Music and Media
- A Killing on the California Zephyr November 25, 2012
- Star Wars 3.5: Biding Time October 29, 2012
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- The Guards of Galdenwyck [1-13] October 4, 2011
Grizzlemax, the orcish king, had prepared an ad hoc assembly of his praetorian guards this very afternoon. These stalwart 50 were his best soldiers, hand-picked since childhood as his personal protectors. They had all served and serviced him well. He gave the order to rest their halberds.
“Praetorians! Today is . . . ” he glanced at the solunar calendar on his dais, “Today is . . . the fourth day between Idyllwine and Shambzat! You all know the legends! Today, we will rise against our dwarven oppressors and eat their luscious toes for breakfast!”
A loud hurrah and snorting swelled up from his troops, for the eating of dwarf toes had been banned in a recent peace accord with Meshu, king of the dwarves.
“The Guards of Galdenwyck are taking their mortal forms! Soon, all fourteen of them will unite and destroy Taga’s rule, leaving the entire region of Whydonia for ourselves!”
The praetorians snorted and shouted even more loudly at this remark. Several of them clanked their halberds together in splendid rejoicing.
“But . . . ”
The crowd ooh-ed and aah-ed at this sign of trepidation.
“ . . . for our promised legacy to come true, we must capture the spell book of the Avaximander! As you know, it was buried along with Werkingetorix in the tomb that is . . . Werkingetorix’s! And the vile vampire, Tamcruz Bradpit now makes it his dirty, shameful home!”
“Ooooh!” the crowd sarcastically mocked.
“Yes. I know you are battle-hardened soldiers. But since none of you seem to be able to perform the simplest of the clerical skills, such as praying in the right direction, this task will be harder than you think. Tamcruz will no doubt have an endless supply of undead minions to cast at us, and he will be no slouch in combat, either.” He paced left, then right, and assumed his speaking stance in front of the rostra once again, giving them suitable time to reflect upon his grave admonishments. “Yes, he will be no slouch in combat.”
The orcs were bloodthirsty, having lived under millennia of dwarven oppression and this opportunity seemed to much for them to bear. After Grizzlemax adjourned the meeting of the guards he convened a special council of his ten most trusted advisors.
“Yes, my fellow soldiers, the situation seems bleak. Raiding the arch-lich’s tomb and stealing a spellbook from under the nose of Tamcruz Bradpit seems an impossible task, but . . . .”
“But what, Your Great Orcishness?” asked Frizzlefry, a longstanding member of the innner sanctum. “We have no chance here. Would you loose upon the world an army of orcish undead? If I am understanding you correctly, that is exactly what will happen.”
“Ah, Frizzlefry, your father, Claypoole, would know I had at least one trick up my sleeve. You have much to learn. Yes, much to learn.”
Grizzlemax gazed at his council for several rounds, daring them to ask what his plan was but not one orc raised his voice. “OK, you feeble-minded troglodytes, here is what I know. I recently visited the Oracle at Larrielison and learned that a half-orc swine by the name of Kadik is travelling with his apprentice, a lowly drow elf.”
Groans issued from the room. A half-orc and a drow elf? What could they possibly have to do with anything?
“Hear me out, for you know that the Oracle never lies. The half-orc is a master thief and according to the Oracle, is the only one who can steal the spellbook.”
[Editor's note: at this point the manuscript goes missing and the final pages appear to have been eaten by dire wolves. Perhaps the rest of the story will turn up in a treasure trove as of yet not found.]
- The Guards of Galdenwyck [1-12] September 29, 2011
Over 1,000 hexes away, Kadik and Gauth pulled up their horses just 50 hexes short of the caravan outside the dwarven hamlet of Theobard. The sun was just beginning to rise, so Gauth insisted that they rest until dark in a nearby cavern. Before entering the cavern, Gauth invoked the powers inside his amulet to detect any noises within.
“Master Andan! I hear the sounds of two kobolds snoring!”
Although the sun was rising in the distance and a campfire dimly lit the cavern, Kadik and Gauth each successfully hid in shadows for the next two turns. They knew they were successful because neither could see the other as they shimmied along the cave’s walls toward the slumbering kobolds.
Fortunately for the daring thieves, the kobolds were sleeping on their stomachs unarmored, affording not only a to-hit bonus, surprise modifier, and first initiative in the ensuing round of battle, but also the back-stabbing multiplier, which, due to Kadik’s recent level-up, was now at x3.
Using Thieves’ Cant, Kadik gave the attack signal.
They each assailed a different kobold after unsheathing their daggers, with Kadik striking for triple damage and sending his foe rapidly to the netherworld. Gauth, however, was not so lucky, rolling a 1 on his D20 and dropping his weapon after the critical miss. He was lucky not to break his dagger, but only made a loud din instead. Fortunately, the kobold had been drinking heavily the previous night, and slept through his assailant’s attack. Not needing to roll for initiative again, Gauth recovered his weapon and struck for double damage, sending the unsuspecting humanoid swiftly chasing his partner into the planes of Hell.
“Excellent back-stab,” Kadik said, “But we won’t likely get a second chance against those caravan traders. You better roll higher tonight or use some magick to decrease your THAC0.”
Gauth scouted the cavern inside and out to make sure no one espied their arrival. He then took inventory of what the kobolds’ rucksacks, beholding enough dwarven ale to get them both relaxed enough to sleep. Just before retiring to his rucksack, he gazed upon the sun, his bane, wistfully.
“Master Andan, shouldn’t Cletus, Zeigdan, and Bronte, the Purple Partners in Deception, be rising with the sun today?”
“What do I look like,” Kadik said, trying to sleep, “A star-gazing wizard?”
“Well, that pointy hat you’re wearing makes me wonder.”
“It’s a woodmen’s cap . . . perfect for questing in the wilderness.”
“Whatever,” said Gauth, rolling over, “I need to sleep. Leave me alone.”
Gauth was asleep in seconds but his question about the purple moons kept Kadik stirring far into the afternoon. He finally got up and stumbled outside the cavern to have a look for himself. Lucky for him, no wandering monsters entered the area at the time because he had left his weapons in the cave. He looked to the southeast and breathed a sigh of relief as he saw the purple moons. That foolish Drow elf had just looked before the moons had risen. He glanced at that area of the Avaxian sky one more time and realized, to his horror, that there were only two purple moons. In his haste to comfort himself he had seen three originally because he had wanted to see three.
Kadik slowly walked back into the cavern, knowing full well what the future portended. He had heard the stories as a child of the cataclysms that would accompany the return of the Guardians to their Avaxian forms. He had also been told by his grandmother, Skizt, that the Guardians would free the orcs from the oppression of humans, dwarves, and elves. This he had dismissed as a child as pseudo-religious balderdash. Being a half-orc was bad enough. What would all-powerful, supernatural beings like the Guardians care for such a pathetic race as the orcs, incapable of even the most elementary conjuring?
Why this coming catastrophe bothered him so much he did not know, but instead of going to sleep, he sat down on a large boulder and opened the seal on the last jug of dwarven ale and poured himself a copious amount into his drinking horn.
- The Guards of Galdenwyck [1-11] September 21, 2011
Kierian and Assamabinladin had reached the port city of Dalwinie after two days of riding along the coast. The city was eerily quiet the night they arrived. The gaming houses were only half full and the streets were nearly bare of urchins. Even the Dwarven Quarter, which the pair had to pass through as they traveled through the city, was less busy than usual. Also absent was the banging of iron on iron from the most skilled blacksmiths of the Avax coast who fashioned masterful killing edges.
A quick glance up at the heavens told Kierian all he needed to know.
“Morimuto is now arrived on Galdenwyck, ‘binladin.”
“How much time do you think we have until they are all here?”
“At the rate they are coming, I would say 20 more moon cycles. If we make it to the lair of Tamcruz Bradpit in 15 days we will be lucky.”
“We should make haste then. Perhaps you should search for a cleric while I retire to a room and relearn my spells. I gained some experience points on our journey with the bugbears I killed. Perhaps I will go up a level.”
“We can only hope, ‘binladin. We will need all the magick we can get. Do you have a cheque or voucher from Azi Zanisi that we can use to pay a high level cleric?”
‘binladin reached into his rucksack and produced a small square of calfskin emblazoned with the silvern emblem of Zanisi. “This is self-authenticating and good for 500 gp. Take it to any licensed banquer in the city and you will be able to obtain the funds.”
“Wonderful, ‘binladin. You go study up and get the requisite sleep. Might I suggest the Inn of the Golden Clam. I have stayed there previously. Take a room and I will be there as soon as I can. I’m afraid your language lessons will have to wait.”
Kierian turned and rode off down a wide avenue which led to Dalwinie’s financial district while ‘binladin set off to secure lodgings where he could study his spell book and hopefully move up to the 10th level. The idea of moving up a level excited ‘binladin greatly as he thought of how many magic missiles he could learn. And a few extra hit points couldn’t hurt, either, especially as a magic-user.
“Now where was that Holy Order of the Ever-readied Werewomen and Latter-day Cherubim?” Kierian was trying to gather his bearings by looking at the various landmarks as he strode past Dalwinie’s First Copper Bank. He knew that the statue of Dalwinie’s founder, George Dalwinie, faced North, which helped guide him East past the Crappamattox Courthouse, whence he could see the nine spires of the church of the werewomen.
Some graffiti in simple Thieves’ Cant written crudely on the steps leading to the church read: “Tck. Tick-tick,.( taok. Tick).,%” Kierian loosely translated this as: “Morimuto here. Clio next. Our world ablaze!” Such gloominess permeated all throughout the city, but he refused to let the mood harsh his scene. He hummed a joyous ode which increased his ability scores by one for the next several rounds.
The stone columns that held up the temple’s pediment and roof had been carved by local craftsmen hundreds of years prior. They were not simple cylindrical columns, but each was a sculpture of a werewoman in transition. The first column on the left was a depiction of a natural naked woman, and the rightmost column was a full-blown werewoman. Each column in between showed a gradual change in form from beauty to feral fierceness.
It was rumored that the leader of the werewomen, Lambanam, once destroyed a vampire and his entire army of red skeletons through prayer and divine intervention. She would be a potent ally in the quest for Avaximander’s spell book, but likely would not abandon Dalwinie in this time of need. She was more likely to spare an acolyte or two, however, to aid him and Assambinladin on their honorable quest to save Galdenwyck from the Guardians. Plus, the werewomen were one of the few holy orders which did not make a vow of chastity to their deity, and Kierian had often lusted after their beastly fashion.
Before ringing the bell at the front gate Kierian glanced at the sky to check the phases of the 12 remaining moons. In a place such as Galdenwyck with its 14 moons, lycanthropy had adapted to spare its victims from being in constant were-form as there was always at least one full moon in the skies. As far as Kierian knew, at least 33% of the moons needed to be in full phase for lycanthropy to set in. Of course, it could be different among the werewomen of this sect but it comforted him to see that only Clio and Craon were full on this night.
Shortly after ringing the bell, a small woman in white robes appeared at the gate. The ode Kierian hummed earlier was still affecting his ability scores and he thusly gained a +2 to all reaction rolls.
“Greetings traveler” spake the acolyte. “What is it that brings you to the Temple of the Ever-readied Werewomen and Latter-day Cherubim?”
“Ah, forgive me for disturbing your solitude at this time but as you may know the world is in grave danger.”
“Yes, the disappearance of the moons concerns us very much. If there are no moons, we lose our powers of lycanthropy. Oh, but surely this is obvious to you, sir” The young woman paused and looked back into the courtyard for a round or two. “I’m sorry, you have told me not why you are here.”
Kierian racked his brain trying to remember whether this sect was in favor with the Chairman and Azi Zanisi. He knew there had been a problem in the past, something about the high amount of silver being imported into the city, but he thought that had been remedied. Taga and Azi normally had a fairly laissez-faire attitude toward religion in general, allowing all to flourish.
“I am on a mission from Azi Zanisi. If I could, young acolyte, I would like to speak with your leader, the great Lambanam.”
The young woman’s eyes narrowed as she tried to gauge Kierian. The increase in his abilities had expired by now and although he was still charming, he could tell the girl was not as taken with him as she was only a few rounds earlier. “Excuse me for questioning you, but how do I know you come from the maddened wizard? We do not allow just anyone into the presence of our leader. Plus, you will need to submit to a strip search while we check you for any silver.”
“I promise you the only silver I have is the embossed marks on my lute.”
“I am sorry. If you do not submit to the strip search, you cannot enter Lambanam’s chambers. The risk is too great not to impose a small inconvenience on our visitors. The undressing room is past the first alcove, on the 2nd floor of spire number three.”
He protested some more rather sheepishly, but yielded to the comely acolyte’s bidding. It was intriguing to him that she might see him naked, and that his svelte features would woo her over. Hopefully, Lambanam would send this acolyte herself on the mission to the Tomb of Werkingetorix. It had been many, many turns hence when he last loosed his meat horn onto a buxom vixen.
The undressing room’s walls were covered with a chromatic and phosphorescent paneling, which reflected his image like a mirror. While he removed his leathern breeches and tunic, pentatonic music with a heavy beat began to pump through the chamber, and the walls started swirling with bright colors. Overhead, a sphere with thousands of little mirrors on it descended and spun around, reflecting dots of scintillating light everywhere.
His initial inkling was that this globe mechanism had magickal powers that could detect silver as the dots of light swirled around the room. But then he heard a faint woman’s voice from beyond the other side of the walls: “Please insert 2gp into the slot to the right of your chair to see more of the show.”
There were no chairs in this chamber, and no slot to insert gold pieces into. He quickly quit undressing and investigated the silvery sphere for magickal qualities.
“Please, do not touch our Orb of Silver Detection,” the young acolyte’s voice was booming from every side of the room, “Continue to strip or you will not see Lambanam.”
He stopped investigating the sphere and stripped until totally naked. He was amazed at how great his body looked in the swirling lights. The music changed to a faster tempo, and upon failing his saving throw versus its driving beat, began to dance uncontrollably for several rounds.
The music eventually stopped and he was told to put his clothes back on. After getting redressed, he heard another voice beyond the walls say: “Thank you and come again. Permanent images from tonight’s show framed with electrum are now available in the lobby for just 3gp!”
The comely acolyte was awaiting him outside the door of the chamber. “You can see Lambanam now. By the way, my name is Brauth-el. You dance quite nicely, for a male.”
Blast it, thought Kierian. Of course the werewomen prefer the company of each other more than a man. “Thank you, I think, Brauth-el. My name is Kierian. So what was the deal with the show?”
“I’m glad you’re not angry with us. We do not beg for alms in the streets like other religions, instead we have benefactors who pay a great deal of money to satisfy their voyeuristic tendencies. This arrangement serves us in many ways. For one, the citizens of Dalwinie do not view us as lazy beggars like they do other sects. Also, the people who viewed your dancing are among the most powerful in the city. We keep their secrets, they help us.”
Kierian shook his head. “Maybe I’m just getting old but this world sure is changing. Being forced to undress for the pleasure of others would have been a crime in the days of Avaximander. Perhaps the coming of the Guardians is a blessing.”
Brauth-el suddenly advanced on him and threw her hand over his mouth. She was standing very close and Kierian, after the initial shock, noticed that she was wearing nothing beneath her thin white robe. “Hush,” she hissed. “You must not speak of the Guardians in these chambers,” she whispered into his ear. Her hot breath caused a surging in his loins and he pushed her away.
“What are you doing, Kierian? I am trying to protect you.”
“I am sorry, Brauth-el. I am but a man and, well, the nearness of you, such a comely maiden, well, I . . . .”
“Oh, I am the one who should apologize. Sometimes I forget that although I feel no attraction toward a man I may still cause a stirring in his loins. Perhaps . . . .”
“Perhaps what?” asked Kierian, brightening considerably.
She shook her head. “Never mind. Come. I will take you to Mother Lambanam’s chambers.”
Kierian followed Brauth-el down two flights of stairs, around a corner, up four flights of stairs and down a seemingly endless stretch of winding hallways until they arrived in front of a great oaken door decorated with various mysterious runes, the likes of which Kierian had never seen. The torches on the walls of the hallway were not of flame, but small glowing orbs which aped the phases of the fourteen moons. Two larger orbs of glowing red hung on either side of the door. Kierian guessed the patron moon of the werewomen was Clio.
Brauth-el rang a small bell on the door and they opened slowly. Kierian strained his neck to see into the room and caught a glimpse of nude woman being helped into great red robes by a pair of acolytes clad in the same white robes worn by Brauth-el. “You didn’t see that,” hissed Brauthel, a command, not a question.
The woman in the red robe, who Kierian guessed to be Lambanam was even more beautiful than any of the acolytes. He was expecting someone much older but then figured anyone who ruled a sect such as this must be in possession of some magick. She bade her servants to exit the room via the side chambers, and motioned Kierian forward for a closer inspection.
“Ahh. Kierian, is it? Your charisma is quite high, but then being a bard, it’s your prime-requisite, isn’t it? And your dancing is invigorating. Brauth-el seems to have caught your eye, as you have hers.” Lambanam reclined on a loveseat, suggestively rubbing her thighs. “You have come for our help. What is the nature of your request?”
Kierian could not help but to stare at her loins while he spake. “I, along with the Assamabinladin, assistant to the maddened wizard, Azi Zanisi, are questing to the Tomb of Werkingetorix to retrieve Avaximander’s spell book.”
“And you need help with the vampire, Tamcruz Bradpit.” She sat up and quit rubbing her thighs, as her expression turned to one of anger. “You magic users are always so egocentric, bragging, casting magic missiles at every conflict, but when an undead creature of moderate-to-high hit dice crosses your path, the first person you beg assistance from is a cleric. Maybe you should quit memorizing your spell book every morning, and start offering prayers.”
Kierian glanced at the moon-torches, and decided to remind her of her desperate position, even though Brauth-el warned him about mentioning the Guardians. “Your lycanthropic powers will be nullified soon, especially after Clio herself returns to Galdenwyck. No moons means no special powers.”
She began to rub her upper and inner thighs vigorously, driving Kierian crazy with lust. “I am prepared to send Brauth-el on your bold campaign, but I must warn you: there are rumors that Tamcruz Bradpit is not in control of the tomb. Rather, he is working for a higher power, an undead creature of intense magick. Some say it is Werkingetorix himself, who refused to leave this prime-material plane after his death.
“And one more warning. Brauth-el is not for your pleasure. She is for ours, and ours alone. Any attempt to deflower her will result in a heavy curse that only a Wish spell could remove. I’ll let you imagine what that curse could be, but rest assured, you would be lucky to have a street urchin for a mate.”
She then summoned Brauth-el and informed her of her mission. Before she departed with Kierian, Lambanam handed Brauth-el a leathern codpiece which possessed many magickal powers, but once worn, would not come off until Lambanam spoke the proper word. It would prevent any midnight encounters with Kierian from turning into lusty affairs, but also had one charge of Power Word Kill enchanted onto it.
Kierian thanked Lambanam and retreated from the room, glancing quickly over his shoulder as he left to see Lambanam’s robes cascade from her like butter on a hot biscuit. Once out of earshot he leaned toward Brauth-el and inquired as to why she had not been required to put on the magickal codpiece in the presence of Lambanam.
“I do not know. Perhaps she trusts me to do it myself. Really I do not even need it as I do not find you physically attractive, and I know that you will not take me by force in the Chumuran manner since you are an honorable man.”
Kieran nodded. “Rightly so, Brauth-el, but what if I were to entice you with my great store of sexual knowledge and prowess?”
“That remains to be seen. You seem awfully confident.”
“You forget, Brauth-el, that I am a bard of the highest college. I have traveled thrice the world-over and have obtained the greatest secrets of love, both modern and ancient.”
Brauth-el giggled. “Tell me more.”
As the pair walked down the tunnels to the exit of the temple Kieran whispered to Brauth-el. “The Yogic secrets of the Nymphs of Talabban. The High Noon Tantra of Palamore. The 8,000 Positions of the Dryads of the Southern Forests. The Mystical G of Grand Master Kith. The Silvern and Pointy Tongue of Kiselor. Must I go on?”
“What you say intrigues me, Kierian. Perhaps before I engirth my loins in this codpiece we should see what you can do.”
“Let us go to the Inn of the Golden Clam where we have taken rooms. I will send ‘binladin on some complicated errand to perfect his speech in the good alignments.”
Brauth-el batted her eyes coquettishly. “I will meet you there, Kieran. I must gather the tools of my trade from my room. I do hope you will provide a weapon. None are kept within the walls of the temple.”
“I’m sure we can obtain a sturdy mace for your use, since you are not allowed to wield piercing weaponry.”
“That will be perfect,” said Brauth-el as she turned to enter her quarters. “I will see you soon.”
Kierian headed toward the Inn whistling as he went, anticipating what could only be a great night of passion, not suspecting the effects that lovemaking has on the lycanthropes of the Ever-Readied Werewoman.
- The Guards of Galdenwyck [1-10] September 9, 2011
As Morimuto was appearing on the shores of the Isle of Grimden, Clavdia was traveling back to the island from her visit to Chairman Taga’s citadel. There she had assumed the form of a Messenger of Grimden and gained entrance to the citadel simply by wearing the gold-buttoned and gold-tasseled red suit that the servants of Grimden were famous for.
“Ah, a Messenger of Grimden,” said the palace guard as Clavdia approached. “The Chairman has been expecting you. It is good for you to come so quick.”
“I have a message for the Chairman. Please let me in.” Clavdia really had no idea of palace protocol so she was hoping to fake it as best she could. She did know that most Messengers of Grimden were fighter of the 3rd to 6th level and she had to be sure to not let her skills give her away.
The guard, a half-elf fighter who looked to be quick with the morning star dangling from his right hand, stepped forward. “Come now Messenger of Grimden, you know that is not the protocol.” The guard drew back. “Hey, you’re not the regular messenger.”
Clavdia took a step back and pounded her chest. “I bested all other messengers in an iron cage match and won the right to deliver messages to the Right and Honorable Chairman Taga.”
“You defeated all the messengers? Even Teeroj?”
“Teeroj was but a bug smashed on the flat side of my sword.”
“Well, you’re new so you don’t know about the strip search but I’m afraid you’ll need to step into that room and remove your armour and breeches. We can’t allow anything smuggled into the Chairman’s chambers that may harm him.”
Clavdia blanched at the thought. The idea of stripping for a guard worried her. Not because she was modest, for she was a hotty demigod, but because she was worried that her rendering of the male flesh beneath the armour would not be entirely correct. Nevertheless, she stepped forward into the little room behind the guardhouse, knowing she could just kill them all if anything went wrong.
Clavdia removed first her armour, followed by her woolen tunic and leathern breeches. Depantsing herself was highly autoerotic since she now displayed the muscular body of a 6th level fighter—not the buxom bodaciousness she was used to. The guard walked in behind her and went through her tunic, jerkin, breeches, and armour. As he did this Clavdia noticed several sets of eyes peering in at her from some arrow slits along the far wall.
“What’s in the bag?” the guard asked.
“Oh, that’s the message for the Chairman. It was sealed on Grimden and cannot be opened except by him.”
“We’ll see about that,” said the guard who started hacking away at the seal on the leathern bag with this short sword. After 10 minutes of this, he gave up.
“Okay, I guess that’s it. I can trust you with the Chairman. You can go. Just follow the red line on the floor.”
Clavdia got dressed and departed noticing as she left that the guard was collecting bits of silver from a group of people standing outside the strip search hut. She overheard one of them say, “Those were the biggest little mice I’ve ever seen hanging down from a man! He must have had the magical implants from Balshazthur!”
Chairman Taga was busy sampling the various leftover desserts from last night’s feast that Hemocumen had fashioned out of yellow bell peppers, the theme ingredient. “Mmm! Yellow pepper meringue!”
Clavdia interrupted him as his mandibles were enclosing hard and fast over a yellow crepe.
“Messenger! Why did you not knock?”
“I don’t need to knock. I have no message to give.”
“Then why are you here?”
She handed the sack over to Taga and released its magical knot. Inside, Taga was horrified to see the splintered thirds of a dwarven skull.
“What is this? Some kind of joke?”
“If you think it’s funny, then yes. That is the severed skull of Fwagwa. I think it’s funny. Hahahahahahah!”
She realized her natural feminine form and threw fourteen multicolored stones on the ground. They rose and danced in the air to form an oscillating sphere. Inside, a vision of a horrible fiery battle played out, involving aged wizards, dragons, and the Guardians.
“Clavdia, is it? You are quite bold, though I could handle you in single combat. It is only your brothers and sisters united that I fear. I could probably take on two or three of you by myself, couldn’t I? Alas, it seems the legends have come true, and I must now prepare to banish you and your brethren back to the skies. I must thank you for the wonderful moving pictures, and for destroying Fwagwa. He made the worst chicken glaces you ever did taste. But wait, I have a prize for you, too.”
Taga pulled an idol from his tunic which hung from his necklace. It was a green pearlescent tiger with sapphires inset for eyes, and ivory teeth. He rubbed the back of its neck and pulled its tail to activate the magick inside.
A bolt of disintegration shot from the tiger’s mouth, destroying her armor and causing 8D8 damage. She and her sword made their respective saving throws, only suffering 4D8 damage.
“I shall see you later on the battlefield, Taga,” she said, “And I don’t think you have many more charges in that tiger, from the dimness I see in its eyes. Those idols never start with more than five charges, do they? So, tell your minions to have more trinkets on hand if they expect to survive our wrath!”
With that, Clavdia shoved a yellow pepper and sweet potato pie down her gullet and aetherialized into the night. In all the excitement, Taga himself could not remember if he’d used the tiger four or five times in its history. He’d just felt lucky. Besides, he did not want to waste any of his offensive spells so early in the day, or else he’d have to spend hours re-memorizing them.
Now, as she neared Grimden, she could see an eerie silver glow emanating from the far side of the island. Clavdia directed the aerial servant she was riding to drop her off just short of the camp on the beach so that she could approach Morimuto on foot. From a distance he looked even more powerful than she remembered. He was standing very still and looking out over the sea with his arms crossed in front of him. His shimmering silver robes reflected the many colored moonshines of his brothers and sisters still in orbit, flashing waves of prismatic spray across the sky.
Morimuto turned around to see Clavdia approaching, wearing only her woolen jerkin and leathern breeches. “You’ve been into some mischief, I see. You’re never without your armour.”
“I went and messed with Taga. He had a little toy that is running quickly out of charges.”
“And now your distinctive red armour is gone. We shall have to find you a replacement and me must find better lodging. I am not about to stand on this beach for a fortnight while we wait for the others.”
“I don’t know, Mori. The instructions were to await the others in this very spot.”
“C’mon, now. We’re the Guards of Galdenwyck, are we not? Shouldn’t the guardians of a planet get their choice of the planet’s accommodations?” Morimuto turned toward the island and something caught his eye. “There, the posh 35th level of the Tabbern, Inn, and Grille is unoccupied, right?”
“I guess so.” Clavdia’s reluctance to enjoy the worldly comforts they had been denied for centuries puzzled Morimuto. All he wanted to do was kick back in Taga’s hotel suite, enjoy some strong ale and sleep while he waited for the arrival of the 12 other Guardians. One thing he was definitely not going to do was free the orcs. He had heard that prophecy way too often over the years. The dwarves could oppress them for a thousand more Criton years, for all he cared.
“Well, you stay here and gnaw on that dwarf carcass if you want. I’m gonna go have breakfast in bed. Signal me when Clio arrives.” With that, Morimuto strode off in the direction of the Tower leaving Clavdia sitting on the beach chewing on a somewhat sere dwarf toe.
It was a fine-tasting dwarf toe, although it missed a certain something. She rummaged through Fwagwa’s leathern rucksack to find a clear bottle with a white, milky substance inside. It was labeled “Fwagwa’s Magick Ranch Dressing”. She found his other nine toes, and after daintily plucking their long black hairs, doused them with the magickal and milky sauce.
“MMMMM!!!” She was having difficult finding time to breathe amongst the flavorful toe-munchings. “This Magick Ranch Dressing is a tasty treat, to be sure!” An odd sensation then drifted into her body: she felt remorse for having destroyed such a wonderful chef. Little did she know that she had been successfully charmed by the magickal potion, but since Fwagwa was now dead, the charm resulted in nothing more than fleeting admiration for him. Also, the potion reversed the law of diminishing marginal utility, providing Clavdia with increased marginal pleasure for each toe she ate. It saddened her to note that all his toes had been noshed.
Meanwhile, Morimuto was occupied with booking the 35th floor for the next fortnight, but not without difficulty.
“If you don’t give me Taga’s suite for the next fortnight, I will grill you up for a catabolic snack!” The Tower’s concierge was under strict orders not to lease Taga’s suite under any circumstances other than the arrival of Taga himself.
“I’m sorry, sir. Level 35 is reserved for Chairman Taga, and Chairman Taga only. He provides us with a heavy stipend and retainer, in addition to the use of his Electrum Cheves, so that we keep it reserved. You will have to stay on the 34th level, or in our less luxurious, lower levels. Maybe Mr. Morimuto would be interested in our Early Risers Club?”
“I am going upstairs to the 35th level, you insolent nonentity! Morimuto needs no key! I expect bed in breakfast at the crack of dawn! And don’t try to pawn off those gamy basilisk eggs on me!”
The concierge laughed to himself after Morimuto left to take the magical lift upstairs. The door was locked with the most powerful deadbolt on the island, and not even the treasury of Chairman Taga had a more stout fastening. But Morimuto had super-human strength, somewhere in the range of 21-22, and easily broke the platignum bolt using his bend bars/lift gates skill. He only needed to look under the red velveteen rug for the platignum key; Chairman Taga placed a spare there because he so often returned from the gaming hall too drunk to find the key in his Bag of Holding, where he kept all of his other keys and spare change.
- The Guards of Galdenwyck [1-9] September 1, 2011
Back in the Ffjords, Kadik had successfully picked Varnic’s secret back door, and entered upon a grim, yet comical scene. Gauth was indeed ensnared by the wily trap of Varnic’s overhead net, and the embarrassment was accented by Varnic’s special treatment, which was covering Gauth with honey and chicken feathers. Worse yet, Varnic was making him do chicken sounds.
“Crow! Crow like a rooster!”
“Cackle! Cackle like a hen!”
“Now peep! Peep like baby chick!”
“Say that you’re the worst thief in all of the Ffjords!”
“I’m the worst thief in all of the Ffjords!”
“Squeal like a pig!”
Kadik decided to intervene to prevent events from turning any weirder.
“Varnic! Let him loose!”
“You let him loose. I don’t want to get all sticky.”
Kadik walked past Varnic to help unwind the net, acquiring lots of honey and feathers in the process.
“Well! Now I have two chickens! You should be quite prepared to sneak into people’s houses now.”
“Master Kadik, I’m so glad you came to rescue me! He was going to put ants in my pants!”
“I see you’re up to your same old games, Varnic. Let’s get this business over with. Where can we find the Ring of Lawful Good Speech?”
“How about 100 electra first?”
“I’ll just take it off your tab from when I helped you pick your landlord’s desk drawer.”
“Ahh. That was a tough one.”
Varnic began the story that he’d heard recently from one of Lord Carrollan’s guards, Bratoth. It seems that Lord Carrollan originally purchased the Ring from a caravan that stopped outside of Aerion’s gates. After witnessing the Ring and its powers, several concerned citizens reported directly to Lord Carrollan’s officers. The Ring represented a real threat to the lawfulness and goodness of Aerion. If a chaotic evil wizard could use such magick to enter the city unnoticed, the very foundations of Lord Carrollan’s rule would collapse.
It was no accident, of course, that the caravan stopped so close to Aerion. The generally evil traders knew the Ring would bring a lofty price, some five times above the equilibrium price in an open market, because of Lord Carrollan’s eagerness to protect his citadel. But the Ring was a ringer itself! Not only did it possess the powers of Lawful Good speech, but it had also been enchanted by its creator with special homing abilities.
Here’s where Bratoth comes in. He had been struggling with his alignment lately, questioning some of Lord Carrollan’s decisions. Also, he was raising a family of five, and there just weren’t enough electra to make ends meet anymore. One of the traders detected his alignment shift through the use of a magickal amulet, and Bratoth stood out as a possible weakness, a way to really sock it to Aerion and its do-gooders.
The trader approached him with an offer. If he would command the Ring with the word “shim-shimee,” it would begin traveling on its own power back to the caravan, and Bratoth would receive a nice pile of electra that would make any guard drool. But Bratoth also had a trick up his sleeve. After visiting the treasury, he pocketed the ring and waited until nightfall to command it forth.
“When he did, he followed it over eight miles due East to where the caravan is now!” Varnic said, “I have a map of their exact location.”
“Hmm.” Kadik was unsure. “We will have to be at our best to fool these traders, Gauth. They are not likely to be pushovers if they pulled off such a wily stunt, worthy of Chinee himself. There will be many traps and triggers and locks to detect, disarm, and disable. Most of all, we will have to bone-up on our hiding-in-shadows skill.”
Gauth spoke up. “Hey, I’m a Drow elf. That means I have supra- (13-14) intelligence. I’ll think of something.”
“Ah, yes, the famous Drow elf intelligence,” chuckled Varnic. “That certainly didn’t keep you from getting caught in my ridiculously obvious trap. Some thief you are. Hmmph.”
“Come on, now, my pupil is right,” said Kadik. Gauth couldn’t believe his teacher was actually defending him. “Gauth is definitely smarter than either one of us. He just doesn’t have the street smarts and I think that falls under wisdom, and he only has a 12 in that category.”
Gauth crossed his arms and glared at Kadik. “My wisdom is 13 and if I had a wish right now I’d raise it to 14. At least I’m not a stupid half-orc.”
“Hey, hey, hey,” said Varnic rising from his stout little dwarf chair. “Let’s not start a race riot here. I think with your intelligence,” he said pointing to Gauth, “and your thief skills,” he tapped Kadik on the back, “you should be able to cook up some sort of scheme.”
Gauth sat down upon the dirty floor and sighed. “Do we know whither these merchants were heading? Surely they won’t stay camped in the same place for so long.”
Varnic shrugged. “This time of year, they’re probably headed south toward Theobard. The dwarven markets are usually overloaded right now and if I were a merchant I’d be there snagging dwarven metal goods for coppers on the silver.”
“I suppose we could head in that direction,” said Kadik, not sounding too excited about the prospect. He was a pretty big wheel in the orcish ghetto and leaving now on some foolhardy quest didn’t seem like a good idea to him. He’d probably lose his territory to some upstart thief who had just attained 5th level and he was just starting to turn a profit in an area that hadn’t seen significant profits in decades.
“Bratoth did mention one other thing,” said Varnic. “This merchant is apparently the greediest half-elf he’d ever met, even more so than your average caravan trader. You might be able to use that to your advantage.”
“Yeah,” said Gauth, leaping out of his chair. “We could engage him in a game of Dungeon Dice and induce him to bet the Ring. We just need some magic dice.”
“Oh, yeah, Gauth that’s a great idea. Are you sure you’re a real drow elf?” Kadik said. “Where in the world are we gonna get magic dice? We’re thieves, not magic-users, and besides, that idea has been used so many times. It shows up in half the bardic tales these days. And I saw it used down at the Avax Theatre just a week ago. Think of something else.”
“Perhaps,” Varnic said, “I could loan you this Amulet of Clairaudience.”
Gauth was eager to take the amulet, but Kadik knew better.
“What’s the amulet cursed with?” Kadik asked.
“Nothing. You may borrow it if you like . . . but you must wash your feathers off in the viewing room.”
All of Varnic’s crazy schemes ended with someone being compelled to taking a bath in the viewing room. He had a special number of clients who paid him a monthly stipend for their fixes of voyeurism. Fortunately for Kadik, Gauth was an exhibitionist, and had no problems with the proposition.
After Varnic sent his page to gather his clients, Kadik and Gauth took turns washing up in the viewing room, and earned their use of the amulet. He handed it to Gauth, who put it on immediately.
“How does it work?” Gauth asked.
Varnic went to his bookshelf to find his Player’s Handbook of Magical Items and read a paraphrased description of the amulet to them.
“The wearer of the Amulet of Clairaudience will experience the same effects as the 3rd-level wizard spell of the same name. Concentrate on any spot within a 60-foot radius of your mind. Focus on a known space, or an obvious one, such as behind a door. You will be able to hear any sounds there as if you were standing in that spot yourself. Keep in mind that any door protected by magic or lead sheeting will negate the amulet’s powers. The normal spell component for this is a small horn worth at least 100gp.”
“Master!” Gauth said, “Imagine what type of horn that must be!”
“Phuiksan! Let’s get out of here while we still have some dignity left.”
Gauth was concentrating on the alley just outside of Varnic’s hovel.
“Wait! Master Andan! I hear the sound of a gelatinous cube outside! We should take the front door.”
“You’re right, Gauth. My back-stabbing abilities will not do much good on a monster with no back!”
The two thieves headed outside to begin their quest for the Ring of Lawful Good Speaking. It was nearly dawn now, and because Gauth was a dark elf and did not wish to receive his negative modifiers from the light of the sun, they decided to rest up until next nightfall to head out of town. It would give them a chance to practice their skills, and because of their studies and experience earned, they each gained a level.
Their morale was high as they quested on horseback, leaving the Ffjords behind. But they sensed general alarm was setting upon the Ffjords, for Morimuto was now missing, too.
- The Guards of Galdenwyck [1-8] August 24, 2011
Of course, Clavdia had no intention of walking among the orcs. To her they were a disgusting race, almost as repulsive as the dwarves. And they probaby don’t even taste as good as dwarves, she mused, as she bit into a chunk of what was once Kooz-Kooz’s stout left thigh. Waiting on the beach for her brothers and sisters was getting to be a bore. By the dimness of Morimuto’s light, she judged it would be nearly 144 turns before he arrived, plenty of time to inspect a small portion of Galdenwyck from up close.
She rose, threw Kooz-Kooz’s femur into the sea, and put on her mighty armour. After a few rounds of pondering she cast a Summon Air Elemental spell. One arrived very shortly and the Air Elemental, seeing who summoned her, resigned from the customary battle of wills without a second thought.
“I’d like a quick world tour, if you would be so kind,” intoned Clavdia, wondering why she was being so polite to the elemental. “Starting with the Ffjords. I want to get a look at the Usurper and maybe leave him a gift.”
With that command, she grabbed Fwagwa’s disembodied head and the Air Elemental swept her up in a cloud and carried her swiftly across the Sea of Avax toward the imposing structure of Chairman Taga’s citadel.
- The Guards of Galdenwyck [1-7] August 16, 2011
Far to the south in the foothills of the Black Mountains, the orcish king, Grizzlemax, watched the sky intently. According to orcish legend, the coming of the 14 Guardians signaled the time when the orcs would rise up and take control of the great mountains which had been wrested from their control by the Dwarves centuries earlier. The words of Skizzlewix, the last orc to possess magic ability, were recorded on a stone tablet kept within the throne of the orcish king,
The coming of the 14 will seal the fate of the Dwarven race.
The Black Mountains will run with rivers of their blood and
The orcish race will once more rule the high mountains as they
did in the time of Avaximander. Watch for the 14 for they will
arrive swiftly on chariots of platinum with wheels of fire. When
the Fourteen Moons of Galdenwyck have disappeared from the
sky, the Dwarves will be no more.
Grizzlemax had referred to these words many times, always praying that this thing would happen during his reign. And now, if the signs were accurate, the prophecy would come to pass.
The coming of the Guards would also provide perfect cover for a covert sortie to the tomb of Werkingetorix, where the writings of Skizzlewix oft proclaimed the awesomely powerful spell book of Avaximander would be found. Grizzlemax recalled how excited he was the first time he read Tome CIV of Skizzlewix, affectionately known by the high orc council as “The Tomb Tome,” for it contained the Legend of Werkingetorix’s Tomb and an old map. Skizzlewix knew Werkingetorix well, being his obedient pupil, and the vivid descriptions were enough to make any orc dream of the past orcish glory.
He thumbed to the title page and read aloud the first few paragraphs to himself. It was from Skizzlewix’s earlier writings, which exhibited a certain ancient style.
“The dwarves will tell ye otherwisen. They will tell ye Werkingetorix never hath been, being half-orc, half-halfling, and half-kobold. Aye, some orcs themselves might tell ye he hath never existed. Maybe he hathn’t. But ye doth have physical proofth of his tomb!
“Ye Tomb of Werkingetorix lieth in the cemetery of Saksquash, the first magnanimous orc tyrant. Ye tomb itself hath magickal protections of all kindes. Many a many a wilde packrats hath missteppedd on the wrong stone inside, and sproinged the chain lightninge spell which doth doeth 20D6+1 damage! Only a skilled thief dare possesseth any chance! And once ye get yeself inside ye tomb, ne’er ye hath much chance of leaving! For Werkingetorix hath left behinde two Iron Golems, Klik und Klak, what guard entrance to his inner charnels! And, if ye manage to defeat these powerful Iron Golems, certaine death awaits ye once ye see the spellbuch of Avaximander, located under the deathly head of Werkingetorix, who bade it be his eternal pillow, for it hath explosive runes inscribed on its surface! Any attempt to read a rune doth doeth 4D10 damage, that is if ye makest ye saving throw vs. rods, staves, and wands! If ye fail, ye age 100 years immediately, and if this dost not kill ye from sudden systeme shock, ye delayed fireball o’erhead certainly will!”
The problem, as Grizzlemax saw it, was that orcs were mostly big, clumsy oafs. Even the daintiest orcish woman, even well-schooled in thievery, would stand no chance of making her way into the tomb, let alone make off with the spell book. The incompetence of the orcish race was one thing that drove Grizzlemax insane. They could fight damn well, but casting spells, turning the undead, finding traps and playing beautifully bawdy lays upon finely tuned banjos were things beyond the power of any modern orc. He had instituted strict training programs and paid thieves, clerics and magic-users large amounts of gold to try and teach the young orcs these skills, but it was to no avail. The last of the teachers, a bitter old druid, had left five years earlier in a fit of rage after discovering that none of his pupils could cure light wounds, even after practicing for 18 months.
Yes, these problems weighed heavily on the heart and mind of Grizzlemax as he gazed at the fading Morimuto and wondered when the already arrived Clavdia would make her appearance.
- The Guards of Galdenwyck [1-6] August 9, 2011
The middle of the Sea of Avax would, under normal geological circumstances, have been a great expanse of water, a fine place for the fishes of the Ffjords. But the great Avaximander chose this locale for his summer tower, where he could get away from the daily chores of ruling Galdenwyck during the sultry months.
Recognizing that his tower would need a sturdy plot of land, he summoned nine score of earth elementals and levitated them all at the exact center of the sea. With the aid of Mordekain’s Elemental Permanent Bind Spell and the talents of his maiden druid, L’arboria, a great and beautiful tropical island was fashioned. Avaximander bade that it be forever known as the Isle of Grimden, named after the first earth elemental he summoned. Visitors still claim to hear him screaming for release from his watery prison each morning as the tide swells at every shore: “Please release me, let me go.”
As the years and Avaxmiander himself passed away, his tower was slowly converted into a tavern and inn, where wealthy residents from all over Galdenwyck would come to eat bed in breakfast, which was becoming all the rage. More often than not, Chairman Taga would loan out his Electrum Cheves to the “Avaximandrian Tabbern and Inn and Grille” in order to raise extra funds for his exceedingly overt desires for gold leaf furniture.
Because he loaned out his cheves, Taga always received special perks while visiting. The innkeeper kept the 35th level reserved for him, he received a free breakfast buffet, and Taga was the only guest who received comped tickets to the nightly show at Sandry’s Sundries, the local gaming house.
It was here in these lush and luxurious pleasantries where Clavdia materialized. She thought of it as a homecoming when she gazed upon her surroundings at the base of Avaximander’s tower. How long ago had it been since Avaximander created her out of Ritalinium?
Too long . . . .
Why, her Bastard Sword of Undead Control had not tasted dwarven blood since . . . .
She saw bright lights coming from the North. What could this be? A tavern on the Isle of Grimden? Nothing of the sort would be approved by Avaximander.
“Sandry’s Sundries? What topsy-turvy world is this that I have come to? Where is Avaximander? He would not stand for such ribaldry. I pray that dwarves are inside, so that my sword can parch its throat!”
Had Kooz-kooz and Fwagwa, the Electrum Cheves on sabbatical, not been so intent on their game of dice inside of Sandry’s Sundries, they might’ve noticed the entrance of Clavdia. These so-called “conjurers of olive oil” were at a slight disadvantage as it were: they were both dwarves.
The tall and beautiful Clavdia, clothed in red mail armour and silvern boots approached Sandry’s front door. The guard, a mercenary fighter of the 6th level, stepped in front of Clavdia.
“Halt!” he said. “No weapons are allowed inside.”
Clavdia blinked her eyes, taken aback by such effrontery. Who was this weakling who dared to impede her progress?
“I’m sorry” she purred. “Can you repeat that?”
“Yes, ma’am. There are no weapons allowed inside.”
Killing a simple human didn’t hold much interest for her at the moment, but not taking her sword inside was out of the question.
“Well, you’ll be able to make an exception for me, won’t you?”
The guard shook his head. “No, I’m sorry”, he said and held out his hand for her sword.
Clavdia rolled her eyes and dropped a few copper pieces on the ground. Just as she expected, the guard bent to retrieve them for her and she slammed the heavy handle of her large sword onto the base of his skull, knocking him out. She kicked him back against the wall of the building to sit him upright so it looked like he was sleeping on the job. A quick glance around told her that no passersby had witnessed her attack. Not that this was something she really cared about, but it was always best to appear proper when entering a gaming den.
When she stepped inside, it only took a few segments for all activity to cease as the gamblers and drinkers could not help but stare at the imposing and nattily armoured woman who had just entered. Clavdia nodded at the bartender and took a seat against the wall, waiting for things to return to normal.
Kooz-Kooz cocked his head toward Clavdia. “Who’s the dish?”
Fwagwa shrugged. “I dunno. Out of your league anyway. Don’t forget, even though you’re an Elecrum Chef, you’re still a dwarf.”
“Yeah, I guess. Why don’t you roll?”
Fwagwa picked up an some eight-sided dice and rolled 2d8. “Aha, 14. Let’s see you beat that.”
Kooz-Kooz sniffed and nodded at the diceman at the head of the table. The diceman pushed a selection of dice across the table to Kooz-Kooz, who took a drink of Corythian mead from a large flagon and then selected two ten-sided dice and rolled 2d10.
“36. By the Rites of Schakram, ” cursed Kooz-Kooz.
Fwagwa let out a shout of joy and grabbed the stack of electra on the table. “You just can’t win today, Kooz-Kooz.” He stood up and looked around the room. “Will anyone else here challenge me to a game of Probability Dungeon Dice?”
“I will, ” a voice said. Fwagma turned and saw Clavdia rising from her seat, her lips twisted into a wicked smile.
“Uh, what’s your name, missy?” Fwagwa entered into a verbal battle with her.
“Oh! Like the moon!”
“Yes. Like the moon.”
“Well, did you know you were missing? We’ve been looking for you all night in the sky, and what luck we have to find you in our gaming parlor!”
“Let’s throw aside the pleasantries and start throwing down some dice, shall we? Or would you prefer I crack you and your little friend’s dwarven skulls?”
“Look, missy, we’re simple folk here. But I wouldn’t mind cracking my head against your thingies, if you know what I mean.”
This particular vernacular for the act of sexual intercourse did not exist the last time Clavdia was on Galdenwyck in her physical creation, and she therefore mistook its meaning.
“I would be honored to have your head crack against my thingies. Diceman! Toss your rocks at me!”
The diceman threw out an assortment of orange pearlescent dice, some four-sided, some ten-sided, and one hundred-sided die. He always saved his best dice for the ladies on Grimden.
“Ahhh. The rare orange pearlescent dice,” she said, “These will do nicely. I propose we each toss 1D100, and whoever has the higher roll gets to crack their head on the other’s thingies.”
Kooz-Kooz winked and nudged Fwagwa in the ribs. “The fires of Saphron burn in her gullet for you!”
Fwagwa accepted the challenge, not knowing that whatever he rolled, Clavdia intended on turning him into dwarven soup for dinner. Clavdia grasped the D100 and cast it against the green felten table. It bounced and rolled backwards from the body English which she knew would result in a high outcome, stopping to rest on 76.
“Hah! You only have a 23 in 100 chance of beating that!” Clavdia shouted.
“No, it’s a 24 in 100 chance,” Kooz-Kooz explained, “Double-aught stands for 100. You can’t fit three digits on the faces of the D100 because they’re so small.”
“Diceman! Is this true?” she asked for clarification.
The diceman made his intelligence check by rolling a 3 on a 1D20 roll. He looked up from the table and nodded silently.
Thinking of cracking his head on Clavdia’s thingies stirred up Fwagwa to new levels of excitement. Plus, a song by D’Elvisbard in the background gave him a +1 to all of his rolls for the next 3 turns. He eagerly snatched up the D100 and rattled it overhead for a mighty toss. As he pitched it down onto the table, it fumbled out of his tiny dwarven hands. If only he’d been human, he thought.
The D100 rolled along the floor of Sandry’s Sundries, gaining momentum on the way out of the parlor (Sandry had built his gaming house with a steady slant outwards so spilled mead and vomit would flow towards the egress). Clavdia, Fwagwa, and Kooz-Kooz all chased after it, eagerly anticipating the outcome.
Once outside, they struggled to find the D100, as it had fallen into some shrubbery near the doors. Clavdia had to spend a few segments preparing a Light spell.
“So, our missy is a magic-user!” Fwagwa mocked her.
He shuddered in fear quickly after he realized that this was no normal Light spell. The arc of light that streamed from Clavdia’s hands was bright enough to light up the whole Isle of Grimden as if it were under the noonday sun! Hundreds of miles away, Chairman Taga noticed the bright light, and feared the worst.
Kooz-Kooz found the die under one of the copper pieces Clavdia had dropped earlier.
“Here it is! It’s an 88!”
“Hogwash! It’s a cock die! I call for a ‘Do Over’!” Clavdia shrieked. She realized that she was far enough outside of the parlor to end their little dwarven existence with little or no disturbance. It was an opportunity she did not let come to pass.
As Kooz-Kooz bent over to pick up the D100 and the remaining copper pieces, Clavdia grabbed Fwagwa’s head and cracked it against her knees, splitting it open into three parts, mainly because of her Girdle of Cloud Giant Strength. His poor head might have stood a chance had she only possessed Gauntlets of Ogre Power, but as it stood, his poor skull was splintered into neat slices that she could easily skewer and roast later at her campfire.
The thought of dwarfkebob suddenly ran through Clavdia’s mind and she turned toward poor Kooz-Kooz who was standing to her left immobilized with fear. He dropped the heavy D100 and tried to run but Clavdia’s dexterity and magic sword gave her a weapon speed bonus and she neatly ran the little dwarf through. Grabbing Fwagwa by the feet, she headed down toward the beach where she would wait for the others and prepare a feast for the gathering.
Once the dwarves were stuffed with some fruit she had picked and the dried fruit she had found in Fwagwa’s rucksack, she built a large fire and skewered both Kooz-Kooz and Fwagwa on a tree branch and began the long process of roasting. It would be a couple of weeks before all 14 Guardians were gathered on these shores and she would have plenty to keep her busy during that time.
According to Avaximander, Morimuto would be the next to appear, most likely by sundown of the following day. She had been warned that he would be impatient and want to assault Taga’s fortress immediately. It was up to her to keep him busy with other tasks until the time when all had gathered.
Clavida eased out of her armour and laid down upon the beach, basking in the glow of her 13 brothers and sisters. Morimuto was starting to dim now. She knew her absence from the sky would have been noticed by now and Morimuto’s dimming would only raise the alarm even more.
- The Guards of Galdenwyck [1-5] August 1, 2011
Assamabinladin sat in Kierian’s hut waiting for the old man to finish packing. He couldn’t believe the amount of junk he was stuffing into his leathern rucksack. There were books, bottles, several knives and finally, an old lute, which Kierian had retrieved from an oaken box secreted in a false floor beneath the bed.
“Can you play that thing?” asked Assambinladin, regarding the instrument with disdain.
“Well, of course I can,” Kierian responded cheerfully, not picking up on the conjurer’s mood. He strummed it, producing sounds which ‘binladin could not believe came from that weathered old assemblage. “What would you like to hear?”
‘binladin paused for a moment, trying to think of a song that the old bard could not know. “Farewell, Fair Maiden of Clavior,” he said, a bawdy song he remembered hearing in a tavern at the magic-users’ summit in Eregore years before.
Kierian nodded and picked the strings, tuning the instrument. Then he sat down upon an oaken stool by the fire and began to play, softly at first, just like the beginning of the song was played centuries before. After repeating the intro he began singing,
When the new moons rise in the north and west
I remember the maiden who showed me
the world, laid my hand upon her breast
And helped me see that which I could not see.
Farewell, Fair Maiden of Clavior,
You’ll always be with me,
Farewell, Fair Maiden of Clavior,
The world is mine to see.
Her molten arms burned my skin and mind,
Her shimmering thighs of milk and honey
wrapped round me, Oh, we did that bump and grind.
I did not believe it was her cunny.
Farewell, Fair Maiden of Clavior,
You’ll always be with me,
Farewell, Fair Maiden of Clavior,
The world is mine to see.
Kierian shifted keys and played the intro to the song once more. ‘binladin stood up and clapped his hands together, which caused Kierian to stop playing. Kierian, fearing malicious magic, looked around for his red boots but saw they were across the room, near the door. But ‘binladin was not casting a horrible spell, he was applauding.
“Oh, Kieran, I am sorry I doubted your bardic abilities. Your musick is even greater than I could have imagined. Please, tell me something of your wandering o’er this wide world of Galdenwyck.”
“Would it not be better to sing you a song?”
“Would it not? Why not it would?”
“This is a little strum-ditty I composed during the eighth year of my exile to the Cramiddyn Plains.” He picked up the old lute, and began playing a slow, haunting harmony to the following strains:
“Kierian is a travelin’ man.
He travels wide and far.
Sit down here and grab a beer,
Or clear on out of the bar.
Born in the Ffjords on oaken boards,
His parents worked in a mill.
He grew up quick and sang so slick
Giving halfling girls quite a thrill.
Twelve years from today he learnt color spray
The first spell cast in his brain.
A kobold group tried to steal his soup
He knocked them out with one strain.
Yo ho ho!
He hi ho!
Upskirts did his eyes get crossed.
The princely maiden stank like Assamabinladin.
Pantaloons are now so stained.
Toss some rocks at her fine loose socks!
Exiled into the Cramiddyn Plains!”
He set the old lute down and bowed.
“You just invented that part about me, didn’t you?”
“Oh, Assama, you must forgive me. Each time I perform the Ballad of Kierian, I choose one member of the audience to embarrass in that final stanza. You were my sole audience, and I thus had to rhyme you.”
“It was very enjoyable. Your skills will come in handy in the heat of a battle. I feel that all of my saving throws have a +1 bonus!”
“Ah, ’tis true, as well as your THAC0. But we should invest in some cleric power to assist us while I sing. The rumours are not fiction; an evil vampire, Tamcruz Bradpit, has found a new resting home in the tomb of Werkingetorix. He is sure to have increased his supply of undead followers, and let me tell you, losing a whole level of experience to a wight is not my idea of adventure.”
“Nor is it mine, Kierian. Nor is it mine.”
After Kierian finally finished packing his bardic accoutrements the two set off on foot to the livery stable where ‘binladin was to commandeer a couple of stout ponies for the trip along the coast road to Port Dalwinie. At Port Dalwinie they were to secure passage aboard a ship for the trip across the Sea of Avax to the southern continent. Kierian figured they could probably find a medium-level cleric with a taste for adventure in that city’s religious borough, as well.
Once they were seated upon their ponies, which the livery stable had happily provided free of charge when Assambinladin appeared, the two men started to relax. Even though the journey would be long and treacherous, they felt optimistic, not for once thinking about the fact that the survival of the world depended upon their success.
“You know, ‘binladin, I can tell by your accent that you speak Lawful Evil as your alignment tongue,” observed Kierian.
“What of it, Kierian? We are both Oculanders, are we not?”
“In Oculan, your speech may not make a difference, but out in the real world . . . well, that’s another story.”
“What difference does it make?”
“For one, I speak the Lawful Good tongue but I can disguise my accent when speaking the Common tongue of Galdenwyck. Therefore, only those with magical abilities can discern my true alignment. Any person with rudimentary language training can identify you as Lawful Evil if they are trying to discover your alignment, and that will not do.”
‘binladin moaned. “Oh, Kierian. It is too late for that now, is it not? Perhaps I will play the role of mute conjurer on this journey.”
“Nonsense, lad. A few modifications to your speech is all that is needed. I know a man in Dalwinie, if he still lives, that is, that can help us with that. For now just practice pronouncing the ‘r’ in words like ‘cart’ and ‘fart’”
The ancient bard and young sorcerer rode on in silence, ‘binladin quietly muttering ‘fart’ to himself over and over as Kierian began pondering the chances of their success. No one even knew where Werkingetorix was for sure although rumour held that it was hidden high in the southern mountains near the edge of the world. The thought of facing Tamcruz Bradpit made him shudder. Although just a vampire, there was no more powerful undead creature than Tamcruz. Battling Ocramore, King of the Liches would be child’s play comparably.
‘binladin’s voice snapped Kierian from his musings. “I see Clavdia the Red is gone.”
Kierian searched the sky in vain for a glimpse of the blood-red moon. “Oh, dear, ‘binladin, she is returned. I fear for anyone who crosses her path.”
- The Guards of Galdenwyck [1-4] July 17, 2011
As Chairman Taga and Alaric discussed plans to rescue the Electrum Cheves from the sensuous clutches of Clavdia, far to the south, in the Orcish Ghetto of the great city of Avax, where orcs, half-orcs and unfortunate humans lived together in fetid squalor, Gauth Phuiksan and Kadik Andan dined on fish heads and seaweed in Kadik’s chambers.
“I’m telling you it’s true, master,” whined the little drow elf. “Varnic told me a Ring of Lawful Good Speech was stolen from Lord Carrollan’s citadel only 5 Morimutos ago and he knows where it now is.”
“Bah, foolish elf,” shouted Kadik with his mouthful of seaweed, “You cannot believe everything you hear, especially from one of those fiendish dwarves.”
Phuiksan sighed and nibbled around the eye of the fish head in his hand. “Varnic has a very close friend who is a member of Carrollan’s personal guard. That’s where he heard it.”
“Ah, yes, I forgot that lawful do-gooder keeps a personal army of dwarves from Theogard. Perhaps you are correct, but what are you going to do about it?”
“Why don’t we go get it?”
Kadik shook his head. “You’re training is far from complete, Gauth. I would not even let you pick the pockets of a Criton-year-old gnome on the street right now.”
Gauth rose from his seat and stalked off into his tiny room. Kadik decided to leave the dinner mess for the next day and retired to his room to study the writings of Sahaja Chapalataya, the Founder of the Thieves’ Guild. Halfway through the Treatise on the Secrets of Hiding in Shadows he nodded off and awoke only when the brazier’s fire had burned down and left him shivering on his bed. As he went to restart the fire he looked into Gauth’s room, but the little elf was gone.
“That incorrigible elf will learn soon enough that he is not yet ready for any quest, especially a quest involving such a powerful and storied ring. Yet . . . I was bold and brash once, too. If I had that ring when I quested to Aerion, I would’ve been able to steal Lord Carrollan’s Silvern Scepter of Basilisk Slaying, and Xizh would’ve cleansed the Grypton Hills . . . .”
Kadik recalled the tales of the wild basilisks, roaming the hills of Grypton, turning all to stone those who gazed upon their charcoal visages. The saddest tale was that of Lymon the sprite, who had recently wedded his soul-mate, Griselda. Their parents warned them not to trek across the plains of Felch to honeymoon in the Grypton hills, but young love tossed caution into the four winds of Galdenwyck. Everyone knew the basilisks were in high molting season, the most dangerous time to visit. However, Lymon and Griselda were steadfast in their yens to consummate their union in the place where all fourteen moons of Galdenwyck could be seen in one field of vision without turning your head from side to side. No tilting, or panning of your head was required to see all fourteen moons, either.
Just as Lymon had strewn out the holy water and holy symbol of his deity, Sharles, marking the ground of their consummation-to-be, Griselda, while undressing on the far side of the hill, traipsed upon a molting basilisk in the knee-deep grass. Without thinking, she gazed in a linear fashion at the beast’s eyes.
Spritely custom is to await patiently for your bride until she yells, “I have readied myself for the golden fruition that will be your shiny dart of love.” After he watched Clavdia set, Lymon grew nervous, fearing she did not love him anymore. Once this fear is established, it is customary for the groom to hunt for his bride chanting, “My sweet, my sweet, hast thou lost thine lust?”
When he discovered her stolid stony figure, he screamed at the heavens to Sharles. “Why must these events continue to happen to us mere mortals, O! Sharles! I renounce my devotion to you!”
Sharles heard the cry of Lymon, and bade the nearby basilisks to surround Lymon and gaze upon him sternly. He outwitted the god by covering his eyes and booking down the hillside to the hut of Lamuncha the Stone Giant, who devoured him alive.
Of course, those stories were all exaggerations and Kadik often still asked himself why he cared what befell the unfortunate people who populated the Hills of Grypton. Most of them were weasely little halflings, a race he hated above all others. They of the +1 dexterity who chose not to take advantage of their gift while he, a clumsy half-orc with a mace foot, was able to reach the absolute heights of thievery. What he wouldn’t give for the dexterity of one of those hairy little creatures.
And why had he agreed to go after the Scepter of Basilisk Control? Xizh was more than just a simple fighter for he had a 17 charisma and had talked the halflings of Grypton into paying him 5000 gold and Boots of Invisibility if he exterminated the basilisks. Xizh had never believed in using brawn when a little stolen magic would do the trick and thusly, he offered the Boots of Invisibility to Kadik in exchange for the Silvern Scepter. Kadik knew there were only three such pairs of boots in the known world. Crafted by a mysterious sorceress/seamstress many ages before, two pairs were worn by the dark twin Princes of Glax, the city of Chaotic Evil, and the third had been missing since the Wars of Alignment. He knew if he could get those boots, he would be the most powerful cutpurse in all Thiefdom. But that never came to be, and he learned to make his way with his skills and never counted on magick to help him.
The Ring of Lawful Good Speech was a mighty prize, though. With it, one could enter Aerion, and because all its residents were lawful good, nothing was guarded. He had heard stories of how a person who had 500 copper pieces and wanted to change it for 5 gold pieces could just go into a great room in the center of the city full of coins and help himself. Merchants supposedly left their wares out in the open and shoppers would take what they needed and leave their payment in a box.
Perhaps the little elf was on to something. Kadik pulled on his leathern armour and boots and set out to search for Phuiksan.
Kadik ventured out of the Orcish ghetto to find Varnic’s hovel. He was sure to find Gauth there, pouring over some detailed map, plotting with Varnic how to best snatch the Ring. Although Varnic and Kadik were not enemies, two thieves living in such propinquity are rarely allied. It was a small disgrace for Kadik to request any services from Varnic, for the two had long battled for supremacy as the Ffjords’ most renowned thief.
Along the way through the slime-filled alleys and cobbled paths covered in rotten food and rats, he noticed something strange. It was much darker than it should be at this hour. Glancing above, he knew what the problem was immediately: Clavdia was missing.
The orbits of the 14 celestial Guardians are such that no two moons ever eclipse each other. Galdenwyck itself had been known to eclipse other moons, but never for very long, and certainly never in toto. The moons simply moved too quickly in their orbits for a total eclipse to occur. The loss of Clavdia made finding Gauth’s secret back door more difficult.
Once he found the secret door to Varnic’s hovel, he quickly produced his lock picks from his secret pouch at the left shoulder of his leathern armour. Varnic changed his locks, numbering twelve, nightly in a random order to prevent strangers and other thieves from pilfering his loot. By now, it was merely custom for Varnic and Kadik to pick each other’s locks as a formal greeting.
The trick to each lock was always to pick softly. The locks were designed to beguile the brash and bold picker. Kadik had sprung the lock to his hovel so many times that he often knew which lock of the twelve it was by secret etchings he’d placed in the rim of the keyhole.
Any amateur thief would spring the trap quickly by shoving the pick in too deep, and trigger the net above. Many times in his young career did Kadik have to be loosed from Varnic’s net after it fell from the ruddy awning overhead. The memory inspired him to look up at the awning, but to his surprise the net was gone. Surely, Gauth sprung the trap in his eagerness to go questing for the Ring of Lawful Good Speech. There was no telling what embarrassing situation Varnic had him in now.
- Star Wars Episode 3.5: Biding Time July 11, 2011
Did you ever wonder what really happened between Star Wars III: Revenge of the Sith and Star Wars IV: A New Hope?
Well just click below, because Jack Jackson proudly presents the epic screenplay for the previously missing Star Wars 3.5: Biding Time!
- The Guards of Galdenwyck [1-3] July 11, 2011
Back at the Ffjords, Chairman Taga was preparing to eat a huge feast with his advisors consisting of yellow bell peppers as the theme ingredient. One of his personal servants, the Electrum Chef of Aerion, Hemocumen, created the feast in honor of the full yellow moon, Graephon. The other three regional Electrum Cheves were on vacation in the Isle of Grimden, where a magical orb at Praxton’s Lighthouse protected the wary sea-goers from harpies.
Azi Zanisi’s page had not arrived yet with word of the coming of the Guardians, so Taga’s castle was in a pleasant mood this evening.
“I like to eat cuisine!” Chairman Taga screamed, as he tore a huge chunk of roasted yellow pepper apart with his protruding mandible.
“Chairman Taga,” Hemocumen said, “I present you with four dishes, each honoring Graephon, and it’s shimmering jaundice.”
“You have shown us something quite new here, today. I see you have combined the yellow peppers perfectly with our traditional style of cooking in the Ffjords. This is a wonderful presentation you have put together for us. Before we begin in earnest, let us gaze upon Graephon in its full glory.”
Taga, his advisors, and Hemocumen all sallied out to the murder holes of the castle’s third tower. Just above Mount Arapaat could Graephon be seen it its full splendor.
“If memory serves me correctly,” Taga said, “Just last night, all 14 of our celestial Guards aligned in perfect harmony. I have heard a legend that states the Guardians will return to their mortal embodiments to wreak vengeance upon Galdenwyck, for Avaximander created them impure.
“But it seems clear to me that these are old Kobold tales, created by parents to keep children in line.”
Taga’s advisors laughed heartily, and his Man-at-Arms, Purvis Presapus, took the opportunity to stealthily eat one of Hemocumen’s stuffed yellow peppers which he had secreted in his pants. He had always coveted the dishes of the Electrum Cheves but was always denied a place at the table. “A Man-at-Arms should be at arms when his master is dining, not dining with him,” he was always told.
As Chairman Taga and his advisors, Alaric, Captain of the Army; Panchatva Gata, Minister of Magick; Ota, Minister of Finance; and Lazara, the Chairman’s soothsayer dined, Purvis occasionally stole a quick bite of the yellow pepper stuffed with squid and Oculan beef. The meal was informal and there was much casual talk among those gathered. Chairman Taga brought out two bottles of Grappina mead for his guests to drink. The laughter of the diners filled the great banquet hall until it was interrupted by a great commotion at the door.
“Purvis, go see who dares interrupt our meal,” ordered the Chairman, beef blood dripping down his chin.
Purvis quickly hid the pepper under his left arm and stiffly walked across the room and opened the huge reinforced wooden door. He whispered at the door for a few moments and then turned around to face the Chairman, discarding the pepper in an urn full of flowers near the door.
“Chairman Taga, it is the trusted messenger of Azi Zanisi. He brings urgent news.”
Chairman Taga nodded and wiped his chin on his tunic. “Very well, let him in.”
The messenger entered the room slowly. He was covered with mud and left dark tracks on Taga’s prized Aerionese rug, an action which did not go unnoticed by the fastidious Chairman.
“Well,” said the Chairman. “What is this urgent news?”
The messenger’s eyes darted around the room, taking in the sumptuous feast. He had not eaten since he left Oculan two days prior and almost dove onto the table, but he knew of the Chairman’s horrible temper and restrained himself.
“The Great and Terrible Wizard, Azi Zanisi has ordered me to inform you that the Guardians are returning. The fourteen moons of Galdenwyck aligned three days ago and it is only a matter of time before they are here. Master Zanisi requests a meeting with you, as soon as possible.”
“Bah!” shouted the Chairman, spitting mead on the floor. “That old fool. Does he not know it is but a child’s story, this return of the Guardians.”
“Chairman Taga, I beg your pardon, but if you do not believe me, look out the window and gaze upon Clavdia.”
The Chairman glared at the messenger but rose from his seat and walked to the murder hole behind him. As Taga gazed upon the twilit sky, he noticed nothing unusual. All the moons were in their normal orbits, and none of them appeared any differently.
“Just like that mad wizard, to get us stirred for no good cause.”
Ota followed behind Taga and inspected the sky.
“Chairman Taga,” Ota said, “The messenger is correct! Count the number of moons! There are only 13! Clavdia is missing!” All of his ministers rushed outside to view the marvel with their own eyes.
Purvis seized the chance to busy himself in finding the squid-and-Oculan-beef-stuffed pepper he’d thrown into the urn by the banquet hall doors. While Chairman Taga counted the moons, Purvis rescued the pepper and swallowed what remained whole.
“Ota is right,” Taga said, “What does this mean?”
Azi’s messenger crept towards the oaken table to grab two handfuls of yellow pepper quiche. After quickly chewing the luscious delight, he strode to past the table to the murder hole where Taga and his advisors had gathered.
“Clavdia is the moon that the fishermen of Avax use to navigate by,” Alaric said, “They will surely be lost at sea!”
“It is worse than Azi had predicted,” the messenger said, “for this means that Clavdia has already taken her physical form, and is now poised to lay waste!”
“Where would these Guardians appear?” Taga asked. “That is, if the legend is true.”
The messenger discovered a piece of yellow pepper between his cheek and gums, and swallowed it before he spoke again, “The 9th Tome of Avaximander clearly states: ‘The Guardians will materialize in their worldly embodiments, one by one, after the second day of their alignment. The location of their arrival will be the Isle of Grimden, where I, Avaximander, originally manifested their celestial spirits from the 14 elements of Galdenwyck.’”
“Alaric!” Taga shrieked, “The other Electrum Cheves are on sabbatical on the Isle of Grimden! You must send a legion to rescue them from the wily Clavdia!”
Lazara, Taga’s personal soothsayer, bowed her head and scraggly locks. She pulled her black hood over her face and began to channel the spirits of the land, by waving her hands in a crisscross pattern over her chest. Her eyes glowed a deep shade of crimson.
“Whoa, Whoa, woe unto this land!” She was racked with fear. “The Electrum Cheves cannot be saved in time. I see their heads on a spit, slowly roasting on an open fire, blood . . . dripping! Their eyes . . . bursting from the heat! Clavdia has made cuisine from the Cheves themselves! Azi Zanisi’s black tower . . . tumbling into the sea of Avax! Seafarers . . . lost at sea forever! A huge battle in the plains of the Ffjords! Aaaaah!”
Lazara collapsed and nearly plunged out of the murder hole to a grisly death. Taga and his advisors panicked, but lifted her to her feet. Her eyes turned a deep purple, and she was lost in another trance.
“Wait! I see a spell book! It is Avaximander’s lost spell book! A vampire guards it in a distant tomb. It possesses the power to end the pestilence . . . and there is a half-orc . . . he is the only one who can pick its lock! Without the half-orc, the spell book is useless. Without the spell book, the half-orc is nothing! Fate must be in a pleasant mood to drive these two together!”
- The Guards of Galdenwyck [1-2] July 7, 2011
On the other side of the Sea of Avax, in the small fishing village of Oculan, the townspeople were gathering in the meadow above the village. They had been called there by the mad wizard, Azi Zanisi, who ruled the lands along the north shore of the Sea of Avax in the name of Chairman Taga. As the people slowly made their way from the village, their eyes could not help but be drawn to the dark tower of Azi Zanisi which stood on the rocky cliffs overlooking the sea. The top of the tower was so high it could not be seen, and only the magic of the green and yellow moons, Craon and Graephon, kept it from crashing into the murky water below.
According to protocol, Azi’s apprentice, Assamabinladin, cast a charm spell on the villagers before Azi would appear to them from his tower’s pulpit. A bright and variegated light streamed from his palms as he threw his spell components at the meadow. The villagers all failed their saving throws, and were charmed for several turns.
“Master Zanisi! Your people eagerly await your bidding!”
Assamabinladin’s familiar, a Manx cat, thrust his head squarely into the gong at the base of the tower to signal Azi’s arrival. The villagers pointed to the pulpit and cheered as he entered their collective gaze.
“Villagers of the Sea! Bow before Azi Zanisi, your eternal and gracious ruler!” Assamabinladin motioned for the villagers to bow, and they did as ordered.
“A grievous day has come to the Sea of Avax,” Azi began, “And to the Ffjords of Galdenwyck as a whole. Today, the 14 moons, our celestial guardians, have aligned! Avaximander’s critical failure has come to haunt us again, as the guardians will take their mortal form and return to Galdenwyck to reclaim their throne! Clio, the Reddened Cleric! Morimuto, the Silver Streaker! Craon and Graephon, the Citric Levitators! Cletus, Zeigdan, and Bronte, the Purple Partners in Deception! And…the other various moons.”
There was a great murmur among the people in the lea-like meadow. The return of the guards was supposed to be a terrible thing, something they heard about in phantasie songs from the bards who stopped in the village on their travels.
Assamabinladin asked for quiet and was rewarded with the hushed and awed crowd that Master Wizard Azi Zanisi required. The Master soared into the sky on his charmed roc and dove back to earth where the giant regal bird alit on a stump located in the middle of the mass of villagers. The people all turned inward and gazed upon the leader.
“My loyal people. The coming times will be hard on us all. Many may die. There will be battles. The guardians will not take the throne from Chairman Taga without much blood being shed.” No sounds escaped from the crowd as the Master let these words sink in.
“Because of this threat to our security, starting at suns-rise tomorrow, all men between the ages of 16 and 60 will report for military training. All others must begin doubling their work if we are to resist the Guardians. In addition, each household must begin paying 1 extra electrum piece per week in tax.”
The people all nodded in agreement except for one man, an old fisherman who was rumoured to have once traveled the known world as a bard of the highest university. Before either Assamabinladin or Azi Zanisi could react, the fisherman, who went by the name of Kierian, made a successful saving throw. He was charmed no more.
“Master Zanisi,” Kierian said, “Why are you sending the most productive element of our peaceful and sea-faring society to certain death? Everyone who knows the legend of the Guardians understands that their arrival portends certain doom! An entire army of the best fighters and wizards could not stand their ground against any nine of them, let alone all 14!”
“Who is this precocious worm, Assamabinladin?” Master Zanisi asked.
“The villagers know him as Kierian, Master.”
“Kierian, is it? How have you come to know of the legend of the Guardians?” Zanisi was waving his hands, preparing a powerful magic missile spell.
“I have traveled all the great regions of Galdenwyck,” Kierian said, “from Aerion to Cratuk, and from the Ffjords to Brandune. The legend is . . . .”
Zanisi cast his magic missiles at Kierian, and as the red orbs of 1D4+1 damage flew from his hands, they were immediately drawn to Kierian’s Boots of Magic Missile Absorption.
“Those are interesting boots, Kierian.”
“Yes, they come in handy when talking to maddened wizards.” [dramatic pause] “You know your only hope of defeating the Guardians is to recover Avaximander’s great spell book from the tomb of Werkingetorix, which I’m sure you’ve heard is the new home of the high vampire, Tamcruz Bradpit. And finally, an extra piece of electrum per week will hardly cover the costs of all the burials that will be required after the utter destruction of our people, let alone be enough to field an army. And once your hired swords discover their opponents to be the Guards of Galdenwyck, they will quickly leave the army and prepare for their inevitable destruction at the hands of their new masters.”
Azi Zanisi was busy looking for the spell components for a stinking cloud spell (he always kept a rotten egg somewhere in his Robe of Invisibility), but suddenly remembered that he forgot to memorize that particular spell this morning.
“Your silvern tongue,” Azi said, “and your leathern boots betray your true nature. I should have known that do-gooder Lord Carrollan would have one of his spies close by. Well, have it your way. I suggest you hurry back to your cowardly master before I send you to the 3rd plane of Hell!”
“I have lived in this village for well nigh twenty years now. I am just as much a citizen of this land as Reg, the cooper over there, or Emos, the arrowsmith, who stands behind you.”
Azi Zanisi had had enough of this Kierian but hadn’t really planned on any trouble and had not memorized any more offensive spells this day. He looked at Assamabinladin and shook his head. Assama wasn’t able to cast anything beyond a magic missle either as he wasted all his time memorizing useless illusionist spells to impress the mermaids who swam up near the shore at night.
Azi Zanisi motioned for Assama to dismiss the people, all except for Kierian, who remained behind. He stepped down from the back of his mighty rock and approached Kierian who did not shrink back from the mighty wizard.
“Very well, Kierian, the fisherman, you have won your life . . . for now.” Master Zanisi’s black eyes burned with anger. “You should consider yourself blessed I did not have any other offensive spells at my disposal today, or my anger would have cut short your existence. Also feel lucky that I have run out of darts +1.”
Kierian nodded his head toward the Master in a half-hearted bow. “I thank you for your goodwill,” he said flatly.
“Now, this spell book you speak of,” started Master Zanisi, placing his arm on Kierian’s shoulder. Are you confident you know where it is?”
“Yes, Azi Zanisi. Why?”
“If I let you live, you must go on a quest for me. Retrieve the spell book before the Guardians return and you will live out your platignum years in comfort; if not, you will die.”
Kierian laughed. “If I don’t get the spell book everyone dies.”
Azi Zanisi moved his face until it was almost touching Kierian’s face. “Let me put this another way,” he growled. “You will go on this quest or I will kill you now. I still have my slingshot +2 and some sling stones +1 handy.”
“Well, if you put it that way, I guess I’ll go.”
“Good. Assamabinladin will accompany you. You will depart tomorrow.” With that, the wizard climbed above his roc and rose into the darkening sky until he disappeared among the clouds. Kierian, watching him go, noticed Clavdia, the pink moon of love and fertility, appeared dimmer than before. He shuddered and started the long walk back into town.
- The Guards of Galdenwyck [1-1] July 3, 2011
Before there were games for thrones and before hobbitses fled from orceses and koboldseses, there were the Guards of Galdenwyck. This long-lost, yet cherished treasure of fantasy literature, written by the austere and hermetic Carioc and Terry Elder, will be presented to the public for free of charge, gratis, even, in a serialized format over the next few moons or so. It is with great pleasure that I bring it to you in unedited form, freed from commercials and commercialization.
The Guards of Galdenwyck
by Carioc and Terry Elder
As when it is meet, and when it is also right, the fourteen moons of Galdenwyck aligned themselves in perfect harmony. This astronomical wonder did not go unnoticed by Chairman Taga, ruler supreme of the Galdenwyck Ffjords. His golden beard and silvery hair belied his age; he was but 346 Criton years old.
The alignment marked an event that only wizards and mad prophets could foresee. It was the dawning of the fourth return of the Guards of Galdenwyck, come to reclaim their throne.
Many years ago, almost before time itself, when the world of Galdenwyck was in its infancy, the great and wise wizard, Avaximander, formed the Guards of Galdenwyck from the same elements that made up the planet. They were fourteen in number, one for each of the great moons, from Clio, the great red moon of healing, to Morimuto, the silvery blue moon of war, quick in its orbit and fearsome in its glow.
Before Avaximander departed the mortal plane, he left these 14 Guards to watch over Galdenwyck, to protect it from threats both of itself and from beyond the stars. But Avaximander was lax in his resolve to maintain a coherent bond between the Guards, the moons, and the elements. Because he chose mortal beings as the embodiments of the Guards, their representations in the moons would also be mortal, and subject to the change of time. Only the permanence of life and death could have formed a better union.
As it was, the denizens of Galdenwyck had to forgive Avaximander for being too lofty, too righteous in his endeavors to bring peace and prosperity to the war-torn Ffjords. The alignment of the 14 physical guards of Galdenwyck portended the most horrific and devastating perpetual motion that any sovereign nation could endure; a total and utterly annihilating chaotic civil war.
While Chairman Taga tried on his new robe in his throne room, the lowly Drow Elf, Gauth Phuiksan, was practicing his Thieves’ Cant with his mentor, Kadik Andan in the Orcish Ghetto.
Kadik Andan, a lowly half-orc of uncertain lineage, while scorned by many as another example of the secret love between human and orc, was esteemed by any being in the known world who strove to become a Master Thief. His skills in the Thieves’ Cant were legendary and he spoke most alignment tongues fluently. Only the beautiful language of the Lawful Good with its 54 declensions had escaped him thus far.
“Phuiksan!” screamed Kadik. His guttural orcish howl sent shivers down the spine of the little Drow Elf who sat rigidly on a wooden bench holding the Fourth Cantish Scroll in his lap.
“You cannot have an electrum modifying adjective in a sentence pertaining to rods or staves!”
“I am sorry, Master. This language is so difficult. Did you ever have trouble learning a tongue?”
This question caused a bomb to explode in the pit of Kadik’s grotesquely rotund orcish belly. It was only 15 years ago that Kadik had been caught attempting to enter the city of Aerion of the Lawful and Good, because he stumbled over a particularly tricky consonant cluster. The five years he spent in Lord Carrollan’s dungeon took 20 years off his already short orcish life.
Maybe the stern task-master approach was not best for Phuiksan’s education, he decided.
“Phuiksan, everyone has troubles learning a new tongue, for it represents a whole new way of envisioning the ideas in the stars. Why, did you know that we have over 2,000 words for ‘moon’ in Galdenwyck, yet the centaurs of Supleende have only 16? Such disparities bring hardships to the student. But once a new tongue is learned, it is learned always. The error comes in thinking you have learned the language, when you actually have not.
“Many Morimuto’s ago, I embarked on a quest tasked of me by a bold young fighter named Xizh to purloin Lord Carrollan’s Silvern Scepter of Basilisk Slaying. Once Xizh had the scepter, he would be able to cleanse the Grypton Hills of their basilisk infestations. As you well know, Carrollan is Lord of Aerion, a damnable city that only accepts into its folds those who are lawful and good.
“The Thieves’ Guild in Aerion helped me as much as they could by providing me an important piece of information: there was one Eagle Guard of Carrollan who could not detect alignments, and if spoken to in the proper cant, would be convinced that you were worthy of entering the city.
“I awaited for his shift at the southern gate of Aerion, where the walls of the city are highest, and most decorated, since the northern side is protected by a sedentary volcano. I must admit, I was nervous and excited to enter Aerion, a place of deep wonder and curiosity to me. I had the tunnels beneath the city memorized from the maps that my understudy, Galbrak, had pilfered from the library at Pern. I had to take a deep breath and focus on my quest, else I would forget the maps, and be lost forever in that dark maze.
“Little did I know that I would never avail myself of those maps, which are ingrained in my mind to this day, for the Eagle Guard asked me the one question that has the most difficult answer to enunciate in the whole cant of lawful good. ‘Why’re thee dost do?’ He asked.
“I was struck dumbfounded. I spake too quickly, and mistook the double-voiced dental for a labial-pharyngeal stop. ‘Hangck prom din, sis prt momm dee!’ was the best I could manage. Of course, you know now that the proper response is ‘Hatt prom din, sis prt momm dee!’ I was immediately arrested by the guard and thrown into Lord Carrollan’s dungeon for five dreary years. It seemed like 20. Fortunately for us, our years are only 15 days long.
“But the point of my sidebar is that I never learned it right the first time. It was a difficult lesson, but it was learned, and it is always with me, much like the maps of the tunnels of Aerion.”
Gauth Phuiksan nodded, trying to understand the gravity of his Master’s words but something in his eyes gave him away.
Kadik sensed Gauth’s uncertainty. “What I am trying to say, my young elf, is that words are the best tool a thief has. You covet that set of Thieves’ Tools I have promised you upon completion of your training. What you do not see is that I am giving you the tools now. The lockpicks and trapspringers are just a trophy, mere gaudy adornments for your fragile ego.”
Kadik strode across the room, turning his back on Gauth, and let his student ponder the words he just heard. After what Kadik thought was a suitably dramatic pause, he turned to his pupil. “Now, Gauth, let’s resume our lesson.”
- The Comedic Stylings of Mr. Alien May 9, 2011
- Invention of the Sandwich April 16, 2011
- Hey, Santa! April 12, 2011
- Tribute to Sun Ra April 5, 2011
- Paul Masi’s Smokin’ March 31, 2011
- Star Gazer Jack Horkheimer Parody March 23, 2011
- The Ninth Popo Cartoon March 20, 2011
- Car Wash March 19, 2011
- The Eighth Popo Cartoon March 15, 2011
- What Rhymes with Nebraska? March 14, 2011
- Punjab’s Wine March 13, 2011
- The Seventh Popo Cartoon March 12, 2011
- The Sixth Popo Cartoon March 9, 2011
- The Fifth Popo Cartoon March 6, 2011
- The Fourth Popo Cartoon March 3, 2011
- The Third Popo Cartoon February 17, 2011
- The Second Popo Cartoon February 11, 2011
- “A Killing on the California Zephyr” screenplay February 2, 2011
Read the story of internationally-famous Flemish detective Emil Conard as he tries to take a peaceful vacation to Chicago. However, murder is so afoot that it’s practically afeet and only he is smart enough to solve the mystery.
- “Unforgettable” with Sputnik Kaputnik! January 30, 2011
- The First Popo Cartoon January 30, 2011