I know, I’m hideously late to even starting this flash fiction challenge, but the most recent ones were collaborative and I missed the boat on those ones too. So, my plan was – and is – to hijack a semi-recent challenge that doesn’t rely on currency and to ride that pony instead.
With that said, here’s a semi-coherent and unedited attempt at using the fantastic online generator ‘Who the Flying Saucer is my DnD character?” (found here) to create a story. This one fell at around 1600 words. My two character prompts used will be at the top, and the story at the bottom. Enjoy, if you like!
- PLAIN-SPEAKING HUMAN WARLOCK FROM THE ROYAL CATACOMBS WHO HAS NO CONCEPT OF PERSONAL SPACE
- IRRITABLE ELF SORCERER FROM THE SHATTERED MOUNTAIN RANGE WHO ACCIDENTALLY TORCHED THE LOCAL TEMPLE AND IS NOW CURSED BY ITS GOD
As the moon travelled, inexorable, over Duneridge, light fell from the windows of the only open door in the smallish town. The eventual knowledge that the night would end and the next day would arrive was fought back by the pouring of mead and the swilling of drink, and the endless conversation that fell from any cracks in the walls out onto the pockmarked street.
The outside bore the scars that the land did – pieces torn from the wood and supporting stone, and scattered along the paths that alternated earth and cobble. Handprints, in paint and other substances, lined the wood where they hadn’t been washed away, and pressed a pathway into and out of the centre of town. The tavern bore a scorch-mark branded across the east-facing wall, same as the shrine on the other side of town. The two most important places of worship, given an identifying scar.
Inside, however, most things were whole, and what was not could be repaired in the morning. If a glass leapt from someone’s hand, the remains would be swept away and another glass slid across the bar to replace it. Everyone talked, and laughed, and sang, loud enough to cover the distant sounds from the West. Sounds they did not wish to consider, sounds that eliminated the promise of tomorrow and turned it into an uncertainty.
After an especially loud shattering sound, the briefest moment of silence was followed by a roar and a collective gulp of steadying liquor. The music would pick up the pieces, complete the tune where it had been briefly interrupted, and life continued on.
Both the distant shattering and its remedy had failed to wake the under-elf sat next to a talkative acolyte. Whether it was the mead or the talking that had sent them to sleep was anyone’s guess.
“All these things around us are material, yes, but they are not lasting. This wood will turn to ash or break into the earth, the mead will grow stale and sour, everyone in this place will eventually give away their souls.” From the acolyte’s sour expression, the completion of that thought was something like if they haven’t already.
The elf let out a burbling snort.
Clearly encouraged by the response, the acolyte arranged her face into a smile and continued. “The only thing that is constant is the Three. Morginn’s light, Naugr’s embrace, Kiose’s gaze. They are what is waiting – and whether they wait for you in anticipation or in disdain is known through your actions.” She flung out an arm wide to punctuate her sentence, and cracked a nearby human in the robed arm. They turned, instantly curious, and shuffled in close, their wispy pale beard tickling the acolyte’s cheek.
“You realize that there is no room in the planes of existence for the Three.” What should’ve been a question was presented as a statement, in a quiet voice that spoke of a life in the echoing Catacombs of Falonn, whispering to avoid waking the thousands of spirits at rest. “We know every space there is, and unless they are the size of a piece of a piece of a grain of sand, they cannot have room to exist.”
The acolyte, in response, gently pushed the warlock’s eager face away from hers. He smelled too much of erasure, of the binding chemicals used to keep corpses looking fresh. She turned her smile to him, overly full of understanding. “Warlocks’ methods cannot overcome the power of gods.”
Unabated, the warlock took the seat on the other side of the acolyte, not minding that there was someone else already seated there, and leaned forward again to speak. “Warlock’s methods are the reason we have knowledge of the planes at all,” he intoned quietly, limp hair spilling from the hood of his robe. “We would not know anything beyond the sight of our eyes if it weren’t for the powers of my siblings.”
She snorted in response. “We would know all that we were supposed to know,” the acolyte said primly.
The warlock sat back in an attempt to look scholarly, and jostled the golem he was sharing his stool with. “Sorry, sorry, grand lady. So, you would have us like children in the woods, picking up every stone and cutting our skin to find out if it hurts? No, not you, my lady, this Third Acolyte here.” He shifted around to give the golem more room on the chair as further apology, and a grateful grunt could be heard from in the afts of the ceiling, shaking dust down from the woodwork.
“Call me Wynn. Those titles have no place outside of shrines.” Wynn brushed some dust from the leather pauldrons covering the shoulders of her acolyte’s robe. “Nor, indeed, are they entirely accurate.”
From behind Wynn, the unconscious elf spoke (although calling it ‘speech’ would be quite generous – it was barely understandable and mostly addressed to their shirtsleeve). “Neither’s your idea of the world.”
The warlock slammed his hand on the bar, triumphant. “Exactly.”
Taking the fervent slam as a call to action, the barkeep wheeled across from where he had previously been serving a fireseeker and their companion their wine (watered down, of course, serving just alcohol to a seeker was basically a promise to buy new furniture in the morning). His beard lay partially on the bartop, dark hairs seeking out every which way and connecting to the furious tangle atop his head. Dark eyes like river stones met with both patrons, and then glanced up at the golem on the warlock’s shared seat. “You called?”
“Torvin,” said Wynn plaintively, “I would like some water, and some more understanding from my fellow patrons.”
Torvin rolled his eyes up to Morginn. “I can only promise you the first, and only then if you don’t try and use it to make metaphors again. It only confuses people, and drunken confusion is a short step from needing a new bartop.” He looked over at the warlock. “Anything for you, sir?”
He pushed up from his seat, and – in lieu of being able to jauntily elbow Torvin – ruffled his beard in what was meant to be a friendly manner. “No need. I’ve got studies to attend to. Real studies, in the Catacombs. It was good to talk to you, Miss Wynn.” He inclined his head out of respect, but the smirk playing about his lips detracted from its effect as he exited the tavern.
A wet sigh blew out from Wynn’s left. “Good riddance. He was makin’ too much noise.” The semi-conscious elf rolled her face away from where the conversation had been, and once again began to snore.
Wynn, for the first time since she had finished her performance earlier that night, said nothing. Torvin slid a – surprisingly – clean mug of water towards her, having muttered a small incant to ensure the water was fresh. The well had been poisoned with mud and earth several moons ago when an engineered landslide crumbled over what had been the market square, so clean water was hard to naturally come by.
“I told you it would be difficult,” he said gruffly, in place of an apology. Torvin had long since learned not to take what any of his patrons said either to heart or to head – it would make the job far too difficult to be taking every single person at face value. Everyone had their own versions of stories, their own turns of events, and their own opinions of others, and it became far too exhausting to carry it all in his hands. Everyone else who passed through soon learned this philosophy – except, it seemed, for Wynn. “Those here aren’t here to be converted to or lectured at. Or is it the other way around…” He shook his head, beard following seconds behind the motion. “The point being that I hired you to sing, not to sing praises to the Three. I’m paying you for what they actually want to hear.”
Wynn tapped her fingers in a gentle rhythm on the side of the mug, watching the water dance in response. “But my price was the ears of the public. And no worthy task is an easy one.”
“I’m not saying it’s not easy, I’m saying it’s impossible.” But Wynn didn’t seem to hear him, or didn’t want to, or was just mesmerized (as she seemed to always be) by the beauty of small things. Her not meeting his gaze was not a sign of wounded pride, Torvin had learned, but simple distraction.
He watched Wynn watch the swaying water, the musical taps of her lean fingers somehow carrying to him over the din and ruckus, and even over the distant clashes of weapons that they all tried to forget.
He sighed. “You’re welcome to try tomorrow. The sun always rises on a new day,” he tried, the optimism unfamiliar on his tongue and uncomfortable in his voice. He roughly cleared his throat like the crackling of the fire. A smashing glass caught his attention on the other side of the bar, and Wynn finally looked up, broken from her reverie. “I’ll be here tomorrow. For the show, and after.”
Torvin nodded, already pulling the rope that moved his high platform across the bar (a dwarf couldn’t run a full-sized bar without some assistance, of course) to cross to where the shattered glass shone in a dusty pile. “Harp tomorrow – you needed something more to support you today,” he shouted back at Wynn, the weight of responsibility once again settling on his shoulders like a heavy cloak.