Flash Fiction: Swindle in a Haystack

From last weeks delve into flash fiction, I went back to see what nuggets of wisdom Chuck Wendig had on his jolly ole’ blog (which you can see here). And what did I see to my astonishment?

Another cool website that generated prompts at random. This time, the random Dungeons and Dragons character generator, aptly titled “Who the Fuck is my D&D character“.

I won’t lie – I loved this one more than the Idiomatic website from last week. Again, I don’t usually do this… but something drove me to write this (in fact, I think it had something to do with the character I was assigned upon opening the website for the first time…

“DEPRESSED HALF-ORC PALADIN FROM A PLAGUE RIDDEN CITY WHO NAMES EVERY PIECE OF THEIR GEAR”

…which sounds like the most interesting guy this side of Mordor. Enjoy.

 

~

 

SWINDLE IN A HAYSTACK

 

Tucked in a trodden acre of the heather wilderness of Bothédale sat an oak beamed inn with white plaster walls, glowing with what little evening light it could catch. Inside a dark corner sat three warriors, gathered around a fireplace. Shadows of the three danced around the lonely room as flames licked at the shin of a human, stood leaning against the mantle.

 

“Oi, where’s our brew?” The human called, pissing into the fire.

 

A lurching barrel of a beast shushed as he stroked an iron kettle, tucked under his plump arms.

 

“Tabatha had a breakdown” he grated.

 

The man tucked himself in and joined the beast by the table, grabbing a handful of dried leaves from the satchel next to him.

 

“Oh, looks like it’s raw tea again” and started chewing on the leaves, slapping his gums to infuse the flavours.

 

“Barktooth!” snapped a lanky gold-skinned she-elf, glaring at him with a cigar between her teeth and the beast’s murder on her mind. If only the half-orc, half-golem monster was more susceptible to the usual method of death, she wondered. But she had plans for dear Barktooth. She bolted up from her stool and stared at the ragged human, still chewing on tea leaves. She puckered her lips on the cigar.

 

“I have a plan to get rich, and it involves all three of us” The human looked up in eagerness. Barktooth stroked a moth from the kettle, unbolted the bottom and planted it on his bumpy green head – as one would do with a traditional orcish kettlepot helmet.

 

“Barktooth will mascarade as a plague-ridden orc from the city of Suddenchoke. Try and cough a little. You, Sauram, will be the instigator. Try and intrigue our…” The elf snickered “…clients… and I will be the Cleric with the…” Again, she laughed “…cure”. She swaggered across to the human and cupped his chin with her spindly fingers, pulling his head up to her glowing face. She blew smoke into his eyes and grinned. “We will make a tidy profit on nothing more than pissy water in glass bott-“.

 

“What about Tallulah?” Barktooth raised, holding a huge battleaxe above his head.

 

The elf rolled her eyes, almost dropping her cigar as she tutted.

 

“Well… Tallulah can help us if things go to shit, eh?” She patted Barktooth on his kettle helmet, hard, hoping she could bash in some sense through his thick skull. He didn’t feel a thing.

 

The she-elf vanished through a small window, leaving a trail of cigar smoke. The human went back to leaning over the fire, and the orc pondered his existence before sighing.

 

“Cough!” Barktooth bluntly called, as if reading at a funeral. “Cough!”

 

A hooded figure emerged from the bar and into the fire lit room, surprised to see such a beast inside. Barktooth was now lost in thought as wrenching memories drowned him. His eyes were stuck to the table, and stayed there.

 

“Fine tidings, master… orc?” The hooded figure asked.

 

“I am from the plague-ridden city of Suddenchoke” Barktooth rumbled. “And you thought you had problems. Cough”.

 

The hooded figure wondered, thought, wondered again, smiled, and briskly turned back into the bar. Barktooth turned to see the human grinning cheek to cheek, thumbs up and nodding. The kettle helmet whistled as he sighed.

 

The hooded figure returned with others, each similarly dressed in robes, faces hidden and arms out wide. Still against the fireplace, the human leant into the fire, took a deep breath of smoke and boomed coughs towards the group. Neither on them really cared.

 

“You are infected with the plague, master…orc?” the same hooded figure asked.

 

Barktooth nodded slowly. “Yes, I suppose I’ll have to swear on Jemimah’s life, will I?” He retorted, stroking his metal chestplate.

 

“A-ha!” announced the she-elf, prancing around the corner still with a cigar still between her lips. A satchel clanked as she swung around to the hooded group. They also didn’t really care.

 

The she-elf frowned, before continuing “I come from the Alchemist Guild with tidings, and a cure for the great Suddenchoke plague” Nobody seemed interested, not even Barktooth who was busy stroking his chestplate and apologising to it under his breath. The human was still trying to breath in smoke, dedicated to his role.

 

“How much, you wonder?” the she elf raised above the silence. “Well-”

 

“I am truly sorry, m’lady” replied one of the hooded folk. They turned on their heels to the elf, faces still obscured by the darkness “For we have no need for cures here…”

 

She grimaced, as an elf does when they don’t quite understand. And then, something shook her as she calculated the very specific reasons why a cure, albeit a fake one, would have no use. Her satchel fell to the floor. The vials of pissy water shattered inside. She jumped.

 

“Quick lads, they’re onto us!”

 

The human pulled his head up from the fire and bolted for the small window. He collapsed within three steps, before head-butting the hard stone floor. His head may have been light from the smoke, but the crack in the floor would say otherwise. The she-elf tried to turn, arms flailing. It was no use. A skinny pale arm stretched from the hooded gang, pulling her back into the room. Barktooth was wondering if anyone actually liked him.

 

The hooded gang circled the she-elf, each latching onto her as she wrestled.

 

“We have no use for a cure, m’lady” the figures said in unison, chilling the elf. Each with their free hand, they revealed their faces from their hoods. The elf gasped. White, scabbing faces of decay stared back. Boils were pussing, their mouths were rotting, and their eyes, pale as winter fog, watching.

 

“For you have arrived at our sanctuary; the Plague Inn of Bothédale”

 

The she-elf couldn’t speak. Her limbs froze, her body shivered, and her gut sank. She jerked her head slowly around. Barktooth looked back.

 

“Hmpf… and you think you have problems”

 

 

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