“Greetings, stranger,” Bastian bellows. “Indeed, my colleague and I have already set claim to this dungeon.”
I barely register that Bastian is speaking as I stare at the short-statured person before us. I recognize them; or, at the very least, they seem extremely familiar. I recall that the Author ran a campaign for Dungeons and Dragons that had a beloved Gnomish character with red skin, red hair, and large green eyes. They had been an alchemist, though, not a rogue. Then again, the character had been a tinkerer who enjoyed building things and had built devices for the player’s characters to compensate for weaknesses, like a lack of dark vision. Perhaps, the Author wanted his character to develop more before the second campaign.
“Luda?” I ask, addressing the gnome by the name given to them in the Author’s written recaps of game nights. The gnome’s eyes widen and his cheeks flush a slightly brighter red than the rest of his face.
“Yes! You’ve heard of me?” The light quickly fades from his eyes, though they remain wide. His expression suddenly takes on a look of concern. “That’s probably not good for a rogue. I’m supposed to be sneaky and blend in with crowds.” His little hands curl into fists in his hair. “I’ve already failed!”
“No, no-no-no,” I say as I raise my hands toward him. I’m not sure why I raise my hands, but it seems to happen naturally, like a reflex to reach out and stop him from harming himself.
“I’ve, uh,” Oh shit, what do I say? Hey, I’ve been watching you your entire existence!?
“I met…” Yes? I like where this is going. Maybe don’t say ‘your mom’ though.
“The group that you accompanied during the fall of Alistair Grey.”
I can see the anxiety drain away from Luda in an instant as he accepts my lie.
“Oh!” He says, a smile crossing his face. He drops his hands to his sides and his fists unfurl. “Oh, neat! Who did you meet? Senda and Justin? Those two were really nice.” His face suddenly darkens as if shadows came from nowhere to turn his expression sour as he continues. “Was that halfling there?”
I knew the halfling of which he spoke; a member of the group who seemed to be very wary and distrustful of Luda. He had once trapped Luda inside a bag of holding, then denied having ever done it.
“Just Senda and Justin,” I say, deciding it best to avoid the subject of the halfling. “They had a lot of praise for you.”
Luda’s face fills with joy with my news. He tilts onto his toes as his hands clasp together in front of him.
“Really?!” Luda sings. “I really liked them too. I tried my best to help them out when they needed it. I’m hoping to see them again sometime. I’ve been traveling a lot with Ratticus, but he decided to go overseas to the other island when he heard about some Doctor working on zombies, so I joined the Honeythorn Academy of Junior Questers to learn how to be a rogue. Maybe when I run into Senda and Justin again they’ll kick that halfling out of the group and I can protect them from traps!”
I suddenly remember that there are people reading this and I become a little self-conscious. It lasts for only a moment as the professional narrator in me kicks in and I remember that I have a duty; I’m supposed to tell the story and not leave people confused. But, Luda’s story was already told and it would take too long to retell it.
Well, no, it actually wouldn’t take too long, but if I sat here and retold his story while I left him and Bastian frozen, waiting for the plot to advance, then I’d be no better than the author. Already, I’ve left them frozen for just over a hundred words. So, reader, if you want to know more about Luda then you’ll have to look him up in the Lochinvar campaign under Roleplaying. He first appears in part 2.
I turn and look at Bastian who has been standing, very patiently I must say, off to the side. He raises his brows cheerfully and smiles at me, letting me know he is listening and I have his full attention; perfect.
“I know Luda and his story,” I say. I motion to Luda, who stands by the entrance, twiddling his fingers nervously. “I know of his exploits, and I know that his friends speak very highly of him. I believe we can trust him.”
Bastian nods once I’ve finished and immediately turns to face Luda. He spreads his arms wide in a welcoming gesture.
“Friend Luda!” Bastian says. “It seems our paths were meant to cross here. How fortunate that we were just speaking of our need for a trap finder when one suddenly appears, and they happen to be acquainted with my new hero.” He drops a hand on my shoulder and squeezes gently as he mentions me. “We would be most grateful if you should choose to join us on this short, but perilous journey into this Goblin-made dungeon.”
Bastian didn’t hesitate in the slightest to accept Luda as a friend based solely upon my word. While this warms me inside, to know that he trusts me to such a degree, I can’t help but wonder about his judgment. He’s only met me a few minutes ago.
But, then again, plot armor grants a ridiculously high AC bonus.