Flash Fiction Friday – Downtime

Ah, it’s Friday! And I’ve got some flash fiction for y’all! Today’s piece is inspired by Dungeons and Dragons, and is about how sometimes adventurers need downtime… and sometimes they need some me-time.

Downtime

The tavern was rowdy, but when were they not? Fiddles, pipe smoke, people arguing or making out or both. Just another night in a backwaters like Northbridge.

Leilana sucked on her teeth, running her fingers along the condensation on the side of her half-full stoop. She scanned the room, but saw nothing that interested her particularly. It was the same group of twitchy-looking freshies drinking in the corner, calming their nerves before their first mission, the same group of drunk, elated freshies two tables over celebrating surviving theirs. A scattering of townsfolk, traders, peasants who’d come into enough money for a drink, and the one table of high-rankers in overly polished armor, recently commissioned, toasting to their own greatness. Finally there were quite a few tables of run-down mid-liners, just like her own group, drinking and laughing or crying or arguing or just sitting around, staring into the middle distance. The only thing they had in common was the alcohol they were all ingesting at varying speeds, and the knowledge that they were not yet shining gods battling demons, but not happy-go-lucky freshies with nothing but goblins to worry about either. The knowledge that death might come to them, and they weren’t yet powerful enough to forget it.

It had been over a year now, and she hadn’t even known Alethiel that well, but she still saw the elven wizard’s body torn apart by gnolls in her dreams sometimes. Not very often, but sometimes.

A thick, heavy hand landed on her shoulder and she started. She turned, fixing her barbarian friend with a icy stare, an eyebrow raised in a silent “what?”. He took no note of her, just laughed and nodded toward the halflings on the stage. “Could hear better music at a goblin concert, huh? Huh?” He grinned, looking at her expectantly.

She smiled tiredly, indulgent more than amused. “Yeah, you could,” she said, and he threw his head back laughing. She didn’t think he was that far into his cups, but the drunker he got the more he laughed at his own jokes.

Laughter rang out around the table, though she wasn’t sure if the others had heard him or were just laughing because he was laughing.

“More ale!” the bard shouted in the vague direction of a harried-looking servant, who nodded without making eyecontact and hurried off toward the bar. Soon fresh cups were place in front of all of them, though Leilana was still working on her first one. By the number of cups in front of her, apparently the others had ordered in rounds for all of them before and then finished hers when she didn’t get to them quickly enough.

When conversation resumed, Leilana found herself zoning out again. Maybe this life wasn’t right for her? Maybe she should just go back to Miller’s Hut and take up an apprenticeship there? Maybe all the small-town gossip and politics would be worth it to not have to put up with all the slow traveling and the stinking taverns and the endless, endless dick jokes that she was trying very hard not to hear as they flew around the table. It wasn’t even that she minded dick jokes, but there were only so many she could take in one evening. She’d reached her limit about an hour ago, and it wasn’t even midnight yet. Maybe it was time to retire before they took that one quest she wouldn’t come back from?

She shook her head, raising her stoop to her lips. All these dark thoughts… they came to her sometimes and she knew they would leave again before too long. A good night’s sleep and a bath, an opportunity to clean her clothes, shine her boots and fletch some new arrows for her bow, and she would be chomping at the bit to go on the next quest… It was just how she was wired. The thrill, the exploration… she couldn’t do without them, had been miserable before her life became this odd adventure, would probably be miserable again without it.

A cheer rang around the table, and before Leilana knew it, the bard and climbed onto it and raised his arms above his head. “Pub crawl, pub crawl, pub crawl!” he chanted until the rest of them, her alone excepted, had joined in the shouting. Even a party a few tables over joined in, and in a jumble of stoops quickly drained and money slapped on the table, both groups began filing out of the tavern to try and find another. It would not be a very long crawl in a small town like this, but that didn’t seem to bother them.

Leilana followed them but kept to the back of the group. As they got to the town square, she tapped the rogue on the shoulder.

“I’m going back to the inn,” she said.

He gave her a long, fairly inebriated look, but he wasn’t the type to argue and finally just nodded slowly.

“I’ll catch you all in the morning,” she said. They clapped each other on the shoulder, and she slipped off down the side street. Downtime was one thing… sometimes you needed actual rest.

And now, because it’s quite late here, I need some rest too. Good night lovelies!

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