A Dungeons and Dragons inspired story. Part One: The Quest Begins
Silence. The scribe pauses, the nib of his quill poised. The hourglasses show that the hour is far past the mid of night and yet dawn remains a secret yet to be unveiled. It makes penmanship arduous, but it is a necessity that the scribe must endure – in this endeavour he must exercise the utmost caution.
Once content that he has not been disturbed, he continues his calligraphy. The only sound is the frantic scratching of his quill against the rough parchment and it echoes into the dark recesses of The Great Library.
His papers are lit by candlelight and the flickering flames cast strange shadows across the parchment. Again, the scribe pauses to listen. All seems as before, and then suddenly there is the unmistakeable sound of The Great Library door latch being lifted.
With extraordinary promptitude, the scribe extinguishes the candles and rolls his parchment. Placing it under his arm, he hurries towards the far end of the library, his foreknowledge taking him through the darkened passages with ease. He dares not glance back for fear of his discovery.
Arriving at the farthest case of hefty tomes, the scribe deftly feels the spines and then, as if by magic, the case slides open revealing a long, winding corridor. The scribe scurries in and the case closes behind him, as if he had never been there at all.
Under an opalescent sky, the scribe makes his way through the cobbled streets. At his quarters, he sinks into a chair by the hearth. Unrolling the parchments from his cloak, he scans the text and steadies his breath. The contents of what is transcribed before him must never fall into the wrong hands. Even those seekers of great adventure and mishap may find themselves unnerved and disquieted by the tales retold on these papers. Yet the mysterious scribe is duty bound to record these happenings, for reasons that will be become known, and so he resumes his perilous task….
It is one of the coldest winters that The Four Realms has ever known. Bone chilling winds nip at exposed skin and heavy snow leaves the landscape strangely colourless. The realm’s wells have long since frozen and once friendly neighbours now eye each other with open distrust.
On another numbingly cold eve, many find themselves seeking shelter and the company of a warm body in a tavern of disrepute situated on the outskirts of the small township of Hogshorde. Inside the tavern, the stench of stale ale and body odour is thick in the air. But the need for respite from the weather overpowers all other thought and so the tavern sells flagon after flagon of its finest ale. A vast medley of patrons makes good company with spirits and ale, and the tavern’s dark interior hides all manner of sins.
Suddenly the door of the tavern bursts open, swinging wildly on its hinges. A towering man, bearing the mark of the King, staggers in clutching his side. Most of the patrons bear him no mind, as he stumbles towards the barkeep. After downing two successive tankards, the man looks carefully at the other patrons. In a far corner sits an elf, marked out not only by the garments of his clan but also by the sleek bow at his side. The man makes eye contact with the elf and then raises a heavily scarred hand and beckons him over.
The elf looks around uneasily, but finding himself curious of nature, he rises gracefully to his feet and advances towards the man.
“Why do you wish to parley with me?” he asks.
“Are you stout of heart?” the man asks abruptly.
The elf considers before replying, “I believe that I am undaunted in situations in which many others would forswear.”
The man nods, “Ay, I thought as much. Adventure and peril are what you seek and indeed I am burdened with a task in which I have need of a company.”
The embers of the elf’s curiosity thoroughly stoked, he leans in closer and says, “You have my ear.”
The man carries on, “Not two days past, the King’s heir was carried off in darkest night with naught to pursue the trail. The King sent nigh on two hundred of his keepers across the length and breadth of The Four Realms in hopes of safe retrieval. Yet not one has made safe passage home.”
“But what fate has befallen these keepers?” the elf asks.
The man looks ill of ease before making cautious reply, “I am unlike the others of my chosen kin. I do not carry the same aversions to those whose trades may be prohibited by our King’s fair law. And through the felonious networks in which I speak, I have come to discover knowledge of import. Goblins were sighted with the heir, making course toward the Northern Pass. With my comrades fallen or lost to ominous cause, I look to assemble a band to recover the heir back to rightful place.”
The elf ponders the man’s tale and appraises him carefully. The man still clutches his side but waves away the query before the elf can form it.
“An old wound, oft of nuisance to me. Bear it no mind. Now what of your response? Will you join my company?”
“What of it for me?” enquires the elf, “What recompense do I gain by placing myself in danger’s grasp?”
The man looks the elf square in the eye, before replying, “Enough gold to see out all your days and more besides. So, make haste and tell me your pronouncement – are you coming or not?”
The elf pauses for the briefest of moments before proclaiming, “Yes I will accompany you in your expedition. By what name do I call you fine Sir?”
The man glowers, “I am Bastian Barten of The King’s Keepers. But though I am pleased with your assent to participate in this undertaking, do not consider me friend.”
“The thought is well removed,” placates the elf.
“Gladly heard,” Bastian grunts, “now let us vacate this establishment and I will make introductions of your fellow party members.”
The elf follows Bastian outside, where the moon sits full in a star speckled sky. Dimly lit lanterns illuminate the tavern’s walls and on the northern most side a small group is gathered in waiting.
Bastian’s appearance causes the group to stand to attention and they look upon the elf with undisguised dubiety. Bastian gestures as he makes quick introduction,
“Eira, Gethrod, Linden, Althea, this is our final companion.”
The elf steps forward, “Giomanach,” he says nodding at his new associates.
There is no time for further exchange as Bastian draws everyone closer to the faint luminescence of the closest lantern. He produces a weather-beaten map,
“There are two possible paths that we could venture onto. One leads us through the Viridi Forests, the other along the mountains pass. To which passage is what I seek your counsel on. Which do you choose? The forests or the mountains?
**About the author**
Cara McWilliam-Richardson is a writer from England who loves all things fantasy. She believes in magic, fairies, enchanted forests and knows that you should never tickle a sleeping dragon.
When she’s not writing stories inspired by Dungeons and Dragons, she can be found watching as many films as possible and then writing about them. You can read her film reviews at www.end-seat.blogspot.com