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From the Ruined Tower to the Caves of Unknown Horror
by annella 

Word Count: 30,500 
Summary: Jared's been adventuring for most of his life. He loves being out on the road with his friends—killing monsters and bad guys, finding treasure, and helping people out of sticky situations. It's all part of being a good-hearted barbarian. Then his carefree life is shaken up by the introduction of a scrawny half-elf wizard called Jensen, who joins them for a quest upon which they will encounter horror, true friendship, and a secret buried deep underground...

My thoughts in brief:
I haven't been that impressed with this years crop of Big Bangs. Though, I do make it hard for people, since I only like SPN stories that follow canon religious and the flip side of that is that I only like AU J2 (the more AU the better). I also haven't read anything posted in the past three weeks, so who knows what I'm missing.

Regardless though, one story from the stories I've browsed so far has stood out for me! Not because it's a heartwrenching angst filled trip full of pain and misery...but because it's ADORABLE, amusing, and warms the cookies of my heart. It also is a little heartwrenching (but just enough to satisfy). Also, the D&D universe that the story is set in allows for great plot and emotional points that would not be possible in real life.

Further thoughts (not that brief):
In the interest of full-disclosure, I should say that I started playing D&D when I was 21 - a boy (who is now my best friend) introduced it to me. I, like perhaps many of you, thought "D&D is for nerds and dorks!" But I was WRONG. D&D is for story-tellers. Over the years, my best friend and I have told many stories: a dwarf and an elf who shouldn't be best friends, but are; a rogue and cleric who can't stand each other but are forced to work together anyway (and never become friends at all); a brother and sister team (that mirrored the Sam-Dean dynamic before I even saw the show...I played the Dean character...the Sam character was the girl, though she wasn't like Sam at all in personality); and I believe in our final adventure we were a rogue and a wizard, fumbling through adorably clumsy flirting while trying not to die.

So, maybe what stood out about this story is how in keeping it is with D&D. I love the fact that it's told from a kind-hearted barbarian's point of view - because you don't get the angst that comes with over-thinking. Instead you just get the pure emotional responses, and friendship and romance is allowed to follow it's natural progression. 

I also love the fact that although the Jared character is supposed to be the one protecting the Jensen character, from the very start of their adventure we see that it's actually the other way around - with the Jensen character immediately standing-up for the Jared character when Jared is not intelligent enough to know he is being treated poorly (or, rather, is probably so used to being treated poorly because of his low-intelligence, that he doesn't realize he deserves better).

I won't give away the ending, but I will say that the author really knows how to use the rules of D&D to enhance the story.



( 8 comments — Leave a comment )
Aug. 7th, 2010 05:55 pm (UTC)
There have been a couple good canon-y AUs. But you know me, I love AUs (well, the ones that are AU in a way that's commenting on canon), but yeah, I'm feeling you on the big bangs in general. There have been few that have been memorable for me- which is not to say they were godawful, but just forgettable. (Though there are a few which were absolute pleasures to read and I won't be forgetting them any time soon.)

I just cannot bring myself to read anything RP, regardless of how AU it is, so I can't comment on that. But there have been several gen stories this year that I've just skipped over, which is unusual. Last year, I read them all, sometimes just as support for gen writing, if nothing else.
Aug. 7th, 2010 06:06 pm (UTC)
Yeah, I can only read RP if it's crazy-AU...and even then, I don't like it if they use the real names of the J's family.

I used to read all Gen stories just to support Gen - but this year either the summaries don't spark any interest, or I just don't feel I have the time unless something looks REALLY interesting.

I can't stand SPN AUs though, unless they are crossovers...but even then, I only accept AUs if it's the ONLY way the crossover could work.
Aug. 7th, 2010 06:42 pm (UTC)
AUs and crossovers are basically *the* things that got me into this crazy fandom world.

I mean, on the one hand, the show has flirted with a lot of stories that it never told or opened up possibilities it didn't explore, so I like seeing AUs play with that, the might-have-beens. And on the other, you've got the ones that change something in order to explore the characters and their circumstances. Both, for me, are like watching alternate endings on DVDs. It doesn't replace the story that was told, it's just a variation. And sometimes it's just a fun indulgence- Bellatemple's got a hilarious one where the YED gets distracted and puts the whole 'superpowers and deathmatch' part of his plan in action a few (like six) decades later than he intended. Crack, but awesome crack.

And other times, it's a wonderful way to examine the characters and their makeup and motivations and reactions and their circumstance. And usually, the more they interweave canon, the more interesting I find it, because there's something magnificent in bouncing those changes off some canon fact and seeing how it alters things (or doesn't alter things). A couple here come to mind- I'm thinking particularly of one I'm reading where Dean comes back from hell with amnesia. Man, not only does that one do some marvelous riffs on canon, it's a brilliant look at how Dean defines himself and the people around him- and of course, the relationship between the brothers. Oh, and it is fabulous. They're all so very....THEM. And it's hilarious and heartbreaking.

Often at the same time! There's a part where Dean suggests getting rid of the Impala, and Sam's like "if I let you, and then you remember, you'll kill me," and then Dean tells him he's pretty sure that old-him would understand, that he loved his brother more than the car, and Sam just kind of shuts down at that - and the readers all know its because Sam is having a little emo moment and then Dean's worrying that Sam's reaction means that old-him did in fact love the car more than his brother and what absolute kind of psycho was he?

And. Um. yes. I'll stop gushing.

Did I mention I like AUs?
Aug. 7th, 2010 06:55 pm (UTC)
Haha, ok, let me amend what I said previously: SOME AUs are alright. I like "what if's" if they are just alternate endings of certain episodes, or amnesia fics (like the one you described), as long as they eventually RETURN to canon. I've even read a few "so-and-so is deaf" fics that I've enjoyed.

The AUs that I don't like are the ones that change the premise entirely: Mary lived, John died; the boys grew up separately and/or never knew about hunting; the boys aren't related (usually this is just an excuse for non-incestuous sexy-times); they were raised evil...etc.

AUs that explore the canon and the characters AS THEY ARE ON THE SHOW are fine. AUs that change things so dramatically that the boys don't even have the same personalities - not so fine. I don't even like explorations of the canon occurrences of premise AUs (WIAWSNB and It's a Terrible Life).

So, yeah, I mean, there's leeway in my no-AU rule, but only as long as the show eventually either returns to canon, or the ending is open enough that you can imagine it returned to canon.
Aug. 7th, 2010 07:59 pm (UTC)
Well, the amnesia AU I mentioned is following canon and it's based in canon, but it can't exactly return to canon because it's been following season 4 from the beginning- so there are things changing, even if the big stuff stays the same - Lilith, Ruby, the angels and the apocalypse - but the premise had to lead to changes. So it's the same, but different.

The premise-changing ones you mention are not the ones I like - simple reversals, or the slashy stuff, or 'raised evil' - because they don't make sense from the starting premise. The ones I like usually are more along the lines of .... it's a story that could have been told. The writers could have made those decisions. Shifts in the stories, but still true to the premise (and/or the characters). e.g, ratherastory's fic in which stanford!sam is in a very bad accident shortly before the "real" series began- it seems pretty natural for Dean to show up when he gets a phone call that his brother's in a coma (he gets better..ish), so any differences from canon from then on also seem natural (especially as the big things from canon are still lurking out there, and having an impact.)

Then there are those few cool stories where canon from various seasons crash together in cool ways (oh, canonical time travel. It's opened interesting possibilities). There were two big bangs like that this year that I read, and I really liked both.
Aug. 7th, 2010 09:12 pm (UTC)
so there are things changing, even if the big stuff stays the same - Lilith, Ruby, the angels and the apocalypse

Yes, these are the types of AUs that I don't mind (and, as you say, can be really good if done well). Basically, much like Samifer, all roads have to lead me to the same destination.

So, I'll accept AUs, but only if the big events stay the same - John dies, there's a special kids showdown in which Sam dies (for instance if the AU does start with Sam being different from the series start - ie: brain-damaged from a coma or in a wheel-chair or something, I don't want it to mean that suddenly YED/Hell writes him out of the plans), Lilith still brings the apocalypse and the boys are still vessels...I'm fine if they want to end Swan Song differently and have them live happily ever after actually, but that's about the only leeway people get on the big events.

So yes, the same but different is fine. It's different and different that annoys me - and makes me less willing to even give AUs a chance in case they don't fit my criteria for acceptable AUs.
Aug. 7th, 2010 06:37 pm (UTC)
never played dnd but this story was adorable, thanks for reccing! :)
Aug. 7th, 2010 06:56 pm (UTC)
Glad you liked it!
( 8 comments — Leave a comment )