Prelude to Glory III

By Ralsu

Prior to taking the position of Assistant Community Manager for DDO Ten
Ton Hammer, I was a contestant in a contest hosted by Ten Ton Hammer to
give away a free copy of DDO.

The contest required writers to submit a
piece of creative fiction not to exceed 1,000 words. We also had to
pull out a snippet of 100 words or less and post in the forums. Not
only were our wirting skills being tested, but we were being asked to
market our stories to readers via a measly 100 words!

I submitted three entries in all before DDO Ten Ton Hammer Community
Manager Karen "Shayalyn" Hertzberg contacted me about doing some
volunteer writing for the website. Once I had become a volunteer
writer, Shayalyn and I agreed that I should withdraw my entries from
the contest. href="">Richard
Davey and Andrew Ferguson went on to win the contest. I got to
flash a little creative writing in href="">Stormreach:
Quest for Glory, chronicling the adventures of Ralsu and Shayalyn
in the DDO beta.

Now for the first time, we release the third of the contest submissions
for public display. The story reveals how Ralsu romanced Nealgig's
niece, Aruthra, and how Ralsu's curiosity led to the destruction of her
inn. Enjoy!

Much preferring the comfort of a
warm bed to a conversation with the captain of the gate guard swiftly
approaching from the west, Ralsu checked into the first inn he saw. The
sturdy building stood on a corner by itself, featuring walls of stone
that showed little moss. Apparently the owner took care of this place.
Ralsu doubted he would want to pay the going rate at the style="font-style: italic;">Cozy Cot. He ducked inside anyway.

Ralsu paid less than he'd expected but more than he'd wanted for a
night's stay. An elderly gnomish woman offered him some rabbit stew for
a few coins extra, but Ralsu wasn't hungry enough to part with money.
Another gnome crone took over at the counter while the dark elf boy
running it went to fetch Ralsu's mule from the woods just outside the
town gates. It was worth a few coins to be certain that a forest
creature didn't kill Tebuckey.

href=""> alt="Aruthra Jess"
style="border: 2px solid ; width: 57px; height: 150px;" align="left">Ralsu
slept late the next morning and only made it down for breakfast after
most of the guests had already departed. He sat at the end of the table
opposite the door and let one of the ancient gnomes from the night
before—he wasn't sure which—serve him some ham and flatbread with milk.
As he took his meal, a young woman in a lush green dress descended the
stairs from the sleeping quarters. One of the gnomes met her at the
bottom of the stairs. The woman stooped so that the gnome could say
something into her ear before looking up at Ralsu. She waved away the
gnome and moved toward the dining table.

“I understand you have a pack animal that used to belong to Nealgig
Jess,” she addressed him.

Ralsu moved his left hand from his mug of milk under the table to rest
at his waistline. The unchewed bit of ham in his mouth was both greasy
and salty. He discreetly moved aside his brown vest to reach for
his—Bah! He'd left his dagger in his room.

“How is Uncle Nealgig?” the woman inquired. Ralsu's ham went down
awkwardly, and he had to drain his milk before he could speak.

“I'm sorry. Did you say Uncle
Nealgig?” he croaked.

“Aye. And that mule you bought from him is sure to be a good one. Uncle
Nealgig has a way with animals. But where are my manners? Thank you for
your patronage at the Cozy Cot.
I'm Aruthra Jess, the owner.”

The panic abated, Ralsu took time to assess her. Aruthra was a pretty
woman with powdery skin and an oval face. Her nose was small and
rounded—quite feminine, Ralsu thought. Her eyes were a mottled but
intense combination of green and yellow. They made her look almost like
a predatory cat and combined with her long, honey tresses to make her
seem like a painting behind a cloudy glass, as if a vision from a dream.

Because Aruthra was still standing beside him, Ralsu tried to take in
her figure inconspicuously. Her youthful figure reminded him of the
ornate candleholders that decorated Father Wynan's office in the Church
of the Silver Flame where Ralsu'd spent his youth: her lovely face led
to a pleasantly round torso that thinned at the waist and expanded
again at her hips. Curvaceous, young, the owner of the style="font-style: italic;">Cozy Cot—what was there not to like?

“The owner of the Cozy Cot
the questioned escaped before Ralsu could check it.

“Aye,” she laughed. “Well, mine and my brother's. The papers remain in
his name because he is male, but I am the owner in action. Women aren't
readily accepted as property owners here. Of course, Lord Haldort would
simply die if he discovered a dark elf owned property in his city!”

Aruthra seemed deviously amused with herself. She even blushed,
bringing attention to her reddened ears. Ralsu noted their pronounced
upward slope.

“Aruthra, you're half-elf!” he announced and was immediately ashamed
for blurting out the obvious. “Wait, your brother—a dark elf—owns this

Bolstered by his social blunder, Aruthra pulled a chair adjacent to
Ralsu and seated herself. Her perfect posture presented her ample bosom
as a baker's delicacy in the window of a shop. The contrast of her pale
skin with the black trim of her green dress was striking. The dress
itself seemed as though it must be a family heirloom: its very fine,
very short fur-like material revealed its value. That was even without
noticing the tiny emeralds adorning the black trim. Ralsu imagined that
the dress would shine with fire out in the sunlight.

“Please, call me Aru,” she insisted in her lilting, sing-song voice. style="font-style: italic;">She must be a morning person. I hate
morning people. href=""> alt="Aru Casting"
style="border: 2px solid ; width: 124px; height: 150px;" align="right">

“Let me tell you my story and then you can tell me yours,” she
continued, and Ralsu was enamored. He loved a good story.

Over the course of the next three weeks, Ralsu romanced Aru, not even
needing his magic to ply local information from her. He learned that
she was a good woman and a budding sorceress. He learned that her
parents had dies two years ago, leaving her to care for the orphaned
dark elf they'd taken in before they died. Finally, he got the two
things he wanted: the tale of an ancient wizard tower sunken into the
swamp three days west of the city and a night of passion in her bed.

Sadly, pursuit of Ralsu's first goal led to a fair bit of trouble, and
trolls assaulted the Cozy Cot
on the night he achieved his second. Lying with her had saved his life,
but the guards had to burn the inn to the ground to destroy the
monsters. The attention of the guards meant his welcome was worn out.
Ralsu gave a currier a letter for Aru's uncle, and he and Tebuckey set
of to the north to find a boat that would take them to Stormreach.

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Last Updated: Mar 29, 2016

About The Author

Karen 1
Karen is H.D.i.C. (Head Druid in Charge) at EQHammer. She likes chocolate chip pancakes, warm hugs, gaming so late that it's early, and rooting things and covering them with bees. Don't read her Ten Ton Hammer column every Tuesday. Or the EQHammer one every Thursday, either.