- resentful human bard from a sleepy harbour town who has a huge debt to pay back
Okay…. how about getting him some friends (or bystanders) and putting it together in just over 1000 words…
- driven dwarf wizard from the smallest mountain in the world who parties hard, way too hard
- conscientious human ranger from the sea of sand who is completely colour blind
- quick-tempered half-elf from a rundown adventuring tavern who likes to speak in rhyme
- charming elf monk from an abandoned fortress who exaggerates everything they talk about
Too Much of a Good Thing
It is always the way. I walk into another tavern, half the clientele glare at me, the rest continue drinking, sleeping or puking. Doesn’t matter whether you’re male, female, elf, halfling, goblin or dragon-tamer. Well, yes, it does. If you’re one of them nobody looks up unless you’re really beautiful, really ugly, or ostentatiously rich and powerful. In which case, why would you be here? If you’re a wizard, maybe everybody looks at you, to beg you to heal them or turn them into one-eyed jumping beans. It’s a cure, of sorts.
I’m a bard.
Half the people who look want a story, or a song, and the rest want to ensure you do neither. The odds are stacked against me. I made my way to the bar, perched on a lumpy wooden stool with splinters along the side, and asked for a pint of vermoof.
“Only got stout.”
“I’ll have stout, then, please, and a packet of chipolatas, too.”
The bartender glowered at me, pulled a pint, slopped half of it in the slop tray as he shoved it towards me, reached under counter with his other hand and slapped down a shiny golden packet. It sounded like the contents broke on impact. It would save my teeth.
“Two crowns, and no singing.”
“How much if I sing?”
“Forty crowns for loss of business.”
I could see the way things stood, and paid him, then grabbed my evening meal and slid off to a corner seat.
A sleeping monk and a comatose dwarf slumped on the table. A ranger dressed in a desert robe patched in an interesting array of colours nodded at me. The elf, or maybe he wasn’t, peered at me, leaning forward and invading my personal space.
“Peace, friend,” I said, drawing back and pulling my drink closer.
“Just want to check you’re not on the leck.”
I raised an eyebrow, wondering what he was talking about, shrugged and decided to ignore him. I didn’t recognise him, or the ranger, or the others; I wanted to check the rest of them before I found trouble again.
Most looked like they’d been on the road all day, although exhaustion could have been from having been in the tavern all day, too. It was hot, and the straw on the floor needed changing.
“What’s his problem?” I nodded at the monk.
“Same as everyone else, I expect. I don’t suppose you could lend me ten crowns?”
I laughed. “Good try, but no. I don’t suppose you could lend me five thousand?”
The monk lurched. “It is easier to enter the eye of a needle than to enter the kingdom of god,” he said, then collapsed in a heap again.
“He’s not wrong there.” The ranger pulled out a ten crown note and stood up. “Want another?”
I checked my pouch, but it was still sealed. “I thought you just asked me for that?”
He looked at the note. “No, I had this all the time, I need a tenner, though.”
“That is a tenner!”
“No, it’s a five, it’s green, look.”
“It’s red, it’s a tenner!”
“Oh, no! Don’t tell me—” he fished in his pouch and brought out a one crown note. “This is brown, isn’t it?”
“No, it’s blue.”
He sat down in his chair again and howled. “No, no, no….. ” He came to his senses and grabbed my sleeve. “You haven’t seen a big fellow, black armour, prancing round looking pleased with himself, have you?”
“Oh, damnation, why did I just let him take it? I should have checked. Now I’m going to be in deep trouble…” He maundered on so I let him. The drinks had been forgotten. It looked like he’d given his money to the wrong man. Like me, I suppose. Well, I hadn’t exactly given it. I leant back and popped a bit of chip in my mouth, sucking it until it was chewable. Good excuse not to talk.
The elf got up, grabbing the ranger’s tankard and my own.
“Money at bay keeps the doctor in pay,’ he said, and wandered off to the bar. As a philosophical statement it had merit.
The action started as the elf returned. My drink was the first to hit the floor. It would be. Three burly chaps accosted the elf and he hit out at them, turning bright red, steam escaping from his ears. I’d thought that was a figure of speech, but you live and learn. The monk rolled to his feet and cried “The end of the world is nigh!” and joined in the fray.
The bartender pulled down the grill to keep himself and his wares safe. The rest of us divided into contenders or observers, slinking against walls, hiding in shadows, or heaving a chair across the back of anyone who happened within range.
If the dwarf hadn’t knocked my arm as he got to his feet I wouldn’t have realised he’d stood up. Even for a dwarf he was short. “Psst,” he said.
“Probably,” I replied.
“No, you daft beggar, just listen will you? While they’re busy, get out under the door and get the bags of gold the ranger’s got in his saddle bags.”
“Gold? But he said…”
“I know what he said. I may have a steaming hangover but I knows what I sees all right. Man can’t tell sand from gold, and he thinks he’s got sand in them bags. Go halves?”
“Yes, but why…”
“They’re on his horse, dimwit.”
We were at the horses before I realised he hadn’t a chance in hell of reaching them on his own. Rangers were tall, and so were their horses. I relieved the animal of its burden and passed two of the sacks to the dwarf, slinging the other two under my cape.
“Right,” he agreed. “See you in Lockamora or somewhere like that.” He staggered off to the bar, and I watched him negotiate with the bartender for a crate of whisky. It looked like he was going to spend it all on another hangover.
I looked at the horse, thought I might as well give it a new home, climbed on and headed to the place I most wanted to be. As far from my creditors as possible. Lockamora would do nicely.
© J M Pett 2016