Friday, February 27, 2015
Leonard Nimoy has passed away and it is a time to honor his life. I will do so by watching my favorite episodes of my favorite series of his work; Star Trek.
He has left this stage and journeyed to the next. I hope he finds joy and love and adventure.
Thursday, February 26, 2015
"What in the Nine Hells is that?" Harold asked.
The little thief stared at a broken form not much taller than himself but broad and muscular as an ape. It had a coat of greyish fur and a thick mane of black hair surrounding a face like a cross between a human's and a wolf's.
"That," said the ranger turning the dead body over with his foot, "that is a gibberling."
He bent and felt the muscles in its hand then touched its neck, the spine snapped like a stick. "Still stiff, killed last night, thrown, look at that stone, that's what broke its neck."
Underneath the dead beast's head was a rounded block, a large square of stone worn down by time.
"That is an odd stone," the ranger touched the grey rock, it was speckled with bits of black, cold and smooth under his hand. He pulled up a clump of weeds that grew beside it and revealed the corner, cut stone; a building had stood upon this spot, but long ago. "...as I thought."
"What?" Harold asked. "What do you think?"
"Here," he said pushing back a thick bush so that the stump of the plant was visible, "more stones. We're standing near the foundation of some building, or in it."
"Where?" asked Little Rat twisting around to see.
"Tumbled down," Harold told the orc. "Just stones now."
"Oh," Little Rat said in a disappointed tone.
"You two wait here for the others," said the ranger, "if there is one gibberling, there are a hundred."
"Are they dangerous?" squeaked Harold.
"Very," the ranger smiled. "But not in daylight. We have half the day to get beyond their reach."
North of where he'd found the body of the gibberling the ranger broke through the thick underbrush and stood within a wide swath of torn and uprooted plants. There was a circle where the trees were knocked down and the ground torn up, the oerth churned as if from a plowman's blade. Mixed with the dirt were the shards of bones, splintered, the marrow gone. A minute's search turned up a skull, stripped of flesh and cracked open then hollowed out. A giant fought and died here, then was eaten raw. The destruction ran west-east, the tracks, hundreds of them, pointed toward the east; they'd gone toward the rising sun. The dead and drying leaves were still alive the day before, sometime last night the gibberlings had passed, or so the ranger judged from the signs he found.
* * *
"Gibberlings," said Telenstil standing over the body.
"Strange to find them here," said Talberth.
"What are they?" asked Ghibelline, "Nothing of nature surely?"
"Drones perhaps, like ants, they may have a queen and spring from eggs, "said Talberth, "We studied them at university, I have seen one splayed open, preserved, they are not male or female, these do not reproduce."
"A wizard's creation, yes." said Telenstil."That is my thought. They are extremely dangerous, though not during the day."
"That is what Harald said," spoke up the thief.
"They are rare to find like this," mused Talberth, "they eat their dead. You only find their bones, or when the last of a herd has been killed."
"He said it was thrown, and that rock is part of a building."
Ivo bent and ran his hand along the stone as the ranger had done. "He was right, at least about this rock. And these, Telenstil, these are old, very old. This is not the work of gnomes or dwarves."
"Giants?" asked Talberth.
Ivo laughed. "Giants no, well not Nosnra's kind," he looked closer at the block, "not the giants of stone and rock either, I know their work; Human hands perhaps. Another mystery, back at that hill, a trail leading up to nothing, and here, something was built here."
Tuesday, February 24, 2015
Talberth had never slept more soundly in his life, but he awoke with a terrible ache, every muscle in his body felt like it had been pulled apart and sewn back together with twine. It was sometime before dawn, he lay upon a bed of fir branches with his pack was beneath his head. The night had been cold but dry and with a second layer of branches piled over him he had been warm as if he'd been sleeping in a bed.
The sky was purple, day would be coming fast but already the others were astir, all except for the orcs. Boss, Meatstealer and the surviving pair, Halfknife and Brokenhand, would have preferred to travel by night. They liked the dark; the day was for sleeping more often than not. Months had passed while they had been the giants' slaves; day was when the torches burned, when they worked digging the tunnels beneath the steading. Night was when they were locked in their unlit cells; they had not missed the sun.
"Time to wake up," Ivo gave Talberth's shoulder a shake.
"I'm up," he yawned. "How long did I sleep?"
"Five hours, a little more," laughed Ivo quietly. "You were out on your feet last night. You were asleep and snoring before Harald cut the last of the branches for your bed."
"I don't snore," muttered Talberth.
They ate a cold breakfast of half-cooked beef. Harald had found one steer that had burned longer than the rest, he hadn't mentioned the body of the giant he'd found roasted beneath it, avoiding any qualms that the others might have. The orcs had taken their own choice cuts, preferring their flesh raw or at most just kissed by the flames and nothing more. They were less squeamish than the others, a week rotting in a canvas sack just added to the taste for them.
"Which way now?" Talberth asked just before they set off.
The scorched beef had been passed around with fresh water from the spring.
"Muphlimm-umph," Ivo answered him then swallowed the mouthful of food he'd been chewing. "North, Harald's finding us a trail."
"He's back," Harold spoke up, pointing to the ranger weaving his way through the brush back up to where they sat. "I'll go get Ghibelline, he's keeping watch by the spring."
"Talberth, why don't you get those orcs moving?" Ivo asked the tall mage.
"They seem to listen to Ghibelline just as well," said Talberth.
"That was yesterday," Ivo replied, "they were just obeying the tone of his voice, they forgot he was an elf. Go on, they're scared of you, all the qualities that a leader of orcs needs."
"Since when are you an expert on orcs," Talberth said annoyed. He didn't enjoy his status with the orcs.
"Well this is a first for me," laughed Ivo. "But I know orcs, too well I know them, believe me."
"Well I've never had them on my side before either," said Talberth.
"Oh don't make that mistake," Ivo told him seriously, "they aren't on our side, don't trust them, if they think they can get away with it they'll put a dagger in your back, especially because they're scared."
"I don't trust them, I don't like them," Talberth replied heatedly, "I don't want them with us..."
"Easy there," Ivo said in a calm and friendly voice, "I agree, but they are with us for now. You are they best to deal with them. We need you Talberth, don't let us down."
"I'm sorry Ivo, I... I just needed more sleep," Talberth said quietly, "I'll go get the orcs."
The Island Fortress of Boyan the Wizard Part 1
Before the time of man there were the Gods. Perun the Thunderer was the strongest and Veles the Snake was his brother. They split the world and chose the realms that they would rule. The contest they fought over this choice raised mountains in ash and fire, caused storms that drained the sea and floods that swept the Earth bare. While Perun was the stronger Veles was smarter, crafty and skilled with magic.
The struggle went on for ages and they created allies from the seeds of life to be found. The early Lizard Kings and their beasts aided them, but while they were the first children of Veles many were swayed by the raw power of Perun and betrayed their divine father. As the strife continued and the ages passed all manner of bird, beast and finally man were created.
The northern top of the world was carved from the earth and moved to a place beyond time. It became a gateway to other places, other times and other possibilities. It became a place of legend. It became Hyperborea.
Boyan the Wizard is a servant of Veles. He has ruled the northern islands for countless years, but it has been years longer since he was last seen. Still the people of the islands have been under his rulership for all the years that he has been gone. Boyan's fortress is set upon one of a cluster of small islands near the northern coast. His ships and flying beasts kept the farmers and fisherman of the towns and villages under check, collected the tithes in slaves and treasure, and recruited boys to become soldiers in the wizard's service.
Then the storm came and with the crash of lightening, the lash of torrential rain, the wind that broke walls, uprooted trees and foundered ships, the secret worshipers of Perun rose up and struck against the servants of Boyan and regained their freedom.
For long weeks the last of the wizard's servants were hunted down, but to everyone's surprise there has been no sign of the wizard or his steward and the council of apprentices who rule in the name of the wizard. Finally an expedition has been put together; warriors, clerics of Perun and the hidden Gods, magicians (who are not entirely trusted) and even thieves from Debent, largest of the towns formerly under the sway of the Boyan. With a small ship and crew who will take them to the wizard's fortress and then retreat to the safety of the nearby islands to prepare a camp and wait for a signal to return, this adventurous group will set out to explore the fortress and report back on what they find.
This is an open ended adventure for 5 to 10 characters levels 4 to 6. A well balanced party is recommended. (Welcome to the 1st draft).
Saturday, February 21, 2015
They wandered down the trail to where Gytha stood beside Ghibelline. The ranger talked with them, straight and tall, the grievous wounds he'd received healed by the cleric's faith and prayers.
"...be more." said Harald.
"I know, they will be hunting for us, those wolves of theirs will track us down," Ghibelline said.
"There are a few tricks to throw them off our trail," Harald glanced up and down the path. "But this place, they may lose our scent among all these bodies and blood."
* * *
Telenstil had been right. The moons were up and still the party was on the move. It was slow going, and despite Harald's best efforts they were leaving an easy trail. They were heading north and west, away from the hills and up into the mountains, but they hadn't left the woods behind.
Low branches slashed at them, roots and stones caught their feet, made them trip and stumble; they followed a deer trail that weaved through the underbrush. The ground was rough and uneven, the trail narrow and lined with thornbushes, they moved with a slow and awkward pace.
Harald had gone ahead, some said that he had the elven sight but it wasn't true. It was Talberth and Gytha who had the worst of it, neither could see far in the dim moonlight. Gytha at least had some woodscraft, she'd lived within the hills and mountains of Geoff all her life, but Talberth had been born and raised in Greyhawk, the hub of the Oerth as he called it. The young mage knew much about the arcane crafts, had served as an apprentice to Telenstil and seen the world beyond his city's walls, but he had never been far from a campsite or an inn. He was not used to wandering through the woods at night, looking for a place to camp, forced to sleep out under the stars, his pack as a pillow and his arms folded about him for a blanket.
They traveled single file, the orcs last in line carrying Derue, the thief and young orc leading the others over the trail. The two humans were kept at the center of the file where those with the nighteyes could keep them from falling in the dark or straying from the path. There was a hiss, low and subdued, it came from the halfling and it brought them to a halt.
"There is a clearing up ahead," Harold whispered to Telenstil and Ivo.
"Where is Harald?" the elven mage asked.
"I have no idea," Harold snapped back. "What do you want us to do?"
"Did you see something?" Ivo asked him.
"Nothing but the end of this trail," said the thief. Harold was not pleased to come upon a surprise when his friend the ranger was somewhere ahead and nowhere to be seen. "He should have come back to warn us. I don't like this."
"Can you circle the clearing?" asked Telenstil.
"I can," said Ghibelline speaking over the gnome's head. "Let me go, I'll see what has happened to the ranger."
"I can do it," Harold said with a huff.
"You're as quiet as a mouse in slippers," said Ivo, "but Ghibelline has the woodscraft."
"Shhh..." hissed Ghibelline.
"Yea, quiet down." a voice said from nearby. Harald worked his way slowly from beneath a thornbush.
"Where were you?" demanded the thief.
"Sorry, you made better time than I expected," Harald replied. "I found us a decent spot. There is a spring up here and a small rise just beyond the clearing where we can camp."
"We nearly had to go looking for you," complained Harold.
The ranger shrugged. "Good practice for you, out here you never know, scouting ahead is dangerous work, sometimes you don't come back."
"Harald," said Telenstil, cutting off the thief before he could say anymore, "Show us this place. We can all use the rest."
Friday, February 20, 2015
"Wait!" Telenstil yelled.
He called after Ghibelline and the orcs but they did not listen or heed his call. The young giant easily outdistanced his pursuers, though Ghibelline was fast the giant's legs were longer than he was tall. Up the path and over the ridge and gone, the elf stopped at the far slope, the giant was already nowhere to be seen.
Nearby the little thief snarled as he peered into the fallen giant's eyes and showed him the knife, an old blade as big as a sword in the halfling's fist. "I curse you and all your kind," Harold told the giant then with a careful skill he cut the monster's throat with less regret than a farmer had when he killed a chicken for the evening meal. Though slowed by Ivo's spell the giant's heart still beat strong and steady. The blood sprayed from the massive wound, it soaked the thief in a crimson flow, it pooled around his feet and from a severed vein it fountained out with every dimming beat as the giant's heart began to weaken and ceased to pulse. Its muscles were frozen stiff by magic but its eyelids fluttered and a whoosh of air escaped in a single gasp as it left the giant's lungs through a gaping throat.
"That could have gone better," said Ivo to Telenstil.
The mage looked down and shook his head. "That is an understatement. We had best find Gytha and have her see to Harald."
They watched the ranger work the blade from the giant's chest; he gave a few hard pulls then staggered back and began to work at the blade again.
"Where is Talberth?" asked Telenstil.
"Where is Gytha for that matter," said Ivo. "What is that thief doing? Harold!" he called to the halfling. "We want to talk with that... too late."
"What?" said Telenstil. He had turned back the way they'd come but swung around when Ivo shouted to the thief. "Ah, that giant lived."
"It did," said Ivo, "I have not the craft to kill one out of hand, but stop them, freeze them in their tracks; that I can do."
"More killing, I knew what to expect, I have killed many in my years, but after this..." Telenstil mused aloud. "Ivo there must be a better way."
"Not that I know of against such as them," the gnome nodded toward the bodies of the giants. "Look up there, our new companion returns without his prey, but with his pack in tow."
Ghibelline was coming back down the trail, much more slowly than he had run up. The orcs had followed him as he chased the young giant, now they followed him again, but stopped beside the burnt body of a cow. They attacked the carcass, cutting long strips of flesh away, digging into the cow's side to pull out raw and bloody gobbets then devouring them where they stood. The orcs began to laugh among themselves spraying out half chewed meat. One began to choke he laughed so hard, then spit out a huge lump of beef. He bent to pick it from the ground but Meatstealer handed him a fresh piece he'd just cut. The orc was right, there was plenty more, any of the giant steers or cows could have fed them all for a week or more. There were at least a score of the cattle scattered about the hill. The smell from the roasted flesh, half-cooked by Telenstil's spell, wafted across the hill and sent seductive tendrils out to the entire company.
"I must be hungry," said Ivo his stomach rumbling loud enough for Telenstil to hear. "Watching a pack of orcs eat and I'm not sick, I want to dig in as well."
* * *
"How are you?" asked Telenstil.
Talberth rubbed his head, his face was bruised, one eye black and swollen, his nose still grimed with blood. "I'll live," he said.
"He was badly hurt, trampled by that cow," Gytha told them.
"What a way to die... I came to fight giants," muttered Talberth. "How did we fair?"
"Ghibelline says that two of the orcs are dead," said Telenstil. "Harald was hurt. Gytha can you see to him? Does Talberth need your help?"
"I have called on the Saint, he will grow tired of my requests," she smiled. "I will go see to Harald." The cleric left them and quickly ran down the trail.
"I owe their church a tithe," said Talberth. "I'll end up owing them as much as our thief."
"You should give her twice what she asks," Ivo put a friendly hand on the mage's shoulder. "I am thankful to have her with us."
"We will need to be careful, now that Henri is gone," Telenstil mused.
"Good riddance, but we are putting quite a burden on Gytha," Ivo said.
"Those Pholtines usually have no problem with using their power to gain some coin," Talberth said, "but I didn't get that feeling from Henri. I think he'd only heal us if we swore some oath to that god of his."
"Perhaps," said Telenstil, "maybe we judge him wrongly."
"That's all broken and past mending," Ivo shook his head. "We will have to make do with what strength we have."
"What a waste of that strength," groaned Talberth. He pushed himself to his feet and waved away the helping hands offered by his friends.
"The day grows late," said Telenstil looking to the west. "We need to collect ourselves and be gone before more giants come."
"What happened? Did they get away?" asked Talberth.
"One did," Ivo told him.
"One is enough," Talberth agreed.
"Yes, things did not go well," said Telenstil.
As they talked the halfling wandered up to them, behind him stalked the young orc, Little Rat, chewing contentedly on strip of meat.
"Gytha said you got knocked down by one of those things," said Harold, "big as dragons, is everything that size up here? I'd hate to see the poultry."
"The giants would make short work of the cattle we keep," laughed Ivo. "Normal cows are big enough for me, my clan keeps sheep."
"I'm happy to let the Butcher's guild deal with all such business," Harold said.
"I see your apprentice has no such qualms," Telenstil gestured to the orc.
"That giant lad, he will bring back others from his hall," Ivo broke into their mild conversation. "Come, we must leave this place, we may have to keep traveling through the night."
Thursday, February 19, 2015
Harald ran down the trail as the two giants ran up. He held his claymore at his side, level with his waist, and raised it above his shoulder as he ran. A staff big as a scaling pole swept out, Harald ducked aside but the iron ferrule on the end caught him soundly and knocked him off his feet. He did not lose his grip or drop his sword; he rolled with the blow and ended kneeling, bringing the blade around and cutting the giant on its arm.
The swinging staff knocked Harald down again with a backhand blow, a second staff wielded by the other giant stabbed at him. He squirmed aside, the staff's end impaling only the oerth, sinking in deep as a fence post. Using his sword like a spear, Harald stabbed the giant in the leg, thunking into the huge shin but doing little damage except to cause the giant pain. Telenstil did what he could. He cast a simple spell and sent five magic bolts of gleaming blue that were sure to fly where he commanded. They struck but the giant shrugged the pain away. The monster took a second jab at Harald striking him a glancing blow that slid across his mail and over his shoulder. Harald stabbed up as the giant struck and this time opened up a deep and bloody cut across the creature's thigh.
"Harald!" Telenstil yelled to him. "Get away! Get away!"
Two staves clacked hard against each other missing the ranger, the giants fouled each other's attacks while Harald dragged his sword across the giant's leg like a surgeon cutting flesh. The wounded giant howled and pulled back its staff holding it in both hands up against its chest. The ranger threw himself to one side while the other giant brought its staff down as if it were an axe ready to split a block of firewood. There was a dull thud, the blow numbed the giant's hands, the knuckles white with strain and clawed in a frightful grip. The giant flexed them for a moment and the blood flowed in like a hundred needles sticking in its fingers and its joints.
More bolts flew from Telenstil but against such a monster as the giant they did little good. Ivo's power was of more effect, he'd run down the hill as the ranger fought, still yards away he cast his spell. His words were gibberish to any but the wise, the magic speech of the gnomish kind. He motioned with his hands as he spoke, slow graceful gestures that seemed to leave a trail of wavering space behind. Like the shimmering waves of heat above a fire these waves of magic power flowed around the giant's form. The staff fell from its hands; pins and needles ran up its arms, across its chest, down through its stomach to its toes. The giant fell like a tree when the final axe blow has been struck; slow at first, then with crashing speed.
The wounded giant took another blow from Harald's sword; the blade cut open rough hide trousers and the skin beneath. Blood poured down the giant's front and back, its arm and chest were burnt where magic bolts had struck, and red puss-filled burns were spread across its face. The last blow sent the giant into a frothing rage, it spun so quickly that it shook like a dog with a soaking coat and blood sprayed like rain from its open wounds. The giant broke the staff in two with the strength of its shoulders and its arms, then threw the splintered pieces at the gnome. Ivo brought up his hands to protect his face, the spell he had begun wasted, the magic potential dissipating like a cloud of smoke.
* * *
"Aaarrraaahhh!" the giant screamed wordlessly. It clawed at its face, scraping grimy nails down its cheeks leaving a bloody trail. It grabbed Harald by the shoulders and lifted him from the ground. Hands with the grip of a metal vice crushed in his mail, the steel links digging through the thick cloth he wore beneath his armor. Harald drove the point of his claymore, Miming, into the giant's chest. The keen edge slid in between its ribs, not deep at first, but as the monster lifted him he put his shoulder to the hilt and sank it in till it came out the giant's back. A hand let go of one shoulder and grabbed Harald by the throat, the palm was so big that it lapped over his jaw as well, saving him from a choking hold. The pressure ground his teeth together with a grating sound, massive thumb and fingers closed like pincers ready to crush the ranger's skull like an apple rotted on the vine and cast beneath a farmer's foot.
Two daggers stabbed at the giant's legs, the halfling and Little Rat attacked. The thief knew where to cut but the young orc just hacked away with fierce abandon; he did little more than gash the giant's skin.
And then it fell.
The pressure disappeared, the hands unclenched and Harald dropped, pulling out his blade half way. Magic bolts from Telenstil's hand struck it again, but only as an afterthought. It buckled at its knees, the thief and orc jumped back. The giant knelt for a moment, its arms straight at its side then tumbled backwards, legs bent double underneath. Harald lay atop the giant's chest. He would not release his sword, but the huge torso pulled it away and dragged the ranger along as if he weighed no more than a man of straw. He breathed hard, and closed his eyes letting his head rest on the bleeding silent chest.
Ghibeline lead the four surviving orcs charging down the trail. They heard the calls, the terrible scream, the elven warrior shouted for them to follow him and to his and their surprise, they did. They stared in quiet awe at the bloody scene. The ranger, hands still gripping his murderous sword, the bodies of two giants deadly still; one a mass of wounds, a vast rent torn down its side. All about them the smoking bodies of the cattle, the smell of roasting flesh and burning leaves. Small fires shrank sending out plumes of smoke as the wet loam refused to catch and spread the flames. Telenstil watched silently, as did Ivo. The halfling stumbled back away from the ranger and the bleeding corpse; his hand touched the other giant's face, slid across its eye and felt the lid flutter and the eyeball move.
"This one's alive!" he shouted in surprise.
"Look!" called out Ghibeline. "There's another!"
Standing off the trail near to the trees was the gangling giant youth. It stared at the carnage with an open mouth then shut it with a snap as the elf broke the silent moment that everyone had shared. The youth did not hesitate, it turned and ran, long thin legs eating up the distance between where it had stood and the north edge of the trail.
"After it!" yelled Ghibleine.
He ran down the path, gracefully weaving between the corpses of the cattle. The orcs followed him again roaring out a battlecry they had not used in years.