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Zenyth Bloodstone looked at the smoldering remains of the

rural tavern. Watching the thick gray smoke rise to the overcast

heavens, the shrouded drow wondered how things could have gone so

wrong, so quickly. The recent turbulent events rattled inside

his hooded head.


When Zenyth entered the meager tavern twenty minutes ago,

the stench nearly turned his stomach. The odor of sweaty humans,

pungent pipe smoke, and stale mead filled the stagnant air,

stinging his long nose.

Boorish louts surrounded wooden tables, bantering loudly

about their latest trifling conquests. Exaggerated tales of

vanquished kobolds and routed goblins echoed through the squalid

pub. Tarnished armor and bloodstained weapons clanked and

rattled each time a patron moved. The Drow's pointed ears ached

from the cacophony.


Only Zenyth's crystalline eyes were given a slight reprieve,

for the dark tavern seemed more like home than the bright,

offensive outer world.


With his hood draped low over his furrowed brow, Zenyth drew

little attention entering the noisy establishment. He strolled

across the dirt floor to the bar rail, his flowing cloak nearly

dusting the liquor-soaked earth. A fat, balding human stood

opposite him, wiping a pewter stein with a dirty rag. Before

uttering a word, the startled bartender cut Zenyth short.


"We don't serve your kind here," he said, a hint of fear

trembling in his voice.


Zenyth's cold eyes held unblinking, and for a moment, the

tension was palpable.


"I won't linger then," Zenyth replied icily, employing every

ounce of restraint he could muster. Turning gracefully from the

bar, the slender drow moved effortlessly through the crowded

tavern to a vacant corner table. With a gloved hand, he pushed

open a greasy window for some fresh air.


Zenyth scanned the drunken crowd, looking for someone

remotely suitable for his daunting task. The drow had intended

to recruit a band of mercenaries to assist in his cause. Zenyth

hated the aboveground world, and figured a greedy band of humans

were better suited to this unseemly mission.


He looked at the humans, strutting with pride over their

guerilla strikes on hapless wilderness creatures. Hack and slash

looting of dim-witted humanoids had become all the rage. Ogres,

orcs, gnolls--if a creature collects trinkets, the humans will

hunt it down, kill it, and loot it, he thought.


And the humans even drug the demihumans down to their level.

Zenyth spotted a few dwarves and halflings among the crowd. Even

an ignoble half-elf. Zenyth bristled.


Upon scrutinizing the ragtag mob, he scoffed and admonished

himself. How could I have expected to find any worthy hirelings

in a hovel like this? If I want the job done right, I'll have to

do it myself, he resolved.


As the willowy drow stood to leave, a hulking brute in

chainmail blocked his path. His matted red beard wet with ale,

the brazen human burped loudly, adding more foul gas to the



"Excuse me," Zenyth replied. The hulk stayed put.


"You lookin' for someone?" he asked, his courage fueled by



"Apparently not," the drow responded, waiting for the

cumbersome oaf to clear the path.


"Me and my band are available for hire. If you're lookin'

for a hearty bunch of adventurers, I've got a good axeman and a

couple archers. And one o' me boys is got nimble fingers--if ya

know what I mean."


"You have experience then?" Zenyth asked. "I imagine you've

completed many an important quest," the drow replied

sarcastically. "Retrieved a lost magic gizmo for an idle-brained

noble? Killed some giant rodents in some poor townfolk's

basement? Guarded an important shipment of thingamajigs for a

paranoid merchant? Well, then, you're probably overqualified for

my menial task," Zenyth snapped bitterly, his patience expired.


"Listen, you arrogant piece o' shite," the brute growled,

reaching for his long sword.


Before he pulled the blade from its sheath, Zenyth sent him

tumbling backwards with a quick shove. The drunken lout easily

lost his balance and tumbled his cronies behind him like



As the inebriated mob struggled to their feet, Zenyth

completed a dimension door spell and vanished. Dumbfounded, the

angry bunch swivelled and craned, looking for the insolent drow.


"Look," the wet-bearded swordsman cried, spotting Zenyth

through the open window, "he's outside! Let's kill the bastard!"


Hearing the war whoops within, Zenyth immediately cast

another spell, wizard-locking the tavern door. Without

hesitation, Zenyth Bloodstone prepared a third incantation, and

aimed toward the window he opened only minutes ago.


He heard the banging on the magically-sealed door, and knew

the rickety structure would only hold for so long. The fireball

shot from his fingertips and roared through the open window,

exploding like a white-hot sun inside the seedy tavern. Within

seconds, the entire establishment was engulfed in flames.


Then, the frantic shouting halted for good.


"What is this world coming to?" Zenyth asked the wind, and

turned slowly from the charred remains.

Decisions © anonymous

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