This is the new Enchanted Duelist’s Deck story! Hope you all enjoy.
They had done it! The party had faced down every threat the dungeon had thrown their way, every ancient trap, every vicious monster, they’d faced the challenges together and now they would get their hard-earned rewards.
“A pretty impressive treasure horde,” Vicelor the Charming called out as he tapped the bottom of the wall with the base of his wizard’s staff. The rest of his party was still looting the room the dungeon’s final challenge was laying dead in, but he knew there had to be more. The beast had been big, the dungeon ancient. The meager pile of loot the rest of the party was searching through couldn’t possibly be all that the beast had been guarding.
There has to be a hidden door, he thought as he moved along the wall, tapping its base, a proper treasure vault where the real items of value lay hidden. And if I can find it before Eldrida then maybe I can actually grab something of true power before the greedy little Human whelp claims it all!
The young Human adventurer irritated him to no ends. She was annoyingly chipper even for one as young as her and her passion for “gear” had led to her claiming nearly every arcane item and rare potion they found. The rest of the party allowed her to claim whatever she wished, seeing the horde of loot she was practically covered in as a boon. No matter what threat they faced she seemed always able to pull some trinket or ancient relic out of her pack or pockets that ended up solving their problem. Never mind that she was so weighed down by her collection she could barely wield a sword, the rest of the party happily protected her.
“Today I’ll find the treasure room first and be able to grab something or real value before the little brat has a chance,” he muttered.
He’d sworn this would be his last adventure with this party as their good-natured wholesomeness was starting to wear at his soul. Vicelor wasn’t an evil man, but he’d learned long ago that what most people viewed as “good” didn’t quite align with how he wanted to live his life. As a Common Elf, an Elf whose blood was diluted with that of at least some Human ancestry, he had lived a long time (although the Elven blood was strong in him and he still had charming youthful good looks). He’d found during his life that few groups of adventurers inhabited the moral gray area between devoutly good and those that were chaotically evil. The more evil parties tended to be a bit more… brutal then he liked. So for the last fifty years he’d pretended to be as good-hearted as most adventurers.
He played the part well. None in his party knew that his moral campus was not as well aligned as theirs were. They called him “Vicelor the Charming” because his good looks and false demeanor had completely won them over. But he was growing sick of having to be so charming so often and wished for a break, and that meant leaving this party.
One last find to make all this time with these flighty, cheery good-doers worth it, he thought as he kept tapping the wall.
Knock. Knock. Knock.
It has to be here somewhere!
Knock. Knock. THUD.
“Here it is!” he whispered excitedly. He took a step back, looking over his shoulder to make sure the rest of the party was still busy. None of them were looking his way. He waved the top of his staff in a quick circle, the pink gem atop it forming a small arcane rune in the air that revealed the hidden door before him. He muttered a quick spell and the hidden door slid soundlessly open.
He slipped in the small door, pulling his robes in with him. The room he stepped into wasn’t very large but it held FAR more loot then the meager pile the rest of the party was looking through. There were gold coins and shimmering gems covering the ground in enticing piles. A few weapons and pieces of armor were spread through the piles but none of that interested him. His eyes quickly fell upon the shelves that lined the walls, the more interesting and rarer items sitting upon them.
Eldrida will want to claim them all, he thought as he quickly moved along the wall, looking for any items he could make good use of. He grabbed a wand, tucking it into his robes where none would ever see it. Then he saw a necklace with a glowing red crystal, one he could feel was full of arcane power. He grabbed that too, tucking it into his robes beside the wand. He had no idea what power it contained but knew he’d be able to put it to far better use then she ever could.
And then he saw it.
He stopped, looking at the item in awe. He knew exactly what it was, how it worked, and how to use it. Yet he never thought he’d see one in person! With his hand shaking, he reached out to grab hold of the stone box with the red gem inset in its top. “An Enchanted Duelist’s Deck,” he muttered as he picked the item up. He could feel the thing’s power in his hand as he held it.
“It’s mine,” he whispered.
“What’s yours?” a voice called out.
God’s be damned, he thought, knowing Eldrida Rivers had finally noticed the hidden treasure room. There was no way he could hide the item from her now, she’d have already seen it in his hand.
He silently cursed the petite little Human woman as she came into the room. She was short and thin but even so she had to duck down and half crawl through the small door to get in because of how much gear she was covered in. Her pack was overfilled, extra bags and large items strapped on to it. The straps of overfilled satchels hung on both her shoulders and other leather straps covered with over-filled pouches wrapped around her body. Swords and potions dangled from her hips, vials tied to every spare space. She looked less like a woman and more like a moving pile of junk!
Under all that gear he knew she wore a fairly skimpy outfit, a short leather skirt and a tiny leather top that hugged her small breasts and left her midriff showing. Yet even though the outfit was scandalously revealing she was so covered in gear that the only bare skin that could be seen was that of her face.
She had pale white skin and a pretty round face, so youthful she barely looked the twenty and one years of her age. She had plump little red lips that were always turned up in an annoyingly happy smile and her big eyes were always full of life and joy.
He hated her. Hated her annoyingly pretty and perky face and hated how much the rest of his traveling partners “loved” her.
“Oh wow,” she said as she looked around the room, reaching up and pushing some of the messy long gray hair away from her face.
He hated her hair as well. On any other woman the gray hair would have made them look older. But not Eldrida. An unidentified potion she’d drunk had turned her hair prematurely gray, yet the way she wore the wild tangles wrapped up and around a pair of arcane goggles and tied with enchanted bands and pins left her looking even more scattered brained and youthful.
She didn’t call out to the rest of the party to let them know about the room. Instead, she started walking along the walls, grabbing practically every item she passed and cramming it into a pouch or pocket. “I need this, and this, and this for my collection,” she said excitedly, quickly moving forward and grabbing more and more items.
Vicelor thought she had forgotten he was in the room with her by the way she was greedily grabbing up items as if unseen. A moment later she bumped into him, confirming she had, in fact, forgotten his presence.
“Ooof,” she grunted, stumbling back as the weight of her pack almost caused her tip over. As she righted herself her eyes fell on the stone box Vicelor held in his hands. Her large eyes opened almost comical large as she stared at it in awe. “What is that,” she said, stepping close and reaching for it.
She was no wizard, not even a mage. But the tiny Human woman did have an almost preternatural sense for the strange magic that enchanted items gave off. The look on her face and the way she reached for the item in his hand he knew she sensed its ancient and immense power.
“This,” Vicelor quickly said, pulling the box back out of her reach, “is mine. I’ve already claimed it.”
She looked up at him, her annoyingly pretty little face twisting in a pout. “But I need it for my collection! What is it and why do YOU need it?”
He realized she had no idea what the box was. And as soon as he realized that he got a fiendish idea, realized he’d be able to take out all of the frustrations he felt towards with this greedy little Human woman in the most satisfying way.
“It’s a game,” he told her. “A game of skill and chance made before The Great Collapse. Very rare and very powerful. I’ve always wanted one but I’ll tell you what, how about play for it? We’ll open it up, play a round right here and now and the winner gets to keep it. That’s fair, right?”
She smiled and looked up at the tall Common Elf, giggling slightly. “Alright! But perhaps we should wait till we are out of the dungeon?”
“No,” Vicelor said quickly. He had intended on slipping away from the party as soon as they left dungeon but had just then decided he wanted them to know who he really was before he left them. Making the naive youth play the game with him would reveal all to her and the party and he was suddenly eager to do so. “An owner has to be chosen by the deck before it leaves this room,” he lied, knowing the deck had already chosen him as its owner the moment he picked it up.
“Alright! Let’s do it,” she replied eagerly.
Vicelor waved his staff and the piles of coins and gems in the center of the room were cleared to the side. With another wave of the staff he created a small wooden table with two chairs in the cleared off space and waved for Eldrida to come and sit. She started peeling layers of gear off and by the time she was able to sit at the table Vicelor was already seated with the stone box open in the center of the table.
Inside the box was a stack of cards, the backs covered in ornate artwork. Beside the deck of cards were two large crystals, clear and transparent.
“To begin the game we must both declare that we are entering into the game of our own free will, knowing that whatever stakes we set shall be magically binding,” he told her. “Also, you must know that once the game begins we will be magically bound to complete it. The deck is powerful and it will not allow either of us to leave till the game is complete.”
She giggled, amused. “Incredible that the ancients had so much magical talent they could infuse a simple card game with so much power. I’m eager to begin but before I say the words needed to start things how is the game played?”
“It’s simple to learn, hard to master,” Vicelor said, knowing that the game was rigged to allow only the owner to win. He picked one of the cards up and flipped it over to show her that the other side was blank. “Once the game begins each card will have its text filled in as they are dealt. These crystals will fill with energy and to win we must simply drain our opponent’s crystal of energy. Some cards will help with this, some will allow you to play or draw more cards while draining your own crystal. But the basic rules are ‘draw a card each turn and play a card each turn’. Everything else will be explained on the card themselves.”
“Alright,” she said with a nod. “I, Eldrida Rivers, enter this game of my own free will knowing I will be unable to leave before it is completed and agreeing that the winner of the game shall be the deck’s new owner.”
Vicelor said something much the same. As soon as he was finished speaking red magic burst out from the deck, momentarily blinding them both. They blinked, their sight coming back to them.
“Oh, wow, this is really cool,” Eldrida said, looking down at the chain of red energy that now connected one of her legs to the table. “I didn’t imagine we’d be so literally bound to the game!” She looked under the table and saw a similar chain binding the Common Elf to the table.
As she sat up the two crystals floated up from the stone box, filling with sparking red energy than moving to float beside each player’s head. At the same time the deck of cards levitated out of the box, shuffling themselves mid-air then dealing out three cards to each player before setting themselves down on the table.
They both reached for their cards, picking them up and reading the text that appeared on them. A moment later a card floated up from the deck and moved to join Vicelor’s hand. “I suppose I get to go first,” he said, grinning at the cards in his hand and eager to begin playing. Reading the cards made him realize that Eldrida was going to find out very quickly what kind of game this really was.
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