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A Neverwinter Nights Fantasy - Chapter One

Ken McDonald, aka lazybones
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With Neverwinter Nights finally going gold, and the prospect of months of CRPG goodness ahead, I was inspired to scribble a little homage-slash-parody inspired by the prospect of playing 3e (or at least a reasonable facsimile of it :)) online. This story is intended as part adventure, part comedy, part parody, so please don't take it too seriously. It milks some blatant stereotypes about RP gamers and computer gamers, but in what is (hopefully) a benign and light-hearted way.

Ken McDonald

* * * * *

Graf sighed as he tightened the reins in front of the Golden Drake Inn and dismounted. The inn, located on the southern outskirts of Neverwinter outside of the sheltering walls of the city, looked as tired as he felt, with sagging eaves and weatherbeaten stone walls marked with cracks half-filled with old mortar.

Scanning the street for any sign of danger - old habits died hard - he adjusted his swordbelt and stepped inside through the smaller side entrance.

The place was about half-full, with perhaps a full score of assorted patrons occupying the inn's spacious common room. They looked a diverse lot, a typical mixture from the wild lands along the Sword Coast. Graf caught old Worgan's eye and nodded, crossing over to where the gristled old bartender held court along the long bar of polished mahogany.

"Ale," Graf said, tossing a beaten gold piece onto the bar. "The good stuff."

"Rough trip?" Worgan asked, pouring him a tall one from the cask under the bar.

"Rough enough. Lost three this time, in the tunnels under Vorlag's Ruin."

The bartender snorted. "Wouldn't catch me going within a mile of that place. 'Tis haunted, everybody knows it."

"Well, I didn't find any restless spirits there," Graf commented. "What I did find was another group of bandits - orcs, this time, with a shaman leading them. For an old ruin, the damned place seems to be a veritable market square for evil monsters. Seems every time we clear the place out, a week later - sometimes less - it gets filled up again."

"Maybe they should seal it up," Worgan suggested.

"Ah, they'd just find another place to go," Graf noted sagely. "Besides, it might be a farther ride."

The warrior took a long draw from his ale. For a moment he looked vaguely troubled, but then he shook the look from his expression, and glanced up at Worgan.

"Anyway, what can you do? I heard you got a new group for me."

The innkeeper chortled. "Oh, yes. You're going to like this batch." He chuckled again, as if remembering a familiar joke, and Graf shot him a suspicious look as he turned on his stool to face the main doors of the inn.

A gust of wind sounded through the opening below the doors, and then faded into quiet. As the innkeeper began to speak, the sound of bootsteps on the porch outside because audible.

"The first calls himself 'Lord Margos the Just," a paladin of Helm," Worgan said. As he spoke the man's name, the paladin stepped into the room. He was a tall, well-built, attractive figure of a man, clad in a shirt of scale mail and carrying a large shield emblazoned with the sigil of Helm. A longsword rested ready at his hip. The paladin's eyes traveled around the room, registering and then discarding each occupant in turn. There was a haughty look in those eyes, a cold distance that fit with the grim seriousness of their owner.

"Margos seeks to fight evil," Worgan explained, as the paladin moved into the inn, finally seating himself at a large, round, vacant table not far from the bar. "I have not spoken with him long, but methinks that his true ambition is power."

Graf nodded. Such a goal was not uncommon among the many adventurers that he'd met. Usually they ended up finding it under several feet of earth.

"The next is a Damaran, a barbarian who calls himself 'Vanguarde'. At least, I believe that is his chosen name." As if summoned by his words a second figure entered the inn, a veritable mountain of a man with a wild beard and shaggy hair that seemed to spring out in all directions at once. He was clad in a coat of dirty hides, and bore a massive two-handed waraxe. "I believe he has some sort of malady of the mind," the bartender added, clearly a bit unnerved by the barbarian.

The barbarian paused in the entry, then raised his hands toward the rafters and shouted an incomprehensible cry that filled the room. "L33t! W00t! Vanguarde ownz NWN! l33t l33t!" Then he let out a stupid grin and moved to join the paladin at the nearby table.

The next figure to enter was a stark contrast, an elven man who seemed frail in contrast to the first two adventurers. He was clad in the robes of a wizard, and bore an expression of confusion as he looked around the bar.

"Excuse me," he said. "I'm not sure what I'm supposed to do..."

"Just wait at the table, lad," Worgan said, gesturing toward the table where the other two waited.

"What's your name, wizard?" Graf asked him.

"Charl - um, Zarath," the elf said, before hurrying to take his seat.

"N00b!" the barbarian shouted at him, before subsiding into silence.

The next to enter was a serious-looking gentleman armed with a heavy mace and clad, like the paladin, in scale armor. His true vocation, however, was demonstrated by the holy symbol that hung across his chest, the sign of a sunrise fashioned from iron.

The cleric immediately noticed the others waiting, and moved to join them. "Greetings, all," he said. "I am Barzoun Mer'Athos, acolyte of the Morninglord, warrior of the Church of the Sunrise, late of Baldur's Gate, and I am pleased to join this company. Truly I pray that we may enjoy Lathander's blessing on this mission, so that we may seek out evil and smite it within the dark holes where it hides."

The others looked up at him, but did not respond.

Worgan said, "Quite a lot of titles for such a young priest."

Graf nodded. The serious ones were always trouble.

The warrior started to rise, but Worgan forestalled him. "There's one more," he said.

He indicated a short, shadowy figure that detached himself from a group that was gathered near the fireplace, across the room. He moved across the room with an almost sinuous grace, stepping between and around the other patrons without seeming to make an effort. He slipped into his chair so smoothly that it took a few moments for the others to realize that he was there.

"Calls himself 'Sidon,'" Worgan explained. "There's something very dangerous about him, I think. He would not be one to turn your back on."

Graf nodded - he'd already come to the same conclusion.

With a slightly exaggerated gesture, the warrior rose and crossed the floor to the round table where the new group had assembled. As their eyes rose to meet his arrival, he addressed them, "Greetings, adventurers. I am Graf, journeyman of the Neverwinter Adventurers' Guild, and I will be your guide today. You have all expressed a desire for excitement, risks, and rewards, and I can all but guarantee that you will find all in quantity at our destination, the Caves of Abbok-torim."

"It is a long ride, so we should be departing. As we journey, please feel free to introduce yourselves and make acquaintance with your new companions. As always, if you have any questions, please address them to me and I will try to accommodate you."

"Are you prepared? Very well then, let us be on our way."

A Neverwinter Nights Fantasy, Chapter 1 © Ken McDonald, aka lazybones

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