Erin Fitzgerald

At Grayfield Keep

My old buddy Asidri burned to death on a lava cavern tour and was chewed on by a goblin. Post-mortem. His mom sent an email to Asidri's email list. I hadn't seen Asidri in years, but I got his emails often enough. He'd send those stupid You Know You Are A Minotaur When... and Click for The Dancing Werewolf! things.

Five minutes after Asidri's mom, there were ten more emails. Everyone had replied all. One sent an animated felflower picture. It was sparkly, and it crashed my computer after thirty seconds. Tech Support was not happy.

Naxrus in Marketing shot me an email. We should go to the funeral and make stuff up about how brave Asidri was. Good idea, I wrote back. But Nax and I weren't going to quit our jobs, get our weapons from the pawn shop, and go into the forest to perform pointless deeds again.

There's a saying that all it takes to leave the adventuring life is one day in town. I just got tired. The pay was lousy. I couldn't follow television shows. That's even before everyone started whining about how dangerous adventuring was. Or how expensive, or environmentally unfriendly. Or how there won't be any trolls or wolvogs left in twenty seasons.

At break time I go to the stone parapets and look at the green hills. There's nothing on those hills now but a grocery store and a gnomish retirement community. And a portal, because where isn't there a portal these days? But the hills remind me of things.

I'm a lot of things. I'm Slayer of Mindwurms, revered in Himaria. The one thing I never want to be is That Adventurer. That Adventurer waves his claymore at intramural ball games and spins tales for bored administrative assistants and gets wrecked on ale at midsun work parties and carries on about crypts and the treasure box that was empty when he got to it. Blessed Black Dragon, just shut up already. No one cares.

I hate knowing stuff now only because I remember then.

Here's what I remember: Elves don't get heart disease or cancer. The only ways an elf becomes a dead elf is if he is flattened by a bus. Or he does the job himself.

I bet Asidri snuck away from the tour group. He took off his enchanted mithril, dumped his canteen of blessed water on the rocks, and waited. I'm sure he was glad he spent the boring time of his life dying. Not faxing things to orcs who never read faxes but require them anyway. Or conducting research studies about what elixirs will be popular with wood nymphs in the evensun of 16423. Asidri thought about his first set of too-small armor in his mom's basement. And just as he remembered his first enchantment, he was gone.

And if I remember anything right? That hungry goblin was poisoned with memory and hope.

Erin Fitzgerald lives in Connecticut and at rarelylikable.com. She is editor of The Northville Review, and her own work has appeared in many fine online literary journals.

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