Social Anxiety Barbarian, Book 1 Part 2
The thrilling conclusion to Book One of BBJ Quest: Social Anxiety Barbarian!
All posts in this series:
- Part one: At the mouth of the caves
- Part two: Cave Lads
- Part three: Lullaby for the dead
- Part four: Deadspace and Beyond
- Part five: The Owl's Haunt
36 ~cassii2 @ 13:17 2021/09/01 [edited]
NEW FRIEND IN TOW, FEELING UN-BETRAYED AND A BIT HAPPIER NOW THAT YOU HAVE A FRIEND, YOU FINALLY ADVANCE TOWARDS THE CAVE TO GET THE STOLEN ITEMS. LIKE YOU WERE ORIGINALLY HERE FOR. SURE HOPE THAT NO ONE SAW YOU GET EMOTIONAL, THAT WAS A BIT EMBARRASSING.
37 ~dozens @ 16:08 2021/09/01
RECAP / CHECKPOINT
You are a young adventurer who just had their Awakening (a rite of passage that determines one's path of adventure) and discovered that their Heroic Archetype is some kind of Social Anxiety Barbarian.
You are deep in the woods on a mission to recover a stolen collection of ceremonial blankets and costumes from the Cave Lads in time for the Festival of Remembering tomorrow night. It's a noble mission, and also it pays enough to pay off your debt to the Guild.
You just dispatched two cave brats and a trigger happy groll with the help of a large Knobby Gourd and your new friend and companion, a tiny Pebble Golem.
You are now prepared to face whatever lurks in the caves.
38 ~dozens @ 16:22 2021/09/01
You stoop down and scoop up the pebble golem. It sits in the palm of your hand as you speak to it, “Heh. Wow, I kind of lost my cool there! Heh heh, that was kind of embarrassing. Hope nobody saw that!”
You look around at the battered corpses of everybody who saw that.
The golem falls to pieces in your hand and spells out a friendly “:)” and then climbs up your arm and snuggles cozily into your neck: you wear the pebble golem as a necklace of small polished stones.
“Aw, that's cute. That's a good spot for you, isn't it?”
With a bit of pep in your step, you march up to the cave entrance.
“Okay, here we go. Gotta get that cloth! Or the festival will be ruined, and grandmas and the children will be heartbroken. And also without that reward, I won't have the money to pay off the Guild.”
You step into the dark and feel your way forward.
Up ahead you hear strange footsteps, an odd dragging, lurching, stomping gait. You see some light up ahead and when you get close enough to peer into the cavern before you, you see the source of the stange noise and sigh to yourself: halflings. Halflings are pitiful creatures. They look just like regular humans in every way, just split right down the middle: one leg, one arm, and half a head/face. One eye, one ear, half a mouth. Half a brain. A right half and a left half pair up as soon as possible during childhood and spend their wholes lives together, leaning against each other in a sloppy approximation of a regular human. They can kind of walk awkwardly, and for the most part are like really clumsy, uncordinated humans.
The real danger with halflings is that they see humans as unnatural and will 100% of the time try to “helpfully” slice them in half.
39 ~Gaffen @ 05:28 2021/09/02 [edited]
I DRAW A CHARCOAL LINE UP MY FRONT AND PRETEND TO BE A HALFLING COUPLE
40 ~dozens @ 07:57 2021/09/02 [edited]
With a stroke of genius, you rush back out to the campfire and scoop up a bunch of soot and ash, and draw a line straight down your middle in what you hope will be a passable halfling disguise.
Back at the entrance to the room, you take a deep breath—hope this works!—and step inside, keeping your wary eyes on the halfling and your nervous hand on the knobby gourd.
The halfling notices you enter, and gives you a blank look. (Each of them only has half a brain, mind you. And this is not a case in which two halves equal a whole. So it takes it a second to process new stimuli.) Its two halves don't fit that well. One's a little taller, the other has a darker complexion and is a little pudgier. This is a restless halfling: it is the life's work of each individual half to find a partner that looks as much like them as possible. To find the perfect fit. And these two are not a good fit, so they'll each absolutely be on the look out for a better match.
It breaks out into a smile and waves at you with both hands. Two voices come out of the conjoined mouth, “Hello [Hi]! What you doing [Where you come from]?”
You suddenly realize that you can't speak doubletalk: you only have one mouth. Hopefully if you have to speak, it'll think that one of your halves is shy?
41 ~Gaffen @ 04:40 2021/09/03
KEEP IT TOGETHER, YOU GOT THIS. RETURN THE GREETING OUT OF ONE SIDE OF YOUR MOUTH. YOU AND YOUR PARTNER ARE VISITING FROM A CAVE IN THE NEXT VALLEY. DEEP BREATHS – REMIND YOURSELF THAT THREE IS A SMALL NUMBER FOR A GATHERING.
42 ~dozens @ 15:15 2021/09/06
You instinctively hold your breath in panic as you remember the rules for social gatherings.
A thinny collapsed in on itself a few towns over two seasons ago, and there have been all kinds of troubles ever since. The Council of Distinguished Conjurers has recommended social gathering in groups no larger than five, or else you risk spontaneously summoning a Joul who will most likely randomly curse everyone gathered.
You do a quick head count: you, two halflings, and Pebbles, who is still nestled in the crook of your neck as a necklace. (You're not even sure whether the pebble golem is technically sentient or not, but you should be safe either way.)
The halflings continue to smile at you expectantly.
You close your left eye, and speak out of the right corner of your mouth, and hope you can lie convincingly. “Um. Hi! We're new here. From far away in... Kanida. We've been walking all day and all night to get here, taking turns staying awake. That's why my other half is asleep right now...”
The halflings blink slowly at you, slightly out of sync with each other. Their overall appearance is kind of unsettling because of how mismatched and disjointed they are.
“Oh that's neat. [I've never met anyone from Kanida.] But why'd you come HERE? [Is it cold there?]”
You struggle to keep up two conversations at the same time. “Um, yeah it's pretty cold in the winter? Well, technically I came down here,” you point your right thumb at the right side of your body, “because I heard there was a Perfect Match for me down here,” you point to the left side of your body. “We just got together!”
The halflings eye you appraisingly, “It's a really good match. [It's almost perfect!]”
“Almost?” you think to yourself incredulously.
“Actually,” you continue out loud, trying to look thoughtful, “the Left I just split up with might be a really good match for your Right!”
You try to convince the halflings to go find the other halflings a day's walk from the caves and maybe swap halves. You slip around them while they're still discussing it amongst themselves and wave at them and wish them good luck.
A tunnel at the far end of the cavern slopes steadily down a while until it opens up into a crystal cavern with glowing prisms jutting out from the walls and ceilings, and large mushroom caps with glowing purple and yellow rings cling to every stone surface between the crystals.
43 ~dozens @ 11:28 2021/09/18
What is this, crystals and mushrooms growing together??
It cannot be! The Prismat and the Fungoids have been at war with each other since before the Shattering!
In fact, if they were suddenly working together (ha! Impossible!) it would radically disrupt the delicate balance of the Underdown. Politically, geologically, biologically..
The Prismat tend to take over and spread their crystals over stone and inorganic matter. While the Fungoids devour organic matter with their mushrooms. For as long as they kept each other in check, neither were that big of a deal on their own. But, again, if they've started working together, that is a very big deal indeed.
an end to hostilities?
44 ~dozens @ 09:26 2021/09/19 [edited]
You stoop down and pluck a small crystaline mushroom. It has a long thin stem, and a tall pointed cap. Maybe you can use this later: you'll have to let the guilds know about this and it might be convincing to have some evidence.
You slip the crystal mushroom into your fanny pack, and continue through the cavern.
On the far end of the cavern, you find an odd door.
It has a smooth, round knob for turning, and the knob is set back deeply in the mouth of a large crystal skull. The mouth is open just wide enough that you might be able to squeeze your hand inside it to reach the knob. But the mouth is also full of incredibly sharp looking crystal teeth. The teeth appear to be caked with dried blood? And below the skull on the ground is a skeletal hand, almost picked clean of flesh by the fungus growing on it.
45 ~bx @ 09:30 2021/09/19
I PUT THE SKELETON HAND IN THE SKULL TO SEE WHAT HAPPENS
46 ~dozens @ 09:36 2021/09/19
You pick up the skeleton hand and hold it by the wrist, creating a sort of boney hand extender.
You carefully reach into the skull's mouth with the skeleton hand, and the crystal jaws snap violently shut!
You pull your own fleshy hand back just in time, the hard crystal teeth almost grazing your fingers.
After a beat, the jaws open and the skeleton hand falls back to the floor.
47 ~bx @ 09:17 2021/09/20
THE SKULL IS PROBABLY JUST HUNGRY, I PUT THE CRYSTAL SHROOM IN ITS MOUTH
48 ~dozens @ 18:22 2021/09/20
You pull out the crystal shroom and toss it gently into the skull's maw.
Again the jaws snap violently shut. It may be your imagination, but you think that for a split second you see the corners of the skull's mouth turn up into the faintest smile. And its crystal eyes seem to twinkle with joy.
Although nothing about it has actually changed, you think the skull looks self-satisfied as it opens its jaws again.
The crystal shroom is gone.
WHERE'D IT GO??
49 ~Gaffen @ 06:23 2021/09/21
INPECT MAW. AVOID USING NECESSARY FLESHY BODY PARTS.
50 ~dozens @ 10:39 2021/09/21
You assess the necessity of all your fleshy body parts and decide that you are emotionally and physically attached to all of them.
You visually inspect the maw. You flick a tooth with your finger. It is hard as a diamond and sharp as a razor.
You decide to potentially sacrifice the pebble golem. You pluck the string of stones from your neck and they assemble into a tiny humanoid in the palm of your hand. It looks up at you and, as always, is perfectly adorable. You instruct it to turn the knob, and toss it into the skull's mouth.
The jaws snap shut!
CUTSCENE: INSIDE THE MOUTH OF THE CRYSTAL SKULL
The pebble golem wraps its tiny arms around the knob and heaves, lifting its tiny legs up off the floor and kicking to create some momentum. The knob slowly starts to turn.
You are about to start mourning the loss of your dear friend the pebble golem when you hear a click and a sigh and the door swings open an inch.
The jaws of the skull open up and the pebble golem steps out carefully up onto the teeth and reaches up to you.
You carefully reach out and the golem jumps into your hand, climbs up your arm, and settles around your neck once again as a stone necklace.
51 ~bx @ 14:54 2021/09/21
I CAREFULLY LOOK INSIDE
52 ~dozens @ 15:31 2021/09/21
You carefully open the door and peek inside.
The floor of the round room before you slopes down to the center where there is a pool of clear water about 20 feet across and about 10 feet deep. At the bottom of the pool is a huge two-handed greatsword, its blade buried halfway into the stone floor. A large unblinking eye set into the hilt of the sword turns to look up at you through the water.
On the far side of the pool is a large wooden chest with metal bands big enough for 2 – 3 grown men to lie down inside.
And off to the side of the room is a plain looking wooden door set into the stone wall. It is closed.
53 ~bx @ 04:59 2021/09/22
I EXAMINE THE CHEST
54 ~dozens @ 07:50 2021/09/22
You walk around the small pool of water, the eye of the sword following as you do, to the large chest.
It is a large wooden chest, banded with iron, and secured with a large padlock. You yank on the lock a few times, as one does when presented with a large padlock. It remains locked.
You knock on the chest a few times and try to push it around. Far too large and heavy to lift. Your knock is thick and muffled as though it is packed full of something.
IS NICE CHEST
55 ~Gaffen @ 02:25 2021/09/23
I ASK THE SWORD IF IT WOULD LIKE TO BECOME THE THIRD IN MY COMICALLY LARGE SWORD POWER TRIO
56 ~dozens @ 08:28 2021/09/23
You turn and address the sword.
Hello sword! Would you like to join my giant sword party? Ain't no party like a comically large sword party!
The amber eye in the hilt of the sword regards you wetly and evenly from the bottom of the pool, not breaking eye contact nor looking away.
You're not sure whether that means it consents to joining your party or not. Further communication and investigation may be required.
WHAT'S THE WORD, SWORD?
57 ~bx @ 12:58 2021/09/27
I ASK THE SWORD TO GIVE ME SOME KIND OF SIGN
58 ~dozens @ 11:10 2021/09/28
You cry out to the sword as though in agony, “Please, can't you give me a sign? Some kind of sign! Any kind of sign!”
It feels a little dramatic but you feel like you blew off a little steam, and you feel better.
The sword remains for the most part inanimate, buried half in stone at the bottom of a small clear pond. The eye in the hilt seems to roll in place and then fix its gaze back on you.
Not much of a talker I guess.
You decide to ask the stars for a sign instead. You grab your pouch of stars from your belt and kneel down and dump them out and scatter them across the floor in front of you. You study the pattern for a SIGN and its relative POSITION. Together, a sign and its position in the sky should tell you something about your current situation.
You quickly recognize the shape of THE ELDER, standing for tradition and authority. And it is COLLIDING with another object in the sky, suggesting change or violence.
Tradition must refer to the Festival of Remembering, which you're trying to save by retrieving the stolen blankets and costumes from the Cave Lads. But change? Violence?
You and the sword give each other a worried look.
WHAT DOES IT MEAN??
59 ~bx @ 15:44 2021/09/28
I TRY OPENING THE DOOR TO SEE IF IT CONTAINS SOME KIND OF ANSWER
60 ~dozens @ 08:15 2021/09/29 [edited]
You gather up your stars and put them back in your pouch, and stand up and walk around the sword pond to the plain wooden door.
You reach out for the handle only to have it ripped out of your hand as the door swings violently inward away from you. “Haha!” cries a voice from within. “Now we've got you, Adventurer!” “Yeah, you've walked right into our trap, haha!”
It's the Cave Lads!
There are two of them. Slightly shorter than a human, with folds of loose translucent skin all over so that they look like slightly melted candles. Their noses are extra long and so are their ears, so that they droop down under their own weight. They have wide mouths and long nimble fingers and large round eyes.
They push past you into the room with the sword and the chest, and start dancing and prancing around and singing, “Now we've got you! We won't give you the blankets! We won't give you the costumes! You won't save the festival! It will be ruined! All the children and grandmas will cry!” They tug on their noses and twist their ears and continue to taunt you.
61 ~bx @ 13:44 2021/09/29
I HOLD MY COMICALLY LARGE SWORD IN THE AIR AND DEMAND THEY TELL ME HOW TO OPEN THE CHEST
62 ~dozens @ 14:46 2021/09/30 [edited]
You conjure a comically large sword from SWORDSPACE and lift it high in the air. You demand that the Cave Lads open the chest.
The Cave Lads cower and grovel.
“Whoa, whoa, whoa! Relax, it was just a prank!”
“Yeah, it wasn't even our idea anyway!”
“Yeah! It was the owl's idea. She said we should do it!”
“You can have the dumb blankets!”
“Yeah, the sword is the key!”
The Cave Lads point to the sword buried at the bottom of the pool.
The eye in the hilt of the sword slowly blinks.
63 ~bx @ 14:52 2021/09/30
I ATTEMPT TO RETRIEVE THE SWORD FROM THE WATER, BUT I DO SO IN AS POLITE A MANNER AS I POSSIBLY CAN
64 ~dozens @ 15:28 2021/09/30 [edited]
You say thank you to the cave lads and give a polite little bow.
You dive into the cold, crystal clear water and swim a couple feet down to the bottom, the eye in the sword watching you as you approach.
You politely reach out and grasp the sword. The eye closes. You give it a polite but awkward tug. (It's hard to get momentum under water.) It shifts a tiny bit, but the blade of the sword remains half buried in the stone at the bottom of the pool.
You politely try to adjust your grip but find that your hand is stuck fast to the hilt. You cannot let go at all!
You look up. There is about six feet of water between you and breathable air.
You look down. You are stuck to a sword at the bottom of a pool of water.
You look at the sword. The sword looks at you.
The Cave Lads squeal with laughter and run from the room, politely leaving you alone to drown in peace.
65 ~bx @ 15:46 2021/09/30
I PUSH MY FEET AGAINST THE BOTTOM OF THE POOL FOR MORE POWER, IF I AM GOING TO DROWN I REFUSE TO HALF ASS MY FINAL ACTION
66 ~dozens @ 16:14 2021/09/30
You plant two feet on the bottom of the pool. You grab the hilt with two hands. In for a penny, in for a pound! And you heave.
The blade grinds against the stone but doesn't come loose.
You decide to full ass your final action, and give it all you got. You strain and pull. Your mouth fills with water as you open your mouth to yell with the effort.
The sword comes loose and slips from the rock as your lungs empty and start to burn.
Fun fact: there is very little difference between an anchor and a sword when you are attached to one at the bottom of a pool of water.
Your hands are uselessly stuck to a heavy sword, and you frantically kick, trying to get to the surface. Darkness creeps around the edges of your vision.
When you finally break the surface, you gasp so hard it hurts your throat, but you love it. Air! Air!
You roll onto your back and kick toward the shore, still gulping and swallowing air. When you get to the shore you crawl onto dry land and lie there on your side breathing and holding a big sword. The eye looks intently at you.
YOU DIDN'T DROWN!
67 ~bx @ 01:30 2021/10/01
I CELEBRATE MY NOT DROWING BY DOING A HAPPY DANCE
68 ~dozens @ 09:02 2021/10/01
You celebrate life by jumping up and doing a happy victory dance.
You swing the sword wildly around your body and over head, because you're still attached to it with both hands, and stomp and swish around joyfully.
The pebble golem drops to the ground and bops along.
The eyeball in the sword hilt rolls around rhythmically back and forth, back and forth.
It's a friggin raver.
DANCE DANCE DANCE
AFTER EVERYONE IS DONE DANCING I TRY OPENING THE CHEST
70 ~dozens @ 13:53 2021/10/03 [edited]
Panting slightly from exerting yourself on the dance floor, you drag the large eyeball sword over to the large chest.
With a shrug, you lift the sword and bring it down on the lock, cutting it off easily. The lock falls to the ground.
You lean your shoulder into the lid of the chest and try to lift it because your hands are still glued to the Eye Sword, but the lid doesn't budge. You kick at it, and try to pry it open with the blade of the sword. The tiny pebble golem tries to help and it's kind of adorable so you just let it think it's helping even though it really isn't.
You sigh, defeated, and then take another closer look at the chest.
You notice that the lock had been covering a circular indentation in the front of the chest. You bend down to take a closer look, and notice that the inside of the spherical depression has an eyeball painted on it.
You look from the painted eye down to the seemingly living eye in the hilt of the sword you are currently stuck to. You catch the sword also looking at the chest, but then it flicks its eye back to you.
71 ~bx @ 14:56 2021/10/03
I LOOK IN THE DOOR AGAIN BEFORE DOING ANYTHING THAT MIGHT LOOSE ME A SWORD, THE ROOM SHOULD BE QUIET WITHOUT CAVE LADS
72 ~dozens @ 15:34 2021/10/03
You look through the door, behind the chest, and all around.
The room is quiet and without cave lads.
Just for good measure, you have Pebbles stand lookout by the door, and you turn to face the chest.
IT'S OH SO QUIET
73 ~Gaffen @ 02:03 2021/10/04
I POLITELY BRING THE SWORD'S EYE TO THE LOCK INDENTATION TO GIVE IT A BETTER VIEW.
74 ~dozens @ 07:59 2021/10/04
You make polite introductions.
Chest, may I introduce Sword? Sword, I present to you, Chest.
And then you lift the hilt of the sword level with the front of the chest. The eye's gaze is locked steadfast on the painted eye as you carefully press it into the indentation. It's a perfect fit and slides into place with a quiet “thunk”.
Your grip slips as your fingers abruptly loose their stiffness, and you fumble the sword. It drops to the ground with a clang like a ringing bell. The eye rattles around and then looks up at you.
At the same time, you hear a click from inside the chest as some locking mechanism comes loose, and a creak as the hinges on the lid move under protest. The lid swings open about two inches and stops. More than enough room for you to slip your fingers into the dark crack and lift the lid the rest of the way and see what's inside.
You look around the room again. Pebbles remains standing sentry at the far door. It's quiet.
THE CHEST IS OPEN
75 ~nihilazo @ 09:28 2021/10/05
LOOK INSIDE THE CHEST
76 ~dozens @ 09:43 2021/10/05
You lift the lid and look inside the chest.
You reach all the way in, even kicking your legs in the air a little bit behind you as you tip forward, and then stand up, turn around, and triumphantly hold a blanket up in the air!
You've done it! The trunk is full of all the costumes and blankets that the Cave Lads stole!
You're going to get these home right away so that the Festival of Remembering can continue. And also so you can claim that fat reward.
THE END OF BBJ QUEST: PART 1
YOU LEVEL UP
STAY TUNED FOR BBJ QUEST: PART 2