Steve ran in front of me, waving his two-handed boffer blade before being struck by two heavily padded arrows shot from two toy bows. He fell to the ground with an absurdly dramatic "Ya got me! I'm going to die here on the cold ground, my life's blood draining away as my eyes stare off into nothingness..."

I ignored him, trying to get closer to our enemies before they reloaded, hiding behind the shield that was nearly as tall as me, barely poking my eyes over the top of the shield as I ran. I was holding my sword arm directly behind me at full extension with the boffer short sword, so I didn't accidentally extend my arm outside the protection of the shield as I ran. Danielle had good enough aim to hit my arm, and would try to. She'd done it before.

As I ran, closing the gap, the next two shots from Danielle and a new male player that I didn't know yet were low. One bouncing off the bottom of my shield, the other bouncing off the ground and barely grazing my leg. I called out "Light!" and kept running, but faked a bit of a limp.

The new guy to Danielle's right, my left, stepped in front of her and swung his bow in a wide sweep. I caught it on my shield with a muffled 'whump' noise as the plastic bow hit the foam padding on the front of my wooden shield. Whoah! Definitely new to LARPing. Rules review time!

"Watermelon!" I called out, and everyone stopped. "Thirty seconds everyone. Rules review." There were a couple sighs and various irritated grumpy noises, but no outright complaints. Most of our people knew not to whine too loud during rules reviews. It tended to drive away new players. Besides, we'd all done it every now and again, forgotten something about the safety rules when the adrenaline hit. Especially the guys, who would forget and start to swing with full extension. Even with boffer weapons, getting smacked in the nose with a full extension swing from someone hurt. Bow users were either supposed to drop their bows and use a boffer weapon, or just try to dodge or run away when approached by a melee weapon opponent or someone wearing boxing gloves that indicated deadly claws or natural weapons.

I looked at him, and could tell from his expression that he knew he had messed up. I bonked him on the head with my shortsword. Carefully. He grinned. "You know what you did wrong? That was pretty dangerous."

"Sorry. I wasn't thinking." His eyes flickered over towards Danielle.

I see.

Danielle smiled at me, with that impish grin of hers, and moved a bit farther behind him. When she knew she'd caught my eye, she gave me a big wink, while putting her right index finger into a ring formed by her left thumb and index finger, and moving the right index finger back and forth a bit.

I almost busted out laughing, but controlled myself with a grin.

The guy gave me a puzzled look, and then turned a little to see Danielle, clearly noticing that I was looking at her instead of him.

Danielle's face became instantly innocent, almost bored looking, and she reached her arm out to his elbow. "Listen to Shayla, Mark, she needs to explain what you did wrong."

Mark shrugged and obediently turned back to me. I started going over swing rules again for how to use boffer weapons and especially bows. He was commendably serious and apologized. I took out my infraction book and marked his name with a single infraction. Three infractions and he'd have to monster without weapons, or be a birdseed packet spellcaster for the rest of the weekend.

Danielle certainly wasn't completely innocent here. As I was re-explaining rules to Mark, she caught my eye again and held her hands about a foot apart, then made a huge-eyed expression of surprise as she looked at the space between her hands. I coughed and pounded my chest with my fist a second, apologizing to Mark as Danielle smiled a huge smile.

"Sorry, one sec, I think a bug flew down my throat."

No doubt this guy would be sharing her sleeping bag tonight, and she had probably been building up to it for a while, to the point where he was instinctively protecting her. He was a little tubby, maybe, but well-tanned and handsome. Maybe Mediterranean? He was wide across the shoulders, and had big hands. I looked again. Very big hands. Dragging my eyes away from his hands, I saw that his forearms were heavily muscled. He had probably been an athlete a few years ago in high school. Danielle might not just be playing games with my head. Sometimes her stories made me wish I could get into the whole non-committal relationship thing, but I'd tried it, and it really hadn't worked well with me. I couldn't deal with the risk. Computer games and books couldn't get me pregnant.

Smiling at my twin sister's antics, I finished explaining the rules, then added a bit extra. "OK. Cro-magnon instincts confirmed. Trying to protect the sexy lady archer is commendable. You can stand in front of her but you should fall if boffered enough to lower your health to zero. Try not to do it again, OK?"

He blushed a little bit and quickly glanced back at Danielle who smiled brightly and nodded. Cleverly, he turned back to me and said "Uh. Yes. I'll remember."

I nodded, and then, quickly, called out "Resume!" and boffered him a dozen times before he could back away, again and again until he pretend-fell down, lying on his back.

Mark was laughing but still complaining. "That wasn't fair. You're supposed to give a ten second warning before resume! I know I read that."

He was laughing, so he's not a creep. At least not a horrible creep. Have fun Sis.

"Oh. Hush. I'm doing you a favor." I said to him as I advanced on Danielle who was laughing hard and somehow managing to not be able to draw her bow and shoot at me. I boffered her until she was 'dead' too.

Before she fell down, she staggered several steps toward Mark while spinning around a couple times, and then fell to her knees and forward, draping herself across him. He caught her as she fell, but was clearly smart enough to figure out that she intended to fall exactly where she was falling, so he let her fall on top of him.

Danielle ducked her head up underneath his chin and wriggled her body to the position she wanted it in, then grabbed his left hand and looked closely at his fingers, before saying "Oh, Goodie."

Mark had a very stunned look on his face. One I had seen before with Danielle's LARP weekend conquests. As I turned around, Danielle was wriggling her hips against his a little bit, saying something about getting comfortable while they waited for the healers. As I turned away, I saw Danielle give me a thumbs-up.

You owe me one, sis. I thought as I turned away, my face feeling like it was on fire.

A few minutes later, I was standing up from where I had been laying on the ground (by myself) after being slaughtered by the enemy fortress champion. The match was ended, and the monsters had won. The 'healers' had raised us all, and Danielle was sitting in Mark's lap at a picnic table. I looked forward to hearing about it tomorrow. It was sure to be good relaxation material.

All of a sudden there was a whistle, and I heard Carrie call out. "Everyone, we have newcomers! Monster players from another LARP group in Cincinnati! They've brought an incredible beast costume. Please be extra careful with the boffers, we don't want to damage it."

The beast costume was pretty incredible looking, a giant scorpion. The man walking next to it was wearing a black robe, and a cheezy wizard hat with stars and moons. He was carrying two short boffer daggers.

The man spoke. "It's a tinker-made suit folks, you can hit it as hard as you want. Well, within the rules." He shrugged and grinned. "Wouldn't want anyone to get hurt, would we?"

Carrie blew her whistle again. "Let's give the new monsters a warm welcome, they are both enemies of the realm! Huzzah!"

There was a great cheer and most of us dashed forward, running until we were within a few feet of the giant scorpion and the wizard, then slowing and walking forward. The archers and spellcasters stayed back.

The wizard yelled "I am the great and mighty Whizbang, and this is my trusty mount, Crawler, you will never defeat us!" He jumped on top of the suit, standing there, and the suit didn't budge, just slowly waving its two large claws and tail.

Someone inside the scorpion suit said "Chitter. Chitter. Screee!", and there was a collective laugh from everyone as we started beating on the scorpion, and trying to get at the wizard, all of us calling out our weapon damage as we hit it repeatedly.

A few seconds later, the man in the scorpion suit, yelled out. "This is hilarious, Jack. We really need to do this again."

The wizard, who was still standing on the scorpion's back replied, "Yes. Yes, it is. And it's about to get a whole lot more fun!"

The wizard swung one of his boffer daggers into the crowd, and a small bag of birdseed flew out of my line of sight. "Death!" he cried, naming the high level spell. There was a gurgling scream. Someone had managed a great death sound. There was some cheering as we continued to beat on the scorpion and a couple people with longer weapons started getting hits on the wizard too.

The wizard and the man on the suit were laughing like madmen, really sounding evil. They were good. Really good.

Then I noticed that one of 'Whizbang's' boffer daggers had lost its sheath. We needed to get that handled before someone was hurt. As I called out "Watermelon" and backed away from the melee, I looked for Carrie. She might have seen where the boffer dagger padding had fallen.

Carrie was laying on the ground. That wasn't right. Carrie was handicapped, one leg and one arm missing from the aftermath of a cape fight, so we had special rules for engaging her, to keep her from being knocked off her feet. During special battles, when things might get a bit crazy, she always stayed back and acted solely as a judge.

I walked over to her where she was lying in a fetal position with her back to me, and toed her with my sneaker. "Hey, you're supposed to be watching and immune to cast spells." She didn't move. I pushed my toe against her again, just a little harder. "That means you, Carrie. Did you see where Jack's boffer cover went?"

I looked up and saw another new person. Some woman in a zebra outfit that made her look naked. I think you're here on the wrong weekend, lady. The furries are here next week, according to the park schedule. She was holding up a smartphone, clearly videoing the special melee. Maybe she was Jack's wife? I made a note to myself to talk to the woman after the special event. That is a pretty hot suit. I bet Danielle would love one like it. It would be an awesome Christmas gift, and I bet she would even blush when she opened it and realized what it was.

I noticed a heavy coppery smell, and someone nearby had clearly farted obnoxiously, recently because that scent was strong too. Carrie bounced forward weirdly, like there wasn't any muscle tone to her at all, and then she flopped back towards me. The front of her green dress was black with blood. Her hands were covered with blood, her arms. There was blood everywhere. I screamed, and jumped back.

I vaguely remember Jack's voice saying "Resume!" and then the chorus of screams started. For the rest of my life I would never forget the carnage. My LARP group almost literally exploded. Everyone in melee range of the scorpion died or was mortally injured instantly. The spray of blood blinded me momentarily, and I fell to my knees in shock, rubbing the blood out of my eyes instinctively.

"Catch them, my trusty scorpion steed, the archers and spellcasters must not escape!" The wizard yelled as he swung his arms back and forth. I heard more screams and watched the horrific scene in shock as the scorpion quickly skittered over the pile of my dead friends.

Jack. Jack Slash. Crawler. I looked over at the woman in the naked furry zebra suit. Siberian.

My mind stopped working as I knelt there.

A gentle hand cupped my chin and lifted my head so I could look forward. As my head came up, I saw brown leather boots under a black robe first, then noted the heavy splatters of blood on the boots and the robe. I tried to duck my head down again, but the hand was too strong.

A man's face looked into mine, his eyes darting from place to place on my face before he looked behind him, to his right, my left. "Yup. I bet I'm right. They're identical twins."

A little girl's voice said. "I'm not sure, Jack. They might just be fraternal. Oh, Jack, I have an idea!" I heard the sound of clapping and a light thumping, and an image of a little girl jumping up and down ecstatically popped into my head. "We can ask her! I'm sure she knows."

The man turned towards the little girl's voice and said. "You know, I bet you're right." He turned back to me, still holding my face up. "Riley, please bring her over here."

I heard the pitter-patter of little feet running, and then some little-girl grunts and something sliding across the ground. A little girl came into view, dressed almost like a doll, with cute pigtails. She saw me looking at her and waved at me shyly. "Hello, I'm Riley. Is this your twin sister or are you just fraternal?"

As she spoke, Riley finished pulling her burden. A woman's hand came into view, then the arm, and then the shoulder and then my sister's face, turned to me, a little dribble of blood coming out of her mouth, her eyes open and staring in my direction. Riley kept dragging her, and I noticed the rest of my sister was gone below the waist, red, ropy flesh hanging out.

"Danielle!" I screamed, and punched the man holding my face as I tried to scramble to my sister.

The man's face barely budged from my blow. He shook his head. "No, No. We don't want to know her name. Is she your identical, or fraternal twin?"

I just stared at my sister, and over her staring eyes I saw the pile of dead friends in LARP armor and scattered boffer weapons.

"This is all real. Ohgod. Please help me. Anyone help me." I whispered, knowing that there was no way I could possibly survive this. "Please kill me quickly." I whimpered.

The man smiled. "So confused." His head tilted a little to my right. "Help me." His head tilted back the other way a little, to my left. "Kill me. Which do you want?" He raised one eyebrow like Spock. "I have a better question. How are you even thinking about asking favors? You've been so rude. We just asked a simple question, and you haven't answered it. Is this young lady your fraternal or twin sister?" He paused a moment. "Sorry, wrong tense, I suppose. Was this young lady your fraternal or twin sister?" He smiled a friendly-uncle smile.

The friendly smile broke me. My hands jerked and moved to my throat, then there was darkness. A few moments later, my hearing returned and I heard voices.

Riley, no, Bonesaw was chattering excitedly. "It was a trigger, I know it! I know it! We can't kill her. You were pushing her so hard, Jack, she's bound to have something potent. We could even put her sister's corpse in a couple coolers and I'd have spare parts for her." She paused. "Can I keep her? Pretty Please?"

"Well, I suppose so, Riley. But she's your responsibility. If you forget to feed her, none of the rest of us will." That voice. So calm and mellow, it made it even more frightening.

I shivered violently as the little girl's voice responded. "I promise, I'll take good care of her and brush her hair and feed her, Jack. Promise. She's probably housebroken. Though, it seems like she might have broken training today."

The mellow voice spoke again. "OK, Riley. I'll hold you to that. Siberian, did you get most of that recorded? I really want to see the Youtube comments before they remove it." There was a pause, before he spoke again. "Great!"

A rough male voice chuckled and then spoke. "I'll never have to worry about being beaten to death with pipe insulation ever again!"

Four voices laughed at that.

My hand clenched in response on the USB pendant. I felt something. A strange sensation, like there was something active inside. That was clearly impossible. The only thing in the pendant was the storage chip for my current Dwarf Fortress game.

I felt it again. Then there was a weak voice in my head. Call us, Overseer. Call us. We're ready!

So this is what it's like to be insane. I thought to myself. Why not? Maybe if I lose myself in the insanity, I won't know what they do to me.

I chuckled to myself, and mumbled "All warriors of Axespeaker, to me! Protect your Overseer!"

I felt a strange sensation pass through my body, and all of a sudden I smelled leather and sweat.

I glanced up, and there were many absurdly thick, hairy, stumpy bodies in light blue armor surrounding me. Their ponytails were ankle length, and I could see beards just as long dangling from their faces. Their wrists were nearly as thick as my waist, and those wrists hung to their ankles when they stood upright. They couldn't have been over five feet tall, and they were broader across the shoulders than they were tall.

Haha welcome to insanity. Dwarves look exactly like I thought they did.

Bonesaw squealed in glee. "Jack, she's a Master! There must be a dozen of them. Armor, weapons, they are fantastic! This will be so fun!"

I felt huge hands quickly grab me, and a voice spoke, so deep that I felt it more than heard it. "Urist, the Overseer is Human? How can that be?"

Another incredibly deep voice. "Odo, I don't care if she's a fuzzy wambler, she's the Overseer. She called us here to protect her, and these other humans were surrounding her and offering her no succor from the megabeast there. Overseer are there any allies here? Can you speak?"

I whispered "No. They said I was the only one left." Urist Copperstriker, was my fortresses' most experienced legendary axemaster. He had defeated two forgotten beasts by himself after I accidentally opened a path to one of his socks he's lost in the third layer caverns, and he went to go retrieve it. I saw that this Urist was also missing a left hand. Could this be real? Could Bonesaw be right? Were these my dwarves, made real?

I laughed loudly. "Let's have FUN!" I shouted at the top of my voice. My dwarves roared in unison "For the Overseer of Axespeaker! Blood for Armok!"

I heard the mellow voice get a little excited. "Siberian, protect Riley and me. Crawler, get the girl! Do NOT kill her. If these things are half as tough and crazy as they look, she deserves a chance to join us."

Me. S9? My mind fled from the thought and I buried my face in the beard of the dwarf carrying me like an infant in its left arm. "Please, don't let them have me. Kill me before they can take me." I begged.

There was no verbal response for a moment, then a rumbling voice responded. "I, Odo Frostwheel, will honor your wish, Overseer."

Most of my dwarves had rushed forward, but a few stayed by me. One hammered his fist into the ground hard enough that I felt my bones shiver, and left it there for a moment. It, he, I think, nodded to himself. "There is no aquifier here, and the soil is deep. We can dig quickly. Shall I start?"

Odo replied quickly. "Yes, Iton, drive a shaft. Make it fast. Whatever that megabeast is, it's just ripped Ulok's arm off. Weapons just bounce off the other three. The Overseer had very powerful enemies."

I had to give them direction, they didn't know capes. "Tougher than a megabeast." I corrected. "Consider the crawling one a god. Delay it. The strongest and deadliest one is the striped one. She cannot be hurt, and anything she touches can't be hurt. She can destroy anything. She's worse than what lies under the adamantite layer. We cannot win here, we can only delay and attempt escape."

My dwarves muttered excitedly to themselves. The one that asked if he could start digging pulled a huge pick off his back, and started to swing. A literal fountain of dirt began to fly through the air behind the digger, and I heard my dwarves speaking again, but so low that I couldn't hear it over the noises of the digging.

Crawler shouted "Jack, the constructs have powers! Do you see the geokinetic there? The ones on me are all low grade brutes, and the blue axes actually cut me a little. Siberian, don't let them go, there are four of the constructs with crossbows pointed your way. This is awesome! I ripped one's arm off when it tried to bite me, and it laughed, picked up the arm, and started beating me with it."

The mellow voice again. So beautiful, so frightening. Despite all the noise, it cut through the air like he was speaking next to my ear. "Withdraw. We can't properly test her without agreement from the others, and Cherish and Burnscar went shopping. Crawler, get the ID from her sister's corpse. We'll find her again." He paused a moment, and then continued. Shivers ran up and down my spine as I could clearly sense the joy in his voice. "Girl, I like your style. You're going to fit right in. Like you said, it will be FUN!" He pronounced the last word with gusto.

Bonesaw whined. "You promised Jack, she would be mine, not a team member."

"It'll be more fun this way, Riley, can't you see it? The possibilities?"

"Well, I suppose so, Jack. Can I have a puppy instead?" There was a little whining tone in the voice at the end.

The dwarf carrying me backed slowly into the hole in the ground and my battered and bloody dwarves followed, being showered with the flood of dirt being thrown towards us by the dwarf whose pick was moving almost too fast to see. They were all grinning madly, one of them was dragging what looked like his own arm behind him, bleeding heavily and lurching a bit.

A couple minutes later at the end of a tunnel hundreds of feet long, now extending through at least fifty feet of stone, Urist Copperstriker reported to me as I was being carried. "The siege has been lifted, Overseer, but if I understood them right, they will return. We will need to prepare. They are too strong to fight in the open. The zebra-striped one destroyed my masterwork shield with a headbutt when I tried to bash her." He shook his head and lifted his artifact adamantite axe, ringed with obsidian, menacing with spikes of diamond. "Even Catgutter couldn't cut the zebra-striped one, but she seemed surprised when I struck her with it and she slapped it out of my grasp. It almost seemed like she thought she should be able to damage an artifact axe. Madness."

I realized that I was seeing everything like it was in full daylight. Why can I see underground? There's not even a torch here?

One of the other dwarves had found a boulder and carved a crude chair out of it in thirty seconds, and the dwarf carrying me set me in it.

The coldness of the stone made me shiver. The shivering made me remember. "Danielle." I sobbed, numb, emotion beginning to seep back into me as I sat on the stone chair.

With the exception of Urist, all of my dwarves found something else to look at, examining the walls and floor, looking at stone and soil, anything but looking at me. One of them started etching something into a wall with a small tool. Urist leaned forward a bit towards me, eagerly. "They killed your sister, did they? I heard them say that." His eyes bored into mine. Grey clouds in white orbs, glinting with barely suppressed madness. "Is this blood feud, Overseer Shayla?"

All of a sudden, I remembered. Urist was a vampire dwarf. At least I was pretty certain he was. I had suspected it after he survived the two forgotten beasts while collecting his old sock.

His eyes ignited a well of hatred within me, which began to grow, consuming all other emotion. I stared back into Urist's eyes, feeling the challenge from him, towards me. Emotion bounced back and forth between us, growing in intensity as we locked eyes. My sadness drained away, replaced by hatred. Pure, cold hatred. I felt my hatred flow to my dwarves, who all turned to me and stood just a little straighter, looked a little bit angrier. Except the dead one missing an arm. He seemed to have disappeared.

Urist finally turned away from me in submission, with a little bow, and I responded to him. "Yes, it is blood feud, Urist."

They all cheered at my declaration, a bloodthirsty howl.