Wednesday, August 31, 2022

Challenge: Plotlines I Nope Out Of

(This post is part of the Wednesday Weekly Blogging Challenge. You can find links to other writers' answers over at Long and Short Reviews.)

Prompt: a plotline you refuse to read/watch, & why

I think I'm fairly open to most things, but I actually do have an answer to this: Any plot which centers around two people who fall brilliantly in love before discovering that one of them is sick/dying and their love is doomed to a tragic end. So anything by Nicholas Sparks, basically. It's not that I think there's anything wrong with it, mind you; it's just that I have no desire to do that to myself emotionally. At all. Ever.

What about you? What are your no-go plotlines?

Tuesday, August 30, 2022

Evil!Party: Jormungand the Elder Wyrm

The Ancient Wyrm Gold Dragon Jormungand – hereafter referred to as Georgie – favors his weakening gas; he is a superb spellcaster - we should expect two or three spells from him each round. And basically, after that he just fell on Maodeus and kicked his ass. 

Chuck will be going into battle on the back of his enslaved Pit Fiend, Balaam. We start setting buffs on Jenny, who’s probably going to have to do most of the damage. One way or another, all of us will be flying. 

We lure the dragon in, then we all take to the air… and run straight into Georgie’s Aura of Fear. Georgie then hits us with weakening gas, and follows up with a mass hold person. The hierophant is not scared, and casts Remove Fear on Jenny and summons an insect plague. He is also, himself, an insect plague at the moment. Jenny, no longer afraid, charges in and attacks with her massive spiked chain. She gets bitten on the way in, but she’s sharing her life force with Durest and the Hierophant and so the damage is split among the three of them. Jenny manages to hit the dragon by lining up a careful shot. 

Durest heads over and cures Maodeus of Fear, then heals himself a bit. Balaam has summoned an ice devil, and Georgie has added a quickened Mirror Image spell. Georgie takes damage from the hierophant’s swarm; he then uses Restoration to get rid of his negative levels. The hierophant adds another insect plague, and also strips Georgie of his Shield and Mirror Image spells. 

Jenny, furious, hits him twice and does some serious damage. Durest catches up with Chuck and cures him of fear. Unfortunately, Georgie drops Irresistible Dance on Jenny. Georgie also casts True Seeing on himself. Balaam attacks, and Chuck uses a quickened Dimension Door to place himself above the dragon’s head and blasts him in the back of the skull with Polar Ray. Which is cold damage. Which the gold dragon is vulnerable to. Chuck: “Suck it.”

Maodeus moves in and attacks, adding some damage. 

Georgie casts Time Stop and lays down three Delayed Blast Fireballs. There’s a lot of destruction. The Hierophant casts a quickened Inflict Critical to heal himself, then drops a Cure Critical on Jenny. Then he drops more swarms of locusts on the dragon. Durest drops a Dispel Magic on Jenny, removing the Irresistible Dance. Georgie moves out of the swarms, and when Jenny tries to swing at him she drops her chain. He then casts a quickened Shield on himself. 

Chuck heals a bit. The swarms follow the dragon. He adds his Shield spell back, and tags Jenny with a Quickened Irresistible Dance. Balaam heads down to grab Jenny’s chain and bring it back to her. Chuck fires down another Polar Ray, but doesn’t get through Spell Resistance. He then uses quickened Protection from Energy to restore his fire protection. Maodeus comes up behind Georgie, who snaps at him on his way in; Maodeus takes his first damage of this combat. So he does a quickened True Strike and a huge power attack… but misses. 

Georgie casts Displace on himself (quickened). The Hierophant drops a quickened Protection from Energy on Jenny to restore her fire protection, then cures her almost back to undamaged. Then he adds a few more spell immunities: Otto’s Irresistable Dance, Delayed Blast Fireball, and two others. 

Durest tries to dispel the irresistible dance, and then tries to cast Destruction on the dragon – but fails on both accounts. Georgie moves, then uses his weakening gas breath weapon on Maodeus and Jenny. Balaam returns with Jenny’s chain: “Why are you dancing? This is EMBARRASSING!”

CHuck tries his polar ray again, but fails to get through Spell Resistance. Maodeus tries to cast Otto’s Irresistable Dance on Georgie, but also fails to get through Spell Resistance. Then he casts Restoration on Jenny, whose physical strength is now restored. 

Georgie attacks Jenny, but she’s resistant to damage and sharing any damage she takes with Durest and the Hierophant. The Hierophant drops Restoration Maodeus, restoring his strength. Durest throws Greater Dispel Magic at Georgie, and strips off some of his protections, then heals himself a bit. The swarms move over to Georgie, who casts Time Stop and casts Heal three times to restore himself nearly back to full health. Balaam teleports behind the dragon, so that he and Jenny are flanking it. Chuck moves back, and again fails to get through spell resistance… then pushes a fleabite of a Ray of Frost past his guard. 

Maodeus fails to disintegrate Georgie, but does some damage and moves in. Georgie likes this idea and tries a quickened Disentegrate on Jenny, who isn’t disintegrated but takes some damage that she shares with Durest and the Hierophant. 

The Hierophant heals himself, then drops a quickened True Seeing on Jenny. Jenny attacks, hitting twice, and taking damage herself to do a ton of extra damage. Durest hits him with another Dispel magic, then heals himself a bit more. The elder wyrm breaths fire, annihilating the insect swarms and Jenny, who still has her fire protection up. 

Balaam makes a full attack and actually hits him. Three times. The poison and disease effects don’t bother the dragon, but Balaam still does a respectable amount of damage. Chuck tries again, but fails to get through spell resistance… again. Maodeus moves in, looking to Jenny for tactical advice. Then he attacks.

Two of his attacks get through, and do some damage. 

Georgie casts Irresistible Dance on Durest, who is helpless against it. Jenny attacks and hits the dragon three times, still doing her extra damage that also damages her. She does what we used to refer to as “a metric fuck-ton” of damage. The Hierophant does some damage as a swarm of insects. Georgie does yet another time stop and heals himself again. Chuck fails a couple of attacks, and hits him with a quickened Enervate… which should help. Maodeus moves in like an angry cat, all claws and teeth and tails and wings (cats have wings, right?) and does a decent chunk of damage. ‘

Georgie sets Chuck to dancing. 

The Hierophant drops Fire Protection on Jenny and Fire Resistance on Durest, who is still dancing. Jenny attacks and hits him three times. Durest is still dancing. 

Georgie uses his weakening gas breath weapon, and Jenny and Maodeus lose some physical strength. 

Maodeus tries to cure Chuck of dancing, but fails. Georgie puts a quickened shield back on himself after Balaam removed it. The Hierophant quickened Heals himself, then Heals Durest and throws an Inflict Serious on Chuck to restore him. Jenny runs through another set of attacks, and hits three times. Durest prays for a miracle, that his next spell will work and take full effect. 

Maodeus restores his strength, and Jenny’s. Then he drops a Cure Serious on Durest, 

Jenny attacks, focusing on hitting as much as possible. Durest, riding on that prayer, turns him into a newt. 

Unfortunately, he’s still a newt with wings and spellcasting. And also, he’s really kind of pissed off. He tries to disintegrate Durest, fails, but does a bit of damage. 

He stops time again and heals, but Balaam goes in for a full-round attack, and just… rips into him with a bunch of attacks and a critical tail slap. Chuck tries to attack, fails. Maodeus moves up and goes to attack the no-longer-dragon-now-flying-lizard, and claws the heck out of him. 

Georgie pulls his last Time Stop, and manages three Heals and two Delayed Blast Fireballs on Jenny. The Hierophant cures Durest, then drops Dimensional Anchor to make sure that this ends here and now. Jenny tears into him. Durest casts Destruction and fails to destroy him, but again does some damage. He casts another Heal on himself. Chuck, meanwhile, has been regenerating. Georgie casts Maze on the Hierophant, taking him out of the fight for the moment. Balaam goes for another full attack, but misses. 

Maodeus asks for Jenny’s advice; she suggests a modest attack. He rips into the lizard, and does some damage. Georgie manages to cast Maze on Durest as well; he’s out of the fight. Jenny, meanwhile, rips into Georgie again. 

Durest pops right back out of the maze, thanks to his luckstone. 

Georgie attempts to use Sunburst as a spell-like ability. Then he tries to use his breath weapon, but at his current size he’s got about a fifteen-inch range. He drops a quickened Shield on himself yet again, because apparently he lacks the grace to just die; Balaam immediately dispels it. Chuck immediately tags him with a Polar Ray, doing a bunch of damage. Georgie does a Cure Critical on himself, but Jenny immediately attacks him and hits him three times. Durest tries to finish him with a spell, but fails to get past his resistance. Georgie heals himself but takes swarm damage. 

Georgie disengages and flies like hell. Balaam grabs Jenny and teleports after him. The rest of us try to follow, but Jenny’s the only one in a position to successfully attack. She lays into him and finishes him.

Monday, August 29, 2022

Holy Cow, Y'all

So last week was completely wild. Apparently I made it back from the conference plague-free, but Monday -- when I'd planned to get back to work on everything -- everything went off the rails again and for while our network and phones were completely down. I'm working from home again, and will be for the foreseeable future. But basically everything came to a grinding halt last week, and so hopefully I can get back on track on the half-dozen projects I still have outstanding sometime this week. 

Got a little done on the writing project. I basically have two takes on the opening at this point, and it's very possible that I'll just be writing both of them until I get to the point where they converge. Which... I mean, it's basically just a matter of figuring out how to get from Point A to Point B. Twice. I'd like to be making more progress, faster progress, but the past two weeks have not been good for my energy or my concentration. 

So I was really hoping for a bit of rest this weekend, which finally happened -- sort of -- on Sunday. Saturday would have been the Youth D&D game for Secondborn and his friends, but one of those friends was having a Bar Mitzvah so we went to that instead. Between the ceremony and the reception, it lasted most of the day. It was a lot of fun, and they had a murder mystery game at the reception. (Amusingly, our table -- despite paying very little attention and not even going around and questioning the suspects, figured out who the murderer was and how and why they'd done it. Perhaps I should consider changing to a career as a police detective?) Then I came home, played in a D&D game, and passed the heck out. 

Sunday was better. I slept late, then hurriedly cleaned up the kitchen and ran the youth D&D game for Firstborn and his friends. After that I ran a little laundry but otherwise vowed not to move unless I had to. 

So basically, I'm treating the start of this week as a reset. More sleep. More exercise. Less alcohol. I'd add "less stress" to that list, but honestly I cannot even type that with a straight face. Nevertheless... onward and upward. Nothing but good times ahead.

Thursday, August 25, 2022

Music: Mercy of the Fallen

 Dar Williams: 

It's been a long week, so this is all I have for today. It's not on the playlist for the current writing project, but I think maybe it should be.

Wednesday, August 24, 2022

Challenge: Mark Your Place

(This post is part of the Wednesday Weekly Blogging Challenge. You can find links to other writers' answers over at Long and Short Reviews.)

Prompt: Bookmark, scrap paper, or dog-ear?

At this point in my life, the answer is usually just, "Kindle." That said, when I am reading a paper book, I tend to mark my place with some kind of bookmark - frequently a card of some order. (I have an odd little collection of playing-card sized cards: some with art on them, some that came with other things like D&D figure sets, some remnants of card games that Secondborn opened and scattered in years past.) So, not usually purpose-built bookmarks as such, but not exactly scrap paper either.

Tuesday, August 23, 2022

EvilParty: The Battle With The Pit Fiend

Various things are going on in the world. The tarrasque is still rampaging, the dark army is nearing the Imperial province, and a portion of the main elven army has been destroyed; human forces hold the western section of the elven settlements. Elven extremists have taken over Caristhium and, among other things, hanged Emilianna Fontaine, the King’s Great-Aunt and Tavros’ mother. 

Meanwhile, Evil!Party is confronting Balaam within the staff. Jenny charges and hits him. Balaam hits us with a meteor swarm, and then drops a quickened fireball and then a Power Word Stun on Chuck. Chuck is stunned, and Durest has now used up all his fire protection. 

Jenny attacks again and maims Balaam. Balaam decides that she’s the threat, and attacks her with everything he has, but fails to take her down. He afflicts her with fear, but Durest removes the fear. Chuck is still stunned. 

Jenny then moves in and beats him down. 

Chuck claims the sixth medallion, and the other five vibrate in harmony with it. A pedestal with a burning brazier rises from the ground. Chuck starts dropping medallions into the flames. We start by throwing Jenny’s medallion into the fire, and each time we do a sort of incandescent veil lifts from us and disappears into the fire. The staff is no longer linked to us. Then we throw in the snow spirit, and Lord Prisius, and both of them are drawn into the brazier. At that point the world starts shaking and it’s obviously starting to come apart. Burhea appears and tells Chuck to throw the final medallion into the flames. 

Burhea: “Throw it in!”

Balaam: “Liar!” 

Chuck puts on the medallion, and half the room just falls away. We’re looking out onto this vast rocky landscape with lava rivers, crawling with hordes of devils. In the distance beside a river of lava is this layered fortress made  of obsidian: this is the Fortress of Appollyon, the Devil King. A frost devil is walking up a path, followed by chain devils carrying chairs, followed by lemurs (least devils) carrying various things including writing skins, pens, and ink. One more is waddling along with a short staff. They’re all headed this way. 

Balaam looks alarmed. 

Burhea: “Quick! Throw it in the fire! Destroy this place! You’ll set us all free and destroy one of Appollyon’s generals! You’ll never have a chance like this again.”

They stop in front of the shimmering at the edge of the room. 

Chuck: “Hey, Balaam? I think you know how this is going to end. I think we better start working together a little better.”

Ice demon: “Master has become impatient for the return of his good servant. Will you not invite me in?”

Chuck: “Come on in. Let’s open the negotiations.”

The whole procession presses through the barrier, and sets up the chairs and tables. The ice devil seats itself, and Chuck sits across from it.

Ice Demon: “The sealing ritual prevents the Master from entering Midgard, but this soul gem provides a point of contact.”

Ice Demon: “Master Appollyon, true-blooded descendent of the first, true heir to the world, desires the return of his servant. But Balaam’s defeat in battle places him in your debt. The Master offers this rod in exchange, and if you accept the debt will be paid for you and the Master will collect his servant’s debt for the creation of this item.”

One of the lemurs brings the rod over, and the ice devil touches the rod; suddenly the lemur is covered in amazingly expensive clothing, and it straightens with a newfound dignity and an aura of power. “In addition, it can create a palatial manor to house many of your kind and augment your spellcasting powers, making you far stronger than you are now.”

Chuck: “Balaam? What’s your counter-offer?”

Balaam: “Don’t take gifts from that pathetic–” he spits on the floor “Gelugon. Chuck… I will pay off my debt. You have beaten me in battle; I will help you.”

Despite the weird pincers and the inhuman face, the ice devil seems to be smiling. “This is… allowed…” A couple of lemurs come over with the parchments, and… yeah, it’s skin. The ice devil unrolls it. It’s a contract saying that Balaam must serve Chuck ninety-nine times before he can return to the dark realm. 

Jenny: “So in terms of this service, is the foreplay one service or is it the whole sex act?” 

Durest elbows her. After some discussion, we work out that Chuck would be able to summon Balaam more or less at will if he chooses this option. The rod is pretty powerful too, though. 

Chuck: “What do you think Appollyon has planned for Balaam if I take the rod?”

The ice demon looks at the Chuck, looks significantly at the lemur, and then looks back at Chuck. 

Jenny asks about defeating Balaam again once we use up all our summonings: could we renew the deal that way?

"No," says the ice devil. Appollyon’s hierarchy is all about strength; a pit fiend who got defeated twice is no longer a pit fiend. 

Chuck looks at Balaam: “Well, call me an old softie but… Balaam, I think you’re going to be sticking with me.”

Burhea fades out, still cursing Chuck. 

Ice Devil: “So you are decided?” 

Chuck: “I’m decided.”

The ice devil lays a dagger on the contract. Chuck puts a bloody handprint on the contract. Balaam crawls over and signs his name in his own blood. The scroll rolls itself up and the ice devil turns to depart. The floor here starts to harden, until we’re in a cubic stone room. Then it all goes a bit hazy as we fade out. 

We fall out of the staff into the room where the ritual was done. We’re back in Sol Povos, in Wellfort. 

There is screaming and chaos upstairs. 

We come up and find the dead body of Maodeus in the courtyard, in full dragon form. The cardinal is rushing out to raise him back. There are some beat-up bugbears and ogres around as well. Durest strolls over to the nearest bugbear, asks, “What happened?” and heals him.

Meanwhile… King Luc is pissed about the death of his aunt. Viggo the Whisperer, the All-Knowing, the king’s spymaster is exhausted from trying to hold the kingdom together when half the king's whims would tear it apart, including a recent decision to recall the Solari that were blocking the Tarrasque so that they can defend the Imperial province. The latest two cities that the king left undefended against the Tarrasque were evacuated and the bridges burnt to leave the Tarrasque restrained. The poet Dante and Father Montaigne worked together to get it done. All the king’s advisors look tired. Dante in particular looks… a little sad. 

“Viggo! I want the loyalty mandates stepped up!” yelled the king. “And find that goddamn Silver Fox!”

Viggo: “I have a particularly skilled bounty hunter on job already.” 

The king wants The Silver Fox drawn and quartered. Or eighthed. Or however many pieces they can manage. The Seneschal suggests a particular form of tortuous execution which will be called “The King’s Rack”. The king is enthused. 

They manage to redirect the king from executing all the elves that his field commander has under her rule. 

The poet Dante distracts the king with the story of an ancient dragon buried beneath the dragonmound. They tell the king that it really exists, and they know how to wake it up. The king instructs them to wake it up. And – dear gods – the king wants to send Duke Corbin back up to the Northern Front. The Duke had sent him a letter. And the king is insistent – very insistent. So that's probably going to happen.

But the King's advisors have found a way to wake this ancient, legendary elder wyrm. This is the dragon who annihilated Maodeus’ army and killed him. 

The hierophant explains the situation to us, including the return of the Great Worm, in a massive meeting of all the Vecna higher-ups. So they’re suggesting that we go with the Hierophant Malafar and Maodeus to attack this dragon. We agree, with a bit of bargaining: Chuck gets a book of Vile Darkness, Durest gets a Shadow Scepter that’s… very nearly made for him… and Jenny gets a guarantee that they will replace Ferroustopher when he inevitably gets destroyed. 

Chuck uses the book and levels up twice; Durest levels up, and adds a level of Hierophant so he can now do touch attack spells (or heal) from thirty feet away. He'd feel a lot better about this if he could become a lich first and then fight the dragon, but there's no time for that now.

Monday, August 22, 2022

Trying to get back in gear

So, after a summer of inactivity we have the base of the Youth D&D group up and running again -- so three players, out of our five. One of the five has a job that involves mostly working on the weekends, so he may or may not be able to attend regularly, and I'm hoping the other will make it back on a more regular basis once things settle down. 

Meanwhile, we've also started the 2e Youth D&D group for Secondborn and two of his friends. They're doing a very different sort of campaign -- they wanted something more open world, where they could just wander around and have adventures, so I've obliged by building something to spec for them. They're also learning D&D as they go. Our first session went really well and everybody seemed to have a good time; I think this will go well, and they have a really great time together just as friends. 

Meanwhile, work is recalcitrant and Beautiful Wife is starting another semester where she's teaching more classes than she really has time or energy for; we're not looking forward to that. Still, on the whole, things could be going a lot worse. I'm back from the software convention, I don't seem to have caught the plague while I was there (I was exceedingly careful), and I'm back to doing Duolingo and working on the writing project. I'm reconsidering how I'm going about it, but... I don't know. Where it's at now is what works for my skills and inclinations. I might take a run at a slightly different approach, but only if I become convinced that it will work better. We'll see. 

Meanwhile: more sleep, more exercise, less drinking. 

This is the way.

Sunday, August 14, 2022

Out of Town

I am, somewhat against my better judgement, out of town at a conference. It looks like it will at least be educational, and apparently there's a lazy river on the premises somewhere. 

Anyways posting is going to be slow -- or possibly nonexistent -- this week.

Meanwhile, have a picture of the very, very sad doggo who must now wear a cone because he kept worrying at some sort of rash until he gave himself a full-blown infection. 


Friday, August 12, 2022

Vendril: Towns and Guilds

(Another plot-advancing, world-building contribution from our DM. Vendril was the rogue/ranger who was originally part of the "good" party who supported Sol Povos and its king. He comes from a border clan of elves -- not from Duendewood -- and his family has a tradition of military service. It's their way of showing loyalty and contributing to the greater good.)

Vendril slid cautiously into the tavern, making sure to close the door quietly behind him. He didn’t like this. No, he didn’t like this at all. Luckily, the tavern was quite busy.

In the time he’d spent in Solstar, one thing he’d learned was that the guilds were everywhere. No matter how stealthy he was, or how much care he took to cover his tracks, they were always right there, crawling up his ass with their army of spies and informants, like well-organized cockroaches. In truth, he mostly got along with the major guilds, and all had attempted to recruit him at one time or another.  He rebuffed the offers, of course; he was not here for profit. Still, it seemed they held a certain respect for him, and it afforded him a pass in most matters. But now they’d just vanished. And that was something Vendril did not like at all.

Across the room he saw the man he was looking for: Erwin Fourfoot, former guildmember and insufferable gossip. Vendril made two passes of the room and counted to five hundred before making his way to Erwin’s table, drink in hand. The man smiled as soon as Vendril sat down.

“So nice of ‘e to be joining meh,” Erwin drawled between his broken teeth.

“Likewise,” Vendril replied.

“I thought you’d ne’er be coming o’er. I thought per’aps you ain’t seen me.”

Vendril glared at him, “Of course I saw you. But I was being inconspicuous. Anybody in here could be an informant of one of the many parties who think they run this city.”

“Oh, ‘e mean the guilds. Well ain’t no need worry ‘bout them no more.”

“Is that so?”

“That so.”

Vendril gave him a hard stare and finally let out an exasperated sigh. “Fine, how much?”

“10 gold.”

Vendril reached for his purse.

“And a bottle of ‘at wine that noble lady be drink’n o’er there.”

Vendril squinted across the bar at the well-dressed lady, sipping deep burgundy wine from a real glass. His eyebrows went up, “That’s a 537 red from Summerwynne! It’s worth well more than the 10 gold!”

“I ain’t care how much it cost, I ain’t ne’er had fine wine a’fore. I wanna taste it.”

“Gods,” Vendril swore, “what a waste of time. Look, how about I just make it 15 gold and we call it a day, eh? Think how much heavier your purse will be.”

“10 gold,” Erwin insisted, “and m’ wine.”

Vendril grunted and made his way to the bar. He was right – the 21-year-old vintage cost over triple what he was paying the man for information. Cursing Erwin for an idiot, he purchased the bottle and took it to Erwin, whose eyes lit up like a child receiving candy. He immediately poured wine into the fine glass all the way to the brim and chugged it down in a single motion, his Adam’s apple pulsing with each gulp. It was a stark contrast to the lady across the room, carefully nursing her drink.

“Well?” Vendril asked.

Erwin poured a second glass – also to the brim – and continued chugging the criminally expensive wine. “Damn, this is good!” he exclaimed, spewing droplets of wine onto the table.

“My information,” Vendril insisted.

“Yes, yes. The guilds be gone ‘cause they all in Brightland.”

“What? That doesn’t make any sense. Brightland was just sacked by that necromancer and his evil army.”

“Well, see, that was last month. Our good guild friends, well they be enterprising fellows. They sees an opportunity when it presents itself.”

“Wait,” Vendril gasped. He was sure his jaw dropped all the way to table. “Are you saying the guilds took over Brightland?”

Erwin intimated a toast to show his approval, “That’s right. And why not? Ain’t nobody else ruling it.”

Vendril sat back in his chair, stunned. It was one of the craziest and most obvious things he’d ever heard, all at the same time. It seemed the five major guilds had pounced on the opportunity to take over the ruler-less county.

“I hear,” Erwin belched, “that the common folk sing their praises in the street. They’ve set the whole city to right, arranged for food, protection, all o’ it. I heard the common folk say that the be better rulers than the right proper lords!”

Vendril couldn’t help chuckling as he shook his head. Who better to run a city? The guilds had extremely well-organized networks and a strong, built-in sense of hierarchy. On top of that, they had resources and connections. And unlike the nobles before them, they cared nothing for divine right or the sanctity of nobility. They’d have the city and its businesses back up and running in no time. To the common folk, it would probably seem as if the war had never happened. And once the war was over? Well, he suspected the king might not be so quick to displace those generating more tax income than previously enjoyed.

“See, Brightland’s the place to be, I says, not like Flowerhedge,” Erwin hiccupped, “overrun by vampires.”

Vendril’s eyes darted to the man. He was drunk now, rocking back and forth in his seat. Vendril immediately ordered another bottle of wine – a younger vintage, much cheaper, but in the same bottle with the same label. Erwin squealed like a girl when it was delivered.

In the end, it turned out to be a much more profitable night than Vendril had anticipated. One more bottle of cheap wine was enough to milk Erwin for everything he knew. It seemed the necromancer and his minions had turned everyone in the Flowerhedge castle into vampires before they left. There were 30 vampires, if Erwin were to be believed, plus over a hundred spawn they’d created in the weeks since Flowerhedge was sacked. Like the guilds, they’d capitalized on a power vacuum and organized themselves into the new rulers of Flowerhedge. It was a dim fate, but better than the cities further down the river. Rockdale had been given to a Wildlander warlord called the Iron Lion. Garamond, meanwhile, lay in ashes.

The scariest part, however, was that this small army – apparently a vampire, a necromancer, and a Wilderlander warrior princess – had worked their way up the Rockwind, sacking one city after another, leading them all they way to Brightland, which was adjacent to the royal duchy itself. In fact, all that stood between the capital and Brightland was Duke of Erikol, a ceremonial seat for the most senior member of the royal family not in the line of succession.

As Vendril walked out of the tavern that night, he was filled with dread.

Wednesday, August 10, 2022

Challenge: Fan-Fiction

(This post is part of the Wednesday Weekly Blogging Challenge. You can find links to other writers' answers over at Long and Short Reviews.)

Prompt: Thoughts on Fan Fiction

I'm going to resist the urge to define fan fiction (fanfic) here, because surely anybody reading my blog knows already... and if not, Google is easy. And based on the prompt, I'd assume that this is looking for us to address the question of whether fanfic is... I guess I'd say "legitimate" art, since that seems to be the usual debate around it. You're writing stories about the characters and settings and world of somebody else's stories; is that Art, or is it merely Derivation?

...And that's not a debate I particularly care to have. The idea is that writing stories that feature characters/worlds/magic systems/settings whose traits are already well-defined is arguably easier than coming up with your own characters and world and etc. I'm not honestly certain that that's true. But even if we accept for the sake of argument that it is, well... staying true to those well-defined characters/etc. while going your own way is its own challenge, and very easy to get wrong. And trying to make that work is also an excellent way to develop critical reading skills, not to mention writing skills. 

And on top of that all art is ultimately derivative. There is no new thing under the sun. Creativity, as they say, is the art of hiding your sources. No small number of creative works exist as nothing more or less than reactions to, or expansions upon, earlier works. Northanger Abby really isn't a terribly interesting book if you don't know any of the other books it's making unspoken remarks upon. Robert E. Howard's stories of Conan the Barbarian share the same world as H.P. Lovecraft's cosmic horrors, though admittedly that was more collaborative than "derivative" -- the two were contemporaries, and correspondents. Roger Zelazny's Chronicles of Amber have an entire role-playing game based on them -- so does The Wheel of Time -- so anybody who plays either of those is arguably engaging in fan fiction. Or, more directly...  Heck, the books of the Bible build upon and argue against and exist in a sort of constant, fraught dialogue with each other.

So I guess where I'm going with this is that my main thought on fan fiction is that the line between fan fiction and other fiction is waaaaaaaaaaay more blurry than a lot of the modern dialogue or debate would have you believe.What we call fanfiction nowadays is a brilliant and elaborate way of engaging with an author's works (even if, for legal reasons, they aren't allowed to read it themselves). Stories written in reaction to existing works -- or building on them -- may have the serial numbers filed off, but they're awfully close cousins to fanfics. 

And I just finished reading a pair of stories, where the second author had written a story in the same world, with the same characters, exploring a possible situation that the original author never intended, which is published as a legitimate piece of literature. (This eBook includes both the original and the follow-up, and the follow-up is both a perfectly good story in its own right and also fanfiction by any standard definition of the term.) 

So many people start writing because they love reading. It seems abjectly silly to criticize them for writing about the story-worlds that they love.

Tuesday, August 9, 2022

EvilParty: The Hunting Lodge

So last time we we rescued someone named Malina. This time, we’re headed off to a clearing with some sort of stone spiral that might be the next step. We head to the tavern, where we find Jeremiah. Like everyone else here, he seems vaguely familiar. Chuck walks up to him and tries to challenge him to a friendly wrestling match; Jeremiah refuses.

So the snow lion pelts sell really well, but after the last sale they didn’t come back. More recently a rogue recruited a band and went north as well. He also mentions a circle of stones, that he thinks was made by something inhuman. Jenny shows him Chuck’s medallion, and Chuck turns on him threateningly… and he freaks. He’s just sure that Chuck is “one of them” – the tall, antlered beasts that walk like men and haunt your thoughts. He gives us direction to Blue Rock Lodge, where the trappers stay at night when they’re out there. Corrigard was the first trapper, who’s missing; Keller is the one who followed him, the rogue – and probably used this an excuse to blow town and get away from trouble.

Jenny asks what they do to your head, and Jeremiah said that they just stay in your head until you go crazy. 

We buy supplies: Oil of Flaming Arrow, six healing potions, twelve alchemist fire, and one silversheen. Jenny ends up chatting with another hunter, who confirms the legend of the elk but suggests that we leave our horses here. We decide to leave the horses here, and Jenny sells them off for us, netting us another 300 gold. We use that to buy cold-weather clothing and travel supplies, and some food supplies which Chuck plans to supplement by hunting. Chuck buys a pack that will let him carry Jenny (so we can move faster) and off we go!

Twelve hours of hard travel into the frozen north… we’re warm enough, so we’re feeling good about that. It is, of course, not long before we run into something in the forest. It’s an owlbear, and it looks angry and hungry, and we’ve seen it before it sees us. Durest leans over to Chuck: “Them’s good eatin’!” Chuck: “What? No.” Chuck takes Jenny off, and that’s when it spots us. It fluffs out its feathers and shrieks a hunting cry. 

Chuck moves towards the owlbear; the owlbear moves towards Chuck. Jenny moves up a little bit and casts Silent Image, placing a second Chuck next to Chuck. Durest moves beside Chuck. Chuck charges the beast and power attacks, hitting it. It then attacks Chuck, claws him, grabs him, and pecks with his beak. Chuck: “OUCH!”

Durest runs up and attempts to grapple the owlbear, and succeeds. Chuck attempts to help Durest pin it. It tries to peck Chuck, but they’ve got its head and it misses. Jenny breaks into a romantic melody from the noble Lady Gaga. Durest attempts to pin the owlbear, but fails. The owlbear tries to peck Chuck again but it fails, and the Durest somehow manages to twist this thing around and pin it. Chuck promptly slits its throat. 

Chuck looks around and decides that it probably happens onto us randomly. It’s pretty emaciated, but we collect what meat we can and fashion Jenny a crude owlbear-hide cloak. Chuck isn’t sure if the scarcity of animals is from sort of curse, or just winter. 

We continue on and make camp for the night. It’s spooky nighttime time. Chuck takes the first watch; Durest takes second watch; and Jenny takes the final watch. It’s a lot colder at night. Fortunately, we have our furs and whatnot. Just on the edge of the firelight, Jenny spots a group of small lions, who seem to very hesitant to approach more closely. She throws rocks, and they go away. The come back around once or twice, but don’t approach the camp. 

The sun is a welcome warmth. We continue traveling, with Chuck making sure we stay on the path. The second day is pleasantly uneventful, but it’s getting colder as we go and it’s going to be a very cold night. The forest has gotten denser, but the trees are more or less frozen and the snow falls continually. 

Again, Chuck takes the first watch. He’s sitting by the fire, maybe dozing a little, when a giant snow spider walks into our camp and then stops, completely startled. It turns, looks at Chuck, and jumps him. He takes a little damage from the bite, and a bunch of Dexterity damage from the poison. 

Chuck screams, and then rages, and then tries to smash. He hits, doing pretty decent damage, and takes off a leg. The spider reels back, hissing. 

Durest awakens: “Chuck! Why didn’t ye yell? Are ye drunk, lad?”

The spider tries to bite Chuck, misses, and buries its tentacles in a sleeping bag and gets itself trapped. Chuck can feel his body trying to shut down, but focuses his rage and attacks again, dispatching the beast. A moment later, Chuck collapses. 

Durest takes over the watch after rolling Chuck up in his sleeping bag and covering him in furs. Jenny wakes up for her shift to find that Durest has attempted to dress the spider and placed all the meat in a pile on the snow. He has also clearly experimented with spider-based armor. 

Nothing happens in Jenny’s shift, and by morning Chuck is at least semi-mobile. He’s strong enough to carry Jenny, but his balance is definitely off. Jenny puts up with it. We travel about a half day, and then make an early camp. Jenny takes the first watch, and nothing happens. She’s baffled as to why this seems so difficult for the boys. Durest take the next watch and nothing happens. Chuck wakes up pissed, and is more or less back to normal; Durest goes back to sleep, and Chuck takes his turn on watch. 

A couple of large, wolf-like creatures wander up. Chuck looks up at the sky and flips him off. They pace around the campsite, setting themselves up on opposite sides of the campsite. They’re wargs. 

They promptly charge Chuck. But fail to bite him. Chuck yells, and Durest and Jenny jerk awake. Chuck rages, and swings his hammer, power-attacking. The warg yips and jerks back. The warg tries to trip Chuck, but Chuck shrugs him off; he bites Chuck instead, taking a chunk out of his thigh. 

The other one also attempts to trip Chuck and fails. He also bites Chuck, who’s definitely feeling it right now. 

Chuck decides to finish off the first wolf and swings at him, hitting him with the hammer and taking him down. Jenny awakens and begins singing (“hungry like the wolf”) while the wolf attempts to trip him again and fails, and also fails to bite him. Durest tumbles out of his bedroll and smacks the wolf with his nunchucks. “Hwaaaaaaaah!” Durest is now flanking the wolf, and Chuck hits it again but only with a glancing below. Still the beast is almost dead. Jenny shoots it with her crossbow, and takes it down. 

Jenny: “What, like that was so hard?” She turns to go back to sleep, but pauses to throw some healing on Chuck first.

We now have wolf meat and furs. Which is good, because it’s incredibly cold and the furs add just a little more warmth. 

We press on, making another eighteen miles, and we’re almost to the lodge when we run into a giant grizzly bear. We exchange glances, then drop a pile of wolf meat and circle very widely around it. The bear is okay with this, and we pass by. We press on, a bit past the point where we really should make camp, and try to make the last little bit to the lodge. 

But first, we come to the circle of stones. It’s in a clearing, and there’s a dead body in the middle of the clearing leaned up against… some sort of mound? Maybe snow, maybe a tree? And there are these rocks in a spiral pattern. Durest plunges into the spiral of stones and goes to look at the body. A man’s body sits upright by slumped against a mound of snow. The dude died of blood loss from a terrible wound on his shoulder. It looks like he had bandaged the wound, but then ripped it back open. Blood is seeping from both of his ears. There’s a bloody dagger in the snow nearby, and it appears that he stabbed himself in the ears. 

Durest is all about the priorities, so he immediately searches the body. He has no tattoos, but he has a masterwork dagger and cold-weather clothing, but basically nothing else. We’re in the process of looking the thing over when we run into a snow lion. 

Durest: “Quick, Jenny, make friends with it! You’re charming.”

He’s still gaping when the Lion attacks Chuck… and completely fails to connect with him. It’s smaller than a regular lion, sort of cougar-sized. Chuck rages and power attacks, and hits it hard. Jenny shoots at it with a crossbow, and connects but fails to kill it. 

The lion runs away. Chuck charges after it and swings again, this time more carefully. He kills it. 

The other two approach Durest, who is busy poking at the snow mound. It has bones in it, and there are piles of bones like the lions at the spot of each “rock”. The rocks aren’t rocks; they’re little bone piles. Chuck looks to see how they died; several of them have broken bones. They probably were hunted and slain, and then someone set them here in a spiral around this central mound. 

There are tracks from the dead guy leading back towards the lodge. It’s not either of the two hunting band leaders: Corrigard or Keller. 

We press on for another hour, and as we’re walking Jenny starts freaking out from her spot on Chuck’s back. Durest takes her knives, so she starts head-butting the back of Chuck’s head just as we reach the lodge. CHuck sets Jenny down and starts a fire in the lodge’s fireplace. But… it’s cold; the floor is covered in blood and rubbish; and Chuck notices some partially-eaten corpses in the beds. Jenny, meanwhile, is barely in control of herself; she’s basically just rocking on the floor by the fire. 

Chuck looks more closely at the devoured bodies. It’s a single large room, and someone has tried to barricade all the doors and windows. There are beds in disarray, and there are scorch-marks as well as bloodstains. There is a fair amount of hunting equipment lying around, and a single door. Jenny, at the mercy of horrible voices in her head, goes and looks out the window. “Ohhh! So that’s what they meant by Antler person! I’m never going to have my harem, I’m never going to have my spiked chain back, but it’s out there!”

Durest races over to look out the window, but sees nothing. The front door and the window Jenny’s looking out of are not boarded up. We board them up and Durest says comforting things to Jenny and eventually we go sleep. Jenny takes the middle bed. 

Chuck takes the first watch and starts pacing around the room, looking out the windows, trying to see antler guy. He notices a second door that we have not opened this entire time, and Durest is sleeping right next to it. Chuck goes and listens at the door, just hanging out and waiting to see what he can hear. 

After a while he starts carrying stuff over to barricade that door, too. Finally he goes back to his bed and is sort of nodding off when there’s a loud noise: the bookshself that he placed in front of that door has been knocked over. Chuck screams and makes ready to murder things. 

The door opens, and this frost-bitten, emaciated man comes out of the back. He’s a half-orc, with frostbitten, gnarled feet, and antlers starting to grow out of the back of his head. Durest snaps awake but not enough to move yet. Chuck moves over to the bookshelf and tries to push it over on top of him… but as skinny as the guy is, he’s uncannily strong and throws it aside. 

Chuck: "That’s just great." Then he moves forward and bites Chuck. Durest rolls over, grabs the guy, and yanks him into the bed with him. Jenny rolls out of bed, and hides behind the bed and starts singing. With Chuck’s help, Durest flips the guy over, plants him face-down on the bed, and wrenches his arms up behind him. “Chuck! Get rope!” We get the guy tied up. 

We finally get him calmed down, and Durest shoves a sandwich in his mouth. “What the hell happened to you?” 

“I don’t know. The creature, it’s in my head. It’s out there. We thought we could come up here, but… it got in my head and I killed them. Some of them got away, but the ones inside… I killed them. I ate their flesh.” 

Jenny: “Is he the one I saw out the window?” 

Keller: “Yes! He’s coming for you. He’ll get inside your head.”

Monday, August 8, 2022

Another week...

I'm out of town again next week, and trying not to freak out about that. I'm also starting to finally catch up on some things this week, now that things have settled down -- somewhat -- with the software rollout. (I'm realizing that part of the reason we're having issues with the workflows is that the workflows were built to model the approval processes as they existed before the rollout, while Finance is taking advantage of the rollout to update the processes to something more compatible with audit requirements. So people are having to not only adjust to a new software, but also to new ways of doing their jobs. I don't know, maybe it's better to get it all out at once like that, but it means we're updating a lot of workflows, in Production, on the fly.) 

So: this week I'll be trying to catch up on all the things I've been putting off for the last... five weeks? This week is also the first week (well, half a week) of school for the boys, and I'm trying not to freak out about that, either. Secondborn, meanwhile has gone completely nocturnal and I am very definitely not freaked out about that, what with the first day of school rolling down on us and all. 

The week of vacation was good for me, I think. I'm doing better at keeping up with my exercise, and I've been working on the writing project and actually making progress. Not the way I originally envisioned it, admittedly, but at this point I'm writing what holds my interest and it seems to be workings. The Gods alone know what the finished project will look like, but that's neither here nor there. Plus, I'm sort of half-assedly easing back into Duolingo, which I've had on hold since the end of may.

Meanwhile, in preparation for all this, I have done an absolute crapload of laundry, and cooked some bacon (my go-to stress response, apparently -- and maybe not such a good idea when Texas is so hot that the air conditioning is having trouble keeping up), and I'm trying to go to bed at some sort of sensible time. (Admittedly, Nocturnal Child is not helping on that front.)

Work still hasn't come through on reclassifying my position, but we've had a lot of turnover and some difficulties hiring people and management does seem to have noticed that. We'll see, on that one. I haven't had any solid bites on job applications yet, but I'm still putting them out. I'll stop if I get suitably reclassified.

Also, as of yesterday evening Firstborn is now exactly my height.

Onwards and upwards, my friends; nothing but good times ahead.

Friday, August 5, 2022

Deep in the Staff

 So we’ve fallen into Chuck’s staff, the one that has the Pit Fiend into it. In here, we’re sort of the opposites of what we used to be. Balaam will be trying to deceive us; also, he’s been quietly absorbing the souls of the people we’ve killed. Apparently he’s building a city in the crystal on the end of the staff, which will eventually shatter the crystal and release Balaam and his army of slaves.

There are medallions that will help us to identify the two beasts who have some degree of free will. We’ve also run into a number of people, including an old lady who’s sort of haunting her room in the castle. Apparently we’re looking for Lord Prisius’ daughter, who fell in love with Jacobius. We have very much failed to resolve this situation. Heronomo the bard has been following us around, and Chuck has wandered off with him to explore the back passages of the castle. 

Apparently we’ve found a room full of creepy dolls, and Durest took one for the specific purpose of scaring someone later. Chuck has also taken a doll. Durest and Jenny have been wandering around and just looking around and talking to people. Also, Chuck and Heronomo are both dressed as ghosts.

The last thing that happened was that something assaulted Chuck’s mind. 

Angry (and not particularly smart, here) Chuck charges into a wall and nearly brains himself. Heronomo casts light, and some creature is floating next to Chuck. The creature focuses on Chuck, and the pain invades his head again. Chuck is staggered, and Heronimo comes up and casts Fear, at which point the thing retreated into the darkness.

Chuck gets back to his feet. The imp has moved some distance away, and Chuck tries to duck out of the thing’s line of sight. Heronimo fires his crossbow but misses; the imp tries another mind attack, but fails against the bard. Chuck rages and attacks, but misses; Heronomo moves up, and the fear spell drives the thing further away. Chuck follows and attacks, striking the thing critically and just… splatting it against the wall. 

However, now Chuck hears something around the corner. “Heronomo! Come!” he charges again, and Heronomo follows. 

He finds himself coming up on three creeping things, vaguely humanoid, with no skin and oversized hands. They’re just at the edge of the light, and Chuck moves up and smashes one of them with his maul, killing it. Heronomo moves up behind Chuck, creepily massaging his shoulders and encouraging him. Chuck kills another one, takes some claw damage, and then kills the last of the lemures. 

Heronomo: “Never have I see someone defeat single-handedly such denizens of the underworld as you have done here today!”

Chuck is absolutely convinced that Heronomo was being sincere.

They hear that moaning ghost-sound again. Heronomo: “Chuck! The ghosts are back! We must abscond before they return!” He cajoles Chuck into going back to find his friends before fighting the ghosts. If Chuck didn’t know he was a noble and heroic bard, he might think Heronomo was scared. 

Meanwhile, Jenny (now a charismatic halfling) and Durest (now a monk, for some reason) have been talking to the kitchen servants; they now head out to find someone - Corra - who has a crush on Lord Crisius and also knows everything that’s going on. We also need to go back and talk to one of the stable workers. 

We walk back into the dining room where Lord Prisius received us; we find Corra there, cleaning some tables. 

Durest: “Oi, lass! What were we supposed to ask ye ‘bout?”

Corra: “Malena’s disappearance?”

Jenny: “And what do you know about that?”

Corra: “Nothing…” 

Jenny: “I think you know all sorts of things.” She’s very convincing. 

Corra: “I mean, I do run the house. It’s not like Lord Prisius knows what’s going on here…”

Jenny: “Do you really believe this story about the brigands?”

Corra: “I don’t know what to believe. I mean… brigands? But then, Lord Prisius didn’t want Malena to go anywhere?” 

Jenny: “Is it possible that he might have hidden her away so that lord Jacobius couldn’t find her?” 

Corra: “No, no, he would never do that.”

Jenny: “What about these ghosts?” 

Corra: “They’ve been around for years. Like, when the Dame Crisius got trapped in that tunnel that we closed up, there were ghost sounds all over the place.”

At this point a chandelier of antlers crashes from the ceiling and flattens Corra. 

Jenny screams. 

Madam Greeva rushes in from the kitchen: “Oh my god! Corra! Corra!”

Others join them, including Lord Prisius. He sheds a single tear. “I wish for her to be buried with the family, in the family cemetery outside the castle.” His reaction seems a little off, but he does seem genuinely sad. 

Durest asks if this sort of thing is normal, and provokes a fight with the older stablehand. The guy punches him, and Durest grapples him and tries to injure him. He wrenches his arm around and pops his shoulder out. The guy drops to the ground in agony. 

Durest leans down: “Why did the chandelier fall?” 

Stableguy: “I don’t know… must have been a loose bolt.” He passes out. 

Lord Prisius emerges and sends us to our rooms. There’s an open passage, and the bed has been pushed away from the wall, and suddenly two terrifying ghosts emerge!

It’s Chuck and Heronomo. Heronomo starts singing the praises of Chuck The Barbarian, and Durest promptly decks him into unconsciousness. We exchange notes, and Jenny – now a bard – heals Chuck. We leave Heronomo and go into the secret passage. Jenny casts Light so we can see. 

Chuck: “Oh! Magic Jenny!”

To the left, parts of the passage are caved in. To the right is the passage that Heronomo and Chuck took. We find the splattered imp and the dead lemurs, and then follow the bizarrely shaped architecture before it narrows back into a passage that eventually ends in a strong wooden door. Durest tries the door; it’s locked but not trapped. 

Jenny has no ability to pick this. 

As we’re discussing the situation, someone knocks on the door. 

Jenny: “Hello?” 

Woman’s voice: “Hello? Who’s there?”

Jenny: “Who’s there?” 

Nobody answers. 

Jenny: “Have you considered running through the door, Chuck?”

He charges, and bounces off the door. “Is because Heronomo is not here. He very supportive.”

There’s a more tentative knock. 

Durest: “Step back from the door. We’re going to knock it down.”

Woman’s voice: “It’s a very strong door.”

Durest: “Are there hinges on your side? Could you try removing the hinge pins?”

There’s a weird wrenching sound, and then the door falls over.

It’s Malenia. She’s been trapped in the walls, and making ghost noises. We decide that clearly Lord Prisius is a brigand. He needs to die. 

Malenia demonstrates her psychic powers, and Durest concludes that Lord Prisius dropped the chandelier on Corra. 

Malenia: “That monster!”

So yeah, the whole family has mental powers. Also, she’s very excited to learn that Heronomo – her cousin – is here. He’s prone to collecting some idiot, and convincing him or her to follow him around like a puppy dog. She insists that he’s harmless, though. 

We decide to head back to the bedroom and get some rest before we start the murdering. 

As we return to the bedroom, we see that one of the armoires has been moved to block the door, and the other one has been shattered and its splinters driven into all the beds. Seems very likely that Lord Prisius intended to murder us in our sleep. Heronomo, who we left in the bed, is dead.

Malenia: “Heronomo!”

So… “Let’s go save Jacobius, and kill father.”

Malenia seems ready to do this.

The armoire in front of the door seems to have only moved the once, so Lord Prisius and/or his henchmen probably don’t know that we aren’t dead. 

We move the armoire, and we are… not so quiet as we could be. 

Chuck: “How good are you at hiding, girl-lady?” 

Malenia: “Um… I don’t know? Not very.”

Durest: “All right, Dimension Door… Fuck.”

We sneak out the door. Jenny hears singing ahead of us. “I hear singing, but it’s not Heronomo because Heronomo is dead.”

Chuck: “Heronomo?” 

The building appears to be completely abandoned. 

Chuck: “That weird.”

So… based on the layout of the castle, we’re probably going to have to sneak through the courtyard and out through the gates, and it seems very likely that everybody is outside somewhere. 

Jenny checks the courtyard; it is also empty. The people singing the threnody are somewhere just outside the keep, probably mourning Corra’s death. And the cemetery is right next to the chapel. We probably can’t afford to wait; Jacobius will likely die. 

Pretty much everybody from the castle is in the graveyard, and we send Jenny to sneak over to the chapel and release Jacobius. She sneaks past the mourners and sneaks into the chapel, and sees – at the end of the chapel – a body thrashing on the ground up at the front of the chapel, with  a choking, gurgling sound; there’s a weird creature with bones sticking out of its back standing over Jacobius. 

Chuck notices that Prisius is not at the grave. 

Jenny sends a message to Durest, sending him an image of what she’s seeing. 

Durest: “Shit.” He gestures towards Chuck, but Chuck is already doing his now-barbarian best.

Chuck scoops up Malenia and runs for the entrance to the chapel. “Run quietly!” Durest hisses. 

This old lady turns as Chuck rushes by, but nobody else seems to notice and she is squinting and sort of waves the image away. He sets he down beside the entrance. She opens the door and runs in. “Father! You Monster!”

Jenny is skulking in the shadows in the corner of the temple. Durest follows, trying to move silently but failing. 

All the people at the funeral turn to look at him. He just keeps going. 

Lord Prisius, in his vaguely demonic form, turns to face us. He has a human face on this demonic body. “You have made a terrible mistake.” 

We should be paralyzed with fear, but we’re… not. He looks a little surprised. 

Chuck charges, and smashes… but misses. Milenia shakes off her father’s psychic attack and goes after his mind. 

Lord Prisius: “You may protect their minds, but I will still kill you all.” He shoots lightning at Chuck from his front paws. 

Durest charges and smacks the fucker with his monkly nunchucks. They’re just wood, so they don't do as much damage as they should; but they still hit. Chuck tries to power attack, but drops his hammer instead. We also move aside to try to flank him. 

Jenny tries to shoot him with a crossbow, but shoots Chuck instead. Durest moves into a flanking position, and tries to grapple him but fondles him instead. Prisius turns and shoves him telekinetically back to the wall. 

Chuck picks up his maul, and Prisius claws at him. Jenny throws her vial of acid at him. Durest rushes back in and grapples him. Prisius tries to break loose, but fails. 

Chuck smacks him with his giant hammer, and finally really hurts him. Durest kicks around and pins Prisius, who tries to use his telekinesis to shove us all back… and fails. Durest has shoved his head out, making it a target for Chuck; Chuck hits him hard. Jenny shoots him with a crossbow, but it bounces off him. 

Prisius tries again, and this time throws Durest off; Chuck steps right back in and smashes him with the hammer.. But misses. 

Durest comes back in and grabs him again. Chuck swings and misses,and Durest tries to pin him again but fails. He knocks us back again. Chuck moves in again and misses again, and hits him with his nunchucks, but doesn’t hit hard enough to do any damage. Prisius turns his psionic blast on Chuck, damaging him. 

Chuck attacks and misses again. And Durest swings his nunchucks and hits him and does a bit of damage. Prisius blasts Chuck, who goes down. Jenny moves over to Chuck and pours a healing potion down his throat. 

Durest grapples him, but he breaks back out of it. 

Chuck is back to consciousness, but he’s still on the ground. He attacks from there, and misses. Jenny is now closer than she likes, but she stays put. Durest tries to grapple again, and succeeds, but Prisius breaks out again. Jenny retreats, and Durest grapples again, this time getting a solid home. 

Chuck stands up. He dusts himself off. He winds up. He swings. 

He misses. 

Durest pins him, but Prisius uses that psychic bullshit to throw him off again. 

Chuck moves back in, swings, and misses. Durest moves back in and misses with his nunchucks. 

Prisius slaps down Chuck, and Jenny moves in and pours another healing potion down Chuck’s throat. Chuck attacks from the ground as Durest again attempts to grapple, catches him, but again is shrugged off. Chuck attacks again and misses. Durest tries to grapple him again and fails. 

He tries a telekinetic throw, and send Durest across the room and into a pew. Chuck attacks again from the ground, Durest charges back in with nunchucks and damages him., and Chuck drops his maul at Prisius’ feet. Durest grapples him, successfully this time. 

Chuck stands up. Durest fails to pin him, and then he breaks out of the grapple. Again. 

Chuck finally hits him with the maul. 

Prisius goes down. 

Jenny strolls over and delivers the coup de gras. 

One of Chuck’s medallions turns, and a vial pops out. 

Chuck: “What the fuck?” 

Durest: “Try touching it to the dying guy!” Necromancers, man.

Prisius’ blood flows into the vial, and then Chuck puts it back in the medallion. All of a sudden, some of his intelligence is restored. 

Malenia runs over to Jacobius; it’s very romantic. At the entrance to the chapel, all the denizens of the keep are standing there. “I think you, on behalf of our lady Prisius. Although I mourn for our lord’s loss, I give thanks that the spirit has been exposed and now we have been restored to peace.” 

Jacobius swears to step up and take over the estate like some sort of adult. They award us 300 GP each for exposing the devil that had possessed Lord Prisius. 

Apparently there are rumors of a clearing up north with a spiral pattern, that might have the next bit of blood magic that we need.