The Meeting

Posted: January 8, 2015 in Fiction

The Druid walked into the crossroads expecting some commotion. The place had been roaring earlier. An hour ago the woods had whispered to him of discourse and violence and the air told stories of blood, now there was nothing. He’d been walking for 3 miles, and hadn’t seen anything frantic or telling. There was nothing to know. The woods didn’t answer. It had moved on. He walked out of the forest deliberately where the two roads intersected. It would have been terribly dramatic, but nobody saw it. He dragged his staff disappointed.

At the crossroads was a tavern and hitching post, no horses were tied to it, but it looked well used. A satchel rested on the ground. The Druid walked over and prodded it with his walking staff. There was a bit of gold in it, a good bit. He left it there. He walked up to the tavern’s door, it wasn’t on hinges. It was a massive crosscut of wood balanced loosely against the frame. It rested ajar. The Druid didn’t feel like he was trespassing when he entered. The place was dark, and in utter disarray. Tables and chairs were thrown about like a rug had been tossed from beneath them, or like a wave had crashed and receded through the barroom. Tables rested on each other, piled up and fallen over. There were puddles of blood and a hand’s worth of severed fingers near the bar: a dead man with most of his face pushed into his skull rested behind it. The only structure inside that made any sense was the bar itself, and one stool that stood at its end, where a giant beefy monster sat holding a tankard of what smelled like rum and water. The green hue of his skin and the coarse hair all over his body marked him as a halfbreed, not all man. He was bigger than any human man The Druid had seen, but not so big as a true Orc. It was possible, even probable, he was the cause of this scene, but The Druid wasn’t nervous. The Monster seemed calm enough now. The robes on the Half Orc marked him as a holy man, and though they were ill fitting, they were clearly his. They were tailored to his frame. Holy men didn’t take kindly to druids, the woods wizard knew that, but, holy men didn’t take kindly to Half Orcs either, so this was, at least, interesting.

“Hey there friend,” said The Druid. The Half Orc looked at him over his shoulder. “Hello friend,” he said with his thick Orcish drawl. He smiled. Big square teeth stood prominently at the front of his mouth like they were on guard duty, and he swayed enough to know that if their duty was keeping strong drink out, they were failing.

The Druid righted a stool and sat next to the large Half Orc. His hands and knuckles were big like weapons, The Druid was a big man, and his hands looked like a maiden’s hands next to the brute’s. He measured them to be the right size for pushing faces into skulls. The Half Orc wore mail under the robe, or half mail, it was hard to tell on a frame that big. He wasn’t sure a quilt of mail would cover the man-ish thing next to him. The robes were blue and white, but The Druid didn’t recognize any of the markings. They were runic, like the writings of Dwarfs, but they weren’t the same. Dwarf emblems were simple, and sleek, these were frantic and raw. He could not figure them out. The Half Orc finished his glass of what was probably mostly scotch without looking at The Druid. He had a sword slung over his back that would have been too tall for most men. They sat there a few moments in silence. The Half Orc breathed heavily and eyeballed the bottom of his mug.

“You don’t ask a lot of questions.” said a voice from out of nowhere. It wasn’t The Half Orc, but the monster didn’t move when he heard it. The Druid couldn’t tell if the voice was behind him or above him or from outside. The words were simply in his head. The Druid asked every living thing that could hear his heart to help him look for who it was that was speaking. They couldn’t find him. The Druid didn’t move his head, he rolled his eyes around their sockets and absorbed anything that might tell him about the voice. Whoever it was, silence didn’t seem to be something it was afraid of. He waited awhile for some sound to give away the questioner. After too long to ignore it, The Druid offered, “It’s a good way to learn what’s important.”

There was a pause again, not as long as the first one, but long enough to matter, “You learn anything important?” it asked, again from nowhere.

The Druid din’t spin around, he knew he wouldn’t see the voice until it wanted him to, or until it was too late. “I doubt it.”

There was a pause. The room filled with nothing.

“Guy’s alright.” Said the Half Orc, breaking the silence like he was waking up. “Smells good.” He added.

The Half Orc stood up, his shaggy frame teetering a bit, and shook like a dog. He made eye contact with The Druid. “You’re going to do great things man,” The big creature leaned into The Druid’s face. His eyes were the size of fists. “You need to Unleash the Power Within.” He righted himself and burped, turned around and walked out of the door, moving the heavy crosscut with one hand. He reached under his robes, and pissed a mighty stream into the grass outside the tavern.

The Druid turned and a tiny man stood on the counter in front of him. A powerfully built fellow about 24 inches tall. He wore green leather that The Druid couldn’t recognize. His sleeves were rolled up to the elbow. The Druid couldn’t tell where, but he was certain the small man had a weapon at the ready.

“You got a name?” asked The Gnome.

“None of import.” said The Druid.

The Gnome grinned. “I like you, you’re funny.” He jumped off the bar with a glint in his orange/green eyes. He landed soundlessly and took two steps around The Druid.

The Half Orc walked back in. “We’re going to need to get out of here pretty quickly,” said the Gnome. The Half Orc turned his big head towards The Druid. “The drink’s gone here, and we’ve made no friends.” The Druid looked at the dead man behind the bar. He certainly didn’t seem like a friend. The Half Orc had the tattoos of a slave or an imprisoned warrior, but carried himself, at least in this state, as a sincere man. It’s hard to trust a man as kind when he’s in his cups. The Druid decided he liked the drunken priest monster, and the bold little tyrant. He hated it when he made decisions, he wanted to remain honest always, and decision clouded honesty, but these men asked little and said so much. He was embarrassed that he wanted to listen.

“We did this.” Said the Gnome from somewhere, The Druid had already lost sight of him. “We really didn’t want to.” He added and emerged by jumping to the top of an upturned table. It was the highest point in the place where he could stand. “One man died, but he was the first to draw steel… and there’s nothing funny about that.”

“Nothing,” agreed the Half Orc.

“We believe in a lot of things Wood Wizard,” said The Gnome, looking down at The Druid, “but I don’t believe in much that isn’t funny.” The Druid looked at the loose fingers and dead man. They did not look funny.

“You look like a man of action.” said the Gnome.

“I am not,” corrected The Druid. And he wasn’t. He was looking for balance.

The Druid had had dreams of the world tipping over. The Druid had had dreams of monsters crawling up from the bottom of the ocean and baking in the sun. He had dreams of cities being cut down like wheat and of giants caught inside of mousetraps.

The Druid thought of those dreams.

The Half Orc smiled drunkenly. “Follow us,” he slurred. “We’ll Unleash the Giant within.”

“I am flattered,” lied The Druid, growing nervous for the first time. “but, I am fine the size I am.”

“Grow!” said the Half Orc and patted him hard on the back. The Druid stepped away, even friendly pats from the Half Orc made his shoulder ache. “Dondo is a good man, a man of a faith!” said the monster pointing to The Gnome. The Gnome looked directly at The Druid and shook his head calmly no.

“Just a really good joke.” Dondo corrected. “Just a really good joke.”

“A Joke?” asked The Druid.

“A Joke.” The Gnome answered.

The Druid said nothing, but smiled.

The Gnome had fought a dozen men that day, his big friend had helped, but Dondo had crippled a man who would have mocked a fair fight. Now that man had fewer fingers. It was closer to a “fair fight” by whatever those fingers weighed. The Druid wanted to hear more.

“I want adventure,” proclaimed The Gnome. “I want to fight monsters, I want to catch demons, I want to crap in a Dragon’s mouth.”

The Druid laughed.

The Gnome looked at him.

“You think that’s funny you big shaggy bastard,” his tone took an unimaginable turn for such a tiny creature. It wasn’t deep or loud or angry. It was honest, and it came from everywhere, “I’ll shit in a Dragon’s mouth. Because it’s the funniest god damned thing on the planet.”

The Druid was glad to have found these two.

“I figure if I,” He waved his hand over his small stature, “can rest my pink little ass in a Dragon’s mouth, then the world’s not as bad as it should be.” He broke eye contact with The Druid. “Come on Tony Robbins.” The big Half Orc started to follow.

“I hope you boys will travel well,” said The Druid, he felt bad slowing these two down, but he didn’t want them to go, “how does one get to the inside of a Dragon’s mouth?” he asked.

“I don’t know,” said the Gnome, “being an innocent seems to work, but we’re going to travel to Egeos.”

The Druid contemplated that, “There are no Dragons in Egeos,” he said.

“No, but there’s adventure, the place is almost on fire. I figure it’s a good place for a man like me to start this joke.”

“I’ll follow the joke forever,” said the giant green hued Half Orc. “It’s a good joke.” He whispered, like a prayer.

“You’ll die for a joke?” said The Druid, mostly to himself.

“A giggle is a great way to start a life: it wouldn’t be a bad end.” The Gnome said and started for the door.

The Druid sat inside and watched the unusual partners walk out. He wrestled with urge to let them go, and the urge to keep them safe. They disappeared for a moment, then peaked inside the doorway: one head filling the top half of the frame, and the other poking out near the bottom. “Hey Wood Man,” said the Half Orc, “You leave a bag of gold out here?”

“No,” said The Druid.

“I’m gonna keep it if that doesn’t bother you,” said The Gnome.

“I figured that’s what started this,” said the man in the leafy cloak and leather armor, gesturing to the chaos around the barroom.

“No,” said the Gnome. “Idiot tried to rob us.” He pointed at the missing fingers. The Druid looked at the dead man. “Bigger Idiot tried to grab Tony,” he answered, pointing to the Half Orc. Tony tried to look solemn but smiled a little. “I don’t know why they tried to rob us. It looks like they had enough.” He held up the bag in an outstretched hand. It only cleared the ground by a half an inch. “I’m gonna keep it.” He reaffirmed.

“You should,” said The Druid, and stood up, “and I’d like to come with you.”

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