The Duel V

Tales of the Dungeon Mistress


Accipiter G. Goshawk

This story continues form where it left off in The Duel IV

The tension in the air was palpable.

As night drew its dark curtain over the world, the people of Flattop slowly trickled into the town cave and waited. Some gossiped in loud whispers, eyeing the two sides of the broken staircase; others fidgeted and paced back and forth, trying to catch a glimpse of what was going on at the ends of the great wooden tables.

The two Dungeon Masters had almost finished setting up: the Mistress had barely finished sorting her dice, while her blonde opponent was putting the finishing touches on an impressive battle-map composed of carefully carved topography, lifelike trees and sinister mists. Neither could see the other’s table and in truth, it seemed that neither cared.

Finally, once he was certain that everyone was present, the mayor approached the two opponents.

“Illustrious tale-spinners! Flattop has gathered to play and witness your Games! It is our great honour to both participate and judge your contest. Now, we shall proceed to the selection of the players!”

A pregnant silence wove its way through the crowd, carrying with it a sense of intense excitement and expectation.

“The Masters have agreed to each welcome six players to their table!”

He turned to face the two opponents.

The blond Master had exchanged his traveling leathers for a flowing robe of what looked like red velvet, giving him the appearance of shadowy sorcerer. His dragon-skull crown was still perched on his head, but he’d added two coloured chunks of green glass to each eye-socket, which caught the light to great effect. He grinned at the crowd and gave the Mistress an arrogant wink.

Having gotten no reaction, he stepped forward.

“Good people! I have travelled far to bring you this Game! I concocted it whilst battling fearsome monsters in forgotten ruins! It will test you; it will bring you to places beyond your wildest imaginations and it will humble you!”

He flung out his right arm.

“I require only the best to play in my Game! Let the strongest, the most intelligent, the richest, the most popular and the most beautiful step forward. Only with ingredients such as these, shall my Game be one for the ages!”

A gentle murmuring started; a few people frowned but said nothing. Finally, a dozen stepped forward. The Dungeon Master had them line up and then interviewed them one by one, finally selecting only those he deemed worthy.

“You have chosen your players, tale-spinner,” cried the mayor, doing nothing to hide the ironic inflection on the last words. He turned towards the Mistress and nodded.

She stepped forward.

“Good people. I wish I could let all of you sit at my table. As it is beyond my wisdom to judge the worthy, I will let Chance be my guide.”

She stretched out her arms, and everyone could now see that she was holding a rather large leather bag that rattled as she moved.

“Within this bag there is a die for each person in this town. I ask that you pick one; the lucky six that select the bone dice decorated with a cross pattern shall be my players.”

One by one, they stepped up and stuck their hand into the dark recesses of the bag. As it emptied, people began finding the bone dice: Old Harry was one, as well as Kerna the cook, Helem the waste-worker, a twelve-year old named Jack and Nuri, one of the elders of the village.

The story continues in Part VI...

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