“Ceredir is dead.”
As the news fell over the table, so did silence. Finally it took the large, uncouth half-orc Rokkeia to do what he usually did and voice what everyone was thinking, “big tree-fella? it not die-able.”
“Are you sure, Ton?” asked the paladin, Justin.
Sergee, the dwarf they called ‘Ton’ who had delivered the news, nodded as he said, “Woodents are tough, but not immortal. His remains were found earlier this week and elves confirmed a mournful tree-song in the forest with a descriptor matching the old log.”
Yoth sighed in that bitter hiss manner the Naga did. “He wasss the lassst of the greatsss.”
“We shall not see his like again,” said Justin.
“drink! and remember!” shouted Rokkeia.
The table raised their pints in a toast, along with half the tavern who didn’t know what was being celebrated, but didn’t want to anger the barbarian who’s head brushed the rafters even while sitting.
“And to Kat,” Justin said after everyone had honored the fallen woodent.
The rest of the table considered protesting, but couldn’t think of a good reason to so they echoed the toast.
“Dark timesss we live,” said Yoth.
“I never thought we would live in a world without heroes,” said Sergee.
“What do you expect?” asked Justin. “What great deeds are there to even sing about?”
Sergee raised his glass in salute. “You said it. What was it… 879 when Ceredir held the stone bridge against an undead legion? What have any of us done? Rokkeia held only a mountain pass. What were you fighting there?”
The half-orc laughed. “tiny kobolds! squishy runts smaller than feet! no kraken kill like old Eliehn. best we did is Justin’s baby dragon kill.”
“Hey that thing was as big as me,” the paladin protested, “and I still needed help from Kat. Still, when we suffered insomnia in the barracks of the battle-monastery, my favorite story to hear was when cleric Lazny fought the cultists of one of the ancient-unnamed gods and kept it from invading this world. No offense, Yoth.”
“None taken. Ssstopping a litch ritual isss easssier than mossst think, though I had more luck than ssskill.” she said. “Did I tell of when I sssaw Thall Menec in thisss tavern.”
“Before or after it found the Star Crown and united the warring Aven tribes?”
“After. It waved at me then sssat here with the othersss. They ssshared drinksss.”
Sergee let out a whistle. “The Star Crown. That’s a treasure I would’ve loved to find.”
“Ton, didn’t you solve that riddle of the Sealed Tome?”
“By sheer luck of the draw,” the dwarf answered. “Not like what that golem did with MacFel’s help. Not like what any of them did. To the age of heroes. They inspired us to do what must be done. We shall not see their like again.”
The others at the table raised their glasses in agreement.
MANY YEARS AGO
It took all of its effort for Thall Menec to twist his facial region into what approximated a smile, but it was worth it when it saw the tiny naga child-being smile in joy and wave back. The larger naga mother-being soon fetched the child-being and dragged it away, leaving Thall free to walk to the table where its friend-beings were waiting.
“Thall! Glad you could join us!” said the always friendly cleric-being, designate: Lazny, waving his hand to signal position.
The golem made its way over to the table and crouched down in the closest approximation of sitting it could do. It was relieved that they hadn’t bothered to give it a drink this time.
“Where’s MacFel?” asked the elf-being, designate: Eliehn, who didn’t sit in his chair as much as lounge over it.
“MacFel-Being Had Autonomous Functions Cease During Prior Task,” it answered. For the first time in its existence, the Thall’s words didn’t seem to be precise to the event conveyed.
“Aw hell, I liked him,” replied Eliehn.
“Hhhow didst it hhhappen?” asked woodent-being, designate: Ceredir.
“Preserving The Autonomous Functions of Thall-Menec-Being From Thieves.”
“Sounds right,” said Lazny. “Did you two at least get the Star Crown?”
“Yes. Task Now: Travel To Aven Summit.”
“I just can’t believe you two actually pulled it off,” said Eliehn.
“Challenge: None. Traps Consideration: Living.”
“Their mistake. To us, you are alive, Thall,” said Lazny.
“At least more alive than that army that attacked ‘ole Ceredir on that bridge,” Eliehn said with a chuckle.
“Thhhe dead are food for we,” Ceredir replied. “Snap like unto twigs thhhey did.”
“Bet it was still more of a challenge than that kraken!” laughed Lazny.
“Hell, a kraken’s still dangerous even if it is sick from a previous night’s meal,” Eliehn protested. “Besides I was hung over myself that morning so it was a fair fight. Or at least, more fair than you fighting those illiterate cultists.”
“An old god is still an old god,” said Lazny. “And if I hadn’t gotten there, they would have eventually gotten the summoning right.”
Both beings started laughing, and Ceredir might have been too, it was hard to tell sometimes.
“Do you think those adventures we always heard stories about were even half as silly as ours?” asked Eliehn.
“All hhhas hhhumor,” said Ceredir. “Hhheroes are thhhey whhho do whhhat’s righhht whhhen its hhhardest.”
“It will be a sad day indeed when the likes of us are counted as heroes of any kind,” said Lazny.
“Counter Fact,” said Thall. “MacFel.”
The others nodded and raised their drinking cups. “That’s true, he was the best of us.”
“Yes, now. Is that Ton Sergee at that table?”
With a sigh of exasperation, Gond Amon looked up from his latest project and adjusted the eye piece he had stuck to his head until it zoomed in enough that he could see where Jack was pointing. “I think that is indeed him.”
“Who’s him?” asked Murgonn as he, Zaklog and Legatus returned with the drinks.
Jack Trosclair, minotaur knight-in-training, could barely contain himself. “Ton Sergee, the dwarf who solved the riddle of the Sealed Tome.”
“Is his first name actually ‘Ton’?” asked Legatus.
“I think he got it from when he lifted the entire expedition, their gear, and the treasure and carried them out of the Lost Library,” answered Jack.
Zaklog muttered something in its native tongue and pointed at another figure sitting at the same table. “Behold. Yoth. The mighty naga witch whom slain the litch avatar of Xogg. Had she failed, a thousand years of terror would be our sentence.”
Gond Amon, who was always tinkering with something, convinced as he was that artificing could be done on living beings to replace lost or missing body parts with constructed replacements, nevertheless set his project aside as he saw more of the occupants. “Whoa. That must be Rokkeia himself!”
“’The towering army?’” asked Murgonn, the merfolk bard who claimed to know every song in the seas, and now was trying to learn all the ones on the land. “He stood against an entire army of kobolds, so numerous that it swarmed over the standing forces of Pulpoi and defeated them.”
“Then that must be Justin with him,” said the young, orphaned, drow Legatus.
“Who?” asked Jack.
“Justin Annavalar, the paladin. He slew a dragon with the help of the werecat druid, Katerina.”
“So how does he relate to Rokkeia?” asked Murgonn.
Legatus rolled his eyes. “During the battle, Katerina was killed. Rumor has it that Justin loved her. Distraught over her death, he wandered about until he found Rokkeia who had been captured by slavers. Justin fought them and freed the half-orc. Since then the two have been friends and some say Justin’s actually teaching the big guy how to read.”
“Wow,” said Gond. “Think we could ever measure up to any of them?”
Zaklog chuckled. “Never.”
Legatus said, “Can’t.”
Jack sighed. “What possible adventures could we have that would measure up to theirs?”
“None,” said Murgonn. “Doesn’t mean we stop trying.”
The five friends raised their drinks, and wished for the age of heroes to never end.