There is a world hidden within ours that we were never supposed to find.
But we did.
What is trash to us is not to others, the quests showed us that.
The first ones were buried in colonial-era pamphlets. Now they’re online, but the essence is the same: complete the quest, get a token.
I stumbled upon the quests by accident. They were a fun diversion at first. Now I can’t stop.
No one knows the purpose of the quests or the tokens. But we’re about to find out.
Inspired by World of Warcraft, Harry Potter, and Neverwhere, Guild of Tokens is a fresh take on the modern fantasy genre.
You can read the monthly installments for free in my newsletter by subscribing HERE, look for Guild of Tokens: Initiate-the collected first part of the larger novel-coming soon on Amazon, and check out the first chapter below.
Wait three days between quests
The first quest was simple.
I went to Chelsea Market during lunch, bought a handful of blueberries, a tillandsia, an apple popsicle, and three pounds of 90/10 ground beef. I left the goods in the windowsill of a brownstone on W. 9th Street and headed back to my office. A plain, white envelope was waiting for me on my desk when I returned. Inside was a wooden token, the size of a quarter, with the number one intricately carved in the middle. I quickly hid it in one of my desk drawers and locked it with a satisfying click, and then proceeded to get absolutely no work done for the rest of the day.
The second quest was slightly more taxing. I waited the required three days before checking the quest board again. There didn’t seem to be any enforcement mechanism on this waiting time, but not wanting to upset the questmasters, I did as instructed and on the third day I clicked on “Quests” under Gigs and the screen flooded with fresh quests waiting to be undertaken. I soon found myself perched over the Hudson River, trying to fish out five small stones without falling in the disgusting, brown water. My footing was sure and I avoided having to explain to my co-workers why I smelled like rotten garbage. The stones I placed in a brown, leather pouch, which I left next to a fire hydrant in Chinatown. This time, the envelope appeared in my mailbox that night. I secreted away the token in the bottom of an old pair of shoes so that my nosy roommate wouldn’t find it, and began the countdown again.
The third quest was another straightforward one. The headline was misleading, a promise to visit a quirky, forgotten shop, but when the full instructions arrived in my email, I sulked. A quick trip into Grand Central was all it took to find the cheap plastic bracelet, which I deposited in a garbage can on Track 18. This time, there was no envelope. The token appeared in the change slot of the MetroCard machine instead of the 50 cents I was expecting.
The fourth quest was nostalgic. I again gathered up a weird menagerie of items and went back to the brownstone on W. 9th Street. The items from the first quest were gone, save for the popsicle stick, and I hoped that whoever had fetched them had gotten there before the popsicle had turned into a pile of mush. Or maybe they wanted the mush. Who knows. Another envelope awaited me when I returned to my desk. I pulled out the first token and set it aside the new one. The craftsmanship was undeniable. Maybe at some point, I would get to meet their creator.
The fifth quest was the most challenging by far. The instructions were multi-tiered and required precise timing. First, I had to board the last car of a downtown 6 train at 51st Street at 9:47 AM. I then had to exit the train at 33rd Street and re-enter the third car of that same train. Needless to say, I drew a multitude of stares when I burst through the closing doors of the third car. Second, I needed to exit the train at 14th Street and board a crosstown bus going west, standing in the middle of the bus without holding a handrail. Third, I had to exit the bus at 7th Avenue through the front door, and take the first available taxi I saw all the way down to Battery Park. These steps needed to be completed in no more than 47 minutes door-to-door. I arrived at Battery Park with minutes to spare, only to realize that the original instructions had stopped after this step. Dejected, I almost left to go home, but a small, intricately painted arrow on a sign caught the corner of my eye. I walked in the direction of the arrow, only to find another arrow on a second sign. That arrow led to several more (I lost count after the 11th one), as I zigzagged across the park. The final arrow pointed me to a set of stairs leading down underground. I looked around to see if anyone had taken notice of me or the stairs, but the few passersby paid me no mind. I descended the stairs only to be confronted by an imposing wooden door sporting a large iron knocker. I hesitated slightly before banging the knocker three times. Nothing happened. I waited. Still nothing. After several minutes, I contemplated knocking again, when a small portion of the door slid aside to reveal a pair of piercing, golden eyes.
“You’re late.” The voice was raspy and deep-toned.
The instructions made no mention of bringing my tokens with me, but on a hunch, I had collected them from their various hiding places. I drew them out and a small, sooty hand reached through the slot and grabbed them from me. Before I could say anything, the slot closed suddenly with a thud. I stared at the door. Was this all some kind of stupid trick by a crazy person with too much time on their hands? Before my anger could get the best of me, the slot opened again and the same hand reached out to hand me something small and round. Another token I realized. But it was iron, not wooden. The same number one was in the middle, etched elegantly into the metal. I grabbed the token greedily and before I could say anything, the hand withdrew back into the door and the slot closed again. Tucking the token away into my jacket, I danced happily up the stairs and into the mid-morning sun.
On the third day after the fifth quest, a new section appeared. “Epic Quests.” I clicked through excitedly and was greeted by three words in gloriously curving script: “Requires 185 gold tokens.”
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