A Dungeons & Dragons inspired short story

Jeffrey Outcalt


Near the city-state of Velnur is an island overtaken by a large and dangerous jungle. Within the jungle, exotic beasts reign and luxurious fruits grow. On the island’s coast is a small village of just under a hundred folks of different races. Amongst them lived a large family of Kalashtar, of which one was given the name Aleksander. Aleksander was born from his mother, Nell, and father, William. Brother to his younger sister, Anastasia, and elder brother, Tuck, the five of them lived in one of many small houses that made up the cluster of homes that the extended Panisski family inhabited. The bonds of family that bound those of the Panisski family are unwavering, even beyond the boundary of life and death itself.

Aleksander had the best childhood imaginable. He, his siblings, and his cousins tore through the jungle and swam in the sea. Unlike normal children, they devoted much of their time remaining still in efforts to commune with the foregin thoughts and dreams that entered their heads. As a people, Kalashtar believe the visions they received were messages from their ancestors. When a Kalashtar trains and matures their spiritual powers enough, they are able to identify which ancestor or ancestors look over the individual as a guide and protector to them, going as far as physically manifesting to shield them from danger.

For as long as he could remember, Aleksander had received visions and lessons from three different individuals. While he could not see their faces or speak with them, he understood their intentions when they came to him through his visions and dreams. A large mountain of a man honed his instincts to become a powerful fighter and hunter. A slender woman, thick of quad, helped guide more dexterous and precise movements, such as farming, dancing, and preparing animals for cooking. An elderly, slouched woman leaning on a wooden cane taught him one of the most important lessons of all: cooking.

Many people came to their island in search of the exotic cuisine that could be found there. Travelers, pirates, and the Velnurian Exploration Corps alike knew their family by name as they were the village butcher. Aleksander, along with his father and brother, dove into the depths of the jungle and slew large beasts. They would then bring back their game and have it prepared by his mother and sister for sale. They also tended to a large farm where each member of the greater Panisski family had a hand in seeing its crops grow to bear voluptuous fruits and vegetables.

Up until his 27th year, Aleksander lived in peace with his family. He supported his family business, met strange visitors to the island who sought out his family’s wares, and grew closer and closer to his ancestors through meditation and other spiritual practices. On one fateful day, a particular group of pirates came to their village. This was no strange occurrence, except this was a particularly rakish group. A small party of that motley crew came seeking to “sample” the prized meats of his family. The captain demanded they receive the game at no cost. After being refused by Aleksander’s parents, they made threats, of which some went as far as whisking away his younger sister in the night. Aleksander and his brother stepped in to diffuse the situation, but things escalated.

Aleksander and his brother held their ground and drove the threat to his family from their home, but one was able to weasel away and fled in search of reinforcements. The brothers would shortly be outnumbered.

With the tides turned, the brothers found themselves cornered. They were handedly beaten by the newcomers, but the pirates didn’t stop. The captain would see the entire family punished for embarrassing him in front of his crew.

With the brothers on the brink of death, the pirates suddenly stopped. Aleksander opened his eyes and saw blue. Everything was as it was, but blue. The pirates, his bloodied brother, the courtyard in front of the home he grew up in, it was all blue. It was as if a veil had been placed over his eyes. It disoriented Aleksander for a moment, but then he collected the strength to stand. He met the gaze of the pirates who were not looking onto him, but rather something that stood behind him.

It was the blue, ethereal form of the mountain man he had seen in his visions looming over the brothers and the pirates. He felt the long hands of the slender woman reach around his waist in an embrace, pressing her warm hands into his chest, restoring his strength. Finally, he felt the wrap of a wooden stick on the small of his back. He turned to see the elderly woman holding something long wrapped in large furs.

He reached out to her and the furs materialized in his hands. While unwrapping it, he found a greatsword forged from a blue metal as dark as the depths of the sea. Brandishing the sword, he turned on the pirates, warding them from his homestead. He slew at least fifteen before the pirates gave up the fight and fled, leaving Aleksander to return to a level head. He understood what had happened, but the whole fight felt as if it happened all within a single moment. He had driven the pirates away, but they swore to be back to take the life “of the one who controls the spirits."

Aleksander knew it was not safe for him to stay with his family. Aleksander’s father, William, helped him with a favor that was owed to him by a successful explorer of the Velnurian Exploration Corps by the name of Captain Potbelly. Potbelly was a family friend who worshipped the Panisski’s ability to cook. He agreed to take Aleksander under his protection, on the terms that he worked for it. Potbelly aptly assigned Aleksander to be a cook. Aleksander departed his family that same week and sailed with Potbelly and his crew for the next two years, all the while serving fantastic foods of his family (and even providing muscle when needed).

While he was away, Aleksander continued to strengthen his abilities to commune with the three spirits who protected him that fateful day. The dreams and visions became more vivid, they also became more sporadic and chaotic. The three spirits seemed to become anxious and at times tore away from their communions. All until one day, a new spirit came to him, and for the first time in his life, Aleksander heard a voice. Aleksander sat around a table with his guardian spirits. They ate and drank, but no one spoke words as usual, connecting only through their thoughts, visions, and memories. Suddenly, a giant sword tore through each of his guardians’ images, dissipating them into ethereal mist. Immediately Aleksander was taken by negative emotions of all kinds. Then for the first time, he heard a vision, a person, a dream speak to him. “You do not belong here”, a shrouded figure said, “Let us remedy that."

Since the vision, Aleksander has felt the need to go to Omen, a desolate continent covered by dry deserts and unnatural creatures. Speaking with Potbelly, he agreed to let Aleksander go. He would take him to Velnur, where he could seek passage to Omen, but nothing closer. Arriving at the port of Velnur, Aleksander is filled with stoic excitement and nerves. He fears what these visions might mean for him and his family. Nevertheless, he will journey to Omen to ensure the safety of everyone he knows and understand the meaning of the breach in the connection between him and his ancestral guardians.

With the clothes on his back, his cooking equipment, and his inherited blue longsword, Aleksander marches steadily off the docks of Velnur and into crowded city streets.