Read Days of High Adventure Online
Authors: Elliott Kay
Days of High Adventure
By Elliott Kay
© Copyright 2014 Elliott Kay
Cover Illustration Copyright 2014 Lee Moyer
Cover Design Copyright 2014 Lee Moyer
Kindle Edition License Notes
This ebook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This ebook may not be re-sold or given away to other people. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.
Warning: This story contains graphic violence, graphic pre-marital sex, violation of college housing regulations, graphic geekery, multiple dismemberments, impalings, bad language, nudity,
sorcery, drug references, immolations, intimidation, immodest clothing, murder, disrespect for authority, consumption of alcohol, ethnocentrism, destruction of private property, paganism, theft, arson, slavery, reptile-on-human violence, improper placement of hazardous materials, unsanitary living conditions, banditry, money laundering, illegal immigration, tax evasion, poor workplace standards, horse theft, unwed cohabitating couples, kidnapping, assault under color of authority, bearers of false witness, human sacrifice, failure to provide two weeks’ notice before resignation, desecration of religious sites, unsafe work standards and repeated, uncredited film and gaming references.
There may be dungeons, and/or dragons.
For all my gaming buddies, past and present.
“Amid the desert ruins of the ancient empire of Thol stand powerful city states, whose kings rule only in name. Dark wizards sequestered in tall towers hold the real control, vying in secret for the lost secrets of a forgotten age….”
Amanda read the first lines of Jason’s email with an intrigued grin. The thread had already gone on for a few exchanges before she’d gotten to it. She
usually resisted the urge to spend time on her personal email while at work, even when she had nothing to do at her reception desk. Given the financial firm’s exclusive clientele, Amanda spent many hours alone in the plush but windowless lobby.
“As promised,” the email went on, “I will be ready to run game on Thursday night. My summer class
load is pretty light so I should have no problems getting this campaign off the ground. We are going for an old-fashioned pulp fantasy feel here, so that means several character creation restrictions...”
Hearing the office door open, Amanda fought the urge to close her email. This was her scheduled break
—the one that she was supposed to be able to take away from her desk. She’d have been glad to leave the desk, if Mark would ever actually cover for more than a quick bathroom break… like he was supposed to.
It wasn’t Mark this time, though. Karen and Linda str
ode out in heels and flattering skirts. Amanda spared a fleeting moment to wish she could make business casual look that good, although she didn’t have their six-figure salaries to work with. She looked up at them and offered a friendly smile.
“Hey, Sarah,” Karen said, “you haven’t had any calls for me, have you?”
“No, not today. Um,” ventured the young receptionist, “it’s Amanda.”
“Oh. Sorry,” Karen frowned, rolling her eyes. “Amanda. I knew that. Anyway, did he call? Anyone call for me?”
“Nope” Amanda repeated, returning to her bright smile. “It’s been quiet today.”
“Do we have anyone using the main conference room before lunch?”
“No,” Amanda shook her head. “Not until one.”
I’m gonna need you to set up the main conference room for a meeting right away,” Karen said. “Mr. Nichols might be coming in, and we need to make a good impression on him, okay? And try not to talk to him much when he comes in. Just smile and offer him a seat and let me know immediately, okay?”
“You’ve got it,” Amanda said. Being told not to talk to clients was galling (really, what was she going to say that would offend them?), but she ignored it. “Anything else I can do?”
“Oh, I doubt it,” Linda smirked.
“Anyway. We’re going downstairs for just a few minutes,” Karen went on. “But we’ll be right back.”
“I’m on it,” Amanda nodded again, already picking up the phone to summon her boss.
“Thanks, Sarah,” Karen finished as she and Linda turned to walk down the hallway to the elevators. Amanda winced but let it go. Sooner or later Karen
—and a few of the other “wealth managers”—would remember her name.
She’d only been working there for five months.
Her break would have to wait. She closed up her email while she relayed the situation to her boss over the phone. “I’ll be out to cover in just a minute,” Mark grunted. “Go ahead and get started.”
She was quick about her task. She ignored the beautiful view of Elliott Bay from the conference room window, focusing instead on straightening up the room; apparently the cleaning crew had taken the night off. The table had to be wiped down
before she set out the coffee service set, but the spray cleaner was missing. Amanda quickly headed for the supply cabinet in the women’s restroom.
“...almost wish Mark would still be out there on reception when Nichols gets here,” she heard as she opened the door. “Seriously, couldn’t we hire a prettier receptionist?”
“Clients don’t come here to ogle the receptionist, Karen,” Linda replied dryly. Amanda froze. They were right around the corner, doubtlessly at the mirror. The last thing she wanted was to be caught eavesdropping, but she needed the stupid bottle of 409. “Anyway, it’s not like she’s ugly.”
“No, but don’t you think she could take care of herself better?” Karen frowned audibly. “I’d be in the gym six hours a day if I had a figure like that. And where’d she get her clothes? Penny’s? Does she understand who she’s working for?”
Amanda winced. She wanted to scream. Instead, she forced herself to open the closet—thankfully right next to the door—and retrieve what she needed as stealthily as she could.
“She’s a college student,” Linda said. “How much money do you think she’s going to spend on clothes for a part time job?”
“Maybe that’s the problem. Maybe we need a real professional. Someone should talk to Mark.”
“Why don’t you talk to Mark?”
“Mark stares at my tits every time I talk to him.”
“Maybe you shouldn’t put them on display like that all the time.”
“And maybe I’ll keep more of my clients if I do.”
Linda grunted something dismissive. If anything, the conversation was just idle banter for her. “Masters in Finance from Duke and it still comes down to wearing a bra one size smaller than you need, huh?”
“Oh, like you’re one to talk.”
Slipping back out again, Amanda hurried to the conference room.
She soon had the table shining once again, clearly enough for Amanda to see her reflection.
She wasn’t fat. No supermodel, but certainly not fat. Nor was the face looking back at her from under
plain auburn hair an ugly one.
None of that helped her
remember the last time anyone had asked her out.
Amanda returned to the reception desk. Mark vacated her seat, saying only, “Let me know when it’s time for your lunch,” before he left.
Amanda thought less about lunch and more about hitting the UW gym again. She thought about rearranging her schedule so she could work out five days a week instead of three, and then thought about how much she hated herself for considering it. As Karen and Linda passed by the reception desk back to their offices, Amanda forced herself to return their fake smiles and hated herself even more for that, too.
With nothing to be done about it at the moment, she returned to Jason’s email.
“Humans only. No dwarves, no elves, no exceptions.” That was bound to raise arguments from Robbie, but what came next was an even bigger catch. “No magic-users, no priests with spells, no psionics. We’re going super old-school, where magic is typically for bad guys. This should be mostly rogues and warriors, and any barbarian types are encouraged. Remember: ‘civilized’ and ‘sophisticated’ usually just means untrustworthy and evil.”
Glancing down the hallway to the offices beyond, Amanda sighed to herself. “Ain’t that the truth.”
“Does an 18 hit?”
” bellowed Eric. His tone was both triumphant and accusatory.
Jason buried his face in his hands and then sank behind the
game master’s tri-fold screen at the end of the dining room table. Five miniature adventurers, each of them made of pewter and painted with care, stood on the map of the sorcerer’s tower in front of his screen. The minis faced off against a half-dozen Skittles to represent “ordinary” evil guardsmen, two Hershey’s Kisses that marked the sorcerer’s remaining lieutenants and the mini-Reese’s peanut butter cup that stood in for the sorcerer Bel-Danab himself.
It was only the second battle of the night. Most of the game had taken pl
ace mainly through dialogue, and therefore nobody needed a map or miniatures. As with all such adventures, most of the action happened within each player’s head.
“Guard misses the fighter. Alex,” Jason went on, rolling another twenty-sided die, “does a 22 hit your character?”
” Alex declared.
“You sound like a man now. I’m so proud, grasshopper,” Eric grinned smugly. Barely old enough to drink himself, Eric was the true veteran of the gaming group. He had been happy to hand off the
game master’s seat to Jason when he graduated high school, but the younger gamer had been reluctant to give that seat back when he joined Eric at UW. Eric never complained. More than once, he joked that he was happy to become a Token Black Player rather than being the Exotically Black Game Master.
Alex rolled his eyes. “Gee, thanks, Dad.”
“How’d you get your defense so high, though?” Eric asked. “Seriously, mine sucks.”
“I got some help on an online forum,” Alex shrugged. “Besides,
Jason gave us the dodge bonuses for free in this campaign.”
“That only helps if I don’t have any armor,” Eric said.
“You’re wearing armor?” blinked Robbie. “What the hell for? This is shirtless pulp fantasy. The less armor you wear, the safer you are.”
“That makes no sense,” Eric protested.
“We went over this already,” Jason sighed. “It’s part of the setting. You don’t see Conan wearing armor, do you?”
Maybe not in the cover art or the comic books,” noted Alex. “He does it all the time in the original stories.”
“I’m wearing armor,” Amanda piped up.
“Yeah,” said Carrie. “My rogue is wearing armor, too.”
“That’s different,” Robbie shook his head. “You’re chicks. Armor for you in
this kind of setting is like a bikini. Chain mail lingerie and whatever.”
Amanda and Carrie
immediately pelted Robbie with dice. “Jason!” Robbie snickered, “tell ‘em I’m not wrong!”
“Yeah, Jason,” Carrie goaded him, “go right ahead. Say I’m wearing chain mail lingerie. Say it and I’ll cut you.”
“That’s it for the bad guys,” Jason moved on, not wanting to test Carrie’s threat. He looked up at the others in the dining room, knowing full well where the next round would lead. “Amanda, you’re up,” Jason noted.
“Um,” Amanda stammered, looking from the map to her character sheet. “Sorry. Um. Okay, I move here,” she said, shifting her warrior maiden closer to the Skittles, “aaand I go for
a sweep to knock them off their feet.” She rolled her dice and groaned. “Ugh. No way.”
“That was my only multiple-target attack, too. Sorry, guys. Guess I should really stick to playing wizards. When the GM will let me,” she added, sticking her tongue out at Jason.
“Me, too,” said Alex. “Running around with swords isn’t my thing.”
“You can be a wizard if you want to be evil,” Jason shrugged. He leaned forward, grinning at Amanda with a sinister glint in his eye. “Do you wish to learn dark secrets that will stain your soul? To read forbidden tomes bound in iron, and talk with unseen creatures in deep wells? To trade sanity and sanctity for power? Be my guest. You may not like the changes that such experiences make in you.”
“I think you’re taking the ‘magic is bad’ thing way too far,” Alex frowned. “There’s white magic in these settings.
The alien-elephant guy in ‘
Tower of the Elephant
’ said so.”
“Oh God, Alex, you read one friggin’ book and you think you know everything. And put away my Monster Manual! That’s not for you.”
Alex shrugged, handing back the book. “I was just checking out the pictures of the ridiculous demon chicks.”
“You really need a girlfriend,” Carrie teased.
“I really do,” Alex agreed soberly.
“So you’re saying there are no good wizards at all? Isn’t that a little discriminatory?” Amanda
Yeah!” Eric said, affecting his deepest voice. “Why you gotta be all racial and shit, Jason?”
“Yeah, well, Jason’s got a history of racial insensitivity,”
“I do not!” Jason protested. “Wizards aren’t a race! They’re a class and you know it!”
“Oh, so it’s class warfare?” Amanda pressed. “You’re a communist? Is that it?”
a class or something tomorrow?” Jason frowned. “It’s your turn, Eric.”
“Nag, nag, nag,” Eric sighed. He moved his mini into position. “
Okay, charging in on Bel-Danab, and...Critical hit,” he declared with a grin as the die came up with a natural 20. “Oooh, and I have him flanked. So that’s max weapon damage plus bonuses...32 points.”
“Dead,” Jason said. “Feast upon your kill.” As Eric greedily scooped up the mini peanut butter cup, Jason narrated the action. “It’s as if everyone on the field knew when to look to their master to see his neck opened up right under his chin. He clutches at the mortal wound, falling backward onto the tiled floor. Yet his blood has only barely stained the dirty ground beneath him before the mystic masque falls from his face. This is not the evil sorcerer Bel-Danab at all! It must have been some minor apprentice!”
“That’s not Bel-Danab?” Eric blinked.
“Shh!” Alex hissed. “Don’t say his name! You’ll summon him!”
“Oh Jesus,” Robbie grumbled, “he’s not fucking Volde--“
Amanda cut him off. “Bel-Danab! Bel-Danab! Bel-Danab!” she called out, waving her hands in the air. “What?” she asked, looking at the others. “We’re here to kill him, anyway.”