Behind the walls

Writings of a wandering mind

Roll With It

Posted By in Fantasy Fiction

Roll With It

There was an energy of anticipation. The already nervous and jittery motions of misanthropic misfits were furthered by instant coffee and powdered doughnuts. Dice rattled the table as books thumped down. Character sheets were carefully placed like deeds of title, each claiming their own small parcel of territory. There was no preamble, no warning. Their Dungeon Master simply started to speak. His voice a veritable call to arms.

Many called it the great end as our lands were swept clean by wind, by fire. They became as blasted glass and sharp stone, filled with noxious fumes and deadly mists. The mewling cries of forlorn souls cried into the night, lamenting their loss and begging for the release of death that never came. Even now, after all this time, I hear their echoing pleas.

The Dungeon Master paused to take a long grimacing swig of thick black tar-like substance some would call Columbian Blend. He spoke as one who could claim the tortured tale as his own. In character, he continued.

The caverns we crawled into provided our respite and only means of survival, if only just! To survive we subsisted on grubs, cavern water, and lichen. Our lives extended out into an endless night. Yet, despite everything those caves provided, they felt like a tomb sealed in the Underdark of Eberron.

Then it seemed fate had finally smiled upon us all as we found what we thought was our refuge. Locked in stone from untold ages past, hid a half-buried city. It stood like an old crone, crooked and twisted amongst the rubble of a partially dug grave. Yet what we at first saw as a sanctuary soon became our prison. Demons from the deep crawled up to claim, to conquer. Now we live a lightless existence, buried alive beside our cruel taskmasters. Their tributes taken in life, limb, and, at last, our souls. As time passes, I now wonder if those who died in the Great End weren’t the lucky ones.

~Doxon Warborne~996YK~
Last Ranger of 5th Company under Therinil Far

Incredulous and almost always at the edge of irate, Robert spoke. “Wait, wait, wait a minute.” He took a deep breath with his palms flat on the table and pushed back slightly. “You mean to tell me that we, as level one characters, are STARTING in the Underdark!?” Robert’s eyes were wide with disbelief. His hair was a curly tangle that lay somewhere between wind tossed and electrocuted. As Robert spoke, his mane of hair shook with the same fervor as his voice and body did. “We’ll never survive! We’re gutted from the jump!”

Their roll of eyes was almost audible as the rest of the table sat back in their chairs and waited for what was coming. Their Dungeon Master commonly known as Bear sat straighter as his eyebrow arched imperiously. “That has to be a new record, Rob,” Bear said. “We haven’t had the first combat encounter and yet there is conflict already. Bravo.”

Robert tried to wave Bear off. “I’m just sayin’ the Underdark is for higher-level characters.” Bear slowly nodded and said, “Yes, Rob. You’re right.” It was as if, in that friendly exchange, somewhere a record scratched and skipped. The other players shook their heads in disbelief at what they had before them. Robert was seldom right in any of his heavily caffeinated paranoia. As such, he was stunned silent. Bear took that as a cue to continue. “The Mournlands above are a wasteland of death and despair. You can’t travel there without risking almost certain demise.” Robert nodded and nervously waited for more. As Bear pressed on, the rest of their table sat forward and watched the conversation unfold as one would observe a tennis match.

“Below your current position is the unfathomable darkness and depravity of The King Who Crawls and his blood-soaked highway. Horrors prowl the depths looking to feast on the flesh of any foolish or brave enough to trespass.” Robert let out a forced sigh born of frustration and resignation. As if his point were made, Robert threw a hand into the air to chalk the score. Bear pressed on. “You are hemmed in on all sides by danger, death, and depravity. Imprisoned by your own hand as much as fate. Given our current situation, one would think you could relate, if only somewhat.” Robert’s face fell in thoughtful consideration as Bear’s words sank in. The Dungeon Master continued. “It sounds to me like there is a suspenseful adventure to be had in the subterranean city you’ve stumbled upon. Maybe there you can collect the strength needed to push on or reclaim the fallen lands above. Either way, your fate is your own. This is your story as much as it is mine. The question is this, what are you going to do about it?” Bear’s gauntlet had been thrown. His challenge answered. They picked up their dice and rolled with it.

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