I found a writing prompt on reddit that caught my interest this week. I had a lot of fun writing this one. Enjoy.
She didn't beg. She didn't spit any oaths. She laughed. On her knees with Bartlan's ax poised over her neck. Jefric flinched when the witches piercing yellow eyes flicked up to him. Those jagged brown teeth in her skeletal grim shot a shiver over his back.
"Let's 'ave her 'ead and be done with it," Bartlan said through his thick, dwarven beard.
The wizard, Tim waved his hand, dismissing the dwarf. "She can do no harm as she is, Bartlan. We should seek to learn her secrets before we end her wretched life."
"Why must she cackle so?" Samaryth asked wrinkling her nose in disgust.
"I cackle because I have already won, pretty thing." The witch let out an ear-piercing shriek followed by more laughing with renewed earnest.
Jefric's stomach churned. The broadhead of the nocked arrow danced. Sweating palms and white knuckles gripped his bow. The witch turned her yellow eyes to Jefric once again. As if she could read his mind, feel his fear, she grinned at him.
“Kill me,” She said, “I have already won.”
“What do you mean?” Samaryth asked.
“I mean, you have been doomed since you walked into my lair.” She cast her eyes to the floor as if to hide a secret and spoke softly. “The curse of unrelenting suffering is upon you all.”
Bartlan lifted his axe and before anyone had a chance to stop him, it came down on the back of the witch’s neck. The wide blade bit deep into her spine and stopped half-way through. The dwarf dislodged his weapon with some effort and lifted it again. When it came down this time, it severed the witch’s head, sending it rolling across the floor.
How could he do that? He heard her speak of some curse of unrelenting suffering and thought it would be a good idea to lob her head off, Jefric thought.
“What?” Bartlan asked. Apparently, Samaryth and Jefric had a similar mind about the issue, because she was staring daggers at the dwarf.
“Details, fool,” Samaryth said. “How may we discover the cure now?”
“You could just heal us,” Bartlan said, pointing to her Targe of Healing, blessed by Lathander himself.
“This can mend a cut, a bruise, perhaps an arrow hole. It won’t lift a curse of never stopping dismay, or whatever.” Samaryth threw her spear and shield down and they clattered on the floor.
“The curse of unrelenting suffering,” Jefric corrected.
“Shut up,” Samaryth snapped. “Like I said: whatever.”
“What does that mean for us, anyway?” Bartlan asked and all eyes shifted to the wizard.
He stood by the entrance, inspecting the walls and stroking his long white beard. His pointed ears perked and he leaned in as if to read something tiny. Jefric replaced the nocked arrow in his quiver as he moved to Tim’s side. The wizard did not take his eyes off the wall. His shoulders sagged as if defeat was truly eminent.
“These runes are only visible to my third eye,” Tim said. “It does not look good for us, friends.”
“Tell us, old man,” the dwarf shouted from across the room.
Samaryth shot Bartlan another killing look.
“It appears that we have indeed become cursed upon entering the room and if we do not lift the curse, we may never pass these runes again to leave,” Tim said.
“How may we lift it?” Samaryth asked. “What must be done?”
“I have dealt with such a curse once before,” Tim said. “It almost killed me to cure it.”
“I’m not afraid,” Bartlan said, puffing his chest out.
“You should be,” Tim said, turning around to face the dwarf. “Swinging your ax and ego will not help you in this situation.”
All three adventurers crowded around the wizard and leaned in to listen carefully. Tim moved his eyes along the wall, reading the invisible script.
“We must complete specific tasks to lift our curse. If we do not complete them as specified, we will die. If we refuse to participate, we will be trapped here forever.”
“What tasks?” Jefric asked.
“Task number one: we must choose one among us to bite down on foil of tin thrice.”
Each adventurer grimaced. Even Tim showed signs of discomfort just thinking about it. Jefric could not shake the thoughts from his mind. Teeth coming down on tinfoil. That sensation, beyond discomfort. Then, a thought crossed Bartlan’s mind. Jefric could see it on his face like a flash of lamplight.
“I could do that,” the dwarf said. “I’ll just take my chompers out.”
The adventurers collectively shrugged. Jefric forgot he wore false teeth. Now that’s thinking outside the box.
“Secondly, one of us must venture across the witches pool and confront the terrors that lurk beneath the water’s surface.”
“That doesn’t sound too hard,” Samaryth said. “I could do that.”
“One of us must cross the Chamber of Fallen Legos.” Tim’s eyes widened. “Barefoot.”
None of the adventurers spoke up. Jefric could tell Tim did not want to walk on a sea of legos. I would prefer hot coles, Jerfic thought. Perhaps the last task will be milder.
“Lastly,” Tim announced. “One of us must work as a seasonal employee in the Shops of Bass Pro during the holiday season.”
The adventurers gawked at Tim in dumb confusion. Well, that doesn’t sound foul at all.
“I’ll walk across the legos,” Tim said. “It shall be me who takes on the most difficult task. I have trained my willpower to get me through difficult things.”
“Are you sure?” Jefric asked. “The soles of my feet are rather tough. I think I can handle it.”
“No no,” Tim said. “It shall be me who endures that hell. I cannot put it on another in good conscience.”
“Very well,” Jefric said. “What are these Shops of Bass Pro? And this holiday season? Which holiday?”
“The world in which these places of retail are located is a rather interesting one. Several major holidays from many different cultures fall upon the same months of their calendar. Convenient. The one holiday that will prove to be your greatest challenge is Christmas.”
“Christmas?” Bartlan asked.
“Yes, the humans of that world who celebrate Christmas will bring a dead tree into their home and place gifts under it. The origin of this tradition is rather confusing because the holiday celebrates the birth of their savior.”
“So, these people travel to places of retail such as these Shops of Bass Pro to purchase gifts.” Jefric smiled. “Sound’s easy enough.”
“Yes,” Tim said. “Quite simple.”
Jefric could not find the meaning of Tim’s smirk, but no matter. It seems the task he had been assigned would go efficiently. The wizard returned to the wall and continued reading.
“If you cannot complete your task, you will be punished with death.”
“Of course,” Samaryth said.
“Well,” Tim said, clapping his hands together. “Shall we get to it? I’ll go first.”
The group made their way to the Chamber of Fallen Legos and Tim removed his boots. He opened the door slowly, revealing a rather small room but with an ocean of legos spread across the floor. He gulped and Jefric felt sorry for him. The brave old man had offered himself up as a sacrifice for him.
“Get on with it,” Bartlan said.
“Just give me one second to prepare,” Tim spat back at the dwarf.
After several long seconds and several false starts, Tim took his first step. Nothing could prepare Jerfric for the sounds of agony that escaped the wizard’s mouth with each step. Samaryth held one hand on her chest and another over her mouth, fighting back tears. Bartlan could not watch. He cast his eyes to the floor and winced with each desperate cry of pain.
Several agonizing moments later, Tim had reached the other side. He gulped down hard breaths and braced himself on the far wall. He lifted one foot to examine the damage. Several dark pink marks manifested where the sharp edges of the building blocks poked and prodded the skin.
“Perhaps,” Tim panted. “I have completed the task. The runes said I must cross upon the legos. It never said I must cross back in pain. Maybe I could brush them aside.”
“I don’t think that is a good idea,” Samaryth said.
“And what do you know?” Tim snapped. “Who is the grand wizard here? Is it still me?”
The adventurers set their jaws and said nothing.
“That’s what I thought,” Tim said.
The wizard bent over and swept away the blocks from directly in front of his feet. When nothing evil happened, he gave an I-told-you-so smile to Samaryth. He took a deep breath and stepped onto the bare floor. Nothing happened. He did not burst into flame. Perhaps crossing once was enough.
“There, see. I’m fine.”
Tim bent again to brush more legos away when he froze. Jefric squinted to see what the wizard saw and his stomach churned again. The old man’s feet had become plastick blocks. Slowly, the legos replaced the flesh of his legs as if he were built of legos. Samaryth screeched and Bartlan turned away. Jerfric could not remove his eyes from the spectacle before him. The wizard called out in agony as his torso turned into red, yellow, green, and blue blocks. Within moments, the legos had spread over his entire body and a statue of multicolored building blocks stood in his place.
Jefric closed the door and shut his eyes hard. His breathing came in shallow gasps as he shivered in fear.
“What now,” Jefric asked without opening his eyes.
“Now, we must save ourselves,” Bartlan said.
“I’ll go next,” Samaryth said. “My task seems simple enough.”
The group moved to the pool chamber and stood at its edge. Jefric gazed deeply into its black water. He could not see the bottom. There could be anything down there. Crocodiles, giant squid, sharks, stinging jellyfish. Jefric gulped as he turned to find, Samaryth had already removed her leg and arm armor to allow for easier movement. She gripped her spear and hung her toes over the edge.
“Wish me luck,” she said as she dropped into the water.
The pool was deep enough that the water came up to her armpits and no further. Begining her treck, the dark water rippled around her. She moved faster and faster as her confidence grew until she stopped at halfway.
“Eeeeeeewwwwww,” she screamed. “Something just touched my leg!”
“What is it?” Bartlan called back to her.
“I don’t know,” she cried. “Something slimy. There it is again!”
“It’s probably a fish or something,” Jefric encouraged. “Keep going.”
“It keeps touching me,” Samaryth sobbed. “I can’t do this!”
“Yes, you can,” Jefric yelled to her, but she had already started making her way to the side of the pool. “No! Go back!”
She did not listen. She cried and sniveled as she trudged through the dark water and heaved herself out. She threw her spear down and wriggled like she had been covered with spiders. Samaryth finally calmed down and stood there dripping and panting.
“That was gross,” she managed to say just before she burst into flames. She screamed and flapped around the pool.
“Jump in the water!” Bartlan yelled.
“No!” she yelled back.
After several moments of running around engulfed in flame, Samaryth finally fell on her face and stopped moving. Once the flames died out, they left behind a sizzling hunk of chard flesh on the ground. Jefric wrinkled his nose at the stench of burning hair and charred meat.
“Well,” Bartlan said. “Moving on.”
The dwarf turned on his heels and walked back to the tables in the main chamber. After several moments, Jefric followed. The dwarf had found a hunk of tinfoil and popped his false teeth out. In an instant, the tinfoil was in his mouth and he chomped his gums down hard once, twice, three times. He spat the foil out and put his teeth back in.
“Well,” Jefric asked, “did it work?”
“Only one way to find out, lad.”
The dwarf walked confidently to the entrance and stood at the runes for several moments. Then he took a deep breath and stepped over the threshold. He turned to face Jefric with his dwarven hands searching his own body for any abnormalities. By his smile, Jefric assumed all was well.
“I did it, lad. Now do your task so we can be off.”
Just then, the dwarf exploded. Bits of bloody flesh and bone rained on Jefric and splattered the rest of the chamber. Jefric clenched his eyes shut. This is all a horrible dream, he thought. There is no way this legendary group of adventurers has all fallen to some witch. There is no way I am all that is left. Jefric opened his eyes.
“I am all that is left.”
The fool should have left his teeth in. He brushed several chunks of Bartlan from his clothes and shook free of the rest. He combed some more out of his hair with his fingers as he looked around for the means of completing his task. I must travel to the Shops of Bass Pro.
His eyes fell upon a door as if it had just appeared on the wall. Above it, a sign read “Bass Pro Shops.” He tentatively made his way to the door. He cautiously opened it. He carefully stepped into the unknown.
Then, he heard it. A song. A rather unpleasant song. Twangy. The singer sounded as if his voice was changing as he sang, cracking up and down. Something about a reindeer named Rudolph. Jefric shook his head in an attempt to remove the song from his ears, yet it remained. No matter. This will not cause him to fail.
He looked around. Animals on every wall. Frozen as if under some spell. Jefric inspected them closer to find they were all dead and stuffed. A feeling of relief washed over him. He walked through an endless labyrinth of hooks and colorful lures. Into a forest of clothing with leaves and sticks upon them. No doubt a charm of invisibility in a real forest. He passed several humans wearing the same collared green shirt Jefric found himself in. Each one appeared as though they had not slept in ages. Their eyes were sunken and their mouths hung slack. Soulless creatures shuffling about. I must not be trapped here, lest I become one of them. I must move up to higher ground to observe my surroundings.
He found a staircase and ascended. Passing what appeared to be overly complicated bows, Jefric found himself at a railing. Below him, the entire establishment sprawled out in every direction. Dozens of those wretched creatures in green shuffling about to complete menial tasks.
“This isn’t so bad.”
“Attention Bass Pro employee’s,” A voice boomed from seemingly everywhere at once. Perhaps the god of this realm. “The store will be opening in one minute. Remember, smile and wish the customer a Merry Christmas.”
A strange song about a fat creature in red watching children while they slept began to play and Jefric shuddered. He cast his eyes to the front of the building and found hundreds of humans rattling the doors. An invading army. Jefric quickly searched the area for a weapon to repel the foes but the complicated bows were tethered to the stands with an unbreakable metal rope.
The doors opened. Some of those soulless fools let the enemy in. The faction called The Customer swept into the building and filled every corner of it in an instant. Jefric turned around to find several customers waving items they had found around the store. Up close, the creatures were even more terrifying. Wild searching eyes, clammy skin, body odor that could kill a goblin, never-ending questions.
“Do you have a size twelve in these?”
“Does this have nuts in it?”
“I have a coupon for this. Can I use it on this instead?”
“When will more of these be in?”
“You won’t help me? I’ll be speaking to your manager.”
Jefric dropped to the floor, defenseless. He hugged his knees to his chest. All sense of time left him. The same six songs played over and over and over. Grandmother trampled to death by reindeer because she had too much to drink. Children watching out and trying not to cry for fear of a deity known as Santa. Jingle bells. Jingle bells. Jingle bells! How long must this go on?
“I give up,” Jefric said and his flesh melted from his bones.
Jeff took a long gulp from a can of Mountain Dew and slammed it back to the table, making the dice jump. Bart said nothing as he took one last slice of pizza and left. Samantha said she needed to use the restroom and also left. Timmy slouched in his chair and sighed, running his fingers through his curly hair.
“Never again,” Jeff said.
“What?” Eric asked.
“You as dungeon master,” Jeff said through a snarl. “Never again.”
This writing prompt is courtesy of u/ferkeshu on r/writingprompts: A Group of Professional adventurers slay a BigBad and get cursed with a death mark. It can't be undone or healed and the party freaks out and break up to find a cure within a few hours. Only one of them finds a cure but soon finds out that death was a better choice.
If you have any ideas for a writing prompt in the future, leave it in the comments below.