TROPE • by Robert J. Santa

Ka-Ek pushed through the swinging doors of the tavern. His massive body that was clothed only in a loincloth glistened with afternoon sun. Weeper rested in the sheath on his back. Though Ka-Ek suspected there would be little trouble in the tavern, his hand went to Weeper’s hilt, and the sword vibrated with anticipation.

“We are here, barbarian.”

Ka-Ek looked across the smoke-filled room at the table of adventurers. Two dwarves, clad in miner’s caps and leather jerkins, sat beside their axes. The elf among them had his bow leaning against the table as well.

“What have you for us today?” asked Ka-Ek as he stood over the table.

“Something sure to line our coffers,” a woman’s voice cooed from the darkness. She emerged from the shadows like a wraith, gray rabbit’s fur only barely covering her buxom chest. Leather trousers the color of night clung to her shapely legs, and her abdomen held rigid dunes like the Desert of Sh’makham.

The elf wordlessly unrolled an ancient scroll upon the table, revealing a map eaten through with worm holes.

“Our people know of this dungeon,” the dwarf with the braided beard said. “In it has lived the great dragon Gorr for centuries. He sleeps upon his gold while his armies of goblins roam the valley above. His sleeping chamber is guarded by a dozen stone giants who keep cave trolls as pets.”

“This intrigues me,” said Ka-Ek.

“But Gorr is no ordinary dragon,” said the other dwarf.

“He is a vampire zombie dragon,” the elf said, his voice raspy. Ka-Ek saw scar tissue running the length of the elf’s throat.

“Then it will be an adventure,” Ka-Ek said with a laugh. Weeper chuckled in agreement, eager to slake its thirst with alien blood.

“That’s all for tonight,” said Andrew.

“Aww,” said the group, almost as one.

“We’ll do the next part tomorrow. I’ll roll up some henchmen if you want to hire some.”

“Good intro, Andrew,” said Monica, the group’s only girl. Her magnificent hazel eyes gazed at Andrew with longing, set in an oval face framed by red curls.

Andrew sat up with a gasp. He looked around his darkened bedroom and realized it had all been a dream.

Outside, the wind blew through the trees in a way that sounded like a thirsty sword’s eager laughter.

Robert J. Santa has been writing speculative fiction for more than twenty-five years. He lives in Rhode Island, USA with his beautiful wife and two, equally beautiful daughters. When not writing, Robert is the editor-in-chief of Ricasso Press. Technically, he is also the editor-in-chief of Ricasso Press when he is writing.

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