A while ago I started working on this adventure story about a guy who doesn't want to be an adventurer. It was set in this sort of post-apocalyptic med-fan fantasy punk world. Think of if the world got totally wrecked by weapons of mass destruction and the human culture that survived took on a more medieval structure, but technology still survived and was seen as evil due to the previously mentioned apocalypse. It was pretty rad. And then my hard drive died, so I lost that story. Fortunately I did email some parts to friends, so I still have the first chapter or so preserved.
Anyway, here it is, my first draft of an anti-adventure adventure story.
Anyway, here it is, my first draft of an anti-adventure adventure story.
The Sacred Hero of Ages awoke to a morning he'd waited his entire life for, filled with an all-encompassing desire... to go back to sleep. Seriously, why did destiny mandate he get up with the sunrise? It was going to take months to even make it to the big, evil overseer freakbag's castle anyway. What difference would a few hours make?
Unfortunately, the Sacred Hero's Mother was a stickler for prophecy, and she promptly tore the sheets off the bed. The Hero made a noise akin to that of a dying rabbit, curling in on himself, arms over his head to shield his eyes from the burning, golden sun.
“Alexei.” His mother cooed at him. “Today's your big day.”
Alexei, the aforementioned Sacred Hero, didn't move. His new position was just comfortable enough that he could probably fall asleep again. He'd managed to avoid school with such a tactic before, maybe the same technique could apply to playing hooky from Resolute Purpose-filled Destiny.
It could not.
Alexei's mother, using the kind of bewildering power only mothers know, grabbed her son by the ankles and literally dragged him out of the bed. His back hit the creaky wooden floor with a loud smack. Awake and understandably grumpy, Alexei shouted a curse and began to kick his feet to get them out of his mother's grasp.
“Lemme go you senile old bird!” He growled, but her grip was unyielding.
“Destiny waits for no one.” She chirped back, dragging him across their modest peasant house and out the front door.
Outside the air was crisp and the sun was shining and Alexei felt like he was dying, just a little bit. Finally relinquished from his mother's completely unnecessary hold, he stood to find himself in front of the large wooden bathtub on their weathered porch. The tub had seen better days, with rusted fittings and several small leaks. A towel, worn thin and stained in various spots, was submerged in the water, draped along the bottom to protect bather's nether regions from errant splinters.
A small shove at his back nearly toppled him into the tub. He shot his mother an exasperated glare, to which she replied with a smile and a reminder of his forthcoming adventure, blah, blah, blah. Sighing, Alexei stripped out of his one piece of clothing, linen shorts (which were at some point leggings but the previous summer was too hot so he cut them off), and climbed into the tub. The water was cold, it was always cold, and he had to steel himself for the feeling of his dangly parts trying to climb inside his body for warmth.
“You'd think a lady whose son is supposed to save the world would at least heat his bathwater.” He complained, and was rewarded with a bucketful of even colder water being dumped on his head.
“You're building character, my boy.” His mother said from behind him, squishing a handful of something fruity and delicious smelling into his shockingly blue hair.
It was the hair more than anything that set him apart. The sign of a legendary hero, according to the crazy old priests of the village down the road. He still maintained it had something to do with those weird mushrooms his mother always gathered in the forest but never shared with him.
“The only thing I'm building is pneumonia.” Alexei grumbled, crossing his arms as his mother painstakingly scrubbed his hair. “You didn't have to make fruit oil, you know. Waste of good food.”
“Nonsense,” He could practically hear her smile. “It's a special occasion, so I bought the good stuff.”
“You what!” Alexei's surprised shouting was quite literally drowned out as another bucket of water was dumped on his head.
“I wanted to.” His mother replied, wrenching Alexei's arms up to scrub at his pits.
He was perfectly capable of bathing himself, a legal man for crying out loud, but she always complained he never did it right. At least she stopped her scrubbing at the waterline to save his shame from becoming fatal. She handed over the pathetic old sponge to let him take care of the rest. A quick scrub of only the necessary parts, then he tossed it over his shoulder and laid back in the water lazily.
“Mother,” Alexei glowered over the edge of the tub. “You didn't have to buy overpriced smelly goods for this. We... You don't have that kind of money to waste.”
“Not a waste, dear.” His mother said, carefully laying a perfectly folded stack of clothing on a nearby rickety table. “It may be my final gift to you.”
Alexei avoided the solemn look in her eyes to stare at the clothing. He didn't recognize a single piece of it, which probably meant it was new. And it looked crisp, which meant she must have bought them. (All of the clothes she made for him had that distinct “yes this was an old table cloth wanna fight about it?” look.)
“It doesn't have to be you know.” He said lowly, sinking a little more into the dirty water and watching his breath ripple the surface.
His mother sighed, sending him a hurt look. “Alexei-”
“You literally have the power to stop this anytime!” Alexei sat up quickly, turning as best he could to face her, water sloshing up and over the edges of the tub. “You're my mother! Just tell them I can't go! Tell them you need me!”
His mother got to her knees, even in the puddle steadily forming on the floor. She cupped her hands on either side of his face, smiling gently.
“You're a grown man now.” She brushed her fingers along his cheeks. “We both knew this day would come. Who would we be to ignore fate?”
“People with a sense of self-preservation for one-” Alexei's argument was made mute as his mother suddenly pushed his face, squishing his cheeks until his mouth looked like a fish pucker.
“Enough.” She said, pressing a kiss to his forehead.
“I'b seriobths.” Alexei said intelligently through his fish-lips.
“As am I.” His mother released his face and stood, the bottom hem of her tattered dress soaked. “Please, Alexei. You need to do this.” She turned, heading back into the house, pausing at the door frame. “You must follow your destiny. If not for the world, then for your dear mother.”
Alexei let out a heavy sigh, resting his arms on the edge of the tub and staring at her back. “That's rude, you know. Playing the guilt card on me like that...”
She whirled back around, grinning and giving him a wink. “Always works, doesn't it?”
Alexei cursed at her again and sent the empty bucket flying right at her. Unfortunately she managed to close the door just in time. Her wild cackling could still be heard minutes later.
The clothing, he found, was almost as uncomfortable as it was expensive. Itchy linens covered by heavy, hot leather armor with belts and pouches and pockets to hold items and weapons he didn't even have. The gloves were too small, the boots too big. He almost looked like a real warrior and he hated it.
After dressing, his mother brought a brush, forcing him to sit in the grass and new spring wildflowers like he had as a child, as she forced his tangled locks into submission. She hummed the same ancient lullaby, always off-key, and Alexei tried not to notice the waver of sadness in the notes.
She didn't want him to go. He didn't want to go either. If so-called destiny was so cruel why were they still bothering to believe it?
He glanced to the house, his home since birth, taking in the familiar weathered shingles and cluttered porch. The tree in the front he climbed to reach the roof to help repair the leaky ceiling. The old broom leaning against one of the windows, its handle held together with the fabric of an old shirt after he broke it in a teen-aged fit one day. His mother couldn't afford to buy new things, but they made do with their own hands.
Now his hair smelled like expensive fruit salad and his new clothes made it hard to sit. It wasn't fair.
Suddenly his hair was yanked back painfully and he gave a small shout. His mother calmly told him to stop squirming as she tied the newly-tamed blue back with a leather strap. When she released him he slumped forward, rubbing at his poor, sore scalp.
“Jeeze, lady.” He grumbled, annoyed. “Go easy on the savior of mankind, will ya?”
There was a small pause, then the feeling of warm weight against his back. His mother wrapped her arms around him, squeezing tight. Alexei's jaw set tight when he heard her shaky sigh. He turned his body enough to return the hug. He wanted to say something, to ask once again why he had to go, but chose to stay quiet for once. Her mind was set on the stupid prophecy, he couldn't change it. He'd been trying for years.
When they finally stood, she did a final check of his armor and holsters. Straightening things here and there until he apparently looked his best though he still felt stuffy and uncomfortable. Then she stopped, eyes going wide with some sort of terrible realization.
“Shit!” She shouted, hands instantly covering her mouth.
“Hey, I've rubbed off on you after all!” Alexei laughed.
His mother punched him in the stomach, knocking his air out even through the armor and making him double over. A second later she was apologizing and helping him stand straight again. He just laughed more.
“You sure give a guy a fond farewell.” He chuckled, rubbing at his stomach.
“It's not funny!” She shouted, then looked sheepish. “I... I forgot to get you a weapon.”
She looked away from him, fingers worrying her lips, thinking. Alexei's laugh faded into a smile. She really was concerned about him, going through all this trouble, only to forget likely the most important item he needed. It was almost the perfect addition to an already terrible day.
“Wait! Wait, I've an idea.” She exclaimed, darting towards the house with agility beyond her years.
Alexei watched curiously as she nearly tripped her way up the porch steps. She slipped in the puddle still lingering by the tub. Finally, she grabbed up... the broom. Really?
“Really?” He said as she made her way back, clutching the poor weather-beaten thing like it was made of gold.
“Yes. Please, take it.” She was panting.
“What am I supposed to do? Dust them to death?” Alexei tried to keep himself from laughing again.
“Alexei, please.” She was serious, maybe even looking a bit hurt.
Alexei sighed and took the broom from her hands. Turning it over, he wondered how he could possibly kill anything with it. As he assessed his new “weapon”, his mother fiddled with one of the holsters on his belt. At the sound of coins jangling, he looked down to see her attaching a small money pouch to his hip.
“This is the last of the savings for you. Please use it to buy a better sword and food and don't gamble and-”
“Mother...” Alexei interrupted her, setting a gloved hand gently on her shoulder, the other still holding the broom.
Her eyes were welling with tears and she fidgeted her hands in the apron she wore over her ragged dress. Smiling, a pained sort of smile, he pressed a kiss to her cheek.
“I can take care of myself.” He said.
“Since when?” She replied, but at least she laughed.
Alexei pulled away, again placing the broom in both hands. He held it near the sweeping part, then forcefully tried to break it off. When that didn't work he tried to snap it over his knee. The handle didn't give and the nerves in his leg twinged, nearly sending him toppling over. Limping for a few seconds, he tried it over the other leg, finally snapping the head off and leaving a jagged sharp point. His mother, watching this pathetic display, sighed loudly.
“Buy some more combat training while you're at it.” She said.
“More?” Alexei whined, shoving the broom-spear awkwardly into a holster meant for a sword.
“You haven't been keeping up with the training in the village, I know.” His mother went from warm affection to cross and disappointed in mere seconds. (Another hidden power of mothers everywhere.)
“Ugh, who wants to get grappled around by some old fart in his skivvies? I've touched things no one should have to touch. Don't even get me started on the smells, Mother.” Alexei complained. “Makes me wish for the new apocalypse already-”
“Alexei. Do it. Do it or I'll reign in the Great Death with my own bare hands, starting with you. Trust me, I know all your weaknesses.”
Alexei suddenly felt trekking months through the wilds to fight an impossibly evil overlord seemed like a pretty decent deal in comparison.
“Yes, yes, okay.” Alexei replied, waving his hands in a placating gesture. “I'll sweep the floor with 'em.”
His mother smiled again. After another long farewell hug, she finally sent him on his way down the dusty road that lead to the village.
On the way he passed by the twisted, rusting skeletons of ancient machines littering the decayed route. He remembered playing in the frames as a kid, cutting his hand open on one of the broken windows. The elders said they were the remains of chariots their ancestors powered with fire. Many had traces of ashes scattered across the seats. No wonder they'd been abandoned.
He walked leisurely, not particularly looking forward to whatever the residents had planned for his disembarkation. Over the years since his birth, their optimism about his existence began to wane. That was technically his own fault, he supposed.
He'd never been keen to the idea of being the Sacred Hero. He never took his studies seriously. Training for combat was tiresome and he wasn't as quick nor strong as people thought he should be. He tried to make friends, but always had a lingering doubt about their intentions. The few he did build a relationship with he didn't get to see often with his home being so close to the woods. Not exactly a glorious start for any sort of hero.
Honestly, he was a bastard and a peasant. Shouldn't the Sacred Hero be someone noble? Someone who could afford proper weapons and training and armor? Was his hair color really the only indicator of this ridiculous legend?
Questions already rejected by the village priests and elders, over and over. He was the one, whether he wanted to be or not. So say The Visionaires.
The Visionaires were assholes.
He reached the town square by noon. The high sun guaranteed he was already sweating and even more miserable. The fruit oil in his hair made his scalp itch. The heat made the smell even stronger, to the point it was giving him a headache.
“Good lord,” Came a familiar voice to his right, “You stink like the inside of a horse's ass. ”
“Missed you too, Davin.” Alexei sighed, looking to his friend to see him waving a hand dramatically in front of his nose.
“You're repulsive.” Davin grinned, slapping a hand over Alexei's shoulder. “I know you're not for it, but you coulda at least bathed for this auspicious occasion.”
“I did. This is fine fruit oil y'know. Mother bought it.” Alexei pointed at his hair.
“Ooh, excuuuuse me!” Davin waved his arms and bobbed his head sarcastically. “Sir Sacred Hero is too good for us common-folks' soaps.”
“You are beyond common.” Alexei replied, raising on his tiptoes to reach up and flick at one of Davin's slightly pointed ears.
Davin's grin just widened and he slipped a lengthy arm about Alexei's waist, easily pulling him close to his side and laying a head on his shoulder. “I do love a compliment.”
Alexei rolled his eyes, tilting his head as far away from the over-dramatic nuzzling currently taking place at his neck. He'd long ago gotten used to Davin's touchy-feely ways, though they weren't any less weird. Especially when he could feel all those female curves under his intentionally loose-fitting clothing. (Despite that, Davin insisted he was male since they were kids. Who was Alexei to argue?)
“Oh, is that Rosalie?” Alexei said dully, not actually seeing the woman he named.
The tactic worked. Davin released Alexei immediately. He looked around like an excited puppy for a second, then pouted when he realized his amour-du-moment was nowhere to be seen. Alexei laughed.
“Still chasin' that one? I'm surprised.” Alexei teased. “Your boss won't be so fond of you cuckoldin' him, y'know.”
“Swordsmaster like him's too old for her anyway.” Said Davin, smirking. “Bet his li'l dagger isn't even sharp enough for stabbin' anymore.”
“Gross.” Alexei still chuckled. “Least he's got the required equipment.”
“It's all in the method, Lex. I'll gladly show you sometime if you weren't sucha prude.”
“I'll pass.” Alexei shook his head.
“Ah, what would they say if yon Sacred Hero had his Sacred Purity undone by some bastard half-elf?”
“From the looks they're givin' us, they likely think you've already undone me and then some.”
“Disappointing, all the gossip with none of the action deserving of it.”
“Perhaps if you bed the Swordsmaster's wife you'll achieve both?”
“Now that is a quest I can truly 'get behind'.”
From the small courthouse nearby a loud scream ripped through the square. Surprised, both Alexei and Davin inclined to see the source. A young girl, barely teen-aged at most, was being lead by chains toward the center of the village. Behind her, linked to the binds at her wrists and ankles, was another young boy.
They were lead by the village Lawkeeper, flanked on either side by priests. The girl was sobbing and crying out to the Lawkeeper, who remained unmoved by the pleading. The boy also cried, though his appeals were directed at the girl, telling her to be quiet.
Alexei looked to Davin for explanation. After all, he lived in the village, so was more likely to know what was going on. Davin shrugged, though he looked concerned the same.
“Technicas, probably.” Davin said. “They've been convertin' a lot lately.”
Indeed, after the group was assembled in the center, the Lawkeeper (a burly sort of bearded man outfitted in armor meant for a much smaller frame, looking a bit like a sausage too fat for its casing) read off the charges. Multiple counts of obtaining illegal ancient technology, assemblage of such technology with intent to use it, the active use of ancient technology, and public mischief.
Were the Technicas really converting children? Talk about playing with fire. Everyone in the village knew tech was dangerous. The mangled metal carcasses on the roads were enough evidence of that. Alexei had never handled it himself, but he knew a few villagers who had. The ones who didn't meet their end through mishandling the tech certainly faced a cold escort to Death's door by yonder Sausage-Man.