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ONCE READY, THE TRAVELERS RECONVENED WITH PREPARATIONS FOR THEIR JOURNEY. THEY LEFT IN EARLY AFTERNOON WITH THEIR PACKS AND BELLIES FULL. IT WAS NOT CLEAR HOW LONG THEY WOULD STAY THAT WAY….

That voice was beginning to annoy me. The narrator, we discovered, could only be heard in our heads. He (it sounded like a man) would speak during transitional phases, but occasionally narrate what we were doing in the moment. At this point we all simply looked at each other and grumbled.

Otherwise, we were all in a good mood. It was hard not to be. We were in a fantasy land, far away from all the troubles on earth. This could be a vacation. 

We had also gotten new clothes. Each of us was visited by the town tailor for measurements,  and by the end of the day had tunics and trousers for all of us. We also grabbed supplies and spent the day preparing. The next morning we left Brighton, with directions to follow the road south to another town called Rebel’s Rest.

There wasn’t much in between us and Rebel’s Rest, so we were looking forward to a peaceful journey. The wind hit our backs as we began crossing the grassy plains. I just hoped there weren’t ticks. Or worse. I tried not to think of killer bunny rabbits, but the thought was too funny. 

As we walked we reflected on where we were in like right before we got sucked into the game.. Lucas and I were working hard to stay on top of bills. To be real, I needed a break. Which is funny because we’re in a fantasy.

Game nights were becoming rarer and rarer. We were all busy. Lucas’ coaching job kept him busy most evenings. Hugh and Rachel were off doing their own thing. But somehow we all managed to meet at least one Sunday a month.

The moment we all decided to help Neil build his game was when we got serious. We all enjoyed the occasional table top role playing game, but his game sounded epic. You would be able to travel across the world in a procedurally generated format, meeting interesting characters and terrifying monsters along the way. Characters and monsters we would soon meet.

The wind picked up and soon we were chilled. We wrapped our new (but thin) cloaks around us. Ahead of us we could see a flurry of leaves being blown across the grasslands. They appeared to be getting closer, making their way deliberately in our direction.

Sure enough the leaves made a beeline for us. We drew our weapons in caution. Was it perhaps a swarm of man-eating insects instead? No, they were just leaves, propelled by a magical wind. Upon reaching us the wind broke, causing the leaves to scatter. We thought nothing of it at first, until Hugh caught one of them for fun.

“Look,” he said, “There’s a message on it.” Sure enough, in writing that looked like it was made of fire, spelled the word “help”. We looked at the other leaves, which all carried the same message.

“It appears we found our first side quest.” Neil said. 

“Okay,” I said. “But we have no idea who this is from, or where it came from.” 

The moment I said that, the wind picked up again. The leaves jumped off the ground and spun around us, before being pushed in the direction they came from. 

“I guess we follow the leaves,” said Hugh. He pointed in the direction of the retreating leaves. “Tally ho!”

I couldn’t help but smile. “Tally ho!” I replied. 

We followed the wind and the leaves as the sun tracked across the sky. The grasslands turned into foothills as we left the road, and in the distance north of us we could see a mountain range. Luckily, the leaves took a sharp turn away from them, meaning that we wouldn’t have to make any treacherous climbs. We kept checking our map to see if we were going off course, but we seemed to be on track for Rebel’s Rest. 

The sun went down, and the air began to crisp. The leaves rounded another corner, and we found ourselves at our destination. We found ourselves at the mouth of a cave. It was an ominous cave. Webs crisscrossed across the front of it, leaving a clear message: “do not enter, giant spiders inside”.

“Well that’s… creepy,” said Rachel. She did not like spiders. Even make believe ones. 

I investigated the strands of the web. They were as thick as cables, but nothing seemed to stick to them. Whatever made this was large, and had someone trapped in there. I shuddered.

“Come on.” I said in my bravest voice. “We’re going in.”

I drew my sword and hacked at the web. To my relief it gave away easily at the edge of my sword. Hugh pulled out his torch and Rachel lit it with magic. I raised my sword and loaded the pistol. We were becoming real adventurers now. 

A noise came from within the cave. Strangely enough, it sounded like someone whistling. We slowly entered the cave. A long tunnel met us, with more webs lining the floor, walls and ceiling. I couldn’t help but notice that there was no way to avoid stepping on them, and upon doing so caused them to vibrate like the strings of a harp, alerting whatever lurked inside of our presence.

There was no point in hiding, but we still moved carefully down the tunnel. Neil took the back and watched the rear to make sure there were no surprises. We remembered to check the ceilings.

“So Neil,” asked Lucas softly, “what should we expect here?”

“I don’t remember making this side quest,” replied Neil. “But it looks like giant spiders.” 

“No shit,” hissed Rachel. “Can we just help whoever is in here and get out please?”

The tunnel began to open up into a chamber. We must have gone deep under the hills by now. There were still no signs of giant spiders, but I thought I heard rustling further in the cave. This was getting creepier by the minute.

The noise was louder now. It was definitely someone whistling. It was a cheerful tune. We found the source. A large coccoon hung before us, webbed to the wall. Inside of it we could make out a humanoid figure. The whistling stopped as we approached.

“Hello there, strangers! I don’t suppose you got my message and are here to set me free, are you?” The voice belonged to a young man. He had an accent that sounded exotic, like he was from the Middle East. 

“Are you okay?” I asked, still looking around. It was still very dark and hard to see. I could imagine that right above us was one of the monsters, clicking its pincers with anticipation. I looked up but nothing was there.

“I’m doing very well, thank you for asking. How do you all fare?”

Something did not feel right. “Before we let you go, do you mind telling us how you got here?”

The man laughed. “Well, there I was traveling through these wondrous lands. I stopped to relieve myself when something attacked me from behind. I woke up to find myself in this predicament.”

“How were you able to send a message, all tied up like that?” asked Lucas.

“My kind has some advantages, even when disenfranchised as so.”

“Your kind?”

“I’ll tell you what,” the man said. “Let me go and I will be happy to answer all of your questions. You don’t happen to have any food on you, do you? I’m starving.”

We all looked at each other, bemused. This man was not talking like a prisoner about to be devoured. Rather, he sounded as if he was in complete control of the situation.

“I’d hurry if I were you,” cautioned the man in his accent. “Who’s to say when they will be back from the hunt?”

“They?” Lucas spoke up. “I don’t like this. I say we slay the spiders and then ask the questions.”

“That may be your only option,” the man said, this time rather grimly. “Because here they come.”

A hiss came from behind us. We spun around, looking blindly.

“Oh, I see,” the man continued. “You can’t see in the dark. Allow me to assist you. There are two of them. They’re both circling either side of you.”

“Rachel?” I asked. “You don’t know how to make things brighter, do you?”

I heard Rachel say something and a streak of fire erupted from her wand. It shot off into the dark like a flare. I heard loud scuttling as whatever was out there quickly moved away. But now some of the webs were on fire, providing more light. 

I could see a shape in the darkness now. It crawled on eight thick legs, but only two eyes reflected light. They quickly vanished as the creature retreated. Another loud hiss came from behind me, as the other one charged. Neil stepped between us and lunged with his ax. He missed, but the creature was driven back. 

“Above you!” cried the prisoner.

We all jumped out of the way as something heavy fell from the ceiling. It landed where I was standing a second ago, and I started with horror at the monster in front of me. 

It indeed looked like a giant spider, but its many legs were human, each multi jointed and ended with sinister claws. The head fused grotesquely into a torso, from which the legs protruded. It was covered in black, spiny hair. The face of the creature was humanoid, but had more in common with a neanderthal. Two large pincers erupted from the jaw. Whatever this creature was, it was not natural.

It turned and faced me. I froze with terror. It’s two eyes, milky white from a lifetime in darkness focused on me. Then it lunged. It knocked me down and pinned me, roaring in my face. 

Lucas shot it right in its side. It roared again and rolled off me. I quickly jumped up and hacked at it, regaining control. I felt resistance against my sword. A scream pierced my ears as I hacked off its leg. It limped away from me, hatred burning in its eyes. Then Neil was there, swinging his ax which lodged itself in the skull of the monstrosity. It flipped over, its remaining legs kicking in the air. Then it was still.

A cry came from the darkness. Its mate was severely pissed off now. It reared on its back four legs and came at us, swinging its claws. Rachel shouted again and more fire appeared, engulfing the twisted horror. We could see every hideous detail now.

And then it collapsed, and we could hear clapping.

We turned to see that the prisoner had broken his two arms free and was applauding loudly. We could also see his face in the new light. It was long and narrow, with high cheekbones and yellow eyes.

“Bravo!” he said. “Now, if you don’t mind….”

He ripped at the rest of the webbing with his newly freed hands with some effort. We watched as he struggled to free himself. Finally, his upper body was out of the cocoon, causing him to lose balance and pitch forward. At the last second he did a neat flip and landed on his feet.

“Now,” he said. “I believe my stuff is around here. Give me a minute to find it and we can be on our way.” He started whistling again and looked around the room. 

The man was tall, and wearing nothing but short trousers and a vest. He had a braided black beard and a wide short mohawk. I could see now he had white horns and a long tail, barbed at the end. Neil muttered “oh” softly. That could only mean he knew what this creature was. For the most part, he seemed harmless so we searched the room with him.

The walls had cocoons of other unfortunate victims. I cut one open to find a mummified corpse inside. It wore the vestments of a cleric. Around his neck was a holy symbol on a chain. I called Lucas and Neil over.

“That’s a talisman!” Neil said excitedly. “Try attaching it to your bow, Lucas.”

Lucas took the talisman off the mummy and hooked it to his bow. The bow flashed with a golden light. “Woah,” he said.

“What does it do?” I asked. The talisman was a coin, with a five pointed star on it. Neil investigated it. 

“I think this is a talisman,” he said. “See what happens when you draw your bow.”

Lucas did so. A golden arrow formed and rested on the string, ready to fire. “Looks like I got an upgrade.” So it would seem. An arsenal of infinite celestial arrows seemed like a good thing to have.

We checked the rest of the cocoons. Most of them were empty, but we did find several coins on one of them. We inferred that a merchant and his traveling party were ambushed some time ago. We did not feel like going deeper into the cave. 

The newly emancipated man led way back to the surface. He had managed to find his gear, a knapsack and a walking stick. Outside we got a better look at him.

He was indeed tall, just as tall as Lucas and Hugh. His horns gave him a couple of extra inches though. His skin was deep red, like the color of a ripe cherry. He had a friendly, yet mischievous look about him. He wore trousers that were bunched up above two red knees and bare feet with six toes each, as well as a brown vest that barely covered his chest, revealing more black hair.

“Thank you again for the rescue,” he said, “my name is Az’non. But you can all call me Az.” He bowed with a flourish. “May I know the names of my rescuers?”

“I’m Stephanie,'' I said, “this here is Lucas, Neil, Hugh, and Rachel.” Each of them waved as I said their name. “We’re just passing through. Would you care to join us for dinner?” I knew manners were still important, even with inhuman strangers. Besides, he seemed friendly enough.

“I’d be delighted!” Az said. “But may I suggest making camp away from here? The smell is quite nauseating.” He was right. It smelled of burnt flesh. Fortunately the sun was still up. We hiked another kilometer before making camp at the base of a particularly green hill.

We set up our newly bought bedrolls and Lucas made a campfire. We took out some rations and shared them with Az, who ate them gratefully.

“Now,” he said, wiping his chin. “I believe I said I would answer some questions.”

“Really,” said Hugh, “you don’t owe us anything.”

“Maybe he does,” said Neil. “He’s a daemon. An efreeti of sorts.”

“What’s an efreeti?” asked Rachel.

“It’s a fire djinni of sorts.”

“Does that mean you grant wishes?” Rachel asked Az.

“What sort of absurd power is that?” replied the daemon. “I’m not a god if that’s what you’re asking. Nay, I am but a humble traveler like yourselves. Although I am flattered you think so highly of me.”

“What exactly are you then?” I asked.

Neil answered. “He’s a cross species between demons and elves. They’re quite rare and powerful.”

Even Az seemed surprised. But we did not have as big of a clue on the lore of this place like Neil did. I thought back to the pieces Rachel and I made. None of them were monsters or characters. Those were meant to be described narratively by the Game Master, who was meant to be Neil.

“You made him up?” Lucas asked him. “I don’t remember this.”

“I made up the daemons, not this character.”

“Excuse me, now I have questions.” Az butted in. “Are you perhaps suggesting that you are my progenitor? I know looks can be deceiving, but you appear far too young to have done that. My species has been around for a long time now.”

I shot a look at Lucas and Neil that said not in front of the NPC! I turned to Az. “Tell me about your people. Where do you come from?”

“Ah,” he said with a smile. “That is a closely guarded secret. We’re not popular to everyone you see. Some people even try to hunt us!” He laughed cheerfully. He was certainly odd.

“But I see you mean me no harm,” he continued, “and it is clear you already know about my people,” he said to Neil. 

“I am not directly offspring of an elf and demon. That siring happened generations ago. They were my ancestors, you see. Two enemy races, united by love and necessity.

“My people hail from far from here, but we often travel as we reach maturity. We are navigators and explorers. As I said, I am simply a traveler, an explorer.”

He stopped and looked at each of us. “I would assume by the look of you that you are the same.”

He wasn’t wrong. But I didn’t know what to tell him. I tried anyway. “We come from another world. I’m not sure we belong here.”

“No one belongs anywhere,” he said whimsically. “But I see in your hearts that you are true adventurers. Perhaps it is your quest to defeat the dark lord?”

“What do you know of him?”

“Only the worst rumors and stories. They say he comes from another world, just like you! Isn’t that a coincidence?” He laughed again. 

“That is our goal. But we barely know anything about this world.” I confided. Neil looked as if he was about to speak up, then decided against it. “We could use a well traveled guide such as yourself.”

Az looked astonished. Then he grinned. “Where do you need to go?”

“To the desert. We’re looking for the temple of Otomipent.”

Az thought for a minute. “Never seen it, but I have heard of it.” He confessed. “Although I have traveled the desert you speak of. It is indeed vast”

“And you didn’t see anything that looked like a temple?” asked Neil, unable to keep the disappointment out of his voice. Az shook his head.

“There are rumors from those who live in the area of a cult that wanders the desert, looking for sacrifices for their dark god. But I do not know much else besides that.”

“It’s a start,” I said. “Thank you. So will you join us?”

The daemon thought again for a minute. “Why not? I’m still eager to travel. Perhaps I can learn more about the secrets of this Otomipent you speak of.”

“We would be happy to have you,” added Hugh. He looked at Rachel who nodded enthusiastically. Neil and Lucas also looked approvingly. It was good enough for me.

“It’s decided then. Welcome to the party, Az.” I extended my hand. Curiously he extended his. I took it and shook it.

He returned the shake, grinning. “It has been a while since I have been a part of a party. I must say I am quite looking forward to it. Now may I suggest we get some rest? It’ll be another day or so before we reach the desert depending on how fast we walk.”

We all turned in, with the exception of Lucas and Neil who said they would take turns keeping watch. Az happily agreed to do the same, as he did need to sleep as much as the rest of us. We fell asleep under the clear sky, looking up at constellations unfamiliar to us.

 

 

 


Submitted: March 28, 2022

© Copyright 2022 Jon Nathaniel. All rights reserved.

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llywrch

You're definitely holding my attention, & wanting more.

I'm not seeing where this adventure is a product of a D&D adventure becoming real (by D&D I mean the entire role-playing genre of games), but I have no suggestions about how to incorporate it in this story. I'm assuming that as you write this novel you will see how to incorporate it as you write more.

One matter I think you need to address is indicating that the narrator changes between each chapter. I only noticed this upon re-reading what you have written. Nothing wrong with rotating between narrators -- this actually makes this story more interesting to the reader; but I think you need to explicitly alert your reader this is intentional. Maybe either renaming each chapter after the narrator -- thus chapter 1 would be named "Neil", the second "Lucas", the third "Rachel", & so forth -- or adding the name of the narrator in front of thefirst paragraph. The latter is a known convenience, so the reader won't be surprised, but actually know what it means.

Waiting to read your next installment.

Sun, April 3rd, 2022 12:49am

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HI there! That is a great suggestion, and I have tried to indicate the narrator in the summary but I just realized it doesn't show up at the head of each chapter. I will definitely correct this for better reading.

Sat, April 2nd, 2022 6:19pm

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