Monday, August 25, 2014

The Opposition Makes Ready For The Duel

 The beeswax dripped slowly down the side of the candle's cylinder, the inferior workmanship of the candle showed as the candle burned unevenly and the wick sputtered slightly, a result of imperfections in the wick that remained when the body of the candle was cast. The rivulet of wax slowly ran down
and puddled against the bottom and side of the candle, the inn keeper too cheaper or too poor to provide a candle holder for the candle. Another candle rested in a sconce near the door and there was a torch which had been placed in a holder when the group had entered the private room and it guttered and smoked, its tallow-soaked head spitted and flamed, fouling the air. The atmosphere would be unbreathable shortly if a window wasn't opened but it was cold outside in the dawn's light.

From the shadows, a bony hand reached forward and grasped the barrel, tilting the candle so its flame heated the opposite side of the barrel of the candle top and the flame loomed with its increase in fuel. The top of the candle leveled out and the glowing eyes in the shadow narrowed in a squint of approval as the candle was placed back down on the table next to the puddle that had formed. As the hand was pulled back, the ring on the third finger, a blood-red garnet set in a golden setting ring with small chips of onyx, flamed in the gleam of the light.

There were three men around the table at present. The first man was the second for the duel who was preparing the details of the engagement. He was dressed in fine clothes, a velvet green tabard, nicely crafted leather boots and carried a rapier and small sword in his waist belt. His purse was full with silver and a few small jewels and he felt capable of preparing all of the myriad details. The second had prepared for duels in the past but never such a big event before. The public was already talking about the event, vendors were already beginning to gather selling fruit and meat cakes, sugar-candies and sweet-plums and dueling dolls. There was already talk among the plungers and high-rollers of the town as to who they wanted to who they wanted to bet upon. Many of the sharps were placing their smart silver on Randal but there was a growing trend in some of the more informed players shifting their silver and in some cases, even gold, over onto the blade of the Red Ghost, who ever that was. Maybe he should do a little research prior to the duel? He was a partner of Randal and respected him. A little, maybe. But just in case maybe he should shift a bet or two.

The next man was Randal. Dressed for the duel in a flowing linen shirt, he wore knee-high boots with a low heel and carried a low-cost saber across his lap, resting upon the leather jacket and cap he had removed for the meeting. He slowly stroked the edge of the saber with a lap-stone but this saber was not the one that would be carried for the duel. Those were being delivered by special courier who was riding in from Kirkenhold from the forges of Ovir Garbig of the Bear Clan, a master Dwarven sword smith. 600 silver had been put up for the blades and another 50 for the rider to deliver them and he hadn't seen them yet but they should be here before noon, he hoped. The time of duel had not been set but noon was traditional for a public duel.

“What is known of this Red Ghost adventurer?” Randal scoffed. “What is known of him and his skill?” Randal tossed his lap-stone onto the table and took a big drink of the tankard of ale that sat in front of him. Foam from the tankard frothed onto his upper lip and he dragged his hand across, wiping the foam with his shirt sleeve. He flicked the drops on the back of his wrist to the floor and looked into the darkness toward the third person.

“Over-confidence can cause a lack of ability,” came a silky-smooth voice from out of the shadowy gloomy. There was a slight echo to the sound of the voice and the second and Randal looked at each other a little in fear as they tensed and Randal cleared the remaining beer from his throat.

“He does not concern me,” scoffed the belligerent. “I have been in many a duel. I shall slice the upstart into ribbons at the start and kiss El'lolu for him. He doesn't stand a chance. The odds are three to one in my favor to win.”

The shadowy figure leaned forward into the candle light and crossed his hands together, the garnet ring on his left hand picking up the candle light and flashing in an otherworldly glow that gave Randal and the second a loose feeling in their bowels. The second swallowed hard and settled back in his chair trying to move away from the figure as much as possible. The figure pulled his dark red sleeves back from his arms, his forearms bearing the cabalistic symbols of arcane tattoos, intricate patterns weaving magical legerdemain and black art. He pushed the sleeves back, freeing his forearms up to his elbows. The tattoos seemed to pulse with reflected candle light.

“Let us see what can be done,” intoned the shadowy figure with a slight chuckle, “to tilt the table in your favor.”

Friday, August 22, 2014

Two Copper Farthings and Some Gramerfa Seed Biscuits

In the morning of the duel, the streets were quiet. The City Watch insured that the streets were quiet. They moved to and fro, checking the stragglers and the street people wandering in the alleys and byways, the miscellaneous lumps under the new-fallen snow along the streets that hadn't shown movement since the last time they had walked past. One of Watch's spearman poked the lump to make sure it was still alive.

The lump, a blanket-cover waif wrapped into a ball around another small child, moaned in the dark and said, "Oh, leave off for a momem', will ya?" The watchman realized he recognized the boy and pulled back his spear haft.

"OK, Etto. Take it easy for a second," said the watchman. He dug into the pouch on his waist belt for a couple of copper farthings he had brought with him and tossed them into the snow next to the lump. They landed on the top of the snow and then the heat of the coins from the guard's body caused them to slowly sink into the snow, disappearing. A dirty hand, freckled with a few sores and stained with the dirt of the streets snaked out from the blanket holding the snow and dug for the two farthings. A litttle voice said, "Thanks, M'Lord. Many thanks. We'll get the wee 'un some soup," and a young man clad in rags and his feet wrapped in shredded shoes without socks carried a small bundle with legs and arms protruding as he sped off down the street toward an inn.  

"Ofev!" said the other watchman with the spearman. "We coulda got us a couplea tankards a beer wid dem coins!" Disdain and disappointment could be heard in his voice. Ofev looked up at the the other watchman and grinned a lopsided grin at him. 

"Ohh, you drink too much," Ofev said and throwing his cape around his shoulders for additional warmth, headed off down the street after the urchins. Only another hour  or so to go and his watch would be done and he could return home to his wife and the warmth of his bed. Hopefully, she was in a good mood and had baked a few cakes for sale at her shop she sold on the bottom floor and she would save one for him. Business had been good with the upcoming duel and Ofev hoped that maybe he would be picked for the ring of guards that would be selected by the sergeants to keep the peace and deal with any disturbances. The other watchman picked up his spear that leaned against the building and joined Ofev in walking down the street, trying to walk in his path. He wanted to keep the snow off his boots if he could. His boots were old and he would like to make them last another winter before he had to buy another pair. Or maybe tomorrow, his bet on Ranald would pay off. That Red Ghost guy can't be that good........ Or could he?


In the shadows across the street, the snow still falling settled upon the shoulders of a figure cloaked in black, the cloak lined in dark red, the hood covering his head and his steely eyes watching the City Watch as they moved off down the street after the young boy carrying the small child. His right hand relaxed somewhat upon the grip of his saber, although never completely. The street remained clear and there was no movement to be seen. He slipped out of the alleyway and moved silently across the street, his journey barely disturbing the new fallen snow so lightly did he tread.

The figure checked the doorways as he moved down the street and finally, he arrived at the doorway marked at chest height with a small sygal burned into the wooden doorway. There he tapped gently thrice, paused, tapped again a single time and then a single time again and waited for a response. He then heard a double tap from the opposite side of the door and raising his foot, he tapped the door twice low down on the bottom of the door. The door immediately opened and he slid through the partially opened threshold and pulled his cloak after him, allowing the door to be pushed closed behind him. 

Soft light illuminated the mud room into which he had entered and the young acolyte who had opened the door kept his head inclined, not looking at Hans' face, but stretching out his hands at his chest level. Hans drew his saber, still in its scabbard, the Drow saber infused with magic that Hans would never have relinquished in any other situation but felt comfortable doing so here, and he gently placed the saber into the hands of the acolyte, the hilt into the acolyte's right hand and the scabbard in his left, a sign of trust. Hans' small sword remained in his waist belt and his left hand shifted naturally to it. He was just as dangerous with the short sword as the saber.

The room was faintly lit, small candle lanterns lining the walls, and the skylights high on the walls allowed the parchment-covered windows to allow the little light from cloudy overcast outside to shine through into the smooth wooden polished practice. The floor was regularly scoured by three acolytes daily and polished on a weekly basis with a paste of giant Bumblebee's wax, starting at one end and spreading the wax, polishing it with lambs wool pads until it shine brilliantly. Cloth hangings with lettering in an ancient language hung from the walls, the language known to all but the men and women training at the school. Hans recognized the language as he looked about the room and even understood some of the words but the language, which had been long unused by Hans, was no long known.

"So I hear you have accepted a challenge, Hansbrecht?" came a soft voice behind him.

Despite Hans' improved senses, he had not heard the small man approach and he tried not to show any reaction. "It seem it was accepted for me," he sighed, "and it may be the result of a family blood feud, which leaves me little choice." He turned slightly and bowed deeply to the old man. He saw from the corner of his eye that the acolyte had taken his Drow saber and carried to the head of the room and, pulling a piece of linen out, wrapped the sword and laid the sword into a rack length and then bowed deeply to the rack and rising, turned and walked out of sight into the back of the hall leaving the two men alone.

"Come," said the old man. "Let us take some refreshment. I must teach shortly so we have a little time."

Hans offered his hand to the old man as a courtesy, although he knew that the man was in no way frail, though he looked to be nearly 100 years old. The man took Hans' offered hand, the fingers circling round his forearm, lightly squeeze against the muscles.
He led the two of them through a doorway into an anteroom to a bench and tables where a jug and two clay tumblers awaited on a woven tablecloth. A small plate of biscuits, frosted with gramerfa seeds, sat next to the pitcher. The old man took the pitcher as Hans sat and poured a tumbler with a portion of mulled wine and poured a small portion for himself. He seated himself next to Hans and gently clutched Hans' forearm.

"It is good to see you after all these years," he softly said. "I have followed your career with interest."

Hans' chin settled down onto his chest and he swallowed. Then he said, "I am humbled that you felt that I am important enough to note."

The noises on the street began slowly to grow through the parchment windows, the rumble of the delivery wagons, the calls of the barkers and the salesmen as they peddled their wares, the calls of the Ox-herders as they drove their teams on the street, the pop and crack of their whips. The old man sat quietly, absorbing all of the sounds of the morning, soaking everything in. The clang of a pot from the kitchen reached the men seated in the front. An acolyte's head peaked out at the end of the hall and then ducked back. The old man, his eyes closed as if asleep. smiled slightly.

"Inexperience," he said. Hans smiled back and nodded. He reached and took a bite of a biscuit. The biscuit was salty-tasting but the gramerfa seeds covering the top of the biscuit add a sweetness that contrasted the salt. Very tasty, thought Hans.

"Will you attend my duel later today?" he asked after chewing on the bite of biscuit thoughtfully and washing it down with a sip of red mulled wine. 

The old man sat thoughtfully, his arms resting on this thighs, hands folded gently together. He pursed his lips together slightly, choosing his words carefully. "I see that you carry a Drow blade now." A slight hint of disapproval tinged his voice. Drow blades were normally considered evil and rarely were used by persons such as Hans for good.

Hans cleared his throat carefully and said, "It was a gift in thanks for a boon. I was given it by the Archon of Pandera's Creed, the Magician's Guild of Asselin."

The old man sat quietly, contemplatively for a minute, then reached over for a biscuit and tucked it into his robe. "I love these biscuits, especially the ones with gramerfa seeds. You?" he asked rhetorically and without waiting for an answer, he stood and bowed again to Hans. "I must prepare for my class. You have a match to prepare for. I wish you success. Use the sword for good." He turned and silently padded out the back door of the room. 

Hans turned, a sound drawing his attention behind him, and he saw that an acolyte held his linen-wrapped sword out to him with its hilt toward his right, scabbard toward the left so the saber could be accepted in a position of readiness, a position of honor. Hans bowed slightly in response to the deep bow from the acolyte and accepting the saber with both hands, he slid the scabbard and sword with a practiced move into his belt sash, sliding his short sword back into its secondary position. Turning back to bid the old man goodbye, he saw that he was already gone.  So nine years were capped by 20 minutes. Was it enough?

Hans thought for a moment. I guess it was.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

The Preparations For The Duel - Or Haslo Makes A New Friend

The first snow of the winter season had fallen and Earlgard looked like a fairy castle coated with a white layer of frosting covering the buildings throughout the town, coating the shop stalls with a blanket of white. Towns people walked to and fro conducting their business in the early morning, shopkeepers brushing the snow off their awnings and welcoming their customers. Smoke curled from the chimneys of the inns that baked the early morning pastries for breakfast customers that managed to wade through the snow that the early morning dung-wagons had churned to mud as the snow fell, making their rounds and their noisome collections.

The human drivers slowly plodding with their horses down the middle of the streets and their Goblin helpers, inured to the odors, darting into the alleyways and byways and collecting the pots from the porches and dumping them in their buckets, sifting the matter through their fingers for the odd coin or piece of jewelry that might have accidentally or otherwise fallen into a slops jar or chamber pot. Then they careful haul their cargo out to the street and hopped into the back of the cart where an older Goblin swapped the full bucket for an empty one to the porter and after checking to insure that there remained nothing edible in the bucket he could scavenge for a snack, the canvas covering the large tub was hauled back and the full bucket was emptied into the great mass. Higher nobility houses always ensured that least once in a while, a silver Riyal or two made its way into a jar or was tied into a small bag attached to the jar for the Goblins. Much gibbering about and prancing accompanied the discovery of this type of bounty, even though the human wagon-masters took the wyvern's shares, a surplus always found its way into the Goblins loin purses and the late mornings were split with the caterwauls and laughter as the little gray-green minions imbibed in mulberry wine and cranberry tarts they bought at the backdoor at the lower class inns that would let them.

Haslo trudged down the street down toward the inn were he and Hans had been challenged by the stranger
the night before. He had talked with Hans afterward and although Hans was indifferent and welcome an early attack, Haslo had recommended that they wait until the enemy had dispersed and then they relocated to a sleeping lodge nearby to pass the night. Hopefully, they wouldn't be found there. Or, as Hans said, hopefully they would, and then he wouldn't have to hold back and worry about killing anyone. Haslo shrugged at Hans' cold-blooded nature. Perhaps it came from Hans' duelist nature and his many duels that he had been involved in the past. How many had it been, thought Haslo? Fifteen or twenty that he could think of. And how many other fights? Like the battle against the Giants and Hans' incarnation of the Legend of the Red Red Ghost? “Heeh,” he chuckled at the though at how confused the Giants had been. Hans loved his roll in that story.

As he crossed the street, crunching n the new fallen snow, one of the dung-wagons on its last trips up the street and two of its little gray-green workers huddled on the back. The driver glanced up at Haslo and muttered a greeting and a soft “Sorry, M'Lord” and flipped the corner of the large tarp covering the night soil tub back over his workers. Haslo paused as the odoriferous fumes wafted into the street and he held the roll he had been chewing up under his nostrils like posies during a plague to try and stifle the smell as the wagon trundled by, the driver clucking with his tongue at the old spavined horse but it set its own pace, which was slow.

Haslo watched as the wagon passed. He saw the corner of the tarp raise up and two pairs of orange eyes peer out from beneath. He looked up and down the street to check the traffic. Other than a vendor across the road and a few doors up, he saw no one. So he took the cinnamon and sugar-frosted roll he had been having for breakfast and, with unerring aim, whipped it side-handed into the hole where the Goblin eyes had lurked with a smile. The eyes vanished and the tarp immediately dropped and scuffling noise could be heard as a tussle ensued over the foodstuffs. The driver turned at the noise and whacked the lumps in the tarp with a stick and muttered “Quiet back there.”

Leaping over the wagon tracks in the street, he moved on down to the inn and walked through the doors, allowing his eyes to adjust to the dimness of the inn. He settled down near the back of the inn, knowing that he had gotten here early. His meeting for the duel was to happen at mid-morning and he really wanted to have breakfast. Last night's encounter had interrupted his dinner plans and he was ravenous. Haslo motioned to the man standing behind the serving bar for the board for fare. He stumbled over, still a little drunk from last night"s duty and sat down heavily on the bench across from Haslo with a loud belch.

“Morning, M'Lord.” he said with a gap-toothed smile. He scratched at his scraggly blond beard. A large scar marred his cheek from his chin to his left ear which pulled the skin down on his left eye and gave him a startled look on that side of his face. “If you want some breakfast, we've got toasted bread wid' budd'r and hard-boiled eggs. We's gots' some broiled donkey rump wid' plums lef' o'er from las' night. I can gib' dat to ya wid' some lef' o'er pears an' budd'r nuts that be mighty tasty. You can hab' some sea kale wid' it or some o' dem little onion-leeky things wid' oranges. I thin' they be da' last of the season.” He punctuated the rehearsed speech with a loud burp, a soft poof of flatulence, softly said “Ooops,” and scratched at his chin again. Haslo felt his appetite diminishing.

“I tries some of the Boiled eggs with toast and butter, please?” he said then watched as the bar-keep waddled crookedly back toward the rear of the inn stumbling slightly, his head thumping against the kitchen door, opening it ahead of him. “Oh, sweet El”Lolu,” he exclaimed as he clutched his head. “Toast u a couple of slices and gib' me some of dem' cackleberries,” as he stumbled through and the door swung behind him.

 Haslo pulled his gloves off and used them to swat the few flies still active. I guess they don't realize how the temperature has dropped, he thought. He worked a piece of the cinnamon roll with his tongue he had chewed on previously before he bestowed it on the Goblin dung-fetchers and savored it while he waited for his eggs and toast. He hoped that the eggs had not been boiled to hardness resembling diamonds.

He looked up at the sound of the doorway and was pleasantly surprised as a young woman dressed in light brown and white dress holding a tray of food and a pitcher and cups in the other hand used her ample hip to push against the door and then walked across the inn's main floor. She placed
the big tray on the table with a clunk. The tray was covered with a half-dozen large chicken eggs, a dozen slices of hearth bread, a ceramic crock of churned butter and a large slab of bacon that Haslo had not asked for but certainly wouldn't say ”No” to. The woman leaned over the table suggestively and pour beer into the glass in front of Haslo, the level rising until nearly overflowing. He held up his hand for her to stop and she did, flashing a dazzling smile, only flawed by a small piece of some vegetable matter lodge in her upper teeth.

The scraps of boots drew his attention and Haslo looked up at the entrance to the inn as five men entered, two men going to the right and left, covering the exit to the doorway and a third man crossing the main floor and strolling casually to the kitchen, effectively blocking exit from that door. Haslo noticed that the man rested his hand on his sword hilt and it slid the sword blade out slightly insuring its' freedom. A sign of experience, thought Haslo.

The other two men came across to table. One was the second that Haslo had seen bracketed by Braum and Testello last night. He didn't appear so brave then in the dark on the street on somewhat more equal terms then but seemed more composed now. His compatriot, also well-armed with a broadsword and small sword, settled next to the serving woman and set his hand on her thigh, leering a lop-sided grin at her, his beery breath already fouling the atmosphere this early in the morning. Liquid courage, thought Haslo, as he smiled at the second, who sat down across from him and made to reach for an egg on the plate. The dagger in Haslo's hand, which had been used to spread butter upon a slice of bread, flashed as it pinned the egg to the plate between the fingers of the second's hand, the edges slicing the man's glove. Gore leaked from one slashed finger and the second tugged against the blade but he was pinned by the tip that trapped the gloved fingers and the wooden plate through the table.

“Oow,” started the second as he tugged to free his hand. The third, seated to Haslo's left, moved his hand from the serving girl's thigh and reach to grab his small sword hanging on his belt. He rose as he drew the small sword and then, inexplicably, kept going as Haslo hooked his leg and pulled it toward himself under the table and up, tipping the man back and over as the serving wench connected with the pitcher of beer, shattering the pitcher. The man was unconscious long before his head struck the clay-packed floor strewn with debris from the night before.

The two men near the door took a step toward the table and Haslo twisted hard on the knife. The second said, “No. Oww, Oww,” and raised his hand. “No! Stop.” He half-rose from his feet in pain and pinched his upper lip in pain with the few bottom teeth he still had, the two men stopping.

“Those are my eggs,” said Haslo, and he nodded to the serving woman with a smile and flicked her 2 silver pieces. She leaned forward, tracking her target with a practiced eye and pulled forward her dress front allowing the two silver Riyals to plummet into the depths of her cleavage. She looked up and gave a sly smile.

“Umm. They're warm, M'Lord. Perhaps,” she said, “I might need some help finding them later.” she turned with a saucy spin to her hips and strolled back toward the kitchen, waiting for the man to get out of the way before she walked past him with a disdainful toss of her brown hair. The man looked over with a “What-Did-i-Say?” look on his face and shrugged his shoulders. She passed through the door and let it swing back, striking him in the buttocks, making him start.

“Now, let us begin,” Haslo said, pulling the dagger out of the table, freeing the second's fingers and flipping the egg impaled off onto the chest of the man stretched out on the floor, the white orb bouncing wit a splash in the puddle of beer across the floor and rolling across, coming to a stop against the boot of the man guarding the right side of the door. The guard scooped up the morsel and brushed off a few flecks of dirt and blood, shrugged his shoulders to his partner and popped it into his mouth with a satisfied grin of found food. He would have liked a beer to wash it down but he would have had to leave the door and his station.

Haslo took another egg and using the dagger, sliced it deftly in thirds and laid it out on the piece of toast. The second kept his eye on the flashing knife blade as Haslo took a bite and chewed it with satisfaction then washed it down with a swallow of beer. As the second sucked on the gash in his finger, Haslo set the toast daintily down on the plate and taking his napkin, used it to brush the small crumbs off his tunics then his lips and said, “Here are the conditions. The duel will be with full sabers. None of those cheap pieces of tin that you get at the marketplace. Go to a reputable swordsmith. Try Warnerius the Swordsmith. Or Herve. Or better still, try getting on a fast horse and ride hard to Kirkenhold. There find and talk to Ovur the Wise, Garbig of the Bear Clan. That Dwarven craftsman makes the best sabers this side of the Drow kingdom. Of course, you'll pay for it. Likely 300 silver Riyals or more apiece. But perhaps that's too good for … What's his name?” Haslo raised an eyebrow.

“Raunald,” mumbled the second. Then he took his finger from his mouth, blood running down his lips. “Ranald.”

“Ahh, Ranald. Yes. Well, have him find good sabers. Don't spend less than at least 150 silver Riyals apiece. The duel will be to the first challenger who falls and the other challenger will go over and count to 30 … I assume Ranald can count to thirty?” The second nodded his head up and down, his right hand still buried into his mouth to stem the bleeding. “Umm. An educated man. Well, maybe next time he'll think twice about picking a fight with the Red Red Ghost." Haslo paused for effect as the second eyes widened. "Touch the lips of the Goddess of El'Lolu and count to thirty. Agreed? Fine. You can go.”

Haslo has pointed his left hand toward the door and the second had turned his head to look where now Braum and Testello, the Fighter and Ranger were now standing, casting shadows into the inn. Braum's sword was out but he leaned upon it, its' tip resting on his boot top and Braum made a big show of examining the edge for any dings and then looking at the guard to see if maybe he had an opinion about the blades's condition. Testello had an arrow out but held it in the same left hand with his bow and check the security of the tip. He pulled the broadhead loose from the shaft, examined it and looking at the other guard as if he might have an opinion (who didn't, judging from his vigorous shaking of his head) he slipped it back onto the shaft firmly, insuring its' fit. The guards by the door looked considerably more uncomfortable with the presence of the other men there now, considering how able they appeared yet nonchalant as they were conducting their business. When the second turned back toward Haslo, he was even more startled to see a tall man in a tall black hat with dark clothing and a staff sitting next to Haslo now, holding the staff with both hands in front of him casually. A faint crackle of fairie fire thrummed up and down the length of the staff's upper half, a faint electric-blue light dancing up and down.

Haslo stabbed another egg and said, “We're done,” and wave his hand and dismissed the second. The second stepped back and tripped over the bench, stumbling over the man on the floor and signaled for the man by the kitchen to come and help him with the prostate fellow. They struggled together, helping him to his feet, and together they helped the man out the door into the street, collecting the other helpers.

Haslo glanced over at Dayne, the Mage, and smiled as he popped the next egg into his mouth. Between chewing, he said, “I felt you sit down.”

Dayne just smiled his faint smile again and the staff thrummed softly. Braum and Testello walked over from the doorway and sitting down at the bench. Said, “Hey, who spilled the beer?”

More to Come - Next 

"The Red Red Ghost Dances Again!"

Monday, August 18, 2014

We Refresh Our Collective Memories. And Apologies For A Bad GM's Blogging Habits.

 The Story so far ….

The party is in Earlgard, one of the northern city states above the border of Asselin. The city states are independent and proud, noble and free, and exert their dominance over the lands and forests proudly, independent, knowing that the larger kingdom to the south watches them with covetous eyes and waits for any opportunity to grab up the fractured states piece-meal in little bits. The Orc war, against their opponents to the west and north, have thus far been successful and have stalled on the northern and western shore of the Imber river, currently having fallen back to the foothills, forests and the mountains of their home to regroup for the winter. 

Snow falls for now and the armies are not moving as they huddle about their fires and seek the warmth.


The party sits in Earlgard looking at their various possibilities.

- They have a treaty dispute currently with the River Kinken having changed its course and taken a slice out of the Gnome's holding and the city state of Morrell wanting to hold on to it. The Gnomes seek mediation and have turned to the Elven Lord Jamgretot Glimmergaun the Much Sung to adjudicate. His lordship has deferred to the lord of earlgard as he normally does in Human-related matters and turned the whole snarled ball of string over to Baron Albertus Gudrun, the Baron of Earlgard and the father of Hansbrecht Gudrun, who has been summoned to help settle the situation.
- There is continued meddling by the Society of the Shroud in the War with the Orcs, and their adding of evil to the process. What are they doing? Have they added? Troops? Have they brought demons through the gates? Are they bringing Magicks to the mix? Who knows? Who cares? (Who Cares?!!!)
- What about the voices that Hans has been here, softly in the night, when no one is there, gently calling “Help … Me ...”? What do they mean? What about the rumor that the duke in Rynurt, Cernunt, who is rumored to have three of Der Rheinfolk, a giant otter-like folk, held hostage, who Hans having grown up with has an affinity to? Or the visions of the dark Orb Hans has been having?
- What about the female dwarven Paladin Maetra Amatdotr who has a sall for guarding the Torn Mountain fortress while attempts to raise a small force to rescue a Dwarven princess from bondage?
- And what has happened to Hans' sword master and the school where he spent long and painful, scarred hours, learning his trade, absorbing the tricks of his trade and the movements of his art, the techniques of his style? Where has the older man gone and what is the condition of the school?

As can be seen, there are many threads in the tapestry of the campaign carpet and as it begins to unravel, it is up to the characters to pull up the warp and weft and tighten the threads to make the complete weave necessary for this story.

(Many Thanks to Lone Wolf Development for their software Realm Works and helping me to keep track of all the various People, Groups, Place, Things, Events, and Others. For additional info:

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Has It Really Been Almost A Year? Bad GM!

I guess I have been recalcitrant in posting to this blog and I promise to try and do better. (But we all knows how that goes.) so here we learn about the latest installment for the characters with Hans, Dayne, Haslo, Testello, Braum, Kareem, Urist, Mort and his pet Orc George, and the mule Stiyr. Big Nate is but a distant memory in the Bay of Osimos feeding the crabs. We'll learn more as we blog along. For now ....


Hans and Haslo sit by the fire, half-full tankards of ale in front of them. They discussed the current state of the river and whether the lower of  the leveling will be good for shipping and the bargemen on the river and thus their shipping business from Roel to points served by their ships. Urist half-listens and flips through the pages of his dog-eared ledger book, comparing names to balances and who might be coming up for payments soon to RUNT, calculating who owes what, how far they live from Earlgard and whether he could take a quick side trip for a collection or two. 

Kareen nods in the corner, a tankard clutched in her hands, drifting in and out of drunken slumber, running half-asleep through the incantations to keep her glass full. Gort sits next to her, watching out for her, growling if anyone gets too near to her, and fascinated as he watched the level of her wine wax and wain to the timing of her voice. Gort had a poor grasp of the workings of clerical magic.He feels an attraction  to her but hasn't decided yet if it is a filial love or something else. But regardless, he won't let anyone get close to her, especially if she is in her current condition of incapacitation. The other men of the inn have already learned that lesson, one nursing a painful slice across the ribs courtesy of Hans' saber, nobody even realizing that a fight had even started. Hans nursed his disappointment since everyone had immediately backed down and the competition was apparently fourth rate regardless.

The other bounder, a sour looking thug with a reddish short beard and a somewhat crooked jaw, although it wasn't crooked long ago and if Kareen wasn't sleeping, she would be looking to apply some of her healing arts to him. But for now now, he lay head down, feet up and in a pile in the corner, courtesy of Gort's right fist applied as the bounder had reached to glad-hand the drunken cleric and didn't see the mule driver in the half-light of the inn. One guesses, when he regains consciousness, that he will be more aware the next time.

Hans tensed as he saw the sell sword enter the pool of light at the entrance to the inn and he slowly lowered his chair onto all four legs and poised himself lightly on the balls of his feet, his right hand quietly encircling the hilt of the Drow saber that rested across his lap. He was thinking of rising when Haslo extended his arm, his left hand pressing against Hans' chest and he said in a low voice, "Wait. Let's see what he has to say."

The sell sword glanced at the huddle of men nursing the wounded man who was struggling to have the slice on his ribs sewn back together. The injured man looked up at the stranger startled and pointed at the corner where Haslo and Hans sat, their backs against the wall, a table between them and the floor of the inn. The stranger's gaze was drawn by a movement in the opposite corner where the other bounder lay crumpled, inverted on his head and shoulders with legs and left boot thrust into the air. He had apparently become separated from his right boot at some point in his flight to the corner and it lay neatly planted alongside his right ear, holding his off-red jerkin off the floor out of the fluids and the sawdust that had pooled there. He moaned, on the edge of consciousness, then slipped back toward the Land of Nod.

"Where is the Cur of the House of Gundrun? I hear he is here," taunted the stranger. He half-drew his fencing saber and flexed it against the scabbard allowing it to spring back into place with the loud ping of an accomplished blade-smith. 

Haslo pressed against Hans and said "Let me serve as your second against this challenge," and he stood, purposely screeching the table forward. The stranger jumped back with a start and his head snapped toward Haslo, his legs prancing into a fighting stance belatedly. Haslo grinned when he saw this and almost felt sorry for the stranger. But just almost.

"M'Lord Hansbrecht Gudrun of Earlgard is presently otherwise engaged but..." he paused for a moment, chuckling, for he could feel the energy behind him building and he almost pitied this fool for picking the fight and wondered offhanded who the idiot was who had hired this wretch for the job. Oh well,  Haslo thought, maybe Hans wouldn't kill him. Haslo could see outside the man had brought with him a second and a couple of thirds. These had been intercepted by Braum and Testello who were discussing the advantages of staying out on the street and their likelihood of surviving the night.

"I think that I can state with little conflict..." Haslo turned and snapped his fingers at Urist the Dwarf and made a motion for his ledger book. Urist looked up for a moment, then what Haslo was doing sunk in and he hopped off the stool he sat upon and presented the book with a flourish, saying under his breath through gritted teeth but with a very visible smile, "I hate when you do this to me."

Haslo made a show of flipping through the pages, squinting at the chicken scratchings of Urist, deciding he would never be able to decipher them, and putting his finger on one of the columns, he proffered the page to Urist, who looked at the page with a well-faked learned acumen, shrugged his shoulders, and said "Very well. But she won't be happy to cancel." and Haslo turned to the stranger and said "Fine. Tomorrow. At Noon. In the courtyard of the Temple of Adaell. We as the Challengee will bring the wine. You as the Challenger can bring the bread and cheese. The weapons will be sabers. Bring three men to confirm the time of the day so that we can say YOU didn't Goblin out in fear and M'Lord will meet you there. Be sure your friends bring a wagon."

The stranger look at Haslo, slightly confused, a look of not understanding upon his face. "A wagon?" said the stranger.

Haslo had turned to give Urist his ledger back. He turned back to the stranger and said, "But of course. You don't want your friends to have to carry you home." A wan smile spread over Haslo's faced that he turned and shared with Hans.

Near the stranger, a tall thin man dressed mostly in black came through the doorway, sidestepping the sell sword standing there confused. It was Dayne and he pulled his tall Pilgrim hat off. As he shrugged off his cloak, he looked about at everyone standing around and said, "What? Did I miss something?"

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

A History Lesson of Asselin ...

     The fleet of the three Drakkens dipped their oars into the sea, slashing spume into the air as the soldiers tugging against them bent their backs and thrust the ships forward toward the distant shoreline. The noble leaned forward in the lead ship, foolishly clad in his armor, ducking his head against the spray of the bow wave from the ship as it crashed against the waves that were driven by the fierce wind. If anything happened aboard ship, the noble would sink like a stone, clad in the plate mail like he was. But he was the King, and he need to put forth a brave face as his ships churned forward toward the land.

     He turned and thrusting his sword in the air, his left hand gripping the rail, he shouted, "Pull, you dogs! Pull like your life's depended upon it!" for they surely did, thought the King. The damn fool weather wizard had cast his spell and apparently offended some wind spirit for the air shrieked and howled and blustered against the furled sail, bond tightly upon the spar, the wood beating against the mast straining against its rigging. One of the other Drakken had already lost its mast and lost headway, its mast dragging like a sea anchor over the port side while soldiers furiously rowed to keep up, the sailors of the ship hacked at the rigging and mast with axes and hatches, trying to free the mass with no hope of raising its mast again.

     The King saw the white splash of the surf as the lead Drakken near the shoreline and the King bellowed to the men to pull harder. The men, sensing a final victory and smelling earth and trees and the solidity of land, hearing the close-by surf pounding,  pulled with a will and the Drakken surged forward, it's stern rising on the strength of the wave and the fortunate rising tide caught its stern, thrusting the ship forward. The King grabbed the rail with both hands, his sword forgotten in the moment, as he sought to steady himself and the ship turn to starboard, the wave pushing up on the ship's hull. As he tightened his grip, the King felt the ship begin to turn turtle, the side coming up and over, the oars on the port side splintering in the oar holes and the starboard oars waved in the air liked an insects arms and legs.

     The King felt his body, weighted by the armor, sailing through the air and then he felt the splash of water as he landed in the sea, salt spume running into all the openings of his armor, the terror of drowning flashed through his mind. But only for a moment as he felt the sand of the beach slam into his back, the air rushing out of his lungs as he convulsed hard from the impact. As his eyes regained their focus, he instantly saw the glint of steel as his sword, which had lain forgotten on the deck of the ship, flashed in the sunlight as it flew thru the air and plummeted toward the King. Only a quick jerk of his head to the side saved the King from being stabbed through the face as his sword buried itself halfway to the hilt in the sand. But nothing could save him from the entire contents of the cargo hold as it poured itself out of the hatchways and buried both King and soldier alike. Only his moaning two hours later allowed one of his lieutenants to discover King Asselia lying under two nettings and three water casks, half drowned and tormented by the crabs feasting upon the dead and the dying.


     Thus began the first expedition to what would become the kingdom of Asselin three hundred and fifty years ago. The humans met limited resistance and slowly expanded, occupying the outer rim of the island-continent on three sides, encountering the races, both hostile and non, and slowly building their empire. In expanding, they discovered that they had not been the first. They discovered old worlds, old castles and keeps, the remains of ancients races, the remnants of evil empires and strongholds, dungeons and crypts, necropolises and ruined cities. They slowly spread, increasing their hold in the south, building their central kingdom and slowly expanding to the north with smaller cities. Resistance was often met, hairy and scarred races that did not want the humans in their areas ( and some that did, only because they tasted good and crunchy), evil Goblins, slimy Troglodytes, nasty and pimply Orcs, Giants, and Cyclops.

     Then when they thought that there would be no redemption of this evil and scarred land, the Elves finally showed themselves and the communication between the two was at first tentative, then casual and cordial but distant. Next the Hobbits popped out their hobbit-holes with their hairy feet, once they realized that the Elves were making friends (because they wouldn't want the Elves to secure all the trade) and so they began making inroads with the Humans, too, opening roadhouses near the Hobbit world and slowly expanding into the Human areas. Even more secretive were the Dwarves and the Gnomes, always competitive, the Gnomes of the Forest and the Mountain Dwarves above and the Svirfneblin Gnomes and the Deep Duergar Dwarves below, made their presence known and began to trade with the Humans, too.

The world as it is now is dominated by a mix of Humans and Demi-Humans struggling to establish themselves against many other races of Humanoids and other types spawned from the evil and dark lands.

The Kingdom of Allesia is currently ruled in a feudal government by Queen Elwyn of le Fullere, who lives in the Black Keep of Allesia, the capital city of the kingdom, and has ruled since she was three years old. She is, in fact, assisted by the Royal Governor Councilor - Degore Reymund of Penton Mewsey, who basically controls everything in the kingdom for the girl of 22 until she learns her place in the kingdom. She currently spends her time hunting, feasting, celebrating festivals and fairs and the like.
The Army is commanded now by General in Chief Lord Geroldin de Ernauld, who is currently in the north s Will, led by High Warden Gamel of Clyst St. Cyr, campaigning against a move by the Orcs to try and drive the expansion of the Humans south. He is being assisted by the Grand Diplomat Wilmot of Sedgehille who is trying to get the Northern tribes and clans to make a move from the north against the Orcs from Cemmes and the surrounding araes through Vambag Pass.
with his swordsmen and archers, spear-men and wagoners, and leading the way, the Rangers of the Order of the Queen

Meanwhile at home, the High Priest Thim, who guides the Kingdom's religious growth and sees to its spiritual needs, continues her not-so-secret machinations among the religious sects and insures that they continue at each other’s throats while remaining above the fray, her hands clean to adjudicate their disputes. She has lately been assisted by Magister Rogerius the Red, who guides the Kingdom's higher learning and magical employment and also heads the Magical Guild "Archons of Panadera's Creed.”

While this is all going on, the Peace is kept (or tried to be maintained at a civil level) by the Marshall Good Osgood Alston and his sheriffs throughout the countryside in their surcoats of Red and White checkerboards, adjudicating justice in courts, forming juries when necessary and answering the Hue and Cry of the peasantry, and dispensing summary justice as needed, not always fairly but at least even-handedly. Alston is oft-times assisted in the shadows by the Royal Assassin atta Welle, who will deal many times with the more serious crimes summarily, the justice unseen by the peasantry but swift and true none the less, the party or parties simply disappearing, a victim of the Good Shepherds, carried off by the Orcs or some other disaster of natural or unnatural means. Meanwhile, the Spymaster Le Chaluner Hardegin, a secret and unseen individual who may or may not exist but surely makes his presence felt, for even the Queen raises her hand for silence when his name is mentioned, slithers about in the dark alleyways and byways, drafting the thieves, cutpurses and footpads for his secret and never-mentioned needs.

Meanwhile, funding it all, through his typically fair and balanced taxes (and sometimes by other means that are not mentioned), the Treasurer Bardwin Theabaldus sits in the Royal Black Keep, filling his coffers, stacking his bars of Amber Golden Pegasi, counting his piles and bags of Silver Riyals, Copper farthings, and
Heavenly Nine Pound Pieces of Platinum. Suffice to say that the taxes are fair, the money flows in and out, and the economy has its ups and downs.

But on the whole, the world is dangerous but it is good. Now all it needs is a few good adventurers to help clean it up. And there are few of them at the moment

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Mumblety-Peg and Long Lost Mages

     Sir Thomas found Upiyo in the crew's quarters after checking on his war horse Perforante. The large, black steed had been disturbed by the sling ride from the dock up and over, into the hatch, and down to his straw-lined berth below deep withing the belly of the ship. The huge stallion had even tried to bite at Sir Thomas, although it was mostly lips and little teeth and he had only grabbed Sir Thomas"s surcoat. The knight stroked at the rip in his right sleeve and smiled at the feistiness of the horse. 

     Better a grouch than a milque-toast in a war horse, he thought.

     Upiyo was seated back in the semi-darkness of the crew berths, flipping a dagger from his elbow toward a small circle on the floor. As the dagger flipped end over end, it struck the deck next to a small circle drawn on the floor with a piece of charcoal from one of the lamps. The crewman off-duty who surrounded him in the dim light cheered loudly and as the young boy quickly snatched up the dagger in disgust, the crew men grabbed coppers from the top of a barrel of ship's biscuits, obviously a game of chance and skill of some sort in process. Upiyo protested "Wait, wait" and placed the tip of the knife to his elbow again, begging for another chance.
     Standing in the shadows, leaning against one of the ship's ribs, Sir Thomas cleared his throat softly as Upiyo flipped the dagger once again. He started at the sound and his elbow jerked back, the blade flipping more than he wanted. The knife tumbled downward and its point dug into the tip of his soft shoe, narrowly missing one of his toes, and he yipped at the impact, tugging his leg against the knife. The crewmen, when they realized who was in their midst, stood upright immediately and their hands went stealhily behind them, the coins they carried or had recently won secreted away in their waistbands or down the back of their trousers, to hopefully be retrieved later. The First Mate, Gobbo, hoped that the three coppers and the one silver thalion did not slip from his waistband but ride against the pressure of his belt.

     "I would like a word with the young bladesmith, if I may?" He stepped to Upiyo and motioned with a sweeping hand to the other crewmen, jerking his head toward the ladder that lead to the upper deck. The crewmen disappeared in all directions, suddenly remebering or finding taskes that needed to be done. Upiyo continued to tug at his shoe, trying to get his shoe unstuck while not pulling the shoe off his foot. Sir Thomas reached down and pulled the dagger from the deck and chuckled as Upiyo stumbled backward at the release of pressure and fell into the berth behind him. The knight smiled as Upiyo sheepishly crawled from the berth, took the sharp dagger from the knight's hand and slid it back into his waistband. 

     Wrapping his arm around Upiyo's shoulder in a fatherly embrace, he leaned his head down and whispered to Upiyo, "Tell me a story. I'd like to hear about the Crystal Ball that was found before I joined the party ..."

     Knocking gently upon the Captain's door of the ship, Sir Thomas stepped back a step and waited quietly. When he heard the summons, he pulled the rope slipping the latch and entered, ducking under the lintel of the door, a beam of the upper deck which showed marks from less observant people in the past. Dayne was seated against the hull side, a book in his left hand as he waved his right hand in conjurations, practicing a spell apparently.

     Dayne leaned back against the hull of the ship. He could feel the waves in the harbor slapping against the side of the ship as it rode tied up against the dock. The cargo it was taking on should be loaded soon and the caravel would hopefully sail with the morning flood tide. Soon the next adventure would start and the memories of the monolith and the Lizardmen would be a distant memory.
     Dayne sighs.  "This is, at least, one trail to follow. Let us hope it is not a false trail. Sir Thomas, why do you say 'we may or may not be able to locate by normal means'?  Do have a scrap of additional information on inn?"