Mar 042014
 

Brand had been busy. The tent that we were using as our base cape in Tuthom-Pothrie was in great shape, and was perfect for showing off the supposed wealth of the Skuza family. The New-Raphelian was used to a harsher environment though, and had reinforced it, as well as adding some extra flaps to give us more privacy where needed and some room to avoid the sun that was now sitting high in the sky.

I had done everything that I could think of to prepare myself for the fight, but still had many turnings until I needed to make a move. Several other traders had set yup shop throughout the morning though, so I decoded to entertain myself by imagining what I would spend my money on were I lucky enough to get paid. There were no swords finer than my own, and the dagger was a custom made one of a kind that I would struggle to replace this far from home. I contemplated the armour on offer though.

My chest was well protected, but a blow to the arms or legs could have easily crippled me. There was nothing to improve my situation that came within my current budget though. I did remember about the brigandine though; although it offered the same protection to my arms, and would be slightly more vulnerable to axe slashes than my chain, it was designed to be worn in polite society.

It had not come to me in great condition though, so would need repairing to be at all useful as an outfit that didn’t make it look like I was walking around just looking for a fight. There was an armourer or two kicking around, mainly looking to sell items they already had on them rather than make stuff to order. Once outside of the Profanerium I was sure I would find better appointed dealers with their own forge and slave children to keep the bellows blowing, but down here, there was only so much that could be carried on the back of a wagon.

One of them was happy enough to take a look at the armour, and offered to get it back into shape for a mere 50 Gold Dituri. That was still a little outside of my price range, but at least I knew where I could go when we got paid.

Just thinking back to how important it was to get paid back then. It’s hard to imagine a time in my life previous to then that I would ever have needed to worry about having the money on me to cover my bills. Might be why my attitude was still a little off when it came to money. It would prove difficult to convince a smith to repair a bit of kit without payment up front, but by the end of the day, I was happily racking up tabs for food, drink and a room for the night without even thinking about it.

By the time I was back from my almost totally pointless walk, Valerius and Fjorlief were back at the tent, but Caderyn was nowhere to be seen. I wasn’t surprised, but I was hoping to see him again soon. Hell, at all would have been nice.

Since the food we had mainly been surviving on was either killed in the wild or part of the rations that made up Skuza’s possessions, we needed to get some food from the market. Thankfully, there fayre was greatly improved from the last food I had bought outside of a Pelosian city. As we sat there munching away of fresh fruit and dried meat, a large and extravagant palanquin could be seen heading towards us.

Not long before I left home these had been all the rage. The larger and more ostentatiously decorated the better, preferably with a entire regiment needed to keep it aloft. Although this would certainly give any Raphelian the run for their money in the decoration stakes, its size looked more a necessity than a choice, as its passenger was a huge beast of a man.

I don’t use that term lightly here either, the man was messed up. He had lost an ear and an eye, one leg was sadly absent, along with several fingers and what good looks he may have once possessed. Luckily, he seemed pleased to see us, rather than in the mood to feast on our spirits, and introduced himself as Erasmus Costanzo.

The inner workings of the Pelosian legal system make about as much sense to me as Yerwian finances. It seemed that it was no good for either Valerius or Eduardo to just step into a court room and represent themselves. Hell, they could both have been lawyers, and I think they would still need someone more important than them to get involved. Well, this heavily injured ex-legionnaire was to be that man for them.

I did my best to shown my respect, bowing and offering to pay for a drink to lubricate a social situation I barely understood, and that seemed to go down well. Whilst he and Valerius talked I set out to find a cheap bottle of yellow grass wine to keep him happy, and some fresh water for the serviles that had been tasked with hauling his not inconsiderable bulk around the city. This meant I missed a whole bunch of talking about Skuza and his chances, but what little I did catch didn’t fill me with confidence.

Costanzo was not easily convinced of his clients innocence, and was instead pushing fro a straight up confession. The word around the city – or at least the Profinerium – was that justice was required, and that it should be carried out quickly. If my future ability to eat didn’t rely him on quite so much, I doubt I would have minded at all if Eduardo took this option, and let himself out the easy with his own honour blade.

Luckily, Valerius seemed just as pissed off with that thought as I did, and spent most of the afternoon trying to convince Costanzo of our patron’s innocence. There is talk of a twin brother and some under the table dealings with the deceased, but anything other than that I struggled to follow, and soon lost interest in. He seemed happy with what he had though, and left in the manner with which he arrived, but not before taking the time to ask me my own opinions of Skuza.

There was no point painting a picture that wouldn’t stand up to close inspection, so I kept my answer honest, “Well Ser Costanzo, he is a man of high ideals and high standards, but of low ability in trying to meet either of them. The physical evidence I am sure, will prove right what I have always suspected, and what you will see for yourself when you meet with him. No matter what he might claim otherwise, he lacks the constitution to even consider killing someone. Hell, they could be charging towards him with axes drawn, and he’d be more likely to faint than fumble his ferros from its scabbard. I’ve seen it happen, and so has everyone sat down with you today.

“On the road, it paid to convince Eduardo that he was a martial man of great cunning and guile, who only needed to resort to violence when every other avenue was closed to him. It was good for him to think himself indestructible, as it made him take some risks that allowed us to be hear as early as we are, and I was happy yo feed him the lies he wanted to hear. But they were just that: lies. Spend a turning in his company, and you’ll have no doubts at all about him”.

Costanzo’s eyes had never left my face as I spoke, and at the mention of the lies I told him, I don’t doubt there was a trace of a half smile playing across his scarred face. He seemed happy with my reading of the man though, and was soon away, leaving the rest of us with a few turnings left before we would be off.

*     *     *

It looked like everyone of us still there would be joining me in my little excursion. There was to be other activities that night, including some more mole fighting, and various other games, including Velochi. Being a sport of my homeland, I was looking forward to relaxing and watching a match, but regretted my short funds as I would be unable to place a wager. As it turned out, the games were not quite what I had in mind.

A large Randish looking fellow approached us at a slow meandering pace, making it look like he accidentally came upon our party rather than seeking us out. He introduced himself as Rembrandt, and taking in my orange sash inquired if I had arranged a “one-on-one” Velochi match for later in the day. I nodded, and invited him to sit and join us for a while, but he held up a hand, “Sadly, there are many things this eve that require my attention. I am here at present to ensure the terms of the match are agreed upon. Am I to understand that this is personal match, which will see no outside interference?”

“You are correct my friend, I just hope my opponent is just as sporting”.

“This is guaranteed. Just a couple more details to be worked out then, is this… match to the bitter end, or just until a wound satisfies honour?”, I nod at the word honour. “Very good, and should we expect both participants to come as they are?” Another nod as I realise that this could give a man with a large group of friends and financial backing some measure of an advantage against me, but going in without my own tricks would be the death of me.

“That’s everything I need to know, in which case I will wish you whatever fortune the Goods see fit to bestow upon you. Before I leave though, am I correct in placing you as part of the honourable Ser Skuza’s party”?

“That is true, it is his honour that I am defending. In the Velochi match”.

“Of course”, he replied with a smile, “The rumours are that he will swing tomorrow at the order of the courts, or be found in a pool of his own blood having taken his own way out. If such a thing is to occur, know that there will be a place for you, and those wagons contain just the kind of thing that can be easily removed and sold for a profit. Sterk is always looking for new friends. Be seeing you”.

And with that, he was winding his way back through the crowds. Sterk. The name I had been hearing on occasion for most of this journey. A mercenary captain who was looking to become City Champion to secure his position in the borderlands of the Margo Marrisi. Being tied to someone so important was something worth thinking about, but in a large company of mercenaries, I would surely be lost in the crowd.

My entire reason for leaving my home and striking out to the borderlands was to make a name for myself, not just make some money as a faceless soldier. Even the story men of Thorgrim were just men. I had defeated two of them in single combat, and left a third to report his shame to his master. I already knew that the only role I would be comfortable with in a free company was as a captain, but that didn’t interest me. Tonight I would find out how well placed I would be as a duelist though.

With Rembrandt away, and a mole tucked under Fjorlief’s arm, we set off for the fair. Everyone seemed in good spirits, with Drazar seemingly unable to keep his trap shut. Before long though he separated from us, probably hoping to avoid attention by going it alone and keeping an eye out on any of opponents’ friends who might decide to interfere.

The fair itself was a surprisingly simple affair. There was certainly plenty to do that would keep anyone entertained, but I had been expecting something much more gaudy fir a Pelosian city, even in the Profinerium. It was understated in its revelry, but everyone seemed to be enjoying themselves. The Hutzlunr especially, as she had a mole to wager on. She had spent some time before entering it into a competition, making sure it would win. I knew she could do the same for me, but wanted to win my fight on my own.

Her little pet did well though, and even coming out with a few scratches that required some attention, Fjorlief managed to win some money on the contest. It seemed that she wasn’t the only one in a betting mood that evening. My lack of funds stopped me from putting an money down on the odds of my own success, but a few of the others seemed very confident in my abilities. Looking back, I imagine Drazar wishes he hadn’t bet quite so much money though, and that’s taking into account the fact that I’m still alive to write this account of my younger days.

*     *     *

With all the other fun out of the way, we arrived at the Velochi pitch with time to spare. We even manage to catch a game in progress, but I was too busy getting ready. I could see my opponent, and he was surrounded by not only his usual cronies, but a few unfamiliar faces including someone laying on hands. Earth Power it was then, but there were limits to what that could do. With the power of Geomancy, I could alter the laws of physics themselves, so smiled to myself as everyone began drifting away to place bets of their own. Fjorlief took the time to at least wish me luck with an embracing hug. I felt buoyed by her support, and whispered in Pelo-Margo, “I dedicate this victory to you”.

Her cheeks had a certain blush to them as we parted smiling, and I was even more determined to give her a victory she deserved. Our names were being announced so I shed the last of my outer clothing that could be used against me. I had left my cloak behind, so shrugged off my over shirt and left my new hat on the ground and began to write a rune of sharpening on my Basaedo. Used correctly, it would allow me to cut deeper into the and through the hardest armour, and do massive damage to the flesh beneath.

Unlike most of my combat runes, it would last minutes rather than seconds, but took far too long to scribe to be useful in a surprise attack. As I approached the markings and listened to Rembrandt introduce us and lay out the rules, keeping up the pretense of a Velochi match all the way through, I brought Pelanore’s rune of befuddlement to mind, hoping to launch it quickly to give me the edge.

Before I knew it though, the Velochi ball was hurled through the air and struck the bell to signal the start of a match, and our duel. I was still thinking of the rune, distracted by the noise and was barely able to drop into a defensive stance before the windbag in front of me acted.

He quickly reached to the small of his back and withdrew a small long object. My heart stopped as for a moment I thought he had managed to get hold of a Spitzroden. I didn’t have long to think on the matter though, as sparks and flames were soon whipping towards me after the telltale flash of an inscribed room being broken. I dropped down and to the left, but wasn’t quite quick enough and took a blast of sparks against my chest.

My armour did its job though, taking the brunt of the brunt of the attack and allowing only a slight burning wound to open up. Nothing like a wound that would give Rembrandt the chance to call a pause to the proceedings and allow my opponent the chance to claim first blood. So, earth power and runes were at his disposal; I would like to say I didn’t have to be worried, but that would be a lie. I was committed though, so just did what I could and tried to ignore the fear in my gut.

Before he could surprise me again I loosed my own rune. I had done my best to stop it being quite as obvious as his flashy trick, and it struck well. His next step was sloppy, and when he tried to flick the wand around to ready another blast attack he almost dropped it, and even looked unsure if he was ready to strike at me again. It was a momentary distraction though, and I was soon the target of more sparks. This time I was ready for it, and his aim was definitely off.

I quickly stepped around him, moving lightly on the balls of my feet until I had closed the distance between us. I had no idea how many other tricks he had down the back of his trews, so went all out to inflict a crippling wound. I feinted right, but spun on my heel and struck high and hard, the point of my sharpened steel pushing through his cheek like it was fog. I felt the grating of metal against his teeth as the shape of my blade pushed his jaws open.

The tip of my Basaedo saw sunlight again as it pushed all the way through, tearing his tongue from its root. With another spin I had pulled away and withdrawn my sword. If he had survived the attack, I had left myself open, but it was certainly enough of a blooding for the bell to ring. And ring it did, but before the first echoes reached my ears my opponent’s head had lolled back on his shoulders and his knees buckled. The crowd gasped as he fell fully backwards, a final gush of blood as his heart beat its last.

I held my arms up and open to the applauding crowd and walked towards the fallen man. Rembrandt had approached to lift my right arm up in celebration, taking the time to sneak in his own congratulations. There was something more to be gained from this victory than honour and renown though. The man had fallen because of his threats and accusations against Skuza as he lay unconscious on the floor. His friends might still make trouble for us, so I had to negate them too. Seeing the Rarkscian fallen from his limp hand, I knew my opponent had one more use.

Leaning towards Rembrandt, I asked, “Is there a rule on who claims the spoils of victory? That is a very good looking knife.” I was not shocked to see a hint of a disapproval on his face, but he didn’t stop me as I bent to claim my prize. A good part of the crowd went suddenly silent, but soon began to murmur amongst themselves. I walked towards the crowd that had surrounded the mouthy git that had fallen beneath my blade, looking for whomever seemed to demand the most respect.

It was an older Dummonii that stood out, so I walked towards him with the curved knife in my off hand. “Your friend fought well, and he should be honoured. I will always remember him. But the reason we engaged in that fight still remains, and I wish to see it gone. He accused my employer with no evidence, and tried to kill him as he lay prone on the ground. He has answered for that, but I worry his friends will also seek their own… justice. I offer you the fallen man’s Rarkscian as a token of peace and goodwill, with the understanding that we shall hear no more of this from your people.”

He looked down at me from his place in the stands, like I was but a bar room brawler, but in my right hand I still held a wicked looking blade dripping with his friend’s blood. He turned to talk to his friends, and even mo knowledge of the Dummonii tongue did me no favours as they spoke so quietly and quickly. When he turned back around, he looked happier, but still determined. “It is not our way to fight as he did, but you fought well. Taking a Rarkscian is not something done lightly for our people”, at this he motioned his group, which included some very unhappy faces, “but returning it like you have is appreciated. So we will honour your request and cease our activities in regard to Skuza”.

It had worked. I had won a victory, and saved my employer from some small measure of inconvenience. I could only hope that Valerius had it in him to pass on my good deeds. Hell, i had made him some money, so that might help. It looked like everyone had done well out of my victory too, but Drazar seemed pissed about something. The silly bastard had tried to interfere in the fight after the first runic attack against me, and the druid on their side had struck back with some amount of force.

I had no sympathy for him though; all I had asked of him was to make sure no one else got involved, and he had gone against my wishes just to make some coin. If this was known by too many people it could do considerable harm to my reputation, so I just dismissed him with a wave of my hand as Rembrandt approached smiling. “My friend! Come, drink with us! We toast your impressive victory and drink until the sin comes up!”

It had been a long time since I allowed myself to get drunk, but the looks I was getting from Fjorlief convinced me to invite her along and spend the night enjoying myself without worrying about anything but the pleasure of spending time with a beautiful woman.

Feb 252014
 

“Geru! Bring my bag and a chair for Eduardo”, shouted Valerius as he walked out of the tent and saw me standing over the boss. The Gods damned Dummonii was still in my face, shouting to anyone that would listen that the unconscious man at my feet was a cold blooded murderer.

At the time, I had no clue as to what had happened inside the tent, but I would have bet my share of this venture plus my left testicle that Skuza would have passed out at even the thought of killing a man, let alone the fat bugger who was rapidly cooling on the side of the canvas. He was even more pale than usual, the sun practically passing straight through him as he lay there, eyes flickering behind the lids. But of course, none of this made any difference to the hothead determined to get past my defenses.

Every other breath he shifted his weight as if looking for me to fall for a feint and leave an opening for him to strike through. I would have loved to just leap forward and run the little prick through, but the Vigiles we closing in, and one dead body was enough to cause us all plenty of problems.

Luckily, as the most senior Numare present – and awake – Valerius was able to get them on side, and eventually convinced them to allow him to investigate the nature of the murder, if that was what it was, and use the results of his work to defend Ser Skuza from the charges.

I will admit to taking some small pleasure in letting the eventually roused Eduardo know that he was the one everyone suspected, but it was a fleeting happiness. With the exception of Valerius, the rest of us were so unimportant as not to matter, but were asked simply to not leave the city. Since I had no intention of going anywhere without being paid, this wasn’t a problem for me, but Caderyn was already keeping one eye on the horizon. Whatever his own reason for wanting to get into the city, it looked like getting paid for his work wasn’t the priority.

For now though, Skuza was to be placed under arrest. In my youth I would wake up often in gaol cells, hungover and smelling foul, devoid of coin and dignity. As it turned out, this was just one more thing that was different for those born to the right parents in Pelosia. All that was asked of him was to surrender his honour blade, and he was then placed under house arrest in a villa that would put a fine Raphelian hotel to shame.

I was still worried that the cocky little shit from earlier was around, haranguing the crowd and causing trouble, so decided to stay with the boss for as long as I could. With my shoulder under one armpit, and Valerius doing the duty at the other, we soon got him where he needed to be once more. Getting him to shut up was a whole other problem though. I did my best, if Valerius wasn’t going to get him to keep his trap shut, all i could do was gently suggest that he take his fellow Numare’s council, and speak only when requested, and only the topic at hand.

Whether or not that would make the slightest difference, only time would tell. I had other business to finish that day, and luckily we had managed to argue that we could retain our own possessions even with the haul from Skuza’s wagons kept until he was cleared of the charge against him. That meant I would have my shaving kit and some other essentials that I couldn’t afford to replace. When I got back to our group’s tent, almost everyone was still kicking around, cooling their heels. Vitus was nowhere to be seen though, and this was not good news.

He had been dealing with some matter of trade when Skuza had gone and gotten himself involved in matters of life and death, and had only been informed of his Master’s arrest whilst Valerius and I were walking Eduardo towards his incarceration. He had apparently gone looking for us, but we hadn’t crossed paths on our walk back. Who knew where he had gone, or when he’d return, but a voice raised in dissent was attracting my attention at that time.

Being a head taller than most I was able to see the prick that had tried his damnedest to do me and Skuza in earlier, and he was still trying to rally the troops against us. I walked straight over to him, moving through the crowd without disturbing anyone unnecessarily until I was stood yards from him. His friends were all nearby, but moved apart as I strode forwards. When I was a few feet away his moved down to his side, and as much as I wanted to kill him, this wasn’t the time.

“We have unfinished business you and I”, says I, staring him down. The bugger was keen, I’ll give him that, and looked ready to draw steel then and there. “Don’t be a fucking moron! The Vigiles are already on high alert, and are stood in sight of us. No, we can wait, me and you can go walking in the moonlight this evening”.

“Actually, I like girls”, he says to some nervous laughter from his cronies.

“Not. My. Intention. I don’t know this city, but I’m sure there’s somewhere we can go and sort out this little disagreement, just the two of us.”

“Yeah, I know a place. Somewhere that your lot use”, and as he said this he nodded to the orange sash across my chest, “We’ll be left alone there. What time?”

“A turning before midnight. It’ll be plenty dark and less chance of anyone interrupting. Come alone”, I finished as I turned and walked away.

*     *     *

When I got back, there was still no sign of Vitus, and Valerius was off investigating. I’m sure he knew his job, but I certainly didn’t and as such took very little interest in it. I had a good few hours before my appointment, so set about planning a few things. The rules of gentlemanly combat are very strict, but since I was no gentleman, and my opponent even less of one, I fully expected him to  break the rules, and needed to plan according to these expectations.

Drazar had more than once thanked me for saving his life, or at least doing anything I could to make it easier for him to survive. I felt a little bad roping him into this endeavor, as it was purely personal, but he had some skills that wold be damned useful. As everyone else was sat relaxing, I took him to one side and brought him up to speed on my evening’s plan. He didn’t seem that bothered, but once I informed him that our slate would be wiped clear if he could tag along out of sight, he took more of an interest.

I made sure he knew that I was expecting the Dummonii to be bringing friends, and that was all I was concerned about. I had some runic tricks left up my sleeve, plus the time to implant a couple more before our meeting, and that meant I was confident I could kill the arsehole. If he turned up with half a dozen men who were less than honourable, I doubted I would live to see the sunrise. The half blood nodded as I asked him to help, just enough to keep an eye on what was going on and dissuade any hangers-on from joining the fray.

With one contingency plan in place, I set about a second. Fjorlief was sat with the rest of us, looking bored and ill at ease. I motioned that I would like a private word and would be willing to provide beer to sweeten the deal. So of course the Hutzlunr was happy to tag along. Before I jumped straight in though, I thought it best to find out what was troubling her. I don’t pretend to understand the workings of prophecy, but she was apparently concerned about one that had been with her since her youth.

On our way to Tuthom-Pothrie we had heard about a competition for city champion that had attracted the attention of some mercenary captains trying to secure a position in the borderlands that would give them power through the winter too. Hell, it attracted my attention too, and I was still a young man then to be thinking such lofty thoughts. The rest of the details were beyond me, but had her terrified of what the future held.

As far as I was concerned, there was nothing to my future worth worrying about other than the night I had planned and getting paid as soon as I could. With that in mind, I made sure Fjorlief had a beer in hand before asking if she was free this evening. She looked me dead in the eye and for the first time I thought she got a hint of what I thought about her, and what I would much rather be doing with her on a cool clear night. I just smiled and let her know about my moonlit rendezvous and how much I would appreciate her being close by while I dealt with the talkative fuck who had so pissed me off earlier while trying to kill Skuza. Before we had gotten pain no less.

She smiled and nodded at that, but didn’t seem sure just how much help she could be. I did my best to reassure her about her talents, and how much I would be relying on her to see me through the darkness. Luckily, I think she needed a distraction, so agreed to join me. With one more drink in her hand I left her to rejoin everyone else while I made use of the merchants that were already present and able to sell their goods due to having the good fortune of managing to avoid being arrested for murder.

Within ten minutes I was happily sporting a fine felt hat with a tall red feather, and wandered back over to my friends. Caderyn was still sat where I had left him, and that surprised me. Dropping down next to him, and offering the goblet I had barely sipped from, I asked him why he was still with us. He seemed like he was itching to make a move, but was staying put. “I have business elsewhere, but with the attention from the Vigiles, I daren’t make a move”. I could understand his reticence to attract attention, but where he needed to go was still within the city limits.

True enough, he would struggle to get where he needed to be without a Numare tagging along or a whole boat load of coin for bribing any officials he met on the way. There was little I could do to help though, other than assure him that come the night, there would be some attention on me rather than him. Luckily, he got my meaning, and was even able to tell me where I needed to be come the hour.

I lost some time after that, as concentrating on my runes costs me almost all of my ability to pay attention to my surroundings. When I looked up next, the Dummonii was nowhere to be seen, and I could only assume that he had tried his luck to rejoin his friends and family. Vitus was still noticeably absent, and I was beginning to worry about our wayward caravan master.

Valerius was off too, but he had been away for most of the day thus far, working the case to get Skuza off from the murder charge. We did have some extra company though. One of Fjorlief’s people had joined us, and she was a sight. Young and slight, shorter than most girls of her country, but still taller than damned near every Pelosian she walked past. Her hair was long and fair, and it took me a moment to realise that although the two Hutzlunrs were friends, Fjorlief wasn’t exactly pleased to see her.

Still, she went back to join the new arrival’s family leaving just a few of us in our master’s tent waiting for news, or in my case, for combat.

Feb 172014
 

The bath I enjoyed that evening was possibly the finest experience of my whole time at the Margo Marissi, and I had a lovely shave to follow that made my head look considerably more civilised. I might add that the shaving was performed by a delightfully nubile and pretty thing dressed in what was almost a red gown. I’m sure I’m not the only one to have heard the rumours of the sapphic delights on offer to those well placed within the Mazzerine order. I could have spent a damned sight longer in private contemplation, imagining such an event from every conceivable angle, but I had dinner with an old priest that I simply could not avoid.

Dried, powdered, and slightly distracted, I made my my towards the dining area, and by all the gods, these priests and monks spared no expense in making sure everyone knew they were chosen of Pelo his holy self. In the waiting area alone was an eight foot tall harp, that was playing itself! Such a mechanical wonder of science had to be seen to be believed, and since none of you were there – unless Valerius is reading this, correcting my grammar and tutting because he thinks he’s taller – there really is no point in going into detail. In fact, I think it best if I sum up all the events of the evening succinctly; describing the taste of food that you I ate decades ago seems like a waste of all of our times.

The broad strokes then: Fjorlief seemed to be doing her best to offend our host, but was also oblivious to everything she was doing. At one point, she actually leaned forward and took some food from the Patriarch’s plate, smiling as she did so, as if it was the most normal thing in the world. I was trying to mask my own experience of fine dining, doing my best to look ignorant of the uses for half the cutlery sat in front of me. Luckily, that left the other half that I was genuinely clueless about. I decided to play it safe and stick to a simple three tined fork, using it for everything and avoiding the soup.

Thankfully the Pelosians seem to have developed a culinary habit that means all of their food arrives at the table in mouth sized chunks, so I was able to just wipe the fork off between courses, and carry on regardless.

More impressive than the Hutzlunr’s lack of good graces, was Caderyn’s self control. He got the through the whole meal without leaping across the table and stabbing the Patriarch with his own fork. In his defense, I think the Pater was doing his best to appeal for a reasoned debate on the way forward for both sides in the conflict, but he never quite managed to do so without sounding like a condescending arsehole.

It’s difficult to see the conflict from either side without both of them looking pretty awful. Atrocities have been committed on both sides, and just because the partisans hid behind the story of defending their homeland didn’t make the way they treated the citizens of the Margo Marissi any easier to stomach. And here was a man thinking about how to end the war, but never about leaving these people in peace; blaming the continuation of war on sin and the rapaciousness of mercenaries, without ever stopping to think about how the conditions in which they thrive had been created along the bloody border.

He left well enough alone when he realised that he wasn’t getting anywhere with Caderyn, and turned the conversation onto the slightly more palatable topic of the conditions of our voyage. Here I was happy to turn to Valerius, he had spent more time in the region and could talk from experience of past years. I had barely been there a week, so just enjoyed the food and the spectacle of Fjorlief eating it.

My ears pricked up at the mention of that Hutzlunr bastard Thorgrim the Difficult though. I was happy to interrupt then, going on at great length about killing one of his named men in single combat before finding and sparing the second. I may have embellished somewhat during that tale, making out that Caderyn had pretty much single-handedly left the hatchet wielding maniac barely able to stand, but the poor guy wasn’t having the best of time and I thought that making him look good may have cheered him up. Sadly, looking back, I’m fairly sure that I was speaking in Pelosian to the Patriarch, and he would have missed pretty much everything. Ah well, he may not have wanted to admit it, but when he was speaking, an occasional word of Pelosian was sneaking into his patois.

It was an odd thing to see happen, and it’s only really when looking back that it seemed obvious at all. At the time, we were just adjusting to conversations taking place in several tongues, where a word was difficult to translate into another language. I saw an occasional smile when talking about the third story man, that Valerius had decided to spare seconds before my blade slit his gullet open, so he must have been able to at least pick up a choice rude word or too.

The rest of the meal was small talk and little else; I did manage to get a good word in for the supposed Bajo out in the cells, but after letting the Patriarch know everything that had happened, I decided on honesty as my best course, letting the priest know that it was highly likely the old fellow was a conman and thief, but if he was also a Bajo, I was duty bound to speak in his defense. Said speech lasted roughly 17 seconds and was delivered with a purposefully blank expression. Come the morning, I was able to tell the old chap that I had done everything in my power, and that he would surely soon be free. The poor sod looked grateful at that.

That was the morning though, and we had still had dessert to look forward to. It was brought in by half a dozen each the equal of my hairdresser in terms of loveliness and how revealing their outfits were. It was all I could do to look on without my pleasure being made obvious, but the Pelosians at the table were obviously not used to such sights. Valerius simply appeared slightly shocked, but poor Skuza looked ready for a fainting spell and was nervously adjusting himself beneath the table.

The hour was late by then, and the decision was made to spend the night in relative comfort, something I was greatly in favour of. Some of the others though chose to return to the wagons and continue roughing it. I wasn’t too sure if this was supposed to send a message to our host, or just because they preferred sleeping under stars? I cared about neither, so slept soundly on a comfortable bed with soft, fresh sheets. The only thing missing was one of our servers, but one very rarely gets everything they desire.

*     *     *

The next morning I was a little late rejoining my companions – earlier than Skuza, but that should surprise none of you by now – and it seemed I had missed some excitement in the night. A nocturnal visitor for Drazar had people a bit flustered, and it is only with hindsight that so much of the day’s strangeness now later made sense. As far I was concerned though, we were just making ready to set off, and I had spoken to my incarcerated brother, leaving him feeling decidedly positive.

We were soon on our way with little to stop is though, strapping my Basaedo back onto my left hip where it belongs. There was only a few hours of journey left to us, and we were in civilised lands, so I took grabbed hold of some ropes and let the hormorn do the hard work of covering the remaining distance for me, whistling a little as we went.

The city soon loomed up ahead of us. Tuthom-Pothrie was huge for a border city, and like all Pelosian settlements, split into two distinct areas. Regardless of our employer’s status, we would be entering through the profinarium as we had goods to sell. The man who would be dealing with the sale was a Margo man, with close ties to both sides in this conflict. When we finally made it through the final checkpoints, he greeted Skuza like an old and dear friend. And by that I mean there was a hell of a lot of piss taking and bluffing, but the boss took it in good humour. Well, either that or he was massively oblivious to what the big fellow was saying about him. And he was a big lad.

Looked tall as hell, but a lot of that was down to his bearing. He looked almost as wide too, so I doubt he was ever one to miss a meal. There was a whole bunch of merchant talk going on, and I was about as interested in that as I was in Drazar’s blistered cock, so most of us took a few minutes to ourselves. What was occupying my thoughts were slightly more worrying. I had made a bloody dangerous journey, with some decidedly unhinged individuals, for a man who attracted trouble, all for the chance to follow a woman I had fallen in love in.

And there I was, stood inside Tuthom-Pothrie with no way of finding her and, what was more troubling, no real desire to. I would have been hard pushed to describe her in detail to any citizens I met who would be willing to offer help. The face swimming in front of my mind’s eye was one made much more familiar by its recent proximity. I had come to this city to find my love, and stumbled into a different one on the way, with a formidable woman able to swing a two handed sword with ease. And I’d seen her do so while not wearing a stitch; what was there not to love? I needed something to take my mind of the subject, and it was too early to start drinking.

As it turned out, the subject of the Daemon’s prong was soon brought to light. His night time visitor was the young slip of a girl we had managed to rescue from the well, and Drazar looked like he was wanting to prolong the intimacy. Of course, there was a hell of a lot more going on than that, but at the time, I just fancied a bit of fun. I knew Fjorlief had taken the wee thing under her protection and that was definitely in factor in what came out of my mouth as I watched near enough corner the poor girl to talk.

I laid it on nice and thick, giving anyone who could hear the idea that we was trying to buy her company for an evening, and that she would certainly have better taste. I think he had wanted their conversation to take place in private, and when he heard my voice, looked over, as shocked as it’s possible to be while wearing a mask. The shock may have been down to the fact that I wasn’t alone, and soon had Caderyn and Brand joining in, with the women just looking on and laughing. I’m sure we’ll get back to what ever the hell was going on with those two eventually, but as were heckling his bedroom performance, a shout of “Murder!” came from down the hill.

Skuza had gone of to negotiate, with a warning from Valerius that no money was to change hands, and no final price was to be agreed on without his presence, but was now running back towards us whiter than usual and screaming the word over and over. I struggled to my feet, but rushing anywhere from a sitting position with near to four foot of metal strapped to your hip is never going to work the way you want it to.

I arrived to see Brand – who could move like lightening on a promise when he wanted to – and Valerius already moving into the  tent that contained the corpse. I couldn’t see the body as I ran towards Skuza, who had gone into a dead faint and was laying in the dirt, but the men rushing towards us looked very much like friends of our portly middleman that the boss had just gone to see.

There was a whole lot of clamoring going on, with people calling for heads and justice, and folks running all over the damned place. What I spotted though was the people rushing towards my fallen employer. Fuck that for a game of legionnaires thinks I, and put myself in their way. By the time they had arrived, I was stood above him, and had cast my prismatic rune to baffle anyone who tried to swing at me. Although it was focused on me, I had to hope anyone looking at Skuza might be disoriented a little too.

As they closed up, one of the fuckers was determined to take justice into his own hands. I had no idea what had happened inside that tent, but if Skuza died, I wasn’t going to get paid. If I killed this bastard though, I could end up swinging myself. I dropped down low and readied for his swing. It came in quick but I instantly knew he had been taken in by the rune, so moved myself just a fraction to the right and flicked his sword away with my dagger.

I almost missed my parry though, as in the heat of the moment had forgotten that I also suffered the effects of the twisted light. I would get used to it in time, but luckily wasn’t to be tested much more that day, as our still conscious Numare shouted for calm, and for the provosts to be called. With some of the crowd already parting for the authorities to get on the scene, weapons were being lowered, and an air of calm hostility descended.

I still had Skuza on the ground though, and some sore looking prick who didn’t seem ready to let this go just yet, so I kept my Basaedo pointed at his heart, and never met my eyes break from his.

Feb 052014
 

When I was a young(er) man, I came across a movie with a title that resonated with me. That movie was Mutant Chronicles, and although my thoughts on that film are less than congratulatory, I actually watched it a couple of times because I really liked the post apocalyptic setting. I later found out from friends down at my local gaming society that it was based on game, and so tried to get hold of a copy. Sadly, it proved pretty damned hard to do, with a new copy being almost impossible to lay my hands on – at least in my part of the world – and the friends I knew with their own copies weren’t keen to part with them.

And so I gave up my quest and hadn’t thought about the game for years. Until a couple of days back, when I got a message from the lovely people who sent me a review copy of an Achtung! Cthulhu module a while back informing me that they were relaunching the game with tighter cinematic rules and were also working on bringing the whole setting in line with their new system. I can’t wait to take a look at this one, not least because of how long I’ve been waiting to get my hands on a copy, as the previous work this company has put out has been tremendous! For now though, I think I might just go and hunt down an old DVD.

At the time of writing, the Kickstarter has already funded so if you want to join in, it’s just about how much you want to get for your money and hitting some stretch goals. Head on over and check it out, but if you want a bit more information, the following comes direct from Modiphius.

 

The team that brought you Achtung! Cthulhu are unleashing the Dark Legion again with brand new content & cinematic rules. The Mutant Chronicles Kickstarter is a re-boot of the amazing 90′s techno-fantasy roleplaying game under license from Paradox Entertainment

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/modiphius/mutant-chronicles-3rd-ed-rpg

Modiphius have already funded the core book in gorgeous full colour hardcover, adding a Player’s Guide softback and are well on their way to a long series of stretch goals. Modiphius has re-designed the rules with a new d20 / roll under eight attribute based cinematic system, playtested with over 400 groups. They plan a re-write of the setting guides and supplements to include brand new material alongside the existing storyline. Supporters can expect the usual high quality production values seen in Modiphius’ Achtung! Cthulhu project.

Awesome new art will reveal never before seen parts of the Mutant Chronicles universe alongside the existing fantastic images by Paul Bonner, Peter Bergting and Paolo Parente. There will be huge campaigns, fantastic accessories and miniatures produced in conjunction with Prodos Games (who successfully re-launched the Warzone miniatures game) specifically for the roleplaying game. See below for more information on the world of Mutant Chronicles and new plans for the game.

Mutant Chronicles was one of the bigger names in gaming in the 1990′s with the Doom Trooper collectible card game translated in to 16 languages, three boardgames, two video games, the massive Warzone miniatures game and the Mutant Chronicles 1st and 2nd Edition roleplaying games with more recently a Hollywood movie, Fantasy Flight Games pre-painted miniature game and last year the reboot of Warzone by Prodos Games. The Mutant Chronicles story took you on this full throttle dieselpunk sci-fi ride through a solar system beset by corporate intrigue and the invasion of a terrible dark alien force. With technology failing due to the insidious effects of the Dark Symmetry humankind must fight back against the Dark Legion hordes whilst dealing with in-fighting and conspiracy from within.

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/modiphius/mutant-chronicles-3rd-ed-rpg

Feb 032014
 

I stayed on my feet for maybe an hour, thinking it best to stay awake throughout the night, rather than risk missing Skuza if he needed to exit the city in a hurry. It had been a clear, hot day, and was followed by a night cold enough to leave my breathe hanging in front of my face as I stalked around the vagrant camp sites. Even in the dead of night, there were people up and about, but all were eying me suspiciously. They were poor and destitute, and I was wearing what to my mind was simple cloak, but would have cost them a month’s earnings to buy for themselves.

With greedy eyes on me, and suspicious gazes following my every move, I decided that discretion was the best course and moved further from the camps and their followers. Moving away came with its own troubles though, as I had no light source of my own, and wouldn’t have risked lighting one if I had. The darkness was only broken by the soft glow provided by Majhbé, but even on a night as clear as that one I needed to tread carefully to avoid catching a foot on broken rocks and roots as I walked further through the treeline away from prying eyes.

Luckily the darkness was also in my favour when it came to finding somewhere out of the way, and a moment or two later I had found a tree that would do the job of a chair back, and wrapped my cloak about myself to keep the cold out as much as possible. When I left my home I was lucky enough to be wearing a fine leather hat with a red feather in its band. I had liked that hat, but at some point on the way it had gone. Maybe I had gambled it away, lost it in a river or traded it for a loaf of bread. All I could remember was as I tried to get comfortable on the cold damp earth, I really missed that hat.

I must have managed some sleep that night, but I was only sure of the fact because I was woken with a start before the sun had yet risen fully. The heavy doors had clanged open to allow the Praetor Mori to ride out as part of their daily ritual. I don’t know if it’s to scare the common folk away from the doors to begin the day, or just to show off their fine coloured livery, but neither would surprise me. I stood and stretched, watching the spectacle with interest as robed priests walked out behind the mounted troops, swinging smoking braziers about themselves to ward off Daemonic powers. Or the smell of the poor. Again, it could have been either, but at least they weren’t actively striking the destitute as they moved about.

There was still many hours to go before we were expected to meet up by the statues, and I had no idea what was happening inside the city so decided to occupy my mind elsewhere rather than worry about things over which I had no control. Looking around, there was already a bunch of traders setting up so I set about finding something to keep me going until our rendezvous.

In case any of my dear readers are curious about what happened back then, a couple of years back, when I first thought to write this story down, I did some research into the events of that day within the city. A young lawyer named Picissi had taken Skuza’s case, a man with a reputation for doing whatever was needed for his clients. The court records were decidedly better managed than they would be in my own fair city, but in a case as insignificant as this, there was little of use to be gleamed.

Something about mistaken identity, and a debt that needed paying, along with a servile who had vanished. There was no final note though, and it seemed that Valerius got through just about enough of the trial to placate the bankers and then gotten everyone the hell out of the city. I can only smile to think of the show Skuza must have put on. He saw himself as a man of honour, but would have been secretly happy to be rescued before he was sent to gaol, whether he deserved to be there or not.

As for myself that morning, my time was spent trying to digest possibly the worst breakfast I have ever tried to eat, wondering what had become of my employer, and whether or not I would get back to the wagons to find Caderyn standing over the corpses of Vitus and Catranasia, claiming all the goods were his. So much for distracting myself, but what worried me most though was the food and drink. Everything else could be dealt with in time, but by the Gods that breakfast had me fearing for my life.

*     *     *

Hours passed but I dared not partake of any other food in that hellish place. Before long the sun was high in the sky and my cloak was an almost suffocating weight as not a cloud passed overhead to offer shade. All morning, traffic continued in and out of the city, but it wasn’t until late in the morning when I caught a glimpse of Eduardo. Sad to say, the moment could have been better timed as I was stood against a wall, weapon in hand relieving myself and almost missed his hammering past at speed, the tethers pulling his wagon going hell for leather out of the gates. “Skuza”, I yelled desperately retying the front of my trews, “Ser Eduardo Skuza! Halt and let me aboard!”

Thankfully someone on board was able to hear me over the thunder of hooved feet on hard packed earth, and the wagon began to slow. What with time being short, I didn’t give it the chance to stop entirely, and jumped aboard as soon as it drew level. The driver must have been told how important it was that we reach our destination in time, and was soon whipping the beasts back into a frenzy and I was struggling to keep hold as we pounded away from the city.

The sun was almost at its peak as we moved, and Valerius was grim faced but seemed strangely content. Skuza had a strange look of pride about his face, so all I could imagine at the time was that they had gotten the result in court they wished for. The way his man was whipping the tethers into a frenzy made me smile though, we were going fast enough that we might just make it to the our meeting with the others before they took off with the goods and were never seen again.

In that matter I was correct, and the Gods favoured us with an even road and no unexpected delays, meaning that less than half a turning a later we saw the statues and our wagons arranged next to them, with our companions looking like they were just getting ready to set off. I jumped down from the wagon and managed to land almost gracefully after hanging on for dear life the entire journey. It was Caderyn with whom I first made eye contact, and he nodded to me with a smile.

It was safe to say that out of the entire group he was the one I was most surprised to see still there, but also the one I was most grateful to see. Everyone had their own reasons to have signed up with Skuza, but as far as I was aware, the Dummonii had motives closest to my own; get out into the world and have fun, making a reputation and money while we were at it. When I finish our story of my time as part of Skuza’s retinue, maybe I’ll let you all know what happened to the armour and mace that we had hidden around the country. “Didn’t get a better offer then”, I asked him with a smile.

He shook his head in response to that, along with a smile that had a bit of an edge to it, almost saying that it would only be a matter of time until that better offer was on the table, but for now we were still on the same side. “Thanks”, says I genuinely grateful that we hadn’t returned to empty wagons and bloodied corpses. Everyone was all ready for the road though, so we jumped to help, and took up our positions again ready for the rest of the day. Valerius took the time to walk around us all, making sure we were given a share of the money made thus far, including what had been left with Catranasia in case we had needed to bribe our way past any additional guards.

It came in at thirty Dituri each, and more than made up for the money wasted on rooms that not one of us had spent the night in. I think that after a tense night with no one knowing exactly what the afternoon would bring, this was enough to cheer everyone up. I tried once more to help Drazar out with his Raphelian, but for the most part was happy to walk and eat, having missed anything that could reasonably be called breakfast.

Most of the rest of the day passed uneventfully, with the standard road side attractions of trees, grass and the occasional corpse. The river meandered to and fro from us as we followed the road, and on occasion we spotted a few things that were out of the  ordinary. Skulls for the most part, but not attached to any bodies and decorated with painted patterns. When we saw a collection of them at a turn in the river, we decided it best to halt a moment in case there was something otherworldly about them. Caderyn was quick to usher us onwards though, with talk of a white ghost of vengeance that we should fearful of.

The grizzly trophies were apparently there to summon this spirit by a person or group that had been done wrong. The way they were arranged though made it look as if the people who had put them here was mad at the river itself. Looking about and around, what struck me as strange was that this place didn’t look like it was inhabited by Dummonii at all, but more like it was home to folk of the Margo Marissi. True the blood lines were all kind of mixed up round those parts, but the way our own Dummonii was urging us to move on without disturbing the offering made me think that this was some pretty powerful stuff.

He was very damned insistent though, so move on we did, covering a good few more miles before the sun began to dip towards the horizon. Ahead of us was another settlement, and from the distance it looked like a fairly sizable walled township. All we could do was hope that is was friendly, or at the very least, indifferent to us. It was our best chance of a safe night’s sleep though, and on this side of the river, the odds were in our favour that we wouldn’t be peppered with arrows as soon as we were within range.

Moving forward at the pace of the hormorn, we were some ways off when we were spotted. Luckily there was no rain of arrows, but rather an impressive sounding horn that must have been blown to alert everyone within that they were expecting guests. Moving on foot out of the large and sturdy wooden doors came about a dozen armed men. Although only a fraction of them looked like they could handle the weapons they were carrying, there were enough of them – plus archers on the walls – to give us all reason to pause and hear what they had to say. Although clearly expecting trouble, it didn’t look they were about to cause any with provocation.

Valerius – seemingly our spokesman in all matters not emphatically related to Partisan activities – was already at our front, and trying to arrange for us a safe place to spend the night. His verbal sparring partner in this matter was a small and frail old fella who had more than a look of Pelosia about him. His clothes had more in common with those seen on the folk of the Margo Marissi, but for my money, he looked like a true born Pelosian that had gone native. I’m not sure everyone picked up on it, but the accent was a dead bloody giveaway if you were blind to everything else.

It also seemed like since going native, he had lost all love for his countrymen of old. Valerius was having a hell of a time trying to get in, as the old chap seemed convinced that we were all rapists and murders, come from Pelosia’s borders to destroy everything in our wake. We did try to reason with him that since there was only a handful of Pelosians in our group, we posed no threat, and were in fact just looking for a place to spend the night.

Our various countries of origin didn’t do much to calm him down, and he was soon accusing us all of having laid waste to the land, killing countless hundreds of innocent dwellers of the Margo. “But, I’ve only been here a week”, I interrupt, which gets a chuckle from my lot, and a dry smile from the elder. Sadly it wasn’t enough for him to relent and order the doors open though. Adding that I’d try harder brought back his cold stony look and he admonished me for talking too much. I had no reasonable argument to offer such a claim, so instead asked him why would not be allowed entrance.

“If you come into our town, you come in without weapons, and that includes whatever’s in the wagons”. Well, that was enough for me. He looked like a harmless old coot, but there was no way any of us would feel safe without any means to protect ourselves. The sun was kissing the horizon by that point, so trying to find our way around in the dark would have been foolishness bordering on suicidal.

Our scout wanted to know if he was able to explore around the walls during the night, to try and find the safest route come the morning. The old bugger wasn’t happy with even that though, and made threats of arrows loosed into the dark if they were to see anyone sneaking around in the dark. Caderyn’s bravery had always come pretty close to stupidity – another reason I liked him, if I’m being honest – and he once again was pushing his luck, saying that he would be able to move without detection. While I thought it a likely claim, I did not see it as a certainty, and told him that. Anyway, there were other ways to find a safer route, so I called out to their spokesman, “Tell me old man, come the morning, which way round would you offer us? And be truthful now, for it seems like it’s in your best interest to get us moving on quickly and with as little disruption as possible to your fields as we poke around looking for a favourable route.”

He weighed this up before answering, “Go west come the morning, and be quick about it”, he grumbled, seeing the sense in my question but bitter enough that he still resented offering us any sodding assistance. I was happy though, and it seemed enough to keep Caderyn from wandering too far through the night. I wasn’t done yet though, and the morning’s lack of sustenance still weighed lightly on my stomach.

“You have food and drink within? If you’re going to make some friendly travelers sit outside alone all night, then the least you could do is provide us with a meal. We will of course pay for it all, and looking at the quality of the clothing on show, I imagine you could do with the coin in this town”. If he hadn’t been such an annoying prick I wouldn’t have made the pointless insult, but it was near full dark and I was in no mood for sweet talking the old bloody fool.

It looked like I was correct though, and he nodded before turning on his heel and stalking back to the heavy doors which were already swinging open to allow the men back inside. As we set about putting a camp together – far enough away to avoid any night time exchanges of arrows – a small group came forth with trays and a small firkin of beer for the evening. Sad to say, the young chap carrying it didn’t seem to be struggling under the weight, and when it was laid down and tapped, proved to be barely half full. Not that I would have had much to drink, a full night’s sleep was much more my speed that evening, but I’m sure between us we could have emptied one had it been brought to us full to bursting.

All in all, it wasn’t a bad night though, and we awoke after a decent bit of sleep having felt reasonably safe so close to the town walls. We left behind the detritus of the night’s meal and were up and about as soon as was possible. By choosing to not give up our weapons, we would were adding at least an hour or two to our journey, even if the western route was in fact the quickest. The undergrowth was thick, and the going slow, but eventually we made it through and out the other side.

The day had already turned hot by the time we were free of the shade and before long we were all sticky and sweating, taking every opportunity to drench ourselves when the road came close enough to the river. Ahead was a sight to chill the spine though. Even after a week in the Margo the sight of corpses hanging from their necks was something I hadn’t gotten used to. There were six of them, mostly Hutzlunrs – as I had come to expect, being mercenary buggers like myself – but also a Bajo hanging there too.

There wasn’t another living soul in sight, and we were close enough to the river that everyone was happy to take a break and cool down while I lowered my countryman’s corpse to the ground, taking his orange sash from him before dragging the body down to the river, making sure the flow was moving back the way we came and dropping it in. I wasn’t the only one who wanted to make sure that these bodies were treated with respect, and as I turned from the river, I saw Fjorlief dragging a Hutzlunr towards me. I nodded to her, and proceeded to help until all the corpses were taken care of.

It was far from a pleasant job, but doing it made me feel good, like I had helped those poor souls move on to a reward they deserved, or at least deserved more than becoming food for a corbie. And hell, doing a favour for a strapping young lady that I would love to see naked again was bound to pay off eventually.

*     *     *

That was the first of several encounters on the road that day. Next we were unlucky enough to come across yet more decorated skulls and pleadings to the same spirit of revenge that we had encountered previously. This time though, we also managed to find someone who might be able to give us some answers as to what the hell was going on with them. Sad to say the heat and my own disinterest was enough for me to quickly lose the thread of the conversation between Caderyn and the Margo dweller we had found. This one was far more of Dummonii than Pelosian, and from what little I can remember, there was something afoot that  had taken the lives of several people. The skulls were there to call vengeance down upon, well, whatever the hell it was. As I said, I was too damned hot to concentrate on some villagers superstitious nonsense.

Caderyn seemed to take it seriously though, and was quick to move on, checking over his shoulder a little more than I would have expected. Still, we had already seen one creature that claimed to be a spirit of his people, and it had tried to kill every last one of us if we refused to give up our shadows to it.

I can’t say I wasn’t happy to put some distance between us and the markers, but not too far ahead was yet another hanging man. This time he was still alive, but I doubt he lasted long after we passed him by. A criminal of some sort, wearing robes of the Zammerite with a slate plaque hanging around his neck. The Pelosians seemed to be able to make out what was written, but offered little in the way of explanation, simply moving on quickly.

He didn’t spend that much longer on my mind though, as trouble came from nowhere not long after we left him hanging in his cage. We walked once more past statues at the side of the road when we slowed a little, someone had seen something unusual, but before we could do much about it, a smoke bomb flew towards us, exploding and covering us in a thick white gas. I was quickly enveloped and could see nothing of anyone else, but could hear movement from all around.

Rather than wait for another attack, I opened up a squall to blow the smoke away from me, knowing it would give me a few seconds to determine the threat. There were several figures moving just outside of the cloud, which at first glance I took to be woodland spirits; some kind of human animal hybrids maybe? No matter what they were, they had more bombs in hand, along with more conventional weapons too. I could here our people preparing for another attack, and female voices trying to get our hormorn to move on before we were overwhelmed, but to no avail.

They assured me later that no Earth Power was in play, keeping the beasts from moving, but at the time it was all I could think of. If we weren’t going to walk clear of the cloud, then I was happy to take the fight to our ambushers. I could see a small gathering of them through the gap my squall had made, so decided to try out my new rune, casting it onto myself and watching as the world twisted around me.

I had only a second or two left to make my way out of the smoke, and could see Valerius loosing arrows into our enemies from his vantage point atop a wagon. I took my opportunity and charged towards them, jumping down from the road and managing to land safely in spite of my twisted vision. I got close enough to swing my Basaedo in, slashing across the chest of a creature that looked like a big cat had done something unspeakable to a woman, but it wasn’t enough to put it down.

They moved away from me, looking confusedly at me, or at least, where they thought I was. They seemed to get an idea though, or were just lucky as all hell, as three of them hurled bombs in my direction, two of them striking and bursting into flame. I looked down to see the material of my trews catch on fire and my chest begin to smolder. It wasn’t enough to stop me though, and as two others rushed in hoping to finish me off, I easily turned their attacks aside, one with my dagger, the second with my sword.

Luck had nothing to do with it, but I had managed to survive their attacks nonetheless. Sadly, I would very much need all the luck good Fortune had to spare as I squared off against them, burning and surrounded.

Jan 202014
 

I stood in the failing light with my hand pressing against my most recent of wounds. The pain was sharp but not unbearable, and I was thankful once more for the simplest of runes I had at my disposal. We still had some light to see by, did the three of us, and details that had faded from attention as the fight remained in sharp focus were starting to become clear. Broken bottles and damaged household ornamentation littered the ground along with more corpses. Dead bodies seemed to be an almost permanent part of my life back then, and I set about dragging them away from the open ground inside the ranch.

Every step I took sent another spike of pain from my leg up my spine and set off a flash behind my eyes, but the work needed doing. Brand seemed to have vanished once more, scouting the area for other threats no doubt, and Valerius was rushing to the aid of his countryman, dressed in the raiment of the priesthood. And a toma it seemed. The partisans and their servile lackeys looked to have had their fun by torturing the poor dumb creature as well as the priest. The animal was swiftly put beyond pain, with a dozen or so arrows still buried in its flesh.

The priest was doing much better, but I left Valerius to the God botherer. I’d had enough of such things from Skuza, and could only imagine how much more intense the priest would be in his desire to see us all on the true path.

As I was stacking the bodies away from where we would be sleeping, the others made their way into the ranch, looking about them, checking for dangers not yet neutralised. I nodded and smiled as they led the wagons in, overhearing Skuza admonishing his faithful caravan master for not rushing sooner to our aid. I can’t blame Vitus for keeping the Numare as far away from danger as possible, but it was heartening to see Skuza willing to lend a hand to his traveling companions. I didn’t fear so much for our employer – Vitus would have done everything in his power to keep him safe from harm – but well meaning amateurism can be downright lethal to everyone when employed in sword play, no matter whose side one was on.

Drazar was amongst them and he made eye contact, his deep blue eyes flickering in the reflected light of the fires even behind his damnable mask. In a few moments he was beside me, “You’re hurt my friend. There is little I can do today, not after the previous excitement, but I can at least reduce the severity of your wound”. With that he stepped closer and put a hand on my arm, his fingers cold enough for me to notice through thick leather, but a strange and comforting warmth spread from these digits and through my body.

It seemed to do enough to restore my humours to something close to where they belonged, but physically I can’t see that anyone looking would have noticed much of a difference. Caderyn in fact was looking me over as I stood, feeling the strangest tingle from the half Daemon’s grasp, and he didn’t seem impressed. I can only imagine how pale I must have looked after loosing a fair bit of blood and having no chance for a rest all day. “Kantrel”, says he, “I can take care of this, sit yourself down”.

Ever the proud one I tried to argue my case, after everything that we’d been through I didn’t want anyone to think that I wasn’t willing to put in with everyone else on the unpleasant task of cleaning up, especially considering the kicking that he’d taken at the hands of the Corbie and not asked for a rest. I had barely gotten the first three words clear before I was interrupted, “You look fuckin’ terrible, There’s not much left to be done, and we can get it done without you. We’ll need you in good shape for the night and for tomorrow, so get yourself sat the fuck down. Now.”

Stubborn and willful I may have been, but he was right, and letting my pride get in the way of what was the best for everyone would be the action of a fool. I nodded my head and walked towards one of the larger fires, picking up anything that would burn as I went, adding it as fuel before I sat down.

Everyone was inside by now and busying themselves while the light remained. Brand had returned, and with the aid of Catranasia and Caderyn were sorting and loading anything of value into the wagons, increasing our pay off with every scavenged item. Valerius had lowered the priest down from the wall he had been tied to, and had given him something to help him sleep while others had done the decent thing and taken down the hanging corpses of the family that had once lived here. There’s no reason to believe they were nice people who had spent their lives working towards the betterment of their fellow man, but even if they were bastards to a man of them, getting hanged for living where others would rather you didn’t, just wasn’t fair.

With the bodies taken care of, and a nice pot of tea on the go thanks to yours truly, the buildings that made up the ranch and family home were scoured too. As hard as it was to imagine anything left of value, a few more items were loaded into the almost overflowing wagons. It also seemed that we were not the only living people still dwelling within the ranch. Brand and Valerius returned from the main house with an old and swarthy looking fellow in tow.

He was dressed in latest fashion of the Margomarissi; that being a strange mix of Pelosian clothing and more functional garb more likely to be seen on farmers and frontiersmen. He spoke the language well, and seemed to take the fresh crop of corpses in his stride as he surveyed us. Over his shoulders was a leather strap that at first I took to be part of a weapon sling, but as he stepped out of the shadows, he was revealed to be carrying a fiddle over his back. “No no, I don’t call this place my home”, he says, in answer to a question from either Brand or Valerius that I had not heard, “I was just passing through and was called upon to entertain, as is my calling in fact. The gentlemen I found here were already in their cups, drinking some hateful concoction that seemed to get them drunker and more angry than it had any right to. Damned near blind too! Appeasing them seemed to be the order of the day”.

“Safe to say they weren’t friends of yours then?”, asked Valerius, hand never too far from the hilt of his weapon.

“Friendship is very much a matter of opinion that changes quickly depending on the situation. For instance, as of this moment, you all look very friendly to me, but the fact that you came here and killed all of these men, means you wouldn’t have always looked as such”. He smiled as he spoke, but kept his distance from us, obviously still sizing us all up.

As old as he was, I was fairly sure he was of no threat to us, even if he had his suspicions about our party, so I offered him a drink of warm tea and a spot by the fire that was slowly cooking the toma that Brand had earlier butchered. “Take a seat friend, we mean you no harm”.

“Ah”, he replies, moving closer at last, “that’s just what the last fellows said, and it didn’t end too well for them it seems”. But he took the cup, and lowered himself to the ground with the aid of a stick. Closer up, he looked even older, but who’s to say what was age, and what was caused by a life hard lived. He seemed friendly enough, but I remembered his earlier comment, and just how friendly the negotiator from Thorgrim was while threatening to kill us all. Still, he had my curiosity, and while injured I was happy to sit and talk.

“The Names Kantrel”, I began, “and like yourself, we’re just passing through. If you’re heading in the same direction, you’re more than welcome to tag along”.

“Well now lad, the road is indeed a dangerous place, and based on the day’s adventure, I think I could do worse than keep you lot company for a spell. For all the violence carried out here, it’s nice to see you taking the time to look after them that survived. Do you know if the girl’s still down the well by the way”? He asked it in such a throw away manner, at first I took it to be the set up for a joke, but his eyes stayed cold and focused as he asked, no hint of a smile on his face. Valerius and Vitus were on their feet faster than I could even form a word, rushing towards the well as I tried to figure out what the hell was going on.

The entertainer, called Silver Piece – presumably something to do with the money he has earned in his vocation – managed to work out what I was trying to ask, and filled in the details while a rope was prepared. The partisans had soon tired of their most basic of sports and were convinced that the masters of the house had more treasure hidden away. After raping, torturing and eventually killing most of the remaining family without finding out anything of use, they had come to their own conclusions. With the buildings ransacked, there would have been few hiding places left, and one of the swine – drunk, high, or stupidly – had thought of the well.

With no easy way to search it though, they had resorted to simply throwing young women down it and hoping for the best. After the first two had perished from the fall, the third had survived, but when she claimed not to have found anything, they had simply left her down there to die. This was hours past, and she had long since stopped crying for help. I turned towards the well in time to see my companions pulling a near naked and soaking wet slip of a girl up from the darkness. She fell to the ground the moment she released the rope, and her skin was blue below the waist.

Catranasia and Fjorlief were soon at her side, the Hutzlunr Vytch well versed in treating those exposed to freezing conditions. Although almost completely silent, the poor thing seemed happier to be around the women, shying away from anyone else who even came close to her. Around her neck was a metal collar, marking her out as another of the ranch’s serviles. It seemed that the partisans were just as happy to torture those who lived under the rule of the Pelosians too.

Once she was able to walk, stiffly and with help, Brand and Valerius went with her and her minders to the smithy, and between them removed the mark of her servitude. Slavery is far from the most noble of ways to make a living, but I am not so naive as to expect anyone reading this to think my family’s fortunes weren’t built in some way on such trading. The Pelosians seem much more at ease with it though, with even their own citizens being forced into servitude when unable to pay a debt or convicted of a crime.

These periods of forced labour are supposed to be limited, until the debt has been paid or the crime worked off, but clever masters keep their workers in chains for a very long time. Not only must the debt be worked off, but the master may also add on charges for the food the servile eats, the roof over their head, and the rags they wear while working, adding more and more the longer the wretches are detained. It looked like the girl’s time was at an end though, and all I could do was hope that she would forget all of this as soon as possible, and start a new life for herself.

*     *     *

As everyone settled down for a slightly early night, I took the time to discuss my injury with Valerius. Although the pain was still present, flaring up at the slightest damned provocation, it seemed like I was over the worst of it. So much so that I wasn’t even allotted anything from his supply of medicines. I choose to think that this was down to his respect for me, and belief in my fortitude, but it might just have been because he was a miserable bastard who didn’t like me much. Either way, he checked my injuries and made sure they wouldn’t get any worse.

He also took the time to bring up a slightly more delicate matter. Since we were on a Pelosian road, by the end of the next day we would have been past a check point. A military one at that, and as such it would likely be a bit more thorough than a civilian one. In the back of one of the wagons there still laid an expensive and flamboyant weapon that would be sure to attract some unwanted attention. “It’ll get us all hanged”, he says, “and what good will its value do us then. Get rid of it before we set off, as I won’t swing for you”. Fair point, thinks I, and agree that come the morning, the problem will be solved.

Watches were set as normal, and knowing that I would be stiff and sore come the morning, I unrolled my blanket and did what I could to get comfortable. We all slept under that stars that night – with Skuza giving up his wagon for the still unconscious priest – as no one looked keen to spend the night under a roof that had seen such horrors. As the rooms were being cleared, a store room was discovered – everything of value removed or destroyed of course – containing the corpses of four young serving girls. Each had been beaten and used in the most despicable of ways. Three looked to have died from the severity of the beatings they had taken, but the last stared out of one dead eye, the other socket a home for a small knife, the handle slick with blood.

As Silver Piece had pointed out when asked earlier what kind of songs he sang, and he replied, “At this time, it seems to be naught but dirges, there’s nothing but death hereabouts”. A maudlin thought, but none of us could deny the truth of it.

Some hours later I was roused by Caderyn, who told us of an overseer’s cottage on a rise above the ranch that looked to be lit from within. It was so far away, with too much open ground to worry me much, and since I had other plans that morning, I trusted Brand to investigate and he up and vanished into the predawn grey.

With a length of rope in hand, I carried the mace to the edge of the well and set about lowering it down slowly, so as not to make too much of a noise and awaken the others. Once I felt it touch bottom, I sliced the rope and let it fall in after the weapon. Vitus walked past as I was working, giving me a respectful nod as he did so. I’m not sure if he knew of my reasoning, but regardless, I had mended a bridge in sore need of maintenance by leaving it behind. For now.

I wasn’t quite ready to give up the thing entirely though. Like the armour that Caderyn had hidden earlier, I knew that we could get a pretty penny for it indeed when placed in front of the correct buyer. I took my knife and carved into a brick on the side of the well a simple representation of the rune I had been working on. I would give Caderyn a simple copy of it in the morning, should he make his way back without me, but no else would know what it meant. Not for many a year at least.

With plenty of time left, I set about memorising more runes for the day. Some had proven very useful indeed, others hadn’t even been used, but at the time, what I really wanted was to try out the rune of my own design as soon as possible. It was considerably more complicated than anything else that I had been taught, and would take longer to learn and master. With time being short, I made some tough decisions that morning, but when the customary screaming and hollering started, I felt surprisingly confident.

The morning ruckus, courtesy of the New Raphelian who was far more than he seemed, was muted that day. In deference to the traumatised young girl, he had left the ranch and took of his Daemon bothering a fair distance away. I was still ready with warm drinks and the fire coaxed back to life to reheat last night’s toma though, and took the time to thank Brand for his consideration as we packed and readied for the day’s travel.

It should have been a good start to a very positive day. True, we had pissed off one of the most powerful warlords in the region, but we were alive and had rescued a couple of people, and would likely make a pretty profit on the goods we’d snagged in the process. Sadly, the Pelo worshiping priest was up and about, and seemed less than pleased with his potential new traveling companions. Not only was he pushing for more work to be done for our universal conversion to Pelo’s way, he was decidedly unhappy about embarking on journey with a New Raphelian savage, a partisan looking Dummonii, and the man in the mask, Drazar.

I did my best to defend our employer’s efforts in turning us all from the heathen pass, but Skuza seemed determined to get himself into trouble. I understand that he was looking forward to returning home and filling the ears of all who would listen of his brave and daring exploits, but informing the priest of our little trip through the caves of the dead was not exactly a smart move. I was swearing under my breath – and in Dummonii – while the priest tried even harder to be an insufferable little bastard, having spied the slip of a girl whom we had rescued the evening before. “That servile has been released! She has much more to work off before she can be judged free by a council of Numare”!

Caderyn looked to me to translate this gushing torrent of self important bullshit, and I was glad for the distraction. I would have been more than happy to punch the pious little prick and be done with it, but didn’t fancy pushing my luck. It was one thing to kill a warrior of God when he was hell-bent on murdering one of our party, but quite another to just punch a sickly and injured man because he was being an arse. Luckily, both Valerius and Skuza were able to reason with him before my patience ran out and was replaced with anger and violence.

They convinced him that after all she had endured at the hands of the partisans, her debt should be considered repaid. Two Numare seemed able to outbid one priest, but if we were in a major Pelosian city, I imagine things could have gone very differently indeed. Cowed by their words, and very lucky not to have a broken nose, he shut his trap on the matter and accompanied the boss into his carriage, leaving the rest of us to make our way out of the ranch.

Drazar had done more for my injuries that morning, and the ministrations of Valerius had done wonders, allowing me almost full freedom of movement again. I took advantage of this to drop behind from my usual position at the head of our convoy and walked at the rear, keeping pace with Daemon blooded masked man, honouring a promise to teach him my language. I had already gone through the basics, and decided to make it fun that morning, teaching him instead a bawdy dockside song. Along with what it all meant of course.

There’s little point learning how to speak to a Raphelian unless you’re going to pick up a fair few curses and expletives. Luckily our new traveling companion Silver Piece knew the tune of this one, and with a fiddle helping out I had everyone in the rear wagon joining in as we walked.

I bang on the door but you won’t let me in, ’cause you’re sick and tired of me reeking of gin. Locked all the doors from the front to the back, And left me a note telling me I should pack.

I walk in the bar and the fella’s all cheer, They order me up a whiskey and beer. You ask me why I’m writing this poem, Some call it a tavern but I call it home.

Fuck you, I’m drunk Fuck you, I’m drunk Pour my beer down the sink I’ve got more in the trunk.

Fuck you, I’m drunk Fuck you, I’m drunk And I’m going to be drunk till the next time I’m drunk!

You’ve given me an option, you say I must choose, ‘tween you and the liqour, then I’ll take the booze! Jumpin’ on Western down to the south side, Where I’ll sit down and exercise my Bajo’s pride.

Fuck you, I’m drunk Fuck you, I’m drunk Pour my beer down the sink I’ve got more in the trunk.

Fuck you, I’m drunk Fuck you, I’m drunk And I’m going to be drunk till the next time I’m drunk!*

*     *     *

A good bit of fun of course, but we still had places to be, and were on a Pelosian road. I left Drazar working on his words and wandered back to front to exchange words with Caderyn, “We’re soon going to be coming across some men of both military and Pelosian persuasions. I hate to tell you this my friend, but they won’t be too keen on seeing you at the head of this caravan”.

“Bugger it”, he swore, “You’re right, there’s no point starting trouble, but if it comes looking for us, just give me a shout and I’ll come and cut some fuckers in half for you”. An offer I would happily accept if needed, but until then, he did the sensible thing and took a position closer to out rear.

Within minutes I was sure that I had timed the move damned near to perfection as we saw some Pelosian troops lamenting a wailing at the side of the road. At first I took them for a lancer unit that had been all but destroyed, but Vitus was quickly to the front to investigate the noise and looked down his nose at them. I raised a quizzical eyebrow at him as he turned his back on them, “Numare cavalry”, he answered, spitting onto the ground. “Gentleman soldiers with almost as little training as Skuza, come out here to the badlands and then go and get all poetical and weepy when then quite rightly get slaughtered or end up having to eat their mounts. Not worth the time it’d take to piss on them”.

I couldn’t help but notice he had kept his voice low throughout that summary, but could hardly blame him. He had the freedom to talk to me as he saw fit, but would risk his that – and maybe even his life – if he was overheard badmouthing a Numare. As we continued on our way, the reason for the lamentations was soon obvious; ahead of us at the side of the road was a large pile of dismembered tether, some still wearing the barding and colours of  a Pelosian unit. With no clue what had happened to them, we carried on our way, but the sight of Pelosian soldiers mourning their dead was something we would have to get used to due to its frequency.

Silver Piece didn’t seem to concerned with all of this though, and when he spied a gathering of legionnaires, he nodded to us and smiled before peeling off to join them. As the distance between us increased the sounds of a melancholy tune being played on a fiddle drifted past us on the wind.

I can’t say I was sad to see him go, having known him for less than a day, but the manner of our meeting was enough for him to come to my mind on occasion even now.

The morning turned into afternoon as the sight of bodies and troops grew with each passing hour. It was an unusual feeling to be all but surrounded by armed troops and dead bodies, but to feel somehow safe. Vitus and Valerius soon joined me at the front with a friendly nod. “I think it might be best if we took point from here”, said the physician, with Vitus dipping his head in agreement, “We’re not far now from the check point, and with a Numare at our front, we’ll get through a damned sight quicker. Vitus here looks the part too, but it’d best if the Legions built up slowly to the rest of you”.

A good point, condescendingly made, so I bowed and dropped back. Caderyn was still at our rear, so I kept pace with Skuza’s carriage and whistled along to other shanties that I had in mind to teach Drazar. Ahead of us, the crowds of people began to thicken until we were nothing more than the back end of a long queue of humanity and beasts. With Valerius bullying and cajoling the lower born we quickly made our way to the special area for Numare only.

Skuza was soon in his element, and when the book-keepers at the gate demanded paperwork, he swiftly presented his travel papers. The doctor did most of the talking from I gathered after the fact, and with good cause. It seemed that honourable Ser Skuza was unwilling to allow any conversational opportunity to pass with recounting the tale of the Caves of the Dead. This kind of thing was guaranteed to put the wind up any officious bean counter, so Valerius was forced to interject, giving viable and believable reasons for us stepping off the approved path.

Meanwhile, we were all getting eyeballed by a mixture of legionaries and hired mercenary guards making sure we were all law abiding and respectable citizens. Of course, we weren’t but most of us at least managed to put up a pretty good pretense. The Pelosians know how much my countrymen admire their civilisation  - so much so that they often copy indiscriminately anything of Pelo that looks interesting, without bothering to find out anything about its cultural significance – and all I got was a friendly bow. I returned with a deeper bow, showing humility and respect, and was promptly ignored.

As all this was going on, in the damnable heat of the day, we were unlucky enough to have a most singular fellow in front of us, trying his best to get through the checkpoint to deliver his goods to the city. Dressed in clothing similar to a monk’s habit, he was shouting some nonsense about interring all of his countryman’s remains within a crypt. This explained the smell at least. His barrow was filled with limbs in a heaped pile. Flies surrounded him and were soon seeking sustenance on us all. Thankfully for us, the border guards eventually tired of his shouting – and the smell – and heaved the barrow down the slope and away from the road. sadly, many other people were below us seeking a way into the city, and one unfortunate family had their afternoon rudely interrupted by the unexpected arrival of dozens of rotting limbs.

There were still plenty of guards to keep an eye on us though, and Brand got a bit more attention. Vitus had the good sense to indicate towards me, as if we were together, to which I nodded a reply. A smart move when dealing with a society that actively embraces slavery. The women were largely ignored, apart from an occasional leering look that I recognised well having used it several times myself. And then there was Drazar.

I didn’t know what had put him in such an odd mood, but he looked ready to challenge them for his right to exist in the Pelosian heartlands. Thankfully he seemed to have the good sense to give in to their questioning before they tried to drag him away and throw after the limbs, but the answers he gave seemed to perplex them at first. Knowing him as I did, I could see how much untruth he was spinning, but they should have been able to see through his poorly fabricated lies regardless. I have known many watchmen, and no matter how stupid they appear to be, one should never underestimate their ability to see through fabrications and lies.

A minute later though, and they were walking away to investigate the next caravan. Insofar as it’s possible whilst wearing a full face mask, the dowser looked pretty smug, and I can’t say I blame him. Ideally I would have preferred him to be able too talk round a couple of guards without resorting to mind manipulation – as I’m sure I had just seen – but since it worked, I wasn’t about to complain.

Even a Numare still waits at the whim of bureaucracy it seemed, as the long minutes dragged by. Glancing about the other travelers, I spied a few selling meats and drinks for those waiting, and made sure we were all taken care off. I had partaken of finer repasts by that point in my life, but since I had a hell of a lot worse to come, I should have been more grateful. Still, the warm herb tea was pleasant enough.

Before we all succumbed to starvation and boredom, the high born returned with their paperwork correctly notarised and stamped, allowing us to continue into the city. Like most settlements on this side of the border it was split into districts, with the citizens allowed into the higher areas, and the rest of us scum relegated to the lower districts, with the whores and the skrites. Such is life.

It was easy going once we were inside, with Skuza staying with the wagons until we set up in a hostel. With a short backwards glance him and Valerius made their way to the Piamarium, leaving us in the Axe & Lamp, possibly the finest tavern in the Profanarium. We had a few choices on our rooms, with the cheapest being bedding down in some large communal area. Slumming it though I was back then, I fancied better than that after our journey that far. After making a few inquiries, there were more private rooms available for a few extra coin.

I was very glad I asked, as poor Vitus informed me that his masters purse didn’t stretch to even the simplest of flop house floors. I could have slept with the wagons once more, but remembered that I had a spare purse about my person, and offered up the spoils of my victory against Haaken Chains to pay for everyone to get a night’s sleep on something marginally softer than dirt. For Vitus I went one further.

He was a man that inspired trust, and I wanted him to trust me. I knew that I had risked that trust by dealing with the warrior priest, and although some well placed words had put me past the worst of his ire – and disposing of the mace went even further to repairing that smoldering bridge – he was still keeping half an eye on me. Well, after the last few days we’d had, nothing mends some wounds better than a bottle of nice wine. The innkeeper was quick to help me, thinking me wealthy for paying for all the rooms and seeking his advice on which wine to purchase as a gift. When I presented it to Vitus, his face split in a wide grin and he quickly ripped the cork free with his teeth, pouring some into a goblet.

Before he had the chance to offer it around – and I’m certain he would have done, generous fellow that he was – I stopped him, “This is just for you my friend. On this long and dangerous road you have dealt with us fairly and kept us safe. Your master is a good man, but at present he isn’t able to reward you as much as you so clearly deserve. Drink this bottle yourself. Thank you.” This got a smile, which is about as good as I could have hoped, but more was to come.

He stood back from the table, and with raised drink, exclaimed, “To Ser Eduardo Skuza, my noble employer. May he spend the night far away from us for a fuckin’ change!” I couldn’t help but agree and raised my own goblet of small beer in toast with everyone else.

*     *     *

The Axe and Lamp knew their clientele well, and after days out on the road surviving on game meat and what roots and tubers we could scrounge for a stew, I was happy to partake of some tangy fruits and peppery vegetables while we drank and spoke of past adventures and future concerns. One topic very much on the minds of those with coin in pocket and a Daemon-may-care attitude to the future was the evening’s attraction; Pelosian fighting moles! Small creatures with sharp claws and teeth, and a nose that resembled tentacles, they were apparently highly prized. Asking around it seemed that you could buy one as a pet for a few bits of tin, but laying your hands on a trained fighting sod came it a handful of Gold Jacks.

The frenzy that surrounded the gambling on them fighting seemed to justify the prices, even if the individual bets weren’t that high. You have to remember of course that this was a down and dirty road side hostel, and I imagined a small fortune would have changed hands that evening alone.

An old itch began to make itself known as my eyes drifted over the chalk boards with names and numbers scrawled all over them. Those days I struggled with the written form, but I could still make sense of a book keepers board, no matter what language it was in. The crowds were already baying even though the sun was still in the sky and I’d had no more than two small beers, and I started to think about ways to make money.

We could get Fjorlief to work her will on the champion of our choice. Drazar seemed like he could tell a bluff from the truth, and in dire circumstances Caderyn’s and prowess in a fight could be used as a distraction. As this thought briefly crossed my mind I saw that the Dummonii was already engaged thusly, slamming the face of some poor unfortunate into a table with alarming speed.

The disagreement seemed to be over almost as swiftly as it begun though, with both parties moving away to rejoin their respective groups with no recriminations. Looking about the room, it was obvious that such activities were normal, and engaging in any tricky would surely result in a large brawl. I shook my head, remembering just how often I would lose everything but my trousers in the chance houses, and drunk as a monk would demand honour be satisfied. People got hurt when that happened; occasionally people died. I looked down at the dregs of my second drink and pushed it to one side.

I had left my home to stay off that path, to become something more. My new friends seemed happy to gamble and fight and drink, but I was happy just being in their company. With a few coins left in Haaken’s purse I offered one last round for them and returned to the bar. While there I bent the innkeeper’s ear once more, trying to ascertain anything of use for the last leg of our voyage. Most rumour seemed to indicate that with the war wrapping up for the year, attention would be placed elsewhere. The reason for hostilities ceasing was also being discussed.

When the head of any mercenary company dies, it has ripple effects, but it seems that a power vacuum had formed when a rather important one was murdered. Not only that, but another was looking to compete for the positions of People’s Champion in the very city we were heading towards. This would put them in effective control of a large body of fighting men, even if not able to give them direct orders, but by manipulating their various animosities. I had sense of foreshadowing at this news, but returned with the drinks rather than pick at scab of an idea only half formed.

Fjorlief had decided to take the  chance on a fighting mole that had caught her eye, and staked near to her last coin on its victory. I wasn’t sure, and still aren’t, if she engaged in trickery to see it to victory, but she managed to walk away with a bit more money than she started. With luck being on our side, I thought it would be a good time to call it a night. Although the sun had only just set, I wasn’t sure how long it would be before I could once again sleep under a roof, and wasn’t about to pass up the opportunity.

Saying my good nights, noting that Vitus had already done considerable damage to his bottle, I made my way towards the stairs when something gave me pause. Looking back over my shoulder I saw what looked to be another of Thorgrim’s men. My breathe stopped in my throat as it was clear that he was heading towards the table I had recently departed. With my hand on the hilt of my Baseado, I stepped down once and took the time to size up this potential threat.

He was a big fellow, no doubt, and carried himself with easy confidence, but something wasn’t quite right. At his waist was a naught but a knife. I felt sure he could kill with it as easy I could with my own weapon, but since I was far from the most well equipped warrior in the room, it didn’t make sense that he would try to take us all on with nothing but a knife. His eyes gave something else away; he wasn’t looking around the room for other threats, or at least not to himself. Following in his wake was the final clue though.

He was a smaller, older man, wearing a slightly faded red cloak and toga. His hair was rapidly calling the retreat away from a highly aggressive forehead, and the only thing he carried was a stick to help him walk. But, he walked with just as much confidence as his taller friend, and was smiling to himself as sighted our group sat around the table, recounting the highlights of the mole fight.

I knew I could beat them both to the table, and maybe even slide the Baseado deep into the big lad’s ribs while I did it, but even with Drazar’s help I was still far from fighting fit. Discretion seemed the better part of valour at the time, so I simply stood at the table’s edge as they approached. The big one just stood, towering over all of us by Fjorlief and myself; the elder took a seat and began to talk. His voice carried just far enough without him needing to raise it at all, making it clear that he was used to talking to large groups of people, and even more used to having his word heeded.

“Good evening. Your master will soon be arrested for being unable to pay his debts”. Understandably this caused something of a commotion amongst us, but since I was one of the few sober heads still sat at the table, I motioned for him to continue. “There are those of us who would rather not see this take place. For all of his faults, and he is in possession of a multitude of them, he still has friends. Those searching for him now are not amongst this number.

“This is just a friendly warning, if you wish to continue your journey – remain in possession of your goods and chattels – I advise you to waste no time.” The smile was gone. This was a real thing. We had all worked hard to make it this far with no reward – hell, Caderyn and I had ditched a fortunes worth of armour and weaponry just to get through this alive. Many of us had bled for our employer, either through loyalty, greed, or – in my case – the promise of fulfilling a contract with a man of influence. We had to act, and act quickly.

*Lyrics reproduced and altered without permission of Flogging Molly. Go and check out their stuff!

Jan 092014
 

As the man’s body lay slowly cooling on the ground before me all I was thinking about was getting back to my companions. I had no idea that the death of Chains was to be the start of my own storied life, or just how much more blood would be spilled by day’s end.

I was in pain, but my wits weren’t dulled, and knowing that trouble was surely following I went quickly about my business. He was a big fellow, and the fine brass arm rings he had worn could each be sported as a crown by yours truly, such was the girth of his forearms. I took them quickly, along with his iron collar and the chain that had so very nearly shattered my thigh bone. With his coin pouch tied to my belt I took to my heels, hoping to close some distance with the others before trouble closed on me.

They would surely make it to the river crossing before I did, but would have to slow down while attempting to make their way safely to the other bank. Moving at a jog I came first across Catranasia though, looking to be in deep conservation with the one named Vraag Man. This was another storied man from Thorgrim’s mob, and by the extent of his injuries, I was sure the others had given him a hell of a thrashing. His skin was waxen and pale, with the shafts of arrows protruding from an arm that looked shattered by a mighty blow. In all honesty, I was amazed he was on his feet, but it seemed to be anger keeping him upright.

As I was moving quickly I had no chance to hide my approach, and he made certain that the lady was between us. It looked like he was in the mood to avoid another confrontation, and although I was in much better shape, I was happy to pass by without combat. He wasn’t going to just let me stroll on by though, “What’s the name of your fuckin’ tree-hugger?”, he asked, growling at me in Pelo-Margo.

Seeing the arrows that had yet to be removed from his left arm, I had assumed that Valerius had shot him once or twice, but it was a pleasant surprise to know that the Dummoni had finally had some success with his own bow. For half a second I was ready to give up a different name, but in the heat of the moment that only others that came to mind were Pelosian, and I’m certain he would have seen right through that. “Caderyn”, I answered, feeling bad for surrendering a friend’s name, but my options were limited.

“Well, I want me fuckin’ hatchet back off of him. It’s mine, and I mean to have it returned to me”, he spat with the same growl in his voice. He didn’t exactly look in the best of shape to be making demands, but I was far from my best and thought it best not to challenge him. His anger was constantly bubbling up, and although I was fairly certain which of us would fall first, I was almost as certain that I would suffer another major injury before he dropped.

“And just how the hell do you expect him to get it to you? Your mad bastard of a boss is rolling his ship in the other direction to us, and I can’t imagine my man will make the long walk to give back an axe that was lobbed at him”. All fair points, I think you’ll agree, but it seems that almost all of Thorgrim’s story men were a wee bit touched in the head, and Vraag man was no exception.

“I don’t give a fuck how, but if he don’t get it back, I’ll find ‘im and rip his fuckin’ face off with me teeth”! A charming fellow and no mistake. But I didn’t doubt him, and the Margomarissi was a dangerous enough place to travel without a blood thirsty savage looking for you with revenge in mind. Especially if he was hungry.

“You know of Maidens Play”, I asked, getting a swift nod in answer, “Go there tomorrow, and your axe will be stuck in a riverside tree, that’s the best I can do. Now, what’s your play with regards to me and the lady”?

“You’re gonna walk past us first, and when I feel like you’re not gonna pull any sneaky shit, the young lady can follow”, I nodded my agreement and began walking around him and Catranasia in a wide arc, not wanting to antagonise him if I could help it.  He stalked his way around her as I moved, keeping her between us at all times until he felt comfortable. Then spoke something softly to her that I never caught, and she turned away and made to follow me. Knowing she was putting some distance between herself and the crazy sod I again broke into a jog, hearing her footsteps match my speed as we made our way onward.

*     *     *

We made good time back to the caravans, and got there as Caderyn was wading out into the deep and rapid water. Praying to some god of water swells or something, he seemed always an inch from being dragged away from us forever. His Gods obviously favoured him though, and he shouted back that he had found a secure crossing. I was happy to catch my breath as the first wagon made its way into the river, knowing that there’d be little I could offer in the way of help.

The first two passed through the swollen river without a problem, and when it came to the third, I tried to help keep the hormorn in line, but only succeeded in not making the crossing actually any harder. We were safe for a while though, and got everyone loaded into a wagon and began planning for the attack that was almost certain to fall on us. Drazar has spooked a few of the tethers earlier, and no mistake, but none of us were foolish enough to think that Thorgrim wouldn’t have plenty more cavalry at his disposal.

With that in mind, I headed towards Caderyn before we set off again. He was clearly injured and I wouldn’t like to say who had come off worse in the last confrontation, so did what I could before speaking, tracing a rune in the air in front of him, closing his wounds and cleaning the dirt from them. In his belt was a hatchet that matched one that Vraag Man still had about his person when we spoke. “There’s man that wants that back”, says I, pointing to his belt, “I’m not telling you that you need to give it back to him, but he warned he would hunt you down to get it, and I believe him. If you’d rather not worry about keeping an eye over your shoulder for the rest of your life, I’d embed it in the tree over there, and he can pick it up himself later”.

He looked thoughtful for a second, before nodding and looking towards the tree. In a swift move he slid the axe free and flung it with a grunt, forcing the blade to bite deep of the wood. It didn’t stay there long though; as we were preparing to move off, discussing our route, the Dummonii was once more praying to one or more Gods, and looked ready to offer up a sacrifice to the river. The hatchet must have caught his eye, still stained with his own blood as it was, and he made his decision quickly. It never even occurred to me to stop him as he wrenched it free, and with a final benediction, hurled it into the white frothing water.

Although Vraag man was still a threat, mounted troops were the only ones that would have a chance of catching us up in large numbers. And although the crossing might be enough to dissuade them, we weren’t going to stake even a tin coin on those odds. So we set about making caltrops from bent and fastened nails, with Brand even showing me how to make an actual bola, as I only had one more shot at bringing a beast down with a rune.

Maybe an hour had passed on the road when we found somewhere with terrain that might possibly be in our favour. We had for once decided on taking a Pelosian road for the current leg of our journey, knowing that the smoother surface and more direct route would see us quicker to our destination. Sadly it offered very poor cover, with only an occasional copse of trees and broken down viaducts to stop us from being surrounded by quicker mounted soldiers.

The weather was in our favour at least though, as a mist had descended as we worked, and had made it harder for the tether-men to spot our hastily constructed traps. As we set the wagons up to keep Skuza safe and to the rear, they rode forth from the mist. A dozen regular riders, and another man who had a very different bearing than the others. The regular cavalry held a distant position, keeping them from even a long shot with a bow, but the leader moved closer, being careful not to make himself too obvious a target. The mist failed to hide that the back four were struggling to keep their tethers under control though; it looked like a few of our caltrops had found their mark!

“Good day gentlemen, I pleasure to meet you all! I am an emissary of Thorgrim the Difficult, and I’m here to negotiate your safe passage through these lands. He has heard of your journey thus far; an inconsequential group of vagabonds transporting a paltry amount of cargo, yet today he has lost two of his story men! Whom here was responsible for the death of Haaken Chains?” I raised my arm, Baseado held aloft to answer him, smiling as I did so. We held eye contact for a moment, and to his credit he he showed no fear or intimidation. “And what about Vraag Man”?

Caderyn raised his own arm at the question, but I knew that when last I had seen Vraag Man, he was alive and about as well as could be expected. Thorgrim was certainly a bastard of the highest order, but I hadn’t expected him to have killed one of his own men just for losing a fight. Still, I would eventually learn that it does you no good at all to expect anything of that contrary sod.

“Very well done gentlemen, but I think your luck has run out, and now your only option is to try and placate my employer with an offering”. Valerius perked up at this, but he had been the least optimistic of us all when considering our chances of outrunning or out fighting whoever was at our heels. It was the only the realisation that they could circle the wagons whether we were moving or stationary – and he would be much more likely to land an arrow when not perched on the back of a rocking vehicle – that had him in agreement that we should stop to stand and fight.

“And just how much would Thorgrim want from us in exchange for free passage”, he asked, while the rest of us began sizing up our enemies, preparing for a charge.

“Very little really, when compared to your lives. Your wagons and the women should just about do it I think.”, he replied with a smirk that made me surprised he hadn’t spent a more significant proportion of his life getting punched in the face.

At the mention of women, Fjorlief was quick to retort, as she stood to her not inconsiderable height and bellowed across to him, “No man’s going to stick anything in me that won’t get cut off as he tries”!

After my fight against Haaken I was feeling pretty damned invincible, and that’s the only I excuse I have for what slipped from lip in reply, while the fancy horseman backed away from his insistence on taking the women. I looked over and made brief eye contact with the formidable woman and smiled, “I don’t know, give me a couple of drinks and I might be able to convince you otherwise”. Ah, the confidence of youth.

“I might be convinced to take just one wagon back with me, and for that you have my word that Thorgrim will not pursue you. He admires men of courage, and that might just be enough for him to forgive you the loss of two story men in one day. This is a good deal for you, and I advise you to take it.” Throughout his little speech, the cool demeanour dropped somewhat, but he still seemed confident that he was the one in control of the situation, “If you don’t give me a tribute, Thorgrim will hunt you down to the ends of Uma”!

“And doesn’t that sound like a hell of story to tell”, I shout, refusing to be bullied by him, just because he had us outnumbered with superior troops, and two of our front line fighters were badly injured.

He smiled at this, “It is that kind of bravery my Lord approves of, what are your names so that I might speak of you after you die here today”? We all gave our names, and were told his; Hetgar if I remember correctly.

Valerius seemed happy to continue the negotiations from there, while the rest of us spoke quietly amongst ourselves, planning an attack before he would have the chance to either take what was ours or organise his men to charge us down. Fjorlief and Drazar were talking animatedly about ley lines or some such, and assured me that they could scatter the horses, or just remove Hetgar as an obstacle.

He was surely another storied man was Hetgar, but after the day I’d had, I felt up to the fight, especially as this time I wouldn’t be going it alone. The tether-men would be a real problem though, so I asked them to do what they could to scatter them to the six winds. As I waited for them to work their will, I watched as Valerius drew from a wagon the mace I had taken as a trophy, and did my best to catch up on the conversation. He had talked the Hutzlunr down to half a wagon’s worth of quality goods, and the mace had helped.

Apparently Thorgrim had a soft spot for the nuns of the Grey Hospice who had been slain by Fedenzo, but I wasn’t quite ready to give up the weapon without a fight. Keeping my gaze fixed on Hetgar I reached down and hefted up the mace in one hand, and smiled as I pushed it back into the wagon. Valerius looked ready to shout me down for a moment, but he must have seen something in my eyes and relented.

A second later, the tethers in the distance erupted in noise and panic, scattering about and unseating a rider or two in the confusion. Hetgar looked behind him at the disturbance, but seemed unsure of what to do at first. He had held his position at range to keep him from becoming a pin cushion, but was quickly losing the backing of his cavalry. If he still had them under his control, I imagine what follows would have turned very differently for your humble narrator.

We all stood ready to receive a charge though, and he was happy to oblige mere seconds later, going it alone. Confident as I was, I was also happy to take any extra edge available to me, and as he closed on us, I opened up another Sudden Squall. With any luck, it would unseat him, removing his advantage, and giving the rest of us a much better chance of finishing him off quickly. I needn’t have worried though.

As the wind blew away from me, the tether he was charging in on simply ceased to be. It didn’t vanish as such, just stopped being a tether, and instead became a red mist with a few thick clumps of offal floating away from it. This crimson vapour was blown backwards by the gust of wing thrown up by my rune, and left a ten yard long stain on the landscape. A few of his compatriots who had managed to keep control of their chargers saw this horrendous sight and quickly turned tail and ran.

Hetgar had carried on towards us though, his momentum unimpeded by the exploding tether – a neat little trick from the Earth Power users who were very thankful indeed that we had chosen a ley line to fight on – and he landed with a thud only yards from where I stood. With my sword point angled down like a lance I rushed towards him, Valerius shouting behind me that I shouldn’t kill him. By then there was nothing to be done to arrest my charge though, and as he looked up at me I screamed, “And that’s three, mother fucker!”, as the point of my Baseado pushed easily through the soft material of his trews and tore apart his ankle.

I’d like to think it was the last thing he heard as he passed out from the pain. He would wake some time later, stripped naked, courtesy of Valerius who had a wicked streak it seemed, knowing that on that day, three of Thorgrim’s storied men had fallen beneath the blows of our group. Hell, my face was the final thing one of them would ever see, and Hetgar would have my words ringing in his ears for just as long as he was hobbled by the injury I did him.

*     *     *

The tether-men were still a problem though, so as Valerius relieved Hetgar of his clothing, anyone with a ranged weapon loosed arrows or bolts towards those that remained. Even I joined in, making use a stockbow that we had acquired early in our journey, but hit nothing at all. Still, we kept them from regrouping, and were soon on our way. A note was left was left on Hetgar’s unconscious form, but at the time I was unable to see what was written, hopefully Valerius had a sense of humour that wouldn’t anger Thorgim too much.

With that we were away, moving the hormorn as fast as we dared after a very eventful day, and as the evening drew in, it seemed we had left our enemies behind us. Since we had stuck to more civilised roads, we were moving through worked fields, with burnt and abandoned villas dotted around. Workers and civilians were in scant supply though, as it seemed teh partisans had done their work well hereabouts.

Ahead of us was a large secured villa with enclosed grounds. It was open, and looked abandoned like so many other Pelosian structures we had come across, and would be a great place to spend the night. True enough, as was rightly pointed out, anyone who was looking for us through the night was sure to search there. But if any of Thorgrim’s people were still hunting us down, I was a lot happier to be behind some big walls, rather than huddled under a wagon.

Even from a safe distance, Drazar was able to work his magic, and it seemed the place wasn’t quite as empty as we had thought. There were a dozen or so people in there, but none of them seemed to be in great shape. Based on what we had seen so far, I was expecting to find a family of Pelosians huddled together after a partisan raid. Valerius looked to share this suspicion, so we left everyone else with the wagons and made our way there through the darkening evening.

Although he was a Doctor by trade, his skill with a bow and ability to blend into shadows meant I was sure he had also spent some time working as a scout. What I was less sure about was which side he had been paid by, but for now such concerns were easily dismissed.

As we closed on our destination, I held back. If the place was a Pelosian refuge, they would be more comfortable with one of their own walking in first. Sadly, this was not what we were faced with. Once more the Dummonii had been here, but this time some had stayed behind to get drunk on the spoils. Five or so of the bastards were getting merrily pissed on rotgut that would make a hormorn blind, and another half dozen house servants that looked happy that their masters were no longer in charge were guzzling the poison like it was going out of fashion.

They were pissed, and although there was only two of us, Valerius was happy to get into a fight this time. Maybe after seeing everyone else spending the day kicking arse and taking names he just wanted in on the action. With so much combustible liquid knocking around, he had a plan to thin their numbers and sow some discord too.

With a bit of help from some flint and steel, a fire arrow was soon arcing into the building. Rather than just going for one of several puddles made by broken bottles, it struck and shattered one held by a drunken reveler. Suffice to say, all bloody hell broke lose in short order. The serviles were quick to gather what grog they could and disappear out a back door, but the partisans were drunk and stupid enough to charge towards us.

There was only the two of us though, so I needed to slow them down somewhat. Putting on my best Pelosian accent I shouted loudly, “There’s hardly any of them! We have this door covered, come in from the back”! Three of them ran in that direction, the others shouting out how stupid they were, but another arrow shut one of them up quite fatally.

By this time Brand was making his own way towards us, having been alerted by the fire, but Caderyn was staying put. Maybe a little bit of sympathy for his country men, or he was unwilling to again risk further injury, but luckily he wasn’t needed. By later accounts it seemed that Skuza was quite keen to rush to the fore, with only Vitus’ calming voice able to keep him alive.

As the remaining Dummonii pulled themselves together and ran towards us I was once more able to use a rune to take one down, the magical cords tightening around his legs as he fell. Admittedly, he was so pissed a stiff breeze could have done the same, but any little helps.

Brand was already amongst them as they spilled out of the door. I hadn’t seen him arrive, but a second later, there he was, in the midst of the action, sword – not aflame at present – swinging with gusto, dropping partisans with ease. It was almost too easy, and it looked like fortune would favour us all that day. She is a fickle bitch though, and just as I was ready to declare this fight over and offer terms, a brute of a Dummonii exited a side door, looking more pissed off than pissed.

Brand was engaged elsewhere and Valerius with his bow had kept some distance, so it was down to me again. I didn’t want to give him time to think so hurried towards him, swinging the point of my sword round and opening up a wound on his chest before he knew what has happening. It must have hurt, but close by it was obvious he was stone cold sober and out for blood.

He drew himself close to me, hoping to reduce the effectiveness of my long sword, and thrust a curved dagger toward my already injured legs. I felt the blade bite deep, and the white hot agony as he twisted it. A simple little trick to make it easier to pull the blade free, with the added bonus of opening a bigger wound for your opponent to bleed out of.

After taking out two better men already that day, I wasn’t about to die to some piece of shit partisan though. I pulled back and pushed the point of my Baseado under his chin and with a guttural scream pressed up and back with all my strength. With hot blood on my hands he fell backwards and a went down onto one knee. With so much action that day I had one piece of luck left, and with my final healing rune closed the wound to stop any further  blood loss and looked about me.

He was the last of them. We had taken the villa.

Dec 042013
 

Balance is a tricky thing in RPGs. Some would even argue that it is not relevant and that player agency and good games mastering should be all that is required. I disagree with such sentiments, and think when it comes to character generation, the process should allow for everyone to begin on a level playing field. This is sorely tested when magic is introduced into pretty much any system. Even the simplest of systems can sometimes struggle, but I think Savage Worlds is one of the few that does it well.

One of the classics has a differing approach, with magic being pretty under-powered for starting characters, but growing to epic proportions later, allowing them to outclass their sword wielding brethren as they raise through the levels. In Orbis there are various schools of magic – some high, some low – and they all have differing power levels. For the first time ever I have generated a character with some magic ability, but haven’t concentrated on it. For the people who haven’t been keeping up, my character is a duelist who has access to the power of Geomancy which he mainly uses to give himself advantage in combat.

Geomancy is the power to change the world around you by casting runes. These changes can be small and subtle, such as cleaning the clothes you’re wearing or honing the edge of a blade, or large and obvious, like removing the pull of Uma’s gravity from large objects. In terms most gamers should understand, it is the closest magic system to the traditional way of magic or sorcery from D&D, with a limit on how many “spells” you can learn, and how many you can cast a day, with more powerful runes only available when you have enough points/ranks in the skill. Like D&D magic then, it looks like you start small and could become massively powerful. The amount of time you would need to devote to the art is a huge restriction though.

I have played magic users that within a few months of play could call down fire from the heavens. In Orbis however, there is no way that an adventuring character could ever have the time or resources to spend on learning and mastering such powerful runes. In this way it has an inbuilt balance that is kept under control by the players. Could I learn the truly powerful runes that could shake the very foundations of Uma? Of course I could, but it would be the very definition of a boring role playing experience, and would still take far too long.

There are of course other options to you though. Heart’s Fire is an elemental power that has almost limitless destructive potential. You’d be a bloody fool to unleash it all though, as every use of the Fire carries with it a risk of mutation. This risk rises with continued use and increases in line with how powerful a Fire you wish to wield. Again, self limiting by the player’s choices, and most adventurers only pull out the big guns when their lives depend on it, knowing full well that even if they survive they might never be the same again.

Earth Power is strange one. It is almost limitless from a very early stage, with users able to do almost anything they could imagine! Sounds great so far, but it only affects living things. And the living thing needs to be in contact with Uma. As does the person casting it. So, limited again, but so far I have seen characters with this power possess the will of their enemies or uproot great trees. To keep it under control somewhat, the character has a limited number of “points” that they use to activate their powers. The more powerful the magic, the more points it costs. Come the following dawn though, all points return without even needing the traditional hour or what-have-you of meditation that is usually required for such things.

For me, the one that looks the most broken though, is Daemonology. Basically the ability to reach through the fabric of reality and bring forth creatures whose will you bent to your own with powers almost without limit. Unlike the other magics, the Daemonologist is massively powerful right from the off. The only real limit is that each creature they bring through drains points from their Willpower attribute. Although this can go up, most people who create a Daemonologist have it as high as it’s going to go pretty early on, and soon hit the point where even attempting to bring anything else through is just another way to commit suicide.

In our current game we have one such character who has begun play with a Daemon bound weapon. Because of this weapon, Brand is now the best fighter in the game, easily surpassing professional warriors who have dedicated a boat load of points and abilities in learning how to effectively swing a sword. When I first realised this, I was stunned as I thought that this threw the balance out completely. Not only was he the most effective fighter, but he could still use Daemonology to even better effect! The more I thought about it though, the more I realised that the balance was just a bit backwards.

Other magic users get better – with limits – as time progresses and advancement points are acquired, but the Daemonologist hits their upper point pretty damned quickly and need to look to other areas to improve themselves. Unlike other magic users, they are also unable to use their powers responsively. If I was faced with a superior enemy, I could cast a rune to knock them from their feet and then impale them as they laid helpless. A Daemonologist would require hours – if not days – to bring a creature through to help them in a fight. Add to this the cultural problems with Daemons that exist throughout Uma, and you could end with a character with immense power that isn’t allowed into entire countries.

The lower magics that exist act more like special skills than world altering powers, so don’t need the time spent discussing them. The High magics mentioned above though, are amazing. Each has been created in a way that makes sense within the physics of the world, even of they can sometimes warp said physics. They exist in the cultures of Uma differently, and how you feel about any of them could vary depending on which city you were born in. And, importantly, none of them break the game. You could try, but you would fail, and end up having a fairly rubbish time while you did so. They add so much to the game world, and fight perfectly well into the system without needing a huge amount of extra rules just for them, that you’d be foolish to create a character without at least taking a look at what’s available to you.

In other news, it looks like Kickstarter has sorted out the money going to the lads who created this amazing game, and the digital copies should be going out by the end of the week. If you backed this campaign, I’d love to know what you think about the game when it arrives, so please let me by dropping me a comment below.

Nov 242013
 

I have often wondered if the name of the Caves of the Dead was incorrect, or if we were just lucky. The walls between this world and another, were definitely thinner in those dark and winding caverns, but either that world wasn’t the next, or we were just pretty lucky.

As we made made our way deeper and farther underground, the temperature plummeted. In no time at all, the air was filled with our frozen breath, and the steady dripping of ice cold water. I had sold some of my winter clothes in tiny little village on the way to the Margomarissi, and used the money to purchase food and a thin mail vest, expecting to need that more than some stout under garments. I was regretting that decision at the time, and had to make do with wrapping my cloak tight around myself and pulling on my thin gloves, for all the warmth this afforded me.

Fjorlief looked to have the best protection from the cold, wrapped up like a swaddled infant, but if we got into a fight, she would be ill prepared to let alone draw her new two handed sword, let alone swing it to attack. Those of us on foot did the best we could, helped out by walking rather than sitting stationary as the cold seeped into our bones. One of the Pelosian drivers, Catranasia, seemed to be suffering the most, even with advice from the Hutzlunr on how to keep the cold at bay.

She had obviously come to the conclusion that Skuza would be too damned scared to take any route other than on approved Pelosian roads, and would arrive at market in time to spend her share of the profits on buying some warm and woolly clothing. Hopefully this would be a rare mistake, and one that she wouldn’t come to regret. Something seemed off about Drazar now I think back on it, but since he was always hidden behind that damnable mask, I have no idea why such a thought would come to me.

Maybe it was just the way he sat as the dripping intensified, huddled even more closely to himself, as if he could force the water to ignore gravity’s call by sheer force of will. For the rest of us, the heavier water falling was something to be pleased about. “We’re about half way there, by my reckoning”, piped up Caderyn, “or at least we will be once we’re under the river proper”. Everyone nodded, happy in the knowledge that we would only have to endure the biting cold and wet surroundings for a few more hours at most.

The darkness of the caves cannot be over-emphasised at this time, but when it lessened, we weren’t happy with what the light revealed. With few light sources available to us, and the walls slick black with moisture, we were lucky not have had any accidents as we moved through the tunnels. Ahead though, there seemed to be light. Moving closer we found ourselves in a pool of white, above us a natural fissure in the rocks wide enough to let light down even this far. I blinked my eyes rapidly to get accustomed to the glare, and around me the walls of of the cave stared back unblinking.

Embedded into the walls were countless skulls, their empty sockets staring at us all. Some were certainly – or at least at one time were – human, but others were either men from an earlier time, when savagery had warped their physique, or they were something different entirely. Something from another place, that may have tried to look human, but had failed in some small way. Too long in tooth, bigger in eye, flatter of the skull…

Enough to fool some people, maybe allowing them to get close enough to feed, perhaps? I know now why I was feeling such things, why my mind was drifting further into fantasy, rather than concentrating on the very real dangers around us, but it took a Hormorn bellowing and dragging its horn against the stones to break me out of my fancy, and think about why I was acting so strangely.

Covering the walls, the bones, the skulls – everywhere, around us and above – grew a black moss. Shadow moss. An hallucinogenic growth taken by Dummonii priests as part of their rituals, and anyone else for that matter, who just wanted something of an escape. The water dripping from the ceiling, that had been falling onto our faces for at least an hour solidly had run through the moss, picking up fibers as it did. What ever alchemical agent it was within the shadow moss that caused its users to see what could not be seen had obviously been working on me, if not all of us.

In that moment of clarity, I knew I had to warn everyone, lest we all succumb to delusions, trapping ourselves forever in not only the caves, but also our fevered imaginations. Most of the party was quick to heed my warning, wiping their water away from their mouths, and pulling their hoods further over their face to prevent more from dripping onto their lips. There was little we could do for the hormorn, and we could only trust to their constitution and the skill of their handlers.

“It lets you see the dead”, I heard Caderyn say, as we made ready to move once more into the darkness. He was staring at the moss covered walls as he spoke, seemingly lost in thought, maybe remembering his last trip to this hellish place. I was about to ask why that could be considered a good thing, when he reached forward and tore some of the moss from the wall and held it in his hand. I could see what was going to happen, but seemed unable to stop him, to even want to try. In all honesty, if he hadn’t done what I knew he was about to do, I dare say I would have. With barely a moments pause, he opened his mouth and pushed the small handful of moss between his lips.

I half smiled at this. His reasoning was clear; if he could see the dead, he could warn us all of dangers we might not be able to comprehend. I’d have done it for the thrill myself, and to have saved anyone else from having to do something they may not have wanted to. I wasn’t sure if he was doing because he wanted to, or because he saw it as his duty to as the only Dummonii amongst us. At least, so far as we knew. I wasn’t going to let his visions take us too far off our course though, or allow him to hurt himself as he had done something quite noble, intentionally or not. I would stay by him until we were out of the caves, watching his back for corporeal threats, as he guarded us from other worldly ones.

*     *     *

We walked some way, Caderyn at our front, with me as his shadow. Valerius stayed close by too, for which I was thankful. The markings we were seeing on the walls near splits in out path meant nothing to me. Caderyn seemed led by something else, and I was following him, Valerius had to act as our guide.

I had seen a few of the others strip some moss from the walls, but they weren’t ingesting it, so I said nothing. If they wanted to partake on their own time, that was their call to make. Hell, they could sell the stuff to Pelosian mercenaries for all I cared. It was when I saw the glint of amber that I started to worry about taking things not meant to be touched. Everything we had picked up so far on the road had been taken and counted by Valerius, with the understanding that even if you carried it now, it was the property of Skuza.

This was his endeavour, and I had no problem with this ruling. Fjorlief would have to pay the value of her new sword from her share of the profits, and I was happy to give up a few coins for the Hutzlunr ’s battered brigandine. Caderyn claimed no desire to keep hold of the battered and rusty helmet he was wearing, but that surprised no one. A hunk of uncut amber the size of my fist though, that was tempting to take. Something told me that to do so would to be to risk the ire of whatever else lived inside these caves though, so I stepped quickly forward, keeping the Dummonii at my side.

“That is not for us”.

It took me a moment to realise that he had spoken at all, and I wasn’t sure to whom he was directing the admonishment. I quickly looked about, spotting Catranasia eyeing the amber. I don’t know if she had jumped down to grab it and been stopped, or if Caderyn just knew her mind and was quick enough to stop her from making a grave error. She complied, but others were also keen on taking souvenirs. As I said, there was plenty of shadow moss going to be walking out of the caves with us, but some were looking to grab other fungus too. “Put it back, the spirits ain’t pleased”, once again it was Caderyn who spoke, but I was never sure if he even saw what the others were doing, or was following instructions from the voices in his head.

As we approached another junction, I was sure that he was seeing things the rest of us weren’t. he paused as we neared the left hand turn, but never made a move towards it. Valerius seemed happy to be continuing on our way too, but there was something there that had captured Caderyn’s attention. “Don’t interfere, don’t follow”, he said to the darkness down the tunnel, “We’ve already dealt with you. Go along your way.”

I should have asked who was there that wanted to dog our steps, but it seemed a personal moment, and with a shake of his head, Caderyn turned away and continued down our chosen path. No matter how intently I stared down the side tunnel, I saw nothing but blackness.

*     *     *

That wasn’t the last strangeness that awaited us down paths not taken, but rather that than anything blocking our way. Another alcove, this time with something of flesh within. Almost human from a distance, but up close, it was an “empty one”. No soul left, maybe never had one. When Caderyn spoke, it was getting harder to keep up with his thoughts. It was as if he was asking questions of someone not there, and getting interrupted by them too. He seemed to know what this thing was though, and kept his distance.

The figure was short and squat, barely covered in ragged clothing, but with a clay bowl in its hands. It turned towards us as we approached, and Caderyn assumed a defensive posture, clearly worried that this little thing might be dangerous. It seemed small and inconsequential to me, but I wasn’t about to die because my pride had made me stupid. I didn’t move too far back though, and used the length of my sword to steer the bizarre little homunculus past me, towards the carts.

It didn’t seem to care, or even notice that it had come close to being impaled on several feet of steel, and just carried on until a hormorn put its mouth into the bowl and took the entire wad of moss. With that taken care off, it just carried on back the way we had come as if it hadn’t a care in the world.

I looked towards the Dummonii, hoping he would have something to say that made sense. “We are being hunted. The Toma comes, and this was a warning. It meant no harm, and was sent by a benevolent spirit”. All I could do was nod, but over his shoulder, I saw that this spirit, friendly or not, might have more to say. Another Empty One was heading towards us, slowly, feet almost dragging as it held its bowl of moss towards us. Caderyn turned to follow my gaze, and I saw a smile play across his lips, “They bring more shadow moss, this is a good sign”.

My sword was already in hand, and I wasn’t yet ready to sheath it, as further ahead, I was sure there was another. Caderyn took the moss from the closest one’s bowl, putting into his mouth and began to chew. There was definitely another ahead of us, moving out from an alcove to head in our direction. As it closed on us I directed it past, trusting the others to do the same. looking over my shoulder, it seemed the biggest threat to it was the hormorn.

At least a couple were almost as high as our guide, and none of them seemed to care about trampling one of the creatures underfoot. More were approaching though, and further ahead, more still. I soon lost count, as the darkness made it impossible to keep track, but it seemed like only seconds until the entire cave ahead of us was packed wall to wall with Empty Ones. Were they as friendly as Caderyn thought?

He looked to be changing his mind, but the shadow moss made it a slow process. As they gathered about him, he seemed confused at first. He was obviously certain that they were supposed to be on our side, and was struggling to cope with the idea that they may not, especially as so many were closing in on us like a tide. Eventually, his resolve stiffened and he brought his shield to bear. Although he still seemed determined to avoid killing them, he was less than gentle, pushing them hard away, knocking several from their feet as he diverted them past us.

I was even less forgiving, and had my sword pointing directly at them. The flat wasn’t doing enough to keep them from my way, so I was pushing out with the tip, stabbing into flesh in the hope that they’d realise the danger they were in and keep clear of my sword. It was not to be however. When they had lost their souls, they had obviously also lost a reason to preserve their lives – if one could claim they had such a thing – and they continued to move inexorably against us.

By this time dozens had moved past us, but even more lay ahead. I had stopped caring about what could befall my companions, concentrating on staying on my feet, with enough space about me keep thrusting the basaedo where it needed to be. It wasn’t until I felt warm breathe against my neck that I realised this wasn’t going to be enough. At the front, he wad stalled against the mass of creatures, but those behind had carried on moving. The hormorn had cared not about what they stood on, and were now close to using us as a walkway too.

Panic finally settled upon me, and I found my eyes alighting on anything that might offer a way past, but finding nothing. Caderyn looked almost as worried, with no solution presenting itself. Thank the Gods for women though, especially those with Vytch blood running through their veins. “You’re all idiots! Do what I’m doing!” I looked behind, and was thankful that both Fjorlief and myself were taller than almost everyone else. I could see the Empty Ones streaming past her, not impeding her in any way, but it took a few seconds to see why.

She was taking the shadow moss from each creature as it walked towards her, pocketing it as fast as she could, and then they were just walking on by. Behind her I could already see that dozens were disappearing into the darkness just as eerily as they had appeared ahead of us. There were still dozens ahead, but with the Hutzlunr’s plan seeming to work, we set about it. I was happy to drop the black mold onto the ground as the Empty Ones streamed past us, but others were filling their pockets. I may be mistaken, but I’m almost sure I saw Caderyn stick a handful or two more into his mouth as we thinned out the crowd.

Behind us, the others were following the Vytch’s lead, and within a few minutes the throng ahead of us had started to thin, and minutes later the Empty Ones were nothing but a few retreating shadows. I was happy to take a moment to breath, and at any other time would have been quick to lash out at Caderyn for insisting we were in no danger. A momentary glance was enough to make me wind in my tongue though. His eyes were almost totally glazed over, and I doubt he could have heard what I said, let alone take in its meaning. I remembered my promise to protect him, and went to his side, patting his shoulder and turning him once more in the direction we so fervently hoped would lead us from these dismal caves.

*    *     *

Drazar didn’t seem to come out of this encounter as well as the rest of us though. In the confusion something had happened to him, but I never found out what. Fjorlief was quick to offer her aid though, or at least, so I thought. As I was still more concerned with making sure that whatever was going through Caderyn’s head didn’t spill over to dangerous levels, I missed most of what happened. I would like to think that she was trying to help him, in her own way, and what happened afterwards was just unfortunate. She placed her hands on him, or maybe on his mask, to see what was wrong.

Him apparently. With a look of disgust on her face, she quickly pulled her hands back, “You’re wrong”. Two words, and in relation to no other conversation. She wasn’t disagreeing with a point he’d made, or an idea he’d floated. He was just wrong, in some way that she could sense and was repulsed by. It would of course be nice to live in a world where everyone just got along, but at the time, I would have been happy if they could have at least pretended to for the rest of the journey.

And we were still a way to go until we were even out of the caves. True, the path had inclined back up by now, and the dripping water had slowed considerably, but with possibly hours to go it seemed like scant good fortune at all. Ahead though, there was light. My first thought was daylight, but we were still too deep underground for that. As we moved closer, the light coalesced into a human form. Well, nearly human, and also more than.

She was a head and a half taller than either Fjorlief or myself, and built like a Hutzlunr warrior of legend. Armed with a long spear, and wearing the bare minimum of armour, she was nevertheless impressive. From each temple grew a long curved horn which added to her height and marked her as the Toma that Caderyn thought was hunting us. He seemed unimpressed and stepped forward to meet her, myself still acting as his shadow, unwilling to give up the chance of fighting a Goddess.

“You have brought filth and contamination to this place”, she intoned, “You shall no go further with such abominations in your company”.

“We bring nothing”, replied our half cut guide, struggling up the steep incline to meet her, “many times have people passed through these caves without the likes of you stopping them! The Corbie tribe have allowed us passage, so let us pass!”

“The Corbie have no right to say who walks these caves, that is my right! And I will have tribute. Their shadows will suffice, if any of you hope to see daylight once more!” Caderyn seemed shocked by these words, and was moving forward to meet her, weapons drawn.

“These are my men! Leave them be”, came a shout from behind with a thick Hutzlunr accent. Toma smiled, and left the shout hanging in the air, offering up the silence to be filled. I was almost close enough to slash at the huntress as she spoke first.

“Tribute then. Who shall you offer up to appease me?”

Thinking this a feint to give us opportunity to strike, the next words I heard threw me out of kilter, “Him”. I stopped suddenly, and looked behind, wondering just who the Vytch was was so willing to sacrifice.

I should have known, and you dear reader are almost certainly ahead of me, your lives not being in mortal peril as mine was. With one arm extended, the finger pointing solidly at Drazar, I found I couldn’t move or speak. If she accepted the offering, would we leave the man to have his soul taken by the Goddess?

Time slowed for me, but I imagine Drazar’s mind was racing. I had already seen him wield the earth power, and expected that the Vytch would be just as powerful. Would he strike at her before Toma came for him? Allowing himself vengeance at the cost of his life? Toma spoke first though, “He is unclean, and not worthy of my bite”.

“How about a bite on his shadow then,” countered Fjorlief, indicating Valerius. Surely this was a jest to distract Toma, and we must act quickly. Caderyn jumped at the chance too, and it seemed that a thought that had been fomenting for some time was finally allowed access to his tongue.

“We cannot trust her, she will take more than a bite! She is a Succubus, how do we kill her”, and with that he was charging in to the fight. I was quick to follow, but in less than a second realised that I was too late. She threw her spear like a javelin, and it burst into flame as it flew through the air towards Valerius. Brand was not to be outdone though, as his own weapon was soon engulfed in fire as he drew it ready for combat. I knew him to be a fighter without equal based on only a short time in his company, and with a magic weapon in hand, even the Goddess must not have seemed too challenging. But I swear on the Gods, as the fight started, and his sword lit the cave, a look of terror seemed to come to his face.

Other things were more important though, as I was close enough to Toma to strike out. Before I knew what was happening though, she had vanished, replaced by a fast moving tendril of smoke that began to quickly wend its way towards Valerius. She was certainly keen to get what was offered to her, and there was little I could do to stop her. In this form, she was impervious to my attack, no matter how well placed my blow, it slipped through the smoke as if it wasn’t even there. Cursing her I threw my torch to the ground and pulled out my dagger, readying myself for her counter attack.

It never came though, at least not at me. With flaming sword, Brand slashed at the smoke, and it quickly took on a solid form once more. Whatever hunger she felt, it had obviously gotten the better of her, as she was now surrounded. Caderyn had charged after her, smoke or solid, and was swinging his axe with a look of hatred on his face. Valerius had somehow managed to string his warbow ready to loose an arrow, and with flaming sword Brand was tearing her flesh open.

She was certainly more powerful than she looked, but being either a Goddess or a Daemon, that wasn’t much of a surprise. The wounds inflicted seemed to be closing up almost as quick as they were opened, but never fully sealing. I imagine that if she wasn’t so outnumbered, she would have made short work of us indeed. With the melee tightly packed, I was willing to hold off in case one of our men should fall, and careful enough to avoid getting too close the Dummonii, as he slashed about himself with wild abandon.

Thankfully, I wasn’t needed in the fray, and before long, the creature that called herself Toma was down and vanished, and the group was victorious. I dreaded the conversations that would follow the offering of tribute, but they would have to wait. We still needed to get ourselves free from these caves, and hopefully we had faced the worst they had to offer. I went to check on the Dummonii, to make sure he wasn’t too badly hurt from the fight, but apart from still looking bleary around the eyes, he seemed in fine form. Mostly.

Maybe it was the moss that made him do it, but as I watched, he looked down at the bloody axe in his hand thoughtfully, before lifting it up and running his tongue along the blood soaked edge. Once more I found myself ready to explode at him for being such an idiot, but he had just gone toe to toe with a Daemon, and come out on top, all the while being off his head on shadow moss. Whatever his reason for drinking the blood of his enemy, it was his own.

I followed him once more to the head of the group, as the Pelosians behind us began a pitched discussion on the implications of imbibing Daemon blood. Since I had fed some creature my own blood only a few hours earlier, I saw it as fair game, and just hoped we would see daylight soon enough.

*     *     *

We were to get my wish, but exhaustion had robbed me of the ability to keep track of time. It was early evening when we emerged, and I would like to think we had managed the trip in a day, as I don’t remember sleeping at all while we were down there. One of the Corbie tribe was waiting for us, and in my addled state I was sure it was the tribal leader who was there when we set off. I have no idea if such a thing was even possible, but I just needed to get away from the caves, and out of my damp cloak before the chill could get into me. “Well that was fucking fun”, says I, as the Corbie waffled on, “but it’s going to be dark soon, it’s bloody cold, and we’re all wearing wet clothing. How about we move on sharpish and find somewhere to get a fire going where we can sleep”.

Valerius was too busy engaging with the Corbie, and I was too strung out to be diplomatic, “Or we could just stand around here in our wet clothes having a chat I suppose?” Not the brightest thing to say, and Valerius’ patience must have been wearing almost as thin as mine, as he put me in my place.

“After what we’ve just been through, this is the done thing. I know we’re all wearing cold wet clothes, but I’ll ask for directions to campsite when we’re done talking.” There was little I could say to hurry him along, so I trudged forward and waited for us all to move. Eventually we did, and once we exited the shadow of the mountains, the chill in the air vanished. If we hadn’t been wearing such wet clothes, it would have been quite pleasant. As it was I was very happy to see a patch of open ground ahead of us, with two tall totem poles topped with corbie facing away from each other up ahead.

Well, Valerius had done his job alright, and led us to a campsite. I decided not to mention that we could have found it ourselves by simply following the path, as I think he would have quickly lost what little patience he still had with me. Instead I got a fire going and hung my cloak to dry while the hunters went after our evening meal. I was honing the point of my Basaedo as Skuza prayed to his God for delivering him – somehow forgetting to thank the men and women who dragged his pox ridden arse through the caves – when I heard Drazar and Fjorlief exchanging some loud words.

I didn’t need to make out the details, as I could be pretty sure what they involved, so I just waited for it to all die down. Once they had gotten it off their collective chests, Drazar walked back towards the fire. Although his mask prevented me from seeing his expression, his body was practically humming with anger. “What happened in those caves wasn’t right for anyone. We still have a way to go though, so how about you two learn to live with each other until we get someplace safe”, says I, and hoped that’d be the last of it before we could all get some sleep.

Nov 182013
 

My way is not the right way for everyone. I understand this, and know that there probably isn’t a right way for everyone, but I’ve kept dozens of player diaries, and read even more that have been written by other gamers. Rather than tell you how they should be done, as I don’t think there is a correct way to do them, I’ll be offering a few things that you should be thinking about if you’re about to start keeping a record of your character’s activities, or are struggling to maintain one already in process.

Firstly, who are you writing it for? Is this something that the other players will be checking in one after every session? Is it for the GM’s eyes only, or maybe just for yourself? Are you putting it out there for the general public, to let people who have never even played the game or spent time with any of the characters involved. Firstly, lets assume that at the least, the other players in your group will be checking in on the diary.

This can present you with some problems if there’s a few things about your character that you’d rather others didn’t find out about. If this is the case, you have a couple of options open to you. You can indulge in some creative editing to keep these things your own dirty little secret, but you need to be careful about keeping the story flowing without giving anything away. If you’re playing in a game that indulges in secrets and conspiracies, you could play up to this. Write out your full character diary, including all the things you don’t want people to know, then redact the sensitive topics before sending it out to the world. Your other option is to write the diary in such a way that there’s would be no way that the players would have any access to it.

In my particular case I have written the diary from the point of view of my character as retired adventurer. This works for a couple of reasons, notably being that at the present time, the character cannot read or write. In case my GM is reading this, it has nothing to due with subtly implanting the suggestion in his mind that I’m going to survive whatever he throws in front of me so that I get the chance to retire and write my memoirs. This might explain why they are so long winded, as I also appear to be channeling the writing style of the late George MacDonald Fraser in his Flashman series of books. It has even occurred to me that they are quickly turning from a  player diary, into the first draft of a novel.

I think this comes down to another option; writing for yourself. True, other people do read them, and I’ve gotten so far positive feedback, but they’re not being written as a way for the other players to check up on for a quick summary of the last week’s adventures. I’m writing my diary because I like writing, and the stories we’re telling weekly are fantastic, and well worth taking the time to commit to page, or in this case screen. The odd thing is, although I am mainly writing for myself, I am sharing with them with a much wider audience by putting them on the blog. If you’re planning on doing something similar, prepare yourself for the challenge of writing about an imaginary world that the reader may never have encountered before.

I’m pretty lucky in this, as the game my character exists in, is in the middle of a successful Kickstarter campaign. Because of this, they have been sharing a lot of stuff about their game that I can link to for people wanting more information. I still need to be careful though, and make sure I take the time to include some details that are required to give the neophyte reader a chance of understanding what the heck is going on.

If you’re looking to create a record of events that’s just there to serve as reminder of the in game activities, then you could try something completely different, and move away from the first person narrative at all. Write from an outsider perspective – I have found that newspaper stories or other journalistic forms work pretty well – and you don’t need to worry about including anything personal, and by necessity your writing should be quick and punchy, without needing to go into too much detail.

More importantly though, set yourself a realistic time frame with your chosen method. My entries are massive, but I give myself plenty of time to write them. If you don’t have the spare time, then give yourself a reason to only write shorter summaries of the action. If your finding yourself getting stressed out about maintaining a schedule at your current expected word count, then you’re missing the point, and should probably reevaluate how your approaching your diary.