The Adventure

Somewhere in the province of Lumbridge, a young boy, very passionate about adventures, comes face-to-face with the adventure of his life.

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1. The Adventure - A Short Story

            Through the closely set buildings of Lumbridge, the dusty, gravel path squirms, almost parallel to the River Lum, out north into the widespread greenery of the countryside. The breeze is much stronger up here in the open farmlands, sometimes carrying with it from the south a hint of decaying vegetation, and occasionally of dead trees from the west. When the foreign winds are not blowing, the air in the northern outskirts of Lumbridge is crisp with the strong smell of freshly ground flour from the windmill, and of sprouting crops.

            Like any other dreary province, the Lumbridge northern farmland lacks the sort of noise and festivity that one would find in any big cities like Falador and Varrock. The only sort of interesting frolic around this area is the periodical blundering of adventurers from the Far East as they pass through this rural area heading for the big cities either northwards or westwards. They rarely stay. It is not unexpected, though, considering the lack of stimulation this peaceful and quiet place offers to any brave and enthusiastic adventurers.

            It was fifteen to seven, and the tired sun was still lingering on the horizon, watching worn shoulders as they retreat into the comfort of their grey stone houses. I was still out in the farm under that watchful gaze, whitewashing the fences of the cabbage plantation. Cabbage. Yuck! I looked down the rows of wooden planks with their worn-out colour and estimated about ten feet more of fences to whitewash before I could join the rest of the crowd and retire for the day. It was not exactly the best job that anyone can ask for, but no one questions Old Man Fred the Farmer if he tells you to do something, especially if he pays you for it. The day had been a long one for I had been out whitewashing fences since breakfast. Even the milk lady had retired to her little cottage next to the windmill. My limbs were numb from the constant left-right motion, and my back ached from the squatting and standing. Against what I was told, I decided to take a rest. I dumped the brush into the bucket of whitewash, and threw all my weight down onto the soft grass by the gravel path. With my hands behind my head, I watched the clouds swim across the scarlet sky. How I wish I was free like the clouds. If I was an adventurer, I would roam the lands, kill dragons, and save a beautiful princess; I would go into dungeons and retrieve treasures, solve mysteries, and enjoy cider with my fellow adventurers; I would not whitewash the fences or eat cabbage soup. I wish I could be more than just a child in a farmland. I wish I was an adventurer.

            Before I could trail further into my thoughts, I caught sight of a strong, manly figure trudging up the gravel path from Lumbridge. I sat up, and watched the man climb the little meadow with surprising difficulty. Hanging over those sturdy shoulders was what looked to me like a very heavy cape made of leather, maybe dragon leather; but the cut looked too coarse for an expensive dragon leather, and it did not look very much like a cape for it was large enough to hide the strong arms of the man. Underneath the heavy cape-like leather, he was wearing a rough woven tunic, and unadorned linen trousers that were torn at places, revealing fresh and old bruises. I could see a little of his left arm, as he panted up the meadow, carrying a sizeable shield of red and yellow.

            It came as a surprise when the man plodded over to where I was sitting. I could not help but curl my nose to the smell for he reeked of sweat, rotting fish, and urine. His hair was dark, curly and unkempt, and his beard covered half his unwashed face, hiding bruises that told of many great stories from lands afar. The face was unfamiliar. Under the vermillion light of the setting sun, he looked sad and defeated, almost as if he had just cried his soul out. At that moment, my heart sank and I felt like I had been wrongly deceived by that solid figure.

            The man gestured to the bucket of whitewash. I looked at it, and then back at him questioningly. Again he gestured to the bucket, but this time he said, “I could do the rest of the fence for a meal.” I looked at him, bright eyed. The prospect of a quick job filled me with joy, and I quickly stood up, ready to rush back into the stone house to prepare a meal. But before I could dash across the gravel path, a thought occurred to me; Old Man Fred the Farmer. I felt the thrill dissipate out of my body, and gloom settling in. I turned to him, and with a frown I was forced to decline, “I’ll get a real good spanking if my old man caught me sitting around while someone else does my job for me.”  For a moment the man surveyed the countryside. His deep-set grey eyes, beneath those thick brows, scanned the dull structures that sheltered the peasants of Lumbridge, the fence-protected crops and livestock, and the lands beyond the horizon. Time did not seem to move too quickly, or perhaps, his inspection was too slow for my liking. As I waited somewhat patiently, I could not help but stare at that hollow face and wonder what was going through his mind; though maybe I was more occupied with wondering what his mind might have gone through. The feeling of being cheated was still holding steadfastly to my heart, and I could not seem to shake it off however hard I tried.

            “He won’t be out the next fifteen minutes,” the man said suddenly, “That should be enough time to get the fence done.” I looked at him puzzled. His gaze was still fixed at the horizon, as if a magnificent theatrical show that I could not see was going on. Feeling a little rude interrupting, I asked, “But how do you know?” There was a moment of still silence as the breeze blew gently against us. Without averting his gaze, as if afraid to miss an important scene, he replied, “All the men, women, and children have just retired after a long day. They are occupied with dinner or rest for at least fifteen minutes.”

            I was not sure if I was convinced by what he said, but I found myself charging back to the house to prepare a meal. The house smelled musty of damp clothing, and clutters of unwashed beer mugs littered the grimy dirt floor. It was very humid and stifling within the house for the bad ventilation kept the afternoon heat within the enclosed space. Outside the box of warmth though, the cool breeze danced into a gust as the warm air rose to her cradle among the clouds, and the cold air hurriedly took over her playground on the lands. I scuttered into the kitchen looking for something edible among the dirty dishes that cluttered up most of the counters. A pot of stew was boiling over the firepit. With a stained ladle I scooped a spoonful of the beef stew into the cleanest bowl I could find, and carefully arranged it on a dented iron tray. I snatched two loaves of stale bread from the bread basket, dumped them on the tray next to the bowl of stew, and lifted the ashet of nourishment with caution. On the way out, I picked up a bucket of fresh milk from the shelf, and quickly made my way to the cabbage plantation, hoping against hope that Old Man Fred did not realize that I ever stepped in and stole food for a manky stranger.

            The temperature out here had dropped a few degrees even though the sun was still watching over naughty children loitering in the farm. I wondered whether the ventilation of that old house was actually as bad as I thought it was, and whether children were actually that stupid to stay out in this weather. As I approached the fence where I left the man, I saw him sitting, back-towards the house, on the soft ground whitewashing the bottommost plank of the fence with his left hand. The shield was left on the grass not far from where he was sitting. He must have heard my heavy steps on the gravel as I ran – as fast as I could with the valuable load in my hands, that is – for he stopped and turned to look at me. He smiled. It took me by surprise and I staggered, spilling some milk onto the ground. I flashed him an awkward smile, settled down close to the massive shield, and shoved the tray onto his lap. There was no time wasted: He took huge, forceful bites out of the dry bread, swallowed them without chewing, coughed, gulped down the stew, and took more bites out of the now violently assaulted bread. I watched the starving man somewhat uncomfortably. He was gobbling down his food so quick that he choked almost every time he took a bite out of the poor bread. I pushed the bucket of milk towards him, concerned that he might choke himself to death with chunks of bread. He stopped, a large lump of beef and soaked bread stuffed in his mouth, and stared at the white liquid. With great difficulty he swallowed the entire mix down his throat and then asked, “Milk?” I nodded.  He shook his head, “Do you not have cider?” I moved my eyes from the man’s face to the stone house that was sitting silently at a turn of the gravel path. “My old man’s got them all. Can’t touch them he said.” I replied somewhat apologetically, although I was rather sure that there was no reason to be sorry about this. He nodded, and took a long swig out of the bucket.

            I looked at the red and yellow shield that was sitting right next to me. It was stained with dirt, grime, and mush that looked very foreign to a farm boy, but behind the filth, the shield appeared to be very handsome and solid, just like the man in the strange-looking cape. A little wash and polishing will get the shield back to its original state. I began inspecting the shield with keen interest as the man chewed on the bread, now at a slower pace. If this was my shield I would have it cleaned until pristine and repair any damages after every battle with trolls and dragons; I would hold it high against my chest and carry it with great pride as we journey the mountains and dungeons; I would show the world this beauty and our intimate relationship. It was such a shame that a beautiful shield would have to live a life of poverty, a shield that so closely resembled the anti-dragon shield – if I squinted and looked past the dirt, I could vaguely make out the shape of a dragon. Suddenly I felt my face flushed. Could this be the anti-dragon shield? Could this man be an adventurer who killed a dragon? Could that ugly rag wrapped around the strong body be a dragon skin?

            I immediately turned to the man and blurted, “You’re an adventurer!” He looked at my redden face. I could not contain the excitement. I felt my body pumping up, and my palms sweating. My face muscles began tearing as my mouth stretched into a huge grin. A million thoughts zoomed through my head faster than I could understand them. My heart was pumping as fast as it could. My breathe was heavy but quick. My muscles tensed. My world started spinning as the adrenaline rang in my ears, the heat increased, and the speed of my mind went faster than lightning. I was in heaven.

            There was a moment of silence, then, with a cynical smile, he stated, “I’m no adventurer.” I stared at him wide-eyed, not quite certain what he meant. Before I could attempt to understand his words, he continued, “There are no adventurers. There are only fairy tales.” I suddenly felt like a balloon being deflated. Everything dissipated: the adrenaline, the excitement, the thrill. I was confused. I thumped my fist on the ground and protested, “I have seen adventurers heading to kill dragons with my own two eyes. That’s the anti-dragon shield. And that must be a dragon skin.” He smiled and it made me really angry. I wanted to scream at him. I wanted to hit him in the face. I wanted to kick him where it hurts. Either he was oblivious to my anger, or he just did not care how I felt for he did not wipe that disgusting smile from his face, and continued on with the trample, “They don’t go for adventures; they travel to big cities to look for jobs. Sometimes they get paid to clean the gutter, sometimes they have to travel into dark holes to kill fire-breathing dragons...” He seemed to have started chasing his thoughts for he fell silent suddenly. The smile disappeared as he shifted his gaze from my face to the horizon. A veil of uncomfortable silence fell between us, pushing the distinct howling of the Northern wind into the background. I sat there feeling very self-conscious with my toes curled in my shoes and somewhat powerless over the fact that he had complete control over the conversation.

            I waited patiently although I was still very angry at him. Looking over his shoulder, in a distance, I could still see the grey stones of the Lumbridge Castle. While Lumbridge may be a village, the large Lumbridge Castle still looked imposing and dignified from a distance of twenty miles. I bet that Duke Horacio could tell this dirty vagrant that there are adventurers.

            When he spoke again, his tone had changed. He sounded grave as he said, “No man goes into the lair of a monster willingly, and neither do they walk in with joy and pride. We walk into caves with fright, even the man who walks out alive with the head of a vicious dragon.” He paused, rubbed his nose, and said, “For every celebrated victory, five hundred families cry in sorrow for their loss. But no one listens to them. No one cares about their dead family members. People call those dead men and women cowards. Call them weak. Place them as props in the background to make the man who walked out alive look strong and brave. But it’s not the man’s fault. He’s just lucky to get off–” “That’s not true!” I could not help but interrupt this blasphemous talk, “They kill dragons with great pride to protect their cities and families! They’re strong and –” “They don’t!” he roared. I looked at him with fearful eyes and I could feel myself tremble with terror as those grey eyes looked right into my soul. His voice was raised and I could almost hear the fury in his words, “I walked into that bloody hole to save my wife despite knowing that she was long gone as supper! I was miserable. I was angry. I was frightened. There was no pride. No cities to protect. No nothing. There was only me and my inability to come to terms with the fact that my wife was bloody dead. Bloody dead eaten by that vile creature! And I killed that beast and wear its coat. But I’m no hero. There is no pride in all this. I lost my sword, my home, and my bloody arm!” At that moment, he pulled open the right side of the dragon skin with his left hand, revealing a stump, in place of an arm, wrapped in a filthy cloth that was stained with pus, blood and other strange fluids. There was a very strong rotten stench, and I felt my gut tighten into a ball, refusing to untangle as I forced my will through the mess. I was becoming increasingly sick from the sight and smell, but I continued fighting a losing battle against my body to retain whatever composure I had left. With an agonizing contraction, the ball of what used to be my gut thrust a mix of food, water, and stomach acid through the lump in my throat and out into the open. I threw up all over myself uncontrollably. There were vomit, mucus, and tears – from the vomiting or from being ashamed I do not know – on my shirt, pants, and on the soft ground.

            I heard the man took his shield, stood up, and walked away, leaving the freezing Northern wind to blow at me while I cry shamefully in my vomit. It was painful. I lifted my despicable head and watched the man plod towards the setting sun with that red and yellow shield. His shoulders were broad and his back solid. I wondered if I was angry at the damage that he had caused to my dreams, or at the unfinished fence.

 

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