A story of adventure
Our hero was your everyday meeple who owned an honest tavern. Every day was the same old day with the same old patrons. One day an ancient meeple with a strange-looking staff with a large jewel at the top walked into his tavern. He found an empty stool at the bar and ordered an ale. After many rounds, the old meeple began to weave tales of adventure and danger for anyone who would listen. Little did our hero know that tonight he would start his own story, and these tales which seemed full of mystery and imagination would become a reality. As the night dragged on, a group of hooded meeples walked through the door clearly searching for someone. They made their way through the crowd towards the old meeple. The tension in the air around the old meeple was palpable. As the group of hooded meeples approached him, he rose from his stool and faced them with his staff held firmly in one hand and his ale in the other. A conversation began between what seemed to be the leader of the hooded meeples and the old meeple, but our hero was at the far end of the bar and could not make out what they were saying. After a few minutes the old meeple screamed loudly in an unknown language and a blinding flash of light followed.
Our hero awoke, startled, and looked around. “Where is my tavern and where did everybody go? What happened to the old meeple, the hooded meeples, and what was that language he screamed in?” wondered our hero. It was dark and damp. Rising to his feet, he noticed the staff laying beside him. “Why do I have this staff?” He could hear the sound of waves crashing on distance rocks and what was surely a tide washing ashore “How did I get to the beach?” As our hero said this the bay started to bubble with an eerie light as something arose just offshore. Having only witnessed this nightmarish creature before in his dreams, our hero didn’t know whether he was truly seeing what now stood before him. He tried to scream, he tried to run, but all he could do was stand there in terror. His body wouldn't listen to him. Giving in to what was surely his impending demise, our hero bowed his head in defeat. The creature laughed. “This? This bartender is all my enemy could muster to fight me? I could end you with a single thought, without blinking an eye. Where is the fun in that? Gather your allies and we will meet again, young wizard.” Then there was another blinding flash.
Our hero once again awoke to strange surroundings. Before him stood a door taller than any building he’d ever witnessed with walls stretching in both directions as far as the eye could see. “What is up with all the bright lights?” wondered our hero. “Gather my allies... Who and what are my allies? And why did the creature call me a young wizard? I’m surely no wizard……….” He looked around, and there on the ground beside him once again was the same staff. Rising to his feet, he picked the staff up. As he did, the jewel began to glow purple and the door before him began to open ever so slowly. Seeing no other option but to either go through the door or walk along the outer walls into what seemed like an endless wasteland, our hero stepped past the opening. Once past the door, he saw an endless maze of hallways paved in stone. Our hero set out to find where this pathway would take him. “I just have to keep going forward. Eventually I will find my way home. Back to the same boring meeples that I have grown fond of serving at my tavern.” Just then our noble bartender heard a rustling in the bushes behind him. “It appears I am not alone in this place. I hope whoever is out there is friendly, or at the very least not hungry,” he mumbled to himself. “Who goes there?” the bartender proclaimed. He turned around to see a cloaked meeple aiming a bow and arrow in his direction. He raised his staff in defense and took a step back. Suddenly, the cloaked meeple withdrew her weapon, reached out her hand, and with the faintest whisper proclaimed, “It looks like you could use a hand.” Alone and afraid, our protagonist had a moment of doubt before choosing to extend his own hand. “I’m a ranger.” she said. “One of my furry friends, a fox from the forest I tend, was wounded and I was attempting to mend it. The critter was injured and afraid, and though I came in peace it scurried away under a door I had never seen before, and into this wretched maze. It’s been three suns since I entered this harrowing place and I have yet to find any sign of my friend.” “I’m sorry miss. I wish I could help you find your friend.” the bartender meekly replied. “Has it really been 3 days since you entered this place? I’m sure you must be hungry by now. I know it’s not much, would you care for some almonds? They are from the bar I own back home.” The barkeep slowly reached his hand into his pocket and produced a meager offering of lightly toasted almonds. As he presented them to his fellow traveler he heard a faint whine from the bushes nearby. “Could that be your friend?” he said as he motioned towards a nearby briar bush. With one fell swoop the cloaked figure snatched several of the almonds from the barkeep’s hand and scattered them by the briar. The thorny branches rustled and parted and a wounded little fox scurried out to try and snatch up the nuts. “You found my friend!” she exclaimed. “I guess this means I owe you one. I shall repay the kindness you have shown me by joining you on your journey.” The barkeep thought back to what the creature had said about allies and extended his hand toward his new friend. “I’m very glad to have you with me because I’ll need all the help I can get if I’m to survive this journey.” The two continued deeper into the labyrinth before them.
“We are lost!” proclaimed the barkeep as he glanced over a hand-drawn map. “ You said this was a map of the maze.”
“That's a map of what I have seen. I haven't explored everything yet,” replied the ranger. Their conversation was interrupted by a beastly roar. They looked at each other, grabbed their gear, and took off toward the noise. As they rounded the corner, they came upon a breathtaking sight: a monstrous minotaur with its back to them, swinging a giant axe at an armored meeple covered in pelts. The minotaur roared again as the meeple leapt into the air, deflecting the axe with his shield and striking his foe with a mighty swing of his glowing mace. A paladin! The minotaur stumbled back, nearly crashing into the newcomers before they took cover around the corner again.
The minotaur regained his balance quickly and backhanded the paladin, sending him crashing through some bushes and knocking him out. The minotaur laughed confidently and started to walk toward the paladin, hefting its axe over its head. “We have to do something” whispered the ranger. Without thinking, she notched an arrow. “Wait!” started the barkeep, a moment too late. The ranger let loose her arrow, striking the minotaur in the back and halting its progress. Seething, it turned around and spied the newcomers. With a snarl, it began to charge. The barkeep smiled and said “watch this.” He raised his staff and just before the minotaur struck he murmured something under his breath. He didn’t even know what he was saying but for some reason it felt right. Suddenly, dust erupted from the crystal on his staff and struck the hulking beast in the face. The minotaur snorted in surprise, blinked, then slowly fell over with a heavy thud and began to snore. “Quick, help me grab him” the ranger said, and she ran over to the paladin. As they helped him to his feet he came to his senses and asked, “Who are you?” “We’re your new friends,” replied the barkeep with a grin. “What are you doing here?” The paladin hesitated for a moment, then simply stated, “Keeping a promise.” He dusted himself off, collected his shield and mace, and began to walk back the way the others had come from. “And I don’t have any friends,” he added fiercely. The barkeep and ranger shared a look, then began to follow him. “We just came from that way, it’s nothing but empty halls,” began the ranger. But what she saw next stopped her in her tracks. Where they had been moments before was now a vast chasm, dotted with stone columns and heavy vines. “Well I guess my map is useless,” she muttered.
Noticing a particularly tall stone column along the edge of the chasm, the paladin swung at it with his mace. "What are you doing?" The barkeep proclaimed as the paladin hit the column once more. "Making a bridge," he stated, delivering the final blow. The column tipped and fell across the wide mouth of the chasm, letting out a loud thud as it just barely reached the other side, creating a makeshift bridge. The paladin started across the column, and when the ranger gathered up her fox friend and moved to cross, the barkeep grasped her arm. “Hold on, that doesn't look safe at all, and it's so…so high up..." the barkeep let out, trembling and turning pale. "Oh you'll be fine, I've crossed chasms on decaying logs before, which I can guarantee is less stable, and I'm still alive aren't I? Besides, this is way faster than going around or through." "Well, yeah, but it's so far down, what if I fall off?" As the ranger tried to convince the barkeep to cross the bridge, the minotaur awakened. Quickly coming to his senses he rose, picking up his ax and barreling towards our heroes. Seeing this, the paladin rushed back across the bridge and knocked the other two out of the path of the minotaur, just in time. The minotaur stumbled as his prey eluded his grasp and fell hard onto the bridge with a loud “CRACK!”. As he attempted to recover his footing, they heard a much louder “CRRRAAAAACCKK!” that echoed around the chasm. Before the minotaur could get off the fallen column, it collapsed and he fell with it, crashing to the deep creeper-covered morass below. "Well, I guess we're going the long way." the barkeep stated in relief, with a chorus of sighs from the paladin, ranger, and fox in response to this news. They had two choices: try to go around the edges of the chasm, or find a way down to the jungle floor and safely back up on the other side. They had no idea how far down it really went and what other dangers might be lurking, so our heroes decided to make their way around the rim. They started walking along the edge towards the left side, the vines increasing in density, when they came across a lone drum mallet. “Wonder who this belongs to," the Ranger exclaimed while stooping down to pick it up. As she knelt, the barkeep stumbled seemingly out of nowhere, and ended up entangled in some vines suspended from a broken column just over the chasm’s maw. "Guys! Somebody please help me out of here!" He shouted, growing terrified with every second he was above the chasm. "Hold on!" the Ranger shouted as she attempted to think of a way to get him down, tucking the mallet in her pouch. Meanwhile the paladin again wielded his mace and started thrashing it into the mass of creepers suspending the barkeep. As the higher vines broke, the barkeep realized he was slowly being dragged backward into the chasm by lower tendrils. "No no no no no!" he shouted. When the paladin disconnected the final few vines above the barkeep, their ends shriveled up. The ranger quickly grasped one of the thick lower vines, which was entwined firmly around his waist by a multitude of smaller tendrils, and pulled him back up towards the ledge. Safe from immediate danger now, the vines surrounding the barkeep seemed to untangle as he clambered across the ledge to the nearest wall, propping himself up and breathing deeply as the ranger and paladin attempted to calm him. The ranger's fox friend sniffed curiously at the shriveled tendrils, which promptly began to wriggle away and fell into the chasm below. Taking a moment to catch their breath, our heroes heard an unusual sound in the relative quiet: singing? Following the source around the broken column, they spotted a meeple entangled in vines on a wall. It sounded like he was singing something about a lost mallet. "You need some help there?" The Ranger asked as the paladin started hacking away at the vines surrounding the meeple. "Oh, hello. Yes, thank you," he said as the vines around him shriveled and wriggled off. Once the meeple had been disentangled, the heroes could see he had a drum and lute attached to his back. A bard! "Um, have any of you by chance seen a mallet matching this one nearby?" The bard asked, extending his arm which was now holding a mallet matching the one they found earlier. "Oh, so that's who this belongs to!" the ranger exclaimed, digging it out of her pouch and handing it over, "how did you even lose it?" "Well I was wandering through this maze, when suddenly I was grabbed by something and dragged away from the chasm which I'd been following the edge of, dropping one of my mallets as I tried to break free. Then I must have blacked out because I woke up here already entangled." As he said this, the bard gestured around to the nearby columns and walls that were covered in vines, some of which had skeletons in varied states of decay wrapped tightly in them. "Creepy, isn't it?" The bard remarked. Suddenly, the vines on the walls reached out towards the group, as though they were alive. "What in the-!" the paladin cried out, slashing at the tendrils with his mace. The heroes drew their weapons, breaking as many vines as they could, but they just kept coming. They started backing towards the chasm, when suddenly they heard a roar. "Guys," the barkeep shouted out with a trembling voice, facing the chasm, "I think I found out what dragged away the bard!" The group turned and discovered a mass of vines supporting a giant plant pod with menacing yellow eyes and a wide mouth full of huge, sharp teeth above the chasm directly in front of them. It was smiling.