Posts Tagged ‘Western’

Undead Reckoning Pt. 13

September 25, 2021

Supper continued without Talbot getting any more clues as to the agenda of Lord Blackrance. At least, nothing more than had been in the letter. There was a necromancer in the wasteland. A wasteland that the Dragonborn Rahj was familiar with as their guide and presumably their tracker. The Cleric Ana was obviously along for the ride to counter undead threats. Talbot assumed that he and Clarity had been invited as damage dealers to fight back whatever henchthings that the necromancer had. Of course, Talbot still had no intention of going anywhere closer to the wasteland. He was going to take his rifle back home and hang it over his mantle. Forever.

After a nip or two of Drown brandy, sent by the good Lord Blackrance himself, they all retired to bed. All of them except for Rahj who stayed up drinking heavily of the cheapest ale available. He took a keg out behind the inn so he could be with his pet, Sandor. They all left the dragonborn alone. Talbot paused outside of his door and looked at the door currently belonging to the mysterious Mr. Seneca. How did he fit into all of this? Talbot had a sudden urge to go over and knock on that door. Just beyond, a question could be answered. But trying to answer that question could raise a lot of hell. It was best to just wait until morning.

Thanks to the good meal and the brandy, Talbot was just about out when his head hit the pillow. He came to when the sun was up but it felt like just a moment later. He rubbed the sleep from his eyes and got himself together. A change of clothes and he was ready to descend the stares once again. Luckily, the smell of good food once again wafted up from the kitchens. It made Talbot take the steps a little quicker. It would not hurt him to have one more good meal on Lord Blackrance’s coin before he went back home. When he reached the bottom of the stairs, he saw three people in the sitting room. The halfling Titus Talbot already recognized but there was also a masked figure and a drow sitting there as well. The masked figure got up and walked past Talbot without a word.

“You must be Sergeant Hawkwing,” the drow said with a sly smile. “As you might have gathered, my name is Lord Blackrance. Have a seat, won’t you?” He gestured toward the fourth chair.

“I no longer go by my rank, Lord Blackrance” Talbot said bluntly but not unkindly. “You may call me Talbot if you wish.”

“Fair enough, Talbot,” Lord Blackrance said. “If you wish to dispense with formalities, then you may call me Callum.”

“That’s a little forward when dealing with the aristocracy,” Talbot said. “but sure.”

“I had a feeling that you would want to talk,” Blackrance said. “I’m glad you’ve come down before breakfast.”

“I have a feeling you’ve already divined what I want to talk about,” Talbot said. “I might as well get to it. I have no intention of going on your expedition. There are plenty of hired guns even around here that you could take with you.”

“But I singled you out, Talbot,” Blackrance said. “I assembled my team carefully as I have assembled all of my teams. Your record speaks volumes and you are uniquely suited for the mission ahead.”

“How am I uniquely suited for it?” Talbot asked, more than a little curious at that statement.

“I’m honestly not sure yet,” Blackrance said with a shrug.

Talbot was a bit shocked. “You don’t know?” he asked. “I thought you had all of this figured out?”

“I have an ace up my sleeve when planning a mission,” Blackrance said. “The secret to my success.” He gestured to a young girl sitting peacefully in the corner.

Talbot blinked in shock. It was the young woman from his dream on the train. What the hell was going on?

Undead Reckoning Pt. 12

September 18, 2021

Pepper and a young man that Talbot did not recognize started carrying a veritable feast into the room on platters. It all smelled very good and it was far finer food than Talbot had expected this far out in the frontier. There were several whole roasted chickens, steamed carrots, toasted mushrooms, brisket, and mashed potatoes. Rahj immediately reached out and palmed one of the chickens, whistled, and then threw the chicken out of an open window. Something very large and hairy jumped up in the window and snagged the chicken. There was a deep growling sound from beneath the window. Everybody stared at Rahj who shrugged.

“They won’t let me keep Sandor inside but he still must be fed,” the large Dragonborn said. He then set about devouring whatever food he could reach.

“Um,” Clarity started, seeming to be at a loss for words for once. “Is Sandor your dog?”

Rahj grinned and began to speak with food in his mouth. “Ha!,” he cried out, letting out a single barking laugh. “In the desert, we have pets far superior to your dogs. It’s an insult to call Sandor a dog.”

Clarity seemed to think about that, almost as if she was deciding which part of the statement she was most interested in. “I’m sorry,” she said. “Did you say ‘out in the desert’? Do you mean to tell us that you have lived out there? Is this a recent occurrence or have you lived out there when it was still dangerous?”

Rahj frowned and looked at Clarity as if he was deciding whether or not she was being ignorant or insulting. Talbot immediately realized Clarity’s mistake and he looked around and saw that Clarity was the only one not in the know. She had an innocent look on her face which must have convinced Rahj that she was merely ignorant.

“Your government has always hated my kind,” Rahj said, his voice a low growl that almost harmonized with the growl from Sandor outside. “They made it real hard to find land of our own. Our scales are resistant to magic and we went out into the desert to settle where other mortals were too scared to go.”

“That is impressive, Mr. Blackscale,” Clarity said. “I apologize for my ignorance, I had not known that the government had dealt you such a poor hand. It is shameful. I am sure that everybody in this room does not share in such prejudice.”

Rahj grunted. “Thanks,” he said. “We made it work out there but the government and all of the business types want back out there now that it’s safer. I’m sure they’ll take our land too.”

“I hope they don’t,” Talbot said. “I never did cotton to how that worked out. You all should get first dibs, of course.”

“Blackrance is going to go to the government about it,” Rahj said. “He understands what it’s like since he’s drow. It’s the only reason I agreed to guide all of you out there.”

“You’ve talked in person to our illustrious patron?” Clarity asked. “I have only communicated with him via correspondence myself since I was out of country.”

“He sent me a letter too,” Talbot said. “I haven’t met him.”

“He came out into the desert,” Rahj said. “Faced me like a man alongside that one.” He pointed at Titus who nodded.

“I accompany Lord Blackrance on most occasions,” Titus said softly. “This is a rare moment when I am not by his side.”

“He came to see me at church,” Ana said. “He vas very polite and convincing.”

“So only half of us have met him,” Talbot said. “Wait, that reminds me. What about the other one? The person across the hall from me? What is their deal?”

“Mr. Seneca has a complex situation so he and Lord Blackrance agreed that he would not meet you until Lord Blackrance could be present,” Titus said. “Everything is going according to plan.”

“You do realize how suspicious that is don’t you?” Talbot asked, his eyes narrowing.

“I am very aware,” Titus said with a smile. “I can only operate according to Lord Blackrance’s wishes unless there is an emergency.”

“A lot of rules go out the window in an emergency,” Talbot said with a sage nod. “I remember that.”

“I’m sure you do,” Titus said.

Undead Reckoning Pt. 11

August 21, 2021

Clarity thought about that statement as they started down the stairs. “Very interesting,” she said. “I suppose if the stories are true and the gods were destroyed, all of that energy would have to go somewhere. There is no way to destroy energy like that and the Riders were at least semi-mortal and they could not absorb that much energy. What vessels are the gods in now? Maybe they have no vessels. Maybe that means they are more powerful than ever.”

Ana shrugged with a small, unbothered smile. “I have not given it much thought,” she said. “It is enough zat I have faith, no? I am more focused on doing good in the vorld.”

“Now that’s an attitude I can get behind,” Talbot said. “You’ve just got to leave the world better than you found it.” He could guess that Clarity’s intellectual curiosity was not satiated but then again how did she expect to test any theories when it came to deities from the beyond?

“Vat do you do for ze vorld, Talbot?” Ana asked with a curious smile. “How do you make it better?”

“I’m a carpenter,” Talbot said. “I share a shop with two partners back home.”

“A noble profession,” Ana said. “Vhat brings a carpenter all ze vay out here for zis endeavor?”

All three of them stopped outside of the dining room as Talbot turned toward Ana. He was not about to get into it with a complete stranger even if Ana was a woman of the cloth. His past was painful and he still did not know why he had discussed it with Clarity. Something about her inquisitive eyes, maybe.

“I wasn’t always a carpenter,” Talbot said. “I’ll leave it at that for now. Lord Blackrance wanted me to come out of retirement but we have a difference of opinion. I came to tell him no face to face.”

“I tried to change his mind,” Clarity said. “It didn’t take.” She shrugged and shot a mischievous smile at Talbot. The look irked him for a heartbeat.

Ana’s smile was more beatific and kind. “I respect that you are a man who has left violence behind,” she said. “A man of peace. However, peace is not alvays the answer.”

“It’s my answer,” Talbot said. “I’ve already lost enough to battle. I support the mission, of course, but I don’t have the heart to join in.”

“Perhaps your heart may yet change,” Ana said with a smile. “Only you can decide your path.”

“Maybe,” Talbot said. “Anything is possible but I just don’t see it. You’ll just have to take care of this without me.”

The door to the dining room burst open and Titus was standing there looking frustrated and a bit desperate. “Could you come in to eat?” he asked. “He’s getting impatient and I really don’t want to piss him off anymore.”

“Who?” Talbot asked. As soon as he asked he knew it was a stupid question. It had to be the Dragonborn from earlier.

“You’ll see,” Titus said. “Quickly, please.” He held open the door and the three all looked at each other and then entered the dining room. Seated at the head of the table was the giant Dragonborn who practically glared at them.

“Finally!” he yelled. “They said they would not serve the food until you came. Sit down.”

“Such manners!” Clarity said. “We were having a lively discussion. We apologize if we kept you and Mr. Mapleburrow waiting.” The four of them moved to seats around the table. Talbot made sure to sit closest to the angry dragon man. He was sure Clarity would disagree but he did not want either lady to be harmed if it came to a fight. He had a feeling it would not and that the Dragonborn was more bark than bite.

As they all sat down at the table, the Dragonborn slammed his fist on the table. “Food now!” Titus flinched a bit at the sound and Ana got very still. Neither Clarity nor Talbot reacted and Talbot fought the urge to roll his eyes. No need to rile the guy up any further. There was definitely movement in the kitchen.

“What do we call you, sir?” Clarity asked. “We haven’t been formally introduced yet.” Titus was not about to make any introductions in that moment. He was rattled.

“The name’s Rahj,” the Dragonborn said gruffly and when Clarity arched an eyebrow at him he looked remorseful for a moment. “Rahj Blackscale.”

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. 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.

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.

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. 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.

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.


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