Being three outcomes of a short-story contest

01 Jun 2004

Write a 2-3 page short story on a Dwarf, Elf, Tiefling, and a Human meeting for the 1st time in a dungeon in a room with a single chest in it with a kobold sitting on the chest.
  1. The Contest
  2. Lyt was a cunning thief who was merely waiting for an opportunity
  3. Don't point that thing at me, unless you intend to use it
  4. A study in phsychofantology - We prefer to call it wealth gathering
The Contest

A friend at work sent me an email informing me that Code Monkey Publishing was running a short story writing contest. Unfortunately, by the time I got the email there wasn't really enough time to meet all the requirements for submission. Writing the story was easy, but I also had to generate character stat sheets according to the D20 SRD for each person in the story. Oh well - maybe next time. Even though I didn't submit it, I did write the story (as did two other coworkers).

The scenario for the story is as follows:

Write a 2-3 page short story on a Dwarf, Elf, Tiefling, and a Human meeting for the 1st time in a dungeon in a room with a single chest in it with a kobold sitting on the chest.
For those of you that aren't familiar with D&D, here's what the Monster Manual has to say about Tieflings:
Twisted, devious, and untrustworthy, tieflings more often than not follow their inherent traits and heed the call to evil. A few defy their nature, but still must fight against popular opinion (if their nature is known) or the feeling of otherworldly "wrongness" that seems to follow them wherever they go.

Beyond this aura that many find disturbing, many tieflings are indistinguishable from humans. Others have small horns, pointed teeth, red eyes, a whiff of brimstone about them, or even cloven feet. No two tieflings are the same.

In most human societies, tieflings maintain a low profile, operating as thieves, assassins, or spies. Occasionally they rise to a position of power, but when their nature is revealed they quickly become outcasts.

And a Kobold:
Kobolds are short, reptilian humanoids with cowardly and sadistic tendencies.
Lyt was a cunning thief who was merely waiting for an opportunity

As Dagan dislodged the heavy axe from his fallen enemy, he could see the fear etched in the eyes, frozen in place. Dagan was short and stocky like any dwarf. His beard was long, tangled, and completely gray. His clothing was torn and travelstained. The smell of gore dripping from his axe lingered in the air, mixed with sweat. But his blue eyes were clear, glittering in the sunlight.

Glancing around, he saw only one left. The only one that mattered. Lyt. This one was smart. He had appeared as a miserable wretch at the entrance to Dagan's mountain home several months earlier, begging for mercy and food. Feeling pitty on the poor creature, Dagan's family had taken him in and given him shelter. He quickly made himself invaluable. He cleaned the house, did the dishes, fetched wood for the fires. It seemed that he was there to stay. Little did he know that Lyt was a cunning thief who was merely waiting for an opportunity.

When that opportunity finally came, Dagan had been enraged. To make matters worse, his family blamed him for the theft, since he was the one who had insisted that the clan show mercy on the creature. The stolen jewel was much more than a shiny trinket. It had been given to the family by a powerful cleric generations ago as a reward for a deed long forgotten. All that was still known was that one day this jewel would bring great honor and riches to Dagan's family if they kept it safe.

And thus he found himself here, in a slimy cave, after weeks of tracking. He had expected to find Lyt alone gloating over his newfound treasure, but instead he had been met by almost a dozen kobolds at the entrance to the lair. Dagan would have been slain but for the young elf maiden who had run into the clearing. Her bow made short work of the few remaining creatures. She came over to Dagan now, a questioning look in her eyes. "Allow me to introduce myself. My name is Solura. What unfortu..."

"No time for questions now, lass," Dagan said, cutting her off. "We've got to catch that miserable little thief before he escapes!" The strain of battle and anticipation of reclaiming the jewel made his voice rougher than he'd intended. "I'm sorry," he stammered, looking at his feet. "Thank you for your help." She was taller than most other elves he had met. Her long white hair contrasted with her tanned skin (unusual for an elf, he thought). Her feminine features were augmented by the low-cut, tight leather outfit she was wearing. Shaking his head, he quickly turned and entered the cavern, following the footsteps on his prey.

***

The sound of clinking amour was all that could be heard as Dagan moved cautiously down the hallway. His new companion kept up easily, making no sound at all. Up ahead was a chamber. He was sure this was where the kobold had run. There would be no escaping this time. He would reclaim his families honor by bringing the jewel back to his clan.

Suddenly the elf froze. Her instincts told her that something was wrong. Nearby a hidden presence lurked. She motioned for the dwarf to be still, and slowly turned around, scanning the area. Seeing and hearing nothing further, she shrugged her shoulders and motioned for Dagan to continue on.

The tiefling smiled as the two unlikely companions moved past him. His magic concealment had worked. The smile emphasized a fierce light in the creatures not-quite-human eyes. Asoedus was tall, with jet black hair and a reddish tint to his skin. There were small horns protruding from his head. The remainder of his body was covered in a long black cloak that seemed to cling to him like a shadow in the corner where the light never shone. He, too, was anxious to enter the chamber. Unlike the dwarf and his elven friend, he had no interest in the creature that had run in ahead of them, or the jewel he carried. He was seeking a magical artifact. And in the room ahead he could sense a great power. But Asoedus hadn't lived this long by being reckless. Better to let the other fools enter the room first.

***

Hefting his axe in his hand, Dagan neared the entrance to the room. He was a veteran of many battles and knew better than to go charging into a strange room on the heels of an enemy, no matter that it was only a kobold. Lyt was different. He had completely fooled Dagan and his family and managed to steal their most prized posession. As Dagan had been tracking him, Lyt had exhibited an air of confidence -- like everything was proceeding according to some plan that the dwarf couldn't see.

Conferring with the elf, Dagan said, "You hang back; your weapon will be of little use in here. Besides, this is my fight. I won't be long." Before she could protest, the dwarf moved from the hallway into the room. He immediately scanned the area, checking for the kobold and any obvious traps that might be present. Three things immediately struck him; one of them literally. First, he noted that the kobold was sitting on top of a rather large steel treasure chest. He had a look of supreme confidence on his face and appeared to simply be waiting. Second, Dagan saw that the room was lit with an eerie green glow that had no source. No sooner had he noticed this than he doubled over in pain, the air knocked out of his body. An unseen force had punched him in the gut.

Laughing, the kobold stood up and strolled to the dwarf, a wicked looking knife in one hand. "Looks like this isss the end of you, dwarfs. You sshould never have followed me when I stole the jewelss. You's are involved in something you know nothings about. Now to deal with you."

Overhearing the kobold speak, Solura was about to run to the dwarves aid, but she was pushed back by a powerful arm. Asoedus had been watching from a shadow near the doorway and knew instinctively that the kobold help the key to the power he sought. He quietly muttered a few words, pointed his fingers, and watched calmly as four bolts of lightning struck the kobold square in the chest, charring his body instantly.

The knife slipped from Lyt's lifeless hands and the jewel fell to the floor, shattering as it impacted. Hardly noticing, Asoedus went quickly to the chest and tried to open it. After a few moments, he screamed in frustration.

***

As the jewel fell to the floor, there was a bright flash of light. Asoedus quickly cast a light spell and helped the dwarf to his feet. Solura entered the room and gasped as she saw a form coalesce from the remains of the jewel.

A beautiful young woman lie unconscious on the floor where the jewel had shattered. She had a slender build, short brunette hair, and was clothed in a striking white gown. There was a tattoo of a sun around her right eye. Her body suddenly convulsed and she began to cough. When she was able to sit up, she looked around and calmly stated, "Thank you for freeing me. It's been a long time."

Asoedus and Dagan looked at each other in confusion. Solura was helping the human female to her feet.

Rounding on the human, Asoedus asked "How do I open the chest? I must gain entrance. My ... "

Dagan quickly cut him off, asking a question of his own. "My family has been guarding this jewel for generations. Its purpose was not given to us. I want some answers!"

The young woman smiled. "All in due time. Our meeting here was no coincidence. The kobold was right - you're involved in something you know nothing about. All of you are now." She looked at each of the adventurers in turn, staring into their eyes, as if she could see deep into their souls. "Come, this is no place for a conversation."

Don't point that thing at me, unless you intend to use it

Lhaes had been wandering for what seemed like hours. The oppressive, dank cavern seemed to stretch on for miles. The torch in his hand sputtered, reminding him that he needed to escape quickly, otherwise he would be left to himself in the dark, and there were rumors that the cavern was inhabited by more then the occasional vermin that scampered out of way at the mere sight of his torch.

Gradually, the tunnel began to climb, and the once slick walls appeared drier. After a few more minutes he found himself in a cavernous room. The light from the torch no longer exposed the enclosing tunnel, but a vast, immeasurable expanse. Over the sputtering of his torch he could hear the soft muttering of a dog-like voice.

Suddenly, off to his left he heard rocks tumbling, grinding and then loud cursing. In the distance he could see the glimmer of lights suddenly brought to bear on the source of the disturbance. Drawing his sword as he went, he moved cautiously towards the pile of rocks.

"You better back off if you know what's good for you," came a threatening voice from beneath the rock pile. He stopped up short, and then Lhaes saw the others. Apparently he wasn't the only one in the cavern who had heard the cave in and had come to investigate.

There, pinned by a boulder was a bulky man. Behind him was a half concealed passageway. Apparently the wall had collapsed just as this person had passed beneath it.

No sooner had Lhaes discovered this, when he heard the soft tread of a boot from his right. Quickly he spun to face this possible threat.

Facing him, with a disarmingly pleasant smile was an elven girl. Her hair was tied back into a compact bun, yet wisps of it had come undone, and strayed around her face like faint filaments of a spider's web. She wore a leather vest, under which she wore a baggy white shirt. A wide belt encompassed her waist, which held an assortment of different sized pouches. Her pants hugged her figure, flared out from the hips, and then made a bell shape before being cinched into calf high soft leather boots.

"Don't point that thing at me, unless you intend to use it. And I know you don't really intend to do that, do you?" she said in a silky voice, with just an undercurrent of warning.

"Uh, right," Lhaes stammered, slightly lowering the sword briefly, before coming to his senses, and raising it again. "What are you doing here?" He asked suspiciously.

"I could ask you the same thing," said the gruff man.

"I think that'll be a question we all want answered," said a voice from behind him. He quickly turned and saw a dwarf, eying the three of them, but still keeping a part of his attention on something that, until now, had escaped Lhaes's view.

As Lhaes stepped to the side he could see now that there, tucked away in an alcove was a small creature, sitting atop a large wooden chest. The creature's reptilian face glared at the dwarf momentarily and then nervously searched the faces of the other three occupants of the now seemingly crowded room and they all turned an appraising gaze on him.

"We is trapped here, we is" exclaimed the kobold quickly, holding up his manacled hands. "Our clan banished us to this miserable place, they's hoping strangers to come by, they's wishing strangers would be killing me first and then taking treasure." He looked around desperately, hoping that wasn't the case, and continued quickly. "But there is no treasure. Nope no treasure at all. Just empty chest, and poor Kealian, sitting here's, waiting to die."

"Humph," said the dwarf. "My god would not be at all troubled if I were to rid the world of another kobold,. However, the slaughter of a helpless defender would bring me no honor."

"What a shame," murmured the elf quietly to herself. "Still, a chest in a cave still may yet have treasure undiscovered and I'm not going to take the word of that creature until I've seen what's in there."

I'm here searching for treasure," she then said much louder as she shrugged her shoulders. "And I'll be checking what's in the chest, no matter what the scaly one says."

"Well, none of you has a right to the chest because I saw him there first," said the man who had just managed to extricate himself out from under the pile of rubble.

"If it wasn't for this cavern wall, I would have already opened the chest myself, isn't that right Kealian."

"Oh, yes, yes, Master Heun says he will help us, but rock wall falls on him before he can."

"Yes, yes, but now that I am out, let me help you," Heun said as he began to limp towards the kobold.

"Just a minute there," said the dwarf gripping his battle axe and firmly planting himself between Heun and the kobold. "I've heard why the kobold is here, and I think I can guess why the elf is here, but I still don't know why you two are here, and frankly, nobody is getting to this chest until I get some answers."

"You!" he said pointing at Lhaes. "What are you doing here?" he demanded.

"Some of the locals down from the pub down the mountain offered to guide me through the caverns here to a crystal bed. I'm something of a collector of crystals," he said, motioning to his sword. They looked at it again. Now that they looked closer, what had appeared to be a steel blade was in fact a single shard of crystal. Everyone tore their eyes from the sword at the dwarf's next words.

"I guess that leaves me and you, Heun." He paused, gathering his thoughts, and then said, "I am Glorgur Korboran, Paladin of Jur the Hammerfist. I was given a quest to search for the heart of the mountain Krakhil. The landscape and names have changed over the years, and so I have been searching for the mountain for many months now. It is my hope this is the mountain, so I may complete my quest and return to my homeland."

His eyes gleamed with fervor as he spoke, which he quickly quenched as he looked towards the man who had been caught under the rocks. "You are the last, Heun. You will not get past me until we are all satisfied."

There was a momentary silence as the two of them locked their eyes on one another. Finally Heun looked down, but not before a look of menace passed across his face.

"As you know, my name is Heun. I came here in search of a rare fungus used for healing certain maladies, when to my astonishment the passageway collapsed on me. As I lay there Kealian and I talked for a minute and he offered to help me find the fungus if I freed him. So, you can imagine that I intend to free him because I need that fungus!"

Glorgur looked at him, paused a minute, and then stepped aside saying, "I think we can all agree, Kealian gets freed. After that you, elf, can open the chest. However I think everybody here will want a part of whatever is in there. Are we all agreed, an equal split five ways?" He looked around, and seeing that while some of them didn't like it, they were willing to acquiesce in the face of the overwhelming odd if they didn't.

"Good! Now let's get to work."

Heun limped over to the chest, and after fumbling with the manacles, managed to free Kealian. As soon as he was free, Kealian began muttering and pawing at Heun. "We mustn't be opening the box, " he groveled. "We need to get fungus, yes?" he pled.

"We'll open the box, and then get the fungus," Heun said, brushing him off, as the elf Arisal made her way to the chest. They crowded around the chest as she worked the lock. So intent were they on the chest that none of them noticed Kealian slink into the passageway.

"I've got it!" exclaimed Arisal as she heard the click of the lock as the tumblers fell into place. She stowed her tool back into her pouch, and then slowly opened the heavy lid. An explosion washed over the four treasure seekers as they attempted to catch a glimpse of the chests contents. Their bodies were flung like rag dolls through the air and were scattered around the cavernous room, where countless others lined the walls.

Slowly Kealian lifted himself from the passageway, and cast a disdainful glance on the recent dead. "Fools! The Heart of Krakhil is safe from the likes of you while the guardian is still here." Without another glance back he turned on his heal, and scampered down the passageway and out of the cavern.

A study in phsychofantology - We prefer to call it wealth gathering

"I'd like to thank you all for coming tonight, I know the location is not ideal. Surely a dank tavern would be more suitable to some of you but I felt this setting would work best for what we intend to accomplish."

The tongue of the kobold flicked lightly about its fangs as it continued its introduction.

"Please, each of you, take a seat and, you, you're the human yes? Right, why don't you start things off and tell us a bit about yourself and why you think you're here."

Each of the meeting's attendants settled onto one of the rough wooden stools they found inside the cavern and eventually one them cleared his throat and began his story.

"Yeah, uh hi, I'm, uh, Dan and well, my dad said that if I couldn't stop, well, you know, he'd send me off to fight in the swamp wars. So, uh, yeah, well I saw your posting down at Tavish's and thought, well, maybe I'd come and see if you could, you know, like cure me. Not that I couldn't cure myself you know, but, well, I hear in those swamp wars, dudes like, get sucked down by those gas gargoyles and they don't like die, they like start to swell up and start to like, stink..."

"Ah yes, thank you Dan for starting us off." said the instructor, cutting off the boy's story. The kobold hopped off the chest he was sitting on and shuffled around behind a rather gruff looking dwarf whose obvious distaste at being in the same room with a reptilian was evident by his deeply furrowed brow.

"Why don't you go next, let me see here ah..." said the lizard adjusting its spectacles on its long snout while gazing down upon a sheaf of parchment, "Bronair is it?"

"Nay, forktongue, it be Bronai. Bronair, he would be me brother. Um, was me brother that is. That be why I be here. Ya see I killed him I did."

"Ha, might I say a bit of brotherly rivalry there?" quipped an elf who had yet to be introduced.

"Who you be callin' a brother soft one. I be Bronai, Bronai ya hear. I be his sister."

The elf's surprised mouth opened to respond but before he could utter a repost,

"Please continue Bronai" interjected the kobold, "you'll have your turn in just a moment." it said turning toward the elf who then directed his stare toward the rock ceiling of the cavern, his disdain at being corrected by a saurian evident by his pursed lips and flaired nostrils.

"As I was tellin' ya. I killed me brother over some treasure we found out seekin'." Bronai said shifting uneasily on the wooden stool. "We found the treasure, was only a little treasure, but Bronair took the biggest diamond for hisself. Said he was a givin' it to his dwarvet mate. And I took it back from him and we got to fightin'."

The female dwarf then stood up from her stool and began to forcefully beat the air with her fist as she continued. "I be tellin' him that that diamond be mine on account the last one we found be his. But he don't be listenin' to me and trys to take it back. So I grabbed up a rock and brung it down on his stubborn head."

Bronai then kicked the pine stool across the floor where it crashed and splintered against the far wall. Her eyes screwed shut attempting to block out rare dwarven tears.

"And so you also saw my posting at the tavern." said the instructor after an uncomfortable pause. "And decided you'd had enough yes?"

Bronai nodded slowly, her thick braids hiding her face, her attitude toward the lizard lightening considerably.

"Well why don't you grab another stool and have a seat." said the kobold, "I'm sure we can help you. Ok then, Mr. Elf. let's have your story."

"Fine. I was curious about a kobold who could possibly think it might know something about live borns and decided to see if my assumptions were correct. Which of course I'm sure they are. That's it. Simple curiositiy. Nothing so tragic as this dwarf's touching story nor the youth's abhorrence to being inducted into swamp war duty." The elf stopped and looked around the room. Both Dan and Bronai looked away from him. The forth attendee sat silent, staring at the chest in the center of the group.

"You do not hunt for treasure?" asked the kobold.

"Of course I hunt for treasure."

"How often to you think of treasure?"

"As often as anyone I suppose."

"Dan, how often do you think of treasure?"

The boy coughed into his hand and said "well, you know, like all the time."

"Thank you Dan." said the lizard.

"Perhaps a human might think of treasure constantly but we elves have much higher standards of conduct. We have life pursuits we endeavor to complete. Treasure is merely a means to and ends." stated the elf in a lofty manner.

"When was the last good night's sleep you had where you did not dream of treasure?" poked the leader.

"My dreams are just that - mine."

"Months?"

"I tell you I have no treasure addiction. I'm a perfectly normal elf. Leading a perfectly normal life."

"Hunting treasure." said the kobold.

"Yes. If you must call it that then yes - hunting treasure. We prefer to call it wealth gathering."

"I see." said the lizard. "And I'm sorry what was your name?"

"High Elf Carsiteth."

The silent student then spoke up for the first time, "The High Elf Carsiteth?" he questioned.

"Of course The High Elf Carsiteth, why do you ask?"

The forth person peered mildly back at the elf. Seconds ensued without him speaking. An awkward silence squirmed about the room.

"Ah yes," the kobold broke in, "that brings us to the last member of our group. Please, if you would, state your name and a brief description of what you'd like to get out of our little sessions. So as to let us come to know you better and so that maybe we can help you while you help us."

Deliberatly, speaking in a resonating bass voice "You mortals amuse me. You think you have control over your primal need for beautiful things? For gold and jewels? For vials of mysterious potions? For scrolls of sorcery? Ha!"

At this the forth member rose from his stool, toppling it, kicking it back against the wall. He stretched to his full height; his bulk now becoming apparent as his presence fill the room. "I am the daemon Zata-a and my power is to infect your puny minds with an overwhelming desire for treasure. You cannot control this frenzy. We, The Overlings, drive you to our ends. You do our bidding. We command and control all that you do. You cannot resist for I am Zata-a and I rule your souls."

Zata-a leered around the room eyeing each of the other attendees.

"Well thank you Zata-a for such an inspiring speech." said the kobold then glancing back down at his parchment "hmm, but is says here you're only half deamon. Do we have that right?"

"Bah, you miserable creatin, from what source did you obtain your information?" snorted the deamon.

"I believe, hmm" the kobold said thinking out loud, "yes, that's right, it was your wife who came by and signed you up for our seminar. And I'm sure she's the one who wrote down 'half deamon' right here in our sign up form."

"Blasted woman." gritted the now half deamon, "I've told her time and again that I'm at least a three quarters deamon, not a half. I just can't stand when she does this to me..."

"Well, I see we have lots of work to do here. Why don't you grab another stool Zata-a. My, we seem to be going through stools tonight don't we."

The daemon gradually shrunk down in size, shook his head as if he'd just awoken from a bit of a day dream, found a new stool and returned to the circle surrounding the chest.

The Kobold then scurried atop the chest and began "Now that we all know a little something about each other. Let me tell you who I am and why we're all here.

"My name is Professor Skree, I'm a phsychofantologist at Dungeon Tech University. And we're all here because we are all, either self professed or publicly assumed, addicted to treasure hunting."

As Prof. Skree began his personal introduction he jumped to the floor and started to fiddle with a set of keys at his belt.

"Dan, can you help me lift this lid?"

The professor inserted a selected key into the chest's lock and as he and Dan began to lift the lid he continued, "Addicted to treasure, my fine folks, treasure such as this..."