Like every day, Luda woke before sunrise. They waved away the larger sheepdog that came in from the cold to cuddle against them at night, and licked Luda’s face every morning to wake them. Luda wiped the drool from their face onto a sleeve of their tunic and stood. They slept in their clothes, so there was no time wasted getting dressed, and since they only owned the one pair of clothes, there was no time trying to decide what to change in to. Like every day, Luda kicked the hay over the spot where they slept and exited the barn, heading for the town of Rivenwood.
Like every day, Luda spent an hour walking into town, the hour from 5 am to 6 am. A few minutes past 6, Luda entered the inn and sat at an unoccupied table in a dark corner, away from the fire. The seats near the fire were for more important people, like Sarromos the Speaker of the Fighter’s Guild, and Foroto the Grand Adventurer. They often had numerous travelers seeking them for advice on whatever journeys they were making.
Like every day, Ferewyn the barmaid brought Luda a bowl of stew and a wooden cup of water for breakfast. It was a meatless stew, with only broth and carrots, but it was a free stew. Luda sat in the same seat they sat in, every day, eating the same stew they ate, every day, until the familiar sound of a hammer striking an anvil across the street. That was the signal from Munfar, the blacksmith, that it was time to come in. Luda left their bowl, and at 7 am they crossed the street from the inn.
Like every day, Luda worked at the blacksmith’s shop doing tasks and errands for Munfar. They retrieved tools for Munfar, they ran down to the mines to trade for raw materials for Munfar, they fetched water from the well for Munfar. Meanwhile, Munfar spoke to travelers.
Ravenwood sat on a busy road along the river, and so it had a lot of travelers passing through at any given hour. The numbers dwindled after sunset as the townsfolk went to sleep and closed shop, but there were always at least one or two strangers.
Like every day, most of the travelers ignored Luda. Every few minutes one of the travelers would find their way either into the wooden shack that Munfar called a shop, or around to the side where the forge rest. Munfar was either inside or working the forge during the day. Travelers would trade their metal junk and old weapons and request upgrades or new weapons and armor. Munfar could make anything made of metal, so he had a lot of business.
Like every day, one or two traveling adventures would look to Luda and say hello, and, just like every other time someone spoke to them, Luda would stop what they were doing and say “I am the apprentice of Munfar the Blacksmith at the center of town. Armor, swords, axes, and hammers, he can make anything you need.” Luda spoke these exact words, every time anyone spoke to them regardless of when or where they were located: by the well in the morning, or standing beside Munfar at the center of town. It was rare for anyone to say anything else after that, but if they did, Luda would just repeat themself until the person left.
Like every day, Luda took an hour-long break from work when the sun reached its highest point in the sky. They crossed the street to the inn and sat at an unoccupied table in a dark corner, away from the fire. The seats near the fire were for more important people, like Sarromos the Speaker of the Fighter’s Guild, and Foroto the Grand Adventurer. Adventurers often sought the words and wisdom of those two regarding whatever they happened to be working on.
Like every day, Ferewyn, the barmaid, was popular amongst travelers; dozens of them spoke to her every hour about things that did not relate to ordering drinks or food. Luda had overheard a few conversations about disappearing adventurers in the caves in the north, and bandits in the woods to the west. Luda never found these conversations strange as it seemed like there was always some missing caravan or a pack of wolves causing trouble, and it seemed like a lot of people went off to try and resolve those issues. Luda just waited until the adventurers left Ferewyn alone long enough for her to make her rounds.
Like every day, Ferewyn the barmaid brought Luda a bowl of stew and a wooden cup of water for lunch. Luda ate in silence, watching the mid-day adventurers come and go. The mid-day adventurers were usually rowdier than the morning adventurers. Occasionally, they would dance on the tables or play noisy music by the fire. The regular occupants of the inn often ignored them as it was normal, everyday activities for them.
Like every day, Luda left their bowl at the table when Munfar rang the anvil and crossed back to the Blacksmith’s shop to resume working. They continued to make runs to the local mines to collect raw ores, and fetch water from the well when Munfar was thirsty, which seemed to be about every 90 minutes.
Like every day, Munfar excused Luda as the sun began to fall closer to the horizon and Luda went across the street to the inn. Luda went to find their seat at an unoccupied table in a dark corner, away from the fire, but they found that the table was not unoccupied, as it always was. Every day.
Luda stopped and stood several feet away, staring at the table. Sitting in their usual seat in the corner was a stranger in vibrant blue and gold robes. Their hood was up, hiding their face in dark shadows. The figure turned the black space of their hood, where their face should be, toward Luda as they approached. Their slender fingers reached up to grasp the hem of the hood and pull it back, exposing a youthful face with a long, gray bear and messy gray hair.
“I have been waiting for you,” the man said. He stood and stepped to the side of the table.
Like every day, Luda sat at an unoccupied table in a dark corner, away from the fire. The seats near the fire were for more important people, like Sarromos the Speaker of the Fighter’s Guild, and Foroto the Grand Adventurer. The strange man with the young face and an old man’s beard sat across from them.
“I need to talk to you,” the strange young man said as he leaned forward, resting his elbows on the table.
Like every day, someone spoke to Luda, and like every time, Luda looked at the person and repeated their line. “I am the apprentice of Munfar the Blacksmith at the center of town. Armor, swords, axes, and hammers, he can make anything you need.”
“I know,” the stranger smiled as they reached into their robes. “But that is about to change.” From his robes, the man pulled a golden chain with a pendant featuring two snakes, one gold, and one silver, each biting the tail of the other as their bodies entwined and looped around each other.
Like every day, Ferewyn the barmaid was popular amongst the travelers. They swarmed around her, speaking to her about things that did not relate to ordering food or drinks and kept her from making her rounds. Luda waited patiently. The stranger with the pendant leaned forward, raising the necklace over Luda’s head and dropping it around their neck. The pendant fell to rest on Luda’s chest, the chain jingling as it settled against the dirty cloth of their tunic. Luda paused. Their expression shifted from passive and uninterested to curious as their gaze dropped to the pendant. Something about it radiated a strange energy that spread through Luda, and for the first time since coming to Rivenwood, Luda asked a question.
“What is this?”
“That,” the stranger with the young face and the old man’s beard said as he settled into his seat. He raised his hood again, casting his face back into shadow. “Is a magical pendant that is going to change your life and help you save the world.”