An Espresso Tale
Accipiter G. Goshawk
She cast the spell and time stood still.
In the game, Grija held her breath as Hunu disappeared, absorbed into her heart, into her soul. The other members of the party twisted and warped, as the fabric of reality shifted.
In the village cave, everyone gasped as the DM stood up, her shadow seeming to shrink in the colours of oncoming dawn, beaming down on her from the dirty skylight.
“The magic holds, and you fell yourself connected to all that is living, all that was living and all that ever will be. You feel the breath of the earth, the song of the trees and the sweet scent of underwater flowers. You are one with Errare; the bond is reforged.”
She turned to look at Tia, one last challenge remaining in her eyes.
“You can choose to become a goddess of nature –a being of incredible power-, or to share the bond with all mortals, freeing them of the curse forever. What do you choose, Grija Greenleaf?”
Tia didn’t hesitate.
“I give the gift to everyone.”
“You feel Hunu’s soul swell within you, as the essence of Errare leaves you, cast outwards in a tidal wave of renewal. The miasma abandons your companions’ eyes and you see them walk tall, restored beyond anything they’ve ever been. Far away, demonic woodsmen lay down their axes and weep in joy and sorrow; miners stare in horror at their pickaxes and the acids they had been pouring seconds ago into the earth that birthed them. The world is made anew this day, and it is thanks to you, Grija Greenleaf.”
A roar went up, as the entire village got to its feet, cheering and applauding. Tia looked around in bewilderment as her fellow players rushed from their seats and hugged her ferociously. Somewhere in the chaos, her mother appeared, finding her and holding her close.
“I’m so proud of you!” she whispered, as tears streamed down her eyes.
Tia said nothing but hugged her. Her gaze however remained on the Dungeon Mistress, who was beaming at her from behind her screen.
“Thank you,” Tia mouthed.
The DM winked and began folding up her notes.
* * *
The next day was spent in celebration, and the Dungeon Mistress delighted them with more games, although none as spectacular as the first. For her part, Tia was mostly lost in the exhaustion of having played for twelve hours straight. So, she slept.
It was maybe for this reason that she was the only one that heard the gentle chime of the DM’s Bandoleer moving out the door and towards the village gate.
She caught up with the Mistress just as she was pulling her hood up, readying herself for the outside world and the dangerous road ahead.
“Will you ever return?”
The DM turned and smiled warmly.
“Maybe. Not for a while though. There are other people that require my services. Be prepared for when I do come though: I want to see what Grija will have been up to.”
Tia grinned, but her eyes remained serious.
“Could you take me with you? I want to travel the world.”
The simple statement seemed to catch the older woman off-guard.
“Now why would you want to do that?” she asked, half in wonder and half in curiosity.
“I want to find the green. And then I want to teach people how to make things grow again.”
The Dungeon Mistress nodded seriously.
“Well, how about this: next time I come back, we can chat, and if you still want to come, I’ll talk to your mother about taking you on as my apprentice. Would you like that?”
“Yes, very much!”
The DM grinned again, opening the gate just enough to squeeze through.
“It’s a hard life,” she said, holding Tia’s gaze for a moment.
“I’m not afraid,” said the small child resolutely.
“No, you really aren’t,” murmured the Dungeon Mistress, and then she was gone, leaving behind dreams, a promise and a green D20, clutched fiercely in Tia’s hand.-