I found myself standing before a church of sorts. It was a beautiful, sunny day. There was a light breeze playing through the trees that dotted the landscape and the chirping of birds could be heard from all around.
Near the entrance to the church were a couple of vendor carts, with a few people trading in friendly voices. Between the abbey and me, however, stood a man in armor. He beckoned me towards him.
As I approached, I realized that not all was right. In the distance I could hear shouting and howling and the sounds of men and animals fighting. What was going on in that field to the northwest?
"Ah, good," the man addressed me. "Another volunteer. I hope you're prepared to work. And I don't mean farming." He told me to go into the abbey and talk to the Marshal.
I nodded my assent, and headed for the abbey. It was then that I noticed the oddest behavior on the part of some of the people around me. One of the people who had been haggling with the cart merchants suddenly began dancing while the other started jumping and laughing. A woman came running out of the abbey, followed by a small glowing demon of some sort. She took a flying leap upon exiting, and spun around to reverse direction. She ran around the corner of the building, moving in great leaps, her diminutive companion struggling to keep up. I heard the sound of cheering from inside the abbey.
I wondered if there was some sort of madness at work here.
I entered the abbey, and at the other end of the entryway encountered the Marshal. He looked at me sternly, and told me he was glad to have my help. He told me that I should go into the fields to the west and north, where I would find a great many vicious little creatures called kobolds who were threatening the people of the area, and that I should kill exactly ten of them - but of only the smallest and weakest of them.
I thought it rather odd that he should be so specific about the number and type, but I agreed to do his bidding. There must be some method to his madness.
I turned to leave the abbey, but was stopped dead when a large man in the gaudiest armor I could have imagined presented to me a document. It was a charter for some sort of organization, and he wished for me to join it. Not knowing the man, or the purpose of his organization, and being in a hurry to do my duty for the Marshal, I pushed the document out of my face, and headed on my way.
Once outside again, the armored man to whom I'd earlier spoken (apparently he was a Deputy to the Marshal) beckoned me to him once again. He then offered me a few coins to talk to another man, named Eagan, around the corner of the abbey. As I was already planning to head in that direction, I agreed.
As I turned around, I was once again stopped cold by the presentation of the same document from before. I pushed it away from me, telling the large man who held it that I wanted no part of his organization, and that I thought he was rather rude to continually push this document in my face.
As I came around the corner of the abbey, I was stunned by what I saw. There were a few more trees, but they opened into a small meadow in the distance, where I could see a hillside with a small cave entrance. Strewn about the meadow, however, were many small campsites inhabited by loathsome creatures with long snouts and whiskers. They stood upright, as a man would, but only about half the height. They carried various mining tools and implements. Many of them were engaged in combat with a number of other people - two of whom I recognized as being the jumping dancers from before the vendors' carts.
I assumed these creatures were the kobolds of which the Marshal had spoken. They certainly seemed weak, and were definitely getting the worst of the fight.
A little to the north and east, around the back of the abbey, I spied what appeared, at first, to be an enormous pack of wolves. However, upon further examination, they didn't seem to behave as a pack at all. Each of the wolves merely wandered about on its own. Occasionally one would attack a small rabbit, but mostly they just meandered.
Up against the abbey wall stood a man whose description seemed to match that given me by the Deputy. I walked over to talk to him. He handed me a few coins, and then asked me to bring him eight wolf pelts, and the meat from eight wolves ... but only if the meat is tough.
Now, I have no experience whatsoever in skinning or butchering an animal, but he told me it would be no problem. I shrugged in agreement, and headed off to get him what he wanted. I now had two jobs to do, and thought I'd best get to them.
Suddenly, there was an evil-looking gnome with black plate armor and eyes that looked like windows into the very coldest parts of hell standing before me. He pushed a document at my face and said, "Wanna join my guild? I'll pay you a gold piece!"
"No, sir," I replied. "I have no wish to join any organization at the moment. Now, if you'll excuse me, I have work to do."
As I neared the meadow, I felt a bit nervous. I'd never killed anything before. The wolves I could understand ... they were just animals, after all, and potentially dangerous ones at that. But the kobolds looked to be rather intelligent, if a bit disgusting.
I drew my belt knife and closed with one of the wolves. It paid me no mind whatsoever, and continued to wander back and forth between a couple of trees. I waved at it, but it still took no notice. I walked up and poked it, but it continued on its course. Unsure what to do, I walked back to Eagan.
"Are you sure about these wolves?" I asked. "They seem to be pretty docile."
He replied that he needed the pelts and the meat, and that I should simply kill them. I supposed this was some sort of wolf farm, though I wondered that there was not a more organized method for slaughtering the livestock than simply asking new arrivals to go and kill them.
I approached the wolf again ... I was fairly certain it was the same one as before. It was still walking between the two trees. Half closing my eyes, I stabbed it in the flank. It immediately turned on me and bit me. I jumped back, as it tried again. Now it was a fight! I took a swing, and a thrust, landing a solid blow, however it bit me once again.
By this time I was bleeding, and feeling quite poorly. Thankfully, none of the many other wolves in the area seemed to notice the fight. The wolf lunged at me again, and I sidestepped countering with a solid blow to its haunch. The wolf dropped dead, letting out a final yelp.
Releasing an exhausted sigh of relief, I set to work skinning the wolf. I managed to remove a fairly intact pelt and a big chunk of meat from it. Then I noticed something shiny between its jaws. As I investigated, I realized that in its mouth was a pair of chain-mail pants. I wondered to myself at how a wolf would have come by such a thing. Perhaps it had been trying to eat one of the guards?
I sat for a few minutes, until I had my energy back. I wasn't sure I'd be able to do this. I took the chain pants, the pelt, the meat and a loose copper coin I'd found in the grass under the carcass and put them all in my backpack. Then I stood up and looked about for my next target.
Another wolf was sauntering slowly towards me, but didn't seem to actually be paying me any notice. I shrugged my shoulders and pressed the attack ...
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Anyone who's played an MMORPG is familiar with the odd ways in which the games' creators deal with having to create NPCs and quests for the players to experience. This is always troublesome, due to the persistent nature of the world, and the fact that as many as millions of players will be wanting to experience the same content. This could be solved by having GameMasters play all the various parts … but that would be extremely cost-prohibitive as it would require nearly as many GMs as players. To solve this problem, there are scripted characters and events. When one stops to consider what such a world would really be like, if it were experienced first-hand … well, that's obviously what inspired this story.