Thursday, July 30, 2015

The Hill Giant Chief - Nosnra's Saga - Part 129

"What does that tell you?" asked Harald. The ranger bristled with impatience.

"Look, the wire is frosted near the end where I held it to the mist," Ivo held the piece of enchanted silver in his hand and waved it toward the ranger. "But further on it is merely cold to the touch. It tells me a little tale; listen and I will tell it to you."

"Sorry Ivo," Harald apologized, "I'm just worried about Talberth."

"I'm worried myself," said Ivo. "The mist looks no more than half a foot thick, the frost on the wire goes no further. The wire was not destroyed; it was not yanked from my hand, as it might be if magic had transported it. It is not bent, so no trap was triggered by it passing through the mist."

"That is no test for traps," the thief spoke up.

"No Harold, but what else do you suggest?" asked Ivo.

"Use that sword of yours," he said to the ranger. "Let it drag across the ground. See if there is a floor beyond that smoke, we could take a step and end up falling down a shaft like the one we saw back in the room of statues."

Harald drew the long blade and stared at it for a moment; he hated to use the blade in such a way.

"I don't think it will break," the thief said sarcastically.

"All right, I'll give it a try," Harald said, but he was reluctant and moved with excessive care.

"I thought you were in a hurry," Harold complained.

The ranger held out his claymore, the hilt in both his hands and let it slide across the edges of the mist along the frame. He felt a firm resistance and the blade ground against some unseen surface beyond the smoke-filled portal, but he could hear nothing from the other side. Using the strength of his arms and shoulders he pushed hard against the ceiling, the walls and the floor, but there was no result. Nothing gave, no trap opened up beneath the blade, only the feel of something that stopped the point from moving further and a growing cold which chilled the metal of the sword. "There is nothing," Harald said then the ranger stepped into the mist and disappeared.

"Wait!" Ivo and Harold called out together. The thief grabbed for the ranger and passed through the mist close on his heels.

"Hey!" Little Rat shouted. The young orc followed Harold without a moment's hesitation.

Ivo still held the silver wire in his hand. He looked at the mist filled gate for a moment then carefully bent the wire into four even lengths and slipped it into his pack, then stepped into the mist.

* * *

Chilling cold reached for him but Harald brushed it aside and stepped through the mist. It had only been the lightest touch then he found himself standing in the dark. The ranger stopped and tried to sense the room around him. There was a different feel then what he had expected. Through the mist his sword had pressed against some obstruction to the right and left, he shifted the claymore so that the blade swung to either side but met no resistance. Harald stepped back and as his foot slid across the stone floor something collided with his leg. It squeaked out with alarm and sent the ranger jumping forward in surprise.

"It's me! It's me," the halfling thief cried out.

"Curse it Harold," exclaimed the ranger. "You're lucky I didn't cut you in half!"

"What're you stan..." Harold began to say but Little Rat came leaping through the mist and knocked him down.

* * *

"...iiing!" Harold's word became a loud screech as he was knocked over and tumbled across the floor.

Little Rat scrambled to keep on his feet, bouncing back from the impact with the small but stout halfling that nearly sent him through the mist again. He steadied himself, a wave of cold passed across his backside which was partly through the smoke-filled portal. "Yiii," he shrieked, echoing Harold's yell.

"Stop playing around!" the ranger called out. "I can't see a thing, where is the light!"

"Ivo has the light." Harold grumbled. He had turned the tumble into a roll and came up facing the door.

"That's good," said the ranger, "I'm the one who needs it."

"It's your own fault," Harold told him. He turned around to face his friend and felt Little Rat grab him by the shoulder. "What?"

"Look!" the young orc pointed, his arm brushing past the halfling's nose.

"That's Harald," said the halfling, "what's the matter with you."

"No!" Little Rat pointed harder, his arm shaking, his finger jabbing at the space around the ranger Harald's side. The halfling leaned toward the side and crooked his neck, Harold's eyes widened as he caught sight of the creatures that Little Rat pointed a shaking finger at. The room was unlit except for a soft glow coming from the misty door but the halfling and the orc could see, their kind had eyes meant for the seeing in the dark. Old wooden frames that might once have been beds littered the room, the remains of tables, chairs, a row of shelves smashed down the center but their corners still hanging from the sides, and rising amid the debris were bones. A skull sat on a spine without ribs or arms, but it bent and brushed itself across a loose pile of yellow-ivory sticks. Like iron filings jumping to a loadstone, the bones joined with the spine. It shook like a wet dog and its ribcage clicked into place. As Harold watched at least six skeletons formed and began to clack toward them on their fleshless toes and heels. The ranger heard the noise and turned his head so that one ear was directed toward the sound.

"Harald! Behind you!" Harold shouted at his friend.

"What is there!?" the ranger brought up his sword so that the long blade waved back and forth, higher than the halfling's head. The point thunked into a skeletal chest, but Harald had put no force behind the blow and the point skittered over the monster breast bone and passed harmlessly between its ribs.

"Skeletons!" Harold exclaimed. "Hit it! You just poked one with your sword."

"Keep down," the ranger brought his claymore over his shoulder and swung the blade like a scythe. It struck a skeleton that leapt forward, the edge cut through its spine like a stalk of wheat, severed a boney arm on its way out and then the blade came up high over Harald's other shoulder. The fleshless legs and waist clattered to the ground, but the torso pulled itself toward the ranger, one hand reaching out; the stump of an arm scraping on the stones.

"Got one!" shouted Harold. "Only another five to go."

"I can't see them," the ranger said, "tell me when to..."

"Now!" Harold shouted as two more skeletons came within the reach of the ranger's sword. 

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

J. Eric Holmes Basic set mention in The Wild Hunt #52

J. Eric Holmes Basic set mention in The Wild Hunt #52

From Steve Marsh's The Heroquestor (1980)

Page #1 Paragraphs 4-6

"After the guys decided I wasn't too incompetent I began to do some real work. TSR is currently doing EXPERT SET and rewriting BASIC SET. These are rewrites of D&D (as opposed to AD&D which is a completely different system). There are very few changes except for format. The goal is to make the system understandable by a kid who is the only person on his block to have even seen the rules.

I am working on some modules on my own time (as per previous agreement and a current one) and have one (OLD SHARDS) in Gary's hands for a final gloss. I proofread BASIC SET and am doing parts of EXPERT SET (rewrote the monsters from ELEMENTALS to WYVERNS). I am currently on magic items.

D&D means the first three books plus Eric Holmes BASIC SET. We are tied to that because most of our sales are of that volume (over 500,000 this year for example). The "collector's edition" is not being pushed at all and there are enough in stock to last forever."

Saturday, July 18, 2015

The Hill Giant Chief - Nosnra's Saga - Part 128

The spike whirred into the wall, the ancient stone seemed to cry out in protest but the power of the metal's enchantment proved stronger than that of the gateway. Harald relaxed and let the gate slide down, it caught against the enchanted spike and much to the ranger's relief, it held.

"Remind me," Harold said to them all, "I don't want to leave that spike behind."

"I remind," spoke up Little Rat.

"Good," Harold nodded then looked over at Ivo. "You remind too."

"I remind, I remind," Ivo said imitating the small orc, "now let us worry about what still lies ahead."

"I don't like these doors," said Harold the first to step under the gate and into the room.

"Magic portals," Ivo offered.

"I like that even less," mumbled Harold.

The ranger was the last to step inside. He nudged a strand of silver which had sprung from the floor and eyed the axe head which lay before the portal that swirled with brown smokey tendrils. With his fingers almost brushing the broken haft he stopped and made a clicking sound with his tongue.

"Harold... Ivo, do you think this is trapped?"

The halfling gave a derisive laugh.

"Who knows in this place, but better to check and be cautious."

"Which portal did Talberth go through?" asked Ivo.

"This one," Harold pointed to the gateway in the middle that was directly opposite the corridor. "That is the one," Harold said glancing over his shoulder.

"Ivo, this axe head, did it appear enchanted?"

Ivo pondered the question as he stood before the central portal. He'd picked up a chip of stone from the floor and rolled it in his hand. "Yes, but is it trapped? As you say Harold, better to be cautious."

"Leave it alone," Harold said to the ranger. "That means you as well," he turned to Little Rat.

"No touch," the orc held up his hands and shrugged.

With a flick of his hand Ivo tossed the chip of stone into the swirling mist. It passed through the unseen barrier which kept the mist in place and sank into the cloudy depth disappearing almost at once. The stone disturbed the swirling pattern slightly but only for a moment and then the mist was flowing in unbroken curls again. Ivo breathed in deeply, the gnome considered what he'd seen then drew a knife. The blade touched the mist, he pushed in further, there was no resistance, but his fingers upon the hilt tingled. Frost covered the steel it steamed in the warmer air.

"Ivo," said Harold, "not much in this room. I did break off a bit of this silver wire. It is not pure, some alloy, I had to use my knife to cut it free."

"Good," Ivo took the wire from Harold. "I was going to try throwing my dagger through the portal, with a string attached of course, but this will be easier."

"Isn't the wire enchanted?" asked Harold.

"So is my dagger," Ivo smiled, "I'd rather risk the wire."

"I can see why. You tried your dagger already." Harold had kept an eye on the steaming blade. The frost was gone but it had left a wet sheen on the steel.

"Cold," Ivo wiped the moisture from the sides then resheathed his knife. "That mist is cold; perhaps it is cold in the room beyond."

"If Talberth went through there," the ranger nodded to the way before them, "then we will have to follow."

"Yes, but with caution, Harald," Ivo told him.

The wire went through the mist, one foot, then a second, the thief had broken off a four foot length and Ivo pushed all but the last half foot through to the other side. 

Sunday, July 5, 2015

The Hill Giant Chief - Nosnra's Saga - Part 127

Power erupted from the bars, a coil of blue light that faded as Ivo's spell took hold. An invisible wave that could only be detected by its effects on the places it touched washed across the room. The floor of the chamber, its tiles showing no damage unlike the corridor which had been scratched and gouged, bubbled like a cauldron of broth atop a roaring fire. A framework of silver lines woven between the squares of tile began to snap; one whipped back and scored the metal bars others slashed against the walls.

The spell passed on till it touched the doors. Each changed; they became a swirling mist bound within the stone frames as if they were kept from the entrance room by a sheet of glass that could not be seen. The metal door covered in rust became a brick-red smoke, the stone door was a cloud of grey and where the wooden door had been was now a swirl of brown. The axe head lodged in the wooden door clanged to the ground as the wood turned into mist. Ivo's spell had reached its outermost limits and disappeared.

"There now," said Ivo, "that should take care of that."

Harold had peeked from around the ranger's leg as the spell passed through the room. His eyebrows raised at the spectacular effects and he gave a quiet whistle at the results. "Is the magic gone?"

"I'll check, wait where you are while I do," Ivo warned. The gnome spoke quietly, the words of power were secret to his kind, and with a gesture of his hand a shimmer of bluish light shone from the metal bars, glowed from the snapped silver wire, the walls, the ceiling and burned bright from the mist filled doors.

"Ivo it's still there," exclaimed Harold.

"No, no, there is a residue of enchantment," the old gnome looked closely at one spot then another within the room, "the magic which trapped the bars is fading as is that which formed the trigger across the floor. Those doors have had their true form revealed, but their power is such that my poor magic could not dispel them."

 "The bars are safe then?" asked Harold.

"Of magic traps," Ivo told him, "I believe yes."

"Good," Harold stepped forward, "I'll check for traps of a more natural kind, needles, levers, gears, and such, you stay back."

Ivo chuckled but obeyed. The gnome moved back beside the ranger and kept a watch on the actions of the thief.

"Look for traps?" asked Little Rat. "Move bars?"

"You go back with them," Harold told him, the young orc surprised him, he hadn't heard Little Rat's approach.

"No," Little Rat said firmly. "You show me, I learn."

"If you are going to stay then you can help me up these bars," said Harold. "Cup your hands, give me a lift up." he showed the orc what he meant, lacing his fingers together and miming how he wanted Little Rat to help.

"Heavy..." grunted Little Rat.

"Hah!" Harold snorted. "And after starving for days now! I'm empty inside. Light as a feather!" Harold moved near to the frame of the door using the stone of the wall to help him climb further up the metal bars. He'd found no sign of traps at the base or along the sides and when he reached the top there was only an open space above where the bars had been hidden before falling into place. "It looks clear." Harold said after climbing back down.

"Harald, see if you can lift it. I think it just slides back up."

"Now I wish we'd brought Ghibelline along," the ranger said. The big man bent and braced himself, then strained at the iron bars. Inch by inch he raised them, they moved smoothly but their weight was very great.

"We need to brace them," said Ivo.

"Harald, hold them, I have to climb your back," the thief called out. Harold grabbed the ranger's belt and scrambled up till he was balanced on a broad shoulder.

"Watch my arm," said Harald. "And hurry, I can't hold this long." 

Saturday, July 4, 2015

The Hill Giant Chief - Nosnra's Saga - Part 126

There was blood in his eyes; it burned like fire till the tears washed out the congealing stain. Talberth shook his head to scatter the drops and blinked, he could not move his arms and, blinded, he could not see what held them. He was standing and something bound around both his elbows and his wrists kept him upright. His head had been down, his chin on his chest, but as he moved he could feel nothing behind him, he was not up against a wall. Talberth's knees were bent; he braced his feet against the ground and stood. There was a pulling at his arms, whatever held him would not give, not when he tried to free himself, not even enough to let him fall. As he moved his legs he felt the bindings which were wrapped around his them. His ankles were within unyielding cuffs, metal most likely; the bands around his elbows and wrists felt the same. To the right a deep voice laughed, a rough barking sound, Talberth was not surprised when he heard the orc called Boss begin to speak.

"Got you, got you," the orc laughed. "Bone men got you, Hah!"

"Got you too," said Talberth, "Didn't they."

"You shuddup," Boss yelled.

Talberth obliged the orc, he squeezed his eyes shut and slowly opened them. His sight was blurred but he could see. The light from his amulet lit the room; he was more surprised to find himself still wearing it than he was to find the orc.

The room around him was bare, an empty rectangle with a long pit at its center running down what appeared to be its entire length. Talberth was held at the far end of the long chamber, squinting he could see the dim shape of an opening far off opposite from where he stood. The mage looked down and saw the rings that held him were grey; they seemed to be of stone, the same with those that held his arms. Next to him were a row of identical rings set near the floor and at the same height along the walls, but they floated in the air attached to nothing that he could see. The ring that circled his foot was frozen in place, suspended above the floor; it would not move despite the pressure he put against it with his legs. Talberth couldn't see the back of the rings which held his arms but he knew that they must be enchanted just the same.

"Pull, pull," laughed Boss, "maybe pull arm off." the orc waggled his own bound arms, dark blood coated the rings which held him; he'd tried to free himself till he rubbed his flesh raw and strained the muscles in his arms and shoulders.

Talberth let himself relax, but his shoulders were sore and his back ached. His head ached as well and an open wound, now caked with half-dried blood, stung with every throbbing pulse that ran through the veins along his temples.

"What happened to the others?" Talberth found himself asking the orc.

"Gone, bone men take them," Boss said unconcerned.

"How did you get here?" Talberth wanted to talk; it calmed him, distracted him from his aches and let him think more clearly.

"Look for stuff," Boss told him, "follow tunnel, find doors. Bars come down and... magic... magic like you... doors not real. Old room full of dust and bone men. Chop them up no problem. Then ragmen come and they too strong. More bone men bring us here, bring you here too."

Talberth shook his head, he could do little else. At the far end of the hall a door opened, a strange pulsing light glowed from somewhere beyond it. Dark shapes appeared within the frame though they did not block the light. A dozen skeletons clacked toward them, bones clicking on the floor, scraping softly at the tiled stones.

Boss roared at them, "Him! Take Him!" a stream of orcish curses escaped his lips, but the skeletons did not pay him any mind.

* * *

She knelt before the Saint but she could not see him. There were stones beneath her; she could feel them, cold and smooth. All around her there was a golden light, a glow at the edge of her vision. Before her, where the Saint stood, a much brighter radiance of gold that Gytha could not face. Tears streamed down her checks, they tasted of salt as they passed her lips and fell from her chin. There was a wondrous joy within Gytha which she could not contain, and there was an infinite sadness, a sense of loss that she had not felt since her parents had been slain. Her eyes clouded by the tears, Gytha raised her head and looked into the golden radiance...

* * *

Boss was gone and Talberth was all alone. The orc's screams had faded so that Talberth could only hear them when he closed his eyes. The mage shook with fear, for a moment only the stone rings which bound his arms were all that kept him on his feet, but then he calmed. The fear fell from him as if it had never been. Trapped, his hands and feet bound tight within enchanted rings of stone, Talberth felt free. He was not scared anymore, and even if worse things were to come he did not think that he would be afraid to face them. With his mind calm he took stock of his situation. It did not look good to him.

"At least I am still alive," he said to himself. "Why am I alive?" Talberth's brain flickered into action; he cleared away cobwebs that his fear had created within the corners of his mind. As best he could he went over every moment since he had stepped beyond the long corridor.

"What did that skeleton say?" he asked himself. The words it had spoken seemed familiar, "Suel, yes Suel, they are part of this place. What were the words, Z, something, something." Talberth moved his head slowly back and forth then up and down trying to shake free a memory.

* * *

"Don't touch the bars," warned Harold.

"I wasn't going to," the ranger replied peevishly.

"So this is where Talberth was caught," said Ivo. The gnome reached into a pocket in his vest and felt for a small metal box. As his fingers touched it a better thought came to mind. "No need to see if there is magic here."

"There is a powerful spell on those bars at least," said Harold.

"Stand away," Ivo waved the others back.

"What are you going to try?" asked the ranger.

The large man had not moved back as far as Ivo would have liked. He walked toward the ranger and shooed him further up the hallway. "I'm going to see if the magic can be cast aside."

"Is it dangerous?" Harold asked, the halfling took quick steps backwards to avoid the retreating man.

"Of course it's dangerous," Ivo chuckled at the question. "But less so than walking blindly down these halls."

"Hey!" Harold objected. "It was Talberth, he wouldn't listen."

"We will see what he says about that when we find him," Ivo told him.

"I hope you are right," said Harold.

"So do I," muttered the old gnome. "Now stay back and keep quiet while I cast this spell," Ivo said in a louder voice.