If you remember from last time, I’m here in the town of Archet as the result of a series of very bad decisions, most of them by other people. Last night I needed to deliver a letter. By the end of the evening I was going to be killed by the Nazgul. As of today I’m about to watch the destruction of an entire city.
The town is surrounded by brigands who are waiting for nightfall before sweeping in here and giving the entire population of the city an all-expenses-paid trip to the afterlife.
One of the town guards is actually working with the brigands, and it’s my job to go and tattle on him to the captain. I don’t know why Amdir wants me to do this. I have no proof. I’m just repeating the rumor.
Captain Brackenbrook is not glad to see me. Apparently he’s not willing to imprison and execute one of his own men based on the gossip from a random foreigner.
I go back to Amdir and tell him his idiotic plan didn’t work. He gives me a nice pair of gloves. I don’t know why he gives me gloves. Maybe he just hands out free stuff to people who insult him. Maybe he’d give me a fancy taffeta ball gown if I told him his mother was a whore.
(I’m sure she was a nice lady.)
Anyway, instead of the standard MMO exclamation mark this game uses a flaming ring as the symbol for “This bloke has a quest for you, why don’t you chat him up?” Not just any ring, but the icon is obviously The One Ring. The single most evil object in the history of the entire world. This is like using a pentagram containing a flaming swastika made of horned skulls as the universal symbol for “help wanted”.
Amdir has sent me out to the sheep pens to help out the sheep guards. Yes, this town has people guarding sheep. They’re about to be wiped off the map by bloodthirsty raiders, but by all means send half our guards outside the city to protect the livestock. No doubt neutralizing our sheep will be the linchpin of their entire assault.
The leader of this Wooly Vanguard introduces himself as Dirk Mudbrick and explains the wolves are prowling around and threatening the sheep. In order to protect the flock, he needs me to kill five of them.
“This is just shocking. I can scarcely believe it. Are you seriously telling me that your name is DIRK MUDBRICK?!? You poor man. I don’t care what other problems you have around here, you really should fix that as soon as possible. Especially since you’re probably going to die when the raiders attack. Do you really want to be buried under a tombstone with the word MUDBRICK written on it?”
I look around the sheep pen. Dirk is at the top of the hill. There are four more guards at the bottom. Already these sheep are more fiercely guarded than the town itself. Either the captain of the guard really loves these sheep, or he really hates his fellow citizens.
But rather than sparing a member of the sheep vanguard they’re sending out a random musician to kill some wolves. I’m sure the deadly beasts will be no match for my lute and iambic pentameter.
Five messy wolf-stabbings later, I return to MUDBRICK (ha ha!) to see what he wants next, and if he’s willing to offer me any clothes. I politely suggest that maybe we should hold off on further big game hunting until after we do something about the IMPENDING RAID WHICH WILL KILL US ALL.
Dirk looks off in the direction of the bandit camp and thinks for a bit, “I’d like ye to go see if ye can discover their plans.”
I fold my arms, “You want me to just track down a random ruffian and ask him what they’re up to? I realize humans are astoundingly moronic – no offense – but I think they’re at least smart enough to not blabber their plans to me.”
“Well, I wasn’t suggesting ye ask them, as such. See if they’ve been issued any orders.”
“Do you honestly believe they’ll just have their secret plans written down? And that they’ll carry those around with them in the woods? And even if they are that thick – and they might be – how do I get those orders?”
“Well, naturally ye will have to kill them.”
“Kill? A person? No. I’m drawing the line here. I’ve killed spiders. I’ve killed wolves. But I will NOT kill-“
“I’ll give ye these shoes.”
“One dead brigand, coming up.”
On the downside, I’ve just killed a man. On the upside, he actually is carrying orders and I have a brand new pair of shoes waiting for me when all this is over.
I take the note back to DIRK MUDBRICK (tee hee) and show it to him. He gets all excited because the note clearly identifies Calder Cob as a spy. Why would the bad guys write sensitive stuff like that down?
Who cares? Gimmie shoes!
I take the note to captain Brackenbrook, who immediately orders his men to arrest Calder Cob. Oh, so he wouldn’t believe that one of his own men was a traitor even when everyone else in town said so, but now that he’s seen it written on a piece of paper he’s convinced. But more importantly:
Captain Brackenbrook wants me to go speak with his son Jon and see what help he might need preparing the city defenses. I just need to take the east road out of town.
This is good news. The south road is surrounded by bandits, wolves, and wild boars. I don’t want to have to go that way. In fact, it will be nice to be able to get from A to B for once without having to hack my way through half the fauna of Middle Earth. Let’s see, east road…
Oh goblin balls. It’s spiders, isn’t it?
Bigger than the spiders from last night.
I really don’t know how these people can live like this. Although I guess they won’t for much longer.
Do people really have to fight giant spiders every time they want to go to the lodge?
It’s supposedly a hunter’s lodge, but I think most hunters would be sick of killing things long before they made it halfway there.
On my way into the lodge I meet…
“A Dwarf! Never met a Dwarf before. Hi there. What’s your story?”
“Aye! Greetings Traveler! Would you be interested in some work? I can offer ye this ring.”
I think I like Dwarves already. “Jewelry? Now that sounds pretty nice. What’s the job?”
“Well, I’ll be needin’ ye you go on the road back towards town and kill me five ‘O them gigantic spiders.”
“Yeah. Done!”, I tell him.
“What do ye mean, ‘done’? Ye are still standin’ here!”
“I know. I just came in on that road. I killed a bunch of the little bastards. Now hand over the ring.”
“No, I want you to kill five more.“
“I did. I killed five. And five more, and then some. Now let me see how the ring fits. Will I need to have it sized?”
“No, I want ye to kill five more, startin’ now.”
“Look you mop-faced drunk, you promised me a ring for five dead bugs.”
I squash some bugs and get my new ring.
That done, I head inside the lodge to talk to Jon. Jon is in the dining room by the fire. The place smells of beer and roasted meat. I wait for him to finish chewing and introduce myself.
“Greetings, Hobbit”, he says, wiping his mouth on his sleeve, “I’m glad you’re here. If Archet is to survive the attack, then we must have time to prepare our defenses.”
You want more time? I’m not sure that’s possible. I mean, they’re going to attack at nightfall. Short of slowing down the rotation of the earth, I don’t think there’s all that much to be done about it.
Jon nods appreciatively before draining his mug, “I was thinking you could go and kill six of them.”
“Oh were you? That’s your plan then? You’re going to aid the defense of the city by having a lone minstrel assault their base directly? If I can kill six of them by myself, think of how many you could kill if you sent actual soldiers. I mean, you don’t look particularly busy here.”
Jon looks around the room, taking an account of his men. “I can’t spare any of these men. We’re already on… guard duty.”
“You’re guarding from inside a building?”
“Nate is guarding the beer-barrel here. The hunters are assigned to guarding the fire from going out. And Fenton and I are guarding the roast mutton, the bread, the Shire stew, and the candied yams.”
“You’re guarding food?”
“Yes. We’re protecting them from… being leftovers.”
“Right. So you want me to murder people for you. I’m a musician, not an assassin. Now, if you want me to write a song about you stuffing your faces, I’m your girl. But if you need people made dead, why don’t you hire an expert?”
“I’ll give you this grand wide-brimmed hat.”
“I… I’ve always wanted a wide-brimmed hat.”
On one hand, I feel a little guilty killing people for a hat. Even evil people who are working with the Nazgul. On the other hand, this murder business is getting easier as it goes.
I add a few brigands to the dead list, and Jon gives me my reward. I’m so happy I hop up on the table and sing them a song:
Jon and his lodge-mates were stuffing their faces.
While outside came brigands from all over the places.
They had boar and some stew and then several roast muttons.
Proving to all that they have the most gluttons.
They had beer, they had song, they had food, they had slacking.
I agree with the brigands: Archet’s due for a sacking!
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A programming project where I set out to make a Minecraft-style world so I can experiment with Octree data.
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I scoured the Steam database to figure out what words were the most commonly used in game titles.
The product of fandom run unchecked, this novel began as a short story and grew into something of a cult hit.