Just a Quick Note

Saturday, January 31, 2009 - 5:49 PM

There's been a few resets and changes from the blog provider recently, and I'm having to adjust and adapt a few settings. One of the issues is that comments don't seem to be showing up. I'm working on that, at the moment, and thanks to Kat for bringing it to my attention.

More soon!

The Other Side

Friday, January 30, 2009 - 11:33 AM

Faint sobbing whispered inside the wide dome in the Citadel of Tongues. It mingled with the thin threads of bitter incense smoke and the gloom huddling around sparse candles. A forest of cobwebs hid the upper part of the dome, hanging like translucent drapes, and tapestries in green and rust covered the walls. Eyes drawn to the tapestry would flee again instinctively from the furtively vile hints of the art.

The tapestries were familiar, and therefore ignored, by the four .

“Leoric is not coming,” said Avar to the others. His voice was even and smooth, falling flat against the tapestries. A sharp ear would note unusually precise control and diction; the only outward sign of Avar's ferocious internal struggle. He had to keep an iron grip on the horror his soul had become, every waking moment. This required sanity of a sort, and Avar endured, knowing that losing his rationality would break his discipline, and that would be his death.

His companions had the luxury of madness. Avar was stained enough with his own atrocities that he could understand Tancred's fanaticism, or the torture of Julian's visions. But Avar still had a small, howling conscience inside him, the little piece holding him together, and thus Lady Isabeau's madness was something he could not understand.

“Why not,” wheezed Tancred, crouching rather than sitting.

“Because he's gone to the Wound,” replied Avar, glancing at the huddle of mouldering leather and mossy cloth that was Tancred. “He left immediately after Julian told him what happened.”

Lady Isabeau touched her sharp teeth with her tongue, thinking, and then leaned back with a sigh from her repast. The soft weeping came from her long, pale coat; her meal had ceased whimpering a while ago. “Hope's heart recovered, and then destroyed,” she said thoughtfully. “All that we have done, and we could not find it. But these others did.”

“Blasphemers,” hissed Tancred. Tangled red hair hid most of his face, but his agitation was apparent. Avar expected a rant coming. Instead, Tancred bit his lip and glanced furtively at Lady Isabeau.

She did not seem to notice, and turned her small dark eyes to Julian, who sat draped over his chair as if he were a cat. “Who were they?”

“Five,” said Julian, and then jerkily scratched at the base of his neck. Avar imagined the worm was particularly bad for Julian at the moment. When Hope's heart had been destroyed, Avar had held Julian down until the screaming had stopped.

“Five,” continued Julian, turning wide eyes up to Isabeau. “The Lady Knight, the Moonstone druid, the gray paladin, the Durzani astrologer, the priest of Law. They took the Heart from a tomb, and destroyed it in a great hall of hypocrisy. The five provinces celebrate even now, and they were given great regard for their act. Leoric goes to Hope's tree, to discover what we must do.”

“The Moonstone is mine,” rumbled Tancred, rubbing his callused hands together.

“What head we might find, we take,” said Avar blandly. “But we haven't heard anything from Hope yet.”

“Indeed not,” mentioned Isabeau as she dabbed at her lips with a napkin. “Julian, where are the five now?”

Julian wrapped himself in his own arms, his pointed face vacant, and Avar reflexively dabbed away a line of drool starting on Julian's lip. They were frequent companions, bound together by common dedication and the cost of an ordeal. Julian had survived the Augury of Maggots, tying him to the nightmare consciousness of the Wound, and his mind was always full of horror and whispers. He found Avar's presence quieting, and Avar had great sympathy and admiration for Julian's willingness to accept such a burden.

A strange friendship had developed, a balance between a man whose body and mind were wracked with prophetic worms, and a warrior whose body and mind were powerful, but whose soul was rapidly being displaced by an abomination.

“Still in Effernar,” murmured Julian, starting slightly as if waking. “The blood is still on their hands, but it will fade. They will not stay, though. They are restless.”

Tancred looked immediately at Isabeau. “Let me handle this, let me gather my monks and we'll put them down, we'll bring them back to the Wound.”

“You will do nothing of the sort,” announced Isabeau thinly. “Leoric is our leader, and we will wait for his command.”

Subsiding, Tancred clicked his long nails together and breathed deeply, taking on the look of some huge, mangy predator who patiently waits for some unsuspecting animal to get within reach.

“We should send Julian to the harpies,” said Avar. “They'll listen to him.”

“Yes,” agreed Isabeau. “Find out what the harridans wish to do, Julian. Do you understand?”

“Beauty's children will know,” responded Julian, shifting uncomfortably. “Beauty may know. I will go.”

Isabeau favored Julian with a slight smile and then aimed herself at Tancred again. “You should get back to work, Tancred. Gather your people and work faster. We need more of the cauldrons and bellows. Increase work at the mine.”

“I will do it,” said Tancred. “When Leoric returns, all will be ready.”

Isabeau and Avar looked at each other.

“The students and teachers here are already organized, but this news lends me to believe I have a number of matters to look into immediately,” said Isabeau, rising as the massive spider she sat on lifted itself from the floor. “Avar...?”

“The army is growing, and it is ready.”

Isabeau nodded, fastened her scarves, and her spider silently pivoted her away and out of the room. Tancred rotted into the shape of a mangy crow, flapping his way up through the cobwebs to exit from the oculus of the dome.

Avar stood, waited a moment for Julian to begin to leave, and then looked at the silvery skin and broken, pure feathers of the angel on Isabeau's dinner table. It had been a meal by stages; the gorgeous creature's torso was nearly empty, and its crystalline bones stripped of flesh on most of the limbs. Isabeau had left the face intact but for the eyes, which she had consumed early on.

That is what I have become, he thought for a moment, and then turned his back, leaving the Citadel to attend to the end of the world.

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Monday, January 19, 2009 - 7:06 PM

Yesterday, my dnd group hit the biggest plot benchmark they've had in the entire game, and I am unreasonably pleased about it. Starting with small gangland conspiracies in the world's largest city, they began a turbulent journey upward to the status of heroes following the horrific traces of a conjured disaster. They've all been through trials of fire, tests of the soul and changes of heart. Tensions within the party have risen and fallen, sometimes to the point of open conflict, but through all this time they've kept their eyes on the ultimate goal of confronting the terrible work of someone history has labeled a master of atrocity and abomination.

Well, they've kept their eyes in that direction, anyway.

In their world, they've gained recognition as daring explorers, scholar-adventurers who lift up forgotten histories from ancient cultures and bring them to light. They've translated old books and tablets, discovered facets of their own cultures that most have forgotten, and wandered through places that went untouched for centuries. They've made friends, influenced people, and ticked more than a few off. It wasn't as if they weren't extraordinary before last session.

But in chapter 88 of this adventure, they accomplished something that was thought to be impossible. They destroyed the heart of Hope, a monster-once-a-healer who was condemned to live forever by the creature she tried to redeem.

With this act, they've put themselves into history. They've become ancestors, people whose names will be remembered in tales and songs and records. They have taken the first step into being heroes of the world, rather than heroes of a nation or provinces or a single people, and the hands of those above are reaching down to welcome them. Looking back through my notes and stat blocks, I see the long trail of blood, tears, victory and loss they've come along, and I can easily see that they've begun to transcend the 'dungeon' and are moving up to the 'dragon' end of adventure.

Yeah, they've leveled up. And they earned every single experience point. Emphasis on experience.

Especially for me.

Thanks, guys.

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Alchemical Marriage, part 7

Friday, January 9, 2009 - 12:11 PM

The holidays ate my brain. We resume our normal programming now.

Dhunas was hard ground, a wide bowl of rocky earth with some liberally unmapped forest smeared across it. Hillman tribes ranged through the area, bitter and vigilant, and Erich had even heard rumors of a troll nest somewhere in the caves there.

He hoped that the grotto he'd chosen to hide in wasn't occupied.

Orders were orders, and orders had been to march for Dhunas, a move to outflank the enemy. What happened was an ambush in the early morning by a raging patchwork of Kesran soldiers and mercenary hillmen. A hard fight, not unexpected.

But it was the sudden bombardment from hidden guns that tore the heart out of the camp, scattering blood and flesh with whirling shards of metal. During Erich's headlong dash into the woods, he'd spotted the red tree livery of the Cyragrim, and he knew then where the Kesrans had gotten all the artillery.

Echoes crawled through the gnarled trees nearby, flat incoherent noises that let him know the conflict wasn't quite over yet. On occasion he heard an odd wailing cry that made his bones cold, but he had no idea what it was. Breathing deeply, he willed his heart slower and took quick stock of his injuries while keeping half an eye on the forest. There was nothing serious, grazes and cuts, and the burning pain in his shoulder had just been from impact. The sword hadn't gotten through his armor. The bruise would stiffen and slow his left arm, but nothing was broken.

He considered his options. Certainly others will have escaped and run east to warn their allies what happened, and he should regroup as well. He didn't know Dhunas hardly at all, but he knew that if the enemy force had followed through with the ambush, he'd have to sneak through them to get where he needed to be.

Best to hide for now, and wait, he thought.

The wailing sound erupted much closer, this time, and he focused immediately, peering out at the dim gray woods. Some motion caught his eye, and he saw a single figure sprinting, a pack slung over one shoulder.

Dark things cascaded after the fugitive, low to the ground, tumbling over the roots.

Drawing his pistol, he locked his mind on an incantation, merging the patterns in his mind with the sounds his mouth shaped, and leveled his arm. He felt the thrumming of the spell as it burrowed into the bullet.

“Dodge left!”

The figure did so immediately, and Erich fired. The bullet streaked from the pistol in a thin line of blue light, striking one of the low-slung creatures, which made a wet choked sound. The spell discharged immediately, and the shuddering blast from the bullet ripped out of the creature with a dull, powerful thud, hammering the other beasts near it.

They tumbled. One of them rolled awkwardly and charged at him. The others twitched, and were still.

Erich focused, quickly loading his pistol again, but the bark of another pistol preceded him, dropping the creature. He caught a brief glimpse of something like a long-bodied boar, with long sharp tusks and spreading paws instead of hooves.


He glanced over at the fugitive, whose grey smock had been torn, showing simple leather armor beneath. She looked back at him with clear blue eyes, face mostly covered by a scarf though her wide-brimmed hat was long since gone, leaving her fair hair hanging in a braid.

His heart stopped for a moment.

“Well met again, sir,” said Brigantia. “We should away from here; others will have heard the pistol fire.”

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