An Eveningstar in the Jungle

An Eveningstar in the Jungle was released recently on the 600 Second Saga podcast.  You can also listening to the 600 Second Podcast using your favourite podcast tools:

An Eveningstar in the Jungle, and my earlier short, Upon an Eveningstar, introduce a new series I am working on as part of the 2016 Nanowrimo. I’ll be expanding on the story of Lyandriah, and one day will be releasing this untitled novel. Nanowrimo is dedicated to supporting literacy and supporting writers, and is a fantastic place to start to bring your imagination alive.


 

“Shhh.  I hear something.” I raised my slender hand.

Instantly the lutes and accompanying song-like voice accompanying it. Our small party drew to a halt. “What do you hear, Ly?” came the question behind me.  I didn’t answer, instead crouching down, to study the ground.

We had been trekking through what I was told is called a jungle. The trees were nothing like the oakspire trees I had grown up with – these were lower and had numerous vines and broad leaves obscuring the view and hampering our progress.

The dirt had changed.  I picked up a handful and let the stone chips fall through my fingers.

“It looks like now she wants to play in the dirt.” came a snide high-pitched voice, no longer song-like.  I didn’t look up to know how this would play out.  Dakreth would reach back to swat Illian for sassing, then the tiny rogue would duck out of the way. These antics had been going on for days – no weeks.

I let the gravel fall and look(ed) out into the unfamiliar trees.

“Do you hear anything or not, Lyandriah?” Merikoh’s voice was slightly strained, trying to ignore Dakreth and Illian behind him.

“We’re close.” I said at last, taking a handful of the gravel and turning to Merikoh.  While he did not like going by his heralded title, Sir Merikoh was a knighted hero of the Golden Dalelands. Unfortunately his full armour and horse would have been impractical in the jungle and had been left behind at an inn.  He still bore the golden circle of the Dalelands on his armored breastplate and forged into the crossbar of his sword.

I was drawn to his nobility and sense of justice; not to mention his sense of adventure. That’s why I was along, and why Merikoh was leading us. “What do you have there?  Dirt?” he asked.

I opened my hand up, explaining. “No, look at the stones.  These were ground up – this isn’t natural.  I think we may have found the settlement.”

That comment was enough to cause the mage and the rogue to pause, suddenly all of the birds ceased their squawking.  All of the eyes were on me and the jungle was eerily silent.

“I think the heat has gotten to you” Dakreth said, although his eyes were narrowing to look around us as if he could also sense the change in the jungle.

Illian on the other hand seemed oblivious. She commented with a frown, “This doesn’t look like no settlement I’ve seen before.  There isn’t even a tavern.”

Dakreth pushed to the front. “You might be onto something.” He turned to look at Merikoh.  The party leader nodded to the unasked question.  

Dakreth pushed the robes back from his pale skin, and looked upwards, his eyes rolling back into his head as he started to murmur arcane words.  I felt a shiver pass through me, and I took a step back. Magic always made me nervous.

The air felt thick – and not just with the humid tropical air. I felt the hairs gathering at the back of my neck.

Suddenly Dakreth gasped out, and nearly collapsed, pointing ahead.  I had sensed it too, and as I whirled, my bow was up with an arrow notched.  The branches of the tree pushed inward, and a large furry beast burst into view, letting out an inhuman screech as my first arrow landed in its shoulder. The beast charged as I landed two more arrows in its body.

I was yanked to the side, just in time as the charging beast barreled through where our party once stood on the path.  I turned in Merikoh’s arms to look him in the face, to express my gratitude “Thanks for the save.” I felt my breath catch in my chest for a moment, and for a moment I forgot the screeching monster.

Darkreth had dove to the opposite side of the path, disappearing into the underbrush; Illian just jumped straight upwards, vaulting over the creature. While she was in the air, she cried at Darkreth, “What in the 4 realms is that?” landing behind the creature.

The creature looked like a lion – if a lion was six feet tall, and had the head of a hawk.  It turned around, arrow shafts breaking off in the foliage.  Its black eyes scanned the group, aware and wary of our scattered group.

Lightning suddenly arced out from the foliage from which Dakreth had risen, narrowly missing Illian and striking the creature. The beast let out a mighty roar and charged at the mage. Illian turned to yell at Dakreth for how close the blast was, but instead was knocked aside by the charging beast..

Merikoh broke his attention from me to look at the charging beast. I too was brought out of the moment. I regained my footing and reached back for an arrow – empty. They had all fallen out of my quiver when I was knocked aside.

Merikoh didn’t wait. He vaulted forward, raising his shield to slam into the shoulder of the beast.

As they both fell to the side, his hand drew back on his sword and stabbed forward – the blade disappearing into the tough hide of the creature.  The beast let out a long strangled screech as it was defeated. Merikoh turned, and smiled gently at me, “Thanks for the assist.”

Yeah… assist.  I barely did anything. With the creature not moving, it gave me a chance to look at the unnatural monstrosity more closely. “I’ve never seen anything like it. That can’t be a normal beast. I’ve never heard of anything like it.”

“That’s because it’s not.” Illian spoke up, and for once Dakreth backed her up.

“It’s a Lionhawk – it’s an unnatural magical chimera of beasts.  It must have escaped from the dungeons.” Dakreth explained as the party reformed on the path. I took the lead, and soon again paused, pointing out broken features in the undergrowth where the jungle had overgrown buildings – an entire settlement.

Merikoh investigated one of the crumbling walls of the building closer. “Are you sure this is the settlement we are looking for? This looks like centuries of growth.”

I looked to our mage, as he was the one knowledgeable about this, but Dakreth had his head tilted back and his eyes were milky white – he was casting another spell. The party slowed and waited – Illian pulling out her lute to return to strumming. I took the time to examine the crumbling walls more closely.

The mage and I came to the same conclusion at the same time – via different means.  Him using his magical augury spells, me by looking at the patterns in the buildings. “There.” We said in unison, both of us pointing off the path towards a dense overgrowth.

The party pulled the branches away, revealing ornate carvings around a cavernous opening.  This was the entrance to the lost Maze of Trials.  

“We made it.” Merikoh announced.  He looked back over our small band. Our small band had travelled for weeks through the jungle following the clues to get here. But this was just the entrance to the maze.  We still needed to fight our way to the fabled treasures which lay within.

My adventure was just beginning.

Moscow on Neptune

Moscow on Neptune was released recently on the 600 Second Saga podcast.  You can also listening to the 600 Second Podcast using your favourite podcast tools:

Maria Cooper sat in her small quarters with the lights off, reading her assignment from the orangish-reddish glow of Jupiter through the tall vertical slit-like windows. She had long grown accustomed to the turbulent world below, and was thinking forward to where she might go once this tour ended in a few more months.

Her door chimed, and slid open. She looked up from her computer,  “Yes?” There was only one person who would just walk in after chiming.

Captain Aron Shepherd wasn’t particularly tall or imposing, but had the air of command that made him a natural captain. “Excuse me, Commander, I don’t mean to intrude.”

Commander?  That meant this was business. Normally when they were alone, the captain just called her by her name.  Maria closed her laptop and sat up slightly straighter.

“We’re being redeployed. We’re cutting our stay around Jupiter short.” There was a serious undertone to his voice.

Maria nodded, “I understand. We have just arrived though. Is something wrong?”  She knew that this was important, and her own work could wait.  She stood up, joining him.  The Captain turned, leading her through the ship towards the briefing room – talking as they walked.

“Command has been having trouble with the deep-range telescopes out by Neptune.  Last week they went black.” the captain explained.

“Why us?  Why not one of those new ships that could get there in an instant?” Maria asked. The next generation of ships were coming off the line now, and the first generation ships like the Moscow would soon be obsolete.

It was obvious that Maria’s statement had struck a cord in Aron.  His face tightened. “The Tokyo is still finishing her shakedown cruise, and isn’t supplied yet.  Even with their new engines, we’d still be there first.” He lowered his voice, his tone becoming sincere, “This might be my chance to make a mark with the Moscow before she’s eclipsed by the new ships.”

Maria smiled, and reached to touch the captain’s arm. “Don’t worry Aron.  You’ve made your mark on all of us.  I’ll go notify the crew.”


Maria studied the image over the shoulder of Lieutenant Cho. On the screen was the computer-enhanced image of the long range sensor platform. The platform hung like a large spindly arachnid between the moon of Triton and the swirling blue clouds of Neptune. The nearby moon and distant planet were sharply defined, but the platform was fuzzy – it’s long spindly arms blurry.

“Can you clean up the image? Why is it fuzzy?” Maria asked.

“That is cleaned up.  There is something on the platform causing that. Can’t make out any more from here.” Lt. Cho responded.

Maria studied the image a moment longer before coming to a decision.“I’ll get the captain.” Maria announced, going to the command chair and pressing the comm’s button to buzz the captain’s quarters.

“Shepherd here.” came the commanding voice over the comms.

“Captain, we’re close enough to get some visuals.” Maria replied. “I think you should see this.”

“I’ll be right up.”

Maria returned to look at the display, turning when the captain walked onto the bridge. Captain Aron Shepherd wore his dress uniform.  Maria looked at him for a moment, knowing that the captain wanted to savour this moment. She smiled and called out, “Captain on the bridge.”

The bridge crew turned to see their captain, several stood and saluted before returning to their posts. Maria also saluted, smiling at the captain.  She could see that the captain appreciated the formalities.

“At ease. Okay Cooper, what are we looking at?” The captain smiled and walked over.

Maria moved to the side so the captain could see the screen. “I’m not sure, sir. There is certainly something physically on the platform.  We’re still too far to see details.”

The captain considered for a moment, moving over to stand in front of the command chair. He turned to the helm station and ordered, “Change course – take us into orbit around Triton.  I don’t want to get us too close to whatever the hell is causing that.  Send out one of the shuttles for a closer look.”

Maria stepped forward, approaching the captain. As she opened her mouth to speak he turned to look at her, and a silent conversation exchanged between her and the captain.

“Fine, but be careful Cooper. We don’t know what we’re dealing with.” The captain said at last. His voice had a concerned tone – it was obvious he was concerned about her.

Maria turned and smiled, exiting the bridge heading towards the hanger-bay.


Maria monitored the co-pilot controls, and glanced sidelong at Corporal Higgs, who was piloting the shuttle. Designed to carry crew or cargo, and with an angled front and stubby little wings, the shuttle reminded Maria of a bus.

“Shuttle, we read you as away. How are things over there, Commander?” came the captain’s voice over the comms.  Maria stiffened slightly at his formality. It was obvious the Captain was concerned.

“We’re doing fine. Although I’m picking up some strange interference on the sensors.” Maria responded as she focused on the strange readings. There seemed to be spikes and phase ghosts around the UWSS Moscow.

“We’re picking that up too. Probably interference from Neptune’s magnetosphere.  Keep an open channel.” came the reply.

The shuttle slowly crossed the gulf of space towards the platform, with Neptune becoming a large backdrop as they approached. As the minutes ticked by, the interference seemed to lessen – either the magnetosphere was calming down, or the interference was localized back near the Moscow.

“Captain, there is definitely something here.  I hope you are getting these images.” Maria stared at the platform. “It appears to be some sort of shiny metallic looking growth. It sort of looks like algae or coral – if it was made out of tin-foil. Wait… what is that?”

She reached to zoom the sensors in, and then felt something cool on her fingertip.  Looking down, she saw a glint of metal in the cockpit. There was the slightest bit of silver on the black glass of the control panel.

Corporal Higgs looked down, momentarily jumping back in surprise, and then reached out towards it.

Maria called out, forgetting for a moment that the channel was open. “NO! Don’t touch it.” She kept her eyes locked on the control screen as she reached for the gloves of her pressure suit. Outside the window, now visible to the eye, there was activity on the surface of the platform. “Captain!  I can see movement.  We’re not alone out here…”

Suddenly the communication was filled with a crackling static discharge.  There was a flash outside from behind the shuttle, momentarily casting a shadow against the platform.

“Turn us around!  What’s happening?” Maria called out – momentarily forgetting about the strange silvery growth on the controls.  As the shuttle turned, the Moscow came into view – no longer alone. A large black craft had materialized in the space around the UWSS Moscow.  Shaped like a razor-armed crustacean, the black craft gripped the prow of the Moscow as if it was eating her. Smaller black crafts materialized and spread out from the ship – their bodies lost in the inky black of space.

Corporal Higgs suddenly cried out, holding up his hand – the silver which had started to spread across the console was on his hand.  Higgs pushed back into his chair, holding his hand. The silver started to spread over his glove.  He looked at Maria in horror, trying to remove his glove but it was too late. With a scream, Higgs collapses in his chair, the silver moving both over his suit and over his skin, slowly crawling up his neck.

Maria quickly unbuckled herself, pulling on her helmet – hoping it would give some protection against this strange alien fungus. Through the front window, she could see the Moscow – no lights in any of the windows, being dragged towards the large blue clouds of Neptune – a feat which should have been impossible.

She was stranded and probably the only survivor. With a gulp, Maria Cooper started to compose herself, to record a final message to leave for the rescue team sure to follow. She needed to record it and get the message someplace safe – someplace the silver fungus couldn’t reach.  “This is Lieutenant Commander Maria Cooper of the UWSS Moscow. Our ship has been compromised, and I am the last survivor…” She had made her way to the airlock – having planned on throwing herself out of the ship.  At least her suit, and her body, could be recovered.

Suddenly a clang filled the shuttle as it was gripped in black talons. Maria watched in horror as the door cycled open to the jaws of one of the black shuttles.  She knew there would be no survivors.

Upon an Eveningstar

Upon an Eveningstar was released today on the 600 Second Saga podcast.  You can also listening to the 600 Second Podcast using your favourite podcast tools:

 

I heard a rustling in the trees behind me. Without making a sound, I nocked an arrow, twisting my body around to let the arrow fly.  The arrow soared through the air, embedding itself in the wrinkly trunk of the tall oakspire tree.  Narrowing my eyes, I scanned the trees and scrubs.

Hoblins were known to infest the forest, and earlier today I had come across a spot where a small band had brought down one of the long leg bounders who lived in the forest. I, Lyandriah Eveningstar, renowned ranger and protector of the meek, would hunt these creatures down. It was my duty.  

Another sound and my second arrow was aimed higher. A brown-tailed squirrel scampered up the tree, startled by my movement. Frowning, I lowered my bow. Besides, Hoblins don’t climb trees.

Shouldering my bow, I approached the tree, reaching to pull the arrow from the hardened oakspire bark.  I carefully studied the arrowhead to make sure it wasn’t damaged – my bow was a gift from the elvenkin of the deep forests, and had kept me safe through numerous adventures.

Satisfied, I stowed the arrow in the quiver over my shoulder, tossed my cloak back, and  reached up to tuck my hair behind my ear. I imagined that if someone had been watching me, the magic of the cloak would have keep me nearly invisible.

I moved carefully through the forest looking for more signs of the Hoblins. I paused, examining the carelessly broken branches; knee-height. Hoblin level. The band of Hoblins had been raiding the nearby villages. I couldn’t let that continue. I followed the path, until their trail lead to a small babbling brook.  

It was maybe twenty feet across, but fast flowing and about waist deep. I scanned the far banks, and could make out where the underbrush had been broken – no doubt where the Hoblins had crossed and continued.

I lifted the hem of my cloak up, wrapping it around my arm to keep it dry, and stepped carefully into the water, cautious about my steps, feeling the cool water flow around and into my leather boots. A splash right beside me as a startled Bullywart jumped into the water pulled my attention from the river bed. I twisted, the current surging and sweeping my feet from under me.

Falling forward, my cloak tangled up into arms, with a splash I came down hard on the shore, my head smacking against one of the rocks.

It was a miracle I didn’t drown.  Cold water lapped at my face, and my head throbbed as if a bard was using it to play a harvest dance. I reached up, and my hand came away warm and sticky  – my head was oozing blood from a gash. I groaned and took stock of my surroundings.

The small game I had caught earlier had been swept away by the current, and my cloak had dragged me downstream several feet before becoming tangled in the rocks and branches at the side. Above me, the sky was lit by the pale light of the Omen-moon.  The larger warm yellow of the Watchful-moon was no-where to be seen.  Only three times a year would there be a night without the brighter eye of the Watchful-moon – they were the nights when people barred their doors shut, as evil spirits were said to walk the fields. If you believed in such stuff.

It wasn’t evil spirits, but my own fault that I slipped.  I scowled, tugging on my cloak, but it was stuck fast, and torn in several places.  With a sigh, I untied the cloak and let the river claim its prize. It was only pure luck that I still had my bow and quiver.

The woods were dark, and strange sounds echoed.  I thought I heard them whisper to me… “Lia… Lia…” but that must have just been the ringing in my ears.

Sloshing out of the water, I was thankful not to have broken anything.  That would not do for the renowned ranger and protector of the meek. Unfortunately I didn’t have the means to build a fire; and I didn’t want to risk adding freezing cold to my bleeding head. I stripped off my soaking wet tunic and hunting pants, wringing them out and hanging them up – at least to get most of the moisture out.

“Lia… Lia…” the forest called out again.  Stupid forest.  Stupid river.  Stupid Hoblins…

Stupid Lyandriah.

I had been pointedly ignoring the forest when a rustling brought my attention. My instincts took over and an arrow was nocked and ready to fly as I whirled around.

The underbrush danced with a dim light, and a small boy pushed his way out – holding a covered lantern. “Woah!  Lia.. don’t shoot. It’s Herman!”

He brushed himself off and then stopped, pointing.  He nearly dropped the lantern.

“LIA!  Your clothes!” He gasped.

I should have shot him.  Instead I turned bright red, dropping my bow and covered myself, hiding behind the branches where my dripping clothing hung. “Well don’t stand there staring at me.” I blushed even deeper.

He lifted the lantern higher, and gasped, “You’re bleeding.. Are you okay?” This only made me blush more, my failures pointed out at me. I was a ranger!

“I slipped in the river, hit my head.” I lowered my voice, still hiding behind the branches. I didn’t feel brave and adventurous anymore.

“Everyone is worried back in the village. No one wanted to go out because of the Omen-moon, but I snuck out.” Herman said, with pride in his voice. I felt a new well-spring of respect for the boy growing inside of me.  I must have blushed further, because he finally turned his attention to the side.

“Let’s build a fire to dry out your clothing. Here, wear my cloak.” He took his cloak off, handing it to me before turning to gather some kindling from the wood.  The candle inside his lantern lit the wood which soon was providing ample light and heat.

“Hey, Herman,” I asked. “Did you ever wanna go on any adventures?” Up until now I had only snuck out to adventure on my own. But Herman, no…

Sir Herman Willowbent, dashing knight of the Oaken-Forest. That sounded much better.

A night at the Albert Campbell Library

Last night I had the pleasure of being one of the authors showcased at the Albert Campbell Library in Scarborough. This was part of a new series run by the library showcasing local authors put together by librarian Maria Samurin. I appeared alongside the following authors:

  • Elise Abram (author of “I Was, Am Will Be Alice”)
  • Tamara Hecht (author of “Welcome to Monsterville”)
  • Dylan Madeley (author of “The Gift-Knight’s Quest”)
  • M. Vyas (author of “The Enigma of her Longevity”)

We had time to talk with the audience before and after, and a chance for both a short reading as well as questions from both the MC and the audience.

From my personal view, the evening gave me a chance to see how other independent authors like myself approached the craft. It was surprising the variety of methods and tools that everyone brought, and I think I appreciated that opportunity as much as the opportunity to speak and listen to the crowd. It was also great to listen to the other authors speak about their books – their passions.

I’ll share some of the great ideas that I took away from this evening:

Publishing

My first book was self-published using CreateSpace – which ties directly in with Amazon. Other authors used a variety of other means – from a kickstarter campaign to indy-presses to creating their own press to offer the service to other writers.  I found this fascinating as I have been considering forming an independent publishing company moving forward.

It was also fascinating to discuss paper books vs eBooks vs audio-books.  There almost seems to be a divide between the fans of one or the other, and none of the authors present had audio-books of their works.  This is also something I had considered and started to look into for Immersion.

Marketing

One of the hardest elements of self-publishing is marketing. Several of the authors shared stories of their experiences, and noted some of the challenges. We also had some audience members who were studying marketing which invoked some conversations on approaches.  While there is no ‘magic bullet’ – coming out, getting exposure and trying to extend your reach were some of tools we all discussed.  This is when there was some interest in some of the related internet-based ways to market – such as blogs and podcasts.

This was where I was able to share some details about the 600 Second Saga podcast, considering another author was also a contributor, and several members of the audience were listeners. And those who had just heard for the first time were eager to learn more – both as listeners and potentially even as future authors.

There were some other interesting marketing tools which I’m going to look at moving forward. Many of the authors had nice professional bookmarks and displays. One had postcards made out of their cover art – very eye catching.  They also had a large fantasy map which was a great additional detail.

In summation – I was grateful for the opportunity, and loved presenting to the crowd, talking with them afterwards as well as networking with other local writers. This was a fantastic opportunity and I hope the Toronto Public Library and organisations such as Nanowrimo continue to support indy-authors.

Against the Overlord, pt 3

[This is a dramatization of the ongoing Descent 2ed: Journey into the Dark campaign being run with some friends.]

“Quickly! After her.  She can’t be allowed to escape!”  Avric Albright hollered, rallying the rest of the stalwart band down into the crypts under Lord Theodir’s keep.  The elven knight Syndreal was the first down the stairs, her blade still drawn and determination creasing her brow.

The arcane wizard Leoric of the Book and the halfing rogue  Tomble Burrowell followed behind, having first made sure Lord Theodir was safe. “Beware adventurers, my crypts are filled with creatures, and the doors are trapped with diabolical riddles,” he warned.

“Why would you put riddle sprouting doors in your dungeons?” asked Tomble.

“Because… of the monsters…” Lord Theodir explained.

“Okay… and why do you have monsters?” Thomble with strained patience.

“They guard my most valued treasure.” Lord Theodir answered confidently.

“Or… you’re just a crazy Lord who has parties with the fiendish Flesh Moulding minions of the Overlord.” Leoric rebutted bitterly.  It was clear the wizard didn’t appreciate the eccentricities of Lord Theodir.

“Hey, this is all fine and well, but can we GET MOVING?  The Vampiress is getting away.” Avric called again from the stairs, even more impatient.

“Right – let’s be heroes.” Tomble grinned, flipping and catching one of his daggers.

In the crypts, the evil vampiress, Lady Eliza Farrow had turned to mist and was quickly trying to escape through the crypts.  She ignored the denizens of the hallway, and flew through the first large dungeon chamber, before being halted by the door. The magic of the door kept her from passing, and with an evil scowl she reformed.  The air in the room tingled, and Lady Farrow could feel the influence of the Overlord in the minions not yet manifest.  That would buy her some time.

“In order to pass this door, you must answer the riddle true.” The door slowly spoke, the knots of wood shifting to form a twisted mouth.

“Fine! Give me your riddle, stupid door.” Lady Farrow could hear the band of adventurers closing down the stairs behind her.

“What was the name of the first Mexican Newspaper?” asked the door.

Lady Farrow sighed in exasperation. Clearly Lord Theodir had lost his mind. This was going to slow her process.

Syndreal ignored the webs, and charged down into the dungeon leading the party. She was first to meet the hordes of cave spiders.  Her elven blade flashed in the light, as she brought it down on the largest of the spiders. She cursed in elvish as the toughened hide of the spider deflected her blade to the side without even scratching it.

Behind her, Avric bellowed, raising the bejewelled mace high as he followed Syndreal into the battle.  The holy club was brought down hard on the spider – but the surprisingly the spider toughed out these blows as well.  It was one tough spider!

Tomble and Leoric brought up the rear, letting arrows and magic fly. The onslaught only seemed to anger the spiders more.

“Focus your attacks on the big one!” Syndreal exclaimed, deflecting the spider’s attack to the side.

“Easy for you to say!” Avric called back, exclaiming in surprise as one of the other cave spiders landed a bite. “Ooh that’s not good!” the cleric continued, feeling a burning sensation where the spider bite landed, fighting off the symptoms. “I think they are poisoned.”

“Oh, you don’t say!” Leoric called out, before one of the smaller spiders bit deep, the same burning dizziness coursing into the mage. “I don’t feel so good!”

Syndrael drew deep upon her reserves and lashed out; the elven silver blade cutting deep. Avric bashed the wounded spider, causing a grievous wound, while channeling his mystic ability. All of the spiders reacted as the pain was shared among the group.  Avric considered attacking again to finish the main spider, but caught a glimpse of the chest in the dead-end of the corridor. “You got this, right?” The cleric asked, as he pushed himself to reach the chest, visions of Lord Theodir’s treasure danced in his head as he opened it.

The chest was empty.

Meanwhile Leoric complained, “I’m still not feeling very good,” raising his hand to lash out against the smaller spiders with his magic – the bolts of arcane spellfire connecting and burning the creatures. The hordes of cave spiders were starting to weaken.

This was all the incentive Syndreal needed – finishing the lead spider off, then advancing to finish off one of the weaker spiders before finally breaking through the lines of creatures and reaching the first door. “Don’t worry… I can make short-work of this door.” She called out bravely before she slammed her shoulder into the wooden doorframe.

The door splintered, but didn’t budge.

“Ouch!” Syndreal rubbed her shoulder.

“Oh, silly elf. Let me!” Tomble gleefully called out, dashing around the remaining spiders and crouching to deftly pick the lock on the door. “See, there is nothing to this.  Just a flick and a click and…”

The door opened up, but instead of the next room of the dungeon, the room was filled with the maelstrom roar of the sound of a pair of elementals. Their bodies were a whirling mixture of air and water and fire, the top curled over like a giant torrential mouth.

“Oh… crap.” Tomble blanched, nearly losing the grip on his shortbow.

Syndreal drew her silvery blade, “Be brave, young half-human!”

Tomble shot a side-long glance, muttering under his breath, “You mean halfling…”

The fleeing vampress had made her way through the first of the puzzle-doors when she heard the roar of the elementals behind her.

“Oh yes! Make short work of those heroes.” She paused to turn her gaze to the stones forming the ceiling of the dungeon. “Oh, great Overlord – I beseech thee. Slow those meddling adventures so that I may return the magical artifact stored here for you.”

There was a low shake to the dungeon walls, and Lady Farrow grinned. She knew the Overlord was watching over her – and she would not fail.  Her smile turned to a scowl as she faced the next of these infernal doors.

“In order to pass, you must…” started the deep knotty voice of the door.

“Yes, yes.. Answer your riddle. Give it to me already!” the vampire snapped back to the door.

A limb formed from a tempest of swirling rocks, fire and water lashed out, hitting Syndreal. The twin elemental to the side lashed out towards Tomble, connecting with a glancing blow as the little thief tumbled backwards out of reach. “Avric! We need some help up here!” Tomble cried out, hoping the cleric would take his place on the front lines.

Leoric, the mage, forced himself forward, despite still being woozy from the spider venom.  Raising his hand, he shot a mystic bolt into the space Tomble had vacated. The elemental’s form became as insubstantial as the wind, and the mystic bolt passed through it, hitting the far wall. “I can’t shoot at it. I’m no good – and I’m not feeling very well.. still.”

Syndreal braced herself – holding back both elementals. Suddenly a deep echoing laughter could be heard reverberating through the walls, and largest elemental took on a newfound fury. Rocks and fire and water battered against Syndreal, nearly ripping her wooden shield from her arms.  Her armour was dented, and blood started to flow from cuts and bruises, but the valiant elf held the line.

Avric ran forward, although seeing how wounded Syndreal had become… Seeing Tomble battered by the elemental, and Leoric still wracked with the spider venom; Avric changed his action and instead held his holy mace high.  Channeling the power of his divine faith, a healing warmth flowed out from Avric and into the entire party. Their wounds healed, and a fresh energy surged through them.

Syndreal felt a new energy and lashed forward, slashing through the largest of the elementals.  Her blade cut true and deep, the elemental started losing control as it weakened.

Avric entered the space beside Syndreal, deflecting a blow from one elemental as he concentrated his attack on the first one. Two more strong swings and the elemental was dealt a killing blow, and the maelstrom of elements dissipated as if they were never there, leaving only the lesser elemental.  

Syndreal turned to the second elemental, but Leoric called out from the back, “Just go for the door – we need to catch that Vampire!”

Syndreal nodded, and ran forward. She didn’t notice the wire raised across the floor.  With a clatter, the elven knight fell sprawling to the floor. The deep echoing laughter of the Overlord returned.

Tomble was quick to take advantage of the opening, dashing around the elemental and over Syndreal’s fallen form to get to the door. “Answer me the riddle, lest you pass,” the door started to intone, but Tomble had other plans.  He pulled his lockpicks out, and started to work on the mechanism keeping the door closed.

“How about, I choose dank musty hallways, for 2oo Aleks?” Tomble said with glee as the mechanism unlocked and the door opened to the hallway behind. Tomble cackled with delight as he bounded into the hallway.

Syndreal was up and following quickly – with Leoric and Avric trailing behind. “See ya!” Avric called out, shutting the door on the elemental, trapping it behind.

The short hallway lead to another door – and Tomble went to work. The door didn’t even have time to start its riddle before there was a click and the door creaked open. Tomble went pale – again – as the snarl of a pack of Barghests met them. “Oh no… not these guys again!” Tomble cried.

The lead Barghest snapped at Syndreal and Tomble, before jumping back, allowing the pair in the rear to jump forward and snap.  Syndreal’s shield deflected attacks aimed at her, however Tomble wasn’t as lucky.

“We don’t need to fight them,” Avric advised, “Just run around them and get out!”

Tomble gritted his teeth, nodding. Jumping forward, he ducked under the jaws of one of the snarling monsters, and then skirted to the side of one of the monsters in the second rank before getting to the locked door on the far side.  His deft fingers went to work, and another door  opened.Tomble dove inside before the Barghest could attack again. Syndreal followed at his heels.

Leoric was still suffering from the poison, when he remembered the magical doll they had found upstairs. He took out the doll and used it to magically transfer the poison from his body into the body of the magic doll.  The doll took on a sickly green, and he felt instantly better.  Now feeling better, Leoric quickly ran through the room, dodging the snarling beasts.  He paused at the door, tossing the spent magic doll back to one of the Barghests. Avric pulled up the rear, closing the door. The echoing laughter turned to cries of anguish as the band of heroes had nearly caught up with the Vampiress.

In the final room, the chest moments before had held the artifact lay opened, and the satin pouch was clutched firmly in Lady Farrow’s claw-like clutches.  In frustration she pounded her hand on the door, attempting to answer the riddle. “Ahh.. I don’t know – that’s a stupid question.  Umm.. Fifty-Seven?”

“False – I will give you a new question.  What is your favourite colour?” the door intoned.

Lady Farrow’s face lit up. “That’s easy!” but any more was cut off by the sound of the door behind her opening up.

“There she is!” pointed Syndreal, “We have you now!” and charged forward, lashing out with her silver sword to cut the vampiress deep.

“No!  I was so close…” the vampire cried, curling back under the attacks.  Several arrows flew past Syndreal – embedding themselves into the vampire. Avric charged up beside Syndreal and landed a heavy blow with his bedazzled holy mace.

The vampire staggered back, “So close… so close… I’ve failed you, Overlord.”

A flash of magic lashed out, and the vampire turned to a sudden red mist, the purple velvet bag falling to the floor.  The red mist flowed up through the stones of the ceiling, while calling out “I’ll get you next time, heroes… Next time!”

Leoric picked up the bag, examining the artifact. It was an exquisitely carved set of ivory dice, inscribed with mystic runes. They were designed to be worn as a pendant, and the Goddess Fortuna would smile upon the wearer.

As a reward for defeating the vampiress, thwarting the Overlord and saving the guests, Lord Theodir bestowed the Fortuna’s Dice upon the party, and weary from their quest, the party travelled back to the kingdom of Arhynn – eager for their next quest.

 

Into the Leaden Sky

This is a short piece of fiction which was originally aired on 600 Second Saga on May 13th, 2016.


It is difficult to tell whether the sun was up or not through the soot-laden sky. The air had a stench of burnt rubber mixed with coal-dust. It formed a choking smog that coated the buildings with a grey stain and made the air soupy and hard to breathe.  A far off bell rang, the brassy sound mixed with a whistle indicating break time.

 

“Daytime then.” I coughed and pulled my heavy coat tighter.  I pushed my way through the crowded narrow streets jostling between workers.  This was a bad time of day to be travelling to the docks through the factory district, with the lunchtime rush making the streets nearly impassable.

 

Blank masks and automatic guns greeted me at the checkpoint for the Wulfe-Hampton Docks district. I queued in the line, and pulled out my identification. Little puffs of black smoke came from the card reader, before a small green light flashed its approval. The silent guards stepped aside to grant me access before scanning the next in line. I didn’t notice the men with the dark coats who came out of the crowds.

 

The smell of fish mixed with the burnt rubber to make the air even more ghastly. The crowds thinned here, but the paths were occasionally blocked by pallets of cargo and wagons transporting goods.  Despite the helix-steam-ships and tesla-mobiles, the average worker used a simple wooden cart and their own arms to lug cargo around.

 

All of the so-called advances didn’t really bring humanity any closer to a techno-revolution like the stories of the golden-ages in the long past. We were trapped in the smelly damp reality of the now.

 

Lost in my thoughts, I turned down the wrong alley – a dead end. I sighed and turned around only to find the end of the alley blocked by the two men who had been following me. They wore heavy coats, and their eyes were hidden behind brass goggles and black lenses giving them a bug-like appearance.

 

“You know that we can’t let you continue.” Came the heavily filtered voice, buzzing with the distinct sound of the vocoder to mask their identity. It only added to the bug-like feeling. “Your actions have attracted the wrong attention.”

 

The pair took several steps towards me. On the street beyond them people hurried past, very careful not to notice the special deputies of the Chancellor. That was my problem – I’d been noticing far too much recently.

 

I gulped, reaching nervously into my pockets. I didn’t want to play my trump card, until I absolutely had to.  

 

Stepping backwards, I was halted when my back pressed up to some stacked boxes.

 

“Just come along quietly, you don’t want to cause a scene.” Buzzed the lead deputy advanced.  The sky started to spit rain, giving a sheen to their coats as they stepped closer, raising their hands.  One of them carried a well-used pair of iron manacles.

 

As they closed within arm’s reach, I launched forward.  In each hand I held a makeshift device of my own design. Held by grips similar to a pistol, the weapons wrapped around my knuckles with little brass and steel gleaming nubs, like a sword-less basket hilt. I pressed the trigger causing electricity arced from both devices, seeking grounding.  Their bodies provided that conduit.

 

Their vocoders sparked and popped as their limbs went rigid. The manacles fell to the ground, followed their bodies.

 

Pocketing my weapons, I stepped over the bodies and ran back out into the docks. The clock was ticking now, and next time they would be more heavily armed.  I navigated through the docks with a greater sense of urgency until I reached my destination.

 

The warehouse was out on one of the piers. It was three stories tall, with soot-blackened windows high up along the roofline. The slightly peaked roof was tiered giving the impression of a resting armadillo.

 

I pushed through the door marked ‘Private – No Solicitors’ with a smaller sign scrawled in hand saying ‘This means you – Go Away!’  I doubted it would keep out the Chancellor’s deputies.

 

Inside most of the space was taken up by a dark boat-like vessel. Its hull rested on large reinforced pylons set into the floor, and a large gangplank lead up the side.  Overhead a large air-envelope barely fit into the rafters of the warehouse.  Sleek and pointed, several nacelles jutted out with spiral-shaped propellers.

 

As I stepped onto the wooden gang-plank a form moved to block the doorway at the top. Wearing a heavy oil-skin coat and goggles, the figure leveled a broad blunderbuss at me.

 

“We can’t wait any longer.” I called out, clambering up the plank.

 

“Were you followed?” The figure spoke, the gun not wavering.

 

“Yes.” I replied.

 

The figure cocked back the wrought-iron hammer. “That’s not the answer I wanted to hear. You are supposed to be more discreet.” Even through the helmet, I could hear her feminine tones.

 

I knew she wouldn’t shoot. We had a history. I stepped forward, reaching for the barrel of the gun. I saw her trigger finger twitch. “I took care of them,” I said, my eyes staring into her goggles, “But more will be coming. We need to go. Now.” This was her opportunity – she could shoot and leave me for the Chancellor, or she could join me.

 

The impassive goggles stared at me for a moment longer, and then slung the rifle. “Raise the gangplank.” She turned, her heavy coat flaring as she continued barking orders to the rest of the crew who had stopped to watch. “Cast off the lines. Fire the boilers to 120%. MOVE it people.”

 

The crew jumped into action, and I followed the captain as she moved through the lower decks towards the bow of the ship. Deep within, the throbbing metal heart of the airship started to beat louder, and faster.

 

The bridge was encapsulated by a wrap-around window, set with panes of glass against the gothic buttressed frame. Through the slightly warped glass I could see the warehouse doors burst open as a mixture of dock workers and constabulary lead by special officers burst in.

 

They were too late. The warehouse roof was sliding back, and the airship was already lifting off the massive pylons. The propellers angled up and the craft angled up towards the sky.

 

I watched as they fired at the ship, but the bullets were ineffective against the thick skin of the craft. The belly of the airship protected the more vulnerable envelope. The pane in front of me spider-webbed as a round hit it, but the captain held her mask in her hand and stared up. “They can’t get us now.” she said with a soft voice.
The airship lifted into the leaden sky.

Against the Overlord, pt 2

[This is a dramatization of the ongoing Descent 2ed: Journey into the Dark campaign being run with some friends.]

After returning victorious from their adventures, the band of heroes gathered in the throneroom of the castle.  All of the nobility of Arhynn were gathered to welcome the return of the band from defeating the evil black knight and helping Sir Palamon.  

Baron Greigory had a new quest for the adventurous band, “I need you to travel to the north.  Lord Theodir’s has planned a masquerade ball, and you shall warn him of the plans of the Overlord. In his day, Lord Theodir was a great hero – one of those Shadow Binders. He may be on the Overlord’s list.”

The pious cleric Avric Albright stepped forward, “A ball?  That’s stupid!” He did not look like he was looking forward to this new adventure. On the other side, the halfing rogue  Tomble Burrowell looked pleased. He and the arcane wizard Leoric of the Book shared the same thought – there would probably be treasure to be found.

The elven knight Syndreal stepped forward and bowed, “Of course m’liege – we will set forth at once.”

Baron Greigory looked over the armour the cleric and the knight wore – still worn from fighting the minions of the Overlord and showing the dust from the roads to travel back to Arhynn and quipped, “Err, you’re not going dressed like that, are you?.”

“Dressed like this?” Avric had enough and was starting to get ready to tell the Baron what he thought of the suggestion.  Syndreal noticed this, and taking the broad shoulders of the cleric, guided him out of the throne room.

Setting out from the castle, Avric was still upset. “What is wrong with our armour? Besides, he can’t expect us to fight evil in a velvet doublet.” The rest of the group just let the cleric gripe as they journeyed forth.  

The spring weather had been particularly damp and the trail northward turned marshy. The steel and leather boots of the band sunk into the mucky path. “This doesn’t look so good.” noted Tomble – his short stature had him closer to the ground, and from his vantage he could see a sickly green miasma rising from the ground.

“You are right – we should hurry.” Leoric noted, and the group quickened their pace through the rising mist.  The old wizard started to lag behind, and when he coughed, his breath came out mixed with the soupy toxic miasma. Doubling over, Leoric fell to the muck.

“Stop! Leoric – are you alright?” Syndreal asked.  She helped the coughing wizard up. “This must be the work of the Overlord!” A sinister presence could be felt in the mist.

“I’ll be fine – we need to get to Lord Theodir’s keep.” Leoric said weakly, leaning on Syndrael for support.

Finally the path left the marsh behind, winding beside a river flowing from the North.  Leoric was walking on his own, however his coughing had left him weak and exhausted.

Suddenly, Tomble spotted something.  The little halfling skipped ahead and disappeared behind some rocks. Moments later, his head peaked out. “Look!  An old hunter’s path – and it leads directly to Lord Theodir’s keep!”

Pushing the shrubs aside, the heroes set out on the short-cut, much to the dismay of the Overlord who could not put any more obstacles to delay the arrival of the band of heroes.

Music and mirth echoed from the stone walls of Lord Theodir’s keep. The party was already in full force as the band of travellers came to the front gate. But their timing could not be more fortuitous.

As the heroes crossed the drawbridge, inside the library Lady Eliza Farrow brushed her long golden hair over her shoulder, dropping her masquerade mask and pulled a nearby reveiller close to sink her fangs.  Blood sprayed out as the vampiress fed.  Discarding the body, she called out, “Find me Lord Theodir and bring him to the vault!”  From under the tables a handful of goblin archer minions poured out, drawing their short bows. Evil Lady Farrow recited the incantation given to her by the Overlord, summoning forth additional guardians.

In the main hall, the braziers blazed bright. The clouds of incense swirled and gained volume and form. The swirling air thickened and grew in intensity until it coalesced into the shape of two large Air Elementals.  The torches flickered and the guests of the masquerade braced and hugged each other for support.

“That doesn’t sound good. We need to get in there!” Avric was reinvigorated, and charging through the double doors, he quickly accessed the situation. “We need to find out which one of these is Lord Theodir and get him out of here.” Avric valiantly commanded.

The largest air elemental responded with a loud roar, drawing Avric’s attention. Looking deeper, he could see where the goblins were trying to make for the castle’s basement. “I’ll take this one – quickly – we need to save the innocents!” Avric shouted, gripping his mace and charging at the swirling monster.

Tomble bounded past the monsters in the entry hall, moving deeper into the hallways of the keep.  On his way he noted a chest, but with the sore memories of the last chest, he skipped it, trying to get the lay of the castle.

Leoric also noted the chest in the main room, and running around the elementals, made his way – still coughing and weakened – heading directly towards the chest.  “This one is mine!” he called out.

Syndreal ran towards one of the party-goers. “Look!  Goblin Archers!” Syndreal pointed through the arched doorway into the hall.  Indeed the minions of the Overlord were jumping up at the party-goers, pulling off their masks.  Several party-goers had been captured by the goblins who were leading them towards the basement – to a fate unknown. Syndreal reached towards the masked visage of the closest party guest.

Pulling off the mask, the features of the person started to melt and twist.  Syndrael jumped back as the Flesh Moulder growled and extended a claw towards the elven warrior-maiden.

Avric was knocked back against the wall, but he lifted his shield to block the further impacts of the air elemental. “I will keep these guys busy – we need to block that passage!”

Syndrael slashed at the Flesh Moulder, cutting the twisted abomination down, and turned, aiming her sword at another partier.  The human pulled off his mask, “Please don’t hit me…”

Syndrael pulled the human behind her, defending him as she dashed forward, blocking the closed doorway leading to the crypts below and protecting the terrified human.  

Tomble looked at the chests, but then with a scowl went to join Syndrael – guarding the door. “Hurry up and help us!” the halfling called out to the mage.

Leoric pulled on the heavy lid of the chest, and peered in. “EMPTY!” he cried out.  The luck of the chests was not on Leoric’s side. Turning, Leoric dashed into the hallway, raising his hand and casting bolts of magic towards the goblin archers.

The Overlord was not happy – the heroes had blocked the entrance to the crypt, and the air elemental was slowly being beaten down by Avric’s tenacious attacks.  At his silent command, Eliza Farrow surged forward at superhuman speeds.  She paused in the hallway to catch Leoric’s eye, momentarily entranced the wizard and causing him to fall back, before she bared her fangs and started to attack. At the same time, the archers opened fire into the side of the mage, teaming up to focus all of the attacks on the vulnerable old wizard with arrows.

Syndrael had to make a decision she would later regret, “Tomble – we need to save Leoric.”

The elf and halfling stepped forward, engaging the vampiress with sword and dagger. The vampiress cackled- for this was her desire.  Now with the doorway unguarded, she slipped past the valiant heroes, opening the doorway leading down to the crypts below.  

Driven by the unseen drive of the Overlord, the goblin archers escorting two of the guests scurried past – moving faster than any goblin had been seen to run before, taking the humans to their doom below.

“NOOOOOO!” Called out Syndrael, turning to confront the evil vampiress. The rest of the goblins descended on Tomble and Leoric. The damage had been done, and the evil vampiress Lady Farrow was able to hold off Syndrael until the goblins were out of sight. A final lunge from Syndrael did not connect – the vampiress had turned to mist and disappeared through the cracks in the flagstone at their feet down to the crypts below.

At that same moment, Avric raised his holy mace, sending the final blow which caused the air elemental to dispel – quelling the battle in the main hall.  Rejoining the group, the will of evil had been broken – but at the cost of two of the innocent guests.

Avric went through the halls, making sure to clear out the last of the goblins and the Flesh Moulders hiding among the guests while Tomble and Leoric searched the remaining chests – finally getting several useful potions, as Syndrael saw to the safety of the remaining guests.

Luckily, outside Syndreal was relieved to find out that Lord Theodir was not among those who were taken away – however it did little to ease thoughts of the innocents who were taken to the crypts below. There was only one course of action to take – the heroic group needed to venture into the crypts below – to confront the evil vampiress, Lady Eliza Farrow.

Destroyer of Worlds

This is a short piece of fiction which was originally aired on 600 Second Saga on April 1st, 2016.


 

“He scores – never had we seen such dedication in a glide-kickball carrier.” announced the commentator as the curved screen of my wrist-comm replayed the scene from last night’s game.

A mechanical buzzing brought me back to the real world. Pausing the game, I shifted my focus to the antiquated panel as my access was granted, and the large protective locks withdrawn.  Because I was used to the speed of the modern world, having to wait for these ancient locks made me impatient.

The large, rusty door slowly rotated open, revealing a dark corridor. I stepped in, wrinkling my nose at the musty air.  Immediately the radiation sensors in my wrist-comm started clicking, but not at a dangerous level. Not yet.  The sleeping carrier of death had not broken in its torpor.

Activating my suit light, I entered the building, following the indicator on the map. The clean crisp lines on the display had very little bearing on the debris-strewn, paint-peeling, musty hall.  Ducking to avoid the wires and broken parts of the ceiling, I walked deeper into the belly of the sleeping leviathan.

The noxious air grew stronger so I raised my breather; the soft formed plastic cupped my face to let me breathe fresh, purified air.  Good thing, as my wrist flashed ‘Toxins detected. Please put your breather on.’

“I already have, buddy.” I said to my computer.  The computer didn’t respond. Most people used their AI as a constant companion; however, I prefered the solitude. I prefered when my computer didn’t talk back to me.

The winding passageways lead to another door. After powering up the electronics with a by-pass, the old-fashioned access card was accepted.

As the door started to open, the faint ticks of the radiation spiked upwards. Lit only by the glow of my suit, was the final target.

“Look at you, old boy.  Time to put you to sleep.” I said to the ancient phallic symbol of paranoia.

I looked over the edge, but the glow of my suit only extended a few meters. Carefully picking my way to the side-keeping a firm grip on the railing-I made my way down to the sleeping harbinger of death.  At the bottom another secured door, even more rusted, permitted me access.

The air was hazy and still.  I imagined I could smell the decades old air through the filters of the respirator.  I stepped down into the hallway, and my boots disappeared into the reflective still pool of what I hoped was only water and not some toxic or corrosive chemical.  Following the glowing map, I picked my way down the hallways, leaving wakes in the water as I walked. Doorways on either side lead to unused bunks and dark kitchens, their doors long rusted to pieces. I presumed the source of the moisture would be the water storage and treatment tanks – long since rusted through.

Nearly at my destination, but the last door wouldn’t open. Picking up a nearby pipe, I managed to pry the door open.

Inside I was impressed that some of the indicators were still faintly glowing.  The launch code-manuals were strewn about – ink long bled into unintelligibility.

I removed my wrist-comm and set it down. I threaded a power lead into the panel. Power flowed through the ancient hardware, bringing the panels and old screens to life. Ancient redundancy logic-banks – precursors to the digital intelligences I carried in my wrist-comm – started running their decades long routines.

Leaving my wrist-comm to interface with the mainframe, I turned my attention to the launch keys. I fished out some nanoforge keys from my equipment belt. While the programmable metal started to reshape the keys into a set which would work in the locks, I had time to catch the end of my kickball game.

***

Ancient routines came to operational life.

Initial authentications codes accepted.

Permission to launch required additional validation from central command.

The mainframe reached out through the archaic telephone wires for NORAD Command.  

No answer.

The computer had no way to know that NORAD had been decommissioned decades earlier.

Ancient subroutines started to search for alternate solutions. It reached out for SatComm Command.

No answer.

Naval Intelligence Central.

No answer.

The mainframe was required to launch if it did not get a response – searching for any branch of the military which could authenticate the launch codes.

Strategic Overland Nexus. No answer.

The Pentagon. No answer.

The White House. No answer.

No answer. No answer. No answer.

The mainframe   concluded its algorithm. There was only one final step.

The mainframe was alone. It could only rely on its internal programming.

***

I typed in commands to disable the launch circuits, I said to myself “Okay, I need just to unlock the silo, and then the teams can get to work removing your little prize.”  I took the nanoforge keys and pressed them into the locks. The keys fit the locks perfectly, and signalled my wrist-comm their ready-state.

“And I earn my pay.” I activated the keys using my comm. Outside, the large blast doors spread like a flower.

I moved to type in the final commands, but something was wrong.  The computer screen was now working on its own.

Targets locked.

Safety Interlock Disabled.

Engines Primed.

I pressed the large Abort button. My heart was racing.

Abort locked out came the reply on the computer.

I pulled out the nanokeys, and yanked the power cord.  As the screen flickered off, the last message displayed was Changes Locked Out.

I stepped back, aghast at what I had done. The thick walls reduced the launch to a low rumble which shook the walls. I fell to my knees.

“I couldn’t stop it.” I looked at my hands which had triggered the end of the world we once knew.

S1.2 Destroyer of Worlds

Destroyer of Worlds is written by Stefan Budansew. You can learn more about Stefan at his blog or purchase Immersion on Amazon. Stefan Budansew has been storyteller his entire life, however he only started writing the stories down in 2013. Initially encouraged by Nanowrimo, Stefan published his first short novel, Immersion, in 2015, and has … Continue reading S1.2 Destroyer of Worlds →

Source: S1.2 Destroyer of Worlds

Against the Overlord

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[This is a dramatization of the ongoing Descent 2ed: Journeys in the Dark campaign being run with some friends.]

The band of heroes had recently upset the plans of the Overlord – getting to the village outside Castle Daerion in time to save the innocent villages. The party was lead by the pious cleric Avric Albright, who was armoured and commanded the ability to heal the rest of his party. The wizard Leoric of the Book had mastery of the arcane arts. The halfing rogue Tomble Burrowell was small, nimble and carried with him a short-bow. And finally the Elven knight Syndreal who had taken the loss of the beloved village baker, Bob the Baker, very hard. She had spent the rest of the night drowning her sorrows in mead.

The group had been following Tomble, who had tracked the path of the monsters who had attacked the village back to where they had come. “We have tracked the vile Overlord and his minions down to this castle.” Tomble Burrowell said. He paused and pointed up. The trail he had been tracking made it’s way to the ominous black walls of Castle Daerion.

“It is a shame we could not save all of the villagers… Bob the Baker… ” Avric Albright said – the pious man troubled that the party could not save all of the villagers.

“Yes…” added Syndrael strangely distraught about loss of the village baker, “He made good bread.”. The Elven knight was still recovering from the sorrowful drinking the night before.

The group paused to look at the knight, and then continued.

“Wait, before we strive forward – I’ve heard that Sir Palamon from the local town had run on ahead.  We should gather the town’s militia before we storm the castle.” Avric bravely noted.

“Good idea, Avric!” answered Leoric, looking up at the ominous castle.

“Don’t call me Avric. I told you – I want my name to be Leroygal Pulpweed, the fourth of Biblogan.”

The group paused to stare at the cleric.

With an exaggerated sigh, the cleric capitulated, “FINE! Avric then.  It’s a stupid name.”


 

The gathering militia shuffled nervously in their makeshift leather armour. Torches burnt yellow against the gloom of the night. From inside the dark keep, snarls and muffled roars could be heard.

“Sir Palamon has run ahead. He never could get over the loss of Bob.” Winfred, one of the leaders of the militia noted.

“Yes – it is time.” Avric looked over the small group of heroes and footmen, before bellowing out, “CHARGE!”

There was no moat protecting the black stone walls of Castle Daerion, and the old rotting doors barely could hold themselves up against their own weight. Avric and Syndreal could easily pull open the heavy wood doors. From inside came the smell of wet fur and growls filled the darkness. Torches flared showing the pack of large wolf-like creatures with rotting gaunt bodies.

Barghests!” Avric noted. The pack of animals blocked the entry hallway.

“Syndrael – Avric – take the right side. Winfred – take your men to the left.” Leoric directed as he held back with the rogue. Tomble had already drawn his bow and was shooting into the lead barghest.

The Elven knight strode forward, however she had not fully recovered from the night’s drinking before, and her attacks failed to connect. Avric was slightly more successful, however even he could not kill a beast with the initial attacks.

“Do I have to do everything myself?” Leoric shouted, charging in. The wizard raised his hands to throw fireballs to turn the lead barghest’s growls into yelps of pain. The charge of the militia was the final straw, and the first four-legged beast fell to the wooden pike held by Winfred.

With a cheer, another of the militia stabbed its pike into the flanking beast, wounding it.

From deeper in the keep, the rally horn of Sir Palamon sounded out. “The call to arms! We must hurry!” shouted Winfred.

Syndrael’s staggering knocked his attack off balance, Avric was there to attack back. The beasts howled wounded with their numbers reduced. The air filled with an evil presence, and responding to the unspoken orders of the Overlord, the remaining Barghests then turned, running through the shattered remains of a doorway retreating deeper into the castle.

Behind the beasts in the dark corner of the entry hall was a chest. The group noted it, but the calls from the courtyard continued. Avric took a look at the chest, and then glanced to the side. Tomble was also eyeing the chest. “Go ahead,” Avric commented to Tomble, “catch up with us later.”

As the rest of the group strode into the hall, Tomble crouched – his little halfling fingers tapping together – eager to see what treasures awaited inside the chest.


 

Sir Palamon stood at the side of the trashed inner gathering hall. Several of the columns had collapsed, forming blockades. But to the party’s horror, the most surprising thing was the slain villager, Bob – his flesh torn and hanging from his now zombified body, was standing next to the knight. Bob snarled and reached his claw-like fingers to scrape ineffectual against Sir Palamon’s armour.

At the same time as the heroes entered, another door to the right side door burst open, revealing a pair of ettins. The creatures were ten feet tall, two-headed and carrying torn tree-trunks for clubs. The pair of heads looked at the heroes, and then Sir Palamon and roared. The remaining barghests took up defensive positions between the rescue party and Sir Palamon.

“Quickly – protect the Sir Palamon!!” Avric shouted at the militia as he charged headlong into the barghests, taking on the largest alpha creature. Syndrael charged with him, cutting a wide curve to try to flank the incoming ettins.

From behind Leoric sent arcane bolts crackling into the group. Flesh sizzled, but it wasn’t until the pikes of the militia closed in that the barghests fell.

Sir Palamon had made his way to the far side of the hall, pursued by the zombified Bob the Baker. As the last barghest fell, Sir Palamon let his guard down and Bob’s claws found a hole in his armour and connected. “Tis but a scratch – battle on!” Sir Palamon said. The militia, no longer busy with the barghest, formed a protective circle around the knight leaving the heroes free to battle the minions of the Overlord.

The first ettin roared, ignoring Avric’s attack and grabbing his body, tossed the cleric over its shoulder to the dark hallway behind. Syndrael came in from the flank and stabbed into the ettin, drawing its attention away from the tossed cleric to the Elven hero.   Avric was not free – for behind the ettin in the hallway was an even taller two headed giant – the ettin chief. Avric raised his shield in time to defend against an attack – now separated him from the rest of the adventuring party.

“Avric!!!” Leoric called out as the cleric left his sight.


 

Tomble heard a click and instantly knew there was something wrong. From a hidden compartment a dart shot out of the chest, catching the little halfling in the chest. Knocked down, Tomble instantly felt nauseous and drained.

“Poison!” he exclaimed, and somewhere the deep laugh of the Overlord could be heard echoing throughout the castle.

Pulling himself to his feet, he returned to the chest. “Well – this had better’n been worth it!” he exclaimed, pushing the large lid of the chest open.

Empty.

The chest was empty. The echoing laughter increased.

“Well that just figures.” Tomble bitterly sighed.

Holding his side, he pressed forward to rejoin his companions.


 

Alone in the hallway, Avric gripped his mace. The second ettin facing him roared, but then stepped back. The sound of metal filled the hallway.

The empty suit of armour, resplendent with red velvet trim and a tattered flowing black cape strode into view. A large oversized sword in its hand, and glowing red eyes deep inside the empty steel helmet. This was the evil fallen knight – Sir Alric Farrow. The fallen knight was now one of the lieutenants of the Overlord.

Avric braced himself as Sir Alric charged, the vile black sword cutting deep. Avric swung back in retaliation, but his mace clanged off the side of the hollow armour. The large suit changed its tactics. Feigning an attack, the large metal gauntlet grabbed Avric, and twisting its body, turned, trading places and shoved the cleric even further deeper down the hallway – towards the waiting ettin chieftain.

Avric swung around in time to see the large club of the ettin chieftain bearing down on him. Blow after blow landed, and it seemed that somehow the ettin was getting luckier in its strikes. A deep resounding echo of laughter filled the corridors as the Overlord used its vile ability to allow his creatures to strike true.

Nearly unconscious and battered, Avric was helpless to resist as the ettin grabbed his body, and threw him down to the far end of the corridor. Avric Albright, cleric of the cloth, fell in a crumpled pile.


 

“I’ve been poisoned.” Tomble whined, finally rejoining the group in the main hall. The militia continued to protect Sir Palamon while the Leoric and Syndrael had moved on from the Barghests to the large two headed ettin which had created a bottleneck to prevent the team from getting to their lost colleague.

Out of the corner of his eye, Syndrael spied a chest in the far corner of the chamber. Seeing that Leoric was about to fell the wounded ettin, Syndrael took the opportunity to dash towards the chest.

The sound of ancient mechanisms proceeded the floor suddenly opening up. With a howl, Syndrael fell into a pit, landing hard on the ground below. The Overlord’s hand was clearly seen in this dastardly deed.

Above, Leoric called out. “We’re going to need more help here.”

The large red velvet trimmed armour, lieutenant of the Overlord, had entered the room.  Rushing forward with a hollow echoing roar, it swung its black sword towards Leoric who ducked aside. Undaunted, the black knight turned, grabbing the wizard’s body with his free hand to toss him to the side – moving ever closer to Sir Palamon.

Tomble jumped forward, taking out his short-bow to launch several arrows towards the evil lieutenant of the Overlord. The arrows pierced through the empty armour – not hindering the progress of the dark knight.

Leoric raised his mighty book, reading incantations to send bright blue bolts towards the back of the dark knight. These magic bolts hit true, and the knight halted in its progress. Ignoring the jabs from the militia pikes, the evil Sir Alric lashed out towards the mage with his black sword.

With a cry, the mage crumpled to the dirty flagstones, defeated. Syndrael could barely cry out “Nooooo!” as the injured ettin then connected on Tomble, sending his little body flying several feet.  Tomble body crumbled at the foot of the ettin, also defeated.

The fallen heroes spurred on a second breath in the militia, who charged forward. The evil Sir Alric met the charge head on; the black sword swinging and cutting through the militia.

With the ettin and the dark knight distracted by the militia, Syndrael shifted her focus to her fallen comrades. She pulled Leoric to his feet, looking over as the militia pulled down the wounded ettin. She then moved on to Tomble when she looked up to see Winfred, leader of the militia fall to his knees before the evil Sir Alric Farrow. With a hollow laugh, echoed by the Overlord, the brave Winfred couldn’t make a sound as he was run-through by the black sword.

Syntrael turned, the Elven hero lunging at the back of the black-knight and drove her sword true.  The evil lieutenant was caught off guard by the attack from behind, and with an moan of escaping vapours, the empty armour of the evil knight clattered to the floor. Its evil had been dispelled. The heroes had paid a high cost; the cost counted in the bodies of the fallen militia. However, the minions of the Overlord had been defeated.

As the howling echoes of the Overlord’s influence left the castle, the heroes collected their fallen members and returned to the kingdom of Arhynn to determine their next course of action.