Bronwyn and her group of fellow adventurers had come to this small town to find some employment. Their funds were running low and they needed supplies. There seemed to be few well-stocked dungeons around these parts for them to explore, or more precisely, plunder. When they first arrived a town official had employed them to take care of the town’s “rat problem”, which seemed like overkill for them until they found out that the “rat problem” turned out to be large bipedal intelligent rats that lived in a community in some tunnels under the town. The problem the town official had with them was that they turned out to be very good thieves, rather than the spreaders of pathogens everyone had assumed they would be. In the end Bronwyn’s party begrudgingly slaughtered them all, but it was one of those jobs that raised more questions than answers and which left a bad taste in their mouths. Still a job is a job, and they got well paid for it. But it didn’t stop leaving Bronwyn with a feeling of disquiet over the affair.
Upon receiving payment the first thing Bronwyn did was to find some new armour. She went to the town’s only armourer only to find him trying to sell her the most skimpiest set of chainmail she had ever seen. It came in two pieces. The top part just barely covered her breasts, while the lower part also revealed far too much for her liking. Even her underwear provided better coverage than this mail. The Armourer insisted it provided the same armour bonus as any other suit of armour he had, but Bronwyn was still unimpressed. Dungeons on the whole tended to be damp, cold, and draughty and wearing armour like this seemed terribly unsuitable for it. The Armourer also insisted, as he leered at her, she could show off her “attributes” as well get full protection from the armour. The last place Bronwyn wanted to show her “attributes” was a cold draughty dungeon full of monsters, thank you very much. To the Armourer’s disappointment Bronwyn instead opted for a set of full platemail, and got an even larger sword.
And now it was the evening and they were all in a tavern looking for some more employment and wondering when the ubiquitous bar room brawl would break out. Bronwyn sat there in her new gleaming armour looking around for dark hooded strangers lurking in the corners of the room. Across from her was Fingers the Halfling. He had bought a set of new knives and was busily cutting up the table in front of him. No one was sure how he had got his name. Beside Bronwyn was Rachel with her long dark hair and dressed in black leather armour. She was the youngest in the party and was originally Bronwyn’s ward. Bronwyn did her best to keep her on the right path but Rachel was just too good at stealing. Bronwyn didn’t even notice her doing it most of the time. On the other side of her was Aalen who was an Elf and their ranger. Aalen considered all other races to be “sub-elven”, and all her senses were incredibly sharp. There wasn’t anything she couldn’t see or hear in her general vicinity. The last member of the party was over at the bar chatting up some random stranger. Her name was Zana and she was a Drow wizard. Though she seemed nice Bronwyn reckoned she was at least as evil as Fingers. Bronwyn sighed. How did she end up with these people?
“Ahem.” Said a voice beside her. “Perchance are you looking for some employment?” Bronwyn looked around to see a tall man wearing robes and a long pointed hat. It was a wizard. Bronwyn sighed again.
“Yes we are.” She confirmed.
“Do you mind if I sit with you?” He asked.
“Sure.” Bronwyn replied. The man sat down beside Rachel. A little too close to Bronwyn’s liking. If that Wizard wasn’t careful Rachel would pilfer everything he had.
“I have a job for you.” He stated. Fingers grinned at him with his yellowed teeth.
“We cuts them up. We cuts them alls up.” Fingers said in his menacing soft voice. He then padded off to the bar. The Wizard grimaced.
“What an odious little man. I take it he’s your thief?” Bronwyn sighed again.
“No.” She replied. “He’s our cleric.” The Wizard’s mouth sprung open in surprise.
Yes Fingers was their cleric. She didn’t know what dark gods he worshipped, but at least he helped patch up the rest of the party when it was needed, along with her, and his turning of undead seemed more like making friends with them and convincing them not to attack the rest of the party, but at least it all seemed to work at some level. They got by.
“And I guess you’re a fighter of some sort?” The Wizard asked her.
“No I’m a Paladin.” She informed him.
“I see. Well my name is Morgon the Only. And I require a group of adventurers to go to a local dungeon not far from here to acquire an artifact for me.” He stated. The three others left at the table nodded amongst themselves.
“Why can’t you do it? You look like a powerful wizard.” Rachel asked him. Morgon began clearing his throat.
“I can’t actually. The dangers I would face there might be too powerful for me to handle on my own.” He explained. Rachel pouted her lips.
“And yet you want a group of less powerful adventurers to go in there?” She asked incredulously.
“For you it will be different. If you go in there you will face creatures at your own power level. At most you might face a Beholder maybe? But if I go in there, there will be more powerful creatures that I will encounter.” He explained to her. Rachel sat up looking interested.
“You mean to say that depending on who goes in there they will have different encounters?”
“Yes.” Morgon confirmed.
“How does that work?”
“It’s just the way it is.” The Wizard told her in a resigned way.
“But is there some weird god stocking dungeons full of monsters just before you go in?” Rachel asked disbelievingly.
“In a way, yes.” Morgon replied. Bronwyn sighed again. She would have to join in. There were obviously things Rachel didn’t understand.
“Imagine all your skills and attributes are numbers.” Bronwyn said. The Wizard nodded, while Rachel screwed up her nose in incomprehension.
“Imagine beyond this world there is a sheet of paper with your name on it. On it is listed all your skills and how intelligent or strong you are, for example. All of these will have a numerical value with them. As you adventure more, these numerical values will increase, and you will get more of them. Now along with all these pieces of paper there is something that decides what we will encounter, depending on how powerful we all are and where we go. And that is how it all works.” Bronwyn informed her. Rachel just shook her head in disbelief.
“That’s just crazy.” Rachel replied. “Next you’ll say we’re all holograms.” At that the rest of them laughed.
“Now that would be crazy.” Agreed Bronwyn.
Morgon handed Bronwyn a map and a set of instructions. “I’ll see you again shortly.” He said enigmatically. With that he wandered off and disappeared amongst the throng.
“Goodbye human.” Said the usually silent Aalen.
Bronwyn turned to Rachel only to see a large purse brimming full of gold coins in her hands.
“Where did you get that?” Bronwyn asked her in an authoritative tone.
“I found it.” Rachel lied.
Bronwyn was just about to reply when someone across the room smashed a tankard of ale over the head of someone else and then fighting ensued. The nightly bar room brawl had begun. Already Zana and Fingers were running into the melee. Bronwyn sighed again and picked up something to use as a weapon before she too ran towards the fight.
Tomorrow they would be leaving, so tonight they could have some fun.
Originally I wanted to write this story for a fantasy short story competition in September, but that was when I started having problems with my computer, so I abandoned it at the time.
I seem to be coming quite adept at writing longer fiction on my phone. Maybe I should attempt finishing my novel with it…
Go on go on go on!