In the long period of time since I joined Rognar the Inefficient on his adventures throughout the land, things had rarely been better than the last six months when Rona, a female Elven thief had joined us. Rognar and she had taken a liking to each other almost immediately, and I was very happy for them both.

Except those nights when I had to set up the entire camp while weird noises came from their tent; which, come to think of it, happened way too often.

But it was nice to see Rognar happy. And Rona was a lovely woman who could hold her own in a fight. I'd seen her take out a troll that seemed to have Rognar's number by sneaking up behind it and sticking a dagger through its brain.

Since this was Rognar, of course, that means it all had to come to an end.

One night we were all sleeping, or so I thought. A strange apparition appeared next to smoldering camp fire during Rona's watch, a loud thunder clap waking both Rognar and myself up with a start. Bleary-eyed, we both emerged from our tents . Our eyes darted around the site, but Rona was gone!

The apparition formed into a fat, bald man with overflowing pink robes and a weird pink hat on his head. He let out an evil laugh.

"Rognar, you illiterate buffoon! It is I, your old nemesis, The Hider, come to menace you again." (I could hear the capital letters when he spoke)

"What have you done, you fat idiot!" Rognar roared, reaching into his tent and grabbing his axe. He then charged the Hider, swinging his axe. The axe passed through the apparition harmlessly. The Hider let out another cackle.

"I am, of course, not here for you to sully my body with your peasant-like weaponry," he said. "Instead, I have struck at you through your emotions. You may have noticed that your paramour, Rona, is missing from your camp. Or maybe you didn't, as you are that dense."

"What have you done to her?" Rognar said, scowling and tapping his axe against the ground.

"Nothing yet, my good oaf," Hider said. "I have magically taken her and trapped her in another dimension. A dimension where she will be all alone, with just me for company as she listens to me continually taunt you."

I rolled my eyes. The Hider had a strange way of talking, and I wasn't sure if that was only when he was facing Ragnar or whether he talked to everybody that way.

"You're probably wondering how you can get her back, aren't you? Well, you will have to do something for me first.

"Across the land of Astronia, I have hidden 1000 grains of magical sand. Some of them, you will be able to just pick up, but some you will have to figure out how to get to them. If you can find some of my minions and torture them, you will get some of their locations. Or maybe you'll just stumble upon them. If you find a lot of flashing pink magical lights, you're probably close."

"And why would we want to do this?" I asked.

"Shut up, you nerdish cur! I'm talking to your ignorant better!"

Rognar shushed me. I hate it when he shushes me.

"Ok, I will do it. But you will guarantee Rona's safety, yes? You will not harm her?"

"She is actually proving to be a fascinating conversationalist," Hider replied. "She may decide to stay with me anyway. But, I swear on my magic that I will only release her when you have fulfilled my quest."

"Bah," Rognar scoffed. "If you do harm her at all, I will find you and I will show you your entrails."

Hider laughed. "In your elicit fantasies, you incompetent maroon."

Rognar and his pissed off face

And with that, we got started. We picked up camp and set out, trying to find these grains of sand. It was a weird thing. Why grains of sand? What was the point?

We journeyed back and forth across Astronia. Rognar had fun beating up Hider's minions, though for some reason he didn't kill them. He broke a few bones, though, and even stepped on a few faces.

Some of the grains were easy, as Hider had said. Some were in death traps that we had to try again and again to figure out.

But we finally did it. All 1000 grains of sand. In the process, we even accidentally completed a few quests.

After finding the last one, the Hider appeared in front of us again.

"Well done, you clumsily dressed ingrate! It only took you two years, but you did it! It probably only seemed like it took one night, didn't it?"

"Here's your sand, Hider," I said, dropping the bag of sand at the apparition's feet. "Now send Rona back."

"Ah ah ah, not so fast," Hider cackled. "That's not all I need. I have another task for you. All across Astronia, I have scattered 1500 flags. They are a pinkish colour, similar to the colour of my lustrous garment here."

"But that's the same colour as the provincial flag of Bogonia!!!" I cried. "How can we differentiate it?"

"Pish posh, silly servant! My flags are slightly pinker. And again, there are flashing lights, etc. You can find some of my minions to beat up and give you clues as to where they are. . I have hired more."

Rognar sighed. "You still guarantee that she is still safe?"

Hider said "Of course she is safe. She is probably forgetting about you more every day! Though I have to say that I wish you would hurry. She's getting kind of boring, and she's trying to get me to eat better. It's getting quite tedious."

We both laughed. "Serves you right," I muttered.

So off we went again. Scouring the land for these weird flags. I couldn't figure out what he wanted with them and all that sand, but he has always been a weird sort. Quite the game player. Almost to an insane level.

It took a while, and we had some mistakes made. The army of Bogonia came after us one time because they thought we were stealing one of their flags. A glare and heft of an axe from Rognar made them all flee in terror, though.

And we even finished a couple more quests while we were at it!

But finally, we had all 1500 flags. That bag was huge, but thankfully they didn't weigh that much. They seemed to disappear into Rognar's pack.

When we had the last one, Hider appeared in front of us again.

"You did it! And it feels like morning hasn't even come yet, doesn't it?" he said, an evil grin on his face.

"All right, here's your stuff. Now send Rona back here!" Rognar roared, really starting to get pissed off.

"Not so fast, you slow-witted salamander! I'm not done with you yet. I have hidden 2000 really small statues all over the land. I have hired more minions for you to beat up as well. You must find..."

Rognar cut him off. "That's enough! I'm not finding any more of your stuff! I'm not playing your game any more!" Rognar was swinging his axe again, which he always does when he's irritated. I've almost lost an ear before.

" must!" Hider stammered, clearly taken aback. "You will never see Rona again if you don't! I will keep her from you until the end of time!"

"Nothing is worth all of this," Rognar said. "Besides, she was starting to get on my case about my eating habits too. Even though most of the time it was in the heat of battle. She complained that I ate 5 pies in 5 seconds in a battle with a Gnark once. She was starting to get on my nerves."

He shook his head. "I do love her, though! But not enough to continue to play your silly games. We're done."

Rognar started to walk off. Startled, I turned and followed. Truthfully, I had tired of this game after the 538th grain of sand, but I was in it for Rognar (and 100% completion).

"You can't do this to me!" Hider cried. "I don't want her any more either! She's making me eat...something horrible called tofu! You must complete my quest!"

"Nope, sorry," Rognar shouted as he walked away. "She's yours now, unless you can figure out how to break your magical promise that binds you."

The apparition screamed and disappeared in a puff of smoke.

Rognar shook his head and grinned at me.

"Why are they always so easy to outwit, even though they think they're the intelligent ones?"

"I don't know, " I said. "I have to admit that you presented a novel solution that I wouldn't have considered."

"I grow tired of searching for stuff," he said. He got on his horse.

"So, time to go find those herbs for Mrs. Danville's illness, right Cyril? It's only been, what, 3 years since we were asked to do that?"