Every now and then, strange things can occur. Everybody has experienced such an event in their lives. But what could possibly be found strange in a world of magic? Our story takes place in a small village, where the main activity consists in taking care of cattle and sowing the fields. Interestingly enough, this village has nothing to do with the Island of Sorrow, even though those two locations are only distant by two hundred miles, that is to say nothing for a brave group of adventurers.
Amongst the locals’ habits, the most popular ones certainly are brawling, something else that we cannot decently describe here, and of course, drinking contests. So what better place to start our adventure than… an overcrowded tavern?
Like every other night, the Green Eel’s inn is filled with peasants and guards, most of them tired after the harsh labor of the day, but still willing to spend a good evening with each other. At the tables, some drink, some sleep, and some try to sleep but fail because of the ambient noise. The bartender keeps his customers fed, and his tankards clean… sort of.
In one of the corners of the room, a small group of people is gathered around a table, where a man has challenged a half-orc barbarian into a drinking duel. The glasses are quickly drank, and the bets go higher each time they’re refilled. They’ve been almost thirty minutes in the duel, and both contestants are showing signs of weakness.
“Is that all you’ve got?!” shouted the inebriated farmer, violently putting down yet another glass on the table.
“Don’t make me laugh! I’m just getting started!” replied his orcish opponent.
“Is she done yet? We haven’t got all night. I know she has to defend her pride, but… man, this guy is a tough one!”
“And what would you do? Try to stop her? She has orc blood in her veins, and you, you’re just a dwarf. I don’t want to be rude, but who’s the one who drank all that beer again?”
“Watch your tongue, priest! I am Thaufar, son of Rabrann of the Great Mountain clan, and no one talks to me like that. Not even you, Duncan.”
“Okay, you’re right. Forget what I said. But I also have my pride, and you should remember that I’m a monk, not a priest.”
“Monks, priests, they’re all the same. You’re not as bad as those elves when it comes to fighting, but nothing can replace a well forged axe, made of good steel!”
“CHEAT!” screamed the barbarian. Thaufar and Duncan just had the time to turn around to see their companion grab her wooden tankard, and smash it onto the farmer’s face.
“Ain’t talking funny no more, hey?”
As his body hit the ground with an overly loud thud, the little crowd cheered their winner, and moved towards the counter to spend their newly acquired gold.
“What was that?” asked Duncan.
“What’s what?” replied the half-orc, as she collected the losing bets.
“He tried to give up the duel, the cheater! True men drink and faint on spot, that one was nothing but a cheater!”
“No I mean: what was that sound? There’s no way this guy’s that heavy! There must be something going on outside.”
At that precise moment, the entrance doors of the Green Eel opened wide, and a man rushed into the bar.
“They’re here! I told you they would come! I told you but no one believed me! Now they’re here and nothing can save us from them. Repent! Repent while you still have time!”
And he left, screaming his way through the streets.
“What the hell? There really must be something going on outside. That guy was completely panicking!” said Duncan.
“Hey Duncan, would you really have faith in a man half naked, shouting and running all over the place, with a fur hat and a wooden ladle in his hands? You’re the odd one here!”
“Well, if you put it this way… I mean… Okay, fine, he’s weird, but I heard a noise and whatever happened, it could be… Well, you know… An opportunity!”
“An opportunity?” said the barbarian.
“Yes Shayitah. Think about it. How long has it been since we last went exploring a dungeon? Five, six months? This may be our chance, right here, we have to seize it!”
“Oh no!” said a high pitched voice.
The voice came from a tall elven woman, who had remained silent during the drinking contest, and had just enjoyed her hyacinth cocktail. Near her, a halfling was sleeping, his head laying on his crossed arms. His leather outfit was clearly not suited for combat but he somewhat managed to make it this far.
“What do you mean ‘Oh no?’” asked Duncan.
“Sorry, I was just thinking.”
“Hahahaha! You were what?!” replied Thaufar.
“I was thinking, you stinky barrel.”
“What’s the problem Círeth?” enquired Duncan, while Thaufar continued laughing.
“Well, here’s the thing: all the priests of the city have been talking about the upcoming fulfillment of an ancient prophecy for months. It sounded like ‘And the stars shall fall upon thee’ or something… But the real problem is that they actually noticed a brilliant star shining in the sky yesterday, that could be seen even during daylight. And today’s the day the prophecy should realize…”
“So that’s why that man was all shaken up. I guess every single sect and cult of the city must be willing to relate this event to their own beliefs…”
“I don’t believe in prophecies!” intervened Shayitah.
“Well neither do I, but if the farmers do, we can take advantage of it. Let’s head out and see what’s what!” said Duncan.
“What do we do about Bowdoc? He’s still asleep.” asked Círeth.
“Just slap his face! Shayitah, would you…?” exclaimed Thaufar.
As she approached the halfling, he suddenly chocked upon seeing the fists of Shayitah, and quickly stood up.
“What’s going on? Can’t we just sleep in peace here?!”
“Not anymore, Bowdoc.” replied Duncan, “Adventure awaits, and I can smell fame and glory from here! Let’s go!”
The small group left the Green Eel’s inn, and was immediately caught in a human stream, leading them towards what seemed to be the center of interest.
“What’s happening?” shouted Duncan to a nearby fisherman, trying to overcome the ambient noise.
“Don’t you know? A star has fallen into the western fields! Hurry up if you don’t want to miss anything!”
“A star you said?!” but the man was already out of sight.
The group kept pushing forward with the crowd, and eventually made it to the western fields. Once peaceful, those were now partially ablaze, the earth had been pushed around here and there, and a small hill seemed to have appeared. Carefully bypassing the burning wheat, they reached the other side of the hill.
Here they could see the star, which had destroyed a major part of the village’s arable lands, scaring the cattle away. Now all that was left was that… thing, which had crashed so violently onto the earth that it had created the small hill.
It didn’t really look like a star, or at least, what they thought a star would look like. It was big of course, but it was made of some sort of metal. It was round shaped but plane at the same time, like a plate, and it had windows circling a bump at its top. On its side, they could see a door, an opening into the star. What could be hiding in here? Nobody knew, and nobody ever had the chance to know.
“Oh shit!”, “Jeez!”, “I don’t believe it!”, was all they could hear. All around them, the farmers were astonished by what they were seeing. Duncan finally spoke out loud:
“Guys, this is it! I told you, this is our chance! No one have ever had the chance to see the insides of a star. This is a one in a lifetime chance that is given to us, we must seize it!”
“Are you crazy Duncan?” shouted Bowdoc, “We don’t know anything about that thing! It could be dangerous, it could even be deadly! There’s no way I’m getting inside!”
“You’re just a coward, that’s all! All rogues are! We’re lucky no one has entered it yet, now quit talking, and go!” pressed Thaufar.
“Eh guys, I don’t want to interrupt you but Shayitah is already gone!” said the elf.
Indeed, the half-orc barbarian had had enough of all this talking, and decided to go on her own. If the others were not able to see how unique this adventure was, then to Hell with them!
“Everyone, run!” shouted Duncan.
And they all started to run towards the gaping side of the metal star, trying to catch up with Shayitah, as the crowd cheered them on, happy to see that the problem was finally being dealt with. The group arrived at the door, and hesitated for a second.
“Are we sure we want to do this…?”
“Yes we are. Now let’s go, Adventure awaits us!” concluded Duncan.
They entered the star, leaving the crowd behind them and diving into the darkness.
And as they did so, the door shut tight behind them with a smothered sound, only leaving a dim, eerie light, and a deep silence, contrasting with the cheers of the crowd that was now out of sight.
“Great! Now we’re trapped!” sighed Bowdoc.
The group slowly started to realize that this adventure would not be an easy one…
To be continued…
By Axel Caro and Quentin Dauchy