Friday, October 22, 2021

Dark Armor V2 Ch01 SC05

A pair of arrows came at him at once, but he managed to angle his shield to deflect them both. He tried another lightning bolt, this time aimed at the tower itself, but the wood soaked it up with only superficial damage. Fire? Or... Now there was an idea. It hadn't occurred to him earlier, because he generally only used it when he was assaulting fortifications. 

Another arrow struck his shield and exploded into a ball of flame, but the armor and Black's barding absorbed it. Hell below! He leaned down and touched Black's shoulder, and the horse stopped abruptly, reared, and then slammed its hooves down harder than should have been possible.

The earth shook; the wooden tower swayed. The fires in the camp did amazing things as the shockwaves reached them. A section of bluff came loose and slid away into the valley, though nothing in the camp was close enough to the edge to be caught by it. 

Black was already charging, closing the distance to the tower, and Pallian watched with interest as an arrow buried itself in the ground beside them. The swaying of the tower must have thrown off the archer's aim. This arrow slid deep into the ground, burying itself, and Pallian wondered again at how the archer had come by these abilities. It must have taken real dedication to build up all this... and it wasn't the work of a sorcerer-lord, either. At least, he didn't know any who used an archer as their champion, and Edrias already had its Shadow. If that was what I truly saw... 

He leaned down, gripping the saddle as a wave of magic built in front of Black. They hit one side of the tower at a full gallop, smashed through the thick wooden beams, and came out the far side. Behind them, the tower swayed and began to collapse; Pallian tossed another ball of fire behind him to complete its destruction. 

He couldn't see it, of course, but his armor could. It captured the final moments of the collapse and showed them to him... along with the image of a lone figure, thrown or leaping free.  Damn it, he thought, and nudged Black into a sharp turn to get them facing back towards the fallen tower. An arrow struck his shoulder, lightnings spreading out from it in an echo of his own attacks. He shivered, but the armor absorbed the worst of it. 

Damn it, Champion, KILL HER! The thought was so strong that Black felt it and shivered; inside the armor, Pallian froze for a moment and nearly died as an arrow slammed into the face of his helmet, missing the eye-slit by a hairs-breadth. 

"Not helping!" he shouted, knowing his father would hear him. Of course the wizard-king was watching his attack instead of Ravaj's defense. Of course he would have opinions about it. And of fucking course he would make those opinions known at the worst possible moment for Pallian. 

I should have seen it coming, he thought, as he regained his focus on the archer. Dark hair pulled back, light armor designed to aid her mobility, a bow already drawn... if he could hit her with anything she'd probably go down, but of course she intended to keep him at a distance and kill him there. And at this rate she might very well succeed.  

He tossed fire and lightning at the same time, the fire to one side as a distraction and the lightning directly towards her. She ignored the fire and dodged aside, impossibly quick, as the lightning scorched the air where she'd been standing. It cost her another shot at him, but she didn't seem to care; the tip of her arrow was a bright spark, growing larger and brighter as she held it ready. Oh, hell, he thought, and turned his attention to the lance to try for more lightning...

...but something caught him from behind, something soft and dark that soaked through the armor and closed off his sight, his hearing, the images from the armor itself. He thought Black stumbled, thought he might have been thrown, but... 

Should he brace for some sort of impact? He wasn't sure he could, and then everything went away.

Thursday, October 21, 2021

Fanaxia: Striking The Spark

 Wallington has agreed to Geddy’s terms. He’s really pushing to know if we know about or can find Brice Lamonc, who disappeared fourteen years ago; it’s imperative for the safety of the realm. Fenric’s father Gerwulf was a great general but a lousy ruler. And, of course, his heirs are potential marriage prospects if we want to join the clan. 


The attacker who tried to steal from the house had been on a crew that was doing some work on the house; he learned where the valuables were kept in the study, and was contacted by some thieves and it all went improbably wrong from there. The cards were very definitely looking for a new owner.


It occurs to Leira that the first temple of Vecna was apparently right here in the city, but the chapel downstairs might be it. Especially since it’s guarded by an old, stupid nightwalker. 


Martini has a suggestion, and it involves a lot of plausible deniability for us. Geddy immediately falls in behind. So, during dinner, Martini scopes out the second floor and locates the chamber with the prisoner. He looks pretty rough (and the rest of the gang was executed). And yeah, we’re totally going to clean out the chapel/temple and blame it on this guy. 


We make our goodbyes and settle in at our hotel. At about 11 a.m. Martini gets a message from her brother: “Farta! Farta! I slew a cloud giant with my sword! Also, if you meet someone named Fenric, he’s planning an attack with giant werewolves. I’ll bet you didn’t know about that.” 


Then, about dinner time: “Farta, you bitch? Who told them where we were? Thanks to you I had to slay two nightwalkers and four nightwings! Anyway we’re finished here, and we’re coming up there from the south, with some really old elf. We’ll be there tomorrow. Also, the old elf says that things are about to get ‘real’, but nothing is real.”


They arrange that we should meet somewhere else -- in Styre, in fact. 


Then, on the following evening at dinner time, we start buffing Martini: Death Ward, Greater Heroism, a bit of inspirational singing, pass without trace, Invisibility. The rest of us wait outside while Martini goes into the house in full Black Widow mode. She slips through the kitchen and walks down the stairs, finding the shadow walker on guard again. 


The room has clearly been prepared for an after-dinner service, so she moves to the altar and snags the book and the scroll. She places the Blade Barrier trap on the door, and then starts working on the other door, the one that leads to the treasure chamber. She starts going over it, looking for (and expecting) traps. Finding nothing, she starts trying to work on the very complex lock, taking her time and doing it as carefully as possible. 


She manages to open it. 


And it doesn’t even explode. She walks in and just takes a moment to observe and look around. There’s a lot here that hasn’t been touched in a long time. There’s also a crate of treasure and money on the ground. She goes to the little box and searches it for traps, finding five different traps on it; she’s immediately worried that there might be more. She takes the loose treasure and the crate, then comes back to the chest like the professional she is. Checking it over more carefully, she finds a full nine different traps on it; this was placed here long ago and not intended to be moved. 


She disables the horrible first spell-trap, and moves on to the next. The symbol of death gets disabled, then the finger of death. Then disintegrate goes away, then feeblemind. Phantasmal Killer gets disabled. Then the ray of exhaustion, the blindness, then permanent Reduce Person. She wipes her forehead and grabs the box, hearing some feet upstairs. She throws the box into the bag and tries to Dimension Door out; she fails. She steps out of the treasure chamber and into the cell, then grabs the guy and Dimension Doors back into the temple. 


Then she casts Modify Memory, 


The guy now remembers being hired by Boris’ wife Ginger to teleport down there and shunt all the treasure into an extradimensional chest. 


Martini then teleports out and joins us, and Leira teleports us to the Striking Asp inn in Styre. 


25,000 gp, 11,000 gp in art; the book of secrets (+10 on Gather Info, also how to get Kroni out), a scroll of foresight (lvl 9 divine) and a mirror in the crate. We are reunited with the others. The mirror is a Mirror of Memories; if taken to certain locations, it would display its enchanter's memories. Martini takes a minute to search the box for traps one more time, and then sets herself to open the lock. 


Which is good, because if we’d have broken it open it would have exploded. 


There’s a dagger inside, a very seriously murdery looking dagger. Tavros cannot detect evil because of his geas, but Marshall can still cast it as a spell. It reeks of strong necromancy but is not technically evil. It’s a +5 vorpal dagger that gives +1 to Assassin’s save DC. It was probably Kroni’s originally, and Vecna’s creation, and it’s about to become Martini’s favorite weapon. 


Zilv, the druid, sends everybody out of the inn. “I have been scrying and collecting information. The battle for Fanaxia is happening right now.”


Zilv can give us information on the status of everything on the island. 


The forces on the island are all over the place, but they’re starting to face off. There’s a werewolf army moving on Lydel; Fenrir and his werewolf clans are preparing to move on Vrist. Lay Merrowin has some gryphons and lizards and such, enough to be an army of their own. West Styre has a minister and his archons, while Styre has a standing army. The four merchant lords (Crowe and Bulbeck, the Sea Lords, plus Lady Merrowin and Lady Green - who is moving towards Lydel). A big chunk of the south of the island is on our side, but Cimarron the Nightwalker Lord and Richlieu and his priests are a huge threat down there. The army of Fanax is disorganized. The Magiknights are a force to be reckoned with, but their numbers are few. 


The whole thing is about to erupt. We could fight armies; we could gather allies; we could split up or stay in a group. Also, once we move openly against Vecna she will have no confusion abotu what side we’re on, and will try to exert her power from the swamp. 


Zilf can go camp at Castle Fanax and lock down Cimarron and Richlieu until we can get there. This seems like a good use of our resources. After that… 


The northern half of the island probably needs our help more than the south. 


Our plan, it looks like, is to send our charismatic heroes to gather allies for the north, and send the others to block the werewolf attack on Lydel. West Styre has a high magistrate who leads the archons. Styre has a Duke/King, but the high council of merchants has a huge say in things there. Azrael will send a message to Lady Merrowyn to come and protect the queen; Marshall is going to Lord Crowe; Martini is going to styre and Tavros is going to West Styre; and Geddy will try to recruit Bulbeck. He’s the hard one, a Royalist, loyal to the original king of Fanax. 


Alexej, Ruin, Azrael, and Leira will be going up to Lydel. She will burn four teleports, and Azrael one. 


Wednesday, October 20, 2021

Challenge: Scariest Book

This is part of 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!)

This week's prompt is "scariest book I've ever read", just in time for Hallowe'en. 

...Which is tricky, because back in my youth and particularly from about age 12 to age 16, I read a lot of Horror. Stephen King, Dean Koontz, any number of unknown or less-known authors... and some older stuff, like Lovecraft. I have no idea what, out of all that and all the books I've read since then, would qualify as the scariest. 

On top of that, I remember some scenes and moments that came from books whose authors and titles I no longer recall. It's like having the ghosts of books in my head. 

There was a werewolf book which I remember as being interesting but not especially striking, except for one scene where the heroes have encountered the werewolf and are fleeing from it in a car. The driver of the car is so freaked out that he won't slow down, he just keeps trying to go faster and faster while the other characters are trying to get to ease back to a safer rate of speed. 

Until one of them looks back and werewolf is right behind them

Not a great book, as I said, but that particular moment hit me as a visceral shock. 

There was the book where the two protagonists got sucked into investigating the remnants of a corporate bioweapons program. The monsters were interesting enough, and there was a very obvious wish-fulfillment element early on where the hero, an Ordinary Guy, stumbles into a relationship with the heroine, a movie star (possibly while humming Uptown Girl under his breath). But the really memorable scene comes before the confrontation with the monsters, when our hero visits one of his old friends who used to work for corporation... and discovers that the friend is now bedridden because he's been exposed to something that rendered all his bones cartilaginous; he barely has enough body structure left to breathe. 

Then there's a moment in Barbara Hambly's Darwath books (a truly excellent if somewhat older portal fantasy) where two of the characters have gone to investigate the nearest nest of the monsters only to discover that A) it's still inhabited, and B) they've been cut off by the arrival of a band of raiders in the entrance to the valley. They're climbing out one side of the valley when they look back and notice that the whole valley floor has an odd set of patterns: lines and shapes in the trees and grasses that are only visible from above. The heroine, a historian by training, identifies the effect as being caused by the buried foundations of some ancient city, and suddenly they realize just how long these things have been preying on humanity. 

So... scariest book? I don't know. But there are three of my favorite moments, even if I can't recall exactly whence two of them came.

Monday, October 18, 2021

Some Writing

So most of what I got done this weekend -- and why the actual fuck it "what I got done" a defining characteristic of my weekend? Like seriously, how fucked-up is that? Why should I need to feel like I'm working as hard on my "time off" as I am on during the week? Or harder? Where the hell is my time to rest and relax?

So most of what I got done this weekend was running and sorting laundry -- a solid eight hours worth, at least -- and running the youth D&D game, which isn't a chore but still requires spending some energy. Also? A database migration for a major application. And between the work I'm doing at work and the work I'm doing at home, I've managed very little writing. A bit for the blog, for Friday; and another pass through a short story involving a demon or two and a drinking contest with a human drinking partner. 

I do not want to be at work today. I do not want to be at work at all. I am behind on about six or seven major projects, I'm not getting paid enough for the work I'm putting in on them, I have no help, and I'm slowly realizing that for as much as I like my job, I really don't like my job. And I have a bunch of other stupidly-inconvenient things that I also need to do, like get my oil changed and clean the cage of the lizard-goddess. 

I shouldn't even take it easy. I should just push through and do as much as I can, and then go to bed at like 8:00 like the responsible adult that I will never in my life fucking be except by accident. And honestly I probably shouldn't publish this, because everybody wants everybody to pretend that everything is fine, but there is no goddamn way that I'm the only one here. 

::sigh::

Writing-wise? A bit more of Dark Armor, which I think is going off in an interesting direction, and a pretty good run through the short story, though I need to proofread and review before I show that one to anybody. 

Sleep? No, chronically underslept at this point. I keep trying to break that cycle, but look...

And it would be wonderful if recognizing that offered any way to break the pattern, but it doesn't. 

Still... any writing progress is better than no writing progress, right? 

Also, as a general statement of philosophical outlook? Fuck capitalism.

Friday, October 15, 2021

Dark Armor V2 Ch01 SC04

The watchfires were nothing worth noting; he pushed Black to a gallop as he passed between them, letting the cries of alarm grow behind him. They would only add to the chaos and confusion. An arrow shattered against his armor, sent by some sentinel who was both quick and ready; Pallian responded by lifting a hand to toss a small ball of fire behind him. The ball expanded as it rose through the air, became enormous before it hit the ground. The shouted alarms were joined by screams. 

Somewhere, a bell began to ring. 

The Black Knight tossed another ball of fire off to his left, where troops encamped in neatly-organized groups of tents were racing to grab their weapons and join the battle. Ahead of him, a man in silver armor rose up, greatsword rising to cut. Pallian shifted the angle of his lance and skewered the man, then tossed him aside; his armor added to his strength to make the gesture seem casual. 

Another arrow slammed into his breastplate, this one landing much harder than the last. Pallian clenched his knees and managed to stay on his horse, but Black stumbled and only barely managed to keep his footing. Damn it. Where...? 

That hadn't been one of the sentinels. That came from somewhere else, probably the same archer who had tried to murder him and Ravaj from the far side of the ridge. Ravaj focused briefly on his lance, conjuring a bolt of lightning that cleared a path ahead of him. He immediately turned aside from it, and was rewarded when the next arrow skipped off the edge of his shield and enveloped a section of camp in some sort of sticky webs. 

His armor had mapped its passage, and drew his attention to a wooden tower that sat near the center of camp. The archer was there, and--

He raised his shield at the last possible moment, as an arrow struck it hard enough to pierce the steel. It was sheer luck that it hadn't found his forearm. That archer must be equipped with a whole constellation of interlocking initiations to manage this, he thought, simultaneously intrigued and annoyed. The Shadow of Edrias hadn't reappeared, so it was probably off trying to murder Ravaj, but that was a concern for later. 

Black twisted and changed course, and Pallian tossed another ball of fire in what he thought was the direction of the command tents. The way this evening was going, those might be a diversion: large, fancy tents left empty to draw his attention while the archer took shots at him. The fire flickered and was absorbed as it neared them, drained by some sorcerous defense. 

Damn it, he thought again, as Black charged for the tower.

Thursday, October 14, 2021

Fanaxia: Dinner with the Would-Be King

So apparently last week, Martini followed the priest into his room. Basically, the group with Martini, Leira, Geddy, and Alexej spent a lot of time in the libraries and the werewolves seem to want to recruit them; then a nightwalker appeared and they had some sort of conversation; apparently Kroni needs to be put into an alternative body in order to save Sacha. 


There’s some difference of opinion about who started the violence, but there was some sort of massive fight which culminated in the nightwalker getting disintegrated. So now we’re at the Wallington estate, along with Boris the Baron and Dragen the bishop. Geddy apparently managed to intimidate the bishop out of the room. 


Geddy managed to entrance everybody, and Martini went off to follow the priest who was busilky cursing the nightwalker for attacking us. At this point everybody’s back in the room with Wallington, who’s laying out his case for him needing to be king of Vrist. 


The other party is off in someone else’s house, doing the gods alone know what.


History: 

-The girl was born in 1731; survived the night of 1000 fangs in 1941; she was 10 and Vecna, who would become her adopted brother, was 8. She was the magical prodigy who was adopted by Vecna’s father, count Orlock; Vecna fell sick and died after she was adopted, and the Count became a recluse. There were rumors that he and the girl had a falling out after Vecna’s death. She wound up going to the capital in 1745 to study under the Archmagister, where she crafted Kaz’s sword and did a bunch of other very impressive things: flying warships, foiled an assassination attempt, and slew a white dragon whose egg she kept and hatched as a pet. In 1759 Prospero the archmage named her as his successor, and 1762 he died and she ascended to the position. In 1766 King Baldric ascended to the throne; Baldric started trying to rein her in, and tried to limit her power. In 1769, she and Kaz attempted a coup that was foiled by the magiknights. She was executed. 


Kroni had apparently been with her the whole time, acting as a servant or bodyguard or protector. 


Recap complete. 


Martini returns to the room and brings Geddy up to speed. Geddy isn’t too sure whether Wallford is actually worried about someone moving to attack the kingdom soon, or whether he’s planning to make that happen. Geddy releases his fascination and starts trying to gather more information. And yeah, he’s clearly planning to orchestrate an attack and use that to put himself in power. 


Geddy: “So how do we fit into this.” 


Boris: “So when the time comes we put all the petty people aside and do what’s best!” 


Wallford: “Well, um, I’m going to probably need to send some of my men north to help defend Lydel; it would be helpful to have some resources to defend this place.” He’d also like to invite the other half of the party. “So let’s talk. You’re help is--”


Martini: “Expensive.”


Wallford: “Is it money that you want? I would be happy to provide a demonstration of good faith.”


Geddy: “There will be other things that need to be divvied up by the end of this.”


Wallford: “A barony? That could be arranged. Eight of them would be more difficult. There’s also Lydel. And there are other gifts that we are uniquely positioned to bestow. Then, too, there is the bond of marriage; my heir Clifford, or Fendril, would make fine options for a formal alliance. My daughters might be interested, also.”


The queen is pretty popular, but Wallford is too -- and the queen’s lesbian lovers and lack of heirs are more than a little scandalous. Fenric Wallford is viewed as more stable. 


Wallford invites us to stay for dinner, but suggests that we need to speak to the bishop about long-term plans for things like the weather and the sundering. We accept the invitation, and they leave and bishop Draughan returns to talk to us. The bishop is very apologetic about the attack by the Nightwalker. “He is a wild one; the king’s other servants are fully under control. Cimarron, the leader of the nightwalkers and advisor to the king, may a bit in competition with the bishop.


Bishop: “My four children are all adopted, but I do value them. Regarding your… earlier encounter with them, I would ask that you forget.” 


Martini: “What, that they’re wolves who like to snuggle?”


Geddy: “It’s forgotten.” 


Bishop: “It would be much easier for all of us, and good for Fanaxia, if you were to come into the fold. And Urgroth is one of the less assuming religions; we gather knowledge, and share it with our followers.”


Geddy: “We’re considering it.” 


Bishop: “And I think you’ll find that we help the people more than these other rogue religions that have sprung up under the queen’s inattention.” Geddy gets the impression that they’d like to wipe out the other religions and be the only church around.


Leira: “You get me Sacha back, and I’ll convert to any religion you want.”


Geddy: “That’s a compelling argument. Do you think we could get an audience with the cardinal?” 


Bishop: “Why yes, yes! I have an invitation for you.” He pulls out a coin with the Eye of Vecna sigil. “Present this coin to the guardians, and they will give you safe passage. 


Alexej: “But we do not like Asmodeus either. Have fought them. Did not like.” 


Bishop: “We believe they seek the sword of Kaz. Is there any chance you have retrieved it?” 


Alexej: “Maze under house is full of spinning blades. Very bad. Did not like.” 


Bishop: “One last question: do you by any chance know the location of the King’s missing son? We tried to scry, but the results were confusing.”


Geddy: “We can definitely try to look.” 


Bishop: “Excellent! You will travel to Fanax to meet with the King and the Cardinal. Dinner is in an hour.” 


Meanwhile, a day later, the other half of the party is still talking to the High Druid Zilch, a day or so after we resurrected him, when he says: “We have visitors.” He gestures toward his door. “Does anyone else know where you are?” 


Tavros: “Our friends certainly do.”


We look outside, and see four nightwings in the trees and two nightwalkers outside the door. Nightwalker: “We were told you were here. We wish to speak.” 


Tavros: “Well, speak.” 


“I am Furi, and this is Baku. Know that your compatriots slew Kaiji, and it is with much anger that I come. But Cimarron demands that I speak with you and not rend your flesh. You have one of my master’s artifacts, and he demands that you return them.”


Tavros: “Artifacts?” 


Furi: “The sword, or the hand.” 


Tavros: “No, I have the sword of Tavros.” He notices from their reaction that his sword is not looking as good as it once did.


Marshall, meanwhile, is talking with the Sword of Kaz. It wants to be put in the hand and taken to the tower. It doesn’t care who does it. 


Furi: “Also, Cimarron wishes to know if you come from the Master’s world.”


Azrael asks the druid if he’s going to fight with us; he is. 


Tavros: “Um?” 


Furi: “I am allowed to flay you if you will not return the artifact.”


Marshall: “If it’s got to be someone, it’s going to be me.” He turns undead. 


One of the Nightwings flees, injured. 


Marshall: “Aw, gee. Fuck y’all.” 


Azrael throw down a Disintegrate on one of the nightwalkers, damaging it, then follows up with a quickened scorching ray; they both cast Finger of Death on Tavros and fail to kill him. The three remaining nightwings try as well, and also fail to kill him outright; Tavros collapses from the incidental damage. 


Fortunately, the druid casts Heal on Tavros, restoring him. Marshall moves up beside Tavros and Holy Wards himself, which is sort of Protection From Evil on steroids. (We lose 500 gp from the party fund, but it is so worth it.) Ruin fires through the are where Tavros was standing, and puts an arrow in one of the nightwalkers. Azrael drops an empowered fireball, followed by a quickened fireball, which scorches the whole group of enemies. 


The two nightwalkers let loose with quickened Unholy Blight spells, but Marshall has placed a Holy Aura on us and we’re resistant to the spell. The nightwings try to breathe cold into the house, which bothers Tavros not at all. Marshall isn’t immune, but he ducks partly back behind the doorframe and is only mildly damaged. 


Tavros stands up, and Lays Hands on himself, curing the damage he took from their shadowy attacks. Zilf, meanwhile, creates a sort of tsunami of grass that knocks the nightwalkers back and knocks the nightwings out of the sky; they take more damage from that. One of the nightwings goes down. Marshall follows that up with Mass Cure Critical Wounds, which will heal us and damage them since they’re undead. It fails to penetrate the spell resistance for Baku, but affects the other three; the shrug off the worst of it, but Furi dies and both the nightwings are pretty fucked up. 


Azrael throws Evard’s Black Tentacles, but fails to grapple any of them. Baku is angry; he tries Finger of Death on Marshall but fails to kill him. The nightwings are badly injured and try to fly off. Tavros charges Baku, but misses him. Zilf drops Sunlight on Baku; Marshall throws Cure Serious Mass on the two nightwings and tags them both. Ruin charges and attacks the nightwalker, but misses. Azrael throws a scorching ray and a quickened scorching ray. 


Azrael: “Honestly, I don’t know how you would manage without me.” 


Baku attempts to Finger of Death Azrael, but it doesn’t affect him; Tavros attacks and finishes it. 


Azrael teleports us to Styre, to the bar where the two parties first met. They hop on a wagon and head for Vrist. 


Meanwhile, a day earlier, the bishop draugan leaves our company. Martini turns invisible and follows him; Leira casts Silent Image and makes it look like Martini is still standing next to her. The bishop heads into the kitchen and disappears; Martini heads down into the cellar, looking around for secret doors. She finds one, of course; she also finds an alarm trap on that. She bypasses it and goes through the door, moving silently. She’s come down the stairs to some sort of crypt. A lot of the skulls are wolf skulls; but they’ve also made tables out of the bones. Bishop is just going around the corner, so Martini follows. 


There’s a nightwalker at the end of the corridor; the bishop says something to it and passes by as it steps aside. He goes through a door behind it. 


Martini knocks down a couple of bones as a distraction. The nightwalker wanders over and looks at her: “Passphrase?” 


Martini starts trying to talk to him in Draconic. Nightwalker: “Leave.” Martini goes back up, and tells the rest of the party about it. 


Geddy: “Where is the dumb motherfucker at? Boris.” 


We find him in the dining room. “Little man! You gonna join the boss!” 


Geddy: “Hell yes we are!” He lies convincingly. 


“All right!” he tries to slap hands and knocks Geddy over. 


Geddy: “Man, I whacked my head and I forgot that word they told me so I could go and check things out downstairs.” 


Boris: “You’re gonna worship Urgroth with us? AWESOME. And I knocked the password out of your head?” 


Geddy: “Yep, ‘fraid so.”


Boris: “So you have to talk to the creepy nightwalker thing, and the password is Gwendolyn.” 


Geddy: “Can I sing you a song?” 


He promptly uses Modify Memory to remove any memory of this from Boris’ head. Boris now thinks he whacked Geddy because Geddy sang a song about how awesome he was and he got so excited.


Unfortunately, now he wants to hear the song again. Geddy now has to play all three verses.


Geddy: “But I didn’t even get to the solo! I’ll play the whole thing tonight.” 


They exchange a cautious fist-bump, and Geddy encourages him to drink more. 


Martini goes back downstairs and uses the password, still invisible, and gets through the door. The door shuts, and the bishop is occupied with reading the book. He looks up: “Did someone come in?” 


He goes back and checks the door. “Lodi, did someone come through here?” 


Lodi the shadow walker: “Passphrase?” 


The Bishop goes back to his book. Martini walks onto the ceiling and reads over his shoulder. It appears to be a book of secrets. There’s also a magical scroll, a fancy one, on the altar. (Martini’s player: “The only reason he’s not dead yet is because I’m planning his murder.”) She checks out the rest of the room, finding an adamantium portcullis with a complex mechanism next to it that probably requires some sort of key. There’s money on the other side of the gate, and a tiny little chest covered with heavy dust. Nobody’s gone near it in a very long time, and she wants it. 


She returns to the front door and knocks quietly. Lodi opens it. “Passphrase?” 


She glances in a side door, and notes that it’s a laboratory for creating undead and there are two entropic reapers and to angels of decay. Then she goes back upstairs and tells the rest of us about what the room contains, including the isolated shoebox. 


We attend the dinner. Pretty much the whole Wallington family is there, along with Boris and the Bishop. Geddy begins his song, and Boris is thrilled. 


Fenric Wallington sits next to our group. “Have you considered my offers?”


He asks Leira about Fendril and dancing, and Leira bursts into tears. 


Fenric: “So… no marriage. Barony, then?” 


Alexej is face-deep in his plate of meat; Geddy is laying out our willingness to be of service, convincingly, in exchange for Lydel and a barony. It’s also possible that Alexej is now semi-engaged to one of the Wallington twins, who are really a matched pair. 


It’s a bit more than Wallington intended, so Geddy reassures him that if it takes more we can scale the deal down. There’s also some discussion of the Queen’s suitors; it’s a source of some bitterness that the count was never chosen as a suitor. (It was probably a combination of her not liking him and him not having quite overcome his father’s reputation at the time.) 


It turns out that the gang of thieves who attacked the manor were captured; most were executed, but the leader is in a cell on the second floor. Boris’ wife Ginger talks to Martini and commiserates about having to work around men to get things done. 


Wednesday, October 13, 2021

Challenge: Useless Talent

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!)

This week's prompt is "an odd or useless talent" and I'm torn between thinking about talents I actually have and just, y'know, generally odd or useless talents like "good at semaphore" or "bareback llama stunt rider" or "actually enjoys golf". 

But all right, I'll go with the supposition that we're meant to be talking about our own talents, which leaves me with... 

...well...

...all right. This isn't completely useless, since it got me out of a Situation once, but here goes: I can follow a hiking trail without needing to see it. Or to see anything, really. 

There's a trick to it, of course. A standard hiking trail wears a groove in the ground. It's usually subtle, but it'll be lowest in the center and rise back up to normal ground level on either side. Which means that if you pay attention to what's under your feet, you can correct your course to stay on the trail even if, hypothetically, you walked halfway down a Tennessee mountainside by the light of a full moon, made a small campfire, and didn't realize that the moon had set until you tried to head back. 

Under those extremely theoretical circumstances, which nobody with any sense will ever find themselves in, it might conceivably be a very handy talent indeed. 

Maybe.

Monday, October 11, 2021

State of Us

So last week's blog posts were a lot of music and not much else, and honestly this week looks likely to be the same. I'm working a bit on the Magic School for Monsters project (and I have an outline! Yay!) and another short story that's based on, um, me not remembering something in a book that someone else wrote, and then picturing how a similar incident might have turned out differently. Which is A) not going to appear here on the blog, I think, and B) trying to be much longer than I originally had in mind. I think it actually wants to become the first chapter of something, and I'm desperately trying to rein it in because I do not have time for that and will not finish it. 

And yeah, I have a bunch of things that I could be working on for the Blog o' Doom here if I could get my shit together, but work is piling projects on top of projects and that's sucking up a lot of my energy, plus the boys are out of school for today and tomorrow, and those two non-blog writing projects are currently occupying whatever's left of my Writing Brain. 

So the odds of my getting more writing done here on the blog are poor, with the exception that I should be able to attend the D&D game this week. (I didn't make it last week; there were other things in the way, and by the time they were out of the way I was just too tired. Like, "didn't trust myself to drive" tired.) And I might be able to do the blogging challenge; we'll see how that looks. I might not, too. 

For now, I'm going to go to sleep, secure in the knowledge that at least I don't have to get anyone else up in the morning.

Friday, October 8, 2021

At least it's Friday?

It's now been five weeks since the surgery, and Beautiful Wife continues to recover rapidly; at this point I'm less concerned that she'll tear something (or even strain something) and more worried about her overextending in terms of energy: she still wears out a lot faster than usual, which means she's frequently exhausted and taking a fair number of naps. (When she feels like she can; she's also back to teaching, which, ngggrrrrrrg.)

Meanwhile I'm exhausted from trying to keep the household running and clean, and keep everybody fed and on schedule. (And I still don't know how we'd have survived this without those gift cards - thanks again, guys!) Plus, work keeps dumping new, large, important projects on me and I'm seriously behind on like six of them. Frankly, I don't get paid enough for this.

On the plus side, what with the labor shortage and all this seems like a very good time to be looking for work elsewhere... Not that I really have time for a job search, but it's sort of thing that's worth making time for.  

Adulthood is relentless.

With that... let's have some music. How about Within Temptation?

Thursday, October 7, 2021

Homebrew Class: The Elvish Bladecrafter

This is not official D&D 3.5 material, and isn't even something available in the Sol Povos campaign, but it's roughly what I had in mind as a career for Ruin's old friend Amaranth and it would be one of those resources that the Duendewood elves guarded jealously since it gives them an edge against other races.

Elvish Bladecrafter
(Specialty Class for DnD 3.5)

Elvish Bladecrafters must be True Elves, Elves, or (rarely) half-elves. Theirs is an ancient tradition of martial smithing, which allows them to forge (or reforge) the magical arms and armor that the elves and their allies rely on. They are more artisans than adventurers, but despite their limitations they can be formidable and do sometimes venture out in search of rare ores or other special materials.

Abilities: Intelligence is key, both for learning arcane magics and for mastering the Craft skills required. Dexterity is almost as important (since a Bladecrafter must learn to use the weapons she creates), and Strength and Constitution help also. Wisdom and Charisma are least important.

Alignment: Any.

Hit Die: D8.

Level

BAB

Fort

Ref

Will

Special

1st

2nd

3rd

4th

5th

Max

1

+0

+2

+2

+2

Bladecrafting +1, Craft Skills, spellcasting

0

 

 

 

 

1

2

+1

+3

+3

+3

 

0

 

 

 

 

1

3

+2

+3

+3

+3

Bladecrafting +2

0

 

 

 

 

2

4

+3

+4

+4

+4

 

1

 

 

 

 

2

5

+3

+4

+4

+4

Bladecrafting +3, Skilled Crafting -10%

1

 

 

 

 

3

6

+4

+5

+5

+5

Weapon Care

1

0

 

 

 

3

7

+5

+5

+5

+5

Bladecrafting +4

1

0

 

 

 

4

8

+6/+1

+6

+6

+6

 

1

1

 

 

 

4

9

+6/+1

+6

+6

+6

Bladecrafting +5

1

1

 

 

 

5

10

+7/+2

+7

+7

+7

Skilled Crafting -20%

1

1

 

 

 

5

11

+8/+3

+7

+7

+7

Bladecrafting +6

1

1

0

 

 

6

12

+9/+4

+8

+8

+8

Mended Armor

1

1

0

 

 

6

13

+9/+4

+8

+8

+8

Bladecrafting +7

1

1

1

 

 

7

14

+10/+5

+9

+9

+9

 

2

1

1

0

 

7

15

+11/+6/+1

+9

+9

+9

Bladecrafting +8, Skilled Crafting -30%

2

2

1

0

 

8

16

+12/+7/+2

+10

+10

+10

 

2

2

1

1

 

8

17

+12/+7/+2

+10

+10

+10

Bladecrafting +9

2

2

1

1

0

9

18

+13/+8/+3

+11

+11

+11

 

3

2

2

1

0

9

19

+14/+9/+4

+11

+11

+11

Bladecrafting +10

3

3

2

2

1

9

20

+15/+10/+5

+12

+12

+12

Skilled Crafting -40%, Exceptional Items

3

3

2

2

1

9

Class Skills: The class skills for an Elvish Bladecrafter (and their associated abilities) are Appraise (Int), Concentration (Con), Craft (Int)*, Decipher Script (Int), Knowledge:Arcana (Int), Knowledge: Dungeoneering (Int), Spellcraft (Int), and Use Magic Device (Cha).
*Elvish Bladecrafters must always have points in Craft: Armorsmithing, Craft: Bowmaking, and Craft: Weaponsmithing, and must always have the maximum possible points for their level in at least one of these skills.
Skill Points at 1st level: (6 + Int Modifier) x 4.
Skill Points at Each Additional Level: 6 + Int Modifier.

Feats: While weapons and armor are their primary focus, many Elvish Bladecrafters will branch out to learn metamagic or other item creation feats, and so expand their repertoire.

Class Features

Weapon and Armor Proficiencies: The Bladecrafter is (of necessity) proficient with all simple and martial weapons, all armor, and all shields.

Bladecrafting: Elvish Bladecrafters learn to create magic weapons in the course of their apprenticeship; even at first level, they can craft +1 weapons, armor, and ammunition as if they had the Craft Magical Arms and Armor feat. Every two levels thereafter, they gain the skill needed to add an additional +1 enchantment or the equivalent. (e.g. A third level Elvish Bladecrafter could craft +2 chainmail armor, or a +1 Ghost Touch mace.) Costs and crafting times remain normal, and a proper setup for smithing is required in order to enchant items. This exception to the usual magic item creation rules only applies to weapons and armor with which the Bladecrafter is proficient, and some bladecrafters choose to specialize by becoming proficient with specific exotic weapons.

Craft Skills: Bladecrafters begin their careers with a +5 class bonus to Craft: Armorsmith, Craft: Bowmaker, and Craft: Weaponsmith skills.

Spellcasting: Bladecrafters learn spells and maintain spellbooks just as Wizards do, but their relationship to magic is very different. Where a Wizard studies to use magic directly, an Elvish Bladecrafter studies it to incorporate it into magical weapons or armor. As a result, casting a spell outside of the enchantment process requires a complete shift in thinking, and Bladecrafters can only memorize a very limited number of spells to cast in the more traditional fashion. A Bladecrafter may add spells to her spellbook just as a wizard does, and may employ those spells in creating items (up to the spell level indicated by the Max column in the Bladecrafter advancement table) but can only memorize and cast spells as indicated in the columns for each spell level.

Skilled Crafting: Beginning at level five, an Elvish Bladecrafter’s dedication to her craft allows her to create magical items at a reduced Experience Point cost. (Costs for time and materials are not reduced, nor are any Exp costs for spells cast normally. However, if the Bladecrafter has acquired any other Item Creation Feats, Exp cost for creating those items is likewise reduced.) At level five, the Bladecrafter sacrifices 10% less Exp, and that reduction increases by another 10% every five levels.

Weapon Care: Beginning at level six, an Elvish Bladecrafter with a minimal set of tools can polish blades, sharpen points, tighten bindings, and generally tend weapons to get them into their best possible shape. This treatment takes about ten minutes, and doubles the critical threat range for any given melee weapon for its first attack the next time it is used. Missile weapons cannot be touched up this way, but ammunition can; caring for ammunition requires one minute per missile.

Mended Armor: Beginning at level twelve, the Bladecrafter can care for a set of armor, touching it up and adding minor reinforcement. The next time an attack would have hit the person wearing that armor, roll 1d6 and add the results to the target’s AC; if the attack would miss the new armor class, it fails.

Exceptional Items: At twentieth level, there is a small chance that an Elvish Bladecrafter may produce something truly exceptional. If the character rolls a natural twenty for their Craft check, and they are using a Craft skill in which they have invested the maximum possible skill points, the item will have some unusual ability and may even be a newly-formed Artifact. Exact details should be negotiated between the DM and the player.