The air in the "head office" had a moist, tangy smell to it. Something like flowers, or fruit. Grass, maybe. There was dried grass on some of the things in here. Lots of plants. Green leaves and gray stone. The whole place was made of grass and glass and scary masks.
Stanley let the big double door swing closed behind him.
From the raised stone platform by the doorway, the trapezoidal room looked sunken into the floor. He walked down two stone steps and stood on the wool carpet, a strip of red which led all the way across the room to what he guessed was his desk. Was his desk made of grass, too? It looked like reeds or something.
Hm. He liked the carpet. Springy. The rest of it, he wasn't sure yet.
It was warmer in here than he was used to. Usually at the top of a big tower you'd get a chilly breeze, and there'd been a cold draft out in the hallway. But in here the air was still and sultry. This whole big space seemed to be sealed up by the two gigantic picture windows that formed the west-facing wall. Except for a sound like a babbling stream, it was very quiet.
He stood there and imagined himself as Wanda or somebody, coming to see the Tool.
The one thing that hit you right away was all the scary faces, everywhere you looked, staring right at you. That was a pretty cool effect, actually. There was that huge angry wooden mask in the far corner. Nice. And in the corners to either side of him stood two wooden poles that were stacked up with more mean-looking painted faces.
At the other end of the office, two big stone busts that looked a lot like the tower itself stood guard over the seat of power. They loomed almost all the way to the ceiling, looking down their sloping noses at you. And all along the red carpet leading to his desk were these ugly little stone heads with snarls on their faces, glaring up from the floor.
They were funny. He wanted to kick one of them in the teeth and send it rolling, but he might break his toe. Instead, he plucked the Arkenhammer off his hip and brought it down hard on the top of the skull of the nearest one. The knee-high carving shattered into a couple of hundred shards of porous black rock, which skittered over the bare basalt of the floor.
"Haha!" he laughed, and then pointed the 'hammer around at all the other faces in the room. "That's a lesson for you all!"
Stanley put the Arkentool back on his hip, and sauntered down the carpet.
The bubbling sound was a hot spring or something, which took up most of the southern half of the office. This was a pool of churning, foaming water, with a permanent waterfall splashing into it. The pool was surrounded by rocks and little bushes. It was weird, having something like this inside of a building, let alone at the top of a high tower.
He wandered over to the reddish rocks at the water's edge, and looked in. There were steps and a handrail, apparently so you could get in it. But why would you?
He touched the rail, and stared down into the water. There were powerball lights set into the floor of it, which made the patches of bubbles look like an ever-changing battle map. Mountains and seas and territories formed and broke apart, before he could imagine how he would conquer them. It was strangely relaxing. The steam from the water smelled clean, kind of piney. The bubble worlds churned on and on, forming and falling.
After a surprisingly long while, he looked up.
Right, the new office.
He walked over to the angry mask in the corner, which was leaning against a skinny potted tree. The red, yellow and blue painted face was taller than he was. It would be impossible to wear this thing as a mask, except maybe if you were a giant. But that's what it was, a mask. He traced a finger along the inside of the eye hole, then glanced down at the city through the wall of glass.
"Hmf. Good view, anyway," he muttered, eyeing the troops all the way down Mainway to the front gate.
Spacerock wasn't his favorite city, but it was pretty decent. And he liked that it used to be Slately's. King Slately would have had this same view for a few thousand turns, looking down on his subject. So smug. Such a jerk.
But now there was no more Slately, and this city was all his. That counted for a lot, didn't it? That said a lot about the Titan's will. It really did.
Walking over to the desk, he touched the back of one of the big guardian heads. The stone felt rough, cold, and as solid as a mountain. In contrast, his new desk and chair were both built out of wood and reeds or something. They looked like they would blow over if he sneezed too hard.
On the desk was a powerball lamp in the shape of a woman wearing coconuts on her boobs and a skirt made of dried grass. He examined the lamp, parted the skirt with his thumb and forefinger, and giggled when he confirmed that she had nothing on underneath. There was also a very tiny guitar or something on the desktop, with only four strings on it. It did not look like it would rock out very hard. He sniffed, and kept walking.
Past the second stone head was a conference table and chairs, all made out of the same woven reed stuff. One of the chairs was huge. He didn't think he wanted to sit in a chair like that; it would make him look small. But then he realized that the chair was probably for Hamster, and he snickered. Now he wanted to call a meeting immediately, just to watch the big potato try and sit in that thing and break it.
Except that Hamster and three of Stanley's casters were back in the Magic Kingdom, including Maggie, who was the only one he could talk to. Jack was too strange to make good company. And he didn't speak to Wanda unless he had to. He'd sent for his lackey, Zhopa, but the twoll was still six turns away. And he'd lost his Knights, too...
Man, it was lonely at the top!
There was only one feature left to inspect: the bar. This was made up to look like a thatch-roofed hut or something, made from that same reedy-looking material, with four stools up front that Hamster would definitely bust if he sat on them.
He put the 'hammer on the bar counter and stepped inside the hut. The back wall was all shelves, stacked with a couple dozen exotic-looking bottles. Beneath the bar counter was an ice box, a collection of odd utensils, and some glassware with more scary faces carved on them.He took out a green tumbler, set it on the bar, and stared it in its beady little eyes. He bared his teeth, trying to match its expression of rage.
Stanley didn't really drink. When he was an infantry unit, drinking was like... a competition. But the other pikers could always outdrink him because of their size. Then when he became an Overlord, he'd discovered he still didn't like the taste of ale or whiskey. So he rarely touched the stuff. He supposed the bar was pretty neat, but he didn't think he needed to start drinking just because he had it.
"White rum," said the green glass to him.
His hand shot out and snagged the handle of the Arkenhammer from the bar. He brought it up en garde, threatening to smash the thing.
"What?" he snarled. His heart was pounding. He tried to con, but could see no points on it. It was not a unit.
"White rum," the glass repeated. "You need it. You're jumpy."
"White rum..." said Stanley.
"White rum," said the glass. "Behind you."
Stanley pivoted, half expecting some new phantom back there to jump out at him. But there were only the bottles of liquor. And one of them was glowing with a white aura.
Stanley held the Arkenhammer near the green glass with his right hand, while grabbing the glowing bottle with his left. The glass did not move, but the beady eyes tracked him. He set the bottle on the bar next to it.
"White rum," said the Overlord. He still held the 'hammer over the top of the tumbler's... forehead. "Right?"
"Right. Don't smash," said the glass. "Get smashed. Pour a splash."
"Okay," said Stanley.
You had to be decisive in a situation like this. He could have demanded answers from his drinkware, but that would have meant thinking up some questions. Better to play it cool, like this was no big deal. He unstoppered the bottle, and sloshed a little of the clear liquid into the top of the glass. The glass' rage-face turned to a grin.
"That's good," said the glass. Then the mouth returned to its angry scowl. "Gold rum."
"One more time. What was in it?"
"Splash of white rum, splash of gold rum, splash of dark rum, splash of overproof rum, splash of apricot brandy, lime juice, pineapple juice, ice," said the glass. It sat wedged in between two rocks at the edge of the hot spring, just across from Stanley. It was empty, he'd seen to that. His pruney hands tingled. Bubbles in the water tickled his legs and bare butt.
"That is a weird recipe," said the Tool, "for happiness." He rested his wet hair on the ceramic edge of the spring, closed his eyes and smiled. The room seemed to rock like a gentle boat.
"Not happiness," said the wooden mask. "You're not happy."
Stanley opened one eye. "Oh yeah? Feel pretty good right now."
"You're lonely," said one of the guardian heads.
"And mad," said the mask.
"You aren't mellow, Kahuna," said the glass.
The bubbling continued for a while.
"I'm drunk," was all Stanley could think of to say.
"Aye," said the glass again. "That's a start."
After another moment, Stanley pulled himself up to the edge of the tub and sat up, and said to the green glass, "Hey you can't tell me I'm not happy. You're not in my head. I'm in yours!" He splashed water at the empty tumbler, which didn't even do him the courtesy of flinching. "And you need a name, so I can yell at you."
All of the faces in the room could talk. They had been talking. But it had taken him a little while to realize that they were all the same person. Or, thing: the tower. The big giant ugly head he was currently living inside had some stuff it wanted to talk to him about. So far, that stuff mostly involved drinking rum and relaxing and achieving "mellowness."
"I am," said the glass. "I need no name."
"Yeah, you do," said Stanley.
"Fine," said one of the little heads by the carpet. "Name me."
"Jed," said Stanley decisively. "Jed the Head."
"I am," said the right guardian head, "Jed the Head."
"No wait, Fred!" said Stanley. "Fred the Head's better. Fredhead. Or Ed."
"Too late," said the mask. "I am Jed the Head."
"Ted?" offered Stanley.
"Oh come on!" said the Overlord.
"No," said the left guardian head. "It is sealed. I am named."
"Awww!" said Stanley. He punched a rock, and skinned his knuckle.
"Kahuna," said the green glass.
- ^Stacks of faces It sounds like on both sides of the door are totem poles.
- ^Conquering bubbles Stanley, a fighter and Overlord, being caught up in conquering imaginary lands is an interesting parallel to Wanda imagining how to uncroak Dice's dice back in IPTSF_Text_7
- ^Tiny guitar A ukelele.
- ^Knights see: Hvs.tCF_18
- ^con The term hasn't been used before, but it can be assumed that "con" is a word for "looking at a unit's points". Possibly short for "connaissance"
- ^cocktail Although there are many variations on the Zombie, this is the specific recipe that comes up when googling for "zombie drink ingredients"
- ^Kahuna Kahuna is a Hawaiian word meaning "priest, sorcerer, magician, wizard, minister, expert in any profession." In broader culture, the phrase "Big Kahuna" has come to mean simply someone who is the best at something, or is in charge.