Grumpy64 stares at me while I finish laughing. Finally, he says, “Who or what is ‘Red Robin’?”

“Based on that small confirmation, they are a defunct restaurant chain specializing in Hamburgers and ‘bottomless fries. ‘Bottomless fries’ are an ‘all-you-can-eat’ option.”

“It doesn’t surprise me that you know about something that doesn’t exist. But how did you know how to set up the spell?”

“All of the advanced cantrips covered in the two books use some simple physical object or gesture and a common phrase, usually a marketing jingle or slogan from the brands and companies I recognized. You don’t have to have anything as specific as a red plate or a silver spoon. So as long as you have the apparent physical object to go with the jingle, you have an Advanced Cantrip. Nirvana picked easy things for the cantrips. She’s using this to get people interested in the past—simple, fun, and useful things to get you started working on improving your avatar and then looking for the more complex items. Want to try another one?”

“More food?”

“Yes. I’m confident that many of the food jingles work because Nirvana would have wanted you to be able to feed yourselves if you couldn’t fish or hunt, and agriculture takes time to set up. I’m even sure that many of these were known in the beginning but faded from use over time as more efficient methods came online or were hoarded knowledge used to control early populations.”

“Hmm. That actually makes quite a bit of sense. I’m game; let’s confirm your theory. I might eat that, so let’s get another plate.”

Pulling a chair out a little, “I’m a step ahead of you!” I had Millie bring several bowls and plates earlier and placed them on the chair, so I wasn’t cluttering the table. “I’m very curious how this will turn out.” I handed him two bowls and a plate. “The phrase for this one is, ‘When you’re here, you’re family.”

“How should I hold these three items?”

“That’s the part I’m not sure about, so why don’t you stack the two bowls on the plate and hold the plate?”

Grumpy prepared and then said the phrase. The bowls lifted off the plate and landed on the table, one filled with soup, one with salad, and the plate had five garlic breadsticks on it. “That one cost more than the usual ten mana; looks like fifteen.”

“You also got a meal for two out of it.”

“I did. What restaurant is this one from?”

“Olive Garden. This one was obscure before I died as they didn’t advertise the same way they did when I was a young man. I’ve got a few more to try; take this mug – now say, ‘Wouldn’t you like to be a Pepper too?’ That cantrip summons a drink called Dr. Pepper, another cola with cinnamon in it! I’ll do this one; I did it earlier. You hold your hand like you were holding something small and offering it to someone else, and then say, ‘Double your pleasure, Double your fun!’ That there is only a cantrip – and you get two sticks of gum!” I drop them on the table. “Gum, doesn’t work with my feline teeth. Oh, this one’s a cantrip too! See how I hold my hand like I have a rod in it? Ok, ‘Almond Joy’s got nuts!’ Wait, there’s more to the candy bar one. You hold your hand like I did and say, ‘Mounds don’t!’ Trade me; I like Mounds better! I have to stop, though. I don’t have a mana pool yet.”

Shaking his head, Grumpy said, “Jeb, I already feel completely vindicated in my investment in you. The cantrips will be great additions to the manuals – especially for explorers moving through the wilds. The knowledge about what to look for to find other food cantrips is the most valuable addition. After the other branch officers learn of it, I think they will agree to waive your first year’s dues and make you a member, and that’s before you surprise us with answers to questions we haven’t even asked you yet!”

Still chewing, “I’ll take it. I was going to sign up anyway. So let’s exchange a few questions. Where should I go to get training in fighting, unarmed and with my weapons?”

Mason answered as she slid into a chair, “Unarmed is easy; what weapons do you want to learn?”

“Welcome, Mason – and I see Gilden is behind you too.” I wave at him while he pulls out a chair. “I picked a ranseur and a bola, but I am also interested in chakrams, or weaponized frisbee.”

Gilden says, “I know someone who can teach you basics for a bola; it’s a great weapon that can be non-lethal at short range.”

“And I can teach you pole-arm basics while we try and find somebody who specializes in the ranseur,” says Grumpy. “I’ve never heard of a weaponized frisbee, but I have heard of chakrams.”

Mason said, “I know a woman from the south Chinese faction who uses chakrams. She once told me that they were ancient weapons from before China absorbed India. She also said they aren’t very practical and that throwing stars are better.”

I made a mental note about China and responded, “That’s fine. Some experience is all I am looking for; the final weapon won’t be either of those. At some point in the future I will be looking for training with a knife and a saber. I do intend to do some exploring and traveling, and I just know there’s going to be conflict when you get rewarded for killing other players.

Gilden says, “Well, that is both practical and accurate, less of an issue in the city, but everybody’s fair game in the wilds. What did you learn before we got here, Grumpy?”

  — * ~ * —

Mason says, “I second that. Let’s make him a member and waive his dues.” Gilden nods, “I agree too.”

“Nice, well then here’s one I think you will need a sack or a bag for, ‘Where’s the beef!’ This should create a paper-wrapped cheeseburger without the egg and a double handful of a different cut of french fries. I would also try it with a glass or mug in the other hand – you might get a coke too.”

Gilden exclaimed, “Fast Food! What chain is it from?”

“There was a series of Wendy’s commercials before the internet became mainstream. If I can remember the Big Mac jingle, I’ll share that one too.”

The three of them looked at each other, “None of us know Wendy’s,” said Grumpy.

“That’s too bad. I so want to ask questions, but if I do, I won’t get to the important things. Instead, do you know what a graveyard is? With avatars vanishing after you die, I’m concerned that there won’t be one here.”

Mason responded first. “Um, sure. There’s a graveyard just outside of town. Adventures farm undead there, mostly for basic weapons training.”
Gilden shook his head. “It’s obvious now that you said it. Why do we have a graveyard? Who built it?”

“I didn’t think about it either,” Grumpy said. “Every village eventually gets a graveyard, and it’s bigger when there are more people nearby. Nearly everybody does the same thing too; they use it to train with weapons as that also keeps the undead under control.”

I said, “I want to go and see it – in fact, that’s my first errand!”

Mason asked, “Will you tell us why?”

“After we get there and I look around, if it’s not what I am expecting, I’ll share what my theory was. If it is what I am expecting, we’ll conduct a search, and I’ll tell you afterward. And we may need shovels.”

“I just know I’m going to get undead goo on me,” whined Mason.

Gilden and Grumpy grinned at her.

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