Aluxes cleared his throat before looking again at the parchment before him.
"George and Janet's house is in an upper-middle class suburb of a city called Fairbrook. There are three supermarkets and a fire department, along with two gas stations and a convenience store. The mayor is Harold Wheatly, and is not well liked in the community, but has been reelected three times due to his strong stance on the education tax initiative--"
"Oh. My. Gawd!" Hilda interrupted, her blue witches' hat quivering. "Enough with the setup. Just get to the story!"
Aluxes was indignant. "I'm just trying to give you some immersion--"
"We get it." Basil cut him off, not looking up from the sword he was polishing. "We're immersed. Just start!"
"Fine," Aluxes sniffed indignantly. "As George Hasselworth pulls his blue--"
"You already said that!!"
"--his blue minivan into the driveway," he continued, "George hears a thump. He has trouble--"
"What did the thump sound like?" Estelle asked.
Aluxes rolled his eyes. "Like a 'thump'. A noise, you know?"
"Well, can I tell anything about it?"
"Like what? It's just a 'thump'."
"Well, was it mechanical? Or did it sound like he hit something?" Estelle persisted.
Before Aluxes could answer, a voice interrupted. "Hey, have we got any mead?" Cyrus called from the larder.
Aluxes raised his voice. "Yeah, it's next to the dragon's tooth!"
"But this stuff looks like wolfsbane! And it's warm!!"
"Not the stuff on the counter! The mead is on the other side! In the permafrost spell bucket!"
"But I don't...oh, wait, I found it. Never mind!"
"So what did the thump sound like?" Estelle asked again.
"Why don't you roll bones," Aluxes sighed, "and make a perception check?"
"Which score does that use?" Estelle looked doubtfully at the scroll before her.
"Perception!!" the rest of the people at the table shouted.
"Okay, okay, you don't have to yell at me..."
"What about the rest of us?" Basil asked.
"Look, just everyone make a perception roll."
Everyone gathered around the table did so. As each set of bones stopped rolling, a wispy number shimmered in the air above them.
"Okay, let's get your scores...fourteen...nine...twelve...Feli
"...seven...seventeen...Estelle, what do your bones say?"
Estelle pouted. "Two. Lousy cheap bones..."
"You know, you'd have a better perception score if you'd chosen something besides 'hairdresser'..." Basil grinned.
"Oh, shut up!! It's not fair, you and your seventeen! You chose 'auto mechanic' and our first encounter is broken minivan! And besides, you've got those lucky bones!"
"What's lucky about them?" he continued grinning, now innocently.
"Carved from a dragon's femur? Of course they're lucky. I still don't know how you afforded them!"
"I slayed that dragon myself! And you know it!"
"Yeah, but you also had to pay someone to carve them for you," Hilda answered.
"And it was worth every farthing. Speaking of which: what do we, heh, perceive, oh gamemaster?"
"Oh, are you all done arguing now?" Aluxes said cooly, raising an eyebrow. "Well, the rest of you don't notice anything. But Basil, who is riding in the back of the van, by the way, hears the thump and realizes that the minivan's transaxle just lost a fluid pump. Which will cost..."
Aluxes rolled his own, larger set of bones.
"...1280 dollars to repair. The van will be undrivable until it's repaired."
"Aw, nuts," said Hilda, "and as George I have to pay for it, right?"
"That, or get the money from somewhere. Or walk a lot."
"What about having it towed? You said it was 'undrivable'." She turned to Basil. "Can the mechanic repair it here?"
"Sorry, I need a shop to do that," Basil answered. "Towing is another 200 dollars."
"Two hundered dollars?!" Hilda said, outraged. "You're part of this family!"
"Actually, I just carpool with you guys. I'm the neighbor. It says so in my character description."
"Okay," Cyrus said, sitting down at the table with his mead. "So where's the nearest bar?"
Before Hilda could respond, there was a loud banging on the thick oaken door of their hovel. Aluxes rolled his eyes again. "Maybe if we ignore it..."
"You know we can't do that," Hilda said, rising to open the door.
Outside the door, she saw nothing, until she looked down. Gareth the Gnome was there.
"Dragons are attacking the village!!" he cried in his squeaky little voice.
"Again? What color are they this time?"
"Um, red? Or maybe green? Curse the gods, how would I know? You know gnomes are color blind!"
She rolled her eyes and sighed. "Fine. Basil," she called over her shoulder, "get the unicorns ready! Estelle, make sure you have enough spells in your book! And Cyrus, be sure you transform into something useful this time!"
"What's useless about a giant moth?!"
"What isn't? Come on, people, we have another disaster to avert!"