Sometimes, the only way to break through a bad spell of writer’s block is to write The Adventure Zone fanfiction. Spoilers only for the conclusion of the first arc in the Balance campaign. Apologies in advance for any errors with D&D lore/worldbuilding, I’m still new to the tabletop roleplay sphere.
Under A Clear, Dark Sky
Your name is [redacted] and your position within the [redacted] is that of a [redacted], which means you are very important and do a lot of traveling throughout the country. You look for objects of great importance, then recover them—and often you do not recover them. Your record so far is zero items recovered. Still, you travel a lot. You enjoy the work. You cut a solitary path through Faerûn and beyond, which suits you just fine. You have known your whole life that there’s no one place you belong.
Your current job has you undercover as a merchant, part of a traveling caravan heading toward a distant market. You’ve received intelligence that the [redacted] will be there, so you brush up on the local dialects and learn the craft of making leather goods as your cover before joining the caravan. It’s a mixed group of humans, halflings, elves, and dwarves, and the overall atmosphere is rather chill. There’s a lot of small talk and storytelling around the nightly fires, and there is no shortage of friendly bartering and exchanging tips to pass the time during the day.
You manage to stay in the background for the most part, but even you are drawn into the storytelling and the camaraderie on occasion. And if some of your adventures from working with [redacted] end up being told as campfire stories, albeit with the details strongly shifted around to protect the various parties involved, no one seems to be the wiser about who you really are.
Your caravan passes through several small towns on the way to the market. Some are more opulent than others. The town you are most drawn to is one with a large dwarven population and a rich history of mining. They feel familiar, because you are half dwarf, but at the same time disturbingly unfamiliar, because you are also half orc. The orc side of you is outwardly recessive, which is a blessing in this town.
One night you have a couple of drinks at the inn, and follow some of the party members to a bonfire gathering in a nearby field. There more drink is to be had, although no one notices you switch your ale with well water. It’s a pleasant evening weather-wise, and a young lady dwarf asks if you’d like to take off your coat, but you must decline. You claim it’s a skin condition—non-contagious but still embarrassing. Unconsciously, your fingers glide over the place where your metal band fits snug against your skin as you watch her flit back into the crowd.
The sky is dark and clear as men and women drink and dance around the bonfire. Someone has grabbed a fiddle from their luggage and starts playing . Before too long, a drunken wizard starts to set off fireworks from their wand, driving the younger folks into a frenzy of excitement. You make yourself useful by assisting with the preparation of several large pots of hot cider bubbling on portable campfires brought out by several humans and their elven companions. You end up accidentally getting involved in a good-natured debate about whose family recipe for cider spanning back thousands of years is in fact the best before you stumble off to pee discreetly in the forest.
You get far away enough from the crowd to finish your personal business before briefly turning to look at the village you’ll be leaving in the morning—next destination a market only a few days’ travel down the road. Fireflies the size of your dwarven knuckles pass overhead. You wonder what it would be like to fall asleep in the grass, under the night sky, and awaken to the cry of the morning rooster and the smell of cooking meat.
You return to your caravan and, in the morning, when the roosters are crying at the sun, you’re already on the road.
It is now five days later. The [redacted] is gone; the owner disappeared in a cloud of smoke kicked up by her battle wagon. You think there might be a lead in a tavern two towns over, which means doubling back into old territory and disappointing the [redacted], who will expect you to be back by now, but you figure it is better to ask for forgiveness than permission in this case. Besides, who else would they send to retrieve the [redacted]?
When you return to the little dwarven town, you don’t realize it at first, because you only see the horizon. The area is quiet as death. There are no animals, or people—nothing. You step onto a sea of black glass that coats the ground where businesses once thrived, and folks once danced and teold stories.
You are here, in the town of Phandalin. There is no more Phandalin. There are no more stories to be told.
You will remember for a long time the sound your wagon makes as it glides across the volcanic glass floor, until the [redacted] takes your memory away.
You are now a scholar in Neverwinter, under the protection of Oghma. You study the texts for a town that no longer exists, except that you do not remember the name. You used to know things. You used to be a hero. Or so you’ve been told.
At night you ask, where is [redacted]? The night sky whispers back, but it is only static.
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