Deanna CoultonWord Count:
2,000This story was a class assignment for my narrative class, to be written in the world of our game's story. This short story was written as a little bit of backstory for Cypher from the Lhuvia Tales. I should also be doing a revision of this story later in my class, so any feedback would help.~
The tavern was always quiet at this hour – with a peace that only lasted until a certain regular guest had made his rounds. His presence was marked by the sound of slamming doors, creaking and cracking as they violently met the stone wall. Light flooded the dimly-lit room, surrounding the short stature of a bearded man in the doorway.
As if he were already drunk, Cypher staggered through the room and found a seat with the only other occupants: the innkeeper and his son.
“Ey, Lucas,” he turned to the young man beside him, “get me the usual, will ya?”
“No 'please' or 'thank you'?” The innkeeper's son quipped as he proceeded towards the bar.
The innkeeper, Bron, turned to his friend as he finished off his own drink, “long day at the forge?” He gestured to his son, who briefly returned to acquire the empty mug.
“I sent Roderick out to get me some more ores. Business ain't so good while we're running low,” the old blacksmith sighed.
Lucas swiftly returned with two glasses, filled to the brim with foaming golden liquid. Cypher grabbed his mug and hastily chugged a good dose of his spirits, disregarding the streams of alcohol that dripped onto his unkempt beard. He left a few black stains – remnants of ash from the forge – on the handle of his glass.
Bron smirked at his burly guest, “I can assure you that business at the inn will always be great with you around.”
“You mean to tell me that you actually make money with my discount?” The blacksmith let out a hearty chuckle.
“You drink a lot, friend,” Bron returned a smile.
Cypher finished off his drink in one fell swoop, then shoved the empty glass into Lucas' hands. The young man sighed and promptly returned to the bar.
“It ain't too easy to find ore these days,” Cypher continued his complaining, “and with more demand for weaponry, it's gettin' hard to keep up.”
“That's rough,” the innkeeper sympathized, “I hope the new guy can find you more materials.”
Cypher had his hands on the new, full glass before Lucas could even finish placing it on the table.
“I'm sure he'll have better luck than this old coot. He must be made of steel himself – no amount of labor seems to wear that guy down,” the blacksmith smiled proudly from behind his drink.
“He must be three times the man you were, even in your merc days,” Bron grinned as he teased his friend.
The short fellow responded with a sigh as he allowed himself to reminisce about the days when a hike up the hills wouldn't kill his breath. Years ago, he himself was a capable warrior, paid a pretty penny to rid the world of criminals and scum. Twenty years of vigilante work left him with plenty of scars and a decent share of money – at least, enough to comfortably retire him to continue his father's work as a blacksmith. Ores weren't as scarce back then, but the mining part was still always the worst – with the exception of the day he had found the quartz cavern.
“What I need is another quartz deposit,” there was a glimmer of hope in Cypher's eyes as he gazed into the golden liquid in his mug.
Lucas approached the table, this time with two glasses – one for his father and himself.
“'Another quartz deposit'? Have you found one before?”
Cypher nodded, “it's not hard to find the stuff lying around, but the veins are another story.”
The young bartender sat down across from his guest, leaning forward with intrigue.
“What I found –” the short man paused to spread his beastly arms out in a dramatic gesture, “– was a whole room full of quartz!”
Bron snickered with doubt and familiarity towards his friend's tale. His son, though not easily ruffled, was filled with enthusiasm and encouraged Cypher to continue his tale with a nod.
Cypher's father never approved of his lifestyle as a mercenary – the old man always told his rebellious son that carrying on the family line of blacksmithing was the safe way to go. The lad had other plans for at least two decades: he always preferred a high-risk, high-reward approach. When he finally settled down to continue his family's work, he had to admit that there was a reason for that.
There's nothin' exciting about this, the man thought as he slammed a pick into the side of a cavern wall. Chunks of bronze occasionally shed to the ground, though not nearly in the same quantity as plain, humble rocks. When hit, several of the stones had shattered and splintered towards Cypher. By the end of most days, he found that the cuts, bruises, and dirt on his body were akin to the results of his work as a merc – though overwhelmingly less rewarding.
After sifting through the rubble, collecting only the most worthy materials, the man decided to progress further through the cave. He needed more ores, but instead found hat the path was fruitless – even more so than any other cavern he had picked in the past. When the light of his lantern eventually began to dim, Cypher decided that he had the means to tackle one more vein. He scanned his surroundings before inevitably settling for a poor-looking deposit that would surely at least yield scraps of ore.
“I hit that damn thing thirty times before anything happened,” Cypher told the father and son through his emptying glass, “before I knew it, the whole thing tried to crash down on me.”
Cypher had never seen a deposit break apart like this – hoards of stone fell around him, spitting out thick waves of dust that blinded him, even through the light of his lantern. The dust settled far too slowly, revealing pure darkness through a large hole that now ripped through the wall before him.
This is it: a chance for something exciting in these old caves! Even if Cypher didn't find anything, he wanted to be the first to explore this new opening. Without delay, he began to fight his way over the rubble, climbing and kicking through stones as he moved. The light of his lantern faded away as he found himself on this new path, the darkness now swallowing his vision completely.
What would be the point if he couldn't see anyways? Cypher turned around, pressing his hands against a wall. He traced his fingers across countless rocks, searching for the path he had crawled through. With both arms stretched outward, he carefully stepped through the endless black shroud around him, stopping only when he hit a wall.
Cypher perspired as he spoke, as if he were still trapped in the dark void of that cavern. The alcohol was the real culprit, which served to also make him all the more excited about his tale.
“It felt like an eternity...and I knew I was gettin' farther away from the exit,” he tried to calm himself with a drink, “I thought I would die down there.”
Lucas put a hand on the blacksmith's shoulder and smiled reassuringly, “we're glad you're with us. Besides – who else would buy all of these drinks?”
Cypher let loose bellowing laughter as the bartender grabbed the empty mug from his hand and made another trip to the bar. He cleared his throat before continuing his tale.
Desperation had made him careless: Cypher began to trip and stumble through the perpetual darkness of the cavern, at one point cutting his hand on a nearby rock. Agitated, the man now struggled and fought against his environment, shoving and moving quicker than before. His hand found another wall, which he violently slammed in frustration, feeling a few pebbles fall beneath his grip. Pouring sweat rained down his face as he panted and seethed, cursing his misfortune. When he had let his hand fall, Cypher was met with a radiant light – a glimmer of hope which broke through the darkness and illuminated a bubble around him.
“Must've been in the afterlife,” Cypher chimed to his companions as he lost himself in a daze.
Bron shook his head, “a little dramatic, don'tcha think?”
The drunken blacksmith quipped, “there's no drama like the truth. You know what I found on the other side of that little crevice?”
“Enlighten us,” his friend sighed.
Cypher used his stronger arm to push towards the light, which, to his surprise, had hardly given him any resistance. The light invaded his senses as it expanded, blinding him through his scrunched eyebrows.
As he adjusted to this brightness, he couldn't believe what was before him: glimmering quartz crystals illuminated the room in spikes – reaching down from the roof and up from the ground. Several translucent crystals were bound together, forming the shape of a grand tree in the center. In various locations, several quartz branches illuminated in a plethora of radiant colors. These colors danced around the room in glistening specks as the speechless blacksmith absorbed his surroundings.
“Bein' in that place was like a whole new world,” the red face of Cypher brightened as he recounted his paradise.
“You found a place like that and you ain't rich?” The innkeeper spoke with a tinge of cynicism as he raised an eyebrow.
Cypher bellowed, “you sure don't know much, do ye? 'Can only really use the raw, pure quartz – the stuff that ain't yet absorbed any magic.”
In this room, the bearded man found all types of quartz – some radiating magic, others mere sheets of crystal that crumbled by touch. Among them he located veins of raw quartz: translucent and ripe with potential. Cypher picked those until he couldn't carry any more of the material; not even his weak and bloody hand could stop him from mining his new found treasure.
“I chipped off a block of the some of the glowing stuff and found my way out,” Cypher finished his drink and story all at once. This time, Lucas didn't bring him another one.
“Did you keep going back?” The young man inquired.
Cypher nodded, his whole beard shifting with his head.
“'Sure did. The stuff doesn't grow back very quickly, so there wasn't much else I could do.” With a proud nod, he admitted, “besides...I didn't want to cause any harm to the rest of that incredible, beautiful place.”
Bron stood up hastily, taking his glass with him.
“That was an interesting story, but I can't say I believe you.” He grinned, “the Cypher I know would have torn the place down and sold everything.”
In response, the blacksmith leaned in and smirked, “well, maybe ya just don't know me as well as ya think.”
His friend let out a carefree laugh and walked away as his guest slumped over the table. Lucas, still beside Cypher, gave him a firm pat on the shoulder.
A grin appeared from beneath the drunk's messy beard.
“You always were sharper than yer ol' man,” Cypher spoke as he struggled to sit up. He swung his hand around recklessly, grasping an object in his pocket. Before Lucas' eyes, the blacksmith procured a radiant block of quartz, still vibrantly illuminated.
“My good luck charm,” Cypher winked through a bushy brow. He grabbed the young man's hand and pressed the crystal firmly into his palm.
Lucas protested, “I can't take this.”
“You've earned it, kiddo.”
The blacksmith stepped out of his seat, staggering towards the door. Lucas rushed to his side, guiding the drunk to his destination.
“See you tomorrow, Cypher,” he flashed a warm smile, “good luck with the forge.”
Cypher nodded and let out an incoherent farewell as he closed the inn doors behind him.
Lucas turned his attention to the magical object clenched in his hand, admiring the beacon of light that radiated through his fingers, penetrating the darkness of the dimly-lit tavern.