Chapter One: A Knight, A Thief, A Wizard and A Cleric Walk Into a Bar
The Kingdom of Cinder, a Kingdom ripe with adventure, or at least the stories of them. Several centuries had passed by without a wink of some dark lord trying to end the world or something to that avail. A statistic that very much pleased the royal family with the lack of damage control they had to deal with. Peasants and noblemen would go about their day without fear of being the victims of collateral damage and all seemed at peace, but as with the beginning of many stories, there has to be a “but”, and here it is, right on queue. But, there was a shadow that loomed over the shore of this era of peace, and it was approaching fast, glad to be free from its forceful slumber, and it had its eyes set on the small town of Bellkeep, the soon to be first victims of this new era. I just hope they have insurance.
In Bellkeep the citizens go about their day, working lumber at the nearby forest or engaging in many of their own hobbies around town, primarily drinking. For a small-ish town, the bar never ceased to be empty and today was no different, though this time when they drank like the world was going to end, they didn’t realise it would be quite literal. Today however, they had a new face amongst them, a young knight by the name of Jamal, who drank from a large keg gifted to him by a fan. Jamal was used to receiving gifts, it was common for him to receive some kind of luxury wherever he went, usually in the form of food, which had evidently affected his waistline; though don’t tell him I said that. He was recognisable throughout the kingdom, or at least his red cape was, which hung proudly from his armoured shoulders, embellished with the royal insignia. For the moment he was enjoying the small amount of time to himself, it had been a full two minutes since someone had gone up to him to tell him how brave he was, and how “beating a dragon is like, so cool and stuff”. Little did he know however, that he did in fact have an admirer watching from a seat not too far from his stool at the bar. A scraggly looking girl who hid her face with a hood, who refused to go by anything else other than V. Unlike Jamal’s other admirers though, she wasn’t after an example of his poor penmanship, she was interested in the heavy looking pouch he had strapped to his side, an easy target for a thief like herself. She got up from her chair and began her approach, moving at a quicker pace the further she got. Her eyes were locked on the pouch, her surrounding nothing but a blur as she closed in (a rookie mistake on her part). This oversight meant just as she got about an arm's length from her target she got carried aside by a drunken crowd, the members of which seemed way too eager to get away from something.
The something in question was a boy by the name of Otis, a wannabe wizard draped in mismatched garms, who seemed to be chasing the crowd with a dead rabbit in his hands, one which he swore was alive before he pulled it out of his hat. He later changed this excuse to another, trying his luck with another crowd as he pulled out his crooked wand and began trying to revive it whilst it lay lifelessly on their table. This new crowd even started to believe him for a minute, huddling closer to get a better look. That was prior to the very last incantation he performed, one which did the opposite of reviving the rabbit and left the unsuspecting crowd and himself covered in rabbit guts. It was a display, to say the least, catching the attention of nearby people, including another new face to the town, one who’d had the misfortune of walking in at that specific moment. June was her name, a Cleric welding a large staff who had found herself in need of direction, though she wondered if asking someone under the influence would really help her, rather than just leading her even more astray. She couldn’t quite remember why, of all the places, she’d decided that the local bar would be the best place to look for help. Before she could regret her decision anymore, the barmaid called her over, wondering if she needed any help. June tried her best to decline her offer but with the dense level of slurred speech ricocheting across the bar walls, June’s reserved voice didn’t quite carry over. The barmaid kept on gesturing for her to come over, and eventually, she gave in, praying that perhaps this wouldn’t be a complete waste of time like she suspected.
V had recovered from her short misadventure with the drunken crowd, and had made her way back to the front of the bar, a little stickier than she’d been beforehand; from spilt beer, get your mind out of the gutter. At this point, she was doing this to get back some pride. She couldn’t get this far and get bested by a bunch of drunks, no, she was better than that. Plus, the insignia plastered haphazardly on Jamal’s cape would pay for anything on his behalf. So it wasn’t like he needed it anyway, or at least that’s what she used to excuse it. Her job would only be easier this time too, Otis had still not given up on his magic tricks, and after trying his best to wipe off the remaining rabbit viscera, he decided to show the knight at the bar one of his tricks. Despite being carried off, she had witnessed his previous trick, and she hoped he wouldn’t make the knight explode, hopefully not until she got the pouch anyway. Deciding to act sooner and not risk being painted crimson, she started to draw closer, again, though this time she made sure to scan her surroundings for any approaching herds. This time she got to arm's length, grabbing the pouch discreetly yet quickly in the way only she knew how. She smiled to herself before she turned to make her exit, though a barrier stood in her way, a tall robed one to be specific. June had witnessed the whole thing whilst the barmaid talked along to herself. V might’ve been stealthy when it came to other patrons of the bar, ones who were lucky to see past their toes, but June was far too sober not to notice her staring at the knight for what felt like forever. Maybe the gods had brought her into this bar for a reason, perhaps it was to stop this girl robbing this poor fellow blind.
“I saw you take that young man's wallet, now pass it here and the gods may still forgive you,” she said, knocking the triumphant smirk right off V’s face. V scrambled to think of a response, she wasn’t used to being caught despite what you might assume, though she needed to work on keeping a check on her peripheral. She slyly placed the pouch behind her back, trying her best to act innocent.
“I have no idea why you’d imply such a thing, I was just heading out for some fresh air,” she replied, her performance doing little to dissuade June's righteous attitude as she called for the knight that V had just stolen from. Jamal heard someone calling out to him, or at least he assumed they were talking to him as what he was hearing was “you with the red cape”. A description that didn’t suit anyone else other than him anyway. He turned to the source, a young woman covered head to toe in a white robe that he imagined was hell to maintain. Next to her was a shorter girl who she had a hold of, one which was seemingly making every attempt to escape her grip.
“This young lady has taken something of yours, knight, perhaps you’d want it back?” she said, tossing the stolen pouch back to Jamal. He looked at it, then perked up his head when the wizard asked if he’d liked his trick. Otis didn’t exactly have the greatest timing on the best of days but this was on a whole new level. When Jamal and Otis locked eyes he was unaware of what conclusion he’d come to, and this made Jamal’s next words all the more confusing to him.
“Oh I see what this is, but no you didn’t trick me, now you and your thief friend are gonna get it!” Jamal said, his voice bellowing louder and louder with every word. He jumped off his stool, almost losing his balance as the alcohol all hit at once. This didn’t stop Jamal from unsheathing his sword though. Otis, now standing back, was rather alarmed, even his worst tricks hadn’t got this kind of reaction from someone.
“Listen, no need to resort to violence, we can talk this out, I respond to criticism really well” Otis practically begged, the words perhaps coming out too slowly for Jamal, who’d already begun to swing his sword. Otis ducked to the floor, narrowly avoiding the blade as it shaved a few hairs on the back of his head. June stood, still holding V who still hadn’t given up her attempts at escape. June had watched as Jamal swung at Otis, which hadn’t been her intention. She would’ve tried to stop it as well, that is if Jamal hadn’t greatly underestimated the power of his swing. His sword swung past Otis, but it continued, taking out several bottles as it came closer to both June and V from over the bar. June grabbed the still struggling V and pulled her down to the floor with her, dodging the incoming blade as it flew over their heads. Jamal apologised to June and the Barmaid quickly, which was probably the last he could have done when considering that he had almost decapitated the two of them. During his short-winded apology, Otis had pulled out his wand again, although he had no trick in mind, this time it was to defend himself. He held it up to Jamal, still clueless to why he lashed out so randomly. Jamal turned, regaining his composure somewhat, now without a sword in hand, as it had lodged itself in a nearby wall. Otis spat out an incantation he faintly remembered, turning his head away from his wand as it’s tip began to glow, just in case it blew up in his face. Jamal threw his arms up to cover his face, not that he’d need to. Otis had in fact done the spell right, however, it had been his accuracy that had been off, as the ray of light blew a large hole in the roof in the bar. June looked over and saw the rubble fall toward a crowd of people. She gripped her staff tightly, using an incantation of her own which produced a glowing sphere around them. V, however, used this to her advantage, biting the hand June was using to grip her before bolting toward the door. The shield dropped and whilst most of the people were fine, a stray piece of the roof decided to give a guy a headache he’d feel for weeks. V got to the door, pleased to finally get her escape. She’d just have to go to the coast a little ahead of schedule, that’s all. She swung it open, and her hopes were crushed again, as four guards stood outside carrying shackles. V sighed, “Shit.”