The Trial of the Dungeon Mistress: Part III

An Espresso Tale


Accipiter G. Goshawk

Here is Part III! Here are the links to parts I and II.



Warily, she approached the table.

It was warmer here in the Under-Tower, so she loosened her heavy coat a little and sighed as the warmth of the fire caressed her bare arms. Taking her time she sat, doing her best to appear calm and serene.

The mouth beneath the hood opposite her smiled wryly.

“A tough one, eh? Let’s see what Gurno has to say about you,” he said picking up a folder from behind his dungeon master’s screen. “While I’m reading, please do me the favour of filling out this character sheet. All options are available to you. Any race, any class, any feat, any level. Equipment limited to a value of nine hundred gold.”

She nodded and set to work, her brain going into overdrive as behind the screen, the Master paged through her file in silence.

She went for her classic build; she wasn’t going to try to impress him with something outlandish and untested. Female dark elf, bard class, with the past of an orphan, a strong affinity for combat magic and a slight physical weakness. She favoured creative spells over curses, and completed the ensemble with protective artefacts, plus a handy bag of mixed surprises. Level: 18.

“Hm. I like your choices,” he said, twisting his voice to a rich jovial tone, “and I’ve always had a soft spot for bards. Not much damage output…but that isn’t everything…still: more of a support character.”

He looked at her, waiting for an explanation.

“Isn’t that what we do?” she asked, hearing her voice come out braver than she felt. “We help people. We give them stories they can be the heroes of. Isn’t that the role of the dungeon master?”

He smiled again, gently.

“Yes. And no. I think your trial will give you the answer to that question, bard. Have you named your character?”

She gulped, her mind going blank.

“I…my name is Hala Stringstrummer.”

“Well improvised. I’ve heard far, far worse. Well met, Mistress Stringstrummer. Your trial begins now.”

The light dimmed, and all that was left was the table, the screen, the cup and the hooded figure before her.

A dark voice, born of shadow and evil curled around her, its claws tearing at her courage and her resolve.

“Another tasty morsel, here for the test. Very well, very well. I am Kipsik, your host and chamberlain to the Withering, Keeper of Nightmares.”

She could almost see the hunched twisted figure creeping in the darkness, its mismatched eyes peering at her hungrily.

“To pass the test, you must survive the Game we shall play. In it you shall face your greatest fears, your darkest pains. Are you prepared?” came the dark hiss from behind her left ear.

She didn’t move, but instead forced an answer past her trembling lips.

“I am ready.”

“Good, good!” cackled the thing merrily, dancing back behind the screen. It pointed to the cup in front of her.

“Drink, and you shall be on your way. Be warned: once the potion has passed you lips, there will be no turning back.”

She didn’t hesitate; she downed the bitter liquid in a single gulp, grimacing as it crawled down her throat and set her stomach aflame.

Smoke swirled around her, and she was lost, her mind floating in spaces far removed from reality and logic.

Only the voice remained with her. Only its words, forbidding yet reassuring.

“Welcome, Hala Stringstrummer, to our Game. You come to your senses in your room in the Limping Dragon tavern…”-

2 thoughts on “The Trial of the Dungeon Mistress: Part III

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