Isla Muerte: The Art Commission
The hour was late, the ale was flowing, and four adventures sat a table in the Golden Boar Tavern discussing job prospects. A respectable proprietor sitting at the next table had offered them a job to steal an item of high value, while other possibilities lay in checking reports of a bandit raid up in Crystal Lake or investigating the rumors of a shade haunting the Dead Zone, a blasted circle of landscape where a merchant caravan had been attacked and destroyed several years ago.
In hushed tones, the two mages, rogue and fighter gave their pros and cons for taking each job and who would chance each one.
“All I’m saying,” protested the barrel-chested man known as Bull, “is that stealing from one respectable shopkeeper for another supposedly respectable shopkeeper isn’t the kind of job any of us should be doing.”
“Speak for yourself,” rejoined Shadowstalker, the black and brown clad rogue. “That’s exactly my kind of thing.”
“It’s not like the lady is asking for the man’s actual head,” offered the blue-robed wizard called Filadelfo. “It’s a magical bust of him that she thinks gives Mister Wallace special enhancement to his art. It’s a gray area, to be sure…”
Filadelfo the Frosty coughed at the interruption. “But if indeed his fame and skill are merely benefits of some magical item and not true skill, well, he devalues the entire craft market!” He looked around the table. “Some of his work even adorns my home’s walls and if it turns out they aren’t truly his work, I’ll be really upset.”
“So, what then?” The fire mage Harland the Crispy leaned forward. “You turn around and give the item to another craftsman to do the same thing? Sounds like a double standard to me.”
“I thought you approved of the job?”
“Oh, I do. I’m all for it,” Harland leaned back with a smug look. “I just don’t have any false justifications for doing it. A pretty lady has a job for us, AND she’s paying. That’s good enough for me.”
“I don’t really care who does the job,” Shadowstalker said, becoming bored with the conversation, “although I still assert I’m the best qualified. I just think we should do it. I can either sneak in and out with the damn thing, or I can go chop up some zombies or whatever it is out in the Zone.” She drained her mug of ale and set it down on the table. “We just need to give the lady an answer.” She cocked her head to the right, indicating the Lady Celeste who was sitting at the next table, obstensively studying an open ledger.
“I want nothing to do with this,” Bull said as he pushed his chair back from the table. “This tavern is in danger of running low on ale, all because of some bandits? THAT’S the noble sort of job we should do.” He stood up and grabbed his almost empty mug from the table. “I’m going to go ask Morty for details.” With that, he left the others and made his way to the bar where the tavern owner was pouring drinks.
Harland looked from Shadowstalker to Filadelfo and then to the retreating back of Bull. “Zombies, eh? They burn pretty nice, you know.” He flicked the fingers on his right hand, making sparks fly from them. “Bull does have a point about keeping the flow of ale running. I mean, I just found out about this White Death Ale, and now the only source of it is drying up due to bandits?” He rapped his knuckles on the table. “Decisions, decisions.”
“You do realize that Crystal Lake is on the slopes of White Death Mountain, right?” asked Filadelfo. “The mountain that is permanently capped with snow? You whine that the shade in summer is too cold. Do you really want to make the journey up the mountain?”
“Guys! Can we just decide this?” Shadowstalker’s tone indicated she would brook no more delays. “If you keep yapping, I’m just going to slip off and do the job myself. Probably come back and find you still debating.”
“Very well,” Filadelfo’s voice was calm and studiously neutral. “Did you have a resolution in mind?”
“Sure. The same thing we do when two or more people want the same loot item. We throw for it.”
“You have to be kidding.”
“No, no,” Harland spoke up. “She’s got a point. Mace, Shield, Arrow is a valid way to decide this. I’m up for it. Best of three or risk it all on a single throw?”
“I’m a risk-taker,” smiled Shadowstalker. “Down and dirty is the only way to play.”
“Oh, very well,” sighed Filadelfo. “I think it’s foolish, but if this is the way you want it, I’m in. If we throw all three, then it’s a tie and we throw again. Agreed?”
“Agreed,” echoed Harland and Shadowstalker.
The three made fists of their left hands and pumped them in the air three times before throwing their hands out in front of them. Shadowstalker and Harland both held their hands out straight, palm down, while Filadelfo had kept his fist closed except for his index finger pointing straight out.
“Aww, damnit!” muttered Harland.
Filadelfo blinked and then smiled. “Arrow pierces Shield. I do believe I win.”
“Ugh. Fine,” said Shadowstalker disgustedly. “Have fun stormin’ the castle.” She pushed away from the table and stood up. “I’m going to go check out that ridiculous ghost story.” As she wandered off Filadelfo thought he heard her mutter, “I hope you trip a trap or two.“
“Well, that’s that,” said Harland as he also stood up. “I guess I’ll go see what Bull and Morton are talking about.”
“You could come with me,” Filadelfo offered.
“What? For a simple house job? No thanks. I’m sure you can handle it. Just, uh, try not to be so obvious by turning the place into a giant snowball, okay?”
Filadelfo laughed. “Oh, like you wouldn’t have just burned the house down? Go on, get out of here.” He then stood up and took a seat at Lady Celeste’s table and asked for details concerning the job.