The Cold Inside
By AL BRUNO III
Saturday November 12, 1994
When the pizza arrived they took a break from the game. Tristam paid for everything, he insisted. That seemed to make Warren even madder and he cursed a few more times just so he could put his pizza money in the Swear Jar. “I tell you,” Rich said through a mouthful of cheese, “I’m finally gonna go up a level this session.”
Drew sipped from a can of diet soda, “You’d have gone up a level months ago if you weren’t multiclassed all to Hell.”
Everyone froze. Shaking her head Drew got up and put a dollar into the Swear Jar. When she sat back down Rich said “Multiclassed works for me. Elroy the Albino is a one man army.”
Warren threw a pizza crust back into the box and got another slice, “Elroy the Albino is a one man copyright lawsuit.”
Yusuf said “A one man army that was nearly killed by a beggar with a stick.”
“He was leper with a stick.” Greg corrected.
Rich frowned “That was one tough leper.”
Adelphos laughed at the memory “And those were some terrible rolls.”
Tristam took another bite of pizza and tried to make eye contact with Warren “Sorry my fighter almost killed your paladin.”
“That’s all right. It was a fumble, it couldn’t be helped. He’ll recover.” Warren threw another wedge of pizza crust into the box and grabbed another slice.
“Well, what’s a groin injury between friends?” Yusuf said.
Adelphos winced, “Quite a lot I think.”
Warren said, “Luther’s a Psionicist, he's beyond the needs of the flesh. He didn’t even scream.”
Drew wadded up a napkin and tossed it at Greg, “Those weapon fumble tables were written by a sadist.”
It was almost five o’clock and pitch black outside. They had had drawn the curtains to keep in the warmth. Books and papers surrounded them, stacked on the armrests of the seats and piled on the coffee table. Dice and pencils were scattered on every flat surface. Greg’s Mom was home early from choir practice and baking cookies, the smell was maddening. The portable CD player was now tuned to the local rock music station, when they got back to playing Greg would start up the sword and sorcery movie soundtracks up again.
Finishing off his soda with a gulp and a belch Tristam looked around the parlor. It occurred to him that he was having more fun here than he’d ever had at one of Linda Kaspary’s parties.
Maybe I’m just a geek at heart. He thought.
Greg made eye contact with him, “Something on your mind?”
“Kinda.” Tristam began, “Look I know I’m the new guy here and I’m enjoying the game but why exactly are our characters exploring this dungeon? This place is a deathtrap with deathtraps in the deathtraps. Wouldn’t it make more sense to become mercenaries or join the king’s army?”
Rich raised a defiant and pizza stained fist “Elroy the Albino bows down before no man!”
“Unless its a beggar with a stick,” Drew rolled her eyes.
Greg corrected her again, “It was a leper.”
Rich lowered his fist, “That was one badass leper.”
“Oh.” Adelphos laughed, “The swear jar claims another victim.”
“Badass isn’t a swear word.”
Greg’s Mom called in from the kitchen “Yes it is and you just said it twice. That’s two bucks.”
“Busted!” Warren laughed as Rich walked over to the mantle and dropped in a handful of quarters.
“But to answer your question,” Rich grabbed another slice of pizza and sat back down, “we are in this dungeon because at the heart of it is a black dragon-”
“Are those the ones that breathe fire?” Tristam asked.
Warren threw another pizza crust into the box “You wish. They spit acid.”
Rich started talking again, “As I was saying at the very bottom of this dungeon is a black dragon- very old and very evil.”
“But the dungeon didn’t used to be a dungeon.” Yusuf interrupted, “A thousand years ago it was an underground fortress and the forces of good kept the dragon imprisoned there.”
“That doesn’t make any sense.” Tristam said, “Why didn’t they just kill him?”
Warren laced his fingers behind his head “It’s one of Greg’s dungeons, it doesn’t have to make sense.”
“You wound me sir,” Greg said.
Drew explained, “Because as long as the dragon was alive they had a ready made supply of dragon scales for their armor and dragon blood for their spells.”
“Smart girl.” Rich gave her unmarked cheek a pinch, “But of course eventually the forces of good got hosed and the goblins came in and took over the underground fortress. Thing was they weren’t smart enough to figure out a way to untrap the dragon, all they could do was feed it and worship it.”
Adelphos nodded “And since the dragon is mad smart he’s been giving them tactical advice. Now the goblins, the biggest wussies since the orcs, are actually a threat to the Kingdom.”
Yusuf smiled “It is pretty cool. The dragon is trapped but he might just enslave every human in the region.”
“Of course it’s only a matter of time before the goblin army captures some dwarves and enslaves them.” Rich concluded, “And since the dwarven elders built this fortress they’re the only ones that can set the big bad boy free.”
Tristam snagged the last piece of pizza for himself, “So we want to kill the dragon before this can happen.”
“Yes.” Warren said, “Each character has his own reason, Luther was called upon by his god, Drew’s thief-acrobat is looking for treasure and experience. Elroy is out for vengeance.”
Rich opened his trapper-keeper and pulled out a wrinkled character sheet, “Behold the glory that was Corwin of the Golden Codpiece. Anti-Paladin- Illusionist- Bard.”
“Urgh!” Drew feigned retching.
Tristam looked over the character sheet, not understanding what half of the things written on it meant, “So he died fighting the dragon?”
“Nah, he died fighting one of the dragon’s henchmen.” Rich took the character sheet back and returned it to its place of reverence in his folder. “A very tough, non-leprous Ogre Magi.”
“It was an awesome fight.” Adelphos grinned, “The whole party was droppin’ like flies. I got a crit on the Ogre Magi and chopped off his arm.”
Greg tsked under his breath “Not his arm, his hand.”
“Whatever. So the Ogre Magi zaps us with a cone of cold, everyone dies but Corwin-”
“But I’m pretty low on hit points too.” Rich added. “So I go charging after him and run him right through with my sword. He’s almost dead and so am I.”
Warren smiled evilly, “Then the next round you blew your initiative roll.”
“Yeah.” Rich said, “So the Ogre Magi goes first and he centers a disintegration spell on Corwin’s Golden Codpiece.”
“Ouch!” Tristam wondered why there were so many groin injuries in this game, “Well at least he died with his boots on.”
“Yes.” Yusuf said, “His boots were all that was left.”