by Geneva Fox
Two couples play Dungeons & Dragons
|2. A story of a group of players. Is this their first time playing, or are they veterans, or is there a mix of skill-levels? Does one or more of them have Special Needs, where accommodations need to be made for them in order to play (like are they blind, deaf, mute - there actually is a blind player in my group)? Is there a That Guy in the group, who makes things difficult? Are the players, and by extension, the characters they play as, forming friendships with the others?
Cullen arrived at Danielle’s on Saturday afternoon. A pizza delivery car pulled up in front of the house. He met the young man, carrying two pizzas at the curb.
“You delivering here?” He gestured to one of the front doors of the duplex behind him.
“Yeah?” The boy eyed him.
“How much will they owe you?” Cullen pulled a wallet out of the back pocket of his jeans.
“Twenty,” he said.
“Here you go.” Cullen held out a twenty-dollar bill. The kid took it and offered him the two pizza boxes. He took them after tipping another five dollars. “Have a grand night.”
“Thanks, you too.” The delivery boy rounded the back of the car and settled into the driver’s seat.
Cullen carried the two warm pizzas up the stairs leading to the front porch. He balanced them on one hand and rang the doorbell. His whole reason for being there opened the door. He chuckled at the surprised look on her face. She was expecting him to be there, but not with their dinner.
“Special delivery!” He smiled as she stepped back to let him in. His nostrils flared to take in her Lily of the Valley fragrance. One of the major attractions for him was Danielle’s love of all things Irish. Being from the Emerald Isle himself, he found the reminders of his home she brought eased his homesickness.
“How much do we owe you?” Danielle reached for the two boxes.
“Don’t worry about it.” He turned and headed toward the kitchen. “Where should I put these?”
“On the counter between the sink and stove.”
Danielle’s roommate Jessica and her boyfriend Taylor were seated at the small table in the small eat-in space. Taylor came over to greet him as Cullen set the boxes down.
“It’s great you came back, Cullen.” Taylor held out a large dark skinned hand. Cullen followed the steps of the complicated shake the younger man taught him the week before. His brown eyes lit with excitement and he smiled. “Running a campaign with two players is kind of dull.”
“Hey!” Jessica glared at him through green eyes framed by lids dusted with a similar shade of shadow. She was a bit taller than Danielle. Her curves were more pronounced by the tight jeans and scoop-necked top she wore. Both of their hair was black, but Jessica’s hung down her back in a glossy, straight water fall. She put an arm around Taylor’s broad shoulders and gave him a bump with one of her hips. “We’re playing this because you begged us.”
“Speak for yourself.” Danielle gave each of them a paper plate. Her raven ringlets were held back from her porcelain face by a black velvet headband. She held Cullen’s gaze for a moment and smiled. “I’m enjoying myself.”
Cullen was on the fence regarding the game. It was a great way to get to know Danielle outside of the pub he owned, and observe her interact with people other than the other employees. On the other hand, at thirty-one-years-old he felt like a grown-up trying to be cool in front of a group of kids. The age gap between himself and the other three was ten years. They were all of majority and drinking age. Still, he did his best to resist the urge to be the one in charge. Taylor was the Dungeon Master, and they were playing in Danielle and Jessica’s home. So, he was a guest on both counts. He flipped up the lids of the pizza boxes. One pie was topped with various forms of meat. The other with ham, green peppers, red onions, and pineapple rings.
“Would you like to carve?” Danielle offered him a pizza cutter. She stared up at him through clear, fathomless, blue eyes.
He took the tool and using the indents the restaurant made as a guide; cut each into eight slices. He turned to Danielle and held out a hand for her plate. “Which would you like?”
“A slice of the Hawaiian.” Danielle handed him her plate. She gestured to the pizza with pineapple.
“I’ve never seen pineapple on a pizza before.” He served her a slice and took one of the pieces of meat pizza for himself.
They moved aside, so the other two could help themselves. Cullen set his and Danielle’s plates on the table. She handed him a cold can of Guinness.
“Thank you, sweetheart.”
“You’re welcome.” Pink, glossed, lips curved in a smile which added a sparkle to those eyes. Her cheeks flushed a deeper red than the blush she wore.
He resisted the urge to give one of those pretty cheeks a gentle pinch or to drop a light kiss on her mouth. After pulling out a chair for her, he sat in the one beside it.
“Isn’t that considered sacrilege among Irish pub owners?” Taylor asked as he sat across from Cullen.
“What?” Cullen looked away from Danielle to see the other man gesturing to the can of Guinness.” “Oh, it’s not the preferred method, but it’ll do when there are no taps available.”
“Would you like to try a bit of my slice, Cullen?” Danielle lifted the piece from her plate with both hands and offered it to him. “You said you’ve never seen pineapple on pizza before?”
“Don’t do it man,” Taylor warned. “She’s trying to lure you to the dark side. Pineapple on a pizza isn’t natural.”
“I’ll take my chances.” Cullen leaned forward and bit off the triangular point from the slice she offered. The mixture of sweet, salty, and savory was quite pleasant. The corners of his mouth quirked in a smile as he watched Danielle bite off the same spot. The juvenile part of him wanted to tease her about the psudo act of kissing. “Not bad.”
Taylor shook his head and bit into his own pizza. Cullen slid his arm across the back of Danielle’s chair. A thrill ran through him when she scooted closer.
“Jessie loves to play too.” Taylor teased. “She refuses to admit it.”
“She loves you.” Danielle corrected. “You go to the jewelry shows with her because you love her and want to support her career.”
“Absolutely!” Taylor smiled and touched the gold hoop through his left ear. “The free swag is a bonus.”
“Hey, Dani?” Jessica smiled. “Don’t you think Cullen would look pretty dahshing with a hoop through his ear? More like the pirate Captain he’s playing in the game?”
“Oh, no.” Cullen shook his head to emphasize his refusal. Long hair and the Celtic knot of masculinity tattoed on his chest were the farthest he went to rebel against his strict Catholic upbringing. Even at age thirty-one there were certain things his parents would not abide. Body piercings they can see, and pre-marital sex were two among them. The earring he was able to do without, and the sex… Well, what they didn’t know wouldn’t hurt them.
“I’m not really into guys with body piercings anymore.” Danielle shrugged.
Thank Jesus, Cullen sighed.
After they ate their fill of pizza, Danielle tossed away the plates. Once she sat, Taylor passed out their character sheets.
“All right scholar.” Taylor addressed Danielle. “Where did we leave off?”
Danielle reached for the notebook she laid between Cullen and herself. She paused when their hands brushed. After a moment of staring at their touching hands, Cullen pulled back. Danielle opened the book and folded the front cover back. She scanned her neat hand written notes before speaking. Though he knew it was rude, Cullen read along with her.
Danielle was playing a human bard named Breanne who performed at an inn for room and board.
Jessica was a Tabaxi rogue named Tamara. She picked the pockets of Breanne’s unsuspecting audience.
Cullen played the pirate Captain O’Rourke. He was not creative enough to come up with a better name. Taylor assured him using his own was fine. During an embarrassing scene with the Inn Deeper, he discovered his money pouch was gone. Captain O’Rourke left the inn and returned to his ship for the night.
“It’s morning. You’re all rested and recovered from the previous encounter. What do you want to do?” Taylor sipped his drink. “We’ll start with Cullen first.”
“After finishing my breakfast served by the ship’s cook, I order the crew to make ready to weigh anchor.”
“Breanne?” Taylor turned his attention to her.
“I’m going to have the free breakfast resulting from my stellar performance,” Danielle said. “Once I’m finished, I make my way to the docks in search of a ship taking on passengers.”
“Your turn, Jess.” Taylor turned in his chair toward her.
“I’ll have breakfast on my unwitting benefactor.” Jessica batted her lashes at Cullen. “I see Breanne leave and follow her.”
“Danielle highs or lows?” Taylor inquired.
Two dice rattled in Taylor's hand before he dropped them into the hexagon shaped tray in front of him. “I rolled low. There are no ships taking on passengers in the registrar.”
“I start walking toward one of the ships,” Danielle said.
“As you make your way through the crowd, you hear a familiar voice call your name.” Taylor changed his voice to a well-to-do accent. “Breanne!”
“I turn and look toward the voice.”
“You see the man your father intends for you to marry approaching. He is dressed in fine silks. His platinum blond hair flutters in the sea breeze. He steps around puddles of various substances to protect his leather boots. He fixes you with an icy blue-eyed gaze.” Switching to the noble’s accent. “Stay where you are!”
“I try to run.”
“You’ll have to roll a d20 and add your wisdom modifier,” Taylor said.
Danielle picked up a blue twenty-sided dice with silver numbers printed on it. She shook it in her hand before letting it clatter on the table.
“Seventeen,” she announced.
“I turn and hurry toward the nearest dock.”
“He chases after you. You reach the edge of a dock as the ship beside it begins to pull away.”
“I turn to see how close he is.”
“He’s a few paces away from you.” Taylor resumes the fancy accent. “Did you think cutting and coloring your hair would keep me from finding you?”
“I was hoping.” Danielle grumbled.
“All right dear,” Taylor said in a condescending voice. “You’ve had your fun. Now, come along and let’s do as we must to unite our father’s industries.”
“Never!” Danielle exclaimed. “I’m going to cast charm person on him.”
“Okay.” Taylor picked up his d20 and rolled. “What’s your spell DC?”
“I smile at him and suggest he stay where he is.” Danielle spoke in a sweet cajoling tone. Returning to her normal voice she asked, “How close is the ship?
“You can swim to it,” Taylor said. “You’ll have to roll an athletics check.”
Danielle rolled again and glanced at her character sheet. “Twenty-two.”
“You make it to the ship and climb up a ladder attached to the side,” Taylor said. “Cullen, roll your perception.”
“Do you mind?” Cullen pointed at Danielle’s dice.
Danielle picked up the dice and dropped it into his open palm. It was still warm from her last roll. Cullen rulled in his palm a bit longer than necessary before dropping it to the table.
“Nineteen,” he said.
“You see a large platinum haired man bearing down on a small slender purple-haired woman,' Taylor said.. "He retracts the hand he stretched toward her and stands still as if waiting for instructions. The young woman turns and jumps into the water. She swims toward your ship and disappears from your line of sight.”
“I command my quarter master to take the wheel,” Cullen kept his eyes on Taylor. “I descend from the quarter deck to the main and make my way to the rail.”
“You get there as the woman with purple hair climbs over onto the deck of your ship,” Taylor said. He turned his attention from Cullen to Jessica. “Tamara, what are you doing?”
“I run up beside the noble who was chasing Breanne,” Jessica said. “I relieve him of his coin purse before shoving him off the dock.”
“He surfaces cursing and spluttering!” Taylor laughs. “Now what?”
“I dive in myself and swim to the ship.”
“Roll your athletics.”
Jessica picked up her hot pink d20 with black numbers printed on it. She rolled and dropped it. “I got a twenty.”
“You make it to the ship and climb up the ladder,” Taylor said. “Breanne stands on the other side of the rail. There is a red-haired man looming over her.”
“Resting my hands on the rail, I attempt to use a forward handspring to vault over Breanne and land on my feet between her and the man.”
“Whoa!” Taylor held up his hand. “You’ll need to roll acrobatics for that.”
“I roll a twenty-five,” Jessica said. “Once I land, I draw my scimitars.”
“Everyone, roll initiatives,” Taylor said. “That’s your d20 plus your dexterity modifier.”
“Which is the modifier?” Cullen asked.
“The number in the rectangle above the one in the oval,” Taylor said.
“Right,” Cullen said. He looked down at his character sheet.
“It should also be in the circle beside the word initiative,” Taylor said.
Cullen scanned the page. He spotted the number next to the “Initiative” box.
“Twenty,” he said.
“Fourteen,” Danielle said.
“Sixteen,” Jessica said.
Taylor took a moment to write down the numbers they gave him. “Cullen, you rolled highest, so you get to go first.”
“Don’ recall takin’ on passengers,” Cullen thickened his accent, and his tone gruffer. “Yer a bit small for a boardin’ party.”
“You’d be right about that Captain,” Jessica said. She looked at Taylor. “I keep my swords drawn.”
“I can pay!” Danielle piped up. She looked at Taylor. “I dig in my belt pouch and pull out a hand full of coins. Stepping around Tamera, I hold them out to him.”
Cullen smiled at the sight of Danielle holding her hand out to him. Her fingers were curled as though she held invisible coins.
“I examine her coins,” Cullen said in his normal voice while looking at Taylor. Cupping Danielle’s hand, he circled the tip of his finger around her smooth palm. Her cheeks reddened and she glanced away.
“You see a few silver coins among a handful of coppers,” Taylor said.
“Me vessel hauls cargo not paeple.” Cullen resumed his gruff Captain’s demeanor. “Even if Oi were incloined to make an exception, ye don’ have enough to cover the cost of yer food to make it wort me whoyle.”
“I move in front of Breanne,” Jessica said. She looked at Cullen. “My friend is a Bard. She’ll keep your crew entertained and make the journey fly by.”
“Tamara, roll for persuasion,” Taylor said. “Captain O’Rourke, roll insight.”
Jessica picked up the twenty-sided dice in front of her and rolled in her palm before dropping it. “With my four in Persuasion I believe that’s twenty-one.”
“Nice,” Taylor said. “Cullen unless you rolled higher than that…?”
“I didn’t,” Cullen said. “Ye can sing yer way to the next port.”
“I tuck my coins away,” Danielle said looking at Taylor. She withdrew her hand from Cullen’s
“I step back and stand beside Breanne,” Jessica said.
“I motion for them to follow me and walk away,” Cullen said.
“Cullen, as you cross the deck you notice your men eyeing Breanne,” Taylor said.
“I stop so she can catch up to me and put a proprietary arm around her.” Keeping in the spirit of non-verbal flirting, he slid his arm around
Danielle. “Giving the gawkers a stern look, I order them back to their duties.”
“Roll intimidation,” Taylor said.
Cullen picked up Danielle’s d20 with his free hand and rolled it. “Fifteen.”
“They flinch under your gaze and return to what they’re doing,” Taylor said.
“I take her up onto the main deck,” Cullen said to Taylor. He turned his attention to Danielle and resumed his Captain’s voice. “Ye can perform here.”
“I warm up my voice and begin to sing a song about a famous sea adventure.” Danielle rolled the twenty-sided dice. “Ten.”
“Your lungs aren’t quite used to the sea air and your voice gives out on a few of the higher notes,” Taylor said. “However, you manage to get through and keep their attention.”
“I try to recover with a ballad with no high notes.” Danielle rolled the twenty-sided dice a second time. “Twenty!”
“You do much better,” Taylor said.
They continued to play until four o’clock in the afternoon. Taylor cut things off as Captain O’Rourke escorted Breanne to his cabin for the evening meal.
“Ah, when it was getting good,” Jessica said.
“Sorry, Jess,” Danielle said. “Cullen and I have to get to work.”
“Me too,” Jessica sighed.
“Adulting sucks,” Taylor said. “Same time, same place, next week?”
“Works for me,” Cullen said.