(Disclaimer: This novel is written by using the Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition Rules and means characters will roll for the success or failure of certain actions, thus impacting the story.)
Nestled in the rolling hills of Fairfield lies the quiet Hamlet of Boulder.
At his time of year, the countryside is lush with green grass that blankets the valley. Thick green leaves adorn the trees as they wave and dance in the breeze. While the sun rises over the horizon, light blue mist pools in the low spaces between the hills and dirt streets.
The sound of a rustling cart creaks as it goes by. The cart is being pulled by a heavy tusked boar who snorts defiantly at the man who leads the reins. The brown wooden cart is filled to the brim with medium-sized hay bales that tower over the short halfling driver.
Halflings make up ninety-eight percent of the population of Fairfield and, for the most part, comprise the entirety of the inhabitants of Boulder. While most Halflings stand around three feet tall, Mr. Golgim, who lives on the north end of town, boasts a whole four-foot-tall stature and is largely the brunt of many jokes because of it.
The Halflings in Boulder generally appreciate their privacy. Other than during travel, town events, or terrace farming, most can be found settling into their homes built into the hills. These homes are low to the ground with large round doors and circular windows. The interiors are always adorned with the very finest in lumber, furniture, and stonework.
At a certain hole, in the middle of town, lives a completely unremarkable and utterly normal young Halfling named Aldin.
Deep in Aldin’s mind, a hollow sound rings as he begins to return to consciousness. His short curly brown hair tosses about as a disgruntled moan involuntarily escapes him.
His turquoise eyes begin to open as he takes in his surroundings. The fireplace lays unlit, the hallway is darkened and the sunlight filters through the window nearby.
“KNOCK KNOCK KNOCK”
This time the noise is much louder and Aldin flies off the couch as a book that was resting on his chest hits the floor at his feet with a loud bang.
“Ah! Oh drat!” Aldin yells as the sound thrums in his ears. “Where’re my glasses?” He asks himself.
Aldin fiddles around on the nearby end table knocking a few more books to the floor before finding his large circular rimmed spectacles.
§ Aldin: Perception: 10+1
“Oops” he exclaims as he looks down and sees his unfettered manhood laid bare for all to see. He quickly ties off his housecoat and waddles somewhat sleepily over to the door.
“KNOCK! KNOCK! KNOCK! KNOCK!”
“Yes, I’m coming! Not to worry!” Aldin replies to the door. Aldin opens the azure wood door and shields his eyes from the bright light that obscures his vision.
As his blindness subsides, Aldin’s eyes focus on the familiar outline of a five and a half foot tall dark-skinned half-elf. She seems to be wearing baggy dark brown pants with a form-fitting ochre chest wrap which leaves her arms and midriff exposed. Her dark black hair is out in an afro that frames her face attractively. She stands outside the door with her hands on her hips and looks down on Aldin with a smile.
“Hey there Aldin!”
She quickly brushes by him into the home being sure to lower her head through the low hanging doorway.
“You got anything kicking around back here? I’m starving!”
Aldin can hear her rustling around in the walk-in pantry but he can’t seem to move. Still surprised, his eyes are fixed to the spot where she stood outside his door.
“Jeez, this place is super cluttered,” Aldin can hear echo through the hall behind him.
She was right of course, the home had been slowly overcome with books over the past few years that now lay in large piles all-around the house.
Aldin turns around slowly and begins walking back to the kitchen, staring into the distance at the floor. His mouth is partially ajar as his mind races with a whirlwind of thoughts.
“Ugh. Yeah. I’ve been meaning to clean up.” Aldin says sheepishly, trailing further off with every word.
“Do you still make sourdough bread?... Oh, never mind. Found some!”
He enters the kitchen where he watches Lou scarf down a small circular loaf of greenish-golden bread he took a few hours to make yesterday.
“Oh hey, do you have any-”
Aldin habitually hands Lou a small stick of butter he left on the counter. His eyes turn to her face as he looks as if he were looking at a ghost.
“Thanks!” her attention seems to shift to something in a nearby room as she swallows. “Oh hey, look what it is! Still play?” She asks, now holding a redwood lute in her hands and admiring it.
“That’s too bad, I used to love your rendition of Selune’s Lament,” a small frown hits her face but is quickly replaced by an expression of joy.
“Hey, do you remember when we used to go up by the bridge and-“
§ Aldin: Wisdom Save: 16-1
Quickly snapping out of his daze Aldin interrupts her, desperately trying to figure out why she's here.
She immediately stops speaking and an awkward silence fills the room. Lou looks up at Aldin with a look of slight uncertainty.
“W-Where have you been?!” Aldin blurts out.
Lou’s uncomfortable expression drops as a slight smile hits her face. Her golden-brown eyes pierce Aldin and with a tone of such relief and joy, she answers taking a step toward him.
“...Everywhere,” the word lingers in the air for a moment before she speaks again, “but that’s okay. Later, we’ll have plenty of time to... Talk.”
§ Lou: Intimidation: 18+1
An odd emphasis was added to her final word and the tone made something deep within Aldin’s heart snap involuntarily.
“Plus…” she looks at him from out of the corner of her eye coyishly, “I need your help with something.”
She quickly makes her way back toward the living room followed by Aldin. Lou obnoxiously plops down on the couch and fishes a book out from under her butt. She seems to inspect it for a moment before taking another bite out of her stolen sourdough loaf.
“Mahn, you really haf been bify, hafant you?” She speaks with her mouth still full.
“Um yeah kinda...”
He slowly snatches the heavy book and places it back down on one of the various piles around the house. Aldin, thinking much more clearly now, begins to change the subject.
“Listen, Lou… I haven’t seen you in 8 years. You never needed me previously, never came back and now you just show up out of the blue, raid my pantry as if nothing has changed, and now… now you need me? I mean... my help?” Aldin shakes his head in an attempt to get his thoughts back on track and quench his rising emotions. “Lou, I’m really happy to see you... But you have to understand how this looks.”
There’s a long pause as Lou turns her head to look outside the window.
“...I’m happy to see you too.”
There’s silence now. It feels palpable and uncomfortable.
“What is it that you wanted?” Aldin finally breaks the silence.
A sly smile spreads out across Lou’s face.
“I have something you’re going to love.” She begins standing up “All these years you’ve read about ancient civilizations. Fantasizing about digging about in some ancient place. But one thing I know about you is that there’s always been one topic that you loved reading about the most…” As she says this, she gets closer to Aldin and looks him deeply in the eyes.
“You don’t mean…”
“Celestials. I’ve found one. A ruin.”
Aldin’s mind races for what feels like minutes, he looks up into Lou’s eyes. He smells the mint on her breath and it pulls him from the great sea of thoughts currently swirling in his head.
§ Lou: Persuasion: 1+3 [CRITICAL FAIL]
Feeling flustered, he fixes his glasses, clears his throat, and looks away toward the fireplace.
“W-Well what do you want from me?”
“Um, well I'll be honest, I thought you’d be more excited!” She looks down at Aldin and he can’t seem to meet her gaze, “You've always been so passionate about Celestial civilizations! Don’t you want to see one with your own two eyes?”
“You’ve got to be kidding me.”
“What? Why would I be kidding?”
She stands back with one of her hands on her hip and Aldin begins picking up a large pile of books and transporting them to another room.
“Well, you know…” His voice is almost entirely muted by the stack of books that pile up far past his nose. “It’s completely dangerous outside Boulder! There’s dragons, trolls, goblins, kobolds, demons and the like! I can’t just up and leave to go to my certain doom, now can I?”
He places the books down in the study where even more books can be seen lying about.
“And what about Mom and Dad? They’re counting on me to look after the house while they’re gone. They won’t be back for some time.”
“Yeah, because you’ve done such a good job of taking care of the house.”
A deep feeling of shame washes over Aldin as he looks around the cluttered home.
“Hey... I-I’m sorry,” Lou bends down to meet him and squeezes his shaking hand, “as far as it goes with the dragons and whatnot, I promise I’ll beat the crap out of them if they so much as think about hurting you.” She presses her forehead gently to his.
looking up at her it seems like the rest of the room fades away.
“I won’t let anything happen to you.” She whispers.
§ Lou: Persuasion: 16+3
Aldin stays silent and stares quietly at Lou.
“I wish she hadn’t have left,” he thinks to himself.
As much as she pushed and sassed him, he always had a hard time saying no when she asked for help.
“You can always leave a note, you know.” She stands back, obviously nearing the end of her visit.
“Aldin... “ Lou stares down at the floor, massaging her neck lightly, “I can’t force you to come but... I really wish you would.” There’s a long silence as neither one really moves. “Well, what do you say?”
Every fibre of Aldin’s soul desperately wants to say yes. He has been reading about celestial civilizations back before the Age of Arcana. This has practically been his dream since he was a child. Now someone shows up at his door and offers the enterprise of a lifetime and he can’t even speak.
After a few moments, Lou nods her head acceptingly.
“Well, I better get going then. Long trip ahead of me.” Lou explains.
“Say you’ll go,” Aldin commands himself in his head. “Say you’ll go!” He screams to himself. “Say you’ll go! Say you’ll go!”
Lou turns around and begins to walk to the door.
"This is what I wanted right? Why can’t I move?" As he hears the front door creak open, his mind finally listens to his will.
“Lou, wait!” He sprints toward the door. “I… I’ll come with you.”
Lou turns around and smiles deeply at Aldin.
“Tomorrow at noon. Pack your things. I’ll wait for you down at Greggs Taphouse.”
And with that, she was gone.