The music from when I was growing up is the best. I don't know what kinda garbage this is these days, but it doesn't compare.


Luckily, none of the other scouts that had come out of the forest dared to counter his words. Their guild leader looked like she had just swallowed a lemon, but, with a quick bow, she apologized for their actions and asked to retrieve the broken man on the ground. Charles only nodded and watched. He still felt a little bit upset that these young people would attack a child, but he also knew that he was the one to ask them to clear all the monsters out of the forest. He knew he could blame them, but they could just as easily blame him.

After they left, Charles quickly made his way into the cellar to check on the hiding kid. After a steady walk down the flimsy stairs, he was left staring out into his dirt-walled basement. Dusty canvas sacks were piled on one side and a torch was mounted on the opposite wall. Besides two thick wooden supports for the cabin, the cellar was empty. As he walked further in, he saw a dirt tunnel a little taller than him that led off into the darkness. Now Charles wasn't afraid of the dark, but that didn't mean that walking through a dirt tunnel was his idea of a good time. With a heavy sigh, he set off. And, with some angry mutters, he came right back out to grab the torch off the wall. He then set back off into the tunnel.

As he walked, he muttered complaints, first about the dust in the air, then about the dirty walls, and he kept going about the uneven floor. This was not his idea of a fun adventure. This was the annoyance of a chore he didn't want to do. How'd the big fella get this far anyway? He couldn't exactly fit through these tunnels. It wasn't long before he came across a short, and very ugly green child that darted off further down the tunnel.

"Hey! Get back here!" He called, but to no result.

The tunnel started turning to the left before it opened into a small dirt room barely larger than a closet. The room ended into another tunnel, and three or four holes could be seen in the walls, big enough for a dog to jump through. Of all the things that could have gone through his mind at that moment, what Charles was thinking was how tired his arm was getting from holding up the torch. After he switched hands he kept walking, the thought of looking in the holes or being prepared for a trap never even crossed his mind. The tunnel continued on a nearly thirty yards before turning to the right and opening out into a larger room, this one housing three straw huts and nearly forty of the small green kids.

In a chorus of shouts, all painfully high-pitched, they yelled "Master!" and fell to their knees.

Charles just blinked. He didn't really know what to expect. When he heard he had a dungeon in the cellar, he hadn't given it much thought. It wasn't something that would entice his family to visit, and if it hadn't actually been able to generate food or dispose of trash, he didn't know that he would have ever messed around in it. So, to find that there was a whole classroom's worth of dirty, barely clothed, ugly children living down here made him cringe. He began to wonder if he was violating some kind of law. It wasn't until an older one, with a sloppy beard and carrying a staff with a skull on top walked out of the crowd that he realized they weren't, in fact, children. They were just short people with no concept of personal hygiene.

"Great dungeon master!" Their apparent leader's voice reminded Charles of a croaking frog. "How can the Silent Ones serve you?"

"The Silent Ones?" Charles asked.

"Yes! When the great and merciful dungeon master granted us safety in his dungeon, he commanded us. 'Don't make any noise!' "

"Don't make noise!" The other goblins cried out in unison like it was a chant.

"Now we are the Tribe of the Silent Ones." The little fella bowed, and the other goblins, who had been sporadically standing, threw themselves back into a bow as well.

Charles vaguely remembered that, but wasn't embarrassed or ashamed. In fact, that made him quite happy. If they were quiet, they wouldn't be waking him up during the night. With a single nod and a smile, Charles answered. "Good."

"How can we serve you, great dungeon master?"

"I'm looking for a big guy. Came down here recently?" Charles pondered the best way to describe him, and then remembered his name. "Called Gnarles. Or Growls?" The certainty that he had the kid's name right evaporated quickly.

"This way. I will take you." The goblin leader quietly kicked still bowing goblins out of the way and led Charles through the room. Charles considered saying something about how they treated each other but then decided against it. He would deal with these folks later, after he checked on the big kid.

They made their way through twisting tunnels, and through unusual rooms. Some were filled with direwolves, others decorated with webs and giant spiders. Charles didn't spot the spider queen on the way but thought that was a good thing. He wasn't in the mood to speak with that crazy lady.

They finally ended at a room just large enough to house the enormous troll as if it crouched. Charles was happy to see the kid was okay, but quite a bit shocked at what it was doing. On the left side of the room, there some kind of tunnel lit from the inside by pale green flickering light. The troll took up nearly the entirety of the rest of the room. Periodically, skeletons with glowing green flames in their eye sockets came running out from the tunnel only to be crushed by a meaty hand. Then the bones, complete with some dirt, were lifted and dropped into an enormous mouth. A mouth that then crunched away.

"Ha ha ha! I got another one. Did you see it, mister?"

Charles nodded and watched in amazement as another one came out and another one got smashed then eaten just as quickly.

"Your snacks are tasty! It's okay if I eat them all right?" The giant troll looked at Charles with embarrassment like a kid caught taking candy.

Charles was trying to piece what he was seeing together in his head with something he knew but was having trouble. He knew that he wouldn't have let any of his kids eat anything strange when they were young, but this troll kid wasn't his, and how could he know what a troll normally ate? With a shake of his head, he purged the thought. This is still a game, after all. I'm not going to think too much about it.

"Don't eat so many you get a stomach ache, okay?" Was the only response Charles thought might be appropriate.

"Okay! Hey, look mister! There's one of the really crunchy ones!"

Charles watched in even greater shock as a skeletal horse with an armored rider came charging out of the portal, a flaming sword spun through the air, and just as quickly the rider, horse and sword got snatched up by a giant grey hand and slammed into the troll's mouth. Charles had no words to describe the sounds of metal and bones crunching. The dumbfounded Charles barely realized it when the goblin next to him took his hand and led him away back through the tunnels and rooms of his dungeon and to the staircase that led up to sunlight. He made his way up, his mind churning with how exactly he would have described this to others and finally decided it was best just to go to bed. After all, his great-grandkids were coming tomorrow.


Support "An Old Man's Journey"

About the author



Log in to comment
Log In

Log in to comment
Log In