The Heroic Quest of Cleaning Out the Closet – Chapter 1 – Where Our Heoes Get Ready to Start the Day
This is where the reader is introduced to Wendel the ascetic, karate-kicking Monk with a drinking problem and to Sir Raphael the noble-only-in-appearance Paladin with a strong sense of self-preservation.
The first scene takes place in “The Sprawl’s Kolaches”, a morning breakfast café known for their meat-filled pastries, donuts, and coffee.
“I hate pubs, everyone is drunk there. I much prefer places where I’m the only one that’s drunk.” The robed man gesticulated frustration as he hogged the creamer nook at the crowded kolache shop. Without giving way he turned to a middle-sized man outside the line in gleaming plate armor and a large shield. “I mean, everyone is inebriated, everyone is impaired.” He turned back to the carafes, ignoring the small line of folk that had formed behind him waiting to put sugar and fat into their morning java. “Why would people go to tap-houses to enlist the aid of adventuring troupes?”
“I know, it makes no sense.” Sir Raphael tried to wave the person next in line to press up and make her presence felt behind the impeding monk. At the same time, Raph moved back to make more room for others as they crowded behind the blocked condiments bar.
The woman next in line started to reach over, but the monk grabbed the half-n-half jug just before she could. She shrunk back in neutered frustration.
The monk continued, “If someone with any sense wants to hire an adventuring party, they should look in more reputable locations.”
“Like a Kolache shop?” Sir Raphael was humoring the monk, but the monk took no notice of the patronizing tone.
“Yeah, like a Kolache shop!” Wendel stopped just short of pouring cream into his coffee – lost in thought at the prospect of taking adventuring jobs over coffee and donuts. The barista coughed a complaint over the line towards Wendel, but it was casually dismissed.
The paladin immediately saw that his snide comment just became reality and started to try and figure out, exactly, what that meant for him. He jutted through the wait, arms lifted up and forward as if wading chest-deep in a strong current. He stopped at a large chalk board at the front of the store. It read something like “Mocha-choco-latte-achino 2sp” and right below it, separated with a beautiful chalk drawing of the sun rising over a field of red flowers, was “Pegasus Sausage Kolaches 3sp”. There was a bunch of other writings (with good penmanship, mind you) – but none of it mattered.
The whole shop was suddenly silenced as Sir Raphael’s gauntleted hand scraped with a nerve-rattling screech across the blackboard. The first pass over the chalked lettering and pictures just left smeared chasms of blurred colors — only slightly obfuscating the original content. Sir Raphael assessed his mailed hand’s eraser qualities and instead of giving up he brushed his hand harder and deeper and faster across today’s specials. The spine-shattering din caused hands to clench and muscles to spasm across the establishment. Patrons squeezed hot coffee in their laps, tripped over tables, let food plop out of open mouths. When the frenzied keening stopped, all that could be heard was a lone baby crying and the sound of a milk frother.
Wendel’s shoulders lowered back down from a protective hunch that he took when the erasing began. “Damn it, Raph, I can’t take you anywhere.” He started and finished pouring cream into his coffee, drank a giant gulp, and then poured the rest of the cream into his cup. He shook the carafe at the barista and told him it was empty as it slogged about half-a-cup of liquid back and forth. When he sat it down on the nooked table, he slightly missed, and the carafe barely wobbled and then fell to the floor just as the waiting lady tried to catch it. The crystal jug landed perfectly on the cobbled floor. Bounced not once, but twice. Just long enough for the lady to begin to think that disaster was averted. And then it shattered – sending long, thin needles of glass and cream all over the floor and over queued shoes, skirts, and trousers.
Wendel turned back to the nook after he was well away and silently noticed the long line and the broken milk bottle. Secretly he knew he was responsible for all the inconvenience, and though he felt a little bad, resigned the situation to his horrible luck.
Sir Raphael stood and stared at the ‘erased’ chalk board. No color was actually removed, instead it was more-or-less unevenly smeared across the black backing. Wendel came and stood behind him. The kolache shop slowly resumed the bustle of morning brew and sugary breakfasts. In the background, a hurried bus-lass attempted to sweep up wet shards from uneven flooring. The proprietors of “The Sprawl’s Kolaches” were too busy to care about the chalk board. Plus, even if they weren’t busy, this wasn’t their first run-in with Wendel and Raph – they knew better than to interrupt their mechanizations.
Wendel quickly assessed the situation and silently understood where Sir Raphael was going with this. He gently pushed the heavily armored man aside in a way that was both innocuous and forceful. Only a person with a keen understanding of balance, pressure points, and accuracy could have moved the mailed figure in such a way. Sir Raphael suddenly became aware that he had been displaced. Wendel now stood in front of the chalkboard and using one bare finger, wrote in the smeared chalk, clearing away black lettering on a rainbowed background. Simultaneously, he procured a flask from his off-hand sleeve using his off-hand and while balancing his coffee on his knee, two fingered the flask lid, spiked his brew, screwed the top back on and then re-hid it back in his sleeve, again all with his off-hand. His main-hand was busy scrawling “Famous Adventurers available for quests. Ask for Wendel. Price: buy something.” With that last line, he winked at the barista who was taking an interest in what was being written. The waiter nodded acceptance, and then Wendel and Sir Raphael took seats at the back, adjacent to a short, metal picket fence that separated the café’s seats from the street.
Sir Raphael’s plate mail scraped paint off the metal chair as he sat down. He leaned over the fence and screamed across the quad while waving his arms forward, “Further! I can still smell you!” Raph’s name was called from the front, and a large mocha-choco-latte-achino was set down on the little wood shelf that separates the workers from the consumers. Sir Raphael sighed, “I just sat down.” And then rose and pushed his way back to the front of the store.
About 200 feet across the street and over the square, a giant figure moved even further away. It was covered in a hemp potato bag – head, and torso completely hidden; only wrists, hands, waist, legs, and feet visible. The bustle and traffic of the city readjusted trajectory and flowed around the covered man giving a large buffer of space to account for its fetid stench.