Posts Tagged ‘Undead Reckoning’

Undead Reckoning Pt. 9

July 17, 2021

Talbot and Clarity followed Titus through the dusty yet bustling town of Fallshield. Apparently, a mining company was in the midst of shipping some new workers through the town out to the desert. A new mine was opening up in the southern area and therefore a lot of equipment and personnel needed to get out there before the families followed. Thankfully, the hotel that Lord Blackrance had selected seemed to be away from all of that. It was suddenly a lot quieter as they approached the hotel.

“Lord Blackrance had me acquire all of the rooms at this particular hotel to avoid any conflict or disruption with the miners,” Titus said. “Otherwise, rooms would have been difficult to come by.”

“Lucky for Lord Blackrance,” Talbot said. “It seems like he thought of everything.” He tried to make that sound sarcastic but was not sure he had pulled it off.

“Lord Blackrance has a way of being several steps ahead,” Titus said. “You’ll see.”

“I’m sure I will,” Talbot said. “I aim to have several words with Lord Blackrance when he arrives. Until then, I suppose I’ll look at whatever room he has provided. I’ll take my leave with your permission, Miss Havenwood.”

Before Clarity could answer, there was a loud thumping that shook the room slightly and some dust drifted down from the ceiling. It was obviously somebody or something big moving around in the room above the lobby. Shouting could be heard from above between two people and then some weird scratching sounds. Talbot could not make out any words but there was definitely a conflict happening.

“Sorry, ladies and gentlemen,” a young woman almost shouted. “A little disagreement with a guest about the rules against keeping pets in the hotel. We’ll have it sorted soon.”

“I could go help them handle it, miss” Talbot offered. “The guest sounds pretty big.”

“Nothing to worry about,” the woman said. “Welcome to the Lonely Bell. My name is Agatha but you can call me Pepper. Seeing as how you’re here with Mr. Mapleburrow, I assume that you are guests of Lord Blackrance.”

“You are correct, Miss Pepper,” Clarity said. “Clarity Havenwood. A pleasure to meet you, of course. Have my boxes arrived?” Talbot’s eyebrow rose a bit on the mention of boxes. Had she had things shipped ahead to this small town? It looked like she had packed light but maybe Talbot had misread the situation. He certainly thought it was impolite to ask her about it now.

“They certainly have, Miss Havenwood,” Pepper said. “I have taken the liberty of placing them in your room for your inspection. There are quite a few.”

“Well, one has to be prepared for anything,” Clarity said. “May I have my key, Pepper? I must freshen up before meeting Lord Blackrance.”

“Of course, Miss Havenwood,” Pepper said and pulled out an iron key with a ribbon tied to it and handed it over. “First on the left. Mr. Mapleburrow knows where it is.” She gestured vaguely toward the large staircase which she obviously had no intention of climbing while the argument was happening upstairs. Smart girl.

“I suppose you must have a key for me,” Talbot said. “Talbot Hawkwing is my name. Nice to meet you, Pepper.” He tried his best smile. Since leaving the military, he had had to work at being personable again and he knew that he could come off as formal and stern. He had also spent a train ride talking to Clarity Havenwood whose formal language was practically infectious.

“Ah yes,” Pepper rifled through her collection of keys. “Sergeant Hawkwing. You have the other room at the top, across from Mr. Seneca.” Talbot got the feeling that Pepper was fighting the urge to salute. He would have brought up once again that he was no longer in the military or a sergeant but he decided to let it slide. That was really a conversation better had with Lord Blackrance.

“Mr. Seneca?” Talbot asked instead. “Who is that?”

“One of our party,” Titus said, cutting off Pepper which was instantly a bit of a red flag in Talbot’s eyes. “You’ll meet him soon enough but don’t worry about it for now. He asked to not be disturbed and I am inclined to respect that.”

“I have never wanted to disturb anybody,” Talbot said. “So I am inclined to agree with you. I wouldn’t mind shutting my eyes for a bit to clear my head.”

“Follow me, then,” Titus said. “Lord Blackrance should arrive by dawn. However, dinner will be soon. Listen for the bell.”

“We will,” Clarity said, ending her polite silence. “Neither of us would dream of being so rude to be late to dinner. Isn’t that right, Mr. Hawkwing?”

“I wouldn’t dream of it, Miss Havenwood,” Talbot said. “Lead the way Mr. Mapleburrow.”

Titus nodded and started to lead the way up the stairs. As they reached the second floor, Clarity muttered some words and made a gesture at the noise coming from behind the door at the end of the hall and there was silence in the hallway. Clarity smiled proudly and then unlocked her room and slipped inside before shutting the door firmly.

Undead Reckoning Pt. 8

March 27, 2021

The train chugged on toward its destination and Clarity had pulled out a book and a notebook and expertly balanced both in her lap. She would read from the leather-bound book and then write something in the notebook every so often. Since she had retreated into academia, it left Talbot to his own devices again. He stared past her out the window again and watched the scenery go by. Vegetation was becoming more and more sparse as they headed out toward the desert. Nobody quite knew why the desert had become so dangerous. The desert wasteland had been home to strange mobile rifts of chaotic magic, rumored to be cracks in reality itself. This happened long before Talbot had been born.

Lately, magic experts were reporting that the chaotic energy in the desert was slowly abating. The area was slowly becoming safer or at least as safe as a normal desert could be. Many had started to explore the area and some settlements had sprung up to support explorers and mining operations. The area was largely lawless as the Queen’s government had not yet asserted full control over the region. They had been left very unprepared for the expansion since they previously knew that people feared entering the dangerous desert. Talbot knew that this necromancer that Blackrance insisted on pursuing was out there in that desert with the rest of the criminals. It was the only logical place to start amassing power with a forbidden yet showy skill like that.

The train pulled into Fallshield Station which was not much of a station after all. Still, Talbot and Clarity had arrived at their destination. Talbot stood up and grabbed his pack and his rifle and slung them over his shoulder. He reached back to offer a hand to Clarity who clasped his hand and used it to stand up and follow Talbot into the aisle. Talbot handed her bag carefully.

“Well, Mr. Hawkwing we have arrived,” Clarity said. “you’ve been such a good travel companion so far, would you like to accompany me as we look for Lord Blackrance? It would be silly to separate to seek out the same man. No?”

“You make perfect sense to me, Ms. Havenwood,” Talbot said. “Ladies first, I’ll watch your back. These frontier towns can be rough.”

“Well, go ahead and be intimidating, Mr. Hawkwing,” Clarity said. “They would only bother me because they know not how dangerous I can be.” She smiled in a way that made Talbot believe that she was a formidable magic practitioner and had the guts to harm if necessary. Maybe she was suited for adventure out in the desert.

Clarity led the way off of the train and Talbot followed close behind. Once they were out he walked beside her, blinking in the bright sunlight to get his bearings. He was grateful that he had brought along his wide-brimmed hat. Clarity’s hat had an even wider brim and a large ornate bow as well. She certainly stood out in all of the dust. He had never been to Fallshield before. It had been a military base dedicated to protecting the border of the desert but a little town had grown after the border had become more relaxed. There was still danger out there but the military was letting people take that risk onto themselves.

As the few people who had gotten off of the train cleared away, Talbot spotted a halfling lingering who spotted them and headed their way.

“Are you waiting for us, young man?” Clarity asked. “Clarity Havenwood, at your service. This is Talbot Hawkwing.” Talbot tipped his hat to the man.

“Titus Mapleburrow, at your service,” the man said. “I’m Lord Blackrance’s valet.”

“Charmed, I’m sure,” Clarity said. “It’s nice to know how thoughtful Lord Blackrance is.”

“Can we speak to him?” Talbot asked. “Where is he?”

“Lord Blackrance has not arrived himself and has been delayed slightly,” Titus said. “However, you are both expected. I’m to convey you to the local hotel. Rooms are already waiting for you. I have a stipend for your food and drink as well.”

“Lord Blackrance thinks of everything,” Clarity said. “Thank you, Titus. Lead the way.”

“Of course, miss,” Titus said and turned on his heel to walk down the platform toward town.

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”

Worldbuilding: Aofa Pt. 1

January 9, 2021

This is a Twitter challenge where I did some worldbuilding for the world of Undead Reckoning, Thistlewhite Manor, and Hearth Day.

  1. Origin

The world of Aofa was created by primal forces, guided by the will of the gods. The gods worked in congress in those days and put their whole being into creating a place for all races to thrive. The seas formed first and then the air and then the ground rose from the seas. The original gods then all contributed to the sun and the twin moons. Each god was then given a portion of Aofa to shape to their heart’s desire. The gods came back together to brainstorm the creation of the thinking peoples of the world and created many races together. Some got bored and created animals, monsters, and so on.

  1. Weekends

Weekends are only mostly important in most cultures in Aofa. All lands have agreed to an eight day week with the last two days being the weekend. For example, in the land of Calla, rural areas do not care much for the weekend as their livelihood generally does not care what day it is. In larger towns and cities, leisure time is often granted on the weekends. In both locales, temple services are usually held on the weekends.

  1. Technology

The biggest advance in technology was the creation of the firearm. Suddenly, a world of sword and sorcery was introduced to a tool of instant destruction. Guns were invented through a mixture of engineering and magic and the enchantments needed to create a working gun limits their proliferation somewhat. Still, they are quite common in the more dangerous parts of the world.

  1. Heirloom

The Sword of Strings also known as Dragon’s Bane and Piotr’s Blade was the legendary weapon that struck the final blow on the dragon Carragon. The blade was revered and passed down through the ages until it met its own demise while repelling demon attacks in Ganarastav. The remnants of the sword were eventually melted down to form a rifle of some renown.

  1. Emblem

This is the national emblem of Ganarastav. The gray represents the snowy fields that cover the land for half of the year. The purple represents the amethyst crystals charged with magical energy that are mined there. The wolves are the national animal of Ganrastav and also represent the faith and trust its people have for each other. The diamond knot represents the land’s thriving textile business due to the thick wool their sheep and goats produce.

  1. God

It is said that the gods were all slain by the Moonset Riders not long ago but it is also said that no god can be truly killed. When their time is at an end, they simply transition to another form. The gods are formless beings but it is said that they can take on earthly forms to walk among mortals. The God of Calla is known as The Wanderer because of his love of adventure and exciting tales. The God of Paika is known as The Musician because they so love music balancing art and precision in equal measures.

  1. Ritual

The funeral rites of Calla are to carefully wrap the body in cloth strips, douse the whole thing in oil, and set it on fire. The hotter and brighter the body burns is usually thought to mean a better afterlife. They do this because they are deathly afraid of the undead and do not wish for their dead to return to threaten the land. The ashes are often given out to those closest to the deceased but the majority are scattered.

  1. Secrets

Nobody knows who the Face Thief is. Nobody knows anything about them except that they kill people and literally take their faces. The theory is that they take the faces and are able to somehow use them to take on the appearance of those that they have killed.

  1. Ruler

The current ruler of Calla is Queen Fiona but the crown’s power has faded in years. In more recent times, many duties have been relegated to the newly formed parliament. The Queen, an elf, is able to provide her long years of experience but there are many more people to pick up the day to day slack. The Queen has the final word but is not often asked about routine happenings.

  1. Ceremony

The Heartbond Ceremony often leads to what is commonly called marriage. There can be a number of participants in this ceremony. Each participant puts their hand on the Binding Stone. If their intentions and faith in each other is true the stone will mark them with a magical tattoo which signifies the bond they have formed with their loved ones.

  1. Fairytale

There is a really good story about the adopted Ganarastavian Princess who, being born a tiefling, sought a way to become human. She and her lover went on a lengthy quest to obtain this goal. They made new allies and new enemies and turned the kingdom upside down. In the end, they reached their goal. However, when the spell was cast the Princess’ lover turned into a tiefling. Many lessons were learned that 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.”

Undead Reckoning Pt. 5

December 12, 2020

He was five years old and Talbot was running from the neighborhood bullies. Once again they chased him down the familiar alley blocks from where his family lived. He had no idea what he had done to piss them off this time but they had probably deserved it. At least he was drawing their attention away from Clara and Felix. If he took a beating for their sake, that was perfectly alright with him. He would have preferred no beating but would take any of the abuse that he earned with a smile. His legs were getting tired and his breath burned in his chest like a bonfire. He would not be able to last much longer.

Letitia grabbed him and pushed him against the wall. He felt his nose crack. She turned him around and slapped him so hard that he actually fell forward and barely missed hitting his nose again. He felt a boot slam into his ribs and he involuntarily rolled over. He had forgotten to ball up again and he would pay for it. He was way more vulnerable on his back. He looked up into the sneering faces of Letitia, Jass, and Crendor. The two half-orcs were wrapped around the beautiful Letitia’s finger. Talbot never knew why she chose to bully Talbot and his friends but he always thought it was because her family was one of those rare Humans First group of folks.

“You keep making mistakes, Talbot,” Letitia said. “You’re going to pay once again. You’re going to hurt.”

Why did she always sound like a villain from storybooks?

Jass put his boot on Talbot’s neck and held it there. He was not pushing down but it was a reminder that Talbot’s life was in their hands at the moment. He tried not to panic or squirm. That would just make it worse. Letitia kneeled down in the dirt next to him and glared. She dragged one of her nails down his cheek and he could feel blood well up. He would have to explain that mark to his father. Why don’t you just fight back, Talbot? She actually licked the blood off of her finger with a wicked smile. Maybe she had a crush on me? That was when Crendor kicked him in the nuts and everything went black.

Talbot was in bed and he and his brother were being told the tale of Caleb, the clever thief adventurer who hid himself in a treasure chest so that a dragon would scoop it up to add to its hoard. He picked the lock of the chest from the inside and then was able to lead the town militia to the dragon’s lair. Of course, this was after secreting away as many expensive bauble as he could carry. He wondered how Caleb had managed to pick a lock from the other side. It must have taken all of his skill and wit and luck.

Talbot’s father had always made those adventurers sound so grand. It was probably why he had joined the military. It was probably why his brother had joined too.

When he came to he was inside of a box. They must have shoved him in an old trunk after he passed out from the low blow. The trunk felt so small and it was so dark but the smallest cracks in the lid let in a little light. It was suddenly hard to breathe. He tried not to panic and then realized he was not panicking. He could be like Caleb in the old story. He could be brave. He reached for the lock and only then realized that it was inaccessible from the inside. How had Caleb done it? He moved onto his back and started to kick at the lid of the box. He braced himself and pushed hard upward with his feet and the lid popped open. Smoke started to fill the box and Caleb crawled out as fast as possible, coughing as he went.

He was in the trenches during the early days of the war. Smoke and fire was everywhere as people ran around using blankets or spellcraft to put out the fires. The occasional magic missile hit somebody as they poked their head up. It was the usual controlled chaos. Talbot held his rifle tightly and threw himself against one of the dirt walls to keep out of the line of fire. He looked over and saw an unarmed woman standing in the middle of the chaos. Was she a cleric? A spellcaster? She looked lost. He ran to her and tried to pull her to safety but she shook from his grasp. As he watched, her porcelain white skin turned jet black. Was she a spy?

“You couldn’t have saved me,” the woman said directly to Talbot.

“What?” Talbot asked, looking around to see if anybody else saw her. He aimed his rifle. He didn’t want to use it.

“You could still save them,” she said, gesturing all around her. “Save them.”

Suddenly, her chest erupted as if she was stabbed from behind by multiple swords and she cried out. Talbot reached for her but everything went white.

Undead Reckoning Pt. 4

December 5, 2020

Talbot walked onto the train platform carrying very little baggage. He had always preferred to pack light even when traveling long distances. Only the essentials were necessary, he was not very sentimental after all. Of course, he had brought the rifle but kept it wrapped in cloth and twine to keep it from startling anybody. He wore it slung across his back and it was definitely a familiar feeling that he was trying and failing to ignore. He was also trying to ignore Silas Brickhome who was presently buzzing in his ear. The two of them, along with Cara Moonweaver, had been business partners for years but Talbot had come to realize that Silas was a bit of a worrier.

Silas would call it caution and sometimes it was a good quality. In fact, there were times where Talbot thought that anxiety might be a natural defense mechanism for gnomes. They had been saved by quite a few calamities because Silas had a bad feeling about a situation. Talbot trusted Silas but knew that sometimes his anxiety could go overboard. He thought this was one of those times. Talbot had explained to Cara and Silas that he was only going on a short trip to satisfy his curiosity. He had explained that he wanted nothing more than to return to the shop after no more than a week and work on their projects and assist customers. Cara had accepted it with a grunt and then she had gone back to her coffee and a troublesome bit of fine furniture. Silas had become apoplectic.

“Tal, would you talk to me?” Silas practically yelled over the crowd. “I don’t think you should take this trip. It sounds dangerous.”

“It’s not dangerous, Silas,” Talbot said. “I’m just going for a little chat. I’m not going to be fighting any necromancers.”

“If it’s just a chat then why can’t you send a letter or a telegram?” Silas asked. “Settle the matter and come to the shop tomorrow.”

“Don’t you think I thought of that?” Talbot asked, turning around so Silas had to stop short. “It would be easy to do that but some things need to be done face to face.” Talbot was several feet taller than the other man and for a moment he imposed that size difference on Silas before backing off and shaking his head.

“Don’t you think he might have deliberately poked at your biggest sore spot in order to manipulate you?” Silas asked. “Don’t fall for his ruse.” Silas adjusted his glasses and stared up at Talbot, obviously trying to get through to him.

“Believe it or not,” Talbot said. “I thought of that too. If that’s the case, then I will lay a hand on Lord Blackrance with extreme prejudice. I will make my point felt.”

“All the more reason to stay home,” Silas said in a bit of a grumble. “I don’t want you to be arrested.”

“I know how to stay out of the jails,” Talbot said. “I know how to stop myself before I go too far.”

“You’re traveling so close to the magical wastes, Talbot,” Silas said. “It’s a risk going even that far.”

“I’ll be miles and miles away from the border,” Talbot said. “Relax, Silas, everything will be fine.”

“I promise you nothing is fine,” Silas said. “but your mind is made up.”

“Then wish me a safe journey, old friend,” Talbot said with as kind a smile as he could accomplish. “I’ll be back before you know it.”

“I wish you weren’t going at all but I do wish you well, of course,” Silas said as he tried to put on a brave face. “Please come back to us. Not for the shop’s sake but for your sake. You deserve peace.”

“I have it,” Talbot said gently.

“Not if the mention of your past can still bring storm clouds to your eyes,” Silas said. “Deal with what you have to but come back to us.”

Talbot rested his hand on Silas’ shoulder. “I will be back,” he said. “I promise.”

Silas shook his head. “Get on the train, Tal,” he said. “It’s going to leave soon.”


The Hidden Message

klaatu barada nikto

Growing a family

Im just trying to evolve

Panorama of the Mountains

Liam Sullivan's Ideas and Reflections

Boccob's Blessed Blog

A gaming blog with an emphasis on D&D 5e

wolfenoot.wordpress.com/

No Hate Only Snootboops

As Told By Carly

The Ramblings of a Geek Girl

Beyond the Flow

A Survivor's Philosophy of Life

Silvia Writes

Life is a story. Might as well write it.

An Artist’s Path

Art, Poetry, Prose, Spirituality & Whimsy

The Bloggess

Like Mother Teresa, only better.

Silence Killed The Dinosaurs

Comics, Stories, Dinosaurs, Cats

Damyanti Biswas

For lovers of reading, writing, travel, humanity

%d bloggers like this: