You know that feeling you get when things are just too good? When life is going so well, that you know something bad is about to happen? Torin didn’t have that feeling. His day was quite average, absolutely normal, so the end of the world caught him completely off guard.
He was sitting, quite contentedly, in the tavern after a long day of work, enjoying a hot bowl of hearty stew, when the first fireball came careening by. It burst through the wall of the tavern, crushing a row of tables and spewing sparks and bursts of flame across the room. Torin rolled smoothly over the table he was sitting at, putting the sturdy wood between him and the fire. As soon as the smoke cleared, he hurried across the room to the door and out onto the street. All around him, the city was in chaos, with people screaming and running in every direction. The next fireballed hurtled past him down the street, lighting most of the marketplace on fire.
“That’s new.” He made the comment entirely to himself, since no one else was really in the right mindset to listen. A short distance down the street, a man knelt in the middle of the chaos. He faced the (now very angry) volcano that loomed over the north end of the town, wailing at the top of his lungs.
“Woe!” Torin heard as he approached the man. “Woe and ruin! I have brought destruction upon us all!”
“Easy there, buddy,” Torin said as soothingly as he was able to as he knelt beside the distressed man. “What’s going on?”
The man thrust a glowing golden orb into Torin’s hands, looking up at him with wild eyes. “I was tempted by the treasure! I have stolen the heart of the great Fire Mountain, and now the wrath of the Great Spirits is upon us!”
Torin looked down at the glowing orb and then back at the man. “Why would you steal something from inside a volcano? Doesn’t that just seem like something you definitely shouldn’t do?”
Unfortunately, the man was far beyond listening to reasonable inquiries. He staggered away from Torin, continuing to rant loudly. “It must be returned! You must return the heart to the Fire Mountain’s center or we will all be doomed!” As if to punctuate his point, the volcano belched a thick cloud of black smoke, and orange lava began to ooze down its sides.
Torin looked back down at the golden orb in his hands. “... and apparently that’s now my problem,” he remarked, again, to himself. He pushed himself to his feet, tucked the orb into his satchel, and began casually strolling toward the volcano. “Well, I guess someone has to save the world.”
He was almost to the base of the volcano before things got difficult. A strange whistling sound cut through the air, giving him just enough warning to leap to the side before a fireball hit where he had just been standing. But this one was different than the others. After it hit, the outside of the fireball cracked and peeled away, revealing some sort of vile creature. It was almost like a small dragon, except that it had six legs instead of four and its largest feature was its oversized pair of bat-like wings. It also had a far worse temperament than a dragon, at least any dragon that Torin had met (and he had met quite a few).
The creature leapt at Torin, causing him to dive to the side once again. He rolled to his feet, wishing that he had more weapons than just the long knife tucked in his boot (remember, this was just an ordinary day). Still, he had to work with the resources at hand, so he pulled the knife from its sheath with one hand and hefted a nearby tree branch with the other. The creature snapped its jaws at him as he swung the stick at its head. It was clearly unhappy that its opponent had escaped death twice now. As it reared back on its hind legs, Torin glanced up toward the top of the volcano and thrust the stick into the beast’s chest. It staggered backward, putting itself in the perfect position to be crushed into the rocky ground by another fireball. Thankfully, this was just a regular fireball with no nasty surprises inside, so Torin was able to hurry past it and up towards the small opening in the side of the volcano.
Unfortunately for him, his adventure wasn’t quite over when he made it into the volcanic passage. Almost as soon as he slipped through the narrow opening, the rock around him began to vibrate (which, as you can imagine, is a very concerning sensation when you are inside a volcano). Torin broke into a sprint, knowing that the vibrating had to be a precursor to something unpleasant. He was right. As he ran, the ceiling of the passage began raining stalactites down on him. He wove between the spikes, squinting through the ash and smoke in an effort to see where he was going. Finally, he saw it. The passage opened into a small cave just ahead. In the center of the cave, a stalactite and a stalagmite reached toward each other from the top and bottom of the cave, leaving a space between them just large enough for the orb. Torin gave one last push through the debris to shove the golden orb firmly back where it belonged. And then everything went still.
As Torin pushed himself to his feet, not wishing to spend any more time than necessary inside of a volcano, wisps of red and black vapor began to fill the cave. They curled around him, almost as if they were hugging him. He chuckled. “Yeah, yeah. You’re very welcome. In return for me being so amazing, I’d like to make a suggestion. Maybe next time someone steals your stuff, you can just smite them or something. Maybe take it easy on the world destruction. Just a thought.”
The vapors faded away as he stepped back out into the sunlight. And there was actual sunlight now, not blocked by thick clouds of ash and smoke. It had returned to being a fairly normal day at least, although Torin now knew that anything could happen.
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