Windfall: Dungeon Battles

Chapter 1 of a multipart Fantasy serial, new chapter every week.

“Mooooom, have you seen my messenger bag?”, came the shout up the double set of stairs in the manufactured home, disturbing the peace of an otherwise quiet Colorado suburb.

“Have you tried looking where you left it Patty?”, the mostly useless reply came from above.

Patricia growled to herself but immediately changed her face to one of glee. “Gee, why didn’t I think of that. What would I do without you.”, Patricia quipped, voice full of genuine sounding gratitude. Her turn to go back and look in her bedroom was cut short by a grunt from her father, Kurt, coming up the stairs with a messenger bag in his hand. Patricia grabbed the black canvas shoulder bag covered in sewn on patches from her him, and planted a quick kiss on his cheek. “Where did you find it?”

“Wedged between the bean bag chair and the wall, just where your Mom said it was.”, Kurt said heading from the partly finished basement into the kitchen to pour a cup of coffee from the half full pot cooling on the kitchen counter.

“Mom just said it was where I left it.”, Patricia said, opening the bag and verifying the contents.

“Exactly.” Kurt said seriously as he poured the black liquid into one of his HP mugs, a giveaway from some work event or another. Patricia always had to get his sarcasm from context as her dad always said things seriously, but was rarely actually serious. “Not really a lot of places to look, as you had it on you when you got home from Marty’s yesterday, and the dotted line from the door to basement where you and your friends plopped down in front of the Atari to play your `Asteroids` shoot em up leaves a pretty narrow search area.”

“Dad, you know full well that Asteroids is last week’s news. All the cool kids are playing Marbles and Jacks these days.” Patricia mirrored her father’s serious tone, looking up from her open bag. In reality, they had been up pretty late because Seth, who was 19 and employed (even if it was fast food) had just bought Super Smash Bros from the newly opened Babbages in the nearby strip mall. Him and small raid party of other friends had come over to revel in the joy of battle at Patricia’s house, which was often chosen as the destination of gaming choice because the large unfinished basement had a number of big futons centered around a big screen TV, and her mom Jessica was almost annoying with bringing down snacks and soda. They had played until after midnight before switching to Golden Eye when everyone got tired of the Jiggly Puff smack-down that Patricia had been dealing out. She’d always been quick to pick up new games, too bad there wasn’t a way to make money off that talent.

Patricia looked back into her bag and re-checked its bulging contents. Inside was a rectangular cardboard box, with various logos and writings drawn on one side, indicating which collectable card games were contained within. There was a Dungeons and Dragons Player’s Handbook, a borrowed DM guide (from Seth), a Monster Manual, a Trapper Keeper (for the irony) full of character sheets and hand drawn fantasy characters, a worn pink (more irony) CD Wallet with a Hybrid Theory sticker on the outside, and a blue Sony Discman with behind the neck headphones that she’d got for her recent 18th Birthday. She pushed some of these items aside, rummaging around and verified a few of the buried items as well, some extra AA batteries, her wallet with a few dollars and her driver’s permit (every time she looked at it was a reminder that she meant to get right on getting her license), and a cloth bag containing dice. Last but not least another fist sized cloth bag full of golden Sacagawea coins, maybe $50 worth because she got a kick out of taking it out and paying in “Gold”.

“Must be nice not having a job”, Jessica said. Having joined her father in morning kitchen rituals at some point while Patricia was rummaging.

“It’s been a week since I graduated high school, can you give me at least till the end of the month to be fully shackled into a slow death of corporate drudgery? Also… you’re one to talk, your boss is an easel and a tube of colored goo.” Patricia said, closing the flap on her bag and looking up.

“I’ll have you know that as a *professional* freelance artist I also work for sewing machine, clay ball, and on very special occasions, crayons. Kurt is the one dying of drudgery.”, Jessica said as she finished pulling two slices of toast from the toaster, interrupting Kurt’s response with a round of motherly interrogation, “I take it you are going to Marty’s again today? Have you got money for lunch? And will you please take the bus this time?”

Jessica sighed, “Saturday D&D moved to Monday now that it’s summer, so of course I’ll be going to Marty’s, I’ve got literal bags of gold to barter for goods, and the bus takes forever so I’ll be blade running”.

“Do you know what the hardest thing about rollerblading is?”, Kurt wedged into the conversation.

“You’ve told that joke before Dad, it was offensive then, and I’m pretty sure it still doesn’t apply to me now.” Patricia aborted his attempt at humor.

“Well just make sure to wear your helmet and pads.”, Jessica mothered, buttering one of the slices she had pulled out.

“Helmet, and wrist guards. The knee and elbow pads make me look like a kid on the Disney channel, and they stink.”, Patricia countered with as much finality as she could muster. Jessica made a face in response but lack of further complaint sealed the deal. In truth the wrist guards also stank, but it was more manageable, plus she’d gotten good enough on the blades that falling was pretty rare, and most cases she saw it coming and could catch herself, assuming she had the wrist guards on. Patricia pulled her headphones out of her bag and put them over her ears. Pressing play on the discman and sliding it into the messenger bag.

A robotic voice came across the headphones, somewhat tinny and overdriven at the volume Patricia normally kept it at, but still very listenable, “Welcome to Ameri..cana. Please make your selection followed by … the … pound sign.” Patricia then made a phone tone like booping noise as she stole the piece of toast that her mom had just added a layer of jelly to, and whatever protest Jessica had offered was drowned out by Offspring’s grinding guitar and drum beat of track 2. Patricia looked at her moving lips with interest and then shrugged pointing at her ears, saying intentionally too loudly, “Sorry, I can’t hear you, I have headphones on.” before turning and walking out of the Kitchen for the entryway, her mother already turning to the other, yet unbuttered piece of toast.

Patricia had a bit of a crush on Dexter Holland, the lead singer of the Offspring. She supposed that was a bit unusual, as most of the girls she had gone to school with had posters of Backstreet Boy members, or even Chester from Linkin Park on their walls, however, while yummy (especially Chester who was more her taste) those boys were just boys. Dexter was a man, the kind of man that Patricia would marry some day (far away). A PHD in Molecular biology, a pilot and the lead singer and writer of a multi-platinum record selling band. At 34 and already married Dexter was not a realistic goal, but he would be the bar for whomever wanted a chance at Patricia. Patricia had a bit of a chuckle as the lyrics aligned a bit with her walk through the living room, and sat down on a bench in the entry. Air drumming a bit with her hands, she reached down to pick up one of her rollerblades. She absently spun the remaining 2 wheels of 4 wheels, positioned on the front and back. While they were pretty worn in the wrong direction, they still spun fine as it hadn’t rained since she had last greased her bearings. She made a note to rotate them later, and finished strapping both blades, her wrist guards and a black skater style helmet on before sliding on the hardwood floor towards the door.

The music had changed to a more meandering instrumental interlude midsong, and Patricia spun slightly to face the full sized mirror that was next to their front door, placed there as Kurt often would go to work without looking at himself once and got tired of getting ragged on for shirt stains.

Patricia took a moment to check herself out. Her dark brown/black hair was cut short just below the ears, she pushed a purple dyed streak behind her ear and underneath her helmet strap. Patricia would admit that while not a fan of the corporation itself, most of her gear, from the leather stud (single row) neck band to the “Bomb Technician: If you see me running try and keep up” shirt had been purchased from Hot Topic. She kind of wished it was fall instead of summer as she always felt awkward without her usual hoodie on and the boys she hung out with were often distracted even when she strapped the girls in with a sports bra and wore a high neck t-shirt. She was a late bloomer, but spring sprung hard and with it other changes in the group of nerds that she preferred hanging out with. Fortunately, for most of her good friends, a good hard “No” was enough to prevent any advances and a semi-return to the way things were before, Patricia still cringed a little thinking about some of the interactions she’d had. It was a nice day out but not yet stupid hot, so her black shirt should hide most of the sweat she would work out on the way there. Completing the outfit were a pair of loose fit carpenter jeans, she didn’t go for the really baggy JNCO jeans because they were hard to blade in and raving wasn’t really her scene. The jeans were a little hot for today, but would help protect her in the rare case she’d fall, as well as help keep her “image” as one of the boys. The Roller Blades made her look even taller than her normal 5’8”, the black skater style helmet had an offspring sticker on it as well as the five glowing gems of one of her favorite card games, so that helped cover up the fact that it wasn’t that cool to wear safety gear. There was no help for her black wrist guards which would leak black dye on her hands as she sweat, but at least they fit the ensemble. Her blades were a mix of purple and black, so actually tied in nicely to her hair and the rest of the outfit, almost making it look like she had planned the look (she hadn’t). Satisfied enough Patricia shuffled out the door and down the front steps turning sideways and sliding each blade down the steps as she clonked towards the sidewalk.

The morning still had a nice chill to it but the sun was quickly rising to burn it away. Patting her messenger bag and thinking of the contents and fun ahead, Patricia hit skip over “Pretty Fly for a White Guy” (Radio had played that song to death) and started off towards “Marty’s Emporium of Cards” to the tones of “The Kids Aren’t Alright”. She thought that it was going to be a good day. She was wrong.

Read Chapter 2

Kevin Lohman, Software Engineer, Father, Story Teller, and former US Navy Sailor (who never set foot on a ship)

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