUN to bear on one of her huge yellow eyes.

> FIRE.

Your GUN is SUPER INEFFECTIVE against DRAGONS, remember? Firing on Libertina would only waste ammo and PISS HER OFF. You only aimed at her in the VAIN HOPE that she would balk at the sheer force of your BRAVADO.

But maybe there’s an alternative.

> Hug your knees to your chest and pretend to be a DRAGON EGG.

Now that is without a doubt the best idea that could have possibly come to you at this point in time. Except isn’t because it is so mind-numbingly STUPID.

Libertina roars at you. Smoke begins to billow in her open mouth, black as pitch and fluffy as the snow around you.

> Use GUN to create AVALANCHE.

For that, you would need to be near a peak. You would also need to be capable of starting an AVALANCHE with a single BULLET.

You roll out of the way of Libertina’s snapping jaws. Although you manage to land mostly upright, you got a bunch of snow in your mouth and up your nose while rolling. Your VISION is OBSCURED.

> Wipe away snow to restore VISION.

There is not any time. You shoot blindly, then feel all of the remaining heat drain from your face as a whale-like bellow fills the air. Whatever you just hit, it was not the sort of thing that would cause an AVALANCHE.

You wipe away the snow and blink away the freezing sting as you stare red-eyed into Libertina’s dripping jaws.

> Shoot DRAGON in gaping maw.

Panicking, you do just that. The bullet ricochets off a few of her razor-sharp TEETH, only to soar harmlessly into the snow.

But what is this? The vibrations of the ludicrous ricochet seem to have bothered Libertina. She shakes her head, momentarily closing her mouth.

> Capitalise on this change in developments.

Giving a HEROIC roar of your own, you leap into the air and pounce on her snout. You lock your limbs around her mouth, holding it shut with all of the strength that your skinny body can sum up. Libertina squawks deep in her throat, and steam begins to dribble out of her scaly ears.

>

With a great jerking motion, you use your own body weight and hold on Libertina’s snout to turn her head around. Hopefully she now faces her enclosure, but you can only tell by using the sun’s position and what little you can see of the landscape on either side of Libertina’s head.

Now to get her moving forward.

> Wiggle posterior in facsimile of carrot and stick.

As stupid as that undoubtedly is, it might work if Libertina’s eyes were not placed in such a way that she cannot perceive anything between her eyes. Which is exactly where you effectively are.

> Let go with one arm to wave in front of giant yellow eye.

Libertina shifts, falling into a dead run. You are cooking with petrol now.

2

> Laney: Begin to get annoyed at GAMEPLAY

Previously, on GoldStruck!

This remains a collaboration with Dither.

> Begin to get annoyed at GAMEPLAY.

Having grown up in the ORCHARD, you are no stranger to digging holes. Excavating a structurally sound MINE is a bit new, however you are good at using all of the right muscles so that you get the work done without tiring yourself too quickly. The game seems to have made it even easier somehow. You know that you should be putting up SHORING and probably looking at PLANS, but as you dig, things like that sort of seem to just take care of themselves.

The problem is, you’re starting to get bored. It was one thing in Hollow 1, where you sent little armies of DWARVES to dig a network of holes under the featureless game-planet. While they dug the MINES, you had to turn your attention to the many WARRING FACTIONS and RAMPANT CIVIL UNREST within your own settlements. You weren’t forced to focus on the digging.

There had also been a lot of quite creatively revolting MONSTERS to fight off.

You are about to worry about how that might work in the real world, what with those THINGS that like to lurk in the DARK, but then a new bit of EQUIPMENT pops into view. It appears as though it has been built into the wall, a few feet beyond the MINE ENTRANCE.

> Examine new EQUIPMENT.

It appears to be a COLOSSAL MAZE OF TUBES. There does not appear to be anything at all useful that can be done with them, other than to wonder at why Nick thought you needed this eyesore ruining the FENG SHUI of your MINE ENTRANCE.

Although after looking at it for a few moments longer, you see that what had first seemed to be a small series of very short TUBES is actually a CONTROL PANEL WITH COLOURED SWITCHES.

> Flip all of the RED SWITCHES.

Of course, the RED SWITCHES are always the best option. Especially when you have no idea what any of the SWITCHES do. You pick through the CONTROL PANEL, flicking up every single RED SWITCH.

Then you stand back and wait for something to happen.

1

> Laney: Explore

Previously, on GoldStruck!

This remains a collaboration with Dither.

> Explore.

Mind buzzing with the revelation that the Hollow series has apparently made a genre shift to PERVY HOUSE-PEEKING, you resolve to remove the WEBCAM from the computer in the STUDY. You are so weirded out that it doesn’t occur to you to consider the fact that you have no WEBCAMS in the house.

There is still a chance that your SISTER will try to rope you into helping to clean the house. You probably can’t climb down the tree to reach the ground safely, but there are other HOLES available.

> Find the most advantageous HOLE.

A doe-eyed SUSPICIOUSLY ANDROGYNOUS ACTOR gets a PUNCH IN THE GLOSSY FACE. You always though it was creepy anyway. You’re no stranger to gender ambiguity, but this… person has always taken it a little far.

This HOLE looks out over the SHED. It’s a bit of a squeeze, but the drop to the roof is of a negligible distance.

> Drop.

A cold breeze whips your long hair up straight over your head so that you resemble a TROLL. You hit the SHED ROOF with a heavy clang. The vibration of your landing still tingles through your legs as you climb down to the ground.

>

The heat of afternoon has already begun to fade. You look up at the leaves of the apple trees. It appears that Nick’s EVIL ORGANISATION SKILLS have been at work here as well. The trees that previously grew at random, thanks to POOR PLANNING have been moved into straight, orderly lines. They also don’t crowd the house anymore.

It looks BIZARRE.

> Find ZONED AREA.

You aren’t sure if you know what that means, although you seem to recall Nick saying something about it. With that vague knowledge in mind, you trek across the ORCHARD.

As you walk, a path of rich reddish brown soil begins to form beneath and ahead of you, apparently leading the way you need to go. Nick is so considerate.

You almost consider the fact that there are no WEBCAMS outside either. But your thoughts are suddenly consumed by a change in the landscape.

>

The rich colour of the path seemed to have expanded to cover an area the size of your LIVING ROOM. This area is cordoned off by POSTS and YELLOW CAUTION TAPE. In one corner of the area, you can see a neat pile of tools.

For a moment you wonder if Nick organised the tools as well, but then you decide that it’s probably just a feature of the game.

You’re still trying to figure out how the game can affect the REAL WORLD. But then you remind yourself that everything is REAL, for a given value of REAL, and stop worrying about it.

> Start digging.

You take and equip one lf the SHOVELS and walk over to the most DESIGNATED-looking part of the ZONED AREA.

It looks like you get to be the one doing the digging after all. You just hope that it doesn’t take too long. NIGHTFALL tends to bring out the ELDRITCH TERRORS.