The carnage of the battle was all over the floor and the walls. There were even Goblin guts on the ceiling. This dusty old crypt of the Lich King was newly washed down in the blood of those savage creatures, thanks to deadly dungeoneering skills of the Fellowship of the String.
Daggerin the Barbarian, Gygax the Wizard, Lore, the Cleric of the White Wood and Steve the Rogue began taking stock of the spoils of their violence — a pitiful hoard of rusty copper coins, a silver candlestick and a long staff that could be a Wand of Lightning Bolts or a Wand of Instant Death to All Who Pick It Up. (On the advice of Gygax, no one picked it up).
Daggerin was even bloodier than usual after this encounter. “I have quaffed the last of my potions of healing. Give one to me!”
“I will heal your wounds with the generous power of my deity, Xoxlan,” Lore said, moving towards Daggerin. “Let me lay my hands upon you and let almighty Xoxlan, peace be upon him, do the rest.”
“Get away from me, Cleric!” Daggerin shouted. “My flesh will not be mended by you or your strange god. Keep your grubby hands away.”
“Now, now,” Gygax said in a diplomatic tone. “We are all members of the Fellowship, here. What is the meaning of this argument?”
“I said keep away from me, you chanting idiot!” Daggerin shouted at Lore, raising his axe as a warning while turning his back to Gygax. “Who has a potion of healing? Give me it now.”
“This is highly irregular,” Gygax said, shaking his bearded head.
“You all know damn well why he’s acting this way,” Steve said while checking through the rest of the Goblin’s bodies to see if there were any more coins hidden away. “Let’s just get this out in the open, already.”
Daggerin pushed Lore away, then turned around and marched straight over to Gygax. Without a word, he started going through the wizard’s pack. Gygax mumbled a protest, but did not attempt to stop the brutish barbarian who still held his axe in his other hand.
“Ha! There! I knew you were hiding this,” he announced, plucking out a glowing blue bottle and quaffing its contents. He wiped his mouth with his arm as the many cuts to his sturdy frame magically disappeared.
In another moment, he was completely healed. “Oh, yeeeeaaaaaahhh,” he slurred. “That’s the good stuff.”
“Daggerin, you have gone too far this time,” Gygax said. “You’re acting like… well…”
“What?” Daggerin exclaimed. “Say it. Like a barbarian.”
“Isn’t that accurate?” Gygax asked.
“Seriously, if anyone is going to steal something out of the magician’s bag of tricks, it ought to be me,” Steve said. “You’re out of control, big guy.”
Daggerin glared at them, looking as though he might just do more than raise his axe to them. “I was wounded from battle,” he said. “We are not even halfway through this cursed crypt. Would you have me die here — and then fight you as part of the Lich’s undead horde?”
“I could have cast healing upon you just now and ended your pains with the power of the all-seeing Xoxlan — and it wouldn’t have cost our Fellowship a single gold piece,” Lore shot back. “We could stay at the inn for a week for the cost of a healing potion. I do not worship in the temple of the god of thriftiness, but there is wisdom in the example of the Accountants of Economontus ”
“Bah!” Daggerin shouted. “You greedy weaklings would sacrifice my blood for the gold in your purses. Who is always the first into the fight? Me! So what if I require more potions than you; where were you all when that Goblin with the short sword was hacking at my knees?”
Steve the Rogue marched right up to Daggerin. The barbarian towered over him by nearly two feet, but the thief was too angry to be intimidated. “We saw you fighting that Goblin, alright — when we were all busy fighting the rest of the horde. We saw that little green guy stabbing away at your shins with his little blade for two minutes before you finally hit back.”
“Goblins are too sprightly to strike down at will!” Daggerin argued. “My axe did slice the air above their skulls.” Despite his advantage of size, he actually backed away a few inches as Steve’s rage grew.
“You weren’t even trying!” Steve shouted. “You took out half of the Goblins in the first ten seconds of the melee. Then you just stopped and let them pile on.”
“My fighting arms were sapped of strength!” Daggerin shot back.
“You wanted them to hit you,” Steve said. “Just so you could have an excuse to use up our last healing potion. We all got hurt in that fight. Those healing potions are supposed to be our emergency stash for when Lore uses up his healing blessings from Zoglin.”
“That’s Xoxlan,” Lore corrected. “The almighty god of healthy lifestyles.”
“Whatever,” Steve said.
Daggerin took advantage of the distraction to shoulder his backpack, pick up his axe and head towards the nearest rune-inscribed door. “I tire of this talk,” he said. “Let us not speak of it again. A new battle awaits!”
Gygax appeared in front of Daggerin, teleporting from across the room to put his gnarled hand on the warrior’s shoulder. “I am sorry, Daggerin,” he said. “You cannot walk away from your problems — and we must not enable you to do it anymore. For too long, I did avert my eyes from your transgressions. When half of the treasure we purloined from the Castle of the Red Dragon went missing, I believed you when you said that it was stolen by a thief.”
“He said I stole it!” Steve interrupted.
“You are a thief,” Gygax said with a sigh. “But I apologize, old friend. When we found all of those used-up potion flasks in the closet of Daggerin’s room at the inn, I refused to intervene. He said they were flagons of ale, and I left it at that. I thought that our warrior just needed time to heal the invisible wounds that drove his addiction. But the time for intervention has come. We cannot proceed through the rest of this crypt together. Daggerin, you have a problem.”
“You’re right,” Daggerin said. “I do have a problem. The other members of the Fellowship are as useless as Gnomes.”
“That’s racist!” Steve shouted.
“Take your hand off me, old man,” Daggerin bellowed to the Wizard. “I will clear out this crypt of monsters on my own.”
“He wants to go off on a suicide mission?” Steve interjected. “Let him. See how far he gets without me looking out for traps, or without Gygax’s magic tricks. Good riddance. More gold for the rest of us — especially now that half our income won’t be spent on healing potions.”
“I will squash you like a bug!” Daggerin shouted, sprinting at the rogue who was caught off guard. The barbarian did “ferocious” very well — though usually, his fury was aimed at their enemies. He was within half a moment of cleaving Steve’s skull when he froze in place.
“What devilry is this?” Daggerin mumbled through frozen lips. “The Lich is upon us…”
“Not so,” Gygax said. “A simple paralysis spell is all that this is. The effect will wear off in a few minutes. In the meantime, we will do what we must.”
“Traitors!” Daggerin murmured louder, though he could not move.
“Lore, you have readied the blessing?” Gygax asked.
Lore nodded, but he seemed worried. “Removing addiction is a complex ritual. We cannot do it entirely from the outside, even with righteous Xoxlan’s help. The accursed one must be willing to accept the treatment. Indeed, he must first accept that he has a problem. I do not know that these conditions are in place.” They looked on Daggerin’s frozen, furious face with some trepidation.
“I understand your hesitation,” Gygax said. “But we have little choice. Our warrior’s affliction affects us all. We must try.”
Lore shrugged. “We will do what we can,” he said, not looking entirely confident.
“I don’t have a problem,” Daggerin insisted through clenched teeth. “But let me go and I promise I will not fight you.”
Lore began his ritual. The air shimmered. Daggerin still could not move, yet his eyes flickered open and shut.
The blessing was over soon. When Gygax’ spell wore off, the barbarian fell to the floor. He was not unconscious — just worn out and pouting.
“How do you feel?” Lore asked.
“Like a true warrior of Good who has been betrayed by those he thought closest to him,” Daggerin said with a steely glare.
“We were just trying to help you,” Lore said.
“I told you I do not need your help,” Daggerin said, pushing himself up off the ground and attaining his full height once more. “I will venture forth into the dungeon, with or without you.”
Gygax shook his head mournfully. “Then it will be without us, my friend. I am sorry.”
“You would abandon me in the Lich’s crypt?” Daggerin said.
“It is your decision to go further into this shadowy pit of despair on your own,” Gygax said. “It is you who are abandoning us.”
“Then go back to the town,” Daggerin said with gritted teeth. “Wait there for my return, with all of the gold of this Lich’s sanctuary. I will spend it all on healing potions — not to drink them, though no one should complain if I did — but just to spite you.”
“Not to spite us, I think,” Gygax said. “Do what you will, Daggerin. You will be missed on our adventures. Be safe.”
Daggerin went past the rune-inscribed door into the depths of the Lich’s crypt. He would never be seen alive again.
“It is a tragedy that we could not save him,” Gygax said as they wandered back to the entrance of the crypt, past adversaries crushed, chopped and blasted.
“As I said, even the blessings of almighty Xoxlan are not enough to save one who does not believe he needs saving,” Lore said.
“So, who do we replace the big guy with?” Steve asked. “Shouldn’t be too hard to find a guy who can swing a sword or an axe around these parts. Maybe next time we can find a guy who’s addicted to poison darts. Why do I always have to be the guy who catches the dart in the neck? We could split that duty up half the time…”