I’ve been following Chuck Wendig’s blog for a while now. He does fantastic flash fiction challenges. New year, perfect time to get started. Besides, he told us “If this is your first time at Write Club: YOU HAVE TO WRITE.”
I clicked through and generated this:
“Check this shit out, I’m going to be a fucking selfish tiefling monk from the Iceberg Sea who has had it up to here with everyone’s crap.”
Suitably inspired and reminded of the end of an old D&D campaign, I dug in. Here’s the story I whipped up for this fun little exercise. I hope you enjoy it.
Journey had tried to be zen; he really had.
He had done the whole meditation bit. Sitting cross-legged atop a drifting iceberg, contemplating life’s mysteries even as the warmth of his fiendish flesh slowly sunk him into the sea. Master Stillwater had said one must be out of one’s element before one could truly blah blah blah. Fuck that.
Who was more out of their element than a demoncursed walking among mortals trying to be a bloody monk on a journey to find a little bit of peace?
He didn’t need icebergs and incense and ascending the Thousand Steps. Journey had the very blood of Hell itself running through his veins and his cracked red skin was warm now not from that, but his greatest burden: the secrets of others. His snake tongue flicked the air and his scaly tail thrashed with unease as he shook off the memories of his time in the Iceberg Sea.
Journey knew what he needed.
He looked upon his party. He never knew why people called it that. Adventuring was certainly no party with this lot.
Journey gazed across the campfire at Bob, an armoured hulk sharpening his greatsword. In the firelight, Journey’s horned visage gleamed across the man’s breastplate as the half-orc’s ominous shadow danced on the caravan’s canvas.
Bob’s yellow eyes flicked up, his fanged mouth smiling as he waved to Journey. He couldn’t help but smile back. Bob was the nicest person he’d ever met. He confided his red checkered past in Journey alone. Journey was pleased to see the smile. With Bob, it was either that or murderous rage. Journey had learnt to avoid the latter, simply avoid betrayal.
Lurking in the shadows beyond was Kavra. That fucking guy... He was a power-hungry, sniveling, conniving slip of a lad. Journey’s ancestors had slit their wrists on Asmodeus’ dotted line and that teenage wizard still scared the living Hell out of him. Even now, just straightening tent straps Kavra looked five kinds of sinister. Journey had seen Kavra differently ever since the wizard spoke to him of his dark secrets. And schemes. Notably, Kavra’s plan for El, the party’s cleric, after her recent run-in with vampires.
Journey glanced through the bars of the muscled woman’s cage. El had traded chainmail for chains, but they’d worked out a fairly manageable system to keep her in blood. Kavra summoned creatures from planes beyond human understanding. El drained them dry. Being from one of those planes himself, Journey didn’t love the arrangement, if he was honest.
El had told Journey all about her condition. Her god had disowned her when it happened. Even Asmodeus wasn’t that harsh. El had lost her blessings from the Heavens, but rounded out their party to four-out-of-four members with dark and unnatural traits or tendencies. She was so strong now. And fast. Even Bob couldn’t beat her in a blood-fueled arm wrestle, though he’d never tried while enraged.
Journey knew the thirst drove El now. She’d asked Journey to kill her if it got too bad. She trusted he wouldn’t do it too soon nor let her hurt anyone if things got out of control.
That everyone had chosen to confide in a demonspawn like him, Journey still had trouble comprehending. He’d declared himself neutral in all things. Half of Hell, half of this world he’d realised he would never be a good man — not truly — but he’d strive to at least not be evil. Neutral. That was the goal. Just don’t rock the boat. Be everyone’s friend. Selfless.
He was often called that. Selfless. He never really felt like it applied. Master Stillwater said selflessness was key to enlightenment. Journey was sure he’d also said something about becoming one with oneself. So which was it? Journey had tried the selfless thing. He had. Or, at least he’d tried to be neutral. Wasn’t that the same?
Journey listened to all points of view. He kept everyone’s secrets. If ever he had to actually make a decision, he weighed everything up and the decision usually made itself. It had worked out okay for him. Until now.
Journey exhaled deeply as a tingling feeling made him look up across the fire to meet Kavra’s eyes, seeming to glow with a weight beyond the boy’s years.
Bob started toward the forest for more fire wood.
It was time, then.
Kavra had confided in Journey one particularly big secret. Kavra seemed to think himself arbiter of good and evil — with blinders to himself, clearly—and had decided in all his wisdom that El was too evil and dangerous to live.
In his commitment to neutrality, Journey had kept quiet. As Kavra stalked over to El’s cage, a sense of clarity settled over Journey and one thought filled the temple of his mind.
“Fuck this” Journey said. Kavra froze. Bob and El stared at Journey.
“Bob, stop. As soon as you leave, Kavra will kill El. Spell to drain strength, like every night. Remember that was his idea? Then he’ll feed El a fireball. He’s been setting up for this. He’ll make it look like she betrayed us. Just to get you on his side so you’ll help him kill your friend. If anyone’s evil here, it’s that little shit of a wizard.
Oh, and El? Bob’s been in love with you for years. He’s been stealing your nightclothes and hairbrushes. And Bob? El’s the one who had your father enslaved.
Phew! Wow. Feels good to get all your damn secrets off my chest!
I’m sitting this one out, party. Do as you will”.
In a sort of slow motion, his three party members all exchanged glances. Then it was on. Bob’s howl of rage and scraping steel, Kavra’s muttering of hexes and wards, El’s vampiric screech as she turned to a cloud of bats. It all washed over Journey, his burden of secrets lifted. His heart and mind light.
Finally, Journey thought, as the battle began, a little bit of peace.