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And my 76 other patrons!


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I swung my foot around, searching for purchase across the stony wall until I felt an outcropping big enough that the toes of my shoe could grab on. Bouncing a few times, I tested my weight and balance on the hold, then gently moved my other foot around while lowering my body.

I had been climbing for a whole ten minutes already, and so far my descent had lowered me by maybe six or so feet. It was hard and slow and a little nerve-wracking. Not having any ropes was the worst part of it.

My original goal had been to climb all the way to the bottom, but there was a window a whole lot closer to the ground and it didn’t seem to be blocked by anything, any frame it might have held long gone.

Crossing my fingers---metaphorically, because if I let go of the wall I would go splat--I hoped that there would be a way to move down the tower from within.

It was some long, sweaty work, with the sun straight above and beaming down on my head, but I managed to make it close enough to the side of the window to peek inside.

The room was a mess, with large wooden racks toppled over and part of the floor, wooden this time, burned though. Still, other than a few cobweb-weaving spiders there wasn’t much to see.

I stepped on the window sill and crouched down before placing one foot on the floor. It held my weight with no creaking or bouncing, so I hopped down. I had made it! The door to this room was a splintered mess on the ground, as if someone had burst through in a hurry, and I could kind of guess why.

This was an armory. There were racks for armour off to one side, with a few scraps of cloth and leather left behind.


With an eager giggle I bounced over to the racks and tried picking up some neat looking pauldrons, but the leather was dry and cracked and broke apart almost as soon as I grabbed it. The cloth armour beneath was little better.

This place had been abandoned for a long time, I guessed.

The racks that had tumbled over looked like they were meant to hold weapons on them, spears or swords. I started toeing around the rubble and a couple of pokes with my foot revealed some spearheads lying on the ground, shafts long gone. The racks were made of sturdier wood, or wood that didn’t rot, maybe.

And then I found it.

Nearly buried under a pile of wood and coloured nearly the same brown was a sword. Not just any sword, but a huge thing that was longer than my entire armspan.

It took plenty of grunting and lifting and some more sweat to yank it out, but soon enough I held my prize before me. The sword was bent in its middle, and the edge was nicked quite badly, and maybe it was a teensy bit very rusted, but I now had a sword!

I spun around, sword raised above my head in victory and cheered.

“Rwraa,” someone, or something, said.

I froze, body going rigid at the sound.

I wasn’t alone.

Lowering my new sword, I moved towards the door, carefully avoiding the burnt hole in the ground in case I fell through. I tried to move as silently as I could as I poked my head out into a corridor lined with slitted windows on either side. The tower was apparently part of a bigger facility, placed at a corner where two long corridors met. One ended about two dozen meters to my right in a staircase that dropped down, the other passage was blocked by fallen masonry, the light of day shining through the cracks.

“Hello?” I asked.


The noise was... a growl? Maybe? It sounded more like the kind of noise I’d make if you were to try and poke me awake. It came from the passage with the stairs.

Placing my sword on my shoulder, I moved towards the nearest arrow slit, this one facing the opposite direction from the wall I had scaled down.

There was a town!

Not a big one. I counted fifteen roofs, most just a little lower than the level I was on, and in bad need of some patchwork. Some looked to have been lit on fire a long time ago, timbers showing past missing roof tiles. The building I was in seemed to be a tall wall that circled all the way around the town, another tower placed on the opposite end from where I was.

There was a lot you could tell about people from the kind of house they lived in. All of these had different sorts of shingles, with most of them a sort of dull clay-red. Every house had a chimney and I couldn’t see any wires running from home to home.

That confirmed a few things for me. Whoever had lived here was human-sized. The armour helped narrow that down too.

I moved on. There would be plenty of time to explore soon. I was certainly looking forward to it!

The descent to the next floor down was much easier with steps as opposed to rock climbing. I wholeheartedly approved of steps. The bottom floor was a mess. Old soggy papers turned to mulch on the ground, barely leaving an imprint, stains that I hoped weren’t blood. Lots of signs that there had been a fire.

There was an exit, at one time, a sort of archway with a large door in it leading into the village, but it had collapsed. And under the pile of rubble from that collapse was the mysterious stranger making all that noise.

I swallowed as I stared at the skeleton stuck under a few choice stones. Glowing eyes fixed onto me and its head and neck wobbled a little, the one arm that wasn’t pinned in place wiggling futilely in my direction. “Rraaer,” it said.

The room across from the archway where the skeleton was pinned looked like a sort of office space. Big old desks covered in rotting papers and the tattered remains of a flag on one wall. Another wall had had a hole blown through it, revealing a bunch of beds in neat rows with chests next to them.

Nothing that could hurt me.

“Ah, hi?” I asked.

“Rrr,” the skeleton replied. He seemed dead set on hurting me.

I held back an inappropriate giggle and moved closer. “Hey there,” I said in the same voice I would use to greet a doggy. “You’re a nice skeleton aren’t you? Yes you are!”

“Rraarararrr!” the skeleton replied. He didn’t like that I was coming closer.

“So, magic really is real around here,” I said, the giddiness in my tummy returning. “I’m sorry, Mister Skeleton. Didn’t mean to disturb your rest.”

I should probably have considered burying the poor thing. It was rather pitiful. Then again, I had yet to explore the rest of the tower. Maybe there was a crypt I could put him in? Or a nice graveyard. I considered using my handy dandy new sword, but Mister Skeleton had never done anything to me.

“Is it mister or miss skeleton?” I asked.


“Hmm,” I hummed. “How about Bonesy. Nice and gender, and life, neutral.”


“I agree,” I said. “It’s a fine name.” I reached down and patted Bonesy where it couldn’t reach its head. “I’ll be back.”

The office was split into two parts. The front more of a reception area of some sort and the back a more private and secluded office. With the little light coming in from the passage where Bonesy was resting it was hard to tell.

I searched through the desks, prying drawers open with my Greatsword of Prying +1 but only found rotten knick knacks and some papers that were impossible to read in the low light. I stacked those that looked to be in better shape on the desk nearest the exit.

The big office at the back didn’t have much more in it. A few bottles tucked in the desk, still closed and with labels that, when brought to the light, revealed designs of grapes on them. A rusted flask, a dagger that was in even worse shape than my sword.

There was a chest behind the desk, in surprisingly good shape, but I couldn’t find a way to open it.

I managed to drag it closer to the front, but the effort wasn’t worth it, and my Greatsword of Prying +1 wasn’t tough enough to open the chest. All I managed was to make the tip break off when I tried.

Giving up for now, I moved into the barracks.

The mattresses were all filled with rotting hay and the entire room stank of mildew. The smell only grew worse when I found a small bathroom of sorts tucked in the back. Each chest was opened and each of them was a disappointment. They were either empty already or the only things within were old and stinky.

Worn boots, some cloth that resembled swiss cheese, a few belts that were stiffer than my sword. I did find a few coppery coins that had turned green with verdigris spilling out of a pierced sack, and one chest had a haversack that was in decent shape. It was empty, but that changed as soon as I put my newfound coppery wealth in it.

A peek into the bathroom revealed something neat. There was a shower, which confused me until I noticed the stone covered in strange glyphs held by a sort of metal sconce above.

Magic showers! Neat.

I found a sort of pad on the wall that had a corresponding glyph on it, but pressing did nothing.

Pressing and pouting also did nothing. But pressing and pushing with my mind, as if I had to poop really bad, made the glyph above glow and a spray of water came out. It was weak, and lukewarm, and I might have shrieked when it splattered onto my head, but it was water.

I wasn’t going to die of dehydration! Yay!

The only other thing of interest was a small cupboard filled with cleaning supplies. A mop that didn’t look usable, some clothes that were moth worn but still usable. Another broom and a dustpan and bucket.

Well, I already had some levels in cleaning...

I weighed the value of cleaning out the old barracks against resuming my explorations. In the end, exploration won out handily.

Grinning from ear to ear, I pressed on past Bonesy and down the main corridor inside the wall. A convenient hole in the wall allowed me to squeeze out of the barracks with my haversack and sword in tow.

I had a town to explore! If I was lucky I would find some food and a place to rest for later. Maybe some clothes and a way to contact people. Oh, and magical tomes, and ancient swords and of course a bunch of new friends!

It was going to be brilliant!

I exited behind a stout little house that was squished between two others. There had been a fence behind it, but it was torn apart at some point long ago. I moved around the house, intending to circle the town and see everything before checking in the houses one by one. A map would have been nice, or a Geography for Dummies book in English.

Instead, as I rounded the corner of the house and moved into an alleyway, I came face-to-back with a floating, white specter.

It was a person, sorta. A hazy image suspended in the air, their clothes fluttering in a wind that I couldn’t feel. I felt colder just watching them. Not a metaphorical cold either.

“H-hello! My name is Broccoli, do you want to be friends?” I asked.

The ghost turned around slowly, its placid, bored face tilting down to look at me. Then its features turned ugly and it screeched.

You have heard the screech of a fearsome creature! Your soul is shaken.

I shook. Arms and legs and chest wobbling as the ghost moved in closer, one hand moving back as it got ready to swipe at me.

My sword! I remembered my sword and flung the heavy piece of steel at the ghost, only to see it fly through the monster and bounce on the ground behind it. “Oh, shoot. I’m sorry Mister Ghost I didn’t mean to and I’m sorry and oh I don’t want to die, I’m leaving now!”

I turned tail and ran.


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About the author


  • Someplace Cold, Canada
  • A bird that likes comfy and happy things, and also knives. Once ate a god’s eye and awakened the ability to see all that is good in the world. Known to steal shiny ideas and baubles. Currently forbidden from writing his own bios.

Bio: A bird that likes comfy and happy things, and also knives. Once ate a god’s eye and awakened the ability to see all that is good in the world. Known to steal shiny ideas and baubles. Currently forbidden from writing his own bios.

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