As you approach the door to Abraheim’s room, you notice that things are awfully quiet. When you poke your head in, you see Abraheim hunched over his desk, quill darting up and down, back and forth with furiosity. Without stopping his ancient hand and the dance of the quill his head turns to you. His mouth and mustache form what you know to be a smile, and then his attention turns back to his work.
Standing beside the old man, you now see what he is working on, and if you haven’t before, it is at this moment that you begin to question his sanity. He throws down the quill, ink splattering here and there and yells “HAH! FINISHED!” He holds the parchment up to your face, just a little too close, in order to show you his triumph.
“Companions,” he says in an ominous whisper. What you see before you is a group of stick figures of different shapes and sizes. Some with beards, others carrying staffs and swords, and with what can only be described as a child’s artistic interpretation of breasts, one (at least you think) is female.
Abraheim yanks the parchment from in front of you face and returns it to the desk. He begins pointing and naming the different stick figures.
“This one is Tanis Half-Elven,” he points to a taller, bearded stick figure with oversized pointed ears. “He’s half elven.”
He points to a short, stouter figure with a large beard and ax. “This is Flint, the dwarf.”
His finger skips over to another short, thin figure with a staff and ponytail sticking out of the top of his head. “And this is Tasslehoff.”
As the old man begins pointing out the others…
“This is Raistlin … “ he begins to whisper with his hand beside his mouth, as if hiding his voice from the figure on the parchment, “ … he’s got problems.”
… you start to wonder if the old man has finally cracked in this child-like state. But when he finishes pointing out the rest of the figures to you, he snaps back to his old self, and your question is answered. Yes. Yes he has.
Abraheim pulls the book Dragonlance: Dragons of Autumn Twilight from beneath some other pieces of parchment, and you notice that the drawings you saw were not his first attempt.
“Friendships come in many different shapes and forms, and each relationship one might have with another can be unique to themselves and their personalities and experiences. I see that as a beautiful thing. It is something that I think is accomplished well in this book.”
He begins thumbing through, stopping on different pages for a few moments at a time, scanning the text.
“I stressed this point the last time we spoke, but what has me so enthralled by the companionship created by this story is that it is not purely fictional. Have you ever played any tabletop role playing game that has continued for more than just a couple of sessions, as in an actual campaign?”
He pauses to let you think.
“Anyone who has knows that there can be a special bond created between the people at that table — the characters that they play and the people that play them connected in an amalgam of imaginary story but real emotion. This is important. The emotional aspect is key. Think about the clip of Critical Role that I showed you last time. That story is fictional, but the feelings are real. And it adds reality to the story and the imaginary bonds between imaginary characters. They become ‘real’.”
“This book has a ‘table’ behind its story, and it is something that I want to delve into with you today.”
“Let us first acquire a bit more context and get some of the details out of the way. The core group of companions introduced in this first book of the series include the following: Tanis Half-Elven, Flint Fireforge, Tasslehoff Burrfoot, Caramon Majere, Raistlin Majere, Sturm Brightblade, Goldmoon, and Riverwind. These are the characters I introduced to you earlier through my drawing. There are other minor characters that I believe are also very important, but we will discuss them in a moment.”
“It is important to note as we go further into this, that this book and the events and characters within to follow some older, well established fantasy tropes. I for one, am absolutely okay with that.” A big grin appears across his face. “I love to see what people can do with tropes, and it is nice to see something familiar every once in awhile.”
Abrahiem cracks his ancient knuckles, leans back in his chair, and continues.
“Keep in mind that the book was written by the very same people who wrote the same iconic campaign setting for D&D. They have some liberty to play around with tropes.”
He clears his throat. “Ahem, but anyways … it is largely assumed but partially described through some minor backstory narration in the beginning of the novel that this group of companions, with the exception of Goldmoon and Riverwind, have known each other for quite some time, and adventured with each other in the past. This is very much like how many D&D campaigns start off. Oh, and I forgot to mention, the story proper begins in a tavern!” Abraheim gives a raspy sound that you translate as a wheezing giggle. His hand motions and facial expression reveal to you the giddiness of a child.
“There are many things that take place throughout this story that help further solidify the friendship of the companions that allow them to accomplish their goals. Um, let me try to explain without spoiling too much of the story.”
“Tanis Half-Elven could be considered the leader of the group. However, there are many times where parts of the group must act without his guidance. He loves all of those that adventure with him, despite his slight distrust of the mage, Raistlin, at times. Most of the characters, except for Raistlin’s brother Caramon, distrust the mage. He begins the story having recently completed trials that gave him strong magical powers. The most critical of Raistlin’s new powers is Sturm Brightblade, the chivalrous, honor-driven, mustachioed knight of the group. He thinks that something evil must be behind it.”
“The bond between Caramon and Raistlin is at times tested throughout the story, but proves as strong as bonds between brothers should be. And although Raistlin gives many, and at times all members of the group the willies, he proves himself a vital companion, and saves their lives on more than one occasion, at great sacrifice to his health.”
“Flint and Tanis share a bond that only the long-living races of elf and dwarf can share. Their experiences marked by years passing by as days, seeing trends and patterns that most races miss in their short lifetimes. This adds to Tanis’s wisdom, and is one of the reasons the group trusts him so much. Flint, Sturm, and Caramon, all share the experience of those who have seen battle and bloodshed, yet love the challenge of a good fight.”
“Then there is Tasslehoff, the kender. I like to think of the race of kender as halflings with the curiosity of a child, and the fondness for shiny things that you might find in a raccoon. Such is Tasslehoff, and any group that has played D&D has probably had a Tasslehoff in it. He can’t help but somehow find the possessions of others in his own bags and pockets.” You can easily hear the sarcasm drip off of Abraheim’s tongue. “But he is fiercely loyal to his friends, and his brash actions often times give the companions the edge they need in a fight, or is the whole reason a fight breaks out in the first place.”
“Finally, you have Goldmoon and Riverwind, barbarian exiles and lovers. They have no history with the other companions prior to this story, but provide a catalyst through which their bonds are further developed throughout the book. In fact, there might not be a story without them.”
“Let us not forget a couple of minor characters. First is the gully dwarf, Bupu. Bupu is important to many parts of the Autumn Twilight story, and to parts later on in the series, but not as directly important to the whole group. She is, however, one of the most important characters to Raistlin, and thus has an indirect importance to the companions. She is one of the only creatures throughout the series that Raistlin considers a true friend, and helps show the readers the more tender, caring side of Raistlin, who is ‘Mr. Broody-Moody’ throughout the books.”
“The last character I will tell you about today is the wizard Fizband. He is the iconic wizard with robes and a pointy hat, and is full of so many quirks that he had me laughing multiple times during his short stint in the first book. He has a special bond with Tasslehoff, and is not too much unlike the unpredictable kender himself. Believe me, it is worth reading the series of books just to find out more about Fizband. It is easy to tell that there is more to Fizband than meets the eye.” You can’t cant quite see all of the old man’s smile through his mustache, but you can tell through his tone of voice that it is a mischievous, but benevolent one. “It is just divine.”
“The true test of their friendship comes in the form of the many quests and side quests that they must complete. They are thrown into a world that they believe has been abandoned by the gods, and through their trials and tribulations must once again come to believe in the divine, and in the strength of their group. It is, for all intents and purposes, a classic D&D campaign. In fact, as I have said before, it is a D&D campaign.”
Abraheim removes a thinner book from his desk. It reads Dragons of Despair.
“The novel is based off of the real players playing this adventure module.”
The old man wheels around in his chair to the clock on another desk.
“Oh my, I have kept you for much longer than I intended. I do apologize!” He stands up, bones popping and cracking, and begins to walk you towards the door.
“Just remember, a good group of companions can be hard to come by. If you have them, don’t pass them up. Adventuring is best done with friends.”
He smiles that familiar smile.
“Until next time, my friend.”