A/N: This story was written for nano a few years ago. It's pretty rough. I've gotten better since. You have been warned.
Small Time Heroes
No music blared. No drunks stumbled around on the porch. No one was trying to throw their underpants up into the branches of nearby trees. Inside the townhouse, six friends perched on chairs and beanbags clustered around a low coffee table. Plates of finger food, half empty cups, and pieces of worn paper occupied every available surface. The air rippled with excitement.
"The five small time heroes bade farewell to the grateful townsfolk in the morning and continued onwards towards the Forbidden Castle. They arrived at the main travelling road just before mid-day. A tired stream of refugees dragged their weary lives along the dirt road, kicking up a mild billow of dust with their feet, animal hooves or wagon wheels. They headed in the opposite direction from the destruction that the Shadow Army had reaped upon their lands. Everyone seemed to be heading steadily away from the danger zone... everyone except our five heroes. They swam against the torrent of unwashed masses, making good time until the leader decided to break for a midday meal."
"Yes. The heroes find a nice grassy glen not far from the road. Roll spot."
There was a scattered clattering as a handful of twenty-sided dice were rolled.
"I got a natural twenty!"
"Damn it. I swear my dice is cursed. I rolled a one. Again."
"Haha. A one. Ok, John, your character is clearly bedazzled by the beautiful patterns that the sunlight is making through the trees and she doesn't see a thing."
"Ooooh, look at the pretty lights! They are like tiny, dancing elves!" said John.
"I rolled a twelve. Plus ten on my spot check makes twenty-two."
"Ok. Anyone who rolled above a fifteen, you see a glint of some metal in the grass on the far side of the glen."
"Oh! Leian-Andi goes up to take a closer look at it!"
"No! Wait, Celia, it could be a trap."
"Or it could be treasure," Celia replied evenly.
"It could be your mum."
"Shut up, Zach. What do you guys want to do?"
"Can the people who saw it point it out to those of us that didn't?" John suggested logically.
"Sure! Despite being only two and a half feet tall, Sir Deacon Dragonhand can see the item clearly. If I rolled a natural twenty, I'd be able to do that, right?" Zach asked.
"Sure. It is a bejewelled dagger."
"Ok, Sir Deacon Dragonhand waves his hand haughtily in the dagger's general direction and demands Totknot to retrieve it for him," Zach continued.
"Totknot glares at you, but walks towards where you are pointing."
"There's a good indentured Halfling," Zach cooed.
"Liam, how far is the dagger exactly?" asked Ceila.
"About fifty feet away," Liam, the dungeon master, replied.
"Well, then Leian is going to run to it, trying to get there before Totknot," Celia said with a grin.
"Oi! No fair! I want that!" Zach protested. "Deacon is going to tell Ted-I mean, Totknot to wrestle Leian for it."
"Oh ha!" Celia exclaimed with glee as she rolled up the sleeves of her work shirt. "Throw down time!"
Theodore, or 'Ted' to male friends, and 'Teddy' to his parents and a select group of female friends, held up his hands in truce and scooted away from Celia.
"I'm not looking for a fight," he said. "Not sure if my wizard would win against your druid."
"Well then, Leian grabs the dagger," said Celia. "She heads back to the group with it and holds it out for everyone to see."
"John, Amani, do either of you have knowledge about religions?" Liam asked.
"I do," Amani replied.
"Me too," John said.
"Ok roll knowledge religion," Liam instructed.
Another clatter of dice.
"Two," John sighed. He threw his head backwards to rest on the couch and groped blindly for his drink on the table. "Rikballs is apparently a blind dumbass."
"I rolled a twenty three - that's with my skill points added," Amani said triumphantly.
"Ok, then Amani, your character Pru recognises this as the ritual dagger of an evil spider goddess. It is used in sacrificial ceremonies by the clerics of that goddess," Liam explained.
A hush fell over the group as they contemplated the gravity of this new find. It was short lived, however, as Ted's mobile phone came to life with a series of angry and frightened shrieks. He had recorded the group's reaction one time to a giant huntsman spider that crawled onto the table where they were playing and now it was his ringtone. Ted pulled it out of his pocket and glanced at the number. He groaned and cast the group an apologetic look before answering.
"Hello, this is Theodore."
When he answered the call, any traces of the funny, shy guy he was with his friends vanished, leaving him sounding cold. There was a pause, and then he said, "I'm not on call tonight, Taylor, if Mr. Drew wants someone to fix the problem, that is on you." Over the phone, there came a string of whiny, pleading sounds. Though none of the group except Ted could hear the words, the message was clear. Ted sighed again and held his palm to his face.
"Fine. I will come in," he said. "Give me an hour. Also, ask Mr. Drew if he has tried turning it off and on again."
When the phone call ended, Ted turned back to the group with a pained look.
"Go, be off with you to your fancy job! Leave us pathetic plebeians to our piteous fantasy game," Zach said with a melodramatic flair.
Another mobile phone chimed, this time, the room was filled with a sensible rendition of the Nutcracker Suite. Celia reached across the table for her handbag. She had changed seats numerous times this night, strewing her belongs behind her. She frowned when she saw the number.
"Tommy? What's wrong?" she answered. Her voice was soft but definitive. It was her 'teacher voice'. She listened intently, and her frown furrowed further as Tommy's story tumbled out. "Where are you now?" she interrupted. Then, after another pause, she said, "I'm close to there. Have you called the ambulance?" pause. "Have you called the police?" another pause. "Don't move, I'm coming now."
Celia jammed her phone in her pocket and looked around the room frantically, searching for objects rather than seeking to answer the confusion. Amani handed Celia her wallet, and Liam pointed to her car keys on the coffee table next to one of the lounge chairs.
"Thanks guys," Celia said. She grabbed both items and stuffed them into her handbag. "I have to go. One of my stupid children is in trouble."
"Do you want me to come with you?" Zach asked, already on his feet.
Celia thought for a moment and then shook her head. She pulled on her shoes. "Tommy's a gang kid. It sounded like there were a couple of them there and if they saw me pull up with someone else, they might freak out and run away. I'll call you later."
And with that, Celia disappeared out the door, leaving behind a stunned silence.
"She's an amazing teacher," John said. "My grade ten teacher didn't even know my name."
"I have to go too," Ted said. He picked up his dice and character sheet, slipping them into the briefcase he kept for role play game paraphernalia. "But not to save kids, just for corporate greed."
Liam stood and saw Ted out.
"Drive safe, man," He said at the door.
"Well, that was fun while it lasted," Liam said, turning back to the three remaining members of the group. "Let's call it for tonight, shall we?"
"Let's take it to the pub?" John said, sounding hopeful.
"Sounds good to me," Liam said.
"I don't drink," Amani said, "and I've got to finish arranging flowers tonight for a wedding tomorrow. Can I get a lift to my shop?"
"No probelmo," John said. "What's the point of having a company car if I don't get to drive beautiful women around in it?"
Amani waved his comment away.
"Zach?" Liam cast him a worried glance. He was uncharacteristically quiet.
"I'll head home," Zach said. He looked thoughtful as he packed his dice and notebook into his backpack. "I'll wait for Celia's call."
"She'll be fine," John said. "Those kids love her."
"Yeah, but still."
"Give us a text when she calls you?" Amani urged.
After helping Liam with the packing up and some of the dirty dishes, they headed out together.
The sound of sirens wailed in the distance.
15/9/13 - Made the change Solemn suggested to this chapter. Thanks man.
Q&A with Augie Toaste
What is Dungeons and Dragons?
Dungeons and Dragons, aka D&D is a table top role play game that predates MMORPG such as World of Warcraft. It involves creating characters based on templates, whose abilities are partially dictated by chance (through the roll of a dice) and partially organized strategically (though choosing the 'class' and 'race' of your character and assigning 'skill points'). I highly recommend it to you and your friends. I first got into it because I thought it would be a cool way to flesh out one of my characters. Her name was Red, and she was your typical young, stubborn female fantasy character with red hair, an affiliation with nature, and a knack with a bow. She was a side character to a story I haven't written yet. By using the D&D template for character creation, I was forced to contemplate her strengths and weaknesses, and I got to know much more about how she interacts with others.
What's with all the dialogue?
Heh. I'm usually not big on overuse of dialogue, but I wanted to introduce the characters of my story through the D&D game. As each character is named in the speech, he or she becomes part of the story. It's a concept I thought was really clever in my brain, but its actual execution was more difficult than I could have imagined. I would really appreciate feedback on this issue. Is the first chapter too confusing?
Who cares about the life of adults?
I have noticed that the majority of the stories on this site have teenage characters. I guess that is because most of the writers are teens. I know I'm taking a bit of a risk by writing about an older age group (people who are workforce age), but I hope the story will be interesting enough to capture the attention of younger readers too. I think this is an opportunity for teenage readers to peek outside their bubble into the world that they will inevitably find themselves inhabiting five or ten years from now - the mysterious world of adults.