This was created using the schema and the world from the Six Sides of Fate roleplay at the PPENN writing community. I wanted a semi-random driver, so I borrowed their list of 'plot devices' and hit a dice roller. The dice said 79, so here you are:
79. Your character finds a bag of gold.
207 coryka stones and a full clutch of grohn hatchlings. That’s the outrageous price the hook-nosed little enchanter had asked for his services, one that Jochim had paid with a smile. Sure, it was a full third of the goods he’d brought to market, but what was that next to the value of the treasure it was going to protect? Nothing. Half of nothing. Investments were a fact of a merchant’s life, after all. And this one was a swift bolt to a soft eye that was going to put him years closer to his goal.
His step light with the kind of glee that only riches can bring, the young man patted the lumpy sack tucked beneath his heart and deftly wove his way through the crowds. Still there. Still safe. Wrapped in the kind of magic that only nervous men in seedy dens on the bad side of town provide. He loved the peace of mind that he got from a little touch just as much as he loved the sound: that cold, musical chank that sang a refrain of silken sheets and marble walls, sweet wines and even sweeter women. The kind that only a young, charming man-of-means could attract.
Jochim’s smile twisted at the touch of that old bitterness, but he shoved the thought away, determined that nothing would ruin his good mood. After all, a handsome face and svelt physique may not have been enough to get him into the circles of the haute monde, but his new treasure would see to it. In a fit of morbid inspiration, he made himself a promise to find his way beneath the sheets of every noblewoman who’d snubbed him. A little revenge and a lot of pleasure. How perfect.
173 rekbas of pure gold and a tooled leather sack that was a thousand times more precious to her than its contents. That’s what the thieving bastard had hidden beneath his coat, and Ylen intended to have it back. By any means necessary.
The guardswoman tucked her black hair behind her ear and slid farther over the end of the roof, her glare on the merchant’s back hot enough to make an effrit squirm. She didn’t notice his good looks, but she sure as hell saw his self-satisfied grin and that bouncy little spring in his step. He was happy as a clam, now that he had her treasure in his hands. She wanted nothing more than to leap down there and choke the glee off his chiseled features, but she carefully reigned in her boiling rage. The street was still too crowded, the northern sentry post too close. Revenge would be sweeter and longer-lived when there were no witnesses. No interference.
Ylen knew precisely where that would be.
One crate of rotten tomatoes and half a haunch of rancid pork. That was the feast the Roc had discovered in a dark alley, one that was just beginning to quench the hunger that had become its constant companion. A simple creature, he didn’t quite understand why the old days had passed away, the times when the soft one brought his meals on sparklyshiney plates and petted his furred head in that oh-so-nice way while he ate his fill. Never this unhappy hungry feeling. Never this sad-alone-scared pain that chased him through the city’s dark places. And, really, the meals on the sparklyshiney plates had made his tongue much happier than this stuff.
As inhuman as the creature was, the breath he loosed at those melancholy thoughts could only be called a sigh, imbued with all the grief of one who has had and lost. He felt his state, though with the vagueness of a being that existed somewhere between mere self-awareness and true intelligence. Dirty. Messy. Uncomfortable. Tired. Clean and safe were so much better. Curled up in the soft one’s warm lap, purring with contentment while the little bristle-thing brushed stroke after stroke down his back. Latching on to the memory of those sensations, the animal shoved his beak further into his lucky little treasure-trove of food, a weak hint of his once-robust purr tickling the back of his throat. He almost relaxed. Almost.
A sound killed the moment, shooting from his ears to his brain like a bolt of liquid fear, triggering Instinct and blanketing Intellect. Dripping tomato juice like fresh blood from the tip of its beak, it tensed, staring down the dark alley. Keen eyesight found the commotion in a hurry, and his attention locked there. Fighting. Weapons. Danger.
With a strangled cry, the young roc hunched over his treasure and spread his wings. Look scary. Be mean.
The deadly beast would defend what was his.
Jochim didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. He was the better swordsman, but in this situation, he was damned either way. The woman – the screaming, foaming-at-the-mouth madwoman who had attacked him without a word – wore the armor and badges of the Anosa guard. He couldn’t kill her, even in self-defense. He didn’t dare. The city revered its protectors, and Anosan justice was known to be … rather extreme. Jochim liked his testicles right where they were, please-and-thank-you. Of course, a part of him admired the exotic looks and leather-wrapped curves of his opponent, pondering the possibilities of other locations for the anatomy in question.
On the other hand, the she-devil was holding nothing back, her broad blade a blur of frantic motion. The rage twisting her features screamed her intent with a clarity that no voice could ever match. She wanted his heart, no matter her creed or reasoning, and he could guess why. With a frown, he placed his free hand over the pouch hidden under his coat, watching her gaze heat. She wanted his treasure.
Ylen wanted her treasure! She snarled at the well-dressed merchant, rage fueling her arm as he dodged swing after swing of her heavy blade, his speed a high barrier to the death she wanted to deliver to him. BASTARD. The young man blocked the next stroke, his thin, curved dagger ringing slightly from the impact. She could feel the lack of strength in his arm, the slight give as she pressed her blade ineffectually toward his throat. He wasn’t her match in pure might. Not even close. But he was so damn agile, so fast that she was exhausting herself without even scratching him. He danced away from their clashing blades with an ease that seemed inhuman, and frustration finally dimmed the red haze of her righteous anger enough to loosen the locks on her voice.
“You’re going to die, you filching swine! Stop delaying the inevitable, and maybe I’ll make it a clean stroke instead of the screaming, begging, broken death I’d planned for you.” She growled the words, grinding them out from between clenched teeth.
All they earned was a slight smirk and another deft dodge away from her blade. Each engage-and-retreat edged them deeper into the filth and shadows of the alley.
“Beg pardon, my dear ever-so-insane lovely, but your offer lacks a certain appeal.” He seemed to ponder that, sidestepping to move his heart out of the way of her thrust. “Hm. Really, it lacks any appeal at all. Now, throw in an evening appointment, perhaps a nice glass of a cev’bion vintage under full moons. I’ll bring a ‘sword’ you’ll certainly enjoy, so I’m sure we could find some sort of mutual arrangement.”
His eyes traveled her from top to bottom in a way that meant far more than ‘mutual arrangement’. Ylen wouldn’t have believed that she could get any angrier, but it happened like the fall of a guillotine. She went blind with it, her body gone in favor of an instrument with which to punish the wicked man before her.
All the smarmy charm dropped away the moment Jochim saw the Trance descend over the woman’s face. Ah, gods. He couldn’t even verbalize the magnitude of his mistake, panic driving him to stumble back – get away. Whatever her weaknesses as a fighter, the Trance made her far, far more than he could handle. Ever. In a million years. His dagger felt as useful as a toothpick in his hand.
For the first time since the shrieking woman came leaping out at him, he thought to look around for help. Not a soul stirred in the small back alleys, and the main road, thick with the comforting crush of people, was impossibly far away. No one would even hear him scream.
The guardswoman lunged, possessed now with the calm of the Righteous and the speed of God himself. Jochim threw himself backwards with all his might, desperate, and felt the blade bite a burning line across his chest, slicing through leather and silk and skin as if they were air. The shriek that resounded as he fell might well have been his own, driven out of him by the pain of his wound.
But it wasn’t.
The roc screamed his warning as the two creatures leapt toward his food, his treasure. Hiss. Bite. Scratch. In a flurry of wings, beak and fur, he attacked, fending off whatever moved. Targeting whatever was soft and exposed. One on the ground. One standing. There was a lot to process, and Instinct was too strong, driven to a frenzy by the danger and a growing scent of blood. His keen eyes were attracted to a motion. Something soft-looking, swinging. Vulnerable.
Ylen saw the pouch swing free from the ruins of his coat and wasted no time in lunging for it. MINE.
Three creatures moved, each toward the same goal. Jochim wrapped his hand around the pouch first, staining the leather with his weeping blood. Ylen slapped her own hand over his, intending to wrest it free from his grasp even as the Trance faded from her eyes. The roc, seeking any way to protect its food, wrapped one foretalon around Ylen’s wrist and the other around Jochim’s, ready to rip and tear and crush.
But none of them got the chance to follow through on their intentions, for the entire alley suddenly tilted sideways, shuddered, screamed, tied itself into a knot, crumpled into a grain of sand, and then exploded into utter, blinding darkness.
I awoke with a splitting headache. More than splitting, as if every tiny piece of me (and there were many of those, scattered all over the alley), were on fire, dipped in acid, and being eaten by grohnlings all at the same time. I couldn’t even groan, only lay still and wait for it to pass, trying to gather up the disorganized mess of my mind.
I think it took a long time, though it’s hard to be sure. It certainly felt like a long time. Oh, not the pain. That passed quickly. But my mind was a shambles. Confused. Missing chunks. Like I was learning to talk to myself, learning to hear myself, learning to think again. I couldn’t remember anything particularly pressing that I had to do, so I took a while at it. Gathered in each piece and each part and slowly, patiently fit them into place. I’m pretty sure it was a little out-of-character for me to be so painstaking, but I guess life is growth and change.
Some time later, when at least I knew that I was laying in a filthy alley in a busy and unsafe city, I decided to turn my attention to getting up. I had something valuable, something to protect, and I recalled watching indigents and sefya-junkies and the passed-out drunk get their pockets rifled in back alleys just like this one. That wouldn’t do.
So I got up. It was messy, since I expected my hands to act a little differently, and then I expected my legs to feel stronger… or was it weaker? Or was it that there weren’t enough? Too many? (See what I mean? I was very confused. ) I muddled around, probably floundering like a fish out of water, but in the end I was upright and mobile, left to take stock of … well, everything.
Not as easy as it sounds, when you see too much. Literally. I saw myself. And I saw my other self. And that self saw myself. Yeah, it took a few minutes to work that all out. I was here, staring across at myself and noting that I was covered in something … disgusting. Rotten. Putrid. I knew it was meat and tomatoes, and that it tasted like three-day-old socks marinated in urine. I couldn’t imagine eating it, but darned if I didn’t know exactly what it tasted like. So I guess I ate it?
Hm. Yes. I was hungry, so it’s okay. But I think I won’t do it again. I know better ways to get food, now.
It was when I went to wipe it away that I realized I kinda hurt, right there. It was a sensation much like moving your arm and realizing it was sprained, except this was on an entirely new scale. A strange scale. A natural-feeling scale that I knew wasn’t really quite supposed to exist.
My Jochim hurt. To be specific, my Jochim’s chest hurt. It stung because it was cut and bleeding. I knew this. I’d done it to … myself? My Ylena had cut it and my roc had added a few cuts and bruises. I had to ponder this for a few moments, because I couldn’t quite imagine why I would want to make myself feel this pain. I remembered my rage, and my bewilderment, and my protective instinct. Reconciling them all together was confusing, though, because I knew the why behind everything, and none of the actions made sense.
I found the treasure. But I was frantic because I’d lost the treasure. I protected the treasure. I ate the treasure. (Wait, I did? What?) No, I wanted to eat the treasure, but I had to protect it. I wanted to get the treasure back after I found it a second time. I already had it, but I wanted it back.
It was hard to reconcile everything, so after a while, I gave up. I had the treasure, now. It was still wrapped in my Jochim’s bloody hand, so there was no problem. I could protect the treasure because I had a sharp beak and talons, a strong arm and a mighty sword, and I could talk my way out of anything… or into it, if the lady was pretty enough. Then there was the expensive enchantment of protection that I’d put on the pouch… but something told me that it might have been a little messed up by the whole imploding-alley situation. My roc smelled twisted magic. Ah, well.
I laughed, despite the sting from my Jochim. Yeah, I’d be fine. I just needed a bath, some raw (no, cooked!) beef, and a few bandages. Although it was a strange sensation, I flapped my wings and settled my roc gently onto my Ylena’s shoulder. As I was making my way out of the alley I glanced over at my woman/roc and realized something very important.
I’d have to find an inn that allowed animals.
Critique is welcome. It's the first time I've written a story in many, many months. I tried to give this a light polish, but it's certainly relatively close to a first draft. I'm sorry if it seems rusty. I certainly feel rusty, these days.