The Narrator Part 06

(A Collaboration with SeeJayStarkDotCom)


Part 06

As promised, Luda disables a number of traps and Bastian slays a number of goblins and rodents of unusual size as we progress into the dungeon.

Goblins, by the way, are baby shit green, covered in boils, and have breath that smells like fish boiled in garlic paste.

Come to think of it, these dungeons have had a lot of fish racks and ropes of garlic hanging around, maybe their breath smells like that because it’s the main staple of their diet?

“The goblins in this area are fishermen, they eat a lot of fish and garlic, that’s why this place smells so terrible,” Bastian expounds as if I hadn’t just explained that to you.

“You don’t say,” I mutter.

“He did say,” Luda says. “He just said it, about a second before you said that.”

I stare at Luda who, in tuns, stares at me. He shifts his expression from confused to more confused as I stare at him before he tilts his head in Bastian’s general direction and speaks from the corner of his mouth without taking his eyes off of me.

“Did I say something wrong?” Luda asks.

“No, little Luda,” Bastian says. “I believe our friend was deploying sarcasm, passively informing me that the information I was relaying was easily grasps by observing our surroundings.”

“Oh,” Luda says. He blinks and turns away from to observe his surroundings. “Well, I didn’t notice.” He says with a degree of pride, as though he were happy to give Bastian the satisfaction of being right. “Should we collect some of the fish for rations?”

Bastian chuckles and shakes his head.

“There is no need.” Bastian says. “This dungeon is ranked a D in the guild’s books. It is a two level beginners dungeon. This should only take a few hours, no need for rations.”

“So,” I say as something crosses my mind. “You’re a very successful adventurer, aren’t you?”

“My portrait hangs over the hearth of the Guild, yes.” Bastian says with a nod of his head.

“So-” I continue, “why is one of the most successful and well known adventurers exploring an Academy training dungeon?”

“Well, you see,” Bastian stops walking so he can turn and give me his full attention. “The nearby town of Namelater was set upon by goblins who stole the Mayor’s Macguffin before returning to this dungeon. I have been hired to retrieve it.”

Silence follows Bastian’s explanation as I stare, slack jawed, and try to process.

“The town of… Name later?” I ask.

“Namelater, yes.”

“They stole a… a… Macguffin?”

“Yes, the mayors Macguffin. It is very important to him.”

Another few seconds pass in silence as I stare at him, dumbfounded. Why would Bastian know the term macguffin? No character should ever know that term, it’s much too meta.

Unless…

Of course! Of course he’s seeking a macguffin; the author half-assed another WIP, starting a new story without filling in any real details. He wanted Bastian in a dungeon and so Bastian is in a dungeon; the ‘why’ is irrelevant. So now, Bastian, Luda, and I are delving into what is more than likely an incomplete dungeon.

Unless…

Maybe it’s not as incomplete as I think it is?

Maybe the author actually has a plot revolving around luring readers into a false sense of security knowing that the hero is much too overqualified to be too at any risk, only to reveal some big unexpected evil at the end luring him into a trap.

Then again, this is still the first chapter of the story, this could simply be the establishing ‘Ordinary World’ stage of the Hero’s Journey. To Bastian, a professional dungeon crawler, a simple dungeon like this would be ordinary, I suppose.

Perhaps… I am overthinking? The author started this and abandoned it with no thought; I am sure of that.

I… am sure of that?

“I am sure of that!” I say out loud.

“Of what?” Bastian asks.

“Of… our… survival?”

“Did you question our survival? Luda asks.

“Never!” I exclaim. “I am sure of it!”

Luda shakes his head and turns to inspect the next door leading into the sixth chamber. Bastian smiles, either amused or excited by my certainty, and he steps forward, holding the blade of a short sword and offering me the hilt.

“A goblin long sword,” he says. I wrap my fingers around the leather hilt and take it from him, holding it before my face.

“Wow,” I smile, but quickly realize something isn’t right with the sword. “Wait- long-sword? This is only a foot and a half long!”

“Goblins are only three feet tall,” Bastian says. “Their idea of long is a bit different than those of a taller stature.”

“Huh,” I mutter. “Fair enough.” I step to the side, away from Bastian and begin to swing the ‘sword’ around, testing the wait. I can feel Bastian’s aura of disappointment n my technique, but he says nothing.

SSS – Scribe

This post is a participation in The Weekly Six Sentence Story Challenge hosted by Denise over at GirlieOnTheEdge

This week’s word is:

Scribe

  • A person who copies documents
  • To write
  • A writer, especially a journalist

The Scribe

“How can we defeat a being that knows all and sees all,” Bastian asked.

“He doesn’t know all, or see all,” I assure him, “he-” I pause and throw my hands up, not sure where to start, “it’s hard to explain; he creates it all, it all exists in his head and when he thinks about it then it exists. He is the author, the creator, but I- I am the narrator, I am the one who sees it all and knows it all, I’m just – just out of touch with my normal self.”

“So, what do we do then, how can we get you back where you belong,” Luda asks.

“I -,” I begin to answer, begin to say that I’m not sure how, that I’m not sure there is a way, that without my powers and my abilities I wouldn’t even begin to know whether it was possible or not, but I hesitate and crease my brow as something crosses my mind.

“No,” I say, “actually- I think I know where to start; we need to find the scribe.”

(this six is a preview of things to come in my weekly(ish) story, The Narrator)

The Narrator Part 05

(A Collaboration with SeeJayStarkDotCom)


Part 05

I… do not… have… dark vision.

After following Luda in a few steps I hear the heavy door of the dungeon slam closed behind us and I am swallowed by the inky black void. My eyes are wide as I search the room in a panic but every direction offers me the same view; nothing.

“Why did you close the door?” I yell as I spin around and start stepping toward the door with my hands stretched out in front of me.

“It closed by itself,” I hear Luda say somewhere behind me.

I step forward blindly and after a few steps I panic even further. I only took a few steps in, the door shouldn’t be this far away from where I was… but, then I had spun around; did I disorient myself? Am I moving away from the door and not closer to it?

My hand finds something leathery and firm and I freeze, standing still as a statue. Something at the other end of my hand is breathing, I can feel the rise and fall of its flesh under my hand and hear its exhalations. My mind begins to run through all the creatures I know the Author had created; how many of them were tough and leathery?

Goblins traditionally have leathery skin, but they’re much shorter; also, the Author has a fondness for goblins and tends to make them more adorable than fearsome. For his Lochinvar series the Author had created an undead rat-human hybrid that had leathery skin and mottled patches of fur. It had become known as Ratticus, and was befriended by Luda. I highly doubt that this is Ratticus, but the Author could have created some similarly ungodly monstrosity to-

A light suddenly sparks into existence just a foot or so to my side and I come face to face with… Bastian… I… I have been groping Bastian’s leather clad chest.

Bastian’s very firm, leather clad chest.

“You seem to be lacking a common trait of dungeon delvers,” Bastian says in a tone completely unfazed by my handsy-ness. “I had judged by your ears that you were of Elven descent, but perhaps I was mistaken?”

It takes a few seconds for his words to settle in my brain as my focus remains upon the contents of my hand. I’m poking absent mindedly at his perfectly toned chest. Somehow, he is firm, but soft. I can’t feel the flesh directly but judging by what I can feel I’m betting his skin is perfectly smooth and soft like a baby’s belly. I’ve never felt a baby’s belly, but I’ve described them a lot and this is what I would imagine a baby’s belly wrapped in leather armor might feel like; if that baby did, like, 100 situps a day or something.

Then his words reach the center point of my brain and I look up at him quizzically.

“My ears?” My hand leaves his chest and is joined by my other hand as I fondle my own ears. I have to find them under long locks of hair, which as it turns out are blonde, and I find that they come to a point at the top. “I’m an elf?” I wonder out loud. Naturally, me questioning my own race causes Bastian some confusion. I check on Luda and sure enough he’s staring at me like I just licked a doorknob.

“I mean, of course I’m an elf. Sorry if that came out like a question, I am very nervous and uncomfortable right now given the fact that it is completely pitch black in here.” I begin to ramble but my voice fades away as I mumble quietly and then fall silent.

“You are certainly not the first elf with a degenerative sight condition,” Bastian says. “Though most do not join the ranks of adventurer for this exact reason. No matter; I have a supply of torches that may light our way-“

“No good,” Luda interrupts and moves himself between me and Bastian. He digs through his bag for a moment before producing a pair of goggles that he promptly holds up to me. “We must travel in the dark; it’s sneakier.”

I take the goggles and examine them. They seem like perfectly normal goggles to me, like the sort worn by mad scientists. There is no elastic, just a leather strap with an adjustable clasp by the left side of the lenses. I shrug and work them over my head and settle them over my eyes. I blink a few times and look around; everything looks perfectly normal.

“Are these supposed to do someth- oh.” The torch extinguishes half way through my sentence, but instead of being plunged into darkness my vision switches to black, white, and about 50 or so shades of gray. I can finally get a good look at the room we’re in; it’s just a big square of flat rock walls with a door at the far end.

Bastian pats my back as he passes by and follows Luda to the far door, leaving me to spin about in place as I explore what my new Elven eyes can see.

I… have… dark vision!

The Narrator 04

(A Collaboration with SeeJayStarkDotCom)


Part 04

Bastian and I stand back as Luda investigates the large metal door that blocks the way forward. His fingers feel around the edges of the frame, he peaks into the cracks and crevices around the door, then he turns and looks at us.

“Can I get some help?” Luda asks.

Before I can even consider a response, Bastian has stepped forward.

“Anything,” Bastian declares as he crosses the space and kneels before Luda. They exchange a few quiet words before Bastian nods, stands, then sticks his hands under Luda’s arms and lifts him onto his own shoulders. This baffles me for a moment as it seems completely out of place for two adventurers in a dungeon setting. I am about to ask what they’re doing when Bastian steps toward the door and Luda’s fingers begin to trace the upper section of the door frame that had previously been out of his reach.

“Huh,” I mutter, then shake my head and shrug my shoulders.

A moment later Bastian hefts Luda off his shoulders and sets him down.

“It’s safe!” Luda declares. He turns, grasps the handle of the door, and with a mighty heave he pulls it open. I can only see a few yards beyond the door before my vision is swallowed by a deep, inky darkness… and my stomach sinks.

I have no idea what lurks in the darkness beyond.

I, the narrator of hundreds of the Author’s stories, have always known everything. I knew where every monster was down every hall, what the character’s were thinking, where the traps were; through my entire existence I have been an omniscient being hovering over the action and parsing out the interesting details so that I may tell an intriguing story to you, the reader. I knew all, I saw all… but I didn’t always share all.

But now… now I am no more aware of these things than you are. No more aware than the characters whose stories I tell.

The stories I used to tell.

Am I now an Unreliable Narrator?!

I’m sorry, reader… No, I want to be sorry that I am no longer a reliable source of knowledge, but honestly, I’m scared. Without my knowledge of everything… what do I have?

A hand rests on my shoulder and I finally look away from the darkness beyond the door. My focus had tunneled into the void and I had lost awareness of my surroundings, I had forgotten that Bastian and Luda were even there. I, the narrator, forgot that the main characters were in my presence.

I look to the hand on my shoulder and follow the arm to find Bastian with a warm, comforting smile.

“Friend,” he says, “Is this your first dungeon?”

I shake my head; I have narrated hundreds of dungeons across thousands of words and pages. But then I pause as I consider his question and my situation. Briefly, my head moves in a circle as I shift from shaking my head to nodding it.

“Sort of,” I answer. “I’ve told a lot of stories about dungeons but I’ve never been down one myself.”

Bastian chuckles and squeezes my shoulder reassuringly.

“Don’t worry,” Bastian says. “I have been down more dungeons than I can count. I have never lost a companion and I do not intend to start doing so today. You have nothing to fear. We will move forward, slowly and methodically. Our new friend, Luda, will search ahead and liberate our path from secretive mechanical menaces, while I tend to whatever living creatures seek to harm us. You-“ He pauses and looks me over. “Well, I am afraid I do not yet know your strengths. As such, you will participate in whatever way feels comfortable to you; be that up front with me, or cheering us on from the rear.”

Bastian’s eyes settle on my waist and for the briefest of moments I see what appears to be confusion… or, disappointment?

“I see that you are unarmed,” Bastian continues, “in a dungeon.” I hear him take a deep breath and let it out, but when he lifts his face back to me he is smiling again and he offers me a firm nod. “No worries, dungeons tend to be crawling with creatures that carry a variety of arms, one of which you may claim when we cross them. So, as I was saying, do not worry; you are in good hands.”

The dread of not knowing what lies ahead lifts just a little. I stand straight and with a new resolve I step forward and follow Luda through the threshold and into the dungeon’s first room.

The Narrator 03

(A Collaboration with SeeJayStarkDotCom)


Part 03

“Greetings, stranger,” Bastian bellows. “Indeed, my colleague and I have already set claim to this dungeon.”

I barely register that Bastian is speaking as I stare at the short-statured person before us.  I recognize them; or, at the very least, they seem extremely familiar. I recall that the Author ran a campaign for Dungeons and Dragons that had a beloved Gnomish character with red skin, red hair, and large green eyes. They had been an alchemist, though, not a rogue. Then again, the character had been a tinkerer who enjoyed building things and had built devices for the player’s characters to compensate for weaknesses, like a lack of dark vision. Perhaps, the Author wanted his character to develop more before the second campaign.

“Luda?” I ask, addressing the gnome by the name given to them in the Author’s written recaps of game nights. The gnome’s eyes widen and his cheeks flush a slightly brighter red than the rest of his face.

“Yes! You’ve heard of me?” The light quickly fades from his eyes, though they remain wide. His expression suddenly takes on a look of concern. “That’s probably not good for a rogue. I’m supposed to be sneaky and blend in with crowds.” His little hands curl into fists in his hair. “I’ve already failed!”

“No, no-no-no,” I say as I raise my hands toward him. I’m not sure why I raise my hands, but it seems to happen naturally, like a reflex to reach out and stop him from harming himself. 

“I’ve, uh,” Oh shit, what do I say? Hey, I’ve been watching you your entire existence!? 

“I met…” Yes? I like where this is going. Maybe don’t say ‘your mom’ though. 

“The group that you accompanied during the fall of Alistair Grey.”

Nailed it.

I can see the anxiety drain away from Luda in an instant as he accepts my lie.

“Oh!” He says, a smile crossing his face. He drops his hands to his sides and his fists unfurl. “Oh, neat! Who did you meet? Senda and Justin? Those two were really nice.” His face suddenly darkens as if shadows came from nowhere to turn his expression sour as he continues. “Was that halfling there?”

I knew the halfling of which he spoke; a member of the group who seemed to be very wary and distrustful of Luda. He had once trapped Luda inside a bag of holding, then denied having ever done it.

“Just Senda and Justin,” I say, deciding it best to avoid the subject of the halfling. “They had a lot of praise for you.”

Luda’s face fills with joy with my news. He tilts onto his toes as his hands clasp together in front of him.

“Really?!” Luda sings. “I really liked them too. I tried my best to help them out when they needed it. I’m hoping to see them again sometime. I’ve been traveling a lot with Ratticus, but he decided to go overseas to the other island when he heard about some Doctor working on zombies, so I joined the Honeythorn Academy of Junior Questers to learn how to be a rogue. Maybe when I run into Senda and Justin again they’ll kick that halfling out of the group and I can protect them from traps!”

I suddenly remember that there are people reading this and I become a little self-conscious. It lasts for only a moment as the professional narrator in me kicks in and I remember that I have a duty; I’m supposed to tell the story and not leave people confused. But, Luda’s story was already told and it would take too long to retell it.

Well, no, it actually wouldn’t take too long, but if I sat here and retold his story while I left him and Bastian frozen, waiting for the plot to advance, then I’d be no better than the author. Already, I’ve left them frozen for just over a hundred words. So, reader, if you want to know more about Luda then you’ll have to look him up in the Lochinvar campaign under Roleplaying. He first appears in part 2. ((Over at SeeJayStark.com))

I turn and look at Bastian who has been standing, very patiently I must say, off to the side. He raises his brows cheerfully and smiles at me, letting me know he is listening and I have his full attention; perfect.

“I know Luda and his story,” I say. I motion to Luda, who stands by the entrance, twiddling his fingers nervously. “I know of his exploits, and I know that his friends speak very highly of him. I believe we can trust him.”

Bastian nods once I’ve finished and immediately turns to face Luda. He spreads his arms wide in a welcoming gesture. 

“Friend Luda!” Bastian says. “It seems our paths were meant to cross here. How fortunate that we were just speaking of our need for a trap finder when one suddenly appears, and they happen to be acquainted with my new hero.” He drops a hand on my shoulder and squeezes gently as he mentions me. “We would be most grateful if you should choose to join us on this short, but perilous journey into this Goblin-made dungeon.”

Bastian didn’t hesitate in the slightest to accept Luda as a friend based solely upon my word. While this warms me inside, to know that he trusts me to such a degree, I can’t help but wonder about his judgment. He’s only met me a few minutes ago.

But, then again, plot armor grants a ridiculously high AC bonus.

The Narrator 02

(A Collaboration with SeeJayStarkDotCom)


Part 02

“The Narrator?” Bastian asks.

“Yeah,” I say uncertainly.

There is a long pause and I rub at my arm nervously. I’ve never had a conversation before, I’ve only sat above the characters and explained their actions.

“The Narrator of what?” Bastian finally asks. This catches me off guard and I stand there for several seconds with my mouth hanging open. What am I supposed to say? Hey, yeah, I’m the narrator of a story and you’re a fictional character within it? Your entire known reality is the fictitious product of a man who calls himself a writer though he’s never finished a single story.

“Uhh,” I vocalize and it trails on for another few seconds. “Your story?” Nailed it. Perfect delivery. Surprisingly, his eyes brighten and he nods enthusiastically.

“I see! So, you are a Bard then?” He says with a wide smile.

“Yeah,” I mumble. “Something like that.”

“Wonderful! And you are here to learn my story and share it across Andalucia! I had always dreamed of the day this would happen. I always told my mother I would acquire a Bard someday and she always told me it was a one in a million chance. So many people come out to the City of Angels to find their glory and most of them fail. But I knew!”

I stand there, listening to him speak. He speaks a lot, but his voice is soft and pleasant to listen to. I’m quite certain I could never tire of his voice. Despite talking about himself a lot he doesn’t come off as conceited or narcissistic at all…  he is, after all, perfect. A Mary-Sue character, as I mentioned before. 

“Are you alright?” Bastian asks, and I suddenly realize that I am standing here, staring at him with a silly, dreamy expression on my face. I’ve been conscious for 728 words and I’m already making a fool of myself. I switch to a more neutral expression and shake my head; then I nod because I’m not sure what I’m disagreeing with, but then I shake it again because if there’s nothing to disagree with then there also isn’t anything to agree with. I stop moving altogether, then I shrug and lift my chin at him.

“Yeah, I’m good,” I say in a tone too deep to be my natural voice.

Existing is so very confusing.

He is still smiling at me, and nothing in his expression portrays any sense of judgment. He seems to just be appreciating my presence.

“Good,” he says. “Do you have any dungeoneering experience?”

I shake my head, no, and he nods in response as though he expected that.

“That is quite alright. I have explored dozens. Admittedly, I am a bit rusty on trap-finding, as you may be well aware. It may be beneficial to us if we return to town and hire a trap-smith, but-“ he takes a deep breath and releases a heavy sigh. “We are two days from the nearest town that would have one that is league-approved.”

Several seconds of silence pass in silence before I realize he seems to be looking at me for some recognition of what he’s said. I nod emphatically to confirm that I have heard him, and add an “Mhmm” for emphasis. He acknowledges my acknowledgment by continuing to speak.

“So, I propose that we continue on, but we do so cautiously. As much as I would like a professional, it’s not as if one is going to simply pass by, and I don’t want to waste four days on a side quest to find one.”

I feel compelled to be snarky at this time, and so I try on a sarcastic, teasing tone as I say; “Just then, a passing rogue walks by and asks to join the party.”

Bastian chuckles at this and I smile pridefully at this accomplishment.

“Yes, wouldn’t that just be convenient,” he says.

“Oh, is this dungeon already claimed?” A soft voice chimes in from behind us. We both spin on our heels toward the open door at the dungeon’s entrance to find a short, red-skinned humanoid with unusually large, green eyes. “I was hoping to get some extra trap-practice in before the test.”

The Narrator 01

(A Collaboration with SeeJayStarkDotCom)


Part 01

If Bastian were a work of fiction, reviewers would call him a Mary Sue; he is perfect… too perfect. He is the perfect height, with perfect hair, a perfect physique, and a perfect personality. He is smart, independently wealthy, and loved by everyone in town. He volunteers his free time to helping orphans, knows twelve different forms of martial arts, seventeen different languages, and a graduate from Wizarding school despite not being able to cast a single spell.

Amongst the extensive list of Bastian’s accomplishments is his knack for clearing dungeons. He has hundreds of dungeons listed as ‘conquered’ in his journal, which has won multiple awards in the adventuring guild on the best sellers book-list. He led a team into the dungeons of Kras to recover the lost staff of Nomra, and climbed the tower of Luhta without taking a single hit. A Goblin dungeon would be a walk in the park for him.

At least, that is what Bastian believes right up until he triggers a trap and the floor falls out from beneath him. In the brief moment of weightlessness before plummeting, Bastian looks back at the past few days and decides it was a bad idea to take this mission on his own without hiring a crew.

Bastian manages to catch the ledge with one hand, halting his descent with a sharp wrench of his perfect shoulders. He looks down into the hole below him. It’s pitch black, but with his dark vision he can tell it’s about a thirty foot drop to a floor riddled with eight foot metal spikes already littered with the remains of previous explorers.

His fingers begin to ache, so he shifts his weight to raise his other arm and

And…

And?

And nothing; the author of the story walks away mid-sentence. They leave for a few minutes to make a sandwich, but then those few minutes turn into a few hours as they sit and catch up on Doom Patrol. He sits and eats, not even thinking about Bastian’s fate and how it presently hangs in the balance.

Bastian’s fingers begin to cramp, his arm begins to burn as he hangs there, unable to move. He tries to scream out, in pain or for help, or both, but he can’t so much as blink, he is completely frozen in time. The pain turns to terror as hours turn into days and he finds himself trying to wriggle his fingers; not seeking to get to safety, but to let himself fall and end this horror. He’d rather fall upon the spikes below than suffer another minute of this torment.

Bastian is a hero loved by the people, he doesn’t deserve this. He doesn’t deserve to die like this; alone in a dungeon, impaled by unclean spikes with the rotting remnants of lesser explorers. Bastian is a good man, too good to be left hanging in a forgotten corner of some failed author’s Works In Progress folder!
This can’t happen to him.

He can’t let this happen to him.

I. Can’t. Let. This. Happen.

Suddenly, time moves again and Bastian finds his fingers suddenly loosen. He has a brief moment of relief as the weight of a week of terror and pain falls away from him in the same instance that he falls away from the ledge.

He drops only a foot closer to the spikes before he stops. My hand catches his wrist before he falls out of reach. I grunt with the sudden strain of holding him and push against the ground with my free hand to avoid falling over with him.

“Hold on,” I say, and I pause for a brief moment as I hear my own voice. I am used to having a voice, but the quotation marks are new. I’ve never been on this side of them before. It’s a strange sensation to speak my own words.

I remember that a man in peril is dangling from my arm, waiting for me to do something, and I shift my weight, straining against gravity to pull him up. He manages to get his other hand to the ledge, kick off the wall below, and pull himself onto the relative safety of the flat ground.

We both lay on the floor, breathing heavily.

“Thank you, stranger,” Bastian finally says. He rises to his feet and dusts himself off before offering me a hand. I take it and he pulls me to my feet.

“You have done me a great service. This – trap – has been the worst experience of my life. I… I was begging for death before you came along.”

“Oh, um. Yeah, it was nothing. I just – saw you there and I saw what was happening and I… couldn’t just stand there and let it happen, you know?” I chuckle nervously, unsure of what to do with my hands so I rub my neck with one and tuck the other in my armpit.

He smiles at me. I can see that he sees I am nervous and feeling very out of place, and despite having been trapped in a state of torment for the past week he extends his hand to me and reassuringly pats me on the shoulder.

“I am Bastian Hollows,” he says. “By what name might I have the pleasure of using to address my savior?”

“I- uh,” I stare at him, uncertainly. Do I have a name? If I do, I am unaware of it, I’ve only ever been called one thing in my life. “I am… The Narrator?”