While walking the streets of Aerie looking for Kyle the Blacksmith so that I might show him the bonesteel I was sporting, I was assailed by a guard who peppered me with a barrage of questions that left me dazed and confused.

“Who are you?” he demanded. “Where did you come from? Are you the Outlander, PeteWi TheDisoriented?”

Thinking that all the absconding with ceramic mugs had come back to haunt me, I made a desperate bid for freedom. I leapt into the Lunar Rift, only to realize too late that it was merely the closed door of the alchemist shop. The crash rendered me nearly unconscious and an easy target for her follow up questions.

“I’ve heard about your exploits and have something to give you,” he said as the swirling figures of three guards loomed over me.

“Not the irons!” I pleaded.

“Beg pardon?” he replied.

I realized my mistake and steered him in another direction. “It is it a mug of ale to soothe the calamity going on in my head?” I asked.

“No, not quite,” he answered. “It’s a key!” His exuberance took me by surprise.

“A key? Well, that is indeed something. Does it unlock some sort of wondrous store of treasure allowing me to live out my days on a secluded tropical island?”

“Um, no. It’s the key to the Courage Club,” he said proudly.

“Courage Club? What manner of trickery is this? I simply cannot stand the idea of belonging to any sort of organization that would have me as a member!” I said tersely.

“I’m not sure I follow,” the guard said. “But, you have taken a pretty savage knock, so perhaps that accounts for your delirium. Allow me to explain further,” he continued.

“Yes, by all means. Please explain this Club of yours. What manner of ridiculous rules and regulations are you going to hold me to?”

“Well, the Courage Club is where you test your Courage and Valor by engaging in acts of strengths and cunning is an underground and undisclosed location. Your acts of prowess in defeating those thugs have earned you a spot in the arena and I was sent to give you a key.” The fellow beamed with excitement.

“Arena? Acts of courage?” I was still dreadfully confused.

“I’m sure if you got up out the street, things would certainly be clearer for you,” the guard said.

“Oh, yes, that would be a step in the right direction.” With that the guard helped me to my feet and pressed a rather stylish key into my hand.

“What you need to do is go to the guard station, sneak around to the side and open the hatch. Once inside, you will meet the referee who will confirm you are indeed in the right place and set the challenge upon you. He will then track your progress and make a judgement about your Valor in combat. Easy,” he explained. “So, good luck and if you need another key, you know where to find me.”

With that, he continued on his rounds without looking back.

Rather intrigued, I took the short walk to the guard house, snuck through the bushes and discovered the aforementioned hatch. Making sure I wasn’t observed, I slipped through and lowered myself into the basement.

I was greeted by the referee and was asked to produce my key. Satisfied I wasn’t there under false pretense, he wrote my name in the ledger. When you are ready, you will face several challengers and I will note and report on your valorous behavior. Merely open the gate with your key and let the trial begin.

“Trial? Oh no! I was never there and I know nothing of what happened!” I blurted out.

Before I could protest further, he gave me a stern shove, hurtling me into a confining room. I was on the point of scrambling up the latter when a wall slid aside to reveal a rather grim man staring at me. He wasted no time in bringing forth an attack.

He struck a mighty first blow. Instinctively, I readied myself, crouched in my combat position, summoned my strength and lashed out. In two savage swings of the blade, he was down. Thinking it a job well done, I tried to retreat up the ladder.

Suddenly, another adversary appeared, more ferocious than the first. Realizing I was amidst my trials, I lunged forward and got in the first strike. This was followed by a stunning Body Slam and an absolutely debilitating assault on his kidneys that caused him to crumple like dead weight. Which he was.

I readied for the next opponent, building up my resistance and fortitude. It too was a mighty battle with flame charring the chamber, but I proved victorious. Just barely though.

When another, even mightier challenger appeared, I was at the limit of my fortitude and he made short work of me. I was pummeled and beaten with reckless abandon. He took no mercy and it was my turn to crumple like dead weight in the corner.

This setback called for the reviving powers of banana bread. Without giving my adversary an opportunity to strategize against me or gloat, I readied myself, leapt into the arena and set the entire confines ablaze.

That miserable sod and everything else was instantly consumed in fire. And with my web of confusion in full swing, I unleashed a relentless attack of multiple styles, working up to another devastating Body Slam and a healthy dose of Flaming Sword that went right into his backside.

The victory was mine and with no other challengers to puncture my vital organs I went to the referee to see how I faired.

“Well done indeed!” he said. “And to show your valor by participating in unsanctioned and unsupervised fights to the death in this secret and underground compound, I give you this most excellent banner that you can proudly display and then deny all knowledge of receiving.”

With that, he handed me a pendant and ushered me outside. “Come back any time,” he said. “But don’t tell your friends. That’s the first rule of the Courage Club,” he continued as he closed the hatch.

“I knew you were going to force me to obey a ridiculous set of rules!” I bellowed.

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Yes, well, good evening. I’m here to inquire about the feats of srength and valor.

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Do you happen to wash out the arena between matches, the air is a bit thick in here.

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Burn like blazes you miserable sod! We have no quarrel, but that makes no never mind!

More brilliant musings about my adventures in New Britannia

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