Being an account of Minecraft
I play Minecraft on a server with a group of friends. The other day, one of them created – and then released – The Wither. None of us were really ready for it. This is a dramatization of that encounter.
The world had no name. It floated amongst the pale stars in quiet and near-perfect solitude. Its human inhabitants were few in number, and for the most part peaceful, save for those nights when the monsters came and the people would creep forth from their citadels to raise feeble attempts to stem the dark tide.
There were a few such inhabitants whose names were known above all others. From the swamps of the west came Panzer, hardy and warlike, whose skill in the construction of monuments was synonymous with art itself. In the central region dwelt the forest children – Xavier and Christian – whose sturdy structures and deep delvings were the wonder of all. On the large hill to the north lay the glowing tower of the Bear; its might and glory rising high above the treeline that surrounded it. In the far deserts to the Northwest lay the twinned realms of Ender the Roadbuilder and Smacle the Shepherd, whose multihued flocks and sprawling orchards and enclosures provided a bounty undreamed of in the realms of the south. Across the burning sands, high on the Cliffs of Bone lay the subterranean realm of Lucky the Enigmatic; a remote and whimsical creature of unknown aspect and intent.
There was another being also, one who would come to alter the fate of the world. He dwelt alone in a tower of stone and obsidian, surrounded by cloistered farms and ranches. In the innumerable days since the beginning of the world, he had striven to build a tower that would scrape the very vaults of heaven itself, and in time his work did just that. Grey and featureless, the Great Tower rose like a pillar to hold up the sky, and its crown burned with the eternal fires of the Nether. The great architect was rarely seen, though his workshops brought forth wondrous weapons and armour of diamond and gold. He was known only as Jester; a fitting moniker for a man whose impetuousness and levity of character would come to be the ruination of all.
What was not known to the other inhabitants was that the Great Tower was far more than a testament to the ambition and hubris of man; it was merely a shell – a vast hollow space enclosed by the thinnest cobblestone casing. And in the magma-lit caverns at the base of the tower, Jester’s creative genius was grotesquely merged with the seeds of his madness, and an abomination was born.
As the infant realms of the world grew larger and more advanced, some of them had begun to experiment with technologies that would allow them to pierce the veil between worlds and open doorways to the hellish dimensions of the Nether. Certainly Ender the Roadbuilder had accomplished such a feat; deep in the bowels beneath his desert kingdom, Ender had constructed a fortified and isolated facility wherein he sought to master the twisting chaos of the Nether. But he was not alone, and he was not the first, for Jester had long been in possession of such dangerous technologies. And while Ender sought to explore and carefully exploit the strange resources of the Nether, Jester had sought to bring war there.
In a series of daring raids, Jester marshalled all of his skill at arms and blended it with his equally puissant smithing abilities, and he used them both to cut a wide swath of death and destruction through the repugnant and unholy denizens of the Nether. Upon locating a fortress in that dimension, Jester brought the full weight of his might down upon it and succeeded in annihilating countless numbers of the creatures that dwelt within. He then returned to his own plane carrying with him the trophies of his conquest.
Not content to merely display his new acquisitions, Jester sought to improve upon the already dreadful forms of the nether-creatures, and in his secret laboratory beneath the Tower, he became midwife to the emergence of doom incarnate; he named the entity Withers.
It was then, in his greatest moment of triumph, that Jester realized his dreadful, fatal mistake, for while his laboratory could create unholy life, it could not contain it. With thunderous roars and deadly magicks, the three-headed abomination smote the tower from within and in moments had reduced it to a burning, crumbling ruin. The creature then felt the open air upon its flesh for the first time and with a mighty scream of triumph, began its assault on the nameless world. In desperation, Jester sought to lead the creature away from his home – away from those things he treasured most. He fled far to the Southwest, into the wintry tundra where no one dwelt, Withers chasing him and harrying his every step with deadly rains of explosive, corrupting blasts of fell energy. In desperation, Jester employed more of his arcane technologies and summoned the aid of those who might stand against the foul product of his overweening pride. And his summons was answered.
From the scorching deserts, the Roadbuilder heard the summons and was pulled by unknown means from his home to reappear at Jester’s side. In the swamps, Panzer too heard the urgent cries and paused only long enough to put down his tools and pick up his weapons before he too flashed across the empty miles to join Jester and Ender in combat.
But the fury of Withers could not be countered, and with barely a pause, the creature destroyed them. It was only through the strange technological sorceries of Jester that allowed the heroes to return to fight again. And again. And again. Each time the warriors hurled themselves into the fight, they were cast down and smote to ruin; each time they sought to counter the deadly might of Withers, they were undone. In desperation, Ender hastily constructed a fierce golem of iron, but the beast reduced it to ash and slag. Slowly, surely, the warriors fell back and Withers, obsessed now with their destruction, followed them. The creature pushed the heroes back beyond the Tower where it was born, back into the very recesses of Jester’s mighty bastion; and there it laid siege to them.
For days the heroes struggled to hold the monster back; for days they succeeded only in maintaining a desperate stalemate. Panzer’s attempts to flank and destroy the creature were thwarted, as Withers seemed to have eyes everywhere. With only a pause to consider the possible collateral damage, Panzer attempted to smother the beast with lava, only to have the molten rock flow down into the keep itself, consuming Jester before his devices brought him screaming back to life once again. Ender’s attempts to wound the creature only enraged it, and in its fury and with a dreadful surge of effort, it smashed down the outer walls of the keep and roared in amongst them. The siege was broken; the creature was inside. The storerooms and barracks crumbled and broke, and the heroes were forced ever deeper into the bowels beneath the ruined keep. But wherever they went, Withers followed, its baleful eyes and furious energies hounded them wherever they went. Ender and Jester strove to connect deeper safe rooms and barracks with ones nearer the surface through narrow, secret tunnels, but Withers found them and chased them deeper still. Ender lost count of the number of times he had died. He could remember burning alive, or being crushed by falling masonry; he could feel the corrupting, life-stealing touch of Withers and could recall the feeling of limbs being blown from his torso, but he could no longer discern any chronology to them. He had lived – and died – more times than could be counted. And still Withers came.
At last, driven by fear, desperation, and despair, the heroes retreated. They dug their way out from the ruined foundations of the keep and emerged once again to the surface. Where once a mighty keep stood, there was now only a blasted, smoking crater – a wound scoured deeply into the earth. And still the sounds of Withers’ rage could be heard. A small camp was set up across the river, and the heroes attempted to rally, but when Withers finally burst forth from the earth, the heroes broke and ran, leading withers off to the Southeast, where he killed them again. The party was defeated. They could not contain the creature, and they knew that his destructiveness would not abate. But they could not stop him.
Ender was the first to leave. Returning briefly to his first home – a castle partially buried in a rocky mountain – he gathered up a few meagre possessions and fled to the underground road he had built so long ago. His route took him beneath the ruins of the Tower and the keep, and carried him back into the desert where he belonged. Though Withers might one day find him, he vowed that he would spend his time preparing for its coming.
The fates of the others were less certain; Jester, aggrieved by the loss of his home and by the destruction of his dreams, pondered abandoning the world entirely; surely there were others amongst the pale stars that might serve as a new home? Panzer vowed to destroy the beast, but despite his determination, his chances seemed slim. The others remained hidden; the Bear in his tower, Smacle in the desert, and the ever-laughing Lucky high atop the Cliffs of Bone.
And Withers yet remains, raging and destroying the lands near the ruined Tower. In time, it may be defeated. But not yet.