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Tavern Squad - Origins

Chapter One

In a deep valley, enclosed on all sides, devoid of roads or signs sits a tavern. The Tavern. The valley stretches for miles, deepening on both sides until it dead ends, a solid rock face cutting off both the valley and The Tavern from the rest of the world. There is only one way to get to The Tavern, and only one way to get out, and only one group daring or stupid enough to set up a drinking establishment on the far side of the world’s most dangerous Dungeon. This is the tale of the Tavern Squad.

“Bored,” said Brunthar, and drank from his mug. Brunthar was never one for words, so much so that the single-syllable word he had just spoken was enough to silence the rowdy group gathered around the table. They had been drinking for the better part of eight hours, and while some of them had slept for a time and others had come and gone, the table had been their place of residence since arriving at the Battered Wineskin, a sad, worn-down old tavern, sometime last week.

“Well, your cup’s full, why not try throwing that back and see where it takes you?” asked Renna, the dark cloak she used to menace people forgotten on the back of the chair.

“I’m bored, not sober,” Brunthar retorted.

There was some general murmuring around the table. It was true, life had been pretty good as of late. The group was a collection of adventurers. Some had taken the title for themselves by leaving home behind and seeking fame, glory, and wealth out in the great wide world, while others were called adventurers by the people they came across. Some were renowned for their prowess in battle, others for their quick wit, and still more for their honed senses and survival skills. All had found their way to the Battered Wineskin and, with no corner of the world left untravelled, settled down for a pint. They had been here for a week.

“Well, what is there to do? The kingdoms are at peace, the world has been mapped, the monsters are hiding or slain. The only place left unexplored is the Dungeon.” At the speaking of the famed magical underground lair, the table collectively draws back, “and nobody wants to enter a place that no one’s ever come out of again.”

The town they were in was called Huntorion, and it sat at the crossroads between two major highways that acted as trade routes between the kingdom of Asphorima and Gringtan, which had been at war for many years, but recently brokered a truce that had expanded trade and migration for both empires. The town was also the nearest civilization to the Dungeon.

Brunthar squints, and then slowly rises. He grabs his ax which was leaning against the table and slides it smoothly into the baldric on his back. Despite his diminutive size, being a dwarf, Brunthar’s skullcap rose just above the level of everyone else seated at the table so that everyone for the moment was looking up at him. Silence reigned.

“Dungeon,” Brunthar said and walked out of the tavern.

The Dungeon was notorious in only the way that active volcanoes, guillotines, and serial killers can be. It had tales of gods and olden heroes, and its mythos was immortalized in many a song. Only one thing was known for absolute certain about the strange place in the middle of The Gods’ Trench: nobody had ever returned from it alive.

The table was deadly quiet as the door slammed behind Brunthar. Each and every individual sitting at the table believed themselves to be the bravest and most daring adventurer who had ever walked the lands of the continent. Many, most even, had titles and deeds that spoke to their prowess in battle or wilderness, in cunning or daring. But in every group of individuals claiming to be made up of the best, there are those who are right and those who are better. Only those who were better than the best followed Brunthar out of the Battered Wineskin that day. Only four others stupider, braver, or more willing to die than live in boredom. Their names were Hinky, Aanmar, Greck’lil, and Crop. They were considered dead the moment they left the tavern at the small, crossroads town.

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