Heroes for Hire
Episode 1 – A Guilding of Lillis
Zantar and Rolph are sitting at a table in a large crowded room, speaking loudly and ignoring the angry glares of the other customers, all human.
ZANTAR: ... so I say's, "Krikey, Bugar, I've never started a fight in my life, but if you don't put down my pickle I'm going to have to split your head like a melon!"
ROLF: Quite right, a gentleman can't be expected to eat horse sausage without his pickle.
ZANTAR: EXACTLY! Well this Bugar fellow is half-again my size and I'm thinking that means he's slow, and he's the champion axe fighter of the clan so I figure he's used up all his luck...
ROLF: Stands to reason, the boob obviously had no chance against a puissant warrior such as yourself.
ZANTAR: EXACTLY! But ol' Bugar never was the deepest tunnel in the hill, if you get me, so he ups and pops my pickle, MY OWN PICKLE THAT I PULLED OUT OF THE JAR WITH MY OWN TWO HANDS, and up and pops it in his mouth!
ROLF: (aghast) The blackguard!
ZANTAR: (hesitates, then) Yeah, what you said. So out come the axes and let me tell you, they still tell the story of that battle. Seems ol' Bugar still had a little luck left, but not enough to save him from Zantar! No sir, I split his melon like a, well like a ... a head, I guess. With. My axe. I mean. ... Down the middle, like.
ROLF: And quite rightly, my good sir. Can't have miscreants stealing pickles from off the very table can we. Barkeep! Another round over here and snap to it! We've a great deal more drinking to do tonight! As I was saying Sir Dwarf, you let people steal pickles and the next thing you know they're pillaging the gold and ravishing the women!
Pan back to a view of Zantar and Rolf with two townsmen (Mutterer1 and Mutterer2) in the foreground, speaking lowly to each other.
ZANTAR: (from a distance) EXACTLY!
MUTTERER1: Damn Lillis. I don't know which I hate worse, stupid dwarves or squirrelly elves.
MUTTERER2: Don't those elves ever shut up?
Back to close-ups of the heroes.
ZANTAR: (peering at Rolph) Are you sure you aren't done drinking? Don't wanta get a delicate sort of elf to get all puked up or anything.
ROLF: Your concern is appreciated, but I assure you it is quite misplaced. Why I'm not half done! You do have enough coin to fulfill your obligation in the matter of the wager do you not?
ZANTAR: (nodding glumly) I guess, but it looks like it's going to be a close thing. I never thought elves could drink so much.
ROLF: We have many glorious characteristics as a race, and I excel at all of them as an individual...
Close up of another townsman.
MUTTERER3: I think elves mostly excel at how funny they hop around when you hang them. (others snicker)
ROLF: It was indeed jealousy of my perfection that led to my current traveling situation.
ZANTAR: I figured you for a guy that just seduced the wrong guy's daughter or something.
ROLF: Perish the though, sir! My behavior in all matters is impeccable. My honor unbesmirched by any peccadilloes of the flesh. No, I assure you that no elven maiden has ever had cause to rue my welcome presence or my gallant attentions. Some one or two human wenches may have caused me some difficulties, but they can hardly count. Is it my fault that young human women seem to be drawn to romantic eldritch heroes such as myself? (Rolf is attracting some pointed glares) I think not. And what am I to do, spurn them cruelly like a passionless elemental? How could I not ... Thank you, Barkeep, my friend here is about to pay you... How could I not indulge their deepest...
INNKEEPER: (in a low voice) Please, good elf, lower your voice if you must speak of seducing human girls. The men of this town are likely to take exception and I want no trouble!
ROLF (in a slightly lowered voice): Bah. I suppose I should not provoke them to the point where I would have to kill them all. (raising his voice again) So Good Dwarf, you have told me of no less than four villains you had to dispatch. Bugar, who stole your pickle, Dinkwickle, who stepped on your foot and scuffed your new boots, Joe, who said you had something hanging out of your nose, and Keriwan who stole away your betrothed, destroyed your ancestral cave home and murdered your entire family. Are there any others?
ZANTAR: Of course not, I'm not a violent dwarf by nature. Why, Krikey, I'd have let any one of them off if they'd just showed the slightest politeness or said they were sorry or anything.
ROLF: Of course, sir, it is obvious that you are a dwarf of conscience. One who pays his gambling debts without complaint or penny-pinching. I drink to you, sir! (Rolph takes an enthusiastic swig and Zantar takes a glum one) My own story is somewhat less impressive, as I only had one battle to fight with my people. Of course it was against twelve great elven warriors, but with my wizardly powers, it was hardly a fair match. I bested them easily, but I could not go on killing my countrymen so I fled to save their lives. Ah, it was a great tragedy! Elven bards will surely sing it at the great festivals (his voice taking on an exaggerated tone of tragedy), the great eldritch festivals that I may never attend again (sobbing drunkenly) the exotic trading booths, the great trees dripping with colored wax, the beautiful women dressed in shining spider silk gowns...
Rolf lowers his head and weeps ostentatiously. Zantar stares at him in amazement for a moment.
ZANTAR: Get a grip, kid, you're bawling like a woman.
ROLF: (lifts his head, dry-eyed) Am not!
ZANTER: Like a little girl. Krikey.
ROLF: Some men are strong enough to show their emotions.
ZANTAR: In my village you'd have to be stronger than ten dwarves to bawl like than and not get the crap beat out of you. Are all of you elves sissy little crybabies like that?
ROLF: I'm not a sissy little crybaby!
HECKLER1: You were sure bawling like a sissy little crybaby!
The crowd breaks out laughing. Rolf stares around in impotent anger, but Zantar gets up and goes over to Heckler1. He reaches up, grabs Heckler1 by the lapel and without effort pulls him down to slam his head against a table. Zantar holds the man's head against the table and the man is too dazed to even fight back.
ZANTAR: Did you call my friend a sissy little crybaby?
ROLF: (from the background) Does everyone have to keep repeating that phrase?
HECKLER1: (face pressed against the table so only half of his mouth is working) Uh, you called him that first?
ZANTAR: But he's MY friend. Is he your friend?
HECKLER1: Uh, yes?
ZANTAR: (confused) Oh, I guess that's OK then.
Zantar lets Heckler1 slide to the floor and turns his back. He never sees who swings the chair...
The heroes are sitting on the ground, leaning against a building in the dark. Their clothes are torn and dirty and they both sport multiple bruises.
ROLF: They are fortunate that I was able to restrain myself. I very nearly massacred the entire town.
ZANTAR: Why didn't you? We could sleep in a warm place tonight and loot the place in the morning instead of sitting out here on the ground nursing our bruises.
ROLF: It's a wizard thing. We only use our powers for good.
ZANTAR: Krikey. Then what's the point of being a wizard?
ROLF: (after reflecting deeply) I guess it's as good a job as any.
ZANTAR: Well, anyway, now I hope you see what I mean about bawling and getting beat up. You go around bawling like a woman and ...
ROLF: Yes! Yes! I see your point. Let us speak of it no further.
ZANTAR: I was just going to say as how it's OK getting yourself creamed, but when you get your friends thrown out of a perfectly good tavern...
ROLF: I regret it, sir! I do! But how was I to know that the ill-bred folk of this decrepit town would be so hostile to sensitivity and tenderness in an otherwise virile and masculine, not to say heroic, elf of great ...
ZANTAR: Krikey, Rolf, you were bawling like a little...
ROLF: FINE! FINE! Let us have no more detailed descriptions of the event! I regret it! I allow my behavior was ill-considered in the company in which I found myself! It was unwise! Careless even! But it is now history. Spilt milk. Spent arrow. It cannot be undone. Let us speak of it no more. Let us move on to more profitable topics such as how we shall spend a chilly night.
ZANTAR: And I'd say my bet is paid-off now.
ROLF: Don't pretend to be so penurious, sir! The terms of the wager were that the loser would buy the victor enough to put him under the table. Am I under a table, sir? I think not! I am quite clearly...
ZANTAR: But who knows how much more you could have drunk if you hadn't started bawling like...
ROLF: PLEASE, sir dwarf. PLEASE! Must you insist on revisiting ancient, not so say archaic and uninteresting history? Must you continue to describe regrettable events in such loving detail? Let us speak of it no more I say! I shall forgive you the balance of the wager so that we need discuss the particulars of the obligation no further. It is a small enough thing.
ZANTAR: You mean if I don't talk about the bawling any more we can forget the bet?
ZANTAR: Done and done!
ROLF: Whatever. In any case I propose...
Rolf is interrupted by activity further down the street: People shouting, a woman screaming, people running. Gradually, some of the shouted words become clear.
MAN1: ... right out of the house through an open window.
MAN2: ... but how do you know it was goblins?
MAN1: ... Rosha said she saw one sneaking around at dusk. If only I'd believed her...
WOMAN1: ... You bastard. My poor little Rosha is gone, taken by the goblins and you did nothing but nail up the shutters after they had already gone.
MAN1: What could I do...
MAN3: No time for blame, everyone get torches, we must search now!
Back to the heroes. The crowd continues to shout in the background.
ZANTAR: Poor kid.
ROLF: (matter-of-factly): Yes. It's a great tragedy. But more importantly, you may notice that the tavern has emptied out as the louts go on their fruitless search for the doomed child.
ZANTAR: Yeah. I was seeing that. They'll probably be out all night trying to find the kid.
ROLF: Precisely. This might be an opportune moment to repair to our former place of lodging, now empty of ruffians and brawlers.
The two stare at the apparently empty inn for a few moments, then without another word they start walking toward it.
Cut to: Rolf and Zantar are arguing with the innkeeper.
INNKEEPER: I regret your difficulties, sirs, but I must insist that you find somewhere else to spend the night.
ROLF: I find your suggestion impractical. We will spend the night here as planned.
INNKEEPER: But sir, the town is quite riled up about the goblins, and they already have shown you the door quite decisively...
ROLF: Yes. I allowed it the first time, but if they try it again, there will be consequences. Serous consequences.
INNKEEPER: You make my point for me, sir. I want no consequences of any type at my inn. Serious or otherwise. Once again, I must ask...
The door bang open and a crowd barges in.
MAN1: Rocko, do you have any pitch for... Hey, what are these two Lilliputians doing back here?
MAN2: Didn't you two get the message clearly enough an hour ago?
INNKEEPER: Please, gentlemen! You have more urgent business to attend to than harass these two harmless creatures.
MAN1: How do we know they aren't hooked up with the goblins?
MAN3: Yeah! Elves are Lillis, dwarves are Lillis, and goblins are Lillis! They probably have a pact or something...
ROLF: (shocked) Now see here...
ZANTAR: (roaring in indignation) Why you little worm! I've killed more goblins than you've plowed furrows, or my name isn't Zantar.
ROLF: Quite! Goblins are the bane of elves and dwarves even more than...
ZANTAR: (still roaring) and it is!
ROLF: (looking sideways at Zantar, trying to complete his thought) ... even more than humans ...
ZANTAR: (a bit quieter): "Zantar", I mean. My name.
ROLF: ... the point being that Zantar here and I have both fought goblins extensively...
ZANTAR: I mean my name really is "Zantar", so that means I really have killed more goblins than you've ... done ... whatever I said before. I forget.
The townsmen are looking at each other in confusion.
MAN1: I think we can take a few minutes to string these two up before we go out after the goblins.
ROLF: (feeling around in his cloak for something) THAT'S IT! MY PATIENCE IS ENDED! NOW YOU SHALL FEEL MY WRATH!
ZANTAR: (even more loudly than Rolf) PLOWED FURROWS! THAT'S IT, I'VE KILLED MORE GOBLINS THAN YOU'VE PLOWED FURROWS, AND MY NAME IS ZANTAR, TOO.
Rolf pulls something out of his cloak. Tears it, and immediately begins to glow. He points to the crowd and mutters something. The glow flashes visibly toward the crowd, settling around three of the men in front who fall to the ground a second later. The crowd stares in shock for a moment, then flees through the door. Zantar and the innkeeper stand there open mouthed, and Rolf slumps against the bar.
ROLF: (to Zantar): Did you say your name is Zantar Two? Does that mean your father's name was Zantar too?
ZANTAR: No, if my father's name was Zantar Two, that would make me Zantar Three.
ROLF: Quite so. How silly of me.
Rolf's eyes roll up and he slumps to the floor. Zantar tosses a couple of coins to the innkeeper, grabs Rolf's ankle with one hand and casually drags him over to a ladder and up it to the loft. As he drags Rolph upside-down up the ladder, Rolph's head bangs hard against each rung. Zantar tosses Rolf onto a pile of straw, lays down next to him, and immediately begins snoring.