PowerPlay! ~ The odd tale about awesome powers, quirky personalities and why they make for an awful mix.
Chaos spread all around, as the gargantuan dragon spewed a crackling stream of fire. Almost instantly, most of the king’s guards became nothing but pitiful piles of ash! Only our great heroes still stood their ground…
Great gushes covered the enormous lizard where the adventurer’s blades had found their target, but the beast was still unspent and roared with formidable might!
Slowly, almost regally, it let his gaze wonder over his exhausted adversaries, as it raised its claws to strike! Then, with a voice that seemed to raise from the depths of hell itself, it spoke…
“Ye who dared enter mine lair… knoweth that this next blow shalt seal thine fate!”
The brave heroes readied their weapons. Staring back at the mighty creature with unshakeable resolve, with eyes entranced by the fatal blow that would soon descend upon their flesh, they mustered their courage and shouted…!
“Aww, come on, can’t you kids enjoy a bit of epicness, for once!?” I finally exclaimed in frustration.
“First, what's an 'epicness'? Second, I asked for a story not some kind of blurb about dragons!” Answered the irritating child in front of me.
“Fine, what kind of story would you tell, then?” I snarkly shot back.
“Dunno, something about a princess, maybe? How about unicorns?” she innocently replied.
Maybe war unicorns. War unicorns capable of flight. War unicorns with some kind of advanced rainbow-based legendary skill that would make them dominate the battlefie-
I raised my gaze from the ground as I realized I had been mumbling to myself. The kid’s expression was quite a remarkable mix of sadness and irritation.
“Okay, okay, I’ll think of something for you. Now scram, it’s almost time for work.” I briskly answered back, shooing her away with my hands.
The small child quickly scampered off. After a few steps, she stopped, turned around and smiled. “Thanks, Dust. See you tomorrow!”
I sighed to myself as I watched her trot away. “Not cute in the least… time for work, I suppose.” I mumbled, raising from the bench to better enjoy the view of the golden spires of Epoch shining in the distance.
Wind swept over the cliff, leaving the branches of the great big oak tree overlooking the orphanage gently swaying in the early morning breeze.
I stretched my arms and started along the path down to the Gratia vale...
A new day was about to begin.
I bet I'll hear good stories today.
My name is Dust. Dust Luminas.
And there’s nothing I enjoy more than stories about heroes and valor!
I don’t know why I like them so much, I just enjoy them. There’s something about those tales of danger and mistery, of bravery and quests, that I simply can’t ignore.
Maybe it’s because my life is all but interesting like that. I’m just a normal guy, I never knew my parents and was raised in an orphanage till the age of 16. I’ve been working a part-time job for the last eight years. No girlfriend. No particular friends. You could say I’m just a normal nobody enjoying a quiet life.
I know what you’re thinking.
You think my life couldn’t be more boring than that. And you'd be right.
That was how it had always been, how I thought it was going to be... well, forever...
That day I had thought of visiting the orphanage of St. Adria early in the morning.
I usually made the effort of visiting every day, but I did so at night, after work. Only today, of all days, I had felt the need to visit the old oak tree, where I used to play when I was a kid.
That sudden whim was why Lily, the little kid that was pestering me a few moments ago, had commanded me to tell her a goodnight story right there on the spot, knowing I would not come back for the night.
After showing my generosity, and being ridiculed for my life-like dragon impressions, I was ready to be on my way for the “Crossroads”, the place where I’d been working for all these years.
I felt quite sentimental about the place too, after all that time you could say it felt like home. The irreplaceable memories I had made with my employer and his family had forged unbreakable ties that made me feel like I was truly part of a closely-knit team…
“A wonderful day to you, my good friends! The sun is up, my spirit is high and I’m ready to do some work!” I shouted heartily as I opened the Inn doors.
“Get behind the counter…” growled the proprietor, while polishing an empty glass.
“A truly marvelous day for me to work in this fine establish-”
“You’re late, don’t think I haven’t noticed that. It’s gonna be a ten gold cut on your pay, NOW GET BEHIND THE COUNTER!”
Truly irreplaceable memories.
I quickly trudged past my bossy boss and inside the kitchen, where a heap of glasses and dishes had been piling up since breakfast. Grunting loudly, I took up the soap and sponge and started my daily routine of washing, rinsing and repeating.
Yep, that was my job. Washing dishes. Well, not only that, I also cleaned the tables or the floor when the help was not enough.
What? It’s as good a job as any!
All right, maybe it’s not the best job, but it pays the bills.
And besides, I get a chance to listen in on the patrons.
The Crossroads is a very old and famous inn located at the intersection between the “Via Gratia” and the “Via Aurelia” the two greatest trade routes in the whole Empire. The two roads intersect right outside the capital city of Epoch, so a lot of merchants stop by to rest before setting off for their travels. But where there’s gold, there’s opportunity. And where there’s opportunity, adventurers soon follow.
Adventurers! The bravest, the strongest! Those who dare in the face of the unknown, driven by their lust for the secrets of this world. Their adventures and their exploits are the stuff of legend!
And their stories are an inspiration I simply can’t pass up.
So I often end up sitting with them while I listen to their wild tales of far-off lands and ancient creatures that dwell in the dark.
Something my employer doesn’t find particularly amusing.
“You came in late again… you really want to lose your job, don’t you?”
A girl had entered through the kitchen door, only to deposit another pile of dishes in my almost empty sink.
“Nah, your father loves me, he knows I’d never come in late to work on purpose!” I replied with a pure gentlemanly smile.
“But you did, didn’t you?” Replied the girl with a remarkable mix of mistrust and rightful reproach showing on her face.
“Aw, cut me some slack… tonight is going to be real busy! I had to go visit the kids, you know?”
The girl showed me a complicated expression, half between worry and suspicion, she then quickly passed from reflection to frustration, before relaxing in her usual acceptance face, the one she made when she no longer had any arguments to offer and that signaled a total defeat.
“You make the strangest of faces, you know?” I blurted out as I was contemplating that whole exchange.
“Wha-“ She fumbled over words and her cheeks flushed bright red.
The girl’s name was Enrietta and while she wasn’t the most beautiful in the world and perhaps not even the brightest, she had a way of making you feel like you simply couldn’t let her be.
Hold your horses, it’s not what you’re thinking. The feeling I'm talking about has nothing to do with romance in the first place. The way she can take any kind of impossible situation in stride, and most importantly her exaggerated reactions, simply make it a joy to tease her.
And I'm not the only one thinking that either. I could swear that some of the more regular patrons sometimes had visited the inn just to make impossible demands and see her try with all her might to overcome them.
That kind of bold-faced honesty was something that her father was most prideful about.
In fact, the two were very similar in that respect. Her father, Romon, was a giant of a man, almost seven feet tall and half as large. He made no mystery of his pride in his daughter and in his youth as an accomplished adventurer.
His foolhardiness and inhuman strength, which he had unfortunately passed on to his daughter, were the cause of many a headache in the past.
As the proprietor and heiress, respectively, to the place who had given me a job for the last eight years, they were both people I deeply respected.
“Y-You idiot! I’m just looking out for you!” She shouted, fighting back her embarrassment.
“I know. Thank you.”
“Uh?” She suddenly stopped, dumbfounded.
“Tonight is the 'Midsummer Festa'. There are going to be a lot of adventurers around. I’m sure they’re all coming back after who knows what incredible journey…”
Just like in my tales…
“…I’m sorry, I’m not going to cause trouble for you or your dad, I promise.” I had bowed my head before even thinking.
“Aaaaah… w-what are you saying! Of course, you’re not going to cause any trouble! Not if you know what’s good for you! Now get back to work!”
That last part felt incredibly weak as an order, but I obediently returned to my dishes nonetheless. Smiling faintly, I made a mental note not to let myself get too distracted by our visiting costumers tonight, and resumed my scrubbing in earnest.
A few hours had passed and the sun was nearing the climax of its journey through the sky. Aside from the usual clamoring patrons, the inn had been less crowded than what we had predicted a few days ago, when we had to restock our inventory for the coming festivities. Now, it wasn’t empty. In fact, I had worked quite a lot since this morning…
It was just…
Pretty much the same as every day? It just wasn’t in line with my recollections of the past Festas.
Ah, the Midsummer Festa.
The empire didn’t have that many festivities, but this one was certainly the only one all provinces made sure to celebrate. Legend told that the first emperor of old had created it as a day to honor the unity of the many diverse people the empire protected.
Nowadays, however, it was just a big party.
All around the world people would take to the streets, open their best wine caskets, sing, dance and celebrate all night. So while the small folk had their fun, the empire officials would raise pyres and offerings to the ancestors, teach the wisdom of the emperors and conduct deals with the visiting merchants. Adventurers would often come back from their long travels to sell the spoils of their hard work and tell stories of their daring deeds, all the while hoping for new contracts for the next year.
It was such an important day that many shopkeepers would close up early and go home, to prepare with their families. For this reason, it was really appreciated by workers from all over.
Well, all except for us. Not much sense in closing a tavern when there’s a party in town, is there?
And so, I had come in expecting to scrub away for the entire day, but I was now sitting calmly behind the counter next to my boss, a fork stuck between my curled lip and my nose, waiting for our last 5 or 6 patrons to finish their late brunch.
“Something’s up, lad.” Romon had said with clear displeasure in his rugged voice.
“You bet, boss.” I had responded with clear indifference in my absent-minded voice.
“You could go check it up, you know?” He had continued with clear irritation in his not so friendly voice.
“Sure could, boss.” I had replied with clear honesty in my most gentlemanly way.
“GO CHECK OUTSIDE, DUST!”
“All right, all right! I’m going. I just don’t think I’m going to find out what’s happening by peeking outside the door, that’s all…”
My boss just replied to my comment with a grunt, while I approached the sturdy inn doors.
“Tsk… it’s not like there’s going to be a wall around the capital or something…” I whispered as I frustratedly opened the door.
Only to close it immediately after.
No, no, no.
That was impossible!
There WAS a wall.
A wall in the distance, bobbing up and down.
A bobbing, MOVING, wall? Moving is not usually what a wall does, right?
And is the ground trembling?
IT IS TREMBLING!! The glasses, the stoves, everything around the room is rattling!
I gulped, looked over my shoulder to my boss who was still sitting at the counter…
He looked back nodding sternly, looking perfectly calm in this absurd situation.
That geezer. With his monstrous senses, he must have felt this coming our way minutes ago. Simply diabolical.
Somewhat reassured that he, at least, was kind of calm, I pulled the door open once more to welcome in the rumbling sound that had been growling in the back of our ears for the last few seconds.
The wall I had seen was now a row of wobbling shapes in the distance. I squinted my eyes, straining to see what was clearly speeding in our direction. After several tense seconds of meticulous processing, my brain finally understood.
It was a storm brewing. Hooves, banners and shining silver abound.
They were Knights.
Rows and rows of steel-clad knights riding atop their mighty steeds, enough to fill the Gratia vale. A gold-lined cerulean flag fluttered in the wind, the holy sigil of the CHURCH.
The knight captain had ridden with his master for the whole night and the morning after. His horse had galloped the whole distance at the peak of his speed. Magic incantations had helped the creature endure, but the knight captain could not understand what would compel his master to such extremes, nor when their mad ride would end.
“Holy paladin, sir. I must beg your forgiveness for what I’m about to suggest, but… I’m afraid my steed will not be able to endure much longer.”
“No one commanded you to follow, knight captain.” The voice that had responded him was calm and resolute.
The knight captain had been a faithful companion and second to the holy paladin. In all of his many years of service for the church, he had never left his side. The men that followed them, which numbered in the thousands, even failing to comprehend the reasons for his actions, were determined to follow their leader to their wit’s end.
Their faith was truly commendable.
A smile colored the holy paladin’s lips.
“…even so, your noble mounts shall soon earn their rest. We arrive with the midday sun!”
The holy paladin’s words echoed magically throughout the whole formation. Without a moment’s hesitation, the legion responded as one with a boisterous roar.
The knight riders pressed on their march. Speeding towards the golden spires of the immortal city of Epoch.
“Boss, these guys are serious… I think they’re coming our way…”