What was the first sign that something had changed on the mountain?
Shopkeeper 2: We all knew some of those passes were treacherous. It wasn’t the kind of route I would recommend just anyone climb without equipment; there were rocks, crevasses, even ice slides. So the first time the snow hit, I figured it was just runoff. Then it kept piling up and didn’t stop, and I realized I wasn’t prepared. So I just strapped myself in and got ready for the long haul.
Clock Wizard: I remember it well, it was around 6:00, call it 5:50, no, 5:52, the first flurries descended. Pretty soon the winds picked up, the skies were clouded over, and all my sundials were completely useless.
Cave Elf: I’d been dodging a stalactite when I saw an enormous icicle start to form. I figured, well, it’ll fracture soon enough, but then there came dozens more. I tried to count them all...one, two, they didn’t hang in neat ordered sets or anything. That was when I figured it was time to take cover.
How did life change in the immediate aftermath?
Shopkeeper 1: Well, I was selling ice picks, but I didn’t think anybody would be so rash as to actually purchase them and try to summit the mountain in the middle of a storm that never let up. Guess I was half-right. Many of my customers ignored those, tried to accumulate them some other way, but I did start doing a good trade in nets four at a time. Guess those little elves were too profitable to ignore.
Clock Wizard: For us at the foot of the mountain surprisingly little. Without the Master of Mischief in close proximity I tried to carry on as normal, winding my gears and adjusting my chains as need be. The weather made it dismal, of course, but one perseveres.
Cave Elf: Up in the caves the crystals began multiplying. Where once there had been only two or four, they grew by the ten and hundredfold. I wasn’t sure whether there was some dark magic in the air, but they didn’t seem to have been cursed in any way.
And what about the mountain’s new arrivals?
Scroll Elf: It was frustrating knowing that some of my comrades were content to play their part in the Master’s economy, running away from anyone who tried to help and only begrudingly giving money if they were caught. I tried to blend in with them, scurrying around in the snow just like everyone else, but unobtrusively signaling that I was willing to give information about the treasures. Not all of us were on his side.
Snowman (sneezing): Yes, well, it got very tedious guarding those gates. I would have liked to think of some more curious riddles, but my brain froze quite frequently, so I settled for puzzles with answers we could all agree were fairly objective.
Snowbully: ...leave me alone, huh, who says I’m gonna help out with this stupid book of yours, nyah...the mountain was a great time, gettin’ to fly around and beat up wannabe heroes, rob ‘em blind. Better then than all this no-good heat, that’s what I say...now leave me alone, jerks, I’m meltin’…
Did you ever keep in contact with other occupied territories?
Chirp the Snowbird: Occasionally. When I thought things were under control I would soar up to the top of the mountain to get a bird’s-eye view, as it were, of the broader area. Every once in a while I’d look in on a blimp race in the Gizmos realm, or tune into a hijacked broadcast from the OutNumbered facility. Little acts of sabotage against the Mischief-maker gave me hope to pass along.
Scroll Elf: I tried. One of the Number Munchers seemed a bit too enthusiastic about trying to help out and kept trying to sink her teeth into a snowball pile, which only made her cold and unhappy, so that was the end of our plans to recruit allies from elsewhere.
Snowbully: ...you better believe we did...lemme tell you, it ain’t pretty shootin’ the breeze with minions out in the searin’ heat, though. Those moron chimps would be distracted by the first banana some dumb hero threw at them, the electric curled up into a ball at the first counterattack, and don’t get me started on all the Troggle trouble. Us flyin’ types, we were the only ones the Master could really trust.
What was the most challenging part of the reign?
Equality: Being looked to as a figurehead. Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate the respect I’m held in among my peers, but all I was fighting for was a return of justice. The way they tried to dress me up as some kind of monarch went against what I believed in, when we had more important battles to win.
Chirp: Just the tedium of it all. Quest, climb, push back another evil scheme, and then it would all begin again. Treasure or no treasure, it got to be a little repetitive.
Snowbully: ...havin’ a net hurled at me by goody-goody types…
As you look back on that time, is there anything you miss?
Clock Wizard: Analog clocks. Kids these days don’t know their clockwise from their counterclockwise; how are they ever supposed to appreciate the nuance of a minute hand twirling in its neverending circles?
Shopkeeper 3: Exact change. The youth with their credit cards and their digital apps don’t understand the struggle and the joy of recognizing that a nickel and a penny will buy you two sets of four nets at three cents each.
Snowman: Well, I mostly just miss having people come and talk to me. When you’re a big hulking abominable creature you don’t get hired for a lot of friendly chitchat duty.
What do you believe were the Master of Mischief’s motivations in conquering Treasure Mountain?
Equality: I’m still not sure. Part of me wonders if he just wanted to subdue us, break our spirits, but goodness knows there are more populated places and less brave people to try that on. In any event, if that was the plan, it surely didn’t work.
Clock Wizard: He certainly has a knack for interfering with technology—look no further than the TV station or the power plant—so perhaps he wanted to show that his inherent magic was capable of devastating an ecosystem? An ego’s superiority over nature? I really couldn’t say.
Chirp: I’ve watched him for a long time, and part of me wonders whether he really likes ruling. Conquering, yes; showing off his power, sure. But actually handling the day-to-day responsibilities of leadership? It’s not a mischievous style. Deep down, maybe he wanted to inspire someone to prove that they were strong enough, brilliant enough, to rise up and overthrow him.
What can you say about the elusive Super Seeker?
Scroll Elf: For someone who I tried to help along the way, giving hints to, I really don’t remember much about what they looked like. They always had that hood up and I gave up trying to pronounce their name after a while—“Just call me Trainee,” they said.
Snowman: I couldn’t believe someone actually showed up with the pieces of a ladder. Part of the reason why I wanted to test them in the first place was to keep them safe. Fail at my riddle and they might have to stay out where it was frigid, yes, but at least the Master of Mischief wouldn’t get to them.
Chirp: After a while they found fewer treasures, then fewer still, then one day they stopped coming back. The last time I saw them they were staring at a scroll scrawled with numbers and symbols I didn’t recognize. “You know enough to free yourselves, now,” they said. “Thank you for all you taught me, but I have more to be solving.”
Finally, can you comment on the rumors that a mysterious music surrounded the mountain during the Master of Mischief’s reign?
Snowbully: …weren’t nothin’ mysterious...he’s always inventin’ stuff, probably had some broadcast to brag about his reign of terror, never got around to spellin’ it out cause it was so obviously terrible.
Equality: It sounded too pleasant to be associated with the Master of Mischief. Once he departed, we’ve been engaged in our normal industry, and the normal chatter of mountain life is buzzing again.
Clock Wizard: I don’t know what you’re talking about, the only thing I ever heard was my cuckoo clocks.