Thursday, April 22, 2021

Character Sketch: Robert Farmont

Robert Fantill is a minor shapechanger, having command of only two alternate forms (fox and owl) and no related powers. Despite his distinguished lineage, he feels out of place among the highborn at the Academy and questions his right to be there. He hopes to prove himself, but fears that he will never live up to the reputation of his bloodline. Quiet and studious at first, he becomes warmer and more talkative around others who share his interests (particularly games). Rob is in his first year at the Academy. His grandparents are influential voices in the High Rock Pact of Fangs. His focus is a claw that he wears as a medallion.

Wednesday, April 21, 2021

Challenge: Creative Outlets

For the last two years, I've been taking part in the Wednesday Weekly Blogging Challenge over at Long and Short Reviews. The first link will take you to the list of topics; the second one goes to the homepage, where you can find a post with everyone's responses each week. Feel free to join in! 

Today's prompt is "creative outlets I enjoy" and I flatly guarantee that everyone responding to this is going to include some version of "writing" in their answer. Prove me wrong, I dare you!

On second thought, don't. Writing is awesome. I mean, sure, it can be work; but can also be a lot of fun. For most people it's not hugely profitable, but it can be a source of income. Plus, it's cheaper than therapy -- and you don't have to schedule an appointment! So, yeah, definitely writing. 

Weirdly enough, another answer used to be "work". I used to do web design, back in the day when that meant designing your own layout and editing your own graphics (and building things in static HTML with just a little bit of javascript or some Flash). It was an odd mix of artistic and technical, and I really enjoyed it. 

The really big one anymore is Dungeons and Dragons. It's a nice mix of social interaction, storytelling, improv acting, and writing -- and for many people, also art or music. (I never had much talent for either, and I've let slip what little skill I once had.) I do a lot of DnD-related snippets of writing here on the blog -- including game notes from campaign, which probably aren't of much interest to anyone who isn't playing in it. 

So those are my major creative outlets. How about yours?

Tuesday, April 20, 2021

EvilParty and Solari: Transitions

EvilParty resumes the battle!

Chuck, newly restored, tries to shatter the device inside the cage with a spell. He fails, but thinks it could work. One of the enemy rogues slips past the battling barbarians (Jenny and Three-Fang, who are honestly more invested in proving their dominance than in which side wins the overall battle), and comes up under the crab-machine; he tries to attack Chuck, but misses. Durest reaches down to the dying orc on the floor, and casts Death Knell to finish the guy off and strengthen himself. Hatch continues squishing the bard, Farrakon the Fantastic.

Three-Fangs attacks Jenny, doing some damage but dropping one of his axes. Farrakon casts Otto's Irrestible Dance on Three-Fangs, because fucking bards are *not* reliable. He then tries to convince us that he's secretly on our side, and he's surprisingly persuasive. Hatch, at least, is swayed -- though not enough to release him from the mechanical pincer.

Chuck again tries to shatter the gem and again doesn't get past its damage resistance.

Jenny attacks the bugbear (Three-Fangs) again, and sends him to the ground. He's stable, but essentially out of action -- and since he was raging, he's going to die the moment he stops raging.

She then steps forward and takes out the cleric, then snaps her chain back around and lays it into the rogue, though the first attack doesn't kill him. The second attack, however, does. Jenny has literally run out of things to kill, except for the guy who has dominated her.

The rogue under the crab attacks Durest, but misses.

The sailor/swashbucklers in the main hold start fleeing up onto the deck. Two other rogues move in and flank Jenny, who is now in serious trouble.

Chuck shatters the sphere.

Farrakon uses Dimension Door to get to somewhere safer, so he misses the resulting explosion out of sheer luck.

Jenny, meanwhile, lays into the two rogues that were flanking her, and obliterates them.

At this point, the battle turns, and Jenny runs up onto the deck to go around the blade barrier. Since Three-Fangs is still conscious, she drags him along. She jumps off the side of the boat as we pull the crab-submarine out of the Blade Barrier, and swims inside -- still hauling Three-Fangs -- to where Durest is waiting to heal her.

Three-Fangs immediately proposes marriage to Jenny; she refuses, but adds him to her harem. He asks if he can at least be in charge of the harem, but she says he has to earn it. "You... firm but fair," agrees Three-Fangs.

The Battle of Boiler Bay... is over. The Solari naval incursion is all but annihilated. Somewhere, there's a ranger making his escape, and a Bard thanking the gods that he got out in time.

Hierophant Malafar is extremely impressed. We have brought him the Apparatus (the crab-submarine), we have defeated several powerful foes, and we have delivered a valuable hostage in the form of Grand Elder Ishara. (They murder all her guards, though. The elves are likely to be pissed.)

THUS DO WE RETURN TO OUR NEWLY-ENNOBLED SOLARI PARTY.

The Solari party, loyal to the human king and sworn defenders of Sol Povos, are:  

-Tavros Fontaine, half-dragon and Knight of the Temple of Amun. (Paladin/Fighter)
-Leira Sirène d'Incendie, sixteen-year-old sorceress and former mermaid (now human)
-Marshall Mercy, human priest of Artem-hiss
-Alexej (whose last name translates to Sausage Schnitzel), human fighter and gourmand.

After our previous adventures, we were sent north to reinforce Janbridge. A group of boats had been sent to circle Sol Povos and retake the town. The Duke of Janbridge wanted us to attack the elves, who looked like they might be gathering for an attack; but they withdrew, and Grand Marshall Lady Orfevre ordered us to hold our position in Janbridge. So we did, until we were summoned back to the capital.

That evening, we're bought to a laboratory down in the main part of the castle. We're met at the door by Conrad DuVall, the King's Seneschal. "Faithful Servants, the King wanted me to inform you that your apartments and lands have been expanded in keeping with your service. The mission you are about to undertake is dear to the King's heart, and your success here will gather you more of his generosity.

We enter a room with the Archmage Malzeros, Father Raphael Montaine (High Priest of Helios), Viggo the Whisperer (the spymaster), and Dante Alighieri (the world's greatest poet).

Dante starts in at length; Viggo intercedes. "Come, friends, let me tell you of our progress. You found the Eye of Vecna, and that evil Paladin Sasha cast you into that other world within the Eye, in a land called Fanaxia. Sasha pulled you out, and fled. Since then, the Archmage has been studying the artifact and believes he has reproduced the magic. We believe we can send you back to Fanaxia."

Dante, in verse: "You might want to tell them that they'll need to be dead to get there."

Priest: "Not entirely."
Archmage: "Only temporarily."

Viggo: "You should be able to return."

Leira: "Could I just stay in the bathtub instead?"

Tavros: "Some dangers require extreme measures." He turns to Viggo. "This seems a bit extremely extreme, though."

Viggo: "This mission is... not so optional. It is dear to the king's heart. And I have the utmost faith in the Archmage and the High Priest."

Leira: "If I die, I'm going to come back and haunt you. And my boyfriend Sasha is going to come murder you."

Viggo: "I accept your terms." He sounds completely serious, at least to Leira.

Viggo: "It seems the dark army is in service to Vecna. It seems that Vecna originated in Fanaxia, and may be the very Dark One that they refer to there. It seems also that some of the minions, including this Krony, originated in Fanaxia. So we want you to go to Fanaxia and find information on Krony, Kaz, or Vecna himself."

Leira: "How do we get back?"

Viggo: "We can put you in at the same place you arrived last time. The valley of the giants, I believe it was. Once you return to the portal there, you will return."

The dark one used to be in Sandorn Castle; he was executed. For laying hands upon the king his hand was removed, for spying his eye was removed, and for attempting to cause the downfall of Fanaxia, he was exiled to the Abyss. Now the priests of Urbroth run everything, and King Baldric is holed up in his castle and doesn't come out. The west wing of the castle is haunted and inaccessible. We're pretty sure the priests of Urgroth were priests of Vecna, but the west wing of the castle was something different.

Since we have a day to prepare, Leira is going to write a very lovestruck-sixteen-year-old letter to Sasha. Marshall and Tavros go to buy wands: Death Ward, Cure, and Knock. Tavros adds a +1 Morningstar as well.

We return to the clearing where we last arrived in Fanaxia. There's a portal there now, and the giants haven't done anything to repair the area. We make our way into town.

Marshall immediately begins investigating to see if there is a temple to Artem-hiss. Alexej starts asking about his friend, Christobol, who was a very good Captain.

Marshall finds a temple of Vecna/Urgroth; the moment he asks, they try to drive him away -- "You one of them snake worshipers? We drove your kind out to Serpente Selva in the west!"

Alexej has rather better luck: the first person he asks about Christobol looks around, then invites us inside. "Are you with the resistance?"

Alexej: "If Christobol is, then yes."

So Christobol is a lieutenant of Rygar now, and he's going to lead them to rise up against the priests of Urgrol. The castle of the Magiknights is where Rygar, Christobol, and the remaining knights are. "Okay, but beware the nightwing!" Alexej assures him that we'll be careful.

So our contact Bellamy now thinks we're highly placed in the resistance. He's thrilled to host us to dinner. He tells us a little about the area in passing. In particular, it's now split in half by a marsh, and there's a ghost tower in the center of the marsh that nobody seems to be able to reach. It occupies the same location as Sandorn Castle used to, except it appears and disappears, always just out of reach.

Kuldor Keep is the only port, and sea trade is the only way to trade with the north. The ruler there is descended from Walter Crow, known as the Centaurs' Bane. The family sigil is a leaping centaur impaled on a soldier's spear. (This is the same symbol we saw in the barn where Christobol was being held, so presumably he was being held by Lord Crow's men.)

The other thing we learn is that the province/city of Vrist in the far northwest has this Devil's Reef surrounding it; only really skilled smugglers can get through there. Styre and Westyre trade with Kuldor Keep; trade between Styre and Vrist passes through the Griffin Hills, which are passable but dangerous.

"Does Rygar really exist?" Bellamy wants to know. Marshall remembers: Yes, he's a lean, charming half-elf. He has three lieutenants: Tybalt, Rybalt, and Jorn - and now Christobol. When Marshall was here, he was shown a tapestry of Vecna being executed. (That was back when he was traveling with the elves, though, so he's the only one in this party who's met the magiknights.)

We spend the night with Bellamy and head north in the morning. Tavros and Marshall want to head into the Serpente Selva to look for Artemis priests; Alexej wants to head east and north to Castle Dinoden. We start looking around for a carriage, because none of us want to go traipsing through the rain.

Marshall: "So here's something you may not know about Artemis: while most religions are about being humble, but Artemis feels you should show your worth." So we end up acquiring *two* carriages: a plain one for the rest of us, and one that Marshall can decorate in snake motifs and holy symbols and arrange to have pulled by a pair of giant vipers.

We get about five miles into the forest before a low-pitched voice says, "Halt."

There are humanoids all around us with bows; an armored centaur emerges from the trees. "Who goes there?"

"Why, Marshall! The all-powerful and greatly celebrated priest of Artem-hiss, and his followers."

"Are you with the crazy snake-worshippers from up north?"

Marshall: "Maybe?"

"The centaurs rule this land. Who are you with?"

Tavros climbs out.

Centaur: "Are you a summoned snake-person?"

Leira: "This is my uncle Tavros."

Marshall actually (shockingly) manages to convince them that we come in peace. We've met the Guard Captain; he will take us to the king. Leira compliments his hair. He is really, really pleased.

He takes us about three miles further on, to a centaur village; they've arranged a number of canopies to keep the rain off. He leads us to this one particular canopy and explains our request for passage.

We go inside and sit down. He speaks to us in Elven, and Tavros starts explaining our mission. Embrasios thinks we must have come from far over the sea, but nobody has made it back on the floating trees. Apparently in the early times there were other centaurs elsewhere, but nobody has survived traveling on the floating trees in this age. Have we met any other centaurs, beyond the ocean? Tavros allows that few visited his mother when he was young. The king is pleased by this; he seems to see it as a sign.

Tavros tries to explain our mission.

The king is willing to grant us passage, but wants to know whatever we learn from the serpent priests, since apparently they're destined to join the centaurs in defeating Lord Crow. Tavros is... not entirely comfortable with this, but he's willing to carry the message and try to encourage an alliance. Lord Crow seems a thoroughly villainous sort, but Tavros is not as naive as he once was.

The king has named Tavros their Kalamon: the one who will bring the centaurs justice.

Leira asks if she can have a nickname too. "She is named [something] Concubine to the Kalamon."

Tavros' nostrils have never flared so wide in his life; he's a Paladin of Amun, and not wholly unversed in the ways of the world, but he is not going to have concubines and especially not underage ones. However, the king is pleased with this, and with us. He will grant us passage. 

At this point, we break for a feast: fire, meat, and dancing. In the morning, they send us on to meet with the crazy snake people.

Next time: crazy snake priests.

Monday, April 19, 2021

Music: Kill of the Night

 More from Gin Wigmore:

Definitely not operating at my best today -- last week wore me out, and then this weekend wore me out again. So, hey, music!

Friday, April 16, 2021

Music: Anywhere Away From Here

 Rag'n'Bone Man & P!nk:

Character Sketch: Rosemary Rot

This is (maybe) the first in a series of sketches of secondary characters attending the Shadow Academy. These may change as the book evolves. 

Rosemary Rotlingen is a First Year at the Shadow Academy, and shares several classes with Darian. As a ghoul, Rose is something of a social outcast... except among the other ghouls, who have a pretty tight-knit society and make it a point to watch out for each other. She has a solid grounding in basic sorcery, and is looking to build on those skills; her focus is a knife. Rose is quietly ambitious and fiercely loyal; she desperately wants to be accepted, especially by the students from higher-status backgrounds.

I really need to start finding pictures for these...

Thursday, April 15, 2021

It must be Thursday...

Well, it's Thursday -- the day when almost all of us wake up and seriously question the life choices that brought us here. I've gotten more writing done on Shadow Academy. On the one hand, it's progress so it's satisfying; on the other hand, it started with a bit of cleanup of my opening scene, which meant trimming off most of it and writing it again in a way that allowed me to introduce new elements more sequentially. 

And who knows? I may go back and rewrite the entire opening scene, Just, y'know, not now. Right now, I just want to get this part wrapped up so I can move on to the parts I really want to be writing. 

Do other writers get impatient with their own pace and the need to introduce their readers to their world? I imagine so. It can't just be me. 

(I didn't used to have this issue, but then I used to have a lot more free time... Nowadays, I'm so busy with making sure that everything happens when it needs to that it takes at least an hour to get my brain to settle down from meals and wakeups and prescriptions and bedtimes, and let me tell you that is not optimal when you're trying to squeeze a bit of writing in at the end of the evening. I end up staying awake later than I should, and pay for it the next day. And that, too, was easier when I was younger.) 

Anyway: our fourteen-year-old protagonist Darian has had his fortune told by a dead man, and been accepted to the Shadow Academy. Now I just need to introduce his family, settle his affairs, and send him on his way. 

That might, now that I think about it, explain the First-Day-In-College-How-Do-I-Find-My-Way-Around? dreams the other night.  Well, fine. I'm sure I can locate my dorm room, and I'll probably figure out the class schedule sometime soon, right? 

Right?

And then I can get more sleep. Beautiful sleep. Wonderful sleep. I've missed you, sleep.