Posts Tagged ‘Fantasy’

Pantheon Addendum

November 23, 2019

The following are more minor deities of the realms.   These are mostly neutral parties that did not take sides in the conflict that broke the world.

Ogun, God of the Forge

Ogun was a lonely and solitary god, who did not speak to most of the other gods. The only exception was his rare talks with Ioun and her entourage as they engaged Ogun’s intellect. He used them to inspire new ideas. He was mostly preoccupied with his creations. He loved to create, spending every day at the forge to create for the sake of creating. However, when the other gods learned of him, they sought him out. They tasked him with creating magical weapons and tools for them. He decided to take neither side and created many magical items for the various deities and their followers. He also discovered the secret of making sentient weapons and items, a skill that has rarely been replicated. He used a lot of the same techniques to give birth to living constructs. Many of them guarded his forge against both sides and assisted their master at the forge. He is not a very skillful fighter and he lost his arms and face while guarding his forge in the final conflict. He was able to construct new arms, even better-suited for his tasks. He replaced his face with a mask of metal and stone. After the Final Conflict, he was locked deep under the world at its very center. He was content to build and destroy his own creations and never see the world again. Ogun’s worshippers are makers, happy to get their hands dirty in order to make things nobody has ever seen before.

Nami, The Iron Maiden

Nami was Ogun’s greatest creation, a perfect living construct that he meticulously created over years of careful creation. Left to her own devices (as all constructs were) she made the choice on her own to assist Ogun with his projects. She quickly proved herself to be the most capable of his assistants and in return, he infused her with greater god energy, a spark from his own being. She became the mother of all constructs, from that date onward having a hand in the creation of every construct created. She became a true love and companion of Ogun after spending a few years on her own, as suggested by Ogun to make sure that she was not merely subservient to his will. She eventually had a few of her own projects. She organized the defense in the final conflict and she was the one who personally crafted the replacement parts of her true love. She gladly went into exile with Ogun after the conflict so that they could both create together. Nami’s worshippers often crossover with Ogun’s. If the world’s remaining constructs could talk, they might reveal that they worship Nami.

Esho, the Goddess of Time

Nobody is quite sure how she does it but Esho maintains the flow of time and keeps it moving forward. An enigmatic figure, she was rarely ever seen by the other gods and never by mortals. Still, scraps of her story have filtered down through the years. She was most likely the first deity to form into being and was alone in the void before creation. She is self-sufficient, a total loner who never needed any companionship. She did not take part in the Final Conflict as she needed to be completely focused on her job. She also had no attachments to the others and did not want to take sides anyway. After the conflict, she disappeared and nobody could ever find her. She passed beyond the planes but still obviously maintains the flow of time. She has a few odd worshippers but she pays them no mind. She gets annoyed when magic users cast time-based spells like Slow or Haste.

Fear

A truly sadistic force of nature, Fear never took a proper name and never allied itself with any of the other gods. A true shapechanger, nobody knows what Fear’s base form is. Fear delighted in invoking its namesake in all mortal beings, keeping them all beneath its heel. It absorbed the world’s fears and grew very powerful. Before the Final Conflict, the good gods banished Fear to the Dream Realm where it bides its time creating nightmares. Any worshippers are absolutely insane.

Uzas, the Goddess of Trickery

The Goddess of Trickery is a more innocent version of the Cyric (Corruption) and a more stable version of Akanay (Chaos). She is also the twin sister of Laverna (Luck). She is the patron of those who rejects society’s rules and often society itself. She believes that the world is more interesting if you sew a little confusion and surprise to spice things up. Uzas enjoys playing pranks on people and drawing a reaction from the world around her and therefore prizes those individuals who feel the same. She also prizes individuality. During the Final Battle, she fled in fear along with her sister (although Laverna came back) and she regretted it. Nobody is quite sure where she went after the conflict but there are reports of pranks being played in the various heavens.

Lady of Pain

The mysterious Lady who presides over the equally mysterious City of Sigil. Nobody is quite sure what the Lady looks like as most look down or away when they sense her approach. She is surrounded by chains and strips of cloth that seem to have a mind of their own and swirl around her, hiding her from view. Also, people can kind of feel when she is around. Nobody is quite sure what she is or where she came from either. What little that is known about her or her wishes are communicated by six lieutenants that see to the day to day operation of Sigil. She is not a deity, or at least she does not wish to be worshipped as one. Anybody heard worshipping her is usually gruesomely murdered by the Lady herself. She is known to defend Sigil from any major threat. In fact, there is a rumor that the Lady easily defeated and vivisected a Tarrasque sent to dominate Sigil. It is best to just avoid the Lady when possible, get in and out of Sigil quickly, and make sure you follow her rules.

In Fear of Sundown Pt. 4

November 16, 2019

“A Goddess of Light?!” Westcott asked. “But there is no God but Leotas.” This was well known and spread by the churches in Sunwood before Deputy Westcott was born. Leotas was a kind and simple god, preaching love and understanding.

“There is no such god,” the right Sister said. “Leotas is a lie meant to keep the world passive.”

“The lie of Leotas keeps your kind from the truth,” the left Sister said. “the truth that the true gods went away a long time ago.”

“Went away?” Afa asked. “Maybe you should expand on that. We’re completely in the dark here. Let’s have us some storytime and explain some things. Please.”

The two sisters looked at each other and then nodded. The left Sister spoke up. “In the dark, indeed, Afa. The world slept in darkness until the gods arose. Seven shining gods who brought life, shape, and happiness to the world. Genii, the goddess of light. Callebus, the god of knowledge. Ori, the goddess of nature. Cherbus, the god of fortune. Honus, the goddess of magic. Clairen, the goddess of life. Nepta, the goddess of justice. The seven championed the people and fostered civilization. Life was good.”

The right Sister took her turn. “But all was not completely bright and good. There were also evil gods who were bent on the destruction and domination of mankind. They appeared uncalled for and wreaked havoc on the world. Luckily, these gods did not know how to work together. They worked at cross-purposes but their chaotic efforts brought the world to the brink of oblivion on many occasions. Finally, the seven had to do something drastic to end it. They sacrificed themselves, fully intending to remove themselves from the world along with their adversaries. They only succeeded in putting all gods to a deep sleep.”

“So what about Leotas?” Westcott asked.

“Leotas is a manifestation of the energies from the sleeping Oulas, Lord of Lies,” the left Sister said.

“His energies created a mass delusion,” the right Sister said.

“Shit. What does all of that have to do with us?” Westcott asked. He was a lawman in a small town. This was way over his head.

“They are all waking up,” the left Sister said. “the first was Meggron, goddess of darkness.”

“She is responsible for the deaths and disappearances in both of your homes,” the right Sister said. “They are assembling in the darkness.”

“Who is assembling?” Afa asked. She was so close to solving the mystery she had been trying to solve for a long time.

“The children of Meggron,” both Sisters intoned together. “She is turning the people against their own kind. They must be stopped.”

“So some of those people who disappeared are still alive?” Westcott asked.

“Well,” the left Sister said. “They are alive but they are no longer human. They must be eradicated. Think of them as insects if it helps.”

“If they were responsible for the deaths of my friends and family, they are as good as dead,” Afa said. She had revenge in her heart and she was close to solving the mystery she had traveled across the world to solve.

“On that, we agree,” Westcott said. “I can’t abide killers out there somewhere.”

“Then I suppose you have accepted your mission,” the right Sister said.

“We will help you,” the left Sister said.

“How are you going to help us?” Afa asked.

“I’ve rarely seen you out in the town,” Westcott said. “You’re gonna come with us and hunt these things down?”

“No no,” the right Sister said. “We cannot leave this place for long. We have made something for you to locate the aberrations.”

“Made something?” Afa asked. “What did you make?”

The right Sister walked over to a curtain that Westcott and Afa swore had not been there before. She pulled it down and a very young girl was standing there. The girl waved awkwardly but otherwise did not move.

“We have made you a tool to track the aberrations,” the left Sister said.

“You made us a little girl?” Afa asked. She looked at Westcott in shock. “What is going on?”

“You made her?” Westcott asked. “I think somebody ought to explain the birds and the bees to you.”

“This is not a human girl,” the right Sister said. “This is a tool for locating children of the evil gods. It is infused with the energies of the seven.” The Sisters faces were covered but both somehow looked pleased with themselves.

“Uh, thanks?” Afa said. “I guess we’ll use her the best we can.”

“Does she have a name?” Westcott asked.

“Why would we name it?” the Sisters asked simultaneously. They cocked their heads in unison as a sign of confusion.

“Come on, then,” Westcott said. “Let’s go a hunting.”

“We’ll call you Isa,” Afa said. “Hello, Isa.”

Isa smiled and waved but said nothing.

In Fear of Sundown Pt. 3

November 9, 2019

Deputy Westcott paused in the doorway, immediately put on guard by the large open room. Afa blew right past him and entered the huge hall. She spun around in a circle in the cavernous space, trying to take it all in. Westcott had drawn his gun, clearly spooked, and tried to search the shadows around them. Afa obviously seemed way more excited than scared. There was a damp chill to the air that clashed with the dry desert heat of Sunwood just outside the door.

“How is this place so big?” Afa asked, making plenty of noise. “This is crazy!”

“I have no earthly idea,” Westcott said. “I’ve never been inside of here before. It ain’t natural. Maybe it’s a good idea to keep it down?”

“Maybe I’m trying to wake the so-called Sisters, Deputy,” Afa said with a smile and a wink. “Did you think of that?”

“That’s sort of what I’m worried about,” Westcott said. “The Sisters are spooky.”

“Only because you fear what you do not understand, Westcott!” A voice rang out through the castle. It was loud enough to send vibrations through the bodies of Westcott and Afa.

Westcott did not see Afa move but suddenly she had both of her revolvers in her hands, slowly turning in a circle to look for the source of the voice. Westcott stepped into the room to join her, looking around for what had to be the Sisters. However, they sounded stronger somehow, more ethereal. The front door slammed shut and Westcott flinched. Afa only glanced at the door.

“Also, we do not sleep, young Afa,” Another voice said. “No need to wake us up.” The voices seemed to come from all around with no apparent source.

“Neat trick!” Afa yelled. “We just want to talk.”

“How ’bout you show yourself!” Westcott yelled.

“You both bear the mark of Gennii,” one voice said. “This is wise. We were worried your kind would reject it.”

“Come into our chambers,” the other voice said. “We would speak with you although you have violated our threshold.”

“Uh,” Afa intoned as she looked back at the door they had kicked in. “Sorry about that.”

“There are more important things at play, young Afa,” the other voice said. “We must talk.”

A small mote of light rose up from the floor and started to swirl around almost playfully like a moth. After floating around for a moment, it headed down a hallway.

“I reckon we’re supposed to follow,” Westcott said. He and Afa shared a look and then started walking after the light.

“I just wish they would stop calling me ‘young Afa’,” Afa said. “They didn’t call you ‘Old Westcott’.”

“Easy now,” Westcott said. “Words are hurtful.”

The two of them stepped into another chamber, this one draped in deep red velvet. Neither Afa nor Westcott could detect where the flickering lights were coming from. The door shut behind them again. They both turned toward the sound and when they turned back and the Sisters were standing there. Westcott had seen them before and they had been hunched-over, old crones. Now, they stood straighter and they were wearing odd porcelain masks but somehow Westcott still knew it was them. Afa and Westcott moved to point their guns again but the Sisters held up their hands, fingers spread wide and impossibly long. The skin was as pale as the porcelain. More motes of light swirled behind and around the Sisters as they stood calmly, imperiously.

“You do not need any weapons,” the left Sister said. “Calm yourself.”

“You will come to no harm in this realm,” the right Sister said. “You are safe. For now.”

“This realm?” Afa asked.

“What in the Hell does that mean?” Westcott said.

“We are no longer on your plane of existence,” the right Sister said. “You have ascended to a world beyond yours.”

“Time is limited,” the left Sister said. “You cannot last long here. Not safely.”

“Thought you said we were safe,” Westcott said but Afa shook her head and waved away the question. Westcott looked annoyed but stood by. None of this sat right.

“You said Gennii earlier?” she asked. She exposed her tattoo to the Sisters. “What does this symbol mean?”

“The symbol of Gennii,” the Sisters said in unison.

“It protects against those who creep in darkness,” the left Sister said.

“We introduced it to your village,” the right Sister said, pointing at Westcott. “And yet you are from far away but still bear the mark.”

“Yeah,” Afa said. “My people found it in a cave. We kind of lucked out.”

The Sisters looked at each other and then back at Afa. “There may still be hope,” the left Sister said. “The signs and symbols are still out there. They may yet be awakened.”

“What are you talking about?” Westcott asked. “Where did you get this protection symbol from?”

“Protection symbol?” the right Sister asked. “No, it is a symbol of the Goddess of Light. If the symbol worked, it means she is starting to wake up.”

In Fear of Sundown Pt. 2

September 28, 2019

The Mayor, Deputy Wescott, and Ben Hoscut reconvened with the stranger in the back of the Sheriff’s old office. Word of the woman’s claims was already spreading through the town like wildfire. They shut the door on the townspeople but the damage had already been done. An exotic stranger had walked into a desert town and declared herself as the sheriff. Mayor Brown was especially irritated. In contrast, the stranger was completely calm but she had covered the tattoo up again. She moved with a lazy sort of swagger. She did not seem to notice that people noticed her. She glided along with a determined yet aloof manner. She stuck out like a sore thumb in the more reserved town of Sunwood.

“Who in the Hell are you?” Mayor Brown asked. “While we’re at it, how did you get our symbol?”

“Now be nice, Mayor,” Ben Hoscut said. “I don’t think she means any harm.” His voice was reassuring. He had kept his position on their small council based on his use of the symbol and his even-keeled determination.

“How do we know that?” Deputy Kyle Wescott asked. He had remained loyal to the old sheriff until the end and was still not at ease with all of this hocus pocus. The presence of the symbol was not a good sign, especially on an outsider.

“Maybe let her talk, Deputy,” Hoscut said. “Let’s start with introductions. We can be hospitable and civil at the very least.”

“My name is Afa,” the stranger said. “I come from an island far away. I’m sure you have never heard of it here in the desert.”

“My name is Ben Hoscut,” Hoscut said. “This is Mayor Brown and Deputy Westcott. We’re the leaders of this town since the incidents started happening.”

“We can be hospitable,” Deputy Wescott said. He walked over and grabbed a bottle of beer which the Mayor looked disapprovingly at. He set it in front of Afa. “Now how about that story?”

“Well,” Afa said. “Firstly, you called it ‘your symbol’. It is not your symbol. That symbol belongs to my people as well.”

“Did your people have the same problem?” Hoscut asked. He leaned in, very interested.

Afa smiled and shrugged. “I don’t know the problem you had here,” she said. “In our island village, people started to disappear without a trace save for some blood on the dirt or sand. We sent out search parties to find them. I lead one of them. We never found any of them.”

Westcott looked remorseful, pitying. “Yeah,” he said. “That’s the same problem. More or less.”

“While I never discovered any of the missing, I did discover something else,” she said. “I found a long-forgotten cave. There we discovered the symbol. We could not understand all of the symbols in the cave but when I touched this symbol, I felt like it would protect us. I guess I was right. I guess it protected you as well.”

“It has,” Hoscut said. “But it didn’t stop what’s still out there. Did you ever catch sight of whatever was out there?”

“Once,” Afa said, her eyes growing dark. “but only a glimpse. Really, all I saw were four bright eyes in the darkness. I heard something inhuman.”

The Mayor shuddered. The mood in the room had changed now that the three men believed that Afa was a kindred spirit of sorts. They had no idea whether they could really trust her but at least she had gone through the same fire they had. If she was telling the truth, of course. But why would she have that symbol? What would she gain from lying? Her words felt like the truth.

“Maybe we were too quick to anger,” Mayor Brown said. “Maybe you can help us figure this thing out.”

Afa nodded. “Where did you get the symbol from in the first place?” she asked. Her eyes burned with curiosity. “Maybe we can learn more from your source.”

The three men all looked at each other. One by one they nodded and shrugged. “We got the symbol from the Sisters,” Hoscut said. “They got the idea from a vision.”

“Who are these Sisters?” Afa asked she reached out and grabbed the beer and drank. “I want to talk to them?”

“We haven’t heard from them in years,” Mayor Brown said. “They’re probably dead.”

Deputy Westcott got a strange look on his face. “I remember my mother saying the same thing when I was a boy,” he said. “What’s that about?”

Afa stood and swept her coat back, exposing two onyx six-shooters. “Let’s go find out, shall we?” she asked with that same confident smile.

Deputy Westcott stood up. “Just because I’m backing you up doesn’t mean you’re the Sheriff,” he said. “With your permission, Mayor.”

Mayor Brown nodded. “I suppose it’s something,” he said. “We have lived in fear for a long time. Be careful.”

Deputy Westcott led Afa over to the Sister’s house. It looked quite ordinary. The Deputy knocked on the door and they waited for a long time. Westcott shrugged and started to turn away when Afa lunged at the door, slamming her foot hard into it. The door jamb cracked and the door opened inward. Before the Deputy could complain, Afa had slipped inside. When he followed, his mind could not immediately grasp what he saw. It looked a castle inside. A great big castle, much bigger than the house on the outside. Something was indeed strange here.

Possession

September 23, 2019

“Don’t do it,” a little voice in Renna head said but Karen was not really listening. Her eyes looked unfocused as she finished tying the gnome to a table. She swayed a bit and her unnatural movements might have scared the gnome if the guy was awake. She finished securing his wrists and ankles and then she walked toward where the knife was.

“Please don’t do this,” the little voice said. “You don’t want to do this. This isn’t you!” Once again, Renna disregarded the voice and picked up the knife. Something made her mouth smile but it was not her. This was not like her at all. She was a healer, not a butcher. All of her oaths and faith seemed to be lost in a fog. She raised the knife and prepared to cut. It had to be precise.

“Do not do this!” the voice screamed. “You can stop. You can stop now.” Renna shook her head and started to lower the blade. The gnome, Calba Halfstone started to wake up. He saw the knife and started to try and scream and squirm. He could not get away and all he managed to do was slide the knife’s blade against his skin, marking it. It was not precise. Renna frowned. This would not do. She tried to refocus on making the correct mark. That internal voice was screaming wordlessly in fear and frustration. It was kind of annoying.

She drove her elbow into Halfstone’s face, trying to subdue him. The blow made a sickening noise but Halfstone did not stop moving. So frustrating. She briefly contemplated using the knife but that was not what the plan was. It was at this point that Renna heard and then felt music surrounding her. Such pleasant music. She felt herself begin to fade, dropping to her knees. The voice inside was elated, cheering wildly. As she unwillingly laid down on the floor, she heard the gnome yelling something about a necklace. Renna was wearing a necklace. Was there a connection there? Then she fell asleep.

She had no idea how much time passed but when she woke up Renna was tied to a chair. She squirmed, trying to get out but the ropes were too tight. She flashed back to Calba squirming against his restraints on the table and she was horrified. What had she done? Somebody removed her blindfold and Renna blinked as the harsh light stung her eyes. It was a little like a hangover. Standing in front of her was Nika Beltloud and Calba Halfstone. They were her friends but she felt guilt stabbing deep to the core of her being.

“Oh gods,” Renna said. “are you alright, Calba?”

Calba crossed his arms across his chest. He was bandaged cleanly. “I’ll survive,” he said. “It got pretty close there, though.”

“I didn’t want to hurt you,” Renna said. “I don’t know what happened. I remember being taken captive by the Drow. Then I kind of remember being stuck down in a well and then I could see myself trying to hurt you.”

“It was the necklace they put on you,” Calba said. “It charmed you, filled you with a dark presence.”

“We’d release you but we’re waiting to see if it has fully left your system,” Nika said. “We don’t want to have to put you down again.”

Renna nodded. “I’m alright with that,” she said. “Keep me tied up. I’d be fine with staying this way forever.” A tear slid down her cheek.

“It wasn’t you, Renna,” Nika said. “We know it wasn’t you. We’ll make sure you’re better and then we’ll solve this Drow problem.”

“I hope this teaches you not to go off on your own,” Calba said with a smile.

Renna almost laughed but it came out half sob, half happy noise. “I was doing it to keep you two safe. The Drow are dangerous,” she said.

“See how that worked out?” Calba asked.

“We’re a team, Ren,” Nika said. “You can’t ditch us and we can’t ditch you. We’re stronger together.” She stroked Renna’s hair and Renna was grateful for the comfort.

“Where do we go from here?” Renna asked. She felt hopeful for the first time since she had been captured.

“We go to war,” Calba said. “We burn them down.”

Beastly Kingdom

September 21, 2019

The other day, I posted on here and lamented that when Disney’s Animal Kingdom was built, they decided to nix something called Beastly Kingdom. It had been planned as an area of the park dedicated to magical and fictional creatures. I have done a lot of studying recently and I have realized a few things. One, I have more details on what Beastly Kingdom would have been. It was actually two attractions based on good creatures (centered around the unicorn) and evil creatures (centered around a dragon). Two, I found out that Animal Kingdom was created because Michael Eisner was jealous of Busch Gardens Tampa Bay. This is disappointed. Anyway, I decided to create my own version of Beastly Kingdom as a ride/attraction. My version is based on the common thread in Disney Parks called The Society of Explorers and Adventurers.

The ride would be set on a river. The boats would float (naturally) but they would also be on hidden tracks under the water similar to The Jungle Cruise and other water rides in Disney parks. The boat would carry up to twenty people and would be sized to be comfortable. The boats would be styled as modern boats with chrome detailing. The boats are also decorated with symbols and drawings meant to mimic runic symbols. Each boat is decorated with a family crest with a large B. The boats are named after famous heroes like Siegfried, Perseus, Pecos Bill, Roland, and others.

The ride begins in the queue which is decorated to be welcoming with a smooth stone building with polished brick floors. Displayed prominently are large portraits. One of them is of two young kids, a girl and boy who are obviously twins. They are Penny and Kyle Beastly. They are proudly standing next to their parents Sadie and Karen Beastly. There is a picture of Aleister Beastly standing with Lord Henry Mystic, Charlton Taboret, Mary Oceaneer, and Dr. Albert Falls. There are portraits of other members of the Beastly family. Passengers are loaded into a small room with a large television screen on one wall. After a short burst of static, it shows Penny and Kyle Beastly in their office. (Really just a scrim with animatronic puppets similar to Henry Mystic behind it). Penny is facing the camera while Kyle is mostly focused on a laptop behind her.

Penny: Hello! My name is Penny Beastly

Kyle: And I’m Kyle Beastly

Penny: Welcome to Beastly Kingdom! Our family has been involved in the care and preservation of magical creatures for a long time. Since the late 1800s. It all started with our great grandfather Aleister Beastly who discovered the remains of a wyvern while on an expedition with the Society of Explorers and Adventurers. Maybe you’ve heard of them. Many of Aleister’s contemporaries sought magical artifacts.

Kyle: You know, like Lord Mystic and Dr. Jones.

Penny: And others wanted to explore destinations.

Kyle: Like Dr. Falls and Ms. Oceaneer.

Penny: Exactly! But our family was more interested in creatures.

Kyle: Ghosts were taken.

Penny: Right. No ghosts. No thank you. Our family seeks out and protects supernatural creatures. We only relocate them if it is absolutely necessary. The vast majority of creatures are very capable of keeping themselves hidden and safe. We relocate and protect those creatures negatively impacted by humanity.

Kyle: We’re basically a rescue but for really big and dangerous creatures instead of dogs and cats. Most of them are really intelligent too.

Penny: Kyle! Don’t scare our guests! Honestly, we’ve taken every precaution.

Kyle: It’s literally impossible to take every precaution.

Penny: Hush, Kyle! You’re going to be fine. You’re all going to have a great time visiting some fantastic creatures. Now calmly exit the theater and board the rides. Thank you.

Kyle: Good luck.

The monitor shuts off and the doors open leading to the dock where passengers board their boat. The boat starts up and moves to the center of the river before proceeding.

Guide: Welcome to your ride on our little river. The Beastly family artificially created this habitat to accommodate as many creatures as possible. Hopefully, we’ll be lucky and see most of our current residents. While we are in route, please keep your hands, feet, and the rest of your body safely in the boat. Do not engage in flash photography as it upsets some of our residents and there’s plenty of light out don’t you think?

The boat continues on a bit.

Guide: Now I’m going to have to ask you to keep a little quiet in this first section. If you look to our right, you will see a cave where we have an actual dragon. Dragons sleep most of the time and it is a really bad idea to wake them up. Relax, that fire is just how dragons snore.

The riders see a cave with smoke coming out of it and the occasional flare of light from a large flame. The boat glides by peacefully.

Guide: Alright. We’re good. On the left, you will see one of our Bigfoot. Bigfeet? Anyway, they were displaced by deforestation. They are mostly secretive creatures who would never harm a fly. The only reason I can think of that would bring one this close is their fascination with the faeries. Oh, see! He found some pixies. He would never hurt them but it is hard to resist those pretty lights.

In the shade, the riders see a bigfoot approach a large bush and reach out to it. The faeries light up like lightning bugs and fly away in multicolored lights and then vanish. The bigfoot looks out at the boat peacefully.

Guide: On the right, you can see signs of goblin culture. These little guys are our most antisocial residents. I don’t see any goblins around, though, so maybe we’ll get lucky and it will stay that way. Well, I spoke too soon. There they are. Remain calm, you’re perfectly safe. We did lose one boat before we figured out the protection runes but we have it now. Just let them tire themselves out.

The goblins lined up on the bank and some in the trees start throwing rocks which the riders can hear hitting the roof of the boat and can see them landing in the water. Nobody is harmed. The goblins screech at the boat. The guide shrugs and laughs.

Guide: See? All safe.

On the boats left, there is a large waterfall. The guide seems to notice something odd about it. Within the waterfall, huge eyes light up. A large sea serpent pokes its head through as it spots the boat. It dives forward into the water. After a moment, bubbles start coming up behind the boat, trailing it.

Guide: Well, that’s the sea serpent. Relax folks, it gets curious. It cannot harm us but it does look like it’s following us. Let’s see where this goes.

The boat shakes a bit as the serpent bumps it as it moves ahead of the boat. The sea serpent rises from the river in front of the boat and sprays a mist of water at the boat. The guide rotates the wheel and the boat turns sideways on the river and stops. Suddenly, in the chaos, the dragon flies overhead blasting fire and the serpent looks after it and then returns to the water.

Guide: Looks like our friend the sea serpent was scared by our dragon. I’m a little nervous about them both being out and about but the Beastly twins have assured us that we are perfectly safe. Let’s keep going, huh? Everybody alright?

The guide rights the boat and it continues down the river a little bit further. Gradually, beautiful singing can be heard from around the bend.

Guide: Beautiful music, huh? Those are our sirens. It’s rumored that they used to make sailors crash their boats but that’s just silly. We haven’t had any incidents like that here. I think they were just bad sailors.

The boat rounds the bend and there are some sirens sunning themselves on some rocks by the shore. They barely seem to notice the boat. Out of nowhere, a large bird appears in the air. It cries out and lightning comes from it and lands among the sirens. They scatter with a huge splash.

Guide: Looks like the thunderbird is not a big fan of their singing. Oh well. Alright, on the right we need to remain still. We do not want to disturb the gargoyles. They track their prey by movement but mostly stay completely still day and night. I’m sure you’ve even seen some of them in cities.

The boat glides by some rock outcroppings where gargoyles are perched. Their eyes slowly track the boat. Suddenly, a deer appears and then seems to run back the way it came. One of the gargoyles swoops after the deer. The faerie lights are seen again trailing the gargoyle.

Guide: Oh that poor deer! Run! It’s alright, the faeries will protect the poor girl.

The boat rounds the final curve and the riders can see the sea serpent at the shore of the river. Except, it is no longer interested in the boat. It is hissing at the dragon which is now clearly in sight, smoke coming from its nostrils as it calmly glares at the serpent and beyond at the boat.

Guide: That. That kind of speaks for itself, doesn’t it? These two just need to get the aggression out of their system. Let’s just slide on past and go home before this gets a little too rowdy, huh? Well, thank you for joining me on this little trip. We got really lucky and saw some of our most awesome residents. The Beastly family gives their regards and wants me to leave you with this final thought. We need to consider our impact on the environment in this world. We not only impact our magical friends here but all of the non-magical creatures all over the planet and we hurt ourselves. We need to do better. Have a good rest of the day and come back soon to check out Beastly Kingdom.

The boat docks and the riders exit to the gift shop.

Death and Rebirth of Love

September 14, 2019

Cappio placed Harro’s shield on his grave and wiped the tears from his face. He felt Annabel’s hand rest on his shoulder and it made the burden just a little bit lighter. He sniffled and then stood and finished wiping his face. He looked out over the hills of Harro’s homeland and then at Annabel and Zalania.  Zalania was hard to read because she was always wearing the mask from her home on the streets of Koshain. She also rarely talked. She usually let her fists do the talking. Annabel on the other hand was a picture of compassion, even though she was tall and willowy, she always looked motherly. She was a full three feet taller than Cappio and even had almost a foot on Zalania.

Cappio had worn his best clothes for the funeral. It just so happened to be a costume from his days as an actor. He rarely liked to dress up. In fact, most of their little crew rarely dressed up except for Harro. He rarely went anywhere without wearing his armor. He was a knight of renown before he had fallen in with them. After a while, Cappio had felt guilty about roping him into their criminal enterprises. Cappio was the conman, an ex-actor who had moved smoothly into telling lies for profit. He had convinced Zalania to accompany him as his muscle. She was a monk who had lost her way. Annabel was a street musician and mother of urchins. She had jumped at the chance for a better life and had sort of adopted Cappio and Zalania. She also brought along some of their urchins who often came in useful for schemes.

They had ripped off the noble who Harro owed allegiance to. Harro had pursued the trio, hoping to bring them to justice. He was like a wolf with a scent and would not let the trail go cold. He pursued them through three nations and even across the Crystal Sea. Then something happened that neither Harro nor Cappio had expected. When Harro arrested Cappio in the jungles of Oochar, the two of them had a chance to talk as they made their way. The two of them had fallen in love. Harro had seemed lost for a bit but forsook his master and joined the gang. When the fighting happened, Harro and Zalania were good to have around. Cappio used much of their take to show Harro the finer things he had missed while living under the heel of his master.

Life had been good, easy, and fun. Then something had changed. They got wind of a deadly plot from an evil cult and Harro begged the rest of them to help. The quartet was in the best position to do something and if they saved the day, there might be the biggest profit ever. Cappio had known this was probably not true but he also felt the tug of conscience and thankfully everybody else did as well. They had worked their magic and had stopped the cult’s ritual. Except in the ensuing climactic battle, Harro had been mortally wounded. They tried everything they could but Harro passed away. They had attempted a resurrection but it had failed. Cappio had to believe that wherever he was, Harro was happy and did not wish to return. He hoped they would meet again.

“What’s next for us, Cappio?” Annabel asked. “We have enough money left to be comfortable for a long time. We can take a break.”

“No,” Cappio said. “I don’t want to take a break. We’ve been living the easy life for too long.”

Zalania grunted and growled.

“What does that mean?” Annabel asked.

“It means that we should live by Harro’s example,” Cappio said. “We should be saving the world, not lining our pockets off of the idiot rich.”

“Why can’t we do both?” Annabel asked.

Cappio smiled for the first time in weeks. “Exactly!” he said, appearing almost like his old self for a fleeting moment. “Let’s save the world, shall we?”

“Where do we start?” Annabel asked.

“I have no idea,” Cappio said. “Maybe we should recruit somebody to help with that. We don’t have a lot of experience with this.”

“What do we need?” Annabel asked.

“Well, we do need more muscle,” Cappio said.

Zalania folded her arms across her chest.

“You are plenty strong, Z,” Cappio said. “We just need more. Maybe somebody magical, maybe somebody powerful.”

“I may know where to look,” Annabel said. “Do you want to go to Oskia?”

“It’s been a long time since we’ve been there,” Cappio said. “Let’s go.”

Pirates of the Crumbs

September 7, 2019

“You’re a coward,” Caelan said, staring hard at the back of Captain Frostgrip’s head. “Think of what we’re giving up if we don’t try. We need to follow up.” The sea was calm and the door was shut to the Captain’s Quarters so they had as much privacy as you could get on a ship out to sea. It was hot so the Captain had taken off his coat and Caelan had taken off her overdress that the Captain usually made her wear.

“When I left harbor,” Frostgrip said. “I promised your father that I would keep you safe. That section of the Crumbs is not safe.” He stayed at his desk looking over the maps and charts, scribbling down notes.

“Did you also tell him that you had turned pirate?” Caelan asked. “I doubt he would have approved of that.”

“You forget your place, girl,” Frostgrip said bitterly as he turned away from his work to face her. “You should be grateful. I brought you on as my cabin girl. You get your own room. That’s rare on a ship like this. It keeps you away from the rough characters below deck.”

“I don’t need your protection, Captain,” Caelan said. “I can take care of myself.” She raised her chin proudly.

“Is that so?” Frostgrip asked. “I have heard you feel very free to draw your knives on my ship.”

“I’ve never used a knife on anybody who didn’t deserve it,” Caelan said, folding her arms across her chest and looking away. The knives were tucked into the folds of her dress but she had cut hidden access points so that she could draw them quickly. She had a lot of practice doing so.

“I’m sure,” the Frostgrip said without much conviction. “Look, if it offends you to be among pirates, I can drop you off at the next harbor and you can find your own way. It’s not hard to book passage.”

“That’s not what I’m saying,” Caelan said after an exasperated sigh. “I don’t want to just be among pirates, I want to be a pirate.”

“I don’t think I’m comfortable with how into this you’re getting,” Frostgrip said. “I’m only supposed to deliver you to Suma-Jo.”

“And I’m supposed to make myself useful,” Caelan said. “If you didn’t have me, nobody would have gotten that one chest open last week.”

“I’m not sure I know where you learned lockpicking of all things,” Frostgrip said. “Nobility should be less criminal, no?”

“I did all of this back home too,” Caelan said. “That’s why I petitioned to train in Kusura in the first place.”

“Kusura!?” Frostgrip asked. “I thought we were headed to Suma-Jo.”

“That’s because that’s what I told my father,” Caelan said. “My skills are way more suited for one of the ninja schools but now I think I want to be a pirate. I don’t necessarily want to kill but high seas adventure and a life of crime are attractive to me.”

“No. If I allow this, I will never hear the end of it from your father,” Frostgrip said. “I can’t allow this.” He turned from her back to his desk as if that were the end of it.

“What are you going to do?” Caelan asked. “Throw me off the ship? I’ll just find another pirate ship. If you want to protect me then keep me here and show me the ropes.”

Frostrgrip sighed. “You won’t give this up,” he said. It wasn’t a question but a weary statement of fact.

“Never,” Caelan said. “A girl wants what a girl wants. I promise to listen to your orders.”

“We’ll see how long that promise holds,” Frostgrip said. “I guess I have no choice but to acquiesce. You know, if a member of my crew disobeys my orders, they get thrown into the sea, right?”

Caelan swallowed hard. “I guess I can live with that,” she said. “but no more dresses. I want to wear shorts or pants.”

“I’m sure I can find something more suitable for your new job,” Frostgrip said with another sigh. “I have a trunk belonging to my former cabin boy.”

“Great!” Caelan said. “Now about this mysterious island.”

Frostgrip waved in front of his face as if fanning her words away, dismissing them. “I am no dungeon delver,” he said. “There is so much else we can do safely and still profit.”

“We could sell the information to somebody at the next harbor?” Caelan asked.

“Yes,” Frostgrip said. “That is a much better idea. We can leave the danger for some other poor soul. If there is a treasure, we can take it from them down the line.”

“But shouldn’t we check that it’s there first?” Caelan asked with a sly smile on her face.

Frostgrip stroked his chin thoughtfully. “I suppose,” he said.

In Fear of Sundown

August 31, 2019

The town of Rosewood had a problem. During the day, everything was fine and everybody’s life went along easy. Well, as easy as life in a pioneer town in the west could be. Rosewood was a cattle town and not much else so life was simple but rough. The problem was at night. It started with the cattle on one moonless night years ago. There had been no sound during the night but one of the cattle was gone the next morning and there was a lot of blood in the dust. When guards were posted at night, they started disappearing too. Nothing was safe outside at night. When nothing was outside at night, people found scratch marks on windows and doors. Everybody lived in fear of sundown.

It was The Rule that had eventually kept everyone safe. The Rule was that when reaching the age of ten, everyone in town had to receive the brand. The symbol of the brand had been foreseen by the Blind Sisters in a vision that they only vaguely spoke of. Nobody could remember the Sisters’ names. Everybody was too embarrassed to ask and they would most likely not have shared them. Nobody had asked the sisters but one day they had been screaming that they had the solution outside of the tavern. Many had not seen the two of them outside of their house in years. Some had thought they were dead already.

Of course, nobody had actually listened to the Sisters and they were eventually shooed back to their house. After that, the two of them had begun painting the symbol everywhere. The scratch marks stopped appearing. As an experiment, the ranchers left a steer outside after branding it with the symbol. The steer was untouched in the morning but a little spooked. It had nearly pulled the post down. Still, it was alive. Suddenly, the next cattle drive seemed like it might be possible. The deep dread that lived in the town’s hearts began to lift. The Reverend Sawyer was bitter that his prayers and crosses had done nothing when these arcane symbols had seemingly solved the problem.

It had been Ben Hoscut, the town blacksmith, who came up with the idea of branding the skin of humans with the symbol. People had thought the idea was barbaric at first and were content to wear makeshift amulets. Old Sheriff Williams had outlawed the practice and the wives of Rosewood had backed the decision. He and his deputy had tried to enforce the ruling but they could not watch everybody at all times. Bit by bit, people still received the brand. Hoscut had been thrown in the jail and the Sheriff had confiscated all of the branding irons that he could find. He had gotten the evil eye from some folks for it but it was his job to protect the town, even from itself.

Hoscut’s son, Angus, had solved the argument by getting the brand and branding the sheriff’s daughter, Rebecca. The two of them walked out into the desert at night. He was gone all night and nobody, not even the sheriff, was willing to go out and look for him. In the morning, he came back untouched. Even the sheriff had to admit that the brands were the right way to go. As soon as the practice was widespread, nobody mysteriously disappeared anymore. For the first time, there was a feeling of hope in Rosewood. There was still something out there but the people could now just push it from their minds and carry on with their lives.

After the second cattle drive, Williams passed in his sleep and the town started to decide who would be Sheriff next. Everybody looked to Deputy Westcott to step up but he turned the offer down, not wanting the responsibility. Besides, he might have felt some residual resentment from his backing of the Sheriff’s plan to block the Rule. Everybody argued over who it should be. When people said they should ask The Sisters, Reverend Sawyer had objected strenuously. When they knocked on The Sisters’ door anyway, there was no answer. The town became divided over the choice with various groups backing various candidates. During these days, a young woman with long fiery red hair and dark skin walked into the tavern. She ordered a drink and sat down.

It was Billy Hampton who approached her. “Ma’am,” he said. “You might want to move on from here. This town isn’t safe.”

“I don’t want to leave,” the woman said. “I heard this town was in need of a sheriff.”

“To be honest,” Billy said. “I don’t think you’d understand this town enough to have a prayer.”

The woman laughed. “Prayer is for the weak,” she said. “I think I’m exactly what this town needs.” She brushed her hair from her neck and there was the symbol, tattooed on her neck.

Distracted

August 24, 2019

The cat sat in the middle of the table, eyes half-closed. He seemed either oblivious or completely indifferent to his surroundings or both. His tail swished this way and that and he yawned mightily. The team of adventurers was sitting around the table, all watching the cat. They had found the cat in a local goblin den and had gone to great lengths to bring it back to town with them. If they had known the cat from earlier, they would have known that his name was Orlando but they had elected to call him Smudge because of his gray coloring. He did not answer to either name so it hardly mattered.

“Who do you suppose owns this cat?” Cait asked. The little halfling bard peered at the cat curiously, her eye level was just barely over the top of the table. She adjusted her glasses and ran a hand through her hair and idly plucked at her ukelele. “What do you guys think?”

Gobo the Goliath was on his hands and knees in order to more comfortably fit under the tavern’s ceiling. He leaned in close, putting one eye at table level opposite Cait. The closeness from the half-giant was enough to finally get the cat’s attention and unsettle him briefly. “I think it’s cute,” he said. “Can we sell it?”

“You always want to sell almost everything we touch,” Vel said. The gnome investigator was leaning back in his chair and sipping a whiskey, really savoring it. “Let’s slow down, the cat might be important. We’re not hurting for money right now.”

“More money means more money for ale,” Gobo said matter of factly. He returned to sitting on the floor, more comfortable with roughing it. He had a singular focus on mostly two things. The first was consuming food and alcohol, the second was violence. He was quite cheery as long as he had one or the other. He was a simple beast.

“Solid reasoning,” Vel said, a sarcastic edge to his voice. He leaned back and sipped his whiskey again, studying the cat. He was a criminal investigator, he had little interest in pets before but the current mystery was intriguing.

The elven druid, Melina, stood up suddenly with a gasp, she was decked out in glitter and the prettiest leaves she could find and also some antlers on her head. She had been the one who named the cat. She was also the only one of them who could have talked to the cat to ask its name. “What if Smudgey is a familiar?” She was so enthralled by the idea that there were stars in her eyes.

Karinne, the tiefling wizard, sighed. “Familiars are not actually animals,” she said. “They are actually otherworldly beings. Celestial, fey, or fiend.” It was very easy for her to slip into teacher mode even so far from the academy.

Melina gasped again. “Smudgey could be a fairy?” She was nearly vibrating with energy. She rarely stayed seated when she was conscious. She and Gobo were the intellectually challenged pair of the group, but they meant well.

“No,” Karinne said, pinching the bridge of her nose. “That is definitely a cat. Can’t you tell when something is an animal?” She loved and respected Melina but sometimes the girl could be trying. The two had been officially a couple for only a short time and Karinne was still adjusting to the contrast between their personalities. Karinne had been doom and gloom for so long that the sunshine could be blinding.

“Now now,” Vel said. “We can all plainly see that it is a cat. Is it also magical?” He lit his pipe carefully.

“I got nothing from the cat when I swept that chamber with a detect magic spell,” Karinne said with a shrug. “It is a normal cat. Fairly healthy-looking.”

“Yeah,” Melina agreed. “Smudgey does not feel magicky.” She reached for her cup of milk happily. She had never touched a drop of alcohol.

“Magic glows,” Gobo said matter-of-factly. “That cat does not glow.”

Karinne made an exasperated sound but Melina reached out to grab her hand. Karinne relaxed and decided it was not the time for school, especially with a student disinterested in learning. Perhaps Melina was wiser than she appeared.

“Thank you for your expertise, Gobo,” Cait said. “So it is a normal but cute cat. So I think we come back to whose cat is it?” She had her journal laid out in front of her on the table. She was always focused on the story and the song.

“Well,” Vel said. “The cat carries no identification, no collar. It makes it incredibly difficult to identify the cat.”

“Must the cat belong to somebody in this town?” Cait asked. “Could it be an errant cat?”

“Well,” Vel said. “This is the closest town to the goblin den. I can’t imagine goblins would focus on dragging a cat very far.”

“It could have been a feral cat,” Cait said.

“In those woods?” Vel asked. “There are way too many predators.”

“True,” Cait said. “It really is a mystery.”

The others had gone silent. Melina was chugging her milk happily, Gobo was distracted by a passing moth, and Karinne had zoned out. They were clearly not as invested in the mystery.

Halan, the Half-Elf Paladin of the group, walked in. He stopped short when he saw his friends still staring at the cat. He walked over. “Are you all still staring at the cat?” He asked.

Vel shrugged. “It is quite a mystery.”

Halan laughed. “You guys are really naive, aren’t you?” he said. “There is no mystery. Goblins often take cats along with them in raids to eat.” Everybody was visibly repulsed, even Gobo.

“Gross,” Cait said. “but that does not answer the question of who this cat belongs to.”

Halan shook his head. “Let the cat find its own way back,” he said. “There are zombies two towns over. We have to go.”

The adventurers moved to pack their things and clear out their rooms at the inn. They handed the cat to the barmaid who promised she would feed the cat and also promised that somebody would take the cat in. The adventurers had no more time to worry about it.

(Inspired by this post.  H/T to my friend Liz of CatAList Crafts)


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