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There will always be regrets, and there will always be hopes.

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Charles was upset. Rats are not acceptable. I don't want the grandkids coming for a visit and seeing a rat. He shuddered at the thought.

"You young folks should get rid of all the rats down there. Don't leave a single one." Charles said, not realizing that the offhanded comment had generated a quest for each of them until he saw their goofy smiles.  Not that he had an easy time telling them apart.  All these young buggers look the same.

"Honored elder, it would be our pleasure to exterminate all the rats." One of them answered as they formed a line.

The group happily made their way down the shoddy stairs to his cellar while Charles fumed. It was only right before the last one was walking into the darkness he heard them speak again.

"Doesn't he know they'll be back in an hour or so 'cause it's a dungeon. "

"Don't question the quest dude, this just adds xp to what we were gonna rack up already. "

"He's gotta know, the screen said he's the dungeon master."

"That old dude...?"

The voices faded away into the darkness leaving Charles baffled and irritated. The rats come back? Like some kinda rat god brings them back to life?! What kinda mess is that...

That news did not make Charles happy.  He started considering all the things that happened so far that day that didn't make him happy.  They tried to stiff me on a contract or something.  Damn dogs tore up my lawn.  Delinquents always stopping by like its their damn house.  No magic spell.  Can't even drop my trash off easy. Hadn't heard from my daughter. 

Needless to say, that last one bugged him the most.  Really, the others were nothing compared to it and it was likely the cause of his irritation. A quick glance at the real world clock showed him that he honestly hadn't been playing for long, so despite being in the game for days, only hours had passed in the real world. Not enough time to call, I just spoke with her. For a few minutes, Charles debated calling her anyway but stopped when he realized he was getting nowhere.

Alright. Charles huffed.  Deal with what I can deal with and leave the rest.

The first thing Charles did was inspect the work on his cabin.  They really did a great job.  Is all this really for me...? He looked around inside in wonder.  Polished dark wood floorboards gleamed under a new beige fur rug. Exquisite masterpieces of furniture, meticulously carved with golden inlays, centered the living room. A full kitchen with shining copper pots and pans hanging from a rack were visible through a new doorway.   The fireplace looked to be an emerald green marble, and the hallway led to three fully furnished bedrooms with kingsized beds covered in felt-soft blankets.  How did all this fit inside?  Charles went in and out the front door several times, comparing the size of the cabin looked on the outside to the room available inside before eventually giving up.  Must be magic.  Now, I'm excited for my family to visit!

Charles was just about to reach for the icon for his comms when he heard loud squeaking and the sounds of fighting from beneath the floor.  He could only scowl at the reminder.  I got rats in my basement.  Gotta do something about that first.  

Stepping outside, he walked towards the cellar before hesitantly stopping. Last time I messed with this darn thing I nearly killed myself.  Charles feared having nightmares about the spinning 3d image. No, he wasn't going near the cellar entrance to the dungeon anytime soon.   He considered calling Charles or Eric or Zyzyva, but he'd done that recently and might not have many uses of the ring left.  None of the other young people that had so plagued him were anywhere to be seen either, which Charles could only grumble about.  Young good-for-nothings.  Never around when you need one.  Off adventuring or some such mess.  What young people need is responsibility.  

That only left one option.  He put two pinkies in his mouth and whistled loudly.  Damn dog better come when I want.

Two more whistles is what it took for the direwolf to arrive. But it brought a whole host of other direwolves with it.  It was a little intimidating for Charles to be intently watched by hundreds of hungry canine eyes, but he easily ignored that.  Decades worth of an angry wife's glares had more than inoculated him from evil looks.  So instead of fear, he pointed a finger at the open cellar doors.

"Get 'em."

With a loud baying, his direwolf leaped down into the cellar, soon followed by hundreds more.  Charles could have seen mother wolves carrying pups by the scruff of their neck inside. Or he might even have heard the screams of terror and pain from the adventurers who were still exploring when the wolves attacked them from behind. If he stayed around to watch, but he didn't.

Instead, he was already at the tree line looking for wood to make a sign.

Keep out.  That's the kinda sign that means something. 

 

Unbeknownst to Charles, several things were occurring that night that all centered around him....

At a dinner party in the capital of Helios, the king and his spymaster were standing off by themselves.  Not for the lack of people who would jump at the opportunity to ingratiate themselves with the king.  Nor, for the threat of assassination that irritating a spymaster posed.  No, they were separated because of the smell.  And for that very reason, the Spymaster known as Eona the Spider to some and Grandma Theatle to others was having to explain to the king why she smelled like skunk that night.

In the basement of what looked to be an abandoned keep to the north of the capital, a short man hung by his feet from the ceiling.  In between lashes with a cane, Sazerbo the halfling was explaining to a very disgruntled undead master thief, known as Shadow Cutter to some and as the head of the thieves guild to others, exactly why he what he was doing wearing the man's shoes and why he should buy another pair as a gift for an old man he didn't know.

In a castle to the east of Charles's cabin, the guild leadership of the Sun Stripes, the highest-ranking guild in Helios, was meeting with the leadership of the world-famous Baltro Brother's Building Company.  A contentious meeting where they were attempting to explain how more than twenty of the highly skilled and irreplaceable workers of the company were killed in what was supposed to be a safe zone while building the world's most expensive cabin.  A meeting that was surprisingly interrupted with a report of dungeon-diving adventurers being double-crossed by a vicious old man and his pack of direwolves.  

In the forests just south of Charles cabin, a group of five people, all reincarnated, huddled around a campfire as they discussed how exactly they would get an old man to make a powder to return them to the characters they had originally designed when they started the game. 

And on the wall in the further corner, of the deepest tunnel within the dungeon beneath Charles's cabin, a direwolf puppy playfully dug with its paws.  Its tail wagged and its nose followed a fist-sized rock that rolled away.  Unknown to all, behind that rock was a crack.  A crack that suddenly grew an inch larger without any apparent reason.

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Allanther

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