Flash Friday 27/09/2013: Weapon of Choice (Part 5)
Dennis had to find an adventuring party.
In the olden times of questing, the lead hero would often pick up the odd dwarf, elf, or half-orc on the way to his destination, like picking up loose change off of the pavement. That all ended when quest marketers began to push for networking, encouraging heroes to link up to others in the industry to better dampen their chances of going toe-to-toe against an evil wizard all by themselves. Nobody liked a loner.
Of course, many establishments began as the ‘original’ place to be to pick up an adventuring party, but when you’re asking a man to take a rusty old sword which has long lost its enchantment and help slay a dragon with a teenage boy, the best place to do it is somewhere where you can get them easily drunk. Hence why the taverns slowly drifted from a place to get smashed, to a place where people can sign up for potential parties with the bonus addition of getting smashed.
The sign read ‘The Dancing, Glancing, Digitally-Enhancing Goblin’, and was worn and beaten. Of course, when the tavern first got the sign, it was worn and beaten. Nobody liked going to have a drink in a watering hole that had a sign that looked like the cheeks of a newborn baby. If anyone dared to clean, repaint, or otherwise fix the sign, the management would get very annoyed and tap their foot until it got muddy again. Somehow.
Dennis had only set one foot on the aged wooden floor when a strange, bald, crooked man came up to him. “Five gold or I lurk,” he said, revealing his teeth that looked like a piano that had fallen down stairs.
“Sorry?” Dennis said.
“Five gold. Or I lurk.”
“I don’t have five gold. Sorry.”
“Tch.” The old man turned in disgust.
Dennis shrugged, looking at all the tables in the tavern. There were a myriad of different races behind each one. On the tables were miniature signs stating what each person wanted. Most wanted sidekicks, but one was advertising specifically for a hero.
Dennis took a seat at the table, placing his backpack beside himself.
The party on the other side looked standard fare — there was the gnomish character who looked like he could pick a lock and make a wise-crack at the same time, the blonde male paladin who looked like he would jump off a cliff if a holy superior told him to, and the female elven priest. As far as Dennis was aware, female elves didn’t get much luck with the other professions; their slot in the party was purely to heal wounds, look pretty, and pet the occasional unicorn.
“Ah,” the paladin said, turning away from his tankard. “Here to take up the hero slot?”
“That’s right,” Dennis said, with a nod.
“Excellent. I trust that you’re a registered hero under the Young Hero’s Guild?”
“That’s right,” Dennis said. “I left earlier today.”
“Can I see your ID?”
“Sure.” Dennis dug into the side pocket of his backpack, producing his hero identification card. The paladin looked over it and nodded.
“Yes, yes,” the paladin said, nodding. “Everything appears to be in order. One ‘Dennis’, certified young hero, off to kill an orc warlord after his tribe killed his parents in front of his eyes. Sorry to hear that, lad.”
Dennis shrugged. “It just comes with the career.”
“So,” the paladin said, tossing the card back over to Dennis and leaning back. “What do you have to offer?”
“I-uhm…” Dennis continued, eying the other tables. He paled in comparison to the other heroes, all proud and strong idols of people. “What kind of thing are you looking for?”
“Well, someone who could fight, for a start. I trust you left your armour and weapon somewhere else?”
“Oh…” Dennis took a deep breath. “My only equipment is this.” He showed his feather.
“Oh,” the paladin said, biting his bottom lip. “I’m afraid that doesn’t bode well, already. I’m sure, however, that we’ll be able to save up some gold in side-quests to buy you a proper set of–”
“He has a stalker,” the elf hissed, pointing at the corner of the tavern.
Dennis turned to see. The man who accosted him earlier now had a hood over his head. He pulled from his pipe, blowing a steady stream of smoke in-between his wretched, yellowed, tombstone-like teeth. His eyes were firmly on Dennis.
“You hear that?” the gnome said. “They used three adjectives to describe his teeth. Tombstone-like, even. Always a bad sign.”
“Well, that settles that,” the paladin said, throwing his arms in the air. “Sorry lad, but nobody is going to party with a hero who has a stalker. They always come back midway through the quest and try to assassinate someone. We simply can’t take that risk.”
“So,” Dennis said, his shoulders sagging. “You won’t take me?”
“We, or anybody else. Once one of those shady characters hang around you like a bad smell, you’ve got a paranoid adventuring party on your hands. He usually turns out to be an agent of a dark lord, or a bounty hunter.”
“He’s only doing it because I didn’t pay him,” Dennis said.
“That’s even worse. That means he’d run a knife through our backs for our loose change. Sorry lad, but you might want to try another tavern, and make sure that he doesn’t come with. Doesn’t look good on the resumé, that does. Want me to show you to the next inn?”
“Nevermind,” Dennis said, standing up. “I highly doubt it would be any better there.”
“Well, here’s my business card, anyway,” the paladin said, pushing it across the table. “Let me know if you have any righteous causes need doing. I also do pest control. Holy fire works wonders against the common house-rat.”
“I will,” Dennis lied, pocketing the card. Maybe dragging as little people as possible into this spiralling mess was a good thing.
998 words (after trimming down from 1100!)