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The barbarian exploded from the folding table launching dice, game pieces, and potato chips in every direction.

Tony, Piper, and Bart dove to the carpet for cover.

“What did you do?!” Piper screamed at Tony.

“What did I do?!?” Tony army crawled away from the disaster.

“Yeah, you butthead. You rolled!”

“Are we gonna die?” Bart squeaked from under his chair.

The barbarian groaned, pushed himself up from the soda-drenched carpet and wrapped his fingers around the hilt of his sword.

“Who dares attempt to capture Anton the Great?!” The barbarian stood to his full height, shaking dark matted hair out of his face.

Tony and Piper scooted further away, suddenly wishing for chairs of their own.

“I swear by my ancestors’ souls, whoever has attempted my capture shall pay with their… blood!” Anton unsheathed his sword, swung it in a wild arc and stabbed at the remains of the table. His bloodshot eyes surveyed the room and evaluated the trio of tweens.

“What kind of coven is this? Are you magic-wielding halflings?”

Tony gulped, hopped to his feet, and held up his hands. “Great Anton… the Great. We brought you here through our magic for we are… fans of your orc killing.”

Anton rubbed his stubbly chin and adjusted the green amulet strapped to his wrist.

Piper stepped forward. “Yes. We are magical. And we offer you the hospitality of our humble dwelling.” She gestured to Bart, speaking through gritted teeth. “Why don’t you get our honored guest some refreshment?”

Bart shuffled on his knees, picked up a crushed bag of Doritos, and offered them to Anton.

The barbarian glowered, pointing his sword at Bart’s bellybutton. “If this is an attempt to poison me, you will not live to tell of it.”

In a show of quick thinking that surprised both Tony and Piper, Bart shoveled a fistful of broken chips into his mouth and chewed vigorously. “Not poisoned.” Orange flecks spewed from his lips.

Anton slowly stuck a meaty hand into the bag, retrieved a small sample of the snack, and chomped on it. Confused elation crossed his face.

“Ha!” Anton seized the bag from Bart. “I like these! I shall have more!”

The barbarian plopped his hulking frame down on a beanbag chair. “Fetch me something to drink. For my thirst is great.”

Piper prodded Bart along. “Keep him happy,” she said as she and Tony stepped aside into the stairwell.

“Well, this is a great mess you’ve gotten us into.” Piper glared at Tony.

“Me??” Tony shook broken chips out of his curly hair.

“Anton the Great? That’s your character. You didn’t recognize his sword, the Decapitator Express?”

Tony sat on a bottom step and peered through the stair railing at the barbarian, who sat licking Dorito dust from his fingers. “He’s even got the scar on his chest from fighting that three-headed pig-bear.” Tony smiled giddily. “Just like in the game.”

“Stop fanboying,” Piper said. “How did this happen?”

Tony bit his lip. “The thing on his wrist! It’s the relocation amulet. We were trying to pass the Mudwood Lagoon and I rolled to use the amulet.”

“You’re right.” Piper punched Tony in the shoulder. “This is your fault. You could have made up nonsense words for the incantation, but noooo. You had to use actual Druidic.”

Anton the Great belched heartily as he guzzled Mountain Dew.

“Did you write some way to reverse the spell?”

“Well yeah, there’s a reverse incantation.” Tony rubbed his shoulder. “But there’s no way to know if it would work.”

“Of course it’ll work. That amulet brought him here in the first place. Use that Druidic mumbo-jumbo to send him back.”

“Whoa.” Tony held up his hands. “Could we look at the bright side? We have our own barbarian! This is great!”

“‘Great?” Piper sneered.

“Sure. He could help us. He could beat up Kyle Crowl for us.”

“Are you stupid? He would disembowel Kyle Crowl.”

“You say that like it’s a bad thing.”

Piper rolled her eyes. “I’d think you would have a little more hesitation about hacking up our classmates.”

“MORE DORITOS!!!” bellowed Anton the Great.

Piper sighed, crossing her arms. “Dude, you realize he isn’t a good person, right? He’s the one who starts brawls in every tavern and robs random strangers.”

“Hey!” Tony pointed at Piper. “We all said that was faithful to the character. Besides, I always gave some of that stolen gold to you and Bart.”

Bart offered Anton the Great a bag of dried banana chips his mother had sent with him.

“Yeah,” Piper said. “And it was hilarious. But that was the campaign. Here? Less funny. We can’t control him. You think we’ll be able to buy him off with Doritos once he figures out there’s a world beyond this basement? A world where he has access to booze?”

Tony peered through the railings. The barbarian held Bart by the shirt—much like Kyle Crowl often did to Tony—and spat half-chewed banana chips in Bart’s face.

Tony hung his head. “He’s just another bully, isn’t he?”

Piper put her hand on Tony’s shoulder. “Yup. A bully with a broadsword.”

Tony nodded, stood up, and stepped out of the stairwell.

“Anton the Great!” he yelled. “Your respite here is over. It is time to return to your quest.”

The barbarian grunted. “Fetch me more food, little wizard. I have not yet satisfied my hunger.”

Tony narrowed his eyes. “You are no longer welcome in this realm. Begone!”

Anton the Great shoved Bart to the ground and stood, reaching for his sword.

Tony raised his arms. “SÊM-ah-NÙM, OMË-om-SÅÅL!

The amulet gleamed. A flash of emerald lightning filled the room and Anton the Great vanished.

Piper helped Bart to his feet. The three friends surveyed the damage from their encounter. Tony picked up the tiny pewter figure of Anton the Great.

“Tony,” Piper said, “your character is truly a butthead.”

Tony nodded.

Bart peeled a soggy banana chip off his cheek. “So… Mario Kart?”

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About the author

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Andrew Swearingen is an aspiring Sci-fi writer, living in the hidden kingdom that is Southern Illinois. He spends his spare time playing board games with his wife, wrestling with his dog, and has on numerous occasions saved the city from invasion by mutant koalas.

(One of those isn't completely true, but we'll let you guess which one.)

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