This week, Chuck lit our way to a brilliant website that creates your own Dungeons and Dragons character. I’m fairly sure I got, like, the coolest one ever: MACHIAVELLIAN DRAGONBORN WARLOCK FROM A COMPLEX BUREAUCRATIC SOCIETY WHO WOKE UP IN A BAR WITH NO MEMORY AND A SEALED LETTER.
But all that does is amp up the pressure for a good story. And, well… I tried my best.
She woke with a start. Her head flopped straight back against the wood it had been laid on when she couldn’t hold herself up. Laughter spread through the room, wherever she was. Though she couldn’t tell if the laughter was because her hearing was coming back to her or because she had made a mockery of herself.
A haze flowed through her brain and she took her time lifting her head up. Once she did, she noticed that she was in a bar, and nobody was paying her any attention. A folded piece of paper was in front of her, exactly where her forehead had just been.
As she tried to see what was written on it, waves flowed and floated in her vision. It took some time for the ocean to calm.
The letter had one word on it. Ryler.
Picking it up, she checked around herself again and unfolded it. It said:
“I know you can’t remember anything. But remember this: You are Dragonborn. You can fight.”
She remembered that she was Dragonborn. She remembered that she could fight. And if she was Dragonborn, that meant she hated dragons. Which meant she’d probably have to fight them. That’s not a pleasant thought, she thought, making herself laugh at the dryness with which she delivered the line in her head.
Ryler had no idea who the letter was from, no idea how she got where she was, or even where she actually was. Her brain fuzzed and her ears rang whenever she attempted to think. Who knew thinking would ever be this hard? She laughed at herself again. I must look mad. That only made her laugh harder and look crazier.
There was a glass in front of her, holding a murky brown liquid. She figured it best to not touch it. But then the liquid shivered.
A great rumbling shook the bar and she scrunched the paper in her hand. Ryler turned to look out of the window next to her face. She saw nothing but a black mirror in which her own short blonde hair and grey eyes sat. As a screeching roar accompanied another shake of the shack, she turned to look at the rest of the bar.
And everyone was looking at her.
Every face – dark, light, pointed, round, square, thickset, skinny – was staring right at her. It made her feel uneasy and nervous and she began to go wobbly.
She heard a whisper behind her. It was the bartender, but he was gone before she processed what he’d said. “Don’t worry. You’re just like the rest of us.”
Hearing that, she swivelled and stumbled off the stool. What is going on? Clambering off the floor, she avoided the gazes of the customers and walked steadily and as confidently as she could to the door; without breaking stride she pushed it open.
And Hell was what greeted her. Huge black clouds shrouded the peak of the mountain above her, and a colossal, sprawling city was set into its sheer sides. Against the backdrop of the dark clouds, sparks of red and yellow and blue and white created an illusion of fireworks. But these weren’t fireworks. Dragons. Oh, no.
She barely had time to register the number of circling monstrosities before the earth literally cracked beneath her feet and her body slammed against the parched ground. An aftershock slammed her back down as she tried to get back up. Her head was rocking, her ears ringing, her eyes blurred. Again.
She smelt burnt bread.
As she stood, her senses not fully functioning, the simmering ashes of the bar lay on the ground, and her heart clenched up. For who, she didn’t know. It wasn’t for those in the bar. It wasn’t for her. But all she could think was: I’m not like the rest of you now.
Ryler turned, stumbled and stopped dead. A great black dragon growled at her. Unusually, her first instinct wasn’t fear, it was merely this futile sense of inevitability that had always been with her but that she’d never really felt.
I was always going to face a dragon one day, she thought. And it’s just like they all said. It can feel me. It knows I’m Dragonborn.
Her last thought was going to be, I’m going to die, but something rose up inside of her. And instead, as the dragon let a snort of flame toast the ground, she saw the words float in front of her as if buoyed upon a wave. The words were written in a familiar yet unascertainable handwriting. You can fight. She dropped the still scrunched up paper into the fire at her feet.
The dragon opened its maw, leaned back, and then it lurched forward. And Ryler stepped to the side before unleashing the fight within her.