Clement sank his face into his hands in despair. The inn was empty, except for him and the burly barkeep that doubled as the doorman. The Tenth Spoke inn was a reputable establishment that was always clean, had fair prices and enough enforcement to keep the undesirables out, usually. Clement’s family has had this inn for generations before him, but none had to put up with anything like this.
“It ain’t that bad boss,” said the barkeep in a desperate attempt to calm his employer, “’least they always pay you after.”
Clement let out a long moan and widened his fingers so his eyes could see the barkeep, “Just pour me a drink and leave the little pick-me-up for the clients!”
The barkeep grudgingly turned around and poured a drink. Clement swallowed the liquor and gestured for another one.
“Sure they pay me after they wreck my inn, but look around you! Do you see any paying clients? Every traveler that comes to Renaissance already knows or soon finds out about their annual meeting at my inn! Only the desperate or the stupid actually rents a room during this time!” he swallows another mouthful of spirits and grabs the bottle from the barkeep, “And do you know what time it is?”
The barkeep was about to answer but was interrupted, “It’s the bloody festival of the wagon! I should be making piles of gold from the people who flock to this backwater town for the festivities! Instead, I await the return of those two…” he tilts the bottle back and takes a few gulps, “…barbarians to do their business and as always come to some minuscule disagreement that results in a fight that leaves my establishment a wreck!”
Just then, some excitement could be heard from outside. Clement put down the bottle and headed to the door.
“Good morning Clement!” greeted one from the group that formed outside, “it seems as though one of your guests is arriving soon!”
“Great,” replied Clement sarcastically, “which one?”
“Scouts report seeing Stocke approaching from up north. He should be here by tomorrow evening.”
“Stocke is coming! Stocke is coming!” screamed a nearby child excitedly that just overheard the news. He ran off to tell his friends.
Clement went back inside the inn and slammed the door behind him. He heard the group laugh outside as he returned to his bottle, “I could make more money selling tickets to watch this fight than with trying to run this place!” He takes another swig from the bottle, “Sure, they pay for the damage, but I lose mountains of gold turning away clients during the repairs. I swear if I didn’t promise my father I’d run this place…” Clement disappeared into thought.
“Why don’t you just tell ‘em they can’t stay?” the barkeep ventured to ask.
“Yeah? And who’s going to throw them out? You?” barked Clement, “Why do I even bother talking to you? Hand me another bottle! I’m going to my room! Let me know when they’re here!”
Clement headed to his room and slammed the door shut.
Prompt: There is fear of an impending misfortune
Naria quivered with excitement as she touched the door of the Tenth Spoke inn. Stocke would arrive soon and she’ll get her hands on a fresh piece of pyrox. The amulet around her neck contains such a piece, but its energy has been almost completely spent.
Inside, the inn was deserted except for the man behind the bar counter.
“If it isn’t my favorite barkeep!” she greeted with as much enthusiasm as she could muster, “Where is that sorry boss of yours?”
“Been in his room since yesterday ma’am,” he replied, eyes dreamy with a dim-witted smile on his face. Naria was disgusted by the man, but his affections for her would make his mind weak.
“Good, we wouldn’t want him disturbing us,” she said flirtingly as she leaned over the counter.
Sweat beads started forming on the barkeep’s balding forehead, “err…disturbing us ma’am?”
A wicked smile formed over Naria’s lips and the pale red crystal in her amulet started glowing slightly, “Listen carefully you simple minded ox, when Stocke orders a drink tonight, I want you to add this,” she produces a small vial with a translucent liquid inside, “Make sure no one sees you and don’t tell anyone. Understood?”
The barkeep’s wide eyed gaze into Naria’s eyes was interrupted with a few blinks, “I couldn’t do that ma’am, the boss’ll have me head.”
The crystal’s glow faded and Naria cursed inside of her. The pyrox has gone so weak she couldn’t even control a simpleton. She managed to calm down as she convinced herself to give it another go. She pouted and put on a sad face, “Clement doesn’t need to know dear, it’s our surprise to Stocke.” The crystal started its faint glow again. “Clement won’t find out…”
“Naria?” the voice of Clement came from behind her, “What are you doing? What is in that vial?”
“Clement,” she said as she turned to face him, “So very nice to see you again.”
Clement didn’t take his eyes from the vial, “Are you trying to poison Stocke?” he continued, “In my bar?” his face went red and his anger took over before he could stop himself, “You wreck my inn year after year! You ruin my business during the town’s busiest week with your antics!”
Naria rolled her eyes annoyed, “Clement,” she warned, “You better calm down.”
“Now you want to poison someone in my bar and ruin the last remaining credibility this place has!” Clement shook his finger at Naria, “No! I won’t allow it! You can do your business elsewhere! I’m done with…” Clement choked and grabbed his throat.
The pyrox glowed a little brighter this time as Naria watched the life draining from Clement. His thrashing on the floor calmed down as he started to slip from consciousness. The crystal stopped glowing suddenly. Clement gasped to fill his empty lungs. To her dismay, Naria realized that her fit of anger has drained the pyrox completely. Luckily she didn’t kill Clement, she thought, Stocke would never have traded if she did.
“Put this in Stocke’s drink,” she said as she put the vial on the bar counter, “Or I’ll make sure your inn isn’t the only thing that gets destroyed this year.” She headed outside but stopped at the door, “Oh, and darling, make sure my room is ready for tonight, I’m off to enjoy the festivities.”
Prompt: Someone is killed or almost killed
Stocke laughed as the children of Renaissance flocked around him and his donkey. Some of them pet or fed the donkey while others jumped on the cart with him. They bombarded him with questions and requests while eyeing the bags on the cart for their presents.
"Tell us a story!"
"Can I play with your sword?"
"What did you get us this year?"
"Did you fight any monsters?"
"Can I ride on the donkey?"
"Are you gonna kill Naria this year?" silence fell over the crowd of children and forty eight eyes stared at Stocke.
He most certainly would have to try not to, he needed her as much as she needed him.
The silence was broken when the boy who asked the question got smacked over the head by his older sister, "You’re so stupid Tristan! You can't ask stuff like that! Stocke won't give you a present now!"
Stocke burst out with laughter again and grabbed a bag from his cart, "Nonsense! Everybody gets one!" As he reached into the bag, twenty four mouths hung open in suspense. He produced a carved wooden dragon and passed it to Tristan. One by one he handed out an assortment of gifts to each of the children. The chaos of over excited children calmed down as they started heading off in groups to play or show their new toys to their parents.
"So Stocke," a voice came from behind the cart, "are you going to kill me this year?" Naria mimicked Tristan's voice. She walked over to stand next to the cart and extended her hand for Stocke to help her up.
Naria looked beautiful in the light of the setting sun and Stocke did his best to stem old feelings. "Haven’t had any luck so far," Stocke replied mockingly as he pulled her up. Around them Stocke saw the townsfolk eyeing them, some in fear, others in anticipation, “I’d much rather have Clement’s place left intact this year,” Stocke started thinking of the years when Naria wasn’t this tainted, “like back in the beginning.”
“What, and leave the townsfolk disappointed?” Naria winked at a man that was staring at them from a chair on his porch. He smiled and winked back, almost immediately receiving the wrath of his wife sitting next to him.
Stocke shook his head and started driving towards the inn, “Calm down,” said Naria as she laid her head on his shoulder, “I have a feeling that this time things will be easier,” a sinister smile crept on Naria’s face.
“I hope so Naria,” he said, deep in thought. He knew she was up to something, she always was, but for a moment he imagined that she was telling the truth. Clement would be overjoyed, he thought. A slight smile crept over Stocke’s face when he thought of Clement. The poor man must’ve drunk himself clean out of alcohol by now.
They arrive at the Tenth Spoke as the last rays of light disappeared over the horizon. Clement’s face sank when he saw both of them walk in. “Hello my old friend!” greeted Stocke, “How fares business?”
Clement was trying his best to act normally, he had hoped for Stocke to arrive alone, but there Naria stood, glaring at him. He felt sweat dripping down his forehead, “Not good, thanks to you two,” he replied.
“Naria promised a quiet evening Clement,” Stocke replied, trying to calm Clement, “Pour us a drink while we conclude our trade.”
Clement’s heart jumped to his throat as he poured Stocke a drink and reached for the vial in his pocket…
Prompt: Betrayal is in the air.
Stocke opened the bag revealing the smooth river stones within, a rune engraved on each one. “I can’t,” said Naria tossing her expended pyrox on the table.
Stocke looked worriedly at Naria, “There was a time when you didn’t need pyrox to do this.” Naria shrugged. He placed a new piece of pyrox on the table in front of him. Naria snatched it greedily. The crystal shone bright red in her hands and she took a long deep breath, eyes closed.
Stocke coughed. Naria snapped open her eyes and the glow of the crystal ceased, “The runestones,” he reminded impatiently. The room seemed dark without the illumination from the pyrox. Naria glared at him unblinking. Stocke put a nervous hand on the hilt of his sword.
Her gaze broke when Clement fumbled with some bottles. Almost, she thought as she put her hand over the stones. The pyrox lit up the room again and the runes started glowing. Stocke relieved his grip on the hilt and looked up at Clement that just arrived with his drink. He was sweat drenched and pale as the dead as he struggled to steady his hand.
“Clement?” asked Stocke.
“I can’t…” his voice was hoarse and he cleared his throat, “I can’t do this.” He threw the contents of the glass on the floor and produced the vial from his other hand, placing it in front of Naria. The silence was deafening but Clement dared not move.
Then, in a blur, Stocke had his sword in hand, glowing bright with runes. The table was thrown over by Naria, scattering runestones across the inn. There was a flash of red from the pyrox and Clement was flung away and burst through the front door, sending wooden shards flying through the crowd outside.
Naria gathered power from the pyrox, “Bad move!” she screamed at Clement while he coughed up blood. She pulled back her hand, now glowing intensely. She unleashed a crimson bolt, sending it screaming towards Clement. Stocke leaped and extended his sword towards the bolt. Energy dissipated into the sword and its runes shone brighter.
“Poison?” Stocke asked, standing in front of Clement at the doorway, “And now you try to kill Clement because he didn’t obey you?” He brought his sword down and a wave of force slid towards Naria, tearing the floor as it went. Naria gathered more power and sent it outwards.
Clement was aching all over as he watched. The two forces collided and the ground shook. He closed his eyes from the blinding light. The blast was deafening. His ears were still singing when he opened his eyes. Dust hang thick in the air. Clement moaned when a small explosion sent part of the wall crashing to the street, and cried when a red beam ripped through the ceiling. There were tremors and flashes of light from inside as the fighting continued.
Then it stopped.
The dust started settling and the damage to his inn became apparent. He would scream and curse but his body ached too much.
“Here,” said Stocke appearing out of the rubble. He handed Clement a runestone, “This will heal you in no time.” Stocke glanced back at the inn, “As always, I’ll pay for the damage.”
Clement felt the magic of the runestone work immediately, “Naria? Is she…”
“Dead?” asked Naria.
“We...” Stocke knew Clement wouldn’t approve, “We came to an agreement,”
Naria blew a kiss and walked off, “See you next year!”
There was another slight tremor as part of the inn’s roof collapsed. Clement sank his face into his hands in despair.
Prompt: The misfortune is resolved/accepted