Monday, September 10, 2012

THE COLD INSIDE (a serial novel) Chapter Seventeen part one

The Cold Inside
Chapter Seventeen
part one
By AL BRUNO III

Friday November 25, 1994


As traditions went it was a fairly new one but the Magnificent Seven where enthusiastic in observance of the Black Friday Dungeons and Dragons marathon. The Fletchers thought it was a pretty cool idea and kept the parlor stocked with a tray of leftovers and a plate of cookies.

“Make a saving throw versus petrifaction.” Greg leered from behind his cardboard Dungeon Master's screen

“Wait wait wait.” Drew said, “The dragon's casting spells?”

“They do that sometimes.”

“But… but… we were ready for his breath weapon.”

Adelphos scanned his character sheet, “Mr. Dragon must have made his intelligence roll.”

“Or he got tipped off.” Tristam suggested, “I knew we shouldn’t have spared that crippled Orc.”

Drew rolled her twenty-sided die and winced. “Aw nuts.”

Greg consulted the charts on the back of his screen and shook his head, “Sorry Drew, a cold shiver works its way up Lydia's spine. She's turned to stone before she can even scream.”

A screech of heavy metal music filtered through the hallway as Greg's Dad wandered from his office to the kitchen. He smiled at them but didn't interrupt.

Warren said, “Might I suggest a tactical retreat?”

“Great I go from being an eighth-level illusionist to a lawn gnome.” Drew grabbed a cookie from the dish in the center of the table.

“Well, your character is Gnomish.” Rich said.

Yusuf suggested, “Perhaps you should have had her save versus irony.”

Tristam laughed and gave Yusuf a thumbs up, he got a thumbs up back. He was having a good time, better then he expected really. After you had tasted real magic the dice and paper version paled considerably. Tristam wished he could share what he knew with them but secrecy had been one of Phil's many rules.

I wonder what tonight's lesson will be.

“I use Psionics to make Shardovan charge the dragon.”

Tristam did a double take, Shardovan was his character! “What?”

Warren repeated, “I said I use Psionics to make Shardovan charge the dragon.”

“Why?”

“Martin's alignment is Chaotic Neutral. He doesn't need a reason.”

“Uhm,” Greg stroked his chin, “actually I think your character needs a better reason than that.”

Adelphos jangled his dice in his hand, “Don’t be a dick just to be a dick.”

“I am not being a dick to be a dick.” Warren shook his head, “I am playing my damn character.”

A laugh went up from the Seven, the Swear jar's penalties were doubled during the Black Friday Dungeons and Dragons marathon. With a groan of resignation Warren got up, walked to the mantle and fed the jar.

“Yeah right then how come your character hates me?” Tristam said.

“Because your character is always smug and self-righteous.”

“That's just a steaming load of-” Tristam caught himself and paused, “Poopiedoodle. A steaming load of poopiedoodle.”

“Look” Warren explained, “We all know Luther is an opportunist and the only way we are going to keep this dragon off balance is to distract him. And what would be more distracting to an ancient evil dragon then a Paladin charging at him? It should give one of us enough time to get in a shot with the Arrows of Slaying.”

Rich grumbled “As if any of us ever hits anything.”

“My character hit yours once.” Yusuf offered

“Yeah don’t remind me.”

Drew patted Rich's shoulder “Don’t be upset I think the eyepatch is very fetching.”

Greg nodded sagely, “Sorry Tristam Warren does have a point. His character is cold blooded and self-serving. The incident with the flaming halfling more then proves that.”

Rich agreed, “Tolkien wept tears of blood that day.”

“While spinning in his grave.” Greg gave Warren a final appraising look and then said, “All right. Roll for your Psionics.”

A twenty-sided die clattered on the table, Warren smiled “Got it.”

“That you did. Tristam make a saving throw for Shardovan.”

Trisam rolled and grimaced at the number he got “Great.”

“Sorry Tristam.” Greg said with an apologetic shrug, “You failed your save. Shardovan has to obey Luther's command.”

“I can still attack right?”

“He did say charge the dragon. He didn't say douse yourself in steak sauce and jump down its throat.”

“Rats! I knew I forgot something!” Warren joked, but no one laughed.

Greg continued, “All right. Tristam your character feels this uncontrollable urge to flat out attack the dragon.”

“Well then.” Tristam said. “I call out to my god and charge the dragon.”

Yusuf put a hand over his heart “Alas poor Shardovan.”

“The dragon sees you coming and snaps up to its full height, it's back brushing against the roof of the carvern,” Greg paused dramatically, “stalactites and stalagmites are falling all around you but somehow you manage to reach the beast just in time to get a hit in before the dragon blasts you with his acid breath.”

Adelphos said, “I got the Arrow of Slaying ready I take careful aim with my bow.”

“My character hides and waits for the right moment to strike.” Warren said.

Rich grins, “Elroy decides to join Shardovan in his blaze of glory. He grabs his blade, and charges the dragon.”

“I take cover.” Yusuf said.

“I’m still a statue…” Drew frowned and grabbed another cookie, “So I just stand there.”

“Now that is what I call role-playing.”

Greg nodded to Tristam, “Make your attack roll.”

“This should be good.” Tristam casually threw the twenty-sided die across the table, he was already thinking about the next character he was going to roll up.

“A twenty!” Drew shouted.

“What?”

“A crit!” Adelphos slapped Tristam on the arm, “You rolled a critical hit.”

Tristam knew what a critical hit was; it was just that he never seemed to roll one.

Greg blinked as he reached for the binder that held his critical hit chart table, “This suddenly got a lot more interesting, Tristam roll percentile dice.”

“All right.” Tristam rolled. This might turn out to be a pretty good fate for Shardovan after all, striking one savage blow before the dragon annihilated him.

Warren gasped “Ninety-nine! Ninety-nine! Way to go!”

“Oh man.” Greg stared hard at the dice, “Oh man!”

Tristam stared hard too, he was afraid any second he would look back and see a sixty-six. “Isn’t that instant death?”

“Even better.” Rich punched the air, “It's instant death! The dragon is beheaded!”

“Beheaded?” Greg shook his head, “I don’t think the sword to neck size ratio would allow that.”

Yusuf leapt to his feet, “That is not what you said when my character was disemboweled by that leprechaun.”

“He's got a point.” Drew said with a grin.

Greg pinched the bridge of his nose, “Yeah, I guess you're right.”

“Then he's dead?” Tristam said.

“Yes,” Greg said with a little grin of his own, “now I want you and Rich to make dodge rolls as the dragon falls on Shardovan and Elroy.”


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