“Wedding Quest,” by Andrew Kaye, Eileen Lavelle, and Genevieve Valentine

Apr 20th, 2008 | By | Category: Prose

The email went out with the header “URGENT QUEST,” and even though they all knew how “urgent” it probably was, Neil and Targ and Susan still showed up at 3:30pm on Saturday at Steve Vandemoor’s house, said hello to Mrs. Vandemoor, and went into the basement.

The basement was set up according to Mr. and Mrs. Vandemoor’s latest design epiphany (from page seven of the Sears catalog), and everything was beige except the maroon throw rug “accent piece” that sat under a polyurethane finished table. Susan pulled her blonde hair back into a ponytail as she took her seat on the rug, and wished for the tenth time that month that Mrs. Vandemoor had just left the old, squishy wall-to-wall carpeting alone.

Steve had already set up the game, and the two red dice shone like warnings. Neil sighed, set down the two-liter of Pepsi the bard was required to bring, and took a seat on the couch, adjusting his there’s 10 kinds of people in the world; those who understand binary and those who don’t shirt to cover his stomach. His narrowed his eyes. “If Steve jumps out of that closet one more time, I swear…”

“If he jumps out of that closet,” said Targ, arranging his pirate coat around him, “Targ will swiftly exact an equivalent retaliation!”

“We’re not playing yet, Targ, you can relax,” said Susan, and then louder, “Steve! Don’t even pretend you’re not here.”

The laundry room door, equipped with a faded Hobbit movie poster (the only testament to Steve in the place) opened and Steve sauntered out, gripping an Anduril replica that had finally arrived in the mail. “Behold, fair questers, and also Susan! This day brings us together against the most deadly of foes, in the world of wonder that is REALM!”

Susan adjusted her glasses. “Yeah, brings us all together except Mark.”

“Paladin Susan expresses doubt,” Steve said, “and is punished ten health points. Cowardice is deadly!”

Neil sat back heavily on the couch and ran a hand wearily through his blond hair. “Steve, seriously – ”


“RealmLord, seriously, we’re missing a ranger. He’s at the wedding, remember?”

Steve stepped back as if shocked. The big leather cuffs on his wrists banged together as he folded his hands around the hilt of the sword. “A ranger shirking his duty deserves to suffer! He contracts a disfiguring illness!”

Susan rolled her eyes. “Steve, come on, that’s – ”

“Paladin Susan contracts a disfiguring and FATAL illness! She perishes.”

Susan grit her teeth. “If you expect a dead paladin to pay for any pizza, you have something else coming.”

“I’ve got you covered,” said Neil, “I have enough money and one Resurrection Song left.” Susan smiled and gave him an air high-five.

Targ waved a silencing hand at them and rested his hands on the table. “Targ is impatient for the beginning of the quest! What is our goal, RealmLord?”

Steve adjusted his glasses, pushed up the cuffs of his black button-down, and perched at the head of the table, his legs folded under him like a bird. Targ,” he explained, rocking back and forth on the edge of the chair, “we set out today from the Slate Road Inn and head for the southlands, where we must navigate the Marshes of La’Prinsha and retrieve the Sword of Ashgaroth from the vicious dragon Mansbane.”

Susan raised a hand. “A dragon’s in the marsh?”

“Paladin Susan falls down the stairs of the inn and must continue with a broken ankle!”

Susan sighed. “Okay, look, I can just call Chris and get out of your hair.”

Neil brightened at the mention of Susan’s boyfriend. “Ooh, is Chris coming by later? Is he going to come down?”

“Maybe,” Susan said, “after his lacrosse practice we’re supposed to – ”

“So is he coming?” Targ asked sitting forward. “I mean, he can have some pizza with us.”

“Targ!” Steve snapped.

“Uh, I mean, Targ is ready to begin the quest! He dons his armor of impenetrable dragon scales!”

“Then we begin,” murmured Steve, and picked up the dice. “All awake the morning of the quest, except for the lazy, drunken ranger Dane, who cannot rouse.”

As he rolled, Neil leaned forward and whispered to Susan, “What the hell is Mark going to do?”


The seating arrangement was boy-girl-boy-girl, and Mark couldn’t help thinking back to every elementary school teacher he ever had and their attempts to force gender tolerance upon their students.

His brother’s fiancée-turned-wife-as-of-thirty-minutes-ago had made every decision regarding both wedding and reception on her own – presumably after spending the bulk of the wedding budget on her dress. The reception was being held outside, with decorations Mark would have realized meant something important to the couple if he had given two damns about those sorts of things. He tried not to stare at the enormous tiger carved from butter at the buffet table and let his eyes stray elsewhere.

The bridesmaid to his right was cute but distant – her name was Karen or Helen or some other name that ended with “en,” because that was the only part of the place card he could see. To his left was Lana, the bride’s cousin. She was attractive enough for Mark to look past the hideous orange explosion of a bridesmaid’s dress (had he heard the bride say the color was “Hawaiian sunset?”) and see her for what she really was: hot as hell. She was sexy in her discomfort, and she wore her eyeliner dark enough to piss off the new Mrs. Jenson and most of the older relatives.

He liked her immediately.

He gave her the kind of smile he imagined rockstars gave groupies, and tried to think of something witty to say.

Then the muffled theme music to Jurassic Park trumpeted from his pocket. The caller ID said “NEILS CELL” and there was a picture of Neil wearing a pair of boxer shorts on his head shooting the camera an enthusiastic thumbs-up. Mark’s smile faltered and his witty comment became an apologetic, “Uh, excuse me.”

“You’re drunk,” said Neil.

“What the hell are you talking about?” Mark whispered. “They’re just passing out the champagne now.”

“No… you are drunk. Your other you.” Mark could hear Steve muttering something in the background. Neil groaned in response, and then went on, a bit stiffly, “Rouse yourself, Dane Woodcombe, ranger of Ironroot Barrens. It seems you’ve had too much to drink, and there’s questing to be done.”

“Damn it! I thought you guys were going to wait until tonight!”

“Steve said-” more muttering “-the RealmLord said that it was urgent our quest began now.”

“Of course he said that.”

He could hear Steve again in the background, followed by what could only be Susan’s firm reply and the very clear, very curt command of “Subtract another five health points! And your other ankle breaks.”

“Great. Now we’ll need to go to the blacksmith and get a walker forged for Susan.” Neil’s tone because conspiratorial. “Come on, ranger. We need you to wake up or you’ll be stuck at Slate Road while we’re dragonslaying. There’ll be the Sword of Ashgaroth as the prize.”

Targ screamed “WOOOO!” in the background.

“I could use a bigger blade,” Mark said, and regretting it immediately when he felt the Karen/Helen bridesmaid scoot her seat a few inches away from him. Lana stayed put, and Mark prayed that she wasn’t paying attention to his conversation. He whispered, “Keep Dane on autopilot, okay? Call me for the important rolls.”

“Sure, sure. Only please tell me you have dice with you.”

“I was planning on coming over tonight, so yeah, I have dice,” he said, feeling like an idiot. “This is a constitution check, right? I need, what, a 12 to shake off drunkenness?”

“That would be correct.”

Mark reached into his pocket and pulled out the pair of black 20-sided dice. He tried rolling one as innocuously as possible. “I got a fifteen.”

“Thank the gods. Okay, now the RealmLord wants you to take a picture of the roll. As a sign of good faith.”

“Son of a-fine.” He did it quickly, wincing at the flash. He snatched the die up immediately and felt himself blushing when he caught the smirk on Lana’s face.

There was a pause from Neil’s end. “Alright, cool. We’re going to begin the quest, then. Hey, are there any hot girls there?”


“Really? Are you going to bring home a phone number?”

“That depends. How many times do you guys plan on calling me?”


Nice hair, nice eyes. He’s cute, Lana thought when she first met Dan’s brother Mark. But he had started tapping his feet a lot and was staring at his cell phone like it was a bomb. Perhaps an emotional disorder. Less cute. But before she could lambaste herself for sounding like the latest I’m Just A Girl! Magazine, her blue contact had popped out of her eye.

“Gorgonspiel!” she yelped-this is what she got for rubbing at her fake eyelashes through the whole ceremony.

“What did you just call me?” Mark asked.

“Sorry, sorry,” Lana said, bending down to peer into the grass. “I lost my contact,” she squinted up at him, “What, did I say something offensive?”

Mark crouched done next to her. “You basically said ‘screw you and your dwarf loving mother.'” He sat back up and handed her the glittering disc of her contact. “Here you go.”

“Thanks,” she said. The contact was ruined and she was a little depressed she’d have to walk around with regular brown eyes instead of “Lightening Blue Phenomena.”Â

She opened her clutch and placed both contacts in their container. Mark was still looking at her, and a bunch of other people were looking, and Lana held back the urge to stick out her tongue out at them.

“My brother,” she explained. “He plays this game called Realm. The cuss words are pretty cool.”

Mark sat straight up like someone had smacked him on the back with a racket. “How old is your brother?”



There was an awkward silence and Lana found herself staring at the butter tiger. It was beginning to melt.Â

“Uh, I like your dress.”

“Vomit orange.”Â


“The color. It’s like-vomit orange don’t you think? Karen says it represents ‘the exact moment in time Dan proposed-when Hawaiian orange bled from the sky.’ But I think it looks like puke.”

Mark chuckled.

Lana rubbed at a heavily lined eye. “I mean, it makes as much sense as that damn tiger.”

“My brother was a Lit. major.”

“Well I’m sorry but your brother is an idiot. A William Blake poem turned into a pile of lard that looks like Tony the Tiger? Is there any justice?”

Mark said nothing. He sort of agreed, especially after Dan had told him he had always been under the impression that the tiger just symbolized a really hot chick: “It says fearful symmetry, dude! That means she’s got curves that can kill.”Â

Lana was still talking about the butter tiger, and some other things Mark wasn’t really paying attention to, because wow she seriously was pretty cute, even without the blue eyes.Â

“So,” Lana sighed, her fork digging into a plate of sesame steamed chicken with limp green beans. “Tell me more about this Realm game.”

Mark’s phone answered with a sharp ring.


“Neil, hang up the phone – the game waits for no one.”

“Oh, so, you mean like the time you went to the 7-11 and wouldn’t let us progress in the game until you got back forty-five minutes later?”

Steven frowned. “What are you implying, Bard?  The marsh is treacherous, and it would be all too easy to fall into the disfiguring Slime of Thagarh Dannin – the RealmLord should not be distracted.”

Neil sighed and glanced down at the phone. “Nothing.”

Susan sighed and grabbed the phone. “Oh, for – hey, Mark, it’s me.” She stood up and walked over to the laundry room, “Okay, I can talk.”

Steve held a hand over the board and shouted, “Paladin Susan’s walker snaps, and she falls headfirst into the STD!”

Targ gasped quietly for his fallen comrade.

Susan ignored them. “Okay, you have to roll for safety through the Slime Pits, and maybe you could get me out of the slime, while you’re at it. Do you have your Second-Life Talisman still, or….uh, is that Can You Feel the Love Tonight?”

“My brother’s lost his mind.” Mark’s voice was strained. “And dude, STD? Did Steve give you that? I mean. Um.”

Susan didn’t understand why he sounded so embarrassed. “Of course.”

Mark’s voice was muffled for a moment, like he was covering the phone. “No, no, I don’t call it Steve – oh God.” He came back on the line. “You know, Steve just – I mean, I’m in the middle of a wedding, and he KNOWS that!”

Susan looked over at Steve, who held out the dice in his hand and glared at her.

“Don’t get me started,” she said. “I’m only talking to you because I’m dead already. Neil’s teetering. Targ’s totally fine, of course.”

“Targ abides by the proclamations of the RealmLord,” Targ said primly.

Mark sighed through grit teeth, and muttered, “We should have taken care of this before the Naked Peaks.”

“Easy for you to say,” said Susan. “You weren’t the one who got impaled by a lava stalagmite. Or impaled by an ice shard,” she added, with a nod to Neil. Neil didn’t glance up, but he had the grace to look a little ashamed, and when he rolled he said, “I use my magical lasso to summon Paladin Susan out of the STD.”

Susan smiled, then turned back to the phone. “Mark?”

“Yeah.” He sounded distracted.

“You’re up next, I’m out of the swamp, but Steve’s going to make you do something – we’re getting close to Mansbane and you’ll need to act. You have Targ’s extra weapons, everything in our magic sack, and your spear.”

“I’ll spear it,” Mark said, and then, “No, wait -”

The call disconnected.


Mark cursed and started stabbing Neil’s number into the phone.

“Is Susan going to be okay? I mean, not to eavesdrop, but -”

He looked ready to fall through the floor, but after a second he said, “It’s not what you think.”

After the dice, she believed him, and hey, at least he wasn’t trying to look down her dress, which was more than she could say for the best man. “You want to dance or something?”

“Excuse me?” Mark seemed to forget what he was doing.

“Dance. People do that at weddings right after the bride and groom make asses of themselves.” Lana nodded toward the dance floor, which looked ridiculous in the middle of the lawn. “I’m bored, you’re tense, and I think I hear a David Bowie song coming on. It’ll do you some good. Plus, if I hear you yell something about goblins or chainmail or saving throws versus poison again I’m seriously going to reconsider even talking to you.”

The phone slid into his pocket. His dice were abandoned beside an empty champagne glass. Lana’s hand took his. Screw Mansbane, Scourge of the Marshes. That stupid dragon could impale himself. And crush Steve in his death throes. Assuming that were possible.

Mark lost track of time. He and Lana danced until caterers wheeled steaming silver trays across the grass. The buffet had begun, and wedding guests stood in line to eviscerate the butter tiger and scrape its creamy entrails across their dinner rolls. Mark stuffed himself on salmon in dill sauce, multi-colored string beans, garlic mashed potatoes, and other foods that were supposedly symbolic of his brother and his sister-in-law’s undying love for one another.

It was easy to forget, among the beans, the butter, and the Bowie, that somewhere in some twisted man’s fantasy world his friends were about to fight against the most ferocious imaginary dragon that ever lived in a swamp for some reason. Or were they? Had they even made it that far? Neil and the others hadn’t called back, and Mark assumed that whatever they were doing, it wasn’t important enough to include him.

“Your friends done playing?” Lana said as they walked back to the dance floor. “It’s been a while since they called.”

“Steve’s probably killed our characters off.” He tried not to sound sullen, but there was something depressing about a lunatic like Steve having that much control over you. Or rather, an imaginary you. It was the same general principle and pissed him off just the same. “He likes doing that.”Â

“So why play with him?”

“It’s hard to explain. We… gamers, I mean… we like to game, you know? We want the best experience out of it. Steve used to come up with these incredibly detailed scenarios, puzzles, monsters… he made Realm worth playing. Then he got this god-complex and started finding ways to make life impossible for our characters. Now we game with him out of habit, I guess.” He got thoughtful for a moment. “And because no one else wants to be the RealmLord.”

The phone buzzed from his pocket. There was Neil, the Mad Hatter of boxer shorts, giving him the thumbs up. “Neil? What’s going on, man?”

“Hello, Ranger of Ironroot Barrens.”


“It would be wise of you to call me the RealmLord, ranger.”

“Shut the hell up. What’s going on? Why haven’t any of you called?”

“I have confiscated Neil’s sorcerous listening device and have claimed it as my own.”

“Dammit, Steve, give Neil his phone back. And don’t call me if it doesn’t have anything to do with the game. Or have you killed all of us off already?”

“I think you’ll find the rest of your party is alive and well. But, if they wish to defeat mighty Mansbane, then they’ll do it without technomancy.” Steve practically spat the words, and Mark grimaced. “They’ll never defeat the dragon without your help, ranger. You’ve doomed them all.”

Mark could hear something going on in the background. It wasn’t like Steve’s basement at all. He couldn’t here the clack of dice against old pizza boxes. He couldn’t hear Susan, or Neil, or Targ. He couldn’t hear Steve’s mom asking anyone if they wanted more Mountain Dew.

What he did hear in the background was something different altogether.


“Steve…? Where are you…?”

Lana watched as Mark hung up the phone. He had turned albino-clown white, and Lana found herself a little confused. Sure, she had accepted Mark’s gamer status as placidly as she had accepted the other groomsmen drunkenly calling her “Layla” at the reception dinner the night before (okay maybe she hated it, especially when they all started singing that Eric Clapton song with unbridled joy), but now she was having trouble deciding if Mark was just a cute, dorky guy, or fucking insane.

Mark was now staring at his phone as if it were a bomb that had gone off and killed hundreds of people-or runesmen-dunesmen? “What a stupid game,” she muttered.

He was still staring, lost to the world.

“Are you okay?” Lana finally asked. Mark had gone from shifting back and forth to jingling his car keys.

“What? Why do you ask?” Mark stood on his tiptoes and peered over the swathes of black tuxedos and taffeta.

“Because you look like you just kidnapped Karen, decapitated her and stuffed her under the buffet table and now you’re waiting to get to your getaway car.”

Mark stopped jingling his keys and fixed Lana with an incredulous look.Â

Lana shrugged. “I don’t like her.”Â

“Isn’t she your cousin’s best friend?”

Lana pointed at her dress, which in the deepening sunlight looked like an orangutan’s ass. “Can you see my cousin has no good taste?”Â

Mark laughed, but just as quickly he started to twitch. His phone was ringing.Â

“Are you going to get that?”


The ringing stopped, and then immiedelty started up again.

“It’s really annoying.”

“I said no, okay?!” Mark shoved both hands in his rented tux pockets. He shook his head. “I’m sorry, I’m just-”

“Totally insane?” Lana was ready to ditch this dude and head to the open bar. She opened her compact, and noticed that while her eye makeup still looked great, there was something strange behind her.Â

Lana turned slowly around. There was some guy at the buffet table, poking the melting tiger with gloved fingertips. He was wearing huge sunglasses and a long black coat as shiny as a trash bag.

“Who the hell is that?” Lana asked to no one in particular.

Mark turned, and his expression was one of true horror.Â



As a RealmLord, Steve was suitably angered that one of his players had abandoned a quest for a mundane party, but the garlic potatoes did smell pretty good, and as he heard his name and turned he had all the satisfaction any RealmLord would have in realizing that his prodigal ranger was the traitor he’d always suspected.

He flicked his coat behind him and crossed the dance floor.

“Ranger,” he spat, hoping the name stung as it should. “I must say, your fellow questers have been foolish but persistent in protecting your interests – what a shame I’ll have to tell them you’ve been wooing some mundane.”Â

“Dude,” Mark said quietly, “you are a crazy person, and we should go inside if you want to talk to me, because you’re scaring my grandma.”Â

Of course, Steve thought, catching sight of the bridesmaid. As if he wouldn’t notice the mundane woman. It was bad enough with Susan, but now Mark?

“Are you sure you can stand to leave your lady friend?” he asked sharply.Â

“Who are you calling a lady,” the girl started, but Mark stepped in (ever the gentleman) and said, “So what’s going on?”Â

“All questers have been taken captive by the evil one, save one rogue ranger who was not helping revive foolish Squire Susan because he was too busy stuffing his face with chicken cutlets!”Â

“Steve, I’m serious.”

“Well, so am I!” Several people looked up from a Marvin Gaye song, and Steve took a breath and tried to get his voice under control. “This isn’t a GAME, you know.”

“Um, different opinion,” said the girl.

Steve ignored her (it was easy to ignore mundanes, he’d been doing it to Susan’s boyfriend Chris since the first moment he’d met him) and held out the black dice.Â

“Now, you find a place that suits, you, ranger, and you’d better make the best quest of your life, because if you can’t rescue everyone, this is the last quest those poor souls will ever see.”Â

He had the satisfaction of seeing Mark turn pale. He’d known the ranger was hidden in there somewhere.Â

“Where are the others? Neil, Susan, Targ?”Â

The girl made a face. “Targ? Seriously?”

“Lana, look, I’m really sorry, just one second.” Mark turned to face him again, his expression stony. “Steve, seriously, if you’ve locked them in the basement I’m calling the police.”Â

“The mundane is bringing them in the station wagon,” Steve muttered. “They’ll be here just in time, I think, to witness their own demise.”Â

The girl raised an eyebrow. “Do you need a moustache to twist or anything?”Â

Steve sneered. “Spoken like someone who’s never had lives hang in the balance.”

The girl propped a hand on her orange hip and gave him the stinkeye. “And that’s spoken by someone who shouldn’t be wearing dark colors in direct sunlight lest his brain boil over.”Â

Steve sucked in a breath. Upstart, foolish girl!Â

“Ranger,” he said, trying to tone down his normal volume so that he wouldn’t scare the old people at the buffet, “having recovered from your terrible blow to the head -“Â

“You let someone hit me in the head?”Â

” – you wake to find that your companions are captive, their muffled cries from deep within the dragon’s cave growing ever fainter and more hopeless. You are armed only with your sack and your spear, having lost the rest in the swamp, and you are charged with the rescue of your fellow questers, and a fair maiden long ago sacrificed to the demon but of such beauty that the dragon could not devour her, and instead made her his constant prisoner.”Â

“WHAT?” The girl stepped forward, but glanced at Mark and stopped short.Â

Mark frowned, but didn’t object, and Steve bit back a smile at his victory. Mark might like mundanes to a point, but if a mundane was good, the game was always better.

“Even though you can’t see her, even though you can’t see a thing past the dark mouth of the cave draped in vines, her voice is music to you. She calls you.”

” – calls you a deludenoid, maybe.”

“Lana, hang on one second,” Mark said, “I’m so sorry, Lana, really – RealmLord, can I use the vines?”

“You may,” Steve said, “but only to rescue your friends, not to fight the dragon.”

He held out the dice again.

“Take them and roll, if you dare.”


Mark snatched the dice from Steve’s greasy outstretched hand. “We’re doing this. But not out here.” He jerked his thumb toward the quaint Victorian-style bed and breakfast that was hosting the reception. “We’re going in there.”

Steve looked at it disdainfully.

“It’s either in there,” Mark said levelly, “or the tool shed. And I guarantee the last place you want me to be right now is within reach of a pair of pruning shears.”

The three of them-yes, Mark was also surprised that Lana had decided to follow along-walked into the Victorian. Sitting on a claw-footed couch between some skirted tables were Susan, Neil, and Targ, who happily smiled and waved. Targ cradled Steve’s Anduril replica in his arms as if it were a newborn baby.Â

“We’re eating tea cakes!” Targ said happily.

“What are you doing here?” Steve hissed. “I thought I told you to stay in the car!”

“We were going to, but then your mom wouldn’t stop talking, so Susan came up with a polite excuse to leave and we came up here to hang out.” Neil crammed a cake into his mouth. “She’s in the parking lot with the windows down, listening to Peter Frampton.”

The dice clacked in Mark’s fist. “Listen up. Mansbane is about to go down.”

“I think you will find it is mathematically impossible for a ranger to defeat a dragon on his own,” Steve said with smug satisfaction.

“Then the cosmos are about to collapse in on themselves. Lana, I suggest you plug your ears. What I’m about to say may confuse and terrify you.”

She smiled. “It’s almost cute the way you think you can tell me what to do.”Â

Mark took a deep breath. “The dragon’s lair is in the swamp cave, the inside of which is covered in vines, correct?”


“Then I can blend in,” Mark said, shaking the dice more vigorously. “I’ll test off my fieldcraft value of 15 to become camouflaged…”Â

The dice tumbled onto the nearest table. Steve grinned. “…Resulting in an 11. Mansbane sees your pathetic attempt to hide and-”

“Shut up and let me finish. I’m wrapped in a cloak gifted to me by the queen of the sylvan fae, granting me a +4 to my camouflage rolls. I blend in. You bastard. And now I’m going to release the cow.”Â

What cow?!”Â

“The cow Targ insisted we take from our last quest. Don’t tell me you forgot already? Remember? You spent twenty minutes on Wikipedia trying to get the exact dimensions of the cow because you swore it wouldn’t fit into the opening of my magic Sack of Holding Everything. But the internet failed you and the cow went in, along with a week’s supply of food. It’s been in magic sack limbo all this time, munching happily away on hay. So, I release the cow.”

“This is ridiculous. You can’t do that!”Â

“I can. I just did. Mansbane can’t see me because I’m camouflaged, but he can see the cow. And he’s going to eat it.”Â

“Not if I roll-”

“-An 18 on a single d20. He can’t fight his animal urges and you know it.”Â

The RealmLord rolled. Six. His faced purpled with rage, and Mark could see that, even in his fury, he was trying to find a way to use the dice roll in his favor. But there was nothing he could do with a six. He tried to regain his composure and resumed the narrative that he, as RealmLord, was expected to continue, but his heart wasn’t in it, and all he said was, “Mansbane clutches the cow in his talons.”

“Good. Now I throw my spear. At the cow.”

“Why in the hell are you doing that?!” Steve cried. “These choices you’re making are completely against the spirit of the game and out of synch with the storyline!”Â

“I throw the spear at the cow,” Mark said again. He rolled an 18, grinned as broadly as possible, and continued. “I hit the cow. I’m not even going to bother rolling damage because that’s not the point. As you know, venerable RealmLord, my spear is poisoned with bilewood viper venom, the third most deadly poison on page 53. There’s no way I’d succeed a penetration roll against dragonscale, but I can poison a cow just fine. Mansbane’s going to eat poisoned meat, and he’ll die.”Â

“He’ll die,” Steve consented with a grunt. “In fifteen hours.”

“Yeah? So? He can’t see me. I’ll sit here and wait for it to happen.”

Susan laughed with a mouthful of tea cake and spit crumbs all over Steve’s shiny black coat.


Lana felt the tinge of a horrible headache coming on. Maybe it was from the drunken wedding band’s off-key cover of Mustang Sally or the fact that Cuteandalittlenerdyokayoffhisrocker Mark had just managed to use a bovine as a way to win a game her brother would play when he wasn’t picking his nose over the latest and lamest Frank Miller creation.Â

Still-this was so much better than sitting through a boring bridal shower, or her cousin’s awful foray into the city for her bachelorette party (Lana was the only girl who had staunchly refused to wear anything phallic on her head).Â

Lana reached down and picked up a tea cake. She shrugged off this moment of comfortable delusion, and promised to tell all her friends it was the result of being totally and utterly smashed.


“So,” Neil ventured after a moment, “are we really going to wait the fifteen hours? I mean, Chris is in the car and he might get tired. He needs his sleep.”

Susan frowned. “Thanks for being so concerned about my boyfriend,” she said, and when she looked over at Mark he shrugged. Nothing he could say to her; she would never understand that Chris was the normal boyfriend to them all.

Steve snatched his Anduril from Targ’s grasp. “We will not wait the fifteen hours. Mansbane will be able to metabolize the poison using his healing factor, and ranger Dane has failed.”

“Wait, what?” Susan sat up. “He doesn’t have healing factor.”

“Sure he does,” said Steve, getting very interested in the sword suddenly.

“When you listed his qualities,” Neil added, “you never mentioned a healing factor.”

Steve huffed. “I’m sure I did, and you just weren’t listening because you were too busy calling your stupid friend.”

Mark looked at the one guy he knew who had eidetic memory. “Targ?”

Targ blushed, twisted his hands in his lap, and said, “The RealmLord is mistaken.”

Steve stood up. “Targ, don’t you dare -”

“‘The dragon Mansbane is a fearsome foe’,” Targ recited, “‘and you will all have to beware his impenetrable scales, his fiery breath, his iron claws, his wings that span the night sky! Smoke pours from his nostrils, and he swims like a fish in the sea! His coloring is one with the marshes, and lo, his temper is short!’ End quote.”

“Wow,” Lana said. “His temper is short. Way to be fearsome, Steve.”

“What do you know,” Steve started, but at the look on Mark’s face he closed his mouth over the rest of his comment. “And you, Targ! You suffer from clawpiercing and perish!”

“He’s in the captive cave,” Susan pointed out. “He’s nowhere near the dragon. He can’t be pierced.”

Steve looked around wide-eyed, with the expression of a captain whose crew is on the verge of mutiny.

Neil raised his hand. “I vote that fifteen hours have passed, and that Mark has defeated the dragon.”

Susan and Mark raised their hands at the same time. After a moment, Targ sighed and halfheartedly held up a hand.

Lana raised a hand, too, and when Steve looked over she raised her eyebrows. “I have a hand, dude. I can vote.”

Neil jumped on the unanimous vote. “I, the bard, begin at once to compose a song honoring Ranger Dane and his defeat of the dragon Mansbane, his rescue of his friends, and his attainment of the Sword of Ashgaroth.”

There was a long moment where everyone looked at Steve.

“Fine,” Steve muttered finally, shoving the sword at Mark, “but you wait and see. I’ll win this back on the very next quest.”

“Dude,” said Mark’s brother from the doorway, “we’re about to do toasts, and…uh, what are your friends doing here?”

A light went on behind Mark’s eyes, and he stood up with a smile.

“Dropping off my wedding present for you guys,” he said, and held out the sword on two open hands. “This is to remind you that you have to fight to keep love alive.”

Mark’s brother pressed a hand to his heart. “Wow, dude. That is so…deep. Thank you.”

Susan nudged Neil and Targ, and they stood up, mumbled congratulations, and slipped out the door.

The groom disappeared, sword in hand, and after a moment Lana followed, with an expression that could mean anything from Stockholm syndrome to acid reflux. Mark figured that would take the rest of the night to figure out.

“Thanks for the quest,” he said brightly to Steve, who stood like a cartoon villain in the toile-printed parlor of the bed and breakfast, and without another thought he turned and headed out the open door.

There was a girl to rescue and a butter tiger to vandalize. The celebration of his victory had just begun.


Our bio is as follows: “If you don’t know who we are by now, shame on both you and our slipping fame!”

Tags: , , , ,

Comments are closed.