The adventurer felt along the cave wall gingerly, hoping to find a secret lever, or a tile that would open a secret passageway. The longer he looked, the more anxious he became. This cave was a maze, and backtracking would take forever. He couldn’t even remember which way he had already been, and his map only showed that he was in a cave, not the specific tunnels. So if this wasn’t the way, he’d have a much longer journey ahead of him.
His companion was also no help. He couldn’t read a map, he didn’t have any ideas, and he didn’t even offer much in the way of interesting conversation. He just walked behind the adventurer and helped carry the treasure. Sometimes he made comments, but they were often observations and not very clever ones. He even repeated them every so often, as if he had no original thought in his head.
The adventurer was named Solitaire0315, though he was never called that. Rather, he was referred to as things like adventurer, explorer, champion, hero. Everyone knew about him and his exploits.
His companion was simply named Cisco. He was a mercenary by trade, and didn’t have all that exciting of a life thus far. In fact, the most interesting thing to have happened to him was being asked to join the quest of the famed adventurer Solitaire.
And so there they were: an adventurer and a mercenary, working together in a dark cave to find some long, lost treasure.
Eventually Solitaire found a lever by pulling one of the candles mounted on the wall. The wall receded, then turned slightly. Solitaire pushed it and the panel rotated around like a revolving door. He walked in, Cisco following at some distance.
The two walked down a long, dimly lit hallway, no end in sight. Their footsteps echoed off the walls and ceiling, making them painfully aware of how empty it was.
“I sure hope there aren’t any rats in here,” Cisco muttered.
Solitaire sighed, but said nothing. The mercenary had already repeated this line three times since they entered the dungeon.
The long hallway led to a burial chamber with ceilings twenty feet high and a stone coffin placed in the center. Solitaire walked up the steps to the coffin, his eyes searching the room. Cisco stood idly by the entrance.
As Solitaire reached the top and touched the coffin, he heard Cisco draw his sword.
That’s when the battle music began.
The coffin lid was thrown off with great force and a burst of energy sent Solitaire flying backward. He landed on his back and the wind was knocked out of him.
Cisco stepped over him, sword at the ready, and ran toward the coffin.
“I knew I heard something!” Cisco shouted as he ran.
A low cackling filled the room as a ghost appeared over the coffin. The ghost was barely visible, white wisps floating off of his partially opaque, human-like body. His face, however, looked like that of a skeleton’s. His boney jaw lowered as he threw back his head and laughed.
Cisco was the first to reach the ghost, striking it with his sword. The ghost lurched and swung his long, skinny arms at the mercenary.
Solitaire managed to rise and join Cisco in the fighting. They chased the ghost around the room, taking turns attacking and dodging.
This went on for some time. The ghost just didn’t want to die – or at least as much as a ghost can “die”.
But, in the end, he couldn’t overcome the two swords and finally collapsed in a pile of ash with a screech.
Cisco immediately sheathed his sword and looked at Solitaire, awaiting his next move.
Solitaire looked through the ash pile, saving a bit in a vial, and turned to the door on the far wall behind the coffin that had appeared. Inside was another hallway, and right at his feet was a chest half his size. Solitaire went to pick the lock, but found it was already unlocked. He heaved the top open.
Inside were piles of glittering jewels, stacks of golden coins, and pearl necklaces. Solitaire began filling his pockets with the treasures when he discovered something different: a skull. But not just any skull, one that was three times the size of a human skull with small horns at the top and painted completely gold. Solitaire looked at the item description. It was a golden dragon’s skull.
Eagerly he reached for it, but a notification popped up in front of his face: Inventory Full!
At first he panicked, wondering which spoils he would have to leave behind to make room for it, but then the sound of a bear trap snapping behind him reminded Solitaire that he had a companion specifically for this reason.
He turned to see Cisco wrestling with the bear trap inexplicably caught on his foot.
Once Cisco was free, Solitaire gave him the golden dragon head to carry.
With the chest empty, the two continued down the new hallway and soon found they had done a full loop and arrived at the entrance to the dungeon.
Outside seemed brighter than ever. It was midday and fields of grass and trees were spread out before them for miles.
Solitaire pulled up his map. What would be the best place to sell all his loot? Most of it was honestly earned in dungeons and taken from bandits, but he did have a few valuable pieces that had been obtained in…less than reputable ways. For those things he would need a Fence. But where was the Fence again? He had a new one, but he had only been there twice…
Ah, it was the man with the dreadlocks that worked at a brewery on the outskirts of town.
Solitaire selected the place on his map, and was instantly transported there. Inside he found the Fence, and started handing him expensive (but useless) items. Once he had gone through his inventory, he remembered Cisco was carrying some things, as well. But as Solitaire turned around, he saw his companion was nowhere to be found.
Cisco waited patiently behind Solitaire as the adventurer checked his map. He knew what was coming: he would blink and then suddenly be wherever Solitaire had decided to go. He didn’t question why this happened, or how. In fact, he didn’t question anything at all. He was like a blank canvas, an empty void. He had habits and somewhat of a personality, but no depth.
He was just Cisco the hired mercenary. That was all.
Then Solitaire disappeared. Cisco looked around, but wasn’t transported with him.
He still stood outside the dungeon.
Without knowing what else to do, he decided to set off to look for his leader.
Cisco traveled by foot to the nearest town. It was a medium-sized town, and most of its residents were fairly well-off. There were beggars here and there, but what city didn’t have them?
He walked through the town, passed the shops and homes, watched people do their daily tasks. But no sign of Solitaire.
He was passing a bar when the door burst open and two men came barreling out. They knocked into Cisco, and all three tumbled to the ground. Immediately he was engaged in the struggle.
They didn’t have any tactics. One was a merchant, the other was the town drunk. Their scruffy beards were flecked with gray and white whiskers, and their arms were the size of a newborn tree trunk.
Cisco waited for his chance to strike. He had his fists up, his feet bounced back and forth. He watched them carefully.
The other men swung carelessly at each other, taking hits without blocking. They were heaving and sweating.
Then Cisco went on the offensive. He swung at the merchant, knocking him over. The drunk turned his attention to Cisco, swinging wildly at him. Cisco dodged the first two swings and countered the third, knocking the drunk out. By this time the merchant was back on his feet and lunged at Cisco. He coolly dodged his assailant and landed a few swift punches into his abdomen. The merchant fell flat on his back and stayed down.
The crowd that had followed the two outside cheered the mercenary. Cisco didn’t acknowledge them. He hadn’t done it to win praise. He just had a random encounter with a couple hostile men and needed to win to move on. How else would he find Solitaire?
He continued through the entire town without finding a trace of the adventurer. Once he reached the town’s edge, he continued on as though he wasn’t bothered by it.
On and on he walked, mile after mile. He passed bandit camps, bear dens, and abandoned shacks.
The sun was passed its highest point when he came to a river. There was no bridge across, so he stopped at the edge and tried to decide what to do. Should he cross it by walking through, or find another path? He wasn’t even sure where his destination was.
As he stood there, he suddenly felt something nipping at his feet. He looked down and saw a blue crab the size of a dog reaching for Cisco with his large claws. Cisco drew his sword.
“I knew I heard something!” he yelled.
Cisco’s swings were very exaggerated for the size of the creature he was fighting. He hacked and slashed and grunted, all the while the crab pinched and snapped.
The two did battle for some time. More time than probably necessary. It was a tough crab. But in the end, Cisco was victorious. The crab gave a final gurgled cry and flopped over.
Cisco sheathed his sword and went back to deciding where to go. Something told him to cross through the river, so he began wading through it. He made it to the other side and continued across the fields of grass practically identical to the ones he had just crossed.
He walked for even longer this time. Evening was rapidly approaching. The sun was making its way to the edge of the horizon.
He had decided he would search as long as it would take. What else could he do?
He stopped at the top of a hill and looked out at a city in the distance. It flickered with lights against the darkening sky.
A shadowy figure came into view. Cisco didn’t pay any attention to it until it grew closer.
“There you are, you thieving idiot!” came Solitaire’s voice. “Where the hell have you been?!”
Cisco said nothing. He waited to rejoin him.
Solitaire pulled out his journal, scribbled something, pulled out his giant, glowing sword, and brought it down on Cisco’s head.
Immediately everything went black. He felt nothing, heard nothing, saw nothing.
Then a few moments later he was suddenly right back on top of the hill with Solitaire.
“Let’s hurry up and sell that shit you’re carrying,” Solitaire said.
Cisco dutifully followed.