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Everyday Troubleshooters

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Apart from that brief time when he had lost his mind and his cat had appeared to him in the form of a beautiful lady with a cat's head and sang him sensuously to sleep every night, which he didn't want to admit to a potential cat-finding adventurer in case they were worried the crazy man would be too addled to remember to pay them, he never did find his cat again. So much had happened, they had been beset by tribes of beastmen and jungle-dwelling cultists and dark elves and trolls and dragons and some kind of subterranean abomination that turned everyone crazy (although nobody quite knew what had happened to the entire tribe of goblins they had been at war with before the incident), and now some quartet of up-and-coming adventurers had solved the whole thing, or at least taken the credit for it (he still wasn't sure if he trusted a party of brave heroes called Tibbles, Binky, Norris and Plonker), and they had been transported home to their own world with the same sudden vortex of wild arcane energy and nauseating lurching motion that had landed them here in this unearthly primeval canyon in the first place. And throughout all of that fuss, he still didn't have his cat back. Wasn't this supposed to be a happy ending? Then where was the only thing that had kept him going through all the chaos and death and insanity, the only thing that had ever brought meaning to his dreary and insignificant life since his wife left him - his darling Mittens?

"Ah, I had always known there were no Gods, that the only deities in existence were masters of lies, and their clerics just a different kind of mages," he bemoaned, "That would explain why the Gods saved precisely none of the other fifty clerics we sent on expeditions before the ones that finally succeeded. It's like my grandma said, in this world you have to make your own destiny. It's time I found that old family demonic summoning shrine and..."


Suddenly, there was a knock on his door, causing him to flinch. Having no friends, he didn't expect visitors at all. He couldn't think of anything he had done that someone would want him killed over either - not that anyone had been found out about, anyway. And yet here was a full party of four adventurers banging on the door with enough force to break it down. He couldn't really tell one set of adventurers from another except that the bards wouldn't shut up about their Heroic Saviours and these particular swarthy ruffians didn't meet that description, assuming it was even vaguely accurate in the first place.


"Look, I'm not the Demon Lord, that's my niece, and it's getting late, and I don't want to buy any troll guts, and..."


"We found yer cat," announced the female Fighter who was obviously their party leader, "Now where's the hundred gold you promised?"


The mage pulled something out of a Bag of Holding and it hissed, spat and scratched her, before darting towards the man it recognised as its owner, running vertically up his legs and chest and perching on his head.

"I just want to point out," said the fighter with a deep sigh, "That you described the cat in your advert as 'an easy-going, gentle little fluffball'. For a start, he's not a little anything, I mistook him for a baby Direwolf, and secondly... Osric here's a replacement, you know, we used to have this elven sorceress, very powerful magic but kind of fragile as a twig, so it was probably our fault for bringing her with us on an expedition involving things that could easily kill her in one blow, like, say, cats."


"Oh, I'm sorry," he replied, coaxing the cat into his arms and stroking his soft, fluffy ginger fur, hearing his deep rumbling purr until he rested his chin on the man's shoulder and promptly fell asleep, "He's never killed an Elven mage before now."

She shrugged, "Well, I did warn her not to make a noise like a mouse, and we've got another mage, so we're not all that worried," she peered over at their current mage, who was sweating a little under the cowl of his robe, evidently only just being made aware of exactly how expendable mages were considered in this party.


"Oh, I can lend you some more money for the resurrection fees if you'd like. I really am very grateful to get my Mittens back."


"Nah, no need, we know a dirt-cheap resurrectionist, only twenty five per cent risk of coming back as a halfling of the opposite sex," she said, "Truth be told, we're happy someone's still got jobs like this for us to do, stuff that just involves looking for cats, not... you know, grand destiny, heroics. Stuff we're not qualified for. Not that we aren't good enough at our jobs to get something like that done," she elaborated, "We're just missing the 'actually destined' parts. The fates written into our stars just aren't interesting enough. Proper heroes, not just adventurers, are like our nobility, you see. It's hard to be one if you aren't already," she sighed, "It wasn't a problem back when things were more normal, there was always someone who genuinely wanted their basement cleared of rats or their local goblin tribe taught that raiding villages is a bad idea., or what have you. Then there was a flash of light and suddenly nobody knew what the hell was going on and they were too distracted by everything being up in the air to care about their everyday things like how they're going to get things out of their basements or walk through the woods without being eaten by goblins."


"Well, maybe things will go back to normal now," he replied, "A better world for us everyday troubleshooters and people who just want to live in a house in the middle of a forest with their cat."


"That cat has about as much passion for normality as the Chosen Four. He just went the other way to find his adventures," she told him, "We found him in the inner sanctum of an Azcan shrine, being worshipped by a cult of blood-drinking cat vampire ladies. Never had a fight that vicious getting him out."

"How curious. Did they look like this?" he said, describing his dream. She raised an eyebrow.

"More clothes, but yes, pretty much. I guess your cat was watching out for you after all," she said, "Maybe that's why you were one of the less crazy when we got back home."

"Oh, that was because I accidentally wandered outside. Although, come to think of it," he mused, "It was straight into the jungle."

"Well, if that ever crops up again, and you ever do need any help with it, you come see us again, you hear?" she left him her business card.

Katrina's Troubleshooters, General Adventurers for Hire. Strictly No Dragons.

He smiled and took his cat back inside.