“Okay, this is it. We need to kill him this round. We won’t survive his attacks. What do you need to roll Brandon?”
Brandon looked down at his cards, reading silently to himself and making mental calculations. “Uh, it looks like….I need a 9 to hit him and then I can use my critical strike ability to do an extra damage and finish him off.”
“Well that shouldn’t be too hard,” mused Chas with a sarcastic smile. Brandon responded with a roll of his eyes.
“Would you just roll already man?” quipped Ty. “The suspense is killing me.”
“Okay, here goes,” says Brandon as he shook the d20 in his hand. He threw the die into the dice tray. <Sound of a die rattling against the wood and felt>…”Shit, I rolled an eight!” exclaimed Brandon in disgust.
“Brilliant,” Chas chimed in with a shake of her head.
“You asshole,” chided Ty with a teasing chuckle.
“Hold on, hold on, wait, wait, wait,” Brandon pleaded, thinking. “I can discard this lucky charm item to reroll my attack.” Brandon quickly picked up the d20 and threw it into the tray again. “YEAH!!!!!! FOURTEEN!” Brandon exclaimed joyously as he collected a dual fist bump from his two friends. “I’ll just use my critical strike to inflict an extra damage and that kills the evil necromancer.”
“It sure does,” agreed Chas as Ty nodded his head in consensus.
“Great job, Brandon,” congratulated Ty. “I knew you could do it,” he added with a laugh. “Never a doubt.” The three friends all laughed.
“Alright, next week is at my place,” reminded Chastity (known to everyone but her mother as Chas) as the three friends began cleaning up the game.
“Sounds good,” replied Ty. “Just let me know what you’d like me to bring.”
“Yeah, sounds good and ditto,” agreed Brandon as he finished putting the game away.
“Okay, then I’ll see you losers later,” teased Chas as she headed for the front door of Brandon’s house.
“Good night sweet princess,” Ty yelled after her, which got an appreciative chuckle from Brandon.
“Whatever,” replied Chas as she headed out the door, but she turned and gave a warm smile. “See you guys next week. Thanks Brandon.” With that, she disappeared through the front door.
“Alright, well I guess I’m out of here too man. Thanks for hosting. I’ll catch you next time,” Ty said as he extended his hand to Brandon.
“Sounds good, buddy,” replied Brandon as he shook Ty’s hand and patted him on the shoulder. “Take care.”
“I will. You do the same,” replied Ty looking back as he walked down Brandon’s sidewalk.
Brandon watched Chas pull away in her sporty Lexus as he looked after Ty headed for his Ford SUV. Brandon had known Chas since high school. They were both the quiet, introverted type around strangers and didn’t officially “meet” until their sophomore year although Brandon saw Chas every day in the halls of their school. Back then, she was a gangly teen with braces, green eyes, and dark hair who spent a lot of time alone or with a few girlfriends. Someone at their school started a D&D club and when Brandon showed up to the first meeting, he was surprised to see the shy, demure Chastity there. She was the only girl and Brandon could tell she felt a bit uncomfortable, so he introduced himself to her. Over the next two years, the pair became good friends; with Brandon learning that Chas wasn’t nearly as shy once you got to know her. She could rib him and bust his chops as well or better than any of his male friends. They were like two kindred spirits. When they went off to different universities, they kept in touch and got together over breaks to hang out and play some D&D. After college, they had both moved back to within 20 minutes of their hometown and their friendship grew stronger. Chas was intelligent, witty, successful, and attractive, but Brandon had never felt anything but friendship toward her. He thought of her like a twin sister and as far as he could tell, Chas felt the same way in return.
Ty backed out of the driveway and waved to Brandon as he put his SUV into Drive and pulled away. Brandon had met Ty in college at – shockingly – a meet-up for a game club. They ended up playing D&D in the same group and became fast friends despite their differing backgrounds. Ty was tall and strong and carried himself with a kind of quiet dignity that immediately commanded your respect. He had grown up in a more urban environment, while Brandon had grown up in a small town. As their friendship grew and they discussed other things outside of gaming, Ty challenged Brandon’s beliefs about the world and encouraged him to look at things in different ways and from a variety of perspectives. Ty seemed to have an insight and wisdom well beyond his years and Brandon came to respect and admire that about him. Over time, Brandon opened his mind to many things he hadn’t considered previously. Ty had a way of pointing out things in a manner that wasn’t threatening or confrontational. They became very close friends over their years in college and Brandon wasn’t afraid to admit that Ty had made him a better person by helping him to see the world differently than he had during his younger years.
Despite growing up a couple of hours apart, when college graduation neared, both Brandon and Ty accepted job offers near Brandon and Chas’s hometown. It ended up that all three of them lived within 30 minutes of each other. After college, Brandon introduced Ty to Chas. He was very nervous about that initial meeting. These were his two best friends in the world. What if they didn’t get along? What if they hated each other? Brandon needn’t have worried though. Chas and Ty hit it off right away and it quickly seemed like they had been lifelong friends. That was 10 years ago. The three friends had been getting together for regular gaming sessions ever since.
Brandon turned off all the lights, checked that all the doors were locked, and headed up to get ready for bed as it was back to work in the morning. Good night sweet princess, Brandon mumbled to himself as he headed up the stairs; still laughing at Ty’s parting shot on Chas.
“Christ, I hate Mondays,” Brandon muttered under his breath as he finally caught up on the last of the issues from the weekend.” As a software administrator at a company that manufactured knee and hip replacements, there were always software issues of one type or another: access problems, systems running slowly, connectivity issues, you name it.” He picked up his coffee mug and looked into it – empty. Then, with his stomach growling, he glanced at the clock in the lower right-hand corner of his computer monitor. 11:52 already?! Holy shit, where did the morning go?
Brandon got out his lunch and began eating at his desk as he went to the local news site on his computer. Eating, he mindlessly scrolled through the site, not much catching his eye. He paused to look at the weather forecast and read a brief piece on one of his former high school teachers who was retiring. Then, as he got to local news, he saw something that immediately grabbed his attention. The headline read: Sinkhole Opens, Exposing Buried Tunnel. What do we have here, Brandon thought to himself, clicking to read the article. Brandon read the article transfixed. It turned out that a fairly large sinkhole had formed on the outskirts of Taylorsville – Brandon’s hometown. Upon investigation, it was discovered that the ground had sunk because there was some type of underground tunnel. Rodents had been ruled out as the cause due to the size of the tunnel. The area has been declared unsafe and cordoned off by police. Very interesting, Brandon thought.
He fired off a quick email to Chas and Ty with the subject: Who’s Up for a Real Dungeon Crawl that had a link to the article on WTAY’s website. He sent the email and went back to scrolling through the rest of the news from Taylorsville, which not surprisingly, wasn’t much. He had been joking when he sent the email, but something kept tugging at the edge of his consciousness. He really DID want to know more about the tunnel. It was obviously made by someone, but by whom? And why?
Brandon tried to put the sinkhole and the tunnel out of his mind and get back to work. He was beginning to answer an email that had landed while he was eating when another email hit his inbox. It was from Chas, RE: Who’s Up for a Real Dungeon Crawl and it read simply – So when are we going to check it out? Before Brandon could ponder Chas’s response another email came in; this one from Ty. It was a reply all to Chas’s email and it read: I’m up for it, let’s go. After a few more emails back and forth among the three of them, they agreed to meet at the site of the sinkhole just after dark. Brandon found himself excited and a little unnerved. He told himself that the tunnel was probably little more than an old cave that had collapsed, but his instincts told him that there was something more to it.