Saving Arthur Part 1

I really need to stop reading Reddit Writing Prompts
Stock photo websites can be such a pain
The party sat around the table eating their pottage breakfast in silence. The mood was somber and nobody cared to say anything. Nobody was really eating, either, just stirring the mush in their bowls in slow circles of ennui. A cold dread hung over the dining table as everyone wanted to talk but nobody had the courage to say what they were all thinking. It had been four weeks since their author had written something and the tension was palpable.

Finally, Sam broke the silence. Of course it was Sam, she was the hero after all. "Are we just going to sit here waiting around to die of old age and boredom?"

"Oh come off it, Sam!" snapped Sterling. "What do you expect us to do, write our own story? Just accept it, the writer's abandoned us."

Sam looked over to Jerri who sat quietly stirring his pottage. "Well, Jerri? Are you just going to sit here until we die of old age?"

Jerri just kept stirring as if he didn't hear. After a moment the silence settled again over the table and Sam picked up a spoonful of pottage and looked at it as drops of broth dripped back into her bowl. When what seemed like minutes had passed she dropped the spoon and leaned back into her chair and sighed. "At least they left with us in a nice place and not camping in the wilds." Halfway through this comment, the innkeeper stepped into their private dining parlor, felt the uncomfortable silence, grunted, and walked back out. It was then that Jerri spoke up.

"I don't see any sense in waiting here for the story to continue, but I also don't see any sense in running off on our own. None of us knows the plot. Where would we go? What would we do?"

More uncomfortable silence. By this time the pottage was as cold as the snow blowing outside the window and a shiver blew through the sullen crew like a harsh winter breeze. Frustrated and bitter, Sterling darted up, knocking his chair over with a crash, picked up his dish and walked towards the kitchen. "If we're no longer adventurers, we might as well be kitchen aids," and he stomped out of the parlor with an angry flourish. Sam and Jerri sat quietly, Sam watching the snow through the window behind Jerri's head.

It was winter in Tellerand, far in the North. For months this hardy gang of adventurers had been tracking an orc raiding party that was travelling unusually far from their native lands and not raiding any of the villages on their way to… nobody knew where. A month before they'd lost the orcs in a blizzard and barely managed to find refuge in this small village and then everything stopped. No plot points, no news, no advance riders from the nearby tower city to segue them into the next part of the story. And a month had gone by.

"This writer's already written fifteen chapters almost incessantly for six months. We've hardly had a break until now."

Jerri looked up, acknowledging Sam's existence for the first time. He'd obviously kept silent to avoid provoking Sterling. "Everyone gets writer's block, you know. Maybe we just have to wait a little longer?"

"I don't buy it. Writer's block for a month? And even if it were, wouldn't we just pause like when they take a weekend off? Why is time still moving for us if our author is going to return?" Sam seemed earnest. There was a note of concern in her voice, as though she were worried about more than just her own existence or the continuing of the plot. A soft implication hung in her voice, and finally she spoke it aloud. Though she wasn't superstitious, there was still a trembling of trepidation in her voice as she spoke, "What if something happened to our writer?"

This thought seemed to suck the remaining heat from the room and the fire to her left opposite the window now seemed to radiate a biting cold. Jerri spoke softly, almost a whisper that Sam could barely hear over the snowy wind outside, "If something has happened, what are we to do?"

Jerri had always been the thoughtful one. He never had any answers, but his questions were always en pointe, pressing Sam into a mental corner where she could explore new ideas. This was why they worked so well together. Jerri could see straight through to the heart of a problem and summarize it in a single question that sparked the inspiration in Sam's heroic heart, pulling the solution almost out of the aether. And somehow, even without their author guiding them, it still worked as it always had.

After a moment of reflection, the needed inspiration struck. "We need an oracle. That's where we'll find the answers. The Oracle of Farstead is only four days from here by wagon and there's a weekly trade caravan leaving this afternoon. Eat hardy, Jerri, we're leaving in two hours." Sam downed her remaining pottage cold and walked out of the parlor towards the kitchen to find Sterling.

"You know you're crazy, right?" shouted Sterling over the rushing of the wind as they loaded their supplies onto the wagon.

"Oh no! I'm looney? How could you say such a thing!" The sarcasm dripped from Sam's response like cold pottage broth. Sterling had been calling her nuts in every possible way for the last hour as they packed and prepared. But in spite of the sardonic attacks on her sanity, Sterling's mood had definitely lightened since making the decision to do *something*. It was the indecision and uncertainty that wore on him the most.

Sterling was a good man. Prone to reckless outbursts when he wasn't feeling productive, he always caught himself and restrained his frustration. His passive aggressive sarcasm became endearing for those who knew him well enough to see that he was just terrible at expressing his emotions. Sam silently wondered why their writer chose to create such a cliché male character, but somehow it worked opposite of Jerri's general kindness and passivity. The two balanced each other with a chemistry that sometimes made Sam wonder if the author had planned a romance between them. And while Sterling may get easily frustrated, he was never abusive and he genuinely cared about others. It's why they made such a cohesive adventuring party; they were all on the same page.

When the packing was finished, they hired a horse from the local stable and hauled the cart to the town center where the trade caravan was forming. Six other wagons had arrived in the snow and it looked like that would be it. Sterling wondered why there was a trade caravan at all in this snow, but in a strange way it made sense. The author had established weekly trade caravans and never conceded that they would halt due to weather. This worked out for the party, providing a way for them to make it to Farstead without having to travel on their own. Safety in numbers is just as valid when the enemy is nature as it is when the enemy is orcs. When the adventuring wagon arrived, the caravan leader tied a long rope between the wagons, then shouted over the wind and they began to move.

The snow had been near constant since the author had gone silent. Sam thought to herself how unfortunate the timing was, as the blizzard would only have lasted a few days under ordinary circumstances. Now, as they left the village, they had to fight through several feet of snow along the road. But between Sterling's sorcery plowing the snow and hardy northern horses undeterred by the wind, they still managed to make good time.

The snow stopped suddenly only two days out of the village, apparently the writer had not written the whole of Tellerand with snow, and they made up almost a full day with the subsequent fair weather. Soon they arrived in Farstead and parted ways with the company to seek the Oracle.

In the center of Farstead stood the Temple of Evion. Luck was on their side, for Evion was a goodly deity granting frequent and kindly boons to her followers. Sam stood on the first step up towards the door, feeling suddenly uncertain of her self-appointed quest. She turned and saw Sterling and Jerri standing behind her, exuding confidence that she didn't feel herself, but their encouragement gave her the nudge she needed. She took a deep breath and entered the temple.

"So, what did she say?" Sterling stood impatient as Sam exited from the temple. And Sam just stood in deep thought, with almost a sickly pallor over her face. "What's the answer? Did she know anything at all?" Meanwhile Jerri just stood silent and patient.

After a moment, Sam picked her head up, straightened her back, and faced the others. "The author is…" she choked, took a deep breath and continued, "The author is dying."

The utter shock was so profound even Jerri's mouth hung open in dismay. With a stutter he managed to stammer "D-… d-…. Dying? H- How?"

Sam's shoulders fell again and she looked as defeated as she did when she came out of the temple moments before. "It's a disease, something called 'cancer'. It's a terrible, long, slow, painful death." She paused a moment and then spoke on, "And it gets worse. Their world has no magic, no healing, and this disease is incurable."

Sterling simply fell to the ground. Jerri stepped over and knelt by Sterling, putting his hand on Sterling's shoulder. "Is there nothing we can do?" Jerri's gift for pertinent questions was as perfectly timed as ever. Sam's mind began spinning with ideas. She turned to look up at the sun and sought inspiration in its warm rays. "What can we do?" she thought.

Then, as they had so many times before when the writer was aiding her, ideas suddenly started clicking together. Slowly a plan began to form. While the despair was threatening to take over in Sterling's heart, Sam was beginning to catch a glimmer of hope in the sunshine. "Healing magic is everywhere, here. Curing the writer would be simple if they were here." Sam looked down at Sterling and Jerri, who looked back with just a slight sense of purpose reentering Sterling's darkened countenance. "We need to bring the writer here.



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