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Category Archives: D&D Fiction

Dungeons and Dragons-flavored fantasy stories

Ipsah’s Tale

Ipsah’s Tale

I conceived this while washing dishes, thinking about a narrative introduction as a PC in a new campaign, although it would have to be a very special group to allow such a table backstory! I really want to play this guy, however, and I really liked creating this aloud so I could hear his voice even clearer. Hope you enjoy.


In my village we worship Lord Moon, as is right and proper, praise be his name. It is through his gifts that the people prosper, and it is through his servants, the Moon Kings, that his will is done. My family comes from a long line of Moon Kings, and my grandfather was a Moon King, and his son, my father, was a Moon King, and me, I am a Moon King too. Oh yes. Great and powerful, was I. Destined, from birth, as the path of my father and his fathers, as the living reincarnation of the avatar of Lord Moon himself. I was given everything I wanted, and I wanted for nothing more than knowledge. How I hungered for it! I read every great work in the Golden Hall and read them again and again over the years. I was whispered, into my left ear, from the day I was born, that “I was the special chosen one, destined to guide us all into salvation”. I was whispered to, into my ear, every day since the day I was born, by my father himself.

Do you see my prison?

The Moon King does one thing. He tells the people the will of Lord Moon. He guides their futures, answers their questions, settles their disputes, tells their fortunes, blesses their children, and a thousand other Right and Holy things. The Moon King is told what to do by Lord Moon himself! Through portents, and dreams, omens and signs, would his will be revealed to me. Through direct conversation, his Divine Lips would whisper in my right ear, and guide my path and all I had to do was say the words and remain pure.

I speak now of my crimes, and they are shameful to the extreme. If this company would see fit to not have me among them, say the word, and my departure is assured, you have my word on that, though my word may not hold much weight after I reveal the remainder of my tale. Hear me out and decide for yourself, but know that I have blamed and doubted myself for so long that any anger you’ve towards me is old and familiar ground, and I will not defend myself.

My village and my people needed me and the look of pride in my father’s eyes, and my mother’s smile when I wore the regalia was so pure to me, do you understand? It was not sullied by anything so sordid as human pride or fear. I saw only love in their eyes, and I, devoted son, could not disappoint them.

I heard no words in my right ear. I saw no portents. Could not interpret an omen if it kicked me in the shin. Lord Moon did not guide me. I was alone in the night with all my doubts and terrors. What was I to do? My father would come in the morning and recite that hateful litany in my left ear and I swore if I heard it again I would scream, but when the morning came and I felt my father’s breath on my neck I said nothing and I did nothing.

Well.

That’s not true.

I did do something. I lied.

I had read every scroll in the Golden Hall. More than once. I knew every ruling from every Moon King to have come before me. Every piece of advice, every omen of good fortune or bad, all was recorded by the Water Witch, as is her right and duty. I had studied them all, for they fascinated me, and I was a dutiful student, and I had a mind that could retain what I’d seen one or twice in almost perfect detail.

So I said the words and I lied. Over and over again. I proclaimed good fortune and bad. I sat in judgement of men who trusted me! I punished innocent men, of that there can be no doubt. I guided the lives of all who falsely trusted me and Lord Moon, forgive me, but I lied because I was afraid of the look on my father’s face if I told him that I was no Moon King, that I was a fraud, and I couldn’t. I wouldn’t.

But time passes and people change and as I grew older I began to feel the prison of my lie most keenly. It sat ill with me and was a constant burden that I felt I could physically feel, weighing me down. I began to drink. A lot. I fornicated even more. I must have plowed every maiden (and spinster and widow) in the village more than once. My crimes were not just confined to the Lunar Throne, no. I walked among them, you see? I exploited them to cover my own disgust and weakness. I threw myself into drink and debauchery so I could run away from myself. The worst crime of all.

And now we come to my comeuppance and exile, and I tell you friends, if your benevolence is still with me, I hope you will forbear a little more, for what I have to tell you next still shames me in truth.

It was midwinter and I had been senseless for days. I had grown sullen and been skunked on winter ales and last year’s wines for days. The hall was filled for supper and the place was stifling from the fireplaces and all the bodies. I remember hearing the howls of some storm over the cascading bubble of the crowd’s voice, and I heard my mother’s voice suddenly rise up and declare that the Moon King would know when the blizzard would pass and I saw her turn and face me, her eyes shining and bright like always, her ready smile so joyful to behold, and I felt the wine in my belly sour. I felt that rushing heat that signals vomitus and before I could be sick I opened my mouth and told her to shut up.

She didn’t hear me, of course, and I saw her questioning face and I shouted “SHUT UP!” and the room dropped still. My stomach was churning and I was sick of it. I’d had enough. I almost confessed then, and I still wish I had, for what I said next is so vile, I’m ashamed to voice it aloud, but you deserve the truth. I told them Lord Moon had told me that a great and perilous doom was coming to destroy the people. I told them that Lord Moon had lost favor with them, that his rage was terrible and growing and I described in great detail of the deaths that awaited each and every one of them. I stared my friends, my neighbors, my people in the eye, one-by-one, and I let out all my grief and self-loathing and hatred onto those innocents. I looked my mother in the eye and described the gruesome fate of my baby brother and I didn’t even flinch. I howled of the ending of the world.

There were shouts now. Angry folk who didn’t understand anything beyond what they were told was Right and True. Simple people. My people. They were hurt and scared and I did not care. Not any more. The shouts got louder and now people were starting to argue among themselves and many were pointing at me and my mother and my father, I didn’t recognize them anymore, their faces were closed and confused.

My father came to me, hands outstretched, slow – like you would approach a wild animal, and he babbled some platitudes to me, but I didn’t even acknowledge him, I just wept and wept like the coward I am, I still couldn’t tell him, and then he started to say the words, he started to say the words but not in a whisper, he looked right at me and he said them, like some rock a drowning man clings to, and my mother was crying, and I had never seen her cry, never once in my twenty years and my father said those words to me and I grabbed him and shouted in his ear, “LORD MOON DOES NOT SPEAK TO ME AND NEVER DID! I AM NOT SPECIAL! I AM NOTHING!”

I was drunk, yes. Mad with grief. Frustrated, beyond measure. Yes. What I did was not right and I fled.

I hid behind the fleece shed and lost my guts in the snow over and over again. I heard voices shouting nearby, Gunson, I think, and the Miller, Doberton, and I fled again, up into the hills above the village, but when I looked back, I saw something I did not expect, but which seems foolish to have denied now. A knot of torchlight was following, and I suddenly felt myself go cold all over. For the first time in my life, I was seeing the consequences of my actions as they affected me, and me alone.

I fled higher, into the mountains. I ate game and drank icy cold water and slept dry where I could, but the torches followed me. A week later I heard the baying of hounds and I knew those voices well, they belonged to Narhill, the Hunter, and I stopped sleeping.

They found me in Sunday Village two days later, my belly full from menial labor, and I fled north along the coast. I remained a few days ahead of them, I think, as I kept stopping to work and eat and collect a few coins where I could. I zig-zagged between village and wilderness and though I stayed at arm’s length, I could not lose them.

After two months I reached the Port and my labors earned me passage on the vessel that brought me here, into your gracious company. I have not seen my pursuers since, and that was nearly a month ago, more than enough time for them to arrived here and begun the pursuit, anew.

Know that I am deeply ashamed of my life to this point, and have dedicated myself to a lifetime of penance and redemption, and would offer my life in your stead, gladly, if my pursuers find me again. I will be a true and steadfast companion, and you may test my word at your leisure, I assure you that you will not find it wanting.

We are well met, and I am Ipsah, a Paladin of Mercy.

 
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Posted by on July 18, 2017 in D&D Fiction

 

The Minaret

The Minaret

The minaret could be seen from dozens of miles off. It hurtled towards the sky – a thin spike of stone, narrow and full of green, greasy light, it scraped the sky and threw a dim smear across the belly of the clouds.

As they wound their way over the hills, the two travelers suddenly crested a tall ridge and there it was, the city of the mad king, and the minaret dominated the small freehold. It was monstrous, like some thrusting phallus of a sleeping god in the throes of a lusty dream.

They struggled to tear their eyes away from it. It was like choosing not to view the face of God.

With sweating, straining grunts, the travelers barely managed to lower their eyes, the effort was painful, and one of them cried aloud with the effort. After a few minutes of hard breathing and a low chattering between them, they wiped the tears from their eyes and began walking again.

The slope suddenly plunged downwards, leading them inexorably towards the crumbling gate of the city. A half-built ring of stone had been thrown up around the minaret and some 400-500 buildings that crowded its feet. The whole place was lit up with yellow lantern light and the eerie luminescence of the minaret, bathing the whole area in a queasy blue glow. The travelers scanned the city with curious eyes. They had come so far to see the king, so far and so long, with many lost friends and companions haunting their steps.

As they drew nearer they could see the city was abuzz with frenetic activity. People were running through the streets, many hundreds of them, in nearly all the streets; like a termite’s nest, kicked.

They heard shouting too, and screaming. They heard laughter and throats filled with song; the rhythmic thumping of drums and the tinny bleating of horns and other noisemakers. They heard rants, and demands, exhortations and condemnations.

As they approached the gate, they found the walls unmanned, the gates ajar, the entrance completely unguarded. Just beyond the gate the courtyard was full of activity. Men and women (no children, strange) were everywhere, some many thousands. Couples were strewn across the ground and leaned up against walls and pillars, wantonly screwing. Others were eating lustily, great tables had been dragged into the streets and feasts laid upon them. Everywhere people were running, some clad in armor and fully armed, others stark naked and painted with strange patterns. They all babbled to themselves or to others, groups had their voices raised in unison, chanting scraps of doggerel or new ephemera, the nonsense-couplets of children and madmen; still others were slapping paint on the wooden buildings of the city, while others used chalk or simply scratched graffito onto the half-stacked walls.

The travelers paused, daunted. This seemed a place of dreams, or nightmares, they could not decide for themselves. They had no idea where the old king dwelt. They could wander for hours or days without finding him, so varied were the temptations and obstacles before them.

They spoke briefly to one another in the shadow of the gate. They were not fools, nor cowards, and they knew that their mission was one of great importance, something they could not simply ignore or walk away from. They debated and argued for nearly half the night. Suddenly they found a common mind. They would run through the city and speak to no one who did not look sane. It was laughable, to be sure, but at least it was a plan. It would get them moving.

They entered the gate. They began to run.

At first the crowds in the courtyard lunged at them. Voices called out to stop, introduce yourselves, welcome seekers, wait who are you, do you want to eat, hey handsome want some fun, and they ran.

The streets were as chaotic as they expected. Thousands ate, screwed, fought, gambled, argued, yelled, screamed, destroyed, preached, bargained, challenged, lamented, and rejoiced in various states of undress, mostly, although body painting and tattooing seemed to be a favorite – crazy geometric designs that forced the eye to slide away or risk madness.

The travelers were confronted many times, by men and women alike, and although they managed to stave off sexual and material temptations, the challenges by combatants were hard to ignore.

They fought several times, quick scrappy affairs that left their challengers bleeding in the streets. No tripped-out, drunken-half-dressed was going to stand up to the two travelers. They moved and fought and thought and spoke as warriors trained. They had no rivals in this strange place. They ran.

The sun began to touch the sky and the travelers had found refuge on the roof of a large wooden building near the foot of the minaret. They were resting and sharing some food, trying to get a sense of where they had come from, drawing in the dirt with a stick, and one of them spoke softly in the dawning light.

“If this is the center of the circle, then we need to be here”, and he touches the crude map with the stick, “not here, which is where I think we are now.”
The other nods and says in a sharp twang, “We have t’be close t’here, Rankin, otherwise we couldn’t see the base of the tower, yeah?”

Rankin turns his head, looking hard over his shoulder at the massive slab that supports the weight of the monumental spire, and then shrugs, saying, “True, but we could be anywhere along this line”, and he scrapes a furrow in the ground dirt, obliterating a few of the lopsided “buildings” that Gerromaan had drawn earlier. “and not realize it. The old man has to be in one of these larger buildings, but damned if I know how we’re going to figure it out. We haven’t seen one single person who looked like Watch or Army, and I doubt if there are any people here who aren’t completely fuckin’ mad.”

Gerromaan grunts and spits, making a pool out of one of the smaller buildings on the map. “Agreed, pek, I think this place is cursed. Timsah-qaadesh. A place of demons.”

Rankin checks himself. Gerromaan was a good soldier, a good friend, but he was the most superstitious dickhead he’d ever met. He held his tongue and changed the subject. He said “Whatever, but we need to either move fast or somehow lay low until tonight, I don’t want to be moving around down there in the daylight. Who knows what the fuck this place is like then. We could be surrounded before you could say wallak-tidish, ya know?”

Gerromaan snorts, “Pek, we could have been taken down at any moment in the last four hours, don’t you know that? They let us pass by. Even the fights we had, those qalim had no chance, and they knew it, don’t you see that? They wanted to die. I could see the fuckin’ crazy light in their eyes. This whole place is mad, don’t you see?” Gerromaan got to his feet and nearly shouted in Rankin’s face, “Fuck the mission, Rankin, fuck the world, we’ve got to get out of here, don’t you see? Before its too late!”

Rankin stood in one clean movement, his long-dagger held reversed in his grip, the blade at the throat of his friend, the other hand on the back of Gerromaan’s head. “I think its already too late, old friend. The madness has gripped you! All this way! I can’t lose you now! GERROMAAN! Listen to me! It’s not real, dammit! Gerromaan!” Rankin shook him furiously, and a tiny line of blood appeared on Gerromaan’s throat as if by magic.

Gerromaan’s wanted to run, more than anything he had ever wanted before, but he knew that if he so much as twitched, he would be dead as dogshit. He licked his lips, his mouth was so dry, so dry, and he could feel his heart racing out of control as fear gushed into every pore in his body.

He had to get out, there was no room for any other thought. His mind rabbited into a million escape scenarios as his eyes were drawn up and away from his friend’s angry gaze; up to the minaret, the beautiful minaret, tower of unearthly beauty, wasn’t it so beautiful, filled with a heavenly light, such a wonder, and his grew soft and moist as he fell in love with the colossal tower, the spire of impossible height, the minaret of madness.

Rankin saw all this of course. He knew Gerromaan was gawking over his shoulder at that damned abomination. The needle of stone that defied his training, his experiences, his imaginings. He knew that Gerromaan was lost. He would have to go on alone. But he owed it to his friend to give him a death that had some honor. Some meaning. But how? If he could only snap him out of this, they could search that large building over to the east, the one that he could see even now, they would find the old king, deliver their message and get the hell out of there. If only. But how to make Gerromaan see? He heard his friend’s breathing calm, felt his pulse slow as the rapture overtook him. What would Gerromaan do next?

He had no time to decide, because he suddenly felt Gerromaan’s pulse shoot up, his breathing ramped up and his muscles tensed, and as he shifted his gaze back to his friend’s eyes, he could see the frenzy in them, the adrenaline turning the pupils to pinpricks of cold, black light. He whispered “Uttatenyay, ullum shaqqay”, “Forgive me old friend”, and pulled the dagger across Gerromaan’s throat, stepping back and away from the arterial spray and the collapse of his friend’s body.

He sat with Gerromaan until it was over. He did not cry, his training would not allow that much emotion, but he did feel a grey pall descend over him, like a wet and clammy fog in his mind, and he felt a great silence around him. He took Gerromaan’s dulah-utep, as tradition demanded, and left the rooftop as the sun finally filled the sky with light and heat.

To his amazement and utter shock, the streets were quiet. The “citizenry” had disappeared indoors or at least out of the main thoroughfares, and he was able to make his way to the large building that he believed might by the home of the king quickly and quietly. He saw the people everywhere, asleep in great dog piles, dozens of them curled up together in alleyways and under porticos and atop roofs much like the one where Gerromaan had met his fate.

He was tired, but not exhausted. He had no sleep last night, but that was not unusual and he felt that he would be ok if he could just see the king and maybe grab two hours of shuteye.

Soon the large building loomed before him. He pushed open the great double doors and saw half-a-dozen people asleep in a narrow hallway that ended in a staircase leading upstairs. He stepped over them gingerly, as one would a slumbering chamber of wolves, and made his way up the wooden stairs.

At the top was another narrow hall that ended in a large door. Beside him were two more doors, each unremarkable. He ignored these and lightly ran down the hall towards the large door. It was unlocked and well-balanced, because it swung open smoothly to reveal a vast hall that was furnished with dozens of crude wooden benches and tables. A couple of dozen sleeping people were spread upon the tables, benches and floor. Cats, dogs and rats all sniffled among them, eating scraps from last night’s feast. To his immediate left another staircase leaped upstairs. He crept up them, leaving the dining hall behind. A wide corridor greeted him, flanked by many doors and interspersed with iron sconces, all unlit. At the far end of the corridor were two soldiers, armored, armed, and more importantly, awake.

They snapped to attention at the sight of him and he breathed a sigh of relief. “Finally,” he thought, “someone in charge. Maybe this is the king’s hall after all.”

The guards began approaching him. He stood, relaxed, and called out “Halloo and good meetings, loyal kingsmen. I have come many thousands of leagues to meet with your king, and was feared I would never find him. It is good to –“ and here he broke off as he saw the faces of the guards.

They were upside-down.

Rankin stepped back and drew his weapons, his bladder giving way in his breeches, a feat not accomplished since he was three and came across a black wolf in the forests near his father’s house in the Kangari Mountains. Luckily his father had been only a pace away and dispatched the beast with a well-placed arrow. His father was long in the grave now, and Rankin was alone. “If only Gerromaan hadn’t –“, he thought, but stopped himself.

The guards were upon him. He fought. Though the guards were obviously trained, they were still no match for Rankin’s training. He put them down quick and stood over the bodies, chewing a thumbnail and nervously eying the door at the far end. He spat out a chunk of nail and whispered “olo qassay” before stepping down the hall, his weapons sheathed again, his manner calm and measured.

At the door he stopped to listen. He heard naught, as expected. He pulled the door open and looked inside A voice greeted him.

“Come in come in, before you kill more of the king’s subjects.”

Rankin stepped inside, one hand on his weapon and saw a curly-haired man in green robes seated upon one of three ornate chairs that sat on a long step below a large throne that could only belong to a king. The man smiled at him, showing perfect teeth and his blue eyes flashed in the sunlight that was streaming into the chamber through tall windows on the flanking walls.

“I apologize for the reception, it is still early days and much is out of our control.”
The man gestured Rankin to come closer and the warrior did, despite his mind screaming NO!

“That’s better. Let’s have a look at you. Ah yes. You are here with a message for King Merriweather, aren’t you.” Rankin found himself nodding, his tongue frozen fast to the roof of his mouth. “I’m afraid you’ve come a very long way for nothing if you expect to deliver your message in person. The king sees no one.” and the man’s voice became cold and hard when he said this, and Rankin felt himself step back against his will, so compelling was the man’s tone.

“I am minister Greylock, one of three trusted advisors to the king and you will deliver your message to me or not at all.” The man’s eyes were upon him, unwavering, and Rankin tried to peel his tongue from the dry cavern of his mouth, and stood working his jaw when Greylock suddenly jumped up and clapped his hands, saying “But how rude of me! You have come many leagues and must be weary with fatigue and hunger. Sup first and then we will talk.”

The room filled with nude servants, men and women alike, all very comely, bearing platters of food and flagons of water, ale and wine. Rankin ate and drank like a man condemned. Greylock reappeared and took a seat at the end of the table, pouring himself a glass of wine and said, “I see you appreciated our hospitality most generously. The king will be pleased.”

Rankin only nodded and smiled, and began to clear his throat to speak when Greylock spoke again and said “If you wish to rest, I can arrange rooms for you. Companions too, if you like,” and several of the servants reappeared behind from archways behind the minister, men and women both as the minister continued, “depending on your preference, of course. You must be very tired, especially after your large meal.”

Rankin shook his head and cleared his throat again, wanting to protest, to explain that his message was most urgent, his mission clear, and started to mouth a few vowels when the minister smiled at him and stood, saying, “I will see to it. We will speak in the morning.” The minister disappeared out of a side door and the servants stepped forwards, smiles lighting their faces, and Rankin stood, shaking his head, his voice finally returning, sounding like a croak from the throat of a man who had been dead for a thousand years. “No. No. No thank you. Please leave me alone. I must speak with the king or Greylock or one of the other ministers. It is most urgent!”

The servants stopped moving as one. One said “You do not desire us?”
Rankin shook his head again, furiously, “No! No! I do not desire you! I must speak with the king or his ministers! Please!”

The servants did not speak again, but left the room immediately, all by different doors, of which there were many, Rankin noticed, he did not seem to have noticed them before, but the room was surrounded by doors. Which one had Greylock left by? He could not remember. He was so tired now, from the food and the drink and the heat of the room. Why was is so hot? There was no hearth here, so why was he so hot? Had he been drugged?

He stood up suddenly, feeling a queer worm of fear wriggle in his belly. What was this place? Was everyone mad here? He turned in a circle, panic splashing his guts. Which door had he come through? How did he get here? He lunged for the nearest door. It led off down a corridor, with a few doors lit by torches hanging in sconces, but no staircase down. He slammed the door and felt the sweat pouring down his face.

His vision began to blur. He groaned. He had been drugged, the treacherous bastard!

He suddenly fell down, his balance gone to hell. He lay on the floor, panting, feeling a spreading pain begin in his stomach and radiating through his arms and legs. The pain doubled. It doubled again and he screamed. He screamed and screamed until he passed out.

The minister returned to the room some time later. Rankin still lay on the floor, unmoving.
A servant kowtowed on the floor in front of Greylock. “What shall we do with him, Master?”
The minister smiled and said “When he awakes, let him out of the palace, of course. His life is his own now.”

The servant nodded his head and said “Of course, Master, and what of the other one?”
Greylock said “The minaret has taken him, he will be of no more trouble.”
The servant nodded again and said “Of course, Master, as you wish.”

Greylock dismissed the man and took a seat at he table, resuming the glass of wine he left earlier. He tilted his chair back on two legs and waited for his newest convert to arise.

 
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Posted by on July 18, 2017 in D&D Fiction

 

The Will and The Way

The Will and The Way

The lights, the torchlights, lantern lights, the leaping light from the firepit, single brands lighting smelly cigarellos – tiny suns in the night, these are what I remember most.
Light. The endless varieties of it. The beauty and the mournful qualities it brings, dousing memory with emotion with bittersweet remembrances. I miss the light.

I cannot recall the smell of open fields and trees on the wind. I can see them, plain as day, in my mind. For days I pictured myself riding a strong horse through the open meadows under sunny blue skies. Days turned into nearly two weeks as I shivered, feverish and near-death, while Lombuck and Chicane carried me on a filthy litter through the last of the Myconid diggings. Carock and Giz died in the sporemist, so they told me. Stories of fungal growths on their skin and nights vomiting blood haunted me. The “fungul folke” were ravenous – and more than half the kingdoms have already fallen to the creeping infection of Myconid puffballs. Now we are in the unexplored deeps. We can have no light here, so the Captain said. No lights at all, ever, not even to cook with. No noise either. We had to be as shadows, as mist, as silent wind. Cap had goggles, gifted from the Cutglas Society matrons – Dame Kite pressed on each of us a “gift to bring you back to us, alive”, and a sloppy kiss, not so welcome, with that cloying stink of lavender around her. These goggles let the Captain see in the dark, through some arcane blessing upon them. And so he led us.

Did you know that rock has an odor unique to each configuration of its mineral structure? Rock smells bitter, mostly, but that can transform into notes of sweet and savory when the rock is exposed to running water. Stagnant water gives rock its own unique bouquet, low and subtle, in the unseen blackness. I knew only the scents of rock and the sound of my own breathing and my own feet on rough rock floors. We had established a system of squeezes and handshakes to communicate to one another in the utter blind darkness. Captain Roundstin fed these signals back through our line, and while the first few days were harrowing in the extreme, with insanity threatening to replace to loss of sight, we managed to survive. Every morning Cap would pulse the number of days we had been moving. I was utterly lost when it came to time or direction, and felt after a time that I was dreaming, and went through the motions of living as best I could, but with little feeling. I grew to feel that my companions were figments of my dream, and I felt no connection to any of them. Education and training had taken me so far, but nothing could have prepared me for this forced, alien existence.

We ate dried foods, usually mild-smelling fruits and raw nuts. No meat. Nothing fresh. Nothing that had too strong of an odor. Cap made us chew fennel seed, a big handful, every morning and to chew until it was a mushy paste and then swallow. That kept us quiet for almost an hour, as we crawled, climbed, swam, walked and hunched through the endless expanse of the Under.

You may be wondering how all this was accomplished without any predation from the local wildlife, and you’d be right to wonder. We heard nothing on our journey once we descended into the uncharted deeps. No scrapes of claw on stone, no mating or challenge calls, no friends hauled shrieking into the darkness while something hairy filled them with poison, or worse. Water was the only sound that broke up the monotony. Like aural beacons, we would hear great rushes of water through the walls, but we never saw any falls ourselves. Once Cap had us stop at some slowly running pool and told us to drink our fill. The water was metallic, and slightly fruity, and very cold. It did much to refresh us, and when I pissed it out some time later, I could still smell the stink of copper. Whatever minerals and compounds the unseen pool had beyond that, I cannot say, much of the sciences escapes me beyond the basics. What I could say, was that whatever else was in that water gave me a fortified feeling of alertness and energy that I couldn’t recall having since we rappeled down into Foxdawn Cavern some time in the untethered past. My senses were heightened and this is when I first discovered the aroma spectrum of dry and wet rock.

Other things, too, were known to me. Where the air moved, for one. I could sense the currents in the air, subtle as ghosts in places, and gales of hot wind in others. The air was old here, I could smell the weight of the ages upon it. It moved, yes, chased itself through the labyrinths of shadow; it bounced and pooled, formed slow whirlpools at crossroads, and held the decay of dust and death in the stagnant pockets of the deeps as a sentinel to the unsung past.

What I didn’t open to, what my mind could not accept, was the absence of light. It was suffocating me, the shallow depth of utter darkness. Too much void threatened to tip me over the edge. If I hadn’t been sickened by the Myconid, perhaps I would have run off, shreiking, into the endless tunnels. Perhaps I would, even now, be lying, neck-broken, at the bottom of some surprise ravine. The only thing I could focus on was Lombuck in front of me and Lady Dey behind me, at the end of the line. We were roped together, in pairs, with only Cap and Lady Dey free to roam, protecting the group. She had her own gift, Deyza did. She was granted an amulet that let her see as a bat would. Some unheard tone from the amulet triggers the soundscape for her in her mind, and she can see as well as Cap can, or so I assume. I felt my rope tug and I took another careful step down. We were climbing down some escarpment, the rocks were full of rounded pockmarks, like climbing down a holey cheese, and I let my mind wander. When was the last time I heard someone speak? Had I ever even heard someone speak? Perhaps that was a dream too. Perhaps this is the afterlife, and I died from my fever, the Myconid spores devouring my nutrient-rich flesh. Perhaps this ordeal was my divine punishment, and I would never reach my destination.

Where were we going, anyway? I tried to recall.

Like my groping hands my mind could not find any purchase. The rope tugged me again, and my foot slipped, banging my knee and the fall jostled me against the rock, and I slammed my cheekbone into something pointy. Felt like someone hit me with a club. I could not help it and I cried out in pain.

My throaty yelp acquired wings and flew off into the darkness, bouncing and splashing, and I heard my weakness repeated a hundred times, as I dangled, scrabbling for a foothold.

Suddenly there were hands at my waist and I was guided downwards to touch rock, and only a few steps below that my feet touched the flat again. Lady Dey dropped down beside me, and I could feel the presense of all of them – Deyza, Cap and ‘Buck – and two things happened that I least expected:

Cap said, to me, “Its all fucked now, no need to be stealthy anymore. Gear up. We don’t have much time.”

and

Light exploded into the darkness. The light of all lights. The first light of the universe could not have been more terrifying and beautiful. It was too divine to gaze up for many minutes, but I could see its glow behind my eyes and I knew, I remembered, that it was the safest place to be, in its warms arms. Light. The sweetest gift.

We were in a relatively open area of caverns. Having just descended a 50′ cliff from some crack near the ceiling of this massive chamber, we were huddled at its base and Cap was on one knee, running his finger over a drawn tangle of string that he said was a map of this place, but that couldn’t be right, because there were no maps of this place.

Like a thunderbolt it hit me. That was why they were here – To find some ancient place that was said to contain maps and information about a huge section of the Under. More things came back, names and code words, too much to sort into any cohesive picture, but the sense was that what they were doing was a noble and grand effort, but the details were still fuzzy. Maybe if I spend more time in the Light, the Angel Against Darkness, maybe if I spent more time in Her holy presence, then more will come back to me.

The Captain was no longer talking, but was still on one knee, nodding to Lady Dey. Whatever they were saying, I couldn’t tell. Its not that I didn’t understand them, its just that whatever noises they were making didn’t matter, not in the great grand scheme of things. What could compete with the silent mercy that is the Song of The Light Queen? She who provides and she who banishes – All hail her divine mercy and tremble in fear! Who could deny Her?

Cap said something to me and I understood him as I would understand an animal that wanted some token gesture from me, and so I smiled at him and patted him on the head. My equipment was sharp and oiled. My warheads were quickly and quietly unpacked. Cap wanted to play old soldiers, and I had brought my toys. Buck was in an archer’s stance, and I smiled to watch him, so serious all the time. If anything were to attack us, Buck would see them long bef—

The world had suddenly plunged back into night. I was blind once again, and I cried out in denial and shouted for the Queen to show herself to me, but she didn’t answer, but my companions did and I realized, with horror, that we were under attack.

It is hard to explain the dance of death that you learn when you pick up the sword. The long and deceitful perambulations around the fields of battle, worldwide. To fight, and win, one must throw away the idea that victory and defeat are the end results, and believe that the dance is what matters. Even in utter darkness, I could fight. It was going to be difficult to trust one’s ears in this close prison of rock and echoes, but what difference did that make? The dance must be joined, and I so I twirled into line.

Whatever had set upon us was fast. I could hear them above and around me. They did not stop to take a tactical choice, but rushed about on instinct, it seemed to me. That gave me some hope that we might be able to drive them off through attrition or outright fear. The Queen of Light had refused to join the fray. My heart burst for her love, and I was sure that I was blubbering war ballads in her name while I stepped the deadly dance, so lost did I feel in her absence. My blade caught 4 times on some warm flesh. I heard no death crys or rattles, but only the sound of pistoning flesh struggling with death. I believe I tripped over a severed tail at one point. I do not know how long we fought but suddenly the Divine Radiance burst forth again and I fell to my knees in gratitude. I looked to my companions and Cap and Deyza looked rough. They were breathing hard and covered in gore and sweat. It was clear they had done most of the fighting. Chicane, poor Chic, was dead. Her throat chewed out and the look on her face was one of utter surprise. Lombuck was pale. He was holding his arm and blood was freely flowing from multiple places on his body, mostly his legs. I was dimly aware of some injuries to myself, bite marks most likely, but Buck’s staggering form was all I could see. I ran to him.

Lady Deyza shoved me aside and prayed to Vilkata for her divine touch to aid Buck’s recovery, but nothing happened. Maybe the Fecund Lady could not hear our prayers so far underground. Maybe Dey had forgotten a sacrifice. Whatever the reason, Buck shivered and gasped his last with the three of us crowded around him. His last vision, our worried and crinkled faces. I felt something inside me wriggle. Deep down. Forgotten. It wiggled and spasmed. I felt it take its first breath.

The Queen of Light had delivered me from torment and damnation. Rescued me from my own devious devices and kept me from kissing the dancing mad god on the mouth. She Who Shines is the Most Holy and High. That much Truth was known to me. I had cried out in supplication when she tested me. Had my faith wavered, just a touch, during the Return to Darkness?

No.

No?

No. Not possible. But then…

Chic and Lombuck died. Because of me? Because of my lack of faith? Because I didn’t trust Light over the Darkness?

Something inside me snapped. I felt it.

In front of the others, with tears of rage in my eyes, I pledged my sword, tip down in the dirt, to serve the Lady of Light for all time, no matter the manner of my death, even beyond, I would serve her and banish darkness wherever I could! I would carry her light into the darkest places and fear no evil! I would never let shadow outweigh the light!

So I was born, Sir Preston Oliver. Lightbringer.

 
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Posted by on July 18, 2017 in D&D Fiction

 

The Compact

My name is Al’Rishi Makban. I was born on the road through the Great Forest in Gemseed in the year 1020 by the Astronomer’s reckoning, and was the child of a trader’s family. I do not remember my early years, but I have been told that my father’s trade was lucrative, selling goods to the forest elves and shipping their exquisite hand-crafts back to the Shining City.
I was pulled from my murdered mother’s hands by raiders of the Army of the 99 Monkeys, slavers from Galron who plied the southern trade roads, and had gotten more bold in the years since the iron grasp of Rega’s distant Emperor had faltered. I was taken into the city.

Can I not make this more clear to you?

I was taken into Galron. Into the city of Shrouds. The Blot. The Pirate’s Hellcove! The Stained city!

Into Galron, at 4 years old. Need I shout it? What more can I say? You say I am guilty? I am of nothing but walking the path the Ten set before me! No I will not sit down! Look at my face! Look at my body! Look what my faith has done to me! Look damn you!

I wear the Changes, not you! I have seen the Truth! Why will you not listen! The Hellkin are coming! The Compact is a joke! I saw hundreds, maybe thousands of gate anchors being tuned! I am NOT mad!
Listen to me! They are coming! Why won’t you listen?!

4 mail-fisted guards slammed the prisoner back into the dock, and their fingers ground his shoulders and neck cruelly, making the wretch cry out in pain and he cursed them for their stupidity.

The judges gollicked amongst themselves, too low for the Council to hear, but the high domed chamber scattered the judges words into bouncing moments of sound that confused the ear and Rama Kadam learned forward in his seat, frowning, staring at the prisoner, who was still writhing under the guards heavy hands. The king, one of ten presiding over this State Trial, had known Makban since he came to the Shining City of Akbar when he was 16, a broken boy, confused, angry, and unfit for society as he was then. The reports open in his lap said the man was scooped out of the Circumscribing Ocean after a naval battle with one of Galron’s many Raider fleets.

The enemy fleet was destroyed and survivors were always picked up as a matter of tactical necessity, not that Galronian prisoners often talked much, but the practice was sound strategy. The boy was found and his obvious Ashaarian ancestry marked him out for return to Akbar, and his family was found, overjoyed to discover he still lived, many aunts uncles and cousins, and they celebrated, as is proper.

He was scarred. Physically and emotionally, that was obvious to all, even his rescuers had many words to say about his behavior in the weeks it took to return.

He had 4 large scars on his back, perhaps a dozen on his legs, some quite deep and still shiny pink. His arms were nearly devoid of unscarred flesh. It appeared that a madman had made many thousands of cuts on the boy’s arms, top, sides and bottom, but not into his armpits and not on his hands. He was asked why and said “mister crazy”, or maybe “Mister Crazy”, it was never discovered.

His ribs had been broken multiple times, and had healed badly. His back was scarified with cuts, welts, pins and other broken metal pieces were pierced through his flesh. A fat iron ring adorned the back of his neck.

He would not talk about this, to anyone, and one time it was touched by a young cousin, and Makban beat her with his fists, screaming “FUCK YOU MAG! YOU’RE DEAD! FUCK YOU!” before he realized the young, bloody girl bawling on the floor in front of him was not his first “mother” inside the city of Shrouds, and when he did realize, he stalked away, and said nothing to his cousin Ama on the floor, and never apologized later, saying only that he was no dog, and no one touches him.

His ears were sliced into 4 segments along the lobe. They had been stained ochre and individually pierced with what the boy claimed were pigeons wingbones.

A punishment he said, but not for what crime.

His head was bald and was slightly dented in 3 places; along the back above the neck, above the left ear, and high up on the forehead on his right side. This last one was deep, throwing shadow into his gaunt face.

 

His cheeks had been pierced at one point, with something large, but the holes had closed, leaving two puckered rents, and his chin was stained, perhaps permanently with a vivid red dye, the boy did not know how he acquired it or what it signified, and had no idea of its source, and a solvent was never found. Even now it could be seen, even through the prisoner’s wild, patchy beard.

His genitals were not normal. He was missing one testicle and the sack had been badly stitched, and it hung awkward and ill-sized. His genitals had been badly burned by some chemical and he said he felt pain when he passed water.

The rest of him was malnourished, over-stressed and fatigued. His mental state was one of someone who had seen horrors that cannot be described fully. His appearance alone conjured images in the old king’s mind that were quickly traded for sympathy for this broken man.

Yes he had broken the Compact. “But we took him in and we set him on his path”, the king thought. He touched Lightbringer, the sword at his side and sent this thought to the Avatar of Basage, Lady of Compassion, and felt the tingling surge of the Avatar’s response, an agreement, and the king, Rama Kadam of the Circle of Swords, raised his voice in protest of the prisoner’s treatment, ending with “or are we here to decide the fate of this man that many have dubbed, the betrayer? Make a choice, my fellow councilors and honorable judges. We are here to hear his tale, whatever it may be, and then decide our course of action with clear minds and full knowledge. Silence him now and what use is this trial? Throw him to the Pits now, I say, and be done with it, or perhaps we could continue and find the truth!”

The council chamber, known as Thingmoot Hall, rolled with sound after this pronouncement, most of it positive and many agreements were shouted in support. No one disagreed. The remaining nine Ramas of Akbar all urged the esteemed judges to let the prisoner continue without martial interference, but also cautioned Makban to keep himself under control or he would be fitted with restraints for the duration of the proceedings.


Rama Kadam awoke with a shout. The dream melted away

Today was the day of the trial.

He sprinted for his armor and weapons, shouting for his servants to attend him.

 
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Posted by on July 18, 2017 in D&D Fiction

 

Roguesongs – Tales from Galron

Roguesongs – Tales from Galron

This probably won’t make much sense to anyone, but I’m going to post it anyway.

There’s a city in my world where all of the thieves and assassins come from.

I was sleeping a few days back when I felt a knife at my throat and this gravelly voice in my ear said, “Wake up, maggot. Time to write.”

So I did.

There’s a lot of what feels like Thieves Cant in these. Can’t be certain I understand it all either. I do know that “Mok” is what passes for Thieves Cant in Galron. And that “Becky” is his bow. That’s all I know.

I just did what the man told me.


Atop the windward passage,

zipping razorwire nearly takes

my head.

Leftwards

a twing! Sends me

diving

for

the floor and

I

tumble, praying

Old Man Shifty

knew his stuff. And then a breath!

And I’m free –

Lighter and heavier for my troubles.

-Would not have it any other way


 

The

shaft

slicks

southwards,

luring

me

with

Cannot.

Will not.

Laughter tumbles, scampering

into silence, spilled

from my lips;

descending.

quiescent

and fast – like the bug.

Drop down, top down

Becky up, her back bent

Nothing but drip

drip

drip

I look moonwards

through the mocking cylinder

I’m in.

I’m dust and shadows

I begin. Now.


They call it a

Banghammer.

I call it 18 seconds that could

be better spent

suppressing that glyph on

the west wall that I

know the old wizard stuck there

not

long

ago.

When it’s down I hustle quick

no time for this and that.

I’ve got business with the master.

His guards are lax, his defences

laughable

and the next thing you know –

CLICK


Jewels.

They’re pretty.

But I prefer something

a bit

more

portable.

Power works nicely and never

clashes with my custom-gripped

poison-fang Takma-forged daggers.

or take Becky. She makes

any man look good, ‘specially when

she’s bent

and

ready to pop.

Arrows are her kisses and damn ain’t she sweet?

Gems in my pocket, time to beat feet. Power comes

later, down on Muckleknife Street.


Cinched up tight and descending

herky

jerky

(Apprentices….)

Quickstop! (clenched fist)

Darkness fades and bootheel beginnings

I’m dangle bound

and need to piss. (Is that a sneeze?)

The watch reveals in tintype lightern

Oh great…a grell-mutant


Windswept parapet,

three dead rogues.

Arrowshot, ribshot, damn soggy boots.

Shuffleclutch half-slips, pocketful of cash.

Tumble-drop crunchflop, on the sand at last.

The kid looks grim as the cliffs fade back. And my guts, they scream,

but my pockets burn

Twilight in bedlam


Whisperquick down midnight sneak line

stop

drop and peep

Six stories up – all fast asleep

Safe and satchel, diamond and gold.

Greedy grabquick, feelin’ so bold.

Crouch, stash, feet for the line

I’m out, wind’s up –

just in time.


Fenny Fennick feeds me a line

Moll-wretch, rat-fuck, swiller of swine.

his do’s always stink,

too many shitheels in a line.

I nod and scull the small beer and drop Fenny

a wink, and quick as a flash, that rat’s dead

and I order another drink.

 


 

So Vinnie Sly’s gots this

cousin who’s down on the Glide

messed up, trashed out, mecha-head high.

He copped a sweet sniff

of some dooners

trading greenJack for 30 big

come Saturday –

I’m in.

Suckers come in

I’m flyball up high

scope the whole rundown

then drop and say hi.

The blast takes out 20 –

Becky drop half

head up, feet down, the twins

snicker-snack – that’s the rest.

Beatwatch heard the tussle and I

pull my uprip,

I’m out and pissed off. Too many

down and not enough Crowns.

 


I slide over to Slinky’s to get

the lowdown on Gowdy –

(sheckleshackle rumdum dandy)

1000 crowns could come in handy.

“What He’d do to get the Guffy?”

Slink shoots “Doubletap”

and my gullet slips, quickflip.

”How long’s the paper? Who inked the spot?”

Slink slides slyways, drops

silentquick into the mok and spits,

“Drum-the-Quick, but unTalk

paints the page –

word dropped from Owl Town,

from Dunson Moor.”

His eyes dart quick, dobs his bog

with a slick pink

and burps, “Highgate, the

Markslock and some say, the

Shadow — All hunt Gowdy.”

I ponder and chumble for a miff,

chewing mindscapes,

and then drop

“If Gowdy ain’t got the guff in 1

moon, paint the paper at

doublepay and

spread it round that I dropped the ink.”

Ol’ Slink ain’t no fool, and his mok

is better than most’s, and he just

cackle

and drop me a wink –

and in 40 day Ol’ Slink got his

gullet up when Gowdy’s head

showed up!


Rimble timble thunder

rain splots my brow

rikkitik on the tinshed dwarfs all but its own voice.

N’er no mind I’m watching Crag Street

and all that that implies.

Underneath the drumroar I heard a

knuckle two-drop on the tinshed wall.

I smile, drop a nod as Onedrake Mason joins me in the roar.

Drake’s a cold-heart,

he’s no way-back from the hill,

he’s a fresh blooded

unwalker,

stank of meat and blood and I’m

about to roll into Crag Street

(into the mouth of)

with no moon,

with this crazy unwalker,

this unfuck, this eater of bones,

with no moon.

Becky’s back at the squat.

Useless to me in this waterfall

I’ve got the twins, that’s all.

Crag Street. Showtime.

Who’s got my back?

Me.


I’m squat down in Plotz corner –

two blocks down Dogshit way.

Talking grift with Dick the Dale,

laughin’ and jawin’ for a change.

Shoulda known shadow wouldn’t

leave me be.

iced up ‘hoppers come smashing

lookthroughs all over Dick’s joint,

jibberjibe and beeblesqueek tears

the air with blab, tossing unfocus

yowls.

I spit a fouling mok and let Becky

strut her stuff.

The dale’s all afume – murderous

hatchet athwack with ‘hopper

meats-and-scrim

He’s bellowing hotflack, the ‘hops

are screechik-blare, and I’m

laughing at how

much fun I’m having down in

Dogshit and can I come again?

 
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Posted by on July 18, 2017 in D&D Fiction

 

The Well – A Villain’s Tale

The Well – A Villain’s Tale

Regulfa cursed in Gagok, a foulness that drove the half-dozen altered minions around him back several steps in fear, some of them rapidly aging, and one unfortunate slave became permanently blind upon hearing the Infernal Tongue.

The ancient and powerful wizard cursed again, in plain Common this time, and nearly swept the scrying-glass from its unnaturally carved pedestal in the centre of the Temple of Abohar.

He turned to the room’s other occupant and spat, “The glass is dark, Light curse them, they have prepared the Well with trappings of harmonic magicks, and I cannot get through. They have a wizard with them, one who could bring us down if we do not caution ourselves further against idiotic mistakes and slack discipline!” He broke down into phlegmy coughing, a hacking jag that left him purple-faced and gasping.

A tall man stepped down from one of the ossified reclining ramps that leaned grotesquely against the many pillars of bone that supported the great roof of the Temple and walked out of shadow to give the old wizard a reluctant arm.

The tall man was stunningly ugly, his face deformed in long and deep slices, the scars forming ridges in the flesh and the cuts had been stained black by the ichor of some running-dark beast. This garish striping was further enhanced with short, horizontal pins piercing the ridges in a ladder-like fashion. Upon the pins, at close view, were fine engravings written in the Unspeakable tongue, dread curses upon the enemies of the Blood Lord, Abohar of-the-Pits.

His clothes were simple and dreadful to gaze upon. The tanned hides of his enemies served as garments and were unadorned by symbol or ornament, and they had their own luminescence, a smeary half-light of greys and greens. Only a single long blade in a grey scabbard hung at his waist, the pommel large enough for a two-handed grip, but the blade no longer than a footman’s short sword. This was one of the igbuyuk, the joybanes, the masterwork swords of the Murder Lord’s elite warriors.

His feet were bare and wrapped in thick barbed wire, the wounds did not bleed but instead fed the spirit-imps that were ritualistically bound to the man’s cruelly-bound feet.

When he spoke it was with a measured pace, as if each word were being considered before being voiced. His timbre was even and low, not unpleasant to the ear, despite his frightening appearance. He said to Regulfa, “The only mistakes we have made here, magician, was involving outsiders in Temple business. You keep forgetting your place. You are not an equal here, nor will you ever be, you are g’ahb’ahk, outlande—“

A new voice broke in, powerful and commanding, “That is enough! Your sword is needed here, G’ulnaggh’k, not your miserable tongue! Do not forget that Master Regulfa is the reason we even know about the Well, and your insults only waste time when the enemy is in our midst!”

The new speaker strode into the centre of the chamber where the clouded scrying-glass swirled mutely and G’ulnaggh’k stepped back a respectful two paces and crossed his thumbs under his chin, his fingers splayed up and outwards, his head bowed and he dropped his arms and murmured, “Your will, Dread Flayer Valmock, of course.”

Valmock stared at him, his grotesquery even more pronounced than the arrogant young warrior before him. He said “Your apologies to Master Regulfa” and nodded at the wizard, now fully composed and his face a normal, healthy shade of green.

G’ulnaggh’k turned towards the wizened goblin spell-weaver and spoke through clenched teeth, his fury at this insult nearly consuming him, “Please forgive me, Honoured Master, for my loose tongue.”

At this the old wizard smiled and nodded and Valmock said, “It is forgotten. We have work to do.”

The Dread Flayer strode to the glass and started to ask Master Regulfa what he had seen when G’ulnaggh’k broke in rudely, saying “The glass is curtained or so says our wizard, it seems the enemy has sorcerers of their own.”
Valmock tipped an eyebrow at Master Regulfa who was lighting his pipe with a brand from the room’s massive fireplace. The old goblin muttered through the smoke, “Yes, yes, a wizard of some power, able to block my scrying attempts, but that does not indicate any real power, as this glass is flawed and has been for many centuries, but it is one of the last and we are lucky to have it, cracked or no. It may still be of some use to us, and I spent many hazardous weeks in the wilds procuring it, and I say the risk was worth it.”

He puffed hard for a moment or two, the pipe guttering, and then the coals leaped into heat, and he continued, punctuating each half-sentence with hard pulls on the grimy bone pipe.

“We have seen the enemy and we know his numbers if not his true disposition. They are a small band, three or four warriors led by the usual hero-for-hire type. There is a deluded one with them, one of the simpering cowards of Barlok, Lord of the Road. There is another with them, whose figure was blurred to the Sight. He must be the wizard who thwarts the glass. We will see more later, of that I am sure. The Well does have certain uses after all.”

Valmock allowed the old wizard a half-grin, his chiselled and pattern-stained teeth winking through his pale and pinned lips. He said, “This magic-user must be Guild-sent, to travel with such a pack of coin-bought scum. Or perhaps he has come at the will of the Silver City, the p’ahta’k warriors who ever wage war against our noble cause.”

G’ulnaggh’k interjected, “The paladins would never seek to destroy our temples so far from their homes, surely? We have not had ships from the realms in these waters for over a century! They must be mercenaries, nothing mo—-“

The young warrior’s words tapered off and died as Valmock glared at him, his eyes narrowing to slits of pure malice. G’ulnaggh’k swallowed hard and murmured “Forgive again my interruption, Dread Flayer.”

Valmock stared at him for a moment or two and then hissed, “You have been away from the Temple for too long, Slayer G’ulnaggh’k, and your manners have fled. If I hear your insolence again, I will drop you in the Stirge Pits myself! Do you understand?!”

G’ulnaggh’k whispered, “Your will, Dread Flayer.”

Master Regulfa chuckled through his pipe smoke and said, “The boy thinks that they are coin-swords and I am inclined to agree. The Silver City does not know of this place, or else we would be knee deep in Lightbringers as we speak! We must destroy these interlopers of course, but I wonder if they could still be of use to us. There is the matter of the Guardian, after all.”

Valmock stroked his savaged chin, fiddling with the razor wire that pierced his flesh in many places, as a stitched thread through cloth. He did this for many minutes, nodding to himself. Regulfa puffed and hummed and G’ulnaggh’k did nothing. He stood stock still, staring at the blood-encrusted floor and ticked off dozens of revenge scenarios that ended with the death of these two old fools and his own ascent to power.

Valmock left off from his musings and said, “The Guardian, yes. We still do not know its true nature, but no doubt it is formidable. The Black Hand of Takma were wise and clever. They would not leave the Dagger guarded by just any hell-spawn, no. This beast must be defeated by our minds as well as our weapons. Perhaps, Master Regulfa, you are correct. These intruders could be our weapons, while we stay here and use our minds.”

He turned to G’ulnaggh’k and said, “Alert your team. They are to pull out of the Well and take up blocking positions in ambush. After the intruders defeat the Guardian they can be disposed of at will. See to it.”

G’ulnaggh’k started to sputter. His men, his elite troops were to be used as mere watchers? They were the best of the best. Each had defeated a Silversword warrior of the City of Light in single combat and each could boast of having spent thirty days and thirty nights unarmed and unequipped in the Wilds of Aka-Na. This was an insult that could not, would not be forgiven nor forgotten. G’ulnaggh’k bowed and muttered, “Your will” and turned on his heel, rapidly stepping out of the Temple proper.

As the door boomed behind the young warrior, Master Regulfa chuckled again and said, “They are all like that, are they, Valmock? Insolent to the point of rebellion? I saw his fingers twitch for the sword at his hip. He wanted to kill you.”

Valmock himself now laughed. “Yes, but who doesn’t? Power is not taken easily in our faith, nor held onto for long if fear were not the primary tool. Young G’ulnaggh’k will do as he’s told and he will dream of revenge, but he will never again get close enough to harm me. Let us turn our thoughts to more pressing matters, now. I believe you said you had some plan to break the enchantments on the chamber that housed the Dagger of Akali?”

Master Regulfa nodded and pulled some rolled parchments from a bag that lay at the foot of the scrying-glass dais. He said, “Yes, as you can see, the chamber lies two levels below the Well and it is here that my research has gone cold. The records from the end of the Age of Darkness are mostly lost, as you well know, but from what I have been able to glean, there are powerful sigils guarding the door to the Dagger’s chamber. These were set in place after the Chaos Wars to protect the artefact against future need.”

Valmock nodded and said “Yes I remember seeing the war diaries of Lord K’aal’asha before I left Takma and there were some tantalizing references to the nature of these protections, but of course, I am no scholar and did not have time to study them fully.”

Regulfa was repacking his pipe from a worn and stained leather poke. The weed was a chocolate brown and smelled of earth and dung. As he tamped it down, he said, “I have not seen the diaries, of course, but I did find a reference to a protective sigil that was created by Lord K’aal’asha’s vizier, a magic-user of some power. This sigil seeks out that which the mind fears the most and creates a spectre that torments the afflicted until he either flees or drops dead from sheer terror.”

Valmock’s eyes gleamed at the mention of this and he said only “How deliciously horrible.”

Regulfa grunted in assent and continued, “Yes, quite effective too, from what I’ve read. But there is no way of knowing whether this sigil is part of the layers of protection on the Chamber. There is simply no way of knowing what is down there until we can actually see it for ourselves. But since we have decided that our … visitors … will be of some use, I have a plan. It is possible to cast a modified form of Wizard’s Eye on one of the group that will allow us to see what they see as they see it.”

Valmock again looked surprised. This old wizard was even more clever than he realized. He would have to be killed after this was all over, of course, and it was a pity to lose such knowledge, but the old goblin simply knew too much of their future plans and was too much of a threat. He covered his surprise by saying “That would be incredibly helpful, but won’t you have to actually go to the Well and get close enough?”

Regulfa grinned, his rotten teeth the same shade of green as his skin. “No. If I can get the glass to work again, I can cast the augury through it. Simple.”

Valmock nodded once and said, “Very well. Then let’s see if this glass of yours is cooperating again.” He lent a steadying arm to the old wizard and they slowly made their way across the Temple floor, to where the ancient scrying glass stood upon its dais.

 
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Posted by on July 18, 2017 in D&D Fiction

 

A Noble’s View

A Noble’s View

When I first arrived in the city, the first thing that hit me was the smell. Godsdamn, the smell of it all. Untold multitudes surrounded by those grimy high walls, keeping the filth in, the stink saturating the very stones the city was built on.

Pigs shit, cow shit, dog shit, cat shit, people’s shit, horse shit, sheep shit, bird shit, rat shit, rotting garbage, sour milk, spoiled meat, old vomit, stagnant dirty water, moldy middens, old rancid piss from the tanners, the sharp acrid overlays from hidden laboratories and rogue alchemists wafting on the smoke-befouled winds made your eyes water and your tongue burn. I gagged, and turned to my companion who had led me here, like an innocent calf to the slaughter, and she smiled at me, eyes shining and had the audacity to say, “We’re here! Isn’t it magnificent?”

The Merchants Guild owned some 60% of the city’s interests in both infrastructure and retail establishments. They were a powerful, arrogant lot, pushing legislation through the weak government of King Las’s illegitimate nephew, Duke Marst, and the prices in the city were criminally high. Corruption of this stranglehold on the economy was present everywhere we went. There was a fee to enter the city, fair enough, that’s common enough practice. Usually entrants pay by the head or the wheel, whichever is higher, but the Gate Watch stopped us and demanded we declare our possessions so that they could be taxed! Can you imagine?! I suffered the indignity in silence, fuming at being jabbed by my companion when I started to protest this outrageous and shameful practice, but the look she gave me chilled my blood and I knew that I was among hard men, who would tolerate no foolishness.

Not only were our incoming goods taxed, but were we informed that any large purchases made within the city limits would be taxed on the way out! This was too much! I stomped my foot to get their attention and was about to give them a lecture on the economic realities in a Fiefdom as poor as this one, but my dear companion, sweet and kind soul that she is, pushed me away like a common drunk and told me to “Shut up and keep moving”! What choice did I have in the face of such boorishness?

A young urchin boy, grimy with filth and stinking of something wet and rancid, dared to tug my sleeve and ask me if I wanted a buy a street map. I was about to tell him what I thought of his business acumen if he thought I wanted a souvenir of this wretched place, when dear Wendy, my blessed and wise companion shooed him away and spoke harshly to him, and the boy ran off, shouting some obscenity no doubt, but I was distracted by her warnings to “Never give dosh to a muddie. They is all rogues and would just as quick knife ya as steal yer purse.” I protested. “But he’s just a boy!” She gave me that shark’s grin again, the one I was growing to hate, and said, “There are no boys, here, boyo, only predators…” and her grin widened, “and prey. Don’t be prey, Mister Stitch. I don’t like cleaning up afterwards.”

I kept a record of the bills we accrued in that horrible place. Itemized are all expenses, including arbitrary government fees that I will be bringing up to Lord Scathis at next month’s open Court, mark my words, this aggressive taxation is a blight upon any decent citizen of the realm!

  • Entry Fee to City: 5 silver pieces
  • Import Tariff: 1 gold piece and 7 silver pieces (for perfume, a large cache of wine, a few personal possessions that do not need to be named, and my rapier and dueling buckler)
  • Food and drink (4 day total): 11 gold pieces and 1 silver piece.
  • Lodging: 20 gold pieces (5 gp/day)
  • Weapon License: 3 gold pieces and 2 silver pieces (8 sp/day)
  • Visitor’s Pass Extension: 1 gold piece
  • Gate Fee (entrance into Lower City): 5 silver pieces
  • Purchase of Narcotics (1000 tablets): 35 gold pieces
  • Purchase of Alchemical Concoction: 15 gold pieces
  • Gate Fee (re-entrance into Western City): 1 gold piece
  • Bridge Fees (to cross into/from Royal Gardens): 1 gold piece
  • Bribes to Watchmen: 15 gold pieces
  • Export Tariff: 3 gold pieces and 4 silver pieces (double the import tariff for the same goods. The bribes got my Lower City purchases overlooked and untaxed)

The Merchants in town were bold, sarcastic scoundrels. They acted as if they could operate with impunity in this renegade economic model, and the damn bastards were right! They could!
We visited a curio shop, my vain hope that I could find something of quality to take home to my beloved Esperanz, but the only place we could find was a dim and dusty relic, with knock offs and trash crowding the filthy shelves. Cobwebs draped every corner and the light was thin and the air greasy with tallow smoke.

The proprietor was nowhere to be found. Not even perched on a broken stool behind some sad counter, as I expected. Instead we found a hand-lettered board, weathered with age and hard to read some of the crumbling words.

  • Dolls: 2 sp
  • Dishes: 3 cp
  • Books: 1 sp
  • Clothes: Man – 4 sp, Woman – 3 sp
  • Lanterns: 9 sp
  • Shoes: 8 cp
  • Candles: 2 cp for 12
  • Sewing Kits: 5 cp
  • Cooking Pots: 1 sp
  • Utensils: 2 cp each
  • Toys: 1 sp
  • Chests: 1 gp
  • Furniture: 5 gp
  • Decorative Items: 1 sp
  • Vases: 8 cp
  • Hand Tools: 5 sp
  • Gadgets: 2 sp

I was aghast. Nothing here would suit my beloved’s delicate tastes. Why did I even think of coming in here. As I picked my way through the begrimed contents, I was taken aback by the sounds of shouting coming from the streets. Many angry voices seemed to be coming closer to me, and I wanted to shrink into the shadows but I was undone by the filthy wares on display, blocking my retreat.
Dear Wendy was soon at my elbow and she laughed and said “It’s just the boys comin back from the Goblinball match – gorram Lions lost again. You aren’t a Bears supporter are you?” I stared in horror. I knew she was speaking the King’s Common, but the words didn’t make sense in the order she was using them. I found it best to reply in the negative when Wendy asked similarly nonsense questions, so I did the same in this situation and remained mute, all the while drunken loud men streamed past the shop shouting variations of “Kildebares!” or some other local slang, who can say what these ruffians talk about when they aren’t stabbing one another in the street.

It wasn’t like this back home, let me assure you. 4 days in that place was long enough for me, thank the Gods I made it out alive!

 
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Posted by on July 18, 2017 in D&D Fiction