“Verily, this sword hath drank the blood of dragons, and will again by mine oath and troth.”

Torgil believed the knight without hesitation. The runes etched upon the broad blade pulsed with a golden light, and the pommel was a single plum-sized ruby that also shone from within. A faint voice seemed to whisper “Sordamal” over and over again as he drew near. Could this truly be the legendary runeblade? It was of Perthion steel, there was no doubt, but to have the true Sordamal? Here in this tavern?

“How came you by this blade?” asked Torgil, edging toward the table.

“Ah, a bard, I see,” said the knight. “Allow me to add to your trove of tales. Ten doughty adventurers did brave the Caverns of Colpas to face the demon within. Its minions were many and its fury immense. Four of my companions fell to flame and claw, but they died bravely and struck good blows ere they perished. I like not to boast, but mine was the hand that slew the foul beast. This blade I claimed in memory of the fallen, and to greater serve the Realm.”

“My congratulations, sir knight. May you bear it well.” Torgil glanced at the dark-skinned mage sitting next to the knight. Xandrian blood in that one for certain. “But what of your companion?” Torgil inquired. “If my lore does not mistake me, that is the Staff of Nine Fires at his side.” The wizard raised the staff and ephemeral flames danced along its head. By Hoath! Two artifacts of such power in one inn. Torgil reared back slightly, knowing too well the power of that staff. “My pardons, good wizard, but I never hoped to see such wonders. Pray, add to my tale of this evening. How did you come to possess the Staff?”

The wizard sat tall in his chair and spoke. “It was a guild raid on Essie last Tuesday, man. We totally one-shotted that biotch and she dropped the staff. Everyone wanted it, but I rolled a 97.”

“*F**k it, Tyler, I told you that this is a roleplaying server!” said the knight.

“So what?”

“So you have to talk in character.”

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Torgil sighed. Frakking noobies. Agh! Now he was doing it too. Benighted newcomers, he thought. That was better.

“Oh,” said the wizard, “you mean like this?” He stood and with a flourish practically shouted, “I did doth rolleth a 97 and gotteth this awesometh lootz.”

“No, no, no,” said the knight. “You can’t just stick an -eth on the end of everything.”

“Well, what am I supposed to do? This server sucks. I can’t believe we transferred here.”

“Perhaps I may be of service,” said Torgil. “One may find the Codes of Speech in the Tome of Glory, which may be viewed in the Great Library in Skyrift Castle. There you will learn the rules as set forth by the Lords Above themselves.”

“Huh? WTF does that mean?” said the wizard.

“It means you should … uh …” Torgil struggled for the proper words, but none came to his mind. “Just click the link for ‘RP Server Guidelines’ on the main web page.”

“Thanks, dude,” said the wizard.

“Tyler!”

“I mean, ‘Thanketh to thy bardliness.’ Is that OK?”

“Your attempts to learn our ways speak well of you, traveler. Had I but known you were new to our lands, I would have aided you ere now,” said Torgil.

“So I have to talk like that all the time? What if I just want to tell my group I need to take a leak?” asked the mage. The knight at his side struck his palm upon his forehead.

“Well, you might say, ‘Forgive me my friends, but I must as needs answer nature’s call,’ or such to that effect,” said Torgil.

“Jeez, that’s a lot of work. On the old server we just typed ‘AFK bio.'”

“Ah, I have heard tales of this barbaric mode of speech.” Torgil replied. “Those lands must surely lack for the basic modes of civilized conduct.”

“Hey, wait a minute,” said a tall man in the garb of a priest of Hoath. “He’s right. We waste an awful lot of time in chat that way. Do we really have to say every single thing like it’s the Middle Ages?”

“Come on guys,” said an elven archer at a nearby table. “If you want to talk out of character say ‘OOC’ first.”

“You didn’t say ‘OOC’ when you were just talking OOC,” said a barbarian. Despite his huge size, he spoke with the voice of a boy of no more than thirteen summers, belying his savage appearance and the huge axe slung on his back.

“Well, I was just trying to help the newbie,” said the archer.

“OOC – You forgot OOC again,” said the barbarian in his curiously boyish voice.

“Ah man, I hate the character police. Can’t you just let us have our fun?” The priest poked a finger towards the barbarian. “What kind of name is XxAvarisxX anyway?”

“At my birth, my clan chief wished to name me Avaris but the Elders decreed it was um, already taken by some troll.”

“Well, just putting a bunch of Xs around it is pretty stupid,” said the archer. “How do you even pronounce that?”

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“You should talk,” said the barbarian. “You’re DarkLegolasss. Real freakin’ imaginative.”

“You didn’t say ‘OOC,'” said the archer smugly.

“Mother fu- I mean, ill mannered oaf! I will teach you respect by the edge of my axe!”

“You can’t attack me. This isn’t a player combat server,” said the archer. “Besides, I’m like ten levels above you. I’d pwn you easy.”

“Ugh, jerks!” said the barbarian. He stormed out of the tavern without even paying the barkeep.

Just like a Rovnian, thought Torgil. His eyes roamed back to the wizard and the Staff of Nine Fires. To see such power in the hands of a lout saddened his heart. Perhaps he would compose a song about the perils of misplaced might and sing it in the Rellian town square that evening. A good performance would be sure to fetch coin from the crowd, and of late his purse was flat. Torgil removed his lute from its case and strummed the strings. “Listen, children, to a story,” he sang in his rich baritone.

“Dude, WTF are you doing?” asked the wizard.

Again with the barbarisms, Torgil sighed. “I am a bard, good wizard. It is my vocation to make the heavy heart light and the broken spirit soar through the magic of song.” He patted the belly of the lute gently. “Here lies power that will endure for eternity, unlike even the artifact you bear.”

“Like hell,” said the wizard. “This thing gives me 85 magical strike points. It’s totally best in slot for my spec.”

“But it creates neither grace nor beauty. And thus I sing.”

“Yeah right,” said the priest of Hoath. “You only rolled bard so you could dual-wield longswords and get charm spells. That is way overpowered.”

“They really kind of are,” said the knight. “A dumb bard wanted to roll against me for this sword.” He held glowing Sordamal in the air. “This is clearly a knight weapon.”

Not the knight too, thought Torgil. The situation was dire, and becoming more so. It was time for the bard to call on a higher power. “My friends, you will soon force my hand. If you do not desist in this loutish mode of outlander speech, I shall be forced to call upon Those Who Watch Above in Silence.” A hushed calm fell over the tavern. Torgil gazed from one face to the next, ensuring that they understood the gravity of his words.

“Dude,” said the wizard, “is he going to, like, report us?”

“Yeah,” said the knight, laying Sordamal on the table and clearly sweating. “They can suspend your account, or even take your loot away.”

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The wizard hugged the staff to his thin body and cleared his throat. “Yea, verilies, we have doth intrudedeth upon this, um, peaceful, fantastic, thing … place.”

The knight retrieved his battle blade and ushered the wizard to the tavern door. “Verily indeed. We shall make haste from this domain ere the night is old. Farewell, good bard.” As they left the tavern, Torgil could hear the knight say, “Sorry Tyler, I thought this would be fun. Let’s try a combat server.”

Torgil looked around the room. No one else said a word. Satisfied, Torgil called out, “Barkeep! What need a thirsty man do to get a mug of mead in this tavern?”

Richard Hehemann is a science fiction/fantasy author and unrepentant PvE healer.

The Guilded Cage

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