Posts Tagged ‘Fantasy’

Poor Unfortunate Souls: Agrabah Pt. 3

February 20, 2021

Naveen pulled Kuzco along as they stuck to the shadows on market day. The two of them were on their own as Jasmine, Mattias, and the guards would not dare watch over them in case their observation drew the attention of the strangers. Naveen was trying to keep Kuzco in a good mood, nobody wanted the Emperor to lose his nerve and force them to delay and rethink their plan. The two moved quickly with Naveen making sure that Kuzco did not have time to be reluctant. He had dressed Kuzco in a dark cloak even though the Emperor had complained that it was not his style. He was more of a red and gold kind of guy. Naveen had told him that actually appearances really don’t matter.

“Relax, Kuzco,” Naveen said with an easy smile. “I did this once to get a free ride on a steamer ship and the plan succeeded flawlessly.”

“What’s a steamer ship?” Kuzco asked. “and if it’s so easy for you, why aren’t you doing it?”

“Forget the steamer ship,” Naveen said and waved his hand as if he was shooing the idea from their conversation. “You’re the man for the job, I promise you. All you need to is hide and then open a door. Piece of cake, right?”

“I’m not sure,” Kuzco said. “I usually have somebody do these kinds of things for me. I mean, I had an adventure once but I kind of hated it.”

“That’s the spirit,” Naveen said with heavy sarcasm. “You’re going to do a great job.”

“The old me would have had you tortured for speaking to me like that,” Kuzco said. “I guess I need to do this. The sooner I do it, the sooner I get back on my throne and somebody’s feeding me and somebody else is fanning me.”

“There’s more to life than that,” Naveen said. “Believe me, Kuzco, I used to have it all. I had women hanging all over me and servants and everything.” He thought in particular about his servant Lawrence with a mixture of anger and regret. He knew that he had been a brat and it had come back around to punish him.

“Used to?” Kuzco asked. “What happened? Did you get turned into a llama too?” People rarely seemed to believe in Kuzco’s adventure as a llama.

“A frog, actually,” Naveen said. “but before that I had it all taken away by my parents, the king and queen of my country.” Of course, Naveen was barely fazed by talk of magical transformations. He had his own wild adventure in the swamps of Louisiana as a little frog.

“That’s terrible!” Kuzco said. “Did you win it back?” He had been miserable when his unfortunate transformation and banishment had kept him from his own life of luxury. Everything had been pure torture but then again he thought of his friendship with Pacha, the one pure friend he had ever made.

Naveen smiled and shook his head. “I let it go with the help of my wife,” he said. “When I let it go, it lost its power over me. Now we have enough to be happy and comfortable.” Naveen smiled to himself, thinking of Tiana wherever she was. He and Tiana had really helped each other adjust the course of their life along with Ray and Louis. He enjoyed helping Tiana with her dream restaurant and he could work on his music on the side. It was a good life, one he desperately wanted to get back to.

“Well,” Kuzco said with started with some reluctance. “There is this one girl I have my eye on.”

“There you go!” Naveen said excitedly but quietly as they were still sneaking. “If you help out, you can get back to her and tell her this story. She’ll see how selfless you were. She’ll be very impressed.”

“She’s very smart,” Kuzco said. “I think it would take a lot to impress her.”

“We’ll work on it,” Naveen said. “You’ll charm her when you get back. Look! Here we are!”

Naveen shoved Kuzco into a basket before he could say anything else. He secured the basket lid and then moved away as casually and quickly as he could. He really hoped this plan would work. The boy was not exactly a hero but, then again, neither was Naveen.

Poor Unfortunate Souls: Agrabah Pt. 2

February 13, 2021

Jasmine sat in her seat and took a deep breath. “I propose that we cannot wait any longer,” she said. “The longer we wait, the more likely it is for the Obsidian Tower to take over this town. I will not lose Agrabah to these people. I also strongly suspect that they know what has happened to our worlds and our friends. They may be counting on us and I will not fail them by delaying. Taking a leap of faith changed my life for the better once upon a time and that is my position now.”

Mattias coughed politely. “You know that my position is to exercise caution until we know more about our situation,” he said. “Our forces are dwindling and we don’t have the operational intelligence to ensure that we will be victorious.”

“I tend to agree with Jasmine,” Naveen said. “My wife is a planner but even she would admit that sometimes sharp wits and dumb luck mean more than all the knowledge in the world. We should make our move before time runs out. I don’t want to end up regretting leaving things too long.”

“Dumb luck has always worked for me but I’m awesome,” Kuzco said between shoveling food into his mouth. None of the other three knew how Kuzco managed to lead his country. He came off as an arrogant doofus but there was something else there behind it all. He complained but they all noticed that he had never walked away from these meetings and actually did listen.

“It appears that I am outvoted,” Mattias said with a slight smile. “That’s alright. I’m used to playing things by ear when I have to. I suppose I even have a plan.”

“Very resourceful,” Jasmine said. “I am very excited to hear it.” She knew that Mattias had a keen mind and was unquestionably loyal. This was something that Jasmine was still getting used to.

“As Naveen has no doubt noticed when the strangers come to market they use large baskets which they load onto their wagons,” Mattias said.

Naveen nodded. “I’ve definitely noticed,” he said. “I regularly play music down in the market when they arrive to keep eyes on them.”

“I watch from a hidden place,” Mattias said. “I suggest that one of us climb into one of those baskets and open a door for the other two in the dead of night.”

“Other four,” Jasmine said. “Rajah and I will be coming along as well.”

“I’d advise against it,” Mattias said. “You’re the ruler here and if something happens, and something is likely to happen, Agrabah may be completely lost.”

“If we do not succeed, Agrabah may well fall anyway,” Jasmine said. “I’m going. I know how to handle myself in a fight and I will never sit idly by and be the damsel in distress ever again. Tell me, would you be able to keep your Queen from entering the fray?”

Mattias sighed. “I would not be able to hold back either Queen from doing anything,” he said. “They’re both very headstrong. I think they would like you very much.”

“I apologize for causing your upcoming headaches but I will not budge on this,” Jasmine said. “Maybe I can meet your Queens when this is all over.”

“If I can make it happen, I will make it happen,” Mattias said. “I’m sure Anna especially would like to meet all of you and your loved ones.”

“My Tiana will cook us all a good good meal,” Naveen said. “We’ll have a big old party.”

“I look forward to it,” Jasmine said. “Now who will be the one to sneak into a basket?” She looked around at the three men, ready to volunteer herself. It would not be the first time that she went undercover.

“I think it should be Kuzco, actually,” Mattias said. There was a stunned silence following this bold statement.

“Me!?” Kuzco squeaked. “I don’t think so.”

“He does have a sort of harmless manner that might keep him safe,” Naveen said. “If he’s caught he would be alright.”

“I could be caught?” Kuzco asked nervously. He glanced at the door for a moment but he did not run. He was no adventurer but he was also no stranger to adventure.

“There’s something to that,” Jasmine said. “Are you ready to test your ‘dumb luck’?”

Undead Reckoning Pt. 7

January 30, 2021

Talbot tried to keep his face passive but knew he was failing at it. “Fallshield?” he asked. “I’m getting off there as well. What brings you to Fallshield? It is not really a bustling academic town.”

“I received a job offer that I hope will be able to fund my research,” Clarity said with a pleased smile. “I am very pleased to take a few risks in order to pave the way for the advancement of magic.”

“Your family can’t fund your work?” Talbot asked. “I don’t mean to pry but I gather that your family is fairly wealthy.” He had a sick feeling in his stomach about where this young lady was headed and he felt he had to make an effort to head her off at the pass.

“Again, a little forward,” Clarity said with an indignant little sound punctuating her objection. “If you must know, my family is not as well off as we have been in the past but that is not the issue. I want to be self-reliant so I can make my own decisions and get out of the shadow of my family.” She seemed to let out more than she would have since she was so miffed.

“I don’t mean to offend, Miss,” Talbot said holding his hands up a bit in a placating gesture. “I just suspect that we were summoned for the same thing by the same person and I feel that it may be too dangerous for you.”

“So it is too dangerous for me but not for you?” Clarity said. “I can take care of myself, Mr. Hawkwing. Besides, Lord Blackrance has a very good track record for his expeditions.”

“I didn’t mean to comment on your readiness in the face of danger,” Talbot said. “I just wanted to offer a word of warning. For my part, I am planning to turn Blackrance down. My fighting days are behind me but he paid enough for me to tell him no to his face.”

“That’s actually rather forthright of you, Mr. Hawkwing,” Clarity said, starting to calm down. “I am sure we will be lacking for whatever specialty you might have brought to the table.”

“I was a soldier,” Talbot said. “I suppose I’m a bit of a crack shot.”

“Oh!” Clarity let out in a bit of squeak. “My guess is that you were supposed to do the deed.” She said that last bit with great solemnity and a knowing glance.

“Do the deed?” Talbot asked. “I am not sure I catch your meaning.” He was sure that he actually did understand but wanted her to say it. It was part of why he wanted to turn down the job. He could not look at her as he waited for her answer and instead looked past her and watched the scenery go by through the window. The vegetation was gradually dying out as they headed toward the desert.

“You would be the executioner,” Clarity said. “Since you can pull the trigger. I mean, I have never killed anybody.” There was deathly silence after she said that as if everybody in the train car was holding their breath.

“And I have,” Talbot said with a nod. “but I don’t want to anymore. I laid down my rifle. In fact, I sold it in a pinch. Blackrance found it and sent it back to me.” Talbot gestured up toward the luggage rack where his old rifle was wrapped in cloth. The word ‘executioner’ had brought up memories of that fateful battle where he had shot and killed eleven magic users on his own. He could still see their faces when he closed his eyes.

“Perhaps fate is trying to tell you something, Mr. Hawkwing,” Clarity said. “Perhaps you must go on this adventure because you cannot escape it.”

“I don’t believe in fate, Ms. Havenwood,” Talbot said. “I do believe that it was money that brought my rifle back and not fate and I’ll leave adventure to those who are actually seeking it.”

“Suit yourself,” Clarity said. “We’ll see if Lord Blackrance can persuade you.” She smirked as if she had possibly won something.

“I doubt it,” Talbot said. “I have a life to get back to.”

“Your life is what you make of it, Mr. Hawkwing,” Clarity said. “If you want to return to your quiet life that’s your choice but a greater calling is out there.”

“We shall see,” Talbot said.

Worldbuilding: Aofa Pt. 3

January 23, 2021
  1. Monster

The Beast of Calla Flats hounded the rural areas of Calla for decades before people figured out that it was actually a pack of direwolves that managed to keep from getting caught for generations. They are not really wolves but look vaguely wolf-like and are the size of a small pony. They are not to be messed with.

  1. Trends

The poorer ladies of the capital of Calla basically invented a new fashion trend when a few of them sewed together dresses from strips of leftover cloth creating a sort of rainbow dress. Eventually, rich women had them made from finer fabric and with more embellishments.

  1. Music

The music coming out of the Court of Bards outside of Paika has become more complex and upbeat. The invention of the guitar has made for interesting new compositions alongside the lute. The musicians of Ganarastav have started to spread the previous obscure popularity of the hurdy-gurdy.

  1. Traditional

Yearly, the capital of Paika holds a parade with dragon floats, music, and dancing. Many people wear costumes inspired by dragons. There are carts of food in the streets as people celebrate the anniversary of the death of Carragon.

  1. Lost Arts

People have largely forgotten the practice of archery outside of martial arts schools. With the advent of guns, many were eager to leave bow and arrows and crossbows behind.

  1. Priest

The Priests of The Musician are often born performers and their services are often at least partially a concert. They encourage others to join in and create a joyful noise. Priests in Ganarastav are more somber and speak in long sermons.

  1. Sacred

The temple of Calla has on display a simple walking stick that is purported to have been handled by The Wanderer. It is a venerated and holy object. Many people in back alleys have been known to sell “splinters” of this stick.

  1. Ostracized

Some races continue to be ostracized despite ongoing activism and efforts at education to try and change it. The orcs, the dark elves, the goblins, dragonborn, and tieflings are among those who are often villified. The dragonborn of Calla were largely forced to live in the dangerous wastelands.

  1. The Youth

The young people of Calla generally attend school for basic language, reading, arithmetic, civics, and history. Many also receive training in some sort of trade as they get older. Upper class kids often must study to take over from their parents. Some go off to study magic.

  1. Conflict

A continental conflict arose among the nations of Calla, Paika, and Florana. The drow elves rose from the depths and demanded their place in the sun and were prepared to take it by force. The war between the drow and the light elves tore all three countries apart in a civil war before both sides compromised.

  1. Celebration

Most lands celebrate the new year as the snow thaws and the spring flowers start to appear. The New Year’s Festival celebrates renewal and new life.

Worldbuilding: Aofa Pt. 2

January 16, 2021
  1. Pets

In the magical wastelands of Calla, dogs became interesting due to the cracks in reality bending their physiology. They grew in size and sprouted tusks and spikes. Despite their fierce appearance, these so-called Desert Dogs have often been tamed by the Dragonborn who were able to settle in that chaotic location.

  1. Bazaar

The mysterious Night Bazaar of Kanna Island is by invitation only. This works because Kanna Island is a Dwarven-made island that actually moves from place to place. Magical assistance is needed to navigate to its location. The finest chefs, exotic weapon dealers, the best fences, and more frequent the Night Bazaar and exchange goods. No paperwork is exchanged to help with the secrecy and bad deals are punishable by death.

  1. Monument

In the central square of the capital of Paika is a stone statue honoring the legendary hero Rylan. In actuality, everybody knows that this is actually Rylan herself. She was turned to stone during her last battle to defend the city. Clerics and wizards could have easily figured out a way to change her back but there were also several poisoned arrows sticking into her when she turned to stone. Knowing she would die either way, they decided to spare her that final pain.

  1. Legend

As hinted at earlier, the story of the death of the black dragon Carragon is often told in pubs and over campfires. The story goes that the mighty adventurers fought long and hard to defend Castle Paika from the dragon. Rylan was able to blind the dragon but this was not the final blow. The final blow was accidentally struck when the dragon tumbled into the battlement where the bard Piotr was standing and he fell onto the dragon. In desperation, he tried to find purchase with a sword he barely used and killed the dragon.

  1. Demon

Demons, like their counterpart Devils, are only able to create change in the mortal plane with assistance. They do this by tempting and corrupting mortals and tricking them into summoning them to the mortal plane. They seek to destroy and conquer and hard to vanquish once they have gained purchase in reality.

  1. Funeral

In the deserts of Calla, the Dragonborn took to dismembering their dead and placing the remains on tall rocks to feed the birds. It was believed this would help their souls soar to the afterlife.

  1. Subculture

The cult of the Light Beyond the Door worships a previously unknown god and seeks to open the door to let the light in. Many of them hide their affiliation in order to infiltrate other corners of society and to hide their unpopular beliefs. Many believe that this is a dangerous cult that might be worshipping a demon or devil or something worse.

  1. The Poor

The poor are often the salt of the earth, the miners, the farmers, the peasants, the shopkeeps, the working class, and so on. Most lands do not have homeless and the only people who live out of doors are the rangers and the druids who wish to. The wealth gap is not so big but it does exist in most lands.

  1. Feast

The most feasts of the year happen on Hearth Day which is in the very depths of winter. It is a day to remind people of warmth and fellowship. It is spent with family either the one you were born with or the one you found. The motto is: “Nobody goes hungry on Hearth Day”

Undead Reckoning Pt. 6

January 2, 2021

Talbot woke with a start and realized he had been leaning against the glass of the train window. He hoped he had not made much noise while he was asleep and having his dreams. It was not the strangest dream he had ever had nor was it the most frightening. He tried to grasp at the fragments of the dream as it faded away. The only thing that remained burned in his memory was the face of that young dark elf woman and even that was slipping through his fingers. He shook himself, letting the cobwebs drift away. He took out a flask of mead and took a long sip. The scenery was still moving by outside like it was supposed to be. This was when he felt a tap on his shoulder.

“Excuse me, is this seat taken?” A woman asked.

Talbot turned and looked up and was somewhat taken aback by what he saw. She was not very tall but she was wearing an extravagant light red dress with a corset. What through him for a loop was her red skin. He looked up past her smiling face and saw the black horns sprouting through her blonde hair. His drifted back ot her face which was covered in a stylized makeup design using a soft peach color around her eyes that almost made that area look human. She was absolutely gorgeous. She was also a tiefling.

Tieflings were rare. Extremely rare. Tieflings were those born from bloodlines mixed with either demonic or devilish heritage. There were a lot of legends on how that had originally happened and none of the stories were pleasant or appropriate for polite conversation. Whatever the origin, that bloodline was viewed by many as wicked. People thought that tieflings had been born evil and that danger needed to be curbed by any means necessary. That is why the cullings had started and many tieflings fell to the churches centuries ago. It was surprising to encounter one in the wild now. Yet here she was. Talbot had never believed any of the old legends and knew that people decided their own fates. He was not afraid.

However, Talbot did look up and down the train car and saw a lot of empty seats.

“Are you sure, miss?” Talbot asked. “There are plenty of seats.”

She smiled as politely as possible, showing just a hint of pointy teeth. “I hate to bother you but a woman like me should not travel alone and yet here I am,” she said. “You don’t need to protect me, I feel your mere presence will dissuade people from messing with me.”

“I guess I can manage that,” Talbot said, standing up. “Why don’t you take the window seat?”

“Are you sure?” the woman asked. “I wouldn’t be putting you out?” She smiled brightly, the idea obviously appealing to her.

“I’m not that put out,” Talbot said. “Be my guest.”

He moved out to the aisle and put his hands out to help her with her bag. She hesitated but handed it over but did and Talbot carefully put it up in the luggage rack next to his own small bag. He glanced back to catch a nervous look on her face. He shot her a questioning look in return.

“Just careful,” the woman said. “There are spell components in there.”

Talbot quickly withdrew his fingers from the bag. “Well, it’ll be fine up there,” he said. “I don’t imagine it will be a very bumpy ride.”

“I hope not,” the woman said as she flounced into her seat by the window. Talbot sat next to her, looking up and down the aisle to see if there were any objections. Not that he really cared, he just wanted to know if anybody would get in his face about being nice to a tiefling. He was not in the mood for an idiotic confrontation.

“My name is Talbot by the way,” he said, offering his hand.

“Charmed, I’m sure,” the woman said, taking Talbot’s hand with her own lace-gloved hand and shaking it only once. “My name is Clarity Havenwood.” She said it as if Talbot should have recognized the family which probably meant that she was rich, famous, or both. There were a lot of wealthy tiefling families. Talbot must have hid his confusion poorly because she added. “of the Silkspindle Havenwoods?”

Talbot shook his head. “Sorry,” he said. “I’m not familiar. You’re a wizard, though?”

Clarity shook off her disappointment and returned to smiling. “Yes,” she said. “I studied for years at Erolia University in Calliona. I’m happy to be back in country and headed west.”

“Not many people enjoy headed toward the magical wastelands,” Talbot said. “but I’m sure there are plenty of interesting phenomenon out there.”

“Oh I’m sure,” Clarity said. “I did my thesis on the gravity well of Karkown. I’m getting off before the wastelands, though.”

“Where?”

“Very forward, Mister…,” Clarity said, indicating a need for a last name.

“Hawkwing, and sorry,” Talbot said. “I’m just curious.”

“I’m getting off in Fallshield,” Clarity said with a smile and a shrug.

Thistlewhite Manor

December 26, 2020

“These are our iceboxes,” Marian Thistlewhite said with a grand gesture. “We’re one of the first to get them. They keep our food cold so it decays much slower. It is yet another reason that this would be the ideal place to hold the orphan’s fundraiser.” The young Thistlewhite was fairly proud of the acquisition. She had pushed her conservative parents to make the purchase, reasoning that it would be useful and it would help the mage who had invented the thing fund production. If the icebox was widespread, it would help Calla’s economy and general well-being.

“Very impressive,” Lucia Vostova said in her slight Ganarastav accent. “I am very sure that this will be an adequate location for the fundraiser. Your family has such a beautiful house.”

“Thank you,” Marian said with a smile. “We’ve done the best we could.” She was starting to be unnerved by the representatives of the New Light Foundation. There were six of them but only the one called Lucia spoke and the others never reacted to anything that Marian or Lucia said. Still, manor security had cleared the visitors so they were just strange.

“Will your parents be present today to talk?” Lucia asked, snapping Marian back into the moment. “I am such a fan of your mother and your dear father, I wanted to thank him in person.”

“No,” Marian said with a sigh. “My parents were unfortunately detained and could not make it today. They sent me in their stead. My brother was also supposed to be here but he has not arrived. I apologize that I am such a poor substitute.” She made it into a joke but Lucia and her compatriots did not crack a smile.

“Quite the contrary,” Lucia said with a smile. “You have been delightful. It’s just a pity.” Lucia’s smile disappeared.

“A pity?” Marian asked, confusion spreading across her face. “What do you mean?”

“We had intended to send a message to your government by murdering your whole family,” Lucia said, pulling out what looked like a large knife or a small sword. “We will have to settle with using your death as the message. The Light Beyond the Door Will Be Revealed.”

Marian’s eyes went wide. The Light Beyond the Door was a growing cult worshipping an unnamed god. She had never thought she would come in contact with them. “You’ll never get away with it,” she said. “The guards will take you down.”

“Your guards will have been compromised by now,” Lucia said. “Do not make this difficult, young one.” Lucia stepped forward and she raised her blade. Marian frantically tried to calculate her odds of survival and it did not look good.

Suddenly, there was a sharp and distant cracking sound, the shattering of the kitchen window, and then one of the men behind Lucia’s head exploded into a fine red mist. In the confusion, Marian grabbed the glass vial hanging from her neck and threw it at the ground. Her side of the room instantly filled up with harmless smoke and she quickly ducked into the pantry. Somebody had fired a gun at these intruders so she was not as alone as Lucia had thought.

“Find who that was and remove their head from their body!” Lucia shouted, keeping her head down. “Find the girl. She dies slow and painful!”

Marian tried to stay as quiet as possible but she could hear the remaining five moving around the kitchen. The pantry door was yanked open and Marian lashed out with her fist. Luckily, her target was male and she connected hard with his softest bits. He fell backward and as he did, bullets started flying through the kitchen and Marian flopped onto the floor ungracefully but safe enough from the gunfire in the pantry. Out of the corner of her eye, she could see a man entering the kitchen and executing the intruders with expert gunfire. The gunfire stopped and Lucia stood up from wherever she had been hiding.

“Well, mystery man,” Lucia said with a smile and leveling her own gun at the man. Marian now recognised Guard Peter Overbrook. “You are now out of bullets and I have you at a disadvantage with no time to reload. You have killed my men but the message will still be sent regardless.”

Marian crawled into the kitchen and the sound distracted Lucia enough that she missed shooting Peter. Peter started to reload his gun. Marian lunged for the closest icebox and tore the heart of an ice elemental that powered it. She lunged at Lucia desperately. Lucia did not have enough time to turn before Marian was shoving the heart into Lucia’s cheek. Marian felt her hand stiffen and sting before she pulled it away, the elemental’s heart stuck to Lucia and her head slowly froze over with ice. A bullet slammed into Lucia’s frozen head and it shattered and fell to the floor.

“Sorry I was so late, Miss Thistlewhite,” Peter said. “I was detained outside.”

“That’s quite alright, Peter,” Marian said, shaking feeling back into her hand. “You were here when it counted. Are the rest of the guards…?” She couldn’t bring herself to finish the question but she could tell Peter got the point.

“Some are dead,” Peter said solemnly. “but not all of us. Your brother arrived just in time to tip the scales in our favor.”

“Thank the gods that he’s always late,” Marian said with a sigh of relief. “As much as I would like to rest, there is far too much to do. We must alert my parents, contact the authorities, clean up this mess, and bury our dead with honors.”

“Right away, Miss,” Peter said. “I’ll rally the troops and we’ll get right on it.”

“Thank you, Peter,” Marian said. “Thank you so much.”

Hearth Day

December 19, 2020

The snow fell in huge flakes outside of Garrion Castle and it should have been warm inside but the castle had been abandoned recently. When Milla Coalberry and Guy Nightscar pushed their way through the front door, they were wearing thick furs. They had needed to board the horses at the stable first and that meant trudging across the snowy grounds in almost waist-deep snow. Guy hurried across the entry hall and hurriedly worked to start a fire. Milla threw off her fur cloak and grabbed her bow, nocked an arrow, and readied herself for any threats. She checked each entrance one by one and then repeated the cycle. Her attention was only momentarily drawn by the sparks and embers from Guy’s attempts.

“You didn’t even look around before you crossed the threshold, Guy,” Milla said. “There could have been any number of threats for each step you took.”

“If I had to choose between freezing outside for one more moment or getting maimed in here, I know what I’d choose and I chose it,” Guy said, shedding his own furs. “You could be a bit nicer seeing as how it is Hearth Day Eve.”

“If you didn’t want to go on this holiday mission, I could have gone on my own,” Milla said. “I just thought since neither of us has family we could do this together.” The two were the only orphans of their little group but could not be more different most of the time.

“Which is why I came,” Guy said. “besides, you would be lost without the greatest swordsman in the western continent.” He took a pull from his flask but only to warm himself or so he told himself.

“The self-proclaimed greatest swordsman,” Milla said, relaxing her bow when nothing immediately sprang from the darkness to maul them to death. “I’m constantly pulling your behind out of danger.”

“I’ve saved you just as much,” Guy said. “Maybe one or two fewer times.” One should not lie so close to Hearth Day.

“You’re reckless and undisciplined in any activity that does not include a bladed weapon,” Milla said. “but I’m happy you’re here. I’m happy not to be alone.”

“It wouldn’t make much tactical sense to tackle this one on your own, huh?” Guy asked with a smirk. “You’re far smarter than that.”

“Yes but I’m allowed to want company on a holiday,” Milla said. “I also didn’t want to be alone.”

“You’re always going off alone,” Guy said, raising an eyebrow. “The hermit monk only comes out of her hole when justice must be served.”

“Maybe I’m tired of being a hermit,” Milla said. “Maybe I want to be in the world now.” She walked over to the closest door and started hammering a metal spike under it to force it shut.

“Says the woman who decided to travel out to this manor in the middle of nowhere,” Guy said with a laugh. “Mixed messages there.”

“I’m serious,” Milla said with a frown. “When my parents and siblings died, I threw myself into my training at the monastery. I didn’t think I wanted to live anymore. I wanted to be a weapon for justice. When it turned out the monastery had duplicitous motives, I was lost again. Now I’m just trying to figure it all out.”

For once, Guy was shocked into silence for a bit. Milla had never said any of this in his presence before and was somewhat of a mystery to their little adventurer collective even though she was the de facto leader. “Well, you know we’re all here for you,” he finally said. “I’m free to talk whenever you want. I’ll buy you a drink sometime when we’re not in imminent danger.”

“I don’t drink,” Milla said. “but you know that. I can certainly just watch you drink as long as you promise not to be so disgusting.”

“No promises,” Guy said with a grin. “but we should probably start hunting ghouls. They really should have warded the family graveyard properly.”

“Not so fast, Guy,” Milla said. “We’ll have to start in the morning. Without a cleric along, we’ll have to start the hunt while they’re dormant.”

“Rina would have never gotten through the snow,” Guy said. “I barely did. Frankly, this won’t be my strangest Hearth Day morning.” He had never really had the traditional experience, adventuring, and carousing during most holidays.

“Nor will it be mine,” Milla said with a shrug and a smile. “It won’t even be my most violent.” Guy could imagine how she must have spent previous Hearth Days and knew that they were probably soaked in the blood of evildoers.

“That’s strange and possibly a bit said, Milla,” Guy said. “We’ll have to raid the larder after we finish to celebrate. I’ll brave the wine cellar on my own, don’t worry.”

“My hero,” Milla said, voice dripping with sarcasm but then she legitimately laughed.

“Happy Hearth Day, Milla,” Guy said.

“And to you, Guy,” Milla said with a smile. “Help me secure the doors.”

Undead Reckoning Pt. 3

September 26, 2020

Talbot arrived at the shop the next morning and was surprised to see a light already on inside even though the sun had yet to rise. He had thought he might have at least a few moments to himself to collect himself, but it could not be helped. He would have to tear the bandage off eventually so it might as well be right away. He pushed the door open and took off his jacket and hung it up. He turned and there was Cara Moonweaver standing there with a slight smile on her face. She always looked so fragile with her thin, willowy limbs but Talbot knew that she was sturdy and strong. She was the senior partner, having started the carpentry shop while Talbot was still in the military and before Silas had arrived from Corria. She was holding two cups of tea.

“Join me for a morning cup?” Cara asked. “It’s still a little chilly out there especially before the sun comes up.” Cara really did not complain about much but she did consistently complain when it was cold. She was very thin so it made sense.

“Thank you, Cara,” Talbot said, taking one of the cups. “It is a relief on an early cold morning.”

“It is early for you,” Cara said, narrowing her eyes. “Is something the matter? Could you not sleep?” Cara had always been extremely perceptive. There were times when Talbot wondered if she might have a slight psychic gift. Her keen insight was why Talbot often came to her for counsel.

Talbot sighed. “To tell the truth, I did not sleep well,” Talbot said. “I was wrestling with something last night.”

“Bad dreams?” Cara asked. “You haven’t had those since your early days here when the war was still fresh behind your eyes.” Over many years, Talbot had probably told Cara the most about his life. His emotions had been more raw when they met and her friendship and the routine and art of carpentry had eased his pain.

“Funny you should mention the war,” Talbot said. He rarely mentioned the W-word. “I received a letter yesterday afternoon that made my thoughts turn dark. My trouble continued into the night.”

“You’ll never truly be at peace until you leave the past behind,” Cara said. “time only heals wounds if you allow them to close.” It was something she had said many times.

“I know you’re not wrong and I thought I was past it,” Talbot said. “but some things tend to reopen those wounds. Like this letter.”

“Tell me about this letter,” Cara said and sat in a chair gracefully.

“Have you ever heard of a Lord Blackrance?” Talbot asked.

“I have not,” Cara said. “his influence has not spread down here. My family would have heard about them but I could put in some inquiries if you want.”

“Thank you but I don’t think that will be necessary,” Talbot said. “I’ll explain that in a minute. He sent me a letter trying to recruit me to take up arms again against a necromancer out in the wastes.”

“You’re not actually considering going out there are you?” Cara asked. “That sounds like a really bloody affair to get involved with.”

“I don’t plan on fighting anything or anyone anymore,” Talbot said. “but I do want to give this Blackrance a piece of my mind. I would like to do it in person. It only involves going to Fallshield so it would be a relatively short trip.”

“You feel that it’s necessary to turn this man down in person?” Cara asked.

“I do,” Talbot said. “If I simply turn away, I feel like I am running from my past again. If I go and talk to him, I will confront everything. It is not something I look forward to but, through our discussions, I think I need to do it.”

“A confrontation instead of merely sending a letter back, though,” Cara started, sounding like she was trying to be careful. “It is a big step. Do you think that it might be an inordinate response?”

“I don’t think so,” Talbot said. “You know me. I consider myself to be a man of honor. This Blackrance drug up a lot of dark things from my past but he also paid me several compliments. It is only right that I refuse him face to face. I could give him a few tips as well.”

Cara took a beat and then spoke calmly and even. “What would your brother think?” she asked. The question hung in the air. If it had been anybody other than Cara who asked, Talbot would have been angry. However, it was an astute question. Cara was incredibly wise.

“Honestly, I don’t know,” Talbot answered. “Barrold was always seeking adventure. He would have jumped on a chance to hunt down a necromancer.”

“You would have jumped on it as well decades ago,” Cara said. “You have an instinct to protect people and a necromancer threatens society itself.”

“Those days are gone,” Talbot said. “Besides, I made a promise to Barrold’s grave that I would give that life up and I would live for the both of us.”

“He never asked you for that promise,” Cara said. It was true, Barrold would have never tried to control Talbot’s life. He would have supported any decision that Talbot made.

“I still intend to keep it,” Talbot said. “I’m done fighting. I’ll go and close the door and then I’ll come back. It should only take a week at the most by train.”

“Do you need my blessing?” Cara asked, a small smile creeping onto her face. “You have it if you want it.”

“I don’t need it but it is appreciated,” Talbot said with a smile. “All I need is for you and Silas to watch the shop. I promise to pick up the slack when I return.”

“I do not think he will be as understanding,” Cara said. “but you will have to explain things to Silas.”

The shop door opened during that last moment and Silas walked in. “Explain what to me?” he asked. Cara and Talbot looked at each other for a beat.

SteamWorld Heist and Quest

September 21, 2020

Steamworld Heist

I have always been a fan of the Wild West or at least the mechanics and look of the film Wild West. The genre is kind of defunct now but there are some great movies that belong to it. Firefly was the first thing I watched that linked the Wild West aesthetic with space travel. This game is about a gang of steam-powered robots who have formed a pirate crew made up of “Cowbots” in a world after the Earth exploded. You primarily play as Captain Piper Faraday, an expert sniper. At the start, all but two of your crew have been scrapped (killed). You must recruit a new crew and work toward raising your reputation as you progress from rascals to heroes. You spend most of your time trying to pull off heists which are really smash-and-grab boarding missions.

As you can see in the trailer above, the game’s combat is turn-based. Each character has a class and is able to use different weapons. Each character also has their own skills which add more to the strategy of the game. For example, Piper has the ability to inspire or heal the bots around her. Sally Bolt can fire again if her first shot kills a target. There are tons of weapons and gear you can get from shops (mostly bars and bodegas). The other main mechanic is that all aiming is done manually by the player. That leads to fun ricochet shots and trick shots that are fun to try and wrap your head around.

Steamworld Quest

Fantasy is obviously a huge genre for me but this game is one of the first I have seen to combine fantasy with steampunk. You play as Armilly a young steambot knight wannabe who has applied over and over to the Hero Guild with no success. She is joined by an alchemist named Copperina and a Handyman named Galleo. The trio sets out to rescue the entire Hero Guild and fight a new evil empire. They are later joined by a knight of legend, Orik, and two shifty rogues named Tarah and Thayne. You explore maps while engaging other bots in battle.

This is a turn-based system with an interesting card mechanic. Each turn you get a “hand” of cards each of which has a character’s skill or attack on it. You can play up to three cards per turn. If you play three cards for the same character, they do an additional fourth ability or attack. Additionally, some attacks and skills require “steam power” to be used while simpler skills and attacks build that steam power. It is a constant strategy problem of proper deck-building and resource management. You need to optimize your cards in order to make sure you always have moves to make.

Both Games

Both games obviously share the same art style and writing. The art is cartoony yet detailed which gives each character a unique look. The worlds both games travel through are full of little background details and NPCs that delightful. Both games are full of dialogue which is cute and funny as the characters are allowed to be weird, flawed, and somewhat real. The heroes are allowed to make mistakes and even the villains can be likable. Both are goofy games that are not that long but are infinitely replayable.


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