#15: Following the Dirt Road

Our journey across the sea could not be described as smooth sailing. Dara said his boat only had enough material to transmute it into a small sailboat, and those are not made for long journeys on the ocean. It took all three of us to maintain control of it. Dara used his elemental magic to create wind to propel us forward, Gin used his barrier magic to keep the especially big waves away from us, which left me to run from one end of the ship to the other doing everything else. I would not have chosen this as my first journey across the sea.

We ended up on a pebble beach on the northern shore of Ronan. Past the beach, we could see rolling green hills extending into the distance. Growing up in the jungle, it was shocking to see so much open land. It felt unnatural to see so much green space without trees around.

“So what now?” Gin asked.

We all looked at each other expectantly. The ten seconds that followed felt like ten minutes.

“Really? No one has thought about the next part?” Gin asked, incredulously.

“I don’t know if you noticed, but we were all a little busy keeping the boat afloat to consider next steps,” I reminded him.

“Come on, Ruki,” Gin pleaded. “We’ve been thinking of this day our whole lives, you must know what you visualized. After we left home to become adventurers, we . . . . “ he began.

“Why are you looking at me? You were there too,” I said.

“Don’t do this, Ruki. Don’t you start blaming me,” Gin preemptively defended. 

I love Gin. That charming goblin kept me sane through most of my childhood, but sometimes childhood friends know exactly how to push your buttons. My hand instinctively reached to my side for my hand ax.

“O.K., O.K.,” Dara mediated. “Guys, we just landed. We’re exhausted. Let’s try to find a town and rest. I still have a little coin to get us a room and a meal at a tavern.”

“That’s it, a tavern!” Gin remembered excitedly. “I can play there for extra money and we can find adventuring work!”

“That sounds like a plan,” I concurred. “And I didn’t even have to come up with it. Should we just start walking until we find a road?”

“Yeah, shouldn’t take long,” Dara responded. “I’ve read that Ronan is known to have many small villages scattered throughout it. One writer joked that you can’t throw a rock without hitting one.”

Gin picked up a pebble from the beach and chucked it. Gin is lean and muscular, but it’s all for aesthetics. He is not built for strength. The pebble landed among its rocky compatriots further down the beach.

“False,” Gin declared.

“Just start walking,” I demanded.

It turns out, Dara was right. Once we reached the top of the first grassy hill, we saw a dirt road below. I took a moment to appreciate the view. There were rolling green hills as far as the eye could see, it was stunning. We turned right on the long stretch of road and walked for about twenty minutes. We eventually saw a wooden sign emblazoned with bright red lettering that read, “Welcome to Éindí Grá!”

Éindí Grá, I would come to find out in the coming weeks, was a typical quaint Ronan village. The dirt road continued into the town and ran down the length of it. We saw a provisions store, a small doctor’s office, a number of small houses, and a tavern. The tavern in this town was called Cabbage and Ale, as evidenced by the hand-painted wooden sign that featured a tankard of ale beside a steaming bowl. My tribe would occasionally trade for ale, but I had never actually eaten cabbage before. It must not be native to the jungle.

“Ruki! It’s really happening!” Gin excitedly said to me. His delight did erode a bit of my weariness away.

“We’re becoming adventurers!” I agreed and a smile crept onto my face.

“I just hope they accept Anglachelan gold,” Dara worried.

As we entered the Cabbage and Ale, I was struck with a whiff of home. In our settlement, the most prominent smell was always the burnt smell that came with the large fire we used to cook group meals. The Cabbage and Ale featured a prominent fireplace in the center its modest dining room.

“Give us a moment,” a heavily accented matronly voice called our way. “We’re only just gettin’ past our lunch rush. Have yeself a seat and we’ll be with ye shortly.”

A chubby gnome woman with a thicket of reddish-grey curls on top of her head stood behind the bar. The bar top was surprisingly short, though made perfect sense when considering the size of the proprietor. The majority of the tables were also the same kind of compact, but there was a couple of medium-sized tables near the back corner of the establishment. Dara, Gin, and I seated ourselves as the gnome woman walked into a room behind the bar. We sat quietly and took in the comfortable, inviting space around us.

A moment later a much younger gnome woman came out of a back room. She carried a stool in one hand and a notepad in the other. She was presumably some relation to the first woman, based on the similar facial features. Conversely, her curls flowed onto both of her shoulders into a waterfall of vibrant red. She wore a white collared tunic sloppily tucked into her form-fitting leather pants. She placed the stool in front of our table and stepped onto it with the precision of someone that had been doing this for most of their life.

“Mam said there was some tall folk here,” she began. “What can I get ye?”

“What would someone so beautiful as yourself recommend?” Gin asked in a flirtatious tone.

“Oh, I didn see ye back there,” she laughed. “So ye guys have a lil’ one with you too. I thought ye were a child or somethin’.”

That proper took the wind out of Gin’s sails. I liked this girl.

“Don’t mind my friend,” I apologized. “We would appreciate a recommendation though. We’re not from around here.”

“Oh ye don’t have to tell me,” she responded. “We don’t get many orcs or goblins around these parts. Our special is the stew bubblin’ over the fire. That’s never a bad choice.”
“Then give us three of those,” Dara answered. “And some water would be great.”

“I’ll get ye guys some ale,” the waitress said.

It was starting to sink in that we were really in a totally different place. We’d really made it. We were going to be adventurers.


These stories serve as inspiration for the upcoming short story collection, Tyranny of the Fey. The collection will be released in Fall 2023. You can get a $1 preview now!


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