Telling tales by the fire

The wind gently ruffles leaves above, as the campfire crackles and burns. It's a quiet evening, and the sun had just set. The clouds were aglow in pink and gold as the last hints of daylight slowly faded away. The sky is slowly turning that deep shade of blue broken up only by the pinpricks of light from thousands of stars above.   A scruffy man sat on a log beside the fire. His white hair and beard gave him the look of someone ancient, but his eyes retained a joyful youth to them that offset the rest of his wizened appearance. A staff lay next to him, unattended. On his shoulder perched red tailed hawk, its piercing gaze surveying the man's guests.   Across from the fire sat a young group of adventurers. An elf, a gnome, and a human. With a mix of eagerness and impatience to them, they sat with the wizard, and listened to his story.  

  "So we had this group." The man began.   "A more haphazard, mismatched, unqualified group, you'd never find. Supposed to be doing good in the world, but quite often too caught up in our own quests for glory and power."   The man smiled and looked deep into the fire for a while.   "The Ranger, the Rogue. The two Wizards. The Cleric, the Monk. And the Barbarian. This evening's story will be about the Barbarian of our group, the brave dwarf Rusticus. Now, I've already told you about the wizards of this group in last month's story, so you know what kind of things this group would get up to."   "Where we begin tonight's story is with our heroes just coming down from taking over an entire port city with a drug empire to rival the greats. Of course, being the good hearted folks we were, the empire we ran was second to none in terms of how it treated its clientele, and its city."   "We were dealing with uhh.. with a few repercussions from a few cut corners on our trade, when three runners came calling for Rusticus."   "Now, the first thing you need to know about Rusticus, is that he is a dwarf ruled by his loyalty. Loyalty to family above all else, followed second by his loyalty to whoever he makes family, like our mismatched group of adventurers. So when the dwarven runners came for him, and told him they had news about a troll slave station, Rusticus didn't think twice. Years ago, Rusticus had lost his brother in a troll attack, and his sister had been captured. This seemed to the dwarf like the perfect opportunity to find information about his lost sister, and maybe even rescue her."   The man telling the story sighed. He grabbed a nut from his pouch, and held it up to the hawk on his shoulder, who voraciously tore into the nut. The man dusted off his hands, and continued.   "I didn't get to see what happened after that."   The gnome across the fire raised his hand.   "No, this wasn't the last time I saw Rusticus."   The man continued. "Actually, we saw him again pretty soon after that. But I'll get to that in a moment. What I have to tell about the solo adventure of Rusticus is what I've learned from asking certain trolls, dwarves, and historians, and also paraphrasing what Rusticus himself told me."   "From what I've pieced together, the dwarven runners who came to find Rusticus did indeed find the slave camp his sister was held at. Rusticus, more a smashing dwarf than a talking dwarf, manages to convince two of the runners to come back with him to the slave camp. Together, these 3 dwarves storm this troll slave camp, right?"   "Turns out the slave camp is a mine, for mining a superior pure form of Mithral. So they get to the outskirts of the mine, and find a few ogre corpses. Turns out ogres and trolls were working together. Well, nothing wrong with that, right?"   "Wrong. Rusticus was not the kind of dwarf to accept trolls OR ogres."   "The trio of dwarves followed some markings and maps they picked up, and attacked some ogres along the way. A bit of intimidation, a bit of pain, and a pint of beer later, Rusticus had a crudely drawn map in hand leading straight into mine." The white haired wizard leaned back with a smile.   "As you remember, these lands we were adventuring in were in turmoil at this time. The king married a sorceress, who's son was off doing nefarious things with giant magical machinery."   "Well, a lot of the power and materials for this machinery was coming from this mine."   "So Rusticus, not knowing it, charges into this mine, finding a giant ogre. Seeing his sister turning a crank to power the machinery, Rusticus goes mad, and attacks. His two dwarven companions both eat spiked flail strikes to the face, and go down, leaving Rusticus alone against this scary big troll. Losing his weapon, and reverting to his barbarian claws, Rusticus finally strikes down his foe, and rescues his sister."   Cheers are heard from the three young adventurers by the fire.   The man continues, with a smile in his voice. "Right? It would be a perfect happy ending for Rusticus there. Family saved, foe vanquished, coated in blood and glory. But he didnt forget that he was in a world on the edge of disaster, and he couldnt stop yet. He waves goodbye to his sister, and continues on his way, leaving his mess for her to clean up."   "Through some doors, and experiencing some reality twisting magic, Rusticus wound up inside a chest, stuck in extradimensional space."   "This is where the rest of the party comes in. We had just finished assaulting the queen's son's castle, charging our way through the entrance, all the way to the antichamber before the throne room. Here, there's three chests. We open the middle one and BOOM out flies Rusticus."   The man laughs now, and the hawk on his shoulder ruffles its feathers indignantly.   He looks up at it and murmers "Sorry Hawkster, didnt mean to startle you."   He continues. "So we had experienced some mind effecting spells, some secrecy, and a lot of high level magic. So it took a few of us a bit to accept that the Rusticus in front of us was the real Rusticus. In the end, we were convinced."   "So there we were, all re-united again. Outside the door to the biggest and baddest monster we would ever face.   "This is the last time I saw Rusticus."   The man goes quiet again, staring once more into the fire.   "We charged into this room, feeling prepared for anything. Rusticus, and the Monk, they both charge this guy. And then, just like that, it's over for them. The man points, and the room is filled with this dark, horrifying energy."   "I looked away for a second, and when I looked back, they weren't there anymore. It was just a pile of bones and ash. Rusticus, the dwarf, was gone."   "This is where I will end tonight's tale, with a key piece of advice. Don't go charging overpowered necromancer offspring of evil sorceresses unless you're prepared to lose your friends, your life, or everything you've known."  


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