Tuesday, February 28, 2023

Duendewood: Graveside Part One

Hirethal Moonshadow paused at the edge of the grove, one hand on each scimitar. The sacred trees stood in a circle, their branches gathering overhead to provide a sort of natural ceiling for this space. Their presence didn't affect him the way it might have done a druid, but he could still feel the blessings and protections that attended this space. 

And there, on the far side of the hidden clearing, someone was sitting beside the grave of his once-wife. 

He remained still for a long moment, looking, but the figure didn't move. It didn't have the look of a guard, or one of King Lamont's champions. Its armor was plain, functional, and colored to blend into the trees and grasses around it. The weapon beside it was an elvish double-scimitar, which didn't rule out the possibility of it being in service to the usurper, but did rather reduce the odds. 

Hirethal stepped into the sacred grove, paused, and then cleared his throat. "May I ask...?"

Monday, February 27, 2023

The Tree of Agony

So out at one of our favorite campsites, there's this... tree. It is not a large tree, but it is a tree with very firm personal boundaries... which it enforces with thorns. My friend insists, half-seriously, that it is a local temporal manifestation of the Tree of Pain from Dan Simmons' Hyperion; if the Shrike were to show up while we were camping out there, he wouldn't be a bit surprised. 

It grows beside the path down to the lake, and periodically it will reach out and grab an unwary traveler. (Or maybe it's more like an incautious traveler will stumble into it and get an unexpected wakeup call...) To fully appreciate this tree, you kind of have to see it. Soooo:

So what kind of tree is it? Well, according to one of the naturalists at the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, it's a Honey Locust, which means that if we dropped back by later in the spring we could see it flowering. It also produces seed pods, and apparently the pulp of the pods is edible -- as are the seeds themselves. 

So all in all, a pretty cool tree. Which does not mean that I won't use it to torment some PCs in a D&D game, or that I wouldn't name my next D&D character Honey Locust.

Friday, February 24, 2023

Dark Armor: The Sanctuary

The sanctuary lay at the heart of the crypt. It had been carved and decorated to resemble a small chapel, with an arched ceiling and stained-glass windows depicting important events from the history of Teregor and House Teres. There was young Oziras Teres, calling to himself the powers that would establish his house; there was Folster Teres accepting the defeat of Magister Edrias after the Battle of Thorngrove, which had established the eastern border; there was Nira Teres, standing over the body of a fallen Emissary and claiming the Spear of the First for her own, a century before House Edrias would steal the artifact away and secrete it in the city of Marinul. Other images surrounded them, but after the evening's events those were the ones that caught Pallian's attention.

The stained glass glowed with sorcerous light which rendered the whole space in patterns of reds, oranges, and yellows; to be inside the sanctuary was like standing in the heart of a heatless fire. Pallian, as always, found the effect both beautiful and discomfiting.

Where the altar might have been in a more traditional chapel, a stone statue stood instead. The skeletons carried Pallian over to it, then positioned him so that he could place the Black Knight's helm on its head. The helm immediately fastened itself in place, and Pallian whispered instructions to the skeletons as he laid his will on the armor and forced it to unfasten. It let go reluctantly, unwilling to release him; were the armor given its way, it would keep him a prisoner inside it. It disliked being quiescent, even on those rare occasions -- as now -- when it desperately needed time to repair itself. 

Once the armor was finally arrayed on the statue, the skeletons gathered him up again and carried him to his rooms. His leg was a screaming mass of agony, drowning out the pain in his shoulder, but at least the flesh had closed over and he wasn't losing blood. Pallian gritted his teeth and thanked the dark and nameless gods that he didn't have to make his way on his own. 

Tybben was waiting in the antechamber with a silver chalice, which he held out to Pallian. "My prince."

Pallian offered a small bow -- the best he could do while being ferried about by skeletons -- and reached out to take the chalice. He downed it in a quick series of gulps, ignoring the thickness of the fluid and the horrid salty taste. A moment later he could feel it spreading out through his body, warming him, rebuilding him, carrying the vital nutrients that his own initiations needed in order to repair him. "I am grateful, Tybben." 

Tybben's inhuman face assumed an expression that was somewhere between a scowl and a snarl. "Grateful, my prince? That I do my duty? As well be grateful that the sun rises."

Pallian shrugged. "I am grateful for that as well."

Tybben huffed, but Pallian could see that he was pleased. He nodded at the skeletons, which bore Pallian past him and into his rooms, where a hot bath awaited. It was good to have the business done; now he could return to his own studies.

Thursday, February 23, 2023

Duendewood Resistance: Amaranth's Burden

This is more backstory for NPCs, following Amaranth's flight from the Elvish capital of Annun. All of this can be assumed to have happened well before the current point in the timeline. 

"Halt!" called the humans, and Amaranth looked up from steering the oxen to make sure the trees around them were clear. This was a small group, possibly not even one of Duke Lamont's patrols; they might just be bandits. 

"Yes?" asked Amaranth, responding in the common tongue that they'd spoken. She let the oxen slow, but didn't stop. "Who are you?" She muttered something under her breath, and grew stronger...

"Silence!" demanded the tall human in the heavy plate. "We serve King Lamont! It is not your place to question us."

Amaranth resisted the urge to roll her eyes, and called for the oxen to halt. 

The man advanced, stopping beside the cart. "State your names, your business, and your destination."

Amaranth looked down at him. "This is Duendewood, friend. We travel under the auspices of the High Provost. Duke Lamont's authority extends to a single human province, though his infamy extends well beyond that."

The man's expression curdled. "So, you're traitors. Step down and surrender."

Amaranth glanced around at the dozen men and women who lined the road around the cart. Then she sighed. "Very well," she said, "You've caught us. The amulet is yours."

The human frowned at her as she stepped down from the cart. "Amulet?"

"The Legacy of Kings," Amaranth said, reaching into the pouch on her belt. "The Elvish amulet of rulership that carries the wisdom and power of each generation.  No doubt the treasure that King Lamont will seek." She doubted her ability to complete the deception, and in fact the human still looked suspicious -- but she pulled on the chain and slapped the amulet into his hand before he had a chance to refuse. 

Tovarin tucked himself under the cart's seat. 

The human began to scream as the icon in his hand wrapped around him and tore into his body, draining his strength as it burrowed towards his heart. Amaranth whispered a word and then a phrase, and what had seemed casual robes around her now showed their true face as armor, even as she increased her gracefulness. 

She pulled the longsword from under the seat of the cart, and cut down the nearest bandit. On the far side of the cart, her mother drew back on her longbow and loosed an arrow, taking down another of their attackers. 

Then Amaranth was moving through their ambushers, stronger and faster than their enemies expected. Milathyra grew impatient with the ones on the other side, and cut them down with lances of flame. By the time Amaranth came around the oxen, who were looking on with a sort of bewildered contempt for such bloodshed, all their attackers were dead. 

"Well," said Milathyra. "It seems I owe Baethira an apology. Apparently wizardry is good for something after all."

Amaranth shook her head. Everything she crafted, even the cursed amulet that she'd laid on the human leader, required wizardry. Half of the comforts that her mother took for granted in their home required wizardry. Wizardry was the foundation of the Elvish nation. She opened her mouth to say so, then closed it again. It was no use; her mother only knew what she knew, and nothing else was worth knowing.

Wednesday, February 22, 2023

Challenge: First Website

(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: The First Website I Remember Visiting

Darkest Gods, y'all. The first "website" I remember visiting was a dial-up BBS. I mean, maybe that doesn't count, because that sort of setup predated the Internet, but that's where I cut my teeth. There was one run by a local around my age (fairly young, at the time) and we futzed around and even had a play-by-post D&D game going on it. 

First actual website when The Internet became a thing? No idea. I was active early on with another sort of bulletin board setup, this one devoted to the Borderlands anthologies, and we did some writing of our own that one of the group members would format and post on his own website. (Both are, as far as I know, lost to the mists of time; the borderlands group survived a while longer as a Yahoo group, but eventually died out.) 

What about you? What's the first website you remember visiting?

Friday, February 17, 2023

Dark Armor: Return and Recuperation

The carriage door swung open, and Pallian stepped out into the courtyard of the mausoleum. The angle of his frozen leg forced him into a sort of uncomfortable crouch which probably looked ridiculous and undignified, but that was acceptable here, where no outside eyes could see. 

Tybben loped forward, carrying a long case. A mis-invoked initiation had left him hairless, with a dog-like skull and a twisted, hunched body; the wizard-king had relegated him to the crypt decades ago. Despite that, or perhaps because of it, Tybben was utterly loyal. 

Pallian set the spear in the case, and Tybben immediately snapped it shut and then stood waiting. Pallian touched his helm with both hands and commanded it to loose. As he drew it off, Tybben said: "What have you done to your armor, Champion?"

"Taken it into battle against the Spear of the First." He gestured vaguely at the case, then added: "And triumphed."

"Some triumph," Tybben muttered. 

Pallian could have rebuked him, but chose not to. Privately, he agreed; but it was wiser not to speak such thoughts aloud. Any victory achieved by the Black Knight was a grand and glorious triumph. Thus, the conclusion of this latest battle had been a grand and glorious triumph, and not a desperate struggle for survival that happened to succeed. "Take that to the vault," he said. "I'll take care of the armor."

Tybben harrumphed. "Nonsense. I'll send some skeletons to help you with it, and get you to the bath."

Pallian considered, then conceded. "As you wish." He hated showing weakness, even here, but Tybben was right: he could barely move. "I'll need food as well."

"Yes, yes, it will be done." Tybben turned and loped out of the room.

It was only a bare few minutes later that a half-dozen of the skeletons came in, lifted Pallian up armor and all, and carried him off to the sanctuary.

Thursday, February 16, 2023

Duendewood: A Natural Sort of Fear

Alnira Berris huddled down among the roots of the ancient oak, feeling the tremors in the earth as the hunters passed by. They were King Lamont's troops, his elite hunters, and while they hadn't discovered the sacred grove they had managed to ambush the Circle of Nine not far outside of it. The casualties had been substantial; they had nets readied for the ones who became birds, and hounds readied for those who became beasts. 

Alnira had become a mole, and managed to bury herself in the ground before any of them moved in. Her teacher, Vuelisharrn, had disdained possibilities of hiding or escape; he had become a Dire Tortoise, tearing down nets and trampling their foes. And he had died, falling under the onslaught of fire and lightning from a pair of wizards or sorcerers, whose defenders had been enough to hold off the impromptu army of creatures that everyone else had summoned. 

His companion, Huggybear, had died a moment later, wrapped around one of the wizards but surrounded on all sides by enemies. And the wizard had come back to his feet afterwards; she could feel it through the soil. 

Surely some of the grounded ones survived this, she thought. Alnira was not ready to take a place among the Keepers, not for another hundred years at least. But with the High Druid unexpectedly dead, and the Keepers of the Circles disorganized and now injured or slain, she might have to. King Lamont might have won, but she could still gather the survivors and lead them out. And with any luck, some Keeper will step in and I won't need to.

Wednesday, February 15, 2023

Challenge: My Favorite Food

(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: My favorite food

Oh, easy! It's definitely cheeseburgers. Unless it's omelettes. Or, um, Pad kee Mao? French fries? Loaded french fries? Stir fry? No, wait, maybe it's the Mozzarella sticks from that one place that rolls them in panko crumbs? No, it's definitely bulgogi. Or gyro meat with that rice and some tzatziki sauce, maybe a bit of kafta on the side.

Uh oh. 

I like to eat, y'all. I like a lot of different kinds of food. I like having a variety of different kinds of food.

But I guess, after careful consideration of how my grocery budget actually gets spent, there is a final winner. 

It's bacon.

All. The. Bacon.

Bacon by itself. Bacon crumbled onto cheesy fries. Bacon in cheeseburgers. Bacon in omelettes. Bacon mixed into macaroni and cheese. Bacon cooked as part of a stir fry. It's just such a wonderfully versatile food, and so, so yummy.


Tuesday, February 14, 2023

Music: Wannabe

The Spice Girls, obviously, as covered by Postmodern Jukebox:

Monday, February 13, 2023

Kitchen Sink Syndrome

A little while back, I was thinking about an old writing project, with the working title of "Random High Fantasy", so I went and dug it back out... I then spent a solid four hours re-reading it, tweaking some of the original sections, adding some new sections, and generally wondering why I'd ever abandoned it in the first place. So now I guess I know what my next project will be once I finish the Dark Fantasy project that I'm working on currently. 

And, actually, I know exactly why I abandoned it in the first place. It's because midway into it I got one of those Really Neat Ideas and started trying to bend the existing story to incorporate it, and the existing story didn't have that much flex. Really Neat Idea needs to be the basis for a sequel, not Kitchen-Sinked into this project. Kitchen-sunk? Whatever. Certainly sunk my first attempt.

Looking back at my attempts at actually finishing a book-length project, I think that Kitchen Sink Syndrome is actually one of my big stumbling blocks. I'll be working on something, and I'll get a neat new idea, and I'll try to work it in... and the next thing you know, I have too many new ideas and can't figure out how to work them all in (which was what happened to the last Dark Fantasy project) or I'm trying to squeeze in something that just doesn't fit (e.g. Random High Fantasy) or I actually do just cram them all in there and wind up with a bloated, sprawling fantasy adventure that has a lot of neat stuff but has really lost its focus as a story (for example, the one book-length project I actually did finish, and for which this blog is named). 

Honestly, if there's one big issue that I need to work on in my writing, it's that. I've gotten a little better about it -- both recognizing when I'm doing it, and then not doing it -- but it's still something I need to work on. And the big thing that helps is to remember that I can take a break, write the new idea out, maybe even put down a scene or two to flesh it out and nail it down... and then promise it that it will get its own home someday, and go back to what I was doing. 

Feels weird to be figuring that out after this many years spent writing, but I guess that's true of any sort of artistic creation: there's always more to learn, and a lot of it is going to be learning about yourself as much as your craft.

Friday, February 10, 2023

Dark Armor: Implements and Injuries

By the time the carriage neared the crypt, the bones of his left leg had stiffened beyond any hope of use. The combination of the armor's enchantments and his own initiations was enough to let the flesh and bone regrow, but that horrible shockwave that the spear delivered had half-shattered his entire leg, and the reformed bone was still a single piece. It would remember the shapes of individual bones and joints eventually, but for now everything between his ankle and his hip was fused. 

His shoulder had fared better, but then it had caught the spear's blow at an angle. The armor's enchantments and his own initiations had done a lot to absorb the damage in the moment, and repair it afterwards; but the simple fact was that without a legendary weapon stabbing through them, his muscles and bones had taken less damage. Even so, he was exhausted, ravenously hungry, and slightly dizzy; if he hadn't been worried that the Spear of the First would try to kill him, he might have tried to sleep. 

The armor didn't let him actually sleep, of course, but it allowed a sort of restful trance that would have helped. Instead, he held himself still, ignored the weirding of his leg, and waited to reach the crypt. There was thunder outside the carriage; that meant he was close. The comings and going of the black knight were always heralded by thunderstorms. 

Father and his theatrics... Pallian didn't mind. He slept better when there was a storm outside. 

He felt the change when the carriage began to angle down, and made sure his grip on the spear was firm. In a few minutes the great doors would open, and soon after there would be other people that the spear might try to murder. He couldn't let that happen. Wary, exhausted, and impatient, he waited to return to the Black Knight's home.

Wednesday, February 8, 2023

Challenge: Pleasant Book Surprises

(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: Books that pleasantly surprised me

This one's interesting mainly because books don't generally surprise me all that much. I usually have at least some idea of what I'll be getting before I start reading. The surprise -- and the joy -- is all in the journey. In fact, some of the most pleasantly surprising reading for me is going back and re-reading some of my own stuff and thinking, "Wow. This is actually pretty good."

That said, a topic like this seems incomplete without at least one recommendation, so I'm going to make one -- and one that's at least a bit outside of my usual reading material: 

Finlay Donovan Is Killing It

Just how badly would things have to go wrong to turn a divorced suburban mother of two into a contract killer? Well, given just how much was going wrong already, it turns out the answer is: "Surprisingly little."

Tuesday, February 7, 2023

Good!Party: The Iron Company and the Fate of Sacha

We move on to Rockdale, to scout out the Iron Company and see what we need to do about them. Our go-to plan is just to buy them off.

Rockdale is not in great shape; it doesn’t look like it got cleaned up after the Solari Hunters rolled through. We are immediately swarmed by a group of beggars. They are, of course, pickpockets, and fairly successful ones. Geddy cloaks us with a Veil, so we aren’t obviously who we are. On the other hand, nobody seems to be watching us. Most of what’s open are taverns and one goods shop. There are three soldiers up ahead in matching outfits; they’re well-armed, better than most city guards. They’re busy roughing up a barkeep to get him to open up early. There’s also a traveling merchant and some prostitutes.

Geddy goes over to talk to the women of the night. Much to Geddy’s chagrin, they assume that it’s Eva who’s interested. Eva: “No, I’m just fixing up my aging husband.”

Prostitutes: “That’s fine, we can offer footrubs or back massages, or…”

Geddy: “You know, before the war…”

P: “You payin’ or not? Ten gold for the evening.”

They go off to find a room.

Geddy starts gathering information. The Iron Company can be a little difficult to deal with, but the whores are more worried about the part where they have to pay up front. They have money, they just don’t like to part with that. Their brigades have different personalities, too. The iron arms are the rank & file. Each brigade has its own heraldry and name and story. The brigades are organized into companies, each led by a company commander; mostly fighting men, but there is one called the black company that are like the spies or something. There are three Marshalls: a warrior, a druid, and the black locast, a sorcerer, who helps with intel and also destruction. The guy in charge is the Iron Lion, Lord Brassfare, who’s trying to stylize himself as a baron.

Geddy pays for another round. There isn’t a lot of trade coming through; it’s just crawling with the Iron Company, but the lack of trade is kind of universal now. She adds a backrub, and suggests that maybe he should just go talk to people around town.

We move from there to the chandlery, which is basic trade goods. Big guards out front, probably to keep the Iron Company in line. There’s a distinct lack of trade, and they got hit hard by the Solari hunters. They got it better than Garamond, which was nearly wiped off the map.

Geddy starts chatting with the shopkeeper. The taxes are just arbitrary, but the Iron Company isn’t that organized. Trade or shelter in Springhollow is possible, but there’s just a handful of Solari protecting that place. Travel is dangerous. A few people have headed up to Brightland, which is not exactly profitable but it is a lot safer.

The Iron Company have actually commissioned a few things. They’re from the east, and expensive to hire. The Iron Lion intends to make himself a baron – oh, and he has visitors from Grand Mashall Giles, from Wellfort.

Geddy and Tavros present themselves at the castle, with Eva and Leira posted outside in case we need help. The castle is overflowing with well-armed mercenaries. Geddy disguises himself as Young Geddy, with fancy clothes. The soldiers here are clearly professionals.

We’re greeted by Jon, the head of the black company.

“Tavros Fontaine. Heir to the throne. Here to speak to the Iron Lion.”

He apologizes, because the Iron Lion is busy with emissaries from Giles; he serves us some really nice wine while we wait. Geddy slips in a hint that maybe the Iron Lion doesn’t want to make any premature commitments before hearing this once-in-a-lifetime offer. This results in more sweets, more food, and another cask of even older and better wine. They don’t necessarily know what the best vintage is, but they definitely went for the oldest.

Finally, we come into the main room and meet the Iron Lion. He’s sitting sideways in the Baron’s chair, holding a glass of wine. The three sub-commanders are here, and a bunch of other people. This dude seems to enjoy having an entourage. He’s also fairly sure that he wants to put us in our place. The iron company are some of the best soldiers in Sol Povos, and there are 100 squads.

He wants 360,000 gold and they get to keep Rockdale. We dicker a bit, but for 240,000 and the opportunity to become our Grand Marshal – Grand Marshal Brasfer. He can assign his own ranks to his underlings. We ask for right of first refusal if he gets a better offer. Also, he’s bound for at least the first campaign. We put all 240,000 GP down, but only half up front; the other half goes to the bank in Vintos, to be held for after the first six months.

We go to report back to the crime lords, and figure out where best to employ the Iron Company. We have an elven king, Mithrandril; the iron company and crime lords; it’s a start.

Meanwhile, the demons have scaled Paras; those Solari are gone. Up north, Lamont is trying to remove all resistance, including the centaurs and druids. Lamont is now relocating elves to the south. Elvish revolutionaries attacked Springhollow, but were stopped by a mysterious and extremely good-looking force. Giles gathers up the Springhollow Solari and the Lamark merchants. Jenny, meanwhile, is just occupying the throne. The Tarrasque is chewing its way up towards Summerwynne. Vigo congratulates Martini on her good work.

Thierry P. Thierry is back when we return to Caristhium; so is Clovis. Thierry has pursued his quest. Clovis: “Yeah, I picked him up.”

Thierry: “I have written a ballad.”

Leira: “SPIT IT OUT!”

Thierry: “There were stories of this white knight! Now, the elvish revolutionaries of Aldpond attacked Springhollow; but they were intercepted by a White Knight.” By the time Thierry reached Springhollow, only stories were left behind. He gathered information from the common folk. Apparently the White Night headed west through the darkwoods. Thierry gave chase, VERY dramatically. He eventually arrived in Fairflower.

Tavros: “Perhaps we could cut through the chase?”

Thierry: “Well… that’s kind of where it ended. Sacha surrendered himself to get the wildlanders to spare the peasants.” So he’s captured, and in a dungeon in Fairflower.

Clovis: “Well, it’s not as simple as just riding in there and breaking him out. I mean, Sacha has a dark past now. It’s been a long time since he was the white knight you knew. He seeks atonement, and is a prisoner of that dark fate. It can only end in death or salvation.”

Tavros: “Let’s go make sure it’s salvation.”

Clovis: “Helios gave me a vision. The only path to saving Sacha… Well, let me explain.”

Thierry cuts in: “There we were, camped outside the walls, waiting for the end to come. This blight of an army was gathered outside, a host of horrors… and that’s not even to speak of the three great monsters known as the Solari hunters. The half-bear, the master vampire, and the dreaded necromancer with his undead army.”

Geddy has gone to sleep by this point.

The slaughter was stopped by the sacrifice of Father Montaigne, Lars Dagan, and and that other guy… who went out and got themselves killed by the Solari Hunters.

Clovis: “There was one more who remained between the Dark Army and the walls of Solstar. Gosterr Cherilus, the Avatar of Helios.”

Flashback to Evil!Party
We line up and get ready. Balaam opens by casting Magic Circle against Good, and throws a Fireball at Goster, doing some minimal amount of damage. He closes with blinding speed (Jenny: YES!) blurring as he moves. He attacks Chuck, and smites. There’s this thunderous crack, and lightning comes down from the sky and strikes Chuck. Chuck teleports away, the tries Maze but fails to get past Spell Resistance. He follows up with a quickened Firebally, but Goster avoids the worst of it, but still takes pretty decent damage. Jenny lays into him with chain, hitting him three times for… a lot of damage. Durest, in shadow form. Durest restores Chuck, then tries for Destruction but fails to destroy him.

Goster moves over and smites Durest, hitting him twice and killing him. He turns to Jenny, and strikes her a couple of times.

Ferrous picks up Durest and starts lumbering towards Chuck. Balaam takes Jenny to the far side of the room. Goster moves over beside Chuck and hits him. Chuck does a quickened dimension door over next to Balaam, then fires off a meteor swarm. He gets through spell resistance, and Goster fails to dodge at all, so the attack hits him right in the face and takes him out. Jenny: “See Balaam? I could have finished this.”

Thus does the flashback end.

So Thierry P. Thierry finishes the account of this battle.

Clovis: “So you see, the Avatar of Helios was slain. So the only path for Sacha to find salvation is to become the Avatar of Helios.”

Leira: “But can he still marry???”

Clovis: “Um… I think so.”

Leira: “So what’s the problem?”

Clovis: “Yes, well, having confronted the darkness, he needs to complete his journey back to the light. He must travel to the land of the golden sun, and undertake the trials of the avatar. He will be accompanied by three companions.”

Tavros: “I fear it must be us.”

Clovis: “Whew! It’s one.”

Leira: “I volunteer as Tribute.”

Clovis: “That’s two.”

Geddy Lee Geddy: “I always believed in the guy.”

Clovis about passes out from relief.

So, the three of us will be heading to Fairflower. The Trials of the Avatar are in the land of the golden sun, which is probably the island of Solouro. Ruin, Martini, and Marshall will be heading north to try to help out the druids, the centaurs, and anything that’s left of the true elf army. We’ll be starting with the druids, because Ruin feels guilty.

Monday, February 6, 2023

Once more unto the Work Week dear friends, once more

 All right. It's Monday, which means I'm back at work. 

I really don't want to be back at work. 

But, I did manage to add another patch to the jacket. (I now officially wear my heart on my sleeve; you can see it right there.) And I managed to put in another 620 words or so on the Dark Fantasy project because one of my favoritest authors decided to start experimenting with Friday Night Writing Sprints, which... you'd need to join one of her subscription services, but if you're looking to dedicate some time to writing this is a fun way to do it. (I'm coming in from Patreon, but I think you can connect through Gumroad, too.) And I've managed a couple of vignettes for the blog and the Grey Tower, which is always pretty satisfying.

So, yeah: my time off wasn't quite the boys-are-in-school-I-get-Alone-Time experience I might have been (really, really was) hoping for, but I wouldn't say it was a total loss either. Plus, y'know, Sunday Night D&D, the notes for which will go up tomorrow morning. And I did get some rest. 

What the hell. I'll take it.

Friday, February 3, 2023

Dark Armor: Dismissal

The Black Knight dropped the Champion's corpse and sheathed the gauntlet sword at his side. Then he turned to retrieve the spear. 

The moment he gripped it, it tried to turn in his hand. The armor was designed to shield him from anything that might affect his mind, so he had no way to make contact with it: no way to soothe it, no chance to try to bond to it. He could only use the armor's strength to hold it still as it tried to thrash around. The armor was already acting to suppress his pain; both his leg and his shoulder had gone completely numb. It was a profound relief, but also a danger: with that sensitivity gone, he would have to be careful not to trip or otherwise embarrass himself.

Rebka was waiting for him atop the earthworks, patient and proud in her robes, her staff held easily in her left hand. The Black Knight strode across the cobbled road in front of the now-open gates, climbed the earthworks, and stopped beside the Heir of Teregor. He held the Spear of the First out, offering it to her, and felt it quiver as Rebka laid the palm of her hand against its haft. 

Her eyes flickered briefly over him, and though her expression didn't change he saw the moment when she came to a decision. "Take it back to your crypt," she commanded. "Hold it safe there until we can restore it to its proper place."

She didn't want him seen with his armor as damaged as it was. Even if the damage had been done by a champion in command of one of the Great Weapons, she did not want the people of Marinul to see that the dark armor could be be breached, that the Black Knight could be injured. The myth of the Black Knight's invincibility was as much a part of his armor as any enchantment, and Rebka knew that as well as their father did. 

Taking back the spear was nothing more than an excuse, but Pallian wouldn't have objected to departing now even if the armor had been whole and his body uninjured. He didn't mind killing on the field of battle, especially against opponents who were properly equipped to face him -- he could live with that much -- but he had no taste for sacking the city. Rebka would tell him that it was necessary, that she had arrived in force and demanded the return of the spear; she would say that in refusing to hand it over, the city of Marinul had made itself party to the original theft. And then she would take considerable pleasure in punishing its people.

Pallian knew better than to disagree, even if he could have made himself heard from inside the armor. So he bowed, and carried the spear away. Inside his carriage, he kept a tight grip on the thing, and settled in for the long journey back to his crypt.

Thursday, February 2, 2023

I Meant To Have Some Time Off

So I'd scheduled to have three days off work: Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday. And, for the second year in a row, those days have been iced over, and trapped the children in the house with me. 

I am doomed. 


I'm honestly not 100% sure if it wouldn't have been better for me to go into work. I'd have had a nice quiet office, at least. And the boys could have torn up the house without me having to hear about it. 

On the other hand, I'm not troubleshooting anything, or bound to any particular sleep schedule. 

But... a little time to myself, to focus on writing or the patch jacket? That would have been welcome.

Wednesday, February 1, 2023

Challenge: Average Eats

(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: What I eat in the average day

Huh. That's... huh. That's an interesting question. Okay, let's take a look: 

Breakfast: Generally something with a bit of egg and cheese, possibly bacon and sausage. Frequently, this is a frozen breakfast product prepared in the microwave, but I do sometimes cook things up as well. I also sometimes skip breakfast entirely; it really depends on how the morning is going.

Lunch: I'm working from home a lot, so frequently we're looking at leftovers or frozen lunches. Otherwise, probably fast food... but if I'm actually in the office, I'm more likely to go out and get a decent meal: sushi, Mongolian beef, bulgogi, pho, fajitas... things like that.

Dinner: This one is probably the most variable, and the most dependent on how the week is going. Sometimes we cook; sometimes we have leftovers; sometimes we order pizza. (You can tell we don't have a lot of spoons left when it's pizza. Not that I mind pizza, it's just something I try to hold in reserve for when none of us have the energy to prepare anything.)

Snacks: I'm really, really, really trying not snack, or at least not to snack much. Sugar-free gum helps; so does a big mug of tea, or a bit of orange mixed into a glass of water. Unfortunately, I'm kind of a sucker for those little candy hearts that show up before Valentine's Day, so the last week or so has been... um... a tiny bit of an indulgence. 

How about you?