“Welcome, traveler, to the Urban Realms!” says a small elderly woman sitting next to a wooden table.
You look around the bar you wandered into. Rough-hewn oak beams hold up the low ceiling. Deep red walls are lit with candles and show off the stone fireplace and it’s crackling fire. The room smells of burning wood and dark beer. The place looks as if it were a set piece for a Tolkien movie. Or like something from your latest RPG. How did you never notice this place before right here in your town?
The old woman waves you over. She wears a woolen, blue dress, the bodice laced with leather ties. She, too, looks like an extra from that Tolkien movie. She’s stocky in frame and clearly very strong. With grey hair and deep scowl lines, you aren’t sure if you should approach, but there is something in the crow’s feet crinkling at the corners of her sparkling eyes that draws you in. Those eyes, you can tell, hold a story. You wander over toward her feeling a bit like you’re in a dream.
She lifts the largest mug of beer you’ve ever seen and takes a deep pull. She smiles and wipes her mouth with the back of her hand.
“You’re one of them, aren’t you,” she says. “An old dwarf like me can always tell. It’s the eyes, you see. Either they have the spark, or they don’t. And you got it in spades.”
“One of them…” you reply, not quite sure if you should feel complimented or offended.
She leans forward conspiratorially and looks around carefully before she says, “An adventurer. A believer. Perhaps even the one who will bring back the magic.”
You open your mouth to inform her that you are not, in fact, an adventurer. That you don’t believe whatever she’s selling, and that she might be in need of some therapy. You’re not even sure how you stumbled across this place, you were just looking for a quiet area to do some work, and what is all of this about magic, and did she just call herself a DWARF? That is sooo not PC these days. Is it? … but the woman barrels over the start of your protestations, clearly not wanting to stop now that she has started.
“The name’s Arven. Nowadays I may be a simple peddler but in my two hundred and fifty years – give or take – I’ve seen many things. I’ve seen the magic this world had to offer, and I’ve seen it lost.”
You huff a little. “Two hundred and fifty years? Right. You don’t look a day over one hundred and eighty,” you say, sure now that this is some kind of scam.
Arven chuckles. “I know, hard for you humans to believe. You’re all such babes. But like you, I was once an adventurer – though adventuring looked vastly different in my day. We didn’t have those computers or the tabletop strategy games that allowed us to adventure in our own homes. The world was different. It wasn’t strange to see a fellow camped on the side of the road, or a group of adventurers armed to the teeth in case they came across a hill giant in their wandering.
In these modern times, it feels like all magic has gone from the world. Though, in truth, it has only been hidden. But nowadays it’s much rarer to find brave, courageous, or even self-serving wanderers out to discover and perhaps even save the wor–”
“Look, ah,… Arven,” you interrupt. “I’m not an adventurer. And magic is for children and Vegas performers.”
“Deny it all you like, but your eyes tell me differently. And the world used to be full of magic. Ah, but these are different times! I like to think that I adventured for a noble cause, to bring back the magic, but I was young and spirited and desperate to be away from the mountain that my family holed up in.
I’m the last of my clan now, and I’m far too old to be gallivanting off in a land that changes faster and faster as time goes on. That’s why I became a merchant, traveling is harder with my bum leg, but everyone needs a profession of some sort. I only sell the goods that I believe in though, goods that will prepare you to do what I can do no longer. That’s why I need you, brave adventurer, to take up arms, to listen to my story, and to save this world and her lost magic”.
The twinkle is back in Arven’s eyes and you get the idea that her story will be a good one. You glance at the items on her table. There are some maps that could lead somewhere interesting, some t-shirts and journals that catch your eye. “Well,” you say as you smile, “how’s the beer here?”
She smiles and takes another deep draft from her mug. “Excellent.”