Wil awoke, snapping up from the ground. He looked around the room. The last thing he remembered was reading from ‘The Battle for Tragon Keep’ with John at his house. Now he found himself on a short bed only half a foot off the ground. Everything was short in the room. The door, the desk, the chair. He looked down to find himself wearing his clown sweater? And blue short shorts? He knew he wasn’t wearing that earlier.
“What the hell is going on here?” Wil asked out loud. “If this is someones weird idea of a joke, I’m going to be pissed.”
Why was that module so awesome? He couldn’t remember now. Wil slid his feet from the bed and pushed himself up. He walked across the room and tried the door. It opened with an ease that belied the thickness of the stone portal. Outside, two short men came to attention.
“Sir!” they shouted in unison. They slammed the end of their spears against the floor.
“Wow, this is amazing,” Wil said as he stepped out of the room. “Your costumes are truly fantastic. Your makeup work is incredible.”
The two short men both sported bushy beards and eyebrows, round cheeks and gnarled hands gripped the haft of the spears. The chainmail they wore looked hand crafted, not some online knockoff. Flat metal helms covered their heads while heavy leather boots protected their feet.
“Sir?” the one on his left asked. His beard deep coal black. “What costumes?”
“Sir,” the other man said. The only difference between the two is this fellows beard was a deep burgundy. “The king awaits your presence in the war room.”
“The war room…” Wil said absently as he took a look around him. He was standing in a stone corridor that ran off to his left and right into darkness. He wouldn’t have the slightest idea how to get out of where ever he was.
“Yes please, take me to the king.”
The two short men fell in to step next to each other and marched down the hall. Wil followed them silently while he considered his situation. Was he in some kind of crazy LARP? Some weird dream? The last thing he could remember was being at that con where that fan had given him a module to try. Then he showed up at John’s house.
“Here we are Sir Wheaton,” one of the men said. “King Ironfist and his generals await your arrival.”
“Thank you,” Wil said as he stepped up to the door. It was ornately carved with a bass relief picture of a great battle with a dragon.
The door swung open to reveal seven short men standing around a table appropriate for their height. Cheers of huzzah met him as he stood framed in the door. He reminded himself to close his mouth. He hadn’t seen this many little people since he watched ‘The Wizard of Oz’.
“King Ironfist, I presume,” Wil said. He tried his best to remember his manners in spite of the insanity Wil was sure consumed him.
The man Wil addressed could be nothing less than their leader. His complexion and beard were both dark. Silver jewelry wrapped around each wrist. They looked like baubles compared to the heavy crown that sat upon the man’s shaven head. Fine scale armor covered his body. More than his appearance though was the way he carried himself amongst the others. There was no doubt that he lead these men. If he ordered them to cut Wil’s throat they would do so in a moment.
“When yer order said they would be sending their best,” Ironfist started, “we had no idea it would mean they were sending you, Sir Wheaton.”
“I must beg your pardon King Ironfist,” Wil said.”But where am I? My journey…”
“Aye, it is indeed a long flight,” Ironfist said. “You are in Tragon Keep, at the base Mount n’Gor. This is the greatest of the dwarven mines. Don’t worry about payment, your Orders weapons will be on their way as soon as you have wiped the orcish threat from the foot of our gates.”
“My Order?” Wil questioned.
Ironfist broke out in a deep booming laugh.
“Ye do yer kin justice Sir. Yer a member of the Knights of the Crazed Clowns. Greatest band of mercenaries in the land.”
Things started to click into place. It explained his shirt at least. What would they do when they realized he had no idea how to fight? Wil stepped up to the table to see the map spread out before then. It outlined the valley in which the keep rested. Mt. n’Gor was too close for his taste. The top of the mountain was flat on the map, flames sprouting from the top. He hoped that didn’t mean what he thought.
“What seems to be the problem?” Wil asked.
“The orcs sieged our keep over a month ago,” Ironfist began. “We would have handled them just fine. We were killing ten orcs for everyone of our kin that fell. We couldn’t count for the trouble n’Gor gave us.
“She blew her top, spewing fire all down her sides. Destroyed our outer gates and all the kin that fought within the walls. Less than five hundred dwarves remain now.”
“I’m sorry to hear that,” Wil said.
“Time enough to mourn them after this treat is gone,” Ironfist said. “Seems their warlord isn’t as bloodthirsty as most orcs. We must have hurt his people pretty bad too. Offered to duel us for the rights to the Keep.”
“That is my job, defeat their champion?” Wil asked.
“Aye,” Ironfist agreed.” My greatest warriors are slain in a river of fire. We need yer might to go to battle.”
“I will do my best,” Wil said. He had no idea what he was doing here. His acting career seemed to be paying off. “You mentioned my mount? Can I use it in battle?” he hoped it was a dragon or some other creature that could fly him away from his doom. But to where?
“Aye Sir Wheaton, right this way,” Ironfist gestured to the door. “The duel begins in an hour, we must get you ready.”
John groaned and wondered what the hell happened to him. The last thing he remembered was sitting at his dining room table with Wil Wheaton trying to listen to the most awesome gaming module ever. He found the game to be dull but didn’t want to crush Wil’s enthusiasm.
John opened his eyes slowly to see the tan canvas of a tent over his head. He could feel warm air beating on the tent outside and wondered again what the hell happened to him.
He stepped from his tent into the set of an apocalypse movie. His tent was the only one in a sea of blanket shrouded sleeping figures. This was set against the backdrop of a great walled keep and to the left of that a mountain that still sprayed ash and molten lava. A river of liquid rock flow through a gully that cut around behind the sleeping men.
“What is going on?” John said aloud. His voice was deeper than he usually heard it.
John rubbed his hands over his head and down across his face. He wanted to wipe this sight from his mind. What he saw startled him even more. He pulled his hands away from his face to see it covered with rough green skin. He looked down to see a bare green chest (well muscled!), a loin cloth and long green legs. His hands end in sharp nails that he was sure would easily tear flesh if he wasn’t careful.
“Boss, no word from the dwarves yet,” said a voice from behind John. “We should just split their skulls for wastin’ our time. The orc clans are thirsty for the blood you promised them.”
John spun on his heel. Behind him stood a figure not too different from himself. Only this orc had bones braided through his long hair and stood six inches shorter than John.
“If this is some dumb joke Wheaton is playing on me to get back for the Velvet Wesley…” John mumbled.
“What’s that boss?” the orc asked.
“Nothing,” John answered. “What is going on?”
“Some of the clans say dat Scalzorc’s plan is dumb. We just crush da orcs. No time for duels. They not too happy.”
“Where are we?” John asked, looking around. Something about that volcano looked familiar.
“You get hit on da head yesterday boss?”
“Must have been hit pretty hard,” John said. “Just tell me where we are.”
“Da foot of Tragon Keep,” the orc said. “You planned all dis Scalzorc. Take back da home da wretched dwarves stole from us. You remember all dat?”
John shook his head, sweat flying from his scalp in tiny beads. His mind reeled. This sounded vaguely like the module Wil ran for him at his kitchen table. He wished he payed more attention to what Wil said. There didn’t seem to be much alternative for him but to follow this through to the finale.
“You have my weapons?” John asked.
“Just cleaned dem boss,” the orc said. “I get dem.”
The orc loped a few feet to a blanket on the ground. He threw back the cloth to reveal a shield with spikes protruding from the surface and an axe with wicked curved blades on both ends of the haft. John took the weapon and swung it before him in a wide arc. It felt right in his hands, comfortable.
“Where is the battle to take place?” John asked.
The orc at his side pointed toward the wall that had been half destroyed by their–his– orc army.
John began to weave his way between the sleeping orcs. The orc who helped him let loose a deep guttural cheer. This woke the orcs nearest him who stood and echoed the first orc’s cry. If this was a joke Wil set up, it was damn elaborate.
“That is my mount?” Wil asked. “Seriously?”
“No beast is more feared Sir, than the unicorn pegasus kitten,” Ironfist said at his side. He stroked his beard while he admired the creature.
“Did I tell you his name?” Wil asked.
“Ye did Sir Wheaton. Shadowfluff.”
“Of course. Shadowfluff.”
Wil never once imagined such a creature in all his years. The gray furred kitten was huge, easily the size of a lion. From it’s back sprouted two feathered wings. As implied, a great horn as long as Wil’s arm extend from the middle of the kitten’s forehead.
“Are there many of these beasts in the land?” Wil asked.
“Yours is the only one of it’s kind Sir Wheaton,” Ironfist answered.
Wil approached the kitten slowly, his hands out in front of him. Belatedly, Wil wished he brought a treat. He could hear the kittens rhythmic purring over the constant thunder of the active volcano that loomed in the background. The kitten nudged him with it’s soft furry head as Wil threw a leg over the creatures back and pulled himself up to settle into the saddle. Wil almost jumped back off immediately as he envisioned Shadowfluff plunging it’s horn right through his chest. A dwarf thrust a long golden spear into his hand before he could back out.
“My clan is in your debt, Sir Whaeton,” Ironfist said as Wil’s mount flapped it’s wings and lifted them both from the ground. “Their leader, Scalzorc awaits you on the ramparts of the lower wall!”
Ironfist and his dwarves dwindled below Wil as Shadowfluff circled higher and higher into the ash filled sky.
The kitten let out a mewing battle cry that sounded cute and at the same time bloodthirsty. Wil shivered at the sound, chilled to his core.
“Best to end this quickly,” Wil said aloud. “We’ll swoop in and run this Scalzorc through my spear.” And hopefully end this nightmare, Wil added silently.
The unicorn Pegasus kitten flapped it’s wings once before tucking them against it’s sides. Wind whipped against Wil’s bare legs as his mount picked up speed. Their target grew closer by the second.