These are short stories put up each Friday that you can read for free. By the next Friday the post will be taken down and a new one will go up.
Special Note: This is the Writing Blog’s 700th post
Chapter 18 – The King’s Road
“Alright,” Beldar said once they were outside Sandar’s, “let’s get to town.”
They’d stayed for as long as it took Sandar to count out 720 gold pieces, minus the thirty they’d gotten from the gnome for equipment. They ended up with 1,030 gold pieces and Sandar had sixteen new potions.
After everything had been spread out it was ascertained they had twelve invisibility potions, four healing potions, three strength potions, five starter beacons, and four Cordwood potions. All in all it’d been quite the take, and one Sandar had been quite surprised at.
The total value to them would have been 2,200 gold pieces, but they settle on just over 1,000 and kept several of the potions for themselves, as well as all but one of the valuable starter beacons. Sandar had been able to talk one Cordwood potion out of them, something they’d been hesitant to give up not because they needed it, but because they feared Sandar would be discovered with it and thus implicated in its theft.
In the end the gnome’s powers of persuasion – and the promise of 200 extra gold – convinced them. Besides, they had three more, and what could possibly go wrong on the top of Mount Misery?
“Get to town,” Theo repeated, “…and do what?”
“Get supplies and what else we need to get up that mountain and set things right,” Toes said.
“Do we really need anymore supplies?” Dorn asked.
Theo scoffed. “Listen to yourselves! Do you really think you’re going to just walk up that mountain and end fifty years of a system that’s been in place? Please!”
“That’s exactly what we’re going to do,” Dorn said, “that or die trying.”
“Oh, so now we’re martyrs too, huh?”
Glinny stopped and put her hands on her hips and turned to look back at the elven thief.
“Theo, what’s the matter?”
“What’s the matter? What’s the matter?” Theo fumed. “What’s the matter is that you all think that what you’re about to embark on isn’t some crazy scheme but a plan that actually has a chance of working. Well, I’m here to tell you you’re all crazy!”
“No,” Beldar said forcefully, “the only crazy thing happening is the Hirelings system they’ve got going on in this place…and one so many have been willing to put up with it for so long.”
“Give me a break, Beldar!” Theo spat. “You’ve been living off the Hireling system ever since it was invented half a century ago!”
“Aye, that I have,” Beldar admitted, “and it’s a mistake I regret wholeheartedly.”
The party was making its way up The Trail and already the King’s Road was becoming visible in the distance. In another mile or so they’d be able to see the city walls.
“So now you’re just going to march up that mountain, all the way up to the dragon’s cave, an area that’s been off-limits for decades I might add, and slay the dragon that’s bringing so much woe unto the land, is that it?”
Beldar nodded. “That’s it.”
“And then what?”
The others craned their ears and glanced sideways at the dwarf, eager to hear how he’d answer this latest question from the wily elf.
“That’s a good question,” Beldar responded, “and anyone’s guess.”
“Most likely the whole system the Kingdom’s built upon will come crashing down,” Glinny said.
Theo scoffed. “And we with it, can’t you see that? What will all these wandering adventurers do then, huh? When there’s no more dragon there’ll be no more monsters lured here by the idea of easy gold. Those out fighting for peanuts now won’t be able to find a deer to kill! If you think making a living here now is tough, just you wait!”
“It has to be done,” Toes said.
“Oh, here we go again!” Theo said. “Mr. Silent over there’s going to get all philosophical on us and tell us how the world should be.”
“It has to be done or we’ll have more good men like Edgar sitting in the Pasture.”
An involuntary cringe went up the spine of each of them at the mention of the dreaded Pasture.
“That just happens to the unlucky ones,” Ziggy said.
Toes shook his head. “Used to be a few unlucky ones each year would end up there – now it’s more like dozens.”
“So Hirelings aren’t dying anymore, at least not as much as they used to,” Glinny said. “What’s so bad about that?”
“When was the last time you visited the Pasture?” Toes asked.
Glinny shrugged uncomfortably. “I try to stay away from that place.”
Toes nodded. “As do we all.”
“No one wants to be reminded of their mortality,” Beldar said.
“And yet that’s exactly what we’ll be reminded of today,” Toes said. “I think a visit to Edgar is long overdue.”
“A visit to Edgar…” Theo trailed-off.
Toes walked up and clapped the smaller elf on the back.
“It’ll do you some good to see with your own eyes what you’ve been complaining so much about.”
“Wait,” Glinny said. “You’re telling me after all that talk you’ve never even been to the Pasture?”
Theo shifted his feet a bit and looked down.
“I’ve heard a lot of stories, alright?”
Beldar let out a loud sigh and shook his head, then looked to the older elf.
“Toes, why don’t you just lead us the rest of the way…silently of course!”
Theo’s face became a little more red, and after that the group lapsed into silence as they continued down the King’s Road, getting closer to the castle with every step.