Episode 1 – The Quest

Badas M’Bu stood at the cave’s entrance, the late evening sun glistening majestically on the blade of his sword. He had trekked through swamp and jungle, over hill and dale to reach this, the cave of the dragon, Suoicoref.

Here he would face down the ferocious beast and claim its hoard for himself. He would live like a king. He hefted his sword, squared his shoulders and rang the doorbell.

“Doorbell?” he muttered to himself, “what sort of a dragon has a doorbell? There isn’t even a door!”

He shrugged and moved forward into the gloom of the dragon’s lair.

Oil lamps sputtered on the walls, casting long shadows across the hallway with their dim light. The floor was soft beneath his feet, some sort of moss covering perhaps. The air wafting up from deeper in the dragon’s lair brought the faint odour of stew to Badas’s nostrils. His stomach rumbled as the unexpected fragrance of his favourite meal teased his senses.

He had not got more than a few steps into the cave when the oil lamps suddenly burned fiercely, filling the place with light. He goggled as he realised that the moss on the floor was, in fact, a fine deep pile red carpet.

“Good afternoon sir, and welcome to Suoicoref’s Cavern. Please, make yourself at home and feel free to browse our fine selection of the realm’s most sought after artifacts.”

Badas swung his sword up before him, and then goggled again to find himself confronted by a pretty young woman, rather than the dangerous, fire breathing beast he had expected.

“Ahh, yes,” the woman continued, apparently entirely unphased at having an edgy barbarian fighter pointing a sword in her direction, “a bastard sword, otherwise known as a hand and a half sword. Oh dear, this is a poorly made sword. Just look at that garish pommel.”

“Garish?” He glanced down at his sword. The rich gold and the rubies glinted back at him in the lamplight. “How can you say garish? This sword was crafted by the finest swordsmith in all of Bak’Mara.”

“Then Bak’Mara has seen a severe drop in the quality of its swordsmiths since last I was there. Look at this – goat horn?” She reached out and plucked the sword from Badas’s hands.

“Hey! What the-” she cut him off with further criticisms of his fine sword.

“Hmmm, yes, these are fake rubies, and rather poorly set I think.” Badas looked on in horror as she tugged one of the gems free. “Here, take a closer look at this – definitely a fake.”

He caught the tossed gem and peered at it. Dammit, she was right! But not finished, apparently. She was now peering closer at the blade itself.

“Oh my, just look at this. I wonder how many times you have had to bend this blade back into shape? Cheap blades bend so easily.”

“All blades bend, even magical ones! Well, that is what the smithy told me, anyway….umm.”

“Yeeees. Well, should you purchase a magical sword from the hoard of the mighty Suoicoref, we will provide a ten year money back guarantee against bending, chipping and loss of pommel gems.”

Purchase? He was here to defeat the evil dragon in single combat, and claim the horde for himself, not to purchase! He said as much to the woman, but it only made him angrier when she laughed at him.

“You wanted to challenge the mighty Suoicoref with this scrap metal? Oh dearie me no. Here, follow me, I will show you our fine collection of real magical swords.”

Badas trailed after her, wondering how he’d managed to get to this point even th–ohmigodisthatanoriginalSeniorWebAnalystfigurine?

He stopped in his tracks, mouth agape at the vast array of HostileTakeover™ figurines and settings. He had an almost complete first edition IT Department set – in its original box – in his pack, but he’d lost the Senior Web Analyst while raiding the Subterranean Temple of Unearthly Delights, and hadn’t been able to find a new one anywhere.

“Ah, you are a collector? We have a wide range of HostileTakeover™ figurines and settings.”

“How much?” said Badas, lifting the small figurine from the shelf with careful reverence.

“Five hundred gold pieces. It is a rather rare piece.”

“Five hundred? Outrageous, I don’t have that sort of cash on me.”

“Well,” said the woman, gently prising the figurine from his fingers, “that is what it costs. If you want it, bring the money.”

Badas’s shoulders slumped. “Very well, I will be back anon with the required sum. Fare thee well, maiden.”

“I think you’ll need a new sword first.” She held up his sword. The hilt was in tatters, and she’d bent the blade over again. “This one really is useless. Why don’t you come this way, sir?”

His shoulders slumped even further, Badas followed her once more.

~*~

 

“Destiny. Destiny, get in here girl.”

Destiny sighed to herself. Surely there were more interesting things a teenager could be doing with her life than herding cows and feeding cows and mucking out cows and milking cows and all of the other mundane little tasks involved in keeping dairy cattle.

She hauled herself to her feet, and then dragged them all the way back to the farmhouse she called home. It was a tiny place, almost a hovel, and she slept in the main room with her father, mother and older brother, Jed.

Jed was away, he had joined a band of mercenaries and gone off to fight the war against the Dark Lord. He was so lucky. He had gotten out of the dull, monotonous life that trapped Destiny. She longed for an escape to adventure. A chance to smite evil and save the day. The opportunity to fulfill her…well, her destiny.

She trailed into the kitchen, already dreading whatever chore her father had lined up for her, and was surprised to see a tall stranger sitting at the table. He wore long, dark green robes and a tall, pointy hat. She noted a long, wooden staff propped up in the corner of the room.

He was a wizard!

Adventure had come her way at last! Everyone knew that wizards brought adventure. Only three months ago, a wizard turned up at Peter Longfellow’s house and took him off on an adventure. Of course, no-one had heard from Peter since, but that was probably just because he was having too much fun fighting evil and winning the girl.

“Ah, come in young ma-er, young lady.” The wizard rose to his feet. “I fear there has been something of a mistake here. I came looking for a young man to fulfill the prophecy and bring peace and balance to the world once more. Where is your son, sir?”

“Alas, my son has left for the war. We have not heard from him in several months now, we are somewhat worried for his safety.”

Just like her father to worry. Jed was probably having a great time. All that honour and glory. All while she was stuck home with nothing to do but give cows their hay.

“Oh dear, well this won’t do at all, the prophecy specifically calls for a young man with a sword shaped birthmark on his right arm. Since your son is not here, I shall have to look elsewhere. Good day.”

With that, the wizard grasped his staff and made for the door. But Destiny was quicker and leapt into his path.

“Wait! Take me, I have the birthmark, look!” She rolled up her sleeve and stuck her arm up under the wizard’s nose. “See, just like a sword, it has the pommel and everything. Take me!”

“I’m sorry, young lady, but the prophecy specifically states that the saviour of the world will be a young man. Now, I really must go.”

He pushed past her and opened the door to leave. It wasn’t until he climbed up onto his cart that Destiny realised that he wasn’t going to change his mind and let go of his leg.

~*~

 

Now armed with what he was assured was the finest magical talking sword in the realm, but much lighter of pocket, Badas was on his way back to the city of Bak’Mara. Here he would meet with his contacts and find a job. Maybe some merchants needed their own pockets lightened. Somehow he would make the cash for that figurine.

He drew his new sword once more, hoping to get the thing to talk. On reflection, he was probably something of a fool for believing the woman when she said it talked. She hadn’t been able to get a word out of it, and now neither could he. She’d told him it might take some time, but he couldn’t help but feel he had been taken for a ride. Never mind, he had the scroll with its squiggles that, again, she had assured him were words. Words that meant if he were not completely satisfied within sixty days, he could return the sword for a full refund.

“Talk to me, you lousy piece of crap!” he yelled and swung the blade at the nearest tree.

“D’ak bootargne! D’ak bootargne!”

“Oh great, it speaks frikkin’ Orcish.” He said, and sighed, hoping that the squiggles on the scroll really did mean what the saleswoman had told him they meant.

“Grak m’knargto.”

“Yes, I expect so” he said and thrust the sword back into its scabbard. He would have to wait before trying for his refund, he was already two days’ travel from the dragon’s cave, and he didn’t want to go back without the money for the figurine anyway.

“Neek mortengar. Blas munack” the voice was muffled, but still audible through the scabbard. Badas sighed and walked on, not quite believing he had actually wanted it to talk.

At length, and after much irritation at the sword’s incessant gabbling in a language he couldn’t understand, he came to the city limits. The city walls loomed over him. The big, iron bound gates stood open now, but with the Dark Lord’s army getting closer every day, it may not be long before they were shut tight against attack.

Badas strolled into the city and made his way quickly to The Bull’s Horn, a seedy tavern on the east side of the city, where he should be able to find a job. If Tommy Quickfingers or John the Fence were there, one of them was bound to have some information on a job that would require his particular touch, ie the violent touch.

The bar was filled with the usual stench of stale beer, smoke and a lot of sweaty men in close proximity. The perpetual bar brawl had reached a bit of a lull, as it always did around dinner time, but there were still a few diehards keeping it going.

Badas dodged a dwarf who had been flung bodily by a big, hairy man on the far side of the room, and then made his way to the bar.

“Badas, you old dog! I thought you’d gone to defeat the dragon, Suoicoref? You done the deed already? And lugged all of that hoard back?”

“Long story, Hodo,” said Badas, taking the dwarven barman’s proffered hand, “you seen Tommy or John lately?”

“Well, Tommy’s currently staying at His Majesty’s finest residence for the lawfully challenged. Apparently his fingers aren’t always so quick.”

“Tommy got caught? Wow, I never thought I’d see the day. What about John?”

“John has found himself a ladyfriend, and is now pursuing life as a legitimate businessman.”

“A legitimate businessman, or a,” Badas made air quotes, “legitimate businessman?”

“Oh, definitely legitimate. But if you’re looking for work, he might be able to point you towards someone. Just be careful of his missus, she won’t be happy to see any of his old associates hanging around, and she’s a fearsome woman by all accounts.”

“Ok, well, I have a shiny new sword and big, bulging barbarian muscles that say she won’t touch me.”

“If you say so, didn’t you just buy a new sword?”

“Well, yes, but just look at the craftsmanship on this baby.”

He tugged the sword a little way out of the scabbard to show Hodo the blade.

“Durk mungry. H’akk blega! Horgue noo, m’kranda haa’kbroon.”

“Is that orcish?” Hodo burst into laughter, his portly belly shaking with mirth. Badas jammed the sword back into its scabbard and scowled down at the dwarf.

“Shut up, I got a money back guarantee and everything. If I’m not completely satisfied, I can take it back within sixty days and get my money back, look.” He reached into his pack to withdraw the scroll and thrust it at Hodo. The dwarf turned and yelled into the back room.

“Woman! Get out here.” He turned back to Badas. “I don’t read, the missus does all of that stuff.

A second dwarf, wearing the same armour and helm, and with the same long black beard as Hodo emerged from the back room.

“Yes dear?” she said.

“Here, read this for me.”

“Hmm, let me see,” she said, eyes scanning the page, “oh my.” She glared at her husband, eyes narrowed. “What are you doing with this filth?”

Hodo’s eyes widened and he waved frantically at Badas.

“T’ain’t mine love, it’s his, it’s his!”

“Hang on, filth? That’s a receipt, guaranteeing me a refund on this sword if I take it back in sixty days. Um…isn’t it?”

“It most certainly is not. You should be ashamed of yourself, Badas M’Bu.” With that, she thrust the scroll back at Badas and stalked off.

Badas just stood, open mouthed, staring down at the scroll. That dirty, double crossing wench of a saleswoman. He oughtta go back there and give her, and that damn dragon, a jolly good thrashing. But something told him that all that would achieve would be to afford her another opportunity to sell him something, and he didn’t want to buy anything but that Senior Web Analyst figurine. And he didn’t have the money for that yet.

He shook himself out of his shock and said, “Hodo, where can I find John?”

“He and his old lady have a house up on Eagle Street, but you’re probably better off catching him at work. He’ll be up at the cemetery on Dean Street tomorrow morning, mending the fence”

“Fixing fences? Wow, our man John has really gone up in the world, huh? Thanks Hodo, I’ll go speak to him tomorrow then. In the meantime, I’d better avail myself of your hospitality and have a beer.”

~*~

 

As the cart bounced over another hole in the ground, jolting her around on the hard wood, Destiny began to wonder if she had left her sanity behind at the farm.

She had hidden herself in the back of the mage’s cart under a convenient blanket, and had been knocked and shaken about for the last two hours as the wizard traveled back to the city. It was not her idea of glamour.

Still, there was some excitement in the fact that she had escaped the monotony of the farm, and was making her own way into adventure. Her hand went to her hair again. She was a little sad at the loss, but it was necessary if she were to convince the king that she was the boy that the prophecy said would save the world. She would find a way to deal with the two other problems later. Maybe she could say that she had very well developed pecs.

It was another hour, or at least it seemed so, before the cart finally came rattling to a halt. She heard the wizard haul himself out of his seat at the front, and then heard his footsteps as he made his way to the back of the cart. The back, where she lay under the blanket.

“What’s this, I’m sure there was nothing under that blanket when I left.”

Rats, discovered.

Destiny blinked against the light as the blanket was thrown back and a lantern was shoved in her face. She shielded her eyes and looked up into the big, round face of the wizard she had stolen a ride from.

“Well, well, well. What have we here? A young stowaway. And where did you come from young man?”

“Young man? Actually I’m…” she paused. He didn’t recognize her, and thought she was a boy. She dropped her voice a little lower, cleared her throat and started again. “Yes, I had to stowaway…uh, my father would never have let me come. You see, I believe I am the prophesied one, look, I have the birthmark and everything.”

She rolled up her sleeve and showed him the sword shaped mark. He peered closely at it and then harrumphed.

“Well, yes, it does appear to be the correct shape. But what about the rest of the prophecy?”

“The rest?”

“Yes, the Chosen One has to have been born on a full moon. Were you?”

“Uhhhh, yes! Of course I was.” She had no idea when she was born, it was a little too long ago.

“And you are eighteen years old this year?”

“Yep.” She was seventeen.

“Well then, we may have found a prophesied one. What’s your name, boy?”

“Uhhhh, Ted, my name is Ted.”

“Ted? Well, Ted, my name is Zneb. Let’s go find something to eat, and a place to stay. Tomorrow, we make for the city of Bak’Mara!”

~*~

 

Badas woke late the next day. The previous night was something of a blur. He had partaken of rather a lot of Hodo’s hospitality after the first beer. Now his head pounded, and his fragile stomach suggested that some of that hospitality seemed to want to make a second showing. The late night kebab probably hadn’t helped either.

He rolled over in bed…which appeared to actually be the floor…and groaned as his bruised body protested. So, he’d mucked in on the bar brawl too.

He pulled himself to his feet and peered out of the window. The sun was high in the sky, it really was late. He needed to get a move on if he was going to catch John at the graveyard.

He strapped on his sword belt, ignoring the nonsensical mutterings of the sword, and strode out of the building.

He made his way quickly through the crowded streets to the graveyard that Hodo had pointed him towards.

A long, sweeping cobbled street led up to the graveyard, which stood atop a hill. Badas was panting and his body was coated with a sheen of sweat by the time he reached the top. His headache was gone, but his stomach was showing even more signs of rebelling and depositing its contents on the nice clean streets of Bak’Mara.

The graveyard was new, and most of it was still empty. It didn’t take Badas too long to come to the broken section of the fence There was no sign of John, save for some abandoned tools near the fence.

Badas swept his eyes around the graveyard, looking for anything amiss. His gaze settled on a large mausoleum that stood on the very crest of the hill. The door was slightly ajar. Perhaps John had gone in there to do some work. Or something.

He stepped through the door into the gloomy interior of the tomb. Torches lit the way down the stone stairs that fell away in front of him. Treading softly, he made his way down into the depths.

He came to the bottom, and the musty smell of the tomb assaulted his nostrils, along with the pungent odour of the embalming fluids used in the preservation of the dead.

The tomb was bigger than he’d expected, it must have extended a good way under the hill. In front of him was a corridor lined on either side by small chambers. He moved into the corridor, one hand nervously resting on the pommel of his sword. Something bothered him about this place. His hackles rose, and nothing raised his hackles like the walking dead.

He moved quietly, and peered into the first of the small chambers. A sarcophagus lay inside, its lid broken on the floor, as if it had been pushed roughly aside. The sarcophagus was empty.

That did it, he drew the sword and, still not making a sound, moved to the next chamber. Each of them told the same story, lid on the floor, sarcophagus empty.

He moved cautiously to the end of the corridor. Here, a door looked into a larger chamber. Apparently where the heads of the family where buried. He peered into the gloom and saw his suspicions confirmed.

At the far end of the room, John the Fence – now John the Fencer – cowered before a huddle of skeletons and zombies, who appeared to be arguing over what to do with him.

“BRRRRAAAAAAIIIIINNNNSSSSSS”

“No, not yet Sally,” said one of the skeletons, “you just had some brains, remember the gardener? No, not many people come up here, we need to keep him alive so that his brains will be nice and fresh when you really need them.”

“BRRRRRRRRRRAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAIIIIIIIIIIIIIIINNNNNNNSSSSSSSSSS!!”

Badas stepped into the room, treading carefully to avoid the debris that littered the floor. He raised his sword, ready to bring down these foul beings of the night when…

“Blarg nubardly, frakkoodrab!”

Gods damn that sword! Every undead head in front of him turned at the yelled orcish.

“BRRRRRRAAAAIIIIINNNSSSS?”

“I think so, yes.”

They rushed him together, no real tactics, just a bundle of undead flesh and bones bearing down on him. He leapt forward, against their expectation, his sword already swinging. A zombie head flew from a zombie neck. The body stumbled on, and Badas nudged it to oneside, causing it to wander off aimlessly, bouncing of off walls and stone columns.

Badas darted through the gap opened up by the headless zombie, and turned to face his shambling opponents. They took longer than he did to turn around, and he took the opportunity to wrench the head from a skeleton, and crush it under his boot. This time, the body crumpled to the floor in a pile of dusty bones.

He was really getting into the swing of things now, full on barbarian rage fueling his fighting. He swung and parried, jabbed and blocked. Rotting flesh and dusty bones flew this way and that.

It was some time before he heard a quiet cough behind him. He stopped and looked around. There were no zombies or skeletons left for him to fight. They were still in the room, just in rather more parts than they had been.

Badas sheathed his sword and began poking around the scattered bone and rotting flesh.

“Wh-what are you looking for?” said John. “Come on, let’s go, what if they aren’t completely dead? Well, I mean, they are completely dead, but what if they’re still undead and they get up again?”

“They won’t. At least, not for a good long while. Now, let’s see – aha! Here we are.” From beneath the piles of corpse parts, he pulled a large sack. He dumped it out on the ground and sifted through it’s contents. “Hmmmm, fifty two gold pieces, some mail armour, ooh – a fancy looking dagger. I’ll have to get that identified. Couple of potions, they’ll be handy.”

“Wait – where did all that stuff come from? None of those undead were wearing any armour. And what would a skeleton want with gold?”

Badas shrugged. “You know, I’ve honestly never thought about it before” he said, and went back to his looting.

~*~

 

Destiny was hot, bothered, her bottom really hurt from the jolting of the cart and the wizard next to her on the narrow seat smelt of old people. Adventuring wasn’t turning out to be anything like how she had expected.

They were nearing the city limits when a hooded figure stepped into the road in front of them brandishing a long sword. He pointed it at them and bellowed a warning.

“Stand and deliver. This is a stick up. Your money or your life.”

“Oh, a highway robbery, how exciting!” Destiny clapped her hands together and turned to Zneb.” Do some magic, turn him into a frog or something.”

“My dear, that is not really the way it’s done. Diplomacy is the key here.”

“You want to talk to him? He has a sword! Does he look like he’s afraid to use it?”

“That’s not the point, we can’t just go around blasting people with fireballs all the time.”

“Why not?” Destiny threw her hands up in the air and huffed.

“Um…excuse me, man with the sword here. If you could just place your valuables into the sack I’m going to throw up to you, that would be lovely. Thanks.”

“Ah, yes, about that. You see, we don’t really have anything we can spare you see, so if you could see your way to…”

“Oh for heaven’s sake.” Destiny cut off the wizard’s blathering, grabbed the reins and whipped them, sending the horses into a gallop. The unfortunate bandit was trampled underfoot as the horses galloped straight over him.

“What’s wrong with you! I had that under control.” Zneb snatched the reins back from Destiny.

“I’m sure you did. And I’m sure we wouldn’t now be walking into the city, and feeling lucky to still have the clothes on our back, if I had left it to you.”

The rest of the trip passed in an uncomfortable silence. Destiny was relieved when they rolled through the big, imposing city gates. Until they hit the cobblestones and her bottom discovered the real meaning of the word sore.

The wizard pulled the cart to a halt outside a tavern and turned to Destiny.

“Well Ted, here we must part.”

“Part? What are you talking about? You’re going to abandon me here in the middle of the city? I’m just a poor farm gi-boy. What do I know about life in the big city?”

“I’m afraid so, I have important things to see to. Don’t worry, lad, some friends of mine will meet you in this tavern tomorrow morning and take you to the palace for the test.”

“Test? You didn’t say anything about a test. What test?” Destiny was almost hyperventilating now. It was all going wrong. She was being dumped in the city alone, and now she had to face some sort of test. What if they discovered she was a girl? She’d have to go home, and she didn’t even have any idea of how to get home.

“Don’t worry, you’ll be fine. The king simply likes to meet any Chosen Ones before they are set off on their quests. And have his soothsayer read them for their suitability.

“Now, go into the tavern, I have a room I rent from the landlord – just tell him you’re with me, and he will show you to it. Farewell, Ted and good luck with your quest.”

Before Destiny had a chance to protest, Zneb had set the cart in motion, raising a cloud of dust as it pulled away. Destiny was left choking at the side of the street, wondering just what she had gotten herself into.

With a sigh, she turned and peered up at the tavern sign. The Bull’s Head – it sounded delightful.

~*~

 

“So, what’s cooking, Badas? I thought you’d gone off to slay the mighty Suoicoref?”

I did, but…uh…something more important came up.” He leaned forward conspiritorally. “I found a pristine Senior Web Analyst for sale.”

“From that stupid game you’re always ranting on about? And that’s more important than the fame, not to mention fortune, that would come from slaying a dragon?”

Badas sighed. “Oh come on John, you know as well as I do I couldn’t have killed a dragon on my own. I was just going to wait until I saw it fly away, then sneak in, steal a few things and leg it. Then I’d come back here and tell everyone the dragon was gone.”

“Wow – what a hero. Seriously. Anyway, I take it this figurine thing is expensive? And you’ve come to me looking for a nice, lucrative job? ‘Fraid I’m going to have to disappoint you there. As you saw from my Property Divider Maintenance buisiness, I have gone straight.”

Badas’s lips moved slowly as he tried to work out what Property Divider Maintenance was.

“You mean the fencing?”

“Yes, I mean the fencing,” he shook his head, “the wife insisted.”

“Yeah, well, anyway. You must still hear things, or know someone who does?”

“Not really, when I got out, I got right out.” He took a long drink of his beer. “The palace is looking for Chosen Ones again.”

“Oh yeah? What’s the mark this time?”

“Sword, upper arm” he tapped his bicep.

“Maisy still got her tattoo parlour?”

John laughed. “How many birthmarks have you got now, Badas?”

“Hmm, lemme see. I got the crown, the rose, the lion, the skull. Oh, and the daisy. That one was the least fun quest ever.”

“Heh, well, the other thing is that the Chosen One must be born during a full moon, and must be eighteen this year.”

“Well, ain’t that lucky? I always remember my pappy tellin’ me about how beautiful the big, bright moon was on the night I was born. And I just celebrated my eighteenth birthday.”

“Your third eighteenth birthday as I recall.”

“Well, yes, I’m forever young.”

~*~

 

The tavern had been a crowded nightmare, she had never seen so many people in one room before. And all of them fighting. She had finally managed to force her way to the bar, dodging fists and boots, knives and sticks, and then waited patiently for the barman’s attention, eventually noticing the way the locals did it and bellowing for service. Then she had retreated to the tiny room Zneb had hired and lain on the bed, staring at the ceiling and trying to ignore the crashes and bangs from below until sleep took her.

Now morning, with the sun peeking in through the blind that hung across the window, she hauled herself out of bed and dressed quickly. She crept down the stairs, and immediately had to duck a thrown chair, which disintegrated into splinters as it hit the wall behind her.

So, they were still fighting.

There were fewer of them now, just a dozen or so die hard brawlers. Only five or six were fighting at any one time, the others pausing to slug back more ale, or dig into the steaming plates of bacon, sausages and…some indistinct black stuff that Destiny didn’t really want to identify.

She found a maid and ordered herself some breakfast, then hid herself away in an alcove at the back of the tavern.

She was just tucking into her breakfast, when a face appeared around the corner of her alcove.

“You must be Ted, Zneb asked us to meet you here.” The face was followed around the corner by a body, and then another. The newcomers, a man and a woman, took up the spare seats at Destiny’s table.

“I’m Borlid, and this is Jahra” said the man, holding out a hand for her to shake.

“We are adventurers. If you turn out to be the Chosen One, we will accompany you on your quest. We will help you prepare, and…hold on, this noise is intolerable. Would you excuse us for just one moment, please?”

Destiny watched as her two new companions rose and disappeared back out of the alcove. The sound of the brawl rose to a new height. A few shrieks and crys of pain reached her ears. Then everything went silent.

Borlid and Jahra reappeared, brushing dust from their clothes and straightening their hair.

“There. That’s much better. Now, where were we? Ah, yes, we were discussing the quest. How much did Zneb tell you of it?” said Borlid.

“Very little. Well, nothing really.”

“Hmm, that sounds like Zneb alright. Well, I can give you a little information now, the king will give you a full briefing at the castle.

“We discovered just recently, that the Dark Lord has been looking into the Old Powers, and has uncovered the location of a powerful artifact. The ancients had vastly more powerful magic than anyone alive today, you know.”

“Really? So what happened to them?”

“Oh, uh…they um…” he said, and turned to Jahra, “what did happen to them?”

“No idea, I never paid much attention during history class.”

“Oh, well, anyway, suffice it to say that if the Dark Lord gets hold of this ancient artifact, he will be powerful enough to destroy the world.”

“That’s pretty powerful.”

“Yes, yes it is.”

“And that’s bad?”

“Indeed.”

“Because he is a dark lord?”

“Precisely.”

“Ok then.”

“Good. Now, are you finished with your breakfast?”

“Yep.”

“Then let’s get ourselves up to the palace.”

~*~

 

Badas woke up on the floor again. The same fragile stomach, the same pounding head. Sometimes he really hated cities. All those taverns, they were practically forcing him to get drunk every night. It was criminal.

He pulled himself to his feet and strapped on his sword belt before making his way outside. At least he was up a little earlier this time, probably still before midday and everything.

He wandered towards the centre of the city, where the palace lay, stopping at a food vendor for a quick breakfast.

The palace stood on a steep hill, surrounded by a thick wall and a moat. A long, paved road swept through the main gates and up to the palace itself. The gates stood open today, and Badas strolled through, and up the long and winding road to the palace.

There weren’t so many contenders this time. Maybe a dozen people stood in the courtyard, but some of those would merely be accompanying the potential Chosen One. Over there, for example. The young man, flanked by an older man and woman. He would be the one here for the prophecy, they were most likely hangers on, maybe self installed advisers who would attach themselves to his quest, if he were chosen, and try to share in his glory.

Badas had no need for such help, he had successfully completed five prophesied quests in the past, on his own, and there was no reason he could see that this one would be different. He wondered briefly if he were unfairly claiming the place of a genuine prophesied one, and then decided that it was probably their problem if he was. The fame and fortune, not to mention the girls, was all worth it.

A hush fell over the courtyard as the palace doors swung slowly open. Court buglers emerged and formed a corridor out from the door, their bugles pointing inwards, and upwards. A messenger followed them out to the accompaniment of a few blasted notes.

He stood at the end of the human corridor and unrolled a scroll. It was the same old speech – pleased to announce the coming of the Chosen One, yada yada yada. He’d heard it all before.

At length, he was called up to enter the palace and begin the test. He knew the drill, the king would be sitting up there on his pedestal, while his soothsayer peered at Badas’s tattoo…uh…birthmark, and then muttered some incantations, waved her hands a bit and then proclaimed Badas to be the Chosen One. Then he would be told what was needed this time, and off he would go to get it.

He was shown into the waiting room by a servant, who bowed and disappeared. He paced up and down for a while, running his fingers over the opulently decorated furniture and fittings.

It occurred to him that if they hadn’t asked him in yet, someone else must still be with the king, being tested. He hadn’t seen a failed test before and had often wondered what they found that was different.

He crept to the door and peeked out. No-one was in the corridor, so he slipped out of the small waiting room and made his way quickly to the doors of the throne room, where the king received the potential Chosen Ones.

He knew from experience that there were two sets of doors into the throne room, linked by a small vestibule. Off of this tiny room led another door, which he guessed led to the stairs up to the balcony above the throne room.

His intuition proved correct, and he was soon peering down on the throne room. The ancient soothsayer had her sleeves rolled up to the elbows and was chanting, eyes squeezed tightly shut as she channeled whatever it was that she channeled to discern the worth of the young man before her.

The young man knelt in front of her, head bowed. One of her hands lay on his head, the other stretched out above, as if enjoining the aid of the gods in making the decision. After a few minutes, she opened her eyes, and turned to look up at the king.

“My Lord,” she said with a slight bow, “I have tested the young man, Amadeus Goodwing, in the ancient manner, and have found him a worthy Chosen One. May he go forth and complete the quest you bestow upon him.”

Badas recoiled in shock from the scene below. They had chosen someone else? How could they do that? They hadn’t even seen him. He sat back, leaning against the wall of the balcony. They actually chose that scrawny little man, barely away from his mother by the look of him, and almost certainly without any real combat experience.

He sighed and pulled himself to his feet. He would just have to find another way to raise the gold. But in the meantime, he had better get back to the waiting room, before he was missed.

He sprinted back down the stairs and out of the throne room doors, only to run straight into a serving boy carrying a pile of towels.

“Oh, er – hi. I’m here for the Chosen One testing. I was trying to find a water closet.”

The serving boy pointed and hurried away. Badas breathed a big sigh of relief and set off again towards the waiting room.

He made it there and sat down again just as the door opened and the servant who had shown him in reappeared to escort him to the throne room. He followed, shoulders slumped, hardly believing he was about to actually be rejected. He’d got another tattoo and everything, those things really hurt!

He took up his position before the soothsayer, and knelt when he was bidden. The old crone bent over him peered at his tattooed birthmark, asked him some questions about his birth and the bent over him, as she had done the young man who was to be the next Chosen One. When she came out of her trance and turned to the king, Badas felt like running there and then. He had been interested to see what happened to those not chosen, but hadn’t really imagined he would find out by being one of them.

“My Lord,” the old soothsayer said, with another bow, “I have tested the young man, Badas M’Bu, in the ancient manner, and have found him a worthy Chosen One. May he go forth and complete the quest you bestow upon him.”

Badas stood, shoulders still slumped, his mind already working on other ways he might make the money. Maybe he could…hang on, what?

“Come forward, young man, and allow me to explain your quest” said the king, beckoning Badas forward.

Badas walked slowly up to the king’s throne, wondering how the hell there were suddenly two Chosen Ones. Perhaps they had seen him and realized their mistake? Yes, that must be it.

~*~

 

They had chosen her! She was The Chosen One.

The ceremony had been slightly odd, with that weird old woman chanting and touching her hair, but then she’d proclaimed that Destiny was the Chosen One, and Destiny’s heart nearly stopped with the excitement of it all.

Now she knelt before the King himself, flanked by Borlid and Jahra, waiting for the King to speak. Perched upon his throne, the king’s portly figure was draped in furs and jewellery, an ornate crown topping off the gaudy decoration.

“So, you are the Chosen One then? Splendid, splendid. Well, let’s have little look see, shall we?” He held out a hand and a servant appeared from the shadows behind him to lay a scroll on his outstretched palm. He unrolled it and cleared his throat.

“Oh, I say – well, the prophecy decrees that you are to go South, to the land of Imar, and seek out the Ring of Dark Power. When you find it, you must bring it north again, up beyond this city to the fiery lakes of Ack’Rooban, where you must cast it into the flames and destroy it’s evil power for all time, so that the Dark Lord may not wield it and destroy all of mankind.”

Destiny looked up at him, eyes wide.

“Uhhh, why destroy it my Lord?”

“Because the prophecy says so! You don’t question the prophecy. Silly boy. Besides, how else would we stop the Dark Lord from using this ring against us?”

“Well, uh,” Destiny cleared her throat and took a deep breath, “well, we could always, y’know, use it against him first.”

The king’s eyes went wide. “Use it against him first? What kind of craziness is this? Use it against him first indeed.” He snorted and shook his head, then stopped and went quiet for a moment. “Although…actually, you know what? I like your idea better. Let’s use it against him first. When you get the ring, bring it back here to me. We’ll show that Dark Lord a thing or two about messing with King Lar!

”Now, arise young man, and go forth to your Destiny!”

Destiny’s face lit up with a wide grin, and she pulled herself to her feet, brimming with pride as the assembled courtiers burst into a spontaneous applause. All for her! Yesterday, she had been just another farm girl, fated to be married off into obscurity and start pumping out children and keeping the hovel less dirty. Now she was The Chosen One, about to embark on a quest to save the world.

She all but skipped out of the throne room as the applause reached a crescendo, but managed to remember that she was a farm boy right now, and not many of them skipped anywhere, even when they were really excited.

~*~

 

Badas jumped down from the carriage. As usual, there had been an awful rush to get him out of the city. He’d barely had time to grab his pack, with all the loot from his little adventure at the graveyard.

He threw the pack over his shoulder and took in his surroundings. He was in the village of Winne. There must be something special about this little place, he mused; all of his quests had started here. It was a tiny little place, but it had a good tavern, and it was here that he was supposed to meet the man who would set him off on his quest.

He set off to the tavern to meet his contact. It was a large building, forming one corner of the crossroads at the centre of the village. He wandered in through the side door and headed straight for the bar.

Ale in hand, he peered around the main bar, looking for the man he was supposed to meet. As it turned out, he was hard to miss. Badas had been told to look for a tall, red haired man. Tall and red haired were probably the two biggest understatements Badas had heard in his entire life. The man was a giant. He must have stood at least seven feet tall. And his hair was not just red, it was a bright, fiery red, unkempt and all over the place, almost taking on the shape of the flickering flames of a fire.

“Glenrod?” said Badas, craning his neck up at the chisel jawed face that sat beneath the ginger mop of hair.

“You must be the Chosen One. Time is short, you must be on your quest before nightfall. First, you must head south, to a city by the name of Glenshaw. Here, I have a map for you.” He reached beneath his tunic, pulled out a wrinkled pieced of parchment and handed it to Badas. “There is a keep at the centre of the city, its dungeons are said to be defended by many strange beasts, yet here you must venture, for within these dungeons lays the Book of Glimrag. Glimrag is the last known owner of the Ring of Dark Power, and his writings may hold some clue as to its location. This is all the help I can give you, Chosen One. May the gods be with you.”

With that, he turned and strode out of the tavern, the crowd dissolving before him as he went.

On his quest before nightfall? Well, no problem there, it was only just after midday, he had plenty of time for another drink. Or two.

 

Badas cracked his eyes open. On the floor again, not a good sign. There had been a lot of drinking. And wenches, oh god the wenches! And he had not left before nightfall. Well, what harm could it do? It wasn’t like they were checking up on him. At least he had managed to get himself a room.

He pulled himself to his feet and threw his pack over his shoulder. Time to get rid of some of this loot, and then he would be on his way.

He wandered down the stairs to the main room, but paused when he thought he heard a familiar voice.

“…last owner of the Ring of Dark Power, and his writings may hold some clue as to its location. This is all the help I can give you, Chosen One. May the gods be with you.”

He ducked quickly into the shadows beneath the stairs as the tall red haired man strode past him on his way out.

So, there were two Chosen Ones, and the other one had caught him up. It explained why he was expected to leave so hurriedly, they were sending many so called Chosen Ones, presumably to make sure the job got done, and they hadn’t wanted them to meet like this.

He peered into the main room, to the corner where he had talked with the big man the day before. Three people stood huddled there. An older man and woman flanked a younger boy. He would probably be the Chosen One. The other two would be too old.

Badas considered his options. It was possible these three would be of use to him. Then again, it was equally possible they would be of hindrance. And they would certainly want a cut of any loot. He shrugged to himself, it was at least worth talking to them to make a proper judgement.

“Chosen One, huh?”

The young man whirled at his words, and the older pair subtly, but immediately laid their hands on their weapons. Something was odd about the boy, but he couldn’t put his finger on it. Something in the way he held himself. Or in the way she held herself, that was it! He was a she.

Now he saw it, it was blindingly obvious. It was all in the bone structure of her face, and the flare of her hips. And the breasts, of course, they were a dead giveaway.

He grinned his most genial grin and held out a hand.

“Badas M’Bu, Chosen One, questing for the Ring of Dark Power. Pleased to meet you gents.”

~*~

 

Destiny gaped at the musclebound man claiming to be the Chosen One. He didn’t look like someone you would choose for anything, unless you were very, very desperate. His hair hung in greasy strands about his face, and his body was dirty, as if he hadn’t washed for weeks. The odour was less than pleasant too.

She noticed with a start that she was staring at him. She had not seen so much male skin before. He wore nothing but a grubby, tatty loincloth that barely covered his unmentionables. Now that she looked closer, though grubby, he did look somewhat competent. His body was musclebound and he certainly looked confident enough, even as Borlid and Jahra both laid hands on weapons.

“Think you might have a mistake there, friend,” said Borlid, steely eyes staring the stranger down, “this here is the Chosen One, and my colleague and I are sworn to protect him on his perilous journey. Against any danger.”

“That so? Well, I thought the Chosen One was supposed to be an eighteen year old lad.”

“Yes, and?”

“This ain’t no lad. Look at her breasts for heaven’s sake!”

Destiny groaned. And she had thought she’d hidden it so well.

“Ted, why does this man think you’re a girl?”

“Oh for crying out loud, Borlid, look at her. Now he mentions it, it’s obvious” said Jahra.

“Borlid, Jahra, I’m sorry, but he’s right. I am a girl. My name is Destiny, not Ted. I didn’t want to fool anyone, but I had to do something to get away from the farm. I was going crazy there, I wanted an adventure.”

“Well, tough luck little girl, the prophecy called for a man. So, guess that would make me the proper Chosen One after all, eh?”

Borlid turned on the Barbarian. “Not at all, girl she may be but the king’s soothsayer picked her out as the Chosen One, so Chosen One she is.”

“A girl? The world is going to be saved…by a girl? Look at her, she has no muscle, how’s she going to defeat the evil orc army? I bet she can’t even hold a sword!”
A crackle accompanied a burst of light and the Barbarian was flung backwards into a table. Destiny grinned.
“By a lucky coincidence, I happened upon an ancient book of magic in the attic. Been learning a few things” she said, blowing smoke from her fingers.
“You can read? And that helps with all the pitching of the hay and herding of the cows, I expect?”

“Well, by another lucky coincidence, my uncle is a wandering scribe, and he taught me while he was staying with us for a while.”

“So how come you didn’t use your magic when you and Zneb were stopped by the bandit?” asked Jahra.

“Wait a minute, I didn’t tell you about that, and Zneb didn’t stop long enough to tell you. How did you know?”

“That’s not important, Zneb isn’t here to mention it, and the readers out there are going to want an answer.”

“Well, I’m not all that good. One of those spells is all I can manage in a day. If he’d had accomplices, they would have attacked, and I couldn’t have done anything.”

“Uh, ok then, I suppose. Now then,” she said, turning back to the barbarian, “what makes you say that you are the Chosen One?”

“Well, I got the mark,” he said and stuck out his arm. There was indeed a small sword shaped mark there. ‘And I am a male, unlike your little Chosen One. And, of course, the king’s soothsayer picked me out as the Chosen One.”

“But that’s impossible! They picked me!”

“Yep. You, me, at least one other I saw. Goodness knows how many of us there are running about the place.”

“But, there can only be one Chosen One.”

“Says who?”

“Well, it’s kind of implied in the name – Chosen One, not Chosen Ones.”

“Ok, but if you want to get a job done, you don’t just send one poor little farm boy – or farm girl – out to do it. You send a lot of people. I reckon the king is sending out lots of so called Chosen Ones, on the grounds that it increases the chances of at least one of us succeeding. I already know the thing’s a bit of a sham. This is my sixth time as a Chosen One.”

“Your sixth time? That’s crazy” said Borlid.

“Oh yeah? You live in the city, right? How many times have you seen the call for a Chosen One? Lots, right? And out of all those times, how often did you actually see the Chosen One leave on his quest?”

“Well, never, but we always see him return.”

“Well, of course you do, he’s successful by then. He’s the one that won.”

“And the others?”

The barbarian shrugged. “Probably killed along the way.” Destiny’s eyes went wide. “What? You thought this would be easy? A walk in the park? Think again little girl. The world out there is a dangerous place, full of dangerous creatures, and dangerous people. You’ve seen a bit of that from your bandit encounter. I reckon you probably got a little lucky there. Next time you might not.”

“So, what do you suggest we do about the situation?”

“I think we should join forces. If a single Chosen One is destined to save the world, imagine how much good two could do.” He grinned and held out a hand. “The name’s Badas M’Bu, pleased to meet you folks.”

3 Comments on “Episode 1 – The Quest”

  1. Mitzi Says:

    You made my day! I loved it! Very unique! Now get back to work. I want to continue the story.

  2. nerdsRus Says:

    Hey jimmy, this is really good! Am thoroughly enjoying it, and this from someone who normally doesn’t read this genre. I’ll be back to read the last two chapters this afternoon. Well done!

  3. Rachel Says:

    I totally want some Hostile Takeover merchandise!


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